(by Priyanka Lalwani)
While cooking, Mom always taught me to work with what I already have in the kitchen, not to care about fancy gear, rare ingredients, or expensive cookbooks. She shared the pure joy of cooking with what’s available. Instead of running after shiny objects, she taught me to take a moment to gather myself, assess the situation, and figure out viable options That tip has ended up becoming my lifeline for many other aspects in life too.
“Work with what you’ve got” has helped me in school and in business. I used to get bogged down by the constant comparisons to other people and expectations about performance. In Asian cultures, the fear of how society perceives you is inculcated early. As a teenager, I wore spectacles and looked quite geeky. In India, it's called being “chasmish”—uncool. While studying for my MBA and then at work, I didn't have an answer for everything. Somehow I managed with the abilities I had. “Work with what you’ve got” became a coping mechanism. During the recession, when I ran out of all possible career options, this mantra rescued me again. I channeled all my confused emotions and experiences into poetry and music, an integral part of my craft today. I also gathered my strength to go into business, helping artists worldwide achieve their goals.
One of my mom’s most popular recipes is date rolls, and they turned her into a superstar in our family. As years pass by, she has ended up teaching this treat to countless people, an extension of her philosophy. You see, in India, dried fruits are a frequent gift item during festivals and often found available in abundance in every household. Most of the time, they would pile up in the refrigerator for weeks because they are not commonly used in daily cooking. Mom figured out how to turn “what you’ve got” into an amazing power-packed snack/dessert. Since I have an insane sweet tooth (nicknamed the Dessert Queen by my friends), I love them. In the winter, dates and dry fruits keep the body warm. And Mom addd chocolate or cocoa powder to them, just the thought of which makes my heart and soul experience rising waves of joy.
Priyanka Lalwani is a vocal coach, singer, songwriter, and music producer based in San Francisco, California. She can be found at http://www.priyankalalwanimusic.com, on Facebook, and @priyankalalwanimusic.
1/2 c. almonds 1/2 c. pistachios 2 c. seedless Medjool dates
6 oz. sweetened condensed milk 2 T. ghee or clarified butter 1 t. cardamom powder 2 T. cocoa powder additional ghee or vegetable oil 1/2 c. dried coconut powder, optional
Chop almonds and pistachios; set aside. In a food processor, grind the dates; set aside. Heat ghee or butter in a non-stick pan. Add dates, mashing together. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir well. Add chopped pistachios and almonds.
Sauté 2 - 3 minutes over low heat, stirring continuously, until nuts become golden brown.
Add cardamom powder and cocoa powder, mixing thoroughly. Transfer mixture to a plate so that it cools down quickly.
Divide into quarters. Grease hands with some ghee or vegetable oil, and roll out 1/4 of the mixture into a cylindrical shape. Sprinkle coconut powder on a piece of aluminum foil.
Roll the date mixture over the coconut so that it sticks.
Repeat with the remaining date mixture. Wrap the cylinders in aluminum foil and refrigerate for 2 hours to set.
Unwrap and cut diagonally into 1/4 inch pieces. Makes about 20 pieces. Keep the date rolls uncovered for 2 - 3 hours, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.