Showing posts with label Holidays and Fasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holidays and Fasting. Show all posts

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A taste of home: 2-ingredient Kalakand

One of the things I didn’t see made at home was sweets. Growing up in India, it was easy to step out to a halwai ki dukan (sweetmeat shop) and choose whatever caught your fancy. My mom usually made a couple of basics like halwa and kheer in her kitchen to mark a holiday, but we bought the rest. As with everything else, it’s easier to shift the responsibility of not being able to make desserts to my life as a child in India J.

It was hard to live without Indian sweets after moving to USA. Throughout my first pregnancy, I craved for boondi-ka-laddu and kaju-ki-katli.…..Things weren’t the same 15yrs ago – we had one small grocery store that sold Indian staples, and the variety of frozen food that you see today was non-existent. Even if you did drive 1-2h to the big grocery stores, things didn’t exactly taste like they should have. Over years, the sweet taste buds kind of dampened, and I started forgetting things that I’d liked in India. And then, as my daughters grew older and got to eat sweets that our friends brought back from their trips to India, my forgotten love re-ignited. We started to ask visiting friends and family to carry boxes of Indian sweets; just so the girls could enjoy them.  

Very recently have I started learning how to make a few of the common sweets at home. To many of you, these would appear trivial; for me anything that the girls decide to like, is a triumph!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Taking Navratris West- with Sphagetti Squash

I have compiled a few of my go-to Navratri recipes from 2013 here and from 2012 here.

But me being me, what do I do when the stomach’s growling with hunger, and I want something “good” to eat while fasting? Sometimes, “good” for me is just another way of saying “out of the mundane routine”. Off and on, I try recipes and sometimes tweak it a bit to make it adhere to rules of my fasting. This year has been especially trying since we couldn’t get to do Indian grocery before the fasting week began. And so I got stuck with improvising.

I did have a little bit of Sama ke chawal and singhora flour. Not enough to tide me through the week though. So I have been living on whatever I can conjure up with groceries I can buy from local stores. One day each of aloo ki sabzi and zucchini had me wanting something “good”. The third day to satisfy my wandering mind and growling stomach; my dinner was a clear spinach-tomato soup and this  wannabe salad with Spaghetti squash – a fun vegetable that looks like spaghetti after it’s been cooked.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Gujhiya- Taditional Holi Recipe


Wishing you all a bountiful spring- Happy Holi!!!

If Holi is here, can spring be far behind? 

Traditionally marking the beginning of Spring in India, Holi used to be quite an affair in Delhi. After hours of running around with water pistols, colors and water-balloons, we would return home exhausted and ready to curl into sleep. Except that our mom had a different idea... she, for the first time since winter set in, would make us take cold water baths. All my childhood years, I remember being bathed in ice-cold water with our teeth chattering while my mom scrubbed away the colors of Holi from inside our ears and hair. It seemed like hours before she considered us clean enough to step in anywhere inside the house. And all through the ordeal, she kept repeating that since it was spring time, we had to start bathing in cold water….

After a tiring day and her ruthless cold-water scrubbing, lunch this day was usually something good - hot and deep fried. Mostly pakoras, the sweet saffron rice called Zarda, and a cup of warm milk to beat the cold- followed by a short nap. Late in the afternoon, my dad's friends gathered in our house for a "mushaira". Not quite sure what went on there, but they laughed loud and made plenty of ruckus. All the "aunties" would pack their kids and their knitting, and meet up in the neighborhood park themselves for some "girl time". Before my mom left for the park, she and I would ply the uncles with goodies to sustain them for a few hours - pots of Kanji and Thandai, Mathi, Gujhiya and besan ladoo - all from my mom's kitchen. By the time we came home, the uncles usually had eaten them all!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Cranberry Chutney


Chutneys are pretty forgiving. You mix, taste, add some more, and repeat till you get it just right. Chutneys are also very ….um…lickable - for the want of another word. They just don’t taste right until you lick it right off your finger, roll it around your tongue for a bit and end your adventure with that loud, satisfying smack of “tch” that seemingly, unknowingly came out of your own mouth…..

Growing up, chutney was always an integral part of a meal served at home. The simplest thali would have a dal, a sabzi, a chutney, pickle and papad accompanying the bread. Mostly, our everyday condiment was the fiery green coriander chutney - with minor, season-appropriate variations. I couldn’t tolerate the amount of heat my parents were accustomed to , so sometimes my mom would sweeten it up with a bit of jaggery - and I’d eat that with everything. This everyday chutney is a quick fix, uncooked relish- sort of like salsa. All you need to do is zap up the ingredients in the food processor. No cooking required. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Creamy Broccoli, Carrot and Green Tomato Soup



That is how I feel about my soup fad. When I am feeling hungry, and lazy - and the weather’s too cold to drag myself out from under that fuzzy throw, or when I need a meal-for-one in a hurry, thats when I think of soup. Personally, I also prefer those thin watery soups rather than the chunky stews for these cold-weather cravings. That way I can curl up with a hot mug in my hands and sip on my soup like I do a cup of chai- not bothering about even lifting a spoon !!


