Weekend Getaway to The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains are a major mountain range in the southern part of the Appalachian Mountains, the second ridge line forming a north-south running mountain chain from the Eastern United States and bordering the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Also called the Smoky Mountains or the Smokies, they straddle the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, and are entirely west of the Eastern Continental Divide.

(Source: Wikipedia)

We went to Smokies to see the much talked about fall colours this season, and I must say it was well worth the visit. We even got to take a ride in a helicopter to get a better view of the top of the mountains. We also went on the Sky Lift.

View from top of the Sky Lift

View of the mountains from the helicopter

The city of Gatlinburg is a fascinating one with a street lined with shops, attractions and various other things to do. There is one section called “The Village” which has quaint shops and beautiful fountains. The whole city of course was geared up for Halloween.

There was a Candy making shop where we saw how Taffy is made and how its wrapped too.

Taffy wrapping machine and Taffy being pulled [ left corner]

The best place was a shop called “Sleepy’s”, tucked away in a small corner of Gatlinburg, which had a giant sleeping/rocking chair in front of the store. Inside the store were all sorts of trinkets and very funny signboards.

Hubby and Me

Some of the sign boards..read them (click to enlarge)

I bought the third one for my kitchen...hehe!

Smoky Mountain Bears

The scenic ride up into the mountains was a feast to the eyes.

Little River

It was a wonderful trip and I felt the weekend was not enough, we hope to make another trip soon :)

Alu Methi Dum and Chapathis

I’m back from an exciting weekend visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. In my next post I will give a detailed account of our visit with the beautiful fall colour pictures.

I made Alu Methi Dum and Chapathis last Friday but didn’t get time to update my blog before we left for the weekend. So here it is.

Alu Methi Dum

You will need:

½ kg. Small baby potatoes

1 ½ cups chopped onions

1 tsp Garam masala powder

3 tsp Red chilli powder

3 tsp Corriander powder

5 tbsp Oil

3 cups Fenugreek leaves (Methi leaves)

2 tsp Ginger Garlic paste

3 medium sized tomatoes pureed

2 tomatoes chopped

Salt to taste

Boil whole potatoes in salted water, drain peel and keep aside. If you don’t have or can’t find small baby potatoes use regular potatoes. Boil and cut into large cubes.

Heat oil in a pan. Add chopped onions and fry till soft and translucent. Add Ginger garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add chopped methi leaves and fry till the raw smell is gone. Now add the red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt. Saute for 5-6 minutes and then add the tomato puree. Add the boiled peeled potatoes or cubes. Also add the chopped tomatoes. Fry till the oil floats on top and bring to a boil. Lastly add the Garam masala powder and few drops of lime juice. Serve hot with chapathis/rotis.


Chapathis, also called Wheat Rotis are staple food in India. We often take it for granted that it is a simple dish and doesn’t have a certain method of making. That’s from the truth because for the end product to be perfect and good tasting, a certain method must be followed. Many of my friends often used to complain that their chapathis were never soft and always turned hard when cold. This is how I make chapathis.

You will need:

2 cups Wheat flour

½ tsp Salt

2 tbsps Oil

1- 1 ½ cups Warm water

Take wheat flour in a bowl. Add salt and oil. Toss and slowly add warm water while mixing the flour into a dough. Add water only as much as required. Don’t knead just yet. The flour has to come together to make a soft mass. It should not be sticky. Cover and keep aside for atleast 30 minutes, longer is better. Knead only after letting the dough rest. Kneading the dough well helps incorporate the ingredients and also makes the dough more pliable.

Make even sized balls, roll them with the help of a rolling pin.

Flip in wheat flour if the dough is too sticky. I have a certain way of roasting the chapathis too that keep them soft even after a day. I roast one side and only when its completely done, I flip it. Flipping frequently only hardens the chapathi after it becomes cold. Apply oil/ghee to the side that’s done. Once the other side is done, flip, apply oil and remove from heat immediately. Cover chapathis with a cloth or paper towel to keep them warm and from drying out. When I make large quantities I usually use foil.


