Tiffin Tuesday - green is for spring!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Posted by jokergirl@wererabbits

This is a very "green"-themed bento - just in time for spring!

Börek with feta and spinach, green olives, cucumbers and lettuce in the big box.
Green pasta with pesto, avocados, a lone red tomato flower and a chocolate frog who was probably attracted by all the lush greenery!

I'd have liked to put some homegrown herbs and salads into this week's box, but sadly we don't have any at the moment. They're sown, now it's time to wait until they grow!

This is how my basil looks so far. I've started growing various herbs, lettuces and even bigger vegetables on my windowsill last year. Given the economy, it seems more people are starting to look into growing food at home. I heartily encourage this - it's totally possible to grow even on the windowsill, it's cheaper in the long run, and - added bonus - you can control precisely what goes into your food!

This post was written by jokergirl from WereRabbits.

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Eco Friendly Home Keeping

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Posted by Dee

With more news coming out about the dangerous toxins used in household products , its easy to feel overwhelmed or a little over it. Contrary to what many of us believe green cleaning is not expensive.It’s a lot more easier and a lot more safer. It doesn’t cost more, or take more time than the usual , doesn’t make us compromise of what we think as clean .However it just tends to change our definition of CLEAN.

Green Cleaning is something that is free of toxins apart from keeping our countertops shiny, appliances and cupboards free of fingerprints , the windows clean and clear. By and large it means that some cleaning products which have toxins are not cleaning products at all. In a green cleaning mindset , cleaning means that the air quality should be as clean or cleaner when you started .The shelves are dusted , the fabrics and the windows are clean the furniture /floors if wood are finished with sealants and varnishes which don’t pollute. In short the room is free of dirt and is healthy and fresh. Green Cleaning mindset also finds ways of cleaning that helps reduce energy , water and other resource consumption. Rather than buying a separate cleaner for every job , there will just a few and some even basic stuff that can be made at home using vinegar and vegetable based soap.

Some essential inexpensive green cleaning ingredients for your home

1. White distilled vinegar : loosens dirt anddeodorizes, It also removes mineral deposits, stains and tarnish and eliminates static cling whne added to the rinse cycle. An alternative to vinegar is lemon juice which is great for polishing metal or cutting grease.

Always look for white distilled vinegar as the darker ones stain. Also its not a good option to use on sensitive surfaces like marble.

2.Baking Soda : Its just abrasive enough to make a great scrub without damaging most surfaces. It also eats odor and great for sprinkling on carpets and vaccuming , thus deodorizing the home. Also great in refrigerators , kitchen cabinets, drains.

Add it to the wash cycle to soften fabric. Mix it with acidic vinegar, forms a fizz and speed up your cleaning process . This is great for cleaning toilets and blocked drains. Remember to look for baking soda that is “ pure” or 100 % sodium bicarbonate.

3.Castile Soap: It’s a soap made from vegetable oil instead of animal fat. Dilute it and you can use it as an all purpose cleaner, laundry or dish soap,spot remover and body washer. Remember to look for something that is non petroleum based and does not contain detergents.

3.Borax and Washing Soda : These are alkaline in nature and similar to baking soda except that they are stronger and have to be kept away from children. Add either of them to your wash for extra cleaning an brightening or use to scrub extra stubborn stains on countertops or bath tubs.

Borax is a great disinfectant for cloth diapers and a highly effective mold killer and a toilet bowl cleaner.

Washing soda can be mixed with baking soda and can be used to clean non self cleaning ovens.

Some Anti Bacterial Arsenal that can come handy

Soap and Water : This is a great cleanser , believe it or not, can be used for just about anything like cleaning cabinets, countertops to carpets and fabric stains. Use warm water and its just as effective as any anti bacterial all purpose cleaner.

: Researchers suggest that White distilled vinegar is known to kill 99% bacteria and 80% of germs. I keep a spray bottle of vinegar and it comes in handy when there is a problem and some quick cleaning to do.

Tea Trea Oil
: This is antibacterial in nature that has been used for centuries. Its potent and a great Anti - mold spray . Use just one teaspoon with 2 cups of water and spray it on the mold. Look for something that says 100% pure essential oil rather than a perfume or aromatherapy oil. Normally pure essential oils are stored in dark bottles rather than light.

Lavendar Oil
: If you don’t prefer the smell of Tea tree oil , lavender is the next best option. You can use it to scent your cleansing products as the smell has a calming soothing effect . Add it to your vaporizer and it can fight colds and calm you.
Add it to your all purpose cleaner and it becomes an antibacterial all purpose cleaner.

