Monday, April 28, 2014

Meatless Monday Quinoa Avocado Salad

With the temperatures getting warmer, I find myself back to making salads for dinner. I like to eat salads for dinner as they are filling without being too rich with too many calories.Truthfully, I am not a great fan of garden salads. I eat them occasionally.I eat plenty of greens. They form a staple part of my everyday diet. But, I like my greens cooked. I enjoy other varieties of salads. I make quinoa black- bean salad, chickpea salad, cucumber salad, carrot salad, cabbage slaws; all of which I enjoy. Tonight I was in a rush. I had some leftover cooked quinoa in my fridge. I decided to make quinoa-avocado salad. It's refreshing, wholesome, filling, quick and easy as you will see in the recipe below.

Servings: 2


Quinoa: 1 cup
Avocado : 1 large, peeled, pit removed and chopped into medium sized cubes.
Cucumber: 1 small, diced
Tomato: 1 medium, diced
Raisins: 1 tsp
Parsley : 1 tbsp, chopped
Olive oil: 3 tbsp
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Pepper: 1/8 tsp


Boil 2 cups water in a saucepan with 1/2 tsp salt. When the water comes to a boil, add the washed quinoa, reduce the flame to low, cover the saucepan and let it cook for 15-20 mins. When done all the water should be gone and you should see small curly strands on the quinoa. Fluff it with a fork/ spoon and keep aside to cool.

Toss the chopped avocado with lemon juice and keep aside.

In a salad bowl, add the diced cucumber, tomato, cooled quinoa, raisins, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Now add the avocados and lightly toss it.

Refrigerate and serve chilled.


Cooking made easy:

Avocados discolor upon exposure to air. One way to prevent this is to toss it with lemon juice.

A great way to store leftover avocado slices is to wrap it in cling film in such a manner that the entire surface of the avocado is in contact with the cling film. This will also prevent it from getting discolored.

Tip for healthy living:

Avocados and quinoa both belong to the food category known as " super foods". Superfoods are foods that are nutrient-rich and are beneficial to one's health and well-being. Apart from being  gluten free and a good substitute for grain, quinoa is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Avocados are rich in healthy fats, protein, vitamins, protein and dietary fiber.

Remember, while all the above benefits are true,the term "superfood" has no scientific meaning and also seems to have been coined more with the idea of promoting a more healthy and plant-based diet. 

Food for thought:

Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. Mother Teresa

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Green Papaya Chicken ( Chicken Tinola)

Green papaya is commonly used in Indian curries. Growing up we had several papaya trees in our yard and my mother often made green papaya curries either by itself or with spinach. I used to hate it then. Now I am rediscovering my taste for green papaya. I like the Thai green papaya salad. I recently came across a Filipino recipe called Tinolang Manok, in which green papaya was used with chicken. I was intrigued. I asked my Filipino friend and she told me that it is commonly used in soup style when one is sick . It is Filipino comfort food and is also called as Chicken Tinola. She also informed me that chayote could also be used instead of green papaya. I had one small green papaya in my fridge and decided to try it. I modified it a little for my hubby's spicy Indian palate by adding green chillies to it. The recipe called for pepper leaves which I didn't have. I used some fresh curly parsley instead. It came out truly delicious! It's easy and quick to make. I would definitely make it again! Here is the recipe.

Servings: 6


Chicken: 1 lb cut into bite sized pieces ( I used thigh pieces)
Green papaya or Chayote : 1 small, peeled , deseeded and diced medium.
Green chillies: 4-6 ( depending on your spice level), slit.
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Onion: 1 medium, chopped
Garlic: 2-3 small cloves, chopped fine
Ginger: 1 inch piece, cut julienne.
Fish sauce: 2-3 tbsp
Parsley: 1 tbsp, chopped ( you could use cilantro, I didn't have any at the time).
Corn starch: 1 tsp diluted in 1/2 cup water.
Water: 3 cups


Clean the chicken pieces and marinate it with salt, pepper and lemon juice for 20-30 minutes.

Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic an sauté for couple of minutes until the onions wilt.

Add the chicken pieces and sauté for 5 mins until the chicken is slightly browned.

Now add the ginger ,green chillies, papaya  and water. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. 

Add the fish sauce, corn starch, parsley and cook for 2 more minutes.

Serve hot with rice or bread. You could also eat it like a soup.


Cooking made easy:

Wooden chopping boards should not be left immersed in water. They will absorb the water and expand. Also, do not wash wooden chopping boards in hot water. Use only cold or room temperature water to clean it.

Tip for healthy living:

Ripe papayas when mashed can be used as face masks. They make the skin of the face firm and radiant.

Food for thought:

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art. Leonardo da Vinci

Monday, April 21, 2014

Doodhpak (Sabudana Kheer/ Tapioca Pudding)

Ever since I can remember, every year my mother made this delicious dessert on my birthday. The reason being that out of all the Indian desserts, this one used to be my favorite.Today is my birthday. I was nostalgic, being that my mother is thousands of miles away. I decided to make this dessert for myself:) . Usually kheer is made with rice and milk or vermicelli and milk. I like it best with Sabudana or tapioca pearls which is known as Doodhpak in konkani. This is a traditional konkani dessert. "Doodh" means milk, and "Pak" means thick syrup, in Konkani. This one is a little difficult to make just because it takes a long time to cook sabudana and one has to constantly stir the sabudana(tapioca pearls) while cooking as otherwise it will stick to the bottom of the pot and get burnt very easily. Even a little bit of burnt Sabudana  completely ruins the flavor of the dish! Generally kheer is white in color while doodhpak( Sabudana kheer) is made yellow in color by dissolving saffron in warm milk. The recipe is really simple as given below.

Servings: 6


Sabudana ( tapioca pearls) : 1/2 cup
Water : 2 1/2 cups
Milk : 1 cup
Sugar : 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder: 1/4tsp
Cashew halves: 1 tbsp
Raisins: 1 tbsp
Saffron: 4 strands


Wash the sabudana until all starch is gone. 

Put it in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water and bring it to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the flame to low and let it cook, stirring constantly until the white sabudana(tapioca pearls) turn transparent.

This should take about 30-45 minutes.

Now add sugar to the sabudana and switch off the flame.

Warm milk on stove/ microwave to lukewarm. Take 2 tbsp in a small cup and mix the saffron threads in there. Keep it aside for 10-15 minutes.

Add this milk to the sabudana-sugar mixture.

Now add the freshly powdered cardamom.

Heat ghee in a small frying pan and sauté the cashew halves and raisins until golden brown.

Garnish the Sabudana Kheer with this mixture.

Serve hot or cold. Both taste yummy!


Cooking made easy:

Do not cut onion or garlic on wooden cutting boards. It retains the smell of onion/ garlic. Maintain separate boards to cut onion/ garlic.

Tip for healthy living:

Cardamom is a commonly used spice in Indian desserts . It is known to have significant health benefits especially for the digestive system. It is supposed to help with heartburn, gas, constipation, liver and gall bladder complaints. It helps prevent nausea too.  It is also known to be useful during common cold.

Food for thought:

Love is the energy of life. Robert Browning

Meatless Monday Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I have always been fascinated with chocolate-dipped fruits. I find the chocolate-dipped strawberries the prettiest. With my new interest in baking I have all new ingredients in my pantry. This include a big bag of chocolate chips that I use to make chocolate- chip cookies. Both my kids love the home-made chocolate-chip cookies :) and so I make it all the time! Strawberries have a perennial presence in my refrigerator as my daughter loves them. Hence strawberries was the obvious choice of fruit to be dipped in chocolate when I decided to make chocolate-dipped strawberries. I decided to try a small batch in case I failed. The result of course was a resounding success. My kids loved it, my neighbor loved it. I even made a batch for my neighbor to take for her Easter party! These make a great healthy dessert!

