Finding Comfort In Indian Food- Roti and Bananas

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People think it’s strange that I don’t crave Indian food. I find it strange that I don’t crave Indian food. I don’t think of Indian food as comfort food, even though I ate it everyday for 18 years.Was it the whole trying to find balance between my Eastern and Western culture that ruined my desire for Indian food? It can’t be. Even stranger is that I love Indian food. I loved the food my grandmother made from scratch every single day. Mum split her time between praying and cooking. She took whole fragrant spices and ground them up, peeled and chopped sticky garlic, soaked and pressure cooked colorful lentils, made dough with her strength, rolled out hundreds of sweet cookies, and pickled pungent mangoes, chilies, and lemons.

Growing up in Mum’s embrace, I thought cooking from scratch was the only way. Though, I our freezer was full of things like Foster Farm chicken, hot pockets, Kellogg waffles, pizza, and other highly processed food. It left an impression that Americans don’t eat food made from scratch. My mom would pack our school lunch everyday of the usual stuff: deli meat sandwiches on whole wheat bread, Oreos, and Capri Sun juices. Occasionally, we were even  given school lunch money to splurge and eat what most of the other kids were eating. Now, I thank my parents for being a little more conscious and saving us from cafeteria school lunches. (Read Fed Up With School Lunch if you don’t know what I am talking about.)

My brother, cousins (who lived across the street), and I would find Mum in the kitchen when we came home from school, making late afternoon chai for Dada or a snack for us. When I was bit older, I learned my grandmother liked peanut butter (the smooth kind) as much as I do. She also loved jam over jelly (just like me). So when I think of comfort food, I think of peanut butter and jam sandwiches and roti smothered in butter and wrapped around a banana. My grandma and I loved eating bread slightly toasted and covered in melted butter, peanut butter and jam, and roti with butter and bananas.  Together.

Spelt Flour Roti with Cinnamon and Bananas

Traditional roti is made with Atta, whole grain wheat. I have started to experiment with different flours that are less processed and has inherent superior nutritional qualities. We eat buckwheat rotis more often now, but it’s a bit tougher and is not as fluffy and soft as traditional roti. This recipe uses 1/2 the amount of whole grain spelt flour and 1/2 the amount of milled whole wheat flour. The result is a much softer roti that balloons up on the stove, which is a good thing. This is a simple snack that you can have part of your breakfast, after school, or post dinner. Rotis can made a day ahead of time, but just cover well and store it in the fridge. Warm them up on a skillet or 10 seconds in the microwave.

Ingredients: Serves 2-3
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup milled whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp flour – for rolling and dusting
1 large banana or 2 small bananas- Fair-Trade


1. In a mixing bowl, mix flour, cinnamon and salt well. Add oil and mix until all lumps are gone. Add water a little at a time, while kneading the flour, to form a soft dough ball. The dough ball should not be sticky or wet. On a plate, place the 1 tablespoon flour for rolling and dusting.

2. Heat non-stick skillet or tava on medium heat. Divide into golf ball size balls. Take one ball and press lightly it between your palms, to create a flat disk. Dip the flattened ball into the coating flour and roll it out into a thin disc with a rolling pin on a flat surface. Keep dipping the roti into the dry flour to prevent it from sticking to the rolling surface.

3. Rub off excess flour from the roti and place it onto the hot skillet/tava. Flip to the other side once you see bubbles appear on the surface (about 40 seconds). Allow the second side  to cook for 10-15 seconds. Meanwhile, turn the next stove on high heat, gently pick up roti with tongs, and place on open flame. The roti should balloon up and remove quickly. Place the cooked roti into an insulated container and smear it with ghee/butter (optional). Repeat the process for the remaining dough.

4. Peel the banana(s). Cut the large banana in half. Place it on the edge of one roti and roll it up to eat like a burrito.

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Meatless Mondays: Staples in the Pantry

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In order to maintain healthy, unprocessed eating habits, you have to do some advance planning and thinking. This will prevent you from loading up on junk food and then feeling sluggish and guilty afterward. I always make a tentative meal plan each Sunday morning (before heading out to the farmers market). I pin recipes I want to try, analyze the items I have in the fridge, and make a grocery list. Then, I head off to the Farmer’s Market. The planning process takes me about 15 minutes, (sometimes longer if I get distracted by all of my cookbooks and pins). I also always default to a few staple recipes, so I make sure my pantry and fridge is always stocked with the items needed. Of course, it took me a little longer when I first started this planning process. Since the both of us work from home, I plan out lunches too. Though, even if we were commuting to an office, we would  take a bagged lunch (more on that later).  I like to spend 30-40 minutes in the kitchen each day and then be done with cooking and cleaning. I also like making large quantities at once, so we can eat the leftovers or transform them to something else rest of the week. Two vegetarian staples I always keep on hand and make in large quantities are quinoa and French green lentils. I always have these two in my pantry, because they store well and they are cheaper to buy in bulk. Also, when my fridge is empty and I don’t have any fresh vegetables, I can make do with these two. (A lot healthier and tastier than pasta.)

1. Quinoa– Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) is a South American complete protein grain. A complete protein grain means that it has a balance of essential amin0 acids (needed for tissue development), vitamins, and minerals. Quinoa has a nutty flavor and is rich in antioxidants. Even though, quinoa is not a true grain,  it is used as a grain and substituted for grains because of it’s cooking characteristics. It has the same preparation method as rice, taking only 15 minutes to cook, and can be used in casseroles, soups, salads, stir-fries, and stews. Quinoa tastes even better when it’s Fair-Trade!

Quinoa comes in many varieties- red, black, white, pink. This one is a red varietal.

2. Lentils– Lentils are widely used in India, Africa, and Europe and boasts many health benefits. They can be cooked in a variety of ways and have an earthy flavor. Lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world. They also contain fiber, folate, vitamin B1 and minerals.  Lentils are not as daunting to cook once you give it a try. Some lentils are super easy and quick, others require overnight soaking or a pressure cooker. I like using French Green Lentils (FGL), because they are super easy to prepare, higher in fiber, and I have mastered them.

I cook large batches of either quinoa or FGL (sometimes both) at the beginning of the week and use them as a base for our meals or quick snack. For instance, I can spruce up cooked quinoa with dried fruit and nuts for a power snack. Or, I can mix in vegetables with the lentils and have it be dinner. On Meatless Mondays, I usually center one meal around either the quinoa or lentils.

About 1 cup dried FGL will be sufficient for Satish and I to use throughout the week.

FGL are very satisfying with mixed, seasonal vegetables, olive oil, and seasoning.

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