Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lost in LA!

Who would've thought that I could get lost in what is practically my back yard?
And yet, it was entirely possible, and done on purpose: my objective was to drive through the canyons and Los Angeles Forest area between Santa Clarita and Palmdale, which is what we did, successfully. We even went off-road a bit, which I am sure privately horrified my Corolla, though she was very quiet and cooperative throughout. The best part: I forgot my GPS at home.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kashmiri Food

I love food, and I love the Kashmiri part of my heritage. I had always thought I had never cooked Kashmiri food- until recently when I finally read an actual recipe book on global curries, and was surprised to learn that my style of cooking has strong Kashmiri roots, with many of the dishes I make bonafide Kashmiri.

I wish I could put in words how much this shocked me. And yet, after the shock came acceptance- genetics has a part in the choices we make, and therefore since my mom never actually learned cooking from my grandma (who was Kashmiri), she probably unconsciously replicated the flavors of her mom's cooking in her own food, and I simply must be repeating her actions. Apparently Kashmiris dote on mutton- and guess who always orders it (or goat or lamb as substitute) when it is on a menu? yup that's me. Guess who thinks a bit of beaten yogurt improves any curry? me and my Kashmiri ancestors both. These discoveries are proving very comforting, they are.

I have therefore made up my mind to cook my way through Kashmiri culture, teaching myself the aromas and flavors my great grandma must have stirred over a pot near the Jhelum. I will write about my successes and failure as I progress, and hopefully my granny in heaven will chuckle along as she watches my progress.

There are some basic ingredients essential to Kashmiri food:
  • Red dried chili pepper- appears to be the primary condiment, it can be used whole or crushed, depending upon the dish.
  • White peppercorn- prized heavily, it is a subtle version of the black peppercorn
  • Ghee
  • Mutton
  • Onions
  • Yogurt
  • Mustard oil- perhaps the most unusual of ingredients in the list, it has a strong, nutty taste and an even stronger smell. The key in using this is to heat the oil till smoking, and then to right away reduce the heat, thereby using it to season and cook the food without burning the oil (thus preventing carcinogens). The US is yet to recognize it as consumable, and therefore this is available in Indian supermarkets in North America, marked "For External Use Only." Ignore the warning, and get cooking- it is as heart healthy as extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stuff happens

Been really stressed and depressed lately, so much so that writing on the other blog about cinema has been next to impossible. Nothing seems to matter any more. I really need to snap out of it, and I do realize that, but am not able to do it quite yet.

Nope, not quite yet.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden pix

My spring garden- I am a proud parent!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yummy, inedible Spam

I love spam emails. The subject lines are so friendly:

"Aloha! Here is what you were looking for"- wow really? someone knows exactly what I was looking for! how nice! its unfortunate of course that they are selling me phone tracking devices to investigate "untrustworthy loved ones" (actual quote).- it isn't what I am looking for quite yet.

"Wet and waiting for you all night"- I'm so sorry, but I do not want wet/dry unimaginables any time of the day/night. Sorry to hurt your feelings.

"I found a key is it yours"- Proper punctuation aside, its hardly likely.

"Housewives wanted"- by who? I'm not one and don't want one.

"At last found you" - now lose me. fast.

"This Spanish wants to talk to you"- me habla minimal espanol- sorry.

"Colon Cleanse" - They care about my health! aww how nice.

I can also "lose 30 lbs in 30 days"- lovely.

"Girls wont dump you anymore"- thank goodness for that!

Then there are the emails themselves- and I seem to keep winning lotteries! yay! Notice how the promotion manager is a Dr.

dateTue, Mar 17, 2009 at 7:13 AM

Dear Winner,
Your e-mail attached to Winning Numbers 1 - 4 - 26 - 32 - 39 - PB -18,which consequently won the lottery in the 1st category. You have just wonyourself the sum of ONE MILLION GBPOUNDS in the satellite software emaillottery conducted by Vermont Lottery Promotion.You are to contact ourCLAIMS OFFICER with the information below for Clearance.

