Angry Vomiting Pumpkin!

We did it! We did it! We carved a vomiting pumpkin and put it out on our doorstep. I've wanted to do it for the last 3 years at least but never got around to it. I really don't know why because it's the easiest pumpkin to carve. Ever.

Hmm! Wait a minute! I do know why! The Hallowe'en Grinch never let us. It's way too messy. Who will clean it up? It will rot and attract pests. And so on. Well, that's why the plastic under the pumpkin. It will be easy to clean up: pick up the plastic and throw the vomit away. And, don't fret, the plastic will not go to the landfill. It will be cleaned and re-used.

It wasn't as cold as last year when we trick-or-treated against my better judgement in blustery weather and temperatures as low as 27F. It was in the low 40s and 39F when we came in. It was warm! Especially compared to the morning when we woke up to a dusting of snow! Snow in the yard, snow on the roofs and snow on the cars! I was really dreading going out this evening but it all turned out just fine.

Medha's costume was a huge hit. There was another shower in the school parade but he had a real circular shower rod with a real showerhead screwed in with real joints. If you tried to look in to see who it was, he'd shout: Hey! No peeking! Medha on the other hand scrubbed herself in full public view!

Medha's day was made on our way home from trick-or-treating. A car coming down the street slowed down as it approached us and I thought it was headed into the driveway we were just shy of. I pulled her close even though it is a safe neighborhood, and then noticed that the car had lights on the top. It was a police car and it stopped right next to us. The policeman turned on a red light inside his car, poked his head out and said: That is such a great costume. I had to stop to give you some candy! Medha is on cloud nine. According to her, she was recognized by a policeman! Imagine that!

Shower for Hallowe'en

Make sure you shower before you get into those Hallowe'en costumes. Or be like Medha. Be the Shower!

She couldn't stop laughing and so the picture is blurry. But we still like it a lot!

Medha borrowed this idea from her National Geographic Kids magazine. We adapted it to make it from materials we had at home.
  • A hula hoop
  • A shower curtain
  • Shower curtain rings
  • Clear packing tape and duct tape
  • String
  • Cardboard tube from a paper towel roll
  • A styrofoam cup
  • A bow made of clear shiny plastic
  • A shower cap
  • A shower poof

  1. Put the shower curtain rings on the hula hoop and hook the shower curtain on.
  2. Tie two pieces of string of adequate length from one side to the other of the hula hoop, so that these can be used to hold the hula hoop on the child's shoulders, one on each side. Use duct tape to hold these in place.
  3. Cut the shower curtain to an appropriate length so that the child will not trip and fall while trick-or-treating.
  4. Tie the first and last shower curtain rings together with a piece of string so that the shower curtain does not slide all over the place. The shower will be 'open' where the two ends come together and we preferred to keep this towards the back.
  5. Cut a notch on one end of the cardboard tube so that the base of the styrofoam cup can rest on it with its mouth at a downward angle. Use packing tape to hold the cup on the tube. Cover the whole contraption with aluminum foil. This is the shower-head.
  6. Stick the clear plastic bow on the inside of the cup. This is the water.
  7. Cut the cardboard tube at the bottom and hook it securely onto the hula hoop using duct tape. We put this on one side, as you can see. If it looks more like a table-lamp, you really need to fire up that imagination of yours!
  8. Put the shower cap on the trickster, hand her the shower-poof, wrap a towel around her shoulders so that the string does not hurt her and send her off!

She was in heaven when I used some of my mousse on her face as foam. But it quickly lost its oomph so I am still looking for an alternative to soapy foam. If you have any ideas, please let me know! Their school parade is sometime in the afternoon, followed by their Hallowe'en party.

Happy Hallowe'en to you all!

Ancient Cuisines: Native American Ute Tortillas

It was driven home on every field trip and every vacation that the ancient people, the Anasazi, and their descendants were very close to the land they lived on. Almost like a symbiotic co-existence. Fish, turkey, quail and wild game were the main courses. Texture came in the form of seeds, nuts and roots. Sugary sweetness came from berries, fruits and sap from trees. Fresh corn to dried corn to ground corn was used in cooking to add sweetness, thicken sauces and provide texture.

They reused almost every part of the wild game they hunted. Buffalo bladders were used as pouches to store and carry water. Buffalo stomach liners also served a similar purpose. I remember all the kids going yeow in unison and they each swore that they never would have drunk that water. Buffalo fat and even bear grease was used in cooking. Animal sinew was used to make bows and arrows and to tie sharp spearheads to long wooden spears.

Food was cooked in the most simple manner possible. Meat was boiled, roasted or baked in pits lined with charcoal. Seeds and nuts were eaten raw or they were toasted. Berries were ground into the meals. Seasoning, as we know it, was limited to wood ashes, salt, chiles and sharp berries.

Food often simmered for hours and in general, there was always enough food to welcome guests with. The native Americans ate according to the seasons, storing dried corn, seeds and nuts for use in harsh winters. During hunting season, there was always an abundant supply of fish and meat. Whatever could not be consumed immediately was cut into strips and either smoked or dried. Almost all meals were eaten directly out of the pot by hand and stews were eaten with a variety of breads.

The white man brought with him both disease and new influences. Native American food absorbed these new influences, without losing the simple earthiness of their food. The three recipes I tried were:
- Ute Tortilla, from the South West
- Mohegan Succotash, from the North East
- Pueblo Chicken, from the South West
These recipes are based on recipes from Spirit of the Harvest, North American Indian Cooking by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs, a very well written book that delves deep into native American heritage: their food, their customs and some history.

Ute Tortilla

Most breads are fry breads and are an integral part of their cuisine. They are everyday food and they are also served at festive occasions like powwows. Fry bread is often served with some kind of sweetener, like berries, powdered sugar or honey. There are savory versions of fry bread with chopped onions and chillies mixed into the dough. The recipe varies from tribe to tribe but the ingredients remain essentially the same.
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder (3 tsp at high altitudes)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cup warm water or milk
  • 1 tbsp oil or shortening
  1. Combine all ingredients except for the oil and knead until smooth.
  2. Rub oil all over the dough and cover. Let this dough rest for about half an hour
  3. Divide the dough into 10-12 equal parts and either pat or roll out into a circular shape that is about 1/8 inch thick and about 6 inches in diameter.
  4. Cook these on charcoal grill or over open fire. I cooked these on a cast iron tava and then did the final roasting over the gas flame, where they puffed up almost like rotis.

