Divine Foods Living

A Journey Exploring the Divinity of Food…

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Butter Spinach (Makhani Palak) Stir-fry Spinach

Stir Fry Spinach

Stir-fry is music to ears. Vegetables/greens cooked with flavorful ingredients and sautéed in butter with a zing of lemon adds dimension to the meal. They’re a healthy side dish which goes with almost anything.

Spinach are an absolute powerhouse of nutrients, packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These nutrients become even more concentrated and better assimilated when spinach is cooked with butter/oil/ghee. It reminds me of the character Popeye, he eats his spinach fresh and raw straight from the bag, but this recipe sure would make him proud. The freshness of lemons add such a bright note and also reduce the spinach’s bitterness big time. A moderate amount of sugar elevates the taste and red chilli flakes adds little heat to the spinach.

The body absorbs more of the iron in the spinach if complimented with foods containing vitamin C such as lemon, fruits or tomatoes. Keeping this in mind, I thought of lemon as nice compliment to the spinach in this recipe. Spinach is high in oxalate so people with kidney or gallbladder problems may be wise to limit or avoid it. The healthiest way of cooking spinach is to boil them in water for 1 min. (blanching) and allow them to leach oxalic acids in the water. Oxalic acids interfere with the absorption of calcium and other nutrients in the body. This also brings out the sweeter taste of spinach.


Spinach, chopped – 1/2 kg
Butter/Ghee – 3 tbsp
Garlic, finely crushed – 6-8 cloves
Dried crushed chillies (chilli flakes) – 1 tsp
Sugar – 1/2 tsp
Lime juice – 1.5 tbsp (or as desired)
Salt – to taste


1. Bring plenty of water to a rapid boil, add spinach and boil for 1 min. Drain and immediately pour cold water over the spinach to stop further cooking.
2. Add butter/ghee, garlic and chilli flakes in a large pan, swirling so that the butter comes about halfway up the sides of the pan. Let them sizzle for sometime. Adding garlic and chillies when the butter is cold helps them to infuse better.
3. Mix in the spinach and sugar, sauté at high flame for a few mins. or until all the water from spinach dries up. Keep stirring the greens to prevent burning. Mine took about 6 mins. to do it.
4. Add salt, continue cooking at medium flame for 2-3 mins. Mix in lemon juice and serve hot.


1. After boiling spinach, discard the drained water or do not use it for soups or gravies.
2. Do not cover the pan while cooking as it helps to release more of the oxalic acids with the rising steam.
3. Using a pinch of baking soda with spinach while cooking retains the bright green color of spinach.
4. Large pan is great for stir-fries, because of the large surface area, they prevent vegetables to pile on top of each other and thus fry them evenly instead of steaming up.


Cherry and White Chocolate Cookies… A Very Cherry Christmas!!!

Cherry White Chocolate Cookies

While cleaning the refrigerator this weekend, a couple of cherries fell down from the box. I took it as a sign that I have to do something out of it. And so I baked cookies. Thinking about their partners – cherries with what? White chocolate. And nuts? Pistachios.

It’s the festive season with new year looming. Though we do not celebrate Christmas but I like the spirit of baking this season.

The cookies turned out great and they fall into the ‘can’t eat just one’ category. Quick and simple yet elegant, they’re nutty and crunchy and sweet. These colorful and gorgeous cookies incorporate the wonderful flavors of dried fruits and nuts.

I love dried fruits and nuts in baking. They are extremely nutritious with flavors concentrated and so versatile in baking, desserts, sweets and what not. Every other cookie or sweets or desserts recipe has them in some form or the other.

Cherry White Chocolate Cookies

With a little bit of decoration, like frosting or icing or simply dipping them in a melted white chocolate and adorned with sprinkles, you can have a nice boost of chocolaty sweetness on top. You can even roll them into sheet and cut them into various shapes and sizes using your favorite cookie cutter before baking.

I like to keep a stash of homemade cookies and biscuits and other baked goodies in home and hardly buy any. And of-course I ‘healthify‘ them by using wholegrain flour, oats, flax seeds, maple syrup in place of sugars and adding nutritious dried fruits and nuts. I like to make a small batch at a time and vary the flavors and combinations every time.

For a Divine Cookie :

1. Use good quality butter and whip it up nicely with sugar. This helps incorporating air for a light cookie and helps dissolve sugar, avoiding dryness and graininess in cookie.

2. Always use salted butter when making cookies. Unsalted butter leaves the cookies tasting bland. The salt improves the flavors of the butter in the cookies.

3. People generally melt the butter in a microwave while baking. This doesn’t give the good results with texture and taste of the butter-sugar mixture. Butter gives cookies the consistency, flavor, texture and body. So use butter only at room temperature.

4. Using rice flour in making cookies gives them a nice crunchy texture. Rice flour is gluten-free, and this results in a crumbly cookie. For more delicate taste, use cornstarch (corn flour) or custard powder.

