March 1, 2015

Veggielicious Pav Bhaji

Pav bhaji is an Indian street food which has origins in Maharashtra, the coastal state of India. Bhaji just means a vegetable side dish, while Pav interestingly has a Portuguese connection. Pav means bread in Portuguese and this connection dates back to the time they were present in Maharashtra during the colonial time before the British. Pav bhaji itself is recorded to be originated as a quick lunch for mill workers in Bombay (present day Mumbai), where they did not have long lunch breaks for a full course meal. Nowadays this is so popular that anywhere in the world where you have a reasonable Indian population, you might find a food cart or small food joint which sells Pav Bhaji. If you go to an Indian get-together you are more likely to find it as part of the spread. 

Like all other dishes which get a face-lift in the Quick'n'Healthy kitchen, this has also gone thru some healthy customization. Though I don't really dislike potato, I consider it more as a carb than a vegetable. Hence I make the bhaji with winter squash or yams. I also alter the cooking process a little  bit so that all vegetables are cooked just enough and not over processed. The key to the bhaji is not the vegetables that go into it, but it is fresh pav bhaji masala. I use homemade pav bhaji masala and it does the trick. With the fresh masala, it tastes so much better than the store brought masala which is more often stale and does not have the fresh smell. Now you have the bhaji with freshly baked whole wheat pav buns to make it completely your own :-). Top it with home made ghee or butter, and enjoy Pav Bhaji to your heart's content.

Whole wheat pav- Ingredients:
  • Whole wheat pastry flour - 1 1/2 cups
  • Warm water - 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs
  • Coconut palm sugar - 1 Tbs
  • Active dry yeast - 1 tsp
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Sea salt - 3/4 tsp
  • Mix yeast and sugar in warm water and set aside for 5 minutes till it is frothy.
  • Add this along with melted coconut oil, salt to the flour. Mix everything well to form a dough.
  • Knead well for about 10 minutes. Apply a little melted coconut oil on top and cover with a plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about an hour till the dough is doubled in volume.
  • Punch the dough, divide into 6 equal parts. Make balls out of each part and arrange in a baking tray keeping about an inch distance between each. Keep in a warm place for about an hour so that the balls double in size once again. 
  • Preheat oven at 400 deg F and place the baking tray in the middle rack and bake for 12-15 minutes. 
  • Brush each hot pav (bun) with a pat of ghee or coconut oil.
  • Serve warm with freshly made warm bhaji.

  • Butternut squash - 2 cups (chopped) 
  • Green beans - 1 cup  (chopped)
  • Carrot - 1 cup (chopped)
  • Onion - 1 cup (chopped)
  • Tomato - 1 cup (chopped)
  • Homemade pav bhaji masala - 2-3 Tbs 
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Chilly powder - if you need extra hot
  • Start cooking butternut squash with 1 cup of water. Cook covered for about 10 minutes or till cooked half way thru.
  • Add carrot and beans and continue cooking till beans and carrots are cooked half way thru.
  • Add onions and tomatoes and cook till they soft. 
  • Add the spices and continue cooking stirring frequently taking care not to burn the mix.
  • Continue cooking till everything cooked well and slightly mashed. 
  • Adjust seasoning and remove from flame. 
  • Serve with optional garnish of ghee, chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lemon juice. 
  • Enjoy with freshly baked pav buns!!

  • Instead of butternut squash you can use, sweet potato, garnet/purple yams or plantains. 
  • Carrots and beans can also be substituted with other choice of vegetables.

Homemade pav bhaji masala: 
  • Black cardamom - 4
  • Coriander seeds - 4 Tbs
  • Cumin seeds - 2 Tbs
  • Black pepper - 2 Tbs
  • Fennel seeds - 1 1/2 Tbs
  • Whole red chilly - 5-6 (I used south Indian variety) 
  • Cinnamon - 1/2 of a stick (about 10 small pieces) 
  • Dry mango powder (amchur) - 2 Tbs
  • Dry roast everything except amchur on medium heat till a nice aroma comes out of the spices. 
  • Switch off, add amchur and mix well. Let it cool.
  • Powder using a coffee/spice grinder. 
  • Store in an air tight container. 
  • Add to pav bhaji or any other dishes that you would want to spice up a little bit. :)

Recipe source for the masala powder: 

February 27, 2015

Three Bean Okra Chili

When the weather is cold outside we just like to be cozy around at home and have have some warm and spicy food. Chili is something well suited for a quick'n'healthy dinner on a cold evening. The pressure cooker cooks your beans perfectly and the Vitamix makes the perfect puréed soup base which gives it a slow cooked feel without using a slow cooker, or spending the whole day in the kitchen to get the slow cooked feel for your chili. Addition of okra will give an interesting texture, and of course okra is a diabetic friendly and heart healthy vegetable which everyone is trying include in their meals these days. As Indians we are so fortunate to have grown up eating okra in so many different ways, one more is always a welcome addition :-). Go for this warm okra Chili on a chilly night...!!!


