New Frontiers and Spicy Quinoa

If this blog has appeared neglected and forlorn, it's because we were in the middle of a major move. We heaved ourselves out of Chicagoland and plunked right into Boulder County, Colorado. Good-bye, bitter cold winds and gray skies. Hello, sunshine!

The last month has been brimming with excitement. One particular highlight was when the water fountain in the yard froze as night-time temperatures dropped to 20F for a couple of days. After a wonderful warm morning, it suddenly became overcast and snowed for 4 hours and soon the water fountain appeared to be only ice. We hammered through the 3 inch thick ice to break it and save the fountain apparatus from any potential damage. Soon thereafter there were major shrieks as 3 little girls discovered a sluggish goldfish in the cold water that remained in the wooden barrel that housed the fountain. Yes, we filled Petsmart's coffers with $$ for an aquarium with a filter, fancy gravel, goldfish flakes and de-chlorinating drops for the water as the chlorine in tap water is toxic to goldfish.

I can only shake my head when I think back to the first few days in this house:
"Mumma! Can I have a pet?" No.
"A dog?" No!
"A cat?" NO!
"A fish?" What don't you understand about N-O?
We now have a pet goldfish called Elizabeth. Sigh.

Elizabeth kept switching genders until a Google search confirmed that she was indeed female. The silly thing also had no clue that goldfish flakes were food and totally ignored them, preferring instead to check out her own droppings repeatedly to see if they were food. That in it and by itself provided for a lot of excitement and yeowing. Now, no sooner is lid on the tank opened, she's there to gobble up the flakes as soon as they touch the water.

My dear husband is fascinated by Elizabeth and did some more Googling to find out that goldfish like cooked peas. So, Elizabeth has been getting one whole cooked pea a day from my upma and my shrimp pulao. Elizabeth doesn't like the skin of the pea and will address it with disdain once the sweet inner pea has been devoured and then give in to chewing on it cos there's nothing else left to eat. If I didn't know she was a goldfish, I'd think she was a pig.

Also, fried fish and fish curry are now dirty words in our home. I was chastised because I cooked tilapia over the Thanksgiving weekend. Ayayayay!

On the topic of food, Indian Food...I discovered a wonderful grain called quinoa during one of our many summer road trips to Colorado. It's food of the Inca Indians. It's a small flat oval shaped grain that ranges in color from pale yellow to red to brown to black. It is grown mainly in South America but is also being cultivated on the slopes of the Colorado Rockies. I could only find it health food stores or in the organic food aisles of regular grocery stores. It cooks quickly and expands about 3-4 times its original size. When cooked, it becomes almost translucent and the internal germ emerges like a tail, making it look like it sprouted in the pan as it was cooking. Quinoa is soft and creamy but the tail provides a crunch, giving this grain a divine texture. When I first tasted this grain, it was the main ingredient in a salad, rather like tabouli or couscous. Here's what I did with it...

Spiced Quinoa, Indian style

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3-4 tbsp of oil
  • 1/8 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 1 hot green pepper, slit vertically and deseeded
  • 1/2 cup tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • few sprigs of cilantro for garnish
  1. Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the packet. Usually, 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa, bring to a boil, cover and simmer till the grains are translucent and the tail is visible. Usually takes about 10-15 minutes
  2. Transfer the cooked quinoa to another container and allow it to cool.
  3. Heat the oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds
  4. When the mustard seeds start popping, add asafoetida, cumin seeds, and the hot green pepper
  5. Pour this tempered oil on the cooked quinoa, and toss it with the chopped tomatoes and onions and fresh lemon juice.
  6. Add salt to taste and garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve.

It's great by itself or as a starter when you have guests over for a meal. It makes for a wonderful conversation starter, too. Most of my friends in Chicagoland thought I was way cool, thanks to this wonderful seed called quinoa. What makes it even more delicious is its high nutritional value: it is high in protein, lots of iron and potassium, many of the vitamin Bs and is also a good source of magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. And, my daughter simply loved it!!

