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 and vegan dishes.


Showing posts with label Indian festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian festivals. Show all posts

October 23, 2020

Poornalu - A Gluten Free Festival Sweet

Yummy Poornalu!

Today is Durga Ashtami. It is celebrated with great passion and fervor, all over India and especially in West Bengal. 

Ashtami marks the eighth day of the Navratri and on this auspicious day, devotees observe rigorous fast, feast, and worship Goddess Durga who symbolizes 💪 strength. A celebration of traditional culture and customs, massive idols of Goddess Durga are installed throughout India while enormous puja pandals are set up at various places for devotees to visit and worship.


Poornalu (or Boorelu, as known in Telugu-speaking regions) is a traditional Andhra sweet that is most commonly made for festivals like Dussehra, Varalakshmi Puja, Ugadi, etc, and also served at weddings. With the advent of milk-based sweets, the popularity of traditional sweets has dwindled in the past few years. Lately, sweets like Poornalu are making a comeback along with the interest in traditional cultural habits.

This Poornalu recipe was passed down to my mom from her mother who learned to make it from her mother-in-law. I love learning about these dishes because it is a way for me to learn about culture and family history. This year has been especially difficult because my maternal grandmother passed away at the end of March. She used to visit us during the festival season and shared stories about the festivals and the food. She was a vivacious spirit. 

Below is the recipe for this sweet. Hope you like it as much as I do. 

Ingredients for the lentil filling (this makes 22-25 lime sized balls)
- 1 cup channa dal or yellow split peas
- 1/3 cup grated coconut (optional)
- 1 cup grated jaggery 
- 10 to 12 cardamom pods, seeded and (powdered with a pinch of sugar)

Ingredients for the dough
- 3/4 cup urad dal (husked black gram dal), soaked for 5-6 hours or overnight, and ground to a thick fine paste
- 1/4 cup rice flour
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of baking soda

Ingredients for frying
- 3 cups of vegetable oil

1) Pressure cook channa dal with plenty of water until dal is soft but not soupy. Using a colander, drain the excess water. Transfer the dal into a flat container and mash well until it is in paste consistency.

2) Add the jaggery, coconut, and cardamom to the dal paste into a non-stick pan and keep mixing under low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes together (approx. 10 minutes) without sticking to the walls. Transfer it into a container and cool it for 15-20 minutes. 

3) Grease a plate with 1/2 tsp of oil, and make lime-sized balls of the lentil mixture and arrange them on the plate without any of them touching each other. 

4) Mix the rice flour, salt, and baking soda into the ground urad dal paste and add water as needed to loosen it to a pancake batter consistency. 

5) Heat oil in the frying pan on medium heat, when heat it felt to your palm placed safely at a distance above the oil, drop a small amount of dough into the oil. If the dough rises up to the surface of the oil quickly, the oil is ready for frying. 

6) Take a lentil ball and dip in the coating dough well to cover all over and gently drop it into the oil. Continue this step with an additional 3-4 balls coated and gently dropped into the oil. After a couple of minutes when the oil bubbles subside on the Purnalu, turn them over and continue to fry them to golden brown color. Using a slotted ladle, collect them from the oil, and let the oil drain further by placing them into a strainer. In a couple of minutes, transfer them onto a flat serving dish. Continue these frying steps with the remaining lentil balls. 

7) Serve them hot to experience the crunchy coating. 

Quick Tips
- Brown sugar can be substituted for jaggery; if jaggery is not readily available. Keep in mind, it will have a slightly different taste. Adjust the brown sugar as per your taste. 
- Store-bought dosa dough can be used instead of making your own coating batter. 
- Cold Purnalu can be reheated in the toaster oven for a better taste; just dab the oozed-out oil after heating. 
- Dry coconut can be substituted if fresh coconut is not available. 

October 17, 2020

Legends behind Navratri and Dusshera Festivals

Every Indian looks forward to October/ November time as it marks the beginning of the major festival season bringing families together for a celebration. 

