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

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.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Panchmel Daal- no onion or garlic.

Making Indian dals look appetizing in a photograph has got to be the trickiest thing ever. I haven't been able to master the art at all.  Which is one of the reasons why my dal posts lie languishing away, gathering dust for ages....as did this one. Then, this past weekend, I had the pleasure of dining with some dear friends. Her mom is visiting from India; and she had made Panchmel dal for dinner.  We played the guessing game for a while, then she finally revealed what went in the dal. I was quite surprised; mostly because despite having the same ingredients, her Panchmel tasted so different from mine.  Guess it is all in a mom's touch....!! But then that dinner prompted me to brush some dust away; and picture or not, this old post is going to see the light for for sure.

Panchmel dal- as the name suggests- is a mixture of five dals; or lentils. You usually mix the lentils with comparable cooking times. In my family, the mix is made up of skinned moong dal (split green gram), red masoor dal (whole red lentils), chane-ki-dal (split Bengal gram), arhar (split red gram) and urad dals (split black gram).  Panchmel dal as a preparation was always considered a delicacy and held in high esteem; reserved for special occasions, such as a son-in-law's visit. Typically served as an accompaniment with baati, or missi roti with dollops of hot, melted ghee on top...

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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bhindi ki Sabzi- without the slime....


A couple years ago, I went looking for okra seeds to plant in my little vegetable patch. The lady at the counter in this quaint little organic farm stared at me for a while before finally speaking out her mind...."why on earth would you want to plant okra?" The confusion must have shown on my face, because she went on to elaborate...."okra is nasty...slimy and gross. Pick something else to plant- I have cucumbers, tomatoes- everything else except okra."

By the time I walked out of that nursery, I realized that the world can be divided into okra-haters like the plant lady; and okra-lovers a.k.a moi.....

Till that conversation, I had not even noticed the slime that okra generates when cooking. After that, I became obsessed with trying to find a way to cook crispy okra....

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 9, 2013

Simple and Sweet- Cheeni-Ka-Paratha.


The earliest memories I have of my grandma are of feeding my toddler brother a smushed up roti with ghee-boora (powdered sugar with clarified butter).  She, on a low woven seat we called peedha; and he, toddling about around her with a ball in his hand. All through the summer holidays that's what he and I ate. Naani was the best when it came to indulging picky eaters like us. She didn't insist we eat our veggies, was always ready to make a meal especially for us, and if both options failed; handed us a huge bowl of ghee-boora

Back in Delhi, my mom opted for a no-mess route incorporating the boora, ghee and roti together to make us a Cheeni ka Paratha. When we were very little, she'd roll it up, and hand it to us so we could  eat while we played. My dad occasionally threw a fit, threatening us with cavities and toothless grins, but mommy always found a way to ignore his rants.  As I grew older, my ma and I were often at loggerheads. With daddy gone for work or at school most of my growing up years, this Paratha was what resolved most of our (my) skirmishes....

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.

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.

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 .....

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. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Khumb Matar

If you grew up in Northern India, you've probably heard kids refer to wild mushrooms as "Saamp ki Chatri" or a snake's umbrella. The local kiddie legend is that snakes seek refuge under these mushroom umbrellas during the rainy season, and leave their poisonous sting in them. No doubt aimed at keeping pesky little curious buggers from eating those wild mushrooms..... the fable totally instilled a gross dislike of mushrooms in me. Most of my childhood, I never saw mushrooms other than the ones that sprung up on the sidewalks during monsoons.  Yes they came up for sale in the high-end produce stores, but we never got them. My aversion for them was fanned by these old-wives "Jain" tales of how mushrooms harbor live bugs inside their fleshy "umbrellas". And if you ate them, you had to atone for taking millions of little lives :-)) Didn't help that when I came up to major in Botany in college, the first fact about mushrooms we learnt was that it is a "parasitic fungus" - instigating nightmares about flesh-eating, mold-like mushroom spreading it's roots inside my gut and choking my innards to death.......all in all, I hate mushrooms.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Humble Beginnings: Khichdi

