Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Butternut/Pumpkin Creme (Simple & Delicious Winter Squash Soup)

So simple, yet, so delicious! Just a few ingredients transforms winter squash into an wonderfully scrumptious creamy golden soup! Although we call it "Creme", there is not a drop of cream or other fat/oil in this lovely soup. Butternut/Pumpkin Creme is naturally gluten, dairy, and fat free. The pepper and cayenne complement the natural sweetness of the squash and nutmeg elevates the luscious golden cream to the next level.

Use your favorite winter squash; or try any of the ones pictured below. We love this cream so well that I often make a double batch so there is plenty to enjoy and share with a friend.

Butternut squash is often available already peeled and cut - the hardest part of prep already done! so it is easy peasy and quick.

Onions maybe omitted; if you omit them, a pinch or two of freshly ground cumin maybe added.

Butternut (Winter Squash) or Pumpkin Cream


Pie Pumpkin in the back, Delicata in left corner,
Butternut in the middle, and green Kabocha
Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups)

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs Butternut squash/winter squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 small Onion, diced
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1-2 pinches Cayenne (optional)
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
1/4 cup Cashews, preferably raw
1 pinch Nutmeg

Optional Garniches
Freshly ground pepper/paprika/cayenne
Grilled corn kernels
Toasted Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds
Herbs
Coconut Milk, chilled

METHOD:

Place butternut, onion,cashews, turmeric, nutmeg, salt to taste and cayenne if using, in a pan with a cup of water; cook until squash is tender. Check to make sure there is enough water and the veggies do not scorch or burn. Let cool a little.

Puree the cooked veggies and process until smooth and silky. The veggies may need to be pureed in 2 or 3 batches. Although I prefer a regular blender for the silky texture it gives, an immersion blender maybe used as well. Add a little extra water as needed to get the right consistency and thinness.

Pour the puree back into the pan and heat through. 

Serve hot with additional freshly ground pepper and your favorite garnishes.

Enjoy!!

Butternut Cream with Grilled Corn Kernels

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Red Onion Salad With Lime Juice

Red Onion Salad
Red Onion Salad, though simple, is quite delicious served as a side salad or as a topping for other salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, and main dishes in many cuisines - Indian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, etc. The lime juice, chile and the herbs bring a burst of fresh flavor to every bite.

We love this as a condiment to most meals. Although limes are the citrus fruits of choice (key limes as well as other limes are equally delicious), lemons work fine also. If red onions are not handy, other kinds may be used which then will be simply "Onion Salad" :-).

Variation: If tomatoes are added, then we have Red Onion & Tomato Salad! Stir in two thinly sliced tomatoes. Adjust the amounts of lime juice, chile, cilantro, and the seasonings if tomatoes are added.

Ingredients:

1 medium Red Onion, finely sliced/slivered
1 Red Bell Pepper, very thinly sliced
1 hot Red or Green chile (serrano or jalapeño), cored and sliced thinly
2-4 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 Lime/Lemon, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground Pepper to taste

Red Onion Salad
Method:

Slice or cut into slivers the onion very finely; a sharp knife, mandolin or a slicer comes in very handy for this.

Put the onion in a bowl, cover with a pinch of salt and ice water and let rest for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Soaking in the ice water removes the sharpness or bitterness of the onions and renders them mellow.

Assemble the salad: In a bowl combine the driained onion with the rest of the ingredients adding lime/lemon juice to taste; mix well. Serve immediately or reserve up to an hour or two in the fridge.

Red Onion Salad is best eaten fresh but is still tasty enough chilled in the fridge for another day or two if there are leftovers.

Enjoy!!

Seasoned Salt With & Without Onion/Garlic

Seasoned Salt is a handy item to have in the pantry; it is fabulous to spice up everything from sliced veggies/salads, roasted, steamed, boiled or grilled vegetables, and your favorite recipes. Although commercial preparations are available, many have fillers, preservatives, anti-caking agents, etc. This easy home-made seasoned salt is quick and easy and the ingredients can be adjusted to personal tastes and preference.

Have fun experimenting with different amounts and proportions or your favorite herbs. If you like a smoky flavor, use smoked paprika.


Ingredients:

Seasoned Salt Without Onion/Garlic
1/4 cup Kosher or Sea Salt
4 tsps ground Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 tsp Smoked Paprika (optional)
1/2 - 1 tsp ground Red Pepper (Cayenne)
1/2 tsp Celery seeds (optional)
1/4 tsp Asafetida (optional)

Seasoned Salt With Onion/Garlic
All the ingredients above
1 tsp Garlic powder
1-2 tsp Onion powder


Method:

If using celery seeds, process in a spice grinder with a little of the salt until pulverized and proceed with the recipe.

Stir together all the ingredients for the appropriate seasoned salt you prefer and store in a clean, dry, airtight container.

Use as desired. Enjoy!!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Mexican Seasoning Mix (Homemade Spices For Beans & Veggies)

Mexican Seasoning Mix is an important spice mix for the pantry; it is not limited to seasoning only beans for burritos and tostadas but is also great for spicing up stir-cooked veggies (think fajitas!), rice, corn, Mexican Fiesta Soup, veg chili, etc! In fact, stir in Mexican seasoning mix into any recipe where you'd want to add a bit of spice. We love to slather grilled/steamed corn on the cobs with a concoction that includes lots of the Mexican seasoning mix ..... more on that soon :-).

Although commercial mixes are readily available, most have unknown "spices", sugar, or fillers such as corn meal; homemade is the way to go if one wants to eliminate all those. This is an easy and quick recipe that lasts well if kept clean and dry.

