Dal · Kale · OPOS

OPOS© KALE STIR FRY – KALE PORIYAL

OPOS.png

I came back to NJ after a month long getaway to India. I won’t call it a vacation as I was partly working. But it was bliss to be surrounded by familiar sounds, aromas and the heat. It was rejuvenation for all senses, put together. When we left, we had set up a self watering system for the plants and we came back to a well nourished garden. Kale, bell peppers, green peppers, curry leaf plants which had survived, plantain with new leaves, tomatoes.. I couldn’t have been happier. I made a quick Kale poriyal/ stir fry with a couple of baby red bell peppers, lots of green chillies and a little bit of cooked frozen dal. And I made it the OPOS© way which meant a flavorful dish in bright colors in 6 mins flat. That’s magic, if you ask me.

Onto the recipe:

OPOS© Kale Poriyal:

In a standardized 2L pressure cooker, layer as follows:

L1: 1 tsp oil

L2: 3 tbsps water

L3: Half of a medium red onion, sliced

L4: about 12 stalks kale, chopped

L5: 2 small red bell peppers and 10 green chillies, chopped

L6: 1/3 cup cooked and frozen dal and salt

Cook on high for 3 whistles and release pressure immediately. Stir and optionally add tadka.

 

 

 

 

Medhu vada · Urad Dal Vada

Urad Dal Vada – Medhu Vada – Ulundhu Vadai

Fried Vada

This small break was not intended. The recipe I wanted to share with you all was ready a long time ago. I couldn’t find the time to pen it down. So here I am after a couple of months.
Urad dal Vada is a favorite in my family. It’s a must during all religious occasions and celebrations. In my family, we pair Urad dal vadas with payasam, peanut or coconut chutney and Sambar. But Mr.S’s family eats them with meat dishes. When I first heard of it, it sounded blasphemous. The mighty Vada which is served to  God is paired with meat?!! What is the world coming to? Anyways, as has been the case with a lot of situations I accepted the meat combo and he accepted the payasam combo! And peace prevailed!
Coming back to the Vada, it’s highly nutritious with black urad dal being the primary ingredient. Take a look at Wiki page and you will know. But it’s deep fried in oil and that’s not very healthy. Whatever the case, I did not master Vada making till last year. Sometimes, instructions when passed by word of mouth or even when demoed do not hit the right chord. Vada making was one such case. My batter was either too thin or too thick. I had a hard time shaping it and ended up just dropping spoonfuls into hot oil and calling it a day. 
Then one day out of the blue, the batter was just perfect. I was able to shape it without much fuss and yummy delicious, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside vadas was a reality in my kitchen. 
Months flew by and a couple of donut pans got added to my kitchen. I was wondering if I could bake vadas and I stumbled upon this blog. Thank you Tina Dawson! Inspired I made the usual vada batter, added some baking powder and baking soda, spooned it into donut pans, baked and danced with joy at the outcome! Mr.S and Miss.T joined too! 🙂 Baked vadas were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. A total win!
I tried using a baking sheet instead of donut pans and found that vadas did not puff up and were rather flat. They were not crunchy either.
Onto the recipe now..
Urad Dal Vada – Ulundhu Vada – Medhu Vada:
Ingredients:
Urad dal/black gram dal – 1 cup
Salt – As per taste
Black Pepper – 1 tsp (optional)
Green Chillies – 4 (optional)
Onion – 1 big, finely chopped (optional)
Coriander – 5 to 6 strands, minced(optional)
Curry Leaves – 5, minced (optional)
To bake:
Baking Soda – 1/2 tsp 
Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp
Soak urad dal for 3 hours. Rinse a few times. Soak in water again. Scoop the dal from the water and add it to the blender/food processor. Note that the water which is dripping from the dal is enough for it to be blended to a thick smooth batter. If the blender/food processor is not spinning, add a few tablespoons of water, one at a time. 
Stir in salt and the other optional ingredients. 
To Deep Fry:
To deep fry in oil, heat a pan with enough oil for vadas to submerge. Oil should not get too hot. When it is medium hot, wet your hands, scoop up some batter, flatten it and slide it into the oil. Optionally you can also make a hole in each vada before dropping it in oil. Fry till golden brown and remove.
Baked Vada
Vadas Shaped In a Donut Pan
To Bake:
To bake, preheat your oven to 450F. Mix in baking powder and baking soda into the batter. Apply oil generously to the donut pans, scoop or pipe the batter into the pans and bake for 12 mins. Keep a watch from 10 mins onwards. You are looking for a browned edge. Flip the vadas in the donut pans and bake for another 8 to 10 mins. A toothpick inserted into the vadas should come out clean.
Vadas Shaped On A Baking Sheet
Vadas Baked On A Baking Sheet

