Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) belongs to the family Fabaceae. Fenugreek is used both as an herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seed). It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop.

The rhombic yellow to amber colored fenugreek seed, commonly called Methi is frequently used in the preparation of pickles, curry powders and pastes, and is often encountered in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent.

The young leaves and sprouts of fenugreek are eaten as greens and the fresh or dried leaves are used to flavor other dishes. The dried leaves (called kasuri methi) have a bitter taste and a strong characteristic smell.

India, fenugreek seeds are mixed with yogurt and used as a conditioner for hair. It is also one of the ingredients in the making of thepla, a type of bread.

Fenugreek is also often used as a natural herbal medicine in the treatment of diabetes.

Fenugreek seeds are a rich source of the polysaccharide galactomannan. They are also a source of saponins such as diosgenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, tigogenin, and neotigogens. Other bioactive constituents of fenugreek include mucilage, volatile oils, and alkaloids such as choline and trigonelline.

A side effect of consuming even small amounts of fenugreek (even as just an infusion in water) is a
maple syrup or curry smell in the eater's sweat and urine which is caused by the potent aroma compound sotolone. Fenugreek is frequently used in the production of flavoring for artificial syrups. The taste of toasted fenugreek is additionally based on substituted pyrazines, as is cumin. By itself, it has a somewhat bitter taste.

Fenugreek is mainly used as digestive aid. It is ideal for treating sinus, lung congestion, reduces inflammation and fights infection. Fenugreek seed is widely used as a galactagogue (milk producing agent) by nursing mothers to increase inadequate breast milk supply. Supplements of fenugreek seeds were shown to lower serum cholesterol, triglyceride, and low-density lipoprotein in human patients and experimental models of hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyecridemia.

Several human intervention trials demonstrated that the antidiabetic effects of fenugreek seeds ameliorate most metabolic symptoms associated with type-1 and type-2 diabetes in both humans and relevant animal models.

Sincere thanks to Wikipedia

Friday, January 26, 2007

Gujarati Festivals

I had written this a long time ago for the kids in my family, with information from my mom, Mrs. Panna Mehta and my 2nd mom (MIL) Mrs. Usha Desai. I thought I might share it here too.

Diwali is the festival of lights. It is believed that during the days of Diwali – whoever lights lights every day – does not die during Diwali. Which means, one who has attained knowledge of life, is not afraid of death.

Diwali truly begins from Aso Vad Rama Ekadashi. It is also called Bhagwat Ekadashi. Ekadashi = 11th day of the 15 day moon cycle.

The next day is called Vagh Baras. Pooja is done of cows and calves. If you can, draw a rangoli of a tiger outside your house. Try and pay off your debts on this day. For the next few days, do not incur any debt. Baras = 12th day of the 15 day moon cycle.

The next day is called Dhan teras. Pooja is done of cattle and money. Dhan = Laxmi = wealth = money, gold, silver, etc. Teras = 13th day of the 15 day moon cycle. Do not earn money doing illegal things. Be happy with whatever you earn legally. Laxmi poojan is done so that our money is spent wisely and our money becomes pure. Laxmi is strength – having money is equal to having power. Use your hard-earned money as if it is God’s Prasad. There are other types of wealth that we have – our knowledge, our children and our culture.

The next day is Kali Chaudas. Chaudas = 14th day of the 15 day moon cycle. First god that is prayed on this day is Hanuman Dada. He gives strength to all. All over India, people also pray Mahalaxmi today. It is believed that if one rises early and bathes before sunrise on this day, he does not suffer in hell. One takes oil-bath on this day.

The next day is Diwali – which is actually Amavas = 15th day of the 15 day moon cycle = no moon day. This is the day when Laxmi emerged during the “Churning of the Ocean”. This is the day when Shri Ram returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravan. This is the day when the Pandavas returned from their exile. People celebrate this festival with lighting deeyas. On this day, businessmen do pooja of their account books and start their accounting for the next year. Laxmi and Narayan (Vishnu) poojan is done.

The next day is New Year’s Day for Gujratis. This day is not universal all over India. Lord Krishna is where there is Dharm(religious and moral law) and Bhakti(devotion). This is the day when Vishnu bhagwan during his Vaman Avtaar asked for the charity(daan) of 3 steps and King Bali fulfilled his wish.

