One of my very dear friends called me to check if I could cater for Millburn Elementary school’s International Fair day. On this day, all the parents and kids get to taste different cuisines from all over the world and so I decided to take up this challenge to represent Indian Food. According to the instructions that was given to me by my friend, they needed something that was easy for kids as well as parents to pick and eat, dishes I prepare should obviously have flavors of my country India, it has to be ALLERGY FREE 🙂 and not very spicy. They also mentioned that they needed a dessert as well that had no nuts, no milk and so forth so even kids or parents with nut or milk allergies would be able to enjoy it. I decided to make VEGETABLE ROLLS and for dessert, my favorite CARAMELIZED BANANAS WITH TOASTED SWEETENED COCONUT FLAKES AND CARDAMOM.
I woke up early this morning all ready to take up the challenge. My vegetable rolls needed stuffing for which I decided to saute onions, bell peppers and boiled cooked potatoes with a bunch of home ground Indian spices. Once the stuffing was cooked and ready, I started spooning in some of the stuffing in each roll and folding it and cutting it into 3 for mess free eating:)
I was asked to make 75 such Vegetable rolls and cut into 3 so a total of 225 pieces and a small tray of dessert.
It took me a while to make and cut those 225 pieces:) I then had to start on my dessert. Dessert was simple but healthy and delicious. I had some cardamom seeds in my pantry so took them and freshly ground them using mortar and pestle. I chopped the most number of bananas I ever have in my life so far:) and used a tad of clarified butter along with brown sugar to get those puppies cooking and caramelized! Then I sprinkled some toasted sweetened coconut flakes on top and added some freshly ground cardamom as garnish- Pure heavenly bliss!
I packed everything up and had it dropped at the Millburn Elementary school, my dishes proudly representing my country India and its flavors!!!! My friend also sent me a picture clicked at the fair with most of the food gone in the trays:)
I must say that this is one of the best way and form I have consumed beets! My daughter ate a whole bowl of this salad so for all those moms
struggling to get all the good stuff with nutrients in your child, this might be a dish you wanna try! Beets belong to root vegetable family and are super rich in antioxidants and nutrients.
This dish took me less than 2 minutes to plate once the beets were cooked. Cooking beets takes a while but trust me this dish is so worth it!
Ingredients:(Serving Size for 2)
Beets- 2 or 3 beets
Goat cheese crumbled- 1/4 cup
Sunflower seeds- 1/4 cup
Red Onion- 1/2
Salt to taste
Cooking the beets: There are 2 ways to cook the beets. You can peel the skin dice them evenly and roast it in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
You can use a pressure cooker. I love cooking a lot of my veggies in my cooker since its faster and cooks evenly. Peel the skin of the beets, dice the beets evenly and transfer them to a container with water. Cook the beets in a cooker. It takes me about 15- 20 minutes to cook them in a pressure cooker.
I transfer the cooked beets in a bowl and add the crumbled goat cheese and mix it up. Then I add salt to taste, drizzle some olive oil and leave it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Prior to serving, mix some sunflower seeds and serve as a cold salad.
Chop onions, tomatoes very fine. Place a pan over medium heat and drizzle some olive oil. Now add salt, lemon pepper, cumin seeds, cayenne powder, turmeric and cumin powder. Mix well with a spatula. Transfer the finely chopped onions immediately and mix well. Let it cook till onions start to sweat a little bit. At this point add your tomatoes and cook covered for about 3-4 minutes stirring in between.
Meanwhile open the frozen package of Athens Mini Phyllo/ Fillo Shells. Remove the shells from outer carton and inner tray. Place it on a baking pan. Place it in the oven at 350 degrees F and bake for 3-4 minutes.
Now cook until you reduce the onion- tomato to a chutney consistency( water from tomatoes help us gain the required pasty consistency along with all the spices). Switch off the gas.
Take out the shells from the oven and let it cool. Spoon in the onion tomato chutney into the cooled shells and crumble some goat cheese. Finally to give it some color, add chopped cilantro leaves as garnish. Trust me these are pure quick simple healthy pockets of HEAVEN!
Enjoy making this quick recipe this holiday season !
Tip: You can save some time by adding the filling to the frozen shells and baking it together till the filling is hot for about 5-8 minutes but I have just noticed that when I do it separately, I get a crispier lighter effect with the shells.
Growing up in a small city called Cochin in the southern part of India -Kerala, this spicy lentil soup that my grandmom and mom made filled the house with fragrance of freshly ground spices. This soup is called”Sambhar” in Kerala and is made a little differently than the regular “Sambhar”. My mom and grandmom freshly ground all the spices needed to make this dish and sauted them with coconut and blended them to form a thick paste. The veggies are chopped and thrown in water till they cook, then lentils added, and for acidity/ tang- (this is the good part) we added some fresh tamarind juice!!! Finally I use a tad bit of clarified butter with mustard seeds to garnish this bowl of heaven!!!unlike my mom/grandmom who just poured ghee or clarified butter like noone’s business:)
I would also like to mention that we were raised very religious and spiritual and so today is a function that we celebrate amongst a caste of people known as Brahmins in India. Caste system prevails in India and there are both good and bad sides to it. I try to look at the good side and say that India is rich in culture because of its diversity and castes and I do not believe that it divides us but that it brings us together. I have learnt to respect other cultures/ castes growing up! So today is a day known as “Avani Avittam” which is an important ritual associated with the Brahmin community in the world. All Brahmins , the men wear a sacred thread through the year and on the day of Avani Avittam, the sacred thread worn is changed and it is usually a community observance and takes place on the banks of a pond or river. Avani is the name of the Tamil month and Avittam is one of the 27 stars.
