Food

One Bowl Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins

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More often than not, I succumb to a banana for breakfast because mornings are so rushed. And that is why having something that’s more decadent than a banana—banana bread or muffins or sorts—are a saviour to my chaotic mornings.

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Not too long ago, I tried the Pick Up Limes One Bowl Oatmeal & Blueberry muffins, and that was truly a hit in my work life. Every weekday morning I could just pop one of these in my handbag and either have it as breakfast on the go during my commute to work, or have it at my desk after reaching office.

My recent breakfast muse, however, were these delicious and decadent 1 Bowl Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins by Nikole from Healthnut Nutrition. Nikole is one of all my time favorite bloggers out there, so I was beyond excited to try her recipe without messing it up.

IMG_0606Honestly, I do not think I messed up. The muffins were dense, but soft. Also, perfectly sweet. I only made one major tweak to her original recipe. Instead of using almond flour, I used oat flour, and that was simply because I did not have almond flour in my pantry.

So without further blabbering, I will list the recipe below.

Ingredients:

Dry

  • Spelt flour (2 cups)
  • Oat flour (1/2 cup)
  • Baking soda (1 teaspoon)
  • Cinnamon (1 teaspoon)
  • Nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Shredded carrots (1 cup)

Wet

  • Eggs (2)
  • Coconut oil (1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 teaspoon)
  • Unsweetened soy milk (1 cup)
  • Unsweetened applesauce (1/2 cup)
  • Coconut sugar (3/4 cup)

Method:

  • Mix the soy milk with apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 10 mins. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375F/200F.
  • Now in a large bowl whisk together the remaining wet ingredients.
  • When everything is well-combined, add all dry ingredients except the shredded carrots.
  • Once the batter is smooth, mix in the shredded carrots.
  • Transfer batter to a muffin tin. It will fit in approximately 12 moulds. Top with crushed walnuts & place in the preheated oven for 18 mins.
  • Voila! Enjoy with a cup of tea, hot cocoa, or your fav coffee. 🙂

Tip:

  • You can top with sugar, too, like recommended in the original recipe. I liked them more without extra sugar.
  • Soy milk can be swapped with any other plant based milk. Don’t try dairy milks or the apple cider vinegar will curd them.
  • Coconut oil can be substituted with avocado oil.

 

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Well-being

Cabbage Soup Diet Review

Let’s begin by me explicitly stating that I am not a fan of diets. My philosophy on food is simple – eat whole, fresh, and home cooked food as often as possible alongside a good exercise plan. Who sticks to their philosophies a 100%? Weirdos.

For me, life always gets in the way of my eating and exercise plan. 😦 Last month, my husband and I were traveling to Seville and we ate to our heart’s content – how can you refuse treats while on vacation? I also had a couple of work trips to London, which disturbed my whole Sunday meal-prep to a large degree, resulting in my ordering in and such.

Consequence? I felt bloated, nauseous, and generally not well. A colleague recommended that I try the “Cabbage Soup Diet,” which eliminates bloating, and promises a weight loss of 10lbs/4.5kgs in 7 days.

How does the cabbage soup diet work? Long story short, The Cabbage Soup Diet restricts salt, carb, and fat intake – allowing you to consume selective food groups each day of the week alongside the infamous cabbage soup.

Before I share my experience and results of following this seven-day diet, below is an overview of the recommended diet plan:

Day 1: Fruits only (no bananas) + cabbage soup

Day 2: Baked potato with light butter for breakfast + vegetables all day (no potatoes) + cabbage soup

Day 3: Vegetables and fruit all day (no bananas or potatoes) + cabbage soup

Day 4: Up to eight bananas + as much skimmed milk + cabbage soup

Day 5: Up to 20 ounces (550 grams) of beef + up to six tomatoes + cabbage soup

Day 6: As much beef and vegetables (no potatoes) + cabbage soup

Day 7: Vegetables + brown rice + cabbage soup

What I ate

I put my own spin on the cabbage soup recipe. Instead of using cabbage, I used a mix of vegetables (carrots, kale, mushrooms, celery, scallions, bell pepper, zucchini, and tomatoes). I also replaced plain water with chicken/vegetable broth to add more flavor.

