Friday, December 5, 2014

A Roasted Vegetables Dinner

All good things must come to an end. After spending three wonderful months together, and making lots of new memories, we said goodbye to my parents. I am so happy and thankful for the time my daughter got to spend with her grandparents. It's going to be difficult getting used to an empty house.

I was on the important task of eating down our overstocked fridge before mom and dad left. Monday night I took all the veggies - Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, turnip, and a leftover poblano pepper - and decided to use them up. I had originally planned to roast Brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving; it was time to do so finally. Rest of the vegetables, also roasted, went into a velvety smooth soup. The soup was made at mom's request - she kept on talking about this wonderful roasted cauliflower soup she had tried somewhere, and had been asking me to make it. The other vegetables happened to go well with it, so I tossed them in. What started as an exercise to just finish up the produce turned into a wonderful meal, perfect for the cold night we had. 

I roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in some olive oil, herbs, salt & pepper, at 400F for about 25 minutes. Sometimes simple is what you should aim for. Mom and dad, who called them mini cabbages, loved roasted Brussels sprouts, especially the crunchy outer layers.

I kept to soup low cal by using milk instead of cream for that smooth and creamy texture. The carrot and poblano helped take away the pungency of the cauliflower. Some almonds on top gave it a nice crunchy bite.This was a good filling soup. You could add potato or other winter veggies to it. This recipe is a keeper.

Roasted Cauliflower, Carrot, & Turnip Soup With Poblano

1 Medium head of cauliflower
1 Medium Turnip
1 Large or 2 small carrots
1 Poblano pepper
1 small onion
3 Cloves of garlic
2 Teaspoon Italian herbs
3/4 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon red chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Quart low sodium vegetable broth
3/4 Cup whole milk (or cream if you like)
Olive oil for tossing vegetables and sauteing
Chopped cilantro, chopped chives, slivered almonds, or croutons for garnishing

  • Prepare the vegetables for roasting - separate cauliflower florets, cut turnip and carrots into cubes. Toss these vegetables and whole poblano in a little bit of oil (just enough to coat), and Italian herbs. 
  • Spread all the veggies on a baking sheet, and bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is golden and rest of the veggies fork tender. Take out and keep aside. 
  • On the side, chop onion and garlic finely.Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil, and saute them until onions are translucent. 
  • Add all the roasted veggies, cumin-coriander powder, red chili powder, and half the vegetable stock to the pot. Blend this until smooth and creamy. I used my Vitamix, which does a great job of making smooth soups. 
  • Pour this back into the pot, add the remaining vegetable stock, or as much needed to create the consistency you like, milk, salt & pepper to taste. 
  • Bring the soup to a boil and reduce to simmer. 
  • Serve hot, with your favorite garnish. I added chopped cilantro, and slivered almonds for some crunch. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

(Almost) Vegetarian Thanksgiving

You know how sometimes things just turn out right and everything jives together really well - You plan a party with your old friends but enjoy their company anew, or you follow a tried and tasted recipe but the dish somehow tastes better? Our Thanksgiving lunch yesterday was no different. I had planned to get together with a couple friends of mine. My friend's dad is visiting her from India. With both of our parents in town, we thought it would be nice to get together. And what fun we had! We each prepared a few dishes, mostly vegetarian. Every item turned out great, if I may say so myself. Both of our parents loved the traditional fair. We dined for a long time, amid delightful conversations. Here's a recount of our wonderful meal.

When we went over to my friends' house, they had already set up the table beautifully. I was certainly pleasantly surprised, knowing that they had just returned from a trip at 1 am!

My friends made sweet potato and carrot soup with just the right amount of cinnamon, and some heat. It was the kind of soup that makes you  feel warm inside with just one sip. Then there were deviled eggs, green beans and peas casserole with crunchy almonds on top, and a beautiful dessert turkey made of fresh fruits! I contributed by making stuffed mushrooms for appetizers, stuffed acorn with quinoa pulao for the main course; and mom made third(!) batch of her almost famous cranberry pickle to eat with the pulao. To our delight, we ended up with very little leftovers. My friend immediately claimed the leftover pickle; somehow mom managed to steal the show with just a small side dish!

I used my sister's recipe for stuffed mushrooms, with a couple of modifications. It is a simple recipe, and a favorite finger food of mine to make at holiday parties. If using large mushrooms, I make 3 per person with a few extra to go around. I kept the mushrooms stuffed and ready to go in the oven ahead of time, and baked them just before heading over to my friend's house. They reheat well - just a few minutes in the oven at 375F.

Stuffed Mushrooms With Spinach and Parmesan

20 Large white button mushrooms (you can also use the brown variety)
1 Small red onion - finely chopped
1 Cup finely chopped fresh spinach
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for topping
3 Garlic cloves - crushed and finely chopped
1 Teaspoon Tuscan seasoning (regular Italian seasoning in lieu of it)
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 Teaspoons olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Oil spray
  • Clean mushrooms with a damp towel. If the mushrooms are very soiled, rinse them in water and pat dry right away with a towel. Remove the stems (don't discard), and clean out the brown part inside with the handle of a spoon or a butter knife. 
  • Take ~1/2 of the mushrooms stems and chop them finely. These will go in the stuffing. 
  • Heat oil in a pan and add chopped garlic. Saute for a few seconds until golden. 
  • Add onion to the pan and saute until translucent. Then add chopped mushroom stems, spinach, herbs, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat until everything comes together. Season with salt & pepper. 
  • Turn off the heat and add grated cheese to this mixture. 
  • Spray insides of the mushrooms with oil, stuff with the above mixture, top them off with more cheese that'll melt and create a crust. Once stuffed, spray the mushrooms again with oil. 
  • Preheat oven at 400F and bake the mushrooms for ~20 minutes or until the cheese on top has turned golden brown and the mushrooms are tender. 
  • Take them out of the oven, remove all the excess juices accumulated at the bottom, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve!

Stuffed acorn makes for a great vegetarian main course. It looks beautiful, is filling, and can be made quite healthy. I have always stuffed acorn with quinoa pulao with different veggies each time. I've made it with broccoli-carrot, mushroom-peas, just tri-colored peppers. This time I used sweet red and yellow peppers, and peas. To bring in a touch of spice, I added a little bit of garam masala (had to do it!). In went a few raisins to balance out the spices, like we do in Indian pulao recipes. I gauged ~3/4 cup packed cooked quinoa for each person. That was about how much everyone ate among all other dishes. I baked 3 medium acorns for 6 adults, but 2 were plenty.

