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My parents’ 45th anniversary

20121223-102429.jpgMy parents, Ram and Sunita Swaroop, on the morning of their 45th wedding anniversary on Dec. 23,2012. I made them some fried pakoras to have with their morning tea. When i congratulated them on their longevity my mom reminded me that in India when you marry it’s for life. I think she meant that in that context 45 years isn’t a lot. To me it is worth celebrating. Congrats Mom & Dad!!

“Good. The texture and the crispiness came perfect.”

– Sunita Swaroop, high praise from my mom who taught me how to make these and who has been making pakoras for over 55 years.

It was Sunday morning and my parents 45th wedding anniversary. My parents are older now and going out to dinner or even a movie is no longer a pleasure for them. My dad is 83 and he has become frail after a minor stroke several years ago. Because of his condition, he would get too tired sitting in a movie theater for that long. My mom believes her place is by his side so she won’t go either. But there are a great many things that they enjoy. The morning chai is one of them and on this beautiful morning they wanted pakoras so along with tea and shortbread cookies that’s what I made for them. Click here for the recipe which is simple and easy to make.

My parents got married in Lucknow in 1967 with about 80 friends and family celebrating with them in a traditional Indian ceremony. According to my mom, it was an arranged marriage and my parents met on Dec. 20, 1967 and were married on the 23rd. Since my dad was just in India during a break from work (He was the lead statistician for Cordura Corp. for NASA and the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California) and school (UCLA where he was completing his Ph.d. in biostatistics).

My mom was working as a librarian at the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow, India. She quit her position when she married Dad to take care of the family, which included my brother and sister from Dad’s first marriage. She was living with my grandfather, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law until she and my older sister, Sunita, and older brother, Subhash, moved to California to be with my dad later that year.

I was born two years later and my younger sister, Suki, arrived a year after me.

Today, we all got to enjoy hot, tasty pakoras on their 45th anniversary.



A cooking lesson

My aunt, Renu, visiting from India for the first time this summer taught me how to make chicken curry, above, while she was here.

I had two sets of aunts and uncles visiting the United States  from India – for the first time – over the summer. They landed in New York on Aug. 8, 2010 where they visited some cousins and my aunt who lives in a posh neighborhood in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. While they were there they toured Manhattan and trekked up to Niagara Falls while they were on the East Coast.

Then they arrived on the Best Coast, whoops I mean the West Coast, on on Aug. 14 and stayed until Sept. 17. While they were out here we took them out for their first view of the Pacific Ocean as seen from the golden shores of Huntington Beach, Little Saigon in nearby Westminster,  a jaunt to wild Las Vegas, then out to peaceful Ramkrishna Monastery in Trabuco Canyon, Huntington Beach Central Library which was a hit for my book-addicted uncle and aunt, Arun Saksena and Karuna Saxena, and of course shopping for clothes, perfume and tasty treats. Not to mention visiting several restaurants to taste ethnic and Western fare.

Ramkrishna Monastery which is open to the public from 9 to 11 a.m and 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Sundays. The monastery sits atop 40 acres of largely undeveloped rolling hills in Trabuco Canyon. The monks maintain the buildings and grounds of the monastery which include a shrine, a shrine trail honoring the world’s major religions, and a bookstore.

But I digress. while they were here my aunt, Renu Saksena, complained that I hadn’t eaten anything made by her. Seeing an opportunity, I asked her to make her famous chicken curry and to teach me how to make it while she was at it. She agreed.

My uncle and aunt, Arun and Renu Saksena, spent part of the summer visiting the West Coast. My aunt is the one who taught me how to make her delicious and simple chicken curry. It was a delight being able to show them around. They arrived back home in Lucknow, India on Sept. 19.

It tasted great. It was so tender and delicious that it tasted like it simmered over low heat for quite awhile. But it’s easy to make and we served it up 30 minutes after we heated up the pan. Definitely a crowd pleaser!

You want to make it yourself? Click here for the recipe.

Celebrating Holi

Just part of the Holi spread: Aloo Tikkis (potato pancakes), Gujiya (delicious Indian pastries), Somosas and Kurma (both savory and sweet fried Indian snacks).

