All is Well!


A month and over of hiatus finally comes to an end! Ah, how I have missed being here. This being the space that keeps my spirits high! But, I m back recharged and lighter than before! Yes, the hourglass is on its way to be!! And All is well! (pic courtesy:google images)

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Where had I vanished? The house move finally happened in the wee hours of 25th June 2015 though our material existence (the boxes et al) had been moved on 18th the contractor hadn’t finished work enough for us to start living into the place we will finally belong. But our apartment lease was to end on 25th at 6.00 pm and we had no choice but to move in as-is! The contractor drama in detail for future posts! Trust me it has been one real life drama that moved me totally!

Anyway, the house is all set! We have had the fortune of visitors from all corners of the world visiting us in our new home. Yes, we are finally home! And not a minute goes that I don’t think about this house we bought and a home we made J. Every corner and every wall made specially for us to render memories that would last a lifetime.

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In the meanwhile, I have lost a total of 7lbs from May 10th.The inches have dropped down considerably. The moment of rejoice was when I could fit into a sleeveless blouse from circa 2008! That week of my saree pledge challenge made it ultra special to adorn the 5 yards of awesome-ness!

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And BTW, I successfully enter my 14th week of saree pledge challenge this week! My mother is busy cleaning up her saree closets and shipping some of her classics collected over last 50 years to my new home! Home seems home already with two packages already sitting pretty into my closet! Time to hit the red carpet J! And yes, wait for a big announcement about it soon!

Moving and settling down could be extremely stressful. Especially the last 15 days before the move-out date we ate out a lot. I was so concerned about the weight then! But, to my surprise my weight remained the same through those 15 days!

The regimen after moving into the new home has changed a bit. I haven’t yet begun my 30-day Ab challenge that stopped suddenly a month ago due to the move. I regularly sweep the floors at the new place to keep them clean and myself lean :P! So far that plan seems to have been working well but need to get back to ab challenge!

Another highlight of the last month has been Sumana Doss Barman’s challenge of sayings/proverbs / idioms! Madam, I m going to take it up by horns! No further delays! And we will meet really soon!

Traditionally a social butterfly is not what I would call myself (instead a wallflower would be perfect for me) but last few weeks have been busy attending get-togethers and dinners! I probably am ready for a break there! “Oh Surely”, my husband would say!

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The new kitchen kicks me to try new recipes from the backyard basket of ingredients. I made this delicious basil plum sauce (from the plum tree here) that would be served that would be served with Chicken soon!

Yes, that reminds me to thank my lovely audience for being patient and sharing the pics of recipes from here that you and your family enjoyed! Chickpea crusted eggplant hearts on platter recipe seems to hit the right nerve! I m so glad to share a bite of my childhood with all of you!! Thanks for trying these!

In short, All is well! I m pretty much planning to be the hourglass mommy, not figuratively but in reality! And she is here to stay!! Gear up, buckle up!

Butterless Spaghetti Makhanwala with Shammi Kabab Meatballs


I love the concept of classic New York style Spaghetti with Meatballs. But it’s rare to find meatballs in Chicken or fish, isn’t it? Here’s how I began to believe otherwise J.

One of my son’s classmates Zo often got Spaghetti with Meatballs in her lunch box. And my son would find ways to convince me to make it. I thought and searched but could not think about a decent scramble for a chicken oriented meatball recipe. We don’t eat red meat so I don’t cook it either. I don’t have an issue if my son decided to eat red meat when he grows up but at the present if he ate and asked me to recreate a dish it would be very difficult. So, it’s more of convenience to opt for Chicken J.

I obviously did not wish to make Spaghetti and use frozen meatballs. It had to be custom made.Featured image

Through a food group I was introduced to a very talented culinary mind Ritu Shrivastava who shared her recipe for Shammi Kabab once. And my adventurous mind began to fuse an East meets the West recipe! Ritu, thanks for that recipe, it was very generous of you to share your delicious recipe and help me structure the fancies of my boy J. This is to you!

