It was the middle of the night when I arrived in Bengaluru (Bangalore), India, after traveling for more than 22 hours. A day earlier, I had started at Boston’s Logan Airport to JFK, then to Paris Charles de Gaulle, where I joined up with two colleagues for the rest of the way to Bengaluru. Between lack of sleep, strange airplane food, and the time zones, it was an experience walking out of the airport. It was after 1 am. In the US, you would have been alone with just the other passengers disembarking from your flight and a handful of airport workers, but not in Bengaluru. It was alive as though it was 1 in the afternoon. People everywhere. We were glad to see our driver awaiting us with a sign. As I climbed into the car, I wondered what kind of experiences awaited me. I was looking forward to the food such as Dosa Masala.
When people say driving in India is chaos, they are not kidding. At first, it seems like chaos, but once you observe closely, it is a coordinated dance of pedestrians, cows, tuk-tuks, cars, mopeds, motorcycles, buses, and trucks of every form. Everyone, for the most part, knew their role in this dance. Traffic moved slow. Horns blowing as if they were using a code to communicate. There is a hierarchy based on size. Surprisedly not many accidents and they were minor especially since Bengaluru the capital and largest city of the southern Indian state of Karnataka with a population of more than 8 million. Let’s just say being a passenger was an adventure and I was glad I was in a big SUV.
As the car made its way to the hotel, the streets were packed with people. It was a festival for Ganesh Chaturthi which celebrates Ganesha as the God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles. It was so wonderful to be in India during this festival as The festival is marked with the installation of Ganesha’s clay murtis which are devotional representations of a Ganesha in homes and publicly on elaborate pandals or temporary stages. Along with murtis, flowers are very important. Bengaluru is know for its flower markets and the flower sellers are all along the roads. It is such a beautiful sight to see.
I arrived at my home away from home for the next week, the Vivanta Bengaluru, Whitefield around 2 am. While I got into my bed around 2:30 or 3 am, I set my alarm for 6:30. I wanted to get on India time as soon as possible as I was in India for work and I need to be on my game. I chose the hotel was the closest to my office and it has good reviews. It did not disappoint. Vivanta is an Indian hotel group so most of the guests were Indian with a few of us Americans or Europeans. I can’t say enough about the wonderful customer service. I have never been so well cared for from the front desk to the spa to the restaurants. Everything was done to such a high standard.
An Indian Breakfast
I quickly got use to the breakfast buffet and milk tea (and as an aside, in India, if you ask for tea you get tea with milk adding your own amount of sugar and must ask for tea without milk).
I lost count after 40 regarding the different items they had. I was overwhelmed in a good way. I kept my choices safe with bread and pastries, but I kept eyeing what Indians had on their plates. And on the last morning, I asked one of the lovely servers to bring me a typically Indian breakfast. He brought me Dosa Masala. Dosa Masala is a typical breakfast is served in India, mostly in southern India.
The Dosa Masala was delicious. So flavorful and filling. When I returned home, I wanted to share with my guys not only through photos, but through food. I decided to make Dosa Masala for them for a dinner.
I searched the Internet for recipes and found a couple that I printed to take me to my nearest Indian grocery store. As I picked up my ingredients which took the interest of the shopkeeper. I couldn’t find something so I asked. We started talking and I let her know what I was making. Her reaction was “why? We have mixes and batters for that. Nobody does it from scratch.” Music to my ears as the dish from start to finish involved a lot. You have the crepe, potato filling, sambar, and coconut chutney.
While I could have made everything from scratch, but I decided to do as Indians do. I picked up a readymade dosa batter (and a dry mix) which will be thinned with water to made the crepe. For the sambar, there was a spice mix where you added water and boil then add frozen Indian vegetables. For the coconut chutney, I got frozen individual portions, but it is available in a bottled.
For the potato mixture, that had to be done by scratch. That was OK as it made the whole dish more manageable. That’s the recipe I’m going to share with you from the New York Times which included a recipe for the dosa.
Bengaluru Breakfast Dosa Masala Potato Filling
- 3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 small dried hot red peppers
- 1 medium onion, diced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- Pinch of asafetida
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 6 to 8 curry leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 small green chiles, finely chopped
- 1½ pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, boiled, peeled and cubed
- ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- 1. Put oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When oil is wavy, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Wait for seeds to pop, about 1 minute, then add red peppers and onion. Cook, stirring until onions have softened, about 5 minutes.
- 2. Season lightly with salt. Add turmeric, asafetida, ginger, curry leaves, garlic and green chile. Stir to coat and let sizzle for 1 minute.
- 3. Add potatoes and ½ cup water. Cook, stirring well to combine, until liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Mash potatoes a bit with the back of a wooden spoon.
- 4. Season well with salt, add cilantro, then set aside at room temperature. (Potato filling may be prepared up to a day in advance.)
