Celebrating Small Moments

Getting Real | May 27, 2021

Celebrating Small Moments

Red, White, and Whole, my middle grade novel in verse, is set in 1983. In the story, 13-year-old Reha feels torn between the worlds of her Indian immigrant parents and her friends at school. Although she adores her mom and dad, Reha sometimes disagrees with them—especially her mother, who has different opinions about what is proper behavior for her daughter. But Reha also finds that music and food help her connect with the people she cares about and allow her to express thoughts and emotions that she may not be able to say in words.


One advantage to writing in poetry is the ability to evoke small moments using imagery and sensory detail. In Red, White, and Whole, when Reha’s mother gets sick, it’s those small moments— getting dressed up for a party, cooking together, singing in the car—that Reha misses the most.


Like Reha, some of the small moments I’ve treasured in my own life involve listening to music, singing, and cooking with my husband and kids. When my family spends time in the kitchen, we love to play tunes. And when I get to be DJ, I often choose pop songs from the 1980s that played such a big role in my own childhood years.


Today I’m sharing a recipe for carrot halwa, one of my favorite Indian desserts, one that I have fond memories of my mom making for me, and one that I’ve loved making with my children. And to inspire you to dance and sing while you cook, I’m sharing a playlist of songs from the early 80s that are the musical inspiration for Red, White, and Whole. I hope they remind you of the big hair and big music that were such a big part of life in the 80s, and make the time spent cooking together, like all the small moments that we cherish the most, even sweeter.


  1. Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
  2. Our House – Madness
  3. We Got the Beat – The Go-Go’s
  4. Der Kommissar – After the Fire
  5. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
  6. Video Killed The Radio – The Buggles
  7. Come On Eileen – Dexys Midnight Runners
  8. Dreaming – Blondie
  9. Always Something There To Remind Me – Naked Eyes
  10. Come Dancing – The Kinks
  11. Love is a Battlefield – Pat Benatar
  12. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics, Annie Lennox
  13. Rio – Dura Duran
  14. Safety Dance – Men Without Hats
  15. Faithfully – Journey
  16. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
  17. 1999 – Prince
  18. True – Spandau Ballet
  19. The Killing Moon – Echo & the Bunnymen
  20. Shaking Through – R.E.M.
  21. Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure
  22. Every Breath You Take – The Police
  23. She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby
  24. All Night Long (All Night) – Lionel Richie
  25. Flashdance…What a Feeling – Irene Cara
  26. One On One – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  27. Overkill – Men At Work
  28. Don’t Answer Me – The Alan Parsons Project
  29. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
  30. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
  31. We Belong – Pat Benatar

Carrot Halwa

Makes 6 small servings


1 lb carrots, washed and peeled

½ cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar

2 cups whole milk

1 -2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter; you can make your own or find this at an Indian grocery)

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ cup golden raisins

¼ cup chopped cashews (optional, but recommended)



  • Grate the carrots. Do NOT use pre-grated carrots as they tend to be tough and hard! A food processor can make this step speedier and easier, but if you don’t have one, just grate by hand using a box grater.
  • Put the carrots in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes to cook. This step is optional, but it cuts down on the amount of time standing at the stove later.
  • Melt 1-2 teaspoons ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add raisins and cashew pieces (if using), and toast until the nuts are golden and the raisins are plump.

**Remove the nuts and raisins using a slotted spoon and set aside.

  • In a separate saucepan, whisk the sugar into the milk, then heat over low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely and the milk is hot but not boiling.
  • Add the grated carrots to the pan where the nuts and raisins were fried and stir to coat them in the ghee remaining in the pan.

  • Pour the sweetened milk into the carrots and stir to mix.

  • Cook over medium heat, stirring as needed to prevent sticking, until all the milk has been absorbed or evaporated and the carrots are cooked down and tender. This may take 20-30 minutes.

  • Add the cardamom powder and an extra 1-2 teaspoons ghee and stir to mix throughout.

  • Put the halwa in a serving dish and sprinkle with the raisins and nuts.

  • Enjoy warm (my favorite) or cold.

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