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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Spicy Lentil Balls with Kale, Eggplant, Bell Pepper, Zucchini

Lentil balls (Paruppu urundai) sambar was a favorite when I was young; and of course, my mom made the best lentil balls sambar. Growing up vegetarian, and looking back at the amazing array of vegetarian foods I got to eat, I am always eager to share some of these recipes with friends who feel limited by their choice of vegetarian diet - salads are fine; steamed broccoli and cauliflower are nice; creamed corn and blanched green beans are wonderful, but that is not all. There's so much more.

Anyway, lentil balls can be made ahead (as in the paruppu urundai kozhambu recipe), steamed and then frozen for later use. Thaw before incorporating it in recipes. This time, I added some tomato paste, sambal oelek, cayenne pepper powder and paprika to the soaked-and-ground lentils before forming balls and steaming them. Hence the "spicy" lentil balls.

The combination of bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini is quite irresistible for me. Sauteing these three with some red onions and a touch of garlic, with a sprinkling of salt and turmeric powder gives off a heady aroma that is utterly appetizing.

6 to 8 lentil balls
2 cups chopped kale
1 cup diced eggplant
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced green bell pepper
½ cup diced red onion
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp brown sugar
salt to taste
oil as needed
water as needed


  1. heat the oil in a pan, saute the onions, garlic, tomato paste with a dash of salt and turmeric powder
  2. add the rest of the veggies and spices, a cup of water, cover and allow to simmer
  3. slide in the steamed lentil balls and simmer till the flavors infuse into the balls
  4. serve warm with basmati rice or roti

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mushroom and Cherry Pepper Shahi Curry

"Shahi" Curries usually have a rich nutty base with mild spices blended layer by layer to add deep flavors.

Any vegetable can be used, or even home-made cottage cheese, paneer. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chayote squash, butternut squash, potatoes, and even ivy gourd (coccinia grandis) are wonderful vegetables to make this curry with.

Sweet red cherry peppers along with meaty cremini mushrooms and red onions makes this a perfect dish to serve with naan or brown basmati rice.


For the Masala Paste:
2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp roasted cashews
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2-inch piece of Indian cinnamon bark
2 cardamom pods
1 start anise
1 teaspoon toasted poppy seeds
1 Tbsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp Tamarind concentrate (sold as Sour Soup Mix in Asian stores)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

Curry sauce:
¼ cup vegetable stock
1 Tbsp canola oil (or ghee, if handy)
salt to taste
Mushrooms, onions, and cherry red peppers, chopped into chunks


  1. Combine the masala paste ingredients and grind to a fine paste
  2. Heat oil in a pan, saute the masala paste till oil separates; add tomato paste and saute a bit more
  3. Add the vegetables, and the rest of the curry sauce ingredients, cover and simmer till vegetables are done

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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

Since Papa doesn't like cake much, and since we indulge in desserts only for special occasions, we were wondering what to make for his birthday.

When the nine year old got interested in it, there was no turning back - we made mini chocolate bowls and filled it with mini marzipan veggies (and fruits).

We used the balloon method for making the mini bowls, about 2.5 inches at its widest, and about 1.5 inches tall. The nine year old went for the marbling effect, and the asymmetric tulip-like petal effects. Since this was her first attempt, it was just fine despite the imperfections.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

We also made chocolate cups using silicone cupcake mold.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

The marzipan veggies and fruits: carrots, green beans, artichoke, eggplant, strawberries, pear, watermelon, oranges. This was the favorite part as the little girl still loves to play with play dough and make shaped things that look like other real things. And working with marzipan was just like playing with play dough.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

And some marzipan-filled confections.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quinoa Fritters with Eggplant, Kale, Zucchini and Mushrooms

Quinoa Fritters with Eggplant, Kale, Zucchini and Mushrooms

I had ground up some quinoa to stock up on quinoa meal, about fine corn meal consistency, to make vegetable porridge. And used some of it to make these griddle cake-like fritters loaded with veggies.

Of course, the outsides got a bit too well done on the cast iron skillet, but, the insides were moist and cooked; the taste was just fine, so we enjoyed it with some chutneys.

