Shutterbug's Blog

Living with Multiple Myeloma in Hyderabad , India . Random musings .


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My first Avocado recipe : Guacamole 

I had been watching recipes made with Avocados on YouTube , but did not dare to buy them. Wanted to prepare Guacamole one day.

They are not a commercial crop in India. However they are being grown in a limited way in a few parts of South India and North East India.

Few days ago I spotted Avocados in the Supermarket and bought one for the first time.
I had read about picking a perfect Avocado , letting them ripen at home and the procedure to determine if they are ready to be eaten.

The one I bought was dark green but not the almost blackish colour that I saw in the YouTube videos. I left it outside to darken. This morning I noticed it was soft when I pressed it gently and saw a few blackish spots.

I was excited and decided to prepare Guacamole. I had also bought a packet of Nachos on the same day 🙂

I had all the ingredients at home except Jalapenos. I used a green chilli instead.

So here are the ingredients for one serving

Avocado : 1

Tomatoes : 1 medium size (I had cherry tomatoes that I used)

Green chilli : 1

Salt to taste

One small 🍋 lemon

One small onion

Coriander leaves (optional)

 

Method:

Scoop out the pulp of the Avocado and mash it up using a fork.

Chop up the onion and 🍅 tomatoes.

Chop the green chilli into fine pieces.

Mix all of them in a bowl and add salt ,lemon juice and coriander leaves.

Stir well.

Guacamole dip is ready. Enjoy with Nachos.

It was yummy 🙂

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A rainy evening in Hyd .

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Reached home after work and was in the mood to cook something different for my son who came home very hungry, from college.

There was some dosa batter in the refrigerator.  Immediately I recalled watching a Youtube Video on Pizza Dosa.

I had capsicum, tomatoes and cheese in the Refrigerator. Chopped them all into small pieces. Chopped up an onion too.

Need some red spicy sauce . Took some red chilly powder and added some ghee and salt. My Red Spicy Sauce was ready.

I spread the batter on the pan . Smeared the chilly sauce and placed the chopped veggies all over the Dosa. I had Amul Cheese slices which I cut up roughly with my hands and placed on the veggies.

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I then smeared some Ghee on the edges and let the Dosa cook . Made sure that the Flame is low to medium. Once the Cheese started to melt I flipped the edges one over the other and let it cook for a minute on each side and the Dosa turned  a nice golden brown colour.

yummy Pizza Dossa is ready to eat. You don’t need any other chutney/sauce. 

You can also sprinkle some Pizza Seasoning or whatever Italian herbs you may have at home…a sprinkling of dried Oregano or Basil or  Thyme or garlic powder should give the final twist 🙂 . Tastes Yummy even without any seasoning.

Enjoy !!

 


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My Obsession with Traditional Cookware

Eating healthy is important and Cooking food the right way is equally important. There are umpteen ways to cook food and a variety of cookware is being used to cook food all over the world.

These days I am fascinated and have been craving for all Traditional and Natural products like Earthen Cookware and Handloom Sarees.

A decade ago I came across articles that advised against using Aluminium cookware . Aluminium reacts with acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus foods and tamarindwhich makes the food toxic. I began replacing the ones I had with Stainless steel ones. I got a Stainless steel pressure cooker, a Kadai and other Stainless steel cooking pots for curries.

I recently came across this informative article which doubled my obsession for traditional cookware.

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Cookware  made from terracotta, soapstone and cast iron are on my mind these days.

Have been exploring these varieties on the Internet, the pros and cons of each one of them, the recipes that are best cooked with each type of vessel , the sources for procuring these, cleaning/handling and maintenance of these pieces and finally the price of these beautiful pieces.

Got some good reviews from my sis too who has got hold of a terracotta utensil and has been raving about how yummy her dals turn out each time. Micro nutrients from the clay make the dish tasty and nutritious.

I have some good memories of my Grandma cooking delicious food in earthenware. Grandma is no more. Hope to interview some of the other women in Grandma’s village , who continue to cook using earthenware , during my next visit :).

I had stopped using Non-stick ware and was looking for other types of cookware. A year ago I tossed out my non stick pan which I used for making Dosas and bought a cast iron tava (pan) . I also bought a small appam pan which I now use to prepare tadka. Tossed out the Aluminium one I had that I used for preparing Tadka. Bought these online from peacockcolours.com.

Love these two babies . Especially because of the non stick kind of coating. They are heavier compared to other materials. Got to be careful so as not to drop them. They might break and break your floor too :).

I have just ordered a cast iron skillet and a cast iron Kadai online. Looking forward to their arrival 🙂 Ordered them from Thevillagefair.

