Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Palak Paneer -- Paneer in a Spinach gravy

Palak Paneer

My elder daughter is a recent convert. I mean she is almost a convert from a non-vegetarian to a vegetarian. She refuses to eat most fish except salmon. She doesn't want to eat meat on two consecutive days.She eats her eggs with no enthusiasm.

In a family like ours, this creates a difficult scenario. All the more because she has gone from a "no-fuss" eater to a somewhat "finicky" eater these days. She doesn't like to have just Dal & Rice or just veggies and rice either. In our family "finicky" eaters are assuaged with an omlette on the side and will eat anything with that option. This doesn't work with S though. She eats her broccoli and carrots with a dip but when served with rice all she wants is Paneer.

Her Didun(my Mom) is party responsible for this. When she was visiting last year and Big Sis S refused to eat fish or meat, my Mom in a mode of panic that the child is not getting any protein took to feeding her Paneer. And not any store bought Paneer either. Every other day my Ma would make a little chhana or chhena(home made paneer) just for her and then she would shape them in small flat discs, fry them to a golden brown and make delicious gravy with them. This is a Bengali favorite and is called "Chhanar Dalna".The homemade paneer is super soft and soaks up the delicious slightly sweet gravy in which it sits, making it anyone's delight.

With Didun back in India, such delicacies are a luxury and though my Ma insists that I could take time out and make some "home made chhana" and chhana'r dalna for Big Sis S, I pretend not to listen and go buy Paneer instead.

Big Sis S has complied and eats this store bought paneer. She has Paneer on most week days and then she takes a Paneer Pualo for lunch almost one day every week. At school when her teacher asked her what she was having for lunch, she figured she didn't know English of Panner and so said it was chicken instead. With Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) and a bowl of plain yogurt as the incentive, she pretty much eats all other veggies on her plate.

Everyone has a Palak Paneer recipe and I myself have tried and tweaked several. This tweaked version of the old favorite is the the one I love most. It is nice and creamy and comes with all the goodness of green spinach and white paneer. S too eats it up without a murmur about the greenery.

Palak Paneer

Prep: Cut almost 12 oz of Paneer in small cubes. There were about 28-30 paneer cubes.

The Nanak brand of Paneer I usually buy is pretty soft by my standard and I don't fry them. If your paneer is hard sitting in the refrigerator microwave for a few seconds to make it soft or if your paneer is the tough variety, fry lightly and dunk in salted warm water

Start Cooking:

In a deep bottomed frying pan heat Oil

Add 1 clove of garlic chopped, 4 slit green chillies, 1/2 cup chopped red onion and saute

When the onion is translucent add 1 tomato coarsely chopped

Fry for a couple of minutes till tomato softens

Add 4 cups of blanched baby spinach(I used baby spinach you can also use regular spinach)

Add salt and saute til the spinach wilts and softens

Cool the above mix and make a paste in the blender. Do not add water while doing this. This is referred to as the spinach puree and used in a later step

Heat a little Oil in the pan

Add 1 tsp of Whole Cumin Seeds/Jeera

When the spice pops add 1/4 cup of chopped red onion

Fry with 1/4 tsp of sugar. Sugar helps to caramelize and the onions turn a reddish brown in color

Add the spinach puree that you made

Saute for a couple of minutes

Add 1 tsp of Ginger paste, 1 tsp of Cumin Powder/Jeera Powder, 2 tsp of Corriander Powder/Dhania Powder, 1/4 tsp of Red Chilli Powder and salt

Mix the masala and saute for some more minutes (about 3-4 minutes)

Add 1-2 tsp of Kasoori Methi and mix well

Add 1/2 cup of 2% Milk + 1 cup of water, mix well with all the masala and let it simmer

When the gravy comes to a boil add the Paneer pieces and let the gravy simmer at low heat for 10-15 minutes (approx. timing). By this time the gravy should be thick and creamy and there should not be any raw smell

I sometimes add very little sugar at this point as it suits my taste. You can also add 1/2 - 1 tbsp cream to this dish at this point which I don't

Just before taking it off the heat sprinkle 1/4 tsp of Garam masala powder and add 1/4 tsp of Ghee. Mix well and delicious creamy palak paneer is ready to serve

This goes very well with Roti or Naan and even with a Rice dish

Trivia:The ruling aristocracy in India from 1500 until the mid 19th Century was of Turkic, (Central Asian), and Persian origin, and it was they who introduced paneer to India.

