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Showing posts from 2011

Diwali Sweets

This diwali I have made a few resolutions;

No New clothes for me - closets overflowing
Few crackers - last year we said no more, but gau was disappointed so limited enjoyment better than starving
Regular traditional sweets as opposed to something fancy off the web;  My sweets last year were easily perishable.
Definitely bajji, ukkarai on diwali day.

I have not made my mom style sweets in a long while, the kind to fill cookie jars for 2 - 3 weeks.  So here goes my first attempt:

7-cup sweet
Payathamaavu/Ulundamaavu urundai
Panjiri (My sister special)

Savouries?  Not sure.  maybe ribbon pakoda.





A tale of two biscottis

What do you give to someone who has everything?  Perhaps your time, attention and effort?  Biscottis fit the bill exactly.  Now, I used to be the biscotti making queen in my MS days in UT Austin;  I had modified a recipe found in a cook book (this was way before food blogs became so prolific online), adding lemon and orange zests, fine semolina etc... But unfortunately, I have not written down the recipe anywhere so I have to start from scratch.  I went to joy of baking website and took their best biscotti recipe and ran into trouble immediately.  The batter wouldn't come together when I did everything described.  I had to rework the recipe to finally get something in the oven.  here is my modified recipe.

1 cup (145 grams) mixed nuts, I used almonds, cashews and walnuts1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder1/8 teaspoon salt2 cups (260 grams) organic chapathi flour3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar4 brown eggs (recipe called for 3)1/2 cup milk (recipe didnt call for …

Navarathri challenge

Navarathri started yesterday.  In culinary terms, it means 9 sundals (beans/channa/moong salad basically) for the 9 days of navarathri, Sweets on the first day, friday, saraswathi puja day and Vijayadasami day.  Onions, Garlic are not allowed on festive days; Traditional sundals are all about a tadka of mustard, jeera,  hing and freshly grated coconut on cooked, salted beans/chana/moong/lentil.  My challenge is to come up with variations on the traditional sundal while maintaining the satvic nature of the food.
First Day :  Sweet Stewed karamani sprouts inspired by Just Bento.
1 cup karamani (cranberry bean variety, not the back eyed pea variety)
1/4 cup jaggery/brown sugar
1/4 tspoon dried ginger (or to taste)
1/2 medium coconut grated
1/4 tspoon salt

I soaked the karamani overnight,  then let it sprout in a collander all day.
Pressure cooked with just enough water to cover the karamani - otherwise it gets mushy
Add the jaggery, dry ginger salt and coconut to the cooked karamani (d…

First bento inspired week

My sis had twins!  Delivered at 32 weeks, each baby barely 1.4 kgs now and no bigger than the baby monkey's i see around IIT but mom and babies are doing well and together since yesterday!  I am sooooooo thrilled to finally have a baby girl in the family!

Between her and work I have no time to write out or take pics of my bento inspired menu for the week:

Breakfast Idli Sambhar Dosa, Peanut chutney Dosa, Tomato Gojju Vegetable Utappam, Peanut Garlic Powder Idli Sambhar Lunch Box Roti, Aloo subji Utappam, Aloo tikki, Sweet Karamani Sundal Fried rice,  with Knol Khol, Beetroot, Methi Leaves, Carrot and Paneer
Multigrain Waffle sandwich with Lentil Patty Red rice, Karamani Kootu, Beans Bananas Apple, Nuts Cookies and Dark Chocolate Mixed Nuts Moong Sundal Snack Egg Sandwich Bhel Puri Chana Sundal Moong Sundal Makhana Kheer Dinner Dosa Tomato Chutney Dosa Peanut CHutney

The Menu Planner Tool

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I found it!  A tool to plan my menu every week!  From the justbento page!

Each page is split into breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and notes for pre-prep.  I abhor the idea of printing a page and pasting on the fridge, so I am either going to spend on a whiteboard or simply work with soft copies.

I know I don't quite pack my lunch into a bento box, but I think traditional Indian dabbas or their plastic tupperware equivalent my son loves work just as well.  I do plan out a protein, carbohydrate and vegetabes and/or fruits for each lunch box.  The traditional college tiffen box of pulisaatham or lemon rice does not pass muster in my house.  The biggest hurdle for me is the time - my son gets a meagre 25 min for lunch and he plays half that time.


