A heart filled with gratitude…..


I am giving a lazy start to the New Year, as always, it takes me forever to recover from a vacation. Even before 2013 ended, I pledged that my very first post in 2014 will be the expression of gratitude to my fellow bloggers who have showered me with their kindness, support and awards. Every award made me float in the air, inspired me and motivated me. Strawberry Lentils is my first ever blogging experience, and I owe it to all my friendly bloggers here to have made it a very pleasant experience. I have immense respect for every one of you and I am a big fan of all your writings , photographs and of course, the yummilicious recipes. Even though I did not follow through with any rules, I hope you will kindly accept my heartfelt thanks…..

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(Photo from : http://www.flickr.com/photos/16216142@N02/1801682819/)

My very first award came from Charanya of VeganRecipesOnline. Charanya has an amazing collection of vegar recipes from various cuisines. One of my favorites is her Vegan Thai Curry (http://veganrecipesonline.wordpress.com/category/thai-curry/). Thank you Charanya for the “shine on” award and your kindness.

Thank you Aruna of Aahaaram for the Versatile Blogger Award“. Visiting Aruna’s blog is like visiting home for me. All those wonderful recipes of yummy comfort foods, I am a huge fan.  Her collection of Andhra recipes is  such a treat to spice lovers like me. Here is one of my favorites, the signature Andhra Pesarattu recipe (http://aahaaram.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/mla-pesarattu-or-pesarattu-with-upma/). Thank you Aruna for your support.

Another Versatile Blogger Award from Sugarfreesweetheart’s Priya . Thank you Priya for your kindness. Priya’s blog features diabetic friendly healthy recipes, which are good for everybody, diabetic or not. Contrary to the popular belief of diabetic diet being lackluster….her collection of recipes are so yumm and colorful and flavorful, here is one for sample : her gorgeous looking Bisibelabath (http://sugarfreesweetheart.com/2013/11/25/moms-bisi-bele-bhath/). I have to thank Priya again for her generosity to have nominated me for “Dragon’s loyalty award“.

Thank you Namrata of MyFoodTapestry  for the “Liebster Award“. I am a huge fan of Namrata’s blog not just for her unique recipes, but also for her interesting style of writing and beautiful photographs. Even those who are not foodies will enjoy Namrata’s blog because of her witty writing. If you are a foodie, then her posts are such treats , as they always come not just with a recipe, but exploring all possibilities for that dish…it is such a pleasure reading her posts. I have self declared her as my bread guru, as she whips out those flat breads and paavs with so much ease and perfection. Here is one of my favorites, her post on paav that left me in awe …http://myfoodtapestry.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/mumbai-special-pav-bhaaji/

Thank you FightForTheBite for “I’m part of WordPress Family” award. I enjoy the love of chocolate expressed in these recipes as I share the same love. Check out the awesome marbled cake recipe here http://fightforthebite.wordpress.com… There are many more droolworthy recipes here.

Thank you Tanusree for the WordPress Family award. How wonderful will it be to have delicious recipes certified by a nutrition expert ??? well, thats what we get in her blog. Her recipes are so yummm, they almost overshadow the fact that they are also so healthy. Here is a sample : her awesome carrot halwa recipe http://tanusreeroy.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/low-calorie-gajar-ka-halwa-carrot-pudding-ayurveda-recipe/.

Thank you Anne of TalesAlongTheWay for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award. I enjoy Anne’s travelogue, reading her thoughts on Indian politics is very refreshing. When I read her posts , it makes me feel as if I am travelling with her. And if you think you know India so well, then challenge yourself by taking her quiz at http://talesalongtheway.com/2013/11/12/how-well-do-you-know-india-take-a-quiz-and-find-out/ My scores…… I am keeping it a secret 🙂

Thank you Chintal of ChinsKitchen for the Liebster Award. If I can make up my own award I will present Chintal with “The Queen of Innovation” award. Every single recipe of hers promises her unique approach to it, and it always leaves me wondering “how come I never thought of that”. She combines things that are never put together before and make them work magically. Shrikhand as your frosting or gulanb jamuns in  cheesecakes.. there is always novelty in her recipes. Here is a recipe of hers that was a huge hit with my kids : The Makai Paka (http://chinskitchen.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/makai-paka-hors-doeuvres/)

