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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simplicity at it's finest- Achaari Aloo

I find it pretty amazing that most of my "memories" of people and incidents are somehow also linked with food. Even when food is not the central focus in that memory; it is still prominent.  Not only does my mind take me back to the day that I'm reminded of, but sometimes the feel and smell of the day is revoked as well.  

Traveling with food comes naturally to most of the families from the Indian sub-continent. My MIL packs a stash of "Pooris" and a boiled potato.  After peeling and chopping the potato, she'd mix in some salt and pepper and it was ready to eat with her Pooris. My parents, and my grandparents before them, always travelled with their traditional  potato preparation called "Achaari Aloo" along with wonderfully crisp "Parathas".  As soon as the "tiffin" opened, the smell of this mix between an achaar (pickle) and a subzi permeated the whole train car.  I have these elaborate memories of us sharing our food with whoever happened to be our neighbor in the train car, or got drawn to our berth by the mouth-watering aroma of Achaari Aloo.  Not even my mom could make this dish taste like my grandma's. Towards the end of every summer vacation at my naani's, we'd get a letter from my dad (this was the pre-telephone era in India) requesting that she send him some of her Achaari Aloo and parathas. Naani always did. And daddy got to the food the moment we got home, and ate it all up. If, per chance, there was some left over, he'd tell my mom that he wanted it for breakfast - this from a guy who never ever liked leftovers......

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pop goes the cake....


It's never too early to start thinking Christmas. Heck, Christmas started the minute our Thanksgiving dinners got cleared away.  Since last week, I only hear Holiday music on my radio and I've watched at least 5 feel-good Christmas movies on Hallmark.  So I wasn't really surprised when the pre-meeting talk at work today turned towards Holidays, calories and Cake Pops; instead I was immediately reminded of these that I'd made at Christmas last year.  Came back, fished out the picture; and here they are.  Not the prettiest looking pops, I concede. But this was absolutely my first time working with chocolate (if we forget my Buckeyes, that is). So cut me some slack. And here's how I made these cake pops......

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Love; No Food!! Karwa Chauth


This is totally an unplanned post- just a few ramblings for today. 

This morning, I told Anya that she should take a bath and dress up in her Indian clothes after coming back from school. 'So what are we celebrating? Diwali? And I realized she has no idea of what today marks. So here I am, just trying to relive my memories for her.

My excitement at home for Karwa Chawth would begin the evening before; when my mom (with me in tow, of course) went out and bought a big bagful of sweet and savory mathris and fenni (thin vermicelli thats slightly toasted and sweetened). Where we lived, these goodies were very seasonal- you saw them for maybe 2-3 days around Karwa Chauth.  Then we'd trek all the way down to the local kumhar (potter) and pick out a karwa (clay pot) for her pooja the next day.  Third step, invariably, some place where she could buy new chooris (glass bangles) - always red, and always with a big splash of gold in them. I got my share of these too. Finally, we stocked up on some big red bindis and a new bottle of vermillion sindoor.  All spent, we'd stop at last for a treat of some gol-gappe and chaat in preparation for the extensive fasting the next day .

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Til Ke Laddoo for Dusshera


In a blink, this year's gone. And here we are, on the verge of another Diwali celebration. But for now, we're still at Dusshera.  One day last week, a friend and I got talking about the reasons we celebrate Navratris and Dussehra in our respective families. She's from a region near Hyderabad; and she said that Dusshera in her place is linked to the story of Mahishasur and they believe that he was killed on Dusshera day.  For us, growing up Dusshera was all about the killing of Raavan, and we'd be so excited about going to see the effigies of Raavan, Meghdoot, and Kumbhkaran go up in flames at dusk- to mark their demise. In retrospect, our festivities seem loud and boisterous compared to the celebrations down South!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Daily Dinner (14): Vegan Thali; Navratri special


The last day of Navratri fasting is today. Glad to have made it through one more time. These days are pretty easy as far as traditional fasting goes. You only give up grains and legumes for the 9 days; so there's a lot left outside of the diet to eat.  

I followed a one-meal a day diet, restricting my spices to sendha namak (rock salt), green chillies and cumin (can't think of cooking without jeera at all :-)). Also allowed myself 2 cups of chai or coffee a day- one for breakfast, and one to get over the 3o'clock sugar crash at work :-) And finally, I also permitted myself one or two fruits at around noon- some days were more hectic at work than others and even the colleagues could hear my stomach rumble ....

