Dudhi No Halwo (Bottle Gourd Halwa)

dudhi no halwo halwa

I’m currently in Jersey visiting my family and along with my food goals of stuffing my face with as many jersey bagels as I can, I also wanted to take advantage of my family’s garden. As long as I can remember, my family has grown hoards vegetables. Eggplants, long beans, okra,tomatoes, various herbs, you name it we grew it. One of my favorite veggies we grow is  bottle gourd. They grow to be super long and my sister and I would pretend they were baseball bats and try to beat each other. We had a violent way of showing we loved each other when we were little :-) .

My mom happily harvesting the sacrificial bottle gourd for our dudhi no halwo

Anywho, luckily this year we had a surplus of bottle gourd! In past years, my mom would shove bottle gourd in everything. Bread, dumplings, curries,juices (yes, my sister and I don’t like to talk about this torture juice) and sweets. Dudhi no halwo is actually a sweet. Halwa or halwo is a dense, oatmeal-like dessert that can be made with carrots, bottle gourd and various nuts and flours. It’s a dessert that is pretty typical all across the middle east and there are SO many versions of halwa. This recipe is a Gujarati version. It’s super easy to make and delicious with carmel-y flavor to it. If you don’t have bottle gourd near you, try this with carrots and add some walnuts and cinnamon to it and you have guilt free carrot cake halwa! Enjoy!

Cook time: 30 minutes                                             Serves: 4-6 people

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
2 cups shredded bottle gourd
3  tbsp of sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp crushed pistachio
1 tsp ground cardamom

1. Melt the ghee in a thick bottomed saucepan. Add the shredded gourd and let it cook for roughly ten minutes on medium heat until the gourd is translucent and soft.

2. Once the gourd is cooked stir in the sugar and let it cook until the water from the gourd has evaporated. Now pour in your heavy cream and continuously stir. Make sure to keep stirring or else it will burn.  Keep mixing until the majority of the heavy cream has evaporated and the ghee separates from the gourd.

3. Remove from heat and sprinkle the halwo with crushed pistachios and cardamom. Enjoy while warm or cold. This will keep in the fridge for up to four days.

dudhi no halwo

Mango Ice Cream (No Machine)

mango ice cream no machine

My mom recently got a shipment of mango puree (rus) from her sister’s farm in India. My mom couldn’t wait for me to try it now that I’m in New Jersey visiting home for a bit. Indian mangoes are amazingly fragrant with a floral aftertaste. It’s unlike any other mango I’ve ever had. They aren’t fibrous either, which means no using mangoes as floss. Because of this the pulp is super smooth. Once I tasted the rus, I knew I had to use it in an ice cream recipe. If you don’t have access to an Indian grocery store where you can buy a can of rus then just blend the pulp of two mangoes really well. The ice cream came out super creamy and light. This recipe is SO easy and you don’t need a ice cream machine/churner!

Cook time: 10 minutes, but lots of waiting                                                   Makes: 4-6 servings

1.5 cups mango puree
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
crushed pistachios (optional)

mango ice cream no machine

1. In a large bowl, whip up the heavy cream and sugar  with a whisk until you have stiff peaks. Don’t go too crazy, otherwise you’ll have butter.  I mixed mine with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium for 1 minute and high to 2 more minutes.

2. In a separate large bowl, mix together the mango puree and lime juice.  Add 2 dollops of the whipped cream into the mango puree and mix in well. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold in gently until all the whipped cream is mixed in. Don’t go nuts mixing this otherwise you’ll lose the fluffiness of the whipped cream.

3. Pour the mixture into a pan and give the pan a few taps on the table to let out the air bubbles. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios and cover with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap should touch the top of the ice cream. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

4. After 4 hours are up take the ice cream and put it in a blender. Blend until it’s creamy and pour into you’re final container and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the top of the ice cream is touching the plastic wrap. Blending helps make the ice crystals smaller which leaves you with a smooth and creamy ice cream. Freeze for 2 hours and enjoy!

TIPS:

  • You can use any type of fruit puree to make this into whatever flavor you want! Peach puree will be my next attempt. What flavor would you do?
  • You can add spices to the whipped cream to add a little more flavor to the ice cream. Next time I plan on adding saffron and cardamom to it. 

Visiting LA and Vlogging with The Divine Hostess and Simply Bakings!

This weekend I got to hang out with my favorite Youtubers, Fifi (The Divine Hostess) and Lainey (Simply Bakings). Check out Fifi’s vlog where we navigate the labyrinth that is Whole Foods, eat yummy food, and I get schooled on how food vloggers work!

