Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eggs with Fennel and Tomato - A Burrito

Blog Anniversary
Daily Musings turned 2. It completely escaped my mind till dear Linda reminded about it in this beautiful post. It has been a rewarding two years and I am amazed that the blog has survived this long. Thank you to each one of you for visiting, taking time to leave a comment or feedback. The different things I have learned and continue to learn is enormous.

    Green Earth
    Tip 1: Reduce the water pressure in the faucets and shower. This reduces to a large extent the amount of water used.

    Tip 2: Use cotton towels or rags in the kitchen instead of paper towels.

Recipe Source: Baked Fennel Tomato Casserole
Intially set out to make the Baked Fennel and Tomato Casserole but at the last moment switched to making the burrito instead to add some carbs into the picture. The fennel was what attracted me to the recipe in the first place having wanted to cook with it for some time now.

1. 1 Fennel bulb - stalks removed, the hard core at the bottom removed and sliced.
2. 3 Roma tomatoes seeded and cut into quarters
3. 1 tsp pepper
4. 1 tsp butter or ghee
5. salt to taste
6. 4 eggs
7. Cheese as desired (harbenero pepper cheese)
8. Tortillas
9. Chili Garlic Pepper Sauce or any sauce preferred


1. Heat a sauce pan with water add salt and cook the fennel till soft, drain. In the meantime bake/broil the tomatoes
2. Heat some ghee in a pan and add the fennel and saute it with the pepper and salt.
3. Transfer them to an oven proof bowl. Lay the tomatoes on top.
4. Sprinkle the cheese and set it in a oven for about 3-4 minutes till the cheese melts. (I used the toaster oven)

Fennel and tomato with cheese topping

Assembling the tortilla
1. Heat a griddle, break an egg, season with salt and pepper and cook covered for 4 minutes (you can leave the yolk unbroken or break it a bit so it cooks fully)
2. Warm the tortilla, place the egg on top, add the fennel tomato topping
3. Sprinkle some chili garlic sauce, roll and serve.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sugar, Sugar and more Sugar - An introduction

    Green Earth
    Enjoy the flowers, birds, bees and the clear blue sky.
    Tips is enjoying the outdoors and will be back next post

Why are we are sorrounded by sweet products that exclusively use corn syrup when there are so many varieties of natural sweeteners available and which do not carry the same health risks? Most processed foods, drinks use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) - the sweetener made from corn which is cheaper to produce than sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets.

Jaggery and Palm Sugar Blocks

Sugar is made from either Sugar Cane or Sugar Beets. In the US, half of the Sugar production is from Sugar Beets whereas in India Sugar Beet is just getting introduced to supplement Sugar Cane. India is the second largest producer of sugar from sugar cane next only to Brazil. Sugar made from the sap of the Palm tree called Palm Sugar is also available.

Palm Sugar Crystals

The common form of sugar used in most households is the highly refined white sugar also called sucrose that is very easily digested. Though refined sugar has its place in the kitchen today, its almost exclusive use as a sweetener is not without its pitfalls. Replacing white refined sugar is not very difficult or impossible. Here is a list of sugars and sugar products that I have in my kitchen today.

Most of these natural sugars have healthful properties, we were advised as kids to eat roasted peanuts with a bit of palm sugar to avoid tummy aches which is common when large quantities of peanuts are consumed. Jaggery uses in Ayurvedic is well known. This provides a stark contrast to the health problems assoicated with the refined sugar or corn syrup.

Brown Sugar (from India)

Sugar and few of their uses
1. Palm Sugar Crystals(Panang Kalkandu)
Use it for sweetener for Milk, Oatmeals, Pongal
2. Palm Sugar (Karupatti)
Use in coffee, curries
3. Jaggery (Vellam)
Pongal, curries,
4. Brown Sugar (Karumbu sarkarai)
Cakes, curries, oatmeal, Pancakes
5. Molasses
Cakes, Oatmeal

Maple Sugar Syrup, Molasses (bottles flipped)

6. Maple Syrup
7. Turbinado Sugar
Coffee, tea, milk, cakes, cookies
8. White Refined Sugar
Cookies, Cakes

Refined Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, Honey

9. Honey
Smoothies, pancakes,cakes

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Simple Lunches 12 - Brinjal Chutney

Green Earth
The recent scare about plastics came to a head yesterday when I almost got rid of all of the plastic drinking glasses. But good sense prevailed along with several heaves of relief from members in the household who shall remain unnamed, and I turned around went to sleep instead. Phew! Getting rid of plastic glasses means buying other kinds of glasses to replace them. There in lies the paradox. Does getting rid of non-green stuff around the house and replacing them with organic stuff really serve the purpose? This reminded me of the article I had read a few weeks ago in the Washington Post - Greed In the Name Of Green (To Worshipers of Consumption: Spending Won't Save the Earth). Isn't buying locally grown veggies even if not organiclly grown better than buying an organic product shipped from the farthest corner of the earth? It is not always possible to buy local and more often than not land in the local grocery store buying tomatoes grown in California, apples grown in New Zealand, mangoes grown in Mexico! But I am of the firm belief that the small things we do will go a long way.

