Friday

Experiments with Slow Cooker-Dal Makhani with no Butter no Cream

Hello Dearies!!! I am leaving on  a 10 day vacation. Where you ask?? Watch this space for the fun travel posts later. I am visiting family on the other side of the coast, so very eager to catch the warm and sunny skies. The past few days have been stressful. The last weeks peace was invaded by the school tragedy. I have still not come to terms with what I am feeling, and What I lost!!!!

Such mental state is not doing me any good, as I am not able to focus, am more forgetful than ever. This is a forbidden topic to talk at home specially when Donut is around. He is at that age where his  beliefs and confidence in the world, people in general is shaping up. We keep talking about how we can help improve our school, our friends and most importantly how effective we are as human beings. What difference does our existences make in someones lives? He has started questioning me at an alarming rate of why some of our good friends at one time left us alone when we were facing not so great days? why Mom Why??? What he asked has more than enough answers at my end, but is it needed for him to clutter his mind with this...Live and let live is all I teach him.

Donut loves Punjabi food. This is new for us. His sudden love for spicy and such foods has taken many by surprise. Munchkin is the risk taker when food is involved. Anything with moderate spices and garlic is his forte. Sibling rivalry played  a key role I guess here, that Donut has been begging for at least 3-4 Punjabi menu items over the course of the week. At times its the Palak Cilantro parathas with a paneer gravy or punjabi chole with bhatura or this trusted Dal.  This is a classic Punjabi or north eastern dish that is very popular in most Indian restaurants. No meal in a restaurant is ever complete without this creamy and rich makhani dal. Its the Protein powerhouse. The dals/lentils kidney beans with equal amounts of fat that is essentially to break the complex protein for easy digestion. This is one dish that needs its own sweet time to cook. The slower and longer it cooks, the better it develops. Its also called Maa ki dal to signify a moms patience and love for cooking and feeding her family. Since I belong to  a age where time is always at crunch, I am looking for easy and id possible, no cook recipes.

The new toy in my kitchen(Slow Cooker) has been helping me achieve my lazy target and what pleasure it is if you walk home from work, make rice and the dinner is served. Until, I got the slow cooker, this sort of thing only happened in my dream. I try to cut the fat for everyday meals and as this cooks for 12 + hours after being soaked for 8 hours, it qualifies for a leaner version of the Dal makhani. This is the way I made it in my 1.5 Qt slow cooker.


Makes around 3 cups of dal makhani.

You will need;
1 cup split black gram dal
2 tablespoons Red kidney beans (rajma)
Salt to taste
1 tsp Red chilli powder
2 inch piece Ginger,chopped
1 tbspn Oil
1 tsp ghee
1 tspn Cumin seeds
3 cloves Garlic,chopped
1 Large Onion chopped
Green chillies,slit 2
2 medium Tomatoes,chopped
1 Tspn Garam masala powder
Salt to taste

Wash and soak the rajma and the urad dal in the same vessel of the slow cooker for approx 8 hours. After the dal is well soaked, drain and prepare the tomato-onion masala.

In a wok, take the oil and the ghee, add the cumin, let it sizzle, then add the ginger and the garlic, add the onions and dash of salt. Let the mixture cook for 2 minutes, then ad the tomatoes and cook till the onion and tomato gets mashed well and oil starts separating from the sides. Add this to the soaked dal. Adjust the amount of water. I added water till an inch above the mixture, adjust the salt. add in the red chili powder, Green chillies and the garam masala. Cover with the lid and start the Slow cooker on High for 2 hours. After it boils, set it on Low and forget about it for a good 10/11 hours. Baby sitting a slow cooker is  a frustrating job, you have a life; go on about it. Trust me on that, it takes FOREVER to cook. So don't waste your time thinking about checking it every 30 minutes or so. The end result awaits you in a pleasing way if you learn to ignore it. (Apply this to some people and see the fun). Serve the dal with hot steamed rice or roti or paratha with a dallop of ghee. Enjoy your ride with a winning ticket to taste-heaven.

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Wednesday

Peas Flower Potato Stir Fry/Bhaji- Straight from Moms kitchen.

Hello Dearies!! Its officially the end of the year and the winter setting in. The cold air cracks my bones and all I yearn is for some hot and home cooked food. The bitter cold and the short days  make me lazy and put me in no mood to cook. Memories from the past; my moms humble kitchen make its appearance more often than I wish. They do offer solutions and ideas to quickly assemble dinner but they do leave a strong impact on the way my dishes taste poles apart than my moms. I always blame it on the produce we get here. The fruits and veggies from back home always have a fullness in them, the flavors are intact and they do not seem fiddled with. Few memories of my growing up food habits were the hot Phulka with ghee smeared on it from the stove to the plate, at times too hot to handle, stuffed with vegetable of the day with a cup of chai. This was my breakfast most days. We did not have pancake and waffle or even cereal at breakfast with fruit yogurt by the side. Fruit yogurts and parfaits were unknown to our narrow minds. Mixing sugar with yogurt meant only shrikhand and only fruit allowed to mix with yogurt was mango to make amrakhand.

 I make cauliflower bhaji just like how  I remember my Aai making it. Cauliflower was  a regular on our weekly menu. It cooks fast, absorbs any spice you add to it,  can be made into a curry or a stir fry, and is relatively easy on the pocket also. Adding peas and potato to it was just the need of the hour, you have more hungry tummies add another potato, picky eaters add peas. There are many ways to make the Cauliflower bhaji. Today I am bringing you one of the ways it was cooked at my moms home. This is an everyday subji, so the masalas are kept to a minimum. The flavor and taste comes essentially from the curry leaves and green chilies and at times from ginger-garlic. I come from a humble brahmin family where use of eggs and meat was prohibited. My Family was very modern and secular in thoughts and way of living, that we were never forbidden to eat eggs or meat or fish in the name of religion. We were allowed to taste in restaurants and if we liked we were allowed to eat them. It was however not cooked at our home mainly because my mom had no clue on how they need to be prepared, marinaded and cooked. Once I grew up, I got the fish from the fisher women, she showed me how to clean it, marinate it and make delish recipes from it. They say people teach you in many ways if you are willing to learn. All I needed was to tell her how much I loved Fish and she became my teacher. I had friends all over the market, as I started doing the household vegetable shopping from very young age, so when I accompanied my mom, she was amused at how the vendors got different and fresher produce for me from inside the shacks, asked about my studies and school and how they chatted with me like we are old lost friends. She was even treated to a cup of tea by one of the vendors. Its a big thing for all the demand is respect for their work and some care on your part. Mutual respect is a trait that we are slowly forgetting as we move ahead in science and prosperity. The richer we get, more self centered we become. More on that later, Phew!!! Do my rants ever end!!!!

