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south beach diet phase 1

Keerai Kootu (Spinach and Split Moong Bean stew) – Virudunagar Restaurant Style

I have been on a eating marathon for the last three days. It all started with a dinner on Friday. We went to a Chinese restaurant near my house and I ate lamb, chicken and beans dishes and thank fully skipped the rice. They were so yummy and it’s my second visit within two weeks. I am sure the dishes would have been made with fish, oyster and other Asian sauces that has good amount of sugar in it. I pledged to myself to workout on Saturday but things didn’t turn out as planned. My husband got started with his weekend classes in Berkeley and it was just Sid and myself at home. So you can imagine my schedule with a toddler in hand.  I was brave enough to start my workout but my son climbed on my back when I was doing power yoga (Tony Horton Power 90 workout). To avoid hurting both of us, I stopped and all we did was playing, snacking, coloring and watching Curious George.

October 7 is my husband’s birthday. On Saturday evening,  I organized a birthday dinner and  invited his close friend and their family. The menu was simple but was dumped with tons of calories. I simmered cauliflower puree with heavy cream and few exotic Indian spices and made a soup out of it. Then there was this raw cauliflower salad which nobody relished and I ended up eating it the following day. I made mutton biryani following my mother-in-law’s recipe. You must check that recipe if you want  to make fluffy, extremely delicious biryani for your family/ friends / guests. For dessert it was Shyam’s favorite creme brulee with mango puree. I made a really huge batch of that brullee. Yes, I ate them all. That summons my DAY-2  of over eating.

On the day of his birthday, we had tons of leftovers. I was enthusiastic about baking chocolate souffle. I got the inspiration from my fellow blogger Nami’s post. She made it sound very easy and do-able. Thanks to her for that. After exchanging few emails I finally baked my first batch of chocolate souffle and they turned out pretty yum. Thanks Nami for the tips and tricks. Sunday was filled with eating biryani, brulee and souffle and we repeated the same thing for dinner. Again DAY-3 of over-over eating. Gosh! I feel so terrible now.
To prevent any excess pound make its way to my body, I am back to South beach diet phase 1 for the next couple of weeks. I made a batch of delicious spinach- split moong bean stew and ivy gourd stir fry. Mung bean also called green gram in India is different from split moong bean. To start with, whole mung bean is green in colour while the split ones are yellow in colour. Green ones are short, oval and intact in shape while the yellow is split in half and are tiny short ones. Both are rich in protein and are ideal ingredient to cook during phase 1 of SBD.
This dish is called as “keerai kootu” in Tamil, my mother tongue. Kootu is a staple dish in every vegetarian South Indian home. That’s their source of protein for the day as it is made with boiled, mashed lentils/legumes/beans. They are either cooked with any vegetable or just simmered with onions and tomatoes and topped with tempered oil. For today’s kootu, I used finely chopped spinach, onions , garlic and tomatoes. I pre-cooked the split moong beans and mashed it to a fine puree. Once I tempered the oil with basic South India spices, I mixed in onions and tomatoes and few other spice powders and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Once they were cooked through, I folded in the mashed lentils until mixed well. Generally I use extra virgin olive oil but yesterday I used coconut oil. I love its nutty, tropical flavour. In the traditional recipe, coconut paste or coconut milk is added to kootu for extra richness and taste. Hence I used little coconut oil instead of the coconut milk.
Keerai Kootu is an easy recipe and I am sure you will fall in love with its taste and it can be eaten as soup/stew in Phase 1 of SBD. I ate mine for lunch today with lovakkai kari (ivy gourd/tindora stir fry) and cucumbers. Yummy hearty meal!


Source: My mom
Serves: 4-6 (3/4th cup serving size)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil + 1 tablespoon coconut oil for garnish (skip this final step if you are using olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 2 green chillis – slit
  • 2 dry red chillies – cut in half
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 small red onion – chopped
  • 1 red tomato – chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 2 cups baby spinach – finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup moong bean – cleaned and washed
  1. Pressure cook the moong bean with 4 cups of water for 5 whistles. Switch off the flame and let it cool down. If using a cooking pan, fill water and cook the beans for 45 minutes until it turns mushy. Once cooled, mash the bean into a fine puree. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil and once hot enough, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add cumin seeds, curry leaves, green chillies and dry red chillies. Saute for a minute. Then add the garlic and mix into the tempered oil.
  3. Throw in the onions and tomatoes and saute for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle turmeric, chili and coriander powder. Saute for another 2 minutes.
  4. Cook on medium flame. Add the spinach and add 1/2 cup water and cook covered for 20 minutes.
  5. Lower the flame and fold in the moong bean puree and let it simmer for 5 minutes until the flavours mingle with each other. Switch off the flame. Add salt to taste. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Stir to combine and serve hot with rice/roti/ pita pockets or eat as such.
Additional notes
  1. An ideal entree for South beach phase 1 diet.
  2. Since it has tons of spinach and beans, its a nutritious food for toddlers/kids. I mix this South Indian kootu with whole wheat pasta for his lunch.
  3. This dish can also be eaten by those  in phase 2 and 3 of SBD. Serve hot with brown rice or roti.
  4. An healthy side for those who are diabetic/pre-diabetic and also for gestational diabetic women. She can eat even 2 cups per meal and feel so energetic and full without any spike in sugar level.

Indian Diet Plan for Gestational Diabetes

I was at my OB/GYN’s office last week for my annual check up. This time I happened to take my little one along and my doctor and her medical assistant were so excited to see him grown up. Even my son was super excited and kept waving at them shouting “hi’ every now and then. She was seeing me after the weightloss and she assured that my healthy lifestyle might prevent me from diabetes in the future. She was curious to know what I did to get rid of 26 pounds. You can read about my weightloss journey here. I don’t think you could enjoy this drink during pregnancy. Read and save the recipe for post-pregancy weightloss journey.

