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Spring – Summer Special

Breakfast/ Continental/ Desserts/ Spring - Summer Special

Zucchini Bread

Everyone around me seems to be fighting allergies these days. The culprit? Climate Change! Warmer, drier air is prompting trees to release their offending pollen prematurely. Stay sniffle free with this nutrition packed treat – zucchini bread with cranberries and walnuts!

zucchini bread

This was a complete surprise. I was under the impression that zucchini bread was a mere attempt to hide veggies inside a sweet treat without adding anything to the flavor. But that’s not really true. After first bite, I was sold; partly because I had pretty low expectations and also because it does taste yum!zucchini cranberry breadAddition of cranberries and walnuts contributed a whole new dimension to otherwise chewy one-tone bread. So I totally recommend adding nuts and dried fruits of your choice.

zucchini bread slicesVitamin C, anti-oxidants and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from the 3 key ingredients will definitely help you build your defenses against the seasonal allergies. That’s how I convinced my husband to try this bread and he loved it, as always!

Zucchini Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

Zucchini Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

A nice treat to have after a long day!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter two 5 by 9 inch loaf pans.

2 In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter.

3 Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and stir it in. Add the flour, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg over the batter and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.

4 Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 55 minutes (check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.zucchini bread loaf

Notes

I will recommend cranberries as they add a slight tangy note to this sweet bread. Feel free to try raisins or chopped apricots or dried figs.
Walnuts can be substituted by any other nuts of your choice such as pecans or almonds or pistachios.

Italian/ Spring - Summer Special

Spaghetti with Pattypan Squash

My favorite summer pasta toppings include chunky vegetables, a good sauce and aromatic herbs and well seasoned al dante pasta. I like to keep the ratio of pasta and vegetables almost equal, so it’s a plate full of different colors, textures and flavors. Summer Vegetables Spaghetti

It’s almost end of the summer and these beautiful pattypan squash are at their peak season. I just love how they look, bright yellow skin with a small green hat 🙂pattypan Squash

It’a a very simple recipe and perfect for weeknight dinner. You can add all your favorite pasta vegetables in this one pot dish.Spaghetti with Summer Squash

Spaghetti with Pattypan Squash

Spaghetti with Pattypan Squash

Spaghetti topped with marinara sauce and all your favorite vegetables!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Wash and chopped all vegetables as needed.
  2. Cook spaghetti as per instructions on its packet.
  3. In a big pan, heat some Olive oil and add smashed garlic. If you want take them off before adding other vegetables.
  4. Add other vegetables, and let them cook a bit. Add salt and pepper.summer vegetables
  5. Keep these vegetables aside. In the same pan add 1 tbsp of Olive oil and add marinara sauce and chopped basil leaves. Also add some italian seasoning if you like.
  6. Add cooked vegetables into the sauce and mix well.
  7. Let them cook little more and add cooked spaghetti and toss everything together.
  8. Serve hot, garnish with basil leaves and grated parmesan cheese.Spaghetti with Pattypan Squash
Everyday Cooking/ Maharashtrian/ Spring - Summer Special/ Subji / Curry/ Superfoods

कारल्याची भाजी / Karlyachi Bhaji / Bitter Gourd Stir Fry in Maharashtrian Style

5 different tastes in one bite! It's a culinary master piece!

I have always told people who asked me about my favorite vegetables that I love Karlyachi Bhaji and especially the way my mom makes it. The surprise on their face made me feel proud for earning brownie points for being a good kid who eats all vegetables, including bitter gourd.

Any preparation of bitter gourd will have a pronounced bitter taste and it should, it’s not easy to mask bitter taste but it plays well with well chosen ingredients. This particular preparation which uses tangy tamarind, nutty peanuts, creamy coconut, sweet jaggery and spicy Goda Masala is a classical example of Marathi cuisine from Konkan region.

karlyachi bhaji

I was very happy with my attempt to mimic  mom’s magical taste. The best reward was that my husband really enjoyed it, which was quite a shock for me!karela with Goda masala

Karlyachi Bhaji

Karlyachi Bhaji

5 tastes in one byte! It's a culinary master piece!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. If you are using ready made tamarind paste, skip this step. Else, in a small bowl add 1 spoonful of tamarind and some water, microwave it for 10 seconds and let it sit aside.
  2. Wash bitter melons and cut them length wise, if you see any bigger seeds remove them with a spoon or inner side of a peeler. Now chop them into smaller equal sized pieces.
  3. Add these chopped pieces to a bowl with some water and add 1 tbsp of salt, mix it well. The salt makes the bitter gourd release some juice and it takes away some bitterness. This step is optional but highly recommended.
  4. Now in a kadhai / heavy bottomed pan, heat some oil.  I use peanut oil and it works really well for this dish.
  5. Prepare phodani or tadka, by adding mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, hing and turmeric powder.
  6. Now add bitter melon pieces by removing all the water. If you like squeeze out the water as much as you can.
  7. Stir fry it for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Now add ground peanuts, grated coconut, tamarind paste and mix it well.
  9. Add red chili powder, cumin-coriander powder, Goda masala and finally some salt. Mix everything together and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  10. Add jaggery, cook it further for 2 minutes.
  11. Adjust the amount of jaggery / salt as per your taste.

