Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playing with food: Solar System

The Solar system has been on Sara's mind ever since all her friends at Kindergarten put up a spectacular show called what else, the Solar System.

She was part of Team Neptune and thee children looked so cute dancing to "Neptune, Neptune that's the place to be". In their shimmery black costumes with a big blue circular patch that represented Neptune complete with a glowing antenna they won our hearts.
During the months that led up to the performance the children were exposed to the names of different planets, the characteristics  of each planet and ofcourse nothing is complete without music so they sung planet songs.
Night sky on the screen, sparkling costumes, dazzling smiles, twinkling eyes and great confidence. A morning to remember.
It was a beautiful performance for which I am sure the teachers must have slaved over and spent many sleepless nights. It was also the day when they graduated from Kindergarten to Primary. Many silly mums like me had teary eyeswhen they saw their not-so-little-anymore babies walk up to the stage to receive the graduation prize. It is perfectly normal to feel like that, right? Please agree:)

Anyhow, coming back to the Solar System and its eight planets (There was a really funny Pluto in the show who wanted to come back to the Solar System family but was kicked out each time:)) Sara wanted to live in her Neptune pants and it had been a while that we kept going back to her show and how much fun they had. Her dad, aunt, uncle and ofcourse her mum were also taught the dance steps. 

So, the other day when she asked me for some snack I gave her this. 
And I don't need to tell you her reaction or do I? She screamed with joy. The Solar System, Mamma! On my plate!

She was really amused for she was "eating planets". we talked about how Jupiter was so big and Mars was so tiny. And how Neptune was so cold since it was at a distance from the sun and Mercury was hot because it was right there kissing Mr.Sun:) 
We talked about how the planets were going "round and round" the sun singing Ring-around-the-roses. It made her a little sad that they were doing it alone and not holding hands which is why they will never meet.

I didn't have a black plate larger than this on hand else I would have preferred to have the orbits drawn to scale. Having said that, all the planets were in her tummy so why complain. I used cream cheese in a regular icing bag to pipe out the orbits and just for fun used a cloth that had stars on it as her place mat. If your little one is into planets, do try this out and I can guarantee you lots of happy giggles.

Food is such a great medium when it comes to learning new things. Isn't it?

Solar System Fruit Platter

Serves one little crazy planet fan

A slice from a boiled egg for the sun
A blueberry for Mercury
A sliced raspberry for Venus
A dry apricot for Earth
A sliced strawberry for Mars
A slice of apple for Jupiter
A slice of kiwi for Saturn
A slice of plum for Uranus
A banana slice for Neptune

1 tbsp of cream cheese (yogurt, cream;anything will do)

(Any fruits that you have on hand would do. I just made sure that the sizes were more or less to scale when I assigned them each a planet)

Black platter (or any plate of your choice) to represent the night sky and any fabric/ paper with stars for a place mat (Optional)
Let's just assume that you didn't see the grubby finger marks on the platter, OK? 
We agree?
1. Start with sun right at the center.
2. Fill up the cream cheese in an icing bag and pipe out 8 concentric circles around the sun for the 8 orbits.
3. Place the fruit slices to represent the planets.
4. Surprise your little one!

Images : Personal Album. While you enjoy reading this post with visuals.Please do not use them without asking. They belong to Orange Kitchens unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My writing elsewhere and more.

This March you can find my food stories in the following magazines.

Baby's first bite for the BBC GoodFood Middle East.
That first bite when you introduce your little one to the world of solid food is an important time in both the life of a child and the parents. When my little girl became big enough to "eat" I was introduced to  the beautiful ceremony of "Annaprashan" by my Bengali in-laws. From there started my journey to take important decisions; store bought or home made, what veggies/ fruits should or shouldn't be fed to a child who is not even a year old, when can I introduce her to chicken and fish and more. And in that one year I learnt a lot. Also the value of making home cooked baby food for her. So much healthier, cheaper, free of additives and full of love than store bought jars. Read the complete story here

Tea Time Snacks for The Indian Trumpet.
Ask most Indians and they would agree that there is something about garam garam chai that makes chilly winter mornings’ warmer and sultry hot summer evenings tolerable. Weekends when there is no rush are calmer when you have a cup in hand and the breathtaking sunrise for a view. Weekdays when one is running around like a headless chicken the same cup of chai (or cha as my maternal grandmother would say) when multiplied by three or sometimes four helps you keep your sanity. Chai simply makes your life better. Or for me it was always what came with the chai; the conversation, the people, the place and the snacks; yes especially the teatime snacks. Read the complete story here.

