Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple Halwa- Courtesy: My Sis-in-Law!

My brother and sister-in-law were here last weekend and sure enough, the weekend went by very quickly. It is always fun to have them here and it is always fun to visit them in Spokane. My SIL and I had some heart-to-heart conversation this time on various interesting topics......OK, who am I kidding? Our conversations basically involved gossiping and we quite enjoyed it! Yeah, yeah, I know, "small people talk about other people;" but hey, it is OK to do it once in a while.......

My SIL got a bag of apples all the way from Spokane--- the plan was to make this dessert called halwa with those apples. Halwa is a dessert, that I think resembles fudge since it is so dense, that is traditionally made out of semolina/cream of wheat (sooji ka halwa). Then there is gajar ka halwa made with carrots (now available in Costco! Oh yeah!), potatoes, beet root, bottle gourd, apples.... you name it. And so, since I am not a very "dessert-person," she said she would make some.

Ingredients:

1. 6 medium sized apples (any red kind, not the granny smith kind)

2. A few almonds (blanched and powdered would be good)

3. 1-2 teaspoons of clarified butter/ghee- this is optional, apparently-- but I think it imparts a lovely aroma to the halwa.

4. Sugar (this is really per taste- I prefer not-very-sweet, some might like it sweeter, some might just prefer the sweetness from the apples themselves.......)

5. About a cup of milk (again, this is not needed, but I think it adds a better overall consistency to the halwa)

6. A pinch of cardamom powder for the mm-aroma!

Method: 

1. So she (my SIL) washed and peeled the apples and then cut them up into tiny pieces.

Peeling
Ready to go into the food processor
2. These pieces were then put into the food processor and err, I helped with this. So I ran the food processor to basically chop up the apple pieces into tinier pieces. We decided that the next time, it would be better to just mince everything up in the food processor.

Ready to be cooked
3. And then she took a pot, put in a couple teaspoons of ghee/clarified butter. She added some chopped up almonds to this and quickly fried them.

Almonds in
4. Then she added the finely chopped apples to this and started the cooking process.

Apples starting to cook
5. After about 15 minutes on medium flame, by which time the apples were looking nice and soft, she poured in a cup of milk (we used 2% reduced fat milk) and kept stirring everything up.

Milk added
6. She continued to stir for another 10-15 minutes until the liquid evaporated and the apple mixture was all nice and sticky. Towards the end, I added some sugar to it (just eyeballed it), while she continued to stir, so as to mix it all up. And that's it!

7. At the very end, she added a pinch of cardamom powder.

Apple Halwa ready to be served!
I tasted the apple halwa and oh, it was divine! It reminded me of "dumroot" that they make on special occasions back home-- you know, the halwa that is made out of bottle gourd. It is such a delicacy.

Apple Halwa- pretty close to dumroot!
The halwa was a perfect blend of sweet as well as a hint of tart (from the apples of course) and those almonds added a nice crunch to the dessert and of course, the cardamom powder made it smell heavenly. Delicious treat indeed!

Thanks, SIL, for making Apple Halwa for us-- it was excellent. Oh and I enjoyed our heart-to-heart conversations........ next time, we shall discuss ideas, like great people do! ;)

P.S.: This is not a dessert-of-sorts-- this is a REAL dessert!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chicken Soup for my boy!

My son was feeling a bit under the weather the past couple days. Apparently "there's a bug going around." I have never really understood this statement- I mean, there are bugs around us all the time (yes, I know that, thanks to my degree in Microbiology) and therefore these bugs are probably "going around" all the time, then why do doctors give you the same old sentence? No, really! If your child has a temperature, it's because of that darn "bug that's goin' around." Cold, cough, cold and cough, cold cough and fever, cold cough fever and tummy upset.........yep, everything is blamed on the same old "bug that's goin' around!" And oh, this happens throughout the year. Guess that's doctor-lingo for us, Moms and they probably figure that the best way to explain things to us is by saying, "There's a bug going around!"

