Showing posts with label quick and easy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quick and easy. Show all posts

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!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Crispy Chiwda - Teatime snack

One of those things where familiarity breeds contempt. 

Crisp, sweet and savory Chiwda was a staple growing up.In the days when not much packaged products were available or used, my mom would make large amounts of this snack to munch on. Especially during the summer vacation, whether it was as I watched TV, or read, or because my dolls needed a snack on a lazy summer afternoon while mom took a nap!

In the past few years, I have started making it more frequently as well. And slowly, my daughters have begun to like it. They still aren't as crazy about the Chiwda snack as I was at their age....but then, they have so many more options to choose from. Anya likes it more than Baby P; and just like me, she sneaks up a bowl to munch on while watching TV or reading.I usually make a small portion of it every other week on a weekend...and think nothing about it at all.

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.....

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chawal ka Paratha- Reliving Childhood.


I have been told that kids should learn to eat everything. And that offering them with a choice is spoiling them for life. But believe me, if catering to foodie likes and dislikes is spoiling, then I was a thoroughly spoilt brat as a kid! And I changed when I grew up (not all, but quite a bit!)….

For many of my growing up years, I refused to eat roti. Eaten the traditional way, it got my hands dirty, food got under my fingernails, and I complained about smelly food fingers after lunch at school. I’d only eat whatever I could with a spoon. That pretty much made rice or sandwiches the only option for school. I wasn’t ready to even consider anything else. Then one day, my mom packed my school lunch with stuffed parathas, filled with rice – with the reasoning that she was still giving me rice - and I got a new food to love for life!

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.

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. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chatpate Aloo - Cranberry Tinged Potatoes!!


Today, I’ll just tell you a story to prove how randomly my thoughts flutter….

Or, as A would tell you - how “wrongly circuited” I am!! :-) 

This past weekend, I spent some girl time with a dear friend. She was in my neighborhood, running errands. So I invited her to stop by for a cup of “chai” and chit chat. Over our cuppa, we talked about children (of course) and husbands (obviously!!), and other unmentionables extremely important to vent about for a woman’s emotional growth (!!). Spent, and exhausted….until the conversation meandered to what  she had bought from our Produce store -  amongst other things, she had a bag of fresh cranberries.
  “What’ll you do with them?”, I asked (needless to add, she is one big one to look up to as an incredible cook!)
   “Did your mom ever make Karaunde-wali-mirchi?", she asked. “I make a chilli relish using cranberries instead of the Karaunda.” (if you don’t know what I am talking about, please be patient and read to the end of this post here…..)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dee-Day (3) : A special guest post….

Many decades ago, my life came to be haunted by a devil-in-disguise. He broke my carefully-kept toys, tore my cherished books and ate up all the chocolate that I’d been saving “for later”. All I did was cry lodes of tears on daddy’s shoulders as he tried to comfort me by saying “now your toy (or book or candy) is gone. What can we do. You stop crying and I’ll get you more….”. As far back  as I can think , he got away with everything.

And yet, my most vivid memories are those of seeing him walk for the first time. Or leading him to his kindergarten class. Or him seeking me out in school with tears in his eyes because someone had been bullying him. My dad told me that he named him Amitouj - the celestial bed rest that Brahma reclines on - because he was going to be my pillar of comfort when he grew up. Somewhere along the way, I named him Divyu - because I wanted his name to have the same initials as mine. 

Today, my younger brother is still a devil. But I have seen his comforting side when I was hurting the most. He’s all grown up. But he’s still my first baby.

In 2009; on my vacation to his place in Abu Dhabi, my mom told me that he’d become very good at cooking. She said, “some things, he cooks even better than me”. At her request, he made me a dinner - his signature “tadka wali dahi”, as my mom called it. Since then, I’ve been pestering him for the recipe. Today, he’s decided to share it with me; and you. Read on ahead….from the mouth of the devil himself :-)!
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The journey to my culinary expertise started in year 1999 when I moved from Delhi to Mumbai. Taking national integration to core I moved in with 3 other gentlemen: one from Bengal – representing East, One from Andhra Pradesh – representing South, and the other from Sholapur on the west coast of India.  I completed the missing link from North – Delhi.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fire-roasted corn on the cob: Welcome Monsoons


A trip to the Indian grocery store yesterday reminded me instantly that the month of Shravan must have begun! Back in India, the Monsoons in the month of Shravan not only brought an end to the intense heat wave in Delhi, but also ushered in the festive season. As with everything else, my unforgettable memories are those of food- starting with vendors selling litchijamun and Phalsa, followed by the appearance of Pheni and Ghevar in the sweet shops. And who can forget those charcoal-roasted bhutta sellers that sprang up on every corner. Sprinkled with masala and neembufire roasted corn cobs are the quintessential Indian street food during the monsoons.

