Manjula’s All-Time Favorite Appetizers

There is something unique about appetizers: they are the most wanted and interesting part of the meals. Appetizers can be served any time but in India mostly it is served at teatime and is known as snacks. This is a wonderful feeling among all where we can forget about all the rules of healthy eating. While mingling with friends, we indulge in these aromatic and good-looking treats. Appetizers provide a great time for icebreakers, where you can get to know better people you may be unfamiliar with. It is easy to make these delicious looking appetizers the center of the conversation.

When I invite friends for dinner in a small group or big parties, appetizers are the most important part of the meal. I always put most effort toward appetizers and make the rest of the menu around them. I always serve appetizers in small portions, making sure my guests have the space to also enjoy the dinner.

As every other cuisine food can be healthy or just plain delicious, it is on the individual what they want. But I think sometimes it is good to indulge yourself and your friends.

Punjabi Samosa

Punjabi Samosa Recipe by Manjula

Crispy Vegetable Pakoras

Crispy Potato Balls

Baked vegetable Idli

Baked Vegetable Idli Recipe by Manjula

Samosa pinwheels

Paneer Pakoras

Khasta Kachori

Dhokla



Jowar (Sorghum) Dosa Recipe coming soon

I am one of those who enjoys cooking and eating, a real foodaholic. About three months back when our family got together, Alex, my husband, was given the challenge to see if he can go on a gluten free diet for 10 days. He agreed to do so if I also joined him. They knew for me and Alex no meal is complete without any kind of bread: my favorites are roti and paratha. I decided to take the challenge with him anyway. After ten days, Alex went back to his normal diet, but I decided to continue. I was feeling better and more energetic. But after 10 days when my challenge time was over, I decided occasionally I will cheat a little bit. Surprisingly, I am glad I did that; it was difficult in the beginning, but now I am liking it.

Being gluten free has opened a wide selection of grains for me to experiment with new recipes. I knew about them but did not use them much. I started reading about these grains my grandmother raved about and learning about their nutritional values. Knowing all that has made it easy for me to try these grains in my recipes. I do have many gluten free recipes of bread like Dosa, Oat Dosa, Moong Dal Dosa, Besan Puda, but these were part of our regular diet anyway. When making them, I never considered that I was making these recipes because they were gluten free.

One of the gluten-free grains I began using was millet. My last recipe for millet (bajri) soup was one of those recipes. My family enjoyed this soup and suggested millet soup can be a part of our winter menu.

My next recipe that is coming up is Sorghum (jowar) Dosa. I have already tried this recipe a few times. It is quick, easy, and tasty. Sorghum Dosa is also a good alternative to regular dosa because this dosa batter does not need to be fermented. An added benefit is that Sorghum Dosa is also vegan and gluten free.


Getting Ready for Diwali!

Diwali is just around the corner. I feel like this year has gone by very fast.   This time of year, is my favorite and I have already begun my preparations!  Sadly, this year will be different because we cannot attend our usual round Diwali parties thrown by friends and family.  This year we will also miss out on our annual Diwali traditions – our local Diwali mela and the “Festival of Lights” celebration.  I have been actively involved in these events for so many years and missing out on these events is so strange.  But all is not lost.  We can still celebrate Diwali by wishing friends and family a happy Diwali and visiting them outdoors in small socially distanced settings.

I like to gift people with homemade goodies during the Diwali season.  Homemade gifts are truly special in that they show you really put some thought and care into it. Some ideas for simple homemade gifts are Achari Mathries, Crispy Shakarpara, Nariyal Ka Ladoo, Atta Ka Ladoo, Almond brittle, and Spicy cashews You can place these delicious snacks in decorative boxes and add in some colorful diyas for the perfect homemade Diwali gift.  This small token can really convey our good wishes for the Diwali season. Here’s to wishing everyone love and light this Diwali season!



Happy Karva Chauth to all the lovely married folks!

