The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including Gluten Free dishes.

December 24, 2011

~A Big Fat South Indian Wedding~

One of my favorite movies is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The key takeaways for me from the movie were that weddings are about tradition, bringing lots of family together and food. I guess that's what we have in common with the Greeks.
In India, weddings can span anywhere from 3-5 days including all the rituals. The guest list typically ranges from 400 to 2000 people. The larger figures are more common in smaller communities, where weddings are the key occasions for the parents to invite everyone they know including the community to bless the happy couple.  Nowadays the wedding ceremonies have become like a Bollywood movie; glitzy and over the top. One of my friends who recently got married told me his wedding was done at a large scale and even included fireworks for all the main events. I didn't believe him until he showed the pictures. The Indian weddings I've attended in the States are in no comparison to those abroad. My cousin's wedding was spectacular with all the frills and more. One example is that she arrived to the mandap (ceremonial stage) in a palanquin carried by all her uncles. Now that's what I call an entrance...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M2tPUlYjAY



The wedding was one of the most memorable events of my trip. It was filled with lots of laughs, relatives I haven't seen in years, rich and traditional South Indian food, glitzy clothing and jewelry, and best of all...I was a part of my cousin's important day. That's priceless!!

December 21, 2011

The Wonders of India - Delhi

Our trip wouldn't be complete without making a stop over in Delhi. I learned to speak Hindi here and still remember it to this day. There is so much to do and see, it's endless.  In the past trips, we explored the historical landmarks such as Red Fort, India Gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Qutub Minar, Lotus Temple, Gandhi Museum and etc. This time we decided to take it easy and just have some downtime (which included shopping and spending time with friends). Delhi is one of the best places to go shopping (especially for clothes and trinkets). One of our best modes of transportation were autos; which also meant bargaining with the drivers for better fare pricing. Until one of our family friends told us about the Metro (subway). We used it to get to some of our destinations within the city and guess what, I loved every minute of it. It was fast, frequent, affordable and clean. It reminded me of my metro experiences in London and Paris. Its design is sleek and comfortable. My only concern is that with the ever growing number of people traveling by this mode, it's maintained well. 
Oh and nothing completes a day of shopping with some delicious grub. If we were living in India, street vendors and local restaurants would be our main source. As travelers, we dined only at restaurants we've gone to in the past and/or read reviews online. There's also some Western fast food joints such as McDonald's, Subway, KFC for worry-warts! It's better to be safe than sorry. 

Haldiram's 
Left to Right: Chole Batura, Paneer Tikka, Bhel Puri, and Kesar Pista Kulfi in Matkas
You got to hand it to Haldiram's for presentation. Just look at the batura...it's so big. The paneer tikka as an appetizer was yum. Personally I found the bhel puri to be a bit spicy but I think it's because I'm a tourist now and not a local. Next time, I'll ask for more dahi (plain yogurt) and sweet tamarind sauce. Let's not forget the dessert which was served in little clay pots, also known as matkas. Aren't they so cute? I especially loved this place for its order retrieval. It was easy and way less wait time than in other restaurants. 
Our second favorite place to go is Nirula's. They have the best ice cream flavors and savory creations. 
One big scoop of Pineapple Pop ice cream in a waffle cone
That's the face of someone who just needed a cool treat and got one. By the way, Pineapple Pop was the flavor of the month and all those calories were totally worth it. 


Here's some good shopping advise from one traveler to another:  

Good Shopping Locations:
Lajpat Nagar Central Market – Fancy Indian dresses, casual clothes and accessories
Malhotra Fancy Cloth House
Westside
South Extension
Metro (for fancy, trendy and ethnic shoes)
Part II, Main Market, E-21
Tel: 011-2621306
Janpath – Souvenirs, woven embroidered saris, ethnic jewelry, and accessories
Jawahar Vyapar Bhavan
Tel: 011-23320439

Next up is a little taste of the South...here we come Vijayawada and Hyderabad. 

December 20, 2011

The Wonders of India - Agra

There is nothing greater than undying love and devotion. One of India's most treasured monuments is Taj Mahal which was built by emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved empress Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz's final request for Shah Jahan was that he never remarry and prove his endless love for her by building a beautiful mausoleum. Shah Jahan also had plans of building a mausoleum for himself behind the Taj Mahal so that he may look upon his Mumtaz whenever he pleased. However, he passed away before it was completed and only the foundation remained. He was later buried next to his empress inside Taj Mahal. The story was so beautiful that I couldn't help but cry while our guide was telling it
The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is during the winter months and go early. One time, we made the mistake of going in the summer and suffered...it turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Let's just say I lost a weight on that trip and it wasn't intentional. This time, we got to the monument early in the morning (around 7ish) and enjoyed the view without the crowds and hassle. If you are planning to hire a guide, make sure they know more than what's written in the guide books. We walked around the grounds a while just taking in the ambiance and also explored the other structures around the Taj; such as the mosque on the left and Mihman Khana on the right. The Mihman Khana was used as a guesthouse during the death anniversaries of Mumtaz Mahal and then as a banquet hall by Indian princes and high ranking British officials during the 18th and 19th centuries.
It was difficult to leave the Taj Mahal but we had one more monument to see in Agra called Fatehpur Sikri. It was the former imperial capital of Mughal emperor Akbar. Just like the Taj Mahal, the city was constructed with influences of Indian, Persian and Islam traditions. The album below is from our tour through Fatehpur Sikri.



