February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seven Layer Mexican Dip

This is always a hit at parties. It can be made in advance and refrigerated. Homemade Salsa Recipe is also available here: Fresh & Mild Salsa

Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
Serves: 4-6


2    Can Jalapeño Bean Dip
1    Container Sour Cream
1    Container Avocado Dip
Small Bunch Scallions, washed & cut
3    Large Tomatoes, chopped
1    Can Black Olives
1    Bottle Salsa
1    Cup Cheese, grated
1    Packet Taco Seasoning

  1. Spread the beans in a flat pan.
  2. Add taco seasoning to sour cream. Spread gently on top of beans.
  3. Spread third layer of either homemade or store-bought avocado dip.
  4. Spread salsa to taste.
  5. Sprinkle cheese on top of the salsa.
  6. Now garnish with black cut olives and green onion.

The Health Benefits of Mexican Food

  • Health Benefits: Avocados are an excellent source of the healthy monounsaturated fat oleic acid, which helps lower cholesterol and can help protect against breast cancer. They also contain the highest amount of the carotenoid lutein among commonly eaten fruits, along with high amounts of other carotenoids and vitamin E, which together have been found to inhibit different types of cancer growth.
    Plus, because healthy carotenoids are fat-soluble, consuming avocados, which are naturally rich in monounsaturated fat, helps enhance your body's ability to absorb these healthy nutrients from other vegetables.
    Cilantro, sometimes referred to as Mexican or Chinese parsley, has a strong flavour that people usually love or hate. In Mexican cuisine, it's a popular herb used in guacamole, salsas and sauces.
    Health Benefits: Cilantro is rich in beneficial phytonutrients, flavonoids and active phenolic acid compounds, which may be responsible for many of its health benefits. Cilantro, and its seeds, have been found to help control blood sugar, lower cholesterol and fight inflammation and free radicals. Cilantro may also have antimicrobial properties.
    Fresh and dried chili peppers are what give Mexican dishes their characteristic spice, though specific peppers are used for flavour while others are used for heat. Some popular varieties include jalapeno, poblano, serrano, guajillo, chipotle, pasilla, habanero, ancho, mulato and cascabel.
    Health Benefits: Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers, giving them not only their spice but also their health benefits. In fact, the hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. This spicy compound has been found to Fight cancer, prevent sinusitis and relieve congestion, fight inflammation also helping burn fat, provide pain relief and a major factor in protecting the heart by a reduction in cholesterol, triglycerides and platelet protection
    Beans are yet another staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine, perhaps second only to corn. While a variety of beans, like pinto, lentils, kidney beans and fava beans, are used in Mexican cooking, the focus is on pinto and black beans because they're far more common in Mexican cooking and they offer many nutritional benefits -- loads of antioxidants. Normally Mexican beans are served boiled or fried.
    Health Benefits: Pinto and black beans are rich in antioxidants, beans are high in dietary fiber, which is an excellent cholesterol fighter, and the complex carbohydrates they contain help keep your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day -- essential for staying alert and feeling energized.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment! I love to hear from my readers!

Join my Newsletter here to be notified when a New Recipe has posted and receive a Healthy Cooking Tip right in your inbox!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Amla Achar - Sweet Pickle

Some days you want to eat something special and tasty. Amla is a popular Indian gooseberry that is very good in winter.  It is very popular as a winter snack for its nutritional value and is eaten as jams and in other forms, like bars, as well. Not only it is tasty, but it is very high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. It is available in the frozen foods section. Amla Pickle can be done in two ways.  One is done spicy and with oil.  The other recipe is for Sweet Pickles.  Here is a quick recipe of Sweet Amla Pickle.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Recipe Type: Vegan, Jain


4    Cups Frozen Amla (boil and seed so it will separate into wedges)
2-3 Cups Sugar (Substitute: Agave Nectar)
5-6 Cloves
5-6 Cinnamon Sticks
Few Strands Saffron
1    Tsp Cardamom Seeds

  1. In a medium sauce pan on low heat, boil the 2 cups of sugar with 1 1/2 cups of water.
  2. Add saffron strands, cloves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom seeds.
  3. Once water is boiling, add ambla pieces into syrup.
  4. Stir with a wooden spatula.
  5. Turn off stove and let it cool.
  6. Once cool, pour into a container and refrigerate.

