Friday, July 31, 2015

Caribbean Black Bean Corn Mango Salad

Summer for me is synonymous with salads. Being that it is so hot, one doesn't feel like either cooking hot food or eating hot food. Salads are cooling and easy to rustle up. They are also perfect for picnics and lunches. It also contributes towards the much needed vegetables during barbecues!

Here is a salad that holds itself well if you are traveling. You can also make it ahead of time if you are having a party. It is simple and easy to make and appeals to even those who don't like the regular green salads.This recipe is from my sister-in-law, Sucheta Pai. Angie and my friends at Fiesta Friday, do let me know your thoughts on this salad. I am sure you guys will enjoy this in this heat wave that we are experiencing right now! Loretta@Safari of the mind and Jess@ Cooking is my sport are co-hosting this week's Fiesta!

Announcement: I am calling for guest posts from all my fellow bloggers out there to be posted during the end of August and Fall. I am currently going through some big life event changes and will not have too much time to write posts. I would however like to keep my blog active. That is why I am inviting guest posts. The criteria for these posts is that they should go along the theme of my blog which means it has to be simple, easy to make and healthy. No calorie laden recipes, no meat recipes please. If anyone is interested please email me at All recipes will be posted in the order that I receive them. 

Servings: 6-8


Black beans: One 8 oz can
Whole kernel corn: One 8 oz can
Mango: 1 medium-sized, slightly ripe, peeled and diced.
Red bell pepper: 1/2 medium sized one, diced small.
Green bell pepper: 1/2 medium- sized one, diced small.
Yellow/orange bell pepper: 1/2 medium-sized one, diced small.
Scallions ( spring onion):3-4 nos, chopped fine
Onion: 1 small, diced.( I used white onion, any onion can be used)
Black pepper powder: 1/2 tsp, freshly ground.
Salt: to taste
Lemon juice:2 tbsp ( from one medium sized lemon)
Olive oil:6 tbsp
Hot sauce: 1/2 tsp
Honey: 1/4 tsp
Cilantro, chopped: 2 tbsp
Toasted walnut pieces:2 tbsp ( optional) for garnish.


Rinse the beans and corn thoroughly and drain it completely. Take this in a salad bowl. To this add the chopped peppers,chopped onion, scallions, mango pieces, cilantro( coriander leaves) and mix well.

Add the salt , pepper , hot sauce, honey olive oil and lemon juice to a small jar and shake well.Add this to the above bowl and toss so that the ingredients are all well mixed. 

Garnish with chopped toasted walnut pieces.

Serve cold. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

You will definitely go back for more!!


Cooking made easy:

One of the tricks to ensure well cooked tender beans is to soak it for at least 6-8 hours in water with a pinch of baking soda and then cook them.

Tip for healthy living:

Here is one of the easy home remedies purported to cure dandruff: apply lime/lemon juice to the scalp. Leave it for 15 minutes-20 minutes and rinse thoroughly. Do this at least once a week for 2-4 weeks.

Food for thought:

Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem. John Galsworthy

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Avocado Cheese Burger & Wrap; One Recipe, Two Options. Kids-friendly DFT

My kids are little. They are 3 and 6 year old.Their palates are still evolving. Which means that they are very picky . They will only eat what appeals to them and what tastes good. There is no rationalizing saying " it is good for you". If it does not taste good, they will not eat it!

Happy Kids! Happy Mamas! Team DFT is bringing the kids’ friendly sandwiches, subs, rolls and wraps this week.

Creating Recipes with a Cause!

I am a proud DFT blogger. 

To learn about DFT, read this link

To view more DFT recipes, Click here!

When team DFT decided to make this week's theme " kids-friendly DFT" so that kids with diabetes can benefit from these recipes, I was determined to make something that kids would actually eat and something that was easy to make over and over again. I also used my kids as guinea pigs. I figured that if they would eat it, most kids would. Both my kids like cheese ( but they are picky about which cheeses they like!), and they both eat avocado on a regular basis. They both eat rotis(chapati) and bread. The only new thing that I introduced this time was red lettuce, which I must confess wasn't that well received. On the positive note, they enjoyed both the burger and the wrap!! I was very surprised as my daughter usually likes the roti plain with just lots of cream cheese on top and made into a wrap/roll. She will eat the avocado on the side, but this time she ate it together. You see, she does not like too many textures at the same time!!

