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November 27, 2014

Spiced Roasted Walnuts

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Right at the fag end of the year, in midst of the festivals that went by past month and more awaiting the mark of year ending, here I am making every sincere attempt to blog and replenish my repertoire with some recipes to tease your taste buds. With barely a blog post a month in the recent past, I have been panting hard to fuel this space with enough meat off late, more evidently seen from the sparse posts that pop out of my drafts occasionally or my dwindling presence on any social networking forums. The motivation, that has been lacking from several other personal commitments consuming my time and the dear camera lens of mine that gave upon me recently. Yet, at the hindsight of my brain lingers a constant thought to fuel this little space of mine with recipes, even if that means battling a writer's block or picking an offbeat recipe from my drafts for a go.

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It hit upon me hard how fast the time is fleeting by and how much close we are to the year end when the folks at Sheraton reached out to me to be a part of their Cake Mixing ceremony. December already? Almost. I think hard. My thoughts racing by. My heart pounding faster. Where and how did I let the time go? The Indian festivities crept in and they slid by sooner than I had realized. We cooked a lot. Partied, merried and ate well too. The usual course of chalkis, laddus, karjikai, shankarpali, nippattus, masala shenga and whatnot was followed this season too. We made them all at home and saw joy in sharing them with our family and friends. But none of them made it here. And I barely realized it go by.

So I bring about these simple, deliciously spiced and roasted walnuts for the Thanksgiving today. The spices that go in it to tangle the taste buds with measures of salt, spice and sweetness. They are baked and can be stored for a while. They make excellent for gifting your friends and relatives. And I hope they make up for the loss of all those recipes I have been meaning to post here for a while!

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Spiced Roasted Walnuts

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups walnut halves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon red chilli powder

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, whisk honey and oil. Add in the sugar, salt, cumin, coriander, and red chilli powder. Toss in walnuts; mix well to coat. Transfer to a baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven of 200 deg C for atleast 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.

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October 18, 2014

Awadhi Food Festival Review: Sheraton at Brigade Gateway

Earlier this week I headed over to the Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway located in the heart of city on Malleshwaram-Rajajinagar road to experience the flavors of Awadhi cuisine. I was invited to be a part of this 10 day long food festival hosted by Sheraton in all splendor to celebrate the traditional cuisine of Lucknow - it's warmth, feel and richness you will experience right at the entrance of Sheraton's Feast restaurant where this festival is currently running till the 19th of October. Make your way through the city and be there to indulge in the vivid, rich flavors of Awadhi khana.

Cuisine from Awadh isn't unknown to many. It comes with a legacy from the Nawabs and the kings. With heavy influences from the Mughal cooking techniques such as dum, Awadh cuisine bears striking similarities to those of Persia, Kashmir, Punjab and Hyderabad. It's essence lies in its richness with liberal use of exotic spices including saffron and sandalwood. While Awadhi cuisine is predominantly known for its non-vegetarian delicacies, my eagerness to visit this food festival was to explore the uncharted reigns of vegetarian delicacies of this region. What's in it for me and if it was really worth the visit? A year ago I had a chance to visit Lucknow and savor their local cuisine. However with Sheraton's Guest Chef Rehman and their in-house Chef Maqsood re-creating the Nawabi flavors, this food festival promised to offer more than what I had known and savored in the past. So I put my thoughts to rest and headed for an evening to savor the royal feast put together by the F&B team at Sheraton. Indeed worth every bit.


The food festival is being held at Sheraton's signature restaurant - Feast, which is located on the ground floor of the hotel. As a well designed restaurant in warm shades and rich feel, Feast has 4 counters boasting of live cooking at every counter, each specializing in a particular cuisine. The staff is courtesy and willingly helpful beyond what can ask for.

Accompanying the theme for food festival is a musical stage with live musical play, scoring the perfect background to set traditional mood.

We started off with a platter of starters that catered to both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian taste buds. Through it's course, Chef Rehman walked us through an array of dishes on the menu they had to offer, explaining their history and significance, each unique and rich. Aloo Neze Se and Achari Paneer Tikka served were both delicately flavored with smoky tandoori flavor that's typical of the Nawabi cuisine, a delight to someone like me who loves tandoori food and its grilled flavors. Grilled babycorn was good, but nothing of out the box to state.


