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Spice Up Your Kid’s Lunch with Chickpeas

Spice of the week: Chickpeas

Health Benefits: The high fibre content in chickpeas helps to support the digestive tract. They also contains some unique anti-oxidants that helps to regulate blood sugar levels and decrease cardiovascular risk.

Spiced chickpea and quinoa pilaf

Doesn’t every mom want their child to develop life-long healthy habits? Educating kids to eat right from the start, expand their culinary horizons, and have them enjoy what they eat is every mom’s goal. But the question is how can this fantasy come true? I believe that eating right in school is a natural extension to eating right at home. I am a mom of three children, and just like all moms I wanted to give my kids a healthy, yummy, and filling lunch. School lunches that are available at canteens or delivered to the school by a catering company was not what I wanted my kids to eat. Such lunches are often prepared well in advance, are ignorant of a child’s nutritional needs and lack flavor. From a very young age, I exposed my children to a variety of foods, spoke to them often why it is good for them to make healthy choices, and did not give up educating them as I learnt new things. I always encouraged them to take a bite of a dish they might not have eaten before, but I never forced them to eat more than that. Slowly their palates grew accustomed to my style of cooking and now they are all foodies who would happily pick a wholesome meal than junk food.

Here are some reasons why I think home cooked lunches are the best:

  • They are freshly prepared everyday

  • They are free of preservatives and extra sugar

  • They are free of trans fats

  • They are free of artificial ingredients

  • They are served in right proportions

  • They can be nutritious, tasty, and satisfying

  • They can help children to be more productive, attentive, and motivated in class

  • Parents can track how much their child eats everyday

  • Parents can educate their children to broaden their palate

  • They can be sent to school in eco-friendly or recyclable packaging

I often use one ingredient to build on a recipe. Last night, I made an Indian Chole vegetable and realized that I had soaked more chickpeas than I needed. So I decided to use them as my base ingredient and make something completely different for my children’s lunch - Chickpea Quinoa Pilaf! I had never made this before but the idea just came to me, and I went with it. I’m totally in love with this bean because not only is it extremely healthy, it is very versatile to cook with. So I’ve decided that my next two recipes will be based out of chickpeas as well. Tune in to my next post to learn other ways to use chickpeas in wholesome, flavorful, and easy to make recipes for your kids’ lunches.

Quinoa Chickpea Pilaf

Spiced Chickpea and Quinoa Pilaf with Cucumber Raita

Ingredients for the pilaf:

1 cup quinoa, soaked overnight - I used the tri-color one

1 cup chickpea, soaked overnight ( or a cup of canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed)

20 raisins, soaked overnight

¼ cup pure olive oil

1 Tbsp ginger, minced

1 Tbsp garlic, minced

2 cardamom pods

2 cloves

1 small cinnamon stick

1.5 cups vegetable stock

½ cup orange juice

1 pinch black pepper

The following vegetables diced small (about ¼”)

1 sweet white onion

½ cup zucchini

½ cup carrot

½ cup mixed peppers (red, yellow, orange)

½ cup butternut squash ( if this is not available you can substitute it with sweet potato)

2 tomatoes, skinned

Masala mix ingredients:

1.5 Tbsp Coriander seeds

1.5 Tbsp Cumin seeds

1 Bay leaf

2 Kashmiri chillies (dried red chilies from India)

Preparing the spice mix:

In a heavy bottomed skillet, dry roast all the ingredients till they are lightly cooked. Set aside and cool. In a dry grinder, grind all the ingredients into a fine powder.

Procedure for the pilaf:

Cook the soaked chickpeas with salt in a pressure cooker. Drain the water and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over a medium flame. Saute the onions and cook until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook until the strong sulphuric smell of garlic does not go away (about a minute). Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger and cook for another minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and the spice mix and cook till the oil starts separating. Now add the rest of the diced vegetables, quinoa, stock and salt. Cover and let it simmer till ¾ of the water has been absorbed. Do not stir in between as the steam vents are aiding in the cooking process. Add the orange juice and the cooked chickpeas and stir gently to make sure that the juice is mixed well. Cover again and simmer till most of the water is gone. Take off the flame and let it sit, covered for another 5 minutes. Fill your kids lunch boxes and garnish with cilantro leaves. As a side you can serve your kids a portion of cucumber raita. Wish your kids a healthy, satisfying, and tasty meal!

Easy Cucumber Raita ingredients and preparation:

2 cups plain yogurt

¼ of an english cucumber, grated thin

1 Tbsp mint leaves, minced

1 Tbsp cilantro leaves, minced

¼ tsp roasted cumin powder

⅛ tsp kala namak (black salt)

Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate till service

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