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Eggless Snowmen Butter Cookies

December being the festive month, Priya of Cook Like Priya has suggested wonderful Christmas bakes from around the world for this month's Home Bakers Challenge, a baking group started by Priya of Priya's Versatile Recipes. She suggested an array of cookies, cakes and breads to choose from. I chose to make these cute snowmen cookies.

These melt in mouth snow man cookies are perfect for the season. The dough is quite easy to make, but making the snowmen shape needs lots of patience! My cookies have not come out perfect due to my impatience but loved the taste of these buttery cookies.


Recipe Source ~ Taste of Home
Yields 12

Snowmen shaped eggless butter cookies


1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 tsp water
¼ tsp almond extract
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
Red and green food coloring liquid or paste
Black and red jimmies or sprinkles


1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in water and almond extract.

2. Gradually beat in flour and mix well. Place 1/3 cup each in two small bowls. Add red food coloring to one and green to the other and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F.

4. Shape remaining dough into twelve 1-inch balls and twelve 1 ½-inch balls. Place one smaller ball above one larger ball on baking sheets or tray and flatten slightly.

5. For each snowman, shape 2 teaspoons of colored dough into a hat and place above head.

6. For scarf, shape 1/4 teaspoon of each color into a 3-inch rope and twist ropes together, leaving one end untwisted. Place scarf around snowman's neck.

7. Insert jimmies for eyes and nose. Bake at 180 C / 350 F for 15-18 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack.


Moong Dal Sheera | Moong Dal Halwa

For this month's IFC, we are exploring Rajasthani cuisine and Manjula of Desi Fiesta, our host, has presented with a thali platter, kachori platter and a halwa platter. I chose to make a kachori and halwa from her delicious spread. I have already posted the Onion Kachori for the challenge and here comes my second one, moong dal sheera.

Moong dal sheera is a classic delicacy of Rajasthan, made with split yellow lentils. This halwa is usually relished during winter months, as it keeps the body warm and protects from the winter cold. You can make this halwa for festivals like Holi and Diwali too. Let's see how to make this delicious and rich halwa.


A Rajasthani dessert made with split yellow lentils, ghee, khoya and nuts


¼ cup moong dal / split yellow lentil
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp warm milk (optional)
3 tbsp khoya / mawa
½ cup sugar
Few chopped nuts, for garnish (cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios)


1. Wash the moong dal and soak it in water for 2-3 hours. Drain and grind them smoothly without adding water.

2. Heat oil in a pan/kadai. Add the ground mong dal paste and roast it over low flame until it turns light brown and gives a nice aroma.

3. Turn the heat to medium and add the sugar and keep stirring till sugar melts. Add the milk if adding and cook till halwa starts leaving sides of the pan.

4. Now add khoya and mix till they are combined well. Garnish with chopped nuts and serve warm.

My Notes:

1. The halwa stays good for 2-3 days when refrigerated. Reheat the halwa for 30 seconds in a microwave before serving.


Pyaaz Ki Kachori | Onion Kachori

Indian food encompasses a wide variety of regional cuisines native to India. This month International Food Challenge is exploring Rajasathani cuisine. The style of cooking in this arid region is influenced by the availability of ingredients and food that could last for several days. Because water is at a premium, food is generally cooked in milk or ghee, making it quite rich. Manjula of Desi Fiesta, host for this month, has shared some wonderful recipes from the Marwari region of Rajasthan.

Out of the different food platters, I chose to make a kachori and halwa. Pyaaz ki kachori is a famous Rajasthani kachori, probably originated in Jodhpur. Steaming hot onion kachori are very popular in 'namkeen' shops in Rajasthan. The lightly caramelized onion with Indian spices bring the taste of kachori to another level. Usually kachoris are served with coriander-mint chutney and dates-tamarind chutney. I enjoyed these delicious kachoris with green chutney.


Yields 10-12 kachori

Deep fried flour pastries stuffed with caramelized onion and Indian spices


For the dough:
2 cup plain flour / maida
3 tbsp oil
Salt to taste

For the filling:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds / jeera
½ tsp fennel seeds / saunf / sombu
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp red chilly powder
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste

Oil to deep fry


To make the dough:

1. Combine maida, oil and salt in a bowl. Add enough water and knead to a semi-soft dough.

2. Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes to a smooth and pliable dough.

