Friday, March 29, 2013

Rava Laddoo

Hello everybody! Am still in "Holi" mode! While part of me misses all the fun and revelry associated with this festival in India, another part says "come on, you get to celebrate multiple times, so what if its on a smaller scale"!

The thing is, Holi fell on 27th March which was a working day. So hubby & kiddo went to work and school respectively. But then the little one had a half day and then we got to go for the Easter Egg Hunt along with a photo op with the Easter Bunny in our community. This was followed by a "mini" holi celebration of sorts with a few friends. Oh wait, there was also and accident involving a pointed pencil, an Easter egg and a rushed visit to the pediatrician to get a tiny hand bandaged (don't get me started on that!), but that was forgotten in the over all excitement of the day!

And tomorrow is another get together for some more color play followed by a potluck dinner - more masti, more magic!

Now, ghujia is a staple as far as holi is concerned for me. But since I had planned on making some for the weekend celebration, I wanted to make something else on the actual festival. The time constraint led me to think of making rava laddoos. To give it a "holi" feel, I added some food color and made tiny colorful laddoos! My little one got a real kick out of popping these small balls into his mouth :)

Generally I make these bigger, without food color. I also add some coconut and cashew nuts. But I was out of coconut and had no time to run a grocery errand. Also, couldn't add the nuts as my son is allergic to them and I had neither the time nor the patience to make two separate batches, one with and one without nuts, which is what I normally do. By all means, feel free to omit the food color and include the coconut and nuts, though to be honest, I did not really miss the coconut or the cashews!

Preparation & Cooking: 20 minutes (excluding 30 minutes cooling)       Makes: 30 approx.

Semolina/Rava/Sooji - 1 cup
Sugar - ½ cup
Water - ¼ cup
Saffron Essence - ¼ teaspoon
Cardamom/Elaichi Powder - ¼ teaspoon
Maida/All Purpose Flour - 1 tablespoon
Ghee - 1 tablespoon
Food Color - As many as you want - a pinch of each

  1. Roast semolina with ghee till it turns slightly golden brown and gives off a nice aroma.
  2. Boil sugar, water and saffron essence till the sugar dissolves completely then add in the cardamom powder.
  3. Gradually add in the semolina and the maida, stirring constantly till all the sugar syrup is absorbed, making sure there are no lumps. Switch off the flame, close and keep aside for about half an hour till the mixture is cooled and is relatively thicker and easier to shape into balls.
  4. Separate the mixture into equal portions for the different colors, add a pinch of food color to each portion, knead and roll into smooth balls.
    Voila! Colorful laddoos for a colorful festival!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Very First Blogging Recognition - The Liebster Award

My birthday, a hectic week and a general sense of lethargy - all added up to my not visiting my blog for  a whole week. Imagine my surprise then when I came across this comment on on of my posts - "Hii,Happy to pass my Liebster award to you :)".

Now, for someone who just started blogging for a lark, has no idea where she stands on this wide platform, not to forget, someone who hasn't won anything in her blogger avatar, the words "award" and " you" were enough to bring a wide smile to my face! So, Preeti Jaipal of "Kitchen Delicacies", I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for giving me the pleasure of winning my first ever recognition!

OK, once the initial euphoria settled down, I wanted to find out what exactly this award was. Visiting Kitchen Delicacies gave me a rough idea as to what this was all about. Then I googled "Liebster Awards". There were a lot of different versions going on. The rules varied from passing the award to 5 bloggers to 15 bloggers! The number of followers ranged from 200 to 3000! Anyways, after reading the numerous google search results, here is what I concluded (or should I say, here is the gist of what I understood;) )-

 The term "Liebster" is German, meaning "dear" or "beloved". This is an award given to up and coming bloggers to encourage them and show them your love and support. If you choose to accept it, you must:
  1. Mention 11 random facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the tagger has set for you.
  3. Choose 11 new bloggers, having less than 200 followers, and pass on the award to them, linking them on your post.
  4. Leave a comment on their blog, telling them about the award.
  5. No back tagging!
  6. Frame 11 new questions for the bloggers you pass the award to.

