Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brown Rice Khichuri for JFI


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It was a Friday.

Friday the 13th, no not the 13th actually the 10th, Friday the 10th

The rains were lashing the mountains, the wind howled around the cliffs, the ominous dark clouds hung around low, a precursor of the unknown future.

As the evening drew closer, mists rose from the sea and engulfed the land. Across the sea sounded a shrill whistle and then…


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...Nothing happened except for Brown Rice Khichdi in my pressure cooker.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Khichdi man of the house aka D was in charge of the kitchen.

So when he said he wanted to make “Khichuri”(there is a recipe of khichuri down in that post) I thought why not, could send this on to JFI. To add a twist to the tale, I asked him to use brown rice and of course he flatly refused, declaring that Brown Rice does not a Khichuri make and some such fundae.

After much cajoling I asked him to browse the blogs for inspiration.

Some amount of time pass and Googling later, he finally declared he DID have a brown rice khichdi recipe, blogged by some Punju Scientist girl. Of course I knew it was none other than our dear Musical and her Khichdi.

So brown rice Mothaan di Khichdi was transformed to the Bengali Khichuri with Brown rice and also loads of other veggies like cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes and what not. D followed Musicals' recipe (he says) but used green Moong and Red Masoor instead of Moth, he added veggies which is usually added to a bengali style khichuri, also he tempered it the bengali way. It was delicious to say the least.

There was no recipe though as Bong, non-scientist, guys do not note down measures while making Khichuri, such things are the domain of only Punju scientist girls

Next time he makes it, I will surely try to scribble and update this post for my own good.

This is my contribution for JFI-Rice hosted by my dear friend Sharmi of Neivedyam and of course created by Indira of Mahanadi

And now again Ta da...the Awards that have been raining like Poori-Bhaji in the blogosphere

Two of my dearest friends, Indosungod of Daily Musings and Sia of Spice Corner has sent two lovely awards my way. Thanks to both of you, you are the greatest. Thanks to Bharathy , I just saw she passed on one too. There is a downpour now it seems.

I would really like to pass this on to everyone who takes time to visit my blog, leave their comments, encourage me, discourage me and make me feel so much at home. But then most of you have already been awarded this for the wonderful bloggers that you are.





The Thoughtful Blogger Award is for “those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others’ feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping other bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.”


I would like to pass this on to (names are in a random order)

Sups of Spice Corner
Shn of KitchenMishmash
Coffee of The Spice Cafe
Sra of When my Soup Came Alive
Trupti of The Spice Who Loved Me
Mallika of Quick Indian Cooking
Prema of PremasCookBook
Sharmi of Neivedyam
Pilgrim of The Shadowy Waters
Sunita of Sunita's World
Sig of LiveToEat





I would like to pass on this to these awesome bloggers who left behind a friendly trail but have been busy lately. This is a gentle nudge for them

Shilpa of Flog&Rosbif
Hema of VegConcoctions
Maheshwari of Beyond The Usual
Chandrika of Akshyapatra
Shivapriya of MyCookBook
Lera of Myriad Tastes


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Now an award for bloggers who inspire, who make you cook when you don't want to, who force your hubbies to cook weird stuff, the Motivational Blogger award for Coffee and Musical (on the aside, I am doing this under duress). I would also pass this on to Jugalbandi because they really inspired me to blow up an egg in the MW today, I am doing it for sure.

Update: While I am online searching for good lobster places up North before I have even started the journey,and what do I do, but check Blogs.And so I see one more award comes my way from lovely Mandira whose blog was one of the few that inspired me into blogging last year.
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Thanks Mandira and yes I do Think a lot, as in "Think what I am going to eat next"
I pass this on to bloggers who I think, think too if not about what they will eat but what others will eat

Asha of Foodies Hope
IndoSungod of Daily Musings
Nandita of SaffronTrail
Indira of Mahanadi
Roopa of My ChowChow Bhath


Since these awards are only for bloggers alone I am not able to pass them on to many non-blogger readers of my blog, whose comments really encourage me, it makes me happy if I have touched their lives in some way and I would really like to say a warm Thank You. I am no great cook, but I find happiness in food and through my blog I try to present a snippet of a life, memories, hopes intermingled with cooking. I want my daughter to have a childhood embroidered with smell of home cooked food so that she can have memories like this when she is alone out there in the world. And so I Thank all of you who take precious time to come and visit and let me continue weaving memories fragrant with the smell of food.

