Diwali — Family, memories and traditions.

Diwali this year is bittersweet for me and my family. My brother (the youngest of the kids) is away at college and will not be able to spend the festival with us. My sis is away to college as well but should be in town over the weekend. My husband is away for work.

Diwali this year is Oct 26th. For my friends who don’t know what Diwali is yet, google it or find it on Wikipedia. 🙂

I have fond memories of spending Diwali in India. I remember my mom spending hours designing our new outfits for the occasion. I also remember her cooking enough to feed a small nation. I remember my dad buying diyas (Lamps) the day before and crackers (patakhe) by the baskets !! I remember my cousins spending Diwali at our house year after year..

I remember us waking up real early on the day of and decorating the house with diyas and flowers. I remember eating and eating and then eating some more.

I have tried to keep up with the spirit of Diwali, the 12 years that I have been away from India. In college, I hosted many-a Diwali parties and cooked like crazy ! 🙂 All through dating my husband in college and till now after we’ve had a child, friends and family talk about our wonderful lavish Diwali parties.

We are blessed to have a life that we do. Granted, some days are way better than others. and well some days, I just question life’s existence. 🙂

A lot changes once you move countries 🙂 , have your own family and build a new life.

But one thing that does not change are the traditions you grew up with. The root that holds you firmly in the ground, that one thing that reminds you of your identity and values when you seem to either question it or when it gets lost in the shuffle.

Be blessed for what you have and work towards for things you lack. Always remember to experience new things, new food and new traditions and cultures. Who knows , you might incorporate them into your own life and be enriched by it. I know I have.

But on this day of lights , on the day when the new year starts, on the day when good really won over evil, I wish you and yours a very Happy Diwali.

And always remember; Food is a great leveler; Respect it, cherish it, share it.

Coarse ground pepper and pesto rubbed salmon

Easy dinner for a tough day !!

I have been having a lot of busy hectic days lately.. Nature of the job I guess. But that should not mean dinner from a drive-through or frozen TV dinners..

Don’t get me wrong, I love an occasional carryout. But some days that just doesn’t cut it.

Especially if you have been cooped up in a room for 12 hrs straight and have been fueling yourself with coffee, processed pastries and high sodium food.. Ugh, you need something light, flavorful and healthy and more importantly, EASY !!!

So here you go.. You can also freeze this and bake it when needed.. Great prep ahead idea for a dinner party as well.

To serve 2

(2) about 8 Oz Salmon fillets

2 Tbsp OO
2 Tbsp Pesto paste
1 Tbsp black pepper
2 Cloves of garlic smashed
salt to taste

2 pats of butter

Rub the marinade on the salmon and let rest in the fridge covered for about 30 minutes.

On a cookie sheet, drizzle / spray some OO and arrange the salmon leaving some space between them. Add one pat of butter on each fillet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Turn the oven to high broil and broil for about 2-3 minutes till you see some color on top of the fish.

Enjoy !!

Mango Hing Daal

Some days just call for playful food. Playful either in terms of texture, feel or flavors. Today is one of these days… I am in the mood for something sweet, sour and umm lip smacking delicious.
and not to forget, healthy !

To serve 4:

1 cup of toor daal (split pigeon peas)
2 Mangoes – flesh chopped roughly and preserve the seeds(any sweet smelling ripe mangoes like Alphonso)
1/2 red onion chopped
1 tomato chopped/seeded
2 green chilies chopped (optional)
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2″ ginger root peeled and chopped
2 tsps of mustard seeds
1 Tbsp of fresh curry leaves
2 Whole red chilies

Salt, red chili powder
A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Cook the daal in about 2-3 cups of water with a pinch of turmeric and salt till cooked all the way through in a covered pan or if using pressure cooker, cook for about 12-15 minutes on medium heat.

In a sauce pan, temper mustard seeds in about 1 Tbsp of canola/OO oil. Add the fresh curry leaves and red chilies and let crackle. Add the ginger, garlic, green chillies, onions and tomatoes. Cook till the onions turn pale and tomatoes loose their firmness.

Add the mangoes and the daal. Season with the salt, red chili powder and the hing. Cover the pan and cook on a medium heat for about 12 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

Mustard encrusted pork tenderloin

1-1.5 pounds of pork tenderloin(s)
2-3 Tbsp coarse ground mustard
1-2 Tbsp of fresh rosemary leaves chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 Tbsp OO
salt and pepper to taste

Drop the tenderloins in a big zipper top bag.
Mix the marinade and drop in the bag.

Massage the meat and the marinade together till fully coated.