If you like to eliminate onion/garlic, omit them; the seasoning mix is delicious with or without them.

Mexican Seasoning Mix
INGREDIENTS:

About 1 cup

3 Tbsp New Mexico Chili powder 
2 Tbsp Paprika
1-2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tbsp ground Chipotle Chili powder
3 Tbsp Onion powder 
1 Tbsp Garlic powder 
1-2 Tbsp ground Cumin 
1 Tbsp dried Oregano, crushed
1 Tbsp unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 Tbsp freshly ground Black Pepper 
1/2 - 1 Tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp Sea Salt

Directions

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Pour into a clean, dry, jar with a tight fitting lid. Store the spice mix in a dry cupboard.

Use as needed; for spicing Frijoles (Pinto Beans for burrito, taco, etc), you might like to add 1-2 Tbsp or more to taste for each cup of dried beans after the beans are cooked. For stir-cooked veggies or rice dishes, add about 1 tsp - 1 Tbsp depending on the level of spiciness required.

Enjoy!!


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Veggie Ceviche! (Vegan Tofu/Veggie Salad)

Veggie Ceviche! 
Veggie Ceviche is an amazing recipe if I say so myself! You have to taste it's limey, cilantro goodness to see how delicious it is. The tofu truly gets so flavorful that one can eat a whole bowlful even without any of the additional ingredients - yes, I did exactly that!

There are 3 ways to make this ceviche; with tofu, cauliflower (raw or cooked until just tender), or hearts or palm - all equally delicious. This ceviche is an easy make ahead recipe and a great addition to the appetizer/starter, lunch, or a light meal repertoire.

NOTES:

Fresh limes work the best for this recipe; let the limes warm up to room temperature if chilled. If the limes are not juicy, or they are small, you may need more limes.

The tofu/veggies may be marinated up to a day in advance. To insure fresh taste and flavor, add the tomato and cucumber no more than about an hour or two before serving.

Jalapeño chiles maybe cored for a mild ceviche; leave cores in for more spice.

If fresh corn is not an option, frozen corn kernels maybe used; cook in a hot pan until slightly caramelized, cool, and then add to ceviche. Also, if you have leftover grilled corn, use it here!

Ceviche maybe served in many ways; one of our favorite way is to let everyone pile it on small romaine/endive leaves or warm corn tortillas. It maybe spooned onto tostada shells also or scooped up with tortilla/corn chips.

About 4-5 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 block Regular OR Firm Tofu (14 oz), cut into 1/4" cubes 
1 clove fresh Garlic, mashed well
1 small Red Onion, finely diced
2 Roma OR 1/2 cup Cherry Tomatoes, diced small
2 Persian Cucumbers, diced
2 Corn on the cob, grilled and cut off the cob
1-2 Jalapeño chiles, cored and minced
2-3 large Limes, juiced
1 large bunch Cilantro, finely chopped, divided
1 tsp Salt, divided
1/2 Mandarin/Regular Orange, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup Green Olives, sliced (optional)
1-2 Avocadoes, diced

To Serve:
Lime wedges
Hot Sauce (Mexican type)
Romaine/Endive leaves
Corn Tortillas (warmed)
Tortilla Chips/Tostada Shells

METHOD:

Drain the tofu thoroughly and rub with a couple of pinches of salt, wrap in toweling, weight down, and drain. Blot well and cut into cubes.

Pound together using a mortar and pestle or pulverize using a food processor, half the cilantro, 1/2 tsp salt, and half the jalapeño chile.

Combine Tofu, the pounded cilantro mixture in a non-reactive bowl (glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl), and the juice from one lime; mix well. Place the tofu mixture in a ziptop bag, flatten the bag gently so the tofu is in one layer and there is enough juices to coat all the cubes. Let marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

If using cauliflower (raw or cooked until al dente and cooled) or hearts of palm, cut them into small florets or cubes. They don't need to be pre-marinated. Just combine them with the rest of the ingredients.

Grill the corn on the cob and let cool. Cut off the kernels carefully from the cob.

In a large non-reactive bowl, mix together the garlic, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn kernels, rest of the green chiles, rest of the cilantro, the juice from one lime, and the olives if using. Stir in the tofu and season with salt to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon or so. Add the mandarin/orange if using, to the ceviche and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours if not serving immediately.

Just before serving, gently stir in the diced avocado. Taste and add more lime juice as needed.

Serve with chips, tostada shells, tortillas, romaine and/or endive. Pass the hot sauce and lime wedges.

Enjoy!!
Veggie Ceviche! 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin (Roasted Cauliflower Casserole)

Here is a delightful rib-sticking versatile dish that might evoke memories of Mac & Cheese especially if you choose golden potatoes although any type will work! Do serve the gratin over the greens not just for the added nutrition but also for the lovely taste. Another fabulous gratin to add to the repertoire just like this one.

As it works well to make ahead, it is great to just bake and serve! Cauliflower, grains/potatoes, topping, etc maybe prepared ahead also and then assembed and reserved until baking and serving.

If you choose potatoes, they maybe roasted along with the cauliflower. I love to add carrots and/or peas often also. 

