Eggless Red Velvet Cake with Cream cheese frosting

If it were up to me, I would mark every occasion with a slice of this yummylicious treat  :)

This is my go-to flavor for a anniversary or valentine’s, but decided to make it for a friend’s birthday surprise (who also happens to be expecting her first child… yayyy).

Eggless Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Eggless Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I generally pick a regular cake (with EGG) and make a few adjustments of my own ( butter, vinegar, etc). This one is from Bakerella and I absolutely swear by it. What I love about this flavor (recipe) is the simplicity of its ingredients and the process. I can now bake this one without referring to the recipe every other minute.

recipe (with my Adjustments)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
baking TIME: 45 – 48 minutes
Frosting time: 40 minutes

For the cake (Yields two 8″ or one 9″ cake)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, Maida
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 1/2 tsps baking POWDER
1 tsp baking SODA
1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa (I use Hershey’s)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup yogurt (I use vanilla greek yogurt)
1 1/2 cups oil (I use canola oil)
1 cup buttermilk or make your own buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP(2 oz.) red food coloring 

For the Cream cheese frosting (Sufficient to frost the cake)
8oz. cream cheese (philedelphia)
1 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
3.5 – 4
cups confectioners’ sugar 

  • Pre-heat oven at 350F/180C and prepare two 8′ pans or one 9″ pan
  • Whisk flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, soda, and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer (If you don’t have one, you’ve gotta get it. You’ll thank me) beat yogurt and oil on medium speed till it incorporates well. There is a chance to see the oil float up above the yogurt which is okay. Switch to a lower speed while adding other ingredients.
  • In a large measuring cup (or any other bowl) mix buttermilk, vanilla, vinegar, and red food coloring. Add it to the yogurt-oil mixture and continue beating for a few minutes on medium speed.
  • Add the flour in two batches and beat only till its all incorporated. DO NOT over beat or your cake ain’t gonna rise.
  • Transfer batter into prepared pans and tap on the counter top to get rid of unwanted air bubbles
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Once baked allow it to cool in the pan for five minutes and then transfer on to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
Sift sugar and set aside.
Beat chilled cream cheese and butter till creamy.
Pour in vanilla and beat again.
Add sugar one cup at a time and beat to desired consistency.
Voila! You are all set to frost.

I used wilton tip# 12 for the balloons, and tip# 3 for the writing.

Eggless Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Eggless Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Vacationing in Style

Portland-Seattle trip (April 17th – 19th)

A lot of thought went into packing the right stuff for this trip for it was completely ad-hoc. The only thing that was pre-planned for this trip was the flight+car booking.

Blooming babe Tank - A'GACI


Top – A’gaci Blooming babe tank, similar one available here
Pants – Picked it up from a Ross store but found a similar fitting pant at A’gaci as well



RomperA’GACI Sweet Crochet Gauze Romper
ccessory – Icing Hat, similar one available here


Wet Seal_Aztac

I love this sweater dress from Wet Seal, which I had picked up last year in November for my London-Paris trip. Although its not available now I found quite a few Geo and Aztac print bodycon dresses here.

Shoes – Madden Girl Lace-up boots, similar one available here


I am gonna run so they can study

20 days from today I will be running like never before– at the Golden Gate Relay 2015.

I along with 11 other enthusiasts from my team-we call ourselves the Trail Blazers– will be running a 191-mile course relay under the banner of Two Cents of Hope (TCH), starting from Calistoga, all the way to Santa Cruz crossing Napa, Marin, Sausalito, Golden gate bridge (under the moonlight), Palo alto, and the Silicon valley.

What’s the big deal?

Its a relay- Yes!
Not a marathon- Not even close!

Allow me to elucidate-
The relay from Napa valley to Santa Cruz has been divided into 36 courses out of which each runner gets to do 3 legs, the shortest mile being 3 and longest being 8. Each of us get to pick our level of difficulty from 1 – 12 (1 being very difficult and 12 being easiest) based on which we are assigned our 3 legs of the relay. This being my first running relay I have picked the easiest level (level 12) wherein I’ll be running each leg for an average of 5.4 miles (total 16.3miles) over a span of 24 hours.