3. Keep covered with a wet muslin cloth for 15-20 minutes.

To make the filling:

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin and fennel seeds. When it splutters, add onion. Fry till it becomes soft and translucent.

2. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilly powder, salt and mix well. Saute for 1-2 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and add coriander leaves. Allow to cool completely.

To make the kachori:

1. Divide the dough into equal portions. Take one portion and roll out into a small circle.

2. Place 2 tsp of the filling in the middle. Bring the edges together and seal the filling. Pinch off the excess dough.

3. Gently roll them out into a circle ensuring that filling does not spill out. You can also gently flatten with hands.

4. Prepare the remaining kachoris in the same way and keep it covered. Meanwhile heat oil for deep frying. Oil should be not be too hot, just medium hot.

5. Deep fry the kachoris over a low flame for about 10-15 minutes or until it turns golden brown on both sides. Store in an air tight container.

My Notes:

1. Keep the dough covered to avoid drying out.

2. Once the oil is hot, keep the flame low always. Cooking in low flame ensures kachoris are well cooked inside too.


Sundakkai Vatha Kuzhambu

Vatha Kuzhambu is a traditional and common dish made in Brahmin households. Usually it is made with any of the dried vathals like manathakkali (black nightshade) or sundakkai (dried turkey berry). When vathal is not available shallots, drumstick, white pumpkin are used to make this tangy and spicy kuzhambu. Vatha kuzhambu is served with steamed white rice, paruppu thogayal and appalam. It also goes well with curd rice, dosa and idli. Arachuvitta vatha kuzhambu is another way this kuzhambu is prepared using freshly grounded spices.

Sundakkai / turkey berry is known for its medicinal benefits such as relief from cold, stomach problems and skin ailments. Check out this pulikuthi poduthul recipe which uses fresh turkey berry / sundakkai. This kuzhambu is spicy, tangy and slightly bitter and addition of jaggery balances these flavors. I love to have this kuzhambu hot with some plain white rice, paruppu thogayal, potato podimas and appalam - makes a complete and satisfying meal.


Serves 2

Fried sundakkai vathal / dry turkey berry in a spicy tamarind gravy


¼ cup sundakkai vathal / dried turkey berry
1 tsp ghee
1 tbsp tamarind paste / gooseberry sized tamarind
3 tsp sambar powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp jaggery
Few curry leaves
2 tbsp gingelly oil
Salt to taste

For tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 dried red chillies, broken
½ tsp split urad dal
1 tsp chana dal / kadala paruppu
¼ tsp methi seeds / vendayam
¼ tsp asafoetida / hing / kaayam
Few curry leaves


1. Soak tamarind in 2 cups warm water. Extract the pulp and set aside.

2. Heat ghee in a small pan and add the sundakkai vathal. Fry till it turns golden. Set aside.

3. Heat gingelly oil and add mustard seeds. When it crackles, add red chillies, urad dal, chana dal, methi seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. Fry till dal turns golden.

4. Reduce the heat to low and add sambar powder, red chilly powder and turmeric powder. Saute for few seconds.

5. Add the tamarind extract, salt and bring to boil. Lower the heat to medium and boil till it starts to thicken and oil separates, for about 8-10 minutes.

6. Add the fried sundakkai vathal, jaggery, curry leaves and boil for another 4-5 minutes.

My Notes:

1. Adjust the amount of chilly powder according to your spice level.

2. You can also fry the sundakkai vathal in oil instead of ghee.


Capsicum Masala Rice

Delicious and satisfying one pot meals are perfect for a lunch box or when you don't have much time to cook and most important, you have to wash just one pot at the end! This capsicum masala rice is one such quick and easy, yet tasty one pot meal. Crunchy capsicums and freshly ground spice blend peps up the flavor of this spicy rice dish.

