Thursday, June 25, 2015

lunch boxes for adults : wraps, rolls and sandwiches the healthy way | lunch boxes the Indian way

I know it is a challenge to think about wraps, rolls and sandwich kind of lunch boxes if you don't eat breads much and generally depend on loads of vegetables, some lentils, some dairy, some poultry and some fish and meat for your daily meals, in that order.

We often want our lunch box food the kind that can be eaten easily while grabbing the food with hands, something that doesn't get messy and we feel sated after the meal. There is a reason why wraps and sandwiches and burgers got so popular in the first place, they all give a tactile edge to the taste, making the meal a sensory pleasure perceived not just by the taste buds. Holding the food in one's fingers is an added pleasure while eating.

So much so that we all started looking for similar foods even if we want to stay away from sandwiches and rolls, wanting to find substitutes of the same foods we want to shun.

ragi uttapam lunch box

Okay, so these lunch boxes will NOT be wraps, rolls and sandwiches. But the same kind of convenience to bite into the food is the reason I am listing all these options of lunch boxes together. We are a country of parathas and dosas, we know how to roll our paratha and how to make the dosa fit for a roll.

The lunch box options here are a suggestion of how to balance such paratha and dosa kind of meals and no, these are not one dish meals as one sandwich was never capable to hold all the vegetables I wanted to accommodate. Some vegetables are liquefied (blended) here to make chutneys, some mashed to make dips, some are blended in the batter to make the meal more vegetable rich. And there is more salad or fruit yogurt for variety.

Here is my list of suggestions while making convenient (easy an quick to make) lunch boxes into balanced meals..

  1. Take some time to plan the shopping, cleaning, chopping and sorting of the vegetables and fruits or delegate this work to someone capable. Do some planning on what all you need to carry the next day, or better for the whole week if you can. Cooking in batches works great if you find time only on weekends. Plan and sort out the lunch boxes for the coming week and avoid any last minute hassles.
  2. Make the office lunch time a relaxed activity, a meal that you look forward to and enjoy all the textures and taste you like. Do not eat on your desk or just turn away from your work area while eating so you don't peep into the work mails while eating your lunch. Mindful eating is way more effective in managing your eating discipline than you imagine.   
  3. It is good to balance carbs, proteins, vegetables ratio in every meal but do not sweat if you can't manage to do this for your lunch box every single day. The balance can be achieved by including the missing components in the other meals too and you can always carry an extra snack box with nuts and seeds etc. Better keep some roasted nuts and seeds in your office drawers if possible.
  4. Include some of your childhood favourite foods in your lunch box occasionally so you involuntarily enjoy the lunch time and do mindful eating without much thought into it. Some of those stuffed parathas your mom cooked or the rajma chawal or tahiri or bisibele bhath will be great tools to make you eat mindfully. Try to balance those foods nutritionally, for example balance a paratha meal by having a smaller portion of the paratha with a large portion of salad and yogurt.
  5. Include some home made chutneys and sauces, dips and mayonnaise, some pickles if needed and give an extra edge to a quick lunch box. You could always get someone in the family make those for you or find a help who can do the job. Or else get creative and blend some roasted sesame to make tahini and then add some raw or roasted vegetables to it to make a saucy dip that keeps well in the fridge for a week. Use cream cheese or hung curd to make some herbed dips. I will do a detailed post on dips and sauces for easy lunch boxes here but just think we are a country of chutneys, there are so many recipes in the family repertoire already.
And do not forget the importance of fermented foods. If you can't add some sauerkraut to your everyday salads, just carry some home made yogurt for the probiotic dose of the day. Make a fresh fruit yogurt in 5 minutes and enjoy at lunch time.

Go gluten free whenever you can even for the lunch boxes. You will still find some comfort food options. Minimal gluten meals may be more practical if you are skeptical about taste.

Below is the fruit yogurt that I make by simply chopping some fresh fruit into home made yogurt. I used apricots and mango cubes here along with some chopped almonds and chia seeds.

I am sharing 11 lunch box options with you today. 

ragi uttapam lunch box

1. Mixed grain uttapam-chutney lunch box...
The main lunch box is a mixed grains gluten free (ragi, jowar, red rice and urad daal) uttapam to which chopped onions and curry patta has been added. I packed it with dry idli podi (a mix of roasted lentils, sesame seeds, coconut and chillies, tamarind etc) and a fresh tomato and coconut chutney (raw tomato, fresh coconut, little garlic and green chilly). This is almost like finger food making a filling healthy meal.

You could make ragi dosa too for this kind of lunch box.

2. Uttapam-sambar-chutney lunch box...
Another gluten free uttapam (white rice, jowar and urad daal) made with chopped onions. I soak the ingredients for a couple of hours, blend them all smooth and often add a little sourdough starter to the batter and keep it overnight in a cool place. The husband calls these dainty uttapams as 'bread uttapam' these are so soft.

Here, we ticked off the bread from our list :-)

uttapam lunch box

The thick sambar you see in the picture is a one step pressure cooked sambar made thick so it carries well in the lunch box. I find this sambar so good I have it as a meal by itself.

To make that thick one pot sambar just heat ghee in pressure cooker, add curry patta and sambar powder to roast very briefly and then add rinsed masoor daal (2 tbsp) and chopped lauki (bottle gourd, 400 gm), add a cup of water, salt to taste and pressure cook. Add a little tamarind extract in the last, stir well and pack. I use pumpkin or other vegetables too sometimes but whatever can be chopped the previous day is good.

