Magic of Kindness

Thank you for your messages and emails asking about us in the aftermath of the disastrous flooding in Boulder County, Colorado. We were very lucky and did not have any water in our home. The day it all began was Back to School Night and we were at Medha’s high school until late. We left one car in Boulder so that we were all in one car, heading home past 9pm. We had some minor scares on the way but nothing significant. Once home, we realized that leaving one car in Boulder was probably not the wisest decision as we left it in a parking lot that was very close to Boulder Creek, which rose dangerously through the night. A brand new car, at that! Luckily for us and our new material trapping, there were some surges in our parking lot but it did not flood, unlike most of the parking lots near the creek. We drove in and out of Boulder quickly, and, thanked our stars and the grey skies for sparing us. My town, the City of Louisville, saw some damage, our golf course became a wide raging river, leading to a collapsed bridge downstream and wiping out several parts of my favorite trail. But it was nothing compared to the devastation in the mountain towns, Boulder and Longmont. The road to recovery is long but it has been pretty darned amazing how the community has risen to the occasion and given back at every step. Thank you for your concern and your kindness. If you would like to help with the flood relief, please donate to The Great Colorado Flood Relief Project.

My friends on Twitter and Facebook know that I can talk about little else but the Boulder IFS Food Film Festival, especially Jadoo, a British-Indian comedy that I will be introducing on Saturday, October 12, 2013, at 7pm in CU’s Muenzinger Auditorium.

Boulder IFS Food Film Festival Program
mobile phone pics of the BFFF13 program

My friends, Meena and Shashi, as well as two talented high schoolers, will be offering henna designs for a donation before the movie. They will be there from 5:45pm to 6:45pm. All money raised will be donated through the Boulder Balvihar to Help a Child, an Indian charity that provides academic scholarships to underprivileged children in India.

Henna at Jadoo will be much better than this!
It's a good thing I won't be doing the henna!

If you are local, please consider coming out to support us!

Ganpati Bappa Morya!

Every year we chant:
Ganpati Bappa Morya
Pudchya varshi lavkar ya!

And before I know it, it's here again! My favorite God, my second favorite festival, my favorite foods to be made but so busy that I have no time to make chavde or the more traditional modaks.

I do have a coconut waiting patiently in my refrigerator. I plan to use that to make the stuffing for karanji and offer that to Ganesh.

We celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi at Balvihar yesterday where some of our kids made clay models of Ganesh.

Clay Ganesh
Ayesha's near-perfect Ganesh

It's All Peachy

I have literally been swimming in organic Colorado peaches. I have always loved peaches but Palisade peaches? They're something else. They are the kind that soak up the snow melt on the Western Slopes of the Rockies, beat the vagaries of our spring weather and bring chin drippin' lusciousness to your taste buds in summer. The demand is always high for peaches, and even more for organic peaches.

Peaches from First Fruits
Palisade peaches from First Fruits, Paonia

But before I go all peachy on you, I have some exciting news to share.

Come fall, I will be teaching Home Cook Classes in Indian food at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder. The classes will be monthly with the first class on September 26. If you are local (Denver / Boulder area), this will be a fun class that teaches homestyle Indian cooking, not the greasy-fare you find in Indian restaurants. It's food that you will make over and over, be able to adapt to other produce, because you will learn simple techniques that form the foundation of Indian cooking. This workshop also makes a great gift for someone who is interested in Indian cooking. I hope to see you there!

On October 12, I will be introducing an Indian film made in the UK that is part of the new Food Film section of annual International Film Series organized by CU Boulder, not to be confused with Boulder International Film Festival. The film, Jadoo, will be shown at 7pm in the Muenzinger Auditorium, located west of Folsom Stadium (400 seats) on the CU Boulder campus. Tickets are $7 per show, $6 for CU students, with a Food Film Festival pass for $25 that will get you into all five food films. This pass includes free parking validation at the Euclid Auto-Park garage.

