Cocktail Idli Flowers| Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

The days are long, but the years are short.”

~ Gretchen Rubin

I think the above quote sums up parenthood (motherhood, in my case) just about perfectly. The countless sleepless nights, never-ending tantrums, spilled food, the tears that seem to come suddenly out of the blue, the endless reasoning and chastising – all of it did seem overwhelming and interminable when I went through it with the bub as a toddler. However, there were also innumerable sloppy kisses, toothless grins, tight hugs, endless cuddling up, reading, visits to the park, baby talk, playing peek-a-boo, dressing up, pretend cooking and what not. These were the good parts, which kind of balanced out the overwhelming bits.

Looking back, I wonder at just how quickly time has passed – the bub is 4 already! I remember a lot of the moments, the memories, we created together, a few of the not-so-good times too. But, really, I wonder, should I have just hugged her, cuddled her, coddled her, a little more, focused a little less on the imperfections? How long will it be before the bub is no longer a small girl, and will no longer want to be held or hugged? 😦

Toddlerhood – the time when a child is between 1 and 3 years of age – is a precious phase. This is the time when kids are at their most notorious, driving their parents up the wall every so often – yet, this is when they are at their most vulnerable and adorable best. This is also when the time when they are exploring the world around them, food included. They are slowly learning to navigate the world, understand what they like and what they don’t and, as parents, it is our duty to help them do just that. In terms of food, toddlers should be exposed to a variety of finger foods – stuff they can easily hold in their little hands and eat on their own. This has a number of benefits, from improvement in gross and fine motor co-ordination and sensory integration to improved bonding with the parents and a deeper sense of ‘home’.

This week, the theme at Foodie Monday Blog Hop is just that – #ToddlerFingerFoods, as suggested by Poonam from Annapurna. For this theme, which is super close to my heart, I decided to prepare pretty Cocktail Idli Flowers, naturally coloured mini idlis arranged into flowers. I have added pureed beetroot, carrot and spinach to home-made batter, to create three different colours of idlis. This has always been a favourite with the bub and when I made it again for her last week, she happily gorged on them all over again.

Cocktail Idli Flowers or Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

Let’s now see how to go about making these coloured mini idlis, shall we?

Ingredients (makes about 70 mini idlis of each colour):

  1. 3 cups idli batter, separated
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 10-12 large spinach (palak) leaves
  4. 1 medium-sized carrot
  5. 2 pinches of turmeric powder
  6. 1/4 of a medium-sized beetroot
  7. Fresh coriander, as needed
  8. Capsicum, cut into sticks, as needed
  9. Oil or ghee, as needed to grease idli plates

Method:

1. Take 1 cup of idli batter in three separate mixing bowls. Keep it tick, without adding any water to it.

2. Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly under running water. Ensure no mud or dirt remains on them.

3. Bring about 1 cup of water to a boil, and add in the spinach leaves. Blanch the spinach – let the leaves stay in the boiling water, on high flame, for 1 minute. Switch off gas, and transfer to a colander. Let all the water from the spinach drain away. Allow to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, peel the carrot and beetroot. Cut them into large-ish pieces, separately.

5. Pressure cook the carrot and beetroot separately, with a little water, for 3 whistles. Use very little water. Allow the pressure to release naturally.

6. When the blanched spinach has completely cooled down, chop it finely. Grind it in a small mixer, with a little water. Add the spinach puree to the idli batter in one of the mixing bowls. Add salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

7. Drain out the water from the cooked beetroot. Chop finely. Grind to a puree in a mixer, using very little water. Mix the beetroot puree to the idli batter in the second ball, along with salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

8. Similarly, drain out the water from the cooked carrot. Chop it finely, and grind to a puree using a little water. Add the carrot puree to the idli batter in the third mixing bowl. Add salt to taste and turmeric powder. Mix well. Keep aside.

fb_img_1543382921719-01-0116911840.jpeg
When idli batter looks so pretty!