You will need;
1 whole  Head Cauliflower diced into strips
** Use your judgement on the size of the cauliflower and the size of your guests at the dinner table. The measure I am giving are for roughly 2 cups of diced cauliflower
1 Medium Potato Diced
1/2 cup boiled peas
Salt to taste
1 Tbspn Cumin and Coriander powder
Cilantro to garnish

Tempering
2 Tbspn oil
1 tspn Mustard seeds
1 tspn Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Haldi/Turmeric
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 inch ginger grated
5-6 curry leaves
2 medium hot green chillies

Take a bigger bowl and immerse the diced cauliflower in salted water to remove dirt and any worms. Drain after 10 mins. Keep aside. In a wok, heat the oil, add the tempering one by one in the same order, after you add the green chilies, add the diced cauliflower, potato and peas and add little water if needed. Cover and let cook for 10-12 minutes. Stir in between to avoid burning. once coked, add the salt and cumin-coriander powder and stir again. Take care as to not mush the florets. This stir fry tastes better if the cauliflowers retain some crunch and the potatoes do not mush. Cook on low to medium heat, and keep stiring in between. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy with some hot phulkas with a dallop of ghee. This was the way my mom served it., this is the way I serve it.


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Monday

HEAL the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race!!!!

It was yet Another Friday, last day of the week, when we kissed our kids, send them off to school like just another day. I reached work and around Lunch Time, I heard this news in a Yahoo Flash news. My world sort of stopped. I am in NJ and it happened in CT, my kids faces flashed across my work, I was in grief. I was in grief for all those unknown babies, those teachers and those parents whom I did not know but felt a huge connect. Friday at home was sober, Mr. Ash also I guess was having trouble coping. The very decisions of having made our home in US made us question ourselves. Are we really safe? A quick word with my neighbor who is recently exported to US from India, casually remarked, maybe she was trying to cope up with the move to US as in India there are terrorist attacks, bomb blasts, you always have that kind of FEAR if you would make it home safe and in one piece. We tried to go to the mall where holiday shoppers were in good mood, when I saw the radar flashing of Beware of Shop Lifters, people stealing, watch your purchases!!!! I am not so sure about the human race anymore. Holiday time was supposed to GIVE joy and happiness, spread peace.


"Where are we heading with this senselessness, acts and violence. Someday its the movie theaters, someday its the mall and now elementary schools. Is this the LIFE we imagined and want for our kids, Is this the kind of FEAR we want to enjoy small pleasures or even go to school with. RIDICULOUS."

All I hope is that this world is  healed with the illness that GUns and violence brings about with it. I also agree that it is the human mind that makes the gun do its job. IT can be to save a human not claim a life. The end of those innocent kids, teachers and parents, brought an end to the life of their families. Pray a silent Prayer everyday for the world to be healed.

Today - 17th December 2012 is National Blogging Day of Remembrance, the members of the blogging community have decided to observe  a day of remembrance for the people of Newton CT. My prayers to all those who lost their loved ones in the shooting.


This is a mental illness that these people are facing. More efforts in Healthcare reforms and  easy Councillors in school who are actually interested in treating them is what is the need of the hour. Councillors after the incident is not what is needed, although their efforts are much appreciated.

Read more on this piece of info


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Saturday

Orange Tango Cake-Celebrating the 100th Post of year 2012.

Hello Sweeties!!! This is an awesome year. I have achieved newer goals that I never dared to set for myself. I mean this is my 100th post for year 2012. 2012 What an year it was!!! This was the year that will go down in my memory lane and mark itself as one of life changing years. I became ME in this year. I made few but very good friends many of whom I have not yet met, some I knew from some time and finally met them. All in all a very satisfying year for my self esteem. People always think that if you blog, you have ample free time, just like they assume a stay at home mom sits at home, watches TV all day and its always, Oh!! You can do it you have time, me I have no time.. I am so BUSY!!!! Time as I say is subjective, if I want I can!!!!

No more rants and if I got you thinking if I am not posting anything for year 2012, be assured that it ain't happening. I am feeling very positive and certain about a steady posting routine. I had decided of trying to do 6-8 posts per month, which was one of my resolutions for year 2012. I also decided that if its not something never done before, it is not making an appearance on indulge. I think I kept my word fairly well and I have brought to you some new, some old refurbished dishes from my humble kitchen to yours.

This year is also more important as it marked my 10th year in USA. A decade went by when I first landed to this foreign land which soon became a part of my life. I initially felt like a tree was uprooted and re-planted in a foreign soil. The roots would never be as strong as before. But again I was proved wrong, as my family, my life and my values shaped up here. My life has become richer as I am counted as one amongst them here. The freedom to praise my religion, values and beliefs is what had been a great gift from this land to my life. I am a proud Indian American today. I feel proud when my kids celebrate July 4th, with Diwali and Christmas in the same spirit.

No Celebration is ever complete with a cake. To mark something important, I wanted to try a new recipe. Mr. Ash likes the Lemon cake in Starbucks, so I replaced the lemon with oranges. I also used fresh squeezed orange juice, so I needed to add the TANG juice mix. I found addding the TANG not only enhaced the flavor but also adde dthe tangy effect and color to the cake. Tha glaze is from the fresh juice and also the TANG powder.

You will need;
1.5 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Wheat Flour
1 cup sugar
1/3rd cup oil
1 egg
1 cup Fresh Orange juice mixed with 3 tbsp TANG powder
1 tbspn Zest of the orange skin
1 tspn ENO-fruit salt
** Baking powder substitute.
1/2 tspn Salt
Milk if needed- Optional
** I did not need any milk.

