Healthy Quinoa Salad

Most of the time we think of healthy food and we and equate it to a drab, tasteless meal and especially, if it is a salad, we think of rabbit food. This salad is healthy and tasty, full of veggies and with a lime chilli vinaigrette. I was also making hummus and had some cooked chickpeas, so added that too to make a complete meal. It is also colorful and will make a beautiful addition to your holiday dinner table.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 green, red and yellow capsicums/peppers, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 small English cucumbers, cut into cubes
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, cut into half
  • 1/2 cup, chopped coriander/cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans (optional – but will add protein to the salad)
  • salt to taste

Lime Chilli Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, cooked in a tsp of olive oil and chopped finely

Directions

  • Rinse quinoa well. In a saucepan add the quinoa and double the amount of water and place on high heat, till it boils. Then lower to medium heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes till all the water has been absorbed. Cover for 5-10 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Let it cool.
  • Meanwhile, add all ingredients for the dressing in a glass bottle, cover it and shake it well till well blended. Let it rest. The longer it rests, the better.
  • In a large mixing bowl add all the vegetables and the cooled quinoa.
  • Pour in the dressing and mix. (Pour half of it, mix, taste and then add more if required)
  • Season with salt and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. 
  • Enjoy!

You could substitute quinoa with couscous or broken wheat/bulgar too. This stays for a couple of days in the fridge, so save some for lunch the next day! I was inspired by the recipe in cookie and Kate and then adapted it to my own taste.

Hummus – Healthy and Easy to make

When I have guests, I have some easy appetizers and dips that I make. Hummus is one of them. I think the first time I ate hummus was at Oasis Falafel in Iowa city. It is a very small restaurant with maybe four tables but with the best falafel and hummus. Because I am lactose intolerant, I make this often, since it is dairy-free and of course healthy. I jazz it up with whatever catches my fancy that day and what I have in the pantry. Add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin and you get a different hummus.

Healthy Hummus

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 1 can garbanzo beans

4-5 garlic cloves

¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 pinch baking soda

1 tsp cumin powder

4-5 ice cubes 

Garnishes: cumin powder, chilli powder, roasted chickpeas, chopped parsley, roasted pine nuts or sesame seeds

Directions:

Soak dried chickpeas in water, overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Cook chickpeas with 2 cloves of garlic and some salt till soft. I use a pressure cooker and let it whistle for 3-4 times. It should be soft. Let it cool.

Strain (save the cooking liquid) and rinse the chick peas.

In a small saucepan, heat a tsp of oil and cook 2 cloves of garlic till soft. (Usually, raw garlic is added, but I prefer to cook it)

In a blender/ food processor, add the garlic, tahini and ice cubes and blend. The ice cubes make the tahini smooth by breaking down the fat. Blend for a few minutes.

Add chickpeas in small batches and blend. Add some chickpeas cooking liquid and blend. Add cumin powder and salt and blend till creamy. (Be careful with the salt, since salt was added while cooking the chickpeas and the liquid will also have salt). Add olive oil and blend.

Garnish it with any of the garnishes mentioned.

Serve with pita bread.

Olive Hummus

To the basic hummus recipes, add 3-4 tablespoons of oliveand blend for 20 seconds. Serve.

Olive Hummus

Pumpkin Hummus

To the basic hummus recipe add a couple of tablespoonsof roasted pumpkin and blend till smooth. This hummus is slightly sweet. Garnish with small pieces of pumpkin or roasted pumpkin seeds

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus

To the basic hummus recipe add a couple of tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes and blend.

Sheet Dinners

This seems to be the craze right now and I know why. It is really easy, throw all your vegetables on a tray and bake. Makes an easy weekday dinner. I add spices depending on my moods. Make some rice, pasta or just have it with some nice crusty bread and cheese.

My son would like to start cooking when he gets back to college. He likes to cook and I was telling him that using an instant pot and a sheet pan will make his life easy.

So here are some sheet dinners.

