Monday, October 15, 2018

Sweet Shakarpara | Sweet Shankarpali

Fried flaky melt-in-the-mouth Indian snack, Sweet Shakarpara is a Diwali MUST-HAVE recipe. Made from simple pantry essentials, this is a NO-FAIL recipe for everyone to try!

I cannot believe we are at stone's throw from Diwali; the KING of Indian festivals. Celebrated across India in different ways, the festival is loved by one and all. 

For those not familiar with the celebration, we celebrate Diwali each year in October-November depending on the Hindu calendar. The celebration starts with cleaning the house, decorating with lamps, lanterns, rangoli and flowers. We make a TON of Indian sweets and snacks and burst a lot of fireworks too. Plus, families dress up in traditional clothes and meet and greet. It is a great time for everyone to take a break, celebrate and come together. 

Every year I try to make a few traditional recipes for the blog. Collecting all the recipes in one place, here is a post that has some amazing recipes to try: Sweet and Savory Diwali Recipes. Here are a few more Diwali treats to try:

This year I started off with this recipe of Shakarpara. This Indian snack is known by several names like Shankarpali or Sakkarpara. Mildly sweet fried cookies these diamond shaped fried snack is addictive and perfect for festivals like Diwali. It is popular in Gujarat and Maharashtra and made by various recipes and variations across the states. 

Though carb-high, this snack is amazing for Diwali. For the longest time I thought that the festival was incomplete without Gujiya, Chakli and Sweet Shakarpara. I promise you will not be able to stop at ONE. You can definitely gobble a bowl full of these! 

No Fail recipe of Shakarpara

There are several ways to make shakarpara. Some folks make it with just flour and then dunk them in sugar syrup. Several people make it with sugar syrup in flour. Some also enjoy them made from jaggery syrup.

However, most of these recipes need the sugar or jaggery syrup to be PERFECT consistency. If it is not, the shakarpara will be too soft or rock hard. This recipe uses powdered sugar, making it super simple. 

The ingredients in this recipe are those that can easily be found in any pantry. Flour, clarified butter, sugar and semolina are the most important ingredients. Sesame seeds is optional. 

I fried these in oil but they can also be fried in ghee. The taste is a little different but depends more on what you like better. This recipe is mildly sweet. However, if you like them SUPER sweet, a
dd 2 tbsp extra sugar in 3 cups of flour.

This is the first recipe in the series of Diwali treats for 2018. I hope you all try this and keep an eye on the next few recipes. There will be a few snack recipe and a couple of sweets too. 


All Purpose Flour 3 cups
Fine Semolina 1/2 cup
Confectioner' Sugar/ Fine powdered sugar 1 cup
Heated Ghee/ Clarified Butter 1/3 cup
Warm Water 1/4 cup
Roasted Sesame seeds 1 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Oil to deep fry


In a bowl add flour, semolina and salt. Heat ghee and add it to the mixture. Mix together till you can make a crumbly mixture. It should be such that the mixture comes together when pressed in a fist. 

Add more ghee if required. Then add sugar as well as roasted sesame seeds and mix. Using warm water make a soft dough. It should not be too tough else it will become crumbly.

Wrap in a shrink wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes divide the dough into 8 parts. 

Heat oil in a wok. Use a part of the dough and roll into a round of 1/4 inch thickness. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into diamonds. 

Add a piece of dough to the oil. If it comes to the top immediately, the oil is hot enough.

Add in the dough diamonds in hot oil and fry till golden brown on both sides. Do not make them really dark else they will burn. 

Remove using a slotted spoon and spread on a kitchen towel. Transfer to an airtight container and enjoy! The sakkarpara are great for a week or so. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Instant Pot Idlis - Fermented Rice Cakes

A simple recipe with just a few ingredients, this no-fail IDLI recipe ferments the batter and steams the idlis in the Instant Pot! Easy to follow recipe and PERFECT results each time! 

The days are getting cooler. A bowl full of sambar with idlis dunked in it is something I crave on windy cold evenings. Making idlis at home is one of my favorite things to do. Plus, piping hot sambar and delicious colorful chutneys make the perfect accompaniment. 

