Kai Idli

Kai Idli

I am sharing a picture of me that was taken in the courtyard of my paternal grandparent’s home in Bangalore, India on the day I turned One . As you can see, I was a ‘healthy’ child ūüôā who grew up in the midst of indulgent grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. My maternal grandmother could whip up an elaborate and delicious meal for guests in what seemed like no time, while also making tiny servings of whatever the children asked for to play house with the neighborhood kids. There was always something to celebrate, and feasts being served. As with any young mother, apparently my mom kept a watchful eye on what was going into my stomach. To this day, my aunt never fails to remind me of how much I used to¬†¬†love idlis as a little girl, of how my mom would give me 2-3 in a plate, and how I always asked another relative for an extra as soon as my mom left the room.


Funny thing is that I’ve hardly made idlis over the last few years because in my opinion, it is a pain to soak, blend, ferment, get the measurements & temperature right, steam the batter, and then clean up and put away the dishes!. When I first tasted these at my friend Soumya’s house, it was love at first bite. The flavors of the dill, vegetables, cumin and chillies worked so well. PLUS there was no fermenting! I have made these many times since getting the recipe and they are always a hit. In fact, I always make extra to freeze for another quick meal. [Cool them completely and freeze in double freezer safe bags. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and microwave covered till hot.] By the way, Kai means¬†coconut¬† in Kannada.


Kai Idli

Kai Idli

(Makes about 40 idlis – this is a large batch, but can be scaled down as needed)

  • 2.5 cups rice

1) Rinse the rice once or twice in cold running water and soak it for 2 hours in warm water.

2) Meanwhile, chop all these ingredients finely.

  • 1 bunch dill
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 2 big onions
  • 6-8 green beans
  • 2 medium carrots (grate)

3) Blend all the ingredients below into a fine paste using as little water as possible.***

  • 1 full medium coconut – grated (or 3/4 packet frozen grated coconut)
  • 10-12 green chillies
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 Tbsp cumin (jeera) seeds
  • 1.5 Tbsp corriander (dhania) seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tsp left over rice (if available)

4) Blend the soaked rice into a coarse mixture using *****no more than 2.5 – 3 cups water total (including for masala above)*****.

5) Add the rice, masala & vegetables together with salt ( I used about 2 tsp) and mix well. The batter must be slightly thicker than plain idli batter.

6) Grease your idli plates and pour scant 1/4 cups into each indent. Press down lightly to shape.

7) Steam 14-15 minutes covered.

8) Serve with ghee & coconut chutney.


So it’s come to a point AGAIN where I’ve wondered where the time has flown. I have been away from the blog for about a whole month now. While the guilt of not posting has been breathing down my neck constantly for the last few weeks, I think I have some idea what writer’s block means. My head has been churning with ideas about all the things I want to share with you all, but the discipline to put it down in words has eluded me. To my credit, I did sit down at the computer couple times to start working on a draft. But first, I wanted an image to refer to my procrastination:


Or, how about this one: You can change ‘dissertation” to “blog”


Did you know that Pinterest is such a good source of entertainment information?!?! :))

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While I was online, I found out that Feb 5, 2015 is World Nutella Day! Of course, I had to go through the 700+ recipes to see what might inspire me, right? I’m mean, it’s Nutella!! Look at this picture for No Bake Nutella Cheesecake. You know you want some.¬†nutella_cheesecake_03

Or, how about some Creamy Nutella Liqueur. Sounds delish.¬†I’ll be making some for the next girls night :).


The cheesecake & liqueur would be so amazing to share while chatting away with my high school classmates – we’ve been spending quite a bit of time over the last few days catching up on WhatsApp and it’s such¬†a welcome sight to wake up to dozens of messages from friends waiting to be read. We’ve been reliving the simple pleasures of growing up in India in the 70s and 80s (there, now you all know what age group I’m in:)). Life has taken us in different directions – personal, professional & geographical – yet, it was easier to feel a connection with¬†them after 20+ years than it is to make ‘new friends’ as we get older.

