Sunday, December 23, 2012

Easy Paneer Makhni (Butter Masala)

I am sure everyone is in a holiday  mood and is relaxing with family and friends - I have the week off and have a huge list of things I want to do but with both kids at home, I'm not sure how far on the list I'll get but atleast it will be some much needed downtime. There may also a fair bit of entertaining going on. It's always fun and satisfying to invite people home, cook for them and watch them enjoy the food.

The recipe that I have here today is one that is super easy to whip up and a definite crowd pleaser. It requires no grinding and tastes as decadent and rich as something  you would get from a restaurant. This would be great for a pot luck dish too. You could even add some peas to the dish for a twist.



Paneer - 300 to 400 gms
Butter - 1 tbsp

Tomato paste - 6oz (canned)
Evaporated milk - 1 to 1.25 cups OR Heavy Cream (half cup)
Onion - small one, minced super fine (about quarter cup)
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp (optional)
Chilli powder - 1 to 2 tsp (2 for spicy and 1 for mild)
Coriander powder - 1.5 tsp
Cumin powder - half tsp
Garam Masala - 1 tsp
Sugar - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Kasuri Methi - 2 tsp, crushed between fingers
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp chopped

1) Heat butter and saute onion and ginger garlic paste for a few minutes. (You can omit both onion and ginger garlic and you will still have a tasty curry).
2) Blend together the tomato paste (since it's usuall very thick in consistency) with about 3 cups of water.  Stir in the chilli, coriander, cumin, garam masala powders. Also add sugar and salt.

3)Pour tomato mixture into pan with onions and garlic and allow to come to a boil. Reduce flame to medium low and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.
4) Cube paneer and add to gravy and allow to boil on medium for 5 mins. (I did not fry the paneer and felt that it was softer and creamier this way).
5) Stir in the evaporated milk/heavy cream at this point - will turn to a lovely orange, heat through for a minute or two (allowing it to boil may curdle the evaporated milk). Switch off the stove and sprinkle kasuri methi and coriander leaves.
The paneer makhni is now ready to be served with rotis/pulaos.

Wishing you all a Merry Xmas, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year ahead (in case I don't get to post again this month).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Caramel Candies and Gift Ideas

Making candy at home is always exciting and knowing how it will thrill my kids I was really looking forward to making these Salted Caramels by David Lebovitz... the process sounded relatively simple, I had all the ingredients and a candy thermometer so I just had to find some free time and I was good to go.  I decided to included these caramels in the gift packs I was planning to give my neighbours and my daughter's teacher at school. I got these cute cookie tins at Walgreens (they are seasonal)... and filled them with homemade goodies and a handmade card.

The candies turned out exactly as I had hoped though I did not add any fleur de sel. I had no problems with them sticking to each other and was able to store them in a ziploc bag at room temperature. But I wrapped them individually when gifting.

HARD CARAMEL CANDIES ( makes approx 50 pcs)

Heavy Cream - 3/4 cup
Salt - half tsp + a pinch more (since I used unsalted butter)
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 cup
Light Corn Syrup - half cup
Butter - 4 tbsp, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream, 2 tbsp butter, salt and vanilla extract until the mixture begins to boil. Switch off, cover and let it stay warm.

2) Meanwhile in a heavy, deep pan (I used a 3 qt stainless steel one), combine the sugar and corn syrup and heat on medium - stirring a few times initially and later leaving it untouched until it boils and reaches a temperature of 310F  (155C) on the candy thermometer - it took me about 10 minutes and the mixture turned a light golden colour at this point.

3) Turn off the heat and stir in the warm cream mixture. I took a step back when doing this in case there was any splattering but it was quite safe.  Stir this until smooth.

4) Line a loaf pan with some heavy duty aluminium foil and spray some oil on it evenly.

5) Reheat this caramel mixture (again on medium) till it reaches 260F (127C) on the candy thermometer. The mixture will be bubbling throughout this process and this took me about 15-20 minutes to get to this stage.

6) Updated 13/Dec(forgot to add this step) Remove caramel mixture from stove and add cut pieces of the remaining 2 tbsp butter and keep stirring until smooth and shiny.

7) Pour this into the pan when done and allow to cool - about 30 minutes later, turn over the caramel bar from the pan,  peel the foil and cut into pieces.... if you wait until it cools completely it can become too hard to cut, so don't wait until it's completely cooled. I sprayed a bit of oil on the knife to prevent any sticking.

Here's a picture of the goodies that we packed as gifts - it included Pumpkin Rolls (with Cream cheese icing), chewy Oatmeal Raisin cookies and these Caramel candies. My daughter made the Santa cards to go with it.

For more fabulous ideas for food gifts please check out: Nupur's blog and Sala's blog.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thai Drunken Noodles / Pad Kee Mao

This is a dish that I almost always order when we eat at a Thai restaurant... I definitely prefer this to pad-thai and love the spicy kick it has with the fragrance of thai basil permeating the entire dish.  Even though it is pretty spicy, this is something my daughter loves to eat and it's usually accompanied with a whole lot of hissing and several gulps of water but she still finds it irresistible. We had a restaurant near our home where this dish was made really well but unfortunately they closed a while ago. So, here's my recreation of the dish at home but I didn't have the flat noodles they use but had the rice noodles that they use for pad thais so decided to substitute that instead. Please make sure to get Thai basil.. it lends the authentic flavour to this dish.