3. Paneer stuffed ragi bread lunch box...

These flat breads are made of leavened dough. A mix of ragi and whole wheat flour (60:40) is kneaded with a little salt, sugar and sourdough starter and kept overnight. A mashed paneer mix with chopped onions, green chillies, salt and pepper is then stuffed into flat breads and is cooked over hot griddle just like kulchas. Smear the breads with ghee or butter before packing.

stuffed ragi bread lunch box

That parval (pointed gourds) bhujia you see int he picture is very easy. Scraped and long quarter wedges of parval are stir fried with kalonji (nigella seeds), green chilly and little turmeric and salt, on low flame, till they start curving at the ends. The result is a nice stir fry salad that you will reach for after every bite of the stuffed bread.

The mango chutney is in fact a well celebrated pickled chutney we called gudamba or khatta meetha aam ka achar. Adds oomph to any meal.

4. Jowar roti-baingan bharta-chaulai saag lunch box...

This would be one of my favourite meals. Plain jowar roti (will share detailed procedure of making jowar roti soon) with some pyaz baingan ka bharta and chaulai ka saag is a rural meal that I have never tasted in villages but started cooking after seeing on TV. It makes one of the best gluten free meals trust me.

Indian lunch box

The pyaz biangan ka bharta is quick. I keep the onions sliced and brinjal roasted and peeled in the fridge so it is a 3-5 minute affair in the pan if cooking for two. Heat mustard oil, tip in chopped green chillies (mild variety) and sliced baby onions (1/2 cup), fry till soft and then dump the roasted brinjal pulp and salt. Mash and stir for a minute and it is ready. Use green capsicum in the recipe too to make it more interesting.

Chaulai saag is made with just mustard oil garlic red chilly tadka, dumped the chopped greens with salt and cook till soft and mushy. Takes about 5 minutes for 2 servings.

The chopped salad or kachumbar is just a mix of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions with some salt and mustard oil drizzle. Drop of vinegar added if the salad is being packed for the lunch box.

Jowar ki roti meal needs a plain buttermilk that tastes divine after such a meal. Get a nice bottle to pack buttermilk or chilled tea to office.

5. Multigrain paneer paratha lunch box..

The mashed paneer stuffing used for the ragi flat bread is used here too. The dough mix is a mix of barley and chickpea flour which tastes really good. One thing to take care of when making such a stuffed paratha is, that the consistency of the stuffing should be the same as the dough to be able to roll the stuffed bread easily.

paneer paratha lunch box

You see the same baingan bharta with this paratha meal too. We love baingan bharta and it is so easy to make once the house-help roasts the brinjals, peels them and packs them in the fridge for the next day.

Cucumber batons when one can't chop a detailed salad.

Fresh fruit yogurt with fresh apricots, dried figs and chia seeds is great. Can be an evening snack too if the yogurt is kept in a cool place. You can freeze the yogurt the night before as this way the yogurts stays well for at least 6-7 hours in the office if you intend to eat the yogurt late.

6. Ragi (finger millet) roti wrap lunch box ...

This wrap has potato and tuna salad as a stuffing. The tuna is from a tin but you can buy tuna fish, poach it, flake it and freeze it for use if you don't want to use tinned fish. I use tinned tuna and sardines occasionally. Tuna and potato salad can be made in so many different ways that it does not surprise me any more. I have made it the Bengali way, the south Indian way and even with peri peri sauce.

Here is detailed instructions regarding how to make soft ragi roti.

For this wrap you can use any salad you wish, some leftover chicken or paneer tikka or even hummus and some raw or steamed vegetables.

A mixed grain thalipeeth also makes great lunch box meal.

roti wrap lunch box

There is a little home made paprika mayonnaise in the green silicon cup on the side that makes a delicious dip for this wrap. The chopped salad box gets whatever I can chop that day, the salad ingredients are chopped fresh and not the previous day BTW.

7. Patoda wrap lunch box, the lazy lunch box...

This one is for the days you wake up late. The patoda rolls (see recipe here) in the fridge make a great stuffing for a plain multi grain roti. Pack some diced cucumbers and plain home made yogurt and get set for the day.

roti wrap lunch box

That big roti hides 4 large patoda rolls, very filling, very tasty and needs no chutney or dip if you are carrying cucumber or kachumber type salad if have time. Or else pack some green chutney or even home made mayonnaise with it.

I prefer not applying the chutney or mayo inside the wrap as it makes the whole thing soggy if packed in the lunch box. Okay, mayonnaise doesn't make it soggy but drips while eating, so better pack it separately and use as dip.

8. Chaulai (amaranth greens) pakoda wrap lunch box..

Another lazy day's roti wrap can be made with any leftover fritters, chicken tikka or paneer or veggie tikkas. Here I have used amaranth greens fritters for the purpose. The multigrain roti is smeared with paprika mayonnaise (home made) and fritters are wrapped inside. These are lentils based fritters that we make sometimes for dinner or weekend breakfast, the leftover fritters can be frozen and used as desired.

roti wrap for lunch box

I have packed leftover rajma with this, and a chopped salad with yogurt, almost like a raita which makes this meal really satisfying.

Citrus green tea with basil seeds is great to take with lunch boxes too, especially during summer and monsoon time. You can add fruits to the chilled or iced green tea as well, just like this peach tea with basil seeds..

9. Steamed ragi bread lunch box, gluten free goodness ...

Ragi bread can be made in the oven or in a skillet. While oven baked and skillet baked bread needs some time, the steamed bread is almost instant if you have prepared the dough in advance.

