January 31, 2014

How To Make Homemade Butter and Ghee

I have gotten some requests from my friends and readers to do a post on homemade butter and ghee. I have grown up seeing my grandma do this every day. She will put aside the day's remaining milk at night for fermenting to make yogurt. In the morning after all the breakfast rush is done, she will sit on the floor with a pot and churner to separate the butter from the yogurt. So now she has butter and butter milk. Once she collects enough butter over a few days, she will melt them and make ghee and store it. Did I mention that my grandma milked her own cow to get the milk? Of course I cannot go back to those days now, I meant the 'milking my own cow' part. I have developed my own way of making homemade yogurt, butter and ghee though I don't milk a cow. I buy non-homogenized organic whole milk instead.

My mom used to follow grandma (except for the 'milking cow' part) and make her own butter and ghee too. My mom-in-law used to follow a semi-urbanized way to make her butter and ghee and I am doing something similar. So in my modern kitchen with all sorts of kitchen gadgets, I am using a very basic old-school technique without using any of my gadgets to make my butter :-)

I will not be writing this post as a recipe, instead I will share the steps I follow over the course of a week or two to get my supply of butter and ghee.

Step 1: Buy non-homogenized milk

I buy 3 half gallon jars of whole unhomegenized milk. (We do not consume a lot of milk as such, our consumption of dairy is mostly in the form of yogurt, which is made from this milk.)

Step 2: Separate the cream on top: 

On each milk carton, before you start pouring the milk out, you will see a big amount of cream that is separated on top. Remove that using a small spoon that fit thru the opening. Collect it in a glass jar and keep refrigerated. I will do this for each milk carton. 

Step3: Make yogurt:

This is not a one time process. In south indian homes, this is an everyday routine. Before you close out kitchen for the night, you would mix some warm milk with a little bit of culture to make yogurt for the next day. Read how to make yogurt here. 

Step 4: Separate the cream from yogurt: 

Just like how cream separates on top of milk, the yogurt will have most of the remaining cream separated on top. You will remove this and collect it in the same jar you have been collecting milk cream.

Step5: Make butter & buttermilk from the cream:

By the end of the week you should have a good amount of cream collected in your jar. 
  • Take a glass bottle which you can hold with your hands comfortably. Leave enough room in the bottle for the cream to move freely. 

  • Now is the fun part, start shaking the bottle up and down and sideways in a rhythmic way. Yes, shake the bottle ! 
  • The idea is basic physics that we learnt back in 6th grade, using centrifugal force to separate butter :) 
  • You will need to do this anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. 
  • Butter will separate and you will see them as yellow blobs floating in the liquid. 

  • Scoop the butter using your clean hands and make small balls, and transfer to a bowl. Try a little fresh butter and you'd never want to buy butter from the store. My husband always tells me that he used to make sure he is around when the butter is being churned at his home as he would always get a fresh dollop every time, and now my son does the same :)

  •   Remaining liquid is buttermilk. 

Step6: Melt butter into ghee: 

Once you have collected enough butter, you can make ghee from it. (I usually do this every other week, because it takes me 2 weeks to collect enough butter to make about 6-8 ounce of ghee). 
  • Heat a saucepan on medium heat and add the butter. 

  • Butter will melt and start boiling and soon it will start to become clearer. 
  • Once it is very clear and transparent (it should still be yellow and not brown) you can remove from flame.

  • Immediately strain thru a clean muslin cloth into a container. 
  • If you are using a glass jar to collect ghee, make sure to keep it on a wooden surface or a cutting board, otherwise you will break the glass bottle with the high heat of the ghee. 

  • Once the ghee the cooled down you can store it in your cupboard.  No need to refrigerate the ghee.

January 29, 2014

Steamed Yam Noodles w/ Roasted Pepper Sauce

Do you like a warm bowl of pasta or noodles, and yet avoid grains? Let's do it, just make a bowl of steamed yam noodles or pasta and make your own sauce to go with it. You can have all the flavors you can think of in your sauce. I prefer my veggie pasta or noodles any day over a pasta made with wheat or other grains. I have it raw or just warmed or fully cooked depending on the kind of vegetable, and sometimes also depending on the weather outside. Since it is brutally cold outside, I prefer to have my yam noodles cooked and served warm. How about you?

