Sep 25, 2011

How to build Navarathri Golu Steps

Navarathri season is already here this year! And that means its time for Golu if your family is into keeping Golu. When I was growing up, Golu was one of the most fun times in our household. It was the 9 days of constant buzzing activity at home. There was always some kind of sundal at home and every evening there were people walking in and we had to be at our best behaviour. Thankfully I was not as talented as my sister and she was the one who had to play her veena every evening to impress all the mamis walking in. Those were the days when we were dressed up in new pattu pavadais and my mom was always more sweeter to us because she just was so preoccupied with all the other stuff and we got to get away with whatever we wanted. I'm smiling thinking of those days and I'm sure my daughter is here smiling that her turn is coming up soon!

For all of us living in the US or away from India, the luxury of having to buy readymade steel steps for Golu remains a constant dream. However, there are always options. Building a set of steps in wood. But it did take me a couple of years to convince my husband to actually get to build this. The topic always came up and somehow things never materialized and the last two golus sat on well kept cardboard boxes. This year things changed. He actually listened to what I said and hence here I'am writing a post on how we built our golu. Hopefully this will be helpful to someone out there who needs a little motivational push.

When you decide to do something, why not just do it big, right? So, instead of our normal 5 step golu, this year we're going with 7 steps!

Building this will take probably a few hours and maybe a couple of trips to your local Lowes or Home Depot stores. Plan well and you can be all done one weekend morning before lunch.

Here's what you need to shop for a 7 step golu set up. I've also provided the approx cost involved of the materials.

5 Step Stair Riser - $ 22
2 3 Step Stair Riser - $ 17
Wood Nails - Flat Philips - 10 x 2 1/2 - a 25 ct box (you'll use most of them)  - $ 3.00
Wood Premium Furring Strip - 2x2x8 - Get 1 piece cut into 2 pieces each at 4 ft length. - $2.00
Wood Board 1x2x2 -2 pieces - cut at 5 ft length (or however wide you want the planks to be. This is to connect both the stair riser and provide support)- $3.00
Wood Whitewood Board (Planks) - 9.25 inches depth, .75 thickness, 5 ft length - Get 7 pieces of this plank. Cost per plank - $ 8.00. (Make sure the depth of this plank is not more than the stair depth that this plank will sit on)

Total Approx Cost of materials only - $145

Take your specifications to Lowes and they will cut your wood planks to the length you want and this is free of cost.

In order to do a 7-step, place the 5 step stair riser and overlap the 3 step riser on top with one step overlapping each other.

You'll need an automatic drill to screw in nails on either side of the stair risers to join the 5 and 3 steps to make a 7 step stair.

Drill in 3 nails on one side and 4 on the other side. Make sure the steps line are even and not tilted while you do this.

Next, nail the 2x2 furring strip near the 6th step so that when the step is placed upright, this stick holds the weight. We had a small piece left over after the long one was cut into two pieces at Lowes and used that in the second step at the bottom for extra support.

Next place the two 7 step stair risers parallel to each other on the floor. For a little support and to make a skeleton structure, nail in the 1x2x2 wood board in the front of the first bottom step and another one in the back connecting both the 7th steps.

Next, place the wooden planks on top of each step. Get the planks so that they fit within the width of the step and does not cross the step. This way when you place the dolls, it won't hit the step above it.

Place all the planks on each step. And you're done. These planks are pretty sturdy and don't need to be screwed in. But if you are really picky, you can screw them in but remember, you'll have to disassemble them all after navarathri.

For disassembling, remove the planks and store them as is. Just remove the two boards connecting the stair risers and store as is. You can then store the stair risers with the legs as is. That way, it won't be too difficult to put it back the following year.

Sorry I don't have too many pictures of each step. But the hubby did this while I was away and I could only get these shots - will try to take some more when we disassemble and maybe add those here.

So, if you're waiting to build one, now is the time! Get your tools out and order some pizza. It will be a joyful day when you get something accomplished like this! I'm super happy and can't wait to start golu in a few days. Got our dolls out over the weekend. Will sure share some pictures once we are all set up!

Update: Here's how my golu looked. Enjoy building your own steps and setting up your golu.

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Sep 20, 2011

Veggie and Paneer Kababs

Summers are meant for barbecues and lazing by the pool side. Or at the beach. Well, we planned to do that all summer too but never really got around to it. School started back on but we were not the ones to let go of the idea just as easily. Its still a little hot out there and technically it still is summer. Why not make use of it, right? So, our group of friends planned to do a barbecue party over the weekend. And our family is the only one vegetarian one in the group. So the minute the barbecue was being planned, I knew I was going to get my favorite paneer kababs. I've posted a simple recipe of this before on the blog but this time wanted to make it a little more detail with all the step by step pictures. So, here we go.

This is a really easy recipe but it takes a little planning to marinate the veggies ahead of time. But with just a little effort, the reward is plenty. Imagine yourself sitting on a lounge chair, sipping on some beer or margarita in hand, chatting with your best buddies while the kids are busy by themselves. And in between every sentence, you get to bite into a juicy tangy piece of grilled paneer or veggie dipped in a flavorful mint chutney. I mean, are these not why weekends are made for? To stop and smell the roses or at least the kababs?

Let's get going with the marinade. Prepare this marinade a day ahead so the veggies and paneer get to soak in them for hours and pull in the flavors.

I was doing this for a big batch of kababs. Please adjust the quantity according to your needs.

Take about 2-3 cups of slightly sour yogurt in a mixing bowl. Add salt to taste.

