Saturday, 5 December 2015

Recipe: Sugar Free Saffron Suji Halwa

Sooji halwa is one of the popular Indian desserts regular at our homes, especially during festive seasons. Across the country there are a variety of halwa recipes that have been developed and modified keeping the local taste in mind. The recipe I am sharing below is a special one, using saffron (kesar) to add a dash of exoticness to the otherwise simple preparation method. This recipe is used for special occasions like festivals and religious ceremonies, while at other times, we make a simple version without adding saffron.

Recipe: Sugar Free Saffron Sooji Halwa

Preparation Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 20 mins



Sooji/rawa(Semolina): 2 cups
Ghee (clarified butter): 2 big serving spoons or half a cup
Sugar Free: 4 small spoons or as required
Cardamom powder: 1 tablespoon
Water: 4 cups
Almonds: 10-12 (copped into sliced)
Cashew-nuts: 10-12 (chopped into slices)
Raisins: 10-12 pieces
Saffron: a full pinch (roughly 20-30 strands)

Sugar Free Natura Powder Concentrate contains Sucralose - a sugar derivative, which guarantees the sweetness of sugar without the calories. It is ideal for all fitness seekers, diabetics and weight conscious. Each level spoon (0.5g) of powder concentrate is equivalent in sweetness to 1 teaspoon (5g) of sugar and gives 2 calories instead of 20 calories given by 5g of sugar. 


1. Heat a broad pan or kadhai and add sooji to it.
2. Roast the sooji till it turns a little fluffy and whole kitchen smells of roasted semolina. This step takes around 12-15 minutes on a low flame. Keep on stirring after every few minutes. 

3. After you have roasted the sooji for around 10-12 minutes, turn the flame off and let the sooji cool. 
4. Warm some water and add saffron to it. Let the saffron soak in water for 15-20 mins.

5. Now heat ghee in another pan and add the sliced dry fruits to the ghee and roast till they become golden brown.
6. Once the dry fruits turn golden brown add the sooji to the pan. Keep stirring the sooji so the ghee gets uniformly mixed and no dry lumps are left.

7. Keep stirring the sooji mixture on low to medium flame for 3-4 minutes and then add crushed cardamom to the mixture. You can also add the cardamom peel, as these add more fragrance to the halwa.
8. Continue frying the sooji on medium flame for about 12-15 minutes. Keep the heat to low or medium do the sooji mixture does not get burnt or starts sticking to the pan.

9. Meanwhile take the measured water in another and warm it up a little.
10. Add this warm water to the sooji mixture slowly. Keep on mixing when you are adding it to the sooji ghee mixture. This is how it looks once you have added water.

11. Stir the sooji mixture for 4-5 minutes and then add 2-3 level spoons of Sugar Free Natura (or as per taste) to the mixture. 
12. Now add the saffron too, along with the water it was soaked in. 

13. Once the water is added, mix the sooji well so that no lumps are formed.
14. Let the mixture cook for 5-6 minutes and gradually the sooji absorbs the water and thickens up. This is how it looks like.

This saffron sooji halwa is now ready to be served. If you want to experiment with flavours, you can also add fruits like banana, mango and apple. The fruits give their own flavours to the halwa and also make the halwa more nutritious. Also you can substitute water with milk to give it a more rich taste. You can also add other varieties of dry fruits like pine nuts

This post is a part of  SugarFree Dessert Challenge campaign in association with Indiblogger.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Eating Out with Two 'Small Eaters'

There are all kinds of eaters in the world - foodies, picky, choosy, some who live to eat and many who eat to live. However before these categories became common place, and being a foodie became a fad, eaters were primarily belonged in two groups - the big eaters (the modern day foodies!) and the small eaters (oh, we are full already!).

While I love exploring the food menu and restaurants and always look forward to trying out new delicacies, my parents, who come from the small eaters category stick to the mundane - you know, the tried and tested kadhaai paneers, butter naans, et al. It really takes a lot of convincing to get them to try new items off the menu. Plus they are more into ordering in, rather than eating out. They find it quite a hassle to dine out - there are parking issues, then there is a waiting list many a times, you know...the works. So for BlogAdda's recent #RnMOnAskeMe activity, while I wanted to take them along to eat out, there was also this apprehension about their comfort.

But then since I had already browsed the Askme app on phone, I knew some of my apprehensions were unfounded - all I had to do was key in my location details and in a jiffy I would get the dining options in my area. And indeed, within minutes I had zeroed in on the restaurant I wanted to go to - Basant Vegetarian, a small and cosy eatery not too far from the neighbourhood.

