Saturday, May 31, 2008

CLICK for Bri: My Raffle Prize

This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.

Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.

She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.

The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR.

The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.

There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer.

I have put together a small prize for the raffle- a Green Kitchen Kit that is designed to pamper the work-weary hands of the cook!

Everything in this kit comes in delicious “flavors” and fragrances. Here is what it contains:


1. A set of two dishcloths
2. All natural hand soap for the kitchen
3. A hand towel
4. A bottle of hand cream

Let me tell you a little bit more about the contents. All three towels are made from 100% cotton and are machine-washable. Each has been knitted by me over the past few days; every stitch made with love and care. Knitting is very therapeutic, and it is so fitting that these humble dishcloths might contribute to Bri’s healing. I chose designs that knit up to be thick and sturdy, perfect for all kitchen jobs. This is a closer look at the dishcloths, knitted in fun culinary colors.

They come with hand soap in a complementary warm “cinnamon and clove” fragrance. Made with plant oils and essential fragrances, this is an earth-friendly product that will also keep your hands happy.

The kit also contains this “coconut” colored hand towel; it has a pretty smocked, embossed look.

Finally, there is a hand cream with the most unusual and delicate “coriander and olive” fragrance. It is called “cucina” (kitchen in Italian), specially designed for use in the kitchen. I must say that I would never dream of buying such luxury products for myself, but I tested some of this cream in the store and was completely amazed at its utterly soothing and pampering feel. I knew I had to splurge on a bottle for this special kit. Neither the soap nor the cream has been tested on animals.

I hope many of you will bid on this kit; you know you want these goodies in your own kitchen! Please remember that every cent of your contribution goes towards Bri's medical expenses. So c'mon, bid on my little kitchen kit and make my day! But take a look at the other raffle prizes too...with cookbooks, stunning posters and prints and photography books and equipment, among other prizes- there is surely something here for everyone. If you have questions about this prize, feel free to e-mail me or to ask me via the comment form.

* The code for this gift is: Nupur's Knits
* Bid amount: US $25
* Shipping: Worldwide

After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.

Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account.

Thank you for your generosity!

P. S. My internet connection at home has been out for a week! If all goes well, regular programming (read: FOOD) should resume here again in the next day or two. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Tiny Giveaway

WINNER ANNOUNCED. Please scroll down to see who it is!

I wanted to share a little bit of my latest obsession with you all. Today, it is a humble dishcloth. It is the very first pattern I tried (Thank you, Rhonda K. White, for sharing this free pattern). For a beginner who is trying out anything new, the success of a first tentative project spurs one on to further dive into that activity, and that's what this little dishcloth did for me.


This paw-print dishcloth is made of 100% cotton yarn, and the color is called "jute". It made me very happy to make something with my own hands that can be actually used everyday! This dishcloth is very absorbent, can be rinsed off and reused dozens of times, and will happily save tons of paper towels in the kitchen.

Leave a comment on this post, and I will enter your name into a random drawing at 6:00 am CST Tuesday morning (May 27, 2008). I will be happy to ship it anywhere in the world. But you must promise to actually use it in your kitchen :)

And the randomly chosen winner is Mamatha!!! Congratulations :)
Mamatha, please e-mail me your address and I will send your tiny gift along in 2-3 days.

Many thanks to everyone who played along; I certainly hope I had enough dishcloths for everyone. But there will be more giveaways this summer (knitted goodies as well as books) so stay tuned!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Springing Back

Hello, everyone! I have been too busy knitting (see end of post) and being sick (nasty flu virus), so the blog was unceremoniously ignored for a couple of weeks. Seriously, this spring has gone down in my life as the season of respiratory woes. I'm still waiting for the day when I can breathe normally again :)

Yesterday, we had what I always think of as "hill station weather". In the heat of the Indian summer, people love vacationing in the mountains, in wildly popular resort towns known as hill stations. I always associate these places with bracing weather that is pleasantly cool- a sweet respite from the blazing plains. Last morning, we had some rain here in St. Louis and when it stopped and the skies cleared, the bright, clean weather and the freshly rinsed air felt so invigorating; it totally reminded me of family vacations in Khandala and Matheran. Hill station weather might prompt more outdoorsy folks to go on walks or hikes, but I must admit that the primary effect it has on me is a craving for some tasty, piping hot savories at tea-time. I made a family favorite, sabudana thalipeeth. Flattened shallow-fried patties of sago and potato. Normally, I love eating these with a yogurt-cilantro chutney. But I put a little spin on it. My good old Marathi snack had some Caribbean company.

