Monday, August 26, 2013

Stuffed Buns

And so it begins! The first day of school and my little one starts Kindergarten. In my last post I mentioned how eager I was for school to start. 
But just last night, I was not so sure. I wanted to cling on to him a bit longer.

M and I made the last day of vacation special for Little S. We wanted it to last just a bit longer. 
We all went to the pool last evening and the son taught the father how to swim! 
That said, Little S is brave enough to swim with his vest on. But, he did give his Daddy 'precise' instructions ( and yes, they were correct). So when Little S splashed away from us, we both collapsed and at one time went under, laughing. 
Little Boys, ROCK! 

From today, we start lunch-boxes too. I have been reading on many blogs that kids prefer non-messy food as well as 'good looking' food. So as I understand, it translates to some Indian and some non-Indian food.
Thankfully, in S's school, there are many Indians and hopefully, no one saying, "eeewww, what's that yucky thing" ( yes, I have read that too, on some blogs and was saddened that the author's child had to face it.) how vastly different when I was a school going child, almost everyone would bring poli-bhaji ( roti / flat bread and vegetables) and  any snack made at home and it was always shared with a big group. Nobody turned up their noses or said "eeeww or yuck".

But all things considered, I want to make it easy on the child too. I want to pack lunches that are easy for him to pick and eat and more importantly, nothing that will leave a stain on his clothes.

This is also an opportunity for me to introduce ( or in my case, re-introduce) foods that he has said 'no' to, rather firmly. 
Would it be bad parenting if I send these re-introduced foods in his lunch box, hoping that if he is hungry enough, he will eat?

I found these Masala Buns over at Raks Kitchen and immediately wanted to try them.

I made these buns with a different stuffing, which is one of my favorites. But it is a very versatile recipe and you can use the stuffing you want.

For example, the sprouted mung filling for a healthier twist or the famous batata-wada bhaji will taste fantastic.
For a non-Indian twist, a cheese flavored with some pizza sauce -filling which I am sure, children will love. And here is an idea, pat some Nutella in and bake. Who doesn't like Nutella?! I only hope that the Nutella does not leak and come out. Any tips on this? Please do share your inputs in the comments.

There are endless combinations, it is up to you. 

I am hoping I will be able to share some recipes that I make for my son's lunch box and I would love to hear from you as well. What do you make for your child's lunch box or snack time in school? Please share your ideas.

Here's to another year in school and wishing all itty-bitties Good Luck!  Study hard, play hard and shine on! 
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Glamping and some picnic-y food

Can I fess up? I am *longing* for school to start. 

Don't get me wrong, I like having my son around me, but all the time, is a bit much. I was growing tired of coming up with stories and games to keep him amused all day long. To top it all, at Little S's annual Dr. office visit, he failed his vision test and now has glasses. It fair broke my heart.
I am an extremist, the last time little S got hooked to the laptop, I stuffed it away in the closet and the story ended there. Or so I thought... sigh! As he grew,  he started watching TV shows on PBS, Disney etc. With temperatures rising in the afternoon, I allowed it too. It was a mistake and since my birthday in July ( the day he had his physical at the pediatrician's) TV time is rationed out in minutes. Little S, bless him, has accepted this major change without grumbling and has behaved like a true sportsman! 
By evening, these days, I am exhausted and long for a break. 

A break is exactly, what I needed and M set me  to task to find a place where I could relax and feel happy.

My vacation requirement this year was simple. No 'touristy thing'. I wanted to go someplace where it was quiet, close to nature, no crowds, where I could hear birds chirp.

I have been meaning to go camping for a long time now. This is a childhood fantasy that just refuses to fade. I would read Enid Blyton books where children were allowed to go alone on holidays and camping and caravan-ing and put up tents and have adventures.
Two decades and a bit more later all I want is to go 'glamping' (and that is a word, glamping = glamorous camping) I want to be close to nature with all the modern day facilities. 
Sounds unreasonable? Let me assure you, it isn't. 
Imagine a 'sturdy tent' with a bed and air-conditioning = comfortable sleep, a dining table, a stove and microwave and fridge, that part will take care of food and eating. Now that would be perfect, wouldn't it ( and not just out of a Harry Potter novel)?

Let me give you that perfect then! 
In my quest for a good holiday spot, I scanned many state parks nearby camping grounds. I found just what I needed.
Take a peek at some pictures I have for you.

The 'sturdy tent'.  A Yurt.

We booked a Yurt which was 'fully loaded'. It had a bed, a futon chairs, tv + dvd player, a small and fully functional kitchen and to top it all, a washer and dryer.
Not just that, a  large deck with gorgeous, gorgeous mountain views and a hot-tub, yes, a hot -tub.

In and around us
And believe your eyes, it is a hot-tub!

Inside the Yurt

The weather was perfect! The temperatures were between 70-80 all day and dropping a bit more in the evening. Goodbye summer heat! It seemed nature was conspiring to give us a happy holiday.
Early morning the mists would roll in and  we would enjoy our morning cuppa watching the pale sun rays shine thru the clouds.