Some six years ago I began replacing my Stainless steel utensils too as I read that Lead and chromium from stainless steel leach into the food. I did some research and liked ceramic-ware and bought two curry pots. Quite easy to clean but the thin layer of ceramic cannot withstand a steel spoon and hard scrubbing. Ceramic-ware also has traces of Lead and cadmium .

My recent obsession with Earthenware took me a Farmer’s market at Saptaparni , Banjara hills , last Sunday. Bought black earthenware . Bought this after reading and watching YouTube videos on how to Season and cook in these type of utensils.  Here is my latest acquisition –

Will review once I start using it 🙂 .

I also have a copper water jug which I plan to use . Got this as a gift from my Organisation. It was lying in a corner in our Pantry and I retrieved it today 🙂  Indians have long since believed that drinking water stored in a copper container is very good for the health. More on this later.

Till then … enjoy healthy cooking …

 


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Amla Rice , Usirikaya Pulihora , Vanabhojanaalu and Health !!

Amla is Indian Gooseberry. This fruit is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C. This Vitamin increases immunity in the body, thereby protecting the body from infections. There are several medicinal properties of Amla.

I always knew this fact but didn’t know how to incorporate fresh/raw Amla in my diet.

The only knew that people usually ate Amla is in the form of Amla pickle and Amla candy. These two recipes ensure that Amla can be preserved and hence can be relished throughout the year. Amla is a major ingredient in Chyawanprash.

The trees bear fruits during  October, November and December months in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in India. Most vegetable stores would be selling them during these three months. I always came across these but never gave them a second look.

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Amla pickle is usually made at home or can also be bought at Indian grocery stores . I don’t prefer eating Amla pickle as it has a lot of oil and salt . I like Amla Candy and always keep a stock . But I was bored of eating the candy .

One day at the Organic grocery store , that I visit regularly, I saw these fresh , round , light green Amla’s.  I was tempted to  buy . I wanted to make my own candy but was not confident about the recipe. I thought lemme try eating them raw. But a raw berry has a typical taste and not very appealing. It  is soury – astringent with a sweet aftertaste .

I picked a few in my hand and asked the store keeper ‘what can I do with these ?’ and she immediately answered ‘Usirikaya pulihora ‘ (Amla rice ) . I asked her for the recipe and she immediately recited the recipe.

I was like wowww and felt so happy :)) . I usually make lemon, tamarind and mango rice but this was news to me… I was so excited that I tried it the next morning and it was yummilicious.

Since then I have made this dish  several times. I now buy these whenever I see them. I have seen these recently and learnt that they are brought from Tamil Nadu where they yield fruit during February/March.

The Gooseberry tree is revered by Hindus. There was a time , long ago, when I found it silly that my mom was worshipping  a branch of this tree during ‘vanabhojanaalu’ in the park adjacent to Gandipet lake.

‘Vanabhojanalu’ is a get together/community lunch held under the trees/park/forest along with some fun activities.

It was much later that I learnt about the potency of this fruit and then realised why the tree is worshipped.

During the month of Karthika (Telugu calendar) , people meet for Vanabhojanaalu. This is a popular event in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. ‘Vana’ is forest and ‘Bhojanalu’ is lunch.  Karthika usually occurs in the months of Oct-Nov . This tree begins to bear fruit during these months. Vanabhojanalu is associated with this tree , when people form groups , cook and have lunch in a farm/nursery/forest where a Gooseberry tree is usually found. If there is no Gooseberry tree in the vicinity , a small branch of this tree is placed nearby and worshipped , followed by lunch.This is an event for get togethers along with some fun. The branches of this tree are sold in markets during Kaarthika month .

Most of the customs and traditions of Hindus are in some way connected to health , hygiene , discipline and also have a philosophical touch . They are not superstitions as they are made out to be.

The ignorant may not be able to appreciate the benefits of this fruit and hence these customs were incorporated.

Here is the recipe for Amla Rice !!

Ingredients (for 3 servings) –

Mustard seeds – half tsp

Jeera – half tsp

Urad Dal – 1 tbsp

Chana dal – 1tbsp

Cashews – 3tbsp

Asafoetida – one pinch



Curry leaves -2 sprigs

Coriander leaves – 2 sprigs

One cup raw rice . Boil the rice and keep it aside. Make sure it is not mushy. Spead the cooked rice in a wide pan so it cools and it would be easier to mix all the ingredients.

 

Ground nut oil – 3tbsp

turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

salt – as per your taste


Amla – 5

Green chillies -3

Juice of one Lemon

 

Prepare Amla for the recipe by cutting them into pieces (throw away the seed) and grind it coarsely.

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For Tadka :

 

Add oil in a pan . Add mustard, jeera and wait till they splutter. Add urad dal, chana dal , groundnuts and cashew nuts . 


