Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Yoplait Chocolate Banana Smoothie Review and Giveaway

Update : This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations Springbird ! You should receive your prize pack soon !  

I find that Smoothies are a very convenient way to get your nutrients - combine all your main ingredients , give them a whiz ,  add in any toppings or flavorings and you have a portable, delicious and nutritious meal in a glass (or a cup or however you choose to drink it!) They are customizable, enjoyed by all age groups and pretty easy to make at home.

I love smoothies and I make them at home all the time...so when I was sent the Yoplait Chocolate Banana smoothie to try and review, I was curious..to say the least..
The prize pack that I received contained the following:
* A VIP coupon for a sample of Yoplait Chocolate Banana Smoothie
* A neck pillow
* A Smoothie tumbler
* Lavender eye mask

Each smoothie pack contains enough frozen fruit and yogurt to make 2 8oz servings...You still need a blender to make the smoothie. I used the smoothie pack along with a cup of 2 % milk to make 2 servings of smoothie which I then gave to my husband and 5 year old son to try...Since anything with chocolate is met with no resistance at my home, I gathered that the taste was good enough! I could see that the smoothie was pretty thick and chocolate-y.
The smoothies have live and active cultures and provide 50% of the daily recommended calcium values. They are available in your grocer's freezer in several different flavors.

That said, I couldnt really see the value of this product. Anybody with a blender at home can easily whip up any kind of smoothie themselves at a lesser price and with the added satisfaction of using fresh ingredients.
The smoothie packs might be useful to have as backups in the freezer for those occasions when you are out of yogurt or fruits and have a hankering for a smoothie.

One of you can win the exact same prize pack that I reviewed and try the smoothie yourself !  All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what flavor of Yoplait Smoothie you would like to see in the markets next. The giveaway will be open until December 13 11.59 pm CST . Please include your email ids so that I can inform you if you win !
You can also download a coupon for the Yoplait Smoothie here

If you are interested in learning more about the product, check out the following links:
Yoplait Frozen Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie Website
Yoplait Smoothie's Facebook page
Yoplait Smoothie's Twitter Handle

Disclosure: The Yoplait VIP Coupon, information and the giveaway have been provided by Yoplait through MyBlogSpark. The opinions, however are all mine!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Vegan Mango Muffins from Holy Cow

As the temperature in North Dallas starts its downward journey, I was tempted to pay one last tribute to summer. I had seen this recipe a few months back and had planned to make them. I followed the recipe exactly as in the original recipe at Holy Cow. So I won't repeat it again here.
You can find the original recipe at Vaishali's Holy Cow, where she has an amazing collection of vegan recipes!

The only changes I made were to bake these in a mini muffin pan. The batter was enough for 24 mini muffins and a mini loaf. I also added some cardamom powder along with some nutmeg because I think mango and cardamom make such an enticing combination! I also added some chopped almonds.I had only sweetened mango pulp, so I added a little less sugar than the recipe suggested. You can adjust the sweetener according to the type of mango pulp you use and according to your own preference, of course :-)

These were the perfect size to put in my son's snack box for school and also the right portion for an anytime snack for me. The mango flavor really does shine through with every bite.
Do try these...I am sure you will not be disappointed !

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Barley Vegetable Salad for World Vegan Day !

I am kind of in the middle of a pantry cleaning project. What I mean is, I haven't set myself any deadline to finish this project in, nor have I restricted myself from going to the grocery store, however, I am trying to use up the myriad things in my pantry that I have collected over my myriad trips to the grocery over the months - things that seemed new or interesting or just the ingredient for the awesome recipe that I read on the internet...you get the idea.
So, I had this packet of quick cooking barley on one of my shelves and I had lunch to make for myself - ingredients met need and my vegetable barley salad was born ! Its a pretty quick and forgiving recipe - while the barley is cooking, you could get all the other ingredients chopped and in 15 minutes you would find yourselves with a hearty dish that will satisfy your palate and your tummy !

1/2 C quick cooking barley
3/4 C chopped raw vegetables (cucumber, red / green / yellow bell pepper, carrots)
1/4 C frozen peas or corn (thawed)
1 tsp lemon or lime juice (fresh preferred)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro leaves  
Additional toppings :
2 saltine crackers
1 tsp chopped peanuts
1 tsp dried cranberries or raisins  

1.Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a wide pan. Add quick cooking barley and cook for about 5 -8 mins until al dente (Follow directions on packet or until you get the desired texture for barley) Make sure its not overcooked, because you do not want mushy barley in your salad ! )
2.In the meantime, chop all vegetables, thaw out any frozen veggies, if using. Drain the cooked barley and rinse in cold water.
3.Combine with the vegetables. Add lemon juice, salt, black pepper, cayenne powder if using and mix well . 4.Let rest for about 10 minutes for the flavours to combine. Do a taste test and adjust accordingly.
5.Sprinkle cilantro leaves and any other toppings and dig in !

