About Me

Hello. I started this blog to write about what I do in my chosen profession : a housewife. Some day I might cook or bake something interesting and enlist my 2 year old to help, on another day I make something from scratch instead of buying it from the store and sometimes I craft with my daughter. Once in a while, we travel or have a fun day outside. I am also doing what I can to recycle and reduce waste. I am still learning all of this and documenting my journey through this blog

Recipes tried

I am currently in pantry cleaning mode. So, I have tried out a lot of recipes this past two weeks. I had bookmarked some of them for maybe a year now and I finally tried them out.

Gingerbread Cookies

The daughter saw an episode of Care Bears making gingerbread cookies and since that day, she had been insisting I make them. She even told me the recipe : ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger, molasses and flour. Thats a good enough recipe for a 3 year old. I followed the King Arthur flour recipe This recipe makes real tasty cookies! A great balance of spice and sweet and a good crisp to soft ratio. The dough needs to be kept cold at all times otherwise it will turn into a sticky mess real fast. I made the dough the previous night and stuck it in the fridge in a covered container and pulled it out of the fridge about half an hour before rolling to make it manageable to roll. The dough still has to be cold to touch. I rolled it out on parchment paper with a piece of plastic wrap on top.
The daughter loved cutting out shapes with the cookie cutter. After arranging the cookie shapes on the parchment lined baking sheet, I stuck it in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm them up.
I needed to bake them about 10 minutes. Cooled on the sheet for a couple of minutes and then onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

Milk Peda

I had some milk powder to use up, possibly bought for the purpose of trying this Peda recipe. It had been sitting around for so long, I can hardly remember.
I cannot really say I followed the recipe because I did not have the right quantities of ingredients. I first mixed about a tablespoon of butter, 1 1/2 cups of milk powder and half a container (about a cup) of condensed milk. The mix did make pedas which some people did like but I was not happy about the dryness.
So I crumbled all the pedas leftover from the test batch and added regular milk enough to make a paste consistency and microwaved again (about 5 minutes) till I got a rollable consistency. This time, the pedas were exactly like store-bought pedas. So, to cut the long story short, follow the recipe and make a nice paste with enough condensed milk to get great pedas in the first try. I also added some cardamom powder and some good quality milk masala to the milk paste for a great flavor. The milk powder is a bit smelly while cooking so these aromatics are really key to a great taste.

Mango Icecream

I had half a container of whipping cream leftover from the Strawberry cream cake. I froze the cream to use later. I finally decided to use it in this icecream recipe. It is such an easy recipe and whipping the cream seemed like a good idea to avoid crystallization that is common in homemade icecream. But defrosted cream doesnt whip up well. So I just whipped it as much as it would, without turning into butter and then mixed in an equal amount of condensed milk and some vanilla. I froze it for a few hours. It tasted quite good and much like kulfi. But the lack of air (due to unwhipped cream) to break up all the fat, made the icecream too heavy and rich. So I blended the icecream with about a cup of frozen alphonso mango pulp that was lying in the freezer. What I ended up with was the most addictive mango icecream. It was completely devoid of crystals and very smooth and creamy.

Date Cake

It was our friend's wedding anniversary. I wanted to make a quick cake at the last minute. Going with the pantry chow down theme happening, I had some dates to use up. I made this eggless date cake recipe with a few changes. I increased the quantity of dates to 25 instead of 18 and used brown sugar instead of white. I also used only 1/2 cup of sugar instead of 3/4. Also, used 1/4 cup of walnuts instead of a tablespoon. I am pretty sure the cake would work well with whole wheat flour. I would have tried it but since it was for a special occassion, I went with all purpose flour. Maybe next time. The other important thing about this cake is that it is really delicate. I learnt the hard way to let the cake cool down in the pan before attempting to remove it.

Snack time - Date ladoo with nuts and seeds, Oven roasted Chivda

Recently our snack stock ran out. I decided to restock it with some healthy snacks. One for the sweet tooth and the other for the savory.

No Sugar Date ladoo with chia seeds
Dates provide all the sweetness for this ladoo. They are sweet and full of fiber and nutrition. The nuts and seeds provide crunch and substance while providing good fats.