  • I used a half-and-half mix of unbleached white flour and whole wheat flour
  • These Ute Tortillas tasted a lot like whole wheat pita bread.
  • They complemented the succotash and the chicken very well.
  • I tried patting these out but the dough kept springing back. So I rolled them out quickly and threw them on the tava, where they shrank even more!

Navajo Fry bread can be made using this same recipe. Instead of being cooked over an open fire, it is deep fried in oil. Based on the pictures in the book, you can get creative with the shape! I preferred to make Ute Tortillas for obvious reasons. Although given a chance, I would love to have Navajo Fry Bread, especially the savory kind!

The Gavel Rests Here

Recipes for Mohegan Succotash, Peublo Chicken and Ute Tortilla are in the pipeline. But before that, I needed to make a very important announcement. Therefore this post.

Yes, the gavel rests here. Well, one of them anyway. I am a judge for the November edition of CLICK.

CLICK is a theme-based monthly photography event started by the coolest husband-wife blogger team around, Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi. Launched in October, it was a resounding success with over 60 entries for the theme, Eggs. Every entry was unique and had a story behind it, making it more than just a photograph with a theme. Some bloggers had really huge eggs, some cooked them, and other like me, were a little cracked!

This was my entry:

It won second place in CLICK: Spectra and also won the CLICK: Concept award.

Entries are given points by a panel of judges and winners are declared in three categories: CLICK: Spectra, CLICK: Concept and CLICK: Delish. There is a fourth category, CLICK: Reader's Choice where readers can vote for 3 images of their choice. The winners for October were Sunita of Sunita's World for CLICK: Spectra, me for CLICK: Concept, Andrew of Spittoon Extra for CLICK: Delish and Suganya of Tasty Palettes for CLICK: Reader's Choice.

It's time for CLICK November 2007 and the theme is noodles.

Make sure you follow the rules and link to CLICK November 2007 from your post. And don't forget to submit your image by 20th of November, midnight, Pacific Standard Time.

The judges, besides me, are:
Meeta of What's For Lunch, Honey? and The Daily Tiffin
Cynthia of Tastes Like Home
Sunita of Sunita’s world (Winner of CLICK-October 2007)
Bee of Jugalbandi

Noodles must be the edible kind: cooked or uncooked. This kind will not do! So get clicking, send in your entries and inspire us with your creativity once again! The event is open to blogger and non-bloggers alike.

And did I mention that I am a judge?!

What did they eat?

My knowledge of native American tribes and their customs was limited to what I saw in the movies. Inscrutable faces, masked further by paint, on rugged bodies that rode horses on narrow seemingly-impassable trails. Bows and poisoned arrows, spears and guns. A language that was barked, rather than spoken. The first humanization, so to speak, of native Americans came in the guise of Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves. This movie was very poignant and showed how close the Sioux were to the land they lived on. The overall message was much deeper and rather relevant to the Save our Planet impetus.

Last year when Medha started learning Colorado history, which included the lives of the ancient people or the Anasazi, I was transfixed. I would wait for her to come home and tell me what she had learned at school! Cliff dwellings, kivas, petroglyphs and pictographs, their art, their food, their animals and their pottery. Coiled pots got a new meaning!

I was a parent chaperone on a field trip to the Boulder History Museum and the CU Henderson Museum of Natural History. Having a van gives you an edge as you can transport up to 5 kids! That we got lost and I went to Boulder History Museum first instead of the CU Museum is another story. All the thank you notes that came back voted that adventure as the "most fun" part of the day!

This is an ancient pot in the Anthropology Section. Photography of the exhibits was not allowed but I was allowed to take pictures of the kids when they were being addressed by the museum personnel. The picture above is a crop from one of those pictures!

As the projects rolled in, Medha started doing research online and while helping her find information and pictures, I found an intriguing set of pictures of Mesa Verde National Park. I had hoped to make it there some time this year but the stars and the planets did not align well enough for that to happen. Instead, I made a new friend who is a reading specialist in New England and a world traveler.

We did, however, make a quick trip to Moab, Utah over Labor Day. There we saw a lot of petroglyphs in their original environs. Below are Ute petroglyphs that were carved into the rock between 1650 AD and 1850 AD. These are located at the base of the trail to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Moab.

Reading, seeing, and researching led to lots of information about native Americans. But what did their food taste like? There are no restaurants that I have come across that serve native American food. I knew then that I would have to either befriend someone who preserves their culture, including food or cook it myself. I haven't had the good fortune when it comes to the former, so the latter it had to be.

So we made Mohegan Succotash, Pueblo Chicken and Ute Tortillas. Recipes coming up in my next posts.

For now, I have to head out as we have a Hallowe'en costume to build!

I need me a Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatchers trap bad dreams and let the good dreams filter down to the sleeping.

I hope the native American folklore is true cos I think I need a dreamcatcher. My dreams have been very vivid and rather frightening.

Medha and I made the dreamcatcher in the picture above last year for a Navajo project she was working on. We followed these instructions as well as these and used material that we already had at home. The round frame is a clear plastic purse handle I bought from Michael's for a purse project that never took off.

The dreamcatcher usually hangs on the wall by her bed. Tonight it's going to hang over mine. I have a feeling she'll be there, too. In my bed, that is.

Oh, and I saw The Darjeeling Limited earlier this afternoon with a girlfriend. And, I miss India. The colors, the smell, the diversity. Most of all the trains. If you haven't seen it yet, go get your fix of India today. I enjoyed the movie, too. It's a Wes Anderson movie so keep that in mind.

It's Thank You time!

