Monday, December 31, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
- personal hygiene stuff like toothpaste, toothbrush comb.
- if you're giving to women, then
- feminine products.
- mini manicure set
- hand lotion tube
- calling card
- gloves and hat
- first aid items
- small flashlight
- bus pass
- little sewing kit
- toilet paper
- little toiletries that you get at a hotel!
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
- 2 heads brocolli
- half a red cabbage
- 2 beets
- ~ 3 carrots
- 1 tennis ball sized onion
- ~1/4 cup green pepper chopped
- ~ 1 cup tomatoes
- 3-4 small potatoes
- spices - kitchen king, turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder
- salt to taste
- 5 tsp oil
- chopped coriander for garnish
- Peel the potatoes and onion. Chop all vegetables.
- Heat the oil on medium heat in a pressure cooker and saute onion till golden brown.
- Reduce heat to low and add the spices except kitchen king. Quantities depend on personal preference.
- Increase the heat back to medium. Add tomatoes. Saute for 3 minutes or so till the tomatoes are mushy.
- Add all the vegetables and pressure cook with small amount of water. Enough to boil the vegetables but not make them into a runny curry.
- Mash the vegetables using a masher and add kitchen king. Again according to preference.
- Garnish with chopped coriander. Voila!
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until smooth.
- The flaxseed meal packaging generally has the ratio for substitutions. I believe it's 1 tbsp flaxmeal in 3 tbsp water for 1 egg. In this case since there were 2 eggs, I took twice that amount. Keep it for a few minutes. Then add it to the batter/
- Stir in the yogurt alternately with the flour.
- Add the cocoa and espresso powder, mixing until smooth.
- Fold in the zucchini and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when touched, and it seems set.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Author: Cheryl Strayed
In one sentence this novel is a true story about a 20 something girl that hiked a 1100 mile trail – the Pacific Crest Trail. As far as the story goes I think that suffices. The longest I’ve hiked is 11 miles and I know how I felt after that.
The feat is so daunting (at least to me) and so unthinkable that at some point in the novel I forget that it’s a true story. It feels like fiction. Everything that you thought was impossible seems possible when reading this book. It’s simply amazing how this girl survives the hike and that too alone! A lady on seeing this girl do what she was doing, says “if all the women in the world would do what they wanted to do this world would be a better place”. I think that is so true.
Another thing that struck me was that when you read the news or when you’re about to embark on such an adventure, there are only bad things you hear about; people only warn you about the bad people that you’ll encounter. So it was quite a surprise when you see that the author was met with so much kindness everywhere she went. Goodness still prevails, people just need to spread the word!
When I first heard about this book, it sounded so incredulous and when I read it I’m speechless. It’s hard for me to say that the book is well-written and such things. When you read a true story like this, there are real things that keep you mesmerized. I would definitely recommend this book.
Bottomline: highly recommend!
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
I wanted to make some sweet for prasad on Ganesh Chaturthi so I started digging in the fridge and pantry to see what ingredients I’d on hand. Since we get a lot of carrots in the northwest my fridge was abundant in the little red sticks. Gajar halwa is the first thing that came to my mind because it’s DH’s favorite! Now the traditional ways of making gajar halwa are very time taking and I didn’t have too much time on me. Then I remembered that my mom had made the most delicious gajar halwa using microwave. So I dig up her recipe (here). I tell you – that halwa was such a hit! Everybody just loved it and it’s so easy to make! I followed the recipe to the T, except I did microwave 5 extra minutes towards the end because the halwa was a little wet. I think the timing towards the end would differ a little bit (~ 5 minutes) depending on the kind of khoya you get. This time we got something which was softer than usual and seemed to have more liquid content. Mostly we get the Nanak khoya which is more solid.
Here are the ingredients in oz. for my friends on this side of the earth. The quantity was sufficient for around 6 “good” servings.
- 16.5 oz carrots
- 7 oz khoya
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1 cup milk
- 7 oz sugar (yes I upped it a little because the sugar here is less sweet than the one in India)
- 2 tbsp chopped nuts (I used cashews and almonds)
If you’ve the food processor, don’t forget to use it for grating the carrots! It’s such a breeze!
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes - I'd the sweetened coconut flakes and lightly dry roasted them on the stove
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup flax meal
- 1/3 cup honey
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
- Beeswax: $1.875 for 2oz
- Sweet Almond Oil: $2.5 for 4 oz
- Shea butter: $4.50 for 4oz
- Essential oils: ~$2
- Total: $11 for 10 oz of lotion bars (compare to $10 for 2.5 oz at Lush)
- The joy of making your own lotion bar - priceless!
