Monday, February 28, 2011

Green Beans with Moong

Dear foodies,
Green beans are another of my favorites vegetables - quick cooking, delicious and very versatile. I use them when making pulaos, fried rice, pau bhaji, vegetable kurma and many other mixed vegetable recipes. I might have mentioned this before, but I cook by color to ensure that we have enough vegetables in our meal. I try to make sure that there are atleast 2-3 colors on the plate and green beans, of course, are the green component. I usually have them on hand, and a handful is just enough.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eggless Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Dear Foodies,

During my Masters, we had a Subway sandwich place inside our campus and it was just outside the building that housed my lab. Needless to say a veggie sandwich was my lunch far more times than I can count. I hardly go there now, but every few months I start craving that sandwich. My sub would have most of the veggies and the dressing combo was always sweet onion & chipotle always. After a few months I did not have to repeat my selection at all, the moment I was spotted walking into the place, they would have my sandwich started. I had a well ordered 'usual' on the menu and recognized at most of lunch spots around campus. I know I should not be proud of it, but well it felt good in some twisted way...:) On the days that I knew I was going to have a long day ahead of me in the lab, I would add a cookie to my order at Subway, either the oatmeal raisin or the white chocolate macadamia nut. These cookies are massive, and a mini meal by themselves. I think this was my first introduction to cookies too, and though not the best ever, they atleast did not put me off cookies either. I've eaten many more cookies since, and also experimented with making them at home. These fabulous chocolate cookies were made last two Christmas's, to share with friends & family and I think it'll continue to become a tradition from now on.

One challenge that I face when baking at home is my aversion to using eggs. I've experimented with different egg replacements for different recipes to see which combination resulted in the best end product. Applesauce, flax seed, banana puree, leavening ingredients, cornstarch, tofu, vinegar have all been tested. Muffins, cookies and small cakes turn out really well using these substitutions and you'll never notice a difference. These cookies today use flax seeds to replace the eggs in this original recipe.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ash Gourd/Boodida Gummadikaya Halwa

Dear Foodies,

Here is that halwa I promised you. When I bought a huge chunk of ash gourd/white pumpkin from the store last time, I used up half of it to make this yummy kootu. The other half was saved up to make this halwa on V's request. And since we both lacked a sugar sweet tooth, I was surprised to hear such a request coming from him. I postponed making it for as long as I could because of all the scary stories associated with the word halwa in my mind. Halwa to me was that mandatory neon orange/green chunk that come in every assorted sweet box. Who knew what went into it, or how long it took :) But when I started looking around for recipes and asking my mother about it, I was pleasantly surprised.

So before you begin conjuring up images of ghee oozing out of every spoonful, long hours of stirring and the very fickle natured sugar syrup stages, I have a secret to share. This halwa has none of those horrors attached to it, so breathe easy. In fact this might even be one of the easiest desserts to make. Apart from the grating there is hardly anything labor intensive to do. It takes probably a maximum of 30 mins from start to finish but tastes like someone has been lovingly slaving over it for hours, just for them :) And you wouldn't have to tell your guests otherwise either, Ssshhhh ;) The best though is that you get to strike off a vegetable portion for the day while still enjoying dessert. Score!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chane ki dal

Dear Foodies,

Dal/Pappu finds a place in almost all the varied regional cuisines in India. And more often than not, it also ranks high on everyones comfort food ranking. Simmering lentils akin to bread baking, fill the kitchen with an aroma that calms our senses and gets us to a happy place. A long road trip usually ends with a comforting pappu dolloped over warm rice. None of the exotic biryani's or complex stews will ever garner the same effect that my mom's rasams, my frnd Manjari's tomato pappu, and now V's spinach pappu receive.

