This is the first time I am baking bread! I have always felt baking any kind of bread is a daunting task and way too overwhelming. I would rather go to Panera and pick up a baguette. But, finally, I took the plunge! Interestingly, I am not big on Pretzels. Occasionally, I would pick up Pretzel Tide’s ‘Pretzel Bites’ and I cannot stand any other pretzels. I made this because my daughter who is quite a picky eater loves ‘em. I took this recipe from Bobby Flay’s Soft Pretzels recipe and it came out very well! We had that for dinner by the way, yes, ME TOO! He also gives the recipe for Con Queso dip but I served it with store bought dip.

Some tidbits I found interesting (From WIKI ) “The Pretzel Museum opened in Philadelphia by members of the Nacchio family dynasty in 1993 to highlight the area’s preference for their more unique more rectangle shaped styled pretzels being baked soft and unlike the dominant more circular hard pretzels produced in western Pennsylvania. Champion hand pretzel twister Helen Hoff produced 57 pretzels per minute at this first museum.10 years later, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell declares April 26 National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state's history and economy. Congress declared it in 1983, but stopped the "commemorative day" practice in 1998”
-Did you know that the Germans eat/ate pretzels on Good Friday because the shape resembles praying hands?

Makes about 8 pretzels
• 1 1/2 cups warm water
• 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
• 1 package active dry yeast
• 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
• 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher/regular salt
• 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
• Vegetable oil
• 3 quarts water
• 3/4 cup baking soda
• 2 whole eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
• Coarse sea salt

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl using a mixer.
To this, add flour and salt, and mix until well combined.
Increase the speed of the mixer and knead the dough until it is smooth and begins to pull away from the bowl. If you find the dough too wet, add some flour to it.
Grease a bowl and place the dough in it and coat the dough with the oil/butter.Cover and store in a warm place until the dough doubles in size. Took me about an hour and a half
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Line a pan with parchment paper or Al foil and grease with butter or PAM
Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil and add baking soda to it.
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 8 equal pieces.
Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches.

To Shape:
Take the right side and cross over to the left.
Cross right to left again and flip up.
Place two pretzels at a time in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.
Take out the boiled pretzels using a large spoon. Place it on the baking sheet and brush the tops with egg and season the top with coarse sea salt.
Bake them in a preheated oven until golden brown, for about 20 minutes.
Let them cool down a bit and serve with your favorite dips!

This goes to Cooking for Kids:Evening Snacks, guest hosted by Divya, an event started by Sharmi of Naivedyam.

Also, it goes to Sunday Snacks:Snacks by Bread, guesthosted by Priya, an event started by Hima of SnackOrama.

Have fun,

Fried Shallots

The name Shallot derives from the word ‘Ashkelon’, a city in Israel. Shallot’s botanical name is Allium. They are sometimes also known as eschallots.Known as Gandana in Hindi and ‘bawang merah keci’ in Behasa Melayu, the language spoken across Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, these tiny red onions taste like onions but are less pungent.They are formed as a cluster of bulbs similar to garlic as opposed to a single bulb like an Onion.Although the origins are not quite clear, the roots seem to have been in Asia or in Mediterranean region.

The fried shallots are a popular condiment in Malaysia and across Southeast Asia. In Malaysia,they are served with the regional fried rice (Nasi Goreng) along with Cucumbers and Tomatoes.In India, it is used in Sambar and Kuzhambu. It is also used in pickles and as a pickle!Here is a simple recipe for fried shallots. I served it on some flavored rice.

From The Best International Recipe (From the editors of Cook’s Illustrated)

1/3 cup Shallots
3 Shallots, sliced thin.
Salt to taste

Heat the oil. Place the thinly sliced shallots and cook over high heat by continuously stirring it. Do it for about 5 min till shallots are golden and soft. Do not overcook. They will turn crispy after you take them out from the pan.
Take the shallots out and place them on a paper towel and let the oil drain and turn crispy. Season with salt.