Some more tips on eco-friendly home keeping.

Use old soft clothes like T shirts or in case of abrasive cleaner, you can use loofah , a gourd which is commonly found. Restrict the usage of paper.

Use cotton bags while shopping instead of using plastic bags . A lot of stores give away good quality and fancy tote bags at various promotions these days.

Limit/optimize your consumption of energy , water . A lot of energy companies these days give you an estimate of the amount of consumption of energy in your home. Some also give a breakdown per appliance per year , looking at which you can cut back on things you think are going overboard. Ask your company if they do that for you.

Finally Recycle , Reduce , Reuse and lets rejuvenate our lives!

This post was written by Dee

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5 Surprising Facts for a Healthier You!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Posted by Mansi

Ok, so everyone knows Exercise is great for your body and mind, and that drinking 6-8 glasses of water is highly recommended to maintain your physiological activities. But besides the well-known stalwarts like these, you'd be surprised to find some fun trivia here that can actually come in handy. What's more, they are treated as Facts, rather than Conjecture, and that's what made me so interested in sharing these with you. A few of these tips below talk of simple life changes or habits that wouldn't require much effort, have absolutely no side effects or risks attached to them, and can actually be fun! So starting today, make sure you adopt at least one of these 5 ways to a Healthier you, and a healthier lifestyle!

1. Switch from Sugar to Honey - You can easily lower your cholesterol intake by substituting honey for your sugar consumption. Honey can slow the oxidation of bad (LDL) cholesterol, which in turn helps increase your good cholesterol, and attain a healthy overall level.

2. Eat your Apple with the Peel - Research from several organizations, including a recent study from Cornell University has shown that chemicals contained in apple peels can inhibit the growth of breast cancer, liver cancer, and colon cancer cells.

3. Rosemary & Lavender are great Anti-Ageing Agent - I love the fragrance of Rosemary, and now that I know that it can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol by as much as twenty-five percent, I go and take a whiff of it every morning and evening! The scent of Lavender is not only pleasing, it also encourages your body to get rid of free radicals, which in turn slows down the process of aging and disease.

4. A Quick Stress-Buster Tip - Drink a glass of cold water, then go for a walk outside. The water gets your blood moving and the air invigorates your senses by stimulating the endorphins that distress you, making you instantly relaxed.

5. Eat Dark Chocolate & Kiss Someone! Ok, this one's really funny, but it is backed by logic! Chocolate is a great anti-oxidant and stress-buster; it instantly uplifts your mood. So eat a small piece, and go kiss your spouse, partner or kid, and pass on the happiness! What's more, kissing produces more saliva, which actually helps protect your teeth's enamel and gives it more life!

In this fast-paced life, its really hard to find a moment of relaxation. But simple changes like these can come in handy! Just print out a list and stick it to your fridge or clipboard, and try at least 2 things every day! That way you'll surprise yourself with something new each day, and also help yourself to a healthier body and mind!

This post was written by Mansi

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Kids Favorite Cupcake Cookbooks

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Posted by Donna

Do your kids like to help you in the kitchen? Do they like to cook and bake and make a mess right along side you? I have four grandkids, and they all like to help in the kitchen. Their mommies (our daughters) grew up in our bakery and catering business. For years, this was all that they knew. In a way, they were born into it - it's in their blood! As a side note, our two sons also stayed in foodservice after they left the nest! So, it really is a family thing!

It was inevitable that when our daughters grew up and had kids of their own, they too, would live, breathe and dream about frosted cupcakes in a yummy, fun-filled kitchen. Our grandkids really had no choice but to love their parents' culinary talents. What kid wouldn't love a house filled with good things coming out of the oven? But it doesn't stop there. The kids actually love to create their own dishes and strange concoctions. We would never think to eat some of it put before us, but we pretend to take a nibble, say "mmmm, good", then spit it out in a napkin when they weren't looking!

They also love to "play bakery", and have menus made up ahead of time with special offerings that not only leave me speechless, but queasy as well! At the age of 5, our son used to come along to the bakery with us between his daycare and pastry chef gig. He would put on an apron that was 5 times too big for him, and we must have tied it around his waist 4 times and hike it up over his chest. He'd have to stand on a 5 gallon bucket just to see over the counter. But he loved to mimic us - that 's what kids do - and "play bakery". One day in particular, he was at his usual perch on the bucket with his snow boots on, when all of a sudden we heard a yell and a squeal. The lid wasn't on securely, and his weight had shifted to one side, caving in the lid sideways. We rushed to find him standing knee deep in a brand new, full 5 gallon bucket of eclair filling!