Tip 1: Use the laundry machine, dryer or dishwasher during the night or early morning. It does not hurt that the electric rate during these hours is cheaper than during the working hours.
Tip 2: Recycle plastic bags (grocery bags, newspaper bags) - most grocery stores accept plastic bags for recycling.

Simple Lunches 11 - Brinjal Chutney
The simplicity of these dishes is what makes them so attractive. Brinjal Chutney is simple to make, they taste good with idlis and dosais but they taste the best with rice. With a quick and easy stir fry on the side a complete meal.

brinjal chutney
rice,chutney,cabbage peas poriyal and yogurt

1. 3 Japanese Eggplants cut into small pieces
2. 1/4 red onion chopped
3. 2 tsp coriander seeds
4. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
5. a small piece of tamarind
6. 2 -3 red chilies
7. salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a pan and saute the corinader,cumin,red chilies and tamrind, set aside
2. Saute the onions and the eggplants till cooked, add salt

Blend with just a bit of water if required

Serve with rice.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kokum Rasam and Earth Day

Earth Day
Though we renew our commitments to the environment on this day, practising sustainable living should be an every day affair. Simple, small things can make a big difference to make this planet greener. Scientists are of the opinion that we have a small window of about 10 -20 years before the changes brought on by Global Warming becomes irreversible.

Cherry Blossom
Photo Courtesy: Cherry Blossoms

    Green Earth

    Tip 1: Line Dry the laundry in the backyard or patio and give a rest to the dryer during the hot summer months.

    Tip 2: Unplug electric equipments from power outlets when not in use.
    US Dept of Energy - Enery Saving Tips

    Tip 3: Cofee grounds, brown paper filters and crushed egg shells not only enrich the soil but also save young leaves from crawling insects.
    - Linda

Kokum Rasam:
Recipe Source: Sia of Monsoon Spice
Sia had blogged this mouth watering Tambli made with kokum, a couple of weeks ago. I had this Kokum from Linda's Arusuvai pacakage and was wondering what to cook with it and commented about the same to Sia. In the next few minutes an email arrived with the subject line "Not a spam"! Ofcourse the email had some precious stuff and would have never been mistaken for a spam. The recipe was so simple but the taste of Kokum Rasam is something to be savored. Thanks Sia for the wonderful recipe and thanks again Linda for introducing this beautiful ingredient.


1. 8 Kokum pieces soaked in water
2. 1/4 inch piece of crushed ginger
3. 3 green chilies slit
4. 3 garlic pods chopped
5. 1 red chili split
6. 1 tsp pepper powder (I added cumin,pepper and coriander seeds powdered)
7. seasonings mustard, curry leaves
8. 1/2 tbsp chopped onions (optional, not in Sia's recipe, I added them by habit)

1. Heat the soaked Kokum Pieces, slit green chilies, crushed ginger in a pan with about 3 cups of water
2. Let it come to a boil (about 5-10 minutes)
3. Add the pepper powder (fish out the kokum pieces as per Sia's recipe I left them in)
4. Add salt and adjust for taste/
5. Meanwhile heat some oil, add mustard, curry leaves, red chilies and saute the onions and garlic
6. Add the seasonings to the rasam

The rasam was simply deliciious with rice and just by itself. I am not going to tamarind based rasams any time soon provided I can buy some kokum in my local grocery store.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mango Sour and a new series

A bunch of us at work were talking about how being Green also comes with some unexpected side effects. Corn based ethanol raising corn prices sometimes affecting people in other parts of the world, paper bags taking longer to disintegrate while plastic books can be squished and takes less space in the land fills. How did we get into this conversation? If I had been smarter I would have saved, if not a few trees atleast a few branches by pausing the printer while testing a printing program rather than printing and wasting a bunch of paper :( Small actions go a long way to rein in the damages of our unfettered consumption. I am going to share some simple ways that I know of, to go Green with this Green Earth series. Gentle readers you are welcome to participate and share your tips too.

    Green Earth

    Tip 1: Print on both sides of the paper. Use one sided flyers and brochures that land in your mail box for printing at home.

