Category Archives: Holiday

Thankful for Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is over but that certainly does not mean that Pumpkin Pie season is over.

This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and instead of turkey, made Fondue Chinoise, a holiday tradition in my husband’s family. This is a meat fondue where you cook individual slices of meat in hot broth and then dip into one of many yummy sauces. Typically Fondue Chinoise is served with veal and pork and the sauces usually involve cream. We changed things up a little by adding chicken, fish and shrimp and making a couple of sauces that I could eat. We had a mediterranean sauce, a South Indian sauce that was essentially coconut chutney, and a homemade mayonnaise with freshly ground black mustard among others. After a three hour feast and plenty of wine, there was still the apple crumble my friend made to look forward to. Did I mention I love thanksgiving!

So the next day, we had planned on eating lightly. However, I had a hankering for pumpkin pie. After some research and finding this pumpkin pie recipe, we gave it a try. It was soft, spicy and just made my day. The fact that the pie didn’t have a crust bothered me slightly but it also meant that it was much less work. It was already quite dark by the time the pie was baked and we just had pie for dinner! And unfortunately it was too dark to get any decent pictures. One of these days, I’ll get around to experimenting with a gluten and dairy free crust that I can eat. In the meantime, I wanted to share this recipe, bad pictures and all, as soon as possible especially with those of you who, like me, have a lot of food allergies. Life is so much better when you can eat pumpkin pie!

dairy free gluten free no crust pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie that I can eat!


no crust easy fodmap pumpkin pie recipe

Yay for pumpkin pie season

Crustless, dairy free, gluten free pumpkin pie

Adapted from gluten free easily’s recipe

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can (16 oz) unsweetened pumpkin puree or 1 cup of homemade puree
  • 1/4 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup almond milk


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 inch pie dish with oil (or butter if you can eat it). Mix together all the ingredients and pour into the pie dish. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for another 25-30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

*I used regular table sugar or sucrose since I can handle it in small quantities. Please note that I don’t like my desserts too sweet and vastly reduced the amount of sugar used. I’ll be reducing the sugar to 1/4 cup the next time I bake this pie. For those on a FODMAP diet, you can try substituting with dextrose or glucose.








Filed under America, Holiday, Recipe

Top 5 Bollywood Love Songs

This post was originally sent out as part of my Valentine’s Day Newsletter and I thought it would be good to share in the blogosphere as well! And anyway, I think of this as Valentine’s Week.

Haven't seen the movie but this was the perfect picture for my post.


On this day week dedicated to the doings of the heart, I want to share with you some of my favorite love songs. As you may know, Bollywood – the movie industry based in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) leads the world in the number of movies produced. Indian movies are famous for their song and dance sequences, mostly around the themes of love, loss and heartache.

Any time there is a hint of attraction or the promise of new love, and a stern and overly traditional parent or evil gangsters get in the way of that love being requited, the hero and heroine break out into song and dance. Poems, songs and letters are often more powerful in getting your feelings across when you’re tongue tied. So when words are sometimes inadequate to express how your heart feels, jabh pyaar kisi say hota hai, when you fall in love with someone or if you can’t find the words to express those turbulent thoughts rolling through your heart, below are my top 5 Bollywood songs of all time that hopefully capture a thing or two about mohabbat or love. I’ve tried my best to translate the meaning behind the Hindi song titles to English. So much in lost in translation: the words are lyrical in Hindi but sound so flat in English. Where available, the videos of the songs display English subtitles.

It was a lot of fun to put this compilation together and I have to thank my friends for helping me . I spent a few blissful hours feeling all ooey gooey and my heart going pitter patter. Who knows, maybe you’ll serenade your sanam or lover with one of these songs!

To those of you familiar with Bollywood, I’m sure you’ll argue with my list! You know how hard it is to narrow it down to just five. What’s your favorite love song Bollywood or otherwise? How does listening to it make you feel?

So drum roll please, here it comes…

Best 5 Bollywood Love Songs *of all time*

Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko (Now that you’ve stolen my heart, don’t spurn my love)

Met someone and they simply snatched away your heart? Here’s a goosebump inducing song that got Dharmendra’s attention when the sexy Zeenat Aman sang it for him in the 1970’s movie Yaadon Ki Baaraat.