I have used ingredients in their natural form as much as possible, thereby avoiding anything processed or ready made. This is a no-cook recipe. I have used home-made whole wheat 6- inch chapati/roti for the wrap. You may therefore see some cracks or experience some cracking of the roti while rolling it. It is okay. I have provided the option of the burger for those who cannot make rotis or don't have it handy. The bun used for the burger is whole wheat bun with sesame seeds from Trader Joe. Each bun has only 110 calories.

I have only used a pinch of salt, pepper and a little bit of lemon juice for flavor. No mayonnaise, no dip/dressing of any kind has been used. The cheeses used are low fat variety. I have used low fat Swiss cheese spread ( laughing cow) and low fat shredded mozzarella cheese.The cheeses too, I haven't added too much. 1 tsp cream cheese for spreading and 1/2 tbsp shredded cheese on top of the avocado. Be careful when you add salt as the cheeses already have salt in them.

So here we go:

Servings: 1 ( makes one wrap or burger)Serving size: one wrap/ burger per person.


6- inch chapati/roti/tortilla: 1 ( use corn tortilla to make it gluten-free)
1 small whole wheat sesame bun.

Avocado: 1 quarter of one small avocado, chopped into bite-size pieces.( approximately 1 tbsp, heaped).
Lettuce: 2-3 small leaves ( I have used red lettuce)
Low fat swiss cheese spread : 1/2 of one laughing cow wedge.
Low fat mozzarella shredded cheese: 1/2 tablespoon
Lemon juice: 1/4 tsp
Salt: a tiny pinch
Pepper powder: a tiny pinch


Take the chopped avocado in a bowl. Add salt, pepper powder and lemon juice to it. Mix well and keep aside.

Spread the cream cheese on one side of the chapati/ roti or on the inside of the lower half of the bun.

Now layer the lettuce on the cream cheese, then spread the avocados and lastly top it with the shredded cheese. This step is the same for the wrap and the burger.

Now for the roti/chapati/tortilla, place a small strip of wax paper at the bottom 1/4 of the roti in such a manner the the wax paper is folded at the bottom and does not expose the edge of the roti/chapati/tortilla. Slowly wrap it so that the edges of the roti are overlapping each other. Secure it with a toothpick.

For the burger, just top it with the top half of the bun and secure it with a toothpick.

It is ready to be served!

It is great for lunch box and for picnics!!

Enjoy. I am bringing this to my friend Angie's Fiesta Friday #78

Cooking made easy:

Every individual including kids have different tastes. Based upon your child's tastes, the above recipe can be easily modified.

You could add a little olive oil to the chopped avocados  along with salt and pepper. You can also mix 1/4 tsp mayonnaise.( Caution: any dressing that you use adds to the calories!!). An healthier option would be to use peanut chutney or coriander chutney as dressing.

Instead of using chopped avocados you can use guacamole in this wrap.

You can also layer the wrap/ burger with slices of tomatoes and cucumber based on your child's age and taste.

Footnotes( Tip for healthy living):

The primary ingredient in the wrap/ burger is whole wheat. I have previously discussed at length regarding the health benefits of whole wheat over white flour/all purpose flour/maida. You can read it in the footnotes section here.

Avocado is another main ingredient in this recipe. Avocado is a superfood. It provides the body with nearly 20 important vitamins and minerals in each serving. It is a great source of heart-healthy fats.It is a good source of vitamin B, C & E.It is low in sugar, rich in dietary fiber and maintains the blood sugar levels steady for a long time therefore making it one of the choice foods for diabetics.

Low fat cheese in controlled portions is an excellent source of protein and calcium for diabetics. You can find more detailed information in the references cited below.

Lettuce adds bulk to the meal and much needed dietary fiber.It is a calorie free food. I chose the red ones over green as they have a little more nutritional value as compared to their green counterparts.