Stuffed Acorn With Quinoa Pulao

2 Medium sized acorns
1 1/2 Cups uncooked quinoa
1 Small red onion - finely chopped
3 Garlic cloves - crushed and finely chopped
3/4 Cup peas - frozen or fresh
3/4 Cup chopped red and yellow sweet peppers Or use bell peppers
1/4 Cup golden raisins
1 Teaspoon garam masala
1 Teaspoon Italian herbs
1 Teaspoon red chili powder or paprika
Some red chili flakes - to liking
Salt to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Cilantro for garnishing

  • Clean acorns. Keep them stem side down, and cut the top horizontally about 1/4th way down. This will make them look like pots with lids. Clean out the seeds with a spoon. Spray the insides with oil. 
  • Preheat oven at 400F and bake the squash for 25 minutes or until tender. Take out and keep aside. 
  • On the side, cook quinoa according to package instructions. Keep aside. 
  • Heat oil in a cooking pan, add chopped garlic and onion and saute for a minute or so until the onions are translucent. 
  • Add peas and peppers and cook for a couple of minutes until tender. 
  • Mix in all the herbs and spices, and lastly cooked quinoa and raisins. Salt to taste.
  • Adjust the amount of spices to your liking. Once all the flavors have come together, turn off the heat. 
  • To assemble, take a casserole or a flat bottom serving dish. Spread some of the pulao at the bottom, keep the baked acorns on top, and fill them with rest of the pulao. Garnish with chopped cilantro. When serving pulao, scoop some acorn along with it. 

Here is to another great year of wonderful eats and great friends. I can't finish this post without being thankful for my sweetheart munchkin! 

I want to hear about your Thanksgiving stories!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole To-Go

Our Thanksgiving celebration is delayed this year. We are going to have a potluck tomorrow with some of our friends. The actual day was a quiet affair though. Husband was of town, and so were most of our friends. My parents, who are packing bags as the end of their trip approaches, and I wanted to steal the last weekend to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather. We decided to pack some lunch and head over to Del Mar beach. Although not very picnic-y, I had just the right dish in mind. Last week I had bookmarked this Quinoa Enchilada Casserole recipe, and had (almost) all the ingredients on hand. This casserole was perfect for various reasons - it was an easy one pot, rather casserole, dish; it stayed quite hot until we got to the beach; it was easy to carry in the car; and it was tasty with all the Mexican flavors, yet fit into my mom's restricted diet plan.

A few modifications made this dish perfect for us. I added fresh poblano pepper rather than canned chiles, tossed in lots of fresh spinach instead of cilantro for a dose of healthy, and used regular instead of mild enchilada sauce. The only cheese I had on hand was paneer. Mom can't eat cheese anyway, so a little bit of paneer to bind everything worked just fine. Some ooey gooey cheese would've been nice, but we didn't miss it. Even after using regular sauce though, the dish lacked serious heat to our Indian palates. I would have certainly liked either hot enchilada sauce or some jalapenos thrown in there. We topped the casserole with fresh avocados before serving. 

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

1 Cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 Cup canned black beans, rinsed
1/2 Cup corn kernels
3/4 Cup chopped fresh spinach
1 Poblano pepper - seeded and chopped
1/4 Cup grated paneer (or use mozzarella/cheddar)
1 Bottle hot/regular/mild enchilada sauce (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 Teaspoon red chili powder (if needed)
Salt to taste
1 Avocado, seeded and diced
Cilantro for garnishing (optional)
  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions. You can use any kind of quinoa. 
  • Mix all the ingredients, except avocado and cilantro, in a casserole. Taste before you add salt, as the sauce is quite salty. 
  • Preheat oven at 375F. Bake quinoa mixture for 15 minutes, or until you see a crust on top. 
  • Garnish with cilantro and avocado. 

Thursday was a pretty hot day. I had expected it to be cooler by the beach, but it wasn't so. By the time we finished lunch it was too hot to be on the beach without any shade, especially for the baby. Mom and dad said their goodbyes to the Pacific, and we returned home. We made an unsuccessful trip to the mall yesterday. The lane to the entrance was blocked forever. It was black Friday..what was I thinking?? It didn't bother me much though, as we ended up taking a U-turn and going for a nice lunch instead. Somehow we circle back to food :). 

I am looking forward to our feast tomorrow. Are you done with all your feasts for the holiday? What did you gobble gobble gobble?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turnip With Tadka

Thanksgiving week has arrived. Winter or not in San Diego, there are winter vegetables galore in my house. This is the first time my parents are truly experiencing all the winter foods. I've made stuffed acorn (which I plan to make again for our Thanksgiving feast), apple-fennel salad, pumpkin-leek soup, roasted sweet potatoes etc. for them so far. They've all been hit with the parents. Winter produce is not new to my mom, but she has rarely tried the non-Indian recipes. I am so glad that my parents are open to trying new foods, and that they actually like it! As I mentioned before, mom had experimented with different ingredients when she lived in the US for a few years. In order to incorporate the local produce into our daily meals, she had Indianized many ingredients; like this cranberry pickle. This simple turnip sabji is one of them. Mom makes turnips with just cumin-coriander, and chili powder for flavor. A simple tempering and little use of spices makes this a soulful dish.

Indian Style Turnip/ Turnip Sabji

3 Medium turnips
2 Teaspoons oil
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 Teaspoon red chili powder
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnishing
  • Wash, peel, and cut turnips into 1/4 inch cubes. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, and add mustard seeds. 
  • Add asafoetida and turmeric powder once mustard seeds splutter, and add turnip. 
  • Add cumin-coriander, chili powder, salt, and mix well. 
  • Cover the pan and let turnip cook in its own moisture, adding 2-3 tablespoons water if necessary. Stir occasionally. 
  • Turn off heat once turnips are fork tender. Garnish with cilantro, and serve with rotis. 

We will be celebrating Thanksgiving with the family of one of my friends. I'm looking forward to our big meal.

What are you doing this Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Welcoming Fall With Cranberry Pickle

I say this often around this time of the year, but time is zooming by faster than ever! My daughter is growing up way too fast for my liking, and I want to hang on to every precious moment. Perhaps that is why I haven't felt the urge to post all the wonderful recipes I tried during the festival season. October was an exciting month with lots of firsts for my baby girl. We celebrated her first Diwali, and how! My whole family, including mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law were with us. Really, it is no celebration without the company of your near and dear ones! My sister and I prepared faraal with mom, she instructing us on the exact measurements and just the right method for making everything. No matter how much I learn to do things on my own, having mom inspecting everything for accuracy makes everything better. We all woke up bright and early on Diwali day, dressed up, and enjoyed faraal with some garam-garam chai.

