Gluten-Free & High-Fiber Millet Upma

Millet Upma

Farmed thousands of years ago & revered in ancient texts, Millet is an ancient grain tracing it’s roots to the Far East. According to Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, ‘Unlike most other grains, this versatile, gluten free grain is alkaline, which makes it easy to digest and helps balance the body’s natural tendency towards acidity.’

  • Millet is also gluten free, protein rich & is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
  • It is anti-oxidant rich & provides a significant source of necessary minerals:
    • phosphorous
    • potassium
    • magnesium which reduce effects of migraines & heart attacks
    • Niacin (vit B3) which helps lower cholesterol & triglycerides
  • While comparable to semolina in calories & carb count, millet has a lower glycemic load meaning that its high fiber & low simple sugar composition produces lower blood sugar levels than rice.
  • Millet helps foster healthy gut bacteria, and the serotonin is calming to the mood.  (all info from www.Care2.com).

Millet looks like large quinoa, and is sometimes mistaken for it. This whole grain can be used as a healthier alternative to rice and can be cooked both savory or sweet. My friend Uma gave me this idea and given the health benefits and easy of preparation, it will definitely be a staple in my pantry.

Millet Upma

Gluten-Free & High-Fiber Millet Upma

(Makes about 6 cups; serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups hulled millet (not pearled)*****
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 big onion (chopped fine)
  • 8-10 green chillies
  • 1 inch ginger (grated) [or] 1 1/2 Tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 medium tomato (chopped fine)
  • 1 medium potato (diced into small pieces)
  • 1 large carrot (diced)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp lemon / lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  1. Heat a large heavy bottom pan on medium flame, and add oil.
  2. When oil heats up, add the onions, chillies and the ginger and fry till the onions start to slightly brown, stirring frequently.
  3. Add tomatoes and saute till they are soft, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, potatoes, peas, salt & turmeric and stir fry for 3-5 minutes on medium-high flame.
  5. Add the water and bring to a boil.
  6. Immediately add the millet, stir everything well and return to boil.
  7. Reduce flame, cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes on low flame. Do not lift lid midway to check.
  8. Remove from heat, stir and recover; allow the millet to sit for about 10 minutes.
  9. Add the lemon juice & cilantro and stir before serving.

EASY method: Season directly in a pressure cooker pan, roast the vegetables for only 2 minutes, add water and millet, and cover. Cook on medium flame for 2 whistles. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before opening and adding cilantro & lime juice.

***** Hulled millet is still a whole grain which is ‘shelled’ / just the bran removed – a realistic way of humans being able to consume it. Pearled millet is more processed and polished to make cooking times lower.

Steamed Savory Oats Patties with Yogurt Sauce (Oats Nucchina Unde)

Would you believe me if I told you that you guys are always on my mind? Really!! Summer was extremely busy and I just haven’t gotten back on track with a more diciplined routine yet. I must say though that I’ve lined up a ton of interesting recipes to share with you.  I’m always thinking of HolyKhao readers and all the posts I should have made but haven’t. I know the saying ‘Actions speak louder than words’, but in my case, I implore you to put that aside and apply “It’s the thought that counts‘ :)).

Lakshmi Puja in early September & last week’s Ganesha Chaturthi heralded the start of festival season for Hindus and more celebrations like Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas in the USA. Unfortunately, for me, this means the start of carb overload. After finally accepting that my husband and I can’t have diets like we did when we were younger, but being reluctant to give up taste, I’m working on tweaking traditional recipes to make them a little healthier. Of course, every time it’s a success, I’ll be sharing it here :))

Nuchina Unde

Nucchina Unde is a traditional Karnataka food that is made by steaming seasoned dal, and can be eaten plain, with chutney or a yogurt curry. My aunt had mentioned that her friend had made this version with oats, but I was skeptical. Since she swore that it was delicious, I figured I’d give it a try. Let me just say that I was not disappointed! The patties tasted almost like the authentic dal ones, and were easier to make as it requires no soaking. I’ve made it thrice for recipe testing, and it has been a great breakfast and tea time snack, and my 11-year old has wolfed down quite a few.  I grew up eating these plain with a generous dollop of homemade ghee, and it was only after I got married that I learnt that typically, nucchina unde is served with a yogurt & vegetable curry called Majjige Huli or Paladya. My version here is quick, no-cook, flavor-filled and small enough for this batch.

Nuchina Unde

Oats Nucchina Unde

Steamed Savory Oats Patties with Yogurt Sauce

(Makes 12-14)

  • 1 cup rolled oats (toast lightly & cool)
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour / maida
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/2 – 1 cup finely chopped dill
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 4-5 red or green chillies (I like the taste of red, but it does make your mix darker in color)
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 tsp salt ( or to taste)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Coarsely pulse the oats in a blender / food processor jar. It should not be fine, and it’s okay to have some whole oat flakes.
  2. Add the maida & rice flour and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Blend the curry leaves, cilantro, chillies, ginger & coconut in a small blender jar, adding  just 2-3 Tbsp of water. (save jar for blending sauce ingredients.)
  4. Add the masala, dill, salt & lime juice to the oats and gently mix well.
  5. Set aside for 15 minutes to soak up the moisture and flavors.
  6. Take rounded tablespoons full of oats mixture and gently roll into 2-inch logs (Do not press too hard or the patties will be very dense).
  7. Place on a greased steamer plate / idli stand and steam for 13-15 minutes.
  8. Serve hot or at room temperature. (I have reheated them in the microwave with no loss of taste or texture.)