Quinoa Fritters with Eggplant, Kale, Zucchini and Mushrooms

  1. Finely grate eggplant and zucchini, squeeze out excess water and keep handy
  2. Finely mince kale, onions, and mushrooms
  3. Add seasoning to taste
  4. Fold in the quinoa flour or meal, adding a little water as needed to make the batter about pancake consistency; alternately, keep water to a minimum to shape into patties
  5. Cook on a medium hot cast iron skillet
  6. Serve with tomato chutney and coriander-mint chutney

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Roast Butternut Squash with Chickpeas

roasted butternut squash chickpeas spicy punjabi curry

A wholesome simple winter meal which I like to serve as a warm salad, this roasted butternut squash dish is quite versatile. A bit more gravy and it can be a curry eaten with naan or rice; boiled in vegetable broth, it can be a delicious soup served with homemade dampers.

In this recipe, I toss in some garlic and cooked chickpeas with roasted butternut squash and fiery spices and serve it topped with shredded zucchini, thinly sliced red onions, and a wedge of lemon, plus some plain yogurt on the side. This is a fairly typical way of serving a spicy vegetable side with flatbreads like parathas and naan in India.

As I don;t typically measure the spices for such an impromptu dish, here's just a list of the ingredients used: tamarind paste, tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric and salt to taste.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Farro Eggplant Kale Casserole

Farro cooks chewy and moist in a rice cooker with 2 cups water/stock per cup of farro. Sliced zucchini, sliced eggplant, sliced tomatoes, kale are are good layers to add to this casserole. This time, I went with whatever was handy. Casseroles are perfect to use up leftovers.

2 cups cooked farro, seasoned
½ cup seasoned ricotta cheese
½ cup colby jack cheese, grated
½ red onion sliced thinly
½ cup sliced black olives
1 cup seasoned cooked ground turkey (optional - I use TVP instead)
1 long Chinese eggplant, sliced into rounds
1 cup chopped kale


  1. Assemble in layers: onions, farro, ricotta, olives, colby jack, eggplant, farro, TVP or ground turkey, ricotta, kale, olives colby jack
  2. Cover with an aluminium foil and bake in 425°F oven for about 30 minutes
  3. Top with thin sliced zucchini and serve warm with cucumber raita

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Scotch Potato Falafel

scotch egg potato falafel envelop

Things enveloped in things, enveloped in things... ad infinitum has been quite a tradition with the royalty around the world and through the ages.

Scotch eggs come about in my kitchen on and off, especially since the kids and the other half like it with pasta and sauce. The usual Scotch egg I make for them is fairly standard, with only the flavoring customized.

While I am not a big meat fan, I don't mind occasional turkey or chicken, maybe salmon or halibut, that's about it. No red meat, no other exotic meats. 

So, to satisfy my tastes, I make Scotch eggs my way: instead of ground turkey, I use falafel batter for the outer coating. And, sometimes, I substitute the boiled egg with par-cooked largish new baby potato. That, in short, is the Falafel Scotch Potato/Egg

Turkey Enveloped Scotch Egg

ground turkey shawarmaIngredients
For the coating layer:
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Bragg liquid aminos
1 tsp Shawarma spice mix
1 tsp Cajun spice mix
1 tsp celery seeds
½ tsp ground oregano
1 tsp demerara sugar

1 Tbsp oil

5 boiled eggs, peeled


  1. Combine the ingredients for the coating layer and mix well
  2. Rub some oil in the palms and flatten a ball of meat mixture
  3. Envelop the eggs with this seasoned meat mixture coating 
  4. Bake in a 425°F oven for about 20 minutes; I prefer it well done rather than underdone so, I turn off the heat and leave it in the oven for an extra 5 minutes
  5. Serve warm with salad or vegetable sides like green beans and peas and potatoes; my kids prefer it with pasta and sauce, or pasta salad with veggies

Falafel Scotch Potato

I try to keep the falafel batter envelop layer fairly thin for quick cooking; if the consistency of the batter is not just right, the outer layer will crumble easily. It has happened to me quite a few times - adding flour and baking powder per Bittman's recipe seems to work consistently well, especially if the batter is fairly thick to be able to shape.

