Today is Diwali – the Indian Festival of Lights.  Our Christmas celebrations in America don’t hold a candle to the spectacular Diwali celebrations overseas.  It’s simply HUGE!  It’s all about lighting candles and wearing your best and blingy-est clothes and eating sweets and celebrating with friends and family.  Lights are the Diwali’s signature.  Growing up, when my sister and I would leave the lights on in the house as kids often do, our parents would scold us saying “Why are all the lights on? It’s not Diwali.”

Here in the US, Diwali has a way of creeping up on us, largely because (a) it’s on a lunar calendar  (b) you don’t see Diwali-themed anything anywhere and (c) we don’t have holidays here for Diwali.  If you see Pumpkin, Thanksgiving, or Halloween, that’s supposed to send you subliminal messages that Diwali is near.  But still, it’s easy to miss it.

So if you’re in the mood to celebrate Diwali and didn’t plan for it, here’s a quick dessert your can put together for your family: Part Indian, Part American, just like many of us who are immigrants or offspring of immigrants, straddling two cultures.

Happy Diwali to all of my readers.

Pumpkin Rice Pudding (Pumpkin Kheer)


1-1/4 cups 1% or 2% milk
15 threads saffron
1 Tbsp + 2 teaspoons sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/3 cup basmati rice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
a dash of ground cloves or ground allspice (optional)
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
slivered almonds for garnish


1.  In a saucepan, combine the milk, saffron, sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Heat this mixture in the saucepan over medium high heat.  You shouldn’t bring it to a boil; you should just see tiny bubbles form around the sides and proceed with the next step.
2.  Add 1/3 cup rice and immediately cover and lower heat to Low (lowest setting).   Cook for about 20 minutes until rice is cooked all the way through.  Stir often (every few minutes).  If needed, add a few tablespoons of milk or water to the pot if it looks like there is not enough cooking liquid.
3.  Once the rice is cooked completely, remove from heat and add the remaining spices and pumpkin puree.  Stir well.  Serve warm or cold and garnish with sliced almonds and a cinnamon stick.