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Friday, October 26, 2018

Sooji - Poha Cheela / Savory Semolina - Flattened Rice Pancakes

All devices with internet access in my home are usually filled with bookmarks, loads of them. Thanks to my craziness for collecting recipes and reading books, as my family points out. I usually bookmark recipes with an honest intent to attempt them sometime in the near future but it seldom happens. This recipe for instance has been on my 'to try' list for quite sometime now (maybe years) that I couldn't trace it back to the original blog from which I jotted this recipe down. 

I made some changes to the recipe when I tried them for our lunch yesterday with least expectations. I thought it was going to be another dosa variety but to my surprise, my husband was all praises for it and wanted to see these cheelas being made frequently. My husband exactly doesn't fall in the spinach loving category and I had second thoughts after adding it to the batter. I had earlier left out cabbage from the recipe keeping him in mind and started to wonder if I should have left spinach as well. It turns out that one cannot taste it if these pancakes are cooked really well on both sides. Finely chopped onions and green chillies would be a nice addition if preferring spicier version.The original author of this recipe have meant these cheelas as a kid friendly snack and so, she seems to have left them out. 

I found fine variety semolina is well suited here though it is optional. One can go with regular semolina/rava. Either thick or thin variety poha can be used. The thick variety poha available in south India needs more soaking than the one I get in USA. The batter can be used immediately to make cheela or can be prepared ahead and refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. Skip yogurt and use water instead if looking for a vegan version. Serve these cheelas or chillas with spicy accompaniments like chutney and sambhar to make it a wholesome and tasty meal.

Ingredients: (Yield 12)
1/2 cup flattened rice flakes / poha
3/4 cup semolina (Preferably fine variety.)
1/2 cup yogurt 
1/4 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh spinach / chopped frozen spinach
Salt to taste
Oil / Ghee to make cheela

* Rinse poha once with water and drain. Soak it in yogurt for about 5 minutes or until it softens. (I was busy with something else and by the time I took care of it, the poha had absorbed all the yogurt and was dry.)
* Add poha-yogurt mixture, semolina, salt and enough water to a blender and grind until the poha is ground fine. The batter should be of pouring consistency like pancakes and not too thinner. 
I had to add about 2 cups of water since my poha had absorbed all the yogurt. Buttermilk can be substituted for water.
(Or poha and yogurt can be ground smoothly first and then semolina, salt and water can be added to the blender and pulsed enough just to mix.)
* Add spinach and carrot to the batter and mix well. If using frozen spinach, thaw it before using.
* Heat a non stick tawa / flat pan / griddle and when it is hot enough, pour a ladle / 1/4 cup of batter at the center and spread it as much as possible. No need to make it thinner. Pour a few drops of oil around the edges, Cook until the bottom side browns and flip it. Cook until the bottom side is cooked. Transfer the cooked cheela onto a plate and repeat the steps of making cheela.
* Serve hot with chutney and sambhar.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

Malabar Aval Milkshake

This post has been in my drafts for the past two years. I tried this milkshake as soon as I saw it on PJ's blog and again the day after for my son and many more times later. A proof of how much I liked it. This is an unusual milkshake made with aval (poha aka flattened rice) and is supposedly a popular drink in the Malabar region of Kerala, a south Indian state. I can guess why. It was like a banana milkshake taken to another level by topping it with crisp toasted flattened rice flakes and peanuts. 

The crunchy rice flakes and peanuts add an interesting and contrasting texture to the otherwise smooth shake. While the texture of this drink was what made it appealing to me,  surprisingly it had an opposite reaction on my son who is otherwise an ardent lover of milkshakes. And so, I suppose it is not everyone's cup of shake. 😊

1 tsp. ghee
2 tbsp. poha / flattened rice 
1 small banana
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 cup chilled milk
1 tbsp. toasted and skinned peanut halves