Incidentally, veggie balls dipped in chickpea flour batter, called Bonda, is a favorite tea time snack in India. Any filling can be used, but, typically it is mashed potatoes, carrots, peas and onions. I remember "Egg Bonda" that a neighbor aunty used to make and share with me. Bonda is fried in oil. In that sense, this falafel wrapped baked eggs is much like the Egg Bonda from my younger days, only not as much oil involved.

 ground turkey scotch eggs

1 to 1½ cups any standard falafel batter - I use soaked chickpeas ground, with added flavors like garlic, tomato paste, salt and cayenne pepper powder; Mark Bittman's recipe works well
a few par-cooked new baby potatoes 
a couple of boiled eggs
a tablespoon or so of oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Envelop the boiled eggs and par-cooked potatoes with the falafel batter
  3. Bake in the 375°F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes turning it around, and turning the pan around as needed, depending on your oven
  4. Remove from heat, allow to rest before cutting open to serve

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Roasted Kalettes or Flower Sprouts

Kalettes (or Flower Sprouts) is a hybrid vegetable gaining popularity, so, naturally, I had to try it.  We love Kale as well as Brussels Sprouts at home, so, what's not to like about Kalettes which are a result of natural hybridization of the two.

I went with a simple roast kalette dish here. Toss the kalettes with a touch of olive oil, salt, black pepper, plus some sliced red onions. Roast in a 425°F oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Both the kids at home loved kalettes prepared this way, so I'll be making it often as a quick vegetable side.

Another way I like it is to saute some onions, garlic, tomatoes in olive oil, toss in the washed kalettes,  a splash of stock, a dash of Shawarma spice powder, cover and cook till wilted and a bit tender. Enjoy as is, or with naan or roti.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Rounds and Lemon Bars

I am not much of a desserts fan, as is probably obvious from the small number of desserts/sweets posts shared here. Cookies don't interest me at all, neither does cakes or pies.

Anyway, kids wanted to make something special for Santa so we can set it out the night before Christmas when Santa was scheduled to stop by.

Oatmeal chocolate rounds is really easy and there are many variations and names for it among the bakers of the world. This recipe here is tailored to make it easy for the resident 9 year old to make. I use a mini muffin pan to place the rounds to freeze - easier to handle this way. But, can place in a cookie sheet and freeze if preferred.

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup small marshmallows
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp molasses
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
⅛ tsp nutmeg powder
¼ tsp ginger powder

1 cup whole grain quick-cooking oats
¼ cup dry grated coconut


  1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, butter, and marshmallows
  2. Add the flavoring ingredients, stir well, then add the oats and coconut and stir well till it comes together
  3. Remove from heat; use a tablespoon and scoop out a heaping spoonful to make a round; and place each round in the depressions in the mini muffin pan
  4. Leave the filled mini muffin pans in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes; remove and serve; or save in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place

Lemon bars are fairly standard as well. I couldn't bring myself to add too much butter, so, added some canola oil instead. And, I made it extra lemony, slightly sour-sweet, which is the preferred flavor for the kids at home. It turned out fine for our tastes at least.

For the crust:
1 c flour
¼ cup demerara sugar
¼ cup butter
3 Tbsp canola oil

For the filling:
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp flour
¼ tsp baking powder

a few tablespoons of powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. Combine the crust ingredients to a uniformly crumby mixture and press down in an 8x8 baking dish and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes in the 350°F oven til lightly brown
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling: beat the lemon juice sugar and eggs till a bit thick, for about 10 minutes; then, stir together the flour and baking powder, and add it to the beaten lemon-sugar-egg mixture
  4. Pour the filling over the baked crust and bake in the 350°F oven for another 20 to 25 minutes
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool; the bars will firm up as they cool; dust with powdered sugar if preferred
  6. Cut into small squares for serving

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Eggplant, Beetroot and Tofu with Curry Leaves and Oregano

Some curry leaves, spring onions, and oregano leaves garnish this simple sauteed dish. The flavors are derived from southeast Asian cuisine - a bit of tamarind, dry red chilies, ginger and garam masala.