Enjoy it hot with poli or fulka! Bon apetite!

bitter gourd stir fry

Spring - Summer Special/ Travelicious

Glimpses of Mt Shasta and Crater Lake

Blue clear sky, a canvas of lush green meadow with tiny bright yellow flowers, dancing with the wind, tall pine trees all around, snow topped mountains in the backdrop and the sweet chime of rushing water! The experience which will let you experience “bliss”! All my senses were awakened. Lying under the sun at noon turned into a joyful moment – at that moment I felt the connection with the nature. Pure happiness unfolded in my heart, that happiness was beauty, the beauty of the nature.mt shasta city park

The first unplanned trip we did which surprised us at every moment. The experience was worth sharing and hence this post all about our trip to City of Mount Shasta and Crater Lake National Park.

I am the planner in my family. I feel every trip should be well planned and timed depending on what we want to do. I  always do some research about the local places and the best spots to visit and eat. That makes it a successful, hassle free trip. Well I found an exception to my rule, which means the rule is now proven 🙂

Swapnil’s relatives booked a cabin near Crater Lake National Park and we decided to join them; we didn’t want to miss on an opportunity to play with their three kids. We started on Friday and stopped at Redding which is about 4 hours from our place. Redding is the largest city in the Shasta Cascade region. A good place for an overnight stop, has all typical chain restaurants close to highway so finding a familiar breakfast place is easy. The newest attraction at Redding is its Sundial Bridge, which is pedestrian bridge completed in 2004 over Sacramento River. The north-south orientation of the pylon happens to act as a sundial as well, not so exciting as it is accurate only on  the summer solstice. We skipped it.

Our impromptu plan was to cover Mount Shasta vista points and head north to Crater Lake. There are many options with many scenic byways which slither through Lassen volcanic region. But constrained by limied time, we chose the fastest route – I5 North.

Just after 5-6 miles up north from Redding, there is a vista point from where you can see three Shastas – Mount Shasta, Shasta Lake and Shasta Dam. From intersection of Shasta Dam Blvd and Lake Blvd drive west, until you see a visitor center. You can see the wall of Shasta Dam and serene lake water behind it and mount Shasta in the background. They run hourly guided tours of Shasta Dam if you are interested.

We then headed back to I5 and went straight to City of Mount Shasta. On a clear day, you can see the snow capped mount Shasta as soon as you enter the city. It has a small downtown street with local coffee shops and bakeries. We drove ahead to Mount Shasta City Park. Located at the base of the mountain, this was a hidden gem. Every tourist site will mention this spot for the Sacramento River Headwaters but there is more to it.

As you enter inside, you will see a wooden structure and parking around it. Walk in the direction of the sound of water stream and you will be rewarded with the purest water on the earth. People filling up their water tanks is a common thing here. The Sacramento river, which flows 270 miles from here to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, originates in the ice-cold waters of Big Spring, issuing from a lava tube deep within Mt. Shasta. That water flows into Cold Creek here in the park, the Sacramento River’s most northerly feeder stream.sacramento river headwaters

Walk down a few steps and there is a small bridge which leads to small trails. The whole site was so soothing to eyes, green trees, fresh leaves and clear water making sweet natural sound. A small bench in front was a perfect place for meditation. I just loved that spot. mt shasta city park 2

I looked behind and I was thrilled to see the green grass field with small yellow flowers. I was so tempted, I looked at Swapnil and he just nodded  By the time he said “Go ahead”, I was already on the ground. DSC_0123The wet grass with the flowers didn’t bother me at all. I generally cannot stand the direct sun at any time of the day and here I was lying under the sun at noon. So relaxing! No wonder Mt Shasta is famous for meditation, there is something magical here. We were really happy to be there. There were some people playing drums and mouth organs and a beautiful lady doing belly dance moves matching the beats. Dancing in a park with strangers, not just strangers but hippie strangers, checked!