Glaze;
 3 tbspn Cnfectioner sugar
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1 tbspn TANG Powder

Sift the flours with salt, keep aside. Cream the egg, sugar and oil, then add in the orange juice with tang powder. Slowly add the sifted flour, and keep beating on low till the batter looks smooth with no lumps. Add the ENO (baking powder substitute), Stir once. Grease the cake tin well, line with a brown paper bag( Substitute for a parchment paper). In a preheated oven at 350Degrees F, bake the cake for about 25-30 minutes or till the skewer comes out clean. After it cools,( Prepare the glaze, mix the confectioner sugar with the TANG and the juice.) pour the glaze over the cake. Enjoy the cake. I baked a Medium Loaf pan and 6 cupcakes with this amount of cake batter.


** Whipped Cream icing can be made by using simply Heavy Whipping Cream and Conf Sugar,, The Rec is as
Follows..
One Cup heavy Whipping Cream
Half Cup Conf Sugar
**One packet Instant pudding mix. OR IF desired One Packet Unflavored Gelatin dissolved in water.-- OPTIONAL
 
Take a bigger bowl and keep some ice cubes in that.. Over the cubes place anr bowl. Take one cup cream and add sugar and Pudding mix( if needed )... and beat with electric mixer for about 5-7 mins on medium till soft peaks are on the blade. The icing is ready.
 
I decorated one cupcake with a Royal icing flower and whipped cream icing and made it extra special for my darling nephew. Hope you have a great and fun birthday and may God bless you with everything. Happy Birthday my dear Adu!!! We love you!!!!

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Thursday

Carrot Salsa- 99th post for year 2012.

Hello Dearies!!! Today I bring to you a simple salad or salsa or koshimbir. While we were young, we were made to eat raw veggies at meal times. The argument given was it made your eyes strong. It all started when one of my cousin brothers was detected with Myopia. Now we were too young to understand what myopia was and why he wore those soda glasses, Yet they threatened us that eat the salads or get such big dark glasses. We were so naive into believing this and  kind of ate the salad made out of carrots, radishes, cucumbers and messy boiled pumpkin. The mere sight of the boiled red pumpkin being mashed with fingers creeps me out of eating it.

 Summers were always in Nagpur where my aunt had her own hospital and my granny lived with her. So we all were packed off to be with my aunt and my granny who was in charge of managing the kids and  making them do the daily activities. We were made to improve our writing and math skills. The one page of copy writing and  one set of tables never ever helped us in our studies, but it definitely made us smarter with the excuses. We eventually never did any of it, and the entire time went by in avoiding my granny and her endless list of questions. We confronted her only at meal times and between the 6-8 of us, she lost count of who did what. My aunt had  a pet dog who loved food. She ate anything and everything from milk, tea , roti to pumpkin. Guess with the amount of pumpkin koshimbir she consumed in those few years, she would have the sharpest eye sight than any living human. My memories about salads and koshimbirs go a long way. Now as an adult, my tastebuds have matured, except for the grossy pumpkin, I am willing to make  and taste salads. Few things I saw when I went to Whole Foods is the amazing range of salsa they have on hand. Mango Pineapple Capsicum was one such kind that I took fancy for. There was another one with Red Pepper, carrots and tomato and onion. To sum it and explain in better words, this was my moms koshimbir that she made almost 3 times a week with carrots, or cabbage or even with corn at times. And to pay $5 for one small box of what she always made for free, made me cringe a bit, burp a awkward burp and move on. I am trying to appreciate the koshimbirs and salads that were always an unwanted side on our plates back then to now growing up and trying to making a meal out of them.This is very easy and needs no cooking. The size of the vegetables can be fine or chunky, dice or shreds, whatever way you chop them it tastes amazing. So eat right and balanced food this holiday season. The sugar and sweet needs some healthy detox along too.

You will need;
3/4 th cup Shredded Carrot
1 Medium Ripe Tomato Diced
1 Small onion Diced
Salt to taste
 Pinch of sugar
Chopped cilantro
1 tspn Lime Juice

In a bowl, combine the  carrots, tomato and onions, sprinkle the salt and sugar and cilantro, lime juice and mix well. The salad is ready as a side or mix with an egg and fry an omelet. IT is very versatile and  lovely to eat.
Happy Holidays and Stay Safe!!!

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Monday

Experiments with a new toy in Kitchen. Slow cooker Rice Porridge/kheer


Hello Sweeties!!! As you know November and December are birthday months in Ashland. Munchkin had his 5th Birthday this week, so as usual there was excitement in the air and lots of cake and gifting. We had a very small party at home, but the main party was in school, where I baked 30 cupcakes with angry bird cake topper rings one each. the kids were super excited. In the general net-browsing I found a cool interactive way an angry bird cake could be enjoyed, but that will be another post. Each happy occasion needs to be made extra special with some traditional sweet. So I made kheer for my munchkin on the following weekend.

During the mad Thanksgiving shopping, I adopted a slow cooker, poor thing was calling for help, that I could not turn my back o him. and besides it was for only $8 in Target. Mr. Ash could not see my point of view, but he has given up on the gadget battle long ago. so we got the baby home. I was in search of the recipe and few calls to my dearest friends who have been using slow cooker, gave me a general idea about what I need to expect and what care I need to take for effective results. Only Thing I will do is next time put it on at night, I started the kheer in the morning and it was really difficult to keep my hands away from it. I fiddled with it way too many times than the cooker would have liked, but hey get used to it; I am the BOSS here. It does take forever to cook, this took like 10 hours for 2 cans of evaporated milk and half cup of rice. But I am all for lazy ssslow cooking. Add, stir and cover and forget, its easy and You can do it too. I have a small 1.5 Q slow cooker, but with a small family, I guess it would be enough for us.

You will need;
2- 8 oz cans Evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooked rice(I used leftover)
1 tbspn milk masala.( Almond/walnut/cashew powder with Elaichi/Cardamom)

In the stoneware that comes with the cooker, add the milk, rice and sugar, stir once and set on high for the 1st hour. When you see a small boil, reduce to low and cook for 8-9 hours unattended. Its done when it changes its color and rice becomes transparent. Add in the milk masala and let cool.

