Food (53) Fitness (10) Nature (7)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Great Egret

Hey everyone.. time for a nature post! Here is an amazing bird I saw recently while I was traveling. Look at that wisp of a tail! How funny. :)

Fig. 1. Great Egret

It is not usually possible for me to take good pictures of birds.. but I do keep an eye out for them. This one was a lucky shot. The bird was walking fairly close by, carefully, slowly. So I took several pics. This one turned out to be the nicest.

It is likely that this is called a Great Egret. There is more info about Great Egrets on Wikipedia. It is possible that it could also be the Great White Heron, which is the white counterpart of the Great Blue Heron. But wiki describes that the Great White Herons have yellow legs, whereas the Great Egrets have black legs. So I guess this one might be a Great Egret.

Fig. 2 Great Egret

Fig. 3 Great Egret

Keep your eyes open too.. there are lots of beautiful birds and animals around us. :)

Thanks, Mallika (of Veg Bowl!) for tagging me with your Tag award. The rule of this Tag was to post a favorite picture and Tag other people. I guess these are my favorite pictures. :) And I suggest that any blogger who takes pictures of birds and nature around them, please consider yourselves tagged and post something pretty on your blog for us to see!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shevaiyaan Kheer (Vermicelli pudding)

Hi everyone.. today's post is this month's dessert.

Fig. 1. Shevaiyaan Kheer

We are abstaining from sugar in our cooking this month. One of our foodies here needs to restrict sugar and carb intake. But obviously, if you tell me "don't make anything with sugar" all I can think about is sugar!! I have even gone out of my way to specifically click and ogle at the items under dessert labels on most food-blogs! And I am just the cook! What about our sweet-foodie here? Especially when the doctor tells you that sugar is the last thing you want to eat now, sugar is immediately the first thing on your mind. Psychology-shmychology!!

Anyway.. here we were. Desserts were taunting us in our dreams at night, pervading our senses in the day and when enough was enough.. we turned to SPLENDA. I cannot say much about artificial sweeteners. There is a plethora of brands and varieties out there. Lots of confusing data about what is good and what isn't. The doctor told our foodie that Splenda is ok, so that's what we are going with now.

I made some Shevaiyaan Kheer. Our foodie had missed kheers for Ugadi.. then came all the other New Years. So kheer it had to be. No Indian festival, wedding or religious community event is complete without a Kheer or Payasam! Also, Shevaiyaan Kheer is the simplest kheer anyone can make, and takes the least amount of time and effort. The shevai themselves soak up a lot of liquid and there is not much need to wait around for the milk to condense.

I looked up my Mom's recipe, but didn't have all the ingredients she had listed. So I will post Mom's specifically sometime in future. I also looked up the recipe at Aayi's Recipes. The one I have made here is my generalized combination of both those recipes to suit the ingredients I had at home.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why do I run?

Hi everyone.. I know most of the readers here are looking for food ideas, please don't mind my fitness posts. If you don't want to read about fitness please click on the food label above and just head over to the food-only posts. I love food too! :)

Those of you who are still reading, many thanks! Very sweet of you to humor me! :) There are bound to be some people here who occasionally mull over getting active, being healthy, etc etc,.. stuff I have heard and thought about too. Maybe you will get active and maybe you won't. It's ok. Don't take pressure. You will get active when you want!

And you don't have to run to be active. I am not necessarily advocating running here. If you are considering getting active in some way, do whatever activity you think is fun. Don't pick something boring that you are bound to quit. Dance. Go for a walk. Take your kids for a hike on your local park trail. Jump up high every time you see SRK on the TV. ;) Getting active is all this is about. If these posts give you some food for thought, that is enough.

Also, I feel running has served me in ways that have influenced my all-round life, not just my health. That is why I persist in writing these posts! Even if the topic is running, other factors like motivation are pretty general. And I think someday somebody who may need that little boost (or I, myself) might drop by. Then these posts will be there for them.