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The first day was very easy. I had an apple for breakfast, soup for lunch, and a big fruit salad (melon, berries, pear) for dinner. The second day started off well (c’mon, we are talking baked potato), but lunch and dinner were mostly roasted veggies over a bed of greens with the soup. Third day, again, was good because I could eat fruit.

After that, the diet went downhill for me. The day I was supposed to mostly eat bananas was horrible. I felt stuffed and cranky, which disturbed my overall focus. Day 5 was also not great – I couldn’t fathom what to have for breakfast besides a bowl of soup, which by now I detested more than any soup in the world. I also am not a big meat eater, so I felt trapped having to eat meat for both lunch and dinner – that too without grains. Needless to say, I skipped lunch and had a fillet of salmon instead of beef for dinner. Day 6 and 7 were pretty much the same except I cheated and had a pear for breakfast on the 7th day because…I just couldn’t with the soup.

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Weight loss

This is probably the most anticipated part for most readers. Despite the tweaks I made to the diet, I lost 5.5lbs/2.5kgs in seven days. I believe most of this weight was water weight – since salt retains water in the body and this diet has zero salt (I did cheat and had some salt), so you don’t retain water. This also means that when you start consuming salt again, your body retains water, and you are heavier instantly.

A week after I resumed normal eating, I gained 1kg/2.2lbs back.

In conclusion

I cannot dictate whether or not anyone should try this diet because everyone reacts differently to different eating plans. In my experience, the diet made me aware of how often I gravitate towards overdoing salt, sugar, and oil in my meals, which is an awareness I wholeheartedly welcome. At the same time, the diet deprived me too much of critical nutrients, making me grumpy and exhausted. I also completely overturned my progress on cardio and strength training that I had made prior to going on this diet, as I couldn’t exercise for the duration of the diet – going back is always hard, going back with half as less energy is nearly impossible.

In a nutshell, there is no denying that this diet works – you just have to ask yourself if it is worth the compromise.

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Food

Tofu & Potato Curry

If you follow me on Instagram, you would know my husband and I are trying this seven-day detox diet which prescribes a very strict eating plan. Consequently, I have caught myself in a constant battle about what I want to eat (rice and curry) and what the diet asks (vegetable soup). I will do a detailed post about this diet in a post next week, so watch this space, if you are interested.

Being on a detox diet, or not, why can’t I do some wishful thinking about dinner, right? That’s where this recipe comes in. A couple of weeks, back I finally took the plunge to try cooking with tofu, and believe you me, I am converted from never eating tofu to including it in my weekly meal prep. Since after making the curry, I have used it in a few meals, including a killer fried rice skillet – let me know if you want me to share that recipe.

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Back to the curry – this is one you must try. I promise it won’t have the rubbery texture that tofu served in restaurants mostly has.

Ingredients for the tofu marinade:

  • Organic natural tofu (200 grams)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Yogurt (2 tablespoons)
  • Red chili powder (1/2 teaspoon)*
  • Cumin powder (1/2 teaspoon).

Remaining Ingredients:

  • Oil (3 tablespoons)
  • Onion (2)
  • Minced garlic (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • Chopped green chillies (2)
  • Tomatoes (3)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Crushed red chilli (1 teaspoon)
  • Coriander powder (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Turmeric powder (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Garam masala (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Potatoes (2 large or 250 grams)
  • Peas (1/2 cup)
  • Coriander (for garnish).

Method:

  • Roughly chop the tofu in chunks and marinate it using all listed ingredients.*
  • In a pot or pan, heat oil. Chop onions meanwhile.
  • Once oil is heated, sauté onions until golden brown. Chop the tomatoes meanwhile.
  • Sauté the minced garlic with onions until fragrant.
  • Add tomatoes, chillies, and all spices to the onion and garlic goodness.
  • Stir until the tomatoes are mushy and the oil is separated.
  • Add potatoes, peas, and tofu.
  • Break the tofu further with your spatula/spoon as everything cooks. The tofu you will end up with will have a minced meat texture.
  • Cook for at least ten minutes on medium high heat.
  • Now turn down the heat, add some water, and let those potatoes soften.
  • Once the potatoes are cooked through, garnish with chopped coriander and serve with rice, wholewheat wrap/chapati, or naan. Voila!

