Monday, November 13, 2017

Cups and mugs !

I know most of the food blog readers know 'how to prepare a tea' and this post is not about a recipe....but about drinkware and traditions. For very long , I just wanted to write a post on various sized mugs, cups and saucers I see here and hope it would be useful for some like me 😀  . Recently I discussed with my friend Malar about buying a perfect tea set. Then I realized much more and started writing this.

My experience :
Only after coming to USA , I realized that there exists something called a coffee mug (may be that became popular in India too nowadays, but I was unaware of it then).
We  grew up drinking coffee or tea out of a stainless steel tumbler (or a dabara set - a tumbler sitting on a SS cup).  Amma would make n number of coffees everyday for our big joint family and also for appa's clients. After marriage I started my tea legacy with a lot of cheer.  If there is a guest, I would take out my pretty China tea set (a porcelain one, not too expensive but cute) , which we had bought fondly from a T.Nagar Saravana stores and would enjoy that moment. Carrying those tea cups and saucers here was not an option at all (and so my tea times would be achieved with some regular coffee mug). Anyways having some coffee is a must everywhere and so I too got introduced to all kinds of Walmart / Target /  dollar tree mugs. (Trust me, they are good enough for regular household usage). Then after some years I convinced Xavier to buy me a cute tea cup and saucer set and that's how I got that cute little set (see below).

If you are more interested in knowing about English formal tea , you will find this link interesting. .

Indian Serveware:
Traditional stainless steel coffee dabara set and a  porcelain tea cup and saucer set.
The traditional South Indian filter coffee should be served in this kind of stainless steel dabara set. Sometimes these dabara sets come in golden color (brass) too. The tumblers should be of capacity between 150 ml - 200 ml. Just like that the tea should be served in a small porcelain cup and saucer set preferably of 6.5 oz (190 ml) - 8 oz (235 ml).  Nowadays these serving sizes come in much smaller sizes too, but I prefer these sizes, as we can vary the servings as per need.

My teas are more of a typical Indian style ones (my masala tea recipe).
Indian style spicy masala tea

Coffee cups, tea sets and tumblers (India)
When it comes to comparing the various coffee mugs and tea cups, sky is the limit. But my article would surely give a rough idea for a novice.
200 ml tumbler coffee set, 6 oz (180 ml) tea cup and saucer set along with a 12 oz Walmart coffee mug. That 12 oz coffee mug is called a medium size mug. More bigger mugs (14 oz) can be used for having black coffee.

Indian stainless steel tumblers :Buttermilk tumbler 600 ml,  lassi tumbler 350 ml, measuring tumbler or water tumbler 200 ml, coffee tumbler 180 ml

Cups : 6 oz,  12 oz , 14 oz

A BIG cup for fun on display in Shoprite.  I think this would be used as a candy serveware.

Various sizes (USA) :
*The easily available , 12 oz (350 ml) mug is often called as standard mug or medium .
(They are not considered as formal tea cups, but giving a hot cup of tea in any cup with love is adorable in my view).
Walmart's Mainstays brand (the blue band mugs and white ones) are quite popular to start with.
Corelle brands are more worthy and unbreakable. So it is a good choice (IMO) if we want our mugs to last long. There are more expensive brands like Lenox, pfaltzgraff etc.....the list is endless.

* When it comes to fine dining (tea parties), a formal tea cup and saucer set is necessary. which varies from 6 oz to 8 oz.
* A formal tea serving session requires : A serving tray, napkins (small), cup and saucers, spoon, tea pots, sugar and creamer pots, sugar handling tongs. An afternoon tea in English style should be served with some sweets and savory snacks of small servings. In some novel I read that English ladies (people) would reserve some fine topics (without hurting anyone) to talk while having tea in their parlor....some would knit, some would share a recipe , some would read a book loudly .....how lovely . That's a distant dream !