This year, we are in the midst of a pandemic which may not allow us to join together with friends and relatives as much as we want. However, we can use some novel thinking to connect with each other and enjoy the season with positive thinking. Relating to the gist of the upcoming holidays, Dusshera and Diwali, are the basis of 'the good wins over the evil'.

Dusshera Navratri begins on October 17th and culminates on October 25th which is known as Vijayadashami. Various epic stories are associated with this festival in different parts of India, such as:

  • In Northern, Western, and Central parts of India, they believe that the demon Ravana was killed on this day, hence many towns enact 'Ramleela' for nine days, and on the 10th day, effigies of Ravana are burned. 
  • In Southern India, it is believed that on Vijayadashami, the demon 'Mahishasura' was killed by the goddess Durga also called 'Mahishasura Mardini. 
  • In the Eastern part of India, it is considered that the goddess, Durga, Mahishasura Mardini comes to earth, her natal home, every year at the start of Navratri. She is welcomed with joy and festivities held in every neighborhood. On the 10th day, her idol is immersed in water denoting that she is sent home. 
Most commonly, Dusshera is associated with goddess Durga who is considered as an embodiment of strength, courage, and fierceness. Legend says that the goddess Durga defeated and killed the demon through the strength and power the other gods and goddesses transferred to her. 

While the gods and goddesses share their strength and tools with Durga to fight the demon, they stand as idols at that time. In some southern regions of India, a 'Gollu' is displayed with the arrangement of idols of gods and goddesses depicting this story.

In the spirit of this festival, using the theme of pairing to boost the strength, we're going to share 9-food tips for each day of Navratri: 
  1. Sprouted mung beans
  2. Apples with Peanut Butter
  3. Wheat and Ragi Roti (flatbread)
  4. Spinach and Orange salad
  5. Turmeric - we use this spice in almost all of our dishes. 
  6. Carrots and hummus - healthy snack
  7. Tomato and Olive oil
  8. Beans or chickpeas with rice 
  9. Avocado

We hope you will enjoy them and adopt them to boost your strength and immunity in this uncertain time.

*🌹*🌹*🌹*Happy Navratri to all! *🌹*🌹*🌹*

September 12, 2018

It Started with a Celebration!

Top, left to right: Date and Almond LadduEgg curry
Center, left to right: Cauliflower curry, 
Saag Paneer with Garlic Naan
Bottom, left to right: Mango MoussePulihora (Tamarind rice) and Poornalu (Sweet Lentil Tempura)

I love Indian festivals!! They are a reminder for us to be thankful for what we have and be hopeful for what we can achieve in the future. Last Friday, we celebrated with good food, friends and family. 

Here's to many more occasions to celebrate with our loved ones!! 

October 22, 2014

Wishing All Diwali Greetings

There's always something warm and bright, 
about this time of the year.
When everything has a special glow, 
and hearts are full of cheer. 

This special greeting comes your way, to wish you all of life's best on Diwali and in the coming year, too!

I am grateful that I was able to spend this Diwali with close family and friends...specifically my grandmother. We threw a small party and enjoyed well. Of course, it isn't a party without food and dessert. We served aloo and mixed vegetable tikki, three bean salad with Doritos scoops, and Ragada patties. These appetizers wouldn't be complete without their dipping sauces such as sweet and tangy tamarind chutney and refreshing mint chutney.

It was surely a colorful spread with all these snacks. As the night progressed, w could see that everyone were engaged in striking and meeting new people.  Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We served: Jeera rice, egg curry (for non-vegetarians), creamy cauliflower and paneer curry, Jalfrezi Okra with green bell peppers and tomatoes, Schezwan Singapore noodles with stir fry vegetables, and whole wheat roti. It's so hard to stay light during these party times. You want to try everything.

Whenever we host these kind parties or get togethers, we always play a game to make the evening more fun. Last Saturday, we played Dumb Charades - you have to act out the movie or show that the opposing team gives you for your team. You are not allowed to talk or use props. It always reminds me of Whose Line Is It Anyway TV show. Have you ever heard of this show or watched it?