Ayurvedic Drink

After the exam, we had a brief conversation about her new patients and that the practice is getting busy with new South Asian patients. That’s when we spoke about gestational diabetes (GD). She mentioned that despite the low body mass index (BMI), most women from India suffer from gestational diabetes. Yes I have seen that despite the low BMI, South Asians are more prone to diabetes and cardiovascular complications.
She wanted to connect them with me and my blog as most patients are not ready to accept the fact that they have GD and need to be on a strict menu plan. I can totally understand the mind set of pregnant women. Even I was in the same state – unaccepting, depressed and lost. Even my mom was not “OK” with it. She kept confusing me that if you avoid idly/dosa and rice, your baby will be thin and not healthy. She would also say that she ate so much rice and lot of food during pregnancy and me eating such measured quantities was  totally wrong as per her views. But the truth is that, whole grains, vegetables and nuts on a GD diet is going to make your child more healthy. I don’t blame the Indian mom as there is a lot of ignorance about their knowledge about pregnancy and GD. Also nobody is telling you to avoid carbs. Carbs are so key for your child’s brain development. If you deprive your child of carbs, there might be some adverse consequences. All you have to do during GD is to eat complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat rawa, barley, whole wheat flour, finger millet, lentils, legumes and lots of vegetables. To make you feel  better, I have shared my story here.

Salmon Quinoa

Even I went through a phase where I was lost on what to cook, how and when to eat. I literally lived on cucumber and celery with hummus. Once I got a hang of the whole GD lifestyle, I ate every 2-3 hours. I made batches of “sundals”, bought organic hummus from Costco or Trader’s Joe, nuts. We need to walk atleast 20 minutes after every meal. This can help to maintain blood sugar level at a constant level.Eating in a restaurant would be challenging during gestational diabetes (GD). We used to buy food from our local Indian restaurants on days I was tired or nauseated to cook for  myself.   Every time I had a meal my sugar level would shoot up to 175-180mG/mL. I think I dined just couple of times after those “spiked up” sugar levels. My husband and I would discuss about starting a restaurant or a food truck specializing in low glycemic foods. Anyone with GD, diabetes, heart problems or looking to  lose weight can dine happily without worrying about the calories, oil or sugar level. If you happened to dine for special occasion, I would recommend eating bowl of brown rice with steamed veggies and grilled tofu or chicken breast. In Indian restuarants, you could request for whole wheat rotis/chapati and channa masala or any lentil/beans curry made with no sugar and little oil. That’s what I did – my husband enjoyed plateful of delicious foods and I ate salad and steamed veggies.

Here are few ingredients I explored during my pregnancy:

1. Poha / Aval from red rice instead of white ones
2. Quinoa
3. Purple potatoes instead of white/red ones
4. Short grain brown rice from Costco
5. Adzuki and pinto beans (highly low glycemic in number)
6. Ragi / Finger millet
7. Red rice and Hand pound rice (kai thuthal arisi)
8. Wild rice and black rice ( I made salads with them)
9. Whole wheat rawa ( made upma with them)
10. Couscous ( again made salad with them)
11. Avocados
Today, I have decided to write this post summarizing the list of recipe everyone could try during GD.This list is also useful for those who are diabetic/ pre-diabetic or anyone who wants to lose  weight (low glycemic diet ideas – South beach diet).Unsweetened low fat yogurt plays a key role in keeping good bacteria in gut and female reproductive organs (cervix, uterus wall linings). They maintain an optimum pH and prevent the growth of bad bacteria. Hence I suggest including 1 cup of yogurt each day. You can eat it with pulka in the form of raita or you can just eat it as it is.


  1. Hummus served with celery or cucumber or Spicy hummus or Guacamole
  2. Roasted cauliflower
  3. Salmon quinoa patties ( replace Salmon with sweet potatoes or purple potatoes)
  4. Nuts (almonds, walnuts, soy nuts)
  5. Boiled  edamame (can be found at Costco, Whole foods, Savemart, Safeway, Trader’s Joe)
  6. Sundals with black eyed peas, green gram, channa dhaal, mooth beans, pinto beans, mung bean salad etc)
  7. Channa chaat / salad
  8. Thengai manga sundal (our good old Marina sundal) 
  9. Chickpea Vegetable Patties


  1. Whole grain idli with tons of moong dhaal sambhar
  2. Kadai vegetables with purple potatoes and serve it with pulka/chapati/roti
  3. Adzuki beans masala with brown rice or pulka
  4. Beans or asparagus parruppu usili
  5. Roasted vegetables with brown rice
  6. Home style dhaal , Kale Dhaal
  7. Channa masala
  8. Pinto beans masala
  9. Pala pinji poriyal / Baby jackfruit stir fry
  10. Mushroom masala / curry
  11. Red lentils dhaal with red chard, serve it with cucumber or avocado slices
  12. Adai with brown rice
  13. Aviyal
  14. Ragi idiyappam with vegetable or chicken kurma ( I wouldn’t recommend eating with sweetened coconut milk for GD women)
  15. Paruppu urundai moor kozhambhu
  16. Lemon quinoa (just like our lemon rice)
  17. Brown rice idli or dosa batter
  18. Roasted broccoli and cauliflower with my quinoa spice powder or idly mulagai podi
  19. Pesarattu with brown rice
  20. Kothuparotta with whole wheat tortilla
  21. Ragi sevai / savoury noodles 
  22. Paruppu urundai puli kozhambh 
  23. Salad Idli
  24. Rasam, Thogayal and Okra
  25. Murungai Keera Thengai Sadam