CONTACT NAME: Mr. Ray GibsonCITY/ COUNTRY: LONDON, ENGLAND.TELEPHONE: + 447031922810, + 447031910579EMAIL:

Congratulations once more!!!

Dr. Grace PlaterPromotion Manager.

Apparently I am internationally famous, even among professors in the bylanes of Dublin:

The Irish Lottery11 G Lower Dorset street,Dublin Ireland.
Reference Number:RFIR/5043/3223/66Batch number:B5/R565-33

Dear Selected winner,
This is to inform you that you have been selected for a cash Prize of1,801,613.00 Euro(1 Million,Eight Hundred and One Thousand,Six Hundred andThirteen Euros) in cash.from International programme held on the 13thMarch 2009 in the United Kingdom.The selection process was carried out through random selection in ourcomputerised email selection system from a database of over 250,000 emailaddresses drawn from all the continents of the world which your email wasamong the first ten (10) lucky winners.

Contact the verification department by providing yourReference Number:RFIR/5043/3223/66Batch number:B5/R565-33

You are also advised to provide him with the under listed informations.
1:Full Name___2:Home Address___3:Nationality And PresentCountry___4:Age___5:Occupation___6:Phone/Fax/Sex

Email:cgnl_irishprocessingdpt@9.cnCall Now: +44 70457 0955
Yours Truly,Prof. Collette James.Co-Coordinator (Online Promo Programme).

And this of course has to be every one's all time favorite:

from dr_mohamed aziz <>
to dateWed, Mar 25, 2009 at 10:25 AM

Dear Friend
This letter must come to you as a big surprise,please kindly accept my apology for sending unsolicited mail to you I believe you are a highly respected personality considering the fact that I sourced your profile from a human resource profile database on your country. But please kindly delete this mail from your mail box if you are not intrested. I am DR. MOHAMED AZIZ, currently Auditing and Accounting Unit Manager with a reputable bank here,Bank Of Africa (BOA).I write you this proposal in good faith, believing that I can trust you with the information I am about to reveal to you.
The Business I am proposing to you is in respect of the sum of US$17,500,000.00(Seventeen Million Five hundred Thousand Dollars only) deposited in a Dollar account with my bank which belonged to Late Mr.Adreas Schranner an American who unfortunately lost his life in the plane crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 which crashed on January 31st 2000, including his wife. You shall read more about the crash by visiting this website;
My bank has made several efforts in contacting the family of Late Mr.Adreas Schranner or his relatives, but all effort have proved abortive as he had no identifiable kin's men. This sum of US$17.5m has remained unclaimed ever since then and nobody has come forward as his next of kin. The management under the influence of our chairman and member of the board of Directors has made an arrangement for the fund to be declared 'UNCLAIMABLE' and subsequently be turned to the reserve account of the bank. It is against the background of the foregoing, that i have decided to contact you for assistance and partnership, for you to stand as the next of kin to Late Mr.Adreas Schranner.
Because the banking law and guidelines here stipulates that if such money remained after 9years, the money will be transferred into banking treasury as unclaimed funds. With your permission this fund will be transferred to your private account abroad as the beneficiary and next of kin to Late Mr.Adreas Schranner All proof of claim and necessary documentation will be carefully worked out in your favour and I assure you of 100% risk free involvement and protection. Consequently, if you find this proposal acceptable to you and you wish to assist me, I expect your urgent response. Note that on the transfer of this fund into your account,35% will be your share in respect of the account provision and your assistance rendered during the transfer of the fund into your account, 55% will be my share being the codinator and the pillar of the transaction while the rest 10% will map out incase of any expensis that may occure during the transfer proccess.
Please endeavor to include your full name and address, private phone and fax number for our easy communication.Please keep our dealings very private and confidential. As I await your urgent response.

Thank you and best regards.
Your's Faithfully,

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Making Peda sweets, and getting ready for Holi

I haven't celebrated Holi in 10 years. Not only me, turns out the entire family here in California hasn't done so for a decade or even more. So this year, my husband and I have decided to throw a Holi party- we've sourced colors, wet and dry, and plan to have the festivities in our front yard, the Saturday morning following Holi (which falls on March 11 this year).

