Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Choko Touffee (Chayote Squash Stir-fry)

Touffee is a mild vegetable dish from the fair isle of Mauritius; simply prepared with a bare minimum of spices. Touffee is a a creole culinary term meaning "smothered" or "stewed"; it is a contraction of the French word 'Etouffee'. Other veggies such as potatoes, eggplants, taro leaves and stems, etc. are also prepared this way. Sometimes onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes are also added.  This is Hema's favorite way to preparing "choko" or chayote squash :) - simply delicious!

Note:  Wear gloves or smear your hands with a little oil before cutting the chayote as this vegetable leaves a sticky film on your hands.  The film is not harmful and washes off after a while (if you forget to don gloves) especially when you wash the dishes :).

Choko Touffee


1-2 Tsp oil
1 generous pinch Brown Mustard Seeds/Cumin Seeds
1 Tbsp Urad dal (optional)
1 hot Green Chile, end slit OR 1 dry Red Chile, broken into two pieces
2 Chayote Squash
1 stem Curry Leaves
1 pinch Turmeric
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Lime (optional)


Wash, peel, rinse again to remove the sticky juices, and slice or dice the chayote evenly into bite size pieces including the seeds - the seeds are delicious!

Heat a kadai/wok and add oil, add the seeds and dal; when the seeds pop and the dal is pinkish, add the chile and cook for a few seconds.

Stir in the sliced chayote along with the turmeric, curry leaves, and salt; stir well.

Cover and cook over moderate heat stirring occasionally until tender.

Remove cover and keep cooking until the veggies reach desired softness. Fish out and discard chiles so that no one gets an unpleasant surprise of hot chiles!

Serve hot with a squeeze of lime juice with rice/roti, your favorite dal, and a salad or raita. Enjoy!! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Bread Casserole

Holiday Bread Casserole with Gravy

Holiday Bread Casserole (a.k.a. dressing/stuffing), like its Indian cousin Bread Upma, can be presented as a substantial dish on its own for a light meal or snack. I prefer to call this delicious dish Holiday Bread Casserole because it really is not used to stuff a creature of any kind. With toasty cubes of bread and succulent bits of veggies bound together with delightful fragrant herbs, all that the casserole needs is a little gravy. You may wish to add more veggies such as corn, zucchini or other summer squash, mushrooms, etc.

If you want a good Bread Casserole, you have to start with good bread - artisan breads like garlic, rosemary, ciabatta, or country Italian/French loaf all lend themselves to making this dish a fabulous treat. Although a day old bread is preferable, fresh bread may be used also with a little extra care. 

Good bread should never be discarded just because it gets a little old or stale. Every cuisine has at least one fabulous recipe to use up old/stale bread; Bread Upma, Bread Dosa, Croutons and Crostini, Bruschettas, lovely bread salads, sweet & savory Bread Puddings, plain old Bread Crumbs, and last but not least, Holiday Bread Casserole all start with with old bread. 

Note: Even if you prefer dry bread crumbs/cubes, do the crumbling or dicing while the bread is still a little soft and not bone dry - otherwise it gets difficult and dicey; been there and done that :-).

Ready for Roasting


1 (about 1 lb) day old good Crusty Loaf of Bread
OR dried bread cubes from 1 loaf
2 Tbsp Earth Balance (vegan butter substitute)
1 Tbsp Oil
1 large Onion, chopped
1 small bunch Celery, chopped
1 large Carrot, diced
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 sprig fresh Sage, minced
2-3 sprigs fresh Thyme, use leaves
1 small bunch flat leaf Parsley, chopped
Sea Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup - 2 cups Vegetable Broth Or Water
Gravy for Serving


Cook the onions and celery with a pinch of salt and the turmeric for about 2 minutes.

Add the carrots, garlic, thyme, sage; cook until the veggies have softened - about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the bread and cut into small cubes (about 1/4 inch). If the bread is fresh, cut and let air dry for about a couple of hours while preparing the rest of the meal or ingredients.

While you are cutting the bread, place the baking pan with the Earth Balance in the oven to melt - watch carefully as the fat burns quickly in a hot oven.

When the Earth Balance has melted, stir in the bread cubes and mix well.

Add the cooked veggies, salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle the broth/water on top - use minimal amount of broth/water for fresh bread; you will need the larger quantity if using dry bread cubes.

Mix well and bake for about 25 minutes.

Serve hot with the gravy. Enjoy!!

Holiday Bread Casserole, Lentil Loaf with Gravy, Cranberry Salad

Monday, December 2, 2013

Classic Fresh Cran-Fruit Salad (Sugar-free Cranberry Salad)

Cran-Fruit Salad

Here is a bright and beautiful Cranberry Salad that is refreshing as well as tasty - and guilt-free! I like to chop the fruit/jicama by hand for neat diced pieces whereas the food processor makes it more like a relish. But if you prefer, go ahead and use a food processor - the salad will be ready in no time at all. It is the perfect make ahead salad for a family or special company meal whichever way it is made!