1 cup dates
1 1/2 cup mixed nuts and seeds *
4 cardamom pods
  • Soak nuts like almonds and walnuts in water for about 2 hours. This makes them easier to digest.
  • Peel and chop. This is a time consuming process. This step can be done a day ahead. Using a nut chopper or food processor will make it a whole lot easier.
  • Boil some water. Barely cover the dates with the boiling water in a container. Cover and leave aside for 15 minutes. This softens the dates. This step is optional if you have a food processor. Since I used the blender, I took this extra step.
  • Blend a little bit of dates at a time in the blender till coarsely blended.
  • Mix together the dates, chopped nuts and powdered cardamom seeds and roll the mixture into tiny balls. These need to be stored in the refrigerator due to the water used for dates. They easily last atleast a month in the fridge.
  • Any nuts or seeds that you have on hand can be used. Here are the seeds and nuts I used:
    • 1/2 cup almonds
    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • 1/4 cup cashews
    • 1/4 cup pistachios
    • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
    • 1/4 cup chia seeds
    • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
    Chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition and full of omega-3, fiber and protein.
  • If you have a food processor, it greatly speeds up the process. Just chop the nuts in the food processor first. Remove. Chop dates. Add back the nuts and cardamom powder and process till it comes together. Roll into balls.

Oven roasted Chivda
Instead of frying or roasting on stove top which requires active effort of mixing, I prefer to roast the chivda ingredients in the oven. It practically makes itself without much effort.

3 cups puffed rice + puffed wheat
2 cups cereal (wheat flakes, corn flakes etc)
1/8 cup oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp chopped curry leaves
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup daliya (roasted chana dal)
1/4 cup raisins and dried berries
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chivda masala
1/2 tsp amchoor powder
1 tsp sugar
  • Combine puffed rice, puffed wheat and cereal in a large baking tray. Roast for 10 minutes in a 350F oven. Stir once midway.
  • Heat oil and add the mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin seeds, poppy seeds, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric and curry leaves.
  • Add the nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, daliya and sunflower seeds). Let them roast for about 4 minutes. They need to be crunchy.
  • Add the raisins and dried berries. Add the salt, sugar, chivda masala and amchoor powder.
  • Switch off the flame and mix everything.
  • Add the flavorings in the oil to the baking tray with roasted cereals and mix together with your hands so everything is evenly distributed.
  • Puffed wheat is optional. I just used it as I had some on hand.
  • I have also used a combination of cereals like corn flakes, wheat flakes and alphabet cereal.
  • You do not have to use all the seeds (coriander, sesame etc) in the seasoning. Use what you like or have on hand. The same goes for the nuts. I just use them for the added nutrition and taste. Use what you like and have.
  • I had some chivda masala lying around. If you do not have it, just add a little bit of chili powder if you like a little spice in the chivda.
  • I chop curry leaves so that they are eaten and not removed from the dish while eating. Why waste nutrition when you can get it. :)

Glass bottle vases and plastic bottle flowers

Last summer, I did some crafting on glass bottles and vases. I love glass as a material. I like shiny and glamorous things :) (although I am sure you wouldn't guess that if you saw me)

Lets start with the shiniest of them all. I used glass gems on this one. These glass gems come in a variety of colors at any craft store. I first sorted the gems by their color.
I also cleaned the bottle. I removed the label, washed and dried it beforehand. I used some rubbing alcohol to clean the outside of the bottle before gluing the gems on. A clean surface is highly recommended for any glass craft.
I did not want to cover the bottle entirely with the gems and wanted some of the beautiful color of the bottle itself to peek through. I drew a design on the bottle with a marker to roughly mark where I need to leave out the gemstones. I tried to keep the lines equidistant but I am not good with measuring and straight lines. I just tried my best. I glued the gem stones starting from the bottom of the bottle to the top.
I used Goop Glue and I am very happy with the result. It sticks well and the bottle held up well even in a long flight.

The next one was a vase. I didn't really have a solid plan with this one. I just went with the flow. I first painted stripes on the vase in a few different colors (I used glass colors). Again, the stripes are not equal in size due to my problem with measuring. But I think it adds to the look :)
I thought the colors looked too bright. Specially for the rustic look with the rocks that I eventually planned for it. So, I did a really light coat of white paint all over the rounded part of the vase. I left the bottom and top natural borders of the vase as is. I then drew a random scroll design on the vase and used my favorite Goop glue to glue some river rocks on the vase.
How beautifully do the flowers compliment the vase!
For the last bottle, I decided to use sand. I thought of making a tree design with sand and river rocks.

