My lunchbox

Soya Chunks Pulav with Coconut Milk

Creating nutritious and tasty lunches for kids can be a real challenge. When I was growing up, we didn’t focus much on high-protein diets, and our meals were often carb-heavy. However, as my son got more into sports, I realized the need for a change in our eating habits. I’m still learning, but I’ve taken small steps towards healthier cooking.

Last year, I discovered soya chunks, and my kids loved them. That encouraged me to get creative, and that’s how the Soya Chunks Pulav with Coconut Milk came to be.

My usual pulavs and biryanis needed something new, so I decided to add coconut milk. The result was a creamy and delicious Soya Chunks Pulav that my kids can’t get enough of.

What’s great about this recipe is that you can achieve fantastic flavors with just a few spices. Even with simple ingredients, this pulav satisfies both taste buds and nutritional needs.

Switching to a healthier menu doesn’t happen overnight. It’s all about taking small steps. Trying new ingredients, playing with flavors, and seeing the positive reactions from my kids keep me motivated. This Soya Chunks Pulav represents my commitment to providing nourishing meals that kids love.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups soya chunks, soaked in hot water
  • Little ghee
  • 1″ cinnamon
  • 2 cardamoms
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 and 1/2 cups washed basmati rice
  • 1 can thick coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves (for garnish)

Method:

  1. Prepare Soya Chunks:
    • Soak 2 cups of soya chunks in hot water.
  2. Tempering:
    • Heat a little ghee in a pan.
    • Add 1″ cinnamon and 2 cardamoms.
  3. Saute Aromatics:
    • Add 1 cup of chopped onions and 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger-garlic paste.
    • Fry for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add Vegetables and Soya Chunks:
    • Add 1 cup of chopped carrots and 1 cup of green peas, followed by the soaked soya chunks.
  5. Spice it Up:
    • Add 1 teaspoon of cumin powder, a pinch of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder, 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala, and salt to taste.
    • Mix everything well.
  6. Incorporate Rice:
    • Add 1 and 1/2 cups of washed basmati rice.
    • Fry everything for a few minutes.
  7. Moisture and Cooking:
    • Pour in one can of thick coconut milk and another half cup of water.
    • Cook until done. If using an Instant Pot, manual 3 minutes is sufficient.
  8. Fluff and Garnish:
    • When done, fluff the pulao with a fork.
    • Garnish with 1/4 cup of chopped coriander leaves.
  9. Serve Hot:
    • Your Soya Chunks and Vegetable Pulao is ready to be served hot. Enjoy this flavorful and nutritious dish!

Note: Adjust spice levels and salt according to your preference. This recipe is suitable for both stove-top and Instant Pot cooking methods.

Serves :3-4
Preparation time : 30mins

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Mixed Greens Khichdi

Mixed Greens Khichdi


I usually get a huge pack of mixed greens from Costco that gets used enthusiastically for few days. Since it goes bad quickly, I try to make few different recipes – this also makes sure we consume all of those greens in two-three weeks’ time. This Mixed Greens Khichdi is one of those dishes. It tastes great, it is a one-pot dish that comes together quickly, it is healthy, so it checks all the right boxes.

I prefer making this dish in InstantPot because I can start the dish and walk away. But this can be easily prepared in a normal pressure cooker – I prepared it pressure cooker before I bought InstantPot.

You can make this Khichdi with just spinach or with a combination of few different greens. I have tried both and it comes out great with any combination. I have used masoor dal here, but this can also be prepared using moong dal.

Also check out sweet khichdi, pongal and other pongal recipes.

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Chicken Biryani With Coconut Milk

Chicken Biryani with Coconut Milk

During Christmas holidays we visited our cousins in Boston. My cousin’s place, we had delicious and comfort vegetarian food, something I was craving a lot. At V’s cousin’s place, we had all non vegetarian meals. I was in a foodie’s heaven, amazing food at both places and we had a very relaxing time.

Make a big batch of it, as it is just out of this world and it disappears in no time.

Chicken Biryani with Coconut Milk

This dish was prepared for us by V’s cousin’s wife Poornima Vaini. She made all-chicken dinner and lunch for us. Since I am a big Biryani lover, I really enjoyed this Biryani with coconut milk in it. She shared her recipe with me. I might have missed one or more steps, but this came out really well when I came back and made this. It is extremely easy one to make (I don’t know why it is called Biryani, because rice is not cooked separately here. Everything is mixed and cooked at once, but I will still stick to the name).

