Cooking with Sara Koshy

Ever since i became a part of the Chennai Food Guide group, well, more family, it has been an amazing journey. The only thing i have not been able to attend till date were the workshops, and i was about to change that...

Partnering with Gormei Market and Sara Koshy, CFG had begun this new series of workshops. The 1st one was held last evening at Gormei Market,, Sara Koshy created a few simple dishes within 2hours using the ingredients available on the shelves in the store. It was my 1st time at a Cooking show/demo [the last was when a friend & i enrolled in a baking and candle making class eons ago] 

If, like me you are hooked onto Masterchef Australia & for that matter other cookery shows, you will love this.
If you have drooled watching the chefs whip up delicious dishes within minutes, this class is one that you should not miss. 

With a small group of participants, a patient chef, unlimited access to the pantry [umm, the store in this case] the session was not only fun, it was interesting and informative.  A wonderful way to spend a few hours on the Saturday.

Sara showed us how to make Cream of Mushroom soup [except the soup was not blended and creamy], a Pasta Pomodori [ pasta cooked with few vegetables in a tomato sauce] and a simple Fresh Veg Salad.

The Mushroom Soup
  • Took in total about 20- 25mins to cook
  • Basic soup making recipe
  • Fresh button mushrooms
  • Sara used Organic Milk that was available in the store- Bhoomi milk [Rs 28, for a 1/2 litre]- this milk has a shelf life of upto 3days. And it is advised that you should boil the milk before drinking it [unlike the regular pasturised milk ]
  • Butter was Milky mist

The Pasta Pomodori
  • All vegetables were cut in same shape so they cook well 
  • Prego Pasta sauce was being used- simple tomato one
  • Sara suggested that while we add the Pasta after the water begins boiling, to add a pinch of salt but no oil [ she said the pasta will not stick, and the sauce might not either if you add oil] 
  • The water was boiling with the pasta cooking in it that was referred to as the Rolling-boil mode 
  • At the end, a drop of lime juice was added to the pasta after turning off the heat. [an interesting tip that i shall try]

The Fresh Veg Tossed Salad
  •  Cucumber, Celery stalk, carrots, red capsicum, cherry tomatoes and lettuce leaves were the core ingredients
  • Lettuce- never cut always tear the leaves apart with your hands. 
  • Rub a raw garlic all along the base and side walls of the dish to add a bit of garlic flavour
  • Salad dressing- apple cider vinegar, english mustard, olive oil[twice the quantity of vinegar], salt, sugar and pepper 
  • Add all the ingredients, and then toss well.

Ta da... All the dishes were done in less than 2hours... It was then onto plating them, clicking photographs and trying them out!  

Gormei Market also gave each of us a T Shirt and some gift coupons... Which i and few others used up then and there...The store has just about every thing you could dream of- sauces, pasta, quinoa, rice, bread, cheese, herbs, organic ingredients, meat, biscuits, chocolates and so on..............   :-)

Watch this space to know more about the next workshop!! You don't want to miss it....
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Almond Blossom

Like to an almond tree ymounted hye
  On top of greene Selinis all alone,
    With blossoms brave bedecked daintily;
      Whose tender locks do tremble every one,
        At everie little breath, that under heaven is blowne.
      - Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene
         (bk. I, canto VII, st. 32) 

My little almond tree is barely 3 feet tall, but in a taste of years to come, is a mass of glowing, white blossoms.

Such a joyful sight during these grey and rainy days.
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Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Strawberries

I saved this recipe ages ago and have been dying to make them. Can you believe I've never made dipped strawberries?  I especially loved the little bit of sea salt on them.  It was so pretty and they tasted wonderful!  It was a warm day when I made them and the caramel did melt a bit but that didn't stop people from eating them and scooping up all the delicious caramel. 

Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Strawberries
Adaped from Crazy Daisy

20 - 25 strawberries, depending on size
40 caramels, unwrapped (put the kids to work)
3 tbsp. whipping cream
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
Sea Salt

Spread wax paper over the counter or on cookie sheets and spray with cooking spray.  Rinse strawberries. Pat them dry with peper towels.  The caramel will not stick to wet strawberries.