But until recently, I've been partial to using kandi pappu/Toor dal alone with an occasional presence of moong dal in my kitchen. As I began reading other blogs I came across recipes using chana dal, urad dal & masoor dal. I had never cooked with masoor before, urad was mainly for idli/dosa and chana dal was for adai and popu/tadkas alone. I began to experiment with them and added some newness to my dal repertoire. Masoor dal are bright orange colored lentils that cook really quickly and so you don't have to bring the pressure cooker out at all. One less dish to clean makes them an immediate winner in my books. It has creamy,mellow taste and can be paired with many vegetables.

Chana dal on the other hand is robust, holds up to longer cooking times and stands up to pungent flavorings. These pale yellow lentils are surprisingly made from kala chana. The outer skin of the kala chana is peeled and the legume is split to yield chana dal. The slight downside of this lentil is that it causes flatulence when eaten in large portions. But since we come from a country that knows how to use its spices this effect is mitigated by cooking it with carminative ingredients such as hing/ginger/cumin/coriander. So no reason to not try it if you already haven't.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Dear Foodies,

Rich & Creamy Dulce de Leche

Happy Valentine's Day to you all :)

P.S: None of the dulce de leche was wasted in the making of these photographs :P

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ash Gourd/Boodida Gummadikaya Pala Kootu

Dear Foodies,

Boodida Gummadikaya palu posina kuraWinter Melon, Ash Gourd, Boodida Gummadikaya (Telugu), Neer Poosanikai(Tamil) - different names for a gorgeous pumpkin like vegetable. Its usually cut up into wedges and sold at the Indian grocery store, & I usually use it in the avial recipe. That was the only recipe I used it in. But the last two times I decided it was time to try different recipes, because though I love avial, I don't make it that often. I made a delicious halwa once (coming soon here) and a warming paala kootu using my mother's recipe. The kootu style of preparing vegetables uses a combination of lentils &/or spices to make the dish hearty and warming - perfect for the winter. Instead of a mix of vegetables like in a stew, a kootu usually features one main vegetable and then uses lentils to substantiate the dish.

The only thing missing in my kootu this time was curry leaves. Curry leaves are one of those quintessential South Indian ingredients that have no substitute. They have a complex grassy, lemony flavor that cannot be found in other fresh herbs. The lady at a local Indian grocery store here told me that the plant is easily prone to infestations that spread to surrounding citrus plants. California being major citrus grower has placed an embargo on growing curry leaves here. So for now we are at the mercy of the grocery stores here, only one of them continues to stock it, and they charge 1.50$ for 4-5 sprigs :( We went to Artesia last week and found twice the amount being sold for 79c! arggh!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Cornflakes Chivda/Mixture

Dear foodies,

Cornflakes ChivdaThe big game day is over, the team I was supporting lost, and I have vowed never to follow the game season again...until next season atleast :D We went to watch the game at a sports bar this weekend and unfortunately for me I was one of the 2-3 ppl supporting Steelers in the whole place! Almost everyone knew who I was rooting for and I could not jump ship at half time, that was my initial plan, hmph! The owner, a dear old man, and another lovely granpa at the table next to ours made it a point to see me after the game and console me. :( But anyways it was a good past time despite the nightmarish appetizers we had the few times that we went out to catch the game. Everything is fried, greasy, cheesy - everything bad and all at once.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Double Dip & Upcoming review

Dear Foodies,

Let me tell you about the review first, CSN stores gave me the opportunity to review one of their products and I'll be bringing you a kitchen essential soon. So stay tuned for that, and in the meanwhile you are sure to find a whole gamut of stuff from home decor, bed & bath, gardening tools and play sets like these fun wooden swing set.

Time seems to by flying by really quick. A month has already gone by in the new year, and February brings along with it the Super Bowl weekend. One of the biggest weekends for food consumption here. The amount of chips, pizza and beer consumed on game day surpass all highs. I have never been a huge spectator of sports, even when everyone around me were cheering the Indian cricket team when I was kid, I would be completely nonchalant about it. Well, unless it aligned with the exams at school :D A game of cricket was the only thing that gave us a time out from studies at home, not intentionally ofcourse. So I would sit along with my mom, dad and brother taking cues from them and cheering & booing along with them.
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