Thursday, January 28, 2021

Toasted Pita Bread with Red Bean Filling

Today's post is a simple recipe that can be used for any meal that you might think of. It's filling, nutritious and easy to whip up as long as you have cooked beans and a few simple spices. In a pinch, a can of beans will definitely work, but cooking your own beans from scratch and having some in the refrigerator or freezer will be the cheapest and best option. It does require a little bit of pre-preparation, but beans are the most versatile ingredients that you can have in your kitchen, especially if you are plant based.

One of the easiest ways is to soak your beans of choice (there are so many!) overnight. The next day, drain the beans and cook them in fresh water until they are tender and still hold their shape. You can use a pressure cooker or cook the beans on the stovetop. Once the beans are cooked, you can either use them right away or store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. There are a lot of ways you can use beans - salads, rice dishes, curries, burgers...the uses are many.   

The recipe below came about because I had made the curry but didn't have any flatbread to serve it with. Pita bread to the rescue! 

So without further ado, lets take a look at the recipe.


2 Cups cooked red beans (or 1 can red beans)

1 tsp oil of choice (I used avocado oil)

1/2 chopped red onion

2 medium tomatoes

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin seed powder

1 tsp cayenne powder

1/2 tsp fennel seed powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

juice of half a lemon

1/2 C cooked rice or any other cooked grain (quinoa, barley, etc.) (optional)

1 C chopped lettuce

2 whole pita breads


1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil. Once the oil is heated through, add the chopped onion and sauté until softened. 

2. Add the chopped tomatoes and then add all the spice powders including salt.

3. Once the tomatoes are softened to your liking, add the beans and mix thoroughly.

4. Add the cooked grain if you are using it.

5. The curry should be on the dry side. 

6. Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

7. Switch off the flame and stir in the lemon juice.

8. Tear the pita bread in half and toast the sides.

9. Fill in the bottom part of the pita half with lettuce and then top off with the red bean mixture.

10. Serve hot with some hot sauce or ketchup.


1. My kids really enjoy these pita burritos for snacks as well as for the main meals.

2. Having the beans prepared and available will make this a very quick recipe to put together.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Steps towards self-sufficiency - Homemade turmeric powder

 I have been dreaming about and slowly working towards partial self-sufficiency in a few things that can be managed in a mostly urban area. Due to the lack of growing space and lack of time, complete self-sufficiency is not going to be possible. But there are quite a lot of things that I can still do in my urban home so as not to purchase every single thing from a store. The reasons are two fold - by not consuming a lot of processed things, I hope to maintain good health for my family for a long time. The second reason stems from my effort to be ecologically conscious, to try to tread as lightly as possible on this earth for as long as we are privileged to be here! 

To that end, I have been growing some vegetables and herbs in my backyard. As a full time working mom of two boys, I haven't been able to devote a lot of focused time to the kitchen garden and that shows in my sporadic harvests. But this past year has been slightly better. Although I got to a late start and didn't grow as many plants, I still got a very decent harvest of long beans, Armenian cucumbers, okra, amaranth, cow peas, cluster beans and spring onions. I also grew mint, rosemary, sage and oregano and was able to dry some and make my own mixed herbs. I realized that with a little bit more planning and with an organized approach, I would be able to grow a little bit more. 

One harvest that I was really looking forward to was the turmeric harvest. Turmeric is very widely used in Indian cuisine and I had long envisioned growing and making my own turmeric powder. A good friend had shared a few rhizomes with me a couple of years back. I had let the clump grow for about 2 years without harvesting at all. This year, I decided to see if there was any action going on underground at all! 

The day I cut down the long fragrant leaves of the plants and dug up the clumps was like a day at the candy store for a sweet toothed kid! I pulled out all the roots and dug around the area carefully so as not to break any rhizomes. The whole muddy clump was actually a delight to behold! 

Once cleaned and sorted, the turmeric rhizomes weighed about 4.5 pounds, which was a fantastic surprise! 

This was one of the clumps that I dug out. I had two big clumps growing next to each other. I had to dig gently up to almost 8 - 10 inches underneath the surface to get to most of the rhizomes. I think I did get everything out, if not, we will know in the spring when the rhizomes will start sending out shoots again! 

The dried flower was another bonus. I did not use it for anything, but the fragrance was out of this world. Very earthy, but also floral and heady. I would go out to the plant just to get a whiff of the flower. 

Once I harvested all the rhizomes, I got a big bucket, filled it with water and dumped everything into the water. I let it sit there for about 30 minutes and then went back and rinsed off the rhizomes pretty thoroughly, changing the water several times, until the water was clear and the rhizomes looked very clean.

Since I did this on the back patio, I was able to minimize the mud and the dirty water in the kitchen. The water went into the nearby plants!

