On vacation to Washinton DC and NYC

Today was our first day in Washington DC with kids and grand kids. My grand daughter is very excited for this trip. She want to see every thing, going with her list today we went to see several museums at the Smithsonian.  She enjoyed the Natural History Museum the most.  My grandson at the end of the day insisted on going on a bus, so we took the bus through Georgetown.  The weather is hot and humid we have been spoil with San Diego weather so that made the walking outside tiresome. Tomorrow she wants to see Washington and Lincon Monument, White House and list goes on. I will be posting the photos soon and tell you about my trip.On Monday we are going to NYC for three days.

My criteria for selecting the best recipe:

The selection process is very difficult as I am receiving many deserving entries. In order to pick and select the winning recipe, I have devised a check list to help me judge each entry. In general I will only consider recipes that I feel are complete in regards to ingredients, measurement, and instruction. From there I am looking for creativity and a recipe that my viewers would enjoy to prepare on their own.

Below is my checklist:

  1. Ingredients should be listed with measurements
  2. Method is explained clearly, so it’s easy to follow
  3. Spices are used in balance
  4. Creativity


Happy Holi!!

My grand daughter is visiting me and we decided to prepare this holi plate today.


Getting Ready for Holi

I am starting my preparations for Holi, which is the festival of colors and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by farmers. Holi is known as a harvest time. It is truly a beautiful site, with green farms and colorful flowers!

Holi is celebrated as a day when everyone comes together to celebrate. Social restrictions and gaps are forgotten as people of different backgrounds and economic status celebrates together. A bonfire is prepared the night before Holi. The next day friends and family play together with specially prepared colored powders. These powders are called gulal. Colored water is playfully splashed on each other as well.

I love the spirit of the holidays! The holidays bring back a lot of fun memories from my childhood. My parents loved celebrating any occasion which made them and people around them happy. On Holi, I remember my mother being up very early in the morning to make the preparations for playing with the colors. After all the preparations were done my father would come wake my brother and sisters up by putting gulal on our faces and screaming “Holi hai!” – Which translates into “Happy Holi!”.

On Holi, family, friends and neighbors visit each other throughout the day playing colors. Snacks are offered and a special drink known as thandai (milk and almond drink) is offered.

Holi is on February 28th and today is already 22nd. 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. I like to prepare some traditional holi snacks including gujia, shakkar para, one of the burfi, namak para, and khasta kachori. I will let you know what additional snacks I make. In the meantime, please let me know how you celebrate Holi and what snacks you made!

HAPPY HOLI!

Missed Time Out With My Grandkids

For the past couple of weeks, I have been looking forward to a family trip (including grandkids) to Big Bear, which is a small ski resort near Los Angeles. The kids wanted to play in the snow, make snowmen, and go sledding. Last year was the first time they played in the snow and they had a blast. Especially my grandson!

Alex has been as excited as him and was looking forward to this trip. He is a very prepared person which is great because I tend to a last minute person. Maybe that’s because I know he is there to take care of things!

Unfortunately I had to miss this event, last few days I have came down with a bad cold and fever. I insisted they should go without me and take lot of photographs. Of course I called them often so I can hear their excitement and their screams on the phone.

My grand daughter tried to make me feel better by saying how much they missed me and reassured me that we will make the trip to Big Bear again next year and that we can also bring along my other granddaughter, Rhea, who just turned one. With that type of promise, I can’t help but look forward to next year!


Granddaughter’s First Birthday!

This past weekend was a busy one for me as it was my granddaughter’s FIRST birthday!! The party was very fun and every one had a great time. I planned the menu and prepared a variety of dishes for this special occasion. We also decided to cater some dishes.

The menu included the following dishes: mattra chaat served with toppings including tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, chopped ginger, and chutneys, mini peanut butter jelly and cream cheese cucumber sandwiches shaped like hearts and butterflies, warm gulab jamun, fresh fruit and cheese skewers decoratively placed in oranges for presentation, and a chocolate fountain, which were all prepared by us. We had pesto and tomato cream pastas and fresh vegetable and cheese panini sandwiches catered. My daughter in law’s co-worker prepared the fresh chocolate and pumpkin spice cupcakes with animal designs. We also got a two -tiered bundt cake catered. We truly had a wide variety of food and everyone ate to their heart’s content. We received a lot of compliments about the dishes prepared! The kids especially loved the desserts and had a ball dipping strawberries and marshmallows in the chocolate fountain.

