Sunday, December 21, 2014

Punjabi Soya Chunk Sabzi with Peas and Potatoes.


My dad's family migrated to big city Delhi when he was 7 years old. While his parents, my grandparents, got busy adapting to fast-paced lifestyle and establishing the new business, my dad was practically adopted by this very affluent Sikh family next door. In the very Punjabi neighborhood of Filmistan, this family provided my dad with an emotional support and encouragement that helped him stay grounded in his youth after his mom passed. He grew up calling them Mummyji and Daddyji, learnt to read and speak Punjabi fluently, went to Rakab Ganj Sahib with them every week and even started eating eggs and chicken with their family- behind his own parents back, of course.

By the time my brother and I came along, daadaji and daadiji’s home was always this immaculate, white fenced kothi in Filmistan full of huge, turbaned men and one little beeji in elegant white. They were loud and boisterous, gave us hugs tight enough to break our bones and fed us like we had been starving forever. When we were little, the differences between this family that we knew of as our daadaji and daadji  and the rest of our uncles and aunts were very confusing. As we grew up, the story of how this family had helped my dad by pitching in after my grandmother died and my grandfather took time healing from the loss became deeply a ingrained family lore. My dad’s love and gratitude was very obvious when he talked of them as his ‘parents’. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Praying for Peshawar


I was sitting in a public office, waiting my turn this morning when I saw the news on TV. Hundreds of lives lost in a school shooting in Peshawar, Pakistan. The images ran into each other as my brain numbed. Children in school uniforms. Caskets stacked against a hospital wall. Parents, searching, hoping. And then a random thought- isn’t this about the same time as that school shooting in Newport, CT? Two short years- almost to the day. Who would do this? Why? What of those left behind? How does someone cope with a loss as great as that of a young child? To me, as a mother, the ache I feel in the pit of my stomach while writing this is a real, physical pain. All I hope is, that my prayers somehow reach the grieving families….All I wish for is, this kind of a thing doesn’t happen again. Ever.  

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. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Daily Dinner (20): Easy Weeknight Lasagna

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

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Slow Cooker Bean and Barley Soup

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


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

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

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

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…..)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Slow cooker Rabri

Hard to believe that fall is knocking on our doorstep.

Just as hard as believing that I haven't touched base with you all for more than 5 weeks now. For some reason, time slipped away un-noticed. Doesn't mean I haven't been cooking or wanting to share. Just never did. 

Summer ended on a whirlwind vacation to Puerto Rico. I need to get back to you with highlights from that trip, soon. Then a flurry of activity with back to school, teacher meetings and beginning of all other hustle and bustle. And then the girls' birthdays. In my family, both the B-Days fall within a week of each other. Which means a massive partying spree in September.  It is just now that life has taken on a semblance of normalcy befitting routine. 

For want of a better reason- I decided to come back to this space with a recipe that several of you had a chance of tasting recently. Rabri. This was a last-minute addition to my daughters' birthday party menu. Initially, I had decided that the cake and Gulab Jamun would suffice as desserts. Somehow, the morning of the party, I started having misgivings about my decision. Store-bought desserts didn't exude the kind of personal touch that I like my guests to experience. While I have made Rabri before the traditional way, this was my first time making it in a slow cooker. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dee Day (4): Mysore Masala Wrap by Priya Joshi

Blogging has introduced me to many new friendships. 

Reminds me of how we used to reach out to make pen pals back in my childhood. All through middle school, we were required to send out letters to unknown kids around the world and make new friends. My most enduring friendship was with a Japanese girl called Asuki, with whom I exchanged mail for close to 4 years and with a Nigerian girl who kept in touch for almost two years. The hardest part of making pen-palship, for me, was reaching out to people. The inherent hesitation of "what if…..” Always, at the end, I came away feeling that people are actually nicer and easier to get to know than I actually think. 

When I invited guest bloggers for Dee Day on MLS; I didn’t get the outright response I was hoping for. I mulled on the idea of reaching out to fellow-bloggers that I admire; but hesitated. Until one day, that I stumbled upon Priya’s space at  Food and More. I wrote to her before I could lose my nerve….and was pleasantly surprised to get an instantaneous answer! In her own words; Priya is "a happy housewife and freelance writer who started a blog in 2014." She thinks cooking is an art. She belongs to typical gujrati family. Her inspiration to cook is her momwho, Priya says, " is the best cook...….

