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Treat yourself with Sugar Scrubs this season !

Looking out of my window this morning, the scene that greeted me was a dull, foggy and cold landscape, I pulled the curtains shut quickly…no inspiration there! It was easy to  get  swayed into that mood of doom and gloom rubbed off into you in an instant…………… SAD/ Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, people ! Coming from a sunny bright country, I never knew about it or heard of it before, until I landed in this country, in the middle of winter, slowly over the years enlightenment dawned on me that this weather is for real,  so what do I do now,  I choose a better feeling thought and brighter colors to shake that “wintery”mood away  and brighten my days!

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Some call it color therapy, some call it aroma therapy, it sure works ! Thus  arose my inspiration to try my hand at Homemade Sugar Scrubs, which had both color and smell and an added “FEEL” to it ….so off I went with a few ingredients I had handy in my pantry, to try my first venture into the land of Sugar Scrubs.I have heard rave reviews about the benefits of using them from friends and colleagues alike in the winter months, I was willing to give it a try this year .Just like candle making, this  sugar scrub making piqued my interest, wondering how it will turn out, what it would feel like on the skin ?

The benefits of Sugar Scrubs are far too many, said a friend of mine, unlike the salt scrubs, they do not dry up the skin, sugar is a natural humectant drawing moisture into the skin from the environment, to keep it supple and soft during winter, hence even widely used as lip balms too, to prevent chapping. Sugars are not healthy when ingested, but boy !do they do wonders on the skin, she cooed, this really got me thinking….it never hurts to try, after all you know all the ingredients that go into it.

Little did I know that those expensive scrubs , you see in departmental stores or smell when you walk across the store in the mall, cost you pennies to make at home & the benefits still remain the same.They are incredibly moisturizing and exfoliating to the skin.Try them this winter and feel the difference!

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For the Vanilla- Cinnamon Sugar Scrub :

Sugar (Fine White) – 1 cup

Coconut Oil – 1/4 cup

Honey – 1/4 cup

Vanilla extract – 1tsp

Ground Cinnamon powder – a pinch

First mix the Sugar, Coconut Oil and Honey together till they are evenly mixed, then add the Vanilla extract and Ground Cinnamon powder.The end product smells like delicious Vanilla ice-cream, so smooth and yummilicious enough to eat.

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For the Lemon-Honey Sugar Scrub :

Sugar – 1 cup

Coconut Oil – 1/4 cup

Lemon extract – 15 drops

Turmeric powder- a pinch ( for color and is a good antiseptic)

Honey – 2 tbsp

Mix the Sugar, Coconut Oil and Honey together, then add  a pinch of Turmeric powder while slowly adding the Lemon extract. Mix well, so the color is uniformly spread and you get a smooth paste like consistency.

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For the Orange -Peppermint Sugar Scrub :

Sugar- 1cup

Coconut Oil – 1/4 cup

Orange Essential Oil- 6-10 drops

Peppermint extract – 10 drops

Orange Food color- a pinch

Honey – 2 tbsp

Mix the sugar, Coconut Oil and Honey together, then add the Orange and Peppermint extract gently while continuing to mix, until the ingredients are evenly mixed. To this one may  add a pinch of Orange Food color, until all the ingredients are mixed evenly.

Store them in air tight glass jars and use them over the cold months, when skin gets dry and chapped easily, it helps in exfoliating and keeps the skin moist and supple and what’s more,they make perfect holiday gifts too !

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How to use the Sugar Scrub : Take a spoonful of the sugar scrub in your hand, after  letting your body soak in the hot shower for a few minutes, rub the sugar scrub in  a circular motion from shoulder down, or feet up, whichever is comfortable for you, allow it to exfoliate the dry dead skin, rinse in lukewarm water.Remember to use gentle pressure ONLY, you are exfoliating not peeling ! You will step out of the shower, thinking why you never tried it before, your skin will feel baby soft. Remember, happiness is homemade, so go on give it a try.Pat dry your skin or leave it a lil’ wet, best to do it before bedtime coz it will let you relax, while the oil gets absorbed into the open pores, left by the sugar scrub, softening your skin into silky smoothness.

Remember to scrub your bath tub immediately coz it might get slippery with all the oil. It is advisable, to use the sugar scrub once or twice a week, and the benefits of long term use are clearly visible, or so I am told. Make it a part of your holiday tradition if you must, coz that’s exactly what I plan to do starting this year.Have fun, while you are at it!

“Self care is not about self indulgence,it’s about self preservation” ~  Audrey Lorde

Notes:

You can substitute Olive Oil or Grape seed Oil instead of Coconut oil, if you wish, I love coconut oil and stand by it !

Honey helps to naturally moisturize the skin, acts as an anti aging formula,helps in exfoliation and prevents dryness, promoting new tissue growth  when used on the skin.