In Bangladesh and eastern India, two kinds of cheese are commonly found: ponir (a hard paneer) and chhana or chhena (a soft paneer). Ponir is a salty semi-hard cheese made in villages across Bangladesh, and Orissa and West Bengal in India. Its sharp flavor and high salt content contrasts with the softer, milder chhana/chhena. (And I always thought Bong way of saying Paneer was Ponir !!!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pasta in casa Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce


I first heard about the Earth Hour from the monthly schedule my daughter's school sends out beginning of each month. I loved the way the school took initiative and even had a lights out at 10:00 toady morning.

I had also received a mail from Anna of Morsels and Musings. She said
" I would like to throw a challenge out to all bloggers to take part in an Earth Hour food blogging event and cook a recipe that
- you can enjoy by candle light and

- has a low carbon footprint (ie made from locally sourced ingredients and minimal packaging)"

I wanted to make my tiny contribution by participating in the event. Switch off your lights and vote. More here

Now the second part of this blogging event does throw a small challenge because often times ingredients I buy is not necessary locally produced which I need to overcome but the first one is not even close to a challenge.

You see I have grown up in a country where Power shortage is a part of the culture and so candles are more of a necessity than an aromatic tool for any romantic experience.

When I was small, very small maybe a kindergartner we lived in a beautiful mountain town in India. It has grown to be a holiday destination now but eons back it was just a pretty mountain town with a breathtaking view of the Kanchenjunga, beautiful orchids, fresh air and best catholic schools.

But come dusk and the sun plunged behind the snow peaked Himalayas it wasn't the best place to be. The power situation was so bad that on most days all you could see on lighting a lamp was the thin red filament of the bulb. The voltage would be back to normal only after 9:00 in the night. Studying by the light of the Kerosene lamp or lantern had become the norm and most days we would have dinner by this light.

Later we moved to the plains of Bihar (India). Scenery changed but the power scenario remained same. Instead of low voltages there were power cuts now. It could be a scheduled outage, a random one, a teaser where lights would go on & off in 10 min intervals, anything that could titillate the minds of electric supply guy

Power cuts or loadshedding as we called it were not very welcome on hot summer afternoons but the evening loadshedding was very much enjoyed by us kids. Soon after sun down the smoking hot terrace would be soaked with buckets of cool water preparing it for the hot night. As son as the neighborhood plunged in darkness me, my cousins and some of our neighbor friends would run to the wet terrace for hours of made up games.

The upturned indigo sky with its bright canopy of stars looked brighter in the dark. The house across the street with flickering candle flames and shifting silhouettes looked mysterious. The ordinary became enchanting and the evening magical.

The mothers and the aunts chatted across balconies, news was exchanged and gossips whirled in the thick humid air of darkness. When I look back I see how the small neighborhood connected and bonded over those power cuts

If the power still refused to come back late in the night we would have dinner by the smoky lights of darkening lanterns. Later mattresses would be rolled out on the now cool terrace, the mosquito net set up and we would go to sleep to the strains of whatever played on the local radio station and beneath the deep indigo sky

Courtesy Wiki: India is the most energy efficient country ?

Gradually we grew up and the loadshedding lost its charm. We grumbled about the heat, the mosquitoes, the TV show missed and in all hated the prospect of a power cut. Global warming was then not a reality and we didn't realize the limited power that we were consuming was actually benefiting the earth.

An hour of Lights Out will be a shocker for my little girl this Saturday and I am sure she is going to complain some. But hopefully by the end of it she will see the fun that comes along with it and the impact we made


Now to the food. For this event I chose my much loved once every other week Pasta Dish. I am not a huge Pasta fan and have it mostly for convenience. This particular dish is quick, can be done with limited locally grown(and a few not) ingredients, can be had lukewarm(so no need to use the microwave) and not much mess so you can safely have it in the dark.

