Friday, December 22, 2017

Chickpea (Garbanzo Beans) Salad Spread for Sandwiches & More

Chickpea Spread is a wonderful in so many ways - not just on regular sandwiches and wraps but as a salad and filling for a cool lettuce taco or as a dip to scoop with your favorite veggies or chips! Stuff pretty little peppers, tomatoes, lettuce cups, endive, celery, etc. for a delicious and easy snack or starter.

Cook your own chickpeas or use canned; I cook a big batch so there is enough for a couple of different recipes as well as freeze a portion or two for another day as they freeze well.

1. I do the whole thing using the food processor; if you like the veggies chunkier, the carrots and celery may be finely chopped with a knife and added at the end and pulsed once or twice just to mix.

2. Homemade or purchased vegan mayo works quite well.

3. Other herbs like basil, cilantro, chives, etc may be added instead of or in addition to the parsley.


1 Handful raw or roasted Almonds, around 1/4 cup
2 ribs Celery include leaves, coarsley chopped
1 carrot, coarsley chopped
1 Handful Parlsley, tough stems removed
2 cups cooked Chickpeas
1 Tbsp prepared Mustard, any kind
1/3 cup Vegan Mayonnaise
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fresh Lemon Juice, as desired

Optional Add-ons:
Kosher Dill Pickles
Sweet Pickle Reslish
Hot green Chiles, Jalapeno/Serrano, chopped
Fresh Coriander/Cilantro or other herbs
Other Nuts, roasted and finely chopped


If the chickpeas are freshly cooked, drain (reserve cooking broth for soups or other uses) and cool.

Place the almonds in the bowl of the foodprocessor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the nuts are coarsely chopped or according to your preference. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same bowl of the food processor, add carrots and celery; pulse a few times until coarsely chopped.

Add the parlsley and pulse again until parsley is chopped.

Tip the drained chickpeas and pulse a few of times until chopped but not pureed or to your desired constistency.

Add the rest of the ingredients and the reserved almonds; pulse a few times just until mixed well. Taste and adjust seasonings, add a little more carrots or celery, etc. Mix well.

Scoop out the Chickpea Spread into a clean container and store in the fridge until needed.

The spread is better if it is made a few hours ahead to meld the flavors. Chickpea spread may be made a couple of days ahead and reserved in the fridge until needed. The spread tastes best for 3 to 5 days.

Serve cold or cool on toast, as filling for sandwiches or wraps, or as a dip with veggies and chips.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Autumn Muesli II (Warm & Creamy Steel-cut Oats Porridge With Fruits, Nuts, & Spices)

Autumn Muesli II
Warm and creamy Autumn Muesli II is a much loved porridge in our household; the aroma of the spices and fruit cooking with the steel-cut oats wafting through the house entices everyone out of their hibernation even on a cold and rainy day! Made with fresh cranberries, delicious apples, almonds, persimmons (when available), and wonderfully warming cardamom as well as other spices, it is indeed a delight! If you use a slow/rice cooker, a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, it is very easy to prepare!

Adjust the spices according to your taste. Any leftovers can be reserved in the fridge and warmed up for the quick comfort of a steaming bowl of muesli anytime you want one! Oats thickens upon standing; you may have to loosen it with a little almond milk.

Do try the muesli with the cardamom; it adds a bright fragrance! I like uing freshly ground  cardamom seeds; lightly crush the pods, remove the seeds, and crush/grind into a powder. 

Dried Cranberries may be used instead of the fresh. 
Mix fruits & Nuts into soaked Oats
Autumn Muesli Ready to cook
4 - 6 servings


2 cups Boiling Water
1 cup Steelcut Oats
1/4 cup toasted unsalted Almonds, chopped
1/2 tsp Salt
1 McIntosh, Granny Smith, or a favorite Apple, finely diced
1/2 cup Fresh Cranberries, chopped
1 cup Almond Milk
1/4 tsp Ground Cardamom Seeds (about 2-3 pods)
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 pinch ground  Nutmeg
1-2 Tbsp pure Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
Extra Almond Milk, as needed

Toasted Pecans, Almonds, or Walnuts, chopped
Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
Persimmon, diced
Dried Cranberries
Pomegranate arils


In a heat-proof bowl combine the boiling water, salt, chopped almonds, and oats; stir well, cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight.

Combine soaked oats, apples, cranberries, Almond milk, spices and brown sugar or maple syrups in a pan and bring to a boil; cook stirring until oats are cooked to your liking - about 6-8 minutes for chewy or a little longer if you like it softer. Add a little almond milk if the porridge is too thick. Stir in the spices and maple syrup/sugar.

Spoon the prepared muesli into individual bowls, top with more milk if you like, add desired toppings of fruits, nuts, etc and serve.

Any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and reheated as needed; it may need more milk or water to loosen to desired consistency.

Autumn Muesli II 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Autumn Muesli I (No-Cook Oatmeal With Fruits, Nuts, & Spices)

Autumn Muesli
 Autumn Muesli is very much a part of my muesli repertoire; though I don't wait for autumn to enjoy it! Made with delicious apples, persimmons (when available), pecans, and warming spices, it is a delight any time. Prepared ahead of serving, it is good to go whenever you are!

This muesli is very similar to Basic Muesli but has autumn spices redolent of pumpkin pie! Adjust spices according to your taste. If you would like a steaming bowl of muesli on a cold morning, Autumn Muesli is great warmed up also!

Do try the muesli with the jewel-like and juicy pomegranate arils; I really love the bright burst in each mouthful! The muesli is sweet enough with all the fruits in it that I don't add any sweetners at all; maple syrup or brown sugar add to the fabulous taste if you like it sweeter.

