Life..a miracle

Life..a miracle

Friday, November 15, 2013

Diwali Recap

I cant seem to believe that Diwali is already over. The best thing with Diwali this time was it coincided with the weekend and that made things easier. We had a lovely time with friends and family through all the days of Diwali.

I decided to invite some of girlfriends over for a Mehendi party. Mainly a get-together for all us chattery heads with some food and a way to tease our creative minds. Since it was a working day, I had my menu planned in advance and decided to make things that were quick and easy to prep. I made dhokla using an instant mix, pav bhaji as the main meal and cassata for desert. The combination was perfect for a fun evening where me the host had ample time to spend with my guests without worrying much about managing it. I got the cassata set the night before and only had to cut the slices in the afternoon. Sadly in all the excitement of having friends over, I didn't click any pictures of my food. But I would like to highlight that the cassata was tried based on this recipe by Nupur, on her lovely blog. I have made it twice so far and it is a crowd-pleaser for sure!

All through the Diwali weekend, we had get-togethers each evening, and I was cooking two out of three times. On the day of Laxmi Pujan, we had our close family over for puja and dinner and I went with an authentic Maharashtrian menu. We had Cauliflower-peas sautéed in spices, Kakadichi pachadi(Cucumber raita), Tomatoche Saar(Spiced Tomato Soup), Jeera rice (Rice seasoned with cumin), Chapatis and Dry-fruit Shrikhand.

I have made Shrikhand before the lazy way. i.e. not by running the sugar n yogurt mix through a sieve but just mixing it and that definitely doesn't add the much needed airiness to it. This time I went all aboard and made it the right away and it was devoured by everyone. Here's the recipe:

Dry-fruit Shrikhand

2 cups greek yogurt (I used fat-free, any is fine, more fat means more creaminess. ;) )
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped dried fruit (pistachios, almonds, golden raisins)
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp green cardamon powder
4-5 strands saffron
1/4 cup milk (if needed)

  • Warm the saffron in a 1 tbsp of milk so that it gives out its color.
  • I prefer to use greek yogurt over the normal one, because it has less water content and gives a better creamy texture to the final product. We still do need to strain the excess water from it, I usually leave my yogurt tightly knotted in a muslin cloth hanging over a container to collect the excess water. Leave it straining for about 12-16 hrs. Refrigerate the yogurt until you are ready to make the Shrikhand.
  • Use a seive (one with 1/2 cm or little small sized holes, not the fine mesh) and start mixing the yogurt and the sugar in batches. A 2:1 (yogurt:sugar) proportion fits really well for us, but if you like things very sweet you can add in more sugar. Pass all the yogurt and sugar through the seive and you should have small noodles of yogurt collected in your container.
  • Add the nutmeg and cardamon powder and mix well. Add in the saffron with the milk and gently mix in the strands. I love having strands of saffron through the Shrikhand, they keep giving away more and more color just as if its a fading watercolor, looks lovely!
  • Taste and if the shrikhand seems dry on the palate, add in little bit of milk and mix well. 
  • You can mix in the nuts or as I did this time transfer the shrikhand to a container and garnish generously with the nuts. When you scoop out servings, the nuts will automatically mix in. Gives a nice look to the Shrikhand. Chill for 1 - 2 hrs and serve with roti, poori or have it just by itself!
Diwali isn't exactly over for us. I am performing in the local Maharashtra Mandal's celebration tomorrow here in San Diego. Yet another day of celebrating Diwali. ;)

Hope all of you are having a wonderful time with the holidays approaching us at a warp speed. Until next time..

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkin Raita

Hello everyone! Today's post is going to be a short one with the recipe I intend to share before the month of October passes by and to remind myself and everyone that my online entity, my blog will fight to survive! :)
Time is passing by really quickly, I still feel summer ended just now and it ended in a high with us visiting the Yellowstone National Park. But we are already at the end of October!! None-the-less October marks the beginning of festivities and this month has been filled withe exciting things!
The Indian festival Navratri passed us at the beginning of this month and I got to spend it with my aunt and her family. I was truly pampered and ate yummy food all homemade for a whole week! :) With Dassera getting over the hype for Halloween was in the air and of course I had to pick up some pumpkin for myself! I haven't as yet ventured into pumpkin carving but I do certainly buy fresh pumpkin.
Everyone knows about pies, breads and various other desserts using pumpkin, but Indians eat pumpkin mostly in a savory way. I being a picky eater preferred eating it in only one way and that's the quick recipe I wanted to post today!