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Charlie Trotter is a brave man

Charlie Trotter has made the news for a lot of things recently. The foie gras episode with Rick Tramonto of Tru. Even more recent is the news that NYC's Warner Center won't have a Charlie Trotter's. But brave? I say brave. Because he used the most despised of Indian vegetables in an exquisite entrée when I dined at Charlie Trotter's restaurant in August. The karela. Or the bitter gourd. Or the bitter melon.

Thin horizontal slices of crisp uncooked de-seeded karela, that had been de-bittered by a long soak in salt water, was the garnish for a delicately flavored halibut. I was just so amazed to find karela at what is supposedly one of the best restaurants in the world where you don't just eat - you have a dining experience - that I forgot to take a picture of that exquisite creation.

Like most Indian kids, I grew up hating the green horror that is the karela and went hungry when it was the main vegetable dish at home. Now, I love karela especially after I had the Gujarati karela no shaak. But, in general, most Indians despise karela.

Therefore, I say, Charlie Trotter is a brave man!

Suvir Saran, on the other hand, seems to be either confused or misinformed. "Bitter melon, waxed gourd, lotus stem, lotus seed are exotic in India now. These are things that are lost." Exotic? Once a week or at least once in two weeks is exotic? Lotus stem is and has always been an important part of the panchrangi pickle. My Sindhi friends make a fantastic lotus stem ki subzi. Lost? In India? Not that I know of. Either he's badly misinformed or this is marketing spiel to get people to go dine at his restaurant Veda in Delhi. Good luck with the restaurant. Good Indian food is something that I am always in favor of! So, Suvir Saran, romance away! Because...Indian Food Rocks!

Karela no Shaak
Bitter Gourd / Bitter Melon

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/8 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/8 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 1 bag of frozen karela (usually about 14 oz.
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (more if you like it hotter)
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp amchoor powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • salt to taste
  1. Thaw the frozen karela and soak in a tub of salty water for about half hour. Drain and squeeze out as much of the water as possible (I usually skip this step cos both my husband and I love the bitter taste of karela.)
  2. Heat the oil in a kadhai
  3. Add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add a pinch of asafoetida
  4. Add cumin seeds
  5. Add the red chilli powder and turmeric powder
  6. Add the karela and cook on medium to low heat, stirring often
  7. When the karela is half-cooked (about 10 minutes), add the coriander powder, cumin powder, amchoor powder, and sugar.
  8. Add salt cautiously if the karela was previously debittered in salty water.
  9. Continue cooking till the karela is fully cooked and slightly crispy.
  10. Garnish with cilantro if you have it. Pretend if you don't. ;-)
  11. Serve hot with rotis.

I make karela when my daughter is not home - so mainly at lunch. This is a variation of the Gujarati karela recipe which also contains potatoes. The potatoes are diced fine and added to the tempered oil before the karela. When the potatoes are cooked, they are removed from the kadhai and drained on a paper towel. They are returned to the pan when the karela is almost done cooking and just before the rest of the spices.

It's a wonderful medley of tastes: slightly bitter (karela), hot (red chilli powder), tangy (amchoor powder), sweet (sugar) and fragrant (coriander-cumin powders).

Edited to add: I found this hilarious gem on karela by ToI's Jug Suraiya:
Our fibre who art in health chart/ Hallowed be thy neem./ Thy karela come,/ Thy methi be done, in rotis, as leaven./ Give us this day our daily roughage/ And forgive us our triglycerides,/ As we forgive those who hydrogenate fats against us./ Lead us not into cholesterol,/ And deliver us from BP,/ For thine is the isabgol,/ The gobi and the mooli,/ For ever and ever,/ Amla.

Read the rest of the article The Karmic Karela

Travel Tip: Cooler without the mess

We drove across to Boulder, Colorado recently. Yep! All of 1011 miles through temperatures as high as 104F in Iowa and Nebraska. A no-mess cooler made the trip really pleasant. The trick is to freeze water in strong plastic bottles and use that as the cooling agent. Fiji Water not only tastes great, but comes in just the kind of plastic bottles you need - the plastic smell of the bottles does not transfer to the water.