So, on to the running post..  
Why do I run?
Just to get out - No matter how lame this might sound.. this is the honest, unromantic reason why I started to run. I got sick of being indoors all the time. But there was nowhere I had to go. It was freezing outside. And I was tired of sitting in the house. So I went to the gym. Gyms and large motorized-equipment are a bit scary to me. So I did the tamest thing I could imagine.. walk on the treadmill. But this walking-on-the-spot business very rapidly got boring. And no surprises I quit going to the gym.
                 Back to square one.. getting bored in the house.. cold outside.. Ok now, this time I knew there was no point in quitting the gym. So back to walking again. But this time I started reading up about running and started a run-walk program (Couch to 5K) on the treadmill, joined an online runner's forum that gave me advice on newbie-runner cautions and motivation. In a few days I realized that running is not too bad.. I was enjoying it! :)

To wear sporty clothes - I have never been sporty in my entire life. I was that person who insists on playing only ghar-ghar because everything else makes me sweat. Now, I have a set of runner clothes!! It's actually quite fun to see myself dressed up, looking all runner-like :D

To be gross - Aah we are getting warm here. You just have to trust me on this one.. particularly if you are new to your gym or exercising. No one out there cares what a runner looks like.
              When you are running, you are sweating rivulets. Your face is tomato-red. You are either desperately gasping for breath with your mouth open, tongue hanging out or pressing with one hand the right side of your torso, hoping that stitch in your belly goes away before you fall off the treadmill. All in all, you are so uncoordinated, gross and dirty that people no longer have any expectations from you. It is enough if you don't aim your sweat shots at their feet or blow your nose in their face. (This.. on a food blog!! Raam-Raam!!)
       But yes, runners are allowed to be as gross and awkward as they want. It's one time you can completely lose your inhibitions, no alcohol involved. 

To eat what ever I want - In less colloquial terms, health benefits. People often start running for weight-loss. This is a good point. And yes, if I eat too much cake, I do just think "I'll run it off tomorrow".
         But more than weight-loss, physical activity provides a major boost to your overall well-being. When you run, endorphins are produced and when those kick-in, you get a major "happy" high! :) This is actually a significantly important reason for me to persist in running. When I am running, the positive aspects of the most heartbreaking projects just shine through like spotlights! Some of the best ideas I get are while I am on a run!

To make friends - I run alone.. by myself. But, there appears to be some cosmic connection between runners! Whenever I see another person running on the street, I feel a strange kinship with him. Dude, I feel your pain, I feel your joy! Run, Forest, run! The fat lady huffing along the side of the street, I feel like she is my friend! What's more, it's not just me. Runners are really friendly to other runners. When I am running and I see another person running, every time they will nod to me or wave or at least grunt and give some brief sign of acknowledgment! Some really long-time runners too will sometimes give me a thumbs up or say "You're running good!" and you will find me beaming through the rest of my run! :)
         Without trying to join any group, I have somehow become part of a group - a group of people who are bound by a single activity! We don't know each other, we don't particularly remember each person we see running. But when I am running by myself, every runner out there is sending me goodwill.. hoping that I have a good run!

To win every day - When I am running, I usually have a goal, say, "Run 40 minutes" or "Run 3 miles". These goals are usually set by whatever training plan I am following at that point. The plans usually set something for the whole week - Sunday rest, Monday 2 miles, Tuesday rest, Wednesday 2 miles, Thursday walk for 30 mins, Friday rest, Saturday 3 miles. Every day, I have to meet the goals of this plan. On 2-mile-days, running 2 miles is the goal. On rest days, rest is the goal. Long-run days are the time of reckoning! If I have been consistent all week, then I can make it through the 3 miles long-run. If I have slacked off all week even doing 2 of those 3 miles may be too hard.
      But who cares about all these numbers? So I run 2 miles, 3 miles.. what's the big deal! The deal is.. SUCCESS!!!!!! Every time I run just a little bit longer than before.. I have succeeded in my goals! No matter what happens in the rest of my life, running is the one thing that gives me success every single day! Every time I reach a new distance, that success stays with me for the rest of the week! So most certainly I will push hard and get my success today! No one will know I ran 2.9 miles or 3.1 miles or what, but I will know!  
         I only have to beat myself yesterday to win today. I set my own targets. I set my own pace. I am in full control! And I love it! :)

Cheers and thanks for reading!!