Thank you Pavithra of Eat,Live,Burp  for passing on the “Sunshine Award“. Along with awesome recipes, Pavithra also gives product and restaurant reviews. Be sure to check out her reviews before testing out a new TraderJoe’s product or visiting a new restaurant in British Columbia and Washington Areas. Here is a sample :http://eatliveburp.net/2013/03/01/eat-your-way-through-vancouver-bc-and-an-exciting-update/

Thank you once again to all the above mentioned bloggers for graciously passing on awards to me.

I also would like to mention  few other bloggers whose posts I greatly enjoy.

  1.  Honk if you’re Vegan http://honkifyourevegan.com/
  2. Anjana at the corner of happy and harried http://happyandharried.wordpress.com/
  3. SimplyVegetarian777 http://simplyvegetarian777.wordpress.com/
  4. This is Thirty http://andthisisthirty.com
  5. Chef Mimi http://chefmimiblog.com
  6. FoodBod http://foodbod.wordpress.com
  7. Shivaay Delights http://shivaaydelights.wordpress.com
  8. Lisa’s Project Vegan http://lisasprojectvegan.com
  9. VegCharlotte http://vegcharlottenc.com
  10. The Novice Gardener http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com
  11. Cooking with SJ  http://cookingwithsj.com

My sincere thanks to all my fellow bloggers ,followers and my friends for your continued support and kindness. Wishing you all a wonderful 2014 ! And a very happy Pongal/Sankaranthi to those who are celebrating…

Thank You !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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(Picture from : http://theweddingguy.ca/blog)

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Adai (Savory Lentil Pancakes)


I am beginning this post with an apology to Sugarfree Sweetheart Priya , because this recipe was intended to be part of the diabetic friendly food week she hosted, but did not make it in time :(. It was one of those weeks, where everything seemed calm and quiet until things started rolling and before you knew, it was an avalanche and you are buried deep under trying to catch a breath. It was frustrating to have all the photos in the camera, yet not able to find an hour to sort through them and post the recipe online. However, it was a happy avalanche , had my college buddy over for thanksgiving, and met two other college mates over the weekend and it was an unplanned and unintended mini college reunion, which is always fun.

Even though I didn’t post in time, the recipe is still a very diabetic friendly food and I just love it for its taste. I also have a weird personal connection with this “Adai”. In May 2002, suddenly I started craving Adai, so I kept  making them two or three times a week, and two weeks later I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. And in July 2005, when I started super-craving Adai again, I just ran to the store and got an early pregnancy kit and guess what , I was pregnant with my second child. Pregnancies and the cravings…….. 🙂   No  more crazy cravings…… and thank God for that !

So here is my Adai recipe for the Sugarfree Sweetheart’s Diabetic friendly food week:

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To make the adai batter , you will need :

  1. Rice – 1 cup (use brown rice instead)
  2. Thur dal (split piegeon peas) – 1/2 cup
  3. Channa dal (split chick peas) –  1/2 cup
  4. Moong Dal (green gram) – 1/2 cup
  5. Urad Dal (black gram) – 1/2 cup
  6. fennel – 1 tsp
  7. cumin – 2 tsp
  8. dried red chillies – 2 or 3 (5 or 6 for spicier adais)

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  • Soak the rice and lentils in water for 3 hours. I also soak the red chilles with them as it helps them to grind better.

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  • After 3 hours, grind the soaked rice and lentils with red chillies, cumin, fennel and salt to make a coarse batter. I grind in my blender and it takes only two minutes.

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  • You can make pancakes with just plain batter. But adding onions and greens add more texture and taste to the adais. Traditionally, drumstick leaves are used. They are not available here, so I use spinach.

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  • Thinly slice an onion and chop  baby spinach and add to the the batter.