Karva Chauth is a traditional Hindu festival in some parts of India. Married women fast all day, wishing for their husband’s health and long life. In some cases, and for those who wish to make this holiday more modern, both husbands and wives may fast together. This is pretty new and I’ve seen this only occasionally! My elder daughter-in-law is very traditional and really enjoys this special festival. She takes pleasure in all the rituals associated with Karva Chauth. This year’s menu is simple but delicious. I plan on making Gatte ki sabji (which is a Rajasthani dish and my daughter-in-law’s favorite!), Aloo Methi, Puris, Rice, and of course Gulgula. It will be a satisfying meal for all of the fasting married women! 


Celebrating Navratri!

Hello all! I hope everyone is doing well and getting used to our new normal.  I know this year our holiday celebrations don’t feel the same.  We are used to celebrating with large numbers of people and celebrating the festival season. I know it may not be ideal, but we can still make the most of the season by getting together in our backyards with small groups.  

Some of our friends have planned to enjoy garba with three or four families.  That way they can still enjoy dressing up in nice clothes.  Of course, they plan on wearing masks and practicing social distancing. I don’t know about you, but I feel like masks have become a fashion statement and they are just a part of our daily life and just another accessory!

I would love to hear about how you all are celebrating the holiday season.  Here are some of my suggestions for dishes to prepare for a Navratri feast:

Makhana Matar Curry

Sabudana (Tapioca) Bhel

Paneer Malai Ladoo

Nariyal Ka Ladoo

Dal Puri

Dal Puri

Aloo Chaat



Wishing You All A Very Happy Navratri

Navratri is an incredibly lively festival that is full of vibrant colors, beautiful clothes, and rhythmic music. Family and friends come together to celebrate Garbha, a traditional dance from the state of Gujarat. Navratri, or “Nine nights”, is a festival which marks the onset of autumn. The nine days of Navratri are dedicated to the worship of nine forms of the Goddess, Durga. From garba dance to Durga Puja rituals, Navratri is celebrated in different ways across India. The festival of Navratri is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals. It is also celebrated as the triumph of good over evil. Many people keep fast for Navratri.

Some suggestions for food for this auspicious time include:

Sabudana Khichdi

Sabudana Vada

Kuttu Ki Puri

Stir Fry Arbi

Aloo Tamatar ki Sabji

Shahi Kheer (Makhana Pudding)


My Thoughts for Air Fryer

After giving it much thought, I finally decided to get an air fryer. I checked out many of them and eventually decided to get the Air Fryer Convection Toaster Oven: it includes a toaster, oven, and air fryer all in one. Another reason I decided to buy this one is to save kitchen countertop space. I replaced the toaster oven with this air fryer. So far, I am enjoying it. As a toaster oven, it does a better job than any toaster or toaster oven I have used. I am very happy with the oven feature: it is big enough to bake a cake, small batches of cookies, and a medium size pizza. I don’t do much baking, but I have started baking more because the air fryer is easy to use and needs less time to bake it preheats in 2-3 minutes easily. It is also easy to clean.

When using it as an air fryer (the reason I purchased this new gadget), it so far has not produced very satisfactory results except in grilling vegetables, tofu, paneer, and roasting nuts. I also use this to dry roast poha (flat rice) and makhana (fox nuts) half the way and then finish roasting in a frying pan, which saves some time but more importantly because for both things you need constant stirring which becomes too much for my shoulder. I do make both items very often. I have tried making French fries, pakora, samosa, katchori, and salteen crackers. If you eat these items as soon as they come out from the air fryer, they taste just okay, in my opinion. Also, using the air fryer did not save any time and the items lost the flavor. One of my friends suggested she liked heating the frozen snacks like samosas, katchories. I decided to try this; I got frozen samosa and katchories from the grocery store, and yes they came out good when I heated them. The question is why I needed the Air Fryer for that since I could have done the same in the toaster oven or in a conventional oven. 

