The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including gluten-free and vegan dishes.


August 31, 2011

~*Pani Puri Time*~

Our heart goes out to all the families that were affected by Hurricane Irene. We hope that in time all will settle down and life will go on. 

We weren't sure how we would be affected by the storm, so we kept cooking to a minimum and munched on snacks. 
Dahi Pani Puri
One of my favorites is Pani Puri. I love pani puri because it's easy to assemble and fun to eat. You know the Pringles jingle, “Once you pop, you can't stop”. That's how I feel about this snack too! It’s so delicious and because it’s a light but filling snack made with healthful, all natural ingredients. You can eat loads at a time without feeling guilty. Also did you know, Pani Puri is an inexpensive and popular snack found all over India?  So have a puri, or two or three and be MERRY! 

Ingredients for this popular snack include:

Potato, canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans, pani puri masala, tamarind-date chutney and bite size puris
Procedure: Microwave the potato for 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Drain and wash the chickpeas. Then mash the potato and chickpeas together to a granulated mixture. Next, dilute the pani puri masala with water to your desired tangy taste (tamarind-date chutney may be mixed in for a bit of sweetness). Now you are ready to enjoy the pani puris. Insert a hole into the puri without breaking through it completely. 

The Puri never had a chance!
Then scoop a bit of the potato and chickpea mixture into the puri and fill it up with the pani puri masala liquid (also known the "pani"). Next, quickly put the whole puri inside your mouth and crunch away. Hint: Don't eat the puri in two bites because all the stuffing will fall apart and you'll create a mess. Make sure to eat the puri in one go (as illustrated above).

***Quick Tip: 
- Alternately if pani puri masala is not available, the combination of tamarind and coriander chutneys and diluted plain yogurt can be used.
- For a more tangy or chatpata taste, sprinkle chat masala over the potato and chickpea mixture. 

August 25, 2011

How To Awaken The Senses In This Weather...

With all the wet weather we've been having, my mood has been taking a big hit. I should be thankful to Mother Nature for gracing us with so much rain but enough is enough. We've seen more rain than sun these past couple of weeks. Anyways, I didn't let this weather get me down, NO SIR!! My mom bought this tea on my aunt's recommendation and this afternoon was the perfect time to try it out.

Hot Tea + Wet Weather = Perfect for Relaxed and Refreshed Mood!

It's the perfect blend of cardamom and black tea to awaken the senses. I like drinking my tea without milk, so with each sip I was engulfed with so much aroma and flavor that I forgot where I was. I started reminiscing about my trip to Kerala where I was surrounded by hills covered in tea plantations and woke up every morning with the sweet aroma of tea. It was the perfect start to the day and set the mood for an enjoyable time. Then I was back in my arm chair finishing the last drop of my tea. Alas, it was nice while it lasted, I will cherish these few moments of Zen.

Quick Tips: This tea is available at most Indian stores; I bought mine at the local Indian grocer.

August 17, 2011

It's Karela, Not Kerala!

We wanted to take this opportunity to clear up some confusion about a certain vegetable that gets mispronounced a lot. Kerala is an Indian state located in the Southwest region of the country.

It is a popular tourist destination, known for its backwaters, natural beauty and Ayurveda medicines. 

Karela, on the other hand, is a tropical vegetable that is also referred to as bitter melon or gourd. It is widely grown in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

It can be identified by its prickly green texture and bitter taste. We love Karela and decided to share our love of this vegetable with you so you can grow to like it too.  

After trying a couple of tricks, we came up with one that works and reduces the bitter flavor. This recipe is called Krazy Karela because some might think we're crazy for eating it. The recipe is enough for 5-6 (2 pieces per serving). 

Ingredients for Krazy Stuffed Karela:
- 1 lb of Bitter Gourd/Karela, slender dark green variety
- Lime size of Tamarind or 1 tbsp of Tamarind paste (i.e. Tamcon)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Salt, As needed

Ingredients for the filling/stuffing:

- 1 large Red onion, chopped finely
- 3 tbsp of dry coconut powder (should be flaky, not fine)
- 1 tbsp of Chili powder (Adjust to your taste)
¼ cup of Fresh coriander or cilantro, chopped
Salt, as needed

Follow these steps to remove the bitterness of Karela:
1) Cut the ends of the karela and make a slit lengthwise. If there are any woody seeds remove them using a butter knife. Cut the karela into 3” long pieces.