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  • Heat a skillet and grease with cooking spray. Pour a spoonful of batter and spread evenly.

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  • When you see the adai browning slightly, flip over and cook the other side.

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  • Flip one more time and cook until you see brown spots. The lentil batter takes longer to cook.

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Adais can be served with coconut chutney or a dollop of yogurt. If you ask me, they are good on their own :).

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Butternut Squash Soup (with cashew cream)


A butternut squash in its wholesome is very intimidating(to me). Had never bought one, always chose the frozen cut squash to make our traditional koottu. If somebody cleans, peels, cuts and puts in a bag, why bother ? 🙂 So imagine my shock surprise, when my neighbor walked in with this “humongous” squash…a fruit of her labor in her garden. I just left it on my kitchen counter , not wanting to deal with it amidst the Halloween/Diwali chaos.

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A week after Diwali, suqash was still there, and I was just pretending not to look at it, if I don’t see it, its not there.. kind of logic 🙂 . But then came the day when my mind went blank at the thought of dinner. Having read some amazing squash soup posts by fellow bloggers, I declared it was squash soup for dinner. Though I didn’t have  many ingredients that I normally add in a soup, I decided to make do with what I have (hence, the cashew cream instead of heavy cream 🙂 ) and it turned out to be a very successful dinner (with kids polishing their bowls 🙂 ).

If this is your first time handling a whole squash, please check out Anjana’s (At the corner of happy and harried) tips on how to cut a squash. I found them very helpful, I strongly recommend it if your are a first timer, because no soup is worth losing a finger 🙂

And here is my squash soup recipe:

  • Cut squash into cubes.

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  •  Cut some carrots and red onions. I also used few mint leaves. You can add celery, tomatoes and definitely more carrots (it was a “fridge almost empty, so make-do” day for me ). However, I did have some vegetable broth which made up for the lack of other vegetables.

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  • Here is my favorite spice blend for the soup.
  1. Cinnamon – 1 stick
  2. Cardamom – 2
  3. Cloves – 5 or 6
  4. Bay leaves – 2
  5. Black pepper – 1.5 tsp
  6. Cumin – 1 tsp
  7. Fennel – 1.5 tsp

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  • Coarsely crush the spices just enough to release flavor.

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  • Tie the crushed spices in a bundle, either using a clean cloth or a bounty paper towel. This is a convenient way of seasoning the soup, just drop the bundle in the soup and remove it once the soup is cooked.

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  • I used my pressure cooker, as I didn’t have a lot of time to slow cook the soup and develop flavors. Pressure cooker delivers the same results in a quicker fashion…(what will I do without them ???? ). Heat a spoon of oil and saute the red onions and when the onions brown, add a tsp of ginger garlic paste and then saute the carrots and mint.

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  • Add the squash cubes and sprinkle some salt to sweat the veggies and saute until the squash softens a little.

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  • Add 5 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken). If you are using a lot of vegetables , just water will suffice. Drop the spice bundle in the broth.

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  • I pressure cooked for 5 whistles. Squash was so tender that it  almost dissolved in the soup. Fish the spice bundle out as its job is done :).

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  • I allowed my soup to completely cool down before pureeing and meanwhile made the cashew cream. You can use dairy cream instead. To make cashew cream, grind 2 tbsp of cashew nuts with water or milk to make a smooth cream.

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  • I reserved 1 tbsp of cream for final garnish and mixed the rest in the soup.

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  • Puree the cooled down soup in a blender and add the cashew cream to it. Add salt and pepper as you need, and heat the soup (do not bring to boil).

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It is a yummy comfy soup, we had it with some roasted corn quesadillas and it was a finger-licking, bowl-polishing meal 🙂 Hope you try it too !

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Coconut Rice


Its quick, its fresh, its nutty, its light…so why not ? Coconut rice is one of the many quick and easy variety rice recipes. I love the flexibility it offers : got some leftover rice and trying to make a meal out of it without sweating much or make an exotic aromatic party food, coconut rice will be your best friend 🙂 .  Whether you go for simplicity or embellish it to the core, this flavor packed rice will take you to your happy place.