Shreya has now started eating some solids and loves to grab everything from our plates. Diwali was the perfect time to celebrate her embarking on the solid food journey. We did her Ushtavan or Anna Prashan (literally meaning Consuming Food) the day after Diwali. It's a ceremony performed in many Indian states to mark baby's solid eating. Maharashtrians host this ceremony when the baby is between 7-9 months of age. The baby sits on her mama's (maternal uncle) lap, and gets fed all sorts of mushy goodness by the family members. I had some of Shreya's favorite foods - rice, daal, mashed sweet potato, peas, and squash. She looked a little confused by the number of people feeding her, but enjoyed the food anyway.

The month ended with an impromptu trip to Vegas! The long drive made me nervous at first, but my daughter was a complete darling and didn't fuss even once. As lame as it sounds, the best part of the trip was getting out of the messy house and not having to clean the room :D. I think Shreya caught the Vegas fever, and refused to sleep or nurse. She was looking around wide-eyed, with a big grin on her face!

We came back from the Vegas heat to a much cooler and breezy San Diego. The weather had turned around just in days. This pleasantly cool weather is a welcome change, and has given way to winter cooking. I bought fresh cranberries from the market the other day and mom made her favorite, gorgeous colored Indian style pickle. My mom sure is one to try new things in the kitchen and had picked up this recipe a decade back when we lived in NY. It's a quick fix, as long as you have pickle masala on hand. If not, you can use this recipe; it's made with usual ingredients on your spice rack. The pickle is a little bit of each - spicy, sweet, and sour. And look at that beautiful color! Cranberry pickle tastes much like raw Karvand/Karonda pickle.  Slather it on a slice of bread, or eat it with daal-rice or yogurt-rice, it is a picker-upper for any meal, and goes with Non-Indian dishes just as well. We made another batch today, and had it with quinoa pulao. You may even add it to your Thanksgiving menu!

Indian Style Cranberry Pickle

2 1/2 Cups fresh cranberries
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 Teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4 Teaspoon asafoetida (this may seem a lot, but is required)
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
4 Teaspoons Pickle Masala (available at Indian grocery stores)
3 Teaspoons red chili powder
2-3 Tablespoons grated jaggery (adjust per your liking)
Salt to taste
1/2 Cup water

  • Heat oil in a sauce pan and add mustard seeds. 
  • Once the mustard seeds splutter, add asafoetida and turmeric. Add cleaned cranberries to the pot. 
  • Add a little water, cover the pot, and cook the cranberries until soft. Stir in between. 
  • Add pickle masala, red chili powder, jaggery, and salt, and mix well. Cook this down until most of the water evaporates, leaving a chunky pickle. The cranberries should soften completely.
  • Taste, and adjust the ingredients to your liking. 

Cool the pickle completely, and it's ready to enjoy! As with any pickle, it tastes much better the next day. Keep it in the fridge in an air tight container for up to 3 weeks. I bet you'll finish it way before that :).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Diwali Faraal - Khajachi Karanji or Satyachi karanji

Diwali is just around the corner. And Fall has finally arrived in San Diego. What a glorious time it is to be frying lots of things and using ghee abundantly. Despite the hot afternoons, dense morning fog and crisp evening air convinces me of the changing season and the approaching festive times. I started my Diwali preps over the weekend on a sweet note with flaky, melt in the mouth pastry called Khajachi Karanji or Satyachi Karanji.

 Karanji is a fried pastry, much like empanadas, made with all purpose flour cover and some sort of sweet stuffing. Our traditional recipe has grated fresh coconut filling. My husband's side of the family makes a more fancy version of it. The cover is made by layering multiple rolled dough rotis with ghee in between. When fried, the layers separate, must like puff pastry, creating wonderfully flaky and crispy karanji. It's called Khajachi karanji for the layers resembling another sweet called Khaja. It also gets its other name, Satyachi Karanji or Karanji made with Sate, from the ghee-corn starch spread used to create layers. The spread is called Sate. This Karanji is stuffed with a fine dried coconut filling which adds to the melt-in-the-mouth quality. Some make the karanji cover using very fine rava or semolina. It needs to be pounded and requires more work. I took the easier route.

Husband specially asked me to make Karanji 'their style' since I'm making everything else using my mom's recipes. I am always up for trying something new, especially when it involves a sweet ;). I called up my mother-in-law, and got detailed instructions from her. My skills were at test, and I decided to post the recipe when husband gave me two thumbs up!

The recipe is a little tricky. And the instructions are long. But the picture tutorial should help in understanding how it's made. This elaborate preparation is worth every delicious bite!

**This recipe makes ~12 karanjis.

Khajachi Karanji/Satyachi Karanji

1 Cup all purpose flour
2 Teaspoons melted hot ghee - must be absolutely hot, not warm
Couple of pinches salt
Water as needed
1 pinch saffron and 1 Tablespoon milk Or food color of choice (optional)
A little milk to seal karanji

2 Tablespoons corn starch
~ 2 Tablespoons ghee (or as much needed to create a smooth paste)

1/2 Cup dry grated coconut. If you grate an entire coconut, scrape off the black part.
2/3 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons almonds
1/2 Teaspoon cardamom powder

To prepare the dough:

  • Mix all purpose flour, salt, and hot ghee. The ghee helps make the dough light. 
  • Add just enough water to prepare a stiff dough. It is important not to make the dough soft
  • Cover the dough under a damp cloth and let it sit for a couple of hours. 
  • If you want to make a two-colored karanji, you can use food color. Separate 1/3 and 2/3 flour. Add one color to 1/3 of the flour, and either keep the rest white or add another color. No one in my house is a big fan of artificial food color. So I added saffron to 1/3 of the dough. I added saffron to warm milk and crushed it until the color oozed out. Then added this milk to the dough. 

To prepare sate:
  • Mix corn starch and enough ghee to make a smooth paste in a small plate/bowl. Whisk this by fingers until it's mixed well and looks creamy. 

To prepare the filling:

  • Roast coconut on low flame until toasty (~5 mins). If you have sliced coconut, roast it and then grind it to a coarse powder. You don't want pieces of coconut poking through the dough. 
  • Grind sugar and almonds to a powder. 
  • Mix coconut, almond, cardamom powder, and sugar. Adjust the amount of sugar to your liking. Remember that frying tones the flavors down. Make sure the aroma of cardamom powder is prominent. Mix the filling well by hand. 