* Heat ghee in a pan and add peanuts. Toast them until they turn golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer onto a plate.
* Now add the flattened rice to the same pan and toast on low flame until the flakes turn crisp. Take care not to burn them.
* Chop the banana into discs and roughly mash the pieces with the back of a spoon. (We don't need banana puree here and so don't go grabbing the blender.) Add sugar to the banana and mix well.
* Take a tall serving glass and add the mashed banana to it. Sprinkle half of the fried flattened rice and half the peanuts over the banana. Pour the chilled milk over it.
* Garnish it with the remaining flattened rice and peanuts. Serve immediately.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

No Bake Oatmeal Raisin Bars

I had this recipe bookmarked a couple of days ago because of it's simplicity and I got to try it yesterday evening as I had all the needed ingredients in my pantry. I also wanted to see if there was even a slight possibility of my girl approving these nutritious and yummy bars. My teenager loves to snack on mostly dry fruits and nuts after school but combining them together in some other snack form other than a trail mix usually won't do. She is not a cereal person and she would not touch store bought granola bars with a barge pole. I figured probably she would like these if she sees with her own eyes what went in there and therefore involved her in making these bars. 
She decided not to mind the grain factor considering that all the other remaining ingredients are her favorites and decided to give them a try without a nudge from me. She in fact loved them since it tasted like chocolate to her. Don't ask me how but I didn't want to argue with her when she was eating without complaining and the bars are filled with all the goodies. 

These granola bars can be set by placing them in the refrigerator / freezer for about an hour or overnight. Wrap them individually in parchment paper or plastic or foil wraps for easy transportation. Store the individually wrapped bars in a freezer-safe bag and freeze them if they are not going to be consumed immediately. The quantity of raisins used here provide sufficient sweetness to the bars but at the same time contribute to their soft texture. I think even decreasing their quantity by a small amount wouldn't effect the recipe.

Recipe Source: Here
Ingredients: (Makes 16 bars)
2 and 1/2 cup raisins
1 and 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup shredded / desiccated coconut
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (I used honey roasted sunflower kernels.)

* Line a 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper.
* Add everything except sunflower seeds to a food processor and pulse just until the mixture starts to clump together.
* Add sunflower seeds finally and just mix together.
* Transfer the mixture into the pan and press firmly. Refrigerate / freeze the mixture until it firms up, about an hour or overnight.
* Remove from the pan and slice into bars using a sharp knife.

1. The mixture can be shaped into balls instead of bars.
2. Other dry fruits, nuts and seeds can be substituted instead of the ones used here for a variation.


Friday, October 19, 2018

Greek Yogurt and Raspberry Parfait

My final post of this week is going to be this quick and delicious parfait which needs only three ingredients. This is one of those recipes which needs no recipe as such since anyone can blindly layer the ingredients. This recipe is child's play if one is using store bought ingredients.

The ingredients needed for this parfait are granola, yogurt and berries. The granola can be either a homemade batch of one's preference or store bought one. One can use either a single kind or a combo of berries they have on hand or even other fruit pieces. The yogurt can be a flavored or plain one. Even non fat yogurt will do.
I used store bought low fat granola and paired it with raspberries. The yogurt was a homemade low fat one with the consistency of a Greek yogurt kind. I am not mentioning the quantities here since one can use them as needed.
This makes a quick fix, wholesome breakfast during morning rush hours or when one is not in a mood to cook. Or when fixing breakfast for just one.

Pour yogurt into the bottom of a couple of tall glasses. Then granola and fruit. Alternate layers of granola and fruit with yogurt until glasses are full. One can sprinkle some slivered almonds or nuts over the top if preferred. Serve parfaits immediately to keep granola crunchy.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Cracked Pearl Millet Upma / Sajja Nooka Upma (Gluten - Free and Vegan Recipe)

The words 'easy' and 'quick' just pop into one's mind when talking about a upma preparation though it is not as simple as a toast or oats' preparation. However it is one of those when one is picking from a south Indian breakfast selection to cook from. A well made upma tastes pretty good too and so no surprise, it appears even on a south Indian wedding breakfast menu. Generally speaking, a traditional version upma is made from semolina most of the times. Followed by vermicelli / cracked wheat versions in popularity which are more healthier. People nowadays are getting more creative and proving that many grains can be used to prepare upma either in their broken / cracked forms or as whole. 