It's been a while since we had little ones around, but when we go visit, they always ask Opa to make cookies with them, or Nana to help them decorate cupcakes. When our kids were young, we had very little in the way of resources or cookbooks for them. Not that we needed cookbooks for kids, but it would have been fun for them to have their own baking books and recipe journals.

Times have changed, and today's kids have plenty of cookbook choices available to them. They make great gifts for grandparents that want to cook and bake along with them. You can even buy a decorating set with bags, tips, a spatula, sprinkles and icing colors to go with the book. Wrap it all up with a baking sheet and kid-sized apron and you've got the perfect gift for the little baker in your family! My granddaughter picked out these cute Wilton Silly Feet silicone cupcake liners for me one day. They're the most adorable things! When it came time to actually give them to me, she protested. She wanted to keep them for herself!

Here's a list of my favorite kid-friendly cupcake cookbooks on the book store shelves today - for the new generation of up-and-coming bakers and cake decorators in your life!

Super-Duper Cupcakes: Kids' Creations from the Cupcake Caboose by Elaine Cohen
This 96 page cupcake book is geared towards kids ages 9-12. They are super-cute and very colorful. Become a "Cupcake Artist" with the easy recipes and super-duper designs!

Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella
A total how-to cupcake book with great photos, plenty of recipes for cake and frostings, decorating tips and loads of ideas for kids and adults. From kids birthday parties to elegant dinner parties, you're sure to find this book is just what you're looking for!

Confetti Cakes for Kids
by Elisa Strauss and Christie Matheson
Not technically a cupcake book, this is the craziest looking book of them all! It has cake and frosting recipes, mini cakes, cupcakes, brownies and more to decorate. Some of the techniques may be over a young child's head, but with supervision from Nana & Opa, they should be able to complete something they feel good about. If anything, it's a great picture book full of fun and colorful creations that even a non-reader will enjoy!

Hello, Cupcake! Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make by Alan Richardson and Karen Tack
This cupcake book is full of playful designs and fun ideas for cupcakes that look like spaghetti and meatballs, TV dinners, penguins, panda and Westies! Hello, Cupcake makes these cupcakes adorable readily available candy store finds like; candy, gum, licorice, twizzlers, jelly beans, sprinkles and smarties just to name a few. Highly Recommended!

This post was written by Donna

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Ada Lovelace Day - women in technology

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Posted by jokergirl@wererabbits


"Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women's contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised."

This is a sad state of affairs.
Almost all of the bloggers I know are female. All of them know how to use a computer, navigate the web, fiddle with HTML and CSS markups, use a camera (most of them better than me!) set up photography professionally and more - and we do it on a regular basis!
Even better, most of us work or have worked, in one way or another, in the tech sector. (Don't believe it? Read our bios.)
We are not rare. We are not alone! Despite what many of us still think, none of us is, these days, the exception to the rule any more.
Therefore, this post is dedicated to all of you! Celebrate your techyness! You do not have to prove yourself to be good with technology any more. You already are.

So why are we still underrepresented and underacknowledged?
One of the reasons might be that we are still taught, by media and common opinion, that we do not have to be good at technology. It's OK, because we are women. If we are good, it is either exceptional (ooh, look at that brainy girl!) or it is not noticed because we ourselves think it's nothing special.

Well, the bad news first: It isn't. Most people in our generation should (in my opinion) have a base level of understanding of modern technology. We grew up with it, and we're using it daily. Being good at using a computer is not special, nor is it something only men can do. We have all grown up with it and it's time we realized that.

But now the good news: It isn't! That means that even if you think now "Oh, this doesn't apply to me, I never was interested in maths during my school time" it does not mean that you're automatically doomed to tech-unsavvyness.
Nor is it a good excuse. Why are girls not interested in maths? Simply because they see no reason to be. When asked about career options, boys will name about every profession on the planet. Most girls, however, will stick to the "soft" options, the traditionally female-dominated jobs. We don't see the other jobs as an option - something I realized almost too late myself. Now I'm a programmer and scientist and loving it.
Why don't we consider it? Well, because most girls we see around us aren't. Neither are most girls in the media. But that's not true, and you are already proof of it! Come out and make your voice heard. We are the techie girls of today - let's be good examples to the next generation that's growing up now!

All currently registered Ada Lovelace Day posts
The pledge
More about the pledge

And now returning to the regular food blogging...