- Beeswax is what adds the hardness. So if your bar is too soft you would want to add more beeswax.
- If your bar is too hard, you need more oil for sure. You can add more butter too - like I did.
- I would encourage you to buy Fair Trade shea butter if possible. I've linked above my source of fair trade shea butter.
- I do *not* get any commision for any of the linked products. Just wanted to share my sources.
- I found a local store, VitaminLife (could be a chain, I don't know), which has all the oils (carrier oils and essential oils) at a very reasonable price.
Monday, July 16, 2012
It appears that PNW is going to have a real summer this year so I’m trying to put my ice cream maker to some good use. I saw this recipe at the Chiquita website and loved the fact that there were so few ingredients involved. I apologize for the blurry picture – I too it with my phone just before the traces of the ice cream were about to disappear. Needless to say DH and I loved the ice cream!
- 2 bananas
- 1 cup Heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2-1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract(forgot to add this)
- Blend all the ingredients in a blender to a smooth consistency.
- Make ice cream using your ice cream maker – per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- I then froze it. When freezing cover your container with plastic wrap before putting the lid on. This will prevent the ice crystals from forming on the ice cream.
Monday, July 9, 2012
That’s a novel by Sophie Kinsella . I read it recently and thoroughly enjoyed myself!
It revolves around what Emma does when she loses her engagement ring –which is supposed to be a family heirloom and her discoveries and adventures on the way.
Yes that’s all I can tell you about it without revealing too much . When I was reading the book I thought to myself – if I were to summarize this book I would do so in just one sentence and yet I was reading this book which had hundreds of pages. It’s not just the theme of the book, it’s the way Sophie Kinsella writes. You almost feel as if you’re having a dialog with her. Her style is so easy going. Oh and then I simply loved Emma’s character! There’s something about her which makes her adorable. She’s friendly, unassuming and insouciant. Her attitude to take life a day at a time appealed to me a lot! All of this makes the book very engaging. Left to myself I would’ve read this book in one sitting!
If you’re looking for some light reading then this is the book for you! I highly recommend it!
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
We recently rented a cabin at the Bay View State Park and liked it so much that I thought I would post a review and some photos. There are 6 cabins totally and Cabin #5 and #6 have attached shower/restroom. Most of the state parks we’ve been to, the nearest house was a few miles away but here we’d houses next to the park. Surprisingly that didn’t affect the serenity of the park in anyway. Our cabin had an ocean/bay view – we were in cabin #4. I believe all cabins have ocean view and the park has a beach access. The cabin closest to the beach access is cabin #5 but others aren’t far either. The park was quite populated with cabin-ers, RV-ers and campers – in a good way; even though it was a rainy weekend.
The restrooms are close to the cabins and there’s a shower too. If you want to have a shower don’t forget your quarters! The cabins have designated parking. Each cabin has a picnic table, a porch swing (yes!) and a fire pit.
I would highly recommend a stay here if you’re looking for an idyllic vacation! Here are a few more photos:
Monday, June 11, 2012
After our tryst with vegetable gardening last year (you can read about it here, here and here) we decided to go full blown this year. I don’t know how but I came across a new method of gardening called the Square foot gardening. My DH always asks me where do I come to know about all these things…honestly even I don’t know! Serendipity I guess! We went and bought Mel’s new book, All New Square Foot gardening. If you’re lucky enough to be in WA you can get it at the Half price book stores. Buying the book was just the start of the journey. Then we’d to collect the ingredients for the special mix – five different kinds of manure/compost, vermiculite and peat moss. Once we’d the ingredients it was quite a project to setup the raised bed. Mixing of the soil requires quite some muscle power. Of course and then there was the most pleasant part of it all – getting the required veggie starts. Picking veggie starts is like asking a child to pick a candy. However many you take, you’re never satisfied! There’s always that one veggie that you wanted and couldn’t get!
I do remember taking photos of when we planted the bed but don’t remember where they’re. So unfortunately I can’t show how much the veggies have progressed but I can vouch for it that they’ve come a long way! Here we go with the photos…
Back of the bed – the larger plants are tomatoes, front left and right is onion and the lots of small plants are spinach (we’ve harvested it a couple of times now!); the lone plant is pepper.
Strawberry plant in a container of it’s own – look at all those little berries!
Mint – we harvested a lot of this and probably not too frequently which kind of stunted the growth of this plant. Lesson learned – harvest mint frequently!
Both the plants above are blueberries – can you see the little berries?