Celebration time again-- Black Forest Cake

This time in celebration of my hubby dear’s birthday yesterday. He really isn’t into birthdays but because of me he sorta celebrates it..hehe! I of course seized the opportunity to bake him a cake, his favourite and mine too, Black Forest Cake.

When my mom used to make it when I was a kid, it was like a special treat. She of course kept the cake in the refrigerator and as I passed by every now and then, I would take a peek and of course grab a piece..before mom knew it, the cake was all gone!

This again was my first shot at making Black Forest Cake, and I’m really glad it turned out well.

You will need:

For the Cake: (Makes two 9” size cakes)

2 cups All purpose flour plus more for pans

1 ¾ Cups Confectioner’s sugar (Powdered Sugar)

6 Eggs

2 tsp Baking powder

2 tbsp Cocoa powder

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

For the Filling:

1 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream

½ cup Confectioner’s sugar

Maraschino Cherries (or canned cherries,drained)

For the syrup:

1 tbsp lime juice

½ tbsp Sugar

3/4 cup Water

Preheat oven to 300F.

Separate the white from the yolks. Beat each separately adding vanilla extract and little sugar at a time to make a stiff froth. Fold yellow into white. Sift flour, cocoa powder and baking powder thrice and fold into the egg mixture.

FOLD: Means to slowly turn dry ingredients into the wet in a circular inward to outward motion. Do not beat or mix vigorously. The main purpose of folding is to allow more air into the mixture and also to avoid flattening the frothy eggs.

Divide batter between prepared pans. This makes a thin cake, if you want it thicker then use 8-inch pans. Bake for 30 minutes till cake is done and springs back on touching or a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn onto cooling racks. Let cool completely.

Chill the electric beater blades and the bowl in which you will use to whip the cream. Whip cream while slowly adding sugar till it doubles in volume and is of a spreadable consistency. Do not overbeat, it turns to butter!

Mix lime juice, sugar and water in a bowl. Stir till sugar dissolves. Place one cake over a cake pedestal or plate, poke holes with a fork in a few places on the cake. Pour the syrup all over the cake in a spoon, till cake is moist (but not soggy). Spread an even layer of the cream, and place cut cherries. Place the other cake on top of this and repeat the moistening procedure. Again spread a even thick layer of cream, decorate with cherries and grated dark chocolate.

Chill before serving and refrigerate remaining cake (if there's any left!)

Veggie Lentil Loaf with Checca Sauce & RCI:

I was watching Food Network the other day and saw a recipe for Veggie 'Meatloaf', that is the veggie version of a regular meat loaf. I’ve always wanted to eat a vegetarian version of the regular meatloaf and was glad I saw this one on TV. I know it sounds funny when I say its a veggie "Meatloaf"...this one is of course all vegetarian, I assure you.

I stuck to the original recipe for the most part but made a few changes though. I substituted the brown rice with white long grained rice, used mint leaves instead of the basil and also substituted cherry tomatoes with good old Roma tomatoes. I also left the egg out because hubby dear doesn’t like the smell. All in all it turned out great!

Checca sauce (pronounced Kekka) was a good combination with the Loaf.

Checca Sauce

You will need:

1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups, or 12 ounces), halved
3 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Lentil Loaf

3/4 cup lentils (about 5 ounces)
3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice, rinsed well
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 celery rib, sliced
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter, divided
10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups cubed whole milk mozzarella cheese, divided (about 8 ounces total)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tomato, sliced

For the Checca Sauce:

Combine the cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic, basil, and oil in a processor. Pulse the tomatoes until they are coarsely chopped, being careful not to puree. Set aside. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

For the Lentil Loaf:

Place the lentils in a large saucepan of cold water. Bring the water just to a boil over high heat. Carefully drain the boiling water and rinse the lentils. Meanwhile, in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the rice and return the liquid to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover the rice, and gently simmer without stirring for 10 minutes. Stir in the lentils, onion, carrot, and celery. Cover and continue cooking without stirring until the rice and lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes longer. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the corn over the rice and lentils and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Cover and let stand for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread 1 tablespoon of the butter over a 10 by 4 1/2 by 3-inch loaf pan. I used a 8 by 8-inch regular pan.In a heavy, large skillet, cook the spinach over medium heat until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Drain and squeeze the excess liquid from the spinach. Transfer the spinach to a work surface and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, gently mix the lentil mixture, spinach, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, eggs, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, basil, salt, pepper, and half of the checca sauce. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a row over the lentil mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Dot the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.