This is how I made it:

Servings: 10


Fresh strawberries: 30
Semi-sweet chocolate morsels: 1 cup


Wash the strawberries and air dry them thoroughly on a paper towel.

Line a tray with parchment paper and keep ready.

Take one cup chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and warm it at 100% power for 1 1/2 minutes(90 seconds). The chocolate should melt by now. You may see a few whole pieces, which when stirred will melt. If needed you can add additional 15-20 seconds in the microwave. Overheating the chocolate will harden it and render it useless for dipping.

Once the chocolate is completely melted, dip the strawberry into the chocolate until it is half-way in. Twirl it two times to coat it well. Remove, shake off the excess chocolate and place on parchment paper.

Do the same with all the strawberries.

Place the strawberries for 30-60 minutes (or until time of serving) in the refrigerator to allow them to harden.

These are best made the same day as the day you intend to serve.

Serve chilled.


Cooking made easy:

The best way to wash strawberries is by mixing 1 part of vinegar with 10 parts cold water. Soak the strawberries for 2-4 minutes and then air dry them.

Strawberries are extremely delicate and go bad quick. The best way to store them after cleaning and drying them is by keeping it in the refrigerator in a container that is lined with paper and is vented.

Tip for healthy living:

Strawberries are one of the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables. What that means is that strawberries have a high content of pesticide and insecticides in them since they have a very thin skin. Whenever possible and if one can afford, it is best to buy organic strawberries as opposed to regular ones.

The dirty dozen group of vegetables are all the one that are high in pesticide content. This can have a negative impact on a growing child's development.

Food for thought:

Try to leave the Earth a better place than when you arrived. Sidney Sheldon

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tangy Egg Curry (Eggs in Onion-Tomato Sauce)

Eggs can be cooked in hundreds of different ways. There are several versions of egg curry alone. Eggs made any way is acceptable in my household and when it is curried, everybody relishes it. Here is another version of egg curry. It is quick and easy to make and absolutely lip-smacking!

Servings: 4


Eggs: 8 hard-boiled, peeled and cut into 2 equal slices.
Onions: 2 medium, diced small
Tomato: 1 medium, diced small
Cooking Oil: 1 tbsp( I use coconut oil)
Chilli powder: 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder: 1/2 tsp 
Garam masala: 1/2 tsp
Haldi ( turmeric powder): pinch
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves( cilantro): 4-5 sprigs for garnishing.
Water: 1/2 cup


Heat oil in a frying pan/ wok on medium heat. 

Add the chopped onions, sauté until they turn almost golden brown. 

Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes start leaving oil. 

Now add turmeric powder, coriander powder and sauté for 30 seconds.

Then add chilli powder and garam masala powder and sauté for another minute.

Add 1/2 cup water, salt and let it simmer.( You could add more water as needed based on your desired consistency of the dish.) 

Add the sliced eggs.Turn off the flame.

Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serve hot with rice/ roti/ bread.


Cooking made easy:

The best way to make hard-boiled eggs cooked evenly is by adding eggs into boiling hot water, boiling it for 10 minutes, switching off the flame and covering it and keeping it like that for  another 10 mins.Remove from water.If you wish you could run it under cold water to cool down.I just wait for it to cool down. Peel when cooled.

Tip for healthy living:

Eggs are a great source of protein. One can safely consume one egg a day without worrying about increasing your cholesterol levels.

