Project 50k - Weekly DIET-MEAL PLAN

Project 50k Weekly Meal Plan 1 – Diet Meal Plan

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. Really? You’re stuffing ricotta into ravioli and then deep-frying it. And you are sandwiching ice-cream between cake and dunking in melted chocolate and then frosting it. And with the slightest hint of rain, before the radio channels can switch to rain songs, food bloggers are out in action with a flurry of deep fried pakodas and bajjis in their feeds. Really? How do you guys know I am on a diet? Where are the salads and health drinks and smoothies? Deep fried crisp fritters, bubbling oil, melting cheese and dripping chocolate are sexy. They truly are food porn. And you can’t compete with porn. There wasn’t a harder time to be on a diet. The first couple of weeks of a diet can be agonizing and frustrating at times. Hang on though. There’s nothing like seeing the weigh scale show you a smaller number. I don’t think diet meals need not be boring or bland. It is totally possible to have healthy, delicious diet meals. I rounded up six of the diet meals that I’ve been making lately to help provide you some inspiration to make your own tasty diet meals. I love that most of these meals can be served to the entire family or you can pick one or two of the components of the meal for yourself. I am keeping it simple. Most of us don’t have the time, energy or resources to cook separate meals for ourselves. #Project50k is about real people with busy, messy lives pushing themselves to reach their goal weight. Tap the images below to get the recipes to those dishes.   The past week wasn’t too great for me. I ate out twice and missed gym most of the week. I am therefore making an extra effort to eat right the rest of the days. How has the past week been for you? Share your progress, story with me.   I’ve also been busy testing a few theories the past couple of weeks – Kelloggs special K, 30 day AB workout plus a few home remedies. I’ll share the results of those tests in the coming weeks. Stay focused. We can do this. Keep moving and eat well!
Chapathi dal grilled chicken - Diet meal

Chapathi, Dal and Grilled chicken – Diet meal

At times it’s hard to believe that something as good as it tastes could be good for you. It was so with this Chapathi, Dal and grilled chicken combo. Delicious, wholesome and satisfying. I wouldn’t mind having this meal again and again. Except for the chapathi, the rest of the components of this meal are almost no effort.   There are hundreds of flavours for your grilled chicken. I happened to have some leftover Thai red curry paste which I rubbed into the chicken and let it marinate for an hour before placing it on a cookie sheet in the hot oven and grilled for 30 minutes, flipping half way through. While the chicken cooked, I pressure cooked toor dal with salt and green chillies till soft, mashed it and finished with a simple tempering of mustard seeds and oil. I cut up a couple of carrot and beans into long strips and steamed them in my idli steamer. I made chapathis last. You can buy Thai red curry paste at stores if you don’t want to bother making it at home. If you are not crazy about Thai red curry flavour, you could try Tandoori style, Teriyaki or a simple lemon-salt-black pepper version. This is a meal you can serve your whole family. But good luck with the steamed vegetables. I ate most of them. Happy Dieting! Let’s do this – Project 50k!
Fish Moilee

Fish Moilee

I hope you had a good Mother’s day. I hope you didn’t post a selfie of yourself with your mother. That would seem too much of a cliché I’d think. I am sorry if I offended those who did. In my family, we don’t hug. We don’t crowd our heads together for selfies. Wish someone “Happy Birthday” and they’ll get awkward and reply “Ok, sure”. Try getting everyone into a family picture and you may very well give up the idea of family pictures forever. The entire family has difficulty expressing affection. They’ll make biryani, chicken kurma to say “welcome back, I missed you”, they’ll heap Himampasand mangoes to say “take care”. This family doesn’t recognize Mothers day, Fathers day and such. I dared to try. I decided to gift my mother a leisurely no-cooking day. I made green peas brinji, poori, vegetable kurma, fish fry and mango parfait. I told my mother to not cook anything for the day. She being who she is made just an Upma, some more kuzhambu, rice and seppankezhangu fry, nothing else. She has no idea of Mothers day. I tell her while I serve the brinji I made. “Oho sari sari”, she says. She enjoyed the meal. I am not going to take any chances with my kids. I start a day earlier. I tell them all about Mothers day. I tell Hasini and Yuvan – “It is Mothers day tomorrow”. I explain the concept to them. I dwell on the part about making it special for the mother. I then ask Yuvi – “What are you going to do tomorrow?” “I am going to ride my cycle” I look at Jagan for any signs of training. He seems surprised and amused. Hasini was very excited about getting me a present for mother’s day. She pushed us out from the couch, into the car and to the store to get me a cotton top. I really do love the top. I had a lot of leftover fish from Mother’s day that I was wont to fry. I made Fish Moilee instead. I learnt this recipe on one of our trips to Kerala. I cannot believe I’ve waited so long to make it. You could use this basic stew recipe and substitute prawns instead of the fish to make Prawn Moilee. This is one of those fragrant, delicately spiced but gorgeously flavourful stews that...
chicken burger