Nuchina Unde

Yogurt Sauce

(Makes about 1 cup)

  • 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 5-6 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp roasted channa dal (daliya) – this keeps the sauce from separating
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (sasive) – optional but it give the sauce a wonderful flavor
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yogurt (or around 1/2 – 2/3 cup buttermilk)
  1. Make a fine paste of the coconut, ginger, cilantro, chillies, channa, mustard seeds and a few teaspoons of yogurt in a small blender jar.
  2. Add the rest of the yogurt and give it a quick blend to incorporate everything.
  3. Remove to a serving bowl and add salt.

For Seasoning

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (this is necessary for seasoning)
  • pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  1. Heat a small pan on medium flame and add oil.
  2. Add the mustard seeds and cover till it stops sputtering.
  3. Add the hing & curry leaves and cover partially, shaking the pan to crisp the curry leaves.
  4. Remove from heat and pour over the sauce.

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

How many of you spent the summer with kids who were constantly eating – because they were starving after hours at the pool, because their friends were over and wanted a snack, they wanted to try a new concoction, or they were just plain bored because you took away their electronics? My kids had more than their fill of junk food over the last few months, and there was not much I could do about it when extended family visiting for a few months and there was constant entertaining.

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Fast forward to mid-August: the guests leave and my college bound child – who is suddenly on a gym routine – announces that he needs lots more protein than he gets at home! The 11-year old on a growth spurt eats like there’s no tomorrow. Husband says he’d like to take something from home to keep the 3p.m. vending machine run at bay. I just want something that can be eaten without utensils and feels like a treat but is also healthy for my family. These Quinoa Bars to the rescue! I made these the first time without any recipe, and you can do the same too. The amounts and ingredients below are just a guide (as are many of my other recipes). Feel free to substitute what you have on hand and adjust quantities to suit your taste. For example, add coconut flakes if you like the taste. Substitute almonds with walnuts (or mix a little of both!). Replace cranberries with cherries or even raisins if that’s what you have on hand. I’ve used a whole 15 oz bag of milk chocolate chips but you could reduce it or switch it up with dark / semi-sweet / white chocolate.

With school back in session and after school events looming around the corner, breakfast and grab-and-go snacks that are easy, tasty and good for you are a blessing. These bars keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 bars 2-inch X 2-inch bars)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dates (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup figs (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almonds (or walnuts) – chopped
  • 1/2 cup cranberries (or cherries / tart raisins)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups chocolate chips of choice
  1. In a heavy bottom pan, lightly toast the quinoa over medium flame for few minutes. It will pop and lightly puff. Remove from heat & cool completely. (Do not brown.) – I feel this removes the slight bitter taste, but feel free to use raw if that’s what you prefer. 
  2. In a heavy duty food processor, add the dates, figs and coconut oil and pulse till it becomes finely processed.
  3. Add the cooled quinoa, flax, chia, almonds and half of the cranberries & pumpkin seeds. Pulse until all the ingredients are finely chopped and mixed well.
  4. Line an 8X8 pan with wax paper and press the mixture into the pan. Level the top using the back of a flat spoon or dish.
  5. Melt chocolate chips according to package directions and pour evenly over the mixture and spread.
  6. Set in the refrigerator for an hour or so to set and firm up. Cut into 16 pieces. The bars keep for atleast 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Click here for recipes for No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars and No Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

Easy Mixed Vegetables & Greens Curry

Green Curry

This is a family friendly recipe that we’ve enjoyed for many years. Quick, easy & nutritious, it was given to me by my friend Akhila. We did some measuring of ingredients over lunch and some girl talk last week – it’s good to have girlfriends who’ll cook for you and let you vent all afternoon :). Thanks Akhila.

Green Curry

Easy Mixed Vegetables & Greens Curry

(Serves 4-5)

  • 2 medium onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick (broken)
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1 medium potato (washed and diced into small pieces)
  • 1/3 cup peas / lima beans
  • 3-4 firm small eggplants (chopped medium size) – You can use the long indian variety too, but it does get a little mushy
  • 4 cups chopped green beans (about large pea size pieces)
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach leaves (washed, drained & roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup chopped dill
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  1. In a wide heavy bottom pan, heat oil over medium-high flame and add the cinnamon & cloves. Saute for a few seconds.
  2. Add onions and fry till just starting to brown.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook till soft – about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add green beans and saute for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes & lima beans and saute for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add eggplant, chilli powder & salt and continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in the spinach & dill, add water sparingly and cook covered till all the vegetables are done.
  8. Serve with rice or flatbread like naan / roti / chapatis.

