Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vadai from Paruppu Vadai Mix (Instant Lentil Fritters Mix)

Couple of weeks ago it was every third person, last week it was every other person now it is everybody is talking about the debt ceiling. The joke I liked best (sorry I forget his name) the higher we raise the ceiling the harder it will be to paint. Exactly right?

Jump to the Recipe >>>

I want to throw a fit every time a politician calls himself/herself a patriot or somebody else introduces a politician as a patriot. Oh come on don't you? I do not for a minute believe the folks sitting in the Congress, Senate or White House are doing what they are doing the last couple of weeks out of a sense of patriotism.

Dal Mix

I do not want the debt ceiling raised and I want the taxes for the very rich raised. Both are unlikely to happen. Americans have confused being selfish with individualism and have reached this sorry state of affairs. Nobody will compromise because each one has an idea which is THE best.

Should we as a nation stop being me me and flip it to we we for a few years and see how that pans out?

I do not have any more energy so I will stop with that debt talk and move on to a recipe that is courtesy of my MIL.

Wet dal mix mixed with onions, chilies ...

When my mom came over MIL had sent with her a packet of ready to make Paruppu Vadai mix. Add water, mix in onion, ginger, curry leaves and voila the batter for the vadai is ready. It is very easy to make the mix, store and use as required.

Paruppu Vadai Mix
1. Split Yellow/Green peas - 1 lb
2. 15 dried red chilies
3. a small piece of asfoetida
4. 3-4 cloves
5. 1 inch piece of cinnamon
6. salt

For the Mix
1. Wash the peas and let it dry in the sun (let it sit out in direct sun for a couple of days, bring it in at night )
2. Roughly blend the peas with the other spices. The resulting powder should be a little coarser than grits. It will be impossible to make vadais with a very smooth powder

Making Vadais
1. 2 Cups of mix, 1/2 cup onions, 4-5 green chilies chopped, handful of curry leaves chopped, coriander leaves chopped, 1/2 tbsp grated ginger, a few fennel seeds
2. Add about 1/4 - /12 cup of water and let it sit for 15-20 minutes
3. Take a small lime sized ball of dough and press it flat in the palm of your hand
4. Deep fry in hot oil till golden brown. Crunchy on the inside and soft on the inside.

1. If the wet mixture does not sit for the required amount of time the vadais will become too dry
2. Control the number of chilies if the mixture has enough heat from the red chilies

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mojito-Raspberry Paletas - a sweet cool treat from DDs

Didn't get to have a vacation this summer yet or have none planned? You should not feel sorry about that. Really! Research shows that vacations is not all what it is made out to be.

Jump to the Recipe >>>

It doesn't keep people satisfied for that long and the feeling of well being wears of pretty quickly leaving people feeling no better than those who didn't get to take a vacation. Seriously there are researchers doing this kind of research. Full article here.

The first couple of days on a vacation are supposed to be the worst when a lot of vacationers actually feel bad. The planning phase is supposedly the happiest followed by the let down of the first few days of vacation.

The same research says active vacations are the best because exercise not only makes us healthy but happy. That I know for a fact.

Is vacation over rated then? The planning and traveling sure stresses me out. The anticipation of the vacation is more exciting than the vacation itself. A staycation where you just hang out in the backyard eating tasty favorite foods might be worth more in terms of happiness perhaps? Like this recipe today?

DDs have this habit of collecting recipes on index cards that are in grocery stores these days. What used to be a blind competition to collect the most has now become a bit more discretionary. They are collecting recipes that could be tried at home. This Mojito-Raspberry Paletas was on one such recipe card. What are popularly known as Popsicles in English?

I was given a grocery list and the kids did pretty good. I enjoyed every drop of my Popsicle.

