Cheesy potato tomato sandwich

The day I work out, I feel I am obligated to have that Cadbury or eat Queen’s toffee at Ibaco. As compensation. And like that, I maintain status quo, never missing a chance to level it off. The other day after I’d done my 5 minute plank routine in 2 minutes and was resting face down, sprawled on the floor I discovered my long lost pen under the bed, a couple of hot wheels cars under the wooden almirah, Hasini’s time-table sheet, a comb, hair pins and a pencil. I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply and pretended I’d not seen any of it. I couldn’t interrupt my 10-minute rest time. I couldn’t crawl under, on my elbows and knees; that would be too much work.     I remember to not take the lift at office, I take the stairs. And when I take the stairs at office, I feel I must eat the masala vadai at tea time. I’ve become somewhat of an expert on energy conservation. I realize I am trying hard to maintain status quo. I am afraid of change. I realize I need to meet it head on. But I don’t trust myself. I cannot trust myself to add a touch of cheese, I will smother in cheese like I did with this cheesy potato tomato sandwich. I cannot indulge responsibly, I cannot eat a small square of chocolate. I have to compulsively finish that bar of chocolate. I cannot exercise portion control with biryani. Can anyone? So I joined a gym yesterday. I wanted to hand myself over to the instructor, tell him to work me all-out no matter what I say later, no matter the excuses I give. It was his duty to reduce me by 1/6th. I didn’t want to scare him the first day. I kept my mouth shut. This cheesy potato tomato sandwich is one of those healthy sandwiches that turned out a bit cheesy. If you’re master of your will, you can leave out the cheese. But I wouldn’t recommend that. Nevermind my recommendation if you are master of your will. I smear a thin layer of green chutney spread on bread slices, arrange sliced onions, sliced tomatoes and boiled, sliced potatoes, season with salt and pepper and top with a dash of cheese. I slather (you can lightly brush if you like) butter on both sides of the sandwich...

Lunch-Box Event Round-up

Did you notice how it’s un-characteristically pleasant here in Chennai (not counting the oppressive humidity just before the rains)? It’s been raining on and off the past week and even yesterday. Nothing like rain to lift the spirits. I really don’t understand these Brits always complaining about overcast skies. We love our rains. We celebrate rains. Our heroines wait for the rains to break into a dance (Oho Megam Vanthadho – Mouna Ragam – Classic, Vaan Megham – Punnagai Mannan – Another Classic. I love love this movie and every Balachander movie). Why not? If only I knew a few more moves, I’d dance too instead of land on my bum like l did last time trying to kick-splash some water on Chinnu. I’ve been busy doing nothing. I slept in the past couple of weeks because there was no Tennis class to wake up for. I’ve been lazy, not done much cooking or writing but I’ve been very very busy as well. I can be lazy and busy at the same time. Can you? I’ve now been packing Hasini’s lunch box for more than a month and I dare say I’ve mastered it. I’ve learnt a few neat tricks and a lot of cheat tricks along the way and I’ll share them on my blog for the benefit of other lazy moms. I really do think the “Lunch-box” topic is absolutely crucial for our economy and I need to have a dedicated space on Foodbetterbegood for this topic and I’ll update the space periodically. For starters I’ve rounded up some really yummy lunch box treats from several of my blogger friends in this post. This lunch-box theme of Kid’s Delight event (Srivalli‘s idea) happened in May this year. I’ll need to thank all my blogger friends who sent in their lunch box recipes to the event. Most of the recipes are now on my to-try list. I am sure they’ll become your kiddo’s favourites too. Steer away from the usual and give these recipes a shot. This lunch-box round-up includes all the usual kiddie favourites of noodles, grilled sandwiches and Thayir sadam plus a variety of variety rices, paniyarams and stuffed parathas. I hope these recipes inspire you to create some delicious lunch-boxes. After all, an empty lunch-box is the best compliment to lunch-packing moms. I hope these lunch-box ideas bring you lots of empty, licked clean lunch-boxes. Not to...

