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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Weekend Retreat at Yercaud !!!

With the rains wrecking havoc in Wayanad, we had to postpone our planned trip to this picturesque hill station for the umpteenth time (God knows if we will ever get there). But since we had kind of made up our minds to take a break, we quickly googled for other options in Bangalore's proximity. And we got lucky when we stumbled upon Yercaud, a hill station near Salem.

Yercaud is one of those lesser known and hence not quite commercialized hill stations of Tamil Nadu. Located in the Shevaroys range of the Eastern Ghats, it has an altitude of 4970 feet above sea level. With the road connecting it to Bangalore being in top shape, it takes just a little less than four hours to reach by car.

Starting off from Marathahalli at 6:30 am, we traveled through Hosur - Rayakottai - Palacode to reach Salem at just after 12. A breakfast break and the traffic in Salem slowed us down but the overall journey itself was quite nice. We traveled though a enchanting stretch of forest land and the countrysides were dotted with numerous beautiful hills and mountains. The climb up the Yercaud Main Road was awesome with the stretch comprising of 20 hair pin bends and numerous other curves. The verdant passage was almost deserted except for a lone truck or two and we could slow down whenever we wanted to soak in the beauty of a particularly breathtaking view. Two groups of photography enthusiasts had also set up their equipment along the stretch.

We had booked a room at Hotel Shevaroys, which is one of the few good properties of Yercaud, the previous night. The friendly staff quickly completed the check in procedure and led us to our room which was quite cozy (apart from a few fixtures that needed repair). After a refreshing shower, we took a walk around the premises which is quite huge and even included a walk through a coffee plantation. Tried from the journey and the short walk, we opted for a quick lunch at the in-house restaurant 'Silver Oak'. And were frankly surprised by the food and the hospitality. Our relationship manager Mr Johnson suggested that we go for some of their specialties like the Bamboo biryani and the Naduru Kozhi curry, both of which turned out to be good. Even the plain Naan and yellow dal were awesome, much better than the stuff one finds at most hill stations.

Refreshed with a two hour nap, we decided to venture out of the hotel around 5 pm. The Yercaud Lake was at a 10 mins walking distance from our place. Very scenic and well kept, it offers boating facilities at a reasonable price. And these guys are so obsessed with safety that they have made it mandatory to wear life jackets !! There is also a nicely maintained garden where one can sit and look over the emerald waters of the lake which seems to have settled into the cozy lap of Mother Nature with mountains protecting it from all sides .

Since the deer park adjacent to the boat house was closed by 6 pm, we decided to venture to the Anna park which is situated on the other side of the road. This is the place for flower lovers and despite it being off season, the park was a riot of colors. There is also a play area with swings, slides and other stuff for children. We roamed around for half an hour till it was closing time. Like other hill stations, this place has practically no night life. Even the regular profusion of shops selling tourist memorabilia/ knickknacks is absent. Hence we decided to go back to the resort which offered some indoor games. An early dinner followed by another long walk inside the resort and we were more than ready to hit the sack.

Getting up late the next morning, we took a quick shower before heading to the restaurant for a buffet breakfast (included in the room charges). It was a decent spread and though we were late, food was available in plenty. After the breakfast, we headed out for a sightseeing trip. As we were not too sure about the condition of the roads, we hired an auto and ended up covering most of the places within a short span of three hours. Yeah, Yercaud is a small place and the tourist attractions are certainly limited. However, the sheer beauty of nature offered by the stunning view-points of this place make up for the lack of everything else.

And ofcourse the numerous coffee estates !!

The Shevroyan Temple (dedicated to Lord Vishnu) is situated at the highest point. While this cave temple is certainly ancient and not to be missed, one has to walk another 50 meters to reach the viewpoint which offers an amazing  Do not forget to carry a jacket or a stole as it gets quite windy up here.

The Gent's seat, Ladies'seat, Children's seat, Rose garden and Rajarajeshwari temple are the other places we covered. I personally found the view from Gent's seat to be the most spectacular of all. Sadly the Horticultural Research Station and Botanical Garden were closed on Saturday and I could not get an eyeful of those Kurinji and bell flowers. Also, the Killiyur waterfalls were dry and off our itinerary. However the resort guys had arranged for a bonfire and some music and games in the lawns which kept us entertained on Saturday evening.

Saving the best for the last ! The most memorable and romantic click of the trip...something about this couple left me quite stirred.

Photo clicked at Rose Garden, Yercaud !!

Overall, we had a great time relaxing and reveling in the hospitality provided by our resort. Add some great food, a couple of good books and Yercaud is just the kind of getaway one could wish for.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The 15 Minute Meals Series - Post 1

Whether it is beating the morning rush or making more time for one self, 15 min meals can come handy on more than one occasions. Especially when one does not want to order from outside or reheat the Ready to Eat stuff. With a little amount of planning the previous night, one can easily prepare a tasty and nutritious meal like the one shown below.

