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.

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

Naan Pizza

Naan Pizza recipes have been around for a while & I’m joining the bandwagon. If only I had known how easy this meal would be. I had dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, and it was really delicious!

Naan Pizza

I’m all for convenience and used store bought naan but you make it from scratch if you like. (You can try this Naan recipe here with over 1500 reviews!!) As for toppings, our pizzas show ground turkey but you can use any protein of your choice – tandoori / rotisserie chicken, shrimp, paneer, tofu or even just veggies like mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, etc. The recipe below is more of a guide and can be customized as you like.

My kids preferred a plain base, but you can start by spreading a spoon of pizza sauce, green chutney, etc before topping with meat, veggies and cheese.

Serve a fresh salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing to make an easy and tasty summer meal. Click here for recipe.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Naan Pizza

For meat / paneer topping:

  • 1 lb ground meat OR drained & crumbled paneer or tofu
  • 3 tbsp onion powder (or 1 medium onion, chopped)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
  • 1 tsp ginger powder (or 1 tsp ginger paste)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp oil

1) Heat oil in a wide pan on medium flame.

2) Add all the spice powders and quickly stir for a few seconds, allowing it to get frothy or ‘bloom’ (If using fresh onion, ginger & garlic – add them to the oil first and saute till just starting to brown. Then add the spice powders.)

3) Add the ground protein and mix well with the spices. Continue cooking on medium-high heat, stirring frequently to break up lumps and ensure even cooking.

4) Cook about 10 minutes and adjust salt. Top with lemon juice. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the pizza:

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (if you can lay hands on AMUL cheese at the Indian store, definitely use it.)
  • 4 fresh / frozen naans of your choice (I used frozen garlic naan from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 small red onion – finely sliced (optional)
  • green chili and mint / cilantro chutney (optional)
  • few sprigs of cilantro – finely chopped (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400*F

2) Lay naans on a baking sheet and top with 1 tsp of sauce or chutney of choice.

3) Spread a 1/4 of the topping mixture on the naan and spread evenly. Top with sliced onions if desired.

4) Now top with 1/4 cup cheese and place in the oven for about 3-4 minutes till cheese is melted.

5) If you want a crunchy crust (delicious!), remove the pizza from the baking sheet and gently slide directly onto the oven rack; cook for another 2-3 minutes.

6) Carefully slide onto serving plate and top with fresh chopped cilantro before serving.

(My son enjoyed it with a drizzle of Maggi Hot & Sweet sauce.)

[Gas Grill Method: preheat grill on high for 10 minutes. Lightly brush each naan with oil and grill for about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a plate and reduce grill heat to medium-low. Top naan with your choice of ingredients and grill covered for another 5-6 minutes till cheese is melted.)

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.

Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Memorial Day is around the corner – a day for honoring American veterans and doing our patriotic duties. Started three years after the Civil war ended in 1868, it was the chosen day to place flowers at the graves of those who died in the war. Originally called Decoration Day, it is believed that May 30th was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Only in 1971 did Congress  nominate the last Monday in May to be recognized as Memorial Day, and expand the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars.

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.  (Pic: military.gov)

Flags & wreaths at tombstones in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2011.
(Pic: military.gov)

The first Memorial Day ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery and small American flags were placed at each grave. This tradition continues to date and has been adopted elsewhere too.

You can read more information on the U.S. Department of Veterans website.

It is also the day for parades, picnics and barbecues with family and friends, shopping, and the opening of pool season. This week’s recipe can be used through the year. Easy and adaptable, it can be made on the cheap too. (Have you seen the price of Ice-Cream cakes at your local store?!?!) Birthday parties, graduations, family gatherings, sleepovers, play dates …… I must warn you that the never ending stream of kids through your door over the next few warm months will love visiting you. Plus the fact that you can make it a week ahead of your event and freeze it makes it even more divine.

Easy Ice-Cream Cake

Ice-Cream Cake

(Serves 8-12)

  • 2 (8-inch) round cakes of your choice (baked and cooled completely)
  • 1 gallon ice-cream of your choice (softened & stirred)
  • sliced fruit / coarsely crushed cookies (optional)
  • jelly / berry sauce / whipping cream / Magic Shell – for layering & frosting
  • cherries / sprinkles / candy – for decorating
  • 1 deep 9-inch springform (preferred) or regular round pan
  • large freezer-safe serving platter
  • plastic wrap

Ice-Cream Cake

1) Line the bottom and sides of your 9-inch pan with a double layer of plastic wrap so that the edges come over the sides of the pan.

2) Place one round cake in the center and poke holes over the top using a chopstick or fork.

3) Pour half the softened ice-cream on top and over the sides of the cake and smoothen to make it level. (If you like jam or berry sauce, pour on the cake first before adding ice cream).

4) Arrange a single layer of sliced fruit or crushed cookies on top (if using).

5) Gently drape the wrap over the ice cream (or cover with a freezer safe plate) and freeze for about 2 hours.

Ice-Cream Cake

6) Remove pan from freezer and unwrap. Place the other round cake over the first layer and poke holes again.

7) Pour the remaining ice-cream on top and around the sides and smoothen again. Make sure the top is flat.

8) Gently cover again and refreeze for another 2 hours. or overnight.

9) To plate & serve: remove pan from freezer and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes.

10) Release the latch on the springform pan and lift the cake out holding the edges of the plastic wrap. Unwrap from the bottom and place on your serving platter. (For a regular pan, run a knife under hot water and gently run it around the inside edge of the pan to release the cake.)

11) Decorate with Magic Shell or whipping cream and top with cherries / berries and sprinkles.

TIP: For smooth and easy cutting, run or dip a knife under warm water and slice.

If you have a larger crowd to serve, you can follow the same method with a rectangular 9X13 cake. Just bake the cake as per instructions and cool completely (or use store bought). Trim the edges by a 1/4 inch on all sides and gently slice across to make two 9X13 layers. Place one sheet cake back in the same pan that is lined with a double layer of plastic wrap. Follow the remaining instructions as above. When ready to serve, cut into squares.