Weekend Houston: Bluebonnets and Friends

Bluebonnets of Houston
Bluebonnets of Houston

The beauty of spring appears in the form of native wild flowers like bluebonnets here in Texas. If some happy and energetic faces appear on bluebonnets spread surfaces, the intensity of the beauty increases. One such occasion occurred recently when our friend Yasin invited us to enjoy the bluebonnets near their home and also asked me to take few pictures of them with the flowers showing in the background.

It was a crisp, warm and sunny late morning. We all enjoyed watching that small field of bluebonnets and taking pictures. They said they were happy I got to take their pictures. But, I think I was happier because I enjoyed bluebonnets and captured some beautiful moments and happy personalities. Thank you Yasin, Sadiqa and Abed!

Our Friends ~ Yasin and Family
Our Friends Sadiqa, Yasin and Abed ~ In Bluebonnet Field

Cilantro Soopa (Coriander Rasam)

Cilantro Soopa
Cilantro Soopa ~ for Jihva:Cilantro

Coriander flavor in full force, this cilantro soopa is a scintillating spicy preparation that would soothe the hunger pangs and mitigates the migraine pains. Natural ingredients pure flavor in full display, this original recipe from me is a dieters delight and tasty alternative to cream/butter/flour filled western soup preparations.

Cilantro Soopa
(makes about 2 servings)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorn
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp – soaked in a cup of water and juice extracted
1 tablespoon – crushed jaggery
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon oil and tadka ingredients

Dry roast coriander seeds, cumin and black peppercorn in a small cast iron skillet. Powder to fine in a spice grinder, without adding any water.

In a vessel, add a teaspoon of oil. Heat. Add a sprig of curry leaves, pinch of mustard seeds and asafetida. Sauté few seconds until leaves start to brown.

Add tamarind juice, crushed jaggery and coriander powder. Also salt and about two cups of water. Bring to boil. Add cilantro leaves. Simmer for few minutes until leaves wilt. Switch off the heat. Serve warm. Excellent to sip or drink without rice.

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Soopa=Sanskrit for rasam/chaaru like preparations.
© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Cilantro Omelette

We had a busy weekend. More than usual, because we are expecting my in-laws this Thursday. I am excited about their visit and the possibility of learning more from them. They are my gurus and great persons in general. Counting the hours…

If my posts read out of touch with current fads of food blogosphere, contact elusive (what’s new, right? :) ) in the coming months, you know the reason.

Naturally, the home is going major upside-down cleaning ritual. So l needed an easy meal for lunch. An omelette filled with cilantro and some steam-cooked vegetables. Cilantro omelette, is what made me fell in love with cilantro. Even though it’s quite ubiquitous growing up, I used to have no opinion about cilantro, but one hungry day during college days similar to the one I had today, I made this. Boom… it’s been a technicolor Jai Ho for cilantro from then on. If this is your first time with cilantro, or looking for something new with cilantro, try this egg based recipe. You would love cilantro and always fondly remember the flavor it brings to the eggs.

Cilantro on Egg
Cilantro on Egg

Cilantro Omelette
(for two adults, for a light meal)

5 eggs of good quality
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup, finely chopped red onion or shallots
1 green chilli – finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

Break eggs into a big cup. I always remove yellows because of their overtly chemical taste and smell. Keep them if you are immune/ accustomed. Add salt and lightly beat. Add cilantro, onion and green chilli. Mix well.

In a cast-iron skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil or ghee over medium-high heat. Add eggs mixture and gently swirl to spread eggs to the edge of skillet. When omelette is lightly brown at the edges, turn opposite side. Cook for couple of minutes to pale red. Serve hot.

For light meal, steam cook vegetables. Cut avocado to slices. Place them on a plate with omelette. Add tomato chutney or salsa for little bit of zing. There you go, a light meal that won’t take long to prepare and helps to keep the energy up.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Cilantro Omelet
Cilantro Omelette with Avocado, Steamed Vegetables and Tomato Chutney ~ Meal Today

This is my entry to lovely food blogger Cilantro’s Cilantro Jihva Event.