9. Grease mini idli plates with oil or ghee and keep ready.

10. Spoon a little idli batter into each cavity of the greased plate, one colour at a time. Steam for 12 minutes. Allow to cool down a bit and then remove the cooked idlis.

11. Arrange the idlis in the shape of flowers on a serving plate, warm or at room temperature. Decorate them with sticks of capsicum and fresh coriander. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Don’t add any water to the idli batter. Keep it thick, since you will be adding pureed vegetables to it later.

2. You may add a little ginger and green chilly paste to the batter too. I haven’t.

3. While chopping the cooked veggies and pureeing them, make sure the colours don’t mix. Do the chopping and grinding one vegetable at a time, washing the knife and mixer thoroughly in between uses.

4. Since we are grinding very small quantities of veggies here, use the smallest jar of the mixer.

5. Add very little water while grinding the cooked veggies, otherwise the batter will become runny and the idlis will not turn out well.

6. You can serve these mini idlis with sambar, chutney or podi of your choice, but they don’t really need any accompaniment.

7. I have used a gas-based mini idli cooker to steam these colourful idlis. It is a time-consuming and laborious affair, indeed, to make them, but the end result is totally worth it. You may use ordinary idli plates with big cavities to steam the idlis instead, too.

8. Don’t steam the idlis for any more than 12 minutes. First, let the water in the idli cooker base come to a boil, then place the plates with the idlis on, and cook for exactly 12 minutes. More than this, and the idlis stand a chance of becoming hard.

9. You may add a couple of pinches of baking soda or Eno Fruit Salt (plain) to the batter, just before steaming. I haven’t.

10. Allow the steamed idlis to cool down slightly before removing them. Otherwise, they’ll be too sticky and might lose their shape.

11. 70 idlis of each colour might seem like a very large number, but I’m talking about very small, ‘baby’ idlis here. An adult can easily have 20 of these at a go, at the very least.

12. Any leftover mini idlis can be made into a stir-fry or upma the next day.

***********

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is #ToddlerFingerFoods.

I’m also sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #253. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles

The Montessori school my daughter goes to follows a lovely system for snack time. One set of parents send snacks for all the 12-odd children in their child’s class, every day. The snacks are supposed to be home-made and healthy. There’s a rotation system in place, ensuring every parent gets a turn once a month. I love how this system exposes kids to tastes beyond those of their homes, how this brings about a learning of what foods each kid favours. Yes, there are a few pitfalls to this system too, but I think the advantages far outweigh them. Why am I talking about this? Because the recipe I’m going to share today – Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles – came about because of this snack system.

The bub returned all happy from school one day, having discovered a new-found love for vegetable noodles. This surprised me, because she had been used to only South Indian snacks – idlis, dosas, pongal and the like – before then. This instance made me pour more thought into what I cooked for her, to get my creative juices flowing, to experiment wildly, to come up with healthy yet satisfying and delicious meals for her. To me, ‘noodles’ had always meant a sauce- and oil- and calorie-laden dish, but this instance had me thinking up ways to make them healthy, yet finger-lickingly good. A few trials and errors later, these fusion Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles were born, something that is now a regular at our table and is much loved.

I make this dish using wheat noodles, with no sauces or any other bottled products. Just a hint of home-made garam masala and freshly ground black pepper add oomph to the noodles, as does the bit of raw cane sugar I put in. Further, I fortify the noodles with loads of veggies. Lots of yum, the simple, healthy and desi way!

Here’s how I make these Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  1. 150 grams hakka noodles
  2. A small piece of cabbage
  3. 1 small carrot
  4. 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
  5. About 3 large florets of cauliflower
  6. 5-6 beans
  7. 1 small onion
  8. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  9. Salt, to taste
  10. 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon oil
  11. 2 generous pinches of black pepper powder
  12. 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  13. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Method:

  1. Fill a pan about 3/4 with water, place it on high heat and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Break the noodles and add them to the boiling water. Let the noodles cook on medium flame till they are soft, but not overly mushy (al dente).
  2. At this stage, switch off the gas and transfer all the noodles to a colander placed in the kitchen sink. Immediately run cold water over the noodles, to stop the cooking process. Let the noodles rest, and let all the water drain away.
  3. Meanwhile, we will prepare the veggies that we need to make the noodles. Peel the carrot and remove strings from the beans. Chop the onions, capsicum and cabbage length-wise. Chop the coriander, carrot and beans finely. Chop the cauliflower florets into medium-sized pieces. Keep the veggies aside.
  4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add in the chopped onion, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot and beans. Add a bit of salt and a pinch of black pepper powder. Cook on medium flame till the veggies are cooked, but still retain a bit of a crunch. Stir constantly, to ensure that the veggies do not get burnt.
  5. Now, add the cooked and drained noodles to the veggies in the pan. Add some more salt, one more pinch of black pepper powder, the garam masala and the raw cane sugar. Mix thoroughly, but gently. Let everything cook together for a couple of minutes. Switch off gas.
  6. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Serve piping hot, on its own or with a bit of tomato ketchup drizzled on top.

Notes:

1. I used 1 packet of Ching’s hakka noodles, which is equal to 150 grams. They are, apparently, made of wheat as opposed to the regular maida-based noodles.

2. Since I was cooking this for the bub, I have avoided using any kind of sauce. You may add green/red chilli sauce, tomato ketchup and/or soya sauce, if you want to. You might want to skip the sugar in that case, since the tomato ketchup has added sugar too.

3. I have used garam masala and coriander here, for an Indian touch, and we absolutely love it. If you are using sauces, you can skip these two ingredients.

4. These vegetable noodles taste great if the salt is just a tad on the higher side. However, be careful while adding the salt, so as not to make the noodles overly salty.

5. Adjust the quantity of pepper powder you use, to suit personal taste preferences.

6. You can use any veggies that you have on hand, to make these vegetable noodles. I have skipped adding ginger-garlic paste here, but you could add it in as well.

7. Make sure the noodles are cooked al dente, before adding them to the veggies. Remember that the noodles will cook some more with the veggies. Overcooking the noodles will lead to a mushy end result, which might not taste great.

You like? I hope you will try out this recipe, and that you will love it too! Do let me know your thoughts, in the comments.

***********

I’m sending this to Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Pussycat Dosa| Food Art For Kids

You eat first with your eyes,’ some wise person once said, and just how true is that! Well-presented food has a huge impact on building one’s appetite, making one want to eat the said food.

Food art, or the artistic presentation of food, is more than just building appetite in the diner. It is a way of creating drama on a plate, of letting imagination run wild, of creating masterpieces on a blank plate. It is a way of having fun as a cook, and making sure the diner has some too.

I think it is very important, though, to make sure the food that is presented very beautifully tastes equally good as well. It is all too easy to get caught up in the task of always presenting beautiful platters, so caught up that it doesn’t matter how tasty or healthy the food is. All show and no substance – that is just not the way to go, in my humble opinion. There are too many high-end restaurants losing track of the balance between healthy, tasty and beautiful, these days, a sad state of affairs.

Why am I talking so much about food art today? Well, because ‘Food Art’ is the theme for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop this week. I am no high-flying artist, food or otherwise, but I did try out a very simple Pussycat Dosa for the theme and absolutely loved the experience! The bub loved the dosa and could recognise the pussycat figure (though I think it looks a little like a monster, in hindsight), so I’m happy. And I think this little experiment in food art has put me on a new track – now, I so want to continue doing this, building beautiful plates with the simple food that I cook at home, to bring some drama into our kitchen! Wait and watch! 🙂

So, here’s the sort of Pussycat Dosa that I made for the theme.

foodart

Let me tell you how I went about making this plate, now.

