Monday, October 30, 2006

Tag: Good/Bad Experiences with Food

This has been long overdue. I've been tagged by Prema of My Cook Book for this meme.

(Added on 10/31/06: Warning! The following paragraph contains an inordinately indelicate "bad" experience which may make reader swear off Biryani and/or Bangalore restaurants forever. Reader discretion advised!)

(Edited to lessen the gross factor) My most disgusting experience with food has been in a small restaurant in Bangalore that specialized in Biryani. They made the tastiest Muslim style Biryani ever! My colleagues and I would go there at least once a month to get our fix. This one time, a friend of mine found a long strand of hair in the middle of her biryani (yech!) and informed the waiter who served us. He came over, leaned over her plate, pulled out the errant strand and walked away, expecting her to continue eating! Needless to say, we left in a hurry & never set foot in that restaurant again! I don't want to think about other possible embellishments that went into the biryani to make it taste as good as it did!

Sorry, guys! I know this one is pretty gross!!
(Hey, I warned you!!)

I'd like to tag Jayshree of Veggie Delight for this meme.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Miracle Blanket - Part 4





Little M sleeps through the night! She sleeps for 8-9 hours at a stretch and I am no longer the sleep deprived, semi-deranged person that I once was! Hallelujah!!

I've received a few emails inquiring about what the Miracle Blanket looks like and where it can be purchased. So here's a picture of M getting ready to sleep in her Miracle Blanket, which has truly been a miracle for me! I purchased the blanket online at www.miracleblanket.com. It's a bit pricey considering that it's just a long piece of cloth with some flaps but it's totally worth it!

Here are links to my previous posts about the Miracle Blanket - Parts 1, 2 and 3.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cabbage & Onion Pakodas




I was inspired by an episode from Rachael Ray's "30 Minute Meals" where she used pancake mix for making apple fritters. I'd normally use rice flour and a little heated oil/ghee to the besan batter for crispness. I tried Potato Bhajjis with only the pancake mix once, a la Rachael Ray. It came out really crisp but absorbed too much oil. Then I tried using it along with besan and the end result was perfect! Pancake mix is always available in my pantry (I've never made pancakes from it, though!) and I've been using this with besan ever since.

Ingredients:
1 cup Besan
1/4 cup Pancake Mix
1/2 cup shredded Cabbage
1/3 cup chopped Onion
2 Green Chillies/Serano Peppers chopped
1 Tbsp chopped Cilantro
1/8 tsp Asafoetida
1/4 tsp Red Chilly Powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric
Salt to taste
Water for mixing
Oil for deep frying

Method:
Mix all the ingredients together (except oil, of course). The consistency of the batter must be a little stiff, not runny. Heat oil and deep fry until golden brown and crisp.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Halbai




Halbai is a cross between halwa and burfi. It is spread on a greased plate and cut into pieces like burfi but the consistency is soft, almost like halwa. This is my Mother's recipe for Halbai. Though halbai is not a colorful dish (it comes out plain gray), don't be fooled by it! It tastes wonderful! It has it's own unique flavour that I really love. Traditionally, halbai is made with soaked & ground wheat grains. This is a modern take on the traditional recipe.

Ingredients:
1 cup wheat flour
2 cups water
2 cups coconut milk(thick)
1 1/2 cup jaggery (shredded)
1 cup ghee
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

Method:
Soak wheat flour in water for 6-7 hours. The wheat flour will have settled in the bottom. Remove excess water from the top and keep aside.
In a thick bottomed pan, heat coconut milk and jaggery together for about 15 minutes on low heat. Add the wheat flour and ghee to the coconut milk. Keep stirring until the ghee leaves the sides of the pan. Add cardamom powder and mix.
Spread the mixture on a greased plate. Once cooled, cut into small diamonds.
It can be garnished with fried cashews or slivered almonds.

This recipe is also my entry for from My Dhaba.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Diwali Special - Day 2

Here are the special dishes from Day 2.



Chitraanna



Halbai




Cabbage & Onion Pakodas

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Diwali Special - Day 1

Here's a peek at some of the special food that mom made for day 1 of Diwali.