To make karanji:

  • Knead the dough well before making karanji. Make three parts of the dough.
  • Roll out each part into a roti. Keep the dough covered under damp cloth while working on each roti to ensure it doesn't dry out. 
  • Take one roti, spread the corn starch mixture or sata by hand to create a thick coat all around. Place the second roti on top of it. Apply more sata and layer the third roti. Press gently by hand. 
  • Now create a tight roll, like a Swiss roll. Pinch off the ends to close. 
  • Cut the roll in half at an angle (as shown in the pic above). Cut each piece in half again. Now cut all 4 pieces in thirds - a total of 12 pieces. Keep them covered under damp cloth. 
  • Press each of the dough pieces by hand to flatten out. You want to flatten it from the side that shows the layers. Since they are at an angle, the layers will seal when pressed. 
  • Gently roll the dough ball using corn starch or all purpose flour so it doesn't stick. Don't roll too hard or else the layers will separate before frying - this will break the karanji while frying, spilling out the filling into the oil. You want to roll the dough like a puri - not too thick not too thin. This cover is called a paari.
  • Place a large spoonful of the filling at the center of the paari. You want a decent amount of filling since the karanji will puff up after frying. Apply a little milk all around the edge of the pari, fold it in half and seal of the edges to create a boat shaped karanji. Press the ends well so that karanji doesn't open while frying. Don't leave any air iside. You can cut the excess ends using a karanji cutter, or a knife. 
  • Heat oil in a kadhai. Drop a small piece of dough. If the oil bubbles rapidly and the dough floats to the top right away, the oil is ready for frying. Lower the heat to medium and fry each karanji until golden. Don't turn the karanji too many times else it'll break. The layers in the paari should separate while frying. 
  • Take out the karanjis on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Let them cool completely before storing. You don't want any steam remaining, else the karanjis will turn soft. 
  • Store in an airtight container once cooled. They can be stored for up to 2 weeks. 

This is one of the many sweets and snacks I plan to prepare this year. Let me know what you're making for Diwali!

Submitting this recipe to the Dish it Out - Diwali Bash event @ Cook's Joy

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Healthy Start - Rava and Oats Uttappam For Breakfast

Preparing meals has become a joint venture in my house lately. Between prepping, cooking, cleaning after, and most importantly looking after the baby, we all need to rotate the roles every so often. I've been able to prepare some elaborate meals lately, such as our Dashera feast. But most of the times I let others help out as much as they can. Cooking with the family is the best way to spend some quality time with them. It's amazing what topics, stories, and helpful tips come out of 'cooperative cooking'. That is when we create memories to cherish for life.

Our Sunday brunch was no different. I made this healthy uttappa/uttappam made with rava and oats. Mom roasted rava and oats, I cut the veggies for the topping and chutney, dad helped grind the chutney, while husband kept the girl entertained. This easy uttappa doesn't require pre-planning, soaking, fermenting etc., much like this instant idli. We got almost two meals out of the batter for the four of us. I was going to make simple rava uttappa, but mom suggested adding oats. It has become a common ingredient in many of her diabetic friendly recipes. Not only that, oats made the uttappas light, and prevented them from sticking to the pan. The great thing about uttappas is that you can top them with a variety of veggies to suit your taste. I added grated carrot along with tomato-onion-cilantro topping. Beetroot, bell peppers, spinach, corn, cheese can be some other options. You are only limited by your imagination. To go with the uttappas, I made a tomato-onion chutney, which has become a favorite of mine lately, and has replaced the usual coconut-cilantro chutney.

Rava-Oats Uttappa/Uttappam

2 Cups rava/semolina
1 Cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 Cup yogurt
Salt to taste
Water as needed

Mixture of finely chopped onion, tomato, green chili, chilantro, and grated carrot

  • Roast rava on medium heat until fragrant and just starts to change color. 
  • Roast oats until toasty and fragrant, and grind them to a coarse powder. 
  • Mix roasted rava, oats powder, yogurt, salt, and add enough water to make a pancake like consistency batter. Let the batter soak for about an hour, or hour and a half. 
  • To prepare uttappas, heat a pan on medium-high. Make sure the pan is hot before you make the first uttappa, else it'll stick to the pan, and the rest of them won't come out well either. 
  • Pour a ladleful of batter on the pan and gently spread it in a circular fashion. 
  • Add the topping. 
  • Once the uttappa starts to separate from the pan, and you can see that it's golden brown on one side, turn and cook on the other side. 

South Indian Style Tomato-Onion Chutney

2 Medium tomatoes - diced
1 Small or 1/2 Large onion - diced
2 Garlic cloves - chopped
7-8 Curry leaves
Handful of cilantro sprigs (optional)
2 Red chilies/1 Teaspoon red chili powder
1 Tablespoon chana daal
1 Tablespoon urad daal
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
Pinch asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 Tablespoon oil for tempering

  • Heat oil in a pan, and add mustard seeds. 
  • Once the mustard seeds splutter, add asafoetida, turmeric powder, curry leaves, garlic, chana daal, urad daal, red chilies, and chopped onion. Roast until the onion is translucent and the two daals turn a red hue. 
  • If you are using red chili powder, add it with the tomatoes. 
  • Add tomatoes, and salt to taste, and roast until tomatoes are cooked (~3-4 mins). 
  • Once the above is cool enough to put into a grinder along with cilantro, grind it chunky or smooth  - however you like your chutney. 

Enjoy hot uttappas with the chutney!

What is your 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Batata Bhaji With Yogurt

It seems I only get to post from one major festival to another these days. There is no time to eat food peacefully, much less take pictures and blog about it. But I'm thoroughly content spending time with and watching my baby girl grow. She turns 7 months today according to the Hindu calendar, and what a fun little thing she is to play with! We also have a full house with my parents visiting us currently - which is why we prepared a feast for Dashera on Friday. Such a bliss being with your near and dear ones on festivals! I meant to post about it right away, but here we are into Kojagiri Pournima and I already have something new cooking in the kitchen. Expect more posts during this festival season.

For us Maharashtrians, Shrikhand-puri is must for the Dashera feast. I made Shrikhand using my Grandma's foolproof recipe. I don't strain the 'chakka' if it's not too lumpy - I like that slightly grainy texture it leaves. There were other traditional dishes on the menu - Batata bhaji/aalu sabji, green beans stir fry/sabji, carrot koshimbir/Maharashtrian style salad, cucumber kayras , masoor amati, and rice. The kayras recipe I posted in the past was taken from somewhere else. Now that mom is here, I made it under her guidance, and it was just how I like it. Her recipe is easier as well. I'll repost it now.