My mother makes an excellent upma and the taste remains the same each time she makes it. I therefore grew up enjoying upma and still to this day, love it irrespective of the form it is served in. I had recently brought a small bag of broken pearl millet / bajre ka daliya from India and obviously, upma was my first choice to experiment it with. Of course, replacing semolina with millet in the upma makes it more healthier, nutritious, and gluten free. A upma is a vegan friendly dish as it is if one is not tempted to drizzle some ghee over it. Mixed vegetables like chopped carrots, beans, potatoes and peas can go into the dish to make it more wholesome. We enjoyed it with roasted gram chutney.

Ingredients: (Yield 2 servings)
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. split roasted chickpeas / chana dal
1/2 tsp. split, skinned blackgram / urad dal
Few curry leaves
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
2 green chillies, stalks removed and sliced finely
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tomato, washed and diced
1 cup water
1/2 cup broken pearl millet
3/4 tsp. salt

* Heat oil in a small pressure cooker directly, Add mustard, cumin, split roasted chcikpeas and blackgram. When the dals start to turn reddish and the mustard seeds start to pop, add curry leaves and green chillies. Saute for few seconds and add onion. Cook until it turns tanslucent and add toamto. Cook until it turns mushy and add water, turmeric, and salt. 
* Let the water come to a rolling boil and then lower the heat. Add broken pearl millet in a slow stream and stir gently to mix, avoiding any lumps forming. 
* Close the lid with the pressure valve on. Pressure cook for 2 or 3 whistles and turn off the stove.
* Remove the lid when the valve pressure is gone and mix well well with a serving spoon to break up any lumps formed. Serve hot with chutney / sambhar. 

1. If one doesn't prefer to cook the upma directly in a cooker, all the steps before the millet cooking can be done in a pan and transferred to a container that fits into a cooker and then can be pressure cooked that way.
2. If cooking in a pan on stove top, this upma requires more water than the quantity mentioned in the recipe. 
3. Don't serve upma without any accompaniments. It tastes well with either peanut / coconut / roasted gram chutney / a sambhar because of it's texture.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Ragi Malt

Finger millet aka ragi is a cereal grain that is widely grown and consumed in southern parts of India. The highly nutritious grain is consumed mainly in the form of flour. The ragi flour is used to prepare nutritious dishes ranging from flat breads to desserts, catering from young to old. Today's recipe ragi malt which has regional names such as java / kanji is one such drink which can be served from toddlers to adults. It can be prepared two ways - one with milk sweetened with jaggery / sugar and the other served with salted buttermilk. My version today is a sweetened version that can be served as a healthy, gluten free breakfast or as a part of a breakfast meal. This is one of the healthy and nutritious beverages I like to start my day with and it goes to 'Blogging Marathon' under the theme 'Easy Breakfasts'.
I usually go with huri hittu to prepare ragi malt. Huri hittu is the toasted, popped and powdered ragi / finger millet grain. It has the unmistakable distinct roasted aroma. It is commercially available everywhere in Bangalore and usually my sister gifts me some packets when visiting India. My neighborhood Patel stores have started to stock these packets recently. I have noticed two varieties from the stash I usually get from India. One is a sweetened version with the addition of nuts and coconut flakes where as the other one is plain toasted one. I use the unsweetened huri hittu to prepare this malt. Even the plain finger millet flour can be toasted before using it in the ragi malt preparation though it is an optional step.

Ingredients: (1 serving)
3/4 + 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup hurihittu / finger millet flour / ragi flour
2 tbsp. powdered jaggery
2 pinches of ground cardamom 
3/4 cup boiled and cooled milk
Nuts to garnish (optional)

* Bring 3/4 cup water to a boil in a sauce pan, preferably a non stick one.
* Combine 1/2 cup water and flour in a cup and mix well without any lumps.
* Add the flour mixture to the boiling water slowly and stir slowly so that no lumps are formed. Cook on slow flame stirring now and then until a glossy, thick consistency is noticed. If not sure whether it is cooked / when to stop, just blindly cook the mixture for about 6 - 8 minutes. 
* Add jaggery and cardamom and stir until the jaggery melts.
* Add milk to the cooked ragi mixture and stir to combine. Add extra milk if needed to get pourable consistency. 
* Pour the mixture into glasses, garnish with slivered almonds / chopped nuts and serve.