Half a cup of sourdough and 1/2 cup each of rice flour, black lentil flour (urad daal powder) and a cup of ragi flour is mixed with a little salt and sugar with enough water to make it a loose dough or a thick batter consistency, and is fermented overnight or for 5-6 hours. This batter/dough keeps well in the fridge for a week. About a cup of this batter is spread on the steamer lined with muslin and is steamed till the bread cooks, a knife comes out clean when poked. The steaming of this bread takes only 8-10 minutes.

Brush the cooked bread with ghee or butter immediately, slice when a bit cold.

gluten free steamed ragi bread

I packed a sour cream dip with basil and chives along with a green almond and rucola pesto here. The sour cream dip includes some minced fresh basil and garlic chives along with salt. The pesto has green almonds, rucola, olive oil and salt. You can add some Parmesan or fresh cream to this pesto. I find fresh cream in rucola based pesto better.

This steamed ragi bread can be slit in the middle like pita bread and stuffed too, but the stuffed steamed ragi bread wouldn't hold well for a packed lunch, that will be better consumed immediately. I like the dip and pesto being applied slowly and eating the bread relishing the flavours. Pack peanut butter or jam or smooth scrambled egg with this bread and enjoy.

10. Dosa sandwich...

Here is a dosa sandwich that I make sometimes, to be packed with a paprika mayo (homemade of course).

Just make regular multi grain dosa a bit thick, cut into quarters and stuff mayo based salad between 2 such wedges. It stays very well in the lunch box and doesn't get soggy at all.

This sandwich doesn't taste like dosa much, the filling is the game changer here.

11. Sattu ka paratha lunch box...

This is one of the most favourite childhood lunch box paratha that both of us love. Sattu ka paratha was a regular monsoon delicacy because it doesn't spoil easily, one of the healthiest desi meals I must say, even though it is made of whole wheat flour and is not gluten free.

And there you see the baingan ka chokha.

The chokha is different from bharta in being just roasted and mashed and not fried in a pan. Just mash roasted (char grilled) and peeled brinjal (preferably the round ones) with minced garlic and green chillies, some salt and mustard oil and it is a luscious goodness you can't resist.

sattu ka paratha lunch box

The cucumber and roasted peanuts kachumber or kosambari is no rocket science either. Just mix some roasted pounded nuts and whatever greens and cucumber you like and drizzle some lime juice, some salt and little sugar to balance.

We like plain buttermilk with this meal and somehow I forgot placing the bottle along with this sattu ka paratha lunch box.

sattu ka paratha lunch box

Buttermilk can also be chilled or frozen overnight so it stays good for a few hours in the commuting time and the office.

I pack 2 bottles of buttermilk for myself sometimes, just for the home work desk I mean. It reminds me that I have something to drink for comfort. Else I just keep sipping water.

buttermilk in a bottle

Guess what more I have for giveaway? Tell me in your comments below, make a guess. I will announce the next giveaway in the next post of the series.

I intend to post a good number of posts about lunch boxes and a few more giveaways are scheduled. Keep commenting and telling me about your preferences and requirements regarding lunch boxes and enter a chance to win something interesting and useful to make your lunch boxes fun.

healthy drinks

I understand some of you are waiting for the next posts of this series, your mails and messages reach me and I feel glad that you are finding this series useful. But it takes a lot of time, sometimes 10 hours of work to make a post like this one, so please bear with me while I create the new posts. I promise I will bring something useful and healthful.

There are more giveaways, to enter you have to tell me what you prefer in lunch boxes and what suggestions and ideas you would like to know. Write you comments here, there are a few useful pretty things up for grab the giveaway will be announce by the end of July.

The giveaway is open for India only, I can ship your reward to an Indian address if you wish.
There is a pretty hand painted lunch box as a giveaway from Trove and another useful steamer from Tupperware to win as well. don't forget to comment..

Note that all these healthy lunch boxes are not recommendations to loose weight although they may be helpful for the cause by default. I feel disappointed when any health advise is taken as a way to loose weight. Everyone has different health concerns and must follow a diet regime that works best for one.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

lunch boxes for adults : do not let the simple roti subzi be boring, jazz up the everyday subzi, make the subzi quick

Lunch boxes for office have always been serious business. They made history in service industry by just collecting the lunch boxes from homes of office goers and delivering them to their offices, the Bombay Dabbawalas are now a case study at Harward Business School.

We Indians want home cooked food everyday even though we have become more and more experimental. Home cooked comfort is unparalleled.

The kind of mails and comments on blog and instagram I am getting, I understand the most loved lunch boxes will be the desi types. Roti subzi in the north and idlis and different types of rice preparations in the south are the kind of meals loved by adults in their office lunch boxes. School going kids prefer more fancy stuff but adults always want better value for the effort.

Also, for most of us lunch time is crucial because this is the first meal of the day that we eat at leisure and yet we want to call it a working lunch. Breakfast for most of us is a hurried affair. Incidentally for myself, breakfast is late and often makes a brunch which is mostly the stuff I pack for the husband, that makes me test the lunch box about any spoilage or change in taste or texture.

I learnt a few things regarding avoiding food spoilage and change in texture etc in packed lunches since I started packing lunches for both of us technically.

