April 29, 2009

Iranian Baghali Polou with Borani-Ye Esfenaj, Moong-Coconut milk Soup, MW Almond Rabri

Did I ask for Sunny days? :D I asked and I got them!! Man! It's so hot here, had a headache running around the town doing chores but my plants are growing fast and furious, it's a joy to watch. All the herbs and Curry leaf plant are on the deck and loving the heat. One drawback of hot and sunny days is you don't feel like standing in front of hot stove now and cook which was a comfort in Winter but have to do at least 3 meals a day anyway! Tushar had his Guitar concert last night, his last concert in middle school, enjoyed that too! :)

You must be wondering why am I so busy these days that I am even missing few posts to comment because of lack of time! Well..I will tell you next Wednesday! :)

I made some slightly familiar sounding Iranian dishes last week, loved the taste of the rice and cooling Spinach salad, mainly influenced by the book "Rosewater and Soda bread" by Marsha Mehran, which is second book. I loved her first book "Pomegranate Soup", so read her second one too curious to know what happened to 3 Iranian sisters who escaped form Iran to Ireland. Moong gravy was yummy and dessert with bread slice made it so easy to thicken faster in the MW. Enjoy the feast!

Iranian Baghali Polou with Borani-Ye Esfenaj, spicy Moong and coconut milk gravy and Almond Rabri for dessert on a platter:
Baghali Polou/Polow/Polo and Borani recipes are mostly adapted from a Iranian cookbook by Najmieh K. Batmanglij with my slight changes, who is also the author of "Silk Road Cooking-A vegetarian Journey". Fava beans are added to this rice dish usually but I didn't find those. I replaced it with green and white baby Lima beans. Moong dish is from Lisa's kitchen and Rabri of course is an easy traditional Indian dessert, I made it easier using Microwave and improvised the recipe too. Enjoy making them, always good to try new tastes! :)

Moong and coconut milk soup from "Lisa's Kitchen":
I know most Indians love green Moong and make various tasty dishes with it for rice dishes or Parathas on the side. I chose this recipe from Lisa's kitchen for "T and T"event which looked so delcious, added 1/4 cup thick coconut milk and some Yogurt but mostly followed the rest of the recipe as same as the original. Soup or bhaji as we say is delicious and spicy. It tasted great with the less spicy Dill and Lima beans rice and very nutritious too and also tastes good with Pooris. Here is the original recipe for Moong soup from Lisa's Kitchen.

Iranian Baghali Polou/Dill, Lima beans (could also use Fava beans) and saffron rice:
Here is a very simple and very flavorful with Polou/Pulao Iranian style. With added Dill and Lima beans (Fava beans) and hardly any strong spices, it makes a wonderful accompaniment for any spicy dal or meat gravies along with a salad. You can also add Gosht/Lamb into it to make a non-veg Polou. Usually, all the the ingrdients are added to a dish, covered and cooked in enough water just like Biryani/Pulao to serve.
But I cooked rice separately and then mixed with seasoned Dill and Lima beans which retains the brilliant color of Dill and beans and they don't get too mushy. I reserved some rice and mixed with saffron and salt to serve on top of Dill rice to make this dish attractive as they do in the restaurants. You can mix all this up with Saffron milk and cook for convenience.

You Need:
2 cups Basmati or long grain rice, 1 tsp butter, salt, Pepper, Pinch of Saffron soaked in 1 tbsp hot milk. 1 Cup frozen Lima beans covered and cooked in the Microwave for 5 mins with 1 tbsp water.
1 tbsp butter, 1 small onion, finely chopped, 2 garlic, minced, 1/4 red chilli flakes, 2 cups chopped Dill leaves, cooked Lima beans, salt and pepper.
Here is how I made it:
1. Cook 2 cups Basmati or long grain rice with 3 1/2 cups of water or cook as usual you do for yourself with 1 tsp butter and 1/4 tsp salt added. When cooked, take out 1 cup of rice, add a pinch of saffron mixed with 1 tbsp of warm milk and mix well. Let it cool.
2. Heat 1 tbsp butter, saute 1 small onion finely chopped, 2 garlic chopped fine, 1/4 tsp red Chilli flakes for a minute. Add cups of fresh Dill leaves with a pinch of salt, saute.
3. Add cooked Lima beans and enough pepper to taste.
4. Add this to cooked white rice and mix well, adjust the salt and pepper. To serve, spoon the Dill rice first and then top with Saffron rice or you can mix both these and serve with spicy gravy and cool Spinach-Yogurt salad.

Iranian Borani-Ye Esfenaj/Spinach, onion and Yogurt salad:

A popular Spinach and Yogurt salad from Iran, this is served with Baghali Polou on the side. Borani is salad and Esfenaj means Spinach. Very simple and quick salad to make, tastes great with any knid of Indian Pulavs too.

You Need:
1 cup thick plain Yogurt, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 tsp Cumin pd (my addition),
For seasoning:
1 tsp oil, 1/3 cup well packed chopped Spinach, fresh or frozen (sqeeze it dry and chop finely), 4 tbsp finely chopped onion, 1 plump Garlic, finely chopped.
To make the salad:
1. Beat Yogurt, salt, Pepper, and Cumin powder well and keep aside.
2. Heat oil, add onion and garlic, saute for 1 minute until soft. Add the chopped Spinach, pinch of salt and stir fry for 2 mins. Take off the heat and cool this down.
3. Add cooled Spinach to Yogurt. Mix well and serve.

Moong and Coconut milk Bhaji:
Same as the above Moong recipe but I made it thicker than the soup consistency and added 3 tbsp thick plain Yogurt at the end of cooking to give it a little tang instead of adding lemon juice and simmered it down on low heat until the sauce is thick. Other than that, I followed the same recipe as it is at Lisa's Kitchen.

Microwaved Almond Rabri:
Rabri or Rabdi, traditionally is a thick concentrated milk with sugar, Cardamom and nuts added. I made an unusual and non-traditional Rabri in the Microwave with fat free Evaporated milk, Almonds, lot less sugar (you can add as much as you want) and a surprise ingredient!! Enjoy.

You need:
1 1/2 cup or 12oz canned Fat-free Evaporated Milk, 1/2 cup Almond, skinless and chopped, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 slice crustless bread (I added a slice of Cinnamon and Raisin bread, didn't add Cardamom pd in this Rabri), 1/2 tsp ghee, few strands of saffron and 1/2 tsp Cardamom powder.
To make it:
1. Grind Almonds, sugar and bread slice with 1/2 cup of Evaporated milk until smooth, add rest of the milk and process until mixed.
2. Add this to a deep tall microwavable bowl or glass bowl along with ghee and Saffron, heat for 5 mins making sure it's not spilling over. Stir and heat again for 2 more minutes.
3. It thicken faster because of the Almonds and bread, so be careful not to cook it for too long. Add Cardamom pd and mix well.
4. Exactly how mins to cook depends on your Microwave. Just MW until you get the thick sauce of Rabri. Adjust sugar as well to your taste.
Serve Rabri garnished with Almonds or Pistachios if you like. You can serve this warm or chilled.

Logos, Hosts and events, my thanks to all of you guest hosts and hosts, enjoy! :)

Iranian Baghali Polou, goes to Smitha's "Colors of Taste-Flavored Rice(World)" event.
Almond Rabri, goes to Mythreyee who is guest hosting "MEC-Nuts", an event stated by Srivalli.
Moong in coconut milk soup, chosen from "Lisa's Kitchen", goes to Aparna who is guest hosting "T and T-Lisa's Kitchen", an event initiated by Zlamushka.
Borani-Ye Esfenaj, goes to Mahimaa's "15 minute cooking" event.

My own tried and tasted recipes from other blogs. Thanks to all of you for posting these delicious dishes, loved them! :)

Vangya cha Rassa, from Anjali.

Spicy Carrot Chutney, from Arch.

Varutharacha Sambhar, from Divya Kudua.