As for me, I think that her blog, that she started in 2014, is a wonderful amalgamation of old and new. And I am happy to have made a friend!
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Hi every one,

I am Priya Joshi founder http://foodandmoreblog.blogspot.in .I started this journey by writing guestpost in many websites which inspired me to start my own blog.I would like to thank DEEPIKA who gave a space in her blog for guest-post. I feel very happy- awesome to write this guest post in your blog Deepika, thank you very much for this opportunity.

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


Thursday, July 24, 2014

On Parenting and Immigration….and my First Byline!

I was recently asked what the challenges the immigrant parents faced in raising children here in USA.

…A few years ago; I’d have answered “none”. After all, rather than the archetypical “immigrant”, I considered myself as a select, educated, metropolitan person who didn’t really have any deep-rooted desire to come to America.  I came; because US beckoned; and gave me a fellowship as well….

…I stayed, because I got too caught up in the life here. Raising a young family while studying didn’t leave much time to dwell or plan….so we drifted along with the tide. And by the time I figured out that I’d like to return to my country; I had adapted enough to feel more at home here in USA, than back “home” in India.

Did I face challenges as an immigrant parent? Yes, of course. But most of those were personal limitations, rather than parenting issues. Not having friends and family around for emotional support; loneliness, especially during the traditional Holidays and an overwhelming sense of individual guilt of not being ….”adequate” as a parent. Everyone goes through that.



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. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Minty Cool Iced Tea


Summer’s officially here. And, as if I still had doubts despite the weather, Baby P shows me  her paper countdown  chain every day after school. As of now, our wait will be over in just another 2 days. Because that is when schools officially close down for summer vacation. These last weeks of school has been busy with all the field days and Sports Days and Graduations. Pretty tiring, in my opinion. Everyday the girls have been coming back red-faced from school hankering for something cold to drink.  After I had done the inexhaustible amounts of juice, lemonade, buttermilk, Aam ka panna, I gave up.

"What “something cool” do you want every day?”,  I asked Anya and Baby P.
I don’t know. Just something good”…was Baby P
You could buy iced tea. I like that.”…was Anya.
You are a kid; you can’t have iced tea. It has caffeine in it”….said I; to no-one in particular, glaring at them both.
Sure I can. We have it at school at all the parties”. Anya told me.
And daddy lets me have it when he buys it from Wawa. So I can have it too”, informed Baby P.

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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lemons and lemonade…..

Bright and shiny; like the sunshine that makes them mature - lemons invade Delhi's vegetable scene at the peak of summers. 

Summer mornings at home always started with a freshly squeezed lemon in a glass of warm water sweetened with honey - to cleanse the system, my mom said. 

We came back from school, sweaty and hot - to be handed an ice-cold glass of Shikanji - to beat the heat

When dad returned from work in the evenings, even sweatier than us because he chose to walk the 2km stretch from the bus stop to home, he preferred his lemonade tart and spicy - with just a hint of fresh roasted cumin seeds. 

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.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dee-Day (2): Rajmah-Chawal - a guest post by Harpreet

Friendship hits one with uncanny unpredictability. Many many years ago, when A planned a vacation with a colleague from work in New York, I wasn't expecting to make a life-long friend. They were a newly wed couple- she gregarious and loud, he shy and forever smiling. They complemented each other beautifully. In less than an hour, I knew all about her. Nothing about him, except that he loved her! Soon thereafter, they moved to the West Coast. But we kept in touch, first via email, then the social media.  In the past decade, we've hardly met   twice. But I feel like she never went away. Of the things I admire about her, the biggest is her enthusiasm in all things in life. Like a true-bred Punjaban, she grabs the bull by the horn, and rides on uproariously. A working mom with two daughters, she still finds time to come up with these amazing Halloween costumes for her girls or to go one-on-one dates with her  husband. She had expressed a desire to start blogging when I first started to write. So she was a natural choice to go to for this second guest piece. I am humbled by how quickly she obliged….

Here's Harpreet, with her tribute to her mom, mother-in-law; and of course to herself as a mom with this very quirky Rajmah story. A point to note, she uses the pink Chitra Rajmah variety in her dish. In my previous post, I'd used the dark red beans. The difference, of course, is in the cooking times and meatiness of the texture. Read on for a true authentic Punjabi version of Rajmah:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Momspeak: A Mother's Day Post

A lifetime ago, deep inside my stomach, I felt the stirrings of a longing to be a mom. I blame it all on the fact that it was Christmastime and we were in the Toys R Us, in New York. There was no escaping dressed up little babies in strollers or adorable toddlers hanging onto their mammas for dear life. I didn't really "think" my "want" then.

