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.

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.

Eggless French Toast

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I thought I should share some breakfast-in-bed ideas that dad and the kids can whip up easily. This recipe is a change from the usual pancakes /PBJ / store bought muffins, etc. They can be made either savory or sweet, and are vegetarian. The basic recipe idea comes from both my grandmother & Show Me The Curry, and I have adapted it to suit our tastes.

Eggless French Toast

Eggless Savory French Toast

  • 1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp fine sooji (if all you have is regular sooji, give it a quick whir in the blender)
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp green chilli (finely minced) OR chilli powder
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp ginger paste (optional)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4-5 slices of day-old sandwich bread

Eggless French Toast

[Here’s my grandma making french toast 🙂 ]

1) Sift together besan, rice flour & baking soda into a flat-bottomed wide dish.

2) Add all the other ingredients (except bread) and stir well till no lumps are left. (Add a teaspoon or two of extra water only if absolutely necessary to make the paste smoother.)

3) Place your griddle / shallow frying pan on medium heat to preheat.

4) Soak each slice of bread in the besan mixture for a few seconds on each side.

5) Lightly grease the griddle and cook the bread on medium-low flame, flipping over as each side is crispy and golden. Add a few drops of oil around the bread as it cooks on each side to keep it from getting dry.

Alternately, add a teaspoon of butter on the griddle and cook the bread in it – it’s delicious!!

6) Repeat till all slices are done and serve with ketchup / hot & sweet sauce.

Eggless Sweet French Toast

  • 1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp fine sooji (if all you have is regular sooji, give it a quick whir in the blender)
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla / cinnamon powder / orange zest

1) Follow the same cooking method as above.

2) Serve the toast topped with maple syrup, fruit slices, or jam.

Serve MOM these French Toast slices with Blueberry Yogurt Parfait (click here for recipe) and hot tea or coffee.

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

 

For regular French Toast recipe, click here.

Read my Mother’s Day post from 2014 for instructions on how to make a Cupcake Bouquet.

These French Toast slices will keep well for lunch boxes too – just add a side of veggies and fruit for a complete meal.

Eggless French Toast

 

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley Signing up for a fitness challenge at Gold’s Gym and having a trainer has meant that I have started to watch what I eat – grudgingly, but I’m doing it. I don’t believe in starving or depriving myself, or in any of the no carb/ high protein/ gluten free/ paleo/ etc diets – I guess I just don’t have the discipline for them. I’ve realized that our (my family’s) food philosophy should be to eat like our parents & grandparents – seasonal, whole foods, variety, primarily plant based, occasional indulgences without guilt, and moderation. While I still sneak a bite of the PBJ sandwich, and enjoy an occasional cupcake, I have definitely incorporated a fruit and atleast one vegetable as the main source of each meal. With conscious eating, I am more appreciative of colors, flavors and texture now than ever before. I made this Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley during one of the snow day holidays when I had to make do with what I had at home.

With warm weather picnics & barbecues in the horizon, this is a make-ahead healthy side that is great on the taste buds as it is on the eyes. Pair with grilled meat, veggie burgers or even as an unusual but always much welcome option for an appetizer. My teenager had to be shooed away from eating these straight from the pan!! The recipe here, again, is just a guide – feel free to adjust the seasoning & quantity to suit your tastes.

I use this simple seasoning for many of my vegetable sides – brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, etc – and either pan roast or oven roast ( my preferred method). Just toss the raw cut veggies in olive oil, chilli flakes, minced garlic and salt. Transfer to a flat baking tray and bake at 425*F for 8-10 mins till they are cooked but still crunchy. My family never complains about eating their veggies this way.

NOTE: The recipe shows a lot of steps because I have explained in detail how to blanch the vegetables. This dish is very easy to put together.

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

(Serves 6-8)

  • 1/2 – 1 lb thin green beans (washed & drained) – {I use the Costco haricot vert or French green beans which are smaller and more tender than regular green string beans; if using regular beans, use the tenderest ones you can find}
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
  • 1 large onion (finely sliced)
  • 1 large red pepper (seeded and sliced)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • salt to blanch the beans, plus extra to taste

1) Bring about 8-10 cups of water to boil in a large pan.

2) Meanwhile, add ice to another large bowl with water and set close to the stove.

3) When the water boils in the first pan on the stovetop, add about 1-2 tablespoon of salt and the beans (salt generously – this will keep the color of the beans vibrant, yet will not be absorbed heavily by the vegetables). Continue cooking  for another 3-4 minutes on high flame.

4) Taste test a bean to see if it is slightly tender and lightly salty. It should still be crunchy. At this point, quickly use a strainer or tongs to remove the beans and transfer immediately into the ice water.