1. Sugar can be substituted for jaggery but jaggery adds more flavor to the malt.
2. Water, flour and milk can be mixed together at the beginning and cooked as well.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Rajgira Sheera / Amaranth Flour Halwa

Coinciding with the Navratri season, here is one more dish associated with it and the fasting regimen. This halwa / sheera is prepared using amaranth flour / rajgira atta and seems to be a popular dessert fit for the season. Not a tricky one to prepare but patiently roasting the flour in ghee without burning it until it turns light brown is important. 
The halwa can be prepared with either milk or water. It is rich because of the ghee and milk used and therefore eaten in small quantities. I used jaggery instead of sugar and 1/4 cup of it makes it not an overtly sweet dish but one can increase the sweetener by a couple of tbsp. more if one prefers a sweeter halwa. The consistency of this halwa would be smoother compared to the sooji halwa since flour is the base here.

1/4 cup ghee (I used less.)
1/2 cup rajgire ka atta / amaranth flour
1 and 1/4 cup milk
4 - 6 tbsp. sugar (I used jaggery instead.)
2 pinches of ground cardamom
Nuts to garnish

* Heat ghee in a pan and add amaranth flour to it. Start toasting until you notice the aroma and the mixture changes to light brown color, about 6 to 8 minutes.
* Meanwhile, heat milk and sugar in a microwave or in a pan and keep aside. No need to boil the milk.
* Add milk and cardamom to the toasted flour gradually in small increments from the sides of the pan, stirring continuously and quickly to avoid forming lumps. Cook on low flame covered until the mixture thickens and the ghee starts to release along the edges.
* Garnish with slivered almonds / any other nuts and serve warm.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Amaranth & Wheat Flour Rotis

Amaranth is a pseudocereal like quinoa and buckwheat and has been cultivated over thousands of years in various parts of the world. It is a protein rich grain with low glycemic index and the cooked seeds, flour and greens are all edible. It is gluten free making it an healthier substitute over wheat for people with gluten  intolerance. I am not new to the plant since a couple of species of amaranth leaves are eaten through out India and it happens to be in fact, one of my favorite greens while growing up.

On the other hand, amaranth flour is not consumed in south India but seems to be a staple ingredient during fasting days of Navratri in many northern and western kitchens of India, where it goes by the name rajgire ka atta. The seeds by the way are called ramdana / rajgira. Coincidentally, Navratri began yesterday and people who practice the fasting ritual (which is in a way to detoxify one's system) abstain from grains / millets during this period and replace them with ingredients like amaranth flour, buckwheat flour, chestnut flour and tapioca pearls which are not typical pantry staples of Indian kitchens excepting the last one.  

I have started using amaranth flour in my kitchen about an year ago and it goes mainly in making rotis like these or thalipeeth. If one is new to roti making, amaranth flour is not the right choice to start your practice with. That would be atta aka the Indian wheat flour. Amaranth flour is gluten free and so some starch like mashed potatoes need to go along with it to form a dough. If adhering to the fasting rituals, omit the wheat flour and salt from the recipe and use rock salt instead. The resulting rotis with this dough are thinner and softer than the regular rotis. They can be served with a spicy curry / lentil based gravy. Or make rotis spicier by adding minced green chillies & ginger / red chili powder to the dough while preparing and serve with plain yogurt.
Ingredients: (Yield 15 rotis)
1 big sized potato
2 cups amaranth flour (rajgira atta)
1/2 cup wheat flour (atta) + extra for dusting
1/8 tsp. salt (optional)
About 1/4 cup oil (I used canola oil.)