We also travelled to the west coast over the holidays. While I’d been to LA several times before, it was my first trip to Scottsdale & Sedona, and I loved it!! The landscape is so unbelievably beautiful and unlike anything I had seen around DC.


Santa Monica Beach & Pier

Though I’m not a beach person in the summer (I’ve been told I’m weird – many times!), I enjoy walking on the sand in spring and fall. The cool ocean breeze, the sound of sea gulls and lighter crowds all make for a relaxing outing.


Santa Monica Pier

We biked to Santa Monica Pier for the rides, games and watching the sun set.


Universal Studios, CA

While my kids are too old for Disney, Universal Studios is a great place to go, especially with an 11-year old. I really wanted to do Mummy Returns, but my kids said I was ‘too old’ for it! The best part of the visit was that I was able to climb 200 steps¬† from the lower to the upper lot. The looks on the faces of the people on the escalator was prizeless. Of course, it’s probably a breeze for many of you but was definitely an achievement for me. The last few weeks at the gym were finally showing some results. ūüôā


Crazy Cayote Tacos – enroute LA to Scottsdale – Featured on Anthony Bourdain

Many of the places we ate at on this trip were hole-in-the-wall / mom-and-pop joints. I mean, there’s only so much chain restaurant meals you can have over 10 days. I will write more about them and provide links for you to use if you are ever in the area. Crazy Cayote Cafe was a family run shack located just outside an Indian Reservation about 2 hours out of LA towards Scottsdale. We had really delicious tacos, spanish rice and a burrito almost the size of my forearm!! All items were under $10 bucks, and the portions were pretty big. Spicy too! But in a good way :))


McDowell Sonoran Preserve Trail – Scottsdale, AZ

Besides Old Town, Scottsdale, we really enjoyed the scenic hike at McDowell Sonoran Preserve. These tall saguaro plants are exclusive to the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona & western Mexico. It is the tallest cactus in all of USA, but grows at an excruciatingly slow pace of about an inch or two every 10 years. While they can grow up to 40-60 feet tall, interestingly, their roots are only a few inches deep long and are spread as wide as the plant is tall. About 1.6 million of these plants are in the Sonoran desert, and are truly a sight to see.


Earthquake fault line at Broken Arrow Trail, Sedona, AZ

One of the coolest things of the trip to Sedona was taking the Broken Arrow Trail¬†with¬†Pink Jeep Tours. We rode with a¬†professional guide/driver in an open pink Jeep Wrangler, and were¬†taken off road to some spectacularly beautiful view points. The picture above shows an earthquake fault line (different versions state anywhere between 12-30 miles long), and I was amazed at how straight it was, although I’d never expected to see one in my life. It was supposedly so ‘small’ that it didn’t even have a name. Our guide called it “Nobody’s Fault” :)).

We also got a chance to finally go up to the National Christmas Tree by the White House. The 2014 theme was Pathway of Peace. The tree was surrounded by 56 smaller trees representing every US state, territory & Washington, DC. Model trains chugged around at its base, and there was also a giant Menorah on the grounds. We had driven by on several other years, but this was my first visit on foot.


National Christmas Tree 2014 (time.com)

College acceptance letters came back and my son got into his dream school.¬†Back to feeling “Where did the time go?” It wasn’t that long ago that I was walking him to the kindergarten classroom. ******* sniffle****


Now that you know why I’ve been away, I hope you can excuse my absence ūüôā and walk along with me as I work my way through my recipe stash and share them with you in 2015. I have a lineup of interesting & international cuisine¬†to share with ¬†you – salads, personalized Valentine’s Day cake, idlis that need no fermenting, easy entertaining recipes, and even low-carb healthy meals¬†that I’ve been making each night for the last few weeks. Hope you all enjoy your weekend and have a fantastic 2015.