Next came along a basket of some delicately fragrant Sheermal Roti and Awadhi Naan. Sheermal Roti was unique with light toned sweetness from saffron and cream. So delicious that you could snack on them by themselves. The Sheermal Roti went through second and third helpings. Awadhi Naan, a crisp and flaky mildly spiced bread with herbs and spices was in the second lead.

On the main course was Nawabi Baigan Bhurta that stole the show away. Unlike the Punjabi Baingan Bharta, Nawabi Baigan Bhurta though not visually appealing, was rich, creamy and delicious. Worth every bite and rightly fit for the kings. The Paneer Begam Bahar, a chic cottage cheese based dish, lightly spiced in gravy of cashewnut and almond paste was another dish I thought was delightful. The chef did highlight that Dal Mumtaz was a must try. This unique dal made of urad dal was simple and grounded and so satisfying to my taste in contrast to its rich, cream laden counterparts. Dhingri Dolma and Subzi Sheek Noorani, both heavy on Indian spices were delicious. Subz Dum Biryani was robust in flavor, but not any spectacular. So was Dal Makhani as a usual accompaniment.

Up on menu for desserts were Shahi Tukda, Balushahi, Malai Sandwich and Anjeer ki Kheer. I loved the simplicity Awadhi desserts had - not cloyingly sweet, nor heavily creamy or fatty as I had presumed. Anjeer Kheer was delicious. Shahi Tukda was unlike what it usually is, distinct, soft and just right on sweet.

The Awadhi cuisine is undoubtedly a royal feast meant to pamper your senses and made to feel like Nawabs. So if you are in a mood to dine out or celebrate an occasion or pamper in some Nawabi indulgence, head out to Sheraton where this festival is currently running till the 19th of October. The Dastarkhwan awaits!

Address:
Feast, Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway,
Dr. Rajkumar Road, Bengaluru, Karnataka
Ph. No.: 08042521000 / +91-9880699111



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September 22, 2014

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I feel shy and terribly diffident at times. I was ruminating over a conversation with an old associate I have known for over three years now and the fact he knew I blogged. That happened a few months ago. It was one of those familiar moments I have encountered when someone says, 'Aah, so you blog and you make food look good? Okay. Let's see, cook us something and let us say'. I get awfully nervous to a point of quivering knees and nervous breakdown. Neither it puts me into shoes of comfort, nor do I blush. I hate being judged. Its the kind of casual statement made to assume that you are a professional at the best. All bars are raised and expectations set too high. It's hard to satisfy such tastes, where preconceived bias swamps the confidence in me. It could turn anyone into cold feet. It's like a stab on your back testing your skills to restraint the blow, bridling any creativity you want to execute. Not really. I have bad days in my kitchen and I am no perfect for sure.

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But little moments of joy come from those folks, unknowing to my penchant for cooking or being irrespective of the fact I blog or not, appreciate my food. For someone who does not know I blog, I post recipes, and yet appreciates that I have cooked good food, that's when you'll see me smile ear to ear. That moment of truth is really a winning moment for me. Honestly, I wish to create memories of food that can be remembered and revived by virtue.

You'll see this often that I don't spill out the fact to many that I blog. A lot of my close friends don't know I have a space out here. And with the ones who happen to know I do, more accidentally or through word of mouth and query about my passion in cooking or blogging in amusement, I wish to bury my face down in my hands and run away miles in embarrassment. Its such a strange awkwardness and I wonder if this has happened to any of you. Most readers whom I know are the ones whom I have never met personally, whom I have never known and strangely I feel the most comfortable posting here for them. Be it musings, my photographs or recipes, there is no prejudice what so ever. That for me is the most comforting factor. I wonder if I would ever be able to write and share so much here if my own folks were so regular at reading my blog. Thankfully I know they are not. That, for me is a consolation in many ways.

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That brings me to this Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies here. A recipe that's strangely simple and unprejudiced. You throw in the said measures of all goodness and you have chocolate-y orange aromas wafting within minutes, it's zest leaving you in an all high. So true to the fact, the matrimony of orange and chocolate cannot go wrong. Sometimes you get the most out of the unexpected and that's what these Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies promise to do. Not just you, to your biased friends too!

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Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup non-dairy margarine (can be replaced with vegetable oil)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 cup orange juice
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy-free for vegan)
Zest from 2 oranges

DIRECTIONS

Beat the margarine along with both the sugars (brown and white) till it's light and fluffy. Next, add in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt, mix well. Dissolve baking soda in orange juice and add to mixture immediately. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring the entire mixture to form a lightly wet dough. Next add in the chocolate chips and stir them in. Drop by tablespoonful on to an un-greased cookie tray. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Don't over bake!