  • It stays good for two months. 
  • I enjoy it with warm Indian tortilla - rotis.  
  • I am sure you will enjoy the sweet pickle with your meal also.

Serving Size is for 1/2 Serving.

The health benefits of Amla

  • Hair care Amla is used in many hair tonics. It enriches hair growth and hair pigmentation. It strengthens roots of hair, maintains color and luster. Eating fresh fruit or applying its paste on hair roots improves hair growth and color. Amla oil is very popular in India as it serves as a very good hair growth booster thereby preventing hair loss.
  • Eye care: Taking Gooseberry juice with honey is good for improving eyesight. It improves nearsightedness and cataract. It reduces intraocular tension.
  • Diabetes: Gooseberry contains chromium. It has a therapeutic value in diabetics. Indian Gooseberry or Amla stimulate the isolated group of cells that secrete the hormone insulin. Thus it reduces blood sugar in diabetic patient.
  • Heart disease: Gooseberry strengthens heart muscles. So heart pumps blood flawless throughout the body.
  • Infection: Due t o its antibacterial and astringent attributes the Indian Gooseberry protects against infection. It improves body resistance.
  • Diarrhea and dysentery: Due to its strong, cooling and laxative properties Gooseberry is useful for remedies for diarrhea and dysentery. It is a great relief for gastric syndrome and hyperchlorhydria (burning sensation inabdomen).
  • Improving appetite: Consuming Gooseberry powder with butter and honey before meal improves appetite. It helps in balancing Nitrogen level and thus increases weight in a healthy way.
  • Anti-aging: Amla prevents health related hyperlipidaemia through attenuating oxidative stress in the ageing process.
  • The fresh fruit contains more than 80% water, protein, minerals, carbohydrates and fiber. It is also used as remedies for fever, liver disorder, indigestion, anemia, urinary problems, respiratory problems, cerebral, gastro and cardiovascular illness. Gooseberry lowers cholesterol level. It increases red blood cell production and strengthens teeth and nails. So the Indian gooseberry or Amla as a fresh fruit or juice or in dried form is much good for your health.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
I love to hear from my readers!

Join my Newsletter here & receive 
"Five 20 Minute VegFusion Recipes Your Family Will Love"
for free!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Indian Cooking Class

On January 17th of this year, Phung of Asian Market (located on Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute, IN), invited me to teach an Indian Cooking Class.  She wanted me to cook a rice and curry recipe with lots of vegetables.  Because the temperature was only 15 degrees outside the Lentil Soup with Warm Roasted Pitas were a big hit.

We tried the following recipes from my blog:

We also made "Cool Cucumber Raita" and "Lentil Soup."

With the Lentil Soup, I taught the class how to make "Warm Pocket Pitas." If you have an electric stove, you cover the burners with a grill and warm the pitas.  This can also be done in a toaster oven.  Pitas will puff up and will be toasted and roasted.

During my class, there were a few questions I answered that I though I would share with you:

Q: One Gentleman: "I was given a jar of Dry Mango Powder and was wondering how to use it?"
A: Dry Mango Powder can be used as a substitute for sour things like lemon juice, but it will change the color by darkening it.  It can be used with lentils and chickpeas, also. 

Q: A Nurse from Chicago: "Nursing mothers sometimes do not eat well and have a difficult time producing enough milk.  What can help with this problem?"
A: Cumin seeds and a glass of milk helps with breast-feeding.  If the cumin seeds are too old, they will not work, so they should be very fresh.