2 - 4  servings


1 Apple, finely diced
1 Persimmon, finely diced
1/4 cup Dried Cranberries
4 Dates, finely chopped
1 Pinch of Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ginger
1 pinch Nutmeg
1 pinch Allspice
1 cup Regular Oatmeal (not quick or steel cut)
1-2 Tbsp Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar (optional)
2 cups Almond Milk
1/4 cup Pecans, Walnuts, or Pumpkin seeds, toasted
Extra Almond Milk, if needed

Optional Toppings
Extra Fruit - Apple, Persimmon, Cranberries
Pomegranate arils
Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
Toasted Pecans, Almonds, or Walnuts


Prepare the fruits and nuts.

Combine fresh and dried fruits and salt in a bowl. Stir in all the spices and maple syrup/sugar.

Tip in the oatmeal, nuts/seeds and milk; mix well. Add a little extra milk if muesli is too dry; there should be enough milk for the oats to soak in. After trying a time or two, you'll figure out the exact amount of milk you like.

Spoon the prepared muesli into individual containers such as mason jars, cover with lids, and put in the fridge to soak overnight. Autumn Muesli will last in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Top with your favorite toppings; eat!

Autumn Muesli

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Quick Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Indian Style

Cooking Brussels Sprouts this way could not be simpler or any quicker! Easy and delicious as well; according to Keeshu: "tastes a lot better than I anticipated". Use small sprouts when possible - they cook very fast and are ever so tender; I cut them in half - the increased surface area aids in cooking faster as well as absorb all the seasonings better.

The dals add toasty flavor as well as a nice bite without being hard on teeth - they soften while the veggies cook; they may be used in smaller quantities or omitted altogether if you wish. Dals not only add taste, but also protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber too.

I often make a double batch to have enough left over; they are great warmed or cold or on salads.


1 lb Brussels Sprouts
1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Urad dal
2 tsp Chana dal
1-2 dry Red Peppers
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 pinch Asafetida
1 stem Fresh Curry Leaves, minced
1/2 tsp Turmeric

Fresh Lime wedges (optional)


Wash, trim the cut ends of the Brussels sprouts, and cut in half lengthwise (top-to-bottom so that all the leaves are attached to the stem on both pieces).

Heat the oil in a kadai/wok/skillet and add the mustard, chana, urad dal, and peppers. Stir a minute or so until mustard seeds pop.

Reduce the heat, stir in the pepper flakes if using, asafetida for a couple of seconds - I really mean seconds - otherwise it will burn and turn bitter!

Immediately add the sprouts along with the curry leaves, salt, and turmeric; stir well and cover.

Cook over medium to low heat stirring occasionally; a tablespoon of water may be sprinkled if the sprouts dry out.

When the sprouts are still bright green (about 7-11 minutes), I remove the cover and cook them on higher heat turning them occasionlly so they just caramelize but not burn.

The sprouts take just a few minutes to cook; remove from heat as soon as they are done to your liking.

Serve hot/warm with rice/roti, any dal or beans, salad etc. Pass the lime wedges.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Basic Muesli (Simple Overnight No-Cook Oatmeal)

Basic Muesli 
Whenever I make this muesli, everyone loves it and it disppears quickly without a trace! Recently this muesli got a very high compliment from a Swiss friend; she said this was the best meusli she ever had. Coming from a native daughter from the land of the original Bircher Muesli, that was high praise indeed!

Soaking grains, seeds, and nuts makes them easier to chew and digest; besides, the bonus of soaking is that they are ready to eat right away! Simply top it up with more milk/yogurt if needed and extra berries or nuts in the morning or whenever you like. With all the prep out of the way the evening before, you are good to go in the morning!

As I was familiar with oat meal from a very young age, the introduction of Bircher Muesli and the subsequent addition of it to our breakfast repertoire was a shoo-in! Over the years, I have tweaked the recipe. Another general blueprint recipe that can be adjusted to the ingredients on hand or your preference. Any fruit, berries, various nuts, etc may be added or substituted and quantities altered to suit individual tastes.

Although it is usually served cold or at room temperature, the great thing is that you can eat it hot also; especially as some of our family members who like to heat up everything! If serving the muesli, hot or warm, I often reserve the berries as toppings.

Muesli may be made ahead and reserved in the fridge for 3-4 days. The recipe below makes a good healthy amount; but increase or decrease the quantities of ingredients as you like.

Basic Muesli Ingredients
2 servings


1 cup Rolled Oats (not quick or steel cut) OR multigrain flakes
2 Tbsp sliced or chopped Almonds, raw or toasted (unsalted)
2 Tbsp Raisins
4 Dates, finely chopped
1- 2 Apples, finely diced or grated
1 medium Banana, diced
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 Pinch of Salt
1 - 2 cups Non-Dairy Milk, Almond, Soy, or Rice
Extra Milk for serving if needed
2 pint-sized Mason Jars (optional)

1/2 cup Non-Dairy Yogurt, Plain
Fruit, Berries, and extra nuts/seeds for topping
1 tsp Brown Sugar (optional)


Combine all the ingredients except the toppings in a mixing bowl and mix well. Alternately divide all the ingredients and place directly in jars or individual bowls. Pour into individual containers like the mason jars if you wish, cover with lids, and put in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight.

Serve with more milk if desired and top each serving with half the yogurt, more fruit, berries, nuts, etc if you wish.

Basic Muesli Ready to go!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Cracked Wheat Pudding/Porridge (Gothumai Payasam/Kanji)

Cracked Wheat Payasam is a quick and simple but delicious dessert pudding prepared Kerala style! Other types of milks such as almond, rice, or soy may be used instead of the coconut milk.