You see, Zlamushka has come up with a brand new event. Every month, a chosen food blog will be opened up for mass testing and tasting, and the recipes from that blog will be joyfully cooked and devoured. This month, the Tried & Tasted event focuses on one of my favorite blogs, Tastes Like Home, written by soon-to-be-cookbook-author Cynthia. If you are ever feeling uninspired or your taste buds are a little jaded, visit Cynthia's blog for a jolt of freshness and flavor. Her posts are companions to her wonderful columns in the local newspaper. There are two things I really love about Cynthia's blog. Actually, make that three: I love the name of the blog..."tastes like home" is surely the highest compliment that can be paid to any food. Second: the way she brings food to life with her vivid pictures. This mango had me pawing at the screen. Third: her words ring so wise and true to my ears. Like when she says "Sometimes love means hard work" in this post, or when she says, "Nothing so sweet as sour" in this one.

That last post was especially tempting! Tangy food really does tempt me like nothing else can. So it was settled! I tried and tasted Cynthia's tamarind relish as a dipping sauce for my typical Marathi snack. See Cynthia's tamarind relish recipe here and my version (with small modifications) below. Sabudana thalipeeth has already been blogged by Manasi and my version is no different, but for what its worth, I'm typing up the recipe here.

Cynthia's Tamarind Relish


(Adapted from Tastes Like Home, makes about 1 cup)
¼ C dried tamarind pulp
1 t oil
½ medium onion, finely diced
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ t red chilli flakes
1 t coriander powder
2 T jaggery (or brown sugar)
1 t salt
1. Soak the tamarind pulp in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes. Press out all the pulp. Strain out thick tamarind juice and discard the seeds and fibers.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the oil.
3. Saute the onion, ginger, garlic until soft.
4. Add the tamarind pulp and the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thick and jammy.
5. Taste and adjust the balance of flavors if necessary. Cool and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Sabudana Thalipeeth

1. Knead together:
a) 1 C sabudana (sago pearls) which have been soaked in water, then drained thoroughly to get rid of the excess water.
b) 2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
3) ¼ C crushed roasted peanuts
4) 1 t cumin seeds
5) 1 fresh green chilli, minced
6) handful of minced cilantro
7) 1 t sugar
8) salt to taste
2. Divide the mixture into 12 portions. Place each portion on a piece of heavy plastic (good way to reuse some packaging bag) that has been wetted. Use damp finger tips to flatten it into a thin disc.
3. Heat 1 T oil in a skillet and fry the patties on both sides.

The spicy tamarind relish made for a wonderful variation of the usual date-tamarind chutney I normally make! Cynthia, your blog has been tried and tested and is certified "delicious"!! :D

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Meanwhile, the knitting mania continues unabated (ahem...that might be a bit of an understatement). I will always adore my kitchen but there is no denying that is a sudden new love in my life (all those who hate knitting and needle-craft can safely unsubscribe at this point). The only yarn I currently have on hand is plain old dishcloth cotton, so dishcloths it is! Actually, they are very satisfying projects to knit, because they are small and can be finished in just a few hours, and every new pattern teaches me a few new stitches.
Wanna see what I made?

Ballband (slip-stitch) dishcloth. My first time working with two colors together in a project. It is waaaay simpler than it looks!

Petal dishcloth. My first time working with a pattern that is some shape other than a rectangle!

And just to prove to myself that I can knit something besides dishcloths, I made a bath mitt. My first three-dimensional project. Yay :D

I also made another paw-print dishcloth and I'm going to give it away to one of you! Check back tomorrow to throw your name in the hat if you would like to have it :)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Taste of Rajasthan

Allergies still are shaping the daze of our lives here in St. Louis, but today I managed to pull my act together. I cooked up a flavorful and spicy meal for this rainy, stormy Saturday night that we are spending in the comfort of home. I've been missing out on so many food blog events recently, so I am delighted to be able to send this meal to Padmaja for RCI: Rajasthan.

