Monday, April 17, 2017

Authentic Mexican Guacamole ; Meatless Monday

Guys, spring is here!!! Even though it does not feel like spring at times...But not to despair!! It will get warm soon enough! We have to now get our bodies ready for summer!!

We are always on the look out for healthy snacks: snacks that are not processed, low in calories and replenishes & rejuvenates the body. One such snack is Guacamole. Made out of ripe avocados, they are filling,nutritious  and flavorful and cooling! Avocados are known as butter fruit in India. 

There are many versions of guacamole. Some make it chunky, some smooth, some add tomatoes and garlic while others don't. I have the good fortune of working with quite a few Hispanics and therefore learn authentic Hispanic dishes. This particular version of guacamole comes from a coworker of mine. I first tasted her guacamole at a workplace event that we had and the foodie in me was impressed to say the least. I loved the freshness of the guacamole and that there was no overpowering taste of one single ingredient. I had to have the recipe.

 She was kind enough to share it with me. I love the ease of making this guacamole with no food processor or blender needed. I use my stone pestle and mortar to make it. This recipe also requires only 6 ingredients including the avocado! Since making this version, I have not made any other.. I like to eat it as a dip with quinoa chips, quesadilla and as a topping on my sandwich or in my wrap.

Today, I am sharing this delicious recipe with you.

Servings: 3-4

Prep time: 8-10 mins

Cook time: 0 mins

Total time: 8-10 mins


Avocado: 1 large, ripe
White Onion: 1/2 small, diced fine
Serrano pepper: 1, small, deseeded & deveined.
Lime Juice: from 1 small lime.
Cilantro: 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Salt: to taste


Deseed the Serrano pepper and chop it finely. Add it to a bowl.

Slice the avocado into 2. Remove the seed. 

Using a spoon, scoop it from the peel. Dice it into medium sized cubes. Add it to the bowl.

Add lime/lemon juice to the avocado and mix immediately. Otherwise the avocado will discolor.

Now add the chopped onion, finely chopped cilantro, and salt to the bowl.

Mix well. Mash the mixture gently to get the desired consistency.

Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Preferably serve immediately.


Cooking made easy:

One of the problems of avocado is that it turns black. This can be prevented by the addition of lime or lemon juice and also by leaving the seed in the guacamole. The guacamole with remain green even the next day!!

Tip for healthy living:

Eating low calorie dips made using naturally occurring foods like avocado is much better than the high fat and calorie dips that use sour cream, cheese and mayonnaise as a base!

Food for thought:

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance. Buddha

Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cornmeal Idlis

Have you ever thought of making idlis using cornmeal? Yes, it is possible and is absolutely delicious! It is especially useful if you have not soaked your lentils for regular idlis and want to make idlis next day for breakfast. These idlis can also be made instantaneously without any fermentation! How cool is that??

You can make it with or without adding any vegetables into it. I like to add some peas and carrots into the batter . Some people also use chopped green chillies and grated ginger. I don't like that in my idlis. I would rather pair it with a spicy chutney. Also, I want my kids to eat this and they don't like it if there are chillies in it.

This is a easy recipe wherein there is no grinding involved. Yogurt/curd is used to make the batter. A pinch of baking soda is added. The batter is allowed to ferment for 2-3 hours. I like to make mine at night and leave it on the countertop, ready to be steamed in the morning. If you want to make it instantaneously, use eno fruit salt instead of baking soda.

Servings: makes 16 medium sized idlis

Prep time: 15 mins + 2 hours fermentation

Cook time: 10-15 mins

Total time: 2 and 1/2 hours including fermentation time.


Cornmeal: 1 cup
Yogurt: 1 cup
Water: 1/2 cup ( may not need all)
Baking soda: a pinch ( optional)
Salt to taste
Coconut oil: 1 tsp + for greasing the pan.
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig
Urad dal (split matpe beans): 1/2tsp
Chana dal ( split chick peas): 1 tsp
Cashew halves: 1 tbsp


Dry roast the cornmeal in a sauté pan  it in a plate/ bowl and keep aside.

In a saute pan, heat oil . Add mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds splutter, add the urad dal,chana dal curry leaves and cashew halves.Sauté for few seconds. Add the cornmeal.
Roast on low heat until fragrant( around 5-6 minutes). Turn off the flame. Let it cool down.

Take this mixture in a bowl. When cooled down, add the cooked peas and carrots, salt, baking soda and yogurt. Mix thoroughly.

 Add the water little by little, mixing well in between until you reach the consistency of idli batter.

Let if ferment for atleast 2 hours.

When you are ready to cook the idlis, grease the idli mold with ghee/ butter fill it with batter until 2/3 full and steam in the idli steamer / pressure cooker ( without using the weight) for 10 minutes on medium- high flame.Turn off the heat and let it cool down in the steamer for another 10 minutes before taking them out of the mold.