Strawberry-Pecan Mini Cakes

Strawberry-Pecan Mini Cake
Strawberry-Pecan Mini Cake

I am fond of eating fruits straight, and I prefer no-cook fruit preparations like Soopa. I do not want to subject them to cooking. However, this easy dessert which takes only about ten minutes to prepare for baking is so delicious and liked by everyone who tasted, that I am more than willing to donate a pint of berries to it. Light and just sugary enough to satisfy that craving tooth, these strawberry mini cakes are good any time of the day. With this sweet sayonara to week long strawberry saga, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Strawberry Mini Cakes
(makes 12 mini cakes)

3 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 cups turbinado sugar (or sugar of any kind)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup juice from oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cut strawberries
2 cups finely chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, sift and stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl, break and add 2 eggs. (I removed the yellows, my preference. Keep yellows if you like) Also add milk, oil, orange juice and vanilla. Beat the mixture lightly and add this mixture to flour mixture. Before the flour and liquid ingredients are fully combined, fold in the strawberries and pecans, stirring gently.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Apply ghee/butter or oil to mini cake pans. Fill about two thirds full with the batter.

Bake the cakes for about 45 minutes or until tops are golden and when a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Serve the mini cakes at room temperature.
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© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Strawberry Pecan Mini Cakes
Fresh Out of Oven, Strawberry Mini Cakes ~ for the Weekend

Strawberry Shake

An adorable little girl, friends’ daughter, comes to our home during weekdays after school. She stays until her parents pick her up in the evening. This little girl is a foodie in making and loves to try out new things. She seems to enjoy strawberry milk shake I prepare with soy milk. This is how I make it for her.

Strawberries, Bananas and an Orange
Strawberries, Bananas and Orange

Strawberry Shake with Soy Milk
(to fill two big or 4 small glasses)

Strawberries – 1 cup
Banana – 1 ripe, medium sized
Sweet orange like mandarin – 1 ripe
Soy milk – 1 glass
Honey – 1 tablespoon, or to taste
Crushed ice – quarter cup

1. Wash, trim, and slice the berries. Peel and slice the banana. Squeeze orange juice.

2. Put strawberries, banana slices and honey in a blender. Puree until smooth and combined. Add orange juice, soy milk and crushed ice. Run the blender again for few seconds until well mixed.

3. Pour the strawberry shake into glasses. Serve.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Strawberry Milk Shake with Soy Milk
Strawberry Milk Shake with Soy Milk

Strawberry Salsa

Avocado and Sweet Strawberry
Avocado and Sweet Strawberry

To add a touch of spring sweetness to classic salsa, start with fresh avocado. Mix ripe strawberries, a hint of tropics with limejuice and a zing of black pepper. That’s it. A sweet salsa that is quite different from the traditional chopped onion-tomato mixture. This fruity version is great on chapati or on toasted bread.

Strawberry Salsa
(makes about two cups)

1 Avocado – seed removed and pulp mashed to smooth
1 cup strawberries – finely chopped
1 Small lime/lemon – cut to half
1/2 teaspoon – Black pepper, cracked
1/4 teaspoon – Sea salt

In a big cup, take avocado and strawberries. Sprinkle black pepper and salt. Squeeze limejuice. Combine.
Enjoy this sweet salsa with chapati/crusty bread/chips.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Strawberry Salsa to Celebrate the Spring Season
Strawberry Salsa ~ for Lunch today

Technorati Profile

Strawberry Soopa

What happens when you combine the clean, crisp flavor of farm fresh, sweet strawberries with the tart fruitiness of pomegranate?

I wanted to know and I did some experimentation this weekend. I combined the strawberries with POM, a potent, pure pomegranate juice. To spice up the combination, I added mint, sugar and pepper. After very little processing, the result was refreshing soopa. A little sweet, a little tart and loaded with, I believe, all the antioxidant benefits of both pomegranate and their dark pigmented berry counterparts. Absolutely no cooking, but the soopa tasted awesome. A must try for cold soopa/gazpacho fans.

