The Kitchen Religion

The Kitchen Religion is dedicated to my beloved spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who taught his disciples by his personal example how to cook and offer delicious vegetarian food to Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Dear Friends, Welcome to The Kitchen Religion. I love to cook, and am a follower of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, whose disciples taught me how to cook "Krishna prasadam" back in the early 70's. Krishna prasadam (or "God's mercy") is vegetarian food that's offered to Krishna (Krishna, or Lord Shri Krishna, is a name of God the Father which means "the all-attractive person who attracts the hearts of all living beings").

Ever wonder why the Hare Krishnas are called "The Kitchen Religion?" Because for us, cooking is a meditation. Everything we eat, we first cook with love for Lord Sri Krishna, then offer it to Him, then eat (or "honor") His remnants. The Hare Krishna Movement has become known as "The Kitchen Religion" because so much of what we are as a group has to do with cooking for Lord Krishna and then honoring and sharing His holy remnants, or prasadam, with others. We call eating prasadam "honoring" prasadam, because we understand that after we have offered the food to God and He has kindly accepted our loving offering, the food has become spiritualized. So it's like accepting a treasured gift from the Lord when we eat His remnants. Spiritual food is uplifting to the heart and purifying to the soul. Krishna prasadam is meant to be honored.

Srila Prabhupada taught us that because all things come from God, they are meant to be used in His service. He explained that we should lovingly cook vegetarian dishes for Krishna and offer them to Him with devotion. Krishna then accepts and blesses our offerings so that when we partake of His remnants, we become purified of all kinds of unwanted, sinful desires within our hearts. I was happy to learn this, as I had always wanted to know of practical ways to serve God, and I had never thought about cooking for God. But this idea made so much sense to me that I took it up immediately and have been enjoying the pleasure of cooking for God for the last 40 years! After all, God is a person. Granted, He is the Supreme Person, but a person nonetheless. And God eats. He doesn't need to eat, but He eats what His devotees lovingly cook for Him, just to give them pleasure.

By the way, did you know that God likes cows? His supreme abode, Goloka Vrndavana, is named after cows. Gau, or go, means cow, and loka means place or abode or planet. So Goloka means the abode of the cows. Because God puts so much importance on cows, we should understand that cows are very, very important for human society. We humans are given the responsibility to protect cows, and in turn, we are blessed with milk, the miracle food.

Although a lot of my recipes are influenced by my American upbringing, they are all pure vegetarian. Not all are vegan, but they're all vegetarian. We humans are given a diet just like all the other creatures on earth, and our diet is supposed to include milk and milk products. Cow's milk and milk products are beneficial and very important for human consumption. But they must be prepared properly and offered with love to Lord Krishna to provide the greatest benefit to human society.

Of course, using milk and other products from the cow necessitates treating the cow humanely. How ungrateful some people are, that they consume milk, yogurt, cream, sour cream, ice cream, butter and cheese from the cow and then turn around and slap the cow in her face by killing her and eating her slaughtered carcass! How can those people be so cruel, heartless and ungrateful?

Srila Prabhupada explained that we humans have more than one mother. Not only is our birth mother our mother, but the earth is one of our mothers as well as the cow, because the earth gives us food and the cow gives us her milk. Therefore, it behooves us to treat both Mother Earth and the cow with respect and love, just as we would our birth mother.

Speaking of mothers, my love of cooking awakened in my early childhood as I watched my mother cook and bake. From her guidance as well as the tutoring of my Hare Krishna friends, combined with years of cooking and baking for my family, trying out new recipes and repeating old ones, making up some of my own recipes and adjusting many that I have found on the internet and in cookbooks, I feel inspired to share with you some of my cooking experiences and favorite recipes.

In the recipes below, "c" means "cup," "T" means "Tablespoon," and "t" means "teaspoon."

Thanks for being here! Hare Krishna!

Phalini devi dasi

PS Srila Prabhupada demonstrated a high standard for his disciples by always using fresh ingredients. Because I almost always seem to be in a hurry, I have adopted the use of canned goods on occasion. I apologize for this aberration, and hope to switch to using all fresh (uncanned, unfrozen) ingredients in the near future.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Best Pancakes

Please note that in my recipes, "c" means cup, "T" means tablespoon, and "t" means teaspoon. When measuring flour, cut and level it. Sifting is not necessary for the dry ingredients in this recipe.

1 c whole wheat flour
1 c + 3 T unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T + 1 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 T sugar
2 1/2 c milk, room temperature
1/4 c melted butter (unsalted)
1 T EnerG Egg Replacer, dissolved in 1/4 c water (available at Whole Foods)

Pre-heat a nonstick griddle on medium heat. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl using a whisk. Make three wells. In one well, pour the pre-mixed egg replacer. In another well, pour the melted butter. In the third well, pour the milk. Mix altogether just until thoroughly combined. Do not beat. 