The above picture goes to IAVW:Malaysia hosted by Vaishali of Holy Cow!Vegan Recipes

The last picture goes to CLICK! and this month's theme is Allium!


Vegetable Idli

To me, idli is the easiest breakfast to make once you have the batter, of course.Mostly, I make the idlis during Summer and Fall. The rest of the time, I get the prepared batter. Some of the best idlis, I have had were my mom's and from a restaurant in Hyderabad-Minerva Coffee Shop!
There are different proportions and variations to this and this is the recipe I usually follow!

For basic/Plain Idli:
2 cups Idli Rawa (You can find it in Indian Grocery Stores)
1 cup Urad Dal

Soak Idli Rawa and Urad Dal separately for 4-6 hours.
Drain the water from both the urad dal and rawa into a bowl.
Blend the Urad Dal by gradually adding the water (saved from draining) not making it too runny.It should have a thick consisitency.
Mix the blended urad dal to the Idli rawa until well combined.
Try to do it with hands!
Let it sit overnight in a warm place.It should rise and will be a bit foamy on the top.Mix it with the spoon.
Add Salt to taste

Take about 4-5 cups batter (A cup is 8oz)
1 cup Mixed Veggies
1 cup Mixed Veggies or your choice of veggies.I used frozen veggies
1 Tomato,chopped
3-4 curry leaves
1/2 tsp of Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp of Mustard seeds
2 green chillies chopped
1tbsp Oil

Heat oil in a pan.Add Cumin seeds, mustard seeds,green chillies, curry leaves and fry for a couple of min. Add Tomatoes and veggies and let them cook for 4-5 minutes until the veggies are tender.
Add this to the idli batter (4-5 cups of batter)

Grease the idli moulds (See how they look) with oil or veg spray.Pour a ladelful into the mould making sure it does not overflow.

I use a pressure cooker (I make it into a steam cooker by taking the whistle/weight off ) to cook idlis.You could use a steam cooker.

Pour 4-6 cups of water into a pressure cooker and lower the set of idli plates into the cooker.Also, make sure the water does not touch the idli plates.

Cook for about 10 minutes.Remove the moulds when they cooled down a bit and easy to handle.

Remove the idlis from the moulds with a spoon.

Serve hot with chutney.

This goes to WYF:Breakfast event hosted by EC of Simple Indian Food.

Ramya has tagged me to share my ABCs!

The Rules:
1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share the ABCs of you.
4. Tag 4 people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
5. Let the 4 tagged people know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
6. Do not tag the same person repeatedly but try to tag different people, so that there is a big network of bloggers doing this tag.

The Tag:
1. A – Available/Single? Nope

2. B – Best friend? While I have many good friends, I do have a soft spot for Pallavi (My school friend)

3. C – Cake or Pie? Cake

4. D – Drink of choice? Water or Soda!

5. E – Essential item you use every day? Cell Phone and a Laptop

6. F – Favorite color? Black

7. G – Gummy Bears Or Worms?Don't know, Bears May be!

8. H – Hometown? Hyd

9. I – Indulgence? Anything sweet

10. J – January or February? January..The winter is not as brutal as in Feb

11. K – Kids & their names? 1 Daughter-Shriya

12. L – Life is incomplete without? Family

13. M – Marriage date? March 2nd

14. N – Number of siblings? 2 - 1 brother

15. O – Oranges or Apples? Like them both

16. P – Phobias/Fears?Have a lot! Animals, Heights, Roller coasters...

17. Q – Quote for today? All is well that ends well.

18. R – Reason to smile? My daughter and all her dramas in the house..LOL!

19. S – Season? Fall

.20. T – Tag 4 People? Tough one!(Scroll down)

21. U – Unknown fact about me? I am short:D

22. V – Vegetable you don't like?Love all of them

23. W – Worst habit? Get anxious over trivial things!

24. X – X-rays you've had? I don't remember..I do remember I had one for my back for Arthritis and Sinus!

25. Y – Your favorite food?Street Food in Hyd and Italian

26. Z – Zodiac sign? Aries


For now!