Here is a totally Indian take on the classic. Mine is called Butterless Spaghetti Makhanwala (low calorie tomato based sauce used for Indian delicacies like Butter Chicken etc) with Shammi Kabab meatballs (Indian Chicken mini patties infused with herbs).

Sharing this recipe for my boy of origin who loved it!

Spaghetti Makhanwala (Butterless Spaghetti in Tomato based Sauce)

Makhanwala (literally means loaded with butter and cream) gravy is rich, creamy and extremely flavorful. However, I wanted to make a lighter version of the parent sauce. Here is my version.

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Btw, I always make non-meat stuff first to avoid any cross contamination of uncooked meat and other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sized tomatoes.
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic.
  • 3 tsps. Cardamom powder.
  • 1 tsp. Garam masala (all spices powder).
  • Salt to taste.
  • 1 tsp. kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves to be added as garnish).
  • 2 tbsps. Yoghurt.
  • 3-4 black peppercorns.
  • 5 tbsps. Cashew powdered. (I did not use these. But they would add to the richness of the sauce).
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds.

Method:

  • Blend all the ingredients using very little or no water at all into a smooth sauce.
  • Cook the sauce and bring it to a boil. To enhance richness of taste reduce it to a thick sauce.
  • Set aside.

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For Spaghetti:

  • Drop the Spaghetti into boiling water and follow the instructions on the carton for cooking through. Drain the water, dust salt and drizzle some olive oil.
  • Mix the spaghetti with sauce just before you have to serve. The starch in the pasta thickens up the sauce too soon. So, ideally drop the pasta into the water (simultaneously) when your Shammi kababs are been shallow fried.

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Ritu’s Shammi Kabab (Ground chicken meatballs)

  • 8-10 Organic chicken tenders (skinless).
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic.
  • 1 cup of Cilantro.
  • ¼ cup of Mint leaves.
  • 2 tbsps. Ginger paste.
  • Green chilis (optional)- I added Tandoori Masala and Garam Masala (all spices powder).
  • Salt to taste.
  • Italian Bread Crumbs (my addition).
  • 2-3 tbsps. Italian Basil leaves (optional, my addition)
  • A good grinder.
  • Oil for shallow frying (about 4 tbsp.).

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Method:

  • Ground all the ingredients except oil and crumbs in a grinder. (Ritu had marinated the ground chicken with ginger and garlic paste along with onions. But, I skipped the marinating part and addition of onions. Also I did not add any oil in the ground chicken mixture as she suggested.)
  • Make small patties and roll them into bread crumbs. (Now you can make balls and choose to deep fry them but I am on a healthy diet plus a busy mom, so not going to commit the sin :P).

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  • Heat the oil on a flat pan and shallow fry the patties until crisp (about 7 minutes on each side). But, you can still cut it and find out if they are cooked through or not. I always follow the actual test than follow my gut here. No chances with raw meat!

Serve together!

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This is a healthier and extremely delicious Indian version of the American Classic! This is going in my special heirloom recipe book to be passed on to the next generation!

Caffe Riace 2015: The Glutton in me!


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Folks,I m a foodie at heart! I love to experiment new recipes and places in search of authentic flavours and delicacies. My recent weight loss regimen does not restrict me from my adventure! I have to be watchful of every morsel that goes into my mouth,that’s it. That kind of makes me picky when we go out into restaurants but also helps me choose newer options on the menu. And,there could not be a better way to learn about new tastes and aromas,isn’t it?

Introducing a new column into my blog ” The glutton in me”. This shall feature my journey into the food coma and back :).

My first destination feature : Caffe Riace,Palo Alto,CA.

My friends Ru & Me took me out for lunch on the Friday after my birthday to a place called Caffe Riace in Palo Alto,CA. The restaurant is located in a posh neighborhood with proximity to the University Avenue and Corporate offices there.

On a cloudy day, this SicilianItalian joint is a perfect date place with friends and loved ones. My son was with us and thought its not exactly a kid friendly restaurant,the staff was very cordial and polite. They offered my son a sheet with colouring space and he was happy.

