January 26, 2016

Vegetarian Pastelón - Ripe Plantain Lasagna

Each year I look forward to Thanksgiving day. One reason of course is the spirit of being thankful for everything that we have, good health, family, friends, peaceful life - everything that we often take for granted till it is taken away from us. Another reason is that I look forward to cooking the TG day menu. This time again we picked the theme of 'food from around the world' - a dish from each continent. I picked Australian lamb stew and Moroccan anise bread to go with the stew. From Asia I picked Udon noodles made with homemade almond-butter Sriracha sauce, and French green beans salad from Europe. My husband did a big project making hard apple cider and sparkling apple cider with farm fresh apples. I then made a pumpkin no-cheese cheesecake which took care of North America.

Now I was left with South America. I toyed with different dishes, but nothing really caught my attention. Then came the idea of making something with plantain. My guests were all going to be Mallus and I was sure they would love something with plantains. That is how I got the idea of Pastelón. It seems like each Latin american country has its own version of Pastelón. It is basically a plantain lasagna or casserole made mostly with a beef filling. Since we are predominantly vegetarians, I was not going to add one more non-vegetarian dish to the menu and beef was out of question anyway. That is how the vegetarian version came about.

I just took the basic idea of Pastelón, the plantains and the filling was prepared by my own judgement with a mix of Indian and Latin spices. We all loved it and so did my guests, in fact this was probably the best one on the table. I will be making this more often as breakfast, brunch or as side dish just like this. My son wants to take this to school as lunch.., can't beat that :-)

  • Well ripe plantains - 8
  • Black Bean -1 cup (soaked overnight)
  • Kidney bean - 1 cup (soaked overnight)
  • Red onion - 1/2 chopped fine
  • Tomato - 4 medium
  • Jalapeño - 2
  • Cilantro - 1/2 cup (chopped)
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Dry mango powder - 2 Tbs
  • Cumin seeds - 1 Tbs
  • Paprika - 1 Tbs
  • Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp or more if you prefer
  • EV Olive oil - 3 Tbs
  • Organic ghee or butter - 2 Tbs (substitute with virgin coconut oil for a vegan version)

  • Cook the beans with enough water and drain.
  • Using a mortar and pestle crush cumin, jalapeño and cilantro.
  • Heat olive oil on medium and sauté cumin/cilantro mixture for 2 minutes.
  • Add onion and sauté till golden brown.
  • Add tomato and cook till slightly mashed.
  • Add cooked beans and all remaining ingredients and cook on medium heat stirring frequently. 
  • Cook till everything in mixed well and beans are slightly mashed and most of moisture is absorbed.
  • Boil or steam the plantains (with the skin on).
  • Once slightly cool, peel the skin, mash and remove the core and seeds. Add the ghee (or butter or coconut oil) and mash well.
  • Grease a baking dish (8.5 x 10.5 or 2.5 Qt) with butter. 
  • Divide the mashed plantain into 2 parts. Make a layer of plantain in the greased baking dish, fill the bean mixture on top. Fill the remaining plantain on top. Press as you go with each layer. 
  • Even out the top layer and optionally add a drizzle of ghee or a few slices of butter on top. 
  • Bake at 350 deg F for 30 minutes.
  • Slice and serve. 
  • Serves 8 big servings or 16 small servings.
  • Enjoy!!

January 23, 2016

Homemade Body Butter - New & Improved

Body butter is something I had been keen on making for a while and my initial trial came out well, but I was not happy with the consistency as it melted a lil during warmer weather. So here is an improved version and I am very happy with the result, have test marketed it with a few close friends and have their Thumbs-up as well.

I started off with my usual set of preferred ingredients. As always my hubby would start with Coconut oil, which is an all-purpose item for him and is the only cosmetic on his desk :-). Problem with coconut oil is that it liquefies at warmer temperatures, so wanted something that can neutralize it and beeswax was the perfect foil, besides the fact that it has great medicinal properties. Then I selected the rest of the ingredients for their skin nourishing properties. Finally I added a tinge of rose essential oil for a mild fragrance. The result is a very pleasing body butter made with simple ingredients that is wonderful for your skin and suitable for all weather conditions.


  • Virgin coconut oil - 1/2 cup
  • Shea butter - 1/2 cup
  • Bees wax - 1/2 cup
  • Almond oil - 1/2 cup
  • Wheat germ oil (vitamin E oil) - 2 Tbs
  • Pure rose essential oil - 30-40 drops


  • Add coconut oil, shea butter and bees wax to a glass jar.
  • Set the glass jar on a saucepan with water heating over medium heat.
  • Keep stirring while the fats melt and become fluid.
  • Once fats have melted completely remove from heat and add almond oil and wheat germ oil and mix well. Let the mixture cool down.
  • Once completely cold, add rose oil (or any preferred scented essesntial oil) and mix well.
  • Keep on couter top and wait till the mixture solidify again (keep in refrigerator if you are  in a warm weather area). 
  • Once the mixture is solid but still soft, beat using a hand mixture or egg beater till light and fluffy (this step is optional to make a light and fluffy body butter).
  • Transfer to containers and store in a cool dry area. 
  • This makes about 5, 4oz containers. Enjoy!! 