Dasara (Navratri) celebrations in Mysore, Karnataka

Dasara / Dussehra / Navratri Wishes To All Of You

Navratri or “nine-nights” festival is celebrated in India in late September-early October to honor the many reincarnations of Goddess Durga. In South India, prayers are also offered to¬†Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) and Goddess Saraswathi (the goddess of learning).¬†¬†Symbolic of the victory of good over evil, it is celebrated differently across India. While the Durga Puja of West Bengal, and the Garba dance of Gujarat are¬†very popular and well known, I wanted to share the details of the spectacular celebrations that go on in the southern city of Mysore, Karnataka. It is called¬†DASARA in Kannada, the regional language.

Durga_Mahishasura-mardini,_the_slayer_of_the_buffalo_demon,_GermanyGoddess Chamundi kills evil Mahishasura (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

Originating in 1610 during the rule of the Wodeyar family, Karnataka will be celebrating Dasara for the 403rd year in 2014. Considered “Nada Habba” or state festival, Dasara (from sanskrit dosha-hara, meaning “defeat of ill-fate”) is also celebrated for nine days and culminates with Vijaya Dashmi “victorious 10th day”. Parades, exhibitions, royal durbar (audience with the king), music, dance, wrestling, prayers, competitions and many more events mark this grand celebration in Mysore. The word Mysore is derived from “Mahishur” or “Mahishasurana Ooru” – meaning ‘the town of Mahishasura’ in Kannada. Mahishasura was a half man-half buffalo demon who prayed to the Gods with such devotion that they allowed him to ask for a boon. When his request for immortality was turned down, he asked that no man would be able to kill him, and – betting that no women would be strong enough to defeat him – that if he had to die, it would be at the hands of a woman. The gods granted him his wish, and Mahishasura, thinking that he was unbeatable, began harassing the people of the world, and even the Gods. Finally, unable to tolerate this tyrant, Lords Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer), along with the other gods channeled their divine energy to create Chamundi (an incarnation of Durga) – a fearless and fiery fighter with thousand arms – each carrying the weapon of a different god, and riding a lion. After a brutal battle, the Goddess was finally able to slay Mahishasura on a hilltop, and good triumphed over evil. The people and the Gods then celebrated this victory for 10 days, calling it Dasara.Mahisasur_Statue_at_Chamundi_Hills

Statue of Mahishasura on top of Chamundi Hills in Mysore, Karnataka (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)


Chamundeshwari Temple on top of Chamundi Hills (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)


During Dasara, the Mysore Palace is illuminated with 100,000 light bulbs for 10-days. (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

An important tradition of Dasara / Navratri in Karnataka is Bombe Habba or ‘the display of dolls’. According to legend, when the Gods gave all their powers to Chamundi to go fight Mahishasura, they became powerless and stood still like statues. Once the demon was defeated, people commemorated the actions of the Gods by praying to them in the form of dolls. Many houses display the dolls through Dasara on odd-numbered tiered steps built specifically for this purpose. The most important dolls are the Pattada Gombe which symbolise the King and the Queen. They are always made of dark wood, simply designed and decorated with cloth or paper. On the display steps, Gods are placed high, then saints, kings & queens, next any depictions of festivals & celebrations, and finally, portrayals of everyday life. Women invite each other to come over each evening for prayers and aarti, and having the best dolly display is a matter of pride.


(Pic: http://housedelic.com/tag/dasara/)

While the first few days of Dasara are a little low key, Saraswathi Pooja is celebrated on the 7th/8th day. Goddess Saraswathi is the Goddess of knowledge & arts. It is customary to place books and musical/art related supplies by her idol and pray for her blessings in mastering those skills.


(Above) The Late Maharaja Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar performing Saraswathi Pooja.  (Pic: The Hindu)

On Vijayadashmi, the 10th day celebration, the main attraction is the Jamboo Savari (Elephant Parade). One of the many brightly decorated royal elephants is mounted with a 750-kilogram gold mantapa (altar) carrying the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari. After the King & Queen offer their prayers at the palace, the colorful and loud parade moves through the city.