6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER:

1 Medium Cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

GRAINS/POTATO: - Choose your favorite

2 cups dry Whole Grains/Potato, cooked

STEEPED MILK:

2½ cups any Non-Dairy Milk
5 sprigs EACH: Italian Parsley, Thyme, and Marjoram + extra for the gratin
1 Tbsp Crushed Fennel Seeds
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper, cracked
1/4 tsp Salt

GRATIN:

1 Onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp Rice flour
½ cup Nutritional Yeast
¼ tsp ground Nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp Mixed Herbs (same as above), finely minced

TOPPING:

½ cup Rice Cracker/Gluten free Pretzel crumbs
¼ cup toasted Nuts/Seeds of your choice

TO SERVE:

8-9 Cups Arugula, Baby Spinach, OR Mixed Greens

METHOD:

1. MAKE THE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the  season with salt and pepper. Pour into an even layer on the prepared baking sheet and roast until tender and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. COOKED GRAINS/POTATO: Choose which you would like - grains or potato. Cook the grains as usual if that is the choice. If your choice is potato, cut the potato into short but sticks and cook them or roast with the cauliflower.

3. Make the STEEPED MILK: combine the milk, herb sprigs, black pepper, and crushed fennel seeds.

Warm the milk until very hot; steep for 10 minutes on low heat. Strain, discard the herb-spice solids, and season the steeped milk with the salt.

4. MAKE THE GRATIN: Heat a large pot over medium heat, the flour to the pot and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes until toasted. Pour out onto a plate.

5. Add the onion with a little water to the same hot pot and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Mix in the toasted flour. Add the steeped milk gradually, whisking to incorporate. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.

6. Stir in the minced herbs, nutritional yeast, the cauliflower, and the cooked grains/potatoes, season generously with pepper, salt to taste, and mix thoroughly.

7. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish in Step 1. (The recipe can be made ahead up to this point and reserved in the refrigerator until ready to bake and serve.)

8. MAKE THE TOPPING: In a medium bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Sprinkle it in an even layer over the cauliflower mixture when ready to bake.

9. BAKE: at 375°F until the gratin is bubbly and has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes (add 10-20 minutes more to baking time if refrigerated).

10. SERVE: Place about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of the greens on each plate and place the hot gratin on top. Serve hot immediately.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Mexican-Style Many-Layer-Dip With Homemade Chips

Many-Layer Dip
Colorful, delicious, guilt-free Mexican-Style Many-Layer-Dip, irresistible with the cahew/tofu “cream”, and served with homemade chips or tortillas, is a delightful dish for a few or a crowd. Choose cashews or tofu to make the "cream". I call this Many-Layer-Dip since it has many lovely layers contributing great taste, colors, flavors, fiber, and amazing nutrition. Choose to include all the ingredients, a few only, or add even more - this recipe is very adaptable.

Assemble the Many-Layer-Dip no more than 2-3 hours ahead if you want to keep it looking pretty. Although it will still be fine in taste and safe to eat after that time, some of the the layers will not stay distinct as some of the juicy layers start to mix with those next to them.

The avocado stays nice and green without oxidizing as it is well ensconced without exposure to air. No air = no oxygen = no oxidation! :D

NOTES:

It is very easy to prepare freshly cooked beans; check this post on cooking beans. Or use canned beans for ease of prep - I think one 15 oz can should do it.

If not using the chipotle chile, add a pinch of cayenne to the cream.

Another fabulous topping for the layered dip is Tzatziki! I happened to have tzatziki handy so used it instead of the "cream" and it was truly delicious!

I often serve the Dip with warm corn tortillas; sometimes turning on the oven on a hot summer day is just unthinkable as well as unbearable! Tear out a piece of tortilla and top it with a scoop of  dip! Keep a spoon handy to load portions of the dip on to the tortillas. Yum!

8 Appetizer Servings

INGREDIENTS:

CHIPS:

8 corn tortillas, cut into wedges
1/2 Lime/Lemon
1-2 pinches Salt
1-2 pinches ground Chile/ Cayenne (optional)

CASHEW/TOFU CREAM:

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked OR ½ (14-ounce) package firm silken tofu, drained
2 tablespoons fresh Lime/Lemon juice or to taste
1 Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce + 1 Tbsp of the adobo sauce (optional)
Salt to taste

BEANS:

1½ - 2 cups Cooked, mashed Pinto/Black beans OR One 15oz can refried
1 big pinch Garlic powder
1 big pinch ground Cumin
1 big pinch dried Oregano

AVOCADO: make guacamole or dice small


1 avocado, diced
2 Tbsp Red Onion, minced
jalapeño, cored and minced (optional)
1 small clove Garlic, mashed (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fresh Lime juice to taste

MANY LAYER DIP:

1 cup fresh corn kernels OR or frozen, thawed
1 cup Salsa, homemade or purchased
1-2 cups Romaine lettuce, finely chopped 
2 Scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped, divded (2 Tbsp for the Avocado)
1-2 Tomatoes, seeds drained, diced  small
3-4 Tbsp fresh  Cilantro, finely chopped
½ cup Black Olives, thinly sliced 

OPTIONAL  EXTRAS:

Endive/Romaine heart leaves
Radish slices

METHOD:

Make Tortilla Chips: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub the tortillas with a little lime/lemon, sprinkle the salt and chile if using. Cut the tortillas into 6-8 wedges, place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes.

Prepare Cashew/Tofu Sour Cream: combine the drained Cashew/Tofu, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using) in a blender carafe; season with salt to taste. Purée until smooth. Chill the “sour cream” until ready to use.

Beans: Combine the mashed/canned beans, garlic powder, cumin, and oregano in a saucepan and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add about 1 or 2 tablespoons of water if needed to help combine canned beans. Let cool.

