Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Almond & Pistachio Kheer

Are you bored of the usual rice and vermicelli kheer/pudding? Do you want to try a different kheer other than the usual stuff?

Presenting to you all a very delicious Almond and Pistachio Kheer.

The recipe for this sweet delicacy was passed on to me by my MIL (mother in law). Something totally different from the usual kheer preparation, this rich and delicious kheer is perfect for any festivals or special occasions. I had prepared this once during ramadan but couldn't post the recipe soon.


Since i made this on a weekday on hubby's demand, i only used small quantities of almonds and pistachios. So this recipe will yield 4 servings.

1/2 cup of almonds (soaked, skins removed and dried or toasted)
1/2 cup of pistachios (soaked, skins removed and dried or toasted)
2 tbsp of ghee or clarified butter
1/3 cup of sugar (you may use more if desired)
2 cups of whole milk
1/3 tsp of ground cardamom powder
Few strands of saffron.


1) Soak almonds and pistachios for at least 5 - 6 hrs (you may also soak them in warm water to decrease the soaking time). Drain the water and remove the peels. 

2) Originally this recipe calls for air dried almonds and pistachios. So you can spread the almonds and pistachios on a paper or a large dish and let it dry off in your patio/balcony. Since i didn't have the time for air drying i roasted them in the oven instead. 

3)  Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the almonds and pistachios on a baking sheet. Toast the almonds and the pistachios for 20 - 25 mins or until they are dry, crisp and very slightly brown in color. Make sure that the baking sheet is kept in the middle rack. I mistakenly kept it one rack above the middle hence the almonds and pistachios have more color on them in the pictures. But its fine as long as they are not burnt. 

4) Remove from the oven and let it cool for few mins. Transfer into a food processor/mixer and grind it into fine powder. 

5) In a saucepan heat about 2 tbsp of ghee/clarified butter. Now add the powdered almonds and pistachios and saute on a low heat for few mins. Since i had already toasted the almonds and pistachios, i didn't toast the powder for too long in the ghee. If you are using the powdered mixture which was not toasted in the oven, you will need to toast it in ghee for few mins until it gives out a nice aroma. 

6) Add the sugar and mix. Then add the milk and stir. Let it cook on a low to medium heat until the milk starts to thicken a bit. Keep stirring frequently so that the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom. Mine took around 20-25 mins. The consistency should be a little thick but not too runny. 

7) Finally finish off with cardamom powder and few saffron strands. 

Serve warm. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Welcome to Paradise....Kauai (The Garden Island), Hawaii

WELCOME TO PARADISE....Yes....that is what precisely our welcome letter at our rented condo indeed was. Breathtakingly beautiful, Kauai island is a nature lover's, traveler's and a photographers dream.

I am not very good with words so i will try to put our Kauai travel tales as best as i can and will also try to keep it as brief as possible :)

So how do and where do i start? It is hard to explain our experience of Kauai in words. All the adjectives in the dictionary wont suffice to describe this nature's beauty. But yes one thing i can say for sure it was a "DREAM COME TRUE" for both of us.

We had been planning this vacation for a really long time (an year to be exact). Truly speaking, i would not take any credit for the planning of this trip at all. All credit goes to my fabulous hubby, who put all his energy and time in researching from the right place to stay to the right things to do.

If you are going to a place like Hawaii, it becomes imperative that you have researched thoroughly and selected the right island to make your vacation not "just any other vacation" but an experience of a lifetime.

If you are among those people who like shopping and nightlife during your vacation...i am sorry Kauai is definitely not the island for you. The other islands are more commercialized, as compared to Kauai. But if you are looking for a place away from the hustle and bustle of city, to relax or  to simply drown in the beauty of nature or if you are anything like me and my hubby (read adventurous) then i suggest you have a look at what we did in our one week stay at Kauai which is also known as the "THE GARDEN ISLAND".

So without any further ado i am happy to share some of the fabulous images, our planned itinerary and things to do. We went during summer which considered to be the best season to visit this stunning island.

Where we stayed?

We stayed at a rented condo at Pali Ke Kua which is situated in the north shore of Kauai. A bit far off from the airport and other markets but trust me on this, it will be totally worth it. Pali Ke Kau is located at Princeville resort which offers vacation rentals with one or two bedrooms. All the condos comes with fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, cable and internet. With its close proximity to the beach, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, hiking and golfing, this place is definitely worth every penny. There is also a common sunset lookout point where as per Hawaiian tradition, people gather in the evening bring food, eat and watch the sun go down together.

You can either opt for all of the above fun activities or simply relax and unwind in the Lanai (porch) and watch the stunning ocean, spectacular sunsets and beautiful rainbows in the comfort of your condo.

We stayed in Condo #205. A perfect vacation condo, beautifully furnished, well stocked kitchen, ample beach towels for use, with beach chairs and umbrella also provided to the renters. The beautiful Lanai overlooking the ocean was the icing on the cake. The lovely kitchen also comes with many cook books. So cook away delicious meals during your stay and have lunch or dinner at the dining table or the lanai whilst watching the never ending blue and amazing pacific ocean.

