Sunday, February 26, 2012

Simply Saag Aloo (Greens with Sweet Potatoes)

A South Indian take on a traditionally North Indian dish using America's Southern Greens - Simply Saag Aloo is just simply yummy! Typically regular spinach and potatoes are used to make this dish. Although I used a mixture of kale, collards, mustard and turnip greens, other leafy green veggies such as chard, beet greens, Malabar spinach, etc may be substituted. I also substituted cream colored sweet potatoes for the regular. Roasting the sweet potatoes adds a delicious smoky layer to the flavors.

When using hardy greens like kale, pureeing tames them producing a velvety texture.


1 lb Mixed Greens, finely chopped
1 Serrano/Jalapeno Chile, blossom end slit
1/4 tsp Turmeric
2 medium Cream colored Sweet Potatoes, diced
2 tsp Coconut Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp split, skinless Urad dal
2 dried Red Chiles
Sea Salt to taste


Coat the diced sweet potatoes with 1 tsp of the oil, a pinch of salt and turmeric; roast in a 400 degree oven until tender and slightly caramelized.

Cook the greens and until soft in a small amount of water with the chile, a pinch of salt and the turmeric. Remove and discard the chile unless you like a hot dish.

Toast the mustard, chile and dal in one tsp of the oil; let cool. Blend the toasted spices with a little of the greens; add the rest of the greens and puree a little especially if the greens are too rough textured.

Mix the sweet potatoes with the greens (go ahead and mash a few of the pieces to add to the lovely velvety texture), add salt to taste and simmer gently for 10 minutes stirring to keep it from burning.

Serve hot with rice or rotis. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Coconut Milk Pudding (Vegan Custard)

This vegan custard may be prepared many ways: almond, butterscotch, chocolate, lemon/lime, vanilla, or with a floral essence using rose or orange flower waters! How's that for versatility? :-)

I have outlined the recipe for the flower water infused delicate pudding/custard. You may use the alternate ingredients given (instead of the flower water/coconut/nuts) to make the other types of puddings. Kewra is another lovely aromatic flower from Asia which is known as screw pine or pandanus and is used to flavor desserts and other foods.

If coconut milk beverage is not available, diluted coconut milk may be used; you may use rice or almond milk also. The amounts of sugar/syrup and flavorings may be increased or decreased to suit your taste. The cooking times may need to be adjusted as well as microwave ovens vary in their power.

4-6 Servings


2 cups Coconut Milk Beverage
2-3 Tbsp Cornstarch/Arrowroot powder
2-3 Tbsp Organic Sugar/Agave nectar
1-2 tsp rose/orange flower water
1 Tbsp freshly grated Coconut
1-2 Tbsp Almonds, Pistachio, Cashews, finely chopped

Alternate ingredients:

* Almond pudding: 1 tsp Almond essence (use almond milk instead of coconut milk if you like)
* Lemon/Lime: 1 tsp rind and 1 Tbsp fresh juice from a lemon or lime
* Kewra pudding: 1-2 tsp Kewra water instead of the other flower waters
* Vanilla pudding: use 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp essence
* Chocolate pudding: 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp essence, 4 Tbsp unsweetened coco powder, 1 Tbsp extra sugar or syrup
* Butterscotch Pudding: Cook 3 Tbsp Brown Sugar in a small pan until melted. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of the coconut milk to dissolve; stir in the rest of the coconut milk. Then proceed as follows.


* Preparation of Coconut Milk Pudding is quite similar to Vanilla Pudding or Chocolate Pudding.
* Combine agave nectar/sugar and cornstarch in a microwaveable bowl.
* Add the coconut milk and whisk vigorously until well mixed.
* Cook on high (full) power at first for two minutes; whisk well with a wire whisk.
* Cook again for 1 minute on full power; whisk again.
* Continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes more at 60 percent power - whisking every 30 seconds to a minute - until the custard comes to a boil and thickens a bit. Cooking at lower power ensures that the pudding does not boil over - been there and done that; what a mess :D!
* Remove and whisk well and let cool covered.
* Stir in the flower water of choice and whisk again.
* Pour the pudding into a pretty dish or individual dishes and decorate with the coconut and nuts.
* This pudding may be served warm or cold.
* Serve warm with cake or cold with your favorite fruits and/or whipped topping - Yum! Enjoy!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Paruppu Kanji (Sweet Mung Dal Porridge)

