Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Southwestern Style Pasta Salad

Cilantro(coriander leaves) has always been one of my favorite herbs. The fragrance and flavor it adds to food is just incomparable, and I use this herb extensively in my daily cooking to add flavor.In a general sense I always believed that cilantro like all other green leafy herbs and vegetables must have some good in them, but I never really looked it up to confirm what those health benefits could be......

So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across an article in a recent Health magazine issue that explained exactly how healthy cilantro really is.......Did you know.... that cilantro is said to aid digestion and prevent nausea. It also is said to contain essential oils in it that kill bacteria like e-coli making food safer. After reading that article I went online to check and found that in addition to these, cilantro has been credited with a host of other health benefits, everything from having anti inflammatory properties, to help in reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad kind),to being a good anti oxidant and is also said to help stimulate the endocrine glands. Who would have thought that cilantro could be this beneficial and have such an important role to play in our diet.......

I definitely did not....and now that I do, I reach for the cilantro in my herb tray with an added sense of enthusiasm and use it wherever I can. Like in this southwestern style pasta salad that I first tasted at a restaurant. I loved it and thought it would be great to try making this at home. In addition to being very colorful and flavorful, this salad is also very hearty and filling.

Southwesternpastasalad edited

Click here for a printable view of this recipe
 
Ingredients and Method to make Southwestern style Pasta Salad

1/2 cup dry red kidney beans soaked for 6 to 8 hours with a pinch of soda (soda is optional)
1/2 cup dry black beans soaked for 6 to 8 hours with a pinch of soda (soda is optional)

3 1/2 cup dry any type of pasta like rotini or penne ( I used Barilla plus multi grain rotini)

1 large onion cut lengthwise
1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 green bell pepper cut fine
3 stalks celery cut fine (optional)
2 tbsp oil

For the dressing
1/3 cup olive oil (see notes)
1/4 cup lime juice/lemon juice (or to taste) (see notes)
salt to taste
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)

generous handful cilantro cut very fine for garnish

Drain the water the beans were soaked in, fill with fresh water and cook the beans seperately until soft either using the stove top or pressure cooker. Keep the cooked beans aside.

Cook dry pasta as per the instructions given in the packet, remove from heat, drain and keep aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan, add onions and saute until transparent.

Then add celery and sweet corn and saute until the sweet corn is softer and cooked. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, add oil, spices, salt and lime juice and mix well.

Add cooked pasta to the onions,celery and corn and mix well. Add finely cut bell pepper to it and mix well. Now drizzle the oil + lime+ spices mixture on it and mix well.

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Garnish with cilantro.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves approximately 4

Notes
Preferably when cooking the beans, add just enough water to cook it. I fill my container containing beans with water upto 1/4 of an inch above the beans and pressure cook it, that works out fine for me. In case you use the stove top keep adding water as required while cooking the beans. In case there are a few teaspoons of water remaining you can use it as is in the salad. In case there is a lot more water than that, then drain the water before adding beans to the salad.

If you use store bought lime or lemon juice you may need a little more, if you use fresh lemon/lime then a couple of tbsp may be sufficient.

Update: When I made this subsequently I started using only about 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil instead of 1/3 cup for the dressing and still think the salad tastes very good.

Suggested variance:
Reduce chili powder and instead saute 1 jalapeno cut fine along with the onions and add to the salad

This salad is off to the Healthy Inspirations Salad Event going on at this site and to Sowmya's Cooking with Pasta Event 

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rice cooker Peas Pulao and some humor :-)

Here is a little bit of humor that I came across recently that I thought my readers would enjoy....

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Scared Sleeping

Shakey went to a psychiatrist. "Doc," he said, "I've got trouble. Every time I get into bed, I think there's somebody under it. I get under the bed, I think there's somebody on top of it. Top, under, top, under. "you gotta help me, I'm going crazy!"

"Just put yourself in my hands for two years," said the shrink. "Come to me three times a week, and I'll cure your fears."

"How much do you charge?"

"A hundred dollars per visit."

"I'll sleep on it," said Shakey.

Six months later the doctor met Shakey on the street. "Why didn't you ever

come to see me again?" asked the psychiatrist.

"For a hundred buck's a visit? A bartender cured me for ten dollars."

"Is that so! How?"

"He told me to cut the legs off the bed!"

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Funny huh ? I sure enjoyed it.....

Moving on, I am sure there are literally hundreds of variation of peas pulao, since each person has their own way of making this dish. This is my take on peas pulao. I used white basmati rice, a rare indulgence for us since I cook with brown basmati all the time. I find my rice cooker inordinately useful when making any type of pulao because it keeps each grain of cooked rice whole and separate and has the additional benefit of being able to keep the pulao hot/ warm until we are ready to have it. The icing on the cake, figuratively speaking, is that it requires very little attention, just mix in the ingredients, press the start button and you are good to go....


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Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and method to make peas puloa in the rice cooker

1 medium sized onion cut fine
3 cups basmati white rice
3 1/2 cups water (soak basmati rice in water for 30 minutes prior to proceeding with the recipe)
3 cups green peas fresh or frozen

3 tbsp oil (or more if you like more)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
3 Thai or Indian green chilies slit lengthwise (or to taste)

4 small bay leaves
2 whole green cardamoms
2 tsp Kitchen king masala (or any other curry powder) (see notes)
salt to taste

Place basmati rice is a bowl, fill with water, swirl with hand a couple of times and then drain water. Add 3 1/2 cups of water and allow basmati rice to soak for about 30 minutes or so

In a small pan, heat oil, add cumin seeds to it, when cumin seeds begin to splutter add green chilies. Stir a couple of times.

Then add onions and saute until onions are transparent. Add green peas and stir a few times

Quickly add whole green cardamoms, kitchen king masala, bay leaves and stir a few times.Remove from heat and keep aside.

In the rice cooker container, add the soaked basmati rice along with the water it was soaked in, then add the onions+ peas+ spices to it and mix well.