 

Pesto Pappardelle with Artichoke Hearts & Peas

pesto pappardelle with artichoke hearts and peas

I’m starting to become the queen of lazy meals, and this one is the laziest of them all. Pre-made fresh pasta, frozen peas, frozen artichokes and pre-made pesto. Just call me semi-homemade Hetal. It only took me 15 minutes to whip together! It’s the perfect meal when you’re feeling hangry and need to eat right away. #hangerpainsarereal During college, I would get so hungry by the end of the day I would literally shove any food I could find into my mouth to fight off hungry headaches ( yes, I get headaches when I’m hungry) and every time, without fail, it’d be something really unhealthy like a family-size bag Cheetos or a bar of chocolate. Don’t get me wrong I love me some doodle dust, but it’s just not healthy for every day. Bad thing is, my hubby is the same way so some nights can turn into looking like this:

Next time you feel the hanger pains- try making this instead of shoving a whole bag of potato chips into your mouth. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

Cook time : 15 minutes                             Makes: 2 servings

1 sheet of pasta (got mine at Whole Foods) or any other kind of fresh pasta
¼ cup frozen peas
6 frozen artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s)
1/3 cup pesto sauce (homemade or store-bought)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Take 1 sheet of pasta from the package (each pkg. has 3 sheets) and slices into thick strips. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook for about 1 minute. Drain and wash with cold water to stop the cooking process. Mix the pasta with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking and set aside.

 

2. In the same saucepan, add the pesto and peas and heat on low heat until the peas are cooked/ not frozen anymore. Heat the artichoke hearts per package instructions. Mine said to put them in the microwave with a few tablespoons of water. Add the pasta and artichoke hearts to the saucepan and mix together.  I like my pasta on a less saucy side, so you can add more pesto if you wish. It’s up to you!

3. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

pesto pappardelle with artichoke hearts and peas

Norway in a Nutshell

Last month I took a little trip to Norway and I fell in love with the country. It has everything from cities, beaches, mountains to farmland. I was able to take a ferry through the Sognefjord and it was absolutely breathtaking.  I only ventured through Oslo and Bergen and took the Norway in a Nutshell Tour through Myrdal, Flam, Voss and Gudenvagen.  Here are my tips, tricks and highlights :-).

Oslo

  • Book a hotel near the Oslo Central train station. There are express trains to and from the airport to the central station every 20 minutes. The trains all have free Wi-Fi so you can quickly look up directions from the train station to your hotel. We stayed at the Perminalen Hotel which was a 10 minute walk from the station. It was nice, clean and simple. Nothing luxurious here. The rates are between $61 – $190/ night.

    Norway Travel

    Top: Left; Aker Brygge, Right; Norwegian Museum of Cultural Heritage, Bottom: Left; Norwegian Museum of Cultural Heritage, Right; Viking Museum

  • Buy the Oslo card ($48) – this card will get you into pretty much every museum for free and gives you free public transportation. You get your money’s worth if you visit 3 museums! With the Oslo card make sure to visit the Nobel Peace Center , take the ferry-boat from Aker Brygge to the Viking Museum, Fram Museum, Kontiki Museum and Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.
  • Walk around Karl Johan Gate and check out the cute shops and try some street food!
  • Walk around Aker Brygge in the afternoon/evening. Buy some ice cream and stroll around. Check out the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art if you’re into modern/contemporary art! I loved this museum, it was actually really cool. This area reminded me of NYC’s South Street Seaport. Lots of bars and shops in warehouses with a cute beach to get your feet wet!
  • Grab some snacks from 7-11 and hit up Akerhus Fortress and have a picnic. There are some spectacular views ofthe city from here!

    Vigeland Sculpture Park

    Vigeland Sculpture Park

  • Grab the tram and go to Vigeland Sculpture Park and make sure to see the angry baby statue. The sculptor (Vigeland) does a fantastic job of showing human emotions through is work.

 

Norway in a Nutshell

This is a 12 hour journey through the heart of Norway from Oslo to Bergen. It costs ~$112 per person – which is pretty cheap in Norway. You take a train from Oslo to Myrdal, Tram from Myrdal to Flam, ferry from Flam to Gudenvagen, bus from Gudenvagen to Voss, and another train from Voss to Bergen. Throughout the journey you’ll see snow-capped mountains, valleys, deep fjords, and hundreds of waterfalls. It’s really beautiful and the journey is completely worth it. This is Norway’s most popular “tour” route  for a reason. Grab some snacks before you leave on your journey since there aren’t many places to stop to get something to eat. Also when on the tram to Flam sit on the left side (facing the cliff) of the train- the view is MUCH better!

