Eggless Mexican Rice Pudding – Arroz Con Leche

This rice pudding is decadent – creamy & sweet – both warm and chilled. It is similar to the Indian sweet Phirni (Firni) – the difference being that Phirni uses saffron and/or cardamon, while Arroz Con Leche uses cinnamon.

I remember my grandmother making her famous Phirni when I was a little girl, simmering it for what seemed like hours. The end result would be worth the wait. This recipe below, adapted from FOOD Network, is a quicker method, and tastes almost as good (I say almost, because, really, what can beat grandma’s cooking?!?!).

I served this as dessert at a Homemade Chipotle-Style Tortilla Salad buffet for family a few months back.

Eggless Mexican Rice Pudding – Arroz Con Leche

(Serves 15)

  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 12 cups water
  • 3 big cinnamon sticks
  • 2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk
  • 2 (14 oz) cans condensed milk
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup slivered almonds (toasted)
  • Ground cinnamon for dusting

1) Bring water, rice, and cinnamon sticks to boil, uncovered, in a large heavy saucepan.

2) On medium-high heat, cook the rice for about 15 minutes.

3) Strain the liquid and cinnamon sticks. Return rice to the saucepan.

4) Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk to the rice.

5) Bring to boil on medium-high heat, and the reduce to low. Cook uncovered for another 20 minutes, stirring often.

6) Check rice for doneness. Stir in the raisins and remove from heat.

7) Before serving, top with slivered and toasted almonds, and a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.

CAN BE SERVED WARM or COLD.

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

Badam Phirni

Phirni is traditionally made with fragrant Basmati rice that has been soaked for a few hours, then slow cooked for hours in milk till it turns into a creamy, decadent pudding that is flavored with sugar, saffron, and chopped nuts. My grandmother always made the most amazing phirni as a sweet accompaniment to  her famous mutton pulao. I am yet to eat something that matches – let alone beats –  her cooking!!

The recipe below is an easier version that is very simple to make. No soaking or hours of cooking required.  This phirni can be served warm, but it tastes best chilled. Make ahead the day before your Diwali party, and you have a fantastic dessert to serve.

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

(Serves 8-10)

  • 20 almonds, blanched
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 cups + 1/2 cups whole milk / half & half / cream* – (do not use skim milk – the cream in the dairy is what makes this dish tasty)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • pinch saffron

1) To blanch the almonds, soak them in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Test one almond by pressing between your thumb and forefinger. The skin should slide right off. If it doesn’t, soak for a few more minutes. Drain the water and skin the rest.

2) In a heavy bottom (preferably non-stick) pan, add 2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer on a low flame.

3) Meanwhile, in a small blender jar, add the blanched almonds, 1/2 cup milk and rice flour, and make into a fine paste. Set aside.

4) When the milk comes to a boil, add sugar and saffron, and simmer till all the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.

5) Still on a low flame, slowly add the almond-rice mixture and whisk so no lumps form, and the milk is creamy.

6) Add the cardamom powder and simmer about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. The phirni will thicken as it cools to the consistency of pudding.

7) Pour into serving bowl(s) and garnish with edible silver, nuts, saffron, etc.

8) Can be served warm, cool or chilled.

9) Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight containers.

*I plan on making a vegan version with Almond Milk the next time. Will update and let you all know how it turns out.

Quinoa “Fried Rice”

 

 

 

Quinoa "Fried Rice"

 

 

This dish is so easy to make, and is can be customized with any vegetable and protein of your choice. We’ve had leftovers for brunch and even packed in a lunch box – it holds well for a few hours.

Quinoa “Fried Rice”

(Serves 5-6)

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 block firm tofu – well drained and crumbled; [OR] 1 egg
  • pinch turmeric (optional)
  • 1 small onion (diced fine)
  • 1 red pepper (seeded and diced small)
  • 1 (15oz) can peas & carrot – about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1) Cook quinoa according to package instructions and cool. Take care not to make the quinoa mushy.

2) In a large wok, heat 1 Tbsp oil on medium heat.

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3) Add tofu and turmeric and stir fry few minutes, stirring well, till dry and cooked. Adding a pinch of turmeric makes the tofu look just like scrambled eggs. Alternately, whisk 1-2 eggs in a small bowl and scramble. Set aside.

