Paneer Butter Masala or Paneer Makhani, which literally means, paneer cooked in a buttery rich sauce, is a vegetarian variation of a popular north-Indian dish called Butter Chicken. The original dish was created in the 1950s, in a super popular restaurant in New Delhi called ‘Moti Mahal Delux’.
Traditionally, the paneer is lightly marinated and then grilled in a clay-oven called, Tandoor, and then added to a velvety smooth tomato-cream sauce. But in this recipe I have skipped that step and made it a dump-and-go recipe, with the same incredible taste. The key is cutting paneer into small, bite-size cubes so that they absorb the flavors of the sauce, and, a little extra garam masala to compensate for the flavors lost in skipping marination. This is one of the tastiest, and most requested Indian vegetarian recipes by my kids.
Serving Suggestion: I like to pair this rich and creamy curry with Spinach Rice. The buttery soft spinach and aromatic basmati rice compliment this Paneer Butter Masala really well. It feels like a restaurant style Indian meal, in the comfort of my home. Paneer Butter Masala also goes well with Cumin Rice and Naan, store-bought or homemade!
Kale and Mango Slaw with Chickpeas is a hot favorite dish in my home currently. It screams SPRING, in looks as well as flavor. I lightly sauté my favorite kale slaw mix (from Trader Joe’s), with chickpeas, juicy mango, and top it with crunchy slivered almonds. All the flavors come together really well in the end. My family enjoys it as a side with Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Mediterranean Lamb Chopsand Black Pepper Shrimp, and, leftovers make for a delicious power-packed lunch.
Customize it: I use cooked chickpeas in this recipe. You can use canned, or pre-cooked chickpeas. I typically, pressure cook about a cup of chickpeas for 30 minutes in my Instant Pot, and use them in different recipes throughout the week. Chickpeas add a nice earthy and creamy flavor, and, boost the protein and fiber content of any dish. That being said, you can choose to use other kinds of beans instead, like black beans, kidney beans, or, skip them entirely to make a simple kale and mango slaw. The same goes for soycutash too. I personally, love the contrast of flavors that soycutash brings to this slaw, with the sweet corn, crunchy edamame and juicy peppers. But, you can use frozen corn or peas instead, or, skip it entirely. On another note, I have used mango in this recipe since I love the combination of kale and mango. You can easily switch that with a pear or a juicy granny smith apple too.
One-Skillet Wonder: The easy of putting this slaw together is a big bonus for me. Everything happens in one skillet, so no extra dishes to wash! I sauté cooked chickpeas in cumin and paprika, add soycutash and saute it till it thaws. Then add the Kale slaw mix, salt and vinegar, and sauté it for 30 seconds, and turn off the heat. Add chopped mango, garnish with roasted slivered almonds, and just like that, this nutrition packed slaw is ready!
Here’s how to make Kale & Mango Slaw with Chickpeas:
Jamaican Jerk Chicken was probably one of the first recipes that I cooked with my husband when we were newly married! It was an adaptation of one of Bobby Flay’s recipe. I remember, I made the spice rub from scratch, marinated the meat overnight, and we grilled it on a charcoal grill. It was juicy, spicy, sweet and simply amazing!
Traditional Marinade: In the traditional recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chicken, a wet marinade is prepared with fresh thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, ginger, garlic, spring onions, oil, soy sauce, orange juice, red wine vinegar, brown sugar and a unique spice-rub that includes cinnamon, cloves, all-spice, nutmeg, black pepper and salt. Everything is blended together in a food processor and the chicken is marinated in it for 30 mins-12 hours. Whenever I have time, I like to make this marinade from scratch, but on busy days, I love to take a shortcut and use a dry pre-mixed Caribbean Jerk Seasoning. I combine a few tablespoons of the pre-mix with orange juice, soy sauce, olive oil, red wine vinegar and brown sugar, and marinade is done.