Add salt to taste, mix well and then close the container and set the rice cooker to the white rice setting, if you have that or just push the button to start cooking.

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When it is ready, mix well and keep warm until ready to be served.

Serve hot with curry of choice or dhal of choice along with some raita and papad/ chips

Serves approximately 6.

Notes
You can use garam masala instead of Kitchen king masala, If you plan to substitute with garam masala use half the quantity of kitchen king masala suggested since garam masala tends to be a bit more spicier.

You can even use curry powder in place of Kitchen king masala if you so choose...

This recipe can be easily halved if you want to make less.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Instant Oat Dosai version 2.0

I have always been a bigger fan of dosai's(savory crepes)  than idlis (steamed rice cakes). Even when I was younger and my mother gave me a choice between the two, I would happily choose dosai over idli. So it should not come as any surprise that there are far more dosai varieties on this site than there are idli varieties.

Even though I am such an avid fan of dosais, these days, I rarely make the traditional rice and lentil ground batter, because it is so much more time consuming. Instead I find myself coming up with more and more types of instant dosais that are quick and just as satisfying.

Last week I tried a variation of dosai with oats, only unlike the previous time, I used traditional ingredients of rice and black gram lentil, but in flour form. This dosai turned out very soft and could be made very crisp too, if you like it that way. Because it contained rice flour and black gram lentil flour it also had resemblance in taste to the traditional dosai. If you like traditional dosai, then this quick version might interest you:-)


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Here is another view of the dosai.....

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Ingredients and Method to make Instant Oat Dosai
2 cups rolled oats (ground into fine powder)
1/2 cup split black gram lentil flour (udad flour)
1 cup rice flour
salt to taste

3 1/2 cups water
Seasoning
2 tsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 Thai or Indian variety green chilies cut very fine (or according to taste)
2 tsp dried curry leaves (crushed slightly) (optional but recommended) (can be substituted with 1 stalk of fresh curry leaves cut into small pieces)

a few drops of sesame oil to shallow fry the dosa

Mix together the first four ingredients in a large bowl/ container and mix well

Add water slowly, mixing it in to form a batter that is free flowing but not too runny. With these proportions this quantity of water was perfect for me, if you change quantities, err on the side of getting a thicker batter when adding water, that can be corrected easily. Keep the mixed batter aside.

In a small pan, heat oil, add cumin seeds, when the seeds splutter add green chilies.Stir for a few seconds, then add curry leaves,let it splutter for a few seconds. then pour the entire seasonings on the batter and mix well.

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Heat a non stick flat pan/ griddle/ iron tawa, pour a little batter in the center and quickly spread it into a thin circle.

Add a few drops of sesame oil  around the dosai, and let it cook on medium heat until the lower side begins to brown evenly. Flip over and cook until the side that was facing the top cooks and gets a few brown spots on it.

Remove from heat and serve hot with chutney or sambar of choice or with molaga podi/ spiced powder

Refrigerate the unused portion of batter and use within a week.

Yield will depend on size and thickness of each dosai.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pasta with carrots and asparagus

Usually my day starts out with creating a to-do list for the day. I make such a detailed list, that most of my family members tease me about needing to write down everything. I am a compulsive list maker and start my day with a to-do list and then keep adding stuff in it as the day goes by and striking out the ones that I have already completed. Mostly at the time that I do this sometimes semi- boring task of creating a to-do list, I also simultaneously log into my email to check on mails.

On some days just seeing the long list of tasks at hand for the day seem to weigh me down :-) So a little humor at the time is much appreciated and I seem to have a family of cousins and other relatives that are always willing to oblige. The results are that on most days when I check my email I find some humorous piece forwarded to me that brings a smile on my face. I recently shared one and here is another one that I came across.... you all must have read Murphy's law.... this one is somewhat on similar lines,  it says......

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Law of Queues: If you change queues, the one you have left will start to move faster than the one you are in now .

Law of Mechanical Repair : After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will start to itch.

Law of the Alibi: If you tell the boss that you are late because you had a flat tire, the next morning you will have a flat tire

Law of the Result : When you try to prove to someone that a machine won't work, it will

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Does this not seem the way it happens to us sometimes, at least I can attest to the ones on queues/ lines and greasy hands, only mine are when I am cooking :-)

Speaking of cooking, here is a simple pasta salad that I made inspired from a Vegetarian Times cookbook that I borrowed from the library. The, recipe of this salad, suggested it as a cold salad and and the ingredients mentioned in the original recipe were vastly different from the ones I finally used. I served this salad hot because it was a really cold evening and cold salad was not quite what I was in the mood for, but it worked very well as a hot salad. I absolutely loved this simple,quick and elegant pasta salad and it turned out to be a great way to use up the fresh asparagus I found in my local groceries :-)



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Ingredients and Method to make pasta with carrots and asparagus
3 cups dry shell pasta
2 large carrots julienned
10 stalks asparagus (heads cut off, balance cut into 2 inch pieces and then quartered lengthwise)

1 tbsp oil
1/4 finely cut fresh parsley
salt to taste (approx 3/4 tsp)

Whisk together
1 tbsp jalapeno mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)

Cook the shell pasta as per manufacturers instructions and keep aside to drain.
Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the carrots and asparagus and saute for a few minutes until it is cooked, yet crisp not too soft. Remove from heat.

Add the cooked and drained pasta, salt to taste and and the whisked jalapeno mustard+ olive oil+ crushed red pepper and give it a good toss until the pasta and vegetables are coated with this mixture.

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Add some more crushed red pepper if required. Add parsley and mix it in too.


Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Serves approximately 2 to 3

This salad is off to the Healthy Inspirations Event- Salad being hosted on this site and to the Cooking with Pasta event being hosted by Sowmya



Update (03/25/10): Srimathi has started a new event called My food finds Event. She tells me that this pasta fits her theme too because of the jalapeno mustard, so as requested Srimathi, here is a picture of the jalapeno mustard, which I bought at the local grocery and used in this pasta, which is now off to the MFF Event too
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Vegan Indian style Banana Raisin cookie version 2.0

As I mentioned yesterday I have begun to experiment with using more lentil flours like mung flour and chick pea flour (besan) in baking. The first try with small amount of mung flour worked well but the quantity of mung flour in proportion to the other flours in the recipe was kind of small.

The second time I made the cookie, I increased the quantity of mung flour and also added chick pea flour (besan) in the recipe. When I tasted the cookie dough I got the feeling that the taste of chick pea flour was a little pronounced and I was worried that even after baking, that taste would overwhelm the other flavors. But after it baked the taste of the cookie was just fine, the slightly nutty taste of besan blended well with the cookie flavors and did not stand out very much.

This cookie was soft and chewy in the center and a little crisp around the edges. It reminded me a little of nan khatai in both texture and appearance, only softer because of the presence of banana in it.


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Here is another view of this cookie....

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Click here for a printable view of this recipe


Ingredients and Method to make the variation of Banana Raisin cookie
1/2 cup dry roasted chick pea flour (besan) ( I used the microwave to do this)(just spread the flour on a microwave safe plate and place in m/w and heat on high for 45 secs to 1 minute until it exudes an aroma)
1/2 cup mung dhal flour dry roasted
1 cup fine semolina (or semolina flour) (fine rava/ suji)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar+ 2 tbsp brown sugar (can be substituted with regular sugar)
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 large banana mashed
1/4 cup oil

Pre heat oven to 375 deg F, line a cookie tray/ sheet with foil or parchment paper and keep aside

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients except mashed banana and oil and mix well.

Add mashed banana and oil and mix well until the dough comes together and resembles cookie dough.

Pinch a little dough between your fingers, roll and gently flatten and place on the lined cookie sheet.

Proceed with the rest of the dough making sure to place them at least an inch apart on the cookie sheet

Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake between 12 to 14 minutes (it took me 12 minutes) until the cookie is golden brown and the lower side is darker brown.
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Remove and cool on wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Tastes best fresh or within a day or two.

Yielded about 20 medium sized cookies

Notes
These cookies were mildly sweet, that is how we enjoy them. In case you like your cookies to have a more pronounced sweetness then increase the sugar by another 1/4 cup

These cookies like the previous version are off to the weekly Bake off event being hosted by Champa
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Indian style Banana Raisin Cookie

The idea of having overripe bananas at hand which I can use in different types of snacks is so appealing, that these days I reach for all the other fruits in my fruit bowl and purposely let the bananas ripen. I have used ripe bananas in everything from this fudge to banana oatmeal cookies to a few different versions of banana bread and enjoyed each one of them very much.

This time I decided to make Indian style cookies with bananas. I have been wanting to try using different Indian flours like besan (chick pea flour ) and mung flour in baking and see how they work out. In this cookie I used some mung flour, some semolina (suji) to give it a more nan khatai style taste and also gave this cookie a very Indian flavor by using cardamom in it.

The cookies tasted very good, were a little soft and chewy and the sweetness was on the milder side which is how I like my cookies to taste. Since we liked this version so much, I made a variation of this cookie within a few days, using a combination of mung flour and chick pea flour, I will post that version tomorrow.


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Here is another view of the cookie....

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Click here for a printable view of this recipe


Ingredients and Method to make Banana Raisin cookie
Dry Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1/4 cup semolina (rava/sooji)
1/4 cup dry roasted mung flour (see notes)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (or any other sugar) (see notes)
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup dark raisins
4 cardamom seed powder (elaichi powder)
1 tsp baking powder

Wet Ingredients
1 large banana mashed
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water or milk (only if required) (see notes)

Pre heat oven to 350 deg F

Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper and keep aside

In a large bowl add all the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a smaller bowl mix the mashed banana and oil and whisk it well together.

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Pour the wet ingredients on the dry ingredients and mix well. Add a few tbsp of water/ milk if required to achieve cookie dough consistency.

Pinch a little of the dough between your fingers, roll,gently flatten and place on the lined cookie sheet.Proceed with the rest of the dough making sure that the cookies are place at least an inch apart

Place cookie sheet/ tray in the oven and bake for 15 to 17 minutes until it looks golden brown and lower side begins to brown.

Remove and cool thoroughly on wire rack and place in an air tight container.

Tastes best fresh or within a couple of days.

Yielded approximately 24 slightly smaller than medium size cookies

Notes
I dry roasted about 1 cup of mung flour in a heavy bottomed pan on the stove top for a few minutes, until the flour exudes a slight aroma. I used a little and stored the balance in an airtight container to use later. You can even spread the flour on a microwave safe dish/plate and place in microwave and heat on high for 45 seconds to 1 minute until it exudes a slight aroma.

If you have a large banana, just the banana+ oil will be enough to get a cookie dough consistency. If it falls a little short, add a few tablespoons of water or milk to get the right consistency. I needed about 4 tbsp of milk since my banana was not too large. Use water for a vegan version.

If you like your cookies very sweet then you may want to increase the quantity of sugar to 1/2 cup instead of 1/4 cup.

These cookies are off to the weekly Bake Off event being hosted by Champa
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Quinoa and Flax Uthappam

A new show on television called Undercover Boss, has caught my interest, at least for now.Have any of you had a chance to see this show yet ?  In this show, CEO's of large companies disguise themselves and go undercover in their own company, posing as new recruits to understand how their companies operate and what they can do to improve the company. It is really cool to watch CEO's getting to know the employees and the real conditions that they are faced with and have to deal with, in the course of their work. 

It kind of reminds me of the Chandamama stories I grew up reading, where kings used to disguise themselves and go around their kingdom to find out how the people of their kingdom were really faring. Come to think of it,  I used to enjoy those stories too :-)

Speaking of disguises, here is a disguise for quinoa that you will find very hard to detect.  Uthappam is traditionally made of ground rice and lentils made into a fermented batter, it looks like somewhat like a large pancake, only a savory version and can be topped with different vegetables.I made this version of uthappam with quinoa, brown rice, flax seeds and cooked brown rice.The final result was an uthappam that was soft and delicious and the quinoa was completely disguised and could not be detected at all.

