Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sunset: is sunrise turned upside down!

Perspectives & Perceptions

A bunch of grown ups in costumes being silly. Men in frilly green tutus, flowered headbands, girls with green and pink wigs & silver tutus jumping up and down, cheering and singing nonsense. Such a cacophony. So irrelevant....so irreverent.....

Surrounded by another bunch of people. Little people. In wheelchairs. With big ugly scars. Bald heads. Pinned down by tubes, catheters and IV lines. A double stroller with twin siblings - one gurgling and bright-eyed, the other listless and whimpering. A group of adults surrounding a tiny person who looks up at me and gives me a broad grin. I turn to tell the mom how cute he is; but stop when I see her stifle a sob & a chaplain come forward to comfort her. The father's eyes tell me more than what I want to know. I spot the grandma who shared that she has to lie to her grand daughter when she steps out for lunch - because that 4yr old cannot eat anything....a crowd of self-absorbed loneliness,.....

I turn away to see a bunch of green costumed adults distribute little gift bags to their audience. Eyes light up, attempts are made to smile, speak or hug. Excitement mounts- noiseless, but palpable. Eyes mist up. Realization strikes- "slime day" to this audience is not about making the gluey fun stuff that elementary schoolers are crazy about these days. It's about the gooey green stuff that is blocking the body and snuffing out breaths of a lot of this audience. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Curried grits- Indianizing a Southern staple!

Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I first “invented” this dish.

We were driving back from Niagara- Toronto last summer with extended family. Tired, cranky, bickering children and 7h in a closed car were enough for us adults to throw in the hatchet. Unable to find any decent places to stay a night, A resorted to calling a close friend in Connecticut. Gracious host that he was, he welcomed us with open arms despite no prior notice. We arrived late that night, and went straight to bed.

The next morning, I woke up to find this friend in his kitchen, reading labels off a box and frantically talking on his phone. As I walked in, he quickly bid goodbye, and grinned at me sheepishly.

“I was talking to my wife- seems like I bought the wrong stuff. She’d said she’d tell me how to make upma for breakfast, but now you will have to eat buttered toast instead”. He stared morosely at the box in his hand.

“What’s that?, I asked. He quietly handed me a box of Quaker quick grits.

“She asked me to buy Sooji. I went to store, and described what I wanted. The guy showed me this box, so I bought it. I am so tired of eating butter-toast”

Turned out that his wife was visiting family in India for a few weeks, when A invited himself over. And this friend forgot to mention this fact when we called. His wife didn’t want her uninvited guests to not feel welcome in her absence, so she was trying to be a long-distance hostess through her husband. And now, we had a long-distance couples’ quibble on hand!


I ended up making upma out of grits – much to our friend's happiness, and his wife’s enormous relief when I texted her a picture of it, thanking her for her hospitality! The recipe below is a simpler adaptation. Those of you who are familiar with upma can try your own variation. For the rest, this is my everyday curried grits.

Curried Grits



Quaker Quik Grits - 2 individual packs
Frozen peas and carrots - 1/2 cup (soaked in water to thaw)
Onion chopped - 1/2 of a small onion
Spices to taste - salt, red chilli powder and a hint of turmeric
Water - 1 cup
Oil - 1Tbsp
Cumin seeds - a small pinch
A dash of lemon and some cilantro to garnish at the end.


  1. Heat oil in a wide pan, and splutter cumin seeds. 
  2. Add the onion, saute till translucent and golden.
  3. Drain and add the frozen peas and carrots. Cover and cook for 4-5 min till they soften.
  4. Mix in the grits. Dry roast on low flame with the vegetables for 1-2 min.
  5. Add the spices and water. Keep stirring to avoid clumps.
  6. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook until the water is absorbed. Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom. Quik grits do not take more than 4-5 min to cook. I let them sit covered for a couple of minutes before serving.
My two cents: I had never heard of grits before, forget about eating them. When I opened the box, the powder sure looked like our sooji, which would explain why the store lady guided our friend to it. Turns out, that grits is a coarse meal made out of corn. Call it corn-rava, if you want. Takes up the flavors just like our regular rava upma and tastes great! 

Highly recommend it for a quick, healthy, filling and gluten-free breakfast fix!









Thursday, February 23, 2017

A taste of home: 2-ingredient Kalakand

One of the things I didn’t see made at home was sweets. Growing up in India, it was easy to step out to a halwai ki dukan (sweetmeat shop) and choose whatever caught your fancy. My mom usually made a couple of basics like halwa and kheer in her kitchen to mark a holiday, but we bought the rest. As with everything else, it’s easier to shift the responsibility of not being able to make desserts to my life as a child in India J.

It was hard to live without Indian sweets after moving to USA. Throughout my first pregnancy, I craved for boondi-ka-laddu and kaju-ki-katli.…..Things weren’t the same 15yrs ago – we had one small grocery store that sold Indian staples, and the variety of frozen food that you see today was non-existent. Even if you did drive 1-2h to the big grocery stores, things didn’t exactly taste like they should have. Over years, the sweet taste buds kind of dampened, and I started forgetting things that I’d liked in India. And then, as my daughters grew older and got to eat sweets that our friends brought back from their trips to India, my forgotten love re-ignited. We started to ask visiting friends and family to carry boxes of Indian sweets; just so the girls could enjoy them.  

Very recently have I started learning how to make a few of the common sweets at home. To many of you, these would appear trivial; for me anything that the girls decide to like, is a triumph!

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.