POM Pomegranate Juice and Sweet Strawberries
POM Pomegranate Juice and Sweet Strawberries

Strawberry Soopa
(for two servings)

Strawberries, cut – 1 full cup
Pomegranate juice – 1 cup
Fresh Mint leaves – one tiny sprig, or 5 leaves
Honey (or sugar) – 1 tablespoon
Black pepper – a pinch

Blend them together and refrigerate for about half an hour.
Serve cold for refreshing experience.

Strawberry Soopa
Cold and Refreshing Strawberry Soopa

Recipe: My Creation
Thank you POM.
Soopa = Sanskrit for soup like preparation.

Weekend Houston~Froberg’s Farm

Froberg's Farm

Yesterday, it was windy with pollen heavy air. Another typical sneeze inducing spring day in Houston.

We went for strawberry picking at a nearby farm called Froberg’s around 9. It’s a small farm, but seem to attract large crowds. You park car in the front, follow directions to strawberry picking. At the entrance, you will be given a small bucket. “Go and pick. Lift and look under the leaves for the ripe berries. Pound $1.50.” That were the instructions we were given. We picked about 6 pounds. Fresh and good looking, those were too tempting to stop picking.

They have a vegetable and fruit shop in the front. You can buy locally grown vegetables and fruits. There is candy section for children, also a snack bar with pies and roasted peanuts. And for meat lovers, there is a smokehouse with various kinds of meat products. All and all, this is a nice place to spend sometime. Will definitely be going there in the future as they said they would have “pick your own blackberries and jujube” in the coming months.


Froberg’s Farm


A Beautiful Big Live Oak Tree in the Farm


Strawberry Fields


Strawberries ~ From Flower to Fruit


Vegetable and Fruit Shop


Snack Bar with Tempting Fried Pies


Ripe and Juicy Strawberries for Home

For those of you interested to go, here are the address and the directions:

Froberg’s Vegetable & Fruit Farm
11875 County Road 190, Alvin, TX
281-585-3531
Open everyday, from 9 AM to 6 PM.

Take Highway 6 South. Enter Alvin. Take right on County Road 146. At the railroad stop sign, turn left onto County Road 190 (Alvin-Manvel Road). The farm is about two miles to the left.

Are there any other farms like this in Houston and vicinity?

Ginger Lemon Soopa

I am glad to see a new word “soopa” reintroduced into our cookery lexicon by Pratibha and Jigyasa through Sukham Ayu cookbook. Like the authors I found it interesting that ayurvedic texts refer to watery broth/soup like preparation as soopa. Research is done rarely in centuries old Indic cookery. We are more used to label our food items in occidental and arabic terms, and blindly repeat the colonial self-aggrandizing stories of our food roots. So, for a change, it is greatly refreshing and empowering to know about soopa. I think this Sanskrit word alone is worth the book price. Original research equals to precious gold, don’t you agree? Welcome back Soopa. Goodbye Soup.

Here is a soopa I made from Sukham Ayu. The base is toor dal and the flavor is from ginger and lemon. It’s a familiar, charming soopa, simple yet sublime. Perfect to usher in “I am not cold but not yet warm” spring season.

Ginger, Lime, Toor dal Ginger Lemon Soopa

Ginger Lemon Soopa
Recipe adapted from Sukham Ayu, page-37
(makes about four cups of soopa)

Toor dal: Pressure-cook half cup of toor dal in two cups of water to soft. With a wood masher or whisk, churn the dal to soft, smooth consistency.

Ginger: Take a 1×1 inch piece of ginger. Peel the skin and grate. Add the grated ginger to mashed toor dal. Also half teaspoon each- red chilli powder and salt, and quarter teaspoon of turmeric. Add half cup of water and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium heat.