THAI DRUNKEN NOODLES - serves 2 to 3

Rice noodles (dry) - half lb (Half of a packet)
Firm Tofu - half packet (drained and pressed for a few hours atleast)
Carrots - 2, peeled and sliced into thin circles
Beans - about 10 to 12, cut into 1 inch pieces
Broccoli - 1 cup, small florets
Baby bok choy - 1, leaves coarsely chopped and stem sliced into long, thin pieces
Bell peppers (red/green) - half of a big one, sliced into long, thin pieces
Cherry tomatoes - handful, sliced into halves
Thai Basil - about 1 cup, coarsely torn (this is important to get the authentic flavour)
Onion - half of a big one, sliced into 1 inch pieces
Garlic - 6 to 7 cloves, peeled and minced finely
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp

Sambal Olek (Red chilli paste) - 2 tbsp
Soy Sauce - 1 to 2 tbsp
Sriracha - 1 to 2 tbsp (or more to taste)
Maggi Hot and Sweet Sauce - 1 tbsp - this is not authentic but i thought it would lend a slight sweetness
Black pepper powder - half tsp

1) Pan fry tofu and keep aside. Soak the rice noodles in hot water for about 10 minutes or till softened but still firm

2) Microwave the beans, broccoli and carrot for about 4 to 5 mins (I find that this reduces cooking time significantly). No need to add water, just put them on a microwaveable plate and microwave as is.
3) Heat oil in a wide pan or wok (I used a non-stick skillet), and add the minced garlic, then add the sliced onions and when they soften a bit, add the bell peppers and bok choy stems. Allow this to cook for several minutes.
4) Add the microwaved veggies, tomatoes and the sambal paste and a bit of salt at this stage and saute the whole mixture of a medium high heat for several minutes.
5) Meanwhile toss the softened rice noodles with the soy sauce, sriracha, maggi and black pepper powder until coated evenly.
6) Once the veggies are tender crisp, add the rice noodles and mix thoroughly. Now add the pan fried tofu and thai basil as well and toss them till well coated.
7) Rice noodles are generally more sticky so keep tossing them around constantly. Check for seasonings and adjust accordingly.
8) To get the toasted, crisp edges like you get in restaurants, I then heat a wide non-stick pan and spread a small amount of noodles and let them cook on a medium flame, turning them over (not tossing) about 5-6 minutes later to get them crisped up a bit. Do this in 2 batches.
9) Serve hot with some wedges of lemon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Badam (Almond) Burfi

We've been having some wonderful weather the past two days and I've been making sure I go out for a walk to maximize it..  My dad found this pathway which is surrounded by tall trees and has a small brook flowing alongside it.... it's usually very peaceful and quiet there save for the scurrying of some squirrels, tweeting of birds and the occassional deer or two grazing and running to hide. It's always relaxing to walk there and kind of just be away from the usual things that keep us occupied. I'm so thankful that my dad discovered this place.

Anyway coming back to the recipe today... I usually have a big bag of almonds and I love that this is a sweet that doesn't need too much ghee. But it involves making sugar syrup and usually it's not something that I am very confident about but after seeing this very informative post on Chitra's blog and I pretty much used that and I had no trouble getting the right stage... The good thing about sugar syrups is that there's no active stirring (infact it's not recommended), just let it boil away and thicken while you attend to other things... I kept checking the consistency every 5 mins or so and the syrup was ready in abt 15-20 minutes. I first dip my fingers in a bowl of water before testing the syrup. Once the syrup reaches the right consistency, the sweet comes together in a few more minutes.

This is not very sweet so you could increase the sugar if you want it to be sweeter. It has a soft, fudge like consistency.
BADAM BURFI (makes about 30 to 40 1.5 inch burfis)

Badams/Almonds - 1.5 cups
Sugar - 1.5 cups
Milk powder - 1/3 cup, optional (I used Nestle Everyday)
Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1 tbsp + enough to grease a medium sized plate/tray
Water - half cup


1) Soak Almonds overnight covered with water. For a quick method, you could put the bowl of almonds covered with water and microwave for 4 to 5 minutes and then let it soak for about 30 minutes. Peel the badams and dry them completely.

2) Grease a plate or tray with ghee and keep ready

3) Powder the badams in the mixie, in small batches - it will be kind of pasty. If it's really impossible to grind them finely then add a tbsp or two of milk to help with the process - I didn't have to resort to that though my mixie did stop a few times so I had to allow it to take a few breaks.

4) Mix the powdered badams with the milk powder(if using)

5) In a thick bottomed pan, add sugar and water and allow to melt and come to a boil on medium flame. Then reduce the flame a bit and allow to simmer (no stirring) until it reaches the one string consistency. This takes about 15-20 minutes but you dont have to do anything actively to the syrup during this time. After about 10 minutes have passed, I dipped my fingers into a bowl of water and then into the syrup and tested the 1-string consistency using my thumb and forefinger - please refer to this very helpful pictorial.

6) Once the one-string consistency is there, add the almond-milk powder mixture and stir vigorously for about 5-7 minutes more. When it starts to leave the sides of the pan, add a tbsp of ghee and remove from the stove.

7) Pour the mixture into the greased plate or tray and allow to cool a bit before cutting into squares and serving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Crown Cake & Easy Icing glaze for cookies

It has been over a month since I've written anything here and what a month it has been.... First, we celebrated Anushka's birthday (she is 7 now and growing up super fast) and I had every intention of posting the cake that I made for her birthday this year.... She couldn't decide on what she wanted this year and eventually picked a 'Crown Cake'.... but before I could post anything , I received word that my grandfather passed away and though he hasn't been doing too well, it still came as a total shock to us and it took me a while to come to terms with it. I still can't believe he is gone and so many days I catch myself thinking I have to give him a call only to realize seconds later that he is not there anymore....

Then, November happened and this is one of the busiest months at work and this year it was crazier than usual and we had a whole horde of issues to deal with... I felt a bit like that super hero on Incredibles where he says "it's like I just cleaned up this mess and there's another one already" - we had issue after issue but all in all, it worked out good eventually and I learnt a lot in the process.  Most days I had no time to cook and we just ordered food from outside or relied on frozen food and I felt quite grumpy that I couldn't cook - because, for me, it's a great way to relax and I was also feeling awful about eating unhealthy stuff. Things are slowly returning to normalcy though...