*One of the most beautiful thing most of us have enjoyed in the past is the 'little girl's tea set'.  I can only imagine an Alice in wonderland kind of tea party I used to enjoy in my childhood with my toy tea set :) . Nothing can replace those memories.

* One more version is : The Cappuccino cups (Demitasse cups / tasting cups) range between 2 oz to 5 oz.

* I am sure there exists much more varieties of tea / coffee / hot drink traditions all over the world. I would say that the tea in chaya shops of  Tamilnadu and Kerala are the best  along with a vadai ,bajji pakora:)

But cooking with love and serving with smile is much important than these fancy pots and pans and traditions. Nowadays we can buy any kind of tea set from internet, but the hardest part is finding a friend  / moment to share this tea :) I always love my morning tea time with my husband.   I guess tea traditions were invented by our ancestors to improve our socializing skills.  So let's make use of every opportunity to take out our fine dining ware and cherish those moments !

Happy tea time!



Monday, October 30, 2017

Indian curd yogurt

What is that , 'an Indian yogurt' ? . It is simply called as curd,  dahi , thayir (தயிர்) and by many many words in Indian languages. But however it is called, it is one of the major food items in an Indian household. Even in abroad, we all take pride and enjoy making this yogurt at home in surplus quantities, because store bought Indian curd is comparatively expensive than the homemade versions and it is needed in all of our houses for everyday consumption.

Indian curd is very easy to prepare, if and only if we are having a starter fermentation curd. Not all store bought yogurts have the same culture as Indian curd. But we have to look for labels like 'live culture'  'probiotic culture' in yogurts in Indian stores. I found that DEEP BRAND is the one of the best as a starter. That too for first two or three times, the yogurt may look little different, but we have to proceed with the same homemade yogurt  everytime (and the base culture improvises after a few times). So a good cook would be very cautious in preserving the basic culture by keeping at least a few tbsp of curd at fridge all the time.

There are a few rules to make good curd and here I am listing what I follow.
Boiling the milk


Let it ferment.

creamy Indian curd is ready !

Ingredients:
Whole milk  - 1 cup
starter curd with active cultures - 1 tbsp for every cup of milk

Method:
Boil the milk until frothy. My mom would say 'let it rise 5 times to remove the raw smell ' 😄. So I too do like that.
While boiling the milk stir well using a whisk to make it little more creamy and frothy (secret of more yumminess).
Let it cool. The perfect cooled temperature should be something like lukewarm.
Add 1 tbsp curd for 1 cup of milk.
Whisk well or pour it back and forth between two cups (like making Indian tea) till frothy.
Close and keep in warm place.
🌷(Sometimes a casserole / hot box or an Indian cooker with warm water, can give necessary warmth if we are in cold countries. And also by this way we can get the fermented curd within 4 hours).
🌷(During colder weather , I preheat oven to 200 for 10 minutes and keep the milk for fermentation inside warm oven. It takes almost 10 hours for me to get a good quality curd by this oven method).
🌷(During summer the room temperature is enough to prepare curd. While in Chennai I used to start making curd / உறை ஊற்றுவது only after preparing morning tea and the curd would be ready for lunch ).
After serving the curd, always save a few tbsp of curd (culture) for next day's fermentation. This is the key for perfect homemade curd.

Uses:
Indian yogurt is poured over rice to make curd rice.
It is also consumed as dipping along with some parathas.
Plain yogurt (dahi / thayir) is used to prepare many kinds of raithas, used in marinations in popular recipes like tandoori chicken , chiken 65 and in most chicken recipes.
It is also used in Indian cooldrinks like lassi, spicy buttermilk.
Indian platter meals would always include a cup for dahi (it is very good for health).

