January 31, 2012

Tofu Tikka Masala

I am getting into the swing of introducing new & healthy recipes to my family and yay, I am loving every bit of it!! Now, its tofu's turn to be masqueraded in the name of paneer - "Tofu Tikka Masala" - marinated tofu in spicy tomato gravy. Do you think that the recipe sounds yummy? you bet!! It tasted absolutely delicious just the way it sounds.

My mom always criticizes me, "you 'll never learn to appreciate good things". She was indeed right and I realized that only during my pregnancy. I had to follow a strict diet during pregnancy (because of GD) and for any healthy item that my dietician wanted me to try, my reply would be negative. Eggs ?!?! "No", Regular Cheese ?!?! "I don't like it", Brown rice ?!?! "I have never tried it", Protein drinks ?!?! "Not my type", Cottage Cheese ?!?! "How is it different from regular cheese?", Tofu ?!?! "No way". Poor dietician kind of lost hope on me. To cut the long story short - I was forced to add cottage cheese & tofu to my diet and towards the end of my pregnancy, I actually started to hate them.

I remember trying a couple of tricks to disguise tofu in my food - use grated tofu instead of coconut in veg curries, use tofu in place of paneer. Every time I take my first bite (with masqueraded tofu), my tongue & brain will work against it and I always used to wrap up my meal just like finishing a medicine. I used to dread about food and more so, the disguised tofu in it - Oh! those terrible times!!!

Are you one of those with similar feelings towards tofu but is forced to eat them, then "Tofu Tikka Masala" is the recipe you have to try. I guarantee that you will love this recipe and wouldn't mind to see tofu in a dish (finally !!!!!). Tofu Tikka Masala tastes great with rotis/parathas & rice too!

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 1.5 hrs (includes marination time)
Cook time - 30 mins
Serves - 4

For the Marinade
Tofu - 10 oz. approx (Extra firm)
Yogurt - 1/4 cup (replace with greek yogurt)
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Garlic - 2 pods (minced)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam Masala powder - 1 tsp
Kasoori Methi - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - 2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp (approx)

For the Tikka
Bell pepper, medium sized - 1 no (cut into 1/2 inch squares)
Onion, medium sized - 1 no (chopped finely)
Tomato, medium sized - 1 no (chopped finely)

For the Gravy
Tomatoes, medium sized - 3 nos (blend it into fine paste)
Milk - 1 cup (or use 1/2 cup of fresh cream, I used whole milk)
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Kasoori Methi - 1 tsp
Cilantro - 1 tbsp (chopped)
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - 2 tsp (approx)

Drain tofu
- Place tofu block in the centre of 2 layers of absorbant kitchen towels and wrap it from all the four sides firmly into a parcel.
- Place something heavy (for about 3-4 lbs) on top of the parcel (balancing the weight evenly) and leave it undisturbed for 15 mins.
- Carefully open the parcel and squeeze excess water out of the kitchen towels.
- Repeat the above 3 steps for 4-5 times.

At the end of this process, you should have a dense tofu block with all the water pressed out. Cut tofu into small cubes of approx one inch each. You should be having about 25 - 28 pieces of tofu from a 10 oz. block.

Note: This step is really important for if you don't press out the old water you can't get any of the new flavors in.

Marinate Tofu
Mix all the ingredients listed under 'For the Marinade' and make sure that each tofu is coated well with yogurt & spices. Refrigerate for atleast an hour.

Pan-fry Tofu
Heat about a tbsp of oil in a wide pan, toast all the pieces of tofu to dark brown on all sides. Drain excess oil in a kitchen towel and set aside to cool completely.

Make gravy
Add rest of the oil to a pan, and when hot add cumin seeds and let them crackle. Add onion, ginger, bell pepper and saute until onion is translucent & bell pepper is soft.

To this, add tomato puree, chilli powder, garam masala, coriander powder, salt and mix well. Let it cook until the raw smell of tomatoes is gone. Once the oil starts to ooze out from the sides and the gravy becomes thick, reduce heat and add milk (or fresh cream if you are using). Let it cool completely.

Blend gravy into a smooth paste. To this, add kasoori methi, pan-fried tofu and adjust the consistency of the gravy to your preference. Let it simmer for couple of mins on medium heat. Finally, add cilantro, stir well and remove from heat.

Serve it hot with rotis/parathas and enjoy!

- Don't miss to check-out the recipe for Paneer Tikka Masala here.

January 30, 2012

Cottage Cheese Chapathi

Here comes another healthier, softer & tastier version of chapathi made with cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is a by-product from milk that has a mild flavor and curd-like texture. Cottage cheese is rich in casein protein and is popular among dieters, body builders, weight lifters, pregnant ladies or anyone who is diet conscious.

