Tricolor Upma

Seasoned Cream of Wheat cooked with Potato, Peas and Carrots

Upma is to South Indians what cereal is to Americans – a breakfast staple.

My relationship with Upma for the most part of my life had been a hate-hate one. It slowly changed to being a love-hate note during my college days when I stepped out of home and longed for home cooked meals.

No points for guessing what I am about to say now. As you might have expected, finally I can say it now sings a love-love tone.

I guess each of us have a certain food or a list of them that we go through phases with. Undoubtedly, Upma tops that list of mine. I have an explanation for that. For the ease of making it or for even simpler reason that Upma making ran on an autopilot mode in my Grand dad’s place growing up, Upma showed up on my plate more often than I would have liked, consistently throughout all my school years. Needless to say, that made me sick and tired of eating it day in and day out and did I mention the lunch boxes? Familiarity bred contempt and Upma almost turned to be my arch rival.

Being far away from home does wonderful things to quite a many fussy eaters, not that I am proud to call myself one! I often catch myself yearning for Upma which, now has taken that special place of special weekend breakfasts and sometimes a quick (lazy) brunch too..


There are a myriad variations of Upma for every local flavor, city, regional influence et al. This recipe in particular is borrowed from my aunt Va, ‘cos each time she made it I only remember licking to my last finger. Finishing off with the grated carrot goodness is borrowed from my good friend DM.
I did not forget. Yes, it is yet another weapon of sneaking vegetables for my fussy pre-schooler.
I don’t know where on your list sits Upma right now. Have you too had such love-hate relationships with any particular food? I am curious to hear…


Tricolor Upma Recipe

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
  • 1 cup Rava / Cream of wheat (Sooji / Upma Rava)
  • 1 medium potato, chopped skin on
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut
  • small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • salt
  • 1-3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 medium lemon
for the tempering:
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • dash of hing/asafoetida
  • 2 green chillies, seeded and sliced into rounds
  • 1-1/2 tsp split bengal gram / chana dal
  • 1-1/2 tsp split black gram /urad dal
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • pinch of turmeric

How it’s done:

  • In a medium kadai / heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, dry roast the rava until fragrant or for about 10 -15 mins. Remove rava on to a plate and keep aside. Optionally, microwave rava spread on a microwave safe plate for about 2 mins at 1 min intervals.
  • Add oil to the same kadai /saucepan placed over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, reduce heat to medium and add green chillies, hing, chana dal, urad dal, curry leaves and lastly turmeric in the same order. When the lentils turn golden brown, chillies show white spots, add onion and sauté until translucent.
  • Add potatoes, stir well and cook covered until potatoes are tender. To this, add peas, grated coconut and salt and stir well.
  • Add water and bring it to a boil.  Adjust salt if required now. When the water comes to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low and add roasted rava to the kadai stirring simultaneously to avoid lumps. Mash to get rid of lumps, if any and when no more lumps remain, simmer covered for 5-10 mins. Sprinkle grated carrots, squeeze lemon juice and stir to mix well.
  • Serve hot garnished with chopped cilantro with a side of pickle and/or yogurt.
How to make your own instant Upma mix at home:
  • 1 cup Rava / Cream of wheat (Sooji / Upma Rava)
  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • dash of hing/asafoetida
  • 2 red chillies, seeded and torn into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1-1/2 tsp split bengal gram / chana dal
  • 1-1/2 tsp split black gram /urad dal
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut or grated dried coconut (Kobri)
  • 1 tbsp dried onion flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro (optional)
  • salt
First roast the rava as explained above in “How it’s done”
Do the tempering in a kadai as explained in “How it’s done” with the listed ingredients here. Make sure that curry leaves turn crumbly crisp.
To this tempering, add roasted rava, salt and optionally dried onion flakes and dried cilantro and sauté for a few mins to mix well.
Remove on to a large plate and let cool. Store in an airtight container when cooled and use within 2-3 weeks.
How to use instant upma mix:
In a sauce pan, bring 1-3/4 times the water (e.g. 1 cup rava needs 1-3/4 cup water) to a boil. Reduce heat and add instant upma mix and cook along the lines of regular Upma.