Ingredients (for one pussy cat dosa):

  1. Dosa batter, as required
  2. About 2 tablespoons of cooked kidney beans aka rajma
  3. A few pieces of pineapple
  4. A couple of pieces of capsicum
  5. 2 kernels of sweet corn
  6. A small piece of carrot
  7. Salt, to taste
  8. Red chilli powder, to taste
  9. A dash of roasted cumin (jeera) powder
  10. About 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon oil

Method:

  1. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a pan. Add in the cooked kidney beans, the corn kernels, and the carrot and capsicum pieces. Add in salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder to taste. Saute on medium flame till the carrot, corn and capsicum turn slightly tender, just a couple of minutes. Make sure the kidney beans are all evenly coated with the salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder. Switch off gas and keep aside.
  2. Heat a dosa pan until droplets of water dance on it. Then, lower the flame to medium. Make a medium-sized circle in the centre of the pan, then make a smaller circle exactly above it – the pussy cat’s belly and head, respectively. Make ears and a tail for the pussy cat out of the batter. Spread 1/2 teaspoon oil around the dosa. Cook on medium flame till the dosa browns at the bottom, then flip over and cook on the other side till done. Transfer the pussy cat dosa to a colourful serving plate.
  3. Shape the pussy cat’s eyes out of the sauteed corn kernels.
  4. Pinch the cooked carrot piece to make a smiling mouth out of it, and place it below the eyes.
  5. Place the cooked kidney beans below the pussy cat dosa.
  6. Fashion a small flower out of the pieces of capsicum and pineapple, adjacent to the pussy cat.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. I have used home-made dosa batter to make this dish. You can use multi-grain batter, adai batter or multi-millet batter as well.
  2. I have used whatever ingredients I had, handy, to create this dish. You can let your imagination run loose and use the ingredients you have lying around in your pantry, too!

Do let me know how you liked this Pussycat Dosa, and if you’d like to see more such food art for kids on my blog. I’m no expert, I’ll repeat, but, hey, I promise to try my best!

***************

Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Food Art’.

Healthy Walnut Laddoo| Kid-Friendly 3-Ingredient Recipe

These healthy laddoos are my mother’s attempt to get the bub to eat walnuts aka akhrot, which are supposedly laden with health benefits. The bub refuses to eat walnuts, but she will at least sample these laddoos whenever the mood strikes her. 🙂 Her mommy and daddy love them, so finishing them up is never an issue. 😛

Healthy walnut laddoos are a breeze to make, and require just three ingredients – walnuts, raw cane sugar, and a bit of ghee. They have the goodness of walnuts in them (and the teeny-weeny bit of ghee you put in!). Free of refined sugar, they are an easy-peasy snack to make for kids, especially ones that have a sweet tooth!

030

Here is how to make these healthy walnut laddoos.

Ingredients (makes about 6 medium-sized laddoos):

  1. 1/2 cup walnut kernels
  2. Raw cane sugar, slightly less than 1/2 cup
  3. About 1 teaspoon ghee
  4. 2 cardamom (elaichi) pods (optional)

Method:

  1. Add the walnut kernels, raw cane sugar and ghee to a small mixer jar.
  2. If using cardamom, open the pods and add the kernels to the mixer jar too.
  3. Crush everything to a fine powder in the mixer.
  4. Grease your hands lightly and shape balls (laddoos) out of the mixture. That’s about it!

Notes:

  1. A mix of cashewnuts, almonds and walnuts can also be used to make the laddoos.
  2. Jaggery, coconut palm sugar or dates are some other substitues that can be used in place of raw cane sugar, here.
  3. A couple of drops of vanilla essence can be added in place of the cardamom.

You like? I hope you will try out these easy and healthy walnut laddoos too, and that you will love them as much as we do!

*********************

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘3-ingredient recipes’.

Foodie Monday Blog Hop

Ahmedabad, after ages

So, so, so, that long-pending trip to Ahmedabad finally happened! On New Year’s day, the husband got confirmation for a work trip to Ahmedabad, and he asked if the bub and I would accompany us. We did just that, flight tickets were booked, and we were off the very next day – as simple as that. After 6 long years, I finally visited the place where I grew up, and it happened Just.Like.That!

Did I find traces of the city I loved so much or has it changed drastically?

Read on, to find out!