* Peel and boil the potato in a microwave. Let it come to room temperature and mash the potato finely, leaving no lumps. Don't throw away the water used to boil the potato as it can be used to make the roti dough. (I had slightly less than 1/2 cup of mashed potato. It doesn't matter if  the potato is slightly less or more than the quantity I used.)

* Combine flours, salt and mashed potato in a mixing bowl. Rub the potato well into the flour. Grease your palms if  needed since the mixture tends to get sticky while making the dough. Add water gradually in slow increments and make a soft, pliable dough. (I needed slightly less than 1/2 cup water.) Add a tbsp. or two of oil to the dough and work the dough for about 30 seconds. Cover and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes. (I rested it for about 90 minutes.) 
* Heat a skillet / rimless non-stick pan on medium flame. (Don't heat the griddle yet if not well versed with the routine of rolling and toasting parts simultaneously. One can roll out some dough circles prior to heating a griddle.) 
* Grease your palms with oil and divide the mixture into 12 - 15 portions and roll them into balls and keep the covered.  Grease your palms again if needed and work with one ball at a time. Press the ball into a disc between palms and gently roll into a thin circle on a dusted rolling board / clean counter top using a rolling pin. Dust a little extra flour in between, only if needed.
* Place the rolled out dough circle on the hot griddle. When the surface starts to dry out and bubbles appear on the bottom side, flip it with a spatula. Gently press it with the spatula all over. Pour 1/4 tsp of oil around the edges and surface and flip again. Press again with the spatula and flip. Toast it until both sides have brown spots developed all over. It would take a few seconds on each side to cook once the skillet is hot. Transfer the cooked roti onto a clean plate and repeat the process with the rolling and toasting parts. Keep the cooked rotis covered until serving.
* Serve them with a spicy accompaniment.


Friday, October 5, 2018

Mtedza ~ Malawi Peanut Cookies

African donuts and these peanut cookies were on my shortlisted 'dessert' recipes to try for the third day of this week's marathon. I was reluctant to try these cookies initially since I was fixated on trying the former. However the idea of frying did not appeal when the time came to try them and I decided to go with a small batch of mtedza. A decision I regretted as soon as I got to have a bite of these yummy, buttery rich cookies. These are like those delightful, crumbly wedding cookies or the moon cookies with an additional surprise of peanuts embedded in them. Not little but loads that give a lovely crunch to these super yummy cookies. Give them a try. You would be delighted, I promise. 

These peanut cookies or groundnut cookies seems to come from the African nation of Malawi and are called mtedza. The online recipes circulating over the years for these cookies seem to be one and the same. I am not sure if the cookies are prepared traditionally this way considering that Malawi is a poor nation and the probability of people owning ovens is probably low. However the cookies taste awesome and are are a beginner level of recipe.

Ingredients: (Yield 8 - 10 cookies)
4 - 6 tbsp toasted and skinned peanuts
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp. sugar
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup flour
Powdered sugar for dusting
* Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
* Roughly chop the peanuts into small pieces or pulse in a food processor.
* Cream butter and sugar together. Add the remaining ingredients to form a crumbly dough.
* Make small balls out of the mixture and place the on a cookie sheet. (The cookies don't expand while baking. Shape them as big or small you would prefer.)
* Bake them for 20 minutes or until they turn light brown.
* Once done, roll them immediately in powdered sugar.

This goes to blogging marathon #93 with the theme of recipes from countries that start with the same alphabet, "Pick one alphabet - 3 countries". My choice of alphabet this week is 'M' and today's post is from Malawi. Check out the page here to read what other marathoners are cooking.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Vegetarian West African Peanut Stew / Soup

This comforting bowl of creamy and spicy soup comes from the western region of Africa and is said to have originated in Mali. Though the traditional version is chicken based, there are a lot of  versions online omitting chicken making it a great choice for vegetarians. Though unexpected, the unconventional medley of peanut butter, chard and yam somehow surprisingly work well together here. The spices lend an additional flavor layer on top of this, making this an enjoyable soup.