Peanut Chutney, from Sowjanya.

Movies I watched:

YAY! I was waiting to get my hands on this movie for a week now, I got it y'day at last! :)

You will love this movie if you are into politics, know about Watergate and 37th president Richard Nixon scandal, only president who resigned from "office" in his second term in the history of USA. It's amazing how a president can be so blatant, in denial, arrogant (drunk too sometimes but doesn't remember what he said next day!) and shameless, NEVER really apologized to people for his involvement at all when he resigned but reluctantly admits guilt only when cornered by David Frost at the end of this interview after rambling about everything else for hrs and hrs, even blaming others for all that too! Well... reminds me of another "somebody" we all know who didn't resign from the office or apologized for his mistakes!!:P

Nixon gets paid $600000 in 1977 for this now widely watched interview, which made British journalist David Frost a household name, who is also the only journalist who has interviewed many leaders of the World including Shah of Iran. It makes you angry when Nixon says to David Frost "when the President does it, it's not illegal!" regarding the cover up etc.,
in this interview.

Very well acted by Frank Langella and Michael Sheen in the lead roles, Kevin Bacon is great as usual. Fascinating movie to watch, I can imagine how stressful it must have been to both Frost and Nixon to get thru' this one at that time! You also feel sorry for Nixon when he says to Frost when they meet privately, "I am just not suited to be liked, I don't have that kind of charm. Do you know how fortunate you are?". Ex President Richard Nixon died in 1994.

Bride Wars
One of those Chick flicks which I usually don't like to watch but watched this one for kookie Kate Hudson and my new fave actress Anne Hathaway. It's very funny and entertaining movie!
Two "best friends" who dream about their "perfect weddings" since they were little girls, grow up, fall in love and get engaged. When they hire a wedding planner for their "perfect" weddings, she accidentally books the same date for both weddings! Best friends then get competitive "best enemies", even try to destroy eachother's wedding plans, not willing to give up on anything which is hilarious to watch. Now it's war, girly style!! After all that drama, what happens in the end is for you to watch, I don't want to spoil the fun!! :D

Have a great weekend, see you all later! :)

April 22, 2009

Puducherry Indo-French Butternut Squash and Potato Bisque, State Fair Funnel Cake, Ajji's Halli Mane Huruli Kattu and Hurulikalu Usli

This week at FH, we are going to visit Pondicherry/Puducherry in Tamil Nadu to have a Indo-French vegetarian Butternut and Potato Bisque, then we will taste the most popular American State Fair dessert "Funnel Cake" and then we visit my paternal grandmother's halli mane for some authentic Karnataka farm food, Huruli Kattu and Usli. Are you ready? ;D

About Puducherry:

Formerly known as Pondicherry/Pondichéry (in French), Puducherry (means new Village) which is located in Tamil Nadu, was renamed in 2006, is a "Union Territory of India" . It is a former French colony, consisting of four non-contiguous districts, two in Tamil Nadu, one in Andhra and one in Kerala and it's named after the largest district, Puducherry. Because of it's beautiful coastal/beach location, a very popular resort area, it is also known as The French Riviera of the East.

The 4 official languages of Puducherry are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and French, with English as the connecting language of 4 districts. As a result, cuisine of Puducherry is influenced by French, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cooking. Indo-French is a one of the popular cuisines. Here is the photo of beautiful house in Puducherry and these infos are from here and WIKIPEDIA.

Indo-French Butternut Squash and Potato Bisque:
I made the vegetarian Bisque with Indian touch using Butternut Squash and Potato with lots of fresh herbs form my pots. It smelled so good and was very tasty. Usually, Bisque is made of Heavy cream which I am sure tastes creamy and delicious. But I used some Buttermilk for tanginess and fat free Half and half to make the sauce in this recipe to cut down the calories.


To make veg Bisque:
1. Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp Canola oil in a deep pan. Add the "French Trinity" or "Mirepoix" as it is called; 1 medium, onion, 1 Celery and 1 Carrot, all chopped, along with 2-3 minced garlic, saute until just soft.
2. Add 2 cups peeled and cubed Butternut Squash and one large Potato (red or Russet will do), peeled and cubed, stir for 3 mins.
3. Add 3 cups of vegetable stock or just water, 2 tbsp of fresh mixed Herbs, pinch of salt, 1 tsp Cumin seeds pd and 1/4 tsp dry red chilli flakes (Indian touch!). Cover and let it cook.
4. Add Herbs of your choice or Herbes de Provence, simmer on low heat. Add 1/4 cup Buttermilk, 1/2 cup Half and Half or heavy cream, mix well and simmer gently, never let it boil.
5. Once cooked, use a hand blender stick to smoothen the sauce to creamy or pour the sauce into a blender carefully and blend until smooth. Pour back into the pan, simmer for 2 mins.
(If you are adding small cleaned Shrimps (1 cup), add them now and simmer the Bisque for 5-7mins, until the Shrimps turn pink.)
6. Serve with fresh Chives, parsley sprinkled on it and with a few seasoned Croutons.
Enjoy! :)

Herbes de Provence:
2 tsp fresh Thyme, 2 tsp fresh Marjoram, 2 tsp fresh Summer savory, 1 tsp fresh Rosemary, 1 tsp fresh Tarragon.
(I used 2 tbsp fresh mixed Herbs from my herb pots, like Pineapple Sage, Thyme, Tarragon, Balm Lemon, Rosemary, Chives and Parsley. Bisque smelled and tasted wonderful!)

State Fair and Carnival Funnel Cake sprinkled with sugar pd and served with fruity low sugar Strawberry jam on the side:
Gigantic American style Indian Jalebi anyone? Hahaha. Funnel cakes are exactly that, without dunked in Safforny sugar syrup but sprinkled generously with Confectioner's sugar/powdered Sugar. Every State Fair and Carnival in USA has these Funnel cakes, freshly fried and loaded with sugar, huge enough for 4-6 people to eat. Even (Dolly Parton's) Dollywood Theme park in Tennessee has these cakes sold there, my kids love to eat these loaded with sugar pd!
They say that Funnel cake batter is made of "pâte à choux" pastry batter but I made this the easy way, adding egg is optional. It's crispy on the edges and soft in the middle. For pouring the batter, you can use Plastic Mustard or Ketchup bottle with a 1/4" small hole in the lid or pour the batter thru' a small funnel, basically anything with narrow spout atleast 1/4" to 1/2" opening. Batter should be thick but pourable like Jalebi batter. Watch the video I have linked below.

Here is how you make it: (makes 2 or 3 Funnel cakes)
1. Whisk 1 Egg (optional, makes it fluffy if you add Egg), 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk, 2 tbsp Sugar, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp Baking powder and then add 1 1/4 cup plain flour, mix well until you don't see the lumps and batter is thick but pourable consistency.
2. Heat oil to 365F in a deep bottomed Kadai or small deep fryer to get a perfectly round cakes. Pour the batter into a Ketchup or Mustard jar, squeeze the batter into the oil quickly, first in 3-4 circles and then crisscross over the circles to make a big lacy circle.
3. Let it get golden on one side, flip gently and cook the other side. Drain, cool it and serve generously sprinkled with powdered sugar.
You can pile up the fresh fruit or whipped cream or drizzle with chocolate Ganache on top of the Funnel cake to serve. Enjoy.

Watch this video to see how to make these Funnel cakes. Here is a site where you can buy all those gadgets like plastic Funnel and ring you may need to make these yummy Funnel cakes, these are not necessary things as I made without them but good to have options! :)
Shama wanted us to talk about our traditional village food and say something about the village. Well...I was born and raised in the cities around Karnataka, only visited my grandparents' once a year during Summer holidays, mostly visited my maternal grandparents near Belur almost every year, but I am most influenced by my parental grandparents who own and live in a coconut, sugarcane (made golden colored Jaggery in the farm too), Mango grove and Paddy farm few miles away from Mysore. My father moved away from his birthplace as a teenager for schooling, graduated from Law college, practiced Law and became a Judge eventually. So we always lived in the cities, visited the farm once a year.