    Tip 2: Use reusable grocery bags as opposed to plastic or paper bags.

    The prices of these reusable grocery bags have come down to about a dollar, sometimes even less, all the more reason to buy and use them.

Mango Sour
On my usual morning stroll through the blogs last weekend came upon this mouth watering Souree Sour that Cynthia had posted on Tastes like Home that made me stop in my tracks. I had to abandon my stroll to rush off and pen a request for the recipe with mango which landed in my mail box the same day. Thanks Cynthia, though I am not familiar with and don't know where to find Souree I did have some green mango handy. Followed her recipe exactly but for the addition of sugar. Zlamushka says this will be a good contribution for Tried and Tasted (T&T), methinks too. So here goes. I have enjoyed Cynthia's delicious recipes, love reaing her weekly columns and am glad to participate. Thanks Zlamushka.


1. 1 Green Mango roughly peeled and chopped, save the seed with a bit of flesh on it
2. 3 Red chilies roughly broken up (I used kashmiri chilies)
3. 1 tsp of salt (or to taste)
4. 1 tsp of brown sugar
5. 1 cup of water

1. In a sauce pan combine the mangoes, chilies and enough water to cover the mangoes
2. Bring to a boil with the lid on and then in medium heat simmer till the magoes become soft and all water is gone.
3.Mash the mangoes with a spoon and add the salt and sugar.
4. simmer for a minute more.

We enjoyed them with chapathis.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Flavored Curd Rice with Raw Banana Fry

Ah Spring! it is finally here. The trees everywhere are in full bloom and the birds are singing. We even have gold finches visiting. Courtesy: Linda. We also have cardinals, robins, orioles, a woodpecker or two all making their appearance. They are a joy to watch.


Cooking enough rice to last for just one meal is a delicate dance I bet most everyone is familiar with. Putting leftover rice out for a meal is not going to make you popular person but make some flavored curd rice your popularity soars. Paired with lemon pickles or a spicy potato or banana fry the meal becomes a joyous one.

1. 1 1/2 Leftover rice warmed in the microwave with a sprinkle of water and clumps broken up
2. 1 Cup of Warm Milk
3. 1/2 Cup Curds
4. handful chopped coriander leaves
5. a few curry leaves
6. 2-3 green chilies chopped into round
7. 1/2 inch piece of ginger chopped fine
8. few pepper corns (optional)
9. 1 tsp urad dal
10. mustard seeds and cumin seeds
11. salt to taste

1. heat a pan with a few drops of oil,
2. brown the urad dal, add the mustar and cumin and when it pops
3. add the other leaves, chilies and the ginger mix it and switch off the heat
4. Pour the warm milk over the rice and mix with the curds
5. When the sauted ingr. cool add to the rice mixture with salt and set it aside for the curds to set (about 2-3 hours in a warm place)

Recipe Source: Taro Root Chips
Banana Fry
1. Steam cook the raw bananas in their skin (steamed for about 6-8 minutes)
2. Peel the skin and cut into slices
3. Mix with sambhar powder, salt and a bit of oil
4. Broil for about 6-8 minutes on each side till they turn golden brown.

Goes well with curd rice as a side.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cauliflower Bell Pepper Masala

Linda asked me recently, What is Chicken Masala powder exactly? I assumed this is as common as sambhar powder in most kitchens :)

Masala Powders takes many avatars Curry Masala Powder, Madras Curry Powder, Chicken Masala Powder, Meat Masala Powder etc. The powders are made from a combination of coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, red chilies, cloves, cinnamon,cardamom,garlic, ginger, curry leaves give or take a few. Nothing can replace toasting these ingredients fresh, powdering them and using them but in a pinch a packet of any of these powders will come quiet handy.

The Chicken Masala powder has nothing to do with chicken, it is a masala powder that can be used to season chicken hence the name :)

Was watching Bill Moyers, NOW last night on our local PBS station about Hunger in America and about the Farm bill and Farm Subsidies, the most recent farm bill expected to be passed this week in congress. Both important issues and know more about.


Recipe Source: Damodaran's Samayal Kalanjiyam Cookbook
1. 1 Small head of cauliflower cut to florets
2. 1 Bell Pepper seeded and cut into small cubes
3. 3/4 red onion chopped fine
4. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
5. 7-8 cloves of garlic chopped fine
6. 1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
7. 2 tsp chili powder
8. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
9. 1 tsp turmeric powder
10. salt to taste
11. oil

1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions and saute till they start to turn brown
2. Add the garlic,ginger and tomatoes and saute till they are soft and mushy
3. Now add the powders and mix well.
4. Add the cut bell pepper and cauliflower, sprinkle a tbsp of water, salt, cover and cook till the cauliflower reached the desired softness.