My mom and I bought those bhuttas every evening during the rainy season. This ancient old man in a ratty turban would materialize out of nowhere when it was time. He lined a few bricks in a semicircle, and filled the middle with charcoal that he lit for fire. On top of this make-shift fire-pit, he placed a largish, semi-circular jaali. As he fanned the fire with a large woven palm-leaf pankha with his left hand, his right rang a loud, clanky brass bell. Slowly, a crowd gathered around him. Children returning from school, some with their moms in tow. Neighborhood “aunties”, just waking up from their afternoon nap and ready for a small snack and big gossip. Younger kids, fed up from being locked inside their home all morning and hankering to be taken out for some air. As he removed the silk and husk from the corn; orders rang all around him - masala, mirch-masala, extra neembu, light-roast, charred…..He gave everyone a nod, without looking up. And yet, he never made a mistake. Everyone got what they wanted. He was sold out within an hour- and he always returned the next day with more. As the rains waned, the old man disappeared again- only to return the next year. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Kheer: The slow cooker version.

Kheer, or rice pudding, has got to be the easiest dessert to make in the world…and one of the most frustrating.

I remember my naani making it on a wood-burning chulha. She set the embers down to real low and placed her milk on it first thing in the morning.  She went about her daily business after that, never forgetting to come back and give the milk a good stir every so often. The milk simmered, and thickened until lunch time. This is when she put the rice and other goodies in. More simmering….Just after lunch, all four of us grandkids could take it no more. It was sheer torture…the aromatizing smells coming out of the pot; and our grandma guarding it like Cinderella’s stepmom. Late in the afternoon, the handi was transferred into a wide-mouthed paraat filled with chilled water from the well. And there it cooled until grandma deemed it ready enough to eat; which was always, frustratingly, after dinner.

My mom, in the expensive city trying to conserve Natural gas used for cooking, started using a pressure cooker. She’d cook the rice a smidgen with water; then transfer cooked rice with milk, sugar and everything else into a heavy bottomed cast iron kadai. Her simmering was limited to maybe an hour or so, but since she couldn’t get the flame low enough, she was constantly watching her pot. Her kheer was good; but naani’s was better.  My mom always blamed it on the low quality milk she got in the city.

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.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dee-Day (1): Buttermilk - a guest post by Sharmila

Sharmila is a better story-teller than I am; and you will get a glimpse of that from her own blog  that she recently started. Several years ago, I heard her name through mutual friends. I knew she was an accomplished dancer along with being a full-time scientist and mom. I had even tried to recruit her as my older daughter's dance teacher through the mutual-friend-grapevine ....without success. So when this said friend asked if Anya would like to participate in a Bharatnatyam-based performance that Sharmila was tutoring; I jumped at the invite. That is how I met this incredibly graceful young mom balancing her multi-faceted life in a very competitive manner.  Recently, I reacquainted with her through our Hindi school. Here, I got to know that she's broken some  big boundaries by marrying a North Indian - an act, that I am sure, comes with a rich, aromatic, north-south amalgamation that keeps her on her toes. I found it commendable that she was bringing her son to Hindi school, so he could get a sense of where his father comes from; all the while enriching her kids' lives with traditional ways from her part of South India (both her kids speak fluent Tamil).  That is what prompted me to ask her to write a little piece for MLS...Sharmila's vision and strength are very forthcoming in what she has to say about herself before we go on to her recipe:

On Family Traditions: 
I grew up in a place far from the bustles of a city. I like my family's traditional way of doing things. For example, blenders were there, but my mom used only stone grinders. My parents were very particular about giving pure, natural and organic food to all of us. Regarding life's aspects, they were like most other Indian parents who believed in marks, ranks and grades, but first came discipline. They did not teach us to stoop and touch the feet of elders, but taught us to respect and treat everyone fairly, irrespective of age, status and caste. They taught us to be righteous, confident and warm. 

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…..

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…..

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sprouted Moong Dal- Healthy teatime tiffin


Sprouts were quite a favorite of mine in my younger days. My mom had them going almost every other week. Whole moong in the summer,  moth ki daal during monsoons and kaala chana for winter. The way I remember her doing it was to pick and soak the grains in the morning, and then tie them in a moist muslin cloth. She let the bundle hang in her kitchen sink. The sprouts came almost within a day. I’d usually wait 2-3 days till when the sprouts were about an inch (or more) long before attacking them….

…And that brings us to the actual eating preferences in our home:

1) I loved my sprouts raw. Just sprinkle them with a little salt and garam masala, and some lemon if you wish. Some might argue that you have to use a spoon, I just picked at each sprout individually and popped it in my mouth. Worked best for “soft” beans like Moong daal. And tasted best in the hot summer months.

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, January 6, 2014

Tulsi-Adrak ki chai: warmth for your heart.


Boy, is it cold outside! We've had 3 rounds of snow storms, and rain, at least the same many times as well. We even got a snow day at work this past Friday. I entertained myself by making Instant Coffee- Indian style (more on that later) and a perfectly well turned out Banana-Berry bread. Now they predict a severe weather watch for tomorrow as well. 

But this morning, as I smelled my morning cuppa made with the newly acquired prized ingredient while gazing out at the pouring rain, I was reminded of my mom…again. Her go to cure for everything monsoon  - getting drenched, runny nose, body aches - was a cup of milky, aromatic broth, generously infused with wild-growin Tulsi leaves on our balcony. I was so used to tea with Tulsi  that my first couple of years in USA I felt truly deprived and tried desperately to get a plant survive with me. I got them multiple times from our local temples, but the seedling never grew healthy enough to be useful. Then I gave up. I tried using Italian basil in my tea- didn't even come close to my needs. And until recently, I had even forgotten how heavenly a Tulsi infused chai smelled like….But let me start from the beginning…..