Welcome gift basket containing chocolates, cookies, coffee and tea waiting for us in the condo....
that was really sweet of Mary (owner of the condo)
Yummy hawaiian chocolates from the welcome gift basket
The beautiful Condo
Breathtaking view from the Lanai of the condo :)
Important Note: Plan ahead and make all the required bookings, hotel/condos and all other activities that you are planning to do in advance (at least 2 months prior). Also you will need a vehicle to go around. Make sure a vehicle of your choice is booked well in advance.  

What we packed? 

Pack light. Make sure you pack your clothes according to the activities that you have planned. The north shore of Kauai is the wettest spot and hence it rains more frequently on this part of the island. The rains are very brief and the sun comes out soon enough. In our one week stay at Kauai, it rained almost everyday but not for the entire duration of the day. It does get warm and sunny in the afternoons. But be prepared for frequent showers. 

To Pack:

Rainy ponchos/jackets
3- 4 pairs of swimwear or maybe more ;)
Beach Sandals 
Running or Hiking Shoes
T shirts and shorts (including those that can get muddy)
1 -2 summer dresses 
Back packs (if you plan on hiking)
Camera including one Waterproof Camera

What we did?

Day 1: We didn't do much on day 1 as we were pretty tired after a long flight. North shore of Kauai is approximately 45 mins from the Lihuea airport. There are bus services that drop you to the car rental from the Lihuea airport. The drive is very very scenic and beautiful. We reached Pali ke Kau in the afternoon, freshened up and headed for the private beach. To our surprise we happened to spot a big turtle snoozing away :). The private beach is also a good spot for snorkeling. Hubby did some snorkeling and i enjoyed watching.

Crabs running to hide under the rocks :)

Spotted this big fellow snoozing away.. seemingly uninterested with us clicking pictures :P

Hubby spotted colorful fishes while snorkeling 
And some more...
The private beach clicked from our condo.... Can u spot the turtle? :P
After a relaxing time at the private beach, we did some grocery shopping(fruits, bread and eggs :P) at the nearby Princeville market.

Day 2: Day 2 was also a day of relaxing. We had no plans whatsoever and were glad we did not as it rained in the morning. Afternoon we headed to Hideaway Beach which was just a few mins walk from our condo. This is a nice small beach, quietly hidden away. This is also a good spot for snorkeling. I wouldn't personally recommend it because its a bit difficult to get there. The path towards the beach is very very steep. Go ahead if you are comfortable with climbing up and down on a very steep pathway.

Day 3: Hiking 

So all our action and adventure started from day 3. An early morning hike with Eric (of Hike Kauai with me) was the perfect way of exploring the beauty of the island on foot. Eric, personally guides you through the hiking terrain and shared his experience of the island with some of the history of Kauai. We were lucky enough to have a perfect climate for the hike. The hike was fun and Eric made sure to stop us at points with beautiful views of the island. If you are interested in hiking, i would highly recommend Eric. He knows all the possible hiking locations in Kauai and suggests hiking trails as per your experience.

This is the amazing view that you get to see on the hiking trail
All the tiredness from climbing just vanished with the sight of this beautiful mountains and the waterfalls 

We spotted many of these little fellows hopping and jumping around
After an absolutely refreshing morning hike and a quick breakfast, we headed to Anini Beach and later in the evening to Tunnels beach.

Anini beach- This beach has the longest and widest fringing reef in the hawaiian islands which makes it perfect for
activities like snorkeling and paddle boarding. Its also a good spot for camping, picnic and relaxing. I found this beach perfect for families with small children :)
Tunnels Beach - A nice beach but we noticed that the currents were really strong (maybe coz we went there in the evening) . I cannot comment anything on snorkeling or diving here. But an evening stroll at the beach wont hurt for sure :)
Day 4: Waimea Canyon & Napali Experience

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon also know as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii is a must see. You can easily drive and stop at all the look out points and spend as much time as you can. Since we had other plans for the afternoon we couldn't spend much time here. Yet we managed to cover all the points :). Lush green and full of color this place will mesmerize you and will open up a whole new world of beauty.
Don't believe me? Have a look at it yourself...

Different shades of greens and browns 

Na Pali Coast seen from the Kalalau lookout how the blue ocean water sparkles like diamonds from up above
Mesmerizing view from the Kalalau lookout point....but wait until you see it upfront from a boat (pics below)
Napali Experience (Boat Tour)

If you want to experience Na Pali which is know as the most breathtakingly beautiful, stunning and spectacular attractions in the whole wide world, Na Pali Experience boat tours are the best of the best. However to thoroughly enjoy every moment of it I would suggest you book the mid size catamaran (for 6 people) unlike the large ones that will have at least 50 people on board.

I must emphasize that this was one of our most unforgettable experience ever.