Tips:

  • To hasten the cooking, you can optionally heat the water in a separate pot and keep ready instead of adding cold/room temperature water.
  • Rava can be pre-roasted in larger quantities and stores well in an airtight container for up to a couple of months at room temperature – saves time and makes upma easier.
  • Home made instant upma mix comes handy on short trips or tours for a quick fix meal
Note:
Upma simply stands for [Uppu + Maavu](Tamil)  => Salt + Flour.
Bansi Rava, Chiroti Rava, Sooji Rava, Semolina, Cream of wheat – What are they? Which is the right one and how do I know?
This is something that I seek clarity on too. So, based on a mish mash of my experience and couple of solid hours of googling here goes:
Based on the texture (milling grade) and the type of wheat, different kinds of Rava are available in Indian Stores – coarse and yellowish, medium fine & off-white and superfine & off-white are some I am familiar with. The medium fine off white rava works well for this upma recipe. In general, both the coarse (aka Bansi rava) and medium fine varieties are used for making upma. The superfine variety also known as chiroti rava in and around Bangalore and Mysore is mostly used in making sweets and Rava Dosa.
In Indian market parlance, Semolina and Cream of wheat are used interchangeably. However, it seems here in the US, both have different meanings. For more info check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semolina and Semolina v/s Cracked Wheat.
Simply put, both Semolina and Cream of wheat are refined grainy products of milling wheat (the inner part of it). They are stripped off the fiber / husk and for the same reason, quick to cook as well. Semolina which comes from Durum wheat is yellowish in color and other off-white varieties come from softer types of wheat.
Sending off this simple and unpretentious Tricolor Upma as my entry to:
For Beginners- FB category of Any One Can Cook : Series 12“ event hosted by Ayeesha Riaz of Taste of pearl City


Fruit and Nut Oatmeal

If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have probably cared less about oats anyway and said ‘Oats, No way!’
Oddly enough today, it is almost involuntarily that I reach out to the box of oats every morning for my breakfast. Place it in the middle of the so-called breakfast cereal of the masses – Honey bunch of oats, Cinnamon toast crunch or even a slightly elitist Kashi Go lean crunch to entice me and I’ll probably still choose oats any day. As for me, oats takes the guesswork out of conjuring up a healthy breakfast everyday.
But, wait a minute, I wasn’t quite talking about ‘instant’.
Maple and brown sugar, cinnamon and spice, apple and cinnamon, countless varieties of flavored instant oatmeal stacked up on the breakfast cereal aisle might beckon you to pick them up. Or your mornings are so rushed you invariably convince yourself to prefer ‘instant’. Or from the last time you tried, your taste buds labeled it so bland and unpalatable that you don’t even like the thought of it, let alone eat it again. Fair enough as the reasons are perfectly understandable.
Given a choice, would you still choose the ‘instant’ knowing that the real difference lies not in the time saved but in the vindication that you can make your own healthy breakfast at your very home in a short time and you decide every single ingredient that goes in. Isn’t it the kind of control we all yearn for every once in a while?
My point is, healthy does not have to be boring nor does it have to mean tasteless. Just a sprinkle of nature’s bounty can add a touch of magic to the unpretentious oatmeal. Simple things in life are natural and when old-fashioned oatmeal is dressed up with the goodness of nature’s simple ingredients, its natural virtue entwined with their deliciousness beats that cold cereal black and blue.
You must have heard of the new saying “A bowl of Oatmeal a day keeps cholesterol at bay”.
Guess it holds good only as long as you eat a nutritious one. And the reason why old-fashioned oats is good for you is the same as why whole wheat flour is better than all-purpose flour. It is whole grain, unprocessed, has no fiber stripped off and makes for a hearty filling breakfast. Combine it with some protein and some good fat and voila! you have a complete food while lowering its glycemic index too. Its high content of complex carbohydrates stabilizes blood-glucose levels and the good part is, it has enough water-soluble fiber, so you won’t need to reach out for Miralax, if you know what I mean.
Did you know that athletes and body builders swear by this super food? When its coming from those who take their body seriously, we can definitely learn a thing or two to keep ours well.
If you wish to take it a step forward, then it is steel-cut oats for you. Steel cut oats are just like their name suggests, whole grain oat groats cut into two-three pieces rather than being rolled unlike the old-fashioned oats. That peak I am yet to conquer but, someday I am sure I will.
I didn’t mean it to be a health-scribe, but guess I just couldn’t help it after all!