(Pic: http://gujaratirecipesallinone.blogspot.com/2010/10/colours-of-karnataka.html)

Tens of thousands of people line the streets and buildings to watch these regal elephants, horses, camels, musicians, members of the armed services, dancers, acrobats, school children and more march & perform along the way. I have spent many years as a young girl sitting on the sidewalk with relatives, waiting with bated breath for the procession to go by, and can’t wait for a time when I will be able to do it again.

DUSHERA_NEW_1 DSC_0325 dashara13

 Above, performers of traditional art forms of Karnataka participate in the procession. Below, the current Maharani Pramoda Devi of Mysore (center, in pink) and her family watch the festivities from a palace balcony.


(Pic: http://gujaratirecipesallinone.blogspot.com/2010/10/colours-of-karnataka.html)


(Pic: http://creative.sulekha.com/mysore-dasara-pageantry-deity-and-piety_609945_blog)

The procession ends at Banni Mantapa Grounds Рthe site of the sacred Banni tree. Legend has it that Arjuna retrieved his weapons that he had hidden in a hole in this Banni tree before being banished to exile for 14 years. The Pandavas then defeated the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra battle, and returned victorious on Vijayadashmi. Hence, the festival of Ayudha Puja (worshipping of weapons) is celebrated on the 9th day. Current day interpretation has made the festival one where all vehicles and tools are cleaned, decorated, and prayed to for safe and productive usage. Limes are placed under each wheel of the vehicles as sacrifice, and we drive/ride over it till it is squashed. It is not uncommon for businesses to shut down their computers and machinery so that they can be cleaned and prayed to. I remember washing and decorating my bicycle with flowers and balloons when I was a little girl and being so proud of my handiwork.


(Pic: http://www.sangamprojects.com/pictures/festivals/ayudha-puja)

It is unfortunate that on December 10, 2013, Mysore Maharaja Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar passed away at the age of 60. For the first time in hundreds of years, Dasara festivities will be held without a king.

Where did summer go?!?!

Hello to HolyKhao readers. Hope all’s well and you’ve all had a wonderful summer. I’ve been gone a long time, and haven’t posted anything the last few months. Summer break was super busy but interesting – some traveling, family visits, hungry kids, play dates, sleep overs, pool time, and most importantly – a new addition to the family!

We were able to get away for a short visit to see my good friends in Seattle and I think I am in love with the city. Catching up with a good friend over cups of tea, eating out, hanging out with the kids, visiting sights – thanks to our wonderful hosts A&S. The spectacular views of Mt. Rainier from the city, the farmer’s markets, Pike Place, the scenic walking trails, wild berries on the side of every road just waiting to be picked and eaten, Hurricane Ridge, and ferry rides to Victoria to see the beautiful Butchart Gardens were some of the highlights of the trip.

Mt. Rainier


We visited Mt. Rainier from the Paradise area, and enjoyed walking on snow in gorgeous mid-70s weather :). The picture above is of Paradise Glacier. For size perspective, we were told that the snow is hundreds of feet deep in some of the spots in this photo.

Narada Falls


Narada Falls at Mt. Rainier


(Pic: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Pike-place-market.jpg)

Pike Place is Seattle’s original Farmer’s Market, established in 1907 – nine acres of local, artisanal &¬†speciality¬†food and crafts. Absolute must visit if you are in Seattle.

The pictures below are of the many varieties of flowers for sale – bouquets were as cheap as $5 for a big bunch!!

Pike Place Flower Market


(Photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pike-place-market.jpg)


We found many interesting things at¬†Tenzing Momo – “the West Coast’s oldest & largest apothecary and perfumery….”


Fresh, local vegetables at Pike Place Farmer’s Market.

