Happy Easter & Happy Spring!

Spring Flowers

 "Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that is where death is" -Pope Francis during the Easter vigil

Hope this beautiful Spring-time opens up our hearts and fills it with love, and LIFE! 
Happy Easter & Happy Spring my friends! 


Here is the winner of the GitaDini Saucepan Giveaway:

Comment number 44: Amy of Utry.it

Congratulations Amy, will be contacting you for your address. Thanks to everyone who participated and to Gitadini for offering this giveaway to us. 

Lemon Couscous Spring Chicken In a Pot- and of goodbyes and new beginnings!

Chicken in a pot


Spring has very loudly announced her presence for a while now, around here. Little shoots poke out from the ground and buds burst open into a riot of colours. Tree branches that had nothing more than barren twigs, are covered with pink petaled flowers almost overnight.

I made a trip to our beautiful farmer's market here in Marin along with friends Patty and Gina recently, and we were greeted by piles and piles of bountiful produce, that has come to life after the cold death of winter.  Bright orange carrots and pretty radishes freshly dug from the brown earth. All around me, visible signs of change, new beginnings, rebirth.

farmers market collage


Today is Good Friday, the solemn day we remember the death of Jesus. But it is followed, like Spring follows Winter, with the greatest celebration in the Christian calendar- Easter, this Sunday. As we prepare to celebrate Christ's resurrection after His death,  we are reminded of our own resurrection after our life here on Earth is done. Reminded that our troubles, achievements and everything here in this life is only temporary- a passing mist, compared to our everlasting life to come.

The Jewish festival of Passover falls at the same time, and symbolically the two events are linked- Christians believe that Jesus Christ was sacrificed as the pascal lamb that was traditionally slaughtered for Passover. That Jesus, the son of God was crucified, accepting unbearable suffering so that each and every one on the earth, would be forgiven for our sins, and saved. He paid the price for our souls, taking on the punishment each of us deserve for our sins.

Of course, this does not mean that sin does not have consequences  What it means is that while we are here on Earth, we have the opportunity to confess our sins and avail of God's grace to "fix" ourselves and our lives, and resolve to sin no more. To put our past behind us, and start afresh.



As we celebrate new beginnings, there are going to be some major changes and new beginnings in my own life too. We have been considering this decision for a while, and it had become something we thought of as being inevitable, eventually, but somewhere at the back of our minds. Recently however, God aligned things to make this decision for us: We are moving to India! Soon, much sooner than we had initially planned.

I am very excited but honestly, equally anxious. There is SO much to do and I wish we had more time to do it. I dread my long to-do list, I dread the packing, the planning, the starting from scratch. I just want to hide and pretend that it will all take care of itself! There is furniture that will hopefully get sold, the letting go of so many things that I had accumulated and grown attached to. I hope this hard exercise is going to teach me to finally do something I strive to- to live simpler, to own less, to be less attached to mere things. Less to store and maintain, less to clutter and clean up after, less to carry around. Let's hope this resolution holds!

But in all this confusion, I feel God's hand guide us, helping me strike one more thing off my list, and then another. When I am anxious, I remember to surrender.

I am one of those people who hate change so it took me a while to get used to the very idea of the big move. I thought about everything I would miss. I will deeply miss our beloved farmer's market, the wonderful library, the long walks with my little man to the duck pond close by, the hills outside my window. I will crazily miss being only a short ride away from the cuisines of Argentina to Ethiopia and Vietnam and our regular barbecue picnics by China Camp State Park. Seeing my beloved Golden Gate shrouded by fog. I will dearly miss the friends we made here, and I know my little man will miss his friends here too.

Marin Farmer's Market

Marin Farmer's Market

Marin Farmer's Market

Another half of me though, is growing more and more excited by the day. Excited about meeting up with family and our dear old friends whom we haven't seen in too long a while. One of my favorite cousin's wedding is on the day after we land and I couldn't be more thrilled that it is one wedding we won't have to miss! Looking forward to being steeped in tradition, colour, and chaos! I look forward to experience the wonderful food of my home with fresh eyes and to learn more about Indian cooking while I also try to recreate the food I enjoyed here. I look forward to wandering around the busy, colorful and crowded markets there and drinking cutting chai by the road side. To enjoy sweet golden mangoes and mangosteens from my grandmother's garden.

Lots to look forward to, hopefully even more beautiful than the wonderful years we will be leaving behind.

This means that things might get a little quiet around here, as I force my self away from the laptop and wrap up some stuff, but I will be back soon with new stories! And I won't be able to stay away from  facebook or instagram or twitter and will probably be bombarding you with minutia leading up to the big fat move!