Cooking methods: Oven/Skillet/Grill/Instant Pot: I have cooked Jerk Chicken in the oven, in a skillet, on an outdoor grill, and now, in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot. It takes about 15-20 minutes to grill it on the stove, outdoor grill or under the broiler (oven). With an Instant Pot, it takes about 30 minutes, BUT, that’s hands-free time. You don’t have to monitor it, or flip it half way through, you just dump it in and walk away for the next 30 minutes. However, after cooking it in the pressure cooker, I do like to do an optional extra step which takes another couple of minutes. I heat a grill pan on medium-high heat, and then sear the cooked chicken for 30 secs-1 minute on one side, to get the nice grill marks on the chicken. By doing that, the sugars in the marinade caramelize and create a nice char on the chicken, that tastes heavenly and looks phenomenal.
Serving suggestion: Jamaican Jerk Chicken goes really well with a simple mango salsa, or my favorite, Kale & Mango Slaw with Chickpeas. The crunchy slaw and the ripe and juicy mangoes compliment the sweet and spicy chicken really well. Click on the following link to get the recipe of this spring-time favorite, Kale & Mango Slaw.
Here’s how easy it is to put Jamaican Jerk Chicken together:
Aromatic basmati rice cooked with buttery soft spinach in homemade ghee, that’s what makes this simple side, so flavorful and hearty! Spinach Rice, or Palak (spinach) Pulav (rice pilaf), is a popular vegetarian side, where long-grain Basmati rice is cooked with fresh spinach, and seasoned with cumin seeds, garam masala (Indian spice blend) and ground coriander. This dish is finished with a light squeeze of lime and it tastes divine, just by itself. I like to add a few cashews or slivered almonds to spinach rice, they add a nice texture and contrast to the creamy spinach and the soft fluffy rice.
Flavor Variation: By switching a couple of ingredients, you can make Greek-style spinach rice, called Spanakorizo, using this recipe. That’s pronounced as span-a-ko-reezo. Now, try saying that 10 times fast 🙂 Turns out, this combination is a very popular side-dish in greek cuisine. Typically flavored with fresh dill, lemon zest and juice, this flavor-packed dish goes really well with a mediterranean themed menu. I pair it with these Lamb Chops, or my Mediterranean Chicken and everyone loves it in my home. The recipe for Spanakorizo is listed in the ingredient list.
Serving suggestion: Spinach rice goes really well with most Indian curries. My personal favorite pairings are with Butter Chicken , Chicken Tikka Masala, Paneer Tikka Masala and Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer Makhani). My local Trader Joe’s carries both these combinations in their frozen entrée section as well :-). There’s something about this combination that makes it blend so well. The buttery spinach compliments the rich curry in all these dishes.
Stove-top Recipe: In this recipe, I’ve made the Spinach pilaf in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot, but this recipe can very easily be made on the stove-top too. Here’s how: Heat a heavy bottom sauce pan on medium-high heat. Follow the instructions to saute everything, add rice, seasonings, water. Bring to a boil and cover the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork, add lime juice and mix. Let it sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes before serving.
Instant Pot Spinach Rice/ Palak Rice (Spinach Pilaf)
Juice of 1 small lemon, about 2 teaspoons, to be added after cooking
Rinse rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have the time, soak it for 20 minutes. Rinse and drain before using.
Heat ghee on SAUTE mode. Add cumin seeds and wait for them to sizzle, about 15-20 seconds. Add chopped onions and cashews and saute for 30 seconds. If you're adding curry leaves and green chilies, you can add them with the onions. Add crushed or grated, ginger & garlic, and saute another 30 seconds.
Add chopped spinach and cilantro and saute for about a minute, till the spinach wilts. See video for clarity. Add rinsed and drained rice and saute another minute. Add spices and water, stir well. Close lid. Cancel SAUTE. Set pressure valve to 'Sealing' position. Cook on Manual or Pressure Cook for 6 minutes.