If we had more time, we would have stopped by Agra Fort too but we had to get packing and drive to Delhi that day. However, it was a great day filled with lots of picturesque memories of India's national treasures. 

December 18, 2011

The Wonders of India - Jaipur & Ranthambore


We left the evening of the seventh and arrived in Jaipur on the morning of the ninth. After a long flight all we wanted to do was to sleep off the jet lag. However, it was tough to sleep with all the excitement in the air. Did you know that Jaipur is also known as the Pink City of Rajasthan? In 1876, the city was painted pink to welcome Prince Albert and Queen Elizabeth II and since then the nickname remained. The city is full of rich culture, food and magnificent architecture (such as palaces, forts, and lush gardens).
It's easy to work up an appetite after all the sightseeing and exploration of a new city. We asked around and received some suggestions for quality restaurants that serve tasty Rajasthani cuisine without pinching the pockets too much. The cuisine is rich and simple. During the few days we spent in the city, we enjoyed freshly made breads such as naan and parathas with rich vegetable curries. The best part of Jaipur for me was Choki Dhani. It is a re-creation of an authentic Rajasthani village filled with entertainment for the whole family, crafts & trinkets shops, and an unique dining experience. Words are not enough to describe the food we ate that night. Inside this large clay built hall, there were men dressed in Rajasthani garb serving everyone various types of appetizers, breads, curries, and sweets. Pictures are included in the album.

We put together an album to help you imagine how wonderful our trip was and to get an idea what this great city had to offer its travellers...


The enthusiasm was building up as we headed to the next stop which was the Ranthambore National Park & Tiger Reserve. We stayed in town for two days while we explored the park and all its treasures. Our accommodations were at this hotel called Vatika Resort; it was a short distance from the reserve. It has eight cottages with comfortable beds, bathrooms and flat screen TVs. There was no need to worry about the quality of the food because all meals were prepared fresh each day of our stay. Also, we made all our bookings through a trusted travel agent who we used in the past. They booked two safaris (evening and morning), increasing the odds of us spotting the tigers. Our evening safari was the best one out of the two and to top it all off, we actually saw one of the biggest male Bengal tigers on the reserve. How lucky were we!!!


We left Ranthambore with great delight and headed for our next adventure in the North...to Agra and Delhi!


***Quick Tips: 
- There are eight zones or trails around the park where the safari guides are allowed to take passengers. Before planning your trip, we recommend calling the park or your booking agent ahead of time to secure a seat and to inquire about the best zones where more wildlife was sighted so you can try to avoid disappointment. Also if you are going on multiple safaris, make sure that the zones aren't repeated if one of them had no action. 
- Depending on when you plan to go to Rajasthan, here are other cities to explore: Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaiselmer, and Bikaner. Also look into going to the Pushkar Camel Fair.  

December 10, 2011

There's No Place Like "Home"

I love the movie, The Wizard of Oz. It's filled with colorful characters and imagery that makes it enjoyable for anyone. That's exactly how I feel whenever we take a trip to India. It's a place full of wonder and beautiful people. It is also where I spent the first few years of my childhood. It is my connection to my roots and a place I call home. So it is only natural that whenever I'm "homesick", I feel like clicking my heels and waking up in my grandma's place in India. Well, this past November I didn't exactly click my heels to get there, but I might as well have. One of my cousins was getting married and we took the opportunity to go for the occasion, and of course we extended the trip a little to include some sightseeing.
Our trip began in the North and concluded in the South. Then we returned to the States with beautiful memories of sights, smells, sounds, and tastings. My fondest memories were mostly of the tastings. You know, I'm all about the FOOD.  Before we left, I made a note of all my cravings and kept it close by so I could take full advantage while I was there. This time, I even managed to take some pictures, so I could look back and indulge.

November 16, 2011

Upma With A Twist!