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fasting For Navratris.


Navratris are upon us once again.....and with it, comes the added onus of fasting and observing. Whether you are a stickler for the festival season and fast for all 9 days; or a token 1-2 days; you need a special plan to get you through your day.  Traditionally, where I come from, you're supposed to give up all grains, legumes and lentils. An ideal fasting diet is largely fruit-based. Some people also restrict the spices to basic minimum. Dairy products are not restricted, and make up for protein deficit in the rest of the diet. Here's a short compilation of recipes off of this blog that you can have while you're fasting. This list is by no means complete, and I will update it a couple more recipes as I embark upon my fasts this week. Till then, Happy Navratris.


Thali....
1) Buckwheat vegetable pancakes
2) Sabudana khichdi: Linked to Celebrating Navratri/ Diwali event started by Jagruti and hosted by Nayna.
3) Masala Aloo
4) Singhade ke pakorae
5) Yakhni Lauki

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dahi-Vada: with Moong Dal; and Das Lakshan Parv

The Jains' observe a week of renunciation and austerity during the months of August-September; and I gave you a glimpse of that in my last week's post on Paryushan. As with any other matter of the heart; the Jain religion is split up in the middle into two major sects. And despite being almost identical in faith and lifestyle, the observances between the two sects vary. Which is why one Jain is fasting this week; ending on Sept 29th - the Anant Chaturdeshi day, equivalent to the Samvatsri in my last post. Which is also why, in my home, the entire experience gets extended to 18 days (A and I come from the two different sects of Jains, and in my zest to neither give up and yet be accepted, I've been trying to assimilate the differences in observance). This year, I've split my observances with my visiting MIL, who is responsible for the 10-day long Das-Lakshan Parv, as opposed to my 8 days of Paryushan. I definitely get the better deal out of this whole arrangement :-))

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Paryushan & Samvatsri: The Jain regimen and significance. Plus my menu.

I'd never thought I'd do this...a post about religious beliefs. But then I figured, that I did write about Diwali, and Holi and other festivals that are a part our social culture, so why not Paryushan- something that I grew up with and is an integral part of my memories.  I am not the best person to be telling you about this practice, for I myself know very little. But I'll attempt a little write up nevertheless. 

The 8-day long change in lifestyle that we call Paryushan typically adhered to at the end of the rainy season; or Chaturmas. Normally, we associate festivals with gaiety and indulgence. Instead, Paryushan is a celebration of solitude, minimalism, introspection and self-restraint.  The guidelines to be followed for spiritual up-liftment include modesty, self-restraint, penance, renunciation and celibacy. The strictest of my family members would sustain themselves only on a handful (chullu) of boiled water for these 8 days. The others took a pledge, or Niyam, to alter their lifestyle to fit the soul of this whole process.  I remember my dad making more time for meditation and introspection (Samayik); while my mom, who was always restless about getting things done for us kids would give up some of her favorite foods and activities, and just slowed down.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yay!!! Uh Oh......Oh well- Holi Hai!!

Yay!!! This is my 100th post!! Never thought I'd reach this far.  It's taken me a good 3 yrs. (well, almost) to make it here.  Ever since my last post when the counter pointed that my 100th was coming- I've been thinking about what I want this post to be about. I wanted it to be just about itself. A milestone. An excitement. I thought about host an event to mark this event. Then I thought about hosting a giveaway of some sort. All that thinking....with zero ideas. I couldn't come up with any themes for an event; and I couldn't figure out how the heck to host a giveaway either.

