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Kick off Fall season with a trip to the Pumpkin Patch

Each year when the leaves start to turn color, we have made it a family tradition to visit a pumpkin patch/farm or a corn maze, it’s a kind of Fall pilgrimage to be surrounded by the beauty of nature, the sweet aroma of apple cider and doughnuts coloring our  eyes with the rich rusty colors of Fall pumpkins, the hardy mums and the rustle of the  colored leaves amidst the high winds. Hay rides and pumpkin cannons, along with corn mazes become a part of the amusement when the kids are around……Oh, how I wait each year for this beautiful season!

Wake up to the pumpkin season, it’s here already……img_4082

Endless rows of pumpkins lined up …big and small, long and round….you get to choose which one you want to take home….img_4012


Would you rather take a pumpkin to make a pie or would you take a decorative one to carve and place it as your official doorstop for the season and usher in the harvest blessings , the choice is yours to pick….img_4043

…..or maybe some gourds ?img_4049

……or would you rather look at the colorful hardy mums, instead ?





…..certainly, you get to choose !img_4047

Wait a minute, you did not forget the hay scarecrows did you ? Some of them ae so cute than scary🙂


Don’t you forget the apple cider and the doughnuts…it’s officially Fall!


….or how about some honey, dear ? Our Farmer’s have worked so hard all year, to give us a bountiful crop for the harvest and honey to sweeten our days, you must take some honey, or perhaps pickles or homemade marmalade……let the spirit of the  holiday season begin….img_3987

Shrimp/ Prawn/ Jinga Biryani

It had rained nonstop, for almost a week now…. aching to get out in nature and enjoy the beautiful Fall colors, I was glad to see, it had stopped raining this evening, though the rain clouds seemed to hang low. Not wasting another minute indoors,  I ventured out bravely soaking in all that fresh air especially after the rains. The grass and the fallen leaves were soaked in rain water, yet those that remained on the tree top, stood proudly flaunting their crowning glory.Soul food for the nature lover in me……


So many shades of red and yellow and green, I was certain the creator was an artist to begin with, how else could he come up with such varying hues, I thought as I continued to walk.


There is an unspoken beauty about Fall season, it leaves you speechless in its magic, all you can do is soak in it….


Feeling completely content and inspired to create ,after that invigorating walk, I set about preparing something spicy, the first thing that came to mind was the packet of frozen shrimp in my freezer….. I fiddled with the idea of creating something with the shrimps,thinking about all the different recipes, I have used shrimp/prawns in, in the past.Here is the list of the different recipes, I have tried with shrimp/prawns……

  1. Malaysian Butter Prawns :Here is the link to my recipe published earlier…
  2. Sweet and Sour Prawns : Here is the link…
  3. Spicy Skewered Prawns : Yup, I have tried that too, here is the link…..
  4. Shrimp Stuffed Tamales : Another innovative dish I had tried with shrimps in the past, here is the link ……
  5. Malabar Spinach and Prawn Gravy : Another traditional dish from my homeland, here is the link…..
  6. Prawn and Mint Pulav : Yup, another yummy rice dish to try, here is my link…..
  7. Methi/Fenugreek Prawn Masala : Another yummy dish with prawns & methi/fenugreek, here is the link……
  8. Prawn Tikka Masala : Can be a starter or a side dish, leaving you craving for more, here is my link….
  9. Spicy Prawn Masala : Spicy and tasty dish to beat the cold, here is my link…..


So you can tell, by the list of recipes I have used prawn/shrimp in, it is one of my favorite seafood, so this evening I wanted to try yet another dish using shrimp/prawns and came up with this  aromatic rice dish cooked with spicy prawns called “Jinga Biryani “/ Shrimp / Prawn Biryani, easy to prepare with ingredients in your pantry, yet satisfying in its deliciousness on a rain soaked cold Fall day…what better way to warm your insides? Go ahead  and give it a try, you are sure to ask for a second or third helping.


