Ranch Pasta Salad

BM #106: Week 1, Day 3
Theme : Packed Lunchboxes

It’s almost funny that I am posting this recipe. This is a proper summer pasta salad and it’s a cold, cold day here in Jersey today. The weather was good yesterday and so I thought a salad with fall colors would be great. I wasn’t expecting the temperature to drop so much today.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Even though it’s cold outside, these salads still taste good. When you are having it for lunch, it’s at room temperature and not very cold. My son likes it that way. There is always fruit in his lunchbox, it’s almost always apples and grapes as it stays without getting crushed. Sometimes I add berries in too, but I don’t overcrowd it.

Read on for the recipe.

Serves: 2

Ingredients :

  • 2.5 cups cooked pasta
  • 2 cups diced vegetablesI used cherry tomatoes, orange pepper, zucchini, corn, sliced olives
  • 2 tablespoonsmayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ranch dressing
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried red chili flakes, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a small bowl, mix mayo and ranch dressing with salt, red chili flakes and pepper. I use a lot of pepper in pasta salads.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add all the chopped vegetables and the cold pasta.
  3. Mix the dressing, taste test and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve cold.

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Vadacurry with Idli

BM #106: Week 1, Day 2
Theme : Packed Lunchboxes

The first time I had vada curry is when our friend’s mom prepared it for us. It’s not a dish I grew up eating, but the first time I had it, I absolutely loved it. I thought it was a complicated process to prepare these, but it’s a fairly easy one. First you have to soak Chana dal and then grind it fennel seeds and dried red chilies. It’s ground to a coarse paste and steamed as small vadas. The gravy for this is the common onion tomato base with the usual spices. The vada is then broken into smaller pieces and added to the onion tomato gravy.

The only difference I see in my friend’s mom’s recipe from the other ones in internet is that she keeps a little bit of vada batter aside and uses it to thicken the gravy later. In the other recipes I see coconut being used for this purpose. The smell and taste of fennel seeds here is absolutely divine. Mine doesn’t have that much fennel, so feel free to add a bit more ground fennel seeds to the gravy if preferred.

This is a typical breakfast/dinner dish and is usually served with soft thick dosas or idli. This was dinner getting packed as lunch next day for my husband:-).

Read on for the recipe.

Recipe source: My friend’s mother


For vada

  • 1 cup Chana dal
  • 2-3 dried red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, optional
  • Salt as needed

For curry

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • Salt as needed


  1. Soak the dal overnight or for at least 3 hours. Drain the water completely and pulse it in a blender with fennel seeds, chilies, chili powder and salt. It should be a coarse paste and not a smooth paste. Remove the ground paste to a bowl reserving about 2 tablespoons ( roughly a handful) of it back in the blender. The reserved batter will be blended with water to use for thickening the gravy later.
  2. Take a marble sized ball from the vada batter. Flatten it and place it on a steamer rack. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Steam for 12 minutes. Set aside.
  3. For the curry, heat a tablespoon of oil. Sauté the onions till it’s pink. Add the ginger garlic paste and mix it in. Add the tomatoes and all the spice powders and salt. Mix everything well and let it cook until the tomatoes are really mushy and almost like a paste. You can add a little water whenever it looks dry or if the curry starts sticking to the pan.
  4. At this point, add 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil. Taste test and adjust seasonings.
  5. Break each vada into smaller pieces, roughly 3-4 pieces per vada. Add the broken vada to the gravy. If the curry is dry, add more water. You are looking for a chili like consistency.
  6. To the reserved vada batter, add 1/4 cup water and grind to a very smooth paste. Add this to the gravy and bring it to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds if preferred. Taste test again and adjust seasonings if necessary. Take off the heat and serve with idli or dosa or even roti.

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Moong dal with Dill leaves

BM #106: Week 1, Day 1
Theme : Packed Lunchboxes

My husband’s lunchbox and my son’s lunchbox are completely different. My husband prefers rice and my son doesn’t like rice. I serve rice to my son when he is back from school and pack something light for his lunchbox. Pasta is the only thing they agree on.

Here is a sample of my husband’s lunch. I usually pack a salad or a cooked vegetable on the side, but I was out of time to do so. Dal with dill leaves is a recipe I learnt from my friend and I love it.

Read on for the recipe.

Recipe source: My friend Devi


  • 1 cup moong dal
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 green chilies, roughly chopped
  • 1″ piece ginger, grated or minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt as needed
  • 1 cup chopped dill leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala


  1. Wash the dal and pressure cook with the diced tomatoes, onions, chilies , ginger, garlic and turmeric powder. Add about 2.5 cups of water or until the dal is completely submerged and water floats about an inch on top. Pressure cook for 6 whistles (6 minutes in Manual setting in Instant Pot) or until the dal is cooked completely. I use pot in pot method. Let the pressure release naturally.
  2. Heat ghee in a pan and add cumin seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the cooked dal. Add salt as needed and garam Masala. Roughly chop the dill leaves and add it to the dal. Let everything cook together for a couple of minutes. You can add more water if the dal is dry. Taste test, adjust seasonings. Take off the heat and serve with rice, pickle and chips.

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Olive oil Pasta Salad

BM #105: Week 4, Day 3
Theme : Pasta Salads

For Day 3, it’s a very simple pasta salad. All it has is olive oil and some dried herbs. It’s my friend’s recipe and she has made it for us a couple of times. Shreyas really loves it. So I thought of blogging it here, that way I won’t forget about it later!

My friend uses dried Italian seasoning, but I have used a mix of various dried herbs. I mostly have oregano and basil, so many times that’s what I use. I add a good dose of freshly ground pepper when making this. I also add more vegetables– chopped tomatoes, zucchini and thawed corn are the usuals. But here I have done it that way my friend does with just broccoli.

To cook broccoli, you can toss it to the pasta pot when pasta is cooking. I usually add it at the last five minutes. This avoids overcooking. The broccoli floats on top, so it’s easy to take it out. I cook the whole pack of pasta and refrigerate it once cool. That way it’s easy for me to pack pasta for my son’s lunch with different sauces.

Read on for the recipe.

Serves 1


  • 1.5 cups cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar,optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a mixing bowl, mix olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar if using and the seasonings.
  2. Toss in the pasta and broccoli florets. Mix everything and taste test to adjust seasonings.


    You can add more vegetables of your choice to the salad.
    The flavor is Better if the salad rests for an hour or two.

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