Roasted peanuts in the spice blend gives a beautiful nutty flavor to the rice while the tempering of curry leaves and asafoetida lends out a beautiful aroma . The masala is spicy, so reduce the amount of chiilies in the spice powder when making for kids. Also this is a 'no onion no garlic' recipe, so its perfect to make during festival days. If you have cooked rice or left over rice ready, this can be made in a jiffy, as there is not much chopping or sauteing. Serve this spicy capsicum masala rice with a raita of your choice and papad.


Serves 2-3

Spicy rice dish with capsicum combined with a fresh blend of roasted peanuts and spices


1 cup basmati rice
1 large capsicum, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp gingelly oil
Salt to taste

For the spice powder:
½ inch cinnamon
4 dried red chillies
1 ½ tbsp raw peanuts
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp chana dal
1 tsp split urad dal
1 tsp jeera / cumin
¼ methi / fenugreek seeds

For the tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp split urad dal
1-2 dried red chillies, broken
¼ tsp asafoetida / hing / kaayam
1 sprig curry leaves


1. Wash and soak the rice for 10-15 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and cook the rice. Spread the rice on a plate and allow to cool.

2. Dry roast all the ingredients for the spice powder over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. Cool and then grind to a fine powder.

3. Heat 1 tbsp oil and add mustard seeds. Once it crackles, add urad dal, red chillies, hing and curry leaves. Fry till dal turns golden.

4. Then add the capsicum and saute for 3-4 minutes. The capsicum should be soft but still crunchy in texture.

5. Add the spice powder, salt and fry for a minute. Then add cooked rice, remaining oil and gently combine everything.

My Notes:

1. Adjust the amount of red chillies according to your spice level.

2. Make sure rice is not overcooked and each grain is separated.

3. Do not over cook the capsicum. The crunchiness should be retained.


Litti Chokha

Litti Chokha is a famous traditional dish, eaten mainly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. Litti is made of wheat flour balls stuffed with sattu and spices. This stuffing is known as Pitthi.  Sattu is a popular flour in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which is made from roasted bengal gram / chana dal. Sattu is a nutritious flour which is cooling in nature, rich in fibre, low in calories and light to the digestive system. In olden times, litti was cooked in the hot sand or clay oven. Nowadays, it is either cooked in a tandoor or oven. Hot litti is dipped in ghee and served with chutney and mashed eggplant, potatoes or tomatoes.

For this month's South Vs North Challenge, started by Divya of You Too Can Cook, Nupur of UK Rasoi has challenged the South Team with this healthy and delicious Bihari Litti Chokha. Litti chokha is easy and simple to make if you have sattu. But it may not be easily available in the Indian grocery store, but still you can make this flour at home. Hop over to Nupur's space for the sattu recipe. Litti is usually eaten as a snack but can also be served for lunch and dinner. This dish can be consumed long after being prepared, thus apt to carry during long journeys. Dipping the hot litti in ghee enhances the taste, so do no skip the ghee! The true flavor of chokha comes from mustard oil and roasted garlic, so do not omit them too.


Makes 8-10 Litti

Baked wheat flour balls stuffed with roasted chickpea flour and spices, served with mashed potato, spices, roasted garlic and tomatoes


For the litti:
2 cup wheat flour
½ tsp ajwain / carom seeds / omam
2 tbsp ghee
½ tsp baking soda
Salt to taste
¾ to 1 cup warm water

For the stuffing:
½ cup sattu / roasted chickpea flour
½ inch ginger, grated
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped coriander leaves
½ tsp jeera / cumin seeds
½ tsp ajwain / carom seeds / omam
1 tbsp mustard oil
1 tbsp pickle spice
½ tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

For the chokha:
2 large potatoes, boiled
1 medium size onion, finely chopped
4-5 large cloves garlic
1 large tomato
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
½ tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste
1 tsp mustard oil


To make dough for litti:

Sieve the flour and add all the ingredients, knead it into a not too soft dough with warm water. Cover the dough and keep aside for 30 minutes.

To make stuffing/pitthi:

Take out sattu in a mixing bowl and add jeera, ajwain, ginger, green chillies, coriander, pickle spice and lemon juice. Mix well to form a crumbly mixture. Add 1 tbsp water if it is very dry.