The Bookworm Family

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I jumped onto the google+ bandwagon as soon as I got my first invite. Despite a niggling fear in the far recesses of my mind, I feel safer in google+ than I ever have in facebook. I added books and food to their Sparks feature and the first time I clicked on Books Spark, I hit a very interesting blog post, cataloging the blogger's 5 best books in the detective fiction genre. One of her favourites, The Eagle has landed is one of my 3 favourite mystery-spy-thriller set in the world war II time period (The other two,Eye of the Needle and JackDaws are both by Ken Follet) The reason for my excitement? Well, I have read none of her other favourites so I am looking forwards to some awesome reads thanks to her! I am sure the single book match is not a statistical outlier because she lists Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and the hound of baskerville amongst her favourites, we Are on similar wavelength then.

The last two books I read in the Mystery genre The Snowman and The Hypnotist,…

Inverse Problem Solved with Potatoes

My 9 year old is very very skinny, blown away by monsoon winds skinny, model for a middle school human skeletal system skinny, drought hit refugee skinny. In the indian growth charts he is <10 percentile, off the charts in the american growth charts. He is also a very fussy eater and a slooooooooooooow eater, he chews each mouthful atleast 90 times. I cook for his palette. always. very very rarely my hubby or my toddler enter my culinary horizon.
My goal is both to keep him healthy and put some flesh on his bones. If I get him to enjoy his meals along the way that would be an excellent bonus. My methods to achieve my goals range from following everything in the latest NYTimes health bulletins to old fashioned methods suggested by my husband, friends etc... Currently I am on a give him an egg and potatoes everyday phase as suggested by hubby. Today I made potato wedges with guacamole; Cut 6 fingerling potatoes into wedges tossed with cold-pressed peanut oil and snuck it i…

Oatmeal Muffin

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Reducing carbon foot print means buy local as has been reported ad nauseum (though not necessarily, and not always) but what about the actual preparation, storing, washing, wasting etc...?   Where are the guidelines for greening our cooking?  I have decided to draw them up along the way.  Home cooked probably better than store bought.  Electricity is poorly produced (low efficiency in power plants) and poorly transmitted here in this country, but no, I cannot put a figure on the efficiency here as opposed to say Switzerland or Germany.  But the perception of government organization lends credibility to my view.  Better to cook on my LPG gas stove than to bake in my Glen Oven.  Except when?  I don't have the time or inclination to start quantifying this just yet, but one exception would be when I can make enough for 2 days of breakfasts and make something yummy without driving to the bakery and buying it shrink wrapped in a air conditioned room.  I promise my 9 year old a Western b…

Heart Healthy Oats?!

I know oats/ragi porridge or the Kellogs Speical K Cereal are decent breakfast choices and even pretend to enjoy them..  But I really really love basic South Indian breakfasts, Idli Vadai Sambhar, masal dosa, utappam, poori all made in the traditional way.  Ragi dosa is nice,  nothing wrong with it, but Regular white rice dosa is comforting and awesome all at once.  I do want to try to wow everyone at home with excellent breakfast choices made with one of the healthier grains/proteins.  Now pay attention to the caveat.

There is a huge disconnect between a grain/protein being declared heart healthy or diabetes friendly or gluten-free and how it actually ends up being cooked and consumed in the kitchen.   Someone needs to put a disclaimer in headline font : 

Healthy ONLY WHEN COOKED AND CONSUMED WITHOUT BUTTER/SUGAR/SOME OFF THE SHELF JUNK

or even better:

healthy ONLY WHEN NOT CONSUMED, JUST VIEWED AND SALIVATED then even ice cream would be heart healthy :)

Coming back to the cooking, my …

Cavatappi with Spinach Coriander pesto

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We love watching MasterChef Australia and I love any cook show, seeking inspiration, new techniques and anything to feed my procrastination habit.

I don't understand my son's fascination with it though.  Unless, he is so starved for TV time he will watch anything?

MA has some things going for it; unlike American shows, the judges are not hypercritical and cold, George is a sweetheart!  He always tries to find a silver lining and comes up with ultra sappy rhymes.  Matt's foppish outfits are always amusing.  The contestants are generally supportive of each other, not nasty (again as opposed to most American cook shows).  I wish the contestants were a bit more stoic though,  they are definitely not Spartan.They frequently have a tip or technique I want to use NOW.  Season 3 seemed to feature a lot of pesto.

