Showing posts with label Make-ahead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Make-ahead. 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!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Meetha kha, Meetha Bol. Til ki Patti

“How many harvest festivals do Indians celebrate?” was the smart-aleck Anya question this past weekend.

Reason- I had made Til ki Patti (Sesame seed Brittle) at home; and was forcing her to try a bite under the pretext that it was a special dessert made for Harvest celebration as marked by Makar Sankranti.

My first reaction was annoyance. Her tone really had that early-teen disdain for everything “parent”. One deep breath later, I figured that if she asked that question; she probably remembers the other Harvest Holidays and stories that I have told her and Baby P. This is good, in fact- better than good. After all, isn’t the goal to make them aware of our special traditions and celebrations?


So I ventured into my convoluted, Wikipedia-verified version(s) of  why we celebrate Sankranti. Anya rolled her eyes and went back to doing whatever she was doing, but remained close and kept her earphones out of her ears. A big enough achievement, under the circumstances. Baby P hung on to every word, asked tons of questions and chattered on while I tried to google apt responses for her. Somehow, she made me wish that I could hold on to her years a little longer….having a teenager on hand is surely a trial!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Get Grilling - without the grill!!


One of the coolest things about this new work place I'm at is the awesome cafe. Not only does it promote healthy eating, but the food is delicious too. And the very first thing I noticed was the well-stocked salad bar area. Ever since I started with a  salad-at-lunch routine, keeping a meatless salad interesting, and satisfying, has become quite a challenge. So I took to peeking in the cafe's salad bar to glean off some ideas outside of what I do to my salad.

One of the very first things I noticed was a bunch of grilled vegetables. Duh! Why didn't I think of it.

"Because you don't have a grill pan, and it's not grilling season yet", pat came the reply from the devil within. Of course!!

Around a month ago, when the weather finally started turning spring-like, I asked A if he would get the grill cleaned and ready (we have a small, outdoor gas grill that I have no idea how to use....). He nodded, ....and that was the end of it.....

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. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stuffed Sweet Peppers (Baked)

I never knew what to expect of something that’s called “sweet peppers”. Until the day I tasted these at a good friend’s home. Her MIL had stuffed them with a spicy potato mixture, and my friend had baked them to cook. As an accompaniment, they were amazing. Since then, I have made these a few times; both as appetizers and as sides to a main meal. Yesterday, I saw them again in my produce store; so thought I’d share them with you.

Curried Stuffed Sweet Peppers


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kiwi-mango-grape chutney: A relish to relish.

I've had met several people in person through this blog. 

Several of my friends who land here (and haven't tasted my actual cooking!) are impressed. 

The ones more familiar with my abilities in the kitchen just go through my blabs; and move on….for if I can make something- they KNOW they can definitely make something better…..

And yet, sometimes, I CAN come up with a winner- at least in terms of taste. Remember my mango chutney that I concocted out of A's ridiculously priced pineapple-mango purchase? Here's another one of those "trash to treasure" stories.

I returned home one day last week to find unwanted kiwi fruit slices from two kiwis. They were virtually raw, hard as a rock and extremely sour.

"Blend them in with your spinach soup"- my MIL suggested.
"Toss 'em out"- was A's suggestion.
"I can't imagine them in a soup; or in the trash"- was me.
So they languished on the kitchen counter for one whole night and a day.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Swedish Red Beet salad (Rodbetsallad) - an adaptation.

This summer our vacation took an impromptu, unplanned detour through the three Scandinavian countries. Although rushed, the trip was amazing. Being handicapped by language, I had many escapades in Norway- hilarious in hindsight, but really frustrating then. At one time, I had a collection of 9 bottles of water- all weird tasting- when all I'd asked for in all the supermarkets was clear, unflavored water!

Sweden was different. We were met with A's cousin and her family - so language was no barrier.  The first day we were treated to an all-Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner. By next day, the host's young daughter could take Indian no more. So, she laid out a breakfast of several different kinds of cereals, breads, cheeses and condiments - all surprisingly foreign-looking. A being more adventurous tasted first- and I nibbled from his plate before getting anything on my own.  The breads were good, and the cheeses better; but I'd prefer American breakfast cereal any day to their cereal. That leaves out the outstanding-

Sunday, November 24, 2013

15-bean Vegetarian stew in a slow cooker

Today, I want to talk about now. No stories, no memories.

A couple weeks ago, a recipe of Panchmel Dal that I's submitted to a fabulous event called My Legume Love Affair, first started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook was chosen to be a winner of the giveaway. As a result, I became the proud owner of a gift basket sponsored by Hurst Beans.  Then, in a separate pack, Susan sent me this great looking soup spoon. I couldn't wait to try the great bean selections I'd got.


My Gift from Hurst Beans courtesy Hurst Beans.

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.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Of 150 ramblings; 4 years; and things gone right....

