Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bread square

I was in the mood to cook some lip smacking snacks for evening tea. However, I couldn’t think about anything apart from bread. Actually, I had some boiled potatoes in fridge, and I wanted to use them in the evening snacks. First I was hesitating to use bread in deep fry, because of oil. Then for a moment I just forgot about “health”, and went to cooking bread square. The bread squares turned out extremely delicious.
Here is the recipe:
Six bread slices
Two small sized potato
One small onion
A bunch of coriender leaves (Which can yield approximately half cup chopped coriander leaves)
One small tomato
Half tsp. urad daal (Black lentil)
Half  channa daal (Bengal gram lentil)
Half mustard seeds
Approximately one cup of semolina
Salt to taste
Pinch of turmeric powder
Oil for frying (I used olive oil. You can use your choice of oil)

Cut the potatoes into halves and boil them until tender. Keep the potatoes aside to cool down. Meanwhile, finely chop onion, tomato, and coriander leaves. Heat one tbsp. of oil, in a wok. Add urad daal, channa daal, and mustard seeds. When you smell the fine aroma add onion and tomato. Stir for few minutes. Cover the wok, and let the mixture to cook until oil starts oozing out. Add boiled potato, salt and turmeric, until well-blend. Keep stirring continuously. Switch off the stove, and let it cool down.
Cut the four sides of each the bread. Take bowl of water. Make small ping-pong size balls from the potato mixture. Slightly flatten them, and keep them aside. Pour the semolina on a plate. Take the breads one at a time. Dip the bread into water. Take the bread out of water. Put it on one of your palm, and press with the other palm to squeeze out the water. Place one potato ball on the bread. Fold the four corners to the center of the bread to make a square. Dip the breads into the semolina, and give a good coat of semolina all over on each of the bread square. Heat a heavy bottomed wok, under high flame. Once it heated, add enough oil to deep frying the breads. Wait for some time to heat up the oil.  Lower flame and deep fry the breads. Serve hot with spiced tea.   

Monday, November 18, 2013

It is fall

Days are already getting shorter day by day. Weather is getting colder day by day. Fall has already set her foot. We also have started facing difficulty to get up early in the morning. The dark outside is really unwelcome to get up in the morning. Sometimes I feel that the morning dark is saying to me, “Go back to bed”. However, daily course of works don’t want to wait. So, getting up early, cooking, teaching son, taking him to school, cleaning house, laundering , all of them go in their own pace. I’ve to run with them. We wait until afternoon to see the face of the sun, though he doesn’t stay for long. Like every year as the fall starts as usual I start feeling very lethargic from afternoon. 

The trees start wearing the vibrant color on their leaves. On the West coast though we can’t experience the same vibrancy of color like east coast, still what we can see here is not less enjoyable. Now we are waiting to see the fall color on the tree on our front yard. Every day I check whether any of the leaves gets color. Anyway, the fall means the starting of festive time. The festivity is already in air. The front doors already have worn the wreaths. The pumpkins are already on the porch.

 This is the time to sit back on the sofa and enjoy the time. No more activity, just sitting idle, and sipping a cup of tea or coffee. As I’m more tea person than a coffee, I love to enjoy tea every time. Of course this is the time for pumpkin. So, the stores are packed with pumpkins, pumpkin pulps, and different kind of pumpkin cake mix. It is time to bake pumpkin cake, cookies, pies, and many more. My kitchen is also full with pulps and mixes. And I’m also baking cookies and I’ll bake many more. 

Our visit to pumpkin patch
The teacher asked us to reach school within 8:30 in the morning. However, my son took a long time to get up from his bed. After much persuasion he finished his breakfast. We were already late. I didn’t even get time to deck up, which I had been thinking to do for long time. I was pissed off, but nothing I could do. Anyway, we rushed to school. My hubby was with us. He took our son to class to do all the formalities, while I remained seated in the car. 

Anyway, after that we started for the farm. As soon as we reached there the children became too excited to stay in one place. The teacher took all the snacks from the children and kept them in a wagon. The teacher and I found a place to put the wagon, where it was easy for us to remember. Then we went to much awaited hey-ride. In the tractor the seats were made of hey, where we sit to take a look around the field. The hay ride was really exciting through thick green corn field. Along with the children we enjoyed that a lot.
After the trip we came back home with a pumpkin, a corn, and a funny gourd. The children were asked to pick a gourd, and a corn of their own choice. My son chose one of the smallest gourds. When I asked him the reason, he told me that, because that looked like a chicken leg!!! The pumpkin he bought from patch is now sting on our porch in the form of Jack-o-lantern.