Although I don't want to reveal the name (with what else but a very Lingayat name of course! :D) of the farm here for their privacy, our visits to them were not more than 2 days in a year. My thatha was a "Gowda", a Panchayat chief of 8 villages (a 5 men elected for a small scale village court), a loud mouth with a big heart, also was a much feared man in his community too! Somebody has to take care of the stuff before it hits the fan (or the city court), right? Can't blame him! ;P

I loved that simple, rustic, uncomplicated, non-pretentious and peaceful life of my paternal grandparents' place, learned a lot about unselfish, unconditional, pure love (to them, love is also to make you drink freshly "squeezed/milked" warm frothy cow's milk loaded with homemade Jaggery! That's whole another story about "feeding" the loved ones in the villages! OYYY!:D) from my Thatha, ajji, aunts and Uncles. As a result, most of my traditional Karnataka cooking is influenced by my Mysore ajji, from whom my mother learnt basic cooking as a very new young teenage daughter in law!

I have copied most of the recipes of my ajji from my mother's old notebook and now I am writing down one of them, which is authentic and very rustic recipe made from the reduced stock of Horse gram or Hurulikalu water reduced to paste with spices and eaten with homemade Ghee and rice.

What can I say about the village/farm itself? Well..my paternal family own most of the village since all of my grandfather's brothers, sisters, their kids and grand kids lived there for years! They all own their own piece of property with their homes built inside their farms and they literally live few yards from each other. So once we visit the village, it's like visiting the half of the family in one place and we are constantly fed by each one of those families, mostly coconut filled sweets and more coconutty savory dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner with loads of fresh of the tree coconut water to sip!
I still remember the sweet aroma of Sugarcane juice bubbling in the gigantic Cauldron until it turns into dark thick molasses first and then turn into golden (my thatha had his "secret" recipe! :D) square Jaggery cooling in the wooden moulds.Whole village would be filled with sweet smell of Bella/Jaggery!
I remember my mother being petrified every time we kids ran off to the farm which has a huge uncovered irrigation well, a pump house and deep water tank always filled with water. She always was afraid of us drowning in one of these since we loved to get in the tank and sit there neck deep in the water for hrs in the hot afternoons. Great memories! :D

Halli mane Oota; Anna, Tuppa, Huruli Kattu, Hurulikalu Usli, Happala. Slurp!!

Phew! That's some family revelation! Okay.. Here is my Hallimane oota aka"village food", a wonderful thick and spicy sauce which is delicious and can be kept bottled up in the fridge for few weeks. You need dry Hurulikalu/Horsegram/Kulith/Kollu and a pressure cooker to make this. Don't know whether we can use any other beans, may be Avarekalu/Field beans/Lilva but this Huruli Kattu always made with Hurulikalu by my ajji. Kattu literally means "reduced sauce" in Kannada, a loooong process, cooking and boiling down the beans stock for days in my Ajji's kitchen but why bother with all that when we have Microwave? ;D

Anna/Rice, Tuppa/Ghee with thick and spicy Huruli Kattu/sauce:

Cook the beans first to get the stock:
1. Take 2-3 cups of dry Horse gram beans, make sure you clean to carefully pick the stones off of the dry beans. Most of the time if you bought the pack from Indian store, you do find tiny stones which look exactly like the beans but will cost you a tooth or a root canal if you don't take them out.
Spread a handful of beans at a time on a wide plate, look for stones, tedious job but necessary!
2. Soak overnight in lots of water in a big pot. Next day, wash the beans and drain all the water.
3. Add about 10 cups or more water to the soaked beans, 2 tsp salt and pressure cook the beans on a medium heat for about 15mins. Beans must be soft cooked but not mushy. These beans are tough to cook, so you need longer time on medium heat.
3. Once the pressure is out, open the lid and pour in to a colander to drain all beans stock into another bowl, let the beans sit until all the water is drained. Keep the dry beans separately to make Usli (seasoned beans) later. If you have too much Beans for your family, you can freeze some in individual zip lock bags for later use or make Huruli chutney, Rasam, Saaru, side dishes etc with the beans. Idea here to get the as much stock as you can out of the beans, use the cooked and drained beans for seasoned side dish. We will use the stock to reduce with spices until you get a thick sauce.

Huruli Kattu/thick sauce made of Horse Gram stock and spices:
Serve hot cooked rice with a dollop of home made ghee on top and a tbsp of Huruli kattu on the side or on top, a crunchy papad and Hurulikalu Usli on the side. To eat, mix rice with ghee and Kattu to a thick sauce coated bite sized rice morsel and chomp away!:D

Dry roast and powder these first to use as much as you need in the sauce:
Roast 4 tsp cumin seeds, 6 tsp Corinader seeds, 1 tsp Mustard seeds, 3 tbsp rice grains, 3 tbsp Tuar dal, 2 tsp Pepper corns, 2-3 dry red chillies, 1 tsp Fenugreek seeds, bunch curry leaves, 1/2 onion, 3 garlic and 6tbsp dry coconut until golden. Cool the spices and grind to a powder and use it as needed. Don't need to add the whole amount to the Kattu but just enough to your taste.

To make thick and spicy Huruli Kattu:

Add salt and masala pd only after the sauce is reduced to 1/3rd, adding before might make it too salty when concentrated to thick sauce.

1. Instead of cooking for hours on end on the stove top (you can do that too if you like), take all the reserved stock water from the cooked gram in a big deep enough dish, add 1 tsp oil to prevent spilling over and put it in the Microwaveand cook on high 100% for 20 mins, uncovered.
2. Keep repeating the cooking time in the MW until the stock is reduced to 1/3rd. Add salt, 1 tsp or to your taste thick Tamarind paste from the jar and 2 tbsp ground masala powder, mix well.
3. Once you add the masala pd, be careful not to burn the sauce in the MW, cook 2 mins at a time and less until you get a thick pouring consistancy like you see in the photo. Add 1 tbsp Ghee, mix well. (You see some Horse gram Beans in my sauce above which is okay, adds to the texture but should use only the stock/water from the cooked beans to make the traditional Huruli Kattu)
4. Adjust the salt, chilli and masala taste by adding more powder if you like. Heat one more minute after adding powder, cool completely and store in the glass jar. (sometimes, my mother used to add 2 tomatoes too when reducing this sauce, but always optional)

To make Hurulikalu Usli/seasoned Horsegram/Kulith:

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan, add 1 tsp mustard seeds, few curry leaves, 3 slit green chillies, fry until they sizzle and pop.
2. Add 1-2 onions, chopped fine and fry until they golden brown on the edges, add 1/4 tsp salt, mix.
3. Add 4 tbsp chopped Cilantro, mix. Add 2-3 cups of cooked Beans now, stir fry well for 1 minute until heated thru'.
4. Take off the heat, let it cool. Adjust the salt. Cover and keep it aside to serve with Kattu , ghee and rice or you can serve this Usli with any other Sambhar and rice on the side.
5. This Usli is also a favorite to serve with Ragi Mudde and Uppusaaru (I will post that recipe some other time)

Logos and event list, my thanks to all of you ladies, enjoy! :)

Butternut Squash and Potato Bisque, goes to Lavi's "RCI-Pondicherry", an event started by Lakshmi.
Funnel Cake, goes to Srivalli's "Mithai Mela" event.
Huruli Kattu and Usli, goes to Shama's "Village special dishes" event.
I am sending Huruli Kattu recipe to Deesha for her to try if she wishes as a part of her "South Indies" , a fun concept to try south Indian dishes and post.

Movies I watched:
"Maine Gandhi ko nahin Maara!"

I watched this movie thinking that it's about the Gandhi's assassination but movie is about a retired man who is suffering from Dementia and haunted by a childhood memory/abuse and keeps saying that he didn't mean to kill Gandhi when he shot at him with a toy gun. He was dragged into court on suspicion of participation in the killing although he was little boy at that time. Well acted by Anupam Kher as usaul and Urmila Matondkar is great too for a change!

