Friday, March 11, 2016

Cauliflower rice and Kale tomato dal

I recently heard the term "reality inflicted diet". A lot of folks these days are paying special attention to their food habits. Maybe I'm surrounded by my friends who are in that age group when your metabolism slows down, your appetite has built up from the careless eating (read binging :P ) and with lives getting busier, you have very little time for focused exercise. There are others who genuinely like to try and eat healthy out of interest and there are the few of us who have to follow the "reality inflicted diet"! :)
No matter what your reasons are, it's probably a good idea to watch what you eat and generally focus on getting fitter.

That said, there are tons of diets, tons of theories - many of which completely contradict each other and it's almost impossible to know for sure what is the best thing to do. After reading about no carbs, no fats, all carbs, all fats and the other theories, I have come to the conclusion that the least we could do is to follow a balanced diet, try and incorporate all food groups, pay special attention to fruits and vegetable intake with every meal.

I often try and come up with healthy versions of different meals like : One pot wholesome soup , Dal Makhani with a healthy twist , Multigrain Bisibele bhat.

My friend Rakhi recently suggested one such meal and I promptly tried it. I pretty much replicated exactly what she did and I think it is a wonderful substitute to our otherwise carb heavy comfort food- rice and dal. Rice and dal has the potential to be a perfectly balanced meal provided you eat it with other sides like a salad and veggie side that way naturally reducing the amount of rice and dal you'd end up eating.

The rice is substituted by grated pan fried cauliflower and served with a kale and tomato dal. You've got your serving of greens, proteins and veggies, at the same time, going easy on the carbs. You could also mix pan fried cauliflower to bulk up rice or quinoa thus increasing your serving of veggies.

Cauliflower rice:

Use this on it own with dal or mix it with some cooked rice.
Grated cauliflower or florets pulsed in a food processor. I use my ninja food processor. - about 3 cups
After pan frying it will roughly yield about 2 and 1/2 cups.
Salt to taste
Olive oil - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Finely chopped cilantro - 2 tsp or more
Chaat masala(optional) - 1/2 tsp

1) Heat oil in a non stick or cast iron pan. The cauliflower might stick to stainless steel or get too watery.
2) Add the grated cauliflower and pan fry it for 5-6 minutes till the raw smell goes away and its almost cooked. Since its finely minced it would cook pretty quick.
3) Add salt to taste, chopped cilantro, lemon juice and the chaat masala. Mix it well and turn off the heat.
4) Ready to eat with dal!

Kale tomato dal:

This is a very simple dal flavored primarily with ginger garlic and the veggies. I did not use too much masalas and just used the pressure cooker to bring it together. Quick, easy and satisfying. 

Dal : Use any kind of dal. I used a mix of toor, moong and masoor dal. - 1 and half cups
Chopped kale - 1 and half cups
Chopped tomato - 1 large
Finely chopped garlic - 1 tbsp -- Or use ginger garlic paste
Finely chopped ginger - 1/2 tbsp
Finely chopped green chillies - per your taste
Finely chopped onion - 1/2
Olive oil - 1 tsp

For tempering :
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Hing/Asafoetida  - a pinch or 2
Turmeric powder/haldi - 1 tsp

1) Wash the dals till water runs clear and keep aside
2) Heat oil in a pressure cooker, add mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the ingredients under tempering. Add these in quickly and don't let them burn.
3) Add the ginger garlic chillies and onions. Fry for a min. Then add in the kale and tomato, fry for a couple of minutes till kale is slightly wilted.
4) Add the washed dal and salt. Add water- enough to cook the dal (about 3 and half cups to 4 cups) depending on the variety of dal used. Check seasoning.
5) Cook the dal in the pressure cooker for about 4-5 whistles. If you have a gas burner, reduce the heat to low and let it cook for another 5 mins. The dal will get completely cooked this way. If it's an electric burner, it will continue cooking for a little bit even after turning it off.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Barley and mix vegetable soup

