A New Year

new-years-cards-girl-pulling-resolutions

It’s been a slow-moving year at The Global Reader, but I’m still here, and still reading. Cooking, not so much but that’s for another post on another day…

I hope to map many more miles in 2017; it’s at the top of my resolution list, and I’m optimistic my actions will match my goals.

Right away in January I’ll be reading about Japan, and then circling back to a couple of previously-visited countries. Singapore was one of my first stops, and I totally dropped the ball. That’s ridiculous; words will be read, and food will be cooked. I’ll also stop back by Guinea-Bissau. I’m a much better book sleuth now, and it’s a place that I want to know more about than something written 25 years ago…

So, those are a few of my thoughts about this blog that I care about very much. Thanks for following along this journey with me. I appreciate the time you spend here, and hope to make it a more vibrant place to visit. Happy New Year!!!

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Happy Martisor!

A lovely celebration in Moldova and Romania that celebrates March 1st, and the coming of spring.
Gifts of small tokens of affection, most often red and white, are a fun part of a holiday that has its roots in the ancient past.

Happy Martisor!

Red and White Martisor dolls
Martisor dolls that I made for my husband.
(image by The Global Reader)

Diwali Sweets

I’ve admired the holiday of Diwali from afar for quite a few years, and was so excited when I realized my blog was allowing me a completely legitimate excuse to actually celebrate it.

For those who are unfamiliar, Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs throughout the world, and is a national holiday in India (and many other countries). Varying in significance, meaning and ways of celebrating based on religion and/or location, one consistent way to define Diwali is to think of it as The Festival of Light. There are so many nuances that I don’t feel like I can tell you enough about it; for a deeper explanation, I’ll send you to Wikipedia.

I can say that from the cultural distance of being an American of northern European descent, I view it as a happy, bright, fun celebration – and I very much want to go to India to be a part of it someday.

Diwali Light
Diwali Light
(image by The Global Reader)

This year (2013) the start of Diwali came on the heels of Halloween and Día de los Muertos, both of which I celebrate with great enthusiasm. It’s really my favorite time of year, and I’m thrilled to have another tradition that I can add to the already festive and fun mix. I kept my first attempt low-key, so that I could start to think about how to seriously approach a bigger event next year.

Diwali
Diwali, as celebrated by a beginner
(image by The Global Reader)

So, after quite a bit of research and taking stock of my schedule, I decided to focus on a favorite part of the holiday: SWEETS! Which is no problem, because that’s what I generally do anyway…

I went very simple, so I think my search term was “15 minute Diwali sweets”, and I found some excellent stuff: I went with stovetop, no-bake choices. Both turned out to be very easy to make and very easy to enjoy – and will be getting made often.

Date & Nut Ladoo

adapted from a recipe on The Edible Garden

So good, and as sweet treats go, good for you. These can easily be made vegan: just substitute coconut oil for the ghee and there you go. Also, for an easy raw food dessert, you can skip cooking the date/nut mix and roll into balls as-is.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 medjool dates (or any soft dates)- pitted
  • 1 cup of raw mixed nuts of your choice ( I chose a mix of pistachios, almonds, and cashews)
  • 1 tsp of butter or ghee
  • 1/2 cup of desiccated coconut (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place the pitted dates in a food processor and grind to a coarse paste. Remove from food processor and set aside.
  2. Dry roast the nuts one kind at a time until they start to turn lightly brown and fragrant.
  3. Pulse all toasted nuts in the food processor until you have a coarse mixture. It’s a good idea to leave a few chunky pieces for some texture in the ladoos.
  4. Heat the ghee, butter (or coconut oil) in a non-stick pan.
  5. Add the dates and cook on low flame until it turns soft – about 3 mins. It will absorb the ghee/butter/oil completely too.
  6. Add the chopped nuts and blend in. Turn off heat.
  7. The mixture will be sticky and a bit tough to blend but keep going with your spatula and soon you will have mass of dates and nuts blended in perfectly. It’s actually a lot of fun! Just trust the process!
  8. Remove from pan and set aside. When it’s cool enough to handle, make ladoos of your desired size and roll half the batch in the desiccated coconut. You can also use roasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc in place of coconut. Or just do what I did, and leave some plain.

You can keep them, sealed in a container, at room temp for up to a week (if they make it that long). They are great treats to share with others, since they keep so well, and don’t crumble or break up.

Date & Nut Ladoo and Chocolate Peda
Date & Nut Ladoo (left) and Chocolate Peda (right)
(image by The Global Reader)

Chocolate Peda

adapted from a recipe on The Edible Garden

I love this. I am craving it right now, just writing about it. Another easy recipe, and so good. For an American junk food reference, this is reminiscent of a higher-quality Tootsie Roll. I don’t know if that’s a winner for you or not, but regardless…you should try it.

The original recipe calls for milk powder, but I read somewhere that you could substitute ground-up Maria cookies – and that’s what I did.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 cup of ground-up Maria cookies (very finely ground)
  • 1/3 cup of cocoa powder (I only had Dutch cocoa, but it turned out just fine)
  • 2-3 drops of vanilla extract (optional)
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat a large non-stick pan and add the butter. Keep the heat very low (at a simmer) and wait until the butter melts completely.
  2. Add the condensed milk, Maria cookies and cocoa power.
  3. Keeping on very low heat, mix the ingredients gently together until they incorporate.
  4. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to turn smooth and add the vanilla and salt. Keep mixing. The mixture will start to thicken. You can’t stop stirring!
  5. Soon – in about 3-4 mins, the mixture will be thicker and a bit harder to mix.
  6. After 5-6 more minutes of patient stirring, the mixture will be gloopy and thick and leave the sides of the pan, circling around your ladle. From this stage, continue to cook for another 2-3 mins. If you remove it too early, the chocolate peda will be fudgy and too sticky.
  7. Once the mixture is super thick and comes around your ladle refusing to let you budge it any more, transfer to a greased plate or tray.
  8. Pat it down with the back of a silicon spatula or wet fingertips (be careful – the mixture will be very hot!). Let it cool completely and then refrigerate for an hour.
  9. Roll the mix into balls and then flatten out into disks. Add cashews and/or chopped pistachios to the top

This is best kept a little bit cold. It’s chewy and chocolaty and oh-so-addictive!

So that was my Beginner Diwali! It is a beautiful and joyous celebration, and I’m looking forward to learning more and being able to participate in a deeper way.

Diwali Fire
Diwali Fire (with a little Halloween added in)
(image by The Global Reader)

Happy New Year!

HOPPIN’ JOHN RECIPE

Tradition says that eating Hoppin’ John, collard greens and cornbread on New Year’s Day will bring a year filled with good luck.
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon bacon drippings
  • 2 cans (about 16 ounces each) black-eyed peas, slightly drained, or about 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas

    Blackeyed Peas (Shutterstock)
  • 1 cup chopped cooked ham
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups hot cooked rice
  • salt to taste
  • sliced sweet onion, optional
PREPARATION:
In a large saucepan sauté chopped onion in bacon drippings until tender. Stir in black-eyed peas, ham, and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes; stir in hot cooked rice and salt. Serve Hoppin’ John hot with sliced onion and cornbread.
Serves 4 to 6