Friday, January 31, 2014

Looking Back At January'2014: The List

I have been a regular reader of One Hot Stove's The List posts and I must say I am hooked on to them! As the month end approaches, I find myself looking out for Nupur's The List posts... needless to say I was so happy when she encouraged other bloggers to start posting their own lists :)

These posts are like a month in review posts. However just the idea of jotting down these otherwise ordinary moments of a month gives me enough motivation to spend my time doing meaningful and creative things. Anyway, that's the hope - or the hidden agenda I should say behind starting The List series here on Ginger & Garlic :)

So here goes - here is my first monthly List.

January was a busy month as usual. Work is always crazy in January after the winter break so it was a busy month work-wise. Rain Gods are not smiling over the bay this season, we have hardly had any rain. California is officially in drought but I am ashamed to admit that a part of me is really enjoying the mild spring like weather this winter season for all the outdoor activities!

Eating

This was a month dominated by Japanese food at our home. Did I tell you I have caught the sushi fever? We have been making veg sushi almost once every week along-with a noodle based side dish. My most successful attempt this month was a dinner of avocado sushi rolls and vegetarian noodle soup with tofu, broccoli and carrots - yumm!

We are also eating lots and lots of apples and grapes. This time of year California farmer's market are filled with super sweet apples and grapes and we are buying and enjoying bulk-load of fruits every week. Our apple farmer is worried of a short apple season this year due to lack of cold weather, that's another motivation for us to eat them while you got them!

Reading

Goodreads.com
I re-read a book this month which I had read and loved a long time back. It's Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It's a wonderful work of fiction set in Russia of late 1800s. This is one of the lighter books of Leo Tolstoy - this is a love story between a married high-class socialite and a raising count against a very inflexible social backdrop particularly towards women. Woven into the story is another parallel story of a Russian landowner who lives life simply with values and wants be fair to everyone. Book is rather long but it beautifully touches upon topics of morality, Russian politics, friendship and family values. If you generally love the 1800s classics, you will certainly like this.

Goodreads.com
I am also enjoying the Anjum's New Indian cookbook. I got a copy of this book from the publisher for review a few years back and came across it recently during winter cleaning. This is a great treasure of a book with different regional Indian recipes. I particularly like the seafood section and have jotted down a few recipes to try if I come across fresh fish in the market.

Goodreads.com
We also added a new favorite to the little one's book collection this month. It's a book called Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins. This one came with a glowing recommendation from the store owner who herself is a mom of 5 so I knew I was on the right track! Ever since I bought it for little one we have been reading this book every day atleast twice a day. It is quickly climbing her favorite list! Wish I had found it earlier :)

Watching

Bloomberg's Inside Chipotle series on Netflix. I came upon this program quite accidentally but I am glad I did. I love eating at Chipotle so it was nice to know the history of Chipotle and values it's founder chef believes in. I had heard about McDonalds being primary stakeholder in Chipotle which had raised some doubts of how Chipotle sources their ingredients and their philosophy to food, but I am glad to see Steve Elle's focus on local, free range meats and vegetables. 

Another show we are watching quite often this month is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on Netflix. This is a PBS kids show for the littlest ones - preschoolers. Every show emphasizes a simple value to kids such as "grown-ups always come back to their little ones", "sharing is good", "go to potty as soon as you know you have to" etc. :) This series came highly recommended by a dear friend and our little one is surely enjoying it a lot. As she turned 2, we started allowing her 15mins of TV most weekdays and one segment of this show fits very nicely in there!

Enjoying

This has been an unseasonably warm and dry winter here. The bald hills surrounding the bay which usually turn deep green by this time are dry and yellow and everyone is awaiting the much-needed rain. However, like me, many of Californians must be ashamed to admit that a part of us is actually enjoying the sunny days and mild spring like weather through December and January. Instead of enjoying our usual winter pursuits of hot soup, blanket and a book, this year we spent January enjoying local zoo, picnics at local parks, many visits to playgrounds and hikes through the nearby trails. Spring flowers are starting to pop up everywhere and the little one is having a lot of fun running around picking flowers of different colors!

It has been a busy yet wonderful January at our end - how has your January been?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Vegetarian Sushi Rolls!

We love Sushi (our toddler also enjoys veg sushi rolls!). On many weekend afternoons we hang out at our favorite downtown sushi restaurant enjoying delicious sushi rolls & sashimi, sipping miso soup & hot tea with a side of tempura noodles.