First, I needed green sand for the tree. To color sand, I mixed some green food coloring (I used wilton gel color) into the sand with the help of a little bit of water. Make the sand a couple of shades darker than you want because it will lighten up later. I spread the sand on a baking tray and let the sand dry out for about 10 minutes in a 200F oven. Leave it out overnight to dry.
Meanwhile, I drew the tree shape on the bottle with a marker and glued river rocks along the bottom of the bottle with Goop glue. To glue the sand, I thinned out white craft glue with some water and brushed it on the bottle, working in small sections. Then, I sprinkled sand over the glue and shook off the excess. This gave me a very light coating of sand. I repeated the process two more times, giving me three layers of sand. I then sealed the sand by brushing on thinned glue on top. Do not use your best brush for this. The sand gets into the brush which you can wash off but its best to avoid your favorite brush. I also did some lines on the bark part of the tree with a black glass paint outliner.

This one is not really a glass bottle craft. It is a plastic bottle craft. I had seen the bottoms of plastic soda bottles cut out and shaped like flowers on the internet, ofcourse. When I saved enough plastic bottles, I cut out the bottoms and shaped them into flowers. I punched holes on the top and bottom of the flowers to allow threading them on metal jewelry wire. I also glued a couple of acrylic gems in the middle of the flowers. I then hung a couple of jingle bells at the bottom of the jewelry wire and threaded the plastic flowers on the wire. I created a loop on top to hang it. This is currently hanging outdoors in my mom's garden. I think this is perfect to hang outdoors for some decoration.

Greens with Beans (Mustard greens with Black eyed peas and Kale with chickpeas)

I had bought some mustard greens and was thinking of ways to cook them. The obvious one was sarson ka saag. I wanted to go a little simpler. I thought of pairing them with one of our favorite dried bean - black eyed peas. I based this recipe on the famous palak paneer and followed a similar method. This has become our new favorite way to eat greens. I recently made kale this way too. I am so glad to have found another way to eat greens in a totally yummy way while still being so healthy. It never fails to impress the husband (and ofcourse, me too) with its taste.

Think of this recipe as a technique and use it on any of the greens, pairing them with different dried beans.

Mustard greens with black eyed peas

1 bunch (4-5 cups) mustard greens
1 cup black eyed peas
1/2 cup spinach leaves (frozen) *
3 green chilies
2 inch ginger
1 small onion
4 large garlic cloves
1 tomato
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp milk powder *
  • Soak dried black eyed peas for 4 hours. Pressure cook for about 20 minutes with just enough water to cover the beans along with a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of asafoetida.
  • Wash the mustard greens very well. They tend to have dirt on the curly leaves. Roughly cut the leaves with a scissor and microwave for 4 minutes with a couple of sprinkles of water. Add the spinach leaves and microwave another 4 minutes. I prefer microwaving rather than blanching because I think a lot of nutrients are lost in the water used for blanching. Microwaving still retains that bright green color while preserving nutrients.
  • Puree the greens with the green chilies and chopped ginger.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp butter. Add chopped onion and garlic. Saute till translucent.
  • Add chopped tomato and a pinch of turmeric.
  • When the tomato is soft, add the green puree. Cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the cooked black eyed peas along with the cooking water. There shouldn't be much water left with the beans in the pressure cooker.
  • Add a teaspoon or so (depending on your taste) of salt and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Add garam masala and milk powder. The milk powder works as a thickner and adds some creaminess.
  • Serve with rotis and some sliced onions.
  • I used frozen spinach leaves. If using fresh, add 1 cup of spinach leaves.
  • Heavy cream or even evaporated milk can be used in place of milk powder. I picked up the milk powder substitute idea from my mom. We do not usually have cream lying around so this substitute is quite handy (and healthy).
  • I add asafoetida when cooking dried beans to help digest them better. It is totally optional.
  • If the cooked beans have more water left over, add the drained beans first and then add the leftover water as needed.
  • Garam masala is not used in palak paneer but I use it here because it works better with the beans and the heartier greens.

I tried this same method with kale to which I added some cooked chickpeas and tofu. Works beautifully every time. I did not have a tomato this time so I used tomato paste which worked great too.

