Gorgeous sunsets and Gajar halwa

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She stood gazing at the sky. The colors were gorgeous. Red. Blue. Yellow. Orange. Mesmerizing! Breath taking! The tiny rays piercing the clouds were shimmering in the dusky sky. The warm white sands below helped her relax. The lukewarm ocean waves washed her feet. Boat, steamers, sails were floating in an indistinct view. It appeared to drizzle or rain on a far island in a right corner. The sun was now a fierce orange ball. Dissolving and dying. Going away by the minute. The huge palm trees outlined the empty quiet shore making it picturesque. Dressed in green, she completed the spectrum. She was living a dream. Her dream. His dream. They were together. And nothing else mattered. Nothing else counted more. They walked hand in hand. “Was it an end of a year or beginning of another,” she asked herself? But finally, decided it was both. This will remain her best sunset so far. She hoped for many more such days.

Happy Birthday.. Happy Anniversary.. Happy New Year.. Happy Phulka 2nd Anniversary.. Happy Valentines.. So, I have missed a lot of time on this blog in the last couple of months. And I hear, I have been missed as well. A couple of friends, taunted, if I am cooking super special recipe with pictures, that require climate change – from Winter to Spring? Well, no.

So, where was I? Umm.. Lazying? Working? Biking? Traveling? Dancing? Cooking? Celebrating? Yes, I was busy with all these and many more! Still, doesn’t justify for my being MIA on phulka. Good to be missed, but I guess I deserve the bashing, for I was away for far too long.

But without any further adieu, I want to say, Happy Birthday, my dear phulka. It is great to be back, and especially since you turn 2 this week. On your birthday, I too entered a new era, a new series of 30s. And I bet 30 will rock. I wish, that we both grow together, learn from each other and adorn 2014 by whipping new recipes, clicking new pictures, garnishing haute meals, and inspiring everyone around us, especially, to cook and eat at home; may, be a tad more than we all do today! On the occasion of our birthdays, let me announce, that phulka would soon get a new look. A brand new site, a brand new landing page, a new set of side headings, recipe categories, and (almost) unlimited picture storage space! And many more. And your present is in works but coming real soon! Stay tuned!

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Phool Makhana Kheer

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Phool Makhana kheer

Many a friends of mine wonder why I prefer to eat at home, or why I insist on home cooked food or waste time in cooking when I live in the heart of Silicon valley where literally every strip mall on El Camino either has an Indian food outlet or an Indian grocery store. They cannot comprehend what makes me so eager to sweat in the kitchen; it’s not like it snows in Cali that I find comfort in the warmth of the gas burner.

Honestly, I didn’t know the reason either. Until, I started peeling the onion.

From those cold Chicago days, where I first started cooking/making phulka to get that home-feeling aka feel comforted in the food, to running a full fledged blodg, even if it is irregular at most times, I truly believe that cooking has helped me grow – as a person, an individual to a provider, a feeder, kitchen manager, grocer, and a chef. And besides this, I cook to bring people together, to host potlucks, to wow people, to feel incredible, to celebrate, to carry on traditions, to show I love, to share recipes, to share moments, and to share with family and friends. Simply, because food is comforting.

Cooking has such a feel good factor as it is tremendously therapeutic. All the chopping, cutting, scraping, baking, rolling, is such a stress buster. And because of all the reasons above, I enjoy cooking and am not doing this out of force. Let’s just say, cooking at home, helps me sleep better.

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Dahi Vada

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Every year, around this time, I close my eyes. And see this.

A large picture of Lord Hanuman, carrying sumeru parbat, is mounted on the wall. Below the framed photo is a grand wooden door, decorated with garlands of fresh flowers and a recently bought toran – a wall hanging – made of mango leaves and Lord Ganesh at its center. At the door edges, a string of colorful LED lights, blinking in rhythm, are pinned carefully. On either sides of the entrance, stood large banana trees to welcome you. There is shubh labh written in vermillion on either side of the walls attached to the main door – a common notation signifying good luck, abundance and prosperity. On the floor, there are rows of lit earthen lamps sitting along a meticulously drawn rangoli depicting a festive kalash.

And as soon as I step inside, I find a stack of mithai boxes and gifts arranged on the side table next to the divan. Before I can comprehend, I am instantly hit by a festive aroma – a combination of home made food including puri, halwa, gobhi sabji and dahi vade, and incense sticks, camphor, firecrackers, and mustard oil lit diyas.

I walk towards the mandir and find flowers, fruits, kheel, diya, batti, pappad, God Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi scrupulously arranged on the aasan and mummy, papa and sisters sitting crossed leg in new clothes – and doing aarti. And then I scream with joy, “I am home. I am home on Diwali!”

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Chocolate Cake (Hershey’s recipe)

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I don’t get to meet her often. We live miles apart. I don’t even get to text or email her much. I blame it on our busy lives, sigh. Sometimes, weeks pass as months, before I dial in her number and hear her voice. I feel I am getting lazy. And on rare occasions, I even miss wishing her on birthdays, anniversaries and festivals. But I know she knows me. I know, she doesn’t mind this a bit. I know, she wouldn’t hold this against me. For time is constant between us. She is my companion.

But whenever we get a window of opportunity to catch up, we can pick conversations without gaps. After, having spent years of growing up together, we can discuss everything under the roof – the old, the present and the road ahead – life, work, money and social norms. Anything and everything. She is my contemporary.

And almost always, her timings are perfect. She knows exactly what to say when I fret. She knows when to back off and not interfere. She is patient when I want to talk aloud. She corrects me when I am wrong. She inspires me when I am lost. She is my friend.

Recently, I went to meet one of my dearest friends, who lives in SanDiego. We hugged, laughed, watched movies, cooked, exercised, rejuvenated and cherished old memories and counted new ones. It had been a while since I last saw her – in-fact two years – the longest gap so far. But in those two days, not for moment it felt so.

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Toronto

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20130724-IMG_0070Toronto from Tour CN

Even though the smooth elevator was ascending, passing scores of floors in a blink of an eye, for the first few moments, I thought I was traveling back in time. And then almost immediately, it felt like Deja Vu.

As the elevator doors opened, the huddled crowd dispersed and immersed itself into one of the most spectacular views. Standing at the large skydeck, we were looking at the concrete jungle before us. Spreading far and wide, the landscape was dotted with tall curvy buildings, green lush parks, freeways, exchange roads, baseball stadiums, city trains and large open spaces that bordered the deep blue waters. From across the shore, small jets, were taking off from the island’s little runway. Everything and everyone appeared tiny from where we stood (543 m above ground) and yet so undefinably magnificent. And then I sondered – the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as our own—populated with our own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around us like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that one will never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk. And then I felt a tap on my shoulder. Still feeling lost in thoughts, I tried to focus on the vast faded prussian sky. The sun was warm and the clouds, like stretched cotton wool, hung loosely across the curved horizon. Moving to the bottom of this canvas, there were ferries, private boats and yachts docked along the lake front, as if sun bathing in the afternoon sky. A perfect urban city view.

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