Steamed Yam Noodles:

  • Yam/Sweet potato - 1 large 
  • Peel and slice using a Spirooli slicer. Steam till just tender for about 5-6 minutes.
  • Also steam some veggies to go with the noodles.( I used 1 cup of cauliflower florets and 2 cups of baby spinach) 

Roasted Pepper Sauce:

  • Red/Orange bell pepper - 2
  • Tomato on the vine - 1 
  • Garlic - 3-4 cloves
  • Green chilly - 3-4 
  • EV olive oil - 3 Tbs
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Nutritional yeast - 1/4 cup (Optional) 

  • Heat olive oil in a pan and roast garlic, pepper slices and tomato quarters. Let them cool down a little bit.
  • Transfer to a blender jar. Add green chillies, remaining olive oil and salt and puree till creamy.
  • If using nutritional yeast, add it now and blend till it is mixed well with the sauce.
  • Serve warm with the steamed yam noodles and steamed veggies.
  • Enjoy !

January 28, 2014

Lemony Hemp-Coconut Energy Bars

I am trying out an energy bar with hemp as a main ingredient for a close friend who was looking for a nut-free version of energy bars. This bar is packed with energy from pumpkin & chia seeds, protein from hemp, good fat from coconut & coconut oil and sweetened only with dates. It is mildly flavored with lemon juice and lemon zest. Best served for kids or adults as a breakfast on the run :-)

  • Raw hemp hearts - 1 cup
  • Raw pumpkin seeds - 1 cup
  • Shredded dried coconut - 1 cup
  • Chia seeds - 1/4 cup
  • Medjool dates - 12 - pitted
  • Cold pressed coconut oil - 6 Tbs
  • Lemon zest - from a lemon 
  • Lemon juice - from 1/2 a lemon
  • Pink Himalayan salt - a pinch

  • Powder half of the hemp hearts into a coarse powder using a dry blender or food processor. 
  • Powder the pumpkin seeds into a coarse powder using a dry blender or food processor. 
  • Powder chia seeds using coffee/spice grinder. 
  • Add all these to a bowl. Add remaining hemp, coconut, salt and lemon zest. Mix well. 
  • Mash the dates using blender/food processor or just mash using a fork.
  • Melt the coconut oil over warm water, add it to the mashed dates. Add the lemon juice and mix well.
  • Mix dry and wet ingredients to form a 'dough'. 
  • Line a 9x13 cookie sheet with parchment paper and press the dough evenly into it. 
  • Keep refrigerated for 3-4 hours before cutting.
  • Cut into bars. This makes about 12 bars. 

Sharing on Raw Food Thursday

January 26, 2014

Green Mango Sauce for Raw Veggie Noodles

This is an Asian style raw green mango sauce inspired from Piccata sauce and raw green mango chutney, a great mix of Indian and Italian tastes :-). This is quick'n'healthy, and flexible to be made as raw for a raw 'noodles' sauce or almost raw for a cooked pasta sauce.

  • Homemade coconut milk - 1-2 cups (depending on your desired consistency)
  • Raw green(unripe) mango - 1 medium
  • Green chilly - 2-3 (check spice level)
  • Garlic - 3-4 cloves
  • Fresh ginger root - 1 Tbs (chopped)
  • Sea salt - as per taste

  • Peel and slice mango. Reserve a handful of thin slices for garnishing your pasta or noodles.
  • Roast garlic if you would like, I roast in a few drops of olive oil since I cannot handle raw garlic sometimes.
  • Blend everything to a smooth and creamy sauce.
  • Serve with your choice of raw 'noodles'.
  • I served with a combination of raw jicama and carrot noodles. 
  • To make raw veggie noodles, I just slice them using my spirooli slicer and toss with a tablespoon each of raw apple cider vinegar and EV olive oil and keep aside for 30 minutes or so. 

Omit the ginger and add 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast for a 'cheesy' flavor. Serve with your choice of cooked pasta.

Note: Check how sour the raw mango is. If you think it is not sour enough, you might want to add lemon juice to enhance the flavor.

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Raw Food Thursday

Millet Kanji for a warm & nourishing breakfast

Kanji is a porridge made usually with rice. Also known as Congee in many parts of Asia. This was served as a staple breakfast when my parents were growing up back in Kerala. It is made by boiling the rice with lots of water till the rice is soft and porridge-like. My father's family used to serve this with fresh shredded coconut and sliced bananas, and optionally drizzling with ghee.  It is can also be made with different grains/cereals, including millets like little millet (chama) or finger millet (raagi). I am making it with pearl millet as it is easily available around here.


  • Pearl millet - 3/4 cup 
  • Filtered water - 5 cups 
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Shredded coconut - 1 cup
  • Coconut oil - 2 Tbs
  • Ghee - 1 Tbs (optional) 


  • Boil millet, along with cumin seeds in water till millet is soft.
  • Add, salt, coconut, coconut oil and serve warm.
  • Optionally drizzle ghee on each bowl.
  • Enjoy on a warm winter morning !!
  • Serves 3.