Note:
Most of the store bought Indian yogurts are more yummier and creamier than homemade versions in reality. The creamy texture is got by adding some corn starch and/or cream while manufacturing it.
So it is a good idea to buy those curds when we want something more special or for preparing a thick quick raitha.
I use fat-free milk to prepare curd on most days. But whole milk yogurt tastes more delicious.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Deepavali

Deepavali is an Indian festival of lights and I love this festival very much.  I try my best to decorate our house with many lights and I will make one or two special foods. My hubby dear always encourages me to do everything that keeps me happy. Here are some photos from our Deepavali day !
Happy Deepavali :)

floating candles on water with homegrown flowers. This is a glass bowl for indoor succulents from walmart ($ 4.5)

The candles I bought from walmart - LED candles (almost $5 a pack) for outdoors and floating candles for flower decor (almost $4 /pk)
Vegetable briyani and raitha for lunch

Festival of lights , the lovely Deepavali

Deepavali in our apartments, we can see lights in most windows ...beautiful ! We walked around and enjoyed the lights !
Sweet Boli from my neighbor aunty. Soft and flaky ...yummy ! She puts a lot of effort to celebrate all festivals including Christmas and she inspires me to celebrate every moment :)

I made Ulunthu vadai for Deepavali. It is our native tradition to prepare some fried snacks for this festival. 

,

We celebrate our wedding anniversary almost on every day of our life :) That too when it comes to October , we do something nice for us. While hubby showers me with gifts and restaurant dinners , I too prepare his favorite foods along with a homemade cake. This year , additionally we went on a Chinese bus tour (Take tours) and we visited some spectacular tourist spots in Wyoming (Yellow stone national park) , South Dakota (Mt.Rushmore) and Utah (Salt Lake).


Thai Basil restaurant, Piscataway NJ, on the eve.

Roti shana resembles our parotta salna...yumm !

Roti shana 

We both like this 'Veg Pad kee mao'  💕

Vegetarian Pad Kee Mao
Dinner buffet at  Teppanyaki Grill :
egg roll, honey chicken, edamame , calamari fry, grilled octopus - my plate , I tried many stuffs :)  .
garlic bread, fries, edamame , lemon,  - Xav's plate

Rainbow Sushi, wasabi , ginger relish, noodles, fried rice, shrimp - my plate :)  

Tso's chicken, noodle, fried rice - my hubby's choice 

Wonton soup ...yummy !

We take all desserts and share to taste them...I liked this coconut rice cake ....(sitting on that cupcake liner) (like our kolukattai) very much. The fruit custard was amazing.  other than that I liked the chocolate cake also.

My hubby took a tiny serving of each and every ice cream...I didn't taste any of these, as the weather was already very cold on that day (the truth is I felt full...very full).

some more desserts ...jelly and rice pudding.
I made this cake for our wedding anniversary.

"As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love"  from Bible 1 corinthians 

These are some moments from our anniversary celebrations, Thanks be to God :)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Strawberry lemonade

Nowadays I prepare juices very rarely. When I need one, I always look for lemonade, as it is my favorite and an easy one too. The word lemonade entered my world only after we started visiting carnivals in USA. Before that I used to call it as lemon juice or  by whatever fruit it is made of.  In India , lemon juice is like an everyday affair, as it is an easy one for guests. I jazzed it up with some strawberries and here is an amazing drink for all.

If looking for some advanced preparation, I make a syrup style lemonade (which I learned many years back from my amma).  The below syrup can be made with strawberry or pineapple or just as plain lemon syrup. The plain syrup can be added with 'nannari syrup'  while serving too.
I have given that traditional method here along with an easy version (which comes handy most of the time) also.
Fresh Strawberry lemonade (homestyle)


Ingredients: (for 14 servings)
Lemon - 2  (large)
strawberry - 10 to 15
water - 1 cup
white sugar - 2  cup
ice cubes - 2 cup

for mixing:
water - 12 cups
(or) water - 6 cups + plain sparkling soda - 6 cups
lemon - 1 (for garnish)

Syrup:
Puree strawberry. If needed filter to remove seeds. Bring to a boil along with 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar. Bring to a boil. Make it a syrup. Let the raw smell vanish.  Let it cool. Squeeze lemon and add it to syrup. Save in fridge. We can do this syrup and keep in fridge 2-3 days.

