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So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.~ 1 Corinthians 10:31

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Kahani

Kahani

Hello there !

This is nive.Author/web master of handful of joy.I am SAHM of two wonderful kiddos,wife of a Godly and very hardworking husband and above all the child of God,Christ is my savior.

If you are wondering about the title of this page,let me tell you,writing an ‘about’ page is quite a task,so I procrastinated and postponed it for long.’Kahani’ is hindi for ‘story‘.Say it like (k-ha-ni).

I have been always interested in food,who isn’t?Over the years,it became more than an interest,my passion to know more about what I am putting in my plate and what I am serving to my family everyday on the table.I have become more curious,conscious and attentive towards the journey food makes in order to end up in my mouth.Cultural aspect of the food attracts me.I find it very fascinating that how some food has so many different names and nationality though they shares very similar identities even though probably prepared very differently across the globe.

I am certainly not a picky eater.However like my mom always says,you eat first with your eyes, definitely plays the vital role in what I will try and what I will leave out if served  on table in assortment.The word ‘hate‘ is too strong of a word for ‘food’ in my vocab.Being said that,some are my favs and some I would not try second time,unless of course I am left in deserted island with that one food or die !Only time I would turn down the food completely is if it is uncooked or  too salty or charred and burnt beyond recognition or I  am being served the meat I do not eat.I eat only chicken/turkey and very selective sea food,so that is what i cook.

I am not good in creating recipes in my kitchen out of blue,though I certainly try time to time !My food is deeply influenced by my Indian heritage,my mom’s cooking,place I grew up, moved around,visited, live and the food shows I watch of course !

I am not always good in copycat the recipe verbatim  while cooking.I find the practice monotonous,limiting and not fun.So I  often end up tweaking the original recipe,many times in order to improvise with what I have in pantry for the lack of original ingredient asked for and sometime just to take a chance and see what comes out of it.I am also averse to measuring and I think it is because I  never saw my mom,grandma or anyone I know of growing up  measuring while cooking  everyday meal and yet they always served the best tasting food.Indians don’t measure in general,dare i say it.I have gotten better at eyeballing over the time.When I am not following someone’s recipe,I work in reverse order for the site

  • I note down how much I added “approximately” in the notepad as i cook, just to give you some idea.So my recipes are not exact,there is a room left for your imagination:-)

After coming to US,I have gotten my hands on baking.I am not an avid baker and you can say it is partially because of my dislike for measuring.But since I enjoy those baked goodies so much that I do take a pain to measure it and follow the recipe verbatim ,quite contrary to cooking ha ! So my kitchen philosophy in short would be something like

Baking is science,i follow the empirical formula i am presented with but cooking is an art.Spices and condiments are the colors.There are hardly rules which can not be tinker with your imagination when it comes to cooking.So add little bit of your imagination in your ingredient list,just don’t forget the love.

Since I am not an original recipe creator most of the time,I would link to the site of that amazing recipe creator,if there is a site.Else,I will mention the source I took it from.I would love the reciprocation if there is anything which I made and if you liked.All food Pictures are taken by me,if its prepared by me.They are not great looking,cutting edge food photography standard astonishing pictures but they are all mine !


My family and friends share some of their food passion here too.You will get the glimpse of the food prepared where they are,different country and surrounding.

I would love the comments/feedbacks if you have anything to say about,please don’t hesitate.So keep browsing.You may find something you like to serve on your table !!!Thank you for stopping by.

How do you cook for large crowd ? – Part 3 – Preparation

Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 in Service | 0 comments

How do you cook for large crowd ? – Part 3 – Preparation

So how did our day of preparation and serving looked like?

We had prayed and planned for big day. The day  finally arrived  and  we were  ready to get on with.

But wait….

It is easy to get so occupied in the details of the day. However I would say, it is even more important that you set some time apart to spend the time with the Lord, especially on the busy day like the one we had.Trust in Him to work out the details of last minute.Do not be anxious.

I felt the Holy Spirit at work in me at every step.I can not believe i am saying that with confidence because I am not cool like that of my own.