Cabbage Bhath


Tomato and Onion Raitha


Carrot Kheer

Will post the recipes soon. :-)

PS: Maybe most of you guys know about this already but I accidentally discovered today that you can click on the pictures to get a larger view of the image! I think that's really cool!!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy Diwali!

Happy Deepavali, my dears! 'Tis the time for family gatherings, food and fun!! Diwali is celebrated by all Hindus but traditions vary from region to region. In fact, even within a region, it is celebrated differently by different communities! Let me talk about how it is done in a typical Smartha Brahmin household in Karnataka.

Today, the first day of Diwali for us, is Naraka Chaturdashi. According to legend, today is the day the powerful demon king Narakasura was finally defeated by Lord Krishna. This is the day for an early morning oil bath. Bathrooms are spruced up and water is heated in the traditional oven (called "hande" in Kannada). My grandfather's house in Mysore, has a HUGE hande. The pleasure of a hande bath has to be experienced to be believed! Festival food ("habbada oota" in Kannada) is prepared, which usually consists of payasa(kheer), kosambari(salad), two palyas(dry sabji), a gojju(veg curry), a masala rice, plain rice, saaru (sambar variation), fresh home-made curds, fritters and papad. Come evening, little clay lamps (called diyas) are lit and it's time for bursting crackers!!

Day 2 is Lakshmi Pooja. Lakshmi is the goddess of good fortune and wealth. Lakshmi pooja is performed in the evening. Lamps are kept on the threshold of the house to welcome Lakshmi into the house. Again another habbada oota and another round of crackers to burst!

Day 3 is Bali Padyami and the first day of the month of Karthika. According to Hindu mythology, Bali, a tyrannical king who was banished by Vamana (an avatar of Lord Vishnu) to the nether world, was granted one wish that he would return to Earth once a year. Hence Bali Padyami. Pooja is perfomed in the evening with a pomegranate flower kept on a silver pot (kalash). Yup, more festival food eaten, more clay lamps lit and more crackers burst!

Also considered a part of Deepavali is "Uttana Dwadashi", which is celebrated 11 days after Bali Padyami. Tulsi pooja is done on this day. Diyas are lit every evening from Naraka Chaturdashi day until the end of the month of Karthika. Lighting of the lamps signifies the dispelling of spiritual darkness and spreading of light, warmth and wisdom.

Well, that's how it is celebrated by my community in India. Out here, I do light lamps on the first three days and do my version of the pooja. Usually, I buy sweets instead of making them myself. This year, with my parents visiting us, Deepavali will be a little more traditional and I'm looking forward to it!

Happy Deepavali, All! May God bless you all with success, peace and plenty!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dor - My Movie Review (Updated!)




Guys, don't miss this movie! Nagesh Kukunoor has outdone himself as a writer and director of this film. I can't understand why this movie has not received more attention from the media. This should have been our Oscar entry, I sincerely think! The subject is a far cry from the usual run of the mill storylines that Bollywood can't seem to churn enough of. It deals with two women from very different backgrounds whose paths are intertwined and the emancipation of one from a ghunghat clad, subservient widow to a strong willed person who stands up for herself & demands answers for the double standards that tie her down. Gul Panag and Ayesha Takia are a revelation as actors. Their performances are outstanding! It is refreshing to see a Hindi movie where actresses are not caked with make-up, there's no over-the-top acting and a very down-to-earth story told in a realistic way. Don't miss this one!