Pumpkin Raita (Bhopalyacha Bhareet)
1 cup cooked and mashed pumpkin
1 cup yogurt
1-2 green chilies 
3-4 curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of asafoetida (hing) 
1 tsp oil for tempering
salt to taste

  • Peel and chop the pumpkin into cubes (inch size) or bigger if u don't want to mash it completely.
  • Steam the pumpkin till it softens and is easy to mash. (usually 2 whistles for a pressure cooker)
  • Mash the pumpkin and add in the yogurt and mix well. I like my pumpkin to be all smashed but I know my mom prefers to see pieces in her raita, so that it doesn't look like baby food. :P
  • Add in the chillies and salt to taste. 
  • Make the tempering by heating oil and adding in the mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder and asafoetida. Wait till the seeds splutter and add the tempering in the pumpkin mixture. Mix well and the raita is ready to eat! I usually served it with chapati, but goes well as a side with rice and dal too!

Hope you guys enjoy this recipe! Lots of exciting things in process and coming up and I am determined to share it with everyone and post more often! :)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Taro at its best!

I have been in a phase where I am cooking a lot and yet never get the right set of pictures to post about it! It is laziness at its best and yes I am guilty as charged! But today has become an exception! It is the taro recipe that compelled me to post about it! This stir fry recipe is a quick-fix dinner option that I make almost every 15 - 20 days. Yet to this date I haven't posted about it. I was compelled to do so because a cute old lady asked me what it was in the local Indian store when I picking up a batch for my weekly meals. She humbly asked me, "Is this used to make a sabji?" and I was truly surprised to know something so common for me was still unknown to many!

I was introduced to taro as a root vegetable right since I was a kid. The earliest memories are of me plucking taro leaves for my aunt from her frontyard to make a delicious stew out of it. Back in India, vegetarians end up consuming a lot of root veggies to make up for the much needed meatiness in the meal. Taro is literally just that. I like to think of it as a meat for the vegetarians! ;)

Sorry I forgot to get a picture of how it looks originally, but the web is filled with them! The wiki page surely has some good info on it.

This stir-fry is simple and is ready in no time! It is dry and hence goes really well as a side with just simple dal-rice or some hot phulkas! I love it so much that I can have a bowlful of it and in fact I have ideas for making it as an appetizer, all that meatiness would surely go well with a nice cold margarita or a beer!

Arvi chi bhaji (Taro Stir-fry)
6-8 med. sized taro root (2-3 inches long)
1 tsp Ajwain seeds
1 tsp Turmeric power
0.5 tsp Asafoetida powder
1.5 tsp Red chili powder
2 tsp Coriander-cumin powder
1.5 tsp Amchur (dry mango powder)
1 tsp Mustard seeds for tempering
2-3 Curry leaves
2 -3 tbsp Oil to stir-fry
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander to garnish
Boiled taro root

  • Boil the taro just like you would boil a potato. I usually do this in a pressure cooker and let it steam for about 4 whistles. Once boiled and cooled, peel the taro skin and chopped it into 1 inch pieces. 
  • Use a non-stick pan to be able to handle the stickiness of the taro with minimal trouble. Add oil to the pan and once heated add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves. Once the seeds crackle,  add the turmeric powder and asafoetida. Once these are cooked in the oil, add in the rest of the spices. We add all the spices into the tempering so that it coats the taro uniformly.
  • Once all the spices are cooked add the taro pieces and let it saute well on med-high heat. Once the edges of the taro start to brown season with salt and add the lime juice. Garnish with coriander and serve with some hot phulkas!
It is a root that you would feel a little awkward to pick up considering its muddy hairy look along with the sticky texture it gets once steamed. But my humble request to all of you will be please look beyond that! It's a delicious root and really quick to work with especially in these hot summer months!
Until next time..

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bake Sale Recap

It has been a really busy month! Its already a week since the bake sale was over and finally its today that I get to post about it. This was my second time at the bake sale and I had a much better idea of what I need to do and what to expect. With the given time constraints I decided to make simpler items this time but took a risk of making two of them.

Continuing with the last years theme of French desserts I decided to make Palmiers this time. The idea struck when I saw a steady stream of people buying them at the local grocery store. When I looked up the recipe, I was astonished to find how simple it is to make them! I used this recipe which I felt gave the simplest illustration for the steps to make them.

Here are my tweaks to the recipe:
  • I only used a total of 1/4 cup of sugar for the whole pastry sheet. 
  • I bought the Pepperfridge farm's pastry sheets. Since they are packed in a 3-fold, I split the sheets on the same folds which in turn made it easier to cut them into pieces. 
  • I used milk instead of egg wash to seal the palmiers. 
I made the palmiers in two flavors - cinnamon-sugar & passion-fruit jam filled. I initially planned on making sweet and savory kind, but the savory ones tasted better when served warm. The only thing I missed through the whole prep was I forgot to click pictures of palmiers in prep. :(

I also made chocolate coated marzipan candies for the sale. I originally made Marzipan candies for Valentines day for my husband and never got around to posting about them. I love marzipan! Making it at home is quite simple and the homemade one tastes really good! I coated them with semi-sweet chocolate and added dried fruits on some to make it an assorted set. 