Below is the picture of everything I prepared - how a traditional Maharashtrian thali is served. Of course, you don't expect a square plate,  but I did the best using available resources :D.

Batata bhaji goes really well with shrikhand-puri. Our traditional recipe has a tempering of green chilies and curry leaves. Mom suggested trying something different this time. She taught me a really simple and absolutely delicious recipe for Batata Bhaji in Yogurt. Like everything my mom makes, I loved the preparation. The yogurt taste is not too prominent, but it adds a slight tang and creaminess, and helps in bringing all the flavors together. The recipe below is for a dry sabji, but you can make a thinner gravy by adding more yogurt and adjusting the spices accordingly. There's one more potato recipe added to my repertoire now.

Dahyatali Bhatata Bhaji/Aalu Sabji with Yogurt

3 Large or 4 medium white/golden potatoes.
1/2 Cup yogurt
1 Teaspoon Garam Masala
1 1/2 Teaspoons cumin-coriander powder
1 Teaspoon green reen chili powder/ to taste
Salt to taste
Water if needed.

1 Tablespoon oil
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder.

  • Boil potatoes till fork tender. Peel and cut into 3/4'' cubes. Keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan, and add mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add asafoetida, turmeric, and yogurt and let cook for about a minute.
  • Add potatoes, garam masala, cumin-coriander powder, green chili powder, and salt. Mix everything well. If the potatoes seem too dry, add a little water.
  • Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Garnish sabji with chopped cilantro. Done!

With Diwali just around the corner, we're getting ready to make Faraal. What's happening on your side?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Naralachi Vadi for Baal Ganesh

My most favorite time of the year is here - Ganpati Bappa arrived in our house yesterday on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, and will stay with us the next 4 days. Oh, so much joy and good eats this festival brings!

I celebrate Ganesh chaturthi with much enthusiasm and glee, while trying to stay as eco-friendly as possible. See this hand-made clay idol and decor with used cardboard boxes from last year? The celebration this year is low-key, as I hardly have time to do anything with a baby and work. But my baby's first big festival needed something to make it memorable. Keeping the tradition, I made the idol at home. As a quick and simple alternative to clay, I thought of using play dough - the perfect medium to make idol for my baby's first Ganpati! Thanks to Pinterest, I knew I could make play dough at home. I used the no-cook play dough recipe on this site, with only half the measurements. I skipped cream of tartar (used for elasticity) and glycerin (used for shine). The preparation of making the dough with all purpose flour, salt, oil, and water took  10 mins all together. The key to getting good play dough is kneading it really well. Making the idol was equally quick as I skipped adding too many details. Our Bappa looks like Baal Ganesha (Baby Ganesha), and I was quite happy with it.

Husband asked for Modak for Naivedya. But it was too elaborate a process. I went for simple Naralachi Vadi (Coconut Barfi) instead, using one of the main ingredients from Modak. I was never a big fan of Naralachi Vadi until I tried it at one of my dad's friends' place. His wife had made the best vadi I had tried, and her secret ingredient was - potato! Who would've though?! Mashed potato gave the vadi a nice bite and chewiness. I don't like too hard, sugary and crumbly vadi, and potato added just the right texture to it. When I told the husband I was adding potato to the vadi, he thought I was joking! But he ended up loving the product, and I think Ganpati Bappa liked it too :).

Olya Naralachi Vadi/ Coconut Barfi

1 Packed cup fresh/frozen grated coconut
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup milk
1 Small potato (~ golf ball sized) - boiled and mashed
1/2 Teaspoon cardamom powder
1 Tablespoon ghee
Dry fruits for decoration - I used Charoli. Almonds or cashews would be great.

  • Heat a pan on low flame, add ghee and grated coconut and cook for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add sugar, milk, and mashed potato. Cook this mixture while stirring every so often. Make sure you take out all the lumps from the potato so that it's smooth. 
  • Cook the mixture down until all the sugar has dissolved and the moisture has evaporated. It should stop sticking to the pan and come together in a ball. 
  • Add cardamom powder and mix well. 
  • Grease a flat surface (plate/tray etc.) and spread the coconut mixture with a spatula into a 1/4'' cake. Sprinkle chopped dry fruits and pat gently on the cake. 
  • Once cooled slightly, cut the cake into desired sized diamonds. Let them cool completely before separating the barfi. 
Hope those of you who celebrate this festival are having a wonderful, modak-filled, celebration!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Shravan Special - Puran Kadabu

I loved the auspicious month of Shravan as a kid for various reasons. Apart from all the holidays we got, food was certainly one of the highlights. Many women in Maharashtra observe the Jivati Vrata on Shravan Fridays by worshiping Goddess Jiviti for the health and longevity of their children. I didn't know of this vrata by its particular name, but I looked forward to eating Puran-Poli on the first Friday of the month. My mom performed 'ovalane' or 'aarati utarana', for which there is no translation in English! It's a ritual performed by offerning oil lamps to a deity/person as means of worshiping or offering respect. Details apart, mom made diyas out of Puran, the sweet split chickpea/chana daal stuffing that goes into Puran-Poli, to perform the ritual. Then we got to feast on delicious polis.

This year I got to pay it forward by praying for my daughter's well-being and long life. Of course, there was puran involved. Instead of making poli though, I prepared Kadabu - Indian style whole wheat empanadas stuffed with sweet Puran. Kadabu/Kadubu are better known in South India, although the preparation is different. While puran kadabu are made with wheat flour, other versions are either made with all purpose flour or rice flour, and the stuffing is often made of grated coconut instead of chana daal. Puran Kadabu are not very well known; for that matter my husband had never eaten them. But I am quite a fan. The good thing is you don't have to strain puran through food mill to make it smooth. In fact, coarse puran with a bite tastes really good in kadabu.

I saved the chana daal broth and some daal itself to make Katachi Amati which was served with rice, ghee, sweet lime pickle, and yogurt - yes, all home made! I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am to be making fresh yogurt at home every day since last week. Our nanny got us the starter and I couldn't have been more pleased with the results. Anyway, that may warrant its own post.