I had gestational diabetes with both my kids and my dietician insisted in adding more protein to my diet. As I am a vegetarian, cottage cheese was one of her strongest recommendations. But, for some reasons I couldn't stand the taste of it. Being a vegetarian and having a very few protein options, I was desperate to somehow include cottage cheese (atleast!!!) to my diet but didn't know how. Only after years - a couple of days back I learnt it how - add it to the chapathi/paratha dough - simple!! Chapathi's came out to be very very soft and I thought it is the best recipe to disguise cottage cheese. How I wish I had known this recipe when I was pregnant!

Recently, I got to know that my daughter also hates to eat plain cottage cheese. But, I am not going to worry - I have a delicious recipe up my sleeve to make her eat cottage cheese ;)

Whole wheat flour - 2-3 cups (I used annapurna atta)
Cottage Cheese - 8 oz (as I am trying this recipe for the first time, I used only 4 oz)
Avocado - 2 nos (optional)
Green chillies - 3 nos (finely chopped)
Salt - To taste
Oil - 2 tbsp

Mix cottage cheese, avocado, chopped chillies, salt & oil with whole wheat flour and knead it into a pliable dough. I did not add any water as the moisture from cottage cheese & avocado was enough to knead the dough. 

Take a small portion of the dough and make it into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll the ball into a circle.

Heat a tawa / griddle and place the rolled chapathi. Cook both sides until done (brush little oil/ghee on both the sides).

Serve them hot with any side of your choice. I served it with tomatillo kootu.

Kothamalli Thogayal

Kothamalli (cilantro) thogayal is one of the simplest & healthiest rice mixes around. Using fresh cilantro in the recipe makes this rice mix very rich in anti-oxidants. I find the color & aroma of this thogayal very inviting.

Cilantro -  2 bunches
Urad dal - 1.5 tbsp
Red Chillies - 4-5 nos
Hing - 1 small piece
Tamarind - of small marble size
Oil & Salt - to taste

Wash and clean the cilantro leaves.

Heat oil in a pan. Fry hing, urad dal & red chillies until hing is fried & urid dal turns light brown. Transfer all the roasted ingredients into mixer and grind them along with fresh cilantro leaves, tamarind and salt.

Serve with hot steamed rice with a teaspoon of ghee/sesame oil and chips/vegetable fry on the side.

Cream Cheese Frosting

No cupcake is complete without frosting. Cream cheese frosting is one of the most popular frostings. Cream cheese frosting is very easy to make and is often seen on red velvet cupcakes. It's soft, creamy & easy to use on the cupcakes.

Unsalted butter - 1 stick
Cream cheese - 6 oz
Baker's sugar - 1 3/4 cups
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp

Make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, whisk butter until light and creamy (on medium speed using an electric mixer or hand mixer). Add cream cheese and beat until fluffy. Slowly add sugar and continue to mix. Finally, add the vanilla extract and mix until it has a creamy consistency.

  • This frosting can be stored in refrigerator for upto 3 days.
  • You can add cinnamon/nutmeg/mini chocolate chips/heavy cream to create different flavors.

January 29, 2012

Beetroot curry

"Eat this vegetable; it brings fresh blood to your body" - I can faintly hear my mom's voice echoing in my ears and this is the earliest connection that I remember with beetroot/beets. Incidentally, beets are also good for cardiovascular health (info courtesy: wiki).

Beets are known for its varied use right from sweet to savory dishes. Thinking about it, beets are one of the few vegetables that can be used in every course of a meal (from soups to salads to curries to cakes to jams, jellies & preserves to pickles to raita to chutney to halwa.. the list is endless!). I used beet pulp (pressure cooked & blended) for red velvet cupcakes for color & flavor.

This simple, colorful & delicious beetroot curry with a hint of sweetness (from beets), touch of spiciness (from chilli powder) & a note of earthiness (coconut) makes it a perfect side dish for rice/roti.

Beetroots - 4-5 nos (medium sized)
Grated fresh coconut - 1/4 cup
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (optional, if you like the inherent sweetness of beets)
Oil - 1-2 tsp
Salt - To taste
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Split urid dal - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - Few

Chop the beets into 1/2 inch cubes. Pressure cook chopped beets with water (beets should be immersed in water) for 2-3 whistles. After about 15-20 mins, drain the water and let it cool.

Heat oil in heavy bottomed pan and add the seasoning - mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urid dal and curry leaves. When mustard seeds start to splutter, cumin seed sizzles & urid dal turns brown, add chopped beetroot, chilli powder and salt. Saute them for about 5-7 minutes (or) until the raw smell of chilli powder is gone. Add the grated coconut and saute for one more min.