Frozen cranberries are even better as they chop easily rather than get mushy. It is not necessary to peel the apple.

Other fruits that are delicious in this salad are fresh pineapples, persimmons, and firm regular pears. The salad will last fresh for a few days; in fact it tastes better after marinating together for a few hours.


4-6 oz. Fresh or frozen Cranberries
1  small Jicama, Asian or Regular Pear, Peeled
1 Apple, cored
1 Orange
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 small Pomegranate, seeded
1 Tbsp Agave Syrup, Sugar or other sweetener (optional)

Zest the orange using a micro-plane or a fine grater; do not scrape off any of the white pith - use only the colorful part. Place the zest in a large bowl.

Remove the peel from the orange.

Chop all the fruits into small dice and add to the bowl.

Alternately, put cranberries in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times just until coarsely chopped. Add the apples and pear/jicama pieces to the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the orange segments and pulse again 2 or 3 times until the salad is just chopped; pour the salad into the bowl.

Mix well with salt and the orange zest; taste and add the sweetener if desired.

Spoon the salad into the serving dish and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top; let marinate together for a couple of hours before serving. If made ahead, cover and chill until needed.

Serve.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lentil & Oats Loaf With Homemade Gravy

Lentil-Oats Loaf Muffins
Lentil-Oats Loaf Patties
 Lentil and Oats Loaf is a toothsome and very satisfying dish, my special Thanksgiving Day recipe of all time! The basic mixture can be prepared in many versatile ways: as muffins, a loaf or patties - take your pick :). I love making the muffins or patties as they are perfect for individual servings and freezing - and the bonus is that they cook faster too! You don't have to wait for Thanksgiving for making this, it is great for any occasion, special or not.

Do use the old fashioned rolled oats and not the steel-cut oats.

It is great to make a big batch of the Lentil-Oat muffins or patties; they freeze and reheat well. The gravy reheats well also; so I make plenty of gravy too as it is delicious over lots of other dishes - we love it spooned liberally over Holiday bread casserole, mashed potatoes, steamed/sauteed veggies, etc.

Note: If you like the Lentil-Oat Loaf mufins/patties, well spiced, add more of all the spices to your preference. Almond meal or finely chopped nuts add to the nutrition and I always add some.

Ingredients: For 12 muffins Or Patties

1 cup dry Lentils cooked & cooled 
1 cup Frijoles (cooked & mashed Pinto Beans) or more Lentils
1 1/2 cups dry Rolled Oats (old fashioned)
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 ribs Celery, finely chopped
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Cumin, ground
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 bunch Parsley, leaves chopped
2 Tbsp fresh Thyme leaves
1 sprig Sage, minced
1 large Carrot, grated
1 Zucchini, grated
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Black and Red Pepper
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika (optional)
3 Tbsp Besan or Mung bean flour
1/2 cup Almond meal/Chopped Walnuts/Pecans (Optional)
1/2 cup Dry Bread crumbs, if needed (optional) I don't use any

Oil or oil spray for the Muffin Pan


Cook the onions and celery with a pinch of the salt and the turmeric in a skillet adding a sprinkle of water if needed until softened and translucent. Cooking with a cover helps to keep veggies from drying out.

Stir in the garlic, then the herbs; remove from heat and let cool a little.

Squeeze excess moisture from the zucchini; the juices maybe added to Holiday Casserole or the Gravy for part of the water. Optionally the carrots and zucchini maybe cooked a little with the onion mixture.

Place the cooked lentils, frijoles, rest of the salt, and all the rest of the loaf ingredients in a large bowl.

Stir together well and see how moist the mixture is; if it is very moist, then stir in the bread crumbs little by little until you can form the mixture into a ball or patty easily.  Let rest for about 30 minutes in the fridge. This mixture can be prepared up to this point a day ahead of time and chilled until ready to cook or bake.

Begin heating the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a regular 12-cup muffin tin by oiling well.

Spoon the mixture (about 1/2 cup) into each of the muffin cups.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the mixture is set and lightly browned.

Cool slightly before carefully turning them (may have to run a thin knife around them to loosen) on their sides to dry any condensation; let rest for about 10 more minutes before serving.

Serve hot with the gravy.  Enjoy!!

Lentil Loaf with Gravy

HOME-MADE GRAVY: Makes about Two and a half cups

Note: If fresh herbs are not available, add a couple of pinches of the dried herbs. 


2 Tbsp Earth Balance or Oil
4 Tbsp Onions, finely minced
1 cup Mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)
3 Tbsp Flour (rice, all purpose or whole wheat)
1 small clove Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1 sprig fresh Thyme
1 Sprig Sage Leaves
3-4 Tbsp Soy Sauce/Liquid Aminos
Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper


In a medium size pan or skillet, cook the onions (and mushrooms if using) in the Earth Balance or oil until they begin to caramelize and brown, but not burn.

