Monday, January 27, 2014

Steel Cut Oats Upma (Spicy Oats)

Steel cut oats upma is a variation to the rava upma (spicy Farina as my friends call it) that is made in South India.  I decided to experiment one day when I cooked the steel cut oats. I did not feel like eating a sweetend version of steel sut oats that I found in a recipe book, so I decided to try something new. Always loved Upma as a child I thought let me try it with the oats.  Wow! what a hit it was with my family and friends.  My kids will only eat Steel Cut Oats spicy not sweet.  It is delicous, nutrious and easy to make.

Few Notes to simplify your task.

1. Make steel cut oats the night before and allow to cool in pot.  Remember to
    add salt to the oats. No need for refrigeration. 

2. Get your ingredients ready the night before if you are in a hurry in the morning.

3. As per salt and ghee add to your liking. I tend to be reserved with salt and ghee.

5. When ready to start the Upma use a fork to break up the oats. 


2 cups of Steel Cut oats cooked (I use Hodgson Mills and cook about 20-25 min)
1 medium red onion chopped
3-4 chillies slit in half ( use as many chillies as you like depending on your spicy preference)
4-5 curry leaves
1/2 inch of ginger grated
pinch of Hing (Asafoetida, optional - only if you like it)
1-2 tbsp of cooking oil( I use canola)
butter (ghee -clarified butter may also be used)
1 tsp of mustard seeds
1 tsp of cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp of Urad dal
1 tsp of Channa dal
2 tbsp of cashews
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro


1.  Cook oats in a pot with salt.  I use hot water to start the process. Takes about 20 -25 minutes.

2. Cooled steel cut oats. Will seem mushy when cooked. Do not worry.  Allow to cool.

3. In a pot, add one tbsp of oil.  Allow to heat up and then add the cumin and mustard seeds.

4. After the mustard seeds start to pop turn the stove off or move pop to another burner for a 
    moment while add the hing, urad and channa dal, curry leaves cashews and butter or ghee.
    Return to burner or turn stove on again.  This prevents the seasoning from burning.

5. Saute on low heat for a minute until the cashews start to turn a light brown.  Then add the onions,
    ginger and chillies. Fry until onions start to carmelize a bit. 

6.  Add the cooled oats that have been fluffed up with a fork to the onion mixture.

7. Mix together to incorporate all ingredients. Add salt if needed.  Shut off stove and add the cilantro.

Seven steps later you are ready eat mouth watering delicous Spicy Steel Cut Oats!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The BEST EVER White Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti with Macadamia Nuts

Biscotti, one of my all time favorite cookies to eat.  Decided to make them myself when I realized I can make 3 dozen for the price of six in the store. Tastes a lot better too!! It is the most requested cookie that is asked by my friends and family to make.

A few notes to remember: 

- Biscotti is twice baked so in the cooling down period between baking I usually have something else ready to bake so I am not wasting the energy on leaving my oven running.
- I use non-stick foil to shape the biscotti.
- I use the remaining chocolate chips to decorate the biscotti.


1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter ( I use Earth Balance to cut down on saturated fat)
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of grated orange zest (1 large orange-Navel is the best)
3 whole eggs 
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract (I sometimes use orange extract)
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1 cup of dried sweetened cranberries( if you use unsweetened then increase your sugar by 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts(optional)


1. Put flour and baking powder in a bowl.  ( I sift the flour. I find that the Biscotti has lighter texture by doing this)

2. In a separate bowl with a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together.  Then add the orange zest and continue to mix.

3.  Add the extract and one egg at a time mixing in between. Then add the remaining egg whites.

4. Once all wet ingredients are mixed together slowly add the flour/baking powder. Alternate mixing and adding the flour. This prevents lumping.  BTW, this is a good time to set the oven temperature to 325º F.

5.  Add the cranberries, white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts and stir into Biscotti batter.

6. Line two cookie sheets with Parchment paper.

7.  Divide the dough evenly and shape into an oval shape about 1/2 inch thick.  

8. I use non-stick foil to shape since it is very sticky!

9. Turn the shaped dough onto the cookie sheet if you use the foil paper method.

10. Biscotti is ready to go a 325º pre-heated oven for 30-35 min. 

11. Biscotti should be lightly brown when taking out of the oven.  Don't turn the oven off since you will be  re-baking the biscotti again.  I usually use the oven in the cooling down time to bake a casserole or grill vegetables.

12.  Cool for at least 30 minutes.  Then cut the biscotti diagonally and down the middle if pieces
       are big. Arrange on the baking sheet and put in oven to re-bake for another 20 minutes.

12. Remove from oven and cool.  I usually reserve some white chocolate to melt and decorate.

13.  Store in an airtight containers,  I usually bake up about 40 pieces of biscotti. Depends on how thick or thin you cut them.

    Twice baked biscotti ready for some white chocolate!!

White chocolate drizzle:

Melt 1 cup of white chocolate with 2 tsp of milk.  Mix and then put in a pastery bag with a writing tip and draw squiggles over the biscotti.  You can also use a spoon and drizzle it over or dip the the end of the biscotti in the white chocolate.  Remember to use when slightly warm as to not let the white chocolate harden.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Roasted Vegetable and Butternut Squash Lasagna

This lasagna was made on a day that I had so many veggies in fridge and not sure what to do with them.  I finally decided to roast the veggies thinking I would make a pasta dish or veggie panini's.  I ended up making a low fat Lasagna that was so full of flavor. I was hesitant to make it thinking I only had only 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese.  You don't miss the cheese since the veggies are so flavorful. You can also substitute any veggies that you have as long as you add some flavorful spices to it.  

Little note: This lasagna is a laborious task but so delicious, it is worth the effort.  I make this lasagna over 2 days since there is a lot of prep work. I also don't give the amount on salt and pepper since it is a personal choice. I usually eyeball it.