Disclaimer:I am not a nutritionist or dietitian. My knowledge and information is based on my research and reading from different resources. Please consult your doctor or dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

Other Kids’ Friendly Sandwiches and Rolls by DFT Team!

Food for thought:

Anything unattempted remains impossible. Unknown

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dill Dal Fry; my experiments with Dill; Meatless Monday

While I have always known that there exists an herb Dill, I haven't ever cooked it. This is because where I am from which is Southern India, dill is not something that is available or cooked. I know that a lot of Maharashtrians and some North Indians cook it on a regular basis. It is called Sheppu bhaji in Marathi. While I was at the Farmer's market the other day, I came across this bunch of dill that was being sold at an extremely economical price. I couldn't resist. I decided to try it. I reached out to my cousin Usha, who is an excellent cook herself. She suggested this recipe that I bring to you all today. The main ingredients are Split chick peas and dill which have been cooked with cumin, coriander powder and chilli powder. I must say, it came out delicious! It is a very simple and easy to make dish, perfect for a weeknight dinner. You can pair it with roti/flatbed/ bread or rice.

I had also reached out to several of my friends on the Facebook foodie groups and received numerous suggestions to prepare dishes that use dill. One of them was using them in kadhi, which i made in kadhi with dill. Another was seasoning fish with it, which I did in my Fish Dum Biryani. Third was using it with rice in pulao, which again I experimented with in my Fish Dum Biryani. There are many more recipes that use dill that I want to try ! So watch this space in the coming days. It is amazing how many things can be made with dill!! 

Servings : 2-3 ( one cup each)


Chana dal (Split chick peas): 1 cup
Dill: 2 cups, leaves only
Coconut oil: 1 tsp
Onion: one small, chopped fine.
Ginger: 1 inch piece, chopped fine.
Garlic: 3 medium cloves, chopped fine.
Green chillies: 2, chopped fine
Haldi ( turmeric powder): 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder: 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder: 1/4 tsp
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Water : 2 cups
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1/4 tsp


Wash Chana dal and soak it in water for atleast 3-4 hours.

In a pot cook the Chana dal with water. As it boils, you see scum appear on top. Discard this scum. When the dal is half cooked (around 8-10 minutes), turn off the flame and keep aside.

In a sauté pan, heat 1 tsp oil. Add chopped garlic, ginger and sauté for a few seconds. 

Add the chopped onions, green chillies and sauté until the onions turn slightly  golden brown. 

Add cumin and coriander powders, red chilli powder and sauté for 30 seconds.

Now add the cooked dal, salt, sugar, dill leaves and cook on low flame until the dal is tender. Do not overcook the dal.

Serve hot with rice/roti/ bread.

Dill dal fry served with rice, ussal and kale stirfry.


Cooking made easy:

This recipe can be made with pretty much any kind of lentils. Just be mindful of the cooking time as some lentils cook faster than others and some lentils do not require soaking.

The rationale behind combining lentils with dill is not only to make it protein-rich but to add bulk to the dish. Dill when cooked reduces significantly in quantity.

Dill is a very strong herb. A little goes a long way. Some may not like the taste of it. So if you are new to it, start by using a little in your dish.

Tip for healthy living:

Dill is a very potent herb. A little bit goes a long way. It belongs to the same family as parsley, cumin and bay leaf. It is a great source of calcium, manganese, iron and flavonoids known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-viral properties. Dill has strong anti-microbial properties. Dill has been purported to regulate insulin levels in diabetics and also help reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels thereby being heart-healthy too. Dill also is great for digestive issues as it has anti-spasmodic properties. Dill is might help stabilize irregular menstrual cycles and help promote fertility in women. 

Food for thought:

It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help. Epicurus

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rawas/Surmai ( Salmon/Kingfish) Dum Biryani with Dill; Diabetes Friendly Thursday Eid Special.

Would you call me a liar if I were to tell you that I can make Biryani using only ONE teaspoon oil??? Well, the proof is here. Why don't you try this recipe for yourself and see how it turns out?? You don't need your food to be oozing oodles of oil for it to be tasty. This is something that was ingrained in me at a very young age by my mother. She managed an entire month with only 1/2 liter oil!! This included making the occasional fried items too.. Cooking healthy and eating healthy is a mind thing. You have to retrain your mind to "think healthy". This is what we at Team DFT do. We think healthy, we cook healthy and we want to promote this amongst everyone that we come across. It has to be a paradigm shift.