I do not like my Pasta drenched in sauce either. When I found this sun-dried tomato sauce recipe in NY Times, I tweaked it around a lot and that resulted in this delicious Pasta dish which has since been a family favorite and given that the family rarely unanimously agree it is a big deal.

So here is my Whole Wheat Penne in a home made Sun-dried Tomato Sauce for the Earth Hour 2009: blogging event


Pasta in homemade Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

To Make the Sauce

Soak 1 cup of Sun Dried Tomatoes in 1-2 cups of hot water for 15-20 minutes

Heat Olive Oil in a pan

Add 2 - 3 fat cloves of garlic coarsely chopped and 2 cracked Dry Red Chili, saute till you get a nice smell. Careful don't burn the garlic

Take the soaked sun dried tomatoes out of water and add them to the pan

Saute for a minute and add roughly chopped 1 Roma tomato and fry for a minute or two

Add half of the water in which the sun-dried tomatoes were soaked and cook till the tomato softens and the water almost dries up

Add salt

Cool the above mix and puree in a blender. You may need to add rest of the soaked sun-dried tomato water to make a smooth thick paste


This is the sauce which you will use for the pasta. You can also store this sauce upto a week which I often do.

Cook Pasta

Cook 1 packet of Barilla Plus Multi Grain Penne according to package direction. Add 4-5 sun dried tomatoes chopped or minced to the pasta water while cooking.

Do not throw away the pasta water(the cooking liquid) after draining, store for use in next step. Leave pasta wet

Bring everything together

Heat some more Olive Oil in a heavy bottomed deep pan

Add 1/2 red onion chopped and saute till onion turns a nice pink color and is soft

Add 2 green chillies finely chopped(optional), 1/4 tsp or less of ground nutmeg and then 1 cup of thinly sliced mushroom. Saute for a couple of minutes

Add 1 cup of soy granules and mix well.((You can also add minced meat instead. With minced meat you may need to fry for a little more time) Note: I used the Indian brand of soy granules. Soy granules are made from non-genetically modified soybeans

Add a little of the reserved pasta water and let it cook till the soy granules soften

Add the tomato sauce that you have made and mix well. If your sauce is like a thick paste you need to add a little of the pasta water at this point. Add required amount of salt and let it simmer till the sauce has reduced and is moist but no longer in liquid state

Add 1 tsp of paprika

Add the cooked pasta and mix well. You may need to drizzle a little olive oil at this point to bring everything together. Saute the pasta for 2-3 minutes till the sauce is beautifully amalgamated with the pasta

Serve garnished with parsley. Light a candle and enjoy it with lights out

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kasoori Gobi -- with roasted cauliflower


I have become some kind of a social recluse recently, if I am not I certainly want to become one.

With a whole week of working outside the home, and then again inside the home followed with two kids and their individual demands I totally fizzle out like a damp cracker by Friday evening. All I think would love to do come Friday is pass out on the sofa with a book in hand while the kids play in the background and hubby makes warm ginger tea and fries pakodas.

The Phamily is however NOT the background kind and no one fries any pakodas. We have boiled Maggi for dinner instead and relax amidst each other's chaotic company.

I look forward to weekend mornings, hot chai with Marie biscuits, leisurely breakfast cooked by D, cooking and clicking for the blog, massaging the baby in the sun lit patch of our family room, bathing her with Big Sis S helping out and then resting down for a afternoon nap with the two of them. I see myself not wanting to compromise or hurry on the above tasks for just one more get together and turn down dinner invitations saying it is too cold to take out the baby.

On retrospect hosting a luncheon or dinner does not excite me either. The vision of cooking for all those who come by and then cleaning up trails of disaster does not appeal to me any longer. This is a far cry from my yester-years when I would go all lengths to straighten up the closet and cook excitedly to entertain. I do not aspire to be the hostess with the orderly medicine cabinet and finger-licking rogan josh any more.