This post was written by jokergirl from WereRabbits.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

Comfort food..." Food that is simply prepared and associated with a sense of home or contentment."
Comfort food is food that you turn to in times of negative emotions , in times of stress, when you're in a bad mood, when life isn't looking too good. Foods that you connect to good memories, childhood security ... safety, joy, warmth = comfort. They have an air of familiarity, are often indulgent, and typically provide a sense of physical as well as emotional comfort. Science has it that comfort food release good chemicals in our brain leading to mood alleviation. Very often comfort food is a home-cooked informal meal, that you can sit & eat on the couch, with your feet tucked in under you.
Research on 'negative emotions & consumption therapy' often find a strong link between 'comfort food' and the notion of mood-alleviation. Other examples include impulse purchasing, compensatory consumption, recreational shopping, and self-gift behaviors.
Did you know that as recession surges, so do comfort food needs. A study in the UK shows that 'sales of nostalgic treats and products that remind us of happier, less complicated times are soaring'. Marks & Spencer's recently started selling a jam sandwich for 75p..."It really is the ultimate comfort food at an unbeatable price", they claim. One bite takes you right back to your childhood.
Studies also reflect that different choices in comfort food are picked by men & women. Men tend to pick a whole meal whereas women are known to reach for chocolate or snacks. Age also plays a huge role. Youngsters are more likely to pick sweets & snacks, whereas older people find comfort in hot foods like mashed potatoes & soup.
Do you find comfort in food? What is your comfort food? Macaroni & cheese, fries, crisps, chili, fried chicken, a bar of chocolate, ice-cream, candy seem to be popular choices. I find comfort in a packet of crisps, or a bar of bitter chocolate, but I find the most comfort in nature, more than anything else. I can spend hours outdoors!

This post was written by Deeba

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Vegetarian Food Pyramid - Quinoa

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Posted by DK

A chock full wholegrain pantry is what I can boast of, complimented by Nuts and seeds. You probably have heard of antique collectors, but have you heard of one who visits food markets and collects grains? Well that’s me for you. Recently on a business trip to Vancouver, when a colleague during the time off suggested buying trinkets for souvenir, I went to the local Whole Foods market and bought myself Kamut! And I couldn't have been more happier. That’s the value I hold for Nature's best foods. For other whole grain, refer to my previous articles for Oats and Barley. This time I am going to talk about one of my most loved of all whole grains - Quinoa (also called as quinua, petty rice and pigweed).


They form part of my lunch on most of the days and its hard really to get bored with them - so versatile that they are. So let’s get to the reason why I adore them so much.

What exactly is Quinoa?

They have been commemorated as the "Super grain of the future". Pronounced as 'Keen-wa',(you don’t want to know how I used to say them before I knew the correct pronunciation!!) they were hailed by the Incas as "Mother Grain" - who cultivated it for hundreds of years, high in the Andes for self consumption. That's how ancient they are. Though not a common resident in many kitchens, if it gets a better PR for itself, it would soon become an inseparable part of every wo(man)'s pantry - thanks to it being immensely rich in nutrients. Though it is a politically correct statement to say that Quinoa is a grain, it in reality is a relative to, you wouldn’t guess it, the greens like Swiss Chard and Spinach!

Types of Quinoa and What to look for in your market

Although Quinoa leaves are also edible just like Amaranth, they are not commonly available. My research on the web and books tell me that there are 4 types of Quinoa though I have come across only two of them in my local market:

1. Whole Grain - This is what you possibly will come across in your grocery store ( or in health food markets). They are tiny, bead-shaped grains and are slightly bitter but have firm texture. They are an excellent substitute to rice and are cooked in the same way. Unlike rice, these quadruple in size and also become translucent with an unusual white outer ring.(pic as above)

2. Quinoa Flour - These make a nutritious addition to your day to day bakes, be it for cakes, cookies or bread. They can also be used to make your delicious pasta. But if not available, you can always find Pasta made using Quinoa in the market nowadays. They can also be substituted for whole wheat flour in order to increase the nutritional value. [ This picture is courtesy of http://www.organicroad.com ]

How to make Quinoa Flour at home?
For 1 cup of Quinoa flour, grind 3/4 cup of whole Quinoa until it gets a cornmeal texture.

3. Puffed Quinoa - It is similar to puffed corn. These make for crunchy toppings on your favorite desserts, even ice-cream. They are excellent for morning cereal.

[This picture is courtesy of http://phdelicious.wordpress.com ]

4. Pearly Quinoa- They have a larger grain and are usually opted for breakfast porridge along with milk or used in soups.

There are also supposed to be red and black varieties of Quinoa available. Look for them in your grocery store.

How to cook Quinoa Grain?