My friend Julia has been working tirelessly to get this together, from conception to implementation. The film Jadoo is sponsored by Savory Spice Shop, my favorite spice shop in Boulder. Thank you, Dan!

If you are local, please mark your calendar and come out to Muenzinger Auditorium to watch an Indian food film with visuals so strong that you can smell the food! I'm also working on some cultural activities around the film and if they come through, I will have more information in the days to come.

We were flagged last July

Flagged? Yes, flagged. Just like being flamingoed, except with US flags; exciting and, unlike the former, definitely not tacky.


July fourth last year was very memorable for us. More than 20 of my neighbors gathered in my front yard and decorated it with flags and chalk drawings. We had become citizens of the US in January 2012 and our annual neighborhood potluck-cookout on the fourth was going to be a celebration to welcome us as naturalized citizens.

I have the best neighbors.

Welcome Citizens!

I knew that they were going to do something special for us but I had no inkling of the scale of things even though there were flyers posted on all our common mailboxes in the 'hood. Oops!

Twenty adults and kids can create quite a racket but we had a giant noisy fan throwing air out of our rather hot house that we did not hear them at all. That's my excuse.

Stars and stripes, and a quote from LBJ

Neighbors were asked to bring little things that represent America to drop into three baskets that were laid out on a table. We got everything from toy currency to Matchbox cars to Little Debbie cupcakes to mac-and-cheese to a Martha Stewart cookbook. And there was cake.

Celebrating Citizenship
Gift baskets filled with things American, and a chocolate cake.

On our part, we held an impromptu face-off between two contestants who were quizzed using questions from the Immigration Test. A contestant had to get three consecutive questions correct to win a $15 iTunes gift card. We had three winners in all. It was a ton of fun and we also uncovered many history buffs in our hood.

It was the best party ever! This celebration gave a new meaning to July 4th for all of us. 

In Shiva and God, we trust
Liberties were taken!

I laughed and cried when I saw the new twist on the US motto. It reminded me of the words of the  USCIS officer who presided over our naturalization ceremony. When he declared us to be citizens of the US, he told us never to forget our roots and to make every attempt to share stories of our culture and traditions, not just with our children, but with our friends and neighbors. Diversity only serves to enrich and strengthen this great country further.

Sunday Snapshots: Bharatanatyam pre-Arangetram Shoot

Arangetram is the professional dance debut of a dancer after years of training. It is akin to a graduation and is celebrated with a solo dance performance of at least two to two-and-a-half hours. The artist dances to live music and has to work closely with the musicians.

In the years past, arangetrams would be held in temples and the audience would be made up of prospective clients. Today, an arangetram is a celebration of the artist's achievements with friends and family blessing the dancer for attaining an important milestone. Arangetrams can be as fancy as a wedding or as simple as a dance performance to live music.

I was fortunate enough to do a pre-arangetram shoot for an event that is happening at the time that this post will go live. Here are some of my favorite pictures from that shoot.


Bharatanatyam Pre-Arangetram Shoot

Banana Dippers for you and Dad

So much for posting once a week! But, remember that I said we hit the ground running in June? We did.

Happy Fathers Day!
Fathers with their children

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday Snapshots: Catching up on May over Pan Fried Fish

May is about the craziest month of the school year around here. School ends on the Friday before Memorial Day, and, if there are several days in May left after that as there were this year, May becomes a very short school month for us. End-of-year performances, state-level competitions, piano recitals, graduation parties, Balvihar picnic, not to mention finals were all crammed into 24 days of May, of which only 17 were school days.

We also had two bomb threats in our high schools, one real and one not, and an 'accidental' spraying of pepper spray that added to the stress of May. No parent needs this kind of excitement.

I cooked a lot of fish last month. We experienced protein cravings more often, given that we were in overdrive when it came to our schedule. Pan-fried fish is the simplest kind of fried fish to make. There is no leftover smelly oil to dispose of either!

The recipe is on the Whole Foods Market Cooking Blog. It's pretty darned good and saw us through several nights in May. 