So, you see, this may not count as a major achievement to many people - I mean there is no website acknowledging you receiving the award, no judge/jury - just fellow bloggers  recognizing and appreciating the work you put in. For me, that is reward enough :)

11 Random Facts About Me:
  1. I am an avid reader - prefer fiction, but won't hesitate to read pretty much anything and everything I can lay my hands on!
  2. I have an enormous sweet tooth - just can't resist anything sweet!
  3. I love the fresh smell of wet mud after the first rains.
  4. Knitting and crocheting relax me.
  5. I love listening to music - language no bar, genre no bar.
  6. I have a shoe fetish - seriously! My closet is filled with slippers & shoes, some of which I haven't worn more than once or twice!
  7. I love dancing. It is my stress buster, my mood elevator :)
  8. I am a cleanliness freak. Infact my tendency to fuss about cleaning and my love for cooking have earned me the moniker "Monica" - you know Monica Geller from Friends!
  9. Regardless of whether I have a list or not, when I go shopping, I always go overboard!
  10. I am terrified of water - as in I have a fear of drowning.
  11. I don't watch TV regularly, but whenever I do, I do marathon shows - 3 hours of Bones or 4 hours of Top Chef or a whole day of Law & Order - you name it I have done it!
11 Questions For Me:

1. What’s the best thing you ever ate?
     I can't seem to pick one thing! Be it my mom's Vengaaya Sambaar with Potato Curry, or the Schezuan Ravioli at Confucius or the the steaming hot Idiappam & Stew eaten on a houseboat in Alleppey on my honeymoon - I love them all!

2. What is your favorite place for holidaying?
     Kerala, India

3. Do you watch TV shows?  If so, which is your favorite?
    Off and on... The current craze is The Big Bang Theory

4. What beauty product you cannot live without?
    I use my fair share of cosmetics, but something that I cannot live without - my moisturizer!

5. What you always aspired to be? Are your aspirations met?
     I always aspired to make a name for myself as a Bharatanatyam dancer. No, kind of left those dreams behind...

6. How do you spend your free time?
     I read, knit/crochet and listen to music when I have leisure time on hand.

7. What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
    The most exciting this I have done so far is river rafting.

8. Which is your favorite recipe from your blog?
    My favorite recipe on the blog is surprising not a sweet dish! It is the apple thokku!

9. What’s your favorite thing to have for dessert?
    I love rasagullas! Perfect dessert!

10. Your favorite shopping destination?
      No, its not Dubai or Honk Kong or New York - it is my good old Delhi! Specially in the company of my sister!

11. Sports or academics, your pick?
      Definitely academics - Much to the disappointment of my hubby, I do not possess a single athletic bone!

11 Questions From Me:
  1. What is the craziest thing you ever did?
  2. If not a food blog, what?
  3. Where do you get your inspirations for cooking?
  4. Which chef influences your cooking the most?
  5. Who is your best critic?
  6. What would be the first thing on your bucket list?
  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  8. Name your favorite author or book?
  9. Which is your favorite place to hang out with friends?
  10. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
  11. Which cuisine is your culinary strong point?
I am passing on this Liebster award to:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vegetable Upma

It was one of those days when none of us were in a mood to eat a full fledged meal. All I got when I asked what do you want for dinner was "Make something light".

My standard resort on such occasions is poha or sabudana khichdi or idli/dosa - you get the drif! Along the same lines, this time I made vegetable rava upma - a standard breakfast item at weddings and such along with the usual idli/vada/pongal!

It was only very recently that I came to know that in Tamil Nadu, this dish is actually called "khichdi"! The discovery in  itself was an amusing incident involving two of my friends - one from Madras (I still can't think of it as Chennai!), the other from Orissa and ofcourse me! When the latter fed her kids "khichdi", the former was puzzled that it looked more like dal rice with vegetables and there was no sign of rava in it! After much confusion and some arguing, we realized that while two of us called the rice and lentils cooked with vegetables "khichdi" (I think that's what most of the country calls it!) the other one was looking for vegetable rava upma!