I am looking for help and suggestions. If you have any vegetarian recipe you were happy with, I will try and do the recipe. 

I will like you to share your suggestions. Thanks!



Story Behind Recipes

Manjula's Kitchen ebook

Don’t you think it is true? Most of us have some story behind our favorite dishes. Most of the dishes I make have a story behind them. This may sound silly but this is the fact. My grand kids will vouch for me saying our dadima is full of stories.

We all have some dishes we have enjoyed and admired. It makes a difference where and with who we dined. The presentation can inspire you, and that becomes the story behind that dish.

I remember my first lentil dal I made: I used at least double the salt yet still my dad enjoyed it. I rolled my first roti into world map shape and my mom smiled and complimented it saying that was a piece of art. I gave the same compliment to my granddaughter when she rolled her first roti at five years old. She loved the idea of a world map. When my boys were young, I would make them puries; when they saw the puries being puffed, their eyes opened wide and they had so many questions. This happened every time they saw the puries, for I never came up with a good answer to satisfy their curiosity.

Bengali Rasgullas are my favorite dessert. They are made with homemade paneer: round paneer balls soaked in sugar syrup. This is a delicacy from the state of Bengal. I will say one can never go wrong with this dish. When I was first learning to cook Rasgullas, they would turn out hard, not the right shape, or break in pieces. I learned quickly how to fix this, making them into different desserts in whichever way the imperfect Rasgullas would allow. My friends would ask me for the recipe. I tried explaining, but no one believed me. I decided to serve them differently and each time they were a hit amongst my friends.

The bottom line is to enjoy your creation!

I think I take every incident in my life as a story. Life is easier and more beautiful that way for me. It puts a smile on my face. Many of my viewers will ask how to make a certain dish restaurant style, but I like and enjoy simple home-made food. I don’t even try to make restaurant style, but it does not mean I don’t get inspired when I see some dish that is eye-catching; I will always see how I can make such a dish in homemade style. That’s how I came up with the recipe for Taco Samosa: I saw it made in the restaurant and then I put my own twist to it.

A recent recipe I have cooked is Gulab Jamun Cake. My daughter-in-law wanted me to make it and asked me to add my own twist. I googled for the recipe; I was not happy with any of them, so I decided to create my own. After a few attempts to do so, I was very happy with the results.

Sorry! I am the last person who can follow the recipes. It is strange then that I want you to follow mine. I enjoy it when I read the comments where you have made your own changes to the recipe. When we go out for dinner, visit friends and family, go to restaurants or I see some magazine that has a beautiful looking dish that catches my eye, I want and will try to make it.

I think cooking is an art; instead of colors, you play with ingredients. Painters are inspired by something before they paint. I see cooking in the same way.


Where I have been?

I have not been doing cooking videos lately. Why? I ask myself. Am I tired or had enough of it? No, I certainly still have interest in it. I have been making videos for a long time. It started as a hobby in December 2006 and has stayed with me all these years as something I always enjoy doing.

Maybe I needed a break and to revisit the videos at a later time with fresh thinking and ideas. I have missed not doing the cooking videos and I am ready and excited to start again. My family enjoys the simple and easy recipes I make. The dishes are quick to prepare and family and my grandkids help me prepare and eat the food. I will still cook recipes with traditional flavors and make them easier to learn by cutting down steps whenever it’s possible. Along with this, I will make more use of the instant pot and air fryer.

I am excited for you, the audience, to embark with me on this new journey!


Summer Salads

Summer Salads Recipes by Manjula
Manjula's Kitchen ebook

It is officially summertime!  It’s gorgeous outside with bright blue sunny skies.  This year of course, is a little different.  I am really missing my weekly trips to the Farmer’s Market.  I miss people-watching with the bustling crowds, sampling tasty treats, and all the colorful fruits, vegetables, and flowers!

