Thursday, January 03, 2013

Trains, Tea Factories, Prizes, New Years Eve Recipes

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm back with a long post for the new year with all of December's news squeezed in. :)

December was a nice month. DH and I had planned to spend our year end holidays in the way we always want to - relax at home, be couch potatoes, indulge in junk food, watch movies, play video games... We did do a fair amount of all that but we also ended up making a short impromptu trip to Ooty along with hubby's brother's family. My main motivation to go on the trip was getting to spend time with my adorable nephew and niece.

Ooty aka Udagamandalam, is a town situated on top of a mountain. It's touristy and nippy but it's also full of gorgeous, green tea plantations, calm water bodies and beautiful, old eucalyptus trees.

Ooty Nature
Pic Credit: Hubby

We spent half our time at quiet, off-the-grid places but we did do a few touristy things too. My favourite activity was the train ride up the hill from Conoor to Ooty and the subsequent time spent hanging out at the fairly empty railway station. On the ride, my nephew and I blew soap bubbles out the train window and a bunch of kids at the back of our compartment leaned out their windows to catch the bubbles. It was loads of fun playing with strange kids and laughing so much! The Ooty railway station connects to Conoor and nowhere else. There's just one train making the rounds. So between each visit of the train, the tracks are empty for hours together. The platform is low and there are no gates to stop people from hopping onto the tracks. It's the one railway station I've been to where it's absolutely safe to walk on them. So hubby and I did. :D

Train Ride
Pic Credit: Top Left=Hubby, Bottom=Brother-in-Law

The other very interesting part of our trip was going to a tea factory. I've been to tea factories before but I still enjoyed my visit there because I'm a big fan of tea. All those freshly harvested tea leaves being dried and rolled and roasted...the place smelled niiiice! *deep sniffff*

Tea Factory

When we came back home after our trip, hubby and I were welcomed by this delightful 24 Letter Mantra gift basket filled with all kinds of organic goodies!

24 Letter Mantra Organic Gift Basket

It was sent to me by the people of The Alternative. In November, I had submitted my Hazelnut Mocha Cheezecake recipe into their Green Foodie Recipe Challenge and early in December, it was announced that my recipe won the Editor's Pick title. The 24 Letter Mantra organic goodie basket is my prize. :) I am especially proud that my vegan dessert was chosen in a contest that wasn't all vegan.

24 Letter Mantra Organic Gift Basket

The Alternative also sent me this handmade paper, elephant photo frame. Isn't he cute? :)

The Alternative Handmade Paper Elephant Photo Frame

On December 1st, I also participated in The Alternative's Nature on My Plate event at BioFach India 2012. Hubby and I were a part of their Food Tasting section. We made Seasoned Vegan Curd Rice with Peanut Yogurt and gave samples to lots and lots of people. Everyone found the idea of making mylk and curds out of peanuts highly intriguing.

BioFach Surprised Lady
Pic Credit: Makepeace Sitlhou

We spoke to each person about being vegan and distributed all the vegan information material in our possession. We had informative leaflets/booklets from Kranti and Samabhava/FIAPO and we also wrote out our own Veganosaurus url along with that of SHARAN-India, mentioning that they could be used as references for vegan recipes. It was great to have hubby there by my side. He did a lot of the talking and explaining. There was a large crowd and in about an hour's time, every last grain of our Peanut Mylk Curd Rice had been devoured.

We also got to taste some delicious vegan goodies by other participants: Chaitali - Taantraa's cupcakes, Mahalakshmi Lakshminarayan's peanut flax seed laddoos and Aparna Ramachandran's podi idli bites. Sadly, we missed Chinmayie's chocolate brownies because by the time she arrived we had started to wander around the various organic counters at BioFach. I did get to listen to her very interesting talk about switching to organic on the previous evening though, so that made up for it. :)

I posted regular updates about my participation at Nature on My Plate on my Facebook Page during the event but I'd been waiting to receive my prize before posting about it here on my blog. This post wouldn't have been complete without a photo of my gift basket.

