Monday, February 22, 2016

Embracing the gardening bug!

For the past couple of years, I have noticed a recurring theme in my behavior when the beginning of the year comes around. I seem to get bitten badly, by the gardening bug..I mean! I dream of seeds, regular and exotic. I surf gardening blogs like they are going to become extinct. I make notes (in my head, of course) of all the different types of vegetables that can be easily grown in the home garden. It doesn't help that there are gardeners out there, with exceptional blogs, who showcase such beautiful harvests that are definitely drool-worthy. I await warmer temperatures with a fervor that only a fellow gardening enthusiast can understand!!!
By no means do I consider myself an expert, an amateur at the most, with some small success in growing certain vegetables. I don't have self sufficiency in home grown vegetables, meaning I definitely have to spend my money at the grocery store. But that does not mean that I cant dream about it :D

Things that are currently growing at home:

My curry leaf plant that has been babied and cosseted and pampered and is rewarding me by growing steadily :) I am going to prune the tops off in the spring to encourage more branching. 


The lemon grass experiment: I bought some healthy looking firm stalks from the Indian grocery store and rooted them in water. Then, I stuck them in the ground and watered them when they looked dry and pretty much ignored them after that. When winter was about to set in last year, I harvested the outer most thick stalks and gave them away to friends. Surprisingly, they survived the winter and seem to be holding steady!

My lemongrass bush has also survived the winter here and was recently given a haircut. I still need to trim it a little bit more and make it look neater. I love the lemony clean scent of its leaves. What I don't like is the Resident Rabbit who seems to think hiding behind my bush makes him invisible {grrr}

My chili seeds (Baker Creek Thai Green) and tomato seeds (Roma tomatoes from Home Depot) have already germinated. The reason I am starting the tomatoes so soon is because peak summer brings really soaring temperatures here in the North Dallas area and the poor tomato plants cannot bear any fruits then. So they need to get a flying start even before they are transplanted into the ground.


Some for me and some to be shared with friends.

Gardening is hard work. What (and how you sow), so shall you reap! (This was most probably coined by a gardener and then was used as an allegory to life!). Planning, organization, preparing the beds, sowing seeds, removing weeds, watering consistently, fertilizing if required, checking and dealing with pests - these are all required tasks to do in the garden and in order to harvest anything worthwhile, one must certainly be prepared to put in time, effort and last but not the least, patience!!!
But having said that, I can also say that gardening - in all its wonderful forms is almost cathartic. Working systematically and methodically in the garden, paying attention to the soil running in between your hands, inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of wet soil, tending to the seedlings and plants and the utter joy in getting the (literal) fruits of your efforts is enthralling. The best stress buster that I can think of, that also lets you get a healthy dose of air and sunshine.

Coming back to my little patch, I didn't plan for any spring harvests, but a few green onions that I had planted last fall have overwintered and to my utter surprise have also divided into more plants!
Considering that they started as root ends of store bought green onions that I stuck in the ground, that looks like a great return on investment for basically sticking them in and then forgetting all about them!
I have used up the tops of these spring onions several times as garnishes on my potatoes. I will pull them up as and when I need them so that I can make space for fresh ones soon.

Another experiment: I selected about 12 - 14 firm cloves of garlic and planted them out in a corner of my vegetable bed in the fall. They seem to be growing well. I mulched them with some shredded leaves and watered them occasionally. I havent fertilized them.

There is a serious dearth of flowers in my garden now and I want to rectify that. To that end, I have started some asters and zinnias also. Hopefully I can grow some nice flowers this year.

I still have some prepare my beds before I can start sowing directly in the ground. But I am really looking forward to the growing season. For inspiration and visual treats, do check out
Every Monday, gardeners from all over showcase their vegetable beds and harvests and their low of gardening and self sufficiency is truly amazing.

