Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas

Wishing all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Nativity scene, Christmas Village and Christmas tree we keep in our house

Fruit Cakes I bake for Christmas 

May Santa bring us all the gifts we wish for and fill us all with peace and happiness !

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Cranberry hot & sweet pickle

Cranberry shows up during Thanksgiving and Christmas in most of the US houses , as it is a tradition to serve this fruit as a sweet jelly along with dinner. It is considered to be one of the healthiest fruits.
Cranberry jelly can be bought from any stores. I love the way how this is conveniently available in all seasons in cans. Just pour the jelly straight out of the can into a cute bowl and it's done , you got a side dish !

Even though I too love this convenient can of jelly, I love to buy this in the fresh form also.
I made a hot and sweet Indian pickle out of it this week and it is one of the yummiest pickles I have ever made. We love the taste very much and in my view this tastes like mango pickle. Try this and let me know ! Click to see my spicy cranberry pickle too.

Cranberry pickle with roti and broccoli usili.

mortar to powder the masalas

Hot and sweet cranberry pickle

Cranberry - 2  cups (1 small pack)
salt - 2 tbsp
brown sugar - 3 tbsp
sesame oil - 3 tbsp
red chili powder - 1 tbsp
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Apple cider vinegar - 1 tbsp (preservative)
mustard seed - 1 tsp
hing (asafetida) - 1/4 tsp
Masala to powder:
Mustard seed - 1 tsp
fenugreek (methi seed) - 1/2 tsp
oil - 1 tsp

Rinse and clean the cranberries.  Using a clean kitchen towel remove the moisture and let dry for few hours or overnight. 
Roast the mustard seed and methi seed using a tsp of oil. Let cool and powder. Keep aside.

Heat the  sesame oil (any cooking oil) in a kadai (wok),   let it start to crackle . At the same time add hing and immediately add the cranberries and  saute till they starts cracking. Cranberry will get thick and mushy now. Add salt.
When the oil starts showing off the edges, add the red chilly powder, turmeric powder, brown sugar, powdered masala and stir well till the raw smell of red chilly powder goes.  Mix vinegar.
Switch off the flame and let the pickle get cool. Store in glass bottles.
Cranberry pickle is ready! Keep it refrigerated.

Serving suggestions:
Serve as side dish with curd rice or chapati.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Vegetable briyani in Dutch Oven

During this Thanksgiving sale, I asked my hubby to buy me a 'Dutch oven'. (The tradition is , most people buy Christmas gifts during these sales).  So he started looking for some deals in Kohl's. But a week before 'Thanksgiving' day, we saw a 6.5qt 'ChefElect' brand Dutch oven in a nearby Shoprite. It was on sale and that price of $30 seemed more elusive , as most of the brands of that size would come around $70 or more. I could see this one has a larger circumference and shorter when compared to others.  So we decided to buy it and I told him that I found my Christmas gift. But my hubby dear insisted me that, this is his 'Thanksgiving' gift for me :) and I can start cooking with that from this Thanksgiving :) I definitely like his ideas when it comes to early Christmas gifts :)
So I decided to prepare his favorite a briyani. I made a vegetable briyani for 'Thanksgiving' lunch. Instead of a traditional 'Thanksgiving dinner', we had this as lunch and would start enjoying the shopping in the evenings. This has become our usual way of celebrating 'Thanksgiving' nowadays 😃
My dutch oven (in front), behind that is my instant pot. 

Traditionally briyani should be cooked in a heavy bottom vessel in slow cooking method. Even though I prepare briyani using many gadgets like pressure cooker, electric cooker or in dosa tawa dum method,  I totally enjoyed preparing 'briyani in Dutchoven' , as this tasted exactly like the traditional 'Dum briyani'. The thickness of the cast iron dutchoven and its heavy tight lid and the self basting features inside the lid are the secrets behind this aromatic briyani. Also this is a fool-proof method instead of going through all those processes that calls for ina dhum briyani method. So if try my recipe once, you will definitely say that, Dutch oven and briyani are made for each other 💕

Cook covered for 30-40 minutes at lowest heat setting.
Vegetable briyani is ready
Our Thanksgiving lunch : Veg briyani, egg curry, raitha, mini pecan pie

