October 26, 2009

Indian Style

Before I launch into tonight’s recipe, I just wanted to say a quick thanks for all the encouragement I’ve gotten on my Physique 57 Challenge! Day 1 has come and gone fairly uneventfully. I took some “before” measurements (and photos—eek!) and did the 30-minute express workout, which is easily the least formidable of the three discs. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t still shaking all over from the effort! Yeah, Physique 57 is that hard, if you ask me.

I realize that I neglected to address the diet aspect of this challenge last night, and I guess that’s because there’s not much to tell! I eat very clean about 90% of the time and plan to continue in my normal habits, so any results I get from P57 will be solely due to the workout style itself. Just thought it was only logical to state that for the record!

Moving on, I must share a dish I made over the weekend. I have long enjoyed a love affair with Indian food and flavors, but when I set out to attempt Indian cooking on my own, I honestly didn’t expect it to turn out as well as it did. I can’t speak for its authenticity, but I can say that this meal is what happens when Diana and a recipe for Saag Paneer face off.


Saag Paneer is a fairly popular dish made of pureed spinach and paneer cubes (a form of Indian cottage cheese, not unlike tofu in taste and texture). It being Vegan MoFo and all, I wasn’t about to go hunt down some paneer, though, so roasted winter squash makes a logical substitute, right? Please just pretend I make sense.

By the time I was done playing with this recipe in my head, I’d decided to add some cashews along with my own brand of crazy.


Saag-y Squash


  • 1/2 large delicata (or other winter) squash, cubed and roasted 20 minutes at 450 degrees
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked for a few hours—optional)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried/ground ginger (or about 1 inch fresh minced)
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 whole dried red chili pepper, crushed (optional)
  • 250g frozen chopped spinach (3-4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger and onions and stir-fry vigorously until they begin to brown.
  2. Add coriander, cumin, chili powder and turmeric and stir constantly until the scents begin to combine. If desired, add cayenne and crushed dried pepper to suit your taste for heat.
  3. Add spinach and cashews and stir until thoroughly thawed.
  4. Add hot water and stir to combine. OPTIONAL STEP: use a hand/immersion blender (or transfer to a regular blender) to puree the mixture until smooth/chunky to your liking.
  5. Add garam masala, lemon and salt. Serve over basmati rice and/or with naan.

Serves 2


My “naan” wasn’t so much traditional either, but hey, why start now? I’m majorly grateful to HEAB for sharing one of her reader’s bread recipes. It was ridiculously easy (contains only ground oat groats, water, stevia and salt!) and was beyond delicious with my saag dish. I greased the cake pan with coconut oil before baking the bread, so it came out fantastically buttery, just the way naan should be, if you ask me! I don’t suppose this bread resembled naan very much at all, actually, but it filled the bread accompaniment role perfectly.

So, as long as we’re being unconventional, why not have a lassi with this Diana-fied Indian feast?


If you’ve never tried a lassi before, it’s a cool yogurt drink that tempers the heat in Indian food really well. It is served either sweet or salty, sometimes with a flavor such as mango. I love lassis, but when it comes to Indian beverages, chai has my heart. Recipe breeder that I am, I went ahead and combined the two!

This was a total afterthought and totally no big deal to make. I steeped a chai teabag in a small amount of boiling water (maybe 1/2 cup) so that it would get really strong. I let it cool while I was cooking. When I was ready to eat, I stirred in about a cup of coconut milk kefir and a couple squirts of agave nectar (maybe a teaspoon or two) and stirred it up! Oh, and then my cinnamon shaker exploded on top. Even so, it was an amazing complement to my alternative Indian meal!


Now that I’ve played with some of my favorite aspects of Indian cuisine, I’ll be far less intimidated about trying more! As long as you’re armed with a decent variety of key spices, you can come up with the darndest things with nothing more than a few vegetables. The proof is in the masala.


Devan Geselle. N said...

this is brilliant! and looks so so delicious! :)
i adore indian flavors.

VeggieGirl said...

Thanks for reminding me of the fact that I haven't had Indian food in MONTHS!! I miss it :(

Dori said...

I opted out of an Indian feast on Sat night because I didn't think it was the smartest pre-race meal idea! So the boy got to have it without me. Your meal looks amazing!

Lele said...

That drink sounds AMAAAAAAZING.

And indian food is the delicious-est, for sure.

Mama Pea said...

I totally would have done what you did...with the squash AND the cinnamon shaker. Way to be.

katherine said...

this meal looks so wonderful and i can't believe you made it all yourself! very professional and super tasty looking - bravo!

Gena said...

I think it's brilliant of you to use cashews for the saag! Very cool. I don't have any experience with Indian -- I think I've had some intense onion/garlic fear -- but perhaps I shall try to branch out :)

Shannon said...

making sense and delicious food don't necessarily have to go together ;) hehe

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Thankss for the lassi inspiration....I have always wanted to try those too! Yummy!

Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

Call me crazy, but I love that you added cashews. Nut always make everything better. :)

You're right - your bread was thinner than mine, but maybe my baking dish (round cake pan) was smaller? Regardless, the whole meal looked delicious, and I bet your "naan" was perfect for dipping.

Looking forward to hearing more about your Physique 57 Challenge!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Indian food! The spinach dish is actually one of my fav. side dishes. Looks like it turned out great!

Anonymous said...

I am in love with saag... and squash!

Diana, have you ever seen cakewrecks.com? If you ever mess up a cake, you can always submit it to them! ;)

CCV said...

Ummm, that last comment was mine. Oops!


The Candid RD said...

I'm a HUGE fan of Indian food. I have an Indian friend who invites me over for an Indian feast every once in a while and I always get super excited. Your Indian creations look fantastic! Thanks for the recipes.

Anonymous said...

The proof is in the masala!!! YESSS!! I love it!