Made with a little more water, half the jaggery, and minus the spices, nuts, and raisins, it does double duty as a lovely kanji for breakfast or snack. We often had this for breakfast growing up. Regular or Irish style steel-cut oats may be used instead of the cracked wheat.

Bulgar or cracked wheat is a wonderful staple to have on hand for making Tabbouleh, Upma, and Pongal as well as a simple porridge like oatmeal. I use the finely cracked (#1 grade) for porridge, upma and tabouleh; the coarsely cracked bulgar (#3) is great for pongal and pilaf.

Dessert: 4 Servings
Porridge: 2 Servings


1/4 cup finely Cracked Wheat (Bulgar) #1 grade
1 cup Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Jaggery or Brown Sugar
2 Cardamom Pods OR 1/2 tsp Dried ground Ginger (chukku)
1 tsp Coconut Oil
1 Tbsp Cashew pieces
1 Tbsp Raisins
1 Tbsp grated Coconut


Combine the cracked wheat with one cup of  water in a saucepan; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer until cooked and very soft.

Stir in the jaggery or brown sugar and cook until dissolved; simmer for about 5 minutes until the raw jaggery flavor is gone.

Stir in the coconut milk and simmer until hot; turn off heat.

If using cardamoms, crush slightly and gather the seeds; discard the shells. Grind the seeds to a fine powder using mortar and pestle.

Cook the cashews  until golden in the oil; add coconut along with the raisins and keep stirring until the coconut is toasted and pale gold.

Add the toasted nut mixture to the pudding/kanji along with the spices; cover and let sit for a few minutes.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

White Chili (White Bean Stew)

White Chili is a delicious change of pace from the regular Chili! White Chili is made with white beans of course and succulent veggies and flavorful herbs and spices. It goes together very quickly especially if you have cooked beans, home-cooked or canned. If using canned beans, use 2 cans (15.5 ounces) of Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained. Hominy adds a down-home country taste.


1 1/2 cups Great Northern beans, cooked
2  tbsp Oil
1 large White onion, chopped
3-4 ribs celery, chopped
1 large Parsnip, diced
2 medium White Carrots, diced
2 Garlic cloves, minced and mashed
2 to 4 Serrano chiles,  finely minced
3-4 tsp fresh Rosemary leaves, finely chopped 
1 1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp dried Oregano 
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
Coarse salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
1 can (15 ounces) white hominy, rinsed and drained (optional)
2-3 fresh Tomatillos, finely diced
3 tbsp cornmeal + 1 cup water
1 White Carrots, grated
1 Yellow squash, diced

Tortilla Chips
Avocado, diced
Radishes, thinly sliced
Scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
Cashew cream


Sort, soak, and cook the great northern beans in water to cover until soft; set aside until needed. Check this post on how to cook beans. The beans maybe made a couple of days ahead. If made very far ahead, freeze them and defrost before adding to chili.

In a large Dutch oven or other large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Stir in the onion, celery and carrots with a generous pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. 

Add garlic, chiles, rosemary, cumin, oregano, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 2 or 3 minutes stirring well and often so the veggies and herbs do not burn. 

Decant the cooking broth from the beans and add enough water to make a total of 3 cups; stir this into the veggies. 

Tip in the beans, hominy if using, the tomatillos and a teaspoon of salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer until chili is thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir every minute or so to prevent burning.

Stir in cornmeal + water mixture and the grated carrots into the beans and simmer partially covered for about 10 more minutes stirring frequently. 

Turn off heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve hot with some or all of the suggested toppings. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Kollu/Muthira Puzhukku (Horse Gram/Bean Stew With Cumin & Coconut)

Kollu or Muthirai Puzhukku is a delicious thick stew that we often had with kanji (simple rice porridge) on restricted fasting days and looked forward to having it! I love Muthirai Puzhukku with oats Kanji (porridge) as well for a healthy and sustaining breakfast or for that matter any time at all!

Note: Save excess cooking broth from the kollu for making awesome Kollu Rasam - a delicious treat that we adore and is often recommended to help one get over colds and coughs!

Kollu is not usually Sprouted for making this puzhukku; but you may if you wish.

4 Servings


1 cup dry Horse Gram
2 dry Red Chiles, broken into two
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, finely sliced
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
Salt to taste
1 Green unripe Banana/Plantain (Optional)

1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 - 1/2 cup Coconut, fresh or frozen (Or 2-3 Tbsp Dried)
1-2 dried Red Chiles


Soak & cook the Horse gram:

Pick over, wash, and soak the gram in plenty of water to cover for a few hours or overnight.

Drain the kollu, wash well, and cook in enough fresh water (2-3 cups) to cover until soft - about 40 to 50 minutes, checking often to make sure it doesn't dry out or burn. Alternately use your pressure cooker to speed up cooking. This can be done a day ahead. If made ahead, cool and refrigerate. Cooked kollu may be frozen also for longer storage.

If using banana/plantain, lightly peel the outer green layer; cut into quarters lengthwise, then slice into 1/2" chunks. Place the banana/plantain into a 2-3 quart/liter pot and add about a cup of water along with turmeric and the broken red chiles. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook on low heat until tender.

While bananas are cooking, grind the coconut, cumin seeds and red chiles into a coarse paste; set aside.

Add the cooked kollu to the bananas along with the ground coconut mixture; add a few spoonfuls of water to the blender to gather up all of the coconut mixture and add this to the puzhukku.  Bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat.

Turn off the heat. Crush the curry leaves in your fist and place it on top of the puzhukku; drizzle the coconut oil on top of the curry leaves and cover. Let rest for 10 minutes; stir well before serving.