Notes/Observations;

There was  a film of malai/cream that was dark brown which solidified after cooling, I saved it a s Mr. Ash likes such food savings. This cream actually tasted like malai peda in a liquid form.

The kheer tasted divine after chilling.

I guess it would have been done at 7 hrs, next time will try for 7 hrs and update.

Watch out this space for more of slow cooked recipes. The kheer won a thumbs up from the birthday boy, and he sort of kept coming back for more. Next on the list is dal makhnai which I have heard people rave about after being cooked sslowlyyyyyyy.




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Friday

Ambat Varan- Sour lentil soup


Hello sweeties!!! How is the Holiday shopping and gifting progressing at your end. I am finally done with all the shopping and now what remains is endless hours of packing paper, ribbon and tape. Armed with the supplies I set one weekend morning for packing holiday gifts. We  started celebrating Christmas only after Donut was born. Till then we simply enjoyed others and holiday frenzy. We strolled NYC at midnight on the Christmas eve and watched the lights and window displays at Macy's in NYC. Things gradually changed when Donut was born. The concept of Santa visiting good kids and leaving presents under the tree was born in Ashland. Now we set up the tree, decorate it, bake cookies for Santa, leave carrots and sugar for reindeer and its our annual tradition to leave phone voice messages for Santa in the North Pole and send our wishes and wants to him. Santa is also now a tech geek. Gone are the days you wrote letters to him, he has a phone now with an answering machine. Any doubts that Donut has if Santa really exists are now easy to answer; if he has a phone connection, leaves a  message on his machine is bound to live. Also few goof up about wrong gifts assures his faith in Santa as only Human makes mistakes.

After shopping in the bitter cold, cutting wind and icy air, you need some thing to warm you up. I make soups, warm sandwiches and all, which warms up my bones but the mind is still not satisfied. It craves for moms comfort food. Being an True Indian, I love my rice and dal. I fail to understand why rice would be bad for you. Its a grain which fluffs up by absorbing water, so technically its not what makes you FAT.; its your overeating that makes you fat. Japanese, Chinese and most of the south Asian countries eat rice as staple diet, yet they are not obese. My mom always said NO food is per se bad for you, its just the amount you eat. Eat well and intelligently, it can actually be good for you.
 She always made this ambat meaning sour and varan meaning dal, when we were little under the weather. IT was our own veggie chicken soup substitute. Thin it down and drink as soup, thicken it and enjoy as side dish of tadka dal.. This is one such dal/which I drink as a soup even when I am all well and crave for moms food. Its very easy with minimum ingredients and can be toned to your liking. Its also masala free so easy on your system. Add little jaggry or honey to make it sweet and sour, either ways its a hit hit win.

You will need;
1 Cup cooked and mashed Arhar or toor dal
Salt to taste
1/2 inch Ginger grated
1 tbspn Lemon Juice to sour it(Its again as per your liking)
Cilantro for garnishing

Tempering;
1 tbspn Ghee/ Clarified butter
** do not use oil, the flavour of the ghee is the key with the sourness of the lemon
1 Green Chili slit
3-4 leaves kadi putta/curry leaves
1 and 1/2 tspn Cumin seeds

In a pot thin the cooked dal with water and add salt and grated ginger and set to boil on low heat. Once it comes to a small boil, take a another small wok, heat the ghee on LOW for tempering, once it melts add the cumin, let it sizzle, then add the curry leaves and chilies. The leaves and chili frying in the ghee gives a pleasant aroma in the kitchen, an added bonus on cold tired nights. Add the tempering to the dal and boil again for about 5 minutes. Then switch off the flame and add the lemon juice and stir. Garnish with Cilantro and enjoii as is as a  soup or with rice or roti.


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Monday

Instant Khaman Dhokla

Hello dearies!!!! How are you all, is it getting crazy with the holiday shopping out there? My end has been kind of slow, but exciting. This Thanksgiving, I had an unusual downpour of dinner invitations which were turned into potlucks mainly because we had time and we all love to cook, a hit combination. Its so not fair that one person does all the work and rest all simply enjoy the food. Since It was a potluck, we all had to make one or max 2 items from the menu. This dhokla recipe has always been a hit and I have been mostly asked to get them for many parties. I have now stopped aksing if I should be getting dhokla, as I take it anyways, knowing everyone will love it.

Initially in my accidental cooking days, we made a lot of dhokla with GITS ready to make packages. Maine banaya GITS se was so for us. The story goes as, we were all in Junior college i.e. 11th Std. A age where we were bottomless pits, just out of school, free to kill time, bunk classes, bunk college and not worry about anything. We were a bunch of 8-10 kids hanging out together, either in college campuses and anyone homes basically whoever had a parent free home was our hangout place. Such a friend was P, her mom worked in a bank and was out from 9AM to about 7PM, perfect timing for us. College became our meeting place, once all gathered, we kind of decided whose pad to hit. P's home was always stocked up with such GITS packages and food, so her home was our most favorite. There was also a chat vendor, just outside her building,. so it really made it easy for us. A heaven actually so to say. We landed up at the stall before he was even set to open for business.

Dhokla and P's home was always a sweet memory in my college years. Now she is settled in Australia, but the memory is with me. She taught me how to make the dhokla from GITS which I in turn taught my mom. Till then my mom was grinding, fermenting and doing it the old fashioned way. They say kids when they grow up have  a personality of their own. I am anxiously waiting for my Donut to grow up and teach this old mama a few tricks of the trade. He has already started by teaching me how to use the iPad and the technology gizmos, which I admit are beyond me.