During the summer, a lot of us feel like eating simple, light and refreshing food. Salads are perfect and make for great lunches! Why not try a bowl of salad to satisfy those fresh and healthy cravings? Salads are super simple to assemble. You can use whatever you have on hand paired with your favorite dressing. I prefer a salad with a light homemade dressing. Try some of my favorite salads listed here and let me know what you think: 

Manjula's Kitchen ebook


Mangoes are in Season

Sweet, juicy mangoes are in season and always a favorite in my family. 

Manjula's Kitchen ebook

Mangoes are my all-time favorite fruit.  In fact, whenever we go grocery shopping, mangoes are almost always purchased! I always have a variety of mangoes on hand. There are many different types of mangoes and everyone has their favorite type. My childhood was filled with fond memories eating fresh mangoes. I think I have so many memories attached to eating mangoes that I enjoy them even more.   

Mangoes, of course, are enjoyed as they come as fruit. They are especially refreshing on these hot summer days.  They can also be used to make a variety of salads, desserts, drinks and of course mango pickle. My older grandson is always ready to enjoy a delicious cold mango lassi. I also enjoy preparing “mango laungi (relish)” which is a quick spicy sweet and sour relish, and also my older granddaughter’s favorite!  I always make this relish when I think the mangoes are not as flavorful.  This relish is a perfect dish to make and it can be refrigerated for up to a week. 

These are some suggestions for some of my favorite dishes using mangoes: 

Mango Lassi

Mango Cheesecake

Manjula's Kitchen ebook

Mango Rice

Mango Pickle

Aam Ka Panna

I have many other mango recipes on my website. Please do check them out and enjoy!

Manjula's Kitchen ebook

Some of my Favorite Healthy Snacks

Manjula's Kitchen ebook

Due to the current state of the world, we have all been trapped at home and not by choice. In order to stay sane, everyone has been trying to find their own way to remain productive and enjoy their time while staying at home. Most people I know have been spending a lot of their free time in the kitchen with family, cooking together. I have gotten many requests for healthy and simple snacks that can be prepared with kids. These are some basic recipes that are very easy to get creative with so feel free to make adjustments to get the flavor you desire:

Rava Uttapam

Rava Uttapam Recipe by Manjula

Baked Vegetable Idli

Baked Vegetable Idli Recipe by Manjula

Vegetable Cheela

Manjula's Kitchen ebook
Vegetable Cheela Rolls recipe by Manjula

Aloo Chana Chaat

Aloo chana chaat recipe by Manjula

Date and Nut Ladoo

Date and Nut Ladoo (Healthy Indian Candy) Recipe by Manjula

Rava Ladoo

Rava Ladoo Recipe by Manjula

I hope that you all will give these recipes a try and create a few memories along the way with family!

Manjula's Kitchen ebook


Healthy After School Snacks

I wanted to share some quick and easy snacks I used to prepare for my two sons, Rakesh and Mukesh, and their friends.

When the boys were young, I made sure to have tasty and healthy snacks readily available. They would often bring their friends, who loved coming to our house after school.  Our house was the place to be fed well with homecooked fresh food!  I would keep their snacks quick and easy to prepare. They also love helping me prepare snacks.

Some of their favorite snacks included celery sticks and sliced cucumbers and cream cheese, carrots and peanut butter, potatoes with cheese, crisp toast with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, and graham crackers with cream cheese topped with fresh fruit.

celery sticks and sliced cucumbers and cream cheese, carrots and peanut butter, potatoes with cheese
crisp toast with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, and graham crackers with cream cheese topped with fresh fruit

The boys loved when I added Indian touches to their snacks.  One of their favorites was fresh hot puris.  All their friends loved watching me fry puris and were amazed to see how they would puff up.

Puri (Flat Bread) Recipe by Manjula
Puri (Puffed Flatbread)

They also enjoyed crispy aloo pakoras. They would devour these!  I could not keep up with how fast they ate them!