This is for all of you who cook and find joy in it (don't kiss me, kiss all cooks ;-))






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Going away up North for a few days, see you once I am back with a easy breezy recipe for a dessert, and no it's not a custard



Trivia: Macrobiotics, meaning literally "big life," is a spiritual, nutritional, and therapeutic system that focuses on the interrelationship of mind, body, spirit, and society. Whole foods, such as brown rice, are central to a macrobiotic diet, and many of the first customers and owners of the alternative food stores were students of macrobiotics. Macrobiotic principles are Pan-Asian in origin, dating back several centuries

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Party with Luchi-Alu Charchari


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Luchi-AlurDom pic from my previous post


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Luchi-Alu Charchari from today


I never thought I will make Luchi again and that too in such rapid succession. But with all the deep-frying going on in Blogosphere I was really very hungry. Still, I restrained myself until Coffee came and commented (on my last post) that she thought the Puri I was talking about was Poori.

What Blasphemy!!!

Here I was being all devotional and reminiscing Jagannatha Puri and here comes this Gujju girl and mixes up not only Lord Jagannatha but a big chunk of geographical land called Puri for a flat deep fried 4 inch diameter bread called Poori

This got on my nerves and I thought I better join the gang and chant “Jai Poori-Bhaji” than chant “Jai Jagannatha” before I am relegated to the dungeons or to Blog Hell or something like that

The fact that a 3 year old would be thrilled by my decision helped.

So I made Luchi again, this time with Alu Charchari.

Here's my Luchi-Alu Charchari joining the Independence Day party at Anita’s.


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Luchi with Maple Syrup for little S


Though the Luchi with Alu-Charchari was absolutely yum and the 3 year old had hers with some Maple Syrup too (instead of khejur gur ?), I tell you I am not going to do this again in the near future (which means next month and hope D doesn't read this). Not because it’s going to clog my arteries (What Rubbish!!!) nor for the deep frying smell (which I love) but simply because it’s too much work for me. Really it is.

There is no limit to the number of Luchis I make, they simply disappear as soon as I take them out of the oil. So I go on making them endlessly all the time eyeing them hungrily hoping to get this task over and hog on them, this wait totally stresses me out.
Also the Luchi dough has a considerable amount of shortening so rolling out the luchi is not a very easy thing for me. Next, rolling out the luchi and then frying them at the same time calls for a certain amount of finesse which I woefully lack. So I roll some and then heat the oil and due to my lack of patience half of my luchis don’t puff up well.

Though I am all in favor of making Poori/Luchi the national and even international dish, by if not making it every week at least by voting for it million times.

Here is some Luchi Guide I have come up with which might help the future generation.

Luchi should always be a joint venture. Get someone to fry while you roll or vice versa. Else try to achieve the pinnacle of luchi making and do it all by yourself

For 3 cups of flour 3 tbsp of oil is suggested as mayan or shortening. 2 tbsp works fine though. However if the mayan or shortening is very less the luchi is not soft as it is supposed to be.

The Luchi dough needs to be worked well, this is called “thasha” in Bengali. You need to knead the dough for sometime till you get the smooth end result. The best time to knead the dough is when you are very very angry, kneading vents your anger, therapeutic I tell you.

After making the dough, cover with a lightly dampened cloth or kitchen tissue and let it sit. After half an hour or so proceed to make the balls. (If I refrigerate the dough, after taking out from the refrigerator I just knead it once more with a light sprinkle of flour) Rolling out luchis now is easier.

