Monday, September 17, 2007


I baked some cupcakes for my team picnic last week. One batch was gluten free and the other regular chocolate. I tried to remember all the techniques I had learned from cake decorating class but I seemed to have forgotten a lot:( They still turned out pretty good though. The rosettes looked quite elegant and are very easy to do it. If you invest in a piping bag and a few tips you can create this as well! Happy baking!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Healthy Nachos!?!

My version of a healthier plate of nachos was inspired by sprouts. I was making this tasty snack and saw a bowl of sprouts and thought "Why not add a handful!". The result was excellent. The sprouts added great texture to the dish and complemented the tomatoes (which were incidentally from a co-worker's garden!).
My plate included a little bit of cheese melted, some yellow and red tomatoes, a small green chili and sprouts (added after you melt the cheese)! When you are making nachos next, throw on some sprouts. You will be surprised how good it is!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Varalakshmi Nombu-- Nei Appam

Last month we celebrated Varalakshmi pooja at home. I love the alangaram that goes in to setting up the Ambal.

I read an interesting description of the vratham in the article, 'Dawn of Prosperity', from The Hindu:

"Literally translated, Varalakshmi means boon granting goddess of wealth. Married women, called Sumangalis visit each other's homes and gathering together, they sing bhajans while little girls may dance with their friends, or simply chat.
The puja, performed annually is for the well being of the entire family. Married women in the household pray for their family's health, wealth, happiness and knowledge."
The article also explains some of the legends of how the pooja originated.

My mom was given the ambal muham by her mother in law and the pooja has been passed down through generations. She called over some lovely ladies to give them vethala paaku (and some gifts) and prasadam (yay yummy food!). The highlights included nei appam, vadai, arisi kozhakatai and kootu. My favourite was the nei appam which I asked my mom to write out the recipe for.

Here it is!
-----Original Message-----
From: padma sastri
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 8:59 AM
To: Sastri, Savithri;
Subject: Nei appam
Dear Savithri,
The pictures you took were amazing. The way the nei appam flew with the group of invitees seems to suggest it was popular item. Here is the recipe.

1 cup patna rice
3/4 of a cup jaggery (gud )
1 ripe banana ( over ripe is better )
1 spoon elakka powder ( cardamom )
1 cup ghee (nei)

This quantity will make up to twenty five medium size appams.

Soak patna rice one cup for an hour and grind it finely with in the blender.

Mix in the jaggery and ripe banana and blend well. It should be consistency of dosai batter (pouring consistency )

Add the cardamom and keep aside for five or six hours.

Heat up the vengala appakaaral and pour in one spoon of ghee into each appa kuzhi - fill the depression about quarter way . Wait for it to heat up well. When batter is dropped in it should sizzle like boondi. Now pour the batter with a karandi or a dapara to fill the depression just till the lower rim, do not let it over flow.

A ring of bubbles will appear around each depression. In a minute the appams will be ready to flip over as the inner gooey part pours over to form the lower part of the appam. Each person has their own technique of using a sharp knitting needle to flip the appam, I use a butter knife and fork to push and simultaneously hold it down with the knife. Each appam should look like a mini golf ball .

Cook each side till golden and pull it out and let it cool aside. The ghee will get absorbed. Top the appa kuzhi depressions with more ghee if necessary and continue the process.

I find it is possible to make three batches of appams for each spoon of ghee. It varies depending on the size of the appa kuzhi and batter.

Nei appams keep well for a week , but usually in this part of the world it vanishes in a day or two due to it's popularity! If you are making for just two people I would suggest soaking only a quarter cup of rice and this way you are not giving in to temptation of consuming the delicious appams.

Monday is Gokulashtami and nei appams are one of Sri Krishna's favourite neivaydayams. Enjoy. Happy Gokulastami!

My favourite crunchy vadai! The recipe is on my sister's site Married to a Desi here.

Delicious kootu is also a very healthy option as it contains no oil.

Below are the lovely sumangalis from our community who came to celebrate Varalakshmi Nombu with us.

I made up the vethalai paaku bag for the kids. The adorable Sruthi posed for photographs (we actually played America's Next Top Model and I was the photographer). I filled a bag my mom stitched with lots of fun Kraft products:) I thought the snacks would be just in time for back to school, though I was told they would be consumed before school even started.

Happy Varalakshmi! Wishing you and your family health, wealth, happiness and knowledge!
Here are some more delicious recipes to try:

Easy Homemade Rasmalai
Badam Kheer
Karamani Sundal

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