Ingredients :

Shrimp/Prawn packet- 20-25 large/40-45 (if small)

Shallots – 7-8 ( large,sliced fine)

Tomatoes -2 ( large)

Ginger garlic paste – 1tbsp

Chili powder – 1tbsp

Fish sauce – 1tbsp

Garam masala- 1tsp

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Salt – to taste

Coconut Oil /Ghee – 2tbsp

Cloves- 4-5

Cardamom- 2-3

Bay leaves – 1

Cilantro/Coriander leaves- a few ( to garnish)

Basmati Rice – 2 cups

Water- 4 cups


Method :

1.Clean the shrimp/prawns under running water after you have thawed them if they are frozen, and marinate them  with turmeric powder, salt, fish sauce and chili powder for 20 minutes.

2.  Wash and then soak the basmati rice for half an hour before you cook it. Drain the water with a colander and set the rice aside.Then, in a heavy bottomed vessel, warm a little oil add the bay leaves, cloves and cardamom & stir it a bit. To this add the soaked and drained rice & stir  gently so the rice is coated with the flavor of the spices. To this add the  4 cups of water & allow it to cook slowly without closing the lid.When the rice is 3/4 cooked and the water completely evaporated switch off the flame & set the cooked rice aside.Cooking the rice separately helps keep it fluffy and full, just the kind you want in your Biryani.

3. Now in a wok, warm some oil and add the finely sliced shallots and saute them, till they turn a golden brown.Then add the turmeric powder & stir a little.To this add the cubed tomatoes and cover with lid , till the tomatoes get mushy and soft. Then add  the garam masala powder & stir till the raw smell disappears.

4.To the above add the marinated shrimps/prawns and keep stirring , till all the flavors are coated on the prawns. Then add the ginger garlic paste & stir for a few minutes with salt to taste.Cover with lid and let it cook for 10-15 minutes. DO NOT overcook shrimp/prawns , since they become rubbery.Remove from heat & set aside.

5. Now in a ceramic bowl or a rice cooker, add the cooked rice and cooked prawns in layers and garnish with cilantro on top. Keep it covered with something heavy on top for an hour or more, it is called “Dum Biryani” in India, when it is allowed to cook on it’s own steam,usually this vessel is placed on a pile of burning coal, with a heavy brick on top , since that is not possible in my setting, I simply cover and keep it on the hot stove for another half hour or so, the rice and the shrimp are mixed well & ready to  be served hot.   It tastes even better the next day.

Enjoy your Shrimp Biryani, a spicy treat you give yourself in the warm confines of your sweet home, nothing like home food cooked with love.






Vendakai/Okra Puli Kuzhambu

It’s Navaratri time, if you have grown up in South India and settled elsewhere now, nostalgia strikes you big at this time of the year,


all the “Pattu Mami’s” (South Indian Brahmin ladies are affectionately called so) come floating in your dreams with their amazing silks,Bommai Golu’s/Doll festival’s, yummy dishes and sweets that goes without saying as part of the festive season.


When I spotted the garden fresh Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi in the market, I quickly put it in my shopping cart, it’s not one of my favorite vegetables, yet it looked so fresh, I did not have the heart not to savor it in some dish or the other.


When you slice the vegetable, it gets a little slimy, perhaps why I never much cared for this one, so I try to cook various dishes out of this veggie where you do not get to bite on that slimy slippery piece, but a more firmer crunchy fresh veggie. Keeping that in mind, I googled around for recipes, I could almost hear my neighbor back home ,an authentic Pattu Mami at that, say,”En athulae, nekku poricha vendaka kuzhambuna padu ishtamakkum” meaning “in my home my favorite dish is Vendakai/Okra Poricha Kuzhambu.” Right then, I decided, that will be it,  same recipe at my home today , this being Navaratri time , every beautiful memory was linked with the Pattu Mami’s skill sets !

 What is Kuzhambu/Kulambu/Kolambu :

People call it by various names, yet they all mean the same thing, it is a liquid curry like a broth when it is thin & of flowing consistency, it is thick like a gravy when  fried coconut is added as a base, in which case it is called Poricha/Fried Kuzhambu. People in South India, especially Tamil Nadu, add fresh vegetables to the Kuzhambu or  Vathal (sun dried vegetables )….


