Thursday, January 30, 2014

Securian Winter Run – 5K - 2014

(This is a back-dated blog-post. Life happens and I never get to write down on time.)

Securian Winter Run 2014 was my very first race. I had only just started running last month and wanted to get some race exposure for excitement. The fact that it was an open outdoor race in January in Minnesota, in the middle of polar vortex, did not discourage me – maybe because I was naïve and also because I had trained outside (flying hifi). Nevertheless, I started small and went with 5K.

It was an instance decision because the date was of significance to me. Inspite of that, the fee was not so high. Securian had a great parking space; covered, spacious and accommodated nearly all runners cars. That was connected to their warm, indoor pre-race space; again huge with all facilities in there. Late packet pickups, bag check and stretching areas were running smoothly. Family warmed me with their hugs to calm my nerve and waited for me here while I ran.

Race started in the downtown outside the Securian center and winded out of the downtown to Shepard Road. 10K and Half Marathoners continued, while we 5Kers could turnaround back to the same place for finish. Towards the end I happened to see the clock and nearly stopped to curse; it was incredibly over my expectations. After a pause, realized it was for the other race and my race clock showed 48 minutes. Phew that was a relief. It’s not a great record but it was my first time racing in my  adult life.

Temperature for the duration of the race was closed to 10F. Remember we were still in the middle of Polar Vortex i.e. we were colder than Antarctica that January. So my running gear was:
1.       Bulky wind proof winter jacket layered over fleece shirt, full-sleeve tech shirt and half-sleeve shirt.
2.       Winter cap & neck gaiter for my face
3.       Now this was my first race in Minnesota winter, so in my anxiety I was trying out new gloves. They did not work. For the initial 15 minutues I was scared I might lose them to frostbite. I kept thinking I should have stuck to my gloves-&-mitten combo from my training run. But after some distance, my fingers warmed up.
4.       Lower limbs were protected by C9 Compression pants and wind-proof track pants.
5.       Reebok shoes with thick soles & compression socks.

Race goodies: There was no medal for the 5K category. But they gave a Headband which has been useful for me for my runs across the chilly part of the year. That and the ceramic mug. This run is part of Saint Paul Winter Carnival. and so there were other promotional goodies. Their waiting area had numerous food offerings.

Race results were published on Chronograph with details and photos. This being my first race results, I am so proud of it and also spoiled for all other races when make any mistake in their results.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Prithis Idli

Batter story:
  1. Morning: Soak Sona masoori rice and urad in separate bowls. Ratio 3:1
  2. That night, grind the batter in wet grinder or a sturdy blender. First grind urad to paste. Then rice separately.
  3. Add soaked poha in each blend.
  4. Transfer to a large spacious steel bowl. It should have enough room for the batter, as it will fluff up after fermenting.
  5. Add 2 spoon salt on top. (I dont put salt in the blender, and only here separately. I found major difference in the fermentation, so.)
  6. Now use a ladle and mix the batter thoroughly for 10-15 minutes. It important to fold air into the batter, as it helps in the fermentation.
  7. Cover the vessel, but leave a small opening, and leave it overnight at a warm undisturbed spot in the kitchen.
  8. In summer, I leave the batter in oven, without light on. Light usually made the batter bitter for me. Room temperature is uneven so oven is the safe place.
  9. In winter, I leave it on kitchen counter. Central heating in the house takes care of maintaining the optimum temperature.

  1. I use an Idli steamer with thate/katori/wati/small bowls for Idli. This is different from the stand used in pressure cooker.
  2. Grease the mould with coconut oil - I don't use ghee/sunflower/canola/vegetable/or-anything-else oil. I stick to coconut oil as its more neutral in smell and taste. Doesn't interfere with the Idli taste.
  3. Give the batter a final mix, to make it even.
  4. Pour the batter in each mold to 3/4th level. It needs room when it fluff's up after steaming.
  5. Line it up in the steamer and steam it covered for 20 minutes.
  6. When done, remove cover immediately. Else the steam will condense as water droplets on idli and make it soggy on the top.
  7. Keep a deep plate ready with a layer of water. Transfer each bowl into this plate, for each idli to cool.
  8. After 5-10 minutes, scoop it out with a flat spoon (or flat end of spoon), without damaging any idli.
  9. That's it, serve and enjoy !
Serve with one or all of these:
  • Green chutney: Puree cilantro, coconut, groundnut, slice each of onion, ginger & 1 garlic clove, green chilies, small ball of soaked tamarind, salt & water.
  • Channa daal chutney: Wash, soak & dry channa dal. Light toast on a hot pan with groundnut, and puree all with ginger, garlic, green chilies, salt and water.
  • Sambar
  • Kori da rasa - or the Udupi style chicken curry. Best dinner combo ever !
Useful Links:
This blog page has more detailed explanation and awesome pic of the Idli Steamer.