As far as my husband and kid are concerned, when I say upma, it means vegetable rava upma. There is no way they are eating a plain upma! Also, one wants any and every vegetable, while the other is allergic to nuts and can't stand the sight of onions and capsicum in his. So, I end up making "customized" upma!

What I mean is that, I cook my vegetables (I used the frozen mix of peas, carrots, beans and corn and added diced potatoes to it) separately in the microwave but saute the onions and capsicum along with the tempering in another pan! You can prepare the tempering and cook all the vegetables directly in the saucepan that you are using to make the upma. I just find it handy and quick to do all these things separately and since its the dishwasher that cleans the dishes, I don't hesitate to use an additional pot/pan!

So, while the rava is being roasted, I boil water in the kettle, cook the veggies in the microwave and simultaneously prepare the tempering mix! Finally, I just add everything in parts, making sure to separate my son's share before adding the tempering. But by all means prepare the tempering, add in the rest of the vegetables, add water, bring it to a boil and mix in the roasted rava - all in the same vessel.

Whichever way you choose to cook it, whatever you choose to serve it with (I did not go to the trouble of making chutney or sambaar, a Lime Ginger pickle was enough to satisfy us!) - this is a simple, fulfilling yet "light" meal!

Preparation & Cooking: 20 minutes          Serves: 2-3


Rava/Sooji/Cream Of Wheat - 1 cup

Green Chillies - 2, chopped fine
Ginger - a small bit, minced
Turmeric/Haldi Powder - ½ teaspoon
Mixed Vegetables - 1 cup (beans, carrots, peas, corn, potatoes)
Potato - 1 small, diced
Capsicum - 1 small, diced
Onion - 1 small, choped fine
Curry Leaves -  a few
Salt - to taste
Ghee - 1 tablespoon
Water - 3 cups
For Tempering: 
Ghee/Clarified Butter - 1 tablespoon
Mustard Seeds - 1 teaspoon 
Urad Dal/Black Gram Dal - 1 teaspoon
Jeera/Cumin Seeds -  ½ teaspoon
Chana Dal/Bengal Gram Dal -  ½ teaspoon
Cashews - 10-12, broken

  1. Microwave the vegetables for 5-7 minutes, till they are cooked.
  2. Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil in a kettle or another vessel - this hastens the cooking process as we don't have to wait for the bottle to boil when we add it to the rava.
  3. Heat the remaining ghee for tempering, add in mustard, jeera, urad dal and chana dal. When the mustard and cumin seeds splutter and the dals turn a golden brown, add in the curry leaves and cashews. 
  4. When the cashews get a reddish tinge, add the onions. When the onions turn transluscent add the green chillies, ginger and capsicum and saute for a couple of minutes, then take off the flame.
  5. Roast the rava with 1 tablespoon of ghee till it turns a reddish tinge and gives off a nice aroma.
  6. Now, slowly pour in the hot water, stirring constantly so it doesn't form lumps.
  7. Continue to stir and cook till the rava reaches a smooth consistent texture and has absorbed most of the water.
  8. Now add the turmeric, salt, mixed vegetables and the prepared tempering.
  9. Mix everything well and cook for another minute.

Serve hot with chutney/sambaar or plain old pickle - yummy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Tapioca Pudding

Whenever I order bubble tea, my son makes me filter out the tapioca pearls in there so he can eat them. He just loves them. I don't have easy access to those big tapioca pearls, so I thought why not buy the tiny ones and make some tapioca pudding for him.

Now, all the pudding recipes I looked at had eggs in them, but I wanted to make an eggless version. Whenever I look for eggless cake recipes, people usually use condensed milk to make them. So, I decided to do the same for this pudding as well. I just adjusted the quantity of milk used accordingly and completely did away with sugar as I used sweetened condensed milk.

As far as flavors go,  I did add some cardamom powder as that is a standard spice used when making the similar Indian version of this pudding - Sabudana Kheer! I thought a little  saffron would team up beautifully with the cardamom. But ofcourse I couldn't  just stop myself there. I thought about what else I could add. All the standard pudding recipes had vanilla essence, so I added a bit of that as well. Then I remembered that I had some coconut pineapple ice cream in my freezer. Coconut would definitely blend in with all the other flavors and pineapple would add a nice touch - so thats it, I added a scoop of the ice cream as well!