BUT, running is just one of the components of the Golden Gate Relay. Each of us (runners of TCH) is here for a far greater cause- an effort to put 70 kids back in school for 2015 with the goal of raising $19,500.

Err… How serious am I taking this relay?

Well, for the last three months here is what I’ve been up to-

Running– Duh! I started training (individual and group runs) for this relay sometime in February. Even though I am down with ‘Tendonitis‘ I am staying optimistic and hopeful (and slightly foolish) about doing this relay.
Follow my progress on the Runkeeper app!
Yoga– Ask any runner and they’ll agree with me that a strong core is the most essential thing to get you to the finish line.
Just Breathe Yoga– here is where I love to unwind and entwine to strengthen my core and enhance flexibility.
Boxing Bootcamp at Legendz Fitness & Training Center– There is some serious stuff happening here with punching bags, circuit training, ab workout, and other core strengthening workouts. Honestly, I am so nervous before each session but its their ‘NO QUITTING’ attitude that gets me through. KUDOS to coach Jose and his team, and my fellow trainees.
Swimming, biking, and hiking are other ways in which I keep myself active. And to support my training I have also been following a clean diet since February- by clean I mean no junk (deep-fried), no sweet (cakes, cupcakes, halwa…. you name it), and absolutely refraining from enriched flour (maida/ all-purpose flour).

So have I charmed you yet?

If yes, then do consider supporting my CAMPAIGN with your donation (as per your will) and help build a better tomorrow.

P.s. Do your deed and leave all the running (around) to me🙂

Whole Wheat Nankhatai

Its one of those days when I just felt like baking something… anything… as long its gotta do with flour(whole wheat), sugar, butter/oil, etc.

For the last couple of months I haven’t consumed any food item consisting of enriched flour/Maida and I don’t intend to for the next couple of months either.
The Good– I’ve been on a healthier diet
The Bad– I couldn’t bake as much as I used to. The thought of substituting all purpose flour to whole wheat in cupcakes/cake didn’t appeal to me.

But when I came across this ‘whole wheat’ recipe on the Home Bakers Guild group on Facebook- posted by Neha Deshpande– I just had to try it.

Nankhatai is a very popular indian biscuit that is traditionally made with maida/enriched flour. I think its the combination of butter and flour in appropriate (I mean generous) amounts that makes it melt in your mouth. I happen to be in that ‘healthy-eating’ groove so this recipe turned out to be a boon.  But hey, I am not gonna treat these as the HEALTHY biscuits. Its just a HEALTHIER option for those looking out for alternatives.

Whole Wheat Nankhatai

Whole Wheat Nankhatai

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Overall:  45 minutes
Yield: 15 pcs.

1 1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tbsp yogurt

  • Pre-heat oven at 350F/175C. Set a baking tray with parchment paper
  • Mix whole wheat flour and baking powder thoroughly. I generally use a whisk so its well incorporated.
  • In a separate bowl beat sugar and butter till creamy
  • Add the cardamom powder and yogurt and beat for another three minutes
  • Add the butter mixture to the four and mix well with a spatula till it forms a soft dough
  • Make small 1-inch rounds of the dough and place it on the parchment paper, about 1/2 inch apart. Make sure to flatten each round just a bit.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown
Whole Wheat Nankhatai

Whole Wheat Nankhatai

  1. Once the dough is ready, do taste a bit to check for desired sweetness
  2. I ended up baking these for 25 minutes which is why they cracked this much and hardened a bit upon cooling. I’d say stick to 20 minutes.
  3. I used store-bought cardamom powder and so the flavor turned out to be slightly overwhelming for this amount. I’d be careful the next time. Maybe reduce the quantity to 1/4 tsp.
  4. Feel free to add some dry fruit of your choice- almond or pistachio
Whole Wheat Nankhatai

Whole Wheat Nankhatai

Overall I am quite pleased with the outcome. This one isn’t as soft as a traditional nankhatai (maybe because of over-baking it) but it tastes wonderful. Good enough to satisfy my sweet tooth for now🙂

Mint & Basil

|Restaurant Review|
Visited on 03/29/2015, Sunday 

This ones a newbie in town!