Here are some pictures of the Cookie Crown Cake I made for Anushka... you could use any of your favorite cakes &  stack them up - I went with a lemon pound cake this year. The cookies were the time consuming part and mine could've turned out better. I used the recipe from here and they even give you a .pdf that has a template to use for the cookie. I printed that out, cut it out and traced it onto a piece of clean cardboard and used that to cut out the sugar cookies. I however did not sprinkle them with the yellow sugar as suggested and used an icing glaze instead - it was super easy to whip up and definitely something I'm going to use when decorating sugar cookies. It also made it easy to stick the candy onto the cookies and ensured that they stayed put. Anushka had fun decorating the cookies with me. You could do these a day ahead and also bake and frost the cakes the day ahead too and a few hours before serving, you could stick the cookies to the cake - I stuck to my favorite Whipped Cream frosting (with a bit of cream cheese) - recipe here.
EASY ICING GLAZE - for half cup of glaze

Confectioner's sugar - 1 cup
Water - 2 tbsp
Light Corn Syrup - 1 tbsp
Food Coloring - as desired

Stir sugar, water and corn syrup together in a bowl and add desired food coloring. I used yellow in this case but you can split up the glaze and use different colours. It dries up quite easily and is very easy to work with.
1) Cut out cookies using the template and bake them. Allow to cool completed before glazing. Ensure the cookies aren't too thick - it should be 1/4 inch thickness when you roll them out. 

Cookies Cut out and ready to be baked

2) Apply the glaze over cookie and stick the candies (I used m&m, mini M&ms and a bigger candy).

3) Decorate the cookies once the glaze has dried up using white icing or with more glaze. I did  a rush job since it was really late at night and I was super tired.

4) Stick the cookies to the side of the cake. Next time I would stick them closer to each other. I think it would look better that way.
Another shot of the cake.... I wasn't impressed with how the cake turned out (the one on the Family Fun website was much cooler looking) but my daughter said she loved it and told me not to worry and that this was great for my first attempt. I was also quite thrilled that my 3 yr old immediately recognized it as a crown... he actually wanted me to put it on his head - the silly fellow.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ravioli with Buttered Vegetables

I talked in my earlier post about incorporating celery in a sneaky manner... I add it to soups typically and I have a friend who even adds it to sambar. Cooking the celery or sauteeing helps mellow the strong flavour of celery and the fibrous texture as well. This pasta dish is another great way to incorporate celery... It gives a lovely savoury flavour and the tiny bits of vegetables add a delightful texture to the otherwise smooth, chewy ravioli.  If celery is still not your thing, you can reduce the amount to a tbsp or two and use a few pinches of celery salt as a substitute.

Make sure that the ravioli is good... I use a frozen one (Centano is the brand name) and prefer the cheese filled ones since I am adding a fair bit of veggies with it, but you can also use one that has spinach and cheese or mushroom fillings.  Like all pasta dishes, I like how easily this comes together and tastes yummy.


(Makes enough for  6-7 servings)

Cheese Ravioli - 2 packs - total 22 oz (frozen, any kind of filling you like)
Celery - 3 stalks, finely chopped
Red/Green Bell pepper - half, finely chopped
Carrot - 1 large, finely chopped
Garlic - 3 to 4 cloves, minced

Butter - 1 tbsp
Olive oil - half tbsp
Dried Oregano - a few pinches (optional)
Red Pepper flakes - half tsp (or to taste)
Parmesan cheese - 1 to 2 tbsp grated (optional)

Salt & Pepper to taste

Method:1) Cook the ravioli in lots of boiling water with salt until al dente (follow package directions).

2) Meanwhile chop the veggies into tiny pieces.

3) Heat a wide pan with butter & olive oil and add the minced garlic & red pepper flakes.

4) Next add the veggies and saute for several minutes with some salt  & dried oregano until the veggies soften but are crisp tender.

5) Add the cooked and drained ravioli with this vegetable mixture and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes more, tossing them around gently. Grind some black pepper onto the mixture.  

6) Finally, sprinkle parmesan cheese and remove from the stove.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Waldorf Salad / Apple Celery Salad

I'm sorry for the long hiatus... Although I have been clicking pictures of new dishes and there are quite a few recipes that I am yet to post, there just hasn't been enough time to actually write a post. Our office has been going through some rather painful changes and all I can look forward to is more pressure and long hours but hopefully it will also mean that I will learn new things and figure out a way to cope with the changes (or atleast that's what I have been telling myself).

Anyway, let's move on to tastier things...  My sister-in-law told me about this salad as we often discuss about  healthy meal ideas. Since celery is not something that the family eats readily, I try to incorporate it in different dishes and this one is awesome - combined with all the fruits and a slightly sweet creamy dressing, it doesn't taste bland like you would expect a salad.



Apple  - 1 large (I used Fuji since they are crisp & sweet and also peeled them)
Celery - 3 stalks, finely diced 
Grapes - 1 cup, halved or cut into thirds (or use few tbsp of raisins instead)
Walnuts - 4 or 5 halves, roasted and cut into small pcs (I ran out of them so skipped them this time)
Sour Cream - 2 tbsp
Yogurt (homemade - thick) - 2 tbsp
Honey - 1/2 tp 1 tsp
Salt, pepper - to taste


Cut apple into small cubes & finely dice the celery stalks.
2) Toss the apple, celery, grapes, walnuts in a bowl.
3) Combine the sour cream, yogurt, honey, salt & pepper in a small bowl for the dressing
4) Mix everything together and chill for a while before serving this tasty salad.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mixed Vegetable Subzi

In my mind, this dish is like the North Indian equivalent of Aviyal, because I get to utilize leftover bits of veggies in the fridge to make a scrumptious curry. This makes for a great combination with rotis and some dhal. I keep varying the veggies based on availability and preference and this is yet to disappoint me... so feel free to substitute with some of your favorite veggies. I typically don't add tomatoes, but  you could try that for a variation.


Onions - 1 medium, chopped or sliced
Ginger - 1 inch, peeled and chopped
Potatoes - 1 big or 2 small, preferably boiled and cubed

Carrot - 2, peeled and sliced
Peas - half cup (I used frozen)
Spinach - half cup (I used frozen) - optional
Broccoli / Cauliflower - about 2 cups, florets
Chilli powder - half tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp

Turmeric powder - half tsp
Sambar powder/ Curry Masala powder / Garam Masala - 1 tsp
Coriander leaves / Dried Kasuri Methi - for garnish
Cumin seeds - half tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp


1) Heat the oil in a wide, shallow pan and add some cumin seeds, once they sizzle add the ginger and onion and saute till translucent.

