Category Archives: Grains

Sid’s Everyday Pancakes – Kid in the Kitch!

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Today my son woke up early and wanted to help make the pancakes. He absolutely loves cooking and helping in the kitchen. As an eight year old, there are certain things he can’t do or that I’m nervous about him doing safely. However, he listens well, he’s calm and follows directions. That makes it easier to teach him how to cook.

We make pancakes almost everyday. But we make fast and easy pancakes. I use a mix from Trader Joe’s – it’s one of the few convenience foods that I rely on (btw, it has buttermilk in the mix so it isn’t vegan). My kids love it and I think it’s healthier than most other mixes I’ve looked at. Of course, you can make your own mix (which I aspire to, but it’s low on my list at this point)!

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Since we don’t  do eggs in our house, I use sourdough starter for leavening the pancake batter. It works great and doesn’t give much of a sour flavor when it’s used right away. If you aren’t familiar with sourdough starter and you like to bake, you should check it out! It’s awesome but kind of like having a pet. It has to be fed and nurtured. You can’t stick it in the cupboard and forget about it for a month or it will die. There are places to get the starter mix (King Arthur Flour is a great source), but I think it’s best to get it from someone you know. If you don’t have sourdough starter, you can sub a flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water).

Without further delay, here’s Sid’s blog debut…

Sid’s Everyday Pancakes (makes enough pancakes for 1 or 2 kids)

2 tbsp sourdough starter or flax egg
1 cup Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking and Pancake Mix
approx. 1/2 cup almond milk or other milk

Place the sourdough starter or flax egg in a mixing bowl. (Then feed your sourdough – here is Sid feeding it with more flour and water.)

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Add the pancake mix and stir a bit.

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Slowly add the almond milk and continue to mix and add milk until the mix is pourable but not too liquid.

012914almondmilkHere is the final batter consistency:

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Now pour the batter by the spoonful onto a heated cast iron griddle or other skillet (action shot):

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Flip the pancakes over when they start to get bubbles on the top (great job, Sid!):

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Serve!012914thumbsup

Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (and How to Cook Brown Lentils)

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Hello! Continuing on with the Salad Project theme, here is a quick recipe that features those lowly brown lentils. I feel almost guilty blogging about such an easy recipe! However, I love this salad and lentils in particular: they are tasty, extremely healthy and the dry beans last a long time in the pantry. They cook quickly (no need for a pressure cooker or pre-soaking) and are very economical. I bought a huge bag of them at my local Middle Eastern market last week. I have been craving lentil soup lately so made a two-for-one batch of lentils. If you cook 1 1/2 cups dried lentils you will get approximately 5 cups of cooked lentils! Eat ’em, freeze ’em, share ’em… I will post the soup recipe later this week. BTW, sorry for the terrible photo! It was nearly impossible to get anything good with this winter lighting. We have summer weather but winter sun.

I have been making a variation of this Lentil Salad for at least 15 years. I think people are surprised that a bean salad can be so good. Maybe they are expecting a typical American-style salad with heavy dressing. If you add a bunch of veggies chopped up or shredded finely, it makes for a lighter salad. The addition of a citrus or other fruit lightens it up too but isn’t necessary. Of course, you can add any veggies or fruits that you like or have on hand. Today was the first time I have used cabbage but it turned out great. I even got a thumbs up from my 6-year-old! This would be a great side salad to a burger, piled on top of a lettuce salad or a potluck dish at a barbecue. Serve at room temp or chilled.

Quick and Healthy Lentil & Veggie Salad (Serves 4)

2 cups brown lentils (cooked but not mushy) (see notes below on cooking lentils)
1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 cup parsley, leaves chopped finely
2 green onions, finely chopped
4 radishes, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp salt, or to taste

Combine the lentils and veggies in a bowl. Pour over the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Stir well, then taste for seasoning. You are done!

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Bonus recipe: How to Cook Whole Brown Lentils (or other small whole lentils)

As I said above, dry lentils expand a lot once they are cooked. If you cook too much for your meal, just freeze them. Wash about 1 cup of lentils in a medium-sized sauce pan, rinsing a few times and removing the floaters. Sometimes there may be little clods of dirt or stones. Do a quick pick-through to make sure you get all debris out. I rarely find anything but once I missed a rock and thankfully I was the one to find it!

The total cooking time will depend on how tender you want the final product. For salads, cook until just done but not split open or mushy. For soups or lentil loaf or burgers, you may want to cook them longer. I cooked lentils for a few years before I realized that I didn’t have to cook them to a mush (I was always making soup, so it didn’t matter). But the difference between just cooked and mush is a world apart. Once you are debris-free and well-rinsed, add at least three times as much water as lentils to cover. Place on medium-high heat and cover. Bring it to a boil. Do not add salt! Now you can continue using the fast method or the slower method:

Fast method – once the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for approximately 25 minutes (less if using smaller lentils). Check for the water level after about 15 minutes, you may need to add more water. Remove from heat when the lentils are cooked to the desired tenderness and drain the excess water.