So it was only natural that the sushi bug would bite me at home too. I have been attempting sushi rolls at home for a few weeks now. I am not yet brave enough to handle raw fish so my attempts have been limited to vegetarian sushi rolls or imitation crab.

My sushi rolls are not as good as our favorite restaurant yet, but they are definitely good enough for a weeknight sushi craving :)

Sushi is simple yet complex. You only need handful of ingredients but there is still an endless art to bringing out the best from your ingredients for a perfect sushi rolls.

So as much as within your means, go for the freshest or best quality ingredients. You can find them at your nearby Asian grocery store. What you will need to get started is:
  1. Nori sheets (the seaweed wrapper in which to roll sushi)
  2. Wooden sushi mat
  3. Sushi rice - a small grain sticky rice variety
  4. Filling - thinly sliced blocks of avocado, imitation crab or roasted butternut squash
  5. Pantry staples - a good quality rice vinegar, sugar, salt
  6. Wasabi paste and soysauce as sushi roll dipping
Cook sushi rice per package directions. Our requires 1C rice with 1.25C of water and ~20 mins in rice cooker. Once rice is ready, remove from cooker and let it cool slightly.

Mix 2Tbsp vinegar with 1tsp salt and 1tsp sugar. Warm the mixture in microwave for a few seconds. Mix with the rice - mix well with hands. Taste the rice; adjust to your taste.

Cover the sushi mat in a plastic wrap. This prevents rice from sticking to the mat when you are rolling sushi.
Break the nori sheet into two halves. Spread one half over the sushi matt. Take 1/2C cooked rice and spread over the nori sheet leaving a slight empty space on the side away from you to seal the rolls. Tip: dip your hands in cold water before handling the rice - it will prevent rice sticking to your hands.

Then add the filling like so. Do not overfill.

Roll the suhi roll with the help of matt like this. Press slightly to seal.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Methi Thepla (Fenugreek Flatbread)

For a long time I did not know the difference between methi paratha and methi thepla. 

Methi paratha was prepared quite often at our Marathi home while one of our Gujarati family friends used to bring methi theplas frequently to any potlucks or picnics. They both appear to have the same ingredient list and how different could the prep methods of two flatbreads really be, but as anyone who has tasted both can tell, thepla tastes very different than paratha - there is no denial to that!

After some serious Google searching and talking to a Gujarati friends, difference is finally clear to me: it's whether you cook the methi before mixing with flour or not. 

In a traditional thepla, you make a quick dry methi subzi, let it cool and then mix it with flour and besan for a dough. While in methi paratha, methi is usually chopped and added raw to flour along with spices. A relatively small difference but makes a great difference to theplas taste and texture.
It took me a long time to get methi theplas tasting like theplas but now that they are, I don't think I am going back to parathas anytime soon :)
Recipe:
Serves hungry 3
Ingredients:
3C loosely packet methi leaves
3 garlic cloves - minced
small piece of ginger - minced
1.5C whole wheat flour
1/2C besan (roasted gram flour)
3/4C water
1/4tsp turmeric powder
3Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

Recipe:
  • Clean and chop methi leaves into small pieces
  • Heat 1tsp oil in a pan and add minced ginger garlic.
  • After a minute add methi leaves and 1/2C water. Cover and cook for 5-6mins. Remove from heat
  • Mix whole wheat flour, besan with 1tsp oil. Add salt and turmeric powder and cooled methi mixture to the flours and start kneading a dough with oiled hands.
  • Add remaining 1/4C water 1Tbsp at a time - only as needed to knead the dough.
  • Knead the dough for 5-10mins. Add upto 1Tbsp oil as needed for kneading. Cover and set aside for 2 hrs.
  • After 2 hrs, make about 10 balls of equal size from the dough.
  • Flatten each ball with a rolling pin to a thin large circle.
  • Transfer the rolled disk to a heated cast iron skillet
  • Cook for about a minute then flip the thepla over letting other side to cook
  • Add few drops of oil to the cooked side on the top.
  • Then flip again and add another few drops on the other side (now cooked)
  • Remove from heat and store in a small covered pan wrapped in a paper towel

Friday, January 17, 2014

My Favorite Baby/Toddler Meals

I know it's a cliche repeated God knows how many times, but really, kids grow sooo fast!! Time literally flies.. I still vividly remember taking that first pregnancy test at home and having butterflies in my stomach, a lot of questions on our mind and a broad smile on our faces :) I can not believe that moment was close to 3 years ago! Seriously, where did the time go?!

