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Food (53) Fitness (10) Nature (7)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Coconut Vanilla Macaroons and food fiction

Hey everyone.. the last of the desserts..

Fig.1. Coconut Vanilla Macaroons
 I spotted these on Champa's blog Versatile Kitchen. The recipe is simple:

Roast 2/3 cup of all purpose flour till it smells sweet. Then add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a little less than one 14 oz bag of sweetened flaked coconut in it. Mix well. Now mix 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence with a little less than one 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk. Add to the dry mix above. Mix by hand. The "little less" is because I did not want them to be too sweet. So use your judgment for sweetness. The "dough" should be thick, moist, sticky and pliable. Now make small flattened balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Use oil on your hands if needed. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 F, till the coconut flakes are lightly toasted. That's all! How quick and simple! And eggless too!!

Now it's time for another silly story. This story sends good wishes to people who have SAD. And it goes to Jaya of Spice and Curry who is hosting the event Chalks and Chopsticks started by Aqua.

Raushni Suryavansham and the terrible Dark

Raushni Suryavansham was the name of our favorite girl.
She was ever bright and sunny, and her life was a whirl.
Up and about, always busy and fulfilled,
Perfect was her life, like Mango Lassi, chilled.

But then one day Raushni, met a terrible Monster!!
Dark-vader was his name, (atleast that's what he announced her).
He said, "Hoo-haa!! I am Dark-vader!! People fear me and run!
Raushni Suryavansham.. my reign has begun!!"

For many days and many nights she was haunted by Dark-vader,
She lost all her joy and josh to the Energy Invader. 
Raushni's sunny soul was gradually exhausted,
And one day, darling Raushni simply couldn't get out of bed.

Then Raushni's Dad had an idea! He got broad-spectrum energy-savers.
Mom made Coconut Vanilla Macaroons - Raushni's favorite flavours!
The roasted flour and toasted coconut had an irresistible aroma
which wafted slowly to Raushni's room and she awoke with a delighted "Oh, Ma!"

It smelt like summer. Was it summer? No.. the Dark Monster was still in sight
hovering around.. between her and her macaroons.. like a terrible terrible Blight!
"Hoo-haa!!" said Dark-vader, "People fear me and run!!
I am terrible! I am mean!! And I fear no one!!"

This monstrous Dark-vader had made her life Helly!
And now, the impetuous blighter was coming between Raushni and her belly!
Raushni WOULDN'T take it any more! She sprang out of bed.
"I'll take you up on your word and RUN!!" and kitchen-wards she sped.

She scooped up a warm macaroon and popped it into her mouth.
Summer and Winter had imploded.. it was like she had flown South!
Dark-vader was close at her heels. But instead of being afraid,
Raushni charged straight at her Bully with a mean Coconut Grenade!

"Hoo-haa!!" she bellowed with fury, "I am Raushni Suryavansham!!
Dark-vader, you better run.. for this is the land of the SUN!!"

Dark-vader had met his match! He grabbed his dark cloak,
heading straight for the nearest rest-room, (terror-struck old bloke.)

Raushni had won back her joy. She would never fear Dark anymore!
Under bright lights, with foodie delights, she danced, "Teri Ore, teri ore!"

Thanks for reading everyone! Best wishes to anyone suffering from mild or severe SAD.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hello Dolly!

Ok.. I will admit it right away.. I made these because I loved the name.. :D

Fig. 1. Hello Dolly Bars!
Plus they are made of chocolate! And they are supremely quick and easy to make!

I saw them on Delish. This is a blog I found via One Hot Stove and I have been tapping it for my bakes ever since! There are delicious and super-quick recipes tempting me to pig out every time I check out this blog! So it is apt that this post should go to Blog Bites for the Holiday Buffet!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nankattai

Hey everyone.. Happy December! 'Tis the season to make goodies!

Fig. 1. Nankattai by the window sill
Do you have any favorite holiday goodies you almost always bake around this time of the year? I usually make all sorts of cookies. Nankattai this year is the first in line. I will be baking crinkle cookies and chocolate chip cookies next. I like to put all sorts of stuff in those. Might add some toffee bits this time. Mint chips and raspberry chips also taste terrific with chocolate based cookies. I love baking cookies. Hope to pack a few goodies and mail them off to family and friends. Let's see how much baking I manage.

Nankattai are cookies my Mom used to bake back home. So this is her recipe. There is nothing like the warm and fragrant elaichi with a hint of nutmeg! Start off the morning with Nankattai baking hot in the oven... and you know that the day ahead will be just perfect! You can imagine having these mildly sweet cookies with some yummy adrak-elaichi-wali chai (ginger-cardamom tea).

Some of the above yummy is now officially in the tummy.. some of my cookie giftees will just have to wait for a few more batches! ;) And yes, I took the pan over to the window sill to get some real light in the picture.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Besan ke Laddoo

Hidey ho everyone...

Fig. 1. Besan ke Laddoo
Firstly I must apologize for not visiting my co-bloggers a lot lately. Just busy. Also to my readers, I must apologize for the longish duration I have not posted here. I have been cooking. But my pics aren't coming out too great. I flatly blame the dark evenings and short daylight hours for this!! Finally this pic seems to have turned out ok. So these Besan ke Laddoos are okayed to be posted. :)

This recipe is from Manjula's Kitchen. Actually I am not such a big fan of Besan ke Laddoo. Despite a humongous sweet-tooth, I never seem to have craved for them. I guessed that meant that I was not super-fond of this variety of Laddoos. And yet.. Manjula's Kitchen.. and her videos.. her videos are really are cute. I had to make them after I saw her make these!

I thought, chalo.. post-Halloween Holiday Season is officially here. So I can enjoy the making of the Laddoos, surely someone will enjoy the eating of them!

And I must admit the finished product is just really delicious! Even I have changed my mind. I think it may be because they were super-fresh.. warm and fragrant, right off the pan! Not too greasy, not too sweet... I must admit that it sure does make a difference when you make something at home and hog on it fresh and warm!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Kadamb

Happy Halloween and early Diwali to everyone!

Fig. 1. Pumpkin Kadamb
Pumpkin season and Halloween = Pumpkin recipes! We often get good pumpkins at the market in this period. And usually pumpkin pie is the thing to make. But recently my Mom sent me some "Haldi Paan" (turmeric leaves)!!!! :)

She had got them fresh during Ganesh Chaturthi and it appears to still be available some places. She knew there was no way I could get my hands on the fresh haldi leaves. So she dried them and saved a bunch for me!! And as soon as some of my family came around to visit they brought along this amazing gift of leaves!! Ya-ya-yippee-yippee-ya-ya-yeah!!

Haldi-paan are used to flavour/impart-fragrance to several somewhat super-traditional dishes. So the fragrance of haldi leaves reminds me of Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Satyanarayan poojas and other such religious festivities! Ooh.. I couldn't wait to use them!

I got pumpkin, thinking I would make pie with it. Then I spoke with Mom and she mentioned she adds pumpkin to Kadamb (KuhDumb). And Kadamb also uses haldi paan! I jumped at that! :) Pie will happen next time. Now we make Kadamb!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parotta Salad

Hey everyone.. a good lunch-box item today!

Fig. 1. Parotta Salad
Every day I pack lunch. And I find myself having to constrain the contents based on various objections. True life examples: "When one bites into a soggy sandwich, tiny pieces of food get stuck in the front teeth. Then that doesn't look good." and "Wraps drip, hands get yucky." "Egg smells." "Food that is too Indian also smells... then people look at me funny." and then there is the questionable "This aloo-palak looks too green-green. I don't want to be called a grass-eater. So let's skip too-green stuff, too brown-stuff.. anything that might elicit comment actually."

