Drunken Orange

My neurologist brother-in-law is a great cook. He specializes in fish and desserts. He treated us to Sharabi Narangi and I couldn't believe just how delicious this simple dessert can be!

Drunken Orange

Before dinner, all he did was peel oranges, slice them, sprinkle powdered cinnamon and chill them. Come dessert-time, he put a few slices out on a plate, drizzled them with Cointreau and served them with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

It was so good that I had to stop myself from licking the Cointreau off the plate!

Green chilli pickle

The trip to Chicagoland has been a blast! It's been a people-oriented trip. Conversations were fun, intense, stimulating, and even ridiculous; spiced with food, chai and Costa Rican coffee.

A home-grown green chilli that braved the drought in summer to be pickled with a delicious blend of spices.

Kachori in Chicago

It felt strange to be on the Tri-state tollway heading home...and realizing that there is no home in Chicagoland anymore. I couldn't have been farther from the truth. Dinner on Tuesday night was a wonderful homecoming: a delicious spread of maa ki dal, aloo-gobi ki sabzi, homemade kulcha, pickled home-grown chillies, and shrikhand.

Breakfast this morning was garam garam Rajasthani dal kachori and chai. Click on the picture to share some of my joy and contentment:

I am home!

Dal vada

Aha! Yes I did! I took a shortcut and used my green chutney to make these delicious dal vadas.

Chutney Matters and Chocolate milk

Recently I read that the calcium in chocolate milk is not absorbed by our bodies well because of the oxalates in chocolate. Kind of like how the oxalates in spinach interfere with absorption of calcium.

Spinach is among a small number of foods that contain any measurable amount of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating spinach. Oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. For this reason, individuals trying to increase their calcium stores may want to avoid spinach, or if taking calcium supplements, may want to eat spinach 2-3 hours before or after taking their supplements.

I was not entirely convinced about the chocolate milk example and I was relating this at the dinner table recently. The resulting conversation with my daughter was hilarious and exemplifies one of the super-powers I have as a Mom.
She: Mumma, they serve strawberry milk at lunch in school.
I: You could try it but I am pretty sure you won't...
and then we spoke together
She: I don't ...
She and I: ...like it.
Her eyes widened in amazement. My status rose by leaps and bounds in her eyes. I turned my face away to hide my smile. Then a little voice filled with reverence asked:
She: Mumma, do you know what I am thinking now?

My husband and I had a tough time holding back our chortles.

I guess I had better enjoy this while it lasts. I don't claim to know everything but she has tremendous faith in my ability to reason and arrive at a logical answer or to research the topic in question adequately and give her a satisfactory explanation. Because of this, I fall under the category of "Knows Everything".

If our conversation at dinner has raised some flags in your mind, there's enough discussion out there to ease your mind. Parenting at iVillage has the most reasonable explanation:
milk contains much more calcium than chocolate contains oxalate so there's plenty of free calcium left over. In fact, only about 6 mgs. of calcium is tied up, out of the 250 or so milligrams in the milk.

So, if your children are drinking chocolate milk, that is just fine. It is important for every child to get an adequate amount of calcium to help keep their bones strong and help them grow, so if they will only drink chocolate milk, don't discourage it...it will be good for their bones.

Some of you may have noticed that lately I've been freaking out on a very spicy green chutney. I don't usually add garlic to my green chutney but hey! I work from home and there's no-one around who might pass out from inhaling my breath (hubby excepted), so I thought what the heck and went to town with the garlic.

Spicy Green Chutney

spicy green chutney

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 20-25 fresh mint leaves
  • 5-6 Thai green chillies**add more for more heat
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • lime juice, approx of half a lime
  • salt to taste
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender with about 1/4 cup water or as little as possible so that you don't end up burning out the motor of your blender.
That's it! No extra fuss. Very easy and rather quick to put together. Some tips:
  • Do not inhale when you open the blender, especially if you have respiratory issues like asthma. The green chilli 'fumes' can cause a coughing fit. I usually make chutneys when my daughter is not home or if she is, I make sure that she is in a well-ventilated place.
  • Use as much of the cilantro as possible. The stems are juicy and also help add body to the chutney. My chutneys are not runny because I use the cilantro stems and can therefore use less water.
  • If you're like me, you buy cilantro in 'bulk' (3 for $1) instead of paying 79 cents per bunch at the regular grocery stores. Here's how I make my cilantro last for weeks.
  • I slice both the ginger and garlic to help my blender along. Those of you lucky enough to have a Sumeet or a Pushpak mixee needn't bother.
  • Taste the chutney before you transfer it from the blender. Feel free to adjust the flavors to suit your tastes. According to me, there's no hard and fast rule about how much of what you use. What my chutney tastes like depends entirely on my mood when I am making it. When I intend to use it as more than just a spread, I make it spicier. The original chutney for patra fish has dhana and jeera.So use my recipe as a guideline but make sure you create a green chutney that tickles your tastebuds and delights your soul!