So before it's too old and out of my mind, I want to jot down some of my favorite baby/toddler meals.  
As regular readers of Ginger & Garlic know, I have a pretty consuming job (which I love btw so no complaints there!) so by the time I come back home, I would rather spend remaining free time playing with little one or taking her to park or reading books with her. As a result I am always looking for quick, fresh and easy meals which are toddler approved. 

Most days our little one eats whatever we are eating. I am blessed with a foodie daughter, I must say! She loves trying out everything and with the exception of Karela (bittermelon) has liked each and every dish offered to her so far (touch wood!). But we do eat lots of left overs at our home. I cook few different dishes on Sunday and we eat them through Wednesday. Little one also eats some left overs but I generally don't feed her left overs more than a day old. So on such days, she gets a special freshly cooked meal for herself!

My favorite toddler meals have few things in common: 1) my toddler must like those dishes - a lot! 2) healthy dishes with seasonal vegetables and no canned or prepared items 3) Ideally quick cooking but if not quick cooking then >80% of hands-off cooking time and takes no longer than an hour from start to plate on table.

And here are some of my favorites:

1) Simple rice, lentil and vegetable khichadi: simply put 1/4th cup rice and 1/4th cup lentils (moong daal is my favorite for this khichadi but any quick cooking lentils such as pigeon peas or small brown lentils will work). Add any chopped vegetables - I usually add carrots and spinach. 1.5C Water, salt, turmeric and pressure cook for a soft liquidiy khichadi. Let cool, add a little ghee or butter, sprinkle some lime juice and watch your toddler gobble it all up. 

I bought a kiddie size rice cooker recently and it has come in very handy on many a busy nights! 5 minutes of hands-on time and 30 minutes of hands-off cooking time is all it takes.


2) Another favorite meal (toddler and elders alike) any day of year is freshly steamed idlis. Making idlis seems such a time consuming task, until I heard about these microwave idli makers. You can make batter over the weekend or buy prepared batter from Indian grocery stores (Shasta brand is our favorite) and it takes <10mins to put this idle and chutney dinner on table. Chutney is just beaten yogurt with salt, cumin powder and torn mint leaves or coriander leaves or grated cucumber or zucchini.


3) I never considered pasta to be a quick cooking meal - I mean you need to make sauce and cooking dried pasta takes about 15mins of hands-on time too. However, at our home noodles are the busy weekday quick throw together meal. They only take a few minutes at most and variations are endless! We make vegetable noodles with whatever you have at hand - tofu, carrots, green onions, mushrooms, soy sauce and ginger. On cold winter nights, we also make a noodle broth - just make a quick broth by simmering large onion, carrot pieces and grated ginger with water. Once broth has simmered for 15 minutes, add Japanese noodles. Garnish with green onions!


4) Soups! Soups are not quick cooking unless they are roasted vegetable soups and you do all the roasting on weekends. On many weekends, I roast few seasonal vegetables for weeklong eating - red peppers, tomatoes, butternut squash, carrots etc and keep in fridge. Then on a weekday, you can just blend roasted vegetables, add some cream, salt & pepper to taste and soup is ready. Warm it up on stove or in microwave and serve with bread of choice for a quick dinner!

5) On the same track of roasting, we also roast a large batch of yams or sweet potatoes often in fall and winter. Bake them at 375F for between 45 minutes to an hour and they literally become as sweet as candy. We bake them whole with skin on (after cleaning the skin). And then on a later day, just pop one potato in microwave for one minute, cut open the skin and eat the sweet flesh inside! This is my little one's favorite winter

breakfast at home!

6) Baked chickens are always winners! Requires some prep ahead to marinate the chicken in the morning so they can be put into oven first thing in the evening - they do need around an hour to cook and cool but almost all of it is hands-off time.

If you are a busy mom of a little toddler, which are some of your favorite meals?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Favorite Baby/Toddler Books

I love to read. My reading habit is fueled by the mild insomnia I carry. I fall asleep much easily if I read something just for around 20 minutes before going to bed. It helps flush the brain from all the day's thoughts. 

