Vegetarian Dumplings

Dumplings – “are either made from balls of dough or are small parcels of food encased in pastry, dough, batter, or leaves”, says Wiki. Although dumplings are found in many cuisines, it is those oriental varieties that first comes to my mind. Availability of ready-made dumpling wrappers like wonton, gyoza has also prompted home-cooks like to me to experiment with them. Traditionally, gyoza wrappers, which are thicker, are used for dumplings, while wonton wrappers are used in soups or broth. But these dumplings are made with wonton wrappers, which are more readily available in many super markets. For information on other food wrappers, see here.

This recipe is a regular in my house, not only because its tasty, its healthy too. Protein and vegetables, seasoned, wrapped and steamed – what is not to like about them. You can use any steaming apparatus of yr choice, be it a bamboo or metal steamer or the Indian idli plates. I used idli plates.

Vegetarian Dumplings


Wonton wrappers – 1 pack, about 40
Firm tofu – ½ block (1/2 lb)
Carrots – ½ cup, grated
Cabbage – ½ cup, shredded
Red bell pepper – ¼ cup, finely chopped
Scallions – 2, finely chopped
Ginger – 1 tbsp, grated
Lemon grass – 1 tbsp, grated
Soy sauce – 1 tbsp
Worcestershire sauce – 1 tbsp
Sesame oil – 1 tbsp
Egg – 1
Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp


Wrap tofu in a paper towel and squeeze the excess liquid out. Crumble the tofu with a fork into pea sized pieces. Grate ginger and lemon grass finely using a microplane grater/zester.

In a large bowl, combine all the given ingredients, except wonton wrappers. Stir lightly taking care not to mush the mixture.

Take one wonton wrapper, brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place ½ tsp of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Bring opposite ends together to form a triangle. Press the edges and seal.You can shape the dumpling any way you like. Proceed to make the remaining dumplings.

Coat the steamer’s surface with oil. Place the dumpling in the steamer and steam for 10 to 12 minutes. The wonton wrappers turn translucent and wrinkly once the dumplings get cooked. Remove them from the steamer and repeat process until all the dumplings are cooked. Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Red wine vinegar – 1 tbsp
Soy sauce – 1 tbsp
Sesame oil – 2 tbsp
Red pepper flakes – a pinch
Scallions – 2, finely chopped

Take all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Vegetarian Dumplings

This is my entry for "Waiter, there's something in my... dumpling!" hosted by Johanna of The Passionate Cook.

Kathrikkai Rasavangi – Eggplant In Tangy Sauce

Ever since Sangeetha of Ghar ka Khana announced this month’s ingredient for JFI, I wanted to prepare and submit this authentic tamilian recipe. This is a classic recipe that can be found in feast menu and goes well with sambar or thogayal.

In many of the recipes, eggplants are paired with a tangy ingredient. The tang compensates the meaty and slightly bitter eggplants resulting in a delicious dish. In this all-time favourite recipe of mine, tamarind provides the tang, while the spices play along, and you get a lip smacking eggplant gravy.


Brinjal – 10 or 12, cut into long slices
Toor dal – ¼ cup, pressure cooked until soft
Tamarind paste – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Red chillies – 2, broken
Curry leaves - few
Asafoetida – a pinch
Turmeric – ¼ tsp

Spice powder

Chana dal – 2 tsp
Coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Red chillies – 6
Coconut – ½ cup, grated

Roast all of the above in a tsp of oil till brown. Cool and grind to a fine powder.


In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp of oil and lightly roast the eggplant pieces. Add tamarind paste, salt, turmeric and ½ cup of water and let the eggplant cook. Add the cooked dal, the spice mixture to the eggplant mixture and allow it to boil for 5 minutes on a low flame.

In a separate skillet, heat a tsp of oil and add mustard seeds. Once it splutters, add urad dal, curry leaves, red chillies and asafoetida. Add this to the eggplant gravy. Mix well and serve.


I would like to thank Indira of Mahanandi for creating this event that lets us explore and learn with a different ingredient each month.

Apple Crunch Muffins

My morning breakfast routine is anything but, exciting. Between the usual oatmeal with flaxseeds, or cereal, there is nothing to look forward to. Well, almost nothing, but for the occasional muffins. What I like about them muffins is, they are perfectly sized, not too sweet, can be made healthy and most of all tastier than the blah oatmeal. So once in a while, I treat myself with this something special. The regulars so far have been blueberry muffins for breakfast (because I get my fruit serving) and banana muffins for evening tea.