Food for thought:

Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later. Og Mandino

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I love Mexican food. It is pretty nutritious and balanced.I often try to make some of them at home. A healthier version of course! I do not care for the sour cream and use very little cheese. Today I made quesadilla for dinner. "Queso" means cheese in Spanish. It is basically tortillas filled with melted cheese. Traditionally flour tortillas are used but I use corn tortillas as I avoid flour. Apart from cheese the tortillas can be stuffed with anything you please.. Different veggies like onions, tomatoes, peppers, & avocado can be used or if you wish you can stuff it with chicken and make chicken quesadilla. I made the vegetarian one with different peppers, cabbage, onion and avocado. Again raw veggies can be used or you could lightly cook them. I have stir-fried my veggies in a little bit of olive oil. The tortillas after being stuffed are generally folded into half and then cut into wedges. Since I use corn tortillas which are much smaller than the flour tortillas, I could not possibly fold them. Hence I have used two tortillas for each quesadilla and then cut them into wedges. Being a avocado aficionado, I have used chopped avocados in my stuffing and served the quesadilla with guacamole.

Here is the recipe for my quesadilla.

Servings: 4


Corn Tortillas: 8  ( 2 for each quesadilla )
Onion: 1 small, chopped
Red bell pepper: 1/2,diced small
Orange bell pepper: 1/2, diced small
Yellow bell pepper: 1/2 , diced small
Carrot : 1 small, cut julienne
Cabbage: 1/2 cup shredded
Avocado: 1/2, diced
Spring onion: 2, chopped
Sharp cheddar cheese :2 oz, cut into thin slices
Salt: 1/8 tsp
Pepper: 1/4 tsp
Adobo seasoning: 1 tsp
Olive oil: 1/2 tbsp+ 1 tbsp


In a frying pan, heat 1/2 tbsp oil, sauté onions for a minute on medium heat.

Now add carrots, cabbage, chopped peppers, scallions and sauté for a minute or two.

The vegetables should be crisp and not soggy. Add the adobo seasoning, salt and pepper. Mix well and keep aside.

Heat a skillet/ griddle on medium heat. Smear a little oil/ butter and warm the tortilla on it for 30 seconds on both sides on low flame. The purpose of applying oil/ butter is so that the tortilla does not become crispy. You want the tortilla to be soft and pliable.

Now spread a layer of shredded/ sliced cheese .

Spoon 2 tbsp of the vegetable mixture. 

Top it with 1 tsp of chopped avocados. Top it with another layer of shredded/ sliced cheese.

Place the second tortilla on top of this and with the spatula press lightly. Now gently flip the quesadilla so that the top tortilla is now laying on the skillet. Warm it until the cheese slightly melts .

Now you can cut the quesadilla into wedges on the skillet itself. Transfer to a plate.

Serve hot with guacamole , sour cream , salsa or little bit of all of them.


Cooking made easy:

Make a little extra of the stir-fried veggies and store in the fridge for yummy tacos or noodles for dinner the next day! You could also store just the chopped veggies and make the stir-fry fresh the next evening.

Tip for healthy living:

Drinking a glass of warm water with 1/2 lemon in it first thing in the morning helps detoxify the body . It also helps rejuvenate the liver. 

Food for thought:

Talk less work more. ( Unknown)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Meatless Monday Guacamole My Way

In my household, avocados are a staple! We all love them. We make it a point to have at least one avocado a day. My kids being vegetarian, this is a great source of nutrition, especially of protein and good fats for them. We generally just slice them and have it with as a snack with salt and pepper. But whenever I have avocados that are overripe and mushy and I fear that they will go bad, I make some kind of dip or guacamole. I always experiment with food and try matching different ingredients and see how they turn out. This time I had the avocado that was overripe, I decided to make guacamole but without tomatoes. I have used yogurt an cilantro in here. Here is the recipe for guacamole, my way!

Servings: 6


Avocado : 1 , sliced into 4 pieces
Greek yogurt: 1/4 cup
Green chillies : 1 medium sized
Garlic cloves : 2 small
Hot sauce: 1/4 tsp
Cilantro: 10 sprigs, washed,leaves separated.
Lemon juice: 1 tsp
Olive oil : 3 tbsp
Rock salt : 1/2 tsp
Pepper freshly ground: 1/4 tsp


Put all the above ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined but the avocados are small chunks.