Here are the 5 things to ensure quick and convenient lunch boxes everyday...
  1. All raw salads have to be simple as there is not much time to chop and mix ingredients and dressings but the raw food has to be tossed with a little vinegar to avoid any spoilage. 
  2. Rotis have to be folded while still hot and packed into the lunch box to keep the soft. Applying some butter or ghee helps retain the texture better. 
  3. Don't carry any curries that may leak accidentally or may spill when opening the lunch box. Quick dry stir fries with minimal spicing works best as it gets ready quickly and stays fresh to be eaten after a few hours. 
  4. Get the lunch boxes washed really well and rinsed with hot water everyday if they are not being machine washed. Any remaining bits of food will breed microbes and cause spoilage of food the next day. Grooves of the lids are to be watched. 
  5. The cut fruits should be placed in the office refrigerator immediately after reaching or should be meant for the mid morning snacking. Cut fruits should not be kept for more than a couple of hours. Smaller fruits should be carried whole, only pineapple, papaya, melons etc can be cut and packed, preferably with a little lime juice to prevent oxidation. 

Apart from this, invest in good quality lunch boxes and have a few sets of them for different types of foods you carry. I use a few glass containers with plastic fitting lid for yogurt and raw salads and find them very convenient to retain the taste and aroma of raw foods and any slightly acidic foods.

The glass storage boxes from Luminarc and Borgonovo are great as they have a good tight filling plastic lid. I like stainless steel lunch boxes too as the food doesn't spoil and can be reheated in the old fashioned office ovens that most Government offices have. Some plastic lunch boxes form Tupperware are good only for the foods that can be eaten without reheating. I generally avoid microwave reheating in plastic, glass is better for MW cooking or reheating.

These stainless steel lunch boxes are from Trove, hand painted on the outside, making them look good, making lunch time a bit of fun. The paint doesn't come in contact with food so there is no worry of leaching of any chemicals.

Here is how I pack the roti subzi lunch boxes...

I believe in eating loads of seasonal vegetables so you will see I do some effort in cooking the vegetables and packing generous quantities too. It helps that I have a help for chopping the vegetables the previous day. I have provided quick subzi recipes typed in italics or have provided links to the subzi recipes.

This ghee fried peppery okra in the lunch box below is a favourite and we treat it as a salad more.

The other white gravy curry is a plain lauki (bottle gourd) cooked with coconut milk that we both love. It take about 10 minutes to cook 2 generous portions. Just pressure cook the diced lauki (600 gm) with 1/4 cup water and salt to taste, add 150 ml coconut milk and give a quick tadka of mustard seeds, dry red chillies and curry patta.

It helps when the subzi in the lunch box is simpler in flavours, as the flavours stay fresh even after 3-4 hours. More complex spicy curries may taste good to some, but they will make the lunch area quite smelly for others when one is eating lunch. We might not like to spread the aromas of our lunch box in a common dining room or even a private room where the aroma may stay on.

The other roti subzi lunch box has a Lauki chana daal subzi with Amritsari vadi and a garden salad with boiled eggs. The salad is just chopped red onions and raw spinach from garden tossed with kasundi (Indian mustard sauce) and poured over chopped boiled eggs. This way the eggs don't smell.

The subzi again takes some 15 minutes to cook. Heat mustard oil, add one Amritsari vadi (broken) into hot oil and fry till fragrant. Add a little turmeric powder, peeled and diced bottle gourd (500-600 gm bottle gourd), salt and soaked chana dal(3-4 tbsp soaked daal). Toss well to mix, add 1/2 cup water and pressure cook.

This subzi looks like a lot of effort but cooks quickly and tastes great to if you like Amritsari vadi. The good thing is, that the vadis have all the flavorings of real spices and some chillies so you don't need to add any to the subzi. This lobiya subzi with Amritsari vadiyan is almost similar and can be great lunch box subzi too.

Another subzi with Amritsari vadi is with Turai (sponge gourd that I made in similar fashion, with or without chana daal. See in the next lunch box. The other white gravy curry is a poppy seeds onion curry called peyaz posto with some paneer cubes.

Adding paneer or eggs to the lunch box makes it easier to balance. This 10 minute kasoori methi paneer will be great for lunch box. The celery tomato paneer bhurji, or another celery paneer also makes a great option or try this drumstick greens tomato and paneer curry for lunch box.

Another okra stir fry is made in just 5-6 minutes using pre cut whole baby okra. Just heat a little mustard oil, add a slit green chilly and dunk in the baby okra. Toss and stir fry for 3-4 minutes and sprinkle some yellow mustard powder, pepper powder, garlic powder and a little amchoor powder or lime juice. This one also serves as a salad and also tastes great when wrapped in plain rotis.

There is some quick paneer bhurji in this lunch box that also takes less than 5 minutes if you have pre cut onions and green chillies. To make this one I just use the pan which was used for the okra stir fry or any other stir fry that I made that day, no extra oil required. Just saute the green chillies and onion for a minute, add crumbled paneer, salt and pepper and scramble for a minute or till the paneer gets heated thoroughly. Pack as required. 

There is some khatta meetha aam ka achar in the silicon muffin liner. These muffin liners are great to pack something extra in the lunch boxes. 

There are many everyday subzi recipes you can follow and suit them to pack in the lunch box. Some more stir fry vegetables and stir fry salads form this blog can be adapted for lunch boxes. I love lotus stem curries and raw plantain too for room temperature meals akin to lunch box.

The rotis are always multi grain or at least a mix of barley flour and besan (chickpea flour) and we do like a generous smear of ghee on our rotis whenever we eat them.

I am planning to share some chutneys, sauces and quick salads suitable for lunch boxes in this series, as suggested by Ritika Kapoor in the comments section of last post. I understand that having some home made sauces and chutneys can be very convenient in planning lunch boxes for both adults and kids. I am glad there are more people who don't want to eat bottles sauces and chutneys and want to make the effort for getting the right thing.

I am announcing another give away in this series. This time it is a 3 tier hand painted lunch box from Trove, I am sure it will make your lunch box even more interesting or you can even use this box to store some dry snacks at home or at your office desk.

