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What Are You Doing For Mother’s Day?

May 6, 2010

Mothers Day This picture is from my front yard of a clematis flower growing under a huge gum tree. I am extremely proud of since it took forever to grow. Our front yard is dominated by the big tree and for a very long time nothing thrived including the tree. After finding out the tree was healthy, I decided to take a risk and start planting lots of hardy plants around it. Always admiring my neighbor’s beautiful clematis plant, I decided to plant a few bulbs. Last year I saw some green shoots coming out but that was it- nothing else. I was a bit disappointed…

Finally, a few weeks ago I started to notice the clematis plant full of leaves and buds- and then a few days ago I noticed this beautiful flower. It was extremely satisfying knowing all the hard work payed off- finally, after such a long time.

Why am I telling you all of this- well my experience reminded me of Mother’s day. Since I got into gardening and actually started enjoying it- I like to be outside on Mother’s Day (weather permitting) and get some gardening done. Last year I did my window boxes- my husband installed them for me and we all planted beautiful, colorful flowers as well as some vines. It was very nice to do something I enjoy.

I guess that is my point in all of this. For all the Moms out there- try taking some time out on Sunday and do something you enjoy- whether it is by yourself or with the family.

When I first moved to the US, I remember thinking – wow, what is Mother’s Day? I saw all the stores filled with gifts, etc and wondered what it was all about- since then, the holiday is celebrated almost all over the world. I still feel it is a holiday made up by retailers, forcing all of us to buy things we really don’t need.

Once I became a Mother, I saw the day a bit more different but I still think it is all about stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy getting something fabulous. Most of all I enjoy getting the handmade gifts my daughter brings home from school including the elaborate cards.  I cherish and save them.  I think the day should be spent thinking about what makes you happy and how you can carve out time from your busy day, or week to do a bit of it. In my case, I get to do it everyday- I cook, eat and write about food. As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t get any better than that. So, I will cook and do some gardening on Sunday. The way I look at it- no one is going to take care of you the way you do- so, go ahead and do it. It is important for you to be happy and fulfilled. Take advantage of whatever time you have now and enjoy!!!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you. I hope everyone has a delicious day- I plan to!

So, what are YOU doing for Mother’s Day???

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution- A Few More Comments…

April 29, 2010

Jamie Oliver
So the show came to an end last Friday and my daughter was quite upset knowing this was the last of Jamie Oliver for a while. I am not sure if the show is coming back at all- I didn’t tell her that.

What was the show about, you ask? Well, much of the same but also that Jamie returned to the elementary school where it all began. Turns out, since the school started serving fresh food, they had a surplus of frozen, processed food sitting in the warehouse. In order to use it up, they decided to introduce ‘junk food’ Fridays. Seriously? They couldn’t come up with any other solutions other than feeding the kids that crap food again??

Another problem was surfacing at the same time. A lot of kids not wanting to eat the healthy food at school, were now bringing their own lunch. Ordinarily home cooked lunches would be ideal- well, only if the parents are knowledgeable about healthy eating.

As Jamie walked in the cafeteria while the elementary kids ate, he looked through their brown bag lunches and you wouldn’t believe what he found. Jello, juice, candy and potato chips for lunch. I was horrified! Some kids had lunchables– which is a packaged lunch available at the super markets filled with salt, fat and God knows what. What happened to regular sandwiches for lunch??? There are so many ways to pack a healthy lunch for your child- a delicious sandwich made with whole-wheat bread, some fresh fruit and maybe a small cookie for dessert.

I don’t even know what to say about the potato chips and candy for lunch- I can’t believe someone would pack that for their kids. People are so busy these days and are always looking for fast and easy solutions for everything- including what we feed our kids- not realizing what it is doing to their bodies. As parents, it is up to us, to instill healthy eating habits in our kids so they can grow up to be healthy adults.

In a way I am happy the show has come to an end for now- I am not sure if I can handle the stress I feel after watching an hour of it…

Want Milk? Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Continued…

April 22, 2010

Jamie Oliver
One more week of the food revolution reality show left on ABC- I can’t believe the season finale is next week. As I mentioned before, my daughter and I watch this fascinated show together. Last week’s show was no exception. Curled up in bed together, we watched the show on the weekend.

This particular show had the usual theme of showcasing all the unhealthy foods our kids get to eat in their schools. Besides introducing dishes made with fresh food, Jamie also eliminated things like chocolate and strawberry milk. Only plain, low-fat milk was left for the kids to drink.

