Friday, October 14, 2016

Cooking with Vegetable of the Season:Yellow Pumpkin Dip/Raitha

                                                      Yellow Pumpkin Dip/Raitha
Yellow Pumpkin Dip/Raitha

Yellow pumpkin - vegetable that we can find everywhere during the fall,it can be spotted as a jack o lantern at door entrance,as a fall decor amid hay or just a center piece by itself ,a carved fall pumpkin the list goes on.When it comes to cooking until a decade back I thought it could be used only in Sambar at the most in thogayal(cooked pumpkin ground with some Indian spices that can be mixed with rice and consumed).A friend of mine introduced to Pumpkin raitha,we call pachdi in south India, made with yogurt which sometimes will convert to dip replacing the yogurt with sour cream.I am amazed by many ways pumpkin can be cooked and it has myriad of nutrition values.It is rich in Vitamin A,C and E .All the three vitamins are related in enhancing the skin strength and apparently gives the glow. In my kitchen ,I cook at the minimum twice a week of yellow pumpkin (Wink,Wink, you can figure out why  the often frequency of making yellow pumpkin in my kitchen).Anyway this recipe can be prepared as raitha/pachdi with yogurt or transformed to a dip with sour cream .Here we go to the recipe.My picture shows the raitha/pachdi version.

                                           Yellow Pumpkin Dip/Raitha

Ingredients

1.Yellow Pumpkin - 2 cups cubed/grated  (wash the pumpkin prior to cubing ,so it doesn't get soggy)
2.Ginger grated -1/2 teaspoon(optional)
3.Black Pepper Powder - 1 teaspoon
4.Salt to taste.
5.Sour Cream - 1/2 cup
6.Oil-1/2 teaspoon.
7.Yogurt  -1/2 cup for the raitha/pachdi version
8.Curry Leaves -few for the raitha/pachdi version.

Method

1.On a medium flame ,pour oil in a wide mouthed pan,when the vapors start to come add the ginger,black pepper powder ,saute for couple of minutes.
2.Add the cubed/grated pumpkin ,add salt and reduce the flame to low and cover the pan.Keep checking in between and mix  well so it doesn't get burnt.
3.In about 5-10 minutes the pumpkin will start to cook and  get tender,with a spoon or ladle mash the pumpkin.
4.When it start to get thicker in consistency ,water starts to reduce,switch off the flame.
5.Let it cool ,once completely cooled off ,add the sour cream.
6.Enjoy the dip with cut veggies or pita chips.

Raitha Version

1.In step 1,substitute black pepper with  red chilies according to your spice level  , add 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds ,chana dal ( bengal gram), urad dal (black gram dal),cumin seeds and a pinch of hing(asafoetida) to the oil .
2.Replace sour cream with yogurt and garnish with curry leaves at the end.

Yellow Pumpkin Dip/Raitha


Monday, September 19, 2016

Back to School Recipe:Carrot and Radish salad (Quick and Healthy).

                                    Back to School Recipe: Carrot and Radish Salad
Kids are back to school and sanity restored for me. My kids were in summer camp for 10 weeks ,all 5 weekdays, until 6 pm, rather they prefer picked up only when the door closes as they were having super fun .Juggling between camp and classes was crazy timing wise, towards end of the summer leave we went for a week’s vacation to Yellow stone, Wyoming (A separate post) and the last week was spent on buying school supplies, back packs and lunch Kit. It’s a ritual every year to buy a new backpack even if the previous year’s isn’t worn out. I hear the same compliant from my friend’s. This year my first daughter got exposed to Vera Bradley brand by one of her friend and insisted on one, she justified the price for the quality. Fortunately, I had coupons and the store had some discount on top of it, we got it for a reasonable price (reasonable for my daughter).My little munchkin got from Justice and she picked one with lot of smiley faces, think it’s a trend among the kids now.The only condition they agreed -I insisted black base for the bag as other light colors get dirty and discolored pretty fast.
Now that they are back to school my cooking in the mornings has to be simple, quick at the same time healthy. When I plan my kids lunch with vegetable paratha usually will double up the vegetable grating, so it can serve as salad for the adult lunch. You can alter this recipe to any variation you would like. Radish has many health benefits, will try to sneak in my cooking at least once a week.I had only one radish and hence the picture is not showing up the white color if you really care for mix of  color increase the radish quantity to carrots as orange  dominates.
Here is my version
                                       Carrot and Radish salad
Ingredients.
Carrot- 2 peeled and grated.
Radish – 2 peeled and grated.
Green Chili – 1 diced.
Lemon Juice – 1 teaspoon (optional).
Salt – to your taste.
Cilantro – 1 teaspoon

Method
1.Mix all ingredients together except cilantro.
2.Garnish the salad with cilantro when about to serve.