To all our friends here: I hate saying goodbye, so I won't. See you in South India my loves, let me be your tour guide!
To all the old friends we are meeting and the new friends I hope to make: I. Cannot. Wait.

Chicken in a pot

In celebration of Spring, while its still not very warm in most parts of the country, here is a one pot chicken dish adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, which is very simple to make so is perfect if you are looking for an easy to throw together, yet dramatic Easter dish.

It makes the best of Spring veggies and you can drop in what ever you have on hand. Carrots, cabbage, caramelized shallots and garlic, everything is just sublime cooked along with the chicken. I had to experiment and add my own touch so added some lemons which add a wonderful tangy brightness and served with some couscous that readily soaked up the glorious chicken "gloop" as Dorie calls it.

chicken in a pot

This dish is a truly wonderful thing, way awesomer than the sum of its parts. Flavorful and bright from the lemon, it is a great way to finally welcome Spring! 

I pretty much followed Dorie's instructions that you can read on her blog here

Basically you take the biggest pot you have and heat some oil and sautee garlic,  and some shallots or onions and whatever vegetables you like- I just used some carrots
Then heat oil in a skillet and brown a whole chicken that has been patted down ( Remove the giblets and if you like, the skin as well- I did) and seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. No need to cut up the chicken, or you can use some chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken.
Place the chicken breast side down ( this I think is very important to avoid drying out the breast)  on to the veggies
Place wedges of cabbage and lemon as much as you can fit into your pot around the chicken.
Stir together a half a cup of wine, half a cup of olive oil and a cup of chicken broth ( or water mixed with bullion) and whatever herbs you like- I just used some dried oregano and thyme because I didn't have any fresh herbs,  and pour this over the chicken.
Then I just covered my pot with a tight lid, but Dories makes a flour-paste to seal the lid, or suggests using foil to cover the pot tightly.
Bake for 70 mins in an oven that has been preheated to 450 F

As Dorie promises, the chicken bakes up to be fall apart tender and gosh so amazingly flavorful  The juices or "gloop" is definitely the best thing about this dish, and the couscous and cabbage that magically soaks up all this flavour gets finished off first! Seriously don't skip the cabbage even if you are a cabbage hater. It transforms into something truly amazing. And I definitely recommend adding the lemon-made the chicken taste tangy fresh and just perfect for Spring!

Reminder: There are only two more days left to enter the giveaway for a very useful straining saucepan by Gitadini  so don't forget to stop by and leave your entry if you haven't already! 

Masala Chai Concentrate and a Straining Saucepan Giveaway

Masala Chai Concentrate

I had just moved into an apartment with a kitchen during my student days. I barely knew to cook and along with my roommates  had just set up our kitchen- a rented fridge, a small gas stove and a toaster oven and a few pots, pans, spices and bags of lentils we had each brought from our mother's kitchens.
We were all set and felt so grown up, even though none of us had accomplished cooking anything more than rice and dal, and that was dinner on most days. We didn't really feel the need to learn anything more, as when we got tired of dal, restaurants delivering delicious and cheap but greasy food right to your home and even home cooks who brought healthy, homemade meals for us "bachelors" (and bachelorettes) were only a phone call or a short walk away.
But on that rainy Sunday, my roommates and I were stuck at home, with a yearning for masala chai.

Masala chai or spiced ginger tea is popular and easily available at tea stalls all over India. It tastes best drunk out of little cut- glass tumblers on a crowded street full of life and color and is a great picker upper when you are tired after a long day, or a chilly, rainy one. On that bleak, grey morning many years ago, we began to talk about masala chai and I grew increasingly desperate for some.

The only problem was that I had no idea how to make tea, so I had to look it up in a cookbook, (my first ever), a used copy of Modern Cookery picked up on a whim from a pavement book seller near Besant Nagar Beach, because I remembered seeing it on my mom's bookshelf.

Luckily we found a bag of loose tea leaves and the required spices among the stuff our mothers had packed for us and I followed the steps that included filling a saucepan with "fresh bubbling water" from the tap. Thank you and your detailed instructions Thangam E. Philip!
I boiled milk along with twice the amount of water, added a piece of smashed ginger, pepper, cloves, cardamon and cinnamon on our little stove. I waited until it came to a rapid boil, then threw in a teaspoon of of tea leaves for every cup of tea as Ms Thangam instructed me to, then turned down the heat and let it simmer and then boil alternately until the tea and spices infused the tea with warmth and strength as I had seen the chaiwallahs ( tea stall man in North India, called chaya kada karan in the South) do.

