Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year Resolution - Stretching Exercises

The new year is here. The time of the year when we are bound to make resolutions about food and exercise. Most of us lead sedentary lives compare to even about 20 years ago. The result of this kind of inactivity shows up in the aches, pain and stiff muscles most of us experience.

I am big time WETA - our local public television station watcher. When they have their fund drives they have these shows on health, financial well being etc., I woke up early on a Saturday morning but not wanting to get up right away, I turned on the TV (what else?). It was another one of those fund raising days. What caught my attention first was the program was called "Aging Backwards". As I watched along I was impressed by the some of the gentle stretching exercises that even older people were participating in and how flexible they looked. For some time now I have been wanting to start doing some stretching exercises so this seemed like the right thing for me at the right time.

Stretching exercises are not strenuous and do not require any special equipment, skill or even a gym. You can pretty much do it anywhere. There are numerous benefits associated with stretching which does not need repeating but I will anyway.
  1. Decreases muscle stiffness.
  2. Increase in range of motion.
  3. Improves posture.
  4. Helps manage stress.
  5. Prepares the body for exercise.
  6. Helps reduce back pain.

Most of us know a few stretches which we perhaps do to relieve aches and sprains but I was looking for a bit more, targeting all leg, hand, neck and back muscles. That is where the above mentioned program comes in. The program was presented by Miranda Esmonde-White. She had developed a range of stretching programs that starts from people who want to relieve stress, relieve aches and pain and improve flexibility. I went ahead and bought a DVD so I can play it and watch and stretch.

I was a bit afraid that I will buy the DVD and like a lot of things will be laying around untouched. Surprise Surprise I actually opened the DVD and have been doing the stretches for almost a month now. Miranda is a great teacher and she walks through the exercises slowly and deliberately.

Stretching is something that people of all ages should consider doing regularly. I decided to make a post about it because it has definitely decreased my stiffness in the muscles. If you are considering adding more exercises but afraid of time commitment and effort look no further. Taking part in these gentle stretches is guaranteed to make you feel better and improve flexibility. Take it slow in the beginning as your body adapts to it. Your body will thank you for it ;)

The setup I have is a comfortable place where I can lay down with a TV in front so I can follow along. A yoga mat will help but I make do with my carpeted room.

Wishing you a Very Happy and Peaceful New Year!

What are your exercise plans for the new year?

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kids Lunch - Mixed Vegetable sandwich

Packing lunch box for kids is not an easy chore. There are no microwaves to warm the food. It sits in the box for about 3-4 hours before being eaten. So the packed item should be suitable. There are few like this vegetable sandwich that are perfect for a lunch box. Remember the stuffing we made for the The beauty about that stuffing it is perfect in a sandwich.

Toasted whole wheat bread with some butter and spread the vegetable filling on one side with some cheese melted on the other side. Slap the two slices together and the cheese will keep the filling firmly in place.

Vegetable Sandwich
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Baking Time:10 minutes
  1. 1 cup of mixed vegetables dry curry (recipe here)
  2. 6 slices of whole wheat bread (or any bread preferred)
  3. a dab of butter or ghee
  4. sliced cheese (I used Pepper Jack Cheese)

  1. Apply butter on the slices of bread and toast them on a pan or in a toaster oven.
  2. Spread about a tbsp or more of the vegetable curry on one slice.
  3. Spread cheese and let it melt.
  4. Bring the two slices together. Repeat for all the other slices of bread.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bourbon Biscuits (using Whole Wheat flour)

Christmas is around the corner means cookies and cakes. Baking requires accuracy and that is not one of my strengths. So the next best thing is to keep away from baking. But with cookies appearing everywhere - in blogs, in newspaper food supplements, in cooking books distributed by grocery stores, I got into the mood to try some of course after being asked everyday for cookies to be baked helps too. I settled on these Bourbon cookies which were in the Washington Post Christmas Cookies supplement - had a very few ingredients and I had all of them on hand.

If you think I accomplished this cookie baking session without any drama you are mistaken. The recipe called for a stick of butter. You'd think that would be an easy proposition. Nope! While the regular stick of butter is 8 tbsp, the fat stick of butter that I had was 16 tbsp. :(. Should have known this but I blissfully proceeded with the recipe which resulted in a sticky mess which could not be rolled. I assumed that the recipe writer had made some mistakes and decided to stick the dough in the fridge to harden a little bit. It is butter after all - it will harden after some time in the fridge certainly! While that was happening I decided to recheck the wrapper to count the number of tbsps in my big stick! Duh! of course it was lot more than a normal American stick of butter.

