Showing posts with label non-Indian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label non-Indian. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Warm Comforts - Savory Oats Upma

About a year ago, while I was still working at the University, a new student joined our group. After a long time, Having a fellow-Indian to talk to at work place meant that lunch-time conversations often meandered towards reminiscing about food in India. A month or so later, her husband went to visit his parents in Southern India, and when he returned, she came bearing some gifts for me. One of which were packets of the very popular, "Maggi" brand instant oats breakfast. Apparently, that product had recently been launched in India, and she really liked the convenience of it for breakfast. You essentially had to pour out the ingredients into a bowl, put in some water, zap it for a couple of minutes in the microwave and you had a warm bowl of Indian breakfast.

"I never eat Maggi"; I informed her, referring to the widely popular instant noodles available in India. "I hate the smell of it."

"This one isn't the same", she said. "This is made of oats and tastes like Upma. You do like Upma, don't you?" 

That is how I ended up with 3 packs of this Maggi Oats Upma product. 


The packs languished in my pantry for a few months. Then one night, I found myself alone, hungry and craving something warm without having to go through the pain of cooking or cleaning after. Rummaging through, I found these packs again. With no other alternative in sight, I decided to go for it. 5 minutes later, with a warm bowl in hand and a Hallmark movie on demand for company; I decided that I actually liked what I was eating. It was a tad too spicy for my taste, and still had that artificial flavor after-taste; but it was comforting and hearty.

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.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Going green- Simple lunch salad.


It takes very little for one to realize that they have let themselves go. What one does with that realization, is another matter. 

Here is my 6-month journey against extra baggage accumulated unknowingly. My moment of realization was pictures of our summer trip to Disneyland posted by extended family on Facebook. I couldn't believe what I saw of myself in those pictures. I have always had body image issues; but this photo was beyond my wildest dreams. My clothes appeared to be stretched thin. My mommy-waist had definitely grown some new, and pronounced, bulging additions. Earlier that month, at my doctor’s, the scales had tipped at 12 lbs. higher than my normal weight- but I had chosen to dismiss that. The doctor had advised me to get “more active”; but I had convinced myself that “I had no time”. 

I went to Facebook and looked at that photograph every day for at least a week before making my mid-year resolution …. I started small- the goal was to lose 5 lbs before the end of the year 2014 (this was sometime in August). The means were ambitious- I was going to diet (no big deal for me…) AND Exercise (way huge of a commitment…..). The reason was not just vanity – agreed that I wanted to look better, but I also wanted to feel healthier. My kids are growing up, and are fairly independent. So " I have no time" didn't quite  cut it. Why should I not be able to steal away an hour a day for myself? I told myself (repeatedly, I must add) that I deserve that hour, that I wasn't taking away my “quality-child-time” by doing this and that the world wouldn't stop if I didn't finish all the chores on my to-do-list. 

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. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Daily Dinner (20): Easy Weeknight Lasagna

Have you struggled with time getting away from you? Not wanting to compromise on home-cooked, comforting family meals on a weeknight, and not knowing how to? I do. I can whip up an regular Indian meal for my family of four in an hour or less. But when I hear “not dal-roti-sabzi” again, I draw a complete blank. That being said, I have gotten pretty adept at sneaking and quickly passing off a lot of my food in a newer non-Indian avatar. The girls lap it up. Take my weeknight quesadilla dinner or re-inventing our very own Paav Bhaaji as the vegetarian Sloppy Joes.  But as the girls get older, hoodwinking them is becoming more and more difficult.

Which is why I keep trying out new recipes. The winners always are the cheesy, non-spicy dishes across the board- which is probably why Italian is the food-of-choice for both my daughters. I still use a lot of jarred and boxed ingredients in coming up with a non-Indian meal…but lets just take one step at a time. Today’s story is about my journey in the world of vegetable (mostly spinach) lasagna.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Slow Cooker Bean and Barley Soup

The leaves have turned color, and are beginning to fall. Looking out the window, there are as many bare branches as the ones with leaves. Evenings are cool, and nippy. My resolve gave way last week when temperature inside the house dropped to 60 degrees - I turned the heating on already, ignoring my resolve to make it into November without it this year….


Oct. 31st 2014. The first signs  of a frosty night in our backyard.
…And believe it or not, I woke up this morning to a frosty, white backyard…..

All of this makes me want to just curl up with a blanket, a good book and a warm bowl of comforting soup…..

Growing up, soup was always a winter luxury in India. The bountiful greens and tomatoes during the cooler months accounted for greater affordability of these veggies. We grew up on clear soups. My mom always started with fresh vegetables, used a pressure cooker to cook them, then pureed and strained them.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dinner for one- Waffle iron Quesadilla and guacamole

This has been another week of by-myself-dinners. This past Friday, we had an event at baby P.'s school. Came back pretty late, the kids tired and ready for bed; and me hungry, but with no motivation to cook just for myself.  

