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Sunday, 5 July 2020

Rajgira Sheera

Rajgira Sheera is a healthy and delectable dessert made using Amaranth flour. Also known as Rajgira Halwa, this sweet pudding is gluten free and makes a wonderful fasting food (vrat ka khana) and is typically made on festivals like Navratri, Ekadashi and Sravan Somvar. Rajgira Sheera has a gooey and melt-in-mouth texture. I have sweetened the pudding with jaggery instead of refined sugar and mildly flavored it with cardamom powder. Rajgira sheera tastes best when served warm. Make it as an offering to the deity (Naivedhyam) or as a dessert whether fasting or not. It also serves as a nutritious baby food.

What is Rajgira or Amaranth?

Amaranth is called Rajgira in Hindi and Maratha language. Raj means royal and gira is grain. So basically, rajgira is an ancient royal grain. It is also known as ramdana meaning God's own grain. It is a pseudo grain that is gluten-free and rich in antioxidants. Rajgira is a healthy grain and its use should not be confined only as a fasting food. It should be included in one's daily diet. Amaranth flour is obtained from the seeds of the amaranth plant. The seeds can also be popped and used in many sweet and savory dishes like this Rajgira Ladoo. You may also want to try out this Farali dosa from Kalyani's blog that uses rajgira flour along with tapioca and water chestnut flour.

Healthy Benefits Amaranth:
Amaranth is an ancient grain that is gluten-free and a rich source of fiber and protein. It is powerhouse of antioxidants and nutrients. Let's have a look at the health benefits of including rajgira in our daily diet.
  • Amaranth has abundance of nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. It is the only grain to have vitamin C.
  • Amaranth is high in protein and fiber both of which may reduce appetite and aid in weight loss.
  • It has lysine, an amino acid that helps to absorb calcium. Since it contain 2 times more calcium than milk, it can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Amaranth is high in several antioxidants that may protect against disease. Being high in iron, it is helpful to anemic patients.
  • Amaranth is a good source of zinc that helps to boost immune system.

What is a fasting food/ Vrat ka khana?

A typical vrat involves a fast or upvas for a perticular period of time, usually a full day, whether either no food is eaten or only one meal is eaten in the entire day or only a single type of food like milk or fruit is consumed during the period of vrat. Hindus observe vrat or fast on many important occasions and festivals like, Ekadashi, Navratri, Pradosh, Shivratri, Janmastami, Sravan Somvar, Chaturthi etc. While the vrat of Ekadashi, Janmashtami, and vat savitri Pournima are observed for 1 1/2 days (the vrat is kept for 1 entire day and night and opened the next day at afternoon), vrats like Sravan somvar (that is observed on every Monday of the Sravaan maas), Chaturthi and Karvachauth are opened at night. The vrat of Navratri (which means nine nights) as the name suggests is kept for 9 days. Certain types of food is permitted to be eaten while fasting and it varies upon family customs and belief and one's own choice. Actually speaking the intention of any fast or vrat is all about observing a satvik lifestyle which includes abstinence from anything that is tamsik in nature, be it food, beverage or behavior. Vrat is a time for detoxification of the body and soul and for its rejuvenation. Devotees observe certain rituals like visiting temple, or charity or chanting , reading spiritual books and offering prayers to the deity while fasting.
This is how my Monday fasting platter looks like
This is how my Monday fasting platter looks like today

When it comes to food, as per ones own belief and family customs, certain food items are allowed to be eaten while one fasts while some others are restricted. In most of the vrats observed in Maharashtra and North India, grains, (tamsik food like onion, garlic etc) are totally restricted while observing fast. Food like tapioca/ sago (sabudana), water chest nut (singhada), buck wheat(kuttu), Amaranth (Rajgira) barnyard millet( sama chaval/ bhagar), fresh and dried fruits, milk, peanuts, dairy products like milk, curd and ghee etc are allowed to be eaten during fasting.  I personally take only milk and fruits (that are offered to the deity) during the day time when observing any fast and avoid eating fried food and food with salt. The fast is opened with a home cooked satvik meal that is first offered as Naivedhyam to the deity and then eaten as prasadam. Kiran and I have been observing fasts on every Monday from last 10 years. apart from that i keep fast on Chaturthi of every month, Janmashtami, Devshayani and Devuthani Ekadashi, Vat Savitri Pournima, Hartalika vrat and whole nine days during Navratri festival. 

