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Aluth Avurudu rasa kavili!

Food is an essential part of the Sinhala and Hindu New Year celebrations. Rich in nutrition and taste, Avurudu food is a treat that is eagerly anticipated by all, regardless of race, religion and age.
On Avurudu day, milk is boiled in a new clay pot and allowed to spill over (kiri uthurawanawa). The milk rice for the meal is often cooked using the same milk.

The food is eaten at an auspicious time facing the auspicious direction, and the head of the household feeds each family member a mouthful of milk rice. This is a symbolic ritual.
The table is laid with a vast variety of delicacies, many of which are prepared only during Avurudu time and not throughout the year. An oil lamp is lit before the meal is eaten.
Since the Sinhala and Hindu New Year is a symbol of fertility, kiribath takes precedence over all other items. Kiribath is a simple food prepared with milk and rice. There are of course varieties of kiribath such as mun kiribath, where green gram is added and the delicious imbul kiribath, where the centre is filled with coconut and juggery.

The most important task in food preparation is the making of oil cakes, sweet meats, cakes, etc. Oilcakes are generally prepared using rice flour, mixed with treacle and fried in coconut oil. After pouring the batter for the oilcake into a piping-hot pan of oil, the shape of the konde (a women’s knotted hair) is created using a thick spike.
Oilcakes are taken out from the pan when they become golden in colour and this needs much skill. Sometimes the kavum your grandmother makes might be nicer and tastier than the kavum that your mother makes!
There was a belief in the past that if one eats hot kavum as it is taken from the pan, evil spirits would enter one’s soul! Some also believe that if a pot of water is kept next to the pan of boiling oil, less oil will be burnt.
There are several varieties of kavum. Among them the konda kavum is very popular. Naran kavum, thala kavum, undu kavum, mun kavum, seeni kavum and atiraha are also prepared during the Avurudu season.

A naran kavum is the size of a naran fruit and the centre is filled with pol peni. Hendi kavum is another variety. Hendi means spoon and here the dough is not shaped into a ball using one’s hand, instead a spoon is used to make the kavum. Thus the name hendi kavum. Achchu kavum, more popular in upcountry areas, is a type of murukku.
Superstitious beliefs surround the process of kavum preparation in many villages. According to these beliefs, the first kavum is the konduru kavum. The kondurawa is an insect that is drawn to a place where kavum is being made. The village lasses hang the first kavum up for the insects, so that the rest will be spared. The last kavum made is diya kavum.
Traditional Sinhala and Hindu New Year foods are aggala, aluwa, mung kavum, konda kavum, kokis and kavum (athirasa).

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Healthy junk food

It’s the junk food junkie’s wildest dream come true – pizza as health food.
University of Maryland food chemists said they had found ways to enhance the antioxidant content of whole-grain wheat pizza dough by baking it longer at higher temperatures and giving the dough a lot of time to rise.
Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Some experts believe antioxidants can lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and other ailments.
Liangli Lucy Yu, a food chemistry professor, said the findings arose from broader research into ways to improve health-promoting properties of wheat-based food products.
The research was served up at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Chicago, a Mecca for deep-dish, thick-crust pizza.

Researchers experimented with baking temperatures, baking time and fermentation time – the time the pizza dough is given to rise.

A hotter oven
Baking time and temperature can be increased together without burning the pizza when done carefully, the researchers said. They used oven temperatures from 204° to 287° and baking times from seven to 14 minutes.
Only whole wheat dough was used for the study. Most of the antioxidants in wheat are in the bran and endosperm components that are generally removed in refined flour, Moore said. Thus, longer and hotter baking and longer fermentation would be less effective in making more healthful pizza with refined flour, he said.
The study was funded by the US. Department of Agriculture and grain organisations, but not by the pizza industry.

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Easter festivities

Easter, the Sunday of the Resurrection, or Resurrection Day, is the most important religious feast of the Christian liturgical year, observed between late March and late April (early April to early May in Eastern Christianity).
It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, which His followers believe occurred on the third day after his death by crucifixion some time in the period AD 27 to 33. In the Roman Catholic Church, Easter is actually an eight-day feast called the Octave of Easter.
Easter also refers to the season of the Church year, lasting for 50 days, from Easter Sunday through Pentecost.

Easter eggs
The symbol of the egg, which was already being used in Easter festivities at this time, had been a pagan symbol representing fertility and re-birth in pagan times. It had been adopted as part of the Christian Easter festival and it came to represent the ‘resurrection’ or re-birth of Christ after the crucifixion and some believe it is a symbol of the stone blocking the sepulcher being ‘rolled’ away.
It was during this time the first chocolate Easter egg appeared in Germany and France and soon spread to the rest of Europe and beyond.
The Jewish tradition may have come from earlier Roman spring feasts. The ancient Persians also painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration falling on the spring equinox. This tradition has continued every year on Nowrooz since ancient times.

