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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Jowar Flour Laddu / Sorghum Flour - Nut Laddus

When I recently was discussing about travel food with my daughter, she gave me a list of foods that she would prefer to eat on a trip. It occurred to me that those are our family favorites I pack when we take long road trips and I realized with surprise that unknowingly I have created a tradition of our own. My kids one day probably would get nostalgic about our trips and reminisce about how their mom would stuff any vacant space in the car with food and other paraphernalia while dad is watching with dismay. 😇. 

Anyway while we were at it, the girl requested me to make some laddus. My daughter is not big on desserts but prefers a few selected ones like these peanut laddus for instance. I carry a load of homemade spicy snacks, energy bars and other sweets to munch on, especially if we are going to be on the road for a week or two and those laddus are a must for her. She got these energy balls to try this time which we all enjoyed. These laddus are loaded with healthy ingredients like jowar flour, raisins, a medley of nuts and jaggery which all contribute equally to make these laddus delicious and rich. The laddus do not need any ghee and the moisture from the ingredients used is enough to shape them. The laddus are firm though they look moist in the images. Try these easy and quick laddus on a festival day or as a after school treat for little ones. 

Ingredients: (Yield 12 laddus)
3/4 cup jowar ka atta / sorghum flour / jonna pindi
1/2 cup mixed nuts - I used skinned peanuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts
1/2 cup grated, dry coconut
1/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup powdered jaggery
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom

* Roast jowar flour stirring continuously, on low flame until you notice aroma, about 7 -8 minutes.
* Toast nuts on low flame for about a minute or so. (I just toasted them in a microwave.)
* Let the flour and nuts cool down.
* Pulse the nuts finely in a food processor until they start to clump if possible and transfer to a mixing bowl. Then add jowar flour, coconut and raisins to the food processor and grind them fine. Now add back the ground nuts, jaggery and cardamon to the food processor. Pulse a few times until all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly and finely ground.
* Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and make lemon sized balls from the mixture.
* Store them in an airtight container. Freeze them if wishing to save longer and thaw them before serving.

This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon #97 and BM - 'Kids' Delight' event hosted by Renu this month with 'Travel Food' theme.



Monday, February 25, 2019

Dabbakaaya Pulihora

In Andhra, a pulihora is a rice dish prepared with any souring agent like cooked tamarind sauce, lemon / lime juice, green mango and so on. 'Pulihora' (under different regional names) has been an essential part of the travel paraphernalia for generations, for those with south Indian roots. Especially the tamarind rice that don't get spoiled for at least two days even in Indian tropical climate, a perfect and economical travel food, especially if travelling with a large group. And there are those pulihoras which can be made in a jiffy like the lemon rice or the green mango rice which make perfect travel food when there is not enough time to slave around in the kitchen. Adjust the spice levels if there are kids in the group and carry some yogurt, you will have a filling meal for the whole family. I usually pack a rice item when we are taking car trips so that an hour is not wasted for lunch at the food joints along the way. I pack food individually in disposable containers with our names labelled on the box to avoid confusions over who gets what and to avoid my daughter eating spicy food. I put a disposable spoon, glass/water bottle and napkin in each set so that no one comes bothering me to figure out the wheres and whats.

Today's rice item called dabbakaaya pulihora is one such easy item. Dabbakaya called so in Telugu is a citrus fruit, which is as big as an orange but somewhat similar to a lemon in taste and looks. It is called as heralekaayi in Kannada and if I am not wrong, narthangai in Tamil. I saw it being referred to as a grape fruit, pomelo and citron online and I am leaning more towards citron. Dabbakaaya rice goes along similar lines of a lemon rice preparation and one just need to substitute this citrus fruit juice for lemon juice. It makes a simple, quick, and flavorful dish that can be enjoyed by the whole family. It can be packed either in a lunch box, or a picnic basket. It can be carried as travel food or served as a part of a south Indian style festival meal. Just remember to cool down the rice completely if it is being packed.

Ingredients: (4 servings)
1 cup rice (I used sona masuri.)
2 tbsp. oil (I used canola oil.)
2 tbsp. peanuts
1 tbsp. chana dal (split chickpeas)
1 tsp. urad dal (skinned and split black lentil)
1 tsp. mustard seeds
3 chopped green chillies or 5 - 6 dried red chillies, broken into pieces *
1 - 2 stalks of curry leaves
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
A pinch of asafoetida powder
Salt to taste
1 dabbakaaya or 3 to 4 tbsp. juice (Adjust depending upon the sourness of the juice.)
Minced cilantro to garnish (optional)
* A combo of both green and red chillies can be used too. The number of chillies in the recipe can be adjusted according to one's preferred spice levels.