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August 24, 2014

Garden Fresh Pizza & Snapshots from IFMB

I have taken longer than imagined to pen down this post, that I almost assured myself if I may even let go documenting it here. I mentioned about being at IFBM here a while ago. Exactly about 3 weeks ago I was at Aloft, Cessna Business Park being a part of the first-of-its-kind food blogger meet that was beyond any scale I had expected it to be. It was hosted in all splendor and grandeur in true sense. True to its intentions, it brought together the like minded us from various parts of the country and across the globe, with an agenda to meet, greet, learn, share and build a stronger food blogging network. Beyond all, it was meant to break free from our friendships and acquiantances in the traditional virtual world and translate to a real one, which in every sense was truly accomplished.

Its hard to sum up the two days that went by in utter frenzy. If you followed me on Instagram you probably have witnessed the IFMB craze over these 2 days. Its hangover still hitting hard weeks after it's over and settled. I am quite certain that all the bloggers present over this meet may have experienced these hangover and withdrawal symptoms! It had me reeling.

IFBM had way too much to offer that it would be impossible for me to weave them into words and cover it all on a single post. Even tougher would be to justify the depth of effort the organizers had put in. The fabulous ladies Aparna, Nandita, Revati and Arundati deserve a huge round of applause for the length and breadth at which they have gone to put this show together and make this meet a grand success. To sum it up all, there were crazy 50+ fabulous food bloggers packed into a well-decor conference hall of a star hotel with high projectors, a fabulous host (Arundati) and many esteemed speakers nailing interesting substantial topics covering food photography, styling, writing, SOE, self-publishing, social networking and live cooking demos over a well carved program. Interspersed with awesome food, shutterbugs, media coverage, hugs, handshakes and loads of goodies from generous sponsors, IFBM was a one hell of an experience that will stay rooted in our memories for long.

I walk you through a couple of photographs snapped at this event, in a bid to capture as much I could and etch it in my memory for years to be cherished. They cover mainly food, a yet another highlight of this event. It was amazing to see how the team at Aloft had carefully crafted their menu over these two days, each following a theme and artistically put together in place. I've refrained posting photographs of individuals here in due respect to their privacy. However, if you follow me on Facebook, my timelines are currently tagged and loaded with all the action and happenings of this event that you can witness. Walk over to my Instagram feeds for more of its mania.

IFBM ended on electric high notes, positive vibes and ravishing raves garnered from the fraternity of us like minded blogger folks. There was so much to learn, explore, socialize and motivate oneself to better as a blogger that it will take me some time to put all of it into practical use. I came back with a hope that there will more of these interactive sessions packed with fun, learnings and new friendships in the years to come.

Before I close, I bring to you this Garden Fresh pizza that happens to be an all-time favorite of mine. That for the number of times I have baked at home, I presume it should feature here. I am a huge fan of peppers, mushrooms, baby corn and olives on a pizza and when all these feature on a single pizza how can it not taste delightful. This pizza is baked with a whole wheat mixed flour base, slathered with fresh tomato sauce and generously topped with fresh-sliced baby corns & green peppers, mushrooms and black olives. The base is made out of aashirvaad multigrain atta that's popular in India. I suggest you keep the pizza base thin since multi-grain flours have lower gluten in them and hence a thicker base can be less soft and springy as compared to the all-purpose flour counterparts.

Garden Fresh Pizza

INGREDIENTS

For the pizza dough:

1 cup + 1 tbsp. multi-grain flour (I used Aashirwad aata)
½ cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. olive oil

To assemble:

½ cup pizza sauce, homemade or store-bought
1 Green pepper / capsicum, sliced to wedges
6-7 Mushrooms, chopped to quarters
6-8 Baby corns, slit vertically to quarters
5-6 Black olives, halved
3-4 tbsp. mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, blend yeast in lukewarm water along with a teaspoon of sugar. Allow this to rest for 10 mins. This should be frothy by now. Heap the multigrain flour into a large bowl and make a pit in the center. Pour the yeast mixture, salt and 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Knead gently to form a smooth, soft, slightly sticky dough. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place for an hour like an oven until almost double in size. About 20 minutes before baking, punch down, knead a minute or two and then form into a ball. Roll out thin crust pizza base, about ¼ - ½ inch thick. Allow it to sit on the counter for 10 mins.