Ingredients:
1/2 kg (17oz approx) chicken
1/2 cup potato(optional)
2 cups basmati rice
2 cups(1 can) light coconut milk
3/4 cup onion slices
1/2 cup tomato
4-5 strands coriander leaves
1 tea spn biryani powder
1-2 tea spns chilli powder
A pinch turmeric
A tbl spn yogurt/curds
1 tea spn ginger paste1 tea spn garlic paste
Ghee/Oil
Salt
Whole Spices :
4-5 cloves
2″ cinnamon
4 green cardamom
2 bay leaves

Method:
Add ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric, chilli powder, yogurt, biryani masala and salt to chicken pieces. Mix well and keep aside for about 30mins.
Heat ghee/oil (I add both ghee and oil) and add all whole spices. Now add onion, salt and fry till they are brownish.
Add tomatoes and fry for few mins.
Add chicken along with all marinade and fry for 3-4 minutes.  Add potatoes(optional).
Add rice and fry for few more minutes.
Now pour in the coconut milk and about 1 and 1/2 cups water, salt, mix well. Cover the lid and cook on a medium heat till done. Garnish with coriander leaves. Switch off heat and leave it as it is for about 15-20mins. Serve hot.
Serve with cold raita.

Serves : 4-5
Preparation time : 45mins

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Paneer Stuffed Pull Apart Rolls

Paneer Stuffed Pull Apart Rolls
Paneer Stuffed Pull Apart Rolls

While growing up, I loved the spicy stuffed breads available in most of the bakeries in India. The aroma of fresh stuffed bread coming out of bakeries was divine. Even after more than a decade of living here, I can still remember the aroma/taste of it. I used to search for any savory breads here in bakeries, but so far I have not found anything close. So once in a while, when I want to eat those, I bake at home.  Few days ago, I baked these paneer stuffed pull apart rolls.

I started buying avocado when Ishaan was a toddler. He used to love eating it with a pinch of salt and lemon. Then there was a period of time, I totally forgot about them. Whenever I bought them, they sat on the kitchen counter and got overripe before I could use them. A friend suggested to refrigerate avocados to increase their life. Now I buy a bunch of them and put in fridge. I mix them in chapati dough to make super soft chapatis. So this time I wanted to try adding them to bread and the bread came out delicious.

Pictorial:
Spread paneer stuffing on the rolled dough.
paneer stuffed pull apart rolls1 paneer stuffed pull apart rolls2
Roll the dough.
paneer stuffed pull apart rolls3 paneer stuffed pull apart rolls4
Cut and keep in the baking pan.
paneer stuffed pull apart rolls5 paneer stuffed pull apart rolls6
Ready to eat.
paneer stuffed pull apart rolls7

Paneer Stuffed Pull-Apart Rolls

Soft avocado bread stuffed with spicy paneer filling makes a great dinner or snack.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 12 pieces

Ingredients
  

  • For the bread
  • 1 1 and 1/2 tea spns pack active dry yeast
  • 3 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tbl spn butter
  • 1 avocado optional
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbl spn olive oil
  • 1 tea spn honey
  • Salt
  • For the stuffing
  • 2 cups shredded paneer
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tbl spn coriander leaves
  • 1 tea spn freshly made ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tea spn chilli powder
  • 1 tea spn garam masala
  • Oil
  • Salt

Instructions
 

  • For stuffing :
  • Heat oil and add onions, ginger-garlic paste, salt.
  • Fry till onions are translucent.
  • Add garam masala, chilli powder and fry for a min.
  • Now add the paneer, coriander leaves and mix well.
  • Let it cool to room temperature.
  • For bread:
  • Take honey and warm water in a bowl and add the yeast.
  • Leave it around for 10mins till yeast gets activated.
  • Now add mashed avocado, softened butter, milk.
  • Add 1 cup flour at a time and mix.
  • Knead till dough comes together in a ball (it will still be sticky). I mix in my KitchenAid stand mixer.
  • Take on a flat surface dust with flour and knead for few minutes.
  • Take oil in the same bowl, keep the dough and move it around to coat with oil.
  • Cover the bowl and leave for about 2 hrs, till it is doubled in volume.
  • Punch the dough to deflate all the air. Knead for a min.
  • Assembling:
  • Roll the dough into a thin (about 1/4") thick rectangle.
  • Spread the stuffing on the bread.
  • Make a tight roll, tightly seal the edge.
  • Cut into 1 and 1/2 to 2 inch pieces.
  • Take a baking dish and apply little oil to it. I also dusted it with a little flour to avoid sticking.
  • Keep the bread pieces one beside the other.
  • Cover and keep it aside for about 1 hr.
  • The rolls would have risen well by now.
  • Preheat the oven at 350F.
  • Brush the rolls with butter or olive oil or milk.
  • Bake the rolls at 350F for about 45mins. (check after about 30mins).
  • Serve hot.