In a country as diverse as India, where language, religion, clothes, celebrations....anything you name,  changes within a few miles, the humble Khichdi holds fort as one unifying force. Gujrat may like its khichdi with Kadhi, and the Southern states may call it Pongal, it still remains a rice and lentil comfort food across India. In Eastern India, it represents traditional Pooja food. At many Kali Baris in Calcutta and at the Jagannath temple in Orissa, we've been handed this out as Prasad after a Pooja. Around the locations that I'm familiar with- Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi- it is a simple dish strictly meant for family times, never ever made for guests or visitors. According to Wikipedia, Khichdi, believed to have originated in South Asia, went global with the British who concoct their own version with fish and eggs and call it Kedegree! And recently, I came across the mention of an Arabic dish called Mujahadra that is nothing but ....our Khichdi

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......

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....

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Osaman: Gujrati Moong Dal Rasam

When in doubt, grab moong daal is my cooking motto. You can always dress up its simplicity by any add-ons you can think of. I add vegetables to it, change my tempering, play with the seasoning. And every little tweak adds a new dimension to this otherwise kind-of-bland lentil. Moong daal in my family was what Arhar daal (pigeon peas) is in my in-laws' home - a no-fail, anytime dish. 

This recipe for a moong dal preperation called Osaman showed up radomly one day on my reading list. As I read through, I was reminded of a dinner at a Gujrati friends' some time ago. As always, not only did my kids get hungry again barely 10min after we'd cleared the table, but baby P rather ungraciously declared that she didn't like the dinner we had earlier and wanted something else.  In true spirit of Indian hospitality, ignoring my embarrassed attempts at cover up, the lady of the house opened up her fridge and kitchen for baby P to pick her dinner from.  The saving grace (sort of)... after she polished off her plate of rice with what seemed to me a soupy daal; baby P walked up to our hostess and declared "Now my tummy is full- that was a good dinner"....This is where I first heard the word Osaman; and that the in the Western state of Gujrat, where food is meant to confirm to the 5 senses of taste- sweet, sour, salty, spicy and tangy, Osaman is usually an integral beginning of any family meal, especially if older family members live with the family.  My incentive for trying it out was 2-fold; (1) Baby P had liked it, and I could hope for a similar "tummy is full" satisfaction if I pulled it off..... and (2) I'd only add to my small repertoire of moong daal recipes. It was a totally win-win situation.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Daily Dinner (13): A bowl full of warmth

There is a generous amount of nip in the air...and driving down to the temple this morning, I noticed the leaves have started turning color as well. Though expected, the morning chill has been somewhat hard to take. I feel like this summer went by too fast...

And then yesterday, when the girls brought home a pumpkin to carve, it definitely felt like winter (or autumn) was here to stay. I had come back from work, frozen to the bones...a couple of hours in a walk-in cold room trying to run an assortment of samples through will do that to anyone. So frozen, and craving the molten warmth of a nice, home made soup; this was our dinner last night.  A bowl of warm soup with breadsticks.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Nishasta...milk, the Indian Way.

I was never a milk person....all my life I remember hating the white stuff, and my mom trying her hardest to make me have my pre-requisite 1 cup-a-day during the growing-up years. As far as I recall, she tried all the additives/ flavorings available in the market-  which was pretty restricted at that time. We finally settled on Nescafe-flavored, unsweetened milk for my breakfast; and even that, I'd try to skimp out on, most times. My constant whine being that milk 'smelled'. All that would change during the summer months when we went to my naani's place. During my stay there, I became a milk guzzler for some reason. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Soda-cream: Perfect Summer Chiller

This post has been sitting there, ready to be posted for 10 days now....just a sign of how crazy things have been this summer till now. Finally, today I get to upload it. We are 2 and half weeks ion summer vacation at this point....and the girls are thoroughly enjoying themselves....


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Our first week of summer vacation went by lazily. The girls were excited to stay home; and be with their grandmother all day. They woke up late, ate all the Indian junk food that came out of their daadi's bags, and watched TV all day.  Despite that, it didn't feel like summer to me. The weather's been cool, cloudy and somewhat wet. So this past week, when the TV forecasts rang out a heat wave warning; I got excited for my girls. My summer vacation list includes: lazy afternoons, grandparents AND heat!