I think the beauty in these dishes was in the presentation. I decided to serve the mattra chaat toppings on big collard green leaves and fruits on skewers looked really nice. You can see this in the pictures posted.

This was a very special event and I’m glad I had a big part in planning in!


Using Different Water Tempretaure For Making Dough!

A viewer asked me while making dough why I recommend different temperatures of water. For samosa dough, I say warm water while for kachori I suggest chilled water. Since I have started making these cooking videos, I am learning everyday something new about cooking and I have been paying more attention when I am cooking. I do like to experiment with recipes and enjoy modifying recipes to my taste.

So going back to water temperature, one day I was watching food network about making pastry dough where they were talking about using cold butter and water to make dough that made me think! I don’t like hard crust in khasta kachori. I always wanted its crust to be more flakey, so I went to my kitchen and tried making kachori dough with ice cold water after trying few times I thought I was happy with the crust and produced the video. But wait when you try kachori next time, wrap the dough with cellophane paper and refrigerate for half an hour or longer, before you fill the kachori, kachories will be even more flakey.

I am still attempting to try samosa dough making with chilled water. If any one of you tries before me please let us know the result.

Next time you make kachori try this variation in preparing the dough, I am convinced the crust will come out flakier.

New Year Resolution!

 

I am looking forward to 2010! The New Year is about positivity and new beginnings. And that means a resolution to actually follow through with! Last year my resolution was to organize the house and give away items that we do not need, i.e. decluttering! I think this was an achievable realistic resolution. So last year I did a pretty good job of uncluttering the house and it felt great!

 This year my resolution is to lose about 10 pounds I gained when I started making my cooking videos for You Tube. I know this is a resolution many people have! The problem is that diets just do not work for me. I have tried many times and have failed. Heavy exercise is not an option for me either.

 I examined my eating patterns and daily routine to see if I could come up with a solution. After much thought, these are the ideas I came up with.

  • Eat three meals a day using small plates – without going for seconds; enjoy two small snacks a day such as fruit or tea. This means no snacking throughout the day which I love to do!
  • No food after 9:00pm (except water)
  • Drink more water
  • Every morning do some light stretches and breathing exercises.

 

I’ll keep you posted on my results. With that, I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

The holidays are here and you can smell it in the air! It’s getting dark earlier and the days are cold. This can only mean one thing…the holidays are fast-approaching! My grandchildren enjoy this time of year, especially putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the house. My granddaughter Mansi is in charge of ensuring that the appropriate decorations and tree is up! When asked what she wants for Christmas, she really couldn’t think of anything and appeared to be content with what she already has. Now that’s the spirit of the holidays!

I won’t get to spend Christmas day with my youngest, 10 1/2 month old granddaughter as she will be visiting her other grandparents and cousins. We will miss them at our family dinner this year.

I have some menu suggestions for the holidays. These menus are perfect for cold winter days! Comfort food at its finest!

You can find all the suggested recipes on my website.

 Menu #1:

 Appetizers: Masala Peanuts, vegetable pakoras with Hari Cilantro Chutney, fried papdam.

 Main Course: Lentil soup, Palak Paneer (spinach with Indian cheese), Aloo Gobhi, Gajar Pickle, spiced Yogurt, Cumin Rice, and Puri.

 Dessert: Serve hot Boondi (instead making them as ladoos), Eggless Pineapple cake.

Menu #2:

 Appetizers: Spicy Potatoes, Dhokla with Hari Cilantro Chutney. Spinach Salad

 Main Course: Butter Paneer Masala, Cabbage with green peas, Aloo Began (potato with eggplant), Yellow Fried rice, Spinach Raita, Naan.

 Dessert: Apple Crumb Pie, Kheer.