This is long overdue and I thought Friday would be a perfect day to look at my stats and say a huge thank you to all the wonderful blogs and friends out there who have been sending me visitors through this year. I'd like to begin by thanking all the wonderful Indian food blogs on this past post who continue to send relevant traffic to my blog. I have another 30 blogs that send me significant traffic. In alphabetical order, here are the first 15.

A Mad Tea Party is precisely that, a blog where you can let your hair down and have a good time. Anita is a very gracious hostess but do not underestimate her as the pen is her mighty sword and she wields it exceedingly well when she relates tales and recipes from her Kashmiri heritage as well as regional Indian recipes. Some of her stellar posts include her latest on her Continuing Discovery of Indian Cuisines, The Big Fat Kashmiri Wedding and Stuff, Food Glorious Food, and A Delhi Summer - On the Streets. These are just at the tip of the iceberg. Go dig through her archives for some, I mean gold!

A Pinch of Spice, written by SJ, tried out my Nutty Green Beans and came up with a low-cal version. She also has delicious Bengali recipes like Bhapa Ilish or steamed hilsa and Kolkata's Mishti Doi.

Ahaar, written by Mandira and Aswin, is chockful of recipes that are international as well as very Indian. They have a Healthy Sabzi Series, a Pumpkin Mousse that is just right for this season and a Pomegranate Rasam.

Akshayapaatram, written by Priya, used to filled with stories of student life. No more! The resident has graduated, got a job and moved to a kitchen she can call her own! If you didn't know, go over and congratulate her on her success. While you are there, insist on some of her Ginger Tea with Pav Bhaji.

Anna Parabrahma, written by Anjali, and not Anna as I initially thought, is the only Koli blog around! Me dolkara, dolkara, dolkara dariya cha raja. Anjali has authentic Koli recipes as well as Koli folklore. It was a thrill to find out that she, too, used to be a red-check!

Chachi's Kitchen, written by Saju and family, is all about East African influences on Ismaili food. One of my best friends in Kenya used to be Ismaili and Saju's blog brings back many memories of the wonderful food her mother used to make for us. Don't miss her recipes for Matoke, Mandazi and Mogo. They are celebrating a triple birthday party this weekend so be sure to wish them!

Cooking 4 All Seasons, written by Srivalli, hosts the Microwave Easy Cooking Event and also has a series called Lunch box ideas. Her Nawabi Biryani is on my list of recipes to try!

Cooking Made Easy, written by Nidhi, has some great news for us! Nidhi has many talents, one of which is cake design. She was also a guest star on Emeril Live. Uh huh! She's a celebrity!

Cooking Pleasures, written by Meena Kandlakuti, also has great news for us. Meena makes a mean Mushroom Manchurian and a drool-worthy Nellore Fish Curry.

Dining Hall, is a community blog for food bloggers, started by Indira. I am a co-Admin at that blog and recently, with Sree's help, I redesigned the layout. Dining Hall is a food bloggers community web site, created mainly to discuss and exchange tips and pointers for fruitful food blogging experience.

Elaichi Etcetera, is written by the King of Thalia, also known as Pelicano. Pel is a treasure trove of information and has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. He has recipes from the world over, but Indian cuisine remains his favorite. That is not to say that one can ignore his Krung Kaeng Khiew Wan or in simple language, Thai Green Curry Paste.

Food Blog Desam, an RSS feeds aggregator, was developed by Mathy of Virundu and Indira. Mathy has an excellent post on Dining Hall explaining Food Blog Desam, how it works and how to get your blog listed.

India Inc., from Digital Inspiration, written by Anurag and Sweta, covers "the Indian Economy, Financial Markets, Currency movements, Commodity trading, Corporate Actions, Taxation, Branding, Marketing, Law, Sector and Company analysis, and anything which is of interest to the readers. In totality, it is a one stop shop for information about Indian businesses." Thank you!

Jugalbandi, written by Bee and Jai, burst on the scene only in Feb 2007 and have brought a new charm to the world of Indian food blogging. They focus on healthy recipes, garden like those possessed, and promote an overall environment conscious attitude. And once in a while, Bee rants and I, for one, love those posts! They love all types of bread, have a fascinating series of postcards from around the world and recently started a new Photography event called Click.

Lazzat, written by Rahin, has Quick N Easy recipes, a must-try yummy recipe for tava kulcha and more!

I raise a toast to you all!

Ancient Cuisines: Persia

I have always loved and been intrigued by Parsi food, with its medley of sweet, sour and spicy flavors and the abundant use of nuts. And I often wondered how different Parsi cuisine was from Persian cuisine that the Zoroastrians who fled Persia and sought refuge in Gujarat brought with them. I found my answer and a whole lot more in The Legendary Cuisine of Persia by Margaret Shaida.

I am not surprised that I love this book. It is not unlike yet another of my favorite cookbooks, Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts. It is filled with history, cultural nuggets and bursts with recipes.

Persia is the hinge between the Far East and the Middle East. Straddled between the Caspian Sea in the north and the Persian Gulf in the south, it forms a natural highway—and part of the ancient silk route—connecting Europe with Asia. It is a big country, its rhombus shape spanning more than 2,000 miles in each direction; and it is a high country, criss-crossed and encircled with mountain ranges. The central plateau has an average elevation of more than 3,000 feet and most of Persia's major cities, including the capital, Tehran, are between 4,000 and 5,000 feet above sea level; many of its smaller towns and villages are much higher.

I couldn't stop reading. Mountains have defined Persia. They have protected its lands from invaders, only allowing through armies that were the most determined and most fierce. The cuisine of Persia was made even more rich and varied because of these invaders. It absorbed the new influences and made them its own. There are many recipes and dishes that Persia has in common with Turkey, Greece, Italians and of course, the Arabs.

Persia - like Colorado - is high country with desert and semi-desert. However, unlike Colorado, the soil of the Persian plateau is more fertile. The mountains form a rain shadow over the plateau but they drop a lot of snow on the peaks. This snow has served to form natural reservoirs that provide a continuous source of water through the long, hot and dry summers. To save water and to minimize loss due to evaporation, the Persians built a series of underground aquaducts or qanat to carry cool waters from the foothills to the scorched plains. Some were as long as 100 to 150 miles! Despite modern pumping systems, this complex system of distribution of water still exists in Iran today.