"Mistress of Spices"

Voodoo spice queen, Aishwarya! :D
Story is little weird as the book is but I like that spunky, beautiful Ash girl, so I watched and liked it. Just glad that at least one actress from Bollywood has the guts to deal with different subjects however foreign it feels and do well at that instead of wear short shorts and run around the trees singing in Hinglish!

"The Wrestler"
Mickey Rourke's come back film after many years, who plays middle aged down on luck pro wrestler. He was Oscar nominated for best actor. Movie gets you very emotional to see his struggle with his career and with his daughter and great movie to watch (very very bloody, violent and gory tho'). Rourke is excellent in it, movie is specially great for people who love Wrestling, but personally I just couldn't get past how he looks in this movie. It's very weird to see him, felt like I am watching a wax robot walking around because of his botched cosmetic surgery on his face. I think guys surely will enjoy this movie than us girls, but good movie to watch at least once! I love Marisa Tomei in any film! :)

I watched many many Horror movies but nothing worth mentioning except may be SAW V, so I am not listing any here! :D

Book I am currently reading:

"Dreams from my father" by Barack Obama.
Just started reading this book. Very interesting and articulately written by our Prez when he was still a law student. I read in a magazine that he wears a Hanuman charm on his bracelet he wears, it always puzzled me. Not anymore!! As he says in the book, a 6' Hanuman statue was the first thing his stepfather (Lolo, who was a Indonesian) showed him when he first moved from US to Indonesia with his mother after she married her second husband and he was told that Hanuman is a great warrior Monkey God and has the strength of hundred men, nobody defeats him! :D
Obama seems to have a great time in Indonesia playing with kids there as he grew up, talks about having eaten dog meat, Snake meat etc and having lot of exotic pets like an Ape to play with too and later moving to Hawaii to be with his grand parents when his mom divorced her second husband too. We can read about him meeting his father's family in Kenya, college in New York (when he hears that his dad in Kenya died in an car accident) and then career move to Chicago and meeting the Mrs etc., rest is history!!
Barack Obama talks about his Kenyan Father as a charming guy and a scholar student who attracted everybody's attention when he talked but Obama never really knew him as a young child. He seems to have a very confused and emotionally insecure
childhood, not knowing where he belonged. I heard him once call himself a "Mutt" on CNN, comparing himself to the Animal shelter dogs when they were talking about adopting a dog for his kids!
Well..I am still reading the rest, intriguing book to read which lets you take a peek of his past and present life, his life experiences, why he is so charming and readily accepting of all the other cultures and religions. A global President, thanks God for that! Isn't that cool? Let's see how well he manages and where he takes us from here! :)

Thanks to all the bloggers who awarded me last week. Hugs to all of you, I have added your names on the side bar. Thanks again, mush appreciated by me.

Okay, enjoy the Earth day today and let me sign off quickly before all Y'all good people hit me for writing the longest post! Have a wonderful fun week and weekend. Our weekend will be hot, almost 89F as they tell us! :)

April 15, 2009

Chana Dal-Dill Fritters with spicy Dal Dip, Vegan Tofu Pad Thai, Green Tea Cooler with Lemon,Ginger and Honey, Mango Frozen Yogurt

Hope you all had a wonderful long relaxing weekend, Vishu and New Year's celebrations yesterday as well! :)
We had sunny days last weekend and some rain too here at NC. We decided to drive to Chapel Hill U, walked around the campus and the the dormitory just to get feel of the college my girl is going to move in at the end of August. Campus was serene, lush green and quiet, loved it. Then we went to a Indian restaurant called "Kandas", (name of a God (Skanda/Muruga?) in Tamilnadu as the waiter told me, when I asked him how to pronounce it and the meaning of Kandas as I never heard of that name before, food was authentic and very tasty!) for lunch buffet and caught up with the new "Fast and Furious" movie.
Since we were there, we visited "little India" in a nearby city and shopped a lot for, YES, Indian snacks and Mangoes!! We stopped for dinner at a Udupi restaurant (What else but for Mysore Masale dose!!:D) and drove back to reality again! ;D

Menu this week:
Chana dal fritters with dal dip for starter/appetizer, Vegan Tofu Pad Thai for main course served with Green Tea (Hara Masala Chai? :D) cooler and Mango frozen Yogurt for dessert. Sounds good, huh? Let's get on with it without chatting too much, shall we? :)

Chana dal and Dill Vadas with spicy Dal dip/Rasam:

Chana dal is called Bengal gram in English, they look similar to yellow split peas but different. Chana dal is split peas of Garbanzo or chick peas, usually from the smaller and reddish chickpeas. You can see the picture of Chana dal here.
Spicy Chana dal vadas mixed with aromatic Dill leaves are a classic Karnataka fritters, made often during Monsoon season and festival days or for evening snack with coffee in South India. They make a great starter/appetizer for any lunch or dinner party or cocktail parties. I have already posted the recipe but these new photos are taken when I made these again recently. Enjoy.

Recipe for Chana dal and Dill vadas or Fritters is here in this post.
Recipe for spicy dal dip in the vadas is here in this post,
or serve vadas soaked in the thinner version of dal, Masoor dal Rasam/Red lentils dip.
or you can also serve these Vadas with green Coconut and Mint Chutney.
or make these vadas into round bite sized small balls, fry and stick few colorful toothpicks to serve as cocktail party appetizers with Ketchup like
the Hush Puppies you see in this post.

Closer look at Dal and Dill vadas:

Hope you try.......

Vegan Tofu Pad Thai:
Pad Thai is probably the most popular of all the dishes from Thailand, cooked often with Shrimps or Seafood. Sweet, spicy and tangy taste with Fish sauce is typical of Thai cooking. Tamarind sauce gives this a authentic flavor of Thai.
Since this dish is supposed to Vegan for the event, I have added Tofu, skipped all the Fish sauce, eggs etc but have given you the option of adding in the (parenthesis), so you can add them and make it more authentic. This Pad Thai recipe is mostly adapted from this video with my own changes to make it Vegan. My kids LOVED the taste even without Shrimps, Fish sauce and Eggs!

Sweet and spicy Tamarind Sauce:

To make the sauce:
Boil 2 cups water mixed with 2 tbsp thick Tamarind paste,(I used Laxmi brand "Concentrated Natural Tam paste" which has a reddish color) 1/4 cup Jaggery (or brown sugar), 1/2 tsp or more red Chilli flakes, (add 2 tsp fish sauce now if you want), 1/4 tsp salt until thick/pourable sauce consistency and adjust the spices.
You can also Microwave this mixture for about 10mins. Be careful not to burn the sauce. Once it reduces to 1/3rd from the original 2 cups, MW for 1 min at a time, stir often and check for the pouring consistency and keep aside to use in the noodles and use as much as you need with the noodles.

To make Pad Thai:

Noodles first:
Heat 1/4th pan of water until very hot, add 1 pack of Asian flat rice noodles about 2-3 cups dry Noodles and soak for 6-10 mins and drain and keep aside. You can add some Sesame oil and mix well to keep the noodles from sticking to each other.
Pad thai:
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a Wok, fry 3 tbsp minced onion, 2 minced garlic, stir for 2 mins.
2. Add 1 cup Tofu, diced to 1"cubes, fry until slightly golden on the edges. (Optional to add 2 eggs, stir fry, then add 1/4 cup grated Turnips, 10-15 shrimps to this now)
3. Add Noodles, 2 tbsp of water, pinch of salt, mix well. Add 6 tbsp Tamarind sauce, mix 1 cup bean sprouts, 1 cup Garlic chives or green onions, , 2 tsp Sesame oil, 2 tbsp minced Cilantro, cook for a min. When done, sprinkle 4tbsp roasted and crushed Peanuts on top, mix.
4. Serve delicious Pad Thai with thinly sliced lettuce, Tomato, Chives or green onion, grated carrots, cucumber and a lemon slice on the side.