8. Chicken kara kari (super spicy chicken curry) – may be once in your pregnancy 🙂
10. Whole chicken roast ( if you have Thanksgiving around your pregnancy)


1. Ground turkey wrap with lettuce

Lamb / Mutton


Soups / Drink

2. Lemonade (savoury version – just lemon, salt and water)
3. Organic carrot juice from Costco (no added sugar)

Dessert (Very rare)

1. Fresh fruit juice popsicles (homemade and sugar less) with grapes and oranges
2. Avocado chocolate mousse with agave nectar or coconut palm sugar

Meen puttu – South Indian Salmon Scramble

I have been exploring a lot with salmon. It’s in season now and we just have one more month left to enjoy fresh wild salmon from Alaska. You must have read about my series on Copper River Salmon. I have received three pounds of different types of salmon over the past three months. I have got really creative to create Indian inspired salmon dishes with it. I have never tasted salmon in India. Few days after we I got settled in my new home here, I ventured out at fish markets in Bay area to buy fresh fishes. I brought home some tilapia, mackerel and anchovies. Those were the fish I was comfortable handling. Once during a breakfast at a restaurant, I happened to taste smoked salmon with croissant and hollandaise sauce. I loved its texture and little google search enlightened me about the goodness of salmon. That’s when I started to grill and bake with salmon. You can read about other recipes here.

From the time I started with South beach diet, I look for recipes that are low carb. First step I took was changing white rice to brown one. I now eat my Indian curries and sauces with short grain brown rice I bought from Costco. Next key step was to eat lots of veggies. Since I work five days now, I cooked few dishes over the weekend. I stocked my fridge with stir fries of beans, chayote squash and pepper chicken fry and chicken masala. My mother in law made “puli kozhambhu” ( savoury tamarind sauce) in bulk. I froze them in three batches and planning to bake it with salmon and serve a week night dinner with spinach curry and brown rice. That’s the way I have been planning to feed my family with healthy low carb diet recipes.


On today’s post I am sharing an authentic recipe from my home state – Tamil Nadu. I hail from a sea town called Cuddalore where fresh fish and crabs are taken three meals a day. I love seafood from childhood and now I love it all the more as they are so healthy and has low calorie. My grandmother makes a dish called soora puttu , I crumbly dry dish made with shark, onions, lots of garlic and exotic South Indian spices. I recreated this dish with salmon as shark I find here doesn’t reach the texture I look for. Instead of boiling the salmon fillet in water, I bake them with salt for 15 minutes at 400F. Once cooled I crumbled them to tiny chunks with a fork. I make a simple onion-garlic mixture and add salmon to it and cook further to let the flavors marry.

 It’s such a easy dish to prepare. I have started to bake salmon ahead (like on Sundays) and freeze it for the week. I make the onion mixture on the day I plan to serve it. I mix the salmon with onion mixture right before lunch or dinner. This saves a lot of my time as I have a toddler who wants my attention on the time I am at home. These quick dinners are best for working moms and also for cooks who want healthy food in a jiffy.



Source: Mother-in-law
Serves: 4


  • 2 chunky salmon fillet – baked at 400F for 15 minutes, cooled and crumbled to tiny chunks with a fork

For the spice mixture

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 15 garlic cloves – chopped
  • 3 Thai green chillies – sliced
  • 1 large onion – finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoon Kashimiri chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro for garnish


  1. Bake and cool the salmon. Using a dining fork, pull out the flesh and if need use hands to crumble them into tiny chunks. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large kadai. Once hot enough, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add the curry leaves, garlic and green chillies. Saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Mix in the onions and let it brown a bit, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the turmeric, chili and coriander powder. Saute for 2 minutes until the raw smell disappears. Add salmon and mix well to combine with the onion mixture. Add salt to taste.
  5. Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot with brown rice or quinoa and rasam.

Additional notes

  1. Ideal dish for South beach phase 1 dieters. Can be eaten as such for breakfast/lunch or dinner.
  2. Also good for those who are on a weightloss journey.
  3. Can be eaten by those who are diabetic and pre-diabetic.

Chow-Chow Thogayal – South Indian Pesto with Chayote Squash Skin

South Indian make a lot of thogayal, a look like to general chutneys but it is little thicker and creamier in consistency. I have been cooking vegetables like pumpkin, cucumber, chayote squash (called chow-chow in Tamil) . These veggies have high water content and are ideal to eat when you want to lose weight as they have a low calorie per serving size. Water based vegetables have diuretic properties. Chow-chow is high in fibre and is easily digestible. Chow chow has zero fat or cholesterol. Other than that, isn’t it awesome to explore new veggies and make refreshing stir fries or curries with it?

I found fresh and tender chayote squash at the Indian market last week. I grabbed six of them with a plan to make a stir fry and use the skin to make “thogayal/chutney”. I use this chutney as a dip for cucumber, carrots and celery sticks. Typically chutneys are served with idly, dosa, pongal, pooris and plain rice.

The cooking steps are very similar to making a pesto. For this South Indian thogayal / chutney, I have used black gram (uradh dhal) to create nutty, creamy texture; dry red chilies for heat, tamarind to add some tangy tint to it and finally some fresh coconut for flavor and to make it rich and smooth. If you compare to the pesto recipe, freshly crushed peppercorns are used for heat while pinenuts or walnuts or any nuts are used to make it creamy and lemon juice for the tangy tint. It truly conveys that a similar tasting dish is made with ingredients they got in hand. The use of local ingredient is key and the basic six taste are addressed by using same or equivalent ingredients.  Pestos are dressed with general spoonful of olive oil and in this South India pesto, the final step is to garnish the ground paste with hot oil tempered with black mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. If you notice, even hummus follows similar list of ingredients.