When he returned to the school, all was going as planned, except for the milk. The flavored milk bottles were back and when he noticed the kids picking up their lunch, most of them opted for the flavored milk.

When my daughter started kindergarten, she was not interested in eating at the school cafeteria- which was just fine with me. As she got more comfortable in the school, she wanted to buy a drink to have with her homemade lunch. That was fine with me until I saw she was purchasing chocolate milk. I sat her down and explained to her that flavored milks have tons of sugar and most of them have high fructose corn syrup. I told her I can make chocolate milk for her at home and pack it for her but I didn’t want her to drink the one available at school. She understood what I was saying but still wanted to buy the one at school. We agreed on maybe purchasing a carton once a week.

I agree with Jamie Oliver and think the kids shouldn’t be given a choice between the ‘boring’ plain milk and the sugar laden flavored milk. Kids don’t know what is best for them and need to be told what to eat and drink- so they can grown up knowing what is healthy.

The Monday after watching the show, I forgot to pack a drink with my daughter’s lunch. I asked her what she bought at school- and she told me plain milk. I was extremely happy knowing she made the right decision, on her own. It is so important to equip your child with information about good food and nutrition. They may wander off and eat what they like as they get older, but will eventually get back to eating healthy- especially if they have all the information as they grow.

Please do your bit and sign the petition

Jamie’s Food Revolution- Continued

April 15, 2010

Jamie Oliver As I mentioned last week, I am closely following Jamie Oliver’s reality show every Friday on ABC. Since I was away to Austin, Texas, I didn’t get a chance to watch the show for the last two Fridays. I did watch them once I got back and was very surprised to see what they showed at the high school. Jamie showed up there and saw french fries being served and all the kids choosing them as the primary food.  To change things a bit, he proceeded to cook a noodle stir fry dish with seven different vegetables and served it with flavorful pieces of chicken. One of the inspectors who was reluctantly giving Jamie a chance looked at the plate and immediately said that the lunch doesn’t fit the regulations. According to her each lunch tray should have a cup and a half of vegetables. Although the noodles were full of veggies, she didn’t think they were enough. I was very surprised to hear that, especially since they had shown what the kids were eating earlier- burgers and fries- where were the veggies in there???

Are you ready for this- the fries were considered a vegetable. I guess technically speaking, they are made out of potatoes- but really??? I couldn’t believe it. Such misguided rules are making our kids obese and unhealthy. I was angry our government is not doing anything while our kids eat crap food in schools.

My daughter was sitting next me while I was watching and getting angry. She immediately came to her school’s rescue and told me they are not served french fries. She explained how there was fruit cups and salad in their cafeteria. I was happy to hear that but still very concerned about the future of our schools.

As I continue to support Jamie’s effort to make our schools healthy, please do your bit and sign his petition.

Jamie’s Food Revolution..

April 8, 2010

Jamie OliverI love Jamie Oliver! I have always loved watching and cooking Jamie’s recipes. I have his show set on my dvr and have saved them all in there. My daughter likes him as well- especially after I told her he is my favorite chef to watch. We watch his shows on the weekends and I love watching him cook in his garden in a rustic kitchen in the UK- I wish I could be there.

Now that he is all over television with his show, The Food Revolution, I love him even more. I remember watching him in the UK doing the same thing for the schools there and thinking I wish he would come here. Essentially, he is trying to make our schools healthier. He goes to a school and talks about all the processed food our kids are being fed and tries to teach the school how to make simple, healthy food out of real ingredients. All I can say is – why didn’t someone else do this a long time ago???

Healthy eating comes from the homes but our government makes it hard to eat healthy especially for families who are on a tight budget and find the processed foods a lot cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables- something is wrong.

When our kids are younger, like mine is (she is seven), we can still control what they eat. I pack my daughter’s lunch everyday except one day when she eats pizza. I am okay with one day of pizza as long as the rest of the days I can give her lunch- but I feel, as she gets older, she is going to want to eat at school and the thought makes me cringe. All the unhealthy food being served is very depressing. I am trying to raise her with healthy eating habits and it gets harder as she gets older. Everywhere I look there are tons of unhealthy food choices, chain restaurants, candy and sugar…

Since Jamie Oliver is trying to make a difference, I want to do everything to help. He has a petition we can all sign on his website. Please go ahead and do so and cook something healthy tonight!