Microwave the caramels, cream and salt in the microwave for 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 minutes until smooth, stirring every minute.  Dip strawberries half way into caramel mixture.  Place on prepared wax paper. 

Place chocolate chips into a zip loc bag. Microwave for 30 seconds.  Take bag from microwave and use fingers to knead chips.  Repear until chocolate is melted. Cut a small piece of the corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate over strawberries.  Sprinkle with just a touch of sea salt. 

Let stand about 10 - 15 minutes until set.  Serve immediately or cover and chill. 

This is linked with:
$5 Dinner Challenge at $5 Dinners
My Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory
Just another Meatless Monday at Hey, What's for Dinner Mom?
Made By You Monday at Skip to my Lou
Tuesday at the Table at All the Small Stuff
Hearth and Soul at The 21st Century Housewife
Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
My Recipe Box at Bizzy Bakes
What Works for me Wednesday at We are THAT Family
Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop
Whole Foods Wednesday at This Chick Cooks
Gluten Free Wednesday at The Gluten Free Homemaker
Recipe Linky at Newlyweds
The Mommy Club at Crystal and Co.
Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm
Gallery of Favorites at 21st Century Housewife
Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home
I'm Lovin' It by Tidy Mom
Foodie Friday at Simple Living
Weekend Wrap Up Party at Tater Tots and Jello

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Veekes and Thomas, Chennai

There is a new eat out in Town, yes, one more, but this one seems promising. Why? It is pure Veg, a chain that has been quite successful in Bangalore, located in Nungambakkam, off Haddows Road and menu is simple, the icing on the cake- it is very reasonably priced!

And the decision was made. When a friend's friend- SR was in town and asked if we could meet up, after a few messages, i asked if we could do lunch at Veekes & Thomas ?!

We landed there at 1pm, and on opening the door to the restaurant found it hot and stuffy. One the staff apologized and told us they were facing power issues. We then decided to sit outside, and luckily it wasnt too hot. 

Since we were meeting for the first time, we spent nearly an hour catching up, swapping stories, sharing work experiences and of course talking about the mutual friend...
It was nearly 2pm when we thought we should get down to ordering Lunch... 

They had about 3 soups and it mentioned "served in Chai glass" which is what got me curious.. The Basil & Tomato soup was not available and so we settled for the French Onion soup [i'd recently watched the Masterchef Masterclass episode where Gary made the French Onion soup and my oh my, it looked divine] 

The other day when i had been here, few friends were just winding up. One of them in particular mentioned that the Brocolli Corn Cheese Starter was delightful. And well, yes, i had to try it. It was crisp with a nice bite to it and filled with flavour- served with a tangy sauce. 

For the main dishes, i chose the Ratatouille [for some reason, the dish always brings the movie to my mind and i wonder if the dish is going to resemble a rat or come with a toon picture... lol]. I enjoyed the Ratatouille, but the rice had a bit of a bite, i wonder if that is how it is supposed to be or if this is a different kind of rice....

While my friend chose the Penne with Vegetables [which was a bit bland so we added chilli flakes and herbs to it and then  it sang like a tweety bird... :-)]


The food was really good, simple. We were stuffed and so passed up on Desserts. But the most amazing part was when the bill arrived- this meal for 2 was Rs538/- .. What a steal.... 

We lingered on for another half hour yakking away before parting ways. It was one good happy lunch! Will i go back here? You Betcha!

Ambiance- 7/10 [inside is nice, with all the music posters on the wall and pictures of food etc]
Price- 9/10
Service- 8/10 [ Umm, there were times when we couldnt quite understand what the waiter was telling us. Guess its their accent]
Overall Rating -8.5/10 

#15/4 Haddows Lane
Haddows Rd  Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600034
Ph- 09710026669

It is in the lane right next to Fashion Folks on Haddows Road [ Adj to Shastri Bhavan], go right till the end and you will see it on your left next to an apartment complex. 