Updated on 10/17/06: Whenever I've seen a movie that somebody else raved about, I have invariably felt a little let down. Mainly because my expectations would be high and the movies would always fall short. So I felt that I have to provide a balance in my review with the things that were not so good about Dor. So here goes.
The pace gets a little slow and the movie drags at times. Nagesh Kukunoor's character(he plays a small role) seems out of place and rather superfluous. Shreyas Talpade, who provides comic relief in an otherwise serious movie, gets very annoying with his excessive mimicry. That apart, I still say Dor is a must-see! It is not often that a film of this caliber gets made in Hindi cinema. So, go get it, folks!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Akki Rotti - The Picture




Akki Rotti> was my very first post. I had not been able to post a picture of it then. My mom made this for breakfast today. So here's the picture. Like always, not the greatest of photographs but I do believe I'm getting better! :-)

Click here for the original post.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Carrot and Beans Palya

Carrot Beans Palya


I love palyas (cooked vegetables without gravy) because they are usually very easy to prepare. They can be had with rotis or just plain white bread or as a side with rice and saaru(a thin sambar). This particular version of carrot and beans palya can be mixed with rice and a little bit of ghee and it tastes divine!


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chopped Green Beans
1 1/2 cups chopped Carrots
2-3 Tbsp shredded Coconut
4-5 green chillies/serrano peppers
1 Tbsp chopped Cilantro
1 Tbsp Lime juice
Salt to taste
For Tempering:
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp Oil
A pinch of Asafoetida

Method:
Grind the shredded coconut and green chillies together.
Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds, asafoetida and turmeric. When the seeds splutter, add the carrots & beans and fry for a few minutes. Add salt. Cover and cook on low heat till well cooked.
Add the ground paste and fry for a few minutes. Add the lime juice.
Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Postpartum Blues

I went through a pretty bad case of postpartum blues, which took me by surprise. I had been so looking forward to the baby that it never occured to me that I would feel anything but deliriously happy when the baby was born! I was a sleep-deprived, weepy, anxious, exhausted and a very moody new mom. It started the very next day. The hospital room, which I had to share with another person, did not help. I was in the windowless part of the room and the small area was claustrophobic. My little one was 3.5 weeks early and was tongue tied. So nursing was a very traumatic time for me as well as the baby (both of us would cry the whole time!). We had just moved to a new house and were not properly set up (we still have some stuff at my old place, after 3 months!) I was very overwhelmed with everything. I'd cry for no reason and would not stop! After a particularly bad bout, my mom gave me a biosalt called KaliPhos (my mom is a big homeopathy buff). It helped me have a good night's sleep and overcome the worst phase. Talking to others who went through it helped tremendously. Actually, just talking to people helped. I have been lucky that I had people who understood what I was going through and were there for me. It surprised me to know that almost 80% of postpartum women experience some form of the blues!

In India, a woman is in confinement for 40 days after birth of the baby, when she is forced to rest & to recuperate from the childbirth. She is given oil massages and hot baths everyday. Her food intake is carefully monitored. There's wisdom in many of the traditional practices. During the first 6 weeks after delivery, the pregnancy pounds are relatively easier to come off. It gets more difficult to lose weight after that period. With the traditional diet that I was put under for the 40 days, which had 1-2 spoons full of ghee at every meal(!), I lost 21 of the 27 pounds that I had gained during the pregnancy! The diet had adequate nutrition for me as well as the nursing baby. It also helped with lactation. It seems astounding to me that people centuries ago, with no education to speak of, could devise such a diet (vegetarian at that)!

If you know of any person going through the blues, please, please visit and/or call them often. Have them get a full night's sleep at least once. It helps a lot! KP, the biosalt, is available at homeopathy stores and online. Encourage them to go out and do something they love. It may take weeks but it will pass eventually. Just be there for them. They need you.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"The Butterfly Effect" Meme

My very first meme!! How exciting!!!

I've been tagged by Asha of Foodie's Hope.
She was the very first person to comment on my blog and has been returning and checking my posts ever since. After publishing each post, I always look forward to hearing from her! :-) Thank you, my dear cyber pal, for the encouragement you gave me with your comments. I really appreciate it! :-D

I understand that Dan@saltshaker.net started this meme and that we should send this MeMe and link to the original post - http://www.saltshaker.net/20060630/the-butterfly-effect

The tag says "The Butterfly Effect Meme" asks you to name food items or events that changed your foodie life. Specifically you are asked to recall “an item, person, event, or place” that affected you profoundly – something that created a moment you can look back at and say “that was a defining moment.” It doesn’t have to be “big, splashy” things! Just something or someone who influenced you!"
The categories are:
1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food “personality” (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life
(Above copied verbatim from Asha's meme)

An Ingredient: Oh, the very versatile egg! Love it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Love it in all forms! Well, almost all. I know of someone who drinks milk with a raw egg mixed in! Can't do that!! My favorite is the egg bhurji made in this little shop down the road from my college.
You can't go wrong with eggs. Whenever I'm out of ideas or inspiration, eggs always come to my rescue. Bhurji, omelettes, frittatas, "bulls eye", salad, boiled or poached, eggs are my best friend!