Pressure Cooker Method

  1. Follow steps 1-3 as above.
  2. Add all the vegetables, salt & chilli powder and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach & dill, and 1/2 cup water and mix well.
  4. Cover pressure cooker lid and cook on medium for just 1 whistle.

Spicy Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing

Cilantro Lime Dressing

For someone who loves to drown their salad with ranch dressing and cannot stand vinaigrettes, finding a recipe for a thicker dressing that wasn’t too tart/sweet/unhealthy has been a challenge. Playing around with ingredients a few days ago, I finally made something that was fresh, packs a bite and is full of fresh healthy whole ingredients. Serve with Naan Pizzas (recipe here) for al fresco dining on summer nights.

Naan Pizza

Cilantro Lime Dressing

The dressing is really simple to make.

  • ! medium bunch cilantro (rinsed, drained & chopped)
  • 1 small garlic clove (washed & peeled)
  • tiny piece ginger (washed & peeled)
  • 1-2 green chillies (to taste)
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a small blender jar and adjust taste to liking, adding more oil by the tbsp if dressing is too thick.

The salad shown in the photo has arugula, red onion, tomato, cucumber, carrots & red pepper. Use any combination of veggies and protein – top with chickpeas, tofu, paneer, grilled chicken, red meat, etc.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles in Peanut Sauce

Warm weather meals and entertaining call for easy, make-ahead dishes that are light and tasty. I came across this recipe on the holidaykitchen.tv YouTube channel and made a few changes to suit our tastes. It is a good alternative to regular pasta salad as it doesn’t have any mayonnaise.

PS: Did you know that noodles are symbolic of longevity in China? It is considered inauspicious to cut a strand, and is traditionally served in as long a piece (strand?) as possible, especially on New Year’s Day.

Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles in Peanut Sauce

(Serves 3-4)

  • 2 scallions / green onions
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (strongly recommend using this as it gives a fantastic flavor, but feel free to substitute)
  • 1 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) red chilli flakes
  • Hot sauce (Sriracha / chilli-garlic sauce) to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6-8 oz of dry long pasta (spaghetti / angel hair / chinese noodles)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (lightly salted & steamed & drained well) – optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots – optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded chicken / steamed shrimp (optional)
  • 1/3 cup peeled, seeded & finely chopped cucumber – optional
  • cilantro, crushed roasted peanut, toasted sesame seeds for topping

1) Cook the noodles according to package directions. Rinse in cold water and drain completely. Allow to cool completely.

2) Add all ingredients to a small blender jar and process till smooth & creamy.

3) Toss with cold noodles, broccoli & carrots, and chicken/shrimp (if using) and set aside for an hour or two for all the flavors to meld.

4) Divide into serving bowls and top with chopped cucumber, crushed peanuts, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds & cilantro.

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

My cousin had eaten these rotis at a friend’s house and she shared the idea for this recipe with me a while back. I finally decided to give it a try and luckily my proportions worked the first time around. We liked these rotis so much that I had to go to bed with a ‘light dinner’ because my husband and teenager decided to have some of my share too. I even made an extra batch of the dough since I had all the ingredients and utensils out. They were soft & pliable, and as it had spices mixed in, a pat of butter/ghee, or a cup of yougrt was all that was necessary as an accompaniment. I definitely see myself making this not only for meals at home, but also for short trips so I can avoid all the temptations at the rest area and fast food joints (am I the only one who can’t resist fries and pastries at rest areas?!?!).

Also check out the recipe for Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti.

Oats & Palak Roti

(Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

(makes 8 rotis, 6-7 inch wide)

  • 1 1/2 cups oats (make a powder in the blender)
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 big onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 cups spinach leaves (washed, drained and chopped fine)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2-3 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 2  – 2 1/2 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)

1) Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl using only 1/2 cup water.

2) Knead well and sprinkle few drops of water only if necessary. The onion will release moisture and the dough will come together just fine with half cup water.

3) The mixture will be sticky at this point; cover and set aside for about an hour.

NOTE: If using a food processor (my preferred method), add all ingredients into the bowl and attach the lid. While machine is running, slowly drizzle the water through the feeder and run it till the dough comes together. Remove to a bowl and shape. Cover and set aside for about an hour.

4) The dough must now be soft and pliable. Divide into 8 balls.

5) Heat a heavy griddle on medium-low flame.

6) Pat each dough ball into thin discs on a lightly greased silicone sheet or heavy duty foil sheet.

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

7) Lightly grease the griddle and invert the roti with the foil onto it.

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

8) After few seconds, gently peel off the foil or silicone sheet and increase heat to medium-high.

9) Cook roti on both sides for 2-3 minutes till done, drizzling a few drops of oil on each side if necessary.

10) Serve hot.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: I mixed the dough the night before and used it in the morning, and it worked just fine. I even half cook each roti and cool completely on a rack. Then refrigirate in a freezer bag / air tight container till ready to eat. Finish cooking with a few drops of oil when ready to serve. This technique has made weekend brunch time so much easier – I get to relax with my tea and still serve a tasty & nutritious meal :)).