Marinate for atleast 2 hrs.
Sear the tenderloin(s) on a pan with 1/2 a Tbsp of OO on all sides for about 3-4 minutes on high heat to get a good crisp exterior.
Roast the meat in a roasting pan in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 25-30 min for (about 20 min a pound) till the internal temperature of the pork is about 150 degrees with a meat thermometer.
Take the pork out of the oven and wrap with foil and let REST !! Leave it alone for about 10 minutes. The internal temperature will raise by 9-10 minutes in that time.
Slice on a diagonal to preserve the juices. Serve with a simple salad/ creamy mash potatoes/ wilted garlic baby spinach….
Enjoy !!

Candied All spice almonds

So.. Accidents happen right ? Things sometimes don’t go right.. even though you plan and perfect your strategy and have the confidence that the plan will work, sometimes it just doesn’t .. and what do you do in that case ? You can either get frustrated, lose all hope, or start all over again.. Come up with a new plan to conquer your feat AGAIN !!..

so where exactly am I going with this ?.. Let me tell you..

I started on this quest to make a caramel sauce from scratch.. I have seen my mom make it, I have seen Ina Garten make it. It seemed easy enough..

Oh boy ! it was anything but.. I couldn’t get the sugar to caramelize to save my life.. I changed my pans from non-stick to regular.. I let the sugar and water boil over and spill all over the stove.. It was a mess..

I was really bummed.. 🙁

I saw Almonds.. right next to the stove just calling my name.. so..

I made Candied all spice almonds instead 🙂
Enjoy !

To make about 3.5- 4 cups of Almonds

For the Syrup

2 Cups of sugar1 Cup of water

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp Vanilla essence
1/2 Tbsp All spice
1 Tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)
Pinch of salt

Bake the almonds on a cookie sheet with a parchment paper in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. BE CAREFUL.. It takes a sec from roasted to toasted 🙂

Keep shaking the sheet every 3-4 minutes to make sure all the nuts get equal heat.

Let cool for about an hr.
Mix the syrup ingredients in a heavy bottom pan and bring to a boil on medium heat.

Lower the heat and cook while stirring for 5-6 minutes till the mixture becomes a little thick.

Take it off the stove and mix the almonds in it. Coat well and spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Separate almonds using a fork and let cool at room temperature for about a couple of hours.
Enjoy !

Daal Lauki (Lentils and Bottle Gourd)

A simple solution for dinner time to end a hectic day. Serve like a soup with crackers or with fresh chapatis.

To serve 2-3

Yellow Lentils – 3/4 cup uncooked (Moong daal)(washed and drained)

1 medium sized lauki (Bottle gourd/ dhoodhi), skin peeled and cubed

1 medium sized white onion chopped

1 tomato chopped

1 Tbsp Tomato paste

2 Green chilies (optional)

5-6 curry leaves

1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic smashed

1/2″ ginger root skin peeled and chopped

salt, pinch of turmeric powder and red chili powder

In a pressure cooker (you can use a heavy bottom pan if you don’t have a cooker), saute cumin seeds in an Tbsp of oil on medium heat. Add onions, garlic. ginger, green chilies, curry leaves and saute till onions become translucent. (About 3-4 minutes). Add tomatoes and paste and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the lauki (gourd) and the daal (Lentils). Add the salt, tumeric and chili powder. Add about 2.5 cups of water and pressure cook on medium for about 12-13 minutes. If using a pan, cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 25-28 minutes till daal and the lauki are cooked thoroughly.

Drop in a Tbsp of ghee (clarified butter) and enjoy this simple finish to a busy day.
It’ll surely make you all warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂

Jhatpat Chatpat Chicken

Ummm.. you will love this dish .. A cross between chili chicken and chicken-65, I call this Jhatpat (fast) Chatpat(lip smacking) chicken.

To serve 4-5 or in our house 1 !

For the Jhatpat part

2 pounds of chicken tenderloins, cut into strips about 1/2″ thick
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
2-3 cloves of garlic smashed
1-2 drops of orange food coloring
salt to taste

For the Chatpat part

1 Med Red onion sliced thin
2-3 green chilies sliced thin
2-3 whole red chilies
2-3 cloves of garlic sliced thin
A sprig of curry leaves

Blend the below sauce

1 TBSP white wine vinegar
1/2 TBSP of Soy sauce (low sodium)
Salt and pepper
pinch of sugar

Mix the Jhatpat part above and keep aside. You might have to use about a TBSP of water to mix it well. Don’t add too much water and make it like a batter. It should be almost like a dry dredge.
In a couple of Tbsp of oil , cook chicken . (about 8-9 minutes) ( You might have to use more oil if cooking in batches)
You can deep fry too BUT we are watching our calories at my house 🙂

Once all the chicken is cooked, keep aside wrapped in foil to keep warm.

In a sauce pan, saute the Chatpat part for about 4-5 minutes till the onions turn pink and translucent in a Tbsp of oil. Add the chicken and add the sauce that you blended below.

Toss everything gently to coat all the chicken. Season with extra spices/salt as desired.
Let everything heat through for about 4-5 minutes.