No, it is not my kids that register the above complaints, bless their little angel-hearts. No, it is not the significant other, bless his tall, dark, handsome, Prince Charming-ness. And no, this is not my dabba-service clients either, bless their well-paying, hard-working souls.

These are all my own objections.. (eyes lower with embracement.. noticing a badly needed pedicure..)

And since it is me-myself that packs lunch, such constraints mean that I eliminate about 90% of the refrigerator.

One-pot dishes are really the most convenient for lunch-boxes. And I do make pulavs and khichdis a lottt. Fortunately the world of food-blogs opens us to many potential dabba candidates. I had seen kothu parotta on several blogs. Cham's version with chalna looks like a good one to try.. somewhat more authentic looking. I will make her version very soon too. So I am noting the link here. I also found a quick and easy version of Kothu Parotta on Show me the Curry, which does not require chalna preparation. So I note that here for quick week-nights.

I will post the real Kothu Parotta sometime in future when I actually manage to make it like the recipe says. I started out thinking that I would make Kothu Parotta. But by the time I got to the refrigerator I found myself wondering if there isn't a cold version of this dish I could concoct? A Parotta Salad? I suddenly remembered a whole bunch of salads I had seen at Soma's ecurry!

So I decided that Parotta Salad it would be! I started out with the basic idea of Kothu Parotta from what I have gleaned from these blogs - mixing cut roti/paratha pieces for carbs, a source of protein (like egg or chicken), mixed vegetables and a curry or sauce to bring them all together. I just adapted the ingredients to make it a cold salad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The technology of cooking

Ok, an interesting TED talk for when you have time.. about cooking as a technology! This gentleman brings up some interesting ideas. He projects that cooking is a technology that was invented to make the energy conversion (by our body) more efficient. Talks about how cooking influenced the evolution of our body, brain and gut.



Ref: http://www.ted.com/talks/heribert_watzke_the_brain_in_your_gut.html

Yes, cooking is a technology older than most "technology" commonly brought to mind. And it has helped us consume many foods that earlier were probably either hard to eat, like certain raw vegetables or seeds, or even completely inedible like raw meats. Since we are the only species that cook food before eating, Mr. W calls us "coctivores" rather than omnivores. :)

Ok, summary over.

This talk made me realize that we, cook-ers, perhaps rarely think this way about our own cooking.. as a technology! But indeed (if we now think about it) that is exactly how cooking works. People learn to cook. Are taught or develop certain techniques. Then we try newer things. Mix and match and generate newer recipes. And this has been on-going for many many years!

First there are cars, then come faster cars, safer cars, more fancy cars. And then there is the abrupt and prolific jump to airplanes. What are the jumps or prolific advances in cooking that you really appreciate?

Techniques like grilling, frying, baking.. baking cakes versus cookies, making kulfi versus ice-cream versus gelato and now frozen yogurt (mostly heat-cold applications) are a big benefit to us.

Also techniques of handling certain foods, for instance, how to cook colocassia leaves and rhubarb, handling the oxalate crystals, how to make pickles, preserves, jams, how to ferment batter, idli-dosa-dhokla.. dried goods like papad, wadis, etc.. fried goods.. making cheese, paneer, even simple yogurt..

There are also certain combinations in meals which probably allowed us to eat certain foods - for instance a lot of traditional Indian Thalis combine cool drinks like lassi, matthaa, buttermilk, solkadi or yogurt raithas and kadhis with our hot and spicy curries. And there are of course umpteen spices that probably work in certain combinations for good digestive health - ginger, heeng, cumin and whatnot. One often finds them in dals and other foods that are high in protein and harder to digest.

And then there are some seemingly mundane things that I, personally, think are cool inventions (nothing to do with evolution.. but oh well..) like tortilla and lettuce wraps - getting rid of the bread, granola bars - compact-ification of breakfast, cutlets or burgers - a method to combine any food into a convenient portion, all the egg-substitutes are cool discoveries, all the chaats we love are inventions of ingredient-combination, oh there are scores of such discoveries and inventions.. :)

Can you tell me about any other common cooking inventions/techniques that strike you as cool and handy?

I think even just adding pakoda to kadhi is a big deal! ;)

Three cheers for cook-ers everywhere! :)
 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tandoori Fish

Tandoori anything is always a big treat! And at the end of a busy day there is nothing like this fish!

Fig. 1. Tandoori Fish
Sometimes I feel like all of the day is spent battling with paperwork. Fill this form, organize this that and something else, check on payments, make copies for your record, copies for someone else's record... Uff! Lately at least a lot of things can be done online. But even the online paperwork is not all that simple.

I was very excited to find that some forms I needed to fill could be filled online. I went, yay!! And then realized, never rejoice too soon. The one form was broken up into a series of 15 webpages! And you had to go fill-nextpage, fill-nextpage, through all 15. And then there was no option to save in the middle! What's more, by the curse of some crazy Rishi, the site would time-out in 15 minutes regardless of whether you are actively online filling the form or idling away from the screen with some chai-pani!!

When I was only on page 5.. the site starts giving me a warning.. "Your session will expire in 5 minutes." And I go Holy Rangoli!! 5 minutes for the remaining 10 pages!! I had no chance.. I totally couldn't make it. The session expired around page 8. And I had to start all over again!! Boy, was I mad!!

And when I am mad, I get even!! I had to do it again! And the second time around, I was prepared! If they were gonna play this new kind of speed game, I would play it too.. but Indiana Jones ishtyle! I got up, and found myself a hat, rubbed my trusty typing-finger on the collar.. (don't laugh.. I'm sure some of you out there type with only one finger too!) I set my stopwatch to buzz every 60 seconds, and.. GO!

This time I zippetty-zipped through the form and hit submit with perfect timing... and also saved my hat from being left behind! Haa! Speed demon!!

Needless to say, I soon heard back from the form-people. My submission was "invalid" it seems. They claim I have submitted the incorrect form!

Jealous.. that's what I think they are!

After all that excitement who wouldn't be rrravenous for dinner? Fortunately the fish was already marinated. All I had to do was bake! Such is the beauty of the refrigerator.. Anybody up for a refrigerator story? Maybe next time.. ;)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blue Jay on a run

Hey everyone..

I have been back to running fairly consistently past few days now. And every morning I remind myself of days like these.. See there are very definite benefits of running outdoors. You get to see cute stuff! :) Here is a little blue birdie I saw recently while out on a run.

Fig.1. Blue Jay - kind of small, maybe a baby Blue Jay?
It was nestling at the bottom of a tree trunk. All fluffy and cozy. Head under its wing. Like it did not want to wake up. Like it did not care that it was daylight outside. Like it did not even know that it was a week day for goodness sake!

Birds these days, I tell you..

Now if birds were on Twitter, we could leave them tweets about the day's to-do, whats-in, whats-not, which worm is happening and which isn't.. Then they wouldn't dream about staying in bed like this and missing out on all the buzz!

When will birds learn to tweet..

PS: On a more serious note.. why would a little bird be sleeping on the ground? Shouldn't it be in a nest somewhere up there? I couldn't see a nest up in the tree.. but then that doesn't mean there wasn't one. Oh well.. another mundane, but unsolved mystery!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Doi Fulkopi - Cauliflower Curry

Hey everyone.. I had been eying this curry for a while. Why did it take me so long to get down to it..?

Fig. 1 Doi Fulkopi - Cauliflower Curry

I love Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew and all those mystery novels. When I am really irritated and in a bad mood.. a juicy Agatha Christie is all I need! Tell an Agatha Christie fan that there was no murder! Tell a Nancy Drew fan that there is no secret behind the staircase.