Do virtual social networks make you a recluse in real life ? With smaller families and fast paced weeks, time spent with one's family becomes limited. So while you can talk, discuss, vent , bitch and have your egos fed, all in your PJ's with a click of a mouse why would you take the trouble to don a Kanjeevaram and spend a precious Saturday evening with well known strangers ? (Close real life friends are not considered in this scenario and I agree that without seeing a couple of them every now & then, life would be difficult, at least mine would)

So what did you do this weekend ?

Coming back to the Gobi, my MIL makes a roast cauliflower and then my Ma makes a cauliflower roast. The two are very different and in fact my MIL's is not even roasted. When I last invited some people, I wanted to do a Cauliflower, and chose my Ma-in-law's way. I also chanced upon Indira's Kasoori Methi Gobi at the same time. Kasoori Methi would add a nice flavor to Ma-in-laws recipe I thought and so this dish was made. Kasoori Gobi is not a new dish but this is my version of Kasoori Gobi or maybe Cauliflower roast with Kasoori Methi.

This is a delicious preparation with the cauliflower holding its own while it is submerged in the sweet and salty spiciness of the almost dry gravy. Kasoori Methi or sun-dried fenugreek leaves add a pleasant robust flavor to this dish.


Kasoori Gobi

Chop 1 small cauliflower into medium sized florets. Don't chop too small, or do not remove the stalks completely

Drizzle a little olive oil, sprinkle some sea salt(ordinary salt will do) and red chilli pepper and then bake the florets for 25-30 minutes at about 350F (this is my counter top toaster oven settings). The cauliflowers should be slightly roasted at the end of this process

Heat Oil in a deep bottomed pan or Kadhai

Fry 1 & 1/2 medium sized onion chopped, 3-4 green chillies slit, 1 fat clove of garlic chopped, 1" of ginger peeled and chopped till the onion turns pink and translucent. Note: I go low on garlic and the garlic I use have really fat cloves, you can use about 2-3 cloves if you want

Add 1 large chopped tomato and fry for couple more minutes till the tomato is soft

Cool the above mixture and grind to a paste. This is the onion+ginger+garlic+tomato paste

Temper the same oil(you might need to add a little more) with 1 Bay Leaf/Tej patta, 2" stick of cinnamon/darchini and 4 green cardamom/elaichi

Add the onion+ginger+garlic+tomato paste and fry for a minute with 1/4 tsp of sugar(sugar is optional)

Add 2 heaped tsp of Kasoori Methi, 2 tsp of Kitchen King masala (or use 1 tsp Garam masala), 1/4 tsp of Red Chilli Powder, a little turmeric and saute the masala till oil separates

Add the part roasted cauliflower florets, mix well with the spices

Add about 1 cup of water, salt to taste and mix well

Cook till the cauliflower is done and the water has almost dried up. During this step stir the cauliflower in between and be careful so that the cauliflower is not over done. The way I like it there is very little gravy, you can adjust to your liking

Add 1/2 tsp of amchur powder, a fistful of soaked raisins and mix well

Delicious Kasoori Gobi is ready to be served with Roti or Rice

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gajar Sandesh -- quick easy way


My neighbors are moderately nice people. They didn't utter a word when I doused a part of their lawn along with mine with a weed killer and burnt their grass in the process. I haven't yet hollered out to them for dire help but they oblige every time I call up and ask them to peep & check if I have shut my garage door.

Theirs is an Indian family of grandparents, parents and a little daughter. Of all of them I am most thankful for this little girl who is the exact same age as Big Sis S. Big Sis S can pop over to their place pretty much any time and is always welcome, so is their little girl in my house. True to her nature Big Sis S also devours unfamiliar food with much joy at their house.

Auntie (the grandmom) is a fantastic cook. The only problem is she doesn't understand Hindi or English and I don't speak their language, so communication is difficult. She sends over Dosa and Idli and unknown-to-me fried goodies, cooked at her place and taught my Ma to make the perfect fluffy Idli. How my ma communicated and got the recipe I don't know, but I have learned to not ask for the recipe or re-create anything she sends over and instead just enjoy the delicious food.