The Swaroop family came together on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010 to celebrate Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors that is traditionally celebrated by splashing colored water and attacking each other with colored powder in a festive, fun celebration that includes a massive Indian spread. In our family, everyone gathered in Huntington Beach to celebrate.

However, we did not play colors. It was decided that nobody was up for the task of cleaning up the mess the colors leave. So sad, since it isn’t really Holi for me without the rambunctious glee of color but more of a food fest.

Nothing wrong with a food fest, though! Pictured above is our spread of the plethora of main courses: Hand-made sandwiches by Sujata; Fried Chicken, Chicken Soft Tacos and Potato Salad provided by Suki.

Fried Chicken

Here is a closer look at one of the staples of our Holi menu. It’s not exactly a traditional Indian item, but it is certainly a traditional Swaroop Holi item. The chicken and the potato salad behind it was picked up from a local deli. It looks good, doesn’t it? Well, you should’ve been there because the delicious aroma stayed in the house all day long tempting those of us there to devour some. We did.

And let’s not forget the massive chicken soft tacos. Above, Roshan enjoys a taco as he finishes up lunch. Actually, they were so good he had two!

The family: In this picture is Sunita, Ram, Karen, Shawn, Surabhi and Rita enjoy lunch in the California sunshine. There was a steady downpour the day before so we felt blessed for the balmy weather.

Raksha Bandan

I made these ice cream sandwiches from molasses spice cookies and mint chocolate chip, butter pecan and chocolate ice creams. Click the Recipe Index tab for the recipe.

I made these ice cream sandwiches from molasses spice cookies and mint chocolate chip, butter pecan and chocolate ice creams. Click the Recipe Index tab for the recipe.

The family gathered to celebrate Raksha Bandan in Huntington Beach. For those of you that don’t know: Raksha Bandan in an Indian holiday that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers. The sisters all make some sort of dish for their brothers and tie a rakhi around their brothers’ (and their wives) wrists. For that they are rewarded with a gift, but more often cash. It is a great time.

This year Suki hosted the festivities in the sunny garden with a menu that included quiche, berry salad, pasta salad, tater tots, buttermilk biscuits, mango, strawberries, tea, water, lemonade and juices. Surabhi brought Desi turkey sliders (the hit of the meal!) and potato salad. Sujata contributed samosas with accompanying chutneys.

For dessert there were ice cream sandwiches, brownies, cupcakes, tollhouse cookies, ras malai, assorted pastries.

Everyone enjoyed the festivities and visiting with those who attending including: Dad, Mom, Vijay Chachi, Surabhi, Subodh, Sujata, Sunil, Bansi Dada, Karen, Sunjay, Dinesh, Serena, Murli Dada, Sangeeta, Maya, Suki, myself and special surprise guest my cousin, Vishnupriya Saksena from India who happened to be in California on business.

Fourth festivities

The highly anticipated Tres Leches cake brought to us by Shelley, Gabbi's daughter. A Tres leches cake, or Pastel de Tres leches (Spanish, "Three milk cake"), is a sponge cake,—in some recipes, a butter cake—soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream.

The highly anticipated Tres Leches cake brought to us by Shelley, Gabbi’s daughter. A Tres leches cake, or Pastel de Tres leches (Spanish, “Three milk cake”), is a sponge cake,—in some recipes, a butter cake—soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream.

The whole family gathered at the home of Vijay Chachi, Subodh and Surabhi to celebrate Independence Day with a BBQ.

We got there around 3 p.m. and were treated to chicken, kebobs, turkey burgers, hot dogs, grilled veggies and veggie burgers all made by Subodh. Surabhi was the other half of Team BBQ and made us salsa, guacamole, green salad, chips, potato salad, chutney and the burger trimmings. Karen brought her famous brownies, Bansi Dada brought cantaloupe, strawberries and watermelon. Suki brought some decadent lime-coconut cupcakes. And, of course, there was ice cream sundaes and the highly-anticipated Tres Leches cake by Shelley.

It was a decadent day where we got to bask in the beautiful California sunshine, eat lots of great food and watch a James Bond movie marathon.