Avocado: Prep this just before layering; mix the avocado with the rest of the guac ingredients - leave it chunky or mash coarsely as you wish.

Assemble the Dip: Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass serving dish. Layer the avocado over the bean layer. Top with the salsa, followed by the scallions, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, corn, and cashew/tofu sour cream in this or any other order you like keeping the layers even and neat. 

Sprinkle with the cilantro, scatter sliced olives on top, and serve immediately or chill in the fridge for up to 2-3 hours. 

Serve with the tortilla chips, endive/roamine leaves, radish and jicama slices, and more salsa.

Buen Provecho!!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Zucchini Pachadi/Raita With Onions & Tomatoes (Non-Dairy Vegetable Salad)

Zucchini Pachadi/Raita
Zucchini Pachadi/Raita is absolutely delicious and is never watery like those one might encounter usually or at most restaurants. Zucchinis are our vegetables of choice for making raita/pachadi ever since Amma used them brilliantly instead of the ubiquitous cucumbers! This is how Amma made it but for the dairy yogurt and oil in the talippu; I only made it non-dairy and with no added oils - so it is a slight make-over of the original classic Pachadi/Raita.

Zucchinis are sturdier veggies and not as juicy as cucumbers even though they are both part of the cucurbit family. We do love cucumbers too - just not in our raita! Another great recipe where the tender zucchinis can shine and a fabulous way to use up the abundant crop from the exuberant plants in your garden - those who grow them can attest to the generosity of these plants :D.

This raita also makes a wonderful starter/appetizer by itself or paired with warm Roti (Indian whole wheat tortillas), fried or roasted papadams, and/or your favorite chips.

NOTE:

Any non-dairy yogurt will work; use a plain unsweetened and unflavored non-dairy yogurt such as cashew, almond, or coconut milk yogurt. We love cashew/tofu yogurt too; the recipe is given below. Finely mince the coconut with the chiles (or grind without adding any water (can use a little of the yogurt) in a blender and proceed with the rest of the directions. Lime/lemon juice may not be depending on the yogurt.

Non-Dairy Cashew/Tofu Yogurt:

1 cup raw Cashews soaked OR 1 block of soft/firm Tofu (14 oz)
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lime/lemon, or to taste
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup Unflavored Almond/Soy/Coconut Milk/Water

Place the drained cashews/tofu in a blender along with as much of the milk/water as needed to blend easily(use a little at a time), coconut, green chillies, lime/lemon, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth like yogurt. Remove the cashew/tofu yogurt to a large bowl. 

Ingredients:

2 large but tender Zucchini
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
Non-Dairy Yogurt OR Tofu Yogurt (see notes)
2 Tablespoons finely grated Fresh or frozen Coconut
1 green Chile, cored
Salt to taste

Tadka/Thalippu:

1/4 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 tsp split skinless Urad Dal
1 tiny pinch Asafoetida (optional)
1 sprig Fresh Curry Leaves, minced
1 Tsp Fresh Ginger, finely grated
1 Serrano/Jalapeno or other green Chile, cored and minced

Method:

Place the  coconut and green chiles in a blender along with a little yogurt as needed to blend easily (use a little at a time). Blend until smooth like yogurt. Scrape  into a large bowl. Add the rest of the yogurt.

Wash and grate the zucchinis; squeeze them and discard the juices or save it for additing to another dish or broth. The zucchinis need not be squeezed dry; just remove some of the excess moisture. Add zucchini to the bowl with the yogurt.

Wash, deseed, and chop the tomatoes. Add to the bowl along with the onions and cilantro. Add a little salt to taste but not too much; raita should be sweet and not too salty.

Make the tadka/thalippu: heat a small pan and add the mustard and dal. When mustard seeds subside popping and dancing, add asafoetida, curry leaves, ginger and green chile with a spoonful of water; cover and cook for a couple of minutes to soften the ginger and chile, let cool a little and pour over the raita and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve as a salad, starter, or with any rice dish, Roti or Naan, curries/dal, DosaAdai and/or Upma. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

QUICK THAI RED CURRY/SOUP WITH NOODLES & VEGGIES

Thai Red Curry/Soup is a quick, easy, and deliciously satisfying dish to prepare especially on weeknights. The veggies and noodles maybe prepped ahead of time so cooking is a breeze at the last minute.

I tpically use onions, mushrooms, broccoli, bok choi or chard, snowpeas/snap peas, carrots, cabbage, beansprouts, etc. but you can use your own favorite combination of veggies.

NOTES:

I usually limit the amount of coconut milk to half a can to avoid adding too much fat to the curry; add more according to your preference.
A pinch or two of curry powder or cayenne maybe added to make this curry/soup a bit more spicy. 
Frozen mixed veggies maybe used instead of the fresh.
A handful of fresh Basil or Mint leaves, torn maybe stirred into the curry/soup for a delightful varaiation instead of the coriander (cilantro).

4-5 Servings

INGREDIENTS

1 Block Firm Tofu (14-16 oz), drained thoroughly and cubed
1 - 1 1/2 lbs Total, mixed vegetables (see suggestions above)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2-4 Tbsp Vegetarian Thai Red Curry Paste, to taste
1/2 - 1 can (15 oz) Coconut Milk
4 oz dry Rice Noodles, cooked
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Toppings:

2 Tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
4 Green Onions, sliced finely

METHOD:

Heat a large wok, wide pan, or deep enough skillet, and steam the vegetables with the turmeric, a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of water for about a few minutes - just until green veggies are bright green and all the veggies slightly softened but still crisp. Turn out into a bowl and reserve.