Nothing to worry about though! Ended up with a few more biscuits than planned but then again when is that a bad thing? I will give you the original recipe because my measurements were reverse calculated to accommodate the excess butter. These were the crispiest, freshest and tastiest cookies we have ever tasted. If you are procrastinating you should give these a try for sure. Be assured if I can bake them you can too.

DH2 had bought cookie cutters and wanted to use those. Who said bourbon cookies can't be any shape you want it to be? The dough is perfectly conducive to making shapes. I did not have super fine sugar to dust on the cookies which would have made them look pretty and festive. I was not going to postpone cooking making for that, then it will never get done. One other thing, I did not have the namesake bourbon at home either. A dash of Vanilla would work just fine

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Now on to the recipe in pictures first,

Combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer for about 3 minutes till light and fluffy.
Combine cocoa powder, flour and salt and add to the creamed butter. Beat on slow speed or use a spatula to mix to form a evenly chocolate dough.
Place the dough on to a slightly dusted with flour board and with a rolling pin roll it to about 1/8 inch thickness more or less. Cut into rectangular strips. Use a bamboo skewer to make a line of 3 holes. Dust with sugar.
Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper as you are cutting them, and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 5-15 minutes till the cookies are just firm.
Cool the biscuits on wire racks. Prepare the filling. Apply filling for half the number of cookies and make sandwiches by placing the other half on top.

Recipe Source: Washington Post - Christmas Cookies - Bourbon Biscuits
Bourbon Biscuits
Preparation Time:20-25 minutes
Baking Time:15 minutes
  1. 11 tbsps of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  2. 1 heaping tbsp of cocoa powder
  3. 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar
  4. 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour, plus more for the rolling board
  5. a pinch of kosher salt
  6. super fine sugar for dusting (optional)
  7. For the filling
  8. 8 tbsp of unsalted butter at room temperature
  9. 1 3/4 cups of confectioner's sugar
  10. 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  11. 2 tsp of milk
  12. 2 tsp of bourbon
  13. Note:I used salted butter so skipped the salt. I used white whole wheat flour, feel free to use any flour of choice.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. Take the butter and sugar and beat with an electric beater or standing mixer till it nice and fluffy.
  3. Combine together flour, cocoa powder and whisk them together so it is well mixed.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and in a lower speed combine to form a stiff dough. I used a hand held electric mixture for beating the butter so used a spatula to mix the butter and the flour to form a evenly chocolate dough.
  5. Dust a cutting board or a work surface and transfer the dough and using a rolling pin gently roll out the dough so it is even thickness of about 1/8 inches or so. You should be able to make 24 rectangles of even size of about 1 1/4 by 2 inches. Using a skewer make holes in a line on the cut cookie.
  6. Transfer the cut cookies to the cookie sheet and dust with the super fine sugar or the same turbinado sugar.
  7. Bring the excess dough back together and roll and cut as many pieces.
  8. Bake for 5-15 minutes till it becomes firm. Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.
  9. For the Filling
  10. Combine the butter and confectioner's sugar in a standing mixer bowl or using an electric beater. Beat till nice and fluffy.
  11. Add in the cocoa powder, milk and bourbon if using and in a slow speed combine them to make a smooth filling.
  12. Fix the cookies
  13. Turn over half the number of the baked, cooled cookies and apply the filling. Place the other half on top.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Scrambled Eggs and Mushroom on a Pita

It is holiday time and most of us will have family and friends visiting. This means we need to have some plan for breakfast for sure while lunch and dinner could perhaps be on the run or outside. While an Indian breakfast is always a possibility. If you are not so inclined making something a tiny bit different but simple and easy enough while making for a crowd is a nice option to have. Like this scrambled egg and mushroom stuffed into a pita.

Eggs and mushrooms go well together. The only thing with mushrooms is that they have to be spicy to taste good is what I think. If you want them stuffed in a pita bread slightly spicier the better. Button, crimini, portabella mushrooms any of them will work in this recipe.

Cut the mushrooms into 1/4 inch dices. You can also add bell pepper cut into 1/4 inch dice as well. I used mushroom, onions and hot chili peppers.

Now on to the recipe,

HEat oil in a saute and add the chopped green chilies and onions and saute till the onions are browned.
Add in the mushroom and saute till they are cooked.
Add salt and pepper powder mix and add the eggs and continue to saute till the eggs are cooked and scrambled.
Heat the pita bread, slit and stuff with the scrambled egg.

An easy and quick but tasty breakfast is ready.

