Healthy Cooking Blog

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Cooking is love. For those of you who are going to cook, here are some very easy-to-prepare, aromatic, delicious and colorful side dishes to go with your turkey. Thanksgiving recipes made easy and delicious from “Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking”, by Alamelu Vairavan & Margaret Pfeiffer, R.D.

We also have a book signing event at Boswell Book Company (2559 N.Downer Ave.) on October 16th at 7PM. Let us meet and have a conversation.

Here are the suggested side dishes to go with your turkey:


Savory Tuna (with any bread or GF rice crackers)Pg.35

Spinach Yogurt Dip(with any crackers)(Pg.37)

Seasoned Apple Relish served on toasted bread (pg.55)

Flavored Rice Dishes:

Carrot Rice Pilaf (pg.91)

Vegetable Rice Pilaf(pg.93)

Vegetable Side Dishes:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (pg. 131)

Seasoned Mashed Potatoes- a sure winner (pg. 163)

Butternut Squash with Cilantro (pg. 175)

Green Beans with Lentils and Coconut (pg. 147)

Sweet Potatoes with Coconut (pg.169)

Sample recipe:

Peanut and Coconut Chutney (Served as a dip with chips, crackers and vegetables)

1 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut

3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

1 whole dried red chili pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 to 1 cup warm water

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, blend or process until smooth. Transfer into a dish and serve.

Note: Unsweetened shredded coconut is available in natural food stores and in Outpost.

Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking

Greetings! Hope you are enjoying a great summer. Here is what I have been up to lately:

My new cookbook titled, “Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Cooking” has been published by Hippocrene Books, New York in May 2013. It has been co-authored by Margaret Pfeiffer, R.D.

Description: Gluten-free cooking can often feel bland and restrictive, but Indian cuisine opens the door to a new world of flavors and dining options. Rice, lean meats, and vegetable dishes, enhanced with spices and legumes fit naturally into a gluten-free diet. With innovative offerings like “Mushroom and Green Peas Quinoa and Pistachios”, “Chickpeas with Ginger and Mango,” and Chicken in Almond-Coconut Sauce,” this cookbook helps you prepare meals that unite the exquisite flavors of Indian cooking with commonly available gluten-free ingredients. The recipes will appeal to anyone…not just the gluten-free and gluten-intolerant–as they are a great way to add tasty, healthful options to your everyday meals.

Included are more than 100 step-by-step recipes, a helpful FAQ on gluten free foods, and a guide to commonly available spice and lentil ingredients. Each recipe is accompanied by nutritional analysis and a full-color photograph.

Sample Reviews for the book:

“Rich and vibrant in flavor and color, these dishes shout out to be translated form page to plate. The recipes are clear, concise and easy to follow, loaded with nurturing ingredients and seasoned with the most healthful spices. In addition to being gluten-free, these dishes avoid most dairy, sugar and red meat, thus promoting health and well-being for all. Another valuable resource for all people living with and beyond cancer, already added to my recommended reading list!” – Donald J. Abrams, MD (Integrative Oncology, University of California, San Francisco)

“Alamelu’s healthy style of cooking is a harmonious blend of flavors and freshness that makes the journey into the world of gluten-free Indian cooking approachable and exciting for everyone!” – Jason Gorman (Executive Chef at The Art Institute of Chicago)

· Fox News Magazine (the official lifestyle magazine of Fox News) is featuring a GF recipe from our cookbook, “Lentil Crumble with Coconut” recipe. Here’s the link I would like to share with you.


The book is available at AmazonBarnes & and also in major book stores.

Alamelu’s TVcooking series titled, “Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu” produced by Milwaukee Public Television (MPTV) is now being shown on more than 220 Create Public TV channels of PBS. In SE Wisconsin, the shows will air on Channel 36.3 on Sundays at 7:30AM and on Wednesdays at 7:30AM & 1:30PM. (Time Warner cable viewers can watch the shows on channel 977). If you are outside this region, please check your local Create Public Television schedules for details.

I welcome questions and comments. Feel free to contact me.

Remember: Health is Wealth!!!

Magical Experience In A Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Market is my playground during summer and fall weekends. I love the vibrant fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers that farmers so enthusiastically bring to us in their trucks for bargain prices. I feel so happy to talk to the farmers and enjoy buying farm fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers. To me, farmers look like so divine when they bring the nutrient-rich, fresh produce harvested from their farms.

I was invited to do cooking presentations in two open air farmer’s markets in Milwaukee this summer and fall. In both places, it was a beautiful sight to see people so relaxed, talking to each other and asking farmers, what is this, what is that, and how do you cook this vegetable and so on.

