Category Archives: kid-friendly

Pink Heart-Shaped Puris for Valentine’s Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m reposting a recipe from several years ago. I think my photos have improved over the years but you can still see in this pic the heart-shaped bread tinged pink with beet juice. These are a yummy snack or meal for kids and adults served with potato curry or another vegetable curry. For the past year or so I have been using whole wheat pastry flour instead of the Indian atta flour. My mother-in-law and I compared and tested several types of common American flours and determined that this was a perfect substitute.

Valentine’s Puri-Bhaji

Valentine’s Puris (serves 4)

  • 3 cups of atta flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup beet juice*
  • additional water to make a stiff dough
  • Oil for deep frying

Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of beet juice and start kneading the mixture into a stiff dough. Keep adding water until all the flour is incorporated. Knead by hand for 5 minutes, cover and let rest for at least 1/2 hour. Please note that puri dough must be very stiff to puff up successfully when fried.

Heat the oil to 350F degrees. Take a small piece of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll it out on a floured surface to about 1/4″ thick. Use your heart-shaped (or other) cookie cutter to cut out the puris. One at a time, slide a puri into the heated oil. It will sink at first. With a slotted spoon press gently on the top of the puri until it comes up and starts to puff. Allow it to cook while you baste the top of the puri with oil from the sides for about 1 minute. Then flip it over and allow it to cook for another minute. Remove and drain on paper.

You can line a large bowl with paper and stand the puris up on their sides to allow better oil-drainage. Once the puris start to cool off the puff will disappear. This is normal. However, it’s best to eat the puris while hot and fresh. Also, keep in mind that you probably won’t have a 100% success rate on the puffing up – I think 80% is pretty good but just keep trying! The puris that don’t puff up are still delicious to eat!

*I made beet juice by putting one cooked beet in my blender and adding a little more than a 1/2 cup of water. Blend on high and strain.

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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.

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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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Anya’s Famous Fruit Salad – My 6 year old Guest Blogger

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Our guest blogger for this post is my 6 year-old daughter. She loves to make fruit salads and has become quite good at it! She says her salad is “Famous, but it’s not really famous”. My son worked as the photographer and did a wonderful job. Thanks to both of them for helping out!

Salads are a great way to get the kids in the kitchen and involved with cooking. They can learn to prep veggies and fruits (great for you later when they can serve as sous chef!), how to use a knife safely, wash foods properly and learn math (fractions, multiplication and division). My daughter is very artistic and enjoys making food look pretty by arranging things just so on the perfect dish. Both of my kids love to help out with any cooking. They like to try the foods that they are working with which broadens their food choices. While making this salad, we taste-tested pomegranate seeds, pomegranate vinegar and pomegranate molasses while I was teaching them how to open up a pomegranate. Of course, you can sub whatever fruits you like in this dish. But try to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce or reintroduce foods that your kids say they don’t like… you never know if they will change their minds! The more variety we eat, the more nutrients we get. But don’t tell them that, just say it tastes good!

Anya’s Famous Fruit Salad 

3 clementine or mandarin oranges
1 banana
1 apple
1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp liquid sweetener of choice (agave, maple, optional)

Peel the oranges and divide the segments. Add to a plate or bowl.

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Cut the apple and banana into bite size pieces. Add to the plate or bowl.

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Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and sweetener (agave or maple syrup, etc.). Eat.

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Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos

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Hello! Today I opened a fridge packed with bits of leftovers from this past week. What to do with that leftover lettuce and cabbage salad? I have been eating salads almost everyday since the new year, so no salad today. With some leftover brown basmati rice and tortillas, I made up a very quick and satisfying (and healthy) lunch. I also used up the last of the leftover salad! I did save a few bites for our composting worms  – they get hungry too.

This looks like a lot of ingredients but it’s very fast to make. While the beans are heating up, you can prep the tortillas and cut up the garnishes. I don’t usually use canned beans because it’s so easy to make them from dry. Normally I get a bag of dry beans, cook the whole bag and freeze them in portions. Today I resorted to the can since I didn’t have any black beans in the freezer. For this quick bean recipe, I used prepared salsa (Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa) to give good flavor. It’s smart to keep a few things like this on hand for quick meals and for your emergency bin. I listed sour cream and cheese though I didn’t use them in my burritos and here you could obviously use a vegan option or a non-vegan option. There are a lot of great flavors going on already, so you really won’t miss the dairy or dairy-sub and the accompanying calories. FYI, in the picture you will see what looks like sour cream but it’s actually veganaise mixed with hot sauce. I thought it would be good since sometimes I use this as a dip for veggie-chicken nuggets, but it wasn’t that great. I don’t recommend it!

Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos (Serves 2)

For the Bean & Rice Mixture:
1 tbsp oil
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 can of black beans (or 1 cup of cooked black beans)
1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (or rice of your choice)
2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup of salsa

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil and after a minute add the onion and salt. Stir until the onion is translucent and cooked. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and cayenne and stir around for a minute. Once the garlic starts cooking, add the black beans, rice, hot sauce and salsa. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Mash the beans a little bit with the back of your spoon to get the mixture incorporated. Leave whole beans too. Once everything is heated thoroughly, remove from heat. Taste for salt and salsa and add if necessary. Set aside. Here’s a close up shot of the beans and rice (on the right side):

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Now you can start assembling the burritos:

2 large flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups of lettuce or mixed salad (I had romaine lettuce, purple cabbage and carrots)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
additional salsa or hot sauce to garnish
1/4 cup of sour cream mixed with 2 tbsp of hot sauce  (optional)
1/2 cup of cheese (optional)

Heat the tortillas a bit on a griddle or big frying pan. Once heated, remove to a plate. Pile on the black bean mixture, then top with your salad, avocado slices, green onions and salsa. Top with the sour cream and cheese if using. Roll up and enjoy!

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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.

Not-Your-Everyday-Corn-On-The-Cob

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Hello! Welcome to This Spicy Life…

Corn, beautiful corn. I just love it when the markets start selling those dark green husks of goodness. When I have fresh corn-on-the-cob, I love to make this curry recipe from my Sister-In-Law. It’s so different from the corn I ate as a kid growing up in Nebraska. Every summer we would get our overdose of delicious boiled corn with butter and salt. Besides the recipe below, corn can be made in so many ways. It can be grilled in the husk with only lemon and salt (and maybe some chili powder) squeezed over the steaming and charred cobs or as a salad sautéed with spices, just to name a few.

This recipe could also be adapted to a Mexican or Italian menu by substituting herbs and/or spices from those regions. You can easily simmer the corn cobs in a nice tomato salsa or a hearty pasta sauce to suit your menu.

The tomato sauce originates with my Mother-In-Law. A few summers ago she was visiting and I had a bumper crop of tomatoes from the garden. We made a huge batch of this sauce and put it in the freezer for future use. It’s a delicious, simple sauce that can be used as a base for many types of curry. It’s best made with fresh tomatoes, but I often make it in the winter using canned tomatoes. 

Corn-on-the-Cob with Spicy Tomato Curry

  • 3 ears of corn (white or yellow)
  • 2+ tsp oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cup of onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder (optional or to taste)
  • 3 cups of tomatoes, finely chopped (fresh preferred or canned)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped (or to taste)
Method:
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. (You can use a deep saute pan or a saucepan, but the corn must fit in the pan in a single layer.)
  2. Add the cumin seeds and allow to cook for about 30 seconds until they start to turn just a little darker brown.
  3. Stir in the onions and allow to cook until they become translucent and start to brown on the edges.
  4. Add the turmeric powder and chili powder and stir. Allow to cook for about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the tomatoes and salt and turn heat to medium-low. Stir occasionally while allowing to cook down. This could take anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Canned tomatoes will probably take slightly longer. If the tomato mixture becomes too dry before it’s cooked down, add about 1/4 cup of water at a time. Cook until the mixture is relatively smooth. There isn’t a lot of oil in this recipe so you won’t see the oil separate.
  6. While the tomato sauce is simmering, strip the corn cobs of their husks, removing all of the silks. You can wash under running water to help remove the silks but it’s okay if a few remain. Break the cobs into 2 or 3 pieces. Set aside.
  7. Taste the tomato sauce to see if you have added enough salt and adjust if necessary.
  8. Stir in the fresh ginger and enough water to make the sauce slightly thin, similar to a thick soup consistency.
  9. Add the corn pieces and stir to cover with the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. The corn won’t sink in the sauce so you will need to turn the pieces every few minutes to make sure all sides are cooked. You can also add a bit of water as needed to the sauce if it becomes too thick before the corn is cooked through. At the end of cooking, however, the sauce should be cooked down to a thick curry, so be careful of adding too much water or adding water too late.
  10. When the corn is cooked through, remove from the heat. If the sauce is too thin (see step above), take the corn out of the sauce and cook the sauce down to a thicker consistency. Then put the corn pieces back in the sauce before serving.
  11. Serve with rice or as a side dish.  

