Lunch Box series – Kids Delight Event and a pretty Giveaway!

I am delighted and quite frankly nervous hosting the “Kid’s Delight” event this month that runs from May 16th to June 15th. The “Kids Delight” event is the brainchild of Srivalli, author of Spicingyourlife and Cookingforallseasons. The Kids Delight event is all about foods that kids will love to eat. The theme this month is Lunch-box. There is nothing more interesting to me than planning lunch boxes. I am on a mission to compile everybody’s lunch box favourites in one place and I am looking to you guys – readers and bloggers for recipes, ideas, tips and tricks for this Kids lunch box theme. There is a giveaway too! My closing thoughts every night before I doze off are of food – breakfast and most importantly lunch box. You want to know what moms think (maybe you don’t). “What do I pack for lunch tomorrow?” That’s the number one thing on my mind and most other moms’ minds. Starting June, Hasini would be carrying lunch to school too. I’d better get my act together. I am already amassing a small “lunch-box museum” worth of different types of lunch boxes so that I have back-up when the regular box is dirty and mainly because I am a “dabba” fanatic. In Keeping with the “dabba” theme, the giveaway is a stylish slim dual coloured Tupperware lunch box that can fit into schoolbags or handbags even. I love the purple and pink colours of this box. To win this pretty lunch box, all you have to do is send in your best lunch-box recipes to me by e-mail (just mail me the link to your post). or by linking to the linky tool at the bottom of the page. The winner will be selected at random from all the entries. A storehouse of lunch box recipes would be invaluable to harried moms who are at their wits ends deciding what to pack for their little gourmets. The rules of this event are simple: 1.      The event runs from 16th May to 15th June. You can send in your “lunch-box” entries (any number of them) anytime during this period. Link them using the linky tool below or just e-mail me (foodbetterbegood.jayanthi@gmail.com) the link to your post.  2.      You’ll have to link to this page and Srivalli’s page in your post. 3.      Archived posts are also accepted (again no cap on number of posts). However, you’ll have to update...

Lemon Rice

Lemon rice is the warhorse of packed lunches, our family’s (every south-indian family’s) saviour during morning rush-hour cooking and a regular in the weekly menu. Simply because, lemon rice is super quick to make, keeps well and tastes great at room temperature. I remember when I was young, Lemon rice was the number one item to take during travelling. We’d just buy a huge packet of potato chips to eat it along with and what a lovely combination it was. Fresh, zesty lemon rice and crunchy potato chips – simple yet delicious! However diverse our joint familyis, if there’s one thing everybody agrees on, it is lemon rice. Everybody enjoys lemon rice including the kids. So if you’re travelling, are rushed for time or just feeling lazy (check out my somberi series,specially for somberis) – make lemon rice and serve with potato chips and a hot varuval (yam/karunai kizhangu fry or Arbi/seppankezhangu fry). Perfect! Coriander leaves not pictured here. Cannot believe I photographed without them. But trust me, they’re crucial. Prep time: 5 minsCooking time: 5 minsServes: 5 Ingredients Lemon juice – from 2 large lemonsCooked Rice – 4 cupsTurmeric powder – ½ tspMinced ginger – 1 tbspCurry leaves – 2 stemsGreen chillies – 3 slit lengthwisePeanuts – a handfulMustard seeds – ½ tspJeera/Seeragam/Cumin seeds – 1 tspSunflower Oil – 3 tbspSalt to tasteCoriander leaves – a handful chopped for garnishing Method 1.      Cook rice and let cool completely. 2.      In a small pan, add oil and when hot, add the mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Then add the cumin and fry for half a minute. Add the minced ginger, curry leaves and slit green chillies and peanuts and fry for 2 minutes. Add turmeric powder and salt and mix well. Switch off after a minute. Pour in the freshly squeezed lemon juice and mix well. 3.      Pour this lemon mixture over the rice and gently mix it up till all the rice is evenly coated and you see no white grains of rice. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with a hot curry and potato chips or appalam. Notes 1.      Make sure rice is totally cool before mixing in the lemon mixture or the rice will break. 2.      Always switch off before pouring in the lemon juice or it can taste bitter. 3.      You can substitute cashew nuts for the peanuts. 4.      The fresh coriander adds wonderful crunch...