In one of these markets, I remember several visitors taking a variety of eggplants and asking what each was? I was standing next to them and told them to come to my “Chef Demo” tent and to see these vegetables being cooked. They got excited and many came to see me cook eggplant and zucchini (green and yellow).

While I was cooking, many volunteered to wash, cut the vegetables and were eager to be my assistants. So, I put them to work and it was fun. It was a great bonding experience with the community. Many came to me and said, they had enjoyed my cooking TV programs on MPTV. I was thrilled to hear some say that they cook a lot these vegetables after watching my shows.

After the cooking presentations, my assistant, Sharron Jewell and I packed everything, then bought a lot of vegetables, fruits, and herbs and came home. My husband, KV asked me how everything went and I showed him all the fresh chilies, tomatoes, vegetables that I bought at the market. He was happy to see me so energized by the “treasures” that I brought back home.

After about an hour, my doorbell rang. I went to answer and there was this young woman standing with two bowls of vegetable dishes. I immediately recalled that she had attended my cooking demonstration at the farmer’s market.  I was surprised and invited her into my home. She said, “What you cooked in the market was amazing,   I am glad I bought your cookbook and your start-up spice package after your demonstration. I went home and cooked what you showed us in the market. I brought these dishes for you to taste and to tell me if this is what they should look and taste like”.

I said, “Oh, wow, let us see what you cooked”. This young woman had cooked the same Eggplant Masala and Seasoned Zucchini Poriyal that I had just demonstrated in the market.

I could not believe my eyes and it was like I made it. She followed our recipe and there it was. I tasted it and it was delicious. I was amazed that I could motivate someone to do what I did in the market within a very short time. It was truly a magical and memorable experience for me!

Note: I will be thrilled to read your comments to this blog. Thank you.

“Lousy Cooks” Label…How Sad

When I read the “Food Section” of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel dated June 6, 2012, I was saddened and surprised to see what “Lousy Cooks: Class of 2012” were quoted as saying.

Here are some quotes followed by my own reaction (shown within parenthesis).

What do you think?

  • “My 92 pound golden retriever won’t eat her food scraps unless they are takeout” (Oh, no!)
  • “One is afraid her grown children will never come home for holidays because the food will be better at the in-laws” (So sad)
  • “Her family got used to friends bringing dinner after an injury. Her daughter’s reaction to her recovery: “Oh no!”  (Sad indeed!)
  • “Recently “fried” pasta in the microwave” (How can we not read directions on the pkg?)
  • “Once threw lettuce in her clothes dryer in an attempt to dry it” (Must be kidding)
  •  “Would starve without prepackaged and frozen heat-and eat-foods”(No, not necessarily)
  •  “Never had a home-cooked meal because, gosh, it’s just so easy to pickup dinner every night, at the grocer’s deli”( No comment)
  • “People never ask me to bring food to social events. I just think, ‘thank God’.”(Discover the joy of cooking and sharing)
  • “We go out to eat a lot; my mom is a terrible cook. I really want a home-cooked meal for a change…please help..I am a 13 year-old-growing boy!” ( Come, I will teach you cooking)
  •  “Now as I’m getting older, I’m starting to hate trying even to learn” (Learning never ends. With a good positive attitude I say, yes, you can learn cooking and think about your health as you get older)
  •  “Cooking seems to take a lot of time” ( Don’t outer-makeovers like manicure, pedicure, facials, hair styling.. take a lot of  time?   Why not take some time for an inner- makeover such as nourishing yourself.  It is really worth your time and effort)
  • “Mother didn’t cook and can’t remember what she ate as a kid”( A sad way to grow up)
  •  “I would much rather be outside enjoying the weather than in the kitchen with ten ingredients, a recipe and a mess afterward.” (You are worth nourishing).
  • “I was almost setting myself up for failure” (With this mindset, it is very hard to succeed in anything)·
  •  “Using soft soap on the Thanksgiving turkey to kill bacteria. The entire place smelled like chemicals.” (I can’t believe this)
  • “One year in high school, her mom bought half a cow for the freezer and told her daughter, “If you’re hungry, make yourself a steak” (OMG)

To all the so called “lousy cooks”, I say, there is hope. Cooking is love. Cooking and sharing foods will enrich your life and health. Explore and learn cooking. Say, “I can become  a good cook”  and cook with confidence. You will see the joy you bring to yourself and to your loved ones!  Happy Cooking!!!