I hope to be more regular with my posts here, so wish me luck.
Until then - May the grass always be greener on your side of the fence :)

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Anjeer Halwa / Fig pudding

Festivals have a way of energizing people, infusing them with the sense of exuberance, joy and excitement. I suspect this is true worldwide. I experienced this myself when I was growing up in India. The anticipation of an upcoming festival would drive my mom and all the neighboring ladies into a cleaning and cooking spree. Preparations would start days before the actual day of the festival and everybody in the vicinity (read my dad, my brother and I) would be roped in to help! Since we were always ready to gobble the delicacies, we would always help.
One of the major festivals celebrated in India is Ganesh Chaturthi. This is a festival that was instituted as a publicly celebrated festival in the city of Pune since the time of Shivaji Maharaj and the Peshwas. Although the fall of the Peshwa regime saw the decline of the celebrations on a public scale, it was revived again by Indian freedom fighter, Lokamanya Tilak and continues to this day.
But, I digress. The impending arrival of the elephant headed God sprinkled magic over homes grand and humble. Schools had holidays, office goers got a day off and entire families and communities could celebrate this festival in togetherness and harmony if they so wished!
I miss that excitement and fervor in the States. People obviously celebrate, mingle and whip up delicacies at home. But schedules dont match, working moms have a tough time trying to adhere to customs and their other responsibilities. But all was not lost this year, despite having to work on the day of the festival and having to attend a meeting at my son's school. Although I couldnt make the usual sweets and treats that I try to make every year, I couldnt let the festival pass without even a token offering to the God of knowledge and wisdom.
I made panchakajjaya, which is very easy to prepare and which I usually make.
I also tried a new sweet this year, since it seemed as if I had all the required ingredients. I had seen a recipe for Anjeer Halwa (Fig pudding) in a Tarla Dalal newsletter and that was what was offered.


15 - 18 dried figs
3 Tbsp ghee
1/4 C almonds - blanched, peeled and crushed into a coarse powder
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp milk powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

1. Boil enough water and soak the dried figs in the water for at least 2 hours or until softened.
2. Once softened and cooled, drain the figs and pulse in a food processor with a little of the soaking water.
3. Reserve a teaspoon of the ghee and heat the remaining in a thick bottomed pan.
4. Add the powdered almonds and cook on medium flame. I only had raw almonds and thats what I used.
5. Add the pureed figs, milk powder and sugar along with a quarter cup of water.
6. Cook on a medium flame for at least 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
7. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Take off the flame when the mixture thickens slightly.
8. Garnish with slivered almonds or cashews roasted in ghee and serve hot or cooled.

While I really liked the complex flavors of the figs, my family members were not as enthusiastic! They accepted the token teaspoon of 'prasad', but didnt ask for it again. The kids felt it was too crunchy (from the fig seeds). Oh, well! Hopefully at least the Lord was appeased!
* Figs are a good source of dietary fiber and minerals such as iron, potassium and magnesium. So its definitely worth having in the kitchen for a healthy diet.
** I apologize for the not quite good quality of the picture, it was late, the family was looking forward to dinner and I didnt have a lot of leeway to stage a photo!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Organic India Tulsi Tea - review

The one plant that is most commonly found in Hindu households is the Tulsi or the holy basil. In traditional homes, where there is ample space around the house, this humble plant is usually found right in front of the doors. The tulsi has such cultural and religious importance that even apartment dwellers and people residing outside India usually have the bush growing lushly in containers. The reason is simple - the Tulsi plant has been revered since ancient times for its medicinal uses. The western world has recently opened its eyes to the wide array of beneficial uses of Tulsi, but the ancient medicinal system of Ayurveda has always indicated the usage of Tulsi for managing respiratory disorders, enhancing immunity and even for reducing stress.

The research into this wonderful herb has indicated that it is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it has been shown to support the body's natural immune system while relieving the body's negative reaction to extreme stress. Such herbs have been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines for thousands of years for promoting and maintaining wellness. Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to environmental, physical and emotional stress, support normal functions and restore balance.