As I leafed through the book, I found that I could relate to so many of the dishes. Their names, their ingredients and the method. And, I also thought: hmm! A few green chillies would really enhance the flavor of this dish! Persian cuisine is the delicately spiced version, with a lot less heat, of the Parsi cuisine that I love.

If you have lived in Bombay, then you have to have at least heard of the Iranian restaurant, Britannia, if not eaten there and gorged on their famous berry pulao. Berry pulao uses dried barberries and the original recipe is called Zereshk Polow, the recipe for which is in Margaret Shaida's book. Persian cuisine is known for the way they cook their long grained rice, their liberal use of saffron, dried lemon, and the combination of meat with fruit and nuts.

Anita wrote a short dissertation on saffron a few months ago. I found out some more about saffron in The Legendary Cuisine of Persia.

Saffron or Za'faran is native to Persia. By 500BC, it had spread to India in the east and Egypt in the west. The rulers of the ancient empires really had a good time with this spice. They used it to enhance the flavor of their food, to dye their robes and to perfume their banquet halls. In India, the robes of the elite Buddhist priests were dyed orange with saffron. In Egypt, it is said that Cleopatra used saffron for her complexion. Nero had the streets sprinkled with saffron water to honor his return to Rome.

Saffron was also valued for its medicinal properties. It was considered to be a good tonic for the heart. And, to relieve depression. Too much saffron could produce a state of euphoria and even death from compulsive laughter. It was also used as a sleep-aid. No Ambien CR for the wealthy, just bedding dyed in saffron. Saffron, despite its various properties, made its lasting impression in food. And it continues till today.

It takes over 80,000 blossoms of crocus to produce one pound of dried saffron. The process of collecting and drying saffron is labor intensive and it is no wonder that it is sold by weight in carats, like gold.

The leading exporters of saffron are Kashmir, India and Iran. Most of the saffron grown in Europe comes from Spain and southern France. And Spanish saffron is what we are used to buying in the US. And, although Anita will disagree, the Iranians believe that the most fragrant saffron in the world comes from the sunny plateau of Iran.

I have used saffron while making biryani, in pulaos and in meat dishes. I have either added it directly to the dish or soaked it in some milk before using it. The Persians do it slightly differently. They make liquid saffron, and then use that in their polows and beryan.

Liquid Saffron

  1. Ensure that the saffron is completely dry. If you feel it is not, take 20-30 strands in a mortar and place them in a warm oven for a few minutes.
  2. Add a pinch of sugar
  3. And with the pestle, crush the saffron and sugar to a fine powder.
  4. If using within an hour or two, add 4-5 tbsp warm water and allow to infuse to a deep orange color.
  5. If mixed with boiling water, saffron ground in this manner can be kept in a jar for several weeks.

Herbs like cilantro, dill, mint, basil, parsley and fenugreek also have a firm foothold on Persian cuisine. I had organic mint, regular cilantro as well as ginger-mango-mint chutney that were begging to be used. I also had a few tilapia fillets. My soul longed for patrani macchi so I went looking for banana leaves, found none and returned with corn husks instead. I made patrani macchi that night wrapped in corn husks and steamed. And with it, I served Sabzi Polow or Rice with Herbs and homemade yogurt.

Mint, yogurt, rice and fish. I couldn't have asked for more.

Sabzi Polow

Rice with Herbs

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/8 cup oil or ghee
  • 4 tsp liquid saffron
  • 1 cup of mixed fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, chives or leeks in equal portions
  • 2 sprigs of fresh fenugreek or 1/2 tsp kasuri methioptional
  • leaves of 2 fresh garlic or 1 clove of garlic

  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water and leave to soak for 3 hours or more. There should be at least 1 inch of water above the rice.
  2. Wash and dry the herbs so that they do not have any excess moisture
  3. Bring about 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a 3 quart pot or saucepan. Add salt to taste.
  4. Drain off excess water from the rice and add it to the boiling water.
  5. Bring it back to boil and boil for 2-3 minutes (longer for me at this altitude).
  6. Test the rice to see if it is soft on the outside and firm in the middle. If it is, drain the water and rinse in warm water. Toss rice gently in a colander.
  7. Put the drained out pot back on the stove, add oil and 2-3 tbsp water and heat until it sizzles.
  8. Sprinkle a layer of rice along the bottom of the pot. Alternate between a layer of herbs and a layer of rice, building it into a conical shape as you go along.
  9. Poke a few holes through the rice to the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon.
  10. Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean kitchen towel and place firmly on the pot.
  11. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes and then on low for at least 30 minutes.
  12. Take about 2-3 teaspoons of the rice and mix with liquid saffron and reserve this for garnish.
  13. Gently toss and mix the rest of the cooked rice and its ingredients to a warmed platter in a symmetrical mound. Garnish with the saffron rice and some melted butter, if you like.
  14. Also remove the crusty layer of rice from the bottom of the pot and hide it to enjoy later on when everyone else has gone to bed. No! I am just kidding, serve this on a separate platter.

Sabzi Polow, is the traditional dish of the spring festival, No Rooz. In India, we are familiar with it as Navroz or the Parsi New Year.

  • The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of oil and 1/4 cup of clarified butter. I used about 1/8th cup of oil.
  • I have made this rice with just cilantro and mint and it was delicious.
  • I have also made this rice the traditional way, as well as skipped right to step 7 using steamed and cooled basmati rice. I prefer the latter as it uses less oil and butter.
  • I also mixed the saffron rice with the rest, instead of using it only as garnish
  • My Sabzi Polow is an appalling yellow color instead of a rich orange color as I used regular Spanish saffron that I got from my Indian grocer. I can't wait to make this again with the high quality saffron that will be winging its way to me soon.
  • I'm sorry the picture isn't the greatest but I was under severe pressure. They had started clanking their forks on their plates and I was afraid the plates might crack.