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BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar Smokehouse Chicken Melt

I always look forward to The Secret Recipe Club but this month is even more exciting than usual.  April has asked me to help with Group C.  This means a whole new group for me and a whole bunch of new bloggers that I cannot wait to find!

I admit, I often procrastinate and wait until the last minute to make my recipe. I usually pick it out right away but tend to wait to make it.  Well, this time, I made it right away!  I was expecting company one evening and needed a quick, tasty dinner to serve.  This was perfect! 

This month I was assigned The Big Bears Wife.  Angies blog is one of my favorites so I was tickled to be able to chose something from her blog.  She has one of the most amazing food indexes I've seen. I LOVE the pictures to choose from.  She has so many good things that it was hard for me to narrow down what to make.  I totally want to make her pineapple banana bread pudding!

I chose her Smokehouse Melt.  This has everything I could want in a chicken meal. I made the bacon earlier in the day so it came together for dinner really quickly.

I do need to apologize for my horrible pictures. The cheese melted a lot and it just didn't come out looking good in the picture. The taste made up for it, I promise! The bbq sauce, cheese and bacon was an awesome combination with the chicken. I made more for lunch the next day and the picture didn't turn out any better but it was still wonderful!  

BBQ, Bacon, & Cheddar Smokehouse Melt Recipe
Adapted from The Big Bears Wife

Boneless chicken breasts
Bacon, whole pieces & crumbled
BBQ Sauce
Tomatoes, sliced
Cheddar cheese slices

Cook chicken. We cooked ours in a pan with bacon grease. You can grill them too.  Then I spread with BBQ sauce, topped with tomato, layed bacon over it, spread with cheese, then crumbled bacon and heated until cheese was melty.  You can also do this in the broiler.  Yummy!

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OMG at Sandys

A plan was made, people were roped in and the venue was decided.. We were all headed to Sandy's Wallace Garden to attack, or rather devour the Oh My God dessert... Found a table, parked ourselves and waited eagerly, wondering if the dessert will live up to its name or be a let down...

Ta da.. the waiter brought forth a huge white bowl that had a sparkler on it on our table. I looked at it, looked at it again... in sheer disbelief. Was it humanly possible to eat something this big? I was reminded of the Man Vs Food show on TLC where Adam wolfs down giant burgers and pancakes.. Thought to myself "hmm, maybe he can finish this dessert in a few minutes, but can we all?" and we were 6 of us.. not 1 or 2.... 6....

 The size of the bowl.. i kid you not!! 

 Can you see the yummy sauces that have been slathered on generously? a total of 100ml- Caramel Sauce, butterscotch sauce, White & Dark chocolate sauce

A few minutes of silence, each of us saying a silent prayer and ofcourse clicking away with our cameras, and phones.. staring at each other with the same question running through our minds and then attack... we grabbed a spoon each and began digging into this treat. 

Most of them were standing, well, they said they couldnt reach into the bowl sitting down... And slowly, steadily, the bowl was getting empty.. We could finally see the bottom of what seemed to have been a bottomless pit of divinity.... 

Oh My God

2 rich brownies
3 cookies with chocolate chips
6 scoops of ice cream- 3 vanilla and 3 chocolate
300 -600 ml of fresh whipped cream
100 ml sauces-  Caramel Sauce, butterscotch sauce, White & Dark chocolate sauce

Total weight of the dish- 2.2kgs

What do you know.. 10mins flat the bowl was empty... short of licking it we had polished it off .... Surprisingly, it was a light dessert, not the kind that goes sits in your tummy, giving you a nauseated feeling.  

Sandesh and Madan made a beeline towards our table and we had a quick chat with them about the OMG, how many have conquered it. Sandesh mentioned one guy had eaten the who had devoured it all by himself- took 45mins, strolled around, chit chatted and ate like he was eating a small cake... He also mentioned there was another guy who ate 75% and commented "i could finish it, but dont want to risk stuffing myself"... 