I found Fiji Water at Trader Joe's. Since I did a test-drive with these on our Branson trip, I only had 6 bottles with the original Fiji Water in them. I really didn't mind cos I filled the rest with Chicago water - just about the best tasting water in the country. And as the ice melted, we had a supply of chilled water that tasted great, no mess in the cooler and the cooler was a lot lighter and easier to handle. Because there was no water directly in the cooler itself, we could carry food in the cooler without having to wrap it in air-tight or water-proof containers. Which worked out very well for us Indian Food Junkies!

We had delicious left-overs from a dinner at an Indian restaurant in Lincoln, Nebraska which served as lunch the next day. Yum! There we were in the first rest area in Colorado, along I-80, eating cold saag paneer and navratan korma. It was 102F so the cold food was a real treat!

That's my cooler! I also discovered that 12 oz Gatorade bottles freeze very well. As do Caprisun pouches. Fiji water bottles are expensive - they cost over $6 for a six-pack of 500 ml bottles. A carton of 10 Caprisun pouches costs much less ($2.50) so it might make sense to buy 2 or 3 Caprisun packs, freeze them and carry drinking water in regular water bottles. Needless to say, I'm saving all my Fiji water bottles for future trips.

St. Louis, Branson and Mutter Paneer

Branson was our destination for the July 4th weekend. It's about 540 miles from home - a very pleasant 8-9 hour drive. We stopped in St. Louis to get a claustrophobic tram ride 630 feet up in the famous Gateway Arch. I captured panoramic views of St. Louis, much better than these from the viewing gallery as I tried to hold the contents of my stomach in me. It's rather unnerving to know that you are not in an aircraft but in a structure so tall and be able to look down and feel like there is nothing holding you up.

The windows are cut in at an angle so that you can look down all the way to the base of the Arch. You can also see each leg of the Arch. There are staircases in the Arch that were used to get to the top before the trams were installed. It takes about 4 hours to climb to the top using them; it takes 4 minutes in the tram. The stairs are now used for maintenance of the trams and as emergency exits. I would have gloated more about the shots I captured if I had not done pressed the wrong menu option and deleted all 150 digital images. Perhaps I would be better off if I just did not mention it. Sigh! I guess it means we need to make another trip to St. Louis soon!

Branson was a ton of fun, despite it not being my kind of place to holiday in. Lots of kid-friendly shows, beautiful Ozark mountains... I got to ride in a dome train which was one of the two highlights of the trip. The other being that I got to spend 3 quality hours with a very wonderful online friend, who as luck would have it, lives in the Ozarks! He has a woodwork shop that makes exquisite handcrafted wood spice racks.

A surprise party for a couple celebrating their silver wedding anniversary kept me busy the following weekend. I made Mutter Paneer and Spicy Mushroom Appetizers. I don't have the proportions for the Mushroom Appetizers as I was on auto-pilot by then. We were cooking for 60 people and any semblance of knowing what proportions should be had long deserted me. I am still in a fair amount of shock that everyone loved the mushrooms. The Mutter Paneer was a hit, too. I just made it in the largest pot I had. It was too little cos it was just too good! Usually when the level in the serving pan starts dropping, folks tend to avoid the dish. But in this case, the pan was literally wiped clean. I wish I'd taken a couple of photographs but I was just too frazzled to even think about it. And, as usual, I was on IST instead of CDT!! Late!