This was the sum total of all my turmeric harvest, after the ends were chopped off and the mud was cleaned off. The darkest rhizomes on right were the original ones that I had planted. The paler ones are the new growth. I left the rhizomes on a sheet of paper in my kitchen corner for a few days.

I set aside some of the turmeric to use in pickles and other dishes. The rest of them were destined to be made into powder. After a couple of days on the sheet of paper, some of the outer skin was getting dried. I used a paper towel to brush off the dried layers and used a box grater to thinly slice the turmeric as best as I could. 
I did not boil the rhizomes before hand. I had read several articles on how to make the powder and there were two thoughts on that. Some boiled the roots in water until tender and then dried them and powdered them, others didn't. My sister in law back in India told me that she never boiled hers. She has been doing this process for a long time and so I decided to follow hers.
I spread out the slices into a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray and set it out in the sun. I covered the tray with a mesh net to prevent the slices from flying off and to prevent and birds from pecking at them.

I brought the tray back in at night and set it out again the next day. I continued the process until the slices were crisp and dried and had no hint of moisture. 
I then blended it using my Indian blender jar. 
Of course its not as finely milled as it would be in a professional mill, but for home use it will do.
The powder is also very pungent and fragrant and a little goes a long way.
It remains to be seen how long this will last for me and my family since I use turmeric powder in a lot of my dishes. 

Have you tried making turmeric powder before? Do share your tips and techniques in the comments below! 
~ Until next time, may the grass always be greener on your side of the fence ~

Friday, January 01, 2021

A little bit of luck, a whole lot of beans and greens!

"Its a new day, its a new we are, still goin' strong..."

So crooned singer Bryan Adams in his hit song - Here I am..

Seems pretty apt for the time that we all find ourselves in. Its the beginning of a brand new year. We have, hopefully learned a few things about the people around us and more importantly, a lot about ourselves. If nothing else, then 2020 should have served as the year of new insights, new adventures, new perspectives along with a dash of renewed hope, renewed contentment with what we have and a resolve to continue to improve, no matter what. 

With that, I will move on from that topic and resume with regular programming!! 

Among the many recipes that crop up during the New Years Day, I kept seeing a lot of pages devoted to a dish called Hopping John. Its a classic southern US dish, usually eaten on New Year's Day and is supposed to bring in a lot of luck. Traditionally, its a dish with rice, black eyed peas, onions and eaten with collard greens. The idea of a hearty dish with beans and greens sounded lovely for a cold day here in North Dallas and who wouldn't want a bit of fortune to go along with that? 

So that was what went on my menu plan for the day. I had to check to make sure I had some beans, I didn't want to make a trip to a grocery store just to get beans. I have been trying to limit my trips to grocery stores - less exposure, less impulsive buys and more opportunities to use up what I already have in the pantry. I knew I had about half a cup of dried black eyed peas, some red peas and frozen greens. 

I made the dish for lunch in my Instant Pot, served it up with steamed white rice and the whole family gobbled it up with relish. I hope you try this dish.

                             Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year! 


1/2 C dried black eyed peas

1/2 C red beans (Rajma)

1/2 C chopped onions

1 medium tomato, diced

2 C mixed chopped greens (I used spinach and amaranth greens)

 2 tsp oil (I used avocado oil)

1 tsp finely chopped ginger

1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp red chili powder

1 tsp curry powder ( I used Kitchen King) 

1 tsp salt

1 tsp jaggery(any unrefined sugar) (optional)


1. Wash the beans and soak them in plenty of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. I would really recommend this step so that the beans cook up very nicely.

2. Set the Instant Pot to saute mode. Once its hot, add the oil. Add the chopped onion, ginger and garlic and fry for a minute or two. 

3. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft. Add all the spice powders and mix well.

4. Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Add enough water to cover the beans.

5. Add chopped greens of choice. Add the salt and the jaggery and mix well.

6. Cover the lid of the Instant Pot and change the setting to Beans. This cooks on high pressure for 30 minutes. If you had soaked your beans well, this time should be sufficient. If not, you might need to cook for an additional 10 minutes. 

7. Wait for the pressure to release naturally. If you are in a hurry, wait for at least 10 minutes before a quick steam release.

8. Stir well, add more water to adjust consistency, if required. Mash a few of the beans to get a smooth texture. Serve piping hot with rice.


1. I really enjoyed this dish. Admittedly, I veered quite a bit from the original recipe, but still! The heartiness of the beans and the earthiness of the greens, combined with the potent spices is a wonderful meal. 

2. You can use a combination of any beans and greens for this dish, I would just recommend that you check the cooking times for the beans.

3. If you use canned beans and frozen greens, this can become a very quick - cooking dish.

4. I used amaranth greens that I grew in my backyard this past summer and froze the excess.  Other greens of choice would be collard greens, chard, spinach. 

5. You could use powdered ginger and garlic, but fresh is always better! 

6. Instead of white rice, you could always use quinoa, brown rice or millet or any grain of your choice.