Quinoa Flax Uthappam photo d8dc9da8-390a-4b63-a2d2-1abf7b5e72d2_zps78497656.jpg

And here is a dosai made out of the same batter.....

 Quinoa flax Dosa photo 97548796-3cad-446c-af6b-af56afa461b8_zps83ac8a0a.jpg

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Quinoa Uthappam
For the batter
1 cup brown basmati rice (or any other brown rice)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup whole black gram lentil (udad dhal without the skin)
2 tbsp flax seeds
1 cup cooked brown rice
salt to taste
Few drops of sesame oil to shallow fry the uthappam

For the toppings Use any combination of vegetables,
I used various combination's of the vegetables below
Onions finely chopped
Grated carrots
Fresh or frozen green peas ( I used frozen thawed to room temperature) (see notes if using fresh peas)
Cilantro (coriander leaves) cut very fine
Indian or Thai variety of green chilies cut very fine (optional)

Soak the first four ingredients in sufficient water for 3 hours.

Grind these together with the cooked rice in batches, adding water as required to make a batter of pouring consistency (the batter should not be too runny or watery, yet not too thick, if in doubt err on the side of thicker batter, that can be corrected later on adding water as required, a thinner batter is more difficult to correct )
Add salt to taste (for this quantity I had to use almost 3 tsp of salt) and keep the batter in large container covered for 8 to 10 hours in a warm place to ferment. ( Usually I place my container in my conventional oven and switch on the oven light and leave overnight)

Remove, mix well  and if you plan to use immediately proceed or you can refrigerate the batter for a few days and use as and when required.

When making uthappam,heat a  heavy flat pan/ griddle/ tawa , in case you are using a non stick pan proceed to next step. If you are using a iron tawa, pour a few drops of oil on the tawa and smear it across the tawa either with a paper tissue or half an onion or wooden spatula.

Once the tawa is hot, lower heat and then pour batter in a circle. Quickly add toppings on top of the poured batter and gently press it in with the back of the spatula. Pour a few drops of sesame oil around the uthappam.

Cook on low to medium low heat until the lower side begins to brown and gently flip over and cook the other side. (the reason uthappams have to be cooked on lower heat is because they are thicker than dosai and on high heat, the lower side will brown faster and the batter will not be cooked all the way through )

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Cook the other side until the vegetables begin to get a few brown spots.

Remove and serve hot with chutney of choice/ or sambar of choice.

Refrigerate balance of batter and use within a few days.

Yields approximately 12 to 15 uthappams. Yield will depend on size and thickness of each uthappam.

Notes:
If using fresh green peas, cook it until almost soft separately, make sure there is no excess moisture after it is cooked, then use in this recipe
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thai Salad with peanut dressing

If you had to guess the total calories of a salad served at a restaurant, what would be your guess? Would you think the number would be 300 to 500 calories. If I had to guess, my estimate would be somewhere in the range of 500 calories. My wildest imagination would not have come up with the number of 2238 calories for salad. But according to this article, this harmless sounding Thai salad with shredded carrots, edamame and avocado served at California Pizza kitchen has just that many calories.

Whoa, I am so glad that I have never ordered this salad when I visited their restaurant in the past. If I ever want to consume more than a days worth of calories in one go, I sure would not be opting for a healthy sounding salad, I would much rather buy some dessert and satisfy my sweet tooth instead :-)

Speaking of Thai salad, here is one salad that will definitely definitely satisfy your taste buds without a whole lot of calories. I got the idea for this recipe in a Vegetarian Times cookbook I got from my library. I tweaked the recipe slightly to suit our tastes and also to adjust for availability of ingredients. We loved this salad and it appears on my menu almost weekly nowadays.

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Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Thai Salad
For the dressing
4 tbsp heaped smooth and creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp water
1/2 tsp ground ginger powder (see notes)
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp (or to taste) hot chili sauce
4 tbsp dry roasted peanuts broken into small pieces

For the salad
1 medium head lettuce broken into small pieces
2 carrots cut into match stick size pieces
1 large cucumber peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
handful cilantro cut fine

For the dressing,

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients required for the dressing and whisk together until it all blends. Keep aside.

For the salad
In another large bowl assemble the items mentioned for the salad.

Add half of the dressing and toss well. Add the balance if required and toss again.

Serve immediately

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serves approximately 3 -4

Notes
If you are not particularly fond of ginger taste then you can scale down the ground ginger powder to 1/4 tsp instead of 1/2

The reason I am suggesting to use only half the dressing initially is because sometimes different sizes of lettuce are available, resulting in different quantities of salad, so use dressing as is required for the quantity of salad you are making. Refrigerate the balance dressing if any and use within a week or so.

This salad is off to the Healthy Inspirations Event- Salads currently going on at this site.


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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Microwave Vaal Curry

Vaal, I think, is the Indian term for field beans, I did not get a chance to check this one out, so if any of you know the exact English term for this, then please let me know.... In the Indian groceries here, I find both the whole vaal, which looks a little like the drier version of lima beans and the split vaal lentil which I have used in this curry. I have also added a picture of the dry vaal lentil below to make it easier for you to identify this lentil.

My mother used to make vaal curry often and it used to be one of my favorites with phulkas/ chappathis. I do not have her version with me, so I often make this simple and straightforward variation of my own, to go with phulkas.Vaal has a very unique taste of its own and with this simple flavoring, its taste just shines through.


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Here is a picture of the lentils.....