Rajasthan: a Northern state of India that I am not too familar with. Rajasthan evokes images of dry dusty deserts, harsh living conditions, camels and oases, and rugged beautiful people whose colorful and vivid way of dressing belies the difficulty of their lives. I have never visited Rajasthan but my parents were there last year for a conference. My dad, an avid photographer, sent me some incredible pictures from their trip. Here is one of them...

Maharashtra is home to a number of migrants from Rajasthan- Marwaris who are traditionally recognized as being astute businessmen and tradespeople. For instance, the master carpenter who my parents relied on for every project big and small was from Rajasthan (but in addition to speaking his native language, he spoke Marathi perfectly...not just any Marathi but perfect Kolhapuri Marathi). But the only typical Rajasthani food I have tasted was at a Marwadi wedding. It was a sumptuous lunch, and I will never forget being served daal-baati-churma with an entire katori (bowl) of ghee on the thali for dipping the baati into.

The recipes for this meal came from a book that I found in our local library. It is called Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India written by a restauranteur from California named Lachu Moorjani. The book is organized into a dozen or so menus, feasts from different (predominantly the Northern) states of India. The Feast from Rajasthan features bharwan mirch pakora (stuffed pepper fritters) as the appetizer, sufed maas (white meat curry) as the entree, achari baingan (eggplant with pickling spices) as the side dish, Rajasthani pulav (pilaf) as the rice dish, batia roti (flatbread stuffed with salt, cilantro and spices) as the bread, and rasgulla (cheese balls in syrup) as the dessert. Quite an ambitious menu it is, and I chose just two dishes, the rice and the eggplant, for our little mini-feast.

The eggplant dish calls for a tomato-onion filling that is sauteed with a delicious medley of pickling spices. This tangy and spicy filling is stuffed into long Chinese eggplants and they are pan-fried to melting tenderness. The rice is pretty much a standard pulao, but is cooked in stock to make it more flavorful, and with aromatic whole spices. The spices used in the two dishes are completely different, complementing each other and in cooking both these dishes, I made use of almost all of the whole spices in my pantry! This meal perfumed my home with such a wonderful aroma, one that managed to pierce through even to me, with my current state of near-anosmia.

Achari Baingan
(Eggplant with pickling spices)

(adapted from "Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India" by Lachu Moorjani; serves about 3)
4 long slender (Chinese/Japanese) eggplants
2 T oil
2 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 t nigella seeds
½ t fenugreek seeds
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 t ginger-garlic paste
3 tomatoes chopped fine (I used canned whole tomatoes)
1 t turmeric
1 t red chilli powder (or to taste)
1 t coriander powder
salt to taste

1. Start by making the filling. Heat the oil and add the four seeds. Saute them for a few seconds to temper the oil.
2. Add the onion and fry it on medium heat until soft.
3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Cook uncovered on low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is almost dry. Let it cool a little.
4. Prepare the eggplant by cutting off the stem ends. Slice the eggplant lengthwise leaving it still attached at the stem end.
5. Divide the filling into equal portions and stuff the eggplants gently.

6. In a wide pan, heat the oil. Place the eggplants and cook them on low heat, turning every few minutes, until the eggplants are cooked through and are wonderfully tender. I covered the pan in the last 5 minutes of cooking to get them completely cooked.

Rajasthani Pulav


(adapted from "Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India" by Lachu Moorjani; serves about 3)
1 C Basmati (or other long-grained) rice
2 C vegetable stock
1 small onion, halved and sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 cardamon pods, crushed
5-6 peppercorns
5-6 cloves
1 t oil
salt to taste

1. Heat the oil. Saute the onion and the whole spices until the onion is slightly browned.
2. Add the rice and saute for a minute.
3. Stir in the stock, salt (if needed) and bring to a boil.
4. Simmer until the rice is tender.
5. Fluff with a fork and serve. Remove the whole spices before eating.

