Sunday, 31 December 2017

Keeping my children mosquito safe

As mothers, we tend to fight a never ending battle with diseases and infections. If nature would allow, I am sure each mother would love to set a protective kavach (layer) around her babies to protect them from anything and everything negative. While there are infections and diseases beyond our control, we definitely wouldn't want our babies to have diseases that could have been avoided by taking simple precautions. Mosquito related diseases are one such example. Mosquitoes often come uninvited wherever we go and bring with them harmful diseases like Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria etc. Therefore, when it comes to these diseases, each mother wants to play safe by keeping mosquitoes away from their little ones.

Being a mother to a toddler and an infant, I have to look for mosquito repellent options which work at home as well as in the playground. My 2.5 year old son just hates being confined indoors while my 5 month old daughter gets cranky each time a mosquito bites her. Here is a list of options I have tried over a period of time and my experience with each one of them.

1. Mosquito Nets
This is the first option that comes to our mind the moment we bring our little ones home for the first time. We feel scared to use chemicals for newborns hence mosquito nets come in as a safe option. I too invested in a baby mosquito net. 

While it seemed like a good option initially, soon I realized that it was tough to monitor the baby through the net at night. My daughter loves kicking and would often kick away the net, forcing me to explore other options. So, I purchased a large, camp size mosquito net which fitted on my double bed. 

Life was good, till summers came calling. No matter how much cooling the AC gave, it was always stuffy inside the net. I felt imprisoned. Also, it was tough to move in and out of the net at night and the baby would often wake up by the noise. It was time to kick away the net and look for other options.

Since I was least inclined towards the smoky mosquito coils, Good knight Activ+ was my obvious choice of mosquito killer machine. My parents used Good knight when we were kids, so I decided to zero down on the tried and tested brand. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed at all! I would shut the windows in the evening and switch on Good knight and this ensured a good night sleep for my children. I even have the option to switch from a Normal to Active mode when the mosquito menace is high. We carry the machine with us while travelling and even plugged it in the train compartment. 

While it worked wonders for my daughter, I was still worried for my son who loves playing outside in his T-Shirt and shorts. However, the next option solved my problem.

This has come like a boon to mothers of hyperactive toddlers since it is certified pediatric safe. Since overdressing your kids isn't a viable option in all weathers, the outdoor mosquito repeller works wonders. All I have to do is play a 4 dot game with my son and I can take a sigh of relief that he is safe from mosquitoes while playing in the park.

While the Roll-On is a natural product, the strong smell of citronella oil & eucalyptus oil sometimes turns my son off. But I soon realized there is another option that my son just wouldn't be able to refuse!

My son loves animals, so when we got him these patches, he just jumped with joy! Keeping mosquitoes away is now a fun activity as my son chooses his patch of the day!

This is a great option to do away with the mosquitoes who love to play hide and seek in the room. Just four shots in the corners of the room keep the mosquitoes at bay.

These easy and child friendly options help me stay tension free about mosquitoes, for prevention is always better than cure!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Love Affair and Vermicelli

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I was happily married to Maggi....till vegetable vermicelli lured me into an extramarital affair!

No matter how much the advertising gurus fool us, each time I eat a bowl of ready to eat noodles, my health conscious heart says, "Get a life dude!"

The love affair began soon after my son was born, and the bond has gone deeper and deeper ever since!

The advantages are many - easy way to include vegetables, the goodness of durum wheat vermicelli, no preservatives and most importantly, the ease of preparation. In fact, a night before I delivered my daughter, I wanted to eat something spicy but was feeling too lazy to cook, so it took me 10 minutes to prepare this vegetable vermicelli. Its the best alternative to preservative laden ready to cook stuff, and can make up for a quick, healthy breakfast, snack or solution to a midnight hunger pang!