Slower method – once the pot comes to a boil, turn off the heat and keep the lid on. Let it sit for 1/2 hour up to a couple of hours. When you are ready to move on, drain the water (notice how much they have plumped up), taste a lentil for tenderness and cover the lentils with more water (twice a much water as lentils). Return to the stove, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook to desired tenderness. This cooking time will depend on how long you let them soak earlier (and how old your beans are, etc.). Remove from the heat and drain excess water. (I drain the initial soaking water to get rid of some of the scum and gas-making compounds – but it isn’t necessary.)

Enjoy!

Roasted Golden Beets & ArugulaWalnut Pesto Salad

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Hello! Welcome to The Salad Project! Our weather is unseasonably warm here in S. California so I’m having a burst of summer-type salads. I actually harvested a fresh red tomato from my garden today. I was not too hopeful about the taste since the texture seemed extra-firm. But what an explosion of summer flavor! It’s unexpected but appreciated!

Today I roasted some small golden beets with olive oil and salt. They came out of the oven crispy but soft – perfect for a salad! I also had a bag of arugula on hand from Trader Joe’s. I don’t often buy bagged greens but I haven’t made it to the Farmers’ Market in a few weeks. If you have never tried arugula, please do asap! It’s a slightly peppery green that is perfect in salads, cooked with pasta or made into pesto.  You can throw it into some soup at the end of cooking for a burst of pretty green color. I think it’s perfect for pesto because it is so flavorful but also holds its bright green color. I sometimes add some fresh spinach too, just to amp up the nutrients. Today I made a batch of arugula pesto that I used for my dressing. Instead of my usual sunflower seeds, I added chopped walnuts and used walnut oil in place of olive oil. The combination of walnuts and arugula is fantastic! You just have to try it! I have about 1 cup left of this yummy sauce. The rest will be used with pasta salad tomorrow or maybe on sandwiches or in lasagna…Love, love, love pesto!

Roasted Golden Beets & Arugula Walnut Pesto Salad (Serves 2-4)

For the Roasted Beets:

5 small or 3 large Golden Beets (or other beets)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Use about 1 tbsp of oil to coat a baking sheet. Set aside. Wash the beets thoroughly and trim any leaves. Cut in quarters or eighths, depending on size, and place on the baking sheet. Drizzle the remaining oil over the beets, coating all sides. Sprinkle the salt over the beets and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then if they aren’t soft enough, cover with foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Now make the Arugula Walnut Pesto:

2 packed cups arugula leaves, washed
1 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 to 1 cup of walnut oil

Place arugula, garlic, salt and walnuts in a blender in that order. Pour in 1/4 cup of oil and turn on to blend. As it’s blending, slowly add more oil through the top (or stop the blender and add a bit of oil at a time) and continue to blend until the mixture flows freely and loosely in the blender. This is the best way I can think of to explain this! 🙂 The pesto will be a smooth, thick sauce (rather than the usual chunky pesto though you can leave it chunky if you like). Here’s a close up of the pesto (not the greatest shot – the sun is so low that it makes winter photography almost impossible!):

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Assemble the salad:

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1/4 of a lemon
2 cups of arugula leaves, washed and dry
2 pinches salt
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
1 recipe Roasted Beets
1 recipe Arugula Walnut Pesto

Squeeze the lemon over the quinoa and mix well. Divide the arugula leaves amongst your plates and top with divided quinoa. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper over each salad. Divide the beets over each salad and top with a few walnuts. Now drizzle the pesto over each salad to taste. Enjoy!

Delicata Squash, Quinoa and Kale Salad

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Hello! Welcome to my first salad post of hopefully a year-long project. I shall do my best to complete this task successfully!

I had a sweet little Delicata Squash in the refrigerator that I’ve been waiting to showcase. They are a beautiful variety of winter squash, but any winter squash will work in this recipe. The chunks of roasted squash are tossed on top of the salad so they have distinct texture and flavor. The Orange Maple Dressing is kicked up a bit with the addition of cayenne pepper. The combination is wonderful for a winter meal.

As with any salad, you can add to it as you wish. My recipe lists what I actually used, but I always encourage you to add or take away as you like. No use suffering through eating pears if you really don’t like them. If you don’t have kale on hand, then sub in some bok choy or spinach. These recipes are just a stepping off point so mix it up as you please!