Wait 5 minutes before manually releasing the pressure, by turning the valve to venting position (NPR 5). Open the lid after the pin drops. Fluff rice with a fork. Let it sit uncovered for 5 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime and mix it gently.
Some days, you just gotta have a burger! How about a juicy and delicious golden brown bean-patty, sandwiched between two warm, butter-toasted buns, the fresh crunch of lettuce and tomato, a slice of spicy pepper-jack, smothered in a sweet and spicy Sriracha-mayo sauce! By the time you’re done reading this post, I can guarantee that you’ll be craving for one!
My family loves burgers! Once a week, we either go out to our favorite burger place, Habbit, or I make one of my recipes at home. Sharing one of my all-time favorite, Veggie Bean Burger recipe with you all, which, even my meat-loving hubby relishes! I make this recipe with all kinds of beans, I’ve made them with black beans, kidney beans, and even a combination of pinto and black. The addition of finely chopped bell peppers, or rainbow peppers, adds a great texture and taste contrast to the creamy beans. Fine chopping ingredients can be a pain sometimes, so, I de-seed the peppers, cut them into large chunks and pulse it a few times in my trusty Mini Food Processor by Ninja. Frozen corn adds just the right hint of sweetness. The shredded cheese binds these patties beautifully, and elevates the taste to a whole new level.
Beans: You can make this recipe with dry or canned beans. If using dry beans, rinse and soak them overnight. Rinse and drain them again before cooking. I pressure cook the beans in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot, which reduces the time and effort significantly. Drain the cooked beans and follow the recipe. If using canned beans, rinse and drain them well and use in this recipe.
Vegan & Egg-less Alternative: This recipe calls for a large egg, which binds and helps hold these patties together. You can skip that and add about 1/2 cup breadcrumbs to the mix, to bind them. Adjust the quantity based on how wet your bean mixture is. This recipe also calls for shredded cheese. Cheese also helps bind these patties together. You can substitute with Coconut Flour or Corn Starch. The quantities are mentioned in the ingredient list.
Halving this recipe: You can easily cut this recipe in half, and make 4 patties or so. In that case, since it’s difficult and messy to half an egg, use 1/4 cup Panko Bread Crumbs instead. Adjust the quantity based on how wet your bean mixture is.
Soft, spongy, melt-in-your-mouth Rava Idli is a real favorite with my kids. Rava Idli, which is made with semolina flour called Rava, is a variation of the popular south-Indian breakfast dish called ‘Idli’ (steamed rice & lentil cakes).
Super easy to make, this instant breakfast or snack recipe needs no grinding or fermenting, and comes together in 30 minutes, with only 5-7 minutes of active cooking time. In this recipe, I’ve made rava idli in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot, using my newest kitchen toy, Silicone Molds. These molds work great for a variety of recipes including, eggs-bites, mini lava cakes and more. I love it when a kitchen accessory can be used for multiple recipes!
Serving suggestion: Rava Idli can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch or snack. These idlis make for excellent school lunches too. In my house, we each have a different ‘favorite’ condiment to enjoy it with. We have it with ginger chutney, coconut chutney, cilantro-mint chutney, and ketchup… yes, ketchup:-)
Chicken Wonton Soup is perhaps one of the most ordered soups at a Chinese restaurant. Wontons are soft bite-size dumplings that are stuffed with meat or vegetables, and aromatics like ginger, garlic and spring onions. They are then cooked in a clear, flavorful chicken or vegetable broth. I love simple and easy meals like this, that are so comforting at the end of a long day.
When I have time, I love to make homemade wontons for this soup using ground chicken, spring onions, aromatics and seasoning. But, for weeknights and crazy times, this soup is real easy to put together using my favorite store-bought frozen wontons, Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons from Trader Joe’s. This soup will work equally well with your favorite brand of dumplings too.
Easy-Peasy: All you have to do is add all ingredients, except wontons and greens, in the Instant Pot, pressure cook for 2 minutes, release pressure, add wontons and greens, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Done! And dinner is served in 20 minutes.