According to Ayurveda, a complete meal should carry almost six tastes – sweet, sour, saly, bitter, pungent and astringent. Most dishes made in Indian household will carry ingredients that can fulfill the requirement of Ayurvedic eating.

Once while shopping at Farmer’s Market in San Jose where predominant farmers are from Mexican origin. The carried chayote squash but there were little different from the ones you can fine in Indian/ Asian grocery stores. The Mexican variety has a rough, thorny outer covering which needs to be peeled and discarded. The flesh which is inside is similar to the Indian/Asian varieties. The Indian/Asian varities do carry thorns but they are less compared to the black, heavy thorns of the Mexican variety. If you are making this recipe, please make sure you buy the green colored chayote squash called chow-chow in India. The skin is pale green is color and runs smooth. The color is similar to that of green pear or green apple. Once you peel the skin with a peeler, save them to make this thogayal/ chutney.

The skin cann’t be eaten raw and hence the recipe calls in to cook the skin for 20-30 minutes in minimum oil. Once cooked and cooled, they are ground to a smooth paste with roasted urad dhal, dry red chilies  tamarind and coconut. You can use fresh or unsweetened dessicated coconut. The skin is pale green and smooth with slight ridges that run lengthwise. Many compare the color to a light green apple.


Source: Amma
Serves: A family of four


  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil
  • Skin of 6 chayote – peeled (save the skin after making your dish)
  • 1/4 cup urad dhal (black gram) – available at Indian grocery store
  • 3 dry red chilies (more or less as per your heat tolerance)
  • 1/2 tablespoon tamarind pulp
  • 2 tablespoon unsweetened dessicated or fresh coconut
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water to grind

For the tempering

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida


  1.  Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a saucepan. Once hot, add the chayote squash skin and cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove and let it cool.
  2. Heat a clean saucepan with 1 teaspoon oil and roast the dry red chilies followed by urad dhal and finally tamarind pulp. Saute for couple of minute. Switch off the flame and add the coconut. Let the remaining heat cook the coconuts. Remove and let it cool.
  3. Grind together the cooked chayote squash, roasted urad dhal, dry red chilies,  tamarind and coconut with minimum water to a smooth paste . Add salt to taste. Mix well.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small pan. Once hot, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add the curry leaves and asafoetida. Pour this mixture over the chayote squash / chow-chow thogayal. A South Indian pesto with chayote squash to ready to devour.

Additional Notes:

  1. This is an ideal dip for those who are on a weightloss journey.
  2. This can be eaten in phase 1 of South beach diet.
  3. Also perfect one for women with gestational diabetes and also for those who are diabetic/ pre-diabetic.

Start Here



Spicy Mangai Urugai

Raw Mango Pickle ( Mangai Urugai)

Thank you for being here and thank you for taking your first step towards learning a new flavor of Indian cooking. Spices and Aroma is a family food blog focusing on the cuisine of Southern India. You can learn more about us, on the about page.

About Tamil Nadu

Language Spoken: Tamil

Capital: Chennai (previously known as Madras)

Nearest Airport: Chennai International Airport

Culture: Tradition of literature, music and dance. Known for Hindu temples, Tanjore painting and classical form of dance (Bharata Natyam)

Cuisine: Rice and rice based dishes. Meals are served in banana leaf instead of plate and eaten with the right hand. Traditionally prepared filter coffee is popular.

Popular Ingredients: Coconut, Curry Leaves, Tamarind, Mangoes, Jackfruit, Plantains

Economy: Agriculture, Leather Industry, Textiles, Engineering, Automobiles, Heavy Industries, Electronics and Software


Food from Tamil Nadu

Spices and aroma is a humble attempt to share my love for Southern Indian cooking. This is my canvas where I paint the different colors of tastes. For a girl born and brought-up in a typical Southern Indian household, the word spices and its aroma evokes a lot of cherished memories from the kitchen.

I started this blog in 2008 to document my achi’s (grandmother) and amma’s (mother) recipes. Over the last 6, 7 + years the blog has given me a great oppurtunity to grow and evolve as a food lover. I grew up in a house that believes in the concept of Ayurveda so I create menus with spices that heal your mind and soul. Being a molecular biologist working on clinical trials, science always fascinated me. So is food. I love to understand the connection between the two so my approach towards eating is “Food is medicine”.

I come from Southern part of India, that part of the nation where tamarind, curry leaves, coconut, plantains, jackfruit, mangoes and rice are popular. The diet by itself is gluten free as most of the dishes like idli, dosa, idhiyappam, uthappam, adai, aappam are rice based. We cook few dishes like kootu, poriyal, biryani with coconut flesh, coconut oil and coconut milk so my cuisine is vegan too. This space will carry recipes of authentic Indian dishes, of-course a lot from my mother’s, mother-in-law’s and grandmother’s kitchen and their cooking tips and tricks to survive the trade. I am experimenting on healthy cooking and different cuisines as well so you will find a whole lot of good menu ideas here. Most of my recipes are the ones that I grew up eating and I am tweaking few others with local ingredients. Being a typical foodie and a cook, I give importance on the freshness of the ingredients used. I love to shop in my local farmer’s market every week. There is no harm to shell out couple of more dollars to get the nature’s best and its a great way to support the community.

