Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fragrant Pear Cake

Here is a fragrant and fabulous pear cake to wow family and friends! A good use for those over-ripe pears too soft to eat out of hand; pears lend their moist fragrance and sweetness to this luscious cake. You may use soy, coconut, cashew, almond or rice milk.  The spices make this cake so fragrant and yummy; do add the nutmeg because pears and nutmeg are a match made in heaven!

I don't usually frost any of the cakes; but if you like to, a sprinkle of powdered sugar is nice.  Or make a simple icing by combining a cup of confectioners/powdered sugar with a little vanilla and lemon juice or a little milk and drizzle over the cake.


3 ripe Pears, cored, peeled and chopped
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 cup Coconut oil, melt and cool
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 tsp Cornstarch + 2 Tbsp water
1 cup Milk, any type

1 tsp Cardamom seeds, ground
1 little pinch Saffron, grind with cardamom
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated
2 - 3 Ripe Pears
2 Tbsp fresh Lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Oil or coat with oil spray a 9" x 13" baking pan. Sprinkle lightly with flour to coat evenly and shake off the excess flour.

Combine the chopped pears with the spices in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the mixture and mix well.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Beat together the cornstarch, water, sugar and oil together in a large bowl until a little fluffy; whisk in the vanilla.

Stir in about half the flour mixture along with half the milk into the creamed sugar mixture.

Add the rest of the flour mixture with the milk and mix until moistened.

Fold in the pears and spread evenly into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Baked Appams (Dynamite Spiced Muffins)

Baked Appams are delicious and easy.  I wanted to make appam-like muffins without any fruit or dairy products but still with the wonderful taste of Neyyappams and here they are!  I like the muffins just lightly sweetened (with half a cup of sugar) but you may add the full one cup if you like them on the sweet side.  Baked appams may be made with Cinnamon instead of the Cardamom also.  With the whole cup of oats, they are fantastic as a breakfast treat!

12 Muffins


2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds, toasted
1/2 Cup Freshly grated OR 3 Tbsp dry grated Coconut
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Rice Flour
1 Cup Rolled Oats
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 - 1 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
11/2 tsp freshly ground Cardamom
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg (optional)
1/2 cup Ground Almonds
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1/3 cup Water


Toast the sesame and coconut in separate batches in a small pan (without any oil) until golden; pour into a plate and let cool.

Oil a muffin tin; start heating the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the rest of the dry ingredients in a large bowl; when the coconut mixture is cool, add that to the bowl and mix well.

Combine the oil, coconut milk, and water and pour into the flour mixture; combine using a spatula just until mixed.

Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees while the muffins are still in the oven and continue baking for 20 more minutes or until the muffins are cooked.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes; after five minutes, gently tip the muffins in their pan so they are not touching the bottom and can cool well without the bottom of the muffins getting soggy or soft with condensation.

Remove the muffins to a napkin-lined basket and serve warm.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Simple Kichdi (Rice & Lentil Casserole With Veggies)

Simple Kichdi is one of our all time favorite comfort foods.  Soft, studded with colorful veggies, and scented with spices, it is nourishing, delightful, and soothingly satisfying all at once!  It is delicious served by itself or with accompaniments; my favorite way is to serve with chopped salad, Mango and/or Lemon pickles and papadams.

Note:  If you use brown rice, simmer the rice by itself for about 15 minutes before adding the dal, spices, etc.

6-8 Servings


1 cup Basmati Rice
1 cup yellow Mung Dal
2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp crushed dried Red Peppers
1" piece fresh Ginger, minced
1 tsp Anise or Fennel Seeds
1/8 tsp Asafetida
2 tsp freshly ground Cumin Seeds
2 large Carrots, diced
2 cups Green Beans, cut in 1" pieces
1 large Sweet Potato, diced
1/2 medium Cauliflower or Cabbage, cut into florets or bite-sized pieces
1 large Zucchini, diced
2 Tbsp Vegan Butter Substitute


Wash the rice and dal thoroughly; place in a large pot and cover with 5 cups of fresh water.  Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat so that the kichdi is simmering gently; let it cook for about 5 minutes.