Tilapia Fish fry

Tilapia fish fillets
Red chilli powder

  1. Defrost the fillets in hot water in a bowl. The frozen fish will be impossible to remove from its individual packet. Just cut an opening and put each fillet packet in the bowl. After half hour, it will be easy to remove.
  2. Clean and dry the fillets.
  3. In another bowl, add the fish fillets, splash vinegar, toss chili powder and salt. Mix them well, so they are coated completely.
  4. Vinegar is important ingredient in fish recipe. Its absence will make a big difference.
  5. Leave it for 30 minutes (if more then in fridge)
Fry Method:
  1. Heat pan on stove. Pour a layer of oil.
  2. Ready rava on a plate.
  3. Coat both sides of each fillet with rava and drop in the pan.
  4. Cover the pan.
  5. Tilapia cooks fast, so turn it around after 2-3 minutes and same time to finish.
Bake method:
Pre-heat oven at 375F.
Next on a sheet of foil, layout the fish fillets and heat for 10-15 mins. Turn around anytime.

Remove and serve with slices of lime. Lime juice on fish fry is extremely important for this dish to be a hit !

Chicken Biryani

I followed the method as in this video. Its a very good one. I use it when making large quantity for parties. 

My tailored version is here:

Ingredients for Rice: 
  • Basmati Rice
  • Jeera
  • Khada Garam Masala: Pepper, Cloves, Elaichi,
  • Red Onion - julienne cut
  • Kaju, Kismis
  • Ghee 
  • Salt 
  • Water 
Method for Rice: 
  1. Wash basmati rice, drain all water and keep aside.
  2. Heat frying pan and add a generous dose of Ghee
  3. Drop Jeera, khada garam masala, kaju, kismis.
  4. Add Red onion julienne, and allow to caramelize.
  5. Fold in rice, mix well till all rice is coated with all ghee.
  6. Allow it to heat on pan for 10-15 min. Keep stirring so bottom rice is not burnt.
  7. Then transfer to cooker, for it to cook separately. Electric rice cooker, or pressure cooker are fine. 
  8. Just enough water, so rice doesn't end up soggy. Definitely not soggy. We want the rice to be fluffy, non-sticky.

Ingredients for Chicken Biryani gravy mix: 

  • Ghee &/ oil
  • Jeera
  • Khada Garam Masala: Pepper, Cloves, Elaichi,
  • Red Onion - julienne cut
  • Chicken - cleaned, washed, marinated for 2-3 hours in curd, red chili powder, turmeric, salt.
  • Shan Bombay Biryani Mix
  • Powders - turmeric, red chilli, garam masala (little)
  • Curd/plain yogurt/greek yogurt
  • Tomatoes (diced/pureed)
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Salt 
  • Water
  • Cliantro - chopped
Method for Chicken Biryani gravy mix:
  1. Meanwhile, use the hot pan to start cooking the chicken gravy mix.
  2. Splash oil and/or ghee on the pan.
  3. Add rest of the ingredients in sequence, one after the other.
  4. Keep covered and cook till chicken is done.
  5. Add chopped Cilantro, 5 minutes before switching off.
  6. Watch out for the amount of powders and salt, because it was used in marination as well.
  7. Gravy should be thick but not dry. It should not be watery like for any gravy dish.
  1. Next step is layering. Best to assemble in a foil pan.
  2. Begin base layer rice, next chicken & gravy. Repeat till all used. 
  3. Garnish with browned crispy onion, hard boiled eggs, sliced lime and more cilantro.
  4. Cover with foil again.
  5. If this is made in advance, the whole package can be heated in oven ahead of mealtime.
Brown onion
Sliced lime
Hard boiled egg.