After all the fun and games, we brought out the sweets or desserts for everyone. During this festival, it's a tradition for family and friends to share sweets with their friends and loved ones. That night, we indulged in decadent Gulab Jamun, Cashew Burfi, and assorted burfis and laddu from Sukhadia's (a local sweet shop). FOODCOMA anyone? I surely was in one that night and the next day.

It was good to catch up with old friends, new friends and family, All in all, it was an entertaining and great night.  The past few Diwali celebrations were halted or short because of the crazy weather we've experienced.

***Quick Tips: 
- The easy egg curry recipe was borrowed from It was really easy and everyone loved it. 

November 2, 2013

Celebrating Diwali - Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

Diwali is like Thanksgiving and Christmas for us. This year, we were thankful for the clear skies and no hurricanes in sight after previous years' horrendous weather surrounding this holiday. And what holiday is complete without good company and good food. We started off the festivities on Friday with sarvapindi for dinner and jalebi from Sukhadia's (savories and sweets shop).

On Saturday, we went to temple and enjoyed the Diwali festivities there. Word to the wise, if you are planning to visit the temple on holidays, start early so you don't get stuck in the crowds. Since it was Diwali, the temple arranged lunch for the patrons so we enjoyed the food there as well. It was a nice feeling to be among all the worshipers.

After lunch, we gathered in the family room and while playing our favorite card game Rummy, we watched classic Hindi movie songs on the Tube. The classics were the best, don't you think? I'm talking about songs with Kishore Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, and Dev Anand. Anyways, check out my winning hand after 4 failed rounds against my family. Go me!

13 Card Rummy game with 8 as the Joker 

As the day became night, we lit diyas (oil lamps made of clay) and placed them around the house as well as on the outside to Light the Night and keep darkness away.

For dinner, we started off with haanvi as our appetizer and then moved on to main course which was Rajma served with Basmati rice that was seasoned with cumin seeds, toasted cashews and raisins. I never used to like nuts in rice but this preparation was very tasty.

Rajma (Indian chili) 
click on name to see recipe
We also ate the rice with Beetroot raita (yogurt dip):

Beetroot Raita
(click on name to see recipe)

Just like every holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, a holiday isn't a holiday without the sweets or desserts. For Diwali, we bought an assortment of burfis and pedas as well as jalebi. One of my sister's friends brought Cannoli Cake from Cake Boss Cafe from New York City so dessert was definitely decadent and rich to say the least.  We topped off dessert with bubbly Bartenura Moscato. The evening was delightful and SWEET!

Hope future Diwali celebrations are this relaxing and fun!

April 4, 2013

My Kind of HOLI celebration!!

Celebrating the Festival of Colors aka Holi in the heart of Manhattan is one-of-a-kind treats. My first experience was back in 2011 and I was thrilled to be a part of it again. As the month of March came to a close and Spring was upon us, I knew what that's time for HOLI once more. As I made my way to Hammarskjold Park on 47th Street and 2nd Avenue, I saw faces covered with bright colors and heard Bhangra music. I knew I was close to NYC Bhangra's Holi Hai event. The park was beaming with people; people of all colors and ages, there to celebrate the arrival of Spring as one community. For a moment, I thought I was in India. 

While I searched the crowd for familiar faces, I realized where I was standing. I was amid a crowd of color smeared people looking "way too clean". I welcomed them with open arms and let them smear me with color as well as part of the celebration. 

It isn't Holi without some color!! Posing for a picture with my new friend, Patrina. 
My new friends and I stood in line and bought more color and took it to a new level of color explosion. Just look at us! We didn't spare anyone. 

:) What a colorful family: Patrina with her kids, Sachin and Sanjay :)
After we had enough rang on our faces, we moved through the crowd for some musical entertainment:

We saw performances of all our favorite songs, including the famous one from the movie Silsila called, "Rang Barse"NYC Bhangra did a great job of putting the whole event together. You know it’s a party, when they’re involved! Good job guys! Looking forward to making more colorful memories next year.