The only teeny-weeny problem in this scenario is what do I do with the empty plates. My Ma had always taught us that a plate, bowl, whatever that had been filled with food should never be returned empty and so I feel obliged to reciprocate by sending back the plates with some edible items. However what little I know of them, I have gathered that they are very traditional when it comes to food. They rarely, very rarely eat out and enjoy only their kind of home-cooked food.

I have sent some of my food over before but have never received any kind of acknowledgment and I didn't want to burden them with stuff they will probably never eat. My over enthusiasm might put a stop to future Dosas and vadais and idlis I felt. So I usually send store bought Indian Sweets.

A week back we again got a supply of soft Masala Dosa and a fabulous chutney. We weren't going to get Indian Mithai anytime soon and I had a tub of Ricotta. So I thought of making a quick sandesh, framed on a recipe I got from here (Oops this was the page that had the recipe, I don't see the page anymore). I am usually lazy and have no time to make Chena(home made paneer) and then the sandesh, so this was a quick shortcut which I loved. Still no acknowledgment but the sandesh(or sondesh) with carrots or gajor sandesh are a quick fix delicious dessert for lazy souls like me and for maybe many of you too.

My Ma would scoff at this and say I could have as well mixed ricotta with condensed milk and have it as it is, because anything with Condensed Milk is bound to taste good. But then again I am no puritan and neither is this recipe for such souls.

Try Vee for a very nice almost step-by-step pics of making the chena(paneer) and then the real sandesh

A very fresh un-cooked recipe of Sandesh here



Gajor Sandesh

Makes at the most 8-10 sweets

In a microwave safe bowl mix 1 cup Ricotta Cheese with 1/2 cup Condensed Milk and 1/2 cup of Mawa/Milk Powder. Add a little cardamom powder or rose essence.

Microwave for 2 mins at full power

Add this mix to a non-stick Kadhai on the Stove top

Add 2/3 cup of grated baby carrots(will cook faster). For ordinary carrots you can cook the grated carrots with 2% milk in the microwave and the add to the mix here

Stir this mix till it thickens and the carrots are done. Takes about 20-25 minutes for the amount in this recipe. If you see that the mix has thickened but the carrots haven't cooked add a little 2% MIlk and some Condensed milk and continue stirring

You will know when it is done when the mix starts leaving the side of the Kadhai

Pour on a greased square bowl or plate and allow to cool

If you have the sandesh mold and want pretty shapes do while it is warm

After I had cooled it and cut in squares I wanted to top them with a layer of Gajar Halwa. Didn't have enough grated Gajar though and so microwaved 1/2 tsp of Ghee in a microwave safe bowl for 20 secs. To that added 1/2 Cup grated Carrots and microwaved for 1 minutes. Next added 1/2 Cup Condensed Milk to it and microwaved for 2-3 minutes. Some kheer kind of thing was created which was used to top the sandesh.

Follow this recipe to make a quick microwave gajar halwa and use that as a topping instead

Top each individual sandesh with a thin layer of gajar halwa and serve

Option 2: Follow this recipe to make a Bhapa Sandesh or Steamed Sandesh. Add grated carrots to the mix. Top with the Gajar Halwa and serve

Trivia: Bengali sandesh or sondesh is famous all over the world. But there is one more sandesh famous in Bengal, it is "Sandesh" a popular Children's magazine started by UpedraKishore RayChowdhury (among the first proponents of children's novels and books in Bengal), grandfather of Satyajit Ray. Later Sukumar Ray and his son Satyajit Ray along with their family members Lila majumdar and Nalini Das revived this magazine. Since almost everyone in the Ray family were excellent story tellers and authors of children's books(Sukumar Ray and Lila Majumdar being my favorite), this magazine was a treasure of literary gems. More from wiki.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lijjat Papad -- Karram Kurram


(This post was drafted on Friday but then we had guests staying over the weekend and this never got edited & posted)

I was on my way back home driving and suddenly I hear this voice over NPR saying Papad and Pappadam with a thick accent. Ahhhhh, some new fad of Indian cooking they must have discovered I thought.
And then the news caster went on to talk about Lijjat Papad and I was pleasantly surprised. I had a warm fuzzy feeling driving home in the sun listening about Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, popularly known as Lijjat, completing 50 gloroius years on March 15, 2009.