The most delightful part of their ambience is the FIAT and the cart that’s parked in the outdoor seating for the restaurant as soon as one enters the place. My son had his eyes and heart glued to the car (Luigi from Cars is the same model,so you can imagine his excitement!).

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My friend Ru had picked up this place and been there before. We just followed her tips while selecting the menu.

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We were served home-made bread loaf and a black olive crushed and minced dip with it. It was the first time that I tasted a crushed olives. And,they tasted so good! Almost like chutney! (Whatt? Don’t be such a desi! I know you are thinking that,cannot help it :P)

We ordered an appetizer platter first. It was good enough for 4 of us. It had a bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and chopped parsley, roasted eggplant with cheese and olives and obviously tomato caprese with fresh Mozzarella.  I particularly enjoyed the eggplant. The herbs and seasoning was spot on. Unlike the usual belief (specially from my country) that Italian food is bland,the food here was spiced to perfection.It wasn’t hot,it was just balanced.

The stuart who was attending at our table recommended that they had specials for the day were extremely delicious. While reading out the menu for the day,we heard Salmon! And we were stuck there :P. Firstly all three of us love fish and we are on a weight loss journey together (My friend Me-remember Meena’s story? 🙂 so we decided to have a Warm Spinach Salad with Salmon with light vinaigrette and Chicken Veggie Pasta.

The Warm Spinach Salad had the crunch from the fresh baby spinach. I think that the spinach was shocked into ice-cold water as well that added to the crunch.  The vinaigrette was light and citrusy. I love a little citrusy-lemony taste to compliment the fish. The salmon was seared in rosemary and garlic butter. But not greasy. Sometimes,the seared fish are so greasy that the there is only one tone throughout. Oily and greasy! But,this was a refreshing change from the usually pan fish soaked in oil and salads dressed with drizzled rains of olive oil. We were lucky with this one 😛

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The Pasta was really delicious! The roasted garlic was just the punch one needs to elevate the pasta from bland to bold.My son loved it too! The pesto in the Pasta was very earthy and balanced. Again perfectly seasoned dish.

Featured imageThis is slightly on a pricey side so it’s not the joint one could visit frequently. But,its great. I’d give this place 3.5 stars for food and 4.5 stars for the ambience. The indoors are decent,but the outdoors were great. Had it not been so windy and cold that day,we would have loved to enjoy our luncheon outside.

I m not being a cynic here,so let me justify the 3.5 stars for the food. I have written rave reviews about food here until now,but haven’t given a 5 on 5 for the simple reason that the Cannoli was average taste wise. For the price that it was served,we could have enjoyed a better portion size and taste too.The cannoli cream was good but not rich. The part chocolate and part nuts dress-up looked beautiful but taste wise it just fell apart for us. So,it was good but could be better.

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Does anyone else think that Cannolis with cream tastes similar to Shrikhand-Puri? (A typical India sweet youghurt dusted with cardamom and saffron along with nuts and nutmeg served with a fried puffed  bread). Everytime I dig into a Cannoli,my mind just thinks about Shrikhand and Puri 😛 (I think its normal for a desi to behave like one. After all,we were raised in the heat and soil of our motherland and nothing could take that way from us 🙂

And last but not the least,I had a wonderful time with my friends! Any restaurant in the world cannot beat the fun out of unlimited chatter and yapping with friends 🙂 can it? Thanks girls for making it so special for me 🙂

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Dhaba Style: Murgh Methi ka Saag (Fenugreek Chicken Curry made in a Dhaba Style)


As a student of Architecture I had the opportunity to visit so many places within in India for study tours conducted each in 5 years of my under-grad course. Every state in India has charm of its own.

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Memories of a trip to DelhiAgraNainital and Kasauni bring back the wonderful winter, the delicious food at “Dhabas” (local food joints serving cheap and delicious Tandoori and Punjabi food). The best Aloo parathas in the world loaded with freshly hand-made butter (makkhan) and mint chutney served with freshly made Yoghurt, absolute bliss! I still remember at on such local joint in Agra, we had eaten a bowl (filled up to the brim) of Gajar Halwa (Shredded eggless carrot pudding) loaded with goodness of cashews and almonds made with pure malai (thickened condensed milk) for mere 7 INR!