Note:
1.We like our salad crunchy ,seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon each of mustard seeds,jeera(cumin seeds),urad (black gram -peeled) dal and chana dal(split bengal gram) and a pinch of hing(asafoetida).
2.I peel carrots and radish only when they are used raw,when cooking of the vegetable is involved ,will give a thorough wash and use.

Carrot,Radish Salad and a peek of this year's backpack







Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pickled Peppers -Another Version

                                                          Pickled Peppers -Another Version
Summer is the time ,I have noticed many people harvest vegetables from their garden ,especially variety of Peppers ,Tomatoes to be bottled and stored and Summer is the time we get vegetables of all colors.Some of my friends have taken their gardening passion to the next level by leasing a piece  of plot (this is a common practice in the east coast.) and harvest all kinds of veggies and I am one lucky friend of theirs they share their produce with me.Sometimes Indian okra, Indian baingan(eggplant), long beans etc .Couple of weeks back one of my friends gave a bag of peppers of all kinds -habanero,banana pepper,jalapeno ,Indian small chilies etc.Out of which habanero is the hottest (both spice level and appearance wise) than  the Indian chilies,very good for  boosting metabolism .Original plan was to fry bajji(fritters) with banana peppers but thinking of the amount of oil consumption bailed out on that idea and decided to make pickle out of peppers .Slightly sweet banana peppers compliment hot habanero. This pickle is very simple yet tasty and can be consumed with variety rice or breads

Ingredients
Habanero - 2 (to your spice level)
Long Peppers- 7-8
Jalapeno- 4-5
Banana Peppers- 7-8
Indian small chilies- 3
Salt - To your taste (but add little more than the usual to reduce ,overall spice level.)
Lemon Juice- from 5 Lemons
Apple Cider Vinegar- 3 tea spoons (optional for longer shelf use,choose unfiltered and unpasteurized ACV )

Method 
1.Wash the peppers and let it air dry.
2.Dice the peppers to small pieces.
3.Add Lemon Juice.
4.Add salt and apple cider vinegar(ACV-optional).
5.Transfer and Store it in a jar.

Note:
  • Add Indian small chilies and habanero according to your spice level.
  • On Day 1 the prepared pickle will look like  lot in quantity and after soaking up in salt and lemon juice will shrink.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar may cause allergic reactions.Use only, if it suits you and your family.
  • Reason for unfiltered and unpasteurized ACV ,carry natural antioxidants in the raw state.We use Braggs brand.
Original version of Pickled Peppers published on the blog.Check it out.Pickled Peppers.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

AMA's survived Puerto Rico.


View of the city from one of the Fort
Hola Everyone,

Note: As many of you have asked about detail description and tips  from our experience ,this post is a long one.If you need more tips and specific information about where to find things in Puerto Rico, please write to me personally.I have covered the basics.We have done many Trips but this is our first Island vacation and after this I can confidently claim that ,we are comfortable with Island trips.

After the hustle and bustle at the house and airport  We  are on  flight to Puerto Rico on 23rd December 2014  ,luckily our seats were together ,We landed in Luis Munoz Martin airport named after the governor of Puerto Rico who fought to get American Citizenship for PuertoRicans in 1917. Puerto Rico was my suggestion last year but A convinced kids will have better fun in Disney,Florida, personally I think Disney amuses him every time but he agreed  that ,Puerto Rico was a relaxed one.

We booked as a package flight and hotel together , didn't include the car ,we thought its a small island we could do in taxis and local transportation but when we arrived at the hotel we felt like birds without wings ,settled in the room around 1AM .We stayed at Hyatt House ,San Juan ,The first day we spent hunting down a rental car and got one around 2pm ,did some local shopping for groceries ,vegetables as Puerto Rico is not vegetarian friendly.The veggies and fruits are so fresh ,especially the roots.During the whole trip we enjoyed tropical fruits pineapple,papaya,coconut water,small bananas and price wise very economical. Hyatt House -we highly recommend as the hotel was clean,High Quality service on top of all the breakfast spread everyday changed and had varieties like french toast and pancakes altered every other day.Muffins,oatmeal,BF potato,For omelette eaters ,fresh ones made on spot,tropical fruits .Everyday we would eat a heavy breakfast and  not be hungry until lunch.Our room had kitchen and I would whip up a quick mixed rice /sandwich and carry along for lunch.I should explain the driving condition in PR ,we can't expect people to follow traffic rules and all the streets ,drives are in Spanish and they are called "Calle","Salida" for exit.It was a challenge driving ,A did it without complaining and if you have done car driving in India,expect the same situation.We did miss directions ,but got the hang of it after the first day.