Substitute cauliflower and bell pepper with cooked potatoes and Peas.

Serve with Peas Pulao.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Simple Egg Masala

The Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey made a visit to the DC area over the spring break. The kids enjoyed the show a lot and DD was so happy she even made a poem.


Boiled eggs in a tomato and onion gravy is a simple and quick dish to make whenever in a need of a quick side dish with minimum amount of work. It pairs up well with pretty much anything - rice, chapatis or even dosai.

1. 4 Hard boiled Eggs
2. 1/2 Red Onion sliced lengthwise and then cut in half
3. 1 tomato chopped fine
4. 1 tbsp tomato paste
5. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger + 1/2 tbsp of grated or finely chopped garlic
6. 1 tsp cumin powder
7. 1 tsp chicken masala or any masala powder
8. 2 tsp chili powder
9. salt to taste
10. coriander leaves for garnish


1. In a wide mouthed pan, heat oil and add the onions and saute till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a coupe of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook till tomatoes are soft.
3. Now add the powders , mix and saute for a minute
4. Add the ginger and saute for a minute more
5. Now add the tomato paste with 2-3 tbsp of water and let it cook till the raw smell disappears.
6. Check for salt. Switch off the heat
7. Cut the eggs in half and place on the tomato gravy
8. Spoon gravy on top.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Burrito Bowl (Fish)

I sure do understand that April showers bring May flowers and benefits of early Spring rain for the vegetation but 2-3 days of gloomy overcast sky is not my cup of tea. But can't complain too much, gloomy weather does jack up the drive to eat spicy and tasty food and spend a bit more time in the kitchen. Burrito bowls are fun to put together with either fish, chicken or roasted vegetables.

The recipe is the same as Spicy Fish Burrito. Rice instead of corn and some fresh made salsa is the only difference.

Fish Burrito in a bowl

Burrito Bowl Assembly
1. Fried Tilapia fillets
2. Roasted strips of bell pepper and onion
3. Cooked Rice
4. Cooked Black beans seasoned with garlic, a bit of chili powder and salt
5. Salsa (finely cut onions, tomatoes, coriander leaves with a squeeze of lime)
6. Sour Cream
7. Garlic chili sauce , if heat not enough ;)

In the bowl place a bit of rice, black beans, roasted vegetables, salsa and the fish pieces on top with a dollop of sour cream. Drizzle the hot sauce.

Will the Olympics this year remind us of the heights of human achievement or something else altogether? The Silence - a reminder that economics overrides everything else. SAD.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Arusuvai Update

Arusuvai from Linda
The rice was some lovely rosematta rice (should have known it can't be any old brown rice) and the podi - kandhi podi ( Pedatha's recipe for kandhi podi) extremely tasty with dosai.
Linda revealed the mystery ingredient, I am going to keep it a secret for a day more. May be this picture would help?


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ragi Dosai, Banana Pancake and Arusuvai

Arusuvai from Linda
Linda's Arusuvai package arrived in the mail just a couple of hours ago. The Arusuvai Friendship chain was introduced in the US by Latha of Masala Magic . You know what members of the family are starting to get a little 'J' seeing all these packages arrive for mom at regular intervals from her friends! Linda those Maple Candies did the trick made them very happy and ofcourse they are very tasty. Bhararthy of Spicy Chilly writes about how it all started in the first place. Guessed the first mystery ingredient as mustard seeds, the second one looks like dried citrus. These goodies came with some shiny looking brown rice and some chutney powder - atleast that is what I think. Can you guess the second mystery ingredient for me?

What is the mystery ingredient?

Ragi Dosai
Ragi Dosai is a bit hard to make because it gets tough or soggy. My aunt taught me a little trick, mix a bit of wheat flour with ragi flour for softer and crispier ragi dosais. Proportions are as follows
1. 1/4 Cup old idli batter
2. 1/2 Cup Ragi flour
3. 1/4 Wheat flour
4. Salt to taste

Mix the above without any lumps and make dosais.
Let me know if this works for you.

Have been wanting to make my own pancake mix at home. Wanted to try it first over the weekend than put it to use on a busy week day morning. Though the taste was good I would stick to store bought pancake mixes till I can achieve the fluffy soft texture.