To the same pan, add the curry paste to taste depending on how spicy you like, the coconut milk, and 2 cups of water; mix well and bring to a simmer. Slide the tofu cubes in, turn to coat with the curry, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add a little more water if you like lots of broth or keep it thick to your desired consistency.

Add and the cooked  noodles and vegetables; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over low to medium heat for a few more minutes to heat through, simmering very gently, until the curry/soup is hot.

Top with the chopped coriander and green onions and serve hot. Enjoy!!

Hema's Masala Gud, Original & Makeovers (Digestive Indian Nut & Seed Bar With Spices)

Jaggery-sweetened treats are enjoyed all over India but Masala Gud or Gur is particularly enjoyed during the cold winter months in the North. It is considered warming and helpful for digestion with not only the warming jaggery but also all the spices. Instead of the after-meal mint, offer these for a little treat with some health benefits.

Masala Gud is very rich with the medicinal seeds and spices; chew well to enjoy and get the benefits of all the seeds!

Masala Gud is quite delicious. Hema told me that she made it one evening and left it to cool and set for the next day. She woke up around midnight by some strange noises to find her husband munching away! He couldn't resist the aroma of the cooling masala gud and didn't want to wait :D.

Hema's Original Recipe:
Hema's Original Masala Gud
Ingredients:
1 kg Jaggery (gud) crushed
2 Tbsp Fennel seeds
1 Tbsp Ajwain seeds
1 Tbsp Cumin seeds
1 Tbsp ground dry Ginger
1 tsp ground Cardamom Seeds
3 Tbsp Ghee
1 1/2 cups mixed Nuts ( peanuts, cashews, almonds etc) lightly roasted
1 Tbsp roasted Sesame seeds

Method:

Heat ghee in a thick bottom vessel n add gud. Keep stirring till it becomes liquid.

You can dryroast the fennel, ajwain, and cumin lightly over low heat for a few seconds, crush them coarsely or keep them raw and whole. 

Add the seeds along with the ground spices to the melted jaggery. Mix well, add the nuts and keep heating and stirring for 2 minutes.

Pour the masala gud into a greased plate. Cut while warm, let cool completely, and keep in an airtight container when cool.

Enjoy after meals.

Makeover I - No Ghee, Less Fat  
Makeover I Masala Gud

I added all the nuts plus extra sesame to 500 g of gud and 1 T coconut oil. Included some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sunflower seeds in the nut mix - delicious. I think more ginger and cardamom would be nice plus even more nuts as it comes out very sweet!

Ingredients:
1/2 kg Jaggery (gud) crushed
2 Tbsp Fennel seeds
1 Tbsp Ajwain seeds
1 Tbsp Cumin seeds
2 Tbsp ground dry Ginger
2 tsp ground Cardamom Seeds
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
2 cups mixed Nuts ( peanuts, cashews, almonds etc) lightly roasted
1/2 cup roasted Sesame seeds (I used both black and white)

Method:

Follow the procedure in the original Masala Gud.

Masala Date Bites - Makeover II - All Natural, No Added Sugars/Fats 

I am calling this Masala Date Bites! This no-cook one uses dates instead of the Jaggery. I used cashews, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds); other nuts or seeds maybe added also.

Masala Date Bites


Ingredients:

1 cup dates, pitted
1 tbsp almond butter (optional)
1 Tbsp ground dry Ginger
1 tsp ground Cardamom Seeds
2 Tbsp roasted Flax seeds, ground
1 Tbsp Fennel seeds
1-2 Tsp Ajwain seeds
2 Tsp Cumin seeds
1 1/2 Cups Mixed Nuts and Seeds
1/4 cup roasted Sesame seeds

Method:

Dry toast all the nuts and whole seeds lightly; the cumin, fennel and ajwain maybe left raw or roasted.

If the dates are dry, soak with a couple of tablespoons of warm water. If the dates are moist and soft, no need for soaking. Process the dates in a food processor until finely chopped.

Add the almond butter if using and flax seeds along with the spices and process until combined. The mixture maybe sticky, which is perfect as we want all the nuts and seeds to stick together!

Add the nuts and seeds to the food processor bowl and pulse until combined. Or, scoop the date mixture into a bowl, add the nuts and seeds and knead/mix well. When kneading and forming into balls, moistening your hands with a little water occasionally keeps the date mixture from sticking to hands.

Roll into balls using hands or press into a pan lined with parchment, chill until firm, and cut into little squares, about 24. Store in the refrigerator. Serve 1 or 2 masala date bites per person after meals. Take little bites and take time to chew well.

Enjoy!!


Sunday, July 15, 2018

SHUKTO (Mixed Vegetable Stew W/Coconut & Spices - BENGALI AVIYAL!)

Shukto
Shukto is a delicious Bengali mixed vegetable stew served with rice typically at the beginning of the meal. When I made it first, it was so reminiscent of the South Indian Aviyal, we called it the Bengali Aviyal!

I have adapted the recipe to make it dairy, gluten, and any added oil/fat free since the traditional milk, flour, and added fats are eliminated. The addition of sugar also is not needed as the sweet potato adds enough sweetness to the dish; but if you wish, a date or a teaspoon or two of maple syrup/jaggery maybe added. I added a little bit of coconut (yes, it adds a bit of fat) and rice to make the Shukto creamy; it is absolutely fabulous!

Although bitter melon is a traditional ingredient, it is an acquired taste; not even many Indian people like this bitter veggie! Besides, I did not have either fresh or frozen bitter melon or drumsticks. But even with all these omissions or perhaps because of them :D, the dish turned out quite delectable. 

