Paneer capsicum stir fry

Are you watching Bigg Boss? | Quick Paneer stir fry

The newest expletive around here is “Julie”. That one name signifies every person you ever hated, the lowest of the low, the back-stabbing, the “sombu-thooking”, the phony, the desperate wannabe, the conscience-less, the opportunist. If you’re not watching Bigg Boss you’ve missed watching the most hated character in the history of Tamil television, ever. So hated, that an entire lexicon of swear words inspired by “Julie” could very well come into common usage – “Bloody Julie”, “Julie you!”, “Juliehole”. Whether you’re watching just for Kamal Hasan or because you’re curious how low it can get, or because the troll videos are too funny and you need to follow the show to follow the trolls or you’re watching as a social experiment, you’re watching Bigg Boss. That’s all that matters. Let’s not get all elitist about it. It’s ok. Plenty of people have taken offence at the show for a variety of reasons, the lamest among them being – “There are so many better things to do, so many important burning issues to solve. Instead they are making Bigg Boss”. That’s the most fucked up reason I’ve ever heard. Does that mean we cancel all TV shows, movies, theatre shows, stand-up comedy, concerts & cricket matches and employ actors, comedians, models, musicians and cricketers in the army to fight at the border, in laboratories to research life-saving drugs, in environment groups to clear the oil spill and clean the beach and the koovam? People are doing their jobs. They are doing what they’re best at. How difficult is it to change channels if you don’t like a show? What do you reckon these self-important socially-conscious people solved yesterday, last week and the week before? Did they set right the water purifier at home that hasn’t been working for the past couple of weeks? These are the ones who typically read multiple newspapers front to back, watch news channels to corroborate what they read and then take every conversation opportunity to put forward their stand on Kashmir, Trump, Syria and what you should be watching on TV.  Pop culture is too common for them, water purifiers too existential, Bigg Boss too crass. Mamiyaars have taken a breather from comparing notes with fellow maamiyaars about their marumagals. Marumagals are discussing something other than their maamiyaars. Colleagues have momentarily shifted focus from office politics to discuss bigg boss controversies. People all over TamilNadu are...
An easy. delicious & filling leek soup

Diet meal – Leek Soup & Honey mustard Grilled chicken

You know the feeling when you say your prayers, remove your shoes and socks, look around and decide to leave your clothes on and slowly climb up on the weighing machine all the while imagining the time you ate just pineapple and leaves while the person in the adjacent table ate biryani, the time you braved the dust and traffic and walked to work and reason that these great sacrifices deserve at-least a 1 kilo drop and then look down to find a 200 gram increase. You jump down as if given an electric shock. You gingery put one foot on the machine and as delicately as possible the other foot so as to exert minimum weight, look down now thinking if you had drunk too much water in the morning, if you had finished the toilet business and see the exact same weight you saw earlier. You get down, put on your socks and shoes and walk away thinking “What the fuck!” , “Fine!”, “I don’t care”, “I’ll keep going”, “Life is not fair”, “I’ll never lose weight”, “I hate diet meals”, “What I need is acceptance”, “Round is a shape too”.. You’ll oscillate between disillusionment, self-pity, anger, frustration and biryani. It’s a deeply emotional thing, all of this weight-loss business. Not easy at all. The day you take your weight, you’ll let loose, seek comfort, eat noodles or paruppu sadam or macaroni instead of your diet meal. After the initial bout of frustration and cheating you’ll think back to your routine and realize times when you had eaten out, when you had not pushed yourself as much. You’ll then come up with things you want to change, new diet meals, a more strenuous routine, an extra bit of exercise or a little green tea ritual you want to add. This cycle is normal. Let yourself go through it all. If you have decided to eat only soup for dinner, then here is a soup you’ll love. This leek soup is simple, easy and super quick. I added a small potato to give the soup some body. You can do away with it if you prefer. I paired it with an equally simple honey-mustard sauce grilled chicken. You could serve the soup alongside toasted wheat bread too for a delicious, filling diet-meal. Project 50k Update I’ve not checked my weight since my last weight-checking debacle. It’s been about 10...
Project 50k - Weekly DIET-MEAL PLAN