We were then served a platter of cup cakes- Red velvet with a cream cheese icing, Vanilla with plain icing sugar and rich chocolate with chocolate icing.... The vanilla won hands down...!!

That is what you call an amazing fun wacko evening with friends........................
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Vacation - New York City

I gotta say, I was so, so scared about driving in New York City. Well, actually, it wouldn't be me driving. I'm leaving the driving up to my husband.  I'll be the one in the passenger seat white knuckling the map!   Up until now it's been smaller towns and easy directions via  GPS and Mapquest.  Now it gets tough.  We drove down to Brooklyn to take in the tour of the world headquarters. It was supposed to be about a 2 hours drive. After a late start and many rain storms, we arrived much later than desired.  It took forever to get over the Brooklyn Bridge.  How cool is it that we were ON the Brooklyn Bridge!  But we made it! I swear, as soon as we parked, both my husband and I sighed in relief.

The tour of the headquarters was fantastic of course and we were able to go with a special group and see some behind the scenes things that we normally would have missed.  I guess it paid to be late because these extra things were awesome!  This is the World Headquarters but what I loved is how simple the place is.  These are people who help this huge organization that still are humble enough to hold their meetings in dignified but simple conference rooms.  Nothing fancy all.  These buildings in Brooklyn have been the World Headquarters for about 100 years (I think).  They are right on the river and many of the offices have spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and the city.

After the tour, we walked around a bit and then waited for my husband to pick us up. It was hot and we were too lazy to walk to the parking garage.  Right in front of us, a cop pulls up and starts to write out a ticket on a car for parking.  I thought it was kinda cool to see a New York cop writing a ticket. Yes, we're tourists! Better yet when the guy came running up to try to get OUT of the ticket.  Here I am, in New York City, snapping pictures of this guy and the cop.  I thought it was pretty funny!

We stayed in New Jersey, just across the river. The America's Best seemed kinda scummy and the lobby and elevator were very stinky but the rooms were awesome!  Biggest room we've had and we had a pull out couch.  It was very clean too.  Don't judge a book by it's cover!

The next morning we were off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a tour, The Woman and the Seed.  It was about how the bible prophecies and history, through art, confirm findings and teachings in the bible.  This was an amazing tour.  Chris, our tour guide was wonderful and we learned so much.  There were things in this ancient Egyptian art that I never would have caught if it wasn't for this tour.  Then of course, we all posed for a picture in front of a pagan temple. Nothing like getting your picture taken in front of a pagan temple!!  They did ask that we not post any pictures though so I'll have to keep all the art pictures for myself.

Right at the front of the museum, there was a large room with a bunch of Roman statues.  Most were heads and nude statues. Our tour didn't discuss this room but as it was in front, we ended up walking through it several times.  My son at one point finally asked, "Mom, why do we keep having to go through the hall of naked people?!"

We ate lunch at The Met cafe.  We spent $83!  It was almost funny! We couldn't bring drinks in there so we were all very thirsty and dry.  So 3 sandwiches, 5 fruits, 1 order of chicken tenders and fries, 5 drinks and a cupcake from Crumbs was $83. Only in New York! 

We walked around Central Park for awhile after The Met. It was super hot and humid but we weren't going to miss the opportunity to see Central Park!  We thought about walking across the The Museum of Natural History but it was getting late and the kids were tired, hot and hungry.

While we didn't go to the Museum of Natural History, I still snapped a picture from the car. 

Tomorrow?  Back towards home through Pennsylvania!

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Kamat Swad, Bangalore

 Bangalore has so many eateries that sometimes i am overwhelmed, there are streets filled with eat out options, big and small, that i am amazed. I come back to Chennai and wonder why we dont have such a concept here, and quickly tell a Thanks to the Mystery man that my city is a little better.. Anyways, i digress!!  Kamat is a chain that you will find pretty  much in every area in Bangalore. I have been to a few of them- Kamat Bugle Rock is one i remember vividly. Had been there years, or was it months? ago with a friend and his son..

