Monday, December 26, 2016

South African Sojourn

Wow.. it's already that time of the year when we look back and think 'WOW the year just flew by'. This has been yet another such year

I have traveled to South Africa twice in the last few months, each trip lasting for a month. There's so much work in this new assignment that I did not find much time to go around. Of whatever I have seen so far, this is such a beautiful place!! Unfortunately, there's not much public transport due to safety concerns

King of the jungles - in all his majesty!!

A panoramic view of the Hartbeespoort dam

Union building - what a beautiful place it was

A panoramic view from atop the Union building

What fun is it if you have been to South Africa and not visited a flea market!! This was one of the higher end flea markets

Hand painting on ceramic. Every single piece was so beautiful. Unfortunately the airlines imposes a baggage limit!!

Signing off today by wishing all my dear friends a very Merry Christmas a very Happy 2017

Till Next time.. Take care.. Be Happy.. Keep crafting.. Au Revoir

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A crafty long weekend

Last weekend was an active one - busy and yet relaxing too! We had a long weekend  as we (India) celebrated our 70th year of independence. Usually this time of the year we plan our family get2gether as most of my cousins come down for their annual vacations. It was a low key affair this year though, as one of my cousin's father-in-law is unwell.

During our trip to the US, we bought some beads from Michael's to gift our nieces. V and I thought it would be better to make necklaces out of those than give just strands of beads. So we got down to do some beading for gifts.

We found these very pretty pinkish tinted metallic accents, which we do not get here in India
This is for one of my smallest nieces, who is about 4 years old
We combined these pretty enamel beads with black crystals and a silver accent
Ever since Harry baked some brookies in Masterchef Australia, this has been the craze in the baking world. We found this simple eggless recipe for brookies and decided to bake some for our get2gether

The recipe can be found here. It was a super duper hit and disappeared within minutes of taking out

I also made fairly good progress on seashells. But I have decided that the next picture of seashells I post will only be a completed one!! And that is going to be in just a few days :)

That's the updates from me dear friends. Till next time.. Take care.. Be happy.. Keep stitching/baking/crafting.. Au Revoir!!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Stashy Update

I was very curious to know how much stash I was hoarding. Two reasons for doing this - one to get an idea of how much I have pending. Second to see if I am allowed to buy more ;)

 Here are a few kits.

Below are a few patterns only

Threads and fabrics

A complete picture

I also kitted up my next project. It's going to be 'The Bookshelf' by LHN!!

Now I am all excited to see the end of seashells, which is not far off. Though there is no picture at this point, I have made good progress. Have just a few more rows of half-cross stitch and the back stitches left

That, my dear friends, is all from me today. Till next time.. Take care..Be happy..Keep Stitching.. Au Revoir!!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cookie Time

V tried her hand at cookies alone (when I was at work) at my mom's place and ended up burning them. Thankfully mom smelt something burning and woke up in time to find the cookies burning. Ever since then V has been wanting to bake cookies with me only watching while she did everything from scratch

So here was her first one - Cranberry and white chocolate chip cookies

It turned out totally yummy. Everything went very smooth, no burning down the place!! The recipe source is here. We used flax seed powder in place of eggs


We had a tub of cream cheese which we wanted to use up. Found a very simple recipe to make Rugelach in one of the baking forums in FaceBook

150gm each of cold Cream cheese and plain flour, 100 gm cold butter.

Mix the three and rub till they resemble coarse bread crumbs. wrap in a cling wrap and refrigerate for half an hour to an hour. Roll out like rotis, spread any jam/nutella and cut it out into long traingles, roll up each triangle and bake for 20-30 minutes.

NOTE - refrigerate after rolling up and stuffing before baking. This will help retain the shape

We made a mistake - the cream cheese was in room temperature. Hence the dough was very soft and we were not able to roll it out and cut into triangles. So we made a round disc and filled with marmalade/nutella/peanut butter

The saltiness from the cream cheese totally compliments the sweetness. Also the pastry was nice and soft. Very simple and quick snack

Both the cookies turned out great and no burning down the place!! So, I am guessing that V did not get the setting right in the oven at mom's place

That's about the adventures today friends. Till next time.. Take care.. Be happy.. Keep crafting..Au Revoir!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Trip down New York..

