Crispy rice balls (Seedai)
Seedai is a melt-in-the-mouth south-Indian snack, usually prepared for Krishna Jayanthi (Janmashtami), the birthday of Lord Krishna, the Hindu God of love and divine joy. This is perhaps the only Hindu festival celebrated at midnight. I love this festival because it gives me enough time to prepare these delicacies after getting back from work :)



Ingredients:

rice flour - 2 cups
urad flour - 2 tbsp
coconut (powdered / ground) - 2/3 cups
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
sesame seeds - 1 tsp
butter - 2 tsp
chilli powder - 2 to 3 tsp (adjust according to taste)
salt - about 1 1/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)
water - about 1 cup

Method:

Lightly roast the flour in butter and add all the ingredients. Mix well. Make a stiff dough. Roll out into small round/oblong shapes and deep fry till golden brown. Drain on a kitchen towel, allow to cool and store in an air-tight container.
Tomato Crepe (Dosa)
The touch of tangy tomato adds a zing to my plain crepes. I first got the idea at my office cafeteria when I was working in Bangalore. But whatever approach they follow, I could hardly taste the tomato in it! However, the very color of the dosa, with the tint of orange, was tempting enough to make me try out my own version of it.


Ingredients:

dosa batter - 250 grams
tomato - 3 medium-sized
oil for frying

Method:

Cut tomatoes into big pieces and blend without water in a food processor until there are no lumps. Add to the batter. Heat a frying pan. Pour a small quantity of batter and spread into a thin crepe. Add oil along the edges. Fry on low heat till crisp (preferably without flipping). Serve with hot spicy green chutney.
Mung Bean - Carrot curry
Whenever my mom makes carrot curry with mung beans in it, I love the combo curry. Mung adds a nice touch to the taste of carrot, and they go well together.


Ingredients:

grated carrot - 1 cup
split yellow mung beans - 1/2 cup
green chillies - 3 medium-sized (adjust according to taste)
curry powder - 1/2 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
cumin seeds (jeera) - 1 tsp
black gram (urad dal) - 1 tsp
curry leaves - a twig
lemon juice - a few drops

Method:

Add 1 cup water to mung beans and microwave for 5 minutes. Take oil in a sauce pan and add mustard, cumin, black gram and curry leaves. When it splutters, add green chillies and fry for a minute. Mix in the mung beans and carrots. Stir for a few minutes and mix in the lemon juice.
Instant veg upma
This is a versatile Indian convenience food item. Whenever I don't feel like putting in a lot of thought or effort into my cooking, this is the perfect go-to candidate - a wholesome meal without a great deal.


Ingredients:

mixed vegetables (cabbage, carrot, peas, beans, onion) - 1 cup
broken rice / semolina - 1 cup
green chillies - 3 (adjust according to taste)
oil - 1 tbsp
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
cumin seeds (jeera) - 1 tsp
black gram (urad dal) - 1 tsp
curry leaves - 1 stalk
salt - 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)

Method:

Take oil in a sauce pan. Add mustard, cumin and black gram. When it splutters, add green chillies and curry leaves. Add rice / semolina and fry for a few minutes. Mix vegetables and stir for a couple of minutes. Add 3 cups of warm water and microwave for 10 minutes until cooked and serve hot with chutney.
Squash in Yogurt gravy (Morkuzhambu / Kaddu Kadi)
Weekend lunches usually consist of elaborate Indian meals in my house. This is a summer-special, with the cooling effect of yogurt, yet spicy! Any soft vegetable can be substituted for squash in this recipe.