Stir in all the spices and carrots and green beans; raise the heat so the kichdi is boiling then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

Add the sweet potato pieces and simmer again for 5 minutes.  Each time a new veggie is added, raise the heat to keep up the simmer.

Mix the cauliflower or cabbage into the kichdi and keep cooking for about 10 minutes.

Gently stir the zucchini and butter substitute into the kichdi and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let sit covered for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve hot with a little pat of butter substitute if you wish.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hot Turmeric Milkshake (Home remedy for Cough)

Whoever has heard of hot milkshake? This is a traditional home remedy for cough!  Whenever we were afflicted with cold and cough, we had this hot milkshake just before bedtime to soothe our cough so everyone could have restful sleep :-).

The recipe is very simple with just a couple of ingredients -  although turmeric is the most important, black pepper is added to reduce mucus production.  It is quite a pleasant beverage even if it does not sound like it!

1 serving


1 cup Milk, any type
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Sugar or Honey


Place all the ingredients except the honey into a small pan and heat slowly to almost boiling; simmer for about 5 minutes. Keep heat low while simmering so the shake does not boil over.

Strain through a fine sieve into a mug. Add the honey and let cool for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot or warm... bottoms up!  Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Roti - Everyday Bread (Chapati)

Soft, fresh Roti also known as chapati is a simple unleavened flat bread of India served daily in every home - rich and poor alike.  It has only two ingredients: whole wheat flour with a pinch of salt; and  a little water - that is it!  They are best freshly made and served with a choice of a lentil or bean dish such as Simple dalporicha kuzhambuChunky Chana Dal, etc for protein complementarity. Add vegetable curries, plain yogurt, raitas, a pickle or a chutney or two ... and you will have a sumptuous feast.  Rotis are also delicious served with Frijoles Mexicanas (simple pinto beans) and Salsa ISalsa II or Avocado Salsa.  Chellu loves to spread his last one with a bit of butter/vegan margarine and add a drizzle honey or a sprinkle of sugar for an instant dessert - YUM!

Although it is a simple recipe, it takes practice to roll out perfect circles evenly.  But don't let the long description deter you from trying out this recipe - once you try these rotis, you will not want to eat store-bought ones.  Cooking up soft roti is kitchen artistry at its finest :-).  We loved to roll out our own rotis as little children and Amma obliged by cooking the less than perfect rotis. Not only did we love  eating the fruits of our labor, but also found it very interesting to figure out whether the rotis were shaped like America, Australia, or Africa!  Two for the price of one - we learned cooking and geography at the same time :-).

Rotis may be prepared with or without oil/ghee/butter while cooking; both ways produce good rotis.  It is really a matter of personal preference.  Cooked over flames/coals or on a griddle, well-puffed rotis are also called phulkas - "inflated ones" - these are prepared without oil or other fat.  

8 Rotis ~ 2 - 4 servings 


1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (200 g)
1 pinch Sea Salt
About 1/2 cup water (150 ml)
Ghee/Butter/Vegan Spread/Oil to smear on top (optional)


Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl; make a hole in the center of the flour mix.

Depending on the season and/or storage conditions, flour may require more or less water; so start with a little less and add a sprinkle as needed to make a firm but pliable dough.

Knead the dough into a smooth pliable ball; it should be satiny and not sticky at all.

Place the dough in an air-tight container or wrap in cling wrap and let rest for 30 minutes; if the dough is prepared in advance, chill in the fridge until needed. The dough will last two or three days if well chilled.

Divide the dough into 8 portions and roll firmly into smooth discs. Chilled dough can be used while still cold.

Dip the discs of dough into dry flour and roll out evenly into thin circles approximately 7 inches or so in diameter using a rolling pin; dredge the dough circles lightly in flour shaking off any excess flour as often as necessary to keep from getting sticky while rolling out.