At Spices and Aroma, below is the list of popular categories:

  1. Gluten Free (225+ recipes)
  2. Vegan (90+ recipes)
  3. Vegetarian (150+ recipes)
  4. Kids Cook (Demonstrated by my 4 5 year old) and Kids Food
  5. Indian inspired recipes for Gestational Diabetes  (110+ recipes) & South Beach Diet phase 1  (100+ recipes)
  6. and much more!

Tamil Nadu Wedding Meal (Kalyana Sapadu) Photo Credit: Eva Blue

Food for Weightloss & Gestational Diabetes:

I have been on the heavier end of the scale since childhood. I wasn’t obese but I was chubby and during college, I went on diets that annoyed my mother. I did lose some weight but they came back right away. Later in early 20s like every bride in the world, I hit the gym, ate healthy Indian foods and lost close to 20 pounds for the big day and then the weight gain was back. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during both the pregnancies and that’s when an alarm rang in my head and started to eat right. I ventured out in the market and came up with Indian inspired recipes with the ingredients I got in hand. I started with South beach diet and in 6+ months, I lost close to 20 25 pounds in 2011. I am working to get healthy to avoid being pre-diabetic so I still try to eat the right food. You can find Indian inspired South beach diet and gestational diabetes food here. Please feel free to reach out to me for cooking ideas. I will be more than glad to share my tips, struggles and story with you.

Multigrain Dosa with Brown Rice Dosa Batter + Soy Flour + Multigrain Flour (Sathumaavu)

Multigrain Dosa with Brown Rice Dosa Batter + Soy Flour + Multigrain Flour (Sathumaavu)

Our goal is to help you try South Indian dishes at the comfort of your home with ease and confidence. We are here to prove that there is more to Indian cuisine that just naan, butter chicken, saag paneer, samosa and dosa. We are sure that you will fall in love with it like we did.

Weekly Menu Charts

As a working mom, I realized my family runs like a well oiled machine if everything is planned and organized. On a attempt to make my life better, I created menu chart, pantry essential checklist, travel check list and 50 plus snack ideas to serve kids.

Here is the link to download the charts:

  1. Weekly Menu Chart 1
  2. Weekly Menu Chart 2
  3. Weekly Menu Chart 3
  4. Weekly Menu Chart 4
  5. Indian Pantry Essentials Checklist
  6. Travel Essentials Checklist (Domestic)
  7. 50 plus Snack Ideas for Working Moms
  8. 12 Practical Breakfast Ideas for Kids


Adai with brown rice and lentils – South Indian Speciality

Another dish created in my kitchen with brown rice is adai. Adai is a Tamil term for savory pancakes made with white rice and lentils. You may wonder why I replaced white with brown rice in this recipe. I have answered it here. Hop over to read it and do come back!

In short, brown rice is a whole grain and is not replenished of any nutrients. People who want to lower their blood sugar, lose weight or just want to eat healthy are in love with this holy grain. I can hear you say “I don’t like bland taste of brown rice. It doesn’t go well with Indian sauces and gravies”. Chill! I have a solution for you.
We have complex taste buds and we crave for our aromatic spices and wonderful flavors to linger and dance in our tongue before it makes it way to the tummy. That’s how I felt during gestational diabetes. My dreams would be filled with plates of crispy adai, jaggery , butter, aviyal and what not! See I have the taste bud of a typical foodie. Doesn’t that key quality in me make you trust my experiments in the kitchen?
I have started using brown rice in batters like idly, dosa, pesarattu and now adai too! You cann’t even find the difference in taste. Brown rice in batters is the magical way to get the whole grains straight to your loved one’s tummy without receiving any stares and shouting at the dining table. Yeah! I know we get shouted at the table or atleast see frowns at the table when menu is with not so usual ingredients. Here is the link to my post on adai eons ago. I had used white rice in it. Now see my brown rice version, visually you don’t see a difference right? Trust me, you will not find any change in taste as well. I love to serve adai with chutneys made with vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, cilantro, mint, bell peppers or anything that doesn’t add excess calorie to your meal. It’s better to avoid serving these healthy adais with coconut or peanut chutney. Well, you can eat them once in a while. That’s acceptable for sure but eating my wholegrain adai with coconut/peanut chutney every other day is a big NO-NO! Also I love to serve them with creamy sambhar cooked with lots of vegetables. Doesn’t it sound like Complan drink ad? – A complete planned food.
Now you ask me “My plate is filled with healthy adai served with healthy chutney and a healthy sambhar”.
I nod with pride that I convinced you to make a healthy dinner.
Then you ask me “What will I serve my husband?”
I stare back thinking about how my husband frowned when I gave it to him that night?
Leaving that unpleasant scene behind and winking as if nothing happened, my reply is “Serve with dollops of butter and jaggery (well, if he likes it) or if he still frowns better serve him super crispy with little oil/ghee and keep pointing out that we will meet the cardiologist pretty soon. Keep scaring  him I say!
Well, these kind of arguments are pretty common in every household. Just keep switching between what he loves to eat and what you love him to eat. He caught me with a bowl of ice cream one night. He cynically said ” South beach diet huh? Eat ! Eat!.
Rules break, mistakes happen and so does we come up with menu deals at home. And next day I made chole bhatura (deep fried bread with garbanzo beans curry) for him.
Makes 20 medium adais
Source: Self
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup yellow split peas/ toor dhal
1/2 cup Bengal gram / channa dhal
2 garlic cloves
1/4 inch ginger – skin peeled
2 dry red chillies
Salt to taste, about 1-2 teaspoon
 1 medium size tomato
For the tempering
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil or any oil of your choice
1/4 cup onions – finely chopped
2 teaspoon asafeotida
10-12 curry leaves – finely chopped
Black pepper balls – whole/crushed
Water to soak and grind
1/4 cup oil to make 20 adais
Non-stick tava or saucepan
Wooden spatula
Food processor or mixie-grinder

Soak the brown rice and lentils in a separate bowl with excess water to fill them both for 4-5 hours. Also soak the dry red chillies in any one of the bowl. Set them aside. Once done, drain the water completely and grind them with ginger,garlic and tomato to a coarse paste. Use minimum water. The batter will be thicker than pancake or dosa batter.