In its natural state, Quinoa consists of a waxy coating called Saponins which is what gives it the bitter taste. So, if that’s the case then follow this precautionary procedure:

Soak your quinoa in cold water for about 2 hours. Drain, rinse and soak again for another 2. Then rinse it vigorously to remove the outer layer and cook.

P.S But no cause for panic. Markets are a wonder these days. They do everything for you. I say this since I am yet to come across Quinoa with this coating. They are all done and kept ready, so mostly you wouldn’t need to do this step.

How to cook on Stove top

For 1 cup of quinoa, bring two cups of cold water to a boil. For a more al dente texture, use only 1.5 cups of water

Cover the quinoa and bring it to a simmer. It takes approx 10-15 minutes and you know its done, when the germ separates from the seed and you will see white colored rings sort’ a things floating around. (its not as bad as it sounds !)

Let it cool, fluff it up and serve.

How to cook Quinoa in a Pressure Cooker

For 1 cup of Quinoa, bring two cups of water. Pressure cook for 5-10 minutes. You can also add salt to the cooking water or replace water with Vegetable/Chicken broth.

How to cook Quinoa in a Microwave

For every one cup of the grain, use 2 cups of water. Place them in a microwave proof dish and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Leave it to stand, stir , and then cook further for another 2-3minutes..Let it stand in order to let it soak up any liquid. You can drain any extra liquid if any. But care should be taken to avoid letting the grain go completely dry while cooking in a microwave.

How to sprout Quinoa?

[ Pic courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/apathyduck/24543590/]

Like its counterparts, Quinoa grain can also be sprouted. It takes 2-3 days to sprout and must be eaten right away, since they don’t keep very well. A rough gist of the process as below:

1. Rinse the seeds vigorously to remove the saponin coating.
2. Soak the Quinoa seed for about 2-4 hours. Drain.
3. Use your sprouter basket or in a bowl sprout for 12 hours.
4. It sprouts pretty fast. They can also be grown for their leaves.

For a more detailed instruction please refer to this article here

Health benefits of Quinoa

• Unlike its counterparts, Quinoa is a complete protein, since it contains all the eight essential amino acids.
• It has excellent source of potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and B vitamins
• Thanks to the magnesium content, they are Nature’s medicine for people suffering from Migraines. Add them to you diet often. They are also excellent for the heart.
• Since they are an insoluble fiber, it helps in gallstone prevention.
• They are go-to foods for diabetic patients, since it helps to decrease the blood sugar levels.
• If you suffer from celiac disease, then look no further for Quinoa is here. It is gluten free.

Although they can be enjoyed in various forms, say in pilaf's, stuffings,bakes and breakfast cereals, they being immensely versatile can be made in any way your creative mind takes you. I recently thought of making my leftover cooked quinoa into a baked goodie and used up my left over 15 bean soup mix to make these delicious Baked Quinoa and 15 bean Croquettes. For a pictorial and the recipe refer to this post

This post was written by Dhivya

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Save Money on Your Food Bill: Start a Kitchen Garden

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Posted by Andrea Meyers

seedsMy husband and I have been growing our own vegetables and herbs for about 10 years. I started gardening by growing peppers, tomatoes, and herbs in pots on my apartment balcony and every year we try to have some kind of garden, both indoor and outdoor, no matter where we live or how much space we have. Some years have better yields than others, but we have always had a sense that we save money on produce and get the benefits of eating healthy foods without pesticides. We had never sat down and done the math on how much money we saved on our grocery bills, but we had done some calculations in our heads and felt confident that our efforts in the garden helped our food budget as well as our health.

Last week I got to read someone else's proof that growing your own produce is good for your food budget. Roger Doiron, the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, published a post called "Economics of Home Gardening" which shared a detailed analysis of what his family had saved on all the produce they grew, and his statistics are amazing. He calculated their cost to run the garden and they weighed everything they harvested and calculated the cost using average prices from regular grocery stores, farmers markets, and Whole Foods. They spent US$282.00 to manage their garden, which included the cost of seeds and and supplies, soil testing, compost, and water. Their total harvest for the year was 833.79 pounds/376.03 kilos of produce. If they had purchased all of that produce rather than growing it themselves, their calculations showed they would have spent US$2,196.50 at average grocery store prices in their area, US$2,431.15 at their farmers market, and US$2,548.93 at Whole Foods.

