Posted in Photography

Festival of lights

Posted in <3 for books

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…

Words fall short to describe this book. Some books are a joy to read any number of times and are made for all age groups. I can’t believe this book was actually written by the author for his kids.

The Map in the book (find one below) adds to the enthusiasm to read about Bilbo’s adventure, that starts from his hobbit hole and ends with his return back home.

For those who have not read the book or watched the movie, Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who lives in a cozy hobbit hole filled with lots (and lots!) of food. He is lured into going on an adventure by a wizard named Gandalf. He accompanies the 13 Dwarfs to capture the kingdom under the Lonely Mountain which once belonged to the dwarfs and is now a home to a dragon. And so the adventure begins…

As someone rightly said, it is not about the Destination but about the Journey. It is the same with this adventure. They pass through a lot of hurdles and on their way make many friends and foes. Finally, Bilbo enjoys his return to his cozy home much more than before he started the adventure.

The Movie is also pretty good. I watched the movie first before reading the book. The movie has brought in a lot of characters that do not exist in the book at all. That is the only way, I think, they could make three movies out of a 300 pages book. But, I personally like the book more that the movies. When you read, you actually image your own universe and characters unlike movies which forces someone else’s imagination on you.

The Hobbit is a Classic! I look forward to read The Lord of the Rings as well.

Posted in Cooking is Fun!

Happiness is… the smell of freshly baked Bread!

Here’s what you will need to make a soft Wheat bread at home:

Wheat Flour – 3 cups

Butter – 2 cubes

Milk – 1 cup

Sugar – 15 grams

Dry yeast – 6 grams

Salt – 1 teaspoon

Oil – 1 tablespoon

Step 1: Activating the Yeast

Add 2 cubes of melted butter, 1 cup of warm milk, 15 grams or approximately 1 tablespoon of sugar and 6 grams or 1/2 tablespoon of dry yeast into a bowl. Mix it well for the yeast to activate. There is no need to rest the mixture. Too much waiting at this stage can make the dough too sour. You can move on to step 2 immediately.

Step 2: Preparing the Dough

Add 3 cups of Wheat flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoons of oil. Add the activated yeast mixture. Additionally you can add 1/4 cup of water to make the dough. Dough making is a very crucial step. Keep kneading the dough for about 15 min, until the dough becomes glutenous. You must be able to stretch the dough into a thin layer. This is important for the dough to have enough room for the gas released while the dough is rising.

Step 3: Resting

Add some oil to the bowl before placing the dough back. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap or a wet towel. Make sure you choose a big enough bowl that can hold double the size of the dough. Set aside for 2 hours after which the dough would have doubled in size.

Step 3: Proofing

After 2 hours, knead the dough again into a cylindrical shape. It should be such that it fits into your baking pan. Grease the pan with some butter or oil. Place the dough now into the baking pan. Cover it with a wet towel or cling wrap and rest for 30 minutes. The dough should rise an inch above the pan.

Step 4: Baking

Brush some milk on the dough. This gives a good brown color. Place the baking pan in a pre-heated oven on a low rack. Bake at 180 degree Celsius for 40 minutes.

Enjoy the aroma of the baking bread spread around your kitchen and home 🙂

Allow the bread to cool and then cut them into slices.

Posted in Cooking is Fun!

Oats Cake

Here’s a healthy version of cake. No maida, no sugar and no guilt!!

Dry ingredients:

  • Quick Oats – 3 cups
  • Cocoa Powder – 1 cup
  • Baking Powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Baking soda – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon powder – 1/4 teaspoon

I used Quick Oats. Rolled Oats would work as well. The cinnamon powder is optional. Mix the above dry ingredients evenly.

Wet Ingredients:

  • Melted butter (unsalted) – 2 cubes
  • Honey – 1/2 cup or as sweet as you prefer
  • Egg – 1 (whisked)
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1/4 teaspoon

Mix the above wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and combine to form a homogenous mixture.

Smear the cake pan with butter. Dust with Oats powder. Another easier way to avoid preparing oats powder is to just save some dry ingredient that we just prepared and sprinkle the same onto the cake pan. Remove the excess.

Transfer the mixed batter into a cake pan. Tap it a few times. Place it on low rack.

Pre heat microwave at 180 degree Centigrade. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown or until it is completely cooked. Insert a toothpick and it should come out clear without any batter sticking to it.

Make sure to cool it on the rack for about 15 minutes before serving.

