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