I have always bought pesto off the shelf, never really made it from scratch.  I looked up basic pesto and I found it is just a chutney of raw basil, pine nuts and some oli…

The Menu Planner Challenge

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My days are crazy busy. nanny quit so my 19 month old is completely managed between my hubby and me, and work, especially research, has taken a back seat. Even so, I need a lot of planning to get up at 5 and still be out of the house with lunch and breakfast all cooked and stacked at 7.05 am. Since planning is definitely not my forte, I find myself downsizing the variety of grains and vegetables I cook to a bare minimal, easy to mange items. But, I have finally conquered food waste! Most days everything i cook is consumed within the same day.
I have decided to start planning the week's Menu (atleast work week).  A good starting point would be consolidating current lunch box options, my starting point for the day's menu
Other than the usual suspects - prep time, cooking time, balance, whether suitable for lunch box, i also need to look at how fast by son can eat the food.  His lunch hour is 25 minutes and he chews every morsel 60 times.  He rarely comes home with a empty lu…

Schools Up!

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School has reopened for my son, so no more IPL until midnight and waking up at 10.30 AM :) The poor darling has classes from 7:25 in the morning and he has to leave by 7.05 even if we drop him off. This means I am at work by 7:45 and my PhD will finally get somewhere.
He wanted a veggie burger for his first back to school lunch box.

For the Patty:

3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cooked
1/2 litre 3% milk made into paneer (I added yogurt to just boiled milk to make it)
1 small capsicum finely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 cup soaked overnight and cooked karamani
1 tbspoon chopped coriander


Mash all above ingredients together and make into a dough
Divide into 5 parts
Shape each into a patty 0.5 cm thick
cook on a well buttered pan on medium heat until browned on each side.


I know this looks overdone, but trust me it was awesome according to hubby and too healthy according to baby

Oh, The French Loaf makes lovely burger buns, not the dry kind I used to buy at Walmart in the…

Summer Holidays and Resolutions

I must first make a very important point:  My older son has summer vacations, my younger son is always on vacation and I never have any vacations.  I am always behind in everything - you name it - cooking, cleaning, rearranging, writing papers, coding, sleeping, crochet project(s), teaching, trying new recipes, writing up new recipes etc... etc...
The Summer projects/resolutions are solely intended for my older son. This vacation we will finally create a game in Scratch, application with pico-cricket and build a robot of sorts with Mindstorms.
This summer Gau will tackle learning Swimming from a teacher he doesnt particularly like at Anna University. He finds it hard to understand that the teacher is just going to remove his floaters one fine day and expect him to swim on his own! He says even to ride a bike his dad or I initially held the bike after the training wheels were taken off :) I cant get it through his skull that 3 foot water is not something you drown in with teachers a…

Moving in finally!

Our own apartment is all dressed up and ready to receive us on the 3rd of April! I simply can't wait!
Meanwhile I have to get started packing our things, planning our new kitchen layout (just what goes where nothing else :) and keep calm while everyone tells me to keep this kitchen atleast clean.
The kids get their own room, while we will continue to co-sleep atleast battles over where Gau does his school work will be a thing of the past! Also all his junk will be in one place. Ash loves the orange picked out for one of the walls, he said "yellow" ran to the wall and hugged it ;) He called the green wall in the guest room "yellow" too but without the same joy in his voice and no hug. I love the soothing lavender of my room.
I am adapting a soup from the Dairy Hollow Soups and Bread cookbook. It is a blushing cauliflower soup made with red bell pepper cauliflower milk and cream. My version:
1 onion diced2 carrots diced3 shoots and baby leaves of beet roo…

finally the Kitchen Sink!

We have bought a 14 year old apartment! The kitchen is being torn down and rebuilt. One of the many wonderful things in the new kitchen is something I always took for granted in the tiny kitchens I used in my American Apartment - a Garbage disposal attached to the sink; Basically it blends the kitchen wastes like the uneaten chillies and karivepillai leaves into tiny particles and sends it down the drain. This might help keep cockroaches out of the sink (i.e. in the sink :) This unit is actually locally manufactured here in Chennai, the factory is somewhere in Ambattur. So NOT made in China!

The next new thing is finally a Built in Oven! A nice decent sized one, one which should inspire me to bake breads and desserts.

Between refurbishing the apartment and my increasingly enchanting, voluble, bratty baby (toddler actually), my PhD is proceeding very slowly. I have sworn to pickup speed rapidly from April 1st. Viva Optimism!