Now let’s get on the work: We had divided the entrée(enchilada and rice) among three of us. Our friends from small group,baked and brought countless batches of cookies and i don’t know how many pans of refried beans.{Those hands must be hurting hard after opening cans after cans,i can tell you that much}

Our menu: Chicken Enchiladas casserole, Rice and beans ; Cookie(any kind)  for dessert

Amount and serving

Chicken: 85-90 lb; Rice: 30 lb.; Beans (refried) – 11 sets of cans. Each set had 8 can (14 Oz can)

Tortillas: 24 tortillas/Pan; Enchilada pan (20 * 12 inches):14; Shredded cheese: 14 lbs.(16 Oz pack)

I personally used 3(24 Oz)cans of enchilada sauce and 1 lb of cheese per pan. However, if you wanted to you can get by being using little less of sauce and cheese. Each pan had 18 servings.

Word of advice

Know your stove top, heat distribution and pots that you are using.My lack of experience told me that i can hurry up the process by dumping tons of rice in a long big pot. I threw away 5 pounds of cooked rice. Very tall pot with tons of rice into it yielded the combination of overcooked gummy rice(think oatmeal) and uncooked crunchy rice at the same time.

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Why do you need an extra pair of hands and feet in your kitchen?

I was feeling very confident about the cooking day. Overconfident likely that I almost thought in the last minute that I don’t need any help following day. I was so wrong.

  • First, it is efficient as long as you are not having too many cooks in kitchen. I can not tell you the mountain load of chicken that my friend Paula deboned or the number of cans that she opened or enchilada pans that she layered.
  • It breaks the monotony of cooking. Paula and I had great conversations while cooking. We actually sat down, had coffee, laughed  a lot all the while cooking at such big scale.I do not remember this happening to me, ever before never.
  • By allowing someone to help you, you are also allowing the person to participate who may or may not have been able to participate otherwise.

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What amazed me?

Every one of our friend, who came there to serve with us or helped us in any manner, were so happy to do so. Genuinely happy.The spirit of God moving each one of us.

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At the field

We had cooked for 250 people in mind but only half of them turned up being the first Friday of the month. However number fluctuates and not set. Yes, it was momentarily disappointing until we found out that church from across the street where the ministry serves; let us keep the leftover food in their refrigerator to use in the following morning feeding. So actually it worked out well too.

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  1. I saw the people who have  the heart for homeless. People who are ready to step in their shoes literally for real and experience it for themselves.
  2. People using their gifts. Some of them were giving haircuts to those, who could not afford it otherwise.
  3. Youth and adult alike, serving and engaging in conversation with homeless.
  4. I heard the testimony of once homeless, now redeemed and life transformed by the power of gospel.
  5. I watched as adult teamed up with little kids and guided them as they passed the napkins and forks with smile from one table to another where our guests were seated.
  6. It was pleasure to see the kids making art, painting pots sitting along with the homeless man.

We are thankful for the homeless ministry like Taking It to the streets,who are being the hands and feet of Jesus and loving the least of these.It was the experience to remember.Each one of us who cooked,told the same thing,we can’t wait to do this all over again !

 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20

How do you cook for large crowd? Part 2 – Planning

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in Service | 2 comments

How do you cook for large crowd? Part 2 – Planning

How do you plan the meal for the large crowd?

If you have followed along our first part,you may have guessed that prayerful planning is the next logical step .We went through couple of  meal ideas from spaghetti and meatballs, soup and salad, pulled pork sandwiches,BBQ chicken plate,tacos to name a few.

Our first grandiose plan was to make chicken enchilada with rice and beans, sopapilla cheesecake for dessert. We quickly realized that enchilada casserole is far easier to make then rolling tortillas for 100s of enchiladas.You would agree right? Great thinking Emily and Camille! We also changed sopapilla cheesecake to cookies at that point. Wise step I would say.

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Serving through Taking it to the Streets ministry has many advantages. We didn’t have to do the ground work. Place to serve and logistical details were already laid out for us. Ministry provides serving plates, bowls, utensils, napkin, drinks. We only had to bring cooked food. Recently they added tables for our guests to sit down and enjoy the meal. Tray and table system worked beautifully together to make sure everyone was served on time and well fed.

