Madhu Gadia, MS, RD, CDE

Happy Diwali!

Translated as the Festival of Lights, Diwali may also be written as Dipawali or Deepavali. It is one of the main Hindu holidays; celebrated with similar reverence and merriment in India as Christmas is celebrated in the United States. The celebrations start almost a month before with various religious and social events. The main components of the holiday include cleaning the house, visiting family and friends, lighting oil lamps, praying to the goddess Lakshmi for wealth, enjoying lots and lots of food, and to top it off—setting off fireworks. It is a celebration of victory of good over evil and signifies the uplifting of spiritual darkness. Diwali is celebrated based on the lunar calendar and this year it’s on November 14th. 

Comfort in Traditions:

Each family has its own traditions related to the holidays. I started having a Diwali party when my kids were small with the intention of educating them about their own holiday. After a couple of years all my friends started calling it Madhu’s annual Diwali party and looked forward to it. The next thing I knew, this annual Diwali celebration became a tradition amongst my family and friends. I have been hosting this annual gala for over 20 years. The house is lighted inside and out. My son decorates the front yard with lights and my daughter strategically places candles around the house. My husband takes care of the drinks and of course I’m the cook and the organizer. And now my son-in-law fills in and helps all of us. It’s a family affair. And friends help too. Everyone comes to the party dressed to impress in colorful Indian clothes and we spend hours feasting and regaling. As the night is winding down, we play cards – a little gambling is part of the Diwali tradition. I’m sure you can relate these to some of your own family holiday traditions.

Madhu's Recipes:

Cream of Wheat

Chivda Cream of Wheat Halwa

(Sooji Halwa)


  • 1/2 cup cream of wheat (sooji)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins (optional)
  • 4 cardamom pods


  1. In a heavy saucepan combine cream of wheat and ghee. Heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly until cream of wheat turns golden brown (about 15 minutes). Add almonds and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Add water, stir and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in sugar. Cover with a lid, leaving a small crack open to allow steam to escape. Reduce heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. (Stir carefully to avoid burning as the halwa tends to splatter.)
  4. Add raisins and stir, if using. Transfer to a serving dish.
  5. Remove seeds from cardamom pods and crush with a mortar and pestle. Garnish the halwa with the cardamom powder. Let stand for 5-10 minutes. Halwa will thicken as it cools.

Recipe Notes

  • Makes: 6 servings (3 cups)
  • Serving size: 1/2 cup
  • Amount per serving: Calories: 160; Carbohydrate: 28 g; Fat: 5 g; Dietary fiber; 1 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.5 g; Protein: 2 g; Sodium: 2 mg

Recipe from the New Indian Home Cooking, Madhu Gadia, MS, RD.