Risotto with Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

This month’s T &T (a monthly event that focuses on a blog to try and taste the recipes from that blog) is featuring the classy & elegant A Life (Time) of Cooking by Ganga. A blog that was created before blogs, Food Matters (Now closed) was a site maintained by her for a long time,11 years! Her unique writing style,her inspiring photography and her food and recipes will immerse you into a world of its own. The collection of topics is not just confined to cooking or recipes but has a lively mix including Travel journals and her musings. The temptations were many when I visited the blog. It was very difficult to choose one dish out of the many tempting delicacies! I wish I could try each one of her recipes today.Alas!A day has only 24 hours!However,you will see me try some of my favorites like Pane De Prato, Pomodori Con Riso from her blog,bookmarked for later!For now, I have chosen to make her Basic Risotto.

“Use only Arborio rice (or other Italian risotto rice), otherwise it is not a risotto, it is a rice dish” she says! I will attest to that because the first time and the only time I made the Risotto or so I thought I made, I used Indian short grain rice.I don't have to further explain my final result..Will leave that to your imagination! This time, I did follow her directions to the letter and boy! was that dish heavenly!

‘Patience is a Virtue’ they say and you will need some to make this dish.The key to making good Risotto is stirring and adding the water or stock gradually until the rice attains a creamy texture.
For you to get good and moist,creamy risotto it will take about 20 mts!

What you need:
200g of Arborio rice
2 ½ cups of Vegetable Stock
2 ½ cups of Water
20 g Butter (approx: 1 ½ tbsp)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Dry White Wine, Optional
Good Quality Parmigiano Reggiano
¼ cup Peas
Oven Roasted Tomatoes (Recipe follows)

Combine the water and stock and simmer it in a pan. If you would like to add some wine to the stock that is optional.
In another pan, heat the oil and butter. Add the rice and cook the rice until it becomes translucent and you hear a cracking sound.

Add a ladleful of stock/water to the rice and cook until it has absorbed all the water.

Continue adding until the rice is cooked. This takes about 18 minutes. The rice should be firm to the bite. I cooked for 5 more minutes until the rice is tender but not soft.

Remove from the heat.Serve with some shavings of Parmesan or a spoonful of Creme Fraiche!

For flavorings:I added Peas and Oven roasted Cherry Tomatoes.
She suggests to go wild with Asparagus, Mushrooms, Beans, Tomatoes, Capsicum or the red ruby bites. The Possibilities seem to be endless. So, go with what fascinates your imagination!

The Risotto goes to Tried & Tasted event hosted by Yasmeen of Healthnut.
Also, check Pumpkin Risotto!

Oven roasted Tomatoes

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Fresh Thyme
6-7 fresh Basil leaves
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F.Line a baking sheet with Al foil and grease it with butter or PAM. Cut the tomatoes into half. Spread the tomatoes evenly on the sheet . Combine oil, garlic, Thyme, Basil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour the mixture on top of the tomatoes. Using your hand, mix the seasonings with tomatoes, making sure the tomatoes are evenly coated with oil and herbs.

This is off to:

SLF Special Edition:The Beauty of Red and White, hosted by Elsye of Dari Dapur Saya.

This goes to:

FIC:Zodiac Signs (April:RED) guest hosted by Ashwini's Spicy Cuisine ,event started by Sunshinemom of Tongue Ticklers!

Now, coming to the the sweet gestures by 2 lovely bloggers:

Sangi of Simply Delicious passed me this award!Thanks a lot, Sangi:)

Sushma of Authentic Food Delights passed me this award.Thanks a ton, Sushma!

As the rules go, here are 7 wonderful bloggers that I am passing this onto:

I know, I know it has been a long post, but this dish particularly deserves it..
Hope you did not fall asleep!


Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Hope you all had a great weekend! After a long time, I had some R&R time for myself. I was lazy to even step in the kitchen but I had to because, I was even lazier to go out and eat. I made some soup, read the book- The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga, and strolled in the mall next to my house. Can you believe that is all I did?
This recipe is adapted from all over the internet, no single source.

2 Large Red Bell Peppers
1 Medium Onion, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 Medium russet Potato, cubed
2 cups Veg. Stock
½ cup light cream
2 tbsp Olive Oil + 1 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Pre heat the oven to 400F.Line a baking sheet with Aluminum foil. Spray the sheet with PAM or with butter

Slice the bell peppers, about ¼ in thick. Remove the seeds. Place the red peppers on the sheet and drizzle with some Olive Oil. Sprinkle some salt and black pepper.

Combine all of them with hand. And spread them evenly on the sheet. Bake the peppers for about 30 -45 minutes until they are blistered and are tender to touch.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of Olive Oil in a pan and sauté the Onions till golden brown. Add Potatoes and cook them until tender and then add tomatoes.Cook for a couple of minutes, until soft.

Combine the Onions, potatoes and Red Peppers. Puree in a blender/food processor by adding the stock and cream until it is thick and not watery.

This goes to No croutons Required, hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes.This month's theme is Peppers.

Padmajha Suresh of Seduceyourtastebuds
was kind to pass me these awards.Thanks a bunch, PJ!

Cilantro Pesto/Hummus Sandwich & Watermelon Punch

This is inspired by Panera Bread’s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich which is served on Tomato Basil bread with Cilantro hummus. This sandwich reminds me of the one that you get in Indian bakeries or movie theaters with the green chutney. Obviously, Panera Bread wouldn’t give me the recipe;) I wish they did! So, I came up with my own recipe!

I made the sandwich when I was going to Bushkill falls (Will post the pics soon) over the past weekend and also had in mind to send it to Show me your sandwich event, hosted by
Divya of Dil Se. Unfortunately, after the long hike, I was hungry and gobbled up the sandwich with out taking pics.. Not even one! And that evening, I come home and plan to blog the recipe and there I was sitting with no pictures So, I thought I missed it this time!
But, Divya was kind enough to take in my entry after the deadline! Thanks for that
With out much delay, let’s dig into the recipe!

2 slices of white bread, or your choice of bread
Couple of slices of Red Onion
2 slices/rounds of Tomato
2 slices of Cucumber
2-3 Pepperoncini/Sweet Peppers
Romaine lettuce

Cilantro Pesto-Hummus

1 bunch of cilantro, stems taken out
½ cup Pine Nuts, toasted
¼ cup Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans
¼ tsp Paprika
1 garlic clove
2 green chilies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup of Olive oil+1 tbsp

Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and fry the cumin seeds and green chilies.
Place the rest of the ingredients (Cilantro, pine nuts, beans, paprika, clove, salt) in a blender along with the cumin seeds and chilies.
Blend them until it forms a thick paste.
The paste should be spread able and not watery.
Add more or less oil as needed to make the paste.
Add lemon juice to the pesto-hummus

Note: I don’t use salt as much but feel free to change the proportions of salt to your taste.

Arranging the sandwich:
Cut the crusts off the bread with a knife. Yes, I hate to eat those brown crusts.It is not required to do so, if you like them.

Spread a tbsp of Pesto-hummus on one slice.
Arrange the lettuce, onion, tomato, cucumber, peppers on top of the hummus and cover it with the other bread slice. Secure it with a tooth pick!

This is my entry to Show me your sandwich event, hosted by Divya of Dil Se!

Water melon Punch

I usually have soda with bread or sandwich.But in Summer, its Watermelon time!
This is from the Food Network's Paula Deen recipe of Watermelon Punch. I have tweaked it a bit to suit my taste buds!

