Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year (Almost) Wish.


Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year's resolutions, and I've stuck with it ever since. - Dave Beard

Now that we’ve survived Doomsday 2012 and the holidays are winding down to a close, it’s time to come to terms with the impending change on the horizon: 2013. The end of the year brings in time to reflect over the last 12 months, and what lies ahead. We look forward to new beginnings and possibilities, leaving the past behind. Now that we’re at the brink of saying goodbye and welcome all at the same time, 2012 strikes me as one of those very eventful years that went by faster than most…

Despite my optimism for the coming year, it is hard to neglect the adverse events that bring this year to an end. In the last month or so, as an American of Indian origins, I felt an immense heartache for all the innocent victims of senseless actions; be they the innocent children in school shootings of Connecticut, or the young, unnamed girl in Delhi, India who lost her battle for life yesterday. My prayers go out to them and their families. There is no greater loss than of those loved, and no greater sorrow than an untimely farewell.

In retrospect, I'm thankful for all good things that happened, sorry to have made some mistakes, happy to have moved on and grateful for all opportunities. The New Year, as it dawns, brings forth promises of a better tomorrow. So lets embrace the unknown…….it is now time to let go, and start afresh. The New Year, will be a New Me; as some one said- a blank book of 365 pages to write in. And I wish to be able to fill it in with cheer and smiles. I’ve made no resolutions, set no goals. For to me, each day brings forth its own challenges that I must overcome. And I shall prevail.

So that is it….

A Happy New Year to You. Put on your hats, bring out your party shoes.  And thanks for sticking by me all these years. I look forward to seeing you around.







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 :-))

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ramblings from a mom's heart - Newtown CT.


The times we live in are unexpected, turbulent and disturbing.  And nothing could bring it home more forcefully than the heart-wrenching tragedy this past week in an elementary school in Connecticut.  The young man who forced his way into school and killed over 27 people, most of whom were 5-6 year old Kindergarteners - did his mom have even an inkling that she'd wake up only to be shot dead by her young son that morning?  The 20 odd children who never came back home with excited chattering of what they did at school- did their moms, in their wildest dreams, ever envision the horror their babies lived through in their final moments? And the adults who were lost, they were moms and daughters and family as well. Life just lost balance and stopped for many people out there.  Grief cast its shadow over a community, irrespective of age of the victims. Including us. Spectators from far away.

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......

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.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Love; No Food!! Karwa Chauth


This is totally an unplanned post- just a few ramblings for today. 

This morning, I told Anya that she should take a bath and dress up in her Indian clothes after coming back from school. 'So what are we celebrating? Diwali? And I realized she has no idea of what today marks. So here I am, just trying to relive my memories for her.

My excitement at home for Karwa Chawth would begin the evening before; when my mom (with me in tow, of course) went out and bought a big bagful of sweet and savory mathris and fenni (thin vermicelli thats slightly toasted and sweetened). Where we lived, these goodies were very seasonal- you saw them for maybe 2-3 days around Karwa Chauth.  Then we'd trek all the way down to the local kumhar (potter) and pick out a karwa (clay pot) for her pooja the next day.  Third step, invariably, some place where she could buy new chooris (glass bangles) - always red, and always with a big splash of gold in them. I got my share of these too. Finally, we stocked up on some big red bindis and a new bottle of vermillion sindoor.  All spent, we'd stop at last for a treat of some gol-gappe and chaat in preparation for the extensive fasting the next day .

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!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Daily Dinner (14): Vegan Thali; Navratri special


The last day of Navratri fasting is today. Glad to have made it through one more time. These days are pretty easy as far as traditional fasting goes. You only give up grains and legumes for the 9 days; so there's a lot left outside of the diet to eat.  

I followed a one-meal a day diet, restricting my spices to sendha namak (rock salt), green chillies and cumin (can't think of cooking without jeera at all :-)). Also allowed myself 2 cups of chai or coffee a day- one for breakfast, and one to get over the 3o'clock sugar crash at work :-) And finally, I also permitted myself one or two fruits at around noon- some days were more hectic at work than others and even the colleagues could hear my stomach rumble ....