Heat oil in a small pan and add asafoetida, curry leaves, onions , black pepper balls and salt. Add them to the batter and mix well.

Heat the non-stick tava over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Spray the tava with cooking spray and spread it around with a kitchen towel. Pour a ladle full of the thick batter in the center of the heated non-stick tava/ griddle and spread in circular fashion with the back of the ladle to form a circle. Drizzle little oil (be stingy with its use) around the edges and let it cook for 8 minutes and flip it over for another few minutes, about 5 minutes. They should be brown and crispy. Always cook them in medium flame to avoid burning them.

Serve with a chutney and sambhar

Tips: The first one will always take longer time to cook, hence be patient when you have the first one getting cooked.

Additional notes
1. Adai with brown rice and lentils can be eaten during phase 2 and 3 of South beach diet.
2. Also a perfect dish for women with gestational diabetes. Eat 2 of them with healthy chutney and little sambhar. You have to watch your sugar level after the meal. If its less, then eat one more adai. That’s how I experimented with the quantity.
3. An ideal dinner idea for those who want to lose weight or those who are pre-diabetic and diabetic.
4. It is a protein packed dish with complex carbohydrates. Nutritious without doubt.

South Indian Okra Curry – How to cook it right?

I decided to eat healthy foods from January 1st so that includes a lot of vegetarian dish in the menu. My refrigerator is stocked with green, red, purple, yellow and white colored vegetables. I have been cooking the right stuffs for the last 10 days.  I have been spending good chunk of my after-work time chopping the vegetables. I shopped for boy choy, methi leaves, bell peppers, carrots, beets,   lettuce, spring mix, spinach, mushrooms and lemon grass at the farmer’s market and tindora, pineapple, mango, avocados, okra, cluster beans at the Indian store to cleanse and detox my body for the next 10 days. I ate beans like mung bean in place of rice and  I made little tweaks along the way. Today after 10 days of nutritious, fibrous meals, I am FIVE pounds lighter. Isn’t that awesome? I didn’t lose anything more than my initial 30 pound weightloss. I got rid of the four pounds I gained during the holidays. That extra one pound loss is a bonus for being nice to my body 🙂


Today’s post is about how to make good looking okra / lady’s finger curry, ofcourse the way I love it – The South Indian way.  The green, long slender vegetable is called Okra in the US and in England and other once British invaded colonies like India, Sri Lanka, et al, they are refereed to as Lady’s Finger. Dishes made with okra is very popular in Indian households. I remember my mom forcing me to eat this sticky, viscous vegetable as everyone known to me believed that consuming okra will improve mathematics skills. I am not sure whether it’s a fact or myth but what I know is that okra is rich in fibre, vitamin C, calcium, potasium and folate content. They provide excellent source of antioxidants to the body.

During my initial days of cooking, I have never gathered the courage to cook okra as I ended up making a gooey lump of mass which no one ate. But over the years, I learnt the trick to cook it right from my mom.

Tips to cook the okras right

  • Rinse, clean and wash them. Dry the okra with a kitchen towel.
  • Chop the okra into roundels (that’s the preferred shape).
  • Place them in a colander at room temperature for 15- 30 minutes. This helps to dry the vegetable a bit.  You can leave it for a longer time but I beleive in cooking any vegetable within 30 minutes of chopping.
  • Use a flat saucepan with a wider base (a pan with a larger surface area so that okras don’t touch or crowd around eachother)
  • My mom used close to 1/4 cup oil to cook 1-2 pounds okra but I used 1 tablespoon olive oil and little cooking spray to crisp them.
  • Cook the first 5 minutes on high flame, then simmer it and sprinkle water just to rinse them and cook covered for 20 minutes. I cook my Okra al-dente.
  • I also add besan/ chana dhal flour (roasted chickpea flour) to coat them.
  • Always sprinkle water over the okra.
  • Do not pour water on one side of the pan and then use a spread the water. This is will make it break and dish will turn sloopy.
  • While cooking okra, make sure you use the spoon for a minimum number of times.


Recipe: Amma

Serves: Family of 3-4


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + cooking spray (canola, olive or any oil of your choice)
  • 2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon white lentils (urad dhal)
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves – chopped
  • 1 teapsoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon medium hot chili powder (use it as per your heat tolerance)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pound okra
  • 1/2 – 1  cup besan / roasted chickpea flour ( use as needed)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup water to cook


  1. Chop the okras into thin roundels and leave it in a colander or arrange over a kitchen tissue/towel and let it air dry for 20-30 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Use a heavy bottom pan with a large surface area (meaning hugely circular, spacious cooking saucepan with a fitting lid). Heat oil. Once hot, add mustard seeds and let it pop.
  3. Add the urad dhal, curry leaves and garlic. Saute for 30 seconds
  4. Sprinkle turmeric, chili and coriander powder. Mix and add 1/4 cup water to prevent burning.
  5. Add the okras and spread it to form a single layer. Don’t over crowd them. Raise up the heat to high and let it roast for 5 minutes. Make sure you don’t burn it.
  6. Reduce the flame to the lowest. Sprinkle the besan and using a spatula or flat wooden spoon, gently fold the okras with the besan. Spray cooking spray as per your liking. I did 5 single spray, just enough oil to coat them.
  7. Drizzle water over the okra and cook covered on medium flame for 15 minutes. Sprinkle more water if needed.
  8. Add salt to taste. I generally raise up the heat to high for 2-5 minutes to crisp them up further. I like the charred look.

