Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eye Like Eye Shadow

It was one of those Friday nights when you've had a really tough week and all you want to do is sink into bed early, turn on the t.v. and zone out. So there I was 9:30 at night, quite content at my day's productivity, I had done the dishes, dusted and vacuumed the living room, folded some ( never ends...I never get to the bottom of the basket...) of the laundry and even managed time to cook a full meal. Like a thunderbolt, I shot out of bed and drove off to Target. There were only 20 minutes left till closing and I realized I had run out of baby formula. Aagh I was so pre-occupied with cleaning that I forgot to go buy some during the day.

Why target? Why not another 24 hour store? Well, I had some coupons (yes, I try to use coupons, ever since extreme couponing sweeped the nation). Most of the time my coupons expire or go missing the instant I remember to use them but today for once, I knew I had some pretty valuable Target coupons, and for those of you who know how expensive formula can be I wasn't going to give up so easily, plus I had the added thrill of getting to the store before it closed for the day!! 

So began my thrill seeking, adrenaline pumping adventure to buy baby formula. I would have liked you to picture me flying across the highway, dashing and swerving through the traffic, but alas, it was really a quick and simple 4 minute drive down the road, and the streets were empty. Once I got to the store I spotted the makeup section from a distance, and recalled that I had run out of eye shadow. I took an about turn from the baby department and landed in the midst of all sorts of  makeup. I was in the mood for some really vibrant, bright colors and looking at what was available (plus having absolutely no knowledge of this art form beyond the drug store makeup aisle) I wasn't impressed by the stuff up on the shelves.  That's when I remembered Krissi, my neighbor, telling me that she had a tonne of makeup at home. A quick text to Krissi to tell her I was going to raid her supply, and then I was on my way to grab some formula.....of course some chocolate cake caught my eye...sabotaging my own weight loss goals, I scooped it up along with the formula and began my mad dash to the check out counter. By now all the shop lights were switched off and I ran the risk of being trapped in the store all night long (reminds me of a movie I saw when I was a kid, can't remember the name of it).

Now, 7 days later, armed with 6 spanking new eye shadow brushes (who knew there were so many types, I have always used the sponge applicators), eye primer, base, finishing powder and enough eye shadow that warrants it's own 3 drawer storage box, i'm ready to learn how to go pro!!

I got some basic hands-on training from Krissi over the weekend and another consultation this morning, a step-by-step tutorial from AccidentallyMommy and loose eye shadow powder from Madd Style Cosmetics. MSC makes 100% vegan makeup, I never knew that some red pigments have insects in them (eeeewww!!) but not MSC, they use the best minerals and ingredients.

I usually go pick my kid up from day care in sweat pants and my hair pulled back moments before I have to leave, it goes without saying that I don't get decked up for this daily ritual, so it was funny today when I walked in to the classroom, the teacher was like "Oh, you look nice today, are you going anywhere special?"   and the only thing different about me was that I still had my eye shadow on from my practice session.
Note to self: Just because I don't have a desk job, doesn't mean I have to look frumpy, least..not everyday...

I managed to synchronize nap time today, so while the babies were sleeping this is what I was up to:

Excuse the base jutting out, this was my first attempt!!
I love this look!! 
So there you have it, untamed eyebrows with some super snazzy color on the lids, want to know their names? They are: Honey Badger, Boognish, Peepshow, Pisces, Ohm and Damn the Man.

Amazing how a little color can transform the way one looks and feels!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spinach Dhal

My little one is slowly transitioning into table foods and these days frowns upon simple pureed veggies and baby cereal, but give her some flavorful dhal and she's all for it. I made this recipe the other day and before adding in the spicier ingredients I took out some dhal on the side for her. Finally I am getting to the stage where I don't need to cook separate meals for different family members or put up with blander tasting food if I choose to cook just one meal. 

You will need a pressure cooker or another method to cook the lentils. This is a good recipe to try out with the old slow cooker too. If you are going to cook lentils using a saucepan and water over the stove it could take a while for the lentils to get really soft.