That's right.. V and I visited my brother's family who live in New Jersey and spent our vacation with them

When the trip was finalized, I had already fixed my agenda of the few specific places I wanted to see and specific things that I wanted to buy. Top of my list was to visit NYC at least twice and visit the largest Macy's store there

We spent at least half a day and did not cover even a quarter of the store. I actually just realized that we did not even visit the children's section!! Wonder how V did not bother me about it at all

This picture below has a funny story behind it. While walking along times square we came across so many 'characters'. My brother did warn us not to click any pictures with them, else we would get rounded up and asked for money (and none of us had any small change). Apparently V did not gulp this down her throat (we realized this much later).

When she saw these characters she screamed 'Hey angry birds, minions' and rushed to them even before any of us had time to react. When we came out of the shock she was happily shaking hands with all  of them and was posing proudly in the middle for a picture to be taken. And I, like a robot just clicked while looking on in horror. After the picture all these characters were on me demanding 'mommy we need money'!! My brother and family had gone on a few steps ahead of us. When they turned around they saw this commotion and did not know what was going on. Finally they gave the smallest of notes they had and said bye to our dear friends!! Still when we look at this picture we shudder and then laugh at V!!

Next on my agenda was to buy all the berries I could as we do not get fresh berries (other than strawberries) in Chennai

Boy was I happy when I found all these berries. 

I had decided that I will not buy any more stitchy stash and that my next purchase will be only after I finish seashells and start off on the next project
Speaking of which, here's where I am with seashells

All I have now is to finish the sand and all of that is half cross stitch. And the back stitch. 

That's about it from me today friends. Till next time.. Take care.. Be happy.. Keep stitching.. Au Revoir

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mangoes and Desserts

There was a challenge announced by a Facebook group to create desserts with Mango and we could submit as many entries as we wanted. I usually never participate in culinary challenges, but this one was totally irresistible. This was sponsored by Rena Germany. If not for winning, I just wanted to participate. These were my entries:

Mango Kulfi:

Here's the recipe:
 ingredients (measuring cup used, 1 cup = 250 ml):
2.5 cups almond milk or cow's milk
2.5 cups mango puree - approx 3-4 large sized alphonso mangoes can be used
¼ or ½ cup sugar - depends on the sweetness of the mangoes. so adjust accordingly.
4-5 green cardamom crushed or ¼ tsp cardamom powder
a pinch of saffron/kesar
12-15 unsalted pistachois - blanched or soaked, peeled and sliced. keep some for garnishing
2 to 3 tbsp almond paste/almond meal or khoya/evaporated milk (optional)
21/2 or 3 tbsp rice flour or 2 tbsp corn flour dissolved in 3 tbsp almond milk or regular milk
take saffron and almond milk in a pan.
heat on a low flame. just let the almond milk come to a gentle heat. don't boil the almond milk.
if using cow's milk then simmer on a low flame for about 15 to 18 mins.
add sugar. stir till the sugar has dissolved.
dissolve the rice flour in 3 tbsp milk.
add this rice flour paste to the milk. keep on stirring so that no lumps are formed.
cook on a low flame. stir in between.
continue to cook till the mixture thickens. switch off the flame.
add the almond paste/powder/meal or khoya/evaporated milk. stir and let the mixture cool.
add the mango puree, chopped pistachio slices and mix well.
pour mango kulfi into serving bowls or kulfi moulds. freeze for 8-10 hours.
serve mango kulfi cold and sliced with topped with saffron, sliced pistachios, cardamom powder

The 2nd one was a sugarless Mango brownie topped with Mango mousse. Now this was very interesting as I am trying to cut down on the sugar and also the hubby is diabetic!! So, this was a must try

Here's the recipe

Mango brownies
To Be Sieved Together
1 cup plain flour (maida)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
a pinch salt

Other Ingredients
1/4 cup melted dark chocolate
1/4 cup mango pulp
1/2 tsp mango essence
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp crushed almonds (badam)
2 tbsp chopped chocolate

Combine the olive oil, melted chocolate, mango pulp and essence in a deep bowl and whisk well using a hand beater.
Gradually add sieved flour mixture and whisk well.
ADd the remaining ingredients and consistency with mango pulp or water only if required.
ADd the chocolate pieces and almonds, mix well and pour in the greased cake tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degree Celsius for 40 minutes or till cooked.
Cool on a wire rack and cut horizontally into 2.
Garnish it with mango pieces and whipped cream.
Serve it immediately on sizzling plate with cold vanilla ice cream.
sprinkle some roasted almonds and chocolates pieces on vanila ice cream.

Mango mousse recipe
ingredients (measuring cup used, 1 cup = 250 ml):
2 medium size mangoes, chopped
½ cup thick cream
1 tbsp honey or 1 tbsp sugar (I used honey) - ad more or less for your preferred sweetness

in a blender, add the mangoes and honey.
blend till smooth.
now add the cream and blend till smooth.
chill the mousse in the refrigerator for some 20-30 minutes or more.