I used the cooked marzipan recipe available here and tempered the chocolate using these instructions. 

And finally below are some clicks from the bake sale! Loved the cupcakes towers and all the cute cookies! So much fun!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A fresh new look for the season

Its been almost two months since my last post, but the meal planning has been consistent. I have now set myself into an almost regular schedule that includes workouts, dance classes and reading books! Of course that leaves me with very little time for blogging and hence that is something I need to get aligned with my schedule. Today's post is really a catch up with my readers to let you guys know what I have been up to. :)

With the onset of spring, I have managed to get the pantry re-organized, made a quick coupon organizer and finally got back to learning Bharatnatyam. Last weekend was finally devoted to my blog and the result is surely visible. The blog now offers a neater look and hopefully makes it easier to read. There are still a good list of things I want to do on the blog, but for now this is a good start.

With parents visiting us, life has become a true roller-coaster! My kitchen has been yanked into full swing with lots of authentic and experimental dishes I want my parents to try. Today's recipe is about a very Maharashtrian dish specially made on a day of fasting. Its yet another creation by someone who decided to mix up dishes with different textures to make a delicious combination. There are various versions of this recipe available online, the closest one that I liked is on the Chakali blog available here. What none of the blogs really had was some good clicks, explaining the creation of the mix. So here you go:

That's all for today's post, of course this week is surely going to turn into one of busiest for this season especially with the bake sale coming up next week. An update on that will be coming up shortly! So for now have a good night everyone.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Weekly meal planning

Its been a good year so far.. with a new job and an on-going inspiration to loose weight albeit not a new year resolution! My life has been surrounded with lots of new interesting work challenges and equally challenging planning of meals. I say challenging because if I want to get done with a hour-long work-out in the evening, I am left with only 45 mins to get our dinner ready. Don't ask me why and how only 45 mins..lets just say we prefer to finish dinner before 8.30.. 9.00 pm tops!

With that in mind, deciding what to make for at least 4 nights in the week does get to be a task! Much till the mid feb, I would decide the dinner of the day based off my mood aka whatever came to my mind then. Now you can understand that such a schedule would definitely not work out to be best! I would end up with recipes that took much longer than 45 mins or too much left overs.

But after reading this post by Nupur at One Hot Stove, I was totally inspired. What came to mind was instead of writing down each day what we had for dinner, I much rather create a small meal plan for the week! That way I would not only have time to think about dinner in advance (over the weekend) but it would also make sure I have minimal wastage of produce!

I usually do get overly excited about such ideas and so this time I decided to take it slow. For the first week, I decided only on a couple of recipes and checked how the plan rolled out. Fortunately I made it through the week with success and last weekend I finally made a concrete dinner plan for the coming weekdays, 4 days of eating-in!

Below is what we had for the past week:

Mon 3/4 - Rava(Semolina) Idli with Coconut chutney
Tues 3/5 - Sweet potato curry with Vari tandul (Jungle rice) and cucumber raita
Wed 3/6 - Ordered Pizza ( originally planned for Noodles with tofu and bell-pepper)
Thurs 3/7 - Masoor Pulao with Tomato-Cucumber raita
Fri 3/8 - Left-over pulao with snacks

So to compensate for the earlier planned noodles, I made the noodles for lunch today with a side of steamed edamame! Yumm! :)

It wont be a surprise to you guys if I say that reading through food blogs is truly therapeutic for me and I do that for at least 10% of my each day. With that I end up having a plethora of recipes and definitely love to find those which are quick, healthy and delicious! So the upcoming week's meal plan does have such inspirations sprinkled through it! :)
In the hope of still managing through this plan, I am posting my meal plan in advance and will surely report back what happens through the week. So here is the plan:

Mon 3/11 - Moong curry with chapatis and tomato raita
Tues 3/12 - Besan pithla with chapatis and Snehal's peanut chutney.
Wed 3/13 - Fusili with pesto and veggies
Thurs 3/14 - Puliogare rice with black grams and side salad
Fri 3/15 - Eat out!

I am totally stoked by the whole idea and just hope this works well for the upcoming months! Planning this definitely makes my life easy through the week and helps me waste less and in fact save some money! I am sure if executed even more strictly one can easily have a lean weekly budget set for meals! I would surely be interested in hearing what you guys think about this and if you have an such ideas up your sleeve!

Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cherished memories

Everyone I am sure has a particular restaurant or a food truck or even a good old stall around the corner of the road that they cherish in their minds for some of the best food they ever had. I have a few in my mind that I cherish oh so dearly and every India trip I make sure I go through that list even if I am suffering from an upset stomach. :P

This past weekend, I was missing the steaming hot idlis and the crispy buttery dosas from a restaurant in Mumbai that goes by the name Sadguru. Every person who has spend time in the suburban area of Chembur knows this restaurant and oh boy did they have huge waiting lines! What I loved about the south Indian food offerings in this restaurant was the fact that they served us three different kinds of chutneys to go with the main dish. I loved each of the chutneys because they weren't the watery kind and had a distinct flavor which made each of them stand out! Infact it was this assortment I was missing more than the actual dosas/ idlis. 

So of course, I got over the craving by making two differents chutneys to go with some instant mix dosas.. I know I know..I hear it..instant..really??? I was just too desperate to enjoy the sides and made way with the instant mix.. ;) One of these chutneys was something I made for the first time, I had the old flavor of the chutney lingering on my tongue and with a little bit of research online, I devised the recipe for this chutney with the help of this recipe. 

Tomato chutney

2 medium tomatoes roasted and diced
1/2 onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic 
1.5 tbsp sesame seeds 
3-4 dried red chilies
1 green chili chopped
2 Tsp urad dal
2 Tsp chana dal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small piece of tamarind softened or 1 Tsp of Tamarind Paste
Salt to taste
1 tsp  + 1 tsp oil

For tempering:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
3-4 curry leaves
  • Heat a pan and dry roast the sesame seeds just until you can smell the aroma. Set aside to cool.
  • Heat 1 tsp of oil and add the urad dal, chana dal, cumin seeds and the dry red chillies until the dals turn in to a light brown color. Set aside and sprinkle some water onto this mixture to help soften the dals.
  • To the left over oil, add the green chili and the chopped onions. Once the onions are getting transparent, add the fire / oven roasted tomatoes and the tamarind pulp . Allow for it to saute well and until all the water evaporates. Allow to cool.
  • Grind the dal mixture along with the sesame seeds followed by the tomato mixture. Adjust the salt to you taste. 
  • Transfer the chutney to a bowl and season with the tempering. Enjoy with your choice of idli / dosas.
The tangy flavor of the chutney was truly delicious and even with the effort involved it was truly worth it! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Green fiesta

First and foremost, I wish everyone a very happy new year! May this year be filled with wonderful moments of joy and cheer! I have had a very fulfilling past year, it was the year I got married, it was the year where we overcame some big obstacles and it was the year we as newly-weds thoroughly enjoyed spending time with friends and of course with each other. ;)

The past year made me realize what marriage really is, its when you realize, 'you' means 'we' and that 'we' becomes the biggest support system you ever had. I am truly thankful for having a life partner, who not only sees the best in me but knows how to push me towards what I can achieve which I surely dont think I can. So with these lovely memories from 2012 of course with its fair share of sorrows, I have stepped into 2013 with great hopes and lots more ambition!

Talking of ambition, I am no different than any other person, who thinks this is the year I will loose a ton of weight! At least I hope so.. :P. So workouts have begun of course, but I am also researching on an easily adaptable healthy diet.. I know diets are never easy, but that's where the nerd in me is challenged to find out why not. :P Since the past year, we have adapted ourselves to eat healthy and of course cook healthy. And so today's recipe is one of those OMG kinds' I havent had in a while now!

Yesterday I went to bed with a question in mind, as to what do I do with one ripe avocado left in my kitchen! I started thinking of pairing it with something, of course spinach was something I had to use up and I put myself to bed asking, will they work together?

Today morning, the first google with my coffee was 'spinach and avocado recipes' and voila I wasn't the first one who tried that. The recipe below had to be tried and it was a true success!  I did not use any cheese or any cream in this recipe since the avocado gives it the needed creaminess.

Pasta with spinach and avocado sauce

2 cups Baby spinach
3 - 4 cups fusili or any kind of pasta you prefer
1 Avocado - pitted and cubed
4 cloves garlic
1/2 onion sliced thinly
1/2 capsicum chopped vertically
1 zucchini sliced
1/2 tbsp italian seasoning / dried herbs of your choice
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1.5 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
  • Blend the spinach and the avocado with one clove of garlic and a green chili if you like. Add water if needed. 
  • Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the box till al dente. In a sauce pan, heat some oil and add one glove of garlic. Remove the garlic once you smell it. Add the onions and let them cook until they become transparent. Add the capsicum and the zucchini and cook them well. 
  • Add the sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes, followed by the herbs. Mix in the pasta and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with some parmesan cheese and red chili flakes. We enjoyed it with some home-made garlic bread! Yum!
This pasta turned out totally green because all I had in my fridge was green - spinach, avocado, green capsicum and zucchini. :P This combination has sparked several ideas in my mind and hopefully they will be inspiring me more to continue blogging.