Baby Corn & Peas pulav

I love pulav because it’s a no-fuss, easy one-pot meal that is ready in just under half an hour. No sambar, rasam and a dozen other accompaniments. I made this baby corn and peas pulav with Seeraga Samba rice which is the rice they use in Thalapakatti biryani. It’s not as long as the basmati rice but it has wonderful flavour and aroma which makes it a great choice for biryanis and pulavs. I served this pulav along with roasted baby potatoes. I am sending this to Blogging Marathon #33 for the theme Fiction with Food. Pulavs and biryanis are nowadays my go-to dishes for weekend lunches. But I once made a biryani, a horrendous biryani that my friends would remember even now. The story today is the making of that horrendous biryani. I’d not cooked for large numbers (around 7-8 people is not large at all now, but it was then) before and I’d never made biryani before. We were in Bangalore then and we had invited our friends over for lunch. This was during my early married days. Among the friends was a vegetarian as well. My menu was this – Carrot Halwa, Vegetable biryani, Aloo Jeera, Chicken biryani, raita and boiled eggs. Everything went wrong that day. We started late and we had only the dessert ready by the time our friends arrived. So we served the carrot halwa first. Carrot Halwa was fantastic though. While my friends chatted away wondering if I’d serve lunch for dinner, I struggled with the biryani. I was all the while on the phone clarifying measurements with my mom. Instead of doing the whole thing in a pressure cooker, I’d chosen to boil the rice halfway through and then mix it with the masala. As I’d feared, I’d overcooked the rice and when I combined the hot rice with the masala I was left with biryani bisibele bath. My hungry friends had no choice but to eat it but they had a hearty laugh. I’d managed to screw up the eggs as well. They were misshapen and overcooked. My friend asked me which chicken had laid such strange eggs. They’d have a mild heart attack if they knew I am writing a food blog now. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 5-7 Ingredients Baby Corn – 200 gm chopped into bite sized oblong piecesPeas – 200 gmSeeraga Samba Rice/Basmati rice/Long...

Sweet Corn Fried rice

Sweet corn fried rice is a kid-favourite rice dish that is easy to put together (if you forget the vegetable chopping part for a minute) and would make a great main dish for a kid’s get-together. The adults will enjoy it just as much. The best thing about fried rice is that you can put in just about anything you fancy – mushrooms, peas, paneer, bean sprouts, shredded chicken, chopped up fried eggs or anything else and it’ll rarely disappoint you. When you are making fried rice in big batches like I did here, it is best to switch off the stove, combine the rice and vegetables and then heat through for a few minutes to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan and lots of scraping and stirring which would again break the rice. If you are doing in small batches, you can do this real time in a wok and even toss them around like they do in the fast food joints which would render that nice smoky flavour. A wok with a long handle is on my wish-list for some-time now. If I did get one I don’t know where I’d put it. The kitchen is already bursting at its seams with pots, kadais, sattis and gundaans. The kadais are already piled one atop another, masala dabbas in 3 lines and a another line stacked on top, the microwave oven stowed away in the loft and my convection oven and baking paraphernalia moved to a separate room. I think we should start using up the head room like they do in airplanes and trains (upper, middle and lower berths). Lower berth is full, middle is where we operate and half the counter is anyway occupied already. Upper berth is what we should target going forward. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 6-7 Ingredients Sweet corn – 300 gmLong grained rice/basmati rice – 3 cupsCarrots – 2 finely choppedGreen beans – 200 gm finely choppedGreen Capsicum – 1 finely choppedYellow capsicum – 1 finely choppedOnions – 2 large finely choppedGarlic – 6 cloves – finely mincedSpring onions – 3-4 chopped fine – whites and greens separatedSoy sauce – 2 tbspSugar – 1 tspWhite pepper powder/Black pepper powder – 2 tbsp (adjust)Salt to tasteOil – 2 tbsp + 3 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse the rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear....