Serve hot with sambar/ chutney or both.


Cooking made easy:

To make these idlis instantaneously, just add eno into the batter instead of baking soda. Make the batter and steam it immediately. When eno is added to the batter, the batter should not be kept for a long time. It loses its ability to rise.

Tip for healthy living:

Incorporating as many vegetables into all your meals not only provides you with the essential nutrients and dietary fiber, but also reduces the calorie value of the meal thereby making it healthier.

Food for thought:

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. Joyce Brothers

Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Mangalorean Egg Curry with coconut

My household likes eggs in any form: scrambled, boiled, omelette.. You name it. We love the curried version: jhatpat egg curry, tangy egg curry, egg chilli. 

At times, I make the Curry with the Mangalorean style sauce which I usually reserve for fish or chicken as I often feel that I don't have to labor that hard to cook eggs. Today was one of those days when I craved for the Mangalorean style sauce. Traditionally this is made with freshly grated coconut. I have made this using coconut milk. You can use whichever method is convenient for you based on availability of ingredients.

Servings : 4-6

Prep time: 15-20 minsCook time: 15-20 minsTotal time: 30-40 mins


Boiled eggs: 6
Coriander seeds: 2 tsp
Cumin seeds ( jeers): 1 tsp
Red chillies: 4-6 medium
Methi seeds( fenugreek): 4-6 seeds
Black pepper corns: 1/2 tsp
Tamarind: marble sized ( if using tamarind concentrate, use 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Onion: 2 medium-sized, chopped
Garlic:  3-4 cloves
Coconut oil: 1/4 tsp + 1 tbsp ( any cooking oil may be used).
Tomato: 1 medium, chopped
Green chillies: 3-4, slit
Ginger: 1 inch, minced
Curry leaves : 1 sprig ( optional)
Coconut milk: 1 cup
Salt to taste.


In a sauce pan or sauté pan, heat 1/4 tsp oil. In this roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, methi seeds, black pepper & red chillies one after the other. Keep aside in a bowl to cool down.

Once cooled down, grind the above roasted items with tamarind, turmeric powder, 1 chopped onion and garlic. Add just enough water to grind it into a smooth paste.

In the same saucepan, heat 1 tbsp oil.  Add the other half of the chopped onions. Sauté until it is transparent. Add the minced ginger, curry leaves , chopped tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes have softened. Add the ground masala, coconut milk, salt and bring it to a gentle boil.

While the sauce it boiling, peel the eggs and slice it into 2 halves and keep ready.

Add the sliced eggs gently to the boiling sauce. Continue to summer for a minute or two.

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves if you wish. I didn't have any so I haven't used any. 

Serve hot with rice/ bread/roti.


Serve hot.

Cooking made easy:

If you want perfect hard-boiled eggs here is an easy way to do it.
In a pot bring water to a boil and gently drop in the eggs. Let it continue to boil for 10 mins. Turn off the stove and cover the pot and keep it for another 10 mins. Drain the water. Perfect hard-boiled eggs are yours to enjoy!

Tip for healthy living:

Try to limit your egg consumption to maximum of 2 a day! Even though eggs have many nutritional benefits eating too many eggs can increase your cholesterol levels!

Food for thought:

Hope is such a bait, it covers any hook. Oliver Goldsmith

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rainbow Cake from scratch!

Off late I have been rather low on energy... I get tired rather easily. I am sure those who know me or have been following my blog would have noticed that I don't post that often now and I am also not that active on social media. I have just enough energy to get through my 2 jobs, cooking and the other everyday household chores.

So why I am I telling you all this?? To give you testimony of what a child can make a mother do!! This is the first year that I didn't have my daughter's birthday celebration at home. I had it at Michaels with very few of her school friends. This way I didn't have to cook much or worry about cleaning the house! 
I ordered Pizza from Papa John's & made a nice chickpeas salad. I had some chips, grapes for the kids to munch on. I was going to order cake from Costco, but my daughter requested for a " mommy" cake as every year. She wanted something with a fairy on top! I relented and decided to make an enchanted fairy garden cake. But what about the inside of the cake?? I decided that I will try my hand at the Rainbow cake! After all there has to be something beautiful when it comes to fairies!

In the past, I have quite a few times used boxed mixes when I have made 3-D cakes like the Tinkerbell cake, the Elsa cake, the McQueen car cake. With all the food I was cooking, I didn't need the additional hassle about worrying about the texture of the cake. This year, since I was not cooking any food, I decided to make the cake from scratch. I looked for the perfect vanilla cake recipe that I could rely on. I found it here. I modified the recipe to suit my needs by doubling it and using cooking oil instead of shortening. I also used a mix of sour cream & yogurt instead of buttermilk. I also reduced the sugar. I used this rainbow cake recipe as a guide. Again, I modified the recipe to suit my needs by virtue of the recipe itself & the amount used. I baked using four 9 inch pans ( which was how many pans I had) and had to adapt the recipe accordingly.