… which case it is called Vathal Kuzhambu, either way it tastes yummy, Vathal Kuzhambu is mostly prepared around this season when the weather outside gets cold or during monsoons when sun dried stored vegetables come in handy.

Kuzhambu is a liquid dish made with spices, unlike “Sambar” it is not made with a dhal base, hence it is not of a creamy consistency. It contains mainly tamarind/Puli, shallots and fenureek seeds a must(since it negates the sour taste of Tamarind),some fried vegetables and  a handful of spices.


Frying the main ingredients like coconut, Vendakai/Okra, shallots and garlic gives the dish an extra punch. Kuzhambu is  usually, the next dish served after sambar, if you have ever tasted a complete South Indian meal. It is of a much lighter flowing consistency, coz the Tamilian food habits teach us that as the food is served in a sequence, the accompanying curry that goes with the piping hot rice gets lighter in consistency since it aids in easy digestion. So ideally a  meal starts with Keerai/Spinach gravy, then Sambar, Kuzhambu, Rasam and Thayir/Yogurt to go with rice, along with accompaniments of stir fried vegetables called Poriyal, spicy pickles, pappadam or rice crackers, all on a plantain leaf. Every meal begins with a sweet dish, the belief is to sweeten the bond between the host & the guest, a little salt is added to the corner of the plantain leaf as an indication for all the hard work that went into making the dish ( thru the salt of their sweat, so to speak !), so as to always remain grateful for the hand that serves food… many beautiful meanings hidden in a feast served with love ! banana-leafThus our Kuzhambu forms an integral part of any meal.One can add any vegetable of their choice, I used Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi for my Vendakai Puli Kuzhambu.

Ingredients :

Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi – 10- 12 tender

Tamarind or Tamico paste – 1tbsp

Sambar powder – 2 tsp

Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Sesame oil / Oil – 2 tbslp

Salt – As needed

Garlic – 3 flakes

To sautee in oil and grind

Shallots (Small onion) – 12

Tomato – 2

Coconut – 1/2 cup

To temper

Oil  – 2 tblsp

Mustard – 1 tsp

Fenugreek seeds / Vendhayam / Methi – 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Method :
1. Warm the oil in a wok, fry the neatly sliced Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi in it till they turn crisp and golden brown and set aside. Make sure you clean the store bought Okra under cold running water & dry it with paper towels before you take it up for cooking.
2. Now in the same wok, fry garlic , shallots into a light brown color, then add coconut flakes to it and fry it some more till the coconut changes color. Add turmeric powder & tomatoes to this & stir till the tomatoes become soft & mushy. Remove from flame & set aside to  cool before grinding the mix into a fine paste in the blender.
3. Now set the wok on the stove, add some curry leaves or curry leaf powder, mustard, fenugreek seeds & fry for a few seconds before adding the fried Vendakai/Okra to it. Now add the tamarind paste along with some water to soak all the  Okra/bhendi. To this add the sambar powder & let it cook, after adding the blended paste mix & salt to taste.
4. The aroma that emanates from the dish will entice you into having lunch early, what better way to spend a rainy Fall weekend lunch hour with your favorite memories of the season and one of your favorite dish for lunch.
Home is where you are, bring home the memories🙂
For the many other ways I have used Okra in my various dishes, check the links below :
1. Stuffed Okra Boats :
2.Spiced Okra Buttermilk Curry or Bhendi Khadi :
3. Okra/ Bhendi Masala :




Mussel Meat Fry -North Malabar Style

The weather outside is getting cooler with the arrival of Fall season, the leaves are changing colors……





……..hunger pangs have taken a rhythm of their own as the colder weather approaches, the ache to eat something spicy is a necessity , when you get back home in the evening, tired and hungry…….so what do you do, make smart choices and plan your menu over the weekend for the upcoming week and Voila when you come home,  yummy food is already waiting for you, all you have to do is warm it up and fill your senses of taste and satiation.