Recipe Source: Recipe cards from Try-Foods International
Mojito-Raspberry Paletas
Makes 4 popsicles
1. 2/3 cups of sparkling water
2. 1/4 cup sugar
3. 1/4 cup lime juice
4. 1 bag frozen raspberries

5. 3-4 leaves of mint
1. Pulse the mint in a food processor with sugar and scrape into the bowl with lime juice and sparkling water
2.Fill up to quarter of the Popsicle mold with this mixture and freeze for about an hour
3. Now add the raspberries to the mold leaving about a 1/4 inch space on top
4. Pour in the remaining lime juice into all of the molds and freeze till it is completely set

On a hot afternoon this cool and tasty Popsicle is just the perfect treat.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Palkova - Thickened Sweetened Milk Sweet (Fudge)

I bet a lot of you are thinking I am crazy to suggest making palkova in this heat. We are in the midst of a serious heat wave. The few bonus(that's what the weatherman in one of the channels here suggested) cool days last week provided a perfect opportunity to use up a gallon of full fat milk that found its way into the fridge. How? That's a story that repeats itself in every household I bet.

Yes, we could make yogurt but I prefer 1% or 2% milk for yogurt, full milk yogurt is too thick and creamy for my liking. yeah right? To tell you the truth, I had palkova on my mind and the minute I told the kids they could not resist. By the end of the process they had had enough of the stirring. A gallon of milk will yield about 3 cups of palkova after 3-4 hours of constant stirring.

A childhood favorite of mine, it is one of the steps in making gulab jamuns (recipe here). My ammayee never made palkova. Gulab jamun on the other hand was a constant throughout our childhood.

If you get raw milk that would be perfect, pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized takes longer to thicken.

My grandma usually added a couple of marbles to the pan to avoid sticking. I add a steel spoon. It seems to help though that does not completely eliminate the need to stir. I do it because grandma always did it.

1. 1 gallon whole milk
2. 1 1/2 cups of sugar (I added turbinado sugar which makes the sweet slightly darker shade)
3. 2-3 tsp of ghee

1. In a wide mouthed thick bottomed pan add the milk and let it continue to boil in heat a little lower than medium
2. Keep stirring constantly as the milk thickens
3. After about 2 1/2 hours when the milk is thick that it coats the spoon without dropping down easily add sugar and continue to stir till the milk reaches a soft ball stage
4. Spread ghee on a plate and pour out the thickened milk. Let cool and make it into preferred shapes (We leave it as is and spoon it into cups to enjoy)
5. Garnish with nuts of choice

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kothamalli pudhina thuvaiyal - Coriander mint chutney (thick)

I am not really sure if chutney and thuvaiyal are synonymous. In my kitchen (where what I say usually goes) thuvaiyal refers to a chutney that is thick and usually eaten with rice. Chutney on the other hand is slightly loose and eaten with rice/idli/dosai/chapatis. If you want to be creative chutney is the way to go. In a chutney you can pretty much add any vegetable, fruit, lentil or green and it would still be a chutney.

With thuvaiyal you got to stick with dals and coconut and that is pretty much it along with the vegetable or green that is going to be the star.

Fresh mint and coriander thuvaiyal with rice and vadagam is one of those combinations that you can never tire of.

Kothamalli thuvaiyal
1. 3/4 tbsp chana dal
2. 1 tbsp split urad dal
3. 2 tbsp toor dal
4. 1 garlic clove
5. a two inch piece of tamarind
6. 4 red chilies
7. 1 cup of coriander leaves
8. 1/2 cup of mint leaves
9. 1 tbsp grated coconut
10. salt to taste
11. 1 tsp of oil

1. In a flat pan heat oil and add all the dals. Saute them till they turn a nice and gentle brown.
2. Add the tamarind, garlic and red chilies and let them saute for minute or two
3. Add the coriander leaves, mint leaves and let them wilt
4. Add the coconut and salt and saute for a minute more

Cool and blend to a slightly coarse (or smooth) texture adding just a tbsp or less of water. The chutney should be thick and not watery.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yakhni (like) Pulao w ith Green Peas and Chick Peas

To get to a vacation destination these days by plane is not only long but hunger filled and just plain annoying. Even with a bit of planning ours still turned out to be a hungry long one. The only bright spot for me was the sky magazine which had a few very interesting articles. One of those was "Power of Play" an article based on research and a book by Dr.Stuart Brown.

As we grow older we tend to play less. Several things compete for our limited free time and play falls by the wayside. Playing at a young age teaches empathy, adjustment, reaction, avoidance and so many other life skills. We have all read and heard about unstructured play time teaching kids skills that a structured organized play or even education cannot. In other words play makes kids smarter in the real world.