Birthday cake with strawberry cream and chocolate lace border; Paneer makhni and yeasted roti

Last weekend was the husband's birthday. It had been a very long time since I made a nice decorated cake. This was the perfect occasion for a nice cake.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I saw a video for Strawberry Charlotte on the Joy of Baking youtube channel. I liked the look and I loved the strawberry cream topping. I am totally in a strawberry phase. We have gone through 8 lbs of strawberries in the last month (Some of them are in the freezer, but I am sure they wont last long).

I followed the recipe for the Strawberry Charlotte almost exactly. The sponge cake was made exactly the way it was shown in the video. The folding techniques are quite useful. Since the air whipped into the eggs and sugar is what makes the cake fluffy and you do not want to deflate the batter when folding in the dry ingredients.
I halved the strawberry cream as I wanted it to be more like cake with frosting rather than being tart like with lot of strawberry cream filling. The ratio of cake and cream worked out perfectly for us. I absolutely loved the strawberry cream stabilized by gelatin. I could have eaten the cream by the bowl but the cake and cream went together so well. Really light and fluffy with great strawberry flavor.
I, obviously made some changes in the way I decorated. I really wanted to do a chocolate lace border because that is something I have never done before. It is so easy to do and looks really impressive. There are many how-tos on the web for this.
I cut a piece of parchment paper the height and length required to go around the cake. Melt some chocolate chips in the microwave and put them in a bag and cut out a tiny hole in one corner. Pipe the melted chocolate on the parchment paper in random design. Let it set up a bit till it is no longer liquid. The chocolate will not look as shiny at this stage. Thats a visual clue if you dont want to keep touching the chocolate to check it. It took me almost 2 hours for the chocolate to reach that stage but I read somewhere that it took only 30 minutes. Wrap the parchment paper around the cake carefully. I left it overnight in the fridge to set up. In the morning, I peeled off the parchment paper and decorated the top with a strawberry and leftover chocolate squiggles.

For lunch, I made paneer makhni and yeasted roti.
I used this makhni masala recipe for the paneer makhni base. It turned out exactly like a good restaurant's paneer makhni. I just halved the recipe and added a 14 oz block of cubed haldiram's paneer (which I soaked in hot water first). I had a little bit of kasuri methi left in the box so I dumped it in the gravy but it was about 1 tablespoon instead of the 1/2 tablespoon that I needed. I had to add a teaspoon of sugar to balance the bitter. This is soo rich and creamy. Definitely a special occasion treat!

I based the yeasted roti on this naan recipe. This time I did not have a banana so I left it out and added some sugar instead but the banana works really well in this recipe. I also used the whole wheat roti flour instead of bread flour. I also rolled out the rotis thinner like regular rotis so they cook faster. This was a nice change from normal rotis or parathas to go with a special paneer gravy.

While I am out here throwing out recipe links, let me throw out this Nawabi Pulao that I made on the husband's last birthday.
I followed the recipe with a few changes (obviously). I skipped the cream in the Nawabi curry. I skipped the canned fruits in the shahi pulao part and added a few dried berries instead. It was quite tasty and didn't need anything else to go along with it.

Highlights this week - Beets with pickle masala, strawberry dressing and doll dress from a sock

This week I had a few unexpected highlights in the kitchen and outside. I thought of putting them together in one post.

Beets sabzi with pickle masala

It was just a normal afternoon and I made a simple daal and rice for lunch. These days, I do not feel right about skipping vegetables in any of the meals. So I wanted to add a vegetable element that I could get done real quick, to go with the daal and rice. I had beet root and carrots in the fridge so I thought of making a quick saute with them and then, it went in a totally delicious direction when I noticed the pickle masala in the fridge. The cashews and chana dal add a wonderful crunch. I love the aroma of the tiny bit of bell pepper but it is totally optional.

rice, masoor dal, beet sabzi and pineapple chutney

1 beet root
1 small carrot
1 small onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp cashew pieces
1 tbsp chana dal
1 dry red chili
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp dhaniya powder
1 tbsp pickle masala
  • Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop. Add the hing, cumin seeds, cashew and chana dal. Let the cashews and dal brown a little.
  • Add a broken dry red chili and turmeric. Add the chopped onion, carrot and beet. Add the bell pepper if using too. Saute for about a minute.
  • Add a scant tsp of salt, coriander powder and pickle masala. Mix well.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Strawberry dressing

After a weekend of strawberry picking and eating, we were left with some squishy berries. I used them to make a salad dressing.