Cook the roti on a preheated griddle or skillet: cook for about 30 seconds or so until the top changes color slightly; flip over to cook the other side.  Adjust the heat to keep them from burning.

When small light brown spots appear and small bubbles form, turn roti over and press gently but firmly with a spatula until the whole roti puffs up (wad of paper towel or soft clean kitchen towel may also be used to press down on the rotis) - be careful not to pop the bubbles.  The bubbles are full of STEAM! Popping the roti will release a burst of steam which can cook your hand - so do be cautious.

The rotis may also be cooked over direct flames or hot coals instead of pressing to puff up - but be careful not to burn them - it should only take a few moments!  Using tongs, hold the partially cooked roti over medium flames/coals until it inflates - this happens in a few seconds.  Use of a grill a few inches above the heat source will keep the roti from burning.

If you decide to cook with oil/ghee, smear the fat after turning the roti over once.  Then turn over and smear a bit more on the other side and press down the edges so the roti comes in contact with the hot surface and cooks evenly.

Remove from heat and place on a cloth/paper towel lined plate and cover loosely until all the rotis are made.

The tops of the dry-cooked rotis may be smeared with a little ghee, butter, or vegan spread if you wish as you stack them.

Serve hot with your favorite accompaniments.  Enjoy!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mexican Fiesta Soup (Vegan Tortilla Soup)

Tortilla Soup is a wonderfully warming soup - the addition of beans makes it healthy, hearty, and tasty!  This soup has everything you need to make it a one-pot meal: protein from the beans, tortillas providing the carbs, and the abundant veggies and herbs providing everything else :-). The toppings make it extra-special - we love the hot soup with the various soft, cool, and crunchy toppings!

Have an easy Tortilla soup Party - simply set out the soup surrounded with all the toppings suggested below (plus other ones you like). Let everyone help themselves for a no stress, no fuss, fun event! Ole!!

This soup may be made a couple of days ahead and any extra may be frozen. 

8 - 10 Servings


2 cup dry Pinto beans, cooked (see Beans for cooking info)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large Red Onion, diced
2 ribs Celery, thinly sliced
1 medium Carrot, cut into small dice
2 cloves fresh Garlic
1 - 2 green Jalapeno or Serrano Chiles, minced
2 tsp Sea Salt
4 medium Tomatoes, diced
2 cups Corn Kernels, fresh or frozen
2 Zucchini or Mexican squash, diced
1 Tbsp Fresh or 1 tsp dry Oregano
1 Tbsp ground Cumin seeds (optional)
1 - 2 tsp Smoky Paprika (optional)
2 - 4 Corn Torillas, torn into small pieces
1 small bunch fresh Cilantro, chopped

Suggested Toppings:

6 Corn Tortillas, warmed and cut into small pieces
2 ripe Avocados, diced
Green onions/Red Onions, thinly sliced/chopped
Red Radish slices
Romaine Lettuce, chopped
Cilantro, finely chopped
Jalapeño or Serrano Chiles, finely chopped
Lime wedges
Tortilla chips and Salsa


Pick over the beans, wash well, soak overnight and cook in fresh water to cover until soft with the chile and oregano sprigs. Alternately use a pressure cooker to make quick work of cooking the beans. Remove and discard the chile and herb sprigs.  The beans can be cooked and chilled or frozen until ready to use.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot and cook the celery, onions, garlic, chiles, and the carrots with a couple of pinches of the salt until the onion is translucent.

Add the tomatoes and the beans with their cooking liquid. Add hot water if necessary to get the right consistency.

Simmer the soup gently for about 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

Stir in the corn, zucchini, paprika, cumin, oregano and salt to taste; simmer further for another 10 minutes.

When the veggies are tender, stir in the torn tortilla pieces and turn off the heat.

Stir in cilantro. 

Set out the soup and the toppings you are offering.  Let the diners serve themselves.   Have a party!  Enjoy!!

Buen Provecho!