There are small trails which take you around the water but we did not have enough time to explore those as our under the sun relaxation lasted for a long time. We headed back to the downtown with our bottles filled with the cool water. While I was yelping for local places, “Prana Produce” caught our attention and we decided to check out that grocery store. We also wanted to buy some milk and fruits for the kids. Till now, I thought it was a popular meditation place among hippies and so we saw some at the park. But nope, I was wrong. We were the only non-hippies at the store. Their staff, their workers, their customers, all were hippies. And these are not your polished urban grown SF hippies or wannabe Austin hippies, these were real deal. No wonder organic, natural and healthy food, I mean “Prana Produce” were so easily available. Their blackboard read thisberryvale groceryberryvale grocery productsThe name of the store is BerryVale Produce. It also has a small kitchen which serves fresh sandwiches, wraps, pasta and soups also smoothies and coffee. We liked their Vegetarian Sandwich with pesto sauce. The carrot juice was way better than Jamba Juice. And the soup of the day – Punjab Lentil soup hit the mark. The aisles were filled with organic super foods and the religious stuff as well. Look what we saw –

Next time, I would buy food from this place and go to the park to have a picnic. There is always something going on so entertainment is taken care of and the nature and the water will always make you happy.

We wanted to reach out resort before dark, so we didn’t stop at any other spots. The drive was a real pleasure. Pine trees, green mountains and winding road with very little traffic. As we entered the Crater Lake National Park area, the road became so pristinely beautiful.  No turns, straight as a line, lined with tall Pine trees on both sides, chilly winds and no vehicles. It was picture perfect.DSC_0140

To our surprise, we saw Made in India Mahindra on the US soil! mahindra on US soilNext day, we started for Crater lake. The drive was smooth even though it was raining and snowing. We reached the visitor center and walked up a few steps in the snow.  The lake was beautiful, the blue water surrounded by snow capped mountains called for a long photo session. Found this time lapse video that captured the lake at night.

We had a great time with the kids, playing in the snow and building a snow man.fun in the snow

The visitor center was quite disappointing as it didn’t have any vegetarian food or it was over by the time we reached there. There is one restaurent on your way to Rim Village, called Annie’s Restaurant which has descent food options. The East rim was closed due to the snow so we couldn’t drive to the other side of the lake. We returned back to our resort, enjoyed homemade khichadi and talked till late hours. Next day we did stop at BerryVale Grocery place for a quick healthy lunch on our way back. It was a refreshing and rejuvenating trip.

Desserts/ Spring - Summer Special

Qubani Ka Meetha / Apricot Dessert

Qubani is an Urdu word for Apricots. And this dessert – Qubani Ka Meetha which itself translates to stewed Apricot dessert is a specialty of Hyderabad. It was the challenge posed by Roha from Hyderabadi Cuisine as part of  SNC ( South Vs North Challenge), which as you might know is a brainchild of Divya from YouTooCanCook, you can read about it more here.

When I first saw this in my inbox I was almost jumping with joy. Apricots are one of my favorite fruits. What I like about apricot is its distinct aromatic flavor. Currently farmer’s markets in the US are boasting California’s “spring gold” – the fresh Apricots. Its velvety golden skin, sweet-tart taste and the fragrance makes it unique.

Thanks to Roha, we now have an unbelievably quick recipe to enjoy apricots. No wonder the dessert is very common in  Hyderabadi weddings. It’s really really simple yet elegant. They generally use dried apricots as fresh apricots are seasonal and they are not native to India. It’s served with cream or custard or ice-cream on top which is completely missing from my plate this time but I have promised myself to do a complete justice to this delicious dessert next time!Stewed Apricot Dessert

Qubani Ka meetha

Qubani Ka meetha

Simplest Apricot dessert you have ever known!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In a deep bowl, add washed apricots and cover them with water. Soak them overnight. (up to 4-5 hours)
  2. Apricots will become softer and will absorb the water. Take out the apricots and  keep the soaking liquid aside, it contains the apricot flavor.
  3. Now remove the seeds carefully and crack them open to get the apricot kernel, these will be used as garnish.Apricot Almonds
  4. In a non-stick saucepan, add soaking liquid, the apricots and some sugar. Let it cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes until it turns golden brown. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice.Apricot Dessert in making 1
  5. Taste and add more sugar if you like, while it's still cooking. I also added some Apricot kernels so that they also cook little bit.
  6. You can also blanch the Apricot kernels and remove their skin. I skipped this step.
  7. Feel free to add some water or milk if the mixture looks very dry. It should be pulpy and mushy.
  8. When almost done, add few strands of saffron and cardamom powder.Apricot Dessert in making 2
  9. Let it cool down,

Serve it cold with your favorite ice cream scoop or fresh cream, topped with pistachios slices.