Tadka: While the soopa is simmering, do the tadka. In a small pan, heat a tablespoon of ghee. Add and toast 10 curry leaves, cumin, and mustard seeds, in that order. When seeds start to pop, sprinkle a pinch of asafetida. Sauté for couple of seconds and pour this tadka into the simmering soopa. Mix and turn off the heat.

Lemon: Flavor the soopa with about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Serve hot. Soothing and a strength saver, ginger-lemon soopa is a great warm-up food and recommended during convalescence.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Dates Kheer

We made Dates Kheer last weekend following a recipe from Sukham Ayu cookbook. The recipe required few ingredients, was very simple to prepare, and tasted divine. The original recipe in the book called for dates and milk. I also added almonds because I love badam taste in milk.

According to Sukham Ayu, the dates have post-digestive effect. They serve as thirst quenchers, body energizers, and also help increase levels of hemoglobin. Their sweet and moist qualities benefit Vata and Pitta. To balance the heaviness of dates for Kapha, use nutmeg and cardamom as in this recipe.

Here is how I made this delicious Ayurvedic dessert with dates, milk and almonds. I hope you try it too.

Dates
Diamond of Dates ~ Medjool Dates for Kheer

Dates Kheer
(Recipe adapted from Sukham Ayu. Makes about one and half cups of kheer)

8 medjool dates – pitted and chopped finely
8 almonds – powdered to fine
2 cups milk – Whole, Organic variety
1 tablespoon ghee
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Place a thick-bottomed vessel on stovetop and heat. Add ghee to melt. Add chopped dates and almond powder to the melted ghee. Fry for about five minutes on low heat.

Add milk. On medium heat, simmer, stirring in between, until the milk-dates-almond mixture thickens and reduces in volume from 2 cups to about one to one and half cups. Takes about ten minutes of cook time. Stir the cardamom and nutmeg powders. Turn off the heat. Serve into bowls in small quantity and enjoy. Tastes good warm or cold.

Note:
Dates I added are extremely sweet so I didn’t have to add sugar to the kheer. Add sugar or jaggery if needed as per your taste.
While the milk heats up you need to keep stirring so that the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom – a stir every two minutes or so is fine.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Dates Kheer
Dates Kheer ~ for Sri Rama Navami Neivedyam

Jihva for Ingredients ~ 2009-2010

Jihva for Ingredients (JFI) the web based food event that celebrates natural ingredients has completed three years this month. Online Food events have always been great places to learn about new recipe techniques, refresh old familiar recipes, and familiarize with fresh blog talent. The past year, brilliant bloggers Jigyasa and Pratibha, Pooja, Sig, Rachna, Sia, Suganya, Srivalli, The Cooker, Dee, ms, Mythreyee and Roma dazzled us with unique and memorable JFI’s featuring Love, Bell Pepper, Tamarind, Flower Power, Soy, Whole Grains, Festival Treats, Carrots, Sprouts, Chickpeas, Cauliflower and Wheat. My sincere thanks to all the hosts and the participants for taking JFI to heart and for sharing culinary knowledge and wisdom so generously with the world.

To continue this learning and get to know each other’s tradition, I am extending an invitation to fellow food bloggers to host the JFI event for the year 2009-2010. If you have a natural ingredient that you feel strongly about and would like to highlight it, then this is your chance. Here is more about this event.

What is Jihva?
Jihva, the Sanskrit word means taste, desire and deep longing. This powerful word also represents tongue and taste buds.

What is Jihva for Ingredients?
I believe for Jihva to happen, it’s all in the ingredients and how they are prepared. Jihva for Ingredients (JFI) is an online monthly food event, celebrating the natural Ingredients and what they can do for our Jeeva.

What are the guidelines to host?
1. Feature any natural ingredient and there are many.
2. I’d greatly appreciate if you could pick an ingredient related to India or Indian cuisine. (Which style of cuisine that ingredient prepared is, of course it’s up to the choice of participants.)
3. Announce the event on your blog by the first week of the month before hosting. This will give plenty of time to the participants to shop, prepare, write and post their contribution.

