Spinach Dal (Palak Dal)

Palak DalWhen you eat some food do you feel like you have just been hugged, I am not talking about the cheesy hug you get from mac and cheese, I am talking about food that hugs you from within. You know, even after several bowls of it you feel wonderful and nourished to the bone. I feel that way every time I eat this Palak Dal, it is my kind of comfort food.

IMG_0841IMG_0890This was my first meal after I had a baby (I just couldn’t bring myself to eat the colourless and questionable hospital food), and for 3 months after. My mum would make this 3-4 times a week and I would gulp it down.

This is my go to weeknight dal, when I am lazy I have it with steamed rice and when I am more organized I have it with phulka that I make at home.

Chopped PalakIngredients

  • 1 cup mung beans/moong dal soaked for an hour (I used split mung beans)
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 3 green chillies
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • A pinch of asafoetida (Hing)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • Salt tot taste
  • Finely chopped cilantro for garnish
  • 1/2 lime juice for garnish

In a large pot add the dal and turmeric along with 3-4 cups of water, bring to a boil and then simmer till the dal is cooked. This should take about 40 minutes if the dal has been pre soaked. Alternately, you can cook the dal in a pressure cooker giving only 1 whistle. Remove the dal from heat once cooked.

Finely chop up spinach, green chillies, ginger and garlic.

Heat a large pot with ghee (at medium heat). Add mustard seeds, when it splutters add cumin seeds, hing, chilli, garlic and ginger. Stir for about 30 seconds.

To the pot add spinach. Once it wilts add in salt and the cooked dal. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Let it boil for 2 minutes and then remove from heat. Let it cool slightly and then garnish with cilantro leaves and lime juice.

Serve it with warm rice or fresh hot rotis.

Peanut Salad (Peanut Sundal)

IMG_1747Festival season of India just went by but, when you are in North America you hardly notice it. That is not to say I don’t miss it, especially Navratri – Nine nights of festivities that marks the celebration of goddess Durga and all her various forms as Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity) and Saraswati (Goddess of learning and education). It is celebrated all over India with a lot of grandeur. In the south of India, it is customary for women to invite other women to their houses for Kolu – a colorful arrangements of dolls each set to a unique theme. There is an exchange of beetle nut leaf, coconut, and bangles. As a child I remember my mom taking my sister and me to several of these. My pet complain about this particular festival was the food! Every house that we visited had some form of Sundal – a salad made from some sort of lentils or beans – the official food of Navratri. I would cringe at the thought of eating the same lack luster food for nine days! Each night after all our visits and sundal eating we would sit and compare sundals. ‘Oh that was so under seasoned’ or ‘The blackeyed peas at Vijaya’s house could have been cooked a little bit more’.

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Now in Canada, and after many years, I miss the whole nine yards of Navratri, the gaggle of women in colourful Kancheevaram sarees and the scent of fresh jasmine flowers that adorn their hair. Funnily I also miss Sundal! Over the years, and after many many bad sundals I have come up with my own variation that I have come to love. It may not be traditional, and I can see the collective nod of disapproval from the Tamil Brahmin community, but I love it and make it all year long not just for Navratri.

You can eat this salad warm or straight out of the refrigerator and is a wonderful dish for picnics.

IMG_1739 Ingredients 

  • 11/2 cup raw peanut soaked over night
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut
  • Small bunch of coriander
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 mango diced
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • 1 spring onion chopped finely
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ inch ginger grated
  • 2 slit green chilly
  • Salt to taste

Seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal
  • A pinch of asafoetida (Hing)
  • 4-5 curry leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the peanut, it should take about 40 minutes to an hour. I choose to pressure cook it, giving about 5 whistles.

Drain the peanut in a large bowl, add coconut, pomegranate, raw mango, carrot, spring onion, chilly and ginger

In a small pan heat the oil and add mustard seed to it, when it begins crackle add urad dal, pinch of asafetida and curry leaves. When the urad dal turns red turn off the heat and pour the seasoning on the peanut mixture.

Add the juice of 1 lime to this mixture and garnish with finely chopped coriander before serving.

Maple Pecan Dates Muffin

IMG_2802I am the kind of person who has a constant need to munch on something, and my sweet tooth is, well, insatiable. This completely contradicts with my need to be healthy. In a typical utopian world, I would have planned out all my meals and be feeling completely smug about it too. Reality, however, is far off from it. I do desperately want to live in this world, but striking that balance is quite a struggle on an everyday basis.

IMG_2791To motivate myself I was browsing through cookbooks on Amazon, looking specifically for healthy books with recipes that would, besides delivering on the health premise, also appeal to my bratty taste buds. My search yielded me a whole lot of gluten free cooking. Now I am not gluten intolerant, neither am I going to hit you in the head with it, but it is hard to ignore all the information out there. Given I do not have an opinion on this subject, I browsed through a couple of books (Yes I sometimes test out recipes before buying the book) and chose one that had least obscure ingredients and did not make me go out of the way to acquire a new healthy habit. Despite my bull headedness, the Maple Dates Pecan muffin recipe called for mostly everyday pantry items. The only minor kink was the almond meal. I am honestly quite wary of recipes that promise to be healthy and taste delicious all the same. It just seems like a lofty claim to make and more often than not, results are quite flawed. The thought of having a muffin with almond meal and some of my other favourite ingredients thrown in, however, tickled my taste buds and the slightly modified recipe did not disappoint me in the least bit.

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This recipe is a keeper, you can make them ahead of the weekend and if they last – grab one for breakfast, or fuel up before you work out, or treat yourself to a pick-me-up afternoon snack when you’ve hit a plateau staring at a dull computer screen. You could bake a batch for brunch on mother’s day or take it with you as a little present for your dinner party hosts; they make for a wholesome treat in the morning. I have made this twice since I found the recipe and have been gorging on it guilt free.

IMG_2801Maple Pecan Dates Muffins (Gluten Free)

Makes 12 muffins

Barely adapted from The gluten free Almond flour cookbook Elana Amsterdam

  • 3 cups blanched almond flour/ almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil or grape seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure organic maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium apples peeled, cored and diced (I used 1 plum and 1 apple)
  • 1 cup pecan coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup dates shopped into ¼ inch piece

Crumb topping

  • 3 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil/ melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350OF and line a muffin tray with 12 paper liners

In a larger bowl combine the almond flour/meal, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon. In a blender combine the wet ingredients – oil, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla extract, and apples till it is smooth and frothy (I used an immersion blender for this).

Stir in the wet ingredients into the dry almond meal mixture until thoroughly combined. Then fold in pecans and dates. Spoon the batter in prepared muffin cups.

In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the crumble – oats, oil and sugar (You can completely do away with the crumbs and the muffins taste just as good).

Evenly distribute the crumble on all the muffins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until muffin tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean.

Let the muffins cool in the pan before serving.