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Changing the Way We Eat

My husband and I are officially doing the 28-day vegan challenge made popular by Dr. Oz

Week 1: Detox

This week your body will be detoxing from the animal products it’s used to. Start adding protein to your diet from sources other than meat. This includes nuts, seeds and beans. Vegans should take a multivitamin and B12 supplement to ensure they are getting enough protein.

I am planning to make another dal masur this week to cover the bean component.  I am also looking at making some of the vegan recipes in Cuisines of India.  Tonight, my husband made some aloo gobi.

Something like this is a huge change from the way we are used to eating.  Why such a change?  I think my husband and I have both been meaning to eat better for a long time, but it never seems to happen.  A major change like this can really point us in the right direction.  We may not be vegans for life, but we will have broken the addiction to animal products and made ourselves much healthier in only 4 weeks.  I’m really excited about the possibilities!

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Are Good Cooks Born or Bred?


For years I branded myself as a “bad cook.” 
I could bake really excellent cookies, cakes and pies, but regular meals were often a flop. I had some infrequent successes with my mother’s recipes, but when I picked up a cookbook and tried something new, more often than not it was mediocre or just plain bad.  No matter how hard I tried or how closely I followed the recipe, the result was always the same.  It was disheartening.

My husband, on the other hand, is a natural cook.  He’s one of those guys who can throw something together by instinct, not measuring things out, setting the timer or looking at a recipe.  And his meals are great.  It’s very unfair.

It was always our joke that he handled the cooking and I stayed out of the kitchen.  It’s a good thing that the world we live in today is kinder to non-cooking, non-homemaking women than it was in the past. Still, as a food lover and a general DIY person, this failure irked me.  A lot.

When my husband and I spent some time at his parents’ house, my mother-in-law took care to show me how to make yummy treats like samosas and paneer.  She called me into the kitchen to watch the servants as they rolled, stuffed, fried and baked the most delicious things.  Yet I couldn’t help asking her, if only in my mind, “Why are you showing me this? I can’t cook. You should be showing your son.”

After my first trip to India, I decided that enough was enough. Cooking couldn’t be that hard. If I practiced and tried hard enough, I could master it. And I would start with the food where the spices do most of the work for you – Desi food.

So my mother-in-law, pleased as punch, bought me a paneer maker and started sending me recipes.  I’ve done rather well with her recipes, but I still find that following recipes from cookbooks leads to failure.  And the question rares its ugly head at me again: is it me?  Am I just a bad cook?

Maybe it IS me, but if so, how can I become better? For those of us without the inborn talent, what does it take to become good cooks?  It’s a question that plagues me, and I intend to find an answer!

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Desi Leftovers

The great thing about spending 2 hours cooking a huge meal on Sunday is that you can totally be lazy on Monday after a long day at work! We have plenty of chicken curry left over for dinner tonight. I separated my portion and added a bunch of yogurt to it to tame the hotness. It still hurts. What was I thinking with the chili powder? No wonder my husband liked it. Aside from that, the potatoes are good, but my favorite part is the chicken and the mouthfuls of cooked onions in every bite.

Cooking Light posted a recipe for a Fall Vegetable Curry that seems easy enough – all you need is curry powder. It’s not fall anymore, but according to their Twitter feed, “it’s as good in the winter as the fall.”

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Stocking My Kitchen

I happen to be fortunate enough to live in a city with tons of Indian restaurants and, more importantly for my adventures in desi cooking, stores. I can very easily pick up cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, or anything else a recipe calls for.

While I was in India, I posted on Facebook that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to learn to cook Indian food. My uncle, who is also an Indophile who cooks, told me that I would have to get myself a nice “masala dabba.” I had to Google it to find out what that was.

Ooh, masala dabbas are pretty. I mentioned this to mother-in-law, who heartily agreed that I needed one. As we went to various outdoor markets in New Delhi, we looked for one. The only one we found was steel. “You’ll never be able to get it open,” she warned me. “You have to get plastic.” So we didn’t buy it.

Fast forward – I’m back home in the U.S. and I want a dabba. I go to the Indian store and buy the only type they have… a steel one. I also buy all of the requisite Indian spices and excitedly hurry home to fill it up.

Well, I couldn’t get it open. I tried and tried and tried. No matter what I did, it wouldn’t budge. At one point, I cut myself on the steel and bled profusely all over it. Yes, I did.

Husband had to get it open for me, I’m ashamed to say. (Hey, I’m the one in the family who opens tough-to-open jars, not him.) Now it’s all prettied up with spices and featured prominently at the top of this blog (yes, that’s mine!). I really love it. It adds something to the decor of the kitchen.

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Introduction

I fell in love with Indian food during a book club meeting in 2003. We had read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and we met for lunch to discuss it at Brick Lane Curry House in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. It was my first time in an Indian restaurant. I admitted as much to my fellow book clubbers, all white women themselves. “Try the chicken tikka masala,” one of them advised me. “That’s what I always get. It’s a safe choice for people who don’t know what to order.” I followed her advice, ordering chicken tikka masala and sharing the naan that was ordered for the table. Heaven.

I fell in love with an Indian man in 2005, and we just got married. I finally made it to India and my mother-in-law equipped me with a paneer maker and various masalas before sending me home to the United States, “that silly country.” I’ve got a cookbook with a woodcut of the Taj Mahal on the front, a recipe from my mother-in-law arriving in my inbox every few days, and the wealth of the internet at my disposal. What can possibly go wrong?

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