As the days get colder, it becomes difficult to ferment the batter at room temperature. While it is often warm on the West Coast during the day, it does get pretty cool through the night. Fermenting idli or dosa batter becomes a challenge for months. 

I started using Instant Pot to ferment the batter and there has been no looking back. Starting now through winter I shall make the batter using the Instant Pot for sure. The confidence that when I open the pot I shall have a container full of well fermented batter is so good! I can promise my family idlis for dinner and be sure the batter will be ready thanks to the pot.

A lot of my friends make the batter from scratch. A ton of them buy the batter from the store and use it to steam idlis. With this recipe I am sure EVERYONE can make it at home! It is a NO FAIL recipe that I have been using for months. 

Get PERFECT batter for BETTER idlis EACH time! 

Perfect idlis start with making the perfect batter. I use Urad Dal gota that is easily available in Indian stores. The rice I use with this is Idli Rice. Instead of this, idli rava (Cream of Rice) can also be used. The same proportion as rice works well for idlis. 

Soaking the grains in enough water is important. As they absorb water, the level of water might fall below the grains. Add more water if required. 

Next step is grinding. I have been taught by my grandmother to grind dal first, and then rice. Using the water that was used to soak while grinding adds to better idlis.

Add enough salt to the batter and make sure the batter is not very thin. Using anything more than 4 cups of batter in all is not a great idea. The fermented batter will be more than the 6-quart Instant Pot can hold. So be careful!

Once the batter is done, the rest of the procedure is pretty simple. It is as simple as 1-2-3. Just mix the batter, spoon into steamer cavities and steam the idlis. PERFECT idlis each time :)

Why use the Instant Pot?

The fermentation of idli or dosa batter needs warm temperature. During winters the change in temperature during day and night is not the perfect condition to ferment the batter. 

Using the Instant Pot YOGURT mode is a great idea. With an insulated case, the temperature is maintained for the time we need, giving great results irrespective of outside temperature. 

CAUTION here! Using the Instant Pot for fermenting the batter works really well. But beware; DO NOT ferment the batter on HIGH or NORMAL setting. This will be too warm for the batter. At that setting the batter will start cooking! 

Plus, I have mentioned adding a couple of ice cubes in the batter to maintain a slightly cooler temperature. It works really well to avoid cooking the batter in the pot instead of fermenting it! 

Hope you all try this method and make the batter at home! Use the Instant Pot to steam idlis works really well too. The idlis can also be steamed in a traditional cooker. 


Urad Dal 1 cup
Idli Rice 3 cups
Methi Seeds/Fenugreek seeds 1 tbsp
Poha/Flattened Rice 2 tbsp 
Salt 1 tbsp
Oil to grease idli stand


To soak and Ferment the Batter

Wash and soak the dal and rice in two containers using enough water to submerge them. Add the fenugreek seeds in the container with the dal. Let them soak for 6-7 hours or overnight.

Using a blender process the dal using little water. Do not use too much water else the batter will be too thin. Then process the rice along with the flattened rice till smooth.

In the base of the Instant Pot add the processed dal, rice and salt. Mix well. Add 2-3 ice cubes on top. The batter should not be runny but not too thick too. Add 

Set the mode of the Instant Pot to 'Yogurt' and 'Less'. Set time to 10 hours. Cover using a glass lid or the Instant Pot lid. If using the Instant Pot lid, set valve to venting.

Once the timer shows YOGT, open and see if the batter has doubled. If not, reset the timer to 2 hours and let the batter ferment. 

Once fermented, the batter can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for a week. The top portion of the batter is BEST for idlis and the bottom layer can be used to make dosa. 

To steam Idlis

Grease the idli stand with oil or non-stick spray. Spoon in some batter in each of the cavities. 

Add some water to the Instant Pot insert and place the idli stand in it. Set the mode of the Instant Pot to 'Steam' and vent to 'venting'

The time required to steam the idlis is 10 minutes. After that, remove the idlis and enjoy with one of these:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Instant Pot Thai Butternut Squash Curry

A great way to make weeknight dinner in under 30 minutes; this Thai Butternut Squash Curry is perfectly flavorful. Plus make steamed rice using the Pot-in-Pot method in the Instant Pot! 