NOTES:

Typically the veggies are cut lengthwise into wedges/julienne pieces equal in size and thickness. Some may need to be cut into 4, 6, or 8 wedges/julienne pieces depending on their size.

Turmeric is optional; however, I prefer to add it for all the medicinal value it brings to the table as well as its golden hue.

Coconut milk maybe substituted for the coconut; use about half a cup.

I leave the green chiles whole with just the barest slit at the blossom ends to make the dish mild as well as their removal easy. They maybe cored and finely minced also while still keeping the dish mild.

Panch Phodan, Phoran, or Foran is a spice mix that means Five Spices with equal amounts of the following whole seeds - brown mustard, nigella, cumin, fenugreek and fennel; check this recipe for details - it is used in making Kadhi, Zucchini With Besan, etc.

Ajwain is closely related to celery so celery seeds maybe used instead if ajwain is unavilable. 

For a traditional Shukto, add 1 Bitter Melon, 2 Moringa pods known as Indian Drumsticks, fresh or frozen, 2 Taro roots, etc. Other vegetables such as Ridge gourd, Bottle gourd, and/or Zucchini maybe added also.

Another ingredient is vadis or boris prepared from mung or other beans- these maybe purchased or homemade; they are usually cooked in oil until lightly browned and added to the stew towards the end of cooking. 

Serves: 6

INGREDIENTS

Masala for grinding:
1 Tbsp White Poppy seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger
1 tsp uncooked Rice
1/4 cup Fresh or 2 Tbsp Unsweetened dried Coconut

Stew:

1 Green Banana, plantain or regular
1 Potato
1-2 large Sweet Potatoes
1 smallish piece Daikon/Korean radish or a handful of the small red ones
1 Japanese/Chinese type Eggplant
1 handful any type Green Beans/Hyacinth Beans
1 tsp Panchphoran
2 pinchhes Ajwain seeds (optional)
1-2 Indian Bay Leaves
1/4 tsp Asafetida (optional)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-3 hot Green Chiles, ends slit OR cored and minced
Salt to taste
3-4 cups Boiling Water 
2-4 Tbsp Cilantro, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

1. Make the Masala:

Soak mustard, poppy seeds and coconut in a little water for 10 minutes.

Make a smooth paste of the soaked coconut mixture along with the ginger adding water as necessary using a good blender. Pour into a bowl; use a cup of water to sluice the blender to gather up all of the masala and add to the bowl. Set aside.

2. Prep the veggies:

Wash all the veggies, drain. Lightly peel the deep green skin of the banana/plantain - a peeler makes it an easy job. Regular and sweet potatoes need not be peeled if they are organic; just scrub them clean with a veggie brush. Trim stems and tips from radish, eggplant and green beans.

Bowl # 1. Cut the radish, green banana, potato, and sweet potato into 2 inch long wedges/juliennes and keep together; these take a little longer to cook.

Bowl # 2. Cut eggplant and green beans (and other tender veggies that do not need much cooking time) into same size wedges/juliennes as the other veggies.

3. Make Shukto:

Heat a large wok or Dutch oven over medium heat and add panchphoron and ajwain. When the seeds start to pop, add the bay leaves and stir for a few seconds.

Add turmeric, asafetida (if using), green chiles, salt and the ground masala. 

Add the contents of Bowl # 1 (radish, green banana, etc) to the pot along with enough of the boiling water to cover the veggies; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover the with a lid. Cook for about 7 -8 minutes on low heat.

If using bitter melon and drumsticks, add them after bowl # 1 has cooked for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the contents of Bowl # 2 (eggplant), add more boiling water if needed and simmer until the veggies are cooked, about 7-10 minutes or so.

Check the stew and add a little more boiling water as needed since Shukto should have plenty of sauce and not be too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in the cilantro and let rest for 10 minutes.

Fish out the green chiles (if they have been left whole) from Shukto and discard or offer to those who like to add a little extra spice to their plate.

Serve hot with steamed rice. Enjoy!!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mangai Vellarikai Kootan (Green Mango & Cucumber Stew)

Kerala Red Rice, Mangai Vellarikai Kootan, Cauli-Carrot Curry, Papadams
Mangai Vellarikai  Kootan is a Kerala stew flavored with the traditional masala of coconut, chiles, and cumin seeds. It is another one of our family favorite kuzhambus. Mangai Vellarikai  Kootan over plain rice, a simple vegetable stir-fry and papadams - make a delicious combination!

Green Mangoes and big Indian cucumbers are the usual veggies; since Indian cooking cukes are not always available, regular, Persian, and greenhouse cucumbers all work well - peel if they are waxed.

Besides the green unripe mango, other veggies maybe used instead of the cucumber such as winter melon (aka ash gourd or elavan), okra, moqua/chayote/opo squash, taro root, Jack fruit seeds, zucchini, or other mild summer squash. Dependig on the sourness of the mangoes, adjust the lime/lemon for the right amount of tanginess.

1/4 cup of Cashews or about 1/2 block Tofu maybe added to the coconut masala if you like to get a Mor Kootan/Kuzhambu effect while also making it thicker.

About 6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 Green Mango, peeled and cut into big chunks
1-2 Cucumbers
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 Lemon/Lime

Masala - Grind Together:
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen OR 1/3 cup dried Unsweetened
1 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 or 2 Hot Green or Red Chile, core removed for a milder dish
1 Stem Curry Leaves
1 tsp uncooked rice

Thalippu/Tadka:

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

Method:

Prepare the veggies: wash well, trim or peel as needed; cut into large chunks.

