Ria's Collection

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Iam a big fan of tea sandwiches,be it vegetarian or non vegetarian. Amma used to make them a lot when we were young and it was something that we always took with us for long distance trips. This particular sandwich is not something that I ate as a kid, it was a different one made with eggs. This tea sandwich was something I ate during my teens and I still enjoy eating them. Jobin loves this filling,so does Ian. So, every now and then, this sandwich makes an appearance on our table.
Recently, Pepperidge Farm® contacted me asking if I could review some of their new line of breads - Pepperidge Farm Harvest Blend Breads. I really love their products,especially Milano cookies. Back in 2009, I even tried making those Milano cookies at home, a vegan version. They were good but not as thin and crispy as the original ones. They sent me a big box with 3 loaves of bread, Seeded, Ancient Grains & Sprouted.I chose the Seeded Bread for this sandwich because the seeded bread was a nice contrast to the super creamy filling. The bread was filled with goodness which you can taste in every bite.

This filling  for the sandwich is pretty much made with pantry staples. Some homemade mayonnaise, hard boiled eggs, carrots,cabbage and bread is all that you need! Here's how you make it!
Amma's recipe

8-10 slices of  Pepperidge Farm Seeded Bread
1/2 - 3/4  cup Homemade Mayonnaise
2 Perfectly Hard Boiled Eggs
1 cup of grated carrots
1 cup of grated green cabbage
Salt & Pepper

Method: Chop the hard boiled eggs into a rough dice and mix it along with mayonnaise, carrots & cabbage. Season to taste and spread the mixture over the bread slices. I used two slices per sandwich. Trim the sides and cut each of them into 4 small triangles. Arrange them onto a platter and serve chilled.

These breads can be found at your Midwest local grocers!
This post is sponsored by Pepperidge Farm® and all opinions are my own. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Homemade Ghee
Amma rarely bought Ghee at home. It was always a big ongoing task of collecting paada for making ghee at home. Daisy mummy is the queen amongst the twins. Their cow produces the fattiest milk that I have ever seen. So, she makes a lot of Ghee from it and sends it to Amma when she runs out of Neyy. We buy packet milk at home,which does not have a lot of fat in it. So Amma skims the fat that collects on top of boiled and cooled milk as well as yogurt. Everything goes into a cute little stainless steel container that's kept in the fridge forever. When that's filled to the brim, it's Neyy making day at home. A very fragrant day,that is!

When I was little, I would get so tempted to taste fresh ghee as it would fill our home with it's aroma. However, the crud that settles on the bottom,to me is very tasteless. Valsamma aunty would make a delicious laddu using that milk solids that gets separated during the ghee making process .
Homemade Ghee
When I first moved here, I was really at loss as to how to make Ghee at home! We would buy a big container of yogurt which never really had fat floating over it.Milk was always in a big plastic jug and if I end up boiling and cooling the milk, it never gets over. Finally, with a heavy heart, I decided to buy Ghee from stores. I never really liked them. They all have that lovely yellow colour and that's pretty much it. It never tasted or smelt like the Neyy Amma made.
Homemade Ghee
Jobin's sister is my Ghee supplier but when I ran out of her supply, I was hesitant to buy more bottles.So, I decided to make my own from unsalted butter, like many of you do here. It's so simple and the whole process is magical,atleast to me.It's also very economical. I really don't understand why are we spending so much for a little bottle of Ghee. Even if you were to make them from organic,grass fed cow's butter,it's much economical to make it home and it only takes about 20 - 25  minutes!

Homemade Ghee
Unsalted butter

Method: In a tall heavy saucepan / pot,melt the butter on medium high  medium* heat. It will start to splutter and make some noise. When the noise stops (approximately 20-25 minutes), the Ghee is ready. You will see a thin layer of foam on top, gently push it aside and take a spoonful of the liquid beneath it. It will be golden yellow. Do not disturb the brown bits at the bottom. Keep it off the heat and after 15-20 minutes,strain it through a fine mesh sieve into clean bottles.

* Update (27 April 2016): Sminu, a blog reader of mine made Ghee using the above method and mentioned that it got burnt when she cooked in the time frame I mentioned. After many back and forth messages, we were able to figure out what went wrong.