PS: These mile and time numbers are generic and arbitrary in this post. Don't take them too seriously.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Masoor Amti

Hey everyone.. another somewhat traditional recipe today. Masoor Amti is a dal or lentil based dish, eaten with rice, commonly made at homes in Karnataka and Maharashtra. This recipe is my Mom's, probably passed down to her by my Grandmother. 

Fig.1 Masoor Amti

I find these typical recipes very convenient. It's quite amazing how simple some of the preparations are. Very little time required for prep-work too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Papaya tree

Pretty papayas (I think) growing near my friend's house.

And she had never noticed them before!! Do you notice which trees grow near your house? Which birds flit onto your patio?

I often don't know the names for trees, flowers, birds and cannot identify a thing. But let's see, I have decided to post anything pretty I see (that waits long enough for me to click).

If I don't know what it is, you will! :)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bhenda Upkari (Spiced Okra)

Hi everyone! Today's post is a somewhat traditional dish - Bhenda Upkari or Spiced Okra (Ladyfingers). This is a simple preparation as long as you have the required ingredients. My favorite dish to make for myself.

Fig. 1. Bhenda Upkari

Lot of people really don't like Bhindi. But I so love it! Actually I didn't know that I liked it. Then I didn't eat it for many years. Family here doesn't like it at all. So I didn't cook what I figured no one else would eat. I thought that I am probably ok without Bhindi and simply never made it. Then after many years I happened to eat Bhindi back home. And I remembered how de-licious it was! Oh, I had missed Bhindi, my darling Bhindi.. for all these years and I didn't even know it!! 

(Very filmy I know.. Jaaney Tu Ya Jaaney Naa-sque.. My lost and found love for the vegetable next door!) -- PJ Queen strikes again!

Now I look for excuses to make this for myself, (just for myself if necessary), but once in a while I make it. And what's really sweet, out of consideration for me now my family members are pushing themselves to just barely eat one-serving of Bhindi! :) If they eat even one-serving that is ok with me! Thanks people! :)

These few weeks I am visiting a friend who loves Bhindi in all its forms. So now I intend to make as much Bhindi as possible to last my tastebuds and my blog a lifetime! :D

This dish is a traditional preparation. This is my Mom's recipe. I am not sure, maybe several communities in Karnataka might make it. I cannot be sure about its exact authenticity or roots. Anyway, here goes..

Friday, April 9, 2010

Paneer Stuffed Bell Peppers

Hey everyone..! Today's post is about bright and colourful Paneer Stuffed Bell Peppers! I read about these Stuffed Bell Peppers on Aparna's blog Apy Cooking. Aparna is a fairly new food-blogger, but she's no novice at cooking! She has several impressive recipes on her blog. Quite coincidentally, she and I started our blogs on the same day! So we have common blog-birthdates! :)

Fig. 1. Stuffed Bell Peppers

The interesting thing about this recipe is that Aparna has baked the dish and ever-so-casually combined tofu in the conventional Indian stuffing. :) Now I have never made anything with tofu (barely ever eaten it either). So tofu would be somewhat a leap of faith for me. I did, however, keep her recipe in mind for using with Paneer.

Have been on the lookout for paneer based recipes lately. In the past I have always eaten the typical Besan Stuffed Peppers, usually at parties. Aparna's idea of adding protein to the stuffing lingered in my mind. And when I saw a batch of fresh and vibrant bell peppers in the store, the image of Aparna's dish immediately flashed before my eyes. Here was a chance to make a fancy side-dish!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lasooni Dal

Hi everyone! Browsing through blogs is a fun pass-time for me when I am free. Sailu's Kitchen is a great blog I found.. simply amazing pictures and spicy dishes! :) One such tantalizing dish I found there is Lasooni dal. It reminded me of a spicy garlic dal I had eaten at a Punjabi restaurant some years back. Actually there are plenty of really good Andhra and South-Indian style recipes too at Sailu's website. This dish just happens to be North Indian and is the first one I have tried from there.

Fig. 1 Lasooni Dal

This Lasooni Dal recipe is really very "Hotel" or "Dhaba" type. And still, requires very basic and minimal ingredients. So it's good to serve when casual friends have suddenly dropped-by on a Sunday morning and you don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen, but wouldn't want to serve plain dal-roti either.