Additional Notes:

  1.  Okra has low glycemic index and can be eaten on phase 1 of South beach diet.
  2. It is a nutritional addition to a healthy diet. It is ideal for women with gestational diabetes and people who are diabetic/pre-diabetic. I eat okra with my lentil soup (dhaal)
  3.  It can also be eaten during weightloss.

Round-Ups: Top 10 Healthy Recipes




My Top 10 Healthy Recipe Plus a Chance to Win $250 in Total

Happy New Year again! I know I have wished you all so many times in the last one week :-). Let this year be more healthy, active and energetic for all of us.

Spices and Aroma has evolved from just being a food blog with authentic Indian recipes to a blog that carries healthy Indian recipes that are gluten free and have low glycemic index. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in 2010 and that’s when my approach to food changed. Read my story here. I was running out of ideas to make Indian inspired meals that would fit the requirements of having low glycemix index. That’s when I started to document hearty, healthy recipes for anyone who is looking to lose weight or control diabetes or live healthy through an Indian diet. You can read about Indian inspired South Beach Phase 1 diet here.

I’m feel really honored to announce that Spices and Aroma was chosen as one of Yuri Elkaim’s All-Day Energy Award Winning blogs! Yuri is the New York Times Best Selling author of The All Day Energy Diet.

The ADED is similar to the Paleo diet and promotes:
◾No Sugar
◾No Dairy
◾No Processed Foods
◾80% Raw

Please click on the link here to check out the other incredible healthy blog winners PLUS download a FREE All-Day Energy Diet Blueprint & hunt for today’s $100 Golden Apple prize by clicking here. Hop over to each blog and find a “Golden Apple” in each post and tell Yuri the name of blog post that had the golden apple in it. Isn’t that simple? Once you have commented, you will automatically enter a chance to win a grant total of $250 Golden Apple Prize!

GIVEAWAY PRIZE = $100 + $150 Essential Living Foods Superfood Swag Bag

Gift Card


#1. Cold Quinoa Salad with Creamy Balsamic Vinegar Dressing (Gluten Free, Vegetarian)

Cold Quinoa_Salad_4

#2. Healthy Crunchy Moong Dahl Snack  (Gluten Free, Vegetarian)


#3. Seared Salmon with Spinach and Mushrooms


#4. Ruby Pink Smoothie

Ruby Pink Green Smoothie_2

#5. Lemon Thyme-Oregano Chicken with Brown Rice and Grilled Vegetables

Thyme_Lemon Chicken_2

#6. Cauliflower Soy Subzi


#7. Plums Rasam Shots 

Plums Rasam_2

#8. Instant Flattened Rice-Nuts Snacks



#9. South Indian Idli


#10. South Indian Okra Curry


This post is part of the All-Day Energy Awards. Discover all the winners, get a free diet plan download, and hunt for today’s $100 cash prize by clicking here.

Omelet kozhambhu – A flavorful curry with eggs

We all know how good a egg is for our body. When I am on South beach diet, I eat eggs (almost 2) every day. They are rich in proteins and that makes it an ideal candidate for phase 1 of SBD. I make scrambles with salmon, egg curry , plain omelet with broccoli and cheese or bell peppers or the typical South beach diet breakfast – quiche with mushrooms or my famous disguised egg curry. Eggs have been proving again and again to be so versatile and nutritious.

As I browsed through the pages of my blog, I realized that I have missed writing about omelet curry. This is my grandmother’s curry and I cooked them last weekend thinking about her.She would make it taste so delicious and after its done she will transfer the curry to a fresh bowl and to the kadai, she would add little cooked rice and mix them well to coat each morsel with the left out drops of the precious curry. The last few drops sticking along the edges tastes the best as they are full with flavors and spices.

My grandmother would spice up the eggs with chili, coriander powder and garam masala. But for an extra sweetness and zing, I added La Vieja Fabrica homemade preserves which I received for a product review. I met two lovely ladies at the SFO Fancy food show who shared valuable insights on their production process and I taste tested two of thier varieties and was in love with tomato jam right away. The jams are produced in Seville using high quality fruits. The tomate preserve tasted fresh and sweet with a mild spicy kick from the chilies.The bright colour and its texture suggests that they are made with pure fruits. I would highly recommend trying them and spicing up your dish with a dash of their delicious preserves/jams.

When made in an non-stick pan, the eggs can be cooked in almost zero oil and simmering it in a flavorful onion-tomato mixture for few minutes makes the sauce penetrate through the omelet and make it taste absolutely delicious. It has close to 400 calories when served with whole wheat rotis or quinoa or barley.

Muttai kozhambhu (Omelet curry)

Serves: 4

Source: My grandmother


For the omelet

  • 6 eggs – beaten
  • 1 large onions – chopped
  • 2 green chillies – chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 10-12 curry leaves – chopped
  • 2 tablespoon tomato jam – La Vieja Fabrica (my variation – optional)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the base sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions – finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ginger – minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic –  minced
  • 2 tomatoes – pureed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1-2 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup cilantro – chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon


For the omelet

  1. Whisk all the ingredients under “for the omelet section” . Stir well to combine. Heat a non-stick saucepan with 1 teaspoon oil and once they are hot, add the mixture and make omelets out of it. Cook them in batches. Remove, tear them into tiny bits and set aside.

