Monday, January 31, 2011

Avocado Salad

Salads is one of the simplest ways to get in your veggies. Salads can be served as a side-dish or even as a main course with some protein added to it. Avocados have the perfect texture for making any kind of salad recipe. It is important to pick avocados that are slightly firm but yields to gentle pressure which helps make a good salad. Here's a simple salad recipe...


1 medium red onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, diced
1 cup yellow corn kernels
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

For salad dressing:

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
1 tsp pepper powder
1 tbsp lemon juice (adjust to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sriracha sauce (optional)
1/4 cup buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 375°F.  In a cookie sheet, add the diced onion and red bell pepper. Toss some olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and spread evenly on the cookie sheet.  Roast the vegetables for 15 mins. Keep aside and cool the vegetables.

In a small bowl, prepare the dressing by adding olive oil, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, buttermilk and sriracha sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together and keep aside.

In a large bowl, add the roasted onion, red bell pepper, yellow corn kernels, avocado and chopped cilantro. Pour the dressing (not all of it, just enough to coat the veggies) on top of the vegetables. If you feel like adding any greens, you can use bite-sized pieces of romaine lettuce (optional). Add chopped cilantro and toss them all together and serve.

Makes 3 servings.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vegetable Barley Soup

Barley is a cereal grain that is gaining popularity as a health food which is used mostly in soups and stews. Barley is known to improve nutrition, regulate blood sugar and also acts as a diuretic. Soups are always a favorite in my home. So, what better way to use a healthy grain loaded with vegetables than in a soup?? I like barley as it makes the soups thicker but tastes lighter too. Here's a warm and comforting soup for a cold wintry night.


1/2 cup barley, dry roasted
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 medium potato, petite diced
5 cups vegetable broth or water
1/3 cup crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
Lemon juice, to taste (optional)


Dry roast the barley and keep aside.

In a stock pot, heat olive oil, add onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Add carrots, celery, green peas and potatoes and sauté for 5 mins.

Add the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, salt, pepper powder, red chilli powder, italian seasoning and barley to the vegetables. Mix well and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables and barley cook.

After the vegetables and barley is cooked, add water, if required, for the desired consistency. Add the chopped parsley and lemon juice and stir well. Cook for 3-5 mins. Serve hot.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Veggie Loaf with Gravy

Loaf with mashed potatoes and gravy is one of the classic comfort foods in the U.S. Being a vegetarian, I wanted to try making a veggie loaf using some different grain other than the usual soy-based or brown rice. The veggie loaf can be prepared with several variations like oats, bulgar wheat, brown rice or even textured soy protein. I decided to go with bulgar wheat. This is a savory veggie loaf which is healthy and flavorful.


1 cup bulgar wheat
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
8 - 10 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
Salt, to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 -1 cup bread crumbs (whole wheat or regular)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4 cup tomato ketchup or tomato sauce
Cooking spray, for coating the loaf pan


In a bowl, add the bulgar wheat and pour boiling water over it. Soak until the bulgar is tender and absorbs most of the water for about 15 mins.

In a nonstick pan, heat 2-3 tbsp of water (a trick I learned in one of the health books) and add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and red bell pepper.  Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the mushrooms and cook until the vegetables are soft and the mushrooms are brown, about 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Drain the excess water from the bulgar wheat.

In a bowl, add the bulgar wheat and vegetables. Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, italian seasoning, nutritional yeast (adds a cheesy flavor without the calories), tomato ketchup, walnuts, parsley and 1/2 cup bread crumbs (add more, if required) and  stir for 1-2 minutes until the mixture holds together.

Coat a 5ʺ x 9ʺ loaf pan with cooking spray and spread the loaf mixture and smooth the top. Top the loaf with tomato ketchup or sauce. Bake for 50-55 mins. Allow it to cool for 10 mins before slicing it.

Cut the loaf into 1/2ʺ slices and serve with mashed potatoes and gravy. You can use the left over slices as a sandwich filling to replace your usual burger patties.

To prepare the gravy:

2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
Pepper, to taste
2 tbsp all purpose flour

In a saucepan,  dry roast the all purpose flour and add the vegetable broth and stir with a whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. When the gravy becomes thick, add the garlic powder, soy sauce and pepper.  If the gravy is too thick, add a little water to get the desired consistency.

Makes 12-14 slices.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Egg Curry

Egg is a protein packed versatile ingredient. In Indian cooking, there are several different egg recipes which are prepared region-wise. It is a north-indian based egg curry and this curry can be used as a base and substituted with paneer (indian cheese)  and green peas.


