Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ganesh Chaturthi Wishes

Wishing everyone a very happy Ganesh Chaturthi! May Lord Ganesh bless you with health and happiness, and remove all obstacles from your path.

My eco-friendly hand made idol with natural clay and non-toxic paint

Hope everyone is enjoying delectable modaks and other naivedya. Here are some recipes you could make
this year:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Haliv/Aliv Ladu

Hartalika wishes everyone! Happy fasting to those who are observing it today. Hartalika is celebrated by women in honor of Goddess Parvati on Bhadrapad tritiya (third day of the Hindu calendar month Bhadrapad). I used to observe the fast as a girl - to pray for a husband like Shiva! Now that I have found him, I skip the fasting bit of the celebration ;). Hartalika falls a day before Ganesh Chaturthi. My grandma would scurry around just before the big day trying to fill the pantry with sweets, so none of the visitors who came for Ganpati darshan left without plentiful of them. She made pedhas, barfis and all sorts of laddus. I always had my eye on the Haliv laddus, to replenish the depleted energy after a long day of fasting.

Haliv/Aliv seeds come from an herb called garden cress. They are also known as Aserio seeds. These seeds are rich in iron, calcium and protein. Grandma told us how good they were for women and said, "We didn't have all these energy tonics in my days. We ate haliv ladus or kheer for the essential nutrients." The great thing is, these laddus taste much better than any energy drink you've had! Haliv seeds swell up once soaked, just like sabja we put in faluda. They give a nice, chewy texture. The laddus are quite decadent with the generous use of coconut. The surprise element is the sweet, floral aroma from cloves. You can add some dry fruits if you like, but the laddus are quite rich on their own. Other laddu recipes, like rava and besan, require exact measurements and technique. This recipe is a lot simpler in comparison. The only tedious part is the cooking process.

 Haliv/Aliv Ladu

1/2 Cup Haliv/Aliv seeds (Aserio seeds)
1 Cup coconut water (use regular water if not available)
1 Cup fresh grated coconut
3/4 Cup grated jaggery
2 Tablespoons sugar (if required)
3 Cloves
2 Teaspoons ghee (clarified butter)

  • Soak haliv seeds in coconut water for about an hour. The seeds start to puff up immediately and become slippery. They double in size once completely soaked.
  • Mix grated coconut (you can add some later if needed) and jaggery to the seeds and combine well. Let it sit for another hour. There should be equal or little more amount of coconut as the seeds. 
  • While the seeds are soaking, roast the cloves and grind them to a fine powder. 
  • Heat ghee in a kadhai and add the coconut,jaggery,haliv mixture and cloves powder and cook on low flame, stirring constantly. The seeds need to be cooked for a long time (~20-25 mins) until they become soft. 
  • Once the seeds are cooked through and the mixture comes together, turn off the heat and let it cool. 
  • Make golf ball sized laddus (you probably won't be able to eat a bigger laddu at one time since they are quite heavy). 


  • The sweetness of jaggery depends on the quality. You can add some sugar to achieve desired sweetness. 
  • Soaking the seeds in coconut water adds more flavor. Use regular water if you don't have it. 
  • This recipe makes about 10-12 laddus.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pizza Night

When I lived in NY, pizza was my go-to meal. It was the most accessible food choice when I was on a time crunch, was lazy to cook one day, or made last minute dinner plans with friends. My numerous sleepovers with school buddies were never complete without ordering a variety of thin crust pizzas from the 'Famous Pizzeria' (it was famous too =D). The crispy, baked to perfection pizzas would be gobbled up amid 5-6 girls chattering all at the same time! My favorite pizza had lots of veggies and wasn't drowned in out-of-the-can tomato sauce. Post school, as I started making healthier diet choices, I cut down my pizza consumption considerably. But on Friday, when my friend came down from LA to stay over, I wanted to have some pizza for old time's sake. Only this time, I made it from scratch at home.

I love thin crust pizzas since you get to enjoy more of the good stuff (the toppings) without filling yourself with dough! Previously when I made the crust at home, it was more like a roti dough that I used. This time, it was authentic with yeast, and yet had the healthy whole wheat component. I switched things up with a creamy garlic sauce instead of the typical tomato pizza sauce. You don't have to tell anyone that there's hardly any cheese in it. The recipe is extremely easy and a favorite of mine. I often add it to my pasta when I'm craving a luscious, yet not too cheesy sauce.

Making this pizza seems like a long process. And it is, but most of it just calls for sitting and waiting for the dough to rise or the pizza to bake. Everything else is pretty simple and the effort is worth every tasty bite! The great thing about making pizza at home is you can add whatever and how many ever toppings as you like. If you have friends over, have fun with them making your own pizzas. Keep the dough and the toppings ready, and each person can build their own. The garlicky gooey goodness of the sauce tastes perfect with baked crunchy veggies.

Note: This recipe makes around 4 small or 3 medium pizzas.

Thin Crust Pizza with Creamy Garlic Sauce

1 1/2 Cups warm water
1 Packet active dry yeast
1 Teaspoon sugar
2 Cups whole wheat flour
1 Cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons EVOO
Salt to taste
All purpose flour/corn flour for dusting

Garlic Sauce:
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Teaspoon all purpose flour
1 Cup milk
3 Garlic cloves - grated
Fistful (about 1/4 cup) of shredded cheese - Used a 4 cheese blend. Go for simple mozzarella if you like.
Mrs. Dash seasoning blend or any other herbs and spices blend
Salt to taste

Any veggies you like really! I used a mix of thinly sliced mushrooms, red onions, tomatoes, green bell pepper, avocado, olives, jalapeno (as you can tell, I love my veggies!)

To make the crust:

  • Add active dry yeast and sugar to the water and keep aside for 10-15 minutes until the yeast bubbles. 
  • Once the water is frothy, add the two flours, EVOO and salt and knead really well for a few minutes. You can add a little bit of warm water if needed to form a soft, elastic dough ball. Cover the dough and let it rise for about 45 minute or until the dough doubles in size. 
  • Punch the dough and knead again for a minute until soft. Keep aside until you work on the sauce. 

To make the sauce:

  • Heat butter in a sauce pan on low-medium flame. Once the butter melts, add all purpose flour and whisk continuously until the flour cooks through and turns a golden color. 
  • Add milk and grated garlic to the pan and keep stirring, breaking any lumps. The sauce, or rue as it is called, starts to thicken quickly. Turn the heat off when you achieve the desired consistency. 
  • Season with some salt and your favorite seasoning blend (simple Italian herbs will do), and add a little bit of cheese and stir. The heat will help the cheese melt and blend into the sauce. If the sauce becomes too thick, simply add some warm milk and whisk. The sauce is ready!

To put the pizza together:

  • Preheat over at 400F. 
  • Flour a pizza stone if you have one, or a wooden surface to roll the dough. Divide your dough in three or four parts depending on how big you want the pizzas. Roll each dough ball into a thin crust (about 1/4 inch) using a gentle hand on the rolling pin. 
  • Transfer the crust to your baking tray (don't try to lift it after building your pizza - wisdom learned from a stupid mistake =D ), then spread that yummy sauce generously, your choice of thinly sliced veggies and sprinkle just a little bit of shredded cheese. I used only a tablespoon or so for each pizza. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown on the sides and the veggies are baked crispy. 

Some chili flakes on top, a drink on the side, and some fun conversations are all you need for great dinner time.


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