Pre-heat the oven on 220 deg C. To assemble the pizza, spread the pizza sauce over thinly rolled out pizza crust. Layer green peppers, mushrooms, baby corn and black olives. Top generously with mozzarella cheese and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a pre-heated oven of 220 deg C for about 20-30 mins. Cut into wedges and serve hot with Italian herbs.


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July 30, 2014

Two Grain Chocolate Granola

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I like to believe that my seriousness in cooking sparked when I got married and moved to live with D. It’s the kind of interest that spurs in any newlywed bride. I had a pretty decent experience being around the stove, but what it marked was, really my first stint at baking. In a pressure cooker, the way with sand and gas. Not neat, but a risky effort I remember. A few months later when my parents moved to Bangalore, my mother handed me over her old oven that had been idling for decades in the recess of her loft, so I could try my hands at making some cakes and cookies and overcome all my baking fads. She was quite certain about that.

An old Racold oven it was. With a round glass top, shiny aluminum rim and base, and as light as feather. It was a legacy thing that could burn anything in its vicinity, but bake a cake. Oh yeah, seriously. It got so hot that it ate up its own wire once. It had a thermostat knob that could not go beyond 180 deg C, that meant I had to bake pizzas over an hour and above for that perfect crust. It electrocuted once, gave me shocks, went on repair and got a brand new cabling. Yet it walked through all odds of its age, like an old granny with loads of wisdom, fraying strength and a sound heart. Each time it tumbled, I had assumed the service guy would tell me it was beyond repair, but it came back crippling to life. Having it around was a bit of charisma for the age it carried along. If it was a thing with life, there could have been a celebration for its silver jubilee. It was still precious. After all it was my mother’s. And all things lovingly handed over by mothers to daughters have a special charm, don’t they? For me, this one did.

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Over the years I baked many small cakes, muffins, pizzas and breads in it with much anticipation and content. Even in moments of anxiety, it was my little companion through my journey as much this blog was. This trusted one was such a little thing that I could cuddle in my arms and tip it into my cupboard after use. Despite my keenness to buy a replacement oven, I stayed with this one so long. Because it was probably meant to be around to coach me.

A while ago, I gave this old granny away. Her age, experience and years of worth so rich. With lot of love, hesitation and self-assurance that she’s found a new home. A new home to tutor another new bride, like she did to me. So she could foster her love for cooking and try her hands at baking. She took her along with a hope. A hope that this little granny would impart what she did to my mother and me – to nurture the appetite for baking, teach patience to bear, appreciate the fragrant waft of labor and find happiness in the sweet love of sharing. May be after some trials she may overcome all her baking fads. Though I am not convinced about that yet.

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For long I had stashed the thought of investing in a new oven. I don’t bake all that often either, so I stood by convection microwave ever since I parted with my old oven. But that isn’t always my preferred choice, simply because I haven’t mastered the art of baking in them the right way. Though I think they do a good job for cookies and muffins and I have baked several of these with pleasing results. So I gifted myself a brand new Bajaj 35 lt OTG. It came in a new, shiny silver armour, heavy with a promise of convenience. Oven, toaster and grill with settings from 40 to 240 deg C. There’s rotisserie, grill tongs, skewers, and what not. A whole lot of these accessories that I may never even use. Still for a domestic goddess it will be a thing to flaunt.

In this celebration here comes a recipe for Two Grain Chocolate Granola. A thing you can bake in an oven or make on a stove stop. Either ways, they always come out good. And should you prefer to keep it plain, go ahead and skip the dark chocolate. For me though, addition of chocolate is like an icing on cake and there can never be enough with some.

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Two Grain Chocolate Granola

INGREDIENTS

2 cups whole grain oats (old fashioned oats)
1 cup puffed millets
1/4 cup dry fruits (used here are raisins, cranberries and dates)
1/4 cup dry nuts (used here are walnuts and broken almonds)
1/2 cup 70% dark chopped chocolate
1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

In a clean bowl, combine oats along with nuts. Drizzle the vegetable oil and maple syrup and toss well. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes at 180 deg C till the oats just begin to brown. Meanwhile, grate the chocolate in another bowl. Remove the roasted oats from the oven and toss in the dry fruits along with the grated chocolate. Mix well. While still warm, toss the puffed millets. Allow to cool completely and store in a clean dry container.