Should I Use A Pressure Cooker?

I am frequently asked about cooking with a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers are convenient and can save you a lot of time in the kitchen! Lentils and dry beans are cooked much quicker with a pressure cooker.

However, if you are not using a pressure cooker, here are some pointers:

1. Soak the lentil and dry beans for few hours before cooking. They will cook quicker.

2. Add salt after lentil or dry beans are cooked.

3. When you are cooking lentils, white cloudy foam will form as they are coming to a boil. Add one tablespoon of oil to the water. This will help to break up some of the foam. Also to prevent the foam from spilling out, use a larger pot to cook. Also remove the foam from the top as it is building.

4. After the beans come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium.

5. If you have a slow cooker, you can use it for cooking lentil and dry beans.

I know rasgullas can be made without a pressure cooker, but I feel most comfortable making them with a pressure cooker.

Please do keep the questions coming and I will try my best to answer them!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holidays are here and I love celebrating them with family and loved ones! To me, the holidays represent positive energy, happiness, and warm memories of time spent with my family. The holidays give us a reason (and time) to take a break from the mundane everyday routines of work, obligations, and well, life! It’s the time to relax and do something just for you!

I am always looking for a reason to get together and cook for my family. I find peace and relaxation when I cook. However, for many planning a holiday menu can be a bit stressful. I find that when planning a holiday meal, it’s best to plan the menu ahead of time and shop in advance. You may even be able to prepare some dishes in advance. This will make the entire process less stressful!

Below are some suggested menus for the holidays, which may make your planning easier. All the below recipes can be found on this website.

Menu #1:

Appetizers: Cabbage Salad, Muthia with Hari Cilantro Chutney and Spicy Sweet Potatoes.

Main Course: Punjabi Chola, Aloo Gobhi, Gajar Pickle, Plain Yogurt, Zucchini Rice, and Battura or Naan.

Dessert: Gajar Ka Halwa.

Menu #2:

AppetizersSpinach Salad, Vegetable Pakoras with Hari Cilantro Chutney.

Main Course: Vegetable Korma, Bhindi (okra), Aloo Dum, Dahi Vada, Plain Rice, and Puri.

Dessert: Gulab Jamun and Paneer Burfi.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is here and I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren on this holiday! Today I carved pumpkins with my grandchildren, Mansi and Raghav. We do this every year and it’s become our tradition! Mansi, my 8 year old granddaughter, wanted to carve the pumpkin herself using a knife, but I, of course, did not let her handle the carving knife! She was a little upset about that! The pumpkins turned out great. We saved the pumpkin seeds and plan to wash them and roast them in the oven. Mansi reminded me that next year we have to carve another pumpkin for her 9 month old cousin (the newest grandchild of mine!) Rhea.

Keeping with tradition, the kids will go trick or treating with their Chacha (Uncle), Chachi (Aunt), and cousin sister Rhea. Alex and I will stay home to pass out candy to the kids. Maybe I will bake some Halloween cookies for the kids to enjoy.

My elder son and daughter-in-law are back from their short trip to India. The house is so quiet! I got used to the sounds of the kids, especially Raghav, who used to love to wake me up in the mornings in his adorable way! I can’t wait until Rhea spends the night with us! She is very cute and extremely active. In fact, her boundless energy reminds me of my younger son (her father). He always kept me on my toes and so does she!

I am very blessed that my children and their families live close by to me. I get to spend a lot of time with them and enjoy my grandchildren growing up!

I will be coming up with some menu ideas for the upcoming holidays.

Until then…Happy Halloween!

Babysitting Duty!!

I have been babysitting my grandkids for the past week as my son and daughter-in-law went on a short 9 day trip to India for a family wedding.

Because the kids are in school with many activities, they decided to leave the kids with Alex and me. My granddaughter Mansi is 8 and my grandson Raghav is 5. They have stayed with us before, but this is the longest they have been without their parents!

Alex and I have been responsible for getting the kids ready for school, taking them to their many after-school activities, and of course keeping them entertained! I have also enjoyed feeding them! Their schedules are so busy that we have to make sure they are prepared!