Easter Bunny
The ‘Easter Bunny’ is a traditional holiday character in the form of a giving rabbit which is said to leave gifts, usually Easter baskets for children at Easter (or at springtime). It originates in Western European cultures, where it is a hare rather than a rabbit.
The Easter Bunny is an example of folklore mythology which children are sometimes taught to believe. Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of extreme antiquity; since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth (to large litters) in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the vernal equinox.

Hot cross bun
The exchange and consumptions of treats for Easter goes back hundreds of years, mainly believed to have begun with the tradition of hot cross buns. Hot cross buns became the traditional breakfast of Good Friday and became a Christian tradition as well.
But hot cross buns were not always associated with Christianity. Their origins lie in pagan traditions of ancient cultures, with the cross representing the four quarters of the moon. During early missionary efforts, the Christian church adopted the buns and re-interpreted the icing cross.

In 1361, a monk named Father Thomas Rockcliffe began a tradition of giving hot cross buns to the poor of St. Albans on Good Friday. In years that followed, many customs, traditions, superstitions, and claims of healing and protection from evil were associated with the buns.
In the 16th Century, Roman Catholicism was banned in England, but the popularity of hot cross buns continued. Queen Elizabeth I passed a law banning the consumption of hot cross buns except during festivals such as Easter, Christmas and funerals.

Jelly beans
In the 1930s, the ever popular jelly bean was added to the Easter lineup. Jelly beans, believed to be descendants of a Middle Eastern confection known as Turkish delight, were already a very popular candy in America by this time and were featured in glass jars on store counters all over the country.
Because of their egg-like shape, jelly beans became associated with the Easter Bunny, who by this time had rapidly gained fame after the Civil War as the harbinger of Easter and was believed to deliver eggs as a symbol of new life during the spring season.
The two seemed a perfect match and jelly beans stuck as one of the quintessential Easter candies. Currently, 16 billion jelly beans are made for Easter; with ‘red’ jelly beans being the hands-down favorite.

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Fruit pizza

Fruit pizzas and barbeques go hand in hand, or at least that’s what I think! Easy to prepare and sumptuously mouthwatering (as the pictures prove), this delicious recipe is one of those you simply shouldn’t resist trying. Besides, you can never go wrong! Since there isn’t exactly a blue print recipe, feel free to add whatever you wish into the mixture. Go ahead and splurge, that’s what Indulge is about after all!

INGREDIENTS:
1 container (18-ounce)
refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 container (8-ounce) cream cheese
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup seedless red raspberry jam
2 kiwi fruit, peeled, sliced
3 canned peaches, drained, patted dry, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh raspberries or blueberries
2 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Cooling time: 45 minutes

PREPARATION:
• Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
• Roll cookie dough into ball, press into shallow round pizza pan or nine-inch-diameter cake pan.
• Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
• Cool crust completely in pan on
cooling rack.
• Combine cream cheese, sugar,
and vanilla in large bowl.
• Beat for three minutes, or until
light and fluffy.
• Spread cream cheese mixture
over crust.
• Spread jam over cream cheese.
• Decorate with kiwi slices, peaches, raspberries, and toasted coconut.

Chocolate Lover’s Pizza Variation: Make crust with roll of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough. Top with hot fudge topping, mini-marshmallows, chocolate morsels, and toasted slivered almonds. Re-warm pizza in oven until marshmallows begin to melt.
Variation: White frosting can be substituted for cream cheese.
OR

Ingredients
1 (18-ounce) package refrigerated cookie dough
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or other flavouring (almond, orange, or lemon)
Fresh blueberries, banana slices, mandarin orange sections, seedless grapes, strawberry halves, kiwifruit (or any other fruit you want), well drained
1/2 cup orange, peach, or apricot preserves
1 tablespoon water

Preparation:
• Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an ungreased 14-inch pizza pan with cookie dough cut in 1/8-inch slices, overlapping slightly. Bake 12 minutes or until light brown; remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
• In a medium sized bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract or other flavouring; spread over cookie crust. Arrange fruit over cream cheese layer in any design you want (use your imagination).
• In a small saucepan over very low heat, make a glaze by heating preserves and water. Brush glaze over fruit, making sure to cover the fruit that will turn dark. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: This does not keep well, so plan on using it up. You may also use your own sugar cookie recipe in place of the refrigerated dough.
Makes 8 to 10 servings

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