Thursday, September 27, 2007

Much Ado About ..................Hair !

Crowning Glory, Cascading Curls, Tantalizing Tresses ! ....just a couple of expressions to describe ...you got it ...your hair :D ...I think most women (and men too) would give anything to have a head full of luxurious, thick and shiny hair ...I know I would !!! Why, I am sure that the hair care industry must be one the most lucrative ones in almost every part of the globe !
Given that, it should come as no surprise that our fetish with hair begins as early as childhood ! If not ours then our children's ! Well...I am kidding, of course (ahem...)
Even though my hair would never ever fit any of the above descriptions (sob...sob), I was happy to note that my son's hair was thick, curly and abundant (yippee, thus begins the obsession). In most of the households that I know, in India...there are various customs to be observed about cutting a kid's hair for the very first time...there is usually a time period during which this needs to be done (usually the first year or the third year), there could also be a big function where all relatives and friends are invited over.
Well, given that my son's hair was growing at a very fast rate, the husband and I doubted whether we could wait until his third year (he inst even 18 months yet ! ), we spoke with the authorities back home and were told that we could do it at home, on an auspicious day ! (You see, there is an auspicious day for almost everything). Its believed that you should not cut one's hair on the day of your birth, on Amavasya ( the new moon day), on Ashtami (the 8th day after the new moon or the full moon .....
So then, keeping all these missives in mind, we selected a date and set out to make our son's head a bit lighter !! It wasn't as difficult or traumatic as we expected...little P was happily playing with something at his dad's feet in the tub and his dad was merrily snipping away at P's curls (sigh)...
Once everybody involved was bathed and clean, it was time to think about the dessert to be made for lunch..you see, we don't believe in missing out on any opportunity to celebrate...with sweets of course !!
I didn't have time to prepare anything elaborate and I had the perfect recipe in mind...This was something that my mother used to make when the dessert was only for family...when the occasion didn't warrant anything lavish and yet...some sweet had to be made ....


kaDale beLe rave paayasa (Chana dal and semolina kheer)

Servings: 8




Ingredients:

1/4 cup chana dal
1/2 cup semolina (rava)
2 cups milk (tastes better if whole milk, but any kind of milk will do)
1 cup grated jaggery ( can substitute brown sugar)
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 cup cashews and raisins (optional)
2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)


Method:


1. Place the chana dal in a large sauce pan, cover the dal with plenty of water and bring to a boil..Continue to boil until the dal can easily be crushed between your fingers, but hasn't turned to mush yet.(about 25 minutes)
2. Lightly roast the semolina in a tsp of ghee.
3. Once the chana dal is done, drain away the excess water (this water is quite nutritious and can be used to make delicious rasams), add the milk, jaggery and bring to a boil again.
4. Add the roasted rava and mix thoroughly well.
5. Add the heavy cream, if using, cardamom powder and the nuts and raisins and stir.
6. If the kheer seems thick, you can add more milk.

The kheer is best served hot...but I enjoy it cold as well. It does become thicker as it cools. The creaminess of the rava complements the bite of the chana dal...This is a homely, simple kheer. I am not sure if I would serve it to guests at a party, but it is a great recipe to make in a pinch

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Very Berry Tofu Breakfast !

I think every nutritionist and diet advisor must concur that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day..one should have a nutritious, healthy and filling breakfast within an hour of waking up..The body gets a chance to refuel its glucose levels, you jump start the day with good calories and you are less likely to have a hunger pang in the middle of the day ! Many experts have also said that eating a good breakfast can also aid in weight loss, the key word here being "good"...I am sure the good doctors would not look too kindly upon chocolate covered doughnuts on the breakfast plate !
But the following options are healthy and can be quickly assembled for the busy working people out there :

* Ready-to-eat whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and a cup of yogurt
* Whole-grain waffles topped with peanut butter, fruit or ricotta cheese
* A whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced hard-cooked eggs
* Hot cereal topped with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves
* Peanut butter on a bagel with fresh fruit (banana or apple wedges) and low-fat milk
* Breakfast smoothie (milk, fruit and teaspoon of bran, whirled in a blender)

Other than these, there are scores of Indian breakfasts that you can whip up in the kitchen, some of them need preparation and a little bit of work and others can be made very easily if you have the right ingredients at hand:

* The ubiquitous idli, dosa and other fermented breakfast goodies.
* Upma (made out of roasted semolina and made healthy by adding veggies)
* Poha
* Parathas and chapaties with a side of vegetables
* .....and so many more...

