Back to the Roots- Gourmet Mushroom Kit Giveaway

If you love mushrooms, mushroom dishes and love to cook with them, then why not try to grow them on your own? After all, growing your own veggies is a fulfilling, rewarding experience. However the process could be time consuming and for many even not possible due to the lack of space. But then what if you could grow mushrooms in just 10 days, right out of a bag and all on windowsill? Too good to be true? Well, that is the idea behind the project at Back to the Roots.

 Back to the Roots is a company founded by two guys during their last semester at UC Berkeley in Oakland, California. Here is what Nikhil Arora one of the co-founders has to say about this project, “We just launched the Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden, which now let’s anyone grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of gourmet oyster mushrooms in as little as 10 days…right out of the little brown box! Just set on a windowsill, mist twice a day, and watch them pop right out by day 7! The soil inside is composed entirely of recycled coffee grounds – a safe & sustainable soil for the mushrooms.”

 It is a fun family-kids project and I know that I would love to have one for my 5 1/2 year old. Who would not love to see products grow in just 10 days? Plus it is eco-friendly as the mushrooms are grown using recycled coffee grounds as soil.

 Head to their site to read their story, get inspired and also get some cool mushroom recipes. Also check them out on FaceBook and Twitter. 


Also they just launched a campaign, where if you post a picture on their FB page of your fully grown kit in hand, they will send a sustainability curriculum and free kit to an elementary school of your choice. 

Discount code: If you would like to purchase your very own kit, visit Back to the Roots and enter the discount code mushrooms4me10 at checkout for 10% off your purchase.

Now onto the Giveaway. The folks at BTTR have offered to give a Back To The Roots Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit free to one lucky reader! 

Now onto the rules, there are not many but then please read carefully


  • Leave a comment here on this post telling your favorite mushroom dish.
  • Be sure to leave a valid email, so that I can contact you.
  • Deadline for this giveaway is Sunday July10th midnight US Central Time.
  • Only one entry per person and one lucky winner will be chosen. 

Note: This giveaway is open to U.S residents only. Good luck!

Vermicelli (Semiya) Upma/ Shavige Uppittu

vermicelli upma semiya upma
This will probably be my last post for the Light Lunches Event here @RedChillies an on-going event for the month of June. This event focuses on light lunches that are easy on the calories, yet rich in taste and delicious.

 Once such dish that fits the bill and one which I make often is this Vermicelli Upma (called as Shaivge upma in Kannada). Semiya is Indian vermicelli and is available in the Indian grocery stores. 

At our home it has transformed from a breakfast/tiffin/evening snack dish to a main course lunch/dinner dish owing to lack of time. The good thing is that this is a one dish meal and that means less work with cleaning and dish washing. This is also a crowd pleaser and can be put together in no time (if you have the semiya/shevai on hand). This is also a good one to make when you are looking for quick ideas when unexpected guests arrive.

 Growing up, as kids we preferred this upma over the regular Sooji upma. My mom would then sneak in as many veggies as possible to make this colorful and healthy. You can add the vegetables mentioned here or more to make it nutritious. This is a kid’s favorite dish as it looks more like noodles. You can reduce the amount of green chillies and sprinkle little bit of sugar before offering it to them.


  • There are two varieties of Vermicelli available (at least in the Bambino variety) the plain broken vermicelli and the roasted vermicelli.
  • Using the roasted vermicelli makes the upma process easier as it prevents the extra step of roasting. This is also non-sticky and avoids forming clumps.
  • But taste wise I like the plain vermicelli better and I like roasting the vermicelli myself. But the color of the vermicelli in this case will not be white.

shavige uppittu

How to prevent the vermicelli from sticking?

  • Roast the vermicelli in little oil slowly so that it is evenly browned. Keep aside. Also use the correct amount of water while cooking. This prevents the vermicelli from sticking.
  • If pre-cooking the vermicelli, then first boil the vermicelli in water as per package suggestion. After draining the hot water, add running cold water. After the cold water is drained add about a tsp of oil and toss it gently so that the oil sticks all around. This prevents from vermicelli sticking to each other.