On our way to Victoria, BC, we stopped at Fat Smitty’s for milkshakes &¬†fish n’ chips. Customers tack dollar bills to the walls and ceilings as donation, and it is taken down when full with the help of local Boy Scouts, and donated to charitable causes.

Fat Smitty's

Fat Smitty's

¬†If you get bored while you wait, you can read what’s written on the prominently placed refrigerator!!!

Fat Smitty's

Below is a small glimpse of beautiful Butchart Gardens – it’s¬†story¬†is simply amazing. Today, hundreds of varieties of plants bloom in dozens of different gardens on the grounds that were once mined for limestone to supply cement.¬†

Butchart Gardens


Hanging Baskets

The pictures above are of flowers in huge hanging baskets above our head.

 Of course, we did visit the Seattle Space Needle, the original Starbucks, Snowqualmie Falls, Pine Lake Park, and many other sites.

We arrived back home from a wonderful trip, and two days later brought home 7-week-old Snuffles.

Snuffles 7 weeks

IMG_3813Snuffles at 11weeks.

He turned 14 weeks on the 5th of September, 2014. This little puppy has been gaining 10 lbs every 3 weeks!!

The last 8 weeks have been so much fun, but has revolved around Snuffles’ eating, sleeping, walking, pooping schedule. It’s like having a baby all over again! With the kids finally back in school, I have had some sort of routine and am back to blogging. I will be posting some healthy and fun recipes soon. Enjoy the last few warm days before winter sets in. Is it true that the whole country is going to get slammed with a wet and snowy winter again?


Happy Ugadi


I would like to wish all my readers a wonderful UGADI.

Hope this new year brings to you and your loved ones the inspiration to move out of your comfort zone,

the courage to fall,

the strength to get up again & move forward,

the joy of reaching the goal,

and most importantly,

that you grow in your journey.

Glimpses of Vietnamese & Cambodian Food

I’m back from a wonderful trip to Bangalore, and to beautiful South East Asia. Although I was gone for about 3 weeks, my Vietnam & Cambodia trip was for 9 days with a group of 18 women. The tour company I used is aptly named WoW (Women On Wanderlust)¬†Club . Catering exclusively to women ‘wanderers‘, our group included people from all over India, and from various backgrounds and ages (22 – 76 years old). We visited not only the touristy sights, but also had plenty time to take in the local culture, sights, happy hours, food, and indulge in amazingly cheap ($6 for 60+ minutes!!) accupressure body massages on a regular basis. Each time I heard about the brutal cold across USA, I was thankful to be spending leisurely days in beautifully sunny mid-70*F weather :).

I am focusing this post on an overview of food from the region; a quick photo journal on the sights will follow soon. The cuisine in this region focuses on simple, fresh ingredients. Meals were light, incorporated many flavors and textures, and were colorful.

Located in a tropical zone, both Vietnam & Cambodia are a fruit lover’s paradise!!! The sweetest papaya, pineapple, watermelon, mango¬†& dragon fruit were served at most breakfasts. My mom & I decided to have a variety for fruits for dinner on 3 ¬†nights out of the 8.¬†We hoarded jack fruit (peeled & packed in containers) in our hotel room for afternoon and late night snacks. Check out some of the fruits we sampled on the trip:

Vietnam & Cambodia - Fruit Lover's Paradise!!

I couldn’t muster up the courage to cut and taste the Durian – considered the World’s Stinkiest Fruit. In fact, hotel rooms had large signs posted on the door forbidding durian on their premises!¬†But I did get a small sample of a durian shake which was not too bad; it tasted mild and custard like.

Dragon Fruit

We also had our fill of Dragon Fruit, which tastes like a mix of peach & mango, but not exactly. It has small black seeds like a kiwi, but is not as tart. The regular variety of dragon fruit has white flesh and the special variety has a vibrant pink color. Our waiter (pictured above) on the roof-top bar by Mekong River is serving Dragon Fruit Martinis. The orange drink (pictured above, bottom right) is a Tamarind Chili Margarita. YUM!! It was a happy hour indeed! Dragon fruit is available in the USA at ethnic / Korean supermarkets like Lotte.