Remove from heat and serve it with hot rice / chapathi.

January 26, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I am on cloud nine - yeah, totally! My hubby just declared, "Your cake tastes similar to the red velvet cake from CPK (California Pizza Kitchen)". "Amma, I think you should participate in cupcake wars (reality show on food channel)" - comment from my lovely little daughter. I am so glad about my decision to try red velvet cupcakes and the way they turned out!

Red velvet cupcakes are very special and I think it is one of the most popular cupcakes. As its name suggests this cake has a velvety texture that is moist and brilliantly red with a subtle chocolate flavor. When topped with cream cheese frosting, they make a scrumptious pair.

Instead of a regular cake, I decided to make cupcakes today. And Oh, did I forget to mention - "my daughter is so crazy about cup cakes especially with the frosting".

This cake would be a perfect surprise for your loved ones on valentines day! Go red & show your love with this red wonder - Happy valentine's day!!!!

Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes)
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour minus 2 1/2 tbsp (or) 1 1/4 cups of cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz beet juice (or) 1 oz food coloring (red)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk (at room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or white vinegar)
1 tbsp flax seed + 3 tbsp water (or 1 egg, at room temperature)

Pressure cook fresh beets (I used 1 medium sized beetroot) upto 2 whistles. Let it cool and peel the skin. Then, using a mixer grind cooked beets into a fine paste without adding any water. Set it aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin / cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Keep it aside.

Aspiring Li 'l Chef :)
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt to create some air and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix beet pulp and cocoa powder to form a paste without lumps and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds with 3 tbsp of water and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix lime juice and baking soda and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (I used my hand mixer). Beat in flax seed/water mixture, then beat in vanilla extract followed by cocoa + beet paste.

Divide the flour mixture into 3 parts. Add first part of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in the second part of flour mixture followed by second half of buttermilk. End with the last part of the flour mixture, beat until well combined.

Add lime juice mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine.

Fill 3/4 th of cupcake liners with cake batter (give some room for cupcake to raise). Place cupcake pans in your preheated oven.

Bake for approximately 20 mins and cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean!

Let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Frost & Enjoy!

What I liked about my cakes was its rich & deep flavor. Cake was not too sweet - tasted just right and with frosting, the taste was really striking. Though the color of the cake was not deep red, I thought beet gave it a natural red color which was really inviting. The cake was very dense & moist inside - definitely one of the best cakes that I have baked so far!

Recipe for cream cheese frosting to follow.

January 25, 2012

Lemon rice

Are you looking for a recipe that ...
  • looks colorful. 
  • is rich in flavor.
  • tastes just right (not too spicy / too tangy / too sweet).
  • can be prepared in a jiffy.
  • is extremely simple.
  • doesn't involve too many ingredients.
  • is ideal for take-out / tiffin box.
  • is appealing for your kid's taste buds.
  • doesn't require any elaborate side-dish.
  • works wonder with left-over rice.
Well, you are at the right post and here is the recipe for "Lemon Rice"!!

My daughter simply adores this humble yellow rice. I need not work hard or reach moon & stars to impress her, this simple variety rice does that trick for me ^_^

Cooked rice - 2 cups (I used sona masoori cooked with 1.5 cups of water
Juice from 1 small lime (I always prefer lime over lemons)
Gingelly Oil - 1-2 tbsp
Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
Urid dal - 1/2 tsp
Channa dal - 1/2 tsp
Peanuts - 1-2 tbsp
Green Chillies - 2 nos
Red Chillies - 2 nos
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - To taste
Curry leaves - Few

Heat oil in a wide pan. To this, add mustard seeds, channa dal, urid dal & peanuts. Allow mustard seeds to splutter, channa dal & urid dal to turn brown and peanuts to be roasted. Add red chillies, green chillies, curry leaves, hing and turmeric powder. Saute for a minute. Remove from heat.

Add rice to this mixture and mix gently until the 'yellow' color from turmeric powder is coated uniformly all over the rice. Add lime juice, salt and mix well. Take care not to break/smash rice while mixing.

Serve with appalam (or) chips (or) potato/seppankizhangu/okra roast.

  • Key to a great tasting lemon rice is the correct proportion of lime juice & salt. 
  • You can replace peanuts with cashews.
  • You can replace lime juice with citron (narthangai) juice to make citron rice.
Linking this to "Lets Cook - Rice" event hosted by Radhika

January 24, 2012

Coconut rice

Kalandha saadham (variety rice) is one of the must-present food items during special occasions and festival time. As the name suggests, variety rice is known for its varied taste from sweet (coconut rice) to spicy (tamarind rice) to tangy (lemon rice). Curd rice is also one of the variety rice and served towards the end as a palate cleanser. Children are very fond of variety rice - When I was a kid, I used to love all types of variety rice alongside vadam & vathal and now-a-days my daughter seems to prefer kalandha sadham compared to traditional sambar/rasam. Variety rice is the way to go when planning for lunch / picnic / travel menu. They are easy to make, easy to pack & easy to carry. My mom usually prepares kalandha saadham for aadi perukku & Kaanum pongal.