But mundane real life mysteries are not about murder and vanishing staircases. They are more commonly about things like... Why did Suhasini not pick up my phone? Who does she think she is? Conversely who is it that picks up my Wall Street Journal? A big one.. where is our checked bag? And somewhat intriguingly.. why is my toothbrush still wet in the morning?

One mystery was in my kitchen...

I had seen this recipe at Bong Mom's Cook Book many many months ago and yet it took me this long to finally make it! Lahsuni Aloo Gobi is the only other dish I make with cauliflower as the main ingredient (will post in future). And it's not as if I have made that very much either. So.. the big mystery is..

Where is the cauliflower in my house going?

It is never entering the house! Mystery solved.

And the wet toothbrush?

.. aah.. that is because I am staying up too late and getting up too early!! :D Ain't gettin' time to dry.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Godhuma Dosa

Hey everyone.. no soaking, no grinding, no fermenting,absolutely no prep what-so-ever for this dosa!

  
 Figs. 1, 2, and 3: Godhuma Dosa in various poses.

I found this on Indira's old blog Mahanandi. It is also available other places as Wheat Dosa or Godhumai Dosa.

Method: Mix wheat flour (chapati aata) + water in about 1:2 or 1:3 proportion. Add salt to taste. You really shouldn't stick to these proportions for water though. Because I ended up messing around with the batter consistency till I achieved the correct texture in my dosa. The batter should be really thin. When you pour it on the frying pan, the paper-thin dosa should immediately form this mesh-like pattern. (You don't have to spread it, pouring should be enough.) If the batter is too thick it will not form this mesh. I have put up three pictures so that you can see the mesh. Try one or two dosas.. at most your third one will definitely be right!

One cup wheat makes about 5-6 really thin dosas. And Indira instructs to not leave the batter sitting for too long, becomes a gooey mess apparently. Noted! :)

Cheers and happy cooking everyone!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chocolate Banana Bread and Banana Bites

Hey everyone... a double recipe today! Chocolate Banana Bread and Banana Bites.

Fig. 1 Chocolate Banana Bread

Fig. 2. Banana Bites

I love eating lots of bananas. Bananas contain potassium. When I started running, my legs would be sore all the time. At some point I decided to look up what I could do to reduce the soreness. A little reading showed me that potassium intake is good to keep soreness at bay. And eating bananas is a good way to get potassium in my daily diet (I don't particularly fancy eating potatoes every day). So a banana a day keeps my soreness away! 

But my banana consumption, weather conditions and grocery frequency are three data points that do not always lie on one line. I hear people freeze bananas or keep them in the refrigerator. Please let me know if you do that and it works ok for you to make something later. 

Anyway.. as is obvious.. almost every alternate weekend, sometimes even on week days, I am left with 1 or 2 bananas that are threatening to self-destruct. And even if desserts are not the best way to get one's potassium, they are a good way to not-waste over-ripe bananas.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chicken cutlets

Hey everyone.. Chicken cutlets today.. Why is this post labeled - fitness? Because runners like motivation, even if it is motivation to cook.

Fig.1. Chicken Cutlets

Do you sometimes lose the motivation to do some particular thing?

I have gone through this before.. in different areas at different times. Loss of motivation to work.. to run.. to cook.. to clean.. basically anything that requires effort could be a target here. Usually I can figure out exactly what is the reason.

But that doesn't change the fact that I don't feel like doing it right now! And most reasons simply cannot be fixed.

Usually, however, there is no option in these things. You have to work. You have to cook. You have to run. You have to do whatever it is that is the task at hand. And do it well too! But sometimes.. it is possible to just push it to later..

"Later" is Lady Slackalot's favorite word! It really is a polite way of saying "No." ;) If I avoid cooking long enough, we will have to get take-out. :D And yes.. sometimes it's ok. But if I actually have the time and energy, and still avoid it.. avoid it too many times, then it's time for the cheer-leader to come out and motivate! We are our own cheer-leaders. And if we have to do something, we really might as well enjoy doing it!

How do you motivate yourself?

What do I do when I don't feel like working? I go and sit amongst a lot of people who are busy at work! Like a public library. I try to hang out with people who like their work. People who are successful at their work. I try to mix it up a little, try something new in the task. I create deadlines for myself. And worst comes to worst, if I find I do not meet my own deadlines, I make them public! I tell my family and friends and sometimes announce it on the blog too.. that I will do so-and-so thing.. run or walk so many miles this month.. etc.

I do this for work, for running, for cooking, chores, errands,.. a lottttt of things! And usually it works. (Again, there is not much option. Something better work!)

Last few days I found myself not cooking. :( I did the usual. I spoke with my friends and family swapping recipes and dinner ideas. I browsed and read through your blogs (hanging out with people who enjoy the task and are successful at it!) Told myself that I will make so-and-so dish on Sunday.. (setting deadlines). Finally I told my Mom that I have not been cooking!! (Making things public, and how!) That combined with Bong Mom making chicken meatballs (new for me) finally worked!!

I went and got ground chicken (fresh ingredients, the ultimate deadline) and made chicken cutlets!!!!!!!! Yay!! Not only that, I also took pictures! Waah-waah, shabbash beti!! :D

And to seal the deal, (further making things public)... mujhey mere blog ki kasam, I will post at least 3 more food recipes this month. Total public commitment! Ab bachkey kahan jayegi! We meet Lady Slackalot head-on and tell her to get out!

Continuing the drama just a little longer.. (where else but on my blog will we find so much detailed procedure for how to deal with "getting-bored"-ness..)

My thanks to all you bloggers and blogger friends! Reading your blogs is far more fun than cooking or writing my own! But it sure helps me do both! :) Also thanks to my readers.. It's hard for me to believe how many of you read my posts.. even the fitness ones!! Just seeing you check in and find my lonely turtle sitting there with stale old rasgullas gave me a good kick in my... Well, thanks you all! I will do my best! 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Turtle watching

The other day when I visited a friend, we went to a small nature preserve. A very short hike away, we reached a pond/some-sort-of-murky-water-body.. and there we spotted this darling turtle..

Fig. 1. Turtle

I increased the brightness a little so we could see the turtle in the pic.. and yet he is hard to spot. He must have been about 4-5 inches large and quite a bit away from us.

I tried to read up about Turtles, but couldn't figure out what this guy's name might be. He was really tiny, and this pic doesn't give very many details. So I am just going to call him Mr. Acrobat!

I couldn't click this, but underneath Mr. Acrobat, inside the water was another turtle poking his head out periodically. :)

Wish we could carry around cool zoom cameras all the time. Wish cool cameras were less expensive. Wish my cell phone camera could take better pictures. (No, this was not my cell phone camera, but even my best camera is an ordinary point and shoot.) Wish Turtles stood still! Wish I'd at least had the presence of mind to take a video of Mr Camera-Shy Turtle bobbing in and out of the frame...

What do you wish either you or your camera could do?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rasgulla fiction

Hey everyone.. Another food fiction today. This story was written for the event "Of Chalks and Chopsticks" started by Aqua, hosted by Jaya, the Desi Soccer Mom this month.

 

I have made Rasgullas before and posted the recipe in the past. So am referring to my earlier post for the recipe. When I made Rasgullas the first time, we were about 7 people and only 15 Rasgullas. 2 gullas per head were just not enough! These are so light and fluffy, one could easily wolf down quite a few at a time. And that memory is what generated the little piece of fiction that follows. 


The story of Vividh-bhaarthy Paarthasaarthy..

Vividh-bhaarthy Paarthasaarthy came from a long line of musically inclined Paarthasaarthies. Vividh-bhaarthy's family was filled with singers and musicians. Her twin-brother was a child-prodigy, the first haarmoniumist to play at the super-bowl opening ceremony!