I use a 1 c dry measure to scoop the batter out of the bowl. If you use a non-stick griddle, there is no need to coat the griddle with oil. Scoop out about a cup of batter and quickly pour onto the hot griddle, making about a 4" pancake. After about a minute, flip the pancake and cook on the other side. The first side should be a medium brown color. I usually cook two at a time. Pancakes should ideally be turned once only. This recipe yields about 16 (4") pancakes.

If you like, you can make homemade syrup. In a small pan, dissolve 1 c sugar in 1/2 c water. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Remove from heat. Add a small dribble of flavoring. Our favorite flavoring is maple with a touch of vanilla.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mac 'n' Cheese from Scratch

In these days of packaged, processed, instant foods, to make a pot of macaroni and cheese from scratch--with chewy chunks of deep-fried paneer--is an act of love and a work of art.

Macaroni 'n' Cheese (Photo courtesy of Arjun Anchan)

6 c milk (about 1500 ml)
1 c cool water
200 g meltable cheese, cut into small pieces for melting in the sauce
250 g macaroni noodles (3 c dry)
400 g fried paneer cubes
3/4 t black pepper
1/4 t hing
1/4 t methi powder
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 c cornstarch (aka corn flour in India)
2 T + 1 t unsalted butter
1/2 T salt

In a small bowl, mix the spices (except for the salt) with the cornstarch. Add 1/4 c of the water to the cornstarch. Mix thoroughly. Add a little more water and mix thoroughly. Keep adding more water until the whole cup of water is added and mixed into the cornstarch.

In a large pot, bring about 3 quarts (about 3 litres) water to a rolling boil. Add pasta to the water. Stir to separate the noodles. Return to a boil and check after three minutes. Test a noodle. If it is soft enough to break with your thumb nail, it is done. Pour noodles and water through a colander. Rinse with water so that noodles don't stick to each other. Set aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter. Pour the milk into the butter. Add the cornstarch mixture. Add the fried paneer. Place over a medium high flame, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until you feel some film start to collect on the bottom of the pot. Immediately turn down the heat to low, and keep stirring constantly, this time with a scraping tool like a stainless steel spatula. Make sure to keep stirring and scraping constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. After it comes to a boil, continue stirring frequently. Boil for two minutes. Turn off the heat and immediately add the cheese and the salt and stir thoroughly until the cheese is melted. Now gently fold in the noodles.

This preparation thickens as it sits, so if you make it early, be prepared to add a cup or two of boiling hot, filtered water to the mixture before offering to Krishna. Stir the hot water in thoroughly and then offer. It will still thicken up as it sits. After offering to Lord Krishna, serve the macaroni and cheese hot.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Banana Pudding

Inspired by an article I read recently about a bakery somewhere in the US that daily sells banana pudding to long lines of customers, I thought, "I can make banana pudding!" So I tried, and it turned out pretty good, I thought.

Photo courtesy of Rasapriya Gandharvika devi dasi
1/2 c white sugar
3 T powdered coconut
1/4 c + 1 T cornstarch (called "corn flour" in India)
2 3/4 c milk
2 T butter, unsalted
1 t vanilla extract
12-15 three-inch bananas, or the equivalent 

Toast the coconut in a small pan, stirring contantly over low flame, until the coconut turns a light golden-brown color. Remove from heat, cool the bottom of the pot immediately so that the toasting process stops, and then set the coconut aside.

Put the sugar and the cornstarch into a medium pot. Stir to combine. Add 1/4 c of the milk. Stir thoroughly. Add a little bit more of the milk and stir to thoroughly combine. Keep doing this until you have added all the milk. Stir in the coconut.

Heat on medium flame, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn down heat to medium-low and continue stirring while it boils gently for two minutes. Turn off heat.

Add 2 T unsalted butter and 1 t vanilla. Stir thoroughly until butter is completely mixed in. 

Slice the bananas 1/2 inch thick. Fold bananas into the pudding. May be offered warm, or cooled before offering to Krishna.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Balarama Five-Star Subji

My husband named this subji "Balarama Five-Star Subji" because it has five vegetables in it, and he thought it was five-star yummy. We made it for Balarama's Appearance Day and my Prabhuji liked it so much he had me write down what I did so that we could make it into a recipe and post it on our blog.

Balarama 5 Star Subji (photo courtesy of Aman Swami)
400 g paneer
2 medium eggplants (brinjal)
4 medium-small potatoes
3 medium-large carrots
4 large bell peppers (capsicum)
3-4 c bite-size cauliflower florets
1/2 c ghee + ghee for deep-frying
1 T mustard seeds
1 rounded t methi seeds
2 t kolonji
20-30 curry leaves
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t hing
1 T coriander powder
1 1/2 t turmeric
1/4 c cornstarch (corn flour)
3 c cold water
500 ml full cream milk
1 c heavy cream
1 T salt

Prepare your vegetables and your paneer:

Cut the paneer into bite-size cubes. Deep fry on medium-low heat until light golden color. Remove from ghee and set aside.

Cut eggplant into 1" cubes. Deep fry on high heat until brown and soft as butter inside. Remove, drain and set aside.