I am sending this traditional, simple and flavorful recipe from Persia to Sunita for her Think Spice, Think Saffron Event.

Resources on the net:
Saffron on Wikipedia
Quality Saffron Importer in the US, with a lot of information about saffron, in particular Iranian saffron
Persian recipes
Ghormeh Sabzi - Persian recipes

Donate Smiles - Raffle Winners Announced

Donors: 109
Money Raised: $4,735


We exceeded the target of $3,360!! Thank you all very much!

Indira invited a little 3 year old friend to draw names of the raffle winners. The complete list is over at Indira's.

Hang on a sec! Hold still, those clicking fingers!

Did you bid on the sarees that I put up as raffle prizes?
No? You are free to click through to Indira's.
If you did, then you want to stay right here because the winners are: [drumroll please...]
Megha Abburu
Deepika Gadiparthi

Um, ya! The only two to bid for the sarees got the sarees! How cool is that?!

Ladies, please contact me as soon as possible with your mailing address. My email address is polarmate at gmail dot com

I am looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Oh, and Lee! If you are reading this, you won the Dark Chocolates made with Ice Wine (donated by Richa)!

Waffling with Pomegranates

Our pomegranate high continues...

We woke up to our first snow storm on Sunday. It was cold, the wind was blowing and I didn't want to get out of bed! The Saturday breakfast tradition has now become the Sunday breakfast tradition. I prefer to stay in bed while father and daughter hash it out between themselves: pancakes or waffles? How about eggs? Sunny side up or scrambled? Why don't we go out for breakfast? And it goes on. Except this last Sunday, the older party to this family tradition claimed to have severe body ache from scrambling to empty out the sprinkler system, getting up on the roof to chop branches, and shutting down the yard and preparing the house for the storm. And, yes, turning on the furnace. So I filled in rather reluctantly and struggled out of the warm embrace of my very comfortable bed to continue this family tradition.

Waffles, it was. And pomegranates on the side. Except that when I turned around to look at Medha's plate, she had meticulously filled every waffle-hole with a pomegranate aril and put some whipped cream on top. She opted not to add any maple syrup to this creation.

It looked way too yummy and I had to make my own. I didn't have the patience to fill each waffle-hole so I heaped my pomegranate seeds on top of a liberal (for me) whoosh of whipped cream.

It was excellent! The pomegranate added a sweet-tart juiciness to the waffle and the whipped cream just made it all better. I had to move quickly to take these pictures as the whipped cream was melting fast on the warm waffles. And there was an impatient set of teeth waiting to dig in.

Our favorite mix is the Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix. It has whole bunch of organic flours and sea salt with no sweetener. The texture of pancakes and waffles made with this mix is a little crumbly because of the organic corn flour it contains, and takes some getting used to. But once you are a convert, there is no going back to the regular brands. I follow the recipe for waffles that is on the packet to make crispy waffles.
Image taken from Arrowhead Mills web site

Having enjoyed every bite of those unique waffles, our Indian genes reared their heads and soon we were digging into some delectable pohe sprinkled with spicy sev.

What can I tell you?! Breakfast is best when it is not sweet!

The Pom of Life

Pomegranates originated in Persia and although the Spaniards brought pomegranates to the US in the 1700s, they are relatively new to the American diet. Pomegranate has been marketed as a superfruit only in this last decade. It's not new to us Indians though as it is grown in India, among other South Asian, African and Mediterranean regions.

Traditionally, it was used to treat diarrhea and dysentery. Skeptics question whether this ever worked. I don't know either but what I can tell you is that it was one of the few fruits I enjoyed when I was sick! Pomegranates are usually very expensive so when I saw a box of 4 for under $8, I couldn't resist picking up a box.

the first peek

Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C.

There are several ways to cut open a pomegranate. I prefer to have the knife touch as little of the beautiful red arils as possible. I score the skin with a knife as close to the crown as possible and pry it open as in the picture above. Then I score the skin from the stem to the crown, almost in quarters. I then pry open the fruit, revealing red ruby like arils, as in the picture below. I lose some juice but it's not messy either.


Medha came up with a rather innovative way to eat pomegranate. In my next post, of course! Until then enjoy some fabulous pictures of pomegranates from:
Matt Armendariz, a food photographer and stylist, and
Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi

Paunk this


This is the famous Surati paunk, which is fresh jowar (sorgum) seeds. Since fresh is out of the question for us, I jumped for joy when I found a packet of dried paunk tucked away in one of the shelves of my Indian store. All I had to do was soak it in boiling water for 15 minutes to hydrate it and it was almost as good as the plump paunk that wends it way from Gujarat to Bombay every winter.

Fresh paunk can be served as is but the more popular way is to mix it up like chaat. So I sprinkled some red chilli powder and some salt, added a dash of lemon juice, garnished it with some spicy sev and cilantro. Medha said it tasted just like all the other 'Indian junk food' I make and approved heartily. Tomorrow, I will make a spicy paunk bhel.

Millet is a group of closely related crops with small seeds grown in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. In India, the two popular types of millet are bajra and jowar. Bhakri, a roti that is typically flattened out by hand and is considered part of a farmer's staple diet, is usually made from jowar or bajra flour or a mixture of both. Millet is considered to have 'warming' properties and is therefore recommended for consumption during winter.

That makes paunk just perfect for the kind of weather we're having currently. A hot cup of tea and a spicy paunk mixture! Ah! The snow, the wind and the freezing temperatures outside don't seem so bad anymore!

And yes, Anjali, jowar is indeed called jwar or jwari in Marathi. But this post was an ode to my husband's roots in Surat. So what if he had never heard of paunk before!

Another Update:
Paunk, young green jowar kernels, are called hurda in Marathi. Jyotsna Shahane of The Cook's Cottage has more information. Hat tip to my multi-lingual friend, Richa of As Dear As Salt, who is also a fount of knowledge.

New business? Not!

Medha decided that her new business is going to be raking leaves in other people's yards. She has been looking at the yard across the street rather longingly, seeing $$ in the ever increasing litter of leaves. I have had my misgivings from the start; knowing her, I will have to finish the jobs she starts but she was rather adamant about it. Since our yard was the focus of our day yesterday, I decided to get rid of this banshee forever.

