Monday, August 20, 2018

Roasted Phool Makhana (fox nuts or lotus seeds) Snack

Makhana, also called fox nuts or lotus seeds, are popular in some regions of India and some other Asian cuisine. The most common use of the seed is in the form of lotus seed paste which is used extensively in Chinese pastries as well as in Japanese desserts.

Phool makhana is puffed lotus seed (seeds popped like popcorn).

I have seen phool makhana in my Indian store on several occasions. Growing up in Southern India, I was not familiar with this at all, and did not pay any attention to it.

Then, on my recent trip to California, I saw a bag of these in my friend’s pantry. She told me that she had tasted a snack made with these in her friend’s place. So, we tried replicating that in her house. It came out OK - not bad for a first attempt.

When I came back home, I picked up a bag of these from my Indian store. I have made these several times since then and love them!

It is a light, crunchy snack (kind of like popcorn) that takes almost no time to make and is healthy.

Roasted Phool Makhana (fox nuts or lotus seeds) Snack

Prep time: 5 minutes                 Cooking Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4

Here’s what you need:

  • 4 cups phool makhana (puffed lotus seeds)
  • 3 tsp. Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. Turmeric powder

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Dry roast the puffed lotus seeds in a thick bottomed deep saucepan, stirring constantly, on medium to low heat for about 15 minutes, till they are crunchy. Do not turn up the heat - the seeds will burn.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the oil, salt, turmeric powder, and chili powder.
  3. Pour this over the roasted lotus seeds. Toss to coat well.
  4. Once they cool down, store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Ancient grains Adai (savory lentils and ancient grains pancake)

Before I head out to Costco, I make a list of things I need. I have perfectly good intentions of sticking to the list. I enter the store with a resolve to go quickly, find the things on my list, pay, and leave. And then, something catches my eye. It could be the edamame spaghetti, or the humongous bag of quinoa, or on this occasion, a Costco sized bag of Ancient Grains.

I was hosting a Mediterranean themed party and thought that I could use this to make a pilaf instead of rice. It came out really well, but I had only used 1½ cups of this mix. My family is not a big fan of quinoa, or bulgar, or barley, and so I couldn’t use it as a rice substitute for everyday use.

So, this mostly unused bag sat in my pantry for a month or so, making me feel guilty, every time I opened the pantry to get something.

Then, one day, when I was getting ready to soak the ingredients for adai, I had an inspiration! Why not use this mix, instead of rice?

This is a blend of pre-cooked rice, bulgur, pre-cooked barley, pre-cooked wheat berries, pre-cooked red rice, pre-cooked oats, and white quinoa.

I make adai at least once every 2 - 3 weeks. It is healthy (if you don’t add too much oil) and is so filling that you don’t need to serve anything else to make it a complete meal.

I have posted several versions of adai on this blog. This one uses Ancient Grains, which is a blend of pre-cooked rice, bulgur, pre-cooked barley, pre-cooked wheat berries, pre-cooked red rice, pre-cooked oats, and white quinoa.

It came out really well. I made the same quantity of batter that I normally make. While the adai with fresh batter tasted great and came out crispy, the ones I made after a couple of days did not have the same texture. So I would suggest making just enough for immediate use.

Ancient grains Adai (savory lentils and ancient grains pancake)

Soaking time: 3 - 4 hours
Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 5 minutes per adai
Servings: about 15 - 18 adais

Here is what you need:

  • 1 ½ cups Ancient Grains Mix
  • ½ cup toor dal (Pigeon peas)
  • ½ cup channa dal (split garbanzo)
  • ¼ cup split black urad dal (split black gram)
  • ¼ cup split moong dal (split green gram)
  • 4 - 6 dried red chilies
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • ½ cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 cup baby spinach, chopped
  • oil for making the adais

Here is how I made it:

  1. Mix the Ancient Grains mix and the lentils in a bowl. Rinse these a couple of times, add water and let it soak with the red chilies for 3 – 4 hours.
  2. Drain the water from the mixture and grind this to a coarse paste with salt, and hing adding little bit of water. You may have to grind these in batches, depending on your blender capacity
  3. Mix in the onions, curry leaves, and spinach.
  4. Heat a tawa or a griddle. I like using my cast iron griddle for adais.
  5. Pour a ladle full of batter onto the heated tawa and spread it out. It should be slightly thicker than dosas.
  6. Make a small hole in the middle and drizzle oil around the adai as well as in the center. 
  7. Wait for a few minutes – maybe about 3 - 4 minutes and then carefully flip it over.
  8. Cook on both sides till the adai is crispy.

Serve hot with chutney of your choice, or with milagai podi.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Make Your Own Taco Bar

If you are planning to host a party in summer, and want to try something different, try setting up a “Make your own Taco Bar”. This is a huge hit with kids and adults and is super easy to set up.

It takes a little bit of prep work, but you don’t spend hours slaving over the stove and it is easy to customize. People can make it into a burrito bowl (gluten free) or wrap it up into a big tortilla for a loaded burrito. It is also a great dinner to have around the campfire.

While the taco bar provides for a sumptuous meal in itself, I do supplement with a soup and sometimes, tamales.

I forgot to take pictures of the set up, but hope you get the idea. I will update this post with pictures the next time I do this for a party

Make Your Own Taco Bar

Prep. time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes Serves: 4 - 6 very hungry people

Here’s what you need:

  • 10 flour tortillas (small taco size)
  • 2 cups Mexican rice
  • 2 - 15 oz. cans organic black beans
  • 2 cups organic frozen corn
  • salsa, homemade or store bought
  • guacamole
  • 8 oz. shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 can sliced black olives
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • sour cream
  • Cholula or other hot sauce

Here’s how I made it:

  • Drain out the liquid from the black beans. Wash in several changes of water. Place in a microwave safe bowl and warm for about 1 minute. Add salt/seasoning if necessary 
  • Place the corn in a microwave safe bowl and cook according to package directions
  • Make the salsa and guacamole. Recipes here and here

  • Set up the taco bar, by placing all the ingredients in bowls.

  • Invite your guests to get creative and make their own taco/burrito/ burrito bowl

Serve with lemonade or margaritas.


You can add fajita veggies as on of the toppings. To do this, sauté different colored peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and onions on high heat with salt and taco seasoning.

Tomatillo Salsa

Has this ever happened to you? - You stumble on a promising recipe. You think to yourself “I need to try this out”. You then go on to do other things, and a few days later, remember the recipe that you wanted to try, but unfortunately, you can’t find it anymore. This happens to me all the time.

Sometimes, I find a recipe and try it out immediately, but forget to bookmark it or write it down and can’t find it when I want it the next time.

I got this recipe from a youtube video a while ago (may be two years ago?). I made a note of the ingredients. Made it a few times - to rave reviews. Now, when I am trying to write a blog post about it, I have not been able to find the original video to give credit!

Anyway - I make this when tomatillos are in season. It comes out really well and goes great with tamales.

Tomatillo Salsa

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Serves: 4 - 6 people

Here’s what you need:

  • 10 small tomatillos, cut in half
  • 2 serrano chiles, slit lengthwise
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Set the oven to broil.
  2. Place the tomatillos, serrano chilies, and onions on a cookie sheet.
  3. Put the cookie sheet in the oven.
  4. After about 5 minutes, add the diced garlic.
  5. Remove after about 4 more minutes. Let everything cool.
  6. Blend the broiled veggies, salt, and cilantro, adding water to get the desired consistency.

Serve with tortilla chips for an awesome appetizer or as a condiment in a Mexican Fiesta
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