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This year Onam meant a lot of cooking. We made a total of 9 items for Mahabali’s visit. Since (R)oomie and I did it together it was more fun than anything else. His Teeyal was to die for! We made Avial, Rasam, Manga Pulisherry, Beans Toran, Kootu curry, Inji-puli , Rice, Dal and Payasam. We even tried to serve it the traditional way - on a banana leaf in the right(?) order starting with salt.

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We hope Mahabali brings us all happiness, good health, wealth and prosperity with his visit this year. Hridayam Niranja Onashamsagal!

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Like the last 4 years we made Ganesha at home this time too! It was so much tougher with a little energetic, teething(and hence biting) pup but we made it. I almost made a video of how I made Ganesha this time but because the clay I used had to be soaked in the water for a long time to be pliable enough and because I once again worked in the night(bad lighting duh) I decided that maybe next year I’ll ‘try’ to plan ahead and made a detailed video with explanations as to why I make the idol the way I do.

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For now I want to wish you all a beautiful, prosperous, healthy and happy Ganesh Chathurthi. May our ‘good’ wishes come true and may we find more peace in this chaotic world. May there be less trauma, less war and just more love all around.

Previous Ganeshas:

Ganesha 2013

Ganesha 2012

Ganesha 2011

Ganesha 2010

Introducing COTTON!

Last year in July we almost made our decision and a phone call to confirm a pup. But the timing wasn’t right - it felt like a transaction from the start, we were sent pictures of the Mom and Dad and had to select the puppy from a list online just by looking at the pictures! Although the puppy we liked was nearby, we were told that there would be no interaction between us and the breeders. It was all wrong - what if the puppy was coming from a Puppy mill? So (R)oomie made the right decision and we backed out.

This year in April, we randomly googled for Breeders here in LA. We called a couple of breeders and one of them Suzanna of Bella Rancho was ready to meet with us. She invited us to come over and so we did. We met all of her Sires and Dams, looked around her facility, met a couple of her customers and said our goodbyes. She said to call her back after a month. When I did she confirmed that a couple of her Dams were expecting and to call her back after another month when she would have a confirmation. We waited and called back and she said that only one of her Dams was pregnant and in fact she was delivering the babies that day. We were super excited and decided to go by and meet the babies the next day. I held a new born pup for the first time ever! And I have this weird feeling that the pup I held was Cotton. 

We visited again when the pups were 2 weeks old and Cotton(then called Moose) was the only guy that licked me. We went back when they were 5 weeks and spent some time with all the pups. Once again Cotton was the only guy that licked me - everyone else either ignored us or kept biting and pulling me. So we decided it should be Cotton.

We got him home when he was 7 weeks and 1 day and we are still just getting used to having this tiny tiny fluffball following us around, hopping around like a bunny and just being plain cute!

Almost 8 years ago(was it really that long ago?!?) when I got Dude home there was no planning and I got him home the day I was told he was available. We had some construction work going on and my Mom was not pleased but she took to him immediately and loves him the most! And although there was a lack of planning we figured things out.This time around we planned and planned and at the end of it by the time we got him home I was a nervous wreck although of course I didn’t show it.

Only time will tell what lies ahead but for now I’m thankful for this little bundle of softness.

(R)oomie is a big fan of the Starbucks Cherry Walnut Biscotti. They stopped selling those more than a year ago and although he makes do with the Vanilla Almond Biscotti, I do often hear him pine and complain. Then one day he asked if we could make them at home.

Now if you consider the cost of buying vs baking your own, the cost is a fraction of the former. But it goes beyond that - you can customize the ones you make at home - substitute the sugar with a Truvia blend or Stevia, replace the flour with wholewheat durum flour, add the toppings you like and the quantity you like. I mean, come on, these reasons should be good enough to make them at home. Get your partner to help out too, that way he/she knows how easy it is. The only fatty ingredient in this ends up being butter, (after all the substitutions) and the egg yolks but if you div it up between the 24 that you can make with this recipe, it hardly even matters provided you are not eating other butter rich foods.

Source: Starbucks Restaurant at Home

Ingredients:

Butter - 1/4 Cup
Truvia blend - 1/4 Cup
Eggs - 2 large
Vanilla paste - 1 Tsp
Whole wheat Durum flour -1 1/4
Baking powder - 1/4 Tsp
Baking soda - 1/4 Tsp
Salt - 1 pinch
Pecans - 1/4 Cup
Dried cherries - 1/4 Cup
Orange zest - 1 Tsp (This kills the ‘eggy’ smell)

I followed all the instructions to the dot. The only thing different was that the second baking took me about 20 minutes. I love making Biscotti because I almost always have all the ingredients on hand and all I need to do is to whip out my hand mixer and turn on the oven.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the taste because I am not a Biscotti fan and never eat it. But (R)oomie loves it and always has it with a cuppa coffee!

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This recipe is about the podi(or powder) that is eaten on the side with Idlies(steamed rice cakes). As kids when we were served idlies as breakfast we were asked what we wanted with it - podi, chutney or sugar. Most kids love sugar. I wanted podi or chutney both of which are spicy accompaniments to the rather bland albeit super soft and spongy idly.

The south Indian cuisine which tends to be vegetarian and even vegan centric although not intentionally tends to incorporate the required protein in everyday meals. I have to admit, I never had to understand the concept of carbs, protein and fiber till I started cooking on a regular basis and realized my cooked seemed very lopsided (read favoring carbs).