So on Friday my sick little boy was all tired and for lunch he wanted soup. He asked me if he could have some chicken-noodle soup from Safeway. I said sure and then thought, hey, how about some home-made chicken-noodle soup for my boy? Home-made meaning from scratch of course.

I took:

1. A couple boneless, skinless chicken breasts- cut up into nice little bite-sized pieces

2. 1 veggie stock cube (chicken stock would be great), 2 cloves of garlic

3. Some on-the-go seasoning such as onion powder, garlic powder, italian seasoning (you know, whatever I thought would add more depth to the overall flavor.......), pepper powder, salt

4. Water, splash of olive oil

5. I did not have noodles and so I used some farfalle pasta (made sure my boy was OK with that!)

6. 1 Carrot- chopped up

How I made that lovely soup:

1. I took a pot, added the chicken into it and poured water enough to cover all the chicken. I added a splash of olive oil to this, 1 cube of veggie stock and also threw in a couple cloves of garlic. Oh and I added a pinch each of onion powder, garlic powder and some italian seasoning. I switched on the stove and cooked the chicken. Took only about 10 minutes for the chicken to get done.

Chicken soup on its way!
2. Once the chicken was done, I added 1 chopped up carrot as well as some farfalle pasta. Added some salt for the pasta. Covered the pot and let it all cook for 11-12 minutes (the time really depends on how long the pasta takes to cook). And that's pretty much it!

Chicken soup ready!
Right at the end, I sprinkled some black pepper powder and then served.

Chicken soup made with Mommy's love
My little boy simply loved the soup. It was so comforting. Not just my boy, but I loved the soup too! It was so simple and full of flavor. My boy said that it was way better than Safeway soup! Well, of course, it had to be--- it was full of Mommy's love.........(well, that's what I claim!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It is official...........

.......... that I dislike Brussels Sprouts!! Yes, the very ME who always goes around lecturing people on how important veggies are and how one has got to try different vegetables, how they are so healthy for your body, blah blah-di-blah........ I never thought that I, of all people, would ever dislike any vegetable- EVER! But sadly, this fact dawned upon me last evening when I made those darned mini-cabbages (yeah, they look like miniature cabbages) as a side dish, with much enthusiasm, I must add. No, it wasn't the odor. It was just that the taste was simply indescribably pathetic- ugh!


Ugh!

I chose to just cook them on the stove and so this is what I did:

1. I prepped them up by cutting them into halves and then giving them a quick wash.

2. I poured in 3 teaspoons of oil in my pot and go the heat going.

3. I added a teaspoon of cumin seeds and when they spluttered, I threw in those Brussels Sprouts.

4. Added salt, some red cayenne pepper powder and sauteed it all for a minute or so and then covered the pot with the lid.

5. After 5-7 minutes, I switched off the stove. The lovely green color was retained and I was all happy!

Looks beautiful, sure!
Before serving, I added a dash of lemon juice. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? And it looked really good too.

My son took one bite and scrunched up his face and said, "I can't eat this, Mom!" Meanwhile, my daughter was quietly eating, though her face was all scrunched up too and she looked very uncomfortable. Now under normal circumstances, I would force my kids to finish whatever it was, even if they didn't like it. This time, to their surprise, I said, "OK," and took away their plates and dumped the horrible vegetable into the trash can. I ate some and put on a very brave face (while in reality I was all scrunched up inside!) and gave them a little "Mom Lecture" about how they need to stop being so fussy. Well, now call me a hypocrite, but I couldn't come to admit to them that yeah,  mom too hated it! Hey, I bet you have heard of this thing called, "Mom ego!" For a change, their Dad ate it up and even said he liked it. That was probably the why-make-my-wife-unhappy situation going on!

So there, after last evening's fiasco, I know I am not going to buy any more of this vegetable. Yep, I, very reluctantly, announce that I hate Brussels Sprouts!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kanda Pohe

I am back after a 10 day quick trip to India. My dad was not well, my mom had a fall, our dog died, leaving my parents very sad. My daughterly instinct kicked in and I had to go see them. And I sure am glad I did. The visit was very pleasant and I think I cheered them up a bit.