Friday, October 19, 2012

Delicious Fall: Pumpkinland and Apple Picking

Kindergarten is proving to be extremely extensive for us.....The first alphabet brought acorn and a  little burst of "but I have to find an acorn"...we did manage to find one in our yard; followed by "why isn't a squirrel coming to eat my acorn", ...when the acorn was safely tucked away under Baby P's pillow.

Then came Apples...and tears galore because 
1) The apples we had at home didn't have a leaf on them.
2) When we cut our apples; it didn't look like the "Parts of an apple" picture that Baby P had drawn at school.
Apple trees...laden with fruit
3) I did not know how to make "applesauce" the way their 'cheacher' did. 

Finally, about 2 weeks ago, she came home all excited....
"Do you know where we get apples from?"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fasting For Navratris.


Navratris are upon us once again.....and with it, comes the added onus of fasting and observing. Whether you are a stickler for the festival season and fast for all 9 days; or a token 1-2 days; you need a special plan to get you through your day.  Traditionally, where I come from, you're supposed to give up all grains, legumes and lentils. An ideal fasting diet is largely fruit-based. Some people also restrict the spices to basic minimum. Dairy products are not restricted, and make up for protein deficit in the rest of the diet. Here's a short compilation of recipes off of this blog that you can have while you're fasting. This list is by no means complete, and I will update it a couple more recipes as I embark upon my fasts this week. Till then, Happy Navratris.


Thali....
1) Buckwheat vegetable pancakes
2) Sabudana khichdi: Linked to Celebrating Navratri/ Diwali event started by Jagruti and hosted by Nayna.
3) Masala Aloo
4) Singhade ke pakorae
5) Yakhni Lauki

Thursday, October 4, 2012

One More ode to Milk: Harira


Never realized how much pain the poor guy was in. I thought I'd been treating him well....he'd never complained. But then he never says much (anything) rather. Three months (four plus one day actually, but who's counting) into his mom's visit at ours, and all of A's desires (of the foodie kind....hold those other thoughts :-))) seem to be rearing up their mighty heads like a giant, multi-headed monster.  Or crawling out the crevices like those never-dying cockroaches. Pick whatever sounds more scary to you...not that I care, not really.... 

It started subtly enough. He saw Parathas for breakfast instead of sugar free dry tea rusks; I saw red flags on his cholesterol count at the next doctor's visit.  Then came elaborate mid-morning and mid-evening snacks. While he decided to pay heed to the "sugar is good for health" mantra; and started wolfing down ladoos and gaundh ki chakki (more on that soon- I promise) after every meal;  I was  calculating calorie per serving ratio and trying to stomp visions of insulin shots. Then came his first demand...for Nishasta. Not only did he ask for it, he even told his mom to teach ME how to make it....That did it... the whole decade plus of training to rein him in unravelled that very instant. All of my "we've got to eat healthier" got quickly drowned into by the "you earn to live" and "how can traditional be not-healthy" philosophy. Right now,  I should rein in whatever is popping in MY mind before it gets printed in indelible ink for posterity to come.....

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.

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 :-))

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Paryushan & Samvatsri: The Jain regimen and significance. Plus my menu.

I'd never thought I'd do this...a post about religious beliefs. But then I figured, that I did write about Diwali, and Holi and other festivals that are a part our social culture, so why not Paryushan- something that I grew up with and is an integral part of my memories.  I am not the best person to be telling you about this practice, for I myself know very little. But I'll attempt a little write up nevertheless. 

The 8-day long change in lifestyle that we call Paryushan typically adhered to at the end of the rainy season; or Chaturmas. Normally, we associate festivals with gaiety and indulgence. Instead, Paryushan is a celebration of solitude, minimalism, introspection and self-restraint.  The guidelines to be followed for spiritual up-liftment include modesty, self-restraint, penance, renunciation and celibacy. The strictest of my family members would sustain themselves only on a handful (chullu) of boiled water for these 8 days. The others took a pledge, or Niyam, to alter their lifestyle to fit the soul of this whole process.  I remember my dad making more time for meditation and introspection (Samayik); while my mom, who was always restless about getting things done for us kids would give up some of her favorite foods and activities, and just slowed down.

