Maha Shivaratri Upvaas/Fasting Thali

Maha Shivaratri  is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in honor of Lord Shiva. On this auspicious day, devotees perform Abhishekam to the Shivalingam(An abstract representation of Lord Shiva). Abhishekam is a ceremony of bathing the idol of god with either water or milk or Panchamrutham(A mixture of milk, yogurt, honey, sugar and ghee). Some devotees observe Fasting/Upvaas/Not eating food for a period of time. Some devotees observe Fasting and Jaagaran/Stay awake all night. Special pujas and celebrations are held at the temples during Maha Shivaratri. Some devotees spend the night at temples singing devotional songs to honor Lord Shiva.

Every family has their own customs and traditions for this festival. Some people fast without eating any food and without drinking even a drop of water. My sister used to do that. I have never done that. Some people follow a diet of fruits and milk. At our home, we do not eat any food during daytime. We were allowed to have tea, coffee and milk during the day.  In the evening, we offer specific fasting foods like Sabudana Upma, Coconut Chutney, Sweet Potato Halwa, fresh fruits, dates and milk to the god. Fasting food/dinner is served after the evening prayers.

Fasting food  is served in a ‘Vistharaku/Thali/A leaf plate made with broad dried leaves of Banyan tree(Marri Chettu Aakulu in Telugu).  ‘Thali’ is an Indian style platter. It is a meal consisting of small portions of healthy, delicious and nutritious dishes served together on one plate. Upvaas Thali might sound like an oxymoron(combination of contradictory words), but it is a tradition(at our home) to fast on Maha Shivaratri, followed by a feast(made with specific foods) in the evening. I try to follow some traditions(at least sometimes, whenever it is possible). As I didn’t have Vistharaku/Leaf plate at my home in US,  I served the food in a metal plate. Today I am sharing the recipes of the special traditional dishes served at our home on Maha Shivaratri.

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Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

Christmas is less than a week away. If you haven’t already started baking your homemade Christmas treats, you need to do it now. Today I am sharing with you Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread cookies recipe. These shortbread cookies are easy to make and are perfect for Christmas gifting. You can make them with only six ingredients. You don’t need eggs, baking soda or baking powder to make these cookies. I followed the recipe from here but also added pistachios. The bright red dried cranberries and lovely green pistachios make a very pretty homemade holiday gift.

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Mung Sprouts Dosa/Sprouted Mung Bean Dosa

Mung/Moong sprouts dosa is a protein rich, healthy and nutritious south Indian crepe that can be eaten as breakfast or snack. You can make these dosas even more nutritious by adding paneer, greens and seasonal vegetables like carrots, beetroots and roll it like a wrap. It makes a complete meal in itself. Mung sprouts dosa batter is prepared by grinding mung sprouts and it doesn’t require any fermentation. Yes, this batter can be used right away. No fermentation needed. 🙂 I make these dosas very often. They are so easy to make and so healthy.

If you are looking for fermented Idli/Dosa batter recipe, you can find it here.

Let’s see the process of making this crispy and delicious mung sprouts dosa:

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How to sprout beans – Instant Pot Method

Sprouting is the process of germinating beans, seeds and nuts. Sprouting involves soaking beans for several hours. Soaking softens the skin on the beans, allowing the sprout to grow. The soaked beans are rinsed and placed  in a dark, warm place(away from the sun light) for at least 24 hours. The goal is to create dark, warm and moist environment for the sprouts germination. 24 hours later, you will see that the  beans have sprouted. There are different methods to create a sprouting environment. You can tie the soaked beans in a cheese cloth and place them in a casserole. You can use mason jars and cover them with a cheese cloth or sprouting lid. I usually follow a very basic and simple method. I place the soaked beans in a wide colander. I rinse them with fresh water and when the water is completely drained, I cover the colander with a loose lid and place it in the oven. I check them after 12 hours and if  they look dry,  I place a damp paper towel/cheese cloth on it. After 24 hours, beans are sprouted and ready to use.

There are many other ways to sprout beans. I wanted to explore the ‘Yogurt’ option in Instant Pot to sprout beans. I experimented with mung beans and was very happy with the results. I am sharing the procedure along with some useful tips. If you are looking for the method of sprouting the beans in Instant Pot, then this post is for you. This is another new method of sprouting beans.