Summer Salads: Sprouts & Kickin’ Kale

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Hello! Welcome to This Spicy Life…

The holiday weekend is upon us. I hope you have a great weekend planned! I’m including two recipes for the (free) price of one today, in honor of the tradition of eating lots of salads and sides with the Independence Day feast. Well, most people do… some people only go for the barbecue!

The first salad is a cold salad made from mung bean sprouts (Indian-style, short sprouts). You will need to plan ahead a bit so that you have your sprouts ready to go when you want to serve this salad. It can take anywhere from 2 to 4 days to sprout the beans. If you are unfamiliar with sprouting, please see the Sproutpeople website. Just use a bowl if you don’t have a sprouter and use the instructions for the 1/4 – 1/2″ long sprouts.

The second salad is a creamy, spicy kale salad and can be eaten room-temp or slightly chilled. It isn’t really an Indian salad, but could still be served alongside an Indian meal.  Kale is one of my favorite veggies but I get bored with the usual preparations. For this recipe, I used Trader Joe’s Tahini Sauce for the tahini, but any plain tahini will work too. The TJ’s sauce has added lemon juice, garlic and salt. Any type of kale will do, but in this recipe I used the dinosaur kale (dark green with flat leaves).

On with the recipes…

Mung Bean Sprout Salad

Serves 2 – 4

  • 3 cups mung bean sprouts, 1/4 – 1/2″ long
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp green chili, finely chopped (optional or to taste)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 6 curry leaves (optional)
  1. Pick through the sprouts to remove any that didn’t hatch. These will be extremely tough and could break a tooth if you bite down unexpectedly! It will take a few minutes, but is worth the little bit of work. Any easy way to do it is fill your bowl of sprouts with water and skim off the top layers with your hand. Examine each handful as you place it in your colander, picking out any that aren’t sprouted. Keep doing this until you get to the bottom of the bowl. Then you can just pick out the remaining sprouts and toss the unsprouted beans (or keep them and cook them in some other recipe).
  2. Rinse the sprouts in cool water and drain in a colander or a salad spinner. Try to get off as much water as possible without disturbing the sprouts too much. 
  3. Place the sprouts in a large bowl and add the onion, cilantro, chili, salt and lemon juice. Mix gently.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, remove from heat and set aside until it cools.
  5. Add the mustard seed/curry leaf mixture to the salad and mix gently. Adjust the lemon juice and salt to your taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Creamy Kale Salad with Spicy Sesame Sauce
Serves 2 – 4
  • 6 cups of kale, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp dried red chili flakes (or to taste)
  • salt to taste
  • 6 tbsp tahini (or tahini sauce, see note above)
  • 2 tsp tamari or other soy sauce
  • lemon juice to taste
  1. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and chili flakes and turn the heat to medium-low (so the garlic doesn’t burn).
  3. When the garlic starts to change color, add the kale and about a half tsp of salt.
  4. Stir and cover with a lid. Allow to cook for a few minutes, checking on the kale and stirring every few minutes. Add a few tbsps of water to keep the kale from burning if it seems to be getting dry.
  5. When the kale is nice and wilted and tender, remove from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes. (The cooking time can be influenced by the freshness of the kale and how much water was added during cooking, among other factors.)
  6. Remove the kale and any garlic bits to a bowl. Try not to pour too much water into the bowl if there is any left in the pan.
  7. Add the tahini and tamari/soy sauce to the kale mixture and stir. The mixture should have a creamy, smooth consistency. If it’s too thick, then add a bit of water to thin it out. If it’s too thin, add a bit more tahini.
  8. Now squeeze about 1/4 of a lemon over the kale and stir. Taste and add more if you like…
  9. Eat.