Maldives for a family holiday!!

Why Maldives
I was all excited and packing my bags for Sri-Lanka but the happiness did not live long 😦 We had to drop the idea after the news on communal unrest in some parts of Sri-Lanka. Its not so easy to plan last minute travels with an Indian passport & we started looking for places we could travel with least planning. There are few places (we would like to visit) that offer Indians visa on arrival. Maldives is one but I kept postpoing the idea of a holiday here for two reasons… I am quite close to an aquaphobic & this fear of water extends for my little ones safety too. But like I said options were few & we badly needed a break. I couldn’t so no when dear husband said “I am there, you will be fine and have a lovely time… I promise” So MALDIVES!!!

Maldives

Maldives

Maldives

Maldives


About Island & Stay
Any island here is heavenly beautiful & screams serenity but your overall experience is highly dependable on the resort you choose. Its one island, one resort in here so its best to spend some time researching and reading reviews before you book your stay. Most resorts were booked on the dates we wanted to travel & hence we picked up what was available. We stayed at Adaaran Club Rannalhi, I will soon post a review on this resort. Most resorts offer Half board or full board option and it’s not a bad idea to go for full board because you will not have any options other than your resort. Adaaran Club Rannalhi offers full board option that includes selected drinks (both alcoholic & non alcoholic) and snacks too. If you are a water baby unlike us you can spend all your time exploring the sea and the beauty beneath. Breathe fresh air, soak in sun, Enjoy the blue waters, have a drink, pamper yourself in a spa and spend a perfect holiday. Even though we are not water babies really we had a wonderful time together. Wonderful just for the family time spent away from the rest of the world. My toddler loved spending his time by the beach, enjoying the waves washing off the sand on his feet, making sand mountains with daddy, watching herons, watching crabs and posing for the camera 😉 When you have little ones with you, you enjoy everything that they do… so yes we did all that he did and enjoyed to the fullest. A glass of beer & wine was a reward for mum & dad though!!

Maldives

Maldives

Maldives

Maldives

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What to carry
I am not very good at travelling light but I have to say you don’t need much. You will spend most of the time relaxing at the beach or swimming & floating… so you will need some breathable clothes. Do I need to mention a beach wear?? Its a must have!! Most resorts will not allow you enter the restaurant areas in beach wear so a beachwear cover-up is a must have. You don’t need any shoes here, so a pair of beach slipper is more than enough. Sun protection creams and lotions should top your packing list. I packed Garnier Ambre Solar shimmering high protection lotion & loved it!! Caps or head bands are not a bad idea too. Equipment for water sports are easily available on rent with most resorts but if you have your own, best to take it along. I always travel with light snack and munchies for my little one but even if you do not have kids along its best to have some of your favourites for yourself. I packed some dry fruits as my son snacks on them, long life milk (small packs) for him again, short bread (walkers is what my son loves), and some chips. Some resorts do have on island doctors or pharmacy but its best to carry personal medication. We packed my little ones medication but nothing for us. I landed with a terrible headache and I was lucky to get ibrufin from the pharmacy at the resort. To capture all these lovely moments you definitely need a Camera. So your camera and charging equipment’s are must.

This is a perfect holiday destination if you wish to get spoilt doing nothing 🙂

Maldives

Maldives

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10 things that helped me reduce weight and cholesterol

I feel extremely happy to cook for others… and at the same time being a foodie love to treat myself too. I have always made efforts to eat healthy and control my portions however sometimes our efforts are just not enough. Only after I realised my husbands bad cholesterol levels had shooted up, I decided to make some changes in our eating pattern to hit the bad guy!! The reason i am blogging this is because this has worked wonderfully for us… My husbands bad cholesterol levels dropped drastically while good cholesterol levels improved but with a wider scope of improvement. Both me and my husband lost weight in a healthy way feeling really energetic.

So here is my list. Don’t forget to comment below if there is anything else you thing works better and can be added to the list.