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Couple of points that we thought through as we planned our big day menu (and changed parts of it)

  1. Keep it simple.You have heard it before. This is not the time to display your gourmet cooking skills. Prepare the time tasted recipes. Go through your list of easy recipes and think which one you can multiply number of times.
  2. Be aware of your kitchen capacity. Most of us are not the professional cooks. We are home cooks. Cooking for our family is the most we have done. Most of us do not have mega pots and pans. Most of us have small kitchen with single oven and limited refrigerator space. However do not let the space and equipment alone be the reason to say ‘NO’. Pray about it. Trust in God, He provides in ways you cannot think of. People have cooked in small apartment and tiny kitchen to serve in this ministry. Our God equips.
  3. Know the serving size. How much chicken-rice-beans/person? What pot and pan you are using to carry and serve at the place? How many serving each pot/pan has? We used the biggest aluminum pans that we can find (20 by 12) for enchiladas and smaller ones for rice and beans.You do not need to buy everything in big size.You need to think if it will be reusable for individual family purposes if unused. Great tip from Emily.
  4. Write down all the details on paper or phone and carry it with you while you are shopping. It is easy to forget and miss things.
  5. Shop with at least one of your cooking partner. We did. It was fun. It helps with the doubts that come when you are shopping at such large scale. We probably calculated the cups, pounds and cans couple of times while we were shopping, even though we had it written down. We changed original ‘ranchero beans’ to ‘refried beans’ on fly as we had planned originally. It turned out to be convenient and better plan but came with quick recalculation.
  6. Can the part of the meal be prepared ahead? Does it need to be cooked on stove top or it is oven baked or both? We all did part of the cooking, a day in advance. It helped us greatly.I benefited from prep ahead cooking that Emily did. She boiled her chicken a day before, which freed up her big pots that I borrowed later in the day. Huge help for me.
  7. Can you optimize the cooking time? I did most of my cooking on Friday morning for the casserole.I boiled the chicken first and cooked the rice in the chicken broth. It saved time by not having to bring the water to boil again and  rice was cooked in the broth goodness.
  8. How well the menu can be delegated among your helpers? Is your menu easy to divide and conquer or will it be unevenly distributed among your cooking team? If it is unevenly divided, is it easy to throw it together like pot of soup?
  9. Is the final dish easy to transport? How well you can secure the pots or pans? Will it spill over with sudden break, uneven gravel road, and slick rainy road(Yes,it does rain in Texas sometime!)? Something to think about.
  10. Does the meal taste good at the room temperature/cold or must it be served hot? We want to serve the hot meal to our friends but it can be challenging to keep the meal hot till the point of feeding. Your cooked food will likely spend some time sitting at your kitchen counter/table, some more time to travel and some time again to set, scoop and serve at the place. So it is important aspect of menu planning.

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Our shopping cart and checking lanes raised curiosity. Smile and answer the questions you may get. Small conversation can open the doors and windows for those who are hearing, possibility to bring one to Christ. Who knows where God is leading you to plant seeds?

Regardless of what your menu is, do not forget to pray throughout. You get clarity with time under God’s guidance.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

 

How do you cook for large crowd? Part1-Prayer

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Service | 1 comment

How do you cook for large crowd? Part1-Prayer

How do you cook for  large crowd of people?

Couple  of weeks back,we  had an opportunity to serve the homeless people downtown.We prepared the meal for around 250 people. I will be  first to admit, it is daunting task. I will also admit, it is  very much doable. Don’t get me wrong,the most I have ever cooked  is for our family thanksgiving and I thought that was overwhelming ha !So how do get past the number?

Prayer

Our motivation for the task we felt unequipped for

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40

When our team signed up to cook the meal for one Friday,it was the decision which we made prayerfully, weeks and months before.