Mutter Paneer
Another Indian Food Rocks original recipe

  • 1 large white onion, diced fine
  • 1 can Contadina tomato paste
  • 2 cups of water, less for a thicker sauce
  • 2 in. by 1 in. piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 medium flakes of garlic, grated
  • 1-1/2 tsp of garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder (optional)
  • 2 lbs frozen peas
  • 2 blocks of Nanak paneer (400g each), diced into 1 in. by 1/2 in. pieces
  • 8 oz of fat free sour cream
  • 1/4 cup oil to sauté the onions
  • Oil, as needed to shallow fry the paneer
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a large kadhai.
  2. Sauté the onion in the oil on medium heat until it is translucent and almost pink. About 10-15 minutes.
  3. While you are doing this, start shallow frying the paneer in a small frying pan. Drain on paper towels.
  4. Pause to add the tomato paste, ginger, garlic, garam masala, red chilli powder to the onions and sauté for another 5-7 minutes or until the oil starts to separate out from the mixture.
  5. Return to the paneer
  6. Cool the mixture. If you are like me - late and always in a hurry - drop a couple of ice cubes into it to help the process. Too many ice cubes will make the sauce more runny so take care when you do this!
  7. Using a hand-held blender, purée the mixture so that it is a little more homogeneous. I usually place the kadhai in the kitchen sink so that the sauce does not splatter onto the walls and all over my cooktop.
  8. Fold in the sour cream and then return the kadhai to the stove.
  9. Add water, peas and the fried paneer. Add more water if you want the sauce to be more runny. Keep on low heat until the peas are cooked and the paneer has absorbed some of the flavor from the sauce.
  10. Add salt according to your taste. (I've been making real salty food lately so start with a smaller amount, taste, adjust, add more if necessary, taste, know the drill!)
This is great as one of the entrées for a party of 20-25 people. Or make it and freeze it in 16-20 oz containers.

The garam masala used for this recipe should be flavorful but not overpoweringly so. The ginger and garlic impart the most flavor in this recipe. The sour cream is a substitute for the heavy cream that is usually added to this dish in restaurants.

May-June hiatus and a Zesty Party Snack

May was a busy month. The last month of the school year. Everything is packed into those 4 weeks. April saw us at the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago every weekend. And this time the idlis from the canteen were not the main course. It was to practice "Yeh Tara Woh Tara" for graduation from the Hindi Language Class of the Sunday School organized by the Temple. Soon followed the Spring Recital at school. Then came the various types of testing. (Eat breakfast! Eat a good breakfast!) Then came School Olympics. Followed by more testing. (Please eat your breakfast!) Followed by piano recitals.

Add to it the anxiety caused by the bypass surgery of a close friend. He was supposed to go in for an angiography and come out with a diagnosis of a stent. Instead, he got the verdict of a triple bypass. When he actually went in for the surgery, they bypassed 5 major arteries. Medicine, despite not being an exact science, is truly amazing. This guy is doing cardiac rehab where he's walking the treadmill and bicycling at rates that I can only dream of. And, he's 58.

This flurry of activity led to a serious backlog of work, which invariably results in eating bad food. Yep, those tires are no longer on the car. They're on me!

Genetically modified food, foie gras feuds and chickens on anti-biotics freaked me out further. So off we went to Trader Joe's to de-stress. I bought free range organic chicken. Organic pink lemonade. Organic Red Pepper Spread with eggplant and garlic. And that led to this really super zesty party snack...

Zesty Party Snack

  • A roll of Sesame Toasteds
  • Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread
  • El Yucateco Green Habanero Salsa
  1. Arrange the Toasteds (or any other cracker that you like. Bretons will be great, too!) on a large serving platter
  2. Put a dollop of TJ's Red Pepper & Eggplant spread on each cracker
  3. Put a nice large drop of El Yucateco Green Habanero Salsa on top
  4. Serve with a fruity sangria (Sam's Club has a great stock of Sangria currently - deliciously fruity) or any wine that goes well with spicy food. Make sure that you have lots of paper napkins and Kleenex on hand. Cos once you start popping these into your mouth, you just can't stop despite the sniffing!

TJ's spread was a super find. The eggplant gives it fantastic body while the red pepper gives it a wonderful flavor and the garlic packs in a small little punch. It has a bit of sugar in it - which I would have preferred not to have had - but this has been about the best thing I've discovered lately and so had to share!!

Note for Shreya: My Khara Bhath source has taken off to Bangalore for the summer. So I have nothing yet! Will post here as soon as I do!

Dental Eggplants and Faux Chicken Tikka

My daughter wanted to know how to get an eggplant. I told her that all we needed to do was to get hold of an egg and plant it. I was immediately treated to one of those looks so I decided to tell her the truth this time: "Eggplant is a vegetable that farmers grow. They sell it to the grocery stores and we buy it from there." Uh-uh. That was not what she meant. She wanted to know about "the eggplant that Daddy got in his mouth." She meant implant.

