Recent Posts by Renu-Chhabra

Simple Sustenance: Herb Magic — Creamy Cilantro-Lime and Cannellini Bean Spread

Published by Monday, September 16, 2013 Permalink 0

Simple Sustenance: Herb Magic — Creamy Cilantro-Lime and Cannellini Bean Spread

by Renu Chhabra

The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.–Chinese Proverb

It is amazing how herbs can completely transform a recipe, giving it a whole new personality. Pureed with beans to make flavorful spread, processed with nuts for hearty pesto, or blended with oil or herb oil are just a few ways to taste the magic of herbs. Other blander dishes such as salads, grains, soups, stews, and breads also get fresh and delicious makeovers when they are in the company of herbs. And we can’t forget lavender cookies or basil ice cream, which add a few stars to the dessert category. It doesn’t take a lot to infuse their flavors to any recipe — sweet or savory. They always play their magic.

Continue Reading…

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: Summer Indulgence — Cardamom-Infused Mango Milkshake

Published by Monday, June 10, 2013 Permalink 0


//


Profile photo, Renu Chhabra, Simple Sustenance (C) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.by Renu Chhabra

Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.–Charles Pierre Monselet

Mango milkshake by Renu Chhabra, all rights reserved (R)

Summer afternoon and a glass of cold milkshake! Mango milkshake. Something I am always ready for. Why wouldn’t I be? It brings back memories of my childhood — fun and comforting memories.

Growing up in India, summer meant boxes of mangoes showing up in our house throughout the season. Not just one or two varieties, but several of them. Different sizes, tastes, and textures to relish, and we all had our own favorite.

 Mango for mango milkshake by Renu Chhabra, all rights reserved (R)

It was the summer fruit to indulge in — messy but syrupy sweet and wonderfully juicy. Most of all, it was fun to sit around the table; and enjoy this tropical fruit and celebrate the season.

 Mango for mango milkshake by Renu Chhabra, all rights reserved (R)

And with such abundance pouring in, we were treated with mango ice cream, mango custard, mango salad, and not to forget mango milkshake, the simplest of all for warm summer days. Simple because it can be put together in no time.

Its creamy texture and sunshine yellow color always lifts my spirits. Simply said, it’s a happy reminder of my childhood. Little moments that enable us to travel miles away!

 Mango and milk for mango milkshake by Renu Chhabra, all rights reserved (R)

I have accented the mango shake with cardamom in this recipe. Cardamom, as I call the soul of Indian desserts. Just a hint of it makes the recipe sing fragrant notes. A little goes a long way; otherwise it gets bitter. Like we say, “Too much of a good thing can be bad.”

I used honey as sweetener, but you can use sugar or agave to taste. The amount will also depend on the sweetness of the mango.

Mango milkshake by Renu Chhabra, all rights reserved (R)

Continue Reading…

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: For Breakfast or Dessert — Yogurt with Sweet Spices and Rose Petals

Published by Monday, April 29, 2013 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

Food is art and magic; it evokes emotion and colors memory, and in skilled hands, meals become greater than the sum of their ingredients. Anthony Beal

IMG_7347

Sweet spices like cardamom and fennel, rose petals and rose water, pistachios and golden raisins

I am loving it already.

Flavors and scents I can taste and sense just by the mention of their names! They are very close to my heart. I grew up around them, or I can say I was often surrounded by them.

Cardamom and fennel used in sweet and savory dishes perfumed our kitchen with their intoxicating aroma. Rice pudding, pilaf, spiced tea, rich sauces, and several sweets are just a few to name. Rose petals and rose water to greet guests on special occasions, or simply to flavor sweets and drinks, made every experience memorable.  Nuts and dried fruits in creamy sauces or in decadent desserts stamped food tastes forever in my mind.

Do I need say that I cherish these scents and flavors? We all have experiences from childhood, interwoven with lots of love and memories close to our hearts.

1 cup plain yogurt (Greek or regular)

1 green cardamom

Continue Reading…

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: Flavors of the Mediterranean — Parsley, Dill, and Bean Dip with Feta

Published by Wednesday, March 13, 2013 Permalink 0


//


by Renu Chhabra

“Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea.”Pythagoras

IMG_6898

Pass the salt please.

We hear this often while eating meals. I sometimes think what life in the kitchen would be without salt. Nature’s pure offering and staple of any pantry!  It’s one ingredient that can put life in any recipe. Just a pinch of it does wonders. But it’s the right amount of it, according to one’s taste buds that makes a recipe sing….. not too much or too little. Hence the term, “salt to taste.”

