Lunch in under 10!

IMG_3812 A vegetable medley ~

1 zucchini washed, trimmed and sliced thin

A handful of green beans, washed, trimmed, and chopped in 1/4ths

A couple of leaves of kale (any kind is fine), washed and hard stems trimmed

A few leaves of Swiss chard, washed (make sure you get the grit out of the grooves of the red stem :-)); keep the stem in this case

Add all vegetables to a pot, add about 1 cup water; steam on medium heat for 6-8 minutes.  Remove from heat; add salt and black pepper to taste.  Puree as you as you desire! Enjoy!

FullSizeRender-5IMG_3678For an added richness and a dose of good fats, I love adding fresh grated coconut to my soup.  The fat keeps me satiated longer and from becoming hungry too fast.  I buy fresh coconut from my local Indian grocer in the freezer section.  (Most imported fresh coconut products are flash pasteurized.)  I also buy whole coconuts and process them when I have some time.  Coconut freezes well and has a low shelf life of only a few days, in the fridge.


One heavenly bite! (In under 15 minutes!)


photo(95)This recipe makes 4-6 mini muffin cups.

Combine together ~

2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder

2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil

2 teaspoons of maple syrup

Pour a half of this mixture evenly into 4-6 mini cupcake liners.  Set them on a small plate and put into the freezer.


For the filling, your imagination is the limit!  A small scoop of any nut butter with a sweetener like dates or maple/agave syrup.

Our latest favorite?

2 Mejdool dates, pitted and mashed with a couple of tablespoons of coconut cream.photo 2

Remove chocolate cups from freezer.  Spoon a small bite-sized amount of the date mixture into each cup.  Freeze the cups for a few minutes (5 minutes or so).

Remove cups from the freezer and cover all the cups with the rest of the chocolate mixture, evenly.  Set in the freezer again for a few minutes.


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Love ’em or not – Tomatoes are here!

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Tomato time!


A multitude of shapes, sizes and colors with names as earthy as beefsteak or as fancy as Indigo Rose, heralding this season for most home gardeners and cooks like no other produce!

Tomatoes are sweet and sour, fleshy and juicy – hence, eaten seasonally, they can be thirst quenching, since they are a watery food especially when ripe.  However, in Ayurveda, these fruits are also considered heat-provoking, especially when cooked and eaten in relatively large amounts – say, as a fiery salsa or marinara.  If one has excess-heat conditions like flushed and hot skin, hot flashes, stomach acid conditions leading to digestive distress, burning etc., it is best to avoid this fruit.

Whether you grow them yourself or not,   sooner or later you find yourself with one too many and needing an easy way to use them up.  One of my most favorite ways? A South-Indian style Thokku or relish that keeps in the fridge for up to a week.


Ingredients ~

  • Diced tomatoes – any kind, 4 cups
  • A couple of tablespoons of some good cooking oil – I used regular olive oil
  • Spices – 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, 1 sprig curry leaves (available at an Indian market); 1 teaspoon turmeric powder; 1 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste), 1 tablespoon raw sweetener (anything except honey; I prefer the raw Indian-style jaggery)
  • Salt to taste.

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In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat up the oil and add in all the spices and sprig of curry leaves.  Let the mustard seeds sizzle and pop.

Add tomatoes, cover and simmer until the whole thing looks like a sauce coming together.

Add salt and sweetener and leave off the lid; let simmer, stirring occasionally,  until a jam like consistency is reached.

Enjoy as a spread on a piece of flat bread with some brie; mixed with yogurt; as a relish with a bowl of cold rice noodles in coconut curry sauce!  the possibilities are endless!  Kinda like summer!







Chutney South-India style!

Musings Over Macchiato

IMG_7905 That is a cappuccino but you get my drift!

Pico Iyer writes “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”  For me the part about bringing my ignorance is definitely true. Travel lets me look at food anew – everything from what the locals call food, how they make, sell or buy it, to how they eat it in public and ultimately how they appear – how their food makes them. So my recent trip to 3 cities in northern Italy albeit short was incredibly enriching…my ignorance just a bit lighter on the way home.


 One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.  ~ Virginia Woolf

IMG_2571Away from the grip of my daily routine, I ate as the place and time demanded. Breakfast was always at a nearby café maybe entailing a small detour on the way to the bus or train station or our day’s first stop. A cappuccino with an almond pastry for me, best of both I have ever had. Sometimes we sat at a table (which costs more than standing at the counter). And we got to watch the locals drift in and get their usual, standing as well while chatting up the barista. When food was carried out, and it didn’t happen often, it went into a paper sleeve to be eaten while walking, never while driving. So no drive-through cafes – none. The local topography influences the way food is sold and eaten. Suburbs make drive-through fast food inevitable!

The day’s meals when we were in the mood, were at a deli or restaurant rated 4 stars or more on trusty Trip Advisor and they didn’t disappoint.  Two meals stand out.