Ingredients:

plain yogurt - 1 1/2 cups (beaten)
squash - 1
black gram (urad dal) - 1 tsp
grated coconut - 2 tbsp
corn flour - 2 tbsp
green chillies - 5 medium-sized (adjust according to taste)
currry leaves - 1 stalk
cumin seeds (jeera) - 1 tsp
carom seeds (ajwain) - 1 tsp
ginger - 1 inch piece (or 1 tsp ginger paste)
turmeric powder - a pinch
oil - 1 tsp
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
coriander/cilantro leaves - a few
salt - 1 tsp (adjust as per taste)

Method:

Soak coconut, carom seeds and cumin seeds in warm water for 5 minutes. Blend with the ginger and green chillies into a coarse paste in a food processor. Cut squash into cubes. Take oil in a sauce pan and add mustard seeds, black gram and curry leaves. When it splutters, add squash, coconut mixture and half a teaspoon of salt. Cook until soft.  Add 1 cup of beaten yogurt, corn flour, turmeric powder and the remaining salt. Boil for a few minutes. Finally, add the remaining yogurt and remove from fire when it just starts to boil. Garnish with fresh coriander/cilantro leaves. Serve hot with rice / chapati / tortillas.

Notes:
If the final blob of yogurt is boiled in the mixture for a long time, the gravy will become very dilute.
Vegetable Pancake (Uttappam)
I love the sheer sight of the green and red combination, especially in food! These lil veggies make the regular uthappam much more tasty and healthy!


Ingredients:

thick dosa batter - about 250 grams
grated carrots - 75 grams
finely chopped beans - 75 grams
green chillies - 2
fresh coriander leaves - a few
oil for frying

Method:

Heat a frying pan. Pour 1/4 cup batter. Sprinkle carrots, beans, chillies and coriander leaves. Spread a teaspoon of oil around the uttappam. Cook on low heat until golden brown. Flip and leave for a couple of minutes until cooked, but remove before it starts darkening. Serve hot with chutney.
Mango Lassi
My new colleague was just moving in from another city and he decided to rent a place near mine. On the day he was landing, I invited them for lunch at my place. I wasn't prepared for an exotic lunch, but just managed to make a complete dinner. A home-made beverage would make a great addition, but all I had was a mango in the refrigerator. So I instantly whipped up this mango lassi. To my surprise, this became the star of the day! His wife said "The mango lassi tastes very professional - better than the ones served at restaurants!"


Ingredients:

mango - 1 big or 2 small
yogurt - 8 tbsp
sugar - 4 tbsp (adjust according to taste)
mango nectar - 1 cup


Method:

Blend all ingredients and serve chilled.
Easy veg pulao (pilaf)
This is a great one-pot meal that can be prepared very quickly without much effort, especially if you have frozen vegetables handy. Works great for the lunch box, even if kids do not have the option of re-heating their lunch before eating. Makes a lovely party pick too.


Ingredients:

basmati rice - 1 cup
fat free milk - 1 cup
diced carrot - 1/3 cup
cut green beans - 1/4 cup
peas - 1/4 cup
grated cabbage - 1/4 cup
cauliflower - a few florets
mint leaves - a handful (cleaned)
green chillies - 3 to 4
salt - 1 tsp (according to taste)
fennel seeds - 1 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
pulao masala - 1 tsp
water - 2 cups

Method:

Wash rice. Heat oil in a sauce pan. Add fennel seeds and green chillies. Add vegetables and washed rice. Fry for a minute. Add milk, pulao masala, mint and salt and cook for couple of minutes. Add water and microwave for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Serve with raita.

Notes:
1. The mix of vegetables used can be varied according to preference.
2. Frozen vegetables can be used.
Sweet Rice (Sarkarai Pongal)
"Pongal" is the harvest festival of south India, when this sweet dish is prepared. The traditional approach is to slow-cook sweet pongal in a pot until it boils over, when the family exclaims "Pongalo pongal". I usually prepare this only once a year, on Pongal day :) Personally, I prefer the taste of its cousin Akkaravadisal, which I choose to make more often, but each is unique in its own way.


Ingredients: (serves 4)

rice - 3/4 cup
mung beans - 3/4 cup
fat free milk - 6 cups
jaggery/sugar - 1 1/2 cups
clarified butter (ghee) - 6 tbsp
sliced almonds / broken cashews - 2 tbsp
raisins - 2 tbsp

Fry nuts and raisins in a little ghee and keep aside. Fry rice and mung bean in a little ghee and pressure cook with milk and jaggery until soft (even mushy is fine). Once cooked, add remaining ghee, nuts and raisins.