Doiron's family grows a variety of produce, including tomatoes, potatoes, onions, various greens, beans, squash, herbs, and other things, in about 1600 square feet/148.644 square meters of growing space, which is quite large. In our own yard we had one 36 square feet/3.34450 square meter bed of growing space last year and had plenty of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs to last us for a couple months. This year we'll have 153 square feet/14.21 square meters and plan to grow a larger variety of produce. We're also going to try to extend the season with the cold frames that my husband built. I'm looking forward to getting our garden started this spring and enjoying even more savings in our food budget. We don't grow as much as Doiron does, but we believe every little bit helps, and his chart is proof of the economic benefits of growing our own produce.

This post was written by Andrea

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Do you discipline your child?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Posted by Dharm

I'm sure many of you have been in a situation where you have watched children screaming and throwing a tantrum in a supermarket; maybe fussing in a restaurant and making a scene; how about sulking and not talking to friends of yours who kindly ask your child their name. There are many variations to this and quite frankly, it is quite painful to watch a misbehaving child. I dont blame the child though, I blame the parents for not disciplining their child and to me, that is really what is painful - a parent that allows their child to misbehave.

I'll be the first to admit that bringing up children is not an easy task. Although I try to be a 'cool' Dad and strongly believe in letting kids be kids, I also firmly believe that it is ultra important to instill good values in them and to bring them up the right way.

Now I suppose the key to the sentence above is 'the right way'. What's right for me may not be right for you and similarly, what you may think is important may differ greatly from what I think is important. So, having mentioned this little disclaimer, let's get on with this article.

I was brought up under the old adage, "spare the rod and spoil the child". The rod used by my father was his belt and it was never a pleasant experience, I can tell you that! The problem I had though, was that I never thought that anything I did really deserved a belting. Getting disciplined in this way though only taught me to fib and tell tales to get away from getting belted. This probably ended in me getting belted even more when I was caught lying but I just tried to figure out newer and more creative ways to avoid getting caught when I knew I had done something wrong.

The best part was that my father would always say "This is going to hurt me more than in hurts you." I could never understand that as HE was the one hurting me and not the other way around. As a Father myself now, I know that it is not easy discilining a child and yes, in many ways it hurts me when I have to discpipline my children but No where close to how much I am sure it hurts them!

I never knew, until researching a little for this article, that "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child" actually originates in the Bible. It comes from the book of Proverbs 13:24 and says "He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently."

I beleive in discipline. At the same time I am also a firm believer in sparing the rod. Having said that however, I do think that there ARE some 'misdemeanours' that not only ask, but demand, for the rod.

The rod, of course, need not be an actual rod and can take many forms. For my children, 'the rod' is simply a good smack - on their hands from my palm - and it takes a rather serious overstep of their boundaries to get a smack from me. I think I can count the number of times I have smacked my children and it doesnt go more than 3 times. Some parents feel that using a rod/cane/belt or whatever to discipline their child is the best method and if you feel that is the right way, that is your call. I don't.

I used to discipline my children by making them stand in the corner, very much akin to a time-out. For some reason, standing in the corner was a terrible thing for them and they quickly wisened up that it wasn't a particularly fun thing to do. Another trick that I have is the '5-count'. This comes into play when they are meant/told to do something and they don't or even worse, start whining. I then start counting aloud from 1 to 5 and if what they are supposed to do hasn't been started by the time I reach 5, then it is off to the corner.

Lately, since they have grown up a little, I have introduced a new method that I call 'Military Training'. If the children misbehave, then they are sent to Military School where they have to stand at attention, answer every question I ask them with "Yes Sir" and other similar military style discipline. Fortunately for them, they have yet to be sent for Military Training!

Some of you may think it is harsh but I believe these are far better measures than using the rod. As mentioned earlier, I am very particular about how children behave and what I dislike even more is parents who let their children misbehave.

I believe that discipline is a key in developing good manners, good values and good behaviour. I also believe that the exposure to discipline from a young age has resulted in a strong awareness of the values and character that I wish to impart to my children.

What are your thoughts on discipline and how do you discipline Your children??

This post was written by Dharm

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Cookbook Review: Raghavan Iyer - 660 Curries

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Posted by Petra Hildebrandt

Indian was my first love - when it comes to foreign cuisines - for a German girl, Indian food was as exotic as it gets. Yes, I've had my share of pasta and of Spanish and Austrian cooking, but when I started to cook seriously - and was a teenage and later twen vegetarian - I fell deeply in love with Indian food. Head over heels, to be honest. It started with Julie Sahni's terrific Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery, and the love intensified later, watching Madhur Jaffrey on the BBC traveling through India an showing regional cuisine in the Flavors of India series.

A love that never faded, although I have left the world of vegetarian eating a decade ago (for health reasons, actually, but that's another story.)