AskMe makes the choice easier

I live in a different city and only visit my parents every few weeks, so despite zeroing on this particular restaurant I still had some doubts about its ambience and food quality. But once we arrived at the restaurant, the cosy seating arrangement and the multi cuisine food menu reassured me that my food experience here was going to be good.

Basant Restaurant has nothing fancy on their menu - no surprises, no dishes with fancy names, nothing with elaborate recipes - all they have is nice mix of regular items, from north Indian and south Indian dishes to a section full of Chinese food option. There are plenty of options for a four course meal, from delectable soups and starters to tempting colourful sundaes.
We opted to start with crunchy cheese corn rolls, which was my mom's choice, while my dad opted for the light sweetcorn soup instead. Both the items were delicious and a good start to the dinner. 

Crunchy cheese corn rolls

Light sweet corn soup

The cheese corn roll portions were more than enough for two people and by the time I was done with my share, I knew main course would be a little too much for both mom and me. So next in the order was a platter of spicy baby-corn and mushrooms. To tackle the spices, all of us ordered glasses of sweet fresh lime sodas and it went perfectly with the dish. 

Spicy baby-corn and mushroom platter

Sweet lemon soda to tackle the spices 

While both my mom and I were full post this little meal, dad could not resist ordering his staple - stuffed naan cheese naan with gravy, and once it was there even mom joined in to 'sample' the fare. Though I was too full to even look at those heavily buttered naans, but one look at dad was enough to convince me that he was enjoying his meal. *invisible pat on the back!*

Once the table was cleared, it was time for my most favourite part of eating out - dessert! Basant Restaurant is famous for ice-creams so picking one item from their ice-cream menu was a tremendously tough task! But after 5 minutes of serious consultation, a huge glass of tutti-fruity won the competition! Here is what it looked like! A glassful of heaven!

 Tutti-fruity to wrap it up!

So this was my simple and sweet dinner experience with two small eaters. And needless to say, AskMe app made it all very convenient for me by helping me pick up this nice and cosy restaurant. So the next time you are planning to dine out and are uncertain about where to go, check out AskMe for help! They also have the famous foodie due Rocky and Mayur of Highway on My Plate of bard to help you with their food recommendations!

I 'm participating in the RnMOnAskMe activity at BlogAdda.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Curious Case of Idiyappam

This was one food experiment that turned out to be an epic fail. Not that the dish was a disaster, just that it was not what had I assumed it to be. Assumptions, ah!
At this popular south Indian restaurant, I thought of looking beyond the much explored Dosa section and settled for Idiyappam. 

Idiyappam - now this name appears suggestive of a creative mix of idli and appam, dont you think? That is if you too, like me, hail from the north and where south Indian food menu more often than not revolves around the many varieties of dosas, idli, vada and lemon or curd rice once-in-a-while. So assuming idiyappam to be a close cousin of idli and appam, I ordered this item. Turned out, idiyappam is not even distantly related to either idli or appam!

As I said earlier, the dish was not a disaster, just a little bland. And here it was served with coconut milk, which obviously did nothing to add another flavour to the dish. It tasted more like bland rice noodles, and so probably a side dish of sambhar curry or some other vegetable curry would have probably made it more palatable. However a south Indian friend tells me that one way to eat this dish is to douse it in coconut milk, add a little sugar, mix it all up and then eat. Hmm...maybe next time, for now I know what iddiyappam is.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Airtel's 4G is Here. At 3G Prices!

As a travel and lifestyle blogger, most of the times my biggest woe while travelling or while attending an event is the dismal phone speed. Imagine this – I get super excited about some amazing view or experience and want to share it with my friends and readers, only to discover that the network bars on the phone are putting up a poor show. Many a times, even the 3G speed is so slow that investing more money on a recharge seems like a huge waste of money. But now with the commercial launch of Airtel’s high speed 4G services (also called LTE), it looks like my woebegone rants about slow phone speed would soon become a thing of the past. 

Check out this new Airtel TVC that is listing down the features of 4G connection. Of course, it's impressive! And what's adding to the fun factor is the fact that Airtel has put up a challenge too - if your other network is faster, then they will pay your mobile bill for life! But guess with a challenge like that, I am sure they have some sure shot aces up their sleeve to beat their competitors.

I had been hearing my tech savvy friends discuss about the 4G launch and now with the kind of buzz the launch has created, it looks like people are really looking forward to get their hands on the free 4G SIM – yes, if you already have an Airtel 3G pack, you are entitled to a free 4G upgrade, and get the same data benefits as your 3G pack. So in effect, if one has an Airtel 3G pack, they will get to enjoy high speed 4G speeds at no extra cost.