Tu Bin Bataaye Mujhe Ley Chal Kaheen (Without telling me where take me away someplace)

Yearning to get away with the love of your life? Do you find peace only when he is happy? This is a slow and sweet song from Rang De Basanti, a movie that was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2006 BAFTA Awards.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Tho Aisa Lagaa (When I saw her, she seemed to me like…)

He meets her and falls in love. He sees her and her beauty in everything. She is a blooming rose, sunshine in winter, a moonlit night, and a dancing feather. The movie, 1942: A Love Story, is set in the midst of India’s struggle for freedom.

Pehla Nasha (The first love, first intoxication)

Another song about that indescribable feeling of the first taste of love, the restless heart that yearns for its love to be reciprocated. From the 1992 sports drama movie, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (I’ve given away my heart)

To give the person you love their freedom back must be one of the hardest things in the world. In the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Ajay Devgan helps his wife Aishwarya Rai find her first love. Fortunately, she has a change of heart and comes back to him.

Love Always



Filed under Holiday, India

How Seven Beans Changed the World: Indian Coffee Part 1

Seven coffee beans were enough

It was the 17th century. An Indian priest, Baba Budan, went on a pilgrimage to the Middle East. He had had coffee and was so enamored of the drink that he wanted to take it back home with him to India. But the coffee bean and the plants were carefully guarded. Any beans sent outside the Middle East were boiled and sterilized so no coffee could be harvested.

Risking his life, Baba Budan strapped seven beans to his chest and smuggled them to the foothills of the Western Ghats in South India. The beans were planted and the bushes thrived. The area of Chikmagalur became the birth place of Indian coffee.

It was a very good thing that Baba Budan did not have to go through an x-ray machine at Customs because coffee then spread to the rest of the world from India.

But the story of coffee goes back another 500-600 years. Legend has it that a goatherd observed his flock eating some red berries after which they became very energetic. He took some of the berries to the village priest. The priest boiled the red berries in water and had a sip. Coffee was born.

Coffee cherries ripe for harvest

A coffee nursery


Today, while Indian coffee is very popular in India, especially in the South where it is grown, it is virtually unknown outside of the country. About 75% of Indian coffee is grown in the Southern state of Karnataka in Chikmagalur, Sakleshpur, and Coorg. India mostly exports coffee to the Eurozone and very little finds its way into the US.

Even with a sizeable domestic market, the life of coffee planters is not secure. Fortunes are made and lost with huge fluctuations in the coffee market. When Vietnam ramped up its coffee production, prices for Indian coffee dipped low. My aunts and uncles who live in Sakleshpur and have coffee estates say that another big problem today is that labor is very hard to get despite offering high wages and other benefits.

Many spices, such as pepper, vanilla and cardamom are grown along with coffee. This gives the estate owner some additional revenue. But the market for spices is not a stable one either. The prices for vanilla for example, a labor intensive spice as it has to be fertilized by hand, have gone as far up as 15,000 Rupees per Kg down to just a couple of thousand Rupees per Kg.

Coffee estates are beautiful and are a lot of fun to visit especially during harvest time. The coffee from my family’s estates is shade grown. This means that there is a diversity of tall trees providing cover to the coffee bushes below. The trees of course attract all kinds of birds. We’ve even spotted peacocks!

While coffee tourism has started, it is in its infancy and there are only a few coffee estates that offer home stays and tours of their estates. So if you are ever in South India, I’d encourage you to get off the well-worn tourist track and visit one of these estates to learn more about one of the world’s most popular brews.

Coffee estates are beautiful

Coffee pickers tallying up how much they picked so they can get paid

Pepper, cardamom, vanilla, oranges etc are also typicallly grown in coffee plantations

Gorgeous pepper vines are everywhere in a coffee estate!

You'll see all kinds of chili plants on estates as well

p.s. I’m back after traveling in South India for almost 6 weeks. I hope to get posting more regularly again.


Filed under General, Holiday, India, Spices

Bell Peppers with Aloo Gobi Stuffing

[This was originally written on 11/21/11 for a guest post on the Gnaana blog.]

