Spice It Up! Behind the Scenes...

There was some serious spice going down at our apartment last weekend, since my roomate Nikita was cooking up an evening of north Indian cuisine.  Sometimes life calls for a party, and we are thankful for everyone who came to get their spice on!   For a glimpse behind the scenes, I assure you that it all starts with Nikita's spice box.  Let's take a look.
Party Menu:
Samosas-Fried potato and pea pockets
Palak Paneer- [Spinach Cheese]- Also known as Saag Paneer
Chicken Masala Curry
Aloo Gobi [Potato Cauliflower]
Pulao [Rice]
Tofu Capsicum [Tofu Bell Pepper]
Roti [Indian bread, whole wheat flour]
Naan [Indian bread, refined white flour]
11am.  Kitchen in full action.  

The Indian Diaries
I love living with Nikita.  Nope, I don't mind walking into the kitchen, sneezing as puffs of chile powder envelope me.  And where else can I wake up to the scent of cardamum and cinnamon, a whiff of homemade chai?  Thank you Nikita.  A year ago I started documenting her recipes on this blog through The Indian Diaries.  If interested, several recipes including the Pulao and the Aloo Gobi are already posted.
Dreamy Creamy Mango Pie

This dessert was the talk of the party, and by popular request, the lovely Utchima has shared her recipe.  I can't believe I neglected to snap a picture, so use that imagination to conjur up sweet images of tropical pie.
Ingredients for 3 pies
3 pre-made graham pie crust
3 cups mango pulp
3 cup cool whip
1 package cream cheese
15 Tbsp sugar
3 bags gelatin (dissolved in 3 cups boiling water
1. In a blender, mix dissolved gelatin with mango pulp, cool whip, cream cheese, and sugar for 1 minutes, or until well combined.
2. Pour over crust.
3. Referigerate for 3 hours or until set.
4. Top with cool whip and refrigerate overnight.
The Spice Girls

Giveaway winners!

Unusually warm day last weekend.  Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Congrats to my recent giveaway winners!  First place prize, the Women's Home Exercise Bible goes to Melinda from Nutrition, Food, Travel, and More.  My second place prize, the updated 2011 edition of Calorie King, goes to Alison.  Thanks everyone for participating.
View of Boston from Cambridge.
If you squint towards the middle-right, you can spy the gold dome of the Boston State House.
See you next time,

Giveaway! Jumpstart Your Winter Exercise and More...

I have three ways to confirm winter's chilly arrival: my lips begin to chap, I no longer need to referigerate my fruit, and I start wearing a pair of gloves to bed.  Oh, and one more thing.  On these frigid New England mornings, I find it impossible to jubilantly spring out the door for an early jog.  Brrr.  I don't own a gym membership, but fortunately there are other ways to keep my blood pumping and muscles working from within the comforts of home.
No matter what temperature your thermostat registers, check out this giveaway to get your winter exercise groove on!
First Place: Women's Home Workout Bible
The first place prize for my giveaway will be this handy dandy workout book, Women's Home Workout Bible published in 2010.  Glossy pictures demonstrate step by step strength training and resistance training exercise moves utilizing body weight, exercise bands, exercise balls and free weights.  The book also offers tips for equipment purchase and plenty of weekly workout plans.
Second Place: 2011 Edition Calorie King. 
I received several copies of this new 2011 edition at FNCE (my first time attending!), so I want to share one book with the second place winner.   Calorie King-Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter is a book that lists nutrient info for various foods, beverages, snacks, and even restaurants.  Small and compact, it easily fits into a purse or desk drawer, perfect for speedy page-flipping for quick reference.
To enter:
  1. Leave a comment on this post.   Please share what you do for exercise, or a physical activity that you enjoy!
  2. Tweet this post for second entries.  Can use this shortened link: http://bit.ly/9vHqP2 
Open to U.S. residents only.  Deadline to enter is Tuesday November 16th by 12noon EST.  I'll pick two winners through random.org and announce the lucky people next week.
This giveaway is now closed.

The 15 Skills of a Competent Cook

Anthony Bourdain, in his most recent book Medium Raw, argues that preparing a home-cooked meal is a survival skill, a social responsibility, even a moral imperative for a citizen of today's society.  While I recommend his book with hesitation (his crassness often seems unnecessary), I heartily agree that people should reclaim the fundamental ability to prepare food for themself and for others.  Bourdain records the essential cooking skills; from the looks of his list, I have a lot of work to do before I can call myself a cook!
flickr photo from theqspeaks
15 Skills of a Competent Cook:
  1. Chop an onion.  Basic knife handling, sharpening and maintenance.  Master the basic chop, dice, mince and slice.
  2. Cook an omelet.  Egg cookery requires sensitivity to the food inside the pan.
  3. Roast a chicken, yes the whole chicken.
  4. Grill and rest a steak.
  5. Cook vegetables to a desired doneness.
  6. Whip up a standard vinaigrette.
  7. Shop for fresh produce; have a sense for what is in season; be able to tell if something is ripe or rotton.
  8. Clean and filet a fish.
  9. Steam crab, lobster, a pot of mussels, or a pot of clams.
  10. Roast meat in the oven.
  11. Roast and mash potatoes.
  12. Make rice; both steamed and rice pilaf.
  13. Make stock from bones.  
  14. Master the fundamentals of braising...time to try that beef bourguignon.
  15. Develop a modest repertoire of a few dishes, tasty morsels that I would be proud to serve to others.
flickr photo by bitchincamero
All this home cooked goodness reminds me of Alice Lichtenstein's article in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled Bring Back Home Economics Education, also featured on Marion Nestle's blog.  The revival of home economics in schools may promote health, wellness, and act as a positive influence to stave off obesity in American youth.

What do you think of Bourdain's list?  Are you 15 for 15?
Do you think the revival of Home Economics is an obesity solution?

Happy Cooking,
Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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