She used 2 sticks of butter. I normally use 8 sticks (2 lbs) since we go through a lot of ghee at home. She mentioned her melted butter stopped spluttering at 10 minutes but she continued cooking because I mentioned 20-25 minutes. She used medium-high heat and her biggest burner.

I would suggest that you go by the look  and smell of your product. Just like ovens, our stoves can vary a little bit. We both used electric stove. If this is your first time making it, use medium heat or even low,if you have the patience. Stop when the melted butter stops spluttering. There will be a foam on top, gently push it aside and see the colour of the ghee and the sediments. The ghee should be golden yellow and sediments a golden brown. Use your gut feeling. Timings might vary a bit.The amount of butter you use, will also lengthen / shorten the process.

So the next time you are thinking about buying some, just melt some butter and make Ghee at home. All it requires is the time that you are getting ready to go to the store! Save a trip and enjoy the delicious aroma wafting through your entire home!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


The other day, all of a sudden I felt like eating a cutlet made with Vazhakoombu. So when we went to the Oriental store to buy some ripe mangoes,which currently is my favourite fruit, I spotted some Vazhakoombu and bought 2 small ones. I also grabbed some Swiss Chard, my another current favourite thing to eat along with rice. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to combine the two. Vazhakoombu & Swiss Chard, that is!
It turned out that they were literally made for each other. Those two made beautiful, delicious cutlets that we all enjoyed thoroughly. I usually make vegetable cutlets with carrots, beans,green peas etc but this time, it was a choice of vegetable that I've never attempted of combining before.
When I was talking to Amma, I mentioned about my plans on making Vazhakoombu cutelts and that's when she mentioned that Mamma made them quite often! I was really surprised because I have never had them before! Well, I did eat them in a few hours after that conversation and I am so glad that they made their way into my belly!

It's a simple mixture,just like any cutlet mixture. Have I told you that my two most hated things to do in the kitchen are 1. Powdering sugar 2. Making cutlets. I don't know why! The first one is so simple but time consuming to make sure its finely ground and the second one is a lengthy three step process. I always whine about it to Amma and her advice remains the same. Don't give it too much thought,only then will you feel that it is a chore! I think she is right! :-)

My own recipe

3 heaping cups of chopped Vazhakoombu
3 heaping cups of chopped Swiss Chard
1 medium red onion, diced
3 serrano chilies, slit
1 sprig curry leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
5 large russet potatoes, peeled,boiled & mashed
Salt & Pepper
Fresh breadcrumbs made from 4 slices of sandwich bread
1 egg

Method: In a saute pan, heat about 4 tablespoons of oil and when hot, add the diced onion and saute till they are translucent. Add in the slit green chilies, curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ginger garlic paste and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chopped veggies and cook them uncovered till the raw taste is gone, about 5 mins.Add garam masala,mashed potatoes, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Divide them into balls, form patties, dip them in beaten egg and roll them in breadcrumbs.

Deep fry in hot oil. Drain on paper towels and serve them with ketchup or Challas. Enjoy!
Ian totally fell for these delicious cutlets with a crisp coating. Jobin and I enjoyed it equally and I was wondering why didn't I ever think of making them before! A quick update about me and Hyatt. So I started working there a week ago and it's been really exciting and challenging. Challenging mostly because I need to start my at 4.30 am on weekdays and on Saturdays, I wake up at 3.30 am! I really thought I was more of a night owl than a morning person but things are changing,people! :-) It's fun and time just flies when I am at the Hotel. Every second is precious since we are churning out desserts like a factory! :-)

Monday, April 4, 2016


Every year for Good Friday, Amma would make Parippu curry, Pappadam & Rice for lunch. Then we would eat it with a good dollop of ghee poured over it. Ho! Enthoru ruchi aayirunnu! That Parippu curry wouldn't make an everyday appearance on our dining table,maybe once for Onam and once for Good Friday. We always have something non-vegetarian for our meals at home,so making a full vegetarian meal was a challenge or so we'd like to think! We would atleast need a Meen Varuthathu to go along with our rice.

For the past one week, I've been on a non-veg cooking spree,expecially Pork. So I was feeling a wee bit guilty for not cooking anything veg for my food loving family. Jobin and Ian eats everything that is served to them,they are so easy to please! I am the choosy one in the family and I don't eat every vegetable that's been served. Ian is the one that surprises me always. From the time he was born, feeding him has only been a pleasure. He loves to eat and doesn't even ask me what is it that I am feeding him!