2) Next add all the veggies and toss them continously for a few minutes before adding some salt & turmeric.

3) Add all the masala powders (chilli powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala) and once it coats the veggies evenly, sprinkle some water, cover and allow to cool on medium-low for 5 to 7 minutes. Toss once in between to ensure there is no burning, sprinkle more water if it's sticking to the bottom of the pan.

4) Continue to cook covered until veggies are crisp tender then allow to cook a few minutes uncovered until fully done. Finally, add kasuri methi or coriander leaves and switch off the stove. Serve with rotis and dhal or roll up in a chapathi for tasty veggie wraps.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pineapple Cream Cake

I'm finally here with the recipe for the Layered Pineapple and Cream cake that I made for my brother's birthday..... this is like the one we get at the bakeries in India - a light, sponge cake (made with no butter or oil that gets it's fluffiness from beaten eggs) that has been layered with pineapple pieces and luscious, velvety whipped cream. It was moist and light and I used this awesome recipe from the Ecurry blog.  I was skeptical about the texture of the cake but it came out great and surprised me with it's sturdiness... it was quite easy to cut it into 3 layers.

The birthday boy and the rest of the family loved it and soon after the cake cutting was done and the birthday boy was fed bites of the cake by all of us, I sliced the cake and put them on plates. Both, my husband and brother quickly took their plates to the table on the patio and started clicking pictures of the slice (for the blog) before digging in and that made me laugh :)

Before I go to the recipe, I usually use measuring cups when it comes to baking, but this time I measured the ingredients by weight instead.... Getting a small kitchen scale is rather inexpensive (I bought mine for $5 at Walmart a few years ago)... Also, it's best to make this cake the previous days so the layers soak the flavours well and it is moist.

Here's the recipe with some of the tweaks I made...


Ingredients for the Cake:All purpose flour (Maida) - 150 gms
Sugar - 150 gms + 2 tbsp (separated)
Corn Flour/Corn Starch - 2 tbsp
Eggs - 4 (at room temperature)
Baking powder - 1 tsp

Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp

Method for Cake:
1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease a round 9 inch cake pan with some oil (both bottom and sides)

2) Sift together, the all purpose flour, corn flour and baking powder twice

3) Separate the 4 eggs and keep egg whites and egg yolks in different bowls. 
4) First beat egg whites until fluffy, then slowly add in the sugar and continue to beat until it is thick and stiff peaks form. Will take about 5 mins to reach this stage.

5) In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks till frothy and fluffy. Add 2 tbsp of sugar and beat until thick. Add vanilla extract and beat until it doubles in volume.

6) Stir in the sifted flour mixture into the bowl with the beaten egg yolks just until combined.

7) Now gently fold in the egg whites mixture into this with a spatula without disturbing the volume of the egg whites until it's just combined.

8) Gently transfer to prepared pan and bake in the pre-heated oven for  30 to 35 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack.

Ingredients for Pineapple Syrup & Whipped cream

ineapple Juice - 1 cup (drained from one big can of Pineapple chunks)
Sugar - 2 to 3 tbsp (to make the soaking syrup)

Pineapple - I used canned pineapple chunks in 100% pineapple juice
Heavy Whipping Cream - 400 ml
Sugar - 4 to 5 tbsp (for whipped cream)


1) Chill bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes before making whipped cream.
2) Pour heavy whipping cream and start beating until slightly stiff. Add in the sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Ensure you don't over beat and stop as soon as stiff peaks form. Refrigerate.
3) Cut cake horizontally to make 3 layers... this cake is very sturdy and is easy to cut with a long, serrated knife.

4) Drain the can of pineapple chunks and reserve the pineapple juice in a bowl. Add 2 to 3 tbsp of sugar and mix well until it dissolves.  Chop the pineapple chunks into small pieces, saving a few for garnish.

5) To assemble to cake, put the bottom layer on serving plate, and add 1/3 of the pineapple syrup to moisten the entire cake.

6) Add a layer of the whipped cream and place half of the finely chopped pineapple pieces all over the cream.

7) Place the next layer, moisten it with the syrup, top with whipped cream and remaining chopped pineapple pieces

8) Finally place the top layer and moisten with the pineapple syrup. Then, cover the cake with whipped cream, both top and sides. Decorate the top with pineapple pieces and halved cherries (I used the ones we get in India).

9) Referigerate for atleast 6 to 8 hrs before serving.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Memories & Pottukadalai Thuvayal

My brother visited us over the last two weeks and we had a fun, relaxing time with him....  He is 8 years younger than me so our childhood memories have less instances of us playing together and more of me bullying / teasing him... :)  Anyway we spent an evening talking about these memories and the fun we had with the two cousins who lived with us (while they were in college).... One memory was that of playing games, having sleepovers at our home with kids in our neighborhood when my dad was away on business trips.... since my mom would do minimal cooking and join us in the fun. Another thing that we associated with my father's business trips was to eat some of the dishes we loved, but my dad was not a fan of - such as semia upma, simple kanji & pottukadalai thovayal etc. My mom would make them only when my dad was away on trips so much so that my brother once asked, very longingly, as to when my dad would leave on his next business trip so he could have some kanji and semia upma :)

The next morning I called up my mom to find out how she made the thovayal and we had a very tasty lunch of kanji and thovayal - comfort food indeed and simplicity at its best.  During his stay I also made some ulundhu kali with a mix that my mom sent me.... and we shaped them into little round balls and made small indentations on the top and filled them with nallennai (gingelly oil) just like my grandmother used to. This kali is supposed to strengthen one's lower back.

Here's the super simple but very tasty pottukadalai (Roasted gram/dalia) thuvayal.