Add garlic, cook stirring for about a minute, then the herbs and stir for another minute.

Sprinkle the flour on the onion mixture, stir and cook continuously until it is toasted well and light brown.

Add two and a half cups of water and cook over medium heat whisking continuously so lumps do not form and the gravy begins to thicken.

Stir in the soy/liquid aminos to taste, lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.

Fish out the herbs and discard; taste to check for seasonings and add salt if needed and a few grindings of pepper.

Spoon hot over lentil loaf.

For Thanksgiving Feast, I served it with Holiday Bread Casserole, Green Beans with Garlic & Herbs, and Cran Salad.

Thanksgiving Feast

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hema's Indian Style Coleslaw (Marinated Veggies)

Delicious Indian Coleslaw is a hit! - everyone who tried, absolutely loved it. Hema calls it Vegetable Achar or Achards Des Legumes - as the veggies get a bit pickled in the marinade. Use as a topping on any bread for a lovely, fresh tasting bruschetta, as a filling for a spring roll, wrap, or a sandwich, and as a side dish. With all the fresh tasting and crunchy veggies, Indian Coleslaw really satisfies one's craving for the munchies :-). So go ahead and make a big batch ... you'll be glad you did.

Note: My favorite is apple cider vinegar and I do not use any sweetener. Any vinegar may be used including rice vinegar. When you use a vinegar other than seasoned rice vinegar, you might like to add about 1/2 tsp sugar, agave syrup, or other sweetener to the coleslaw to mellow the bite of the vinegar. 

Hema's Indian Coleslaw (photo by Hema)

1 Tbsp brown Mustard Seeds, coarsely ground
1/2 tsp - 1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 medium Onion
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced
4-5 Mild/Hot Green Chiles
1 small Carrot
1 large handful of Green Beans
1 pinch Turmeric
Sea Salt to taste
1/4 small Cabbage
1/4 cup Vinegar


Peel the onion and cut into fine slivers lengthwise, end to end.

For a mild achar, core all or some of the chiles, discard the cores with the seeds and pith, and slice the into strips or mince them.

Slice all the other veggies finely; I like to slice the carrots and beans lengthwise into thin strips and then diagonally into fine shreds.

Heat the oil in a large kadai or skillet; add the mustard and let sizzle for about 15 seconds.

Stir the onions and stir for about 30 seconds.

Add the garlic, chiles, turmeric, carrot, green beans along with the salt and stir cook for about a minute or two until the beans are hot and bright green.

Toss the cabbage in, stir well, and cook for about a minute or until heated through.

Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar; mix well. Spoon into clean, dry jars or other containers with tight fitting lids.

Cool and store in the fridge. Use a clean, dry spoon to take out what is needed and do not return any leftovers to the jar/container.

The coleslaw will last about 10 days to two weeks. That said, mine have lasted for weeks; many times, the jars get pushed to the back of the fridge and get forgotten! Still crunchy and delicious after weeks!

Serve on toasted bread, rolled in a roti or as a side dish; think of the pickled veggies in a Banh Mi sandwich - use in any sandwich to add flavor and crunch. Delish! Enjoy!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fragrant Pumpkin/Winter Squash Stew In Coconut Milk

A very easy but rewarding stew that finds its way into everyone's favorite stew list!  Although similar to the Kerala special Olan, this stew has a bit of spice as well as onions. The simmering results in velvety soft veggies some of which melt into the cooking liquid to make a delectable rich sauce.

Fresh curry leaves and freshly ground cumin are the essential flavorings; if curry leaves are unavailable, use cinnamon sticks and bay leaves in addition to the cumin. Green chiles add their magical flavor; removing the core keeps the stew mild. Leave the chiles whole with the blossom ends slightly split for a milder stew; remove and discard the chile at the end of cooking.

You may use any flavorful pumpkins, winter squash or orange-colored sweet potatoes for this stew. I have used them all singly or in various combinations with great results.

Banana squash Stew

 Butternut (l), Castillo (at the back), and Banana squash in front

1 Tbsp Coconut oil
1 large Onion, sliced thinly into halfmoons
about 3 lbs. Any Pumpkin/Winter Squash
1-2 Hot Green Chiles (optional), cored and sliced
1 can Coconut Milk (14 oz. )
1 Tbsp Cumin Seeds, coarsely ground
3-4 sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves, crushed
Sea Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 cup raw or roasted Cashews

Ready for cooking

cooked Onion slices

Peel and cut the pumpkin/squash into bite size pieces.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions, curry leaves and chile; sprinkle a pinch of salt and cook stirring until softened and beginning to color.

Add the pumpkin/squash with turmeric, the rest of the salt, about a cup of water and the coconut milk.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes; if the stew looks dry, add a little boiling water to thin to desired consistency.

Stir in the freshly ground cumin seeds and simmer covered until the veggies are soft, about 10 more minutes.