Notes:
If you can't use fat free milk, dilute the milk with some water.
Thiruvathirai Kali and Thalagam (Ezhukari kootu)
Thiruvathirai is a south-Indian festival celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god who destroys the forces of darkness. This sweet rice (kali) and 7-vegetable stew (thalagam / ezhukari kootu) is prepared as an offering to the lord on this auspicious occasion.



For Kali:

Ingredients

raw rice – 1 cup
water – 3 cups
jaggery – 1 cup
coconut – 1 tsp, grated
cashews – a few
ghee – 2 tsp

Roast raw rice in a spoonful of ghee and keep stirring until a nice aroma emanates. Grind into a coarse meal.  Add roasted cashewnut and set aside.

In a sauce pan, fry coconut in a spoonful of ghee. Heat water and dissolve jaggery. Add rice, mix well and pressure cook. When done, garnish with roasted cashews. Serve with thalagam (ezhukari kootu - given below).

Notes:
Brown rice can be used instead of the traditional white rice, for health benefits - which needs almost twice the time for cooking.




For Thalagam (Ezhukari Kootu):

Ingredients

sweet potato - 1, peeled and cubed
chayote squash - 1, peeled and cubed
white pumpkin - 1 slice (3 to 4 inch triangle)
beans - 1/2 cup (chopped into 1 inch pieces)
carrots + peas – 1 cup, (I use frozen)
cabbage - 1/2 cup, grated
tamarind paste – 3 tbsp
turmeric powder – a pinch
asafoetida – a pinch
toor dal – ½ cup
mustard seeds – 1 tsp
curry leaves – 1 stalk
ginger paste - 1 tsp
cilantro – few springs, chopped
oil – 1 tbsp
salt - 2 tsp

Spice mixture:

coriander seeds – 4 tbsp
chana dal – 1 1/2 tbsp
fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
red chillies - 6

Roast all of the above in a tsp of oil and grind to a fine paste.

Method

Pressure cook lentils with a pinch of turmeric powder. In a separate sauce pan, cook vegetables, with tamarind paste, salt and spice mixture. Once the tamarind stops smelling raw, add water and boil the mixture until the vegetables have cooked. Add the cooked lentils and allow this to boil on a low flame for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning as required. In a small pan, heat oil, add mustard seeds and add curry leaves. When it splutters, pour it over the kootu and top it with cilantro. Serve as a side-dish for kali.

Notes:

Any seven of the following vegetables can be used: red pumpkin, white pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, potato, peas, plantain (raw banana), yam, colocasia, green beans, cluster beans, chayote squash(chow chow), snake gourd, carrot, etc.

Carrot Honey Muffin
This was the first muffin I made, when I just started trying my hand at baking. The results were very encouraging. The carrots were a flavorful addition to my little muffins.


Ingredients:

wheat flour - 1 cup
grated carrots - 1 cup
honey - 1/2 cup
raisins - 1/2 cup
vanilla essence - 1 tsp
canola oil - 1/2 cup
baking powder - 1 tsp
baking soda - 1/2 tsp

Method:

Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. (I sieve them a couple of times). Preheat oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit). Add grated carrots, honey, raisins, oil and vanilla essence. Mix well with a hand blender. Drop tablespoonfuls on muffin cups until they are almost full (with some space on the top for the muffin to rise) and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Mung Bean Vegetable fritters (Vada)
The reason I avoid the delicious vadas is because they are deep-fried and unhealthy. So I tried making them as healthy as possible, by using mung bean, adding lots of veggies and digestive aids like ginger, cumin and carom seeds. While it is still deep-fried, these add-ons definitely make me feel better, at least mentally!