Depending on the size of your pots and the amount of beans being used, you may have to work in small batches.

5) Let the beans cool completely in the ice water – this will stop the cooking process and retain the color. Touch after a few minutes to make sure they are no longer warm.

6) Drain completely – do not allow the beans to sit in the cold water for a long time or they will become soggy – and spread on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.

7) Heat the same large pot on medium-high flame, and add 1/2 – 1 tablespoon oil to it.

8) Add the garlic and saute few seconds till lightly golden. Toss in the chilli flakes and stir.

9) Now add the sliced onions and saute on medium-high flame till translucent.

10) Add the sliced red pepper and saute for about 2-3 minutes till slightly tender.

11) Add the drained green beans and salt to taste and saute on a high flame till all the vegetables are starting to slightly brown, but are still crisp and crunchy.

12) Remove to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.

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 :)).

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

No-cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

Have you spent enough already on snack / granola/ energy / breakfast bars? One – the $$ add up pretty quickly; two – have you turned to the ingredients list? Yes – they may be low in sugar & carbs, high in protein & fiber, and claim to be a good meal replacement. But most of them are chock full of additives & have dozens of ingredients that I would never put in my mouth if I saw it by itself. In my attempt to feed my family food that is tasty, nutritious, natural and most importantly,  can be made ahead, I have been experimenting with a few different recipes.

I found that over the last few months, the alternative to my 4pm sweet tooth / chocolate craving was only satiated by the texture and sweetness of dates and the crunch of a few walnuts or almonds. If that was not enough, I would eat an apple or a banana to tide me through till dinner. Some days, I needed a ‘portable’ breakfast & cereal bars seemed like a good thing to start the day with.

These bars are husband & kid approved, and I generally don’t flinch when my boys go back for a second piece. The recipe below is more of a guide  – feel free to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand and adjust sweetness to your preference.

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 – 2X2 inch squares)

  • 2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)
  • 2 cups oats ( I used rolled / old-fashioned oats; can probably try Instant / quick cook variety)
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup dry figs (soak in 1/2 cup warm water for about 15 mins and drain well before using)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon OR cardamom powder
  • few Tbsp honey OR maple syrup OR agave syrup (optional)
  • 1-2 cups applesauce OR finely chopped apple OR banana

1) Heat a wide, heavy bottomed pan on medium-high flame and add the oats. Toast them for about 5-10 mins till they are nutty, stirring constantly and making sure they do not brown. Remove to another wide container to cool.

2) In the same pan, add the nuts in a single layer and toast for a few minutes, again stirring continuously and making sure they do not burn. Toast till they are fragrant and glossy with their own oil. Remove from hot pan to cool completely. Work in batches if necessary.

3) In a large food processor, add the oats, the nuts and the dates & figs separately. Process till coarsely (your preference) chopped, removing to another container as each one is done.

4) Add the cinnamon/cardamom powder and fruit and mix well. – If using applesauce, use only 1/2 – 1 cup to bind mixture, and add on as needed.

5) Alternately, add all the coarsely chopped ingredients and powder back to the food processor and pulse till it all comes together. (This is my preferred method as we don’t like chunks in our bars.) Drizzle in some honey/syrup if needed as everything is getting mixed.

6) Line an 8X8 inch pan with wax paper or foil, making sure it overhangs over the sides.

7) Press the mixture into the pan, and smooth out the top evenly.

8) At this point, the bars are ready to eat. I prefer to let the raw mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator to set and allow the flavors to meld. 

9) When the mixture is set, remove the bars by holding the foil. Slice into 2X2 inch squares and store in an airtight container. They will be fine for a week or more in the fridge.

10) Alternately, once you press the mixture into the pan, cook in a preheated 350* oven for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely. Remove with foil, slice and store in an airtight container.

NOTE: As mentioned above, add or reduce the quantity of the dates, fruits and syrup to suit your tastes. You can also experiment with different types of nuts, although I find that walnuts have the best texture here.

Corn & Peppers Medley

Corn & Pepper Salad

Served with our Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet and Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options). This is super easy to put together, and is so colorful on the table.

Corn & Peppers Medley

(Serves 10-12 as salad topper)

  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 medium red onion (diced fine)
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced the same size as the corn kernels)
  • 1/2 medium green pepper (diced the same size as the corn kernels) – optional
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers (diced fine)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans sweet corn (well drained) – [can use frozen corn – thawed & drain well]
  • salt to taste
  • Lemon / lime juice to taste

1) Heat a wide, flat-bottom pan on medium high. Add oil.

2) Saute the onions till just turning soft, about 1 minute.

3) Add jalapenos & peppers and saute for another minute.

4) Add corn & salt and saute for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

5) Adjust lime juice and salt to taste and serve.