2 cups Eggplant, cubed
1 cup cooked Beets, cubed
2 cups Tofu, cubed

6 Curry leaves, some torn, some whole
1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves (optional - I had it handy in the garden)
1 Tbsp chopped spring onions
4 dry red chilies, broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp tamarind concentrate (sold as Sour Soup Mix in Asian stores)
2 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 Tbsp garam masala powder
1 tsp demerara sugar or jaggery or brown sugar
1 Tbsp chili oil
1 Tbsp canola oil


  1. Heat the oils in a pan; add the broken chilies, grated ginger, torn curry leaves (reserving whole curry leaves for garnish)
  2. Add the tofu, beets, and eggplant, saute to coat with oil, add the rest of the flavoring ingredients, add a splash of water, cover and cook till eggplant is done
  3. Garnish and serve warm with rice

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Indian Baby Eggplant in Rich Coffee Infused Sauce: Bhagare Baingan with a Twist

One of the things that gets me into the kitchen every day to cook for my family is the endless possibilities for combining flavors and spices and arriving at a dish that is tailored to our palates, and nourishes and satisfies us all.

That, and the opportunity to get a bit creative and take liberties with the recipes I grew up with, as well as incorporating ingredients from cuisines of the world for a fusion infusion.

Kathrikkai, Vazhuthananga, Badhanekayi, Vankaya, Baingan... so many names for this pretty purple fruit in India.

Bhagare Baingan is a dish packed with flavor, built layer by layer, involving a multi-step process that results in the slit-and-stuffed baby Indian eggplant floating in a rich aromatic gravy.

I do take shortcuts and use substitutions on and off. Why? Well, Why not? And, because I can. And because I am curious to see if any other combination gives me just as much satisfaction.

This time, I had a cup of brewed decaf espresso roast coffee ready and wanted to see how it affected the flavor of this delightful dish that I enjoy often in its traditional form.

Also, I skip the first step of frying the slit eggplant to par-cook before simmering in the sauce, and directly simmer the eggplant in the sauce.


For the Masala Paste:
2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp grated coconut
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon toasted poppy seeds
1 Tbsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp Tamarind concentrate (sold as Sour Soup Mix in Asian stores)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 teaspoon canola oil
½ teaspoon salt

About 8 small baby Indian eggplants

Curry sauce:
1 cup (8 oz.) brewed decaf espresso roast coffee (or any dark, unflavored coffee, caffeinated or not)
¼ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup mirepoix - finely chopped celery, onions, garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 Tbsp canola oil (or ghee, if handy)
salt to taste

Garnish Finish:
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon nigella seeds
2 dry red chilies, broken to pieces
a handful of fresh curry leaves


  1. Masala Paste: Grind the Masala paste ingredients and keep handy
  2. Slit-and-Stuff Eggplant: Just like for the Indian baby eggplant curry, slit the eggplant and stuff it with the Masala paste; there will be plenty of Masala paste, so reserve the remaining for the curry sauce
  3. Curry Sauce: In a pan, heat some oil or ghee; add the mirepoix, saute; then add the ginger garlic paste and tomato paste, a dash of salt and saute some more; add the remaining Masala paste left over from stuffing the eggplant, saute a bit more
  4. Simmer: Add in the coffee, stock, stir to incorporate; and place the slit-and-stuffed eggplants in the sauce, turn the heat to low, cover and allow to simmer; turn the eggplant every 5 minutes or so to cook all sides evenly, checking to make sure the sauce is not too dry (add water as needed); turn off heat when done
  5. Garnish: heat oil or ghee in a small pan, when the oil shimmers, add all the ingredients listed for the Garnish finish; wait till cumin seeds pop and curry leaves turn a bit crisp; remove from heat and pour over the finished eggplant curry
  6. Serve with warm basmati rice or naan or roti

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Brown Lentils, Pearl Barley, and Pearl Millet Dosai

What's not to love about flatbreads, right? It is a perfect universal food - for soaking up delicious dips and curries and chutneys; for loading up with veggies and wrapping up for easy consumption; for relishing the simple earthy goodness.

