Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Healthy Snacking | Lunch Box Series

My parents leave home at regular government office timings. Living in a not-so-crowded place like Mysore, they can afford to dwell on the newspaper with a cup of tea and biscuits, then have a leisurely breakfast everyday. Yours truly is rushed most of the time, having to leave early to work. Does not mean i skip breakfast. I wonder how people sustain without it! There are so many people i know who do not eat a full breakfast. A cup of tea, a piece of cake, some fruit are some of the replies i get when i ask them what they normally eat before getting to work. I would feel really giddy and tired if i was in their place. Maybe my body is conditioned like that.
But the problem with eating an early breakfast is that at around 10 o clock, the stomach starts rumbling. In keeping with eating 6 small meals a day, it certainly is a good habit to feed the stomach something filling and healthy at that time, to sustain until lunch.
I normally carry cut fruits or some salad to munch on as a morning snack. It is loaded with fiber, is filling and loaded with nutrients! Here are some healthy snacking ideas. It will take you about ten minutes in the morning to put it together. Just make it a habit to soak pulses twice a week- green gram, channa, horse gram- anything that you like! Or else, buy lots of vegetables during the weekly grocery that are high in water content. It's that simple!

Diced english cucumber, red bell peppers, boiled sweet corn, coriander leaves with a lime juice +olive oil+salt+chili flakes dressing.

Go the South Indian way. Tadka of mustard, curry leaves, green chili and hing. Simply add pressure cooked sprouts with salt. Toss and carry. High on protein and great to taste!

Want to eat sprouts in a more healthy way? Have them raw. Make the salad interesting with cucumber, tomato, pomegranate, salt and pepper. Add a dash of lime to finish it off.
So you see, it is really simple to make something to carry along for that odd time hunger pang. Next time you feel like reaching out for that biscuit packet at the supermarket to carry as snack, stop yourself and try making something like this. Sure to save you some calories for the day! ;)


Adding salt does make the veggies leave out water. So go slightly easy on the salt when carrying these for the box.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mint Pasta | Lunch Box Series

So like i have written before, since pasta is simple to make and is packed with vegetables, good fat and flavors, it makes a weekly appearance in the lunch box. It is a one pot meal that i can never tire of. Each week it is a different shape and a different sauce.
This week, there was mint in the fridge, left over after making mint chutney. There was the spiralli pasta and some assorted vegetables.
Short of other ideas for the dabba, it was decided that the next day would be the "pasta day". I have never really put too much thought at the measures of ingredients that go into the pasta. It was a learning by trial and error and i continue to cook the same way. I tried to keep a track of what all goes in and in how much quantity in order to write out the recipe. Difficulty level is medium. Anybody who is quick with the knife and can taste and adjust flavors can make decent pasta! And trust me you, once you start making it by yourself, you would never shell out that crazy amount in the restaurants for a single serving of pasta!

Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
Cooking Time: 20 Minutes


1 1/2 cups Pasta of your choice
Water to boil the pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 capsicum, finely chopped
5-6 baby corns, sliced into rounds
1 large carrot, cubed
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cream
1 tbsp cheese spread
1 tsp Pasta Seasoning/ Oregano

For the sauce:

3 large tomatoes
1/2 cup of mint leaves
5-6 pods of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste


Bring a pot with sufficient water to boil. Add a tsp of salt and a tsp of oil to it. Into the boiling water, add the pasta. Cover, and cook.
On the side, chop and microwave the vegetables that need cooking- the carrot and baby corn here with some water and salt for two mins.

While they are cooking, place the ingredients for the sauce in a mixer and grind well.

Stir the pasta in between and keep checking to see if done. It should be cooked al dente. Takes about 10-15 minutes depending on the brand. Check the instructions on the pack to get a better idea.
Strain it through a colander. Save about half cup of pasta water. Now run cold water on the colander.

In a pan, heat some olive oil and add the chopped capsicum. Fry. By then, the vegetables should be done in the microwave. Add the veggies to the capsicum and stir.

