A Mixed Bag – A bit of everything under the sun


Weight loss

Courtesy: -Paul H-

Weight.. ah, that elusive number! Something I constantly think but do nothing about.

I am the person who loves food and hates intense workouts. I know what you’re thinking. Terrible combination for weight loss, right? I cannot survive on water one whole day and just raw vegetables the next. Hey, when did food become a three digit number? Also, dont’ bother me with cardiovasular, strength training, target heart rate etc etc. That”s information overload.

Weight loss shouldn’t be that complicated. Agrees dietician Lisa Sarah John. She is a very sensible dietician and I used to enjoy reading her articles in the Times of India back in Bangalore. She has a simple healthy formula for weight loss – walk, water and a balanced diet. You can visit her website here. (I’m probably sounding like her spokesperson, trust me I’m not associated with her in anyway).

Anyways, going by her advice, this is my plan for the next four months.

1. Check my weight only once a week – I used to check my weight everyday and the reduction gets hardly noticeable. Let alone the fact that sometimes it shows a gain of 2-3 pounds in the span of a day. I think it makes much better sense to weigh yourself every week and modify your plan accordingly.

2. Avoid fatty foods for three months – It doesn’t hurt to eat fatty foods occasionally if you want to maintain your weight. But if you wanna lose it, better stay away from it. This is my list of frozen food items:

Cream, butter, ghee, cheese/paneer/tofu, fried foods ( no chips, sniff sniff), cakes/cookies/pastries/puffs, sweets, chocolates, icecreams, mayo, coconut and carbonated drinks.

It seems like a long list, but it’s not that hard to keep it off.

3. Eat rotis at night – I plan to eat early and not eat rice at dinner. I eat a maximum of two rotis without oil.

4. When hungry, fill yourself with veggies and stirfries – I love stirfries and they are healthy and low on calories too. Should work well for me.

5. Drink 2 litres of water everyday – This is a very good practice that I’ve been wanting to inculcate. But I have trouble remembering to drink water.

6. Walk everyday for 30 minutes – Walking is the most comfortable form of exercise for me. Running wears me out. I can always walk uphill to burn as many calories. I probably won’t do it 7 days a week. But i’ll pitch for 6.

So that’s it. Walk, water, no fatty foods. Let’s see if I can keep it up. This ticker should help me see where I’m going:


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The River God - Book Reivew


Shringeri Sharada Devi

This is the second of Devotion Series. I plan to post some shlokas in kannada that are not easily available online in the language. The first one was Ganesha Aksharamala Stotra.

Sharada Bhujanga Stotra is a beautiful work on Shringeri Sharada. It’s very melodious when sung too. When recited everyday, it is said to improve one’s concentration. Here are the lyrics in kannada for you to download. May Devi Sharadamba bestow her blessings upon you.

Download Sharada Bhujanga Stotra

Audio file:
If you want to know how it is sung or pronounced, I’ve embedded an audio file below. You may click on it to listen to it. I’ve sung it myself. Do let me know how it is 🙂


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Ganesha

Photo Courtesy: M e d a

Yippee..It’s vacation time now. I don’t know if I’ll ever get 1 and a half months of vacation time again (In a way, I hope not. I don’t want to be jobless for six months!). So, this means more time for blogging. I thought of having a theme for each day of the week and having posts related to it.

Let me start with a devotional post. The Bhakti movement. Because, my grades will be out next week 🙂 I plan to post shlokas in kannada that I’ve learned and are not easily available in kannada on the net.

Any good work is begun with a prayer to Lord Ganesha. Accordingly, here is Ganesha Aksharamala Stotra. Each line begins with a letter from the kannada alphabet in praise of Ganesha. This was taught to me by my cousin when I was in school. I took the small booklet from her to recite it to memory and never returned it her. Now, the book is battered, my memory is fading and not many people know of this wonderfully simple yet effective shloka. A cure for all this was to blog it.

Click on the following link to view the Ganesha Aksharamala Stotra:

Download Ganesha Aksharamala Stotra

Jai Ganesha!

Watch this space the coming week for more!

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If you are a South Indian and you love Masala Dosa, clap your hands!!!

Doesn't it look good?