For preparing 2 plates of vegetable vermicelli, you need
Roasted vermicelli - 2 small katori/1 cup
Onion - 1 medium, sliced
Tomatoes - 2 medium, finely chopped
Capsicum - 1 medium, coarsely chopped
Potato - 1 small, cut into small thin pieces
Carrot - 1 chopped
Peas - 1 fistful
Green chillies - 2 
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry Leaves - 3-4
Red chilli powder - 1tsp
Salt - to taste
Vegetable/Oilve oil - 1tbsp

Lets get started!


Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Enjoy the spluttering for a minute
Add sliced onion and saute till golden brown
Add the potatoes, peas and capsicum
Add the chopped carrots and tomatoes
Add salt and red chilli powder. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes or till the vegetables are tender
Add water just to cover the vegetables and increase the flame to high. Adjust seasoning
Add the roasted vermicelli and mix well. Cover and cook on low flame for 3-4 minutes

Veggie vermicelli is ready!!!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Vijeta (1982)

Genre - Drama
Director – Govind Nihlani
Duration – 151 minutes
Cast – Shashi Kapoor, Rekha, Amrish Puri, Om Puri, Kunal Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, K.K. Raina, Raja Bundela, Shafi Inamdar 
Music –Ajit Vaman (Songs), Surinder Sodhi (Background Score)

My View 
Long time ago, before the confused Hrithik Roshan of the movie Lakshya found his true calling in the Army, there lived a boy named Angad who was dealing with the same confusion. 

Vijeta was one of the movies that I saw on Doordarshan as a child however, never understood, perhaps because back then the depth in the dialogues would have flown several feet high above the mind of a 6 year old. However, all I remembered is liking this particular song, since I was in awe of Rekha singing in a white and red saree with a tanpura for company. 

A few days ago, I was looking for interesting movies from the 80s and I suddenly remembered this movie which had been much appreciated by my sister.

Vijeta is the story of Angad (Kunal Kapoor) from a boy to a man. The only child of a Punjabi father Nihal (Shashi Kapoor) and Maharashtrian mother, Nilima (Rekha), Angad was raised as a Sikh by his family. Nihal, a cut Surd had faced the brutality of partition in which he escaped to India with his Beeji (Dina Pathak) and had built up his life again from the scratch. The struggle had while given him a comfortable life, it also made him a very crude and bitter person, which reflected in his day to day communication with his family. This bitterness nurtured antipathy in Angad's heart towards his father. So, Angad ensured he went East if Nihal desired west. Nilima was their only bridge.

The constant tension between his parents coupled with Nihal's frequent sarcasm fills sense of insecurity, fear and confusion in Angad's mind. In an age where boys of his age make plans of a bright future, Angad was harbouring suicidal feelings in his heart. A meeting with his maternal uncle Arvind (Om Puri) comes across as a defining moment in Angad's life, as he feels motivated to join the defence services. Nihal's overprotective reaction and discouragement only strengthens Angad's determination, as he is automatically drawn to pursue something against his father's wishes. There was also a burning desire in Angad's heart to prove himself as worthwhile to his father.

The next few years not only transform Angad into a bright Air Force pilot, but also magically mend the father son relationship. The scene where Angad writes his maiden letter to his father describing his maiden solo flight would make any father emotional. Air force also gives Angad many good friends and the love of his life, Ana. Back home, as Angad's life is finally running on track, the relationship between his parents is also improving. 

The movie is about the many battles in one's life and how with determination one can emerge a winner. Each character is seen fighting his own battles. Nihal, with his cracking relations with his wife and son, Angad with his fears and Nilima with the father son differences. 

After struggling with his inner demons, Angad is seen emerging victorious over his fears. The movie gives a very strong message that no matter how tough the enemy, true winner is the one who gets up and gets going despite each fall and who never gives up come what may. 

Watch this movie for

  • Such a realistic portrayal of the Air Force. There are only two movies who by far get full marks for portraying the defence life the way it is - Prahar and Vijeta. The scenes shot in the Air Force Academy and the base are a viewer's delight

  • The actors have played their roles with such sincerity that an Amrish Puri seems like a seasoned Air Force instructor. Even Angad's buddies in the Air Force don't look like they are actors. 