Some overly salty feta cheese was the center to make this dip. It was too salty for our taste buds. Really salty. And wasting it seemed unnecessary. To give it a new life, I combined it with a few ingredients on hand. A can of unsalted garbanzo beans worked well to mellow the saltiness of the feta. Parsley added color and freshness, and dill enhanced it with its delicate flavor. Lemon juice and garlic brought all the flavors together.  I finished it with olive oil and a sprinkle of sumac.

Continue Reading…

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: Roasted Acorn Squash with Fennel Seeds

Published by Tuesday, March 5, 2013 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

 

 

Food is capable of feeding far more than a rumbling stomach.–Anthony Beal

IMG_6838

I have seen this acorn squash change from deep green to light golden on my kitchen counter over the last two weeks. Waiting for my much needed attention, it endured the neglect. I had a new idea about how to cook it every time I looked at it, so I would set it aside for yet another day. I loved seeing it sitting there turning into this beautiful objet d’art with a new stroke of color every day.

I enjoyed the the entire process, from start to finish, just as Monet enjoyed painting the same haystacks and façades day after day, in different lights.

Who would have thought a simple experience like this could also bring such curiosity? Every time I looked at it, I wondered if it would survive another day. Or would another stroke of green be lost. I touched it, inspected it, and set it aside, saying to myself, “I will make something tomorrow. Definitely.”

And it waited patiently for me, just like the Rouen Cathedral waited for Monet, looking more beautiful each day, and maintaining its freshness!

IMG_6751

With half a dozen ideas in my mind about how to cook it, I settled for a simple recipe of roasting it and flavoring with some sweet and fragrant flavors like orange zest and toasted fennel seeds. I then combined the two with sweet paprika and sea salt to make a spice blend to toss into after roasting. Another wonderful spice blend with citrus!  My new year started with spice blends.

After tossing the roasted squash, I finished it with a garnish of freshly ground cumin and parsley and a squeeze of lemon (optional). Simple and flavorful, this recipe takes very little time to make. If you have any left over, use it in your favorite grain or salad.

Herbs and spices are good for our health. Fennel seeds have wonderful healing qualities. They help digestion and have antioxidant properties. Fennel is also chewed as mouth freshener. I sometimes make fennel tea that is quite relaxing. Have it with a little honey. It’s delicious and calming.

IMG_6768IMG_6781

IMG_6794IMG_6805

IMG_6808IMG_6811

Continue Reading…

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: Quick and Easy Recipe — Goat Cheese and Avocado Toast with Pumpkin Seeds

Published by Wednesday, February 27, 2013 Permalink 0

by Serrano chilli, seeds removed and minced (optional)
Sea salt to taste
2 large slices of rustic whole wheat bread or of your choice
1 large clove of garlic, sliced in half
Extra virgin olive oil
2-3 oz. goat cheese or to taste
2-3 tablespoons yellow peppers, diced small
1 tablespoon unsalted roasted pumpkin seeds
Few mint leaves

In a bowl, mix avocado and lime, Add serrano chilli if you want a little heat. Add salt and set aside.

Instructions

Toast the bread slices and rub garlic on them while they are warm. Spread goat cheese to taste. Top with avocado mixture. Drizzle a little olive oil. Adjust salt to taste.

Garnish with orange peppers and pumpkin seeds.

Finish with mint leaves.

Eating is really one of your indoor sports. You play three times a day, and it’s well worth while to make the game as pleasant as possible.– Dorothy Draper

  • A warm toast with creamy goat cheese

    Two ingredients that create magic for our taste buds. I know they create for me!

    Goat cheese pizza or goat cheese panini, paired with some vegetables or fruits, they complement each other well. A drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil or a drizzle of aged balsamic, they add another dimension to the duo. Garnish of fragrant herbs add more flavor to them.

    I have been enjoying warm toast with a generous spread of goat cheese topped with a healthy dose of avocado. The two together with rustic bread are a perfect combination of rich creaminess and a hearty bite. For this recipe, I topped it with some orange peppers and roasted pumpkin seeds.  A little color and a little crunch. Mint added fresh flavors to this recipe.

    It is a quick and easy lunch with some salad greens.

    There are no set measurements for this recipe. Make it to your taste. Use as much or as little goat cheese or avocado. I have been on a joyride of enjoying the two generously. One large toast loaded with all the goodness was my lunch. You make it a meal or a small bite. Savor it slowly, a nibble at a time.