We normally pair vadas with peanut chutney. Here’s the recipe for that:
Peanut Chutney:
Roasted, unsalted peanuts – 1 cup
Water – 1.5 cups
Garlic – 1 big clove or 2 small ones
Jeera/Cumin – 1/2 tsp
Tamarind – Size of half of a lemon (U.S sized)
Red Chillies or Green Chillies – 4
Grind till smooth. Add a seasoning of mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves and a pinch of hing/asafetida.
Cake · Eggless Tuuti Frutti Cake · Tutti Frutti Cake with Eggs

Tutti Frutti Cake

Tutti Frutti Cake
It’s no secret that Miss.T is a picky eater especially when it comes to school lunch. She can be seen happily chatting away with the other kids at her table while they are busy chowing down their lunch. By the time we pick her up from aftercare, we have a hangry kid on our hands. We tried everything from using cutters to cut fruit and sandwiches into cute shapes to bargaining and bribing. All of them work for a little while. And we cycle through them in a round robin fashion. The latest trick up my sleeve is to send in a piece of cake as dessert.

It’s incentive to make her take a few mouthfuls of the main item and a few nibbles of the vegetables and fruits in her lunch box. And mind you, the cake cannot be anything other than tutti frutti cake. Tutti frutti is nothing but candied and colored raw papaya. So add some to a white or yellow cake and you have colorful tutti frutti cake with those tiny pockets of sweetness. Let’s see how long this will work.. 😉

I make this cake both with eggs and without eggs. The recipe credit for eggless cakes goes to Smitha Kalluraya of Cook With Smile and for the version with eggs the credit goes to Sailaja of Sailu’s Food.
Both turned out good. I prefer the egg version for the nutritional content but taste wise both versions score equal points.
I use store-bought tutti frutti in a cinch but I prefer the ones I make at home using natural colors. I will share that process with you in a separate post.
The latest addition to my baking utensils is this lovely bundt pan from Amazon. Note that this pan can take twice the quantity of batter this recipe makes.
Eggless Tutti Frutti Cake:

Ingredients:
Thick plain unsweetened yogurt – 1 cup
Sugar – 3/4 cup
All Purpose Flour – 1.5 cups
Oil – 1/2 cup
Baking Powder – 1 and 1/4 tsps
Baking Soda – 1/2 tsp
Vanilla Extract – 1.5 tsps
Salt – A pinch
Tutti Frutti – 1 cup

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a loaf pan or a bundt pan. Whisk together yogurt and sugar till sugar is dissolved. Add baking powder and baking soda to the yogurt mixture, stir and set aside for 5 mins. The mixture would have bubbled up by now. To this, add vanilla extract, salt and oil and stir them in gently taking care not to let the bubbles subside. Next add the flour and fold it in gently. Lastly mix in tutti frutti. Pour into the greased pan and bake for 40 mins or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool and serve.
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Tutti Frutti Cake with Eggs:

Ingredients:
Eggs – 2
Milk – 1/2 cup
Sugar – 3/4 cup
All Purpose Flour – 2 cups
Butter – 1/2 cup, softened
Baking Powder – 2 tsps
Baking Soda – 1/2 tsp
Vanilla Extract – 2 tsps
Salt – A pinch
Tutti Frutti – 1 cup

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a loaf pan or a bundt pan. Sieve together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cream butter and sugar till smooth and creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat till well combined. Add vanilla extract and stir it in. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with milk and starting and ending with flour. Mix until just combined. Fold in tutti frutti. Pour into the greased pan and bake for 40 mins or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool and serve.