We are racing through October and finally it feels a lot like Fall! The trees are slowly becoming colorful, the air crisp and days shorter. Such things make us want bowls of comforting meals every evening. 

What better than the Instant Pot to make these meals in under an hour and have our bellies full! Pumpkin and squashes are all around us and it the perfect time to make delicious meals using them.

Last weekend I got quite a few butternut squashes and wanted to make something apart from the regular soup. We had a truckload of Thai Basil in our yard and it was the perfect opportunity to make a Thai curry with the squash.

For the longest time out Thai curries have had tofu or vegetables. So this Fall I made a curry with the squash pieces. The result was PERFECT. Slightly sweet when you bite in, the curry was mildly spiced and had a TON of Basil flavor. 

Why use the Instant Pot for the Curry?

Thai curries are something we love in our home. Served with either steamed rice or Curry Fried Rice, we love all our curries. Ever since I started making the curries in the Instant Pot, I have not gone back to the Stove-top version. 

A simple to follow recipe of adding ingredients, stirring and cooking on high pressure; this recipe is NO-FAIL and yes, this NEVER gives me the dreaded BURN warning.

The Instant Pot method does not need stirring the pieces once they are added to the curry so minimizes the chances of getting a mushy curry. If making on the stove-top, we need to be a little cautious not to mix the curry too  much else the pieces will disintegrate and make a mess! 

Plus, a great way to make the curry and rice together; the Instant Pot has been a boon to get the entire meal together in a jiffy. Using the Pot-in-Pot (PIP) method is great to make this recipe in under 30 minutes.

If you are an Instant Pot fan like me, try these recipes from the blog:
Variations to the Butternut Squash Curry

I made this curry using butternut squash. However, the same can be made using pumpkins or potatoes. And yes, using assorted vegetables or tofu in the curry works well too. When the squashes are not in season, I like to make this with baby corn, pineapple, peppers, carrots and beans. 

If you are not a great fan of red curry paste, use green curry paste. Full of flavors of galangal and basil, this curry tastes equally yummy. I have not tried using yellow curry with butternut squash, but I am sure that will be awesome too.


For the Curry
Butternut Squash 1 medium, peeled and diced
Onion 1 small, diced
Green Pepper 1 small, deseeded and diced
Garlic 2 clives, minced
Ginger 1 inch piece, minced
Thai Basil 4-5 leaves, chopped
Vegetable Oil 2 tbsp
Red Curry paste 1 1/2 tbsp
Curry Powder 1 tsp
Soy Sauce 1 tsp (Tamari if Vegan)
Vinegar 1/2 tsp
Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar 1 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli Flakes 1 tsp
Lime Juice 1/2 tsp
Thick Coconut Milk 1 cup

For the Rice
White Rice 1 cup
Water 1 cup and 2 tbsp
Oil 1 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp


In the base of the instant pot add the vegetable oil. Set the mode to 'sauté' and 'more'. Once hot, add minced garlic an ginger and sauté till fragrant. Add in onions and peppers. Mix and sauté for two more minute. 

Next add the Red Thai curry paste and curry powder and sauté for a minute. Add in the coconut milk, salt, sugar and half the chilli flakes. Also add soy sauce, vinegar and shredded basil leaves. 

Add more water if it is too thick for your liking. Stir well, add the butternut squash cubes and let it bubble for 2-3 minutes. Do not mix any more. 

Also, wash the rice till the water runs clean. Add to a steel bowl and pour in water. Add salt and oil and mix. Place a trivet in the Instant Pot and place the rice bowl on it. Close the lid. 

Press 'cancel' and then press 'Pressure Cook' and 'High pressure'. Set vent to 'sealing' and time to 3 minutes. Once the time is up, do a quick release. Remove the bowl if rice and fluff with a fork.

Add in lime juice to the curry and mix well. Top with spring onions, roasted peanuts, red chilli flakes and cilantro. Serve with steamed rice or make some curry fried rice using the steamed rice. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Baked Cheese Vegetable Balls

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk but the content and opinions expressed here are my own. #RealFoodRealSnacks

You will not believe the amount of vegetables I sneaked into these yummy Cheese Balls. Plus, baked to perfection, these are great for snacking or as an appetizer!