Tips:

  • Add more chili powder if you like heat.
  • Mix the spices first in the yogurt and then add tofu chunks to it while making the marinade.
  • For extra flavor, leave the tofu marinade in the refrigerator overnight.

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Travel

Au Revoir, Mallorca!

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When I first started planning my summer holiday, I was more inclined to visit Ibiza for a week. I had not even heard of Mallorca until April this year – when I saw a cliff diving video captured in the Playa De Muro area of the island. I remember being awestruck. The stunning landscape, which is still somewhat exclusive unlike other Spanish islands that are swarmed with tourists, knocked my Ibiza plan out of the park.

And so, I booked my flight and hotel for a six day stay. I ascertained to book a hotel within 100 meters of a beach (fun fact: there are over 200 beaches in Mallorca) because the primary purpose of this trip was to unwind from the recent whirlwind of busy life changes. That’s also why, I chose to stay in Can Picafort , which is a comparatively quiet neighborhood in the North East of the island, not yet discovered by drunken college tourists

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Mallorca’s coastline is at least 547 kilometers long and is lined by bustling shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. The crystal blue shore waters deepen into various shades of blue and green which stand as a spectacular contrast to the golden and white sand at the beaches. The island is a heaven for cyclists due to its beautifully hilly topography offering some of the best road-riding in Europe. For walkers like me, footpaths interlace between orange-pink groves and hilltop mansions covered with Bougainvillea.

In the six days that I was in Mallorca, I spent most of my daytime bumming around in sunbeds, basking in the glorious Spanish sun, sipping fresh watermelon juice and coconut water, and playing in the waves. The beaches in Mallorca’s North East have shallow waters and gentler waves, which become slightly violent as the sun begins to set.

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Oh, the Mallorcan sunsets! I cannot describe the beauty of a sky that is torn between unexplainably deep shades of pink, orange, scarlet, and blue. When you look from a distance, the waves thrashing at the shores are a stark match to the troubled sky. One evening, I was dumbfounded at this glory and could not escape despite the cool wind repeatedly swaying my torso, sending shivers down my spine.

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As I tried swimming deeper into the water, the waves fiercely lashed my chest. I remember looking back and being awed by an aura of the pink sunset on the golden sand peeking through clear turquoise waters. Most people had already left the beach and the noise of the waves was more profound than ever. I do not know when I began singing, “Chhookar mere man ko kiya toone kya ishaara, Badla yeh mausam lage pyaara jag saara.” And I do not know for how long I was singing this exact line…may be a good fifteen minutes until my husband called me back from the beach.

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One of the days, I ventured into a larger, more happening part of Mallorca called Alcudia, which has an intricately preserved old town. This town is historically walled and can be entered through its rather imposing gates that lead to narrow, topsy-turvy streets lined by houses from the 14th century. Most of these houses have been turned into restaurants and cafes providing a contemporary characteristic to the area. Strolling alongside the houses that have survived the tourist wave, and boost their historical architecture, is truly like time traveling. The colorfully painted renaissance style mansions are dotted with vibrant potted plants and decorated with family crests and other local cultural heirlooms.

Due to limited time, I did not venture into Mallorca’s countryside, but I hear that even in the peak of summer holidays, it is peaceful; surrounded by vineyards, small villages and ranches, some adapted into bucolic retreats. I also did not have the time to visit caves, forts, and vantage points that are extremely popular in tourists visiting the area. Considering I plan to revisit Mallorca, I am not terribly sad about it.

When it comes to food, you have to be careful in Mallorca like any other tourist destination. There is an abundance of the usual pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, fries – most of the times the routine food is not bad. But if you want to taste true Spanish, more specifically Mallorcan, cuisine then you have to do some research in advance.

Since I ate most of my meals in Can Picafort, I can only speak to food options there. I had my best meal at Don Denis, which has a killer tapas menu and a great selection of local and popular wines. It’s located at the Can Picafort harbor and offers stunning views and impeccable service! Café Horizto also deserves a mention because of its delectable lunch sandwiches (tuna with caramelized onions was my fav!) and extensive cocktail offerings. Lastly, while the overall dining experience at Gran Bahia restaurant was disappointing, I was awed by the unusual flavor combination of my entrée of sea bass filets served over saffron cream and wild rice!