Serve hot with kanji/rice/roti, curries, pickles and papdams.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Summery Corn Chowder (Light Lemongrass-Scented Corn Soup With Red Bell Pepper)

Lovely, luscious, yet a light soup, Summery Corn Chowder has a lemon grass scented broth enriched with a touch of coconut milk! This is perfect for late summer or early autumn when there is an abundance of tender sweet corn and succulent red bell peppers. Sunny yellow corn, bright red bell pepper, and green herbs makes the chowder beautiful to behold.

It is very easy to make Vegetable Stock or broth. When prepping veggies and herbs, reserve all the clean scraps, keep them in a bag or container until you have enough. They can also be kept frozen adding more as you prep until you have a good amount. Any extra broth also may be frozen for longer storage.

If you fresh corn is not an option, use 14 - 16 oz frozen corn kernels. The lemongrass broth can be prepared without the corncobs; rest of the recipe is still the same.

Serves 4


3 ears fresh corn
1 quart Vegetable Stock or Water
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 stalk fresh Lemongrass, crushed & coarsely chopped
1 bunch Stems from fresh Parsley and/or Coriander/Cilantro 
1 medium Potato, any type, scrubbed well
1 large Red Bell Pepper, seeded & diced small
1 small Onion, finely chopped    
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup Coconut Milk
2 Scallions (Green Onions), both white and green parts thinly sliced
2 Tbsp Italian parsley OR Fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp Cashew OR Coconut cream for garnish
Extra Parsley or Cilantro for garnishing


Cut off the lower portion of the stems from the coriander/cilantro; if using parsley, pull off tender stems and leaves. Reserve the leafy parts of both parsley and coriander for other uses. Wash the stems, and pinch into small pieces and put in a stock pot.

Cut kernels from cobs, then scrape the cobs with the edge of a knife to extract all the milky fluid from the base of the kernels. Reserve the corn kernels and the cobs separately.

Combine lemongrass, coriander/cilantro stems, the corn cobs, whole potato, turmeric, and stock/broth/water in the stock pot, bring to a good boil, reduce the heat and simmer 20 minutes. Cool and strain the stock and reserve the stock and potato, discarding the lemongrass and corn cobs.

Peel the potato if you wish (peeling is quick and easy while potato is still hot or warm), and cut into small dice; reserve.

Saute the onion in a little of the broth (or use a tiny bit of oil) until translucent in a soup pan for about 2 or 3 minutes.

Tip the the rest of the broth into the pan. Add salt and peppper to taste, the corn (and liquid from the cobs), and red pepper to stock, simmer until vegetables are tender - about 15 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk and the diced potato along with the scallions and simmer for another five minutes. Remove from heat.

Add parsley/cilantro, and salt or pepper to adjust seasoning.

Serve garnished with the cashew or coconut cream and a sprig of  parsley or cilantro. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Homemade Tandoori Masala (Indian Barbque Spice Mix)

I like to make homemade masalas so as to have them as fresh as possible as well as the proportions of spices best suited for our personal taste; also, some of the masalas have undesirable ingredients like food colors, flavor enhancers, and preservatives. The amount of ingredients may be adjusted to your preference.  Use this masala in any of the recipes that call for Tandoori Masala.

Note: Smoked paprika gives a nice smoky aroma to your dishes; if it is not available, no worries, the masala still is fabulous. Add a tablespoon or two of Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves) for incomparable taste; crush into a fine powder in the palm of your hands before addiding to marinade or at the end of cooking to finish the dish!


½ cup dried Kashmiri chillies, break into 2-3 pieces
¼ cup whole Coriander seeds
1 tbsp whole Cumin seeds
½ tbsp whole Black Pepper
½ tbsp whole Cloves
½ tbsp whole green Cardamom pods
1 black Cardamom
1 tsp whole Fenugreek seeds Or 1 Tbsp Kasoori Methi
3 pieces, 2 inch sticks of Cinnamon or Cassia bark, coarsely broken up
2 tsp dried ground Ginger
1 tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp grated Nutmeg
½ tsp Mace
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
3 - 4 Tbsp Paprika 


Toast all the whole spices one by one, in a medium hot, heavy skillet or pan, for about 30-60 seconds or so until fragrant. Pour into a wide plate or baking dish and let cool completely.

Transfer to a powerful blender or spice grinder, process into a fine powder. You can use a sieve to remove any large pieces that are not ground well and process again. Add the remaining ground spices; add enough of the paprika to get the color just the you would like.

Processs to combine well. Transfer to a clean, airtight spice jar, seal and store in a cool dark place.

This recipe makes around 1 cup of tandoori masala.

Checca - Indian-style OR Italian-style (Chopped Tomato Salad)


Fresh Tomato Salad is irresistible whether they are prepared the Indian or Italian way; the basics are the same - only the choice of oil and some herbs are slightly different. Which way to go? - a tough choice since both are delicious!

Indian Tomato Salaad is a delicious chopped salad redolent with lemony cilantro and perky hot green chiles. It is often served with pulavs and biriyanis (fragrant rice dishes) or with everyday meals of rice/roti, parathas, and curries. Coconut oil is optional; but great when there are lots of green chiles, especially hot ones!

Italian Checca ("Kekka"), a wonderful chopped salad/sauce full of fragrant basil is delicious served in so many ways: over pasta, crostini (toasts), or as a side salad .... in short, any way you like!

Whichever type you make, refreshing and delicious Checca should be prepared with flavorful fresh ripe tomatoes; sweet flavorful cherry tomatoes are particularly suited for making checca.Optional ingredients listed under the Indian or Italian style salads may be added as desired. The salad may be spicy or mild.
Indian Style Checca With Dal Paratha
I love using homegrown tomatoes, particularly the pear-shaped yellow ones; other types of cherry as well as regular tomatoes are good too.  

