I found meal prep to be daunting in the least until I really had to do it.
Eating well is essential for me – especially breakfast – and there has to be a shorter way to prep meals that work well.
That’s why, I’ve put together stuff that has worked out for me in the past in this post. I really hope you guys enjoy prepping and eating according to these ideas!
There’s a sense of happiness about well made Butter Chicken that most Indian restaurants in the US fail to accomplish. For a dish that is as ubiquitous for Indian cuisine as this, I was surprised to find that only a few places in the US made it as it was supposed to be made. The best thing is that ingredients are available here and you can actually make some yummy butter chicken in your home.
Here’s the recipe!
- 250 grams boneless chicken breasts, chopped into large chunks
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 large onion chopped in large chunks
- 1 large tomato chopped in large chunks
- 1 packet Parampara Butter Chicken Mix
- 1 cup yoghurt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- Heat the oil and add the onions and tomatoes.
- Fry until onions are golden.
- Add the chicken and fry until half cooked. The browning on the chicken gives flavour.
- Add all the spices and the package mix and stir on low flame. Make sure you don't burn the spices.
- Immediately add yoghurt so the cooking temperature falls.
- Cover and cook until chicken is white and cooked through.
- Add the heavy cream and butter in the end, stir and serve with plain white rice or naan!
So here’s the deal – I’m in America, where every dollar I spend translates to 65 bucks back home (India). As an Economist who is wrapping up the last months of school, and gearing up to pay back student loans – being smart about money matters.
Here are a few tips that I found helpful:
I shop at Whole Foods sometimes and it doesn’t kill me.
You know Whole Foods – with its green glistening aisles of organic food that tell you to sign over your first born with every purchase.
But you can escape with a good credit score if you buy from the bulk bins instead of the already packed lentils, rice and other grains.
Hear me out:
Grains like Quinoa, as well as breakfast staples like oatmeal are a bit cheaper when you buy the same amount in bulk. Plus they replenish those little tubes faster than the pre-packaged bags of food in the aisles, so I guess it’s win-win here!
Thank GOD for UBER Pool Passes.
Ever since Uberpool started, I have been saving so much money travelling in Boston – but they made it even better! Now there’s a pass that you can use in Boston that makes commutes much cheaper than the T!
So the T costs me 2.10 between stops, whereas the Uber pool with the PoolPass costs me only 2 bucks anywhere within the radius it plies in.
It’s not only cheaper, it saves time and it’s so much more convenient!
ALL YOU CAN EAT
There’s this amazing Indian buffet called Shanti (in Boston) which even some foreigners swear by. It’s great Indian food for 10 bucks and all you can eat!
It’s really hard to find good Indian food that cheap out here!
Frozen Veggies are actually kinda great!
Another grocery shopping tip: I love to cook but cleaning up is a pain – so pre-cut frozen veggies are my lifesavers now. Frozen peppers, onions, corn, beans – you name it! I buy these from trusty old Trader Joe’s since the quality is great (also they have combinations of veggies mixed by purpose – like Asian Stir Fry Mix ). I save so much time AND money (since these are usually 3 bucks a bag at most, while 2 whole peppers may cost 2 bucks each!)
Saving money is an art, that needs constant refining. You don’t have to hustle to be honest, but I love saving on these little things, so that I can treat myself to good dinners and good things on a student budget.
It works out.
If the name of my blog isn’t a big enough hint, let me tell you that I am the nerdiest food lover you will ever meet. I try weird food subscriptions, substitutions and recipes – all to please the palate.
Since I was moving to the United States, I really had to get realistic about the various spices, tools and kitchen equipment I had acquired over the years. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Some stuff just wouldn’t work here since the power requirements were different, and I had to adjust my cooking style to fit a tiny kitchen, where clean up would be my job too. Hello shortcuts and one-bowl dishes!
In retrospect, maybe I should’ve carried a few things here, and left a few out. I guess a list would be helpful to a future student coming to the US and save him/her a lot of time and anguish.
An Indian Abroad : The hungry student's packing list.
A Flat pan or Griddle
For pancakes, roti and paratha.
I rarely make roti at home, since I buy the frozen packs from haldiram's - but you still need this to reheat them and make them taste right.
Gram Flour - really important for cheela making and kadhi
I've found that the chilli powder here isn't as fiery as the one back home.
Use it for face packs, haldi doodh, and for flavouring food.