* Wash the rice in two exchanges of water and drain completely. Pressure cook the rice adding 1 and 3/4 cups of water. (Add 2 cups of water if using a rice cooker.) When the rice is done, spread it on a wide plate and fluff the rice. Or let the rice sit for a while before using.
* Once the rice is ready, heat oil in a pan / kadai. Add peanuts, split chickpeas, split black gram and mustard seeds. When mustard seeds start to sizzle and pop and the dals start to turn reddish, add chillies and saute for few seconds. Next add curry leaves, turmeric and asafoetida. Stir once and turn off the stove.
* Add rice, salt and the fruit juice and mix well. Taste the rice and adjust salt or the juice if needed. Salt and the fruit juice flavors tone down a bit after the resting period and so add those ingredients accordingly or taste the rice again after 30 minutes and adjust the quantities. 
* Let the rice sit for at least 15 - 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. 
* It can be served on it's own or serve some papad / chips along with it.
* If packing for lunches or as travel food then make sure that the rice is completely cool before packing. The rice may get spoiled quickly if packed warm.

This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon #97 and BM - 'Kids' Delight' event hosted by Renu this month with 'Travel Food' theme.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Mixed Flour and Vegetable Thepla

Thepla, a staple bread from Gujarati kitchens is nutritious and can be served for any meal of the day. The bonus point is that one doesn't need to go through the hassle of preparing a side dish to go with them. A spicy pickle and yogurt on the side will do, the two staple ingredients of any Indian kitchen. Theplas remain softer for longer periods unlike the regular rotis and therefore are ideal to get packed in a lunch box, a picnic basket or as a travel food.

I gave a small twist to the traditional recipe adding a blend of flours and vegetables to make it more healthier and filling. You can customize the recipe by adding flours you have on hand and raw vegetables you think would work in theplas. Adjust the spice quantities if serving little ones and they can eat them directly with some ghee smeared over them, if preferred. You can find the classic methi thepla recipe here and oats thepla here.

Ingredients: (Make about 12 theplas)
1 and 1/4 cup wheat flour (gehu ka atta) + extra for dusting
2 tbsp. chickpea flour (besan)
2 tbsp. amaranth flour (rajgire ka atta)
2 tbsp. millet flour (bajre ka atta)
2 tbsp. sorghum flour (jowar ka atta)
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
Salt to taste
1 inch piece ginger + 2 -3 green chillies (adjust the quantity as needed)
1 tsp. ginger - green chillie paste (or adjust as needed)
1/4 cup fresh / frozen green peas
1/2 cup roughly chopped fenugreek greens / methi
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
1/3 cup yogurt (I used homemade fat-free yogurt.)
1 tsp. oil + extra to toast theplas (I used canola oil.)
Water as needed

1. Pulse the flours, salt, turmeric, ginger - green chillies (if not using paste) and peas in a food processor until ginger, chillies and peas are chopped into fine bits. Or just coarsely grind the peas alone.
2. Transfer the ingredients to a mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients except water. Form a firm dough adding water if needed, in small increments. (You may need a tbsp. or two of water.) Finally add a tsp. of oil and knead for few seconds.

3. The final dough should be soft and pliable, easy to roll into a ball. If it is sticky, add flour as needed and knead it to make it firm. In case it is too dry, add a little water and knead. Cover and set aside for about 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 10 - 12 balls or make lemon sized balls.

4. Work with one flour ball at a time, keeping the rest covered. Coat a ball with flour and press slightly to flatten it. Roll it into a thin circle of about 5 inches diameter, dusting the work surface with flour if needed. (Theplas can be rolled and toasted simultaneously. In case of novice cooks, a few theplas can be rolled before turning on the stove so that the process would not become overwhelming.)  

5. Heat a cast iron or non stick griddle over medium heat. Place the rolled thepla on the pan and cook until the surface appears bubbly. Flip it and add 1/2 tsp oil around the edges and run the backside of the oily spoon over the surface of the thepla just to coat it with oil. Press the edges down with a spatula to cook evenly. As soon as the brown spots appear on the bottom side, flip it once more, cook for 10 seconds or so and transfer it onto a plate.