After the event, I met up with some other friends and we all headed down to my favorite Indian spot in Curry Hill called Chennai Garden. Their food is always amazing and finger licking good; try the Bhel Puri and Chole Batura. You won't be disappointed. A great way to end my weekend! 

March 25, 2013

Where Art Thou Spring?

Spring started 5 days ago? Really? It doesn't feel like it, especially since it's still snowing in some States. I'm so over this weather. I want to add some color to my wardrobe again; really feel like it's Spring. At least Holi (aka Festival of Colors) is just a couple days away, 3/27.

Holi is predominately celebrated in Northern India, but parts of the South (i.e. Telangana) also participate in the festivities. I was really small when we moved here, so I don't remember much. When asked about it, my mom had lots to share. She loved playing with her siblings and relatives.

The colors also included gold and silver, which were sometimes difficult to wash off. They used to smear so much on each other, that they couldn't recognize the relatives from one another. After playing, the parents bought sugar candy garlands for the kids and of course the kids were all smiles. My dad only celebrated Holi when he was in Kanpur (after marriage and living in the North). My parents visited their friends' houses and smeared color on each other. After the fun, they celebrated with good food, drinks and sweets especially Laddu. My mom told me eating Bhung laddu is popular too. I wonder where we can find those here? Our Holi memories story was shared in a post by Lassi With Lavina, check it out here.

Holi is more than just fun and games; it's about bringing people within a community closer together for one purpose - celebration of life and nature. 

I celebrated Holi for the 1st time in 2011 and I have to thank NYC Bhangra for that. They hosted this free event, Holi in New York City, with numerous dances, bands and food. It was a blast! Oh and the best part was all the colors! They distributed plates filled with colored powder for everyone to smear on each other like they do in India. People of all ages and backgrounds came together to celebrate the arrival of Spring. It was just magical!

If you are in New York City or live in the area, definitely stop by NYC Bhangra's free Holi event this upcoming weekend, March 31st from 12-6pm. It's being hosted at a park located at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza 47th St & 2nd Avenue New York, 10017. 

This Holi, Come, Spring Forward with me!! 

November 22, 2012

A Bright & Joyful Holiday Celebration!

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, our Diwali festival plans were postponed until Thanksgiving. What better to celebrate the Festival of Lights than with lots of food and family. The holiday themed dinner is a blend both 'American' and Indian ingredients and this year my mom handed the task of planning the dinner menu to me. Woohoo!!

The dinner menu includes Asparagus Twists, Masala Bread Pakora, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Orange and Mango Spritzer, Bombay Style Mixed Vegetable Biryani served with Tomato & Onion Raita, Creamy Cauliflower & Paneer Curry, Pumpkin Spiced Bread and Mixed Berry Cobbler.


October 15, 2012

Navratri: 9 Ways to Boost Your Health!

October and November are very joyous months for Indians all over. Why you may wonder? Two of the most important Hindu holidays take place during this time - Dusshera and Diwali. There are many interesting stories associated with the celebration of Dusshera, and they vary from region to region in India. As with many Indian festivals, this festival is associated with GOOD conquering EVIL, and it is depicted with the story of three main goddesses (Gauri, Lakshmi, and Saraswati). They unite to form a powerful 'Shakti' or force called Durga who kills Mahishasura, a powerful demon. Another popular story is that Lord Rama kills Ravana, the ten headed demon. The festival is celebrated by taking part in religious activities and fasting for nine days called Navratri, which begins on October 15th this year. People culminate with joyous festivities on the tenth day, which is known as 'Vijayadashami' and it is a very auspicious day. Any task (such as kids' education, new businesses or ventures) that is initiated on this day is believed to be successful.
'Navratri' and 'Vijayadashami' are always associated with STRENGTH, POWER, FORCE, and SUCCESS. Thus, we wanted to utilize the occasion to provide some useful tips and recipes of 9 super food ingredients that are power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants that benefit our health.