1 pkg of Lasagna noodles ( I prefer the oven ready) 
Olive oil
1 1lb pkg  butternut squash (I buy the squash precut in large pieces )
1 large yellow, orange and red pepper ( 1 of each)
1 large red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 12 oz pkg of mushrooms
2 cups of broccoli 
1 frozen box pkg of chopped spinach
1/2 cup of fresh basil
1 large container of 2% cottage cheese
1 cup of parmesan cheese
1-2 cups of mozzerella cheese shredded(depends on how much cheese you like)


Crushed red pepper
Tandoori masala


* I use a Vidallia Onion chopper to dice all my veggies. Makes the laborious task of cutting veggies so much easier.

Prep work:

Dice butternut squash, and peppers.  Put the squash and pepper in separate bowls.
Chop the onions  and broccoli.
Slice the  mushrooms 
Grate the garlic or use a garlic press.

Heat oven to 425º F
Line a baking pan with foil paper. Put the Butternut squash, 1/2 the chopped onions and 1/3 of the garlic. Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1tsp tandoori masala(optional),  salt and pepper and then mix all ingredients together. Put in oven and bake for 25-30 min.

Repeat the same procedure with the peppers, mushrooms, the rest of the onion, 1/3 of the garlic, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tsp (tandoori masala(optional), salt and pepper. Toss together and bake in oven for 20 min. Add the broccoli to the mixture at the 20 min mark and then bake for another 5-8 min.  (Each oven is different, please check on vegetables to make sure they do not burn but have a slight dark grill color).

Let the vegetables cool.  ( I make this a day or two ahead)

Cottage cheese filling:

Cook spinach, cool and then squeeze all the water out.  Empty cottage cheese into a bowl.
Add the cooled spinach, chopped basil leaves ( 1/3 cup chopped but is up to you how much you like the flavor of basil), salt, pepper,  2/3 cup of  parmesan cheese and the remaining garlic.
Mix together.

Some of the ingredients used in the lasagna

Butternut squash and onion diced and tossed in oilve oil, salt and tandoori masala ready for oven

             Spinach, cottage cheese, parmesan, salt, pepper and basil leaves       

              Roasted veggies baked in the oven.

Layering the Lasagna

In a lasagna pan (foil or ceramic) cover bottom of pan with tomato sauce.
Put lasagna noodles over sauce.  3-4 Depending on your pan and type of Lasagna noodles.
Cover  noodles with more tomato sauce and then spread some of the cottage cheese filling.
Layer 1/3 of the BN squash over the cottage cheese filling and then cover with  Lasagna Noodles.
Repeat again with the Tomato sauce and  cottage cheese filling and this time cover with the roasted vegetables.  Continue layering the lasagna alternating between the BN squash and the roasted veggies. If you run low on both vegetables I layer both to together on the last layer.  Cover with last set of noodles cover with tomato sauce and then cover with Mozzerella cheese and remaining parmesan cheese.  I also sprinkle some crushed red pepper.  Cover with foil and bake in preheated  oven at 375ºF. Please read baking time on package depending on type of noodle used.  Bake uncoverd for 5-10 min.

                Tomato sauce on bottom of pan layered with lasagna noodle and more sauce

                Roasted Butternut squash cooled and ready for the lasagna   

                    Butternut squash layered on top of spinach cottage cheese mixture.

Lasagna ready for the oven

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Minestrone Soup

This is a slight variation of the recipe I found on the web and made it a little more tasty (spicy) for an Indian home. This soup is also a one pot meal since it includes carbs, proteins and veggies in one and our favorite dinner for a cold night.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups of vegetable stock
2 cups of water
1 diced zucchini
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup of broccoli
1 cup of celery
1 cup of cannellini or garbanzo beans
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons of fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
28 fluid ounces canned plum tomatoes, dice and include liquid
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 cup uncooked ditalini
1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder

Other vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower could be substituted for broccoli

Heat oil in a large steel vessel over medium heat.  Add chopped onion and saute for 4 minutes until lightly brown.  Add zucchini, carrots, celery and broccoli and continue to saute for an additional 4 minutes.  Add vegetable stock, water, beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, chilli powder and garlic.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add macaroni and cover and cook for additional 10 minutes.   Adjust salt and spices to your taste.   Serve hot sprinkled with some shredded parmesan cheese.

Roasted Red Pepper Corn Soup

Borrowed this recipe from my friend Sunny who makes the best soups.  This soup is delicious to eat on a cold fall evening.  It has a nice kick to it and really warms you up.


Olive oil for sautéing 
4 charred/roasted red peppers on a  grill (bottled variety will also work)
1 box of corn soup or a can of cream style corn
3-4 cups of low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup frozen corn
1 med red onions
2 chillies or red chilli powder
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp cumin powder
chipolte  seasoning
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
salt to taste

chopped scallions, tortilla chips and sour cream for garnishing

1.  Chop onion  and saute in soup pot with olive oil for about 2 minutes.  Add roasted peppers and garlic, chillies and continue to sauté breaking the peppers with a  spoon, add salt to taste and continue to saute for 7-8 more min and cool.

2.  Put mixture of onion and peppers in a food processor and pulse. The resulting mix should be slightly coarse. Add frozen corn and pulse a few rounds.  Add the red pepper mix to soup pot.  Add a cup of broth  to food processor to clean out the remaining mixture.  Add to soup pot with the remaining broth, corn soup, cumin powder, and salt to taste.  You can also add chilli powder at this time if you did not use chillies.  Bring soup to boil and then simmer for 20-30 min.  Add chipotle seasoning and cilantro after soup is cooked.  

3. Serve  hot with garnishing.