I do a partial fast one day a week, giving up all grains and allowing just the fresh vegetables and fruits. Mostly, on that day I eat fruits for lunch and a smoothie or juice for dinner. This past week, however, was annoyingly cold. Plus I could hear my stomach rumbling right from the moment I woke up. All I wanted for lunch was something hot and filling. Which is how the soup craving started. The kids were away, and I had to think of just myself. Which meant I could experiment with stuff that they wouldn’t touch by a mile. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Vrat-Ka-Dosa: A Navratri Special

Here's another one for Navratri fasting.

Except that this time, I chose not to fast the whole nine days...I am just doing the two days; as religiously mandatory. 

But this gives me a chance to share with you an awesome experiment from 6 months ago.  A gluten-free Dosa! I was pretty excited when this turned out as well as it did. Great for satisfying those cravings when you're in a starving mode :-)

The two ingredients used here in this recipe are not grains, unlike the rice and lentils used in a traditional Dosa (Indian-style crepe). In place of rice, we use what is called sama-ke-chawal in Hindi. The name is a misnomer, since the tiny rice-like grain is actually  a seed of wild grass Panicum that is considered a pseudo grain. It's a naturally fat free, low calorie seed that resembles broken rice (see below for nutrient information).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Holi again,….Vade-ki Kanji?

Last year, on Holi, I rambled on to you about Thandai and my quick fix of my mom's version….

Today, I want to air my rant about a snow day….

Whoever wakes up on Holi to be greeted by a good sprinkling of powdery white instead of the vibrant reds and yellows of Spring? We did, today. Officially, Holi in Philadelphia was a snow day. We even had a two-hour delay at school….Guess Holi lost it's battle to St. Patrick's Day here!!

On the bright side, we had our share of fun over the weekend. Good friends, family, food and color. It was pretty good.  While I don't have any good pictures of us colored to share on a public platform, food; I definitely shall. I managed to make a small batch of gujhiya (watch this space for more on this traditional delicacy…) while my MIL whipped up a good-sized batch of besan-ki-barfi (just a teaser herevisit me again soon…. :-)) and Vade- ki -Kanji . Now I've talked to you about the Kanji that I grew up with….made with black/purple carrots... that was a Holi ritual at my parents. I loved it. The one that my MIL made, I don't recall seeing my mom make it. Don't know if the reason is personal preference, or a regional diversification…..

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year Gone By.....


...and what have I done?
Plenty; but not enough......
As a part of self-improvement plan, I aspired to, and got into a fellowship program. Whether the goal came of  a need for a mid-life career change, or a sense of underachievement, is irrelevant. Just the odds of competing against kids almost half my age, and succeeding, was fulfilling. It hasn't been easy going back to the life of assignments and grades, but I've survived half a year...and I look forward to actually getting back in a classroom at the receiving end this Spring.
I've kept up with this space here...sporadically, but surely. Writing this blog and hearing back from all of you has been uplifting in my darkest moments. Lets just suffice it to say that through you, I've managed to fill in a niche as close to my loved ones as possible.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Gajar Ka Halwa - slow cooker


Gajar-Ka-Halwa and Delhi winters are synonymous, in more sense than one.  Start November, and fresh, red juicy carrots flood the vegetable markets. By December, the were the most prolific fresh produce you’d find for the next three months. This deluge of carrots also coincided with the festive and the marriage season back home. There just was no escaping this rich Indian fudge like sweet made with fresh grated carrots, milk, and loads of ghee.  

Although it requires relatively few ingredients, the actual recipe varies from family to family. My mom’s style of cooking this popular North Indian dessert involved roasting the grated carrots with  a humongous amount of pure ghee in a heavy bottomed karahi, till the moisture evaporates completely. Then she’d add whole milk and sugar and cook till the carrots were mushy and milk evaporated. Then she’d top off with khoya, nuts and raisins and crushed cardamom seeds.  It was melt in your mouth delicious, but it also took a greater part of half- a- day from start to finish to get it done. Whenever I made it here in the US, I never got it right. First because I did not have any heavy-bottomed cast iron pots to cook it in- so the milk eventually, almost always, got stuck towards the end and gave me the burnt flavor. Second; for all my faux-health conscious issues, I always skimp on the ghee….and third, my patience usually lasts about 45 min or so. So if it don’t cook by then, I just assume it’s done :-)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Craisin Scones

This past Thanksgiving, the kids were hankering for a meal like they had read about at school. Baby P actually came home with a written down menu that was a "vegetable..rian". We were to have corn and potatoes and beans :-) So I humored her. We had creamed corn soup, mashed potatoes, pickled beets (beets and beans sound the same…so I chose to mis-hear her since I just had beets in the fridge!!), oven roasted sweet potatoes….and this easy cranberry scone recipe for bread.  Went fairly well with the rich soup, even though I didn't add enough milk, and so the scones came out a bit crumbly….