Green Tea cooler with Ginger, Honey and Lemon:
I love Green tea. Unlike our Indian masala Chai, we don't need to add milk at all to green tea, made just with water. I made southern style Iced Tea with Green tea with Indian style fresh ginger and added fresh Lemon juice, Honey, Mint to taste. Not only it tastes and feels like a cool breeze hits you on the face a hot day and Green Tea is good for you too!!

You need: Serves two.
1. Boil 3 cups of water with 1/2" crushed fresh Ginger for 2 mins, take off the heat and add 3 bags of Green Tea leaves. Let it seep for 5 mins or so to get as much dark tea as you like. Take out the tea bags, strain the liquid to take out the ginger solids and cool the Green tea.
2. Stir in 1 tbsp or more freshly squeezed Lemon juice, 1-2 tbsp of honey and taste to adjust the sweet and Tang of the Tea and serve in tall glasses with ice cubes and crushed Mint leaves to garnish. Ahhh....! Refreshing!!

Mango Frozen Yogurt:

Who doesn't like Mangoes? Specially frozen Yogurt made with fresh mangoes is fabulous. I had 2 Spanish Mangoes which are not as sweet as Indian Mangoes. If you have canned Indian Mango pulp, you can use 2 cups of that here, color will be darker and tastes yummier than you see here in the photo. Making frozen Yogurt is very easy, like eating frozen Mango Lassi with more sugar added than Lassi of course. I did have a nice peak of frozen Mango on top the frozen Yogurt in there but it melted out by the time I took this photo in a warm room! :P

To make Mango Frozen Yogurt:
1. Add 3 cups chopped fresh Mango cubes or 2 cups canned Mango pulp, 1/4 cup (or more or less to your taste) sugar or use powdered sugar to make it faster and easier to blend, 1 tsp Lemon juice and 1 cup plain Yogurt (make sure it's very thick and creamy) to a blender and blend until you get a very smooth mix without any lumps.
2. Strain this if you are using fresh Mangoes. Then pour this in to Gallon size freezer bag and freeze this for about 3 hours. If it's very solidly frozen, you can't squeeze out or scoop the Yogurt. Let it thaw a bit ti serve.
3. Take it out, press the Mango yogurt to see if it's semi solid and smooth, not very hard and icy. Cut a small hole in the corner of bag or put a "star" icing nozzle even before filling the bag with Mango mix and squeeze out the frozen Yogurt into a bowl or scoop with Ice cream scooper and serve immediately with a slice of Mango to garnish.
4. You can sprinkle some crushed pistachios on top before serving if you wish for little crunch. Enjoy! :)

Logos, hosts and the events list:

Chana Dal-Dill Fritters with spicy dal dip, goes to Cococooks who is guest hosting "MLLA-10th helping", an event which is started by Susan.
Vegan Tofu Pad Thai, goes to Priya's "It's a Vegan World-Thai", an event started by Vaishali.
Green Tea with Ginger, Honey and Lemon, goes to AnuSriram's event "Refreshing drinks for Summer".
Mango Frozen Yogurt, goes to Aquadaze who is guest hosting "My favorite things-Frozen desserts" an event started by Bindiya.
Green Tea cooler and Mango Frozen Yogurt, both go to Mahimaa's "15 Minute cooking" event.

Movies I watched and liked:

I LOVE Meryl Streep! I don't care which film she is in, I just love that woman's talent. She is such a fabulous actress, so convincing in every role she plays. She didn't disappoint me in this film either.
She plays a nun who runs a Catholic school and suspects that one of the male teachers is getting too close to a student and even without any concrete proof, she tries to prevent the "ultimate sin" believing that Father Flynn is taking advantage of a troubled boy's circumstances. He protests and says he is innocent. When she finally succeeds in getting that teacher out of that school, she is in turmoil because she doubts herself that may be she made a mistake! Loved the film personally, may not appeal to everybody.

Fast and Furious: (New)
Non-stop action and I bet every husband and son on this Earth would flip for this film! :D
We had some time to kill last weekend between lunch and dinner, so we decided to go and watch this movie, loved it. Although usually, I don't go to movie theater to watch Fast and Furiuos movies, I am glad we watched this on the big screen. Great thriller and action movie.

Mary, Queen of Scots:
After I saw the movie "The other Boleyn Girl" about Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth I, I got interested in reading about the history of England. Mary, Queen of Scotland is the grand daughter of Henry VIII who ends up imprisoned and beheaded in the end for plotting against(falsely accused) her cousin Elizabeth I, Queen of England.
I borrowed this DVD from the library and watched both of them, loved them. I adore costume dramas and historic theatrical movies like these! Beautiful and talented Vanessa Redgrave, who plays Mary won an Oscar for this movie!
If you want read the books about English history, best books are written by Alison Weir. I have few and ordered a few more to read when we are on vacation in June.

That's all this week, see you all later! :)

April 08, 2009

Rumali Roti, Bell Pepper Korma, Kalonji Naan, Kalamata Olives, Artichoke hearts,Walnuts Spread/dip

Happy Easter!
We had almost 80F almost Summer like temperature last weekend, hot, humid and very windy after going thru' a long cold Winter and chilly early Spring weather. We had BBQ on the deck in the evening for dinner on Sunday, had to hold down the Lettuce and napkins on the plate from flying off of the deck though! :D
Although temp went down drastically on Tuesday, still very sunny here. To add to the joy, Tar Heels (UNC Chapel Hill athletes, Trisha's college) won their 5th NCAA championship!! YAY!! Feels great, our little white and Blue Tar Heels flag is still flying in our front yard as you can see and you can listen to the UNC fight songs here. Curious to know why North Carolinians are called "Tar Heels? Read here and here. Go Tar Heels, you made us very proud! :)

Spring Tulips:
Most beautiful of all the Spring flowers are Tulips in my opinion. Who can forget Tulip fields in Amsterdam, Holland every Spring and Fall once you visit when they are in full bloom? We visited there once about 12 yrs ago, still remember the beauty, Heaven on Earth.

Spring Tulip showcase at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC:
In Asheville, a beautiful city nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains of NC, there is a palace like largest home in America and also a luxury hotel called Biltmore Estate, built by George W. Vanderbilt, which showcases colorful flowers in "Festival of Spring" from April 4th to May 17th, 2009. They say;
"The gardens will be bursting with color and fragrance—thousands of tulips, flowering shrubs and trees, and spring bulbs dazzle your senses. Enjoy music in the gardens and in Biltmore House along with bright floral displays, springtime dining specials, and unique shopping opportunities."
Colorful Spring Tulips from my neck of the woods:

Spring Tulips
One of the weekend projects, prepped up our veggie patch:
For a starter, we topped up 3 huge bags of soil to the veggie patch, fertilized and then planted Husky red Cherry Tomato, Bush Goliath Tomato, Mint and Cayenne Pepper plants in the ground. My 4th Herb pot is ready to go with Pineapple Sage, Sweet Basil, Lemon Thyme. Right now, Herb pots are still in the garage just to be safe until temp goes up and stays up there at 70F. One single morning frost will destroy them all if they are kept outside now, may be we will get them on the deck next month. Last month, lawn was yellow and brittle and after many rainy days and fertilizing, look at that green color of that lawn now! :)

Let's get cooking!
Rumali Roti, Bell Pepper Korma and Bharwa Baingan:
I made some Rumali rotis this week. "Rumaal" which literally means "Handkerchief" in Hindi, these rotis are made to look like Rumal because of their very thin and wide square or round shape. These are rolled out very thin and as wide as you can and baked quickly on a hot inverted Wok/Kadai to serve with gravy dishes or Kababs. I made Bell pepper Korma and stuffed masala Eggplants to go with Rumali rotis. Enjoy the recipes!