Roasted Butternut Squash

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Peel and slice a butternut squash – 1 inch slices
  • Mix in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • Toss and add to a greased sheet pan. I sometimes use parchment paper
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Serve as a side

Roasted green beans

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Wash and trim 1 pound (1/2 kg) string beans
  • Toss in a pan with a tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • Slice 2-3 pieces of lemon
  • Add beans to a greased sheet pan. Add lemon on top
  • Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes
  • At the last 2-3 minutes, add some sliced almonds and roast
  • Squeeze lemon juice on beans.
  • Serve hot. It can be eaten as a snack or a side

Roasted and Smashed Potatoes

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Wash and parboil a pound of baby potatoes
  • Smash potato using a masher or a spoon
  • In a bowl, add potatoes, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, corinader powder, garlic and onion powder
  • Pour on to the greased sheet pan onto a single layer
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes
  • Serve hot

Roasted Vegetables

I usually use what vegetables I have in hand. Cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin roast well. I sometimes add italian spices, sometimes add indian spices like coriander, cumin, garam masala, sometimes Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute or chili lime or everything but the bagel. I also like to roast a head of garlic and then squeeze it on to the vegetables.

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Wash and slice vegetables to equal sizes
  • Toss in a pan with a tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and 3 cloves finely chopped garlic or any spice you like
  • Slice 2-3 pieces of lemon
  • Add vegetables to a greased sheet pan. Add lemon on top
  • Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes
  • Squeeze lemon juice on vegetables.
  • Serve hot.

Vegetarian Burmese Khow Suey

The first time I ate Khow Suey was when my friend, Ritika got leftovers for lunch. It was delicious. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Babita sent me a picture of the dish she made. It was beautiful. It inspired me to make it. Here are Babita’s pictures:

This is a Burmese dish (not sure if it is authentic Burmese) but one which is made all over India. It is a fun dish with all the garnishes you add to the noodles and soup.There is a restaurant called Burma Burma in Bangalore which makes good khow suey; I think mine surely made the cut. It really hit the spot. Mine is a vegetarian version but you could surely add shrimp or chicken to it.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion sliced thin
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • coriander leaves/ cilantro 4 tbst
  • 5-6 tbsp peanuts, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fried noodles (optional)
  • spring onions, sliced thin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp turmeric powder)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp lemon rind
  • 3 tbsp crushed tomato
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp besan (gram flour)
  • 1/2 tsp bouillon paste or 1 bouillon cube
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 packet tofu, drained and cut into cubes
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 broccoli, chopped
  • 7-8 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 packets (300 g) wheat or rice noodles, cooked
  • lemon or lime, cut into wedges
  • full boiled egg (optional)

Directions

  • In a pan heat 2 tbsp oil. Fry sliced garlic, drain and keep aside. Add sliced onions and fry till golden. Keep aside.
  • Grind onions, ginger, garlic and turmeric.
  • In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add the paste and keep mixing till well cooked and the oil separates. Add coriander, cumin and chilli powder and mix. Add tomatoes and cook on a low flame for a few minutes
  • Add the vegetable stock, buillion, lemon rind and cook
  • In a small cup mix a few tbsp water and gram flour
  • Add to the stock and mix well to avoid lumps
  • Add vegetables and coconut milk and cook till vegetables are cooked but have a bite. Add tofu and 1 tsp soya sauce
  • Boil and remove from flame

To serve, place some noodles in a bowl. Add soup. Garnish with fried onions, green onions, fried garlic, coriander, nuts, fried noodles, egg and lemon juice

Sandya’s Sunday Lunch

JEERA RASAM, PARAPU USILI AND MOR KOOTAN

Sandya, my niece sent me some more recipes. this would be sunday lunch at her home. Serve with steamed rice and some papadum. I make a different version of jeera rasam; I tried this after she sent me the recipe.The only change was that I added 4-5 cloves of garlic, which of course is optional. The rasam was spicy, tangy and perfect with rice. I had to pour some in a cup and drink it as a soup. This is perfect if you have the sniffles; it surely clears up your sinuses.