I really liked how good the garlic garnish looks in Sailu's picture!! The dish tastes great too. Be sure to garnish the dal! Even for yourself, when you have no guests and are not taking pictures! :) I didn't have chopped fresh coriander, but that would be nice for additional garnish too.

I have made a few changes in the original recipe to match whatever ingredients I had. No spinach or onions for instance. So here goes..

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Turtle crossing and other stuff

I have to go to the gym today. Hate going to the gym. Running on the treadmill is terribly boring. It's one single speed. At best I can vary the incline, vary the speed a little. And ultimately, fact remains that I am going nowhere!!! :( The TV has to be on some "neutral" channel like the news - to accommodate all varieties of co-gymmers. And news is really not the most motivating channel, is it! :( So I use my favorite ploy, act like I am running outdoors! Think about it, dream about it.. plan for my next run outdoors!

Running outdoors is very different. I guess when I am outside, the sights and sounds and smells of the outdoors keep me fully occupied. Firstly, I keep an eye out for "strangers". Always, safety first! No matter where you are running. But there are also plenty of other beautiful things out. There are birds twittering about, fragrant flowers on the bloom, all kinds of insects buzzing around them (make sure my mouth is closed!), skunks and badgers skulking around the trash and squirrels that actually stare you down! Geese that refuse to move out of the way, threateningly rustling their feathers, lest you expect them to move! Get out of the way, Runners! We ain't moving!  :)

I also keep an eye out for doggies who are happy-to-chase-any-moving-body. When the sun gets up, so do dogs. And when they gotta go, they gotta go. So groggy dog-walkers bring out their dogs for their morning walks. And even the business doesn't distract a dog from spotting a running human. So I make sure to keep a respectful pace and distance when I see a huge dog. :)

Once, while out on a running trail, I saw a turtle!!!!!!! How cute! It was on one side of the trail, and looked like it wanted to cross to the other side. But then it saw me and acted all nonchalant and aloof-like, as if this was its casual hang-out, at the side of a trail. I slowed down and sauntered around, doing my best take on a "take-it-easy-kid" attitude, (actually waiting to see it cross the path and check out where it goes). But eventually my impatience got the better of me and I figured I would make my loop and check on this guy on the way back. When I got back, the turtle was still right there!!! Hadn't moved an inch! Slow and steady winning the race certainly is a tall story. :) I made another loop and returned and finally the chap had gone. Can't be sure whether it just got sick of me interrupting its trail-crossing-ventures and returned the way it had come or maybe it did cross over to the other side and carried on with its journey to Middle Earth! I like to think that it did the latter! ;)

There's plenty to see when you are out running! And I love it all. :)

But, today we have to run on the treadmill! (I use "we" when pushing myself to do the unpleasant. Makes me feel like I have plenty of company). So, we shall just deal with the treadmill today, use that time to dream about the outdoors! Run outside tomorrow, right? Yes, tomorrow is another day! ;)

PS: I wish had taken a picture of the turtle then! I'll be sure to do so if this happens again in future! Now I have a blog!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Palak Paneer / Aloo Palak

Hey everyone..! Today I am making Palak Paneer (Spinach with Cottage Cheese)... a quick and easy dish.

 Fig.1 Palak Paneer

Usually I make  Aloo Palak (Spinach with Potatoes). It is supposedly easier to absorb the iron from Spinach if you consume it with something which contains Vitamin C. Since potatoes have plenty of Vitamin C, I try to make Aloo Palak more often than Palak Paneer. It is the same recipe. In any case I like to add some lemon juice at the end. I hope that kicks in a tiny bit of Vit-C too. --OR-- I just force everyone to drink orange juice with the meal! ;)

Today it's the Palak Paneer version. Who doesn't like Paneer! This recipe is originally from Sanjeev Kapoor's book. Here I am making this by memory, since I don't have the book handy. I will update the post later if I find there are any changes in the original recipe.

Sunshine Award!

Hey everyone.. Mallika (MD) from the Veg Bowl! was sweet enough to share the "Sunshine Award" with my obscure little blog! :)

Thanks, Mallika, for the award and for visiting here!

My sincere appreciation also to everyone who visits and reads my posts!

And for my part of sharing the award, I would like to share it with all the food-bloggers whose blogs encourage people out there hunting the internet for recipe ideas! :)