1) Brown Rice
2) Pumpkin
3) Tofu
4) Lentils
5) Yogurt
6) Sweet Potato
7) Sesame/Flax seeds
8) Leafy greens
9) Almonds/Walnuts

Let the healthy cooking and eating begin!!!

March 23, 2012

~Ugadi Specials~

In addition to the Ugadi Pachadi, we made mango rice, garelu (mini cabbage and lentil patties), and halwa puris (also known as bhakshalu). Here are a few other suggestions that you can make for the holiday:

- Tamarind Rice

March 8, 2012

Vermicelli Halwa

The best part of our festivals is the dessert for me. It's different for every holiday and easy to make. For Holi, we made a different kind of halwa, using vermicelli. Usually we use vermicelli for dishes like upma or pulihora, but you can use it to make sweets like kheer as well; it's versatile ingredient. 

- 2 cups of Vermicelli* (Bambino Brand)
- 1¼ cups of Granulated Sugar
- 6 pods of Cardamom, seeded and powdered
- 10 Cashews, halved and roasted in butter
- 10 Raisins
- A pinch of Red Food Coloring
- 2 to 3 tbsp Butter

Boil approximately 3 quarts of water in saucepan and then add the vermicelli. Allow it to come to a boil again. Remove from heat and cover with lid. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes and then drain the vermicelli. Quickly rinse it through cold water to remove excess starch and prevent it from becoming sticky. Set aside. Then take sugar in a saucepan and add ¼ cup of water, cardamom powder and food coloring. Allow the sugar syrup to boil to a 2-string consistency.  Next add vermicelli into the sugar syrup and mix thoroughly for 5 minutes to allow the mixture to come together. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. Transfer the contents into a greased dinner plate or pie plate. Distribute evenly and decorate the halwa with fried cashews and allow it to set for at least half an hour before serving. Voila!

***Quick Tip:
- Vermicelli is made from hard wheat semolina.

March 5, 2012

~*March Into New Beginnings*~

What do sweet, sour, tang and bitter flavors have in common?

Vermicelli Halwa, Achari Chayote Curry, Tangy Tomato Chutney with Mini Idlis, Karela Curry

We're marching into Spring with a variety of exciting, new dishes! We're fortunate to celebrate two wonderfully colorful holidays that truly represent the spirit of Spring this month.
Of course, we're talking about Holi and Ugadi. Holi is a Spring festival and it's celebrated with lots of color. The Ugadi festival celebrates the start of a new year or beginning. If you think about it, Spring is a new beginning. And during Ugadi, we prepare this dish called Ugadi Pachadi and the most common ingredients found in this dish are dry Neem flowers, banana and brown sugar, green mango and tamarind juice. These ingredients were picked specifically because of their flavors, which relate to the emotions of life. We took it one step further and created dishes that exemplify each of these flavors. 

January 14, 2012

A Kite Festival...Up, Up & Away!

Happy Sankranti!! Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated all over India. It's the only holiday that follows the solar calendar unlike all others which follow the lunar one. On this holiday, families prepare a dish, using rice and lentils from the new crop, which is popularly called as pongali (sweet or savory). Also, one of the popular pastimes on this holiday is flying kites. One can see kids of all ages flying them from rooftops and sometimes even on the streets. As a kid, my mom and her siblings used to compete with their friends to see whose kite can go the farthest. She told me that the sky used to be full of kites of various sizes, colors and shapes.

Every year, Gujarat hosts an international kite festival that is one of the grandest. People from all over (such as Japan, Australia, Malaysia, USA, Brazil, Canada and other European countries) participate in this event.

Did you know this was a favorite sport among the Maharajas? They found the sport both entertaining and a way of displaying their prowess. Trained fliers were employed to fly the kites for them. Slowly, the art caught on and became popular among the masses. Today, manufacturing of kites is a serious business. There are stores in India that are open 24 hours up till the festival so that people can get their kites and supplies to enjoy the sport. I haven't seen anything like that here, but some retail stores do carry kites. I was at Costco the other day and decided to buy one. Woohoo!! Up, up and away into the sky!!

