Thursday, January 30, 2014

Frugal living Or Smart Spending?

Recently a discussion with friends led me to thinking is frugal living a solution for the economic downturn? Definitely not because we do not live frugally, like they do in the villages of India. Metropolitans and city breds need to be smart in their spending. Here are a few tips that will get you thinking on how to save as you spend.

Scene 1: My cousin Akki was visiting us and Dad noticed he was wearing a nice pair of square cut shoes. He asked where he bought those from, Jabong was his prompt reply. He is one of those smart kids that spends some time online to look for coupons and what better place than

It's easy to use, they have 43 categories to look up and 103 stores offering good deals. As I write this their statistics show 37,513 coupons used in the last one month! That's some cool no. of users, I'd say!

Scene 2Right now there is wonderful deal from Dominos, if you have a party on the weekend use this coupon on a Wednesday. Freeze the pizzas and heat them up for the party on the weekend!

Wednesday Offer: Buy 1 Pizza and Get 2nd for Free

The site shows the popular stores as well as top categories. That makes it easy for search. Look for what's hot on those widgets on the RHS. Also look up and share with your friends on FB and rate the best deals. It saves so much time than being lost in the deals maze on the internet.

Talking about saving time, if you are interested in just a particular store or a few of them; awaiting the best deals to feature then all you got to do is subscribe for the coupons and have them delivered to your Inbox!

Scene 3: I bought 10 kgs of fresh peas from APMC market, its a winter ritual for me. I buy the bulk, shell and freeze. It lasts me thru the year and the quality is superlative I need not mention it obviously compared to the branded frozen peas which are so meh!

In season peas cost me Rs.9 per kg and I have 7.5 kgs of shelled peas. Do your calculations now!

This is what my deep freezer looks like now!

You would have heard about a guy who is famous for living without money. The joke is that man is raking in money now for sharing his experience of 'living without money' for a few years that he did!

I can tell you that living without money is not a sustainable living unless you live like the adivasis, grow your own food and plant back what you have taken from nature.

I myself have lived really frugally while in Blr, about a year without TV, few years with just a mixie as the only gadget in my kitchen and so on. I felt deprived at the end of 3-4 years and I started indulging myself. Yes but that experiment taught me to be careful with money and prioritize my needs. Avoid financial liabilities. I am lucky to have none!

We all know that reality is something else, we need to earn and save money to sustain our lifestyles so the smart thing to do is to indulge in luxuries a little less and adopt SMART SPENDING! 

Go coupon hunting on, most of all have fun!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Honey Peanut Butter

I make peanut butter once in a while but mostly without the addition of any sweet element. That's because I use honey for a drizzle or jam in the sandwich when I make Peanut butter and banana fried sandwich.

But for this 

I needed a sweetish peanut butter so I made a honey version. If you are used to the American brands this will work well.


1/2 cup roasted n shelled peanuts
2 tablespoons honey
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil
a pinch of salt

Grind the peanuts to powder. Add the oil and salt and make a paste. Lastly add the honey and blend into a creamy spreadable paste.

Remove it to an airtight jar. This stays good without refridgeration for a month. Always make small batches for freshest comsumption.

Banana Cashew Bread, Honey Peanut Butter and Pear Sandwich

Ha ha! Such a long name for the sandwich. It does sound like a call out for Emperor Akbar! Jokes apart this is a sandwich we loved and so here to share.

Some time ago I made a Cashew version of my Banana bread, its a large loaf for a family of two. So after enjoying warm slices of a fresh baked banana bread on it's own, I wrapped the loaf and stored it in the fridge for later.

Then after few days on a chill evening we wanted to indulge in a high tea. So I made fresh Honey Peanut butter and sliced some pears to sandwich between the lovely bread. What came together was a gourmet sandwich and thought you guys might like it.

So here is the recipe and a half that it is, yeah its simple assembly but a brilliant combo. 


Slice the banana bread thick. 

Toast it on both sides. 

Spread a generous amount of Honey peanut butter on one slice.

Wash and slice pears. Remove core and stem.

Layer the pear slices on the peanut buttered slice.

Cover with the second toasted slice of banana bread.

Enjoy along with a mug of warm milk or your choice of a steaming hot drink!

This picture was clicked for 365project

Yes I jumped onto the wagon. So many things keeping me busy and how I am loving this life! Go check out my project. Do leave comments I'd like to hear what you have to say.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Black N White Tilgul

Happy Makar Sankrant!

Hope you are flying kites, eating tilgul and enjoying the last bit of the winter chill. 

It's been quite cold in Mumbai like we did need to pull on a light cardigan thru the day. Yeah the tropical climate will come back starting with Sankrant today. The long nights will be gone and the long days will begin. 

During the winter we did indulge with lots of goodies carrot halwa, high teas with Banana bread sandwich, sounds interesting? Come again for the recipe.