To make litti:

1. Divide the dough into lemon size balls. Take one ball and flatten between palms. With the help of fingers, expand the dough to 2-3 inches in diameter.

2. Place 1 tbsp of the stuffing and bring all sides to the middle and seal completely. Pinch off the the extra dough from top and gently flatten them.

3. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 392 F. Prepare the remaining litti and place on a baking tray. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until brown, flipping every 10 minutes.

To make chokha:

1. Peel the potatoes and mash them coarsely. Set aside.

2. In a preheated oven at 220 C / 425 F, place the tomato and garlic in a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool and peel the skin. Keep in a bowl and mash with a spoon.

3. Add this to the mashed potatoes along with onion, ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, oil and salt. Combine well.

How to serve:

Dip hot litti in ghee and serve with a bowl of chokha and green coriander chutney.

My Notes:

1. Do not apply any extra flour while shaping or rolling the litti.

2. Instead of oven roasting garlic and toamto, you can also roast them on gas flame for 12-15 minutes on medium flame.

3. If you do not like the raw taste of mustard oil in chokha, you can heat the oil and add to the chokha.

4. While baking the litti, flip them at regular intervals to ensure even cooking.

5. Pickle spice is the wet oily masala in a pickle excluding the pieces. I have used the mango pickle here.


Savory Caraway Cheddar Biscotti

Home Bakers is a group started by Priya of Priya's Versatile Recipes, where each month we get to bake new recipes and learn different baking techniques. For this month Home Bakers Challenge, we are baking biscottis and Priya has given us options to bake both savory and sweet biscottis.

Biscotti are twice baked cookies originating from Italy. The biscuits are oblong-shaped and very crunchy. Since they are dry, they are often served with a drink to dunk in.  This is my first attempt in making biscotti and am pretty happy that they came out crunchy and delicious. Caraway or the kala jeera, lends a beautiful flavor to this cheesy biscotti.


Recipe Source ~ Food with Presence
Yields 10-12

Savory and spicy biscotti with cheddar cheese and caraway seeds


1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne / red chilly powder
½ tsp caraway seeds


1. Heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Put the eggs and cheese in a bowl and using an electric whisk process until it is well combined and thick.

3. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne and caraway seeds. Pulse three or four times, just to integrate the dry ingredients using the whisk or using hand.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 3-4 times it until it holds together and the dough is coated with flour.

5. Shape the dough into a 8 inch long and 4-6 inch wide rectangle/log. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and gently flatten.

6. Bake at 180 C / 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until the log is firm to the touch. Cool for about 10 minutes.

7. Then cut on them into half-inch slices. Arrange the biscotti flat on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

8. Flip and bake again for another 10-15 minutes or until biscotti are slightly golden. Cool completely before serving.


Grilled Zucchini Pizza Bites

The theme for this month's Groovy Gourmets challenge are canapés. A canapé is a small, prepared and usually decorative food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one bite. Crackers or small slices of bread or toast or puff pastry or vegetables, serve as the base for canapé often topped with cheese, sauce or relish.

Zucchini pizza bites are a delicious and healthy way to satisfy the longing for pizza. These zucchini bites also make a great evening snack for kids. Choose a large zucchini for making these bites, but if you have a small zucchini cut them diagonally. I topped with corn kernels but you can add capsicums, tomato and olives or just have them plain with pizza sauce and cheese.


Adapted from Skinny Taste
Makes 12-15 bites

Grilled zucchini topped with pizza sauce, cheese, corn kernels and Italian herbs


1 medium size zucchini
¼ cup pizza sauce
¼ cup grated mozzarella
¼ cup corn kernels
Italian mixed herbs
Olive oil


1. Cut zucchini into ¼ inch thick rounds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a grill pan over high heat and drizzle few drops of olive oil. Place the zucchini rounds and grill on both sides for 2 minutes.

3. Transfer to a plate. Spread pizza sauce and top with cheese and corn kernels.

4. Heat the grill pan over low heat and place the zucchini rounds and grill till cheese melts.

5. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with herbs and serve warm.