The French occupied Vietnam for almost a 100 years, till the mid-1900s, and their  influence is obvious on Vietnamese cuisine. One popular item is the delicious French baguette (about $0.25 each) Рlight & airy Рmade with an addition of rice flour. It is used to make the famous Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, stuffed with grilled meat, corriander, and pickled vegetables.

Vietnam French Baguette Vendor

(Photo credit: dialaflight.com) I forgot to take pictures of these vendors who were at almost every street corner.

Banh Mi

The sandwich in the picture above was definitely one of the tastiest I have ever eaten! They were stuffed with grilled meat, onions, tomato, red cabbage, cilantro, a touch of hot sauce & mayo, then quickly grilled on a panini press. Delicious, quick & cheap. (Approx. 21,000 Vitenamese Dongs = $1 US. Lunch was less than a buck fifty, including tip.)

Another thing I noticed is that the cuisine includes less meat compared to the West. Chicken and pork were popular Рit seemed like the internal organs were not wasted either Рbut more as an accompaniment to the rice and vegetables rather than the main dish itself.

Fresh Seafood

Fresh seafood is abundant – everywhere from the pavement vendor to the fancy restaurants. Many stores also sell dried fish, shrimp, crab and other fried items by weight.

Dried Seafood & Organs

Rice is a staple of South East Asian diet, and is eaten at all meals. It differs from the long-grain fluffy rice we are familiar with; the Vietnamese & Cambodians use glutinous (sticky) rice. We came across many types of stick rice preparations – usually lightly sweetened – and seasoned with coconut, sesame seeds, and/or palm sugar. Below, you can see one version wrapped in a pancake, another stuffed and cooked in bamboo, and yet another version that is wrapped and tied in (bamboo?) leaves.

Sticky Rice with Coconut

THE REST OF THIS POST GETS INTERESTING!! Consider yourself warned!! If you have a strong stomach, continue to scroll down. 

The drive from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap took us about 7 hours, with a few rest and shopping stops along the way. About 2 hours from Phnom Penh, we stopped at the village of Skuon – also know as Spider Village. During the height of the Khmer Rouge, when food was severely scarce, starving Cambodians had to make do with whatever was available for eating. The spiders (large black tarantulas) are caught from the neighboring areas and allowed to breed in holes in the ground. They are then defanged, deep fried and seasoned with salt and spices. Large platters were piled high with fried palm sized spiders and other deep-fried bugs of various sizes.

Spider Village

While it is delicacy in the Skuon area, not all Cambodians share the same taste for the creepy-crawlies. Our group did include a few adventurous foodies who didn’t hesitate to chomp down. What do you think I did????


¬†The look on my mom’s face is hilarious! If you are curious and want to see more, just Google Spider Village, Cambodia for interesting images & videos.


Hope you’ve enjoyed this small¬†taste¬†of Vietnam & Cambodia. I will follow up soon with recipes from this region that do not use bugs :)). ¬†If you have enjoyed reading this post, please leave a comment below, and share with your friends.

Travels to Vietnam & Cambodia

Hope all of you are having a wonderful start to the New Year. While I haven’t been prompt in updating the blog, I am getting together a ton of new recipes to post soon. But, it will have to wait till mid-February.

I am leaving tomorrow to visit my family in India, and then heading to Vietnam & Cambodia for a mother-daughter trip. SO excited!!! I will be back home early next month, and will start my posts here right after.

Thank you all for bearing with my random updating schedule. I promise to try to get more consistent this year. Wish me luck :))

In the meantime, please take a moment to leave a note about what kind of recipes you prefer to see here:

Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian?

Indian or International Cuisine?

Looking forward to hearing from all of you.