Really, you’ve got to be crazy if you don’t. (I can excuse the others who haven’t had a chance to try it). My attempts thus far at making masala dosa had been limited to making the plain dosa, dropping a dollop of potato curry inside it and eating it with chutney. Nothing like the crispy crunchy ones you get at restaurants. Well, not anymore! Not anymore! My friend, the beautiful Ramya spilled the secret and it was yum yum yum!

They say women cannot keep secrets. So here I go:

For the dosa batter:

2-2 1/4 cups rice

1 cup Urad dal

1 handful Chana dal

1/2 handful Yellow moong dal

1 tsp methi

Salt & Sugar

Method:

1. Wash and soak all ingredients (except salt & sugar) together for at least 4-5 hours.

2. Grind the soaked ingredients and allow it to ferment overnight.

3. After it has fermented, you can make the dosas right away. If you want to wait longer, better refrigerate the batter so it doesn’t turn sour.

4. For making the dosas, take just the amount of batter you need. Add salt and a spoonful of sugar. Sugar helps the dosa get crispy and brown.

5. Adjust the water according to your preference. Generally, the batter has to be a little watery for the masala dosa.

6. Take a non-stick tava (an absolute must if you want restaurant style dosas. It’s worth it’s weight in gold. You will love it). Pour the batter and spread it.

7. Add a small slice of butter and cover the dosa. This is the secret ingredient that improves the quality of the dosa hundred-fold. The butter and sugar combo (remember their magic in cookies?) make the dosa brown and crunchy!

8. Spread a bit of red chutney and top the dosa with potato-onion curry. Fold the dosa restaurant style and serve. There is no need to flip the dosa over. This is why the batter needs to be thin.

9. Enjoy with some coconut chutney!

Red Chutney recipe
Fresh/frozen coconut – 1/2 cup

Red chillies – 5-6 (or according to taste)

Tamarind – little

Grind all of them together adding just a little water if required

Coconut Chutney recipe

Fresh/frozen coconut – 1/2 – 1 cup

Chana dhalia (kadale poppu) – eyeball the same amount as coconut

Cilantro – 1/2 bunch. You can include the tender stems as well.

Green chillies – 4 to 5

Tamarind – little

Salt – very little

Grind all of them together adding a little water

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biryani

Restaurant style Vegetable Biryani


Iacocca

Author: Lee Iacocca

Category: Autobiography

Rating: ★★

I had heard rave reviews about this book and I’d been wanting to read it since a long time. So, when i found one in a Goodwill store, I was very excited. After reading the book however, I must say I’m a bit disappointed.

The book is interesting no doubt, but I disliked the man. That is partly why I disliked him – because the book is interesting. Are you thinking I’m nuts? Let me explain. Iacocca has spun a fascinating drama in the book. To the extent that it seems staged and dishonest. Every chapter leaves the story hanging at such a strategic point that you can sometimes mistake it for a suspense thriller! That seems to be the very intent of the book: to be a page turner and make money than be an honest autobiography. Once you figure out that he has weaved the words and events just to get your emotions flowing, you will grimace everytime you spot it in the book.

The book was written to get back at Henry Ford and lash back at anybody in his life who opposed Iacocca. And make money while doing so. It seems rather childish that he spends quarter of the book vilifying Ford. While I do not know how Ford really was, I definitely will not take Iacocca’s word for it. Iacocca’s views are totally one-sided, he paints a perfect picture of himself and tries to give you the impression that he was a victim in so many circumstances. Please! He says he did not mind when Ford fired him, but cannot forgive him for the effect it had on its wife and kids. Very understandable. His family would have definitely been distraught and that can upset any man. Your heart goes out to him, sure. But when he goes on to fire a lot of people, it is either out of pressure or because of sheer necessity. Sure, as a higher up that is part of his job. But when he does that don’t the fired people have wife and kids too? Why should he bring up his family being affected if not to just get your sympathy? That’s plain hypocrisy.

In the beginning of the book, Iacocca has to mention that the profits from the book go to a diabetes research foundation. Good job, Lee! Did you mention that there so that we say so? I’ve heard a proverb which says even the left hand should not know about the charity given by the right hand. If you’re using it to leverage your image, please don’t call it charity. And somebody mentioned on Amazon that this is a trick to get tax breaks!