Serving suggestion:
While making the lemonade, slice one lemon into small cubes.
Put 1 lemon wedge in each glass.
Add cold water and soda (optional) equally up to 3/4 th and start adding the syrup as per need. Put an cube for each glass.
If needed adjust sugar too.

Strawberry lemonade is ready.

Note:
The above is the perfect recipe which I use sometimes with or without strawberry for making lemonade. I am not sure of the recipe about the carnival style lemonde, but this recipe tastes closest :)
        🍓🍓🍋🍓🍋🍓🍋🍓🍋🍓🍋🍓🍋🍓🍓
Alternate homely method:
(for 6 cups)
In a mixie / blender , add 6 strawberry, sugar - 1 cup, squeezed lemon - 1.
Blend well.
Add required cold water and transfer to a serving jar.
Keep refrigerated. Mix well using a tall spoon and pour to glasses with ice cubes.
This is a quick and easy to make strawberry lemonade in homestyle.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Beach day !

This summer is not like any other Jersey summer. It always rained on weekends as if it is planned :) There was almost only two or three weekends with the best weather. So Last month we went to Point Pleasant beach on a Sunday.
We celebrated (celebrated or participated is the correct term....it's not attending...heard from a priest !) mass in St.Martha's church in Point Pleasant, which was in my 'to visit' list for a long time. Then we visited an antiques showroom, which was also long due in our list. Usually we go to beaches by evening only and so we could never do all the above said things. Then had pizza for lunch in a beach restaurant. While the Sun was hot,  we went to Jenkinson's aquarium and had some good time there too. When the afternoon weather got cooler,  we enjoyed sitting in the beach sand, rinsed our feet in waves :) then lot of snacks like sweet potato fries, ice cream for him and then had some boardwalk and in my view that's the perfect beach day I have ever had :)  Here are some pictures from Point Pleasant beach and the town.
An antique shop at Point Pleasant



I liked this tiny jar very much and bought it for $6. I am using this to keep salt in dining table.

A lighthouse for our Christmas village ...$ 7, Xavier liked this very much and got it...I too love it :)

watermelon ....our snack for the road trip !

I like this restaurant ( the food was good there ,despite the fact that most of the crowd is from floating population only )

Pizza with chicken fry

I think these three guys like modeling :)


Penguins :) 

  horseshoe crab

The concert place / dining area in beach

Jenkinson's boardwalk ....love it !

From the gift shop !...NewJersey's state flower 'common violet / Viola sororia), capitol - Trenton, bird - The Eastern Goldfinch, tree - Red oak, 
   🌸🌸🌸🌻🌻🌻 🌺🌺🌺🌼🌼🌼🌹🌹🌹🌻🌻🌻🌷🌷🌷

KEANSBURG BEACH is another beach in our neighborhood. We chose to go there on a Saturday, as we couldn't figure out what to do on that day , as it started getting colder soon :) But to my surprise that beach is also nice , with a long pier to walk, a less crowded clean beach and a fair like setting in the shore. I couldn't see any boardwalk or fancy shops in that beach, but the amusement park would be great for kids. Another nice thing about this beach is , it seems more economical for a family evening (as there is no entrance ticket to beach or fair grounds and the parking is very cheap when compared to most places).  Swimming is not advisable because of lack of guards.  I like crowded beaches better as it gives me a safer homely feel, so this would be a great beach for day time for people like me :)

Keansburg beach
beautiful beach with a pier 
there is a vast selection of food in this Keansburg beach. I could see people enjoying packed meals they had brought too !
onion rings with cheese pizza :)
My favorite souvenir ....fridge magnet and some stones from every memorable place !
Jersey shore has many beaches and that's the best place to visit during summer for us all here. Now its almost October and we all are looking forward to a cool crisp weather, colorful foliage and festivals in almost every week :)

Meet you all with another post soon ! Till then , take care !
Love,
Viki Xavier