Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Diwali!

Tomorrow is the beginning of Diwali, the 5 day Festival of Lights.  

Wikipedia tells us:
While Diwali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light". Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the "victory of good over evil", refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings anand (joy or peace). Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light.
While the story behind Diwali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying Reality of all things (Brahman).
At Diwali people light small clay lamps (to symbolize good overcoming evil), they also clean the house, set off firecrackers, and spend time visiting family and friends and share sweets.

Here are two easy and frugal recipes for Diwali sweets:

Adapted from
12 servings

3 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
21 ounces sweetened condensed milk ( 1 1/2 cans)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 T ground cardamom
4 T ghee or butter
1 cup blanched sliced almonds (optional)

  1. Grease a 9 inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine coconut, condensed milk, and sugar.
  3. Mix well and heat in microwave on high 7 minutes, stopping oven to stir the mixture every 30 seconds.
  4. The mixture will reach a fudge-like consistency.
  5. Pour into a prepared pan, spreading it in an even layer.
  6. Allow to cool around 45 minutes and then garnish with almonds.
  7. Use a plastic knife to cut into squares or cut into shapes using cookie cutters.

Adapted from
Serves 8

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup ghee (clarified butter) (No Frills, or an Indian grocery)
1 cup chickpea flour (besan) (No Frills, or an Indian grocery)
1 cup sugar
  1. Bring the milk and water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat; stir the cardamom into the mixture. Set aside.
  2. Melt the ghee in a shallow skillet over medium heat; stir the chickpea flour into the melted ghee and cook until fragrant, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Add the sugar and stir to incorporate. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the skillet while stirring to avoid lumps. Continue cooking and stirring until the halwa pulls away from the sides of the pan, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot or spread the mixture into a rimmed plate and allow to cool. 
  4. Cut into squares and serve.

Image by Ankur Gulati, Flickr

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