Recipe for Bharwa Baingan masala/stuffed Eggplants I have already posted last year is here.
Usually I don't get small round Eggplants here, so the recipe I posted before is made with chopped Eggplants with the same ingredients. This time, I bought some round Brinjals from the Indian store last week. I slit these round Eggplants halfway still attached to the stem and stuffed with the same ground masala and pressure cooked them on low heat to cook them just until soft but not mushy. This is my favorite masala Baingan to have with rice rottis or Rotis.

My favorite "Royal Doulton" stainless steel and non-stick Wok I used to make Rumali rotis, didin't dare to invert it! :D
Although I have a beautiful huge Wok, I didn't dare to invert it to expose the non-stick interior to direct heat which will destroy the non-stick coating. So, I heated the Wok as usual and cooked the wide thin rotis inside the Wok instead. They came out fine, not as good as you see in these videos but not bad at all. You can see how to make traditional Rumali roti here and here and here.

To make Rumali rotis:
1. Mix 1 1/2 cups of Wheat flour, 1/2 cup of plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp oil, add enough water and knead well to get a firm plaible dough. Cover and rest the dough for 30mins.
2. Divide into equal portions, roll out the dough as thin as and as wide as possible to fit into the Wok you are using.
3. Take a Wok/Kadai, invert on the medium to high heat, let it get hot or heat the wide Tava or Wok until hot. Iron Woks without handles on a gas burner do very well to invert and bake these.
4. Add the thin rotis, let it cook and bubble, quickly flip and cook the other side, fold the sides into a square like handkerchief and serve immediately if you can with veg and non-veg gravies or wrapped around the Kababs.

Bell Pepper Korma:

A south Indian "Kurma" usually has ground coconut, poppy seeds etc., slightly different ground spice masala than a North Indian "Korma" or Mughlai style "Qorma". Korma has aromatic spices mainly spices like Fennel, nut paste, little cream added with vegetables or various meats. Since I had bought green, red and orange Bell Peppers, I made a Korma masala and served with Rumali rotis.

To make Korma:
1. Chop 3 large red, Orange and Green bell Peppers/Capsicums in to large pieces. Idea is not to cook them too many but just until soft and still holding their shapes.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil, add 2 onions chopped and fry it until they are slightly golden. Then add 2" chopped Ginger and 2 large chopped garlic to onion mix and stir fry for a minute. Add these to a blender and let it cool for 2 mins.
3. In the same pan, add 1 tsp Fennel seeds, 1 tbsp Coriander seeds, 2 tsp Cumin seeds, few seeds of Cardamoms, 14-16 whole Almonds, saute slightly for 1 minute or so, add to the blender. Add 2 tbsp Yogurt and blend all these to a smooth paste. Add enough water if you need it to grind but not too much.
4. Now, heat 2 tbsp oil+butter mix in a non-stick deep pan, add the Bell pepper pieces, little salt and fry just until they get soften a bit, take them out on a plate.
5. Add ground onion masala to the same pan, fry until it smells good making sure you don't scorch the masala. Once the masala leaves the sides of the pan, add 1/4 cup Tomato sauce, 1 tsp sugar, fry again for 2 mins. Add salt, chilli pd, sauteed peppers and 1/2 cup water to the pan, simmer.
6. Lastly, mix 3 tbsp warm heavy cream and 1/4 tsp Saffron strands, add to the Korma gravy along with 1 tsp of good quality Garam Masala, simmer gently on low heat.
Garnish with Cilantro and serve with Raita and Naan or Rumali rotis.

Kalonji/Nigella seeds Naan:

Kalonjis are Nigella seeds (also known as black onion seeds although not related) in English. It has a pungent taste when eaten and is widely used in Bengali "Panch Phoran" (click on the link, Bong mom Sandeepa has a wonderful post on PP with recipes) as one of the five seeds. Kalonjis are usually added on top of Naans before baking in Tandoor. I had plans to cut and toast one of these Naans to serve with Olive spread I made below but they didn't last long enough since we had chicken masala for dinner to go with these! :D

To bake eggless Naan bread with black onion seeds:
This recipe for Naan is adapted from a cookbook by Tahera Rawji. I didn't add the Egg which was mentioned in the recipe but replaced the sesame seeds with Kalonji and followed everything else just as it is in the book. Milk pd gives it a nice texture and makes it rich, don't think it needed an egg but will add next time I make these just to see whether eggy Naan tastes any different.

1. Mix 1 pack of dry Yeast (2 1/4tsp), 1 tsp Sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water, set aside for fermenting for 5 mins.
2. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp Kalonji/Nigella seeds, 5 tbsp dry milk powder to a mixer, mix for a second and add 1/4 cup vegetable to it, 5 tbsp yogurt and yeast mix to it, beat well for 3 mins until you get a firm and pliable dough. (You can add 1 egg to this dough too but it's optional, I didn't add it.)
3. Brush some oil on top of the dough,cover and let it rise in warm place for an hour or so or until double.
4. Divide this into 6-8 equal portions, knead well. Take a ball, roll out or press out with your hand to about 5" circle, pull one end to make a tear shape. Brush the top with melted butter, sprinkle some Kalonjis and press them down gently. Repeat with other balls, place them on a foil 2 at a time, cover with a kitchen towel and let them rise again for about 10mins.
5. Heat your oven to the maximum up to 500F or more with the Pizza stone or cookie sheet in, slide the naans with the foil on hot cookie sheet or Pizza stone. Bake for 7-8 mins or until they are golden on top. Do not over bake.
6. Serve as soon as possible to get the best out of these Naans.

Kalamata Olives, Artichoke Hearts and Walnut Spread/Dip:

I love Olives, will snack on them them just like candies if you give me a bowlful. Of all the Olives, Kalamata Olives are my favorite kind. Since they are relatively expensive to buy, I add some Artichoke Hearts, Walnuts etc to make a spread and enjoy it with Bagel chips, crisp Veg Crackers, any homemade toasted bread or even with sliced and toasted Naan.

To make the Spread:
1. First take about 10-15 Kalamata Olives (bottled is okay too, don't add salt and Vinegar too much since Olives are already soaked in it), slice them roughly and take the seeds out, put these in a bowl.
2. Open a can of Artichoke Hearts, drain well and chop them roughly, discard the rough and stringy parts of Artichoke. Add to the bowl with Olives.
3. Now add 2 tbsp crushed Walnuts, 1/4 tsp Garlic powder or 2 chopped Garlic, 3 tbsp or more Mayonnaise, 2 tsp Sour cream, salt (careful not to add too much if Olives are out of a bottle), plenty of freshly crushed peppercorns, 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese and 1/4 tsp Italian herb seasoning or 1 tbsp fresh Chives. Mix well.
4. Adjust the seasoning, chill in the fridge for 30 mins. Serve chilled or at room temperature with Toasted hard crusted bread, crackers or toasted Naan.

Logos and links of all the events, thanks to all of you for hosting ladies! :

Bell Pepper Korma, goes to EC's "WYF-Side Dishes" event.
Kalonji Naan bread, goes to Dee's "Think Spice..think-Kalonji". This event is started by Sunita.
Olive-Artichoke Hearts-Walnuts Spread, goes to Priya's "AFAM-Olives", an event started by Maheswari.
Green and Red Bell Peppers Korma, also goes to Neha's "FIC-Red and Green", this event is started by Harini.
Stuffed Masala Baingan with Cashews, goes to Poornima who is guest hosting "Let's Go Nuts-Cashews", an event started by Aquadaze.

My tried and tasted dishes from other blogs in the last 2 weeks, thanks to all of you for posting these delicious dishes ladies! :)

Porial, from Nags. (Didn't have Eggplants, used Beets instead)
Vankaya Bagara, from Vijaya.
Capsicum and Tomato Pappu, from Priya.
Beet Root-Corn Upma, from Ashwini.