The 4G services have been commercially launched in 296 towns across India, and Airtel customers can enjoy 4G services at 3G data prices, with packs starting at Rs. 25. To know more about Airtel 4G services, and the other aligned products launched today, you can browse through the Airtel website. The brand's new website will take you through all the offerings of the new services. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

5 Reasons Why ASUS Zenfone2 Should be in Your Wishlist!

After sparking a revolution of sorts in the mobile market with the launch of its ZenFone series of smartphones, Taiwanese brand ASUS is now earning laurels with another flagship device - the ASUS ZenFone 2 (ZE551ML), with a massive 4-GB RAM and some high-end technology upgrades to its previous ZenFone devices. And with the kind of interest this phone has generated, it looks like all ZenFone fans are looking forward to getting their hands on the new ASUS ZenFone. 

As a ZenFone fan, I for one am really looking forward to enhancing my smartphone experience with the ASUS ZenFone 2. I already have a ZenFone C and ZenFone 5 in the family, and it's the addition of advanced specs and a more ergonomic design that has made ZenFone 2 too worth coveting. If I were to list down reasons on why I feel ASUS ZenFone 2 figures in my wishlist, then the following 5 reasons would figure in the list.

1. 13MP PixelMaster Camera - Yes, I will start with the camera first, because as a travel blogger, my biggest concern and priority is getting good photos, and that too without hassle. When one is travelling and needs to get moments captured quickly while on the go, there's hardly any time to get the bulky cameras out. And during  such  moments, having a good phone camera really comes handy. With specs like 13MP PixelMaster rear camera, capturing precious travel moments would be more fun than ever. 

Plus since most of my travel photos are captured on phone cameras, a better phone camera would only ensure that I rely more on my camera phone rather than exhausting energy on tugging cameras along.

2. 64-bit Intel Atom Processor with 4GB RAM - So far as the tech specs go, ASUS ZenPhone 2 is powered by 64-bit Super Quad Core Intel Atom Processor, and has a whopping 4GB of RAM. Also it comes with an Intel LTE-Advances modem for 4G/LTE connectivity. Of course this up-gradation makes web surfing and performing other tasks on the phone super slick.

3. More personalised ZenUI Experience - On the ASUS ZenFone 2, the ZenUI too has been upgraded with more features added to make the phone more personalised and user-friendly.

The brand new ZenUI on ZenFone 2 comes with exquisite visual design and boasts of a variety of new features such as ZenMotion, SnapView, Trend Micro Security and ZenUI instant updates that enhance usability, ensure security and privacy, and deliver a seamless user experience. Besides this, it's brighter and there are also multiple themes to chose from.

4. BoostMaster Technology - If snail speed of battery recharging figures in your phone woes list, then it's time you switch your phone to ASUS Zenfone 2, for it comes with BoostMaster Technology, that helps charge the ZenFone at double the regular speed.

ASUS BoostMaster Technology is ASUS-exclusive technology that charges devices much faster than traditional speeds. So with this technology you need not have to worry about your phone taking forever to charge. In just 39 minutes, your ZenFone 2 battery will be 60 percent recharged.

5. Ultra-Thin Ergonomic Arch Design - The ASUS ZenFone 2 is beautiful to look at. While the technical specifications of the yet to be launched ZenFone 2 have already won me over, it's luxurious design is like icing on the cake. 

I am sure it's going to look good in my hand, and if you thought that the plastic back panel of the previous ZenFones was a let down, then the fancy brushed metal finish of the back panel of ZenFone 2 is sure going to cheer you up. Then there's also the 1920x1080 Full HD IPS Display to look forward too, for the clarity it will give to the screen display would be interesting to check out.

ASUS Zenfone 2 is another brilliant product from ASUS stable, and with the kind of features the phone has incorporated, it definitely is piquing buyers' curiosity in India!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Product Review: Dabur Baby Massage Oil

Friends, I am back here with a product review after long. If you have been following this blog, then you must be aware that I am not a frequent reviewer, however whatever products are reviewed here are done so after thorough checks to ensure that the readers get to read an unbiased and clear review of the product. 

Today I am reviewing the new Dabur Baby Massage Oil with Olive & Almond, and the samples of this product came from BlogAdda under their #FirstLove activity. My curiosity in this new massage oil was piqued because of my little nephew - and I thought it would be interesting to try this new massage oil on his and see how he reacts to the change in his massage oil. Also because this oil is from the tried and tested Dabur brand, I did not have any apprehensions about trying out a new product on a toddler.

