Due to the current state of the world, we have all been trapped at home and not by choice. In order to stay sane, everyone has been trying to find their own way to remain productive and enjoy their time while staying at home. Most people I know have been spending a lot of their free time in the kitchen with family, cooking together. I have gotten many requests for healthy and simple snacks that can be prepared with kids. These are some basic recipes that are very easy to get creative with so feel free to make adjustments to get the flavor you desire:
I wanted to share some quick and easy snacks I used to prepare for my two sons, Rakesh and Mukesh, and their friends.
When the boys were young, I made sure to have tasty and healthy snacks readily available. They would often bring their friends, who loved coming to our house after school. Our house was the place to be fed well with homecooked fresh food! I would keep their snacks quick and easy to prepare. They also love helping me prepare snacks.
Some of their favorite snacks included celery sticks and sliced cucumbers and cream cheese, carrots and peanut butter, potatoes with cheese, crisp toast with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top, and graham crackers with cream cheese topped with fresh fruit.
The boys loved when I added Indian touches to their snacks. One of their favorites was fresh hot puris. All their friends loved watching me fry puris and were amazed to see how they would puff up.
They also enjoyed crispy aloo pakoras. They would devour these! I could not keep up with how fast they ate them!
Here are some ideas you can find on my website for quick, easy and delicious snacks. Now that we are spending a lot more time at home, try engaging with your kids and let them prepare their own snacks, such as:
Like many of you, during this time at home, I have been trying to get through some organization and general Spring cleaning. It’s really amazing just how much we accumulate through the years. It got me thinking…do we really “need” all these items, or is it just more “stuff”? I wondered if maybe it was time to simplify our lives. I went through closets and closets full of items, opening up suitcase after suitcase filled with a variety of long-forgotten memories. I stumbled upon a suitcase full of old saris and I just couldn’t bear to discard any one of them. It’s because each and every sari has a special story behind it. I am hoping that one of these days I can sit down with my granddaughters and tell them all the stories behind the saris. Who knows maybe they will want to keep some of the saris and wear them? I just hope they do and when they grow up they will remember why the sari was so special to Dadi (grandmother). I know that I still use one of my mother’s shawls to this day, despite the fact that it has some tears and is not in the best condition. It doesn’t matter to me because for me, it is somewhat of a security blanket and something to hold onto as a comforting memory of my mother.
Of course, going through my belongings comes with memories of my childhood, especially memories of my mother. My mother was one of a kind and just filled with wisdom. Her perspective towards life was very positive. She managed this outlook even though her health was not good. When she was resting, I would sit close to her. She would hold my hand and talk. I could feel her warmth as she softly spoke to me. She was gentle, caring, and giving. Oftentimes, I was left puzzled at some of our conversations because they were deep conversations that were hard for me to understand at my young age. However, now when I think back to those conversations, I understand that she was trying to pass on her values in addition to what things I should let go and give importance to.
While she had many health issues, one thing that stood out is that she never complained about feeling unwell. I was the oldest child and often felt I should help her take care of my younger siblings, especially given her health problems. Maybe this was all in my head because, despite her health issues, she was the most positive person and always had a smile on her face. One would never guess she was enduring health issues.
My mother was the type of person to always help someone out. She would see someone feeling unwell and immediately bring them home and take care of them. She did this no matter who the person was. I remember feeling confused as to why she bothered helping people she didn’t even know. When I asked her this question, she would simply calmly ask me to bring that person a glass of water. I knew to not question her further. This was simply my mom’s character.
She was full of life, always laughing and giggling. She felt it was extremely important to be involved with her children’s lives in every way. My friends loved to hang out with her and felt so comfortable around her. In the back of their minds, I knew they all wanted their moms to be like her. I must have been nine or ten when I decided I would help my mother in cooking and learn the proper way to cook. Her hands had magic. She made simple food but her food always looked and smelled delicious. Even at that time she enjoyed serving food with style and flair. I still remember so many family and friends eagerly await her dinner invitations. When I asked my mother why her food tasted so good, her answer was simple. She smiled and said her first advice was to serve food with a smile. Next, she said always use fresh ingredients and only use spices are to enhance the flavors of the food, and not cover it up.