Its the name that caught my attention yesterday (a lazy Sunday morning) when browsing through Yelp (my go-to for looking up a restaurant anywhere anytime) desperately looking for someplace new to check out. Turned out ‘Vegan’, that was a bonus!

I was  so famished when I reached the restaurant at 8 30pm yesterday with high expectations given the 4-star reviews (yelp) and a very tempting spread on its menu (I always check out the menu before-hand, esp when HUNGRY). If not for the reviews I probably would not have made my way to this place for I generally detest experimenting when my hunger pangs are upto some serious drumming.

Lets start with…….

The Food!!

Adi and I settled in quickly and in no time decided upon fresh spring roll (winter roll as they call it) for appetizer accompanied with thai  iced tea(s)( I love I love).


Thai Iced Tea at Mint & Basil

Thai Iced Tea

I have had thai iced tea in numerous restaurants and I gotta say the one here is quite distinctive in taste but very refreshing overall. It wasn’t overly sweet (that’s the way I like it) and didn’t have that tang of soy milk.

By now I had settled on Pho- Cali Pho as my choice for main course.  Adi picked Chowfun.


Fresh spring roll at Mint & Basil

Fresh spring roll

A bunch of veggies wrapped in rice paper so what? Its the Peanut sauce that takes away the show. Oh how I devoured these rolls. True to its name it felt so fresh but I wonder why they call it the Winter Roll! 

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

Here comes the Pho…

Cali PHO

Cali Pho

I’m gonna admit that I’ve never had pho before. I wonder why! There are plenty vietnamese restaurants, vegan too, but somehow pho always remained in that list of eateries tucked away, waiting to be unleashed on some fateful day. My bad!

The thing I like most about asian cuisine is that when I ask for more vegetables I do get more vegetables on my plate and not just mushrooms or eggplant (like other regular restaurants). The mistake I made here was forgetting to tell them to NOT add mushrooms when asked for extra veggies in place of tofu. (Adi is not a big fan of mushrooms). Not taking that in to consideration I really liked the flavor of the Cali Pho here. It was moderately hot (even though I prefer very hot) but still delicious. And its is profusely filling so my suggestion would be to just check it out if this quantity would do and then get another entree(the other mistake I made).

And finally….



I am off flour (all-purpose/ enriched/ bread/ cake… you get it right?) for the last couple of months so I was really glad that these were rice noodles. However, I couldn’t have much fun with the Chow for I was replete (Its the pho.. its the pho) and didn’t wanna be a glutton(its the diet.. keep up!). The vegetables were stir fried just right, and the flavor(new to me) did good justice, even though it was a teensy bit sweet at first bite.


Its clean, cute, and capacious; On any busy day at the restaurant  I’m sure I won’t be bumping chairs with anyone.
The cutlery looked plain and simple (I was there for the food).
The staff was very courteous and accommodating to our needs (I can be fussy); The owner even came over for some meet & greet.

My rating!!

I am gonna give this place a 3.75/5
Taking away 1 because I am yet to try so many other dishes to decide if everything is as good as it sounds. And the 0.25  is because of all those mushrooms (way too many to even count).

For an order of 2 iced teas, 1 winter roll, 1 Cali Pho, and 1 Chowfun the bill amount came up to $31 (excluding tax) which I consider to be quite fair.

And just in case you haven’t found it yet…
Mint & Basil
1741 N Milpitas Blvd.
Milpitas, CA 95035
(669) 235 5285

I chose to get FIT!

Five years ago…….

As far as I can remember, I had been in constant war with my weight!

No shame in admitting that I was lazy, never challenged my endurance during workout(s), caved in to bad eating habits, indulged in sinfully unhealthy treats(I thought I deserved the reward), obviously relied on FAD diets in the need-of-the-hour(popularly known as the GM diet), and needless to say, I was UNFIT.

On this particular morning after my usual workout routine (which seems like a joke now) I hopped on to the weighing scale just like always hoping to reach my goal weight for the month or at least close to it. I tried my best to outsmart the damn weighing scale by working out on an empty stomach. Reality hit me HARD… very HARD! I weighed 165 pounds(75kgs).