Massage forms an essential and integral part of an infant's health care and grooming routine and helps in the baby's growth, so it is imperative that we use a massage oil that is not just enriched with healthy ingredients, but is also devoid of harsh chemicals. On first glance this is where Dabur Baby Oil Massage scores - the oil is parabens and paraffins free. Here's why the tag paraben and paraffin-free matters -

  • Parabens are chemical preservatives used to increase the shelf life of cosmetic products.
  • Recent research says parabens may be linked to breast cancer and fertility issues.
  • In some studies, skin problems such as dermatitis, and skin allergic reactions have been linked to parabens.
  • Paraffin oils are petroleum by-products obtained from petroleum refining process. 
  • Lately there have been studies and reports that say paraffins might be carcinogenic, and since they easily penetrate the skin, one can imagine the kind of risk it poses.
  • Refined petrochemicals are generally regarded as unhealthy so it's an unnecessary risk to regularly use therm on your skin.

Besides being paraffins free, the new Dabur Baby Massage Oil with Olive & Almond also does not contain any artificial colours and is dermatologically tested to ensure skin safety. 

Key Ingredients: Natural oils containing Sunflower, Sesame, Olive, Almond and Jojoba. Fragrance, Antioxidants - Tocopheryl Acetate and TBHQ.
TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) is a synthetic antioxidant used as a stabilizer in oils. 

It's almost a week now that we have been using the new Dabur Baby Massage Oil on my nephew and though one can't really comment or judge how the oil is inwardly affecting the toddler's body, we can all vouch that he definitely looks happy and healthy, with glowing skin and cuddly muscles, touchwood. And given our faith and trust in age-old Dabur brand,  I don't see any reason to not believe in their new product. 

Pros of the product:
- Paraffins free
- Contains natural oils
- Dermatologically tested
- Spill-free, plastic bottle packaging
- Easy on the wallet - 100ml bottle for Rs. 110
- Shelf life of 2 years

Cons of the product:
No con really, but it is slightly thick compared to other baby massage oils, and probably because of this, it takes a slightly longer time to get absorbed.

Note: Some skin types may be allergic to certain natural ingredients. So it's always advisable to do a patch test before using the product.

I am writing about Dabur Baby Massage Oil with the goodness of olive and almond for the #FirstLove activity at BlogAdda.

Latest Fashion Trends in Saree Gowns!

The wedding season has just gone by and just as I am done packing up the huge dry-cleaned anarkali that I wore for my cousin's wedding, I get some incredibly good news! A very close friend's marriage just got fixed! So, yay, some more dressing up to look forward too! The D-Day, I am told, is a few months away, but of course that does not deter me from checking out the latest trends. So far as wedding fashion is concerned, I am absolutely done with heavy anarkalis and lehengas for a while! They are  everywhere, so a big break from ethnic please, and time to pick up some chic fusion wear or perhaps something else that is more smart and trendy!

So with my heart and mind set on picking up something trendy for my friend's wedding, I had been browsing not just random showrooms but peeking through online stores. And it was during one of my random website browsing sessions that the same friend suggested that I check out Kalki Fashion, a fashion house popular for their expertise in not just crafting exquisite wedding trousseau, but also creating and stocking a huge variety of outfits that carry traditional Indian sensibilities. And trust me, one look at their collection and I knew I was on the right shopping track!

Photo Courtesy:

Photo Courtesy:

What say, are not the designs and the intricate detailings super gorgeous! Right on the first page of the website are listed some of these ravishing saree gowns and one look at them and I am hooked! Precisely the kind of outfit I had in mind, a perfect coming together of traditional saree design and contemporary silhouette! And if my fashion knowledge is anything to go by, saree gowns have been quite in vogue for some time now, with many top notch celebrities  wearing them at glamorous events.

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A saree gown does not just makes for a fashionable and trendy outfit, but is also super comfortable and easy to carry. If, like me, the idea of wearing (and holding intact!) a traditional saree gives you hiccups, then saree gown is just the thing for you - traditional to look at, and easy to zip up, for we know it's a gown really! Plus to top it all, one wouldn't really have to worry about the outfit coming undone in case they decide to hit the dance floor! Bonus!

And guess what! In between giving all the gyaan on saree gowns, I have actually short-listed a few saree-gown designs on that I want to explore in detail.  It's good that there's a dedicated chat support on the website, so I can get my queries addressed right away! So while I go and chat with the support staff on the website, I leave you with one of the designs that I have been eyeing! Do let me know what you think of it? :)

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