I first heard about ‘Taking it the Streets’ ministry couple of years ago.I logically concluded that they minister to the people on the streets .Idea itself was  so way out of my comfort zone that I didn’t  try to learn more about it.Then over the time as you have it, I found out that they get together with them on every Friday.They serve them meal which opens the opportunity to share gospel with them at the same time.They do not just come to see them on Friday,they also help them with clothing and mentoring.

Feeding and sharing gospel at the same time resonated with me but making meal for 250 was totally out of my league. My problem were three fold

a)    I still can’t cook all by myself.

b)    I didn’t know who to ask to be my helper. Who would be willing to cook with me at such massive scale?

c)   Biggest of all,my pride came in my way.Few that I did know, I was very reluctant to ask. I don’t wanted to be dismissed by something like that ’wow, that’s a lot of people, you are crazy(not said but implied and rightly so :-))

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So I asked God, who has given me the desire to cook, to make it happen using me as his tool and bring more people into it.It required some big attitude adjustment in my part. It was not easy for me but was it worth it? Absolutely so.

One evening I met my friend Camille for after school treat with our kids.Over Italian cream cupcakes, out of nowhere, I just plainly asked her, “Do you want to cook for the homeless, some 200-250?”Her immediate response was,”I would love to. I have been thinking about it.This was God working in other people’s heart at the same time for this. We agreed that we need more helping hands. So we both started praying and few more months passed.

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Then I met Emily and her family, new to our small group, new to our church, new to Texas and the community, freshly transplanted from Louisiana and I was just getting to know her. For some crazy reason i dared to ask her, if she would be willing to join hands with us in cooking for crowd. It was pleasant surprise to me when she quickly responded back saying “Count me in, I will do whatever you need me to do”.

So my friends, our lead cooking team was born! I am so thankful to these girls that God brought us together for His purpose.They have pure heart to serve our Lord.

But wait,this is not the end of prayer yet. We three thought, more help would be better. So once again we did what we have done before. Pray. Once again, God initiated before we did. Our entire small group stepped in to help us in any manner that we needed the help.What a blessing it was to us.

Can you tell how God multiplied the helpers? Each person that He brought together was fully equipped and perfect for the role that they played.

 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7: 7-8

Sabudana Kheer (Tapioca Pudding)

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in Dessert | 0 comments

Sabudana Kheer (Tapioca Pudding)

Sometime you cook something or eat something and it takes you back in time and brings back the memories. So it is with this tapioca pudding.

Growing up in Hindu family I enjoyed many Hindu festivals.Many of these festivals involved ‘fasting’ as a part of the celebration. Length of fasting differs by underlying belief of the festival. Some fasting lasts till evening, some whole day.On some fasting, you can drink water and some you shouldn’t. One of those fasting experience that I remember the most happened during ‘Janamastami‘. (“Janam” means “Birth”,”Astami” meaning “Eight” in Hindi).Janamastami celebrates the birth of Hindu Lord Krishna on the eight month of the year. Legend has it that he was born on midnight, so those who fast, they continue to fast till midnight, without water.

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When fast ends, typically sweet and soft food is served on midnight.I remember my mom serving many sort of pudding along with different fruits to break the fast . Tapioca pudding is one of the item she served.

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  • Tapioca pearls comes in big and small sizes.I found the big size but would have preferred the small ones.It requires soaking for at least 30 mins,if pearls are big
  • Adding almonds, cashews,saffron are optional.
  • Pudding thickens as it cools down.You sort of want soft consistency,not runny,not too thick either,so watch as it cooks. 
  • My kids sampled it but did not care for it.Pearls softens and becomes transparent and i get questionable look on their faces 🙂

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Today,I am Christ follower.My views and ideas of fasting has expanded.I still enjoy tapioca pudding here and there though 🙂

 

Sabudana Kheer (Tapioca Pudding)

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 cup Tapioca Pearls
  2. 3-1/2 cups Milk (2%, whole)
  3. 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  4. 1/2 tsp powdered cardamom
  5. couple strands of saffron
  6. Almonds if you like