To enter to win this give away you have to tell me what are your lunch box preferences generally and what more you would want to have everyday. Write your suggestions and your mail id in the comment section of this post and enter a chance to win this beauty for yourself. The give away is open till the end of July.

Keep telling me more about your lunch box requirements. You can find me on Facebook, instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Follow me there if you like what I do and keep giving me feedback as that is how you get to see what you want here.

This giveaway is open till the end of July 2015, applies within India, apologies for not being able to ship worldwide. 
Please provide your mail id in the comment section so I can get in touch with you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

lunch boxes for adults | vegetable fried rice for dieters, mango salsa and home made yogurt

Someone asked me about lunch box options last month and I started rattling about the various options one can carry to office everyday. I was talking to a new mother who has to leave her daughter to her grandparents before leaving for office, the lunch box is prepared by a part time cook who can prepare only the basic Indian dishes.

One of the challenges faced by working mothers is taking care of their own health and they often find themselves compromising on their own food, mostly to save some time or just succumbing to whatever is available. There is so much to tackle everyday.

As I was talking to this acquaintance, I decided I will do a series of lunch box options with very simple yet tasty recipes that can be prepared easily with limited cooking skills. These lunch boxes have to be healthy and calorie smart, something that is filling, satisfying and energizing for a working day. And yet something that keeps one stick to their dietary goals.

lunch box types

I will be doing a series of lunch boxes for health conscious adults, what kind of lunch boxes to use and what kind of foods to carry in different seasons. In summers one needs to take care of the food that may get spoiled in a sealed lunch box, while in winters one needs reheating the food in office microwave or oven. We will discuss all those concerns one by one.

There is no limit to options but one has to plan smartly, make arrangements for ingredients and instruct the cook accordingly if the food is cooked by a part time or full time cook. There are many who cook their lunch boxes on their own and pack for office, in that case you may need to do some preparation the night before. I would recommend you get some help in chopping the vegetables and keeping them refrigerated in Tupperware containers or Ziplock pouches.

And then preparing a balanced lunch box meal wouldn't be difficult within 20-30 minutes in the morning. Here is a fried rice with mixed vegetables and sesame powder with just 3 tbsp cooked rice used per serving. A mango salsa makes a good accompaniment for such a rice dish and some home made yogurt balances the meal perfectly.

lunch box for adults

You can get the vegetables chopped finely the previous night, the rice can also be cooked and refrigerated or can be cooked in rice cooker in the morning while you prepare the vegetables. Mango salsa needs to be chopped in the morning, it stays well for about 4-5 hours at room temperature.

Recipe of fried rice (2 servings)

ingredients ...

cooked rice 5-6 tbsp
finely chopped cabbage 1 cup
grated carrots 1/2 cup
par boiled or frozen peas (frozen peas cook faster if they are tender) 1/2 cup
sesame powder 2 tbsp
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder a pinch
dry ginger powder 1/2 tsp
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
ghee 2 tsp
cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
lime juice or anardana powder (optional)


Cook rice on the side if precooked refrigerated rice is not being used.

Heat the ghee, add cumin seeds and let them crackle. Add the chopped vegetables at once along with salt and pepper. Stir to mix and cover for 5 minutes on low flame.

Add the powdered spices and stir well to mix. Cook for another couple of minutes, add lime juice or anaradana powder if using. Add the cooked rice and sesame powder and mix well. Adjust seasoning and pack.

Recipe of mango salsa (2 servings)


ripe mangoes chopped in small cubes 1 cup
finely diced red onions 2-3 tbsp
finely chopped coriander and mint greens 2-3 tbsp
finely chopped green chillies to taste or red chilly flakes
salt to taste
lime juice to taste if serving the mango salsa immediately
or balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar if packing the salsa in the lunch box


Mix everything together and give it a good stir. Pack as required.

lunch box for adults

I have been setting my own yogurt for years and recently I shifted to making yogurt in an earthen pot. Both of us are so addicted to this home made yogurt set in an earthen pot that we don't eat any packaged yogurt anymore. So much so that Arvind used to get single serving packs of yogurt from his office canteen earlier during his lunch, but now he carries the home made yogurt everyday. That is one good change that we made recently. Even I am eating more yogurt that I used to eat or force myself to eat.

You can always set yogurt in glass containers as I used to do earlier. Let me know if you find it difficult to make your own yogurt at home. I will do a detailed post on how to make yogurt at home using pasteurized milk as that is what we get in cities mostly.

This lunch box is very filling and not at all heavy. When I eat the same lunch I prefer eating the yogurt a little later as a snack. Plain home made yogurt will be much more tasty than the packaged flavoured ones trust me.

There will be more on lunch box options here, stay tuned. And ask any questions if you too want a balanced lunch box meal best suited for you.

The lunch box set featured here is from Tupperware
tupperware lunch box set

Tupperware is giving away a steamer for the readers of who are following this lunch box series spread across 6 weeks. Just comment on this post saying what are the lunch box options you like generally and what more you would want to learn to make your lunch box more balanced. Please provide your mail id too so I can contact you once the winners are decided.

tupperware steamer

The winners will be decided on the basis of answers provided in the comment section. So start commenting, this give away is valid for 6 weeks (till end of July), there will be 2 winners and 2 giveaways. The other give away will be announced in the next post in lunch box series.

If you like eating rice there are a few rice recipes that will satiate your rice loving appetite and yet make the meal balanced for you. Try them for lunch box rice meals too if you wish.