Thanksgiving lunch

Homemade ice cream with store bought pie

Cinnabon (center of the roll)  in mall , we had on Thanksgiving night.
Cauli flower - 1/4 flower (chopped 1 cup) , green beans - 10 , carrot - 2 , fresh green peas - 1/2 cup , dry soya chunks - 1 cup, butter beans or rajma (cooked) - 1/2 cup

Basmathi rice (long grain) - 3 cups
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Red onion - 2 (medium size)
green chillis - 5 (slit).
Lemon - 1/2
ghee - 2 tsp (to add at the end)
rose essence - a tiny drop
whole plain yogurt - 1/2 cup
coconut milk - 1 cup

To temper:
peanut oil - 1/2 cup + ghee 1 tsp
Fennel - 1 tbsp
bay leaves - 2
star aniseed - 1,
cinnamon stick - 2 inch
cardamom - 4
cloves - 4
Stone flower (kal pasi -Tamil ) - 1 piece
mace - 1 tiny bit
nutmeg - a tiny bit
almond or cashew  -10
raisins- 10.
salt - to taste

Masala 1:
Tomato - 4

Masala 2:
cilantro- 10 stems
mint leaf -1 handful.
green chilly - 10
black pepper - 1 tbsp
cumin - 1/2 tsp

Masala 3:
Ginger -1/3 cup (chopped)
Garlic - 1 whole

Wash and clean the vegetables. peel the skin of carrot and cut into long thin slices.
Cut the green beans in to long pieces.
Pluck 5 -6 florets from the cauliflower.
Defreeze the green peas.
Boil the dry soya chunks for 2 minutes and put it in cold water. Squeeze the water and keep it along with vegetables.

Wash the rice and soak it for 1/2 an hour in cold water.

Grind all the masala 2 and 3  separately.

Chop onion and keep aside.

Chop tomato and keep it aside.

I use coconut milk powder sometimes. I mix 2 tbsp coconut milk powder with 1 cup water and take it as coconut milk. But fresh milk tastes better.


Heat peanut oil +  ghee in a  dutch oven.
Put all the items given for tempering and fry few minutes till fennel gets reddish hue.

Then goes the chopped onion .
Fry it till golden brown and add the ginger garlic paste and stir well till the raw smell goes (not more than 30 secs).

Now add the tomato paste and cook till the oil oozes out of it. Add turmeric powder. In this point if needed add 1 tsp garam masala powder or briyani powder.

Then add the cilantro , mint paste and cook till the oil start oozing out. Now put the vegetables and add salt. Just stir well. Don't cook them now. Add the yogurt, coconut milk. rose essence. Pour water just enough to cover the vegetables. Check for salt.

Meanwhile boil some 10 cups of water in a separate vessel and add the soaked rice. Cook it until it is half done (5 mins). Drain the hot water and add the half cooked rice along with uncut green chillies. Squeeze some lime juice over.

Close with the lid and reduce the flame to minimum.

Cook for an hour , the biryani will be ready!

Serving suggestions:

Garnish with 2 tsp ghee , chopped cilantro , mint leaves.
Serve vegetable biryani hot with onion raitha .
Serves 6 people.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Red cabbage Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut (shredded raw cabbage fermented under specific conditions) is an Eastern or Central European dish. It is a simple probiotic rich pickle like salad. 
In olden days it started as a way to preserve cabbages that grow abundantly and stock them up for freezing weather conditions.
In USA, we use this in salads, sandwiches and soups. Sometimes it is served as a side dish in Thanksgiving dinners.

It should traditionally contain only few ingredients like cabbage and salt.
I have added little vinegar (it slows down fermentation and it is not necessary).
I added vinegar to keep it long and safe. You can feel free to omit vinegar and just use salt to preserve the cabbage (that's the best way to create a probiotic rich sauerkraut).
I have used red cabbage, as I am fascinated by this purple color and by the health benefits. Still feel free to use any cabbage you can get.
I find any kind of pickling as a 'feel good' phase for me and so I do this often :).

Where did I buy these ?

I bought the red cabbage from the nearby Asian grocery store, 'Organic Apple cider vinegar with mother' from Aldi, Sea salt (Chettinad brand) from Indian grocery stores,  32 oz glass Ball jar from Walmart.

Tools I used:
Cuisinart 13 cup food processor - adjustable slicing blade. (Believe me, a food processor makes everything easy 😃)
Or we can use a cutting board and a knife.
A mortar and pestle as weights.
A mixing bowl and a clean glass jar with lid.

