Recipe: Chick Peas with Grated Coconut

Recipe: Chick Peas with Grated Coconut


1 can of chick peas

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1tsp lemon pepper powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cayenne powder

1 tsp turmeric

2 cloves of garlic

Salt to taste

Canola Oil

1/4 cup grated coconut- frozen or fresh


Heat a pan with canola oil. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and wait till splutters. Add turmeric, cayenne, coriander powder, salt and lemon pepper powder. Then chop garlic and add to the pan. Saute for less than a minute. Then transfer the chick peas from the can and mix well for about 3 min’s so it soaks in all the flavors of the spices.

Turn off the heat and add the grated coconut and mix well.

Enjoy! This is such a great healthy snack!

If you do not wish to use the caned chick peas, you can buy the packet of chick peas from the store and soak it overnight. Pressure cook it and use the cooked chick peas.

Special lunch for Special people on July 4th!

Special lunch for Special people on July 4th!

We have almost no family here in the US, meaning my parents, cousins, relatives, in laws live back in India. But I must say this: what we do have are friends whom we have made along these years, some of whom have turned into family and are very special to us!

So I invited a special couple who are like family to us for lunch on July 4th. I decided to make something different that they would enjoy too! The last time we had them I made this traditional Indian flat bread with Indian Cottage Cheese Curry and Lentil Soup and so forth. This time, I put a lot of thought into the menu.

We started with a chilled Lemonade drink topped with some cumin and “chaat” mix! My husband decided to take this up since he is very good at it:)

For starters, we planned on making a pesto which is made of basil and pistachios. I came across some fresh corn at my Farmers Market and decided to pick some a few days back. So why not use the corn to go with the pesto!!!!!

I grilled some fresh corn in the grill till I saw beautiful char marks on them and then sprinkled some salt, pepper, cayenne and a squeeze of lemon for acidity!

Then, I take a knife and cut off the corn into a bowl and mix my pesto thats filling up the room with its fragrance:)

My husband had also gotten this Crostini bread from the store so we cut slices and serve my “Corn Pesto on top of my Crostini”

Now for the main course! For a very long time, I have been looking to find whats called as King Mushrooms. I have a blog friend Tim and we exchange comments and feedback on our posts and he had mentioned to me that “King Mushrooms” were very flavorful. I had finally picked some from the Farmers Market and was contemplating on making a dish with these gorgeous looking King Shrooms!

So I decided to roast some garlic with these mushrooms in a pan and to place them on what I call a “Beet Carrot Puree”. I love the color that you get when you puree some beets and carrots!!! Its phenomenal and tasty too. The key here is to counter balance the sweetness by the beetroot- and this I accomplished by roasting some garlic (and I mean a good amount of garlic cloves)with some cayenne, salt, cumin, coriander and lemon pepper. Then I blend this roasted garlic infused with my spices along with the carrots and the beets. The cayenne and the spices in the garlic render some heat which knocks out the sweetness of the beets and the carrots and balance them in such a beautiful way!

“Our family” who was visiting us yesterday also wanted to taste my Baked Cauliflower dish. Every single time I make this dish, I always try to make it different, change up ingredients a little bit to see how it turns out! So this time, I made “Baked Cauliflower with Caramelized Onions, Pistachios in a Yogurt Cilantro Basil Sauce”

I baked the cauliflower with my special blend of Indian spices in then oven along with the pistachios. I caramelized some onions and garlic and plated it along with my baked cauliflower!

We also prepared some “Quinoa with Onions, Tomatoes, Jalapeno’s, Slivered Almonds and topped with Pomegranates” that went really well with both my dishes and my guests were introduced to something new that they have promised to learn and cook once they go back.

They simply loved everything and my day was fulfilled and efforts paid off by the smiles that lit up their faces topped with some absolutely wonderful conversation around the table!!!

I hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed making them for special people close to heart!

With much love as always………

Baked Potato Fingers with baked pockets of garlic!

Baked Potato Fingers with baked pockets of garlic!

All of us crave Potatoes fries at some point in our lives lol! I simply crave them the whole time so it was important that I come up with a guilt free recipe that would let me enjoy my craving every single time!

This is such a simple, quick dish and can even be served fancy if you have guests over:) I used Yukon Gold potatoes but you can use any kind- Russet maybe!

