Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks - With Pumpkin Muffins !


Wishing all readers a very Happy Thanksgiving !!


Festivals are a way of life in India..Seems like there is one every month, if not more frequently ! That was why it was so interesting to come to a different country and observe and understand the traditions and rituals observed here, in the United States ..
One of the big holidays is undoubtedly Thanksgiving...nearly all families have some or the other plans for this holiday...the Thanksgiving meal that people look forward to, getting together with family members, exchanging news and catching up....sentiments that are shared by millions of people around the world, irrespective of whether they celebrate Thanksgiving or not...
At the core of this celebration is another sentiment..acknowledging the good things in your life and being grateful for it...In a world where pressures and stresses are rampant, it is very easy to overlook what you already have..easy to focus on the negative aspects and completely forget the positive things..easy to ignore that one might be among the luckiest people on earth and indulge in self-pity...
Wanting to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, I decided to bake muffins, made with pumpkins, of course :).. As I measured and mixed and poured ...I thought about all the wonderful things in life that I am grateful for and decided that I should have a list ...a list which would remind me that I am indeed one of the luckiest people on this planet...a list which would pull me from the murky depths of self - pity if I ever chose to indulge in it ...a list which I could always add to and which I could glance at everyday and be thankful...
So here goes...I am thankful for:

* A healthy mind in a healthy body - for never having spent a day sick in bed...I think we take our health for granted sometimes...I cannot imagine the kind of difficulties that deter the physically and mentally challenged everyday...everyday activities that come as second nature to some ...
* For the opportunity to have received a good education..I can read and write and relate to events going on in the world ...am able to communicate with anybody that I choose.
* For a good marriage..a partner in life who accepts me, with all my quirks and irritating habits...who understands me and lets me be who I am...It is so dismaying to find that people are in abusive relationships at all levels..physical and emotional abuse..not restricted to people from the working class alone...that kind of mentality has no class discrimination..
* For amazing parents who wanted so much more for their children than they ever had..for their all-encompassing love and trust...for knowing that however old I become...I will still be their child..
* For loving relatives...with all their eccentricities and oddities...they are still family and will always provide me with roots wherever I am.
* For a healthy child...for getting the opportunity to be a mother...to be something that nature has intended for me...to experience the pain and pleasure of being totally responsible for another person....I cannot even imagine the agony suffered by parents whose children are sick or the disappointment endured by people trying to have children and cant..
* For a large number of friends who have become an extended family...who make me laugh and make use of my shoulder to cry upon and lend their shoulder when I need it..who rejoice in my happiness and empathize in my sorrow...
* For having met a lot of people who were kind and helpful to me at various stages in my life...they have motivated me and put me under an obligation to pass that along...
* For being able to live my life in my way..there are so many countries in this world...why go that far...there are so many villages in India still...where girls do not get the chance to get a decent education...let alone have a career outside the home..
* For having a roof over my head and for having more than 3 square meals a day..You just have to turn to the news channels to see the suffering that is the bane of some peoples' lives in almost every country in the world..With no access to shelters and limited or no access to food...no way of knowing when your children will sleep on a full stomach again...it has to be heart wrenching...
* For being able to live in a place where I can have and voice my opinions without being discriminated against...for not having to face brutality of any kind ...
* For all of life's lessons, bitter and sweet...for they have made me who I am..

No doubt, I am going to keep adding to this list ...but just looking at this list has cleared away all the clouds of doubt and has me anticipating the coming day with an eagerness..
Would you like to share what you are thankful for?

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We did not celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday as a ritual at our place, but I couldn't resist trying my hand at a recipe containing a very traditional Thanksgiving ingredient : Pumpkin..
I browsed several sites in search for a recipe that sounded delicious...and hit upon one here.
I tweaked the recipe a little ..I am not a vegan..I do not use eggs however and I find it very easy to adapt vegan recipes.

Pumpkin Muffins

Source: postpunkkitchen.com
Servings: 12 muffins





Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pureed pumpkin (fresh or from a can)
1 tablespoon
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with shortening or oil spray. I used the muffin liners available in the grocery stores...I sprayed the liners with a little cooking spray before inserting them into the tray...makes it a little bit easier to extract the muffins later :)
2. Sift together all the dry ingredients..the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and the spices.
3. Whisk the wet ingredients in another bowl.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
5. Combine until just mixed. Over mixing the batter will develop the gluten in the flour and will make the muffins tough, so be a little careful at this stage !
6. I also folded in some chopped walnuts.
7. Fill in the muffin cups, leaving a little space on the top.
8. At this stage, the muffins are ready to be baked for about 25 - 28 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
9. Not content with this, I tried another add-on, a crumb topping. I mixed two tbsp of flour with 1 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp brown sugar and 2 tbsp shredded coconut. I sprinkled this mixture over the muffins before baking them off for the required time !

Result:

The muffins turned out really moist and the spices improved the taste tremendously. The muffins just got better the next day , but unfortunately, the husband didn't take to them so much because he didn't like the taste of the pumpkins..but that only meant that little P and I had that many more muffins to share and enjoy !
If you have no objections to the taste of pumpkins, you ought to try these out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Elixir of Life !