A pat on the back for all those who regularly make good choices for their breakfasts and a simple advice to those who don't: Its not very difficult to incorporate breakfasts into a busy day...there are many grab and go healthy options and if you can do a little prep work the night before, it makes it all the more easier the next morning ! The benefits of breakfast are too important to eliminate it from our routines..

Here's an easy smoothie recipe that can be made in advance and the prep work is really very negligible :-)

Very Berry Tofu Smoothie





Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups frozen berries or berry juice
1 package soft tofu ( I used the Mori Nu silken tofu that comes in an aseptic pack)
2 tbsps honey
1 banana (any fruit can be used...I used a nectarine that was stashed away in the fridge...)
1/4 tsp each cardamom and clove powder (optional)

Method:
Whiz all the above ingredients in a blender.
Pour into container of choice and sip away !


Result:

The glass of smoothie was very filling...the tofu was virtually undetectable, but provided the protein nonetheless ! This is a very forgiving recipe, because any blend of fruits can be used..Its a simple, delicious and healthy breakfast idea !!!
Also, the recipe can be made vegan easily by substituting the honey with either maple syrup, or by omitting sweeteners altogether !

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane
Kesar Burfi

I admit it readily...I have a sweet tooth...doesnt mean that I hog down every morsel of sucrose in the neighbourhood...anyway...I grew up in Pune...and there was an abundance of sweet shops in the area that we lived in...apparently Puneites and I have something in common :D:D ..A visit to any of these shops..(especially Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale and Karachi sweetmart) was like a visit to sugary paradise ! Every wall in the shop was adorned with shelves, sagging with the weight of delicious looking sweetmeats..from simple pedhas to exotic looking burfis...from melt-in-the-mouth sonpapdis to succulent gulab jamuns...from creamy rasmalai to crispy jalebis..the list is endless: there was something to please every palate..
As far as I remember, the place was always packed ...I am sure that everybody had a tough decision to make...not about what to buy...but about what to leave out !!! I was always impressed with the immaculate cleanliness of the place, the precise order in which business was carried out ...and the polite service that was provided..One went in full of anticipation and always came out full satisfied and loaded with bags too :-)
That trip down memory lane is sufficient, me thinks, as far as an introduction to my liking of sweets goes ! As I have mentioned in my previous posts...my tryst with cooking has begun only since marriage..so I have been experimenting and trying out new recipes every once in a while..I came across a recipe for kesar burfi while browsing through Neelam Batra's 1000 recipes. The recipe caught my eye because the ingredient list was short and simple and sweet (pun intended !)
So I decided to try it out for Krishna Janmashtami (not that I need any excuse for preparing sweets, mind you )..The burfi turned out amazingly well and the husband was very pleased too ! The recipe is a keeper and can be modified with different flavourings to get different varieties of burfis !





Kesar Burfi

Yields:25 - 30 pieces


Ingredients:

6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 lbs ricotta cheese (can use low fat or skim milk)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 strands saffron
1/2 cup roasted cashews

Method:

1. Place the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and melt it on medium heat.
2.Soak the saffron strands in two tbsps of milk for about 20 -25 minutes.
3. Add the ricotta cheese and mix well. Stir the mixture well, for about 25 minutes,until the mixture loses most of its liquid.
4. Add the sugar and mix well.
5. Continue to heat for the next 30 - 35 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
6. You will know that the mixture is thick enough when it forms a thick ball around the stirring spoon.
7. Add the saffron milk, vanilla flavouring and the roasted cashews at this stage and mix thoroughly.
8. Pour out the mixture onto a steel plate or a baking sheet and pat it until it forms a layer of uniform thickness.
9. Allow it to cool a little and then place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to harden.

Ready to eat !!

Result:
The burfi is a little on the softer side, but utterly delicious.
This is just a basic recipe and can be adapted by changing the flavourings.
I am sure I will make this again.
This recipe yielded about 30 medium sized pieces.