Looking Ahead To MPTV Cooking Series (Epsiode 3-13)

I am thankful that so many of you took the time to send me feedback about the first three episodes of my MPTV series titled, “Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu”. I hope you are enjoying the cooking shows on MPTV. I want to let you know that I have prepared many of the dishes from my shows for kids in middle schools. I found their response to be one of excitement and enjoyment in trying the flavorful foods. Cooking is love and is very nurturing. As Pensey says, “Love people, cook them tasty food”!

Let’s look ahead and see what is coming up on MPTV on Saturdays at 12:30PM on Channel 10, with repeats on Sundays at 2PM on Channel 36 and 16, and on Fridays at 6PM on Channel 10. Shall we?

Episode 3  (Jan. 21st):  Let us see how to cook light and flavorful meals, as follows.. Kohlrabi Sambhar (Kohlrabi vegetables in lentil sauce); Lima Beans Poriyal (a seasoned stir-fry with lima beans with coconut); Tuna Masala…sounds good?

Episode 4  (Jan. 28th):  An all-time Indian favorite…Chicken Biriyani Rice (Aromatic Basmati rice cooked with chicken and garnished with cashews); an easy-to-prepare Garlic and Pepper Chicken; Cabbage with Ginger and Coconut Poriyal ( a quick, flavorful stir-fry) and Onion and Tomato Yogurt Salad!

 Episode 5  (Feb.4th):  A colorful blend of Carrots and Peas Pilaf Rice with Walnuts; Chicken Kurma (tender pieces of chicken cooked in almond, ginger, coconut sauce); vibrant green Brussels sprouts with Chick Peas and coconut Poriyal (a stir-fry)

Episode 6  (Feb. 11th):  An enticing range of flavors….a mouthwatering Lamb Saag (lamb enhanced with fresh baby spinach), a Seasoned Mushroom and Onion stir-fry, and absolutely delicious Seasoned Sweet Potatoes with Coconut!

Episode 7  (Feb. 18th):  Family-friendly meals such as Black Pepper Rice with Cashews, delicious Shrimp Masala and Green Beans with Ginger and Coconut (aka “Green Bay Packer’s Poriyal” as I call it.)

Episode 8  (Feb. 25th):  Cooking made easy……Flavorful Bell Pepper and Radish Sambhar (vegetables in a lentil based saucy dish); Curried Eggplant and crunchy, vibrant Zucchini with Coconut Poriyal and Carrot Raita.

 Episode 9  (March 3rd):  Home cooking at its best…. Egg Kulambu (hard-boiled eggs in an aromatic tamarind based dish), Cauliflower Kootu (Cauliflower with lentils) and the amazing delicious Broccoli with Coconut.

 Episode 10  (March 10th):  Absolutely delicious dishes…Shrimp in Eggplant Sauce, Potato Masala, and Seasoned Fresh Spinach in Yogurt!

 Episode 11  (March 17th):  Learn the power of the plate through  two wholesome vegetable dishes such as Beets with Coconut Poriyal,  Spinach Poriyal (spinach cooked with moong lentils), spinach poriyal made into Spinach Rice with Cashews, also if you happen to be in a hurry, I will show you how to make Chicken Curry in a Hurry !

Episode 12  (March 24th):  Add spice to your life with Fish Kulambu ( Fish in a seasoned garlic, tamarind sauce); Mixed vegetable blend of Cauliflower, Potatoes and Peas Masala and an ultimate cooling, comfort food Yogurt Rice enhanced with lemon and ginger.

Episode 13 (March 31st):  Turn bland to grand foods using spice and legumes and join me as I prepare Black eye Peas with Mango KulambuSwiss Chard with Lentils and Coconut and Cracked Wheat Uppuma and the popular yard long coffee called Madras Coffee (like cappuccino)

All but a very few recipes from the shows are from our cookbook, “Healthy South Indian Cooking-Expanded Edition”. Cookbook available through MPTV and also on

I will be delighted to hear from you with any questions or comments. You can contact me here.

Healthful Indian Flavors-Epsiode 2

“Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu”

Saturday (January 14) at 12:30 p.m. on channel 10.1 

Repeats Sundays at 2 p.m. on channel 36.1 or 16

Fridays at 6 p.m. on channel 10.1.

In this second episode of this series, I will prepare two wholesome breakfast dishes with two great accompaniments – dipping chutney, and an aromatic and easy-to-prepare saucy potato dish.

The menu is the following:    Uppuma – a common South Indian breakfast item prepared with cream of wheat, peas and carrots, and garnished with cilantro and cashews  Adai – A  multigrain lentil pancakes made with moong,  red lentils and yellow split peas loaded with nutrients. Peanut Coconut Chutney – a creamy chutney made of peanuts and coconut.  Onion and Potato Kose – a delicious blend of onions and potatoes cooked in a tomato-base sauce!

