Makara Shankranti

Wishing you all a Happy Shankranti!!!

I can’t remember all the rituals and stories and I have a habit of calling mom on each one. Just a reason to catch up and understand the culture and some times on the stories. This time I had to speak to grandma to get more stories 😉

Jan starts with a new set of Hindu festival. Makara Shankranti. Even though hindus follow lunar calendar, this is one festival that follows sun position. Basically this means sun transitions to Makara meaning Capricorn sign. The festival always falls on 14th of Jan. This begins the journey of sun in the northward direction. This also marks the beginning season for harvesting. Scientifically the warmer days are supposed to start from this day onwards.

The festival is celebrated in various different ways in India. The harvesting season is welcomed in different cultures in different ways. In some parts they have a tradition to fly kites. Lots of yummy sweet dishes are prepared in some parts. In assam, it is Bihu. In southern states of india, a traditional pongal is cooked. In gujrath, the sky is covered with kites. It is a festival of kite. In punjab a festival of lohri is celebrated.

20130113-065857.jpg

In my home the kids are given Bogi Pallu which is a mixture of sesame seeds, peanuts, jaggery or sugar cubes (small ones), chickpeas.

The same mixture is also distributed to few families as part of tradition along with a fruit and sugarcane. As kids we loved eating sugarcane and sugar candies that came along from different house holds. Sugar candies were made in different shapes and colors and would be attraction for kids.

Festival food – I have always seen mom and grandma make pongal. Pongal is traditionally cooked in a new earthen pot. Pongal is like a porridge made with rice and lentil ( moong dal). They make sweet version with jaggery version known as sweet pongal and savory version known as khara or uppu pongal. It is accompanied with a tamrind and jaggery dipping. The warm pongal on a cold winter day is comfort food. My grandma makes more varieties of pongal and mostly cooked in milk. She calls is Pallu pongal as base and uses that to make variations. This is accompanied with freshly harvested vegetables that are cooked in a tamarind and spice mixture. They also traditionally make obaatu which is another sweet dish. Very yummy as well. Some folks refer that as pooran poli.

20130113-092018.jpg

The morning of Shankranti every one cleans the front of their house. They believe this is done for welcoming goddess Lakshmi. In some parts of the country they get fresh cow dung and use that for cleaning.

Every one after bath worships the Sun and goddess Lakshmi. They pray to the god’s to give them food and grain and keep their blessings on the family. Families wear new clothes symbolizing a new start. The variations food is then prepared and offered to god before prasadam(offerings) is consumed.

I perform the festivals in a smaller scale and less lavish. I make simple savory pongal and sweet pongal and everyone in the family pray to god for good health. This time mom sent the sugar candy and a good friend got them for me. I made the mixture of chickpeas, coconut, sugar, coconut and peanuts to distribute among few with sugar candy. I will update the story with new pictures I can share after the festival.

I am hoping these stories are inspiring to my friends and my family and wishing you all a great health and happiness!

This is visual yellu and sugar candy for all my family and friends.

20130113-124550.jpg

Happy Shankranti again!

Advertisements

Kids and new era gadgets

Many kids these days have atleast one Apple or similar product like iPod, iTouch, iPhone, iPad. It is a new market share for these companies. I am sure the smart sales and marketing folks thought about this new gadgets and how this can revoluntize the market in terms of little Kids and teens. Almost every kid need not be taught on how to use these toys. They are visual and intriguing for the little minds. They figure out in no time on how to use and have a hang of it.

I am sure every parent have pressure from their kids to buy these new gadgets as it is now the new cool toy to own. If you don’t then they feel left out and you can see and feel their pain. With that said, why we can’t we have these gadgets released only for this industry where in a parent can be less worry some to buy these and be able to have the parental control. The lack of parental control on these gadgets can be consequences for many mishaps.

What is the minimum we should provide on these? Calendar, email, notepad, music, recorder, Clock, Calculator few kid friendly games and educative series?

I am sure every parent would be more willing to invest in a product that is kid safe rather than giving in due to pressure. There are parents who are successful in not getting into the pressure and competative mode, but how many? If we had the controls in, I think they will have a better market share.