Interested to host the Jihva event?
Mail me stating your preference of month. Food bloggers with great passion for Jihva only, please. Once confirmed, your website name will appear on the calendar below. Thank you.
Update: The invitation is closed at this time and all slots are filled up for this year. Thanks and congratulations to the Jihva hosts 09-10.


Jihva Year 2009 Calendar
(May 09 – April 10)

May
Cilantro : Cilantro
September
Heartful Concoctions
January
Eggless Cooking
June
Ashwini’s Spicy Cuisine
October
Dil Se
February
Siri’s Corner
July
Cardamom~The Queen of Spices
November
The Spice Who Loved Me
March
Veggie Platter
August
Cook’s Hideout
December
Chef In You
April
Akshayapaatram

Sukham Ayu ~ Cookbook Review, Interview and Book Offer

Sukham Ayu Cookbook

In every person’s life, there will be several exceptional “aha” moments. You would be trying to solve a problem for several days and suddenly at an unexpected moment, you would find a solution. In the field of software it always happens to me. I’d want to learn something new and interesting but I wouldn’t be able to spend hundreds of hours reading thousands of pages. I’d suddenly, somewhere, somehow find a small few-page article that would give me all the information I needed. And, that would be my “aha” moment. “I got it, I understood it and I know what to do now.” I feel more knowledgeable.

One such “aha” moment happened to me when I read the book “Sukham Ayu” by Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain. From outside it looked like any other coffee table cookbook, but when I started reading, it answered many of the questions I had about ayurveda and food, and with a beautiful narration of many mouth watering recipes. I realized that by reading the book I could quickly know what ayurveda is, incorporate it into regular cooking, and clearly understand what kind of effect a food ingredient will have on my body if I eat it.

You see, that was an eye opening “aha” moment. It was like finding the user’s manual for a complex system you are required to work with. If you don’t have a user’s manual, you cannot fully utilize the system. You’d be always working on trial and error basis, learning about it as you go, but never be able to utilize full potential of the system. That is what we generally do with our bodies and food. Our body is a complex system and food is the input we give to it without knowing what kind of effects it would have on our body.

The book “Sukham Ayu” is like a manual that helps to understand the nature of body and food, and the relation between them.

The knowledge I have gained from Sukham Ayu is:

1. Basic terminology in ayurveda
2. Different body types and how to determine a body type
3. Details about many food ingredients in ayurveda perspective
4. Plan for meals based on a body type
5. Over sixty good vegetarian recipes
6. A detailed meal planner
7. A food guide based on body constitution

If you are interested in learning ayurvedic concept of food, this is a must have book. If you are not interested in ayurveda part of it, you can just enjoy the recipe part, a set of homely vegetarian recipes that were tried for several generations before and will continue for several more generations in the future. Anyway you see, “Sukham Ayu” is a good cookbook to have in your library collection.

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I wanted to know more about the inspiration behind the book. Authors Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain responded immediately to my questions. Here is my interview with the Sukham Ayu authors.

Sukham Ayu Cookbook Authors
Pratibha Jain and Jigyasa Giri with Dr. Prakash Kalmadi at KARE, Pune

You have written an excellent book exploring the Ayurveda roots of everyday food. What was your inspiration? What prompted you to choose this subject?

Thank you for liking the book. As we wrote in the introduction of Sukham Ayu, our tryst with “Pedatha” led us unconsciously to another realm of Indian tradition…Ayurveda. But in all honesty, we’d like to say that we did not choose the subject, rather, strangely we were chosen by it. It so happened that at the first launch of “Cooking at home with Pedatha”, we were introduced to Dr. Prakash Kalmadi who is the founder of KARE, an impressive ayurvedic rejuvenation establishment situated in the idyllic town of Mulshi near Pune. He liked our book very much and wanted us to write a book of Ayurvedic recipes from their kitchen. With this in mind, he invited us to his establishment. Once there, we were extremely inspired to take on the project, and thus KARE became the starting point of our research for this book.