What goes into my Rajgira Sheera?

Rajgira sheera is a delicious dessert that is made with handful of ingredients and makes a wonderful gluten-free food while fasting or not. 
  • Amarnth flour / Rajgira ata is the key ingredient of this dessert. Amaranth is gluten-free and packed with healthy benefits. The amaranth seeds are first puffed and then ground to make the flour. The amaranth flour is easily available in Indian grocery shops. I have used organic flour that i purchased online.
  • Ghee: the amaranth flour is roasted in ghee which gives a delectable taste and aroma and richness to the rajgira sheera. If looking for the authentic taste, i would recommend not cutting on the amount of ghee used in the recipe.
  • Jaggery: usually this sheera is made using refined sugar. Here, i have replaced sugar with jaggery powder to make the sheera healthy. You may use grated jaggery if powdered form not available.
  • Nuts:  I have used almonds, cashews and pistachio. You may use any dry fruit or nut of your choice or completely avoid adding any. If intending to feed the halwa to a toddler, it is better to avoid adding chopped fruits to rule out the choking hazards. You may dry roast the nuts and use the powdered nuts in the halwa instead. 
  • Cardamom powder: Green cardamom powder is used to flavor the sheera which compliments very well with the jaggery in this dessert. 
  • Milk: I have used cow milk in this recipe. The milk has to be boiled and really hot while it is been added to the ghee roasted amaranth flour to get a lump free, melt-in mouth halwa.
The recipe is very easy and simple to follow. The amranth flour is ghee roasted until aromatic. Hot milk is added to the roasted flour and cooked while stirring until the mixture leaves the pan. Jaggerry is added and the mixture is cooked until the jaggery melts completely and blends very well with the halwa. Finally, the halwa is seasoned with cardamom powder. 

For a vegan version you may dry roast the flour and add hot water to it or use any non-dairy milk instead. The taste may not be the same though. 


Farali Famaish@ Foodie Monday BlogHop

Foodie Monday Bloghop is a gourmet food group on Facebook, where a bunch of talented food bloggers from around the globe share their delicious food recipes every Monday depending upon any one of the chosen themes. All the bloggers take turns to suggest 2 themes each week and the theme that wins maximum votes is finalized. it is our 254th week on this group and it was Kalyani's turn to suggest themes. The theme that won was Farali Farmaish. "Farali" means the food that is eaten during fast or vrat and Farmaish is the Hindi word meaning demands. Many delicious and lip smacking food dishes can be prepared and looking at the varieties available today, fasting food is no longer considered tasteless and boring. I have many fasting dishes on my blog and this delectable Rajgira sheera was a long to-do post. I made this sheera on devshayani ekadashi which was celebrated last week and managed to click pics early morning for this post. My 12 year old son observed Ekadashi fast for the first time and this rajgira sheera is his favourite fasting food.  Meanwhile, do check out Kalyani's Sago carrot pudding also which is yet another delectable dessert that can be enjoyed while you fast. Kalyani's blog is a home to many healthy dishes mostly vegan from around the globe.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients: Measurements used 1 cup = 240 ml
  • 1/2 cup amaranth flour / rajgira ata 
  • 2-3 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup jaggery powder
  • 2 tablespoon chopped nuts (i have used almonds and cashews)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pistachio for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  1. Heat ghee in a non-stick wok or a saucepan with heavy bottom. Add almonds and cashews to it and fry until golden. Lower the flame and add amaranth flour to it.  

2. Saute the flour in ghee for 5-7 minutes on low flame. Meanwhile boil milk in another pan.

3. Once you get a lovely aroma and the flour turns light pink, add the hot milk to it while continuously stirring to avoid lump formation. Be carefully as hot milk will splutter when added to roasted flour.