You wont be hungry , I promise !

Notes: You can use pearl barley here, just adjust the cooking times.
Barley is a major cereal grain and is considered quite nutritious. It is a low glycemic index food and will not cause your blood sugar to spike. It is a great source of fiber and is naturally cholesterol free and lowfat.
It also contains several vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. However, it does contain gluten, so cannot be consumed by people with wheat allergies.
(Information from http://www.barleyfoods.org/nutrition.html )

Have you tried barley before ? Do share your favourite vegetarian barley recipes !

Happy World Vegan Day !

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kashi Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered Granola bars review

School started about a month back in our neck of the woods and this year was a little different for us,because my elder son, who turned 5 in July , started kindergarten. With all the excitement that that entailed,came the task of coming up with creative snacks that are appealing to a 5 year old as well as nutritious.
So when , I got the opportunity of sampling Kashi's Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered granola bars with my Mom's Group,I jumped at it and was really glad that we got selected. All the moms in my group have school going children between the ages of 4 - 6, so I knew that they all would welcome the opportunity too.

When the samples came in , my son was the most excited !! He wanted to take it to school in his snack box everyday and I didnt have to think twice about it either !
We got sent a huge bag of samples so there were plenty to share with the moms in my group.

A few things that I liked about these bars :
* Each granola bar has 7 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, which is good for a snack.
* The Kashi brand is known for the quality of the ingredients used in their products.
* The ingredient list is not too long and has mostly identifiable things in it !
* The bars are readily available in all major grocery stores.( These bars usually retail for $3.89)
* These bars are pretty portable, of course if left out in heat, the chocolate layer can melt slightly making for a messy snack, but nothing that a wipe wont take care of :-)

Obviously my son liked the chocolate covered granola bar, but when I gave it a taste test, it more than passed muster. The granola bar is slightly chewy, not overly sweet. The chocolate layer is pretty thick too,giving the whole bar a taste similar to a chocolate bar. It is pretty satisfying too.
Its a great snack to have in your bag while on the move or at home when the kids are hungry and the next meal is still some time away.

You can find more information and sometime even coupons on the www.kashi.com website.
Interested in becoming a Moms Meet Ambassador ? Check out GreenMomsMeet.com

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer.
As a Moms MeetSM blogger, I agreed 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 the product.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In the Blink of an eye

It was just a little over 5 years ago that my husband and I went from being a couple to a family. Little P1 came into this world and changed our lives forever. The initial few months flew past in a blur of first time parental anxiety and sleeplessness.Once we became a little confident about being able to handle a little child, we began enjoying parenting in earnest, reveling in each smile, every step and every new antic :)
The days just flew by so fast, weeks turned to months and months turned to years. Little P1 became a strapping,active toddler and soon started attending a Montessori school. I went through a difficult time making the decision to send him to school while I myself went back to work. I even shed some tears at this separation, but I was amazed at the eagerness and excitement that P1 took to school, just like a duck takes to water...he didn't shed a single tear and happily went with his teachers.
He thrived in school, absorbing everything that was taught. He made a lot of friends, playing, fighting and then making up.
Days flew by again. We celebrated birthdays, attended functions with our friends, celebrated festivals, even mourned the passing away of close family and also added another little member to the family.
Even though all these events and activities signaled a passage of time, I hadn't really given it more than a passing thought.
But this year, my little first born turned 5 (sigh). He started public school this year.We took a tour of his new elementary school, met his teachers, bought him new clothes and backpacks and lunch bags.
Today is his first day of school and I am feeling a tug at my heartstrings again. P1 has entered a whole new world and I am sure that he will be introduced to a lot of different things.
He will learn to be more independent and will want to make more decisions for himself.
He will learn to make new friends and get along with everybody.
He will have fun with his playmates and might get into trouble too.
He will learn new ideas in school and my husband and I will have to learn along with him just to keep up!
In the blink of an eye my son has gone from being a helpless infant to a strong willed independent kindergartner.Although I am nostalgic for the days when I pushed him around in a stroller and watched him go to sleep in the crook of my neck, I am just as eager to make new memories with him. In these past few years, I have made some discoveries too.
I have learnt that it is more advantageous to live in the present as much as possible.
I have learnt that small issues are not worth sweating over. They will pass.
I have learnt that simple activities with my children will be cherished.
I have realized that my children look to me for assurance and inspiration and I cannot fail them.
I have read that I am responsible to my children and not for them.
I have understood that life passes you by in the blink of an eye and I need to make sure that I am not caught unawares.