Delicata Squash, Quinoa and Kale Salad with Orange Maple Dressing

Makes 2 Entrée Servings or 4 Sides

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups hot water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup kale, washed and shredded
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa (wet) and allow to toast for about 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Once the water evaporates and the quinoa starts to toast, add the water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the grains are plump and soft (but not mushy). Add more water if necessary – you can drain off any leftover water. When it is fully cooked, drain off any excess water. Stir in the kale, vinegar and oil and set aside to cool. (Yes, the kale should wilt a bit in the heat of the quinoa but not be totally cooked.) Now it’s time to prepare the squash:

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1 Delicata Squash, Acorn Squash or other Winter Squash
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Preheat your oven to 450F . Wash the squash under running water, remove any stickers and cut into bite-sized pieces. The skin can be eaten, but if you don’t like this, you may peel it before cutting. But why make extra work? Place the squash pieces on a lightly oiled baking sheet, then sprinkle with the olive oil and salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, turning the pieces over after 7 minutes. Just keep an eye on it since all ovens bake differently (really!). You want a nice browning on the edges but not burning and the squash should be just cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. While this is baking, start cutting up the rest of the veggies:

1 pear, washed and cored
1 cucumber, washed and seeded
1 carrot, washed
Pumpkin seeds or other seeds

Cut up the pear, cucumber and carrot into bite sized pieces. Set aside. Now make the dressing:

2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
2 tsp. minced parsley
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or shake in a capped bottle. It won’t emulsify, so just stir or shake before using.

To compose the salad:

The quinoa and squash should be at room temp. Divide the quinoa amongst your plates, making a mound. Then flatten the mound down a bit. Top off with the squash pieces, the cut up veggies and seeds. I don’t stir everything together in one bowl because the squash will probably turn to mush. Plus, it looks nicer! Stir or shake your dressing and pour over the salad to taste. Enjoy!

Savory Semolina Cake (Sooji Dhokla) + YouTube Debut

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Savory Semolina Cake (Sooji Dhokla) + YouTube Debut

Hello and welcome to This Spicy Life!

Yesterday was the debut of my YouTube channel featuring a Sooji Dhokla recipe by my friend Leena. I think you will agree that Leena does a great job of showing how to make this delicious and easy snack. Please forgive my lack of filmmaking skills! Anyway, I think the video came out much better than expected for our first try. Click on the video at the top right corner to see our tutorial. We are hoping this is the first of many collaborations!

Here is a link to the YouTube Channel for ThisSpicyLife: 

Dhoklas are a light and satisfying snack that is popular in India. They can be made from semolina (sooji) or chickpea flour and eaten with a chutney. Dhoklas are usually steamed in special pan inside a larger pot. You can easily substitute a small cake pan or pie plate, as long as it fits inside of a large pot. Here we used a 6″ cake pan set on top of a wok stand inside of a large stock pot. Add enough water to reach almost to the top of the wok stand and set the cake pan on top of this. Put the lid on and you have a homemade steamer.

Leena’s Savory Semolina Cake (Sooji Dhokla)

Serves 6 – 8

  • 2 cups semolina or sooji (medium size is preferred)
  • 2 tbsp yogurt (unsweetened – can use soy or other yogurt)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp ginger-chili paste (1″ fresh ginger blended with 4-6 green chilis)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 3 tsp eno fruit salt (available at Asian grocery stores)
  • 2+ cups of water
  • 6 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 6 curry leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 green chilis, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 3 tsp mustard seeds
Method:
  1. Place the semolina in a large bowl. Add the yogurt, ginger-chili paste, salt and sesame seeds. Mix well.
  2. While continuing to mix, add enough water to make a medium thick batter.
  3. Set aside for 5 minutes. Add a bit more water if the batter has become too thick. You want the batter to easily fall in a chunky stream from a spoon.
  4. Oil your steaming pan (see note above about steaming) and set aside.
  5. In a small pan heat the oil to very hot. Add the mustard seeds and allow to cook until they start to pop. Add the curry leaves to the pan and immediately remove from heat. Set aside.
  6. Mix the cilantro and green chilis together and set aside.
  7. Remove 3/4 cup of batter into a smaller bowl. Add 1 tsp eno fruit salt and mix well. It will foam and bubble.
  8. Pour this into the steaming pan. Place the dhokla pan inside the steamer (see note above) and cover with the lid. Allow to steam for 8 minutes.
  9. Remove the dhokla pan from the pot.
  10. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the reserved cilantro mixture over the top of the dhoklas.
  11. Sprinkle 1 tsp of mustard seeds over the top of the dhoklas.
  12. Using a pizza cutter or other small knife, cut the dhoklas into pieces approximately 2″ x 2″. Remove to a serving plate and serve with chutney.
  13. Repeat making more batches of dhoklas until the batter is done. There should be about 3 batches using a 6″ pan and 3/4 cup of batter to a pan.
Leena’s Green Chutney

Makes 1/2 cup of thick chutney

  • 2 tbsp raw peanuts
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cup cilantro (coriander leaves) with stems and/or mint (leaves only)
  • pinch of salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 or 2 green chilis, optional (to taste)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  1. Wash the cilantro and trim away any woody stems. Keep tender stems as they provide the most flavor. Clean the mint leaves but remove from stems and toss the stems. Set aside.
  2. Cut the green chili(s) and garlic into chunks and set aside.
  3. Blend the peanuts and cumin with about 1 tbsp of water.
  4. Add the cilantro/mint leaves, salt, about 1 tbsp of lemon juice, green chili and garlic to the peanut mixture.
  5. Blend until it becomes a fine, thick paste. Add more water if necessary to get it to blend smoothly.
  6. Adjust salt and lemon as needed.