Now Halloween is already over. Thanksgiving celebration is knocking the door. So, there must be a pumpkin -bread on the table. The maple in our front yard is looking awesome with red and yellow colors. It looks like that the leaves are under flame and the flame is going upwards in the sky. The weather is getting colder. My son and I are facing difficulty in the morning to walking to school due to cold. However, we are managing it. Only few days are left to have all pumpkin dishes. Then it’ll be Christmas. Before the pumpkin time comes to an end I’m giving the recipe of pumpkin bread here.
Recipe for pumpkin bread:
Three cups bread flour
Two cup sugar
One tsp. ginger powder
One tsp. nutmeg powder
One tsp. cinnamon powder
Two tsp. baking powder
One tsp. baking soda
Four eggs
Half cup milk
Half cup butter (melted)
One fourth cup raisins
One fourth cup dried cranberry
One fourth cup broken cashew
One fourth cup mini chocolate chip
Pre-heat the oven at 350 degree F. Sift all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Keep it aside. In another big bowl, add milk, egg, butter, and sugar. Whip the mixture with an electric cake mixer, until it is fluffy. Then add the mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well in a fine batter. Then, add the raisins, cashew, cranberry, and chocolate chips to the batter. Mix well with ladle. Sprinkle oil in a bundt or a 9” baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes or a fork inserted comes out clean.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The magic of Halloween

Visit to pumpkin patch

The pumpkin patch is a field where pumpkins are grown and sold during the fall for decoration.
Since long my son had been constantly asking his father to take him to pumpkin patch. He wanted to buy a pumpkin. However, his time didn’t permit his father to do the same. Anyway, at last he got the chance to visit the pumpkin patch with his classmates. It was a great fun. We visited there and took a pumpkin from there; it was a part of the field trip. All children got a pumpkin each. The next day they did some math with those pumpkins. The pumpkin my son picked up weighed 6 lb. 

Corn field in the pumpkin patch

After my son brought the pumpkin at home, he badly wanted to curve it. Anyway, the last Sunday before Halloween, his father could manage few moments and carved the Jack-o-lantern. We put that outside on our porch. The little one wanted to lit the candle inside the pumpkin, but we managed to convince him not to do that. The Jack-o-lantern was only for the Halloween day.
Jack-O-lantern on our porch

What is that Jack-o-lantern?
Jack-o-lantern is not new, it is a century old tradition. For centuries people are making this. This is originated from an Irish myth, “Stingy Jack”.  According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him, and he didn't want to pay for his drink. He convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin which Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. However, at last Jack freed Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year. When Jack would die, he would not claim his soul.  Again Jack tricked Devil next year by making Devil to climb on a tree to pick some fruits. When Devil climbed the tree, he carved a cross on the tree, so Devil couldn’t climb down. Jack made him to promise that he would not to bother him for ten more years, to free him. For all these when Jack died, God did not allow him to heaven. For his trick Devil also could not claim his soul, and could not take him to hell. This upset Devil, and he set off Jack into the dark night with a burning coal in his hand to light his way. Jack put the charcoal in a craved turnip, and since then Jack has been roaming around on the earth, which is known as Jack of the lantern or simply “Jack-o-lantern”.  In the past in Ireland and Scotland people carved turnip or big potato with scary faces, and put them near window or doorsteps to ward off the evil. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack -o-lantern tradition with them to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o'-lanterns.

Halloween Costume
Next was my son’s Halloween costume
We made great delay to buying my son’s Halloween Costume. The weather was very bad on Sunday. It was cloudy and stormy. On the top of that it was very cold. However, we had no option, but to go to store to buy the dress. First I couldn’t understand that was a queue to buy a dress in Party City. The people were flocked around the catalog which was displayed on the wall. After sometime I understood that we had to stand in the queue after choosing the dress. We were not lucky enough to get the skeleton dress which was my son’s first choice. After few trials and spending more than one hour we settled on the Iron-man costume.
My Iron Man

Halloween costume history
The practice of wearing costumes on Halloween may have originated in pre-Christian era. In that era people believed that during the fall time the spirits or fairies  and the souls of the dead, could more easily come into our world. After the Christianization of Ireland in the 5th century, some of these customs remained with them. The Christians observe All Hallows' Eve in that region. It is a blending tradition. In 19th century Scotland, youths went house-to-house with masked, painted or blackened faces, often threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed. It is suggested that the costumes were a means of imitating, or disguising oneself from, the sprits. The custom of guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going "guising" around the neighborhood.
At last 31st arrived. Clad in iron-man costume my son and I reached the school the Halloween parade was scheduled at 8:50 in the morning. We parents were waiting outside. It was freezing cold. The sun couldn’t beat the cold. At last I stopped clicking as couldn’t move my fingers due to cold. My fingers became white, cold, and stiff. So, I stopped giving more pain to my poor fingers. The parade lasted for half-an-hour. All the little ones walked in spectacular costumes. The activities began at 10:00. I volunteered at the “hissing cat” table. I helped the children to make cat from black paper plates. There were many booths for the children, from face painting to simple games to craft. Through one hour they enjoyed a lot. After that, the children went to recess, while we volunteers arrange the table for a small lunch for the children. After coming back from school my son showed me one candy corn man, which he created as a part those activities. That was the end of the party in school. 