Source- Spicy Aroma 

You will need;
1 cup Besan (Gram Flour) 
1/4 cup Fine Sooji / Semolina / cream of wheat
3/4 cup Curd 
A little amount of water to mix everything 
Salt to taste 
1/4 tbsp Turmeric/Haldi power
1 Tspn Grated Ginger 
2 Green Chillies Crushed
1/2 Tbsp ENO fruit salt 

Tempering
2 Tbpsn Oil
1Tspn Mustard/Rai Seeds
1 Tspn Cumin.Jeera
1 Tspn Hing/Aesafodita

Cilantro and coconut to garnish

In a bowl, whisk the besan, sooji with the curd, add water to make a thick flowing paste, add the turmeric, salt, grated ginger and green chili paste and salt and mix well. Keep aside for 10-15 minutes. Take a dhokla stand, grease each plate with some oil or oil spray. In a cooker add water and keep on medium heat. When the water in the cooker starts boiling, take the dhokla mixture, add the ENO fruit salt and stir once. Pour the ready batter in the greased dhokla plate and arrange the stand. Check the water level in the cooker. The water should be enough to aid steaming, but not touch the last plate of the dhokla batter of the stand. Cover the cooker with the lid with no pressure, cover the pressure shoot with a steel cup or small bowl instead. Steam for about 10-12 minutes. While that steams, take a small wok, heat the oil for tempering, add in the mustard seeds, let them crackle, then add in the jeera and lastly the hing. Switch off the gas ASAP as the Hing will burn. Add a tspn of water to that when a little cool.

Check the dhoklas after 12 mins, if the knife comes out clean, they are done. Remove the plates from the stand, cut into desired shapes. Take  a bowl or dish which you need to serve them on, remove the dhoklas, add the ready hot tempering over the dhokla pieces, garnish with cilantro and coconut and serve hot or at room temperature.



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Friday

Doll Cake 2


Hello Dearies!!!! Today is another Doll Cake. Seems like all small ladies fancy being a princess at some point of their life. There was  a time when Ms. Ash was not so little girl and New Barbie dolls were introduced in India, this was probably the mid 80's, but Ms. Ash had  a fancy for the doll, the clothing line and the shoes that were each sold separately and yes, there was a stand also that you had to get if you wanted to display the doll in the china cabinet in the living room. Now the cost was one issue, convincing her mom was a challenge.

The doll was priced at around Rs 95 and the stand was for approx around Rs 25. I remember the prices so well as my Mom had made a deal that either buy a doll or a dress and save Rs 30. This was  a time my dear friends when dresses and toys were only brought on Birthdays or Diwali. We had school uniforms, so the play time was minimum and the home clothes were old clothes that were no longer good enough to wear at functions or special days. This is was not coz we were poor or that my parents could not have afforded, but it was a trend then, people did not go shopping to malls every weekend and picked up stuff just coz they liked it. There were no malls, but shops that were owned by locals. The dresses were displayed in the glass cabins in these shops, we stared and glared at them till the day of shopping was fixed and hoped and prayed that they had it in your size. Shopping days were like a day long event. My mom and dad split with each one of us, depending on whose shopping was Urgent. Dad took my brother and mom took me and we ventured out in a crowded train to go Shopping to Dadar, the shopping hub in Bombay. Then disappointed that we do not go and shop at the shop near my school where I have my eyes on what I want, I tag along in hopes of finding something much better. MY MOM argues about the price and quality being better in shops in Dadar. Either ways she has to promise a lunch break in Prakash hotel with a bhel in the evening for me to agree to. IT was  a trick I thought my mom did not know, but she knew it and played all along every year. Such are Moms and mine is so special. However she never agreed to buy me that Barbie arguing that if the doll cannot stand on her own, she should not be Rs 95, and if she is that thin then she is obviously not a good influence on Ms Ash. So instead she got me  a FAT and PLUMP doll for RS 25, saying see she needs no stand, she stands on her OWN!!!! ALAS!!!!!!!!

Now things are changed, my kids do not know the joys and anticipation in such shopping trips. We mostly shop Online now, to cut the drive and  save time. Mostly its the rants and faces my kids make and the naughtyness they do in stores that I prefer shopping online. Once we were shopping when my Donut was about 2 and he was in the stroller, while checking out, he picked up the necklaces that were displayed on the stand. We paid the bill and stepped out of the store. It has been a habit that I check the bills and stuff in the bag and only after doing that I turn around and go to my car. I realized Donut being exceptionally occupied with something, so I checked on him and he had picked up 3 dangling pieces and was trying to chew on the label. I gasped and thought the alarm did not go,I did not pay for them, they might book me for shop lifting, so I did what every responsible shopper does, and hanged my head in shame, and walked back to the store and explained the sweet lady what happened.. I also agreed to pay for them even if I do not wear such jewellery. But she was very kind and said this happens all the time but very few actually come back and do what you did, so she gave us candy and walked us to the door.  Lesson learnt, online is so much better. Besides once you start online shopping, in store shopping seems unachievable.

Sorry got carried away with the shopping stories, back to this cake. My friends have now been my regular clients for any cake needs. The kids take pride in announcing that they will be getting a never seen in stores cake now, which is Big Thumbs up for me than any medal. I appreciate their confidence but giving me some time to think, plan and design will not hurt anyone and I can do better jobs. My friend called me at work during Lunch one fine day and said Can you make my Princess a doll cake? I instantly agreed, as I long to make girl cakes and hardly ever get any chance. When I asked her when she needs the cake she was like tomorrow at 9am. I was like Seriously tomorrow?? Like really really tomorrow.. I showed my lack of ability to make a doll cake after working full day and made excuses about the time, resources,  All in vain, I could not refuse the last minute cake order. Somehow she was super confident that this is my left hand job and I can do it. I finally agreed as I wanted to believe her in believing I could do it.

So with instructions from the young princess, I set to work. She wanted 2 roses and a pink cake. And a Doll cake. Wow!!!! At 6 years she was so focused on her wants, it amazed me. I used a chocolate boxed mix and replaced the water with buttermilk and baked the cake in the doll mold.

 The doll is the insert you find in craft stores. The dress is made by hand by melting a soft chewable starburst candy. The roses and the bow is made with pink colored white chocolate fondant. Skirt is Icing with whipped cream pudding frosting

Whipped Cream icing can be made by using simply Heavy Whipping Cream and Conf Sugar,, The Rec is as Follows..
One Cup heavy Whipping Cream
Half Cup Conf Sugar
 
**One packet Instant pudding mix. OR IF desired One Packet Unflavored Gelatin dissolved in water.-- OPTIONAL

Take a bigger bowl and keep some ice cubes in that.. Over the cubes place anr bowl. Take one cup cream and add sugar and Pudding mix( if needed )... and beat with electric mixer for about 5-7 mins on medium till soft peaks are on the blade. The icing is ready.
 