Movies I watched and liked last week:

"Seven Pounds":
I didn't hear much about this movie before when it's released but picked up to watch last week. I loved it. Film is about a well educated guy who gets into a car accident which kills seven people including his fiancée. He gets depressed and decides to donate his seven organs/body parts (seven pounds flesh) to seven people who deserve them so they can live. He tests 7 people to make sure they deserve his eyes, Liver, Kidneys, Bone marrow etc. When he finds 7 people, he kills himself so others can have his body parts. It is a very emotional movie to watch, takes some courage to do something like that in real life and I think this is Will Smith's best movie so far, loved his "The pursuit of happyness" movie as well.

"Marley and Me":
This movie is based on a book of the same name. A young couple adopt a yellow Labrador puppy and he writes a column in his newspaper about it as their 12 yrs of marriage and their dog Marley go through various stages of joys and sorrows of their lives until the end of Marley's life. My both kids cried watching this movie when Marley dies of old age. Dog lovers shouldn't miss this movie!

Book I am currently reading:

"The Girl From Foreign" by Sadia Shepard.
This book is somewhat similar to "Burnt Bread and Chutney" by Carmit Delman I have reviewed before in my older post. It's a biographical story of an American girl Sadia Shepard whose mom is a Pakistani Muslim amd dad is an Christian American from Colorado. Sadia's grandmother who lives her family one day tells her that she was born in Bombay to a Bene Israli Jewish family and her real name was "Rachel Jacobs".
When her grandmother had married to a Pakistani Muslim later, she had converted to Islam and moved to live in Pakistan and had her children there as well. Sadia becomes curious about her grandmother's Jewish roots, gets a schalorship to go to India and do a reserch film on Bene Isrreli community and to learn about her own roots in the process. When she goes to meet people in India on the first day, they refer to her as "that girl from foreign with a muslim name!" :D
Intesting book, keeps you glued to the book and also we can see her confusion because of her multi cultural and multi religious upbringing when visiting Bombay for the first time to film about Bene Israel Jewish community, meet her surviving family and her grandmother's childhood home. It's heartening to see the old photos of her family in Bombay in this book and read about India and Indians thru' Sadia's eyes.

Enjoy the better weather and have a fun week and the weekend too. Spring break is on for all the kids here from Saturday, I will be taking little easy on blogging next week since kids want to go out more if they are at home! :)

April 01, 2009

Banana-Chocolate Muffin half loaf, Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnut-White Chocolate Chewy Cookies, Ugadi Pachadi/Bevu Bella and Thali!

Well....last weekend was very rainy, relatively warm but fun too. We did some usual shopping, cleaned up my veggie patch in the backyard and watched few movies. We are expecting 70F+ this weekend, might even scatter some veg seeds on the ground, it's not too early I hope!

Menu this week: I had baked a eggless Banana Chocolate Muffin loaf and few of my favorite eggless Oatmeal Raisin chewy cookies last week for this post before Ugadi last Friday. So here they are along with my addition of Ugadi festival thali (scroll down to see thali and recipes) since I had made those too! :D

Now, let's do some baking first!!
A slice of Banana-Chocolate Muffin Half loaf served with creamy butter for you:
Banana and Chocolate chips makes a great combination and very moist Muffins to have as a snack or for breakfast. I added 1/3rd cup sugar as I don't like vary sweet Muffins but you can use 1/2 cup sugar if you like as the recipe form a Betty Crocker book says. My kids ate the whole loaf within 2 days! :P

Banana Chocolate Muffin Half Loaf:
You must be wondering what the heck is Half loaf! I did too until I found the Half loaf pan in Amazon. It's a round loaf but half the size of a full loaf pan, as small as a smaller rectagular 8" pan. It makes a beautiful half round design on top of the cake or Muffin when inverted.

To bake the Muffin loaf:
You can see the Half loaf pan here. It's cute, something diffeent than usual. You can use 12 cup Muffin pan or smaller Loaf pan if you like, doesn't make any difference in taste and texture.

You need:
3/4 cup Milk,
1/4 cup Vegetable oil,
2 tbsp Yogurt instead of 1 Egg,
2 cups Plain flour (can use Wheat flour instead too),
1/3 or 1/2 cup sugar (depends on how sweet you want),
2 tsp Baking pd,
1/2 tsp Salt.
1 cup mashed Banana or use 2 large banana to mash coarsely,
1/4 cup semi-sweet Dark Chocolate chips.

To bake Muffin:

Heat oven to 400F. Grease or spray no-stick on a Muffin pan or a half loaf pan or a regular smaller loaf pan, keep it ready.

1. Beat Milk, Yogurt (or Egg) and oil by a whisk or in a mixer with beater attachment.
2. Stir in Flour, sugar, baking pd, Chocolate Chips and salt together and add all at once to the mixer, mix gently without beating too much, just until mixed. A bit lumpy batter is okay too, never beat too much until gooey.
3. Fold in coarsely mashed Banana to it and mix gently again, do not beat too much.
4. Pour into the Half loaf pan or small loaf pan or divide equally betn 12 muffin cups. Tap the pan gently to release the bubbles.
5. Bake for 20-25mins or until the top s golden brown and the center is baked well. Since Banana makes the loaf moist, it takes a bit than usual Muffins, test with a skewer in the center until it comes out clean.
6. Cool on the cooling rack, invert the Muffins and cool thoroughly to store in airtight conatiner or Ziplock bag.

Another look:

Oatmeal-Raisin-Walnuts-White Chocolate Chewy Cookies:
If you know me by now, you know I don't like desserts or sweets much. I would rather sit and munch on savory snacks than cookies or cakes any day. But if I had to choose one cookie to have, I would love this Oatmeal Raisin chewy (not crispy and crunchy cookies) cookies, which I adapted from a "Taste of Home" magazine recipe called "Grandma's Chewy Oatmeal Raisin cookies".
I love these with lots of Raisins and Walnuts personally but added White Chocolate chips for kids so they can eat them too, worked out well. I made huge cookies but you can scoop smaller portions to bake plumper and smaller cookies.

You need:
1 cup dark Raisins soaked in 1/3 cup warm water to soften them and then crush them gently.
1/2 cup vegetable butter flavored (optional) shortening, 1 egg, 1 cup dark Brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla essence. (adding 2 tbsp sweetened coconut will add texture too but optional)
2 cups Plain flour,1 1/4 cup regular rolled Oats, 3/4 tsp Cinnamon pd, 2 tsp Baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 3 tbsp Walnuts and 1/4 cup White semi sweet Chocolate chips or slightly crushed Chocolate squares.

To bake Cookies:

Preheat the oven at 350F.

1. Beat veg shortening, egg, brown sugar, white sugar, and vanilla, until creamy.
2. Add Plain flour, baking soda, oats, Cinnamon and salt. Mix well gently and add soaked Raisins with it's water, fold in until you get a big sticky lumpy dough.
3. Divide into equal portions as big as you want, roll gently to balls and flatten the top. Place them on a cookie sheet 3" apart and bake for about 18-20 mins. Do not over bake to make them too crispy. If the middle is a bit soft after about 20 mins, it's okay. They do cook a bit even after you take them out of the oven and becomes chewy when cooled.

Note: You can skip the Egg in the recipe, expect the cookies to be flatter without the addition of Egg like mine looks.
I ran out of Eggs for the first time in my life, can you believe it? I always add 1 egg to this Oatmeal cookie recipe! :P
Yummy chewy cookies are now ready to eat!

Logos and events list:

Banana-Chocolate Muffin Half Loaf, goes to Madhuram's "Egg substitute-Yogurt" event.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chewy cookies, goes to Srilekha's "EFM-Cookies" event.
I am also sending these Chewy white chocolate cookies to Poornima Nair's "For the love of Chocolate" event.
Hulianna, goes to Smitha's "Colors of taste-Flavored Rice" event.
I am sending yummy Mixed dal Ambodes to LG's "Meals on Wheels" event as my second entry as well.