Serve hot over your favorite grains, with roti or other breads. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sooji Halwa (Cream Of Wheat Cake)

I had given up on enjoying traditional halwa as it is made with ghee. Following a whim, I made it with Earth Balance, a butter substitute and Wow! life got a whole lot better :)! Easy to make and simply delicious, this halwa is low in fats too. It was indeed a Happy Diwali!

Any leftovers may be saved in the fridge and reheated to serve; store in the freezer for longer storage.

Makes about 6 cups of Halwa


1 cup fine Cream of Wheat
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1/4 cup Earth Balance (butter substitute)
7-8 Green Cardamom Pods
1 small pinch Saffron (Optional)
1/4 cup Raw Cashew pieces
1/4 cup Raisins


Dry roast the cream of wheat either in a skillet or in a 350 degree F oven until deep golden; roasting in a skillet will require constant stirring; it burns easily if not careful. Let cool slightly while you proceed with the water.

Heat 2 and 1/3 cups of water to boiling; stir in sugar and Earth Balance.

Reduce the heat to low and pour the cream of wheat in a gentle stream into the sugar water while stirring constantly.

Cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 8 - 10 minutes stirring every couple of minutes so that the bottom does not burn.

While the halwa is cooking, crush the cardamoms slightly to gather the seeds and discard the green skins.  Grind the seeds finely with the saffron if using and a teaspoon of sugar; sugar helps to grind the spices better.

Toast the cashews with a tsp of Earth Balance and when golden, add raisins and cook for another minute. Watch and stir the nuts constantly; they burn easily.  

When the halwa has absorbed all of the liquid, turn off the heat, sprinkle the cardamom, the nuts and raisins and mix well.

Cover the halwa and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.  The halwa may be scooped and served or it can be spread in a pan while still hot and cut into pieces as desired after cooling a little.

Serve hot or warm. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Enfrijoladas (Stuffed Tortillas In Bean Sauce)

Kidney bean Enfrijoladas

Tortillas in Bean Sauce might sound so bland and bleak - but Enfrijoladas are nothing of the kind - they are amazingly flavorful and tasty food. They belong to the homey, comfort food category and utilize leftover beans, tortillas, etc. Once tasted, they are sure to become a family favorite - they have become ours.

Beans and tortillas provide great nutrition without impacting your food budget. Enfrijoladas make a hearty meal but the tortillas may be served simply dipped in the enfrijoladas sauce (see picture above) without any stuffing. We love this sauce over chips, Mexican rice, and Kidney bean cakes.

Note: Assemble the enfrijoladas just before serving as they taste best served right away; they get soggy if kept waiting too long.

4-6 Servings


1 medium Onion, chopped
1-2 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 small green Bell Pepper (capsicum)
1 or 2 Jalapeno/Serrano OR Chipotle Chile (optional)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp ground Cumin seeds
2 tsp ground Fennel seeds
1 tsp dried Oregano
2 cups Cooked Pinto, Black, or Kidney Beans
3 cups Vegetable Broth 

1 Recipe Scrambled Tofu
4 oz. grated Vegan "Cheese"
12 Corn Tortillas
2 thin slices Red Onion, separated into rings
1 Avocado, peeled and diced to serve
A Handful of fresh Cilantro, chopped for garnishing

Heat oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft with a pinch of salt and the turmeric.

Add the tomatoes and bell pepper/chiles; cook until soft.
Add the spices, herbs, and 1 cup of the broth to the tomato mixture and bring to a boil. Turn off heat.

Process the beans and the onion/tomato mixture using a blender; be careful to make sure the lid is on tight so as to avoid the hot liquids splashing.

Add the blended contents to the cooking pot. Swirl the rest of the broth in the blender container to collect all of the bean mixture and add to the pot.
Heat the bean sauce until very hot; keep hot. Stir often to make sure it does not burn.

Wrap the tortillas in a clean, damp tea towel and warm in the microwave oven for about a minute or until the tortillas are hot. Let rest for a couple of minutes undisturbed.

Have all the ingredients to assemble the enfrijoladas.

Dip the tortillas one at a time in the bean sauce and place on a plate; fill with one or two Tbsp of the scramble tofu and a little cheese. Fold in half or quarters and place on the baking pan. Continue with the rest of the tortillas and place on the baking pan slightly overlapping them.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the enfrijoladas, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese, and place the onion rings over them.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes until piping hot.

Serve immediately on warm plates topped with the avocado and cilantro. Enjoy!!

Enfrijoladas with Mexican Rice in Bell Pepper, Baked Zucchini

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kidney Bean Cakes (Bean & Veg Burgers)

Kidney bean burgers are wonderful - on its own or on a bun piled with all the traditional additions of lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, etc for a very satisfying meal. Or, they may be tucked inside the pockets of pita breads with your favorite fixings. I like serving these burgers with salsa, tomato chutney or  a simple tomato sauce.