Nine months later, I brought home my first little one. 

She was beautiful. Perfect. A headful of black hair, milky white smooth skin, all fingers and toes intact. For the first year, I loved dressing her up and cooing over her every milestone. I fed her every hour; stayed up with her  most nights. I couldn't put my camera down. In her two's, she made me grit my teeth and curb an urge to hand her over to another mom.  Right after she turned three, I started to have serious doubts on my mental stability when I decided to have a baby. By the time she'd turned four, I'd totally decided that my being a mom was all a big, scary dream. I was sure I'd wake up soon….

A week after her fifth birthday, we brought home our second one. 

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. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Welcome to Dee-Day: Inviting Guest posts

Here's the thing....

This wasn't really meant to be a food blog. When I wrote my first post on this space, I was upset....and hurt. I had never been a traditional, adhering person. But the day I missed to observe a yearly ritual; I  felt wounded; a little shocked. Traditions brought back memories of family and togetherness....of meals meant to be shared with love. The wounds of loss were still raw. Writing seemed to ease some of that pain. To me; meals and memories are sides of the same coin. In good times and bad; food brings families together. And so, over time, My Life & Spice became a majorly Food blog....with memories thrown in.

 Through my writing, I want to inculcate some of that old way of life in the minds of my two young daughters. To introduce them to my life as a child...
...I want them to see tradition through my eyes; live it as I lived it many years ago....
...I want them to experience tradition with me; as I have been able to recreate it for them - through  fragile, quickly-fading memories....
... some day; I want them to establish their own traditions....and hopefully include me in them. With a little sprinkle of memories that they will create with me in their growing up years.

But their horizons are broader than mine. They are so much more exposed to diversity than I was at their age. I am still learning....

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Vrat-Ka-Dosa: A Navratri Special

Here's another one for Navratri fasting.

Except that this time, I chose not to fast the whole nine days...I am just doing the two days; as religiously mandatory. 

But this gives me a chance to share with you an awesome experiment from 6 months ago.  A gluten-free Dosa! I was pretty excited when this turned out as well as it did. Great for satisfying those cravings when you're in a starving mode :-)

The two ingredients used here in this recipe are not grains, unlike the rice and lentils used in a traditional Dosa (Indian-style crepe). In place of rice, we use what is called sama-ke-chawal in Hindi. The name is a misnomer, since the tiny rice-like grain is actually  a seed of wild grass Panicum that is considered a pseudo grain. It's a naturally fat free, low calorie seed that resembles broken rice (see below for nutrient information).

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…..

Monday, March 3, 2014

Finding ME


Today’s the mood for a little introspection….
…A little book-keeping of sorts for the last however many years of my life…..
…Maybe the perpetual gloom of this never-ending winter that’s driving it. Or maybe that big number birthday that lurks around the corner….or another invisible trigger…all that’s irrelevant....
…The fact is, I desperately need to find a little ME. I know it got born a few decades ago..those first cries were it’s very own herald of existence. That tiny glob had the power to make a lot of noise, and be heard….
….A little by little, as that ME grew bigger physically, it started to melt away in essence. Trying to gel in to the molds of the ideal daughter, an exemplary sister, a submissive daughter-in-law, a loving wife, a doting mother….the ME got lost.
…People didn’t fail to point fingers, to remind at the drop of the hat, that “Aham” is ego…But that “Aham" was also the voice of ME. Peeking out through the dark corners, waiting to be acknowledged. More often than not, it was pushed back by the demanding norms of the society and doomed into solitude.

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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dal Makhani- Pressure cooker and Crockpot versions


Almost everyone from Northern India makes Dal Makhani. I hadn’t thought two hoots about mine, until one friend commented about me using black-eyed peas in my version. Apparently, that was new. But this is how my mom always made it, and I’ve continued with her mix version as well. 

A staple during the the winter "Shaadi season” and in the restaurant menus; Dal Makhni is a delicious, rich blend of beans and lentils originating, I think, from the Western Punjab region. My best memories of this dish are from roadside dhabas that we encountered while traveling within the state of Punjab. Add to it their tandoori roti, raw sliced onion drenched in vinegar and a glass of lassi….sheer heaven. My recipes have never quite reached that level of comfort- and I think that’s because I generally tend to skimp on butter and cream. But if you don’t, then this is probably one of the easiest dishes to make. Here, I have for you the traditional pressure cooked version first, followed by how I tried to go low-cal by making it in a crock pot.

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)……

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…..