Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Swap Round-Up: Spices and Nice Things

44 swappers all over the U.S. signed up to send a "Spice and Something Nice" package to each other. During the course of the swap, I heard from several people that they reveled in the delight of having a pen pal, that they had fun thinking of all the special things they could send, they felt a child-like excitement while waiting for their surprise, and that they ended up making a new friend. Would you like to see the goodies we exchanged?

1. Angela received chaat masala and kachoris from Priti.

2. Priti received copies of Sunset magazine, and ingredients to prepare one of the recipes from the magazine: smoked paprika and marcona almonds, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Angela.

3.  Supriya received a handmade potholder in her favorite colors, green Thai curry paste, and chocolates from Chaitanya.

4. Chaitanya received dhaba masala, buttermilk masala and yummy nankhatai from Supriya.

5. Sanjana received smoked cayenne, mixed herbs, Vietnamese cinnamon, smoked Spanish style paprika, TJ's dark chocolate caramel wedges, pretty fabrics and hand-knit dishcloths from Rebecca.

6. Rebecca received sambar powder, a spicy snack mix and a pretty fabric from Sanjana.

7. Swapna received homemade sambar powder and a beautiful niranjan from Viswa.

8. Viswa received dabeli masala and earrings from Swapna.

9. Sonali received rasam/sambar powder, chocolate and face cream from Sheela.

10. Sheela received pav bhaji masala, bhakarwadi, jeera goli, a kitchen towel and body butter from Sonali.

11. Shilpa Ag. received Maharashtrian goda masala and a picture frame from Noorie.

12. Noorie received Hyderabadi biryani masala, a bag of lavender (from a friend's garden) and a bar of chocolate from Shilpa Ag.

13. Isha received sambar powder (made by Anu's mom), Girl Scout cookies and a set of measuring spoons from Anu.

14. Anu received garam masala (a family recipe) and a book - The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni from Isha.

15. Pavani received vatha kozhambu podiidli/ dosa mulagai podiGood Housekeeping Cakes cookbook and a coaster from Usha. 

16. Usha received Andhra curry powder, a necklace and a bracelet from Pavani.

17. Rukmini received kokum (and a recipe of Solkadi), kulith flour (and a recipe for pithale) and a pair of earrings from Shilpa N. 

18. Shilpa N.  received rasam powder and lip gloss from Rukmini.

19. Riha received panchphoran and chocolate walnut cookies from Snigdha.

20. Snigdha received a homemade spice blend for roasted root vegetables and chocolate bars from Riha.

21. Ashwini received parippu podi, masalas to make rasam and vatta kuzhambu, and pretty floral cupcake holders from Aparna.

22. Aparna received Goan garam masala, mild garam masala and a spoon rest from Ashwini.

23. Shweta received home made rasam powder and yummy butterscotch, chocolate and Hazelnut cookies along with an assortment of M&Ms from Vindya.

24. Vindya received sumac, organic dark chocolate and earrings from Shweta.

25. Saylee received usal masala, a candle and a painting (by Surabhi's son) from Surabhi.

26. Surabhi received homemade kaalaa masala, suntha powder (dried ginger) and a smiley coffee mug from Saylee.

27. Almas received amti powder (made by Gauri's mom), smoked chipotle peppers with a recipe, and a Thai red curry paste, and salt caramel candy and some Indian candies for childhood nostalgia (mango bite and melody) from Gauri.

28. Gauri received dal gosht masala, chili seasoning from Hard Times Café (with a recipe for chili with bulgur wheat) and a lovely citron green tea from Almas.

29. Bharathi received a Mangalore curry mix and whole spices for chai from Neela.

30. Neela received rasam powder and chocolate truffles from Bharathi.

31. and 32. Unfortunately, we are unable to communicate with one of the partners in this pair of swappers and I'm still working on resolving that.

33. Pinal received Szechwan sesame blend, lemon verbana soap and a piggy egg cup and spoon for her little boy from Anupama.

34. Anupama received Mexican adobo sauceEthiopian spice mix 'Berbere'Ethiopian tea and plantain chips from Pinal.

35. Shilpa Ar. received garam masala (a special family recipe), homemade cookies and candles from Shalaka.

36. Shalaka received Maharashtrian masala, a seashore themed hook and Florida candy from Shilpa Ar.

37. Ujwal received kadhai masala, body mist and color markers from Divya.

38. Divya received sambhar masala (family recipe), homemade masala biscuits, a pair of earrings, and Hershey's chocolate from Ujwal.