Thanks to all of you ladies, enjoy hosting! :)

About Ugadi/Hindu New Year festival:
As most of you know, we had our Hindu New Year last week. "Uga" means "era" and "adi" means "beginning", in Sanskrit. More info about Ugadi is here in detail. I usually don't cook anything special for Ugadi, but my grandparents grandly celebrate this day in India but this year thought I would add one more to our Shivaratri and Deepavali festival list. I even found a frozen pack of green (well..they were half ripe!) Mango slices to make Ugadi Pachadi. Kids got to learn about Hindu new Year and liked it, so it's all good! :D

A peek at our Ugadi habbada oota/thali we had last Friday:
Here is the menu; Ugadi Pachadi or Bevu Bella, Karnataka style Hulianna, Carrot and Moong dal/Hesarubele Kosumbari, Mixed dal Ambode, plain Yogurt and Sabbakki Payasa/Sago Kheer/Tapioca Saffron Pudding for dessert. You can see all the recipes below.

Ugadi Pachadi or Bevu Bella (Bevu for Neem/bitter and Bella is Jaggary/sweet) in Kannada:
Ugadi Pachadi or Bevu Bella is traditionally served on Ugadi or New year's to start the day. It has mixed six flavors and tastes like mixed with Tamarind water and chopped green Mango for sour and tangy taste, Jaggary or sugar for sweet, Neem flowers or leaves for bitter, Green chillies or chilli pd for spicy and salt to represent life with it's various stages of joys and sorrows!

To make Pachadi/Bevu Bella:
Take a cup of Tamarind water mixed with 2 tsp thick Tamarind paste in a bowl, add enough salt, Jaggary or sugar, 1/4 of a Jalapeno sliced, Neem flowers or leaves if you have it (I added 1/2 tsp Kasoori Methi for bitterness, didn't have Neem), thinly sliced green Mangoes with skin. (I used frozen green Mangoes, doesn't have the greatest taste, fresh green mangoes are always better!) Mix and chill to serve.
Ugadi Thali recipes:

Karnataka style Hulianna/Tamarind rice:

1. Cook 2 cups of rice with 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp oil and enough water, spread it on a pan and cool.
2. Add 1/4 cup oil in a deep pan, add 1 tsp Mustard seeds, 2 tsp each Chana dal and Urad dal, few curry leaves, 2 red dry chillies and 1/4 cup Peanuts. Roast it until they are reddish. Now add 1tbsp white Sesame seeds and 3 tbsp dry dessicated coconut, stir for 1 mins.
(Traditionally these two, Sesame and coconut, are roasted separately and pounded together coarsely to add to the rice at the end when we are mixing Tamarind paste and rice but I make it the easy way)
2. Add 1 cup of Tamarind water mixed with 1 tbsp of thick tamarind paste, salt and 1 tsp Jaggary. Let it boil until it reduces to half, oil floats on top.
3. Add powdered masala to it, mix well and let it cook on low heat for a while. Now, Huli is ready.
4. Mix rice and enough huli until it's evenly coated, adjust the salt and serve. Serve plain yogurt on the side along with some Papad or crunchy Boondi or Sev snacks.

To make Hulianna masala powder:

Dry roast
2 tbsp Coriander seeds,1 tbsp Cumin seeds, few dry red chillies, 2 tsp Peppercorns, 1 tsp Mustard seeds, and few curry leaves until reddish, cool all of them, add 1/4 tsp Hing/Asafoetida and powder it until fine powder. Use it as much as you like to add to Tamarind paste to make Hulianna paste.

Kesari Sabbakki Payasa/
Sago Kesar Kheer/Tapioca Pearl Saffron Pudding:

1. Add 2 tbsp ghee to a deep pan, fry 1/2 cup Sago until they pop like popcorn. Add 1 tbsp Raisins and 1 tbsp slivered skinless Almonds, stir until golden and raisins are puffed up.
2. Add 3 cups pf milk (2% is okay) and simmer this for 30-40 mins until milk is reduced to half.
3. Add enough Jaggary or sugar to your taste, 1/4 tsp Saffron strands and simmer again for 10 mins.
4. When Sago is cooked soft and milk is like thickish, add 1/2 tsp Cardamon powder, mix and take off the heat.
5. Serve chilled or warm. Adjust the thickness of the sauce, should be like pudding or very thin.

Mixed dal Ambode:

1. Soak 4 tbsp Tuar dal, 4 tbsp Chana dal, 2 tbsp Moong dal, 2 tbsp Masoor dal, 2 tbsp Urad dal and 1 tbsp raw rice overnight, drain the water next day, add to a blender.
2. Grind this coarsely, place the thick dough in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, 1"chopped ginger, chilli flakes or green chillies, salt, Cilantro, Curry leaves, few crushed coriander seeds, fennel seeds, Ajwain, Cumin seeds and mix everything well. Adjust the salt.
3. Heat oil to 375F or hot, take a small lump of dough in your hands, flatten and drop it in the oil.Repeat with others and fry until golden and cisp both sides. Drain on the paper Towel and serve.

Carrot-Hesarubele/Moong dal Kosumbari:

Soak 2 tbsp Moong dal for 2 hrs and drain the water. Grate 3 carrots to a bowl. Add 1 tbsp Lemon juice, salt, Moong dal, chopped Cilantro.
2. Mix well and adjust the salt. You can add finely chopped red onion to this but I didn't add this time.
3. Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan, add 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds, 1 sliced green chillies, curry leaves. When they pop, add to the bowl with carrot.
4. Mix well and serve.

Lastly, Movies I watched last week:

Goya's Ghosts
Most beautiful film to watch, saddens you but keeps you glued to the movie. It involves Roman Catholics, Spanish and French revolution. Francisco Goya, who was a painter for Royal family witnesses the life of a young Catholic (whose ancestors were Jewish) girl who was arrested for being a "Judaising" because she doesn't eat Pork. Tortured, manipulated and raped by a Spanish priest Lorenzo in prison for years, Goya and her family tries to rescue her but fail. What happens after that very interesting and tragic. Click on the link for the full story. Beautifully acted by Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman, a must see film if you can get it on DVD.
In Bruges:
Colin Farrell won the "Golden Globe" best actor award for this movie. It's about 2 hitmen who are hiding in Bruges after a killing. While killing a priest as his "Hit", Ray kills a little boy as well who was praying in the church, so he flees the country to Bruges. But the death of that child haunts him and tries to kill himself. In the end, when his own people want him dead, he wants live desperately! Anyway, he does get shot in the end and survives! JOY! :P

Two more additions!
Kids didn't have school on last Monday, so they went to "Monsters VS Aliens 3D" . It was good, as my kids said and they told me that in one the scenes in the movie, they say "We need our best scientific minds NOW, somebody please call India!" :D
I went to "Knowing" (Thanks for suggesting SJ!) in the same movie theater. Knowing was a surprisingly good movie, riveting and non-stop action/thriller. Gets a little silly in the end with Aliens and their "Akasha Vahana" (:D) ie aircraft sucking up 2 kids along with 2 Bunnies to "restart" the World but overall very entertaining movie to watch, loved it.

A very funny thing happened last Sunday, one of the joys of raising mixed culture kids in good old US of A with some Indian "Hinglish movie" culture thrown in!! :D
Trisha and I were relaxing on the sofa watching TV. I switched to Zee Cinema channel and they were showing "God Tussi Great Ho" (copy of "Bruce Almighty!") movie with Salman Khan, AB etc. Trisha suddenly says, "Mom, I can't believe they are calling GOD a great HO!!" and I just fell off the couch laughing. I never saw that coming and she was staring at me like I am a crazy woman!! ;D
(Indians living in USA know what she meant! Okay, I will tell you...."Ho" is an American slang for "Whore" here! She didn't know what "tussi" meant but read everything else in English and then to top it all, she asks me "is that the "Salmon" guy? He looks weird!" too!! I will surely miss her when she leaves for college in August! :P)

That's all this week, see you all later!