Smoothie/ Spring - Summer Special/ Superfoods

Almond Energy Drink

A drink that makes every morning a good morning!

We seem to be sacrificing more of our time and energy to our high-speed wireless culture and as a result exhaustion has become a familiar aspect of our lives. All too often we forget to take care of ourselves. How many times you consider yourself an important part of your life? Making room in your frantic schedule for some downtime is equally important as intentionally replenishing your energy with healthy and wholesome food.

Here is my recipe for an energizing drink, a perfect start for your day! It contains just 4 simple ingredients, natural sugar. And if you are searching for those buzz words, yes it’s high in protein and fibre.

Almond Energy DrinkThere is a small preparation involved, but the gains are sweet! Soak all the ingredients in water / milk on previous night. Dates provide the perfect sweetness with no added sugar. Almonds give some bite to this nourishing milkshake.

Almond Energy Drink

Almond Energy Drink

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Soak almonds in 1/2 cup of water overnight. No need to refrigerate almond.

In a medium bowl, add 1/2 cup milk and 2 dates, roughly chopped. Mix 1 tsp of poppy seeds and keep it in the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to treat yourself, peel the almond skin off and roughly chop them. In a blender all almonds, and the soaked dates and poppy seeds with the milk. Add more milk if you wish. Blend everything together.

Enjoy your nourishing drink!

Almond Date MilkshakeAccording to Ayurveda, almonds are energizing, nourishing and the only “satvic” nuts which do not increase “rajas” or “tamas” properties in our body. Also Date is the only fruit allowed to be paired with milk as it doesn’t contain any vitamin C that would react adversely with milk. Poppy seeds, the tiny little seeds also known as “Khas Khas” in Marathi, are a good source of dietary fibre and are also rich in minerals like Calcium, Manganese and Phosphorous.

Hope you like it. Join us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MyHomeMantra) for more updates!

Happy mothers day!

Breakfast/ Jams & Pickels/ Spring - Summer Special

Homemade Pineapple Jam

Simplest Jam made with Exotic Ingredients

When I was little, one of my favorite treats were fresh pineapple. A pineapple is a seasonal fruit in India so finding ways to preserve it for rest of the year was quite natural. The obvious was Pineapple Jam; still my most favorite!

homemade pineapple jam

I like it crunchy and not spreadable like store bought ones. So I prefer not to blend it. If you plan to keep it for longer which is so hard since it’s so tempting, you can use some preservative. But for me simple sugar syrup works best. Many recipes ask for adding water which inherently needs some preservative, at least lemon and that also means a way more sugar than my simple recipe. Also I tend to cook it lesser than usual so it still maintains the juices. The only trick is to use perfectly ripe pineapple with no green skin.

I use s pinch of spices and also saffron which add a whole new dimension to this flavorful fruit. Try it on a hot toast with some butter and you will fall in love with it.

pineapple_jam

Homemade Pineapple Jam

Homemade Pineapple Jam

Preserving summer bounty in a jar cannot be simpler

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. To peel the skin off a pineapple, first chop off the top green crown and also slice off its bottom so that it stands straight on your chopping board.
  2. Peel off the skin with a sharp knife. You can make deep cuts to remove the black parts called 'eyes' or remove them separately.
  3. Now make rectangular slices by carefully avoiding the middle tough part. Don't use it, it's hard to digest.
  4. Chop it nicely and and put them in a medium sauce pan.
  5. On a medium heat, let them saute for a minute or so.
  6. Now add sugar and mix well.
  7. Let it come to a boil and them simmer for couple of minutes.pineapple_jam in making
  8. Once done, turn off the heat and add cardamom powder and saffron. Mix well.
  9. Let it cool down completely, so not cover it else the steam will add unwanted moisture.
  10. Once cooled down, store it in a dry glass jar and keep it refrigerated. It lasts up to 6 weeks.

[Update] A jar full of love and flavor, perfect to send with kids at hostel., sending it to Kid’s Delight – Back to Hostelspecial event started by Srivalli

Desserts/ Entertaining/ Quick n Healthy/ Spring - Summer Special

Blueberry Delight

Holidays are here and so is the season of sweets and extra-calories. When my friends came over last night, I wanted to serve them a quick healthy dessert. I understand Healthy & Desserts can not fit into one sentence but this was an exception.

First of all it was a petite dessert made with ‘camouflaged’ greek yogurt mixed with homemade Blueberry compote and apple chunks. When it comes to dessert presentation is what matters the most, rightt?

blueberry_delight So, here is  how I did it.