Instructions

  1. Soak the tapioca pearls for 30 mins at least.It will swell and double in size,takes less time to cook.
  2. Bring milk to the boil in a pot.
  3. Drain the water out of tapioca pearls.
  4. Add it to the boiling milk.
  5. Cook it until it is done,about 20 mins.Stir in between to make sure,it's not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add sugar,cardamom,saffron.
  7. Stir it well.
  8. Serve it at room temperature or chilled.
http://www.handfulofjoy.com/sabudana-kheer-tapioca-pudding/

 

Zucchini Raita

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Condiments | 0 comments

Zucchini Raita

As I was researching the food from  Azerbaijan-‘A’ country we are in.I came across this AZ blog.Browsing through the recipe,i stumbled on  Zucchini yogurt dip.It has all the elements of my liking and it was so quick,i couldn’t wait to make this.I am calling it “raita” because that’s what Indian will call this kind of preparation in yogurt !

Though my family likes Zucchini,they didn’t care for it in the dip like this.To them,it seemed like zucchini accidentally took a plunge in yogurt !  Me,on the other hand,could not get enough of it :-).

It goes well with chips or just dip your pita or naan into it.

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Zucchini Raita

Ingredients

  1. 1 Zucchini (used green)
  2. 1 cup regular yogurt
  3. 1 small clove Garlic crushed
  4. Salt to taste
  5. Olive Oil or drizzle
  6. Paprika to sprinkle

Instructions

  1. Wash and slice the Zucchini in circles.Spread it on the cookie sheet.
  2. Drizzle some olive oil on the top
  3. Roast it at 400 F until it is cooked through,15-20 minutes.
  4. In a bowl,mix crushed garlic and yogurt.
  5. Add roasted Zucchini to it.Mix it well.
  6. Drizzle it with olive oil.
  7. Sprinkle it with paprika.
  8. Enjoy with pita/chips/naan or just as it is 🙂
http://www.handfulofjoy.com/zucchini-raita/

 

 

Rosemary Garlic Bread

Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 in Bread | 0 comments

Rosemary Garlic Bread

Who doesn’t like the aroma of warm fresh bread out of the oven?I bet you like it even if you are not a carb eater  🙂

Somehow seeing the bread rising as yeast works through it, excites me.Making bread is such a living process .I like my kids to participate in this as little or as much they want to .I love to watch their expression as their eyes opens wide and they go   ’oh wow’  in slow motion to see the proofed and risen bread.I think, people should bake the bread just so that they can experience the process.

Our past two weekends have been sunny,warm and nice around here.It puts me in the mood to bake something and enjoy the outdoors at the same time.We did both.I had checked out the book by Bernard Clayton called ‘New Complete Book of Breads”. 

I followed the recipe and steps pretty close .Recipe doesn’t say dry active or instant.I just used instant yeast.It also uses parsley as one of the herb,i was out of it.Clayton is very specific about how much flour needs to be added  and in what stages of kneading and beating cycle to the minutes.It elaborates the variation of steps if you are using stand mixer,hand or bread machine.

I used stand up mixer with flat beater and dough hook in different stage of dough.Also i baked this bread at 350F since we have convection oven.Recipe calls for 400F and suggested to lower it by 50F ,if using convection.

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 Recipe makes two loaves of bread.I froze one after baking. It was crusty on the outside and soft in the inside. We loved it.

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Rosemary Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  1. 3 Cups White Whole Wheat flour
  2. 2-1/2 cups bread flour
  3. 2 packages Instant dry yeast
  4. 2 teaspoons salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  6. 1/4 cup olive oil
  7. 3 garlic cloves minced
  8. 2 small sprigs of fresh Rosemary
  9. 2 cups hot water(hot not boiling though)