In mandirs, they also perform Govardhan Pooja or Annkut on this day. This is the day when Shri Krishna as a kid, had lifted the whole Govardhan mountain on his pinky finger and given shelter to the townsfolk.

Annkut = making a mountain of food. Sage Vyas had said that one who stays happy on this day, will stay happy for the whole year to come. One who stays unhappy on this day, will stay unhappy for the whole year to come.

We prepare good food on this day and serve it to God in hope that we get to eat good food for the coming year. We greet each other with Saal Mubarak. We visit our near and dear ones, feed each other good food and mithai. Gifts are exchanged with loved ones. The younger bow down to their elders and the elders bless them with love and money with great affection.

The day after Saal Mubarak day is known as Bhai Dooj. This day is celebrated as a symbol of love between brothers and sisters. On this day Yama, the god of death, visited his sister Yami. Yami put the auspicious tilak on his forehead and they exchanged gifts as a token of their love. Yama declared that anybody who receives a tilak from his sister on this day can never be defeated. Since then, sisters put a tilak on their brother's forehead on this day to protect then from all harm.

History of Sikh Community's Diwali
In the Sikh community Diwali celebrations have special importance as for them it is popular as the day when their sixth Guru, Guru Har Govind ji came back from the captivity of the fort of Gwalior city. The people lighted lamps in the way to Shri Harmandhir Sahib, which is known by the name of 'the Golden Temple', in order to honour and to welcome their beloved Guru.

History of Jain Community's Diwali
For the Jain community the festival of Diwali again has special significance. It is the day when the famous Jain prophet Bhagvaan Mahaveer, the founder of Jainism attained 'Nirvana'. Therefore the people of Jain community celebrate the festival of Diwali in remembrance of Lord Mahavira.

Labh Pancham is the 5th day after Diwali. Pancham = 5th day of the 15 day moon cycle. If for some reason, you could not do pooja of your books during Diwali, you can do it today.

Dev Diwali – is celebrated from the 11th day of Diwali till the 15th day. That is from Devprabodhini Ekadashi or Devuthi Ekadashi till Poonam. Devprabodhini Ekadashi is when Vishnu wakes up from his ocean bed.

Gujrati calendar follows the lunar cycle as it is based upon the moon. We have different names for our months and they begin and end on different dates – all depending on our Chandamama.

We call our months “maas”. I will try to match up our maas with the solar calendar months. Our maas is divided into two fortnights - the first fifteen days are Sud and the next fifteen days are Vad. Sud ends on full moon day or Poonam, whereas Vad ends on Amavas or no moon day.

I will also try to put some dos and don’ts in italics. Don’t ask me the reasons for the dos and don’ts as I do not know them. I have included them and I try to follow them as everyone I know does it too. Why – beats me!!!!

On any 14th and 15th (Sud or Vad) do not make khichdi.
Do not make khichdi on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Gujaratis are in the year 2063. As each year the dates are different, here is the calendar for 2006 - 2007:

Posh Maas – is from Dec. 21, 2006 to to Jan. 19, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Christmas, Shakambari Navratri, Swami Vivekananda Jayanti, Makar Sankranti (kite flying day).

Maha Maas – is from Jan. 20, 2007 to Feb. 17, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Vasant Panchmi, Republic Day, Death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Mahashivratri.

Fagun Maas – is from Feb. 18, 2007 to March 19, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Holashtak, Holi, Dhuleti, Shivaji Jayanti, Chaitra Navratri begins on March 19, 2007.

Chaitra Maas – is from March 20 to April 17, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Chaitra Navratri ends on 27th March, Ram Navmi on 27th March, Mahavir Swami Birthday, Hanuman Jayanti, Good Friday, Easter Sunday.

Vaishakh Maas – is from April 18 to May 16, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Akha Treej, Parshuram Jayanti, Seeta Navmi, Narsinh Jayanti, Vat Savitri Vrat.

Adhik Jeth Maas – is from May 17 to June 15, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Purshottam Maas begins on May 17.

Second Jeth Maas - is from June 16 to July 14, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Gayatri Jayanti.

Ashad Maas – is from July 15 to Aug. 12, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Ashadi Beej, Jaya Parvati Vrat, Guru Purnima, Hindola.