A Dish: Hands down, my mom's Besan Halwa. It is absolutely delicious!! I'm not that much of a sweets person but this is something I can eat anytime day or night and sometimes, even in the middle of the night! Click here for the recipe.

A Meal: Chicken Biryani with sherva & onion raita at any Andhra restaurant in Bangalore! This biryani is different from the more famous Hyderabadi Biryani. I'm not sure how it's cooked and what spices are added but it is drier and you don't see the layers like you do in a regular biryani. Sherva is a thin gravy that I believe is made with chicken. I don't know if this kind of biryani is available only in Bangalore but I haven't been able to find this in any Andhra restaurants here.

A Cookbook: There are quite a few. In particular is a book titled "365 Great 20-minute Recipes" by Beverly Cox. It features easy and quick recipes and I'm all for simplicity! Though I like to cook, I don't necessarily want to toil over the stove for hours on end unless I'm in the mood (which I confess, does not happen often!). So this book works well for me!

A Food Personality: My favorite is Rachel Ray. She is fun & so full of life. She can be a little too perky sometimes though! I enjoy her "30 Minute Meals" shows. I like to cook but do tend to take help from the store whenever I can and try to find ways to cook faster, while not losing out on flavor. Her show gives me tips on easier cooking and time management. These days she seems to be everywhere though. She has 4 shows on Food Network the last time I counted and even has her own talk show on ABC. I hope the overexposure will not wane her popularity.

Another person in your life: My dear hubby. He claims he likes to cook and would like to cook often. The last time he cooked anything was about a year ago! He makes a really good chicken curry. Will post it the next time he makes, which might be a month from now or a year or never!! :-)

I tag: Jayashree of Luvgoodfood for this meme.

That's it! My very first meme!! Thanks, Asha! It was fun! You made me think hard!! :-)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Besan Halwa




I wasn't much of a sweets person. I never craved for ice creams or chocolate and could totally live without sugar. This halwa that my mom makes was the only sweet that I really and truly enjoyed. But since my pregnancy, I've been viewing sweets more favorably! I've surprised myself and everybody in my family by asking for second helpings. I even get a few cravings every now and then for sweets since!
This halwa is truly delicious.

Ingredients:
1 cup Besan
3/4 cup ghee/canola oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk
Handful of cashews and raisins fried.

Method:
In a heavy bottomed pan, heat ghee/oil. Add besan and fry on medium heat till you get a rich aroma. Add milk and stir until it is mixed well and switch off stove. Continue to mix well until it froms a big lump. Pour mixture into another vessel.
In the pan, melt sugar in water and bring to a boil. Add the besan mixture. Mix and stir till the ghee/oil leaves the side of the pan.
Garnish with cashews and raisins.

Plantation Ennegayi from Foodie's Hope




My in-laws have come to visit us for a few days to see their new grand daughter. So M now has 2 sets of grandparents and loads of attention coming her way. It's wonderful to see them all doting on her! :-)
Asha of Foodie's Hope has posted a recipe for a divine looking ennegayi on her blog and I made it on the first day they came. Everybody enjoyed it. My father-in-law especially relished it with gusto! Click here for the recipe. The only change I made was that I added a little bit of jaggery. Thanks Asha, for a really delicious curry!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Miracle Blanket-Part 3

6 hours and 40 Minutes! Yippee!! I absolutely love, love, love the Miracle Blanket!! Especially with me planning to go back to work from Oct 16th, this is going to be such a boon!
And did I mention that I love it?! ;-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Miracle Blanket - Part 2

So.....last night was pretty good! M did sleep for about 6 hours (yaay!) but woke up twice in the 6 hours. I had to get up and pat her back to sleep both the times. But that's not too bad because I did not have to feed her. It takes at least 30 minutes each time to feed and burp her at night. So last night was not bad at all. Sure, I did not get my 5+ hours of uninterrupted sleep that I was so looking forward to but I still slept longer than usual. I'll take that!