  • The movie doesn't hurry up to draw the curtains nor drags the story. The pace is just right to relish the story.
  • Though the story is spaced around the Indo-Pak war, it doesn't sound outdated even 37 years later.

Ironically, the character that disappoints the most in the movie is Angad himself. While the continuous lost expression on his face looks in sync with the first half of the story, when the same persist despite the character's transformation from a boy to man, one feels like telling the director "Yaar, I could have done better acting than this." It is so sad to see him placed with veterans like Rekha, Shashi Kapoor, Amrish Puri and Om Puri. Even the supporting cast have given better performances. Oh, did I forget to tell you that the movie was produced by his father?

My Rating 
2.5/5 (Kunal Kapoor's disappointing effortless performance took away the stars from an otherwise great movie)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The lazy chef's quick Misal Pao

After my first encounter with Misal Pao, I was sure I would never ever eat it, leave apart preparing it someday and blogging about it!

A day after we landed up in Mumbai, I ate Misal Pao in the breakfast buffet of the hotel we were staying at. My first impression was - something watery with just few lentils for the sake of formality and lot of namkeen and onions compensating for the lack of lentils. The next time I tried my luck was  during snacks time at the office cafeteria and needless to say, I was equally disappointed. "This dish is not meant for the Dilliwalla" I concluded and wrote it off. 

However, I often wondered what is so good about Misal Pao that my Mumbaikar friends can't stop going gaga over it. So much that a friend of mine has named her blog after the dish!

Anyway, the ice breaking happened few days ago, when Mr. Hubby declared that he had developed the taste for the dish. Now let me tell you, he is thousand times more finicky about food than me. So, when he appreciates a dish, I do pause and take notice. "It's about the preparation. If it is prepared well, it tastes awesome!" Apparently one of his friend's wife is a pro at the dish. 

Few days back, I was at a restaurant near my office for a quick bite and as I was glancing through the options that they could serve me within the next 5 minutes, my eyes fell on Misal Pao. My scepticism was obvious, considering my earlier experiences. But, being the typical Indian wife, how could I not decode the mystery of Misal Pao! So I ordered one plate and to my utter surprise, it tasted so good! The humble sprouts added to the body while the crispy farsan and the chopped onions played sporty. The right dash of lemon juice added well to the romance! Perhaps it was indeed about the preparation style!

Now the only milestone left was to prepare it better than his friend's wife, and going by his reaction to my maiden attempt, I am sure it was a job well done! 

Since I am a lazy cook, here's a simpler version of the recipe that I managed in 15-20 minutes while the toddler was enjoying his afternoon siesta!

Ingredients (Serve 4)

Mixed Sprouts - 250g (The main advantage of this dish is that it makes it easy to feed protein rich sprouts to otherwise fussy eaters!)

Onion (chopped) - 2 medium,

Green chillies (chopped)- 4
Tomatoes (chopped) - 3 large

Dried Coconut, grated - 1/2

Oil - 1 tbsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Whole cumin seeds - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Turmeric powder - 1tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1tsp
Misal Pao masala - 2-3tsp (The most important ingredient!)
Water - 2-3 cups
Lemon juice

While most recipes I saw on Youtube involved preparing the sprouts and gravy separately, I have decided to play quick and easy by cooking everything together in my pressure Handi. However, to each his own!

1. Heat oil in a pressure handi. Add asafoetida, cumin seeds. 

2. When the seeds splutter, add chopped onions and green chillies. 

3. When the onions turn pink, add the grated coconut and cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, salt and Misal Pao masala. Cook on low flame for 1-2 minutes till the spices are cooked.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes and mix well. If the masala sticks to the surface, you can add a bit water at this stage. Cook the masala till it leaves oil on sides.

6. Add the sprouts and mix well.

7. Add water generously. Mix well and adjust seasoning.

8. Cover the lid and cook it till 1 whistle. Allow the steam to escape and open the lid.

Add some lemon juice to a bowl of the Misal and garnish with namkeen and chopped onions. Your Misal is ready to romance the Pao!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Love Beyond Litti

I had never heard of Litti before marriage. Usually, after the wedding, once the guests are gone, it is time to catch up on sleep and give in to the laziness. But the word lazy and my mom in law are poles apart!