Who doesn't like a delicious snack that is yummy, easy to make and comes together quickly? If you are like that, this recipe MADE for you! A perfect way to sneak in a truckload of vegetables in your kids' snacks, these balls are cheesy enough for them to like and healthy enough for you to serve! 

Whenever we sit down to watch a game or a movie, we love to snack on something that is crispy. While popcorn and chips are always a great idea, they are not the best when you munch on them too often! Plus, with zero vegetable or fruits or even nuts in them, I prefer to make something that has at least one of the above and more importantly, something that is non fried. 

I made these cheese balls over the weekend and now I am sure I am making these for our next viewing party! While these balls have cheese in them, they have much more of vegetables in them. And given that they are 'cheese' balls, kids are bound to DIG IN! 

What makes these Cheese Balls SO GOOD?

For this recipe I started with a LOT of vegetables. The recipe can be modified to use your favorite veggies or anything that you find in the refrigerator. Avoid vegetables with a lot of water because they tend to make these balls soggy. 

Along with the vegetables I added cheese. I used a block and chopped it into cubes, but shredded cheese works well too. Being in California I love to support brands that are local. I love the fact that this state is a source for quality, sustainable dairy foods. A healthy source of protein, California milk and dairy products are a healthy, tasty way to get essential vitamins and minerals. From butter, milk and yogurt to cottage cheese, cream cheese and drinkable yogurt; these dairy products are available with the Real California Milk seal. Find your favorite Real California Milk products here.


I used the vegetables I had in my refrigerator, but the recipe works well with a lot of vegetables. Add the ones and skip you do not have. But I would strongly recommend avoiding frozen carrots, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber and frozen peppers. They tend to leave moisture when baked and make the balls mushy. 

I added marbled pepper cheese but ricotta works well too. If you like another kind of cheese like cheddar or mozzarella, get your favorite California Milk cheese here. A LOT of brands have the BEST cheese that you can use in the recipe. 

To make these balls, I baked them in the oven. If you have an abeliskiver pan (paniyaram patra), you can use that too. It needs just a little oil to cook the balls and works well. I would love to try this in the air fryer some day! If you are not watching calories, you can even deep fry the cheese balls. 


Potato 1 medium, boiled
Onion 1/2 medium, diced
Corn Kernels 1/2 cup
Green Peas 1/4 cup
Broccoli 1/2 cup, diced
Cauliflower 1/2 cup, diced
Real California cheese 1/2 cup, cubed
Corn Starch 1 tbsp
Oregano 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Non-stick Spray as needed


Heat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper. 

In a bowl mash the potatoes. Add in the other vegetables, oregano and salt. Mix well.

Using a Real California Cheese of your choice (I used Marbled Pepper Cheese), shred or make small cubes.

Add the cheese to the vegetable mixture and mix well. Also add in the corn starch.

Make even size balls of the mixture and arrange on the cookie tray. Spray some non-stick spray and place the tray in the preheated oven.

Bake for 15 minutes, turning them over once after 7-8 minutes. Remove once golden brown and serve with your favorite marinara sauce or tomato ketchup.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

15+ Vegetarian Squash Recipes for the Instant Pot

All the recipes you need this Fall and beyond! This collection of amazing vegetarian squash recipes made in the Instant Pot is perfect for the upcoming Fall and Winter months! 

Fall is here and we are all getting ready to make all things SQUASH! From Pumpkin and Spaghetti Squash to Acorn and Butternut Squash, these are all in season and it is time to enjoy them in various recipes. 

The Instant Pot has been a great appliance to make all kinds of recipes, especially squash. From making pumpkin puree at home to perfectly cooked spaghetti squash and beyond, the Instant Pot makes cooking a lot of fun. 

I wanted to make a list of squash recipes that are great to cook in the Instant Pot. These recipes from my fellow bloggers are really awesome, some super easy to make and some really exotic. But these recipes are ALL yummy I promise! 

