Showing posts with label vegetables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetables. Show all posts

Monday, February 20, 2017

When my Soup became Dinner!!


Scenario one:
Is that lentil soup?”
No- it’s sambhar ”
What’s it made of?”
Lentils, tomato, onions, water, spices…..
So…it IS lentil soup”!

Scenario two:
What do you do to get everyday protein if you don’t eat eggs or meat”.
All our meals have a bean or lentil dish. That’s protein”.
What kind of lentil dish?”
I cook lentils with water, saute onion, tomato spices etc, add to lentils…
So you make soup
No….it’s a dal. To eat with rice or bread
But it IS a soup”!

Over time, I figured it was easier to to consider my dal as “lentil soup”when eating lunch with colleagues in US.  But, somewhere, at the back of my mind, a soup was a starter- served at the beginning of a meal. The mere mention of soup takes me back to my mom’s  soups- restricted to tomato soup; carrot & tomato soup or spinach-carrot-tomato soup; all spiced with ginger, cumin and salt. She cooked her vegetables, pureed them and then strained them before serving. We’d all get a small bowl of it about 30min before dinner during winter. They were all clear liquids, meant to enhance appetite.Soup as main course; or a full mean was an alien concept.

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. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vegetable patties- Anytime Snack.

Another one of those forgotten foods from our times in India.

Patties were a staple in all Delhi University South Campus college canteens. Our post-lunch, mid afternoon chai time would not be complete without a few orders of these delicious, mouthwatering accompaniment. Between the ten of us classmates, a few plates of patties vanished before they appeared on the table.

Living here, I didn't see them for a very long time. And with time, memories dimmed. Then, on one of my visits to a friend in New York (the one who taught me the badam halwa), I had a chance to taste them again. My friend's neighbor had made them, and I remember being so awed at her ability to be able to recreate that magic. Another few years later, at a picnic potluck, another friend offered to bring patties.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gobhi ka Paratha- Cozy Comfort of a Cold Morning.


The humble cauliflower; and the mighty peas –possibly, two of my dad’s favorite things.

Sometime in November, the sabzi-wala bhaiya would come all excited and call out for my dad, announcing that he had procured the first cauliflower and peas of the season. My dad would hurry on downstairs. Then, they would engage in at least a half-hour haggle on prices; the bhaiya, unrelentingly adamant that his prices were reasonable, and my dad, equally strong-willed about making a good bargain. Finally, they always came to an agreement on “wholesale prices”, and my dad came back laden with 5kgs of fresh peas and 5kgs of cauliflower. The next half hour- my mom hemming and hawing about shelling all those peas and my dad trying to calm her down by saying that he’d help- which of course was the biggest lie ever!

Then I remember those afternoons when I came home from school to find my mom sitting on the balcony in the winter sun, elbow-deep in shelling peas. She not only seperated the sweet pea seeds, but also skinned the tender shells of new peas to make another one of my dad’s favorite – “matar ke chilke ki sabzi” (more on that, later some day….). Sometimes, I helped her. More often than not, the peas went straight in my mouth!

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. 

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.  

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…..)

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


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. 

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…..

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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Daily Dinner (18): A classic Punjabi Meal & Sarson Ka Saag

To a Delhite, nothing could get more Punjabi than a meal of makki-ki-roti  and Sarson ka saag -  a green leafy staple that I managed to keep away from; most of my childhood. The only exception was this one time….for some vague reason, we went to my Naani's during the spring break. She lived in a town called Bhatinda at that time - in the heart of Punjab. As always, the whole mohalla descended to meet "Delhi to aayin kudi"…the daughter who came from Delhi. In a blink, we'd been invited to a "Sanjha Chulha" meal next day…..

Sanjha Chula- a beautiful Punjabi culture that I got to witness in the peaceful early 80's. The gali (street) that my naani lived on, was a dead end- and hence perfect for a permanent home to a communal clay oven. Once the decision was made, news spread like wildfire. What a Sanjha Chulha meant was that the whole community would meet at the oven for their evening meal. They brought with them some wood, to feed the fire. And wholesome food- to feed the soul….Most women came with prepared side dishes- typically maa-di-daal, daal makhani or sarson ka saag. And they brought with them prepared dough- all kinds- regular, missi roti, or more often than not- makki di roti. Come dusk; and the chulha was surrounded by big, hearty men on charpais; a cacophony of children running around and  of course; gossiping women that could mould rotis with their palms, stick them into the chulha and not miss a beat…That was my first time “feeling” a community. All rotis went into a central stock; and you pick whichever one you fancied. All the daal and saag were free-for-all; as was the stock of makhan (butter), ghee, gur and lassi (buttermilk).  Here, I couldn’t escape all the beeji’s that insisted on feeding me the makki-ki-roti and makhan drenched sarson-ka-saag to their newest puttar (child)……

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekend Morning Brunch with Samosa

We grew up in a time when schools and offices in India dictated a 6-day work-week rule. To re-affirm Sunday as his day off from work, my dad did all the things that he normally wouldn’t on a week-day. He was always an early riser, but on Sundays, he made tea for mom and himself.   He also let her sleep that extra half-hour - a big concession since he was a stickler for time and schedule. My dad was also a foodie, as well as overtly conscious of hygiene. He loved eating spicy chaat and “gourmet" food; but then insisted that his digestion-related issues were because of the unhygienic conditions of the roadside stalls rather than his over-eating. In his mind, the perfect solution was to start a Sunday Brunch tradition where he insisted that we break free of the dal-roti-sabzi routine and cook something “special". My mom wasn’t too keen initially; but he promised her he would help her with getting the brunch started. And he kept his promise as far back as I can remember….

One of the first recipes I remember him bringing home is that of a Samosa. He had it on a piece of a greasy, lined notebook sheet, with step-by-step diagrams for my mom to follow. He said he’d given 10 rupees to his favorite roadside-samose-waale-panditji for the recipe. Mommy was so miffed, that she refused to make it for him. So him and I sat down with a bowl full of all-purpose flour and emptied a big jug of water to make the pastry dough. And then, we were stuck- for the recipe said to break the dough into balls while we had a river of white gooey stuff in our bowl…nowhere near a dough that you could break balls out of….The samose-waale-panditji, in all his wisdom, hadn’t bargained for complete novices trying to replicate his recipe. 

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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

10 Recipes for Navratri

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Navtri- literally translated: nine nights.

Navratris come twice a year- a whole 8-days of fasting with a pretty rigid diet rules.  The one in the fall is especially important though. Bengalis celebrate it as Durga Puja, and Gujrati festivities include girls in pretty clothes dancing Garba all night. Punjabi community in our part of Delhi was known to set up community praying events known as Mata-ki-Chowki; was pretty fun, albeit a bit loud!  Traditionally meant to celebrate the power of Goddess of Durga, the win of good over evil- in my home it was celebrated by  7 days of all fruit and vegetable diet with a celebration of the girl child on the 8th day.  No real festivities for us - just the fasting and praying. As a child, the real incentive was being invited to all our neighbors houses for a meal; and a token gift. 

Although religion does play a major part; it isn't all that drives my fasting ritual. Growing up, my brother and I had a pretty dismissive view of religion and tradition. In our minds, if it was tradition, it was ambiguous and meant to be discarded. Till some one twisted religion into science for me. I fast- because it detoxifies. A gluten-free diet every 6 months can be extremely beneficial to overall health. ...and girls, in a patriarchal Indian society, are pretty precious. So no hard feelings for giving them a week of fun and festivities :-)

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.