My mom and grandmom always cooked delicious authentic meals and “Sambhar” on this special day and this was one dish that we all enjoyed !!
Thinking of my family on this special day when I cooked this delicious “Sambhar” dish. It can be served with rice or just drink it up!!!!
I must begin by saying that I had the most wonderful time cooking for such a wonderful crowd at Whole Foods at Montclair in NJ yesterday.
Carmen, the lead for cooking demos at the store was such a cheerful person and helped me out completely with the set up of my station and making me feel like I was at my home kitchen:) Evelyn ran every single time to get stuff whenever I ran out of sampling plates or spoons. I dont remember stopping for a single minute to even drink a sip of water. I was completely in my zone once people started coming in and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it that I dint want to miss any of it:)
So what did I cook? I had exchanged several emails with Carmen before coming up with this menu. Knowing Montclair and its residents, I knew QUINOA was one of my choices. A lot of people came up to me with difficulty pronouncing Quinoa and I had to break it up for them as (pronounced as K-i-N-WAH) 🙂
I decided to go for a Quinoa Salad. One, the reason being -Tuesdays at Whole Foods is Local Tasting meaning I was asked to make the best use of as much as local produce that was at the store. I instantly felt like a kid in a candy store- especially if you ask a vegetarian like me to pick local produce/veggies!!!!
The second reason being- Quinoa is a grain-like crop grwon for its edible seeds and is a complete protein as per nutritional evaluations. Quinoa high in dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calicium and is popular amongst vegans and for those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest.
I decided to incorporate as much veggies possible, like zucchini, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers…..and made a Quinoa Salad. Of course I sauted my onions, tomatoes, zucchini and squash with my special blend of freshly toasted and ground Indian spices! or freshly ground “curry” powder.
My demo was to start at 3 pm but I reached the store early so I have enough time to set up and start cooking the Quinoa. Carmen said the expected crowd between 3 and 6pm on a Tuesday at Whole Foods was about 150!!!! So I cooked for that many :))))
I had this huge pot that was simmering away with my Quinoa and veggies in it. I had just begun making my sauce- I wanted to make an Indian curried sauce to layer on top of the quinoa to take the salad to a next level. Meantime, I saw many people approaching my station and urging me to make samplers. Being the person I am, I started making samplers of just the Quinoa while working on the making that sauce at the same time. I was so happy to hear wonderful comments from people who merely tasted the Quinoa with veggies. A lot of them said, they got the package of quinoa but when they took it home and tried cooking it- it was dry or that they werent able to get the proportion of quinoa versus water right.
A simple trick is- I never follow package instructions because it always says 1: 1!!!!! No way- you will end up with a plate of undercooked quinoa. Always, add extra broth or water to check if the quinoa is cooked completely. You know its done is when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Also, while cooking the Quinoa always try and keep it covered or use a lid to cover.
Now I make my sauce with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes and my freshly ground spices. I layer the Curried sauce over the Quinoa. I wanted to use a layer of crunch on top of the sauce so I used Organic Tempeh from Whole Foods and crumbled it, seasoned it well with cumin, coriander and “curry powder”. I saute the crumbled tempeh with a tad bit of oil in a pan till it gets a crisp coat on the surface. Now Tempeh is a meat substitute made of Soy and is very high in protein.
So I layer my sauted crumbled tempeh over my curried sauce and quinoa with veggies. I garnish the whole dish with some green scallions, colored bell peppers and some tomatoes and top it off with some cilantro!
A lot of you them who stopped by my station asked me if I sold the Sauce in a jar and they wanted to buy it:)LOL
But I promised them, I will look into it- its a possibility I would explore!!!!
They loved my sauce and the dish and were very encouraging and appreciative,
All the kind words, words of encouragement and love is what motivates me so keep it coming guys…..can never get enough!!!
Thanks much to my friend Rob and his sister April Peters for coming out, tasting my dish and being so supportive!
Thanks again to every single person who came out to Whole Foods, and stopped by my station to taste my dish-Appreciate your time and I hope I was able to answer every one of your questions on the dish and otherwise…..
(This pic was taken at the end of the cooking demo at 6pm and I am exhausted, struggling to smile for the camera but my husband and kids came to pick me up and I was thrilled to see them !!!!Thanks so much for being so supportive!)
With much love ……. and looking forward to more events so keep tuning into my blog for updates on events and where to find me:)