Pottukadalai (roasted gram/Dalia) - half cup
Grated Coconut - 2 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3 or 4 (or to taste, this shd be spicy to counterbalance the bland kanji)
Salt - to taste

Water - as required to get correct consistency


1) Grind together the pottukadalai, red chillies and grated coconut with some salt in a mixie. When coarsely powdered, add a bit of water and grind to a fairly thick paste.... add water as required to get thick thovayal consistency. Mix in with  Kanji (Pressure cook rice with lots of water 1:4 ratio, to which some cumin seeds, salt and ground pepper is added) - it shoud be slightly watery. If it's too thick (which happens after some time)  add some hot water to get the right consistency. We had the kanji with the thuvayal and some leftover puli kuzhambu

Here's a picture of the ulundhu kali that we enjoyed.

Last but not least, here's a picture of his birthday (Aug 18th) cake - a layered pineapple cream cake that I baked using this recipe....

Detailed post to follow soon. It was so moist and perfect and everybody loved it... esp. the birthday boy....

Other dishes I made during his visit were (you will quickly see how I came to gain quite a few pounds in these 2 weeks):

Poondu vatha kuzhambu 
Egg Biryani
Egg curry
Greek Pizza & Pesto Pizza
Mango Kulfis

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Greek pizza

Happy Independence Day! :)

Remember how I dreamt of a pizza when I laid eyes on  some tomato basil feta cheese... well, here is that dream becoming a reality... This is my take on a greek style pizza which is inspired by the Garlic Spinacci pizza we get at Vocellis (a pizza joint) which I really like... I added a few extra ingredients into the mix and some spiciness to add a kick. I must say that this was quite a hit with the entire family and it was an enjoyable dinner for sure... Definitely something I'm going to be making often.



Pizza crust - recipe here (I used half to make one pizza & added some red chilli flakes and oregano with the dough) or use store bought.

Red Onion - half of a medium one, thinly sliced
Chopped Spinach - 3/4 to 1 cup (if frozen) or about 3 cups if using fresh|
Mushrooms - 1 cup slices (I used canned)
Sun dried tomatoes - 4 to 5, drained and chopped
Crumbled Feta cheese - about 1 cup (I used tomato basil flavor)
Swiss cheese / Mozzarella / Pepperjack - half to 3/4 cup, shredded
Garlic cloves - 8, peeled and sliced (vary amount to taste)
Black Olives - few, sliced (I didn't use them but they would go great here)
Sriracha chilli sauce / red chilli flakes - to taste
Extra virgin Olive oil - half tbsp to drizzle
Extra virgin Olive oil - 1 tbsp, divided to cook garlic and spinach
Reduced fat mayo - 2 tbsp  / Garlic Cream sauce - recipe here
Salt & Black pepper to taste


1) In a saucepan, heat half tbsp olive oil, add the thinly sliced garlic and saute till golden brown. Remove with a spoon and chop that up.  In the same pan, heat the remaining oil and saute the spinach with a tiny bit of salt and pepper (do not oversalt since the feta cheese is quite salty already). Preheat oven to 425F

2)Spread pizza into thin  layer (or to desired thickness, thin is how we like it) I used a 12x10 inch rectangular pan lined with foil - but you can vary the thickness to your liking.

3) First spread the mayo/garlic cream sauce evenly on the base. Sprinkle red chilli flakes if using (sometimes I stir in some when making the dough).

4) Sprinkle the swiss /mozarella/pepperjack cheese in a thin, even layer (I used swiss), then sprinkle the chopped garlic, cooked spinach, followed by red onion slices, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and olives (if using) in an even layer all over the pizza.

5) Then add the crumbled feta cheese all over the pizza and dot with sriracha (which is my favorite way of adding spice to pizzas). Slowly drizzle half tbsp of olive oil over the pizza.

6) Bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes (depends on how thick the crust is). Remove from oven, slice and serve!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Airplane Cake & Avocado Yogurt Dressing

We returned last week from our trip to India and are settling back into our routine here. We had a wonderful time though it went by much too fast for our liking. The kids in particular had an awesome time with grandparents, relatives, cousins, old friends & some new friends that they made.  They loved the auto rides, playing in the water, visiting temples where my son would point to all the idols and go "ummaachi" (for God) ...running around in the garden, swinging, watching fish in the pond, visiting the beach, enjoying fireworks and so on...  Food-wise, I made it a point to enjoy lots of mangoes and had so many tender coconuts (ilaneer) as well.... the only thing I missed having was nongu since i had missed the season... but got a chance to taste navapazham after ages. Now, we miss everyone and the fun times but that is life...  Here are some snapshots of the vacation.

Coming to the food part of this post, I wanted to post  a picture of the airplane cake I made for my son's birthday (it's a good thing you know what it is because otherwise it would be hard to recognize it as an airplane :) ).. I had plans of making a decent looking airplane cake since that's what he wanted for turning three (on August 5th) but for some reason the cake stuck to the pan and I could only salvage a very small part of the cake without it breaking apart, so I tried to cut and shape that into an airplane... However, Nikhil looked past all that (being as young as he is) and was quite happy with the cake. I tried my hand at making a Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the first time and really liked how it turned out but can't say i love how it tastes... was much too buttery for me. I think i still prefer my usual whipped cream frosting taste-wise.

Also, here's a picture of a weekday dinner that one can put together rather quickly... I made Falafels (using this recipe) but instead of deep frying them I baked them (which is what I've been doing the last several times I've made these) at 375F for about 20 to 25 minutes (flipping once in between) and then shallow frying them on a tawa with just a few tsp of oil.  I then cut veggies up (while the falafels were baking)  - ribboned carrots (carrots that are peeled all the way to get thin ribbons), cucumbers, tomatoes, red bell peppers and for the onions to remove the pungency, I soaked the sliced onions in a mixture of 1tsp vinegar, half tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and some water for about 30 minutes. I also made an avocado-yogurt dressing (recipe below) and rolled everything up in whole wheat tortillas (Pitas would be great but didn't have any) for a super tasty wrap.For a low-carb option, ditch the tortillas/pitas and just toss the veggies and cut up pieces of falafel into a salad with the dressing - yummy.