Peel and cut potatoes into bite-size cubes. Deep fry on medium heat until they float on top of the ghee and test soft with a small knife. Remove, drain and set aside.

Peel and slice carrots on the diagonal, about 1/4" thick. Deep fry on medium heat until they test soft with a small knife. Remove, drain and set aside.

Remove stem, core and seeds from bell peppers. Cut into 1" pieces. Deep fry on medium heat until they test soft with a small knife. Remove, drain and set aside.

Deep fry the cauliflower florets on medium-low heat until they are soft when tested with a small knife and keep their shape. Don't fry them so much that they are too soft and they fall apart.

Prepare your white sauce:

Place the 1/2 c ghee in the bottom of a large pot. Heat on medium-low flame.

Add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start popping, add the methi seeds, kolonji and curry leaves. Stir for a couple seconds, then after the mustard seeds are finished popping, turn off the flame. Add the black pepper and hing. Stir. Now add the coriander powder and turmeric.

Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 c of the cold water, then gradually stir in the rest of the cold water, making sure to thoroughly blend the water into the cornstarch with each addition of water. Pour into the spice-and-ghee mixture. Add the fried paneer. Turn on heat to high and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture boils and the cornstarch-water becomes thickened.

Turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Add the milk slowly while stirring constantly until the milk is mixed in thoroughly. Add the cream. Return to a boil. Heat may be turned up now to speed up the boiling process. After it returns to a boil, allow to boil for two minutes. Now add all other ingredients except the salt. Return to a boil while stirring occasionally to keep from sticking on the bottom and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. After the subji simmers for two or three minutes, turn it off and after the bubbles stop, stir in the salt.

Cover and allow flavors to mingle for a few minutes before offering to Lord Sri Krsna.

Yield: about 1 gallon.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Goloka Bananas

A favorite dessert at Shyamasundara Prabhu's home in Bangalore, Goloka Bananas will leave you in a celestial mood, along with a welcome energy spike, just in case you need it... ;D

Goloka Bananas
Make caramel by immersing a 400 g (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk in a full pot of water. Place the can in its water over a low flame. Bring to a boil (it will barely bubble, but it is boiling). Boil for thirty minutes. Turn off the flame and allow to cool gradually until the water is a cool temperature. Remove the can from the water and set it aside. (I always do this a day or more ahead of time, so that the caramel is ready at any time.)

In a large bowl, empty the contents of the caramelized sweetened condensed milk. Scrape the sides and bottom of the can thoroughly. Stir with a wooden spoon until it tests smooth, viz., when you pick up a small amount and rub it between your thumb and middle finger, you don't feel any gritty sugar granules. If you feel sugar granules, stir longer.

To this caramel, add 2.5 t cinnamon powder, 1.5 t ginger powder, and 1 T vanilla extract. Stir thoroughly.

Add 1/3 c desiccated coconut, 1/2 c chopped walnuts and 1/2 c raisins. Stir.

Cut 24 4" bananas into 1/2" slices. Add to caramel mixture and fold banana slices in gently until they are all coated with the sauce.

Offer to Krishna in Goloka!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Banana Bread Bites

These are yummy, and they are cooked on top of the stove like bread bites, but they are more sweet, kind of like banana bread.

(Photo just now coming...)

4 c atta (whole wheat pastry flour)
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda ("cooking soda" in India)
1 t salt
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c sugar + 2 T
1/4 c softened butter
1 c curds (yogurt)
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 c + 2 T mashed ripe bananas (about 10-11 small Indian bananas)

Preheat on low flame a karai (wok) filled to about 1 1/2" from the top with ghee.

Mix the dry ingredients along with the chopped nuts and sugar in a large bowl. Work in the butter till it's fully incorporated. Now add the mashed bananas, vanilla and yogurt. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Allow the dough to sit for a few minutes before rolling the balls.

Grease your clean, dry hands with ghee. Break off a small chunk of dough and roll it into a 1 1/2" ball. Flatten to 1/2" thickness between your palms. Place it on a buttered plate. Grease your hands again before picking off another chunk of dough. Keep doing this until you have about seven pieces. Gently slide them into the ghee. When they rise to the top, separate them with a fork and turn up the flame to high. Make sure you don't crowd the wok with too many bread bites. They should have a little room around them so they aren't touching each other. Watch the cooking bread bites carefully while you roll more balls. As soon as you see a golden brown color appearing around the edge of the cooking bread bites, turn them carefully with a fork. These bread bites will be darker than regular bread bites because they contain bananas. After they are brown on both sides, remove them with a skimmer and place them in a cloth-lined bowl.

If you like, you can mix a cup of powdered sugar with water until it's of drizzling consistency, and dip one side of each bread bite in the icing. Rest the frosted bread bites glaze-side up on a tray to dry.

After you finish cooking all of the bread bites, offer them to Lord Sri Krishna, who supplies all the wonderful ingredients for our cooking adventures!

Yields: about 30 banana bread bites

Friday, February 17, 2017