Coconut rice is rich, flavorful and easy to prepare. I love coconut rice for its sweet taste from fresh grated coconut with a hint of spiciness from red chillies & green chillies and the crunchiness imparted by roasted cashews.

Grated fresh coconut - 1 cup (I don't prefer frozen ones)
Cooked rice - 1 cup (I use sona masoori cooked with 1.5 cups of water)
Moong dal - 1-2 tbsp
Green chillies - 2 nos
Red chillies - 2 nos
Curry Leaves - Few
Coconut oil - 2 tablespoon
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Hing - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - To Taste
Sugar - Only if needed.
Channa dal/Whole Urid dal - 1/2 tbsp (mixed)
Cashews - 6-8 nos (broken)
Ghee - very little to roast cashews

Roast cashews in little ghee until brown and keep it aside.

Soak moong dal in water for atleast 15-20 mins. Cut red chillies & green chilles into halves and keep it ready.

Heat coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Splutter mustard seeds. Add channa dal, urid dal, red chillies, green chillies, curry leaves and fry them until brown. Now, add moong dal (drained from water) and fry for 2-3 mins. Add grated coconut, hing and saute until brown. Your kitchen should now be filled with a nice aroma from roasted coconut. Now, add roasted cashews to the coconut mixture.

Mix cooked rice with the coconut mixture. Add salt to your taste and mix it gently. Take care not to break rice while mixing.

Delicious coconut rice is ready to be served.

Some coconuts may not have natural sweetness and so, coconut rice might taste really bland. In such cases, add a tsp of sugar to the grated coconut and let it sit for 10 -15 mins before starting to cook.

Linking this to "Lets Cook - Rice" event hosted by Radhika

January 23, 2012

Fruit Salad

Fresh fruit is colorful & nutritious. Fruit salad made from fresh fruit is light, sweet and healthy!! Fruit salad is very simple to make and is an absolute treat for all fruit lovers! 

It is a good evening snack for kids and best way to sneak in their not-so-favorite fruits along with the other fruits that they like. Use this recipe just as a guide and feel free to substitute fruits/nuts that you might like.

Banana - 1/2 (slice them into thin pieces)
Apple - 1/2 (cut into small pieces)
Pear - 1/2 (cut into small pieces)
Cherries - 6 - 8 nos (pitted & cut into halves)
Raisins - 1/6 cup
Chopped nuts - 1 tbsp (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
Honey - 3-4 tbsp
Lime juice - 1 tbsp
Ground flax seed - 1 tsp
Granola & almonds - 1 tbsp

Toss honey & lime with rest of the ingredients and serve chill.

I loved this fruit salad and guess what, my daughter loved it too. What an easy way to get her eat more fruits !!!!


  • Raisins can be replaced with dates.
  • You can add as much fruits as you want.
  • Mint leaves can be finely chopped & added for freshness in taste.
  • Serve it with ice cream on top, if you are not so conscious about calories.

Tomato Thokku

Tomato thokku is the best combination for roti especially during travel, the reason being tomato thokku stays fresh & tasty for 3-4 days even without refrigeration.

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 10 mins
Cook time - 20 mins
Serves - about 2 cups

I made this simple tomato thokku as a side for muli paratha. This thokku can also be used as a rice-mix or as a spread on bread.

Ripe Tomatoes - 2 lbs
Red chilli powder - 2.5 tsp (adjust heat to your spice level)
Salt - to taste
Sesame oil - 1/4 - 1/2 cup (be generous with oil as it prevents tomato thokku from spoiling)
Hing - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek powder - 1 tsp (dry roast 1-2 tsp of fenugreek seeds and grind into fine powder after it cools)
Curry leaves - 1 sprig, optional
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp

Blend tomatoes in a blender until smooth.

Heat sesame oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add mustard seeds and let them crackle. To this, add blended tomatoes, turmeric powder, chilli powder, hing, fenugreek powder, curry leaves (if using), salt and cook until oil separates from the sides of the pan or until the raw smell of chilli powder is gone, for about 20-25 mins on medium heat.

Tomato thokku is now ready for use.

- Please be careful when adding blended tomatoes to hot oil, hot oil may splash causing severe burns. So, extra caution there!
- Tomato thokku thickens as it cools.