Scoured the fridge, and found some leftover boiled white peas (vatana), home-made 2-minute guacamole (that A should have finished before he left....), some Feta and hummus... and one tortilla.  That out, and my fridge was bare bones...So that is where my dinner came from. Mediterranean Quesadilla.




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creamy Vegan Borscht

I had heard about Borscht several years ago- from a Russian colleague. The way I remember that story was her complaining about having to change her mom’s signature Borscht recipe because her Jewish husband wouldn’t eat it. So she switched to her mother-in-law’s recipe; and wasn’t that great a fan of it as her own (obviously….). I don’t recall what went into particular version, but I remember looking it up online and deciding that I wouldn’t like it because it had Beets in it.

After all, I am a staunch beet-hater (even though I’d never tasted them in my life….until I made this Swedish pickled beet salad)

The second time I looked up Borscht was maybe a year ago…again, from a newly-arrived-to- US couple from Armenia. They were educating me about the many vegetarian dishes from their country that I could eat - all because not only had I tread forth and tried out their potato pancakes, but actually liked them. They gave me a quick run down too…and again I convinced myself that I would never eat something with beets- or cabbages…..

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-

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….

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.

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.

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.

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.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Daily Dinner (16): Comfort Food

The common complaint now-a-days is that I love Baby P more than her older sister. And all because (a) I never "yell" at Baby P and (b) I always give her what she wants to eat. What is lost in all this adolescent tantrum-throwing frenzy is that (a) all my yelling is mainly to make "someone" finish her meals and not sit with them in front of her, perplexed as to the purpose of the plate in front of her....and (b) all baby P wants is dahi, dal and roti - which is pretty much what I cook for an everyday dinner. I don't see where the complaints are coming from, just as much as the complainant doesn't see the reasons I have put forth in front of you today....

Anyways, in order to appease the 10-going on- 16 in my life, we've set aside Fridays to be the non-Indian food days. Doesn't work though- I still get accused a couple times during the week of favoring the younger one. This past week, hoping to set some things straight, we had Soup and Pasta dinner at least 3 times. Anya was happy, I sustained myself on soup all 3 nights, and Baby P got leftovers from the freezer.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My "cook" shelf is growing...


A quick note...to break the monotony of all the other writing I've been doing today....

Last week A came back with a bunch of books for me from the library's bin-sale.  Apparently he thinks that since I write mostly about food in this blog, I have a keen "interest " in cooking.  Little does he know that the best vacation I ever had was the one where all the food came with the lodging, so all I had to venture out was from the pool to dining room :-)) 

At any rate, now I am the proud owner of 5 cook books- the first one is going back to the library bin since it has almost no vegetarian dishes, the second one are "slow cooker" recipes- again mostly meat. But doesn't matter since I don't own a slow cooker- yet.  I  doubt if I even glanced at the other ones. The one that caught my eye and I most certainly intend to use is the one that is sort of like a diary where you can jot down the name of the restaurant you dined in, along with your order and comments.  Going through the month of December in this diary I found a whole page with printed matter.  Curious, I went through it....

Friday, December 21, 2012

Corn muffins: Weekend Brunch

I had never had a savory-ish muffin ever in my life. Then came A's friend- who went to a culinary school in New York while her husband was sent far away on a consulting assignment. Not only did she go to this school, but she actually got interested enough to stay on for a whole 9 months and graduate.  So when she came to visit us loaded with a tray-ful of goodies she'd baked herself, my jaw literally dropped to the floor. Not only did she bring melt-in-the-mouth cakes and muffins, but also awesome chocolate creations and a few of the savory corn and jalapeƱo muffins, that she said were leftover from their morning breakfast.  The first thought that went through my mind when I tasted her creations- her husband's never going to accept any more consulting offers ever again :-))

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......

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hasselback Potatoes.

I love potatoes. They're the base of my entire food pyramid. If there were no potatoes, there'd be no food on my table. I can't think of a life outside of potatoes. And just for that reason, I can not be a conforming "Jain" - ever :-))

My dad told me that my first word as a toddler was Wa...Wa - except he pronounced it as Wah Wah - which would loosely translate as "Very good"- and that I was pointing to a potato when I said it :-)). He also made it a point to add on that I got this from his side of the family; particularly him. For a very long time growing up, I'd only eat "aloo". Oftentimes, all my mother had to do to make me try some new dish, was to add a potato to it. And greasier the dish, the better I liked it. My favorites- aloo ki tikki, aloo-cutlets, aloo ki Poori, potato chips...and anything else aloo.  Over the years, I've added more favorites to my potato  obsession- Potato salad and  fries for example. And now, the latest- Hasselback potato