Sunday, November 11, 2012

Diwali Wishes!

Wishing everyone a very happy Diwali!!! May the glow of the Diwali diyas brighten our lives and remove darkness and evil. Hope you all are enjoying the festivities with your near and dear ones, and stuffing yourselves with Diwali sweets and snacks! Let's remember the less fortunate ones this Diwali and help in any way we can.

There are lots of firsts for us this Diwali - our first time celebrating it together (since I left hubs by himself last year while I was celebrating with my family back in India), our first Diwali in the new house, my first Diwali in San Diego! Although I miss my family and friends staying far from me, I'm super excited about being 'home' with hubby this year. Yesterday, we cleaned and decorated the house together, got a bigger and better home for our pet betta fish and ended the day by making some delicious 'faraal' with friends (sweets and snacks prepared specially on Diwali are called faraal in Maharashtra). A perfect Saturday before Diwali!

Rangoli at the doorfront
Back in India, all the ladies (with enthusiastic kids like me tagged along) would go to each other's house to help out with faraal making. The faraal was made in large quantities as it was to be shared with a big number of family members, friends and neighbors. Over here, the faraal hardly gets consumed. Honestly, I was wondering if I should even bother making anything this year. But once my friend told me how she and her husband were craving faraal, I immediately asked her to come over so we could have a 'faraal making party' :D. So last night, we gorged on fresh Shankarpali, Karanji and Garlic Shev/Sev along with a dinner of daal-rice and amrakhand (talk about gluttony). I had a moment of 'oh, I love faraal no matter how averse I'm to fried foods' and realized it isn't Diwali until the waft of ghee fills up your house!

I'm sharing the recipe for Garlic Sev/Lasanachi Shev. My mom passed on this recipe from the recipe book every Marathi woman swears by - Kamalabai Ogale's Ruchira! I absolutely love this preparation. It's great to change your palate in between all the sweets. Sadly, I don't have a Sev patra (the press that you make sev with), so I shaped these like kadbole by hand. I only made a small quantity so it won't be lying around for days.

Garlic Sev/Lasanachi Shev

1 Cup Besan (chickpea flour)
3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
6-7 Large garlic cloves
1 1/2 Teaspoons red chili powder (adjust per your liking)
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1/2 Teaspoon ajwain/ova seeds
2-3 Pinches baking soda
Salt to taste
Water as needed
Oil for frying

  • Grind garlic cloves using morta-pestle or a small grinder. Add a little bit of water to it and strain it through a fine strainer. Squeeze all the water out of the garlic. You now have a garlic concentrate! You will use this concentrate to flavor the sev so that you don't end up biting into bits of garlic! Isn't that clever? 
  • Mix both the flours, red chili powder and cumin-coriander powder together. 
  • Bruise the ajwain lightly - just take it in your palm and rub it with your thumb. This brings out the oils. 
  • Mix the ajwain, garlic concentrate, baking soda and add salt to taste (add a little extra salt than usual - frying tones down the flavors). 
  • Add water little by little to form a soft, stiff dough. If you don't have a Sev press, make the dough stiff enough so you can shape it by hand.  
  • Heat oil in a kadhai. Once the oil is hot, drop sev in it through the press and fry until yellowish-brown. Keep the flame on low-medium heat. This way, the sev will cook from inside. Otherwise it ends up burning on the outside and the center remains uncooked. 
  • Without a press, you can make small bow-like shapes by rolling out the dough thinly between your palms and pressing two ends together like shown in the picture. 

Enjoy the sinful, fried foods today, for tomorrow we may diet ;). 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

100th Post And Diwali Lanterns!

100th Post! I didn't think I would hit a century in the blog space. I had dreamed of writing a blog for years - but my random musings would go just as far as my girlfriend next door. After moving to San Diego, I was in a new town with not many friends to hang out with, and a personal guinea pig to experiment on ;) - a perfect formula to finally sit down pen my recipes. I'm no writer, not at all! However, I enjoy blogging because there's no pressure to write a certain way. I can put my thoughts in my words without worrying about who reads it; because honestly, I doubted anyone would ever read my blog. And yet it's overwhelming to see all those 'Likes' on Facebook :). So here's a big "Thank You" to all those who give me a few minutes of their time in reading my ramblings.

Moving on to today's topic - Diwali decorations! Anyone who knows me knows that I love celebrating every festival with a bang. And that doesn't necessarily involve splurging - in fact, DIY is the way I always go. Remember the Ganesh idol? This year, I'll be juggling an exam, a conference, work deadlines and house duties all around diwali. So I'm getting a head start on my favorite part - the decorations!