Project 50k Weekly Meal Plan 1 – Diet Meal Plan

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. Really? You’re stuffing ricotta into ravioli and then deep-frying it. And you are sandwiching ice-cream between cake and dunking in melted chocolate and then frosting it. And with the slightest hint of rain, before the radio channels can switch to rain songs, food bloggers are out in action with a flurry of deep fried pakodas and bajjis in their feeds. Really? How do you guys know I am on a diet? Where are the salads and health drinks and smoothies? Deep fried crisp fritters, bubbling oil, melting cheese and dripping chocolate are sexy. They truly are food porn. And you can’t compete with porn. There wasn’t a harder time to be on a diet. The first couple of weeks of a diet can be agonizing and frustrating at times. Hang on though. There’s nothing like seeing the weigh scale show you a smaller number. I don’t think diet meals need not be boring or bland. It is totally possible to have healthy, delicious diet meals. I rounded up six of the diet meals that I’ve been making lately to help provide you some inspiration to make your own tasty diet meals. I love that most of these meals can be served to the entire family or you can pick one or two of the components of the meal for yourself. I am keeping it simple. Most of us don’t have the time, energy or resources to cook separate meals for ourselves. #Project50k is about real people with busy, messy lives pushing themselves to reach their goal weight. Tap the images below to get the recipes to those dishes.   The past week wasn’t too great for me. I ate out twice and missed gym most of the week. I am therefore making an extra effort to eat right the rest of the days. How has the past week been for you? Share your progress, story with me.   I’ve also been busy testing a few theories the past couple of weeks – Kelloggs special K, 30 day AB workout plus a few home remedies. I’ll share the results of those tests in the coming weeks. Stay focused. We can do this. Keep moving and eat well!
Keerai Masiyal - Greens and lentil soup

Keerai Masiyal

The only reason people make smoothies out of greens is because they don’t know how to make Keerai masiyal. The other reason could be that it is way simpler. If you have half an hour, you can make this keerai masiyal. My personal favourite way to have keerai is Keerai masiyal. Stir in greens into cooked dal and cook just until the greens are cooked through. Blend to desired consistency and top off with a fragrant hot oil tadka. Keerai rice for kids and the non-dieting, non-fat privileged lot and a big bowl of keerai masiyal for you. You see, no extra effort and no separate menu. A big bowl of this keerai masiyal makes a nutrient rich, super-filling lunch. Pair it with a slice of toasted brown bread or a boiled sweet corn cob like I did. Done and done. This is a perfect meal for my project 50k – low carb, healthy and nutrient-packed. Happy dieting!  
how to make avial, easy avial recipe

Avial

It’s almost the end of summer vacation and it looks like we did every “don’t”. I woke up late everyday. The kids woke up even later. They didn’t work on their handwriting. They didn’t read. They didn’t help around. They did watch Bahubali thrice. They watched Inception with Jagan, Maanagaram and Kannathil Muthamittaal with me and Vijay TV serials with my mother. They binge-watched cartoons. I joined them at times if they were watching Motu Patlu. Hasini, Yuvan & Paati struck a secret deal with the Kwality walls fellow to stop every morning at our gate at an hour that I am usually scurrying around to get ready for office. Hasini and Yuvi eat their ice cream under the protection of the grandparents and arrive at the breakfast table with wiped mouth and hands and a poker face. They learnt to ride their bicycle without the practice wheels. They sing all of Bahubali’s songs. Yuvi does a katappa head bow when I ask him to finish his dosai. I am hoping that all the cinema will give them a good foundation in the arts. I didn’t make any of the vathals I planned to make. I bought vadu maangai with good intentions, lovingly stored them in the fridge just until they rotted and promptly threw them away and felt a weight lift off me. Weekends were even lazier which meant I made a heavy breakfast served it late and pretended to not notice lunch time. One lazy weekend morning we had this adai avial for breakfast. I’ve never been a big fan of Avial. But I was a convert once I ate Adai Avial at a restaurant. I asked my friend Lakshmi how she made Avial at home. She expertly and very simply broke down the Avial recipe for me in between mouthfuls of Adai Avial we were sharing. It worked like a charm. Boil vegetables with salt till tender, grind together your avial masala, combine everything together and top it off with a fragrant coconut oil tempering. That is really all there is to it. Try it.  
Paneer rice bowl

