Mexican Rice – for a picnic potluck

I had briefly mentioned about our picnic at the park in my earlier post in which few families got together and did a potluck. With heat looming, it was a weekend well spent, as the kids spent hours together splashing in the water, while the adults stayed in the shade chatting and enjoying the assortment of delicious food.

The theme was chosen as Mexican cuisine and everybody pitched in food ideas. Some criteria to keep in mind was that the food had to be kid friendly, easily transportable and would not perish soon.

I prepared this Mexican Rice along with Corn Salsa and Guacamole. This Mexican rice turned out to be a hit among the kids. Colorful and not too spicy, it has a mild flavor with a tangy taste. It formed a good accompaniment with topping of shredded cheese, some nachos and corn salsa on the side.

Here is a menu list of what we came up with for the potluck.

  • Appetizers: Nachos with Salsa, Corn Salsa and Guacamole, juices.
  • Salad: Lettuce, cooked black beans, corn with Catalina dressing topped with crushed nachos for crunch.
  • Tostadas: Charras with topping of refried beans, salsa, lettuce and sour cream. Somewhat similar to what is in here.
  • Tacos: Hard taco shell, topped with refried beans, salsa and lettuce.
  • Mexican Rice, Corn Salsa and Guacamole
  • Dessert: Pound cake, fresh fruits, cookies for kids. 


  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups broth ( I used vegetarian )
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (chopped )
  • 1/2 onion (chopped ) + ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper( chopped )
  • 1 tomato (chopped into quarters)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • salt
  • Oil


  • Blend the tomato along with ¼ cup chopped onion and oregano. Keep aside.
  • In a medium sauce pan, add oil over medium heat. Add in the chopped onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes and then add the bell pepper and chopped jalapeno mix until softened.
  • Add dry rice and stir for about 5 minutes until the rice becomes a golden brown color and gets the nutty flavor.
  • Add in the chopped garlic to the rice and sauté for one more minute.
  • Next add in broth and tomato sauce, mix well and bring it to a boil.
  • After it starts boiling, turn the heat to medium and cover with lid. Do not touch for the next 10-15 minutes.
  • After it is cooked, add the chopped cilantro and fluff it up with a fork.

Instant Oats Idli

Over the past 5 years that I have been blogging, I have learnt and tried many recipes from various bloggers. Be it a new dish, different cuisine, adaption of an existing recipe, healthy tweak to traditional favorites the list is endless. It is amazing how many ideas are out there just waiting to be grabbed. And it also inspires me to come up with new ideas and to try something on my own. 

I love the ‘healthy tweak to the traditional favorites’ the best. You take a proven traditional dish, like Idlis and Dosas enhance it with health quotient and still see no difference in taste. How cool is that? 

When I first saw the recipe of Oats Idli, I was intrigued and had bookmarked it to try. I tried it few days ago and really loved the results. If you are curious about the taste, then let me assure you that it tastes pretty much the same as Rava Idli. In fact, adding oats does not make any difference, but we get the added health benefits of oats. 

 I have tried Urad Oats Dosa and Soya Bean Dosa on similar lines with good results. It is a good way to sneak in all the good stuff, especially for the picky eaters. 

 Recipe Adapted: Veg Inspirations and Sharmi’s Passions

 Yields: 9-10 medium Idlis


  • ¾ cup instant oats
  • ¾ cup rava/sooji/semolina
  • ¾ cup Yogurt/ Curd
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 2 tsp urad daal
  • 2 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp coriander leaves
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil  for seasoning and to grease idli plates


  • In a pan dry roast the oats for 2-3 minutes on medium heat and then set aside to cool. After it is cooled grind it to a fine powder.
  • In the same pan, heat a tsp of oil add mustard seeds, let it splutter then add the curry leaves, urad daal and green chillies and sauté until the urad daal turns light brown.
  • Add the rava and mix it until it turns very light brown and the aroma waffles. Switch off the gas and set it aside to cool.
  • Take a mixing bowl and add the oats, seasoned rava/sooji, salt, baking soda and chopped coriander. Mix well and whisk in the yogurt/curd and stir. Add water and make this to idli/pancake batter consistency. Keep aside for 15-20 minutes.
  • Heat water in a pressure cooker or whatever you use to make the idlis.
  • Proceed to make idlis the regular way. Grease the idli plates. Add ladleful of the batter to each of the idli plates.
  • Place the idli stand in a pressure cooker and cook covered without the whistle for 10-12 minutes.
  • Serve hot with coconut chutney or potato saagu along with a dollop of ghee. 

Dum Aloo/ Potato Biryani

As you know, Biryani is rice based dish jazzed with meat, vegetables, dry fruits and aromatic spices which engulfs the taste buds. People who are experts in making this labor for hours in the kitchen to come up with its exotic taste.

However this is a recipe for Biryani we came up with when we craved for something delicious and aromatic, but were not willing to spend hours together in the kitchen. Being close to the weekend the pantry was empty and we were short on vegetables, so we decided to use just potatoes in this dish. You can add more vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, and carrots etc to this recipe and make it wholesome.

When served along with raita it is a satisfying meal by itself.

Serves: 3-4 people


  • 2cups Basmati Rice
  • 2 medium potatoes(peeled and chopped in cubes)
  • 1 big onion (chopped lengthwise into thin long pieces)
  • 4-5 green chillies (slit)
  • 2 tsp ginger + garlic paste
  • 4 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 10-15 mint leaves (chopped)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander powder
  • A pinch of saffron in 1 Tbsp warm milk
  • 2 Tbsp Yogurt/ curd
  • 5-10 cloves
  • 4-5 cinnamon pieces
  • 2-3 cardamom pods crushed
  • 10-15 cashew pieces (optional)
  • 2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • Salt
  • Oil


  • Soak the basmati rice in enough water for at least an hour. Drain water after that.
  • Cooking Rice: Next boil about 6-7 cups of water and add the soaked rice, along with salt, oil, few 2-3 cloves, 1 cinnamon and 2 cardamom pods.
  • The rice cooks pretty fast in about 8-10 minutes and also it is fragrant. When it is about ¾ cooked, drain the water from the rice and set aside.
  • Crisping onions: Take a heavy bottom pan and heat oil and fry the onion in them, they turn brown fast. Transfer them onto a paper towel. Retain the remaining oil in the pan itself.
  • In the same pan in which the onions were crisped, heat the oil (that was left out from frying the onions).
  • Add the remaining cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods and toss it around. Add the ginger garlic paste and cook until it is light brown.
  • Add the chopped potato, salt and mix until the edges are browned. Add the cumin coriander powder, garam masala powder and the slit green chillies.
  • Add the yogurt to this and mix well. Take half the portion of this cooked potato and keep aside. This is used to form layers.
  • To the potato mixture in the pan, add the mint and coriander leaves , little dry fruits, part of the crisp onions.
  • Add 1/2 the quantity of rice on top of this to form the second layer.
  • Next on top of this, add the cooked potatoes, dry fruits, slit green chillies and onions. Top it with coriander leaves, mint leaves.
  • Add the remaining rice in a neat layer on top of this. Sprinkle the saffron milk neatly in a circular fashion.
  • Add the ghee, left over onions, coriander leaves, nuts and cover this with air tight lid and cook for another 10 minutes on low heat.
  • Mix well. Serve hot with raita.