More photos from our cooking class:

If you live in the local Terre Haute, IN area and would like more information about future cooking classes, please feel free to email or call me!:

This Week's Healthy Tip:

Benefits of Taking a Cooking


If you enjoy cooking taking a cooking class, it is something that you should consider because of the many benefits that it provides. However, cooking classes are not just for people who enjoy cooking. Cooking classes are also quite popular for people who are learning how to cook. There are many different styles of cooking classes, such as different levels and different styles of cuisine. In order to maximize the benefits that you will be receiving from your cooking class you want to ensure that you choose the best cooking class for your needs.
Learn to Cook New Dishes
One of the biggest benefits from taking a cooking class is that you are going to learn how to cook a specific type of cuisine. For example, if you take an Italian cooking class you will learn all about preparing Italian dishes. The type of dishes that you learn to prepare is going to vary based on your cooking skills prior to taking the class. If you don’t know anything about a specific type of cuisine you will want to take a beginner’s class, but if you have already mastered the basics you will want to take one of the harder classes because you can learn more from the harder classes. The best part about learning new dishes is you can take them home and introduce them to your friends and family. They will be impressed with your new found culinary skills!

Learn Culinary Techniques
Another great benefit to taking a cooking class, even if it is just a beginner’s class is that you will be learning some new techniques. The great thing about learning new techniques when it comes to cooking is that you often reuse your techniques in other types of cooking. You can easily take the new techniques that you learn in a specific cooking class and apply them to your own style of cooking. For example, breading is used in a variety of cuisines. The Japanese use panko breadcrumbs for breading, which are a lighter style of breadcrumb. Breading is also used in Southern cooking, but they often use regular or seasoned breadcrumbs, which are thicker than panko breadcrumbs.
Save Money!
Taking a cooking class will also help you save money especially if you are accustomed to dining out. Although taking a class will cost you money, in the long run you will be saving money by not having to eat out as much as you used to. This is especially true if you live in a large city like Los Angeles, where the average restaurant bill is $25 per person for dinner. By taking a cooking class in Los Angeles you can cut down on dining out and also eat healthier since you have total control of the ingredients going into your meal.
Work with New, Unique Ingredients
Finally taking a cooking class is going to teach you about working with unique ingredients. This is important because you will be working with ingredients that you have never heard of before so learning how to work with them will allow you to use them correctly in other recipes aside from the ones that the class teaches you. When it comes to using unique ingredients you will be introduced to ingredients that are only used in a few select dishes because of how unique they are. However, you will also be introduced ingredients that you can use in a variety of dishes. Learning how to properly use these ingredients can give you an idea of how they might be used in other dishes that you cook to help bring new life to an old recipe.
While taking a cooking class is going to provide you with a lot of benefits the only way you are going to benefit is if you take the right class. To ensure that you are in the right class you will want to evaluate your current skills closely. You will also need to be honest with yourself so you can choose a class that is going to teach you, but also provide a bit of a challenge. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dal Baati

Guest Blogger: Sveta Shah

This is a traditional dish from the state of Rajasthan in India, filled with richness and aroma and has a special flavor which is not available everywhere in the country.  Rajasthani cuisine is incomplete without the mention of the delicious Dal - Baati (Lentils with Thick Indian Bread made from whole wheat flour).

Ingredients for Baati / Flour Dumplings:

2    Cups Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Melted Ghee or Clarified Butter (read below)
2    Tsp Ajwain
Salt to taste
Warm Water to make Dough
4    Quarts Boiling Water
Small Bowl Melted Ghee for dipping the Baatis once baked

Ingredients for Dal / Lentil Chili:

1/2 Cup Tuvar Dal also called Arhar Dal (split pea lentils)
1/2 Cup Split Moong Dal with the skin (green color)
1/2 Cup Split Urad Dal (Split Matepa Beans - white color)
1/2 Cup Chana Dal / Bengal Gram Dal
6    Cups Water
1/2 Tsp Haldi (turmeric powder)
2    Tsp Red Chilli Powder
1    TBsp Lemon Juice
Salt to taste

Ingredients for Tarka or Tempering:

2    TBsp Pure Ghee or Clarified Butter (read below)
Pinch Hing (Astofedia)
1    Tsp Cumin seeds or jJera
1    Tsp Grated Ginger
1/4 Tsp Red Chilli Powder