Serve  chilled as dip with chips/ quesadillas/ tacos or even baby carrots!


Cooking made easy:

When you choose avocados to use, make sure they are just ripe. They should not be green and hard and they should not be black and feel mushy to the touch. The right ripeness of the avocado is generally indicated by a nice bottle-green color of the exterior and just a little even softness to touch.

If the avocado is still green, leave it outside at room temperature and it will ripen in a couple of days.

If it is overripe than making a dip is one of the ways to salvage it.

Tip for Healthy living:

Avocados are super fruits which are extremely nutrient-dense. It has tremendous amounts of antioxidants and is rich in good fats which are the mono saturated fats like oleic acid  and are believed to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the body. Avocados are also a very good protein source amongst fruits and vegetables providing on average around 4 grams per avocado. It is low in sugar making it a great food for diabetics. It is s great source of potassium and vitamins B, K, C and E.  It also is a very rich source of dietary fiber. All this makes it great food for our good health.

Food for thought:

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. Buddha

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Green Papaya Salad

I was introduced to this amazing salad by my cousin Seema and her husband Naveen Anna when they were visiting us during the summer of 2012. They are both die-hard foodies and my cousin is a great cook herself! She has this quote " I can never lose weight because I love my own cooking!" I have learnt a few things from her. She is big on aesthetics and presentation. When she chops vegetables, they all have to look a certain way and each one should look like the next one! Anyways, coming back to my salad, during their visit we went to this very nice Thai restaurant Sripraphai and she ordered the raw papaya salad for me. I just fell in love with it! Ever since then I have been wanting to make it. While there are several ways to make it and several recipes for this on the internet, the best I liked is the one on the website Thai food tonight. I followed their recipe with slight tweaking of my own. The traditional green papaya salad also known as Som Tum calls for only fish sauce but I didn't want to overpower the salad with it, hence also used a little bit of soy sauce. I have also used a little bit of olive oil in my dressing. I believe that it gives it a nice taste. The traditional recipe does not call for the addition of any kind of oil. I have added fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. Also the entire salad is made using a mortar and pestle. If you don't have a mortar and pestle you could finely chop the garlic and chilly and lightly pound the ingredients on your cutting board and then mix it in a mixing bowl. You can find the original recipe here.

Servings: 6


Green papaya: 1 medium
Tomatoes: 1 medium sliced lengthwise
Green chillies: 2-3 medium
Garlic: 2 cloves, medium sized, peeled.
Jaggery: 1 tbsp
Lime juice: from 1 lime
Fish sauce: 2-3tbsp
Olive oil: 2tbsp
Soy sauce: 1tbsp
Green beans( string beans): 1 cup chopped into 1 inch pieces.
Roasted Peanuts: 1/2 cup crushed lightly
Cilantro leaves: 1 tbsp chopped
Mint leaves: 1 tbsp chopped


Peel the papaya and shred it.Discard the inner core with seeds.

Keep the shredded papaya aside.

Boil 2 cups of water with 1 tsp salt. Add the chopped beans and let it cook for 3-4 minutes. Strain and keep aside.

In a mortar, lightly crush the garlic and the green chillies.

Now add the sliced tomatoes, jaggery and crush them lightly. Now add the shredded papaya and lightly pound it. 

Take it in a bowl. Mix in the fish sauce, soy sauce, olive oil, lime juice, cilantro and mint.

Garnish with steamed green beans and roasted chopped peanuts.


Note:Make sure that the papaya is green and raw. If it is even a little yellow/ripe, the taste of the entire salad changes!

Cooking made easy:

Use different cutting boards for your vegetables and meat/fish. You can even color code them. I have a wooden one for my veggies and a plastic one for fish/meat. Doing this helps prevent cross-contamination.