These are just some subtle instances which give an insight into his personality. The man cannot accept any opinion other than his own. He remembers every single statement that has ever been made against him. He doesn’t fail to mention it in his book and argue about why that is untrue. Place an obstacle in his way and you are sure to be slandered in the book! He gives you pages of justification for the reason he agreed to making commercials lest you get the false impression that he was hankering for publicity. He has an entire chapter devoted to external circumstances that are aiding Japan, but his ego cannot let him accept once that their quality of cars may be far better.

To his credit, I must say he is an inspirational leader with street smarts and presence of mind. Some of his views that appear here and there about running a business and being a leader are sensible and true. His pointers about good communication, vocabulary etc are noteworthy. For me, who doesn’t know much about cars, it was interesting to learn about all the models that were built in a chronological order, how they were marketed etc. The challenges he faced on joining Chrysler were interesting to read. The Chrysler section was far more interesting and real than his narration of years at Ford. He is a dynamic leader, just a little too egoistic for my taste.

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The River God - Book Reivew


Author: Wilbur Smith

Category: Fiction

Rating: ★★★

The South African writer, Wilbur Smith has written over 20 books and the River God is the first of the Egyptian Series. Set in the time of ancient Egypt, this is a tale of an Egyptian queen narrated through the eyes of a eunuch-slave called Taita. Lostris is the daughter of a lord and Taita is his slave who has been looking after Lostris. She is in love with a soldier Tanus and the relationship predictably is disapproved by her father who gets her married to the Pharaoh. Lostris however continues her liaison with Tanus with help from Taita.  What happens to the characters and their relationships in the face of an attack on Egypt forms the rest of the story.

The plot is weaved well and the Egyptian life is highly enchanting. But it also has many flaws. It is written in first person narrative and the narrator Taita can drive you nuts at times by being Superman. He is the caretaker of Lostris, is a doctor, a spy, military advisor, architect, engineer, musician, writer – all rolled into one. Anything significant that happened in Egypt had been either invented or overseen by him. Don’t you wonder if a slave was given that much exposure at all during those times. Of all the people, it is unbelievable that the Pharaoh too would entrust the building of his tomb to him. Seriously, are there no intelligent people except him? The story assumes that Taita is the only clever person and the rest are all plain dumb. But for this fact and the dull parts in the end, the author has done a good job.

The River God does not provide an accurate description of major historical events and inventions in Egypt. The historians, I am sure would turn their noses up on this one for I myself found many parts of the book unbelievable being rather a history-illiterate. But it is pure fiction with Egyptian life and wars serving only as an interesting backdrop. If you are looking for historical accounts on Egypt, this is not the book for you. But Wilbur Smith is a terrific story teller and will keep you hooked for the most part (except the last 100 pages or so). For somebody who’s never read about Egypt, this is a great book that gets you interested in it.

Recommended.

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House Rules - Click to enlarge

One likes to see what’s on display in others’ houses. I had been to my friend’s place where she hung a cute poster about the rules of the house which goes “If you open it, close it…. “. Being in the process of turning into a clean freak, I loved that little thing!

Once back home, i started searching for the poem so I can hang one too. Sure enough, I found not one but quite a few versions of the poem. I added one of mine too! Here is my modified version of it with a couple of lines added to the original one. Print it and live by those rules!

It’s a 7″X10” poster.

Download Rules of the House Poster

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Biryani is undoubtedly a finger licking food. But making it at home is a laborious process if you want to do it DSC04814the right way. But the biryani served in restaurants taste so mmm mmm good, I’ve always wondered how they do it. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, it’s creamy, it’s sour all at the same time. Surely they don’t bake it, they do some kind of a stir fry and give it to you within ten minutes of your ordering. I’ve been trying to imitate their taste by experimenting with the ingredients and I think i’ve finally hit the jackpot! I made this yesterday and it came so very close to the ones you order in restaurants. The first thing i wanted to do was post the recipe on my blog so I don’t forget it ;). And yes, also share it with everybody.

This recipe makes 6-8 servings. I’ve only eyeballed the measuremens. Play around with the quantities to suit your taste.