Representative of a typical middle class Indian Kitchen, my Ma's pantry was always stocked with Lijjat Papad. They were fried to be served with tea when impromptu guets arrived,roasted on fire and served with dal, roasted and crumbled on some sabzi's and sometimes even made into a dish by itself.

That Lijjat was the brain child of seven semi-literate Gujarati housewives from Bombay who wanted to start a venture to create a sustainable livelihood using the only skill they had i.e. cooking, makes me very proud.

We talk about women getting more independence, equality, freedom and I think of myself and these women. Having had the exact same opportunity as any boy would while growing up, having had the same education and starting off a career in a similar role as the husband, today I bring back home less than 2/3rd of his salary not because my employer pays women less but because I chose such a role to enjoy motherhood.

Am I privileged because I have a choice to do so or did I put my freedom to wrong use ?

I do voluntarily contribute more as a parent in our household and I get immense satisfaction of shaping two lives but then again really I haven't achieved even a fraction of what these semi-literate women have.

So what is it that personifies women power? Is it the choice that many educated women like me get today or the financial freedom these semi-literate women (with very little freedom possible in a India 50 years ago) struggled to achieve 50 years ago and have achieved not only financially but also socially by empowering a large population of Indian women


More about history of Lijjat Papad here

To roast a Lijjat Papad, pop one in the MicroWave for about a minute at 100% power.

To fry, deep fry in hot bubbling oil

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bandhakopi'r Ghonto -- a dry Cabbage Dish

Bandhakopi'r Ghonto |  Bengali Cabbage and Potatoes Sabzi

Bandhakopir Ghonto or Bandhakopir Tarkari, is a regular in Bengali homes during winter, the season when the best cabbage is found. This dry stir fry of finely chopped cabbage with cubed potatoes and sweet peas is served with both rice or rotis. The uniqueness of these vegetarian dish in Bengali homes is that they are easily turned into a non-veg side dish with addition of fried shrimp or even a fried fish head(Maacher Maatha diye Bandhakopi)

What is a Ghonto ? In simple words it is a dry vegetable dish cooked in a Bengali Kitchen

But the simplicity ends there. All dry vegetable dishes are NOT Ghonto, ghonto is a mere subset of all possible dry vegetable dishes in the Bengali Kitchen. Incidentally there is also an area of intersection with dry non-veg dishes.

What is the unique feature which binds all ghonto ? No clue, except for use of some common spices. For some strange reason unknown to me, there is BandhaKopi'r Ghonto (a dry Cabbage dish), Lau Ghonto( a dry Bottle Gourd dish), Mulo Ghonto(with radish) but there never is a Dharosh(Okra) Ghonto.

After much brainstorming(yeah I need to storm my brain on such complex matters), it dawned on me that "Ghonto" is derived from the word "Gha(n)ta" in Bengali, which means to mix.While Charchari derived its name from the method of cooking which lets the veggies char a little, I guess Ghonto too derived its name from a cooking method where you basically, mix/stir and cook. So while you wouldn't stir a Charchari much in a Ghonto you would. Following that logic, you would need veggies that can retain their shape even on mixing and so you choose veggies like Cabbage, Bottle Gourd, Radish etc. for your ghonto and not softer ones like Okra. This is just my theory, if you have any idea on the nomenclature, please do share.

For carnivorous bongs, every veggie dish has a non-veg equivalent so though Ghonto is largely a vegetarian dish you also have Muri Ghonto with Fish head and you can add fish head or shrimp even to a BandhaKopi'r Ghonto or a Lau Ghonto.