Use oil and NOT flour to roll out luchis.

The heat of the oil is very essential in the luchi puffing up. Dip a corner of the rolled out dough in the oil, if you see a major bubbly reaction, you know the oil is ready for the luchi

Don't forget to press the luchi with the back of your slotted spatula/chalni. It helps in the luchi puffing up

Eat it hot, don't ever have a cold luchi. Ok you can, when it is part of Pujor Bhog or leftover from your friend's wedding party or leftover from any party if you are a grad student.


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The Alu-Charchari is the quickest, tastiest aloo ever, it is very very simple.
All you have to do is this,

Heat the Oil. You can use Olive Oil since there's not much frying but since I was sending this to Anita's I didn't,
Temper with Kalonji/Nigella Seeds and freshly grated ginger.
Add potatoes and sauté, You are not going to fry the potatoes so sprinkle a little water as necessary and cover and cook. Remember to stir in between
Add the green chillies when you are half way and continue, cover, stir, cook routine till potatoes are done.
When done add salt and pepper powder

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Independence Day


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Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free

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Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth

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Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

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Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
--Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.

-- Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali



Update: Photos taken by me at the beach at Spring Lake, NJ. My camera Canon SD750 Digital Elph. And yes that is indeed lil' S :)

And now comes the award, no not the Bharat Ratna Award silly, the Rocking Award.

Sra passed me this and I first thought may be she meant my blog had hit rock bottom and so she wanted to throw rocks at me. But the logo looked nice in pink & had a star, now anything in pink can't be bad, can it ? Also Sra is one of the few early bloggers whom I bonded with over comment space and I have seen her go from greenish-yellow to pristine white, I know "When" her soup came alive, I know that she is a conscious and innovative foodie and that she rocks, if she is passing on something it's got to be good.



Thanks to her and passing this on to some of the more rocking bloggers who haven't been rocked yet (or have they ? and is there a rule of passing ?)

Anh of Food Lovers Journey
Indosungod of DailyMusings
Inji of Ginger & Mango
Jyothsna of Currybazaar
Mystic of ChatpatFood
Mandira of Ahaar
Padma of Padma's Kitchen
Pragyan of Cooking at Pragyan's
SJ of A Pinch Of Spice
Seema of Recipe Junction
Sher of What Did You Eat
Shilpa of Aayis Recipes
Vani of Mysoorean
Swapna of Tastes from My Kitchen
Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook

and two non-foodie rocking girls

Anamika of Thinking Cramps
Moi of Not By a Long Shot

There are more but I am not sure if I am allowed to tag the entire blogosphere, so I better stop

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Daliya Pulao in 30 minutes


Daliya Pulao


I saw my blog mentioned at the CHOW. It was funny as I never thought of the "other bong" and also made me proud. Thank you all for having me here, your words make my day and Thanks Kara for finding me. Thanks to Mandira too and she knows for what !!!

I got to tell you this, grumble as you might of mixing up little S in my recipes and stopping only from eating her as a sidekick (ahem side dish) to my recipes.

Now as you all know “Reading” is sold highly as a virtue and all that among kids and so like all good mothers I started the routine too. But more than reading to her I would make up stories and tell her, even change the story in hand if the situation so demanded.

As she learns to read small words I try to induce her to read books herself.Reading by itself opens up a whole new world as it did for me when I was a 5 year old. I still remember the Red hard bound "Everyday Stories" by Enid Blyton which Baba got me once I started reading english and thus had me hooked for ever. That and the Bengali Kids magazine Anandamela which I used to get every month showed me a way to a world of everlasting enchantment.

So that S gets a hang of reading, we got her the “Dr.Seuss” which is brilliant if you think ease of reading but not really interesting when seen through the eyes of a 3 year old or her X year old Mom. So “Hop on Pop” does rhyme and also can be read but then what….nothing really happens…no story is spun…and so the 3 year old girl and the X year olds interest wane.

The 3 year old however seems to be more interested in picking up a book and spinning her own story. She does not really read the lines, but makes up a story on her own through the pictures and that enchants her.