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.

- 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!

April 4, 2011

A Meaningful New Year

We would like to wish all the South Indians, Khara Ugadi Shubhakanshalu and to all the Maharashtrians, Gudi padvyachya hardik shbhechcha. In plain English, Happy New Year*! Our New Year is determined by the lunisolar calendar. It is similar to the calendars followed by the Chinese, Buddhists, Mongolian, Hellenic and Koreans.

Last year, I remember we posted about some of the dishes that are made on this holiday and forgot to mention the most important one: a special mixture called Ugadi Pachadi (in Telugu) or New Year Chutney (direct English translation).

The ingredients from left to right are ripened bananas, tamarind juice (made from soaking dry tamarind in warm water and squeezing the juice out), coconut, dried neem flowers, brown sugar and unripened mango. I heard that people add green chilies and salt too.

After these ingredients are combined, we drink it. The significance of these ingredients is that they represent the various experiences we face in the year ahead in equal doses. I didn't realize there was a philosophical meaning...I thought it was a just recipe that was passed down from generation to generation. What a revelation!
There are several dishes that are prepared on this holiday. In Andhra Pradesh (my birth state) and Karnataka, people make puran poli, which looks like chappati or roti stuffed with sweet lentil. It is served hot with butter brushed over it. It sounds mouth watering but it's not that healthy. Most temples serve pulihora or tamarind rice on this day. Last year, we went the traditional route and made pulihora and sooji halwa.

This year, we kicked it up a notch and made a different kind of pulihora. The main ingredient is an unripened mango which is a bit tangy and a tad sweet. Ooh, I saved the best for last. We also made gajar (carrot) the microwave...can you believe it? It came out really well actually.

March 23, 2011

*~~*Spring Into Holi*~~*

Don't let a little snow and cold weather bring you down. Spring weather is just around the corner. Once I got back from my business trip last weekend, I was ready to party. I was so excited because Sunday, March 20th was an important day for me. It was the first time I would be celebrating Holi (Spring Festival) in New York City in over 15 years. Holi, "the festival of colors", is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and water on each other. Not even the cold temperatures would stand in my way!

In North India, people specifically wear white on this day so the color shows out more. The celebrations typically can be from 3-16 days. If I were in India, I would go out into the street and enjoy with all of my friends and family. Alas, NYC is not India, but it was close enough.
The Holi celebration was hosted by NYC Bhangra and it was a FREE event. It's nice to know there are still people out there following our culture and feel it's important to share with everyone. My friend Avaneesh and I drove into the city for the festivities and had the time of our lives. Even though we parked the car a few streets up from the park, we could hear all the hangama from where we were standing. I couldn't wait to join in the music, the people, and the colors. As we made our way to the festivities, we saw people with colorful faces walking out of the park with big smiles. The festival was full of surprises including an exciting performance by New York Masti, an all Indian Female A Capella group. Also there were various types of dance performances from Indian Classical to Bollywood, Flamenco and Bhangra. Here's a glimpse of one of the Bhangra performances.
For more fun sights and sounds, check out the video link:
During all the performances, the event's volunteers worked their way around the audience and smeared colors on people's faces. My friend Avaneesh got lucky and the girl with the colors just put a tikka on his face and walked away. I grabbed some color off the plate and smeared some on his face. HA! It's not Holi without color all over your clothes. Good thing he wore his old clothes.
He looks too happy in this picture, doesn't he? He grabbed the color I hid in my hands and smeared it all over my hair...hey, at least now I don't need to go to a salon for highlights.
We were having so much fun that we worked up an appetite and were so glad they served delicious Indian food for a minimal price: samosas, chaat, chole kulche, pani puri, wadaa pav, keema pav, biryani, masala chai and lots of sweets. It was truly an awesome day.
After the festival, we drove back and ate more goodies; the halwa I made for the holiday. In my our culture, we do two things on every holiday: wear new clothes and make something special for the occasion. You can't tell but I wore a new sweater and I made Sooji Halwa.
It was my first time making it and you know what, it came out pretty well. So from our family to yours, Happy Holi!!