Crispy Aloo Pakoras Recipe by Manjula
Crispy Aloo Pakoras

Here are some ideas you can find on my website for quick, easy and delicious snacks.  Now that we are spending a lot more time at home, try engaging with your kids and let them prepare their own snacks, such as: 

Rice Krispies Treats

Rice Krispies Treat Recipe by Manjula

Chocolate chip cookies

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe by Manjula

Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate Brownie (eggless and vegan) by Manjula

These are the few my grandkids really enjoy!


Happy Mother’s Day

My mother and I…

Like many of you, during this time at home, I have been trying to get through some organization and general Spring cleaning. It’s really amazing just how much we accumulate through the years. It got me thinking…do we really “need” all these items, or is it just more “stuff”? I wondered if maybe it was time to simplify our lives. I went through closets and closets full of items, opening up suitcase after suitcase filled with a variety of long-forgotten memories. I stumbled upon a suitcase full of old saris and I just couldn’t bear to discard any one of them. It’s because each and every sari has a special story behind it. I am hoping that one of these days I can sit down with my granddaughters and tell them all the stories behind the saris. Who knows maybe they will want to keep some of the saris and wear them? I just hope they do and when they grow up they will remember why the sari was so special to Dadi (grandmother). I know that I still use one of my mother’s shawls to this day, despite the fact that it has some tears and is not in the best condition. It doesn’t matter to me because for me, it is somewhat of a security blanket and something to hold onto as a comforting memory of my mother.

Of course, going through my belongings comes with memories of my childhood, especially memories of my mother. My mother was one of a kind and just filled with wisdom. Her perspective towards life was very positive. She managed this outlook even though her health was not good. When she was resting, I would sit close to her. She would hold my hand and talk. I could feel her warmth as she softly spoke to me. She was gentle, caring, and giving. Oftentimes, I was left puzzled at some of our conversations because they were deep conversations that were hard for me to understand at my young age. However, now when I think back to those conversations, I understand that she was trying to pass on her values in addition to what things I should let go and give importance to.

While she had many health issues, one thing that stood out is that she never complained about feeling unwell. I was the oldest child and often felt I should help her take care of my younger siblings, especially given her health problems. Maybe this was all in my head because, despite her health issues, she was the most positive person and always had a smile on her face. One would never guess she was enduring health issues.

My mother was the type of person to always help someone out. She would see someone feeling unwell and immediately bring them home and take care of them. She did this no matter who the person was. I remember feeling confused as to why she bothered helping people she didn’t even know. When I asked her this question, she would simply calmly ask me to bring that person a glass of water. I knew to not question her further. This was simply my mom’s character.

She was full of life, always laughing and giggling. She felt it was extremely important to be involved with her children’s lives in every way. My friends loved to hang out with her and felt so comfortable around her. In the back of their minds, I knew they all wanted their moms to be like her.
I must have been nine or ten when I decided I would help my mother in cooking and learn the proper way to cook. Her hands had magic. She made simple food but her food always looked and smelled delicious. Even at that time she enjoyed serving food with style and flair. I still remember so many family and friends eagerly await her dinner invitations. When I asked my mother why her food tasted so good, her answer was simple. She smiled and said her first advice was to serve food with a smile. Next, she said always use fresh ingredients and only use spices are to enhance the flavors of the food, and not cover it up.

She also emphasized that cooking with love and care were also important ingredients in a dish because they added to the flavors of the dish. Back then, I didn’t understand her answer. How could cooking with love and care be important in a dish? But now I know exactly what she meant. Even today, sometimes when I am tired, I just want to cook something quickly and get out of the kitchen. But then my mother’s words would ring in my ears. She would always say you should never cook if you are tired, irritated, or simply not in the mood. She used to say it would affect the taste of the food. I did not understand what she meant and used to think her food tasted good because she just had great cooking skills and techniques. However, with age and having fed my family for 50 plus years, I realize there was wisdom in my mother’s words. Now when I feed my friends, family, and loved ones, I can see that my mother’s advice was spot on!