She also emphasized that cooking with love and care were also important ingredients in a dish because they added to the flavors of the dish. Back then, I didn’t understand her answer. How could cooking with love and care be important in a dish? But now I know exactly what she meant. Even today, sometimes when I am tired, I just want to cook something quickly and get out of the kitchen. But then my mother’s words would ring in my ears. She would always say you should never cook if you are tired, irritated, or simply not in the mood. She used to say it would affect the taste of the food. I did not understand what she meant and used to think her food tasted good because she just had great cooking skills and techniques. However, with age and having fed my family for 50 plus years, I realize there was wisdom in my mother’s words. Now when I feed my friends, family, and loved ones, I can see that my mother’s advice was spot on!
So, during this time, why not make your family feel loved and cook special dishes for them? I know that I have enjoyed doing so! Stay safe and healthy!
Many of you have asked me about the man behind-the-scenes of Manjula’s Kitchen…Well as many of you know, that person is my husband Sikander aka Alex. Alex is responsible for me being in the spotlight of Manjula’s Kitchen, while he prefers to stay in the background. The simple truth is my YouTube channel exists only because of his hard work and dedication. He introduced me to this new concept for me at the time, YouTube. Alex takes the lead on all of the hard work these videos take, from the editing to ensuring the recipes meet his quality control (i.e. taste testing!) Every recipe has to meet Alex’s high standards for being posted. Alex feels so proud when reading the comments on my posts and always tells me that he is my biggest fan. With a huge smile on his face, he will tell me your fans don’t know that the biggest fan of yours is standing right next to you!
Alex and I have spent over 50 memorable years together and of course with that comes ups and downs. Sometimes it feels like Alex and I still don’t know everything about each other, and I think that is a good thing! We still love to learn new things about each other. Every day is unique with different challenges. During another lifetime, we ran a business together. For 20 years, we worked in an office together, sitting side by side. It was nice that we got to spend so much quality time together. Now as we enter our golden years, we still enjoy working together, even though we are partially retired. We both work from home and can still enjoy sitting side by side! I cherish the fact that we are never alone.
Our marriage was an arranged marriage. In today’s times, I recognize that it sounds really outdated. However, ours was an arranged marriage with a happy ending. Alex was my father’s choice. At their first meeting, my father was extremely impressed with him. They first met Alex for about an hour, but it felt like they knew him for a lifetime. My father described him to me with great detail. I was amazed my father could pick up so much on someone he just met! What stuck with me is my father finished by emphasizing that Alex would love and respect me and that because we shared the same values I would be proud of the person I was when with him.
My father invited Alex and his family for afternoon tea so that I could meet him myself. I was so curious to see what my father had seen in Alex. I knew that Alex had already decided to marry me and told his father that he was already in love with me. Alex had been working abroad in the U.S. and at this time and was in India visiting his family and to get married. We had just one month before he had to go back to the U.S. for his work. It happened so quickly. We got married within the week. It was at that point it hit me. I would have to move to the U.S. too. My mother was not happy with this situation and was upset at my father. Of course, she didn’t want her daughter to move so far away. I was very confused, but I knew my father he will not take such a big step unless he was sure it was absolutely the right decision.
We got married and moved to the U.S. and settled into a brand new way of life. It took some time to get used to a new country, a new language, and most importantly new food. But it was a life we enjoyed discovering together. When my parents visited us in the U.S. the first time, my mother and Alex spent a lot of time together. The immediately formed a great bond, becoming best friends. My parents noticed just how much Alex cared for me and how happy we were together. They would say Alex would light up when I was near him.