One of my favorite things about Fall is Thanksgiving and one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is stuffing! And I was eager to create a new stuffing recipe based on the popular Indian vegetable dish – Aloo Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower cooked and sautéed with onions and warm spices). But apparently there is a shortage of organic cauliflower around these parts and my neighborhood grocery store was out of this vegetable.

My eyes spied the Romanesco Broccoli also called the Romanesco Cauliflower. Being fractal lovers, I knew my husband and I would appreciate it in our stuffing. But it does have a slightly sharper taste than cauliflower. Should I continue my search for cauliflower or would the Romanesco Broccoli work well with my recipe and would others like it? There was only one way to find out. I bought it!

Just one shelf down from the Romanesco Broccoli was brightly colored bell peppers, just calling out to me. My recipe took another turn in that moment and I decided to stuff them with my aloo ‘gobi’ stuffing.

Sometimes when I experiment like this or make too many changes to a recipe, the dish doesn’t turn out too well. Fortunately, this story had a happy ending. The bell peppers with aloo gobi stuffing were a visual and tasty treat.

So if you’re looking for an Indian twist this Thanksgiving, here’s a fabulous recipe for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gorgeous fall colors and the beautiful romanesco broccoli

Bell pepper 'cups' with aloo gobi stuffing

A vegetarian feast


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Filed under America, Holiday, India

For a Twist on Thanksgiving

All geared up for the big day tomorrow? If you’re like me, then you’re doing the last minute scramble and the to do list is still a mile long. Yikes! For those looking for a vegetarian alternative to the traditional thanksgiving meal or just an interesting take on the classics, there are lots of recipes. Gnaana, an Indian parenting resource, will be publishing my recipe, a fusion of the classic Indian Aloo Gobi with Thanksgiving stuffing, tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are a couple of recipes I published on the blog last thanksgiving (after the photo).

Fall bounty for a vegetarian pumpkin curry

Green Beans South Indian Style

Pumpkin Curry

Happy Gobble Gobble!

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Sweet Potato with Toasted Coconuts and Warm Jaggery Syrup

Sweet Potato with Toasted Coconut and Warm Jaggery Syrup

It’s been a week of sweets around here! The Indian festival of Diwali is on the 26th of October this year. As part of our celebrations, I’ve posted an Indian or Indian inspired dessert every day this week. All of them have incorporated seasonal, local ingredients.

Looking back to the previous posts this week, I’ve realized that I came up with a way to make all of them healthier, typically with adding less sugar or using a ‘natural’ substitute. The beets, parsnip, applesauce all substituted for sugar and added great texture and crunch. I didn’t really set out to make this a healthy Diwali, but if I have to eat sweets five days in a row, they had better not be bad for me!

Here’s this week’s lineup:

Monday – Golden Beets with Roasted Cashews (Halwa)

Tuesday – Kesari Baath: Easy Cream of Wheat Dessert with Parsnips and Dates

Wednesday – Cashewnut Squares with Spiced Applesauce (cashew burfi)

Thursday – Pear Lassi with Ginger and Honey

Today’s recipe is Indian inspired rather than Indian. The recipe just came together on its own after I baked the sweet potato and was wondering what to make with it. You get yams in India but they are sweeter than the yams or sweet potatoes you get here. Jaggery is unrefined cane sugar. It is sometimes also made from palm sap. The flavor of jaggery is quite different from that of refined table sugar.

Microwave baked sweet potato

Diced sweet potato


Jaggery syrup - reduced with green cardamom

Serves 3-4


  • 1 big sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (or unsalted butter)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut chips (frozen or dried, thaw first if using frozen)
  • 4 tablespoons jaggery (brown sugar or demerara can be used too)
  • 3 cardamom pods, slightly crushed

Pierce the sweet potato 3-4 times with a fork or knife. Cook on high for 8 minutes or till soft. Turn over half way through.

Peel and dice into 1 inch cubes.

Heat the ghee in a saucepan on medium heat. Toast the coconut chips for 4-5 minutes while stirring frequently. They should be lightly browned and crisp.