Ingredients:

split yellow mung beans -  1 cup
grated cabbage - 1/2 cup
grated spinach - 1/2 cup
green chillies - 4
ginger - 1 inch piece (or ginger paste - 1/2 tsp)
salt - 1 tsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
carom seeds (ajwain) - 1 tsp
pakoda masala - 1 tsp (optional)

Method:

Soak mung beans in warm water for half an hour. Grind to a coarse paste with salt, ginger and green chillies. Add grated vegetables, cumin, carom seeds and pakoda masala. Mix well. Take a gooseberry size ball of the mix, flatten it and deep fry in hot oil till golden brown.
Low-fat Low-Calorie Carrot Halwa (Fudge)
This is one of my favorite desserts - healthy, quick, tasty, can be made without much effort, very less fat and added sugars. The other thing I like about it is the fact that it kind of represents the essence and purpose of my blog - the kind of recipes it was intended for.

When I had guests in my living room, I was able to prepare this even while entertaining them, as it hardly required me to be around. It is also a great way to make kids eat carrots.


Ingredients:

baby carrots - 1 lb (about 500 grams)
milk - 3/4 cup (preferably fat-free)
honey - 4 tbsp (adjust according to taste)
ghee (clarified butter) - 2 tbsp
sliced almonds - 3 tsp
raisins - 2 tsp

Method:

Blend carrots with milk to a coarse paste in the food processor. Microwave for 7 mins. Remove from microwave, add ghee, stir and return to the microwave for 7 more minutes. By now, the mixture should have reached halwa (semi-solid) consistency. (If not, microwave for a few more minutes). Remove from microwave, add honey, stir well and cook in the microwave for another 3 minutes. Garnish with sliced almonds and raisins and serve hot or cold.

Notes:
1. Keep the heating process to a minimum after adding honey.
2. Cooking times slightly vary among microwaves - so the timing needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Ven Pongal (Savory Pongal)
A famous south-Indian favorite, it is sometimes served in combination with vada in restaurants, and chutney as side-dish. The sweet pongal version is a festive specialty.


Ingredients: (serves 2)

rice - 1/2 cup
mung beans - 1/2 cup
pepper corns - a few
curry leaves - 1 stalk
clarified butter (ghee) - 2 tbsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
cashews - a few
salt - 3/4 tsp
asafoetida - a pinch
ginger - a small piece (or ginger paste - 1/2 tsp)
pepper powder - 1/2 tsp

Method:

Heat a tablespoon of ghee, add cashews, pepper, cumin seeds, curry leaves, ginger and asafoetida and fry till cashews become golden brown. Add washed rice and beans. Fry for a minute, add salt and pressure cook in 4 cups of water until soft (even mushy is fine). Add remaining ghee and pepper powder (freshly ground pepper adds a kick to the recipe!). Mix well and serve hot with chutney.
Milk pudding (kheer / Pal Payasam)
This is an Indian dessert, traditionally prepared for auspicious Hindu festivals and placed in silver cups as an offering to God. The approach below is slightly different from the traditional method, but very effective, as the slow pressure cooking actually causes the milk to turn pinkish and tastes like condensed milk even though no condensed milk is added.


Ingredients:

whole milk - 1/2 gallon (almost 2 liters)
rice - 1/6 cup
clarified butter (ghee) - 1 tsp
sugar - 1 1/2 cups
sliced almonds / broken cashews or pistachios - 2 tbsp
raisins - 1 tbsp
saffron - a pinch

Method:

Pulse rice in a food processor until coarsely broken. Fry nuts and raisins in ghee and keep aside. Keep 2 cups milk aside and boil the remaining milk in pressure cooker with broken rice. Pressure cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes or until 1 whistle. Cook on slow heat for 15 to 30 minutes until the aroma of condensed milk emanates. Turn off the heat and allow for pressure to subside on its own. Add sugar and saffron. Boil for a few more minutes with the remaining milk that was set aside until the sugar dissolves completely. Garnish with fried nuts and raisins. Serve chilled.
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