The burgers may be made a day or two ahead and grilled with a little barbecue sauce to warm them. These burgers are not as tough as the store-bought ones and hence need to be handled gently while grilling. I made these with only the ingredients allowed on Paji's Ayurvedic anti-inflammatory diet and he really enjoyed his special treat topped with peperonata :).  But really, one does not have to be on a special diet to enjoy these!

I used matzo meal since bread crumbs were a no-no; crushed or coarsely powdered dried chapatis or any plain unleavened whole wheat bread or crackers may also be used. Matzo are plain unleavened whole wheat crackers prepared without any yeast or other additives. Regular bread crumbs may be used also if you wish.

You may use only oats/oat bran or crushed tortilla chips instead of matzo/bread crumbs and whole wheat flour to make it gluten-free. If you use canned beans, you may not need too much salt as they typically have lots of it already.

 Kidney Bean Cake/Burger

12 burgers


2 cups cooked Kidney beans
1 Carrot, grated
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 small bunch Cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped
2 tsp ground Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 clove Garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup Oats or oat bran, gluten-free if you like
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Matzo Meal
A little Whole Wheat flour, as needed (see top for other suggestions)
A little Extra Virgin Olive Oil or other oil to cook

Whole Wheat Buns, English muffins, Pita bread, etc to serve
Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Pickles, etc to serve
Fresh Salsa, Ketchup, BBQ sauce, prepared Mustard, etc to serve


Mash the drained beans in a large bowl or use a food processor to mash them coarsely.

Add the other ingredients except the whole wheat flour and mix or pulse just until combined.  If the mixture is too soft, add the whole wheat flour and mix well.

Chill the bean mixture for about one or two hours or overnight.

Form the cold bean mixture into twelve patties and cook them in a lightly oiled skillet or griddle over low-medium heat on both sides until browned - about 5-6 minutes per side.

Kidney Bean Cake/Burger cooking

Kidney Bean Burger ready to serve

Serve hot with your favorite accompaniments or on their own. Enjoy!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mung Dal Cheela I (Mung Bean Dosas/Crepes)

Easy to make, delicious to eat, nutritious and easy to digest, what's not to love about Mung Dal Cheelas?! When made thin, these delicate crepe-like pancakes are very similar to the classic Dosas. The batter can be whipped up quickly using Mung bean flour readily available for purchase from Indian markets. Make it simply or with the added veggies and herbs such as onions, chiles, fresh fenugreek or other greens and cilantro, and you will have an amazing meal. Serve the cheelas with Mulagai Podi, your favorite chutneys, pickles or raitas.

Stuffed Cheelas

About 8 -12 Cheelas


1 cup Mung Flour
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 pinch Turmeric
1 generous pinch Crushed Cumin seeds
1 1/3 cup water

Tadka/Thalippu: (optional)
1 - 2 tsp Oil
1 pinch Brown Mustard seeds
Asafetida (Hing)
1 or 2 Minced Green Chiles

Oil for cooking the cheelas
Coconut Chutney and/or Raita for serving


Combine the flour, salt, turmeric and cumin in a bowl; add the water and mix with a wire whisk until well mixed. The batter should be thin.

Prepare the optional tadka by heating the oil in a small pan; add the seeds and when they start popping, add the asafetida and green chiles. Stir and shake until chiles are softened. Cool slightly.

Stir the tadka into the batter and mix well.

Heat a seasoned griddle or a non-stick skillet; lightly oil it with a paper towel smeared with oil.

Pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into the hot pan and quickly swirl the pan to coat the bottom. If you like, add a few drops of oil around the edges of the cheela. Cover and cook for about a minute on low-medium heat.

Loosen the edges of the cheela with a thin spatula and flip over to cook the other side.

Cook just for a few seconds until a few small brown spots appear; it will not get very brown. Do not overcook - the cheelas will dry out and will not be soft. Remove from heat and place on a plate. 

Continue with the rest of the batter; any extra batter or leftover cheelas may be chilled in the fridge.

I also like to serve the cheelas stuffed with one of our favorite curries - Yum! For stuffed cheelas, place a couple of spoons of the filling on one edge and roll up.

Serve hot. Enjoy!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Kadai Tofu (Stir-fried Tofu With Onions and Bell Peppers)

This quick tofu dish is so beautiful, it is hard to resist snacking directly from the pan; I have had to swat eager hands away many a time trying to sneak a bite or two while still cooking :). It is that amazingly delicious for such a simple dish with few ingredients!

Do use the fragrant dried fenugreek leaves as they add an awesome taste to this dish; fresh methi leaves may be substituted for the dry if you wish. If you like more sauce, puree two more tomatoes (for a total of 4) and add along with about 1/4 cup of hot water. You might need a bit more salt; adjust it to your taste.

Dried fenugreek leaves are readily available at Indian markets; fresh fenugreek (methi) leaves are available in Indian and Middle Eastern markets.