This giveaway is open till the end of July 2015, applies within India, apologies for not being able to ship worldwide. 
Please provide your mail id in the comment section so I can get in touch with you.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

recipe of REAL food, some Magging and a pumpkin salad | caramalaised pumpkin salad with garlic-thyme butter and cheddar shavings

Yes there is a recipe of REAL food. And the recipe to real food needs a lot of unlearning, a lot of un-conditioning in modern times. The 'food markets' have conditioned us so much that we started thinking of food differently, we don't recognize an eggplant or pumpkin as food anymore and the 'dead' noodles coming out of a cheap packet is perceived naturally as the yummiest most desirable 'food'.

Caramelized pumpkin packs natural flavours, would it appeal to the palates paralysed by MSG laden 'tastemakers'?

pumpkin salad with garlic-thyme butter and cheddar shavings

Just think about the number of people who wouldn't feel hungry by the name of pumpkin and a packet of Maggi will make them hungry instantly and will bring back loads of 'happy memories' that they made in hostel rooms and mountain holidays.

Just imagine what Maggi has done to their growing up years not to mention to their system. They don't even realise there are chemical reasons behind this 'feel good addiction', the way a cheap small pack of instant noodles has clouded  and hijacked their sense of taste and satiety.

I have been watching some discussions and jokes about Maggi and MSG on social media lately and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time someone proclaims MSG is a natural component of many natural ingredients. See this facebook discussion to know how some people spread more ignorance about the facts. No wonder MSG has become the common salt in almost every home and street food vendors have been using MSG to make even sambar, daal and chhole tastier.

Maggi and their ilk have garnered such a following that people are not even believing reports from Govt. authorities regarding other toxic chemicals found in them, limits permissible or not. And then they claim that everything edible natural food also has some or the other toxic component. But is that equal to junk food being laced with toxins too?

The most frustrating discussions and arguments came from people who were comparing Maggi with pesticide ridden vegetables and even alcohol, nicotine and even spurious medicine. As educated and aware consumer we must know pesticide ridden vegetables and fruits are a different matter on it's own. Nicotine and alcohol are not even distantly related to the issues of junk foods that our bodies haven't even known as food.

All these convenience foods that have been made 'hyper-tasty' with the help of several chemicals including MSG, more chemicals go into them to prolong the shelf life. These food like objects find place on our tables and in our lives through a very strategic marketing that involves clever advertising and placement of the shiny packets on supermarket isles as well as the corner grocer of the colony.

Maggi and it's ilk creeped into our kitchens stealthily, hijacked the sense of taste and satiety so much so most of us started rejecting real food. And many of us even started arguing to defend Maggi.

True that Maggi has not killed anyone that the arguments are saying, but we can't be this shortsighted to ignore the metabolic disorder that is fast becoming an epidemic. Young innocent kids are getting diabetic and obese, adults develop multiple hormonal imbalances even before they reach middle age. I wonder why many of us do not realise that our body is equipped to heal itself if we stop eating trash and start nourishing it with real food.

Many said that they eat Maggi 'only occasionally' for a 'rare treat'. Just imagine Maggi being called a 'treat'. The trash being called a 'treat'. Need I say more to emphasize how Maggi and it's ilk has hijacked the sense of taste and satiety in today's world?

Aren't there real noodles tossed with real ingredients to make a tasty meal?


I wish a trend starts when there are fresh noodle makers just like the bread bakeries around towns, we already have dosa and idli batter makers who sell ready batter for everyone's convenience, the fresh noodles made with real ingredients will be a welcome business venture. One can use their own seasonings, sauces and vegetables to cook their own favourite concoction. That kind of real noodles will be better even if they are made of white flour, at least one would be saved from the load of chemicals.

Just do away with fabricated food friends. Period.

And now a recipe of REAL food, the kind that wouldn't even appeal to the 'tastemaker' addicted palates and minds. But I hope they try it sometime and know how pumpkins can pack more flavours than they imagine. All of you who come to find real recipes here know it already :-)

Caramalised pumpkin pan grilled with thyme-garlic butter, served with cheddar shavings ...

pumpkin salad with garlic-thyme butter and cheddar shavings

Just imagine firm yellow pieces of pumpkin being slow braised in a pan along with butter and thyme, some large slices of garlic that turn crisp by the time the pumpkin gets nicely caramelized both sides. The flavours seep in so well that no tastemaker can replicate this.

Choose a ripe pumpkin with tough flesh, orange yellow in colour and almost brown skin. Slice the pumpkin, peel off the skin and chop the flesh into bite sized fat slices. Get started to make this delicious salad.

pumpkin slices

(2 large servings or 6 servings as a party starter )

about 2 dozen bite sized fat slices of pumpkin (400 gm)
thyme leaves 3-4 springs
butter 1 tbsp
sliced garlic as much as you like ( I used 4 fat cloves)
salt to taste
mature cheddar cheese to shave over the cooked salad ( I used a small leftover cube)


Grease a flat griddle with butter and arrange the pumpkin cubes and garlic slices over it. Sprinkle with salt lightly, sprinkle half the thyme leaves too and let the pumpkin pieces grill slowly on low heat. I prefer covering the griddle with a domed lid for this.

Turn over the pumpkin slices and sprinkle the other half of thyme leaves. The addition of thyme leaves at different phases of grilling ensures the flavours seep in really well. The garlic slices will start browning slowly alongside.

Cover again and let it grill and caramelize. Poke with a sharp knife to know the pumpkin has softened to your preference. The surface should be nicely caramelised and spotted.

pumpkin salad with garlic-thyme butter and cheddar shavings

Arrange in a serving plate and shave mature cheddar over the hot pumpkin slices and see the cheese shavings melt.