Just a quick note on the Miracle Blanket. It is a swaddling wrap that stays in place and makes babies feel secure. We tried using a regular blanket as a swaddle but she would squirm her way out of it in no time. This one is more tight and unlike other thicker wraps available in the market, this one is made from cotton and is light. I wish I'd known about this a little sooner. I highly recommend this to all new moms! :-)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Miracle Blanket

My neighbor's child Sara, was born exactly one week before Little M. When we meet up, I know that whatever Sara does at that point, M will be doing the same thing soon. For example, when we met about 10 days ago, Sara had started responding to people talk. She smiled beautifully when talked to. Now Little M has started to smile and listens intently when spoken to. That toothless grin of hers melts all our hearts! She sometimes chuckles too but only in her sleep :-(

So, anyway, Sara's mom was telling me about this Miracle Blanket that she ordered for Sara and that within days, Sara was sleeping through the night! M was getting up every 2-3 hours at night at that point and so of course, I immediately ordered the Miracle Blanket. The first few days saw very little change. She had also had her first set of shots soon after and so was fussy for a few days. But 3 days ago, she slept for about 4 and a half hours at a stretch. 2 days ago, it went up to 5 hours. Last night, she slept for almost 6 hours!! I felt very rested when I woke up this morning. Getting more than 3 hours of sleep at a stretch is such a luxury for me these days. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that tonight, it will be at least 6 hours, if not more!

What will tonight bring?! I can't wait to see! Will I wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, full of vigor or will my hopes be dashed? Stay tuned!!

Mixed Vegetable Kootu

Mixed Vegetable Kootu

I never realized how nutritious and complete the traditional everyday meals my mom prepared were. Each meal had some form of dal for protein, vegetables for vitamins & minerals and rice for carbs. Dals were prepared in various forms - saaru, kootu, huli, majjige huli, thovve. Vegetables would be in the form of palyas, gojjus, rasavangis, bhaths etc. The variety within each category ensured very little repetition. When my parents visited us for the first time after I was married, they were horrified by our eating habits and the unwholesome fare we had everyday. Since then, I try to have more healthy & balanced food.

Yesterday, my mom made a Mixed Vegetable Kootu that was really good. The vegetables in this Kootu were peas, potatoes, cauliflower and carrots. This goes well with both rice and rotis.


Ingredients:
3 Cups Mixed Vegetables (boiled)
2 cups Toor Dal (cooked)
1 cup water
Salt to taste

For Grinding:
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
4-5 dry red chillies
3 Tbsp shredded coconut
2 Tbsp rice(uncooked)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp asafoetida
For Tempering:
1/2 tsp urad dal
1/2 tsp chana dal
1 tsp ghee (or oil)

Method:
Using a little water, grind the "For Grinding" ingredients. They need not be fried before grinding.
Mix the cooked dal, vegetables, ground paste and water together and bring to a boil. Add salt.
For tempering, heat the ghee. Add the urad and chana dal. Fry until the dals are slightly browned. Add to the dal/veg/paste mixture.
Kootu is ready!

PS: I've added some mustard seeds for the tadka, which is optional.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World


This movie is a must-see! Albert Brooks (Albert who?! He's the voice of Nemo in "Finding Nemo" and was one of the in-Laws in the movie "The In-laws") plays a comedian who's hired by the US Government to find out what makes Muslims (and as it turns out, Hindus & Sikhs as well) laugh. It is a silly, laugh-out-loud kinda comedy with laughs galore. There are a couple of scenes which felt a little dragged out though, like the improv scene. But overall, it is a good movie and we all enjoyed it immensely.