I am obsessed with my whistling pressure cooker, I can't function without it.
Apart from that, this recipe is pretty simple and quick. Lentils are a great source of protein and iron which is great for the whole family.

Toor Dhal
  1. 1 cup of uncooked Toor Dhal ( Split, plain yellow pigeon peas), thoroughly washed
  2. 3 cups of chopped spinach (Either fresh or frozen)
  3. 1 onion finely chopped
  4. 1/3 cup tamarind paste (You can use ready made paste or make your own by using dry tamarind the size of a small lime, soak it in warm water for a minute and then squeeze the pulp)
I use dried tamarind; add 1/4 cup water, heat in microwave for 30 seconds, let it stand till it cools down, then squeeze away!!

After straining the pulp, i'm left with tamarind paste which I add to the dhal 

  1. 4 cloves of garlic
  2. 1 tbsp sambar powder
  3. 1 tbsp wheat flower or rice flower
  4. red chilli powder - as per taste
  5. salt - as per taste
  6. 1 tbsp turmeric
  7. 1 green chilli finely chopped (leave this out if you want to make this for your baby/toddler)
Ingredients for tempering/seasoning:

  1. 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  2. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  3. 1/4 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
  4. 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder (also called "hing". Don't get turned off by its odd smell, I promise it smells a lot more pleasing after it hits the heat! Hing is great for digestion and is said to help fight the flu)
  5. curry leaves (not necessary but if they are lying around in your fridge then you may as well use them as they provide a nice aroma to the dish)
  6. 4 tbsp of cooking oil
  1. Cook the lentils in a pressure cooker for 3 whistles, using a 1:2 ratio, so cook 1 cup of lentils in 2 cups of water. This ratio can be used to cook lentils on a stove-top or slow cooker as well.
  2. Heat the oil in a pot on a high flame
  3. Add the mustard seeds and let them sit until you hear the first "pop"
  4. Add the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and drop the flame to medium
  5. Add the asafoetida and mix well
  6. Mix in the green chilli, onions, curry leaves and garlic and let the onions cook until they are golden brown. Make sure you have enough oil to coat the onions, adding a little more if necessary.                                                                                                                              side note: If your seasoning and onions are sticking to the bottom of the pot, you need to stir it more        often, drop the heat and possibly add more oil. The key to good tasting Indian food is tempering the seeds correctly without it burning.
  7. Mix in the spinach, cooked dhal and 1/2 cup water, cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes on a medium flame.
  8. If you want to separate some non spicy dhal then add only the turmeric and salt at this stage, bring the pot to a boil, uncovered, once a nice thick consistency is reached, you can take out a portion of the dhal. Otherwise, you may also add the sambar powder and red chilli powder.
  9. pour in the tamarind pulp according to your taste preference. Tamarind will add a sour taste to the dhal which South Indians love.
  10. Mix the dhal and let it boil, uncovered for about 8 minutes.
  11. Add wheat/rice flour, this acts as a thickening agent and prevents the spinach 'separating' from the dhal.
  12. Continue to cook until your dhal reaches a nice, thick consistency. 
There you have it, Indian dhal demystified. This recipe is pretty much the base for all the dhal's out there. Feel free to experiment with different veggies, I sometimes throw in some broccoli or zucchini to the mix.

Enjoy with steamed rice or quinoa!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Life is a Treadmill

There are some days that I just don't feel like doing anything, nothing, I just want to sit there, on my favorite place on the couch, the part with the big dip in the expensive sofa. I know everyone has a favorite spot, mine is the seat closest to the end table where I can park (alongside myself) my cell phone, laptop, a spoon and my personal jar of Nutella (yes that delicious chocolaty spread which is oh so addictive - but I am a good mother so I hide the same from my children to save their teeth, my teeth? well they can bear the abuse).