Blueberry Delight

Blueberry Delight

There can be a healthy dessert!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the Greek yogurt with Blueberry compote, add honey as per your taste.
  2. Add apple chunks ad mix well.
  3. Serve into small dessert glasses. Add a small dollop of cream at the bottom if you like.
  4. Garnish with your favorite berries.

Happy Holidays!

Quick n Healthy/ Snacks/ Spring - Summer Special/ Superfoods

Kale Chips

We all know we should eat green leafy vegetables. And I am sure you have come across Kale Chips too. Are they easy to make? Yes and No. They are easy to make for the most part, but can easily be messed up.

When I first made Kale chips, I had no idea how Kale tastes. Its slight bitter taste does call for Indian touch like chaat masala or your favorite seasoning. If “green” and “leafy” do not strike a bell in your mind, here is why Kale is a clear winner when in comes to nutrition.

Type of Green Calories Vitamin A Vitamin C Vitamin K Calcium Iron Manganese
Collard Greens 11 48% 21% 230% 5% 0% 5%
Kale 33 206% 134% 684% 9% 6% 26%
Mustard Greens 15 118% 65% 384% 6% 5% 13%
Spinach 7 56% 14% 181% 3% 5% 13%
Swiss Chard 7 44% 18% 374% 2% 4% 7%

source-http://www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=the_healthiest_leafy_greenand_how_to_eat_it

Here is the 9 step recipe. Do read my tips for making crunchy chips.

Crunchy Kale Chips

Crunchy Kale Chips

Healthy and crunchy chips packed with vitamins!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Separate the leaves, and wash them under running water.
  2. Dry the leaves throughly.
  3. Make sure the leaves are completely dry and have no moisture, especially the inner parts. Else go to step 2.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F (180C).
  5. Break the leaves in 3-4 inch pieces, discard the middle tough stem.
  6. In a small bowl, mix the seasoning, salt and Olive oil.
  7. Pour the mixture on top of the leaves and massage gently so that all leaves are coated with oil.
  8. Spread them over a baking sheet. You might have to do these in two batches.
  9. Bake them for 10-12 minutes, until they turn light brown.

 

Tips –

  1. It goes without saying, use fresh Kale leaves.
  2. Dry Dry and Dry – After I wash the leaves, I spread them on paper towels and leave them near a window for couple of hours so that the moisture evaporates. Then I dab them with a kitchen towel. You can also use salad spinner if you have one. The moisture makes it hard for the oil to stick on the leaves and they don’t come out crunchy as you would like.
  3. Don’t use a lot of oil – it does not make the chips crunchier.
  4. Use the salt and seasoning sparingly – as you bake they reduce in volume so don’t overkill them with seasoning. You can always season them afterwards.
  5. Drizzle a few drops of lemon juice once the chips are cooled completely.
Jams & Pickels/ Spring - Summer Special

Fresh Strawberry Jam

It was one o’ clock and I had almost finished my shopping at the farmer’s market. I stopped at a stall which had only two big boxes of fresh organic strawberries and the seller was happily offering them at half the price. I instantly grabbed one box and started thinking of how to preserve these summer treats. There wouldn’t be a better way than fresh homemade strawberry jam! I returned home with the big box in my hands and a big smile 🙂

 

Fresh Strawberry Jam

Fresh Strawberry Jam

All natural with NO preservatives and NO high fructose corn syrup!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  • After you wash the strawberries, make sure you pat them completely dry. This is very important to preserve the jam for longer time.
  • Hull the strawberries, that means remove the stem and green parts and chope them into quarters or smaller pieces.
  • In a heavy bottom saucepan, mix strawberries with sugar and crush them lightly with a fork. Leave them for half and hour so that sugar dissolves in the resulting juice. (This step is optional)
  • I like to add 4-5 cloves but feel free to skip them. Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
  • On a medium flame, let the mixture cook until it starts boiling. Stir the mixture periodically.
  • Let it boil for 15-20 minutes, uncovered; until all moisture evaporates and it starts thickening up. 
  • You have to make sure it's completely cooled down before you pour it into a jar. Do not put the lid until the jam is completely cooled. Else the moisture will spoil all the efforts.
 Tips
  1. At every step, you have to make sure there is no water content.
  2. The glass jar you use for storing the jam has to be completely dry.
  3. I did not sterilize the jar but if you want you can follow the directions here. I washed the jar and let it dry in the sunlight. At home, we used the same trick for the jars used to store pickles.
  4. I added only 1 1/2 cups of sugar because the the strawberries I used were really sweet and I like it on a slightly tangier side, so adjust the quantity accordingly.
  5. Keep it refrigerated if you wish to preserve it for longer time.

 

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