As if waiting for the guests to go, she immediately got in her Master chef avatar and whipped up Rajma Chawal that would give any five star hotel chef a run for his money!

Next came something I had never seen before! Litti! While Litti is traditionally enjoyed with Chokha, mummy serves it with her signature spicy Old dilli style alu tamatar is subzi. My first reaction was "Wow, u have prepared Kachoris!" to which, she smiled and introduced me to the amazing dish.

As I savored my Littis, mummy took me through snippets from her stint at Bihar, where my father in law was shortly posted and how she picked up the recipe from local ladies in the neighbourhood.

Being the loud mouth that I am, I told mummy how much I loved the Littis. However, I loved to have them like Kachoris (and I still prefer to eat them that ways, albeibeit with a generous dollop of desi ghee poured in the heart of the Litti). I requested her to save a few so that I could carry them as a quick snack for my Honeymoon.

Next morning, as we woke up early morning to catch our flight, mummy surprised me with a box of Laddoos and freshly made Littis! While I jumped with joy initially, the next moment the joy turned into guilt, as I realized she got up much before us, just to pamper her daughter in law to a box full of Littis.

As guilt took over, I asked her "I had asked u to save a few pieces for my holiday, why did u trouble yourself by waking up sooo early?" She replied, "I wanted to give you fresh Littis which would last 3-4 days." Her humble reply left me speechless and taught me a new meaning of motherhood!

Needless to say, the Littis gave me great company during early morning sight seeing sessions in the hills when no restaurant would be open for breakfast! Like a kid, I would call mummy everyday and tell her how much I was enjoying the Littis!

Sometimes, small gestures make a big difference. I fell in love with the hot Litis and my doting mom in law!

It was also a promo of my mom in law's amazing culinary skills. Having trained under her, I can now proudly boast of my culinary skills.

Sharing a pic of these amazing Littis mummy pampered me to on a lazy rainy afternoon.

And that's how, delicious hot meals often melt away the ice in relationships!

#mominlaw #love #food #foodie

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Of Sambhar and memories...

For us Delhiites, the very definition of South Indian food begins and ends with Sambhar. Be it Dosa, Idli, Vada or Utappam, we like to pamper ourselves with Sambhar. I remember during college days, me and my bestie Surbhi would often hang out at Madras Hotel in Connaught Place for some awesome Masala Dosa and Sambhar. The USP of the outlet was its "to die for" Sambhar. The servers or Anna as we called them would serve us generous helpings of Sambhar till our tummies would feel like gas balloons. I remember once we were so full (in the tummy, not in the heart) and sleepy after the meal that it was a tough walk from Madras Hotel to the bus stop from where we had to catch the bus to home (Delhi metro was non existent those days)!

My fondest memories of Sambhar are from my childhood, when my papa would prepare lip smacking sambhar with dosa. I still remember we had this special big tawa/griddle exclusively for preparing dosa. Even though kitchen was mom's baby, Sambhar Dosa was entirely papa's department. 

How Papa, an otherwise non cook material learnt to prepare the perfect Sambhar Dosa is also a very interesting story. Apparently, once during a long wait for bus at the bus stop, papa started chatting with a roadside Dosa stall owner. While the bus came way late, it gave papa enough time to learn the art of preparing the perfect Sambhar Dosa. So perfect is he with his dish that often his boss would drop by our place for savouring Dosa Sambhar. While mom would happily don the hat of an assistant that day, papa would be so full of zeal on being the head chef! Since we were a family of 6, the batter would be prepared in a large vessel in huge quantity. After the day long fermentation, it was time to savour the Dosa and Idli.  There was also a giant pressure cooker bought just to prepare enormous quantity of Sambhar.