You will see these breakfast items are loaded with flavors using wholesome vegetables. The pancakes are prepared from multigrain lentils all soaked and ground together with aromatic spices to make a thick batter.

With pancake, instead of sugared syrup, we serve high protein chutney made with peanuts and coconut. You will see how quickly you can whip up this chutney that can also be used as a spread in regular bread or as dip with vegetables.

Cream of wheat in South India is often cooked with mild spices and vegetables. This common South Indian breakfast, called Uppuma, will appeal to everyone including children. Cream of wheat is straight from our grocery store and is also known as “Enriched Farina” (2 ½ minutes cook time). See how quickly we can cook this dish with vegetables.

Onion and potato kose is a thick, flavorful  tomato-based sauce. This aromatic sauce can also be served over rice or as a side dish to any meal.

Let us prepare these breakfast delights with easy-to-prepare accompaniments! Shall we?

Feel free to contact me – I would love to hear from you. Thank you!

Healthful Indian Flavors-Episode 1

“Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu”

TV Series Begins: Jan. 7th, 2012 Saturday

13 (1/2 hour) shows

Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. on channel 10.1

Repeats Sundays at 2 p.m. on channel 36.1

Fridays at 6 p.m. on channel 10.1.

In this first episode, please join me as I prepare the following aromatic and flavorful dishes:

Lemon Rice, Butternut Squash Masala, Spice-Rubbed Seared Salmon! 

I am excited about the upcoming TV series on MPTV. I believe it is a timely series that will help people discover easy-to-prepare, delicious healthful dishes. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

 Looking back, the year 2011 was a remarkable year for me in my culinary journey!

  • My first TV series “Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu” originally aired on MPTV in 2010 was picked up by other Public Television stations around the country. The response I received from viewers across the country was most encouraging and inspiring!
  • Contributing some recipes to “Healing Spices” by Dr. Bharat Aggarwal’s, book published in Jan. 2011,   was an honorable experience for me. Dr. Aggarwal is a cancer research scientist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
  • My new book “Chettinad  Kitchen” was published in India, Jan. 2011 (Tata-Westland; New Delhi)
  • I was invited to record a second (this time 13 part) series of my TV program, “Healthful Indian Flavors with Alamelu” by MPTV. A new feature of the second season of my TV series was the contribution of a Registered Dietitian, Margaret Pfeiffer through her comments on the nutritional aspects of the foods I prepared in my shows. The recoding experience in the Summer and Fall of 2011 was hard work but rewarding and exciting!
  • As in previous years, I continued to present well-received cooking events at the Annual Kohler Food and Wine Experience and the Dine and Wine Wisconsin event in Milwaukee

Now, looking ahead to 2012, I feel energized to promote my passion in healthful cooking to the public. Have a great, productive, healthy New Year!

Green Bay Packers Poriyal- A colorful stir-fry for Thanksgiving!

Green Bay Packers are great this season. They have continued where they left off  last year. I love the Packers and I also love their green and gold colors- not only in their uniforms but also in preparing my foods. The colors make my vegetables appealing and come alive.

Let us see… how we can make  “green beans”  a star vegetable on our dinner table for the holidays. We will enhance “green beans” with lentils (yellow in color), ginger and coconut. Does it sound good? I assure you, that this dish with its vibrant colors will be so appealing to the eye and the palate that even the kids would love it.

Green Beans cooked as a stir fry with  yellow split peas (or moong lentil), ginger and coconut is known as “Green Beans Poriyal” in South India. But I will suggest a different name: Green Bay Packers Poriyal! I was so happy when this particular recipe from my cookbook, “Healthy South Indian Cooking”, appeared a couple of years ago in the newspaper, Green Bay Gazette, published in Green Bay, WI. It was recommended as a tailgate party dish for the Packer games!!

The color of the dish is vibrant with a green and gold treatment. This dish  is appealing, wholesome and tasty. Coconut adds delicious richness and is used as a light garnish. Now you can try it in your kitchen for Thanksgiving or for any other occasion.

Green Beans Poriyal:   (Green Beans with Ginger and Coconut)

*1/4 cup yellow split peas or moong lentils

1/4 tsp. ground turmeric

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 tsp.cumin seeds

1/4  cup chopped onion

1/2  tsp. minced green chili

1 pound green beans, diced (stems removed) , about 3 cups

1 tsp. minced fresh ginger

1/4  tsp. salt (more, if desired)

*1/4 cup unsweetened coconut powder or fresh shredded coconut

1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan. Add split peas or moong lentil with 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. If water  seem to evaporate while cooking, add 1 cup of water to lentil until they become soft and tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. When oil is warm add cumin seeds until they become toasted. Add onion and chilli. Stir for a minute.