Vegetable stuffed Somas

It is finally raining here in Chennai and my kids are sound asleep already. It’s such a pretty sight the two things and together it’s almost poetic. I am left strangely unoccupied and free and for a moment I didn’t know what to do. Confused, I called up a couple of numbers but none of them picked up. I could watch TV, cook, bake, read or write. I chose to write. It’s been raining all over Tamil Nadu but not in Chennai. It finally rained today. So tomorrow morning’s Tennis class is Ooooo (Ooooo in Chennai Tamil is “gone”, “game over”). But did I tell you that these days I wake up before 6 am everyday, Tennis class or not. Yeah, it’s a medical miracle. I don’t know if Kochadaiyan’s advice (“Suriyan ku mun yezhundhu kol Suzhiyaniye jeipaai”) had anything to do with it. But I am changed.  Every night I prep for next day’s breakfast and lunch, box them and shove them into the refrigerator – chopped vegetables for curries and poriyals, grated coconut and sautéed onions for chutnies, boiled potatoes with skin for potato fry, peeled garlic, finely minced ginger, sautéed pureed gravy bases for gravies and curries and anything else I can prep beforehand without worrying about it getting spoilt. Next morning as soon as I am up, I pull out all my boxes from the fridge and start them all off – grind, temper, sauté and have them cooking while I run back and get a kicking Hasini out of bed and ready for Tennis class. By the time we leave for Tennis, they’re all almost done. We rush back from Tennis, shower, dress, eat and rush to school just a few minutes late as always. That is again a miracle how we always seem to arrive at that time irrespective of how packed or totally empty our mornings are. The few mins after the bell seems to be our steady state. I feel like a super-efficient, mean machine like a fighter bomber – planning and prepping the previous night, cooking and packing Hasini’s lunch, taking her to tennis class, readying Hasini and little Yuvi for school and finally dropping them off. The bombs are dropped. Mission accomplished. By the time I reach office, I am done. What Iittle is left, my boss finishes off for me. I made these vegetable stuffed somas on one of...

Milagu Rice

To tell you the truth, variety rices make me angry. They’re depressing, especially if you carry packed lunches every day to school or office. At our home, Lemon rice will most definitely make an appearance every week, mostly Mondays when we’re rushed and unprepared for the work week. Rest of the days I find myself staring at Tamarind rice, Tomato rice or Karuveppillai rice in my lunch box. Variety rices may be okay on a couple of conditions (3 conditions, but anything more than one we call “a couple”). 1.      Either the side dishes are stellar enough to punch above the weight of the variety rice (what happens when you try to be a food-blogger and work full-time? – you use bullshit phrases in your writing and jot menu notes/ideas during calls) OR 2.      You’ve got potato chips (or my potato vathals). Anything tastes good with potato chips. OR 3.      You’ve got some variety in your variety rice. What I’ve got for you today is Milagu rice – a variety rice that is simple, super quick and tastes great. I love eggs. So I paired the Milagu rice with fried hard-boiled eggs and a mild beetroot poriyal. So there you have it – a little varied variety rice along with a solid side dish – my favourite fried hard-boiled eggs and a mild poriyal to complement the spice and heat. For dessert, I snucked in a few chunks of “Cadbury’s Dairy Milk” into my lunch box. There, much better than lemon rice and potato thokku. I am linking this milagu rice to my ongoing “lunch box” event. I am sure you have your own lunch box favourites too. Link them to the “Lunch box” event and you could win a pretty dual tone Tupperware lunch box giveaway! Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 10 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Rice – 3 cups cooked Whole black peppercorns – 1 tsp Black gram/Urad dal – 3 tbsp Whole dry red chillies – 3-4 Salt to taste Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp Curry leaves – 2 stems Peanuts – 2 tsp (optional) Oil – 3 tbsp Ghee – 1 tsp Method 1.      Fluff up cooked rice and set aside to cool. 2.      Dry roast whole black peppercorns, urad dal and whole dry red chillies on low heat till the urad dal colours. Remove from heat and cool. 3.      Grind the roasted ingredients to a...