Seventy FREAKING Five was the number I dreaded and bang- there it was staring at my face. I realized the depth of my denial towards the way my body ACTUALLY looked and functioned. One moment I was disappointed, the other I was panicking. That evening I confided my worries to Adi (who was my good friend then) and he decided to help me. And thus began my journey towards a lifestyle I coveted!

Phase I Log and MONITOR

Adi created a spreadsheet wherein he first got me to log my workout routine and then created a whole new plan wherein I was introduced to running. This is what it looked like-

treadmill regimen 2010


I laughed at this plan then (today I laugh at myself for that). I could never run beyond 30 seconds on the treadmill and suddenly I was asked to do this kind of interval training. Without even trying I had already decided that I couldn’t do it.

I was, naturally, freaked out on the first day of this new plan. I kept asking myself “what if I can’t finish it?” or “what if I get tired in the first three minutes itself?”.
Adi just told me one thing- ‘run as though you are running for your life and when you come back home I wanna hear the fatigue in your voice’. I couldn’t finish the routine but managed to complete 80% of the plan. My ears felt like they were letting off steam, my stomach was churning, my legs were numb, and I couldn’t utter a word when Adi called to inquire. But I felt good, real good in a long time.

Phase IIDAMN the treadmill!

New workout regimen Wunderbar! Suddenly people around are noticing the difference in me. I am more active, more radiant looking, my hair looks fab, I am also fitting into my clothes better, and did I mention Adi is now my fiancé😛.
I continued to put all my efforts on cardio. Did do some amount of weights but not as much as cardio. Went on like this for a year. With my wedding around the corner, I also introduced rope jumping(a.k.a skipping) into the routine. And suddenly one day I felt a sharp pain in my left ankle, which completely left me impaired even for a slow jog on the treadmill.
Apparently I had developed an extra bone in my ankle due to stressing it out on the treadmill. So I had to stop all that running at once. Sounds ludicrous I know!

Phase III – only you can help yourself!

I started personal training sessions post marriage given the condition of my ankle. I was introduced to sports training(moderate level) which helped me tone up and lose few pounds. But it didn’t sustain long term! I blame myself partially for being liberal with my diet and blame my trainer for not being too vigilant about my activities and diet post workout.

Phase IV – The big shift…

I moved to California 10 months after my wedding, which meant I had to look after the workout regimen myself. Initial months took some time to adjust. I did have a gym at my disposal but nothing really motivated me to get out there. Once I settled in I started to workout like crazy at the gym after browsing various workouts on Pinterest- cardio, weight training, sports training, high intensity, etc. (you name it, I’ve tried it)

The good- I felt active, time passed by, I was maintaining my weight.
The bad- I wasn’t able to focus on a concrete plan for weight loss. I was getting carried away by all those pins on my Pinterest board with pictures and videos of fabulously toned models/instructors and after doing a few sets over couple of weeks I was back to browsing and pinning workouts. I had about 100 pins and hardly followed 4-5 of those.

Phase V – Ever thought of getting FIT?

I began to see a pattern by now. It was all a TEMPORARY fix! Everything I did in the name of weight loss was short-lived. It kept me in the high when worked and sent me down crashing when it didn’t. After months of working out for almost 3 hours in the gym it was time for change. BIG change! And this change was not my workout regimen, it was my mind-set.

Workout to get FIT, and weight loss will follow”- Adi has been fixated on this saying since the beginning and true to his preaching he follows this simple rule till date. I however couldn’t or refused to comprehend that for I was looking for immediate results(little Ms. Know-it-all). After much persuasion from Adi, I started to run again, only this time on a trail- The Guadalupe trail (that runs just behind my apartment complex). There was just one thing on my mind- getting FIT.

Phase VI – Let the mind not decide what the body can do

I was nervous about getting back to running at first. But this time around with the whole ‘getting FIT’ mantra on my mind I felt so much more confidant about pulling off something that looked far-fetched.