Dig right into it and see how it surprises you if you haven't loved pumpkin ever.

For party starters this salad can be served with some cocktail sticks or small forks so the guests can pick up he pumpkin cubes easily from a platter. Avoid serving it in a deep bowl, always a wide shallow platter.

Eat real food, forget Maggi and forget all reconstituted foods that come in shiny cheap packets. Eat local and seasonal vegetables and fruits and see how you get more nutrient value for your hard earned buck.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

lessons from Maggi episode and a recipe of REAL food | eggplant open sandwich with feta cheese and home grown rucola

Looks like Maggi has raised a generation of devotees who wouldn't listen to logic when it comes to MSG and it's being healthy, unhealthy or nonreactive in human body. I am amazed to see people who come up with 'facts' about MSG being natural and harmless, and how they have been using it for ages and are still alive. They forget the hormonal imbalances they are facing and the metabolic disorder that runs in the families.

I have some experience in consulting people with metabolic disorders and letting them heal just by switching to real food only, the reason I can say with some surety that the food like objects thrown at us by the food industry are really harmful even though we don't realise to start with. But we start noticing when the odd symptoms of IBS vanish when we switch to real food, the hormonal disturbances that just felt like a bother start getting healed and we notice the better quality of life we experience.

Better energy levels, better fitness and better lifestyle is compromised when junk food creeps stealthily on to the family dining table. Thankfully, if one realizes early and gives the body a chance, the body shows how it can heal with a little discipline practiced.

The recent controversy about Maggi is a great opportunity to investigate into each packaged food you buy, and make informed choices. You may want to see a study that indicates how MSG and trans fats together cause fatty liver disease and continued intake of these keeps damaging cells, causes cell cycle and lipid storage impairment, hepatic inflammation. No prizes for guessing that MSG and trans fats are used together in most processed foods causing chronic dislipidemia

Stop being trapped into a cheap packet of Maggi. Start recognizing real food, the taste will surprise you and you would start looking for more good sources of ethically grown vegetables, fruits and grains, better sources of meat, poultry and seafood. Just don't be misled by claims that everything is polluted in this world and we don't have any choice but to dig into a bowl of instant noodle.

Now let's see how do we make the real food simple, almost instant just like the instant noodles and delicious with the real taste, the way nature intended. Yes, there are some people allergic to eggplants (brinjals) too but I have myself seen how some people who were actually allergic to brinjals started eating them happily after their other diet habits were changed through a methodical personalised program, allergies sometime aggravate in the presence of other unnatural foods in the diet, once you remove those factors the allergies go on their own.

aubergine open sandwich

Eggplants or Aubergines are commonly called as Baingan in India. This vegetable gets mixed feelings in almost every country I guess. Some people who hate mushy vegetables never get the fortune to taste the subtle flavour that this buttery mush packs. But eggplants can be made into such delicious mush that you would start loving Baba ghaoush, Caponata, Grilled aubergines, Stuffed brinjals, Japanese style grilled eggplants and even Baingan ka chokha which is the simplest mashed vegetable we make almost twice a week. I am guilty of not sharing the baingan ka chokha recipe but I will correct that really soon I promise.

round purple brinjals

These large round variety of brinjals is considered to be good for chokha and bharta in India and we buy these by the dozen. Okay, half a dozen if not a dozen :-)

Fat round slices of the same round variety of brinjal is shallow fried to make a 'Begun bhaja' which is a Bengali classic and I have adapted the Begun bhaja to make these open sandwiches for a hearty brunch or a breakfast when I want very little bread and loads of vegetables.

aubergine open sandwich

Bread is always whole wheat and home baked. Open sandwiches with free form loaves make better sense and a topping like these brinjal rounds make it really irresistible.

If I tell you there is no recipe for these sandwiches and that these are the yummiest sandwiches one can have, you shouldn't be surprised. Just make it once for the sake of ease and simplicity of this recipe and get addicted to the real pleasures of real food.

Just remember to choose light weight fresh brinjals to make this sandwich topping. 


aubergine slices as many as you need, make more as you would consume more than you think
salt as required
mirin or balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar to drizzle ( I use mirin)
feta cheese to smear on the finished sandwiches
pepper or other seasoning if you need ( I did not need here as the peppery rucola was quite a lot)
eggs to serve the way you like
bits of bacon if you like
olive oil or mustard oil to shallow fry (I have used both and love both)

procedure ...

Slice the brinjals thickly, slash them lightly on one side and sprinkle salt generously over them all. Let them rest for at least an hour. Wash under running water and drain in colander.

Smear a skillet with oil, spread the aubergine slices slashed side down, let them brown and then flip them to cook on the other side too. Drizzle oil as required.

Drizzle with mirin or vinegar or lime juice once done and arrange over toasted bread. Smear feta cheese and top with rucola or other salad greens of choice.

aubergine open sandwich

If making these for a larger crowd you might want to flash fry these brinjal rounds as shallow frying takes a bit of time and doing many batches can be distressing for the cook.

Brinjals don't absorb oil when flash fried in really hot oil.

If using the oblong variety of brinjals you can only slit the brinjal into two lengthwise and shallow fry as directed.

long purple brinjals

You can also use the white or green varieties of eggplants (brinjals) for making these sandwich sliders or toppings. These greens ones grew in our garden for a few years till I removed the plants, this year we are starting to get slender purple brinjals.

green eggplant

Minimal effort can bring so much natural flavours from real food. This brinjal sandwich will become a favourite with your family trust me.