Puran Kadabu/Indian Sweet Split Chickpea-filled Empanada

1 Cup split chickpea/chana daal
3/4 Cup grated jaggery
1 Teaspoon cardamom powder
Couple of pinches salt

2 Cups whole wheat flour
1 Teaspoon oil
1/4 Teaspoon salt
Water as needed

Oil for frying
  • Knead the dough by combining whole wheat flour, oil, salt, and enough water to form a stiff, firm dough. Cover and keep aside.
  • One the side, pressure cook chana daal until cooked well (4-5 whistles).
  • Once the daal is cooked, remove excess water (you can save the broth to make katachi amati). Add jaggery to the daal and start cooking until most of the water evaporates, and the mixture stops sticking to the pot. Add salt and cardamom powder and mix well. Puran or the stuffing is done.
To make kadabu:
  • Make large marble sized dough ball and roll it out thinly just like you would a puri. 
  • Take a decent amount of puran, approximately a golf ball size, so that you have a handsomely stuffed kadabu. Place it one one side of the round puri and press to form a half moon. 
  • Fold the other side of puri over and press two sides gently to seal. Make sure the kadabu is sealed properly otherwise frying oil will get inside and burn puran. 
  • To make the kadabu look pretty, gently press the tip of a fork into the sealed edges, and cut any uneven ends with a knife. Alternatively, you can use a Karanji Cutter if you have one. 
  • Fry on medium heat until golden brown. Kadabu will puff up when fried. It will soften once cooled. 
Pour some warn ghee on kadabu while serving, and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Four Month Birthday With Ice Cream Trifle

Our local Indian grocery store opened an ice-cream shop recently with all the Indian favorites - sitafal (custard apple), kesar, mango, pistachio etc. I excitedly tried all the flavors; and while most of them were just okay, I was certainly reminded of Indian ice-cream. It was perfectly light and airy, and not cloying sweet. I came home with a carton of one of my all time favorites - butterscotch. I made this simple trifle with the ice cream to celebrate my daughter's 4 month birthday last week (gosh, she's growing up so fast!). It was the perfect dessert for this hot summer month.

I ate this trifle at one of my aunts' place. We used to visit my dad's siblings and cousins in Thane every summer vacation. My aunt used to have all the kids over and treat us to all sorts of fun stuff - chaats, paav bhaaji, Indian desserts, and other kids favorites, like this ice-cream trifle. It was just layered pound cake, mixed fruits, and ice-cream - the easiest dessert ever - but it tasted so good! It had all the right components - dense, moist cake, fruits including the season's best mango, and good quality ice-cream. You can't go wrong with that combination! I recreated the trifle from my memory, and it was a big hit in my family. My baby girl can't eat yet, but I'll be sure to make this once she grows old enough to eat sweets (yes, I believe in spoiling kids once a while :D). I used store bought pound cake for the recipe since it didn't need much. With minimal effort, I created a great dessert everyone loved, and spent time playing with my daughter instead of fretting over baking a cake. This trifle would be great for parties - you can make it in advance, make a large batch in no time, change it up a thousand different ways to create a 'new' dessert, and appear really cool to young as well as adult guests for treating them to something this good. You can play on the flavors of ice-cream and pound cake, such as lemon cake with citrus fruits and strawberry ice-cream, or chocolate swirled pound cake with chocolate chip ice-cream, pineapple pound cake with coconut ice-cream. The combinations are countless and the joy limitless!

**Husband managed to click a few decent pictures this time. What a breath of fresh air after my rushed, poorly lit, poorly staged phone photos!

Ice Cream Trifle

Good quality pound cake - I used almond flavored - cut in 1/2 inch slices
Chopped mixed fruits - I used mango, strawberry, apple, and grapes for a variety of flavors and textures
Tutti frutti (optional) - to mix with fresh fruits
Butterscotch ice-cream - softened for the ease of spreading.
Chopped dry fruits of your choice - I used almonds to resonate the flavor of the pound cake
Rectangular casserole dish, or any other flat dish, preferably glass so you can flaunt the dessert.

  • Layer pound cake at the bottom of the pan. Then spread about 3/4-1' layer of mixed fruits. On top of this, spread 1/2' (or as thick as you like) layer of softened ice-cream with a spatula. Let some of the ice-cream drizzle down into the fruits and cake. The cake tastes even better after soaking up some of the ice-cream flavor, and it ties all three components together.
  • Sprinkle a good amount of chopped dry fruits.Cover and freeze until the ice-cream is set.
  • Remove the pan from the fridge 5-7 minutes before serving so that you can slice it easily.

You can serve the trifle with some fresh fruits on the side, or a jam, or jelly, or chocolate sauce, caramel sauce. I told you - the combinations are countless!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Stuffed Padron Peppers...And Other Veggies :)

My colleagues and I were having a conversation about how to train kids not be picky eaters. To my mom's delight, I was a good eater from early on. But even when meals didn't include what I absolutely loved, mom enforced a simple rule - serve a very small portion on the plate and don't get off the table without finishing it. As tortuous as it may sound to some, it really can't kill you to eat a few bites of something you don't love. The good part was that my mother cooked delicious food. If we didn't like something, she made an effort to try different recipes to make it more palatable for us. And there was often that guilt trip - there are way too many kids out there who don't even get two meals a day, let alone choose what they eat. Be thankful that you get to try such variety of foods!

There was one vegetable for which I always made faces though -  bell peppers! The ubiquitous vegetable in the US, and something I've grown to love, was my enemy as a kid. The Indian bell peppers are much smaller, with thinner skin, and more robust flavor compared to what we get here. I thought they were too pungent. Mom cooked them many different ways - fire roasted bell pepper and yogurt raita, stir fry with crispy potatoes, or stuffed  potatoes or chickpea flour to mask their strong flavor. Her stuffed bell pepper preparation was my favorite.

I found beautiful Padron peppers at the Saturday farmer's market. They looked like smaller versions of Indian bell peppers with the same fragrance. Padron peppers originate from Spain and have a wonderful smoky flavor when charred. The seller at the market told me they are usually deep or shallow fried in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt. They don't have a lot of heat, so you can eat them whole. I asked her how they would taste stuffed with something, and she thought it was a great idea. I thought I would try the chickpea filling. The recipe is fairly simple. Chickpea flour is seasoned with garam masala and other spices and stuffed inside seeded peppers. The peppers are beautifully charred in oil on high heat. The slight heat and smoky flavor of the peppers is fabulous. The chickpea flour filling is slightly crunchy against the soft flesh of the peppers, and does a great job of taming some of the pungency. This dish can be served as an appetizer, or a side dish. It tastes great with roti, or rice and yogurt. If you don't find padron peppers, any low heat peppers such as small bell peppers, poblano, Anaheim would be great. I cooked the peppers on stovetop, but you could grill stuffed peppers in summer. It'll be a great side to all the cookouts.