So how is this cake healthy?? All the ingredients are fresh, no shortening has been used. I have ensured that the cake is not too sweet. I have also tried to use minimal food coloring. You can make it completely using natural food colors. You can check they recipe here. The buttercream layers are thin between the cake layers, as is the outer layer.

Overall, while this cake is easy to make if you have 6 pans, it requires some patience if you are using only 2 or 3 as you have to bake the cake in batches and wait for the cake to cool down to remove it out of the pans and bake the next batch! I also had difficulty with my mixing bowl as it wasn't big enough therefore there wasn't enough room for the batter to be mixed !! If I were to make it again, I would make the batter in 2 batches.

The assembling itself is not hard. You just have to ensure that all the layers are the same thickness. A cake leveler is very handy for this.

Frosting: I made a double the batch of my favorite buttercream frosting. You can check the recipe here. It was just enough for layering and icing the cake! Mind you, I used a thin layer of frosting.

Let's now go ahead and check the recipe in it's entirety. The ingredients can be divided into half to make 2 batches of the cake batter.

Servings: 12-14


For the cake:

Butter: 2 cups ( 4 sticks), softened
Coconut oil: 1 cup ( any cooking oil can be used).
Sugar: 5 cups
Eggs: 10 large, room temperature
Vanilla essence: 3 tsp
All purpose flour: 6 cups
Baking powder: 4 tsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Whole milk: 1 cup
Yogurt: 1/2 cup
Sour cream: 1/2 cup ( you can use 1 cup sour cream if you don't have sour cream).
Food coloring: gel colors in 6 colors: violet, blue,green, yellow, orange & red.


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
Prepare six 9-inch round cake pans by greasing it with butter and dusting it with flour or by just using a non-stick spray.

Line the bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper circle.

Take 6 bowls: add 2 tbsp milk to each bowl and add one each of the six colors, mix and keep ready.

Mix together the remaining  milk with the yogurt,sour cream and vanilla essence. Keep aside.

Cream together butter & oil until light and fluffy, around 3-4 mins.  Do not rush this step! It is very important.  Add sugar one cup at a time, making sure to mix it after each addition.

Add one egg at a time, beating it until fluffy after the addition of each egg!

Sift together flour, sugar and baking powder.

Fold the flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture, alternating it with the milk mixture. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Make sure not to vigorously mix it. Just gently and thoroughly.

Add 1.5 cups of batter to each of the prepared bowls with color. Gently mix it so that the batter is evenly colored.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. By the end you should have 6 cake pans with 6 different color batter in each. If you have less number of pans, bake just that many colors and wait for those to be baked and cooled and removed out of the pans to bake the next batch.

Place the pans on the middle 2 racks.

Bake for 25-30 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking them. After 25 mins, I like to check every 2-3 mins to check if the cake it done.

Take the pans out and let the cakes cool down ( atleast 30 mins) before taking them out of the pan.

To level the cakes, wait for it to cool down completely ( atleast another 30 mins).

This cake tends to crust due to the sugar & egg in it. Don't be alarmed. You will be cutting off the crusty tops while leveling the cake. I like to use my cake leveler to level the cake as I can mark the height on the leveler and this way I can ensure that all the cake layers have the same thickness.

Level off all the 6 cakes and keep aside.

Now take a cake board that is 1 inch less in diameter. Keep it on top of the leveled cake and trim the crusty edge of the cake. You can use any object that is a circle and slightly smaller than the cake. I used a stainless steel plate. Do this with all the 6 cakes.

Now it is time to layer the cake!!

Take a cake board. I have used a 9 inch cake board.

Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of the cake board.

Place the purple cake layer on top of it.

Now spread the frosting on top of the cake in an even fashion so that it is 1 cm thick. I used a piping bag to do this.

Now arrange the other layers in the same fashion in this order: blue, green, yellow, orange and red.

Once the top layer has been placed, Stick a thick straw in the center of the cake. I did this so that the layers don't shift during transportation.

Now do a crumb coating to the entire cake. Crumb coating is applying a thin layer of frosting to the entire cake. This seals in the crumbs and makes it easy to ice the cake.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for atleast 30 mins.

After 30 mins, remove the cake out and frost it any way you desire! I applied another thin coating of frosting as I didn't want the cake to be too sweet.

I decorated the cake once I reached Michaels as I didn't want the cake to be messed up during transportation.