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. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

An open Letter from a grandfather....

Dearest Betu
    Your mom is going to throw a fit when she hears me call you Betu- but that is what you are to me.  Betu and Ghughu.  I gave you those names- the first, because it came to my lips the second I saw you. And the second, because those were the first sounds you made in my arms. All of 5 weeks old; and you were already connecting with me. It's been a while since you and I had a talk. Maybe now is a good time.....A part of me wants to give you advice; but today, I'll just let you know me.
   I'd wished for you even before I had my own children - your mom, and your maamu. You are so much extra special because you're my first grandchild. Your naani and I were so excited the day we heard that you'd be coming into our family.  The day you were born; we called up the entire family with the news. I couldn't wait to meet you.  But I had to. We finally met when you were about a month old. You probably don't remember. Your naani and I stayed with you for 6 weeks that year.  All that time, I never left you alone. I even held you while you slept. And after we left, your mom complained that we spoiled you because you'd no longer sleep on the bed!  :-)) I brought back pictures of you with me; and I had them all over the house. Even back in Delhi, I used to talk to your pictures and hope that my thoughts would reach you somehow.  When your mom called to speak with us, I'd ask her to make you cry or laugh; just so I could hear your voice.  I missed you so much, that soon after meeting you, I decided to quit my job. So we could come and stay with you for longer.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Drool-worthy Gol Gappe.....

Nothing exemplifies Indian street food as well as "Gol-Gappe"....the bite sized crispy balls of flour or semolina, filled with seasoned potato-chickpea mixture and dipped in a spicy green mint sauce as well as a sweet and savory tamarind chutney - the quintessential fun food at all the street side "melas" back home. Just thinking about them is making me drool....

My mom and I went out without fail, once every month for our Gol-Gappe trip. The day my dad brought in his salary and gave us all our "pocket money",  mommy managed to wheedle out a little extra from daddy.  With that money, my brother got an ice cream, and my mom and I got our monthly fix of the spicy goodness.  All my dad's warnings about the Chaat wala's dirty hands  and his unsanitary matki didn't deter us.  We ate out of this fellow's grimy hands every month, and never fell sick.  And yet one time, the only time that we could drag our dad to this fellow; we all ended up with severe diarrhea :-))

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A cuppa chai.....

Nothing's as comforting; or as nostalgia-evoking; as a cup of Chai....

My parents began their mornings; and ended their work day; with some alone time together.  Just the two of themselves, and their cups. My mom's without sugar; my dad's with honey. They planned all things important at this time- their monthly budget, holidays, celebrations, our future and theirs. As I grew older, I learned to leave them alone with their thoughts in the mornings. With their Chai in the evenings, we talked about our day at school and my dad's day at the court. My mom listened to all three of us, and said very little. 

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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Things that matter....summer picnic with long time friends.

I started my life in USA as any other new immigrant - lonely and homesick.  With no one around me, not even distant relatives, and at a time when calling home was relatively expensive, life was as hard as it could get. A followed about 6 months later; and a year later, I had my first baby. Life got busier, but not less lonely. A lived and worked 3h away from us during the week, then lived and went to school in the same city, but away from us, on weekends.  I made friends with other moms on the playground, or in the library -  but they didn't feel like the friends that I was craving for - they didn't share my language, for one.  Festivals were the worst....and loneliness grew to a new level at this time. About the 4th year of our life in Philadelphia, A took me to a 'Diwali Party'. I remember not wanting to go mingle into a crowd of strangers. But we went, and I've never regretted that decision ever. I've made some very lasting friendships within this group.  Plus my holidays are cheerier with them around!!