Note: Whether you choose Inidian or Italian style, do not refrigerate if possible and serve at room temperature for best flavor. Checca may be chopped finely to use as a sauce for pasta.


Basic Checca:
1 Pint ripe tomatoes (about 12 oz), diced
1 or 2 large Shallots, finely chopped
1 large clove Garlic, minced (optional)
2 Tbsp Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

2-3 mild/hot Green Chiles, minced
1 Stem Curry Leaves, minced
1 small Lime/Lemon, juice
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped + extra for garnish
2-3 tsp melted cool Coconut Oil (optional)
1-2 small slices, Lemon from  Lemon Pickles, very finely chopped (optional)
1 Handful, Brown or Tan Chana (optional)

1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh Basil, chopped + extra for garnish
2-3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp hot Red Pepper flakes (optional)
1 Handful Olives, sliced (optional)
1-3 Pepperoncini, chopped (optional)
2 oz Vegan Mozzarella (optional)


Combine the tomatoes, shallots, and herbs in a bowl.

Decide whether to make Indian or Italian style; have your choice of ingredients ready. Add the other ingredients based on Indian or Italian, including any optional ones to the tomato bowl. One or more of the optional ingredients may be added.

Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, oil.

Mix well and let rest at room temperature for a few minutes to develop flavors.

Stir well and serve.  Enjoy!!

Indian Style Checca With Dal Paratha

Monday, September 11, 2017

Beet Thepla (Spiced Beet Chapati OR Flatbread)

These bright red theplas or spicy flat breads (rotis) are as beautiful as they are delicious! Theplas are traditionally served with Kichdi (a rice and lentil risotto quite popular all over India), a vegetable curry with potatoes, a raitas or fresh plain yogurt, papadams, and pickles; they make a very filling and nutritious meal. But they can be served as part of a simpler meal with pickles, sliced veggies and plain yogurt. We love theplas with Hot Lemon or Mango pickles and a cup of Chai as a simple meal or snack.

Although fresh Methi (Fenugreek) Theplas are the most popular, they may be made with other herbs and veggies too; but the veggie ones are not as long lasting. Refrigerate any extras and freeze for longer storage.

Although the Indian whole wheat flour ground specifically for making flat breads (known as atta) is the best for making thepla as well as other types of roti, any whole wheat flour may be used.

Makes 12 Theplas


2 tsp Oil
2 cups fresh coarsely shredded Beets
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp or more ground hot red pepper (Cayenne)
1 pinch Asafetida
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Ajwain seeds
1 Tbsp white Sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Cilantro
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon/Lime Juice

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (Atta) +1/2 cup, for dusting while rolling out
About 2 Tbsp Oil for cooking


Heat a pan with the oil; add the cumin seeds. When they begin to pop, add ajwain seeds, sesame seeds and asafetida; stir quickly to mix well but do not let them burn.

Immediately stir in the beets with the turmeric, cayenne, salt and optional brown sugar. Cover and cook stirring often for about 10 minutes or until the beets are just tender. Open the cover and let cool completely. Stir in lenon/lime and cilantro.

Combine the flour with the cooked beet mixture and stir well.

Add water a teaspoon at a time if needed to make a firm dough; it should still be pliable enough to roll out into circles. Knead well until smooth and satiny.

Divide the dough into 12 smooth balls/discs; roll them out into moderately thin circles dusting with flour as necessary, about 7 inches in diameter.

Cook each thepla on a griddle/skillet; cook one side until the top changes color. Flip over to cook the other side a little, until a few pale brown spots appear.

Brush lightly with a little oil and flip over; press down gently but firmly especially on the edges to allow the bread to puff up a bit and cook until brownish spots appear. Brush the unoiled side with a little oil and cook a few seconds more.

Make sure that the theplas are not overcooked to dryness; they should stay soft but speckled with just a few brown spots.

As you cook, stack the theplas in a towel or napkin lined basket or container; cover them loosely with another napkin until all are done.

Serve the theplas hot/warm with Kichdi, raita, pickles, etc. Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Falafel With Fixings (Crisp Chickpea Balls, Crunchy Salad, & Tahini Sauce)

We love having fresh falafel! Making falafel from scratch can seem intimidating; but not if the stepwise directions are followed. When you have all the prep done ahead, all that remains on the day you want to eat is cooking the Falafels! Planning your prep really pays off when making Falafel.

Prepare Tahini Sauce and chop the Salad ingredients but keep them unseasoned and unsalted until ready to serve.

Falafel makes a great starter or snack in smaller quantities.

About 6-8 Servings



2 cups Dry Chick Peas, soaked 
2 Cloves fresh Garlic
2-3 Hot Green Chile (Serrano or Jalapeno), or to taste
1 small bunch Fresh Parsley, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground Cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1/4 tsp ground Cardamom seeds
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Turmeric
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
3 T Besan (chickpea flour)
Oil for Deep-frying (neutral tasting oil)

6-8 Pita Bread to serve

Tahini Sauce:

1/2 cup Tahini
1/4 cup fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
3/4 cup Fresh Parsley
3/4 cup Fresh Cilantro
1-2 Cloves fresh Garlic
2-3 Hot Green Chiles, or to taste
2 tsp ground Cumin
1/2 tsp ground Fenugreek Seeds
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Cayenne


1 small or 1/2 Each Green and Purple Cabbage, finely shredded
1 small or 1/2 large Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup EACH Cilantro, Spear Mint, Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
1 Persian Cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved Or 2 regular Tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 pinch Sugar (optional)


Tahini Sauce:
Place all the ingredients in the carafe of a blender, and blitz until smooth. Add water as needed and to make a nice smooth pourable creamy sauce. The sauce thickens a bit upon standing; add water a teaspoon at a time to get desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Prep all the veggies and herbs; do not add the salt or sugar if making ahead. When ready, combine, toss to mix well and serve.