6. Repeat the steps 4 and 5 until all the theplas are made. 
7. Serve them with some Indian style spicy pickle / achaar and yogurt. Lightly smear with ghee if serving kids.

This post is an entry for Blogging Marathon #97 and BM - 'Kids' Delight' event hosted by Renu this month with 'Travel Food' theme.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Che Chuoi ~ Vietnamese Banana, Coconut and Sago Pudding (Gluten-Free and Vegan Cooking)

Theme: Paleo / Vegan / Gluten-Free Recipes

I would probably never forget this sago pudding in my life, not because it was unforgettably delicious but it put me in bed for two weeks. The canned coconut stuff I used in the pudding was the culprit, at least according to my husband. 😕 I tried the dessert a few months ago because the combination of ingredients used in the preparation was unusual to me though I strictly didn't adhere to the recipe. I usually finish a cup of pudding in one sitting but that day I had only a couple of spoons but it still got me. My husband, my daughter and I all ate the same food for lunch that day except that I had this sago pudding. Coincidence or not, within ten minutes, I started noticing rashes all over my body coupled with itchiness. The rashes were like 2 by 2 inch patches everywhere and by night, my face was swollen beyond recognition. Fortunately, I did not have any breathing problems or I would have ended up in emergency room on that weekend. It took two days to see my normal face. A doctor's visit later confirmed that I had hives and it took me two weeks, on medication, to get completely cured and it wasn't a pleasant experience, I can assure.

Che chuoi is a Vietnamese sago and banana based pudding cooked in coconut cream, flavored with pandan leaves. The word 'che' refers to liquid desserts like drinks, pudding and even soups in Vietnam. Vietnamese folks prefer a variety of banana called 'chuoi su' to prepare this gluten-free, vegan pudding but perfectly ripe, (but not mushy) sweet variety bananas should work fine in lieu of those. Sweet bananas, coconut cream and sago cooked to a creamy consistency and topped with crunchy peanuts and sesame seeds is an interesting variation to the Indian version of sago kheer. 

I have used the tiny sized sago here which gets cooked in about 10 minutes. If using larger variety, soak them in water for about ten minutes and then cook the same way but it would take a few minutes extra to cook. My pudding is loosely based on this recipe and I left out the pandan leaves since I did not have them and cooked the sago my usual way, as mentioned in the recipe below. Pandan must lend a very inviting flavor here. If using pandan leaves and need to follow the traditional recipe, simmer two knotted pandan leaves in about 2 cups water for about 15 minutes to bring out the flavor. Next add the marinated banana - sugar pieces, sago, another two pandan leaves, and coconut cream and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until done.

Ingredients: (Yield 2 servings)
1/4 cup small sized sago / tapioca pearls
2 ripened but not mushy bananas (Any sweet variety)
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
3/4 cup coconut cream
1 cup coconut milk / water
For topping:
2 tbsp. roasted and skinned peanuts, slightly crushed
2 tbsp. roasted white sesame seeds, slightly crushed

* Thinly slice the bananas and toss with sugar so that banana slices are coated well with sugar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. One can do this step ahead to avoid the waiting time to marinate. I read that they can be left marinated for up to two days though I haven't tried it.
* Rinse sago well and wash away the starch powder. 
* Choose preferably a non stick pot or a non stick sauce pan to cook the sago. Add drained sago and a cup of water and cook on low flame, stirring occasionally. Cook until all the sago become transparent. It doesn't take much time to cook if using the smallest size sago.
(Starch keeps building up while cooking the sago and tends to stick to the bottom of the pan if not stirred intermittently. If one finds cooking sago tricky because of the starch buildup, follow this step. When the water used to cook sago becomes starchy, add another cup of cold water. Sago go to the bottom of the pan and then throw away all the (starchy) water from the pan taking care to not drain the sago. Add a fresh cup of water to the sago and continue to cook. This step can be repeated one more time while cooking sago.)
* Throw away all the water in the pan when the sago pearls become transparent. Add banana - sugar mixture, coconut cream and coconut milk / water (as needed to thin the pudding to the desired consistency) to the sago and continue to cook on low flame until the preferred soft consistency of bananas is reached. Turn off the stove.
* Scoop the cooked pudding into serving bowls, each topped with some crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature.