When Green Moms Meet gave me the opportunity to try Organic India's Tulsi Tea, I literally jumped at the chance. I have a much loved Tulsi bush at home. I regularly pinch off the leaves to make a herbal concoction for my family when the sniffles hit. But I had never really tried herbal teas combining Tulsi leaves with other ingredients and was really curious about it. Organic India has an enormous collection of herbal tea blends and they all contain a variety of Tulsi leaves.
The first tea that I tried was the Original formula, which contained just the blend of the Tulsi leaves. I like to sip on this when I am working. Its smooth and mellow flavor warms me up as I sit at the computer. The next one that I tried was the Sweet Rose blend. I was intrigued by this combination, not sure how the floral notes of the gorgeous rose would complement the earthy tones of the Tulsi. But I definitely need not have worried. The tea was delightful! The sweet floral fragrance was enough to sweeten this herbal tea. No need to add sugar!
I have yet to try the remaining flavors - Raspberry peach, Tulsi Green tea , Pomegranate Green tea - I am looking forward to try them all!
Here are a few other facts about this product:
* Each of the Tulsi tea blends is abundant in antioxidants, it is certified organic, tastes great and offers stress relief, increased energy and a boost to your natural immune system.
* All the organic Tulsi teas include the three varieties of Tulsi leaves: Rama, Vana and Krishna. Each variety has a slightly different look, taste and smell.
* Organic India Tulsi tea is USDA Certified organic, non GMO, Kosher and Halal certified, gluten free and vegan.
* Each box (containing 18 tea bags) retails for $5.99

Each box also has a picture of the farmers involved with the Organic India group (I found this very heartening)
If you want to try these teas for yourself, you can save 20% on Organic India products by using the code kiwi20 online. This is for a one time use only.

Here are a few more links for your perusal:

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

Friday, July 24, 2015

NoGii protein bars - a review

Snacks are a big deal in my house. My kids have a snack mid morning and then one in the evening, when hunger strikes in between lunch and dinner. But finding a healthy, filling and minimally processed snack has always been a challenge. Either the product has too much sugar or is not filling enough or doesn't entice my kids' taste buds. When I got the opportunity to review the NoGii product line, courtesy GreenMomsMeet, I was really curious. I hadn't heard of the products before. The 'G' stands for gluten, so NoGii would mean that the products were gluten free. Although my family does not need to be gluten free, we do relish traditional Indian food that is quite often gluten free.
Back to the product, the shipment from NoGii left me quite speechless. They sent the entire product line, which meant that we got to sample all the different flavors of protein bars that were manufactured under the NoGii line!


Here are a few facts about the protein bars:
* These bars were created by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, gluten free mom, Emmy Award winning talk show host and Best Selling Author of " The G-Free Diet" and "Deliciously G-Free".
* It is a line of certified gluten free protein bars, protein powders and paleo bars.
* NoGii's High protein Peanut Butter and Chocolate bar is a certified gluten free and Non-GMO protein bar with 20g of high quality protein. Its also delicious!
* They are made with sustainably sourced premium ingredients and have an ideal balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates. They do not contain HFCS, hydrogenated oils or transfat.
* They are extremely portable, can be enjoyed by the entire family at any time.
* NoGii's High Protein Peanut Butter and Chocolate bar retails for $2.50 to $2.99 for one 1.93 oz bar

Our Experience:
My family, including my two school aged kids enjoyed these bars, mainly for snacks, to tide them over until the next meal. With high protein content, they provided enough satiety. These bars were also vegan, which made it easier for our vegetarian household to enjoy them. I could easily pop a few in my handbag or in the car for easy on-the-go snacks.
They made excellent school snacks as well.

The only concern I had was the soy protein used in the bars. These bars are predominantly soy based and I am not yet sure about frequent consumption of soy products. But, with some moderation, these are a really nice option, especially for people who have to follow a gluten free diet for health reasons.