5. Make sure vanilla extract you have is labeled “pure”.

Ingredients:-  Make 26 cookies

All purpose flour – 1 1/2 cup
Rice flour – 1/3 cup
Custard powder(vanilla or pineapple) – 3 tbsp
Icing sugar – 1/2 cup
Butter – 180 gm
Vanilla extract – 1/2 tsp
Dried cherries, chopped – 1/2 cup, 100 gm
Pistachios(soaked, peeled and chopped) – 1/3 cup, 70 gm
White chocolate chips – 1/2 cup, 120 gm


1. Toast pistachios lightly and set aside.
2. Sift all purpose flour, rice flour and corn flour together.  Sift it 3-4 times. The flours need to be well mixed and the flour aerated.
3. Whip up the butter and sugar with hand mixer at low speed till light and fluffy, for 3 mins. Add vanilla and whip again.
4. Add sifted flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Keep on mixing the flour till the mixture just starts to come together. Don’t over-mix. Its okay if the dough looks crumbly. If the mixture is too dry to hold, add 1 tsp water at a time until it holds together.
5. Add cherries, pistachios and white chocolate and mix. Roll into a log about 1.5 inch. in diameter(wider or thinner as you wish). Wrap with foil or wax paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hr. This firms up the dough to retain its shape.
6. Put baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 180C/350F. Slice the log into 1/4 in. slices. Arrange them on the baking sheet, placing them 1 in. apart.
7. Bake for 13-15 mins. or till the cookies just start turning brown.
8. Remove from the oven, allow cookies to cool on a wire rack.


1. Different ovens work differently and may have different heat settings. So baking time and even temperature may vary. You can always check to see if the cookies are done.
2. Cookie dough is versatile. In place of dried fruits and nuts, you can add chocolate chips to make chocolate chip cookies, or adding some cinnamon and nutmeg will give you a cinnamon flavored cookies. All it takes to have a nice citrous flavored cookies is to add some finely chopped orange or lemon zest.
3. Vary sugar according to your preference. I like it mild sweeter. Also you may change the amount of butter required for the right consistency.
4. Cut the log with sharp knife. If the crumbs fall apart, shape them with hands. I used electric knife to slice them neatly without the crumbs falling apart.

As we all loved these cookies, I am sending some over to dear Kavi as an addition to her Foodomania’s Christmas Cook-Off.

To the Bake Fest.


Creamy Curd Rice (Dahi Chawal)

Curd Rice“I’m preparing lunch for us. I know you like carrots a lot. See how fresh and bright they are? I mash yours up. I’ll do that until you get some teeth to chew them up. When you eat carrots, you smile. That’s how I know you like them.”
“See, I came back, I needed that time to get a few things done, now I can be with you again.”
I love having such running conversations with Vid everyday in my home. This has just become our rhythm of talking. Once a relative of mine observed that I talk to Vid as I would like to a friend, rather than ‘baby-talks’. I talk, Vid babbles and I again respond.

When my baby was born, I instinctively knew that this bond is most sacred with unconditional love. As a parent the most important thing I and my husband K could do was to provide security, health, creating a safer and nurturing world for him to live in. I realize that most of the commitments were inspired by something that I myself had experienced or learned from family, memories, friends and from my own life. I trust this will help us grow and co-evolve together.

Vid has become more interactive, speak few simple words and soaking up the environment around him. I replayed the challenges I had in the first year – the sleepless and exhaustive nights, the struggles to adjust new ways, but yet fulfilling, I knew this was the most precious journey in my lifetime that I loved more than anything else, and I’ll cherish it at every turn.

Here I share a recipe for Curd Rice, popularly known as ‘Mosaranna’ in South and ‘Dahi-chawal’ in North. Made with the subtly spiced curd mixed with rice and well seasoned, it creates a rich and zesty combination. I had the good fortune of eating it as “prasada’ (blessed food) in Shiva Temple in Chennai. When I started giving Vid solids, I often fed him curd rice with simple preparations – adding curd to the boiled rice and seasoned with ghee and cumin seeds. Sometimes I would add mango or banana puree to make it sweet. Now I like to make it with more elaborated method. This is my husband K’s one of the favorite rice dishes that I often make in home.

Any rice can be used in making Curd-rice, I like to use half the quantity of brown rice and half the white rice. Brown rice loads up with the goodness of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and what not. Loaded with tangy flavors of curd, pomegranates and spices, the subtle flavor of asafoetida makes the entire dish awesome.