I consider this sedentary evil a luxury, almost impossible to enjoy now that I have a little family to look after. This desire stems from a variety of situations and predicaments, for example, wanting to recuperate from an all nighter, recover from the dreaded flu or to retaliate against my own self inflicted daily schedule. Whatever it may be, this luxury which I once classified as "boredom"  is like a mirage, cliched I know, but there is no other way to describe it. 

I was chatting with my friend over the weekend and we were talking about how our life with children is like running on a treadmill with a broken "stop" key. If one child is fed and ready to play, the next one is up for their meal, howling in the background. If one child is off to bed, the other needs a diaper change and of course it will be leaky, and if by chance they're both napping, the phone will ring, waking them from their slumber. No matter what happens or how lazy and tired we feel, as moms of babies we can't just say "Go fix yourselves something to eat 'cos I don't feel like cooking dinner tonight" or "I'm sleepy can you get yourselves ready for daycare?". 

It can get frustrating and at times I lose patience and go on a naughty corner rampage, and when that doesn't work I just sit there, in my special place, my little island oasis sans the chocolate indulgence, blocking out the horrendous sounds of honking toy trucks and automatic ball popping machines, defending my helpless laptop and its cord from the clutches of a crazy baby, saving my iphone from the slobbery grip of my loves, and wonder if I will ever reclaim my freedom....or the "Ctrl" key from my laptop for that matter,  it's missing and hasn't been discovered in any diapers yet so I think we're good since it's been a few weeks...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Delicious Paneer Butter Masala

Paneer Butter Masala is one of our family favorites. It tastes so good plus it's simple and quick to make. I made this dish in under 30 minutes. Paneer is essentially Indian cottage cheese, high in protein and since it is not made using rennet it's completely vegetarian. You can find all the ingredients for this recipe at your local Indian grocery store. So here goes:


  1. 2 tbsp cooking oil + oil for frying paneer cubes
  2. 1 tsp ginger paste
  3. 1 tsp garlic paste
  4. 3 tomatoes pureed
  5. 1/2 cup of water
  6. 12 cashews ground into a fine powder
  7. 1 tsp cayenne powder (red chilli powder) 
  8. 1 tsp corriander powder
  9. 1 tsp cumin powder
  10. 1 tsp garam masala powder
  11. 300 grams of paneer
  12. Salt to taste


  1. Heat 2 tsp of cooking oil in a pan
  2. Add the ginger and garlic paste and let it cook for about 20 seconds
  3. Add the pureed tomatoes and water. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes on a medium flame.
  4. Add to the pan, the powdered cashews, chilli powder, corriander, cumin, garam masala powder and salt to taste. Mix and cover the gravy, cook on simmer for about 10 minutes while you prepare the paneer. Once the oil begins to separate from the gravy, it means that the tomatoes have been cooked well and you are ready to add the paneer pieces.
Oil has separated from the gravy, which means the tomatoes are fully cooked

5.       Cut the paneer into small cubes and fry them until they turn golden brown. After draining the excess oil, add the fried cubes to the gravy. 

    6.  Let the curry cook for 5 more minutes or until the gravy is a nice thick consistency.

There you go, you're fresh paneer butter masala without the restaurant price! 

This dish tastes great with Naan, rice or any other Indian flat bread. If you would like to make a milder version of this recipe, reduce the amount of chilli powder and garam masala.

Chana Masala

Chana Masala Curry is a staple in our house, we make it every week since it's so healthy. Chana or chickpeas are high in protein which is why this dish is so important for a predominantly vegetarian diet, it's good for diabetics too.

This recipe was originally posted by Krissi of Skelekitty fame and you can find the original post by clicking on this link: Krissi's Chana Masala Recipe on Modern Rosies, we used large white chickpeas to make this curry. These days, it's not unusual for me to be standing outside my home and smell the delicious aroma of chana masala coming from my neighbour's kitchen as I secretly (and feverishly) pray that my dear friend may pass on some of her dinner to me so I can rest easy for the night!!

Thanks Krissi for letting me post this recipe here!