Only the raised bed is done using SFG. All the others are using regular soil.
So what do I think of SFG? It’s hard to say right now since we' haven’t had much fruit except spinach but I can say that all plants look quite healthy. It is a lot of hard work to put up a SFG bed so I hope the harvest is equally good. We did put a weed fabric and a chicken wire to prevent gophers and other rodents – so that was good. I’ll update as and when we get fruits on our plants.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Do you find photos of handmade soaps yummy? I do. They’re like eye candy to me. I almost drool over them and handmade body butters; and have been wanting to try my hand at them for a very long time. My visits to Body Shop convinced me that it was time I give body butters a try. Not only are they expensive but full of chemicals!
(Doesn’t that look yummy?!?!?)
The best part is it’s so simple and needs so few ingredients! I followed this recipe. It calls for 60% Shea butter and 40% natural oils.
- 6 oz Shea Butter (I got my fair trade shea butter from Agbanga Karite)
- 4 oz Sweet Almond Oil
- .05 Sweet Orange essential oil (you can use any EO you like or even fragrance oil)
Then what I did:
- Setup a double boiler. What that means is take a big pot and fill some water in it and then put a smaller pot on top of the water. Put this apparatus on heat. The heat of the water will heat what is inside the smaller pot. I initially put it on high heat and when the water was sufficiently heated up, reduced it to medium heat.
- Put the shea butter in the smaller pot and melt it.
- When the butter is melted, take the smaller pot out of the boiler and turn off the heat.
- Add almond oil to the melted butter.
- I then added the essential oil. I later read that it’s better to add the EO after the mixture has cooled down a little.
- Next we need to cool the mixture. One way is to put it in the freezer for sometime but if you’re as impatient as me then in a big pot prepare an ice bath (lots of ice in water). Put the small pot on the water. Let the mixture cool a lilttle bit.
- When the mixture is of a soft consistency beat it with a hand mixer. If it has reached your desired consistency then you can stop otherwise let it cool a little bit more and beat again. Repeat till satisfied.
- I’d read that shea butter if heated at a high temperature turns grainy so I was quite conservative about the heat; and I found that shea butter melts pretty easily. So you don’t need high heat for the double boiler.
- I started beating even when it was liquid. No harm done – there’s not much that can happen if you beat a liquid! Duh!
- When you beat the mixture let it still sit in top of the ice bath.
- Unrefined shea butter has a nutty smell of it’s own which may not be very pleasing to you. However after applying it on the body it disappears.
- 0.5% (or 0.05 fl oz) EO didn’t seem enough to suppress the smell of shea butter so next time I would up it to 1.5% (or 0.15 fl oz)
- The body butter solidifies some more after you keep it in a cool place.
- I didn’t use the corn starch as specified in the original recipe, so the butter is a little greasy but it gets absorbed by the body in a few minutes.
Sources for ingredients:
- I got my fair trade shea butter from Agbanga Karite. I think they’re quite reasonably priced.
- Essential oils can be found in natural food stores like Whole Foods Market. They’re in the Aromatherapy section mostly.
- Natural oils can be found at amazon or your local supplements store like Super Supplements.
My one step towards a more natural me! Oh and just for fun here’s a cost analysis: $2.50 for almond oil, $8 for shea butter and $0.50 for EO. So that’s $11 for 10 oz (as compared to the $18 for 6.5oz or $25 for 13.5 oz at Body Shop!) and not to forget you’re getting an all natural product!
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
A long time ago, when I’d just started this blog, I posted one of my first recipes and that was of Gujiya – an Indian dumpling. With every year since then I’ve been refining my recipe, sometimes posting notes under that post and sometimes just posting them to my long-time memory. This time when we made the gujiyas we thought everything was just perfect! So I decided it was time to post the new and improved recipe! I apologize for the photo – I figured I should rather take the photo with my phone than wait for myself to get the camera; in which case I risk the existence of these gujiyas. As you can see of the 28 that we made only 5 are left!
- 1/2 cup khoya
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp sooji
- 5 tbsp coconut powder
- 3 tbsp Raisins
- 3 tbsp chironji
- 1.5 cups maida (or all-purpose flour) – this is a little more than you would need for the filling but it also depends on how much you fill each gujiya; and I would rather have some extra than knead it again for the leftover filling.
- 3 tbsp oil
- Oil for deep frying
- Roast the suji till golden brown.
- Roast the khoya till it turns slightly pinkish brown. I use frozen khoya which has a slight raw taste and it helps to cook it a little. Let it cool.