Dosai, a south Indian flat bread, is traditionally made from rice and urad dal. I have taken liberties with it making variations such as Brown Rice Dosai, Soy Bean Dosai, Adai Dosai Waffles, while relishing the simple and sumptuous traditional Mysore Masala Dosai, Adai Dosai, and Onion Rava.

Of course, there's the Ragi Dosai, (ragi is finger millet), which by itself is lovely for its rich color and flavor. But, this time, I went with a combination of brown lentils, pearl barley and pearl millet to make the dosai batter.

Dosai batter is typically allowed to naturally ferment before it is ready for cooking in the griddle into flat breads, crispy or spongy. To help it along, I add a dollop of home-fed, home-grown starter.

Grape Starter: A few grapes from the garden tossed into a mix of flour and water has been doing the magic for us. Wild yeast abounds in late summer early fall and it seemed like a great way to keep a bit of it to last us through the winter. So, since late summer this year, we have fed the starter and kept it going, in between periods of leaving it dormant in the fridge.

Using this grape sour dough starter to ferment the dosai, idli, injera batters adds a pleasantly sour taste and surprisingly quick results for fermentation.

¼ cup pearl millet
½ cup pearl barley
¼ cup brown lentils
¼ cup moong dal
¼ cup urad dal
1½ cups short grain brown rice
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon grape sour dough starter

Combine all the ingredients except for the starter; soak overnight; grind to a smooth fine batter; add in the starter, cover and leave in a warm place for a few hours, or overnight. Stir every few hours to see if it is fermented to your liking. I like it bubbly and sour.

Salt the batter before making crepe or pancake like dosai on the griddle. Add finely diced onions, grated carrots, chopped chilies, chopped cilantro, even chopped kale to boost the dosai.

Enjoy with chutneys, sambar, curries.

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Friday, December 05, 2014

Sage & Thyme Garlic Lemon Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes

With the tight workday schedule, slow cooker is such a boon for me to get warm and flavorful meal ready on weeknights with minimal effort and a bit of planning-ahead.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast was marinated for about 2 hours one evening after I came back from work. Marinade: some white vinegar and Bragg liquid aminos. After finishing the evening's meal and clearing away the dishes, reading to the kids and tucking them in bed, I get to start on the next day's dinner.

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
½ cup mirepoix chopped
half a lemon, cut into wedges
1 Tbsp oil
Potatoes & Carrots OR Butternut Squash & Taro Root, chunky-cut
salt to taste
2 to 3 cups chicken stock/broth as needed

  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet, add some canola oil and allow it to heat up as well; toss in some sage, thyme, a dash of salt, and mirepoix  (chopped celery, onions, carrots, garlic); sauté
  2. Add the marinated chicken breast, allow to brown on one side, flip and turn off heat and allow the chicken to sit in the hot cast iron skillet till the veggies and the slow cooker are prepped.
  3. Add enough stock to the slow cooker that will immerse the chicken completely and turn it on
  4. Chop carrots and potatoes into chunks; or, for an amazing combination of flavors, chop butternut squash and taro root instead
  5. Place the chicken in the slow cooker, add the chopped veggies, lemon wedges, make sure there is enough stock to immerse the chicken, and leave the slow cooker on at low heat setting overnight
  6. Check for doneness next morning - if the chicken is cooked, can turn off heat and let it sit till dinner time; toss in some frozen peas if preferred
  7. Warm and serve with brown basmati rice or freekeh pilaf.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quick Biscuit-style Muffin-like Chicken or Veggie Pot Pie

This is an easy weeknight meal if the filling is handy. Simply make the biscuit dough; roll out and cut circles that fit in the muffin pan, fill and bake for about 20 minutes.

Filling: Omit the chicken if preferred and load it with veggies - carrots, peas, potatoes, broccoli, mushroom, corn, kale. Cook the veggies in chicken stock and herbs. Stir in some heavy cream. This time the ground spices were - a hint of cinnamon, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper.

Biscuit: Any standard biscuit recipe is fine. This time I used the Pancake/Waffle mix that was handy, added just enough water and vegetable shortening to make a flaky biscuit dough.