Banana Pancake with Feel good Berry syrup (rasberry and strawberry)

Banana Pancakes
1. 1/2 Cup wheat flour
2. 1/2 Cup Oat Flour (1/2 cup of powdered baby oats)
3. 1/4 Cup unbleached All Purpose Flour
5. 2 Eggs
6. 2 Bananas Mashed
7. 1 tsp of baking powder
8. 1/4 cup milk

Mix the above ingredients without any lumps.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Feel good Strawberry Syrup

Its still early in the morning, the sun's rays are playing hide and seek in the kitchen windows watching a high energy bustle of activity. Sambhar is bubbling on the stove and the aroma wafts through the house, the pressure cooker is hissing away and the blender adding its own music to the mix. The kid walks over sits at the dining table with a book in hand distracted, a steaming plate of idlies and sambhar is placed in front, contents gobbled up distractedly runs of to catch the bus to school with the still warm lunch bag hung on the shoulder.

The scenes are right out of my kitchen well at least in my dreams anyway :) This is a true story albeit in a different time and place, 25 years ago.

Moving to the present and switching places to my own kitchen breakfast like that everyday can only exist in my dreams. Even if I do try to get it work it might not be appreciated. Don't get me wrong idlis/dosais with sambhar and chutney is a highly sought after menu item for breakfast during the weekend or for dinner.

Even the other adult in the house prefers cereal, oatmeal, pancakes or bread for breakfast. The kids would love to eat cereal every single morning. Like all so called good things it just is not healthy or advisable health wise or nutrition wise. Most cereals especially the ones kids love are so loaded with sugar that after the short sugar high there is nothing in it to last them through the day. Cereal is restricted to about once or twice a week always mixed in with granola, bran and oat based cereals.

Pancake is another alternative made from store bought mixes or homemade. It not only gets boring to eat pancakes with syrup or cream cheese every single day and the nutrition counting side of my brain panics and there is no excitement at all to this routine.

I had to use up some frozen blueberries in the freezer when this idea first took root and now it is a become routine. That is where the feel good and the strawberries come in. It takes less than 10 minutes but it brings cheer all around. I feel good for having prepared a fresh syrup, the kids feel good eating it.

pancakes with feel good strawberry syrup

Strawberry Syrup
1. 6 strawberries ends sliced off and cut into pieces
2. 1 1/2 tsp raw sugar (or to taste, if strawberries are sweet reduce sugar further)

1. Set a pan on the stove add the berries and sugar, let cook for about 5-8 minutes
2. Whisk or mash with a back of the spoon

Pour over the pancakes. This syrup is done even if heating you are just heating frozen pancakes or waffles. We have plans to make a mixed fruit during the next week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hotel Style Sambhar

Sambhar is the name collectively give to a whole host of dishes cooked with dal, vegetables and a combination of spices. There is a different recipe utilized to make sambhar for every occasion and every meal. The sambhar cooked during breakfast is different from the one cooked for lunch and might vary from the one cooked for dinner. When large quantites of sambhar is cooked for special occasions a ground masala paste is added to give it an extra special taste and aroma. This sambhar is also referred to as Hotel Sambhar.

Attended potluck party over the weekend and mine was sambhar to make for about 30-40 people. Cooking for that many people is not usually easy because even tried and trusted recipes sometime don't cooperate in such large quantities. But adding a bit of spice paste always helps and the smell is amazing, got good reviews for the sambhar all round. I saved a bit to have with some dosai the next day.

Ragi Wheat Dosai with Sambhar

1. 1/2 Cup Toor Dal cooked in a pressure cooker with enough water(2 1/2 cups), some turmeric and few drops of oil till soft and mushy.
2. brinjal and drumsticks about 1/4 cup
3. 1/4 Red onion chopped or about 8-10 pearl onions
4. 2 tsp sambhar powder
5. 1/4 cup tamarind pulp from a cherry tomato sized ball of tamarind
6. salt to taste
7. 1/2 tsp ghee + 1/2 tsp oil
8. seasonings: mustard, curry leaves and methi seeds
9. Coriander leaves chopped
10. 1-2 cups of water

For the Paste
1. 2 tsp chana dal
2. 1 tsp coriander seeds
3. 1 red chili (or per taste)
4. few pepper corns
5. a pinch of methi seeds
6. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
7. 1/2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
Dry roast 1-6 set aside, now add the coconut and saute till slightly brown.
Cool and make a paste

1. In a pan heat ghee and oil and add the seasonings, when mustard starts to pop add the onions and saute till translucent.
2. Now add the vegetables and saute for a few minutes.
3. Add the sambhar powder and mix well.
4. Add the tamarind pulp and the ground paste and a little bit of water and let the vegetables cook till soft
5. Now add the cooked toor dal,salt and more water if too thick.
6. Let it come to a boil, add the coriander leaves and switch off the heat.

Flavorful aromatic sambhar is now ready to be enjoyed with idlis or dosais.