Heat the jaggery with 1/4 cup of water in a small pot over medium heat. Add cardamom pods. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 10 -15 minutes or till the sauce has reduced and is the consistency of maple syrup. If you need to, add more water.

Mix the sweet potato and coconut chips and drizzle the jaggery sauce over them.

This has been a very special week as I don’t often get to indulge in Indian sweets. Thanks for following along and Happy Diwali!


Filed under Dessert, Holiday, India, Recipe

Pear Lassi with Ginger and Honey

Lassi with pears and ginger

It’s turning out to be one of those weeks when everything happens all at once. Deadlines, errands, events, looking for a new apartment. Not to mention all the work it took to find affordable flights to India for trip in December  and the ensuing visa application. And oh yeah, dark gloomy weather when you’re trying to take pictures.

Or I could just blame it on the pears that were of the perfect ripeness. Just asking to be eaten.

So it came to be that I took the very popular Mango Lassi and made it with baked pears. Was it as good as the One Lassi? I’ll let you decide.

Even with this simple recipe, I had to make a couple of tweaks from what I’d planned. I blended 2 pears with 1 cup of yogurt first and it turned out to be too much yogurt. I added another pear and some honey to make the lassi a bit sweet. Feel free to add sugar or more honey to your taste. I always use freshly ground cardamom when making mango lassi. But the cardamom just didn’t pair well with the pear lassi. I ended up using ground cassia cinnamon instead.


Baked pear

Makes 2 tall glasses


  • 3 pears (I had 2 Bosc and 1 Starkrimson but choose the sweetest ones available)
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ground cinnamon

With a fork or knife, pierce the pears a few times each. Microwave on 80% power for 10 minutes or till pears have softened. Flip them half way through.

Peel, remove seeds and then blend with yogurt, ginger and honey.

Pour into glasses and dust with the ground cinnamon.

Sip and enjoy your dessert in a glass! And enjoy the rest of your week. I can’t wait for the weekend and to dream about all the places I”ll be visiting and all the food I’ll be eating in India!


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Filed under Cocktails, Dessert, Holiday, India, Recipe

Cashewnut Squares with Spiced Applesauce

Cashewnut burfi or squares

Its Day 3 of the Diwali Dessert week! Today’s recipe is inspired by one of my grandmother’s signature desserts – cashewnut ‘burfi’ or squares. But because of all the ghee and nuts that she used, she’d only make it for special occasions such as my birthday! After the ground cashews and melted sugar are cooked together, the dough is flattened out onto a plate and left to cool before cutting into diamonds. But I could never wait till the squares were formed and I’d get a small cup of the smooth and gooey dough. And then I’d eat it one spoon at a time slowly savoring its rich feel on my tongue. Eating the squares was just as tasty but a different experience entirely.

When I finished making this today, the light was already fading fast. The squares hadn’t fully formed yet but I had to shoot the pictures. I regretted not having cooked the cashew dough a while longer. But then I remembered that I preferred it this way.

Traditionally, the ingredients for this dessert, also called kaju katli, are cashews, sugar, ghee and either milk or water. Instead of milk and most of the sugar, I added spiced applesauce. This was one of the suggestions made when I asked for what local / seasonal ingredients you’d like to see featured. I’ll confess that I wasn’t sure at all if the slight acidity of applesauce and the nuttiness of cashews would go together. But I loved it. It was surprisingly good. I was relieved as I didn’t have a back-up.

Organic applesauce

Roughly ground cashew meal

Cashewnut burfi before laying out to cool


Lightly toast the cashew meal for 2-3 minutes on medium low. Simmer the applesauce with the cinnamon, clove and sugar in a thick bottomed pot. Do this for about 8 minutes on medium heat or till the sauce has gone slightly past bubbling to leaving the sides of the pot.

Add the cashew meal and ghee and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly for 5 minutes while incorporating into a dough. If you can take a small amount of the dough and make into a ball, it is ready to cool.

Smoothen out in a quarter inch layer on a plate. Leave to cool for 2-3 hours in the fridge before cutting into squares or diamonds. Or if you’re like me, just scoop some out into a bowl and dig in right away.

Thanks Grandma.