2) In a large pot bring 2 quarts of water to boil. Add the karela pieces along with tamarind, salt, and a pinch of turmeric. Cook karela in the boiling water until they are soft and firm (a knife or fingernail should pass through easily). Drain the water using a colander and remove the remainder of the tamarind from the karela. (skip this step if using the paste)

Then follow these steps to cook the Karela:
1) In a skillet, heat a tbsp of oil and add chopped onion. Saute the onion until it's almost transparent and then add salt, chili powder, and dry coconut powder. 

2) Mix it until the water is evaporated and the oil comes out. Adjust the salt and heat (chili spice) level to your taste. Allow it to cool and then mix in the chopped coriander.

3) Heat oil in a frying pan until you feel the heat on your palm while it's held above the oil (at a safe height, usually 4-5 inches above oil). Turn the heat to medium/high and slowly drop the cooked karela into the oil and fry them to greenish-brown. Remove from oil and stuff them with the onion filling.

It is great as a dish on its own or can be eaten with plain or brown rice. I love eating it on its own; that way you can really taste all the flavors.

***Quick Tip: If coriander or cilantro isn't readily available, try parsley. If you like more gravy-based curries, try the Karela Curry. It's not as bitter. 

August 12, 2011

Sisterly Love!

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all the brothers everywhere!

Kumkum, rakhi, gulab jamun & carrot halwa
(click on image to enlarge)
In the United States, there are festivals that celebrate mothers, fathers, and grandparents. We have similar festivals in India too. Tomorrow marks a very special festival which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters called Raksha Bandan. On this day, sisters tie a rakhi (sacred thread) on their brother's wrist. The ceremony symbolizes a sister's love and devotion for her brother's well-being and the brother's promise to protect his sister. After the rakhi is tied, the brother presents his sister with a gift and then they both treat each other with sweets. In my family, I have only one sister so early on, we started tying rakhis on our best friends in India. We knew them from a young age and so naturally we considered them to be like brothers. When we moved to the States, we thought we would lose touch and the tradition would end there. However, we managed to keep it going and though we are not there in person, we send them interactive e-greetings that convey the same message. And they send us thank you greetings in return. So, if you are far from your brother on this day, you can send them a virtual greeting from; they have a wide selection of cards and it's free to send. It's the thought that matters in the end, you know!

August 5, 2011

Tandoor Chef Frozen Entrees

Sometimes it's tough to prepare meals for the work week when your schedule doesn't allow it; even on the weekends. It's nice to be able to grab frozen meals like Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, and SmartOnes from time to time to enjoy a day off from cooking. However, a lot of these choices are more appealing for non-vegetarians and we feel that there aren't a lot of variety for vegetarians. That's why we were delighted to find that Tandoor Chef had a variety of meals for us that were healthy and tasty. YAY!!
Among the box of goodies we received from Deep Foods (such as frozen samosas and vegetarian patties), there were also four frozen entrees by Tandoor Chef (one of their brands).

Kofta Curry with Channa Masala & Spinach Basmati Pilaf 
Vegetable Korma with Dal Rajasthani & Cumin-Infused Basmati Rice
At first when we read through the list of the nutrition facts, we noticed that sodium count seemed a bit on the higher side. However, when we tasted the meals, we didn't feel that it was salty. On a positive note, these meals have a good amount of protein (10g), fiber (8-9g) low fat, made with olive oil, and they are a well balanced meal for a vegetarian diet as compared to the original recipes (made with lots of ghee or oil). 

Palak Paneer with Dal Makhani & Turmeric-Infused  Basmati Rice
Mutter Paneer with Dal Palak & Cumin-Infused Basmati Rice
I felt that the above two meals were more satisfying in terms of nutrition (Paneer - Indian cheese). They have almost twice as much protein with 17g each and they are packed with 8g of fiber (same as the first two). The only drawback is that these two meals have a bit more sodium in them and I think it's because of the paneer. It's hard to flavor the dense cheese without adding more spices. They were all pretty flavorful except the kofta curry which was a bit spicy. 

Overall, we enjoyed trying out these meals for our lunches and found that they were a good replacement for a meal here and there. I liked the fact that the pictures on the box aren't misleading. A lot of times, I find that the other frozen meals' pictures show ample portions of vegetables/meat, but when I open up the box, it's quite disappointing. However, with the Indian entrees, what you see is what you get. You do not feel cheated about anything. An important fact to point out is that although these are Indian meals, they were produced in the USA from fresh ingredients (as per label on the box). 

Now whenever you want to take a breather from cooking during the work week, try one of these meals. You can feel happy you're eating the REAL DEAL!!