November 5, 2010

Hey, did you know?  Today’s Diwali.

The Hindu Festival of Lights is also celebrated by Sikhs & Jains, not to mention plenty of other Indian folks of various persuasions, and is my most-est favorite day of the year.  As a kid, Diwali meant new clothes (it also marks the Hindu New Year), all of my favorite Indian foods, bright colors and smells, a house decorated with fresh flowers and fruits, and staying up late at our friends’ big party, lighting sparklers and fireworks in the backyard.

As an adult, Diwali has taken on so many additional layers of meaning that I’m not sure I can pull them all apart.  Most obvious—it’s important to me to maintain the rituals of my childhood, to enact the practices passed down by my parents, to connect to something much bigger and more powerful than I could create on my own.  Thousands of years of religion and culture, the place my family is from, the things we do because that’s what we do; I want to honor that.

At the same time, ritual for ritual’s sake has its limits.  It’s just as important to me to feel or create ownership over the things I do, to know why I do them and to do them with intention.  I’m blessed that my parents encouraged this when I was young, answering my questions about our religion, my heritage, and leaving plenty of room to put our nuclear family’s spin on tradition.

In that vein, the holiday has taken on a life of its own in my adulthood, in the family I share with Jill, and in our circle of wonderful friends.  Today I am cleaning, cooking, thinking of my parents, threading fresh garlands for our home altar, singing the hymns I learned from my mother, lighting incense and willing my being to honor joy and express the profound gratitude I feel for the richness of life.  Tomorrow night we’ll throw the fifth annual Carroll/Mehra Diwali party, our backyard swelling with people and food.

The story of Diwali is centered around a homecoming, that of the god Rama, who was in exile for many years, searching for his abducted wife and fighting against the forces of evil.  According to our mythology, the night he returned, the villagers of Ayodhya lit his pathway with little oil lamps, now symbols of a holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, the victory of light over dark.

On this holiday, I offer you this Indian-inspired (but distinctly Texan!) cookie, and I thank you who are reading this for being a light in my life.  Happy Diwali!


1 1/3 cup flour

¾ cup very-high-quality butter, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

1 T ground cardamom

½ tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. coarse Kosher salt (¼ tsp. if you substitute table salt)

optional: an egg + sanding or regular sugar for decorating

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat the butter & sugar together until blended.  Mix in the vanilla, cardamom, & salt.  Add the flour in a few additions, stirring until a soft dough just comes together.

Gather the dough into a large disk, wrap in plastic, & refrigerate for at least an hour.  When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325˚.

Allow the dough to soften a bit before rolling it out to ¼” thickness.  Cut out any shape your heart desires, placing the cut-out cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets.

(Optional: before baking, brush the cookies with a bit of egg wash (1 egg beaten & thinned with some water), then sprinkle with sugar.)

Bake cookies 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes before eating warm (with tea!) or cool completely to store in an airtight container.



  1. Happy Diwali! I love you and Jill and am honored to be a part of your family.

    Comment by Sharon — November 5, 2010 @ 11:42 am

  2. Um, cardamom + shortbread?! YUM. Do you mind if I co-opt this recipe for every holiday I have coming up?

    Comment by Emily@Darby O'Shea — November 5, 2010 @ 11:47 am

  3. I leave for my first photography trip to India in three days and, had I known about this fabulous holiday, I would have scheduled my trip earlier! Thank you for sharing your story of Diwali – it has me even more excited to leave on Monday!

    Comment by kimberly — November 5, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Houston Foodie, Penny De Los Santos, Nishta Mehra, Fulmer, Leslie Jerkins and others. Leslie Jerkins said: Oh YUM! “@BlueJeanGourmet: {new blog post} for Diwali, cardamom shortbread cookies:” […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention CARDAMOM SHORTBREAD COOKIES « Blue Jean Gourmet -- — November 5, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  5. Happy New Year! (Is that what I say?) Regardless, have a great celebratory weekend.
    PS My MIL is planning a trip to India next year with her friend (Nisha, not Nishta) during Diwali. I’m a bit jealous.

    Comment by Cheryl Arkison — November 5, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

  6. Happy Diwali! I realize that a year has passed — I think it was around Diwali last year that I found your blog and started reading. Maybe it has been over a year already. Wow. Time flies! Anyway, I love the Texas take on the cardomom-infused cookie up there. Very cute! Thank you, too, for summarizing the story of Diwali. What a good one. 🙂 May it be a year of love and light for you and yours.

    Comment by Karin (an alien parisienne) — November 6, 2010 @ 3:42 am

  7. Thanks to everyone for the Diwali wishes!

    Sharon–we love YOU.

    Emily–of course not! have at it.

    kimberly–have a fantastic trip! please let me know where to find your India images when you get back, I’d love to see them.

    Cheryl–I am jealous too 🙂

    Karin–I’m so glad you found my blog & became a reader! can’t believe it’s already been a year.

    Comment by Blue Jean Gourmet — November 7, 2010 @ 9:04 am

  8. OMG CARDAMOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I made pebbernodder last Christmas for the first time and fell in love with that taste. Used it a few weeks ago for these “turkey strudel turnover” thingys with pine nuts and spinach.
    Always love a shortbread cookie with attitude!

    Comment by Leslie — November 8, 2010 @ 11:22 am

  9. I hope that Diwali brings you a beautiful new year, full of love, laughter, lots of cookies, and of course, puppy kisses.
    These cookies look delicious, and totally do-able! For some reason I always imagine that shortbread is tricky, or finnicky or something…. but it’s just butter, sugar and flour! Maybe I’ll start with these!

    Comment by Joh — November 12, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

  10. […] cardamom shortbread cookies […]

    Pingback by MEYER LEMON THUMBPRINTS « Blue Jean Gourmet — December 1, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  11. […] and desi-bred myself, I must say that I love, love, love Nishta’s Southern/desi sensibility. Cardamom shortbread and gingerbread cookies? Yes please – many of […]

    Pingback by Blogs I Love | Desi Living — December 8, 2010 @ 7:41 am

  12. I made these tonight and was disappointed – the star shapes I cut out did not keep well – they sort of oozed into star blobs. Any idea why that happened?

    Comment by Amy — December 16, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

  13. hi Amy–I’m sorry to hear that the cookies were disappointing. My best guess regarding the cookies not keeping their shape would be that the dough was too warm when it went into the oven; you might try cutting out the star shapes and then popping your sheet trays into the refrigerator or even your freezer for a bit. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen when you were rolling out the dough, it may have warmed up quite a bit after having been chilled. I hope that helps!

    Comment by Blue Jean Gourmet — December 22, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  14. Thanks! I’ll try that the next time.

    Comment by Amy — December 22, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

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