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Ingredients and method to make Microwave Vaal curry
2 cups Split field beans or  vaal lentil soaked in sufficient water for 30 minutes
1 large onion cut fine
2 medium tomatoes cut fine

1 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 Indian or Thai variety green chilies cut fine (or according to taste)

1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chili powder (or according to taste)

handful cilantro (coriander leaves) cut fine for garnish


Place vaal along with water in a shallow microwave safe dish, place in microwave and cook on high for a total of about 24 minutes in 3 minute increments stirring every 3 minutes and adding water if required.

When vaal is cooked, it should be soft but not mushy and should retain its shape, remove vaal and place in another bowl.

In the same microwave safe dish,  add oil and heat on high for about 1 minute. Then add cumin seeds and heat for 1 minute or until the cumin seeds begin to sizzle and crackle slightly. Add green chilies and  cook on high for 1 minute.

Add onions and cook on high for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds or until onions begin to turn transparent.

Now add tomatoes and cook on high for 4 minutes, removing once in between to stir the tomatoes.

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Now add turmeric powder, salt to taste, red chili powder and the cooked vaal and mix everything together.Add water if required to achieve desired consistency

Cook this on high for 4 to 6 minutes for the flavors to blend well.

Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rotis/ plain steamed rice/ jeera rice

Serves approximately 3 to 4

Refrigerate the balance and use within a day, for some reason, vaal does not keep well so I usually make sure to consume this one quickly.

Notes
Microwave cooking times will vary based on the strength of the microwave so please use these times as a guide only and make changes to your times based on the strength of your microwave

You can make this on the stove top too, Just heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan, add cumin seeds , when it splutters add green chilies, then add onions and saute until transparent, then tomatoes and saute until soft and mushy.Then add spices, vaal lentil, water as required and allow the lentils to simmer until cooked. Garnish and serve

This lentil does not do very well when cooked in the pressure cooker, it completely turns mushy, so I would suggest using either of the above  methods to make this curry.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Dhal Makhani ~ Slow cooker and stove top method

Dhal makhani is a classic dish belonging to north Indian cuisine. The taste of dhal makhani comes from slow cooking lentils and beans in onion tomato gravy with spices added in, allowing the lentils to absorb the flavors thoroughly, making this dish ideal for the slow cooker.

Alternatively this can be made on the stove top on low heat allowing the lentils and beans to simmer together in the spices. I have made this with the slow cooker,  on stove top and by pressure cooking the lentils, the results are equally good. The main benefit of the slow cooker for this dish is that you do not need to watch this dish as much or stir as much leaving you with more free time to attend to other stuff.

Usually when this dish is served in restaurants it is heavy on the butter and cream, my version does not use butter at all and the cream is entirely optional, the lentils lend a nice creaminess to this dhal and the additional cream is entirely a matter of choice.

 Dhal Makhani ~ Slow cooker and Stove top method | Veg Inspirations

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Slow cooker Dhal Makhni

1 1/4 cup black gram lentil with skin (saboot udad dhal )
1/4 cup red kidney beans (rajma)
soaked together in sufficient water with a pinch of soda (soda is optional)

2 medium onions cut fine (pyaaz)
2 large tomatoes cut fine ( yielded about 2 cups of cut tomatoes) (tamatar)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
3 Thai or Indian variety green chilies cut fine or to taste (hara mirch)

1 tsp minced garlic (lehsun)
1 tsp minced ginger (adrak)
1/2 tsp red chili powder (lal mirch)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1 tsp coriander powder (dhania)
1 tsp garam masala (or to taste) To make your own garam masala, check out this post
salt to taste (namak)
3 cups of water (or as needed)

handful cilantro cut fine for garnish (coriander leaves/ hara dhania)
4 tbsp sour cream or regular cream (optional)

Slow cooker method :

Soak black gram lentil and red kidney beans together in sufficient water for at least 6 to 8 hours.

Drain the beans and keep aside.

In a small pan, heat oil and add cumin seeds to it. When cumin seeds splutter, add green chilies and stir for a few seconds. Then add onions and saute them until transparent. Add ginger and garlic and stir for a few seconds.

Then add tomatoes and stir until tomatoes become mushy and soft.  Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala and stir for a few seconds. Remove from heat and keep aside.

In the slow cooker container, add the drained lentils, 3 cups of water and the sauteed onions+ tomato+ spice mixture and set the slow cooker on high for 6 hours. Add salt to this mixture halfway (at the 3 hour point)

Garnish with cilantro and with sour cream/ cream if using.

Notes:
At around 5 hours and 15 minutes or so, the dhal was already cooked and soft, I just cooked it for another 45 minutes for the flavors to blend well. You can set the last 45 minutes on low heat too, it should work just as well.

Stove Top Method :

Soak black gram lentil and red kidney beans together in sufficient water for at least 6 to 8 hours.

Drain beans and fill with enough fresh water  and pressure cook the beans until soft. This usually takes about 4 whistles, lower heat and cook for another 5 mins then switch off the heat. When the pressure subsides, remove lentils and proceed with the recipe.

If you do not have a pressure cooker you can cook the lentils on the stove top entirely too.
 
In a large heavy bottomed pan, heat oil and add cumin seeds to it. When cumin seeds splutter, add green chilies and stir for a few seconds. Then add onions and saute them until transparent. Add ginger and garlic and stir for a few seconds.

Then add tomatoes and stir until tomatoes become mushy and soft.  Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala and stir for a few seconds. If you have pre cooked the lentils in the pressure cooker, add it to this mixture, add water as required to achieve required consistency and salt to taste and simmer for at least 10 to 15 minutes for the flavors to mingle and for the dhal to achieve a nice creamy consistency.

If you have not cooked the lentils in the pressure cooker, add the drained lentils to the onion + tomato mixture, add water as required and simmer for an hour or so until the beans have softened and cooked . When beans are half cooked add salt  to taste  and continue.After the beans are cooked, simmer another 10 to 15 minutes for it to achieve a nice creamy consistency.

Garnish with cilantro and with sour cream/ cream if using.