So, the other day, I bought some Muringa Ela from the Indian store. Having cooked nothing vegetarian the past few days, I decided on making our usual lavish Saturday lunch a proper vegetarian meal. So this parippu curry made it's first appearance in our house along with some yard long beans mezhukkupuratti. Moringa leaves/Muringaela is a highly nutritious ingredient and pairing it with some dal and rice makes it a complete meal.The recipe for parippu curry is from Aswathy Mathan's book and the addition of Muringaela was my choice.
Serves 6
1/2 cup Toor Dal
2 serrano chilies,slit
1 teaspoon oil
1 heaping cup Muringa ela

To grind:
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 pearl onions
2 small cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup grated coconut
3 dried bird's eye chilies / onakka kanthari (optional)

To temper:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sliced pearl onions
1 sprig curry leaves
2 dried red chilies

Pressure cook dal, serrano chilies,oil and muringa ela along with just enough water to reach an inch above it on medium heat for 3 whistles*.Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and mash the dal with the back of your spoon.
Meanwhile grind together the ingredients mentioned above. Add it to the cooked dal along with 1 cup of water**. Keep it on a slow flame and cook stirring continuously until it starts to steam gently. DO NOT let it boil. You just want a steady steam.
In a small pan, temper the ingredients mentioned above and pour over the hot dal. Check for salt & serve hot with Kerala Matta Rice.

*I did not soak the dal.
** This dal will thicken as it sits,so if you like to adjust the consistency,add some more water in step 2.

All of us relished this dal along with hot rice and ghee. I did not have any pappadam with me or else, it would have been the most perfect meal! Now that Vishu is just around the corner, I am planning for a mini sadya hoping that it will create some memories for Ian. I honestly don't know how much my new schedule is going to help me in prepping for it,but I will try to make the sadya happen. In the meantime, I hope you guys give this a try and let me know how it went!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


ammai is my Appan's sister. Yes,that also means she is my Ammai. Confused? We all called Appan's mom Mamma, so naturally, I got confused as a little girl and called my aunt Mammai,instead of Ammai. Mammai is an awesome cook just like her mother and she cooks a lot of stuff for every meal. Whenever we visit her family in Kothamangalam,she would definitely make her Kappa Erachi and this Pork Ularthu was another item that would visit the table quite often.

So just like you all having family groups on Whatsapp, we have one for our little family . Food is one of the main topics of discussion and one day, Mammai mentioned about her Pork Ulathu. I couldn't resist my temptation and got her precious recipe for her signature dish. I wrote it down on a piece of paper and that piece of paper vanished into a 'safe' place that I could never find!
On Monday evening,as I was rummaging through my little cookbook corner, I found that precious recipe! I was so excited, exactly the same way I felt 6-7 years ago when I found Ava's Mom's Chocolate Brownie recipe! So, when Jobin got back home from work that evening,we went to our nearby Oriental market to buy pork. That's the only place that I buy pork to make curries. Oh by the way, did I tell you all that I am on 10-day spring break? Yes, I am! :-) That also means,I will be joining Hyatt on April 4th for my 12 week externship! My Chef called me last night to tell me that my shift starts at 6.00 am which also means I need to wake up everyday at 4.30 am to get to the hotel atleast by 5.45 am since there's a 20 minute drive one way.Exciting times!
Okay, back to this delicious dish! So, whenever you are planning to make a pork curry like this or like my Pork Vindaloo ,make sure you buy a fatty cut of pork. If not, the meat will dry out during the lengthy cooking process and it will be fibrous in the end. If you've ever had that experience and didn't know what's going on, your meat was probably lean. The fat renders during the cooking making the whole dish succulent and delicious. Whenever I buy pork, I look for the marbling of fat throughout the meat. I don't buy meat with inches and inches of fat and skin above it,just a well marbled meat with some fat around it.

1.5 kilos (3lbs) pork shoulder, cut up into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, cubed
1 large tomato, cubed
1 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala

For seasoning:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 inches ginger, finely sliced
10 pearl onions, finely sliced
5 dried red chilies
1 sprig curry leaves
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder

Method: Pressure cook the meat along with onion,tomato,ground coriander,cayenne, ginger garlic paste, garam masala & salt for 4-5 whistles.DO NOT add any water. There should be about 1 cup of gravy left over after cooking. If you have a lot more than that, cook it down.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil and crackle the mustard seeds.Add the garlic,ginger, pearl onions and cook till they soften and the onions starts to brown a little bit. Add the dried red chilies and curry leaves,saute for 30 seconds. Add in the spice powders and mix well for 30 second. Add the cooked meat along with the gravy and cook until the gravy dries up,coats the meat and gets a dark brown colour. Adjust salt as needed and mix in the black pepper. Enjoy while it lasts!