**** Picture courtesy of Free Nature Pictures****

Almost everyone on this earth knows that drinking water is essential to us human beings and that it is recommended that we have a daily intake of about 8 cups of water...But how many of us actually do take in that much water everyday ?
I started pondering on this fact because one day I actually measured the amount of water that I was drinking throughout the day...I had always thought that I was a good water drinker .. ummm...good at drinking water i.e. (and sometimes at making up words ..hee hee ) but what it actually came down to was that I was always sipping ...I never ever went over 5 cups of water...and try as I might, drinking 8 cups didn't come naturally at all..
But I have decided to put a little effort into it and make sure that I get plenty of water in me...Why, you ask ?? Well...read on !
Here are some known and maybe some unknown facts about the elixir of life (yes...I am talking about water...though some opinions on what qualifies as the elixir of life may differ :D:D:D )

* Roughly 70 percent of an adult’s body is made up of water.
* Drinking too much water too quickly can lead to water intoxication. Water intoxication occurs when water dilutes the sodium level in the bloodstream and causes an imbalance of water in the brain.
* While the daily recommended amount of water is eight cups per day, not all of this water must be consumed in the liquid form. Nearly every food or drink item provides some water to the body.
* Somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water.
* By the time a person feels thirsty, his or her body has lost over 1 percent of its total water amount.
* All the water that ever will be is, right now ! ( and that is why we have to make sure that we respect this god given gift and make proper and careful use of it...you are thinking that I am going to have a big boring lecture on water preservation and conservation up my sleeve...you would be right....except ..thats for another post !! )

There must be about a hundred or more different reasons on why we should drink water..but here are a few that compel me to drink up !

# A person can live for about a month without food, but only about a week without water.
# Water helps to maintain healthy body weight by increasing metabolism and regulating appetite.
# Water leads to increased energy levels. The most common cause of daytime fatigue is actually mild dehydration.
# Drinking adequate amounts of water can decrease the risk of certain types of cancers, including colon cancer, bladder cancer, and breast cancer.
# For a majority of sufferers, drinking water can significantly reduce joint and/or back pain.
# Water leads to overall greater health by flushing out wastes and bacteria that can cause disease.
# Water can prevent and alleviate headaches.
# Water naturally moisturizes skin and ensures proper cellular formation underneath layers of skin to give it a healthy, glowing appearance.
# Water aids in the digestion process and prevents constipation.
# Water is the primary mode of transportation for all nutrients in the body and is essential for proper circulation.

One of the ways that I motivate myself to drink more water is to keep a nice clean glass of sparkling water, right where I can see it ...There is something about a full glass of cool, crisp water that has me reaching for it every time I pass it !
How do you keep yourself hydrated ?? I would definitely love to know !
Well, until then...bottoms up ! ( with a glass of water, i.e. :-))

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fantastic Fruits Series - Bountiful Banana

Bountiful Banana
I always marvel at Nature's repertoire of products...such a vast array of flora and fauna !People spend their entire lives cataloging known species and are always on the quest to find newer ones...For those of us who would still like to witness nature's handiwork without having to travel far and wide , we only have to look into our fruit bowls to get a glimpse of this miracle ! So many fruits...each with a different texture, a different colour, smell and of course a different taste ! Its a plethora of sensory stimuli !
The world is now getting smaller and smaller in more ways than one...All kinds of fruits,both the everyday kind and the exotic ones are available right at your grocery stores and usually at an affordable price too ! Wouldnt it be nice to know a bit about different kinds of fruits, the various uses of the fruits and different types of recipes to go with it ?
I have decided to do just that, experiment with all available fruits and jot it down on my blog, more for my own reference than anything else :)
I will not always go in the alphabetical order ( now where's the fun in that :D , also..since fruit availability doesnt necessarily follow any particular order, I might have to wait for a long time to proceed with my series if I decided to do that ;-)

So to inaugurate this series, I decided to look at the world's favourite fruit - the banana !


Here are some interesting facts about the banana :

  • The banana's origins are traced back to Malaysia. The fruit initially gained popularity in countries like India, China, Madagascar , the Caribbean among other countries, before finally making an appearance in America.
  • The banana plant is not a tree. It is in fact the world's largest herb.
  • A cluster of bananas is called a hand and consists of 10 to 20 bananas, which are known as fingers.
  • Bananas are harvested every single day of the year !
  • Bananas ripen best off the plant.
  • Each banana plant bears only one stem of fruit.
  • Banana plants have been in cultivation since the time of recorded history, thus encouraging horticulturists to believe that this was the first fruit on earth !
  • The word 'banan' is Arabic for finger.
Medicinal Uses :
  • Bananas are high in iron content and can help in treating anemia by increasing hemoglobin production.
  • Bananas are also high in potassium and less salt, thereby making them excellent snacking options for people with high blood pressure.
  • It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronic ulcer cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.
  • The inside of a banana skin can be rubbed over insect bites. It has been known to reduce redness of skin and swelling ! Who knew insect bite creams were available right under your nose ?
  • Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.
  • Last but not the least, bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin. This is a mood enhancer, it makes you relax, improves your mood and makes you happier ! Now who could ask for a better mid morning or afternoon snack ?
I decided to use this super fruit in a moist delicious muffin.
Found the recipe at this site , made a few changes and came up with a keeper !

Banana Crumb Muffin
Serves : 10 fairly big sized muffins


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • a handful of coarsely chopped walnuts
Method:
  • Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder,salt and half of the spice mixture (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
  • In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, yogurt and oil. (I just mashed the bananas with my fingers and then mixed everything else as well as I could with a wooden spoon).
  • Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  • In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and the remaining spice mixture. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
Verdict
The muffins were amazingly moist without being crumbly.
With a taste of bananas in every bite and the crunch provided by the walnuts, these were a hit at my house :)
If you like bananas, then these are definitely for you!