It was time to visit another outlet, "Kamat Swad in Koramangala" The thing about Kamat is - you see the place, check out the unassuming building, the simple structure, and the kaboom, the food hits you like a surprise!

I was in the auto, glued to the Google maps on my Blackberry, giving directions to the auto driver in my so called Kannada. I spotted the Canara Bank, but couldnt locate Kamat, and then the map sweetly showed that it was behind.. Looks like we had gone past it.. A U turn and there it was... Dang, how did i miss this huge sign board?

Got off, and just as i was to enter, i spotted Monika drive in.. We rode the elevator to the 3rd floor, and found a place. A waiter came over asked if we wanted Normal meals or special meals..

The Special meals is the Normal meals with
A Sweet
Ice cream/Fruit salad and
Bottle of water

We opted for the Normal meals and waited eagerly.

There came the Banana leaf, a glass of water, a glass of Buttermilk and a cup of curd.. The Buttermilk was divine, just perfectly seasoned.

And then came a good serving of salad- Fresh Methi leaves, Spring onions, and a big piece of Cucumber, and finally a papad. I was amazed- i have never seen fresh methi leaves served, especially not as a salad. I tried eating, but found it too bitter...

As we caught up on our lives, trips and work, we were served hot jowar rotis. We passed on the dollop of butter and eagerly looked on as we were served the side dishes. There were 3 gravies- one with black eyed peas, a greens with daal, and brinjal curry[the gravy was delicious and i quitely kept the brinjal aside]. There was also a raida with cucumber, onion and tomato that was yumm. And ofcourse, how can a Karnataka meal be complete without the traditional Kosmalli [a raw lentil salad of sorts].

The rotis kept coming, till we finally said enough. There is also the option of Rice, which is eaten along with Sambar, Rasam or with one of the podi [powder] kept on the table.. I did try them, one seemed like it had curry leaves, the other felt like the one we eat with idli, dosa and the 3rd was made of daal, but could not really decipher the flavours. I skipped the sambar [ i dont like the funny sweetness found in karnataka Sambar] but instead had a few spoonfuls of rasam [which i quite like].

It was quite a filling meal, and yet so light on the stomach. The bill came after we asked for it [unlike it being placed on the table the minute we were done eating] along with 2 bananas.

All this for Rs130/-[per meal] Quite a steal i would say!! 

Was quite a change from the usual eating out i do- and i quite liked it. Not heavy, not greasy, not oily, not filled with masalas and coriander.  I noticed the place was quite full, probably people from offices nearby.

Ambiance: 8/10
Price: 9/10 [the special meal is Rs160- 170/-]
Service: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8/10

100 Feet Road, 6th Block, Near Canara Bank/Opp Naturals salon,
Phone: 080 22736419
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Vacation - Touring Wallkill and Patterson

The reason we came on this trip was to tour the world headquarters and the United States Bethel facilities in Brooklyn, Patterson and Wallkill, New York. Thousands come each year to visit.  Not only is it a fun place to visit but it is faith strengthening to observe the immense organization.

The Wallkill facility is only about 10 minutes from our hotel.  We were able to see how Bible literature is printed, bound and shipped to congregations in the US, the Caribbean and other parts of the world. The people who work here are volunteers.  They live on site and volunteer their time and energy to the work of Jehovah God.  It is so incredibly wonderful to see these people work together.  My kids all said they would love to apply to Bethel when they are old enough!

The grounds are beautiful!  Wonderfully landscaped and well taken care of by the bethel volunteers.

We stopped for lunch at Burger King on the way to the Patterson branch.  This Burger King had the most awesome Coke dispenser.  It had a touch screen and about 97 flavors of pop!  You could touch COKE - and it would let you chose Raspberry Coke, Cherry Vanilla Coke, Orange Coke, Lime Coke, Lemon Coke and a bunch more.  Similar flavors for Sprite, Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper and a bunch of punches, lemonades and more!  It was pretty sad how many different soda's we tried!  We're such tourists!!