Talking about prizes, I received another one in my mail in the early part of December. An awesome Virtual Vegan Potluck T-Shirt. If you remember, I participated in VVP on November 1st. There was a vote held over the next couple of weeks and one recipe was chosen as a winner in each course of the potluck. My Hot Spiced Cashew-Sesame Mylk Chai won under the Beverages category. :)

VVP T-Shirt

With a super fun trip and some awesome prizes, I couldn't help but end 2012 with a huge smile on my face and a feeling of hope and excitement about all the wonderful gifts 2013 will bring.

On New Year's Eve, when it was time to make dinner, I had to make something special (though I hadn't planned to). I'll leave you with the two recipes I concocted that night. I had to click quickie Instagram pics with my phone before we polished off the meal. :oP

Zucchini/Carrot 'Noodles' with Tofu in a Tomato Based Spicy-Sweet-Sour Sauce

Zucchini/Carrot 'Noodles' with Tofu in a Tomato Based Spicy-Sweet-Sour Sauce

Note: Zucchini makes for excellent gluten free noodles. Fantastic texture!

1/2 Zucchini
2 Carrots
250 gms Tofu
2 Tomatoes
1/4 Onion
5-6 cloves of Garlic
1 Chilli (I used this bomb of a spicy red chilli called Cherry Pepper)
Soy Sauce
White Wine Vinegar
Palm Sugar

Thinly slice the zucchini and carrots with a vegetable peeler to form flat noodles out of them.
Added cubed tofu.
Blend the remaining ingredients into a smooth sauce using upto 1/4 C of water.
Taste and adjust the flavours.
Toss the veggie noodles and tofu in the sauce and transfer to a glass baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes at 230 C and another 15 minutes at 200 C.
Serve hot.
Enjoy! :)

Foxtail Millet Tabbouleh

Foxtail Millet Tabbouleh

No quantities for this one. Just cooked Foxtail Millet/Navane and cool it to room temperature. Add finely chopped Tomato, Onion, Mint, Cilantro, Crushed Green Chilli, Black Salt and LOTS of Lime Juice. Mix. Enjoy! :)

Wish you all a wonderfully vegan 2013! *hugs*


  1. congrats on your well deserved win, Susmithy. Awesome prizes! The train is amazing! How fast did the soap bubbles go out the window?

    The photo essay is award winning!

    Happy and kind and prosperous 2013 to you and yours. Hugs.

    1. Great to have you back here in the blogosphere Geegers! :) Thank you and wish you a wonderful 2013 too.

      I actually held the loop that's dipped in the soap water out the window and the force of the train's movement 'blew' lots and lots of bubble really fast. Wheeeee. :)

  2. Lovely pictures of lots of good stuff! Congratulations on your winning recipes, those zucchini and carrot noodles look wonderful, too. Here's to 2013 - happy new year!

  3. Wow, what a fun month! You really packed in a lot. The tour of the tea factory sounds really neat. Did you sample any while you were there? I imagine freshly made tea being especially delicious.

    Congrats on all of your prizes and big wins!!

    1. Thanks Cadry. It was a fun month indeed. :)

      The tea factory does give out a little cup of tea for sampling, at the end of the tour. But sadly, it wasn't vegan because tea is traditionally brewed here with milk and these guys used only animal milk since they are not even aware of plant mylks. :(

      But that's okay I guess. We just bought fresh packs of tea powder/leaves from them and made tea as soon as we got back.

  4. Happy new year! That sounds like a pretty fabulous December all in all! That hamper looks gorgeous! Have you made anything with it yet?

  5. We ate up all the snacky stuff - salted cashews, peanut brittle, some crunchy masala stuff... We also started using the mango jam and it's quite yum!

    The other stuff, I've opened a few packs and have started to use them in my regular cooking. :)

  6. Wow! Congratulations on winning such a wonderful prize! Especially cool since you were competing w/ non-vegan recipes. Yay!! Great photos, Sus!


    Thank you so much for inspiring Indians to thrive on a vegan diet.