Sunday Snapshots: Of Coconut Milk as well as Spring Flora and Fauna

Spring has been a mixed bag this year, flip-flopping between summer and winter.

I made coconut milk at home using frozen shredded coconut and I'm never going back to canned coconut milk! Read my column on Whole Foods Market Cooking on How to Make Coconut Milk.

DIY Coconut Milk
How to Make Coconut Milk at home (Whole Foods Market Cooking)

The Good Things in April

So much happened in April. So much. I decided to focus on all the good things, mostly family, friends and celebrations.

We kicked off April with Holi celebrations at Boulder Balvihar. Not my favorite festival but I do enjoy taking pictures of everyone else, especially the little ones.

Happy kiddos at Holi!

I have never made puran poli, the sweet treat that is traditionally made for Holi. I wanted to but since my plate spilleth over, I put it on the back-burner yet again. I didn't make thandai either, even though we had really enjoyed it last year at this time. And, you know what? It didn't matter. That's not to undermine the importance of food during festivities and the stories that go hand-in-hand; instead it's more like celebrating on our terms rather than doing all the right things and being miserable as well as stressed at the same time. The special Holi prasad at Boulder Balvihar more than made up for all the fun treats that I did not make.

Holi 2013
Some of my friends really get into the act!

Pressure Cooker Winner and Raji's Brinji

April 1 may not have been the best day to close my pressure cooker giveaway! But, I promise you that it was not an April Fool's joke.

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I loved reading more about all of you.

To all my readers who delurked: I am indeed humbled that so many of you have been reading along for almost as many years as I have been blogging. You have helped me grow.

To all my regular commenters: you know I think you are awesome! Some of our conversations border on insane and that is what keeps me going and encourages me to share some of the randomness in my life.

And I was very tickled that all of you appreciated not having to go blab to the world on social networks about this giveaway. While I get the need for that kind of marketing, it's not what this blog is about. I much prefer organic growth to in-your-face marketing. My content remains driven by my thoughts and my experiences rather than what drives these networks.

Here's how I chose the winner for the giveaway. I asked for three numbers between 1 and 1000 on my Facebook page, added them up, calculated the mod with the divisor set to the number of participants (67) and matched up the answer to the comment number that I assigned in ascending order. That's random enough, right?

A Pressure Cooker GIveaway

Celebrating 10 years of IFR with a Giveaway

You know you're lucky when you look out at your driveway in the middle of a snowstorm to see your neighbor's kid shoveling the snow that you were doing your best to ignore.

Shoveling snow
a welcome sight

You know you're lucky when a package arrives all the way from the upper mid-west with home-made nocino, Indian pickles and Kashmiri veri masala.

Grateful for good friends
Hot and boozy gifts

You know you're lucky when Shilpa sends you fragrant organic tirphal, along with mace, nutmeg, kokum from her father's property near Bangalore and two very special pickles made by her mother: kochle nonche and ambli pickle.

Fragrant Tirphal
Fragrant and relatively rare spice: tirphal

You know you're lucky when Aparna sends you flavors of your childhood with more kokum and tirphal, dagadphool, dried red chiles, vanilla pods and famous Goan cured pork sausages.

A gift from Aparna
Gifts that remind me of my childhood

You know you're lucky when there are so many things to be grateful for, on a daily basis. I know I am.
From the magnificent beauty of where we live to the supportive neighborhood where we make our home to the friends and family in our lives.

I also know I'm incredibly lucky when I look back at the ten years that I have been blogging and realize that I have met some of my best friends through my blog. My very first post was on March 12, 2003. It was as clueless as I was about blogging, but I was also very clearly testing the Blogger platform, then owned by Pyra Labs. I was never a prolific blogger nor do I intend to be. I blog at my own pace, on my own terms and without succumbing to the pressures of the blogosphere, especially the food blogging community.