I simply peel the skin and chop them into these thin finger lengths and place in a bowl filled with cold water. Wipe them clean with a paper towel whenever ready and arrange them in a baking pan. Sprinkle some salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon pepper, curry powder(of course!!!!) and drizzle some olive oil and mix them evenly.

In goes these puppies for about 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees in the oven. Leave it in for 10-15 minutes and then make sure to take them out and flip the finger potatoes and place them back in the oven so that both sides get cooked and crisp up(yum!)

Now time for my SECRET!!! Take 4-5 cloves of garlic with skin on it. Throw in some love with salt and pepper on the garlic pods and generous amount of EVOO. Wrap ’em in foil and place this in the oven for 20 min’s. You can do this the same time you place the potatoes in that way you save some time and both will be ready around the same time you take ’em out!

After you take out the potato fingers out of the oven, you will see them a little crisp, a little brown and little golden!!!!! I love all these three shades in my potatoes:)

Now take out your pocket of love- the garlic!!!!! Be careful while opening the pouch- You will know immediately with the burst of flavors once you start unraveling the foil:) The skin easily sticks out or can be removed. Now crush this garlic that’s smothered with oil infused with salt and pepper! and mix it with your baked finger potatoes.

Nutrition facts: The potato contains vitamins and minerals, as well as an assortment of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and natural phenols. Although they are known for their carbohydrate content, they are rich in fiber, they are very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol . It is also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese.

Potatoes are good for you as long as you prepare them in a healthy manner. Boiled and baked potatoes are good for you, French fries and potato chips are not.

My kids absolutely love them! Serve it fancy or simple- totally up to you! Enjoy!!!!!

With much love, small cravings………..

My Baked Okra Lasagna!

My Baked Okra Lasagna!


I have been cooking up a storm this last weekend! Why? The reason being………YAY I am one of the Top 36 in Master Chef USA Season 3 &

all my friends have been calling me and wanting to just barge in and see whats cooking in my kitchen:)

Me and my family love one vegetable and thats OKRA!!!! Some of my friends are not huge fans of it so I decided to make something creative yet healthy and currylicious for them so they fall in love with it:)

I made whats called “My Baked Okra Lasagna” – thats right! I baked my Okra after slitting ’em and applying my special curry rub on ’em!

Then I layer it with a curried onion tomato sauce and its ready in no time……This is such a great dish to prepare if you have guests to entertain who are vegetarians!

Slit the okra, apply my curry rub, throw ’em in a baking pan and in goes it for about 20 minutes at 360 degrees! Meanwhile I chop up some onions, garlic and tomatoes real fine and make an onion tomato sauce with my blend of curry powder & spices ….

Take your baking pan with the okra out and stack’ em up one layer of okra and one layer of onion tomato paste!

Absolutely healthy and currylicious….try this out and you will thank me:) for falling in love with “Okra”

Winning a Master Chef Apron from Gordon Ramsay, Graham & Joe!

Winning a Master Chef Apron from Gordon Ramsay, Graham & Joe!

On June 5th 2012, which was yesterday, the second round of Master Chef Season 3 auditions was telecast on Fox and it was my big day as I was cooking  for the esteemed judges!

We invited some of our close family and friends for a Viewing Party and they all came home to cheer and support me:) I was busy the whole day prepping for my Big day! I kept getting calls from friends and family who were so supportive.I had prepared so much food so all of us could just sit down, relax and eat while we watch the auditions that evening. The second round of Master Chef auditions were to be telecast on Fox at 9pm after Hell’s Kitchen at 8pm EST! And so we all settled down in our couchwith food and drinks and then IT BEGAN!















































The second round of auditions kicked off and suddenly after the emotional shocking exit of Luca, again a very good friend and works as a restaurant manager in New York- there I was! I was shown running out with the most prized possession- the Master Chef Apron towards my husband and my daughters:) I got several calls from family and friends asking me what my Signature dish was and were all eager to know what happened inside when the Master Chef door opens? and what the judges had to say about my Signature dish?

So I definitely wanted to share my experience prior to winning that apron with all of you. So here goes- My Signature dish was a “Spicy Egg Curry with Cashew Peas Pilaf and a Pomegranate Raita”. I basically grew up with this dish which was particularly made often in a place like Kerala where I hail from in the South of India. “Raita” is basically a coolant, it cleanses one’s palette off the spices and has a cooling effect!