That first cup of tea was absolutely wonderful, and soon my roommates and I discovered that a steaming cup of spiced ginger tea and a warm piece of toast spread with cold butter or jam was one of the best things in life to wake up to. For some reason I became the official chaiwallah of the house, followed by which I soon mastered or atleast became familiar with cooking some simple things. Ofcourse there were lots of disasters too, and sometimes even today, but they all help me learn what not to do!

Masala Chai Concentrate

Many years have passed and I no longer need a cookbook to make chai, and today, cooking is no longer a necessity for me, but more of an obsession!

Whenever my mother in law comes to stay with us, tea and toast is our little ritual that we share before we begin the day and whenever the weather is chilly, and especially when one of us is fighting a cold, she asks me to make my "special" masala chai.
The steam opens up blocked nasal passages, and the spices soothe and heal a sore throat. Along with Mummy's special blend of homeopathic remedies, a warm cup of the masala chai is sure to chase away colds.

This masala tea concentrate is for those days when you need that spicy kick in your tea, but are short on time. I boil the spices in water before hand, cool the liquid and store it in a bottle in the fridge. I only make a little at a time, but you can increase the amount to make for the week ahead. Pour it into a pretty bottle and the beautiful golden red liquid would also make a nice gift for the tea lovers in you life.

I can also see many other uses for the concentrate,to poach fruits, make into a syrup for desserts, maybe even in savory cooking uses.

Masala Chai Concentrate


The GitiaDini Straining Saucepan is perfect for making this masala chai concentrate because it has deep pour spouts and  a strainer inbuilt. Such a clever idea, making it ideal to cook rice, pasta, vegetables, soup and anything else that may require pouring and straining, without needing a separate colander or strainer. If you want to strain very finely, ( for example tiny tea leaves) you may find the holes a little large and may want to use a mesh strainer, but for most things like rice, pasta, vegetables and larger spices like those used in this spice concentrate  it works great. I wish it came with a lid, but was happy to find that I had several lids from other pans at home that fit perfectly.

I like that the sides are also slightly rounded making it easy to stir things and it is just the right size at 2 quarts- making me reach for it often. It has a nice heft to it and is well made. I have had it for about two weeks and so far I have used this pot almost exclusively for all kinds of things and would definitely recommend it.

My Photo
I am happy that the lovely people at GitaDini  giving away a Straining Saucepan to one of Magpie's Recipes' readers.
Here is how you can enter the giveaway and gain extra entries:

1. To enter: Leave one comment on this post telling me what you would use the straining saucepan for
2. Extra Entries: Like or follow Magpie's Recipes on FacebookTwitterGoogleplus or Pinterest and leave a comment saying you did,  a separate comment for each
3. Extra Entries: Like or follow GitaDini on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus, Pinterest, and leave a comment here saying you did, a separate comment for each
4. Extra entries: Share, tweet or pin this giveaway and leave a separate comment saying that you did for each

The contest will close on March 31st and winners will be announced shortly after and the saucepan will be shipped by GitaDini to any address here in the US. Winners will be chosen using random, so the more entries you have, the more likely you are to win. Make sure you have a US address if you take part!

If you want to check out all the other cool products by GitaDini like the Rotito Roti Rolling Board set and the fun Ying Yang spice box, visit their website.

Recipe for Masala Chai Concentrate
Yield: Enough concentrate for two cups of tea, increase proportionately to make more

  • Water 2 1/2 cups 
  • Cinnamon 1 stick
  • Ginger 1 inch piece smashed with the heel of your knife or in a mortar and pestle ( no need to grind, just smash it once or twice to release juices)
  • or Ginger powder 1/4 tsp
  • Cloves 6
  • Cardamom 6
  • Whole Pepper corns 10 or 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

  • Add the spices to the water and bring to a boil on medium heat.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 mins to infuse the water with the spices
  • Cool,strain, bottle and store in the fridge.

When you want to make your tea, just  pour a cupfull of the concentrate into a mug,
Add a dash of milk ( I add only about 2 tablespoons of milk, increase if you like your tea more milky) to the concentrate,
Heat until boiling ( 2 mins on high in the microwave should do)
Add a tea bag and let it infuse for 2 to 4 mins depending on how strong you like your tea.
Enjoy a cupfull of bliss :)

You can use spices of your choice- (ground nutmeg or dried mint would be a great addition), some people prefer to leave out the pepper as it can be a little prominent.
Use a black tea you like to drink, I have used Darjeeling, orange pekoe or even Mummy's favorite Twinings Earl Grey tea.

Please note: I received no compensation from GitaDini  or anyone else to write this review for the sample saucepan they sent me. All opinions are strictly my own, from the two weeks that I have rigorously used this saucepan.