Chocolate burfi (Indian chocolate fudge / cheesecake)
Chocolate burfi is one of my personal favorites. It is so easy to prepare, that I love to make it for parties, festivals and any time I crave for something chocolatey.

Ingredients: (to make approximately 12 pieces)

unsweetened khoa - 1 1/2 cup
sugar - 1 cup
butter - 2 tbsp
cocoa powder - 2 tbsp
sliced almonds - a few


Heat sugar in a sauce pan and add a little water. When it reaches a 1-string consistency, add khoa, cocoa powder and butter. Stir for a few minutes until it thickens and the mass starts leaving the sides of the pan. Mix in half the almonds. Grease a plate and sprinkle a few sliced almonds. Pour the mixture into plate and decorate with the remaining almonds. Level the top with a flat-bottomed vessel. Allow to cool for a few minutes and cut into squares while still warm.
Vegetable Lasagna
We both love Italian food. Lasagna is the only dish my husband has ever prepared - and he rocks at it! I added my personal touch to it by preparing home-made pasta sauce.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

whole grain lasagna sheets - for 3 layers
carrot - 1/2 cup (grated)
yellow squash - 1
bell pepper - 1 (any color)
zucchini - 1
mozzerella cheese - 1 cup (grated)
red chilli flakes (or 2 crushed red chillies) - 1/2 tsp
basil - 1 tsp
oregano - 1/2 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
salt to taste

Pasta sauce - 1/2 pound (about 350 grams)
For home-made sauce (the personal touch adds to the taste!)
tomatoes - 4
tomato puree/ketchup - 4 tbsp
salt - 1/2 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp

To make sauce:
Drop tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes. Peel off the skin and chop into tiny pieces. Heat a tablespoon of oil. Add chopped tomatoes and remaining ingredients for the sauce, stir and boil until thick.

Add basil, oregano, salt and chilli flakes into the sauce, mix well and set aside.

To make lasagna:

Cook lasagna sheets per instructions, drain and set aside.

Heat oil, add chopped/grated vegetables and salt. Stir and fry for 5 minutes.

Grease a baking pan. Arrange a layer of lasagna sheets to cover the bottom. Spread half the vegetables on the lasagna sheets and one-third of the sauce. Sprinkle some cheese. Place another layer of lasagna sheets and spread the remaining vegetables. Add half the remaining sauce and sprinkle some cheese. Place a third layer of lasagna sheets, spread the remaining sauce and top it off with the remaining cheese. Wrap the top with foil and bake in preheated oven at 350 F for 15 minutes and serve fresh.
Cracked wheat upma
Cracked wheat is extremely nutritious. My grandmother used to have this upma almost as her staple food. She is over 90 and still healthy...may God keep it that way.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

cracked wheat - 1 cup
chopped vegetables - 1 cup (Carrot, Peas, Cabbage, Onion, etc.)
water - 2 cups
green chillies - 2
curry leaves -1 stalk
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
black gram - 1/2 tsp
oil - 1 tbsp
asafoetida - a pinch
turmeric powder - a pinch
salt - 3/4 tsp (adjust to taste)


Heat oil. Add mustard, cumin seeds and urad dal. When it splutters, add green chillies and curry leaves. Then add washed cracked wheat and fry for a minute. Add vegetables, turmeric powder and water. Pressure cook/microwave for 15 minutes or until cooked. Serve hot.
Healthy cooking tips
1. Avoid using reheated oil as the toxins released could cause cardio-vascular diseases over time.
2. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice. White rice is essentially a processed form of white rice, with most of the vitamins, minerals and fibers lost during the "processing".
3. Choose canola oil for baking and frying, olive oil for dressing over other oils and fats.
4. Prefer the use mung bean (dal) over others when possible as it is easily digestible.
5. Opt for the use of honey rather than sugar as a sweetener.

Of course, these are only guidelines and need to be used with discretion.
How to substitute sugar with honey
Honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar, so use 3/4 cup of honey to replace one cup of sugar. For smaller quantities like a tablespoon, the substitution can be 1:1. For baking, reduce other liquids in the recipe by 1/3 cup and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every cup of honey used. Lower the oven temperature by 25 F to prevent over-browning.

If honey has crystallized, placing the container in hot water for 15 minutes will help return it to its liquid state. Honey should not be heated in the microwave as this alters its taste by increasing its hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) content.
Gram Fritters (Dal vada)
This crispy vada is generally made on Hindu festive occasions. My mom used to prefer this over any other variety of vada as this is quicker and easier. This is my husband's favorite too. Goes great with coconut chutney and makes an excellent tea-time snack as well, especially on a cold or rainy day!

Ingredients: (to make approximately 20 vadas)

bengal gram (chana dal) - 1/2 cup
yellow split pigeon peas (toor dal) - 1/4 cup
black gram (urad dal) - 1/4 cup
cabbage / onion (optional) - 1/2 cup (grated)
fresh mint/basil leaves - a handful (chopped)
red chillies - 2
green chillies - 2
salt - 1 1/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp (or ginger - 1 inch piece peeled and cut)
turmeric powder - a pinch
asafoetida - a pinch
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
fennel seeds (saunf) - 1 tsp


Wash and soak bengal gram, black gram and pigeon peas in plenty of warm water for a couple of hours. Drain and coarsely grind all ingredients together except vegetables and cumin seeds with as little water as possible. Add cumin seeds, fennel seeds and vegetables. Mix well and divide into gooseberry-sized balls. Flatten into small patties (vadas) and deep fry till golden brown. Drain on kitchen tissue. Serve hot with chutney/sauce.

