Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The emerald city

We decided to go on a 'babymoon' during the fifth month of my pregnancy. After a long debate we chose seattle and started on a four day vacation. I have to admit that despite seeing some spectacular sights of eastern and western America (thanks to my husband), I was not prepared for the sheer beauty and breathtaking wonder of the pacific northwest.

One of the benefits of visiting seattle is that the city has something to offer to everyone with majestic mountains, woodland trails,waterfalls,beautiful islands with small towns,ski resorts and its close proximity to Canada (british columbia).

On the first day, we reached anacortes and took a ferry to orcas island which is one of the san juan islands north of seattle.Orcas Island is not the largest island, but is thought by many to be the most scenic, with a varied topography offering a mix of forests and pastures. Many people choose to stay in the island overnight or even for a few days. We reluctantly came back the same day to keep up with the schedule. Orcas island is a photographer's paradise. At the upper most point of the island is a wonderful look-out, where the major mountains, waterways, and islands can be seen. On the way back to anacortes, we even got some fabulous sunset pictures! On the second day we headed out to Mt.Rainier, northwest's largest mountain. Mt.Rainier is snow covered all through the year. We caught some breathtaking views as we drove through the national forest but the winding road upwards was a little tedious. We were told by the locals that we had chosen the best season(August)to visit Mt. rainier and I knew why once we reached the peak. The whole mountain was covered with wild flowers and it was a sight to behold! The next day we took the scenic road through the cascade loop and reached the Snoqualmie falls. Its located in the beautiful foothills of the cascade mountains and I was quite surprised to find out that the snoqualmie is a good 100 feet taller than the Niagara. We took a small hike towards the bottom of the falls for a better view. The dramatic torrent of water from the snoqualmie river somehow brings to mind how small we are compared to the grandeur of Mother Nature. Some of the quaint little towns we passed along the cascade loop looked like they were right out of a greeting card.

On the last day we started early and reached the pike place market, one of the largest and oldest markets in the world. Ive never seen so many shops all at one place before. It was a great experience. From there we went to the Chittenden Locks, a complex of locks that sit in the middle of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle's Lake Washington Ship Canal. They are known locally as the Ballard Locks after the neighborhood to their north. We saw the fishes jumping across the fish ladder and also got the opportunity to see some of the exotic kinds of salmon.
There are so many beautiful places to see and things to do in seattle but we could not see everything due to lack of time.I promised myself that I would return again someday to visit this fabulous city. I do love houston but I cant help envying people who live in a place like seattle surrounded by such diverse landscapes and lush green neighborhoods. It was a great retreat for us and I cant wait to go back again!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chickpea Tikkis

I think most of us almost always come home from work feeling ravenous...atleast my husband always does. So I keep looking for healthy whole grain or protein rich snacks to give him in the evenings. I came across this recipe the other day and gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised at the taste. It turned out almost like potato cutlets but had so much more protein and much less fat. You can serve these tikkis like cutlets with tea or even use them as patties in sandwiches for breakfast. They are yummy either way.

Ingredients :
1 1/4 cup chickpeas
1 slice bread
1 small potato
3 green chillies
1 inch ginger
1 small onion
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
salt to taste
2 tsp Olive oil

Method :

Soak the chickpeas overnight and boil them with the potato. Drain the boiled chickpeas well and grind them with salt. Peel and mash the potato and add it to the ground chickpeas. Soak the bread slice in water and mix it well with the chcikpea mixture. Saute the fennel seeds, onion and ginger in some oil and add it to the mixture and stir well. Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder green chillies and mix well till incorporated. Make into patties and fry in a non-stick pan drizzling some olive oil when needed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Microwave Date Pudding (Egg-less & Lowfat)

I dont know why this is called 'Pudding' because it looks more like a cake than a pudding. I got this recipe from one of my mom's old cookbooks. Ive had some disastrous experiences with low fat baking and Ive been a little sceptical ever since but this pudding cake satisfied all my expections. This is the best low fat cake Ive ever had. Its moist and super delicious! The best thing is you can make it in a jiffy with ingredients you can find in your pantry.

This cake is loaded with dates and walnuts and is a perfect evening snack for children. You can also dress it up a little and serve it with a scoop of ice cream or low fat frozen yogurt.


3 TBS butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup maida
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1 cup finely chopped dates
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Place milk and sugar in a saucepan and stir over a low flame till sugar dissolves. Add butter and stir to melt. Add dates and soda and heat till the mixture just comes to boil (avoid over boiling). Remove from the stove and allow to cool (place in a water bath and cool within 1/2 hour). Stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour in a lightly greased pudding bowl and microwave covered for 5 mins. Allow to stand for 5 mins.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Potato masala

I dont like potato. People give me surprised looks when they hear this. Yeah I know its almost everyone's favorite vegetable and a versatile one too. There are upteen number of indian potato recipes but I think potato masala is one of the simplest indian side dishes ever. It goes very well with poori, roti, dosa or idli. I got this recipe from my MIL when she came here to visit us. Its slightly different in consistency from the masala you get in restaurants and flavored with ginger. I made it for some friends we invited home and served it with crispy dosas.