Bake: Grease the muffin tin and place the biscuit dough circles, add the filling, top with grated cheese, if preferred, and bake in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes or so, till the crust is baked.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sweet Potato, Carrot, Kale, Cheese, Chipotle Savory Bread

Savory breads or muffins loaded with winter veggies and goodness seem perfect for the cold weather, especially with a hearty soup or stew.

This type of bread makes a wonderful snack when toasted crisp on the outside - ideal for kids' lunch box.

Sometimes, I add in about ½ cup of grated butternut squash to the mix, just for the fun of it.

Rather than pureed, I liked the finely grated veggies for this bread. Chipotle adds a smoky heat that makes this a favorite tea time snack.

Instead of in a loaf pan, the batter can be poured into greased muffin tins for delicious savory breakfast muffins. Reduce cooking time to about 25 minutes or so, till done.

1 cup grated sweet potato
½ cup grated carrots
¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped kale (+spinach)
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce
1½ cup flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp flax meal
1½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 or 2 Tbsp of water, if needed

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Grease a loaf pan and keep handy
  3. Combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix till well-incorporated
  4. Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake in the 375°F oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, turning half way though; check if a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; if not, bake for another 5 minutes or till done.
  5. Allow to cool in pan for about 5 minute and remove from pan, slice and enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Not-Brownie Brownies

'Tis the season...
for baking and filling the house with warmth and flavors...
for experimenting and meddling with tried-and-trusted recipes...
for accidentally stumbling upon a new family favorite...

And that's how The Not-Brownie Brownies happened.

½ cup flour
¼ cup oat bran
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder (mine is a bit old; reduce to ½ tsp baking powder if fresh)

¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup coarse sugar
2 Tbsp Chocolate Ovaltine
4 Tbsp Dark Cocoa powder (adjust to taste)
3 eggs
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
¾ cup canola oil

Cooking spray or vegetable shortening for greasing


  1. Preheat oven to 350 ° F
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl; combine the wet ingredients and mix them well
  3. Slowly fold in the dry mixture into the wet mixture
  4. Pour the thick batter into a greased 13"x 9" baking pan and bake in a 350° F oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, turning part-way
  5. For the not-too-soft texture, cook a bit longer to get it a bit crispy and then allow it to cool so it tastes even better as it ages

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Bell Peppers, Red Onions

Roasted vegetables are the easiest and the most satisfying around this time of the year. A plateful of  these fresh-from-the-oven roasted vegetables is a meal in itself.

Toss the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, bell peppers and onions with some olive oil, herbs, grated Parmesan cheese, paprika and other spices and place in a single layer in a roasting pan and bake in a 425°F oven for about 25 to 30 minutes minutes.

Toss the chopped kale with some olive oil and spices and add it to the roasting pan and bake till kale is crispy and the other veggies are roasted, about another  8 to 10 minutes, making sure kale doesn't char.

Garnish with grated Parmesan and serve hot.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Freekeh Feta Pomegranate Prunes Edamame Salad

Bulgur and Freekeh feature in our diets often. A couple of international markets sell freekeh, mograbiah, kasha, although some of the local grocery chains seem to stock it in their shelves on and off as well.

Freekeh is just green cracked roasted wheat which cooks up within 10-15 minutes. Sometimes I use it just like rice, making pilaf or biriyani with it.

Here, it is a simple salad with fresh vegetables, the main flavor coming from the dressing made with lemon juice, honey, olive oil, and salt.

Substitute barley, bulgur or even wild rice if freekeh is not available.

2 cups cooked freekeh, salted while cooking
1 large carrot, diced
½ cup cooked edamame
½ cup juicy fresh pomegranate seeds
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped scallions
½ medium red onions or shallots, finely diced
¼ cup cumbled feta
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup chopped prunes
1 Tbsp goji berries (optional)
[or, any other nuts and fruits like dates, almonds, walnuts, figs]

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
½ Tbsp honey
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

  1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and keep handy.
  2. Combine the freekeh and vegetables, dress as desired and serve at room temperature

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Bitter Gourd Scallion Cutlets with Cilantro Kale Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Cold, wet winter days are here. Soups, dampers, casseroles, cutlets, fritters, fresh off the oven or pan, seem to be the remedy to beat the chill.