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Cranberry Ginger Chutney/Cranberry Ginger Thokku/Cranberry Allam Thokku – Instant Pot Method

Fall is cranberry harvesting season. This is the time of the year we can find bags of fresh cranberry in the grocery store aisles. Fresh cranberries have a sour-tart flavor. They work as an excellent substitute for raw mangoes, tomatoes and tamarind in many Indian recipes. Last year, I posted the recipes for Instant Cranberry Pickle and Cranberry Tomato Rasam. I wanted to share few more interesting cranberry (Indian) recipes this year. I tried preparing popular Andhra Allam Pachadi/Ginger chutney by substituting tamarind with cranberries. It tasted delicious. The combination of cranberry and ginger was so tasty. Since it was my first trial, I had not taken any step by step pictures.  I bought another bag of cranberries to prepare it again and post it with step by step pictures. Meanwhile, I was browsing through the Facebook posts and I stumbled upon Cranberry Ginger Thokku/ Cranberry Ginger Chutney recipe shared by Shubha Iyengar. It looked so good and what interested me is,  chutney was made in Instant Pot. As I already knew that cranberry ginger combo tastes amazing , I immediately started making Shubha Iyengar’s Cranberry Ginger Chutney recipe in my Instant Pot. The result was amazing. It was so easy to prepare using instant Pot. I followed the procedure exactly but I reduced the quantity of spices and jaggery to suit my tastes. This sweet, spicy and tangy chutney makes a great accompaniment to Idlis, Dosas, Savory Pongal,  Medu Vadas and especially Pesarattu/Moong dal Dosa/Moong sprouts Dosa

This is the time of the year enjoy this lip smacking Cranberry Ginger Pickle. Winter  is (almost) here. It’s almost the end of Fall/Autumn. We will not find cranberries until next fall season. Stock up during the fall harvest so you will have plenty for your favorite cranberry recipes. This Cranberry Ginger Pickle is a must try, especially if you are a Chutney lover. The tartness of the fall harvest fruit is combined with the warmth of the wonderful winter spice and blended with roasted aromatic spices and jaggery. It is a delicious blend of flavors and ingredients!!!

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Rajgira Chikki/Amaranth Brittle

Chikki is a traditional Indian sweet.  Rajgira/Amaranth  is the seed of the Amaranth plant. Rajgira Chikki is a sweet bar made with popped Rajgira/Amaranth seeds and Jaggery. Though, the label on the bag of Amaranth says that it is a grain, it isn’t a grain like oats, wheat or rice. It is a seed like Quinoa. It is a seed used like a grain. It has many vitamins and minerals and it is gluten free.  Rajgira/Amaranth is mostly eaten during Navratri festival/vrat/fasting period when grains are not consumed.

I love home made traditional sweets. Since many years, I have been making different varieties of chikki/brittle like peanut chikki, sesame chikki and dry fruit chikki.  Sesame Ladoo and Peanut chikki are must have items at our home, for the Pongal festival every year (in the month of Janauary). You can find the recipe for Sesame Ladoo and Peanut chikki here.

Rajgira chikki was on my to-do list since very long time but I attempted to make it for the first time, just few days ago. Rajgira seeds need to be popped(like popcorn) and used in the recipe. I was able to pop Rajgira/amaranth seeds after many trials and errors.  I couldn’t figure out the right technique on the day, I started experimenting. I gave up after a few trials. Next day, I called my mom, asked her few questions. I watched few you tube videos and attempted again. Finally I understood the technique after few attempts. Once you understand the technique, it is a very simple process.  I am sharing the recipe of Rajgira Chikki along with the tips and techniques to pop the Amaranth/Rajgira seeds. 

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Bellam Paramannam/Rice Kheer/Rice Pudding – Instant Pot Method

Hello Readers, Wishing you all a very happy Vijaya Dasami. It has been a long time since my last post.  I had mentioned in my last post that I will be taking a break from blogging.  I haven’t actively started blogging yet, but today is a special day. I am celebrating the first anniversary of my blog( I started my blogging journey on Vijaya Dasami/Dussehra, 2016. Dussehra in 2016 was on October 11th. ) and I wanted to thank all my readers on this special day.

I am sharing the recipe of an age old traditonal Indian dessert ‘Bellam Paramannam’. It is a delicious sweet rice pudding that is usually prepared as an offering to god on festive occasions in south India. Rice is cooked with milk and sweetened with jaggery syrup. It is flavored with cardamom powder, saffron and garnished with fried cashews and raisins. It is also known as Ksheerannam, Rice Kheer, Bellam Payasam or Annam Payasam. I prepared this dessert for Navratri. I made it in my Instant Pot pressure cooker.

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