Badeel – Fried Lentil bars from Uttarakhand

The Badeel from Uttarakhand must be the North-Indian cousin to South-India’s Poricha Paruppu Urundai (which I wanted to make as part of the TamilNadu meal last weekend but couldn’t). For Badeel, we grind soaked masoor dal and cook it with onions, chillies and spice powders until a little dry, turn on to a plate, cut into diamond shapes and then fry to crispy, tasty perfection. Sounds like a lot of work, but isn’t really. I really liked Badeel. It’s a nice side with rice. It also makes for a filling nutritious snack that can be packed into kids’ tiffen boxes. Uttarakhand is mostly covered by the Himalayas and has many ancient temples and pilgrimage centres – Badhrinath and Kedarnath among the most auspicious Hindu pilgrimage centres.  Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh and Himalayan areas in 2000. The famous Him Corbett National park is in Uttarakhand. I remember reading Jim Corbett’s “Man eating tigers of Kumaon” as a kid. It made for a fascinating read. Garhwali and Kumaoni are the two major communities in Uttarakhand. Their food comprises a lot of lentils, rice and vegetables. I’ve never tasted Badeel before. So I hope I’ve made as close a replica of the Badeel as they make in Uttarakhand. Close or not, it was tasty.   Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 25 minsServes: 6 Ingredients Masoor dal – 1 cupGinger garlic paste – 1 tspGreen chillies – 3 chopped fineOnion – 1 large chopped fineTurmeric powder – ¼ tspGaram Masala – ½ tspRed chilli powder – 1 tspCoriander powder – ½ tspSalt to tasteOil – for shallow frying Method 1.      Rinse and soak masoor dal for 2 hours or overnight if that’s convenient. Drain the water and grind the dal to a coarse, chunky paste without adding water or very very little if necessary. 2.      Heat a pan, add 2 tbsp oil and when hot throw in the chopped onions and green chillies and sauté till the onions turn translucent. Then add the ginger garlic paste, ground dal, spice powders and salt. Mix well and fry till the dal mixture turns a little dry and leaves the sides of the pan (it shouldn’t get crumbly though). Turn the dal mixture on to an oiled plate, spread it with a flat spatula to a ½ inch thick layer and level it. Let cool. 3.      Cut the cooled dal mixture into diamond shapes....

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...

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...

Chicken Kati roll

I love Kati rolls. I especially am a huge fan of the Frankies that they sell in little kiosks in Chennai. They’re great on-the-go food – fun and tasty. I make these for my husband’s lunch box some days. It’s quite simple really. Make rotis, make a thick, not-too-sloppy filling (you could use paneer, mixed veggies, potatoes, minced meat or chicken like in this recipe) and roll. That’s it. You can jazz these rolls up in several ways- layer beaten eggs for more punch, top with grated cheese (and let melt on tawa while cooking), season with spice powders, garnish with onions/green chillies, add fresh veggies and sauces (subway style). The options are endless. These are great lunch box food for kids. You could make bigger rolls, slice them in an oblong fashion like spring rolls and serve as party snacks also. I made a chicken filling, you can substitute paneer in its place and reduce cooking time. I am afraid majority of my recipes are now chicken based. My family is to blame. They’re chicken crazy. I am a vegetarian majorly, would you believe? I am an occasional non-vegetarian, my husband is a compulsive non-vegetarian. To him, if it’s not chicken, it’s not food. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 2-3 Ingredients Filling Chicken – 1/4 kilo boneless, cleaned and cut into bite size piecesOnion – 1 large chopped fineTomato – 1 large chopped fineGinger-garlic paste – 1 tspGreen chilli – 1 chopped fineRed chilli powder – 1 tbspTurmeric powder – 1/2 tspSalt to taste Oil – 2 tbspButter – 1 tspEggs – 2 beaten with salt and black pepper powder Roll Wheat flour – 2 cupsSalt – ½ tspWater for kneading Method 1.      Prepare the dough for the rotis by adding water little at a time to the wheat flour and kneading well. Knead till you get a smooth, soft, non-sticky dough. Cover and set aside. 2.      Break 2 eggs into a bowl, add salt and black pepper powder and beat well. Set aside. 3.      In a pan, heat oil, when hot add the ginger garlic paste and sauté for a minute. Then drop in the chopped onions. Save a handful of the chopped onions for garnishing later on. When the onions turn translucent, drop in the chopped tomatoes and fry for 1-2 minutes. 4.      Add the chicken pieces, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt. Mix...

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...

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