30-minute Paneer rice bowl

Do you know the “spoon in the fridge” trick? You keep a spoon hidden in the fridge so that when you are craving a spoon of bread halwa, gulab jamun or chocolate mousse you just grab your secret spoon that only you know of and dig in. Think that’s bullshit? OK, Picture this. You’re about to go to bed. You go around to switch off all the lights planning to scoff a tiny scoop of bread halwa. You see the dirty tumblers and coffee mugs and you gather them up. You also pick up the clothes from the floor to deposit in the laundry basket. Both your hands are full when you see the hot wheels car in your way. You push it to the corner with your leg and walk over to the laundry basket and almost drop the coffee mugs in but catch yourself at the last minute and drop in the clothes instead. You walk to the kitchen to deposit the tumblers and notice that the peace lily is drooping and you haven’t watered it. You put away the snack boxes on the counter back in the shelves. You come back out, see the plant and go back again to get a pitcher of water to water the peace lily. You go out to the balcony to water the other dying plant there, pick up the shoes there and put them away in the shoe rack, put away the newspaper, open the Amazon parcel on the table, check it out and then safely put it in one of the cupboards and promptly forget the location, shove the plastic covers flying around in the big bag of plastic covers, step on a lego piece, pick it up and put it away in the lego box, find 3 more lego pieces in the sofa crevices, trudge back to the toy cupboard and put them away and start switching off lights everywhere. You go to the fridge but realize you need to go back to your cutlery drawer, switch on the lights, walk to fridge, eat, close fridge, put away spoon and switch off lights. You decide that’s too much work and go back to bed. You walk past the folded clothes of the past 4 days, hop over the towel and lie down on the bed. You find a couple of pencils under your back. You shove it under...
chicken burger

Chicken burger

Me: “It is so hot these days. Summer is here.” Yuvan: “AC podu ma” (Switch on AC) Me: “Summer le nariye Vathal podalam” (We can make lots of vathals this summer) Yuvan: “Vathal pota summer poiduma?” (Will summer go away if you make vathals?) I guffawed. He smiled, pleased that he had cracked me up. He genuinely didn’t understand how my “vathal making” made any difference (“Nee vathal pota yenna podalena yenna?”). Yuvi and I have been at loggerheads for the past week and a half because of his exams. He wasn’t pleased that he was doing all the writing and I wasn’t. He swore that he’d make me write hundreds of pages just like he was writing (2 pages). After he put away his books, sharpened his pencils and put away his bag for the next day, he came up to me and gave me a sheaf of papers. He had drawn rows and columns and written an alphabet in each little box. He wanted me to write A, B, C, D… till Z and repeat in each of those sheets. I looked at his serious face seeking justice, revenge. I took the papers from him and started writing A,B,C. He wanted to eat burger, he told me – “With the leaf and sauce and chicken”. So I made chicken burger for him stacking cheese, onions, lettuce and chicken. He opened up the bun, took down the chicken cutlet, set aside the lettuce and made a deconstructed burger platter. He then ate his favourite parts – the chicken, bun, cheese, onion and sauce and left out the lettuce and tomato. He liked it, he said. Like most homes, I have one who likes burgers and two who don’t and one who abstains, two who like pasta and two who don’t, two who like chutney and two who don’t, two who like sambar rice and two who don’t, three who like Pongal and one who doesn’t. I manage with zero consensus on most dishes. I make do with coercion and blackmail (no movie, no colouring, no TV). Or I offer a more hated alternative which immediately makes this one look better – podi instead of chutney? Curd rice instead of sambar rice? Go ahead and make these chicken burgers with or without consensus. They’re easier than you think. The chicken patties are really simple to put together belying their crispy,...
Rava Idli

Rava Idli

When I am moping, I lie in bed while my kids climb over me, I shut my eyes tight when Yuvan pries my eyes open. I hear Hasini echo my dad’s words – “You’re always late.” Back in the days when I was single, when I was free, I’d brood on the toilet seat for hours without visitors, knocks and questions – “why are you taking so long?”, “what are you doing?”, “Did you go out the window?” (That’s a good idea!). I’d lie in bed reading all day, sleeping in between, ransacking the fridge at midnight for something sweet, going back to bed to read. Chocolate soothes me. Reading drugs me. Those days, I like to eat Paal Saadam (Rice and milk). I feel comforted.   When I am stressed, when I am wound up and exhausted after a frenetic day of work, I want to eat Dominoes Pizza and coke. I want to eat biryani and thumbs up. I want my soda. I want sugar. I want cheese. I want chocolate. I want empty calories and Vadivelu comedy. When I am happy I want to eat Molagai bajji, chocolate cake and Lasagne. When I miss home, I yearn for idli, vadai, sambar and thengai chutney and Ilayaraja songs. I want paruppu rasam saadam and fried egg and Balachander movies. When I am angry, frustrated, I want Paneer soda and friends to hear my story. A small paper cup with watery canteen coffee would do too. When I am hungover, I want Jagan’s lemon soda in a dark room. When I am busy at my laptop, I have filter coffee by my side and Hasini combing my hair. I want pattani and uppu kadalai while watching TV. There are times when I make Rava idli. I make Rava idli every time my………………………………….. yogurt turns sour. Every single time I feel ingenious to be making rava idli instead of rava upma. I am terribly proud of my soft, tender rava idlis that I make from scratch. Rava idlis were one of the first things I made after my wedding. I’d make them from MTR’s rava idli mix. I’d make MTR rava idlis and coriander chutney and wait for the Maamiyaar to be impressed. I had no clue then that making them from scratch was just as easy. You’ll never go back to buying the readymade mix once you make these...