As Puerto Rico is all about beaches,history and nature we decided to explore one of the famous one, Ocean Park in Old San Juan , Hyatt House was located in New San Juan,SJ is Capital of PR and a bridge across will take to Old San Juan which was 10 mins drive ,The beach - family/kids friendly and had great panoramic views.All the beaches in PR along the shore had palm,coconut trees.Half of the day was spent on the beach,A & Kids had great fun in the water.I took the photographer job. Kid1 explored the water  by going little deep in the ocean with A.Kid2 is still scared of the water would go near the waves and when they come near her she would run back. The water in all these beaches , are crystal clear ,we can see the feet of our own when the waves fade away.The sand texture is exactly like  in Marina beach,Chennai that would stick to you and leave a trail of mess , unlike the beaches in NJ.Since it was Christmas time, the Governor of Puerto Rico had celebration in Old San Juan until the new year with the usual Xmas stuff lights,ginger bread men houses etc .We spent couple of hours and walked along the coastline and returned back to the room.

Next day ,we did the tour of Old San Juan ,the city is all about history about how Puerto Rico survived during world wars and became part of United States.We parked the car in a parking spot and the PR government offers free trolley for tourists that stops at all the tourist spots .There are paid guided tours.We just took the trolley and would read about the place on our phones and ,through out ,in all these places self guided descriptions are available.With the trolley we had the advantage of skipping some spots when the kids are tired . Basically Puerto Rico was controlled by Spain and to protect the Island from Europe invaders ,two huge Fortress were built that could withstand outside disturbance and could fit a garrison. The biggest one is Castillo San Felipe del Morro and one smaller is Castillo San Cristóbal. We were amazed by the architecture and how in those days the strategic planning in building every feature just awed us.The Views of the sea from the peak of the fortress can't be explained in words.The dungeon to keep the prisoners was built starting high going down like a slope .The guide was explaining the best spot to sleep in the prisoner's dungeon is at the top since all the sh..(it) they do will slide down to the bottom.It was pin drop silence when Kid2 heard the guide she was in a loud voice "Amma,that guy is saying sh.. that's not nice..",it was an embarrassing moment ,I was like aw... Kid2  right catch at the wrong moment :). Kid1 enjoyed going in to the tunnel and climbing the cannons.The entire city of Old San Juan was breathtaking with hidden surprises.Hope our pictures make the justice for the views.

Ok,Let me now explain our food situation ,I was worried about the kids for food but they fairly managed with Mac&Cheese,Noodles and Pizza when we were outside of hotel room.Guess ,who turned in to a baby ,my man .We didn't get buttermilk for first couple of days and I was so surprised how A is keeping quiet and consuming meals with out making fuss for yogurt .I was wrong one evening he just disappeared and as usual didn't pick up the mobile for long.I was about to call 911 ,with the car plate number.As A is known notorious to miss directions ,when we are outside of our home ,first thing I note down the Car plate number . The knock on the door ,he is standing outside with a big glow in his eyes grinning cheek to cheek.First ,I thought he went to gulp down a Mojito,Nah... he drove 20 miles to find a Walmart super center and Voila,he returned with a buttermilk carton.The buttermilk did the Mojito Jinx on him..I can confidently leave him in a land of damsels and he would automatically come to me when his tummy starts grumbling.Advantage of having a husband with layman cooking skills.

After a tiring day at Old San Juan ,we decided to explore another famous beach Isla Verde ,we liked this beach better as they are controlled by municipal,it was lot secure with life guards,restrooms ,especially with kids .As usual A and Kid1 had fullest fun in the water.Kid 2 and Myself took an afternoon siesta.We returned back to the hotel room in the evening .I had to make truce terms with kids and A to leave the beach for the day.The coastline along this beach looked exactly like ECR road in Chennai,with road side shops,food cart vendors .We enjoyed as much as fresh coconut water and banana fritters which is very famous in PR.Another PuertoRican famous dish is Mofongo ,which is prepared using mashed/fried banana with a gravy and rice.The local people consume it with shrimp but it can be special ordered sans meat.