Hope you all like my efforts and enjoy making such cakes for your family and loved ones.  The smile she gave me after looking at the cake was worth wining the jackpot for me. I was extremely satisfied that I could pull off this cake in less than 3 hours after reaching home from work and not compromising any of my homemaker duties. Thanks you again Rakhee Ji for the confidence and Rucha for the mouth publicity of my work.


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Tuesday

Mirchi Bhaji.. Hot Pepper Fritters


Hello Dearies!!!! What does Rain and cold bring to your mind? Rains in Bombay are always associated with cutting chai, Bhaji and Bhutta and seaside walks, getting soaked in the waves for me. I was in law school when I first experienced the rains on Marine Drive. My classes most times got over by 9AM. After that it was just roaming around the city, south Bombay, Crawford market or watching matinee shows in the cinema halls around that part of the city. My Best friend stayed in South Bombay and was well versed with the small gallis/lanes and shops in that part of Bombay. There were gallis or lanes for specific things, like bangles, knickknacks, spoons, cutlery. YES, I shopped for spoons and cutlery/flatware even then, for my home, my mom's friends passed on their lists and then my train friends were there too, so I was always shopping for people. If you ever stayed in Mumbai, you will know that trains and the friendships one made in those travels last a lifetime. IT automatically becomes a family. They watch for fellow travelers even at time not knowing their names, they are 10am Goregaon local family, or 8am Borivali Fast family. I miss those days when I took casual walks in rains on the Marine Drive, hogged on wada pavs without giving hygiene a thought, shopped for bangles, kadas with 10-15Rs in my pockets. We were rich even with that small amount. We had fun with friends who pooled in all their money and then enjoyed treats together.  I miss these things so much now, that when it rains it kind of leaves a print on my mind that I am not going to go back and do all of that now. I cannot bring the lost friends and lost times in the same fashion now. Change is constant, rest all is fading soon.

Now in US, whenever it rains, I am transported to those walks, those times in my mind and I want to experience all the fun again. Marine Drive and Bombay are so special in the monsoons, that you have to see it to feel it. The times you feel cold when it rains, back to humidity and heat after it stops raining, the wet clothes dry before you even know you were wet, joys of puddles and splashing water on the passerby's, by jumping in those puddles, hot steaming ginger cutting chai and loads and loads of kanda bhajji's wrapped in a day old newspapers, is what lingers on my mind. Oh Boy, what fun it is to be a child again, even if in thoughts!!!

One such day, it rained and rained in NJ. The lighting and thundering was enough to scare the wits out, lights flickered and it just continued to rain. The drive from work to home had me craving for something fried, something spicy and something typical of Mumbai. What else then bhaji? Wada pav was not doable in the short time, so thght of making bhaji with whatever I had.

I opened the fridge to see what all I had on hand to make assorted bhaji's, when these long hot peppers stared at me. Since they stared, they had to go first. I am the boss in my kitchen and no one stares at the boss, Right??

You can stuff these with potato masala, or any stuffing you may fancy, but I kept it simple.

You will need;
2-3 Long hot peppers
1 Cup Besan/split Gram lentil flour
1 tspn Cayenne peppers powder
1 tspn Turmeric
1 tspn Carrom seeds/Ajwain
Salt to taste
Watre to thin the paste
Oil for frying
Chat Masala for sprinkling-Optional

Cut the peppers into one inch pieces, de-seed the peppers to remove the heat, if you like it super hot, keep the seeds in. Then in a bowl, take the besan, add the cayenne powder, turmeric and carrom seeds, add salt to taste and little water to thin it into a paste to coat the peppers. When the oil is hot, Take the peppers, dip in the besan paste and directly fry them in the hot oil. While frying it is a good idea to slide the peppers in from the sides as the oil splutters when you drop the peppers.
 Drain from the oil when fried and sprinkle the chat masala over the bhajiyas. Serve with hot ginger chai.






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Monday

Dink,Methi Ladoo- One a Day for the new Mom.


Hello Dearies!!! Today's post is specially for all the preggies and new moms who might be reading the blog. After delivery a new mom is given a high calorie rich food, to replenish the nutritional value for her own self, and to be able to bump up the milk supply for her little bundle of joy. Various types of soups, stews, munchies are prepared for her. Ideally her food should be watery, piping hot and easy on digestion. The new mom essentially eats for two, so her food is to be highly nutritional, easy to digest and help her recover from child birth.

When I was expecting, I remember my mom getting these ladoos for me from an sweet lady Mrs. Sapre in Goregaon, Mumbai, India. She makes these amazing methi ladoos. The taste has been lingering on me forever and even when I am not thinking about them, they keep thinking about me. They are so good. I pestered harassed my mom to make them for me when she was visiting, although good, my mom did not reach Mrs. Sapre skills. My soul keep hunting for these, till I saw Amu Bhai post a similar wheat ladoo recipe on his blog. So I had some hope and set my heart to work.

I decided to trail my memory lane and collect all the tastes and senses Mrs. Sapre's ladoos bring to me. I knew she had to add methi/fenugreek, edible gum and nuts, if she was making for someone who needed it post-partum. with the basic research, I set to try Amubhai's recipe with some twists. I raided my pantry, fridge to see what all I would have on hand that can be used. I found Pista powder, dry date powder, edible gum and  even crushed methi seeds. Some joys of staying in New Jersey. You are never away from home and Indian grocery.

You Will Need;
makes 16-18 medium size ladoos.

2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup plus 2 Tbspn ghee/clarified butter
1.5 cups Sugar-Confectioner or ground sugar
1 tbspn Pista Powder
1tbspn Almond Powder
2 Tbspn Edible Gum/Dink/Gond
2 Tbspn Crushed Fenugreek/Methi seeds
1/3 rd cup chopped Walnuts
2 Tspn Cardamom Crushed or Elaichi powder

In a wok, heat the 2 tbspn ghee, fry the edible gum, till it blooms in the ghee. once fried, remove on a plate and let cool. Then crush the fried gum and keep aside.