I decided to shove all of my previous workouts, plans, diets out the window and start afresh. I began to focus on my pace and the best way I did that was by using the ‘Map My Run’ app. I swear by this app and absolutely recommend it to those wanting to begin/resume running.

I started with a short distance-2 miles, just to test my pace. For a week or so I went on with 2 miles(by a week I mean thrice a week).The week after that I increased my distance by a half mile and kept doing so week after week until I hit 5 miles. I have to admit it wasn’t easy to get to 5 miles. All of that was possible because I programmed myself to let my body decide how much I was gonna run rather than getting overwhelmed just thinking about increasing the distance or improving pace. I did combine some cross training but major chunk of my workout regimen was the running. There were days where my avg. pace was 11.5mins/mile and days where I was at 13mins/mile.

I ramped up to 5.46 miles quite soon but my knee didn’t take too well to it. I believe the term is ‘Tendonitis’- inflammation of the knee-joint patellar tendonitis due to running/repeated jumping and landing/kicking. I took a break from running for couple of months and started yoga (Vinyasa flow) to recuperate and strengthen my core.


Adi would have probably heard me say this a million times- “I have never ever felt this fit in my entire life”. My body has changed dynamically over the last six months just because of the shift in my attitude- an attitude to get fit rather than just lose weight. Now it feels like I am on the right path to my goal (notice I didn’t mention ‘goal weight’). Nevertheless, there has been tremendous weight loss without even trying for it. But that’s not my priority now!

Every morning I wake up with an enthusiasm to either  go for a run or head for yoga or go biking, or swimming. I am obsessed! Any activity I take up is with the attitude to improve my core stamina. Never to lose weight! It truly feels like I’ve accomplished something- for someone who couldn’t run beyond 30 seconds on the treadmill, I now go 2.5 miles (at 12.25mins/mile avg. pace) without any break.

It’s amazing how life changes in a matter of six months. Along with my running routine I am currently on a clean-diet wherein I avoid junky foods, desserts, and anything that’s made of all-purpose flour. Bye-bye unhealthy diets, shoo away lazy afternoons, and hello to an active, fit, and healthy ME!

I owe this fabulous feeling and health to my husband/best friend/trainer/guide Adi who has been by my side throughout those years of struggle, celebrated my highs and tolerated the lows, motivated me throughout, never let me give up, and most importantly always made me believe that I am competing only with MYSELF.

P.s. Stay tuned to know about how I am training for the Golden Gate Relay 2015– a 191 mile running relay come May.


Painting the Town Yellow

Bay area is all sunshine apart from Nov-Jan. So it’s not a bad idea to own a pair of these yellow ankle-fit pants. I bought these pants from a boutique in Chennai, India- Maitri Vanitawhich also happens to be owned by my family.

Here are the three styles I have created with these pants….

In the summer time when the weather is high….

Denim Jacket– Forever 21, Great mall, Milpitas CA
This is my only denim jacket and I intend to keep it that way for as long as possible. I still remember the day I picked this up- I was specifically looking for a denim jacket, shopping for almost 3 hours and forever 21 was my last stop(hope).

HatIcing store, Westfield valley fair mall, Stevens creek, CA
Its not always that I buy things when liked at first sight. Sometimes I just go back home and wait to see if I desire it enough to go back and purchase it. That’s the story behind this beautiful chic hat.

Elephant necklace- So Good, Union Square, San francisco CA
I take my own time when buying accessories. Each time I pick a earring or a necklace I get into deep thought just to be sure I have an outfit to match it(if not, I end up buying a new outfit). I really like this store not just for its accessories but also because of its visually appealing layout. It calls out to me!

Bangles- Icing store, Great mall, Milpitas CA
I bought these recently when they had the $3 & $5 deals. On my usual rounds of window shopping I walk in to an icing store and almost always end up buying something or the other. There is more to it than just accessories here.

White blouseunknown
I know for sure this is from a small boutique in India. Unfortunately unable to recollect the name. But basically any white top with a slight flair would look nice for this ensemble.