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!  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The saga of Gobhi Manchurian

When we were in school, there weren't many options for eating out - at most, this indulgence was restricted to an occasional evening of eating typical Delhi street food- chaat, gol-gappe, aloo-tikki or samosa with my mom.
When I got into college - run by a very prominent NGO from South India - I acquired a serious taste for South Indian fare that the college canteen offered (those idlis were definitely to die for). A little later, strengthened by our scholarships and some allowance from our parents, we ventured out to nearby "restaurants" - where you could either get South Indian; or so called Chinese. I always gravitated towards the South Indian fare at these excursions, just because someone, somewhere told me that the "soy sauce" used in Chinese food was made from fish.  In a country, at a time, where food labels were practically non-existent, it was easy to accept information from others (it may be hard to believe; but there was an era when iPhones or Google were unheard of :-)) The only Chinese food I'd eat was fortune cookies!

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....)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Desi Sloppy Joe Or Paav-Bhaji

Very early on in our marriage,  I learnt that A was a huge fan of Western Indian cuisine - a consequence, he explained, of having lived there for a big chunk of his "after-school-life".

Very early on in my role as a mother, I learnt that Anya won't try A's favorite Paav-Bhaaji unless I could convince her (or  SHE could convince herself) that her 'non-Indian' classmates also ate the same thing. 

This is how the "Indian Sloppy Joe" came into existence in my house.  And believe it or not, it was actually Anya who coined the term.  She must've been in preschool when at sleep-time one day she excitedly told me that her classmate had brought a Sloppy Joe for lunch.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What's in a name? Gajrela or Gajar-ka-Halwa

The carrots back in India were a bright-red color, very tender and as juicy as can be. They appeared in the markets every year in mid-November, gave way to purple carrots around early March before disappearing altogether till next winter.  My mom was a huge fan of gajar-matar ki sabzi (which my dad and I wouldn't even look at). The two of us (my dad and I) could munch on kilos of raw carrots, everyday, for as long as they were available; much to the amusement of my mom.  My brother held the fort for carrot-haters in my family.  But we all came together and were united in our liking for the dessert made out of carrots; called Gajar-ka-Halwa; or Gajrela, as it was known in the Punjabi families around us.   Between the four of us, we probably bought a kilo of gajar (carrots) everyday, for the entire season. And as far as I can remember, we were never out of gajar-ka-halwa for as long you could buy carrots at a reasonable price.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

With Love from Mexico

This post has been just as jinxed as the trip itself.

I was so excited about our trip to Cancun last year, that when it fell apart by my sudden illness, I took it as an omen to not plan anything so far out in advance. Except that it was pretty hard to ignore the financial loss that we accrued. A fought a bit, but in the end the airlines gave us a partial credit for a future vacation.  Despite that,  we (I) couldn't muster up enough courage to plan an extended overseas trip for almost a year.  Then one day, out of the blue, A mentioned that our vacation credit was about to expire (he does this all the time, I swear, because he gets that perverse pleasure from seeing me freak out about finances). Then he sat back and watched (and smirked) while I planned this trip in a frenzy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Daily Dinner (12): Simplicious Yakhni Lauki

When I was in bed sick last year,  friends around us took care of feeding me and my family for a very long time.  Although I was on restricted diet, A got a taste sampler from all over India.  After the first week of liquids only, when I could eat semi-solid foods, a friend called and told A that she was going to bring me some kadhi, and Yakhni in the evening.  

 "Yakhni? Why didn't you remind her we're vegetarians?" 

"She must know- mustn't she? We've met at so many socials and broadcasted this fact to everyone.
Do you even know what Yakhni is?"- A retorted.

" Of course I know what that is- Yakhni is a Kashmiri meat dish. They even make it during Shraadh ceremonies (ancestor worship ceremonies that are very strictly satvik in my place- which meat is definitely considered not). And even the Kashmiri pundits (priests) eat it. She's Kashmiri- maybe she thinks that if pundits eat it,  we'll eat it too. I don't think Kashmiris really get what we mean by being vegetarians"

"All right, don't fret it", A said. "When they come, we'll ask her again."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yay!!! Uh Oh......Oh well- Holi Hai!!