Candy corn history
Every Halloween party-throwers, party-goers, and trick-or-treaters hit the streets to harvest candy corn. The little yellow, orange, and white treat is an icon among the holiday candies. It has a legacy that goes back more than a century. According to oral tradition, George Renninger, a candy maker at the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia, invented this tri-color candy in the 1880s. The Goelitz Confectionery Company brought the candy to the masses at the turn of the 20th century. The company, now called Jelly Belly Candy Co., has the longest history in the industry of making candy corn. Though the method has changed, it still uses the original recipe.

Children in many countries go Trick-or-treating or disguising. Children in costumes travel from house to house to collect candies with the question "Trick or treat?". The "trick" is a threat to perform mischief on the homeowners if no treat is given to them. In North America this tradition had been started since mid of the 20th century. It typically starts after sunset and goes until 9:30 at night. Homeowners wishing to participate in it decorate their entrances with artificial spider webs, plastic skeletons and jack-o-lanterns. The tradition of going from door to door receiving food already existed in Great Britain and Ireland, where children and poor people would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes. First disguising had been recorded in Scotland in late 19th century.
Anyway after coming back I finished all the household chores. Then mother-son duo decided to make Halloween cookie. While I made the dough, he helped me to cut the cookies into different shapes. Till then was everything looked well. I put the cookies inside the oven. However, the cookies spread during baking, and all of them lost their shapes. The grave stone became a circle, the witch became a dinosaur. Only the pumpkin and the ghost could maintain their shapes. That day the works seemed to be not ending.  After my husband came back home from office, I decided to go to Michaels’ to buy some stuffs which were being sold on clearance. After that my husband expressed his desire for a cup of tea. Just after coming back, I put the saucepan over the stove and went to finish, some small but important works, like putting the Jack-o-Lantern on the porch. I was determined to paint a butterfly on the side of my one eye. Already people started coming to visit and trick-or-treating. First, our neighbors came our home.
In our neighborhood

 The cute little toddlers and infants came in animal costumes. My son and I also went with them to our neighbors’ houses. At last my husband became interested to go with us. Then three of us started visiting more houses. It was really enjoyable to the grownups also. Then we went to visit the last house at the end our road. That was the main attraction in our locality. It was worth it to visit the front yard. They put many different kinds of ghosts on his front yard. It was really scary. It made me think, how many brutal kind of murders could happen on earth. This very thought really shook me. The person spent a substantial amount of money to make such a scary environment. After that, my son suddenly lost interest in trick-or-treating.  After much persuasion he agreed to visit some more houses. While we were gone we put the chocolate tray outside on the porch. So, many children were on the street, gave a new dimension to the locality. Their aubade poured the surroundings. We feared that the chocolate tray would be empty when we reached our home. Thankfully it was not so. The sweet surprise was, the visit of our son’s classmate D. D’s father told that, D was determined to find out his friend’s place, and he successfully did that. Anyway, that was sweet end of our Halloween day.

P.S. I took the help of different websites to find out the history of Halloween.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pasta with mushroom gravy

Ingredients for pasta
Two cup pasta according to your choice (I used shell pasta)
One tsp. of dried oregano
One tsp. dried cilantro
Two-three cloves of garlic
One small tomato
One cup shredded cheese (mozzarella or cheddar)
Two tbsp. of oil
Salt to taste
Boil the pasta according to the direction written on the packet of the pasta. Chop garlic cloves and the tomato. Darin the pasta, and reserve one cup of the water. Heat two tbsp. of oil in a frying pan in medium heat. Add dried oregano and cilantro into heated oil. Add chopped garlic. Do not over-fry the garlic. Add chopped tomato, and stir occasionally covering the pan, until tomato becomes mushy. Add the cooked pasta, and the reserved water. Stir for few minutes. Then add cheese. Stir continuously until cheese becomes totally incorporate with pasta.

Mushroom gravy
One pound of button mushrooms
One small onion
Half cup grated cheese
Two tbsp. of olive oil
One tbsp. of all purpose flour
One cup of whole milk
Salt to taste
Cut mushrooms and onion into thin slices. Heat one tbsp. of oil in a frying pan in medium heat. Fry onion until oil separated from it. Add mushroom, and cook until the vegetables become dry. Add salt into the pan. Again water will ooze out from the vegetable. Then add the flour and stir for one two minutes or until the vegetables get a coat of flour. Add one cup of milk and stir continuously until the gravy start thickening. Add cheese and stir until the cheese melts totally. Switch of the stove. Serve mushroom gravy on top of the pasta.