I recently read an article where a mom wrote an 18 point contract to her kid and had him sign with an iPhone gift. She was hilarious and creative, and I am sure she had jitters getting that gadget and hence the contract. But do we really want to write contracts to our kids. I understand the responsibility factor and learning factor, but this could be totally avoided if we had a kid friendly version in the market..just my 2 cents and my thoughts as of today 😀

BTW just for the kick of it..I thought of writing this high level requirement for Apple and other companies to come up with a product 😉

1. Option to pick and choose what apps can be pre-loaded.
2. Parental control 101 – like inbuilt firewall which can track and send the usage stats to parents 😉
3. Ability to disable from master (parent’s phone or account) ;-P
4. Kid friendly iTunes website (educational series based on age selection which should be controlled by parent again)
5. Cool looking..well that is what kids go for…is the look and feel.
6. Basic call option.
7. Web browsing with limited options to sites, basically blocking sites which are not kid friendly.
8. Radio disney, Dictionary kind of apps

This is the reflection of my mind for today..what do you guys have on your mind lately?

Happy Reading!!!

Banana Nutella Turnover

20121231-174649.jpg
I wanted to try something with phyllo dough. I have never worked with phyllo only because I was nervous and knew it would be a challenge for me. I have bought couple boxes and tried not to dare. Phyllo is very delicate to work with and of course I had challenge making this sweet dish. I wanted to try something new and finally I decided to use chocolate with Phyllo. A good combination to make the turnover with chocolate is strawberry or bananas.

My turnover is using Banana and Nutella. You could always replace this with Strawberry and Chocolate chips or Nutella.

Ingredients-
Phyllo dough
Banana
Nutella
Butter

20121231-173423.jpg

Thaw the phyllo dough and unroll the dough and place this on a flat surface and cover with a damp cloth or towel to prevent from drying.

Make a paste of all purpose flour and water.

Take one to two sheets at a time and brush it with butter and place 1-2 sheets more on the top.

Cut and make the sizes for your turn over ready.

Place a spoonful of Nutella and 3-4 small pieces of banana chopped.

20121231-174343.jpg

Apply the all purpose flour paste on the sides and seal the turnover by folding.

Apply little more butter and place them on the baking sheet.

20121231-174318.jpg

Preheat oven at 375 or 400 F or as per the instructions on your phyllo dough.

Place the prepared turnover in the oven and bake them for 10-15 mins or till you see lite golden brown.

Serve them hot..they are delicious.

20121231-174414.jpg

An alternate way to make this is to use wanton wrappers and deep fry them. They are delicious that way too. This version I prepared today was more health friendly and I could eat 4-5 guilt free ;-D

I wanted to make something as I was getting ready for 2013. This is for you all. A visual treat ;P

Try them and hope you like them as well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY DEAR FRIENDS!!!

20121231-174922.jpg

Pay it forward!

The year 2012 almost coming close to being history. A history with some good and memorable and cherish-able events and some not so much.

2012 year for me was a year for personal growth as a mom as a professional and biggest one bejng a HUMAN. Some of the events in Connecticut and In India have been mind disturbing and my head and heart cannot come to peace with those cruel acts.

On the other hand I am so blessed to have some wonderful people from family and friends who make every day special.

Recently we travelled to Palm Springs where my princess was frozen with cold when we reached the 8000 ft level. The kids were having a blast in snow and suddenly my princess was sick. I had so many people come care about her and take care. My dear good friends Sujatha and Shyamala were beside her all the time. My heart was just pounding with stress and they just took charge. I just see this act of kindness and hear it means pay it forward.

Think of all the good times and wonderful acts and end your year to make it better and cherish-able.

PAY IT FORWARD. I will and wish you all can do that as well. HAPPY NEW YEAR IN ADVANCE!!!

Here is a good thought I want to share as we move into 2013.

20121230-100551.jpg

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all.

The feeling of Christmas is around starts when Christmas carols and songs are on radio and you hear the little kids singing jingle bells non stop.

Kids are excited around this time of the year. A small Christmas tree is decked with ornaments. My princess and my munchkin are pretty excited to display their artwork from school, peppermint candy cane along with various ornaments collected over the years. Tintin, snoopy, heart shape glass ornaments, ornaments with kids pictures, bells, gift boxes they all have a spot on our family Christmas tree. They have hand written list for Santa with their wish list under the tree, hoping Santa gets them what they wished for 😉

20121224-182128.jpg
Although it is not a tradition that I grew up with, I believe in every religion and faith and it feels good to be part of it as well. It started initially when my princess asked for a Christmas tree and not wanting to break her heart we got a small tree. We have been following all festivals from India and this is added to list of celebrations for our family.

The celebrations are usually accompanied with small gift exchange for the kids and some home cooked food just for the family, laid back movies times and spending time with each other.