Sugar helps to exfoliate, acts a humectant,encourages new cell turnover, generating fresher younger skin. One can use fine white sugar or brown sugar which is  much finer, when using scrubs on the face.

Different essential oils or extracts of your choice, can be used , the base being the same of sugar, oil and honey.

 

 

 

 

Sunday morning, up with the lark…..

 

“Sunday morning, up with the lark
I think I’ll take a walk in the park
Hey hey hey, it’s a beautiful day……”

Looking outside my window, seemed like it is  going to be a beautiful Sunday, the sun was up, birds chirping, our pet dog was happy  and ready to go on her morning walk….
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Stepping outside all bundled up,witnessed the first frost of the season, there laying on the grass was a thin sprinkling of snow, the air was nippy yet fresh. A beautiful Fall morning was unfolding, in front of my very eyes, walk with me won’t you ?

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An Autumnal Frost, greeted me……

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The sunlight was beginning to stream in, on the gold and red leaves making it look magical…

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The landscape was filled with golden leaves, the green slowly retreating as the sunlight spread her long  golden fingers on the landscape. A flock of Canadian geese were grazing and gazing at the walkers by from a distance…

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A few homes had already put up the holiday decor early, yet the morning was quite and still…..img_4608

Leaves , dry leaves everywhere I turn, littered the sidewalk and my path…img_4638

There was a  joyful feeling, when the leaves rustled under my feet….

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Some homes even had made a beautiful pathway through those dry leaves…..

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Stopped by to greet a neighbor who was raking leaves, it was his morning mediation he said, to be alone with nature….

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No easy task that, yet deeply satisfying when you see neat piles of dry leaves lining the roads, waiting to be picked up….

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…..or perhaps for the children to jump in.

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Deeply grounded, yet completely aware of the passing seasons, the tree trunk stood with all it’s majesty…

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….so much to learn from the trees!img_4640

Thanking God, for all this majestic glory…..

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……I sent a prayer heavenward, for being alive to see yet another beautiful Fall day.

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Turning the corner, leading to my home…

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….what do I see, another clear sign, saying time to get my breakfast ready !

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How has your Sunday been so far ? Can’t complain !

Kick off Fall season with a trip to the Pumpkin Patch

Each year when the leaves start to turn color, we have made it a family tradition to visit a pumpkin patch/farm or a corn maze, it’s a kind of Fall pilgrimage to be surrounded by the beauty of nature, the sweet aroma of apple cider and doughnuts coloring our  eyes with the rich rusty colors of Fall pumpkins, the hardy mums and the rustle of the  colored leaves amidst the high winds. Hay rides and pumpkin cannons, along with corn mazes become a part of the amusement when the kids are around……Oh, how I wait each year for this beautiful season!

Wake up to the pumpkin season, it’s here already……img_4082

Endless rows of pumpkins lined up …big and small, long and round….you get to choose which one you want to take home….img_4012

 

Would you rather take a pumpkin to make a pie or would you take a decorative one to carve and place it as your official doorstop for the season and usher in the harvest blessings , the choice is yours to pick….img_4043

…..or maybe some gourds ?img_4049

……or would you rather look at the colorful hardy mums, instead ?

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…..certainly, you get to choose !img_4047

Wait a minute, you did not forget the hay scarecrows did you ? Some of them ae so cute than scary🙂

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Don’t you forget the apple cider and the doughnuts…it’s officially Fall!

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….or how about some honey, dear ? Our Farmer’s have worked so hard all year, to give us a bountiful crop for the harvest and honey to sweeten our days, you must take some honey, or perhaps pickles or homemade marmalade……let the spirit of the  holiday season begin….img_3987

Shrimp/ Prawn/ Jinga Biryani

It had rained nonstop, for almost a week now…. aching to get out in nature and enjoy the beautiful Fall colors, I was glad to see, it had stopped raining this evening, though the rain clouds seemed to hang low. Not wasting another minute indoors,  I ventured out bravely soaking in all that fresh air especially after the rains. The grass and the fallen leaves were soaked in rain water, yet those that remained on the tree top, stood proudly flaunting their crowning glory.Soul food for the nature lover in me……

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So many shades of red and yellow and green, I was certain the creator was an artist to begin with, how else could he come up with such varying hues, I thought as I continued to walk.

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There is an unspoken beauty about Fall season, it leaves you speechless in its magic, all you can do is soak in it….