When the dashboard threw out the number at me, I was surprised. Didn't know I could persist as long as I have, in this blogging atmosphere. A bit over 4years (started on Aug 9th 2009), and this post today will be my 150th. Just goes on to say that I jabber too much :-) Jokes aside, it's your support through all this time that kept the motivation alive.  This blog started as a means to relieve some of those feelings that threatened to suffocate me. It stayed private for a few years, open only to some family and close friends. My Life & Spice became a public blog at the insistence of my "bitter-better half" :-) And there has been no looking back since......

 I couldn't have done it without either A or those of you who are regulars at the blogger site and those that keep the encouragement flowing through my Facebook page. It is for you all that I keep it up through everything else that comes up in everyday life, sharing my trials and errors in the kitchen.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Of Shakes and Mangoes.

Summer in India, and mangoes are two sides of the same coin. Can you envision one without the other? Summer brought with it initially the green tart unripe kairis- which would instantly be used up to make Aam kaPanna, ambi –pudina ki   chutney or ambiyari daal. As the sun ripened into a ferocious, blistering orange so did the mangoes. The tart turned to juicy, and the savory turned to sweet.  Rather than waste an over-ripe mango, you just made mango shake with lots of sugar in it.

Back again in my grand mother’s place, making a mango shake was a fairly communal event. The aam-wala was a maali from the neighboring orchard who loaded up his donkey with fruit that fell off the trees. Often he’d just plonk himself on somebody’s verandah asking for water to drink. Once the lady of the house came out, he’d expertly cajole the “bai” to taste his fruit.  A little sweet talk, a lot of haggling, and a deal was made.  Then he’d call out in a loud voice letting the neighbors know how this bai approved of his fruit, and what a deal he was giving her. More often than not, he’d attract several more customers. A few hours later, his donkey went home a load lighter...while the aamwala got loaded up :-)) 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Orange Creamsicle

Baby P is taking an inordinate amount of interest in cooking now-a-days. First they made apple sauce and rice crispies in school. Then, not long ago, she came back with a Princess Tiana cookbook from her school library, spent a laborious one week reading all the "lecipes", asking me if we had a particular ingredient listed in the recipe or not, before deciding that we should make Jambalaya.
"It has meat in it", I said.
"No, we can make it without the meat- it will still be good".

So, I made Rajma Chawal, heaped them in a bowl and passed it off as Jambalaya

That night at dinner, we had a face that shone with happiness because she was eating what Princess Tiana eats for dinner. 

Realization hit home- hard - two days later. She come from school literally in tears. 
"I did nothing when you made Princess Tiana dinner- that's not cooking!!"
"But little kids can't cook- you've got to grow up a bit..."
It took some mighty effort to hush her down.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Making Paneer at Home...a pictorial


I don't usually do this. It is so much more convenient to buy a block of Paneer from the store than actually make it. But sometimes, when I run out of choices and am craving for something specific (like today), and a trip to Indian store is not even a remote possibility, or if I need fresh crumbled Paneer for preparations like Paneer ki bhurji, I do this. I did explain making Paneer at home here, but here's a quick pictorial from today. 

Paneer

Put milk to heat .....

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......

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!

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 :-))

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A "Berry" Good Crisp.....

One of the traits I seem to have inherited from dad is this deep-rooted need to have my family experience everything food that I've liked.....anywhere.  And if I knew how easy it would be to make this Blueberry Crisp for A to taste, I'd probably have done it 2yrs. ago and rested easier.

I first ate a Blueberry Crisp  almost a decade ago while I was at a official dinner, at a colleague's insistence. I was pregnant big time with my first daughter, and must have eaten more of this than he anticipated because I remember this look on his face when I finally put my fork down!!
"Your baby must have a really big sweet tooth", he'd said then....much to my embarrassment.
Despite that comment, I'd had this little niggle in my head saying that I should have A taste this lovely dessert; for he's the one with a sweet tooth.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Life's Little Pleasures....

The past month went by in a tizzy. I didn't even realize that the month was over, till I turned a page in Anya's school calendar and came to a whole list of end-of-the year activities. Realized that I'd been so into myself, that didn't even get to notice my garden's summer bounty this year.  Things bloomed, and then died without me sitting outside to enjoy them with a cup of tea and a good book.  

Come to think of it, I haven't read anything substantial in a while. I'm dragging my feet over Reading Lolita in Tehran for over a month now- it's a great book, don't get me wrong- it's just the wrong subject matter for my frame of mind at this time.  And I haven't picked up anything else yet!

Then yesterday, a good friend pointed out that I hadn't written anything on this space for over a month ( did get out a work-related-manuscript; just so you know that I haven't been totally worthless....). To be honest, it felt good that some one had noticed the time gap!! Adulation is extremely ingratiating for the soul.... I pointed her over to to my FaceBook page; but she wasn't buying that. So here I am sitting up, typing away as soon as I got out of bed this morning. For her especially......but hopefully the rest of you have missed my ramblings as well (take the hint sweeties; and start dropping me some tidbits in the comments section or FB....)