Time to get all the ingredients together with Thanksgiving just around the corner. One of the most popular recipes, besides the Turkey, is the stuffing. The traditional way is making it from scratch or you can just buy the pre-made variety. Since we don't eat Turkey, that's not something we worry about. However, when we host the big dinner, we serve up some of the traditional dishes. Instead of Turkey, we usually make biryani or something hearty like koftas. Last year, we incorporated the stuffing by dressing it up a bit and making a dish out it...desi style. Have you ever heard of Stuffing Upma? You may have heard of stuffing and upma* separately, but have you heard of them together as one dish? We didn't think so and that is why you are seeing it now...in time for Thanksgiving. Serve up something new as part of the dinner or for the morning after. This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients: 
- 1 packet (5oz/200g) of Bread Stuffing (plain variety, corn or wheat)
- 1 medium Onion, chopped (or use French's onion rings)
- 1 cup of Frozen Peas & Carrots
- 2 medium Tomatoes, cubed
- 1 cup of French Cut Beans, microwaved for 5 minutes
- ⅓ cup of Cashews, halved
- 6 to 8 Curry leaves (optional)
- 4 Green Chilies, finely chopped
- 1 inch piece of Ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tsp of Salt (or as needed)
- 1 tsp of each Whole Cumin and Mustard seeds
- 4 tbsp of Vegetable oil

Procedure:
1) Start off with preparing the seasoning for the dish by heating oil in a saucepan and adding cumin and mustard seeds. When they start to splatter, add cashews and fry them until golden. Then add onions, green chilies, ginger and saute until onions are caramelized.
2) Then add tomatoes and beans and stir until the tomatoes are cooked. Next add water as per the measurements on the stuffing packet.
Add salt, peas and carrots, and then allow the water to come to a boil, reduce the heat and mix in the stuffing quickly.
3) Stir until the vegetables and stuffing are mixed well and water is completely absorbed. Close the lid and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Hint: For flavor enhancement, mix in a tbsp of butter and serve hot.
Upma is a popular South Indian breakfast item made with semolina, variety of vegetables, and spices.

November 7, 2011

Rich Ricotta Kalakand

Love Milk? Then you must try this North Indian dessert called Kalakand; which is also known as Milk Sweet. It's really easy to make and fun to eat like brownies. Ooooh, just thinking about it is making me hungry.

Butter not shown
Here's what you need:
- 32 oz of Ricotta Cheese (whole milk) 
- 14 oz of Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1½ packets (3.2oz/pk or 90g)of Evaporated Milk Powder
- 4 tbsp of Butter
- 10 Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, or Pistachios), cut into 4 pieces
- 6 to 8 Cardamom pods, seeded and powdered

Procedure: Mix evaporated milk powder and ricotta cheese together until all the liquid is absorbed. In a non-stick pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter and fry the ricotta cheese mixture for ten minutes. Add condensed milk into the cheese and keep mixing regularly to avoid the mixture sticking to the bottom. Allow the mixture to cook for 20-25 minutes or until it comes together. Now add the cardamom powder and mix well. Transfer the mixture into a dinner plate or a cookie sheet and spread evenly. In a small pan, heat one tablespoon of butter and evenly roast the nuts until golden brown. Remove from butter and gently press them onto the neatly pressed mixture in the dish. Allow the mixture to cool in the refrigerator or keep outside at room temperature and then cut it into squares. This recipe makes 24 squares.

***Quick Tip: Roohafza or Rose water can be used instead of cardamom powder to give a mild rose flavor to the sweet.


November 4, 2011

Back To The Basics...

Wow, what an interesting week we had!

We were like thousands of residents in the Northeast who lost power due to the early snowstorm that left a path of destruction behind it. A lot of trees, branches, and power lines were down due to the weight of the snow, making it harder for the plow trucks to clear the area. It was all a big mess. On top of it all, we didn't get to celebrate Diwali the way we planned. Instead we spent it shoveling the driveway and packing all our food into ice boxes. Luckily we had a gas stove and were able to heat up the food and not worry about wastage.
So what did we eat during this whole week? I realized how much we relied on electricity for our everyday cooking. We used the microwave to heat up frozen vegetables for our curries or to speed up cooking time. Even something as simple as making rice turned into a project since we couldn't use our rice cooker. We made it over stove top by candlelight; watching over it to make sure it didn't burn. It was a good learning experience. We also made payasm (Vermicelli Pudding), pav bhaji (mixed vegetable curry served with bread), and simple vegetable curries which can be rolled up in rotis like Kati Rolls.

Update: Power was restored last night and keeping my fingers crossed that we don't lose it again. It was a hell of a week with no heating and light. We went to bed early praying, we would wake up in the morning realizing it was all a nightmare. Our heart goes out to all those who still have no power. Be strong!! 

October 30, 2011

Chunky Pumpkin Sambhar


Sambhar is a type of vegetable stew or soup that has its roots from South India. Every South Indian state has its own variation. 

Warm Pumpkin Goodness!
Our version of sambhar hails from Andhra Pradesh (my home state) . Now the base of soups or stews starts off with the broth or stock, and then you combine it with meat, legumes or vegetables.  The broth in Sambhar is usually made with tamarind and/or pigeon peas and cooked with vegetables. The type of vegetables range from carrots, pearl onions, eggplant, tomato, sweet potato and/or okra with a blend of various spices (Sambhar powder can be found at most Indian stores).