In all this she got hold of a thick pink Disney Princess Story Book Collection. This was a hand me down from a friend’s older daughter and I had slipped it away at the bottom of the chest which holds her books. Why did I do that? Because what if she asked questions like this I thought.

“Why did Cinderella have a step mother?” – because her own mother is dead and gone…tell that and hear her wail…. Can’t be done
“Why is the step mother angry?” -- because she loves her own daughters more and does not love Cinderella… more wailing…. Can’t be done
“Why does the prince want to kiss Cinderella?” --- because she is very beautiful and also very good….Yikes.

I figured once she can read on her own, she could do it. I am a psyched mother I tell you.


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Anyhow this little girl of mine found the glossy pink Disney Book one day and enamored by its prettiness strutted away with it before I could say NO.
So I asked her read to me instead and this is what she came up with in the sing song voice a 3 year old usually has. Mind you S is perfect in her Bengali but her English is far from so and it’s really funny to hear.



“Cinderella”… she started off, making up the story from the pictures in the pages.
“Once upon the Time, Cinderella is very busy. She do all her work. She want to go to dance party so her mom scold her. Then her Grandma (the fairy Godmother in the book) gave her “sparkly-sprinkly” dress and a star clip.

In the party she see her Daddy. Her Daddy say, Now we have to go home, Tomorrow is school.

Cinderella break her shoe so her Daddy buy her new shoe.
She is very happy and tells Thank You Daddy and so Daddy kiss her”

I wanted to roll on the floor laughing but obviously I had to show great interest and be sober so that is what Cinderella's story is for me now on.



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With such a 3 year old wrapped around my leg most of the time that I am home, I never get to finish my cooking in express time. I cook in bits and pieces, doing hazaar things in between. So maybe I will come home and put the Dal in the cooker, and then I will sit and paint with S and so though the Dal could have been ideally done in 20 minutes flat, I get back to do it only after an hour maybe.

However to make things go faster I also do a lot of chopping etc. over the weekend or whenever I get time to ease the weekday. I usually have a cup of coarsely chopped onion, some fresh onion paste, and some chopped ginger & garlic in the refrigerator for impromptu weekday meals. If I am planning to make fish, I usually fry the fish pieces (we Bengalis fry the fish and then put them in the gravy) and then use them in a day or two in different gravies.

Yesterday I was determined to time my cooking though for Mallugirl's Summer Express Cooking and asked D to entertain S while I just cooked. It was a very simple thing I made, simple but healthy, Daliya Pualo. My Ma makes this pretty often to pack as lunch, I do both for lunch and quick dinners.

Daliya is Cracked Wheat that you can find in Indian stores. It is not same as bulghur but you can use bulghur too.

Bulghur ~ Partially hulled whole wheat kernels that are soaked, then steamed (hence pre-cooked if you will), dried and then crushed are called bulghur
Daliya or Cracked Wheat ~ Raw whole wheat berries that are crushed to varying qualities of texture are called cracked wheat


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What I already had

Onion Paste ~ Red Onion ground to a coarse paste
Ground Chicken ~ I had some ground chicken which I had marinated with a little yogurt, ginger paste, cumin & coriander powder. I often do this with ground chicken, it stays well for couple of days and can be used to make quick kabobs or to be added to pasta or stuffing for wrap or sandwiches
Pureed Tomato ~ remember the cherry tomatoes from my garden, well there were more so I pureed them and stored

Note: You can skip the ground chicken or substitute with scrambled eggs, soy granules, crumbled panner

And The Time Starts Now...