Now add the prepared sauce into the vegetables. Cover and cook for a minute or two. Add the cream and the cheese. I used the Britania Mexican Chilly spread here. While adding salt in any step, be mindful of the salt in the cheese. You can add more cheese if you want a richer, creamier pasta.
Stir in the pasta into it and gently toss, without breaking the pasta.
Add the pasta water to get some more sauce into the pasta. You could add some skimmed milk too. Toss well.
Top with some oregano or the seasoning that comes along with the pizzas, in case you have any.
Serve hot, or pack it for the dabba. I like it both hot and cold!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Semolina Cake | Rava Cake

I have been doing baking for quite some time now. But almost always, something or the other is off. Most recipes that i refer do not mention if they have made it in a convection oven or the combination one that is the staple in most homes these days.
So its either a temperature issue- the top browning too quickly without the center cooking, or that the time taken varies, or finding that perfect substitute for eggs, or to measure exactly half of the 135 grams of flour that the original recipe calls for :). 
The rava cake is something that i have eaten  at a neighbor's party. The hostess gladly gave me the recipe. I religiously noted it down, only to find that most measures in the recipe are 3/4 cup measures. Since i wanted a smaller cake, i tried halving the quantity without much luck. The cake did not cook evenly, though it tasted great in parts that it had cooked. 
So after some more research for eggless versions of the Semolina Cake, i found the recipe on Bawarchi.

I halved the quantities, and got a decently good cake. So here goes my first "dessert baking" post.

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Baking Time: 25 Minutes

Dry Ingredients:

1/2 cup Rava/Semolina
1/4 cup wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
2 tbsp of dried coconut- chopped into small bits
1/2 cup powdered sugar 
2 pods cardamom, powdered

Wet Ingredients:

1/4 cup Yoghurt/curd
1/4 cup milk, additional if need be
1/4 cup neutral oil


In a mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients. I did not really go through the drill of sieving, for want of time. 

Now whisk together the wet ingredients.

Start the oven and preheat it to 150 degrees. While it heats up, in a big bowl, add in the dry and wet ingredients little by little and whisk in one direction ( Don't ask me why, i saw Rachel Allen doing it :) ) 
Once they are completely mixed, adjust the consistency to pouring consistency by adding some extra milk if needed. Taste the batter and adjust the sugar. 

Grease and dust a 6" cake tin and pour. 

Bake for 20 minutes at 150. Check if done by inserting a toothpick. After 20 mins, crank up the heat to 160 and bake for another 5 mins. 

Remove and let it cool.

Transfer into a plate. 

Slice and serve, maybe with an icing sugar dusting if you like :)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dessert Pizza

Ok. So this is another quickie. I had tasted it in Pizza Corner a long time ago. Did not really see it on their menu afterwards. A sweet pizza, with a generous amount of chocolate sauce and banana and pinapple topping. When i spotted the wheat pizza base at MK retail, i was suddenly reminded of the sweet pizza and wanted to try it out. After a couple of sms exchanges with my friend about a similar recipe made during her childhood, i set out to make this really simple dish.

Preparation Time: 10 Mins
Cooking Time: 10 Mins
Serves 2


One medium pizza base, i used the wheat base
2 small bananas cut into rounds, i used elakki
2 tbsp raisins, i used the black color variety
2 tbsp roasted melon seeds
1 tsp unsalted butter

For the sauce:

1 tsp butter
4 tbsp milk
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder, i used cadbury
a large pinch of cinnamon powder


Mix together the ingredients meant for the sauce in a bowl.
Place the pizza base on a hot tava with a tsp of  butter on it. Let the bottom of the base crisp up and brown.

Now spread the sauce on the pizza. Arrange the toppings on the sauce. Drizzle with melon seeds. Brush with some melted butter. Grill it in the microwave for 8-10 mins.

Remove and serve hot with chocolate sauce. Drizzle some honey on top for extra sweetness.


You could add pineapple chunks similarly.
Maybe some crushed peanuts?
And maybe some vanilla ice cream on the side :) 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Aloo Palak | Lunch Box Series

Lunch box normally comprises 3 rotis and a side dish and a box of curd rice. Side dish is a dal with veggies or some fried sprouts or a vegetables cooked with a gravy. Last week, i decided to take a short cut and cook palak with aloo. Adding potato to anything makes it instantly tasty! Its not really great for the stomach, but once in a way chaltaa hai :)
One more advantage of making a potato dish is that it cooks really easily and all the flavors are absorbed really well into it.
So here goes a really easy side dish for the lunch box. I decided to put together the lunch dabba dishes under the tag,  Lunch Box Series.

Preparation Time: 15 Minutes
Cooking Times:    10 Minutes


3 large potatoes, cut into large pieces
2 bunches of palak, washed and clean
1 small onion cut into thin slices
1 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Jeera
1 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of hing
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp of red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Chat Masala to taste (optional)
1 tsp Lemon Juice (optional)


Place the chopped potatoes in a pressure cooker, with some salt and water and pressure cook until one whistle. While that is cooking, chop the greens and onions. In a pan, add the oil. Once it heats up, add mustard, jeera, turmeric powder and hing.

Once the jeera starts browning, add to it the sliced onions, garlic and ginger.

Once the onion turns pink, add to this the chopped spinach. Fry it until it just about wilts. Now add to this the cumin powder, coriander powder, salt and chilli powder.