We love cooking with seasonal produce whenever we have the chance. On our recent trips to the lcoal market, we bought pumpkin.

Here are some great ways to enjoy this chunky dish: In a bowl with pieces of toasted bread; mixed with hot rice and a touch of ghee or clarified butter; or dip your favorite dosa or idlis. This dish is an explosion of sour, spicy, and sweet flavors. 

Let's begin making this dish, shall we? 

Ingredients:
- 1½ lbs of Pumpkin (Spanish or Calabaza)
- Tamarind (measure size of a lemon)
- 2 tbsp of Brown sugar/Jaggery
- ½ tsp of Turmeric powder
- ½ to 1 tsp of Chili powder (or as desired)
- ½ tsp of Fenugreek powder (optional)
- 1½ tbsp of Besan (if not available, use rice flour or cornstarch)


Brown sugar is not shown above

For the seasoning*:
- 1 tbsp of Vegetable oil
- 1 tsp of Whole Cumin seeds
- 1 tsp of Mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp of Hing/Asafoetida
- 5 or 6 Curry Leaves


Procedure: 
1) Pick a pumpkin with orange skin and make sure the skin is not woody. Remove the seeds and cut the pumpkin into 2" squares. (Hint: Peel the skin if it seems thick and woody)

2) Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of warm water for at least 15-20 min and later squeeze the juice out using at least 1 liter of water. Transfer the juice into a soup pot or large saucepan and add the pumpkin pieces, chili powder, turmeric, brown sugar, fenugreek powder and salt.


Cook on low to medium heat until the pumpkin is soft. (Hint: Knife should pierce the pieces easily)

3) When the pumpkin is cooked and liquid is boiling, mix the besan/flour in ½ cup of water and add to the broth stirring continuously. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the broth thickens and remove from heat and keep aside.

4) Prepare the seasoning (listed above) for soup in hot oil.



QUICK TIPS
- Pigeon peas are added to the preparation of the broth to thicken and reduce the sourness of the dish. Besan/flour and pumpkin help in thickening the dish and reduce the sourness taste.
- Check out Cooking 101 for tips on preparing the seasoning or click here to watch the video.
- Sambhar Powder can be substituted for the following ingredients: Hing, Fenugreek powder, and Chili powder.




Did you know: How closely related sambhar and gumbo really are? 1) They both fall within the same category of soups and stews, 2) have a strongly flavored stock, 3) combined with lots of vegetables to create this thick dish, and finally 4) are traditionally served over rice. 

October 26, 2011

Poha Laddus - Sweet Balls of Joy

I know you want one or two; or maybe the whole plate!
We've heard a lot from our readers that they like multipurpose ingredients. We agree with that too. No one wants to buy uni-purpose ingredients that aren't affordable. With that in mind, we looked into our spice rack and cupboard to see what sweets to make for Diwali that everyone can make. After chatting up my infamous aunt, we decided on making Poha Laddu. She said it was really easy to make and required minimum ingredients; that works for us.
Just a recap, Poha is another name given for flattened rice. There are two kinds of poha: thick and thin. It is important to choose the right one when cooking with it as results vary. It can be used to make dishes like Garden Poha or mixture (Indian snack). Let's begin making our sweet as we have lots to show you. This recipe makes twenty to twenty-two lime-sized balls. 

Ingredients:
- 1½ cup of thick Poha
¾ cup of Sugar or Brown sugar
¾ cup of Dry Coconut Powder
- 10 Raisins
- 20 Nuts (Any combination of Cashews, Almonds or Pistachios), cut into pieces
- 3 to 4 tbsp of Butter
- 6 to 8 pods of Cardamom, seeded & powdered
- 4 tbsp of Evaporated Milk (or as needed to hold the mixture)

Procedure:
Melt butter in a pan and add all the nuts and raisins. Toast them lightly, remove from butter and set aside. Then add poha into the butter and fry on a reduced flame until it is well roasted. Transfer it to a plate and let it cool. Powder the poha, sugar and coconut separately in a blender. Transfer all the powders into a mixing bowl including cardamom powder and mix well. Add evaporated milk and take portions of the mixture and roll into a ball. Finally take nuts and raisins and press them gently into the ball. Arrange them on a tray and let them dry before serving. 


***Quick Tips: 
- For a longer shelf life, use melted butter instead of evaporated milk
You can use fresh coconut, if grated coconut is not available. 

October 25, 2011

Celebrate For A Cause...