    Recipe

    Ingredients

    1 large avocado, mashed chunky
    Squeeze of lime to taste
    ½ Serrano chilli, seeds removed and minced (optional)
    Sea salt to taste
    2 large slices of rustic whole wheat bread or of your choice
    1 large clove of garlic, sliced in half
    Extra virgin olive oil
    2-3 oz. goat cheese or to taste
    2-3 tablespoons yellow peppers, diced small
    1 tablespoon unsalted roasted pumpkin seeds
    Few mint leaves

    In a bowl, mix avocado and lime, Add serrano chilli if you want a little heat. Add salt and set aside.

    Instructions

    Toast the bread slices and rub garlic on them while they are warm. Spread goat cheese to taste. Top with avocado mixture. Drizzle a little olive oil. Adjust salt to taste.

    Garnish with orange peppers and pumpkin seeds.

    Finish with mint leaves.

    , seeds removed and minced (optional)
    Sea salt to taste
    2 large slices of rustic whole wheat bread or of your choice
    1 large clove of garlic, sliced in half
    Extra virgin olive oil
    2-3 oz. goat cheese or to taste
    2-3 tablespoons yellow peppers, diced small
    1 tablespoon unsalted roasted pumpkin seeds
    Few mint leaves

    In a bowl, mix avocado and lime, Add serrano chilli if you want a little heat. Add salt and set aside.

    Instructions

    Toast the bread slices and rub garlic on them while they are warm. Spread goat cheese to taste. Top with avocado mixture. Drizzle a little olive oil. Adjust salt to taste.

    Garnish with orange peppers and pumpkin seeds.

    Finish with mint leaves.


    • Never miss a post
      Name: 
      Your email address:*
      Please enter all required fields
      Correct invalid entries

Food Art from Simple Sustenance: Brussels Sprouts, a food photography exhibit

Published by Monday, December 17, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

All the gifts are nothing. Money gets used up. Clothes you rip up. Toys get broken up. But a good meal, that stays in your memory. From there it doesn’t get lost like other gifts. The body it leaves fast, but the memory slow.–Meir Shalev

IMG_6405

Brussels sprouts, the tiny cabbage-like vegetable!

We all  know what  they are. Right? The ones that show up at the holiday table among other delicious and indulgent dishes. Some of us wonder why are they here when we have so many other goodies to enjoy.

Yes, it’s our love hate relationship with brussels sprouts.

But they come to us with good intentions and mean well for our health.

Brussels sprouts are from cruciferous family of vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and bok choy, known for several health benefitsThese vegetables are big players in cancer prevention and lowering cardiovascular risks. And brussels sprouts are the proud members of this respectable family.

Give them a little love and they will treat you well.

IMG_6360IMG_6366

IMG_6361IMG_6405

IMG_6408IMG_6411

IMG_6420IMG_6440

IMG_6439IMG_6437

IMG_6434IMG_6442

IMG_6440

Enjoy this simple recipe with choice of your favorite flavors and garnish.

 

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: Herbal Warmth — Rosemary Potato Soup with Paprika Oil Recipe

Published by Wednesday, December 5, 2012 Permalink 0

Simple Sustenance: Herbal Warmth — Rosemary Potato Soup with Paprika Oil Recipe

by Renu Chhabra

Herbal Warmth — Rosemary Potato Soup with Paprika Oil

As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.” — Sir Thomas More

Rosemary potatoes are my favorite all year long.

I always find myself circling around the oven when potatoes are roasting. Is it the intoxicating aroma of rosemary, or the anticipation of a warm bite of the potatoes?

I think it is both.

Hot from the oven on cool nights or at room temperature on warm days, they are always delicious. A cold nibble from the fridge does not disappoint me either. It is a classic combination that is very satisfying.

And who needs chips or french fries when oven-roasted spuds can treat our taste buds guilt free?

But today it’s about soup. My first pot of warm soup this season. And it’s rosemary potato soup.

A pot of familiar flavors simmered on stove top.

This soup has the same foundation of flavors. Fragrant rosemary perfumes the soup and garlic gives it pungency. In addition, I added  sauteéed onions and fresh scallions to it. Sautèed onions also used as garnish in this recipe, give a deep flavorful bite. A drizzle of paprika oil adds color and warmth to this soup.

This recipe is vegan, but you can add a little milk for creaminess. Also garnish with your favorite cheese, if you wish.

The basic soup can be dressed several ways with your choice of garnish. I have enjoyed a few combinations.

  • Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, Pecorino cheese, and a drizzle of rosemary oil or plain extra virgin olive oil
  • Sauted or oven-roasted mushrooms with paprika oil
  • Basil pesto and bits of sun dried tomatoes
  • Caramelized onions, Parmesan cheese, and roasted hazelnuts.

Be creative and let your palate guide you. A basic soup with so many options to dress it with, See what you have in your pantry and fridge to brighten it to your liking.

I would love to hear your ideas.

Recipe

Paprika Oil

¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon paprika

  1. Warm olive oil in a small pot. Remove from heat. Stir in paprika. Whisk lightly to dissolve well. Set aside.
  2. If you like spicy, make chili oil instead.

Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onion, diced small
6 cups potatoes (3 large), diced small
5-6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoon fresh rosemary (or to taste)
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4-5 green scallions, chopped plus for garnish, chopped fine
3 cups water or vegetable stock

  1. Heat oil in a heavy-bottom pot and add onions. Sauté on medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes or until golden. You want some color, but be careful not to burn the onions.
  2. Set aside a tablespoon or so for garnish.
  3. Stir in garlic, potatoes, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
  4. Cook for a minute and add scallions and water or vegetable stock.
  5. Bring it to boil and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.
  6. Let it cool a little.
  7. Puree with immersion blender or in a blender to desired consistency according to your taste — smooth and creamy or rustic and chunky.
  8. Add a little water or stock if it is too thick. Adjust seasonings. Set aside.

 

To serve, heat the soup and ladle into bowls. Garnish with browned onions. scallions, and a drizzle of paprika oil. Serve hot.

Note: I used water but if you wish, you can use vegetable stock. Potatoes absorb a lot of flavors, so adjust flavors to your taste. Add as much or as little garlic, salt, pepper. Rosemary can be overpowering, if used in excess. Garnish to your taste. If you like spicy food, make chili oil instead of paprika oil.

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: Pumpkins, When the Beauty is in the Imperfections, a photo essay by Renu Chhabra

Published by Wednesday, October 24, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

The harvest moon hangs round and high
It dodges clouds high in the sky,
The stars wink down their love and mirth
The Autumn season is giving birth.
Oh, it must be October
The leaves of red bright gold and brown,
To Mother Earth come tumbling down,
The breezy nights the ghostly sights,
The eerie spooky far off sounds
Are signs that it’s October.
The pumpkins yellow, big and round
Are carried by costumed clumsy clowns
It’s Halloween – let’s celebrate.
–   
Pearl N. Sorrels, It Must be October

Color and rusticity are the characters of autumn

Warm tones and ­­rustic gifts from nature fill our hearts with a sense of wholeness. It’­­­­s a feeling that reminds us of our connection with the earth and our humble existence.­­

Orange, yellow, red, and amber are the colors of fall, visible in landscapes and farms alike. Pumpkins, gourds, and squashes add soul to this season. Greeting us on the front porch or displayed inside the house, they adorn our spaces with fall bounty; they are festive and inviting. They bring with them a certain positive energy.

And what’s fall without pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and  pumpkin soup? It’s the pumpkin heaven that embraces us, at home or anywhere else. We all want to savor the season’s bounty to its fullest.

I am intrigued as much by the great pumpkin’s beauty as by its imperfections. Some of the very deformed ones are the most intriguing of all. But who said nature is perfect? Nature is beautiful, yet free-spirited when we see it in its natural and organic form. And we see its beauty in these colorful gourds that exude their individual characteristics in their own special ways.

They have different colors, shapes, sizes, and personalities. Yet they are beautiful and unique, despite their imperfections. They all bring something special to our tables in terms of taste, texture, and quality.

Just like us, human beings.

What do you think?

Celebrate the season!
Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Simple Sustenance: Fall Greetings — Pumpkin Sage and Sunflower Seed Spread

Published by Tuesday, October 16, 2012 Permalink 0

by Renu Chhabra

Crunchy leaves; a coolness in the air; 
Rich deep colors and branches so bare.
Clear starry skies; a harvest moon bright; 
Pumpkins, haystacks and scarecrow’s delight! — Teri Anderson

The calendar says fall has arrived.

Pumpkins greeting you at every store front. I can almost hear them sing  joyous notes of fall’s arrival, but the weather here in California is in a different mood.

It is reluctant to let summer go. It is still holding on to its one wing.

Continue Reading…

Never miss a post
Name: 
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

UA-21892701-1