January 25, 2014

Homemade Popcorn, the old fashioned way !!

One of our closest friend and blog reader recently gave me an awesome live demo to make homemade pop corn. I had to share it here. We have not made pop corn in a long long time in our home because I have stopped using the microwave oven ages ago due to concern about it's effect on long term health, as well as spoiling the taste. We can talk about that in anther post later. Today, let us talk about pop corn made the old fashioned way, on a hot pan over a stove top. When I watched her do this, I wondered why did I not think about it? This is how we have seen corn being popped in movie halls, festival grounds, etc, back in India when we were growing up. Just pop the corn on a very hot surface of metal. Simple enough!!

So here is how the procedure goes. Whole thing is done under five minutes (just 2 more minutes compared to the microwaved version). Only other thing to take care is to buy organic dry corn kernels because most corn grown in the US is GMO corn and you definitely want to avoid that.

Step1 : Mix up seasoning: I mixed a pinch of red chilly powder, sea salt, a pinch of turmeric powder and 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds powdered with a tablespoon of melted coconut oil.

Step2: Heat a pan (with lid, preferably with a glass lid, so that we can see thru) on medium heat.

Step3: Add a tablespoon of coconut oil.

Step4: Add a big handful of organic corn kernels.

Step5: Close the lid and wait .. :-)

Step6: In about 2-3 minutes you should start hearing (and seeing if you have a glass lid) popping.

Step7: On hearing the first pop, you can reduce the heat to low-medium. Everything should be popped within next 30 seconds to a minute.

Step8: Once the popping completes, remove from flame and add seasoning that you had mixed earlier and toss to mix evenly. Mixing it on the hot pan sort of keeps it crisp.

Step9: Enjoy with family and friends, and maybe by watching a movie ?? :-)

January 21, 2014

Baked Parippu Vada

Parippu Vada and chaya is a classic combination that any malayali will have a sentiment attached to. It is probably the most commonly found evening snack in malayali homes, tea stalls, railway platforms, you name it. It is a favorite in my family too, but we have limited the consumption since we generally limit deep fried snacks. Mainly because as you know, deep frying does not fall under quick'n'healthy and then I don't have the patience to make the vadas one by one and fry it. Now when 'the husband' comes up with some novel ideas you should be willing to try it, you might end up with some awesome end products like these. So this is just the same old favorite parippu vada (a.k.a dal vada or masala vada), just that instead of being deep fried, they are baked. The end result?
Nutritional value >> much more than the fried version
Taste >> awesome, just the same as the fried version
Texture >> pretty close to the fried version
Effort >> very minimal compared to fried version
So here is baked parippu vada for you :-)

  • Channa dal  - 1/2 cup 
  • Toor dal - 1/2 cup
  • Green chilly - 4-5 (chopped very fine) 
  • Ginger - 2 Tbs (chopped very fine) 
  • Coriander leaves - (1/2 cup chopped very fine) 
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Baking soda - a pinch 
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1-2 Tbs (for drizzling) 

  • Soak the channa dal and toor dal together for 8-12 hours or overnight.
  • Drain the dals completely and grind coarsely. You should grind it a little more than how you would for the fried version. Try not to add any water for grinding. 
  • Add chopped ginger, green chilly, coriander leaves and salt and mix well.
  • Mix baking soda with a few drops of lemon juice and add that to the dal mixture and mix it evenly. 
  • Grease a baking tray with a few drops of coconut oil.
  • Divide the mixture into small walnut sized balls and press them between your palms. Spread them on the greased baking sheet and bake at 400 deg toaster oven for about 15-18 minutes. 
  • Set oven to broil setting and move the baking tray closer to the top and broil for 5-8 minutes till the vadas are crispy. 
  • This makes about 20 vadas.
  • Enjoy hot with a cup of tea :-) 

If you end up with extra moisture in the batter, just scoop the batter with a ice cream scooper and drop on cookie sheet and slightly press with a spoon. you might want to increase baking time by a couple minutes.

January 19, 2014

Aromatic Kozhukkatta with Jasmine Rice

Believe it or not, we have around 10 different varieties of rice in our pantry, ranging from the brown to the red to the pink to the black :-). We also have a few varieties of white rice as well. We recently found out about this great product from Lundberg Family Farms. It is their Organic Jasmine Rice. Great product, good quality organic, non-GMO verified rice. If you can use enough, well you can save some money too if you buy in bulk from amazon. We get other rice varieties from them via Amazon. They are a sustainable farm that is fully nonGMO and with a lot of organic options.