Unlike Gini, all I ever get from my neighbor's trees and yards is leaves, leaves and more leaves, far more than my own trees ever shed. I told Medha that if she is serious about her business, she needs to practice first and the best place to start would be in our own yard. Two birds with one stone! Jai and Bee whip up delicious smoothies to do that. I get my yard cleared of leaves and put to rest any visions of a raking business.

Call me wicked or anything else, but I had no choice! Within 5 minutes, she was done. Not with the yard but with the idea of the business. It's hard work and m'lady is not exactly built for menial labor nor is it her idea of fun. Especially when she has to go at it by herself. I explained to her that she could still do it but sub-contract the labor to the agile young man next door, who I borrow from time to time as a son-on-loan. She liked the idea of marketing his services for a commission but she thought that he would probably not appreciate it. And I agreed. I don't want to upset him in any way. You see, he is my lawn maintenance guy and in fall, he shifts his focus to leaf raking and by late fall, it's snow shoveling.

With that, she flounced off and went to join in the squeals and screams that were coming from the backyard that is kitty-corner to ours. There are 4 rambunctious kids in that household. All of them rake leaves. I wish I'd known that they came in handy for chores like this. I would have risked my life to have a few more. They were piling all the leaves onto the trampoline for the 'rise from the dead' game. One person had to go under the pile with their eyes closed and emerge as the rest chanted 'rise from the dead', and then that person had to try to catch one of the 'living' and identify that person. Lots more fun than what she was doing in our yard!

Leaf raking business? History!

Make your green chillies last longer

Bhaiyya, ek rupaiyya ka masala chahiye.

And depending on how often you bought from him or how well you knew him, the masala-wala, whose name was always Raju, would hand you some green chillies, kadipatta, cilantro, a small piece of ginger and if you haggled enough, he might throw in a limboo. I always got more cilantro or kadipatta, in addition to a limboo, as a reward for my loyalty. And I bought from him almost on a daily basis.

No Raju in the Indian grocery store. Just open bins with produce. No mix and match either. I don't shop there every week either. So my green chillies need to last between 3 to 4 weeks. I don't like to freeze green chillies as I feel they lose their flavor. I have in the past relied on packaged frozen green chillies but not only do I not get those anymore, I prefer the fresh green chilli.

Green chillies are known to have bacteria around the stem. This leads to early spoilage. When you bring them home, snap off and discard the stems, wrap them in paper towels, put them in a ziploc and only then refrigerate them. Now watch how long they last now! By the beginning of the 4th week, I do have some browning and spoilage but I no longer waste as many chillies as I did earlier. I can also go up to 3 weeks between each visit to the Indian store because I make my cilantro last longer, too!

Memories of Summer

Happy Dasara to everyone! May good always triumph over evil!

It was a gorgeous day with a high of near 80F but it was also very long and exhausting as we prepared the house and the yard for the storm. My main worry is that we may have a repeat of last October's storm.

Brrr! Cold!

The good news is that the furnace has been turned on! Even though, the rest of the week is going to be simply glorious. Almost like late spring, early summer.

Ah! Memories of summer!

And I am not the only one writing about or obsessed with the weather...

Turn it On!

It's been 33F every morning this past week, and dark when I drag myself out of bed. The temperature in the house dips to 62F and slowly warms up to 64F by the time Medha leaves for school. Turning on the furnace would help but the resident furnace cleaner is very reluctant to indulge in this particular activity. And in summer, he has the same feelings about turning on the air-conditioner. I couldn't bear it anymore the other day and I did the unforgiveable - I asked for the furnace to be turned on, oh please! A little voice piped up: But, Mumma, what about the Earth? Don't you want to save it? Of course, I do! I pontificate on it at every opportunity I get. So I wore all my ski gear, made some coffee instead and dug out the little heater.

Medha's room is very warm. Mine is a freezer as it gets buffeted by the winds. So I get the heater until I am warm under several layers of comforters.

It was 40F this morning but very blustery. A little person crept into my room and asked to wear my slippers as she could not find her own. Oops! Then she said: I really want to save the Earth and, I know my room is warm so I really don't need the furnace at night. But, the rest of the house is so cold that when I wake up in the mornings, I have hypothermia. Daddy, could you please turn the furnace on?

It didn't work.

It warmed up to a sunny but windy 70F today and it will probably be the same tomorrow. Sunday's high is going to be 39F with rain and snow. That's the high. The low will be 29F and it will feel much worse inside the house. I think I need a petition to get the furnace started by Saturday night!

Tonight is the Pom Cheer Night. We are going to freeze some more as we watch Medha and a whole bunch of young girls, aged 5 to 10, do the cheer at the high school football match. I've never been to a football game and I really hope those bright lights generate some heat! Brrrr! After that, we head to a friend's place for Navratri celebration. We will miss the puja but be just in time for pav bhaji. Yum!

When it's cold like this, I yearn for comfort food. A soupy something like Nabeela's Marag is just perfect! But given the deadlines at work, I need it to be quick as well. So last night, I reached out for Ammini's Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts and made Cheera Udachathu. With plain steamed rice, I reached my Nirvana and did not worry about the underlying problem with the furnace cleaner.

And, yes, spinach is very popular in this household. It's healthy, it's delicious and it's also a great alternative to Metamucil!

Cheera Udachathu

Spicy Mashed Spinach

  • 1 lb baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 2 dried red chillies, halved or 2 green chillies, sliced vertically
  • 12 to 15 fresh curry leaves
  1. Bring 1/4 cup water to boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat, and add the spinach to the
  2. Add salt and turmeric powder. Cook over medium heat until the spinach wilts completely.
  3. Drain the excess water and reserve for vegetable stock or to knead the dough for rotis and parathas. Let the spinach cool, then blend it
    to make a thick, smooth purée.
  4. While the spinach is cooling, toast the fenugreek seeds over medium heat in a small skillet. Remember that dry roasting enhances the flavor and reduces the bitterness of fenugreek seeds. However, fenugreek needs close attention while toasting; it turns reddish brown and tastes very bitter when over-roasted!
  5. Using a mortar and pestle, crush it into a coarse powder. Or if you prefer, grind it to a fine powder in your spice grinder.
  6. Heat the oil in a skillet, and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the urad dal, the green chillies and the curry leaves. Fry until the dal turns golden.
  7. Transfer the puréed spinach to the skillet. Sprinkle the toasted fenugreek powder on top, mix well, and cook for another minute or two.
  8. Cover and set aside for ten minutes, to allow all flavors to meld.
  9. Serve hot with plain boiled rice.