This week is Eid for our Muslim brothers and sisters. In their honor, Team DFT is bringing to you a variety of healthy, delicious  biryanis and pulaos that you can make and enjoy in your homes. 

Creating Recipes with a Cause!
I am a proud DFT blogger. 

To learn about DFT, read this link

To view more DFT recipes, Click here!

Being a diabetic does not mean that you cannot eat carbohydrates ( rice )at all! You just have to be mindful of what you eat and how much you eat. Diabetes educator Emmy Suhl of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston states " there is no such thing as a diabetes diet." The best diet for someone with diabetes is your basic, healthy diet." Just swap unhealthy food with healthy foods. Fill your plate up with non-starchy vegetables and a small portion of rice the way I have done in this plate with the biryani. This way you would have satisfied your palate and your stomach. I promise you that you will not walk away hungry!!

Without further ado, let me tell you about this Fish Dum Biryani that I have made today and what I did to make it healthy. The basic recipe for this is courtesy one of my very talented cousins, Seema. Seema is an excellent cook. I love her food. I have modified her recipe to make it even healthier. I have used parboiled basmati rice instead of regular basmati rice. 

Parboiled basmati rice is less processed, has more nutritional value and gives a better yield per cup of uncooked rice with 3 cups for each cup of uncooked rice as compared to 2 cups cooked rice per cup of uncooked regular basmati rice. The base for this Biryani is cilantro( coriander leaves), mint leaves, green chillies, ginger and garlic. I added dill to this which and the Biryani even more flavorful and added additional dietary fiber and nutrients. Coming to the fish, I usually make this with kingfish steaks only. The reason being that Kingfish steaks don't disintegrate. They hold themselves upon cooking. This time however, I decided to make it healthier by also using Salmon ( Rawas) steaks. Salmon as we all know is extremely nutrient dense. I have broiled the fish instead of searing them in oil. Last but not the least, the biggest change I made to make this Biryani healthy is baking the onion slices in the oven to make them crispy instead of deep frying them!! This was something I have been wanting to experiment with for a long time now. I tried by baking little bit of red onions and little bit of white onions to see which one fairs better. I found that the red onions gave better results. The only oil I used is 1 tsp oil to sauté onions, tomato and the green masala. I also wanted to make this recipe such that it is simple and easy to make. I think I have accomplished that. I have therefore given options to accomplish the different steps in the recipe in a healthy manner.  Please do share your thoughts and opinions.


Servings: 6-9 people ( Serving size: 1 small fish steak served with 1 cup biryani rice).



For marination:
Fish steaks:  6-8 small steaks ( if big pieces, use 3-4, about 600 grams). I have used a mix of Kingfish( Surmai) and Salmon( Rawas).
Salt: 1 tsp
Black pepper powder: 1/2 tsp
Lemon juice: from 1 small lemon.

For grinding:
Coriander leaves( cilantro): 1 small bunch, leaves plucked and separated.
Mint leaves: 1/2 cup
Green chillies: 6 medium sized ( you can adjust based on your spice levels).
Ginger: 1 inch piece, chopped
Garlic: 4-6 medium cloves, chopped
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Water : 1 cup

For the curry:
Cooking oil : 1 tsp
Onion: 1 medium, chopped
Tomato: 1 small, chopped
Dill leaves: 1 cup
Cinnamon stick: 1 one inch piece
Garam masala: 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Water: 1 cup

For the Biryani rice:
Water: 12 cups
Parboiled basmati rice: 3 cups
Cinnamon stick: 1 one inch piece
Cloves: 3 nos
Cardamom: 3 nos
Bay leaf: 1 medium-sized
Saffron threads: 3-4 nos
Fried ( baked)onions: 1/2 cup, for garnish  ( optional)



1. Wash the basmati rice thoroughly, soak it in water for 1 hour. Drain and keep aside.

2. While the basmati rice is being soaked, wash the fish slices, marinate with salt, black pepper and lemon juice for minimum of 15 mins.