- Add coconut powder, sooji, raisins, chironji and sugar. If you don't have chironji, you can substitute it with any nutty dry fruit like roasted almond or cashew. Mix them well.
- Knead the maida with the oil and water. The dough should be soft and try to use as little water as required.
- Take a small portion of the dough, knead it in your palm and roll it into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and using a rolling-pin, roll into a circle like a mini roti/tortilla. The size of the circle? Depends on the size of gujiya that you want. The gujiya's size will be half of that circle. The final roti should be sufficiently thin.
- Take the mini-roti in your palm, dip your index finger into water and slightly dampen the rim of one half of the roti (to help in sealing it later).
- Put a spoonful of the mixture in the center of the roti. We used a dumpling maker to seal them. Make sure the ends are sealed well. When you fry them, air fills inside the gujiyas which expands them. If they’re not sealed well, the filling will ooze out and will mess up your oil. Don’t overstuff them for the same reason.
- While you’re making gujiyas keep your other gujiyas covered with a damp cloth till you’re ready to fry them
- Heat oil for deep frying after you've made all the gujiyas.
- Fry the gujiyas at a medium-high flame to a light brown color.
Monday, March 12, 2012
That’s a new bird feeder we put in our backyard and before we knew it the birds were flocking at it! After I put up the feeder I was reading somewhere that it takes 2-3 weeks for the birds to figure out there’s one and start visiting it. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that ours had visitors within a week!
Let me tell you it’s very interesting to watch the dynamics between the backyard critters and birds! If you look at the picture closely there are three birds – one at the feeder, another on the ground and the third in between the two. They’re all trying to get the benefit of the different locations!
Presently our feeder is not in the most suitable location because of lack of equipment to put it in one. As bird feeding experts would say the current location would be under attack by the squirrels and that is absolutely correct. We’ve watched them in action! I was quite amazed to see how much feed the birds were consuming per day till I saw the culprit; it was also the moment of revelation to me. While reading about bird feeding, people had warned about squirrels and I thought to myself – when we can feed birds why can’t we feed the squirrels too? The answer came to me when I saw the squirrels feeding. They not only scare the birds – to whom the “bird” feeder rightfully belongs – and hence they’re trespassing on other’s property; and then the amount of feed they eat is almost 10x what the birds eat. Despite all this, I must say it was amusing to watch the squirrel eat. The feeder was empty and this squirrel was trying to get to every last grain in and around the feeder. It came to feeder from the top, from the side and from the bottom to get whatever last bits it could. The grasp it’s tiny feet had was incredulous!
If you’ve a place to put up a bird feeder, you don’t need a yard you can even put it up in your balcony, then run to your local home store and get one; and enjoy watching these lovely creatures.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Author: Gary Chapman
I’d no intention of reading the Men’s Edition of this book. I didn’t even know about it. So when I ordered it in the library I didn’t even realize it was the ME till I read the foreword and that’s when I flipped to the front cover and read the title! :-) However the content is quite generic and is applicable to men as well as women. The suggestions at the end of the chapters are what is specifically for men (husbands).
I loved reading the book. I think primarily because I believed in the proposal the author put forth. According to him every person has a love language – the language that makes him/her feel loved. When his/her spouse speaks that language he/she feels loved. For a happy marriage, you must know your spouse’ love language. If you don’t and are speaking a different language then however much you try it’s not going to make your spouse happy.
The author proposes that there are 5 love languages:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Receiving gifts
- Physical touch
The names are quite self-explanatory. As an example, if your spouse’ love language is “Acts of service”, which means that “doing“ something for her is what makes her happy then your cooking a meal would mean more to her than bringing her flowers. On the other hand if her love language is “receiving gifts” then your doing all the household chores wouldn’t make her as happy as bringing her flowers. You get the point.
There’s a chapter devoted to each language and then a few on how to infer your love language, your spouse’ love language and so on. Also I think that to some extent this is applicable to most relationships in life. Again, this is also discussed by the author in the FAQs on how this applies to children, etc. The book is simply written. I really enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it to every one out there – married or unmarried!
Bottom-line: Must read!
Monday, February 27, 2012
Yes two recipes in a row! And no that’s not because of what the Google stats told me. It’s just that I happened to make these two on the same day and figured that I must write them up before I forget – much like so many other delicious, totally original recipes that could never make it to this blog of mine!