For this post, I have put together a thali that consists of white rice, pulihora, fried okra, eggplant in yogurt and wholesome tikkis made with cracked wheat(daliya) and sweet potato. Read on how this can be done in 15 mins -

1. Overnight preparation -  Roast the cracked wheat. Peel and dice the sweet potato. Cook together in a pressure cooker with just enough water for 3 whistles.

Open the cooker once steam escapes. Transfer into a food grade plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Additionally, one can also peel the garlic and chop the onions, cilantro and green chilis.

2. Cooking rice and chopping veggies - While the rice is getting ready in a pressure cooker or rice cooker (takes abt 8 mins), slice the aubergines and slit the okra. Sprinkle salt on the veggies.

Take some of that boiled sweet potato and daliya mixture, add chopped green chili, onion, salt, garam masala and cilantro. Mash together and shape into tikkis (flat discs) .

Crush a few garlic pods with red chili powder and a pinch of salt. Rub it on the insides and all over the slit okras.

Take the yogurt in a bowl. Add salt and beat it.

3. Take a large skillet. Drizzle with oil. Place the tikkis on one side, the salted aubergines on another and finally the okras in the remaining space. Cooking everything together saves time hence use a cookware that is large enough to accommodate all three.

Heat another wok. Add some oil followed by mustard, green chili, asafoetida and curry leaves tempering. Remove some of it and add to the yogurt bowl. Throw in a few peanuts into the wok. Once they crackle, add tamarind water, jaggery and pulihora powder. Cook for 2 mins before adding the rice. Stir fry for 2-3 mins and pulihora is done.

By this time the tikkis and veggies would also be done. Allow the aubergines to cool for 4-5 mins before adding into the tempered yogurt.

Your delicious meal is ready !!

Have 5 extra mins at hand ?? Take some of that remaining sweet potato and cracked wheat mixture into a thick bottomed vessel. Add a little milk, sugar and ghee. Flavor with cardamom powder or saffron. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 mins for a delicious and very nutritious halwa !

If you looking for any specific recipe, please leave a comment on my blog or FB page and I will be happy to respond :) !

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why my friends would love to get their hands on my ASUS Zenfone 2 ??

Man is a social animal and nowhere is the need for social acceptance as pronounced as when one is hanging out with a group of friends! The desire to fit in and be the coolest one in the gang affects our choices in matters of apparel and accessories. And a smartphone like the ASUS Zenfone 2 just happens to be one of the coolest things that one can flaunt.

Image courtesy : 

With its stunning design, the ASUS Zenfone 2 is one phone that oozes oomph like none other. While the brushed metallic body and an array of stunning colors to choose from give the Zenfone 2 an edge in the looks department, the superb performance helped it win the iF Design Award 2015 for innovation, ergonomics and functionality. With this phone in my hands, I never feel the need to carry or sport another signature accessory. A fact endorsed by my friends.

Image courtesy :

My ASUS Zenphone 2 is also everyone's preferred instrument when it comes to catching up a video or a missed episode from a favorite soap during a break. The 1920x1080 Full HD IPS display is great for viewing and the colors are a natural as one can get in real life. Watching those images come alive makes the viewing experience quite unforgettable and that is why my phone is in much demand. Some of my friends even claim that they no longer wrestle with their husbands over the remote as they can watch those episodes the very next morning during our morning workout sessions. 

Image courtesy :

The situation is no different during those outings or dinners where I keep getting requests for taking pics and sharing them on the social media. With unmatched features like the low light mode ( ensures clear pictures at the night time or even during those day time treks into darkened spaces like caves or fort interiors ), dual color flash (delivers a combination of yellow and white light for natural illumination), real time beautification mode ( removes blemishes and corrects skin tone ) and even a wide angle selfie panorama ( to ensure that none of the family/friends are left out of that group photo because that were holding the camera ), it shoots the best of selfies and groupies.

Image courtesy :

 I personally find it much lighter and easier to lug around as compared to a DSLR that can get quite heavy and needs a certain amount of mastering to turn out great photos. And it is also great for teaching photography basics  to the younger kids who cannot wield a digital camera or a DSLR. My three year old actually manages to click quite decent with it and enjoys the learning. But for those photography enthusiasts who might be sneering at the comparison, the ASUS Zenfone 2 does have a Manual mode which mimics the professional grade settings available on a DSLR.