And what would Holi be, without some homemade sweets to share? Here is a recipe simple recipe for Pedas/Peras (sing.: Peda/Pera), that tastes just like it did back home.

1/2 lb Khoya
3/4 loosely packed cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raw pistachios
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tsp cardamom pods
2 tsp ghee

1- The sunflower seeds mimic the dried rock melon seeds my grandma used to add.
2- In the United States, you are probably only going to find Khoya in the frozen section of your Indian grocery store, and a popular and decent brand is "Nanak." This is fine- I have found no difference between this and the kind my mom one day made from scratch.

1- Defreeze the Khoya- leave it on the counter the night before, or put in under running hot water for about 10 minutes.
2- Grate the Khoya using a cheese grater- this will help the ingredients mix well. Spread over a large platter (see 1st photo)
3- Sprinkle in the nutmeg and brown sugar into the grated khoya, mix.
4- Break out all the seeds from the cardamoms (discard the outside), and pound the seeds into
a coarse powder.
5- Mix the cardamom powder into the khoya mixture.
6- Pound the pistachios roughly- you just don't want huge pieces, since the size of the actual peda is pretty small.
7- Heat a large saucepan over a low flame, and add the pistachio pieces and sunflower seeds- dry roast gently for about 2 minutes, until the sunflower seeds turns slightly golden. Remove from heat.
8- Add the seeds to the the khoya mixture and mix well.
9- Put the ENTIRE khoya mixture back into the pan, on medium heat, and keep stirring for about 5 minutes. The mixture will turn cookie-dough brown, and coagulate into a single mass. Take it off the heat.
10- Take 1 tsp of ghee and grease a large, flat platter.
11- Take the 2nd single tsp of ghee and smear your palms with it- steps 10 and 11 may seem
simple, but are crucial to the pedas forming properly.

12- Begin pulling teaspoon size pieces from your still-warm peda mixture, and roll into little balls. Sightly flatten each ball with your palm, and then make an indentation in the center with your thumb (see 2nd photo). This is the classic shape of a peda.
13- Let the pedas sit in room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving. They will harden a little, and keep their shape, even if you want to store them in a different container.

Serving, notes:
1- Because we added brown sugar, the pedas aren't too sweet- you can of course add more brown or even white sugar if prefer- just make sure you taste the mixture after adding the extra sugar in.
2- The pedas should be stored covered in the refrigerator- keep in mind that Khoya, the primary ingredient, is a milk product. They should last in the fridge easily for a week or more.

Total time: 45 minutes.

Low sugar, yummy and healthy (if not eaten by the bucketful)- pedas make a heck of a easy dessert- :D

Thursday, January 22, 2009

3 funerals and a wedding

I haven't posted here in so long- but the past 2 months have been really crazy.

After grandma passed away, one of my cousins decided to get married. Then, another cousin passed away about a week after that. And THEN my grandpa-in-law passed away 2 days ago! I was only really close to grandma, so the other familial events matter little- but they still had to be dealt with, which takes away time from worthy pursuits like blogging (though my husband heartily disagrees).

And I didnt make my CPA exams- again.

All this tempered with the fact that the fiscal year ended and all my clients are going crazy and we have all these audits to do- AND one of my managers left the firm, which didn't help matters at all. :S

Meanwhile, I've found that my comparatively new home has a secret blessing- we always wondered at the huge hedges in the garden- no green thumb, so had no clue wth they were. Come winter, all the buds spouted flowers, and it turns out they are camellias: in white, pink and every shade in between! Currently the garden looks positively magical, making me wish the summer stays away as long as possible.

The new home also has a secret curse- one of the bathrooms' wall has moisture in it- plumbing and reconstruction costs are magically (so much of the "m" word! Mr. Dursely would be unhappy :)) multiplying in my mind, and I will try to ignore incurring them until at least next fall.

Work calls- off I go............