Vermicelli noodles in yogurt sauce (Thayir semiya)
This is an interesting south Indian recipe, occasionally served in wedding feasts. I would consider it as a combination of a few south Indian recipes - the vermicelli upma, yogurt rice or raita. My husband and I like this version - it seems to contain the goodness of them all, yet so easy to prepare and serves as a guilt-free one-pot meal.


Ingredients:

vermicelli - 1 cup
carrot(diced)+beans(cut)+cabbage(grated)+peas(boiled) - 1 cup
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
black gram - 1/2 tsp
cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
green chillies - 3
yogurt - 1 1/2 cups (beaten)
cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
chaat masala - 1/2 tsp (optional)
curry leaves - 1 stalk
cashewnuts - 2 tbsp (broken)
raisins - 1 tsp
salt - 1 tsp (adjust to taste)
asafoetida - a pinch
oil - 1 tbsp

Method:

Heat 2 1/2 cups of water along with vegetables and salt (for about 2 minutes if you use the microwave). Keep aside.

Add cumin powder, chaat masala and a little salt to the beaten yogurt. Mix well and set aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan and add mustard seeds, urad dal, cashews, cumin seeds and asafoetida. When it splutters, add green chillies and curry leaves. Then add vermicelli and roast until it turns light brown. Add the water+vegetables and cook until done.

Mix in the yogurt mixture. Decorate with raisins and serve fresh.

Note:
Upto twice the quantity of the yogurt sauce can be used, depending on the consistency and taste you like.
Mini Strawberry cheesecake (low-fat)
When it comes to desserts, portion-control has always been a problem for me. These delectable, bite-sized cheesecakes are an ideal solution. They are low in fat and sugar, topped with the natural goodness of  fruits - for an almost guilt free indulgence.... If only cream cheese manufacturers can produce unsalted cream cheese, I'll be a very happy customer.....has anyone else felt so? Even better, is anyone aware of any brand that carries unsalted fat-free cream cheese (in the US)?


Ingredients (makes about 20 cheesecakes):

fat free cream cheese - 16 ounces
white chocolate baking squares - 4 ounces
sugar - 1/3 cup
fresh strawberries - 20 (approx.)
vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp (optional)

Ingredients:

Melt the baking squares. Mix in the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract. Blend well using a hand blender. Line a muffin pan with paper cups and spoon the cream cheese mixture until each muffin cup is about three-fourths full. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes. Remove from muffin pan and cool at room temperature for an hour. Remove the muffin paper cups and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. Just before serving, top the cheesecakes with fresh strawberries cut to 1-inch from the tapering end.

Notes:
1. Dried cherries can also be used for topping.
2. I use smaller muffin cups for this cheesecake - the regular-sized muffin cups can also be used, but that will produce about 12 cheesecakes.
Spicy potato and spinach curry (Alu palak)
Potatoes and spinach are an irresistible combination of taste and health. This curry is a great crowd-pleaser too. The fact that it doesn't take too long to prepare is an added advantage. Every time I prepare this, it vanishes in a flash!



Ingredients (serves 2):

potato - 1 large
spinach - 2 cups (chopped)
tomato - 1 (chopped)
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp
garam masala - 1/2 tsp
red chilli powder - 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)
cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
lemon juice - 1 tsp
salt - 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)

Method:

Cut the potato into 1 inch cubes. Fry potatoes in oil with a little salt till they turn golden brown. Drain and keep aside. In the remaining oil, fry cumin seeds and tomatoes. Add chilli powder, garam masala, ginger paste and salt. Fry for a minute and add spinach. Fry for a couple of minutes. Add potatoes and cook covered for 5 minutes. Squeeze some lemon juice on top and serve fresh.
Avocado parsley chutney
Avocado is one of those powerhouses of vitamins and minerals, with heart-healthy fats and great for the eyes. But is it easy to get our families to eat this bland fruit? I tried adding the flavor of parsley and a touch of tanginess to make it more likeable, and it is now one of the favorite chutneys in my home!


Ingredients:

avocado - 1 (peeled and pitted)
parsley - a small bunch (stems removed)
tamarind paste - 1 tbsp
red chillies - 3
coriander seeds - 1 tsp
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
black gram - 1 1/2 tsp
oil - 2 tsp
lemon juice - 1 tbsp

Method:

Heat a teaspoon of oil. Add a teaspoon of black gram, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. When it starts turning light brown, add red chillies. Then add parsley leaves and fry for a minute. Add tamarind paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Allow to cool and add avocado slices. Add lemon juice and blend to a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil and add mustard seeds, remaining cumin seeds and black gram. When it splutters, pour over the chutney.

Notes:
Cilantro can also be added to the mix. Parsley can be replaced with cilantro in case you do not like its taste.
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