Ever since my daughter was a few months old baby, I have been reading lots of baby/toddler books to her. And I don't know whether it's nature or nurture, but she also loves being read to. She now has a library of over 35 books, some of which I bought, some of which are gifted and yet others are hand-me-downs from our family friends. She daily picks out 10 some books and asks me to read them. 

She pleasantly surprised us recently by "reading" a book on her own! Of course she can't read yet, but she has pretty well memorized her favorite books and can recite them back all with actions and tones and everything :)

It took me a long time and many book dollars to figure out which ones are great baby/toddler books. Here is an overview of what worked for us. I am hoping it helps another Mom or Dad in need :) 

Preferences may differ baby to baby but I hope the basics remain the same:
  1. buy board-books only, no paperback or hardcovers. Babies and toddlers are not known for being gentle with books! 
  2. Each page should have large pictures
  3. Each page should ideally have only one small sentence so it's easier for toddler to digest and helps later in speech development 
  4. Rhymes rock! My daughter loves to read along or finish sentences of her rhyming books. 
  5. This is more of a personal preference, but I love any lift the flap books. Your child can start interacting with the flaps and participating in the book reading process long before he can understand the words. I think that makes a big difference in kids enjoying the reading experience.
So here are some of the books we loved the most:

Image: goodreads.com
Where is baby's belly button is a really cute lift the flap book about finding a baby's body parts which are each hidden behind something. I love lift the flap books; they are very interactive and kids love to play along. Lift the flaps and simple sentences make this our go-to book. This book is also the first book my daughter "read" on her own.. I love it!

Image:goodreads.com
Dear Zoo is another lift the flap book we love. It's about a kid who wrote to the zoo for a pet and zoo sent him various animals but each had a characteristic making it not right for a pet. Finally the zoo sends him a puppy which he loves and keeps as his pet. Great book for kids to learn their animals in a fun and entertaining way!

Image: goodreads.com
Blue Hat, Green Hat is a wonderful book specially for speech development, I think. Story is really simple: there is this silly turkey who can't get any of her clothing items put right compared to her other animal friends.. so lines go something like "blue hat, green hat, red hat... oops". The oops is for the turkey who is wearing hat on hands instead of his head. Initially my daughter loved completing the "oops" in every sentence. Then eventually, she started saying "blah hat, blah hat, blah hat, oops" and now that she is learning her colors, she is attempting to get the lines right. One of our favorites!
Image: goodreads.com

Oh, the Binky! This was one of the first few books I read her, so I have fond memories of it. A hand-me-down from a family friends but absolutely a keeper! Of all Leslie Patricelli books, this one is my favorite. Story again is a simple one.. a little kid looses his binky and looks for it everywhere and then asks fish, dog, mom & dad who has binky. Finally he finds it in his own crib! Again a fantastic language development book with very simple day to day sentences and attractive pictures.
Image: goodreads.com


Potty is another of Leslie Patricelli's book which we are recently finding very useful. It's about a little boy going through potty training and how he overcomes his reluctance of potty. This is a perfect time for us to introduce this book to little one as she and we are entering the much dreaded phase of potty training!!
Image: goodreads.com

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See is a book to introduce little ones to animals, colors and basic sentence creation. I have the rare lift the flap version of this book and we all absolutely love it! My daughter is still calling most colors blue or green, but we are getting there and enjoying every step of it :)
Image: goodreads.com

All of Dr. Seuss books are great, but my two favorites are: Are You My Mother and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You. Former is a very sweet story of a little newborn baby bird who can't find his mother and asks various animals on the way if they are his mother. Later is about making funny noises! As with many Dr. Seuss books, they have simple writing and great rhymes. Are You My Mother is my daughter's favorite story to listen to when she can't fall asleep and my favorite one to tell her :)
Image: goodreads.com

Last but not least is a really good collection of nursery rhymes. I did not grow up in US so I did not grow up to these rhymes, but I am thoroughly enjoying making up tunes and sing along with my little girl :)
Image: goodreads.com


These are our favorites so far! When I am looking to buy new books for her (always the case every few months), I searched around on Internet to find such compiled list, but did not come across many - so here is my attempt in case it helps another parent along.

Whichever book you choose the most important thing is to make sure you and the little one both enjoy the book and cherish the time you spend connecting with each other, making great memories and opening up their worlds! Enjoy!

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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.