The end result was this gooey delicious mouthful of flavors that I simply loved! Well, the little one whom I actually made it for decided he did not want to eat it. "Amma, I want the big brown chewy pearls - not this!" was his explanation for not trying it! All I said was, his loss, my gain. Of course I'll be hunting a chinese grocery store close by to buy his "big brown chewy pearls" but I sure am glad I made this and will probably make it again as dessert when I have guests over next.

The best thing about this was, I made it in the crockpot, so it did not require constant monitoring. I got done in about a couple of hours, the first hour of which was spent in getting my son back from school and running a couple of errands! Also, I did not soak the tapioca seeds before cooking, two hours in the crockpot got it perfectly cooked.

Feel free to experiment with other spices and flavors, but if you want a hassle free dessert - this one fits the bill!

Preparation & Cooking: 2 hours          Serves: 3-4


Small Pearl Tapioca Seeds - 3 tablespoons
Milk - 2 cups
Condensed Milk - 1 can
Salt - ¼ teaspoon
Cardamom (Elaichi) Powder - ¼ teaspoon
Saffron (Kesar) - a few strands
Vanilla Essence - 1 teaspoon
Coconut Pineapple Ice Cream - 1 scoop

  1. In the crock pot combine tapioca seeds, milk and salt and cook on high for 1 hour.
  2. Add in the condensed milk, cardamom powder, saffron strands and vanilla essence and cook for another 45 minutes.
  3. Finally mix in the scoop of ice cream, cook for another 15 minutes and switch off the crockpot.

Serve hot or chilled...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lemon Rasam

How often, when asked about what we cooked for dinner, have we responded with -"Oh nothing, just some rasam"! Just think about it, even a simple dal gets a better mention when compared with this South Indian staple. What do we turn to when we are down with the sniffles, what do we resort to cooking when we are out of time and ideas, what do we make when we are thinking of home - as far as I am concerned, the answer to all these is Rasam.

Today's recipe is the humble Rasam -  Lemon Rasam. For the uninitiated, there are a zillion different varieties of rasam, not the standard one prepared in the restaurants. Ditto for sambaars. But that is for another day and another post. For now, let us stick to the lemon rasam. Infact, I prepare lemon rasam also in two different ways. One is from the recipe book "Dakshin". The other, the one that I am posting today, is the way my mom prepares it.

Rasam is generally associated with a tamarind base, but for lemon rasam, you don't need any tamarind. The lemon provides the required tanginess. I have used homemade rasam powder - will soon be posting the recipe for the same. Feel free to use the store bought one thought. Serve rasam with rice and a curry on the side or drink it up hot and steaming as I do - yummy!

Preparation & Cooking: 15 minutes          Serves: 2-3


Toor Dal/Red Gram Dal - ¼ cup
Tomato - 1
Green Chillies - 2
Ginger - a small bit
Turmeric/Haldi Powder - ½ teaspoon
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Rasam Powder - 1 teaspoon
Water - 4 cups
Lemon - 1
Curry Leaves -  a few
Salt - to taste
Cilantro Leaves - for garnish
For Tempering: 
Ghee/Clarified Butter - 2 teaspoons
Mustard Seeds - 1 teaspoon
Whole Red Chillies - 2

  1. Cook the dal in a pressure cooker with a pinch of turmeric and salt, till it is soft and mushy.
  2. Grind together the tomato, ginger and green chillies into a smooth puree.
  3. Combine the prepared puree, 4 cups of water, asafoetida, turmeric powder, rasam powder, curry leaves and salt in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil.
  4. Once the liquid begins to froth over, mash the cooked dal with the back of a ladle and add it to the rasam. Let it cook for another minute.
  5. Turn off the flame and add the the juice from one lemon. 
  6. Prepare the tempering by heating the ghee and adding the mustard seeds and red chillies to it. When the must seeds splutter, add the tempering to the rasam. Garnish with cilantro leaves

Serve hot with rice and side dish of choice.