Falafel Dough:
Soak the chickpeas in plenty of water at least 8 hours or upto 24 hours; if the weather is hot, keep the chickpeas in the fridge. Discard the soaking water and rinse the chickpeas. Drain thoroughly and set aside. Place the galic and chiles in the bowl of a food processor and process until chopped; add the drained chickpeas and the herbs and process by pulsing until very coarsely ground. You want to retain some texture for crisp falafel. Add the remaining ingredients except the chickpea flour; pulse to mix and scoop into a large bowl. Add just enough of the chickpea flour and mix well; the mixture should hold together when you squeeze the dough into a ball. If needed, add a little more chickpea flour. Chill until ready for frying.

Frying Falafel:
Heat a oil for deep-frying 3-4 inches on medium heat. Form heaping soupspoons of dough into small round or oval balls or patties about  1" in diameter, not more. When a pinch of the dough sizzles upon dropping into the oil, it is ready. Slip the balls/patties carefully into the hot oil without crowding and cook until golden-brown turning as needed. It should take about 5-6 minutes total for the falafels to cook. Remove from oil and drian briefly on paper towels before serving. Continue with the rest of the dough. Serve hot.

Have the salad, tahini, and falafel ready and let everyone help themselves. Allow about 4-6 falafels per serving. Enjoy!!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kaalan (Kerala Non-Dairy "Yogurt" Coconut Curry - Onam Special)

Kaalan is a classic Kerala stew similar to Mor Kuzhambu. It is a must for the elaborate banquets during Onam celebrations; since there are a whole smorgasbord or dishes, usually a small amout of each is served as part of the banquet called "sadya". I have made it vegan so no-one has to miss having it for Onam or any other time that one has a hankering for it. The addition of tofu gives it the traditional look and mouth feel of regular yogurt.

Kaalan tastes better after having time to meld all the flavors.  It will last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. So I make a large pot since leftover Kaalan lasts for days and is also delicious served with Dosa, Idli, Upma, etc.

Traditional Kaalan vegetables are the original Indian Yam called Chenai and green, unripe plantains. It may be prepared with green mango, Taro root, winter melon (ash gourd), Indian drumsticks (moringa pods) etc also; when made with many veggies, it is called Rasa Kaalan or tasty Kaalan.

If you like to avoid soy, omit the tofu and increase the amount of coconut to 1 cup plus add 1 cup of Coconut Milk.

About 8-10 Servings


1 large Firm Green Plantain And/Or 2 cups Indian True Yam (Chenai)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 Stem Curry leaves
1-2 Lemons/Limes

Grind Together:
1 block (14 oz) Tofu
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Black pepper
1 pinch Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 stem Curry Leaves, including the stem
1 or 2 Hot Green Chile, core removed for a milder dish
1 Red Chile
1 tsp uncooked rice


1-2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies, broken into two
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves, minced


Choose your favorite vegetables from the suggestions above.

Prepare the veggies: wash well, trim or peel as needed; cut the plantain into half or quarters lengthwise and then crosswise into large chunks. Cut chenai into 1" chunks.

Place the prepared vegetables in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, ceramic, etc) with 1/2 cup of water, curry leaves, the salt, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender.

While the veggies are cooking, tip the drained tofu into the blender carafe along with the coconut, pepper, cumin, chiles, curry leaves, and rice; process into a nice smooth puree with a little water (up to 1/2 cup).

Tip the coconut puree into the cooked veggies; add a few tablespoons of water to the blender to gather all the remaining puree and add to the pan. Add just enough water to get a pretty thick stew; Kaalan should be thick but not solid.

Simmer gently without covering, for about 15-20 minutes; it should thicken and slightly reduce in volume. Remove from heat.

Heat the oil in a small pan and do the thalippu: add mustard and the red chilies. When the seeds start to pop, add fenugreek seeds, then the curry leaves carefully and cover quickly. When all is calm, pour the thalippu into the Kaalan. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in lemon/lime juice to taste before serving; Kaalan should be tangy but not too sour.

Serve hot/warm or at room temperature with rice. Enjoy!!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Kaima/Kothu Idli, Podi Idli, Idli Upma & Idli Chaat (Leftover Idli Makeovers)

Leftover idlis got a fabulous make-over by reinventing them as Kaima Idli, Idli Chaat, Podi Idli, and Idli Upma, etc.  Although typically made from leftover idlis, they are amazingly tasty and make great starters, snacks, or even meals. My family loves Kaima, Chaat, Podi, and Upma variations and make a meal of them!

Kaima Idli was apparently popularized in a South Indian restaurant; now they are not only made and served in many Southern as well as Northern Indian restaurants everywhere in various avatars including Idli Chaat. I have eaten different versions and all were delicious.

Notes: Make the tomato suace first and when ready to serve, you can fry the idlis and mix with sauce.
The tomato sauce is absolutely delicious and may be served as a sidedish with any meal; I like to make double or triple the amount to have extra.

Kaima Idli
Cold idlis are best for frying/baking. When there are lots of leftover idlis, one of these recipes can come in very handy! Idli Upma/Usli is the quickest and easiest and does not require much effort; the others require a little more prep. Except for the Idli upma/usli, the other recipes all start with either pan or deep fried idlis; the idlis may be baked as well.

The spices may be changed as a variation or to suit one's needs or preferences; instead of Sambar powder given in the recipe, you may wish to use Rasam Powder, Biriyani Masala or another spice mix.