Serve hot with plain rice/ jeera rice/ or rotis / parathas/ kulchas/naans

Serves approximately 4-5

Notes

I have made this with and without the cream and it tastes great both ways. The cream just adds an additional richness in case you are making this for a special occasion or parties.Omit the cream if you want a vegan dhal.

 If you are looking for Dhal recipes, here are a few more


Panchratan Dhal ~ Five Lentil Dhal

Simply Seasoned Dhal ~ Maharashtrian varan

Palak Chana Dhal ~ Spinach and collard greens dhal
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Indianized Coleslaw?

One of my new year resolutions this year is to eat more salads, I feel salads are a great way to include a variety of vegetables and fruits in one go. So with a view to making more salads, I have been looking for ideas and came across one for a coleslaw with a pineapple dressing. This idea appealed to me and I decided to make that salad for dinner. I started out on the salad, made the dressing and put it in the refrigerator to chill, before I continued on to prep the vegetables.

Just as I got the vegetables ready, it struck me that if R does not like the sweetish taste of the pineapple dressing I will be left with a whole lot of salad to consume by myself. My resolution to eat salads definitely did not extend to eating so much salad all by myself :-) I decided to make an Indianized version with half the vegetables so that R who likes spice more than sweet would be happy too. I quickly gave half the salad an Indian  twist, tasted it and loved how it tasted. So the rest of the vegetables soon got converted to the Indian style salad as well and now this variation of salad appears frequently on my table.


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Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and method to make Indianized coleslaw
1/2 head of cabbage shredded fine
1/8 head of red/ purple cabbage shredded fine
2 large carrots shredded fine
1 cup pineapple pieces crushed slightly

handful cilantro (coriander leaves) cut very fine

Salt to taste approximately 3/4 tsp
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lime juice

Seasoning
3 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 Thai or Indian variety green chilies (or to taste) slit lengthwise and cut fine
2 pinches of asafoetida (hing/ perungayam)
2 pinches of fenugreek powder (optional) (see notes)

In a large serving bowl, add the first four ingredients and mix well.

Add salt to taste, lemon juice, lime juice and cilantro and mix well.

Heat oil in a small pan, add mustard seeds to it, when the seeds begin to splutter add green chilies to it.

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When green chilies begin to turn color, quickly add asafoetida and fenugreek powder (if using) and give it a quick stir and pour this entire mixture on top of the veggies.

Mix everything well and serve cold or at room temperature.

Serves approximately 3 to 4 

Notes

I always keep some fenugreek powder at home, so I used it in this recipe for a little more flavor. It is completely optional and you can just as easily skip that ingredient.

How I make fenugreek seed powder is I spread fenugreek seeds on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 1 minute or until fenugreek seeds start to exude an aroma and turn a little browner. Then I cool to room temperature and grind into a fine powder in my spice grinder and store in an air tight container and use as required.

The pineapple adds a very interesting taste and texture to this recipe, so I recommend not to skip this fruit.

This is my first contribution to the Healthy Inspirations Event- Salad being hosted on this site

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Event Announcement

Even though the days are not really as warm as it should be for this time of the year, they definitely are getting a lot longer and slightly warmer than even just a few weeks back.  With longer and warmer days, inevitably my thoughts turn to spring. I am looking forward to this spring with an eagerness I do not remember having in the past, a result, I think, of having a more cold and bitter winter than usual.

And spring time in my book definitely translates to salad time. With warmer weather I find the need for hearty soups being replaced by an enthusiasm for salads. Salads can play such a vital role in maintaining a healthy diet and are a great way to incorporate a variety of veggies and fruits in our diet all at once. The recommended five to eight servings of vegetables and fruits a day is a lot easier to achieve if we include more salads in our diet. So I would like to choose Salads as the topic for the second edition of the Healthy Inspirations Event.





I would like to invite all my readers, both bloggers and non-bloggers to participate and send in their entries to this event. I am hoping to see a lot of healthy salads that will help all of us achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some guidelines for this event

If you are a blogger and would like to participate

Then make any kind of healthy vegetarian or vegan salad  post it on your site and link back to this announcement page.

Feel free to use the logo as it will help to spread the word.

If you have posts in your archives that fit this theme then please re-post them with a link back to the announcement page.

Email your submissions to events@veginspirations.com with the subject Healthy Inspirations Event-Salads

In your email please include your name, your blog name,your location,  your recipe name, recipe URL and a picture of the dish.

The last date for entries is April 16, 2010

If you are a non blogger and wish to participate,

Please send in your name, recipe, location and a picture of the salad to events@veginspirations.com with the subject Healthy Inspirations Event- Salads

Looking forward to a lot of healthy salads from all of you . If you have any further questions please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email at the above email address with subject line Question and I will get back to you asap.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Curried Lentil Soup and a pretty bird :-)

This winter has been quite a bitter and cold one and even sunny days are often accompanied by cold winds so it feels pretty cold. When we have a sunny day without some wind chill, I feel like following the example of this bird.

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I found this beautiful bird in my patio enjoying some sunshine on a sunny morning one weekend. Luckily I had my camera handy and I quickly managed to take a picture from the other side of a door. I was afraid I would frighten the bird away but I managed to get a pretty good picture. Now if I get a sunny day , I too want to bask in the sun for a while and forget about this intense winter we have had so far :-)

Speaking of winter, nothing appeals more to me, than a hearty bowl of soup with some crusty bread on a cold cold evening. This curried lentil soup was on my dinner menu for precisely that reason.  This soup with its contrasting flavors, a little heat from the spices and a touch of sweetness from the coconut milk, was really quick to make and made for a perfect dinner on a chilly evening.