Notes

You can replace 1 cup of all purpose flour with 1 cup of whole wheat flour or multigrain atta. Add 1 tea spn of wheat gluten when using whole wheat or multigrain atta which helps it get fluffy.

 

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Sweet Potato Parathas

Sweet Potato Parathas
Sweet Potato Parathas

Wish you all a very happy new year 2016.

There was a time when Ishaan was around 2 years of age when I used sweet potatoes very regularly. But that did not continue for a long time. He does not like anything sweetish, so I stopped. Now I am trying to include them back in our diet because of their nutritional values and also because Ayaan is almost that age now. He has a big sweet tooth. Few months back, I saw these very tender and beautiful sweet potatoes at Farmers market. I made a simple stir fry with half of them. The remaining went into these stuffed parathas.

I used a combination of sweet potatoes and normal potatoes for this. I did not want the parathas to be too sweet. I also used lot of masalas to make them a little spicy. I think I need to make these more often, they were just delicious.

Pictorial:
Cook sweet potatoes and potatoes(I do not have them in picture below) in pressure cooker. Peel them when they are cooled down.
sweet potato parathas1 sweet potato parathas2
Add the spices and mash them to remove any lumps.
sweet potato parathas3 sweet potato parathas5Make the dough. Take small balls of covering, flatten it on the palm and then stuff a small ball of stuffing in them. Seal properly.
sweet potato parathas4 sweet potato parathas6

Roll each ball and then roast them on tava.
sweet potato parathas7 sweet potato parathas8

Sweet Potato Parathas

Sweetish spicy parathas with sweet potatoes, tasty and very filling.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 10 -12 parathas

Ingredients
  

  • For Stuffing
  • 4-5 small sweet potatoes about 2 cups when mashed
  • 2 potatoes 1 cup mashed
  • 1/2 tea spn red chilli powder
  • 1 tea spn coriander-cumin powder
  • 1/2 tea spn chaat masala
  • Salt
  • For outer cover
  • 1/2 cups water
  • 3 cups wheat flour I use multigrain flour
  • 1 tea spn oil
  • Salt

Instructions
 

  • Make a dough with the ingredients mentioned under outer cover.
  • Knead the dough very well for few minutes.
  • Apply little oil to the dough and let it rest (covered) for atleast 30-60mins.
  • Cook sweet potatoes and potatoes in pressure cooker.
  • Peel them and mash.
  • Add all the spices, salt and mix well.
  • Make small balls out of the dough and stuffing (I usually make sure I have equal number of dough and stuffing).
  • Take a ball of dough and flatten on your palm, use little oil if needed.
  • Keep a stuffing ball on it and seal the dough properly around the stuffing.
  • Roll them into paratha. (Do not use too much dry flour).
  • Roast on hot tava.
  • Apply ghee from both sides for extra taste (I do that for kids).
  • Serve hot with yogurt or pickle or any side dish of your choice.

 

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Carrot Pulav

Carrot pulav
Carrot Pulav

Ishaan started going to Kindergarten few weeks ago. I was a bit stressed about him going to new school right after coming back from India. On the first day of school, I went to have lunch with him, totally prepared to bring him back home if he was too tired. He assured me he was fine and I can pick him up after school. I came home relieved, thinking he is grown so much that he can handle it.

I send him lunch every day. I stress about does he have enough time to eat? can he open his lunch box? did I forget to pack his spoon etc. I asked him to get help from some grown-up in opening the box. Now he says he asked first couple of days but now he can do it all by himself (he takes food in a thermos and it is hard to open it sometimes!). He is a slow eater and if there are friends around, talking and then running out to play takes higher priority!. Now that he has settled down a bit, I ask him what lunch he wants in his box, so that he is excited about eating.

Last week he asked for pulav. At home he loves pulav/biryanis with yogurt or raita. But eating yogurt with it at school would be too much to ask. So I decided to make it with less spices but packed with nutrition and flavor. This carrot pulav was a perfect fit. I packed it with a big dollop of ghee for him. Even my 1 and half year old loved it.

