Springtime & Holi!

I am very excited about the weather becoming warmer and Spring’s arrival.  With this also comes Holi, one of my favorite festivals! Holi is the festival of colors and will be celebrated on March 28th. I am beginning my preparations as we speak! The house will soon be full of sweet aromas to indicate Holi is coming. Of course, this also allows me to spend more time in my favorite place at my home – the kitchen!

I love the spirit of the holidays! The holidays bring back a lot of fun memories from my childhood. As a young child, I can vividly remember the whole neighborhood filled with excitement as the delicious aromas of Holi wafted throughout the neighborhood. Of course, we loved to “play” Holi, throwing brightly colored powders at each other to celebrate! I can remember my mother also being very excited about Holi.  She loved to prepare a variety of finger foods because it was easy to share with friends and neighbors.

I am planning to make sweet and savory snacks that can last until it is Holi. This year, celebrating Holi will be different because we still need to socially distance ourselves, even though most of our friends are fully vaccinated.  Despite this, I am still excited to spend time with friends and family!

Here are a few of the dishes I plan on preparing to celebrate Holi:  Gujia, Besan Ka Ladoo, Meethi matries, Crispy Shakarpara (Almond Biscuit), Besan Sev, Apple Coconut Barfi.  For a cold refreshing beverage, I plan on making Thandai (a special drink traditionally made for Holi).

Spring is almost here, and we have a lot to be thankful for!  Enjoy!



Inspiration for Vegetarian Recipes

As you all know, Indian cuisine will always be my favorite cuisine. It will always have a special place in my heart. However, we are living in different times. Our lifestyle has changed with the emerging culture. The same thing is happening with food. I like that the norms are changing. My family, especially my grandkids, are not happy just with traditional Indian food; they need variety, just like me. I experiment with the different food from different cultures, staying true to my guidelines. Thus, the challenge comes. I have never tried some of these dishes. Finding vegetarian dishes in any given cuisine is not that big of a problem; the problem is finding recipes without onion and garlic. I go on google and YouTube, searching for recipes and creating a dish that makes sense to me. First, I try different sauces. I think that makes it easy to create the dishes for that cuisine. My family gets to try my creations and give me their honest opinions.  They are all brutally honest with their opinions.  Some are hits and some not so much! Believe me, it is not easy to take these hard rejections because I have spent many hours on making these recipes.  Italian is easy; they like marinara sauce, white sauce, pesto, all of which can be used in so many different dishes. I am also very fond of Mexican cuisine! Using salsa and enchilada sauce, many dishes can be made: enchiladas, burritos, taco salad, and many more.   

I also have my version of Asian peanut sauce which tastes great in Asian bowls, salads, and wraps. This is a favorite of my oldest granddaughter! I use these sauces in my recipes while making different dishes. Alex has been asking me to do the videos just for the different sauces just like I do for Indian chutneys. It will be easy to refer to when you are doing the next recipe and don’t have to repeat the sauce again. Keeping that in mind, I just did the recipe for pesto sauce. The next curry sauce I am trying is Thai Red curry sauce.


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!