Last weekend was awesome fun. And so was this one – Sunday was Halloween! And with that the festive season in the US kick starts! 🙂 🙂

Have not been able to blog for a long time- V’s parents are here so been busy exploring places with them around our little small town. Last weekend, I went for my first American football game and realised that more activity happens off field than on field, with cheerleaders chanting and the band playing and the food flying all over- it is fun. That was Friday. Saturday, finally, after  pestering V a lot to take me to the nearby places around our small mining town,  and thanks to his parents being here, we went.

About a 1.5 hour drive from our town is a huge pumpkin patch. Close to it is also an apple orchard and a vineyard. En route we saw rows and rows of greenhouses. There is a whole establishment dealing in producing tomatoes. It was beautiful and made all of us day dream about opening something on a similar scale like this back in India. Hopefully, some day we will!

With our hand picked pumpkins dumped in the car, we drove to the Apple Annie’s Orchard. After having a light snack of bean burritos (which were similar to our Indian Rajma roti) and pasta salad at the pumpkin patch, it was time for dessert at the orchard. I had the best tasting cider donuts there. V’s mom, who a day before, had vowed to not eat a donut again, was tempted so much by the smell, that she ordered for all of us. A testimony to the taste would be that there was a 20 minute wait to get your own freshly made cider donut. It was crisp and perfectly sweet.

We also tried there homemade ice cream and their apple pie- which was really good. Though, normally I like making my own breads and cakes, but with everything tasting so good, I was tempted to try some of theirs and got the pumpkin and apple bread home. I was not disappointed at all.

Having had our dose of apples and pumpkins, it was time for some wine tasting 🙂 . Who would have thought to find a vineyard in Arizona! After tasting 13 different wines, we finally bought two bottles of their gold medal winning sparkling wine. I’m not a big fan of wine- but champagne I like and this tasted more like champagne, so I’m glad we brought back some home.

The next day we drove to Alpine, a small hill station with a Swiss-like setting.

The drive to Alpine is very scenic and the fall colored trees en route made the drive all the more captivating.

With a really hectic last week, this weekend we chose to take it easy. Did some grocery shopping and bought candy for the trick-or-treaters. Friday, I carved my first pumpkin ever.

I was really excited about Halloween. I just think its a fun holiday- people dressed up in costumes, houses decorated, candies galore- it’s just so festive. V’s dad probably was even more excited than me. He had been going to the library and reading Halloween stories and then coming back home and reciting them to all of us. On Sunday, he made a Halloween poster that we put outside near the entrance. V and I gifted him a Halloween t-shirt which he sportingly wore! Even though we had a good stock of candy, thanks to my friends who had warned me that a lot of kids come to the lane where our house is, we still ran out and V had to rush to the store to get more. The second lot, too, vanished with as much speed as V got them. Finally, we decided to shut off our lights and move out, since the kids were still coming in large numbers (felt bad doing it but had no choice- no amount of candy was enough for the crowd we got!). Overall, a fun two weeks. Will be back soon with some recipes!

 

26th was Karwa Chauth- a Hindu tradition where the wife keeps a day long fast for the well-being, prosperity and longevity of her husband. It was my first ever- and well, it went off not half as bad as I expected. Fortunately, for me, my mom-in-law keeps a very easy fast- she has fruits and water. Traditionally, though, women only eat before sunrise on the day of the fast (called sargi). Then, once dawn breaks, they can’t eat or drink anything till they don’t see the moon. Over the years, people have started drinking water, but don’t eat anything till they don’t offer prayer to the moon. Since, the way you do it the first time, you have to continue the exact same tradition each year, and since, fortunately, I had freedom to be flexible in the fast, thanks to my mom-in-law, I did not eat anything till the evening prayer , after which I had fruits once. And then waited till I saw the moon to break my fast. Even V kept the fast with me, eating only when and what I was eating. Thanks to the 5 ‘o’ clock fruit intake the wait for the moon wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be.

We had already prepared food for the evening- kadhi and mixed vegetable with paranthas. So, as soon as we saw the moon at 8.35 pm (after countless trips outside to check whether the moon is out), we offered prayers to the moon and went directly for the food. I have never eaten so fast and quickly, and food has never ever tasted this good.

(The M&M and the flowers are V’s karwa chauth gift to me 🙂 )

Now, traditionally, there is no non-vegetarian dish served on such an auspicious day and so, of course, the recipe I have given below was not made on 26th but, since, long back I had promised to post it and have delayed it enough, I thought of finally posting V’s mom’s version of layered biryani. So here it is!

(There is a lot of approximation in measurement. My mom-in-law does it by pure feel and so its not possible to give the exact measurement. I have tried my best to write as exact the quantities as I remember. But feel free to experiment! Go with your gut:)!)

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I am now the proud owner of a masala dabba (picture above)! Just look at the colours-isn’t it a beauty!! Strange, back in India I never knew that having a masala dabba would be such a big deal- in India everyone has one and probably no one gives it a second glance. Here after owning 7-8 different plastic containers for the plethora of spices we use, finally getting a masala dabba is pure joy. All thanks to my mom-in law!

My in-laws are in town visiting. I have been looking forward for this visit as my mom-in-law is a great cook and her visit means my cooking skills are going to notch up. I have already learnt how to cook her famous biryani (recipe will be posted soon), and today, I learnt how she makes baingan bharta. The previous recipe posted also gives a good result, but her style is more quick and, no doubt, really good.

The secret she says is in fire-roasting the eggplant with cloves of garlic inserted in the eggplant by making slits. That ways, the juice from the garlic beautifully infuses in the eggplant. She also adds cubes of tomatoes and sliced ginger right at the end, barely sautéing it. Her reasoning is that, when you add the ginger and the tomatoes right at the end, you are able to get the individual taste of the ginger, tomatoes and the eggplant, making the dish really flavorful.

MOM-IN-LAW’S BAINGAN KA BHARTA

Ingredients

1 eggplant

4-6 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp oil

5 tbsp spring onions, chopped

2-3 green chillies, finely chopped

1 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 ” piece ginger

2 small or 1 big tomato

Salt to taste

Method

Slit the eggplant and add garlic cloves. Fire roast the eggplant till tender inside and burnt outside. Peel the outer burnt layer and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Add spring onions, green chillies, and lightly saute. Add the roasted eggplant and mash thoroughly till color changes. Add red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and dhania powder. Cut tomatoes into big cubes. Peel the ginger and grate half of it and slice the rest. Once the eggplant is cooked, add the tomatoes and ginger and very lightly saute. Remove from fire. Cover and keep. Serve hot with chapati.