1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
3 large tomatoes, diced
5 cashews
5 almonds
6 eggs, boiled and peeled
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
Salt, to taste
1 tsp black mustard seeds
3 tbsp oil
Few curry leaves
1/4 cup cilantro leaves


Boil the eggs and remove the outer shell. Make small cuts in each egg and set aside.

In a blender, grind the cashews and almonds to a fine powder. Add the diced tomatoes and make a fine paste.

In a pan, heat oil, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. When it splutters, add the onions and green chillies. Fry well until the onions are translucent.  Add the ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder and red chilli powder and fry for 4-5 mins.

Add the ground tomato paste, coriander powder, cumin powder and salt. Mix well and cook until all the flavors blend well and the raw smell goes away.

Now, add the boiled eggs into the gravy and cook for 5 minutes (the slit in the eggs will help the spices to infuse into them). Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coffee Streusel Cake

Baked goods are something that I resort to, when I have a sweet tooth. Most of the times, it is the smartest way to cook something with less amount of fat in cooking a dish when using an oven. I love to make cakes and like trying new recipes. Generally, cakes are decadent because of all the ingredients that goes into making it with the added sugar rush of the frosting. Sometimes, you are in the mood for a simple cake with not too much of the fuss and thats how I ended up with this recipe. I tried my own spin on the traditional coffee streusel cake and it turned out great. Give it a try!!


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup superfine sugar (add more, if you like it a little sweeter)
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp instant coffee powder, mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 tbsp ground flaxseed (whisk into boiling water and let it stand for 3-4 mins)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
Cooking spray, for greasing the pan


1/2 cup oat flour (make a powder with instant oats)
1/3 cup raw brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp ground allspice


Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray.

In a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder, then add the sugar and mix well.

Whisk the milk, flaxseed mix (flaxseed whisked with boiling water), melted butter and coffee mixture together. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients. Add the chopped walnuts and mix lightly together. Pour the batter into the cake pan.

In baking, streusel refers to crumb topping made with flour, butter and sugar that is baked on top of cakes, muffins or quick breads. But, I decided to try using oat flour instead (you can make oat flour by grinding either the old-fashioned or instant oats coarsely).

In a bowl, to make the topping, mix the oat flour and raw brown sugar together. Add the butter and mix well until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (best to use your magic fingers).  Add the allspice and bring the mixture together in loose crumbs. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if the topping starts to brown quickly.

Cool the cake in the pan. Remove from the pan and dust with confectioners's sugar before serving (optional).

Makes 10-12 servings.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Idli Manchurian

Idli Manchurian, an Indo-Chinese recipe is very similar to its counterpart Cauliflower Manchurian. Like, I mentioned earlier, not really a fan of plain old idlis. Every now and then,  my mom used to try so many different recipes disguising the left-over idlis. Inspired from one of the many recipes my mom used to make, this is a simple and easy recipe that can be prepared in no time.


10-12 idlis, cut each into 4 pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 green chillies, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp red chilli paste
1 tbsp green chilli sauce
3 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch (mixed with little water to a fine paste)
4-5 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce (adjust to taste)
Pinch of ajinomoto (MSG)
2-3 tbsp oil
1/4 cup spring onions, finely chopped


Typically, the idli pieces are deep fried but I shallow fried them and they tasted just as good. If you don't want to fry them, you can also bake them at 375° F for 15-20 minutes. Set aside the shallow fried idlis.

In a pan, heat oil, add chopped onions, garlic, green chillies, and grated ginger (personally, I like the fresh garlic pieces and grated ginger but you can also add 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste instead). Sauté the onions until they are soft and translucent.

Now, add red chilli paste, green chilli sauce, tomato ketchup, tomato paste, ajinomoto and soy sauce (adjust the chilli sauces to suit your taste). Cook for 5 minutes until all the raw smell is gone. Add the cornstarch paste and mix well for 2-3 minutes.

Add the idli pieces and toss well with the sautéed ingredients. Garnish with chopped spring onions and serve hot.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Peas Curry

Peas, fresh or frozen, is used in a variety of dishes ranging from rice to gravies. One of the most common recipes is Pea Soup that is consumed all over the world. In India, fresh or frozen peas are used in dishes such as Aloo Mutter (curried potatoes with peas) or Mutter Paneer (indian cheese with peas). This recipe can be made along with potatoes or paneer too.


1 large onion, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp tomato paste
5-6 cloves
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
Salt, to taste
1 tsp kasoori methi powder (dried fenugreek leaves)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped


Grind the onion and tomatoes to a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a pan, melt butter and add the cloves and cinnamon. Add the ground onion-tomato paste and simmer until raw smell fades away and the butter starts to separate.