Scrambled Eggs with Mushroom on a Pita
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1/4 cup finely chopped red onions or shallots
  3. 4 cups of diced mushrooms (I used portabella mushrooms)
  4. 6 green chilies finely chopped
  5. salt to taste
  6. 1 tsp black pepper
  7. 1 tsp of red chili powder (optional)
  8. 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  9. 4 pocket pita, flat bread or bread slices
  10. Any spread of choice (optional)
  1. In a saute pan add oil and when hot add the green chilies and the onions.
  2. Saute till the onions are starting to brown. Now add the mushrooms and on medium high heat continue to saute till the mushrooms start to wilt and is cooked. (the mushrooms should be as dry as possible)
  3. Add salt and chili powder, mix, reduce the heat and add the eggs and saute till the egg is completely cooked.
  4. Sprinkle the pepper powder, mix and remove from heat.
  5. Heat the pita bread, slit, apply spread and fill with the mushroom-egg mixture. Serve hot

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Vegetable Puffs - Curry Puffs

Nothing like vegetable puffs to remind you of childhood in India in the 80s and 90s. These days there are far more snacks but I think that there is nothing that comes close :) Those days very few snacks were store bought but the only exception being the vegetable puffs and was up there as favorite for most younglings at that time. It is kind of ironic that I came to know of the typical Indian snack - samosas only much later. Not exactly sure how vegetable puffs got introduced in India anyway. It is of course based off of the French puff pastry I bet but beyond that I am not particularly sure or curious. It tastes fantastic and that's all that matters.

It is usually me who gets nostalgic about foods associated with childhood and want to get a taste right away. To my surprise we were out and about last week when DH mentioned that wants to eat a vegetable puff. The thing is most Indian grocery stores and Indian restaurants carry samosas these days but not vegetable puffs and the one store that I know that carries vegetable puff charges about $3 for one curry puff with neither the taste nor the texture good enough to write home about.

Making vegetable puff is not all that difficult to make at home if you have ready made puff pastry available. I bought a package of the frozen puff pastry and decided that making the vegetable puff can't wait. There are several fillings that can go into a puff. While mutton puffs with a minced mutton filling is perhaps my all time favorite, these vegetables puffs can also jostle for first place any time. If you'd rather make the mutton puffs the recipe is here - Mutton Puffs.

Vegetable Puffs can be a light dinner if you would like which is what we did. The mixed vegetables that go for the filling can have any vegetable that you'd prefer. If you have any of the filling left, save them have an idea for them.

Steam the mixed vegetables in a steamer or pressure cooker without the whistle.
In a saute pan heat oil, add the onions saute, add the ginger and saute. Add the spice powders, salt and mix..
Add the vegetables to the spices and mix so the spices are well coated on the vegetables and then set aside after it is cooked for 4-5 minutes.
Cut the thawed puff pastry sheets into about 3" * 2" length rectangular strips. Place about 1 1/2 tbsp of the filling on one of the pieces.
Fold over and place the puff on a lined and greased cookie sheet. Brush with oil or egg wash if required. Bake in a 400F oven for 25-30 minutes till golden brown on top.

Can anything beat the taste and nostalgia of a fresh warm vegetable puff?

Vegetable Puffs - Curry Puffs
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:25 + 30(baking) minutes
  1. 2 Potatoes peeled and cubed
  2. 2 carrots peeled and cubed
  3. 25 beans cleaned and cut
  4. 1/2 cup of peas
  5. 1 tsp of turmeric powder
  6. 2 tsp of masala powder (any curry powder)
  7. salt to taste
  8. 1/2 tbsp of chili powder (or to taste)
  9. 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger(optional)
  10. 1/4 cup of chopped onions
  11. 1 tsp of oil
  12. 1 package of puff pastry sheets
  13. Note:Chop the vegetables so that they are all the same size. I cut them kind of small.

  1. Set the puff pastry sheet to thaw (for at least 1/2 an hour).
  2. Steam the vegetables. I used a slotted vessel and steamed it in a pressure cooker without whistle. If you have a steamer that will be perfect.
  3. In a saute pan heat oil and saute the onions till they turn brown.
  4. Add in the ginger and saute for minute more.
  5. Add the turmeric, masala, chili powder and salt and mix it in well.
  6. Add in the vegetable cook for another 4-5 minutes till they are all mixed and coated with the masala. Set aside.
  7. Making the Puff
  8. Set the oven to preheat to 400F and in the meantime prepare the puff.
  9. Place the thawed puff pastry on a cutting board and with a rolling gently roll it so it stretches a bit.
  10. Cut the puff pastry into 3 strips and then cut across.
  11. On each of the cut pieces, so it is possible to fold over place a 1 1/2 tbsp of filling in the middle. Fold over and press the edges so they are sealed. Placed on a cookie sheet lined and greased with a bit of oil.
  12. Repeat for all the puff pastry pieces.
  13. If you'd like you can brush with oil or egg wash on top. This will make the puffs golden brown. I did not.
  14. Place the prepared puffs to bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes till golden brown.

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