Jeera rasam

  • Soak 1tsp tur dal, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp pepper corns, and a handful of curry leaves for 30 min and grind in a blender
  • In a kadai or saucepan, take the juice of a lemon sized tamarind (lemon sized tamarind soaked in hot water and squeeze and discard tamarind and use the juice. Alternatively, use 1 tsp tamarind concentrate with 2 cups water). Add 1 chopped tomato, 1/4 tsp asafoetida, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 3-4 cloves of garlic (optional) and boil well.
  • Add the ground paste and adjust consistency by adding one cup water if required. Let it boil until it is frothy on the top.
  • Add ghee to a pan and add a tsp of mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter add to the rasam. This is called tempering. Add coriander leaves as garnish. Serve hot with steamed rice or drink as an appetizer soup.

Parupu (Lentils) usili

This is a dish you will love to eat over and over again. The lentils are roasted and golden and have a nutty flavour; the chillies combined with stir fried beans. I could just eat this by itself!


Courtesy: Geethas Kitchen

  • Soak 2 cups tur dal, 2 tsps channa dal, 3 red chillies in 3 cups water for 2 hours.
  • Grind without adding water with a few curry leaves and 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder into a thick paste
  • Steam as balls in a steam or on an idli tray
  • Once it cools, pulse in blender till it crumbles (pulse 2-3 times-do not grind). Set aside
  • Stir fry any finely chopped vegetables of your choice- beans/ cluster beans/ broad beans/ vazhai poo (banana flower). Set aside.
  • In a kadai or pan heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2-3 red chillies, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and a couple of curry leaves.
  • To this add the crumbled dal/lentils and saute on a medium flame until it becomes mildly crispy and brown.
  • Then add the stir fried vegetables and saute for another 2 minutes and serve with steamed rice.
  • The is a perfect dish to eat if you do not want carbs, just leave out the rice

Mor kootan (Coconut and yogurt sauce)

Mor kootan is a curd/yogurt based sauce which is perfect with rice. In the north of India a similar dish called khadi is made. In the south we use coconut and has a very different taste. It is a mild sauce with the coconut and yogurt mellowing down the flavours of the chillies.

  • Grind 1 cup sliced or grated coconut, 2-3 green chillies or jalapeno chillies, 1 tsp rice powder, 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 cups curd/yogurt. Do not add water; grind till coconut and chillies are finely ground. Keep paste aside
  • Add 2 tsp coconut oil to a kadai/ sauce pan
  • Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2-3 red chillies, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and a couple of curry leaves.
  • When mustard seeds splutter add 1 cup of bhindi(okra)- cut to 1 inch pieces or cooked arbi (colocasia) or green peppers (capsicum) and fry till the vegetable is cooked. You could also use raw plantain, ash gourd or pumkin.
  • Add ground paste and mix. Add salt and 1 cup water
  • Take off heat once it starts bubbling.
  • Serve with steamed rice

Paneer And Veg Kathi Rolls/ Frankies

Kathi rolls and Frankies were not something I grew up with in the south of India. We had our masala dosas which are rice crepes filled with a potato filling and a coconut chutney on the side. In the south, people believed in sitting down for meals and eating and relishing it. I have read that Khati rolls originated in Calcutta and Frankies in Mumbai; two cities hustling and bustling even back when I was a kid. I had not visited either place until I was an adult. I grew up in a sleepy small town called Bangalore where street food included masala puri, nippatu chat and gobi manchurian. Since I had not travelled beyond the Vindhya mountains I had not come across food like kathi rolls and frankies. Kathi rolls are found on almost every street in Calcutta and oh, so scrumptious. Both Kathi rolls and frankies are rotis stuffed with meat or veggies and maybe cheese and rolled to be eaten on the go. Sometimes, an egg is added to the roti. Today you find this everywhere even in the ‘not so sleepy’ city of Bangalore.