Tomato Pulav

This tomato Pulav is a simple aromatic one-pot meal perfect for week-days, lunch boxes or for lazy vegetarian Saturday lunches as well. I used regular par-boiled rice instead of basmati rice which is just as well; it’s healthier and easier on the tummy. I make it in a pressure cooker, so it is done in minutes. The rice cooks in a lovely coconut milk broth scented by ghee roasted fennel seeds and soft tomatoes. Finish by garnishing with a generous amount of freshly chopped coriander. I served this alongside Vazhapoo vadai (coming soon). You could serve this pulav with any raita or spicy gravy. At home we cycle through this Tomato Pulav once a week and it is a firm lunch box favourite as it is dry and keeps well. It’s a great option for kids as it is tasty and flavourful without being too hot or spicy. It’s the coconut milk that does the trick. I love using coconut milk in pulavs, biryanis and gravies. It is a magic ingredient that lends a lovely mellow flavour to the dish. We use coconuts almost daily in our cooking (No, we’re not from Kerala) and we happen to have coconut trees in our backyard. We’ve never bought coconuts from stores; we always had our own coconuts. If you have coconut trees at home, you’ve probably had those little disputes every year with your neighbours complaining about the falling coconuts. We have these disputes every year even though we have them picked quite regularly. It’s a small price to pay for all the wonderful things you can make out of coconut. If you don’t have coconut trees, plant a sapling today. Just make sure to have the coconuts picked every half year or so and you’re good. You’ll have a lifetime of free coconuts and ready ammunition for pesky neighbours. Even without coconut trees, my father never gets along with any of his neighbours. So I gave him a couple of coconut tree saplings. He can now spite his annoying neighbours and leave the coconuts unpicked all year round. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Par-boiled rice or raw rice – 2 cups soaked in water for 1 hourCoconut milk – extracted from 1 whole coconut (about 2-3 cups)Tomatoes – 3 choppedOnions – 2 medium chopped fineFennel seeds – 1 tspGreen chilli – 2 slit lengthwiseGround Masala – 1...

Curry leaf rice – Karuveppilai Saadham

Karuveppilai saadham or curry leaf rice is another lunch box favourite. Curry leaf rice is a great way to incorporate curry leaves into your diet which otherwise is usually discarded as a well-meaning nuisance. The grated coconut adds texture and the whole black peppercorns give the dish a good punch. Curry leaf rice goes brilliantly well with spicy vegetables (like potato masala) and potato chips. I got especially excited about curry leaf rice when I was a new mother. Karuveppilai is great for lactating mothers, did you know that? Along with garlic, almonds, oats, fenugreek (methi greens or methi seeds), karuvaadu (dried fish), Avarakkai (broad beans), Sura (shark, not the vijay movie – that’s bad for anybody), raw groundnuts and of course milk. This is a great list for new moms to have. In my opinion, it is THE MOST — USEFUL list in the first 6 months after childbirth, even more than the “Top 10 nursery decorating ideas” or “Top 10 accessories new moms should buy”. Those first few months are really stressful when your little one is wailing all the time and everybody looks accusingly at the mother as if she is just not producing enough (Delhi Erumai a enna?). And new mothers are already psyched out by this time by all the advice that’s being hurled at them. A breast pump only makes it worse (even though it is very useful for working mothers). It lets you see exactly how much there is. It becomes a milk meter that you monitor every time to see if you’ve out-scored, if you’ve met the targets. Supply improves tremendously everytime you have karuveppilai saadham/curry leaf rice or any of the other items on this list. This list of “Top 10 foods for lactating mothers” is courtesy my really cool athai who also happens to be my gynaecologist. She was my mother’s too. She is old-school but totally up-to-date, she doesn’t schedule her patients’ C-sections on her outlook calendar, she still waits for it the natural way, she doesn’t suggest surgery or master check-ups for a late period, she doesn’t charge you your ancestral property, you don’t have to wait 4 hours and be checked by assistants before meeting her, she doesn’t baffle you and she doesn’t give the doctor’s talk (like in the famous space shuttle named busspital (hospital purely for business = busspital) where they sit you down, talk very nicely...