Usually my husband ends up adding a bit of this sauce and that to soups whenever I make them. However he wasn't complaining this time and ended up having it as his lunch and dinner. The consistency of this soup is more like a thicker stew version and is usually served over white rice. I added more liquid and made it thinner since I was planning to serve it as a soup. However it had reached a very thicker consistency while cooling.

Ingredients: (Yield 3 generous servings)
1 tbsp. oil
1 small onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 tsp. grated ginger + 1 finely minced garlic clove or 1 tbsp. ginger - garlic paste
2 tomatoes, chopped or 1 small can of tomatoes
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup of chard / kale /spinach leaves, chopped
3 cups of vegetable stock / water
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup peanut butter 
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper 
Cayenne to taste
Toasted peanuts to garnish

* Roughly chop the peanuts with a knife or pulse them in a food processor.
* Heat oil in a soup pan and add onion, ginger, garlic and sweet potatoes. Saute the vegetables over medium heat until they slightly soften.
* Next add the broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmering boil.
* Keep cooking on medium heat until sweet potatoes are almost done. Add peanut butter and the greens being used. Add more liquid if needed to reach the desired consistency. Please note that the mixture thickens while cooling. Continue to simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes.
* Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
* Serve over white rice, topped with toasted peanuts.


This goes to blogging marathon #93 with the theme of recipes from countries that start with the same alphabet, "Pick one alphabet - 3 countries". My choice of alphabet this week is 'M' and today's post is from Mali. Check out the page here to read what other marathoners are cooking.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mexican Corn Salad ~ Esquites

What I intended to be a brief pause in blogging to coincide with my kids' summer holidays and our trip to India ended up being a longer break than I planned. When even my daughter has started wondering recently why I haven't been doing 'my cooking' thing anymore, I realized it was high time to take care of my virtual home and so here I am finally. 

Today's recipe 'esquites' is a simple yet popular fare from the streets of Mexico. It happens to be a vibrant hued corn salad with the undertones of smoky (thanks to charred corn kernels), spicy and tangy flavors. The word 'esquites' comes from the Aztec word 'izquiti' which means toasted corn. According to wiki, there seems to be another variation to this salad's preparation where the corn kernels are first boiled and then sauteed in butter with onions, chilies, epazote and salt. Then it is served hot in small cups and topped with lime juice, chili powder or hot sauce, salt and mayonnaise. 

I didn't follow any recipe in particular since all the versions I found online were basically the same. This is a slight different take over Indian "corn chaat' recipe. In this method, corn kernels are sauteed until charred all over and then tossed with other ingredients to create a flavorful medley and then served warm. Mexicans use a cow milk based cheese called cotija in this preparation. Feta cheese happens to be a great substitute for this hard, crumbly and salty cheese. Similarly substitute sour cream for mayonnaise if you don't consume the latter.

1 tbsp. oil (I didn't use any.)
2 ears fresh corn
1 tbsp. mayonnaise / sour cream
1 tbsp. finely crumbled feta cheese / cotija cheese 
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion greens
2 tbsp. finely minced cilantro
1/2 tsp. finely minced garlic
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
Salt to taste
Chili powder to taste
Lime / Lemon juice to taste

* Remove the husks and the silks from each ear of corn and remove the corn kernels with a knife. Heat a tbsp. of oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add corn kernels and salt to the skillet. Toss a couple of times to combine and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir and repeat the process until it is charred on second side as well. Continue tossing and charring until it is uniformly charred all over.

(The above stove and iron skillet method is what traditionally used to prepare the corn for esquites. However I directly toasted the corn on stove-top directly placing one ear of corn using tongs against the flame, until it was slightly charred uniform through out. And removed the corn kernels using a knife.) 
* Transfer the toasted corn kernels to a mixing bowl. Add sour cream, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno. garlic, lime juice, chili powder and salt if not used before. 
* Toss the ingredients to combine. Taste and adjust any seasonings if needed. Serve immediately.


This goes to blogging marathon #93 with the theme of recipes from countries that start with the same alphabet, "Pick one alphabet - 3 countries". My choice of alphabet this week is 'M' and my first post is from Mexico. Check out the page here to read what other marathoners are cooking.