3 cups of cubed watermelon
4 oz of frozen limeade concentrate,thawed
1 cup of Pineapple juice
1 recipe Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Place water and sugar in a pan and stir until sugar dissolves completely.Boil it for about a minute.Cool the syrup.

Blend the watermelon cubes and syrup.Strain the liquid through a fine sieve.Blend the liquid with Limeade and juice.Serve it cold, with ice.

This is off to Monthly Mingle, guest hosted by Maxine and Hillary of Chewonthatblog , an event created by Meeta of What's for lunch honey.


Lancaster Trip and Award(s)/Tag

I have been wanting to post these pictures ever since I visited Lancaster few weeks back.The past couple of weeks have been very hectic that I missed some of my favorite events too!I guess the season is also to blame to some extent, although there is not much Summer in the North east this year.Its always raining or cloudy!So we try and stick to close by attractions!

Lancaster County,also known as the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, is famous for its Amish people.This is a peaceful place where you can get away from the hustle, bustle of our every day lives, relax in a horse drawn carriage(Buggy) and enjoy the green endless farms.All I remember seeing in my 40 minute buggy ride was Green and blue colors.Seems so untouched and unpolluted!

Filled with 28 covered bridges, the place has dramatic views and a slow paced life style.

In their houses, the Amish speak Dutch, a dialect of German but are taught English when they begin to go to school.Kids go to school in a formal setting(one -room schools) until 8th Grade by teachers who had education until 8th grade themselves!Later on , the parents take up the responsibility of coaching them.I could not take a picture of the school, by the time I took the camera out, the school was far behind me.

We wanted to visit a few more places around Lancaster but with a kid, you can imagine what its like!We plan 101 things and end up visiting 1 or 2:).

We went to Strasburg rail road and I must say the ride and the train both reminded me of the unforgettable trains in India.There is a certain charm to the 'choo choo,Chug Chug' trains as my daughter calls it!

Award with a Tag

I have been passed awards from the lovely Ramya and Suparna .Thanks so much!I had fun doing this:D as much as I enjoy reading all your tags..

Here we go:

What is your current obsession?
Photography and Blogging, of course

What are you wearing today?
Capri and Black Top

What's for dinner?
Peas and Carrot Pulao

What’s the last thing you bought?
Organic Whole Milk

What are you listening to right now?
Watching CSI

What do you think about the person who tagged you?
Creative and Lovely bloggers!

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?

What are your must-have pieces for summer?
Sun glasses and bottled water

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

Which language do you want to learn?
Tamil! My husband is from Madras and yet it’s a shame I couldn’t learn in almost 10 yrs of my stay with him :D

What’s your favourite quote?
Its hard to choose 1 quote among my favs but here are 2 that I like
Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. Abe Lincoln
A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. –Nelson Mandela

Who do you want to meet right now?
My Grandparents

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own closet?
Lavender color Skirt

What is your dream job?
An architect ( To those of you who watch Seinfeld: No! I am not George and I don’t work for Vandalay Industries!)

What’s your favourite magazine?
National Geographic

If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?
On my daughter’s clothes/Toys.

What do you consider a fashion faux pas? (Faux pas mean error in etiquette.. )
Salwar and sneakers

Who are your style icons?

Describe your personal style?
Simple and Comfortable; Nothing too heavy and jazzy!

What are your favorite movies?
The list is huge-DDLJ, Godavari (Telugu),RainCoat, Shawshank Redemption. Usual Suspects..

What are three cosmetic/makeup/perfume products that you can't live without?
All I use are Lipstick, Perfumes and Eyeliner (I don’t use cosmetics all that much so I can live with out all the 3)

What inspires you?
Creativity and Courage

What do you try to cook when you have cooking blues (When you feel real lazy to cook some thing)"?
I usually order Pizza but if I have to cook, that will be rice and dal

Give us three styling tips that always work for you:
Being comfortable in what I wear

What do you do when you “have nothing to wear” (even though your closet’s packed)?
Interesting qn but I dot think I ever came across such a situation!