This also let’s me teach my children to accept and respect people’s faith and religion along with what they follow. For me the human religion is considered the upmost and looking at what’s going around in the world, it is very important to continue to teach our kids about peace and humanity.

I am thankful for this year. I am looking forward to more good times with my family and friends.

Feliz Navidad !!!

Home Remedies

It is that time of the season where we all catch common cold and cough. The time also reminds me of my childhood days and grandma’s care and remedies. She had abandon knowledge and remedies up her sleeve. From cold , cough to even jaundice. I always asked her how she knew all this and if she can share them with me. She shared some common one’s and some she said cannot be shared 😦

Over the years many have shared the tips and tricks and I thought this may be best way to compile them.

Some good ones I still follow with myself and for my kids-

Cold and cough

1. Honey – everyday one teaspoon honey with warm water or just plain honey helps calm your throat.

2. Warm water and turmeric – mix 1/4 tsp turmeric in 1-2 cupe warm water and drink

3. Salt water gargle – warm water and add 1-2 tsp salt and mix well. Gargle this few times a day.

4. May sound weird – keep an cut onion or garlic pods peeled in the bed room. This is supposed to capture the bad germs and kill them :p

5. Hot soups, lemon and honey tea is all supposed to help as well.

6. For little kids- rub Vicks on their foot and wear socks on top before sleep. This works faster on then little munchkins. My grandma always massaged Vicks on throat and around my nose to breath constantly while I went to sleep as a kid.

7. Plenty of water and good sleep. It is really needed as your body is fighting those bad viruses.

8. Pepper rasam – a soup with lots of garlic and pepper helps.

9. Holy basil eaten helps fighting cold. For children the juice of holy basil and bay leaves are given to help with cold as well.

10. Avoid eating fried good or sugary contents

11. Run humidifier in winter and cool mist in summer. This will help with drying throat.

For cuts.

1. Turmeric has great benefits. I remember mom putting little turmeric on cuts and small bruises for healing instead of bandages.

Constipation

1. Prunes, banana- it is best to aid with digestion.

2. Cinnamon power -1/2 spoon, 1 spoon honey and 1 cup warm water mix it and drink

Diarrhea

1. one spoonful of mustard seeds or fenugreek swallowed with buttermilk.

Headaches

1. Plenty of water and sleep

2. Head massage with warm coconut or olive oil helps

Leg aches and hand aches or sprains

1. Warm olive oil massage can definitely help

2. Stretches – stretch your arm both sides like it is getting pulled in either direction..it relives the strain and pain

Dark circles

1. Tea bags – left over tea bags refrigerated for an hour and keep it on your eyes for 10 mind

2. Potato or cucumber slices on your eyes for 10 mins

Dry skin

1. Winter can dry your skin really fast if not moisturized well. Mix rose water and lemon juice 1:1 and apply, this will make your skin smooth.

I am sure there are plenty more. This is my first attend to compile what I have heard over the years and tried.

Share what you know 😀

Btw..today is doomsday and god has a different plan for all of us..may be another chance to be good!

Almond & Cranberry clusters

It is the holiday season and it is beautiful and fun times of the entire year. Christmas lights all around and very festive atmosphere in my neighborhood and at my work place. People have always been very thoughtful giving gifts with no expectation back. I just adore their spirit of festival and sharing. Since I have been in this country, probably a year or so I may have missed the yummy goodies.

This year I wanted to make something for my friends and colleagues as well. I was truly motivated from Diwali and now Christmas.

What can be more decadent than chocolate. Chocolate almond & cranberry clusters screams Christmas. This is very easy to make and very yummy as well. You can make so many variations with this. Mix your favorite nuts and change how you like.

Here is what I followed-
2 cups semi sweet chocolate
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup cranberries dried

In a double broiler melt the chocolate chips till the consistency is smooth. Add cinnamon powder, chopped nuts and cranberry and mix well. Take this off from the stove top and on a tray either use a parchment paper or aluminum foil and take a spoon ful and drop them like a cluster. Keep some distance between each and continue to use a spoonful of mixture as a single cluster. This measurement made 30 clusters for me and plenty enough for me and my son in the end to wipe of the bowl 😉

It is a must try. You will love it. Use milk chocolate and semi sweet mix if you don’t like bitter. Use dry grapes instead of cranberry or use pista as nuts. Mix and match the nuts as per your taste.

Chill this in the refrigerator for at least couple hours before serving.

My son and me cannot wait to try them. My son has requested to save some for him.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!!!

20121211-211403.jpg

20121211-211413.jpg

20121211-211421.jpg

20121211-211435.jpg