Note: The following recipe makes delectable Kaima idli. But if making the onion-tomato sauce sounds like too much trouble, flavorful leftover curries like Kurma or your favorite may be used instead; just reheat the curry and mix the prepared idli pieces in it and you will have Kothu Idli!

Kaima Idli
4 Servings, but may only serve 2!

6-8 Idlies, chilled
Oil for pan/deep frying

2-3 tsp oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
½ tsp Fennel seeds (optional)
2 stems curry leaves, thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
1-3 Hot green chiles, cored and minced
½ Green Bell Pepper, diced
½ tsp salt
½ - 1 tsp Sambar powder
½ tsp turmeric
2 large tomatoes, pureed coarsely
4 Green Onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp Coriander leaves/Cilantro, chopped


Start making the sauce first. Heat the 2 teaspoons of oil in a kadai/skillet/pan and add the mustard & fennel seeds; when they subside popping, add the curry leaves; cover quickly as curry leaves will spatter violently when meeting hot oil. Wait for a few seconds for the curry leaves to change color and become crisp.

Add the green chiles, diced onions and bell pepper. Saute until the onions are soft. Add the turmeric and the sambar powder along with the salt. Cook for a minute.

Tip the tomato puree and cook till the tomatoes are cooked, about 5 minutes or so. Toss the fried idlies, spring onions and coriander leaves; gently fold to combine.

Remove from heat and serve hot. When eaten immediately, the idlies are a little crisp; but if served a little later, idlies soften and absorb more of the sauce. Both are delicious. Enjoy!

Prepare the idlis: Cold idlis are best for this; warm or room temp idlis stick and crumbly while frying. Cut each idli into half and halve them crosswise again for a total of 4 wedges.

If pan-frying, heat a seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet with a little oil - about 1 teaspoon - and cook the idli pieces until golden brown on each side. Let the pieces cook on one side without disturbing until they are browned; then turn over gently and cook on the other sides adding a tiny drizzle of oil as necessary. I used about 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil.

If deepfrying, heat oil sufficient for deep frying; add the idlies to the hot oil. Do not try to turn or otherwise disturb the idli pieces; they will stick to the spoon and fall apart. When they are golden brown, only then flip to cook the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add to the sauce and serve.

Kaima Idli With Non-Dairy Yogurt
Idli chaat starts out the same as Kaima/Kothu Idli - cold ildis are cut and either pan or deep fried. Once you have the idli ready, this is easy peasy!

Idli Chaat with Green & Sweet Chutneys
4 Servings

6-8 Idlies, chilled
Oil for pan/deep frying

1 cup Plain Non-Dairy Yogurt
2-3 Tbsp Green Chutney
2-3 Sweet Chutney
2-3 Sev OR Bhujia (Crisp Indian Noodle Snack)
1 Tbsp Red Onions/Green Onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped

Prepare the idlis: pan or deep fry them until browned; drain on paper towels.

Divide the yogurt among 4 small plates or bowls.

Plate the prepared idli pieces, drizzle with the chutneys, sprinkle the rest of toppings of green/red onions, cilantro, sev or bhujia etc, and voila! the Idli Chaat is ready!

                           Idli Chaat                                   
Serve and eat immediately! Enjoy!

For Podi Idli, make pararell cuts into each cold idli to get 4 long pieces, similar to french fries. They are so delicious on their own and do not need any embellishments. I pan-toasted these pictured here.

Podil Idli
4 Servings

6-8 Idlies, chilled
Oil for pan/deep frying
3-4 Tbsp Mulagai Podi

Coconut Chutney or Ketchup to serve (optional)


I pan fried the idlis here; deepfried are fine also. If pan-frying, heat a seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet with a little oil - about 1 teaspoon - and cook the idli pieces until golden brown on each side. Let the pieces cook on one side without disturbing until they are browned; then turn over gently and cook on the other sides adding a tiny drizzle of oil as necessary. I used about 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil.

While the idli pieces are hot after browning, sprinkle the mulagai podi and toss and stir to coat completely. Serve warm or at room temperature. Accompany with coconut chutney or ketchup if desired. Enjoy!
Podi Idli
This is easiest of all idli make-overs that does not require any cooking at all. Simple and perfect for children or cooking challenged :-). At its simplest form it has only 3 ingredients; but if one is inclined to fancy it up a bit, some sauteed onions, peppers, peas, etc may be added and served garnished with some green onions or cilantro or both.

4 Servings

6-8 Leftover Idlies, reheated, cooled, and crumbled
1-2 Tbsp Oil, Indian Sesame preferably
1-3 Tbsp Mulagai Podi

Chop or crumble the cold idlis. The idlis should be reheated well if they are cold; when cold, the starch in the idlis become shrunk, grainy or tuff.

Sprinkle them with a little water and either steam them or reheat them in the microwave oven. Let cool a little so they are no longer hot and sticky; hot idlies would turn to mush if they are handled too much.

Drizzle the oil over the idlies and sprinkle the molaga podi on top; toss and mix until combined thoroughly.  That's it! Eat! Enjoy!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Mysore Rasam (Curry Leaf & Coconut-Scented Tomato Soup With Spices)

Here is another Rasam recipe! Mysore Rasam is another delicious rasam but with the fragrance of roasted coconut. Rasams are typically served clear after letting it settle a bit ending up with a thick sediment at the end from the dal and spices called "Mandi"; don't discard it - it is absolutely delicious mixed with plain rice or served with Yogurt Rice!

Mysore Rasam
Rasams are usually served along with rice in most homes for the second round after another dish like Sambar, Mor Kuzhambu, etc; but others serve it first with rice and then move on to the rest of the meal. Serve this rasam as you would the other types with rice and other accompanying simple vegetable curries, and Papadams. Enjoy it any way you like!