Ingredients : Red cabbage , Apple cider vinegar with the 'mother culture', A clean glass jar, sea salt
My hubby presented me in 2017 for Christmas  💕
use the slicing attachment in food processor.
Add salt and mix well.

Or keep it like this.

Transfer everything to a clean dry jar and close well.

Save in fridge or at room temperature. 
A simple salad with onion, purple sauerkraut,  chickpeas , arugula, lettuce and beets pickle.

Red cabbage - 1 (2 .5 lb)
Sea salt - 1 tbsp
apple cider vinegar - 2tbsp

Using a cutting board or a food processor (slicing blade) , shred the cabbage into thin slices.
Transfer it to a mixing bowl. Add salt and mix well. Place a weight above the cabbage , so that it releases lot of water and stays inside the water it releases. This is the important phase in preserving the cabbage. Cover it with a thin cloth and let it remain in room temperature for 2 days.
By this time we will notice that the cabbage has shrunk in volume and the amount of juice it is giving out.
Now our Sauerkraut is ready to serve !
At this stage (after 2 days), I have added 2 tbsp 'vinegar with mother' to make sure that it stays safer and I keep it inside fridge for further use. You can feel free to keep it in room temperature too, as that's how everyone is doing globally.

Serving suggestion:
Serve as salad ingredient or sandwich filling or simple side dish or as an ingredient in soups.
This is good for digestive health.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Happy Deepavali,

Dear readers, friends, family,
Wishing all a very happy and prosperous Deepavali !
I made some flower arrangements and my hubby did some lights decor in the windows. Hope you all like my Deepavali  celebrations !
Flower decorations and floating candles I made for Deepavali  2019. 
Deepavali lights in our house 🙂

Masal vadai and kesari I made 

WhatsApp and Facebook image with Happy Diwali Wishes

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sarkarai Pongal in Electric pressure cooker (Instant pot pongal)

I made Sarkarai pongal in Instant pot recently. After the arrival of Instant pot (IP) the electric pressure cookers have become a normal in many households. IP is very good for all kinds of Indian foods, so it has become some stylish and 'must have' gadget like an 'apple product' in the eyes of any desi in abroad.
I too love IP, just like any other new fancy gadget....If you are my regular reader , then you will know how much I admire cooking gadgets :)  LOL !

Apart from my shopoholism , Instant pot is really a necessary gadget for people who loves cooking in a schedule. Even though it works like a stove top pressure cooker, it has its own perks. Below are the points I like the best about IP.
1.Electric cooker is much safer.
2. It has automatic ON OFF features, so it is not necessary to count the whistles just like old times.
3. There is no whistle sound , this is much important if we have to cook in a silent environment :).
4.The smells are contained inside the pot and therefore the food smells and tastes better.
5. Food gets cooked much faster and we can be sure of the results.
6. Delay timer is a good option for many schedules.

Here is my recipe for sarkarai pongal.
In this recipe I have used my 3 qt DUO Instant pot. I cooked pacharisi rice  (raw rice) and moong dal in the IP. Then added the molten jaggery solution , tadka and boiled it for few minutes. This is the shortest narration :) Still read below for measurements and time , pressure settings !

Also check out my other versions on Sarkarai pongal
1 . Pressure Cooker pongal
2.  Simple pongal 
3.  Rich sarkarai pongal
Sarkarai Pongal made in Instant pot

Ingredients: (for 4-5 people)
Raw rice (pacharisi)  or Basmati rice - 1 1/2 cup
green gram lentil (paasi paruppu)- 1/2 cup
whole milk - 2 cups
water - 3 cups
jaggery (Indian brown sugar ) - 250 gm (1/4 kg)
water - 1 cup
ghee -  1 tbsp
cashew - 5
almond - 5
raisins - 10
cardamom powder - 1 tsp
edible camphor (pachai karpooram) - a tiny pinch

In the Instant pot pressure cooker, choose the 'PRESSURE COOK' button.
Set the cooking time to 10 minutes in 'high pressure' setting.
Pour the milk and start cooking with lid open.