I had just one hour to prepare the dish and one would think thats plenty of time but with all the commotion that goes around and fellow contestants cooking, coming towards you and asking you what you are making and what you added and how you plan to plate it – time just flies. There are families of contestants who are eager to watch, some are screaming and cheering, there is so much going on that I think it was very very very hard to focus! Anyway, I managed to finish my dish in one hour and was ready to go! I cooked my rice in the pressure cooker and looked perfect and smelled very nice- filled up the room. Most of my fellow contestants wanted to taste it 🙂 so I thought that was good. Overall, I was pretty confident going in but there still was that little bit of nervousness when the door opens and you still dont know what to expect! As I enter, I wave to all the 3 judges. The judges ask me to introduce myself and I tell them that I am a stay at home mom of 2 girls who used to work as a Microbiologist full time and quit my job to pursue my passion which is Cooking! Graham asked me where I am from and I said- New Jersey and then they asked me “Where are you originally from”? and I said -India. Gordon jumps in and asks me- “Which part of India do you belong ?” and I immediately have this smile and tell him proudly- Kerala! OMG! Gordon wouldnt stop because he loves Kerala and has been there and so he starts talking to me about the place. I keep rambling back and tell them that my mom doesnt feel that cooking is very reputable because back in India, if you are interested in cooking then you are considered a cook or a maid- A BIG NO NO- Not considered a noble profession!

I also tell them that I got to the US after my marriage which was 7 years ago and that my husband worked in NY city!  I also mentioned to them that “Ours was an arranged marriage” and they are all shocked to hear that. Joe even says that its not too late to change my mind LOL! Gordon says” Congratulations on completing 7 years of successful marriage”! and I thank them for their kind words.

OK People, now is the time…..Gordon says looking at the clock your 5 minutes is almost over and my heart jumps out of my chest- I am not even thinking clearly:)

It is so hard to be in that room with the judges and talk and plate at the same time. I was planning to make my “Pomegranate Raita” in front of them.

There was hardly any time left and i was moving like this crazy person trying to toast my spices and plate up my dish. I finally somehow manage and plate my dish! First Gordon walks up to me, tastes, walks back. Next was Graham, who walks up to me and asks me what spices I toasted and if I used fresh Pomegranates? for my Raita.

Lastly, Joe walks towards me and I think al the judges could hear my heart beat -it was that loud. Joe has this intimidating way of looking at you and tasting your dish that it completely freaks me out.

Now up until this point, I had not mentioned to them that I was a Vegetarian and have never cooked or eaten meat. Growing up in India, I was raised a vegetarian and my husband is one too! So I have been a vegetarian for 32 years now. I dont eat any kind of meat or fish:) due to 2 reasons- 1) Religious and 2) because I am against killing of animals:)
I knew what was coming next – Joe Bastianich asked me the question that I was looking to avoid the most:) He said to me” I cant wait till your next challenge and see how you handle it?” Graham asked me how I would cook meat if it was given to me in a challenge and I said to him “I would cook meat but not taste it”

I had to repeat that several times and be assertive that irrespective of whatever happens, my principles do not allow me to taste meat and I wouldnt do it.

So finally Gordon says, YES or NO?everyone……

and he says For me, ITS A YES. He said it was one of the best dishes and authentic curry that he had ever tasted. This was a huge compliment for me!!

Graham said he liked the technique that I displayed in toasting the spices and adding them to the dishes! Graham said he was skeptical about the meat part but solely based on the dish- he gives me a YES!!!YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Finally it was Joe Bastianich’s turn. He also expressed his concern about my Vegetarianism and was trying to intimidate me by saying what if my hands are smothered with blood from some animal 🙁

I was freaking out and all I said to them was” Please give me a chance”

Finally Joe says  the most amazing words to me- “Your plate and dish represents you, it represents finesse and class”!!!!!!

I was weeping like a baby by the time he finished his words………

I had a blast and a great time with the judges and I will cherish those few minutes with them my entire life:)































I am thrilled to be on the TOP 36! of Master Chef Season 3:)

Please support me by liking me on my Official Fan Page: and follow me on Twitter at #MC3Nandini

Stay tuned for the recipe of my currylicious Signature Dish: “Spicy Egg Curry with Cashew Peas Pilaf and  Pomegranate Raita” coming up on my blog soon!