Vegetarian: It is extremely easy to make this soup vegetarian by switching just two ingredients. Switch the chicken broth with vegetable broth and buy your favorite flavor of vegetable dumplings. I personally like the Thai Vegetable Gyoza dumplings from Trader Joe’s.
Stove-Top Method: Heat a large stockpot on medium-high heat. Add all ingredients EXCEPT wontons and greens. Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 6-8 mins. Open lid. Add wontons and cook till they float on top, takes about 2-4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add greens and stir well. Let them soften in the soup for a few minutes. Serve warm!
Aromatic and nutty basmati rice cooked in a Saffron infused broth. This easy and popular side compliments so many dishes around the world. Saffron is a spice that is derived from the core of a flower called, saffron crocus. Each strand of saffron has to be carefully extracted by hand, which makes it the world’s most expensive spice (by weight). That being said, most recipes call for a pinch or two of saffron, so if you invest in a small box, it’ll last a long time.
Saffron adds a deep floral fragrance along with a golden-yellow to a light-crimson color to dishes, depending on the quantity used. The best way to bring out the flavor of Saffron, is to soak it in a warm liquid, like water or milk. In Indian cuisine, Saffron is used in many rice preparations, both sweet and savory. An extremely popular savory meat & rice pilaf, which uses saffron, is Biryani. It is also used in many desserts, like Rava Kesari (Semolina Pudding) and Kheer (Rice Pudding).
In this recipe, I have cooked saffron rice in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot , but it can be prepared in any pressure cooker, a rice cooker, microwave, or even on the stove-top. Here are a few tried and tested ways:
Stove-top: Rinse 1 cup of rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have the time, soak it for 15 minutes, that results in fluffy rice. For one cup of rice, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add rinsed and drained rice, salt, ghee or oil, slivered almonds (optional), and saffron, that has been soaking in warm water (see how-to instructions in recipe card). Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, till you reach your desired texture.
Microwave: Rinse 1 cup of rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have the time, soak it for 15 minutes, that results in fluffy rice. In a microwave safe bowl, add drained rice, 2 cups of water (for 1 cup rice), and all other ingredients, and cook it at “rice” mode.
Prep: Rinse 1 cup of rice 2-3 times, till water runs clear. If you have the time, soak it for 15 minutes, that results in fluffy rice. Take 1/2 teaspoon of saffron in a microwave safe bowl, Using a teaspoon, break down the stems into smaller pieces. Add 1 tablespoon hot water to it, or, add cold water and microwave it for 20-30 seconds. Saffron rice can be prepared two ways in the Instant Pot- Direct pot, or Pot-in-Pot. Here are both ways:
Main Pot Add rinsed and drained rice and all other ingredients in the inner pot. Close lid. Set valve to sealing position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 6 minutes, OR, Rice mode, which defaults to 12 minutes.
Pot-in-Pot Add all ingredients in any oven safe container. Add 1 cup water, or the recommended quantity, to your inner pot. Place trivet and place the rice bowl on top of that. Close lid. Set valve to sealing position. Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 6 minutes, OR, Rice mode, which defaults to 12 minutes.
Wait 10 minutes before manually releasing the pressure (NPR 10). Open lid after pin drops. Using a fork, carefully fluff the rice. Serve with your favorite entree!
Garam Masala is a fragrant blend of locally grown spices from the Indian subcontinent, similar in concept to the French herb de Provence or Chinese five-spice powder. Since the climate and soil-type varies all over India, the basic composition of this blend differs by region. Plus, almost every household customizes it based on their taste preference. To make garam masala, whole spices are lightly toasted to release their flavor and aroma. Then, they are cooled and ground to a fine consistency. If stored in a cool and dry place, garam masala stays fresh for months.
This blend is my grandmother’s recipe for Garam Masala. Most of my curry and Indian recipes on this blog call for garam masala as one of the main flavoring components. Some traditional Indian recipes ask for whole garam masala (spices), which has to be fished out before serving. I prefer to use this blend instead.