It is easier to make this and other rasams if you save a little dal when making other dishes like one of the Authentic or Simple Sambars, Pitla, Simple Dal, Molakootal, etc; usually about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the cooked dal would be plenty for one recipe. If you are not planning to use the dal within a couple of days, reserve in the freezer until needed. 
Byadagi or Kashmiri chiles are red as well as a bit milder and make a nice red-colored masala; if they are not readily available, use regular hot dried red chiles.
Canned or dried tomatoes work well when fresh tomatoes are not available.

Makes about 6 cups 


Fresh Masala - Roast and Grind:
1 tbsp Coriander Seeds
1 tbsp Channa dhal
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Peppercorns
1-2 Red chiles
2 tbsp Dried Grated Coconut

1/4 cup Toor dal 
1-2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 stems Fresh Curry Leaves, torn and crushed by hand
3 tbsp Fresh Coriander/Cilantro, finely chopped 
2 tbsp dried Tamarind OR 1 Tbsp paste + 1 cup of water
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Jaggery

1 tsp Oil
1-2 Red chiles
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 big pinch Asafetida
1 stems Fresh Curry Leaves, finely sliced

A handful of fresh Coriander/Cilantro


Pick over, wash and soak the dal for about 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and cook the dal with 1 1/2 cups of water. Pressure cooking the dal makes it go fast. Let it cool and mash it well adding a little water to make it 2 cups total.

Meanwhile dry roast the ingredients given under to roast and let it cool. Add 1/2 cup of water and grind it into smooth paste.

If using dried tamarind, soak the tamarind in about 1/2 cup of warm water for 10-15 minutes, knead well and extract the juice, repeat kneading and extracting 2 more times with 1/4 cup of water each time for a total of 1 cup of tamarind extract; discard solids. If using paste, add it directly to the pan with the water. Alternately, remove any seeds and tough fibers from the soaked tamarind and add to the roasted spices and grind together.

Use a 2-3 quart/liter saucepan, add the tamarind water, turmeric, salt, chopped tomatoes and the curry leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the ground paste; add a small amount of water to the blender to gather up the spice mixture and add to the pan. When it begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.

Add the mashed dal along with 2 more cups of water and the jaggery. Simmer uncovered until it is foamy on top. Remove from heat.

Prepare the aromatic Thalippu: In a small pan/kadai heat oil; when hot, add mustard seeds, red chiles, and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds finish popping, stir in asafetida and carefully add curry leaves; cover quickly to avoid hot oil spashing. Turn off the heat immediately, let cool for about a minute, and carefully add to the rasam.

Twist and pinch the cleaned cilantro into small pieces and add to the rasam, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or by itself in mugs with papadams. Enjoy!!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Karela (Parikkai) Atho (Burmese Style Bittermelon With Onions, Tomatoes, Peanuts & Sesame)

Karela Atho, Ready to eat!
Given a bag of fresh karelas/parikkai, I wanted to make something new and different with them; thus Karela Atho was created! If you love bitter melons, this is a fabulous recipe. If karela/bitter melon is not your thing, try making this with zucchini; Zucchini Atho makes fabulous eats! If making Zucchini Atho, cook the zucchini briefly so they do not get mushy.

Karela (Parikkai/Bitter Melon) Atho is packed with protein from the peanuts and the aromatic sesame. The combination of the sweet caramelized onions, smoky tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients combine to minimize the bitterness of bittermelons/karelas and produce an amazingly delectable dish. Tried, tested, and terrific!

Note: Almonds/cashews may be substituted for the peanuts if you have a peanut alergy.

4 to 6 Servings


1 lb Bittermelons(Karela), about 2 or 3
2 large ripe Tomatoes (12 oz)
2 - 3 Tbsp Oil
1 large Red Onion (8 oz)
1 tsp Jaggery/Organic Coconut or Brown Sugar or to taste
1/2 - 1 tsp red chili powder/flakes
1 tsp ground Coriander Seeds
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 pinch Asafetida
1/2 tsp Sea Salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup white Sesame Seeds, toasted
1/3 cup roasted Peanuts


Toast the sesame in a dry skillet until golden and let cool. Roast the peanuts also if they are raw. Cool completely. Pound the sesame seeds first using a mortar and pestle until they are crushed well; add the peanuts and crush them coarsely. If made ahead, keep in an airtight container until needed. 

Wash all the veggies; thinly slice the onion, mince the garlic, and thinly slice the karelas/bitter melon.

Broil, roast or grill the tomatoes until their skins char and blister. When cool enough to handle, peel and strain out the seeds. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and reserve along with the juices until needed.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the kadai/skillet and add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until caramelized and golden brown - they should be on the crispy side; watch carefully as they burn easily at the last stage. Stir in the red pepper and coriander, cook stirring for a minute, and remove from heat. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside; leave any extra oil in the pan.

In the same kadai/skillet and add the rest of the oil and heat. Tip in the karela with the turmeric, salt, asafetida, and the jaggery/sugar; cook until tender stirring occasionally adding a tiny sprinkle of water only if necessary.

When karela is tender, tip the onion mixture, tomatoes and half of the cilantro into the kadai/skillet and mix well and turn off the heat. Mix well.

Stir in the nuts and sesame into the karela reserving a pinch or two of the nuts and seeds for garnish.

Let the Karela Atho rest for at least 15 to 30 minutes to let all the flavors meld and marry; it is actually tastier the next day!

Serve hot or warm garnished with the rest of the cilantro, nuts and seeds with rice/roti and dal. 

Karela cooking

Karela with cooked Onions and Roasted Tomatoes

Karela Atho With Sesame & Peanuts

Karela Atho, Ready to eat!