Na Pali coast is situated in the north west part of the island and is accessible only by boat or a helicopter. Once on the boat you will get to see the most beautiful mountain cliffs ever. The erosions on the mountains that happened over a millions of years ago (which still is an ongoing phenomenon) has created a cliffs and valleys unlike anywhere in the world. In the 5 hour boat ride you will be taken inside caves (which is not possible if you book a large catamaran), taken to the best spot for snorkeling and if you are lucky enough you may also spot dolphins during the tour (unfortunately we didn't spot any). They also provide really good snorkeling equipments and also refreshments during the tour. Do not carry too much stuff, wear swimwear under your clothes, take it off and leave it in your car because you are going to get wet. Carry towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, waterproof camera and wear flip flops.

Beautiful rainbow admits the stunning mountains

Simply stunning 

Inside one of the caves
Spotted turtles at the snorkeling spot
Hubby captured some amazing pictures underwater while snorkeling 
Beautiful fishes everywhere
Here fish fishy fishy....

Day 5:  Sky Diving & Kilauea Light house

Sky Diving

Totally optional!!!!. You can go ahead with it only if you are as crazy as us :P. And if you do want to, just go the website of Skydive Kauai. These people are really good and thorough professionals, with tandem instructors having an experience of more than 5,000- 10,000 jumps. Of course you have to do it at your own risk so i am not recommending it but if you are some one who wants to sky dive then Kauai would be the place to do it.

Ok so we were completely out of our minds to Sky Dive, at least i was. Hubby had already decided that he wanted to do it come what may, I on the other hand was trying to convince him not to. And what happened eventually, i ended up taking a giant leap of faith. Don't ask me what made me do it because i still wonder even today how the hell on earth i gathered the courage. All i can say is I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed each and every moment of it. It was scary at the beginning but boyyyyyy what an experience. I never thought Sky dive would be on my bucket list. Well it some how made its way and i am happy to cross off the most scariest one on my list :)

So after an unbelievably out of this world experience we had brunch at a small little restaurant and headed to our next destination - Kilauea Lighthouse

Kilauea Lighthouse

The beautiful Kilauea Lighthouse was build in the year 1913 and aids in the navigation of commercial ships to Hawaii. The Kilauea point is also home to a large number of nesting seabirds of the Hawaiian island. If you are a wildlife lover you are going to enjoy this as much as we did. We clicked pictures like crazy. But do save yourself some time to just stand back and enjoy the sight of the birds flying, catching fish and get lost in the beautiful sound of the waves hitting the rocks.

Both of us clicked a lot of photos of all the beautiful birds....sharing few pics here..
Ready to dive

Day 6:  Wings over Kauai & Princeville Botanical Garden

Wings Over Kauai

So we explored Kauai by land (hiking) and on the waters (beaches and an awesome boat ride). Last but not the least it was time to explore the garden island in all its glory by AIR.

Wings over Kauai is by far the best in business. We booked a Cessna tour. With only three of us on board including the pilot, our 65- 70min flight was memorable in every sense. So instead of going on and on about our experience i would rather share the beautiful pictures that we captured through the Cessna.

The Cessna 
Birdseye View of the Garden Island 

The mesmerizing Na Pali Coast 

That is the famous Jurassic Park Falls. 
Wailuea water falls :)

With Bruce our pilot....the hand gesture known as "Shaka" sign in Hawaii signifies Aloha spirit of friendship, understanding and compassion. 
Princeville Botanical Garden

After an awesome 2 hr air tour of the beautiful island, we headed to spend a relaxing time at the Botanical garden. Beautifully maintained, family owned and operated garden, this is recommended if you are interested in exotic plants, flowers, fruits and organic home grown cocoa. We also got a chance at gourmet chocolate tasting at the garden. Yummm. Saw many exotic flowers and plants. I was so busy soaking in all the beauty around me, that i didn't bother to memorize or note down the names of the plants or flowers :P.

Beautiful little stream in the middle of the garden

All i know right now is this one is carnivorous plant

Gourmet Chocolate tasting time :D
Day 7:  Jungle Valley Adventure and Hanalei Pier 

Day 7 started with Jungle Valley Adventure at Princeville Ranch Adventures. The tour includes hiking, kayaking and zip lining.  This adventure package is great for families with children as well. Had lots of fun zip lining and kayaking. Make sure to carry water bottles, mosquito repellants, wear clothes and shoes that can get wet and muddy, towels, sunscreen, hat, rain poncho and dry clothes for change. Also wear swimsuit underneath your clothes because you will need them once you reach the Uluhe Fern Ridge. All of the things mentioned earlier should be carried in a bag pack. They also provide rental hiking shoes if you don't want your shoes to get all wet and muddy. The package also includes picnic (with make your own deli sandwich, chips and cookies). 

All set to go

The Ranch 

Uluhe Fern Ridge......dive, swim and enjoy :)
Afternoon we headed to Hanalei Pier for some fun and relaxing 

Day 8: Wailuea Falls 

Last day we had the entire morning and afternoon before we headed back home. So rather than lazing around at the condo we packed up and headed to Wailuea Falls. We also happened to check out the local Museum as well.

And that was the end to our dream vacation. With a heavy heart but with loads of beautiful memories we bid adieu to the beautiful garden island.

Leaving you guys with this beautiful picture clicked from our condo.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. 

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