Monday, February 4, 2019

Spicy Bajra Biscuits / Spicy Millet Flour Cookies (Gluten Free, Vegan Baking)

Theme: Paleo / Vegan / Gluten-Free Recipes

Vaishali posted bajra biscuits some weeks ago and I had to try them for two reasons. We are on the millet wagon for quite sometime now and so needless to say that I keep looking for new ways to include millet in our daily diet. Any interesting recipe that catches my attention gets cooked immediately in my kitchen. The second reason being my husband who enjoys spicier biscuits / cookies to go along with his coffee / tea. 

I made them along the lines of a khara biscuit, on a spicier side to suit his taste buds. Thanks to Vaishali, we enjoyed these healthy and flavorful biscuits. These millet flour based biscuits are gluten free, vegan (free of eggs and dairy) and in a nutshell, guilt free. The flavors can be customized according to one's preferences. If looking for spicier cookies, my chickpea flour cookies and khara biscuits may interest you.
1 cup millet flour / bajra flour
1 tsp. ginger - green chilli paste
2 pinches of asafoetida
Salt to taste (I used a little over 3/4 tsp. salt.)
1 tbsp. finely minced curry leaves 
1 tbsp. cilantro
2 tbsp. oil
1/4 cup warm water

* Grease or line a baking sheet. Also grease two plastic sheets on one side each. Or cut open a ziplock bag on sides so that you would end up with a large rectangle sheet and grease on one side and keep it aside.
* Preheat the oven to 300 deg F / 150 deg C.
* Combine all the ingredients except oil and water in a mixing bowl. In case you can not paste the ginger and chillies, just run them in a food processor along with the flour. Add oil and rub into the mixture. Next add water in small increments and mix until a dough is formed. Add a tsp. or two extra water if needed.
* Divide the mixture into two portions. Place one of the dough balls between two greased plastic sheets. (Or on one side of the greased ziploc sheet and fold the other end over it). Roll the dough into 1/8 inch thick circle.

* Cut the dough into desired shapes using cookie cutters and prick them all over with a fork. 
* Place the cut biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake them until golden brown and crisp. (Vaishali recommended about 15 minutes of baking. My biscuits were 1/4 inch thick ones and so I had to bake for about 25 minutes flipping them in between since they were not browning. I left them in the oven few extra minutes after the oven was turned off. I went with checking the crispiness rather than the color for these biscuits to see if they were done. 
* Cool and save them in an airtight container. Serve them with coffee or tea.

* The biscuits pictured here are 1/4 inch thick ones. 1/8 inch thickness gives crispy biscuits while 1/4 inch thick ones gives flaky and crumbly kind ones. We liked both but I would recommend 1/8 inch thick ones if not finishing them immediately. 1/4 inch thick ones kind of lost some of the crispiness the next day. 
* I used a 1.5 inch size diamond shaped cookie cutter and got around 30 biscuits of 1/4 inch thickness. One can make them into thin, big circles.



Sunday, February 3, 2019

Quinoa - Avocado Pasta

Theme: Paleo / Vegan / Gluten-Free Recipes

This quinoa pasta in avocado sauce hardly takes ten minutes to prepare and is quite a flavor packed one. The avocado sauce here is somewhat prepared on the lines of a pesto sauce along with avocado, which lends creaminess to the sauce. The quinoa pasta by itself is gluten free and vegan and the 'no cook' avocado sauce fits the paleo bill as well. Sprinkle some cheese over the pasta if not vegan to make it more tastier.

2 cups quinoa pasta
2 ripe avocados -peeled, halved and seeded
2 handfuls of basil and/or cilantro leaves (I used cilantro.)
2 garlic cloves
A handful of almonds (optional)
3 - 4 tbsp. olive oil (or as needed)
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
(1/4 cup parmesan cheese if not vegan)

* Cook quinoa pasta according to package directions. Save some of the pasta liquid and drain.
* While the pasta is cooking, add avocado, cilantro, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to a blender / food processor and blend well until the desired consistency is reached (chunky or creamy). If you have hard time processing the ingredients, add a little pasta water to facilitate easy grinding.
* Toss the pasta and the avocado sauce together. Season with salt and black pepper and serve immediately. (Sprinkle some cheese over the pasta if not vegan.)