So, during this time, why not make your family feel loved and cook special dishes for them? I know that I have enjoyed doing so! Stay safe and healthy!


My Journey with Alex

Many of you have asked me about the man behind-the-scenes of Manjula’s Kitchen…Well as many of you know, that person is my husband Sikander aka Alex. Alex is responsible for me being in the spotlight of Manjula’s Kitchen, while he prefers to stay in the background. The simple truth is my YouTube channel exists only because of his hard work and dedication. He introduced me to this new concept for me at the time, YouTube. Alex takes the lead on all of the hard work these videos take, from the editing to ensuring the recipes meet his quality control (i.e. taste testing!) Every recipe has to meet Alex’s high standards for being posted. Alex feels so proud when reading the comments on my posts and always tells me that he is my biggest fan. With a huge smile on his face, he will tell me your fans don’t know that the biggest fan of yours is standing right next to you!

Alex and I have spent over 50 memorable years together and of course with that comes ups and downs. Sometimes it feels like Alex and I still don’t know everything about each other, and I think that is a good thing! We still love to learn new things about each other. Every day is unique with different challenges. During another lifetime, we ran a business together. For 20 years, we worked in an office together, sitting side by side. It was nice that we got to spend so much quality time together. Now as we enter our golden years, we still enjoy working together, even though we are partially retired. We both work from home and can still enjoy sitting side by side! I cherish the fact that we are never alone.

Our marriage was an arranged marriage. In today’s times, I recognize that it sounds really outdated. However, ours was an arranged marriage with a happy ending. Alex was my father’s choice. At their first meeting, my father was extremely impressed with him. They first met Alex for about an hour, but it felt like they knew him for a lifetime. My father described him to me with great detail. I was amazed my father could pick up so much on someone he just met! What stuck with me is my father finished by emphasizing that Alex would love and respect me and that because we shared the same values I would be proud of the person I was when with him.

My father invited Alex and his family for afternoon tea so that I could meet him myself. I was so curious to see what my father had seen in Alex. I knew that Alex had already decided to marry me and told his father that he was already in love with me. Alex had been working abroad in the U.S. and at this time and was in India visiting his family and to get married. We had just one month before he had to go back to the U.S. for his work. It happened so quickly. We got married within the week. It was at that point it hit me. I would have to move to the U.S. too. My mother was not happy with this situation and was upset at my father. Of course, she didn’t want her daughter to move so far away. I was very confused, but I knew my father he will not take such a big step unless he was sure it was absolutely the right decision.

We got married and moved to the U.S. and settled into a brand new way of life. It took some time to get used to a new country, a new language, and most importantly new food. But it was a life we enjoyed discovering together. When my parents visited us in the U.S. the first time, my mother and Alex spent a lot of time together. The immediately formed a great bond, becoming best friends. My parents noticed just how much Alex cared for me and how happy we were together. They would say Alex would light up when I was near him.

Alex really enjoys pampering me. The gestures were small, but with great care. Alex happily makes me the best cups of hot tea and always with a smile. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I made tea for myself. He always makes sure I take care of myself, leaving my daily vitamins/medicines and water on the kitchen table to make sure I don’t forget. Then there are those times he can sense I need a break and I will see a fresh hot grilled cheese sandwich waiting for me. Everyone (especially our grandkids!) in our family has decided that Alex makes the “world’s best” tea and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Of course, we have our share of disagreements and arguments, as every couple does. Alex is not one to say sorry very easily so most of the time I’ll give in and say sorry. The next day I will see a beautiful bouquet of colorful flowers waiting for me and all is well again. I suppose that is how a good marriage works – you know when to give in. I can say with confidence that my father chose correctly for me and I married a man who truly takes care of me. We’ve made a good life for ourselves, with our two sons and their lovely families. More on them later… Stay safe & healthy everyone!