 Kadai Tofu

5 - 6 Servings


1 lb block Tofu (firm or extra firm), cubed
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
3 Bell Peppers, assorted colors
2 medium Tomatoes, cut into thick slivers
2 Tbsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Kasoori Methi)


Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a kadai/non-stick skillet and cook the tofu with a pinch of turmeric, coriander, and a generous pinch of salt over medium-low heat.  Shake and stir the tofu often with a spatula and cook until all sides are slightly browned; be careful and stir gently so the tofu does not crumble. Remove to a plate or bowl.

Heat the rest of the oil in the same pan and add the onions, salt and turmeric;  cook stirring until onions soften and begin to color.

Stir in the peppers and cook for about two minutes.

Add the cooked tofu cubes and the tomatoes and cook until hot and tomatoes begin to soften.

Sprinkle the dried fenugreek leaves, cover and cook for about a minute.

Turn off heat and let sit undisturbed until time to serve; stir well before serving.

Serve hot with roti, rice, or other grains.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bruschetta With Spinach-Bell Pepper Medley

Spinach, Onion, and Bell Pepper Medley is a fabulous topping for not only bruschetta, but pasta or any grains such as rice, quinoa, couscous, etc. This simple, quick, and delicious veggie dish may be served with roti and dal too!

For a sweet/sour variation, stir in one tablespoon of raisins and a finely chopped tomato before adding the spinach.

Bruschetta With Spinach-Pepper Medley
4 Servings


1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch Crushed hot red pepper (optional)
1 Red Onion, sliced into thin slivers or half moons
1 clove fresh Garlic, minced
1 pinch Turmeric
2 Red/Orange/Yellow Bell Peppers, cut into strips
1/2 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
8 oz. clean Fresh Spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh Basil leaves, torn
1-2 Tbsp Pine Nuts, walnuts, or slivered almonds, toasted
8 Whole grain bread slices, toasted
Freshly ground black pepper


Heat a wok/kadai/skillet and add oil, crushed hot pepper if using, onions, garlic, and a pinch of the salt. Cook covered on low heat until softened.

Stir in the peppers with the turmeric and cook until soft - about 4 - 5 minutes.

Add the spinach with the rest of the salt and cook until wilted and heated through, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the basil leaves and mix well.

Pile on warm toasted bread, sprinkle with the nuts and serve immediately.  Enjoy!!

Our lunch today, Yummy!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sweet Potato Patties (Yam Latkes/Cakes)

Love at first bite! I was trying to make something different and delicious with my supply of sweet potatoes for the family -  Sweet Potato Patties are quick as well as uncomplicated; I made them in a matter of minutes.  Serve them anytime any way you like: although they are fantastic on their own, they are marvelous served with green and sweet chutneys and a garnish of chopped onions, tomato chutney, or apple sauce and sour cream!

Rice flour, Besan (garbanzo bean flour), Mung bean flour, Asafetida (hing), turmeric, etc are available at Indian markets.

Sweet Potato Patties

About 12 - 14 Patties


4 cups grated Sweet Potatoes/yams (about 3 or 4)
1/2 small Red Onion, minced
1/2 small Bell Pepper (Capsicum) minced
1 large handful Basella or Spinach, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
1 bunch Cilantro, chopped
1 pinch Hing
1 generous pinch Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
1/2 cup Rice flour
1/2 cup Besan/Mung bean flour

About 2 Tbsp Oil for cooking


Combine the veggies, herbs, salt, spices, and flours in a mixing bowl.

Knead to mix well; you may need a little sprinkle or two of water to moisten the veggies. The dough should be solid but soft enough to form into patties easily.

Form into palm-sized patties and cook on a griddle or skillet with a few drops of oil until golden brown on both sides on medium low heat; it should take about 3 to 4 minutes per side so that the patties are cooked through. They should be slightly crispy on the edges.

Transfer to a paper towel lined plate; continue cooking the rest of the mixture.

Serve hot.  Enjoy!!
Sweet Potato Patties

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thattai (Savory Rice & Lentil Crackers)

Thattais are traditional South Indian snacks made with rice and dal. They are part of the Bakshanam category of crispy snack foods which are similar to crackers. These are easy to prepare snacks that do not require any fancy equipment.

In the olden days, if people wanted to eat they had to prepare the food themselves; one did not (or could not even if they wanted to) buy ready-made snacks. So the elder ladies of the house gathered together to prepare savory snacks for the family. The best part of thattai making was the last batch of half-cooked Thattais - slightly crispy but still chewy - how we savored those special treats!

Amma made thattais often and stored them in stoneware crocks for morning tea or coffee or after-school snacks. Thattais are eaten plain by themselves; they do not require any accouterments. Rice flour, besan, urad flour, etc are readily available in Indian markets. Earth Balance is a vegan butter substitute.