 (Great for wraps or salads)

Avocado - half of a ripe one
Yogurt - 3 tbsp thick yogurt

Green chillies - 2 (optional)
Coriander leaves with thin stalks - about 5 to 6
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Olive oil - 1 tsp

Salt - to taste


Combine all of the above in a blender/mixie till smooth.
Use as a dip, salad dressing or when making wraps. You don't taste the avocado in this so it's great for those who are not fans of this buttery fruit.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Strawberry Nutella Sandwiches

So, it's been a while since I added any new recipes - though I've been clicking pictures, haven't really had much time to post the recipes. Summer usually means a bit more relaxing time atleast in terms of the kids' schedules (no homework to deal with, no need to rush my daughter out for the school bus at 7:15am) - or so I thought but it has been just as hectic... I have been shuttling her to and from her ice skating camp and to a few makeup classes before our India trip next week. There's been a fair bit of shopping and I haven't even started the packing... so much to do at work too before I leave.. so I've been in panic mode....

Coming to the post today, this is a quick sandwich I made for my daughter and she loved it.. (so did my husband actually). It doesn't even warrant a recipe really and just combines two ingredients she loves so I knew that I couldn't go wrong.



Bread slices - as required
Strawberries / Bananas - few slices (washed and hulled)
Nutella (Chocolate hazelnut spread) - as required

Butter/ghee to toast


 Spread a thin layer of nutella on both slices of bread. Top one slice with strawberry (or banana) slices, cover with other slice and toast with a bit of butter or ghee till golden. 

The warm gooey nutella with the strawberries make it so tasty.

Another quick snack that I've been making for them (we all need a lot of snack recipes when kids are home, don't we?) is to make a quick chocolate fondue with several fruits and a small fork so she can dip them in the chocolate: (no pictures since this usually disappears in no time)

Combine about 2 tbsp of semi sweet choc chips and 1 tbsp of cream in a small ramekin, microwave for about 20 seconds or so and stir until the chocolate has completely melted.  Serve with slices of bananas and strawberries with a tiny fruit fork and bask in the praises of being the best mommy and the best 'cooker' in the whole world. Win-win I say (healthy and tasty).

Have an awesome summer everyone!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cooking from other blogs #8

It's been so long since I posted a round-up of recipes that I've tried and loved from other blogs.... Whenever I am running low on ideas or have a craving for something new, all I need to do is do a quick rundown of my bookmarked recipes or browse around to either get inspiration from or even better - get tried and trusted recipes that are sure to please my family...   So, a big thank you to all for giving me these fabulous recipes.

1) First, this is something I tried from Sailu's food blog which has some pretty amazing recipes. This Broken Wheat Spinach Pongal is very satisfying and also great to serve kids since it's a one pot complete meal... as you can see, I've added quite a bit of spinach when I made this... great with yogurt or even pickle.

2) This Bok Choy Kootu from Priya's blog is now something of a regular at our home and from me being the only one who eats bok choy (as a stir-fry), it has now become something that the entire family eats and is quick and easy to prepare for weeknight dinners as well. The only modification I make is to substitute the flax seeds with almonds since that's what I usually have in my pantry...

3) For a tasty appetizer made of soy that even my chicken loving husband liked, I'd recommend Vegan Popcorn Chicken from Soma's blog. I pretty much followed the recipe except for increasing the spices and baked them instead of deep frying... They had a lovely crunch coating and this is definitely something I'll make often.

4) I bought black cardamom from India just to try out Anita's famous Punjabi Chhole recipe and it didn't disappoint... the fresh masala powder was great and i added some jaggery too to tone down the spices a bit.... definitely a keeper of a recipe.

5) Onto the sweeter things, I tried a batch of Nandita's heathiest cookies which are made with oats, nuts, chocolate chips, bananas and coconut.... Initially I thought that only I would enjoy them (since they were the healthy kind)  but the entire family loved it and the ripe banana taste combined with coconut and the chewy texture of oats with a generous dose of chocolate chips was such a winning combination.

6) I tried these milk powder burfis from Aarthi's blog since i had pack of milk powder that I wanted to use up and it seemed really simple and easy... I just went a bit easy on the sugar (than what the recipe called for) since the milk powder was already sweet and the resulting fudge was very tasty, especially when warm and had great texture and my friends and kids loved it.

7) Also, these tasty Eggless Nutella Cookies from Treat and Trick's blog, a simple fuss free recipe using Nutella which can be whipped up in no time and results in irresistible crunchy, cookies...

8) These healthy Oats Adais from Lata akka's blog which was such a tasty twist on usual adai and the evening I made them, I had a surprise visit from friends and they loved the adai too and they weren't even big on oats - so a definite winner even if you have someone who doesn't like oats.

9) Also, Quinoa Mung dosai from Usha's veg inspirations.... a great way to get everybody to eat quinoa - even those who don't particularly have a taste for it. Unfortunately no pictures for these 2 items... will update this post when I make these next. 

I'd like to also post the picture of the breakfast I had a few days ago... it was absolutely delicious and had an avocado-tomato salad (with lemon juice, salt and pepper) and a curried hardboiled egg (no mayo) made with onions and carrots and to scoop these up, some fresh, crisp lettuce leaves and half an apple to finish off the meal.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quinoa Mung Salad

I think this is my first post with Quinoa (Keen-wah)... although I've been including it my diet... the rest of the family did not follow suit. It definitely wasn't love at first sight but since I had read that it is pretty healthy combined with the fact that it has a fair bit of protein, I gave it another try when my mom made ven pongal with it, substituting quinoa for rice  and loved it... my parents also liked it though my husband refused to even give it a try. Later I found this Quinoa-Mung dosai recipe and that was something that the whole family (husband and kids included) ate with no complaints - thanks to Usha.

One day when I had some sprouted mung beans, I decided to combine it with some quinoa for a salad since I had tasted something similar at Costco.  Added veggies and wanting some sweetness added some orange segments as well... I forced my husband to taste it but after the first bite he was hooked. I then served it with the pita chips (remember this recipe? and yes we still had some left, bags from Costco are humongous) for him and he liked the crunch from the pita chips and now he has been asking me to pack this for his lunch :) I'm glad this recipe made a convert of him.  I have made this salad several times since then and is very easy and perfect for hot summer days (when you don't want to be in the kitchen) since there's very minimal cooking involved and it's easy to change up the veggies and fruit so you can have a tasty variation each time. Makes a great dish for packed lunches or picnics too.