1) Bed Tea – I start my day with a glass full of warm water + 1 tsp honey + 1/2 tsp Cinnamon power. Honey and cinnamon both are wonderful natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. Mix of honey and cinnamon helps cleanse the digestive system, improves digestion, helps cure bad breadth, works well for chronic cold, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood sugar levels (so great for diabetics) and to top it all enables weight loss.

2) High Fibre Breakfast – Earlier sandwiches were our favourites. But with the mission of reducing the overall calorie intake and having fibre rich food made me to shift to oats porridge for breakfast. At least 4 days a week we started having oats for breakfast. I cook my oats (3 tbsp.) in one cup of water, 1 and 1/2 tsp. raw sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 5 -6 walnut pieces broken in smaller pieces and a pinch of salt. You can even use flax seed instead of walnuts Once cooked just add 1/4th cup or less low fat milk and simmer till creamy. Oats makes the breakfast fibre rich, walnuts again fibre rich and source of Omega 3 fatty acids, Cinnamon to add up to the benefits. 2 days of the week we opted for Bran flakes with either soya milk or low fat milk. Provomel organic vanilla flavoured soya milk is our favourite. 1 day of the week is a treat day with either one whole egg and 2 slices of whole meal seed bread or 2 egg whites and one yolk omelette with 2 slices of whole meal seed bread.

3) Switch to Brown – We are rice lovers and we love basmati. But recently we switched to to brown rice (have to mention I always have a stock of white basmati rice for the special days). We have 2 – 3 rice meals through out the week and brown rice keeps us up with our fibre rich diet challenge. Brown rice contains much higher fiber content as compare to white. Brown rice being mineral and fibre rich reduces cholesterol, Controls sugar levels (so great for diabetics again) and overall enables weight loss. I buy Tilda basmasti brown rice, however i have tried some other brands in past (which i do not remember) which not being basmati were as good. So take your time to figure out your choice of brown rice. I will soon post the way to cook your brown rice perfectly 🙂 Also, i switched from white sugar to raw sugar. I had used brown sugar for my bakes earlier but did not know about raw sugar till i saw my good friend using it. I don’t know much about raw sugar but i know i am away from the chemicals like sulphur dioxide that is used to bleach the crystals and also some others like phosphorus acid, calcium hydroxide etc. used to absorb the natural impurities.

4) Add wheat bran to our diet – Bran is again a fibre rich addition to our diet that helps lower the cholesterol. We prefer eating phulkas / Indian flat bread (will soon post a very helpful link on making phulkas). All i did is made the dough with 50% whole wheat flour and 50% What bran. These are as tasty and a healthier version of regular phulkas . Once the dough is ready i just add a tbsp. of olive, knead it and leave it for a while before i start preparing the phulkas.

5) Add Beans to our diet – Beans are again high in fibre and antioxidant rich. I just made it a point to prepare 2 bean meals a week. Majorly I alternate between red kidney beans and garbanzo bean (Chickpea). Also served small portions of bean salad on other days. My bean salad has nothing but beans, cucumber, tomato, olive oil, salt, garlic powder and lime juice. Also Moong sprouts are quite a part of our meals.

6) Fruits – Both of us don’t really like fruits except for some seasonal fruits like mangoes. But we started having a fruit mid morning (after about an hour or two of breakfast) every day. Fruits that we often eat are Apples, Strawberries, Pear, Watermelon, Mango (when available), papaya and Pomegranate.

7) Vegetables – We eat a wide range of vegetables however some that come to my mind right now are cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Capsicum (bell peppers), Green bean, Spinach and Carrot. Even though vegetables were very much a part of our diet the preparation would be rich. Now I choose from some simple recipes which need very little oil.

8) Healthy Snacking – Honestly I am not very creative in this zone. I have few things in my list that we stick to and it has worked very well with us. Our favourites are nuts (Walnut, almond, pistachio), Khakra (Wheat crispies that you can find in your Indian supermarkets), Bran Rusk, Wheat crackers, popped rice (sometimes). And of course we all know, fruits are the best munchies.