Vividh-bhaarthy, however, was the odd one out. She had no musical talent, nothing to boast about. All her life, she had tried and she had tried-er.. but the gift of music was just not inside her.

Finally Vividh-bhaarthy had had enough, she said, "Bas kya!" and set out to the mountains to do ghor tapasya (penance). After many days and many nights of Viv standing on one foot, a Rishi (sage) appeared before her (clean-shaven, kind-of-cute.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chana Pulav

Hey everybody.. this is chana-pulao from the house of Indosungod!

  Fig. 1. Chana Pulav

There was this big potluck I had to go to.. yes, Nupur's potluck at One Hot Stove. Couldn't possibly miss it now, could I? And I'd had my eye on this pulav for a while now. So this was the perfect opportunity to make it!

One of the very first few times I officially cooked on my own was actually for a potluck! :) It was a potluck at a friend's friend's friend's place! I was staying with some friends. So when they were invited, so was I! Now, how could I show up empty-handed? So what if I had no kitchen of my own! I got some chicken and one large onion and made ginger chicken with some leftover takeout-soy-sauce packets in my friend's kitchen. :)

Potlucks are a lot of fun. Diwali potluck, Christmas potluck, Happy-Budday potluck, Sunday potluck, No-reason potluck, there is always scope for a potluck. We have a potluck... we call 4 friends. They end up calling 2-3 friends of their own just cos they were planning to meet them anyway. It's a potluck. If you bring food, then you are totally invited! :) Keep it casual, keep it easy, play a game or two, put on some Incredibles to occupy the kids..

If I host, then I have to play it slightly safe. Something like this chana pulav, a dal, one vegetarian side-dish and raita is what I make. That covers all my basic food groups (just in case all the guests end up bringing only soda or only desserts.. No, sugar is not a food group.) ;) And yes, I never make dessert for potlucks that I host. I keep some icecream or a can of gulab jamuns as backup. Almost always altleast one of the guests brings a dessert. ;)

Now, on to Indo's chana pulav.. I modified her recipe to use a can of chick-peas, a microwave and some minor-shortcuts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jeera (Cumin) Powder

Hey everyone.. a simple basic spice powder.

Fig.1. Jeera (Cumin) Powder

Just spread out some jeera (cumin) seeds on a flat plate. Heat in the microwave for a few minutes, stopping, re-spreading and mixing the jeera every now and again. In 5 minutes or less, your jeera will become very fragrant. Let it cool down. Then grind it to powder in your favorite mixer/grinder. Store in an airtight jar.

This can be done for any of your generic spice powders, ex: coriander (dhania) powder, etc etc.

If you think this is easy.. you are right. It is easy. :)

But is it too easy to be put on the blog? Doesn't matter.. I put just about anything on my blog! Pip-pip-cheerio! :)

Update: I just realized that there is an on-going event which is perfect for this kind of a post about basic kitchen skills! So this post goes to the Back to Basics event started by Jaya and hosted by Aqua this month. While we are on basics, check out last month's round-up.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fried Fish

Hey everyone.. very simple and basic fried fish today..

Fig.1 Fried Fish

A really quick and easy dish that never fails to turn an otherwise simple meal into something quite special.

If I find good, fresh looking fish, I often end up buying it regardless of what my cooking-time-crunch situation is. Because the following marinade hardly takes 7 minutes: Wash the fish, poke slits in it and chop into somewhat medium sized pieces. Add salt, red chili powder, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste, amti powder or any garam masala. Mix well so that fish is well coated in the spices. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Then next morning, portion it into small batches and freeze them in a ziplock bag.

When it is time for dinner on one of your more frenzied days, make something super-fast, say, just dal-rice or re-heated leftovers. And defrost one batch of marinated fish. Roll each slice of fish in some semolina (rava), and shallow fry on a pan with a tiny bit of oil. The side of fried fish is guaranteed to be the highlight of your otherwise ordinary quick-fix dinner. If you are even more crunched for time, this fried fish also goes really well like a "fish patty" inside an ordinary sandwich with green chutney and tomatoes or leafy greens.

Update: Being my favorite way of eating fish, this post goes to Aparna's event "My Favorite Recipe!"

Have a good week, everyone!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Carrot Soup

Hey everyone.. Carrot Ginger Soup today from Suma's Veggie Platter..

Fig. 1. Carrot Ginger Soup

I always have carrots in the refrigerator. So am always looking for ways to use them up. I have made a carrot soup in the past with garlic seasoning. This version is similar. But the switch to ginger makes it taste quite different, so it was a good variation for us. For more carrot recipes, I would also check out Suma's Carrot Round-Up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coriander Chutney and Food Fiction

Coriander chutney was the first thing I ground when I got my Mixer!

 Fig. 1. Coriander Chutney

Many long years had I spent without a mixer and without great chutney. Finally the day came when I got myself a mixer and I lost no time getting together some coriander, (some mint is optional), green chillies, garlic, jeera, coconut, lime juice, salt and ground myself some green heaven! It went on idlis, dosas, sandwiches, you name it and it was slathered with this chutney! In a matter of days I became desperately dependent on my mixer. Now I simply cannot do without it any more! If anything happens to my mixer I will have to get down on my knees and beg for its well-being, "Bhagwaan, mainey aaj tak tumsey bohot kuch maanga hai... Ek aur cheez mujhey de de Bhagwaan!"

You can see that there is lots of nonsense overflowing with my chutney today. Sometimes it just cannot be contained. And if you give me events like "Of Chalks and Chopsticks", hosted this month by Sra of "When my Soup Came Alive", then I grab them with both hands and let the nonsense begin. (Disclaimer: The following story is free-flowing fiction with no commercial affiliations.)

The Princess and the Chutney
According to the legend..

..it was Princess Sumeetrangini who first discovered coriander. The distressed damsel was lost in the woods, when she chanced upon this divinely scented jadibooti. She was so enamored by the delicate 'erb, that when she returned, the bravest and the best were commissioned to procure coriander and satisfy her craving for its chutney. But the perils of the journey were so great that few remained to tell their tale.

Prince Vikramaditya was the Crown-Prince of the illustrious kingdom of Adityapore. When he heard about Sumeetrangini's unparalleled beauty and the legend of her desire for coriander chutney, he decided to undertake the perilous journey to obtain the mystic 'erb for the craving beauty.

The brave Prince scaled mountains, swam rivers, pierced forests, fought terrors and finally obtained a bunch of coriander!! Armed with the rare bouquet he arrived at the Palace to meet the enchanting Princess...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lettuce Wrap with Sprouts Salad

Hey everyone.. light summer lunch today. I had never had lettuce wraps before. Tried them at a restaurant once and was totally bowled over by the incredible idea! First breads were replaced by tortillas, now tortillas have been replaced by lettuce! What next, one may ask..

Fig.1. Lettuce Wrap with Sprouts Salad

Ok, I admit I will shortly be replacing iceberg lettuce with savoy cabbage when you read on. ;) I felt it was a mite stronger than lettuce, also a bit larger. So I could wrap it quite reasonably and it held the stuffing better. But I am still calling it Lettuce Wraps. :)

The versions I have tasted at restaurants have mostly been soy sauce based with non-veg stuffing. Sometime later I noticed this Sprouts Salad version at Manjula's Kitchen. I loved the combination she has suggested here - oranges and tomatoes with lightly cooked green moong sprouts. I couldn't get the idea of that cool, juicy, sweet and salty combination out of my head. Just had to try it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Methi Pulao

Hi everyone! Methi pulao is my Mom's most amazing rice dish. Many of our get-togethers back home have been flavoured by this rice and some spicy non-veg gravy based curry. And that is the most ideal recommended accompaniment for this dish.