The vegetables should not be wet, as it would dilute the batter.
Tomato Gram Chutney
When I make idly, dosa, pongal or upma, I usually make coconut chutney as a side dish because it is the quickest. But when I need something tangy, this is a great choice. My husband loves the zing it adds to his food. On those rare occasions I make it, he keeps saying, "you should make this chutney more often".


tomatoes - 4
red chillies - 3
gram flour - 1/3 cup
bengal gram - 1 tsp
black gram - 1 tsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
coriander seeds - 1 tsp
fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
tamarind paste - 1 tbsp
turmeric powder - a pinch
asafoetida - a pinch
lemon juice - a few drops
coriander/cilantro leaves - a few (chopped fine)
salt - 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)

For seasoning:

mustard seeds - 1 tsp
cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
black gram - 1 tsp
curry leaves - a small twig
asafoetida - a pinch


Chop tomatoes into cubes. Heat oil in a frying pan and add cumin seeds, bengal gram, black gram, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and red chillies. Then, add tomatoes and tamarind paste. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add gram flour and fry for about 5 minutes, until the gram flour and tamarind no longer smell raw. Cool and blend into a paste with salt. Add lemon juice, coriander/cilantro and seasoning.
Low-fat potato roast
Potato is my husband's favorite vegetable and he particularly likes it in its deep-fried form. But due to the health hazards of fatty foods, I had to go out of the way to avoid these, much to his chagrin. That's when I stumbled upon this idea. He finds it delectable and I don't have to worry about health issues! This dish also became an instant party hit!

Ingredients: (serves 2)

potatoes - 2 large
red chilli powder - 1 tsp (adjust to taste)
cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
garam masala - 1/2 tsp
turmeric powder - a pinch
oil - 2-3 tbsp (just enough for the mixture to coat the potato slices)
salt - 1 tsp (adjust to taste)


Preheat oven to 400 degress (Fahrenheit). Slice potatoes into thin circles. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add turmeric powder, salt, cumin powder, garam masala and red chilli powder. Mix well and add potatoes. Stir well for a few minutes until the oil mixture is coated evenly on the potatoes. Place a foil in the baking tray and spread the potatoes in it. Bake for 15-20 minutes until it turns golden brown and serve fresh.
Dahi vada (Lentil fritters in Yogurt gravy)
Dahi Vada is a cool, mouth-watering Indian snack, especially great for a summer evening. It's a party favorite too. Of course, it takes a lot of effort to prepare, but the result is well worth it. I do not make it very often, but every time I make dahi vada, it gets over before I could turn around!

Ingredients: (to make 20 dahi vadas)

medu (urad) vada - 20 (refer recipe)
yogurt - 2 1/2 cups
milk - 1 cup
chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
chaat masala - 1/4 tsp
salt - 1/2 tsp
cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
mustard seeds  - 1 tsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
oil - 1 tsp

For garnishing:

green chutney (refer recipe)
tamarind-date chutney
coriander leaves - a handful (finely chopped)


Drop hot vadas in salted water. Soak for half an hour. Drain and place in plain water. Replace the water a couple of times every 10 minutes until the vadas are no longer oily. Gently press the vadas between palms and place in a deep dish.

Add milk, chilli powder, salt, cumin powder and half the chopped coriander to beaten yogurt in a separate bowl. Mix well. Fry mustard and cumin seeds in a little oil and pour it on the yogurt mixture.

Pour yogurt mixture over the vadas and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Just before serving, add remaining coriander leaves. Drizzle green chutney and tamarind chutney, sprinkle boondi and serve.
Green chutney
This green chutney is served as a side dish to idly, dosa, pongal and many other south Indian snacks. It is also used to spice up chaats and other North Indian snacks.


coriander/cilantro - 1/2 bunch
green chillies - 1 (normal) 2 (spicy hot)
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp (or ginger - 1 inch piece - peeled)
salt - about 1/4 tsp (adjust to taste)


Remove the stalks of the coriander and use only the leaves. Wash and grind with ginger, chillies, salt and a little water.
Savory Lentil Doughnuts (Medu Vada / Urad Vada)
Vada is a crispy Indian snack, prepared especially during auspicious occasions. When I was a kid, I used to eagerly wait for these special occasions especially because that is when my mom usually prepares this yummy snack.

Ingredients: (to make approximately 20 vadas)

black gram (urad dal) - 1 cup
split yellow mung bean (moong dal) - 1/2 cup
green chillies - 3
curry leaves - 1 stalk (chopped)
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp (or ginger - 1 inch piece - peeled)
salt - a little more than 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)
baking soda - 1/4 tsp
oil for deep frying


Soak black gram and mung beans overnight in plenty of water. Drain and grind coarsely into a thick paste, with minimal necessary water, along with the remaining ingredients, except curry leaves. Then add chopped curry leaves and beat till fluffy. Take a tablespoonful of batter on an oiled plastic sheet, make a hole in the center and deep fry till golden brown.

1. For a quick turnaround, the black gram and mung beans can be soaked in warm water for about an hour, if there is not enough time to soak overnight.
2. If you like the vada to be soft instead of crispy, as the ones used for preparing dahi vada, replace mung beans with additional black gram and grind the batter to a smooth paste.
3. When the batter is ground coarsely, the vada comes out crispy.
4. Excess water while grinding the batter causes the vada to absorb too much oil.
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