Thursday, December 15, 2016

Homemade play doh

little girl was down with a bad bout of  flu , she is recovering now, but is still out of school. We needed some quiet time activities to engage her without tiring her out. So on to pinterest for some ideas. Came across a couple of ideas to make play doh and decided to give it a try. Must say it came out pretty good. It has a lovely texture and is malleable just like the store bought play doh, and its also 100 percent non toxic.
The original recipe called for cream of tartar, I substituted it with baking powder, and instead of food colors, I added turmeric to get the bright yellow color.

Home made play doh

Recipe source:

(makes 3 large tubs of standard play doh)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water (use as required)

Put water to boil. Mix all dry ingredients together, make a well in the centre and add oil. Mix it together. Add boiling water slowly as required and mix it together with a spatula initially, and then knead by hand when its cool enough to handle. Wait for it to cool down completely before giving it to the kids.
Note: As this is the first time I am making it, not sure about the shelf life. I am giving small portions to the kids, and rest goes into the refrigerator. Expect it to be good for a week atleast.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gluten free honey and nut cake

Honey and nut cake

I was am  an ardent lover and most gluttonous consumer  of gluten in all its myriad forms.
Toast for breakfast? Wraps for lunch? Pizza for dinner? Yes, yes, and yes!! Anyday! Not to mention all the cookies, cakes, muffins, samosas, kachoris, veg puffs, etc I consumed between meals. My body was the kind of place where I like to imagine good gluten goes when it dies!!

But, having recently read the excellent and most convincing book, grain brain, by author Dr David Perlmutter, where he talks about the harmful effects  of gluten on the human brain, and the benefits of following  a gluten free diet, my husband and me decided to drop gluten from our diet for a month and see if we noticed a perceptible difference 

And to be sure we did. Not only did we notice that our thinking was more clearer and we were more alert and less fatigued during the week, but also that we were more calmer and composed. We also found, that on days when we gave into temptation and sneaked in that box of cookies, we felt a lot more crappier the next day.

Our experiment had clear results. There was only one conclusion we could draw. We needed to completely eliminate or atleast drastically limit our consumption of gluten- Wait! What!??? No gluten? Like for life?? It was okay when it was a one month fun experiment with hubby, sort of like we were a pair of independent researchers testing out the theory in the book.

But no gluten at all???? Meaning no bread?!  No cake?! No pizza?! No pasta?! No burgers?! No...?!
you see where I am going with this?

Well, it wasn't more than two weeks after the first month, that my cravings for pastas, pizzas and cakes started surfacing. I satisfied my cravings for pasta by cutting up cabbage leaves in thin strips ala spaghetti and sauteeing them in pasta sauce, I satisfied cravings for burgers and wraps with making lentil pancakes and wrapping the veggies with them. 
But one craving that remained unsatisfied was for cakes.I was really craving a nice soft fluffy warm fresh baked cake.

 I scoured the internet for recipes, but the ingredient lists kind of scared me off, Amaranth flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum..not to mention the proportions. Each recipe had a different proportion of the ingredients, so I wasn't sure which would work best.
Then suddenly it dawned on me, when I run out of idli batter, I make idlis with left over dosa batter, and the idlis come out all soft and fluffy. So I decided to experiment with making a cake out of dosa batter. 
I made the dosa batter (recipe ahead) added baking powder, Grated apple, Honey, chopped nuts and and a pinch of salt to bring out the sweetness. steamed it for 30 mins on a low flame and there it was my absolutely easy, absolutely gluten free honey nut cake. 
now that I think of it, it also makes a nice healthy school time snack alternative for the kids


Recipe for dosa batter
1 cup urad dal
2 cups rice

Soak all 3 ingredients together overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours. The urad dal should be doubled in size and the rice grains should break easily when crushed between fingers. 
drain the water from the dal, rice mixture and grind to a batter. The consistency should be the same as for a pancake batter

Recipe for cake
1 cup  recipe dosa batter
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped nuts (almonds, cashews, pistas, dates etc)
1/8th teaspoon salt
1/8th teaspoon baking powder

combine dosa batter with honey, chopped nuts, salt and baking powder. pour into a small round pan and steam for 30 mins on low. check for doneness using a knife or skewer. Insert skewer into the cake. if skewer comes out clean, then cake is ready. Take out of steamer and let it cool for 10 minutes. run a knife around the edges to loosen them, and turn the pan over a plate. lightly tap and overturn cake onto plate. Add a honey glaze and some raisins for  garnishing.

And as for the rest of the batter, well there you have a bonus. Add salt to taste, cover it and set it aside to ferment overnight. next day you will find it has doubled in size. heat a griddle, season it with oil and make pancakes (dosas) with the batter, and eat it with your favorite chutney or preserve.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Help the hungry - An appeal

This post is not about food, but rather the lack of it. While, we the privileged few, are inundated with choices ranging from what to cook? (will it be healthy paleo Buddha bowl or or a comfortable bowl of warm creamy pasta) whether to eat out or cook at home? and where to eat out? (will it be Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Indian or Thai?) , thousands of our fellow humans are struggling from malnutrition and starvation and do not have access to the most basic and fundamental necessity -food.