You will love the aroma when you cook it just like that or use it in other steamed rice dishes like the Kozhukkatta. Kozhukkatta (a.k.a Modakam) is an Indian style steamed dumpling made with rice and some filling (usually sweet). My family makes the filling with jackfruit preserve and coconut, but since I have no way of getting jackfruit preserve in this part of the world, I substitute it with medjool dates. This is my son's favorite. I guess if he has to pick a favorite traditional Indian dish, he might pick this. This was a favorite with both of us while we were kids (and it still is). I usually make it with red rice, but today I just wanted that nice aroma to fill my kitchen and went for the Jasmine rice.

  • Organic jasmine rice - 1 cup. (Soaked for 6-8 hours or overnight)
  • Sea salt - 1/2 tsp 
  • Medjool dates - 10 
  • Shredded coconut - 1/2 cup (fresh is recommended, but you can substitute with dried unsweetened  coconut
  • Cardamom - 4-5 (peeled and powdered) 

  • Drain the rice, and grind it along with 2 cups of water and salt to a fine batter.
  • Add the batter to a saucepan and cook on medium heat stirring continuously. In about 10 minutes, the batter will thicken and form a dough. Remove from flame when it is still a little moist. Keep it covered for about 10 minutes. The extra moisture will be absorbed this way. 
  • After 10 minutes, mix and mash the dough well with a spoon. Make sure there is no extra moisture. Transfer the dough to a bowl and keep aside to cool down a little bit.
  • Meanwhile, chop the dates, and mash it with a wooden spoon (you can use your food processor to do this part). Add coconut and cardamom powder, and mix well. Divide into 12 equal parts and roll them into balls. 
  • By now, the dough should be cold enough for you to handle. Slightly knead the dough with your hands. If you feel the dough is too sticky, then apply coconut oil on your palm. Divide into 12 equal parts and roll into balls. 
  • Take each rice ball, flatten on your palm. Keep the date ball in the middle and fold to cover the date ball completely. Then roll nicely on your palm.
  • Repeat for remaining rice and date balls.
  • Steam them on a steamer, pasta boiler or Idli cooker for about 12 minutes.
  • Serve as a snack or breakfast. Enjoy !!

January 14, 2014

Pearl Millet Pongal

Happy Pongal to all of you who are celebrating it. I have some fond memories of Pongal from my short time in Chennai. Pongal is a harvest festival consisting of 4 days of celebrations, each day dedicated to different themes. I will be joining my Tamil friends and will be celebrating by making my version of pongal. As always my pongal will have some quick'n'healthy elements too. I am making pongal with pearl millet and whole mung this time. As always use as much organic ingredients as possible.

  • Pearl millet - 2/3rd cup
  • Whole green mung beans - 1/2 cup 
  • Cumin seeds - 1 Tbs
  • Black pepper corns - 1 Tbs (crushed coarsely) 
  • Fresh ginger root - 2 Tbs (julienned) 
  • Fresh coconut slices - 1/4 cup 
  • Raw cashew nuts - a handful 
  • Sea salt  - as per taste
  • Ghee - 2 Tbs 

  • Soak mung and millet separately for 4-6 hours or overnight. 
  • Drain mung and coarsely grind (just a quick pulse to break them down)
  • Heat 1 Tbs ghee and add cumin seeds and crushed black  pepper and saute for a minute or so till nice aroma comes. 
  • Add the coarsely ground mung and saute for a couple of minutes.
  • Add drained millet, cashew nuts, 3 cups of water and salt and bring to a boil. Check the salt level of the liquid and adjust if needed. Reduce the heat and cook covered till millet and mung is cooked well. It should not be completely dry as pongal needs to have some moisture remaining. (this whole step can be done using a pressure cooker)
  • Heat the remaining ghee, roast ginger slices & coconut slices and garnish over the pongal.
  • Serve warm along with coconut chutney. Enjoy :-) 

January 12, 2014

Akku's "Very Berry" Dessert Smoothie

Today, I am guest posting for my mom..

My parents usually do all the work for making me food, so I thought it would be a nice change to make a smoothie of my own. In the past, when making food or drinks, I have either gotten help or have used a recipe from somewhere else. One of the easiest things to make is a smoothie, especially when you have a high-speed blender. Of these, a fruit dessert smoothie, is one that can't really go wrong. Anyway, here it is:

1 over-ripe banana
4-6 frozen strawberries
1 handful of frozen blueberries
1 handful of frozen cherries
1 handful of frozen raspberries
3 tbsp yogurt
handful of raisins* (optional, depends on how sweet you want it to be)

Put all ingredients into Vitamix and blend on high for about a minute. If you do not have a high-speed blender, you might have to blend for more than a minute. Keep blending till you get the consistency you want for the smoothie. (The consistency can be anywhere from the consistency of ice cream to the consistency of a regular smoothie). Decorate anyway you like. 