Chicken burger

Me: “It is so hot these days. Summer is here.” Yuvan: “AC podu ma” (Switch on AC) Me: “Summer le nariye Vathal podalam” (We can make lots of vathals this summer) Yuvan: “Vathal pota summer poiduma?” (Will summer go away if you make vathals?) I guffawed. He smiled, pleased that he had cracked me up. He genuinely didn’t understand how my “vathal making” made any difference (“Nee vathal pota yenna podalena yenna?”). Yuvi and I have been at loggerheads for the past week and a half because of his exams. He wasn’t pleased that he was doing all the writing and I wasn’t. He swore that he’d make me write hundreds of pages just like he was writing (2 pages). After he put away his books, sharpened his pencils and put away his bag for the next day, he came up to me and gave me a sheaf of papers. He had drawn rows and columns and written an alphabet in each little box. He wanted me to write A, B, C, D… till Z and repeat in each of those sheets. I looked at his serious face seeking justice, revenge. I took the papers from him and started writing A,B,C. He wanted to eat burger, he told me – “With the leaf and sauce and chicken”. So I made chicken burger for him stacking cheese, onions, lettuce and chicken. He opened up the bun, took down the chicken cutlet, set aside the lettuce and made a deconstructed burger platter. He then ate his favourite parts – the chicken, bun, cheese, onion and sauce and left out the lettuce and tomato. He liked it, he said. Like most homes, I have one who likes burgers and two who don’t and one who abstains, two who like pasta and two who don’t, two who like chutney and two who don’t, two who like sambar rice and two who don’t, three who like Pongal and one who doesn’t. I manage with zero consensus on most dishes. I make do with coercion and blackmail (no movie, no colouring, no TV). Or I offer a more hated alternative which immediately makes this one look better – podi instead of chutney? Curd rice instead of sambar rice? Go ahead and make these chicken burgers with or without consensus. They’re easier than you think. The chicken patties are really simple to put together belying their crispy,...
Chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pie

Do you buy baby potatoes to make Dum Aloo but then make potato varuval out of it? Do you get brinjals intending to make bhaingan bharta but make kathirikkai kuzhambu out of habit? Do you pick up baby corn and cauliflower with a mental picture of a stir fry but drop it in the vegetable kurma instead?  You do? Then I am your best friend. I buy chicken mentally vowing not to make chicken kurma or chicken fry. I see hot and sweet chicken wings, popcorn chicken, chicken satay and all the 1 minute food videos in a slideshow in my mind. But the morning I intend to cook the chicken, I’ve run out of corn flour or I don’t have enough time or the rest of the dishes I am making don’t go with this. I will find a reason to not make popcorn chicken. This was the story of the Chicken pot pie. Pot pie has been on my radar for a few years now. Long before I ever tasted it, I knew I’ll like it. I knew I wanted to make it someday. Last year I tasted pot pie when I visited Boston. I was smitten. I knew I had to make it. I also knew I’ll find a reason to not make it. Last week, I wrote down Chicken pot pie in my weekly menu. I shopped for the ingredients. I had everything I needed. I didn’t make it on Monday. I barely made it to the school van on time. I hobbled across the road, hair brush in my pocket, Hasini’s tie in one hand, lunch bags dangling from my shoulder, holding the kids hands, handing over the tie to hasini’s friend in the bus asking her to help Hasini with it. I don’t remember if I packed dosai or jam sandwich that day. I rolled out, folded, and chilled the puff pastry dough again and again over the week, while yelling at the kids to put away their school bags, just before crashing on to the bed, when I went to get a drink of water at night. The rolling pin and bowl of flour were out all week. I decided I was going to make it on Friday. I woke up early that day. I knew it was a sign. I made it. I must tell you. This chicken pot pie is pure...
Hyderbadi biryani