We arrived at the Patterson branch. This is known as the Education Center.  They have different schools for different groups of people.  They also also are responsible for much of the art and audio/video services, legal, service and translating services.  There are many important things being done but it was agreed by many that one of the most important and urgent jobs is to increase the work with the translating of the bible and bible literature into different languages.  Jehovah's Witness try to bring the same message all around the world and have the bible translated into hundreds of languages as well as the publications translated into hundreds of languages. 

We visited the immense dining rooms at each of these places.  We did not have the privilege of eating here but I have heard they have the best food!  They are serving about 1500 people but still make everything fresh and delicious! We listened to some of the cooking staff talk about what they did and it is amazing to hear how organized they are and how much time and planning they take in preparing the food.  To top it all off, they LOVE their jobs.  Remember, these are volunteers. How many of us find so much purpose and meaning in our jobs that we would volunteer? 

These are the headquarters in the United States but on other continents, similar branches are printing and distributing the same literature.  All the branches work together in unity and all have the same goal.  To get the message of God to everyone.  What other organization in world do you know that has such global unity?

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Vacation - Trip across New York

Today we had a little over 6 hours of driving.  We were continuing on through New York to the eastern side. 

I woke up sluggish and tired.  This was the first day that I missed my bed.  I get the privilege of sleeping with Jory, my 10 year old.  He likes to cuddle which is nice but can sometimes make for not a good night sleep.  I didn't want to go home, but I missed my bed.  I ended up taking a short nap in the car soon after starting out our trip across New York. It helped a lot. The Mountain Dew and Diet Coke helped perk me up too!

The kids were watching movies in the van and I had my book along with my MP3 player listening to the Dixie Chicks, Christina Aguilera, Amy Grant and Kelly Clarkson.  Yup that's right, chick music.  Mixed in with a bit of Bon Jovi, Meatloaf and Barry Manillow made for some awesome tunes driving through the mountains!

I couldn't believe the gorgeous drive across New York.  The mountains and the trees were breathtaking.  We have a lot of green trees in Minnesota, but no mountains.  For some reason I just forgot that we'd be going through the mountains on this trip.  I kept seeing miles and miles of green trees and thought how even more gorgeous they would be in the fall when the leaves changed colors!

This is the farthest east I've ever been.  I didn't realize how dumb I was about US geography until I wasn't sure what mountains these were.  I THOUGHT they were the Appalachian Mountains but for some reason, I didn't think that they came up this far north so I wondered if they were called something else.  So I did the stupid tourist move and asked someone, "Uh, are these the Appalachian Mountains?"  They looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "Yes."  Stop laughing, I'm 1500 miles away from home!

I expected to find more scenic overlooks along the highway.  In Minnesota, there seems to be a scenic overlook just about everywhere. So we kept our eyes peeled but didn't see any. I managed to get some decent shots from the car though. 

As we went on through New York, it just kept getting more and more beautiful.  Beautiful but for the cell towers and power lines that lined the streets and ran into the mountains.  I realize that we need these but I couldn't help but feel like an intruder in these massive green giant mountains.

Again, I was reminded of all the time and thought that God put into creating this earth for us.  He didn't have to make such pretty things.  We certainly don't need it to survive.  But clearly he appreciates beauty and so generously gave us these mountains to enjoy.

We made it to the hotel, The Harvest Inn.  The hotel is in Pine Bush, NY.  This is the cutest little town.  I feel right at home here and declared at once that I want to live there!  The Harvest Inn is an amazing motel.  It is run by Jehovah's Witnesses and just is the happiest little place.  There is a piano in the lobby and a cute waterfall.  They have a gift shop with meeting items and service bags.  They have a little library with current publications and I just felt right at home there.  When you're so far from home, this is a wonderful feeling.

Tomorrow we're touring the Wallkill and Patterson buildings for Jehovah's Witnesses.  These are said to be spiritually uplifting and just fantastic! I'll share more tomorrow!

I love this last photo.  It shows this gorgeous mountain with the Wrong Way sign obscuring the gorgeous view.  Yes, this is the wrong way to be viewing these spectacular mountains! 

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