This is a very easy and quick curry to put together. You can increase the spicyness by adding more green chillies or dried red chillies, if you wish.

This recipe, and many more easy to make recipes, can be found in Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts by Ammini Ramachandran. I keep going back to this cookbook over and over again for heart-warming recipes.

Thank you, Ammini!

Do you Jowl?

This is way too hilarious to not share via a quick post.

Jowl (joul)

1. The jaw, especially the lower jaw.
2. The cheek.

Jowling (joul-ing)

1. The act of loosening one's facial muscles and shaking one's head wildly from side to side
2. The art of flash photography to capture ridiculous and hilarious expressions on the face of a person indulging in the act as described in #1.

Check out Jowlers.

Hat Tip to two very talented event photographers, Nate and Jaclyn Kaiser, who share their mind-blowing work on their photoblog, the blog is found. Don't miss their to-die-laughing post on jowling.

And on Flickr


Acrostic Poem

Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons tagged me for the Middle Name Meme. But I don't have a middle name. No problem! Come up with a name you would have liked to have had, she said. It was so difficult naming Medha and now I am being asked to name myself? Personally, I think my parents had the same problem. Why else would they have given us names like Neeta, Supriya and Manisha? Do you know how common these names are?

The meme asks me to

  1. Twist my brain to come up with one fact that is somehow relevant to my life for each letter of my middle name.
  2. Write a post with these middle name game facts
  3. Then tag one person for each letter of my middle name for this meme
  4. Hark on over to their blog to tell them of this mighty privilege.

Ah! I get it! She wants me to write an acrostic poem, just like the one Medha wrote for me on my birthday!

She spelled indispensable incorrectly and is a little messy but I love this! Especially the attractive part. I couldn't have asked for a more thoughtful birthday card!

Medha is not my first baby. No scandal here, so you may exhale, please! My first baby was my sister's son. I remember driving her to the nursing home with white knuckles. She told me much later that she had had several contractions on the way but she suffered through them in silence because she was determined to have her baby in a safe environment. I have a very low pain threshold and the result would not have been good if I had known how much pain she was in. Self-preservation at play!

My nephew was the first newborn I ever saw - newborn as in just. right. now. born. He is also the only infant I have ever seen do the walking or stepping reflex, a primitive reflex where the infant attempts to walk when held upright by the hands and its feet touch a flat surface. It's quite an amazing sight as they cannot support their own weight at the time. I was also convinced he was half-frog as his feet were angled just like those slimy amphibians and his toes seemed to touch his shins!

This wonderful child used to call me Misha. Just like his primitive reflexes and his frog-feet that straightened out, Misha also disappeared. His favorite statement was: Misha, tu jaaa!

To honor those lovely memories, I choose Misha as my middle name.

Meditative. I think. Sometimes too much. All in a good way though.
Intuitive. Rationale and logic are my middle name, really. But my right brain also works over time.
Sentimental. Do I really need to elaborate?
Honest, a bit too honest. So honest that I end up saying the right thing at the wrong time.
Assertive, without being aggressive.

I am tagging:
Inji Pennu
H - Gee! There's no-one on the DH memberlist whose name starts with H! The only blogger I could come up with at this wee hour was HKG but he has changed his name! So I am going to tag Pel. Why should Vee be the only one who gets to break rules! Hmmph!

I hope these Five Fab Bloggers check their stats and see where their referrals come from. I might not be able to leave a comment on their blogs till later tomorrow.

Where's the recipe? Tomorrow. But before I go, here's a cool interactive tool to help children (and bloggers) build acrostic poems. Also checkout this collection of acrostic poems written by children and teachers, alike.

IFR Nutology: Walnuts

After peanuts, walnuts are the next popular nut in our home. I used these liberally in the Spinach Toast I made recently and no-one complained. I toss them in salads. We munch on them just because. And, Medha takes walnuts and apples for snack at least once a week.

Her school finally started giving these poor kids a break for snack. Back in Chicagoland, they had snack in the afternoon as they had lunch rather early. When we moved to Louisville, it took Medha some time to settle down because there was no snack time and they were always rushed at lunch. Either they got there late, or the next class came into their teeny cafeteria earlier than expected. Even though they are allowed to stay and finish their lunch, no-one wants to eat lunch with kids from a higher grade or a lower grade. She lost a lot of weight initially because she just didn't eat enough. She came home starving but since she found that she could play outdoors even in December, she wanted to be out there with the rest of the kids. Eventually, I just had to pull rank and force her to eat.

Want to go play? Eat this. Don't want it? Don't like it? Well, you don't have to go out and play either.

I was done cajoling and explaining it to her, using Love and Logic. Needless to say, I wasn't very popular at the time and I sounded just like this.

Apparently, the school thinks that 4th graders need more nutrition so they have to bring in a snack. And there are rules: no yogurt or Gogurt tubes or fruit cups as they have a tendency to fly and land on the carpet, no cookies, and no sandwiches. Cheese and crackers, all types of nuts, and fresh fruit are welcome. So walnuts make a regular appearance on the snack menu.

And, a good choice it is. Did you know that you don't have to eat fish to get your weekly dose of Omega-3 fatty acids? It's right there in walnuts. A quarter cup of walnuts provides up to 90% of the daily recommended value for these essential fats. Walnuts also boost the immune system because they contain an anti-oxidant called ellagic acid. They are also known to have health benefits that range from keeping your heart healthy to improving cognitive function! My Dad used to joke that they are shaped like our brain for a reason!