Carrot · Carrot Poriyal · OPOS

OPOS© Carrot Poriyal

Carrot Stir Fry
Wish you all a very Happy New Year!! Time is flying and I realized that it’s going to be almost a month since I posted. As I said in my last post, I am cooking the OPOS way these days. The most recent has been carrot poriyal or stir fry. I can read your thoughts right now..’You blog after a month and it’s about carrot poriyal? As though it’s a very hard recipe to cook!’. Well, just hear me out. I had almost two pounds of carrots sitting in the fridge, waiting to be put to use. I came home from work one day and peeled and grated those two pounds. Grating seemed easier than cutting. Mr.S is a big fan of carrot poriyal and Ms.T follows suit sans the spice. So, divided up the batch into two and set to work. Now, if I were to make it in a wok or a kadai, it would have taken atleast 20 mins for each batch. 
Using OPOS, it took just 5 mins for each batch. Just 5 mins. And I used dry grated coconut instead of frozen grated coconut. With OPOS, dry coconut tasted just fine. A big time saver if you ask me. I always found it a pain to thaw out the frozen coconut so I can break a small bit from the big rectangular pancake. 
On to the recipe now:
OPOS Carrot Poriyal:
In a 2L standardized pressure cooker, layer the ingredients as follows:
L1: 1 tsp oil
L2: 3 tbsp water
L3: About a pound of grated carrots
L4: 6 to 7 Green Chillies (chopped)
L5: 3 tbsp of dry shredded unsweetened coconut 
L6: About a tablespoon of water on top of the dry coconut, just to give it some moisture and some salt.
Cook at your standardized heat setting for 2 whistles. Release pressure immediately. Add tadka and serve. 2 whistles takes about 5 mins. Carrot poriyal is done in 5 minutes.
Now, wasn’t that easy and worth a post?
OPOS

OPOS© – One Pot One Shot (Cook Free, Cook Unchained and Oppose the drudgery!)

OPOS© Techniques – Marinated Vegetables, Dehydrated Dal, Bottled Tadka
Were you wondering where I was all these days? I was busy learning a new technique in cooking. I was immersed in whipping up dishes at a minute’s notice that I didn’t realize it’s been a few weeks since I posted on this space. 
So, what happened during this time? We had our first snow. Little T was so tired to go to Taekwando classes that we decided to give her a break. So no more arguments, planning and coaxing to make her go.
And ofcourse the big thing was learning OPOS© (One Pot One Shot). OPOS© is copyrighted by Mr.Ramakrishnan. He has videos on YouTube, coaches through a closed Facebook group called OPOS© School and just yesterday he created a new public group for anyone interested in OPOS©. To top it all, he has a book slated to be released in month or so. I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Till now, baking was known to be a science and cooking an art. Well, not anymore. OPOS© makes cooking a science to deliver consistent results based on tried and tested techniques originating from food science. Anyone who wants to learn OPOS© can view the videos on YouTube by OPOS© chef and/or join the Facebook groups. The Facebook groups have a pinned post with lessons, which must be followed to a T. Practice makes a person perfect. In this case, discipline makes practice perfect. 
OPOS© has 26 techniques like Aatalysis, Bottled Tadka, Controlled Evaporation, Dum Cooking, Emulsification, Flash Cooking, Hydrodistillation, Sugar Syrup hack, Very Long Marination, to name a few.
All you would need to start OPOS© is a 2L whistling pressure cooker, a blender, a stove, kitchen scale, knife, peeler and grater, a weighing scale and a hand blender. Follow the lessons on the Facebook pinned post and you are well on your way to cooking healthy and finger licking good food.

With OPOS©, you do not sauté. There is no need to sauté onions or tomatoes or anything for that matter. And it is not a dump and cook technique either. Like an artist, each ingredient is layered and cooked to perfection. Most recipes need only a few minutes of cooking time. The environment provided by a pressure cooker which lets off steam and the layering technique work in tandem to eliminate the need to sauté any ingredient separately and yet achieve the perfectly sautéed flavor. 
Note that this can be achieved only by a whistling stove atop pressure cooker and not by Instant Pot. I own and use Instant Pots but caramelization can be perfected only on a stove top whistling pressure cooker.

On nutrition and health benefits, Mr.Ramakrishnan says
“#Cook_Free : The OPOS way of cooking food

OPOS seeks to maximise colour, texture, flavour and nutrition.
Here’s how we do it:

Starches:
OPOS advocates cooking starches by absorption, with little or no water. It is a myth that starches should be cooked with excess water, which should then be drained away. This method just wastes water, fuel and food. In OPOS, we follow the absorption method to cook most starches like rice, noodles & pasta to ensure texture is maintained. Overcooking starches, with excess water makes them mushy. They are no less nutritious when mushy, but not very appealing to see or taste. Starches cooked with no added water have the maximum flavour and texture. OPOS No water biriyanis & No water pasta made possible gourmet level dishes not easily achievable with conventional cooking methods.

Animal protein:
OPOS advocates cooking meat at high heat for a short time, with little or no water. This promotes caramelisation and ensures meats remain juicy. Marination is used to tenderise tough meats instead of increased cooking time.