In the same wok, take the remaining ghee, add the wheat flour and roast  on medium heat. Stir continuously taking care than the flour does not stick to the pan and burn. Stir for about 25-30 mins, till the mixture looks frothy and becomes really loose.
**Amu bhai has put step by step pics on his blog, so refer them to see when to stop roasting.

When the flour changes color add the methi seeds and keep roasting for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously. Switch off the flame and let cool. When the mix is warm enough to dip your finger and you can bear the heat, that is the time to add the sugar, elaichi, dink, chopped walnut, almond and pista powder. Mix Well. Roll the ladoos when they are cold enough to hold shape. These keep well for 10-15 days, although they do not last that long.

The recipe is sort of same for besan ladoos, but besan is chick peas flour which is difficult to digest and break down, so new moms are not given such foods. But if you have no such condition, try it with besan and maybe you have a new invention on hand. Make these even if you have no new mom around to make, they are good in winters too, just restrict yourself to One a day and you will be in great shape.

Wednesday

Hara Bhara Kebab- Jain Special, no Onion, no Garlic no Ginger, no Potato


Hello Sweetpeas!!! Happy Diwali and a joyous new year to you all. Diwali and holidays brings a air of peace and joy in the air. We all automatically find time to shop and dress for the events and even deck up our homes. Holidays also means meeting old friends, spending time with them and family reunions. Most Hindu homes also find themselves refraining to cook with onion, ginger and garlic and eat only satvik food, that are comfort foods. My granny uses to lay importance of such foods especially after Diwali time where we hog endlessly on sweets, fired snacks and rich gravy based food. As we all know India is a rich country with its vast culture and many castes and communities. It is believed that the language and food changes every 100kms distance. So true, its always My home its cooked in this way and my village its cooked in this way...each house strongly holds to its recipes, spices and traditions.Since we had a family who practices Jain Religion and adopts their food habits, we  had to accommodate the special food restriction for them. One such religion is the Jain religion where no food is consumes that is grown below the earth like roots, potatoes, yams and such, this would also include onion, garlic and ginger.

 As per Wiki; Jainism 
is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul toward divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state of supreme being is called a jina ("conqueror" or "victor"). The ultimate status of these perfect souls is called siddha. Ancient texts also refer to Jainism as shramana dharma (self-reliant) or the "path of the nirganthas" (those without attachments or aversions).

Each religion has its norms and suggested food habits. Hinduism relies strongly on principles based on Ayurveda which emphasis on consuming all senses of taste in our food, sweet salty, sour and spicy each has a job to play in our mood, digestion and well being. Food is like a language that we speak differently yet communicate well beyond set national boundaries and walls.  

For Potlucks, we try and please everyone by making some dishes that are essentially Jain recipes meaning no onion, no potato, no garlic.  I was allotted the appetizer part of the dinner menu. Now if you know me, I am handicapped if I have to cook with no potatoes, no garlic and no onion. I always use these specially for the appetizers. I troubled my trusted blogger friends Manasi of Cook @Heart and Neelam of Kanes Coop for ideas. They gave me multiple options, making me think of how lucky I am to be around such amazing chefs. Only if I was half as talented as these girls. I take time to plan, sort and  weigh my options. They work like a light bulb spreading light at the switch of the button.

I decided to take 2 appetizers for a crowd of about 10 adults and 6 kids. Since I was bringing along store brought Spring rolls, that all our kids love, I decided to do a onion/garlic free appetizer. This Hara bhara kebab is truly a keepsake recipe and believe me, it is fast to make as no deep frying and no need of boiling potatoes and grating ginger and garlic is called for. I liked Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe better than Tarla Dallal except for the fact that he used boiled potatoes for binding. So I combined the two recipes and  used the ingredients form both of them as per my need. The taste and the texture was to die for. The kebabs tasted light and mildly spiced making it great  as a starter and yet not filling our tummies as to not indulge in heavenly dinner spread.So the next Potluck you are invited to or any starter that you may need, don't look back, make and enjoy these kebabs.

You will need;
1 cup chopped blanched spinach,  drained
1 cup green peas boiled for 3 mins in microwave
1/2 cup boiled drained, chana dal/ Gram Dal/lentil
 ** To make the chana dal, take the 1/2 cup dal with enough water and pressure cook til AL-dente and once the pressure cools off, drain and remove the water as much as possible.
1/2 cup bread crumbs
5-6 sprigs Basil
2 tspn sesame seeds
2 tspn Amchur/Dry mango powder
1 tsp Coriander powder
2 tsp Jeera /Cumin Powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Red Cayenne  Chili Powder
Salt to taste
Oil to fry 

In a mini chopper, chop the boiled spinach and peas, alongwith the boiled drained chana dal and pulse it a few times to incorporate an even mixing..



Take the mixed spinach and green peas with the dal mixtures and add the sesame seeds, bread crumbs, basil, spices powder and adjust salt. In a shallow fry pan, grease the pan well, and fry the kebabs of the mixture. I needed to make uniform kebabs so I opted to make them in a cookie cutter and shallow fry them. But you can also deep fry them, but the bread crumbs soak a lot of  the oil and make it not so healthy.

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Tuesday

Angry Bird Raids Ashland-- HB Donut!!!


Hello Dearies!!!! How is the festive season  in your home!! We had a bad start for the holiday season but now that we are on our two little feet doing the happy feet dance, we are back in action with the festivities. Donut has his birthday falling on the same day as Laxmi puja which is an important day in the Diwali celebrations. Goddess Laxmi or wealth is decorated and her puja is done to welcome wealth and prosperity in our homes and lives for the year ahead.

I found a short story explaining the importance of Laxmi Puja;


A story associated with Goddess Lakshmi and an old lady explains the importance of performing Lakshmi puja on Diwali. This Diwali Lakshmi puja katha narrates the significance of lightning Diya (lamp) on Diwali night.

One day Goddess Lakshmi was roaming on earth. It was the Kartik Amavasya day – no moon day in Kartik month. She roamed and forgot about night approaching. Because of the darkness created by no moon day, Goddess Lakshmi lost her way and decided to stay among humans on the day.

But when Goddess Lakshmi looked around she found that all the houses were closed and there were no Diya (light) burning.