All that thinking....and my birthday came up (it was this past Monday). Till the day before, I was so looking forward to it. A milestone birthday...of sorts. I was going to do something special, and blog about it. A milestone; and a milestone. Makes good blogging....Then came Monday- and my mood came crashing down.  In case you're done snickering at me by now, let me tell you...it's not easy celebrating milestone b'days. Especially not if you're gonna be stepping on the other side of the line. ...if you're going to enter a phase of life that isn't what now is. (Hope you get my drift. I'm definitely not going to tell you how old I actually turned this week. But I will tell you that  from now on, my b'day clock counts down....).  A brought me my most expensive gift to date (not counting the big rocky studs..or the car he's bought me ...those I think should have come earlier than they actually did).  And I haven't even looked at that awesome bag that he gave me this time- that's how mad I am that this birthday of mine actually did come up. Oh....well!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tzatziki, Indian Style. Lauki-ka-Raita

The title isn't misleading at all. If, being of Indian origin,  you've ever liked Tzatziki; that's probably because your tastebuds are so very attuned to the dahi concoctions with various members of the Cucurbitaceae family. I've yet to find a fellow-Indian who said they didnt like Tzatziki. At the middle- eastern places that I eat at , my favorite game is to guess if their Tzatziki leans more towards tasting like our kheera-ka-raita; or lauki-ka-raita!

A raita basically refers to savory, spiced yogurt (dahi) in our culture. And if you add any fruit/vegetable to it, it becomes a raita.  A must at almost any meal, dahi becomes a raita at special occasions or for guests; sometimes even if we want a change of taste from plain old dahi.  Unlike here in the US, sweetened yogurt is not on menu on an everyday basis. I got dahi-cheeni (yogurt with sugar) as a kid only if I'd been exceptionally good some day. Or one spoonful when heading out for exams or interviews (sweetened yogurt is considered auspicious in most parts of Northern India, and believed to bring good luck).  Fruit-flavored yogurt was pretty much non-existent during my time in India, and till today, I haven't developed much of a liking for it. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Coconut macaroons: and our Halloween Pumpkins

Just as the Diwali excitement seemed to be dying down, I got swamped with "What are we doing for Halloween" concerns. My uninterested "nothing" for an answer did not go very well with little anxious hearts.   "Can we at least go trick-or-treating with Vienna?" asked Anya. "Yes mommy. I be a butterfly with Bienna", chimed in baby P. A and I exchanged a look, 2 looks actually. One with a "no" (yours  truly); and the other with a "let them go" (A, of course). And the decision was made. I called Vienna's parents to ask about the plans, and got invited to a pre-trick-or-treating sweet tooth affair. Which meant that instead of getting to spend a lazy Sunday, I had to come up with something to take to their place.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Khasta Kachori: and our Diwali memoirs!

The other day, a friend and I got talking about traditions - especially surrounding our festival season. We reminised about all the preperations that went into Diwali celebrations back home; and then about all the short cuts we take trying to celebrate this huge day after work; in the US.  Kind of sad, but true.


I loved Diwali back home. I can still relate to the excitement that preceeded the days between Dussehra and Diwali. School life came to a virtual standstill; as we were too excited to be learning anything. So instead, we had a week of talent shows, fancy dress competitions, traditional wear days, and arts day where we created numerous rangolis, kandils (paper lanterns) and diyas for our home. Mom got busy with superloads of laundry that included everything from drapes to bed covers. She was a good

Friday, October 7, 2011

Diwali party: starring Kesari Phirni!!

It's the season again. If we've just started thinking about Dussehera in past tense, can Diwali be far behind? The countdown to India's brightest festival has begun: clean and shine.
Meet and greet.
Feast and diet.

Lost and found!!
I'm talking about this picture now, if you're wondering. This picture from last year's Diwali season resurfaced a couple weeks ago as I was cleaning up my desktop to make a move out of my then-job. As I looked at the picture, I remembered how proud I'd been the day I clicked this. It was for a Diwali potluck at A's friend's. I

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sinfully sweet: Shakkarpara for Dusshera

Oftentimes, my everyday life is accented by memories of past that flash out of nowhere. I am, where I was in a different avatar long ago, and I just want to turn the clock back and be what I was and do what I did then. At times, this happens because I'm missing those days. More often than not, I feel like I want my children to experience the little things in life that marked my childhood. And never does this desire hit me harder than during the traditional Indian Holidays, when I think about the celebrations as they used to be - the sights, the sounds and the smells that ushered in our Holidays. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Daily Dinner (10):Another Fasting Thali; and 3 recipes in one!

It's that time of the year again. 

Six months ago, on this very space, I'd ranted about how fasting during Navratris makes me fixated about food. Now, you're going to hear some more of the same :-)). And before you judge me, I don't fast out of coercion. I do believe in all that Navratris stand for. Plus I also feel like, in terms of science, these twice-yearly fasts are a good cleansing for your system. Religion and science put together are a very forceful impact on my mind. 