We believe in giving back to the community and helping the less fortunate. That is why we make time to volunteer and participate in charitable events as much as possible. Sometimes with our busy schedules, it's tough to engage in such activities and so we try other ways to fulfill that duty. In that same respect, it's great to see corporations getting involved as well. They do it by giving deals or promoting an charitable event. For example, every time someone buys their product, a percentage gets donated to charity or by hosting charitable walks and giving away products.
We would like to recognize Tandoor Chef in their efforts in giving back to the community. Tandoor Chef, the leading manufacturer of restaurant quality, all natural frozen Indian cuisine, is hosting a virtual charity drive benefiting the Deepkiran Foundation, which helps provide education to children in remote villages in India. Through the end of October, they will donate $1.00 to the foundation for every new Fan at Facebook.com/TandoorChef. This special donation comes in addition to their regular contributions to the Deepkiran Foundation. They are creating this social media and cause campaign to make a positive impact on the futures of young children through schooling.
The Deepkiran Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports children’s education in the remote villages of Gujarat, India. Education is often not a priority of village elders and the foundation works to give the children various skills, including reading and writing. Both Tandoor Chef and Deep Foods are owned by the same family, who created the Deepkiran Foundation in 2005. This new charity drive is part of Tandoor Chef’s celebration of Diwali, the Hindu New Year. Charity and gift giving are central focuses of the Diwali celebration. “Tandoor Chef is honored to regularly donate to the Deepkiran Foundation, but we want to do even more through this special drive,” said Mike Ryan, VP Sales and Marketing, Tandoor Chef. “Deep Foods is proud to support this important foundation and we hope Facebook users everywhere will be proud to rally behind it.”

October 24, 2011

Stuffed Jalapeno Curry

This goes out to all the Heat Seekers!!
I think every family has a network of culinary experts. I know it's true in my own family. One of my aunts is an expert in making spicy curries. Her husband has a high tolerance for spicy dishes. I boast about his tolerance to all my friends. So for this year's Diwali celebration, my mom and I decided to add a spicy dish to the menu. And who better to consult, than my aunt. When I was inquiring about her dishes, she said, "Are you sure you want those recipes?" After some persuasion, she came around to it and sent us the recipe for Stuffed Jalapeno Curry

How to prepare the peppers for the stuffing (Gloves may be useful when handling the peppers): 
Wash and dry 7-8 peppers thoroughly. Slit each pepper with stalk end intact. Carefully pry it open and with the handle of the spoon, scrape out the seeds. This step depends on your spice tolerance. If you are a Hot Head, then leave some in there. However, let it be stated that, We Warned You. Then apply salt to the inner surface of each pepper. Once all of them have been prepped, please keep aside.

Stuffing Ingredients:
- 1 Medium Onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp of Coconut Milk Powder
½ bunch of Coriander (Cilantro), chopped
¾ tsp of cumin powder, roasted
- 3 to 4 tbsp of Vegetable Oil
- Salt, adjust as per taste

Procedure:
1) Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan, add the chopped onion and stir fry for a few minutes. Then take it off heat and put aside for cooling.  
2) Blend the following ingredients together: dry coconut powder, stir fried onions, coriander/cilantro, and roasted cumin powder. Pulse the mixture for 3-4 minutes, but do not over grind. Adjust the salt as per your taste. Then stuff the peppers with the mixture and put aside for frying
3) Heat two tablespoons oil in the pan and gently place the stuffed peppers into the pan. Cook on low to medium flame. (Please Note: if necessary, add more oil for sauteing the peppers) 
4) Gently flip each pepper over to cook them evenly. When the peppers are more than half done, add the remaining stuffing. (The remaining stuffing amount depends on how much was stuffed into the peppers prior to this step. Don't worry if there isn't any left over)
5) Saute the peppers until they have a brownish tint and are cooked thoroughly.

***Quick Tip:
- This curry can be enjoyed on its own or with some hot rice (plain or brown) or quinoa.

October 23, 2011

~ Diwali Specialities ~

 Family and friends, festive dishes, drinks, music, rangoli, and fireworks!!

Since Diwali falls midweek, we will have a small celebration during the week and a grand one over the weekend. We chose an intricate rangoli design to be drawn on the festival day and prepared some dishes such as Stuffed Jalapeno Curry, Powdery Poha Laddus, and Kalakand

October 14, 2011

Seasoned Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Curry

What a nice spread of gourds we have here!

Can you name them all? There are pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet dumpling squash and lots of other ornamental gourds. We were passing by this farmer's market and decided to pick up a few to make our fall dishes. 

We love cooking with these sweet and savory gourds because when they are cooked, they retain their beautiful color and flavor. Our two favorite dishes are Seasoned Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Curry and Chunky Pumpkin Sambhar.  

Seasoned Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Curry

This curry is popular both in North and South India and most people eat it with hot rice or roti (also known as chappati). This dish can also be served as the vegetable side dish with your meal. It is enough for 4-6 servings. 