  1. Wash, soak (in warm water for atleast 1 hour) and cook dal with 6 cups of water and turmeric powder in a pressure cooker.
  2. While dal is soaking you can make baatis.
  3. Put a pot (4 quarts) of water to boil on a stove on medium heat. The water should be very hot (boiling) before you add baatis to cook.
  4. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl or food processor with warm water as required. Dough should be of a firm consistency.
  5. Divide the dough into equal portions like donuts.
  6. When the water starts boiling, add the baatis one by one.
  7. Let them cook for 10 - 15 minutes.  You will see that they will rise to the surface as they cook. This means the dough is cooked.
  8. Scoop them out and place them on a plate. Save the remaining boiling water / broth.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to warm.  Place the baatis on a baking tray / aluminium foil.
  10. Once the oven is heated, place the baking tray in the oven and turn the setting to Broil.
  11. Let it broil until the color changes from light brown to pinkish brown.
  12. Flip the baatis every 10 minutes, making sure they are done on both sides.
  13. Remove the baatis from the oven and dip them in melted ghee and remove them immediately and place them on a serving dish.
  14. While the baatis are broiling, pressure cook the dal.
  15. Use a hand blender to mix the dal for it should be of a stew-like consistency. Strain and add the saved broth from the cooked baatis.
  16. Tempering or Tarka the dal by placing the ghee in a ladle on medium heat.  When ghee is warm, add jeera. When jeera starts spluttering, add the rest of the ingredients and add it quickly to the dal.
  17. Bring the dal to a boil, add all the remaining dal ingredients. Let it boil for 10 minutes on medium heat and once it is done, cover it with a lid to infuse the flavours.

Serving tips:
  • Crumble the individual baatis into small pieces (1/2 inch approx.) and place them in a bowl and pour hot dal on it. Add a little ghee and a drop of freshly squeezed lemon juice .
  • Garnish it with chopped cilantro / corriander leaves if desired.
  • Enjoy your dal baati!

Serving Size is 1/20th of Recipe.

Clarified Butter and Ghee

For centuries, clarified butter has had enormous cultural influence around the globe. Making clarified butter involves slowly heating unsalted butter to 212°F (100°C) and letting it boil until the water vaporizes. Once the bubbling stops, three layers remain: whey protein, liquid fat, and casein particles. Once you remove the skin of whey protein, you can pour off the fat, which is the clarified butter.

For smaller quantities of clarified butter, use a heavy saucepan and watch for the telltale signs of clarification (white, and then brown specks at the bottom of the pan). Remove the pan from the heat, and set into a cold-water bath for a few seconds. Skim off the top layer, or strain the contents of the pan through a triple layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

Clarified butter is perfect for frying over high heat, since the components that cause butter to scorch – protein and casein - have been removed. Regular butter can be used, though, for frying proteins over medium heat. In fact, the buttery flavor of the caramelized milk proteins will stick to the meat, and the fat can be poured off.

If you’re frying breaded foods, make sure to use fine, fresh breadcrumbs and sauté using clarified butter. The result is extremely flavorful, but without the greasiness of breaded foods fried in oil.


Ghee is the name for anhydrous butter fat in India, where it is prepared in large quantities; it is commonly mixed with the milk fat of the water-buffalo. The full name is usli ghee, and the spelling ghi is sometimes used, or in sanskrit ghrta. Ghee is the chief form of cooking oil in many Indian regional cuisines; it is also used medicinally and plays a part in some Hindu religious ceremonies. [Read more on ghee in India.]Samna (also samnehsamn) is the name for butter fat in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, where it is also prepared in large quantities; it is commonly mixed with the milk fats of sheep and goats. It turns up in North Africa as sman, sometimes flavored with herbs, or spiced, or aged. Ethiopia also has a spiced version,nit'r k'ibe. [Read more on smen.]