Salting and sweating the bitter melon, then sautéing the finely chopped bitter melons until well done and slightly mushy, helped remove much of the bitterness for these savory cutlets. Optionally, mash in cooked potatoes, carrots, peas to mask the bitterness.

Cooking on a hot cast iron skillet crisped up the outsides a bit more than I was aiming for, but, it turned out just fine anyway.

I went with raw green pumpkin seeds this time, but, toasted pumpkin seeds work just as well for the pesto. A combination of Cilantro, Kale, Parsley makes a fantastic pesto.

Bitter Gourd Cutlets/Patties
½ large bitter melon, salted, drained, rinsed and chopped finely
¼ red onions finely diced
1 jalapeño or serrano chili diced finely
spring onions chopped
¼ cup chickpea flour
¼ cup rice flour
¼ cup buckwheat flour
¼ cup cream of wheat
¼ cup quick cooking oats
a few teaspoons of water as needed to make dough
salt to taste


  1. Finely chop the salted, drained, rinsed bitter melon, chili, and red onions
  2. Heat oil in a pan and sauté the veggies till cooked through and a bit mushy, adding a bit of water as needed
  3. Off heat, stir in the flours, cream of wheat, oats, salt to make a dough that can be shaped into patties, adding a bit of water if needed
  4. Heat a few teaspoons of oil in a cast iron skillet to medium high heat
  5. Cook the cutlets/patties till cooked through on the inside
  6. Serve warm with Cilantro Kale Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Cilantro Kale Pumpkin Seed Pesto
½ cup chopped packed cilantro
½ cup finely chopped kale
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp roasted sunflower seeds
1 jalapeño, chopped
salt to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 Tbsp lemon juice (adjust to taste)

Combine the ingredients and grind to a fine paste. Adjust salt to taste.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Sauteed Bitter Melon and Okra

Served with roti or steaming basmati rice and ghee, this is a simple yet wholesome dish.

Slice the bitter melon and salt it and let it stand for 20 minutes; then, drain, rinse and cook as below.

1 Chinese bitter melon (Fu Gwa), sliced
2 cups chopped okra
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 Tbsp Garam masala powder OR Madras curry powder
salt to taste
2 Tbsp canola oil

Heat oil in a pan, and saute till desired doneness

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Kale

pan seared Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Kale

This simple and quick-to-cook dish is a favorite side. Just a touch of salt, black pepper and balsamic vinegar, sautéed till done and served hot with lightly toasted artisan bread is a perfect meal on a nippy fall evening.

Kale, chopped
Brussels sprouts, halved if large, and par-cooked
a few cherry tomatoes (optional)
red onions, sliced thinly
black pepper, salt, balsamic vinegar as needed
1 Tbsp olive oil

To speed up the process on a weeknights, I cook the Brussels sprouts in the microwave; meanwhile, I chop the kale and onions and start sautéing them first in a hot pan with hot oil; then, when Brussels sprouts are done, simply drain and add them, cut side down, to the kale and onions, adjust balsamic vinegar and salt as desired and allow to brown.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Five-Spiced Coconut-Stuffed Eggplant

Five-Spiced Coconut-Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed baby eggplant in rich tomato-based gravy, pan-sauteed stuffed baby eggplant, and spice-stuffed baby eggplant pilaf are all the usual favorites. Each time, I vary the stuffing slightly, depending on available ingredients and what the mood calls for.

Five-Spiced Coconut-Stuffed Eggplant

This time, the stuffing is coconut-based, with panch phoron spices. And, instead of baby Indian eggplant which is a nice egg-shaped flavorful fruit, I used the long Chinese eggplant, cut in half to fit in my pan.