Important for tempering dals, kadhi etc.
Get a nice, non-stick one with a lid.
You will use it for maggi, sabzi and chicken.
Saves a hell lot of time. Can cook rice (pulao, biryani, plain), dal, chole, khichdi.... the list is endless.
Ask mom for a demo.
Salt Pepper Sugar
Just enough to tide you until you go for your first grocery shopping.
The easiest dal to make. I make this ahead and freeze if I don't plan on eating it. With rice, it is the easiest and healthiest meal I can think of.
For a lot of people I know, cooking can be a chore. However, I cook to remember my culture.
When I first came here, I thought it would be really hard to find all the ingredients I need – I packed my bags with spices and pulses – knowing that I would miss these the most. I should’ve known better – these prized possessions were taken from me at the airport and probably thrown into the trash. Here I was, alone and food-less in America – to add – a little embarrassed and phone-less (no network!).
Little did I know that the apartment I had hunted from 7000 miles away would be an 8 min walk away from a Whole Foods and 15 from a Trader Joes, and that I would have Alltown, a 24-7 convenience store 2 mins away! Everywhere I went, I found chole (Chickpeas), rice, rajma (Red kidney beans) and lentils and spices! Indian food was everywhere and I was happy! 🙂
It has become such a fun activity to feed my American friends Indian food made by me – I take pride in sharing the story behind it – that my mom taught me this recipe, or that I haven’t made it half as nice as my mom did, or that we eat this for so and so festival.
Cooking in America makes me happy and it makes me miss home a little less.
- 1 pound Chicken
- 2 tbsp Stir Fry Sauce
- 1 cup mixed veg (frozen or fresh)
- 2 tsp Oil
- Salt and Paprika
- Heat oil in a pan on high heat
- Add the veggies and sear them, tossing them in the pan.
- Lower the heat to medium.
- Add chicken and sear it, don't cook all the way through.
- Add the stir-fry sauce, salt and paprika.
- Cover and cook till chicken is cooked.
I hate food waste, and bananas are crazy. They’re unripe when you want to eat them, then you leave them on the counter for a few days and there’s this short-lived period of having a perfect banana, then BOOM – overripe, soft banana.
Although ripe bananas are healthy, I cannot, for the life of me bring myself to eat them. Hence, I bake them into nice cakes or turn them into these 3 ingredient pancakes where their ripe full flavour is fully appreciated.
What do you do with your old bananas?
- 1 Ripe Banana
- 2 Eggs
- 1 pinch of cinnamon
- Mash the bananas and whisk in the eggs and cinnamon.
- You can also blend the mixture for added air.
- Make small pancakes on a hot griddle - small because these are soft and take a little time to set!
- Serve warm with maple syrup and fruit!
If you’re concerned this doesn’t have sugar, don’t worry – its actually full of it! The ripe bananas have enough of it and the maple syrup adds more.
Summer is here. MAYBE.
I love rice, and curries run in my blood. I was craving something simple and spicy that wouldn’t break the bank and I remembered that I knew how to make thai curry!
Just look at this. Doesn’t it feels wholesome and loving?
Here’s the recipe!
Estimated Cost: $12 (Lasted me for 4 meals)
- 4 pieces Chicken thighs
- ½ Cup Jasmine Rice
- 1 13.5-Ounce Can Unsweetened Coconut Milk
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 2 Stalks Lemongrass
- 1 1-Inch Piece Ginger
- 1 Lime
- 1 tsp Paprika (optional)
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 1 Scallion/Small Onion
- 1 Bunch Cilantro
- 2 Tablespoons Red Curry Paste
- 2 Teaspoons Coconut Palm Sugar/ Brown Sugar
- Salt to taste.
- Set the rice to cook - 1 part rice requires 2 parts water.
- Roast the ginger, garlic, scallions and peppers in a bit of oil on medium heat.
- Don't let it burn!
- Add the curry paste and toast that a little as well.
- Add the brown sugar - let it caramelise.
- Now add the chicken and turn up the heat for a minute or two.
- Add the coconut milk and about half a can of plain water.
- Let this simmer and cook the chicken further.
- Now add a little bit of paprika if you like the heat.
- I add salt by taste, since this recipe has limes.
- Cover and cook until the curry thickens a little and the chicken is cooked.
- Garnish with a heavy hand of cilantro and serve over a bed of rice!
I got everything from TraderJoe’s for like super cheap! Try it out!