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Another striking thing was the generosity and hospitality of the local confectioner’s (halwai/mithaiwala) was just beyond words. When they realized we loved the food at their joint,they offered us free servings of Gajar ka Halwa ! And, believe me to feed an army of 20 year old bachelors tired after a long day in bus, it requires guts! But, I appreciate that inherent quality of hospitality and welcome in the Northern parts of India.

We used to visit all these lovely destinations in winter. Winter is the season of fresh green vegetables in India and the cold makes it easy to burn those extra calories from Jalebis (Chickpea flour concentric fried dessert dipped into sugar syrup!) or Malpua (another sweet delicacy similar to pancakes).

Last winter here I saw really fresh and fragranted methi bunches (fenugreek bunches) in the Indian grocery store in Sunnyvale. I got lucky and bagged two healthy looking bunches (those who frequently visit Indian stores would understand the value of a green vegetable looking healthy and full versus the routine smashes, damaged bunch!).

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Nearly a decade after my Delhi study tour I was reminded of a delicious side dish called “Murgh Methi Ka Saag” (Fenugreek Chicken Curry served in local Indian joints called Dhaba) and thought of recreating this for my Chicken loving little guy. Extremely easy to make and super delicious. The recipe could be transformed into vegetarian or vegan by replacing the meat with tofu or Paneer (cottage cheese).

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It’s one of those recipes that has a fancy name but needs only few ingredients available in a typical Indian Kitchen Pantry worldwide.

(Trumpets honking and drums beating in honour of the royal entourage) Pesh-e-Khidmat hai,”Murgh Methi Ka Saag (Presenting Fenugreek Chicken Curry).

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 Ingredients:( for 4 persons)

  • 8 organic chicken tenders, de-skinned and washed.
  • 1 bunch of fresh fenugreek leaves-stems cut, leaves washed and chopped finely.
  • 3 tbsps. Garam masala (all spices) powder.
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
  • 1 tsp. ajwain (carom seeds).
  • 1 tsp. kalaunji (nigella seeds).
  • 1 cup. Freshly chopped cilantro.
  • 2 tbsps. Lemon juice.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped (optional).
  • 1 large white onion or 2 medium sized white onions-sliced thinly.
  • 1 tbsps. olive oil (can use clarified butter/ghee to get the exact richeness of Dhaba food).
  • 1-2 black peppercorns.
  • Salt to taste.
  • 5 tbsps. minced garlic.
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste or ketchup.
  • 1 cup water, divided into 4 parts.
  • Pinch of cardamom powder.

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 (The Method involves the maker to be patient than anything else, so please bear with me-it’s an authentic slow-cooked recipe! In Dhabas they cook it for hours and hours, but we are trying to achieve most of it in 45 minutes max. I was able to finish the dish in 30-35 minutes. But, the slow cooking makes it rich and tastier.)

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a deep pan and add cumin, black pepper corns, ajwain, kalaunji, jalapeno, garlic and onions in the pan. Sauté until the onions turn golden.
  • The onion slowly comes together and oil begins to ooze out. Don’t worry this is a combination of oil and water content that oozes out once it is fully cooked.
  • Add chopped fenugreek and cilantro along with garam masala. Let it cook well.
  • Add the chicken breast tenders next. Do not cut them into smaller cubes.
  • Slow cooking will allow them to be cut into smaller portions naturally.
  • Sauté well and add water, 1/4 th cup at a time.
  • Cover and cook. Add water and stir at intervals 2 minutes apart.
  • Add tomato paste and add the remaining water. Cook it together. Add pinch of cardamom.
  • Add salt and let it slow cook covered.

Heaven is here J. The aroma is mesmerizing and you’d have to make sure to keep the parathas ready sooner J or like us you would end up swiping most of it JLT! Protein and Iron dose we called it :P!

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The one at Dhaba on the outskirts of Delhi was made in clarified butter and cooked for at least 5 hours on a low flame. This is a lighter and quicker version of the original Dhaba Style Murgh Methi ka Saag!