With that I wind up my post today folks!! Till next time.. Take care.. Be happy.. Keep crafting.. Au Revoir!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A visit to Mumbai...

V has finished her 6th grade and going onto the 7th!! Gosh, she's a middle schooler now.. They had a 3 weeks break before school re-opens again. They have classes for a month and break off again for a month. Wonder why break, commence and break off again. Why not just have a solid two months' break, does not make sense to me

V's best friend's family shifted to Mumbai last year and we have been planning a visit ever since. It finally materialized last weekend, during the Holi and easter holidays. The 3 days we spent there were so good.

The old city has some amazing Victorian structures which still stand strong

The Victoria Terminal is one such structure. The area is adorned with such buildings - colleges, cathedrals, schools!!

A visit to Mumbai is meaningless if we do not take a picture in front of the gateway of India

And a selfie adds to the trend factor ;)

Right opposite the Gateway is the Taj Gateway, where the 26/11 terror attacks happened in 2008

There are still armed personnel stationed outside these places. Spine chilling to see them there!!

We had a gathering at my cousin's place last week and I wanted to bake something for them. I did not want something chocolatey. After a lot of recipe hunting I zeroed in on this lemony loaf.

The original recipe is from Nita Mehta's book 'Eggless cupcakes and muffins'.

Here's the recipe:
Ing: 1 1/2c yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon juice, rind of 1 lemon (you could cut it into thin strips or grate), 1/2c salted butter (I used same qty of oil), 3/4c sugar, 1 3/4c flour (I used completely wholewheat), 2 tsp bkg powder, 1tsp bkg soda, 3 tbsp milk
For topping: 3tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1tsp lemon rind, drop of yellow color (I skipped this)

Method: sieve flour, baking powder, baking soda and keep aside. As I used oil I also added a pinch of salt while sifting. Beat sugar and butter/oil very well. Mix lemon peel. Mix yogurt and lemon juice and keep aside. To the beaten sugar and butter mixture fold in flour mixture alternately with yogurt mixture. Do not over mix or beat. Add milk and mix gently. Put immediately in greased tin and bake.
For topping- heat sugar, lemon rind and lemon juice till sugar dissolves. Add color if using.
Pierce top of cake with fork and pour the prepared topping over it.
Cool cake completely for at least 2 hours before cutting

That's it folks from me today. Till next time.. take care.. Be happy.. Happy crafting.. Au Revoir

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

More Cooking.. err OPOSing!!

I tell you OPOS  method of cooking is totally addictive!! Though I have not started using this method for my daily cooking, I follow this during weekends. Once I am more confident, I plan to start implementing this daily as well. This is not only quick, but also healthy as there is very little or no oil used. I am now on the lookout to buy that 'perfect' pressure pan(s). Now each new skill requires the necessary tools right ;)

Here are the new trials from the OPOS card
Semiya (Vermicelli) Dum Biryani

Here's the method:

Mix 1/4C Ch (carrot, beans, paneer), 1/4C yogurt.
Wash & drain 2C roasted vermicelli (100g).
Mix vermicelli with 1/2 tsp biriyani masala, 1tsp (ghee, salt, chili pwdr). In a PC, layer 3tsp (oil, water), 1/2C Ch onion, 1 bay leaf, veggies, vermicelli & 1/4C Ch (mint, cilantro). Cook on high for 1Wh (5min).
Cook layered & sealed, spiced vermicelli

REPLACE/ SUPPLEMENT Vermicelli noodles/ pasta Biriyani masala with your favourite spice mix Carrot/ beans with your favourite vegetables Paneer with soaked soya chunks/ marinated minced meat/ mushrooms Yogurt with coconut milk.

Ensure vermicelli is soft nut non clumpy after washing & draining. Sprinkle 1/4C water if you fear burning. Release pressure if overcooked.

Pav Bhaji

Mix 1C Ch potato, 1/2tsp (GM, cumin, chili pwdrs),
1/4C Ch (capsicum, fresh peas). In a PC, layer 6tsp
butter, 1/2C Ch onion, 1C Ch tomato, mixed veggies.
Cook on high for 3Wh (5 Min). Mash all.
Cook spiced vegetables to a mush

GM with your fav spice mix
Capsicum with your fav veggies

Skip mashing & serve as Kada Pav Bhaji
Stir fry with rice to make Tava pulao.