39. Vidya received U.P. masala (which she already used in a soybean curry!), homemade date rolls and 2 books for her kids from Pallavi.

40. Pallavi received daal powder, Chettinad spice powder and jewelry from Vidya.

41. Sandeepa received all-purpose sambar powder and chocolates from Mamatha.

42. Mamatha received Bengali garam masala, all the ingredients for a quick khichuri, a jar of homemade organic ghee and dark chocolate (some of which reportedly vanished before the photo could be taken!) from Sandeepa.

43. Dena received Parampara egg curry masala, MTR bisibele bhath paste, garam masala, rasam powder, Orange Pekoe tea, chai masala, chivda, banana chips and a scarf from me.

44. I received two spices (Penzey's China Tung Hing cinnamon, Herbes de Provence, along with matching recipes for these spices), a cookbook, yarn, note cards and fabric (to feed my newly acquired quilting habit) from Dena. Yup, she spoiled me all right.

All in all, I think the swap was lots of fun. Thanks to everyone who took a chance and participated (and thanks for sending pictures so we can all share in the fun). Sambar masala and garam masala shared honors as the most popular spices exchanged. And lots of people seem to agree that chocolate and cookies are nice things!

For any of the swappers who want to play again, and for anyone who missed the first round, watch out for another swap announcement- I'm hosting family in April and taking a work-related course in May- so let's do this again in June.

As for me, I had a great time flipping through the cookbook that Dena sent me- Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven. Do you ever find your pulse quickening when you open up a cookbook for the first time? No? Just me? There's that delicious anticipation because you never know what fabulous recipe or idea is hidden within the pages, just waiting to be discovered and, er, blogged about. I've always loved Mollie Katzen's vibe- her cookbooks are vegetarian and flavorful and she illustrates them beautifully; this cookbook is no exception.

The first recipe that caught me eye was "Lentil soup with a hint of fruit". Doesn't that sounds tantalizing? Turns out the fruit is plump golden dried apricots, and they make for a very nice embellishment to quite-ordinary lentil soup. The resulting soup has a sweetness and you know I'm the world's biggest fan of sweet notes in savory dishes.
Katzen's recipe for this soup calls for cumin and dry mustard as the seasoning, with balsamic vinegar to add contrasting tang to the apricots. I simply modified my basic lentil soup recipe to include apricots, like so:
  1. In a pressure cooker, heat a little oil and saute a minced onion
  2. Season with cumin powder, a hint of chili powder and some minced garlic
  3. Add 1 cup whole brown lentils (masoor) (rinsed and soaked) and 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots. Add salt to taste and 4-5 cups water. Pressure cook. 
  4. Garnish with lemon juice and cilantro.
Although the recipe is titled "soup", this would be fine as a dal on an Indian thali. For the last two weeks, all three of us in our little family have been absolutely walloped by a respiratory virus, and this soup provided warm comfort. Have a great week, all, and I'll be back next Monday with a book-themed post.


  1. Hope you are doing well Nupur.
    Thanks for the awesome swap idea. Loved looking at all the pics.
    I've the same child like excitement when opening a cookbook or a cooking magazine for that matter. You have expressed it so well, now I know why I behave the way I do :-)
    Lentils with apricots sounds so exotic and delicious.
    Enjoy your work week!!

    1. Thanks for playing along, Pavani! I guess the excitement is what keeps us cooking and blogging.

  2. Hi Nupur, Thanks for sharing the swap details. It sure sounds fun and reminded me of the old times when I looked forward to correspondence from my pen pals.

    Good luck with getting over with the flu virus.

  3. The swap sounds like so much fun! Yes, please do hold another one in June. Can't wait to participate in it!

    1. I'm glad you want to participate in round two :)

  4. Wow! What a great round-up! It was really fun going through it. Thanks a lot for hosting this awesome event.

    Hope you all feel better soon.

    - Priti

    1. Thanks for being an enthusiastic participant!!

  5. The swap was such a fun idea and like you ( and most swappers here) I felt excited about my package and making a new friend. Lovely round up, Nupur.

    Hope you all feel absolutely fine soon. Take care.

    1. I'm so glad you played along- and so glad I was able to find you a partner even with e-mails lost in cyberspace!

  6. This was such a great idea. I was sorry I couldn't participate since I was travelling but looking forward to the next one!