  • Black beans - 1/3 cup
  • Red kidney beans - 1/3 cup
  • White vaal beans - 1/3 cup
  • Okra - 30 (medium)
  • Tomato - 1 cup (chopped)
  • Garlic - 2-3 Tbs (minced)
  • Onion - 1/4 cup (chopped)
  • Paprika - 2 Tbs
  • Oregano - 2 Tbs
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Black pepper corns - 1/2 tsp
  • Chile de arbol - 1 (or use equivalent amount of red chilly powder)
  • EV Olive oil - 2 Tbs
  • Sea salt - as per taste

  • Soak beans for 8-12 hours or overnight. Drain soaked beans and cook with about 3 1/2 - 4 cups of water. Pressure cooker works best. 
  • To make soup base: heat olive on medium heat and add cumin seeds, black pepper, minced garlic and chopped onion. Roast till onion is slightly pink and garlic is roasted well. Add chopped tomato, oregano, paprika and cook till tomato is soft, for about 3-4 minutes. Switch off and let it cool. Purée this along with a scoop of cooked beans and some cooking liquid from beans. This is your soup base.
  • Wash okra and trim edges. Cut into an inch long pieces. 
  • In a soup pot, add okra and cooked beans along with all remaining liquid from cooking beans. Cook on medium heat till okra is almost done. 
  • Add the puréed soup base and salt. Simmer on low-medium heat for about 5-10 minutes till all flavors combine well and okra is cooked enough. Adjust seasoning and switch off. 
  • Serve warm with chopped cilantro and toasted quinoa. 
  • Enjoy!! 

For toasted quinoa topping:

  • Quinoa - 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice - 1 Tbs
  • Sea salt - 1/4 tsp
  • In a pan dry roast quinoa till you hear continuous popping (about 4-5 minutes on medium heat).
  • Cook with about a cup of water, lemon juice and salt, till well done and you can fluff the quinoa with a fork.

February 23, 2015

Crunchy Spiced Almonds

We love to snack on nuts, usually it is almonds or cashews. Sometimes you feel like having something savory, so why not savory nuts. These slow roasted spicy almonds which will come in handy when you want to reach for a healthy mid-day snack. Also pack this when you want to gift someone with little bag of homemade goodies. For variation, try other kinds of nuts, vary the spices, be creative..:)

  • Almonds - 3 cups
  • Organic free range egg - 1
  • Red chilly powder - 2 tsp (adjust according to spice level)
  • Coconut palm sugar - 1/2 tsp (optional) 
  • Herbs - 2 Tbs (I used oregano)
  • Garlic minced - 1 tsp (optional)
  • Sea salt - 1/2 tsp 
  • Nutritional yeast - 2 Tbs (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  • Separate egg white and yolk. Save the yolk for future use. 
  • Beat the egg white lightly. Add all the spices and salt, whisk well.
  • Add the almonds and stir well to coat. Add nutritional yeast (if you have it) at this point. Toss lightly to coat evenly.
  • Spread in a baking sheet without much overlapping.
  • Bake for about an hour or till crisp.
  • Cool completely and store in air tight container.
  • Enjoy!! 

February 20, 2015

Pink Pasta Sauce

Looking for a bright & colorful way to serve your pasta? Here is a pink sauce made with beets and hemp hearts. I know some of you are already frowning skeptically.... hmm, I was skeptical myself about trying this with beet. I am not a huge of fan of beets, but I never give up on any vegetable, feel they deserve a second chance :-). I keep trying different ways to include them and here I have disguised it in a sauce, and why not when beets are loaded with nutrition that is relevant especially in winter. Read here to know what Dr Mercola has to say about the benefits of beets.

This sauce was first introduced in the quick'n'healthy kitchen on a valentine's day for a pink themed packed lunch for my son. He got his organic pasta with this sauce in his lunch and loved it, though it was pink :-). His friends said that in general it might not taste good, but if its your mom who cooked it it has to be good :-).  We made ourselves a warm batch of pink risotto with some steamed vegetables and wild rice. So go ahead and try this pink sauce, this might make you a fan of beets after all :-).

  • Beet root - 3
  • Garlic cloves - 7-8
  • Hemp hearts - 3/4 cup
  • EV olive oil - 2-3 Tbs
  • Black pepper - 1 tsp
  • Green chilly - 2-3 (optional)
  • Sea salt - as per taste

  • Trim the edges and rub the beets nicely to remove any dirt. Slice into 1/4 inch slices.
  • Heat olive oil on medium heat and roast garlic and beet slices turning a few times, for about 5-8 minutes. Let it cool. 
  • Blend roasted beets and garlic along with remaining ingredients and blend till nice and creamy.
  • Serve with your choice of pasta, or with steamed veggies, use it to make a flavorful risotto, or enjoy it by spoonful just as is :)