Apparently the same applies for adults as they grow older play keeps them smarter. Companies these days are hiring play consultants to keep their employees smart and engaged with play. Once I read the article and listened to the TED talk here by Dr.Brown it all made sense.

We all know play makes us happy, creative and fulfilled but how many adults take the time to play? It is always amazing to watch adults who just immerse themselves in play with children and become children themselves. Some of us gaze longingly but don't make any move to join the fun. There are others who call that adult having fun crazy. But who is really the crazy. Go Figure right?

But sadly this rethinking play is not only for adults but our overworked over scheduled kids as well. Remember play which involved mixing mud with water and making mud pies. Those apparently are the best kind.

Now on to a serious question. Do you play or more importantly do you encourage your kids to play mud pie kind I mean?

Anyway for play we need time, and to grab some of the the elusive free time and play we need a recipe like the one I have today. A one pot protein filled meal that is quick and easy and gets done in a jiffy.

I first tasted yakhni chicken pulao at my Iranian neighbor's house. The catering company was called Johnny kabob, a Mexican owner for a kabob house specializing in Persian food. I thought that was interesting. I wanted to make this pulao with chicken but on a weekday with a bunch of soaked peas only the vegetarian version had to do. I saw several recipes but this one
Authentic Yakhni Pulao - My Childhood On a Plate was the one that seemed to call to me.

I also did a bit more googling to find out what exactly yakhni meant. It refers to the stock in which the meat are cooked and the broth is used to spice the rice. Since there was no meat involved in the recipe I just added the spiced directly to the sauteing onions.

I have found that using sliced garlic made the cooking faster when compared to garlic paste. In this all the heat comes from the green chilies and the peppercorns. The Kashmiri Red Chili powder is just for the color. I cooked the chickpeas and green peas separately as they require different cooking times. Do what works for you.

Yakhni Pulao
1. 1/2 cup of dried chick peas soaked overnight
2. 1/2 cup of dried green peas soaked overnight
3. 1 1/2 cups of Basmati or any long grained rice
4. 1 cup of thinly sliced onions
5. 2 tbsp of sliced onions
6. 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
7. 8 green chilies slit
8. 1/2 cups of thick yogurt
9. 1/2 tbsp ghee
10. 2 tsp oil
11. 2 tsp of kashmiri chili powder (for the color) or use saffron
12. salt to taste
13. seasonings: fennel seeds 1 tsp

Spice Powder
1. 1/2 inch cinnamon piece
2. 5 cloves
3. 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
4. 1 tsp cumin
5. 1/2 tbsp peppercorns
Blend the above to a fine powder

1. Cook the chickpeas and green peas separately as the cooking time vary. Make sure they are not cooked to be too soft as they will cook along with the rice. 3/4th cooking is good. Meanwhile wash and soak the rice for
2. In a pressure heat 1/2 of the ghee and 2 tsp of oil and when hot add the fennel seeds followed by the onions, green chilies and let it cook till the onions are is translucent
3. Add the garlic and and ginger till they are soft (about 3 minutes)
4. Add the powdered spices and give a good mix
5. Add the rice and saute it in the spice for about 6-8 minutes. Keep stirring often to prevent the rice from sticking
6. Add the cooked and drained peas and mix it into the rice gently
7. Add the required amount of water and let it slowly come to a boil
8. Meantime mix in the Kashmiri Chili Powder to the yogurt and whisk till it smooth
and add it to the rice mixture
10. Add salt and the remaining ghee
11. Cook the rice completely on the stove top if you are not using a pressure cooker
else, let it boil till it is 3/4th cooked, put the lid and weight on and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off the heat. When the steam has cooled open and fluff the rice

Serve with sliced cucumbers and yogurt.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quinoa Pudding with dried fruits and nuts

I have become an unofficial home made yogurt promoter. Someone need only ask about home made yogurt, I waste no time in giving them a bit of starter and instructions on how to make yogurt. There is a saying in Tamil loosely translated to "the pleasure you get should be spread to the world".