We even love a salad made with chunks of brinjal prepared the same way. I will update those pictures of the brinjal salad here soon, we normally have it for a quick dinner and photography doesn't happen in such times.

Tell me what interesting ways you like your brinjal?

Monday, June 1, 2015

palm fruit or Ice apple, one of the most exotic fruit | recipe of ice apple and mango creamy dessert fit for breakfast

I made desserts and breakfast bowls using palm fruits, known as Nungu, Tadgola or Ice apple that I brought from my recent visit to Hyderabad.

Yes this would be the yummiest gluten free breakfast even if I don't tag it as the 101 gluten free breakfasts. After all it is made of fruits, milk and nuts. No added sugar for me please. Ice apples, ripe mangoes, cashew nuts and milk, these four ingredients can cast a spell in a bowl.

nungu mango payasam

Ice apple or Palm fruits are in season right now and this peak of summer is the short span of time when they appear in markets of some Indian towns. Yes, these are seen only in some Indian towns although the Palm tree (Borassus flballifer) grows almost all over the country.

Such a pity.

But one of the reasons why it is not available throughout the country could be the absence of the trained people who climb the Palm trees to pluck these and sell them after chopping off the hard shell these Ice apples are enclosed into.

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

Ice apples are the delicate jelly like endosperm of the Palm fruit (Borassus flabellifer) that is so flavourful one has to eat it to know what I mean. Not sweet like other fruits but mild cooling sweetness that quenches thirst like nothing else. The texture of this jelly like fruit feels almost watery when tender, and starts getting a bit chewy as it matures.

Ice apples are called Taal shash in Bengali, Nungu in Tamil, Thaati munjalu in Kannada Tad gola in Marathi and Tad phal in Hindi. I asked my father and he told that these fruits were once common in the north too but later these were considered fruits for the poor. What a pity. 

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

I spotted these Palm fruit sellers in Hyderabad 2 weeks ago and could not refrain myself from buying some every time I passed through this road. One has to choose the tender ones because the mature Ice apples are a bit chewy and less sweet. The tender Ice apples have a sweet watery fluid inside it's cavity and the flesh is jelly like.

One Palm fruit encloses three Ice apples (endosperm part of the fruit) inside and each one is enclosed in a thin soft peel. Nature's wonders.

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

These Palm fruit sellers are quite deft at chopping off the hard shell of the fruit and delicately sliding off the fruit (edible endosperm) into a poly bag. I wish they had leaf bowls to sell these.

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

But it is a delight to see these Palm fruit sellers do their job. I was wondering if they accidentally cut their own palm while handling such sharp knives on such hard fruits.

And to my shock I spotted this scar later when I was seeing the cell phone pictures I had clicked. This man had actually got a deep cut sometime in his early life may be.

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

This is how the husk looks like. This would make good manure after it decomposes.

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

I clicked these pictures while Nirupama, my friend in Hyderabad collected the Palm fruits in a poly bag. She was the one who asked the seller to give us the tender fruits.

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

We enjoyed the fruits once we reached Bhavana's place. Nirupama told that the creamy white and thin peel of the Ice apples is used to rub on skin to cure summer rashes, the prickly heat.

I asked a few more people if they cooked these Ice apples too or made salads or desserts with these but everyone said they eat them as is. In fact it is very difficult to save these fruits to cook something as everyone just loves eating them as soon as it arrives.

Later, on my way back to airport I asked the cab driver to stop for the 'Thaati munjalu' (telugu name for these) and he kept looking for them. Such a sweet fellow he stopped where a Palm fruit seller was sitting with a huge heap of these. He even asked him to cut only the tender fruits for me. And I got two dozen of these Ice apples packed into my handbag, though I feared these might be seized at the airport.
But thankfully, these are no arms :-)

nungu, tadgola or Ice apple

Back home, both of us enjoyed the chilled Ice apples of Thaati munjalu to our heart's content. I shared a picture of facebook and friends came up with suggestions to have these with chilled milk. Intrigued, I searched the internet and found someone had blended the Ice apples with soaked cashew to make a payasam. I loved the idea as we both love cashew nuts a lot.

And there came our first Nungu payasam.

nungu payasam

I made this one with soaked cashew nuts paste blended with reduced milk (evaporated milk) and added chopped tender Ice apples. This was heaven in a bowl when chilled.

Just a dozen soaked cashew nuts blended with a little milk, added to a cup of reduced milk and a cup of chopped Ice apples. I did not add any sugar and the flavours of ice apple in the natural sweetness of cashew and reduced milk was something we will keep craving till the next time we get Ice apples.

And the next day I added some chopped mangoes to the same mix to make Nungu Mango payasam, and had it chilled for breakfast. This is going to be one of the best breakfasts we ever had. We love fruits and we love milk, this combination of milk and fruits is going to be one of the most favourite thing we did.

nungu mango payasam

Clicking pictures was difficult as I kept eating while I clicked and took just 3 pictures to document the recipe.

This Nungu Mango payasam has no such recipe again. A dozen soaked cashew nuts blended with little milk, added to a cup pf reduced evaporated) milk and then mixed with 3/4 cup of chopped Ice apples and 1 cup of chopped ripe mangoes. No added sugar and still so sweet and flavourful. 

No added sugar to kill the natural sweetness of these flavourful fruits.

And remember this dish can be served as a chilled dessert too, you might like to add just a hint of honey to it if you find it bland as per your 'dessert sense'. My dessert sense agrees with the natural sweetness of fruits.

So a larger serving of such a dessert for breakfast is a good idea for me.