You will need :

  1. Rice – 1 cup
  2. Grated coconut – 3/4 cup
  3. Green chillies – 3
  4. Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
  5. Peanuts – 1/4 cup
  6. Cashew – 1/4 cup
  7. Mixed vegetables – 1 cup
  8. Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  9. Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  10. Channa dal – 1 tsp
  11. Curry leaves – few

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  • Cook rice by your preferred method. You can also use leftover rice. Adding a tsp of oil to the water while boiling rice helps the grains to stay separate.
  • Grind green  chillies and ginger along with a few peanuts to a coarse mix. It doesn’t have to be a paste, just grind enough to blend everything. Else, you can just finely mince the chillies and ginger.

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  • In a wok, add a tbsp of oil (preferably coconut oil or sesame oil) and fry the mustard seeds, urad dal, channa dal and the curry leaves.

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  • When the mustard seeds splutter and the dals turn golden add the peanuts and cashewnuts.

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  • When the nuts turn slightly golden add the mixed vegetables. This is optional,I prefer adding a lot of veggies to the rice, so that I can skip making a side 🙂 . Sprinkle some salt and cook for two minutes and then add the ground green chillies+ginger paste.

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  • Once the green chillies and ginger paste coats all the vegetables add the cooked rice to the wok, reduce heat and mix well.

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  • Check for seasoning, add salt if needed. Three green chillies should pack enough punch, but if you need more heat you can add red pepper flakes. Finally add the grated coconut and mix with rice thoroughly, remove from heat after a minute.

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  • You can also toast the coconut before adding to the rice. While it deepens the flavor, I feel that freshness is compromised.  You can try both ways and see which you would prefer.

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While the cold, windy weather and the 5 p.m. dark skies keep warning about the bitter winter, it feels like spring in my kitchen and thats what matters, right ?

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Ribbon Pakoda


Hardly had any time to recover from Halloween and here is Diwali. For us, it comes a day early, Diwali is tomorrow (Saturday).  I wasn’t going to post any Diwali recipes, simply because I had to whip out six treats in a day and taking pictures for posting a recipe kind of seemed impossible. However, I promised a friend that I would post ribbon pakoda recipe, so here it is.

Ribbon Pakodas are deep fried savory snack, usually made during Diwali. Always a huge hit with kids, loved equally by adults too. My aunt makes the best ribbon pakodas I have ever eaten, but also she grinds everything from scratch (soaking rice and all). This is a modification of her recipe, an attempt to reciprocate all the flavors without taking much trouble 🙂

You will need :

  1. Rice flour – 3 cups
  2. Besan / gram flour / Garbanzo flour – 1 cup
  3. Red chilli powder – 3 tsp
  4. Garam masala – 1 tsp
  5. Ginger Garlic paste – 3 tsp
  6. Salt – 4 tsp
  7. Asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
  8. Water (to make dough)
  9. Oil (to fry)
  10. Ghee /Melted butter – 1 tbsp
  • Mix rice flour, besan, salt, red chilli powder and garam masala.

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  • Dilute ginger garlic paste with water and add asafoetida to this water.

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  • Filter this mixture and add just the liquid to the flour mix. Mix the liquid in the flour evenly.

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  • Add 1 tbsp of melted butter or melted ghee to the flour and mix well.

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  • Now add enough water to the flour and knead it to a dough (like chappathi dough). We will be working with the dough only in batches, so cover it with a wet towel or wet paper towel until needed.

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  • This is the “Murukku” press, similar to a cookie press. To make ribbon pakodas, use the disc shown in the picture below.

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  • Heat oil in a pot for frying the pakodas. Take a portion of the dough and pour a tablespoon of hot oil on it and knead well. This helps a lot in making the pakodas crispier.

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  • Load the dough into the press.

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  • Press the dough directly into the hot oil.

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  • Cook until the sizzle calms down. Drain the pakodas on a paper towel.