After reading this tip, I always have organic apple sauce on hand. I try to balance out the fat in any recipe by using applesauce + whole eggs or oil + egg whites. By the way, if you haven’t tried applesauce yet, do try ‘em. You won’t miss the fat. If ½ cup of applesauce can make such a soft, fat-free muffin, it made me wonder how muffins solely made with it would taste and feel like. I searched the internet, combined two recipes that I found interesting and voila, perfect low-fat breakfast muffins.

What I like about these muffins is that they freeze well. Not only are they delicious eaten warm, the applesauce takes care of the softness even after freezing. Microwaving them for few seconds brings them back to life with the same delicate texture. I make at least a dozen of this, that I can escape oatmeal for few mornings to come.

Oh! How can forget to mention the crunchy cinnamon-y topping that makes it a real treat!



All purpose flour or Maida – 2 cups
Applesauce – 1 cup
Buttermilk or Milk – ¾ cup
Eggs – 2
Sugar or Brown sugar – ¾ cup
Canola oil- ¼ cup
Baking soda – 1 tsp
Salt – ½ tsp
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Golden Delicious Apple - 1, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes (optional)

Nut Crunch Topping

Brown sugar – 2 tbsp
Pecan – ¼ cup, chopped
Cinnamon – ½ tsp, ground


Preheat the oven 400F. Mix the ingredients for the topping in a bowl. Line a muffin pan with 12 muffin cups. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

In another bowl, whisk oil and sugar until combined. Add the eggs. Making sure the eggs are well incorporated, add applesauce and vanilla extract. To this wet mix, add flour alternating with buttermilk in two batches. If you want to bite into apple pieces, add one Golden Delicious apple, prepared as said above, to the batter. Spoon this mixture into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pecan-sugar-cinnamon topping. Bake for 20–23 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool them on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Wrap each muffin in a plastic wrap individually and freeze them in an airtight container.

Apple Crunch Muffins

This is my entry for WBB – Spice it up, Nandita’s brainchild and hosted by Trupti this month.

Vazhakkai Podi – Plantain Rice Mix

We have seen plantains in various forms – chips, roast, podimas or dry curry. While majority of these recipes use them as a side, there are few recipes that make use of plantains in a main dish. This recipe is simple, tasty and better yet, can be served with rice. This is one of those great old-time recipes that has been almost forgotten in our generation.


Toor dal – ¼ cup
Urad dal – 2 tbsp
Red chillies - 5
Plantain – 2 small or 1 big


Steam cook the plantains for 10 minutes until they are 3/4th done. Peel the skin, grate them into fairly bigger pieces. Grating them finer makes ‘em mushy. Set aside.

Dry roast the first four ingredients and grind them to a coarse powder. The spice mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 months. Mix the spice mix with the grated plantains. Enjoy with rice and a tsp of sesame oil.


Nupur, this is my ‘V’ entry for your A-Z of Indian Vegetables series.

Stir-Fried Drumstick Leaves - Murungai Ilai Vathakkal


Few days ago, I was lucky enough to find drumstick leaves. In spite of its label (which said yam leaves) and G’s repeated warning, I went ahead and bought a packet. As soon as I reached home I was almost (yeah, almost) sure that it was, indeed, drumstick leaves, Murungai ilai in Tamil. The uncertainty is because its been ages since I have had them. Even in India, I have hardly seen drumstick leaves sold by vendors. It is from those few neighbours who had these trees that we got leaves. But over the years, one by one, all my neighbours got rid of their trees because its a tough job maintaining them with all those caterpillars (eeewww!). When come in contact, these pests will cause allergic reactions to your skin.

Since I was not 100% sure about these leaves, I decided not to top them over adai (which is the classic way of eating these leaves). While I was googling for a recipe, I came across this stir-fry from En Ulagam of Revathi. Not only was it simple but required very few ingredients. The only variation I did to the recipe was to use roasted chana dal instead of plain chana dal. Even though it takes time to separate the leaves from the stalk, the end product is worth the effort. Mixed with rice and a tsp of sesame oil, it was perfectly lite. Did I say Lite? Then it goes to MBP - Going Lite hosted by Coffee.


Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Roasted Chana dal (Dahlia or pottukadalai) – 1 tbsp
Green chillies - 2
Drumstick leaves – 2 cups
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp


Heat a tsp of oil in a skillet, add mustard seeds, urad dal and roasted chana dal. After they turn brown, add the chillies, drumstick leaves, ½ cup of water and salt and let it cook for 3 minutes in medium heat. The leaves doesn’t have to turn mushy. Remove the skillet from heat, add the grated coconut, serve.


Stir-fried drumstick leaves with roasted plantain. Thanks Revathi, for this simple, light and everyday recipe.


Nupur’s A-Z Indian Vegetables is a fun series. It is interesting to find out what exciting entries bloggers come up with, for each letter, every Sunday. As much as I would like to participate every week, it is just not possible, at least for me. But this week’s challenge got me thinking. I kept wondering about entries starting with ‘U’, that I was compelled to take part. It is a challenging letter, and I had few entries in mind. Urad vada – so predictable, Upma – I have already submitted Quinoa Upma, Ulli – already taken. In the hope of finding a suitable recipe, I was browsing through Samaithu Paar. And, I found Uppadam.

This is a very old recipe, old that I only remember my grandma make this once, not even my mom. My grandma would make this because it keeps well for 2 days without refrigeration. The addition of manathakkali vatral (Sunberry or Black Nightshade) gives this dish a subtle bitterness, compensating the tang from tamarind. The recipe is similar to vatral kuzhambu but not the same. Its creamy, tangy and delicious. I know this is going to be a regular in my house.

Vatral is anything that is sun-dried and hence can be stored year round. You can substitute any other sun-dried berries like sundakkai (Turkey Berry) or vegetables per your taste. Omit ladies finger for a longer shelf-life. And, don’t be alarmed by the number of chillies in the recipe, the rice flour will compensate the heat.


Clockwise: G.Chillies, R.Chillies, Okra, Fenugreek seeds, Sunberry


Okra or Ladies finger – 10, cut into 1 inch pieces
Tamarind extract – 1 ½ tbsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
Red chillies – 5
Green chillies – 2
Rice – 3 tbsp
Manathakkali vatral – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp


In a dry skillet, roast rice, red chillies, ½ tsp of fenugreek seeds, each separately. The rice should release its aroma, fenugreek seeds and red chillies should turn dark brown. Allow them to cool and grind them to a fine powder. Transfer this to a bowl and mix it with 2 cups of water making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat a tsp of oil. Splutter mustard seeds. Add fenugreek seeds, ladies finger and green chillies and manathakkali vatral in the same order. After the ladies finger turns bright green, add tamarind paste, 1 cup of water and salt. Boil till tamarind doesn’t smell raw anymore.

Now add the prepared rice paste to the skillet. Boil for 10 minutes on low flame, while the sauce thickens. Serve with plain rice.


Freshie’s Sandwich

Freshies Restaurant, Lake Tahoe, CA – Its where I got my inspiration for this sandwich. It is a small, simple restaurant with Hawaiian flare. The staff were friendly and were happy to substitute any meat recipe with tofu or tempeh. I had a “fish” taco while G had “Folsom Philly”. When we both were expecting a bland, oily soy product with little flavour, the meal that arrived on our table took us by surprise. The bold flavour and the creativity on the plate still lingers in my memory.

I was particularly interested in G’s order (happens all the time), whose sandwich didn’t have tofu but veggie burger patty. It was sautéed with jerk-seasoning making it crispy and spicy. I don’t have jerk-seasoning at home. But I have recreated the dish from my memory by combining Indian spices.


Frozen burger patty – 2, Morningstar Farm's or Boca
Coriander powder – ¾ tsp
Jeera powder – a pinch
Curry powder – 1 tsp
Chilli powder – ½ tsp
Pepper – 4 or 5, coarsely crushed


I find using the burger patties straight from the freezer makes it easy to cut and coat with spices. I also prefer Morningstar Garden Veggie Pattie because of its not-so-soy flavour.

Cut the unthawed burger patties into cubes. Mix all the spice powders in a bowl. Toss the burger cubes in the spice mix.

Heat a tsp of oil in a sauté pan, and sauté the patty cubes until they are toasted and the spice mix has lost its raw flavour.

I serve this over toasted Hawaiian sweet bread which complements the spicy filling.


Freshie's sandwich with cucumber raita - Light lunch on a hot summer day.