But then again; this entire universe conspires against me when I'm fasting. How else would you explain that the morning of my first day of fast; my eyes get drawn to a box of gol -gappas that A had bought ages ago? And why did these gol-gappas chose this morning to make my mouth drool? As if this wasn't all that bad, a colleague at work brought in munchkins at 9am; another one brought in some absolutely yum looking chocolate chip cookie bars at 11am and the noon seminar had an array of delicious sandwiches. At the seminar, they never have enough vegetarian options to choose from; but yesterday.....someone was trying real hard to tempt me - is all I can say! That's my rant of the day....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Daily Dinner (9): A Festive Thali: and Chana Masala my way.

Back in North India, you'll often hear the saying that the month of saawan, along with cooling Monsoons, also ushers in the festive season. Almost every week from now on till summer, we see an array of festivities, and an alternating pattern of Fasting and Feasting. As a child, I waited anxiously for the first rains - looking forward just as much to an uninhibited soaking in those much-awaited showers as to the other fun things - Mehendi on my hands, fragrant mogra in the hair, a home-made swing in the doorway leading out on to our terrace and tons of goodies from my mom's kitchen. Everything came alive  during the rains; and I loved the smell of summer-baked earth and new grass. Then came those vendors with baskets on their bicycles selling all sorts of seasonal delicacies- phalsa, jamun, fire-roasted bhutta with tons of lemon and masala and sand-popped popcorn.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Daily Dinner (5): Navratri Thali with Buckwheat Vegetable Pancakes


Day 2 of Navratri fasting, and I was already missing food...a lot. These 9 days of fasting eliminates all grains, legumes and a host of spices from our food, two-times a year. While I am pretty liberal when it comes to restricting my regular spices, I do make an effort to eliminate grains. Like all these past years, my initial promise to myself was that I'd only permit myself fruits during   Navratri - one; or maybe two, times a day. And just like always, this promise barely lasted the first day of fasting. A while ago I wrote about how fasting always seems to draw my mind's eye towards food. I actually proved this point yesterday when during the drive back home,every traffic light I crossed seemed to me a big plateful  of forbidden food- savory stuff, not the sweet-like-fruit food. The wheels in my mind whirred and started taking me to spots in my pantry and fridge that I'd vowed to forget about.  This wasn't going to work....and so my new resolution was to serve myself a full thali of Navratri food

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tilgul Kha, Goad Goad Bola

A new year, and a new round of celebrations. Come January, and most Indians begin to prepare for the first of the four harvest celebrations. In my part of India, it is called Makar Sankranti and is the only Hindu festival celebrated on January 14th, based on the Solar calendar instead of Hindu lunar calendar. In Delhi, the boisterous street-wide celebrations actually begin the night of Jan 13th with Lohri- the Punjabi version of celebrating this season of harvest. Loud drum beats, bhangra, bonfires with popcorn, gajjak and rewri would set the mood for Sankranti celebrations in our home the next morning.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dare to eat? Buckeyes

I met JAM came when she came to work in my office around Thanksgiving time, 5 years ago. That first Christmas, she gave me a small bag-full of chocolate- candy for my daughter A. It didn't look like something you'd buy in a store, so I asked her and she said that she'd made it. I was impressed...if there's anything I can't do or had ever attempted to do, is work with chocolate. A was about 3 yrs old at that time, and didn't care much for chocolate. Which was good because that bag of candy never reached home. I ate it; just couldn't stop at one.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Tasty Teaser- Badam Ka Halwa

My friend R is a big tease....she's good at heart, but she's an awful mean tease. And I can prove it. She bought a house in New York recently, and she kept talking about how picturesque her home was. It took her forever to unpack, settle down and invite us over to the new house. The minute she mentioned we come down, I packed up the family and we left. We arrived just in time for the evening chai, and as we sat there enjoying her house and her chai, with the obligatory snacks, she let out that she'd made badam ka halwa that morning for it was her hubby's b'day.

"But we're planning to go out for dinner tonight to this great restaurant that's a bit of a drive...", she said. " "So finish up the tea and lets go for dinner and we can have the badam halwa for dessert when we come back." And we left for the restaurant... without tasting her halwa.