Ingredients:
- 1 lbs of Spanish Pumpkin (Calabaza) 
½ lb of Butternut Squash
- 1 cup Frozen Carrots & Peas (optional)
- 3 Green chilies, chopped finely
- 1" piece of Ginger, chopped finely
- 1 tbsp of Cumin/Coriander powder (use ½ tbsp curry powder as an alternate)
½ tbsp Brown sugar/Jaggery
- 2 tbsp Grated coconut (dry)
- 1 tsp each of Mustard & Cumin seeds
½ tsp of Turmeric powder
¼ cup of Fresh Coriander/Cilantro leaves, chopped
1½ tbsp Vegetable oil

Procedure:
1) If the pumpkin and butternut squash are thick and woody, remove the seeds and peel the skin. Cut them into ½ inch pieces. 

2) Heat oil in a pan and add cumin and mustard seeds. When they start to splatter, add cumin/coriander powder, chilies, ginger and turmeric. Stir and then add pumpkin and butternut squash pieces, salt, and brown sugar. Mix well and cook the pumpkin with closed lid for 8-10 minutes or until it is cooked and firm. 



3) Stir the vegetable mixture in between, allowing the condensed water from the lid to fall into the curry for moisture. 
4) When it is done, add carrots & peas and coconut powder and cook under closed lid for 2-3 minutes. Once that is done, garnish it with chopped coriander. 


***Quick Tips: 
- Spanish Pumpkin is also known as Calabaza or West Indian Pumpkin. It is available in most grocery and ethnic stores. 
- The measurements of butternut squash and pumpkin can be adjusted as per availability. 

October 6, 2011

Green Apple Salsa

Have we got a treat for you! Today's recipe highlights two ingredients that are quite different from each other, both in taste and texture. One is an herb used as a garnish in many Indian dishes and the other is used to make America's famous apple pie. You guessed it, coriander and Granny Smith apples.


These two ingredients are combined to make one sweet and tangy flavored sauce which we like to call Green Apple Salsa. It's great for dipping your favorite chips. Ours is hearty pita chips.

Here's what you need to get started:
- 1 Green Apple (Granny Smith variety), cored and chopped into small cubes
- ¾ cup of Coriander/Cilantro leaves, chopped finely
- 3 Garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
- 2 Green chilies, chopped small
- 1 tsp of Peanut butter
- A pinch of Turmeric powder (optional)
- ½ tsp of Salt (Adjust to your taste)

Put all the ingredients except for the peanut butter and grind to a coarse texture. Now add the peanut butter and blend again to mix well. Taste to check the salt and adjust if needed. 

***Quick Tip: It can also be used as a spread on finger sandwiches instead of mint chutney. 

October 4, 2011

Tis the Season to Go Picking!!


It's Pick Your Own Apples and Pumpkins Time!! Grab your partner, friend, and/or kids and head over to the nearest farm for a day of good picking. And after you're done picking, be sure to try one of our "Fall Fancies" recipes just in time for the season. 

Upcoming "Fall Fancies" Recipes:

September 24, 2011

*~*Rangoli Contest*~* - CLOSED

Put on your thinking caps and get those creative juices flowing for this special opportunity!

Rangoli is truly a work of art. It is drawn on all Hindu festivals and weddings all over the world, as it is thought to bring good luck. The designs are usually of flowers, simple geometric shapes, religious symbols, intricate patterns or a combination of all of the above. My grandmother once told me that my mom used to win prizes for her unique designs in all the rangoli competitions. Hopefully, one day I can impress her with mine. The material used to create these patterns is dry or wet granulated rice flour (white) and by mixing colors such as vermilion, turmeric, and other natural ingredients. These days, chemical colors are combined to produce more variety of choices. As colored powders are not readily available, we use colored chalk to create these beautiful works of art.
Diwali is the most popular festival and with it just a month away, we are looking into more elaborate designs. In the past, we have drawn simple designs due to the lack of time. The more intricate and unique the design, the more time and colors required to make it more appealing. Below are a few of the designs we have come across and would like to share with you:



This year, we decided to open up the floor and request our readers to share their rangoli designs with us.  Please send your ideas to Jahnavi at: IKME2010@gmail.com. All entries must be in by October  22, 2011. We will select one from the submissions, showcase it on the day of the festival and on our Facebook Fan Page for everyone's viewing pleasure. Feel free to use the same email address to send us questions about the CONTEST.

September 13, 2011

Ended Summer With A BANG-AN!

I can’t believe summer has come to end. One of my favorite memories this past summer was going fruit picking at a local farm with my family.  Even my grandmother had fun; she especially enjoyed the hayride around the orchard.  We were so famished from picking “all day” that we stayed at the farm for some grub.

The staff served up free samples of dishes cooked with the fresh produce. It was such a delight! My favorite was the Charred eggplant, zucchini and red bell peppers. It closely resembled a dish we prepare called Baigan Bharta; baigan means eggplant in Hindi. We don't grill that often so it was nice trying the dishes at the farm.

Over  Labor Day weekend, we finally set up the grill and had ourselves a mini barbecue with corn on the cob and Baigan bharta sandwiches. I brushed the corn on the cob with a little bit of lemon juice, chili powder and salt and it delicious. The sandwiches came out so well, I thought I would share the wealth.