Daylight saving time ended for us last weekend. This translates to pitch darkness at 5 pm. :-O In the cold weather of the Eastern US coast this transition is almost depressing! I felt lost and didn't know what to do in the dark cold evening at 5 pm! All I wanted was some comfort food and a warm blanket.
Made this simple, tasty, filling and HEALTHY soup. I used tons of vegetables and added barley an some quinoa to add tons of "grain-goodness" and fiber. I didn't even need bread to go with this soup. It was filling on its own. Add the feel good factor of a healthy meal. I deviated a little by adding crushed potato chips in it, YUM! :)

The pictures are pretty terrible thanks to the darkness and my low patience in that state of mind. But definitely a healthy option when you run out of dinner ideas. I used the pressure cooker- it was super easy to throw everything in and have dinner ready in about 30 mins. It might be a great idea to cook this in the crockpot too.Use veggies of your choice and alter the spices/flavoring to your taste.

What you need:
Onion 1/2 medium - thinly sliced
Garlic 6-7 cloves - minced
Ginger 1 tbsp - minced
Green chillies - minced (optional)
Barley 1/2 cup washed
Quinoa 1/4th cup washed
Water or vegetable stock - 5-6 cups

Vegetables I used:
Broccoli chopped
Carrots diced
Frozen corn kernels
Chopped kale

You could add any vegetables of your choice

Seasoning I used:
Chilly flakes
Herbs : dried basil, italian seasoning
Fresh cilantro
Pepper powder
Lemon juice (2 tbsp)

1) Heat a tsp of oil in a pressure cooker. Add chilly flakes if using.
2) Add garlic, ginger and green chillies if using and onions. Sautee the onions till they are golden brown.
3) Add in all the veggies and lightly sautee for a minute.
4) Add the barley and quinoa.
5) Add enough water - about 6 cups.
6) Add in seasonings of choice except lemon juice, salt. Check seasoning.
7) Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles.
8) Add lemon juice just before serving. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pudina Rice/Mint Rice

There is a mind blowing variety of rice/pulao dishes we can make. Every vegetable has a rice associated with it. There is a mix veg pulav, biryani and fried rice. Add to this, an array of meats go with rice to yield unique rice preparations. As if all these veggies and meats were not enough there are other types of rice like lemon rice, tamarind rice and coconut rice!
Adding to this list is one of my childhood favorites, Pudina rice. It was a yummy preparation dished out by my mom, almost all the guests went gaga over! Of course, if you are not a mint/pudina fan, this dish is not for you, as the star ingredient here is pudina.
I remember mom's version was flavored with garlic, onion and tomatoes. Here is my version of it, inspired by the original! :)

What you need:
Basmati rice : 2 cups
Fresh mint leaves(pudina), coarsely chopped : about 2 loosely packed cups.
Onion thinly sliced: 1 medium
Tomato diced : 1 medium

Garlic finely chopped : 5 cloves
Ginger finely chopped : 1/4th inch
Green chilles finely chopped : as per your taste (optional)
Cloves : 3
Cumin seeds : 1 tsp
Pepper corns : 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon stick: 1/4 inch

Ghee/ oil: 2 tbsp


1) Wash the rice and keep it aside.
2) In a pressure cooker, heat ghee. Add in the ginger, garlic, spices and chillies  (all ingredients under tempering)
3) Add in the onions and fry till they are golden brown.
4) Add tomatoes and chopped mint/pudina. Fry for a minute
5) Add the washed and drained rice. Lightly stir for a minute or two. The rice will turn fragrant. Take care not to burn it. And stir very gently, we don't want the rice grains to break.
6) Add in the required quantity of water - about 3 cups for the basmati rice I used. Add salt and check seasoning.
7) Cook in pressure cooker for 2 whistles. Once it cools down, fluff with a fork and serve hot with raita/dal.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed brinjals are prepared in bunch of different ways. Here is a version I love! :)
This recipe requires some effort. Prepare the masala, stuff it in the baby brinjals and then put the dish together. So make it when you have time and I assure you, your tongue and tummy will thank you! ;)

What you need

Indian eggplans/baby brinjals - 6
Finely chopped onion - 1 small
Finley chopped cilantro - 2-3 tbsp or to suit your taste
Tamarind paste - 1tbsp (Or soak a tsp of tamarind and extract pulp)
Jaggery or sugar - 1tsp
Garam masala to taste
Red chilly powder to taste
Oil - 2tbsp