6:07

Wash 1 cup of Daliya and put it in pressure cooker with almost twice the amount of water, a little oil and 2 elaichi/cardamom


6:10

Heat a small Frying Pan
Add Olive Oil
Add onion paste about 1 tbsp
Once it starts browning add the minced chicken, maybe ¾ cup of it, add salt and cook

6:12

While the chicken & Daliya is cooking chop the veggies
Chop long hot peppers, I chopped 2-3
I had a quarter of a cauliflower, I chopped the florets into small pieces. Smaller means will cook fast
I also thawed about ½ cup of frozen peas.
I chopped half a cucumber to make a raita
While chopping, remember to stir the chicken too.
Note: use your choice of veggies here


6:20

Heat a Kadhai
Add Olive Oil
Add 2-3 Bay Leaves, 4 cloves/laung, 4 elaichi/cardamom (all whole)
Add about 1 & ½ tbsp of onion paste and fry with 1/2 tsp of sugar
Meanwhile the ground chicken will be done and the Daliya too.

Add the chopped veggies, 1 tbsp of pureed tomato, sauté a little and cover and cook. Since I used fresh veggies this took a little while to get done

6:30

The veggies should be done by now.
Add the cooked ground chicken and mix well. Throw in some golden raisins. Add salt.
Now is the time to add the Daliya. If the pressure lid refuses to budge, put it under running cold water, this will release the steam.
If the Daliya has excess water, drain
Add the Daliya to the Kadai gradually and then mix well.
Add salt, a little sugar if you wish and stir till the Daliya is dry and has mixed well with the veggies

6:35

Quickly make a raita with yogurt and some cucumber
Everything done in 29 minutes and now you have one minute to reflect on what Douglas Adams said "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so"




Trivia:Because cracked wheat is made from whole wheat berries, it carries a great deal of nutrition and fiber since it includes the fiber and nutrient rich outer bran and germ of the wheat.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Kalai Dal ar Alu Posto


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Sometime back I had to go to the city every day during the work week. Now unlike Bee and like Nabeela, I am not a city girl. Though we live a commutable distance away we hardly drop in to be a part of the city crowd. We are happy with our quiet green neighborhood and the proximity to the “Big Apple” has not rubbed the city life on us.

However I do not grudge the rare trips I need to make. I like to wait for the bus on a crisp morning and also love the fact that I can get an hour & half sleep while in it. I think I sleep a pretty deep sleep on the bus with my mouth open and even softly snoring. It leaves me pretty refreshed, and I don’t think anyone minds because most of the bus is doing the same.

Ok but this not about my sleeping habits so let’s not digress. The one thing I like about these early morning occasional ventures is the stores in the city. No, I am not talking of Saks 5th Avenue. I am talking of the small ineffable stores wedged between the tall structures, keeping a brave front, trying to hold on to their uniqueness of not being a part of a chain. I wonder what they sell. I see a sign saying “Lotto” and I try to peer through the thick bus window. I think I see a counter running through the length of the stores and I remember….

Yes, it reminds me of “Maulbi Saab ki Dukan”* just opposite to my school bus stop, my one stop shop for all my stationery needs for most of my school years. I remember Maulbi Saab in his checked blue-green lungi , white fez cap and almost luminescent white beard standing behind a counter that ran across the center of his shop. The counter kept the customers far removed from the merchandise and in turn gave Maulbi Saab an all encompassing power. I had to wait patiently for my turn for the Maulbi Saab or his grandson to be free and then I would ask for the Royal Blue Chelpark ink that I needed. I could not sample the Sulekha Violet ink if I wanted to or rummage through the crisp notebooks on display far from me.

The limitations of these choices mad me satisfied with what I needed alone and taught me not to go looking for stuff beyond my needs.

A lesson long forgotten when I hoard unknown boxes of spices and trifles, I don’t intend to use, just because I have an easy access to them.

It's not that I don’t love the choices a departmental store gives me, I do love the independence. But when I madly rummage through the aisles of Wal-Mart looking for a particular Dora kiddie water bottle, a part of me still yearns for the green shuttered Maulbi Saab’s Dukan and the polite Maulbi Saab in his blue-green checked lungi and white fez and I wish I could just go up and say “Ek Dora Purple & Pink Water Bottle dijiyega”** and come back home happy.