Dentists, dental surgeons and dental surgery has consumed us lately. A few years ago, a not-so-scrupulous dentist who shares our last name drilled into my husband's jaw bone while doing a routine root canal procedure. Despite the last name bond, he didn't share this information even though my husband was in a lot of pain. He proceeded to fill it with a material that should not have been used. Two years later, the tooth is lost and we're lucky that there is no serious infection of the jaw bone or grave bone loss. The tooth had to be replaced by a titanium implant in a very expensive process spread over a good 6-9 months. First the titanium screw is fitted into the empty socket; then after about 3 months or so, a peg or abuttment is fitted on the implant; and finally, the crown is fitted on the peg. We're in the middle stage. The current dental surgeon is simply amazing. Thank God for that!

Because of the dental surgery, we were all eating soup and soft foods in complete sympathy with what my poor husband was enduring. Once he was back to solids, we couldn't wait to treat our taste buds to some extra spicy chicken tikka.

Faux Chicken Tikka
Spice Level: High!

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 large flake of garlic, grated
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 3-4 teaspoons Shan Chicken Tikka masala powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3-4 tablespoons oil
  1. Mix grated ginger, grated garlic, Shan Chicken Tikka masala powder, yogurt and lemon juice in a bowl.
  2. Put the boneless chicken breasts in this mixture and marinate for about half an hour. An hour or longer, in the refrigerator is better.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and drop the cumin seeds into it when warm.
  4. Put the chicken breasts and all the yummy smelling sauce in the pan and cook over medium to low heat.
  5. Turn the chicken over from time to time and allow all the sauce to thicken.
  6. This really spicy dish is ready when all the sauce has dried up and the chicken cooked thoroughly.

If you don't have Shan Chicken Tikka masala, you can use some other garam masala. Shan's spice mixes can be found in most Indian and Pakistani grocery stores.

Never Stop Running and Fish Pakodas

Sigh. I made the mistake of allowing my 6 year old to watch the 18th Kids' Choice Awards on Nickelodeon against my better judgement. Even deeper sigh. We were up till 2 a.m. last night because my daughter's calves and ankles hurt. We are not a pill-popping family so we did the entire regimen: sit up and massage your own legs, hot water bottle (well, hot gel-pack), Ben-Gay, some more massage, Reiki. I was very close to reaching out for Tylenol when she blurted out that she didn't stop running because she wanted to defeat the "little person in her head who kept telling her to stop running." Huh? But, since Will Smith told all kids to "keep running" on Nick's annual show, she thought she would be giving up when things got tough and kept on running...I desperately want to throw something at Will Smith. It's bad enough that we lost an hour on Saturday night due to Daylight Saving Time; I was up through most of Sunday night, too.

It was the thought of delicious fish pakodas that kept me going through today. Fish pakodas? Yes! That, too, with yogurt. There is a belief in some parts of India that fish and yogurt don't go well together and is a recipe for a stomach upset. I pooh-pooh the thought because I stand testimony to the fact that no stomach upset occurs. While growing up, Sunday lunch used to be spicy kingfish curry, which I would tone down with home-made yogurt. No stomach upset ever ensued; just bliss!!

Fish Pakodas
An IFR original recipe

fish pakodas
  • 3 fillets of catfish (or tilapia)
  • 1 cup of besan
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • 1 egg-white
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice, preferably fresh
  • pinch of ajwainoptional
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, grated
  • salt to taste
  • oil for shallow frying

  1. Cut the fish fillets into nugget size bites
  2. Mix the besan, yogurt, egg-white, lemon juice, ajwain, chilli powder, ginger, garlic and salt into a thick batter
  3. Marinate the fish in this batter for about half an hour, preferably in the fridge
  4. Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan; make sure it is not too hot or smoking
  5. Gently put the fish nuggets, coated generously with the batter, into the oil and fry each side until golden brown, approximately about 3-4 minutes each side on medium heat. Less if the fillets are on the thinner side.
  6. Drain as much oil off the fish pakoda by placing them on a paper towels
  7. If you have chaat masala, sprinkle some on the pakodas and for the best flavor, eat while the pakodas are hot!!