Cashewnut squares or kaju katli

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Kesari Baath – Easy Cream of Wheat Dessert with Parsnip and Dates

Kesari Baath - cream of wheat with almonds, dates and parsnip

It’s Day 2 of our Diwali Dessert week. Didn’t catch the golden beets with roasted cashews yesterday? Tut-tut, but I’m sure this will corrected very soon! Today, we’ll be making Kesari Baath (saffron semolina pudding) but again with a twist. It’s also called Sooji Halwa in North India.

Indian sweets use a lot of sugar. I can’t eat much sugar so doing a week of desserts is a challenge! I mentioned yesterday that low glycemic sugar alternatives like coconut crystals are a great sugar substitute. Today’s dessert uses parsnips as a natural sweetener. Cool, huh?!

Another trick while making desserts less sweet is to heighten the experience by adding different layers of texture. The dates in the recipe do this but also add some sweetness as well. The nuts add great crunch. When I make this again, I think I’ll chop the parsnips instead of grating to add another layer of texture.

The traditional Kesari Bath uses cashew nuts but since I used them yesterday, I went with almonds. I’m sure pecans or hazelnuts would work well too.

Almonds and dates

Parsnip as a sweetener

Grated parsnip


  • 1/2 cup of almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 dates, pitted and chopped (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons ghee (or unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup cream of wheat or semolina
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 cup grated parsnip (optional, helps sweeten and thus reduce amount of sugar needed)

Heat the ghee on medium heat in skillet till it melts. Roast the nuts and dates for 3 minutes while stirring frequently. Remove the nuts and dates and leave out to cook. Roast the cream of wheat in the same skillet for 3 minutes or till it turns slightly brown.

Heat the water and milk in a pot over medium heat. Add the grated parsnips, sugar and saffron. When the milk just starts to simmer, slowly add the roasted cream of wheat while stirring. Once all the cream of wheat has been added, remove the pot from heat and stir till cooked.

You can either mix in all the nuts and dates or use them as garnish.

Enjoy this easy, yummy dessert!

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Filed under Holiday, India, Recipe

Golden Beets with Roasted Cashews

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights is on October 26th this year. This is one of the most popular festivals in India! Most people celebrate with fireworks, new clothes and families and friends exchange sweets. I’ll confess that I don’t often eat sweets. For one, they go directly to my waistline and for another, they usually have some ingredient that I can’t eat. Plus when I crave food, its usually something savory. I really dislike how sickly sweet most Indian sweets are. BUT, when you make it yourself, you’re in control. And with healthy ingredients like beets, I don’t feel guilty at all.

I love the natural sweetness of the beets and didn’t feel the need to add much sugar at all. There are layers of texture in this simple dessert. The cooked grated beets still retain some of their crunch. The roasted cashews are crisp. The raisins plump up when cooked with the beets and milk and are almost juicy when you bite into them.

Golden Bulk beets for beet halwa

Cashews roasted in ghee

Beets are in peak season right now and there are so many ways of preparing them apart from slicing them up for a salad. I love beets but hate the mess of cleaning up after them! Golden beets though come with all the crunch of beets, a mild sweet flavor and none of the mess. So here goes, the first recipe for this week of daily Diwali dessert inspiration!

This recipe is a take on carrot halwa.

Serves 4-6


  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons ghee (or unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup whole cashews
  • 1 big or 2 small golden beets, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1.5 cups milk, divided (A non dairy milk will work too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar (for a low glycemic alternative, use coconut crystals!)
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Heat 2 teaspoons ghee  over medium heat till it melts and starts to froth. Roast the cashews for 3-5 minutes or till slightly brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool and crisp up.

Microwave 1/2 cup milk for 30 seconds. Gently crush saffron in your palms and add it to the milk. Stir and let sit for a few minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in a pot over medium heat till it starts to froth. Saute the grated beets for 3 minutes. Add the milk with saffron, the rest of the milk, raisins and sugar. Stir. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. The beets should be cooked but still have some bite to them. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, garnish with the roasted nuts before serving.

For a nice presentation, you can dust with powdered sugar.

Golden Beet 'Halwa' for Diwali


Filed under Dessert, Holiday, India, Recipe