I am a sucker for Wonton Soup. I love it. And for me the mark of a good Chinese restaurant is their Wonton Soup. But it is hard to find a good bowl of soup. While the wontons are usually nice, the broth is bland or to put it harshly like dish water. We recently found a restaurant that does the best soup I’ve had ever. Most Chinese places are take-away with a couple of tables, but Mindy’s in Portsmouth is a proper sit down Chinese restaurant I remember from my childhood. I am addicted to their soups especially Wonton.
I can’t go there every day so I needed to come up with a recipe I can make quickly when I feel like Wonton Soup. There are two keys to making this soup: the broth and greens. Most lack a flavorful broth, greens, and punchy toppings. To make the broth with a punch, I use garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper, sesame oil, and tamari. To keep it quick and easy, I always have bottle minced garlic and ginger in my fridge. It is worth the investment as it is a time saver. For the greens, I use baby bok choy, but Chinese cabbage slices very thin would be tasty, too. For a non-plant-based option you can swap out the veg broth for chicken or beef and use meat-based wontons or potstickers.
Do you love soup as much as me? More soup recipes are available.
- 2 tablespoons Sesame Oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoon minced ginger
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 bunch green onions thinly sliced and divided between green and white parts
- 8 cups of veggie broth
- 1 package frozen wontons (or pot stickers)
- 2 tablespoons tamari (soy sauce)
- 1/2 pound (or 5) baby bok choy thinly slices
- Salt to taste
- Optional Toppings:
- - Green onions (green parts)
- - Sesame seeds
- - Hot chili oil
- - Tamari
- - Red pepper flakes
- 1. Slice green onions and baby bok choy and set aside.
- 2. Heat sesame oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- 3. Add the minced garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and the white parts of the green onion sautéing for about 2 minutes.
- 4. Pour broth into the pot brining the soup to a slow boil over medium-high heat.
- 5. Once at a boil, add frozen wontons letting boil for a minute then reduce heat to medium simmering the for 10 minutes.
- 6. Add baby boy choy and tamari simmering for 5 minutes.
- 7. Ladle into bowls and add the optional toppings.
Looking to cut refined sugar out of your diet, but still enjoy dessert? Me, too. Let in introduce you to Orange-Nut Stuffed Dates.
I have to admit I have a huge sweet tooth so giving up refined sugar is hard. Something I struggle with it as I love my after dinner treat. And my mid-morning snack. And my afternoon break. You get the picture.
Until I started moving toward the plant-based diet, I would have never tried dates. Like ever. The only datey thing I’d eat would be a Fig Newton and that’s not even date. Let’s just say that eating plant-based has caused me to explore food I normally wouldn’t have tried. Dates are great. They are high in fiber, very nutritious, and antioxidants. And most importantly, there are super sweet. A natural candy.
This is a super easy and quick dessert using dates, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and oranges. That’s it. Just some chopping and in 15 minutes you have a chic dessert to balance a strongly spiced meal or as a quick bite to satisfy a sweet craving without the guilt. That said, this isn’t a low calorie dessert; however, the ingredients are whole foods and natural. Enjoy in moderation.
What is nice about this dessert is that it works year round. It has a “warmness” that works in the winter, but it is no cook working for the summer months. A winner in my book.
Once I tasted the mixture, I realized it tasted like baklava. So I’ll be working on a baklava recipe. I’ll try to make it plant-based. I accept the challenge. And should it be Greek or Turkish baklava? I’ll figure which will be easier to make plant-based.
If you are looking for more plant-based desserts, I’d recommend checking out The Happy Pear and Forks Over Knives. Also, checkout some of my vegan desserts.
- 10-12 Medjool dates, pitted
- 8 almonds, chopped
- 8 walnuts, chopped
- 16 shelled pistachios, chopped
- 1 teaspoon orange rind, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
- 1. Make a slit in each dates removing the pit and making sure it is long enough to stuff. Set aside 8 dates.
- 2. Chop the remaining dates and other ingredients combining well in a bowl.
- 3. Fill the eight dates with mixture.
- 4. Serve or put in airtight container in the refrigerator.
Moving to the plant-based diet poses some challenges around baking. You can still bake your favorite baked goods using vegan baking substitutes. When I started vegan baking, I wasn’t so sure our family favorites would taste like “the real thing.” It my surprise, it does and in some recipes, it enhances it.
How do you bake vegan? You can swap out eggs, dairy milk, and dairy butter with vegan substitutes. Those substitutes could be oat milk, applesauce, flaxseeds, and Aquafina. Sometimes it is going to some trial and error to find out which works best with a recipe that wasn’t designed vegan.
Here are some vegan substitutions for baking with what baked good it works best with:
- Flax eggs (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water per egg) – Works well in cookies, muffins, breads
- Applesauce or mashed banana (1/4 cup per egg) – Best for cakes, muffins, quick breads
- Aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas) – Use like egg whites for meringues or macarons
- Commercial egg replacers like Bob’s Red Mill or Ener-G (follow package instructions)
- Vegan butter sticks (Miyoko’s, Earth Balance, etc.)