Paruppu Kanji is the leaner, no-nonsense cousin of Paruppu Pradhaman although it shares some of the ingredients of the rich pudding. It is a traditional offering for Sivarathri festival which falls in the winter months. After fasting the whole day, family members, friends, and neighbors gather together to give each other support to stay up the entire night praying, singing, and chanting melodious songs and bhajans in praise of Lord Siva. The Paruppu Kanji along with idlis or the sweet crepe-like Vella Dosai provides the staying power of protein as well as a bit of sugar for energy for keeping up the spirited chanting of bhajans.

This year Sivarathri falls on February 20th. Happy Sivarathri everyone!


1/2 cup split, skinless (yellow) Mung Dal
1 cup fresh Coconut, finely ground or 1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup Brown Sugar/Jaggery
1 Tbsp freshly ground dried Ginger (chukku)
1-2 pods Cardamom (optional)

Optional Topping:
1 tsp Ghee
2 Tbsp small Cashew pieces
2 Tbsp raisins


Toast the mung dal until fragrant and lightly toasted; cool.

Wash the toasted dal well and cook with fresh water to cover until very soft. Mash well with the back of a spoon but it is not necessary to puree into a paste.

Stir in the ground coconut along with the brown sugar/Jaggery and cook until sugar dissolves.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

If using coconut milk, stir it in at this point and heat through.

Add a bit of boiling water to get the right consistency; the Kanji should be quite soupy.

Stir in the ginger and cardamom and cover and let rest for a few minutes.

Heat the ghee in a small pan and toast the nuts; stir in the raisins and cook for a few seconds until soft and puffy. If you do not want to use ghee, dry toast the cashews and raisins carefully. Stir into the Kanji.

Serve hot or warm in mugs or bowls. Enjoy!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Vella Dosai (Sweet Dosa Pancakes)

We loved sweet and tasty Vella Dosai as children when Amma served them with freshly churned butter; perfect special after-school treats! They are quite easy to make also.

I have included my lightened version that makes use of a little Stevia extract so that the amount sugar is reduced without affecting the taste. If you prefer not to use Stevia, double the amount of brown sugar. Ghee adds a lovely aroma to the vella dosai; but Indian sesame or other oil may be used to cook them.

To make a good thing even better, a mashed banana, chopped jack fruit or apples may be added; when using fruit, add them to the blender after pureeing the coconut until the fruit is incorporated but not pulverized. Yummy!


1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tbsp Rice flour
1/4 cup Jaggery/Brown Sugar
Stevia Extract as needed
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh grated Coconut or 2-4 Tbsp dry
3-4 pods Cardamoms
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Oil or Ghee for cooking


Combine whole wheat and rice flours in a medium sized bowl.

Crush the cardamom pods slightly and gather the seeds; discard skins. Crush the seeds into a powder.

Place coconut, cardamom seeds, jaggery and salt in the carafe of a blender. Add just enough water - about 1/2 cup - to make blending possible and blend into a fairly smooth puree.

Pour the puree into the flours and mix well with a wire whisk until smooth; stir in the Stevia extract and additional water as needed to make a moderately thick but pourable batter.

The batter may be prepared in the blender by adding the flours to the coconut mixture and blending on low speed until well combined.

Allow to rest covered for about 15 minutes to let the flours hydrate well.

Heat a griddle or skillet to prepare thin dosas on low to medium heat until well-cooked on both sides; it is essential to adjust the heat as the dosas tend to burn because of their sugar content.

If the dosa turn out too thick, add a little water to thin the batter.

Serve warm with fresh soft unsalted butter or homemade Ghee. Enjoy!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thayir Milagai (How to make Yogurt Marinated Green Chiles)

Fried Thayir Milagai

Thayir milagai and a bowl of Yogurt Rice is a simple but perfect combination; it is one of our all time picnic favorites :D. We enjoy these delicious chiles with everything - rice, dosas, and even toast. I know some friends who love to munch on a bowl of these for a little snack!