Today I am here to post a Black n White Tilgul recipe. Black has a significance for Sankrant in Maharashtra. Black is worn on this day to retain body heat. Black is also the abolisher of evil so on this day we wish that all evil be absorbed by wearing black so that the rest of the year is full of Positivity!

That said I wonder why it is traditional to use only white til or sesame for making the til gul ladu? Until a few years ago I was ignorant and thought black and white til are 2 different varieties but was educated by a friend that Black til is the sesame with the husk and when it is dehusked rather to be exact it is decorticated it gives white sesame. But wiki does mention that other shades of sesame exsist. Then I wonder all the more. Why have I never seen tilgul ladu with black til. 

This is the very reason I chose to make black n white tilgul this Sankrant. Anything with husk is healthier and richer in iron and don't they look pretty! So the label of My Kitchen Lab is justified.

As I set out to make tilgul Dad as usual had doubts. He wondered aloud "hope you get the candy state tilgul". Yeah its been years since I made tilgul successfully. I blame it on bad quality jaggery. Nevertheless I am not one to give up. So a flip of the pages of Ruchira, don't remember if I mentioned it here, I had won it for this post. Then I came up with the recipe I wanted to make. 


3/4 cup Black sesame or til
3/4 cup White sesame or til
1/2 cup coarse ground roasted peanuts
1/4 cup roasted chana dal/ Dahale/ Phutane
1/2 dry shredded coconut
1.5 cup grated jaggery
1/2 cup water
4 pods of cardamom

In a kadhai toast the sesame seeds on sim. Add the coconut shreds, toast to pink. Now follow in with coarse ground roasted peanuts and dahale stir for 30 secs just to make them eminate the aromatic oils.

Keep the kadhai aside. Now in a saucepan add 1/2 cup water and grated jaggery. Boil till all jaggery dissolves and gives a bubbly syrup. 

Meanwhile peel the cardamom. Pound the seeds with a teaspoon of sugar in a mortar and pestle. Save the pod peels in the tea leaves tin for later use. Add the powdered cardamom to the above toasty mix.

Carefully pour the hot jaggery syrup into the kadhai. Mix well to coat the toasted mix with the syrup. Let it cool till the mix is hot enough to handle and a ball can be shaped. Roll pinches of the mix into large marble sized ladu. 

There is a reason why tilgul is marble sized and not as large as boondi or rava or anyother type of a ladu. This seed has astringent effect on the gut and if consumed in large amounts causes loosies.

So eat a small ladu in intervals and let it generate enough heat to keep you warm in the final days of this winter.

Catch all the TV channels broadcasting the Uttarayan special effects like the Gavi Gangadhareshwar temple where the Sankrant sun beam floods the Shivalinga in Bangalore.

Have a lovely rest of the Sankrant!

Our Sankrant Naivedya 
Clockwise: Lime pickle, sweet curd, Masur aamti, Cashew curry, Rice sevai pulao, Malvani vade, papad and Black n white tilgul!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Malvani Kaju Curry

In December we travelled to Malvan, a region in the Sindhudurg district of coastal Maharashtra or as it is locally known, the Kokan.

I need to be writing a lot on Swachchanda God promise, I will this week!

When you travel in the coastal region of Maharahstra you see the abundance of Cashews. The season for fresh Cashews is in summer but we get dried and toasted ones all over Malvan through the year. I source mine from Mhapan a village in Malvan.

This curry tastes awesome with fresh cashews but don't worry even the dried ones work nicely for this curry. 

Malvani curries require a little bit of roasting, frying and grinding and some smart prep. So if you are in a rush divide the activity over time. If you are in the weekend mood of cooking leisurely then you bet this is a therapeutic recipe both for the mind and soul!

Lets get prepping.


1/2 cup soaked cashews or fresh
2 onions sliced
2 red chilies
2 teaspoons oil
salt to taste
chopped cilantro 

For the masala
2 onions sliced
1/2 fresh grated coconut 
4 red chilies
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon Malvani masala or Garam Masala

Start of in the morning by soaking half cup of cashews in hot water. Let them rest over atleast 2 hours while you soak in the bath tub.

Once you are done with your bath and breakfast get the masala roasted.

Heat oil in a nonstick pan. Add the sliced onions and fry till pink. Then add the fresh grated coconut and roast till reddish. Throw in the red chilies. Fry till coated with oil.

Let the masala cool completely. Add the Malvani Masala or if you do not have it use regular garam masala.

Now grind to a paste with some texture. This masala can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or freezer for a month.

When you are ready to make the curry, start by heating oil. Drop in the red chilies for tadka. Fry the onions till translucent. Add the ground masala followed by the soaked cashews. Top up with water, the consistency has to be thickish. Salt the curry as per taste. Boil till the masala is bubbling. Throw in the chopped cilantro in the hot curry so that it wilts in the curry and enhances the flavors.

Enjoy the delicious curry mixed with hot rice or dip your roti in it. Delicious!