Yay!!! This is my 100th post!! Never thought I'd reach this far.  It's taken me a good 3 yrs. (well, almost) to make it here.  Ever since my last post when the counter pointed that my 100th was coming- I've been thinking about what I want this post to be about. I wanted it to be just about itself. A milestone. An excitement. I thought about host an event to mark this event. Then I thought about hosting a giveaway of some sort. All that thinking....with zero ideas. I couldn't come up with any themes for an event; and I couldn't figure out how the heck to host a giveaway either.

All that thinking....and my birthday came up (it was this past Monday). Till the day before, I was so looking forward to it. A milestone birthday...of sorts. I was going to do something special, and blog about it. A milestone; and a milestone. Makes good blogging....Then came Monday- and my mood came crashing down.  In case you're done snickering at me by now, let me tell you...it's not easy celebrating milestone b'days. Especially not if you're gonna be stepping on the other side of the line. ...if you're going to enter a phase of life that isn't what now is. (Hope you get my drift. I'm definitely not going to tell you how old I actually turned this week. But I will tell you that  from now on, my b'day clock counts down....).  A brought me my most expensive gift to date (not counting the big rocky studs..or the car he's bought me ...those I think should have come earlier than they actually did).  And I haven't even looked at that awesome bag that he gave me this time- that's how mad I am that this birthday of mine actually did come up. Oh....well!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tzatziki, Indian Style. Lauki-ka-Raita

The title isn't misleading at all. If, being of Indian origin,  you've ever liked Tzatziki; that's probably because your tastebuds are so very attuned to the dahi concoctions with various members of the Cucurbitaceae family. I've yet to find a fellow-Indian who said they didnt like Tzatziki. At the middle- eastern places that I eat at , my favorite game is to guess if their Tzatziki leans more towards tasting like our kheera-ka-raita; or lauki-ka-raita!

A raita basically refers to savory, spiced yogurt (dahi) in our culture. And if you add any fruit/vegetable to it, it becomes a raita.  A must at almost any meal, dahi becomes a raita at special occasions or for guests; sometimes even if we want a change of taste from plain old dahi.  Unlike here in the US, sweetened yogurt is not on menu on an everyday basis. I got dahi-cheeni (yogurt with sugar) as a kid only if I'd been exceptionally good some day. Or one spoonful when heading out for exams or interviews (sweetened yogurt is considered auspicious in most parts of Northern India, and believed to bring good luck).  Fruit-flavored yogurt was pretty much non-existent during my time in India, and till today, I haven't developed much of a liking for it. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Creamy Potato Salad with cottage Cheese


I saw two of my former colleagues some time ago. They were both standing by a food truck outside ordering huge portions of sinful-looking delicious food with enormous sides of fries- french fries for one and onion rings for the other.  All the while, were excitedly pointing out to each others mid sections whilst bursting into giggles every second.  They were so immersed with each other that they totally did not see me.  I slid away unnoticed, and made a mental note of which one was having a boy, and who would be holding a tiny, pink bundle soon. 

Seeing them by those food trucks also made me nostalgic. When I was pregnant with Anya, I developed a serious sweet tooth. Not only did I crave sweets, I craved only one sweet- 'boondi ke laddoo'. At that time, there were no real Indian stores around campus that sold sweets. Yes you could buy dal-atta-chawal, but that was pretty much it. Both my mom and MIL tried sending me ladoos from India with friends- but one guy forgot them at home; and the other had to surrender them at the Airport Immigration. All my unfulfilled craving came to me in the form of a 5 pound 1ounce bundle who'd eat nothing, except serious sugar.  My mom said that my baby was so tiny and so fussy because I didn't get those ladoos..

