Posted in Recipes

Healthy Granola

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The other day, I was shopping at an organic grocery store. In one of the aisles, they were selling granola. The jars of granola beckoned me. I was more fascinated by the jars than the granola itself. I checked the price, enthusiastically, and read the contents. I felt it was exorbitantly priced, but I suppose you are paying for the bottle too. I came home wanting to make granola.

As usual, I go to the chef I admire, Alton Brown. The nice things about granola and granola bars (recipe posted earlier) are that you don’t have to be precise with the ingredients. I tried making them healthier and with less sugar. The recipe (adapted from Alton Brown) follows:

Ingredients:

3 cups oats

1 cup cashew nuts 

1 cup almonds

3/4 cup shredded desiccated coconut

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1 tbsp brown sugar (can add more if you want it sweeter)

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dates

Directions:

Preheat oven to 150 degree Celsius.

In a large bowl, add first six ingredients and mix well.

In another bowl, mix the oil, honey, salt and vanilla.

Pour the oil – honey mixture with the dry ingredients and mix.

Pour onto a sheet pan and bake for about an hour. Keep stirring to get an even colour. Be careful not to burn the granola.

Remove from the oven, pour into a bowl and add the raisins and dates. Mix well. Cool and transfer to a dry container and store in a cool place.

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Posted in Recipes

Spring Rolls, for dinner?

spring-rolls

The last few days have been cold and dreary. All I wanted to do was roll up in bed with a good book, some hot tea and something fried. This is the perfect weather to eat samosas, pakodas and all things fried. Today I decided to make some spring rolls and served it with some homemade jalapeno jelly. You could use any sweet and sour sauce.

Ingredients

1 packet spring rolls sheets

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 onion chopped

2 carrots, shredded or julienned

1/2 cup bean sprouts

1/2 cup spring onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1-inch ginger, chopped

(I made vegetarian spring rolls, but chicken or shrimp can be added)

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp chilli sauce

salt to taste

pepper to taste

vegetable oil

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Method

In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add onions and fry for a few minutes. Add all vegetables except the spring onions and bean sprouts.

Once the vegetables are almost cooked, add the spring onions and bean sprouts. Add salt, pepper, soy sauce and chilli sauce. Taste for salt and spices. Let it cook for a few minutes. Take it off heat and cool, preferably on a plate.

Make sure the spring roll sheets are thawed.

Take one sheet and place on flat surface. Add a tbsp of the filling on one side of the sheet. Fold on both sides and roll tightly. Wet the end with water to seal. Keep sheets covered with a moist cloth. Make all the spring rolls.

Heat oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add spring rolls and fry till golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot with sauce of your choice.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Recipes

Baking cookies and gleeful hearts; this is how the HOLIDAY starts! Tis the season to be jolly!

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Frank Sinatra’s ‘Christmas Memories’

Singing carols, stringing popcorn
Making footprints in the snow
Memories, Christmas memories
They’re the sweetest ones I know
Cookies baking in the kitchen
Cards and ribbons everywhere
Frosty, Christmas memories
Float like snowflakes in the air
And oh, the joy of waking Christmas mornings
The family round the tree
We had a way of making Christmas morning
As merry as can be
I close my eyes and see shining faces
Of all the children who now have children of their own
Funny, but comes December
And I remember every Christmas I’ve known.

The holiday season for me is synonymous with baking, food and family.    It is a time to spend with family and friends. This year, we are running late. I have been busy with work and study. We still have not put up our tree. Very soon, I will be baking my Christmas fruit cake; the fruits have been soaking in port wine for over a month and making my jalapeno jelly.

Today, I baked chocolate walnut bars. Of course, they will not last for long, surely not till Christmas. But the season has begun.  Listening to Frank Sinatra’s ‘Christmas Memories’ while baking.

Chocolate Walnut Bars

(From ‘The great cookie book’ by Hilaire Walden)

Ingredients

1/2 cup walnuts, or any nuts

1/3 sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 tbsps butter

For the topping

2 tbsp butter

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

a pinch of salt2 eggs

icing sugar for dusting

Method

Preheat oven to 180° C. Grease the sides of an 8-inch pan.

Grind nuts with a few tbsp sugar. Mix with flour and cold butter. Rub the flour-butter mixture with your fingers till they resemble coarse crumbs.

Turn it into a prepared pan and press to form a layer

Bake for 25 minutes

Meanwhile, to make the topping, melt butter with water in a saucepan over low heat. Beat in cocoa and sugar.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat in eggs and blend well. (Do not add before 5 minutes as egg will scramble).

Pour the topping evenly over te crust when it is cooked.

Return to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until set.

Cool and cut into squares. Dust with icing sugar.

Store in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!!!

 

Posted in Trekking

Makalidurga Trek – A road less travelled!

 

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“Climbing is really great, we all love climbing. But what’s interesting to me is what happens in my head or in my life because of it. Ultimately, I think climbing is a vehicle for exploration – of the world, of the self.”
Steph Davis

 

I started hiking/trekking around four months ago after much persistence from a friend. I never did these things, I have done short treks to see the fall colours with family, walked around lakes and parks but never hills and mountains. I lived in the midwest for many many years which was almost flat. For our holidays we usually went to museums and local eateries. Trekking was too much of physical work and not for me.

I started an MA this year and there we talked about reflecting about ‘oneself’, and do things we usually don’t do. We had electives to do and I wondered if I could put this under an elective 🙂 (I don’t think I can ). I sometimes wonder, if it is my ‘midlife crisis’, wanting to do things I had never done before, before it is too late. This is better and cheaper than buying a sports car, I suppose.