Wars, famines, political unrest and climate change, all have taken their toil on the agricultural  productivity of the world. There is a serious shortage of food across the globe. The hunger map published by the World food programme, shows how rampant the problem is.

To download hunger map click here

Quoting from the world food programme, "In 2015, 795 million people across the world did not get enough food to lead a normal, active life. This translates to one in nine of the world’s population going to bed hungry every night, despite it costing as little as approximately 30 cents to feed a hungry child."

Can we in all conscience, turn a blind eye? can we continue to feed ourselves and our children with the choicest delicacies while thousands of children, starve around us? Should we not, do whatever is within our power, however little or big to help the hungry.
There are numerous organizations doing good work in eradicating hunger and empowering people to grow their own food. Get in touch with them and find out how you can help. Help can be in the form of cash donations, kind, or even time. Many organizations are looking for volunteers who can spend time on their projects.

Whatever it is, do something, Anything - Donate, Participate, Spread the word.  
Your conscience will thank you for it!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Homemade pizza sauce

The other day my active seven year old, who is too busy battling zombies and creepers on mine craft and building superstructures with Legos, and whizzing by on his scooter at the speed of light, to even think about food, unless I shove it right under his nose, Actually actually came and asked me to make a pizza for him!!!

Now that's one request that's not going to be ignored.

So I decided. pizza it is !!!
And what's more no store bought pizza sauce with unpronounceable ingredients . I am going to make my own authentic Italian mama pizza sauce.  But sadly I do not know any Italian mamas or Nonnas for that matter, I looked up the internet for recipes, and found so many that I really didn't know which one to use, so I went ahead and boldly came up with one of my own. A recipe both simple to prepare (but be warned- it's not fast) and delicious. It's also versatile. You can use it on a pizza or toss it with some pasta, or even in a sandwich or a wrap. Your tastebuds will thank you for it. (And yes I do understand making a sauce put of tomatos and garlic and onions can hardly be called an original recipe, so No, I don't intend to patent it.)

Read on for the recipe

Take about 12  tomatos and chop them into eights

Place them in a saucepan on low heat. Cover and  let it simmer gently. Keep stirring occasionally.

While, the tomatos are cooking, roast three medium sized onions whole, on a grill pan

 Roast on an open flame till skin turns black all over. (You can also broil them)

Next, roast a whole head of garlic

Once roasted cool them in a bath of water, and peel of skins. Skins should slide off easily.

Roughly chop the onions and smash the garlic.

Add both to the simmering tomatos alongwith 1/2 cup of tomato puree

Simmer together until the tomato paste  turns a deep red

Easy pasta sauce is ready. You can add some dried herbs like basil or oregano five minutes before taking off the heat if you wish.

Now a small quiz#
How many teaspoons of oil/ghee/butter were used in this recipe?
Ans. Zero
Yes zero!! This is a completely fat free recipe!

Click here for the printable

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How to select and store groceries

Here in Hyderabad shopping for vegetables is a breeze. A genial old man comes with a cart laden with a variety of seasonal vegetables right up to my doorstep. All I have to do is select what I want, specify the quantity and he will weigh it and sell it to me. A nice and easy way to shop for veggies

However, the flipside is I often end up buying more than I need, either because the vegetables look so fresh and tempting or because the vegetable seller sweet talks me into buying them. Once bought, I often cook a small batch once, then relegate the rest to the bottom of the crisper, fully intending to cook them after a few days. However I forget all about them, and the next time I come across them, during my weekly pantry cleaning sessions, they are a shrivelled and misshapen mess thats good for nothing but a bowl of soup!!

Your story too? I am guessing yes!! Because no matter, whether we buy food in a supermarket or in a local farmers market we tend to buy more than we need, we don't always select the freshest produce and we often end up storing them improperly. Three very good reasons why we tend to waste food.  Given this scenario, wouldn't it be nice to have a ready reference on how to select and store groceries? Something you could print out and stick on your refrigerator? Well, it seems the people at Activity deck, have come up with that very thing.  They have made an Infographic on how to select and store vegetables, and Mr Ankit Seth of Activity Deck has offered to share it with the readers of this blog.

So here it is, with an introduction by Mr Ankit Seth. Happy shopping!

- Ankit Seth
The secret to any great recipe is to use fresh ingredients. But how do you ensure that you pick up the freshest stock? Moreover, how can one be absolutely sure that the fresh vegetables that you so carefully picked up at the grocery mart stays fresh till you cook?

After all mushy and soggy ingredients are never a good sign for any chef. Are they?

In this infographic, we at Activity deck,
have tried to identify the simple steps to select fresh grocery and some storing techniques to keep the stock fresh for as long as possible. We hope that after reading this you never run of fresh food in your kitchen!

(ActivityDeck is an online platform to find the best instructors around you. With actual pictures and real reviews we help you choose the perfect class helping you pursue your passion.)