QUINOA MUNG SALAD - 3 to 4 servings

Quinoa Mung Salad

 Dry Quinoa - 1/3 cup cooked
Green Mung Beans- half cup dry, soaked overnight or sprouted.
Onion - half of a small one, chopped
Tomato - half of a medium one, chopped
Cucumber - half cup, seeded and chopped
Orange - sections of 2 oranges, cut into pieces
Bell pepper (raw or roasted, green or red) - 1/3 cup chopped
Spinach - big handful of raw, chopped finely
Coriander leaves / Parsley - 2 tbsp, chopped
Lemon Juice - juice from 1 lemon or to taste
Extra Virgin Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Lemon - Pepper seasoning (optional) - few shakes
Butter - 1 tsp

Salt & ground Black pepper - to taste


1) Heat a small deep pan on medium, add quinoa and water in the ratio 1:2 (so 2/3 cup in this case), add a tsp of butter and a few pinches of salt (better to undersalt at this stage). Once the water starts to boil, reduce flame to a simmer, cover with a lid and allow to cook until dry (about 10 to 15 mins). Once done, stir gently and keep aside. The key is not overcook quinoa so it has a slight crunch and that gives the salad great texture. 

2) Since the green beans were soaked, they needed only a few minutes in the microwave. Add beans, a bit of salt and a tbsp of water and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes until cooked but still has a bite to it. The skins may peel off but no need to discard. The water had fully evaporated for me, but if not drain it. 

3) In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, mung dhal, onion, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper (I used red), spinach and coriander leaves. 

4) In a small bowl combine the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and some lemon-pepper seasoning if using (I had the Mccormick brand that i'm trying to use up) and stir this into the quinoa-mung salad.

5) Finally stir in the orange segments (I even added some of the orange juice i got when cutting into the orange). Chill this for about 15-30 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle. Tasty quinoa salad is ready.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thai Curry (Red/Green)

I can't believe I haven't posted this dish so far since this is something I make very often.. atleast once every 2 weeks especially when I'm hard pressed for time... this may have a lot of veggie chopping involved but it still works out to be a fast dish and a wholesome one since it has an array of vegetables and tofu simmered in spicy thai curry infused coconut milk.  Initially I used to make the pastes myself but after I found the Maesri brand of canned thai curries, I've stopped doing that... this brand has no shrimp paste included (something i always check for) and is fully vegetarian and tastes just perfect. Also, with most restaurant dishes that I recreate at home, I love the fact that I can add a ton of veggies. Feel free to vary the vegetables you use based on your preferences and what you have... I've used eggplant, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, sugar snap peas, bell peppers etc. in all kinds of combination and have never been disappointed.

I love the red curries while my husband is partial to the green curry... my daughter loves them both and infact she gets so excited when she gets a whiff of the fragrant curry and comes to the kitchen asking "Are you making my favorite curry?" While eating dinner she keeps claiming that she wishes she could eat this everyday... She even tolerates the spiciness of the dish just cause she loves it so much. I  try to mix in more rice and even some ghee to make it less spicy for her and my son.... I usually add the entire can of the curry paste but if it's too much (read spicy) then you can add according to taste and store the remaining in a bottle in the refrigerator and use the next time or add to noodle dishes such as this.



Tofu - 16 oz, drained and pressed down with paper towels for an hour.
Veggies of choice - about 4 to 5 cups raw (
I've used eggplant, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, sugar snap peas, bell peppers)
Maesri brand Red Curry/Green curry paste - 1 small can (4 oz) or to taste
Coconut milk - 1 to 1.5 cups
Salt - to taste
Chilli powder - half tsp (optional)
Oil - 1 tbsp, divided


1) Cut the well drained tofu into small cubes. Heat a wide skillet on medium and spray some oil or add a tsp of oil and spread evenly, place tofu cubes in a single layer and sprinkle some salt and chilli powder. Alternatively, toss tofu cubes with salt and chilli powder before browning them in the skillet. Allow to cook until the sides are browned slightly. Keep aside.

2) In a big pan, heat the remaining oil and add the veggies, saute them for a few minutes with a tiny bit of salt. Next add the curry paste and a few tbsp of water and stir until it coats the veggies uniformly. 

3) After about 5 minutes, add 2-3 cups of water (or as required to form a thin gravy) and half cup coconut milk, when the mixture begins to boil, reduce flame, cover and allow to simmer until veggies are tender crisp. 

4) Finally add 1 cup of thick coconut milk and the pan fried tofu cubes and keep on a slow simmer for another 5 minutes  or so. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.

5) Fragrant Thai curry is now ready to serve with rice.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wheat Flour Dosas / Godhumai Dosai

My mom would often make these when we ran out of idli/dosa batter or if we needed a really quick meal since these are super instant (no fermentation or waiting time required) and quite tasty too. However, I was never a fan of these godhumai dosais - I can't really think of why specifically... Now that I do like quite a few things I didn't enjoy as a kid... e.g. upma, I decided to try these out on a whim. I didn't quite expect them to turn out light and crispy like rava dosais so I was pleasantly surprised with the result.

It's best to make the batter when you want the dosas instead of making them ahead of time. It's fairly easy to whip up a second batch if you notice that the family seems to like it :)


Whole Wheat Flour / Atta - 1 cup 
Water - 1.5 to 2 cups (or as required) to make a rava dosai like batter
Salt - to taste
Cumin seeds - a pinch
Black pepper powder - I ground some using my pepper mill

Green Chillies - 1 to 2, minced finely
Curry Leaves/Coriander leaves - few, chopped

Oil - to cook dosas

1) In a bowl, blend together the flour and water (I used a whisk to ensure the batter was lump free) until smooth. The consistency should be thinner than regular dosa batter and must be similar to rava dosai batter... so it will look kind of watery (like buttermilk).

2) Season the batter with salt, pepper, cumin seeds, green chillies and curry & coriander leaves. 