3. Preheat the oven at 450 deg F .Slice one large onion thinly. Spread it on a baking sheet and place it in the middle rack of the oven.

Bake for approximately 20 mins or until golden brown, flipping the onions once in between . Do not let them char as the onion will then taste bitter. ( If you do not have an oven, you can skip this step entirely!)

4.Grind together all the ingredients listed under" for grinding" to a smooth paste and keep aside.

5. Arrange the fish in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil the fish 2 mins on each side. Do not cook the fish completely. ( If you do not have the option of broiling you can sear the fish on both sides on a tawa ( skillet/griddle) . Keep aside.

6. Bring 12-15 cups water to a boil. Add to it the soaked and drained basmati rice , salt, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and salt. Cook until the rice is Al-dente, around 10 mins. Turn off the flame, drain the rice completely. Now mix in the saffron threads. Keep aside.

7.In a sauté pan, heat one teaspoon oil. Add chopped onions and sauté until they turn slightly golden.

Add the chopped tomatoes, and sauté until they are wilted. 

Add garam masala powder and sauté for a couple of seconds. Now add the ground paste, dill leaves and let it cook for 2-3 mins.

Add in the grilled fish slices, water and cook until the fish is completely cooked. Turn off the flame.

8. In an earthen pot/ regular pot layer the fish curry and the rice, starting with the fish curry and ending with the rice.

Top it with fried onions( optional) and some sprigs of dill or coriander leaves.


9. Cover the pot with a piece of aluminum Foil, sealing the edges. Place the lid of the handi( pot) on top.

10.Now place this handi on a tawa ( griddle) and let it cook for 15 mins on very low flame.

11. Just before serving, mix it gently. The fish pieces may break.

12. Serve hot with raita, onion slices and any other salad of your choice. I have served with cucumber raita , cabbage-red radish slaw and slices of cucumber and onion.



Cooking made easy:

The process of Dum is entirely optional. If you don't want to be bothered, just layer the fish curry an rice , garnish with fried onions, dill/ cilantro and serve hot with raita/ salad of your choice. It will still taste delicious.

The other options of making Dum Biryani is by placing the pot in the oven and baking it for 15-20 mins at 350 deg F.

There is another easy way of doing Dum Biryani. I call it the modern way. Just layer the fish curry and rice in an electric rice cooker, garnish it with fried onions and press " cook" button on the rice cooker. Comes out perfect!


Footnotes ( Tip for healthy living):

Now let us look at the health benefits of some of the key ingredients used in this Biryani. First and foremost is parboiled rice. Parboiled rice has a lower GI of 38 compared to white basmati rice which has a GI of 52 and regular white rice has a GI of 89 and therefore prevents blood sugar spikes. Parboiled rice has also been found to have less starch, more fiber, calcium, potassium, Vit B-6 than regular white rice and is gentle on the digestive system. Read the references for further information.

We all know that Salmon is great for our health as it is one of the best sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Quite often people with diabetes suffer from other co-morbidities like high blood pressure, heart problems and obesity. Omega-3 fatty acids are supposed to promote better functioning of the cardio-vascular system. You can find more information about all the health benefits of salmon in the references cited below.

Dill is a very potent herb. A little bit goes a long way. It belongs to the same family as parsley, cumin and bay leaf. It is a great source of calcium, manganese, iron and flavonoids known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-viral properties. Dill has strong anti-microbial properties. Dill has been purported to regulate insulin levels in diabetics and also help reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels thereby being heart-healthy too. Dill also is great for digestive issues as it has anti-spasmodic properties. Dill is might help stabilize irregular menstrual cycles and help promote fertility in women. You can read more in references below.


I am not a nutritionist or dietitian. My knowledge and information is based on my research and reading from different resources. Please consult your doctor or dietitian before making any changes to your diet.


Go ahead , indulge and celebrate with all these other Biryanis & Pulaos from team DFT!

Shailja: Shrimp Biryani 

Food for thought:

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. Unknown