Fig. 1. Methi Pulao

When I read about Priya's Think Spice - Fenugreek event (started by Sunita Bhuyan) I knew I could participate in it. I had a whole packet of frozen Methi sitting in my freezer that I needed to use. And no matter how little time one has, one has to eat! Question is always whether there is time to post the dish! :)

This pulao is very convenient to fill the lunch box. Lunchbox items comprise a large chunk of my cooking. The primary criterion for choosing dishes for dinner is "Can this go into the lunchbox tomorrow?" With this event around the corner, Methi Pulao just had to be made! Leftovers were packed into the lunchbox with a curry. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mango Milkshake

Almost end of season, but finally we found Mangoes!

Fig.1. Mango Milkshake!!

Mango Milkshake = Mango pieces or pulp + milk + sugar if needed, blended all together. The Mint is just for prettiness. ;)

Do you routinely garnish your dishes? choose fancy plates and tableware just so your food looks pretty? Do you make sure you use pretty table-cloth and mats to offset your dinner plates? Did you do this before? I guess with blog-hopping I have suddenly become aware of a lot of pretty things that I never knew existed.

But I also feel the food in my own blog-photos should really look like it looks on my real-life table. Not just a set-up for a picture. Otherwise the next time I casually make that very recipe I will feel a little let down without all the pretty show, no?

Umm.. that means we will have to get entire sets of fancyware!! At the very least I could collect dishes and plates of random orders and somehow make space for them all in my tiny little storage area. Now these ideas are only hovering in my mind so far, and yet I can see them quickly getting out of hand! ;)

I guess for now I will suffice with a bit of mint garnish on my Mango Milkshake!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Aloo Paratha

"Garam garam para(n)they!" Reminds me of Hindi movies!! :D

Fig. 1. Aloo Paratha

Aloo parathas are my favorite kind of parathas. And usually they turn out pretty decent. I feel that the trick to making really soft-soft aloo parathas is: 1) roll out the rotis a fair amount so it will be easier to wrap up the stuffing and 2) DO NOT stint on the potato stuffing! If you fill in plennn..ty of potato and wrap it up in the rolled out roti, there is no way the parathas can fail to wow anyone.

The only problem with supremely soft aloo parathas is, they just have to be served hot!! Once they cool down or are refrigerated they become somewhat average parathas. So I tend to make these parathas only in casual settings, with few eaters, and when I know I have time just before dinner and I can serve them still hot almost right off the pan.

That's how I served them this time, fresh and piping hot!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

K's Bhindi Masala (Spicy Okra)

This is my cousin, K's, recipe. How do bachelor guys cook when they live on their own? With some perseverance.. quite decent! :)

Fig. 1. K's Bhindi Masala

When you have neither time nor cooking skills and about 5 spices in your kitchen you really learn to appreciate straightforward recipes, the flavour of vegetables and the value of keeping salt on the table! ;)

This recipe is something my cousin got from his roommate's friend who got it from Sanjeev Kapoor's book. With second-third-hand filtering going on here.. one expects only minimal remnants of the original recipe. However, this dish tastes surprisingly decent! And considering how quickly it got made, this certainly qualifies as a "will-repeat" recipe in my book!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pizza Sauce

Old fashioned home-made desi pizza sauce.. the kind Mummy made when you were a kid, with a pizza base from Monginis? Yup! That's exactly what this one is..

 
Fig. 1. Pizza!!!!!

This is MM's recipe.. and when we make this it always evokes good old home food nostalgia.. Every one of my friends used to have their own version of homemade pizza and pizza sauce... some even just used plain old ketchup on Wibs bread. As far as we are concerned, this is the best pizza sauce out there, no matter if it is not authentic italian. Used to have this as kids on the teeny tiny Monginis pizza base. Now such tiny pizzas are called "personal size".. oo-la-la! :D Spicy, chatpata, garlicky sauce and crunchy veggies with Amul Cheese.. mmmmwah-mwah.. nothing like Amul cheese on this planet!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Baked Beans on Toast

What do we do when there is no time for food?

Fig. 1. Baked beans on Toast

We open a can of Heinz or any other baked beans (without brown sugar) in a medium bowl, add tomato ketchup, red chili powder (to taste), and heat up the mixture in a microwave. Top a couple of toasted slices of bread with cheese slices, the baked beans mixture and (if time permits) some chopped onions and green chillies! Quickest possible meal in the tightest possible schedule.. reasonably healthy, very satisfying, and oh so spicy-crunchy-tasty!

Happy weekending!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Punjabi Kadhi Pakoda

Hi everyone.. Kadhi Pakoda today. Sanjeev Kapoor's Kadhi and Raaga (The Singing Chef)'s baked pakoda. Can't go wrong, eh? Right on! :)

Fig. 1. Punjabi Kadhi Pakoda

Sanjeev Kapoor's Punjabi Kadhi goes back to "olden" days. Family and friends used to love this Kadhi so it became the norm to make this North Indian version. But we sometimes exhaust a dish by repeating it way too often. Thus was the fate of this recipe. And by now, no one in the house really thinks Kadhi is a great dish. Reeks of monotony.

What's worse is that right from the beginning, the "anti-oil" and "anti-deep-fry" in me has always skipped pakodas in the kadhi. So really what I make is only kadhi, never kadhi pakoda. We do occasionally make pakodas at home, but they are never destined for kadhis. So Kadhi-Didi, sadly, is relegated to the rome-shome status on my menu and I almost never make Kadhi if I can possibly help it now. :(

Past few days I noticed kadhi-pakoda show up on quite a few Blogs, Sayali's and Priya's for instance. Those posts and their pics brought to my mind that it's been a while since we had some kadhi. I also noticed the fact that no one posts only kadhi! Am I the only one making kadhi solo? Maybe making the pakoda would be a good way to freshen up our kadhi-palate!!

I have plenty of besan sitting around that would be happy to receive some attention, so kadhi is a good candidate. This week I also had some spare cabbage sitting in my crisper. So I figured it is time to think about making pakodas. That would consume besan as well as the cabbage. And now I have the world of blogs at my disposal. Why worry about frying!! I set about searching for good "baked pakoda" recipes. And of course Raaga's blog quickly provided me a promising start!! So my plan to make kadhi-pakoda got a resounding "lock kar diya jaye!"

Extreme Make-Over Kadhi Edition begins!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pav Bhaji

My favorite!!

 Fig. 1. Pav Bhaji

A real crowd pleaser too! Easy to make and scale up for larger numbers of people, and the best part is... it also clears up my refrigerator and pantry. I have rarely "planned" to make pav bhaji. Pav bhaji means unexpected guests! When someone suddenly calls up on a weekend and says "Hey, want to meet up for a buffet lunch?" and we groan.. not buffet.. and offer to make pav bhaji at our place. ;)

I always have onions and potatoes handy, as well as carrots in the refrigerator. Pav bhaji is the gift-of-life to all the spare, leftover vegetables in the refrigerator. Any vegetables that are left over in small amounts - a handful of green-beans, a fistful of peas, small amounts of cauliflower, that solitary capsicum.. all roll into a big pot, mash-mash-mash and we make pav bhaji.

We usually make do with ordinary bread, but occasionally we will pop over to the store to grab real "pav" or at least "water rolls" if they are available. I find water rolls work reasonably as a substitute for pav. Since I have started blog-hopping I have discovered a host of people who make their own pavs - for instance Fantasy Cooking, Jugalbandi, Spice-Club, One Hot Stove and Enjoy Indian Food . So those would be something for me to keep in mind if I get into baking with yeast in future (the woman with a half-clean pantry does not buy yeast till she is confident she will have the time and opportunity to use it in at least 3 different dishes).