3) Heat an iron griddle pan (dosaikkal), and when hot (sprinkle a few drops of water, they should sizzle and evaporate almost immediately), drop a few tsp of oil and rub the entire pan. If you have a well seasoned pan, there will be no issues with the dosas sticking. 

4) Scoop a ladleful of batter from the top, after stirring the batter well, and pour on the hot pan, dropping it from a few inches high. This kind of batter cannot be spread out like usual dosai batter so you just have to pour the batter from the outside in and it will immediately form a lacey pattern. 

5) Drizzle some oil along the edges of the dosa and allow to cook until golden brown. This does take a bit more time than usual dosas & rushing them will result in torn dosas... when ready, the dosai will be easy to flip over. Cook for a few more minutes after flipping for tasty, crispy dosai. We had ours with milagai podi

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thai-style Peanut Noodles

 I wanted to make something different than the usual Vegetable Noodles recipe and when I saw this pack of spaghetti, decided to try a peanutty version....  The last time I made something similar was inspired by the thai red curry, so I added some red curry paste and a touch of coconut milk but this time it was coated in a smooth peanut sauce and delicious. Once the veggies are cut, this dish will be ready real fast. You could add some pan-fried tofu cubes, along with the noodles but since I didn't have any in stock, I skipped them this time.


Thai Style Peanut Noodles

Spaghetti/Linguini - 8 to 10 oz, dry
Veggies of choice (Red Onions, Carrots, Broccoli, Red & Green bell Peppers, Cabbage) - 2 to 3 cups
Tofu - 1/2 cup (optional) - cut into cubes and tossed in a pan with some oil and salt

Peanut Butter - 1/4 to 1/3 cup
Sriracha Chilli Sauce/ Chili Garlic Sauce/ Sambal - 2 tbsp (or to taste)
Soy Sauce - 1 to 2 tbsp

Lemon Juice - 1 tsp (optional)
Ginger - 1 tbsp, minced finely
Garlic - 3 to 4 cloves, minced finely

Oil (Sesame or Canola) - 1 tbsp
Spring onions / Cilantro leaves - 1 tbsp for garnish


1) Heat plenty of water in a big pan and when boiling add about half tsp of salt and drop the noodles. Cook until al dente or follow package directions. Drain the noodles , reserving some of the pasta water.

2) In a wide kadai/skillet,  heat oil and add ginger, garlic & whites of spring onions (if using) then add the veggies and saute them till tender crisp. Don't add salt since the peanut-butter and soy sauce have plenty of sodium.

3) In  a small bowl combine the peanut butter, soy sauce & chilli sauce and add a few tbsp of the pasta water to make the peanut sauce. 

4) Add this sauce to the veggies and mix well before tossing in the noodles (and tofu, if using) &  allowing the sauce to coat them uniformly.Garnish with coriander leaves or spring onion tops.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Faux Dahi Papdi Chaat

Wanting a quick snack over the weekend, I decided to put the rather large bag of baked Pita chips that my husband got from Costco, to use.... We had some of it plain, some with hummus but lately we had been ignoring it... so an idea to use those chips instead of the regular papdis came into my mind... They were crunchy and sturdy so would be a perfect replacement. Having store bought tamarind date chutney and green chutney in the fridge always makes snacks like these a breeze... I boiled a few potatoes and had some cooked white peas (vatana) after making ragda patties so used that but a can of chickpeas would also work... Another good substitute for the papdi would be tortillas cut into circles (with a cookie cutter) and baked in an oven for about 10-15 mins till crisp.


Faux Dahi Papdi Chaat

Pita chips/ Baked tortillas - as required
Potatoes - 2 medium, boiled and peeled (I microwaved them with water for about 7 minutes)
Cooked / canned chickpeas or cooked yellow dried peas (vatana) - 1 cup
Chilli powder - half tsp,
Salt - to taste
Green Chutney
Tamarind - Date Chutney
Yogurt - 1/4 cup, preferably thick
Sev - for garnish
Red Onions - 1/4 cup, chopped
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped

1) Cut potatoes into small cubes and toss with some chilli powder and salt.

2) When ready to serve/eat, spread pita chips on the serving plate as a single layer.

3) Top with the potatoes, then the peas or chickpeas

4) Drizzle the green chutney and tamarind date chutney followed by required amount of yogurt.

5) Top with the chopped onions, coriander leaves and sev. Enjoy immediately.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

E.A.T. Sandwich

I already shared this avocado-tomato open faced sandwich that I quite love and this sandwich is essentially similar but it just incorporates a few more ingredients to make it even more satisfying - the key ingredients are Eggs (whole or just whites, your preference), Avocado & Tomato hence the name E.A.T.

When it comes to Avocado, though it has a lot of fat, it's the good kind (mono-unsaturated) which helps improve HDL levels (good cholestrol) - so it's definitely healthy in moderation. I particularly like the Hass avocados and it may take a few tries to start liking avocado and even for those who are new to it, this sandwich is a great way to introduce this buttery fruit. I sometimes add spinach leaves as well in this sandwich (either fresh or cooked lightly in olive oil) - very versatile.

For a portable variation.... skip the bread and wrap all of these in a warm whole wheat flour tortilla, you may want to replace the tomatoes with some salsa too for a mexican twist.


Ingredients: (for 1 sandwich)Hass Avocado - one half, pitted and sliced
Tomato - 4 slices
Egg - 1 or Egg whites - from 2 eggs
Whole wheat bread - 2 slices, toasted
Chili sauce or Hot and Sweet sauce or Ketchup - 1 tsp
Lemon Juice - few drops
Salt & Pepper - to taste


1) Spray a small pan with some oil and make an omlette with the egg or egg whites (depending on what you prefer), with some salt and pepper.

2) To assemble the sandwich, spread the chili sauce on one slice of bread, top with slices of the avocado and tomato slices, sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper and few drops of lemon juice on them.

3) Next add the omelette and top with the other slice of toasted bread. Cut into 2 halves and enjoy the crunchy bread with the smooth, creamy avocado with the protein power of the egg complemented by the slight tang from the tomatoes. Eat your sandwich :)