Bake uncovered until the loaf is heated through and the topping is melted and starting to brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Slice the loaf into 2-inch slices, arrange on plates, and serve with the remaining checca sauce.

This lasted me two whole days and I must say it tasted even better on the second day...! :)

RCI: Tamil Festival foods

Kadabus or Kozukattais are a family favourite and my brother and I as kids used to wait for Ganapathi festival to have some. Well that was then, now if I feel like eating some I just go ahead and make them!

I've already posted this before in my Ganesha habba platter, but reposting it for Viji's benefit :)

Kozukattai is my entry to RCI -- Tamil festivals hosted by Viji of VCuisine

The entire recipe and method of making is here.

Tamilians make this using a coconut and jaggery filling, but we like it with sugar hence the change. I also wanted to make Pongal, I like it but hubby dear won't eat it...so no pongal!

Cauliflower Sauce with Farfalle Pasta and a PTC Salad:

It’s pasta time again..my husband and I both like Pasta so it never is a bother for me to make some when we want some! :) This dish is very healthy and the sauce made from cauliflower is not only tasty but minus all the fat and heart breaking calories!

The original recipe calls for Whole Wheat Penne pasta, since I’ve already made something with Penne, I thought I’d try this with a different pasta. Also I don’t want it to be too healthy (you know what I mean!) For those who want it that way, by all means go ahead and substitute Farfalle with Whole Wheat Penne pasta.

You will need:

1 ½ cups Farfalle (Bow shaped pasta)
Salt for the pasta water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 head cauliflower, stem removed and chopped

1 tsp Crushed red chilli flakes
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsps Dried Oregano
3/4 cup grated Parmesan ( use as much or less as you want)
Salt and black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously( this is the only chance you get to actually salt the pasta itself, so don't go shy on the salt) and add pasta and let cook for 8-12 minutes. Drain and reserve 1-2 ladles of pasta water.

While water is coming up to a boil and pasta cooks, make the sauce. Heat a deep pan over medium heat with extra-virgin olive oil. Add crushed chilli flakes and garlic, cook 3 minutes. Add onions and cook 5 minutes then add cauliflower, vegetable stock and the oregano. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes. Uncover the sauce, add 1 to 2 ladles of pasta water and mash the cauliflower with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the pasta and cheese to the cauliflower and toss to combine. Season the dish with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve immediately.

Potato, Tomato and Corn Salad (PTC Salad)

My last trip to the IFM and I came back armed with a huge box of grape tomatoes. Silly me, I ate a few when I got them and then totally forgot about them…poor grape tomatoes were lost in the realms of my refrigerator! I finally came upon them and hence this salad.

You will need:

4 baby red potatoes, scrubbed
1 ear of corn (or ¾ cup corn niblets)
1cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsps Ranch dressing (store-bought)

1/2 tbsp Lemon juice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper powder

Boil potatoes and keep aside. Cut corn ears in half and cook in the same boiling water for 5 minutes until tender but not soft. Remove the cooled potatoes and let drain. Immerse corn in the same ice bath until cool. Cube the potatoes and place in a bowl.

Remove corn from water and also let drain. Use a chef's knife to cut the kernels off each ear. Add kernels and grape tomatoes. Take ranch dressing in a small bowl. Add lime juice, salt, pepper and slowly drizzle the olive oil while you stir to make a vinaigrette. Pour over veggies and give a quick toss. Serve immediately.

