Chutney Podi (Spiced Lentil Powder)

I was born and brought up in Gujarat. Growing up eating Gujarati homemade delicacies, my family was also a big fan of restaurants. We used to visit many vegetarian restaurants and our family favourite was always a South-Indian restaurant. We all will go gaga and drool over those Mysore masala dosas, idlis and vadas. After drooling over this yumminess, after 21 years I met Ajay (the husband). Before I met him south Indian food for me meant idli, dosa, sambhar and coconut chutney. Nothing above or beyond it. The fun fact of my life is I learnt all the Tamilian cooking just for the husband. I was a disaster to make dosas at first, but still, my husband will happily support me and eat those unshaped dosas.

Fast forward a little and I start working in Chicago after I finished my Master’s. I started living in a single-family home each floor shared by a Tamilian family. I was on the 2nd floor. Living alone, I didn’t cook much, just some things that I like mostly because I used to keep myself busy with my new job. On one fine Saturday evening, a lady drops by and introduces herself. She says “my name is Janani, I live downstairs”, tells my friend. I was not at home I guess when she came. After some time, when I come back, my friend informs me that my neighbour came to see me. So, I decided to go and say hi to her. And I ended up spending an hour at her place, isn’t that amazing?? I got connected with her right away. Day after day we started meeting and we became best friends. I used to tell her, how I want to learn south Indian food and she tells me that is simple. She very simply taught me all the basic things about running south Indian kitchen and I kept exploring and here I  am. I wanted best for my husband. And I thank Janani for teaching me everything.

Chutney podi is one of the things that surprised my husband that I made it at home. He was so happy. I felt the happiest to see him so happy and proud of me. And this is how I ended up introducing myself to the Tamil kitchen. And it is awesome.

The spiced lentil powder or the chutney podi as we call it is a simple spiced powder that enlightens the idlis and dosas. Don’t have time to make chutney or sambhar, just keep this spiced lentil powder at your home and you will be ready to indulge in idli’s and dosa’s anytime you want. Let’s learn how to make this simple spice that will add life to your plate.

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The recipe for this beautiful spiced lentil powder or chutney podi is very simple, easy and very quick to make. Let’s start preparing this crumbling scrumptious chutney powder.

Ingredients:

  • Oil (any oil you use) – 1 Tbsp
  • Chana dal – 1/4th cup
  • Urad dal- 1/4th cup
  • Dry Shredded Coconut – 1/2 cup
  • Dried Red Chillies – 6
  • Asafoetida- a pinch
  • Salt to taste

Let’s begin!!

  • Heat a pan on medium low flame with a thick bottom. Add oil. Now add Chana dal, Urad Dal and Coconut. Fry them until you smell that soft aroma of the dry roast.

 

  • Once roasted, keep the roasted dals and coconut in a plate on the side.
  • In the same pan, add oil again to the pan. Add asafoetida.
  • Now add the 6 dry red chillies. I added 6 but you can adjust the spice level as per your taste.
  • Keep the chillies aside too.
  • Let everything cool down.
  • In a grinder grind all of it into a fine powder. And your spiced lentil powder aka chutney podi is ready.

 

The other day I fried leftover idlis in this chutney podi and it tasted absolutely scrumptious and so amazing. Serve hot with some peanut chutney or tomato onion chutney.

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Cluster Beans in Yoghurt Curry

Whenever I start preparing the raw materials for the daily meals, there is always one thing that makes me walk down a memory trail. My mom in the kitchen preparing us her beautiful home cooking recipes. She makes utmost tasty, scrumptious, simple and beautiful food for us. Her recipes are so easy to follow. When I moved to the United States, she used to guide me to prepare food on facetime. I would just follow what she says and then there it goes …just perfect and easy. I attempt to make just like hers, but there will always be an element missing. The element is missing the food my mom used to cook.

I used to talk to my mom in the kitchen while she prepared food for dinner. At the time, I thought that I am just in the kitchen because my mom is preparing the dinner and that’s the time of the day I can talk to her after finishing up with my daily chores.  She used to tell me she was always in the kitchen as I was a hungry baby of all times and if she is around me I still am. But, know when I think about it, as I stood there in the kitchen with her, I used to observe her, while preparing the raw material, cooking like 4-5 different dishes at the same time, the spices she will use, and of course the lessons she will give about cooking while she is cooking. As my mother quotes “I don’t like cooking” she says and I go back to her and ask her, then how do you cook everything so delicious. She would just smile back. She didn’t like cooking, but she would still attend cooking classes so she can make us all the food we like at home… in all her glory of healthy and fresh cooking.