It is quite easy to make thayir milagai; the best time to make them is in the summertime when chiles are abundant and we have long, hot, sunny days to dry them. I remember all the ladies getting ready to prepare all sorts of dried veggies - particularly the yogurt chiles - every year. Helping to bring in the dried chiles and put them back in the marinade were some of the duties of all the children - one of the side benefits of helping was that we loved sampling the delicious half-dry chiles :D. The half-dry chiles are also delicious with Molagushyam, Molakootal, and other mild curries - I am sure that it was no mystery to Amma how quantity of the chiles were dwindling rapidly.

Thayir Milagai means yogurt chiles; thayir = yogurt and milagai = chiles. The best chiles suitable for making Thayir Milagai are flavorful green ones that have a bite but not necessarily the hottest. If only very hot green chiles are available, some or all of the seeds including the core may be removed before marinating them in the yogurt. Stored in airtight containers, the dried chiles last a long time.

Dried Thayir Milagai


1/2 lb Green Chiles
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
1 Cup Tart Yogurt or Buttermilk


Wash the chiles well and wipe them dry.

Make a slit on the blossom ends of the chiles while keeping the stems intact; carefully remove some or all of the seeds if you like a milder chile.

Mix the yogurt and salt in a clean glass or ceramic jar with a lid.

Immerse the chiles into the yogurt, cover, and allow to stand overnight or a bit longer at room temperature.

Drain the chiles and reserve the yogurt marinade.

Spread the chiles on a non-reactive tray lined with parchment paper (makes it easy to clean the tray and the chiles won't stick either :D) and let dry in the sun for several hours.

At the end of the day return the chiles to the reserved yogurt, mix well and let soak overnight again.

In the morning, drain the chiles again and dry as before.

Repeat the above procedure about 3-4 times more.

Discard any remaining yogurt and dry the chiles thoroughly for another 3-4 days.

Store in an airtight jar until needed.

Heat a of tablespoonful of oil and cook and stir the chiles slowly until deep brown.

Cool and serve. Enjoy!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

'Spring' Cleaning

Winter has come and gone by in the blink of an eye and Spring is ready to spring! As the days stay brighter and longer, I am energized to really strengthen my resolutions for a new day and the year more than on New Years Day. I am also ready to do my 'spring' cleaning :-}. Just as we clean and air out our home and hearth - or really our closets, garages, or other spaces - our body, mind, and spirit need a little attention too. We absolutely deserve it!!

Before you roll up your sleeves and get ready to toss out all unnecessary stuff packed into every available nook and cranny, here is a YOU LIST:

You List

1. Smile at Self in mirror

2. Sit and breathe deeply for 5 minutes

3. Think 3 good thoughts about Self (at least 3)

“You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?” – Dr. Seuss

“Be yourself…everyone else is taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Have a great day J

According to Mayo Clinic health information that I read somewhere, it is good to take 'spring' cleaning one step further to renew not only our energy, but also get a new lease on life by following these seven steps to a better and new improved outlook. So, here we go:
  • Clear out old unhealthy habits and replace them with new healthy ones - take stock of your exercise and eating habits. "Nothing endures but change." - Heraclitus
  • Discard feelings of anger and guilt- throw out old grudges; forgive yourself. "Compassion for myself is the most powerful healer of them all." - Theodore Isaac Rubin
  • Squeeze in simple pleasures - invest time in enjoying nature and the beauty around us. I have found that nothing can ease my tension or worry better than a few minutes or hours spent in the garden. When I see that the tiniest amount of effort producing so much beauty, it is very satisfying beyond thinking. "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius
  • Nip negative thoughts in the bud - concentrate on uplifting and optimistic thoughts. "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." - Vince Lombardi
  • Make time for friendships - connect with friends old and new. We lost a friend not long ago. We had plans to meet and spend time together but before we could meet, she became ill and the illness progressed very quickly and claimed her life. I can see that time does not wait for us but we have to make time to do the things that are important to us.
  • Invest in your spirit - allow time for daily introspection and some form of relaxation with deep breathing such as yoga and meditation. "I need to take an emotional breath, step back, and remind myself who's actually in charge of my life." - Judith Knowlton
  • Burnish selflessness - volunteer in your community. Turning your attention towards others deeply enriches of your own life.
Happy Spring everybody and happy 'spring' cleaning too!!