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Growing up in India, holidays were a simple affair. No Europe trips, no all inclusive beach resorts, cabins in the remote Amazon forest or scuba diving in Cairns. Options were limited, you either stayed home or you were sent to stay with relatives. Occasionally my family would go on a pilgrimage to all the holy temples. But these simple holidays filled my nostalgic bank with cherishable events.

Like the summer vacation, when my brother and I attempted to bake a cake in an oven made of a wok packed with sand and a pressure cooker.

It would have been the best chocolate cake ever made, except that the store boy gave us caustic soda instead of baking soda. Well, we ended up with a nice round baked brick which was awful to taste but could have filled the pothole on my street. We both laughed so much it hurt.

Or the holiday in Calcutta, when my uncle would bring home a small matki (clay pot) of mishti doi (sweet yogurt) with a hot samosa every evening after work. And the trip to Dharmastala where they served food out of huge barrels on wheels. I still remember the taste of that watery sweet and sour rasam.

Life is a canvas and it is up to us to paint all the everlasting memories on it. So whether you are in the Bahamas or in your backyard during these coming holidays, create a set of food memories to last a lifetime.

I am looking forward to the winter holidays at home with some very hungry boys who will cherish the food and the memories to be etched with it. So without stress or fuss, cook with your family and make your masterpiece of memories.

Praba Iyer is a chef instructor who teaches team-building through cooking classes and custom cooking classes in the bay area. She is a consulting chef at Kitchit ( You can reach her at

Roasted Sweet Potato Chaat

This recipe has the sweet, tangy, crunchy and spicy flavors of any chaat but the ingredients are different and unique.

2 cups of sweet potato and yams peeled
and cubed
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 small red onion chopped fine.
1 tsp garam masala
¼ cayenne salt
3 Persian cucumbers chopped
3 small mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented.
1-2 green chilies
1 tsp chaat masala
½ lemon juice cilantro to garnish

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees. Mix the sweet potatoes and yam with oil, garlic, red onions and season it with salt, garam masala and cayenne. Place this on a greased sheet pan and roast it in the pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes. Once cooked and roasted, remove and cool it.
Mix the roasted and cooled sweet potato with the remaining chaat ingredients and serve.

Vegetarian Momos
This is a family favorite. We listen to music as we make the momos together. The filling can be anything that you desire. My friend Reshma Maharjan makes the best momos, and this is her recipe.

1 pack of wonton wrappers (50)
Steamer with water

For the filling
a small cauliflower minced
½ small cabbage minced
1 red onion minced
2-3 green onions minced
1 potato cooked and mashed
1 tablespoon ginger/garlic paste
¼ cup cilantro
1 tsp garam masala,
a pinch of cayenne,
1 to 2 green chilies
1/2 lemon juice

Place the minced cauliflower, in a microwavable bowl with 1/2 cup water and cook in the microwave for five minutes or until soft. Drain the water and add the rest of the ingredients.
Mix well and adjust seasonings. This is your filling.

Assemble the filling, wonton wrappers, a small bowl of water and the steamer top container.

Take a little bit of the filling and place it in the center of a wonton wrapper and wet the edges of the wrapper. Then slowly scrunch the edges together to make a pouch covering the filling. Place the pouches inside the steamer top without touching each other. Place the bottom container of the steamer with water on the stove. Place the top with pouches in it and cover with a lid. Heat the steamer for 8-10 minutes until the momos look glossy. Remove and serve with soy sauce or the following chutney.

Spicy Garlic Chutney
2 tomatoes
1 red onion
6 cloves of garlic
5-7 dry red chilies
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan and roast the tomatoes, onions, red pepper, garlic for a few minutes and grind it to a smooth paste. Check the seasonings  and serve with piping hot momos, as a dip.

Cheese logs
These are show stoppers and big hits at any party. They are healthy, high in protein, hearty and tasty. They pair well with vegetables, fruits, chips, crisps, crackers, baguette, breads and crostinis.

a log of soft cheese like goat cheese,
gouda, cream cheese

For the topping:
½ cup toasted pistachios chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
a pinch of cayenne

Mix the pistachios, cranberries and cayenne and spread it on a plate. Roll the log in this mixture and make sure all the whole log is covered with the mixture. Saran wrap the log and refrigerate.

The cream cheese can be mixed with the fillings and rolled into a log with saran wrap.
Some of my favorite logs are dill and garlic cream cheese logs, dried apricot and black pepper log, and cranberry chutney goat cheese log.