Going Green – Eco-Friendly Products

Why do we cook? To eat, of course! But that would require only steaming vegetables or roasting meat like a caveman. Why do we painstakingly formulate a recipe with right amount of spices and pleasing combination of ingredients? Why do we invent and reinvent stuffed vegetables until we find the recipe that our family loves? We go to great extents to do what is right for them because we always want them to have the best in the world. Well, what about the world itself? What if we could provide them with a world that is a better place to live.

Our life in today’s world is dominated by harmful chemicals. Increased use of cleaning agents in appliances like dishwasher and washing machines leads to huge volumes of chemical dump into the ocean. Not only the sea waters, but our drinking water sources may also be in danger of contamination by these harmful chemicals. Only 0.75% of the earth’s water is available for plants, animals and we humans. So it is in our best interest that we preserve our fresh water resources.

Another problem that we face are with disposable products, like diapers, paper towels. They were unknown to us few decades ago, now they are a major reason for landfills. Do you know that plastic bags take over 1000 years to disintegrate?

This doesn’t mean that we have to stop using chemicals entirely. Instead we should make some choices, choices that are wise for our families. One such measure is to use natural, bio-degradable products instead of harmful chemicals, which conceals many dangerous carcinogens.

In recent months, with awareness about global warming on the rise, many earth-friendly products are finding their way onto super-market shelves. Not only are they eco-friendly, but are safe to use around children. Changing one of the chemical based products in favor of the eco-friendly products in a household can prevent over 10 million pounds of toxic waste being released into the environment. Yes, they are costly. But I feel it is necessary to wisely spend our hard-earned money for the welfare of our family. After all, it is for them that we endure life. These measures that you take to protect your family, will in turn protect our society and hence our nation.

Embracing an environment friendly lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean hard work or huge shift from the current one. In fact, you will find the eco-friendly lifestyle more manageable because it is going back to our roots. The changes need not be made over a night, but gradually. Over the past 3 months, I have switched to two such products, and I am getting to know more about other products too. Think about the difference you can make by doing something this simple.


Seventh Generation is one such product offering an array of eco-friendly products. From bathroom cleaner to fabric softener, it is amazing how they are made from plants and vegetables. In addition to the products, the website is abundant with valuable information. The facts given in this website slaps on your face that its hard to avoid or deny that we are not living in a perfect world.

Ecover also has a wide range of eco-friendly products as found here.

Taro Root Fry - Cheppankizhangu varuval

My mom is an excellent cook. Her excellence is not just cooking right, but cooking the right thing. Even on a busy school-day morning, she would take time to carefully plan a menu. It can be a simple idly upma, or time-consuming onion sambar + taro fry, or healthy mashed greens or one of my favourite rice with a not-so-favourite curry. She will make sure that our lunch boxes always come back empty. I wonder how she did all that before 7:30 in the morning.

Taro root fry or Cheppankizhangu varuval is one of her signature dish that not only me but also my friends happen to love. This recipe was the first thing my friend requested when I started my blog.


Taro Root – 12
Bengal gram flour or Besan – 3 tbsp
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Salt – as needed


Cook taro root until they are ¾ done. I don’t pressure cook them for this recipe as they tend to become mushy. Do this on stove-top and keep checking for doneness. Drain and peel using a peeler. Since they are only ¾ done, the peels don’t come off that easily. Cut the taro into rounds of ¼ inch thickness. Sprinkle the pieces with gram flour, salt and chilli powder and mix them without adding extra water.

Heat enough oil in a wide mouthed vessel and deep-fry the flour-coated taro pieces. Take time to separate each piece before dropping them into oil. When they turn golden brown, they are ready. Remove and drain them on paper towel.


In my opinion this is best eaten with lemon rice which is my idea of comfort food. And, Nupur, this is my entry for ‘T’ of A-Z of Indian Vegetables.

Roasted Jackfruit Seeds

After having cooked with ripe jackfruit and green jackfruit, the next obvious thing to do was to roast the jackfruit seeds. Typically, the seeds are roasted in a charcoal grill called kumutti (I tried searching for a picture of this, but surprised to find none). The charcoal imparts that signature smoky flavour to the seeds. Juggling those hot seeds right off the grill and eating them with cousins is fun.



Since I don’t have the privilege of having my own charcoal grill, I sought after the next best method, cast iron pan. The continuous and consistent heat from these pans aids in the uniform roasting of the seeds. When they are roasted right, the seeds pop-out their skin, bringing out their creamy inside.


Jackfruit seeds ready to pop-out.

Check out JFI – Jackfruit round up at Jugalbandi. Thanks Jai & Bee for this wonderful job!