Here's to all of you out there, especially parents. Here's hoping that you have fun and joy and excitement and love in the present,
because you never know where you might find yourself in the next blink !

Monday, July 25, 2011

Seventh Generation Diapers - A review and a giveaway

                                          This giveaway is now closed
When my first son was born, I was new to the US and even newer to parenting and parenting styles and options.I just went ahead with the diapers and wipes and other baby products that were available in the stores, happy with the convenience of all these products and blissfully unaware of the materials and methods used to manufacture the products. All I cared about was that my baby had no problems, he thrived and that kept me happy!
The second time around, having read a lot of blogs and news articles, I knew that I had a lot more options regarding the diapering needs of my baby and that I didn't necessarily need to depend on many of the advertised products in order to effectively care for my little one.I decided to include cloth diapers and cloth wipes in my diapering arsenal and then slowly increase the number of cloth diapers that I use throughout the day. I would still use disposable diapers when out of the house and at night times.So far its working well for me. That meant that I would have a little more leeway in terms of the kind of disposable diapers that I could keep on hand. Thankfully my little one isn't showing any kind of sensitivity towards any of the diapers that I tried (Huggies, Pampers,Luvs and even the Walgreen brand)

So when MyBlogSpark offered me a pack of Seventh Generation Chlorine free diapers to try, I was thrilled.I had seen Seventh Generation products at several stores where I shopped, but had never tried them before.
When I first opened the pack, I was really surprised at how unassuming these diapers looked.There were no fancy designs on them and no fragrance added.
When I used the diapers, they felt no different than the other diapers that I used and worked beautifully.My baby had no rashes and other than a little redness around the waist when I left the diaper on too long, the diaper did what it was supposed to do ! It held in all the messes and kept the baby's skin quite dry.
Added to that are the following facts about these Free and Clear diapers:
* These diapers do not include any chlorine processing, fragrances, latex or petroleum based lotions   
* They have a lighter weight core
* They have chlorine free wood pulp.
* Seventh Generation has also reduced the overall size of their diaper' plastic packages
All this ensures that no chlorine is released into the atmosphere and they contribute less to the overall landfill.

The only drawback that I see is the price. These diapers are slightly expensive as compared to the leading diaper brands on the market.But if you take advantage of sites like Amazon and the Amazon Mom program, you can get these diapers for quite a bargain.I think I am going to keep a few packs handy by doing just that so that I can use them along with my stash of cloth diapers to keep my baby free and clear of chemicals! 

If you have babies with sensitive skin (or even otherwise!), then these diapers are worth taking a look at.MyBlogSpark, along with Seventh Generation is making it easier for one of my readers to do just that by offering a full sized pack of free diapers!
All you have to do is leave a comment on the post sharing your opinion about eco-conscious baby products.Also please let me know what size diapers you would like.Please include your email address and note that the giveaway will run until July 31st 2011.
Have you tried the Seventh Generation Free and Clear diapers? What did you think about them ?

You can also download a 2$ off any one Seventh Generation Baby Product coupon by visiting this site.

You can also visit the following sites for more information about diaper whitening and the role of pigments.

The free product, information and the giveaway were sponsored by Seventh Generation through MyBlogSpark.The opinions, however are completely mine :)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Allergic Colds - Symptoms and Treatment (Guest Post)

For as long as I remember, my father suffered from seasonal allergies. These led to heavy colds and occasionally breathing problems. He is currently visiting us here in Dallas and told me that for the past few months he has been able to greatly alleviate the symptoms when he has allergies and is able to prevent a full blown attack ! I asked him to share his observations and tips on this blog so that readers with similar problems might also find these useful !

