Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flora And Fauna From My Garden

Here are some pictures of the buds, blooms, and critters. I finally managed to capture the baby bunny on 'film'; but alas, he has grown quite a bit! I had wanted to catch him at his 'ping pong ball size' stage; oh well, he is still small compared to the mature ones.

Aha! Got you finally! - Cotton Tail Rabbit

Two big ones

Pretty pink posy - Geranium

Don't these grapes look grand?

More pink posies - Mexican Primrose

some mint I grew from the stems

California Poppy

Red Flax

Lovely Columbine

Purple Posy -Martha Washington Geranium

'New Day'

Quick Puliyodarai With Vegetables (Tamarind Rice)

Puliyodarai means tamarind rice. It is one of the triumvirate of traditional dishes (along with Lemon Rice and Yogurt rice) that always made its delicious and much anticipated appearance at our picnics. (They also make wonderful journey food as they last a while without refrigeration.) Traditional puliyodarai does not contain veggies.

Puliyodarai With Veggies
This is a delectable recipe that is easy for family meals and impressive enough for parties too. I use the packaged Puliyogare Mix to season the rice and veggies. Leftover plain steamed rice can also be used to make this dish. Frozen veggies make it a snap to prepare; but if you prefer, you can use fresh vegetables. I generally like to use mild flavored veggies like corn, green beans, carrots, peas, etc which do not compete with the seasonings.

Puliyogare Mix and other ingredients are available in Indian markets.

Puliyodarai is traditionally served with lots of fried papadams and accompanied by traditional yogurt rice or this Non-Dairy one as a counterpoint to cool the palate. I love serving it with a chopped tomato salad which provides a lovely contrast in flavors and colors. It is to live for!!

Six Servings


1 cup rice
3 cups fresh veggies OR 1 pkg frozen mixed vegetables (1 lb)
1 Tbsp Canola Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Chana dal
1 Tbsp Urad dal
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves
1 Tbsp Chinese Sesame oil
2 Tbsp Puliyogare Mix or to taste
Sea Salt

1/4 cup Roasted Peanuts for garnish


Soak the rice in fresh water for 30 minutes. Place the rice in a strainer; wash well with plenty of fresh water and let drain. Set aside.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pan. Stir in a couple of pinches of salt, turmeric, and the washed rice.

Bring to a boil again, stir well, and turn off the heat. Cover and let sit undisturbed for at least 15 to 20 minutes or until needed.

Heat a large skillet with the oil; add mustard seeds, chana and urad dal. Cook stirring until mustard seeds pop.

Add asafoetida, curry leaves and the mixed vegetables.

Sprinkle 1/4 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until veggies are tender. Stir in the Puliyogare mix and cook for a couple of more minutes. Turn off the heat.

Gently fluff the rice and add to the vegetables. Drizzle the sesame oil on top and fold the rice with a thin spatula into the veggies to mix gently but thoroughly.

Set aside covered for about 10 - 15 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature garnished with roasted peanuts. Delicious!

Spaghetti Salad With Pesto, Peas, and Zucchini

This salad is quick and easy to make but never fails to impress - beautiful and delicious! Use whatever long strands of pasta you might have in the pantry - spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccine. The zucchinis practically disappear while imparting their mellow sweet flavor.

Spaghetti Salad

I cook the pasta in plain water without any salt and use the cooled pasta water to water the plants; the starches and sugars in it is great for reviving languishing plants, especially the potted ones. We have to conserve water however we can :-}!

8 Servings


1 lb package dry Spaghetti
2 medium Zucchini, grated coarsely
8 oz. package frozen small peas, thawed
1/4 cup Red Onion, thinly sliced
3 or 4 medium Roma Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
1/3 cup Basil-Parsley Pesto
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1/4 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted
1/4 cup chopped Pistachio nuts


Cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to the directions on the package or follow my fuel saving method in pasta salad with rainbow veggies; rinse with cold water and drain well.

Combine the pesto and the olive oil in a large bowl; add the onions, tomatoes, zucchini, peas, freshly ground pepper, and the salt; mix well.

Stir the well-drained spaghetti into the pesto mixture.

Place in a pretty serving dish and sprinkle the olives and pistachios on top. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Serve with the grated Parmesan cheese and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Homemade Fresh Pizza Dough

This basic pizza dough is wonderful; use it to make pizza, rolls, calzone, etc. It is really very quick and easy especially if you use a food processor. The slow rising overnight in the fridge contributes to the wonderful flavor. The aroma that the baking dough exudes is just to live for :)! Once you taste it, you may never want to go back to the purchased bread dough full of preservatives. The whole wheat flour increases both the taste and the nutrient content. According to the nutrition experts we should be eating at least half of our cereal/grains whole.

This is a fun science/cooking project for children. The dough is more fun than play dough since they can eat it after they are done playing with it!

Makes 4 pizzas.


2 cups unbleached flour (+ more for dusting and kneading)
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
2 packages (1/4 oz. each) Active Dry Yeast
4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil


Make the dough: In a food processor, pulse together flour, cornmeal, yeast, and salt. With processor running, add oil and then 2 cups of cold water in a steady steam; process until dough just forms a ball.

Turn out dough onto a floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 to 4 minutes. Place in a resealable plastic bag; let rise until doubled in bulk, 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. If you are using the refrigerator method of rising, let the dough come to room temperature before proceeding, about 45 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bag and place on a lightly floured surface. Punch down to expel all air and knead briefly until smooth.

Divide dough into four equal portions; roll into balls, place on oiled baking sheets, and cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap until puffy, about 15 - 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Using your hands shape each dough ball by gently flattening and pulling into 10-inch circles or other desired shapes. The dough will rise when baking so if you like a thin crust, start with a smaller quantity of dough and stretch/roll thin.

Top as desired; shredded Parmesan or mozzarella, sliced and drained tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, olives, etc are all great toppings.

Bake until crust is golden brown and toppings are hot; about 15 minutes.