Saturday, November 7, 2009

Double frenzy - long vacation and moving

I have been cooking all morning... food for this entire week. We are traveling to India on a 2-1/2 month long vacation. We are also vacating our apartment and storing our belongings in a mobile storage. This works out more economical for us. The storage container will be delivered to us tomorrow (Sunday) morning and we have until Wednesday morning to load it... Since, I'll be busy packing, and then cleaning, and I'll have to pack up my kitchen too, I cooked for the rest of the week and stored food in yogurt containers in my refrigerator. When done, I would just dump the containers in the recycle bin after a quick rinse - No washing or storing :))).

I generally cook in the evenings (dinner). So, my food pictures have to be shot indoors under artificial light. I do not have any studio kind of lighting, nor a great digital SLR camera (I am planning to invest in one soon). Most of my pictures are shot in normal room light without flash in macro mode in my simple Olympus but good (18X optical zoom) camera. Obviously, my pictures do not turn out great. Why am I talking about all this?? Hmmm... now I remember... to explain the picture in this post... Today, I cooked in the morning (unlike other days). The peas carrot and corn poriyal (sauteed vegetables) that I made, looked so colourful, the day was wonderfully sunny and I could not resist taking a picture. I don't say this picture turned out great either. Before I could get the perfect shot, my camera gave up on me with drained batteries. My replacement batteries were not charged either.... I could neither shoot anymore, nor anything else I cooked. Amidst all the other things, I did not have the patience to charge and then take pictures.

My mission for today's cooking was to use up all the veggies that I had in the fridge. I made apple, pear and mango - blueberry purees for my son's oatmeal. Frozen Suran (Indian Yams) from the freezer and sambar from the previous day went into the Suran black eyed beans curry (kuzhambu). Frozen peas, corn and carrots went into the poriyal in the picture. Half a bottle of salsa went into Aloo mirchi mutter. I wanted to take a picture of that too as it was tasty and colourful, but, that did not happen. I made dal chutney (paruppu thogayal) with left over red cabbage and 1/2 bunch of cilantro. I made dal with all the other veggies I had in fridge and freezer (I counted 13 of them other than onion and tomato :) ). I made a huge batch made idly / dosa batter few days ago. I am retaining the electric rice cooker and will leave it in the car. Roti, we will bring from store. With all this we will survive for a week without cooking. I think, we may have leftovers too, but have to be trashed :(. At the end, I am left out with 2 potatoes, 1 whole bulb of garlic, 1/2 packet frozen mangoes, 3/4 packet frozen pineapples, 1 1/2 packets of frozen coconut (they had buy 1 get one free during last week's grocery trip - unfortunately, last week than any other time...) and of course some fruits for rest of the week. Considering this, I would say "Mission Accomplished".....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lemon rice with a healthy twist for brunch

On both Saturdays and Sundays, my husband and I eat brunch around 11.00 AM. I leave my little one out of it... He gets to eat his regular 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. For me, brunch should be easy, quick, tasty and at the same time a wholesome and nutritious meal. I would not want to stand around the kitchen for long on a weekend morning.

One Tuesday, during our regular walk back from the library after the story time for kids, Rose and I were taking about healthy eating. Rose said that she has seen her friends eat 'just coloured rice' for lunch (like lemon rice, tamarind rice), which is only carbs without any vegetables or dal. Another day, when we were having a potluck, Smita suggested adding spinach to lemon rice and I thought it was a great idea. I tried it out and we all loved it.

Raw rice - 1 cup
Chopped spinach - 1 lb (I used frozen as it is quicker)
Whole peanuts - 2 tbsp
Channa dal - 1 tbsp
Urad dal - 1 tbsp
Red chillies - 5-8 broken into halves
Hing - 1 pinch
Curry leaves - few
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons or to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1 1/4 tsp or to taste
Oil - 2 tsp

Cook rice with 3/4 tsp salt and 2-3 drops of oil. I use a rice cooker. Once cooked, separate the rice granules with a fork, spread on a large plate and let it cool for 10-15 minutes. This makes the rice granules separate and do not squish while stirring.

Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Add hing and curry leaves and fry till the spluttering stops. Add red chillies and mustard seeds and fry until they start to crackle. Now add the penuts and fry for a few seconds. Then add the channa dal and urad dal and fry until golden brown. Now add the spinach and stir until slightly wilted (about 30 - 45 seconds). Turn the heat to low, add lemon juice and turmeric powder and stir well. Now start adding the rice in portions and continue stirring until heated through. Tasty spinach lemon rice is ready to serve. I served it with mung beans sundal (cooked and sauteed mung beans with onions tomatoes and spices) for the protein. We relaxed and enjoyed the brunch in front of the TV ;-)

This is my entry for 'Monthly Mingle (Brunch)' hosted by 'What's For Lunch Honey?'.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Beans paruppu usili - Green beans with lentils

Paruppu usili can be made with green beans, gover beans or banana flower. It is a traditional side dish and tastes wonderful with rice and rasam or mor kozhambu. I love paruppu usili, but do not make it very often as it takes a bit of effort. This time, I served it with mor kozhambu, we all loved it and I felt, it was the best paruppu usili ever.

There are two basic variations in cooking the dal (lentils).
1. Soak, grind and saute
2. Soak grind, steam and saute
Steaming before sauteing makes the usili taste better and consumes less oil (and of course takes longer to prepare)
Green beans - 1 pound cleaned and cut into about 1 inch long pieces
Toor dal - 3/4 cup
Channa dal - 3/4 cup
Toor dal - Channa dal proportion can be varied slightly based on the final texture you would like to achieve. Toor dal makes it softer and channa dal makes it crispier.
Oil - 2 tsp
Asafoetida (hing) - 2 pinches
Curry leaves - 6-8
Red chillies broken into pieces - 4-6 or to taste
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp

Soak toor dal, channa dal and 3-4 red chillies in water for 2-3 hours (not longer). Grind into a coarse paste. Place dal balls on oiled idly plates and steam for 10 - 15 minutes. Cool, remove from idly plates and break into very small pieces using your fingers. Cook the beans in microwave oven with water sprinkled on, until 3/4 cooked. Heat oil in a pan, add asafoetida and curry leaves and fry until the spluttering stops. Add mustard seeds and when they start crackling, add the remaining red chillies and urad dal. Fry until urad dal turns golden brown. Add ginger paste and fry for about 30 seconds. Now add the steamed dal and cooked beans and mix well. Fry on medium-low heat until dry and desired crispness is reached. This may take about 20 - 30 minutes of patient stirring. Then, enjoy the reward of your patience :)