Stir for 2-3 minutes. It doesn't need to be cooked for too long. All you need to do now is to add the cooked potatoes to this mixture!

Mix gently depending on how much your potatoes have cooked. Make sure that the palak leaves are not bunched up together but are mixed well with the potatoes. Sprinkle some water to this and cover and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. This will ensure that the masala that is in the palak will stick to the potatoes.
Turn off the heat. Add some lemon juice or chat masala on top as per your taste. Serve hot with rotis.

Carry it in your dabba, heat it up just before eating and enjoy hot aloo with rotis. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Poha | Quick Breakfast

Not everyday do you get sufficient time to make dosa or rotis for breakfast. On days when you are in a rush or short of options, there are plenty of alternatives for breakfast. One of my most favorite options is the avil/ avalakki or poha. At home, we normally make it with a heavy lemon flavoring or a tamarind based like puliyodharai. Otherwise plain and simple with a tadka and lots of grated coconut. But i really like the maharashtrian way of making it- with potatoes.  I had some leftover corn kernels. So i decided to throw that in for a good measure along with the potatoes. Adding peanuts makes sure that you have a really crunchy poha.
What's more, if you try it the way i tried, it gets done fast, is great to taste and filling too.

Preparation Time: 5 Mins
Cooking Time : 10 Mins 


1 cup of Beaten Rice , i used the thin variety
1 potato, chopped into thin pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp Mustard
1 tsp Jeera
A pinch of hing
A handful of corn kernels
3 green chillies, slit
3-4 curry leaves
A few sprigs of coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp channa dal
2 tbsp peanuts
Salt to taste
Lemon for extra zing
1 tbsp oil


Wash and slice the potatoes into small thin pieces. Add the corn kernels to it, some salt, sprinkle some water and microwave for 2 minutes.
In a pan, add some oil. Once it heats up, add mustard. When it starts spluttering, add the jeera, hing, channa dal, curry leaves and peanuts.

Once they start browning, add the chillies and the onions. Add some salt to taste. Allow it to fry.
At this point, depending on how thick your beaten rice is, you will have to wash or soak it. I use the thin variety- the paper avil.

So all i needed to do is to put it in a colander run it under the tap. If you are using the slightly thicker variety, do soak it for a couple of minutes before using. It takes some trial and error to figure out the optimum soaking or washing time for the beaten rice. I have ended up with white color lumps at times when i have over washed :)
Once the beaten rice is moist, add it along with the potatoes and corn into the skillet. I turn off the heat here and leave it to cool for a few minutes. Mixing the really wet beaten rice along with the hot aloo with make the poha mushy. Once it cools down, add some salt and toss it well so that all the ingredients get mixed well.
Top it with some lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves. If you want some more flavor, add half a tsp of sugar to it and mix well.
Serve hot!

Foxtail Millet with Jaggery

I thought a while whether i could call the recipe a pongal. But it was not really a pongal. So i said i would just go with Foxtail Millet and jaggery, cause that is all this simple dish needs.

A friend got a small packet of foxtail millet for me from an organic food store. Unfortunately, it had the husk intact and i could not really make much out of it. I spotted the millets at an organic store in Mysore later and picked a packet up at once. When i got back home to proudly show the mother a new millet discovery, she stumped me by saying that it is called Korai/ korra biyyam and used to be used much in the olden days.
After doing some research, i saw that it was cooked a lot like rava or broken wheat. I was sure that i wanted to make a sweet dish out of it, cause it has the kind of mild sweetness that ragi has.
The recipe is really simple, needs minimum ingredients and gets done super easy.

Preparation Time  10 Mins
Cooking Time       20 Mins


Foxtail Millet/ Korra Biyyam     1/2 cup
Ghee                                        1 1/2 tbsp
Grated Jaggery                         1/4th cup, increase as per taste.
Dry coconut/ kopra                  1/4 cup, chopped into tooth size bits


I just added the millet into the rice cooker and poured twice the amount of water and allowed it to cook.
Once done, transfer into a microwave safe bowl, add to it the jaggery shavings and a tbsp of ghee.
Microwave on high for two mins. That is about how long it takes for the jaggery to melt. Mix well so that the liquid jaggery comes together well with the millet and also lends it its color. Fry the dry coconut in the remaining ghee and add it to the mixture.
It makes for a good 11 o clock snack or a light after meal snack when you crave for "something sweet". Pack it in a dabba and carry it as a sureshot solution for that odd timing hunger pang.

I thought i could also try a slightly richer version with some more ghee, cardamom and nuts and make it as a prasadam for any festival. Light, flavorful, easy to make, healthy and a welcome change from the regular grains!