The recipe I use usually for Pav Bhaji is...... the-one-on-the-box!! This is what I routinely make and is embedded in my spinal reflexes. Decent recipe. And honestly I had never paid too much attention to which pav bhaji masala I use. It happens to be Everest quite by fluke. Which brings me to note that another pav bhaji recipe to keep in mind is Nupur's Sukh Sagar Pav Bhaji. She expressly recommends Everest, skips onions (which is unusual), and her recipe is quite well spoken-for in the Indian-food blogging world. So I certainly will try that too in future.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Snail run

I run like a snail. "It's ok, just carry on!" I say to myself. And as an affirmation (doesn't happen often, so it's a nice fluke) I actually saw a snail 3 times this week! On the exact same spot! Oh ok, roughly the same spot.. this guy gets about 2 inches ahead each day. Not sure where he is headed.. I guess to the right?


Sometimes the going is really tough. And it's all very easy to say "Ya, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.." Easier said than done. I am the one who is running!! But just when I start to wallow in self-pity along comes Snail-esh! I saw him on Friday, then again on Sunday and now again today. He's one tough guy!! He has moved less than a foot in the last 5 days. But does he stop? Does he give up and turn back? Nope! You can actually see from the trail of those "wet" (what are those for God's sake?) spots behind him... and none in front, that he stays focused straight ahead!! Slow and steady he trudges on. He doesn't stop, doesn't give up. And what if I had run over the poor guy?!!! He is tiny enough that I could have crushed him in the dark!! I guess Snailesh Dada has more than just determination on his side.. He believes no one will crush him whether inadvertently or.. um.. advertently. I guess there is something to his positivity.

I just have to give it to Snailesh! Stay focused, determined and positive! We will get there!

Cheerio and thanks for reading!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Zucchini Pachhadi / Chutney

Hey everyone.. Zucchini Pachhadi today.. a surprisingly delicious dish! Great find for me!

Fig. 1. Zucchini Pachhadi
 
I like Zucchini as a vegetable. It is like french beans or green peas for me. It has a fairly neutral taste. Goes well with anything. So I use it as a filler vegetable to add body to my mixed veggie dishes. I don't think most of the family like the name Zucchini. So it is very important to disguise it. But they all happily eat it, no questions asked, when mixed with miscellaneous vegetables.

My grocery store, for some strange reason, prefers to stock items in batches. You have to buy a whole bag of several zucchinis at a time. No single pieces. But, I just need one or two pieces. Not more than that. Sorry, no such option. So I have to get a whole bunch at a time. I do easily use up about two in some or the other mixed vegetable dish, dosa, etc. But there are only so many of those to be made in one week.. so then I have to rack my brains as to how to consume the remaining zucchini!! Unfortunately zucchini goes bad fairly rapidly.. I would give it a week at most. By the end of 7 days the Zucchini in the refrigerator is already screaming for attention.

I had noticed Priya's Zucchini Pachhadi a few days ago and kept in mind for the next time I have excess zucchini. Rare (and risky) for me to try a zucchini-only dish. But that is the best way to consume a whole bunch of it at once! Can darling Zucchs pull off flying-solo?!! Priya confidently stated in her writeup that even her husband liked this one. I figured that was good enough for me. Let's give it a shot! :)

And voila...!! This pacchadi is truly worth its salt! The garlic and seasoning give it a very fragrant and flavourful taste. Totally worth the trial! Thanks for this recipe, Priya! My family consumed this pacchadi quite happily. And given my grocer's incorrigible habits, I will certainly be making this pachhadi again! :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Basic Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Hey everyone.. I wanted to send a few friends some foodie sort of gift. So I made a small batch of chocolate-chip cookies.

Fig.1. Basic Chocolate-Chip Cookies

What do you make when you have to parcel a food-gift to family or friends in other cities? At such times one has to rely on courier and postal delivery services which may take anything from 2-15 days to be delivered. This means the item has to be non-perishable. It has to be really dry so it doesn't harbor fungus, mold or germs while sitting in hot weather in the back of a truck or store-rooms. It has to be tough/firm so it doesn't break inside the package. Are there other concerns I am missing here..? Oh, how about it should taste decent.. :D

Cookies are my standard backup for such times. They can be made reasonably dry, so they stand the trial of time. So far the chocolate-chips have never actually melted. And the cookies have almost never broken or crumbled if packaged even modestly well..

This recipe is from the Betty Crocker website. If you follow instructions strictly, I would say you should check out the original recipe. I had found this recipe long back and have been making it whenever in need of basic cookies. I make variations in terms of different types of chips, nuts, etc flavoring the cookies. Here I will detail my version, which is roughly half of the recipe listed on the website. I have also included the changes I make having read some suggestions in their comments sections to make them softer.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Achari Murg (Tangy, spicy, chicken curry)

Hi everyone! I wrote this post some days ago.. then I don’t know which keyboard buttons I hit accidentally, the entire text got deleted and before I could undo that, in less than a second… blogger auto-saved the post that way!! Oh my.. was I frustrated!! A whole post accidentally deleted!!! I searched.. but I could find no way to recover the text! It took me a while to get it all written again. Fortunately this recipe is worth re-writing many times.. just had to find the time. :)

Fig. 1. Achari Chicken

We had tasted a delicious non-vegetarian pickle with a very distinctive North-East Indian flavor a while back. Since then I have been on the look-out for such a pickle. I recently spotted this Achaari Murg recipe at Soma’s blog, Ecurry. This is not a chicken pickle really, it is a chicken curry. But the spices used lend a very clear north-east touch to the recipe. So I thought it would be a good idea to try out this dish and then maybe adapt the recipe in future to make chicken pickle.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roasted Garlic Hummus

Hey everyone.. snack-time. I don't know why it took so long, but it was only recently that we got a taste of hummus at a party somewhere. And I'm glad for this discovery..

Fig. 1. Roasted Garlic Hummus

Hummus is one of the the most diverse chutneys or dips out there. It's tasty, it's filling, it goes with any bread, chips or salad-veggies like a dip. It doubles up as a great sandwich spread. And the best part is that it is reasonably healthy. Has a lot of protein from the chick-peas. And the olive oil makes it healthy and flavorful. So the last few weeks we have been buying a tub of hummus every time we do groceries. Hummus with pita is a far better alternative to chips for a snack.

I figured if we are going to consume it so frequently I should look into the recipe. It turns out that hummus needs only a few primary ingredients. Everything else is just variations on the base. Cooked chick-peas, olive oil, sesame seeds (or tahini), salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Grind them all up and you have hummus. The variations could be adding all sorts of spices to this.

The hummus I have made here today has turned out so delicious that I will definitely be making this very frequently at home adding variations every time. Honestly, if you have the ingredients and a mixer then hummus is so easy to make, a caveman could.. uhmm.. let's just say it's easy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Eggplant Bhareet

Hey everyone! Today I am posting about an Eggplant Bhareet I made last week. It is fundamentally Eggplant in Yogurt Sauce. It also goes by the names of Baingan ka Raita, Dahi Baingan, etc.

Fig. 1. Eggplant Bhareet

There are several variations of this dish. I have made the ultra lazy version here today. The other versions are also quite quick and simple.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Get Going!

Fitness post time.. This post is for all of us who want to start activity.. think about it, talk about it.. and really want to... but never actually start.

I have done this myself. A lot! ;) And I have seen others do it too. For me this procrastination usually results from the fact that I am uncertain, perhaps undecided.. about whether I really really should do it. And if I do it, how do I do it? Here I have noticed that I often tend to mix whether I want to do something with whether I can do it.