During my 10-day stay with them, my dad discovered this restaurant called The Peshwa Restaurant that specializes in Maharashtrian cuisine. Of course, we got all excited and set off in search of the restaurant. Driving in all that horrendous traffic, my dad finally took us to our destination. Mom and I rushed inside (you see, we were a trifle bit too excited!), while Dad parked, re-parked and then finally locked the car. We entered the restaurant and found only 2 guests sitting at a table. Disappointment set in as we thought that perhaps the restaurant is shut or maybe it is not that good a restaurant after all! But the red interior was far too inviting to just leave. And so we sat at a table, the waiter came and as soon we saw the menu cards, we knew it was going to be good! We ordered their "Gavran Jevan," that literally means "Village Food"--- food that is eaten in rural parts of Maharashtra. It was a feast! Here, you can check out their menu @ http://thepeshwa.com/.

I was thrilled to find "Pohe" on their menu. Out here, I have never found this dish in any Indian restaurant, ever. The only time I have seen anybody mention Pohe/Poha and cook it was in one episode of The Iron Chef, where Chef Floyd Cardoz made it. Incidentally, poha is known to be Lord Krishna's favorite food and in our family, we all love poha. Oh before I forget, for those of you who might not be familiar with poha-- it is basically flat beaten rice and available in varying degrees of thickness, ranging from very thin to thick. Yes, there's a medium variety too.

I have been having emotional withdrawal symptoms the whole of this past week and living so far away from parents certainly is no help. And so this morning, thinking about my short and sweet India trip and The Peshwa Restaurant, I decided to make some Kanda Pohe. "Kanda" in Marathi means Onion and so Kanda Pohe means pohe made with onion(s).

Ingredients:

1. 1 onion, finely chopped
2. A couple (or more) green chillies- chopped or slit- your choice
3. Peanuts- about 1 tablespoon
4. Cumin seeds- a teaspoon
5. About 2 cups of poha-- I used thick poha today
6. 4-5 teaspoons of oil for cooking
7. Salt, turmeric powder, pinch of sugar

Method:

1. Take 2 cups of thick poha in a colander and give it a quick wash in hot water. Alternately you could soak this thick poha in room temperature water for a few minutes, so as to soften the poha flakes.

Thick Poha
Quickly washed in hot water to soften the flakes
2. Take a pan, pour in a few teaspoons of oil and then add some peanuts and fry them. As they begin to turn brown, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds and just as they begin to splutter, throw in the finely chopped onion and green chillies. If you have curry leaves, you could add some, like I did today.

Peanuts
Onion, green chillies frying away
3. After about 5-7 minutes of sauteeing the onion, add salt per taste, a pinch of turmeric powder, followed by the softened poha and fold it all in. After mixing up everything, add a pinch of sugar and give it one more stir. For thick poha, you might want to add a quarter cup of water before covering the pan, just to make sure that the poha is nice and soft, else it might end up becoming hard and chewy.  


Note: This addition of just a pinch of sugar is very Maharashtrian. It just brings out the flavors even more (well, OK, I admit- when I don't know why something is added, I just say it brings out the flavor.......hey, even those Food Network stars say that!).

4. Cover the pan, cook it all together for about 5-10 minutes. And then eat and enjoy! You could garnish with some fresh cilantro and grated coconut--- mmmm! delicious!

Ready to be folded in
Almost ready!
Kanda Pohe-- delicious treat!
This morning's breakfast was lovely and while I sat all by myself at the table, savoring the deliciousness, I was transported back to my parents' place and the wonderful 10 days I spent with them......... 

Going  back to The Peshwa Restaurant- as we were enjoying our "Gavran Jevan," people started pouring in......... so I guess it is quite popular amongst the Maharashtrian crowd in Bangalore. Good discovery, Dad!