Feels like I have been gone forever. It has been a year. And so much has happened in this year that I was away. We moved to a new place and then this pandemic hit, which has turned everyone's lives upside down. Slowly trying to come back to blogging as we settle into our new place in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was glad to have our vegetable patch up and running in the last month and has been prompting me to post some recipes. Our herbs are growing like crazy and in this short time we've had a bumper produce of basil. And I knew that it had to used soon. The last time I made pesto, the kids didn't like the raw garlic taste, so this time I decided to give it a twist and roast the garlic before making the pesto. Roasting it gives a mild smoky flavor which we loved.

The longer you stay away, the harder it is to come back. That has been the case for me with blogging. Once it became infrequent, the time used for blogging was filled up with other kid activities and as a consequence, it became harder to find time for blogging.

Visiting my blog last week, I came across nice messages left by readers about recipes they had tried. It inspired me. And when a friend wants a recipe, you know that you have to write it down.

Every weekend morning, the kids choose between pancakes and waffles for breakfast. I have always relied on store bought mix, assuming that making it from scratch must be so difficult.

But, tired of reading the long list of ingredients in the mix box, I finally caved in last year, deciding to give making the batter at home a try.

To my surprise, not only is it easy, there are few ingredients involved.

I was in India last year for makar sankranti after many years. It was wonderful to see all the variety of chikki, gajak, pithe, payesh that were so easily available. I even brought back some with me.

This year as sankranti rolled around, I made some almond brittle or badam chikki.

The Great British baking show has turned them into little critics. They are walking around pouting things like "is it crunchy enough?" "is the bread hollow sounding?," and all the things they have seen on the screen.

Happy new year everyone.  Hope your new year has started well. Are you working on any new resolutions in 2019? 

I do intend to set some goals, write some intentions for the coming year, but not setting any resolutions. I feel some of the best things happened when I was no thinking about them, they were not on my list. So this year, I am opening myself to possibilities with some goals. 

Let's see how it goes.  

Coming back to this recipe, I didn't think of it as a recipe.

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope everyone is enjoying their break. We had a cookie exchange in our neighborhood earlier this month and this year, I decided to make something different. You see, the favorite show for us to watch together now a days is the Great British Bake Off. Lil A and Tiny M are into it too and together we found ourselves cheering for Nadiya Hussain from episode one. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are rubbing off on them and they are becoming quite the judges when it comes to baked goodies. In fact, when I take them grocery shopping now, they stop in the bread aisle checking breads with sentences like "yes, this sounds hollow", "what temperature was this cooked at," etc. So we had to make something special and something British for the cookie exchange. We settled on millionaire's shortbread. It was also my first time making caramel and I learned that light brown sugar make the caramel light, better to stick with the dark brown sugar. I followed the recipe from America's Test Kitchen, modifying it a bit to my needs.  It came out quite well.

Happy Diwali everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful celebrations with your friends and family. It was wonderful to get friends and family spend some time together. This Diwali, I decided to make this dessert on an impulse - Chocolate almond barfi or fudge. The texture was indeed fudge-like, not the kora pak we Bengalis like to call it. Chewy with the almond and chocolate, it was quite delicious. I even added in some white chocolate chips on top to entice the little ones, but they stayed away. The adults, on the other hand, all enjoyed the barfi. Festivals have a way of bringing up all the food memories of sharing food during festivals, people who made it special, and of eating and cooking. I was on my way back from work and I heard a cookbook author on NPR echo those same thoughts. And Fall is full of these festivals and celebrations. Birthdays, Diwali, soon Thanksgiving and Christmas. How do you like to celebrate these special moments?

Just as we wind up Halloween, I stay up trying to make a cake for Tiny M who is coming up on 6 years. Not a little guy anymore! His request for this year were confetti cake and Pokemon cookies. So when they went to bed, I browsed through recipes and zeroed in on Smitten Kitchen's recipe.  I wanted to make a two-layer cake, so I doubled up her recipe except egg whites partly because I had only 3 eggs at home and it was too late to get more.  I also had vanilla bean paste at hand and used it. The only thing I did not double was the sprinkle measurement, but it was close. Let me tell you, her idea of using cornstarch in this cake is genius! I haven't used cornstarch in cakes before and wasn't so sure, but I went with the directions.  It made the cake soft and the white cake also pops the colors of the sprinkles. I used whipped cream instead of the butter cream for some lightness and a little sprinkles to round it off.

Shubho bijoya everyone. Here the temperatures dropped right before the pujo, so it has been a lot colder this year. But that doesn't dampen the festival spirits, right? Even though the work week is busy and regular stuff and pujo is over the weekend, it's fun to make something special during the week. Growing up, Durga pujo was more about meeting friends, fun, and eating out more than the religion part, and I am hoping that kids get some of those moments too. Even if it means carrying the Pokemon tins, chess boards and coordinating with friends. It turned out to be fun, they sat around and played chess and games while we caught up on our end. During the week, I made malai chamcham. I didn't intend to make it the long way, but it turned out to be so. I forgot to follow the advice I give out here and put sugar in the heavy cream in the beginning. So I started over again for malai, this time with whole milk. The result of it all - delicious malai chamchams, that reminded us of sweet goodness during the busy work week. Here is how I made it:

It's that time in the farmer's market when every vendor is eager to get rid of their zucchinis and summer squashes. They are plentiful, there are everywhere and they are cheap. And pretty much every time I go, I pick up some. You can get a nice long one for a dollar or a mix for a couple of bucks. I planted a few zucchini plants this summer, but I didn't get any zucchinis. I got a lot of flowers, but no zucchinis, but with farmer market I have nothing to worry about. This is the new favorite - zucchins and squashes strifried with some curry leaves and paprika. It turned out really good, and we munched on some as an appetizer while we waited for the rice and dal to be done.