Alex really enjoys pampering me. The gestures were small, but with great care. Alex happily makes me the best cups of hot tea and always with a smile. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I made tea for myself. He always makes sure I take care of myself, leaving my daily vitamins/medicines and water on the kitchen table to make sure I don’t forget. Then there are those times he can sense I need a break and I will see a fresh hot grilled cheese sandwich waiting for me. Everyone (especially our grandkids!) in our family has decided that Alex makes the “world’s best” tea and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Of course, we have our share of disagreements and arguments, as every couple does. Alex is not one to say sorry very easily so most of the time I’ll give in and say sorry. The next day I will see a beautiful bouquet of colorful flowers waiting for me and all is well again. I suppose that is how a good marriage works – you know when to give in. I can say with confidence that my father chose correctly for me and I married a man who truly takes care of me. We’ve made a good life for ourselves, with our two sons and their lovely families. More on them later… Stay safe & healthy everyone!
My journey to start my YouTube channel began in December 2006. I still find it hard to believe I am still running a successful channel that I enjoy with all my heart. We will continue to bring you great content as long as we can. When I say “we” I mean my husband Alex, who has been instrumental in this journey as my videographer, and I. This foray into the world of YouTube and social media was something I never imagined I would be involved in, let alone plan. This was especially true since I had no idea what YouTube even was at that time. Not knowing just how big YouTube was or what kind of platform it was probably an advantage for me because I did not feel scared or threatened by it.
I decided to ask Alex to help me out with my first YouTube video since he is extremely technologically savvy. We decided to do a video for the popular Indian dessert “Gulab Jamun”. We knew that when providing someone a recipe, it is a lot more than just providing the ingredients and steps. I knew that people wanted to see the entire process with more details, tips, and variations for the recipes. After completing the video that evening (editing and all!), we decided to share the video on YouTube. Editing the video to meet YouTube’s requirements while ensuring the recipe was complete was definitely a challenge! Alex proved to be an extremely talented editor as well! The next morning, we sat down in front of the computer and I was simply amazed. I remember feeling awestruck at how I could potentially reach so many viewers with a simple YouTube video.
The video proved to be a success. I remember seeing hundreds of views from all parts of the world. Also, I was just amazed at the number of positive comments. Of course, we called my family to come and have breakfast with us to let them know we had something special to share with them. They happily came over to our house. I must note that this is one of the many advantages of having extended family in the same city, living just minutes from each other.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sharing my recipes worldwide. As I have always said, I am not a formally trained chef. After our first video, I just felt in my heart that I just may have stumbled upon something special. I asked Alex if he we would be willing to work with me to try one more video. At that time, there were limited Indian cooking YouTube videos. YouTube was also relatively new and nothing like it is today. My younger daughter-in-law, Joy, heard my idea and suggested I do simple recipes for new cooks, with precise, easy-to-follow directions. She thought it was important I use exact measurements and making sure I try every recipe, so the measurements are perfect. She also suggested I venture into fusion dishes, taking elements for various cuisines and perfecting them into my own recipes.
My family could tell that something was sparked within me. I felt happier than ever. Had I found a second career after many years of retirement? Maybe, just maybe I had stumbled into something special? I remember my oldest granddaughter being so excited that Dadi (grandmother) was on the computer! When I first started this venture, everyone in the family helped out. My kids helped me take the videos. While I did not take it seriously when I first started, I knew I was really enjoying what I was doing. I felt good doing something I loved and was passionate about. I also knew that I was helping other people learn to cook!
After some time, I remember receiving an e-mail from YouTube asking if I would like to partner with them. We were told we would get paid depending on the amount of “views” we received. At the time, I had no idea how this process worked. However, we decided that could only be a win-win situation and immediately filled out the application. After being accepted as an official YouTube partner, I can vividly remember the feeling of elation and joy when seeing my first paycheck. I was more happy about accomplishing something I did not think I could do, then the actual paycheck. Of course, I could not believe I was getting paid to pursue my passion and hobby!