To Dry Roast:
Garlic - 4-5 cloves
Peanuts - 2 tbsp
Sesame seeds - 1tbsp
Whole red chilly(dry) -3 (Add more if you like the heat)
Coriander seeds(dhaniya) - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds(Jeera) - 1 tsp
Dry or fresh grated coconut - 1tbsp
Curry leaves - 10 leaves or a sprig
Turmeric powder/Haldi - 1/2 tsp
Hing/Asafoetida- a pinch

1. Dry roast all the ingredients under "To dry roast" on low to medium heat until the spices are aromatic. Add the coconut towards the end once the masalas are fragrant.
2. Once the masala cools down, grind it with tamarind pulp and jaggery or sugar and little bit of water to make a thick paste.
3. Wash and stem the baby eggplants. Make a "+" shaped cut at the bottom of the eggplant. You don't want to cut it all the way or they will fall apart when you stuff them with the masala.
4. Add finely chopped onions and cilantro to the masala paste. Add salt, red chilly powder(if using) and garam masala. I sometimes use rasam powder in place of garam masala and that turns out really well too! Check and adjust seasoning.
5. Stuff this masala paste into the brinjals. There should be some extra masala left over. Keep it aside
6. Heat oil in a non stick pan. It is tastier if you add a little more oil. :)
7. Add some hing and turmeric and immediately add the baby eggplants. Coat the eggplants with oil very gently, making sure the eggplants and stuffing remains intact.
8. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on medium flame, occasionally turning the eggplants so that they cook evenly on all sides and don't burn. Do not add any water at this point.
9. When eggplants are half done or they are shriveled, add the remaining masala paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add some water to yield a gravy, that's not too runny.
10. Cook covered till the eggplants are cooked through.
11. Serve hot garnished with cilantro. 

Note: I also added some potatoes this time.

Serving suggestions : This dish is traditionally eaten with the Jowar bhaakri/jolad rotti. Tastes very good with roti/paratha/chapati. Or rice and ghee!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Broken wheat and barley payasam (sweet dish)

I cannot even start counting the number of sweet dishes we make back home. There are many sweets, all unique to their own region. Rosgulla makes you think of Kolkotta, Sakhar or Naarli bhaat from Maharashtra, Shavige Pheni - a classic Bangalore wedding dish and Mandige being a north karnataka wedding staple.
Apart from these there are your universal sweets like laddoos and payasams (kheer) which have their own variations in every region. One such festive sweet typical to our cooking was "Godhi kuttida paayasam" - literally translates to pounded wheat payasam. I believe the wheat is coarsely pounded and cooked with jaggery, chana dal and the usual kheer ingredients like milk, nuts, coconut, flavoring. The resulting texture is very unique with a very chewy yet juicy wheat granules. Being in the US, I would never go through the effort of getting wheat pounded and the whole procedure, given my (anti-)fondness for sweets ;) :P
But one of my experiments during a quick fix dessert/sweet dish using barley and the broken wheat tasted a lot like the original payasam. It uses jaggery which is a fresh change from the usual sugary sweets, is relatively healthy due to the addition of barley, daliya, chana dal and it comes together pretty quickly, easy to make! I personally love the chewy juicy texture and tons of nuts. Give it a try!

It is also a good breakfast option(in moderation and you could make it less sweet) because of the good grains and nuts - especially since it stores well in the fridge and can be re heated in the microwave oven easily.

This payasam tastes best when served warm.

What you need:
Broken wheat/Daliya - 1/2 cup
Barley - 1/4th cup
Chana Dal/Bengal gram - a little less than 1/4th cup

Ghee - about 3 tbsp. Adjust as per your taste/health. more = tastier :P
Jaggery - about 3/4th cup. Grated or cut into chunks. Alter per your taste. I like a low to moderate sweet dish.
Saffron strands
Cardamom powder/Elaichi powder
Chopped Nuts - Cashews+almonds. You could add raisins and other nuts too.