Add 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder to the curds.

Then add about 1-2 tsp of red chilli powder - this will also add spice to the kababs not to mention the color.

In a small pan, dry roast these ingredients -

2tbsp of Coriander seeds
1 tsbp of Cumin seeds
2-3 dried red chillies

Grind the dry roasted ingredients above to a coarse powder.

Add the powdered spices to the yogurt mixture.

And now for the flavor kick, add about 3-4 tsps of ginger -garlic paste to the yogurt mix. This adds a whole ton of flavor to the kababs. I've made kababs before without this stuff but trust me, this version is definitely better. So, unless you don't eat garlic, don't skip this step. And if you are not a garlic person, at least add fresh ginger paste.

Whisk all the ingredients with the yogurt and make a smooth paste.

Finally add about 1-2 tsps of chat masala and whisk together well. Set aside. The marinade is ready. Now on to the veggies chopping.

These veggies tend to hold up well to grilling and maintain a good texture to eat.

Bell Peppers - Green, Red, Yellow

You can also use eggplants - my friend had bought a few grilled eggplants and they were absolutely delicious - so I'm adding them the next time for sure.

Wash and chop the veggies into big bits and move all the pieces to a ziploc bag where you can marinate them overnight.

Here's the zucchini chopped up.

Also chop paneer into big thick chunks that hold up well on skewers and offer a good bite.

Get all your veggies into individual ziploc bags. Or if you want it easier, just mix them up all together and soak together in one big bowl. But I somehow always like it when they are individually marinated. Makes me feel happy for them that each of them has its own space. Its my choice - so you decide what you want to do.

Pour equal amounts of the yogurt marinade into each of the bags and give the veggies a gentle rub so that the sauce gets in between spaces.

Seal tight and refrigirate the packets overnight. Every maybe 6-8 hrs, just pick them up and give a gentle rub so that all sides are mixed well.

When you're ready to barbecue them, arrange the veggies in order (or not!) on skewers. You can also get the kids to do this if you want to keep them entertained. I'm sure they'll enjoy getting their hands messy. I did these though - not the kids - they were no where to be seen - they just showed up when food was ready!

Grill on medium to high heat for about 20-30 mins or until you see them well done. Save some of the marinade and brush on top as your barbecue for added flavor.

Turn the skewers around in between so that all sides get cooked evenly.

They turn from this -

- to this in about 30 mins.

So get your grill going and start up some veggie panner kababs. And yes, don't forget some grilled corn on the side - make sure you rub that with a wedge of lemon dipped in salt and red chilli powder for a perfect bite.

You can either serve them on skewers itself or just remove the veggies from the skewers and serve alongside with some green coriande-mint chutney.

You can also serve these kababs along with some simple saffron tinged pulav. They go great with just plain jeera rice or ghee rice too. We actually had some simple Kadhi Chawal along with all the barbecued stuff and it was a perfect summer evening. Good food. Good friends. Great evening!

So wait no more - get kababing before the sun goes down!

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Sep 7, 2011

Almond and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Biscotti, a traditional Italian biscuit, means something that is twice baked. And that's exactly how this is made - twice baked. One of the best things about a biscotti is that it is relatively low in fat. There is no butter or oil used in the recipe. So, you can definitely indulge in a few of these along with a steaming cup of coffee. Just dunk one of these in your coffee and move them swiftly to your mouth. One bite into it and you will experience a little bliss that can guarantee a smile. And just biting into little almond and chocolate pieces do nothing else but increase that joy. So, what are you waiting for. Get the ingredients in line and start baking.

Thanks to the Sweet Punch team for picking this as the recipe for this months bake. It was an absolute joy to bake these and I ended up making a second batch almost immediately while the first one was still in the oven. We were on our way to a friends house for dinner and these were perfect to take with me to share. 

I stuck to the same recipe as provided - the classic Joy of Baking site recipe here. The variations you can do with Biscotti is as vast as your imagination could take you. Add in any kind of nuts, raisins, dried fruits etc or bake them and then dip them in chocolate, or coat them with icing, or drizzle them with sugar - whatever your heart fancies. 

Please check the Joy of Baking site for the entire recipe.

Let's look at the step by step process here.

In a mixing bowl, add the following and mix together well and set aside.

All Purpose Flour - 1 3/4 cup
Baking Powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp

In an mixing bowl or an electric mixing bowl, take 2/3 cups of sugar.

Add two large eggs.

Whisk and combine the eggs and sugar well in high speed until the mixture turns pale and fluffy. Mix for about 5 mins or until the mixture falls back in ribbons when  you lift out the whisk.

Now add the dry mixture to this wet mixture and combine together till all of it is mixed well.

The mix will look a little crumbly.

Now, to add the fun stuff - 3/4 cup of blanched whole almonds or chopped almonds. I had some slivered almonds and used those in place.

Add the almonds to the dough.

Next add the chocolate chips along with the almonds.

I used the semi sweet mini morsels.

Fold the chocolate chips and almonds into the dough until well combined.

Move the dough as a ball on to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Moisten hands with a little water and press down the dough to form a flat log about 12 inches long and 3-4 inches wide. 

Bake this in a pre heated oven at 350 F for about 25 mins. The top will firm up after baking. Take the log out of the oven and rest for about 10 mins.

Using a serrated knife, cut sidewise into long thick slices.

Move these slices again to a baking sheet and bake for a second time for about 10 mins on each side turning them once in between.

That's it - they're done.

Time to dunk some in coffee - u ready for some?

Enjoy. Peace Out.