Do you want to start getting active? Decide. Don't think about whether you can. (That is the next question, not this one.) Do you want to? Sit down and think about it. And then decide once and for all. However, that's easier said than done. I would sit down and think about it sometimes.. but I would still be undecided. The fact that there was no pressure, no health reason, no really important reason to start was primarily why I just wouldn't do anything about it. And there is no one who will be able to change this. You will take the decision only at your own time. And that's ok. Recognize that time when it comes and remember this post then.

If you have decided, and your decision is, "Yes, I want to get active and be fit," then you have taken your first step toward fitness! The decision has been taken. And your decisions are firm decisions! You will stick by them! But watch yourself now... because now is when the question "Can I be active?" comes in. This will bring with it a host of issues that you will soon use as excuses to get out of your resolve. Don't let this happen! You have decided to start on the road to being fit! And so you will start! Come what may. You will find solutions to the problems. And you will get going!

Uncertainty: You have no idea how to go about this "get active" business. You don't know anyone who runs or goes to the gym. You have never seen the inside of a gym other than in movies. Yoga.. you have no idea how to do it. So your intention is real and firm, but the path is unclear.

You cannot accomplish any project when you are un-informed. Where do you start? What do you do? Run? Swim? Walk? Get informed! Read up about fitness activities. There are many many things you can do. Pick an activity that suits you. Read up about your own health and health goals. Once your health is clear, you will be able to discard certain activities. Maybe you are pregnant and running is not for you. Other things may influence your choice of activity. Perhaps you have no access to swimming pools. Could yoga be preferable? Look around you, search on the net. There are classes, forums and groups of people in every city involved in some form of activity. There are fitness DVDs, online videos on youtube and other sites that will instruct you on yoga, aerobics and other such forms of at-home exercise. You will not find solutions unless you look for them. Do away with your uncertainty, get informed.

Time: This is another important reason why most people cannot manage to get started. You want to start, but really have no time. Well, fitness does not have to be time consuming. If you want to do it, just spend 15 minutes every day. Do a short 10-15 minute workout. Look on the net.. there are lots of DVDs and programs that promote 10 minute workouts. 10 minutes each day is better than nothing.

Another way to do this is to make extra time in your day. This is harder, but definitely more satisfying in terms of a workout. Get up earlier than you normally do. Just half an hour early. Those 30 extra minutes you get, are enough for a quick 1 or 2 mile run or walk around the block. This is what I have to do. I now wake up at 5.30am instead of 6.30am. Gives me a whole extra hour to get my run. And I don't do this every day. I give myself extra sleep every alternate day. I really need that sleep. But I steal that extra one hour on alternate days to get my runs in. I find that most women prefer this. Once the kids and the household is up there is no time for yourself. After a workout at the very beginning of your day you are ready to tackle anything that today brings you!

Only you can figure out your schedule. If this is important to you, then you will make time for it. Either go for short workout sessions that fit somewhere in your busy day or go for an early morning regimen, whatever works for you.

Cost: "So much money on gym membership! Gym clothes and shoes! I don't think this is permanent anyway. Just a passing thought today. In two days my motivation will be gone. Not worth it." These were my thoughts. So, initially I used my old sneakers to walk. Even started running in them. The gym access was in a friend's apartment complex for free. So I lucked out there. But when I stopped getting access to the gym I just started running outdoors. (Fortunately by then the weather did permit me to run outdoors!) Over 20-25 days I realized that I was enjoying running. It was NOT a passing thing! It improved my day significantly! So then I did shell out some cash to buy good shoes which are essential to prevent common running injuries. In fact, I feel that I will now often run just so as to justify the expense of the shoes! :D

So, I would say that you have to start first. Then over time you will be able to figure out whether running or walking or yoga is suitable for you, whether you enjoy it. That is when you can choose to spend the bare minimum you need for that activity. So be creative, you will find a solution to money matters.

Fear: "What if something hurts! What if I injure myself! I am fine now. I don't want to start some stupid fitness mania and break my leg or sprain my back acting like I'm a PT Usha!" This may sound melodramatic, but is actually a very valid concern. You want to research all possible aches and pains that may be normal for a beginner in whatever activity you choose. Otherwise any casual soreness or muscle pain will be an easy excuse for you to quit. It is the biggest relief when other runners tell you, "Sore shins for a beginner are normal. You are either running too fast or running on very hard ground. Try running on grass. Ice sore shins, they will stop hurting as they get used to the running." Read up, meet other people who are involved in your activity. Try to learn more about the sport you pick up. That is the only way to ward off this fear.

And accept that some amount of achy soreness will be there at the beginning. And with knowledge and experience you will recognize the difference between soreness and injury. Start very very slow. Over a few weeks your body will get accustomed to the stresses of exercise and let you push yourself more. That is when you ramp up a little more. Push just a tiny bit every week. Pain and injury are not enjoyable. Caution is always good. But fear will not hold you back!

All the other stuff: "Oh other people in the gym are much fitter than me! People will look at me when I run. I run like a duck! I am not going alone.. I have no company. Swim suits look cheap. I look bad in gym clothes. I don't want to sweat. There is a guy at the gym who makes me uncomfortable. There are these girls who are always laughing when I am there (i.e. laughing at me). My friends will think I am acting too smart. My bai will tell people in the building that I do aerobics and all!"

I have given 95% of the above excuses myself. So I am quite confident some of you have also thought these things! It's ok.. admit to yourself.. no need to tell anyone. But at least some of the above things are a matter of our own self-consciousness. Swim-suits, people's opinions... don't think about these things. Maybe they are laughing at you, maybe they aren't. You will never know. But paying heed to such things will certainly ensure that you will lose your goal!! You cannot let that happen. And you won't let stupid problems get in the way. You will aim for your goal and head straight towards it. Everything in your way can go to.... !!!

Some of these things however will be true problems. Safety, for instance. Please be safe. If you are running outside, run in safe neighborhoods or parks or places where you will see other people going for walks, runs and rides. Even when going to a gym, go at times when there are a lot of people. Otherwise find another gym. You want to focus on your workout, not worry about who might bother you. So it really should be safe. If gyms and the outdoors are not safe for you, there are plenty of at-home routines you can do.

And yes, people may be slightly resentful. Some people may not like that you are fit and they are not. I simply don't tell too many people about my running. I find that works best for me. Even casual talk can be misinterpreted as boasting. Don't talk too much about it. Just do it. And even then if people don't like it, then it's ok. You can't take care of everything. Take care of yourself, your family and your life. That is enough. Let the neighbors be jealous, let your bai bitch about your aerobics. Let it be. You are getting strong!! So they can bring it on! You can take it!

Now I must admit that I am not as strong and resolute as all of the above might imply. :D And you don't need to be either. Pretend to be resolute. It's ok. Really! Pretend to yourself. You have an iron will! Say that to yourself! Cheer yourself! Push yourself! Just start! Get going! You can do it... and so can I! :)

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Info links: I am posting a few links in this post. Just some general suggestions for someplace to start:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brown Pittye Unde (Laddoos)

Hey everyone.. it's finally time for some sugar!!! :)

Fig.1 Brown Pittye Unde

This is a dish I made up by chance.. ok, I admit it, by mistake actually. I was making Finger Millet Cookies from Aayi's Recipes. And instead of using a real cup measure, ignorantly, I used those Corelle style Mugs! Obviously all my measurements for ragi flour and sugar were in Mugs and the butter was in terms of butter-sticks (which translates to real cup measures). So that attempt was botched in terms of cookies. My "dough" ended up dry and crumbly. And I wasn't able to make cookies out of it.

