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Rediscover the Joy of Home Cooking with Lavanya

BY LAVANYA SUBRAMANIAN*

With the advent of social media and various food apps, it has become extremely tempting to order food from your choice of restaurant at the tip of your finger. It is neither good for your health nor for your wallet 😉

While enjoying an occasional meal is always welcome, let us bring back the tradition of cooking at home.

Hello Folks – my name is Lavanya and I absolutely enjoy cooking. It’s my passion and probably my favorite thing to do on any given evening—even after a day’s work. (I do have a corporate job!). I completely understand it’s not for everyone, but let’s enjoy simple and homely meals with limited ingredients that can be put together quickly any day or evening. How about involving your entire family?

What has really worked for my family is to plan weekly meals together. We do it on Saturday or Sunday mornings over breakfast when the entire family is together. I have a husband and 2 teenage boys. We gather around the breakfast table and write down the weekly menu. Each person has to suggest one dinner idea, so I instantly get 3 dinners penned down. I pick one and we end up eating leftovers for the fifth day. On weekends, we go out or do a takeout for 1 meal.

Another suggestion is to always make a bigger portion than needed for your family. This ensures you have leftovers to cover lunches. Some simple vegetable dishes come in handy to make instant wraps for lunch. How about stuffing an Indian curry in a burger bun? Delicious!

I am sure you are getting the idea!

Come visit me on this monthly journey. Let us explore ingredients that are good for you along with simple recipes.

Do you want to learn more about any particular ingredient? Do you have questions about any foods? Feel free to email me at nutritiousambrosia@gmail.com.

Pour in your suggestions as well.

Looking forward to ‘healthy’ conversations over ‘delicious’ recipes!

Lets begin with a sweet dish – red rice pongal – a dessert made with red rice, dates, and maple syrup garnished with raisins and cashews. Red Rice is an ingredient that is chewy and fiber-rich due to the husk. It retains its shape and works very well in one-pot dishes, both sweet and savory. Red Rice is a great ingredient to cook in the InstantPot.

Red Rice Pongal (Gluten-Free)

Ingredients:

  • Red Rice – 2 cups
  • Dates 20
  • Maple syrup (warmed) 1 cup 
  • Raisins 2 tbsps
  • Cashewnuts (coarse broken) 2 tbsps
  • Cardamom (pounded to fine powder) 6 pods
  • Butter 2 tbsps 
  • Saffron strands (optional) 

Procedure:

  • First soak the dates in 1 cup of warm water for 30 mins and puree it to a fine paste
  • Start the InstantPot on SAUTE mode 
  • Add the butter and fry raisins and cashews
  • Add the pounded cardamom and fry
  • Add the red rice and fry until a nice aroma emanates – 3-4 mins 
  • Add the dates puree, saffron and 4 cups of water, cook with pressure for 15 minutes
  • Let it release pressure naturally
  • Open the cooker carefully, add the warmed maple syrup and mix thoroughly to get a soft, creamy texture
  • Red Rice Pongal is ready ! 

Homemade Nutella sweetened with Dates (no added sugar, Gluten-free, Vegan) 

All kids love Nutella. The rich creamy texture and taste are very appetizing. However typical store-bought Nutella has a lot of added sugar not to mention other chemicals. In our pursuit to avoid added sugars, we went about creating our own Nutella. This has allowed us a guilt-free indulgence, spreading loads on everything we fancy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw Blanced Hazelnuts
  • 20 Dates softened in hot water
  • 10 tbsps raw Cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Salt

Instructions:

  • Roast Hazelnuts in oven at 250 F for 20 minutes. The nuts should turn a light brown color. Cool for 15 – 30 mins
  • Process in a food processor until it becomes creamy like peanut butter. The creaminess or graininess is up to individual preference
  • Add cacao powder, vanilla extract, and salt and blend until combined
  • Add date paste and mix well
  • With the processor running, add 1 cup of warm water in a thin stream until well combined with all the ingredients and you get a smooth creamy Nutella!

Dark chocolate quinoa bars (No Bake, Gluten-free, Vegan)

These bars only need 6 ingredients and are a no-bake recipe. Just mix, press, and chill. Cut and devour! In fact, there is no use of a stove either, because the bars are made completely using the microwave only. 

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups Puffed Quinoa cereal unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup Dark Chocolate chips 70% preferred
  • 1/2 cup Peanut butter creamy
  • 1 tbsp Coconut oil extra virgin
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt

Instructions:

  • Take a 9-inch cake pan or similar baking tray and line it with parchment paper
  • Take a large mixing bowl, add the puffed quinoa, and set it ready
  • Take another large microwavable glass bowl, add coconut oil, chocolate chips and peanut butter
  • Melt in the microwave on low power
  • Add vanilla extract and sea salt; mix until smooth and combined
  • Pour this chocolate mixture on top of the puffed quinoa and mix to coat thoroughly
  • Dump this whole mixture onto the tray lined with parchment paper, spread evenly and press well to compact
  • Put the tray in the fridge for 1 hour
  • Remove from fridge and cut into desired shapes
  • Keep it stored in the fridge for upto 2 weeks 

Breakfast Brownies (Vegan, Nut-free)

Ingredients: Makes 16 2-inch brownies

  • Whole Wheat flour 3/4 cup 
  • Cacao powder 1/2 cup 
  • Chocolate chips 1/2 cup 
  • Baking powder 3/4 tsp
  • Salt 1/4 tsp 
  • Olive oil 1/2 cup 
  • Dates paste 3/4 cup 
  • Flaxmeal (soaked in 4 tbsp warm water) 2 tbsps 
  • Vanilla extract 1 tsp 
  • Maple syrup (optional) or almond milk (optional) 2 tbsps 

Procedure:

  • Mix the first 5 dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, set aside
  • Mix the last 4 wet ingredients in another mixing bowl
  • Now add the dry ingredients to this mixture and combine well 
  • If it seems thick, add the maple syrup or almond milk to loosen a bit 
  • Layer a 9inch square cake pan with parchment paper and pour the batter and spread evenly
  • Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a fork at the middle part of the tray. The fork should come out clean. 
  • Turn off the oven and leave it in for another 5 minutes to crisp up. 
  • Remove and let it cool for 20 minutes 
  • Cut into 16 squares 

Chia and Cocoa pudding (Gluten-free, Nut-free)

Ingredients: Makes 4 of 4 oz jars 

  • Dates – 24
  • Cacao powder – 1/4 cup
  • Chia seeds – 1/4 cup
  • Milk – 1 cup 
  • Cinnamon powder – 1/4 tsp 

Procedure:

  • Make a smooth date paste in a blender with milk 
  • Add the cacao powder, cinnamon powder and blend again to mix thoroughly
  • Finally, add chia seeds and give it just a spin, taking care not to crush the chia completely
  • Fill in small 4 oz jars leaving space for chia to expand and refrigerate overnight 

*Check out more recipes on Lavanya Subramanian’s cooking blog, My Nutrosia.

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