The butter is melted and the simmered long enough to boil off all the water, during which time it takes on a buttery taste. It is used especially, but not exclusively, for cooking meat, and it is essential for many Indian dishes. Ghee is the clear butter fat. By removing the albuminous curd and water that favor the growth of organisms promoting rancidity, anhydrous butter fat does not become rancid as readily as butter and can be stored unrefrigerated for several months.
Here is an example recipe:
Ghee is produced as follows. Butter made from cow's milk is melted over a slow fire and then heated slowly until the separated water boils off. The vessel holding the butter is then allowed to cool; semifluid, clear butterfat, which makes the finest ghee, rises to the top of the melted butter and may be poured off, leaving the curd (precipitated protein) at the bottom of the vessel. The curd, which still contains 50 percent or more butterfat, may be reworked with the addition of peanut oil or buffalo milk fat to make inferior grades of ghee.
A significant portion of Indian ghee is made from buffalo butter, but only ghee made from cow's butter has any religious or medical significance among Hindus. Early Sanskrit writings attributed many medicinal qualities to ghee, such as improving the voice and sight and increasing longevity. Ghee is used in almost every one of the numerous religious ceremonies that Hindus observe at different points in their lives, including birth, initiation into manhood, wedding sacrifices, and gift-giving at death. Images of the gods are washed in ghee, and it is frequently used to light holy lamps or is thrown upon an altar fire in sacrifice.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
I love to hear from my readers!

Join my Newsletter here & receive 
"Five 20 Minute VegFusion Recipes Your Family Will Love"
for free!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Shrikhand - Sweet Yogurt with Saffron

Shrikhand with Fruits
We all know that the goodness of yogurt and its prebiotics are healthy for the body. In the state of Gujarat, India, the summers are very hot and the humidity is very high, so yogurt is a must to eat with meals.  One of the most popular items in all of Gujarat is Shrikhand. It is sweet in taste and is eaten with Puffed Puri.  It is very easy to make and it stays fresh for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.  For parties and fun events, it can be made ahead of time.

Preparation Time: 40 Minutes
Cooking Difficulty Level: Very Easy
Serves: 4-6
Recipe Type: Jain, High Protein, Gluten free



32    Ounces Plain Low Fat Yogurt or Regular Dannon
1/2 Cup Sugar
2    Tbsp Slivered or Powdered Almonds, Pistachios & Nutmeg (optional)
Fruit of Your Choice: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries

How to Prepare:
  1. Lay out a big towel and newspaper for thickness. Now cover with a cheese cloth.
  2. Spread plain yogurt on the cheese cloth for about an hour.
  3. Sprinkle sugar to cover the surface of the yogurt.
  4. Mix it thoroughly on the cheese cloth with a spoon
  5. Put the mixture through a sieve it for smoothness.
  6. Ground nuts, powder, and saffron can be added.

Plain Shrikhand

  • This is a healthy delight. It is very well known by Gujarati families for its richness.
  • Skim yogurt can also be used. 
  • For variety, vanilla can be added.
  • Another idea is to use with sliced fruits. Strawberries and mangoes are favorites.