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

While the veggies are cooking, place  the masala ingredients in the blender carafe, process into a nice smooth puree with a little water (1/4 cup or so).

When the veggies are tender, add the coconut puree; add a few tablespoons of water to the blender to gather all the remaining puree and add to the pan. Add a little more water if the kuzhambu is thick.

Simmer uncovered gently until Kootan comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

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

Stir in lemon/lime juice to taste before serving; Mangai Vellarikai Kootan should be tangy.

Serve hot with rice or other grains; the usual favorite sides are some kind of thoran or dry veggie dish like Stir-fried Okra, Cabbage Thoran, Paruppu Usli, Parikkai Fry, Potato Roast, and/or papadams. Mangai Vellarikai Kuzhambu will last a week to ten days in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!!
Kerala Red Rice, Mangai Vellarikai Kootan

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fresh Fruit Salad With Custard

Fruit Salad W/Custard, Almonds, Hemp Hearts
I remember eating Fresh Fruit Salad with Vanilla Custard for the first time; tiny cubes of succulent tropical fruit nestled in a cool bed of smooth custard - Perfection! Although I don't recall all of the fabulous fruits except perhaps the mango, pineapple and grapes, my 13-year-old self was completely mesmerized by the lovely delight!
  
Fresh Fruit Salad is fabulous when there is an abundance of ripe fruit. Choose a variety of  fruits for their flavors, color and texture. Cut all large fruits into small dice; most small berries maybe left whole. It is a truly luxurious experience to enjoy a well prepared treat. Just like the chopped veggie salads - Cucumber-Tomato and Kale Bhel - everyone at our house adores a chopped fruit salad also - a labor or love, well worth the effort! 

Besides mango, pineapple, banana, and strawberries, also include watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew, papaya, pomegranate, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, orange segments, peaches, apricots, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and/or other beauties in season. Most fruits will work well - have fun with the many delicious choices.

Serve it as a breakfast, snack, or dessert. I love a big bowl for breakfast with plain unsweetened non-dairy yogurt instead of the custard and/or gluten-free granola on top. Leave out the custard and it can even be a starter! Most extra fruits maybe frozen and/or any leftovers maybe made into a smoothie!

I have not given amounts for the ingredients since the fruits vary according to seasonal availability, selection, and the number of servings one may wish to make. Allow about a cup of fruit (or more) per person; start with a few favorite fruits adding more as you go along to get the quantity as well as color, flavor, and texture you want.

Custard maybe made with other flavorings besides vanilla; we love almond too.

Fruit Salad pictured here is made with only 5 fruits as it was just for 2 servings; it can be quite simple or elaborate with many kinds.

Ingredients:

Assorted fruits
Vanilla Custard to serve - 1 Recipe, warm or cold
Toasted Almond slices for garnish (optional)
Other Nuts or Seeds
Extra fruit for garnish
Mint sprigs for garnish

Method:

Prepare the vanilla custard; it maybe served warm or cold. Use unflavored non-dairy milk and add your own flavorings like vanilla and/or almond for best results. If serving it cold, allow enough time for cooling the custard.

Spoon a little of the cold custard into the dishes and then place fruit on top. Warm custard maybe spooned over when ready to serve.

Dice the fruit into uniformly small cubes. Although it is fine to make a big bowl of fruit salad, I find that placing the fruit directly into individual bowl avoids crushing them. Divy up equal amounts of the fruit into the bowls as you go. 

Serve garnished with the almonds and mint sprigs. Enjoy!!
Fruit Salad W/Custard

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cauliflower Tabbouleh (Grain-free Vegetable Salad)

Cauliflower Tabbouleh 
Cauliflower Tabbouleh is a refreshing salad for the warm sunny days of summer with the abundance of fresh veggies. This colorful and healthy salad is a makeover of the traditional Tabbouleh from the Mediterranean region. Using riced cauliflower (cauliflower florets that have been finely chopped) instead of the usual grains makes it gluten free! 

Although the regular white cauliflower is fine, have fun using the the show-stopping rainbow-hued cauliflowers as well as other veggies available at your local farmers markets or favorite grocers. I love to use the multi-colored sweet mini peppers and radishes in this salad.

If there is any leftover salad, I add it to Adai batter to make Vegetable Adais (veggie panckes) or Salsa Pulav towards the end of cooking. Waste not ..... :D

NOTES:

A good knife or the food processor makes short work of chopping all the veggies; pulse them if using a food processor so you don't end up with mush!

If Sweet Mini Peppers are not handy, use red, orange and yellow bell peppers (capsicums).

A little sprinkle of Chaat Masala adds a lovely piquant pop; it is readily available in Indian Markets.

Although I don't use any oils, a little (~ 1 Tbsp or so) Extra Virgin Oil maybe used.

Use your favorite veggies make this uniquely your own!

6-8 Servings

Ingredients:

1 pound Cauliflower, any color, riced (4 cups)
1 clove fresh Garlic, mashed finely (optional)
¼ Red Onion, finely diced
1 green Chile, Jalapeño or Serrano, cored and finely minced (optional)
1 Carrot, any color, finely diced
8-12 Sweet Mini Peppers, red, yellow and orange, diced small (1 cup)
1 cup Corn kernels, fresh or thawed frozen
¼ cup fresh Cilantro/Parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh Mint, finely chopped
2-3 Limes/Lemons
1-2 pinches Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper

Optional Garnishes:
Pomegranate arils
Toasted Nuts/Seeds
Mint, Parsley, and Cilantro

Method:

Riced cauliflower is available in most markets. If not, it is quite easy to rice: chop portions of the veggie using a good knife or separate the florets and pulse in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal S blade.