This is one of the common illness that is found nowadays, may be because of rise in pollution levels in urban areas.I was the victim of this illness for a very long time.But as a result of long observations and self medications I have been able to almost get rid of this repetitive illness that haunted me for a very long period.However the suggestions which I am giving here should be taken as only "suggestions" and not as prescriptions by a medical practitioner.
Symptoms:Continuous sneezing,runny nose and itching in the throat are the three major symptoms to start with.The patient may feel bit feverish and may have body ache too after sometime.The mucous may become thick and may become hard to expel.This may result in breathlessness,breathing problems in early mornings and later sleepless nights.
Treatment:Continuous sneezing and running nose may immediately be stopped by taking a tablet of " techzine" or "citzine". (These are medicines available in India. Medicines targeted to reduce allergic symptoms such as Claritin or Zyrtec may be taken here. In any case, please consult a physician before taking any medication )
Once the sneezing stops one can reduce the dose to half a tablet for a couple of days.As the tablet gives much needed sleep, it is advisable not to drive any vehicle after taking the tablet.To take out thick phlegm,one has to inhale steam 3-4 times a day.Due to inhalation of steam,thick mucous gets thinner and it will be easy to discharge through nose or mouth.The patient should drink hot water which will help in discharging the thick mucous.When I say hot I mean hot.You can drink as hot fluid as you can without getting your lips burnt of course.
Cause:The illness is mostly caused by minute dust that is found while cleaning old books, papers or clothes etc.Or by pollens or by cold and humid atmosphere.
Precautions:He/she should following precautions to avoid allergic cold.
 1. Avoid taking cold stuff directly from refrigerator, consume only hot food and fluids.
 2. Don't get exposed to cold atmosphere.Take care to cover your head and ears if you are going out in cold weather.
 3.Avoid food to which your body is allergic.You have to find out which vegetable is not suitable to your body by constant observations.The list may vary from person to person.For example in my case,brinjal (eggplant/ aubergine),raw mango,sour grapes and mango fruits,very cold and sour butter milk can cause me cold.
 4.Avoid taking curds at nights especially when suffering from cold.
 5.Make it a point to start the day with a full glass of hot water.
 If one follows these steps,I am sure he/she may get rid of this problem once for all.Any suggestions and comments in this regard for improvements will be highly appreciated.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Yoplait Kids Yogurt Giveaway

                                                    This Giveaway is now closed.
Being vegetarians, my family and I rely on dairy products to provide us some of the daily required protein. The fact that dairy also provides us with a substantial amount of calcium is a bonus. My 5 year old son loves yogurt and has it at every meal.So I make it a point to always keep yogurt at home, preferably home-made. If I do not have home-made yogurt, then I get some from the store.
We prefer to eat plain, unsweetened yogurt. This cuts down on the extra sugar and additives that we would consume by eating flavored , sweetened yogurt. That said, I do not mind buying yogurt that has been naturally sweetened, for my son.

Yogurt is a great snack for kids and adults alike, suitable for any time and if properly packed, for any place!
* Every 6 oz serving of yogurt has 350 mgs of calcium, which is essential for strong teeth and bones.
* Yogurt contains live cultures, which are nothing but bacteria that are beneficial for your intestines.These also help in regulating the digestive system and strengthening the immune system.
* Yogurt is loaded with potassium, iodine, phosphorus, zinc, Vit. V5 and Vit. B12
* Yogurt also contains a significant amount of protein in each serving, which increases the absorption of water in the intestines.

So, When I got the opportunity to review yogurt by Yoplait Kids, I readily accepted.
Yoplait Kids is an excellent source of calcium and Vit. D and also contains 25% less sugar than the other leading kids' yogurt brands. It contains no high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners.
We received a prize pack containing a coupon for a free pack of Yoplait Kids and several gifts for kids including a ball, a set of 4 cute multicolored ice cream spoons, silly bands, a magnetic calendar and an insulated bag to carry yogurt !! 
Unfortunately, I found out that the yogurt contained gelatin. Since we try and avoid products with gelatin as much as possible, we were not able to actually try the yogurt.
However, I shared the coupon with a friend and I am sure her kids enjoyed the yogurt !
My son, however, was delighted with the remaining items in the prize pack!
So I would like to offer the same prize pack to one of my readers.
Do you face opposition from your kids when it comes to healthy snacks ? Would you try adding yogurt as a snack option ?
Leave a comment here until April 10th, 11.59 pm and I will choose a random winner !

The winner , as determined by the random number generator is commenter number 3, Springbird.
Congratulations !!

Disclaimer : The information, prize pack and the gift pack were all provided to me by Yoplait through MyBlogSpark for the purposes of a review.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Holiday Baking and a giveaway

                                                              This giveaway is now closed !!!

Every culture , every region in the world must surely have its own way to celebrate festivals, special occasions like anniversaries , birthdays. But whatever the reason or the season, no celebration would be complete without food and no feast would be complete without sweets.I have had my share of rich desserts, as a result of growing up in India, where sweets or desserts almost always contained dairy products such as milk, cream and ghee and had a myriad of nuts swirled in.