My cooking Goals + one more Side dish for Idli Dosai – Milagai Thuvaiyal

What are your cooking goals for the year? Just putting them down makes me feel like I am organized, like I am the planning kind. I like that kind of illusion. And I always like a fresh start. So I wrote down some of my cooking goals for the year. The general theme has been to keep it simple, to take it easy and to experiment more. I’d love to know what your goals are. Make just enough chutney for now. Extra chutney in fridge will never see the light of day. “Dosai/Idli do not make a school lunch”, said Hasini. I have to agree. When I scramble out of bed 30 minutes before the school bus arrives, this is what I pack. I’ve also packed mini dosai, vengaya dosai, oothappam, podi idli, jam sandwiches and sugar & ghee sandwiches with no remorse.   Everything need not be from scratch. It can be from the store. And that is fine. It is ok to not bake your own bread, make your own pasta and manufacture your own cheese. I remember a time when I would put off buying bread because I thought that if I did then I wouldn’t bake my own bread, but I never baked bread as often because I simply didn’t have that kind of time. I am more accepting now. I bought vathals instead of waiting till summer to make my own batch. I am still obsessed about making my own podis and idli/dosa batters.   I cannot and will not make thali meals (rice, kuzhambu, poriyal kind of meal) more than 3 times a week. And that immediately means I have to do # 5.   Move out of my comfort zone and experiment more. Make at-least 2 new recipes every week. Currently on my to-try list are Murtabak, Aviyal, vada pav, Hyderabad biryani and Adhirsam among others.   To not repeat a chutney/side dish again in the same month. I am on a quest to banish the cooking routines that I tend to slip into all too easily. Coconut chutney, tomato chutney, kara chutney on rotation mode, lemon rice and potato fry on Mondays, dosai for dinners, biryani on Sundays. Not this year. Breakfast can be kanji in a mug, chaat for lunch and soup for dinner. Lord, give me the strength to defend my menu.   I’ve started to plan the menu for...
Chipotle style bowl

Chipotle inspired chicken bowl

I was walking to the T station in Boston, after Happy hour, feeling friendly with the world. I saw the people at the traffic light waiting to cross the road looking straight ahead, the old man in the wheelchair who seemed to be talking to everybody passing by, the office goers briskly walking by, joggers and tourists in hats. I was smiling, humming a Tamil song softly. Nobody seemed to know that I was new, that I wasn’t from here. I kind of fit in. “Chipotle, Hey Chipotle!” a young man called to me as he walked past me, laughing loudly. I turned to look if he was referring to someone else. He wasn’t. I felt my cheeks flush. I realized he meant to insult me but I didn’t understand. I liked Chipotle. Why was Chipotle funny or low? And I wasn’t Chipotle. I was idli, sambar, biryani, idiyappam, maanga oorukai, adhirasam, upma, full meals, molaga bajji!   “Who you? Sandwich? ” – I didn’t ask. I sat in the train wondering. Back home, people were more informed. They’d learn your caste, sub-caste, sect and division and then call you that – “ Iyer $%&*, mudaliar $%^#, &*@# Nadar …” This guy had mixed up entire countries. I realized that these guys didn’t know and didn’t care if I was Mexican or Indian or Pakistani or Egyptian. They knew they were white. Black and all shades of brown were lower. I checked myself in the train window. I thought I looked exotic among my fellow passengers – brown skin, long hair, kohl lined eyes, kurta and salwar. It could have been the alcohol. I plugged in my i-pod and chose the most Tamil song I could think of. I made a mental note to eat at Chipotle the next day. I made a Chipotle inspired rice bowl a couple of days back. This is to the guy who thought he insulted me by calling me “Chipotle”. I am not insulted.  It is super easy, if you skip most of the toppings you find at Chipotle. I dare say we loved the simple version. No Guacamole, no sour cream, no lettuce and no chips. If you have all of these, by all means pile them on. I had some leftover grilled chicken I cut up and sautéed with onions and spices. I cooked some basmati rice and made the simplest beans...

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