1) Wash the dal, barley and wheat till water runs clear. Drain.
2) Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan. Add the nuts. Fry till they are golden. Then add the drained dal, barley and wheat. Roast on medium flame till lightly golden and a mild aroma wafts out.
3) Pressure cook the nuts and roasted wheat mixture with roughly equal quantity of water and milk. The quantity of liquid is about 2-3 cups. Cook for 4-5 whistles.
4) Once pressure releases, start making the jaggery mixture. Heat remaining ghee in a non stick pan.
5) Add jaggery and keep stirring on medium low flame till jaggery melts. Add saffron. Alternatively you could add saffron soaked in warm milk. But I found that adding it to the hot jaggery brings out the flavor well.
6) Add in the cooked wheat mixture and enough milk to get a runny consistency. It will thicken a bit. Add more milk if you'd like it more runny/liquid-y.
7) Add some elaichi powder/other spice as per your taste. Keep cooking it on a medium flame till it boils and is homogenous.
8) Check taste and add more jaggery or milk as per your preference.

Note: I usually like the nuts in my dessert to be on the softer side and full of flavor. That's the reason I add nuts in the very beginning. Alternatively, if you prefer crunchy nuts you could keep the fried nuts aside and add it in the very end.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spinach and beans rice

I love one pot meals! Nothing beats the convenience of having a nutritious easy meal ready while you are rushing through your morning routine with a jumping/screaming/crying/clinging toddler. :)
A simple rice and beans dish with tons of spinach, minimally spiced and yet super flavorful -- served with a sprinkling of grated cheese is what we had for lunch today. The black beans add protein and flavor, chopped spinach adds flavor and nutrition. All this with the basic simple flavoring of ginger+garlic+green chillies which can never go wrong. I made this dish(rather it turned out :P ) a little porridgy - not your pilaf kinda rice with separate grains. It tasted awesome with some molten cheese on top.
Cooked it all in a pressure cooker and the dish came together in about 30 mins -- including the cooking time and time to release pressure(when you don't need to be around!)

What you need:
1/2 cup black beans - soak them overnight.
1 + 1/4 th cup rice
1/2 large red onion finely chopped
1 tomato finely chopped
3 cups chopped spinach
1 tsp jeera / cumin seeds
1 tbsp oil
salt to taste
2 tsp paste of ginger garlic and green chilies - I had this paste ready and used could substitute it with finely chopped garlic ginger and green chillies per your taste.
Grated cheese to serve

1) Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add jeera and wait for it to crackle.
2) Add the ginger garlic green chillies and saute it for 30 seconds. Add the finely chopped onion. Fry for a couple of minutes till its golden. Add the tomatoes and salt.
3) Add the soaked beans,washed rice. Add about 4-5 cups water. 
4) Pressure cook for 2 -3 whistles.
5) Serve hot with grated cheese. Mix the cheese with the hot meal and let it melt into gooey goodness. :D

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Easy peasy Beetroot rice

Blessed are the morning people! Folks who can wake up early and bright, who can kick start the day and get things done. For the rest of us, who have to peel themselves out of bed reluctantly - long past the desired/decided/resolved wake up time, (ME!) some shortcuts like this beetroot rice are a life saver. You can have this nutritional and tasty meal ready for your lunch box with as little effort as washing rice and switching on the rice cooker in the morning. Of course, some prep work the previous night - just chop veggies and you can snooze that alarm for an extra 15 mins in the morning. :D
I served it with some protein like boiled egg and some curd for a complete meal. Simple, healthy, delicious!

What you need:
1 cup cubed beets (about 2 medium beets)
1/2 cup cubed green capsicum
1/2 small tomato cubed
1 1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 tsp oil
Salt to taste
Red chilly powder to taste - optional
2 tsp or more Masala powder of choice - I used Vangi bhat powder. You could use Pulav masala/ garam masala/ sambar powder or any spice blend of choice. Adjust the amount based on the masala.
Lime juice to taste
Boiled egg whites or other protein to go with it.

1. Mix the cut beet, bell peppers and tomato in the rice cooker container. Add the masala powder, oil, salt, red chilly powder. Mix it well. I kept this ready the previous night.
2. Wash the rice 2-3 times till water runs clear. Add the washed rice to the veggie/spice mixture.
3. Add about 3 cups of water. The quantity of water depends on the rice you use.
4. Check seasoning and switch on the rice cooker. Wait for the rice cooker to do its job! :D
5. Towards the end, when rice is almost cooked, add in the lime juice and mix well. Serve hot with some protein like boiled egg.