10 Reasons Yogurt is a Top Health Food

1. Yogurt is easier to digest than milk. Many people who cannot tolerate milk, either because of a protein allergy or lactose intolerance, can enjoy yogurt. The culturing process makes yogurt more digestible than milk. The live active cultures create lactase, the enzyme lactose-intolerant people lack, and another enzyme contained in some yogurts (beta-galactosidase) also helps improve lactose absorption in lactase-deficient persons. Bacterial enzymes created by the culturing process, partially digest the milk protein casein, making it easier to absorb and less allergenic. In our pediatric practice, we have observed that children who cannot tolerate milk can often eat yogurt without any intestinal upset. While the amount varies among brands of yogurt, in general, yogurt has less lactose than milk. The culturing process has already broken down the milk sugar lactose into glucose and galactose, two sugars that are easily absorbed by lactose-intolerant persons.
2. Yogurt contributes to colon health. There's a medical truism that states: "You're only as healthy as your colon." When eating yogurt, you care for your colon in two ways. First, yogurt contains lactobacteria, intestines-friendly bacterial cultures that foster a healthy colon, and even lower the risk of colon cancer. Lactobacteria, especially acidophilus, promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon and reduces the conversion of bile into carcinogenic bile acids. The more of these intestines-friendly bacteria that are present in your colon, the lower the chance of colon diseases. Basically, the friendly bacteria in yogurt seems to deactivate harmful substances (such as nitrates and nitrites before they are converted to nitrosamines) before they can become carcinogenic.
Secondly, yogurt is a rich source of calcium - a mineral that contributes to colon health and decreases the risk of colon cancer. Calcium discourages excess growth of the cells lining the colon, which can place a person at high risk for colon cancer. Calcium also binds cancer-producing bile acids and keeps them from irritating the colon wall. People that have diets high in calcium (e.g. Scandinavian countries) have lower rates of colorectal cancer. One study showed that an average intake of 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day is associated with a 75 percent reduction of colorectal cancer. As a survivor of colon cancer, I have a critical interest in the care of my colon. My life depends on it.

3. Yogurt improves the bioavailability of other nutrients. Culturing of yogurt increases the absorption of calcium and B-vitamins. The lactic acid in the yogurt aids in the digestion of the milk calcium, making it easier to absorb.

4. Yogurt can boost immunity. Researchers who studied 68 people who ate two cups of live-culture yogurt daily for three months found that these persons produced higher levels of immunity boosting interferon. The bacterial cultures in yogurt have also been shown to stimulate infection-fighting white cells in the bloodstream. Some studies have shown yogurt cultures to contain a factor that has anti-tumor effects in experimental animals.

5. Yogurt aids healing after intestinal infections. Some viral and allergic gastrointestinal disorders injure the lining of the intestines, especially the cells that produce lactase. This results in temporary lactose malabsorption problems. This is why children often cannot tolerate milk for a month or two after an intestinal infection. Yogurt, however, because it contains less lactose and more lactase, is usually well-tolerated by healing intestines and is a popular "healing food" for diarrhea. Many pediatricians recommend yogurt for children suffering from various forms of indigestion. Research shows that children recover faster from diarrhea when eating yogurt. It's good to eat yogurt while taking antibiotics. The yogurt will minimize the effects of the antibiotic on the friendly bacteria in the intestines.
6. Yogurt can decrease yeast infections. Research has shown that eating eight ounces of yogurt that contains live and active cultures daily reduces the amount of yeast colonies in the vagina and decreases the incidence of vaginal yeast infections.
7. Yogurt is a rich source of calcium. An 8-ounce serving of most yogurts provides 450 mg. of calcium, one-half of a child's RDA and 30 to 40 percent of the adult RDA for calcium. Because the live-active cultures in yogurt increase the absorption of calcium, an 8-ounce serving of yogurt gets more calcium into the body than the same volume of milk can.
8. Yogurt is an excellent source of protein. Plain yogurt contains around ten to fourteen grams of protein per eight ounces, which amounts to twenty percent of the daily protein requirement for most persons. In fact, eight ounces of yogurt that contains live and active cultures, contains 20 percent more protein than the same volume of milk (10 grams versus 8 grams). Besides being a rich source of proteins, the culturing of the milk proteins during fermentation makes these proteins easier to digest. For this reason, the proteins in yogurt are often called "predigested."
9. Yogurt can lower cholesterol. There are a few studies that have shown that yogurt can reduce the blood cholesterol. This may be because the live cultures in yogurt can assimilate the cholesterol or because yogurt binds bile acids, (which has also been shown to lower cholesterol), or both.
10. Yogurt is a "grow food." Two nutritional properties of yogurt may help children with intestinal absorption problems grow: the easier digestibility of the proteins and the fact that the lactic acid in yogurt increases the absorption of minerals. And even most picky-eaters will eat yogurt in dips and smoothies and as a topping.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
I love to hear from my readers!

Join my Newsletter here & receive 
"Five 20 Minute VegFusion Recipes Your Family Will Love"
for free!