* Note: raisins can be substituted with 1 date, or 2 tbsp honey

January 10, 2014

Natural Flu & Cold Remedy

It is flu season in the US and it usually peaks in February. This is also a time when kids catch cold and sore throats from friends at school, and in turn pass them to their parents who in turn does the same to their colleagues in office. We have been trying out home remedies based on concoctions I found on the web, you can find them here. My husband had a bad sore throat and so wanted me to make him one of them, and the one that interested him the most was the elixir for flu and cold, most likely because of the ingredients :-). So I decided to give it a try. It is packed with infection fighting ingredients like vitamin C, anti-microbial and  anti-fungal as it is made with pineapple, lemon, honey, ginger, garlic and chilly. After 2 shorts of it, he is feeling a lot better, and as he says, even if this does not make me 100% better, I love drinking it and feel 100% :-).

  • Pineapple is packed with vitamin C, along with a high concentration of antioxidants and bromelain, which helps with respiratory illnesses and coughs. You can substitute with Oranges if you do not get ripe pineapples.
  • Lemon is again packed with vitamin C and helps to fight cold and flu, while also rejuvenating the body.
  • Honey is antibacterial property and helps to soothe coughs and colds. Manuka honey in particular is a very powerful antimicrobial and is known to fight super bugs when even strong antibiotics fail. If you do not get Manuka honey, use a good raw honey (preferably local).
  • Ginger has many medicinal properties and is good for the throat and for digestion.
  • Chilly helps to loosen the the mucus and sinuses, and helps with colds and flu, while also boosting immunity
  • Garlic is one of the strongest antibcterial and antifungal around, and contains allicin which is the key medicinal ingredient in garlic. Allicin supplements are used to treat many diseases, including superbug infections. 
  • As always use as much organic ingredients as possible

  • Pineapple juice - 1 1/2 cups (Freshly pressed)
  • Lemon juice - from 3 large lemons
  • Fresh ginger - 1 Tbs (chopped)
  • Garlic cloves - 6
  • Red chilly - 1 small 
  • Manuka honey - 1 Tbs

  • Blend everything well and store in a glass jar. 
  • Have 1/2 a cup 3 times a day until symptoms go away.


Disclaimer: The information given here is just based on what we have tried in our family and based on what has worked for us. Please always make correct decisions based on your body. 

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January 9, 2014

Thai Style Spicy Chickpea Soup

Brutally cold temperatures are still hanging around here, though they are not welcome for long. We have been trying hard to fight the cold and trying to stick with our lunch salads, but looks like we have to give the salads up and start making some warm/spicy soups. A warm soup to keep us warm, and the addition of ginger, garlic and spices to help us fight any winter ailments. Thai style soup is an ideal choice for this purpose. As always use as much organic ingredients as possible.

  • Chickpea - 3/4 cup (soaked overnight)
  • Yellow onion - 1 (chopped)
  • Veggies - 1 cup (chopped) 
  • Tomatoes - 2 small
  • Sea salt - as per taste
To grind:
  • Ginger - 2 Tbs (chopped)
  • Garlic - 4 cloves
  • Shredded coconut - 1/4 cup 
  • Homemade nut butter - 1/4 cup
  • Red Chilly - 2 (or more)
  • Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Lemon juice - from a large lemon
Before Serving:
  • Baby spinach - 1 cup
  • Fresh basil leaves - 1/2 cup
  • Drain the chickpeas and cook them with 2 cups of water. 
  • Grind all ingredients under 'To Grind' along with a cup of water to a fine paste. Add one more cup of water to thin it and make it to a coconut milk consistency. So now you have a spicy nut-coconut milk ready to go as the soup base.
  • Add cooked chickpeas along with cooking water, chopped onion, tomatoes, veggies and salt to the soup pot (a big enough sauce pan) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till veggies are 3/4th done. Add the nut-coconut milk and continue simmering for about 10-15 minutes on low-medium heat till all flavors mix well and you have the required consistency. 
  • Just before serving add the spinach and basil leaves and warm the soup till the leaves are just wilted. 
  • Serve warm. Enjoy! 

Sharing on: Healthy Vegan Friday
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