Blend 1 cup of sliced strawberries (I might have used around 8-10 strawberries), a tablespoon of olive oil, a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. I also added about 4 garlic leaves that were growing on my balcony garden but it is optional. Dress on your favorite salad, preferably with a few fresh sliced strawberries.

Doll dress from a sock

The daughter was playing with her doll and she wanted to change her clothes. So, she slid a sock over her body. That gave me the idea to turn the sock into a dress.
I cut the sock into two parts at the ankle. From the foot part, I made the top of the dress by cutting out holes for arms and neck. The bottom part did not need any help to act as a skirt. I hand stitched all the cut parts to prevent the sock from unraveling. I did not stitch the top and bottom parts of the dress together because it is easier to put on and take off in two parts. Since the sock is already an elasticized material, I did not need anything to hold the skirt up. Although I took a leftover piece of fabric (from making our bookmarks) and used it as a belt. It adds a nice pop of color to the dress too :).

Raw mango chutneys - Mango Onion Chutney with a hint of coconut and Green Chutney with mango

I got a few raw (green) mangoes last week. I made a small batch of my mango pickle. With the rest of the mangoes, I made a couple of chutneys. My mom told me about this sour-sweet mango chutney which could work like ketchup with more of an indian flavor. I immediately got down to making it.

I loved its tang. The husband loved it mixed with some sweetish yogurt. We are already half way through the chutney in a week. I will have to make another batch soon. We enjoyed it with thalipeeth immediately after I made it.

Mango Onion Chutney

Onion gives cooling properties to the chutney, with the green mango providing the tang, making it perfect for summer.
1 large (2 cups) raw mango peeled and chopped
1/2 large (1 cup) onion
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
3 tsp jaggery
3 tsp dry coconut powder
Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend into a chutney.

  • Brown sugar can be used instead of jaggery.
  • Fresh or frozen grated coconut would also work instead of dry coconut powder.

Green Chutney with mango

The mango adds a fresh taste to this already fresh tasting chutney.

1/2 cup peeled and chopped raw mango
1 bunch (2 cups) cilantro
1 bunch (1/2 cup) mint
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 green chillies
1 tsp roasted chana (daliya)
Blend all the ingredients in a blender to a chutney consistency.

Wine cork stamped flowers and Fabric Bookmarks

The school year is coming to an end. My daughter has some really great teachers at her preschool. She loves them. So we wanted to do something to thank them. We made some cards using a wine cork stamping technique I had seen on this blog. We actually found a wine cork on the road when I had taken the daughter out to ride her bicycle around the apartment complex.

I put blobs of a few colors (blue, red, yellow and white) on a plastic container lid. The daughter swirled the wine cork around and picked up random colors and stamped a circle to make the flowers. I had drawn a circle on the paper to help her understand where to stamp. I also drew a few leaf shapes on the paper and she painted them green. I used tempera paints. When the paint was dry, I cut out the flowers and leaves leaving a tiny border of the plain yellow paper around it.

I let the daughter stick the flowers and leaves on craft paper folded into cards. She put a dab of glue on the flowers and leaves and stuck them to the cards. The flowers and leaves stand out a little on the card because the glue is not spread all over but just a dab in the middle or wherever the daughter put it. :) I let her stick them where she wanted and so every card looks unique.

I thought the flowers and leaves needed some brightness so I dipped the back of a paint brush in some white paint and made some dots in the center and some lines on the petals. It ended up making the flowers look so much better. I also made some lines on the leaves with yellow paint.

Fabric Bookmarks
We also made some fabric bookmarks for the teachers. I had an old night gown with a beautiful color and print, which I used for the bookmarks. For the base, I used a thin cardboard which used to be a food package box. I bought a ribbon matching the fabric and used some white star shaped beads I already had.

I cut the cardboard into strips 1.5 inch x 9 inch. I cut the fabric into rectangles 3.5 x 10.5 inch. I folded all the edges in about a centimeter in and ironed them. I wanted to make the edges strong to avoid tearing the fabric. I also threaded the ribbon into the beads and created a loop to top the bookmark.
The husband stitched three sides of fabric rectangle, formed by folding the fabric in half to match the size of the cardboard strips. I then slipped the cardboard strip into the rectangle.
I placed the ribbon loop in the open side. The husband then stitched a decorative stitch on the top edge.
The finished bookmark :)