Carrot Beans Thoran | Beans Carrot Stir Fry

Thoran is an easy and healthy South Indian stir fry. Carrot beans thoran is one of the most common and simplest stir fry that goes well with any South Indian gravy - be it a sambar, rasam or kuzhambu. It even tastes great with plain white rice mixed with ghee. This simple thoran can also be made for the onasadya.

This is a quick and basic thoran recipe that beginners in cooking can easily try. Garlic adds a lovely flavor to the thoran but if you can skip it if you do not want. Carrot and beans have high nutritional values and this stir fry is a delicious way to include them in our daily meals. Serve this thoran with any South Indian gravy.


Serves 3-4

Simple stir fry with carrot, beans and coconut


3 medium size carrots, cut into small cubes
2 cup chopped beans
½ tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil

To grind:
½ cup grated coconut
2 green chillies
5-6 curry leaves
2 cloves garlic (optional)

For the tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds
¾ tsp split urad dal
Pinch of asafoetida / hing / kaayam
Few curry leaves
1 dried red chilly, broken


1. Coarsely grind coconut, green chillies, curry leaves and garlic without adding any water. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When it crackles, add urad dal, asafoetida, red chilly and curry leaves. Fry till dal turns golden.

3. Add the carrot, beans, turmeric powder, salt and mix well. Saute for 2 minutes. Then add the ground coconut and combine.

4. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Take care not to overcook the vegetables.

5. Stir fry for another 3-4 minutes or until it becomes dry.


Crostini with Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella

For this month's International Food Challenge, we are exploring Campania cuisine of Italy. Campania is a region in southern Italy, well known for their pizza, pasta and cheese, specially mozzarella cheese. Fresh vegetables also play an important role in the Campania cuisine. Priya Suresh of Priya's Versatile Recipes, host for this month, has suggested four wonderful recipes from this region. I choose to make the simple crostini with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.

Crostini is an Italian appetizer meaning little toasts.  Crostini are made by thinly slicing bread, typically ciabattas,  and toasting or grilling it so that it becomes crispy. The slices can be drizzled with olive oil, herbs and salt or a sauce and then served plain, or they can be dressed with an assortment of toppings and used as appetizers or garnishes with foods such as soups.The toppings may include a variety of different cheeses, meats, and vegetables. This is a simple crostini recipe with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella which makes a great snack.


Recipe Source : Food Family Finds
Serves 2-3

Crostini with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella


1 loaf French Bread, sliced
1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
¼ cup / ½ stick butter, at room temperature
1 clove garlic, minced


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F / 180 degrees C.

2. In a small bowl, mix garlic and butter. Brush both sides of sliced bread with garlic butter. Top with cheese and tomato slices.

3. Bake 10 – 15 minutes until cheese is melted and serve warm. 

My Notes:

1. You can also add some chopped basil leaves for the topping.


Walnut Barfi

There are many variety of barfi made with different nuts, flours and even fruits. But I never heard of walnut barfi until I tasted this at a relatives place for the first time and it tasted very delicious and yummy. Once could never guess that the main ingredient in the barfi was walnuts. I wanted to try this barfi for Diwali, so immediately called them up and got the recipe for the walnut barfi.

I have always been hesitant to try out Indian sweets. Its a bit tricky business, you need to achieve the one-string consistency and then know exactly when to remove from heat and transfer to a greased plate. Nevertheless, keeping aside my fears, I gave it a try. And see the result, delicious melt-in-mouth barfi!


Yields 15 medium pieces

Indian sweet made with walnuts and almonds


¾ cup walnuts
¼ cup almond / badam
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 tsp ghee


1. Roast the walnuts and almonds for 4-5 minutes. Allow it cool and grind them into smooth powder. Grease a plate/tray with ghee and keep it ready.

2. Heat a non stick pan over medium heat and add sugar and water. Mix well till sugar dissolves completely. Keep stirring and cook till one string consistency is reached. (See Notes)

3. Now add the walnut-badam powder and mix well. Keep stirring till the mixture starts to leave the sides of the pan.

4. At this stage add ghee and keep stirring until it thickens and forms a mass. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the greased tray.

5. Flatten the mixture with a spatula and allow it cool for few minutes. Cut into your desired shape while it is slightly warm.