9) Cucumber everyday! – I made sure we have it everyday. I just make it a salad with some olives and tomatoes, or grate it and mix it with some lowfat curd (with a pinch of salt and sugar). Cucumber has many many benefits… it rehydrates your body, flushes out toxins, enables weight loss, reduces cholesterol, regulates blood sugar levels (so great for diabetics) and improves digestion overall. So don’t you have a reason to add them to your daily diet?

10) Food rich in Omega 3 – For non vegetarian meals we rely on chicken and fish. Some fish (Tuna, Salmon, Anchovies, Sardine etc.) are great source of Omega 3. Some other sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are flax seed, walnuts, beans, spinach, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and olive oil. I use olive oil in my salads, in my stir fried vegetables and while kneading the phulka dough to add some Omega 3 to our diets.

I did not mention in the list above but writing it here as a reminder… DO NOT FORGET TO DRINK ENOUGH WATER!!

This diet has worked for me with controlled portions and use of very little oil in anything that I cooked.

Hope this helps you keep yourself and your loved ones healthy!!

Posted in Everyday Chitchat, Health | 4 Comments

Must-Have Summer Bag Essentials

Summer is in and the sun is up and screaming. While many of you enjoy tanning on beaches & sipping beer, some wish spring stayed forever 🙂 Its really hard to keep your self looking & feeling fresh all day specially if you are going to be out in the intense sun for too long.

Hand bag must haves for summer

Hand bag must haves for summer

Here is a list of few things that might help you live through a sunny day.

1) Sun protection cream – Take it as seriously as you care for an appropriate footwear on your favourite outfit 🙂 You just can’t do without it. Even if you are indoors most time, you still need sun protection. You have a wide range of products available in the market & its best to pick up SPF 30 and above. You have many moisturizing creams with SPF but majorly the SPF is 25 and below. I am using Avène Very High Protection Cream SPF 50 + right now & you can read the review HERE. Another favourite Product is Shahnaz Husain 8 in 1 Nano Sun Block SPF 25. This product range is just awesome & you do have higher SPF’s available in the market. It’s not just about protect your face & neck, you must use it on your body too. There are easy to use SPF sprays available in the market that saves you the hard work of applying the SPF lotion on your body.

2) Sun glasses – Reduce the glare, look & feel good with sun glasses. Sunglasses protect you from external factors resulting in dry eyes. Also, reduced glare gives you a better vision. There are many styles & designs available in the market. Check out THIS post to see style trends I blogged little while ago.

3) Hat / Umbrella – Hat is a must have accessory for summers. Heat often makes your hair loose moisture & leaves them dry and unhealthy. A hat will not only protect your hair from heat but also add a style statement. While buying one you must look at the designs that are travel friendly that fits in your bags easily.

4) Wet facial wipes – Beating the heat is definitely not so simple for people who spend most of the time outdoors. Wet facial wipes are very handy to gently cleanse the face and feel fresh. I use Nivea face wipes, It’s really gentle and comes in a travel friendly pack.

5) Face mist – My favourite face mist is “The Body Shop” vitamin E face mist. And this product is in my hand bag all year-long… It’s perfect to revitalize your skin & give a you a refreshing lift.

6) Bottle of Water – Stay hydrated with loads of liquids to beat the heat and keep your body nice and cool. It’s great to infuse your water with Cucumber, lemon, strawberries, or mint. It will not only add flavour but also add up some nutrition. Other than water, Coconut water, Lime Juice, fruit juices are great ideas to keep the heat away.

Irrespective of weather, I am sure you always have your favourite lip balm, moisturizer, hair bands, comb, perfume etc. making your hand bags heavier 😉

What is it that one favourite thing in your handbag that always goes with you? It’s really hard for me to name just one!!!

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Crispy Spicy Cauliflower

Quick recipes really catches my attention these days & this is another recipe that I thought was worth a try. Its adapted from Nish homey’s Cooking is easy . However I added ginger-garlic-chili paste for a zing & shallow fried instead of deep frying as mentioned in the recipe. End result was just awesome!!!

