Friday, April 17, 2015

Cleaning hood microwave filters

Till I came across this post I had no idea that microwave vents needed to be cleaned! Oh and especially after all the cooking we do, it certainly should be. We tried out the method outlined in the post and it works like magic! literally!

Here’s how our filters looked before cleaning:

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and after cleaning:

 

cleaning microwave filters

Can you imagine?!?! The way to clean is pretty simple! Boil a big pot of water (pot should be big enough that you can put your filters in it). Once the water boils, add half a cup of baking soda (yes the elixir!). Then insert your filters. You’ll see grease and dirt getting off right away! Let the filters be in the pot till they’re clean and then just rinse!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Its time to plant!

Once again its that time of the year when activity in the garden begins!

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I too these photos 1-2 weeks back when we cleaned up the bed to get it ready for spring plantation. Oh I should’ve taken the before photo! The beds look so good now – am so proud of them! Smile

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We got a staple gun this year and stapled the chicken wire as well as the weed barrier to the raised bed. The beds look so neat and tidy after that! {pat our backs}

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The two little plants that you see are basil and lavender. With some regret I need to report that the basil is probably not going to make it Sad smile After we planted there’ve been plenty of nights where the temperature dropped a little below 40F and I thought that wasn’t much to worry about; but I guess that took a toll on the basil. I’ve never had luck with basil. This is probably the 3rd year but somehow I don’t lose hope with it. I know hot peppers won’t do well in our climate and probably the same is true for basil but I think I chose to live in denial. When I see Lidia (from Lidia’s Kitchen) pluck fresh basil from her herb garden I want to do exactly that. I guess that’s what keeps up the hope Smile Maybe this is the last chance basil gets! Enough about basil. Let’s talk about other veggies. We also planted a little strawberry plant; then spinach, radish and coriander – all from seeds. Finally some 80 onion bulbs! Yeah we don’t know what we’ll do with them Embarrassed smile So stay tuned and I’ll post a new photo in a few weeks with the updates!

Friday, April 3, 2015

A House in the sky

A house in the sky

This book is a true story of a woman who spent more than a year in captivity in Somalia! It starts at the very beginning – with the childhood of Amanda. How, where and in what circumstances she grew up. Once she grew up, she took up a job as a waitress and one fine day she decided that she would save money from her job and try to travel and see the world. So she started saving money and soon she’d enough to make her first trip. After her trip she was fueled up and realized that she would like to do it more often. So it became a regular feature with her – save money for a few months and then travel to some far away place. As she started to do it more often, she became more bold and courageous; and started to venture into dangerous lands. Some didn’t do any damage to her, while some others almost cost her her life. One such being Somalia.

Almost the first half of the book is about her background – her growing up, travelling the world and so on. The second half is all about her captivity. It’s heart rendering and hair raising and sometimes hard to absorb (and that makes you wonder that if you can’t even read it how did this woman take it all in and still maintain her courage). Somewhere there she mentions that she always thought that at heart every person was good but experiencing what she was, she wasn’t sure of that anymore. I couldn’t agree more – I too would always like to believe that inside each of us there’s good but when you see humans treating other humans like they wouldn’t even treat animals, you have to tell yourself that no there are people who are inherently bad. There’s another anecdote that stuck with me. On one of her trips, in Afghanistan, she met with a sudanese woman in prison. She was there for drug trafficking. The imprisoned woman told her that she was sorry that she did what she did and that could Amanda please help her get out of prison. To which the author replied that somebody ought to pay for the crime that she committed. When the author was in captivity, she remembered this instance and realized that she was so wrong to not offer any consolation to her. It made me realize that before trying to be “right”, we should always try to put ourselves in others’ position. What the author said was not wrong, but in that situation nobody needed to hear right/wrong. One needed to hear what would be good for the heart.

The book is very well written. Since I’d read the summary I knew this was about the author being kidnapped so I spent the first half of the book for that to happen. I would highly recommend reading it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Crunchy and crispy granola!

Crispy, crunchy granola

Now who doesn’t like granola!! Add it to milk, eat with yogurt or munch on it just like that! I like to make my own granola- that way I know what’s going into it and I can also tweak it to my tastes. The recipe is from King Arthur Flour.

I changed it just a little bit. Instead of maple syrup I use honey. I tried with both and found that when I make it with honey it’s more crisp and I like that. Also I bake it for 2 hours at 250 F and then turn off the oven and leave the granola in for a few hours. Also I half the recipe every time  I make it. That’s good enough for me.