This is my version, inspired from the streets of Calcutta and Mumbai. To be more decadent, a nice flaky ceylon parantha could be used instead of a whole wheat roti. It is spicy and tangy. You could fill it with chicken tikka or panner tikka or any vegetables or meat of you choice. Kebabs go really well with this. I have used tamarind and coriander chutney but a yogurt dip (yogurt mixed with coriander chutney) may also be used.

Paneer Masala

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet paneer 200 g
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • To be mixed to a paste: 1 tsp garlic paste, 1 tsp ginger paste, 2 tsp chat masala, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 -1 tsp chilli powder, salt, 1 tbsp yogurt (optional)
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves

Directions:

  • Cut paneer into cubes. Coat paste on paneer and let it marinate for 30 minutes
  • Heat oil, add onions and fry till golden brown
  • Add tomatoes and fry till tomatoes are well cooked and oil separates (you see some oil on the sides of the pan)
  • Add the paneer and keep cooking till it is almost dry. Keep mixing to avoid burning

Mushroom Capsicum Pepper Stir Fry

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp chat masala
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp oil

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a pan
  • Add onions and fry for a few minutes
  • Add mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes
  • Add the capsicum/green peppers and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt, chat masala and chilli powder
  • Set aside

Onion garnish

Slice one red onion, squeeze 1/2 a lemon on it. Add 1/2 tsp chilli powder and 1 tsp chat masala, 1/4 tsp salt. Mix and set aside.

  • tortillas/ chappati/ ceylon paratha
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • coriander chutney, store bought
  • sweet tamarind chutney, store bought

Method

  • Heat rotis/ paratha drizzling some oil on it
  • Place some paneer or veggies on the rotis
  • drizzle some coriander and tamarind chutney on it
  • Add some onion garnish
  • Roll and serve hot

Breakfast and dinner- Recipes by danya

Maharashtrian Poha (Beaten Rice) and Punjabi Dal

When I started asking recipes from family, Danya was one of the excited nieces who sent me recipes. I remember visiting her in Mysore and showing her how to bake banana bread years ago. I heard she makes a really good banana bread. Her husband raves about her cooking. Danya is working on her PhD and will soon be Dr. Danya! In her spare time she enjoys cooking.

Here are two recipes. This is her version of a maharashtrian poha – a quick and tasty breakfast or anytime snack and punjabi dal (lentil soup eaten with rice or roti/naan). Danya said that the punjabi dal was a recipe her mother has been using for almost 30 years. The recipe was given to her mother by her aunt, Shanti.

Poha is beaten rice and you get both white and red variety. She has used red poha. In Tamil, poha is called aval and in Kannada it is called avalakki. In the south of india, a similar dish called aval upma or avalakki uppittu is made. Usually potatoes are not added and mustard seeds are added instead of cumin seeds. Garnish with grated coconut.

  1. Rinse two cups of poha and drain using a strainer. (Do not let it sit in the water; it will get soggy)
  2. Sprinkle salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and set aside.
  3. In a pan, heat 2 tsp oil and add 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  4. Add 1 cup chopped onions, 1-2 chopped green chilli (optional), 1/2 cup peanuts, 1 tbsp curry leaves (optional) and saute till onion turns golden.
  5. Add 1 chopped potato, salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder. Sprinkle a little bit of water and let the potato cook. Keep stirring.
  6. Once the potato is cooked well and dry, add the poha (beaten rice) and mix gently. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 minutes.
  7. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a tsp of lemon juice(optional).
  8. Serve with a cup of masala chai, tea or filter coffee (that would be another post)

Punjabi Dal

  1. Measure 1/3 cup each of toor dal, masoor dal, yellow moong dal, urad dal and channa dal.
  2. Pressure cook all the dals with three times the water.
  3. Soak 4 red chillies in warm/hot water. Chop one onion, four tomatoes and 5-6 cloves garlic. Grind the chopped onions, tomatoes and garlic along with the chillies and the water the chillies are soaked in. (This gives it a mild color). Remove the seeds from the chillies if you prefer less spice.
  4. Heat oil in a pan. Add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 2 bay leaves.
  5. Once the cumin seeds splutter, add 1 1/2 chopped onion and saute till golden brown.
  6. Add the paste, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, a 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, chilli powder, crushed kasuri methi and salt.
  7. Bring to a boil and cook it well.
  8. Add the cooked and mashed dal and boil.
  9. Check salt and adjust. You can add 1/2-3/4 tsp amchur powder for a tangy taste (optional). Amchur powder is dried mango powder.
  10. Simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and garnish with chopped coriander/ cilantro leaves and ghee. Serve with rice, roti or naan.