For winter
(bear in mind this is the bay area winter that I am referring to)

Navy blue stripped sweater- Banana Republic, Great mall, Milpitas CA
I never miss out Banana Republic’s SALE. Picked up this sweater on a sweet deal. Apart from the ongoing deals if you take along your banana republic reusable bag they give you an additional 10% discount.

Anchor necklace- Forever 21, Great mall, Milpitas CA
I like the quality of accessories at Forever 21. This cute little neck piece caught my eye for when I was looking for something in RED.

Earrings- Icing, Great mall, Milpitas CA
I am very picky about my earrings. So much that I was known for my collection during my undergrad days. I remember some of my close friends requesting specific earrings over a text message to match their outfit for the day.

(Jumbo) Grey clutch- Esbeda store, Mumbai, India
I bought that clutch four years ago while on a shopping spree for my wedding trousseau. The reason I call it jumbo is because back then I had NEVER seen a clutch that size. My bad!
Its one of my favorites till date.

Finally, for that Indian in me…

Kaftan- Maitri Vanita store, Chennai, India
There are certain things(I mean clothes) that my mom keeps in my name whenever she brings in her new collection to the store. I absolutely close my eyes and accept whatever mom gives me for she always picks the best for me. I was mesmerized by the color and the simplicity of the pattern of this Kaftan. It was a farewell gift from my family when I was leaving for the states after my vacation.
This kaftan also looks fab when worn as a dress over opaque leggings with a minimalist design.

Polka dot Bangles- Charminar, Hyderabad, India
If you ever happen to be in Hyderabad you absolutely gotta hit the Charminar bazaar. I found their collection of ‘Bangles’ to be one of the best I’ve ever seen.Don’t let the size of the shops fool you. I found some of my best quality accessories in shops that were nothing but a hole in the wall.

Black oxidized Earrings- Greece
I picked these beautiful(and heavy) earrings at a street market in Athens, Greece(honeymoon :P). They had so many beautiful ones but this one caught my attention. The other thing that caught my attention (all the three days) in Athens were the footwear stores. A whole(damn) street had only footwear stores one after the other(Phew!!). I’ll put up a picture of the shoes I picked soon!

Well, I guess I’ve covered everything here. I hope to inspire and be inspired. Stay tuned to know more about my style🙂

Kurma with Idli, a south indian delight!

Sundays are special lunch days at home and so I picked this south indian dish- Idli Kurma- which is my personal favorite, especially when mom cooks.

I find kurma to be a very versatile side dish. It is ideally a coconut-based gravy that is prepared with various combinations of vegetables. I simply classify it into two categories- North indian style which I pair with various indian breads- paratha(pan fried flat bread),  roti(flatbread)poori/puri(fried bread), and the South Indian style which goes well with Idli(steamed rice cake), Idiyappam(string hoppers), Appam(soft hoppers), etc.

This must be one of the most cliched things to say but I’m gonna say it anyways- “my mom makes the best kurma for idli”🙂. Each time I visit home(India) this dish is on my top 5 must-eats and I absolutely insist on my mom preparing it all by herself(I help clean up).

The first time I made this kurma I got the color wrong. The second time around it was the consistency. So I kept her up till midnight(god bless FaceTime) to get the recipe right once and for all. And it turned out just FAB🙂

Here goes the recipe, straight from the horse’s mouth!


south indian Kurma recipe for IDLi

Prep Time: 30 minutes       Overall cooking time: 45 minutes

ingredients: Serves 2 (famished Souls)

For Coconut paste:
1/2 cup grated coconut, (fresh/frozen)
1 heaping Tsp poppy seeds, (khus khus)
5 pcs. cloves (laung)
1 big cinnamon stick (dalchini), broken into small pieces
4 pcs. cardamom (elaichi)
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
3 green chilies
1 small piece ginger (adrak)
1/2 cup water

Vegetables to be steamed/boiled in water:
3 carrots, chopped roughly
10 – 12 beans, chopped roughly
3/4 cup peas
15 small cauliflower heads, separated
1 small potato, (I avoided the potato)

For the Saute:
2pcs. bayleaves
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Boiled vegetables
1 small tomato, chopped roughly
4-5 drops lemon juice
3 TBSP ghee/oil (I’d say go for the ghee)
1 cup water
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish

  • Start with the vegetables. Either steam or add to boiling water and strain once the vegetables get tender. Make sure not to over boil.
  • Grind all the ingredients mentioned under coconut paste to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  • Heat ghee/oil in a deep bottom pan. Add the bay leaves and sautè onions till light pink.
  • Now add the turmeric powder, boiled vegetables, the coconut paste, and salt. Stir till everything is well incorporated.
  •  Add the water and let it come to a boil. You can add more water for thinner consistency.
  • Add the tomatoes and lemon drops just before taking the kurma off the stove.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with idli🙂
Tips to remember
  1. The color of the kurma is important. If it’s too dark, that could be because of over cooking of the onion or too much turmeric powder
  2. 3 green chilies yields a moderately spicy kurma. If more than moderate is your thing then add a couple more green chilies.
  3. This kurma goes well with Dosa as well

A national park in the backyard…

What’s the best thing about being in the bay area?
I can access national parks just a few hours away….

So close am I to the Pinnacles National Park in San Benito county that Adi(the hubby) and I practically decided to head there for a small hike at like 1:15pm after a casual lunch date.

We started from Santa clara at 1:45pm. The route is quite simple. We got on to 101 S, drove for about 36 miles and then turned on to CA-25 all the way until CA-146W. The drive on CA-25 is simply gorgeous, especially during sunset when the sky portrays some beautiful colors; beginning from soft shades of pink clouds(I call it the cotton candy effect) on to deep hues of blood orange & yellow(I call it the fire effect).

So we reached Pinnacles at 3:30pm and headed to the visitor center to get a receipt for entrance into the park. Since we have a national park pass the entrance fee ($10) was waved off. As we drove into the park I began to dread the sudden overcast and became dubious about hiking (which is why my mr. smarty-pants hubby deliberately didn’t inform me about the weather). Slipping and falling on my back is my biggest FEAR! (I have worked very  hard to strengthen my lower back after a fall I had years back while rehearsing for a dance show). And to make things more scary we got to know about reports from fellow hikers about a hailstorm.

However, by the time I got to the trailhead all that rain/hailstorm that I was dreading had come and gone and I was left with this sight.

pinnacles natnl.  park_hailstorm

Aftermath of the hailstorm- Pinnacles National Park

The moses spring to rim trail loop is my favorite hike. It’s a moderate-level hike which goes through caves(bear gulch cave) which is the resting area of big-earred bats in winter that raise their young ones during late spring and summer, which is why the caves are generally closed from mid-May to mid-July. Walking through the caves can be spooky and unsafe without flashlight(s) at any time of the day. Very dubiously, I began the hike, fingers crossed for no rain/hailstorm.

I love this trail specifically for two locations- one is a reservoir, the other a view of the park from atop a rock that is a bit narrow to walk on but the view from the tip of this rock is rewarding.

Halfway through the hike I found these pretty leaf-like plants(I have got to look up the name).

Leaves so pretty (Name unknown)

(Name unknown)

The dark clouds had passed and I was my cheery self beyond this point. I couldn’t get a good picture of the caves but here is where the walk through caves began. There are certain places in the caves where I had to squat my way though. Once out of the caves a staircase leads to the reservoir.



Believe me, it’s always this serene! if not, better.

My next task was to spot tiny snakes squiggling through with their heads above the water(they are so FAST). This time however couldn’t spot any😦. I usually sit here for a while before proceeding on to my next favorite spot. But I’m not done with this place yet.

Apart form the reservoir I also like the look of these rocks against the blue sky. It looks perfect. So magnificent!

Rocks by the reservoir

Rocks by the reservoir

Which reminds me of this other trail in the park wherein I hiked to the pinnacles on the mountain. That hike is NOT easy, especially during summer. Apart from the elevation it’s the exposure and heat that drained me out. I had to pour water on a spare t-shirt of mine and hang it around my neck all along this trail. However, once I got up to the pinnacles I knew it was worth the effort. The view is stupendous!

After snapping half a dozen pics of this place and a dozen of me(:P), we proceeded towards my next favorite spot through the the rim trail. This is where one can expect maximum elevation of the overall trail(it’s not that bad).