After roaming for a while she came across a home which in which a Diya was burning. It was a dilapidated hut of an old woman.

When Goddess Lakshmi reached the hut, the old woman invited her into the home and said that it was not safe for a maiden to roam around on a dark night.

She offered the little food that was in her home and made bed for Goddess Lakshmi.

The next day morning when the old woman woke up she found that the maiden had gone.

To her surprise, the old woman found that her dilapidated hut had become a palace and she found gold and diamond scattered all around.

From that day people started lighting lamp on the night of Kartik Amavasya believing Goddess Lakshmi will visit their home.

Now you know the importance of lighting diya/lights on Diwali days we will come back to this cake.
Donut turned Nth year and he started off wishing for no cake on his big day. Why You ask??? I do not know. He felt that maybe he was too old for the cake and hats and singing or he might have felt its too much work for his poor mom on a working day. Whatever he feels, I cannot imagine any Bday without any cake, so I set to work with no plan on hand. I decided to take baby steps and go by what pops in my head. Frankly after a days work and diner and clean up, my mind is in kind of  vegetable state, it kind of stops functioning.  So I went ahead with the trusted Vanilla Buttermilk cake recipe, which has never failed me in taste and  texture. When I was done with the cake and cooled it in the freezer for quick cooling, I frosted it with Whipped cream vanilla pudding icing.  Then again I was staring at the blank cake for about 5-10 mins, when I found the cake topper ring my Munchkin had saved for me from one of his class birthday parties. Ha Ha. finally  raided my gel pens stash and found the basic red and black pens, so Angry Bird was the way for us.. I was skeptical of doing the bird with free hand, but It worked and I could do it. I traced the bird outline with a toothpick and then drew with the gel pen. The recipe for the icing is very simple.

** Whipped Cream icing can be made by using simply Heavy Whipping Cream and Conf Sugar,, The Rec is as Follows..
One Cup heavy Whipping Cream
Half Cup Conf Sugar
**One packet Instant pudding mix. OR IF desired One Packet Unflavored Gelatin dissolved in water.-- OPTIONAL

Take a bigger bowl and keep some ice cubes in that.. Over the cubes place anr bowl. Take one cup cream and add sugar and Pudding mix( if needed )... and beat with electric mixer for about 5-7 mins on medium till soft peaks are on the blade. The icing is ready.
This morning when I showed the cake to my Donut, he was very happy and said he always wanted the angry bird cake but he thought it would be  a lot of work. Hope you all like my efforts and enjoy making such cakes for your family and loved ones.  The smile he gave me after looking at the cake was worth wining the jackpot for me.


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Thursday

Pav Bhaji Pulav

Hello Dearies!!! Hope you all are safe and bathing in the glory of your loved ones. Life  is something we all take for  granted and forget to admire simple necessities which seem like luxury when they are all of a sudden taken away from us. Yes, Nearly 80% of New Jersey had no heat, no electric or even gas when it was affected by Hurricane Sandy. The houses went from cold to coldest with temperatures dropping to negative. Such times makes you wonder of how you take such simple pleasures for granted. They sure seem like a right, but in reality they are your privileges. Hope this never comes our way or anyone's way for that matter. What matters now is how fast and how soon can we pick the pieces and make a life out the devastation. Diwali is undoubtedly a low key in Ashland as we are still recovering mentally from the huge loss this Frankenstorm left us with. We all are making an emergency wishlist that needs to be updated and stocked for any such future emergencies. that list will now also include with food and water,  hand and feet warmers along with shawls/throws for cold months, and some backup toys for kids.

In preparation for this storm, I had precooked batches of Pavbhaji, which can be eaten with bread, roti or rice. Adding twist to the leftover pavbhaji, I made this rice for our lunch one day. We were lucky to get the power back within few hours, but god forbid days without heat/power or gas, we need to be prepared. Some smart people made the fire in fireplace work double duty by cooking roots and potatoes in them. Such ideas take me back to my Girl Guide days when we were trained to survive on minimum. The Need taking first place and defeating Want. The battle between need and want makes us selfish and asking for more, at times grabbing what is not rightfully ours.

What is your emergency lit and how do you prepare for such emergencies?? Do you panic or stay relaxed and let nature take its toll? I like to be prepared especially when the experts keep buzzing about the severity of the situation, stocking basics like drinking water, some medicines and even stored water never hurt anyone. Some good news in this is that we got leave form work as offices were in blackout, schools closed for more than a week, so with no work, no TV and no light, we  were transported to a age where families sat and chatted together and connected in a unique way.

Having grown up in Bombay which is a coastal city, hurricanes and storms with rains and heavy winds is not new for us, but munchkin and donut being brought up in US are new to the blackouts and no power worlds. We used to gather all kids together whenever we had power outage and sing songs, make spooky sounds and shadows in candle light and scare younger and timid kids around us. It was fairly regular to hear such spooky noises when power went off. It brought back tons of fond memories and images of my childhood that I could see each of them clearly in the dim candle light to feel blessed and find strength to overcome the storm and hard situation we were facing.  So When the power came back, I was reminded of yet another childhood favorite breakfast item, Phodnicha bhat which can be glamorized as Tadka rice. Since we were dealing with leftovers, I combined the pavbhaji and rice and Bingo, we had pavbhaji rice that day.


You will need;
2 cups cooked rice/ vegetable pulav or jeera rice
2 cups  leftover Pav Bhaji
1/2 onion chopped
1 Tsp pav bhaji Masala

Tempering
 1 tbspn Oil
1 tspn Panchporan, tempering mix blend of mustard, fennel, cumin, onion seeds/kalonji, fenugreek seeds/methi.

Water as needed
Salt to taste

In a pan over medium heat, heat oil, add the onions,  fry for 2 mins , then add the panchporan mix, add in the pavbhaji,, add little water if needed and let cook for  1 minute, then add the pav bhaji masala, mix well, add salt, mix well and lastly add rice with little water. Stir well and cover. Cook for abt 3 mins.  The rice should not be liquid but slightly sticky. once you get to this stage, the rice is done...garnish with Cilantro or Spring Onion, add a dash of lime if needed and Njoii Pav Bhaji Pulav.


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