Diwali is a festival of lights - about triumph of good over evil or dark. And lamps and lanterns are an important part of the celebration. Every house in India is lit up with oil lamps and glimmering with lanterns during this festival. So why not make it special by doing it yourself? I make these simple paper lanterns every year to hang up at the main entrance. This is something I enjoyed doing with my grandpa as a kid. I'm sure you'll love crafting them with your kids too. Getting your kids involved in making the decorations is a great way to get them interested in our festivals and culture. These lanterns are easy to make and look very traditional and authentic. If you make one big lantern, you can hang a light bulb inside. But I usually make smaller ones and hang them in a row. Nothing says 'Diwali' like these lanterns adorning the front of the house. And yes, they come with lots of compliments ;). 

**The long list of instructions may scare you at first, but just read on and you'll realize how easy it is to make these lanterns. 

Diwali Paper Lanterns

What you need:
Thick craft paper (8.5 x 11) - use white or beige
Thin craft papers (8.5 x 11) - your favorite colors 
Golden paper/ribbon for the trims
A thick needle 
  • Cut the white paper in 3 pieces width wise so each one has two 8.5" sides. Take the short sides and glue them together to create a cylinder (As shown in picture 2 above).
  • Cut one colored paper in half - again width wise so each one has two 8.5" sides. One half will be used for the top and one to create the dangling strips at the bottom.
  • Fold one of the colored halves into half lengthwise and make about 2/3" strips from the folded side. Don't cut the paper all the way. Leave about 1/2" on the top (Picture 3 in the collage above). When you open the paper, you will have slits in the center all attached on both the sides. This will be the top of the lantern. (As shown in picture 4).
  • Take the other half of the colored paper and fold it 4 times from the short sides and cut small strips. Again, don't cut all the way so that these strips are attached at the top. Once you open the paper, you'll have the strips needed for the bottom (Picture 6 above)
  • Put glue on the top and bottom edges of the cylinder and glue the top colored paper all the way around. (As shown in the left corner picture below). 
  • Glue the bottom strips to one side of the cylinder. Decorate both sides of the cylinder with some golden ribbon or golden paper strips. You can get creative and add glitter, stones or whatever else you like. 
  • With a sharp, thick needle, make two holes across from each other on top of the cylinder and create a handle to hang them using ribbon or thread. 

Make these lanterns in different colors and hang them in a row. 

How are you preparing for Diwali??

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kojagiri Cutlets!

Hi everyone! Hope you enjoyed lots of Halloween candy and baked some sweet treats. I had been looking forward to this Halloween for days - mostly because it was our chance to finally meet the neighbors, which I'm happy we did. The whole parade of kids dressed up as princesses, ninjas, ghosts, transformers and what have you, was quite a lot of fun. Hubs and I put our beach chairs in front of the house and enjoyed giving out candy to happy kids (derived mostly through their gesture since I couldn't really see many of their faces) and talking to parents who worried whether their li'l ones said "thank you"! Our first holiday season in the new neighborhood as begun on a sweet Halloween candy note!

Anyway, to cut to the chase - cutlets! I made these fun snacks three days back for Kojagiri pournima (full moon night). I was hoping to post the recipe right away and get to my 100th post(!). Anyway...The story goes that Goddess Lakshmi roams the earth on this full moon night and asks "Ka: Jagarati" meaning "Who's awake" and  blesses those who observe night vigil with wealth and prosperity. People gather at night and enjoy flavored milk (masala doodh) and poha (flattened rice) after offering it to the beautiful full moon. In honor of this day, I made some tasty cutlets of poha. I remember my mom making these out of left-over Maharashtrian style kande-pohe (seasoned flattened rice). Poha is unusual to use in cutlets, but it works really well. It turns into almost rice-flour essentially, which helps in binding the cutlets and absorbing any flavors you add.  If you are making them out of kande-pohe, you already have the ginger, green chili, onion, cilantro etc. I mimicked the same flavors and made these out of plain poha. A fun snack you could make as starters for all the diwali parties you'll have lined up! These are great after-school snacks for kids as well. Of course, tone down the spiciness for them.

Poha Cutlets

1 Large potato
1 1/2 Cups washed thick poha 
1/4 Medium onion - finely chopped
A few springs of cilantro - finely chopped
1 Inch ginger
2 Small green chilies
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
Salt to taste
Rava (semolina) for coating
Oil as needed. 
  • Soak thick poha (don't use the thin variety) in some water and drain right away. Let it sit for 15 minutes. 
  • Boil the potato until fork tender and peel. 
  • Grind gingner, green chilies and cumin-coriander powder together. 
  • Mix the soaked poha, potato, onion, cilantro, the space paste you made and salt and bind well until the potato and poha are mashed. Sprinkle some water if the mixture is too dry. 
  • Make small flat patties and roll them in rava, pressing lightly. This will create a nice crunchy crust on the cutlets. 
  • Heat a pan on medium-high flame and drizzle some oil. Pan fry the cutlets on each side until brown. 

The cutlets taste yummy with ketchup! 


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