IMG_7747One, our lunch in Siena at Antica Pizzicheria on a small street, conveniently located on the walk between the Duomo and the Torre del Mangia tower. It is a meat and cheese shop selling Siennese specialties – hocks of cured meat from the ceiling, more sausages than one can shake a pig at, wild boar local delicacies, and sheep’s milk cheeses. A shop so filled with foods I don’t know anything about, and don’t eat at all. An all-pervasive aroma I don’t usually associate with appetizing foods. Not my turf.



IMG_7757So what did 3 vegetarians end up eating? Only the best basil pesto, brilliantly green and smelling like sunshine, sandwiched with tangy soft slabs of cheese in warm bread from the back of the shop, and olive oil from groves not too far away. This place is not a restaurant and as such has one counter and standing room only. But our meal was carefully decided upon with the help of the owner/chef who took his time attending to us, letting us sample the offerings, explaining them in many cases.  Then our meal was handed to us on a wood platter and set up outside on two sidewalk wine barrels. Add some local red and we had ourselves a picnic. So it is not only the ambiance, the price tag or the fancy ingredients. The love and passion for the food shines most and is always apparent at first bite. One can tell right away that meal is likely to be one of the best ever.

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IMG_2162The second was a fancier place we stumbled upon in Milan – Nobile bistro de Milan. The clientele looked every bit as sophisticated as one might imagine Milan’s fashion savvy citizens to be and we certainly did not, wandering in tired of a day’s walking and needing to just sit. Regardless, we were shown the warm hospitality of a house that truly loves its food and not itself. Our meal was meticulously prepared and presented and showed off the impeccable pedigree of the chef. What has stayed with me though is our waiter’s reluctance to let us leave in a rush to catch our train.  We were brought bite-sized coffee ice creams on the house with our check so we wouldn’t leave without finishing out our evening. Food and eating are as much about attention to place, time, and feeling as they are about what’s on the plate. A whole experience that is complete in itself.


My most endearing impression is not really about food at all.  However, it brought up memories of my mom, aunts, grandmothers cooking especially on festival days.  Food made with utmost care and focus, for the occasion and offered to the deities in the home temple before anything else.  While walking the cupola of the Duomo in Florence, I noticed what looked like snow peas carved in the marble as decoration all around the dome, part of a motif that also has flowers and a beautiful scalloped shell. How curious! In exalting the divine, we have always looked to nature’s bounty and food particularly to offer up as symbols of our striving and devotion; something that resonates across cultures and religions. Food is Sacred.


The ‘chickpeas…really?…wow!’ patties

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The patty ready to be baked….



This patty was the result of peeking into the pantry, finding the brown baggie with 1 cup of dried chickpeas begging to be used up and an hour to kill.  It could be easier if you started with a can or two of chickpeas, drained…then you can skip the next step.




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Chickpeas soaking in boiling water




Start with soaking the dried chickpeas in some boiling water; let it sit for a couple of hours.  Pressure cook until tender.





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Veggie hash with spices for full-on flavor




Start with some coconut oil; add in ginger, garlic,yup-you-guessed-it-roasted cumin and coriander powder, turmeric, some cayenne to taste; saute a hash of onions, red peppers, and scallions (that’s what I had in the fridge :-))




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Sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower steaming



Steam up any root vegetables to slightly more than fork-tender;  Cool and mush up with the hash and cooked chick-peas.  Shape into patties and bake at 350 for 20 minutes;  brush with coconut oil and broil for a crisp bite.

Chai Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough Bites

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And the BEST part? Sugar-free yet so delicious, it’s hard to stop at one or two….

~ Ingredients ~

Made about 2 1/2 doz. bites

12-14 pitted dates, soaked in some hot water for about 20 minutes

3 cups rolled whole oats (not the instant kind), run through a coffee mill to get a coarse oat flour

3-4 medium really ripe bananas

1/2 cup raisins ~ 1/2 cup chocolate chips ~ chopped nuts ~ any nut butter

Spice blend: 1 tsp each whole green cardamom seeds, 4-6 inch long pieces of Asian cinnamon, 1/2 tsp whole cloves

2-3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted to liquid

Run the spices through the coffee mill to powder them well.  Set aside.  Drain the dates off their soaking liquid.  In a large mixing bowl, with a hand-blender, mush well, all the peeled bananas and dates; add in the spices, raisins, and any other add-ins – maybe some coarsely chopped walnuts? Add the oatmeal flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing gently until a dough starts to form; add in the coconut oil and mix well.

Now you can go two ways – use a cookie dough baller and portion out the dough or go the old-fashioned way – coat your fingers with a little coconut oil and ball the dough yourself!  Chill for 20 minutes and serve with a cup of hot chai!

Pearled Barley with Swiss Chard


This is a perfect weekend brunch for that brutal winter morning!  A whole grain meal that is light yet satisfying.

Pearled barley is a moderately sweet grain but when paired with a green like chard, it is balanced in it sweetness with plenty of healthy fiber.

I have grown to love this grain with a nice bite to it, especially when it is spiced right and full of flavor.