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Ingredients

  • 3.5 cups rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (optional, but good)
  • 1 cup stabilized wheat germ (I don’t have this in my pantry)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (typically I use sliced ones but this time I didn’t have any so just chopped some almonds and found that I like them better because they add a lot of crunch)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2.5 cups mixed dried fruit** (raisins, cranberries, cherries, diced pineapple, diced apricots, chopped dates, or the mixture of your choice)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with silicone mats; or line them with parchment.
  2. In a very large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, nuts, and seeds. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, salt, honey, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry mixture in the bowl, stirring and tossing until everything is very well combined.
  5. Spread the granola on the baking sheets, patting it gently to flatten.
  6. Bake the granola for about 120 minutes, stirring the mixture with a heatproof spatula after 60 minutes. You want to bring the granola at the edge in towards the middle, so it all browns evenly. Reverse the baking sheets in the oven (top to bottom, bottom to top) when you stir.
  7. When the granola is a medium golden brown, remove it from the oven and cool completely on the pans.
  8. Transfer the granola to a large bowl, and mix in the dried fruit.
  9. Store the granola in a tightly closed container at room temperature for several weeks; freeze for extended storage. Or portion into pretty patterned plastic bags for gift-giving.

Note: Next time I want to increase the quantity of oats or reduce that of dried fruits/nuts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thandai– An Indian milk beverage

 

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Thandai is a traditional indian beverage made with milk and flavored with various spices. It’s mostly made in the northern part of India and is specially popular during the festival of Holi. Back home, it would be available as a concentrate in bottles just like we get hershey’s chocolate syrup here. In the hot summers of northern India, thandai was a popular drink. This holi I wanted to make a drink for our guests and figured what better drink on holi than thandai! I

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups full- fat milk (I used 1/2 cup cream and 4 cups 2% milk)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (I misunderstood this to be confectioner’s sugar which is way less sweet. So I ended up using around 1 cup confectioner’s sugar)
  • a pinch of freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • a few saffron strands (optional)


To Be Blended Into A Fine Powder
1/4 cup almonds
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
20 whole white peppercorns

Method

  1. If you’re not using pasteurized milk then boil the milk in a deep non-stick pan, allow it to cool completely.
  2. Combine the prepared powder and milk in a deep bowl, mix well using a whisk and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Strain the mixture through a strainer, add the sugar, pepper powder and saffron and mix well.
  4. Pour equal quantities of the thandai into 4 individual glasses and serve chilled.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Almost famous breadsticks

Almost famous breadsticks

Hubby and I are big fans of Olive Garden! We really like that place. There was a time when I just couldn’t eat pasta – I didn’t get it! Now my mouth starts to water as I think of yummy pasta. So when that changed love for Olive Garden re-ignited in our house (hubby had always liked it!). No wonder then that when I saw the recipe for these Almost famous breadsticks (which I think means Olive Garden’s breadsticks) on Food Network I was tempted to try them out. They turned out totally yummy!! I think this is going to become our go-to recipe for breadsticks! I made half the recipe and it yielded nice good sized 8 breadsticks!

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 1/2 package (or 1 1/8 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour,plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon fine salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of dried oregano

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place 1/4 cup warm water in a bowl and add the yeast as well as sugar to it. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. To your food processor bowl, add the flour, butter, fine salt, the yeast mixture and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water. Mix until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.
  4. Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes.
  5. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 8 1 1/2-inch-long pieces.
  6. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch-long breadstick; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
  7. Brush the breadsticks with 3/4 tablespoons of the butter and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt.
  8. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano. Brush the warm breadsticks with the remaining 3/4 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Husband’s Secret

Author: Liane Moriarty

I absolutely loved reading this book! I can’t pinpoint exactly what we it was but I just wouldn’t feel like keeping it down – it was so interesting! I think it seemed very real, very next-door and easy to read. At the same time, you were always curious to know what would happen next.

The story involves three different families. A mother, son, daughter-in-law and her grandson. The mother’s daughter was murdered when she was a young girl and the murderer was never found. So the mother never got a closure and is always haunted by those memories. Her grandson seems to be compensating for her daughter who’s no longer there.

A successful husband, his equally successful and a very organized wife and their three lovely daughters. The wife comes across a letter written by her husband to her and to be opened if he’s dead. However when the wife comes across it and mentions it to her husband, it makes her husband very uneasy. This propels the wife to open the letter despite everything; and guess what? It was like opening a can of worms!

The last family: a husband, wife and their son. The husband admits to having an affair which tears apart the family. It gives the wife the license to do things she never thought a married woman should do.

Of course, these families are not independent of each other. They cross each other’s path every day. it is how their lives are intertwined and how they weave through the issues in their life which makes it quite engrossing to read!