Posted in <3 for books

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

This one came as a total surprise to my perception of Dan Brown’s Books.
The story revolves around Freemasonry and a hidden secret. Robert Langdon tries to decipher the hidden secret that has been guarded for generations by a family of Masons. The story starts off introducing a fierce villain and how he manipulates Langdon into believing and deciphering the hidden secret. The secret has the potential that can lead to “apocalypse”. Dan Brown creates a plot that sound very real and so very believable. He brings in interesting artifacts like Durer’s painting, Franklin Magic Square that are used to solve puzzles. The novel is thrilling and delivers an edge-of-your-seat suspense until you read two thirds of the book. But as you approach the end, when all the missing parts are explained, it just doesn’t seem to fit together.

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

As the story unfolds, the hidden secret which could potentially end the world if revealed, turns out to be something very obvious. The author doesn’t justify the necessity of hiding the secret, which is so easily accessible, behind unbreakable codes and protecting it through ages. However, he takes a lot of time proving that the secret could actually lead to disaster if fallen into the wrong hands. That was quite unconvincing.

The positive aspect of the novel is the plot that sounds so real. The Author uses the thin line between fiction and reality. His efforts in studying the elements of Freemasonry, The Architecture of Monuments, Holy books etc. bringing them into the story are commendable.

I truly enjoyed Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. May be it’s hard to write a series in the same genre. It is obviously not so easy to make a novel sound so real and at the same time make it a thriller. May be one’s expectation goes sky high after reading a good book like Da Vinci Code. You expect nothing less. However, I did have a great time reading as much as two thirds of the book and that is all that matters!

Posted in Cooking is Fun!

Pani Puri on a rainy day

Pani Puri has been almost everyone’s all-time favorite. I have missed it since almost a year. Today, I finally tried preparing it myself which was my long time desire! I used ready made puris. Making them myself will be an experiment for another day…

Here’s is my version of Pani Puri, real quick and easy. It turned out clean and hygienic and somewhat tasty. It however couldn’t beat the taste of the one sold on road-side. It missed the smell, dust and perspiration!! 🙂

Step 1: Ingredients for Preparing Pani.

  • Coriander leaves – 1 cup
  • Mint leaves – 1/2 cup
  • Green chilly – 3
  • Ginger – 1 inch
  • Tamarind juice- 1/4 cup
  • Lemon juice – half lemon
  • Spices: Red Chilly powder, cumin, pepper powder, chaat masala

Make a paste with coriander, mint, chilly and ginger. You can either use a mixer or a food processor. Add tamarind juice and lemon to the mixture. Dilute it with 2-3 glasses of water. Pass the diluted mixture through a sieve/filter. Add the dry spices – red chilly powder, cumin powder , chaat masala and pepper powder. Add some salt.

Step 2: For the Filling you will need:

  • White Peas 1 cup
  • Potato – 2 (optional)
  • Onion – 1
  • Coriander leaves
  • Spices: Red chilly powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, chaat masala, pepper powder

Soak white peas for about 5 hours or overnight. Boil it in a pressure cooker for about 5 min or until mashable/soft. You can boil potatoes and mash them. The stuffing is equally tasty even if potatoes are avoided. Add chopped onions and coriander. Add all the spice powders: Red chilly powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, chaat masala and pepper powder and mix it well. Serve them with onions.

Posted in Cooking is Fun!

Uddin Vada / Medu Vada

Medu vada or Uddin vada is made from lentils (urad dal) and is a fond breakfast item in South India. Chopped onions, coriander, curry leaves and green chilly is added to the lentil batter and is deep fried in oil until brown and crisp.

Posted in Home Garden

Experimenting with Succulents

The very idea of seeing a plant germinate from a seed and grow has always been very fascinating to me. Caring for plants is truly a great stress-buster.

My first ever plant from the Cactus & Succulent family arrived today. I have only had a few easy to grow plants. This is going to be a real experiment for me, with a lot of learning.

Graptosedum

This tiny beauty is called Graptosedum. I ordered this online due to the Covid situation. I haven’t bought a plant in months. Only now did I muster the courage to buy a plant online. Unboxing it to see these beautifully color leaves was pure Joy!

The succulents of Graptosedum family are known to have leaves that spiral around the stem and form a rosette on the top. It thrives in fast draining soil and in outdoors with enough sunlight.

Succulents are dessert plants with thick leaves that store water. They need very less water and lot of sunlight mimicking the desert conditions. They should be watered judiciously, only when the soil is dry. Once a week could be the ideal time to water them. Over-watering can kill them. During monsoons, a balcony or kitchen’s windowsill would be the best place to keep it.

This is what I know so far. I will write a follow-up post on what I learnt while caring for this one and also on how this plant is doing.