- Coconut oil – Use 3/4 cup oil for every 1 cup butter
- Vegetable oil
- Nut butters
- Applesauce or mashed banana
- Unsweetened soy milk – Best for baking as it has higher protein content
- Oat milk, Almond milk, coconut milk – Okay substitutes, may change texture slightly
Here are some recipes where I’ve used vegan baking substitutes:
– Vegan Baked Chocolate Donuts
– Vegan Banana Bread
While I am lucky to have an outstanding French boulangerie, Le Bec Sucré, near me run by an amazing couple, I’m never up in time get there in time before they sellout of their baguettes in the morning. And I could pick some up from Aldi to bake, it just isn’t as good. The other alternative is to make my own. Now they will never complete with Belinda’s baguette of perfection, but they will beat anything purchased at the grocery store.
I am trying out baguettes recipes currently. As an avid watcher of The Great British Bake Off program, I thought I would try out Paul Hollywood’s Baguettes recipe. The ingredients are simple: bread flour, salt, yeast, and water. The proofing is essential as well as the technique. I am still working on it both the proofing and technique. That will come with practice. As the feature photo is a baguette stunt double as mine are not Instagram worthy, but they have a good crumb and good taste so I guess that’s all that matters in the end. My new French Baguette Pan improved the shape as shown below.
When making this recipe (and most baking), I use a scale to measure ingredients. For baking, measuring by weight is idea as it is very precise and that matters. I recommend using good quality bread flour like King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill which are readily available at most grocery stores. The recipe mentions a linen couche which is a thick linen cloth used to help baguette dough keep its shape while it is rising, in the second proofing. Another item, I use is a Bread Lame that slashes the tops of the baguette. A very sharp knife would work well, too.
If you are interested in another recipe from The Great British Bake Off that is so easy and a total show stopper, then try Mary Berry’s Christmas Pavlova.
Paul Hollywood’s Baguettes
- olive oil for greasing
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 10g salt
- 10g instant yeast
- 370ml cool water
- 1. Lightly oil a 2.4-litre square plastic container with olive oil. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough.)
- 2. Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water, then continue to mix on a medium speed for 5–7 minutes, until you have a glossy, elastic dough.
- 3. Tip the dough into the prepared tub. Cover and leave for 1 hour until at least doubled in size.
- 4. Dredge a linen couche with flour and lightly dust the work surface with flour.
- 5. Carefully tip the dough onto the work surface. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. This helps to create the irregular, airy texture of a really good baguette. The dough will be wet to the touch but still lively.
- 6. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Shape each piece into an oblong by flattening the dough out slightly and folding the sides into the middle. Then roll each up into a sausage – the top should be smooth with the join running along the length of the base. Now, beginning in the middle, roll each sausage with your hands. Don’t force it out by pressing heavily; concentrate on the backwards and forwards movement and gently use the weight of your arms to roll out the dough to 30cm long.
- 7. Lay a baguette along the edge of the linen couche and pleat the couche up against the edge of the baguette. Place another baguette next to the pleat. Repeat the process until all 4 baguettes are lined up against each other with pleated couche in between each. Cover the baguettes with a clean tea towel and leave for 1 hour, until the dough has at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger.
- 8. Preheat the oven to 475°F and put a roasting tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up.
- 9. When the baguettes are risen, dust them lightly with flour, then slash each one 4 times along its length on the diagonal, using a razor blade or a very sharp knife.
- 10. Fill the roasting tray with hot water to create steam and put the bread into the oven. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the baguettes are golden brown and have a slight sheen. Cool on a wire rack.
Leftover turkey? And need more recipes to use it up? Southwest Chicken Soup is the answer. So easy swap to out chicken for turkey in this simple easy and quick soup. Perfect for the weekend after Thanksgiving or anytime really that you are in a rush for a dinner that doesn’t involved calling for pizza.
This is a seriously easy and quick meal. All you need is a box of broth, jar of salsa verde (or homemade), rotisserie chicken, cumin, cannellini beans, and green onions. Yup that’s it. The hardest work is pulling the rotisserie chicken; everything else just dumping it into the pot. I came across this recipe at Real Simple while I was looking for another one. Glad I found this one. I used roasted salsa verde from Aldi and used 4 cups of broth making this a real soupy soup. If it is too spicy, then add a dollop sour cream. Also you can some tortilla chips if you want some crunch. But it doesn’t need it.
While this isn’t plant-based in its present form, it can be fairly quickly. You can swap out the children booth with veggie broth and add another can of beans omitting the chicken.
Southwest Chicken Soup is on the table in less than 30 minutes. A winner.
Looking for other soup recipes? Visit here.
- 1 12-ounce jar salsa verde
- 3 cups cooked chicken pieces (1 small deli-counter rotisserie chicken or leftovers)
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 green onions, chopped
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1. Combine all ingredients except for sour cream into a pan and heat it over medium-high heat until boiling then turn down to low cooking for another 15 minutes.
- 2. Top each bowl with a sprinkling of onions, a dollop of sour cream, and some tortilla chips (if desired).