This infographic is created by our friends at ActivityDeck

’’How To Select & Store Grocery: The Complete Guide

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy new year! Looking ahead with top 10 new recipes to try list

There was this family tradition we followed since I was a kid, and which me and my husband have continued with our children too and that is to cut a cake and eat it so we eat something sweet to welcome the new year.It has always been our my fond hope and belief that in so doing we are ensuring sweetness and joy for each and every moment for the rest of the new year.
Optimistic much?? I guess so!!
 Idealistic?? Definitely
Surely in all the twenty plus years, of  carrying on this tradition, even I, a self styled incurable romantic and stubborn idealist should have realized that this trick doesn’t work, that you cannot bribe the fates with cake, that every year will bring its share of joys and sorrow, and as thousands of  internet memes going around, and the cynic in me say,  “ A new year is just a change in date and no big deal. Circumstances don’t drastically change because it’s a new year, and the resolutions (making resolutions on new years is so passé) can be made at any time of the year, so whats the fuss all about?”
But I still continue to hang on to my tradition of welcoming the new year, because despite what the cynic in me says, I cannot deny the magic of the new, the fresh and the untainted!!
Of course circumstances don't change drastically, they more or less remain the same, but the new year to me is like a mental marker, A giant stop sign which the dating system gives you,  a chance if you would take it to stop and reflect on the direction which you are going and to change course if necessary. (Which I trust most of us need to do as we are not perfect) and a chance to put the past behind and look ahead with renewed enthusiasm.
So looking ahead,  here is my list of top 10 recipes I plan on trying out in 2016
1. Macaroons
2. Khakra
3. Sushi (the vegan version)
4. Eggless Frittatta with tofu
5. Homemade Pad Thai noodles
6. Homemade pasta from scratch
7. Burritos
8. Pav bhaji with homemade pav
9. Karanji
10. Tamales
And, here’s to looking ahead to a wonderful 2016 for all my readers and fellow bloggers! May the force be with you!!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The healing benefits of Tulsi ( Holy basil ) plant

The last time my in laws came to visit, my father in law  gave us  the best gift possible-the gift of health and well being!  He planted this holy basil plant in our yard. Holy basil also known as Tulsi in Sanskrit, is the most revered plant in India, enjoying an exalted status as the consort of Lord Vishnu. The plant has been attributed to have various medicinal properties so much so that having a Tulsi plant in your yard is considered akin to having a second medicine chest in your house.  I remember as a child, my mother giving us a herbal decoction with Tulsi leaves and other herbs at a the slightest hint of a cold, and more recently, when my own little girl was down with a bad cough my MIL plucked a few leaves from the Tulsi plant, extracted their juice, mixed it with a bit of honey and gave it to her for soothing relief.
Also having a Tulsi in the yard is a bonus beauty booster as it comes in handy to fight dandruff or fix that pesky pimple!!
So here are some home remedies that use Tulsi, that me and my family swear by.

Some homemade and hometested remedies using Tulsi leaves
(Disclaimer: Please use discretion before trying any of these recipes. These remedies have worked for us, but may not work for everyone. Please consult a doctor if symptoms persist, and please avoid using if you are allergic to any of the ingredients)

Tulsi leaves herbal decoction for cold and cough

1 cup water
18 Tulsi leaves
1/2 inch piece of ginger
10 pepper corns
A pinch of turmeric
Indian Molasses/gur or honey as required

Boil the Tulsi leaves, along with ginger, turmeric and pepper corns. Simmer until the quantity reduces to half. Sweeten with molasses or honey. Strain and drink two times a day for quick soothing relief.

Fast relief from coughs

Take about 8 or 9 Tulsi leaves and rub them vigorously between your palms. This will cause the leaves to crumble in your hands and release their juice. Squeexe out as much juice as possible (6-8 drops is more than sufficient) mix with equal parts honey and administer for fast relief from cough

Tulsi and hibiscus leaves pack for healthy dandruff free hair
Soak 8-10 Tulsi leaves alongwith 20-25 hibiscus leaves for an hour. Grind to a paste and apply evenly to hair from scalp downward. Make sure you coat every strand. Leave in for half an hour and rinse off with a mild shampoo.

Tulsi leaves spot treatment for acne
Make a paste of 6-8 Tulsi leaves and apply to affected spot. Leave on till it dries and wash off.

Growing Tulsi plant at home
Tulsi plant can easily be grown in your yard or in potted plants in a patio. Tulsi grows best in warm Mediterranean or sub tropical climates with mild winters
Tulsi can be grown from seeds directly or from saplings. If growing from seeds in a pot, fill a pot with good quality potting soil till 1/3 full. Water soil till it feels springy to touch but is not flooded. Dig holes 0.5 cms deep and one inch apart. Plant seeds and cover lightly with soil.
You can expect to see sprouts in 7to 8 days. Maintain the tulsi plant by watering daily and that if you live in a climate where winters are harsh, then it is advisable to bring the plant indoors and place it by a window if temperature falls below 40 degrees fareinheit
This, of course is my personal experience in growing the Tulsi in India. For more info on how to grow Tulsi in your location consult a local nursery or the internet.
And lastly remember your Tulsi is more than a plant. she has a revered status in many homes. Treat her with the respect she deserves and she will definitely bless you with both material and spiritual well being.