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This post would not be complete if I did not mention that I was pleasantly surprised at the finding of a restaurant in Can Picafort run by a man called Ali from Sahiwal, Pakistan. The restaurant is called Sabores De India and offers the most authentic Pakistani food I have had anywhere in Europe. His excitement at the sight of rare Pakistani visitors in Mallorca was almost endearing. Putting aside the usual menu card, he said that we just had to say the word about what we wanted to eat and he will serve. We left the restaurant stuffed with onion fritters, aloo samosas, chicken biryani, and doodh patii. During our stay, we did once return to eat some aloo palak and chicken kadhai as well.

Speaking to Ali, I discovered that Ali’s restaurant was an extension of the larger Pakistani Punjabi small business community that is thriving in Mallorca for over a decade. His revelation helped me notice many familiar faces at shops and restaurants, as I further explored Mallorca – what a rare and unexpected coincidence that briefly connected me to my roots!

Summer is such an eventful and joyous time in Europe. Most people take up to three weeks off to escape the daily mundanity and spend time with their families. Whether or not you live in Europe, I believe it’s crucial for our mental health to disconnect, and what beautiful time than summer to plan an Island getaway. If you are looking into exploring an island in Europe, I promise the understated history and splendor of Mallorca will not disappoint.

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Food

One Pot Mixed Veggie Galore

First of all, sincere apologies for not posting in nearly two weeks. I had to unexpectedly travel to London for work just before taking a week off for a holiday in Mallorca. It got busy! But now I am back and kicking things off with this absolutely delightful mixed veggie recipe that I learned from my father. 🙂

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Growing up, my father rarely cooked vegetables, but come winter and he would be cooking this recipe for the family. I have fond memories of going grocery shopping with him and then watching him be a “chef” in my mother’s kitchen while me and my three siblings acted as “sous-chefs.” It was a wonderful time when the whole family sat together relishing the rare delight that is my father’s “finger lickin good” mixed vegetables with hot naans out of the local tandoor.

While I was in Mallorca for my holiday, I ate a variety of different foods, but as cliche as it sounds, nothing matched the taste of a home cooked meal. So when I returned last night, I made a mental grocery list of everything I would need to make this warm, spicy, and hearty mixed vegetables with minimal gravy that is so reminiscent of family time and cold weather in Karachi. This recipe could also be served as a side dish alongside my all time favorite daal.

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So while the clouds covered Amsterdam skies, instead of being grumpy, I enjoyed this warm meal in the cosiness of my bed with the noise of rain falling on the windowpane, all while watching the first two episodes of Suits Season 7. Do not judge, I am returning to work tomorrow! 😛

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If you fancy a warm and cozy meal such as mine, follow the recipe below.

Ingredients:

  • Oil (1/3 cup)
  • Onions (2)
  • Ginger garlic paste (3 tablespoon)
  • Tomatoes (2)
  • Green chillies (4)
  • Chili flakes (1 teaspoon)
  • Chili powder (1 teaspoon)
  • Garam masala (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Turmeric powder (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Cumin powder (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Potatoes (400 grams)
  • Cauliflower (500 grams)
  • Green peas (2/3 cup)
  • Carrots (1 cup)
  • Salt (1 1/2 teaspoon)

Method:

  • Finely chop onion, chillies, and tomatoes.
  • Heat oil in a pan and fry onions until golden brown. This would be a good time to chop the potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower if you have not bought pre-chopped vegetables.
  • Add ginger garlic paste to the onions and sauté for two minutes. If using store bought paste, lower the heat prior to frying the paste. That prevents the oil from splattering.
  • When the garlic and onion are fragrant, add chopped tomatoes and chillies.
  • After a minute or so, add all spices and stir until oil separates from the mixture.
  • Now add the potatoes and carrots and cook/stir for 10 or so minutes. Then, add the cauliflower and peas. Stir on medium heat for another 10 minutes.
  • Add half a cup of water and blast the heat until everything is sizzling. Cover the pot and bring the heat to medium low. Let cook for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Serve with boiled rice or naan. Better yet, make a wrap out of it and bring it for lunch! That is what I do. 🙂

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