Chickpea Flour Stuffed Peppers

2 Dozen medium Padron peppers - destemmed and seeded
1 Cup chickpea flour
3 Tablespoons olive/vegetable oil + more for shallow frying
1/2 Cup chopped cilantro
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
Pinch of asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons garam masala
1 Teaspoon red chili powder (adjust per liking)
Salt to taste
  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add asafoetida, turmeric powder and chickpea flour.
  • To this, add chopped cilantro, garam masala, red chili powder, and salt to taste. Roast chickpea flour till fragrant and 'cooked'. If it looks too dry, you can sprinkle some water (use very little - you don't want clumps). Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
  • Once the chickpea flour filling is done, keep aside.
  • Remove the stems of peppers and take out the seeds. Fill them with chickpea flour filling.
  • Coat the frying pan with some more oil and lay all the peppers on the pan. Cover and let the peppers get charred. Covering the pan will keep the steam inside and help cook the chickpea flour further.
  • Turn the peppers with a tong and char them on the other side. Once the peppers are cooked through, turn off the heat.



Speaking of stuffed veggies, I made a set of stuffed felt veggies for my baby girl. I had seen a toy veggie basket at my friend's house; her son played with them. That set was a little more 3D than my version, which is somewhere in between 2D and 3D :D. I think it's a great toy - colorful, educational, and may encourage my daughter to eat all her veggies (or so I hope).One of my friends who has a girl just a little older than Shreya loved the idea of felt toys, and asked me to make some for her baby. I wanted to send the toys just in time for her 6-month birthday which didn't leave me time to make a new veggie set, so I gifted her the one I already had. I can always make more for my daughter. Here's my satisfied customer playing with her new toys :).

Along with veggies, my friend asked if I could make an owl as well. Owls are all the rage these days. I came up with the following pattern after going through several pics on the web. Whooo wouldn't like a pink owl?

Just hangin' out!

Until next time!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gourd For You

As a nursing mother, it is very important that I watch what I eat. Babies have immature and sensitive digestive systems. It didn't take long for me to realize that tummy ache is the main culprit when my baby is fussy or cranky. It is best that I avoid acidic, gassy, difficult to digest foods. The common culprits of tummy troubles are dairy, sugar, and vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, eggplants, etc. So what's good for a new mother? Gourd! Gourd and squash of every kind. I have eaten more gourds over the past three months than ever in my life. You name it - bitter gourd, ivy gourd, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, snake gourd, pumpkin - you get the idea! These vegetables are fibrous, nutritious, and easy to digest. Add some mung daal (split mung) when preparing and you have a dose of protein too. I have been preparing different gourds and squashes available in the grocery stores here using light Indian seasoning. Here is one of my favorites - butternut squash curry scented with ghee, curry leaves and grated coconut.

Butternut Squash Curry

1 Medium butternut quash (~2 1/2-3 Cups peeled and cubed)
3 Tablespoons fresh/frozen grated coconut
2 Dried red chilies
1 Sprig curry leaves
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon fenugreek seeds
Couple pinches asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 Tablespoon ghee
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnishing

  • Heat ghee in a cooking pan, and add mustard seeds.
  • Once mustard seeds splutter, add red chilies, curry leaves, and fenugreek seeds. Stir for a few seconds and add asafoetida and turmeric powder.
  • Add cubed squash and grated coconut to the tempering, and salt to taste.
  • Add a cup of water and mix everything well. Cover and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until squash is cooked thoroughly and the flavors come together.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

Serve with hot rotis and yogurt on the side.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Guilt Ridden And Snacking Guilt Free

I believed sleep deprivation, zillion diaper changes, and back crushing feedings would be some of the challenges of motherhood. What proved it wrong was leaving my entirely dependent little one with a complete stranger, to go back to work. I joined work three weeks back, and it's been an emotional challenge. The baby girl is adjusting to her nanny slowly but surely, yet my heart breaks into a million pieces every day when I see the longing in her eyes. Sure, I can quit my job, some would say. But some things are easier said than done. I just hope my daughter forgives me one day when she has a similar battle of her own, or just not remember this at all!

The only consolation in this situation is that we've found a fantastic nanny. She's a loving person with two grandchildren of her own, and treats Shreya just like she would one of them. She came with a whole bunch of cute clothes for Shreya last week for no particular reason. Isn't that incredibly sweet of her? Despite all, I am comforted that my daughter is in good hands. Aunty, as we respectfully call her, hails from Gujarat, and is an enthusiastic cook like most Gujjus. I for one am a huge fan of Gujarati food. So it's a bonus that she brings us lots of freshly prepared Gujarati delicacies almost every day. She brought me a popular sweet called Sukhdi the other day. Sukhdi is a simple wheat flour 'cake' made with ghee, jaggery, and decorated with dry fruits.It tasted like wheat flour laddus, just repackaged. I enjoyed snacking on this energy packed sweet between meals. This nursing business makes me very hungry, and I always need nutritious, guilt-free snacks at hand. FYI - a healthy dose of ghee is good for your, especially postpartum. I tweaked anuty's recipe so I could add some more elements of 'healthy' and made sukhdi with ragi/nachani/finger millet flour. I also added dry grated coconut to the list of dry fruits. Ragi flour is light and toasty, and tasted even better than wheat flour. Husband admitted that this was one of my best creations; but then again, he says that a lot ;).

Ragi Sukhdi/Nachanichi Vadi

1 Heaping cup raagi/nachani flour
3/4 Cup grated jaggery (or adjust per your liking)
6-8 Tablespoons warm ghee
Handful of dry fruits, coarsely ground. I used almonds and cashews
1 Heaping tablespoon grated dry coconut

  • Heat a kadhai/pan on low flame and roast ragi flour in 6 tablespoons of ghee until the flour is fragrant and doesn't taste raw. 
  • Add grated jaggery, ground dry fruits, and grated coconut. Roast for 5 more minutes. Make sure there aren't any pieces of jaggery left.
  • Once the mixture is cool to touch, mix by hand to make it consistent. Try pressing some mixture between your palms and it should form a lump and stick together. If not, add more ghee as needed. 
  • Grease a steel plate with ghee and pat the mixture tightly on it, forming a ~1/2 inch cake. Cut into diamond shaped vadi using a sharp knife. 