Dasara in Mysore– a Royal festival celebrated with grandeur

Dasara (a.k.a. Dusharah) is celebrated typically in October. The mode and the fervor vary by a great deal across the subcontinent.

Different parts of India celebrate the festival in different ways. Some celebrate it as Navaratri, some as Vijaya-Dashami, and some as Dussehra, in worship of Goddess Durga or celebrating Rama's victory over Rawana. The celebrations vary from a day to nine days (for Navaratri) to a month (for Mysore Dasara).

Known for its magnificent Palaces and Majestic buildings, sprawling gardens and tree lined boulevards, shimmering silks and Sandalwood, the ‘City Royale’ – Mysore, always figures in the tourist’s itinerary. It conjures up visions and memories of the resplendent glory of the illustrious Wodeyar Kings. This former state capital is a seamless blend of the old-world charm and modernity. It retains tradition in music and dance, art and literature.

I hail from Mysore in Karnataka where Dasara is a festival the whole city celebrates. The entire city is decked up and ready to bring on the festivities and pomp associated with this popular festival.

The festival falls in September/October every year and comprises nine nights of worship and celebration, called Navaratri. The tenth and concluding day is called Vijayadasami, signifying the slaying of the demon Mahishasura by Mahishasuramardini, the Goddess Chamundeswari or Durga, the principal deity of the maharajas. Legend has it that Mysore city derived its modern name from Mahishasura.

Goddess Chamundeswari Temple on Chamundi Hill


Nandi atop Chamundi Hill

Dasara became a Naada Habba (or people's festival) in the 14th century, during the reign of the Vijayanagar kings (1336 A.D. to 1565 A.D.).

On the first day of the Navratri, the king, after a ceremonial bath, worships the family deity in the palace and enters the durbar to the accompaniment of sacred chants and music. He worships the navagrahas (nine sacred deities) and the sacred `kalasa'. Then he ascends the throne at an auspicious moment after going around it three times. The palace lights are lit and a 21-gun salute is given as the royal insignia and sword are presented to him.

Srikantadutta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the scion of the royal family, on the throne during Dasara celebrations

This year Dasara is being celebrated from the 12th October to the 21st October. During Dasara, the entire City is decorated and illuminated. Cultural programmes by famous artists are arranged in the Palace along with Sports, Wrestling, Poet's meet, Food Festival, Film Festival witnessed by a large number of people. Every year a colourful and unique Flower show is also for public display.

The king worships the Goddess Saraswathi on the seventh day and Mahisasuramardini on the eighth. On Mahanavami, the royal sword is worshipped ceremoniously and all the weapons are taken out in a procession of the army, elephants, horses, camels and the royal retinue. Ceremonies are held on the Chamundi Hill.

Navaratri culminates in grand Vijayadasami celebrations, also known as Jambu Savari. The grandeur and magnificence of this event has popularised the Mysore Dasara the world over. On this day, the king worships the royal sword, places it on a palanquin and offers an ash gourd smeared with vermilion as sacrifice to it. He heads the grand procession, seated in the historically famous 75-kg golden howdah bedecked with rare gems and pearls, which is carried by the royal elephant.

Royal elephant Balarama carring the Golden Howdah

Dasara procession

But the most significant change in the Dasara celebrations now is that the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari has replaced the king in the procession. Also absent is the royal procession comprising soldiers. The entire procession comprises of the royal elephants (which come from Nagarhole National Park), horses and tableaus depicting the State Government’s achievements for the year.

Mysore Palace by Day

Mysore Palace illuminated by Night

Temple inside the Palace

Rose Nandi --At this year's Flower Show – made with 40,000 roses

At the Flower Show

Prominent Circle illumination

Decked up streets

Colours shop inside the main market

Flower Vendor in the market

I miss Mysore especially at this time, but these pictures bring back good memories of past Dasara celebrations.

Wishing all of you a very Happy and Joyous Dasara!!

This is my entry to the Jihva Special Edition: The Festive Series hosted by Vee of Past, Present and Me

Blog Widget by LinkWithin