THATI’s tomato fried rice

My mother-in-law was an amazing woman. She was about 5 foot something and not very formidable looking. As a new bride and hearing stories of mother-in-laws, she did not fail. My first memory of her was making pal payasam or rice pudding. My job was to stir the pot continuously so that it did not burn. It was for a function and so it was a huge vessel. She asked me to stir and would come and check every few minutes. 25 years later, I still remember the feeling, the fear that the rice would burn at the bottom. Paal payasam was my favourite desert, but a few years later, I became intolerant to milk and I cannot eat it anymore.

My mother-in-law (her grandchildren called her thati and we, Amma) was a wonderful cook, cooking traditional foods. She did not believe in shortcuts and had to do it right. My husband often talks about the number of people/friends she has cooked for and my husband’s friends still remember her food. My husband and I lived abroad for many many years and visited India once a year. She lived with her other son and daughter in law. My sister in law became her sous chef. She was told how to cut vegetables, grind the masalas and always under thati’s watchful eye. She seldom raised her voice but got her job done with just a look, she could put Gordon Ramsay to shame. My sister-in-law is now an awesome cook. Years later, she came to stay with me but I had to leave early for work, so my helper Pushpa became her sous chef. When she could no longer cook, Pushpa cooked for her and they enjoyed a fond relationship.

Though thati usually cooked traditional food which did not include onion and garlic, there was a time she visited a naturopathy clinic. I remember meeting her just after her stay there. She was told that garlic was good for health and she started eating a lot of garlic and loved it. Around that time she started making this tomato rice, which she ate at the clinic. Her grand daughters loved this dish and she would often make it for them. This was almost 20 years ago.

When the pandemic started and we were all homebound, I was trying to collect recipes from the family. My nieces remembered the tomato rice their ‘thati’ made for them.This is her recipe with a few small changes. My mother in law passed away earlier this year. If she was alive, she would be sitting on the couch knowing exactly what I was doing in the kitchen and what ingredients went into the rice with just the fragrance wafting into the living room. I hope she approves. Amma, Rest in Peace!

This recipe is specially for her grand daughters Sandya, Sri and Danya!

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes, pureed (around 2 cups)
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (about 1/2 cup)- my m-i-l would use fresh coconut for the coconut milk- but I finds cans just as good
  • 1/2 cup water
  • about 10 cloves garlic, chopped (1/4 cup) – remember she loved garlic
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped finely (optional)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 green chillies (chopped)-optional
  • 2 tbsp oil (or 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp ghee) – ghee makes everything tasty
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 pods of cardamom
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups basmati rice (she used jeera rice)
  • coriander leaves and roasted cashew nuts to garnish

Directions

  • Wash and soak basmati rice in water for a few minutes. Drain and keep aside
  • In a pressure cooker or instant pot, heat oil/ghee
  • Add cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf
  • Add onions, garlic, green chilli and ginger and saute for a few minutes
  • Add rice and saute till translucent. Add turmeric and chilli powder
  • Add pureed tomato, coconut milk, water, and salt
  • Pressure cook for 1 whistle or for 2 minutes in the instant pot.
  • Fluff the rice and garnish with coriander leaves
  • You can also add some roasted cashew nuts on top
  • Serve with some stir fried vegetables, papad or raita.

After I wrote this post, Sandya also made this dish and sent me pictures- these are her pictures. I am sure her daughter loved it as much as she did as a kid and the tradition continues…