Rice, boiled – 3 cups
Curd – 2 cups (for vegan version, use any non-dairy curd)
Salt – To taste
Sugar – 1/2 tbsp(if desired)
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Asafoetida(Hing) – 1/8 tsp
Split Black Gram Dal (Urad dal) – 2 tsp
Green chillies, chopped – 2 nos.
Ginger, grated – 2 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Pomegranate seeds – 1/4 cup or as desired
Coriander leaves – For garnishing


1. Mash the rice and add curd, salt and sugar (if using) and mix well. At this point, if the curd is too sour, add milk to adjust the sourness. Milk helps to reduce the tartness of the curd.
2. Soak split black gram dal in little water for 1 min and then drain.
3. Heat ghee in a pan, splutter mustard seeds, asafoetida and split black gram dal. Sauté till the dal turns light brown.
4. Now add green chilli and ginger, cook on low for a few seconds.
5. Place curry leaves on top of the rice-curd mix and pour the seasoning over it. Cover the bowl for the flavors to infuse.
6. Mix pomegranate seeds and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve at room temperature with simple chutney or pickle or any vegetable side dish as accompaniment.


1. For interesting variations, try different veggies with the rice each time like grated carrots, cucumbers, peas or fruits like grapes, pineapple, mangoes or raisins with cashews roasted in ghee. But just don’t go overboard with them. I like to make this either veggie-combo or fruit-combo.
2. If the curd is not sour as required, keep it out of the fridge for 1 hr.
3. The boiled rice should be cool before adding the curd.

Sending some over to ‘Healthy Vegan Fridays’.

On a cold and frosty morning… Wholesome Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

With all his laughing and giggling, Vid put his hands up while this rhyme is recited. It’s delightful watching him tapping on the rhythm of rhymes.

With the days getting shorter and winter looming here, a warm and nourishing bowl of soup is a great way to drive away the winter chills. Minestrone soup is jam-packed full of veggies goodness and with all those fibers and proteins from the beans it comprises a quite filling and nourishing dish.


Traditionally, Minestrone soup is a thick bean-based soup and is made with varieties of vegetables with the addition of pasta or rice. I decided to use up red double beans for the soup as it was sitting on my shelf for long threatening me to turn rancid. Earthy beans, the generous addition of  fresh herbs imparts a hearty and satisfying depth of flavor to the soup.

Red Beans

It’s a breeze to make as all the stock is added in one go and you don’t need to hovering around the stove. The colors of vegetables made the soup looking attractive and scrumptious. Vid loved the soup but kept the baby corn aside. It felt nice to see him trying to figure out the colors and taste of different vegetables.

You can stock up on produces which are in the season and make most of their nutrition by varying the choices all through the year.


Dried beans -1/3 cup, 80 gm
Thyme – 2 sprigs
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Garlic – 3-4 cloves
Shallots/pearl onions –  8-10 nos.
Green beans, chopped – 1/3 cup or 50 gm
Carrots, chopped – 1/3 cup or 50 gm
Turnips, chopped – 1/4 cup or 40 gm
Cabbage, shredded – 1/3 cup or 60 gm
Babycorn, chopped – 1/3 cup or 50 gm
Celery, chopped – 1/4 cup or 15 gm
Tomatoes, crushed – 1 med.
Oregano, dried – 1/4 tsp
Basil fresh, chopped – 2 tbsp
Black pepper, freshly ground – To taste
Salt (I used sea salt) – To taste
Pasta – 1/4 cup (if desired)

Method :-

1. Soak dried beans in enough water and little vinegar(see notes 2) for 6-8 hrs. or overnight.
2. Drain and discard water from the beans. Now cook beans with 1 cup water, thyme and little salt in a pressure pan till 3 whistles. Let the pan cool.
3. Heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic and shallots. Cook till golden brown.
4. Add in green beans, babycorn, carrots, turnips, cabbage and celery. Stir for a few mins. and add 3 cups water. Let it come to boil. In the meantime, take out beans, thyme and water from the pressure pan and purée.
5. After the soup comes to boil, add in the beans purée and mix well. At this point, add water according to the consistency you like. Cook for 10-15 mins. on low-medium flame stirring occasionally or till the vegetables are tender.
6. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and black pepper powder and let the soup simmer further for 5 mins. on low.
7. Mix pasta in the soup and let it simmer till the pasta is cooked.
8. Switch off the flame, garnish with basil and serve with warm toasted wholewheat bread as an accompaniment.

Notes :-

1. Any dried beans like kidney beans, white beans, lima, etc. can be preferred.
2. While soaking beans, I use vinegar with the water as it reduces the phytic acid content of beans thereby making it more digestible, nutrient-dense and easier for assimilation. In place of vinegar, you can also use yoghurt, whey or lime juice.
3. For the added sourness, you can add vinegar. Adjust the seasonings for the balanced sweet, sour and spicy flavor.
4. I don’t reserve veg. stock/broth nor use veg. cube as I prefer them fresh. But if desired and you have it on-hand , you can use them in place of water.
5. For another version, blend the soup swiftly after the step 6, then add pasta and place the pan back on the stove till pasta is cooked.

Sending some over to Vanesther’s Event the round ups can be found here and Healthy Vegan Fridays

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