This collection has recipes from various cuisines and courses. From Indian Pumpkin Dal to Mexican Chili and from breakfast grits to soups and mains, we have it ALL. Plus, the perfect method to cook spaghetti squash, butternut squash and pumpkin puree. Read on to learn more. 

Click on the name of the recipe to be redirected. Pictures and recipes belong to the creators. This post is published with permission from them. 

1. No Knead Instant Pot Pumpkin Rolls - Herbivore Cucina

Perfect for Fall and beyond, this is a great way to utilize the YOGURT button on the Instant Pot to proof dough. With real pumpkin puree in the dough, these breads are naturally colored and flavored! 

2. Instant Pot Butternut Squash Chili - Cook with Manali

Heart, flavorful, spicy – this chili is so good for cold days. Plus, this recipe is Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. If you are a squash lover, this recipe is MADE FOR YOU!

3. Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Spaghetti Squash - Yay! for Food

The classic combination of garlic and parmesan create the perfect sauce for this quick and easy Instant Pot spaghetti squash recipe. A lower carb alternative to pasta that’s ready in under 30 minutes. Have you tried Spaghetti Squash yet?

4. Homemade Pumpkin Puree - Simply Happy Foodie

The starting point of all things Fall, this method is quick and amazing to make pumpkin puree at home! Check out this post to learn more! 

5. Instant Pot Leftover Vegetable Soup - Garden in the Kitchen

Pull up your sleeves and let’s clean up the fridge! Time to make the ultimate Instant Pot Leftover Vegetable Soup, packed with warming and nourishing winter vegetables! This one has a LOT of butternut squash for Fall and beyond! 

6. Instant Pot Pumpkin Dal - Simply Vegetarian777

Instant Pot Pumpkin Dal is super delicious and is nutritious as well. It is super simple to make it in the Instant Pot. This Dal is best enjoyed warm with hot naan or rice.

7. Instant Pot Pumpkin and Plantain Curry - Recipes from a Pantry

Instant Pot Pumpkin and Plantain Curry is the must have fall dish! Full of delicious autumn flavors like pumpkin with African influence from the plantains. Suitable for Vegan, Gluten-Free and Paleo diets.

A quick recipe that helps make perfect squash each time. This recipe is great to get perfect results each time! 

Spiced Pumpkin Soup is full of delicious fall flavours: carrot and sweet potato and perfect for American Thanksgiving. This recipe is Gluten Free, Vegetarian and can easily be Vegan, Paleo and Whole 30 friendly with a few tweaks.

10. Instant Pot Pumpkin Curry - Piping Pot Curries

North Indian sweet and sour pumpkin curry made in a pressure cooker or instant pot. This is a delicious and healthy vegetable curry that can be made in less than 30 minutes for a weeknight dinner. Vegan & gluten free! 

11. Instant Pot Stuffed Squash - Recipes from a Pantry

This recipe for Instant Pot Stuffed Squash is full of classic fall flavor. Healthy, hearty and so easy to make, it’s the perfect meal for those chilly autumn nights. Suitable for Vegan, Gluten-free and Keto-friendly diets.

12. Instant Pot Pumpkin Grits - Peas and Crayons

Instant Pot Pumpkin Grits are ready to rock your breakfast! These easy cheesy grits are made in the pressure cooker and are SO easy to make! 

Instant Pot Black eyed peas lentils butternut squash chili makes an effortless one pot meal that is Vegan and gluten-free too. Packed with loads of veggies and protein , this recipe requires less than 20 minutes of preparation time.

14. Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup - Calling to Chit Chat 

The soup we all desire on cold evenings! This Butternut Squash soup gets some extra heat from red pepper flakes and hot peppers and great depth of flavor from cumin and turmeric.

This Creamy Pressure Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal is a delicious spin on traditional oatmeal. Make this quick and easy pressure cooker oatmeal in your Electric Pressure Cooker any day of the week. 

16. Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash - Simply Happy Foodie

Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash is so fast and easy to cook. Spaghetti Squash is a versatile vegetable, and is often used to replace pasta in low carb and Keto diets. Pressure cooker spaghetti squash is a healthy and easy way to cook this awesome veggie!