Shravan Maas – is from Aug. 13 to Sept. 11, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Shiv Mahapoojan, Hariyali Treej, Independence Day, Naag Panchmi, Randhan Chhat, Sheetla Satam, Raksha-bandhan, Phool-Kajli Vrat, Janmashtami, Nand Mahotsav.

Bhadarvo Maas – is from Sept. 12 to Oct. 11, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Kevda Treej, Haritalika, Ganesh Maha Utsav, Gauri Poojan, Anant Chaudas, Shradh begins on Sept 27 and ends on Oct. 11, 2007.

Aaso Maas – is from Oct. 12 to Nov. 9, 2007. The festivals/important days that come during this month are: Sharad Navrati, Saraswati Poojan, Mahanavmi, Dasera, Sharad Poornima, Karva Chauth, Sardar Patel Jayanti, Rama Ekadashi, Vagh Baras, Dhanteras, Kali Chaudas, Diwali.

Kartak Maas – was from Oct. 23 to Nov. 20, 2006. The festivals/important days that came during this month are: Gujarati New Year, Bhai Beej, Labh Pacham, Tulsi Vivah, Dev Diwali, Children's Day, Nehru Jayanti, Death anniversary of Lala Lajpat Rai.

Maghshar Maas – was from Nov. 21 to Dec. 20, 2006. The festivals/important days that came during this month are: Annapoorna Vrat, Geeta Jayanti, Dattatray Jayanti, Saubhagya Sundari Vrat, Pashvanath Jayanti.

As our New Year begins in Kartak maas; our Gujrati calendar is:

We also have something called “Dhanur Maas” – where no auspicious things – like marriage, etc are not performed. The goal is to not spend time in doing worldly things – but spend your time doing prayers, etc.

My First Blog

I came to the States when I was 15. All of my life in India – I never cooked. There was my mom or a cook always present. I just remember making tea – maybe once or twice. After coming to the States, I was not too keen on learning to cook. There was so much else to do!! I did not mind cooking pasta as it was quick. My mom always cooked for us, as she still does for our whole family, and if she was not around, restaurants were always there. I cooked if I had to – but never enjoyed it as much as I do now. It wasn’t that I didn’t love food – oh I loved good food as much as I love it now. I avoided cooking until I met my husband, Pankaj. I never knew cooking can be fun, until I saw Pankaj cook and eat with so much enthusiasm!!

The one thing I admire about Pankaj is he never discourages me from trying any of the recipes that I get from my extended family, friends, internet. Even when the final product does not turn out good, he never loses his cool. He usually tells me what additional things I should put the next time. I remember making an item; six times in different ways, but, I myself was not satisfied with it. Now I am banned from making that particular item in my house ;) So, I admire Pankaj for his patience and giving me the time to explore my creative side in cooking. My kids do make faces when I whip up something "new".

Here are some of my favorite recipes that I have seen my family and friends make. I also have some recipes from several books that I end up reading at the Barnes and Noble or at Borders. These I have then “transformed” into my taste and Pankaj is my taster. His verdict is final – if it is good for him – it is good for everyone!! If he does not like it, I don’t even think twice before dumping everything into the garbage disposal.

Since I am a working mom – I have adopted some shortcuts to save time. Some of the short cuts that are in the recipes – I will highlight them. I try my best to provide at least one hot meal a day to my family – which for us usually becomes dinner. Dinner is also the only time during weekdays that our family is together.

Breakfast is many times hot – with theplas or parathas. Breakfasts on weekends is always hot – upma, poha, theplas, parathas, masala puris, etc.

Things that have helped me tremendously in my everyday cooking are: using the pressure cooker to cook daals as well as sabzis and using the Sumeet grinder. My time spent in the kitchen is minimized due to these modern day wonders!

A must in all Indian households is Ghee. Here is how we Indians in America make ghee. When non-salted butter is on sale, we buy it in a huge quantity and then make ghee out of it as and when needed. Ghee lasts about close to 6 months in the US. It is not necessary to refrigerate the ghee.

I take a big pot from which I can pour out easily, without making a mess. I put the butter sticks only till they reach to the middle of the pot. I do not fill it to the top. I then add a cinnamon stick or a bay leaf to it. I find it that it separates the yucky stuff very quickly.

If I am making a very small quantity that will be used only for pooja purposes, I add a couple of strands of saffron. This gives it a good color as well as a good aroma.