Peas Pulav

Peas pulav is an elegant, delicious one-pot meal, fragrant and gorgeous. It tastes as good as it looks – pristine white perfectly long rice grains specked with fresh green peas and ever so lightly caramelized onions. Scrumptious! Pulav is relatively simple, the coconut milk is the only point that stops me from calling it a somberi recipe. Other than the coconut milk extraction there is no major prep work involved. You could just as easily make this for a weekday lunch. Perfect for lunch boxes too. To me, Pulav or even biryani is any day quicker than sambar. And while we are on Sambar, people tell me how often do you make sambar at home (Jaya TV Jackpot question)? Once a week minimum to 2 or even 3 times a week in my case. Once a week is fine. But anything more and I get cranky. In churning meal after meal every day for so many years I think women (I didn’t say any particular group, please make your own assumptions, imagine as desired) get into this mind-numbingly boring programmed menu routine. Friday means Sambar, Ammavasai also Sambar, other festivals – Sambar. Sambar comes with its own baggage. Sambar has to be had with potato thokku (spicy Potato side dish) – compulsory. Hero’s mother has to be Saranya. Formula Menus – formula meals. One day when we didn’t make Sambar and didn’t make Kozhambu either (another formula: Milagu kozhambu + Cabbage kootu = Aala vidu da vegetarian Saturday), I made Peas pulav! I served Peas pulav with crisp deep fried cauliflower (coming soon). Pulav is also a kid-pleasing rice dish that is sure to tempt even the picky eaters. So go ahead and break the Sambar routine. Preparation time: 15 mins Cooking time: 15 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Basmati Rice or any long grain rice – 1 – 1/2 cupsGreen Peas – 3/4 cup Coconut milk – extracted from 1 small coconut (approximately 1 – 1/2 cups)Double beans – a handful (optional, I added because I like them)Onion – 1 large sliced fineGreen chillies – 1-2 slit lengthwiseGarlic – 4-5 pods sliced roughlyFennel seeds (sombu) – 1 tspCloves – 3 Cardamom – 1Cinnamon – 1 inch pieceStar anise – 1 small pieceKalpaasi (sea weed) – 1/2 tsp (optional)Bay leaf – 1Water – as requiredSalt to tasteOil – 2 tbspGhee – 2 tbsp + 1 tbspSugar – a pinchCoriander leaves – a...

Egg Fried Rice

Egg fried rice is super simple if you already have cooked rice. If you don’t, it’s not too bad. It’s just one extra step but important point is to let the rice cool down completely before using it in the fried rice as hot rice tends to break easily, stick and lump up. Another important point is to use a non-stick skillet or a well-seasoned iron wok so that the rice doesn’t stick. Rest is a breeze. This was one of the first dishes that I cooked for my husband when I was still an apprentice and he loved it. I am still an apprentice (apperecent – vadivelu style) of course, I live in a joint family remember. I am a senior apprentice now, allowed to cook for the entire family after getting the menu approved, decide the chutney and fry vadais under casual unintentional supervision. I am a great fan of Chinese and Thai food and fried rice is a firm favourite at home. It is a kid-pleaser too. Fried rice is best served with a Chinese style gravy (Pepper chicken or Chilli vegetables?). Of late Chinese take-out tastes terrible. So bad, that our chicken-crazy dog refused to eat the chicken lollipop. And stay away from the Chinese restaurant buffets. They are even worse. You can use this fried rice recipe base and vary it numerous ways. Omit the egg to make vegetable fried rice or add chicken to make chicken fried rice. You can vary the seasoning too. I will be posting some of those variations and the Chinese style gravy sometime soon.   Ingredients Long grain rice – 1 -1/2 cups cooked Eggs – 3Onion – 1 large chopped fineCarrot – 1 small chopped fineGreen Beans – 5-7 chopped fineGreen Peas – a handfulGarlic – 4 chopped fineWhite pepper powder – 2 tsp + pinchSoy sauce – 1-1/2 tspVinegar – 1 tspSalt to tasteOil – 5 tbspSpring onions – 2 chopped fine (only the green portion)                                 Method 1.      Rice chilled for 4-5 hours is ideal. If you’re short of time, cook rice and spread out on a wide plate to cool. Then transfer the cooled rice to a bowl and refrigerate till you use. 2.      To cook rice, soak basmati rice/long grain rice in water for an hour or more, boil 3 cups water in a pot and add soaked rice to the boiling water. Wait till...