Vegetable protein (Dals):
OPOS advocates extended high heat cooking of dals to make them more nutritious. Anti nutrients like phytic acid or toxins like lectin (especially in kidney beans) are used by plants to discourage animals from eating their seeds. The high heat, prolonged cooking denatures these toxins. Extended, high heat cooking has little or no effect on their nutrients.

OPOS advocates using precooked (refrigerated/ frozen)  dal to prevent overcooking of vegetables dal & vegetables are cooked together. There is no appreciable nutrition loss when dal is refrigerated/ frozen.

Micro nutrients (Vegetables)
OPOS advocates the high heat, no water, minimal cooking of almost all vegetables. Cooking breaks down cell walls and fibers, allowing our body to absorb their nutrients. Overcooking reduces most vegetables to a colourless, tasteless, flavourless mush. Cooking vegetables with water leaches out their nutrients. Pressure does not have an appreciable effect on micro nutrients. Only heat does. It is important to note that the duration of heat matters more than the intensity of heat. Slow & low heat cooking destroys micro nutrients. Short, high heat cooking ensures most of them are retained. The colour of cooked vegetables is a reliable indicator of the level of micro nutrients retained.

Spinach:
OPOS advocates cooking spinach just like any other vegetable. The myth that spinach has ‘volatile acids’ that need to be cooked out has been busted.

Most OPOS recipes are built on this core cooking method.

Tomatoes:
OPOS advocates using whole tomatoes/ deseeded tomatoes to ensure caramelisation.Tomato puree/ chopped tomatoes are almost never used as they leak water and prevent complex flavours from developing.

Spices:
OPOS advocates use of roasted and ground spices, cooked ginger- garlic paste, caramelised onions & tomatoes for maximum flavour. As sealed cooking intensifies flavours, we use less than half the quantity of spices and salt as compared to the traditional versions.

Oil:
OPOS advocates use of little or no oil in most dishes. Instead we use bottled tadka to infuse flavour & emulsification to ensure creaminess. OPOS advocates bottled tadka to increase flavour, cut down mess, oil consumption, time and labour.

Sugar:
OPOS advocates controlled evaporation of sugar to precisely control the consistency of sugar syrup.

Yogurt/ Coconut milk
OPOS advocates minimal/ no cooking of yogurt/ coconut milk. These are usually mixed in after opening and left to cook in retained heat, to minimise curdling.

Using Masalas:

Traditional cooking places enormous emphasis on the right amount of oil, the right tadka, the right combination of spices, the right order of adding them, the right way to grind them and the right amount of cooking them.

In traditional cooking, vegetables get overcooked, lose their flavour, colour, taste and texture. This loss needs to be compensated by the masala. This masala needs to be different for different dishes. Otherwise everything would taste the same.
So you have a different recipe for drumstick sambar, a different recipe for brinjal sambar and so on.
We bypass most of these steps in OPOS. In OPOS, we rely on enhancing the inherent taste of vegetables. The vegetables are the star – not the masala. We minimise the use of oil, salt and spices to let the vegetable shine through.
Each vegetable, by nature, has a different flavour, colour, texture and taste. This is retained by flash cooking. So each dish, by default, tastes different, even if the same masala is used !
In OPOS, we work with nature. She has already done most of our work for us.”

What did I cook all these days, you ask? Or rather what was I OPOSing? Or how was I opposing the traditional way of cooking?
I made a whole lot of recipes varying from sambar, vegetable curries, sweets like carrot halwa to staples like dehydrated dal, ginger garlic paste, tamarind paste, green chilly paste, caramelized onions and tomatoes, meat pickles.. the list goes on…
In the upcoming days, I will be posting recipes made the OPOS© way. I can tell you one thing though. OPOS© has made cooking way too easy all the while greatly enhancing the flavors. Kudos and heartfelt thanks to Mr.Rama Krishnan!