Top left; View from train Oslo to Myrdal, Top right; Myrdal tram station, Bottom left; Kjosfossen Waterfall Bottom Right; Gudenvagen

Bus ride from Gudenvagen to Voss

Bergen

Bryggen Shorefront

  • Again I suggest getting a place near the train station so you can walk to your hotel and save money. We stayed at the Citybox Hotel ($120-$170/ night), about a 5 minute walk from the central train station.
  • Buy the Bergen card (~$32 for 24 hr. card) here and it gives you similar perks as the Oslo Card – free transportation and museum admissions. Here are the things you should do with it:

    Bryggen shorefront area

  • Walk around Bergen Shorefront in and out of the alleys (it’s like Diagon alley!) and check out Rosenkrantz Museum and Byrggens Museum. Walk behind the Bergen shorefront around the walking streets and check out the small boutique shops and cafes.
  • Check out some of the smaller museums like the Leprosy Museum – this one was weird but probably the most interesting museum we went to.
  • Take the tram up to Mt. Floyen (thisis included with the Bergen Card) – hike, picnic, eat ice cream, enjoy the view! I hiked around for a few hours with the husband. You could spend a whole day up here if you wanted.

    View from Mt. Floyen

TIPS:

  • Food is expensive! We lived off of 7-11, ice cream and grocery stores.
  • Public transportation in Oslo is very reliable, In Bergen not so much. Certain Skybuss lines were shut down, with no notice anywhere. Buses weren’t on time either in Bergen.
  • During the summer it’s daylight until 12:30 – 1 am. Take advantage of the extra daylight and walk around the city!

Scallion Pancakes

scallion pancake

Crispy, crunchy, savory scallion pancakes fresh off the skillet are a little piece of heaven. My husband LOVES this stuff. Now my husband is the type of person who eats to live, whereas, I live to eat. He literally will eat anything regardless of what it tastes like. He’s my little human garbage disposal :-). I love cooking for him and at first I would get really frustrated when he would say everything I made was just ok. It took me a while to learn that flavors just doesn’t do it for him, it’s the texture of food he cares about. His favorite being crispy, chewy and crunchy. All of which are in this yummy scallion pancake! I found this recipe on Serious Eats and gave it a go! He loved it and asked me to make them again- success!

Cook time: 1 hour                                      Makes: 4 pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp salt
~¼ cup sesame seed oil OR olive oil
2 cups scallions, slice thin
¼ cup vegetable oil

1. In a large mixing bowl, add flour and salt and mix well. Using the dough hook on your mixer, pour in the boiling water 2-3 tbsp at a time and mix on low speed. Once the dough comes together mix for 5 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

scallion pancakes

2. Split dough into 4 equal portions and rolls each one into a smooth ball. Roll out each dough ball into an 8 inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Brush on a light layer of sesame oil and roll into a tight tube. Next twist the tube into a spiral and flatten with your hand. This will give you nice flaky layers of bread.

3. Roll the spiral dough into an 8 inch circle again and brush with sesame oil. Sprinkle ¼ cup of scallions on top and roll into a tight tube again. Roll the tube into a spiral and flatten gently. Roll this into a 7 inch circle. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the rest of the dough. Make sure you cover the pancakes with a towel so the dough doesn’t dry out.

4. Heat vegetable oil in an 8-inch skillet on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Place the pancake into the skillet carefully and shake the pan gently for about 2 minutes. Flip the pancake and continue shaking the pan gently until the other side is nice and golden brown. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve with your favorite sauce. We ate ours with sweet and sour sauce or you can make the sauce on the Serious Eats page. Enjoy!

 

scallion pancakes

West African Peanut Soup

west african peanut soup

While I’m on the “soups around the world” tour, I thought I would give this amazingly yummy soup recipe a try.  Cookie and Kate made this soup with a thick stew-like consistency, but I was really craving something a bit soupy-er. I made a few changes here and there and ended up with a perfectly savory, nutty, spicy soup. The hubby loved it- even though it had kale in it! I substituted the brown rice from the original recipe with farro because I bought one of those 10 minute farro bags from Trader Joe’s like a year ago and I needed to use it. I think I actually would prefer this soup with farro over the brown rice due to the texture.  This soup tastes great the next day when the flavors have had time to meld together. I cooked the farro separately from the soup however; you could just cook it in the soup and make it a one pot recipe -what whhhaaat! #swag. So get a little cray and make this soup.  Few ingredients, big flavors!

Cook time: 15 minutes                                                                   Makes: 2-3 servings

½ red onion, diced small
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups kale, 1 inch strips
1 medium fresh tomato, diced
2.5 cups vegetable stock
½ cup unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
Sriracha sauce to taste
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup peanuts (optional)
1/2 cup uncooked farro

2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, ginger, peanut butter, tomato paste and salt to taste to broth. Whisk until peanut butter melts into the soup

3. Add kale, farro and tomato to the soup and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the farro is completely cooked.

4. Serve the soup over farro and garnish with chopped peanuts