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sooji ka Uttapam- veggie no-egg frittata

When I think signature dishes, the ones that instantly come to my mind are my MIL's recipes. Probably because these were the ones that I encountered as 'new' in my adult life, and got to associate with especially her.  One of the first of these that I tasted from her was a Holi special (but we'll leave that for later). The other one is her favorite snack recipe. I've known her to make this up at any of those times when you're feeling hungry for no apparent reason, and meal time is hours away.  She's also been known to substitute this for an early dinner sometimes.  As for me,  I can eat her 'Sooji-ka Uttapam' anytime, anywhere and in humongous quantities - that's how good it is.  Despite my liking for this, I hadn't really tried to make this my own. This was something that was predominantly "mummy' domain- I demonstrated by appreciation by eating it, but leave the actual making of it to her. Although to be truthful, I've tried it a couple of times...and then left it for the experts like her!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Eggless vanilla Sponge Cake- for bookmarked recipes

Baking is not something that comes to me naturally- I am tempted to try on everything that I read about, but am too much of a chicken to do. What does appeal to me a lot are the eggless recipes.  
A and the kids eat eggs, and I am pretty impartial to using eggs in baking. But if I can lay my hands on any eggless recipes, I am absolutely eager to try them out. My main incentive being that my MIL comes to visit, and eggs get banned out of the kitchen, I can still sustain the kids hankering for a home-baked cake. I recently came across this recipe for an eggless  sponge cake that I had to try. I made this on Sunday to take to for the kids after-class-snack in Hindi school. As fate would have it, we missed Sunday Class (they changed venue quite suddenly), and I was left with a cake, but no kids!! My girls, a friend (one of the hindi class kids' mom)  and I polished off half the cake and I brought back the remaining to A.  He wolfed it down in less time than it took to mix the batter :-))

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Daily Dinner (11): Meal- for- one- Vegetable Pulao

A's been travelling a lot recently. Don't get me wrong- it's not that I miss him when he's gone or anything like that (we've been married too long for me to be missing him- like really missing him).....I'm just telling you that he's been gone a lot recently. Although he doesn't do anything to help me around the house (as if I hadn't told you that a zillion times already); when he's gone, my tasks get multiplied 10-fold (just can't figure that one out for the life of me).  With him away, I find myself over exhausted and more irritated than usual (which he'll tell you isn't possible- the irritable part, I mean). With him gone, I also lose my reason, and my motivation, to cook. When he leaves, we spend the first couple of days polishing off the leftovers. By the third day or so, my girls get to choose between Maggi noodles or takeout Pizza (which makes them jump with undisguised joy, and makes me wonder why I spend so much time in the kitchen at all....). If he still isn't back, the girls get to eat cookies-and ice-cream for dinner while I make myself another cup of chai and glare morosely at my dried out toast (which dried because it sat too long while I sorted out which of the two girls had a bigger scoop of ice-cream in her bowl).  Most times, that is when fate intervenes and A comes back home - after calling me from the airport to let me know that he didn't get to eat lunch either (I'm not making this up- he always says that...) - and I thankfully gather my pots and pans and plan a menu in my head again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Holiday Fudge- for Black & White Wednesday.

Our next door neighbors are the sweetest, most adorable, couple ever. Ever since we moved into this house five years ago, they've been our family away from home for us. Little thoughtful things that they do for us - like moving the trashcan out of the driveway, watching out for Anya if we're running late coming back from work, even helping us fix our old house as needed has pretty much made them absolutely indispensable to us. Seeing them potter around their home (and ours),  it is hard to believe that they're on the other side of their 80's. 

Mrs. L brought me her first box of fudge on Christmas eve 2006. I didn't think much of it then, except that it looked so pretty. She'd arranged the evenly cut pieces into an alternating pattern of dark and white chocolate fudge; and wrapped up the white box with a cute red and green ribbon.  Then I tasted it....and it tasted even better than it looked. I've been hounding Mrs. L for her recipe ever since. But she refuses to share. Apparently, one of her sons owns a restaurant; and this fudge is a highlight of his menu. He made Mrs. L promise not to give the recipe to anyone else.  But she makes up for it by giving me a box, sometimes two, for Christmas every year.