The traditional flours for making thattais are rice and urad; but I like to use different flours and the corresponding dals for a change of pace.  Sometimes I use mung dal flour and yellow mung dal instead of the urad flour and chana dal;  other times I substitute besan for the urad flour. All are good but slightly different. Skinless uncooked peanuts may be substituted for the soaked dal. Sometimes thinly sliced hot green chiles are added to the dough for a spicy thattai.

Thattais get gobbled up quickly; the recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Thattais With Mung Flour & Mung Dal

20 Thattais


2 Tbsp Chana Dal
1 cup Rice flour
2-3 Tbsp Urad dal flour
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 pinch Asafetida
1/4 tsp ground hot red chiles
3/4 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp grated Coconut
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, chiffonade
1 tbsp coconut oil or Earth Balance Spread

Oil for deep frying


Soak the chana dal in hot water for about an hour.

Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil and add the salt; let it dissolve and cool.

Combine the flours with the coconut oil or Earth Balance until well mixed.

Add the sesame, thoroughly drained dal, asafetida, chile, coconut, and curry leaves.

Pour the salt water (do not add any undissolved salt) into the dry ingredients and form a dough adding additional water (in tiny sprinkles) if necessary to form a pliable dough but not too soft.

Rinse a clean tea towel or a piece of muslin cloth, wring out thoroughly, and spread on the counter top or table. Alternately, use a plastic sheet.

Divide the dough into 20 small balls, and press into thin circles on the towel/plastic sheet without touching each other.

I place the dough balls about 2 to 3 inches apart and using a piece of cling film press with my fingers to flatten them to slightly less than the thickness of the dals in them. Using the cling film helps to flatten the thattais quickly as it prevents the dough from sticking to the fingers; you may use food safe gloves also.

Using a fork. tooth pick, or a thin skewer, prick the thattais in a few spots.

Heat a kadai or pan with oil for deep frying on medium low heat.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, remove the dough circles carefully and slip into the oil gently; 4 or 5 might fit nicely without crowding the oil depending on the size of the pan.

Keep the heat medium-low so that the thattais do not brown too fast; it should take about 3 to 4 minutes total for each batch to become crisp.  Cook the thattais until golden and flip to cook the other side.

Remove from oil when the bubbling and noise subside and thattais turn golden.

Drain on paper towels and allow to cool; thattais will become crisp as they cool.

When completely cool, store in an airtight container.

Thattais will last for about 3 weeks - only if you hide away a few :) to bring out later!

Serve with generous mugs of  tea, coffee or other beverages.  Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Corn & Cucumber Salsa Salad

Juicy and crunchy, this simple and easy relish can do double duty as salsa as well as salad!  We love to top our tostadas and tacos with it; delicious with Pulav or other rice or Mexican inspired dishes too.

 Corn-Cucumber Salsa/Salad

I have used the following veggies for their color as well as taste; other combinations may be used according to availability and preference; zucchini, jicama, green onions, and multi-hued cherry tomatoes are great possibilities.  More hot peppers may be added for a spicy salsa/salad. Persian or English cucumbers do not need peeling.


1 medium Red Onion
1 or 2 Limes
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 small Carrots, grated
2 cups Corn cut off the cob, fresh or frozen
3 Persian or 1 English Cucumbers
4 medium Tomatoes
1 Red, Yellow, or Orange Bell Pepper
1 Each, Mild and Hot Green Chiles
1 large bunch fresh Cilantro


Finely chop the red onion and place in a large bowl; add the juice from one lime and a couple of pinches of the salt.

Add the grated carrots.

Finely chop the rest of the veggies and herbs and add to the onions.

Add the rest of the salt and taste.  Add more salt and lime juice if needed and mix well.

Serve with tortilla or corn chips, Beans and tortillas, BurritosTostada, Tacos, etc. Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kothu Roti/Paratha - Sweet or Savory? (Indian "Milk-Toast" & Chapati Stir-Fry)

Kothu Roti/Paratha is a delicious way to use up leftover rotis and parathas just like making fried rice with leftovers; it is very similar to how leftover/stale bread is used in Bread Pudding, Bread Upma, Panzanella, Ribollita, and Papa di Pomodoro or corn tortillas in Enfrijoladas or Chilaquiles. For the sweet Kothu Roti, only plain rotis and parathas are used; for the savory, you can use any type - even the stuffed ones - we have even made quasi Mexican versions using chopped up leftover bean burritos!

My grandmother used to make Sweet/Savory Kothu Roti for my grandfather every time we made rotis. He had lost all his teeth at a young age and had given up on finding comfortable dentures; so my ingenious grandmother figured out ways to prepare food so he could enjoy them. She cut/tore up the rotis and soaked them in hot curries with lots of gravy, milk or light jaggery syrup. Grandfather's favorite was the kothu roti soaked in sweetened milk - the Indian version of "milk toast"!

Although Savory Kothu Roti may be prepared by simply soaking the roti/paratha strips in a hot curry, it is very tasty to prepare it as given below. You can make this dish using any leftover curry or freshly chopped veggies; it is just like making Fried Rice - this or this - using roti instead of rice! For gluten-free Kothu Roti, use corn tortillas.