But I was able to press the dough into laddoos!! Thus were discovered these laddoos. And the best part is that they taste really great!! Even hard-core people in my family who say, "Ragi? Ugh!" have been known to love these laddoos. Mind you, I have never told them this is Ragi. That explains the arcane name "Brown Pittye Unde" i.e. Laddoos made with brown powder/flour. Sneaky, sneaky!! ;) After my cunning attempts to mask the Ragi-ness of these.. don't you go about calling them anything else! Otherwise sooner or later it may get around to my folks!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chawli Vegetable Pulav

Hey everyone.. today it was time for another one-pot meal. Was not really in the mood to make anything elaborate. So I made a quick Pulav with Chawli (also known as Lobia or Black-eyed Peas) and some mixed vegetables. 

Fig.1 Chawli Vegetable Pulav

I often prowl on blogs and pick up ideas from there. But either by choice or because I don't have certain ingredients I often end up making many substitutions and variations. By the time I am done zippety-zapping in the kitchen it becomes very difficult to trace the ancestry of my dish and credit the bloggers of the original recipe without risking offending them! But really, if the dish tastes good the credit does go to them. See, I would never think about certain combinations if they weren't mentioned on those blogs first!

Such was the case today when I set out to make pulav. I always check out Aayi's Recipes for pulav ideas. Shilpa and Varada Aunty have put up tons of rice dishes there. Just one click on the rice label gives me an assortment of pulavs, biryanis and khichdis with pictures! And the lazy bum that I am, I don't even have to bother to think. I can just look at their ideas and incorporate them in some manner or other into my own cooking.

Shilpa's Methi-Avarekalu Rice recipe is the inspiration for what I have cooked here. I wanted something fairly filling, so I chose this dish. Loosely speaking, my dish is similar to Shilpa's recipe, but many of the ingredients and spices have changed. The fundamental concept here is from her blog. Adding beans to pulav!! Whood'av thunk! ;)

Fortunately despite all my changes this pulav tastes simply amazing!! Amazing enough that this is the second time I have made it and it is now time to record it on the blog. It would be truly worth your while to check out Shilpa's recipe too, my recipe is a fairly toned down version of hers.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Apple Jam - Happy Mother's Day

Hey everyone.. This is a jam I made for my Mom's birthday actually. Still have some.. so here it comes today!

Fig. 1 Apple Jam Jam Jammy!

My Mom makes the world's most wonderful Jam! But.. she completely wings it! So far I have not been able to extract a precise recipe from her that gives me jam that tastes exactly like hers. I think she largely eyeballs the process till it gives her the texture and taste that is so hers!! Oh well! The disadvantages of learning cooking on the phone. If I could see her make it, perhaps it might turn out perfect. The bane of my life is that no one has yet invented a "Beam me up, Scotty" style mass-transporter. Where is all the research money going? Who is working on this transporter stuff? Oh, if wishes were horses..

Today, I am trying my hand at food-fiction. So please bear with me. What follows is the product of a mind deranged by Jam and Star Trek!

Space Jam 
Starry-eyed Sarita was about to leave small-town, Homeville, for glitzy Bollywood! Math and Science had never interested her. Sarita was all for the Arts! She had always been the lead in school plays, the best in her dance class and the funniest family-entertainer on dull Sunday afternoons. There was no doubt she had a glorious career in cinema and theater ahead.

Finally the time had come for her to explore the world and find her place in it! The shine and shimmer of Bollywood had pervaded all of Homeville just as it had the rest of the world. And its sheen had not escaped young Sarita! She dreamed of being paired with SRK and Hritik Roshan, no less! Siya was going to be her screen-name and "Siya... naam toh suna hoga!" was going to be the new in dialog for the Johars and Chopras of Bollywood. Sarita was on her way to stardom and nothing would stand in her way!

Except... Jam!! Sarita was terribly foodie. And her Mom's cooking was something she couldn't do without! And it wasn't just her dal and rice.. Mom's cookies, her cakes, her chicken, her fish, her smoothies, her shakes, her mutton, her quiche....and most of all.. Mom's jams!!! Uff! No Mam, Sarita could not ham a single word on silver screen without her Mom's jam! Brought up in the world of PBnJ, Sarita had to have her dose of jam every single day! But shiny Bollywood was oceans away! Air travel was going to be so expensive and time consuming... there would be no way to get Mom's jam every day! And then there was the question of her Mom's cookies, her cakes, her chicken, her fish, her smoothies, her shakes, her mutton, her quiche....

Sarita's was a heavy heart. To give up her dream of Bollywood!!! Or to leave behind the Mom who generates the most glorious food on this planet! Sarita knew what had to be done. Someone had to do it. Someone simply had to do it!! And since no one else was doing it.. she would just have to roll up her own sleeves and do it herself!

She had to invent a mass-transporter!

Anything is possible when you are a woman with an iron resolve (and writing nonsense masquerading as food-fiction). So my dear readers, this was how the acclaimed Nobel Laureate, Madam Curie Purie, aka Sarita Purie started on her path to inventing the first mass-transporter on Earth. Her Mom's Apple Jam was the first test object to be transported from her refrigerator to the dining table. Only when she had herself executed the scientifically established "taste-test" and confirmed that the molecular arrangement of the re-materialized jam was perfection itself, did she release the mass-transporter for mass transport.

Her invention has now revolutionized travel all over the world. And yes, Sarita's dream has also come true! She still lives in Homeville, but works in Bollywood! She now routinely stars as Siya in Bollywood movies with SRK and Hritik Roshan (both actors together in the same movie, Sarita playing a double-role!)

Of course, Sarita has to produce her movies herself. After all, who will invest in a geeky jam-eater!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Carrot and Peas Pulav - for the Newbie Cook

This Pulav is probably good for newbie cooks, people who don't want to chop, don't have time to cook and students who own only a microwave in the one-room-plus-bath they share with four other people. I am none of the above! Oh, ok.. I am the one doesn't want to chop!

Fig. 1. Carrot and Peas Pulav


When you are really really new to cooking, it's quite common to think you are just a horrible cook. And this is affirmed by the output of your exertions and confirmed by the verbiage of your consumers. But please, be very clear in your own mind that you are a Newbie cook! Not a Bad one! There is a major difference. A newbie gets better. That is certain! There is no way for you to go but up! A good cook is one who cooks! Period. Don't throw in the towel right away! Cooking is a life skill. All you have to do is feed yourself. Don't you give up so easy!

Now I am no expert cook. So I cannot give great instructions to total cooking newbies. But in this one post today I will try my best to elaborate a bit in each step so that I can refer my hard-core, never-cooked-before friends here in case of emergency. Let me also list a few good websites for newbies to check out:

1) StartCooking is a site which seems to have lots of pictorial and video based tutorials for really really really basic things like how to cook long grain white rice, cook pasta, cook a potato in a microwave, how to boil eggs, fry eggs etc, etc as well as nicer dishes.
2) Manjula's Kitchen is a video-based blog. Manjula has a lot of videos where she does everything right from chopping and peeling vegetables, showing you the entire cooking process all the way to serving suggestions. Her comments section has tons of answers to commonly asked questions. I have used this site.
3) Show me the Curry is another video-based blog which shows a lot of easy ways to make basic as well as fairly complicated dishes. I have used this site too.
4) Vah re Vah is another site with cooking videos. But I have never actually made anything from there yet. Friends say it's decent. The cook seemed funny. Feel free to check it out.

Search on youtube and google for videos. Especially when you are really really new, I think it helps to see what they mean by "fry till golden brown" etc. Lots of blogs have newbie sections! So check out specifically those labels on any general food blog. But it varies from person to person as to what they consider "easy". ;) Pari of Foodelicious has recently started a blog for newbies in cooking, called Kitchen Basics. I will update more links on this post as and how I come across good basic cooking websites.

On to my pulav.. I make this pulav, or some variant of it, fairly regularly. This recipe requires some "is this rice cooked?" judgment, fairly basic ingredients and about 15 minutes of time.

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