Instructions

  1. In a stand up mixer bowl measure 1 cup each of WW flour and bread flour.
  2. Stir in yeast,salt,pepper.
  3. Add water and olive oil.
  4. Using a flat beater.mix the dough until batter is smooth.
  5. Add rest of the flour,1/4 cup at a time.
  6. Add garlic and finely chopped Rosemary.
  7. Change the flat beater to dough hook.
  8. Let it knead the dough for 7-8 mins at medium speed.
  9. You will see the dough it coming together.
  10. Lightly grease the glass bowl.
  11. Set the dough to rise covered in warm place,until it doubles in size.
  12. Divide the dough in two parts.Roll each part into a ball and let it sit for 5 mins.
  13. Flatten it each ball into an oval.
  14. Fold it lengthwise,bringing the seams together.
  15. Cover it and let it rise for another 1 hr.
  16. Bake at 350F on the middle shelf of the oven until outside is brown .
  17. Tap the bottom crush with your fingers,it should sound hollow.
  18. Let it cool before slicing.
  19. Enjoy
http://www.handfulofjoy.com/rosemary-garlic-bread/

Spaghetti Squash with meatballs

Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in NonVeg | 0 comments

Spaghetti Squash with meatballs

It has been a while since I have cooked something and blogged about it. Blaming it on cold around here, I have been slacking with cooking and  photography.

Yesterday was another full day. On the busy day like that, we often have easy meal. Spaghetti with meat ball belongs to that category.I added little bit of twist to make it even more easier and bit healthier for us.I have been meaning to use spaghetti squash for quite some time instead of pasta but we are not squash fan around here, so I was reluctant.

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I was very skeptical at the dinner table at first but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. My husband liked the change. My kids ate the meatballs not a fan of spaghetti yet .I personally liked it better than pasta. It is lighter, softer and sweeter than pasta.

We are not going to give up on pasta but we have this version in rotation now.Give it a try, you may be surprised.

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Spaghetti Squash with meatballs

Ingredients

    Spaghetti Squash
  1. 1 spaghetti squash
  2. 2 tablespoon butter melted
  3. Chopped parsley/basil
  4. Salt to taste
  5. Tomato Sauce
  6. 1-28 Oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  7. 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
  8. 2 cloves of garlic
  9. 1 red dry chili
  10. 2-3 Tablespoon Olive oil
  11. Salt to taste
  12. Meatball
  13. 1 lb. Ground chicken
  14. 2 Tsp Garlic Herb spices (Mrs. Dash)
  15. 1 Egg
  16. 2 pieces of bread soaked in milk and squeezed out
  17. ½ tsp sage
  18. 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder(optional)
  19. Salt and pepper to taste
  20. Topping
  21. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Roast the whole spaghetti squash for 30-35 mins at 400F.
  2. Once done,let it cool. Cut it in half.Using a fork, gently scoop out the pulpy-strands.
  3. Add melted butter. Season it with salt. Sprinkle it with chopped basil or parsley.
  4. In the meantime,while Squash is cooking,mix all the meatball ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Shape it into little meatballs.
  6. In a large pan, add olive oil, chopped garlic and red chili broken into pieces.
  7. Let it get warm in oil and release its aroma.
  8. Crush the whole tomatoes and add it to the pan.Also add tomato paste.
  9. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
  10. Add the meatball to the sauce. Cover it.
  11. After 10 mins, turn the meat balls.
  12. Let it cook for another 10 mins, covered.
  13. In a bowl,add spaghetti squash.
  14. Top it with meatballs and sauce.
  15. Garnish it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese/chopped parsley.
  16. Enjoy.
http://www.handfulofjoy.com/spaghetti-squash-with-meatballs/

Happy Sankranti

Posted by on Jan 14, 2014 in Celebration, Food-lens, Indian | 0 comments

Happy Sankranti

Today, Makar Sankranti is celebrated at my home back in India. Growing up,I always felt the dry spell of no festivities for almost two months ,after  Diwali, in November. Every year we celebrated this on Jan 14th.I always thought of it as the start of the  Hindu festivities for the year.

What I remember the most about this festival?

Eating, no doubt.Though there are  assortment of festive foods in general but I must add,most Indian festivals also have the tradition of feasting on very particular set of foods on a given festival.