Disclaimer: Read the next few lines only if you are a new mommy

Among the breastfeeding circle, a bowl of Oatmeal for breakfast is believed to be good for increasing the milk supply. Though I do not know how much of science is behind this, I have certainly heard many-a-mamas vouch for this galactagogue* as a no-fail home remedy. It sure can’t hurt to try, it’s oatmeal for heaven sakes, there are no side effects.
Well, well, what do you know about this modest cereal!
*An agent that promotes the secretion and flow of milk
Things you’ll need:
  • 1/2 cup Old fashioned oats (I use Quaker oats)
  • 1/4 cup frozen / fresh blueberries
  • half a handful raisins
  • 8-10 walnut halves, broken into smaller pieces
  • dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Non fat milk
  • a drizzle of honey (optional, I do not use it)
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder (optional, for those of you seriously working out)
How it’s done:

  • Bring a cup of water to a boil in a thick bottomed saucepan. Add oats and let cook for about 5-8 mins until most of the water is absorbed. switch off, cover and let cook in its own steam until fully cooked and soft.
  • Or microwave the oats with 3/4 – 1 cup water for 2 1/2 mins in a large enough microwavable ceramic or glass bowl. Keep a close watch after 2 mins, it can bubble up and spill out if left unnoticed. Just pause the microwave for 15-20 sec, start again and it should finish cooking without spilling out.
  • Pour the milk, sprinkle some cinnamon, fold in the blueberries, walnut pieces, raisins and the optional items.
  • Mix and slurp away to breakfast heaven when warm.

Other variations which also go very well:

Choose from these options to mix and match as per your taste.
  • 7-8 almonds crushed in a mortar
  • 8-10 pecans torn into smaller bits
  • 2-3 chopped dates
  • 4-5 chopped prunes
  • 3-4 chopped figs
  • 1/2 banana sliced
  • 8-10 frozen or fresh dark cherries
  • 1-2 tsp cane sugar
  • drizzle of maple syrup
  • a pinch of powdered cardamom (about 2 pods)
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground raw flax seeds
  • 1 tsp of goji berries
  • 1 tsp ground raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp ground raw pumpkin seeds
Oatmeal is now my friend and with these delicious add-ins, it’ll be yours too.
Did you just have that passing “should have” kind of thought? Regret no more, tomorrow is always a new day. Start afresh  and let a bowl of your choice of yummy old-fashioned oatmeal make your day.

Whole Grain Dosa

100% Whole grain & lentil South Indian Crepes

I have a growing affinity towards whole foods (not the brand) off-late and I have been looking for ways to cut out all things refined from my dietary intake on a daily basis. The reason is simple. White is out, Brown is in! Whole foods are good for us. No, a fairy god mother did not whisper this to me. Neither did this suddenly dawn upon me one fine day. Just that, I am increasingly cognizant of everything I put in my mouth ever since I parted ways with those dreaded 35 pounds.
I love Masala Dosa. It has been my all time favorite ever since I can remember. I have found myself ordering it in restaurants time and again over the years and yet, never once fed up of it. Well, who doesn’t like Masala Dosa right?
It struck me like a lightning the other day – why not re-incarnate my favorite food in the whole foods arena? I get to eat what I like most in the most healthy way possible. Sounded like a win-win to me. And, I had everything I needed in my pantry to play along.
Recipe is plain simple. Just the same ingredients, replaced with their whole grain counter parts. Sounds easy? Unlike my guess, it was easy on my stomach too and to top it all, it was a guilt free indulgence.