My Notes:

1. To check one string consistency, wet your fingers and take a drop of syrup in between your thumb and index finger. If a single string is formed between the fingers, it means syrup has reached one string consistency.

2. The barfi was not too sweet, so if you want more sweet add 1 cup sugar.


Spicy Diamond Cuts | Khara Maida Biscuits

Diwali is around the corner and all are busy with preparation of different sweets and savories for the festival. Diamond cuts are one of the easiest and quick snack for beginners to try out for Diwali. There are 2 versions of this snack - sweet and savory. Today am sharing the savory version of these diamond cuts.

Savory diamond cuts are also known as khara maida biscuits or spicy diamond biscuits. These diamond cuts are were addictive and perfect to munch on with evening tea or coffee. Ajwain not only adds a nice flavor and aroma but also helps in digestion too. But if you don't like ajwain, you can skip it or add cumin seeds instead. You can also make them ahead and store in airtight containers.


Savory and spicy deep fried biscuits with all-purpose flour flavored with carom seeds


1 cup maida / all-purpose flour
1 tbsp melted butter / ghee
½ tsp red chilly powder
½ tsp carom seeds / ajwain / omam
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying


1. In a bowl add maida, red chilly powder, ajwain, salt and mix well. Then add the butter and mix until well incorporated.

2. Now add water little at a time and knead to a smooth and soft dough. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into small lemon sized balls. Take a ball and roll out into thin circle. Cut into diamond shapes using a sharp knife or pizza cutter.

4. Heat oil for deep frying. Gently lift the diamond pieces using a spatula and add to the hot oil.

5. Fry in a medium heat until golden brown. Drain the excess oil on a tissue paper. Store in an airtight container.

My Notes:

1. The consistency of the dough should be similar to chapathi dough. If the dough is sticky, add more flour and adjust. Also do not roll the dough into very thin circles.

2. Do not add more butter or ghee as the diamond cuts will become too soft and will not turn out crunchy.

3. If you don't want the diamond cuts to puff up while frying, poke some holes using a fork before frying.


Banana Blueberry Smoothie

Breakfast is considered as the most important meal of the day and starting our day with a good breakfast is very important for our health. But most of the times, breakfast is skipped due to lack of time in the morning hustles. One of the quick and nutritious options are smoothies. Smoothies make the perfect breakfast as they are portable, healthy and best of all, can be made in different combinations of fruits and vegetables.

Blueberries has the highest antioxidant capacity of all fresh fruits and is rich in vitamin C, E, A and minerals. They are in low in fat, helps in digestion and keep away constipation. Also they improve heart health, reduce cancer risk and boost brain health. So try out this low-fat, healthy and hearty breakfast smoothie with banana and blueberries.


Serves 2

Low-fat breakfast smoothie with banana and blueberries


1 banana
1 heaped cup blueberry
½ cup low-fat yogurt
¾ cup low-fat milk
1 tbsp honey / sugar


Chop the banana into small pieces and add to a blender along with blueberries, milk, yogurt and honey. Blend until smooth and pour into glass and serve immediately.


Coconut Laddu | Condensed Milk Coconut Laddoo

Coconut laddo is an simple and quick laddo recipe that can be prepared during festivals. Diwali is coming up on 2nd November this year and this instant coconut laddu with just 3 ingredients is an easy one to make for the occasion. So if you are in a hurry to make sweets for Diwali, these coconut laddu are apt for you as they are done in less than 20 minutes!


Makes 15 laddu

Coconut balls with condensed milk and cardamom powder


200 ml sweetened condensed milk
200 gm unsweented desiccated coconut
50 gm desiccated coconut, for rolling
½ tsp cardamom powder


1. Mix condensed milk and coconut in a pan over low-medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the cardamom powder, mix well and remove from heat.

