Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vellam Puttu / Jaggery Puttu

If it's a weekend and we have bananas on hand (and I've remembered to soak the black channa), then it's almost always puttu with kadala curry for breakfast - a firm favorite at home and a filling one at that. When we have leftovers, my MIL usually transforms the puttu into either this sweet version of Vellam Puttu or into something that resembles Idli Upma (where the puttu is crumbled and cooked with seasonings and onions - but that's another post). My husband, always favours this sweet version (and this is quite similar to the vellam aval recipe featured earlier), while I prefer the savoury puttu upma :)


Cooked Puttu - about 3 logs, 1.5 to 2 cups crumbled
Jaggery - 7 to 8 pieces/cubes, crushed (adjust to personal taste)
Cardamom/Elaichi - 2, powdered
Ghee - 1 tsp
Coconut - 1 tbsp, shredded (optional) - I didn't use since the puttu has coconut already

1) Melt the crushed jaggery with a bit of water and allow to boil for a few minutes.

2) Add the crumbled puttu and powdered elaichi and stir. It will be semi solid in consistency (a bit paste like)

3) Continue to cook this on a low-medium flame (about 10-15 minutes) with a tsp of ghee until the whole thing becomes crumbly in texture (a bit like paruppu usli). That's it, all done. Easy and Tasty.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Yummy Spinach Salad

I'm not really a salad person though I love vegetables... give me any vegetable curry or kootu and I can enjoy eating big portions of it but when it comes to salads, they typically don't excite me much... My husband is no different - but there are some salads that click with us and this is one of them. It comes together easily and I really enjoy eating it.. it is rather versatile and lends itself to quite a few modifications.

What I love about this is that it has some of my favorite additions.. tart, yet sweet craisins (dried cranberries), walnuts, bits of parmesan cheese, orange segments and I vary the dressing - sometimes it's just a drizzle of ranch dressing and other times i combine balsamic vinegar with a touch of orange juice, olive oil and drizzle... either way - so good!

SPINACH SALAD (Serves 1 to 2)

Fresh, cleaned spinach leaves - about 1.5 to 2 cups
Walnuts - 6 to 8 halves, chopped (or use sliced almonds)
Dried Cranberries (Craisins) - 1.5 tbsp (or use raisins)
Small orange - segments
Parmesan cheese - 1 tbsp
Ranch dressing (storebought) - 1 to 2 tsp

Spread the spinach leaves on a plate, sprinkle with walnuts, cranberries, orange segments, parmesan cheese and drizzle lightly with dressing. Dig in!

Nutrition info:
Calories - 300, Total Fat - 17.9 g, Saturated Fat - 4.4 g, Polyunsaturated fat 6.9 g, Monounsaturated fat - 2.6 g, Cholestrol 11.9 mg, Sodium, 413.1 mg, Potassium 591.4 mg, Total Carbohydrate 27.3 g, Dietary Fiber - 5.5 g, Sugars- 18.9 g, Protein - 11 g
Vit A - 118.8 %, Vit B12 - 3.5%, Vit B6 - 13.3%, Vit C -113.6%, Vit E - 9.4 %, Calcium - 32.1%, Copper 17.6%, Folate - 40.1%, Iron, 12.7%, Zinc - 8.7 %

Other tasty additions - tomatoes, shredded carrots, thinly sliced red onions, cucumbers or strawberries.

I would like to send this as my entry to Prathiba's Only Salads event which was originally started by Pari Vashist.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Decorated Sugar Cookies

As mentioned earlier, we (my daughter and I) made some sugar cookies over the holidays to pack as a gift and I thought it would be a good way to spend some time together because she loves to help me, loves cookies and was particularly looking forward to decorating them. Sugar cookies are simple to make but taste buttery sweet and crisp. However, I didn't want to make royal icing which is the best way to decorate sugar cookies.. instead we just used storebought gel pens and some egg yolk mixed with a drop of food coloring (that we painted on using cleaned water colour brushes). Anushka enjoyed all the decorating and cutting out the cookies. The whole family enjoyed the taste of these crispy cookies and it's definitely something I'll be making again and again.


All purpose flour - 2 cups
Sugar - 1 cup (I added a bit more since we were not going to be heavyhanded with our icing)
Egg - 1
Butter - 1 stick (half cup), softened
Milk - 2 tbsp
Baking powder - half tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Vanilla extract - half tsp
Powdered Sugar - for dusting (to prevent the dough from sticking)

1) Sift flour, salt and baking powder together.

2) In a big bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add egg, milk & vanilla extract and continue to beat until combined.

3) Add the flour mixture in batches and run the mixer on low until it comes together as a dough.

4) Divide the dough into 2 parts, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for atleast 2 hours.

5) Preheat oven to 350F. Spread a large surface with wax/parchment paper and sprinkle powdered sugar and roll out the dough uniformly until it's 1/4 inch thick.

6) Cover with another sheet of parchment, transfer to a baking sheet and chill again for about 30 minutes (This will ensure that the dough doesn't spread out and retains its shape when baked).

7) Using cookie cutters (we used different shapes, such as house, duck, heart, dog etc.), cut the dough and transfer them to a baking sheet (covered with foil or parchment paper). If using egg yolk + food coloring, then paint using brushes (before baking) or sprinkle with colored sugar crystals.

8) Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown. Then allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cool. If decorating using royal icing or gel pens, do that after the cookies have baked and cooled.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I always associate Polis with Bhogi pandigai which is first day of the Thai Pongal festivities. Ever since I can remember, my mother has always made polis on that day and what's not to love about them - a soft, slightly elastic maida (all purpose flour) dough encases a sweet filling of channa dhal, jaggery and coconut that is fragrant with cardamom and ghee. I've always enjoyed the moist filling in the bolis that my mom makes as opposed to the dry filling that store bought ones have and eating them fresh and warm as soon as they are made (under the pretext of tasting) just makes them that much yummier.

Although this is a favorite sweet of my husband's (anything made with jaggery falls in that category actually), I've probably made it just twice in these 9 years because it involves a fair bit of work. Since I'm lucky to have amma here now and we are celebrating Bhogi today, she made it while I carefully wrote down the proportions and observed how she made it.



For the outer cover -
All purpose flour - 2 cups
Oil - 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Ghee - to cook the polis

For the filling/pooranam:
Channa dhal - 1 cup, dry (pressure cooked till soft, abt 10 minutes) - drain all the water.
Coconut - 1 to 1.25 cups, dry roasted lightly
Jaggery - 1.5 to 1.75 cups, depending on how sweet you want it, crushed

Cardamom - 5 pods, powdered
Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1 tsp

For the outer cover:
1) Knead the all purpose flour, salt and oil adding lukewarm water as needed to make a soft dough. Allow to rest for atleast 5 to 6 hours.

For the filling:
2) Grind the pressure cooked channa & lightly toasted coconut to a paste (without adding any water).

3) Heat a pan, add a tbsp of water to the crushed jaggery and allow to melt. Add the ground paste and stir continuously until there are no lumps on a medium flame. The mixture may boil so be careful. Keep stirring & cooking for about 4-5 mins and then add 1tsp ghee and allow to cook until it thickens a bit. Switch off the stove and allow to cool, the mixture will thicken a bit more. It should still be a like a soft dough and not crumbly.
Assembling the Polis
3) Take a small portion of the dough on a piece of cling wrap (or any plastic sheet) and flatten (with oiled hands) to a small circle. Place a ball of the filling (about an inch diameter) in the center and fold over with the dough to form a covered ball (similar to what is done for Aloo Paratha - click here to see pictures)

4) Flatten this again and cook on a tawa with some ghee until light brown on both sides. Serve warm.

Happy Pongal everyone!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Oven Roasted Crisp Kale

Who knew that this daunting look green could be this tasty... My first introduction with Kale was when I used it in this dish and now I regularly look for and buy this. I've always wanted to try the baked version of Kale after reading how crispy and crunchy it gets and set out to try it. This is really easy and reminds me of the Roasted Broccoli recipe that made my husband love broccoli. My daughter liked it a lot and kept eating the crispy kale even before we sat down for lunch (you will see a picture of her trying to grab some). She described it as being 'sparkly' - (I think she meant 'it crackles') probably because it feels so light and crisp in your mouth. I added a touch of chilli powder to give it some spice.


Kale - that has been de veined and cut/torn into big pcs, washed and completely dried.
Olive oil - about 2 tbsp and some oil to spray
Salt - to taste
Chilli powder - to taste (optional)

1) Make sure that the Kale leaves are completely dry.. I used a paper towel to blot those that were still slightly wet. This will ensure that they turn out nice and crisp.

2) Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and spray with some oil.

3) Toss the dried leaves of Kale with oil & some chilli powder (if using) and spread as a single layer on the sheet and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or till crispy (they will still be nice and green).

4) Once crisp, remove and toss with required amount of salt and serve.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chocolate Bark

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year! I had a lovely time the past 2 weeks with family & friends and found it quite hard to return to work. But all good things come to an end and I look forward to making more memories in the new year. As part of the holidays, I made quite a few goodies this year - chocolate bark (recipe below), honey roasted almonds, sugar cookies (recipe coming soon), carrot cake, Fruit (plum) cake, chocolate fudge - some were packaged as gifts and the rest were happily consumed, much to the dismay of my weighing scale....

This chocolate bark recipe makes for a great gift idea and it could very well be made with milk chocolate or white chocolate or even a combination. Since i like dark chocolate, i stuck to semi-sweet chocolate. This comes together in no times and the toppings can be modified to our own liking... The only (slightly) tricky part would be melting chocolate - make sure that the bowl has no water because chocolate and water don't really get along well and you will end up with a mess instead of smoothly melted chocolate.


Semi sweet chocolate (or any kind of chocolate you like) - 12 oz [I used chocolate chips but you could just use chopped up pieces of any good chocolate you have]

Craisins (dried cranberries) - 1/3 cup
Roasted almonds/walnuts - 1/3 cup chopped
Dried Apricots - 4 to 5, cut into small bits

Sprinkles - my daughter's addition to this bark

1) Spread a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. No need to grease.

2) Using a double boiler method, where a bowl of chocolate is placed on top of a saucepan of simmering water (see picture), melt the chocolate until smooth, stirring occassionally.

3) Once melted fully, pour onto the parchment paper and spread out to desired thickness... usually these are quite thin.

4) Immediately sprinkle the toppings uniformly on the top and press down very gently with a spatula.

5) Allow to cool ( no need to refrigerate), and cut into pieces or break them up with your hand if you want a rough, rustic look. These are now ready to be packaged and served.