January 15, 2011

Happy Sankranti To All!

I love the holidays, don't you? I've had the opportunity to celebrate not only my native holidays but also American ones since I moved here. I realized that every holiday no matter the religion, there are key elements that make them one of the same: prayer, food, family and more Food. The first holiday we celebrate after New Year's is Pongal. It is a harvest festival which is celebrated all through India but called by different names in different regions of India: for instance in the South, it is known as Pongal (Tamil Nadu), and Sankranti (Andhra Pradesh). In the north it is known as Makar Sankranti (Bihar, Goa, Uttar Pradesh), Maghi (Haryana), and Uttarayan (Gujarat and Rajesthan).
I would love to go on and on but I still have to tell you all about the goodies prepared for this holiday. I know you are dying to I am dying to tell you. Just as there are different names for this festival, the food prepared is also different in the regions. In the north, poha and jaggery are eaten together with milk or yogurt, sweets made with Sesame seeds, chikkis (peanuts and jaggery), and multi-colored halwa. In the South, specifically in Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu, Pongali (Telugu) or Pongal (Tamil) is made and also it is served as prasad at the temples. Other items that are made in other areas in the South are Ariselu (flatbread with jaggery) and Sakinalu (rice flour and cumin pretzels).
Wow, by the time I finished typing all those goodies' names, my mouth was watering. Since Sankranti fell on a working day this year, we prepared the popular dish the night before and ate in the morning after prayer. My mom even drew some rangoli before going off to work. She's a Wonder Woman, I tell ya! The Pongali dish was prepared in two versions: Meetha & Namkeen (sweet and savory).

I hope you've enjoyed learning more about our festivities and cuisine. Please feel free to share with us what you did on the holiday. Sharing is Caring!

November 6, 2010

!*!Diwali Dhoom Dham Se!*!

Wishing You & Your Family

A Very Happy Diwali 

On Friday we celebrated one of India's most important holidays called Diwali. For those of you who are not well versed in Indian festivals, I thought I would share some insight into our culture. The festival earned the tag line, "festival of lights" from its name. Diwali is a contraction of the word Deepavali which translates into row of lamps; specifically oil lamps made with clay called Diyas. These lamps are then placed outside every one's homes to light the night. They signify the triumph of good over evil.  It has a nice ring to it, don't you think. Every holiday has its own traditions that make it meaningful and fun. Another tradition is that everyone wears new clothes and shares sweets with all their friends and family.  So, of course I put on my best Indian clothes and prepared for the day's events.

This year we decided to have a potluck dinner and invited a few people over to celebrate the holiday. The day started with decorating the front porch with rangoli.
We do this on all holidays, as you might have remembered reading on my post about Ganesh Chaturthi. Rangoli is the traditional decorative folk art of India. There are competitions that are held to see who can come up with the most intricate and unique designs. If you don't take my word for it, just check out this website:

As night approached, we lit diyas as well. We would usually place them outside but it was a particularly windy day so we arranged them inside to be enjoyed by all.

Colorful Diyas
Another tradition is eating Pheni (fried vermicelli) with sugar and hot milk. It is the first thing everyone eats on Diwali as a way of breaking fast.  I love it because it's so simple and once you mix the ingredients together, it tastes like payasm (kheer)

Pheni with sugar
As for all parties, my mom and I pre-plan the dinner menu so we can shop for the ingredients and prepare for the big day. This year we made most of the dishes except for a couple so we had time to do other things. Phew!

We made the green mango and spinach dal, tangy tomato curry, daddojanam (yogurt rice) and green beans. My aunt made the vegetable biryani and the mixed veg raita. We also had a variety of sweets to choose from at the party (including the ones some guests brought). Along with the boxed sweets, we also served gulab jamun that we made from scratch.

The Diwali Dinner turned out great and everyone raved about the food. The best part about holiday parties are the leftovers.  