Next day our target was el yunque  rain forest which is world famous .We imagined with proper walking trails and paths ,to the contrary to explore the forest we need to trek the way through the natural forest trails.It was a 6 mile trek to and fro ,down the loop of the trail a wonderful waterfall is located, where tourists are allowed to take a dip .The greenery and view through the trek was worth the time. Kid 1 had major fun in the falls and she never complained the trekking .I had to walk carrying Kid2. Worth the effort.We returned home for dinner and decided to wake up late the next day.Sneakers are the best to walk on these trails.

As this was the final day prior to our departure we decided to do another famous beach Pinones .We had a feel of India in PR as the houses are built with brick and sand and since its a small island ,the Flat concept is predominant .Weather is warm throughout the year and you can catch a glimpse of ocean from anywhere.Again beach fun returned back to hotel and started to pack.

Our flight was an early morning one,we bid a big Adios to Puerto Rico half halfheartedly to leave the tropical weather.7 days stay wasn't enough for the Kids ,they mentioned we should have stayed couple of more days.Back to our sweet Home in NJ relishing the fun ,super tanned.

One other touristy spot that we didn't take a chance is the Bio Luminescent bay ,where in a particular part of the sea ,the fishes,sea organisms they glow in the night which looks like a light show .But the hassle, is only couple of electric boats go to that area in a night and they are all booked for another whole month.Kayaks are available but we didn't want to risk a chance with kids kayaking in the deep sea.

General suggestion,when you travel to any place ,please make enough research and list down and have a general idea of places you want to visit,based on your family preferences and kids convenience.We do that in every trip ,as all the touristy places may not be appropriate with kids for us . A week before the trip I ,analyzed the places which are suitable for our family ,for example Bio Bay on my list was last as I knew if we couldn't get the ticket to the electric boat ,we will not do it and not fret about one of the places being missed .We almost covered all , again whats the objective ,ours was not a trip to do a tick mark of seen places,rather relax.Similarly make a list of things required during the trip simple items  like travel size laundry detergent,tooth paste etc. Remember, its an island any American product that has to travel through the ship is overly priced for example a Banana Boat small sized sun screen cost $13.50.I am not an extremely organised person for everything to go right ,but moderately organised that we didn't have to spend a day sitting in the room thinking whats the agenda for the day or "Oh we didn't bring laundry detergent ,with beach clothes had to hunt down a store to get one"kind of situation.Hope you all like the pics and details.

Adios Everyone.

Hyatt House
Breakfast area in Hyatt House


Prisoner's dungeon
Castillo San Cristóbal

Fort

Watch point inside the fort to look out for invaders.

Fort view from the trolley.

Talking  truce terms  with Kid 1 to leave the beach



Can an iyengar survive anywhere without sathumathu and potato curry?


Pinones Beach


waterfall inside the el yunque rain forest

walking trail to the falls.
View from Light house at el yunque.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Be The Change...



A guest post on present day kids by an experienced professor ,student counselor and who has dealt with various kinds of children for 30 years. She chose the topic "Be The Change.."to articulate her thoughts.
                                 
                                                                 Be The Change...
                                                               
I hear more often in every  gathering of friends and relatives who are above fifty years of age that  there is a degeneration or disregard for values among youth of today . Blindly young boys and girls discard discipline and they project themselves as modern revolutionaries. Elders get worried  when they question the custom and tradition  and don’t show any interest in participating in festivals  and celebrations . The common complaint is that the youth disobey and disrespect elders. They care less for developing and fostering relationships with extended family members and they want to have fun with friends and enjoy all the luxury that  they  buy with the hard earned money of their parents. Some parents themselves feel that nothing can stop them from taking impulsive decisions  which may lead them to failures or dangers and they are not ready to mend their ways when counselled .
Though these are very valid  fears , I feel as elders we all know that times are changing and we need to move on . Unlike the parents ,young  girls and boys of today are brought  up in a very different environment . It is not necessary for a parent  to pamper a child , he pampers himself and the parent is proud when a child achieves something and the boy/ girl is treated like an adult to a great extent . Parents of today forget that the boys and girls are hundred percent more shrewd  than them . They have to be  role models  to the young ones . The children will not accept anything that the parent discards, be it custom , tradition , culture , respect , bonding or kindness. If we expect our youth to be good , we have to be good . The youth are like the metal lid of  a container . When the lid sometimes due to wear and tear , does not fit / close the container ,We give a pat / hit it on its sides to bring it to shape . Likewise ,when the youth go out of hand , we have to counsel them sternly and try to make them understand that there are boundaries not to be crossed . Some may require  professional counselor's help, let us not hesitate to provide that too.
We did not grow up with TV , Computer , Tablets and mobile phones   on our tables. The way we spent time was very different . I firmly believe that there is no degeneration among youth . We  find the youth reacting quickly and positively as and when required . They are kind and willing to help and there are many incidents of young men and women helping the society at the times of natural calamities like floods and earthquakes.
A parent’s role is as important as the role of a teacher and it is our responsibility to channelize  the physical and intellectual  energies of the younger generation towards the right direction . On a positive note , let us be the change that we want to see in our young men and women  as 
Mahatma Gandhi said.






Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Another Quinoa Love-Salad with Kale and What are you Thankful For?


I can’t get enough of Quinoa Love,it is so versatile that can be consumed without spicing up ,
just with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of Olive oil.Kale,one of the ingredients has health and numerable nutritional benefits ,like lowering cholesterol by steam cooking it.Kale also has antioxidants properties that it has been included as one of the super foods to prevent 5 types of Cancer.Good things come the harder way ,so is, Kale has a  bland taste ,slightly sour, that I have to combine in a chick peas or a bean salad to camouflage its properties.This time,tried with Quinoa salad spiking just with minimal ingredients and tasted perfect.This healthy Quinoa Salad can be included as part of Thanks Giving Menu.

Speaking of TG,what am I thankful For in my life,

1. My Parents and Family.
2. My better half “A”-Who tries to accomplish and maintain sanity in our house.
3. My Friends and extended family.
4. For the World I live in.
5. My culture and am Proud of it.
6. Last but not the least and the most important “My two Minions (A&A)-who are  apple of  our eyes,brings smile on Mine and A’s face end of each day.
 I love to be squished between "A Cube" all the time.

What are you Thankful for?.   Happy Thanks Giving. 

                                                   Quinoa Salad with Kale.
Ingredients
1. Quinoa (boiled) -1 cup
2. Kale (chopped) -2 handfuls.
3. Ginger (grated) -1 teaspoon.
4. Garlic (diced) -1 teaspoon
5. Olive Oil-1/2 teaspoon
6. Salt – to taste

Method:
1.In a Wide bottomed pan add oil, when smoke start to come out of the oil saute garlic on medium        flame.
2.Add the chopped Kale and saute until it reduces  to half  in volume maintaining the green.
3.Add the boiled Quinoa, salt, grated ginger and give it a toss.
4.Switch off the flame.
5. Enjoy with chopped nuts of your choice on top.

Note:
Usually I cut kale and freeze in glass containers ,as I will not be able to use all in one time.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Kashayam- A herbal Concoction to ease out Sore Throat and Cold- Re-Post


It is the time of the year we will be under the weather very often, catching cold with climate changing slowly from fall to winter, engulfing my part of the world for the next six months. Kashayam is a herbal concoction made using several herbs mentioned in the original post.If you can't find all of the herbs from the original post,it can be made with ingredients available from the pantry which is also effective and soothe the throat.

Original Version
Kashayam-A Herbal Concotion to ease out Sore Throat and Cold

                                                  Kashayam-Simple Version

Ingredients

1.Coriander Seed /Dhania Powder- 2 teaspoon.
2.Black Pepper Powder - 2 teaspoon.
3.Cumin /Jeera Powder -  2 teaspoon.
4.Fresh Ginger Grated - 2 teaspoon.
or
5.Dry Ginger Powder  -2 teaspoon.
6.Water - 1&1/2 cup
7.Honey  - 1 teaspoon

Method:

1.Bring all ingredients from 1-6 except honey to a rolling boil and allow the water to reduce little bit.
2.Strain and mix honey to the mixture.
3.It can be consumed warm or lukewarm.
4.Enjoy the soothing drink !!!

Note:
Please adjust the ingredients according to taste and spice level ,especially  ginger and black pepper .

Disclaimer:
Kashayam works well for our family.I am no expert in herbs and not sure if any of the ingredients contains allergens.Ensure it will suit you and your family prior to consumption.