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Feeling completely content and inspired to create ,after that invigorating walk, I set about preparing something spicy, the first thing that came to mind was the packet of frozen shrimp in my freezer….. I fiddled with the idea of creating something with the shrimps,thinking about all the different recipes, I have used shrimp/prawns in, in the past.Here is the list of the different recipes, I have tried with shrimp/prawns……

  1. Malaysian Butter Prawns :Here is the link to my recipe published earlier…https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2013/10/24/malaysian-butter-prawns/
  2. Sweet and Sour Prawns : Here is the link…https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/08/19/sweet-sour-prawns/
  3. Spicy Skewered Prawns : Yup, I have tried that too, here is the link…..https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/06/08/spicy-skewered-prawns/
  4. Shrimp Stuffed Tamales : Another innovative dish I had tried with shrimps in the past, here is the link ……https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2014/05/03/shrimp-stuffed-tamales/
  5. Malabar Spinach and Prawn Gravy : Another traditional dish from my homeland, here is the link…..https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/10/15/malabar-spinach-n-prawn-gravy-basale-yetti-gravy/
  6. Prawn and Mint Pulav : Yup, another yummy rice dish to try, here is my link…..https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/05/31/prawn-mint-pulao/
  7. Methi/Fenugreek Prawn Masala : Another yummy dish with prawns & methi/fenugreek, here is the link……https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/04/06/methi-fenugreek-prawn-masala/
  8. Prawn Tikka Masala : Can be a starter or a side dish, leaving you craving for more, here is my link….https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/03/30/prawn-tikka-masala/
  9. Spicy Prawn Masala : Spicy and tasty dish to beat the cold, here is my link…..https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/03/25/spicy-prawn-masala/

 

So you can tell, by the list of recipes I have used prawn/shrimp in, it is one of my favorite seafood, so this evening I wanted to try yet another dish using shrimp/prawns and came up with this  aromatic rice dish cooked with spicy prawns called “Jinga Biryani “/ Shrimp / Prawn Biryani, easy to prepare with ingredients in your pantry, yet satisfying in its deliciousness on a rain soaked cold Fall day…what better way to warm your insides? Go ahead  and give it a try, you are sure to ask for a second or third helping.

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Ingredients :

Shrimp/Prawn packet- 20-25 large/40-45 (if small)

Shallots – 7-8 ( large,sliced fine)

Tomatoes -2 ( large)

Ginger garlic paste – 1tbsp

Chili powder – 1tbsp

Fish sauce – 1tbsp

Garam masala- 1tsp

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Salt – to taste

Coconut Oil /Ghee – 2tbsp

Cloves- 4-5

Cardamom- 2-3

Bay leaves – 1

Cilantro/Coriander leaves- a few ( to garnish)

Basmati Rice – 2 cups

Water- 4 cups

 

Method :

1.Clean the shrimp/prawns under running water after you have thawed them if they are frozen, and marinate them  with turmeric powder, salt, fish sauce and chili powder for 20 minutes.

2.  Wash and then soak the basmati rice for half an hour before you cook it. Drain the water with a colander and set the rice aside.Then, in a heavy bottomed vessel, warm a little oil add the bay leaves, cloves and cardamom & stir it a bit. To this add the soaked and drained rice & stir  gently so the rice is coated with the flavor of the spices. To this add the  4 cups of water & allow it to cook slowly without closing the lid.When the rice is 3/4 cooked and the water completely evaporated switch off the flame & set the cooked rice aside.Cooking the rice separately helps keep it fluffy and full, just the kind you want in your Biryani.

3. Now in a wok, warm some oil and add the finely sliced shallots and saute them, till they turn a golden brown.Then add the turmeric powder & stir a little.To this add the cubed tomatoes and cover with lid , till the tomatoes get mushy and soft. Then add  the garam masala powder & stir till the raw smell disappears.

4.To the above add the marinated shrimps/prawns and keep stirring , till all the flavors are coated on the prawns. Then add the ginger garlic paste & stir for a few minutes with salt to taste.Cover with lid and let it cook for 10-15 minutes. DO NOT overcook shrimp/prawns , since they become rubbery.Remove from heat & set aside.

5. Now in a ceramic bowl or a rice cooker, add the cooked rice and cooked prawns in layers and garnish with cilantro on top. Keep it covered with something heavy on top for an hour or more, it is called “Dum Biryani” in India, when it is allowed to cook on it’s own steam,usually this vessel is placed on a pile of burning coal, with a heavy brick on top , since that is not possible in my setting, I simply cover and keep it on the hot stove for another half hour or so, the rice and the shrimp are mixed well & ready to  be served hot.   It tastes even better the next day.

Enjoy your Shrimp Biryani, a spicy treat you give yourself in the warm confines of your sweet home, nothing like home food cooked with love.

 

 

 

 

 

Vendakai/Okra Puli Kuzhambu

It’s Navaratri time, if you have grown up in South India and settled elsewhere now, nostalgia strikes you big at this time of the year,

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all the “Pattu Mami’s” (South Indian Brahmin ladies are affectionately called so) come floating in your dreams with their amazing silks,Bommai Golu’s/Doll festival’s, yummy dishes and sweets that goes without saying as part of the festive season.