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Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Curried Lentil Soup

1 1/2 cup whole brown lentils soaked in water for 30 minutes (see notes)
3 large carrots cut into 1/4 inch cubes (yielded 1 1/4 cup of cut carrots)
2 large tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch pieces (yielded 1 1/2 cups of cut tomatoes)
1 large onion cut fine
1/2 cup coconut milk

2 Thai or Indian variety green chilies slit lengthwise
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 tbsp minced garlic

1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp coriander powder (dhania)
3/4 tsp cumin powder (jeera powder)
salt to taste

handful cilantro for garnish

Place lentils in a large bowl, fill with water and allow it to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Drain the water and place the lentils along with fresh water enough to submerge lentils in a medium pan and cook on stove top until almost cooked. Alternatively place in a shallow microwave safe dish and cook on high in 2 minute increments until lentils are almost cooked.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and add onions to it. Saute onions until transparent, then add cut tomatoes and stir until tomatoes are soft and mushy.

Add ginger and garlic and stir for a few seconds. Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and stir a few times.

Add carrots, a little water and allow the carrots to cook until soft.

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Add almost cooked lentils, salt to taste and water as required to achieve required consistency and allow to simmer for five to ten minutes on low heat or until the lentils are fully cooked and the flavors blend together.

Add coconut milk, mix well and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with bread of choice.

Serves approximately 2 to 3

Notes
You can use whole red lentils or whole masoor dhal  instead of whole brown lentils for a slightly different texture and taste.

This lentil soup is off to this months edition of MLLA being hosted by Superchef originally started by Susan
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Banana Oatmeal Wheat Walnut Bread and the winner....

As I mentioned in this post, the responses to the soup event were really heartwarming. The entire process of hosting an event and the roundup was somewhat of a learning experience for me and I had fun with it. To decide the winner, I used random.org, a service that allows one to generate a random number that helped me select the winner of the gift. And the winner is............Meena of Dakshin. Meena,  I hope you enjoy your gift, I will be in touch with you a bit later to get details of where to ship the gift.

Moving on, it has been quite a while since I baked banana bread. When I look back at all the different types of banana bread I have baked in the past, I find dates, raisins, cardamom flavored but not banana walnut bread. Banana walnut bread is a classic combination and I have no idea why I have never gotten around to baking it earlier. Anyway once I concluded I wanted to bake this bread I did not waste any time and got to it immediately. The result was the flavorful and delicious banana oatmeal bread that would be great for a breakfast on the go or as a snack at tea time or coffee time.            

Banana walnut bread photo 3a6d27f1-d140-4182-a484-8f8ee7a34f4b_zpse30d9e94.jpg

Here is another view of the bread....

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Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Banana Oatmeal Wheat Walnut Bread

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour ( Read more about this flour here )
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder (or any other baking powder)
1/2 cup walnut pieces toasted in the microwave for 1 minute
a dash of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon powder

Wet Ingredients
1/4 cup oil
3 large bananas mashed well (yielded 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana)
In place of 1 egg I used
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar+1 tbsp oil + 1 tsp baking powder mixed together

a few extra drops of oil to grease the loaf pan

Pre heat oven at 350 deg F. Grease the loaf pan and keep aside

In a large bowl add all the dry ingredients and mix well.

In a smaller bowl, mix together the bananas and oil and keep aside

In a small bowl mix together the ingredients mentioned under egg substitute. It will froth up a little so do this in a bowl that will have some room for the frothing.

Pour this entire mixture into the banana + oil mixture and mix once or twice.

Then pour the entire wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix well gently.

It will be just enough wet and will look slightly lumpy. Pour this mixture into the pre greased loaf pan and place in pre heated oven.
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Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. I used a bundt cake pan in subsequent tries and it takes only about 30 to 35 mins when baking with a bundt pan, so keep an eye on this. Also if using mini loaf pans the baking time will be considerably less.

Cool and cut into slices and enjoy.

This bread can be kept at room temperature for a day or so, you can refrigerate the balance and use within a couple more days.

Notes
You can substitute the entire quantity of whole wheat flour with all purpose flour (maida) or half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour

If you do not find white wheat flour than you can replace with half whole wheat flour (regular) and half all purpose flour (maida)
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quinoa Oat Adai ~ Dhal dosa ~ Savory Indian crepes

Adai, a savory crepe made with rice and lentils originates from southern Indian cuisine. Traditionally adai is made of rice and three to four different lentils, you can find the traditional recipe for adai here.Unlike the traditional dosai, adai batter has the benefit of not needing to be fermented, making it quicker to make. In addition the spices and lentils lend a wonderful flavor to this crepe making it delicious without any additional side dishes or chutneys if you want to have it that way :-)

In the past I have made adai with oats and barley, but for quite a while now I have not experimented further with this crepe. Recently when I planned to make adai, I thought it would be nice to see how quinoa works in adai. This adai turned out soft and delicious and the lentils, quinoa and oats give this adai a great flavor  and texture.If someone in your family does not care for the taste of quinoa then this is a great way to sneak it in as the quinoa does not have a very pronounced taste in this dish.

 Quinoa Oat Adai ~ Dhal Dosa ~ Savory Indian crepes

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Quinoa Oat Adai
1 cup brown rice (or white rice) (chawal/ pachai arisi)
1/3 cup split pigeon peas (tur dhal/ tuvaram parappu)
1/3 cup yellow mung lentils (yellow moong dhal/ mung dhal/ pasi parappu)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup quinoa (see notes)
soak together for two to three hours

5 dry red chilies  (or to taste) (lal mirch/ molaga vathal)
4 Thai or Indian variety green chilies (or to taste) (hari mirch/ pachai molagai)
ginger 1 inch piece (adrak/ inji)
salt to taste (namak/ uppu)
1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing) (optional but recomended)

a few tsp of sesame oil to shallow fry the adai

In a large bowl, mix all the grains well. Fill with water, swirl with your hand a couple of times and drain water.

Fill the bowl with enough water of about an inch above the grains and let the grains soak for about 2 to 3 hours.

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Drain the grains, and grind along with red chilies, green chilies and ginger in batches using a blender. Use water as required while grinding. The batter should be of pouring consistency but not too runny, a little on the thicker side.