2. Allow the mixture to cool. Grease your hand with ghee.  Place the remaining desiccated coconut in a plate.

3. Now make small rounds balls of the mixture and roll them in the coconut.

My Notes:

1. Store the laddu in an airtight container and refrigerate. The laddu stays fresh for 3-4 days when refrigerated.

2. You can also garnish the laddu with almond or pistachios.


Jeera Aloo | Punjabi Aloo Jeera

Potato is really the king of vegetables. They are so versatile and combines well with any vegetable. They always come handy when we need to make a quick side dish and it can be prepared in different ways to suit the rest of the meal. This potato curry is a quick and easy side dish for chapathi and rice-dal.

Jeera aloo is a popular Punjabi dish with potatoes spiced with cumin and other spices. Cumin has a unique flavor and adds an earthy, strong and warm flavor. Also cumin has many medicinal properties and aids in digestion too. This is a very dry dish, so pair it with a dal and rice or roti to make a complete meal. Being a dry dish, it is suitable to carry while travelling. I enjoyed this jeera aloo with Bengali Masoor Dal and chapathi.


Serves 2-3

Dry potato curry flavored with cumin and other spices


4 medium size potato
2-3 green chillies, slit
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds / jeera
¼ tsp asafoetida / hing
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp red chilly powder
¼ tsp garam masala powder
½ tsp dry mango / amchur powder
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
2-3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves


1. Pressure cook the potatoes until soft. Peel the skin and cut into medium size cubes.

2. In a pan heat oil and add cumin seeds. Once it starts sizzling, add asafoetida and green chillies. Fry for few seconds.

3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining spice powders. Fry for few seconds.

4. Add the potatoes, salt and gently mix making sure spices get coated well on the potatoes.

5. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then roast the potatoes in high heat for 4-5 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.


Chettinad Pakoda Kuzhambu

South Vs North Challenge, the brainchild of Divya of You Too Can Cook, had completed one year. A big congrats and thanks to Divya for hosting such an innovative event. I am glad to be part of this wonderful group and congrats to all the members for the successful completion of one year. This month, we are free to cook from any of the challenges posted by the South and North team in the last year. It was bit difficult to choose one particular recipe as all of them looked fantastic and tempting. But finally I decided to make this lip-smacking curry from Priya's blog, which I had been longing to make for quite sometime.

When I saw this Chettinad Pakoda Kuzhambu recipe, I had immediately bookmarked it as the kuzhambu looked so delicious and irresistible. The Chettinad cuisine is one of South India's well known cuisines and the flavors and aroma of Chettinad food are really tantalizing. The food is spicy and the use of variety of herbs and spices really tickles one's tastebuds.  The gravy tasted best with some hot rice and papad. It also goes well with dosa and idli. Thanks Priya for the wonderful recipe.


Serves 3-4

Chana dal fritters in a rich and spicy coconut-onion-tomato gravy


For the pakodas:
½ cup chana dal / kadala paruppu
3 dried red chillies
1 tsp fennel seeds
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

For the gravy:
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 medium tomato, finely chopped
6 garlic pods, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Few curry leaves
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
2 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
2-3 sprigs of coriander leaves, chopped

For the tempering:
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 cardamoms
2 bay leaves
1 tsp fennel seeds

To grind:
1 tsp poppy seeds
4 tbsp grated coconut
6 cashew nuts
1 tbsp roasted channa dal / pottukadalai


To make pakoda:

1. Soak the chana dal and red chillies for two hours. Drain the water. Grind the dal, red chillies, fennel seeds, salt together to a coarse paste with little water.

2. Heat oil for frying. Once the oil is hot, take a golf sized ball of grounded mixture and pinch gently a small quantity of this mixture as shapeless pakodas and drop into the hot oil.

3. Fry the pakodas in medium heat until they turn golden brown. Drain the excess oil on a tissue paper. Set aside.

To make the gravy:

1. Grind poppy seeds, coconut, cashew nuts and pottukadalai to a fine paste with enough water. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in a kadai, add the spices for tempering. Fry till they give out a nice aroma.

3. Then add garlic, green chillies, curry leaves and fry for a minute. Then add onions and fry till they become soft. Now add the tomatoes and fry till they soft.

4. Add the ground coconut masala and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilly powder and fry for a minute.

5. Now add 4-5 cups of water, salt and mix well. Close and cook for 5-8 minutes. Keep the gravy watery and add more water if required.