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  • Repeat the steps until all the dough is used. Remember to knead hot oil into the dough right before loading it in the press every time.

The recipe in itself is very simple. Here are some debugging tips that may be useful, if you are trying this for the first time.

  • If the pakodas come out hard, there is not enough fat in the dough, so add some melted butter or ghee to the dough.
  • If the pakodas suck up lots of oil, there is more water in the dough, so add more flour.
  • If it is too hard to press out the pakodas, the dough is too tight, so add more water.
  • If the pakodas  lose shape in oil, the dough is loose, so add more flour.
  • Constantly adjust heat. If the oil is smoking, reduce the heat. If oil is foaming up on the surface increase the heat.
  • As soon as you make the first batch of pakodas, taste them to check salt and crunchiness and make changes accordingly.

These tips hold good for all types of Murukkus/Chaklis.

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali !!

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Stuffed Eggplants


Usually the eggplants are stuffed with dried powders (which I love !). This is a different version in which the eggplants are stuffed with a simple tomato-onion masala. Very quick and easy.

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Clean the eggplants. (When you shop for this recipe, get the smallest eggplants).

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Steam them over boiling water for 6-7 minutes. You can also pressure cook them for 1 whistle or just blanch them in boiling water. whichever way, try not to overcook.

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While the eggplants are getting steamed, prep the filling. Fry some mustard seeds, cumin and fennel and sauté chopped red onions.

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Sauté chopped tomatoes and crushed garlic.

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Add turmeric powder, salt, chilli powder, dhaniya powder or any of your favorite masalas….even sambar powder will do. Add very little water (less than 1/4 cup) and let everything blend and cook well.

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Let the water evaporate and the masala thicken. The filling is ready and by now your eggplants should be done too.

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This is the right texture, its cooked but not too soft.

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Make a horizontal and vertical slit , but keep the eggplant intact.

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Generously spoon the filling into the eggplants. Rub the leftover filling on them.

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Add very little oil to the pan, both the eggplants and the masala filling are already cooked, so the oil is only to crisp the skin…2 tsp of oil is plenty. Sear one side for 30 seconds.

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Sear the other side.
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When the sides are seared, prop them up to cook the bottom… 

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Serve with steamed rice. Goes very well with yoghurt rice.

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Koottaanchoru


This is the Nellai version of Bisibelabath. The difference is in the vegetables and the spices used. I have greatly enjoyed this rice at my maternal grandmother’s place. This is a great one pot dish.Image

raw rice – 1.5 cups
Thur Dhal – 1/2 cup

Cook the dhal and rice together in a pressure cooker with 6 cups of water , some salt and 2 tsp of oil. You can cook them in a regular pot, add enough water so that cooked rice-dhal has a soft texture.

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I have small onions, radish, cooking banana, eggplants, flat beans and drumsticks. Traditionally, we use what we call as “Naattu Kaai” for this rice and avoid vegetables like carrots, peas and cauliflower.

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Chop the vegetables in big chunks as they have to withstand a long cooking process.

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Tamarind water and asafoetida.

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For the masala, grind red chillies, cumin, small onions, garlic and 1 tbsp. of coconut.

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In the pot add some sesame oil and fry curry leaves and onions.

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sauté the veggies.

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Add the tamarind water.

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Add salt, turmeric powder and asafoetida and cook until the raw smell of tamarind goes away in medium heat for at least about 30 mins. Add the masala and cook for another 15 minutes.

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Traditionally, drumstick leaves are added. As I can’t get them in my place,I have added some chopped methi.

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Add the cooked rice and dhal to the curry and mix well. Simmer for 15 mins, making sure the rice is not getting dry.

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Fry some curry vadaam (if you don’t have it, mustard seeds will do), red chillies and curry leaves in a separate pan and add the seasoning to the rice.

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Tastes good when its hot and tastes even better at room temperature. This is a great all-in-one dish with rice, lentils and vegetables and the combination of red chillies, cumin and garlic add layers of flavor. Back in my hometown, I have even tasted this dish with shrimp in it. You can try that too !

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