Friday, April 27, 2012

Akki Payasa / Indian Rice Pudding

According to the panchanga or the Hindu Calendar, yesterday was the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya. It falls on the third lunar day of the month of Vaishakha. Akshaya, in Sanskrit, means infinite, somethings that never ends. In a culture, where every event is performed after taking the auspicious moment into consideration, this day is at the top of the list.
According to legend, this is the birthday of Lord Parashurama and this is also the day when Lord Ganesha and Sage Vyasa started writing India's most famous epic, The Mahabharata. Another legend states that this was the day when the river Ganges descended to the earth from the heavens ! This day is considered to be a day to start new ventures. I also remember that many Indians bought gold on this day, even if in trivial amounts, because it was considered that gold purchased on this day would only grow and never recede :-)
Akshaya Tritiya is also considered an auspicious day by the followers of Jainism.
So much for legends and gold {sigh}
Although I don't remember my mother making any such purchases, however insignificant ( we were a strictly middle class family), I do remember her making some or the other kind of dessert to commemorate the occasion. I decided to keep that part of tradition going and made Rice pudding, Indian style.
It is a pretty straightforward recipe, not needing too many ingredients.


1 C rice  ( any kind will do - basmati or long grained)
3 C whole milk
1 C light coconut milk
1/4 C - 1/2 C sugar (according to taste)
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 C mixed nuts (almonds , cashew nuts, pistachios)
2 Tbsp raisins
1 tsp ghee / canola oil
4 - 5 strands of saffron

1. Wash the rice and put it in a pot (preferably non stick) with the whole milk.
2. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the rice is cooked. If the mixture starts getting thicker, add more milk until its cooked perfectly.
Note: On hindsight and after conferring with my expert (my mom), I realized that I should have cooked the rice in water first instead of trying to cook it entirely in milk. This would have yielded a creamier pudding.
4. Once the rice is cooked, add the coconut milk, the sugar and the spices. Gently simmer until the pudding becomes creamy.
5. Roast the chopped nuts and the raisins in the ghee / canola oil and pour into the pudding.
6. Soak the saffron strands in a little warm milk and then mix into the pudding.

Notes: The pudding was pretty good and was enjoyed by my family. The next time, however, I am going to pulse the rice in a blender to get broken rice and then I will cook it in water before I add the milk and the sugar.  Do try out this pudding!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Annie's Homegrown Rising Crust Pizza - Review and Giveaway (3 winners!)

                                                This giveaway is now closed !
As a family, we are not big pizza enthusiasts. In a country, where the pizza industry is worth a whopping $30 billion and people eat around 350 slices of pizza every second, that might come as a big shock :-)
The biggest reason is because when I was growing up in India in the 80's and 90's, my parents were blissfully unaware of this pie. It was only after I started working in a software company that I got introduced to this Italian specialty.
After I came to the US, it was as if there was a pizza explosion ! There were pizzerias at every corner, lots of advertisements for various stores, pizza brought in for sustaining the software development teams during long hours at the office and even served at birthday parties ! Although I do enjoy an occasional slice of vegetarian pizza, I am not a very big fan. My son seems to enjoy pizza, however, so we either order in pizza or bake it at home so that we can control the ingredients that go on it.
The main reason that I am apprehensive about ordering in pizza is because I am not always certain about the cheese that is used. Specifically, the enzymes used to make the cheese - I am trying to avoid products containing rennet and its difficult to verify if a company uses cheese made using animal enzymes.
So when I got the opportunity to try out Annie's Homegrown Rising Crust pizza through Moms Meet, I decided to give it a try because I like most of Annie's Products. They are all natural, do not have any artificial flavors, colors or additives and the products specify that they use cheese made using vegetable rennet.
I picked up the 4 - cheese pizza from Whole Foods (The only other vegetarian option available was Spinach Mushroom and we are not that fond of mushrooms!)


I baked the pizza according to the instructions to get a crisper crust and 20 minutes later, my family and I
enjoyed piping hot pizza. My 5 year old really enjoyed his pizza dinner! We liked it as well. The crust was pretty crisp (I could have probably left it in the oven for a couple of minutes longer to get it even crisper !).
There was a sufficiently thick layer of cheese and the pizza was big enough for our family of 2 adults and a 5 year old. The one year old was sneaking in little bites of the crust after his own dinner ;-)

The overall taste was pretty comparable to pizzeria pizza, although I would have loved to have had more vegetarian options. I would definitely buy this when I wanted to appease my son's craving for pizza.
I liked that fact that all ingredients used were organic with 8gms of whole grain per serving and with 100% real cheese made from milk not treated with rBST. There are 4 different varieties available and these can be purchased in the freezer section of Whole Foods at a retain price of $9.99

For more information about Annie's and their products visit the following sites :
Annie's Homegrown website 
Annie's Facebook page

And now for the giveaway ! Three readers will get the opportunity to try out any one of Annie's Homegrown Rising Crust pizza for free. They will each win one voucher for a free pizza which they can redeem at Whole Foods ! This giveaway will run till Apr 19th, 2012. The giveaway is open to US residents only. Please leave a comment telling me what your favorite pizza topping is and dont forget to include your email id ! 

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.