4. Keep stirring and cooking until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. It may take another 3-4 minutes. At this stage, add the jaggery powder and stir well.

5. Keep cooking the mixture until jaggery melts and the halwa leaves the sides of the pan. Put off the flame and add cardamom powder and give a good mix.

6. Serve the delicious rajgira halwa in individual bowls and garnish it with chopped pistachio. 

Recipe Notes:
  • You may reduce the amount of ghee used here, but if looking for an authentic taste , do not compromise on ghee.
  • Always add hot milk to the roasted flour while making halwa, to avoid lump formation.
  • You can store leftover if any in refrigerator for a day but make sure you heat it in a microwave before serving as this halwa tastes best when served hot. 
  • Skip adding nuts to the halwa if serving to toddlers to rule out chocking hazards. You may powder the roasted nuts and add them to the halwa instead.
  • You may use grated jaggery if powdered one not available. The quantity of sweetener added can be adjusted as per taste. The above mentioned quantity yields a moderately sweet halwa.
  • For a vegan version you may dry roast the flour and add hot water to it or use any non-dairy milk instead. The taste may not be the same though. 

I hope a few of you would love to try out this recipe. If you do so, feel free to share your feedback with us in the form of likes and comments in the comment section below this post. All your suggestions are also more than welcome. If you like my work and feel it is worth following, do hit the follow button at the top right corner of this blog. Your appreciation means a lot to me. For more recipes and new updates follow us on social media.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Kalonji Crackers / Baked Nigella Seed Crackers

Homemade Kalonji crackers serve as a delicious snack. This whole wheat vegan cracker with healthy goodness of Nigella (Kalonji/Onion seed) and Sesame seeds is crunchy and flavorful. What's more? I  prefer to bake these crackers over deep-frying making them a guilt-free treat. Did I tell you that these crackers are super addictive? With a very simple and easy to follow recipe and just 5 ingredients, these nigella seed crackers are ready under 30 minutes. They make an excellent tea time snack. We enjoy Kalonji crackers with Beet Hummus as our mid-day snack.

What are Nigella Seeds / Kalonji?

Nigella seeds or the Onion seeds are called Kalonji in Hindi. It is a hard black seed that is used as a spice. It is often mistaken with black sesame seeds due to similarity in color and size. But both seeds are quite distinct. Nigella seed is a part of the five-spice blend or the panch phoran used for tempering in the Bengal Cuisine. It adds a beautiful aroma and a distinct flavor to the dishes. In India dry roasted kalonji is used to flavor curries, dals, stir-fried vegetables, and in savories like samosa, papdis, and kachori. 


Health Benefits Of Nigella Seeds: source

Apart from the aroma and flavor that it adds to dishes, Nigella seed comes with a whole lot of health benefits. It is loaded with trace elements, vitamins, proteins, and fatty acids, volatile oils, iron, sodium, potassium, and calcium.
  • Nigella seeds are believed to keep a check on Diabetes.
  • Ground Nigella seeds with a little bit of honey boost memory and when taken with warm water it also helps to alleviate Asthama.
  • Kalonji seeds also work wonders when it comes to weight loss.
  • Kalonji seeds have been used traditionally to take care of dental problems like bleeding gums, swelling, and weak teeth?

What goes into my Kalonji Crackers?

Kalonji crackers are healthy and flavorful crackers that can be easily made at home using just 5 ingredients that are easily available in any Indian Kitchen Pantry. 
  • Whole Wheat Flour / Aata: The crackers are healthy as they replace refined flour with whole wheat flour.
  • Nigella Seeds: Nigella seeds not only add flavor and aroma to the crackers but also add to its nutritious value.
  • Sesame Seeds: Protein and calcium-rich sesame seeds add a lovely nutty flavor to the crackers.
  • Oil: Little oil is used while kneading the dough which gives a flaky texture to the crackers. I have used olive oil. You may completely skip it if you wish to.
  • Salt: I have seasoned the crackers with rock salt. You may use regular sea salt instead.
You may use dried herbs, crushed black pepper, and spices like cumin seeds or carom seeds to flavor the crackers as a variation to these kalonji crackers. 

