Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How not to raise Baby

At least, that's what came to mind when reading this compendium of latest i-Baby products for the avid geek. If you  have ever taken guilty pleasure in skimming the largely useless and pricey wonder products featured in the Skymall catalog, this article may come as an eye-opener to those among you who are expecting parents or already have little bundles of joy at home.
iPhone App for White Noise, to soothe the crying baby to sleep: Whatever happened to running the vacuum cleaner in the next room? (Bonus, some cleaning just got done)
Cry Translator, to tell you why your baby cries: I'll take 1 millions years of evolution of the mammalian brain over electronics and software that will make you rend your hair as you try to figure out why it insists that your baby is hungry when what she really has is a wet diaper.
Advanced Space-Agey bouncing chair: Nothing to beat the warmth of Mommy's lap. Call me when it has a heated pad. (Oops, I think I may have just given away another patentable idea there!)
Baby Monitors and sensors galore: Forget the separate room and just keep baby in the same room where you sleep. Then you  won't be paranoid wondering about missing the sound of baby breathing/burping/sneezing next to you.  Or inadvertently broadcasting the bedroom activities to any other baby monitors in adjacent apartments or houses.
Baby care timer thingy: How lovely, to feed a baby by the clock, change diapers by the clock, put the baby down for a nap by the clock. Babies don't have clocks, ergo we must get them accustomed to strict time schedules ASAP, the sooner for them to get ready for the rat race of Life in the Big Bad World.
Word to the wise: throw out the clock and watch the baby for cues for all of the above. You will have a much easier baby to deal with, without needing a dozen gizmos to pay attention to more than your precious little one.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving coming up, and a bunch of recipes to try.

(I had been quite determined not to make this blog a food blog, popular as that genre is. But having had nothing to post about for the last week, I thought, what better than to post my sambar recipe per Amit's request, and a couple of extras with the seasonal vegetables and fruits in the grocery aisle.)

Sambar recipe:


Extract of tamarind (large marble sized piece, soaked in warm water for 15-20 mins.)
1 large Onion  coarsely chopped
1 cup toor dal cooked.
any combination/single of the following vegetables : okra, carrots, beetroot, turnip, chowchow (chayote squash), drumstick (moringa), green pepper(capsicum).  (Note, carrots, chayote, beetroot (fresh), turnip are best cooked under pressure with the dal. Tomatoes may be used, with a slight reduction in the quantity of tamarind soaked.)
1 1/2-2 teaspoons of sambar powder
Salt to taste
2-3 cups of water.

1 tbsp oil (sesame oil tastes best, but other types may be used.)
pinch asafetida
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp urad dal

Curry leaves/Chopped cilantro leaves.

Heat oil in a deep pan. Wait till the oil is almost, but not quite smoking hot. Add mustard seeds, when they start to splutter, add urad dal and asafetida. When the dal turns golden brown, add the onion and stir till it starts to turn translucent. Add the vegetables with enough water to cover them. Cover pan and cook for 5 minutes or till vegetables are soft but not mushy. Add extract of tamarind mixed with sambar powder and boil. When the tamarind loses the raw smell, add the salt and cooked toor dal, simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot, garnished with either curry leaves or cilantro.

Spicy Cranberry Chutney:


12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1" piece fresh ginger
zest of 1 lemon
3-4 green chilies
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp urad dal
2 large red chilies


Pulse cranberries, sugar, ginger, salt, green chilies into a coarse mixture (do not puree or add water)
Heat oil in pan, add all other seasonings when oil is sufficiently heated. Add cranberry mixture, reduce heat to low-medium, cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in between. Remove from stove when lighter pink darkens uniformly to a burgundy color.

Baked yam fries:

2 large yams
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried rosemary.
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash, peel, slice yams into large chunky pieces ( 1/2" inch thickness.) Toss with the olive oil, add in seasonings, toss to coat thoroughly. Place in single layer on baking tray, bake for about 15 minutes. Remove and flip the pieces and bake for another 15 minutes to ensure even browning.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Deepavali Post

Happy Deepavali to you (if you celebrate it, that is.)
Pittsburgh is celebrating the weekend as Light-Up night, quite in keeping with the Festival of Lights that precedes it. Strictly speaking, if we were to go by the phase of the moon, Deepavali would be tomorrow night, which is the actual day of the New Moon here, but we just slavishly follow the Indian calendar, despite it being 10 hours ahead.
I've given up trying to make sense of that disconnect, and just scrambled, as did my friends, all busy moms,  to make a sweet (Gulab Jamuns, yum) and savory item (pakoras, pinched off into the hot oil, sizzlingly), along with a usual dinner.
We still have a holiday potluck or two coming up, belated parties when I shall slave over the stove. There are times when I wish that we desis weren't so cost-conscious and just got the whole event catered, instead of filling out lists with various items to be made in quantities to feed 20 people. But it wouldn't be a desi event then, I guess. The very desiness of the whole thing is predicated on the amount of time spent concocting the dishes, and sloshing them around in humongous trays as we drive around in circles trying to locate the party hall.
The weather is anticipated to be cold enough for snow tomorrow, but we'll get by with just a couple of flurries, nothing on the ground yet. The local temple has scheduled its Deepavali celebrations for tomorrow. It's going to be fun with the little ones all bundled up against the cold, happily waving the sparklers that are given out to mark the occasion. Puja, sparklers, dinner, dance/concert - the usual agenda for such evenings.

Happy Diwali (if you prefer that to the more sonorous Deepavali)!