Ingredients:

Vegetables of your choice – carrots, beans, potatoes, cauliflower, peas, lima beans (about 1 1/2 cups each) cut into large chunks

For the rice:

Rice – 2 cups

Water – 2 cups

Salt to taste

For the veggies:

Oil – 2 tbsp

Onion – 1 large

Tomatoes – 1 large

Jeera – 1 teaspoon

Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp

Cashews – a handful, cut into pieces

Green Chillies – 4 to 6

Whole Garam masala – 2 black cardamoms, 3-4 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon, 1 bay leaf

Butter – 4 tbsp

Coriander powder – 1.5 tbsp

Paprika powder – 1.5 teaspoon

Red chili powder – to taste

Garam masala powder – 2 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Jaggery – 1/4 small cube

Tamarind – 1 inch piece

Yogurt – 1 cup

Kasoori Methi (Dried Fenugreek) – 2 teaspoon

Raisins

1/4 cup Fried onions (store bought)

Though the ingredients look like a lot, most of it is easy to find in your kitchen.

Method:

For the rice:

1. The rice is best if it is cold. Use left over rice or prepare it a few hours before.

2. Wash rice thoroughly and add two cups of water (more or less depending on your cooker and type of rice. This is what works for me).

3. Cook in the pressure cooker upto three whistles or in the rice cooker until it is done.

4. If you are preparing rice especially for the biryani, you can spice it up by adding 2 green cardamoms, 1 inch cinnamon, 2-3 cloves, a handful of mint leaves and 1 teaspoon of jeera.

For the veggies:

1. Microwave the veggies until they are half done to reduce the cooking time.

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add jeera, onions, a bit of salt and fry until light brown.

3. Add tomatoes and fry for a minute more

4. Transfer this to a mixer. Add a tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, green chillies, a handful of cashews and a few mint leaves if you like.

5. Blend it into a fine paste and set aside.

6. Next, heat oil in the pan again. Add jeera, 1-2 black cardamoms, bay leaf, cinnamon and cloves.

7. Add turmeric and the veggies. Transfer the onion tomato cashew paste. The cashews are one of the secret ingredients which give the biryani a rich taste.

8. Add pepper, paprika powder, chili powder, coriander powder, salt and mix.

9. Soak the jaggery and tamarind in 3 tbsp of water, mash it well until all the taste is transferred to this water and then add it to the vegetable mixture. This is anothe secret ingredient which gives the biryani a sweet and sour taste.

10. Add 4 tbsp of butter (another secret ingredient) and let it cook until the vegetables are done. If you have cream, you can add in a tablespoon or two at this point.

11. Once done, turn off the flame, add a cup of yogurt and crush the dried fenugreek leaves with your hands and drop them in.

12. Add deep fried onions (available in stores). This is anothe secret ingredient and makes a huge difference to the biryani.

13. Add raisins for extra taste, mix with rice and serve hot with raita.

All this is done in about 45 minutes or so and it tastes delicious. It has all the tastes at the same time and plays tricks in your mouth. Hope you like it. Do let me know how it turned out for you and what additions you made. Enjoy!

You might want to note the recipe down on printable recipe cards for future reference.

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I had been wanting to do this at the start of the Spring Semester. They say, better late than never!

School is full of happening events. Professors give you new assignments, some of them get cancelled (because of snow, maybe?), a dance event comes up, a hot guy asks you for a date and you don’t know if that is going to be a busy week! It’s always useful to record everything in a central place instead of letting them free float in your mind.

Calendar Screenshot

Click to enlarge

This excel has the remaining weeks of the Spring Semester, each page devoted to a week. It is clean and simple, with no unnecessary bells and whistles. You can have the whole week at a glance. The week begins on Mondays, which would be more appropriate for students.

I’m happy to share it with you all. Click on the link above for a preview of the calendar. You can download it from the links below. The links open in mediafire, which is a free file hosting service and is absolutely safe to download from.

Spring Calendar 2010 (Office 2007)

Spring Calendar 2010 (Office 2003)

Stay organized with it and free up your mind for other important dreams!

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With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’m sure everybody must be making plans. What is always part of the plan is something good to eat.

If you’re thinking of heading out for good food, make sure your reservations are in place!

I cannot enjoy the food if the restaurants are crowded, so this time I have decided to cook at home from a few recipes online. I always jot down the recipes on my recipe cards which go into my cute recipe box. So, while I was searching for recipe card templates today, I decided to make some of my own instead and share them with everybody!

Here are 6 recipe card templates in 4″X6″ format. Click on the pictures below to download the cards. Print them out and stick ’em onto index cards for sturdiness.

Hope they help you make memorable meals!

Recipe Cards I

Recipe Cards II

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