***Quick Tips:
- Pheni is available at most Indian grocers during the Diwali festival time. 
- An easy and non  alcoholic beverage for holiday parties is Cranberry Spritzer. All you need to do is combine (1) part cranberry juice and (1) part Sprite. It has a refreshing taste. 

September 12, 2010

My Favorite Festival – Ganesha Chavithi

Yesterday was an auspicious day for all Hindus. It was the day we celebrate Ganesha Chavithi, a festival dedicated to Lord Ganesha. He is known to help people overcome obstacles in their lives and bestow great wisdom and wealth. It is important for this pooja and every pooja that we prepare prasad (offering to the God) and wear new clothes.

So our day started with making his favorite dishes, cleaning and decorating the place where the pooja will take place.
We also drew rangoli (colored chalk/powder drawings) in front of our house. Usually, we create more colorful drawings but we were really tired and just decided to keep it simple.

My parents told me that the story goes that Lord Ganesha's favorite dishes are steamed sweet rice dumplings, rice kheer (pudding), besan ka ladoo, and boondi ladoo.
However, we are health conscious and so we made steamed rice and lentil dumplings with ginger & coriander chutney, vermicelli & tapioca pudding, and beet root rice. Don't you just want to grab a couple of the balls off the screen.

Steamed Rice & Lentil Dumplings (Undrallu) Ingredients: 
2 cups of Idli rava/cream of rice/coarsely powdered rice 
- 1 cup of Moong dal
- 1½ cups of fresh grated coconut (frozen grated coconut can be used as well)
- 2 tsp of Salt or as needed
- 4 tbsp of Vegetable oil
1) In a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed sauce pan cook the moong dal with two cups of water until it is soft & firm (Hint: should be able to split it when pierced with the nail). Remove excess water and set aside.
2) Add 3 cups of water into the pan or cooker (including the water collected from the dal earlier). Add 2 tbsp of oil and salt and allow the water to come to a boil. Reduce heat and add idli ravva into it and mix.
3) If using cooker, close the lid and cook in medium to low heat under pressure for 5-6 minutes. If using pan, cook under low heat until the rice and dal is fully cooked (may require slightly more water in the pan).
4) Transfer the cooked mixture into a wider container and add remaining oil and spread the cooked rice to cool. When it is cooled down, add grated coconut and mix well.
5) Make lemon size balls with the mixture and put them into a container. Cook them under steam by adding 1-1 ½” height water and place the rice balls container in it. Close the inner container and the outer and steam cook in medium heat for 10 minutes.
6) When done, eat the dumplings with ginger chutney. 

Quick Tip: To enhance the taste of the dumplings, just add a drop of ghee on it.

Vermicelli & Tapioca Kheer (payasam) Ingredients:
- 2 cups of Vermicelli (sevia)
½ cup of Tapioca (sabudana)
- 1 liter of Milk
½ can of Condensed milk
½ cup of Sugar
- 6 pods of Cardamom, seeded and powdered
- 15-20 Cashew nuts, halved and roasted
- 15-20 Golden raisins
1) Roast vermicelli & sabudana separately in a 1/2 to 1 tbsp butter and keep aside. Soak the sabudana in 1 cup of water for atleast 1-2 hours (this will reduce the cooking time immensely).
2) In a heavy saucepan or crock pot add milk, vermicelli, and sabudana. Allow them to cook on low heat (15-20 min) stirring the contents frequently to avoid caking and burning at the bottom. Cook until the sabudana turns opaque to transparent and vermicelli is soft.
3) Now add sugar, condensed milk, raisins and cardamom powder and bring it to boil on low heat stirring continuously. Taste the kheer and add more sugar as needed. Remove from heat and then add cashew nuts.
4) This kheer can be enjoyed when hot or chilled and served as pudding (thickens when chilled).

Quick Tip 1: While use of condensed milk gives a rich taste, you can replace it with extra milk or evaporated milk and sugar if preferred.
Quick Tip 2: The kheer can be made with vermicelli only if sabudana is not available; adjust the milk and sugar accordingly.