My mom nurtured me and my sister for what we are today. Two days back I was talking to my dad about what he had for dinner. My mom that day, prepared sev tameta nu shaak and bhakri. It’s a kathiyawadi delicacy, which is prepared at least once a week at our home. My dad says, my sister and I are good cooks, just because of our mom. She has passed her cooking legacy to us, and I totally agree with him on this. My mom was sitting next to him, blushes a little and goes back to catching up with her Instagram.

I know you are going to read this, my dear mother … just to let you know, you will always be an idol to me in every way, and I hope I will be able to nurture my family the way you did.

This one is for you mumma.

A little bit about cluster beans,

Cluster beans are low carb veggies, which is an excellent source of nutritional value added to our plate. They are rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Iron and Calcium. These also have foliates which help with maintaining reproductive health. These veggies help in resolving anaemia, control diabetes, and stronger bone health. And these are a very good source of plant-based protein too.

For Cluster Beans in Yoghurt Curry,

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Ingredients,

  • Boiled Cluster beans- 250 gms
  • Oil – 1 Tbsp
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Asofoteida- a pinch of asafoetida
  • Ginger-garlic Paste- 1 Tsp
  • Red Chilli Powder- 2 Tsp
  • Turmeric – 1/2 Tsp
  • Coriander and Cumin Powder- 1 Tsp
  • Garam Masala – 1/2 Tsp (optional)
  • Yoghurt – Beaten – 1 cup
  • Salt- to taste

Let’s start preparing the recipe,

On a medium-high flame, place a pan and add I tbsp oil. Once the pan is heated, add cumin seeds. Let the cumin seeds splutter and add a pinch of asafoetida. Turn the flame to medium-low. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute it until it is cooked. Now it is time to add the spices. Start with adding turmeric, red chilli powder and coriander-cumin powder. You can also add little garam masala at this time. Saute them well. Now add the beaten yoghurt. Keep stirring so the yoghurt cooks well and doesn’t get separated with water. Once cooked, add half cup water (I used the same water used for boiling the cluster beans- this will help the curry with maintaining the nutrition and taste) and keep stirring. Now add the boiled cluster beans to the curry. Let it boil for a minute. And top the curry with some Kasuri methi ( dried fenugreek leaves).

Let’s dig in…I served this curry with Split Back Urad Dal and Phulka’s (Chapatis). A perfect healthy meal to balance the daily intake of carbs, protein and healthy fat and fibre.

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Healthy Dates Ladoos with Almonds and Pistachio Fillings

This is a major throwback. The ladoos we make for Ganesh Chaturthi (Indian Festival) are a fun filled pack of sugar/ jaggery delight as I may say. These dates ladoos are very common and I assume this recipe is quite well known. The good thing about them is that they are very filling and give you a lot of energy. These ladoos are our family fav and our go to if we have sweet cravings and if you haven’t tried these well you should.

For these yummy delights, I chose almonds and pistachios for the fillings tossed in ghee. The ingredients of these dates ladoos make them very healthy, easy and hassle-free cooking. It takes about 10 mins to get them ready if we have all the ingredients ready.

You guys can also add other nuts like walnuts, hazelnut, macadamia nut, pecans, etc anything you want. Cut them into small pieces and use these in the fillings. For the base, you can use a combination of figs and dates if you want to mix it up a little. After all, we want them to taste delicious and make them in a way what we like the most.

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Ingredients

  • Seedless Dates- 10 oz
  • Almonds – 1/2 cup
  • Pistachios- 1/2 cup
  • Ghee- 5 Tbsp
  • White Roasted Poopy Seeds – For Topping

Let’s start making the Dates Ladoos.

We grind the dates first. Make sure they are seedless or remove the seeds first. I ground the dates using my food processor. Keep them aside. Get the almonds and pistachios chopped into small chunks for the filling ready.  In a pan heat 2 and 1/2 Tbsp ghee on a low flame. Once the ghee heats up, add the almonds and pistachios. Toss them for 2 mins. Keep them aside. In the same pan, again add 2 and 1/2 Tbsp ghee, add the ground dates now. Toss them in Ghee for about three minutes until it all comes together. Add the fillings mixture to the dates and start rolling it. Once everything is mixed properly, set it aside. Once it cools down from hot to warm, start rolling them in rounds or the shape you like, and then top them with white roasted poppy seeds. You can also choose what to top them with, perhaps you can use the ground mixture of the nuts used for the fillings too.