Things you’ll need:

  • 1 cup Brown Rice
  • 1/2 cup whole black gram / whole urad dal
  • 1/4 cup whole bengal gram / whole chana dal
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 pinch of methi / fenugreek seeds (pinch with 3 fingers)
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
  • Sea salt
  • Oil for pan roasting (I prefer peanut oil)
How it’s done:
  • Place the Brown rice, fenugreek seeds and whole lentils in a large bowl, wash and soak them in water overnight.
  • In the morning, drain the water and give them another nice wash. This tiny step is important as it significantly reduces the gas causing indigestible complex sugars in the lentils.
  • Grind them with grated coconut, hing and green chillies along with a little water until smooth. The finished batter should neither be too thick nor runny.
  • Remove into a larger bowl (needs space for batter to rise), cover and set aside for fermenting for about 6-8 hours.
  • Once fermented, give the batter a good stir to mix well.
  • Add salt only to the portion that you will use now.
  • Place a tawa/griddle over medium-high heat. When the tawa is hot enough, ladle out about half a cup of batter and spread evenly in a circular motion.
  • Drizzle some oil all around and at the center, flip and cook on either sides until golden brown.
  • Serve hot with a chutney of your choice.

{Soaked rice and lentils look so gorgeous}
Tips:
  • Always use a spoon while handling Asafoetida as it’s smell, much like garlic is hard to get rid of when used with bare fingers.
  • Left over batter stores well in the refrigerator comfortably for 2-3 days without any added salt. If added, salt turns the batter sour when stored.
  • Do not add too much water while grinding the lentils and rice.
  • Too much of fenugreek seeds turn the batter bitter.
  • To ferment well in a cold place, pre-heat a conventional over to 350 degree F and switch off. Leave the covered bowl inside the pre-heated oven for about 6-8 hours.

Baalekaai Dose

Plantain Crepes

[Baa lay kaah ee Dosay] Kannada
Before my neighbor moved to Raleigh, she handed me down her entire vegetable crisper full of veggies. Along with it came a whole bunch of plantains. I had made curry, mor kozhambu (spiced yogurt dish), chips and bajji (fritters) from plantains earlier, but was neither ready to repeat the same nor let them go a waste. So, I called on Mr.Google for a little help and that’s how I came across this one.
Plantain seemed like an unusual addition to the Dosa batter at first, but the resulting Dosa was nothing short of dazzling our taste buds. It had an aroma of the bajji while subtly making its presence felt in a whole new way.
Him and I both equally liked it. The batter was over and we were yearning for more. It certainly is ‘blog worthy’ he declared and so it shall be.
And the best part yet, is it needs no fermentation unlike the regular Dosa. Green chillies are an addition in my version.

Things you’ll need:

  • 3/4 or 1 Plantain depending on the size, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup raw rice
  • 2-3 small green chillies
  • Sea salt
  • Oil for pan roasting
How it’s done:
  • Wash and soak the rice for 2-4 hours in warm water
  • Grind the soaked rice and green chillies. Halfway, add the chopped plantain and a little water and grind for  a smooth ‘neither too thick nor thin’ batter.
  • Heat a Tawa over medium-high heat. Ladle out the batter (about 1/2 a cup) on the tawa and spread it in a circular motion, starting from the center and outwards. Drizzle a little oil all around and at the center and cook on both sides until golden brown.
  • Serve hot with a chutney of your choice.
Tips:
  • Do not run the blender/mixer first with the plantain pieces; the blades don’t move due to the stickiness of the plantain.