Five-Spiced Coconut-Stuffed Eggplant

For the stuffing:
¼ cup  dry grated coconut
1 tsp black cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 dry red chilies
½ tsp cane sugar
¼ tsp salt

2 long Chinese eggplant
herbs for garnish: cilantro, mint, rosemary, fennel
salt to taste
a few tablespoons of canola oil for pan-cooking

  1. Stuffing: Toast the seeds, then combine all the rest of the stuffing ingredients and grind to a fine paste adding a little water as needed
  2. Eggplant: Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise to fit in the pan, or leave it whole if it can be cooked whole in the pan; then, with the ends intact, slit the eggplant lengthwise halfway and again crosswise to make quarters as in the picture
  3. Pan-cook: Slather the stuffing into the slits in the eggplant, tie with a cooking twine if desired; heat oil in a pan for shallow frying; place the stuffed eggplants in the hot oil, sear one side; turn the eggplants, cover and allow to cook till done, turning as need to get all the sides
  4. Garnish: I used some fresh mint, oregano, and rosemary from my garden, but, cilantro, curry leaves, spring onions, anything is fine for garnish. Serve warm with roti or rice.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bittermelon Carrot Spicy Curry

Indian Bitter gourd chinese Bitter melon Carrot Spicy Curry

Chinese bittermelon and Indian bittergourd feature frequently in my kitchen.While the adults in the house love it, the kids are still reluctant to embrace it fully. But then, I was not an early embracer myself and I think constant presence of it in my diet over the formative years helped me develop the taste for it. So, I hope to keep getting the kids to try it every time I make it.

Served warm with roti, dosai, rice, or even rice noodles, this Bittermelon Carrot Spicy Curry is quite versatile and flexible. Adjust chilies to taste.

2 Serrano chilies sliced thin on a bias (seeded if preferred)
1 medium onion, sliced thin
4 bittermelons sliced thin
1 large carrot, sliced thin on a bias
3 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon crushed fresh garlic
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
3 dry red chilies
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or tamarind juice)
1 teaspoon coarse cane sugar
salt to taste
2 Tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
water as needed


  1. Salt the cut bittermelon and let it stand in a towel-lined colander for about 10-15 minutes to draw out the bitter juices; then squeeze the moisture out and keep handy
  2. Toast the coriander, cumin, caraway, fennel seeds, dry red chilies, and grind them to a fine powder
  3. Heat oil in a pan, add the onions, garlic, chilies, tomato paste, and the powdered spices and saute till aromatic
  4. Add the bittermelon and carrots, a splash of water and lemon/tamarind juice, cover and cook till bittermelon is done
  5. Remove the lid, stir in the cane sugar and adjust salt to taste, and saute till thickened to desired consistency
  6. Serve warm with roti or rice

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wheat Berries, Brown Lentils, Golden Beets, Squash Salad

One part wheat berries to 3 parts stock in a rice cooker is my preferred way of cooking wheat berries. The crunchy chewy texture from cooking in the rice cooker is perfect for this salad.

Roasted winter squashes, turnip, rutabaga, golden beets, sweet potatoes are all wonderful additions. Cooked brown lentils bring some more texture and protein. Toss with favorite vinaigrette and serve warm or cold.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Lychee Chili Chicken

lychee recipe chili chicken

I noticed a bag of lychees at the Asian store nearby and couldn't resist bringing it home to meet the family. We got on better than expected. And by "we" I mean just my daughter and I, as the others in the family don't care for lychee's strong personality at all.


Much like the Lychee Fiesta a few years ago where we had a spread of Chicken in Lychee Sauce, Lychee Strawberry Frozen Yogurt, and Lychee Flaming Diaquiri, I wanted to have a week of celebrating lychee, mainly to make sure we consume the bag of lychees brought home on a whim before they rot and turn to compost.

This is a simplified recipe of chicken in spicy lychee sauce. As always, adjust flavors to taste.

Ingredients for the Lychee Chili Sauce:
12 fresh (or frozen or canned) lychees, skinned, seeded - pulp only
2 serrano chilis, coarsely chopped
4 dry red chilies
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed
3 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

1 large chicken breast, cut into chunks, plus a tablespoon of canola oil


  1. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet, add the chicken chunks and a dash of salt, cover and cook over medium heat, flipping to cook all round
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients in a blender and grind to a fine paste
  3. Add the sauce to the par-cooked chicken and continue cooking covered, adding a splash of water as needed, and salt to taste
  4. When chicken is done and the sauce has reduced, and the raw flavor has been cooked away, remove from heat, garnish with cilantro and spring onions and serve with warm basmati rice

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