Spicy & Crispy Cauliflower

Spicy & Crispy Cauliflower

Ingredients
Cauliflower – 250 gms Cleaned & cut into bite size pieces.
Ginger-garlic-chili paste – 2 tsp
Red Chilly Powder: 2-3 tsp.
Turmeric Powder: 1/4 tsp.
Fennel – 1/2 tsp
Egg – 1 lightly beaten (original recipe calls for just egg whites but I used the whole egg)
Salt: 1/2 tsp.
Oil – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves: 10-15 leaves.

Step One
Take the cauliflower in a bowl. Now add ginger-garlic-chili paste, Red Chili powder, turmeric, fennel, salt & beaten egg. Mix it all very well rubbing through the pieces to coat them evenly.

Step Two
Heat oil in a wok. Once nice and hot add the cauliflower & stir fry on high flame. Add curry leaves and continue frying. This took me about 7 to 10 minutes to get them nice and crispy.

Serve hot with chapati or rice.

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Tawa Pulao

Tawa pulao, a well known street food from Mumbai, is a spicy & tangy rice preparation using fresh vegetables & Pav Bhaji Masala. Its great way to redo your left over rice, however if you try this you wont wait for left overs. Its best to buy pav bhaji masala mix readily available because it has many spices (like dry ginger, dry mango, fennel, star anise, black cardamom & ofcourse somemore) in different proportion going into to enable a mouth watering flavour to mashed vegetables & some other dishes like this one. This is a Sanjeev Kapoor recipe however quantities and method may not be the same.

Tawa Pulao

Tawa Pulao


Ingredients
Boiled rice (I used basmati) – 2 cups
Onion – 1 medium – finely chopped
Ginger-garlic-chili paste – 1 tbsp.
Tomato – 2 large finely chopped
Green peas – 1/2 cup boiled
Carrot – diced & boiled 1/2 cup or 1 small carrot
Green Capsicum – 1 medium diced
Fresh coriander – finely chopped handful of it
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Pav bhaaji masala – 2 tsp
Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
coriander powder – 1 tsp (optional)
lemon juice – about 2 – 3 tsp
salt – to taste
oil – 2 tbsp.

Step One

Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and sauté till fragrant. Add the onion and sauté till lightly browned. Add ginger-garlic-chili paste and tomatoes and sauté till tomatoes become soft.

Step Two
Add green peas, carrot, pav bhaji masala, red chilli powder, coriander powder and a sprinkle of water. Mix and cook for two to three minutes. Now add capsicum & stir on high flame. Add the rice, salt and mix. Now add lemon juice & chopped coriander. Cook on high heat for a couple of minutes & take it off the flame.

Serve hot with papad & raita.

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Lemon Squares

I came across a recipe today & thought of trying it because it looked yummy & not too much of a hard work. It turned out to be a super scrumptious little thing that my son loved. The original recipe source Life with the crust cut off calls its Lemon brownies… I am calling it Lemon squares just because they aren’t brown 🙂 Also, I skipped the lemon glaze & yet it was just awesome. But you can check this page for the glaze.

Lemon squares

Lemon squares

Ingredients
All-purpose flour – 3/4 cup
Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup
Salt – to taste
Butter – 1/2 cup (1 stick) , softened
Eggs – 2 large
Lemon zest – 2 1/2 teaspoons
Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons
Vanilla essence – 1 tsp (Optional)

Step One
Preheat oven to 180°C. Slightly grease the baking dish (I used 9 inch cake tin) with butter or cooking spray. Zest and juice two small lemons.

Step Two
Whisk eggs, vanilla (if using), lemon juice and lemon zest in a bowl & keep it aside. Now, in an electric mixer beat the flour, sugar , salt & butter. This mixture looks crumbly. Add the egg & lemon mixture and beat at medium speed until you see a well combined smooth mixture.

Step Three
Pour into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before glazing.

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Chicken Curry Kerela Style.