"Chole" ("Chana Masala")
  • Chickpeas
    3 Cups canned for those of us short on time and patience OR 1½ Cups, dry, for the hard-core cooks among us
  • 3-6 cloves garlic
  • ginger root (fresh) approximately equal to amount of garlic
  • 1 green Thai chili optional
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, whole
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds, whole
  • asafoetida powder optional
  • chana masala spice powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp tumeric optional
  • up to ½ tsp chili powder (omit if using Thai chili)
  • 1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, chopped roughly
If using canned chickpeas, rinse them WELL and discard all the liquid.

If using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight in plenty of water, then cook on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker with a pinch of salt until cooked all the way through, but not mushy.*  
You’ll get about 3 cups cooked.  Drain and reserve a cup of the liquid.
Bindavi's cooking instructions are for "three whistles" on her Mom's whistling pressure cooker, which are often seen in Indian kitchens and at estate sales, but thanks to the magic of the interwebs, U.S. customers can easily acquire them too.

Image by Sara Ataie
Mash garlic and ginger into paste using a mortar and pestle.

In a pot or large saucepan:

Warm cumin seeds in a few tbsp of oil, when they sizzle, add fennel seeds.

Add garlic/ginger pasteasafoetida powder and onion.  Sautee onion until translucent and slightly brown on edges.

Add chopped tomatoes, 1 C water (or water reserved from cooking chick peas), saltchana masala spicecoriander powdercumin powderand tumeric.  If using chile powder, sprinkle overtop to taste.

Stir together, then add chick peas and combine all ingredients well.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.  This is the best time to adjust your spices.

Our pot of chole, bubbling away!  Mmmmmm!

Serve over rice or with naan.  You can also garnish with anything you like including cilantro, yogurt,  fresh tomatoes, chives or whatever strikes your fancy.  Bindavi seems to prefer naan from one of our local restaurants and yogurt (and I'm inclined to agree with her!).

NOTE: By the way, you can also make this recipe using Kidney Beans instead of chick peas - if you do, it's called "Rajma."


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Holi, the Festival of Colors and Spring

Having lived in the western world for the better part of my life, and then to live in India during my late teens, this festival would always throw me off guard and out of my comfort zone. We tend to have a pretty large personal space in America whereas in India and other countries, it's not so hands off. Every year on this day, our neighborhood turned into a "free for all" water fight. So when a random person off the street drenches you with an icy bucket of rose colored water while you're unfortunate (and unaware) enough to be on your way to you're weekly math tuition class (which by the way, was cancelled without my knowledge, apparently it's an unwritten rule that you step out of your house at your own risk on this day), it's a pretty steep ramp up into the world of India's finest festivals!

This year, Holi the festival of colors, celebrating the triumph of good over evil falls on March 8th. If you ever happen to be in India on this day, you better watch out, you will most definitely be doused in colored water and powders.It's one of the most amazing and brilliant festivals celebrated amongst Indians today. The night before Holi, people light bonfires as a metaphorical representation of the defeat of evil. The next morning, children and adults alike delight in smearing vibrantly colored powder on their friends and family, and spraying one another with colored water, officially welcoming Spring and the warmer days to come.

Holi brought along with it some interesting lessons for my teenage self, it taught me first and foremost, to embrace life, to shed any inhibitions or self doubt, and no - the whole world is not looking at you, so take it easy. Holi introduced me to color in ways that I had never seen before. India is a country steeped in history, art, textiles, and culinary concoctions, none of which would be complete without the use of color in a very bold and definitive way.

Back here in USA, we've been having some pretty rough weather ourselves, with snow storms and rain (well, not so much in Northern California except last week). March is here, so lets shed our winter coats and fleece pants and into something bright to pick up our spirits. Colors have a way of influencing the way we feel, so bring on the reds, blues, greens and yellows!

Oh...and yes, the following year, I was definitely ready for the water bombs and welcomed any unexpected color attacks with my own fair share of shrieks of laughter!!

Holi is truly an electrifying day!