All the ingredients are added to a mixing bowl and using little water at a time, the flour is kneaded to a soft dough. The dough is then rolled out into thin sheets and cut into the desired shapes before baking.

Storage: The nigella seed crackers stay good at room temperature for around 2 weeks when kept in an air-tight container.

Serving Suggestions: 
  • These nigella seed crackers make a flavorful tea-time snack.
  • You can serve them as a mid-day snack with a dip of your choice. We enjoy our crackers with Beet hummus.
  • You can pair kalonji crackers with Raw mango preserve or with tomato soup

Related Event: I am submitting this Nigella cracker recipe to the A to Z recipe challenge group, a gourmet group on Facebook where I post every alternate month. Members of this group post different food recipes with a key ingredient having a particular alphabet. Owing to COVID 19 outbreak, we took a break from this post and posting here after almost 3 months. As per the alphabetical order, For the month of July, we had to cook a dish starting with the alphabet N. I chose Nigella seeds as my key ingredient and made this guilt-free snack. This post is my 13th contribution to this group. The other recipes I have shared here, so far are


Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Baking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 dozen crackers

Ingredients: Measurements used 1 Cup=240ml
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour / Aata
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds/ Kalonji
  • 2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  1. In a mixing bowl take whole wheat flour. Add sesame seeds, nigella seeds, salt and oil to it. Mix it well and adding little water at a time knead the flour into a soft dough.

2. Preheat the oven at 180 Degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, divide the dough into two portions and roll out each dough portion into a thin sheet. You may dust the working surface with little flour. I did not require any. 

3. Cut the dough sheet into the desired shape and poke holes using a fork all over its surface. This step is to prevent the crackers from puffing up while baking. I have simply cut the sheet into long rectangular shaped strips using a knife.

4. Arrange the dough strips on a greased or lined baking tray and transfer it to the preheated oven. Bake the crackers at 180 degrees celsius for 15 minutes. Flips the crakers midway to ensure it gets evenly baked from both sides.

5. The crackers should be crunchy and flaky and break easily on cooling. Allow the crackers to cool down completely before transferring them to an air-tight container. The crackers stay good for about 2 weeks at room temperature.

6. Enjoy the healthy and flavorful nigella seed crackers at tea-time or with your favorite dip as a mid-day snack with your loved ones!

Recipe Notes:
  • You may use dried herbs, crushed black pepper, and spices like cumin seeds or carom seeds to flavor the crackers as a variation to these kalonji crackers. 
  • The nigella seed crackers keep good at room temperature for around 2 weeks when kept in an air-tight container.
  • Little oil is used while kneading the dough which gives a flaky texture to the crackers. I have used olive oil. You may completely skip it if you wish to.
  • I have used rock salt to season the crackers. You may use regular salt variety instead.
I hope a few of you would love to try out this recipe. If you do so, feel free to share your feedback with us in the form of likes and comments in the comment section below this post. All your suggestions are also more than welcome. If you like my work and feel it is worth following, do hit the follow button at the top right corner of this blog. Your appreciation means a lot to me. For more recipes and new updates follow us on social media.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Summer Macaroni Salad

There is no greater joy than to dig into a bowl of cold pasta salad on a lazy summer afternoon. Loaded with the healthy goodness of colorful veggies and a homemade creamy hung curd dressing this vegetarian Summer Macaroni salad is refreshing and full of flavors. The best part about this easy pasta salad recipe is that it does not require any fancy ingredients and comes together in no time. Serve it at picnics, as a light meal with grilled veggies and some toasted bread, as a side dish, or simply have it as a mid day snack on its own, you are going to love it either way.  

What are Salads?

A salad is a dish consisting of a mixture of small pieces of food, usually vegetables or fruit. Salads are usually served at room temperature or chilled with few exemptions like this Lebanese Spiced potato salad, Batata Harra which is served warm. There is a wide variety of salads like the green salads that make use of fresh, raw, leafy green veggies, fruit salads ( Muskmelon Salsa, Chickpea Mango Salad), vegetable salads (Moorish Crunch Salad, bean salads (Lobia bean saladMoong Sprouts Salad), pasta salads and mixed salads that incorporate meat, poultry or seafood along with fruit and vegetables.