Below is the recipe for the filling and it is good enough for 6-7 sandwiches.

Ingredients:
Main Ingredients
- 1 medium sized Eggplant, peeled and chopped into small cubes
- ½ cup of Crushed Tomato (use equivalent amount blending fresh tomatoes)
- 1 medium sized Onion (red or regular), chopped finely
- ½ cup of Coriander, chopped
- 1 tsp of Chili powder
- ½ tsp of Turmeric
- ½ tsp of Mustard Seeds
- ½ tsp of Whole Cumin seeds
- 1 tsp of Salt (Adjust to taste)
- 2 tbsp of Vegetable oil
- 2 to 3 tbsp of BBQ sauce (preferably Smoky flavored)*  

Procedure:           
1)  In a skillet heat oil and season with mustard and cumin seeds, when they start to splatter, add a pinch of hing (optional), turmeric and chili powder. Then mix well.


2) Add onions and stir until transparent, add tomato and cook well. Add chopped eggplant and salt, cook well under covered lid mixing intermittently.
3) When the eggplant is cooked well and blended into tomato, remove the lid and add chopped coriander and mix. Lastly, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the Smoky flavored bbq sauce.


Baigan bharta can be served as a side dish for any meal. It can be also be served with roti, naan or rice. For our sandwiches, we toasted whole wheat bread and topped the bharta with Monterrey Jack (love the spicy kick). It was like eating sandwiches hot off the grill; especially with the addition of the smoky barbecue sauce in the recipe and the hot gooey cheese.


***Quick Tip: We used the smoky flavored BBQ sauce to add the charred flavor to the dish; similar to making it with roasted or grilled eggplant.

Check out the review of this dish on Wanderlust Wednesday. Have some feedback about our dishes, please feel free to post your comments and/or send us an email. 

September 5, 2011

Ginger & Coriander Relish

The most popular relish in the United States is made with pickled cucumbers and it's commonly used on hot dogs or burgers. In Indian cooking, relishes or chutneys can be eaten with just about anything. There's one in particular that we prepare on Ganesh Chavithi that goes great with steamed rice and lentil dumplings and that is Ginger and Coriander relish. Along with the dumplings, this chutney goes great with moong dosa, namkeen (savory) pongal, and sooji (semolina) upma.

The main ingredients of course are ginger and coriander. The only prep work involved in this recipe is chopping up the coriander and soaking the tamarind.

Ingredients:
- 4" piece of Ginger, peeled and grated
⅓ bunch (1 ½ cups chopped) of fresh Coriander/Cilantro
¼ cup of Chutney powder
- 2 tbsp of Brown Sugar/Jaggery
- Size of a lemon of Tamarind or (1 tbsp if using concentrate)
- 1 tsp of Salt (to be adjusted per taste)

Remove any seeds and soak the tamarind in ½ cup of warm water for 15 minutes (if using concentrate, then skip this step). Next blend all the ingredients together on high speed to a smooth paste. If needed, add additional water to make a paste. Lastly, sample the chutney to check for salt and desired sweetness. Adjust as needed.


I think I'll go have some dumplings with the chutney...see you later!

August 31, 2011

~*Pani Puri Time*~


Our heart goes out to all the families that were affected by Hurricane Irene. We hope that in time all will settle down and life will go on. 

We weren't sure how we would be affected by the storm, so we kept cooking to a minimum and munched on snacks. 
Dahi Pani Puri
One of my favorites is Pani Puri. I love pani puri because it's easy to assemble and fun to eat. You know the Pringles jingle, “Once you pop, you can't stop”. That's how I feel about this snack too! It’s so delicious and because it’s a light but filling snack made with healthful, all natural ingredients. You can eat loads at a time without feeling guilty. Also did you know, Pani Puri is an inexpensive and popular snack found all over India?  So have a puri, or two or three and be MERRY! 

Ingredients for this popular snack include:

Potato, canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans, pani puri masala, tamarind-date chutney and bite size puris
Procedure: Microwave the potato for 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Drain and wash the chickpeas. Then mash the potato and chickpeas together to a granulated mixture. Next, dilute the pani puri masala with water to your desired tangy taste (tamarind-date chutney may be mixed in for a bit of sweetness). Now you are ready to enjoy the pani puris. Insert a hole into the puri without breaking through it completely. 

The Puri never had a chance!
Then scoop a bit of the potato and chickpea mixture into the puri and fill it up with the pani puri masala liquid (also known the "pani"). Next, quickly put the whole puri inside your mouth and crunch away. Hint: Don't eat the puri in two bites because all the stuffing will fall apart and you'll create a mess. Make sure to eat the puri in one go (as illustrated above).


***Quick Tip: 
- Alternately if pani puri masala is not available, the combination of tamarind and coriander chutneys and diluted plain yogurt can be used.
- For a more tangy or chatpata taste, sprinkle chat masala over the potato and chickpea mixture. 