Pretty flowers

Pretty flowers

I was quite elated to come across these pretty flowers on the trail for this was the only place I found any. A pretty sight nevertheless!

And Finally I arrived at my last stop on this trail- The tip of the mountain. Ain’t that a gorgeous view?

The last stop

The last stop

That is the reason I keep coming back to this place. From here on it was basically the return to trail head. Overall it is a 2.2 mile loop which took us less than an hour and half.

We left the park and drove for another 30 minutes or so on CA-146W and then headed back home, just in time for sunset.

Here is the fire-effect sky that I had mentioned earlier.

Fire-effect Sky Post sunset

Fire-effect Sky Post sunset

I have also had the experience of camping here overnight and I must say that the campground and its facilities are one of the well maintained ones that I have been to. The rangers are quite up-to-date with whereabouts of the park and are very polite to talk to.

Pinnacles national park is so close and easy to access that it always make me feel like I have a national park in the backyard of my house. The drive to get there and back is my incentive.

The next time I go there I plan to explore some new trails. Stay tuned🙂

EGGLESS Banana Bread (cake)

This is the third time I have baked this cake in the last one month(that’s how much its being demanded by my foodie hubby)

Banana Bread

 And there are two reasons to be happy about it:
(1) Its absolutely healthy(sans cane sugar),
(2) I used ground chia seeds to substitute eggs and the result was just FAB

A friend of mine had baked banana bread with whole wheat flour and honey and it tasted so fab that I just had to try it for myself. So I rushed to trader joe’s and got me some coconut and almond flour. At first I was skeptical to mix whole wheat, almond, and coconut flour but in the end the concoction turned out to be delicious. In my opinion, naked cakes are at their best(taste) after 24 hours.

The first time I baked this, I used Agave syrup to substitute sugar. The second time was Honey, and the third time Cane Sugar. If I were to pick the best substitute for sugar, its Honey- healthier, and doesn’t mess with the texture.

Banana bread II

The original recipe is from Hoosier Homemade and I can totally swear by it.

Here is my version of the recipe:


1 cup whole wheat flour, minus 1 TBSP
1/2 cup coconut flour, minus 1 TBSP
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup honey/ 2/3 cup agave/ 1 cup sugar
2 tsp ground chia seeds + 4 TBSP water
3 bananans, overripe and mashed
1/2 cup Oil (I used canola oil)
A handful of Raisins/Walnuts

  1. First things first, preheat oven at 350F/180C and smear/spray some oil all around the baking pan. I used a 9-inch circular baking pan since I don’t have a 9*5inch bread pan.
  2. Soak the chia seeds in water for about ten minutes. By doing so the chia seeds would turn into a pasty mixture, making it easier to beat and incorporate.
  3. Sift flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl and keep aside. I was left with bits from the almond flour(skin) and so I had to use my bare hands to push all of the flour through the sieve, and eventually added the leftover bits of the skin to the sifted flour.
  4. Add oil and chia seeds to the mixing bowl (I use Kitchen aid stand mixer) and beat well.
  5. Add mashed bananas and vanilla essence to the oil mixture and beat well. I’d say for about 2 minutes at least.
  6. NOW, the most important step- Adding the flour. In any eggless cake it is very, very important to add the flour delicately to make sure the cake turns out fluffy. And in order to do that here are couple of options I opt:
    – Add half the quantity of flour and beat just enough till it mixes. Put in the remaining flour and again beat just till it mixes. DO NOT OVER-BEAT.
    – Add the entire flour and whisk it gently manually
  7. Fold in raisins or chopped walnuts gently.
  8. Pour the batter-its gonna be thick-into the pan and spread it evenly. Do not spend too much time on this since the baking soda gets activated the minute flour touches the oil-banana mixture.
  9. Cover the pan with a aluminum foil so the sides don’t get dry and crusty
  10. Bake for 55 minutes. Insert a skewer at the center and if it comes out clean, its READY😀
  11. Cool it on a wire rack for about five minutes before transferring. When completely cooled, cut into cubes and enjoy🙂