Deviled Eggs for Food e Mag dxb
Cooking with kids : Deviled Eggs are so easy and Sara always asks me to “help her make” them when she has her friends over. They are so easy to put together, can be prepared hours in advance, a big hit with all her little friends and really it’s my idea of bite sized heaven. Read the complete story here.

And more.

A couple of weeks back I was invited to attend to cake decorating session at the Top Chef Studio put together by the very talented team at the Lurpak Baking Studio
I had so much fun baking and playing with fondant and making pretty flowers to adorn the cake. 
Aren't those cupcakes adorable?

If you are a cake enthusiast I would highly recommend the session. Of course just one session doesn't make you a pro (It would take months and months of practice and learning to produce perfectly decorated cakes) but if you have handled cake before it gives you a fair idea on how to work with the tricky buttercream icing, the numerous tools, the pastry equipment, lots of pro tips, handling fondant and more importantly you begin to appreciate all the back breaking hard work that goes into crafting pretty cakes! I was definitely smitten by it all and plan to return soon to learn more. 

Images : The respective magazines and personal album. While you enjoy reading this post with visuals. Please do not use them without asking. They belong to Orange Kitchens unless otherwise stated.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Holi to you and yours.

A very Happy Holi to you and yours.
Lots of colours, gujiyas, sherbets and wishes coming your way

Images: Personal Album. While you enjoy reading this post with visuals. Please do not use them without asking. They belong to Orange Kitchens unless otherwise stated.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Painting plates with food.

Sara and I like to "play" with our food. Mostly during snack time or over the weekends when there is enough time to indulge in a lazy breakfast. A snowman made up of boiled eggs, a forest full of broccoli trees, a cookie spider, an elephant with a banana for the get the drift. It makes snack time so much more fun. There is a sense of pride in putting that owl together (made with a slice of pineapple) and eating your creation; I can see it in her eyes. Plus she is being exposed to different kinds of food, feeling the different textures, trying out new foods that she previously rejected (because the nose will be perfect only when made with a caper) and ofcourse she is being creative in the kitchen.

For those fun times on the dinner table when we like to "paint" our plates with food, I am loving these plate options for they come with art work that the kid can use as a starting point especially when you've run out of ideas! (Also good if you have a picky eater at home).

Polish designer Boguslaw Sliwinski designed these amazingly creative ceramic plates and produces them to order.  Won't it be fun to make and eat your art! I'd love that mountain of cheese please.
If you'd like to encourage your little ones to make their own plate here is an easy tutorial for them to make their "happily ever after" storybook plate. This is one DIY project that I'd love to do with my little chefling.
From the arty to the comical.These food faces plates are making me chuckle. 

Which child wouldn't like to eat boiled eggs bright eyes or a lettuce headgear?
I know mine would love it!
Ms. Food Face Mr.Food Face is here to give you company
Mashed potato beard, anyone? 
Feeding peas should be easy when they come in the form of a hat and a moustache!

The last one, just because.

I am lurving this one and I know it has got nothing to do with playing with food but how adorable is it for the children to have their very own personalized plates.
You have the option of selecting the background colour, skin tone, hair style and colour, shape and colour of the eyes and even their expression. And ofcourse add their name. The kids will have a tough time saying no to food put on this plate.
Sara has been obsessed with ballet for over two years now. 
Won't it be cute to have her on a plate wearing a tutu?

Do you and your kidlet play with food? I'd love to hear.

Images : here, herehere and here

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A New Year present from DinnerTime.

Do you guys remember how about a month and a half back I felt I didn't have the energy to cook and began to treat it as a boring chore? The truth however was that in the midst of work deadlines, a very active four year old, managing home and thousands of other things that always need our attention and those that seem to show up without notice I had lost my enthusiasm to cook and the creative team at DinnerTime helped me get it back. 
With fresh ingredients delivered right to my doorstep at a time chosen by me, a great mix of protein and veggies, simple recipes that all took under thirty minutes and they tasted awesome; I was sold (Oh and leftovers too which were transformed into fresh lunches for the next day).
Read my full review here.
And today I want to share that experience with all of you. A generous present from the team at DinnerTime for the readers of Orange Kitchens to get you kick started into eating healthy,wholesome and most importantly home cooked meals. Yes! you read it right. A giveaway! 