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4) In the same wok, heat the other 1 Tbsp of oil and saute the ginger – garlic paste till cooked. Add onions and cook till just starting to get golden.

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5) Add red peppers and chili flakes, and saute two minutes.

 

 

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6) Now add the peas & carrots, scrambled tofu / egg, quinoa, soy sauce and fish sauce. On a medium-high flame, mix well.

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7) Roast till well incorporated and heated through. Serve.

 

 

Homemade “Instant” Pongal

“Mom, what’s for ………………?”

How many of you dread this question? (Fill in the blank with breakfast/ lunch/ snack/ dinner.)

It’s not so much the cooking that bothers me; rather, it’s the planning, pulling out everything needed, cooking, cleaning up, and putting the stuff away, only to do it all over again in a few hours. It’s nice to have a couple things handy to just pull out of the pantry or refrigerator, and do the final touches. No dealing with chopping boards, peeling onions, spice containers, or dirty dishes (well, atleast, not as many).

I make instant upma mix at home for breakfast several times a month. All it requires at meal time is a HOT cup of water. Just stir water and mix, allow it to sit covered for few minutes, and your hot meal is ready. I wanted to try some more recipes like this and played around with a few ideas. Pongal / kichidi was something that seemed possible. After two attempts, I finally arrived at the recipe below. While not as simple as the instant upma, this pongal mix is ready to be cooked. Just add water, mix and salt to a pressure cooker, and your meal is ready in a few minutes. Give it a try.

Quick, easy and satisfying. For a healthy meal, serve with a side of coconut chutney  and a vegetable.

NOTE: For a lower carb version, check out the recipe for Savory Quinoa Pongal.

Homemade “Instant” Pongal

(Entire recipe serves atleast 10-12 people)

  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 cup split yellow mung dal
  • 4 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken into large pieces)
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 red chillies (snap in half)
  • 1/2 cup cashew pieces
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (stripped, washed, and dried)
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper corn
  • 3 Tbsp cumin/jeera seeds
  • 3/4 cup grated coconut, optional

1) Roast dal on a medium-high flame for a few minutes, stirring often. Make sure it does not brown. Cool.

2) In a large pan, heat ghee on medium flame, making sure it does not smoke.

3) Add the cinnamon and cloves and fry for a few seconds.

4) Add the red chillies and curry leaves; partially cover lid so it does not splatter out of the pan.

5) Add cashews and roast till light golden.

6) Add the pepper and jeera and fry for a few seconds.

7) Add the rice & dal and mix well. Turn off heat and cool completely. Store in an airtight container or in the fridge for a few weeks.

TO COOK PONGAL:

1) Add 1 cup of the pongal mix, 3 cups water & 1 tsp salt to a pressure cooker pan, and stir well.

2) Cook on a medium flame for 2-3 whistles and turn off stove.

3) Allow the pressure to release and remove pongal; stir again and serve hot with ghee and coconut chutney.

4) Serves 3-4

NOTE: Many variations of pongal exist, and the ingredients in this recipe can be adapted to suit your taste. You may also reduce the amount of water in the final round of cooking to 2 1/2 cups. Just remember that the pongal will absorb water as it cools, making it thicker.

To make a vegan version, skip the ghee and use a few spoons of oil.

“Instant” Plain Pongal (Milder version)

This version is good for kids or for those who like milder food.

  • 2 cup rice
  • 1 cup yellow split moong dal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp ghee or oil (ghee preferred)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

1) On medium flame, dry roast the moong dal for a few minutes, stirring constantly, about 2-3 minutes. Do not brown. Turn off stove, stir in rice and set aside.

2)In a saute pan, heat the ghee / oil.

3) Add pepper & cumin seeds and allow to pop.

4) Add the curry leaves and cover partially with a lid. The moisture in the leaves will make them crackle and pop, and it might splatter out.

5) Add cashews and roast till light golden in color.

6) Turn off stove and add the rice & dal mixture. Stir well and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator.

To Prepare Pongal:

1 cup rice & dal mix
2 1/2 – 3 cups water
1 tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a pressure cooker and cook on medium for 2-3 whistles. Allow to cool few minutes and remove. Serve with coconut chutney.