Hyderabadi Biryani

Yesterday I took the lift in my office. I thought “I’ve exercised today, I deserve a reward”. Today I took the lift. I thought “I didn’t exercise today. A break day has to be a total break.” I am not sure if secretly, deep inside I want to be fat. On the surface I don’t want to be. I also know that I should not say no to Biryani and Lasagna and molaga bajji. Saying no to biryani because I want to fit into an old pair of jeans seems quite shallow. After about two weeks of sincere exercise and painful diet control, I see that I weigh the same. Instead of breaking the weighing scale, I rebel. I don’t exercise for 3 days after that. I add a heaped spoon of sugar to my coffee instead of sugar-free. I make deep fried sweet corn cutlets. I make a rich, decadent, ghee laden Hyderabad biryani. I eat it for lunch and dinner. There, take that. I usually shy away from making the Hyderabadi style biryani because it is too much work. It involves lots of different components and takes the whole morning. But this time, I compressed and downsized the process to my lazy comfort level. There are just 3 components to my version – Marinated & cooked chicken, partially cooked rice with whole spices and fried onions. Just layer these three components and you’re done. Critical to a good hyderabadi biryani is the point to which you cook the rice initially. I would recommend not cooking the rice for more than 4-5 minutes. The partially cooked rice should be firm, not soft. Also important is the amount of liquid in the chicken masala before you do the layering. The chicken masala should be thickish, not runny. If your masala is runny, cook down the masala till it is nice and thick. This Hyderabadi biryani pairs beautifully with a simple raita and boiled eggs. Make a salan if you wish. But this Hyderabadi biryani is magnificent on its own. Rice in lovely ombre shades of yellow and orange dotted with succulent flavour packed chicken make this biryani a great dish to make for parties. This is the kind of biryani that stays in the mind long after you’ve scraped the last ladle from the handi. You can adapt this recipe to make a vegetable hyderabadi biryani or mutton hyderabadi biryani...
Chipotle style bowl

Chipotle inspired chicken bowl

I was walking to the T station in Boston, after Happy hour, feeling friendly with the world. I saw the people at the traffic light waiting to cross the road looking straight ahead, the old man in the wheelchair who seemed to be talking to everybody passing by, the office goers briskly walking by, joggers and tourists in hats. I was smiling, humming a Tamil song softly. Nobody seemed to know that I was new, that I wasn’t from here. I kind of fit in. “Chipotle, Hey Chipotle!” a young man called to me as he walked past me, laughing loudly. I turned to look if he was referring to someone else. He wasn’t. I felt my cheeks flush. I realized he meant to insult me but I didn’t understand. I liked Chipotle. Why was Chipotle funny or low? And I wasn’t Chipotle. I was idli, sambar, biryani, idiyappam, maanga oorukai, adhirasam, upma, full meals, molaga bajji!   “Who you? Sandwich? ” – I didn’t ask. I sat in the train wondering. Back home, people were more informed. They’d learn your caste, sub-caste, sect and division and then call you that – “ Iyer $%&*, mudaliar $%^#, &*@# Nadar …” This guy had mixed up entire countries. I realized that these guys didn’t know and didn’t care if I was Mexican or Indian or Pakistani or Egyptian. They knew they were white. Black and all shades of brown were lower. I checked myself in the train window. I thought I looked exotic among my fellow passengers – brown skin, long hair, kohl lined eyes, kurta and salwar. It could have been the alcohol. I plugged in my i-pod and chose the most Tamil song I could think of. I made a mental note to eat at Chipotle the next day. I made a Chipotle inspired rice bowl a couple of days back. This is to the guy who thought he insulted me by calling me “Chipotle”. I am not insulted.  It is super easy, if you skip most of the toppings you find at Chipotle. I dare say we loved the simple version. No Guacamole, no sour cream, no lettuce and no chips. If you have all of these, by all means pile them on. I had some leftover grilled chicken I cut up and sautéed with onions and spices. I cooked some basmati rice and made the simplest beans...
mutton keerai curry

Mutton Keerai curry

Having a frequent flyer husband means having the recliner all for yourself, not making coffee three times a day, making the most lazy ass meals and not picking up pant, underwear, lungi and shirt off the floor. But you’re incessant yelling is not as good as that one thunderous dad’s command. You are forced to deciding to change the alternator belt in the car, drive during the weekend, brave kids injuries and wrangle with carpenter, plumber, electrician and appliance repair man as every appliance takes its turn to break down one after another. You are left as the sole PRO for all family communications which you’ll avoid at any cost. And then there are the women who’ll tell you how easy it is for you to be away from the husband, how they cannot imagine themselves being so business as usual. I’ve come to see this as one of those “put-down-compliments” that women say a lot. What they’re actually saying is “You’re such a bitch. I am such a good-wife/good-woman/good-mother/good daughter-in-law.” I say I enjoy the recliner. I like it that it upsets them. The day I realized I wasn’t going to compete, that I didn’t want to be the good wife/mother/daughter-in-law, that I didn’t care about others’ standards, that I wasn’t interested in fitting in, I was free. It was the most liberating thing ever. Don’t try so hard to be so good. It is ok. Mommy meetings will be especially painful. You’ll have nothing to say. You’ll die a slow death listening to the mommies one-up each other on their kids achievements or fret over their poor kids going to school five days a week. Small talk will be excruciating. Relatives will think you are haughty. They’ll avoid you. You’ll enjoy the peace. You’ll realize you need not make sambhar every Friday. You’ll discover that making seedai instead of the family tradition ribbon pakoda for Krishna Jayanthi didn’t kill you. You won’t feel the urge – to photograph your puja arrangements and share them with relatives to register your participation, brag-bore guests about how your kid scratched up the neighbour’s car (Ha Ha.. so naughty!) and mentally go through who will say what before making every decision. You’ll do only what you believe in – whether it is not wearing a saree when you don’t feel like it or making a mutton keerai curry during puratasi. Go on....
chicken masala vadai