3. Add green beans and stir into above mixture. Add ginger, salt and 2 tablespoons water to facilitate the cooking process. Stir and cook covered over medium heat. When beans are crisp tender add cooked split peas (moong lentil) and coconut powder. Stir and serve warm.

(Yellow split peas are available in small packets in regular grocery stores and yellow  moong lentil, powdered coconut, and fresh shredded coconut in the freezer.. are available in natural food stores like Outpost and in Whole Foods. This recipe is a slightly varied recipe from our cookbook to make all  ingredients easily available from local grocery stores.)

Go Packers Go and Happy Thanksgiving!

Mediterranean and Indian Diet: Similarities

What is the Mediterranean Diet? 
A high consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans,and nuts

Olive oil is an important monounsaturated fat source

Dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in low to moderate amounts

Little red meat is eaten

Eggs are consumed zero to four times a week

Wine is consumed in low to moderate amounts
(*Source: American Heart Association)

What is an Indian Diet?

A high consumption of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, legumes(beans, peas and lentils) rice, wheat and spices

A light cooking medium such as canola oil is used in cooking

Dairy products, fish and poultry are consumed in moderate amounts

Eggs are consumed 2 to 3 times a week, little red meat(lamb)is eaten occasionally

Wine and other alcohol are consumed in moderation

Water, coffee (like cappuccino or latte) and tea are consumed.

Picture showing a vegetarian plate with dishes such as broccoli with coconut, chickpeas with mango, eggplant masala, cabbage and carrot poriyal, seasoned baby carrots, mushroom masala, with aromatic basmati rice with carrots and peas. (from Alamelu’s kitchen!)

In my opinion, Mediterranean diet has common features to Indian diet. To top things off, Indian cooking also uses spices and legumes that have intrinsic health benefits.The use of spices also help reduce or eliminate the need for salt consumption.

Supplements to Replace Fresh Foods? No Way!

TV commercials, Food and Drug stores all publicize endless list of nutritional supplements. Recently I attended a lecture by a visiting scientist at a local university. He talked about the great health benefits of cruciferous vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) and how they can prevent a host of diseases including cancer. I was so excited that he was talking my language until I found out that he has a company that takes the nutrients from these vegetables and makes supplements for sale!

Do we really want to pop nutritional pills when we can get the nutrients from real fresh foods? Should we really replace fresh fruits and vegetable with supplements? No way!


These days, in our society we want everything with little or no effort. Why can’t we learn to cook these cruciferous vegetables in an appealing way?  We can also eat some of them as fresh salads. Why can’t we encourage people to learn to cook?   Why we should gulp a supplement pill, I thought. First of all, pills in bottles are expensive. They have no taste, no aroma or flavor. They do not satisfy our appetite or hunger. On average, people are already consuming too many medications. On top of it do we need to take supplements to replace healthful fresh foods ? No way!

Fresh foods are fresh foods. They are great for your body and mind.  Fresh vegetables can spark your creativity in letting you prepare different vegetable dishes. Consuming 5 to 8 servings of vegetables and fruits helps your digestion and curbs your appetite and helps you to lose weight. Vegetables and fruits are so much cheaper and are amazing healthful foods. They are like food and medicine all in one. It is important to take personal responsibility for our own health. Eating right, exercising, and being involved in the community, helping others in need all keep us healthy, vibrant and alive.

Supplements have their place when they are used as supplements but not used as substitute’s for real healthful food. People who dislike vegetables or do not know how to cook vegetables may be attracted to these supplements. So how can we make vegetables more appealing? One possible answer can be found in the world of spices, legumes and herbs. Vegetables come alive when enhanced by spices. The result can be tasty and aromatic foods that are hard to resist. Spices and legumes are inexpensive and are easily available.

People often feel they do not have time to cook or they do not make cooking a priority. Cooking often takes a backseat in terms of priorities. This attitude should change because eating is an essential part of life, and cooking connects us better to the food we eat and to the people with whom you share it. Taking time to prepare food with children or for ourselves is a very creative, nurturing experience.

So, my fellow Americans, come on! Let us learn to cook and eat fresh vegetables and fruits. Let us teach our children that the effort to prepare wholesome meals at home is worthwhile and enjoyable. Feel free to contact me if you need suggestions. Just remember, we are worth nourishing with real fresh foods!!!

"Healthful Indian Flavors"

3rd Season Now Airing
On PBS Create Nationwide

Viewer Comments

Great show. Best how to cook Indian I've seen. Recipes are spot on. Thank you - Nate


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