Again for some strange reason though a Bong will add Fish or Fish head to a very vegetarian dish(as above) they will not even use onion or garlic when cooking the same vegetarian dish sans the fish. So a typical BandhaKopi'r Ghonto or Lau Ghonto or whatever will not have onions or garlic and same is true for any charchari

The recipe I have here is a niramish(veg) BandhaKopi'r Ghonto that my Ma makes. To make it amish(non-veg) she will just add fried shrimp to it or fried pieces of fish head. This is usually served with Rice and Dal for everyday Lunch, with Rotis for Dinner and sometimes with Khichuri in a comunity feast like Picnic etc. You can squirt a little lime juice and have a bowl of it, just by it self too, I like it that way.

I usually don't cook my cabbage to death, I like it crunchy but usually in this dish it is cooked till the cabbage loses all its crunchiness. The hubby says my Cabbage dish reminds him of the cabbage cooked during the neighborhood picnics that he went to as a kid. That doesn't sound like a compliment, I am guessing he says that because my cabbage has a crunch and not because he has bad cabbage memories from the picnics.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mommy of 2 -- Lesson # 3

Your child starts reading, now you better stop.

Your child has started reading, now she is reading books, she can read an entire book by herself, you are one proud Mom or Dad, you have a feeling of déjà vu BUT wait don't get too elated. There is a downside to this whole thing which might not have crossed your mind when you were desperately trying to teach her the difference between "C" in Cinderella and "C" in Cat.

Pros of Reading:

  • The child can read, reading is definitely a good habit, being a voracious reader myself I don't have enough words to say how reading can change one's life.
  • You no longer have to read your child a bed time story and so can utilize that time for better things like maybe blogging
  • If the older one reads, you might just get away reading a bed time story to the younger one. Yeah, delegate and so now the older one reads to the younger one. Yippeee!!!
  • Your child can now read road signs and give you directions from the back seat.

Cons of Reading (not to be taken seriously) :

  • You no longer can read whatever you want. If you are the kind of person who has hoity-toity coffee table books and cheap romantic trash in the bedroom, your life is doomed. You wouldn't like it if your 5 year old picks up one of those and reads a page aloud...ahem
  • You can no longer take her and roam freely through all aisles of the Super Market, you never know what might spring up. I suggest keep away from aisles labeled "Feminine Hygiene" and such
  • You can no longer write a blog where you exaggerate and basically write stuff which might not be exactly true to life, small deviations like "I made Chicken Curry yesterday" might make her comment, "No, you did not make it yesterday, it was 2 days back"
  • She peers over your shoulder while you type and suggests that you put her stuff on the blog too, so your personal space is no longer yours now.

Since Big Sis S started reading fluently a year back, I have to be more careful around her at home. More than her own books, she is interested in reading my e-mail or the bills or even Toys R Us fliers and at times my blog. She does read to her sis, which is a good thing though


Last snow day, when we all were at home, she baked some cookies and wanted them to be put on my blog. I am no baker and we made the cookies from Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, it didn't matter she still wants it on the blog.


We also used up our time that day by making a book. I cut up some of her old daily sheets (we reuse all such papers by using them for printing, drawing, writing etc.) and she made a book with a story and illustration. The book was much liked by her teacher and classmates. When she had first started reading books, she would read every page from the cover to back, including the author, publisher, illustrator, etc. and in the right order. She has gotten over that now but she insists on writing "By S...." in the cover page and insists that she is an author.

Also here are some of her recent drawings. Check out Dora in high heels.
The little girl might object to some of the above things I have written, but come on there is something called the author's license


On another note, to get your kids interested in reading try these

  • Start early (as in once they recognize alphabets) and ask her to read out aloud and sound out letters when you are at the store, on the road where ever
  • Get those fridge letter magnets and form words with them which she can read. This can be done any time, all the time.
  • You need to read to at least initiate her interest. If you don't have any books at home or a reading atmosphere, and ask her to sit and read that won't help a whole lot. Once she is into it, go watch your TV
  • Go to the library or the bookstore and spend time browsing, borrowing, reading.
  • Ask her to read and write your grocery list to show how reading is incorporated in daily life. She will get a kick out of writing and reading simple words like Milk, Egg etc.
  • Ask her to read instructions of her new game, the card she has received, her school calendar which shows the "pizza day"
  • And again each child will read, write, do whatever at their own pace, don't rush and be patient.