August 25, 2011

How To Awaken The Senses In This Weather...

With all the wet weather we've been having, my mood has been taking a big hit. I should be thankful to Mother Nature for gracing us with so much rain but enough is enough. We've seen more rain than sun these past couple of weeks. Anyways, I didn't let this weather get me down, NO SIR!! My mom bought this tea on my aunt's recommendation and this afternoon was the perfect time to try it out.


Hot Tea + Wet Weather = Perfect for Relaxed and Refreshed Mood!


It's the perfect blend of cardamom and black tea to awaken the senses. I like drinking my tea without milk, so with each sip I was engulfed with so much aroma and flavor that I forgot where I was. I started reminiscing about my trip to Kerala where I was surrounded by hills covered in tea plantations and woke up every morning with the sweet aroma of tea. It was the perfect start to the day and set the mood for an enjoyable time. Then I was back in my arm chair finishing the last drop of my tea. Alas, it was nice while it lasted, I will cherish these few moments of Zen.

Quick Tips: This tea is available at most Indian stores; I bought mine at the local Indian grocer.

August 17, 2011

It's Karela, Not Kerala!

We wanted to take this opportunity to clear up some confusion about a certain vegetable that gets mispronounced a lot. Kerala is an Indian state located in the Southwest region of the country.


It is a popular tourist destination, known for its backwaters, natural beauty and Ayurveda medicines. 


Karela, on the other hand, is a tropical vegetable that is also referred to as bitter melon or gourd. It is widely grown in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
 

It can be identified by its prickly green texture and bitter taste. We love Karela and decided to share our love of this vegetable with you so you can grow to like it too.  

After trying a couple of tricks, we came up with one that works and reduces the bitter flavor. This recipe is called Krazy Karela because some might think we're crazy for eating it. The recipe is enough for 5-6 (2 pieces per serving). 

Ingredients for Krazy Stuffed Karela:
- 1 lb of Bitter Gourd/Karela, slender dark green variety
- Lime size of Tamarind or 1 tbsp of Tamarind paste (i.e. Tamcon)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Salt, As needed

Ingredients for the filling/stuffing:
- 1 large Red onion, chopped finely
- 3 tbsp of Dry coconut powder (should be flaky not fine)
- 1 tbsp of Chili powder (Adjust to your taste)
¼ cup of Fresh coriander or cilantro, chopped
Salt, as needed



Follow these steps to remove the bitterness of Karela:
1) Cut the ends of the karela and make a slit lengthwise. If there are any woody seeds remove them using butter knife. Cut the karela into 3” long pieces.


2) In a large pot bring 2 quarts of water to boil. Add the karela pieces along with tamarind, salt and a pinch of turmeric. Cook karela in the boiling water until they are soft and firm (a knife or fingernail should pass through easily). Drain the water using a colander and remove the remainder of the tamarind from the karela. (skip this step if using the paste)


Then follow these steps to cook the Karela:
1) In a skillet, heat a tbsp of oil and add chopped onion. Saute the onion until its almost transparent and then add salt, chili powder, and dry coconut powder. 


2) Mix it until the water is evaporated and the oil comes out. Adjust the salt and heat (chili spice) level to your taste. Allow it to cool and then mix in chopped coriander.



3) Heat oil in a frying pan until you feel the heat on your palm while its held above the oil (at a safe height, usually 4-5 inches above oil). Turn the heat to medium/high and slowly drop the cooked karela into the oil and fry them to greenish brown. Remove from oil and stuff them with the onion filling.



It is great as a dish on its own or can be eaten with plain or brown rice. I love eating it on its own; that way you can really taste all the flavors.

***Quick Tip: If coriander or cilantro isn't readily available, try parsley. If you like more gravy based curries, try the Karela Curry. It's not as bitter. 

August 12, 2011

Sisterly Love!

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all the brothers everywhere!

Kumkum, rakhi, gulab jamun & carrot halwa
(click on image to enlarge)
In the United States, there are festivals that celebrate mothers, fathers, and grandparents. We have similar festivals in India too. Tomorrow marks a very special festival which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters called Raksha Bandan. On this day, sisters tie a rakhi (sacred thread) on their brother's wrist. The ceremony symbolizes a sister's love and devotion for her brother's well-being and the brother's promise to protect his sister. After the rakhi is tied, the brother presents his sister with a gift and then they both treat each other with sweets. In my family, I have only one sister so early on, we started tying rakhis on our best friends in India. We knew them from a young age and so naturally we considered them to be like brothers. When we moved to the States, we thought we would lose touch and the tradition would end there. However, we managed to keep it going and though we are not there in person, we send them interactive e-greetings that convey the same message. And they send us thank you greetings in return. So, if you are far from your brother on this day, you can send them a virtual greeting from www.123greetings.com; they have a wide selection of cards and it's free to send. It's the thought that matters in the end, you know!