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Notes:

Try to look out for old fashioned oats. If not easily available, I suggest you sieve the cooking oats and use the thicker one that settles on top of the sieve.

Puffed millets are high in nutrition and hence make this a very healthy breakfast. I add them post baking the oats since they tend to easily absorb moisture and become soggy if you bake along with oats.

If puffed millets are not available then substitute with rice cereal or puffed rice or equal measure of oats.

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July 23, 2014

Kokum Mint Spritzer

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Its taken longer than intended to be here. Between this time, I slipped and slid deeper between cracks of workload. At this very moment, I have several windows running on my taskbar, sticky notes spread in all corners of my screen, many official mails to respond and a constant juggle with alt-tab keys to switch between the screens. There’s an excel sheet burdened with numbers everywhere, so heavy that I'll soon need to pop some pills to fight off my pounding head. My weary eyes have been rolling from ends to ends of screen with my fingers constantly prancing on the keyboard. The sudden surge in workload has been keeping me busy late nights and in offbeat hours.

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A bit of relief comes from this Indian Food Blogger Meet that I so much look forward to. When the girls at IFB meet got together and rolled out this idea, I instantly knew my calender had to be blocked for these two days. Despite being an active blogger for over 5 years, I haven't been actively participating in blogger meets owing to personal constraints. So when this came across, I sent out leave notes to my manager highlighting my absence from work for that day.

IFB Meet has loads to offer. It comes with many unspoken promises. If you are not convinced, hang around here and you'll know the depth of effort these girls have been putting in to bring food bloggers together. I am looking forward to meet and greet many lovely people there, all sharing similar interests and passion for food blogging. It will be a great place to break ice with many fabulous bloggers whom I have never seen or met or virtually known. I trust my instincts that this will be worth every bit; that there will be an overload of fun, filled with learning, food, friendship, giggles, laughter and loads to take away!

While food bloggers on facebook have been pouring in recipes for a line up of contests for the registered participants at IFB Meet, I wasn't too far from this temptation. IFB Meet 2014 announced The Urbandazzle Contest recently, where the participants are expected create an interesting monsoon / summer cocktail or mocktail recipe with an Indian flavour. I put together this beautiful Kokum Mint Spritzer, quite inspired by an ingredient that belongs to my culture and is traditionally so Indian. I couldn't have thought of anything better. And I wonder how much more impressive this drink would look if you presented in UrbanDazzle Glassware! A stylish drink that's a perfect coolant on days when sun shines on your shoulder or when raindrops pitter patter on the window sill.

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Kokum Mint Spritzer

To know more about kokum read here.

15 dry kokums
2 1/2 cups sugar
A generous pinch of salt
5 cups of club soda
1 cup warm water
Handful of mint leaves

Wash and soak the kokums in 1 cup of warm water for atleast 2 hours. Once they soften, grind them along with their water till they are fine in paste. Sieve them through and discard the fibre. Into the collected kokum juice, add in sugar and salt and stir well till they are completely dissolved. Allow to chill in fridge for 2 hours. When about to serve, top with sparkling water or club soda. Add in broken mint leaves and shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker. Sieve and serve chill. If serving this to toddlers (as in my second picture), skip the sparkling water / soda and replace with regular mineral water instead. Top with mint leaves. Serve chill.

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July 6, 2014

Vegan Banana Berry Smoothie

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Its three years past since the time our daughter came into our lives as a bundle of immense joy, love and responsibility. There she was, my little tiny tot whom I held close to my heart; so close that our breaths and heart beats felt one when I first cocooned her in my arms. That every laughter or wail of hers was instinctively a signaling feat only I could decipher. She moved out of her infancy far quicker than I had realized. I could carry her around like a doll, cuddle her fondly, swirl around with her in dance and soar her high so she would drop soundly into my arms. My playmate in every sense. I could plant a kiss on her baby cheeks at my will and dress the way I own her. She was my perfect baby doll.

By the time she turned two, she had popped out of my cuddling arms, and learnt to balance herself on foot. Her bunny jumps on our black-brown sofa has a deep dent on it. We've left it behind without mend as a hint of her mischief. She could chuckle by now, mimic her grandpa snoring and babble a rhyme or two. She could feed herself by a cup, but by no means was a neat or willing eater. She loved tender hugs and basked in the joy of being pampered. And she always needed me for her company through nights.