We loved these fish pakodas which were inspired by 100% vegetarian grated onion pakodas - no egg or fish. I usually have a fair amount of batter left after the fish is done, so I add grated onion to this mixture - about half an onion or so. Since the onions are usually juicy and release their own juices, I add about 1/4 cup more of besan to prevent the batter from becoming too runny. Drop small quantities of this mixture into the oil and fry till golden brown. The ajwain gives it a delicious aroma and the chaat masala adds a tang to the overall excellent spicy taste flavor.

Indian Dolls and Making your Herbs Last Longer


My sister has the unenviable task of finding an Indian doll. Not just any Indian doll. A doll who is just like Shanti from Jungle Book 2. My daughter wants one. Apparently the Barbie invasion has been successful. Whenever she’s asked for an Indian doll, she’s been shown the Indian likeness of Barbie. Need I mention that my sister lives in Bombay, India?!

I know I promised more Handy Tips, so here is the next one that has saved me a lot of heart-ache.

Handy Tip #2: Keeping your herbs fresh longer

Ever since I moved to the US, I’ve always choked on the prices of herbs. A measly bunch of limp cilantro for 79 cents or about 15 sprigs of mint for over $2.50. To make matters worse, the herbs didn’t last very long. I thought Devon Street was my answer. I got 4 plump bunches of cilantro for a dollar. I got three times as much mint for half the price. But guess what, it didn’t last too long either. A trip to Devon was not such a frequent occurrence either. As I fretted, a vase of rich pink gladioli caught my eye. These glads which were a product of my feeble attempts at gardening lasted over 3-4 weeks in a vase. Yup. You got it.


Put those babies in a tall container or glass that is half-filled with water, throw a grocery bag loosely over the leaves and tie it around the container and refrigerate. Every time you pull it out to use some of those fresh luscious leaves, make it a point to change the water.

I now have fresh cilantro and fresh mint in my refrigerator for weeks!

Update: I decided to research a little bit on Keeping Herbs Fresh and came up with the following documents:

Caring for Fresh Herbs
The exception is fresh basil, which may blacken in the refrigerator; instead, store it in the same way, but do not refrigerate.

Herb Helper has a great alternative: Wrap in a barely damp paper towel and place in a baggie. What I loved in this article was:
The best way to have a steady supply of fresh herbs is, of course, to grow them yourself.

Cleaning and Storing Fresh Herbs has some neat tips on how to wash your herbs although the author does not think it's a great idea to stand them in water and refrigerate.

How long can you expect to keep those fresh herbs
fresh? Basil will last on the counter top for up to
31 days. In the refrigerator, chervil stays fresh for
8 days, chives for 9, cilantro up to 14, dill for 9,
parsley up to 21, and tarragon for up to 17 days.

I've had my mint going for over 3 weeks now with no loss of flavor. I pluck the leaves at the first sign of any blackening and change the water as soon as the color changes. I use cilantro and mint at least every other day so it's not a big deal to clean it up before it goes back into the refrigerator. I've had cilantro last for over 4 weeks. I use fairly stable wide-based plastic containers - like the large Country Crock tubs or the 32oz Dannon containers. I usually store mint in smaller containers. I have never had a spill thus far and it's rare for my refrigerator to be anywhere near empty.

Update: I made Spicy Jeera Chicken yesterday with chicken tenders. It was delicious. I’ve updated my Spicy Jeera Chicken page with a picture of it.

Ready to Puff Roti from Pillsbury

My First IFR Product Review
Rating: Yuk

Pillsbury Ready to Puff Roti

So I got all excited the other day when I saw the "Ready to Puff Roti" in the freezer of my favorite Indian grocery store. A pack of 6 frozen rotis for $1.49 was not a bad deal at all. I usually order 100 rotis for $20 and freeze them in packs of 10. They reheat very well in the microwave and are almost as good as freshly made rotis. So these Pillsbury rotis at 25 cents a piece sounded great especially if they "puffed" up like the one on the package.