* a store run by the Maulbi** Give me a Dora Pink & Purple water bottle




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But lets go back to the Dal I made today. Kalai er Dal is a dal made of split white (skin removed) Urad Dal, very typically Bengali and also a favorite in many Bengali homes.


Kalai er Dal with Alu Posto or Alu Seddho (mashed potatoes with a dash of mustard oil) is the best thing that can happen to you during a lulled summer afternoon lunch. Flavored with Ada-Mouri bata (a paste of ginger and fennel seeds) this sweet smelling dal can take two different avtaars. If you do not roast the urad dal and cook this Dal, it tends to get a bit slimy. Many people do not like the slippery texture though I loved it.

If you dry roast the dal before you cook it though, the slimy texture is gone and you get the flavorful dal without the slippery feeling.
This dal is best enjoyed with white rice. In a Bengali home it is served with alu posto or alu seddho and is typically served during a quiet lunch for the family. Usually not part of a menu for a larger audience it is for a quiet meal with the close family.

Alu Posto - is a dish made with potato and a paste of poppy seeds. Recipe is here. It can be found in both Bengali & Oriya cuisine
Alu Seddho - is a Bengali style mashed potato to which finely chopped onion, green chillies and a dash of mustard oil is added


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What You Need

Split White Urad Dal ~ 1 cup
Green Chillies ~ 4-5
Hing or Asafetida ~ ½ tsp

Mouri or Fennel Seeds ~ 5 heaped tsp
Ginger ~ 2" piece
Grind the above with a little water to make a paste
Ada-Mouribata ( a wet paste of Ginger and Fennel Seeds) ~ 5-6 tsp heaped of the prepared paste. Bee's comment made me write this. The paste I make may yield a bit more than 6 tsp of paste. I usually make this paste and refrigerate it for later use, so follow the measure given for the paste while cooking.
Water ~ 3 & ½ cups for boiling the Dal in pressure cooker and 1 cup later

Salt
Oil

How I Do It

Dry roast the Urad Dal till you get a fine roasted smell and about 50% of the lentils turn a light brown. Wash the roasted Dal. If you do not want to roast it, you can skip this step.
Pressure Cook the Urad Dal with almost 3 times the water and about 1/2 a tsp of Turmeric powder. When it’s cooked lightly mix it with a wire whisk Do not mash it up. It may take 6-7 minutes to get done after the pressure build up.
Wet grind the Fennel seeds and the Ginger to a fine paste
Heat Oil in Kadhai. I used Mustard Oil, but you can use Canola or any other White Oil too
Add the slit Green Chillies and the Asafetida
Add the wet paste of fennel and ginger which we Bengalis refer to as ada-mouri bata
Fry the paste for a little while, and when you get the sweet smell of the masala
add the dal.
Add about 1 cup of water, salt and let it cook
This is not a very thick dal so check the consistency accordingly.
Enjoy it with White Rice, Alu Posto and some Bhaja (Fried Veggie friters). Alu Posto recipe is here.



For the recipe of this Dal and more Get my book hitting the stores soon.




Trivia: Urad Dal is very nutritious and is recommended for diabetics, as are other pulses. Though very beneficial in limited quantities excessive intake causes flatulence, which some sources claim can be prevented by adding a little asafoetida, pepper and ginger in the cultinary preparations.
The product sold as "black lentil" is usually the whole urad bean or urad dal. The product sold as "white lentil" is the same lentil with the black skin removed.(Source:
Wiki)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Strange Stories, Amazing Facts


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Amazing Fact

Fact 1: I did not, repeat DID NOT plant any cherry tomatoes this year. I did plant regular sized tomatoes

Fact 2: I GOT a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes from my tomato plants this year. I DID NOT get any regual sized tomatoes this year


Strange Story


I did plant a lot of cherry tomatoes in 2005, and a row of them in 2006, NONE in 2007



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Note: Since my little daughter has been under the weather, blogging has been disruptinve. She is doing fine now and normal programming will resume soon. Normal might not mean frequent though.