Now, add the ginger-garlic paste, tomato paste, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, kasoori methi powder and salt. Mix well and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the thawed peas and cook for about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve hot with rotis.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Avocado Rotis

Avocados are a tropical fruit which is available throughout the world. It is known for its high fat content when compared to other fruit, mostly monounsaturated fat. It has a subtle flavor and a creamy texture. Since, it has a tendency to turn brown quickly, you can use some lime or lemon juice after cutting them. Normally, I use avocado to make guacamole but I wanted to try different recipes using avocados. I like the taste of guacamole, so, I used this as a base for the rotis.


1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 large ripe avocado, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
4-5 green chillies, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup water or less, for the dough
1 tsp oil, for the dough


In a blender, add the avocado, garlic, and green chillies and make a creamy paste. Keep aside.

In a mixing bowl, add the whole wheat flour, salt, avocado paste and chopped cilantro leaves. Mix well. Add oil, little water and knead well to make a soft and non-sticky dough. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

Take a small piece of the dough, say lemon size, and roll into medium-sized rotis. Heat a pan with medium heat and cook the roti on one side till it turns lightly brown. Drizzle some oil on the roti and flip it over to cook on the other side. Serve hot with peas curry or some dal.

Makes 7-8 rotis.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Moong Dal Payasam

Payasam is a traditional South-Indian sweet dish usually made with milk, rice and jaggery. It is a common dish in Hindu celebrations. This dish is high in protein and much lighter when compared to the traditional rice-based payasam. It is a quick and easy sweet dish that can be served warm or chilled.


1/2 cup yellow moong dal (dehusked split beans)
3/4 cup jaggery (unrefined whole cane sugar)
1 cup water
1 tsp cardamom powder

1 cup boiled milk
8-10 cashews
1/4 cup grated coconut (optional)
10-12 raisins (optional)
1 tbsp ghee


Fry the moong dal until golden brown and soak in enough water for one hour. In a pressure cooker, boil the dal for 1 whistle and mash it.

Add jaggery and some cardamom powder. Mix well and allow to boil till raw smell goes away. Add the grated coconut and stir. Boil milk and let it cool to room temperature. Mix both after it cools down. For a variation, you can replace regular milk with regular/light coconut milk (I prefer light) for a tasty cup of sweet goodness (if you use coconut milk, use directly with the cooled down dal and jaggery mix). 

Cut the cashews into halves and fry in ghee until golden brown. Add to the payasam and mix well. If you find the payasam to be too thick, you can add 1/4 -1/2 cup boiled milk (room temperature). Serve warm or cold.

Makes 5 servings.

Sweet Pongal

Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated among South Indians. It is observed as a thanksgiving to the Sun God for the good harvest season. It is celebrated by preparing a dish with rice and jaggery (unrefined whole cane sugar) and offered to the Sun God. It is a sweet dish which is so easy to prepare and is commonly known as Sakkarai Pongal (Sweet Pongal).


3/4 cup raw rice 
1/2 cup moong dal (dehusked split beans)
3/4 - 1 cup powdered jaggery (adjust to suit your taste)
4 cups water
1 tsp cardamom powder
Few strands of saffron (soaked in hot milk)
4-5 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
10-12 cashews 
Pinch of salt


Fry the moong dal until slightly golden brown and then soak the dal with raw rice for about an hour.

In a pressure cooker, add the rice and dal, water and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 3 whistles.  Powder the jaggery finely and mix with the boiled rice till it reaches a watery consistency. Typically, when I add jaggery, I don't usually measure as I look for the color of the pongal. When I feel, its dark enough, I stop adding. Make sure you add just enough as you don't want it overly sweet.

Add the powdered cardamom and mix with the rice. Soak the saffron in hot milk for 2-3 minutes. Add the saffron to the rice and mix well. Now, add 4 tbsp ghee and stir the rice to blend well.

Cut the cashews into halves and fry in ghee until it turns golden brown (you can also add raisins, if you wish). Add to the rice and mix. Serve hot.

Makes 5-6 servings.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year to All!!! Hope this year is eventful, happy and healthy for all. This is probably the first time in my entire life that I started the first day of a new year all alone.  But I am sure the year will be great. Just like every one else, there are hopes and aspirations with fewer new year resolutions that continue every year. One of my usual resolutions is to exercise and stay healthy. I am sure so many of us think about it every year but the challenge is how long does the resolution last?? 

                                All the Best to everyone for a Wonderful New Year 2011!!!