Spicy baked Rainbow Trout

After slathering the delicious green chutney on my toast, I used it to make my version of patrani macchi.

I rubbed salt into the Rainbow Trout, then stuffed it with chutney...

Covered it with foil and baked it at 450F for 20 minutes. Rainbow Trout has delicious meat, not quite like pomfret, but almost there.

Chutney on Toast

Because there are times when a picture is worth much more than the recipe...

chutney on toast

This is the first in my series of "Pictures worth more than a recipe..."

Knitting and Kolmbo (sambar)

Professional Development Day or Teacher's Work Day tend to turn into daytime nightmares for me. And it seems like the school district knows this and revels in the fact and therefore keeps dishing them out for free every couple of weeks. There was one on Feb 17th and then before I knew it another one hit me squarely between the eyes this past Friday. When the child in question is grounded, it's pure hell. It means no-one can come over; worse still, she can't go anywhere either. So out come all the kids activities and this last Friday, the knitting wheel was pulled out. It might have been a breeze if the packaging had not been hastily ripped apart and discarded and the instructions for weaving a hat were not lost.

knitting wheel
My daughter got into weaving when she weaved potholders when we drove across the country a couple of times during our move from Chicagoland to Louisville, Colorado. Then she moved onto knitting tubular scarves using a small 4-peg wheel.
She did a pretty good job and her tension was quite consistent for one so young. This large knitting wheel, however, posed a problem. It's used to make hats and while I could start her on the project, I had no clue how to cast off stitches to taper the hat as it grew. I Googled for instructions but to no avail. Then I remembered that my friend frangipani is an avid knitter. But unfortunately, she's so skilled at crochet and knitting that she doesn't need the crutch of a knitting wheel.

pink scarf
I finally found a site that has some semblance of instructions on how to make a hat. But we're working overtime and through the weekend to beat a deadline that it looks like this will have to be the project for the next time that Boulder Valley School District decides to give the kids a break from school. I am hoping to get some of my own knitting done. Like this pink scarf I have been knitting for the last 5 years!

My husband returned from a long 4-week stay in India that seemed like an eternity and we welcomed him with the traditional welcome meal: idli-sambar. Except that this time, I thought I'd try a different type of sambar: Shilpa's Kolmbo, a Konkani sambar made with coconut. It was a great hit, even with my daughter who generally steers away from anything with coconut in it. I adapted the kolmbo to our tastes and, to the die-hard purists, it may not be the way Konkani folks make it but we loved it.


Spicy Konkani Sambar with coconut

  • 1 cup tur dal
  • 1/4 packet frozen grated coconut
  • 2 tsp chana dal**optional
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • pinch asafoetida
  • 7-8 fresh curry leaves or kadipatta
  • 1/2 roll of cinnamon
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 Kashmiri red chillies
  • 1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 tsp tamarind concentrate**optional
  • 3 tsp oil
  • few sprigs of cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  1. Cook the tur dal in a pressure cooker. General rule of thumb is to add 3 times as much water as there is dal and pressure cook for at least 4 whistles (pressure releases).
  2. On a griddle or small frying pan, heat 1 tsp oil and fry the coconut, chana dal, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, methi seeds, asafoetida, half the kadipatta, cinnamon, cloves and the red chillies. Fry while constantly stirring over medium heat
  3. Allow this mixture to cool and grind in a blender to a fine paste using about 1/2 cup (or less) of water. For quick cooling, drop a couple of ice cubes onto the pan and use less water while grinding into a paste.
  4. Put the cooked tur dal in a pot, add the frozen veggies, tamarind concentrate and the masala paste from the previous step and salt to taste. Add water to make the kolmbo less thick. About 1 cup is adequate. Use more or less depending on how thick or watery you like your sambar. Cook over medium-high heat until the veggies are cooked.
  5. Just before serving the kolmbo, heat 1 tsp oil in a small fry pan or tadka/phodni pan and add mustard seeds. When they crackle and splutter, add the remaining kadipatta to the oil
  6. Add this tempered oil to the kolmbo, garnish with cilantro and serve hot with idlis or rice

kolmbo sambar
I served it with idlis. This is the second time I am making idlis here in Colorado and it just doesn't seem to be working. The first time I did exactly what I used to do in Chicagoland but the batter just did not ferment. I've made the most fluffy and spongy idlis in the middle of a Chicago winter without any problems. I was known for the idlis I made. But suddenly, none of the old tricks work anymore. Some of the factors that are probably coming into play could be the altitude (Louisville is about 5200ft above sea-level whereas Chicago is at sea-level) and the extremely dry weather here. But, persevere I will!