This dish packs a punch for sure! It is so delicious that I couldn't stop myself from eating small portions of it every time I walked into the kitchen. At one point, I was a bit worried if I would eat up the whole thing by the time Jobin and Ian got back! This curry would be so perfect with some Kerala Matta rice, Kachiyamoru and a Mezhukkupuratti. It will pair really well with Appam, Puttu, Idiyappam, Batura, Chapathi, Poori etc.

When Jobin tasted it, he was like this thing is so tasty! It really is,so do give it a try and let me know! Just one word of caution, get a fatty cut of pork, please! :-)

It's a rainy day here today and all I can think of is curling up on the couch with some chorum,morum,pork ularthum and catching up on some old comedy Malayalam movies. I was watching Pattanapravesham as I was cooking this dish yesterday, I really need some background noise when I cook! ;-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


It is so incredibly cold here in Minneapolis now and cold makes me hungry all the time! I enjoy soups,stews,cheesy pasta dish etc around this time of the year. Lasagna is definitely an indulgent dish perfect for this cold weather. I usually make them with the flat Lasagna noodles but this time, I thought of using a different shaped pasta.A Ziti. The flavours were spot on and it made a tasty meal!

I made this dish using Bertolli Riserva Marinara with Parmigiano Reggiano. It's is my brand of choice for a good bottled marinara.The flavours are well balanced and they have many flavours of marinara sauce now.
This meal can be made ahead of time and frozen. I do that quite a bit nowadays to save time. When I made it, I divided it into two pans and froze one right away. Whenever you are ready for a lazy day,just pull it out of the freezer a few hours before you need it,let it thaw completely and then bake it as mentioned in the directions.
Ian is a pasta lover! He enjoys taking it with him to school and looks forward to eating it at lunch time.He loves Pizza too,especially the ones we get in Costco. It's a huge slice but my little man can eat it,even if Jobin and I have to share one slice! It's been a while since I made Pizza at home...hmmm! These days, I fulfill all of my baking dreams in school,so I rarely bake anymore at home other than our usual stuff like a Roast Chicken, Fish Pie, Baked Pasta,Kebabs,Wings etc. I really miss that point of time in my life when I had ALL the time in the world to myself to do all what I wanted to do! Life is incredibly good right now but I certainly miss my 'me -time'!.

Now back to this delicious pasta dish...I found this recipe on My Recipes.com and this one is a keeper!


12 ounces Ziti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground lean beef
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano,crushed
1 26 ounce bottle of Bertolli Reserva Pasta Sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 15 ounce container Ricotta
1 10 ounce container frozen spinach,thawed and squeezed to remove liquid
1 cup grated Mozzarella

Method: Cook pasta according to the instructions on the box.

In a large pot one medium -heat, cook onions in 1 tablespoon oil,salt and pepper until soft, 5-7 minutes.Add ground beef,crumble it up using a spoon and cook until it's no longer pink, 7-8 minutes. Drain off the excess liquid.Add the garlic and oregano and cook for 2 minutes. Add the pasta sauce and cook for another 3 minutes.Remove from heat.

Add the pasta and toss to mix. Add Parmesan, ricotta and spinach. Toss well to coat. Transfer the pasta to a 9X13 inch baking dish.Top it with Mozzarella and bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

*If you are planning to freeze it, do not bake it. Let it cool completely, then wrap it in two layers of foil and freeze it for upto 3 months. Thaw it in the fridge overnight and bake covered at 350F for 1 hour. Uncover and bake until Mozzarella melts.

Did I tell you that Jobin is going to school now? He joined Columbia University, New York in September. He is currently in New York for 5 days and I am praying that I don't have to go out in this super duper cold weather for any kind of shopping,grocery especially. I am just using up all what I have on hand in the fridge and freezer. It's a crockpot Chicken Wild Rice soup for dinner tonight! Just the thought of having soup for dinner is making me feel warm and nice!

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