It appears that you did dedicated research on Ayurveda and food. With your knowledge in the subject, I feel you could have written elaborately. But you chose to write a coffee table kind of cookbook. Are there any specific reasons?

A coffee table cookbook such as ‘Sukham Ayu’ is our attempt to make the great tenets of Ayurveda easily comprehensible to laypersons in the field, such as ourselves:). To answer the question, the book is divided into sections of recipes, and each section is preceded by a short chapter of Ayurvedic insights. We started out thinking of just a book of recipes, but soon realized that the point was not to make a book of 60, 70, 80 recipes, but to include insights that can then be applied by the reader to create unlimited wholesome food. Our own first questions soon became an endless inquiry, and in every recipe, with the insight of each answer, came yet another question. Thus our learning of concepts was interspersed with the process of recipe writing. And having enjoyed this methodology of learning, it made sense to share it in a similar rhythm with our readers by interspersing nuggets of information on ingredients, short chapters of Ayurvedic insights and the recipes. This way they all co-exist in balance through out the book and exude a friendly format, so we believe.

What is the best way to get the most out of Sukham Ayu?

First try a few recipes at random to see for yourself that healthy food can be tasty food too. That’s exactly what happened to us during our first visit to KARE.
Next, get curious about your prakriti or constitution, identify it (pg 17), and start reading the chapters on Ayurvedic insights – how we are connected to the elements, the seasons, the essences of food, what makes food compatible to each one of us and so on.

Use the orange box on each recipe page to increase your knowledge about food substances and their effects on the body. The food guide on page 108-109 will eventually help you to choose the right foods for your constitution.

Above all, this is a book about Cooking at Home, which is mostly a family. Hence the recipes are tridoshik, which means they are balanced to suit all doshas. As we have explained on page 9, “When you select a menu from this book for your family, all you have to do is identify who can eat more or less of each dish, based on the main ingredients.”

I noticed that you have begun every section of recipes with a home-style recipe. It is very interesting, do shed light on how that came about.

After every chapter that journeys through an Ayurvedic tenet or insight, we decided to gently guide our readers ‘back home to their present’ with a home-style recipe before they could move on to more specific recipes. The home-style recipes are absolutely basic recipes of daily Indian cooking with suggestions of how to incorporate different food substances using the basic recipe. By the time the readers go through the entire section of recipes, they would be ready for yet another chapter, yet another journey through another realm of Ayurveda, before getting back home to cooking, with a little more knowledge gained in the process.

Would you recommend any additional resources to those who would want to explore more on Ayurveda and food?

Ayurveda is a vast science. There are many elaborate books written on the subject by experts in the field of Ayurveda. Some of the primary sources that we researched from and recommend are: ‘Charaka Samhita’ by Maharishi Charaka, ‘Ashtanga Hridaya’ by Maharishi Vagbhata, ‘Bhavaprakasha’ by Acharya Bhava Mishra and ‘Kshema Kutuhalam’ by Acharya Kshema Sharma. We also like reading contemporary writers in the field such as Ms. Amadea Morningstar, Dr. Robert Svoboda, Dr. Scott Gerson and Dr. Vasant Lad.

You have entered into food blogging world with Pedatha.com. What is your feel of food blogging and food blog followers?

We are amazed at that world out there, and although we are not active bloggers, we enjoy the process of blogging and visiting other blogs. In fact, when we look at the availability of recipes with excellent photos on blogs, we always wonder what makes books sell :) .

We know so many friends and so many young people who depend on the blogs a lot to cook their own food. They are great forums for self-expression and sharing views. It is like a good bridge between one’s private space and the external world. We are glad to be part of this wonderful community.

ISBN:819029931x
Book website: Pritya.com
Recommend “Sukham Ayu” to your local library.

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