Meanwhile take the rice and dal together and rinse well. Add it to the milk.
Add 3 cups of water.
 Put the lid on. 
Check the weight valve and make sure that it is not in 'vent mode'.
After we place the lid , the IP will start heating and once the required pressure is achieved , we can see the safety valve rising up. It may take 5 minutes to reach this stage.
The Instant pot will automatically switch off after the set timings.
Now it may naturally release the pressure in about 20 minutes or we can manually release the pressure and open the lid.

In the meantime , put the jaggery and 1 cup water and bring to boil and let the jaggery melt.
Pour the clear jaggery solution to the cooked rice+dal in Instant pot.

Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a frying pan.
Add the chopped nuts, raising and fry for few seconds till the nuts turn mild red and the raisin puffs.
Pour this over the rice+dal+jaggery in IP.
Add the cardamom powder, edible camphor powder and mix well.

Put the lid on.
Press the 'Rice' setting and set the time to 1 minutes and low pressure.

Once it is done, release the pressure manually.

Sarkarai pongal is ready !

Serving suggestion:
Serve as breakfast on Pongal day.
Makes a dessert along with idli during a grand breakfast.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Navaratri celebrations !

This week is the Navaratri week for Indians. 
 In India, South Indians celebrate Navaratri with a lot of traditions. My amma used to prepare various sundal or kesari or sarkarai pongal on those nine days (in the evenings) and offer to God and would invite some friends / family and we all used to enjoy those snacks in the evening. We had a Golu only one time and somehow couldn't continue. I really really love kolu very much and I used to go to many of my friends' houses or to temples to see kolu , those kolams and to hear the songs along with wearing beautiful dresses. Golu is a kind of display of traditional dolls and statues (handed over through generations), depicting various puranas (ancient Hindu mythology).  It is one of the most colorful and cheerful festivals of India.   
In my father's native place area, this navaratri is celebrated every year with a lot of processions, pooja,  dinners and folk songs and folk dances along with watching some popular movies along with the whole village. In my father's ancestors house, there is a separate family temple. There the celebrations are more homely. Every family in the family tree has to contribute on one day to prepare the festive foods and all the temple traditions. All girl children below 12 years old would be invited from the family and would be considered as Devi and offered sweets , flowers and fruits with some more happy traditions. This festival revolves around women and celebrates the importance of women. And on the 10 th day the 'Devi' wins over all the negativities and blesses and fills the whole world with positive energy (Shakthi), it is called Dassara festival. Most festivals of India would emphasize on appreciating the women and the need to respect them.  So I too like this festival very much. 

This Tuesday, My friend Raji invited me to her home for  Navaratri pooja celebration.  I had a beautiful experience of participating in this amazing festival along with the best lunch prepared by her. She had prepared a fantastic lunch and had invited two friends. She had made semiya payasam, urid dal vadai, Ghee, rice, dal, Mor kulambu (buttermilk curry), rasam, green banana eggplant tamarind curry, a spicy potato fry, cucumber raitha, mango sweet pachadi, mango spicy pachadi, yogurt ... and everything was served on a traditional banana leaf (wow, wow) ! No words to explain her dedication in making that pooja food, while she was fasting and doing all chores herself on that day.  To my surprise every dish was made without onion garlic and still it tasted more yummy in my view !
We all enjoyed the food and the get together very much.
And also as a take home gift she gave us a thamboolam (betal leaf, betal nuts, banana and flower) and a beautiful glass container gift as a part of this tradition along with some payasam and vadai for our houses. 
Navaratri lunch prepared by my friend Raji.


Thanks to her and her mom's recipes and guidance we could enjoy a typical Kerala Brahmin festive food on a Navaratri pooja day ! 
We really had a wonderful girls time together and enjoyed the day!

Happy Navaratri to you all ! May God bless everyone !

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Birthday of Mother Mary !

Our church celebrates the birthday of Mother Mary on September 8 th every year.

From this year onwards, I have started again to cook something special for every happy occasion in our house. So I made this cake for Mother Mary's birthday ! This is a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
Happy Birthday dear Mother Mary !

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Happy Krishna Jayanthi !

For this Krishna Jayanthi I made a small batch of butter murukku with 1 cup rice flour and 2 tbsp urid dal. For a detailed recipe for murukku , pls follow my previous post on 'Murukku'.

Here is the Murukku I made to enjoy Krishna Jayanthi !
Tulsi plant with my pot painting ! Love the rain  :) 

2019 : The Roses I planted some years back bloomed a lot this year.