Stir till they turn golden brown and then add turmeric 

Add  the slit green chillies, curry leaves and Amla paste and stir for a minute.

 

Add the above mixture to the boiled rice and mix all the ingredients slowly and thoroughly..Add the salt too.

Add lemon juice at the end and stir well.

Amla Rice is ready to be served !!

 

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I started googling for other Amla recipes and found recipes for chutneys , sweet , rasam and juices.

Everyone should incorporate Amla in their diet , in whatever form they prefer , for a healthier body.

Thank you Mother Nature !!


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Use of Turmeric / Curcumin in Indian Customs and Traditions , Health and Healing , Beauty treatments

Turmeric Vs Curcumin :

Turmeric is a root/rhizome, a golden-colored spice that belongs to the ginger family . Widely used in India for different purposes. The words Turmeric and Curcumin are usually used interchangeably but Curcumin is an extract from Turmeric root, which gives the yellow color to the spice and has several healing properties. Different methods are used to extract Curcumin from Turmeric. Turmeric contains various ”curcuminoids” and Curcumin is one of them. Curcumin is a whole Pharmacy in itself and is used to treat several health conditions. Extensive research is being carried out on Curcumin in the western world for its healing properties..

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This spice has always been revered in India since thousands of years. But ,it is very unfortunate that the healing properties are unknown to majority of the current generation and the knowledge is slowly getting lost. Hopefully the research that is being carried out in the western world will bring to light the potency of Turmeric and thereby heal the world.

Here is an attempt to describe how Turmeric has been in use since centuries in Indian Customs and traditions.

Hindu Customs and Traditions :

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A few drops of water is added to Turmeric powder which is then shaped into a small solid cone . During Hindu festivals this form is worshiped as ”Lord Ganesha” , the remover of all obstacles. It is a fact that none of us  wish to face any obstacles in whatever activity we do/take up. This is a method of reinforcing our will power and also to invoke the blessings of the almighty.

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During Fridays, festivals and other auspicious events, Turmeric paste is applied on the threshold of the main entry door of the house and all other doors that lead outside the house. This ensures that insects and ants do not enter the house. Now a days this is done away with by using paints. Beautiful designs of flowers and leaves are drawn using colourful paints.

A married woman gives Turmeric root/powder along with ‘kumkum’ to other married women  (neighbors, relatives , friends etc), during festivals after inviting them into their homes. This is done as a blessing and good wishes for the long life of the woman and her husband .

Turmeric during weddings :

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Wedding preparations start with the making of Turmeric powder at home. An auspicious day and time is chosen for the event. A few women (relatives, friends neighbors) gather and use a mortar and thistle to crush the dry Turmeric root and symbolically prepare Turmeric powder.

A lot of Turmeric powder is used during Hindu weddings. There are a minimum of  5 rituals, spread over a few days , which require the use of Turmeric powder.

Haldi Ceremony is a very important part of a Hindu wedding. The bride and groom are smeared with a paste made by mixing Turmeric powder , sandalwood paste and rose-water, in their respective homes , couple of days before the wedding. Relatives friends and neighbors gather and make it a fun event.The Bride and Groom get a beautiful glow on their skin 🙂 . . This is repeated three times on three consecutive days. A natural beauty treatment instead of going to a beauty parlour or a Spa.

The bride and groom wear clothes that have been dipped in water that is mixed with turmeric powder . The cloth then gets dyed with a light yellow color.

Turmeric powder is mixed with rice which is then called ‘Akshintalu / Akshatalu ‘. These Akshintalu are used during puja and also used to bless others by sprinkling a little on top of the head of the one taking blessings who bows down and touches the elders feet.

In South Indian weddings , this rice is taken with cupped  hands by the bride and groom and  is poured on top of each others head during the wedding ceremony.

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A long thread is smeared with Turmeric paste and a Turmeric root is tied at the center of this thread. During the wedding ceremony the groom ties this thread around the neck of the bride with three knots.

 

 

Health and Healing :

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An Indian kitchen is incomplete without Turmeric powder in its spice box. Almost all Indian recipes contain Turmeric powder.Thus ensuring that turmeric is taken everyday in our diet. Turmeric also enhances the color of the dish. The anti bacterial properties of turmeric prevents food from decaying quickly.

 

Turmeric powder is Mixed in milk and consumed in order to treat coughs and colds.

Turmeric is supposed to be good for the Liver and digestion.

Turmeric is applied to bruises as it is an antiseptic.

Small balls are made with wet Turmeric powder. A few of these are consumed in order to reduce menstrual cramps .

Turmeric is a blood thinner and reduces cholesterol. Helps in controlling Blood Pressure.