Verdict: What a wonderful meal this was! I love stuffed eggplants from all regions of India, but this dish was very different from the mostly Western and Southern style recipes that I normally use. I am thrilled to have another stuffed eggplant dish that I enjoy. It was my first time cooking with these long eggplants, and their sweetness was a wonderful contrast to the spicy pickled filling. This dish is finger-licking good in that irresistible way pickled vegetables are. As much as I loved the eggplant with the fragrant rice, I loved it even more with roti. Next time, I might make a complete Rajasthan-inspired meal with this eggplant, rotis, rice and Rajasthani kadhi.

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So it turns out that these days I have a new obsession on my hands- I have been bitten by the knitting bug. Cathy taught me to knit last year and left me with a ton of knitting supplies, including yarn and a superb book. Now that summer is here and I have more time on my hands, I decided to give it a go. I am hooked (no pun intended)! Knitting is so therapeutic. At one point, I turned to V and said, "Isn't it magical and miraculous how two thin sticks can turn a ball of thread into all kinds of stuff?". He looked at me warily and I am sure he thought it was just the antihistamines talking :D

Here is my first complete project- a little paw print washcloth; I found a free pattern online here. I know this is the sort of thing that people make when they are eight and a half years old, when they just start to knit, but I am excited all the same. I couldn't stop saying "whee" as I completed each line without dropping a stitch.

Well, I have way more enthusiasm than talent when it comes to knitting, so there is no danger that this food blog will turn into a knitting blog, I assure you. But tell me, does anyone have ideas for a simple and fun beginner project?

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Blast from the Past

As far as I am concerned, April showers bring May allergies! I'm taking a break from my relentless high-decibel sneezing, eye-rubbing and nose-blowing (yeah, it's real attractive) to bring you a childhood favorite. There are times when I am simply a slave to the taste memories of my past and this is one of them- Maggi instant noodles (cousins of Ramen) stir fried with tons of vegetables.

Nestle launched Maggi noodles in India sometime in the 80s, and they were marketing geniuses- they launched their campaign by giving away trial packs of these noodles to schoolchildren right in their classrooms! Marketing to kids- the same tactic that the tobacco people know and love and have honed to perfection, although perhaps it is slightly less morally reprehensible when it comes to instant noodles. One day, I remember going home with a bright yellow pack of Maggi and for better or for worse, these slippery spicy noodles are an undeniable part of my childhood memories.

This recipe is something my mother would make as a treat for us once in a while. We would come home famished after an hour at the public swimming pool and warm stir-fried Maggi would be waiting on the stove even though my mother had already left for work by then. This is a good example of how potential nutritional disasters such as instant noodles can be averted by the addition of enough wholesome vegetables.

Nearly Instant Vegetable Noodles

(serves 2-3)
2 packs Maggi noodles with Masala seasoning
1-2 t oil
3-4 spring onions/scallions/greens onions cut into 1-inch pieces (keep white and green parts separate)
1-2 C cabbage, shredded thinly
1 large carrot, cut into thin slices (a mandoline works well for this)
1 poblano pepper (tastier choice) or green pepper (milder choice), cut into thin strips
1 T soy sauce
Black pepper, freshly ground

1. Boil 3 cups of water and add the noodles (set the seasoning packs aside) for a minute. Drain the noodles and set them aside. Save a bit of the cooking water.
2. Heat the oil. Saute all the vegetables (except the green parts of the spring onions) on medium-high heat until crisp-tender.
3. Stir in the seasoning mix, soy sauce and a few grinds of black pepper. Between the soy sauce and the seasoning mix, you should not need any more salt.
4. Toss with the cooked noodles and some of the cooking water if the mixture is too dry. Garnish with the green parts of the spring onions and serve.

Before you all start rolling your eyes at this low-brow dish I have posted today, let me tell you that this blog has been given the Yummy Blog award by Shubha and Jamie. I want to thank you both for thinking of me!

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Shiny Happy Puppy

Dale is just back from Wolfgang's, after being spotlessly groomed. They use some ridiculously floral shampoo at that place, and Dale comes home smelling of roses! Quite literally. The first day he reeks incongruously of roses, the second day it is a bizarre mixture of rose and dog, and the third day he has the doggy aroma we know and love :D

Enjoy your weekend!