Serve hot !! Perfect with cold beer preferably Kingfisher.. 🙂

or in our house, some rum !

Enjoy !

Vegetable Kuttu

Sometimes there is nothing more satisfying than a bowl full of veggies.

Add some fragrant curry leaves and some fresh coconut and you have yourself a treat which will transport you to a land of blue lagoons and coconut trees. Today, I bring to you my rendition of a very simple dish full of traditional vegetables mostly eaten in the coastal state of Kerala, India.

Pair it with some fresh chapatis or even steamed rice, this simple meal will leave you satisfied yet wanting for more.

Enjoy !

To serve 3-4

1 Medium sized white potato (skin peeled and cubed)
1 Medium sized sweet potato (skin peeled and cubed)
1 Green plantain (skin peeled and cubed)
1 Daikon (skin peeled and cubed)
1 cup of yellow pumpkin (skin peeled and cubed)
1 cup of white melon (skin peeled and cubed)
1 cup of eggplant (cubed)
2 carrots (skin peeled and cubed)
Handful of green drumsticks (vegetable)

1 small red onion (chopped fine)
2 cloves of garlic (chopped fine)
2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
1 tsp of mustard seeds

Make a paste of the below
2-3 green chillies
1/2″ ginger root
1/4 cup of fresh coconut scrapings
1 TBSP of cumin seeds
About 3 Tbsp water enough to grind the above into a thick paste

Salt to taste
1 Tsp of turmeric powder

In a covered pan, add the veggies and about 2 cups of water (enough to cover the veggies). Add salt and turmeric. Cook on medium heat till the veggies are cooked yet firm. Drain the veggies and reserve the broth. (You can use it as a base for soup or gravies)

In a pan, saute’ mustard seeds in a Tbsp of oil till they sputter. Add the onions and garlic and cook till translucent.About medium heat. Add curry leaves till they crackle (oh yes they will). Do not BURN 🙂

Add the veggies and the coconut paste and gently mix all the veggies to coat. Add about 1/2 cup of water and cover the pan with a lid. Lower the heat and cook for about 6-7 minutes. Toss everything again and cook for about 5-8 minutes more till the veggies are done to your liking. Season with additional salt and red chili powder if desired.

Enjoy !

Maple Ham Egg Cups

I love eating breakfast for dinner ! It’s easy and just so unexpected !! Love it..

Instead of the regular pancakes and eggs, I am making Maple Ham Egg cups. A fun way to eat breakfast ! Add some fruit or a side of toast, you are all set…

To top it off, SO EASY !! I’ll take easy anyday.. Enjoy !!

For one serving

2 slices of deli ham
1 Tsp of maple syrup
1 Egg

Salt and pepper taste

Spray some OO/Butter on a muffin pan/ Ramekin. Arrange the slices of ham in such a way as to cover the bottom of the pan/ramekin. Add the maple syrup. Crack open an egg in the ham cavity. Add salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 12-15 min till the egg is set.

Spoon out carefully and enjoy !

I told you EASY !!

Chicken Black Bean soup with crunchy corn tortilla strips

It’s been quite a day at FC.. Started with running a 5K to save the boobies !!

Then off I went to my son’s soccer game. My Lil Kicker is 3 and has joined a neighborhood soccer camp. I am so proud of him !!

So when we got back home, We were tired.. Didn’t want to spend a lot of time cooking lunch and didn’t wanna eat out. We ate out two past nights and we are done with that.. for a while .. Well atleast till mommy wants to order take-out.

So I made the below simple yet flavorful soup with leftovers for lunch.. Served it with crunchy corn tortilla strips for an added element of texture and fun.. trust me it’s FUN for a 3 yr old and a 30 yr old (me).. 🙂

Enjoy !

To serve 2-3

1 Cup of cooked shredded chicken (left over)
1 Cup of black beans/garbanzo beans/red kidney beans(left over)
1/2 Cup of yellow corn(left over)
1/2 red onion chopped fine(left over)
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 Tomatoes chopped
2-3 Tbsp of cilantro chopped
1 Chipotle pepper (I got mine from a can)chopped (left over)
3 cups of your favorite broth (I used veggie)(left over)

1 Tsp of dry roasted and ground cumin powder
1 Tsp of garam masala (All spice)
1 Tsp of nutmeg powder
Salt and pepper

Saute the onions and garlic in a Tbsp of OO till the onions turn translucent.
Add the tomatoes and cook for about 3-4 minutes till they break and lose firmness.
Add the rest of the ingreadients and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes with a lid on.

Meanwhile, fry up some corn tortillas cut into strips or toast them in the oven for about 6-8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Your soup is done ! Garnish with some fresh cilantro, sour cream and lime wedges AND the corn tortilla strips for some added fun !!