Tip for healthy living:

Papayas are fruits that are extremely nutrient-dense. The Mayans apparently worshipped the papaya tree as their sacred " Tree of Life". Both raw and ripe papayas have been found to be beneficial for good health. Papayas are rich in antioxidants, vitamins A & C and have an enzyme called papain. Papain helps breakdown proteins and aid in their digestion and thereby the health of our gut. It is also purported to have significant anti inflammatory properties thereby of great benefit in chronic inflammatory conditions and joint pain.

Food for thought:

If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all. ( Unknown).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Butterfly Chocolate Cake

It was my neighbor's daughter's 7th birthday last week. I was home that day as I had conjunctivitis and was not allowed to go to work. I had originally not planned on baking a cake. But since I was home, I decided to make a pink butterfly chocolate cake as a surprise for Poonam. Poonam is all that little girls should be! She loves chocolate cake, she loves butterflies and she loves the color pink! I have been wanting to try this butterfly cake for a while now ever since a fellow CAL member posted hers on the wall! I also wanted to make some cupcakes and a cake for another weekend project. This was the perfect "two birds with one stone "deal. The inspiration for the chocolate cake was from on of my favorite foodies Amrita Gill. It was Amrita's recipe with little bit of my modifications. You can find the original recipe here. It was easy to make and the chocolate cake came out delicious! I had doubled the recipe as I baked a 10 inch,9 inch, 6 inch cakes and a dozen cupcakes!

Servings: 6


All purpose flour: 1 3/4 cups
Powdered sugar: 1 1/2 cups
Nestle chocolate milk powder: 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder: 1/4 cup
Baking powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Baking soda : 1 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Eggs: 2 large
Oil : 1/2 cup
Milk : 1 cup
Vanilla essence : 1 tsp
Boiling water 1/2 cup


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

Grease and prepare one 9 inch round cake pan and a 6 inch round cake pan and keep aside.

In a bowl mix together all the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nestle chocolate milk powder, cocoa powder and keep aside. Make sure you mix well.

In another bowl, beat 2 eggs until frothy. Add the oil, milk, vanilla essence and beat well.

Now slowly and gently  mix the dry ingredients into the wet little by little in 2-3 batches. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet. Do not overmix. Add the boiling water and gently mix.

Pour the batter into the prepare pans until 1/2 full. Gently tap the pan on the counter to let out any air bubble.

Place the pans on the center rack and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

Let it cool for 10-15 minutes before removing it out of the pans. To remove it from the pan, gently run a knife along the sides to loosen it. Then invert it on a cake board or wire rack. Now if there is a dome on top of the cake gently level it with a knife. Let the cake cool for another 15-20 mins on the wire rack.

With a knife or thread, cut the cake into half. Then cut each half again into two equal pieces until you have 4 equal pieces.

Invert 2 of the pieces on top of each other with a layer if frosting in between. Pretty much like a sandwich. Now on a cake board, arrange the 4 pieces( 2 sandwich like pieces from each cake) to form the shape of the wings of a butterfly a shown in the picture.Place a chocolate wafer in the middle to depict the body of the butterfly. Now ice the top and the sides of the cake and decorate it with M & Ms.

The butterfly is ready! Enjoy!

Note: to make cupcakes, place cupcake liners in the cupcake pan and fill the mould until half full. Bake for 11-14 mins. Let it cool down for 15-20 mins before icing it.


Cooking made easy:

No cake is ever level.Use a serrated knife or a cake leveler to level the cake.

Always place the leveled side on the cake board and the smooth side on the top to be iced.

A piece of thread or floss is perfect to cut a cake into 2 equal halves or to slice it equally and smoothly.

Tip for healthy living:

For good healthy hair, warm a little coconut oil and massage it into the scalp. Leave it on for 30-mins to one hour and then wash your hair. .Oil massage increases the blood supply to the scalp and stimulates the hair follicles resulting in increased hair growth. Do this once a week for lustrous,shiny, healthy hair.

Oil massage of the head is also believed to cool the body, relieve headaches and stress.

Food for thought:

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present. Buddha