My walnuts are California grown, unlike those devoured by some bloggers. I can only imagine what a treat it is like to chomp down some of these beauties!

Like pepitas, they are high in unsaturated fats and go rancid quickly if they are shelled and stored at room temperature. I store my walnuts in the refrigerator where they last for about 6 months or so. They last even longer when stored in the freezer. But I don't like my nuts that cold!

ChipIn to Donate Smiles! and win prizes!

Hunger and poverty claim 25,000 lives every day.

524 million of the world's hungry live in South Asia - more than the populations of Australia and USA.

One out of four children - roughly 146 million - in developing countries are undernourished.

One child dies of hunger every four seconds.

A UN report in May said that half of the world's under-nourished children live in South Asia, with most in India.

India's Prime Minister has gone on record to say that the prevalent rate of under-nutrition in the 0-6 age group in India remains one of the highest in the world.

Economists say that India's economy has grown at over 8% over the past three years. But despite the new-found prosperity of the few, close to 300m Indians still live on less than $1 (40 rupees) a day.
Quotes taken from various news sources and reports published by non-profit organizations.

What are you doing about it? What can you do about it? Even the Indian Government can't seem to wrap its head around a solution.

This is how we desensitize ourselves. By shrugging and saying, "It's not in my control." Indian food blogger, V. K. Narayanan of MyDhaba decided that it was high time he made a difference — a dent in these growing and alarming figures. He started an initiative he called Feed A Hungry Child (FAHC). is a not-for-profit charitable organization formed in a collaborative effort of the like-minded people from all around the world. It aims to replace the empty plates of the underprivileged children and replace them with ones of food. While FAHC addresses the holistic needs of each children it supports, it believes illiteracy, malnutrition, and other concerns can only be addressed when hunger is appeased.

With the help of dedicated volunteers, FAHC began to support a pilot batch of 14 children and their families since April 2007. FAHC is currently raising funds to support more children and their families. Funds from FAHC programs go directly to the children and their families in the form of food kits. According to their web site, FAHC does not have any paid employees or any other direct administrative expenses.

The goal is to raise $3,360 by October 23, 2007. The drive is called Donate Smiles.

You were wondering what you could do about it? Here is your chance to make a difference without moving from the warmth and comfort of your homes. And Indira of Mahanandi is organizing a raffle where you could win a whole range of prizes!

The raffle prizes are:
  1. Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts, Recipes and Remembrances of a Vegetarian Legacy by Ammini Ramachandran
    Donated by Indira
  2. A Gift Box of Spice Extracts
    Donated by Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice
  3. Two copies of Complete Digital photography by Ben Long
    Donated by Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi.
  4. Two autographed copies of Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran
    Donated by the chef and author Suvir Saran
  5. Two autographed copies of the just released cookbook American Masala by Suvir Saran
    Donated by the chef and author Suvir Saran
  6. Two prizes: Dinner for two each, wine included, at Suvir Saran's restaurant Dévi in New York City
    Donated by chef and owner of Dévi, Suvir Saran

  7. And I am adding to the mix by donating two ready-to-wear children's sarees as raffle prizes. A donation of at least $25 is required to be eligible for a raffle prize.

    Red Saree with red blouse, children's size 28 (Indian sizes), which will fit a 5 or 6 year old of average height.

  8. Dark Green Saree with a matching blouse, children's size 28 (Indian sizes), which will fit a 5 or 6 year old of average height.

    These pictures were taken indoors with light constraints. I will update the images as soon as possible. I did not want to hold up this post because of lack of quality images. The colors are quite true to life, though.

    There will be no shipping or mailing expenses (and this holds for all raffle prizes).
  9. Mountain Valley - Oil on Canvas 16 X 20
    Donated by Shilpa of Aayis Recipes
  10. A delectable Fair Trade Hamper with fabulous goodies
    Donated by Padmaja of Spicy Andhra
  11. A beautiful hand-painted plate with a name of your choice
    Donated by Mythili of Vindu
  12. 30-Minute Meals ~ by Rachel Ray
    Donated by Siri of Siri’s Corner
  13. Dark Chocolate Made With Icewine
    Donated by Richa of As Dear As Salt
  14. Cooking at Home with Pedatha by Jigyasa Giri, Pratibha Jain
    Donated by Shruthi, a friend of Indira's
  15. Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan
    Donated by Shruthi, a friend of Indira's
  16. Essential Andhra Cookbook with Hyderbadi & Telangana Specialities by Latif I Bilkees
    Donated by Shruthi, a friend of Indira's
  17. Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian
    Donated by Shruthi, a friend of Indira's
  18. Indian Cooking ~ by Madhur Jaffrey
    Donated by Maria, a friend of Indira's
I will (try) to keep this list updated as the prizes start roll in. The master list is over at Indira's. The response has been amazing and I am in awe of everyone's kindness and generosity.

How to Contribute:
  1. Click on Chip-in to donate funds using PayPal or a valid credit card. Please be patient as it could take a few seconds to load.

    If you cannot access the link above, please use this link instead: Contribute Now!

    Your contribution is sent to the Feed A Hungry Child Account, created and managed by Vijay K Narayanan of FAHC at State Bank of Travancore, Chittur, Palakkad, India.
  2. Each $25 donation will give you one raffle ticket for a prize of your choice.
  3. After you donate, please forward your payment confirmation message to, clearly specifying which prize or prizes you are interested in. Please mention how many tickets per prize, for example, a donation of $50 will buy you 2 raffle tickets for a cookbook.
  4. For all correspondence by email, please use the same email address that you have used for your Chip-in contribution. This helps us validate your entry to the raffle and to contact you should you win a prize.
  5. The event will be close on 23rd October, 2007 and raffle prize winners will be announced on 25th at Mahanandi, as well as Indian Food Rocks and Jugalbandi. (The drawing will be done manually).
If you need more information about donating to the cause or the raffle prizes, please contact me via comments to this post or write to Indira at

Go on! ChipIn now and help make a difference in a child's life.