After producing about 40 plus videos, some viewers suggested I launch a website featuring my recipes and videos. My computer-savvy nephew thought this was an excellent idea and introduced me to his friend who agreed to design my website. Sateesh, my original website designer, did an excellent job with my website and still runs it to this day! Thank you so much to my viewers who suggested this idea.
While Manjula’s Kitchen and my YouTube channel is merely a hobby, it has given me immense happiness. It has boosted my self-confidence and has really given me a sense of pride. I take pride in ensuring my videos consist of quality, well thought- out recipes! The positive and gracious feedback I’ve received really has inspired me. I love it when I meet the young viewers who tell me they learned everything they know about cooking from me! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for you, the viewers, who have stayed with me for all these years, and of course YouTube who presented me with this fabulous opportunity. I hope you enjoyed learning about how my journey began…Stay safe & healthy everyone!
The flowers are blooming, and spring is upon us! That means
that one of my favorite holidays is fast approaching…yes Holi! I love the spirit of Holi with its fun,
festive and colorful spirit. I especially enjoy playing with my grandchildren
during this time. It keeps me young even
though time is passing by quickly. Spending time with my grandchildren during
this festive time really brings back a lot of fun memories from my
childhood. My parents loved celebrating
holidays and making it very special for us.
It always makes me feel happy thinking of those times.
Of course, these wonderful holidays allow me to spend more
time in my favorite place at home – the kitchen! These holidays and celebrations are not
complete without delicious food. As a young child, I can vividly remember the
whole neighborhood filled with delicious aromas in preparation for Holi. My mother would make a variety of finger
foods because it was easy to share with friends and neighbors.
This year Holi falls on March 9th and 10th. In India, Holi is a time where people of all
different backgrounds come together and celebrate. A bonfire is typically prepared the night
before Holi. The next day family, friends, and neighbors play together with
specially prepared colored powders. These powders are called “gulal”
and colored water is playfully splashed on each other as well. Of course, this is my grandchildrens’
favorite holiday to celebrate!
In preparation for Holi, here are some of my favorite snacks to prepare:
Chutney are a big part of the condiments that I serve and I always like to keep them handy since they have long shelf life. These chutneys are used as an extra source of flavor with many appetizers, snacks, and chaat (whether it be sweet, sour,spicy, etc.). They are great to have readily available, because it makes life so easy when preparing a large menu, especially when you are in mood to have something spicy or when you make a sudden plan to entertain family or friend for afternoon tea. You can easily take any kind of dry snacks that you have on hand, even boiled potatoes, chickpeas, or crackers and turn them into a mouth-watering treat.
These two chutneys, in my opinion, are a staple to every household preparing Indian food. I have their recipes on my website.
This chutney can be refrigerated for months. I like to make it thick in texture so that I can adjust the thickness of the chutney depending on what I am using it for. This exotic, sweet and sour chutney and can be called the ketchup of the east! This is delicious as a dipping sauce for French fries, as a spread over crackers, or even as a zesty addition to a rice dish. You really can never go wrong with it.
I prefer to prepare this in a large quantity in advance and freeze it in ice cube trays. You can store the frozen cubes in a zip-lock plastic bag. When you ready to serve, defrost as many cubes of chutney as needed. And after so many years, I have finally learned how to keep the vibrant green color of chutney. When blending the chutney, use crushed ice to blend instead of room temperature water; I was amazed by the difference it makes.
Keep looking out for my blogs because I will continue sharing the tips I have learned over the years. It might just solve the one problem you could not figure out.
I have been making cooking videos for 12 years, and I feel that it is finally time to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the most staple item to almost every Indian meal – Chapati, (Chapati is also known Roti or phulka). There are so many questions including why Chapatis become dry or hard, why they are not easy to roll, why the dough is sticking to rolling pin or rolling surface.
So here are some tips to make the perfect Chapati. This dough is perfect for making whole wheat Chapati, or Parathas.
