Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chana Saag Recipe and Healthier Vegenaise Quest

Yesterday, I was cleaning out my fridge ( which we all do once a week, right? ) and I came across 2 cups of chickpeas I had forgotten about. What a nice surprise! Since I love Indian Food and I had some frozen spinach, I knew exactly what to make. My only wish was that I had cilantro to top this off. This is truly a make do with what you have recipe. I am low on certain spices and limes. Balsamic vinegar stood in for lime very well. If there's one thing I can recommend, it is not to be afraid to substitute ingredients, cooking methods or break some "rules" in the kitchen. Some of my very best creations have been born out of thinking out side of the box.

I could have reduced the calories in this dish by using 1/2 T of Coconut Oil, but I decided I would prefer a smaller portion of rich, coconutty curry instead. I ate it with 1/2 cup of brown rice to make one of my 400 calorie Mini Meals.

Chana Sag
2 T coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 T ginger, diced
10 cloves garlic, pressed
½ t cumin seeds
½ t ground cumin
½ t coriander
¼ t cinnamon
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 t Tony’s Cajun Seasoning
2 c chickpeas
10 oz package frozen spinach
½ c salsa
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T soy sauce

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan add the oil, onion, ginger, garlic, and spices along with Tony’s seasoning.
  2. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes
  3. Add chickpea and frozen spinach. Stir well. When the spinach starts to break up, cover and cook for 20 minutes , stirring occasionally
  4. Add salsa, vinegar and soy sauce
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings

Yield 4 cups
300 calories per cup

I am loving my new eating plan. Yesterday's food 1800 calories:

  • Healthy Latkes
  • Black Bean Burger on Chickpea Flatbread
  • Pina Colada Oatmeal
  • Chana Sag
  • Green Smoothie 

I am working on a cheap and lower calorie vegenaise
recipe. I got the flavor down, but I need to lower the calories and work on the texture. I made 1000 Island, Plain and Chipotle Lime. When I get it right, I will share the recipe.

I need some agar. I think that will be the final step in this process.

EDIT: I have perfected my Healthier Vegenaise Recipe! Click HERE to view it! 

I am constantly revising and improving my recipes for my cookbook. This has been an process that has lasted over 3 years!  When I am finally done, I will be so happy! Of course, this is only part of the journey. I need to find a publisher.

What is important to you in a cookbook? What are the top 3 things you look for?


  1. i totally agree on not being afraid to try substitute ingredients. just last week dan and i were making cheezy sauce and realized we didn't have a lemon to squeeze for it. we decided to try rice vinegar and it worked so well - out best cheezy sauce to date. yum! i looooove your chana saag - hooray for finding the chickpeas - what a delicious surprise!

    i am really dig'n your quest for a healthier vegenaise. i can't get enough of vegenaise, but i don't like that it's so high in calories and fat. i cannot wait for the recipes.

    oh yeah - top 3 things i look for in a cook book:
    1. whole food ingredients
    2. availability of ingredients (in season, easy to find, etc.)
    3. easy to make recipes with creative flavors

  2. What do I like in a cookbook?

    PHOTOS! (I'm a visual learner.)
    Serving suggestions with other recipes in the book (or just, "goes well with steamed broccoli," that sort of thing. Meal planning is hard enough without having to think of side dishes, too!)
    Well-written, uncomplicated directions (this is something that bugs me about Isa's books -- I find her directions unneccecarily complicated)
    Ingredient lists that are given in the order you use them
    Real food! (kind of a "duh," but, you know!)

  3. Sue P9:13 AM

    Photos are really important to me for cookbooks. Would you consider doing an e-book? I find that a reference my recipes more when I have them electronically although I do use my favorite paper ones too.

  4. I look for a good index (so I can search for recipes by ingredient), easy to read font (no cursive!), and innovative recipes.

  5. We love indian. thanks for the recipe.

    things I look for in a cookbook are: ingredients that are easy to find
    unique ideas
    pictures (not a requirement but a huge plus)

  6. Lower-fat Vegenaise? Sign me up! Yum! All the flavors sound fantastic. And don't fret about finding a publisher. You'll find one with no prob, I bet. I can't wait!

    As for what I look for in a cookbook:
    1. A photo spread...I like to drool over the possibilities
    2. from-scratch recipes...I like the ones that require you to make all your own sauces, seitan, etc.
    3. a good selection of breakfast fave meal of the day!

  7. Yum, Melody--that looks great! And I totally can't be scared to sub ingredients when following a recipe. I do it all the time with great results.

    Do you have an Asian grocery store near you? You can get agar really really cheap there. I got a package for .89 cents! It is the powder, so it has lasted me forever. I could mail you a package if you want?

    In a cookbook, I look for unique recipes (there are only so many variations you can riff off of hummus, ya know?!), whole foods, and not a lot of "fake" products--i.e. recipes that call for "soy cheese" or "veggie burger crumbles" etc.


  8. I guess it goes without saying that primarily, I look for good photos in a cookbook. I've bought cookbooks for that reason alone! Very interesting to hear what everyone else has to say- I've been wondering, too...

  9. top three things..
    the conversation in the book, i like a friendly that makes me feel like my hand is being firmly held!lol but at the same time i like to sub out ingredients(if i dont have something on hand). maybe in each (or some) reciopes you could give options on what you could sub stuff your lime juice and balsamic switch

    i like really healthy cooking, like water sauteing and the use of fats like avocado instead of oils...but then that would be boring i guess for a lot of people...

    so go ahead and tell me how helpful this was..!Y/R!!!!

    i like catherines side dish example and
    oh and molly jades idea!! i am always looking in the index of cookbooks! i love being able to look up a veggie and get a recipe to use it!!

  10. Thanks for everyone's comments! They are very helpful.

    About an E-Book.. I was going to do one, but my heart wants to publish a book on paper!

  11. The first thing I always look for in a cookbook is interesting recipes. There are so many cookbooks in every thinkable genre these days, I really look for recipes I haven't seen before.

    Have you tried the Nasoya fat free version of veganaise? I've heard it's great, altho I'm sure its kinda pricey.