The Korean Market near home has the best sea food collection, I usually get my supply from there,


so this weekend, I picked a packet of Mussel meat along with some Spanish mackerel all the while thinking of some yummy dish to prepare with them as I moved my shopping cart slowly in the store. By the time I reached home, my mind was already made up for what I wanted to do with the mussels, wanting to experience the sea food from my homeland I opted to try out this spicy recipe from the North Malabar region of India, it is also called,”Kallumakai Varratuyathu “in the  southern state of Kerala……spicy  with a tinge of sourness due to Vinegar, sure to keep your insides warm while it’s blowing cold outside. Enjoy !



Mussels  Meat- 1 packet 9 around 30-35  de-shelled mussel meat)

Shallots (large)- 6-8 finely sliced

Garlic –  6-7 cloves

Ginger – 2′

Turmeric powder- 1 tsp

Chili powder – 2 tbsp

Pepper powder- 1 tsp

Coriander powder -1 tsp

Garam masala- 1 tsp

Rice Vinegar – 1 tsp can substitute with Fish sauce too ( both optional)

Curry leaves/powder –  1 tsp

Coconut oil – 2 tbsp

Method :

1.Clean the mussel meat under running water two or three times to remove any dirt or soil that might be sticking to it. Set aside.

2.In a thick bottomed vessel add the coconut oil and warm it.To this add  the finely sliced shallots and curry leaf powder. Saute until it becomes golden brown color.

3.To the above add the ginger garlic paste after making them into a fine paste & saute until the raw smell disappears.

4. Now,add turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala to the above and stir them well together so the onions are coated with the spice powders.

5.Add  the cleaned mussels,  vinegar and salt to taste,cover with lid  and cook. There is no need to add water, since mussels have water in them, which seeps out while cooking. When the water is completely absorbed the mussels are cooked & ready.Over cooking will lead to rubbery texture, so do not overcook.One can add a tsp or two of oil at this point, if you think it is too dry, it also improves the taste when it’s coconut oil.

6.Serve hot as a side dish and enjoy the mussel fry during this cooler Fall weather season.Enjoy!

A similar recipe of mine with Clam meat was posted earlier, here is the link for those of you wishing to try the recipe with clam meat.



Fine Art Fair

Each year the local Fine Art fair happens around this time, just before Fall sets in. This afternoon the weather was beautiful, almost felt like the middle of summer, everyone and their pet was walking  in the  Fine Art Fair.



A wide variety of high caliber art and craft items are displayed along the picturesque Riverwalk.It’s a joy to visit if you are a lover of arts and crafts, like I am, there are so many talented artisans exhibiting their brilliant art for the public, always always a treat to the eyes and soul.

The thing that amazes me most each year is the various mediums out there that these artists use in creating these art forms, a lot of talent and thought goes into their work, sharing some of my favorites here, for you  all to see and enjoy, take as you may🙂

The one thing that has amazed me ever since I saw it for the first time is the gourd art, the amount of patience that goes into drying the gourd in barns over a year after de-pulping the insides and then creating master pieces like these are just too beautiful to comprehend!



Nest baskets are another thing that caught my attention, the beautiful blend of colors in creating these nest baskets showed the artists passion for creating amazing art forms, using different medias.





This was an exhibit, I heard the artist say loudly to someone, as I walked past her stall, “The Irish in me can’t stop doing these !”





The softness of blending colors with a paint brush where one color merged into another so beautifully , it was difficult to tell, where one started and the other ended.











Leaf  Art : the colors and the hue of the falling leaves this season…




If you love creating beautiful pieces of art with your own hands , be it a painting or a small craft , then this Art fair is certainly for you🙂 Enjoy!





A walk to remember…..

“and the sun took a step back,

the leaves lulled themselves to sleep

and Autumn was awakened ”

~Raquel Franco


Autumn tip toes in  ever so gently, all you can do sometimes ,is stop still and take in all its glory…….and so I did, during my evening walk today. Nature, is painting the landscape in the most beautiful of Fall colors, one berry at a time.




Come join me, this Fall during our Nature walks, coz’ Autumn paints in colors that summer has never seen.