Readers, you can have a the chance to win a trip to New York, where you will meet and have lunch with Elisabeth Hasselbeck.To enter, visit, look for the link for the contest and the complete the entry form. Hurry, Contest ends on July 31st 2015!

Please visit the following links for more information:

Disclaimer - I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I have agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily refelct those of May Media Group LLCor the manufacturer of the product.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Xlear Care Kit (Oral Health Products) - A Review

Gone are the days when everything (or even almost everything) used in a family would be home made. In this day and age, anything and everything is available in the supermarkets for a price. That includes food, toiletries, clothes and of course dental hygiene products. There is no question that one is spoilt for choice when it comes to oral hygiene products. There are rows upon rows of toothpastes, tooth gels, even tooth powders and mouth washes available for the health conscious consumer.

But just like we are getting better about reading product labels on food items, we also need to be aware of the ingredients in our toothpastes. Most popular brands today contain harmful ingredients like triclosan, sodium lauryl sulphate, hydrated silica and a plethora of artificial dyes and flavoring agents. Most of these are totally unnecessary and some are extremely harmful for the human body.

 When I got the opportunity to try out the Xlear Care Kit, courtesy Green Moms Meet, I was intrigued. Getting to know about healthier alternatives for everyday products is always exciting! The kit contained the following:
Xlear Nasal Spray - This is a soothing nasal spray that helps with congestion caused by allergies, cold, flu and sinusitis. It incorporates xylitol, a natural product that has been shown to decrease bacterial adherence in the nose. The spray hydrates the nasal passages and the sinuses and also helps to wash away contaminants and pollutants. Daily usage of the spray is non-addictive and will not cause any damage to the tissue.
One 1.5 oz container retails for $14.99 and will last 2 -3 months with daily use.
Spry toothpaste Non fluoride - This toothpaste consists of 1/3 xylitol, which increases mineral absorption into the enamel of the teeth. This results in greater protection. The toothpaste retails for $5.99 each.
Spry Oral Rinse - This oral rinse uses a xylitol rich, low-alcohol and pH neutral formula. It uses a mix of natural flavorings and herbal extracts such as chamomile, aloe vera  and echinacea to help soothe irritated mouth tissues. It retails for $6.99 each.
Spry Gum - This gum also contains xylitol and is available in 4 natural flavors - Cinnamon, Spearmint, Peppermint and Wintergreen. 12 pieces of the gum retail for $2.99.
Spry Gems - Xlear Spry gems are naturally sweetened with 100% xylitol and combine its benefits with calcium to create a pH balanced formula for overall oral health. They are available in a variety of flavors including Berry, Lemon Cream and Cinnamon.  40 count Spry Gems retail for $2.19.

If you notice, each of the products contains xylitol, which is a naturally occurring alcohol, found in plant tissues. It is sweet tasting and is increasingly being used as a sugar alternative.The addition of xylitol to nasal sprays and neti pots has been shown to be more effective in preventing ear infections, sinus infections, asthma, etc. Xylitol helps the body's natural cleansing process to clear away allergens, asthma triggers and other harmful bacteria. research has suggested that xylitol may help reduce dental decay.

All that aside, my family has been using these products for the past few weeks and we find them very easy to use as compared to conventional dental products. The toothpaste and the oral rinse are not harsh because the alcohol content is very low and the gems are naturally refreshing. We have not had a chance to use the nasal spray, but its reassuring to know that should the need arise, I have a product that is not only effective but is also safe to use.
Both my children, who are 9 and 4 years old have been enthusiastic about using these products, because of the refreshing flavors and low alcohol content.

Special Offer - If you would like to try the kit with your family, the Xlear Care kit, valued at $65 is available for only $25 with the code SAVE50. Visit to order!

If you would like to learn more about the products in order to do your own research, please visit the following sites:

Disclaimer : I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.