After the first trek it really got me motivated. It is almost like a drug, you can get addicted to it. However difficult the trek was and however tired and achy you are, at the end of it, you are thinking of the next trek. It is also about the company. Going with friends, encouraging each other on, giving a helping hand, laughing at the atrocious messages written on the rocks by ‘wanna be lovers’; that’s what keeps us going.

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Yesterday, we went to Makalidurga hills which is close to Doddaballapura. There are some overgrown trails and arrows drawn by people. As we go up, we have to look out for the arrows. Many times, we had no idea which way to go but we finally reached the top to see the fort walls. On the top, there is a small shiva temple and deities climb the hill to get there. All the way up, the views were beautiful. There is a huge lake in the shape of South America. I think another high about trekking is to be one with nature. You can listen to the ‘quiet’. You feel tiny compared to the magnitude of nature around you.

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks

As we descended, the sun started shining and it started getting hotter, the boulders around us was emitting heat. We stopped in the shade and had breakfast which we took with us. We had poha (flattened rice) with chutney, boiled eggs (eggs had never tasted better) with salt and pepper, khakra, bread and butter, banana bread and granola bars (recipe in previous blog posts).  As we went down the sun beat on us harder and it got more difficult. We lost our way a bit but then found the arrows. The above quote is so apt, getting down is mandatory. Though at one time when we were resting, I was looking at the beauty of nature (and getting internet connection) was wondering if I could just sit there.

This was a long, strenuous trek but well worth it. Two of our group members Nandita and Azmee, have founded  DreamDestinations -Aznan, where they customise vacations for women and they specialize in trekking.

Posted in Education

Inspired by M.C. Escher

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Penrose Triangle

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder. – M.C. Escher

A few years ago when I was teaching tessellations, I came across Escher. Escher was a dutch artist who was also a designer, print maker, illustrator and muralist. He was interested in space, illusion and Math. He is best known for tessellations, reality bending shapes and impossible shapes.

As I read about Escher and impossible shapes, I found it most interesting. I consider myself as a non-artist. I have never tried my hand at any art till about 7 years ago when I joined school as a teacher in Bangalore. I attend art class with my 4th and 5th graders and do what they are doing in art. I always say that I am at their level, some of them are way better than me.

Today, I was inspired by Escher. I spent the whole evening making a Mobius strip, a Penrose triangle and an Escher cube. I used youtube  videos to  sketch. What I realised today that sketching was very meditative. I felt calm and forgot about all the work I have. Maybe I should spend some time every day to sketch.

Mobius strip is a surface with one side and one edge.In Escher’s Mobius strip II red ants you see red ants scurrying on the Mobius strip.

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Posted in Education

Comparing and Contrasting as a tool for learning

Comparative thinking is a very natural form of thought that even a small baby has. The baby distinguishes between his parents and a stranger. People compare and contrast all the time. You compare the quality and price when you buy a kitchen utensil, for example. In order to compare, we first need to sort them. We need to decide the attributes we are sorting them by. For example, to sort our kitchen cabinet, we need to choose the attribute, could be by function, material or by size.

Intuitive behaviour is not a formal process. The ability to compare and contrast using a logical, scientific process requires training and understanding of the process of classification, discrimination, transition and use of the right vocabulary. CLASSIFICATION is the first step where you find attributes (criteria) to compare. DISCRIMINATION is the second step where you distinguish and articulate the differences. From this you draw inferences and conclusions while using TRANSITION or CONTRASTING VOCABULARY like whereas, however, etc.

We use visual thinking tools that enable this kind of thinking. Some of the tools used are the semantic feature analysis chart or matrix diagram, double bubble diagram and Venn diagram. This is an essential tool that can be used across subjects. I have extensively used this in Math, Science, Social Studies and English. Here are a few examples.

Step 1: Classification

Step 2: Discrimination

Posted in Education

Mindfulness and Guided Imagery

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8 years ago, when I moved back to India, if someone had asked me about guided visualisation, I would have no idea what it was. I was introduced to it a little over 7 years ago. I always thought meditation was ‘humbug’ since I could never meditate. My mind would wander and I did not know that it was normal for the mind to wander. Then, 7 years ago, I was told that we were going to do some meditation. We started with a mandala which was a very calming process. I have done it many many times after that and have always enjoyed the process. We then were led into  guided imagery. The person who was leading us had a very soothing voice and a sense of calm descended on me.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of guided imagery or visualisation is ‘a relaxation technique in which words, sounds, etc., are used to evoke positive mental images, feelings, and thoughts.’  A way to introduce mindfulness  is through guided imagery which is a meditative process. Children have  vivid imagination and have fewer preconceived notions, so are able to immerse themselves in the process better than adults.

Over the last five years, I have been guiding students with the imagery. Students have a hectic life. They leave home early from home, most often hurriedly and stressed over catching the bus or getting to school on time. This activity calms them. I have been told by my colleagues that I have a soothing voice and soft voice. It is a learning process for student to be able to close their eyes and focus on what is being said. After the guided visualisations, I often ask them to draw or paint what they saw. They all visualise the same thing very differently. After the experience, they say that they feel happy. It brings some quiet and calmness in them. They feel that they can face the rest of the day having positive thoughts. However, not all students are able to go through the process. It takes practice to close their eyes and visualise. This is a great tool for mindfulness.

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Their thoughts after the guided imagery