It is anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the major reason for most of the chronic diseases including Diabetes , Cardiovascular diseases , Arthritis , Cancer etc.

Curcumin induces apoptosis in tumours . It induces cell death in cancerous cells thereby stopping the multiplication of these cells.  A lot of research is being carried out and there is sufficient proof that this property of Curcumin can treat almost all types of Cancers.

Beauty Treatments :

Many South Indian women apply turmeric paste to their feet every Friday and during festivals and other religious events. Being an antiseptic it protects the feet from infections and cracked feet.

Turmeric paste mixed with other items like milk, chickpea flour etc is applied as a face mask to get rid of acne, pimples and other skin problems . It is also an excellent exfoliant and gives a glow to the skin.

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No wonder Turmeric has always been given a lot of importance in Hindu customs, traditions and rituals since a long time and is treated with piety and respect.

It is highly recommended that everyone include more Turmeric in their diet. It is also advised to prepare your own Turmeric powder instead of using the store-bought powder which is usually adulterated.

I have been using Curcumin every day since Jan 2014 , to fight Multiple Myeloma. Currently not using any other drug. Hope to manage my condition as long as I can.

~Yad Bhaavam Tad Bhavathi  : You become what you think ~


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Vegetable Kichdi , my style !!

I go on a 24 hour fast once a week and end my fast by eating a bowl of hot Vegetable Kichdi.This is light on the tummy.A fast should never end with heavy food. This dish is made with Rice, Moong dal ,Veggies and is easily digested . I look forward to this treat at the end of the day. Here is the simple recipe.

Ingredients for one serving :

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Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp

Cumin 1/4 tsp

Urad dal 1/4 tsp

Black pepper as per the spiciness that you can bear 🙂

It is OK if one of the above is missing in your spice rack. But pepper is a must.

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Rice : 2 tbsp

Quinoa (optional): 2 tbsp

Moong Dal ( Split Green gram ): 2 tbsp

Wash and soak Rice and Quinoa in water and keep aside.

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Ginger :  1 inch piece chopped into small pieces

Curry leaves : one or two sprigs

Veggies : you can use capsicum,  carrot, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, corn or any other veggies. Any two veggies are good enough. I am using Capsicum and Carrot today.

One chilli

Ghee 1 tsp

Asafoetida : a small pinch

Salt : As per your taste

Water : 4 times the volume of rice , quinoa and moong Dal.

Place all of them in a bowl. You will need water 4 times this volume.

Preparation : Use a pressure cooker

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Roast the moong dal in the dry pan till you smell the flavour of nicely fried moong dal. It should change into a very light brown colour. Empty the moong dal into another bowl.

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Add oil in the same pan. Add mustard seeds, cumin, urad dal and black pepper to the oil. Let them splutter.

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Add ginger pieces , chilli and curry leaves. Fry for 30 secs . Add all the cut veggies and stir for a minute.

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Now , drain the soaked rice, quinoa and add  to the pan. Also add moong dal . Add water. Add salt . Close the pan with the lid and put the pressure weight. Let it cook on medium heat till you hear 5 to 6 whistles. Let the pressure reduce before you open the cooker.

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Add the ghee and mix it well so all the contents get mashed up and the flavors combine well. Hot and yummy Vegetable Kichdi is ready !! You can eat with a little pickle or chutney on the side, if you wish. Your tummy will thank you 🙂


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Easy Peasy Mango Parfait

Summer is synonymous with Mangoes in India. There are a variety of Juicy and Fleshy mangoes all over the place. Enjoyed eating both the varieties this season. Wanted to make a new recipe with mangoes and looked for simple recipes with mangoes , on the Internet.

Came across a recipe named ‘Mango Parfait’ . The recipe had very few ingredients and a very simple process.
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Ingredients (makes two servings) :

Greek Yoghurt : 1 Cup ( Strain curd to remove the liquid. The left over curd is called Greek yoghurt)

Mango puree : half cup

Mango pieces (small bite size ) : half a cup

Honey : 2 tbsp

Vanilla essence : 1 drop

Granola or Muesli : 2 tbsp

Procedure:

Mix honey and vanilla essence into  the greek yogurt. Mix well until the mixture is smooth.

How to Serve:

Pour a layer of the yoghurt mixture ito the bottom of the glass container. Pour a layer of mango puree and add a few pieces of mangoes. Pour another layer or yoghurt mixture on this and add another layer of mango puree and mango pieces. Top it with a table spoon of granola or muesli.

Serve chilled.

A Parfait can be made by layering with any kind of fruit and a variety of other ingredients like whipped cream, syrups , nuts and ice cream. Go ahead and experiment.