It’s definitely been challenging, but we are enjoying this quality time with our grandkids. Of course with two kids in the house there’s bound to be some challenges. For example, both Mansi and Raghav have certain television programs they enjoy watching…then there’s Alex, who hasn’t been watching his usual news programs. It was also been a challenge feeding Raghav as he is a very poor eater. Plus, both of the kids are missing their parents. We are doing our best to keep them entertained.

Today, Mansi and I made strawberry short cake. She was the chef and I was her helper. We had a great time doing that!

Mansi enjoys visits from her Chacha (uncle), Chachi (aunt) and their daughter, Rhea. Raghav, on the other hand, loves his chacha and Chachi, but he is still very jealous of Rhea!

Mansi has been a great help. Before sleeping, Mansi will take out both her and Raghav’s clothes for the next day. Before bed, both the kids love to jump in my bed and climb over me!

I was taking Mansi to her dance class the other day and she was being mischievous as usual. I jokingly told Mansi that her Mom’s friends always tell me how well behaved she is and why don’t I see that? She proudly informed me that with others she has to make a good impression. She then said “Dadi, (grandma in Hindi), that will never happen with you!”

 Now they are both asleep and the house is very peaceful. I can now enjoy a cup of tea with Alex!

My Blunders For Diwali

I had a great time with my family. We all had fun. It was a hectic week. We took lots of photographs of our family but they all got deleted by mistake except a few.

My blunders for Diwali preparation! Three days before Diwali, I decided to make all my deserts and appetizers and do my laundry on the same day as I have an old bad habit to do multiple things. Not a good idea you are asking for disaster. Nothing came out as I planned by end of the day I was in tears. My husband smiled and said hopefully one day you will learn to do one thing at a time.

I was making boondi ladoo which I served just as boondi and served them in cup cakes cups. The same thing happened with coconut burfi. I had to shape them differently and again serve them in foil candy cups. Gulab jamuns turned out hard which I still have sitting in my refrigerator for next get together. I will cut them in pieces and before serving I will mix them with vanilla ice cream.

The end result was that every thing tasted well and every body enjoyed it.

Happy Diwali

This year Diwali falls on October 17th – which is conveniently on a Saturday!

Diwali is often referred to as the “Festival of Lights” and is a celebration of joy and happiness. Diwali signifies the victory of good versus evil. Hindus celebrate Diwali throughout the world with great enthusiasm.

There are many traditions that are followed when celebrating Diwali. Preparations for Diwali often include cleaning your home and opening the windows to welcome the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, into your home. Candles and lamps are lit as a greeting to Goddess Lakshmi, hence the name “Festival of Lights”. Gifts are exchanged and festive meals are prepared. Lively fireworks, and games of cards are enjoyed to celebrate Diwali!

This year I am especially excited for Diwali because I have a new granddaughter and this is her first Diwali.

I have been busy preparing some delicious desserts. The sweet smell of cardamom and saffron has infused the whole house! Gujias are typically prepared as a main sweet snack for Diwali. However, this year, I have decided to go a different route and prepare a variety of sweets such as coconut burfi, boondi ka ladoo, gulab jamun and shakkar para.

In celebration of Diwali, my family has helped decorating the house including the Christmas lights. I am hoping Mansi (my Granddaughter) will be able to help me to decorate the front entrance of the house with rangoli.

We will be kicking off the Diwali festivities with a family dinner at my house the day before actual Diwali. This celebration is called “Choti Diwali”. I will be preparing a traditional dinner for my family. The menu is puris filled with urad dal, spicy squash, Bhindi, matar paneer, dahi vada, and cumin rice. For dessert we will have gulab jamun and bondi ka ladoo.

 After dinner, keeping in tradition with Diwali celebrations, we will be playing cards. I plan to serve spicy peanuts, burfi and of course chai. My husband is an expert at preparing chai so he will take on that task!

Diwali day we will have family get together our son’s home. I will post photographs of our celebrations soon!

I hope you all have a very Happy Diwali!