Happy Holi and Happy Reading !!!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mushroom Olu & Taher


Lousy picture but heavenly Taste

(This was cooked last Tuesday(02/24/09) and drafted last Wednesday)

To go with the President's fiery speech yesterday, this is what I made. I am a big fan of that guy so I will refrain from discussing his dog, his wife and his stimulus here. But that man surely inspires, how else do you think me who has to be up by 5:30 in the morning after a midnight feeding break, would start cooking at 9:00 on a work week night. I would have normally just served leftover dal with an omlette but I made this fiery dish instead.

Anita's tcharvan-olu was reincarnated in my home but with mushroom & potatoes. I didn't have a goat tied in my backyard and so had to resort to mushroom. It was wonderful to say the least.

Next I wanted to have it with taher. Though mustard oil is a staple at Bengali homes I had never had rice infused with mustard oil. Many a days back in my grandma's home, when the refrigerator was not in vogue, left over rice would be saved for next day by soaking the cooked rice in cold water overnight. For morning breakfast my ma & Aunts would some times have that with Mustard Oil, Green Chillies, raw Red onions and maybe Kaancha Posto(poppy seed paste). This rice was called Paanta Bhaat. My Ma was not fond of this and would usually avoid having it and never let me have it. My Kakima/Aunt however loved this rice and would often have it for herself and during summer holidays I would get a share of that "Paanta Bhaat" on some days. That is the closest I have come to have rice flavored with Mustard Oil

Taher, therefore excited me and satisfied me and the husband's taste buds fully. To do this cook rice with a little turmeric. Once the rice is done fluff it with a fork so that you can see the grains. Heat Mustard oil to smoking and then mix it with a little salt with the rice.

This with the mushroom-olu was bliss. This Kashmiri recipe is there to stay in our Bengali home for sure. I would insist that you use Mustard Oil for both Mushroom-Olu and Taher. Both dishes are very simple and light if you consider the spices, it is the Mustard Oil that lends it the flavor, with any other oil it may taste flat. So go ahead and buy that bottle.

Aloo Mushroom

Quick Recipe Recap:

Heat Mustard Oil

Temper with a biggie Bay Leaf /Tejpatta, 3-4 cloves, 2 green cardamaom

As they sizzle add lots of green chillies finely chopped(I added about 4-5) and 1/2 tsp of finely julienned ginger (use ginger powder instead). The original recipe uses 1& 1/2 tsp of Red Chilli Powder and Ginger Powder

Add 2 peeled and cubed potatoes with a little turmeric and saute for a minute

Add 2 tsp of fennel powder, mix well with the potatoes and cover and cover and cook for a minute or so

Add the sliced mushroom, add salt, mix well and let it cook

Mushroom will release lot of water. Wait for all that water to dry up. Stir intermittently

Drizzle a little more mustard oil and you are done. At this point you are supposed to add 1/4 tsp of Garam Masala or a Kashmiri Masala. I gave this step a miss but still it was great.

Also see Anjali's Taher & Gucchi Olu

Monday, March 02, 2009

BookMark Please


It was snowing, snowing and snowing. It was March and yet as far as the eyes could see it was white.

Bong Mom with the tropical blood in her veins did not like the snow. Give me a hot summer afternoon she would say, remmebering nothing of power cuts and profusely sweating arm pits.

Today was different though. The snow ensured that she could take off from work. The rest of the household followed suit. And while she could have spent her nature gifted time to dust the console, cook for tomorrow's lunch, make hideous craft projects with her older daughter, croak lullabies to the Baby or argue with her husband she chose to buy and set up her own domain instead. Yeah her own domain where she could be just what she wanted to be and spin stories about food and people.

So here is http://www.bongcookbook.com/. Please do bookmark. Blogger confirmed that it will redirect old links but it is best to update your BookMarks, that is if you have me on it.

If you have any issues with my feeds please do let me know.

And yes if you need any help in setting up your blog (hosted by Blogger only) in your own domain leave me a line right here and I can probably help.