With salivary glands in check, we made it home very eager to try these rotis. Maybe I was just too excited and it was not warranted. But tell me, who wouldn't be ecstatic about not having to knead the dough, roll out about 12 rotis, roast them and clean-up the mess on the counter - and in my case, on the floor. My 6 year old loves to make rotis with me. She has her own latna (or belan) and half of the flour goes straight to the floor. "It's because of gravity, Mumma!" Sure. Why not get Newton to come and clean up?!
The Roti that did not

The RTP Roti was a major disappointment. It darkened in color as soon as it thawed on the tava (open griddle). It really was an ugly shade of brown. And out of 6 rotis, only one puffed up completely. There were two others that tried their best to meet the promise of the packaging. Of the remainder, two had holes or had a tear in the middle and the other just didn't even make an attempt and lay there limp and uninterested. Now I think I know how to make rotis "puff" - I have an almost 100% success rate (Ok! 90%!!)

Dejected, we sat at the table to a dinner of dark brown rotis with fabulous guvar that I had made. The taste? More like after-taste. The texture was too smooth to be appealing. They weren't as bad as the rotis we got in our hostel where it was a case of "I-hold-and-you-tear" to get a decent sized scrap to dunk in the watery dal or wrap around some awful subzi. But they're just not worth it. I won't be buying these again, that's for sure. I'd rather make my own and clean up the mess.

A Winter Storm calls for Spicy Jeera Chicken

Looking out from my window during the winter storm
Chicagoland winter storm

We're in the midst of another winter storm here in the Chicagoland area. I can barely see the home across the street from me. Of course, the media is more interested in where it is going to go: NYC and Boston rather than where it is at and what is occuring here. But then someone from Beantown once told me: Midwest? Oh! We only fly over that!

Spicy Jeera Chicken
Another Indian Food Rocks original recipe

1 tray thin sliced chicken
2 chicken breasts
1/4 cup plain yogurt
5-6 finger hot peppers
3 Thai green chillies
8-10 fresh mint leaves
2 cloves of fresh garlic
1/2 inch by 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-2 tbsp jeera or cumin seeds
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
Oil for shallow frying

1. Put garlic, ginger, hot peppers, lemon juice, mint leaves, yogurt and salt to taste in the blender and blend into a chutney. This is your marinade. Taste it and adjust the tang and salt to suit your taste. Be prepared for a jolt of heat when you do this. It is quite concentrated!! Do this before you proceed to the next step. You don't want to take a chance with E.coli!
2. Put the chicken in a shallow pan and pour this mixture over it. If you are using chicken breasts, take a steak knife and make random cuts in the meat so that the marinade can permeate into the meat as much as possible.
3. Allow the chicken to marinate for about half hour or so, preferably in the refrigerator. In the meanwhile, you could cook something else to go with this. Vegetable Pulao, maybe? Or just put your feet up and gain control of the TV remote!
4. Pour oil in a flat large saucepan, just enough to coat the bottom. Heat the oil and when warm (not smoking) sprinkle the jeera (cumin seeds) all over.
5. Gently put the chicken into the oil and pour the marinade over it. You could cover the pan as the chicken cooks. It's up to you. I like to have the flavors waft into every corner of my home!!
6. Sprinkle the chicken slices with freshly ground pepper so that they are nicely coated with it.
7. Turn the chicken over to the other side, do the fresh ground pepper thing and cook until almost done.
8. Then turn the heat up and dry up all the extra sauce. You need to keep turning the chicken over to ensure that it does not burn and to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the sauce dries up, keep pasting it onto the chicken using the turner. It splutters all over the stove but, believe me, the mess is worth it as the chicken is delicious!!
9. Once there is next to no sauce in the pan, drain the chicken of excess oil by placing it on paper towels, making sure to take as much of the dried out sauce as you can. Enjoy the tangy sauce draped all over the chicken and the zesty crunch of the jeera with every bite!!

Eat this hot with pitas or by itself or with pulao.

If you have young child at home who won't appreciate the spice as much you might, you can do what I did:
- while making the chutney/marinade, I used just one hot green pepper
- I set aside some marinade for my daughter's two chicken slices
- I added the remaining hot green peppers and used that for us
- I made her chicken in a separate pan
- I also did not use fresh ground black pepper on her chicken

A cold winter. Near blizzard like conditions outside. Yum spicy jeera chicken!!

Spicy Jeera Chicken Tenders