Under Pressure

Pressure cooking is suddenly in the limelight again. It looks like it's the next new wave after slow cooking in the crockpot. If you grew up like me -- in a home where beans, legumes and pulses were eaten on a daily basis -- you're probably grateful that an efficient and effective cooking method is finally being recognized, and you're possibly also quite aghast at the various myths that are being repeated ad nauseam, especially the one that pressure cookers are dangerous because they explode in your face.

Indian pressure cooker
releasing pressure

There's no doubt that they used to explode and there were two reasons for that: poor manufacturing and user error (which, unfortunately, continues even today). Modern pressure cookers, especially the kind that don't open until the pressure has subsided, are much safer but so are the old-style ones with a weighted pressure-release, if used properly. If you continue to hear stories about how they explode, then more often than not, it is user error.

This reminds me of the recent article that said that immersion or hand blenders are dangerous because many people have almost lost their fingers to the blade. Well, it's only common sense that if the appliance is not unplugged, a blade that is jammed will start spinning as soon as the obstruction has been removed. But, since common sense is rather rare, it is easier to tarnish the appliance with the label: Dangerous.

I am still wondering why the author of that particular article was using an immersion blender for butter that was meant to go into chocolate chip cookies, and how an article of that kind made it into The New York Times. And, if she will ever be able to live it down.

I must say that I am rather surprised that such people still drive cars.

Or use a knife.

Not Quite Bananas

You know how folks say "My Grandma taught me and I do it the same way she did," implying that Grandma always knew best. Well, maybe not. At least not when it came to prepping banana blossom.

Everyone I talked to told me that banana blossoms are a pain to prep and clean. That the sap stains everything it touches, and blackened fingers are an indication of a family satiated on banana blossoms. To avoid these stains, they said, you must rub oil all over your hands before you touch a banana blossom. Or, in modern times, the suggestion is to wear thin food-safe gloves.

The very first time I prepped banana blossom, I rubbed a little bit of oil on my finger tips, but only because I didn't know what to expect. The next few times I knew what I had to do and didn't bother with any oil. Yes, it's true; you don't need to oil your hands or wear gloves when you're prepping banana blossoms.

All you need is the following: a sharp knife, and a medium pot half-filled with water and the juice of half a lemon.

Sunday Snapshots: Banana Blossom

What?! Are Sunday Snapshots back?! I hope so, my friend, I hope so!

Banana blossoms are considered to be exotic in the US. They shouldn't be as the banana plant is one of the oldest plants known to man and the banana fruit one of the most common fruits. The banana plant makes pretensions to be a tree when, in fact, it is the largest flowering herbaceous plant. If you haven't seen a banana blossom before, then these Sunday Snapshots might interest you.

Banana blossom
Purple red blossom

Banana blossom
Always intriguing

Just Like a Dusting of Snow

It snowed.

And, unlike on the East Coast, we welcome it with open arms; even when it brings with it a fair amount of squelchy and slushy before it turns into familiar powder. Like it did yesterday. The morning commute into Boulder also becomes that much more spectacular and slippery.

How Boulder of you!
It was 20F

While Boulderites were out jogging and riding their bikes, I couldn't wait to cup my hands around a hot mug of chai and dig into some cookies in lieu of breakfast. Yes, cookies! I don't have much of a sweet tooth but there are some cookies that I simply adore.

Tea time cookies
Chewy cookies and tea

A Pet Peeve and A Handy Tip

So much has happened in the first ten days of the new year that I feel that things can only get better from here on. We've been sick, with Medha being the worse of the two of us. Add to it the sadness of having to put down our kitty-by-proxy when her humans were away on vacation. She was about 20 years old and she went into a sudden decline. It is the hardest thing to have to do, more so when it is someone else's pet. Luckily, we were all in agreement and the vet had kind soulful eyes that filled with tears as he spoke about options. Very sad. So I thought I'd bring out a pet peeve to cheer us all up!

<pet peeve>
Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in an Indian curry.
Curry leaves impart a genuine curry flavor to Indian food.

Dear God! Please! No!