Decorating the cake:
Crumble some of the crust from the cake that was cut of earlier. Mix different colors. Sprinkle it along the diameter of the top of the  cake.
I sprinkled some around the base too once it was placed on the stand.

I used edible flowers made from royal icing to make my enchanted garden at the top. I used a fairy from the enchanted planted garden that I had and and an angel from Michaels as cake toppers.

This cake can be sliced thinly as it is quite tall.

My daughter and everyone who came for the party loved the cake. I hope you do too!!


I am going to share this birthday cake with all my friends at Angie's Fiesta Friday! Angie, I know I have not been a frequent visitor this year at your parties, but I am sure you understand. I shall try to stop by more often now.

Cooking made easy:

When you make an elaborate cake such as the one above, it helps if you give yourself extra time to get everything done, especially if you have to bake the cake in batches.
Also, buttercream frosting can be made a week or 2 early and kept in the refrigerator. Just bring it to room temperature before using.

Tip for healthy living:

When making cakes like this, reducing the amount of frosting used really helps reduce the sugar content per slice. A little thin layer of frosting between layers won't make that big a difference. Also, while serving slice thinly so that you don't end up eating  much nor will there be too much wastage.

Food for thought:

If I am always comparing myself to other human beings, I am either suffering from ego or jealousy.

Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Ramen/Maggi noodles Made Healthy!!

You don't believe me do you?? It is true.. Ramen can be made healthy..
Check out my Buckwheat Mushroom Rice Ramen.

So what exactly is Ramen?? Ramen has many names. Ramen in India is popular as Maggi noodles. Basically these are instant noodles that comes with a seasoning packet( tastemaker) that can be ready in 2 minutes!! The biggest issue with ramen that makes it unhealthy is the seasoning packet or tastemaker that most often than not has monosodium glutamate amongst other ingredients that makes ramen  so desirable. Not to mention the fact that these noodles are made out of white bleached flour with little nutritional value!

With all that being said, how do we make these noodles healthy?? Basically, by taking away the undesirable ingredients and adding nutritient-rich ingredients. Instead of using plain water, we use vegetable broth to cook the noodles. A variety of vegetables are sautéed and added on top of the noodles. Now does it sound healthy, nutritious and delicious??Also, do not forget that Maggi is available in atta version and oats noodles. Here in US, we get buckwheat and rice noodles/ramen. 

Whatever said and done, all of us at some point in our lives have lived on Ramen/Maggi ( remember college days??) or had it when we didn't have anything else in our pantry.. someway or the other, Ramen remains a comfort food... With the weather yo-yoing, people look forward to a bowl of Ramen to warm them.

Check out the recipe to see how you can make it, enjoy it but in a guilt-free manner.

Prep time: 5-10 minsCook time: 8-10 minsTotal time: 13-20 mins

Servings: 4


Instant noodles ( Maggi/Top Ramen): 2 packets
Water/ vegetable broth: 4 cups
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Onion: 1, medium, sliced lengthwise.
Green Pepper: 1 medium, sliced lengthwise
Red Pepper: 1 medium, sliced lengthwise.
Mixed vegetables: 2 cups ( any combination can be used; I used frozen peas & carrots)
Green chilies: 1-2, chopped fine ( optional)
Tomato: 2 medium, sliced lengthwise.
Lemon wedges: 4-8 nos
Salt: to taste
Cilantro: 1 tbsp for garnish, optional


In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water/ vegetable broth to a boil. While waiting for the liquid to boil, prepare the veggies.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a sauté pan or frying pan. 

Add sliced onions. Sauté until the onions wilt. 
Add the frozen vegetables, chopped green chilies & sauté for 2-3 mins until the peas & carrots are slightly tender. 
Add the sliced Bell peppers. Sauté for 2 mins. 
Add salt & cilantro ( reserving some for garnish). 
Turn off the stove.

Break the noodles & add it to the boiling liquid. 
Continue to boil for exactly 2 mins. Turn off the stove. 
Cover the pot and let it sit for 1-2 mins.

Take 4 serving bowls. 
Divide the noodles equally into them. 
Divide the veggies into 4 equal portions. 
Top each bowl with the cooked vegetables , slices of tomato and a wedge of lemon. 
Garnish with little cilantro.

Serve immediately!


Cooking made easy:

Any combination of frozen & or fresh vegetables can be used. Just keep in mind the cooking time for the vegetables. If the vegetables take long to cook, cook them separately and then add to the sautéed onions.

Tip for healthy living:

Adding 3-4 colors of vegetables to your dish ensures that you get a variety of essential vitamins and other nutrients through your meal. The color of the vegetable is usually an indicator of the nutrient that they are rich in. For examples, the orange color of carrots indicates that they are rich in beta carotene.

Food for thought:

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. John wooden

Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!

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