You will need ~

1 cup pearled barley, rinsed

1 bunch of Swiss Chard, ends trimmed, rinsed and chopped coarsely, stems and all

1 inch piece of ginger, scraped and grated

1 generous tablespoon of roasted cumin-coriander powder and a generous pinch of turmeric

Cayenne and Salt to taste

In a heavy bottom pan, add an oil of choice – I love the warming nature of expeller-pressed sesame oil for the winter;  add the spices and let them sizzle.  Add the rinsed barley and mix well.  You can add in the greens now or half-way through the cooking to keep the color rich.  Add at least 2 cups water and salt to taste.

Cook covered for 15-20 minutes until the barley is done.  Enjoy warm or at room temperature.  I like the sound of serving this with a crisp Pappad and some home-made apple or pear sauce!

Mousse for everyone!

photo-34Yes, this mousse may work for every palate at your table – vegan, gluten- free, nut-free and most importantly delicious!  Oh and it only takes about 10 minutes to fix! You will need ~

2-4 ripe avocados

Any good cocoa powder (unsweetened works best so you can add your own sweetener);  Ghiradelli makes a really good 100% cocoa for the price

Sweetener of choice – the syrups may alter the consistency of the mousse a little ..so play with it.  I used a couple of tablespoons of fine maple sugar.  The powder sugars must be finely ground to avoid a gritty mouth-feel.

Vanilla extract and a pinch of salt to taste; a spritz of lemon juice

Cut and slice the avocados into a large bowl.  Add all the other ingredients to taste.  I used a hand blender to gently mix everything to the desired consistency.

Some flavor choices? Orange zest and a dash of orange liqueur…or chopped crystallized ginger with a dash of dark rum?

A very festive holiday from my table to yours!

Color My Winter Green (cheat) salad!

photo-26Yes it is not the season for cold and raw foods. But for those of us who miss the crunch of a good salad there are a few options.

How about something that is not totally raw? Maybe just the ticket for that warm day in winter!

Here we go ~ This makes a generous serving for 4.

1 cup raw rice – use any rice that has a bite.  I used a brown and red Thai mix. Cook the rice al dente.

1 cup steamed lentils (I used a ready pack from Trader Joe’s;  lentils are easy to cook stove stop – 3/4 cup raw should cook to slightly over a cup – cook them al dente as well).  Cool the rice and lentils to room temp – this will keep the greens crunchy and well, green 🙂

For the crunch ~ 1/2 sweet onion diced fine, 1 cup arugula chopped coarsely, 1 cup diced cucumber if it looks fresh on the shelf, 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped fine, 1 inch piece of ginger grated and 1 pod garlic grated as well (optional)

For that warm-summer-day flavor ~ A spoon of black mustard seeds (optional), 1 tablespoon of cumin-coriander-turmeric blend (Yeah it’s not the same without these spices, BUT you could get creative — do use the ginger to help digest the lentils; fresh herbs work their magic – cilantro, basil…..)

Super-easy how-to ~ In a saute pan, melt a little coconut oil (or any oil you prefer), drop in the spices and let sizzle;  add the diced onions and grated ginger and garlic; give it all good stir for a few minutes;  Shut off heat.

In a large bowl, mix all components of the salad gently – greens, rice, lentils, spice mixture, salt, fresh ground pepper and some lemon juice to taste!  ( I added some homemade salsa for an extra summery tang!)

I could see adding some fresh pomegranate (or cranberries or raisins) and some feta….or crumbled goat cheese!

Savor this summery meal!

6 Taste Cran Chutney

photo-23An Ayurvedic recipe to showcase this tart, astringent, and bitter berry!

You start with ~

1 pkg. cranberries, rinsed and picked over

1 teaspoon each of mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds*

1 teaspoon of turmeric

Cayenne and salt to taste

Some raw sweetener – be generous to balance the berry’s strong acrid taste.  I use a few tablespoons of Jaggery**

Optional – A few curry leaves and 1/2 spoon of Hing***

* Mustard and fenugreek seeds add a crunch and bring a balance to the flavor of this chutney

** Jaggery is an unrefined raw sugar, usually cane, available at Asian Indian markets

*** Curry leaves or coriander leaves are valued for the trace minerals they add to food; they are good to eat but for those sensitive to their leafy taste, they can be discarded when eating.  Hing or asafoetida is a tree sap used extensively in Asian cooking for its digestive properties and also to add that elusive Umami flavor!  Both available at Asian Indian markets as well.

photo-24I start with heating about 2-3 tablespoons of any cooking oil in a heavy pan – sesame is typically used; you can use a light olive oil as well.  When the oil is quite hot, add in the mustard and fenugreek seeds.  Allow them to splutter for a few seconds. Add in the rinsed berries and all the seasonings.  Add the sweetener and salt to taste.  Cover and allow this chutney to cook and reduce on a medium to low heat – until all the berry liquid has been cooked down.  You can stop at your desired consistency – I prefer a jam!

I hope you enjoy this seasonal treat at your Thanksgiving table!