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Muffins · Rava · Suji

Rava Muffins

Rava Muffins
T is a picky eater. 
T is a picky and slow eater.
T is a picky and slow eater only when it comes to food she doesn’t normally enjoy. That narrows it down to anything which is not chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Not once, I repeat, not once was there a need to remind her to finish her chocolate or vanilla ice cream. And not once did she finish her lunch or dinner without a million reminders!
Every morning, her lunch is crafted carefully with the hope her lunch box will come back empty. Nutella or cheese sandwiches cut into animal shapes using these molds. Cucumbers, carrots, olives, grapes or apples cut and filled into the recesses of the lunch box. And the ever familiar phrase which I mumble even in my sleep ‘Finish your lunch, sweetie!’.
And every evening, there would be left overs dotted with reasons ‘Mommy, I didn’t have time.’, ‘Mommy, there was too much food. I have a small tummy.’ 
Now you get the idea. I am always on the hunt for recipes which would entice her into eating every single morsel. I can’t blame her, because I was a picky eater when I was a kid. I have grown out of it which gives hope that T would get better too.
Rava, also Suji, an Indian term for semolina is extensively used in my kitchen. From the humble upma to the delicious kesari, rava is used in a wide variety of recipes. My go to recipe on week nights and weekend brunches is rava idly. It’s very easy to make and paired with a chutney, makes a satisfying meal. 
Today, instead of steaming the batter in idly molds, I decided to bake in muffin molds. The result was scrumptious. The muffins held their shape and were still soft enough. They can absolutely go into a lunch box either for office or school. Easy to handle and easy to dunk into a chutney or sambar, these rava muffins were a winner. 
Rava Muffin Recipe:
Rava/Suji – 1 cup
Plain Yogurt – 2 cups
Baking Soda – 1/4 tsp
Salt – As per taste
Onion – 1 medium (finely chopped)
Carrots – 2 (peeled and grated)
Minced Ginger – 1 tsp (optional)
Minted Coriander – 1tbsp (optional)
Roast rava till it turns light brown. Add yogurt, baking soda and salt and stir till the ingredients are blended without any lumps. Keep it aside for 5 mins. Then stir in the onion, carrot, ginger and coriander. 
You can pour this batter into a greased baking pan or muffin tray and bake at 360F for 20 mins. I poured the batter into muffin molds and air fried it at 360F for 15 mins. I use my air fryer for baking too. I find it convenient than having to fire up a big oven.
The muffins are done when a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let rest for 10 mins and enjoy with peanut or coconut chutney or a little sugar. 
As to whether T gobbled this up without a fuss is a story for another day!

Amazing Grass · Banana · Breakfast · Dates · Milk · Yogurt

Breakfast Smoothie

Breakfast Smoothie
Breakfast Smoothie

Winter is fast approaching.. the days are colder and nights even more.. Summer clothes have been packed away.. Plants are wilting.. The few which need to be saved like my beloved banana plant and my curry leaf plant have been brought indoors…The last few weeks were riddled with episodes of cough, cold and sore throats. Hubby was down with a bad respiratory infection for three weeks and is slowly getting back to normalcy. T is ok. I caught a sore throat which is steadily becoming a cough. Inspite of these minor inconveniences which cold weather brings, I simply love winter. I eagerly look forward to the first snow every year. My family usually finds me standing by the window transfixed watching the delicate snowflakes fall to the ground. Oh, it’s a magical sight! I never cease to wonder at this marvel of nature. As if shaking me out of my reverie, a cough or a sniffle would echo through the room, bringing me back to reality.
When T was little, she was a picky eater and had frequent episodes of cold and cough. One particular year was very hard with multiple visits to the ER. In her case, a cold turns into a cough and a cold cannot be avoided in daycare. The only logical way was to strengthen her immune system. I started looking for an immunity booster and found Amazing Grass. I had used it before and it helped stopped my allergies within a week. There was no harm in giving it a try. If T benefits from it, what more could I ask for?
But how do I make her take it? I usually have a scoop mixed into juice or water and gulp it down. T drinking it that way is not going to happen even in the wildest of my dreams. That’s when this smoothie came to the rescue. Did I tell you that T was a picky eater? I started her on this smoothie when she was 2 years old. It packed a good amount of calories, enough to kick start the day. And even if she didn’t eat much the rest of the day, the calorie count tallied because of the smoothie.
So, to this miraculous smoothie I added a scoop of Amazing Grass and T drank it upwithout a fuss. Her health did improve and to this day, I trust this smoothie and the green powder.
Let’s take a look at the recipe:
Breakfast Smoothie Recipe:
Banana – 1
Raw almonds – 5
Pitted/Seedless Dates – 3
Milk – 1/2 Cup
Plain Yogurt – 1/3 cup
Amazing Grass for Kids – 1 scoop (Optional)
Blend till smooth. I use a Vitamix. In case your blender doesn’t ground almonds finely, use almond flour. Banana adds a definite smoothness to the drink. You can add berries or other fruits to the mix as well.