Pictorial:
Heat oil/ghee and fry spices, then onion, ginger-garlic paste, green chilli paste.
carrot pulav1 carrot pulav2

Add garam masala, fry. Then add rice, carrots.

carrot pulav3 carrot pulav4
Pour water, cover and cook.
carrot pulav5

Carrot Rice

A simple and delicious pulav loaded with carrots, makes a perfect lunch/dinner for kids and adults alike.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 2 -3

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 tea spn freshly ground ginger-garlic paste
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 " cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 cardamoms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tea spn garam masala
  • Ghee/Oil
  • Salt

Instructions
 

  • Wash basmati rice, drain and keep aside.
  • Heat oil/ghee and add cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom.
  • When they are fried a bit, add onions, ginger-garlic paste, green chilli paste.
  • Fry till the onions are translucent.
  • Add garam masala and fry for few minutes.
  • Add basmati rice, carrots, salt and fry for 2-3mins.
  • Now pour 2 cups of water, cover and cook till done.
  • Serve hot with dollop of ghee or raita(optional).

 

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Eggplant Rice (Vangi Bhath) with Garam Masala

vangi bhath with garam masala

Few years back, I saw this recipe in some book. What attracted me to this was, it uses garam masala which is usually available in every Indian home, unlike the special vangi bhath masala which is used in many other recipes. Over the years, I have changed it to suit our taste buds. Last time when we came to US, I prepared this frequently to send in my son-in-law’s lunchbox. It soon became his favorite dish. This time again I prepared this many times for him. On Shilpa’s request, I thought of posting this here. I make it like a pulav by cooking the rice in the masala. I prepare this in rice cooker, so it does not need too much attention.

Ingredients:
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup tomato
1 tea spn garlic paste
2 cups chopped eggplant
1 tea spn garam masala
1 tea spn chilli powder
A pinch turmeric
Oil
Salt

Method:
vangi bhath with garam masala1 vangi bhath with garam masala2
Cut the eggplant in small pieces and put them in water.vangi bhath with garam masala3 vangi bhath with garam masala5vangi bhath with garam masala4 vangi bhath with garam masala6
Heat oil/ghee and add garlic, onion. Fry for few minutes.
Add tomatoes, eggplant, let them cook for few minutes. Then add chilli powder, garam masala, salt, turmeric, mix well.
vangi bhath with garam masala7 vangi bhath with garam masala8
Now add the rice and fry for few minutes. Pour two cups water, cover and let it cook till done.
Serve hot.

Serves : 2-3
Preparation time : 40mins

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Vegetable Pulav with Babycorn

veg pulav with babycorn
Who doesn’t like corn? Although we find very good corn around the year here, I miss fresh babycorn. I haven’t seen it yet here in Kansas (not a fan of canned one). So when I found it in Bangalore during my last India trip, I had to try it. I made couple of dishes with it and loved to eat every last bit of babycorn.

Here is a simple pulav I made with babycorn. I used one of my favorite spices – Dagad phool. Please note, it is not same as star anise. This looks like dried flowers or lichens that are often seen on trees. It has a very strong smell.  Aayi uses this in her chicken curry, so for me, this spice has typical chicken curry smell :) .

Ingredients:
2 cups basmati rice
1 cup chopped babycorn
1 cup vegetables like carrot, cauliflower, capsicum(bellpepper)
1 tea spn chopped ginger
1 tea spn chopped garlic
3 green chillies
1 tea spn coriander seeds
1 tea spn dagad phool
1 tea spn cumin seeds
1 tbl spn fresh/frozen coconut
2-3 cloves
2″ cinnamon
1/2 cup onion
Ghee/oil
Salt

Method:
veg pulav with babycorn1 veg pulav with babycorn2 veg pulav with babycorn3

Heat a little oil and fry coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, 1/4 cup onion, dagad phool, ginger, garlic, chopped green chillies and fry for few minutes. Grind  this with coconut to a paste.

veg pulav with babycorn4 veg pulav with babycorn5
Heat ghee and fry remaining onion. Now add the paste and fry till a nice aroma comes out.
Add all the vegetables and saute for few minutes.

veg pulav with babycorn7 veg pulav with babycorn8
Now add rice and fry it well.
Pour in 4 cups of water, salt. Cover the lid and let it cook on a medium-low heat till done.
Serve hot.