Need Cashews? Order right here!

Note: This was the first post mentioning the AnnaParabrahma's Eshop. Though I launched with only Koli masala and a little later added Malvani Masala.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Christmas Cake

Plum Cake or Fruit cake is a must in Christian households. In India no matter what religion we follow we share our festivities and sweets with neighbors and friends. So every year there is enough Christmas cake to eat. It is only recent or may be a decade ago that I started making my own Christmas cake. I know Christmas cakes are rich and boozy. I make mine rich and citrusy. Dry fruits and nuts soaked in honey for atleast a month. Try it and tell me if you really miss the booze in it?

Adapted for vegetarians from Joy of Baking

1 cup softened butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup demerera sugar
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 teaspoons flax seed powder (soaked in 9 teaspoons water)
3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup fresh curd or 1 cup Orange juice
3/4 cup ground almonds
750 gms of *soaked dry fruits and nuts*

Soaking dry fruits and nuts in advance.

Chop up all sorts of dry fruits and nuts. I used Turkish apricots, Nectarines, White peaches, Figs, raisins, cashews, almonds etc. You can use any combo of fruits and nuts. Traditionally atleast raisins and cashews.

In a 1 litre jar put 2 cups of chopped dry fruits and nuts and add a cup of honey. Add 1 cup Homemade orange marmalade. Leave it to soak for atleast a month. I soaked these for about 2 months. Since you are using honey you will not need to drain the fruit.

On the baking day

Begin with creaming the butter and the two types of sugars together. Add the Balsamic vinegar, flax seed powder that has been soaked in water and gelatinized. Add the curd and whip till light and fluffy wet mix.

Now in a big bowl measure out the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Whisk to mix evenly. Slowly add the mix into the creamed wet mix. Whip in the stand mixer on slow.

Next take the *soaked dry fruits and nuts* dredge them in a handful of flour. Add to the batter and mix with spatula till distributed well in the batter.

Prepare a 9 inch springform round tin by lining it with greased parchment or foil both at the bottom and sides. This is a must as this cake needs a long baking time at lower than usual temperature. Pour the batter in the tin and tap the tin on the counter to even out the batter. Level out the top with the spatula.

Preheat oven for 10 mins at 180 degrees Celsius and put the tin in for baking for the first 60 mins. You should get a nice golden colored cake by the end of the hour. For the next 1 hour of bake cover the golden cake with foil or parchment to avoid charring. At this time lower the temperature to 160 degrees Celsius. A skewer inserted in the cake should come out clean to prove the cake is well done inside.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin itself. Once cooled upturn it on a plate lined with a nice doily or decorative paper napkin.

I dusted the Christmas cake with confectioners sugar and added a ribbon for the festive feel. Yeah we are past Christmas but the cravings made me make this cake else I had started to dig into the honey marmalade soaked dryfruits and nuts after meals. 

Good thing is I am taking this cake for Akshada's BD party today. Recently our families traveled together and ever since I have grown fond of this lovely girl. Hope she enjoys it.

Special Note:

Incase, you do not have the time n patience for soaking the fruit. Then just cook the fruit in honey and and water till its all plump.

If the fruit and nut are dry the cake crumbles when slicing. The soaked or cooked fruit holds the crumbs together as this is a cake with as much dry fruits and nuts as the flour.

Updated after the birthday party : 6 Jan 2014

Sliced and enjoyed by the Birthday buddies Akshada and Tejas!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Cherry Topped Vanilla Mascarpone Cheesecake

Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year 2014!

Keep visiting and writing in. 

I have been away travelling and life has been busy. Many stories to share with you in the posts to come up.

But for now here is a quick recipe of an easy yet decadent Cheesecake to celebrate the new year with your gang.


1 cup hung curd

2 cups homemade mascarpone cheese
200 gms icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
25gms agar agar
1/2 cup water

250gms digestive biscuits

5 tablespoons cocoa powder
50 gms butter

1 cup cherries for topping 

few sprigs of fresh mint 

In a dry grinder jar pulse the digestive biscuits along with butter and cocoa powder.

Boil half cup water and add agar agar to it. Stir till it dissolves completely. Let it cool to room temp.

In a 9 inch springform tin press down the powdered biscuits in an even layer. Chill in the fridge.

In the stand mixer bowl add hung curd, mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract and dissolved agar agar solution. Add the sugar little at a time while you run the machine. Whisk till soft peaks are formed.

Pour the mixture into to the chilled springform tin, above the crushed biscuits. Chill for atleast 8 hrs or overnight to let it set properly.

Before serving top the Vanilla Mascarpone cheesecake with cherries and sprigs of fresh mint from your herb pot, I plucked some beautiful ones from my Window grill box.

I had made this cheesecake for Bhau beej for my bros but that won't stop you from making it for a New year's celebration, what say?

Serves 10 people generously.


On Trail