Let’s eat…


Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s amazing how the weekend brings a big glittery smile on everyone’s face, and when the weekend comes to an end it brings with it a big drop of that glittery smile. I believe in ending the weekends well. That’s why it calls for CAKE….. This weekend it calls for my favourite lemon cake. I usually used to bake my cakes in the traditional way. But then, I was diagnosed with insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance, aka polycystic ovary syndrome. It was my nightmare which came true and I asked myself “why me?”. There was no reason to sit and cry. Instead, I decided to fight it. I know it’s going to be there with me for the lifetime, there is no way it’s going away. I also knew I can’t stop eating cakes.

I have made this lemon cake using almond flour and I replaced the sweetener (white sugar) with honey and coconut palm sugar. I know I know, by using honey and coconut palm sugar I am not totally avoiding the sugar. But these have those tiny nutrients like magnesium, zinc and antioxidants. Don’t worry, I have just used a little bit of it. I just to add stevia if your case is very severe, or if you have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes.

Lets Bake…The beautiful and moist lemon cake.

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Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

  • Almond Flour – 1 cup + 3/4th cup
  • Coconut Palm Sugar-little  2 Tbsp
  • Lemon Zest- 2 Tbsp
  • Baking Powder – 1/4th Tsp
  • Pinch of Salt

Wet Ingredients

  • Lemon Juice- 1/4th cup
  • Honey- 1/3rd cup
  • Egg Whites- 2
  • Olive Oil- 1/4th cup
  • Vanilla essence- 1 tsp

Frosting

  • Cream Cheese – 8 oz
  • Unsalted Butter- 2 cubes
  • Sweetener of your choice- I added stevia almost 1 and 1/2 Tbsp (I don’t like my frostings very sweet)

Let’s start baking now…

Take two bowls. Add the dry ingredients in a bowl- almond flour, sweetener of your choice(here I have used coconut palm sugar, I have added just a little because my main sweetener is organic, natural honey which I will be adding with wet ingredients), lemon zest, baking soda and a pinch of salt. Mix all the dry ingredients well.

In another bowl, add lemon juice and egg whites. Whisk it till fluffy. Add honey, olive oil and vanilla essence. Whisk all the wet ingredients very well. Let the honey mix well.

Add the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and fold the mixture well. But don’t fold it a lot of times, the cake might lose its moisture. Ohh, you can also add blueberries and fold them in the mixture at this point. They bring out a lovely flavour in the cake. Quick tip, rinse the blueberries well and marinate them with some flour. This will help your blueberries not sink in the bottom of the cake.

Preheat your oven at 350F for 10 minutes. In a cake mould of your choice, place the baking paper and add the cake batter in it. Set it equally by tapping the sides.

Once, the oven is pre-heated and ready, get your cake in to bake at 350F for 30 mins.

Let’s prepare the frosting in the meantime.

In a bowl, take 8oz of creme cheese. Mash the cream cheese bar using a spoon or a fork. Start adding the butter cubes one by one and mixing them with a hand mixer. mix it until nice a fluffy. Add the frosting in the piping bag and chill for some time.

Our lemon cake is out of the oven now, and its time for it to cool down.

Once the cake is cool, you can start icing the cake.

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Okra with Coconut Milk Curry

My head spins off when I think of preparing okra. There are so many ways to prepare these green deliciousness and all of them taste awesome. This happens to me every single week. My husband and I have an undying love for okra. We literally binge eat okra crisps, we call them kurkuri bhindi. Like every other week, I was thinking about how to prepare okra for the week, I see my jar of coconut milk sitting in my refrigerator. You guys know what I did with the okras…

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Okra is a beautiful vegetable with great taste and health benefits. The rare combination isn’t it. Okras are a very healthy source of vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid and calcium. I am sure everyone is aware of the vitamins and calcium but consuming folic acid naturally is so important for women, especially during their conceiving years. Okras also help to control obesity and keep in check the insulin levels with people suffering from Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes and women suffering from PCOS.

Let’s get started to prepare this Creamy Coconutty Garlicky Okras

First things first, wash your okras well and completely dry them. Then,

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Let’s chop them, try to cut them the same size, so they cook equally and well.

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Our okras are chopped and ready, so let us jump into the ingredients followed by the recipe.

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  • Okra – 1 lb
  • Coconut Oil – 4 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds for tempering
  • Chopped Garlic – 2 tbsp
  • Minced Ginger- 1/2 tbsp
  • Chopped Green Chillies-  1tbsp
  • Curry Leaves – 4-5
  • Coconut Milk- 1 cup
  • Onions and Shallots – 1 cup
  • red chilli powder- 3 Tsp (if you use the spicy and coloured mix red chilli powder)
  • Turmeric- 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander-cumin (dhania-jeera powder) – 2 Tsp
  • Salt to taste

Let’s get started!!