My regular chicken curry is definitely very different from this one. Will soon post it HERE. However I had prepared this few months back for some friends & they loved it. I thought let me prepare some south Indian style food for Easter dinner & looked around many many recipes & finally decided to keep it simple with what has worked for me in past. So here is how I prepare my Kerala Style chicken curry

Chicken Curry Kerala Style

Chicken Curry Kerala Style

Ingredients
Chicken – 1 kg
Onion – 3 large thinly sliced
Ginger-Garlic – 2 tbsp roughly chopped
Tomatoes – 2 medium chopped
Curry leaves – 10 – 15 fresh leaves
Bay Leaf – 1
Cardamom – 3 -4
Cloves – 3 -4
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch long
mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin – 1/2 tsp
Fennel – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Dry red chili – 2 broken
Coriander powder -1 and 1/2 tbsp.
Turmeric – 2 tsp
Red Chili powder – 1 and 1/2 tbsp.
Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 2 tsp
Oil – 2 – 3 tbsp

Step One

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok. Add sliced onion & chopped ginger garlic. stir till the onion is golden brown & ginger garlic is fragrant. Remove it from flame & wait till it cools. Grind this mixture into a paste. and keep aside.

Step Two
Heat 1 tbsp. oil in the same wok. Add mustard seed and wait till it pops. Now add Cumin, fennel, dry red chilli and curry leaves. Then add in cardamom & cloves.

Step Three
Now add the onion-ginger-garlic paste to the wok & stir in. Add bay leaf. Add the chicken mix it to cover in the onion paste. Now add red chilli powder, cumin powder, turmeric, coriander & garam masala. Give it a stir. If it looks too dry after adding the powdered spices just sprinkle some water and let it cook for few minutes.

Step Four
Add chopped tomatoes & salt. Stir and put the lid on and cook on slow-medium flame till the tomatoes are soft & oil starts separating.

Step Five
Adjust the consistency of the gravy by adding some warm water. I added about 3/4th cup of water. Cover again & let it simmer for another 7-10 minutes. If you need to reduce the liquid in the gravy let it simmer on high flame for few more minutes. Take it off the flame & it ready to be served.

It goes very well with roti or appam.. I like to serve Kashmiri pulav along with this spicy & robust gravy as the vegetables & nuts balances it all.

Have fun & a great Easter!!!

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Appam

This is my favourite bread. Call it a bread or pancake the delicate flavours of Appam has no match. It’s made of fermented rice and coconut but there are many variations to this dish. Some variations are to convenience and other varies from region to region. It definitely needs some planning as the batter needs to sit and ferment.. This is as much a favourite in Sri Lanka & they call it Hoppers.

Appam

Appam

So here we go.

Ingredients.
Rice – 1 and half cup. (Any short grain rice) – Soaked in for about 4 hours
Cooked rice – 1/2 cup
Coconut milk (Thick) – 1 cup
Coconut milk (Thin) – 1 and 1/2 cup
Yeast – 1 tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Salt to taste

Preparation

Add the yeast and sugar in a bowl. Add 1 cup warm water & stir it in. Cover & keep aside till it rises.

Prepare the coconut milk

In a blender add the soaked rice, cooked rice, yeast mixture and 1/2 cup thin coconut milk. Grind it till smooth paste. Grind it well as we do not want it to be too grainy. If you need more liquid to churn add 1/2 cup of thin coconut milk & grind. Now add the thick coconut mix & remaining thin milk & grind into a smooth batter. The batter consistency should be like Idli batter. If you are not sure about the idli batter no worries 🙂 Just dip in a finger and see if the mixture coats your finger yet is dripping down. That’s how you get the perfect consistency.
Pour the batter in a big a container and let it sit in a warm place 12 – 15 hours. Best is to prepare this in the night & let it sit all night and may be another few hours the next day. Batter might look much thicker than what you last saw adjust the consistency with some water or thin coconut milk. Also,add salt before you get started.

Once the batter is fermented & ready…

Step One
You can use either a non-stick small pan, or cast iron wok or appam chetti. Heat the pan, and brush it some oil.
Add a ladle of batter & swirl in a circular motion. With this method, the batter will be thinner on the outer edge & the excess batter will accumulate in the centre. Now put a lid and cook it with a lid on for 2 – 3 min.

Step two
Once the sides start leaving the pan its time to pull them out.