For Chapati, the most important part is the making of the dough. Note: usually approximately 1 cup of whole wheat flour will be needed and 1/2 cup of water (use the water as needed). Add water so that the dough is soft but not sticking to your fingers. If the dough is right, it makes rolling the Chapati easy and makes it so that they will be soft. Dough should be well kneaded for about 2 minutes. After that, let it rest for 10 minutes and knead the dough again before making the Chapati. Press the dough with your fingertip, and the dent that your fingers make should almost bounce back. If this doesn’t happen, it means that the dough is too hard, and it can cause the Chapati to be dry.
Another important part is the skillet. This is a factor that is often overlooked since we don’t check the temperature of the skillet the same way that we do for baking. The best way to check if the skillet is ready is to drizzle a few drops of water on the skillet. If it sizzles, you are ready to make your Chapatis. Along with that, a heavy skillet works better.
If done right, the chapati puffs up like a balloon.
Dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days. The best way to refrigerate the dough is to lightly oil the dough and the bowl. The bowl you are storing the dough in should be spacious and should be covered tightly.
These are all the tips that you need to make the perfect roti. They are super easy to make and will become second nature with just a little bit of practice!
Navratri has officially begun! Many of you know, I enjoy this time of year very much. It’s the perfect time to enjoy with family and friends, not to mention indulge in delicious food and treats!
Navratri, or “Nine nights” is a festival which marks the onset of autumn. The 9 days of Navratri are dedicated to the worship of 9 forms of the Goddess – Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kaalaratri, Mahagauri, Durga. It is a festival of worship, dance and music. For 9 days, people dress up in beautiful clothes and jewelry. Many people keep a fast for Navratri. From garba dance to Durga Puja rituals, Navratri is celebrated in different ways across India. The festival of Navratri is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals. It is also celebrated as the triumph of good over evil.
Here are some suggestions for recipes to try during this auspicious time period:
Happy Mother’s Day to all the great mothers out there!
As you know, this Sunday is the big day! I’m sure you are in the midst of planning something special for Mother’s Day. Now that Spring is officially here and the weather has been great here in San Diego, I think a fun idea is to celebrate with a picnic. It’s an easy and simple way to enjoy the abundant sunshine and fresh air. My grandkids especially enjoy picnics because they can run around and use up their energy! We enjoying playing frisbee, soccer, and most importantly munching on delicious treats. When my grandkids get together there is always the sound of laughter. It means so much to me that I get to watch them. It’s the best excuse to bring the family together.
Here are some ideas of delicious munchies to bring to a picnic:
Puries rolled with Chatpate Aloo (spicy potato):
You can pair the above with a variety of chips, cookies and fruit. I also like to bring homemade lemonade to cool off.
2017 ended with a gala celebration. We enjoyed our unforgettable 50th anniversary party with our friends and family. This beautiful event was planned by our sons and their wives. After the holidays and this lovely celebration, I knew it was time for me come back to work! I must say 2017 was a relaxing year.
I must confess that 2018 didn’t start out as I had hoped it would. I ended up sick with the flu! My elder daughter-in-law and her mother visiting from India also got sick. Finally we all are doing well after almost a month of recovery. We are all healthy and feel much better thankfully. Now that these challenges are over I am ready to take on 2018! I am bored and tired of resting. This is the first time I have felt well enough to think about what I can do differently for “Manjula’s Kitchen” from previous years. I know that I would like to get more comfortable with social media and use it more effectively. Stay tuned this year for more of the recipes and videos you love!
Holi is a very special holiday. It is the one holiday that everyone I know gets together. In India, all social restrictions and gaps are forgotten as people of different backgrounds celebrate together. A bonfire is typically prepared the night before Holi. The next day family, friends, and neighbors play together with specially prepared colored powders. These powders are called Gulal and colored water is playfully splashed on each other as well.
I love the spirit of the Holi as it brings back a lot of fun memories from my childhood. This year Holi is on Monday, March 13th. We will get together and celebrate with friends and family for sure. We celebrate Holi at home a little differently and play with colorful silk flower petals instead of Gulal. It’s easier to use soft petals when you are playing inside the house! My grandchildren, of course, enjoying playing Holi with colorful gulal and water!