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks.


The beginning of this week- A came home from work and told me. Some one we knew, not very well but well enough, had passed. I knew he had cancer. In fact he had had a surgery less than a week ago. He'd been delighted when I went to meet him in the hospital. " The prognosis is good"- he wrote for me since his tracheostomy prevented him from speaking. "The doctors give me at least 3yrs, but I'll show them how to beat it". Five days later, he was dead. The news left me shaken up. Made me realize how fragile and precious life is. And how obscure, the line between being alive and not. Though  Thanksgiving is not a traditional holiday in our family, today, I needed to look back at my life and give some measure of thanks. 

First of all, I feel blessed to have my life as it is today. There have been ups and downs, trials and tribulations. But that is what is meant to make us stronger. So I'll take whatever came my way and learn to be thankful. My past made me what I am today, shaped my dreams and hopes and expectations. I'll live up to them, and work towards a spiritual contentment, a sense of balance.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A blast from the past: Kalmi Vada

My MIL claims not to be much of a cook herself. But the truth is, her discomfiture in the kitchen makes her one of the better home cooks I know of. She measures and tastes and strives for perfection when most people, including yours truly, get side-tracked by their own confidence into serving without tasting first.  One of the first things I remember from her kitchen was this delicacy she called Kalmi vada.  I had been married barely about a month,  when she made these for the Holi festival over a decade ago.  I remember she'd sounded surprised when I said that I'd never eaten those before. Apparently,  Kalmi vada is a Rajasthani snack....never saw it made in my Rajasthani side of the family though.....

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gulgule: A Childhood Favorite


Holidays have this way of creeping up and evoking nostalgia. Long forgotten memories, of people and things that we have taken for granted for too long....and when life gives you a breather, you turn back to realize that those memories have gotten a lot hazier than you ever thought they could. 

Today we celebrated Karwa Chauth- an annual ritual I grew up with - a day, that my mom described as her day off. For according to tradition she couldn't touch any needles.  Without her sewing machine or knitting needles, she had the whole afternoon to while away. And she did that by spoiling herself and me. She couldn't eat or drink till moon-rise. But that didn't keep her out of the kitchen. Together, we made a whole bunch of goodies for the special dinner at night; went shopping for red glass bangles and bright red vermillion, oiled, washed and braided our waist long hair. Around mid afternoon, she sat me down to listen to the "katha"- mythological folk-lores glorifying the day of Karwa Chauth- before handing me a plate of the mouthwatering, strongly fennel-flavored Gulgule.

Friday, October 4, 2013

10 Recipes for Navratri

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Navtri- literally translated: nine nights.

Navratris come twice a year- a whole 8-days of fasting with a pretty rigid diet rules.  The one in the fall is especially important though. Bengalis celebrate it as Durga Puja, and Gujrati festivities include girls in pretty clothes dancing Garba all night. Punjabi community in our part of Delhi was known to set up community praying events known as Mata-ki-Chowki; was pretty fun, albeit a bit loud!  Traditionally meant to celebrate the power of Goddess of Durga, the win of good over evil- in my home it was celebrated by  7 days of all fruit and vegetable diet with a celebration of the girl child on the 8th day.  No real festivities for us - just the fasting and praying. As a child, the real incentive was being invited to all our neighbors houses for a meal; and a token gift. 

Although religion does play a major part; it isn't all that drives my fasting ritual. Growing up, my brother and I had a pretty dismissive view of religion and tradition. In our minds, if it was tradition, it was ambiguous and meant to be discarded. Till some one twisted religion into science for me. I fast- because it detoxifies. A gluten-free diet every 6 months can be extremely beneficial to overall health. ...and girls, in a patriarchal Indian society, are pretty precious. So no hard feelings for giving them a week of fun and festivities :-)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

For the love of Gaundh- Traditional Jain Gum-Nut-Coconut Brittle.