The academic year is coming to an end. This means that other than exams, kids want to celebrate finishing of a year. V wanted to bake something for her classmates and the obvious choice was - brownies of course!! Picture is in the collage above

As you know, I only bake eggless. Gayathri's cookspot has a whole lot of eggless recipes and the instructions are very simple and ingredients very easily available too. Here's the link to her recipe. I did a slight tweak - cut down 1/2 cup flour and replaced that with cocoa to make it brownies. V was in a big hurry to cut the pieces, hence the mis-shapen ones :) But her friends, and of course me, just loved it

Another recipe we tried was banana nut choco chip muffins. I have tried this several times and it is totally fail proof and very simple. Unfortunately I do not have a picture to share. The recipe is from here. We added roasted pine nuts and chocolate chips

Whooa, that's a whole lot of cooking and baking :) With this I will sign off today

Till next time..Take Care.. Be happy.. Happy crafting.. Au Revoir

Monday, February 1, 2016

It's OPOS all the way

OPOS.. This is the new word and technique I have learnt the last month. OPOS - read as One Pot One Shot, is a new cooking methodology that I learnt in the last 10 days. It might not be a totally new concept, but the idea of one pot cooking has been extended to almost all recipes

I was introduced to this facebook group called Unified by Food, where the basic idea is OPOS cooking, flash cooking etc. Though they do have other regular recipes, the main theme is one shot cooking. As it is evident from the name, we layer all the ingredients in the pressure cooker and cook for the recommended time. The time depends on the type of ingredients we use. Lentils and legumes for example need longer to cook, whereas spinach and other greens take hardly 5 minutes. 

The only thing that is time consuming in this method is chopping the vegetables. After that it's only minutes before the meal is ready. The main problem with this is, it's extremely addictive. Once we have OPOS'd a dish, we think of OPOS'ng all!! 

What we need for OPOS is pressure cooker, that's it!! Of course other than our ingredients. In the last 10 days I tried 4 dishes using this method - Ram Khichdi, Sambhar, Palak paneer and beetroot Halwa. Yesterday being sunday, we had palak paneer with Phulkas and beetroot halwa for dessert.
Here's the method to make palak paneer
In a pressure cooker (PC), layer 3tsp (butter, water) 1tsp GG (Ginger garlic) paste, 1/2C Ch onions, 1Ch tomato, 1/2tsp (salt, chili pwdr, GM, cumin pwdr), 2tsp dry kasuri methi, 1Ch chili, 250g Ch spinach (4C) & 1C paneer cubes. Cook on high for 2Wh (6min). Release pressure. Mash all except paneer.

And for Beetroot halwa:
Peel & grate 500g beetroots. Squeeze out moisture. Mix In 1C sugar, 1/4C crumbled paneer, 1/2tsp cardamom pwdr. In a PC, layer 1/4C ghee, carrots. Cook on high for 10Wh (8 min). Release pressure. Mix in 1/2C (nuts, dry fruits)

I made a mistake by not squeezing out the water from beetroot and it let out a lot of water. I had to drain out the excess
Another advantage in this method is, the vegetables retain their original color unlike other methods of cooking

Well, I have OPOS'd all through this post!! Hope you catch the OPOS fever too

Till next time.. Take care.. Be happy.. Keep stitching.. Au Revoir

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015, a recap..

HAPPPPY New Year dear friends.. Wishing you and your family the best of all this year.. Wow, yet another year has flown by and here we are wishing each other a Happy New Year!!

The past year saw me doing a little of everything.. some beading, lot of baking, some cross stitch. It was a great year as far as work was concerned.. hectic yes, for sure, but satisfactory. I had taken on a new assignment towards the end of 2014 and the first few months of 2015 went in getting accustomed to the new role. It was extremely demanding but paid off towards the end of the year, when our milestones were met and accolades came pouring in from all sides!!

The major event of 2015 was the floods in Chennai after a century which shook the whole country!! The city is still recovering from the shock. Many families faced very heavy losses. The good part about the flood was the city saw the rise of many a good Samaritan. People helped each other out in all possible ways.

The hectic work took me away from my stitching the first few months, but I managed to catch up in the second half of the year. In the beginning of 2015 this is where I was with seashells
..and this is the current status
There is only about 1/4th of the design left and I can't wait to put in that last stitch and get it framed

My first bake of the year is.. of course a rich fruit cake

The recipe is here. I followed the instructions for an eggless, non-alcoholic version

Signing off on this positive note today.. till next time.. Take care.. Be happy.. Keep stitching.. Au Revoir