6. Once the oil is separated from the gravy, add the pakodas. Do not stir. Bring the gravy to boil once and then remove from heat. Garnish with coriander leaves.

My Notes:

1. Once the pakodas are added, they will absorb the gravy, so keep the gravy watery and add more water if required.


Eggless Spooky Witches' Finger Cookies

October is Halloween month and we Groovy Gourmets are making some spooky treats to celebrate Halloween. Most of the Halloween food looked scary and I was wondering what to make. Just then I saw many of my fellow blogger friends posting this spooky witches finger for another challenge and the recipe seemed quite easy.

Though these witches' finger cookies look spooky and scary they are really tasty and melt in mouth. The cookies are perfect for the Halloween theme as they are shaped into long fingers with almonds as witches' fingernails. To make it creepier, red gel or fruit jam acts as blood. Lets check out how to make these spooky cookies.


Recipe adapted from All Recipes
Makes 25-30 cookies

Halloween themed witch finger shaped butter cookies 


½ cup butter, softened
½ cup confectioners' sugar / icing sugar
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ⅓ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Whole almonds
Red food gel or fruit jam


1. Combine the butter, sugar, almond extract and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat together with an electric mixer until fluffy.

2. In a bowl mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this gradually to the butter mixture and beat continually to make a smooth dough.

3. Cover the dough with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F / 165 degrees C. Lightly grease a baking tray or baking sheet.

5. Scoop 1 heaping teaspoon at a time onto a piece of waxed paper. Use the waxed paper to roll the dough into a thin finger-shaped cookie.

6. Press one almond into one end of each cookie. Squeeze cookie near the tip and near the center and make lines for knuckles with a tooth pick.

7. Arrange the shaped cookies on the baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden in color. Allow to cool.

8. Remove the almond from the end of each cookie, apply a bit of jam or food gel into the cavity and replace the almond to cause the jam to ooze out around the tip of the cookie.

My Notes:

1. The cookies will appear soft in the beginning, but will set after cooling down.

2. Take little portion of the dough to make cookies and refrigerate the rest of the dough while one batch of cookies are being shaped and baked.

3. The cookies will expand a little on baking, so roll them into thin fingers.


Bengali Masoor Dal

Dal is one of the most comforting and delicious food. A bowl of rice and dal is literally heaven on a plate for me. You can make different variety of dal by varying the dals and ingredients. You can make a simple dal tadka, or add in some vegetables to make a masala dal or a spinach dal. Dal goes well with plain rice, pulao and chapathi. Also lentils are a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, iron, folate and minerals.

Remember the panch phoron masala I had posted sometime back? Here's a simple and delicious Bengali style masoor dal using panch phoron. Panch phoron is nothing but a flavorful and fragrant spice mix of cumin, fennel, mustard, nigella and fenugreek seeds. This spice mix when tempered in ghee releases a wonderful aroma and imparts a beautiful flavor to the masoor dal. The dal tastes best with chapathi as well as plain rice and jeera pulao. Serve the dal hot along with some sabzi / vegetable curry.


Serves 3-4

Bengali style red lentils / masoor dal with panch phoron tadka


1 cup masoor dal / red lentil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 inch ginger piece, grated
3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
4-5 sprigs of coriander leaves
Half a lemon

For the tempering:
2 tsp ghee
2 tsp panch phoron
1/4 tsp asafoetida / hing
2 dried red chillies, halved


1. Wash the dal well and add 2 cups of water. Pressure cook the dal with turmeric powder for 2-3 whistles or until soft and mushy.

2. Mash the dal well and set aside.

3. Heat ghee and add the panch phoron masala. Once it starts popping and gives out good aroma, add the asafoetida, red chillies and fry for few seconds.

4. Add the chopped onions and fry till they become soft. Then add green chillies, ginger and fry for another 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes and fry for 4-5 minutes. Then add the dal, salt and 2-3 cups of water. Mix everything well and bring to boil.

6. Cook the dal for another 3-4 minutes or till it reaches the required consistency. Add lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves.

My Notes:

1. If you prefer a thinner dal, add more water and adjust the consistency.

2. Adjust the amount of green chillies according to your spice level.