Traditionally lentils for the adai batter are ground very coarsely and you can see some of the lentils visible in the batter, that is supposed to be part of the appeal of adai. But I prefer my adai a little softer and smoother so I grind adai batter a little like dosa batter only slightly thicker and very slightly coarser. When I take a little batter between my thumb and finger,  the grains feel a little like semolina / rava. Having the grains ground to a semolina/ rava like texture gives you a crisper adai/ dosai , smooth texture gives you softer adai.  

When the batter is ready, add salt and asafoetida and mix well.

Heat a flat pan/ griddle/ tawa and when hot, pour a small quantity of batter in the center and quickly spread in a thin circle. Add a few drops of sesame oil on top and around the batter.

Let the adai cook, until the lower portion begins to brown to a goldenish color, then flip the adai and cook the other side. Remove when the other side begins to get a few pinkish/ brownish spots on it.

Serve hot with chutney of choice or molaga podi or jaggery. Remaining batter can be stored in the refrigerator and used within the next 2 to 3 days.

Yields approximately 16 to 17 adai

If you want to see a pic of the consistency of the batter and a video clip of how it is made, please check out this post . It is not of this same adai/ dosai but the texture and consistency of the batter should be the same and the process of making it is the same too :)

Notes
If quinoa is not available,  you can increase either or both the lentils to make up the difference, that is use 1/2 cup more of 1 lentil (dhal/ parappu) or increase both by 1/4 cup each.

 If you are looking for Quinoa recipes, here are a few more


Quinoa Khichdi ~ Peanut flavored quinoa

Quinoa mung dosai ~ Savory crepes

Quinoa Cashew Kheer ~ Indian pudding 
Read more ...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Healthy Inspirations Event Soups Roundup Part 2

Here is the second part of the Healthy Inspirations soup event. The first part of this event has been posted here.

 

                                       
Kamala makes wonderful use of the abundant supply of fresh green peas that are available in winter in creating this creamy Fresh Green peas soup







My third contribution to this event, Hot and Sour Soup , my version is lighter on the corn starch and heavier on the vegetables as compared to the restaurant style Indo- chinese soup of the same name. 

Nivedita sends in a Tomato and Carrot Soup that  is uniquely flavored with dry ginger, fresh ginger,cumin , pepper and bay leaf . Nivedita makes this when someone in her family has a cold or a cough and the spices she has used help soothe the throat.






Ruchika sends in two soups, the first one, Mulligatawny Soup with lentils, onions, tomatoes and garam masala and the second one, Clear Tomato Soup flavored with cinnamon, garlic and pepper.
 



Shama sends in four soups for this event, Cabbage Soup that has just five ingredients other than salt, a vibrant Beetroot soup  that is packed with healthy iron and folate, Tomato Soup a classic made healthier by using milk instead of cream and  finally a kid friendly  Mixed Vegetable Soup




Raje makes this vibrant Carrot Soup to warm up on a snowy day. Just the sight of it is enough to make us forget that it is so cold outside :-)







Pratibha combines spinach and oranges in this unique, beautiful and very exotic Spinach Orange Soup









Sowmya wants to include far more soups in her diet and begins with this wonderfully healthy Spinach Mung Bean Soup,  this is the kind of soup I think everyone would love to have in their diet.







If you feel your microwave does not get the workout it deserves, then maybe this Tomato Soup by Indrani will inspire you to make use of your microwave more often. Indrani also accompanies the soup with some interesting and important health benefits of tomatoes, so be sure to check out her soup post.




My last contribution to this event, Spinach Lentil Soup made with a minimum of spices so that the taste of spinach and mung lentils is not overwhelmed.



Rajee has decided to challenge herself  to create recipes with ingredients that her friend suggests. Her first challenge required her to use fennel, which she masterfully uses in this Fennel & Carrot Soup





Cham celebrates a three day spring like weather spell in her area and the first bloom in her garden with this unique and intriguing  Edamame Cauliflower Soup




Gita sends in a dozen beautiful healthy soups for this event. She starts with this Split peas soup that was inspired by an Ina Garten Show, then she follows it up with Tomato and fava bean soup which reminded her of tomato basil soup only with a thicker texture, Tomato soup with barley and pasta that she made in under fifteen minutes and Spinach and barley soup  which combines spinach, barley and some Italian seasonings.





Gita's next contribution is this  Tomato and basil soup made to warm up on a cold wintry day, followed by this  Egg drop and egg noodle soup and this Middle Eastern lentil soup that was inspired by a recipe from an old cookbook that she found in the library and finally a  Black bean soup inspired by Panera bread's soup of the same name



Her last four soups start with  16 beans and pasta soup and roasted red bellpepper soup, the name says everything for this one, followed by Kale and white bean soup which is a very unique combination of kale, white bean and alfalfa sprouts, then this winter warmer Lima bean soup  and finally a Red bean soup  inspired by the "Everyday Italian" show




Angee gets inspired to include more soups in her diet with this easy to make Spinach Soup








Tazaika gives cracked wheat a whole new avatar in this flavorful  Haleemy Soup
spiced with ginger, garlic, pepper, clove, cinnamon and lemon. 









Asha makes creative use of her microwave to create this wonderful sounding and delicious Masoor dhal & Tomato Rasam Soup
This is a really quick soup with masoor dhal and tomato sauce, flavored with rasam powder, red chilies, curry leaves and dry coconut.






Divya sends in four more wonderful soups starting with this Wheat berry Kidney Bean Soup followed by the Creamy Zucchini Soup and Pumpkin Zucchini Spaghetti Soup and finally Creamy Broccoli Soup with Mint and Thyme



Usha from My Spicy Kitchen makes this Lentil Vegetable Soup , a powerhouse of nutrition with masoor dhal, spinach, mushrooms, carrots and beans. A hearty,  healthy bowl of soup perfect for cold wintry days !






Latha regularly makes this version of Mulligatawny Soup after she resourcefully managed to get a restaurant chef to share the recipe with her.






Thanks again for all your participation. In case I have missed out any one please let me know and I will update my post.
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