Healthy Benefits of Eating Salads:

Salads made using fresh fruits and vegetables are appealing to eyes as they add colors to our palate, they are easy to make, have a flavorful taste and a crunchy texture and act as mood enhancers. Let's have a look at the healthy benefits of including salads to our daily diets. source
  • Salads are rich in vitamins and minerals, so eating salad everyday will increase the level of powerful antioxidants in your blood.
  • A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease,lower the risk of digestive problems and have a positive effect upon blood sugar.
  • Eating a fiber rich salad before meals will help you feel full faster, so you will consume less calories than you might when a meal is served without such appetizer. Thus eating salads before the actual meal helps in weight control.
  • The high levels of water found in salad veggies improves hydration in our bodies, which is necessary for youthful skin.
  • You can make your salads antioxidant rich by making your own oil-based salad dressing and including herbs, lemon and vinegar to it. Moreover, the store bought ready made salad dressings are often loaded with high fructose corn syrup for flavor and processed trans fats to prolong shelf life. Low-fat dressings usually have increased sugar levels, with fructose added to compensate for the loss of flavor.

What is a pasta salad?

A pasta salad is a salad dish prepared with one or more types of pasta, is mostly served chilled and often tossed in a vinegar, oil or mayonnaise-based dressing. It is typically served as an appetizer, side dish or as a main course.

What goes into my Summer Macaroni Salad?

My summer macaroni salad is refreshing, full of flavors, loaded with colorful veggies and coated in a creamy rich homemade salad dressing. So let's have a look at the ingredients one by one.
  • Macaroni: I have used elbow macaroni made with durum wheat semolina (suji) to make this salad as it is healthy, small in size and matches perfectly with the diced veggies giving the salad a uniform look. You may use your favorite pasta instead.
  • Hung Curd: The key ingredient of this salad dressing is hung curd. I have used it instead of mayonnaise. 
  • Honey: A little drizzle of honey imparts a mild sweet flavor to the salad which complements very well with the hung curd in the salad dressing. This is an optional ingredient however and you may skip it if you do not love a sweet salad.
  • Lemon Juice:  My next ingredient of the salad dressing is fresh lemon juice which gives an appealing and refreshing citrus flavor.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: A little apple cider vinegar imparts a sour taste and balances all the flavors of the salad dressing.You may use any other variety of vinegar if apple cider vinegar is not available
  • Olive Oil: I have used olive oil only to coat the drained pasta so that it does not absorb the salad dressing.
  • Salt and Pepper:  Salt and black pepper are quintessential salad dressing elements. 
  • Chili Flakes: I like a bit of spice in my pasta salad. You may however skip chili flakes if serving the salad to toddlers and small kids.
  • Vegetables:  Fresh and crisp colorful vegetables add a crunch and bite to the otherwise soft and creamy pasta salad. I have used red onion, carrots, boiled sweet corn and green peas, tomatoes, and cucumber. Colored bell peppers also go well in this salad.
  • Herbs: I have used finely chopped fresh cilantro. You may use any fresh or dried herb. 
Serving Suggestions:
  • Pasta salad is often served as a side dish or appetizer.
  • It can be served at picnics, pool parties with barbecue.
  • You may also serve it as a light meal with some toasted bread or baguette slices and grilled veggies. 
  • Pasta salad can also be enjoyed on its own as a healthy mid-day snack.