My Swedish neighbor's daughter likes to eat her cereal with yogurt. My Iranian neighbor make yogurt and eats it with finely sliced cucumber. My Polish colleague at works says he makes yogurt with 2 gallons of milk every week. He stays by himself with his family back in Canada. He also smuggled some of the starter yogurt (nothing fancy just a tablespoon of yogurt to be saved from your batch every time) across the border (shhhh! secret). All of them were beneficiaries of starter yogurt from me which itself was from my Andhra neighbor perhaps smuggled all the way from home.

Most Indians grow up eating yogurt from the time they are a few months old (unlike here in the US where you have to hold off feeding the baby milk products till they are a year old). I just turned the other way when I saw my mom or MIL feed both the kids yogurt contrary to the doctor's advice(before their first birthday).

A South Indian meal and for that matter a North Indian meal is not complete without some yogurt. In the South we eat yogurt mixed in with rice as a final course while in the North yogurt takes the form of a raita eaten throughout the meal. Delicious in their own unique ways.

It has been more than 10 years since I stopped buying yogurt. Only under extreme circumstances do I buy yogurt. The best brand is Stonyfield Farm Full Fat Plain yogurt. My only advice is if you have no choice and have to buy yogurt go for the full fat one, the fat free and low fat versions have a lot of sugar. Research shows that the sugar is the worst culprit compared to the fat at least in the yogurt.

I knew that yogurt was good but only after seeing this article did I realize that yogurt actually helps avoid adding on pounds. Read the full article and see the graphic about pounds gained and avoided. You guessed it potatoes get a bad rap again, boiled being not much better than fried. I like my potatoes and I am not going to give up on it that easily.

As for the recipe today, quinoa pudding is made with milk and not yogurt. You are forgiven if you did think that I made it with yogurt with all this talk about yogurt. The inspiration or the creative juices started flowing(oh! don't take that too literally. You all know I am not one of those creative types, anyway) when I first saw Sra's Amaranth Yogurt rice I was thinking quinoa payasam and I could not resist any longer after I had a glimpse of this tasty looking and delicious Lapsi on Priya's Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes(the site has quite a few dishes I want to try. I am going to be busy.)

completely cooked quinoa

I got on to the quinoa bandwagon late. My first attempt at making a soup did not sit well but then the pulao style recipes have made me a fan.
If you like milk pudding(payasam) this is a must try.

I make payasam with sago or tapioca pearls but it tends to thicken the milk with all the starch. The advantage with quinoa is, it retains its shape and does not impart any starch to the milk it is cooking in. I am going to be leaving behind the tapioca pearls for good.

Quinoa Pudding with dried fruits and nuts
1. 1/2 cup quinoa
2. 2 cups 2% milk
3. 1/2 tbsp ghee
4. 1-2 tbsp slivered almonds (cashews, pistachios can be used) + 1 tbsp of raisins
5. 2/3 cups of sugar
6. 1 tsp of powdered cardamom
1. Soak the quinoa for about 20 minutes and wash it with 2-3 changes of water and drain completely
2. In a wide mouthed pan add the drained quinoa and saute till the moisture is gone
3. Now add the ghee and saute for another 8-10 minutes till it gets a slightly brown color and let it cool a bit
4. While the qunioa is roasting, in a sauce pan heat the milk and let it come to a boil
5. Add the roasted qunioa to the milk and let it cook for 20-25 minutes till the qunioa is translucent and cooked. Add the cardamom powder after the first 20 minutes
6. Roast the nuts and raisins with some ghee and garnish just before serving
Serve warm or chilled.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A summer trip...

Vacations have to be planned. It is a thought after every trip but nothing comes out of it. This trip was no different but nothing went bad really just that we had more than a fair share of unexpected hiking thrown in.

It is one of those places that is beautiful and stunning any which way you look including the small towns around the park that host most of the tourists. But unlike some of the National Parks we have visited which can be viewed mostly by driving and hiking is an optional activity, here it is a must if you want take in those stunning vistas.

What would have been a 38 mile car drive to reach from one end of the park to another became a 300 mile round trip as part of the mountain road was till covered by snow. The road we were told is cleared usually by the end of July.

Mountains, waterfalls, lakes, rivers

For those who do not want to hike there is the red bus,

Then there are the elusive crowd pleasers,

Then there are those beautiful wild flowers.

Where do you find these and much more?