In a large bowl, combine all the prepared vegetables and herbs. Add a little salt and lime/lemon juice to taste; mix well. Season with more lime/lemon juice, salt, and pepper as needed. 

Chill if not serving right away. Although best eaten freshly made, Cauliflower Tabbouleh will stay fresh for 2-3 days.

Enjoy!!



Friday, July 6, 2018

Spinach Salad With Strawberries, Blueberries, & Pecans

I love this Spinach Salad bursting with the irresistible colors and flavors of fresh veggies and luscious berries! The simple balsamic dressing makes it absolutely delicious. One of our go to recipes on week nights :D as it is very easy and quick to prepare.

The Balsamic Vinaigrette is light yet flavorful. This recipe makes more dressing than needed for a serving; I save the extra in a squeeze bottle ready for the next time. 

Other nuts/seeds and/or berries maybe added to the salad instead of the pecans, strawberries and blueberries.

1 Serving

Ingredients:

Salad:
2-3 large handfuls fresh spinach, torn or chopped
4 large strawberries, sliced 
1 small handful of fresh Blueberries, washed
1/2 small Cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 fresh Beet, thinly sliced
1 small Carrot, thinly sliced
2-3 thin slices Red Onions, separated into rings or half-moons
1/4 small avocado, pitted and cubed
2 Tbsp Pecans, toasted

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup Water + 1/4 tsp Cornstarch
1 clove fresh Garlic, peeled and trimmed
1-2 tsp Dijon-style Mustard
1/2 tsp Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

Method:

Prepare dressing and toast the pecans; both maybe done ahead and reserved.

Combine the water and cornstarch in a small pan, mix well to form a slurry, and heat until boiling; cook for a couple of minutes until the starch is cooked and the mixture is almost translucent. Let cool completely. The cornstarch mixture makes a fabulous oil substitute!

In a small blender, combine all the ingredients for the Balsamic Vinaigrette, process until smooth. Taste and correct the seasonings, pour into a clean jar, and set aside. Chill the vinaigrette if made ahead. The dressing will stay fresh for a week.

Toast the pecans without any oil in a dry skillet or at 375 degrees for 5-6 minutes, until lightly brown. Watch carefully as the nuts burn very quickly! Remove from oven and let cool. Pecans maybe toasted ahead of time and reserved in a zip-top bag or other container in the fridge until needed.

Make the salad just before serving. The veggies maybe prepped ahead and reserved in the fridge.

Place the spinach on a plate/bowl and top with the rest of the veggies.

Top the salad with the berries and pecans. 

Serve immediately drizzled with the Balsamic Vinaigrette! Bon appettit!

Enjoy!!


Thursday, June 28, 2018

MUNG BEAN SPROUT SALAD WITH PEANUTS

Mung Sprouts Salad is a delicious snack or side dish; the lime juice and spices give it a snappy fresh flavor and piquancy perfect for a quick pick-me-up. Mung Sprout Salad is a version of Indian street fare. Although the salad can be made simpler without the veggies, we love the colorful and flavorful additions. The wonderful thing about this is that while amazingly satisfying, it is not a calorically dense food; so enjoy without guilt :D.

We enjoy the fresh and crunchy sprouts any time of the year but particularly in the summer when we love lighter foods. It is quite similar to the Sprouted Bean & Lentil Salad, Kale Bhel Salad and Chundal/Sundal. Sprouting beans, peas, lentils, or seeds makes their nutrition more available and easier to digest. Most bean, pea, and seed sprouts are also edible raw; exceptions are kidney beans, pintos, and limas - usually all big beans need to be cooked until well done.

Sort, soak, and sprout the whole mung beans. Sprouting may take 2 or 3 days depending on the weather. During warmer months, they sprout pretty quickly.

4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups sprouted Mung beans, rinsed and drained
1 handful fresh Radishes, quartered and thinly sliced, about ½ cup
1 fresh Carrot, quartered and thinly sliced, about ½ cup
1 small Cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced, about ½ cup
½ Red Onion, finely diced
2 tbsp Cilantro, finely chopped
1 fresh juicy Lime
½ tsp Black Salt (Kala Namak)
¼ - ½ tsp Cayenne
¼ - ½ cup toasted peanuts

Optional
Small Romaine leaves
Endive
Mini Peppers

METHOD:

Toast the raw peanuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and golden without getting too brown; peanuts which are blanched or with skins are fine. Pour into a plate to cool completely. This maybe done ahead of time and the toasted peanuts stored in an airtight container.

Fresh mung sprouts are mild flavored, delicious and fine to eat raw. But if you prefer, bring about 3-4 cups of water to a boil; add salt and the sprouted mung and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain, add cool water and a few ice cubes to stop the cooking and drain well again.

Tip the sprouts into a mixing bowl along with the radishes, carrots, red onion and cilantro.

Sprinkle the black salt and squeeze half the lime over the salad; sprinkle with a little cayenne. Add the cilantro. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt, lime, cayenne, etc.

The salad is best when freshly made. The component veggies and herbs maybe prepared ahead of time and kept chilled in the fridge; add salt and lime juice just before serving.  

Top with the peanuts just before serving. The salad maybe served in small bowls or plates, with romaine or endive leaves to scoop, or spooned into the sweet mini peppers.

Enjoy!!