Gooseberry rice/Nellikkai Rice – Lunch box alternative

What women think? What’s the latest fall/winter collection going to be? Should I buy Gucci or Mochi or Adda-chi? How can I vilify my mother in law/daughter in law? Is my hair falling too much? Wrong! Except maybe the last one. They don’t think any of these crappy things that TV shows or beauty parlour magazines (I don’t know if people actually buy these magazines) would have you think. What real women actually think – “What do I pack for lunch tomorrow?” I am not fully into the lunch-box grind yet as my kids are yet to start full-time school (the elder one will start June this year)but I already have a fair idea how it’s going to look like. My husband is the biggest kid, and he is so picky that most dishes are ruled out and I have to work within a very small circle. This small circle includes variety rice dishes – seasoned rice that is dry and tastes just as good when not hot. The Nellikkai rice/Gooseberry rice that I am posting today is a new twist on the usual lemon/coconut rice dishes and is a clever way to incorporate gooseberry into your food. Unlike the raw Nellikkai, the Nellikkai rice doesn’t taste cringingly sour, it tastes tangy, nutty and wonderfully fresh. You can serve nellikkai rice paired with a spicy curry like the eggplant pepper masala that I posted earlier. It is a great lunch box option as well. Gooseberry has so many health benefits – strengthens hair, improves eye-sight, helps control diabetes and cholesterol, strengthens heart, builds resistance against infection and so much more that it makes sense to make gooseberry part of your regular diet. Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time: 10 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Gooseberry/Nellikkai – 7 big ones pitted and gratedPeanuts – a handfulGinger – 1 inch peeled and mincedGreen chilli – 2 slit lengthwiseMustard seeds – 1 tspSplit Black gram dal/Urad dal – 2 tspJeera/Cumin seeds – 1 tspCurry leaves – 1 stemOil – 2 tbspSalt to tasteCoriander leaves – a handful for garnishingCooked Rice – 4 cups Method 1.      Heat oil in a kadai and when hot add mustard seeds. Let splutter. Drop in the peanuts and fry till they colour. 2.      Then add urad dal, cumin, curry leaves, minced ginger and green chillies and sauté till the urad dal starts colouring. 3.      Throw in the grated nellikkai/gooseberry, add salt...
vegetable bath

Vegetable bath – Kid friendly Tiffen

This vegetable bath is a delightful cross between a pulao and a kichdi in that it is made with rava (Semolina) which is gently simmered in coconut milk rendering a wonderfully flavourful one-pot meal that little ones and adults are sure to like.   Vegetable bath My husband (mostly non-vegetarian fussy eater) and my son (fussy eater no matter what) both leave clean plates which is usually a good sign. It is delicious, healthy and versatile. It uses minimal oil and you can add most vegetables into it. It is not an upma mind you, after all the effort that’s gone into it. Give a rap on the knuckle with your karandi if someone calls it an upma. It is much more than that. It is a vegetable bath.  Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time 25 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Bansi rava (Broken wheat semolina) – 1 cup Bombay rava (Fine white semolina) – 1 cupCarrot diced – 1 medium sizedGreen Beans diced – 1/2 cupGreen peas – 1/2 cupPotatoes diced -1 medium sized dicedOnion – 1 large chopped fineTomato – 1 large choppedGinger – 1 inch piece peeledGarlic – 6-8 podsCoconut extract from 1 medium coconut – around 2 cupsGreen chilli (optional) – 1 or 2 slit lengthwiseTurmeric – ½ tspSaunf – ½ tspCloves – 2 or 3Cinnamon – 2 inch pieceGhee – 1 tbspOil – 1 tbsp + 1 tsp (optional)Coriander leaves for garnishing – a handfulSalt to taste Method 1.      Dry roast both rava together in a large kadai (skillet) for 2-3 mins until heated through. The rava doesn’t have to turn brown. Remove from fire before the rava starts to colour. Set aside. 2.      Grind the ginger and garlic together to a paste with a little water. 3.      In a kadai, add ghee and oil on medium flame. Once the oil is hot, add saunf, cloves and cinnamon, let fry till fragrant, half a minute or so. 4.      Add the chopped onions and stir. When the onions turn translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and let fry for around 2 minutes. Now stir in the ginger garlic paste and fry for 1-2 minutes till the raw smell disappears. 5.      Toss in the chopped vegetables – carrots, beans, potaoes, peas along with the green chillies if using. Add turmeric powder and stir. Let the vegetables fry for 3-4 minutes. Stir around so that the vegetables don’t burn. 6.      When...
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