Preheat the pan on a medium-high flame. Add 2 tbsp coconut oil, once heated add the okra. Saute them until they become little crispy, (if you like your okras well done then saute them until they turn brown, make sure they don’t burn) and put them aside on the oil soaking paper.

You can also bake them for 15 mins on 300 F and they will be ready. Just brush some oil and add okras to the baking tray. And BAKE…

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The okras are now done, so we start the preparation for the curry. In the same pan, heat 2 tbsp coconut oil on a medium high flame. Add mustard seeds, once tempered start adding garlic, ginger, green chillies and curry leaves. Saute them until the raw smell is gone.

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Add the onions now and saute them well, until they appear translucent. Add salt, it will help the onion to cook faster. Set the flame to medium-low. Add turmeric, red chilli powder and coriander powder to the onions. Let the spices cook for a minute.

Umm.. quick tip.. if you like your curries red in colour, I suggest adding the Kashmiri red chilli powder right away after the mustard seeds temper.. this way the curry will have a nice rich red colour.

Once the spices are well cooked, start adding coconut milk. Continuously stir, to avoid milk sticking on the pan if the pan is very hot. Bring the coconut milk to a boil and add the fried okras.

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Transfer the curry in a serving bowl… if you try this at home send me the pictures

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I served the curry with phulka rotis aka chapathis and moong dal.

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If you like this recipe, give it a thumbs up.

Let’s eat…

 

 


Kuzhi Paniyaram ( Crispy Rice Balls)

Soft winds, light drizzle, birds chirping and beautiful tender sunshine in my patio. It glazed my home garden with a beautiful view. While admiring the beauty, my tummy grunts and says I am hungry!!! After a while, I open my refrigerator glance through and think about eating something yummy but quick to make. Something quick and yummy I say to myself, umm.. ooh  yes.. I see leftover dosa batter!! Yaaayyyy!!! I finally decide to make our family favourite kuzhi paniyarams (I call them little tots of goodness). I decide to make the spicy paniyarams. While I am at it, paniyarams are made from rice and black lentil batter. I used the left over dosa batter, next I want to try ragi dosa batter to make a healthier version of these little tots. I choose to flavour my paniyarams with lots of green chillies, ginger, shallots, curry leaves, carrots and green peppers. I chop all my veggies finely making sure that my shallots, carrots and green peppers are of the same size and shape.  I saute everything in coconut oil and add my fillings to the dosa batter. Now this yumminess is ready to be steamed. I love to serve these tiny tots with onion tomato chutney and ellu podi. For the recipe keep scrolling..

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Recipe for Kuzhi Paniyarams

Total time for prep – 10 mins and Total time to steam- 5 mins

  • Leftover Idli/Dosa Batter – 4 cups
  • Green Chillies- 6 green Chillies finely chopped
  • Ginger 1 tbsp minced
  • Shallots or Onions- 1 cup
  • Carrots 1/2 cup
  • Green Pepper 1/2 cup
  • Curry Leave
  • Salt to taste

Transfer the batter in a bowl. Let it set to room temperature. In the meantime, take a pan, on a medium flame, heat some coconut oil. Once the coconut oil heats up, add ginger, curry leaves, green chillies and sauté them for a half-minute. Add shallots, carrots and green peppers to the pan. Sauté them for a minute. Turn off the flames (this step is the most important one) Let the filling cool down a little and add it to the dosa batter. Add salt to taste and mix the batter well. Preheat the paniyaram pan on medium heat. Pour little coconut oil in each mold (nonstick pans will need less oil than the iron cast pans) and let it heat. Once ready, pour a spoonful batter in each mold and close it with a lid. Give it a minute to a minute and half.. and flip them to the other side. After flipping again give it a minute. And they are ready !!!!!! Little tots of goodness are all ready to be served!!!!

Umm wait…. Tomato Onion Chutney… Lets make it quickly –  Dice one onion and one tomato. You will need two dry red chillies too. Take a pan, heat up the coconut oil and add dry red chillies and Onions. Let onions caramelise.. my friend Dharini says that’s the secret to this amazing tasting chutney(Thanks Dharini for giving me the recipe for this chutney).  Once the onions are caramelised add the tomatoes. Add salt to taste. It will help the tomatoes cook faster. Once they cool down, make a soft puree of this mixture. Add the tadka with some mustard seeds and the chutney is ready!!

Lets eat !!!