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When I spotted the garden fresh Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi in the market, I quickly put it in my shopping cart, it’s not one of my favorite vegetables, yet it looked so fresh, I did not have the heart not to savor it in some dish or the other.

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When you slice the vegetable, it gets a little slimy, perhaps why I never much cared for this one, so I try to cook various dishes out of this veggie where you do not get to bite on that slimy slippery piece, but a more firmer crunchy fresh veggie. Keeping that in mind, I googled around for recipes, I could almost hear my neighbor back home ,an authentic Pattu Mami at that, say,”En athulae, nekku poricha vendaka kuzhambuna padu ishtamakkum” meaning “in my home my favorite dish is Vendakai/Okra Poricha Kuzhambu.” Right then, I decided, that will be it,  same recipe at my home today , this being Navaratri time , every beautiful memory was linked with the Pattu Mami’s skill sets !

 What is Kuzhambu/Kulambu/Kolambu :

People call it by various names, yet they all mean the same thing, it is a liquid curry like a broth when it is thin & of flowing consistency, it is thick like a gravy when  fried coconut is added as a base, in which case it is called Poricha/Fried Kuzhambu. People in South India, especially Tamil Nadu, add fresh vegetables to the Kuzhambu or  Vathal (sun dried vegetables )….

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…..in which case it is called Vathal Kuzhambu, either way it tastes yummy, Vathal Kuzhambu is mostly prepared around this season when the weather outside gets cold or during monsoons when sun dried stored vegetables come in handy.

Kuzhambu is a liquid dish made with spices, unlike “Sambar” it is not made with a dhal base, hence it is not of a creamy consistency. It contains mainly tamarind/Puli, shallots and fenureek seeds a must(since it negates the sour taste of Tamarind),some fried vegetables and  a handful of spices.

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Frying the main ingredients like coconut, Vendakai/Okra, shallots and garlic gives the dish an extra punch. Kuzhambu is  usually, the next dish served after sambar, if you have ever tasted a complete South Indian meal. It is of a much lighter flowing consistency, coz the Tamilian food habits teach us that as the food is served in a sequence, the accompanying curry that goes with the piping hot rice gets lighter in consistency since it aids in easy digestion. So ideally a  meal starts with Keerai/Spinach gravy, then Sambar, Kuzhambu, Rasam and Thayir/Yogurt to go with rice, along with accompaniments of stir fried vegetables called Poriyal, spicy pickles, pappadam or rice crackers, all on a plantain leaf. Every meal begins with a sweet dish, the belief is to sweeten the bond between the host & the guest, a little salt is added to the corner of the plantain leaf as an indication for all the hard work that went into making the dish ( thru the salt of their sweat, so to speak !), so as to always remain grateful for the hand that serves food…..so many beautiful meanings hidden in a feast served with love ! banana-leafThus our Kuzhambu forms an integral part of any meal.One can add any vegetable of their choice, I used Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi for my Vendakai Puli Kuzhambu.

Ingredients :

Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi – 10- 12 tender


Tamarind or Tamico paste – 1tbsp


Sambar powder – 2 tsp


Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp


Sesame oil / Oil – 2 tbslp


Salt – As needed


Garlic – 3 flakes

To sautee in oil and grind

Shallots (Small onion) – 12


Tomato – 2


Coconut – 1/2 cup

To temper

Oil  – 2 tblsp


Mustard – 1 tsp


Fenugreek seeds / Vendhayam / Methi – 1/2 tsp


Curry leaves – 1 sprig

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Method :
1. Warm the oil in a wok, fry the neatly sliced Vendakai/Okra/Bhendi in it till they turn crisp and golden brown and set aside. Make sure you clean the store bought Okra under cold running water & dry it with paper towels before you take it up for cooking.
2. Now in the same wok, fry garlic , shallots into a light brown color, then add coconut flakes to it and fry it some more till the coconut changes color. Add turmeric powder & tomatoes to this & stir till the tomatoes become soft & mushy. Remove from flame & set aside to  cool before grinding the mix into a fine paste in the blender.
3. Now set the wok on the stove, add some curry leaves or curry leaf powder, mustard, fenugreek seeds & fry for a few seconds before adding the fried Vendakai/Okra to it. Now add the tamarind paste along with some water to soak all the  Okra/bhendi. To this add the sambar powder & let it cook, after adding the blended paste mix & salt to taste.
4. The aroma that emanates from the dish will entice you into having lunch early, what better way to spend a rainy Fall weekend lunch hour with your favorite memories of the season and one of your favorite dish for lunch.
Home is where you are, bring home the memories🙂
For the many other ways I have used Okra in my various dishes, check the links below :
1. Stuffed Okra Boats :
2.Spiced Okra Buttermilk Curry or Bhendi Khadi :  https://stirringmyspicysoul.com/2012/07/08/okrabhendi-kadhi-spiced-okra-buttermilk-curry/
3. Okra/ Bhendi Masala :