I love this dessert! To be fair, there aren’t too many desserts out there that I don’t love…but still this features in probably my top 10 desserts! Again it’s a very simple recipe. Has to be – coming from my mom. She has this knack of simplifying all recipes – big or small. Trust me she does. I can’t tell you how many times I’d tried to make baingan bharta (curried eggplant) but it just wouldn’t come up to my expectations and all these recipes I tried were so tedious. They were from all over the internet. Then I asked my mom what she does. After I got her recipe I told myself that this is the last time I’m ever trying this dish. Lo and behold! I had the tastiest baingan bharta at my table! DH absolutely loved it! And her recipe – it was so simple! You know the last time I made it I got all the ingredients measured so that I could share it over here but it’s just one of those recipes that I was talking about at the beginning – poor things they never got the privilege of being here!
Anyway enough of gabbing let me get down to the recipe!
- 2 1/2 cups makhane
- 3 cups milk (I’d 2% on hand so I used that. Whole milk would be much better. Don’t use anything less than 2%. If you do don’t call it a dessert )
- 6-7 tbsp sugar.
- Chironji according to taste. It adds a nutty texture. To me this dessert is incomplete without it but you can substitute it with slivered/chopped almonds.
- Grind the makhane in the food processor. Most will grind to a powder and some on the top will be in chunks. That’s exactly what we want.
- Add the milk, sugar and makhane (from step 1) to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
- Simmer till the mixture thickens. The kheer will thicken a little after cooling.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
This is proof that life exists. In our vegetable bed. That life can survive. In our vegetable bed. Proof that there’s enough food and water there. That life can grow there. Most important of all that we’ve more than a tinge of green thumb!
Can you see those cabbage-like leaves towards the top right? Well that is cabbage. Those greens to the top left? Yes those are some salad greens.
The title of the post should actually be the lonely cauliflower. It did have a lot of its clan for company but looks like they couldn’t survive the heavy snow. I’m totally ignoring the fact that we planted them so close that they hardly had any space to breath. Have you heard about “survival of the fit”? We know it by heart. So much so that when we were planting these we figured that all these cauliflowers would fight each other to grow the best and hence we would get a bumper crop! Ok honestly – yes they were uncomfortably close to each other but it was the snow that killed them.
We have this 8 ft X 8 ft vegetable/flower bed and we wanted to grow vegetables like we’d just bought a farmland! It was quite a learning experience. For example little did I know that the tiny cauliflower head that I buy at the supermarket takes up 6 times the space in our vegetable bed! Jokes apart, as you can see, the leaves of the cauliflower do spread almost 1ft in each direction!
On a more serious note, despite the fact that only 1 out of 12 cauliflowers survived and that too doesn’t look too healthy – we were so happy to see it! Fruit of our labor as they say.
I was reading the Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Guide and it’s foreword struck a chord with me. To quote, it said
“Digging in the dirt, planning a spring garden, weeding, and watching seeds become healthy plants both soothes and lifts our spirit. Gardening is indeed about hope. We believe seeds will sprout or we wouldn’t sow them; we plant a tree so that our grandchildren can enjoy one day.”
So true! I can tell you that every time we plant something we would watch it daily to see if it has grown or not and then admire it.
The cauliflower and the quote above have totally motivated me to start planning for the summer vegetables!! Yippee!
Monday, February 20, 2012
It’s been such a long long time since I chattered here. I went on a nice long vacation and then after coming back just couldn’t get my fingers and mind to type something up here. Well in the meantime I was looking at the stats for my blog on Google Analytics, just to see if my long absence had put a dent in my viewership and what do I see! The recipes on my blog seem to be the most popular of all my content – that quite surprised! I never thought of my blog as a cooking.recipes blog so I must say it was indeed a pleasant surprise!
Continuing that spirit I thought I would bring to you another recipe. Sweet and sour tamarind chutney. Or as we call it in Hindi, Khatti (= sour) Meethi (= swet) Imli (= tamarind)ki chutney.
I don’t make it often but when I do, I make it more-than-required quantities and have it ready in the fridge. Every time I want to make it, I forget the proportion of the ingredients. Of course, I learnt this from my mom – I mean to make this chutney not to forget the ingredients! So this time I made sure that I measured everything that I add. It’s quite simple to make and is so yummy! Yum! Yum! Yum!
- 3 tbsp Tamarind paste – easily available in Indian stores
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- salt to taste
- Add all the ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Take a big enough sauce pan so that it doesn’t ooze out on boiling.
- Let it boil till it reaches desired consistency. If it’s oozing out of the pan then simmer. I like mine to be flowing consistency but not watery. Note: The chutney thickens a little after cooling.
- Quick and simple!
I got approximately 3/4 cup of chutney from the above ingredients.