Do You Get Enough Fiber? Eat These- GG Crackers

March 25, 2010

Fiber Crackers

I heard about these crackers on Joan Hamburg’s show when she was talking about a diet called the F-Factor which amongst other things, stresses on fiber. What got my attention was that most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diets. Even those of us who take the time out to make sure we are having enough fruits and vegetables. The crackers are called GG crackers and they claim to control appetite and are only 12 calories each.

Well, I thought these sounded really good. I went to Whole Foods to find them and there they were. I brought two packs home to test them out. First of all, they are not the kind of crackers you look forward to eating ever day. Four crackers a day will take care of about 80% of your required fiber intake- for that I don’t care what they taste like- I will eat them. I tried them with a smear of peanut butter and another time I spread some jam. I had them as a snack in between meals. I didn’t see much difference in terms of appetite control. I liked that I was getting a lot of fiber.

After a week or two of eating the crackers as a snack, I decided to incorporate them into a meal. I thought breakfast would be ideal- so I took three crackers, smeared some jam and scrambled an egg. Eating the crackers with the egg made them more tolerable and I was able to wash them down with my delicious coffee. I also had one more cracker with my lunch- which consisted of a salad with some protein and lots of veggies.

What a difference- I was far less hungry the whole day! I am hooked- I don’t miss eating regular bread with my breakfast and I certainly have not eliminated bread or pasta. This is just an additional thing I have incorporated into my daily routine.

Since it is Friday- it is a day to either highlight a top ten list or inform you of something I am very excited about- I thought writing about GG crackers would be ideal. They have the highest dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is a natural substance obtained from fruits, vegetables and cereals. Adequate fiber leads to lower cholesterol and is overall a good thing to add to your diet.

It is great to get fiber from fruits and vegetables but we would need to eat a whole lot to get about 25 grams for women and over 35 for men. So, if you want to incorporate more fiber in your diet- try these crackers.

Top Ten Indian Spices In My Pantry

March 19, 2010

Top Ten Indian Spices

This post is for all of my friends and acquaintances who have taken a cooking class at my house and have been very curious about all the spices in my cabinet, especially when we cook Indian food.

I buy most of my spices in Edison, NJ. I try to buy them whole and grind them myself- a little at a time. I buy in bulk and store them in one of my two freezers in the basement.

The picture you see is of a wooden box my Mom had custom made for me. I love this box- it looks weathered yet it is very practical. It has a top that slides securely to keep the spices covered.

It didn’t take me very long to come up with this list- since I use these spices all the time.

My list is as follows:

  1. Salt- kind of an obvious choice. You can’t make anything taste good without salt. I once heard someone say, “the difference between a good cook and a great cook is the amount of salt they use”.
  2. Garam Masala- this spice personalizes a dish. Each household in India has their own recipe or a mixture of spices they use to make garam masala. It is a mixture of whole spices ground up together. Garam masala is used as a spice while cooking a dish or as a garnish on top. I make my own- I find the store versions are not flavorful and full of cumin. I make mine in bulk and store it in the freezer. Next Friday I will post the recipe for those of you interested in making your own. Once you make your own- you will never go back to the store bought one.
  3. Cumin Seeds- I love cumin seeds- it brings a nice smoky flavor to all the dishes. I keep it whole and grind it as needed. I also roast a bit and keep it in a small bottle. Ground roast cumin is a delicious garnish for raita.
  4. Coriander Seeds- I buy seeds and grind a small amount for my spice box. I find a huge difference in flavor compared to the store bought ground coriander.
  5. Cayenne Pepper- Even if you don’t like things too spicy, cayenne pepper brings out the flavor and is definitely a must in a well stocked pantry.
  6. Turmeric- Besides providing a nice color to Indian dishes, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory. It makes sense why all the Indian dishes have a dash of turmeric.
  7. Mustard Seeds- I love using mustard seeds- brown to be precise. Regular markets have yellow mustard seeds which have a similar flavor but definitely not as nutty as their brown counterpart.
  8. Cardamom Seeds- This spice is one of my favorites. It is extremely versatile yet can take over a dish if too much of it is added. It is great in sweet and savory dishes alike. Look for a vibrant green color when shopping for cardamom.
  9. Cloves- A little goes a long way. I love using cloves in my rice. It has very flowery, earthy flavor. If you ever have a tooth ache- press down on a clove between your teeth and you will feel immediate relief.
  10. Cinnamon Sticks- I use whole cinnamon sticks for all my Indian cooking. A small stick is enough to flavor a meat or a rice dish. This spice is also great with sweet and savory dishes.