For the sauce

  1. Heat oil in a large cooking vessel. Once they oil gets hot, add onions and little salt (about a teaspoon) and let it brown a bit, about 8-10 minutes on low flame.
  2. Mix in the  ginger and garlic. Saute for 60 seconds.
  3. Sprinkle turmeric, chili and coriander powder. Mix well to combine with the onions. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato puree and cook covered for 20 minutes until the oil separates out of the sauce.
  5. Start by adding 1 cup water and add more if needed.
  6. Add the omelet pieces and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice and stir well. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot over rice, quinoa, barley or whole wheat chapatis.


  1. Ideal curry dish for South beach diet. Can be included in the phase 1 meals too.
  2. Even enjoyable by women with gestational diabetes.
  3. Please omit the tomato preserve when you are on diets as the additional sugar from them can hamper your weightloss journey.


Black mung bean salad / Karuppu payaru sundal

People who have sent me emails or spoken to me about South beach diet had this question the most. Will the diet work just like that?I was little lost on what they meant by just like that?They meant just eat the right food and do no physical activity.The answer is NO!  Unfortunately losing weight in a healthy way is not an easy task. One must exercise a bit to get the process going in the right direction. It could be simple walking to start with, which can slowly proceed from slow jogging to running. Never know someday you might run a marathon.Eating right is a major contributing factor for weightloss but that alone wouldn’t do the trick. Physical activity is key for healthy weightloss. Since the summer is in full swing, my most favorite exercise for this season is swimming. Lets talk more about the goodness of swimming in later part of the post. Eveybody loves summer and its the season to flaunt your beautiful body in swim suit. A diet rich in genuine calories and regular exercise plan will give you that Beach Body  you will need for this summer.

Before that let me tell you what happens when we exercise.
Imagine you are walking in a treadmill. You will start slow at about speed 3 and slowly work your way up. In the meanwhile, you will play around with inclinations. When the breathing rate increases (from 45-65 beats/ minute to 150-160 beats per minute), it means that the lungs need more air and that’s obviously means more oxygen. The heart rate increase, the heart pumps blood through the body at a fast pace and this makes you burn more calories. When we exercise, lungs get the oxygen while heart and blood vessels distribute the oxygen to muscles which consume it. When this process synchronizes with each other, a person’s stamina and lung capacity improves sufficiently. That means that there will be good longevity and good health.
When will we reap benefits?
It takes 3 months minimum to start enjoying the benefits of exercise. My trainer’s words are still echoing in my mind. “Come regularly, stay committed and give me minimum three months of your time. You will then tell me the difference in the way you feel about your body”. I have been regular for 3+ weeks at a stretch, then as a women I have my monthly issues which makes me miss 1 week of workout, then other personal commitments will keep me busy and slowly I will fall off the track. Then one fine day I will jump and start back. That’s how my exercise routine has been. I have know people who do extreme body workouts and I really respect them for the focus and commitment they have got to achieve the goal. I started out with Tony Horton’s P90 and once I feel more fit and improve my stamina, I am planning to move to much harder workouts.
For the days when you don’t work out, eating right is important. And some days I would over indulge. On conscious day when I think sensibly,  I would stuff myself with complex carbohydrates, fruits, nuts and hearty Indian dishes made with lentils, lean meat and vegetables.When you exercise for minimum three months, you will see the following changes
1. Lung capacity improves
2. The heart grows strong
3. Blood pressure comes down
4. You become more insulin resistant
5. Stamina  and immunity improves
6. Brain becomes more activated
Coming back to my swimming sessions, I do free style and I think that’s one of the fastest and most often done stroke in swimming. Since we work with two arms rotating in full stretch in water, the power is generated along your length.To lose weight and get the inches off the waist and thighs, you must swim hard to increase your heart rate. When the heart rate increases, the body needs more oxygen. The body burns more calories to burn the more oxygen.
We have briefly talked about the goodness of exercise and now lets get into the food we should eat after a workout. Since I workout in late afternoons around 3 or 4 PM, I love to snack after a good swim. My most favorite food right now is warm mung bean salad, referred to as karuppu payaru sundal. The soaked mung bean is pressure cooked until done and they are seasoned with flavorful South Indian spices. A protein rich snack after a workout is the way to go and this dish is stuffed with good amount of complex carbohydrates and proteins.1 cup of cooked mung beans has212 calories with 38.7 grams of carbohydrates and 14.2 grams of proteins.
Source: Amma
Serves 2

1 cup raw mung bean (white or black)
3 cups water
For the tempering
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
5 curry leaves – chopped
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 pinch asafoetida
2 dry red chillies- torn in halves
Salt to taste
1. Clean, rinse and soak the mung beans in excess water for 6-8 hours or overnight.
2. Pressure cook them for 1 or 2 whistles. Switch off the flame and let it rest. If cooking on a pan, cook covered for 30-45 minutes until done. Drain excess water and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, heat oil. Once they ripples and is hot enough, throw in the curry leaves and let it crisp up. Then add mustard seeds and let it pop. Next add asafoetida and give a quick saute to prevent burning.
4. Finally add dry red chillies and let it flavor the oil, about a minute or so. Mix in the cooked mung beans and salt. Stir to combine and serve hot.
Additional notes:
1. Mung bean sundal was my staple snack during gestational diabetes. Since mung beans have low glycemic index, they can be eaten in measured quantities during pregnancy. You can also make savory pancakes with rice and mung beans and they are called as Pesarattu. Since it has rice, pesarattu is a gluten free dish too.
2. This dish is perfect for those who are diabetic / pre-diabetic.
3. Since this sundal is made from a bean, they are an ideal snack/breakfast dish for those in South beach diet. Perfect SBD phase 1 dish.
This is a guest post provided by Fitness Alliance.