NOTE: If using fresh veggies, cook the veggies until they are done and then add them to the stir fried roti.

Sweet Kothu Roti: 1 Serving


2 -3 leftover Roti/Chapatis, torn/cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup Non-Dairy milk
2 Tbsp Jaggery/Brown Sugar (or to taste)
1 pod Cardamom, seeds powdered
A few raisins and toasted unsalted cashews


Rap the cardamom pod with the flat side of knife or a pestle to crack it slightly. Gather the dark seeds inside; discard the pod. Crush the seeds finely using a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin on a cutting board.

Combine the liquid of your choice with the jaggery or brown sugar over low heat and mix well to dissolve.  Add the ground cardamom seed. Heat until really hot but not boiling. Remove from heat.

Add the roti pieces while the milk mixture is still very hot.  Cover and let soak for about 10 to 30 minutes, or until the rotis are softened to your requirement.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature sprinkled with raisins and finely chopped nuts if desired.


Savory Kothu Roti:  2 Servings


1 Tbsp Oil
4 - 6 leftover Roti/Chapatis/Paratha, torn/cut
1 small Onion, chopped
1 green chile, minced
1 stem Fresh Curry Leaves, sliced into a chiffonade
1 Bell Pepper, any color, diced
1 cup Scrambled Tofu Or your favorite curry
1/2 cup Cooked Kala Chana (brown chick peas), Chick Peas, or Kidney beans
1 small handful Cilantro, chopped


Heat the oil in a kadai/skillet and stir in the roti pieces and stir cook for a couple of minutes. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions, green chile, bell pepper, and curry leaves to the same skillet and cook stirring until onions are soft.

Add the scrambled tofu/curry and the cooked beans; heat through.

Mix in the reserved roti.

Serve hot sprinkled with the cilantro.  Enjoy!!

Easy Burritos For A Weeknight

Scrambled Tofu, cooked kidney beans, and Pumpkin Peperonata contributed to these awesome burritos. As you can see, any and all leftovers can be put to good use without sacrificing good taste!

Scrambled Tofu Burritos

Note: If you are not serving the burritos right away, wrap tightly in cling film and chill until needed. Bring to room temperature or unwrap and warm them. Serve hot or at room temperature with a side of your favorite salsa. 

2 - 4 Servings

4 Whole Wheat Tortillas
1 ripe Avocado
Salsa I or II to serve

Warm the tortillas until they are pliable; if they are not warm, they will break when rolled.

Warm the fillings and keep them in separate bowls.

Peel and cut the avocado into slices.

Place each tortilla on a plate or cutting board and add 1/4th portion of each of the filling ingredients; roll up tightly and cut in half. Allow about 2 or 3 pieces per person.

Serve immediately with some salsa. Enjoy!!

Scrambled Tofu, Pumpkin Peperonata, & Kidney Bean Burritos

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Payar Curry (Mung Bean Stew Kerala Style)

This mild, delicious and easy to make stew is the perfect paired with aapams, dosa, rice or roti. They are pretty fabulous as a thick soup too.  If you like a hot and spicy curry, add more chiles. 

Payar (Mung Bean) Curry

1 cup Whole Mung Beans
2 Tbsp Coriander seeds
1 dry hot Red or fresh Green Chiles (optional)
4 Tbsp grated Coconut, fresh/frozen
2 Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 two inch piece Cinnamon bark
3-5 Whole Cloves
1 green Cardamom, crushed
1 large Onion
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, finely minced
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp ground Coriander seeds
2 tsp ground Fennel seeds
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves
1 tsp Coconut Oil


Pick over the mung beans, wash, and soak for about 4 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and cook in water to cover until soft. Alternately, cook in a pressure cooker.

While the beans are cooking, toast the coriander seeds and the chiles if using, in a dry skillet. When they are fragrant, remove from heat and stir in the coconut and stir until golden brown. Remove to a plate - otherwise the spices and coconut will keep cooking from the heat remaining in the skillet. Let cool.

Blend the coconut mixture with a little water until smooth; add the tomatoes and process until pureed.

Heat oil in a large pan and cook the whole spices (cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom) until fragrant, a few seconds.

Stir in the bay leaf, onions, and ginger; add a pinch of salt  along with the turmeric and cook covered until onions are translucent.  Stir often to prevent burning.

Sprinkle the ground coriander and fennel and stir for about a minute over low heat.

Pour the ground coconut-tomato puree, cover and cook until sauce is bubbling; simmer for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Tip the beans with their cooking liquid into the sauce, stir well, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.

Pour in the coconut milk and heat through.

Remove from heat, add the crushed curry leaves and a drizzle of coconut oil on top.  Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Serve hot with aapams, rice/roti, dosa, etc.

Payar Curry With Pumpkin Peperonata and Jasmine Rice