So, when my husband handed me a review from Slashfood in the Cookbook of the Day column, I didn't hesitate a second to order

Raghavan Iyer - 660 Curries

The back cover quotes Madhur Jaffrey with "This book is nothing short of a treasure chest, containing an endless supply of very authentic Indian recipes, each bursting with the true flavors of Indias many regions." - and who am I to dispute Indian cooking with her?

The sections of the book:
  • Poultry, Game and Egg Curries
  • Beef, Lamb and Pork Curries
  • Fish & Seafood Curries
  • Paneer Curries
  • Legume Curries
  • Vegetable Curries
  • Contemporary Curries
  • Biryani Curries
  • Curry Cohorts

cover about everything you'll need to know about Indian curries (and cooking) in a lifetime. From traditional to modern and fusion cuisine, from makkaroni & paneer to bitter melon with onion and tomato, a myriad of fresh and classic tastes awaits the adventurous cook. The Curry Cohorts section adds rice dishes and breads as well as pickles and chutneys to the menu.

The part about vegetable and legume aka vegetarian curries is enormous, as is the variety of dishes offered in this book. I have made 18 dishes from the book so far - spice blends are a part of it, and I enjoyed Punjabi Garam Masala, one of the recipes, tremendously. Each and every one of the recipes I've tried was good, which is quite the quota for me, when it comes to cookbooks. But not only were they good - most of them were plain terrific, stunningly delicious.

The recipes are explained thoroughly, substitution hints are given for not-so-common ingredients, and although (aside from the front and back flap) there are no pictures you'll start drooling the very moment you read the first recipe.

This is without doubt the best cookbook buy of 2008 in my shelves. I can highly recommend it to anyone who loves Indian cooking (and I've collected a few Indian cookbooks and then some over the years). With Iyers big book of Indian curries you'll be equipped with tons of ideas to choose from in your cooking life - and I bet your family will love it as much as I do.

(if you do read German, there is a list of recipes from the book - with links - in my blog at the German review, recipes which my friend Chili & Ciabatta and I have tried and blogged, so go ahead and have a look). Iyer's recipe for (great) Mulligatawny can be found here (accompanying text in German, but recipe in English) - and to make your mouth water I've decided to tease you with his version of Bharela Baingan.

Cashew-8tuffed Baby Eggplant with Tomatoes and Spices - Bharela Baingan

Baby eggplants are not bitter at all, as the gargantuan ones (the Italian variety), widely available in American supermarkets, can be. These bell-shaped, light purple varieties, roughly 2 to 3 inches long, are easy to find in Asian grocery stores. They can also be found at neighborhood farmers' markets at the tail end of summer, especially in areas where there are concentrations of Asian immigrants. If they are unavailable, however, you can use the standard large variety.

1/2 cup raw cashew nuts, ground
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
I tablespoon mango powder, or fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea solt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/2 teaspoon Punjabi garam masola (recipe is in the book, or use regular Garam Masala)
8 to 10 small purpIe Indian (or 1 medium-size Italian) eggplants (about 1 pound total)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup conned crushed tomotoes
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar

1 . Combine the ground cashews, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, the mango powder, cumin, salt, cayenne, and garam masala in a small bowl. Stir together thoroughly.

2. If you are using small eggplants, wash them well but do not remove the sterns. Slit each eggplant threequarters of the way through by making two crosswise slits, forming an X. (Make sure you do not accidentally cut through the entire length. This keeps them held together and makes the pan-frying a bit easier.) If you are using one large eggplant, rinse it well and remove the stem. Slice the eggplant crosswise into 2-inch-thick rounds. Slit each piece three-quarters of the way through by making two crosswise slits, forming an X. Make sure you do not accidentally cut through the skin. You can use kitchen twine to tie them closed after you stuff them.

3. Stuff each eggplant with the spice-nut mixture (as much as you can push into the slits). Don't worry if some of the filling falls out; most of it will remain inside.

4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the stuffed eggplants, arranging them in a single layer, and sear them on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle any remaining filling over the eggplants, reduce the heat to low, and cover the skillet. Roast the eggplants, turning them occasionally (gently) with a pair of tongs, until they are fork-tender, about 30 minutes. As much as you are tempted, do not raise the heat to expedite the roasting; you will burn the spices and make the eggplant unpalatable.

5. Carefully lift the eggplants out of the skillet and transfer them to a serving platter.

6. Pour the crushed tomatoes and the sugar into the pan, and scrape the bottom of the skillet to incorporate all those wonderful pan drippings left behind after roasting the eggplant. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.

7. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro, pour the sauce over the eggplant, and serve.


This post was written by Petra from Foodfreak

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Stress Busters for Children

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Posted by Indian Food Rocks

stress (strĕs)
1. A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression.
2. A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition.

Just as adults do, children suffer from stress, too. Pressure comes from many quarters: peers, school, playground, teachers, to mention just a few. In some children, especially gifted children, symptoms of stress are often highly elevated. What may seem like a perfectly normal situation could cause stress on a daily basis for a child, for example, the very act of going to school even though the child may enjoy his day at school. The moment of parting from a parent can remain traumatic, even through elementary school. There are many methods and techniques of conquering stress but it's a game of trial and error until you find the gold key that works for your child. This article focuses on a few techniques that families from my SENG parent group have found useful when talking about it does not help.
  1. Transitional Objects: Who hasn't heard of Linus from The Peanuts and his security blanket? Blankets, teddy bears, pacifiers, dolls are transitional objects for infants and toddlers, making it easier for them to cope with separation anxiety. For older children, transitional objects take on a slightly different meaning. It could be anything: a charm, a key chain, a flattened penny, or a button - something small. Find something that will fit in your child's pocket and is easily replaceable. Sit down with your child and explain that the transitional object is symbolic; and when you hand it to him, he understands that you must separate for the day but when he touches or feels that object through the day:
    • that things will work out, regardless of how dark the situation looks at the moment
    • familiarity of the transitional object will provide a feeling of comfort
    • and it is his link with you and your unconditional love and support for him.

    When he comes home, have him hand the object back to you. This can be interpreted in several ways depending on how the day went:
    • he is in his own environment now and does not feel threatened or pressured
    • he is voluntarily giving up the negative emotions associated with the day.

    Since transitional objects are small and inobtrusive, they can be used without the fear of being ridiculed by other children, and for as long as your child needs them. Adults are known to wear charms or carry items that 'give them strength' or 'make them feel good' - so why not a child?

  2. Visualization: This is a powerful technique that takes some practice before it can be used effectively. On a day that your child is relaxed and content, find a quiet place in the house and ask her to do a short mental exercise with you. Have her lie down or get into a comfortable sitting position and then ask her to close her eyes. Tell her she is going to take a short trip and then ask her where she is going or where she would like to go, what she is carrying with her, if she has any companions or pets with her, and ask her to describe her destination when she gets there. Have her experience this happy place with all her senses: what does she see, what sounds is she hearing, can she smell anything, but most of all, how does she feel? Then tell her to "take a picture" of this wonderful and peaceful place and tuck it away in her memory, for future recall.

    Help her use this "peaceful picture" by prompting her to visualize it when you see her getting stressed. Right before a recital, during a soccer game, before an exam. Whisper "think of your picture" or "remember your happy place" or something appropriate that will help her visualize that calming scene again and put her in the right frame of mind. After a while, she will not need to be prompted and will pull out that picture from her memory into her present. This picture will have become a stress reliever for your child.

  3. Warm baths: Long soaks in hot baths with lavender help relax tired and aching muscles. They also have a soothing effect on frayed nerves. When it seems like you are up against a wall and not getting through with love and logic, a hot bath - not for you, but for your child - is often the answer. If nothing else, it will help ease some of the stress of the day. You could always do the same for yourself once your child is taken care of!

  4. Physically demanding activities: Cross country running, long bike rides, swimming laps are some of the physically demanding activities that allow stressed children to vent some of those pent-up feelings. The endorphin rush, muscular exertion and the feeling of good tiredness work together to put your child into a relaxed mood. You may notice that many of the perceived stresses either evaporate or that your child is better able to deal with them after working out rigorously.
Tolerance of stress is important in order to build persistence and to be able to handle the ambiguities of life. This holds for all children, whether gifted or not; and we play a huge role, as parents, by helping them handle challenging situations and cope with problems as they arise. Allow them to understand that stress is not all bad. Stresses of challenge and learning can have positive results. It is the burdensome stress that needs to be tackled so that it does not become debilitating on a daily basis.

My SENG group has been an eye-opener for me on many fronts. Not only was there support from other parents who had been in similar situations but finally, there was a group of people who understood what I was ranting about. Our group was facilitated by two TAG Coordinators from our school district. We used the book Guiding the Gifted Child as the background for our learning and our discussions. Ask your school district if they have any parent groups that you could join or if they could put you on their (TAG) mailing list through which a lot of information is shared about talks, discussion groups and programs for parenting gifted learners.

This post was written by Manisha

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