And I can manage all this along with some serious gaming sessions without getting the 30000 mAh capacity battery low. As it charges up pretty fast, nearly 65 percent capacity within 39 mins, I can pretty much use it all day. A short charging session while driving ( these days most hatchbacks and higher segments have one or two mobile/ipod charging points ) or while grabbing a bite at a restaurant is enough to keep the phone alive and kicking. No wonder the ASUS Zenfone 2 is on everyone's wishlist. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Khatta Meetha Karela ( Sweet and Sour Bitter gourd crispies )

Karela or bitter gourd is touted as one of the healthiest vegetables for diabetics. Whether taken in the raw form (juice) or eaten boiled and mashed, it is an integral part of their menu. But consuming it in the same avatar day in and day out tends to get tedious after a while. Hence, this simple and easy to do bitter gourd recipe that requires very less oil.

It is a variation of the crispy karela recipes that one can find in the Northern states of India.
Read on for recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup thinly sliced bitter gourd
  • 1 big onion ( thinly sliced )
  • a pinch of amchur
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp grated mango ginger
  • 1 tsp powdered jaggery
  • salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil

Cooking - Heat the oil in a large thick bottomed skillet. Add the bitter gourd slices along with salt and turmeric. Stir fry on low heattill the bitter gourd loses most of its water content and starts getting crisp.

Add the onion slices along with a pinch of salt. Stir fry on low flame till onion turns brown.

Add amchur, chili powder, mango ginger and jaggery. Fry for 2 mins or till the spices coat the bittergourd and the onions.

Remove from flame.

Serve as it is or as a side along with white rice, dal and a curry.

Note - One can also add some grated coconut when adding the mango ginger.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Methi Daliya Pulao

Day 5 of the Daliya challenge !! So, finally we have reached the last day and I am feeling quite exhilarated. I can see a visible difference and I am keen to take up this challenge next week too ( coz it is tough to keep temptation at bay during the weekends ).

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1/3 cup daliya
  • 1/2 cup methi leaves (tightly packed)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small potato
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • a pinch of fennel seeds
  • a pinch of coriander powder
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
  • a pinch of garam masala
  • 1-2 green chili
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and drain the fenugreek leaves to remove excess water. Roughly chop it up. 

Wash and peel the potato. Chop into small bits.

Dry roast the daliya to a light brown and till it gives off a fragrance.

Cooking -  Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Add the green chili along with cumin and fennel seeds.

Once they stop spluttering, add the onion. Fry till translucent.

Add the fenugreek leaves and potato pieces and fry for 2 mins. Add the coriander powder and garam masala. Fry for 1 min.

Add the washed daliya along with 1 cup water and salt to taste. Cook for 3-4 whistles.

Keep aside till steam escapes. Open the lid and give a gentle mix.

Serve hot with raita.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Naturally beautiful !!!

Beautiful and flawless skin is something that everyone aspires for, gender being no bar. This concern is usually highlighted during the teenage years when one is more prone to pimples. But nevertheless people of all ages want to possess radiant skin that is free from any kind of imperfections. And a regular skin care regimen is the only way to achieve this goal.

I am all for a skin routine that focuses on natural products and especially Ayurveda. Unlike chemical based formulations that may show instant results but are detrimental to the skin in the long run, cosmetics that rely on the goodness of Ayurveda improve the skin health and appearance over a period of use. And this conclusion is based on the reasoning that while most of the chemical based cosmetic brands promote their product as clinically tested or approved, they would have been in existence for a few years only. But Ayurveda is based on the centuries old wisdom of our predecessors and hence definitely more reliable.

Even when I am not using Ayurvedic products, I rely on simple home remedies to keep my skin clean and glowing. If nothing else, it turns out to be very economical and effective. Some of the common remedies that I use are -

1. Cleanser - Homemade besan or chickpeas mixed with turmeric and a few drops of yogurt is a very good cleanser that one can make at home. One can use this along with water boiled with neem leaves which can be splashed onto a face a few times in a day. Both turmeric and neem have proven anti-bacterial properties that keeps the imperfections at bay.

2. Scrub - Oatmeal mixed with a few drops of milk and almond meal works wonders as a scrub. This scrub also lightens the skin if used regularly. For a bull body scrub, mix 3 tbsp granulated sugar with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp honey. This scrub is also effective on stubborn areas like the knees, elbows and ankles.

3. Moisturizer - Aloe vera gel is one of the most potent moisturizers that I have come across. Apply a thin layer on clean face at night and wake to a beautifully soft and nourished skin in the morning. And it has absolutely no side effects. I also keep a small tub of the gel in the fridge that I like to apply onto the skin after a period of sun exposure. It immediately soothes the skin and one feels very refreshed.

4. De-tan - Freshly squeezed tomato juice is very effective in treating sunburn and tanning.

5. Instant brightening face pack - There are days when we all need that extra glow on our face. Mix 1 tablespoon honey with a few drops of lemon juice. Apply all over the face and leave it to dry. Wash off with lots of water. This instantly gives a clean and clear skin that is a few shades lighter .

Hope you like the skincare tips using all natural products !!

This post is written for VICOO Turmeric Cream . Check their wow video -