I put the pot on high heat and melt the butter. I do not wander away or do anything else during this time. When the butter starts to melt, I put it on low heat and stir it very rarely.

Continue to simmer on low heat, for 30 to 45 minutes, until the yucky stuff on the bottom of the vessel turn from white to golden brown and butter on top becomes transparent. This is the signal to turn off the heat. Let it stand for some time till it becomes a little cooler. Strain this liquid into a clean steel container, using a very fine strainer. Store this at room temperature.

Many people reuse the yucky stuff on the bottom to make rotis or chakris or some other things. The rotis and chakris turn out to be real nice and soft due to this. BUT IT IS SO HIGH IN CHOLESTEROL – I DON’T EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT USING IT. I just throw it all away.

Our family has made a conscious effort to control what we eat. Some of the changes we have made are:
· Eating pizza once in 3 months. Sometimes, it is once in 6 months.
· Deep frying has been cut down tremendously. Even when we have guests, I end up making rotli, bhakri or paratha. Same goes with pakodas, etc. Deep frying is a rarity in my house.
· We have almost stopped using green peas and corn – due to their high content of sugar. Recently, I have heard corn has a lot of fiber. Might start using it again.
· We have been adding garlic to everything that we can add.
· We have stopped using basmati rice for everyday use – we only use that for “special” occasions. For everyday use, I have been using Sona Masoori rice. Since the past year, we have decided to eat rice just 2 times a week. Once again, due to heavy starch content.
· Potatoes are also rarely cooked – due to heavy starch content.
· We are trying to cut down on sweets – but Pankaj as well as my kids have a sweet tooth (me included). After dinner, they will ask for something sweet, knowing too well that we do not keep sweets in the house.
· We need to increase the salads and the eating of raw vegetables. I try to have them as snacks, but w/o the salad dressing (not too enticing). I keep the Lite Ranch dressing for the kids.
· We also need to cut down on eating outside. But, by Friday we are all so tired with everything that’s going on in our lives, be it work, housework, school, we end up going to movies and dinner on Fridays. We sleep in on Saturdays and then Sunday is back to normal again!!

Yogurt or Curds – another must in our house.
I make yogurt at home regularly. Store made yogurt is expensive compared to home made. But in the winter, I buy store made yogurt. Best yogurt is made from vitamin D milk. But if you are avoiding calories, 2% milk will do too. I refuse to make yogurt from 1% or skim milk. I would rather buy Nonfat Yogurt from a store.

You need one tablespoon of live active culture of yogurt (jaman). You can get this from family or friends or buy the non-gelatin yogurt that you get in Indian stores. Make sure you make the final yogurt in a clean glass container with a tight lid or a steel vessel with a tight lid. Many people make it in plastic containers and the final product has some kind of smell to it. I usually make yogurt at night before going to bed. It is usually done when I get up in the morning.

Yogurt is easy to make. Bring the milk to a boil and turn off the heat and let the milk cool down to a warm level. Then add one tablespoon of live active culture of yogurt to this milk, stir it once and cover the vessel with a lid. Keep the container in an oven or in a microwave undisturbed for about 8 to 12 hours.

Red chilli garlic chutney– something I really love and can never beat the “back home” taste. Somehow what we make here is not the “real” thing. I love the powder variety that I used to eat with Pav-vada – but cannot make it here.

Few handfuls of garlic cloves, lots of red chilli powder, jeera, few peanuts and salt mixed in the Sumeet mixer into coarse paste.

Red Radish Raita – one of my favorite raitas. It is difficult to muster enthusiasm for radishes. But they are a rich source of vitamin C and look so colorful. I tell my family to just hold your nose and eat the raita.
· A bunch of red radishes without the leaves – washed and cleaned.
· 2 cups of yogurt – whisked
· Tadka – mustard seeds, urad daal, karipatta.
· Oil to taste.
· Grate the radishes. Mix them in the yogurt. Add salt. Your raita now has a wonderful pink color. Do the tadka and mix it into the raita. Your crunchy raita is ready.

Do not store this raita. Eat it the same day. Next day, the stench gets stronger and stronger and my family will not touch it.

Well, this is it for today. I will continue over the weekend. If you find any mistakes, or if you have other ways to prepare the food, please feel free to share.

Have a wonderful weekend.