The part of India where I come from,North-East,highlight of our meal was  ‘Dahi-chura ‘(Yogurt with pressed/bitten rice),along with laddus(sweet balls) made of puffed rice or sesame seeds and jaggery and ‘tilkut’.DSC_0034

Since everything was so sweet,my mom always made a side vegetable dish, “Aloo-Gobi Dum”(Potatoes with cauliflower and peas cooked in assortment of spices).DSC_0053

Astrologically,this is the time when sun moves to  the celestial path of ‘Makar’ ,zodiac sign of ‘Capricorn’.It indicates the end of the winter and start of the spring.  The day is also marked with holy bath ritual in many part of the India. Taking a dip in Ganges  river or the confluence of three holy rivers (Ganges, Yamuna, mystic Saraswati) is supposed to bring the atonement for sins. Every 12 years,”Kumbh Mela”  at the confluence of these three holy river is major event for devout Hindus.

However, the tone of this festival is not always religious. Every part of India celebrates it with different name and different food and traditions.”Lohri” in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana ,(North),” Pongal” in Tamilnadu(south),”Sankranti” in Andhra Pradesh(South),”Bihu” in Assam(East), uttarayan(Gujrat) are some of the different names.

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My aunt grew up in the state of Gujarat  where uttarayan is celebrated.” Kite flying is the highlight of the this day along with very specific set of foods, none that I grew up with.’Undhiya’,a very typical Gujarati dish,is the must have .

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This is how my aunt describes the day of the festivity:

  • A family hosts the kite flying event on the terrace.{ Most Indian homes are brick and mortar, concrete structure,with flat concrete roof, called terrace.I have many many fun memories of playing on the terrace with the friends. It is often a place to mingle and socialize with neighbors. }Many friends or whole apartment block gather together on the top of terrace for kite flying. The music systems with speakers are set up and ready to rock. The kids & the men start their kite flying festivities around 9 -9.30 in the morning.The ladies join in as early as they can, around noon ,since they have to be finished with prepping the feast
  • Each ‘roof’ is in competition with the ‘roof’ next to it.It is loud and screaming event with applause  directed towards soaring or fading kites.
  • Depending on whenever folks are hungry,people chow down on the food.
  • In the evening,everyone goes back on the roof with the ‘lanterns’ for another round of kite flying.

Typical,uttarayan Food may consist all or at least some of these :  gujju farsans (appetizer) – khaman, fafda, bhajiya, pakodas, samosa, patra,dhokla, ponk wada,  soda. All these these arebrought up on the roof while the dance, music and kite flying is going on.Regular festive food such as Biryani, Pulao, tea,lassi,  jalebi,Gulab jamun,you name it,is always there.

Happy Sankranti !

 

 

Making Paneer(Indian Cheese)

Posted by on Jan 7, 2014 in Indian, method | 1 comment

Making Paneer(Indian Cheese)

Couple of days back, I made cheese. Indian paneer precisely. Back at home in India, growing up, we always had our milk delivered everyday by a dairy man. Directly from the cow to the home. Raw milk. Not pasteurized.I vividly remember our milkman, riding his bicycle, with multiple milk cans hanging out on its side. Someone will come to the door with a pot as soon as he arrived. He asked,how much ?And we said,1 Kg or 3 Pao or something like that? “1 pao”, looked like a size of a metal cup.

One of our immediate duty was to warm the milk or we ran the chance of spoiling and curdling it.We never drank our milk cold and without sugar.To this day, the concept of drinking cold milk with no sugar sounds weird to me.Not adding sugar is certainly healthy though.

Most Indian family has the habit of drinking a glass of milk before going to the bed. Truth be told,I never liked drinking milk but I did like the curd(yogurt). Making curd (yogurt) is another everyday routine of most Indian. My Mom’s nightly routine for years have been setting the milk with starter right before going to the bed.You wake up in the morning with  fresh yogurt ready.

Paneer

Many times, if my mom feared that milk will spoil before we could finish drinking it,she made cheese out of it.I was thinking all this,when i was making it with our kids.

This is a great exercise to do with kids. Mine loved watching the whey and milk solids separating as soon as vinegar was added(Chemistry lesson anyone?). Draining the whey through the cheesecloth and hanging it down to drip for some time was quite fascinating to them.

cheese

Process

3/4 – 1 gallon of whole milk

1/8 to 1/4  cup white vinegar or lemon juice.