Vegan Black Bean Burgers

 

 

Vegan Black Bean Burger

 

Back after several weeks of absence, but I’ve been trying out a whole bunch of new recipes. Unfortunately, that was not the goal for starting this blog. It was to whittle down my collection of recipes; not add more to my stash! Anyway, some were a hit and some were a miss. These vegan black bean burgers were definitely delicious and nutritious. I made a dozen and froze them – they came in handy for quick dinners, after-school snacks, my lunch, even as a salad topping. Served here with homemade (and freezable) guacamole.

 

Vegan Black Bean Burgers

(Serves 4)

  • 2 cups / 16oz can black beans (drained well)
  • 1 small onion (chop fine)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers (chop fine) – [can use red-chili powder instead]
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • few sprigs cilantro (chop fine)
  • 1/2 medium red or green bell-pepper (chop fine)
  • 1Tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 Tbsp water (substitute with 1 large egg if not vegan)
  • 1/2 cup instant oats / cooked brown rice/ quinoa (pick any one)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1) Mix all chopped vegetable in a bowl and set aside. Alternately, put everything in a food processor and pulse till fine.

 

 

 

 

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2) Stir flax meal and water well to make sure there are no lumps. Let it sit for a few minutes. (If using egg, whisk gently with a fork and set aside).

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3) In a large bowl, mash the black beans with a fork (I used the food processor and found that it was too ‘smooth’).

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4) Add vegetables, flax meal, cumin powder, salt and oats/rice. Mix well and adjust taste if needed.

5) Using lightly oiled hands, shape into 4 patties about 1 inch thick. [I lined the lid from a peanut butter jar with plastic wrap and shaped my patties in them. It goes faster if you are making a big batch.]

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6) Invert onto wax paper squares and chill about an hour on a cookie tray until firm. Alternately, these can be frozen on the cookie tray and saved in zip lock bags for later use. Make sure to keep the wax paper between the patties for easier handling.

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7) To cook, lightly spray a skillet with oil and cook on medium heat about 6-8 minutes per side. Serve on buns, inside pocket pita, sliced on top of a salad, or just by itself.

NOTE: The beans must be well drained as they will not hold if it has too much moisture. In the event that the patties are too soft, add a little more oats/rice to bind.

 

 

 

Coconut & Mustard Seeds Rice (Kai Sasive Chitranna)

Coconut and Mustard Seeds Rice (Kai Sasive Chitranna)

Many variations of this dish exist in South India, but the one below is popular in Karnataka. Kai coconut; sasive = mustard seeds; anna = rice. Basic Chitranna in Karnataka refers to rice flavored with lemon juice, salt, turmeric, chillies, cilantro, and mustard seeds and channa dal seasoned in a teaspoon of oil. Each family tweaks this recipe by adding or omitting grated coconut, peanuts, cashews, onions, capsicum, dill, etc. In a broader definition, chitranna includes plain cooked rice that is mixed with a masala / paste that has been cooked separately.

Credit for this recipe goes to my mother-in-law. As with all women of her generation, she never measures anything and just eyeballs all ingredients for consistent results each time. I had her lay out all that she would use for this dish, and measured each ingredient before adding it to my recipe book.

Coconut & Mustard Seeds Rice (Kai Sasive Chitranna)

(Serves 4-6)

  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds (available at all Indian grocery stores)
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (chop)
  • 4 red chillies
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida (optional – available at all Indian grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp salt

1) Cook 2 cups of raw rice and set aside to cool.

2) In a small blender jar, make a paste of all ingredients above without adding any water. Set aside.

3) For seasoning, set aside the following:

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp asafetida
  • 1 Tbsp channa dal
  • 1 Tbsp udad dal
  • 1/4 cup peanuts
  • 1 large spring curry leaves (stripped, washed & dried)
  • 1 tsp turmeric

4) Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a medium pan and add mustard seeds. Cover and wait for it to pop on a medium flame,about a minute.

5) Add asafetida, channa dal & udad dal and lightly brown.

6) Add curry leaves and stir till it stops crackling.

7) Add peanuts and roast till golden brown. Remove from heat and add turmeric.

8) Immediately add the coconut-cilantro masala and “fry” in the hot pan for a few minutes. Let it cool in the same pan.

9) Mix with the cooked white rice and adjust salt and tamarind paste to taste.