Enjoy this traditional dish with Creamy Egg Curry Or Chicken curry.

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Creamy egg Curyy (With south Indian flavours)

This is a simple, easy & comforting dish. I prepare this when I need something quick and tasty. Breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner… this is perfect for any meal you name. Mustard seeds & curry leaves are the ingredients that bring you the flavours of south India. Generally I serve it with chapatis but today I am keeping it traditional with Appam.

Creamy Egg Curry

Creamy Egg Curry

Here we go…

Ingredients
Eggs – 4 Hard boiled. (either sliced in two. if you want to protect the eggs breaking in the curry just slit it half way through. This will keep the egg whole & the slit will allow the gravy to seep in.
Onion – 2 medium Sliced
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp.
Dried Red Chili – 2 broken (If you do not want this spicy just skip it or reduce the quantity as you need)
Tomato – 1 large chopped
Mustard seed – 1 tsp
Curry Leaves – 12 – 15 fresh curry leaves
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 and 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp (to reduce the spice just use 1/2 tsp)
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp.
Cooking cream – 1/4th cup (You can even use coconut milk)
salt to taste
Oil – 2 tsp

Step One
Heat Oil in a pain. Once the oil is hot add mustard seed to the pan & wait till sputters. As it sputters add half the curry leaves & dry red chilli. As the curry leaves and dry red chilli sizzles add sliced onion.

Step Two
Fry the onion till golden brow & then add ginger garlic paste. Sauté till the ginger garlic not raw anymore. Now add chopped onions, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder, garam masala & salt. Stir in on high flame for few minutes, lower the flame, add the remaining curry leaves & put a lid. Cook with the lid on till the tomatoes are nice and soft.

Step Three

Add 1/4th cup of warm water and mix it in. As the curry is boiling away add the cooking cream and let it simmer for few minute. Check for seasoning and adjust as required. Also, at see the thickness and consistency of the gravy and adjust as you need. I keep it nice and thick as it helps to cover the eggs very well.

Step Four
Now add boiled eggs. if the eggs are slit into two. carefully place them in the gravy without stirring it too much. Shake the plan slightly so that gravy covers the eggs. Cover and let it simmer for 2 -3 minutes. Take it off the flame & its ready to be served.

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Kaacha Aamer Tok {Bengali style Green Mango in sweet & sour sauce}

I started blogging when a very good friend suggested we have a blog where we both share our little culinary world. We started and only with few recipes motherhood occupied us fulltime making us abandon this space. Once I was back with some time for myself and blogging I started blogging here just to keep myself free from a restricted space as just recipes. And I am loving the experience.

I had few recipes posted on our blog which I plan to share with you here. Here is one of my favourite….
Green mango in sweet and sour sauce.

Green Mango in sweet & sour sauce

Green Mango in sweet & sour sauce

Tok (in Bengali) means sour… & the star ingredient of this dish is the green mango (kairi / Kache aam). Though the name suggests & makes you guess it’s a sour dish… I would say it isn’t true… its prepared with a perfect blend of sweet, sour & spicy flavours.

Ingredients

Green Mango (Kairi / Kache aam) – 2 large – Cut in cubes
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Dry Red Chilli – 2
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Red chilli powder – ½ tsp
Salt – just about a pinch or so.
Sugar – To taste – ( I needed about 5 tsp)
Oil – 1 Tbsp

Step One
Peel the skin of the green mangoes & cut them in cubes discarding the seed.Keep all other ingredients (mustard, red chilli, mangoes, salt, turmeric, sugar) handy.

Step Two
Heat oil in a Pan / Kadai. As the oil is hot add the mustard seeds & whole red chilli.Now add the green mangoes, turmeric & a pinch of salt. Give it a stir & sauté for a minute or so.

Step Three

Add sugar & stir it in. Keep the flame low & let the sugar caramelize. You will slowly notice the sugar bubbling & turning brown.Now add water & mix in well.

Step Four
Let it this simmer till the mangoes are soft & the sauce turns thick or to the consistency you need.

Kaacha Aamer Tok is ready to be served.

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