Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tools of the Trade Tuesdays : Zoku Quick Pop Maker

If you have not heard of this before, fear not - neither had I. So I was so pleasantly surprised when I was gifted this by the Mr and the son last year. First that they knew about this and that they got it for me :) They both had sneaked out to purchase this and plopped it on the kitchen counter asking me to make what else some popsicles :)

Price : $50 (before any discounts)

Available at: Macys, Amazon, William Sonoma etc.

Images from: Google (various websites)

This link here covers pretty much everything you need to know about this Quick pop maker. For $50 you get the Quick pop maker, 6 popsicle holders with the drip holder and a tool for removing the pops out once they are done. Accessories and books are available for instructions on how to make some of the fancier looking popsicles. But trust me you won't be disappointed even with the most basic versions you make.


  • If you have kids or live in a warm place, you will love having this. When you want a quick snack, just pour anything into this and voila it will be frozen into popsicles within 10 minutes. Your kids and their friends will love it!
  • The biggest advantage is that it makes popsicles almost instantly (~10 minutes for the first batch) and (~12 min for the second batch). I have very rarely made more than 6 at a time though it can make upto 9 popsicles before needing to be frozen again.
  • It is small enough to be stored in the freezer continuously, and my freezer is pretty packed  all the time (trust me).
  • It is a great way to sneak in healthy snacks - i often make mango lassi, kulfi, milkshakes and then serve it as popsicles - no complaints and often am asked for more :)


  • Only the price because you get moulds for $10 or lesser on amazon but the pros outweigh the price in my opinion and the advantage of having ready made pops available for your child as against having to wait 48 hrs is worth it if you use it frequently enough.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vella Aval (Sweet Rice or Sweet Poha)

Aval or Flattened/Beaten rice is considered very auspicious and is used for many religious festivals as an offering to God. Vella Aval is specially made for Krishna Jayanthi. Extremely easy to make, it can be made even as a snack under very short notice. 

Difficulty Level: Easy

Time: 1 and 1/2 hrs (prep time), 10 min (making time)

  • Aval - 1 cup
  • Water
  • Jaggery - 3/4 cup
  • 2 tbsp scraped coconut
  • a pinch of cardamom powder
  • 1 tbsp cashews
  • 1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

Method de Preparation:

  1. Soak Aval in water for an hour to an hour and a half and drain it, keep aside.
  2. Roast the cashews in ghee and keep aside.
  3. In the same vessel, take the jaggery on the stove top, add just a bit of water to immerse, and melt it.When it thickens starting to boil, add the coconut, cardamom powder and keep stirring.
  4. Add in the aval when the jaggery solution had reduced some in quantity and keep stirring, till it all comes together. Turn off heat at this point.

* The vella aval shown in the picture below has been cooked well but is not granular or separated by rice flakes. If you like it that way, soak the aval for lesser time and take care to condense the jaggery solution well before adding the aval.

Paal Payasam ( Milk Kheer or Rice Pudding)

When I think of Paal Payasam, the story that comes to my mind is that of the famous Tenali Raman. He is known for his great appetite along with his infamous wit. After a very sumptuous meal, he states he cannot even eat a morsel more. And proceeds to drink liters of this amazing dessert when it was served. The king asks him how he managed that when he said he was stuffed. To that the witty Tenali Raman responds "Your majesty, just like all the people in a crowded street clear the road when you arrive, all the food in my stomach clears way for the king of sweets - Paal payasam!"

Like any dish, making the paal payasam can be considered a trivial task where one can just mix milk, sugar and cooked rice and call it that :) However once you have tasted the dish as it should be made, you will know the difference trust me. I would like the recipe to speak for itself, but I urge you to go ahead and try this version and you will love it!

Difficultly level : Medium

Time : 30 min (prep time), 30 min (making time) -Pressure cooker method
          6 hrs (slow cooker method)


  • Milk ( 1 litre or .25 gallons or 5 glasses)
  • 1/4 cup raw rice
  • 1 glass sugar (~ 200 to 250 gms)

Optional additions:
  • couple of strands of saffron
  • a tsp of ghee
  • a tbsp of cashews
  • a pinch of cardamom
* The glass I refer to here is a normal stainless steel one found in most Indian homes that holds about 200 ml of liquid.

Method de Preparation: ( Pressure cooker)

  1. In a vessel keep 3/4 the milk and the raw rice along with the strands of saffron (if adding) and allow to cook. Keep the heat at a medium to medium low and allow the mix to cook slowly (equivalent of 3-4 whistles).
  2. Once it is done and you can open the cooker, take the mixture out. The rice should have cooked well and the payasam will have a lovely pinkish/reddish tinge to it. 
  3. Transfer to a vessel on the stovetop, add the sugar and the remainder of the milk. Keep stirring without allowing it to stick to the bottom.  The mixture will first turn watery as the sugar melts some and then will begin to condense. When it does, you can turn off the gas. Approximately the payasam in the end will he half the original quantity you would have started off with.
  4. At this point, my mom is done. She keeps is plain, simple yet extremely tasty. If you like you can add a pinch of cardamom powder and also roast the cashews in ghee and add to this.

Method de Preparation: ( Slow Cooker)

  1. Add the rice,saffron and entire milk to the slow cooker and keep on lowest setting for the first 4 hours. You can mix a couple of times in between.
  2. Add the sugar and turn to medium setting and allow to cook for another 2 hrs.
  3. You can add the cardamom and roasted cashews at the end if you like. Make sure you turn of the heat at 6 hrs, and if you find the payasam already condensed at that time transfer it to another vessel because the slow cooker's vessel retains heat and keeping it in it will continue to condense the payasam further.

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