What Kitchen gadget would you like to own?
Food Processor

Which is the one gadget/utentsil without which you just can’t work?
Pressure Cooker, although I had a blast in my house in which I couldn’t hear for a couple of days:P.. No lesson learnt looks like.He he He

What do you do when you are feeling low or terribly depressed?
Play with my daughter or watch cartoons!

What is the meaning of your name?
Poetry:) It is easy to guess what my name is now!Can you ?And yes, the blog is under my daughter's name and not mine:D

Which other blogs you love visiting?
All of ‘em! Each one is so unique ..

Favorite Dessert/Sweet?
Chocolate in any form

Favorite Season ?

What is your funniest cooking disaster?
While there are many incidents, this happened recently so easy to remember-The recipe for crackers calls for All purpose flour and I tried to replace it with the whole wheat flour that I had in the house, which is more close to chapatti flour. I followed the instructions and made the dough. I made it into a cracker shaped pieces and put it in a 450 F oven and was happily waiting for the kneaded dough to become crispy and all nice like store bought crackers and .. there I was holding a soft, chewy, weird textured dough Oops..cracker! My parents were there at the time and we could not stop laughing at my so called “CRACKER”LOL

What is your comfort food?
Rasam and Rice

What is the one dish that you love to make over and again?

Who inspired you to start blog?
Initially my friend Siri and later, I think I got inspired by all you bloggers!

Respond and rework – answer the questions on your own blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention, and add one more question of your own. Then tag eight or ten other people.

I am replacing the Give us three styling tips that always work for you with:
Which 3 places do you like to visit/vacation?
My question: Which 2 blogger friends would you like to invite to your place and what would you like to cook for them?

I am passing this to these lovely bloggers:

Srilakshmi of Annapurna
EC of Simple Indian food
Pratibha of the The Chef and Her Kitchen
Vrinda of Sankeerthanam
Vani of Mysoorean
Aquadaze of Served with Love

For now,

Lentils and Rice Stew

Ever wondered what the difference between a soup and a stew is? I did! Soups are very common in my house. I never ventured to make a stew only because of my misconception that it should have non-vegetarian items like beef. Only, I was Wrong! I stumbled into this recipe from One-Pot Vegetarian dishes by Amy Cotler, which is again an adaptation from Yamuna Devi's 'The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking'. I have made a few changes like using Potatoes instead of cauliflower, regular yellow lentils instead of red/brown ones and onions instead of leeks.

Before I go to the recipe, here are briefly the differences b/w a soup and a stew:

Soups are generally watery or thin in consistency and should be served in a bowl. Soups can also be made with fruits.
Stews are thicker with chunkier vegetables/meat.
Soups are served as the first course whereas Stews can be served along with the main course.
Soups can be served hot or cold where as stews should be served hot!
Soups are quick to make; On the other hand, stews get their main flavor from slow cooking.

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp Paprika
3/4 cup long grain rice (8 oz is a cup )
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Toor Dal
1 Medium Potato, Cubed
3/4 cup carrots and peas or just peas
2 tbsps butter

Cook the lentils in a pressure cooker for 1 whistle.Do not mash it. The lentils should retain the shape and be tender.
Heat oil in a pan and add onions, coriander, cumin, mustard, turmeric and Paprika. Saute until onions are golden brown.

Add the rice, salt and 4 1/2 cups water.
Bring the water to a boil and cook until rice is tender.
Add lentils and cook for about 15 minutes. Add Potatoes and cook till the potatoes are cooked.Add peas and carrots and cook till the stew attains oatmeal consistency.
Serve hot with sliced butter on top and cilantro garnish.

This is my entry to MLLA 14 hosted by Susan of The well-seasoned cook!

Suparna and Ramya have tagged me and passed me 2 lovely awards. Thank you so much for thinking of me and passing them my way.I will complete the tags in my next post!

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