  • In a big pot, bring the milk to boil. Once it comes to boil. Add vinegar to it.It will curdle immediately. If it doesn’t curdle completely, add little more vinegar or lemon juice to  it.
  • Stir it to make sure milk solids are separated from the whey.
  • Spread the cheese cloth on the top of another big pot and drain the whey through the curdled milk. Once all the whey is out, hang it over the sink, making sure whey is completely drained.
  • Once done.You can press it down with something heavy like a skillet and let it set in a fridge. It flattens the cheese and makes the cutting easier later.

Paneer cubes

Serve

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I like the cut cheese cubes with just a touch of sugar or honey. There are many Indian sweets and savory dishes that you can make with this.I made saag paneer using it.

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in Indian, NonVeg | 1 comment

Chicken Tikka Masala

What is one of the popular Indian dish here among the American?

When i ask this question,more then often i hear Chicken Tikka Masala among other dishes in the list.My husband is no exception to this .He loves it with Shrimp Biryani.So i made it  for our Christmas Eve dinner.Kept it very less spicy so my kids can eat.

I was not aware of the popularity of this dish growing up but then there are so many yummy dishes out there,i don’t know about.I have a feeling the mild rich taste of the aromatic chicken makes it appetizing.

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‘Tikka’ in Hindi means ‘Patties’ and ‘Masala’ is ‘Spices’.So basically chunks of boneless chicken cooked in thick tomato and cream based spiced gravy.I have made this couple of times at home and i will admit,i have not been able to replicate the  smoky flavor of the chicken,i find at restaurant..Something to keep working on.I have often broiled it or grilled the marinade chicken cubes.Regardless,it has been well liked and devoured.

It is best served with Naan or pulao/pilaf.

  • Richness of the dish comes from heavy cream added in the last minute.
  • I stir crushed “Kasoori Methi”(dry fenugreek leaves) towards the end.It adds the essential aroma to the dish besides fenugreek is good for you.
  • Chicken breast are often used in this dish.
  • As usual i keep the spicness toned down for my family.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients

  1. 4-5 Chicken Breast cut in cubes
  2. Marinade Spices:
  3. 1-1/2 Tablespoons Cumin seeds ground
  4. 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  5. Juice of 1 Lemon
  6. 3 Garlic cloves crushed
  7. 1 tsp grated ginger
  8. 1 tsp Hungarian Paprika or 'kasgmiri mirch' powder
  9. 1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric powder
  10. 1-1/2 cup yogurt
  11. Salt to taste
  12. Gravy
  13. 1 (14.5 Oz) can of diced tomatoes
  14. 2-3 Cloves Garlic crushed
  15. 1 Teaspoon Ginger grated
  16. 1 Tablespoon Cumin powder
  17. 1/2 Tablespoon Coriander powder
  18. 1 tsp Garam masala powder
  19. 1/2 cup Heavy cream
  20. 1/2- 3/4 cup water
  21. Oil
  22. In the end
  23. 1 Teaspoon dried Fenugreek leaves
  24. chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. Poke the cubed chicken pieces with fork.
  2. Add the cubed chicken to the bowl and mix it with marinade ingredients.
  3. Let it marinade it for 4-5 hrs.
  4. Take it out from the refrigerator and let it come to the room temperature for 15 mins.
  5. Lay it down on baking sheet and broil it for 10 mins.
  6. Puree tomatoes,ginger,garlic in blender.
  7. In a pan,add oil.
  8. Add pureed tomato mix and cumin , coriander powder.Cook it for 5 mins.
  9. Add broiled chicken cubes.Add little water
  10. Towards the end,when chicken is done and gravy is of the desired consistency,add garam masala and stir it.Simmer it for 1 minute
  11. Add heavy cream and turn the heat off.
  12. Add crushed fenugreek leaves and stir.
  13. Let it sit for 10-15 mins.
  14. Serve it with Naan/Pilaf.

Notes

Fenugreek leaves adds the very aroma to this dish.It is available in Indian stores.If you can't find it,add 'Mint leaves'.

http://www.handfulofjoy.com/chicken-tikka-masala/