Her regular watch at height and weight tells us she’s tad below the normal range. But then she’s been that way since her birth. She’s now a hyper active kid of age three, in an age ripe for a child to be schooled they say. We pulled it this long home-schooling her elementary basics, avoiding so far any methodical training that would culminate her freedom to enjoy learning or push her to any orderly duress. As a quick learner she’s been way ahead of her peers. She can be friend with you quickly, can walk you through a dozen of nursery rhymes with ease, sing A-Z in phonic rhythms confidently and catch your misreckoning for your count on 1 to 10, pretty much putting many to surprise.

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She needs a bit of seasoning though. She loves adults for her company and at times behaves like one. In company of other children, she is timid and demure. For long, she has been around with big folks, growing up in lack of company of children belonging to her age group. She speaks a ton that could tire anyone. Her mind is constantly bustling with dozens of questions every minute; the why-s, where’s, what’s, in constant need to be answered. She gets bored and cranky at the busyness of house and its people. She loves having someone around her every minute to play and keep her busy. As demanding as she sounds, she is a very happy child in company.

Last week, after much forethought, we placed her admissions with a nearby school. So she could wean away from comforts of being winged under parents and grandparents all the time; and find new friends for herself. To make friends with kids of her age group and discover joy in childhood and friendship. So that her curious mind would be busy with fun filled activities and play, instead of grown-up conversations. It’s a charming little place amid the bustling traffic ridden cross roads of Bangalore. With an artificial turf, bracing landscape, couple of outdoor and indoor games for play, and responsive teachers around, there’s enough there to keep her safe, busy and creative.

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I was a bundle of nerves on the first day of her school. Worried as I was, several frantic calls went to my parents to know if she was doing ok or if the school had summoned them to pick her before time. In my mind I had expected her to cry her throat out, more in the company of thorough strangers and alien classmates whom she had never known. She came back home dancing happy feet instead. Certainly a joyous news for me. On day two, I accompanied her to drop at school; walking hand in hand, she, ideating about her dress and the matching shoes, and waving a cheerful bye-bye to me. A majority of her schoolmates were seen wailing, as their parents, grandparents, and aayas came to see them off. I expected she would cry for me. Instead she was still a happy child like the day before. It was a big proud moment, a revelation that my little one was adaptable and loved her time at school. Over the past two weeks, she has walked through her nestling period with no tears shed or anxious moments to deal with, making good progress at school. She is slowing getting accustomed to the company of other children, but has certainly got into good books of her teachers, gaining their confidence of being a good child. Soon someday she will wean away from tête-à-tête approach and come back to us with stories, games, learnings and activities from her friends at school. She will soon grow up with an aura of her own. An individual with an independent mind who may not require her mommy or grandparents around for her being. A girl with definite thoughts, empathy and strong opinions of her own. I hope this is what good schooling will instil in her.

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My little girl now carries a mid-morning snack for her school breaks. Her snack box that has healthy titbits like cut fruits, a piece of sandwich, bites of khakra or paratha wedges excites her, and each day she looks forward to what's being packed in her dabba. Mid-morning snacking was customary to her even during the time we were vacationing in US. That was the time, my little girl and me spent most of our mid-mornings together in the kitchen either chopping vegetables for lunch, baking a quick snack or whipping up berry smoothies to quench our thirsts. She would sit perched on the kitchen counter, while I stayed on my foot near the blender. She would peel bananas and I would slice them for her. The tall blender jar could nearly consume a quarter her height. Yet, she would unyielding adjust them neatly between her tiny legs and throw in ingredients by the order I said, all in for a game when it came to identifying colors and fruits.

This Banana Berry Smoothie was our all time favorite mid morning drink. I could say more deary hers. She has a penchant for bananas. We would gulp tall glasses of it in a single go, sometimes go for seconds. Add in some oats while blitzing and it makes up for a breakfast too. Thick and luscious. Sincerely healthy. And vegan to boot.

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Vegan Banana Berry Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

1 cup orange juice, cold
1 big banana
3 strawberries
12 raspberries
A dash of honey / maple syrup, optional

DIRECTIONS

Wash and clean all the berries thoroughly. Peel and chop the banana to rounds. Blitz them together along with orange juice and a dash of honey or maple syrup. Serve in tall glasses.

Note: You may use frozen berries for a cold drink. Frozen bananas work well too. I used chilled orange juice here since the drink was served for a child and was about the right temperature for a toddler.


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