November 25, 2015

Spicy Kale Rice

Kale is health conscious America's favorite poster child, and is one of the 'super-veggies' always in the top of the 'you should be eating this' lists. Top celebrities, including presidents and many hollywood stars have made it very fashionable by claiming to eat it daily. Of course, there are a lot of Kale jokes around as well, and my son sometimes tells his friends that we are 'Kaleing' him :-), but then he loves anything made with Kale too.

Kale was also in the news recently when it got some attention for the news about the side effects of eating too much of it. I was reading thru some of them and most of the so called 'side effects' are caused by eating too much of it via raw salads, juices and salads. Also, from what I understand, in most of the cases the people are newbies to eating kale or any veggies for that matter, and all of a sudden if you start eating a ton of kale, that too in raw form, it may not suit your body right away. So the key is to cook the kale, and include a variety of veggies in your diet to have balance and eat everything (including kale) in moderation :-)

Coming to cooking with Kale, it is a very versatile green that can fit into a multitude of dishes, like a salad, or a soup, or a chip or an Indian inspired dish like this one. I feel it is better than spinach when substituted in some of the Indian spinach dishes because it has more character and texture. This is more of a fall dish when you get an abundance of fresh locally produced kale, but you can make it anytime of the year especially in winter when you really crave for something spicy. 

  • Rice - 1 cup *
  • Kale - 6-8 leaves
  • Homemade tomato paste - 2 Tbs **
  • Green chilly - 3-4 
  • Garlic - 2-3 cloves
  • Fresh ginger - 1/2 inch 
  • Cardamom - 3-4 pods
  • Clove - 3-4
  • Coconut oil - 2 Tbs
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Sea salt - as pet taste
  • Cook rice with 1 and 3/4th cups of water.
  • Meanwhile, separate kale from the stem, tear into small pieces. 
  • Add kale pieces to a food processor along with ginger, garlic, green chilly, cardamom and cloves. Process till everything is very finely chopped, almost minced.
  • Heat a pan on medium heat, add coconut oil. Add kale mixture, tomato paste, turmeric powder and salt. 
  • Cook on medium heat, stirring continuously for about 5-8 minutes till the kale is cooked and soft.
  • Switch off, add cooked rice and mix well. 
  • Keep covered for 30 minutes.
  • Serve warm. Enjoy!!

* You can use any kind of rice, just judgement for cooking time and amount of water accordingly. If it is a whole grain rice, be sure to soak it for a few hours or overnight. 
** To make tomato paste: Quarter well ripe (I use Campari) tomatoes and start cooking on medium heat. Let tomatoes cook with its own water. Gradually water content will reduce in about 25-30 minutes. When your desired consistency is reached, switch off and let it cool. Puree and store in an airtight jar. This can be refrigerated up to 2-3 weeks.

November 11, 2015

Baked Pumpkin Kesari

Happy Deepavali to all of you. :-)

Deepavali, the festival of lights, is also a festival of sweets:). This time we are going seasonal  by making the Diwali sweet with locally grown pumpkin. Baked pumpkin kesari is inspired from baked mango kesari that I tasted at a friend's place. Kesari is a common sweet/snack from south India. Kesari can me made in multiple ways - steamed, baked or stovetop versions. It is usually made with cream of wheat or rava. I am making it with idli rice (coarsely ground par boiled rice). It is sweetened with sugar, unlike many other quicknhealthy desserts and sweets. So the key as always is moderation. Serve small portions :). 

Once again wishing all of you a Happy, Peaceful and Safe and Sweet Deepavali, and a great time ahead. Enjoy!!

  • Pumpkin puree - 1 cup *
  • Idli rava - 1 cup **
  • Unrefined organic sugar - 3/4 cup  (Add more or less based on your preference)
  • Organic grass-fed butter - 1/2 cup
  • Cardamom - 5-6 pods (skin removed and powdered. 
  • Ghee or coconut oil or greasing the baking dish.
  • Preheat oven at 350 degree F. Grease a 8 X 8 baking dish with ghee or coconut oil.
  • Heat a pan on medium heat and dry roast the idli rava. Keep stirring taking care not to burn. Switch off just when it starts to turn golden. You can optionally add a a teaspoon of ghee at this point.
  • Blend the pumpkin puree along with cardamom powder and butter. 
  • Add the pumpkin mix to the roasted rava and mix well.
  • Pour the mixture to the greases baking dish.Bake at 350 deg F for 30 minutes. 
  • Let it cool and cut into desired shapes and sizes.
  • Enjoy!!

*  To make pumpkin puree:
  • Cut pumpkin into quarters and bake in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Let it cool, peel the skin, remove the core and seeds. Puree the flesh using a blender or food 
  • If you want to make a small batch of pumpkin puree, cut out wedges from pumpkin, remove skin, core and seeds and make thin slices. Heat a pan on medium heat, drizzle coconut oil and arrange the slices without crowding. Roast till slightly brown for about 5 minutes.Flip the slices and repeat on the other side. Let it cool and puree. 

** Idli rava is coarsely ground parboiled rice. You can use regular rava/suji/semolina.