2 Large boiled potatoes
1 large onion finely chopped
2 inch finely chopped ginger
5 pods garlic finely chopped
2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
few curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1sp urad dal
2 TBS ghee/oil


Mash the potatoes nicely with small lumps. Pour the oil/ghee in a pan and add mustard seeds, urad dal,curry leaves, turmeric powder,garlic and ginger. Add the onion and a little salt and fry till the onions sweat out. Add the green chillies and mashed potatoes and fry for sometime. Add 1/2 cup of water and some oil if needed and let simmer for 15 mins. Garnish with coriander leaves. The consistency should be a little watery and not too thick.
Serve with crispy dosas or hot pooris!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Naankataayi ( Indian eggless biscuits)

I love to bake. Baking is something I do when I want to relax and feel good. There is something surely soothing and comforting about the aroma that emnates the house while something is baking in the oven.
Naankataayis are traditional cardamom flavored indian cookies. You can find them in any bakery in india and also in most housholds. I am not really fond of the soft cookies we get here in the US. I prefer the crunchy, crispy texture of indian biscuits. These biscuits with ghee and cardamom in them taste fabulous and smell heavenly. This is my mom's recipe. She used to make them quite often. I feel nostalgic just looking at these biscuits.....

1/2 cup butter
2 TBS ghee
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups maida
1/4 cup fine sooji
2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix maida, salt, baking soda, cardamom and sooji in a bowl and keep it aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the maida mixture little by little and mix throughly. Add the ghee and make into soft dough. Make into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet and bake till the biscuits turn slightly brown on the underside. Takes approx 15 mins.

Serve with hot tea!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies

I think peanut butter is one of those things that both adults and children enjoy. I love peanut butter but only during my pregnancy when I developed gestational diabetes did I find out that it had so much protein in it. I was adviced to include it in my meals as much as I could. Its a healthy snack for kids as well.
This weekend I made a batch of PB cookies for a family we were visiting. The cookies were a super dooper hit! Almost all the cookies were gone before we left. The cookies are crunchy with a mild peanut flavor....yummy!

White sugar 1/2 cup
Brown sugar 1/2 cup
Butter 1/2 cup
Peanut Butter 1/2 cup
Maida 1 1/4 cup
Baking powder 1/2 tsp
Baking soda 1/4 tsp
Egg 1
Salt 1/4 tsp

Preheat oven to 375 F. Seive maida with baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Cream the butter with the sugars. Add peanut butter and egg and mix well until incorporated. Add the maida little by little and mix well with a spatula or a wodden spoon. Do not overbeat the mixture. Make small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls with a fork. Bake for 15 mins at 375 F.
Makes about 24 to 25 cookies.

Vegetable pulav

Vegetable pulav is a great rice dish which compliments any kind of gravy. Its a wonderful blend of fragrant whole spices, vegetables and rice. Its fairly easy to make and is the perfect dish for any special occasion. I made it for my husband's birthday and he loved it :-)

So here goes the recipe....

Basmati rice- 1cup
Carrot cubed -1/2 cup
Green peas- 1/4 cup
Frozen Corn-1/4 cup
Capsicum chopped- 1/2 cup
Finely chopped onions- 1 cup
Ginger Garlic paste-1tsp
Ghee- 4TB
Bay leaf-1
Cinnamon-2 small sticks
Star anise-1


Soak the basmati rice in water for half an hour. Fry the bay leaf and one of the cinnamon sticks in 2TB of ghee. Add half of the onions in the ghee and fry until golded brown. Drain the water from the basmati rice and add the rice to the onions and fry for a couple of minutes. Transfer this mixture into a rice cooker. Add salt and 2 cups of water and let it cook.

In another pan add the remaining spices, onions, vegetables and the ginger garlic paste. Fry for 3 minutes. Add the cooked rice to the vegetable mixture and add salt if needed. Toss the rice with vegetables until the rice and vegetables mix together. Garnish with pieces of lemon or tomatoes. Serve hot.
Hope y'all enjoy this recipe!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A glimpse of paradise....

I came to the US in 2006 after my marriage. My husband was working in connecticut then. We moved to houston by the end of 2006. I was fortunate to be in connecticut during the foliage season and had the opportunity to see some of the spectactular sites of north-eastern America.
The fall season begins in mid-to-late september and extends to mid-to-late october. Leaves that have been green all summer turn to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red.There are many state forests and parks where you can go and treat yourself to nature's fabulous and vibrant display. We lived in the outskirts of Hartford. Even a simple drive from our appartment to the nearest grocery store used to be so enjoyable. Since I enjoyed the fall colors so much, my husband decided to take me to Bethel, Maine to observe the fall colors.
The historic town of Bethel is located in western Maine and is about 5 hours away from Hartford. On our way to Bethel, we stopped at Old Orchard Beach which is a quaint little seaside town ideally situated on the scenic coastline of Southern Maine. The sandy beaches of Cape Elizabeth in Old orchard beach, with its refreshing ocean breeze, colorful trees and the red sky is a sight to behold. Portland headlight, Maine's oldest lighthouse is perched near Cape Elizabeth in Fort williams park.
The drive from Old orchard beach to Bethel is the most enjoyable of all. Bethel is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains, brookes, lakes, forests and waterfalls. The town has wonderful hiking trails but since we did not have much time we decided to take a scenic drive through the deep valley of Grafton Notch. It is a 30 min drive where we caught some breathtaking views of the Grafton Notch State Park, Step Falls Preserve, Screw Auger Falls Gorge, Mother Walker Falls Gorge, Moose Cave Gorge and the Umbagog Lake.
Standing there at the foot of the Lake, gazing at its serene waters, surrounded by such beauty.......I caught a glimpse of paradise that day in Bethel. I think Bethel in fall is the right destination for any nature lover.