So I started to dissect the meals I was served as a child - a heavy breakfast of carbs accompanied with veggies and legumes, a lighter lunch which usually but not always was a duplicate of the breakfast but lesser in quantity and evening snacks which was freshly cut fruit or a piece of fried legumes and finally dinner which was the lightest meal of the day and eaten by 8 pm.

This continued till I turned into a rebellious teen refusing to ‘stuff’ herself in the morning and returning home ravenous and ready to eat her own fingers. This trend has continued to this day and I have since tried to make changes.

I failed to realize for a long time that meals were made a certain way for a reason, tradition wasnt tradition for the sake of traditions. Festivals encouraged rich and heavy food but it also provided energy and encouraged going out and playing to burn away all the calories. None of this has been spelled out in terms of calories and yet, makes so much sense.

Long story short, the idly podi or the spicy powdery accompaniment for a lot on south Indian breakfasts, is filled with legumes a source rich in protein and is super easy to make and store. That’s a huge bonus for lazy bums like me.

So I spoke to Amma and decide to share her idly podi recipe on the blog.

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Ingredients:

Rice - 1/2 Cup

Urad dal - 1/4 Cup

chana dal - 1/4 Cup

asafoetida - 1 Tsp

salt to taste 

dried red chillis - 8 (Reduce or increase based on your preferred spice level)

Jeera/cumin - 1 Tsp

Dry roast the above ingredients and grind to a fine powder. I use my Oster at high setting and use the liquify option - works everytime. Store in an airtight container and use preferably within 6 months. It does last longer but its more fun to make in smaller batches because you can try a different combo each time and experiment with a different taste.

I wanted to also add a small note on how this is eaten - a heaped teaspoon is usually put on the plate and a depression made using your index finger deep enough for 1/2 a teaspoon of oil. The oil and powder are then mixed well enough to form a paste of sorts. We usually dip a piece of idly/dosa or sometimes even mix rice with this spicy paste and its a meal!

The idly podi is such a versatile dish that one can add, subtract, divide ingredients to create a different taste each time. Try adding dry curry leaves, garlic, basil leaves, mint leaves to add a depth of flavor.

Following up on the previous post I thought I should share the accompaniment without delay. I do not have much experience with video taking and so most all of my videos are mute. Maybe someday I’ll feel comfortable with recording a voiceover! 

The one thing I completely forgot to capture in this video is cooking the chickpeas part! Oopsie. Well that part I’ll write down here but everything else is pretty simple if you follow the video.

Black chickpeas:

Soak 1 Cup black chickpeas overnight

Pressure cook for atleast 2 whistles and not more than 3. You want the chickpeas to retain their shape and not get too mushy.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can add 3 cups water to the soaked and drained chickpeas in a sauce pan and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes.

Im on a Ragi kick right now - and since the (R)oomie asked for Putte I decided to healthy-fy it a bit by adding Ragi. This traditional dish from God’s own Country is Gluten free, oil free and very filling. So this makes it a great brunch item which is a good thing because it takes a bit of time to make.

If one takes the from scratch approach it would take a lot longer to make - soaking the rice for a couple of hours, letting it air dry and then grinding it to form the rice powder base that is the heart of this beautiful steamed rice dish. I took the shortcut and used rice flour.

Usually eaten with black chickpea gravy or bananas or sugar - everyone has their favourite - mine is the black chickpea gravy because the putte tends to soak up all the flavours and spices in the gravy and I love it!

I created a quick video to demonstrate how I made it because somethings like mixing the flour the right way is so much easier to show than write. Lastly I just wanted to add - Putte is very very versatile - of late I’ve seen recipes with meat, grated carrots/beets etc and so this goes to show how much you can customize it and make it your own.

Oops actually there is one more thing - you do not need that specific dish to MAKE Putte but its a nice to have and is a must have in many Malayalee homes. I got mine from India but you CAN get it on Amazon but be ready for a long wait time!

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The Ragi flour is an understated ingredient in the current food market. Rich in Calcium and Iron it is one of the few less talked about diet friendly grain in the Indian Pantry. Almost every toddler that was born in the 80s and earlier has had a taste of this almost funny tasting flour in many forms - porridge, tortillas, puddings, soups to name a few.

When my Mother was diagnosed with high BP she started going on the meds that the doctor prescribed. One of the medication did not agree with her and her health took a turn for the worse. After a little research and help from friends we changed the doctor and the medication but no medication can help you if you don’t make changes to your diet!

My Mother then went back to basics - changed the ingredients used in daily meals, switched to healthier options and ate multiple small meals. One such ingredient that she added to her diet was the Ragi flour. Such a versatile ingredient this is that we encourage one and all to take to it. Inspired by my Mom, I decided to get some and turn it to my breakfast. It can be made in less than 2 minutes and can be flavoured anyway you like - sweet or savoury.

Watch the video to follow the easy steps…

Rubios and Baja Fresh are two restaurants that ‘the boy’ and ‘the girl’ often eat at during weekends. At Baja Fresh they love the mango salsa and at Rubios the Chipotle sauce is what makes them keep going back. One day ‘the boy’ says to the girl ‘how do these guys make this sauce?’ and ‘the girl’ takes it up as a challenge!

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"Goodbyes, they often come in waves", Jarod Kintz.

Likewise, I am taking a short break from here and am going into hiding - for a while. A few setbacks in my health require some taking care of and till then a small wave(pun intended) of Goodbye.