    1. I'll be so thrilled if you participate :)

  7. Thanks for taking the time to carefully post all the swaps in such a neat and precise way.
    Enjoyed being a part of it
    Shilpa A

    1. Thanks for participating, Shilpa! The round up was lots of fun to put together.

  8. Hi Nupur, Thanks for hosting and posting the "Spice Swap" pictures. Wonderful to communicate with Sonali.
    Can't wait to participate in another event.June sounds good as I will be out April-Mid May in India.

    PS: Sonali will send you an email shortly!
    I think I am addicted to "Jeera Goli" now. It tastes good and feels nice to have it after dinner.

    Thanks to both of you!

    1. OMG jeera goli should come with a warning label! As a kid, I would love to sneak into the kitchen and try to find that stuff, then eat way too much of it.

  9. Oh My!!! I missed all the fun due to some technical problem due to which you dint recieve my mail on time. I will be sure to take part in June.
    Divya M.

    1. I'm sorry your sign-up e-mail got lost in cyberspace, Divya, and next time, I'll take steps to make sure it does not happen again.

  10. Thanks so much for hosting the swap, Nupur! I loved participating and I echo your sentiments about what I got out of the swap. Looking forward to the next swap. I hope you and your family are back to good health really soon.

  11. Great round-up Nupur! and a wonderful job organizing the whole thing. I am in STL this week and thinking of you :)


    1. I'm SO sad yours did not work out. Unfortunately that happens with swaps sometimes. I hope you're having a wonderful time in STL! Tell the city we miss it :)

  12. Thats a lovely round up. Its always such fun to send and receive something from fellow bloggers. I had taken part in the Arusuvai and it was real fun. Hope you are feeling better now..

    1. Next time, I'll make the swap international! The Arusuvai was SO much fun.

  13. Enjoyed looking at all the packages. I will try to participate if I can in June. I noticed the parampara mix and MTR bisibelbhaath in your package and I will try the latter. The parampara mixes are my goto especially when I don't feel upto cooking and I quite enjoy the restaurant type taste of the dishes.
    Hope you all feel better. I'm afraid we have been sick most of this winter with daycare bugs. Never fun!

    1. Hi Aprita- I like having these mixes around for once in a while use when I am too brain dead but want to make a quick meal (happens more often than I will admit). Boy this winter has been a real stinker for respiratory bugs around here. Glad Spring is almost here.

  14. This looks so much fun! Too bad I couldn't participate. Please do host another one, I'd love to be a part!

    1. Stay tuned, I'll post an announcement at the end of May :)

  15. It was great fun to participate in the swap. I have a new friend in Illinos! I enjoyed getting a peek into all the other packages. Thanks for doing such a great job with the "round up".

    I encourage all of you out there to sign up next time.


    1. Thanks SO much for participating, Angela. I was so excited to see what you put together. Glad it was a good experience for you.

  16. Hi Nupur,
    This is a lovely round up. I enjoyed taking part in this swap and making a new friend in the process. Thank you for organizing it and giving us something different to look forward to. Wondering what the theme in June will be ... another swap, another theme, another friend and another dream :) hey, that rhymed ;)

    Have a great time hosting family and finishing up your course work. Don't forget to keep posting though.

    1. Great question, Vidya. I've been thinking about whether to have the same theme or come up with something else- maybe we'll do a poll on the blog to see what everyone thinks. Oh, I'll keep posting- come back every Monday :)

  17. Hi Nupur,

    Thanks for the roundup. Lovely to peek into all the swap boxes. And nice to have made a new friend across in Philly! Looking forward to next swap.

    Get well soon. Hot water with honey and lemon mixed in worked really well for us for the cold/cough.


    1. Sonali- Thans for participating! Yup, we've been chugging the honey lemon and haldi doodh :)

  18. IT was a brilliant idea. We should do this often? :)

  19. Nupur, on a completely unrelated note, I've started reading Pandora's Lunchbox and its been intersting. Especially so since I'm still new to cooking and am trying to find a balance between making elaborate meals from scratch the way my mom used to and the convenience of the America supermarkets.
    Do check it out. On second thoughts its not unrelated to the make or buy call at all.

    Long time and regular lurker in these quarters of the blogosphere,

  20. Wow what a fantastic round up Nupur! And so nice of you to do this! I missed out this time but am looking Forward to the next one. Just wanted to mention how much I like your writing, your way of thinking, your love for reading... Perhaps this sounds strange coming from a stranger (I follow you religiously although I don't comment as often) but I identify with you... So much so that there are so many times when I read a post and think - it might have been me writing this! You have inspired more recipes in my kitchen than you know - and helped me discover authors I hadn't heard about. Thanks again and keep up the wonderful work. I hope you had a great gudi padwa!


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