Waking up to this gorgeous view
The deer kept us company, quite undisturbed by a camera toting human clicking away. 
Visitors on the lawns

We now come to the food part, which is inevitable, seeing that this is a food blog!
Where food is concerned, I  have very fond memories of picnic-lunches taken for a school or family outing in the summer holidays. 
The food was typical, something that would last a few days on the road. 

Typical picnic food means, to me, deep fried goodies like spicy pooris ( tikhat mithacha purya), thepla, sheera and the likes.

Spicy pooris are a treat. They require no side dish or accompaniment. Just pick one and chomp it up.
As they are deep fried, they keep well even without refrigeration.

I do not have a specific recipe or precise measurements, but it is a very forgiving recipe and works out every time.

You need:
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour ( Atta)
1 tsp Rava/ Sooji
1 tsp smoking hot Oil ( mohan)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp. Red Chile Powder
1/2 tsp each Cumin and Coriander powder
1 tsp. crumbled Jaggery or Brown sugar ( optional)
Salt to taste
Water to bind the dough
Oil to deep fry

In a mixing bowl , add in the flour and all the spices ( except the hot oil and water) and mix to incorporate the spices well.
Add the hot oil and mix.
Carefully add water and knead. The dough should not be very soft ( like he dough made for Fulkas) but on the stiff side.
Cover and let it rest for 10-15 mins. 
Set oil ( for deep frying) on medium-high
Pinch off a small portion of the dough (key-lime sized) and roll a small disc.
Once the oil is hot ( but not smoking), gently slide a poori in t and deep fry till golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels before stacking and packing.

I place 6 poories on a tissue and wrap the bundle in foil. These can be enjoyed at room temperature  or kept in the fridge and microwaved  just before eating. 

*adding jaggery or brown sugar is optional, but I like how it balances the spice. Leave it out, if you do not like it.

I carried these Lauki (bottle Gourd) Theplas too. I used my Dhebra recipe, replacing grated bottle gourd / lauki/ doodhi instead of methi and used only whole wheat flour (atta).
these stayed well for a week and all I had to do was microwave a thepla for 20-25 secnds and enjoy it.

To make things easier for me, when traveling, my dear friend, Sonali made me a big batch of Handwo. I warmed a piece every morning and munched on it with my hot cup of tea. Bless her!

Sujata made me some 'paratlele batate' which were super tasty. I paired them with  some plain poories I had made for Little S.  She also slipped in a pack of goldfish and jelly packs for him. Bless her too!

It is extraordinary how hungry we feel when on a holiday!
On road trips I carry  munchies like Goldfish, Vanilla wafers, chips for my son, I give him some when he wants to much something after he has  tasted and sampled everything we carry for all of us.

For us, I like carrying green Chutney, and in the cooler I carry whole cucumber, tomato and boiled potato. In addition, I also slice a small cucumber, tomato and potato and keep them in separate ziploc bags so I can make sandwiches on the way.

I also like to pack sheera / sooji ka halwa - I do not use milk when making sheera in this case.
Sheera made with water stays in the fridge longer.
For a change, when I warm the sheera, I also add chopped banana pieces  and enjoy it for dessert.

I carry a lot of water and refill when I get the chance. I dislike carrying juice or even worse soda, I never do.
I like carrying bananas and oranges as these fruit do not need washing.

As always, whether on holiday or at home, we crave comfort food, this literally translates in to khichadi. I like to make packets of 'khichadi-mix' where I wash and dry the rice and moong-daal ( yellow split lentils). I make a ghee tempering (ghee, mustard and cumin seeds, asafetida, green chiles and curry leaves) and roast the rice and daal in the tadka until every grain is coated. Cool the mix completely  and pack in 1 Cup measure in ziplocs.

On a road trip, I carry my small electric rice cooker. To cook the khichadi, I tip the contents of a ziploc into the rice-cooker, add 2.5 cups of water, add salt to taste and cook it.
Store any unused khichadi packets in the fridge.

I also make Upma packets in the same way.
Make a oil+ghee tempering ( oil, ghee- in that order so ghee does not burn, chana and urad daal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafetida, green / dry red chile and curry leaves) - add rava and roast until it is golden brown. cool and scoop into ziploc bags.
To make upma, tip the contents into the rice cooker, add 2 cups of water to 1 cup upma mix, salt and sugar to taste. I also like  to add some grated ginger ( I carry fresh ginger in my cooler, for my morning cup of tea) and set it to cook.
Once the upma is ready, I squeeze lemon juice ( fresh or some of the bottled lemon juice from the lemon shaped bottles available in all grocery stores), serve hot.
While this is not as good as the original upma ( which uses buttermilk), it makes a good and filling breakfast.

The Rice cooker is very handy on our road trips. It is used to cook food ( upma, khichadi, maggi etc.) and also doubles up as a saucepan for making tea. I need my morning cup of tea and become grumpy as a bear with a sore head if I do not get my elixir. In cases where a stove is not available ( like 'real camping' in tents etc.) or in hotel rooms without a kitchen, it comes in handy.

Do you have any specific items you carry when on a road trip? How do you plan when setting out?
Please share your ideas and leave a comment below.

Have a wonderful rest-of-the-week. 
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