Vermicelli Upma Recipe


  • 2 cups  vermicelli/ semiya/ shavige ( I use this Bambino variety)
  • ½ cup onion (finely chopped)
  • ¼ cup peas (shelled)
  • ¼ cup carrot (chopped finely)
  • ¼ cup potato (peeled and chopped finely)
  • 2-3 green chillies ( finely chopped )
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp urad daal
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Cilantro (for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup broken cashew (optional)
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Oil
  • Salt


  • Please read the notes above before proceeding.
  • Heat 1 tsp of oil in pan over medium heat and add the vermicelli. Keep stirring the mixture until the vermicelli turns pale brown. Transfer to plate and keep aside.
  • In the same pan now heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add mustard seeds, urad dal and mix until the urad daal turns light brown in color.
  • Add the chopped onion and green chillies.  After the onion has cooked a little add the chopped carrots, potatoes and peas and keep stirring. (Since the vegetables are chopped finely, they will cook fast.)
  • Add salt and little bit more oil if necessary and stir continuously.
  • Add 3 cups of water to this and let it come to boil. At this point check for seasoning. It is better to have the correct taste at this time.
  • Add the roasted vermicelli to this, stir, turn the heat to medium and cover with a lid.
  • After 5 minutes stir again and now partially cover the pan until the water has all absorbed. Turn off the heat.
  • Lastly garnish with lemon juice, chopped cilantro and cashew pieces. Keep the lid covered for another 5-10 minutes. Stir again and serve hot.


semiya uppuma

Lentil Vegetable Soup

vegetarian lentil soup

Lentils are commonly available and as we all know they are high in protein and nutritious. For this recipe, I brought the lentils from our regular store and not the Indian store. While writing this I realized that maybe the brown lentil is same as brown Masoor Daal that is available in the Indian store. I searched over the internet, but haven’t come to a strong conclusion yet. So any input from the reader to confirm either way would be appreciated. 

Truth be told that I do not make soups too often during summers, as I feel that they are relished best during winters. But of course, there are exceptions and I had to make this for the Light lunch Event. For a light, hearty lunch I prefer soup that has lots of vegetables, pulses, lentils etc with different textures. For example the Bean barley Soup, Garden vegetable soup are all big time favorites. After seeing the post by Jaya on Lentil Soup, I remember trying it at the Corner Bakery and falling in love with it. But I had not ventured trying it at home until now.

vegan lentil soup
There are so many ways of making this Hearty and Healthy Lentil soup. I think, I must have looked through half a dozen websites, before coming up with this version. This variation is based on the ingredients available in my pantry and also based on my family’s needs and taste. This soup is incredibly easy to make, so don’t be bothered by the long list of ingredients. The choice of vegetables and herbs can be changed as per individual taste and preference.


  • ¾ – 1 cup brown or green lentils
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic pods  peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped
  • 1 small potato peeled & chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 big carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt
  • oil


  • Heat water in big pot and then transfer the lentils to it. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Toward the end add some salt and keep aside, but do not discard the boiled water.
  • Take another big pot and heat oil. Add the bay leaves, crushed garlic and sauté. Next add the onion and mix until lightly cooked. Add the ginger, chopped celery, carrots, potatoes, spinach and stir and cook. Add little bit more oil if required.
  • Next add the diced tomatoes and stir. Add the vegetable broth and continue to cook. After it has incorporated add the cooked lentils, black pepper, salt, thyme and basil.
  • Cook simmering for 30-40 minutes or until desired consistency is obtained. Serve hot along with bread.


lentil vegetable soup


Winner of the Giveaway

Last but not the least, I would like to end this post by announcing the winner of the Taste of Home Cookbook giveaway. I used random number generator, and picked a random number based on the number of comments. I am thrilled to announce that the winner is Jyothi. Congratulations! I will contact you soon via email. Thanks to all who participated and provided such wonderful ideas for light lunches, I really appreciate it.