After coming to the States, I was introduced to baked goodies and a new world of possibilities opened up.The ingredients might have been different to the ones I was used to, but the scrumptious-ness prevailed.Food blogs and food shows on the television had cooks whipping up creamy cakes, marvelous muffins, pretty pies and cookies of all different kinds.
This past holiday season, I had intended to indulge in a few baking sessions myself.
Although I couldnt try out a whole lot of recipes, I did bake a few cakes and cookies that my family devoured.
When I got the opportunity to participate in a Betty Crocker and Gladware giveaway, I readily agreed.I received a prize pack containing a Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix, a Gladware sample pack and a $25 Safeway gift card,which I could redeem at the local Tom Thumb store.

The sugar cookie is a very versatile recipe. It could either be baked into simple sugar cookies, in shapes of your choice or you could look up the various other cookies that could be created with this pouch.
There are lots of recipes available on the web, but you could also take a look at the following links.

The GladWare range of products is designed to be used to store and transport food products and is readily available in most of the stores.

I would like to offer a similar prize pack for one of my readers.
All you need to do to enter is leave me a comment and tell me which Betty Crocker mix and GladWare product you have tried or want to try. Please be sure to include an email address in your comment so that I can contact the winner.
Please note that this giveaway is only open to people residing in the United States.
The giveaway ends at 11.59 pm on Jan 25th 2011.

Happy Baking !

Congratulations to Commenter No. 2 - mami2jcn
The winner has been contacted by email and has 24 hours to respond to it, else I will pick another winner.

The prize pack, information and the additional giveaway prizepack were all provided to me by Safeway, Gladware and Betty Crocker through MyBlogSpark. The opinions are entirely mine !

Red Chori Curry

I have always wondered why it's assumed that people following a vegetarian/vegan diet must find it difficult to fulfill their protein requirements. One look at the lentil / bean section of any Indian grocery store would have you gaping at the sheer variety of products available. There are several kinds of whole beans, lentils, legumes , nuts to create a variety of dishes that will not only satisfy your palette but also provide excellent nutrition.
Any of the beans can be paired with a myriad of vegetables to create soups, stews, curries, salads and even rice dishes, so that you wouldn't need to repeat any dish for quite some time.
On a recent visit to my local Indian grocery, I picked up a packet of chori beans.
I am always interested in trying out new ingredients and new recipes (much to my husband's woe) and the little red beans seemed very promising.

One search on the internet and a whole slew of recipes showed up. These dark red beans are also known as Adzuki or Aduki beans and are widely used in Japan. They are very rich in soluble fiber and are also a good source of minerals and high quality protein.The beans have a subtle , sweet taste which is why adzuki bean paste is used in desserts in East Asian cuisine. These beans sprouts very easily and can be used like moong sprouts in salads and curries.

In making the red chori curry, I sprouted beans for a couple of days and then cooked them in a pressure cooker before using them in the curry.

As with all beans, it is best to soak the beans in plenty of water. Soaking decreases the cooking time and makes the beans more digestible.

Recipe : Red Chori / Adzuki Bean curry


3/4 C dried adzuki beans - soaked and sprouted.
1 medium onion - finely chopped
2 tomatoes - chopped
2 green chilis
2 pods garlic - finely chopped
1/2 inch ginger root - finely chopped
2 tsp oil of choice
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder / paprika
2 tsp half and half or coconut milk (optional)
salt and black pepper to taste
chopped cilantro leaves for garnishing

1. Cook the bean sprouts either on the stove with plenty of water or in a pressure cooker. Set aside.Note that if you do not have the time to sprout the beans, you can also use them as is.
2. In a wide bottomed pan of choice, heat the oil and add fennel, cumin and mustard seeds.When the mustard seeds start spluttering, add the ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant.
3. Add the slit green chilies and onions and saute until onions are translucent. Add all the spice powders,except the garam masala and let cook for a minute or so.
4. Then add the chopped tomatoes, salt and black pepper and cook until the tomatoes break down and get cooked.
5. Add the beans and a 1/2 cup of water , mix well , cover and let simmer on a low flame until all the flavors come together.
6. Mash a few beans with the back of the ladle to thicken the curry, if required.
7. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
8. I added a little bit of coconut milk to get a creamy texture for the curry, but only because I had a can open that I needed to finish off. You could use cream / half and half or even a bit of evaporated milk instead. You could also omit it entirely.
9. Take the pan off the flame, stir in the garam masala powder and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Serve hot with Indian flat bread or steaming rice for a flavorful, nutritious meal !