Serves : 4-5
Preparation time : 40 mins

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Quinoa – Vegetable Pongal

quinoa vegetable pongal
Pongal
has become one of our go-to comfort foods these days. I end up making a simple pongal with rice and moong dal or a simple pej(Congee with red rice) on many days when I do not want to cook elaborate meals. Some days when I want to make it more healthy, I add some vegetables to it, then it becomes a one pot complete meal (although my family prefers plain pongal, they don’t complain). Few days back, I added some quinoa to it, which turned out pretty good. I served this quinoa – vegetable pongal with our favorite huli gojju.

Read more about quinoa  (and I do not know if it has any Indian names or if it is available in India). I hear so much about this protein packed, slightly bitter quinoa on TV, magazines etc. I have tried so many different dishes from it, but we have a long way to go before we can say we love it. So I usually try to hide it in some dish – it is a bit hard to hide because the quinoa smell comes out no matter where you add it. I feel it is a very acquired taste. My family is slowly warming up to it, when I add it in smaller quantities in other dishes.

I used matta rice/peje tandul here because it gives some body to pongal – I had first read about it at Mahanandi and loved the idea. It does not disappear like the normal white rice.

Here is a wonderful article about Quinoa and its health benefits.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup red boiled rice /matta rice/peje tandul
1/2 cup moong dal
1 cup vegetables – corn, peas, carrots
1/2 tea spn black pepper
3-4 green chillies
A pinch tamarind
1/2 tea spn cumin seeds
A pinch asafoetida(hing)
4-5 curry leaves
A pinch turmeric
Ghee
Salt

Method:
quinoa vegetable pongal1
Wash quinoa in cold water couple of times. Wash rice and moong dal. Keep aside.
quinoa vegetable pongal3 quinoa vegetable pongal2
Heat ghee and add cumin seeds, green chillies, pepper, curry leaves. Fry for min and then add asafoetida.
Add the vegetables and fry for a minute.
quinoa vegetable pongal4 quinoa vegetable pongal5
Then add quinoa, moong dal, rice, salt, turmeric fry for another minute. Now add 4-5 cups of water (start with 4 and if you want it more watery consistency, add one more). Cook till rice and vegetables are done. I normally cook it in rice cooker.
quinoa vegetable pongal6
Serve hot with your favorite sidedish.

Serves : 3-4
Preparation time : 45 mins

PS: If you do not find quinoa, leave it out and follow the remaining recipe.

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Black Eyed Beans – Plantain Pulav with Mint Chutney

alsande-plantain pulav

Today was one of those days when I tried to do a little more than my usual weekday work. I left work early and decided to do grocery shopping, so that I don’t have to spend time on it over the weekend. By the time I reached home carried everything to our apartment on 2nd floor, I was tired. Then I picked Ishaan from daycare and reached home totally exhausted. I wanted to make something simple, but then I found a plantain that was sitting in the refrigerator for a while. I thought of making alsande randayi, which is one of my favorite Konkani dishes, but didn’t have grated coconut. So I thought of making a simple pulav which would taste almost like the randayi. I had bought a pack of coconut milk powder a while ago which was sitting unopened in the pantry. So I used that. It took few minutes of prep time.

While that was getting done, I thought a mint chutney would go well with it. So I made this chutney/tambli. It was a very tasty and filling dinner.

Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cups basmati rice
1/2 cup black eyed beans (alsande)
1/2 cup plantains chopped into tiny pieces
1 tea spn finely chopped ginger
1 tea spn finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped onions
4-5 curry leaves
1/2 tea spn chilli powder
1/2 tea spn coriander powder
A pinch turmeric
1 cup thick coconut milk
2 cardamoms
2" cinnamon
Ghee/oil
Salt

Method:
Heat ghee/oil. Add cardamoms, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, onion. Fry for few minutes. Then add rice and fry for few minutes. Add turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder and fry for few minutes.
Add black eyed beans, plantains, salt, curry leaves. Mix well. Add coconut milk and 2 and 1/2 cups water. Let it cook till done. (I used a steel vessel to make the pulav. After the above steps, I transferred the vessel to rice cooker. I use my rice cooker like normal pressure cooker. Easy to clean up. I just add a cup of water to the rice cooker, and then keep the steel vessel with food in it. The rice comes out very well).

Mint chutney : Grind together 5-6 strands of coriander leaves (along with the stems), 4-5 leaves of mint, 1 green chilli(optional) and 1 cup yogurt, salt to a smooth paste.
Serve with pulav.

Serves : 3-4
Preparation time : 20mins + cooking time

Pictorial:

alsande-plantain pulav1

alsande-plantain pulav2

alsande-plantain pulav3

alsande-plantain pulav4

alsande-plantain pulav

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