Celebrating Holi is fun, but we need delicious food to accompany the celebrations! This year we will be doing a pot luck dinner with our friends. The theme is “street foods”. Everyone will bring their favorite “street food” to enjoy. I am beginning my preparations as we speak! Unless the house is full of the sweet aromas from the dishes you cook, it doesn’t feel like Holi.
Many of my viewers have requested food ideas and suggestions for their children. I will share with you what I did with my two sons and now my grandchildren. When my kids were babies, the most common solid food was in jars sold at the grocery store. Being a vegetarian and wanting to raise my family similarly, I wanted to select the ingredients and then prepare it in a way that made sense to me. When traveling, I sometimes did use jarred baby food for convenience. I had no one to really guide me as my mother was in India and there was no Internet back then! Also, phone calls were very expensive at that time.
Preparing lentils was something I did almost daily for my husband and myself. Once I had children, I also boiled large pieces of vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, beans, different squashes and potatoes with lentils. When the vegetables were tender, I would take them out from the lentil-dal and mash them with a blender, adding a spoonful of lentils. I mixed fruits with small amounts of yogurt or milk and blended them as well. Some fruits are soft and easy to blend such as bananas. Some, such as apples, need to be cooked to soften them.
When my sons started teething, I steamed vegetables in larger pieces which they could hold onto after a little cooling. This accomplished several things, they were entertained and enjoyed feeding themselves and the foods provided teething comfort. As they grew older, I started adding just a bit of traditional Indian spices so they could get used to our customary spices. I mashed Roti (Indian flat bread) and rice with lentils and vegetable from Indian dishes. I would also give them different cereals of their choice. Slowly, I introduced the same foods my husband and I were eating but with less spices. As always, children will have their favorites.
Once they began school, I made a variety of sandwiches for them. Peanut butter & jelly was a favorite. I also made cream cheese or cheese sandwiches with a bit of mango pickle or sautéed vegetables. Of course, raw vegetables and fruit could also be added to their lunches. They also enjoyed taking slices of pizza and different pastas. Now my grandkids don’t mind and enjoy taking rice with dal (lentils) and wraps with sautéed vegetable. Every child is different so remember to prepare what works for your child’s tastes. Make sure to try different dishes and start introducing meals you make for yourself.
Happy New Year! There’s so much to look forward to in 2017 and I hope that I can continue to bring, for myself and for you, joy and excitement in sharing new cooking experiences.
In 2017 I would like to focus more on semi-homemade dishes. I realize more and more, we are all so very busy with so many things to do. We’ve all heard of time management but how many of us put it into practice? Have you heard the expression, “Work smarter not harder”? Pardon the pun from a cooking columnist, but that is food for thought!
There are many of us who could use some shortcuts and smart suggestions to help us out in our quest for flavorful, healthy meals and less time in the kitchen.
I and my friends are aging. I don’t feel good saying we are getting old so I say we are aging. Many of us still enjoy entertaining friends and family, but I must admit it is becoming difficult.
I have seen that the younger generation is too busy to spend too much time in the kitchen. Nor should they! I am speaking with a voice of experience. I am the mother of two boys. Now I have eight kids – my sons and their wonderful wives, and four absolutely adorable grandchildren. They bring me such pleasure and joy. I am blessed with such a loving family and fortunate to have many good friends.
Back to the original topic of the younger generation – life has become more demanding for younger families and their expectations for themselves has increased. For example, I’ve noticed now that parents of elementary school kids are already planning for their college admissions and wondering how they should prepare their children for so much competition. Parents are active and running with their kids. However, they still want their family to eat healthy.
With that said, I have decided to blog and post video recipes that cater to families with young kids. Many people ask me how they can effectively put a meal on the table in a short time. How and what dishes can we freeze or what can we refrigerate for a longer time? How can we manage our time in the most effective manner? I will be blogging about this and more! These are my thoughts for 2017 and I am always open to more suggestions.