Alternatively, you can form laddus of the mixture.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

One Month and a Change of a Lifetime

I've been on a blogging sabbatical the last two months. It might not have made a dent in the blogosphere; but my life has taken a 180 degree in that time! We welcomed our precious little girl, baby Shreya, into this world one month back. The past month has been a blur of feedings, changing diapers, calming a crying baby, and trying to function without getting much sleep. But it's all worth that gummy smile she's just started to give us!

My mom, the cooking enthusiast that she is, informed me to that it's customary to make Ghavan-Ghatle on baby's one month birthday. The sweet cousin of my go-to savory meal choice. She immediately looked up the recipe in her favorite cook book Ruchira. I had planned to make a cake for the little one, but this recipe was far easier to make with a baby in tow. Ghavan is a simple rice flour crepe. Ghatle is a jaggery sweetened coconut concoction to dunk the ghavan. The crepes are soft and spongy and soak up all the sweet goodness of ghatle. I couldn't not love these - they are practically deconstructed Modak!

Ghavan Ghatle

Ghavan Ingredients
1 1/2 Cups rice flour
Water as needed
Couple of pinches salt
Ghee/clarified butter 
  • Mix enough water with rice flour to make a runny, crepe-like batter (~2-2/12 cups). Add a little salt and mix. 
  • Heat a pan on med-high heat. A non-stick pan will work the best. If you're not using a non-stick pan, grease the pan with a little bit of ghee. Make sure the pan is hot before you pour the batter in order to get a porous crepe. 
  • Spread a ladleful of batter on the pan, and let it cook till golden brown. The crepe will separate from the pan once done. Turn and cook on the other side. 

Ghatle Ingredients:
1 1/2 Cups water
3/4 Cup fresh/frozen grated coconut
1/4 Cup jaggery/per liking
1/2 Teaspoon cardamom powder
2 Teaspoons rice flour 
Couple of pinches salt

Heat water on low-med heat, and add jaggery and coconut. Let the jaggery melt. 
Mix rice flour with a little bit of water and add it to the coconut mixture. The rice flour will act as a thickener. 
Add in cardamom powder and salt. Turn off the heat when the mixture thickens slightly. 

Pour warm ghee on top of the ghavan and serve with warm ghatle!


I spent the last few months of my pregnancy making stuff for the baby. I couldn't wait to share pictures of some of my craft work - now seems like a good time to post them :). 

Hubby asked me to make a few colorful hats for baby pics. Here are two of my favorites:

A variation of this adorable bobble stitch hat: 

A ladybug hat for my li'l bug: 

I was looking for some ideas to make a crib mobile and stumbled upon this adorable pattern! Some inexpensive felt from recycled material (source - Michaels), cotton and scrap material to stuff, and an easy clip-on mobile crib hanger (source - Babies R Us, ~$10) was all I needed to make this mobile. I drew the patterns on paper first and traced them on felt.

I couldn't get over how cute and easy to make these little toys were and made a few furry friends as well. I used various sources for patterns, many of them pinned on my board. Aren't these guys fun? I still have lots of left-over felt which I plan to use - some day!

One of my dear friends was also due a few weeks after me. She had shared yummy home-cooked food with me in my ninth month. It was wonderful having home made meals without taking any effort on my part :). As a 'thank you', and since we never return empty containers, I stuffed one container with nutritious laddus for her and one with these fellas for her little one on the way. I looked up patterns for finger puppets on google and picked four that I liked the best. 

I hope to be able to blog as and when I can. Until next time!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Butternut Squash Gharge

The grocery scene in my house has been quite exciting lately. Husband I have been going to the Saturday Farmer's Market like a ritual (I know, everyone experiencing horrific winter this year will be jealous - I sympathize with you all). It makes my weekend to come home with bags full of fresh produce. We also just signed up for CSA last week. Oh, I can't wait to share the details next week when I get my second box of goodies! Anyway, trying to consume all the fresh fruits and veggies, I forgot all about a small butternut squash bought from the grocery store a few weeks back. Good thing it doesn't go bad very fast, but it was about time the squash was put to use. San Diego weather hasn't exactly been calling for soup, so I used the squash in lieu of pumpkin in two of my favorite Indian dishes - one sweet (Gharge) and one spicy/savory (Parathas). I'll share the recipe I'm partial towards - the sweet, of course :).

Gharge are traditional Maharashtrian sweet puris made with pumpkin. The puris are not cloyingly sweet or dessert like - so they can be snacked on (like I did in one go on half the batch I prepared...shhh). The recipe calls for very few simple ingredients. And these puris don't require rolling out dough with a rolling pin, which makes them easy to prepare. My mom used to make gharge for after school snacks. They store well even at room temperature, so we could enjoy them all week long. Butternut squash is a close relative of pumpkin in terms of taste and texture, so I thought why not? And the gharge turned out just fantastic! With the sweetness from jaggery and the aroma of cardamom, you couldn't tell the switch between pumpkin and butternut squash. This recipe can use any similar squash, I suppose.

Butternut Squash Gharge

2 Cups grated butternut squash
1 Cup grated jaggery
2 Tablespoons ghee
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 Cups whole wheat flour
1/2 Teaspoon cardamom powder
Pinch of salt
Vegetable oil or ghee for frying

  • Combine ghee, jaggery, and butternut squash in a kadhai/work and cook on medium heat. The moisture from squash will be enough to cook it thoroughly. Cook the water down until you are left with a soft, moist mixture.
  • Stir in cardamom powder and a pinch of salt.
  • Once the mixture cools to touch, start incorporating wheat flour until you have a pliable, non-sticky dough. I used about 1 1/4 cups flour. You can add more if you need to. I liked the sweetness achieved with this much amount of flour.
  • Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Make small lime size dough balls. With 1 1/4 cups flour, you'll get ~20 medium size puris.
  • To make the puris, grease a thick plastic bag with a little bit of ghee. I use ziplock which works perfectly. Apply some ghee on your finger tips as well, and pat each dough ball evenly into a not too thin puri. You can lay raw puris on a plate before getting ready to fry them. They won't stick.
  • Fry them on medium heat in vegetable oil until golden brown. Take them out on a paper towel to wick away excess oil. A more decadent version of these puris would be fried in ghee. I wanted to save my precious home-made ghee for other things :). 

Gharge won't puff up like the regular puris, but they are wonderfully flaky. They will be soft straight out of the fryer, but the crust will get crispy once slightly cooled, and the inside will be soft and moist. Yum!
You can enjoy gharge right away, or store them in an air tight container for about a week.


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