Homemade garam masala beats store-bought any day. But for busier times, I always have a store-bought back-up in my pantry. I have tried many brands and find the Frontier Garam Masala blend to be a close substitute. I feel it’s well-balanced and no single spice overpowers the others.
Makki ki Roti is a popular punjabi flat bread made from corn flour and generally served with Sarson Ka Saag. Fine yellow cornmeal is seasoned with salt, red chili powder, carom seeds (ajwain) and coriander powder. Using warm water, the cornmeal is kneaded into a semi-soft dough. And then flatbreads are rolled out using a small portion of this dough. The earthy flavors of this roti make this a perfect accompaniment for sarson ka saag.
Variations in recipe: Just like any traditional dish, every family has their own spin on it. My family has a few of them. Just like my grandmother, my mom would always make Makki ki Roti with seasoned cornmeal, nothing else added. One of my aunts adds freshly chopped fenugreek leaves to the dough. My mother-in-law always added shredded diakon-radish to her dough in addition to freshly chopped cilantro. I loved her version the best. To me, the radish acts as a great binder for the dough, plus enhances the flavor of this Roti so much. It goes so well with the creamy Sarson ka Saag.
Cornmeal/Flour: Makki ki Roti is made with fine-ground cornmeal or cornflour. This taste and consistency is close to the Mexican corn flour that is used for making corn tortillas. This flour has a very earthy and subtle sweet taste that makes it unique, which is why substituting any other flour may not give you the same results. You can find this flour at any Indian grocery store, or on amazon. Here is a picture of one of the brands that I like.
Flatbread making: The process of flattening the flatbread often intimidates people. It looked impossible to me. For the longest time, I thought that was something only Moms could make, and, that it was an art that one needed to master. And then I saw my mother-in-law make them one day. Since that day, I firmly believe, that you can science your way out of recipes, and make them work! I realized that, the consistency of the dough makes it tough to roll out, because it sticks and crumbles on you. So, I cut open a large ziplock bag, place the dough in between the two sides, and, use a heavy fry pan to press down on the dough a couple of times, till it becomes flat. Then, simply peel off the flatbread from the ziplock and place it on a hot griddle for cooking. As simple as that! Watch the video above and you’ll see how easy this process is.
Serving Suggestion:Makki ki Roti is traditionally served with Sarson ka Saag. Here is the recipe for creamy Sarson ka Saag. If for any reason, you cannot make makki ki roti, a close substitute would be stone-ground corn tortillas from your local supermarket, or, handmade corn tortillas from your favorite taqueria. To elevate the tortillas to another level, lightly grease a fry-pan, brush the corn tortillas with a little ghee, sprinkle a little cayenne on top, and lightly toast them. The end result gets pretty close to the classic Makki ki Roti. Serve this combo with some Sweet and Spicy lemon Pickle and you’ll thank me!
Make the dough In a large mixing bowl, mix in sifted cornmeal, salt, carom seeds and red chili powder. Add grated radish and cilantro and mix with a fork. Using a few tablespoons of warm water at a time, knead gently into a soft dough. Knead the melted ghee into the dough and divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll out those 8 portions into individual dough balls, about 2 inches in diameter.
Make Makki Rotis/Flatbreads To make rotis, cut open a gallon size ziploc bag on two ends and spread it open (like a book). Brush both inner sides with water. Wet your palms and gently flatten the dough ball with you fingers. Place the in the center of the ziplock and cover with the other side. Using a heavy bottom fry-pan, press down on the dough 2-3 times, till you have an even thickness flatbread.
Cook the Makki Roti Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Peel off the roti from the ziplock and place it on the hot skillet. Cook for about 30 seconds, till it turns a shade darker. Flip it. Brush a little ghee on the other side and flip after 30 seconds. Repeat the process on the other side and cook till the flatbread turns golden in color.