Despite a Sambhar expert available at home, I never bothered to pick up the skill, being the lazy chef that I am! Even after marriage, Dosa Sambhar to me meant a visit to the popular Dosa joint in the WEA market in Karol Bagh and pampering myself to Dosa and unlimited Sambhar.

But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention...

After we moved to Mumbai, the spicy North Indian style Sambhar became a luxury. I still remember the first time I had Sambhar in my office cafeteria. I walked up to the server and asked him if they put the sugar by mistake in Sambhar! Pat came his reply to my horror, "M'am that's how Sambhar is to be, how else?" Oh My God! For the Delhiite used to spicy Sambhar, this was nothing short of a cultural shock! Not willing to give up that easily, I tried my luck with few more joints so called "popular for their South Indian food" however, the ordeal repeated each time. 

At the cross roads, the foodie in me had just two options - either to forego the joy of relishing sambar or learn to prepare Sambhar as per our North Indian preference.

I decided to take things in my stride and became a pro at preparing Sambhar, thanks to my mom in law.

Sharing the simple and easy Sambhar that saves my day each time I have the craving to eat South Indian food.


Ingredients (for 4 portions)
  • Tuur/Arhar Dal - 150g (soaked for an hour) (I have learnt a simple measurement rule from my mom in law - a fistful dal per person)
  • Water
  • Vegetables (Bottle Guard, Pumpkin, Onions, Tomatoes, Potatos, carrot, french beans) - Diced in mouthful size pieces (Sambhar is the best way to use the leftover grocery in the fridge!)

  • Salt - to taste
  • Turmeric - 1tsp
  • Tamarind - to taste (deseeded and soaked in water for half and hour)
  • Sambhar Powder - 2-3tsp
  • Oil - 1tbsp
  • Onion - 2 chopped
  • Red Chilli Powder - 1tsp
  • Rai/Black mustard seeds - 1tsp
  • Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch (aids digestion)
  • Jeera/Cumin seeds - 1tsp
  • Curry leaves - few

Method -
Wash the soaked Arhar  Dal and drain out the water

In a pressure cooker, take all the diced vegetables, add the Arhar Dal and water. The water should be half index finger level above the vegetables.

Add turmeric powder and salt. Close the lid and pressure cook. 

After the first whistle, keep on low flame for 2-3 minutes and turn off the stove. Remove the lid and mash the vegetables a bit with the back of a round spoon (this will give a rich, thick Sambhar. You may skip the mashing if you like your Sambhar to be watery)

In a separate kadhai, heat oil. Add the asafoetida, rai, cumin seeds and curry leaves.

When the rai and cumin seeds begin to splutter, add the chopped onions and sauté.

When the onions turn golden brown, add the sambhar powder and sauté.

Next, add the red chilli powder and sauté till the mixture leaves oil on sides. 

Add the mashed vegetables and water and mix well. Finally, mash the soaked tamarind into a homogeneous paste (you may also choose to blend in a blender) and add to the Sambhar.

Give the mixture one nice boil. 

Tadaaa! Piping hot Sambhar is ready!

For the Onion Utappam
  • Dosa batter - I am a lazy cook and allow myself some shortcuts in the form of readymade Dosa batter from the South Indian store nearby!
  • Spring Onions - 2-3 chopped
  • Green chilies - 2-3 chopped
  • Salt - to taste
  • Asafoetida - a pinch
  • Oil - 1tbsp

Add a pinch salt and asafoetida to the readymade dosa batter for a good flavour and easy digestion.

Mix together the chopped spring onions and green chillies and keep aside.

In case the batter is too thick you may add a bit water to dilute else skip the step. The batter should be flowy for crisp Utappams.

Heat a tawa/griddle. Spread some oil.

Once the oil is smoky hot, with the help of a round spoon, spread some batter on the tawa. The technique is to pour a spoonful batter on the tawa and make circular motions with the round spoon, reading the batter from centre to edges.

Spread some onion chilli mixture evenly on the utappam. 

Smear oil and once the other side looks brown, change sides.

Once both sides are cooked, the Utappam is ready to be served with Sambhar.