This post here, has languished in the draft format for more than 15 days now. It was meant to be a quick one, to coincide with the occasion that it is associated with; namely the Jain fasting days of Paryushan or Das Lakshan Parv. But time flew by quickly. And life got busier than it has been all summer.  I will try to get a bit more organized and regular, but meanwhile, this is what you've been waiting for - another one of my MIL's specialities. She's made it every year that I've been with her during these days of fasting. The first couple of times, I didn't pay much attention. But then last year, by the time I figured that I'd like to know how to make it, she was already done. So this year, I was ready. Made sure she made it on a weekend, at a time when I was around, and got to see it being prepared first hand. As far back as I can recall, this is nothing that I ever saw in my own home.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Teej Greetings- with Malpua/ Indian Pancake

Today, I learnt this morning, is Shravani Teej.....the festival of swings and mehendi.

For many many years in my growing up years, the first rains of monsoon would begin an impatient wait for Teej. More often than not, I knew it was around the corner when some strange messenger rang our doorbell with a box-ful of goodies for my mom - saree, red and green bangles, bindi-kajal-sindoor, toe rings, mehendi and mouth watering sweets made especially for my mom by her mom.....The D-day I'd see my mom deck up in all her finery, and dream of looking as beautiful as she did then; someday.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sujjige - Sooji-Ka-Halwa (but Not)...

Sooji-ka-Halwa had got to be the most common dessert that I knew of, growing up. My mom made it the drop of the hat, for any occasion (or not), celebration or an unexpected guest that stayed on for dinner.  And the only way I knew of making it is as I have told you about here. But it was always served as an end of the meal sweet-taste. Then I got married, and my MIL made a version of cream of wheat porridge, using Sooji , for breakfast. It always reminded me of baby food, which is why I made a lot of that for Baby P when she was a toddler.  I could never really eat it myself though.

One time,  my sister-in-law, who has developed quite a taste for our version of Sooji-ka-Halwa, mentioned that in Goa, they make a similar dish but using milk and egg mixture for moisture rather than water. That sounded interesting, but fairly out of reach because of the egg. I often wondered if I could just use milk instead of water for my version of Halwa.....as usual, never tried. Recently, I came across a recipe for Sujjige, a Kannada recipe that reminded me of my SIL's Goan dish, but without the eggs. It also reminded me of my MIL's semolina-milk breakfast, minus the baby-food consistency! So yesterday, for the day of Ashtami, instead of my regular Sooji-ka-halwa, I tried out the Sujjige recipe...followed the recipe to a T this time...[except for the cashews and raisins....baby P doesn't like any texture in her sticky sweet :-(  ]. Follow the link, and see the beautiful recipe and pictures at Radhika's site... In essence, the difference is using a mix of water and milk instead of water alone for cooking the Sooji.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ebinyebwa or Ugadan Peanut Stew: A New Twist to Navratri.


Food somehow has a way of bringing people together....

There have been times that I've had random strangers walk up to me, and comment on my home-packed lunch. Many times, I've done the same. A lot of students have asked to, or offered me, a taste of what we've got for lunch.  Many a times, I have picked up a recipe or two following our interaction over food. The two that immediately come to mind, and that I've shared on this space are Buckeyes, and Watergate salad. There are several others, random scraps of paper, that are just waiting to be tried.   Waiting for me to garner up my courage and take a dive....But rarely have I had a vision of the occasion that I would try the recipe at flash before my eye while hearing someone speak of it; until now.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holi Greetings, and some chit chat...

I tried explaining Holi to my colleagues at work today- and all that came to mind was it is a Spring festival. But trust people to come up with interesting "observations"! I pulled up some pictures on the net, and a student asked- why is everyone wearing white? And why do you put on colors? The explanation I concocted on the spur of the moment- because white is the color of winter, and we're covering it with colors of Spring- sounded so right, even to my ears.....that I let them assume that this was age-old wisdom, rather than a fabric of my imagination :-)

This year, I've been pretty lazy. Haven't done anything to mark the day. But then, I was never a Holi person. It takes a special kind to love all the rowdiness and noise that accompanies Holi celebrations in India :-) The images that do crop to mind are ancient....

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shakargandhi-ki-Chaat - Easy Peasy Lemon Sqeezy

Through winter and spring in Delhi, Shakargandhi was a common sight at vegetable vendors. Stacked right next to the potato piles, the two were barely distinguishable. My mom had 2 ways of cooking up this tuber- the first, bury them deep underneath the koyla and wood. in the angeethi (wood-burning stove) and not worry about it for a couple hours at least; gave the best, smoky, juicy shakargandhi ever, The second, teeny-bit less on flavor, but definitely faster was to use a heavy iron tava (griddle) on a very low flame. She never cut up the shakargandhi, and she never used oil. And I could never resist either version....
 
Here in USA, I tried to make Shakargandhi on a hot tava like my mom. Never got it. They got too mushy, the flesh stuck to their skin, and I got very little out of them. When my mom came to visit, she tried to make them as well, without success.