Masala Chicken vadai

I spent three days cleaning out my cupboards, shelves, beros, paranai, tops of beros, top of fridge, window sills, between wall and cupboard, behind cupboard, under cupboard, under stairs and inside drawers. Did you know you could store stuff in all these places? Martha Stewart won’t tell you that. I found I did not fit into 80% of the clothes I had. I had so many different cables and wires I could technically connect my TV to laptop to remote controlled car to DVD player to charger to camera to mixie. I’d still be clutching a handful of un-identified cables that fit into obsolete ports. I had loose change everywhere. None of the pens actually wrote. My fountain pens had all dried up. I had about 2 huge suitcases of books I had no space for. I hadn’t read most of my recent purchases. I wasn’t going to deal with the toys. It was too much. I had 100 glass milk bottles – the small cute kind for times when I might throw a party for 100 people. I had no business having as many cake pans as I did. I had enough small bowls in melamine, ceramic, earthenware, steel and microwaveable plastic for every conceivable need that I knew not, how to put away. I had my napkins, tablemats, little pieces of cloth, wooden boards, empty photo frames, textured cards – stray stuff that were the props for my blog photos. Friends, relatives and the maid when they see these, turn to look at me searching for reason. I don’t meet their eye. All I did those few days was to pack bag after bag of stuff that I just couldn’t have any more. I was angry at myself. I was severe with every little purse, dabba and tight jeans I hadn’t fit into in 7 years. I needed about two and a half kitchens to store just my baking stuff. It seemed impossible. When I couldn’t make up my mind, I put them in boxes and stashed them in the paranai. I started with a cabinet full of stuff. I kept going ruthlessly. At the end of it I had emptied most of the cabinet and filled up all of the paranais. For those who are unfamiliar with “paranai” these are the Indian equivalent of your “attic”, only we have these all over the house to stow away...

Chicken Pasta salad with creamy mayo dressing

“STOP FIGHTING and STOP SHOUTING. Why do you shout that way? I don’t like shouting” –  I shout, louder than both of them. “I don’t want to hear any complaints about each other. Go, brush your teeth. Your teacher also says the same thing? Yes, she is right. I don’t want complaints either. Be friends. Better, stay away from each other. Brush your teeth. I don’t know where the white race car with the skull sticker is. Find it yourself. No, I will not buy ice cream again today. No, I am not giving my phone instead. Switch off the TV. Brush your teeth. Close the fridge. I can’t make lemon juice now. Close the freezer. No Poori. Same tiffen for everybody. Brush your teeth. I don’t have time. No, I have to go to office. I can’t stay at home. Brush your teeth.” Yes, Summer vacation. I think back to my summer holidays. What ever was I doing? Cartoons were only on Sunday – Duck tales and Mickey mouse in the morning, He-Man in the evening. What did I do the rest of the time? I played out in the sun the whole day, running about, making up games, leaves were money, the Ashoka tree was the shop, the gate was the school. Nobody called us in for lunch. We were on our own. We fought, ran, chased each other, fell down, scratched our knees, got up and ran again. We could play carom pauper the whole afternoon and not be bored. What is really weird is that the grandparents of our little ones, the same ones who didn’t bother to check on us while we sweated outside in the sun, the ones who didn’t check if we had eaten lunch, the ones who bought us one Mango 2-in-one bar once in 6 months, stops the Kwality Walls vandi every day to buy Jiggly jelly and Cornetto for our kids. Strange. We are the in-between generation bewildered, muddled trying to please everyone, satisfying no one. Summer is pushing me towards salads, muskmelon juice, mangoes and lassis. I am always trying to simplify meals – one-pot meals, one dish meals. I had a wonderful idea of making an all-in-one Chicken pasta salad that could be a meal in itself – chicken, pasta, fresh crisp vegetables and creamy mayonnaise dressing. I could have the whole thing done in 20 minutes and...

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