Related Event:

It is month-end and time to post for my Facebook gourmet group, Shhh! Cooking Secretly Challenge. This group was started by Priya's versatile recipes and taken further to date by Mayuri di. Her healthy bhel is a guilt-free snack that i am tempted to try out soon. She has baked left-over roti to replace the deep fried chaat puri in her bhel which is loaded with raw veggies,fruits and sprouts . Isn't it brilliant! The theme for the month of June was Summer Salads suggested by Kalyani. She has many delicious and healthy salads on her blog like this Warm barley summer salad with kiwi and roasted peppers that are worth trying. In this group, each member takes turns to propose the theme for the month. All participating members are divided into pairs and both partners exchange a set of secret ingredients using which, both have to prepare a dish as per the theme. The other members of the group then take turns to guess the two secret ingredients just by looking at the pic of the dish. Doesn't all this sound interesting! If you are a blogger and wish to join this group, do let us know in the comment section below. My partner for this month was Rafeeda. I have been paired with her for the first time and i am amazed by the array of recipes from Malabar Cuisine in her blog. Her blog is a home to more than 1400 recipes. I also like her delicious bakes that can be easily recreated from her detailed recipes. I gave Rafeeda lettuce and mayonnaise as her secret ingredients and she made a flavorful Easy Coleslaw using the ingredients. In return she gave me sweet corn and hung curd and i made this delicious summer salad for the theme. Meanwhile, do not forget to check out her amrood chaat recipe.

                                              चित्र में ये शामिल हो सकता है: वह टेक्स्ट जिसमें 'SHHH! COOKING SECRETLY' लिखा है

Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
Serves: 4

  • 1 cup elbow macaroni (i have used durum wheat suji macaroni)
  • 1 cup hung curd
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  1. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water with few drops of olive oil according to the package instructions, until al dente. Drain well and reserve the water in which pasta was cooked. Use it in your soups. Rinse the pasta with cold water. This will not only cool the pasta but also make it non-sticky by removing the starch. Drizzle some olive oil over the drained and rinsed pasta to coat it lightly with the oil. This step will prevent the pasta from soaking up the salad dressing.

 2. While the pasta cools down completely, we will prepare the salad dressing. For that in a mixing bowl take hung curd. Add apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, honey, black pepper, salt and chili flakes to it. Give a good stir. Our salad dressing is ready. If you wish do a taste test at this stage and add more flavorings to your salad dressing as per your taste.

3. Finely chop the salad veggies, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes( i usually deseed the tomatoes and remove the pulp while using them in a salads) and carrots. Boil the sweet corn and green peas if using.

4. Mix the veggies, macaroni and 2/3 rd of the salad dressing in a bowl and give a good toss. Add some finely chopped cilantro and freshly crushed black pepper to the salad. Allow the salad to chill until serving time.

5. Add the remaining salad dressing to our macaroni salad just before serving. Enjoy the flavorful and refreshing macaroni salad on its own or serve it as a side dish with some roasted veggies and grilled bread.

Recipe Notes:
  • To make the hung curd at home, add about 2 cups of thick curd or plain yogurt in a muslin cloth lined strainer. Gather and tie the sides of the muslin cloth and allow it to hang on a hook for about 4-5 hours with a bowl underneath to collect the dripping whey. After all the extra liquid has strained out you get a creamy rich hung curd that is ready to be used in your pasta dressing.
  • To keep the dressing stick to the pasta, toss the pasta with about 2/3rd of the dressing while it is warm and add the remaining before serving.
  • The key to keeping a pasta salad from drying is to cook the pasta right. Follow the package directions to cook the pasta. If it is under cooked, it will not absorb and grab the dressing, making it not so flavorful. If you overcook the pasta, it will be completely soggy and gross. 
  • Rinse the pasta in water while you make this cold summer salad that is not served immediately. 
  • I have made this pasta salad using macaroni, you may use your favorite pasta.
  • You may use herbs and veggies of your choice in this salad. Colored bell peppers are a great choice for this salad. I have not used it as my little one does not like it.
  • Pasta salad is often served as a side dish or appetizer, however you may also serve it as a light meal with some toasted bread or baguette slices and grilled veggies. 
  • Coating the drained pasta in a thin layer of olive oil ensures a water-repellent barrier is created between the pasta and the salad dressing so that pasta is kept from soaking up the dressing.
I hope a few of you would love to try out this recipe. If you do so, feel free to share your feedback with us in the form of likes and comments in the comment section below this post. All your suggestions are also more than welcome. If you like my work and feel it is worth following, do hit the follow button at the top right corner of this blog. Your appreciation means a lot to me. For more recipes and new updates follow us on social media.

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