A DinnerTime box worth 300 AED for two and worth 420 AED if you are a family of four is up for grabs.No worries if you are gluten allergic for they have it all covered.
Here's how you could win of their boxesAll you need to do is to leave a comment here on why you think this box should be yours. It could be anything really...if you think it will help bring about a change in your food habits or introduce you to new ingredients or recipes or even save you from the hassle of planning a menu for at least a week!

Ofcourse you may increase your chances of winning by doing any/all of the following for each of these will earn you an extra point:
1. Like the DinnerTime FB page or  follow them on Twitter and share the contest on your FB Page/Twitter respectively.
2. Like the Orange Kitchens FB page or follow it on twitter and sharing the contest on your FB page/ Twitter respectively.

Leave me a comment for each like/share to make sure I know about it :) If you already "like" one/both just let me know and I will put in another entry for you.

Since DinnerTime currently covers only Dubai the giveaway is valid for Dubai Residents only. But the rest of you need not be disappointed for you can always participate for a loved one staying here and we promise to send them the box with your compliments:)

The last date to participate is 5th of February'14. The winner will be announced on the 6th February'14.

Good luck people!

Images: Personal Album & logo from DinnerTime.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jump-starting the New Year with wholesome juice.

I mentioned in my previous post that there is something about a fresh start that pulls me towards it. A chance to redeem myself, an opportunity to learn from the past and prepare for the future and that is exactly what I did this New Year. After a month of shameless gluttony of Christmas cupcakes and reindeer donuts, of liberal portions of roasts and cheesy lasagnas, of tons of buff dimsums and sarson ka saag with white butter on top I think both my tastebuds and my system wanted a breather.

Lighter meals, more veggies and fruits, healthy dips, leaner proteins and so after some more bingeing on the New Years’ Eve I began my day doing exactly that; with a power packed smoothie for breakfast (a food resolution I made to myself).And later that day when I went down to one of my favorite coffee shops with an intention to work and ofcourse to have some coffee (since I mostly work out of home and there are times I like to get out of my pyjamas and disturb the zen like environment that the ironed and neatly stacked clothes in my cupboard are usually living in) and that is when I came across Bean Machine’s Juice Diet. To be really honest I always run away from these so called diets but the large glasses of fresh juices that their other customers were ordering kept me away from my regular order of coffee that day.

I found out that the lovely couple who own and run Bean Machine, Paul Farrance and Duaa Anwar came up with this Juice Detox diet almost a year back when Paul was struggling with some serious health issues. Duaa a certified fitness professional shared how and why she came up with these different concoctions and how Paul benefitted from it. Duaa says, “Toxins find their way to us through processed foods and the air that we breathe and fresh juices help eliminate those toxins. It strengthens the body and mind, replace deficiencies, helps built immunity, increases the energy level, controls cravings and ofcourse if done regularly can help with weight loss. A diet of raw fruit and vegetables is beneficial whatever your goal may be”.

I decided to give this a try except for one thing that I could not have survived only on three portions of juice alone. That is when Duaa told me that they don’t expect you to. The juices need to be supplemented with other interesting and healthy meals like a salad, nuts or some form of protein that fills you up. Plus some windup options that you could take before going to bed. I chose their three day juice diet (they also have a seven and a fourteen day diet for the dedicated).
So the next day at a time pre-decided by me I received my first glass of a very pretty both on the outside (my favourite colour) and the inside (packed with blueberries, banana, orange, bio-live yoghurt, honey and muesli) Blueberry & Banana smoothie. It was a large glass (16 oz.) that filled me up completely. For lunch I had what they called a Turbo Detox juice made up of apples, carrot, celery, spinach, broccoli, beetroot, zucchini, ginger (I liked this the best) which I had with a grilled chicken salad. Come evening, I had my last juice of the day, Two carrots, two apples, ginger and a squirt of lemon. Each night I had some grilled cottage cheese and veggies with it. I also had a lot of water each day to make it work better.
What worked for me?
  • After a crazy festive month it was just what my system needed to spring back into a normal eating pattern. So I am still eating my occasional dessert but the juice diet supplemented with healthy food provided a sort of healthy jumpstart for the year ahead. I highly recommend it if like me sometimes you need some inspiration or a friendly nudge.
  • The juices were fresh, delivered to my doorstep three times a day which means they weren’t standing in my fridge all day and I got the maximum benefit of the nutrients. Also they were sans any sugar and included the fiber from the fruits and the vegetables.
  • The juice wasn't expensive. At 16 ounces it costs only 20 aed.
What would I have liked done differently?
  • My smoothie/juice was the same for each of my meals. I am someone who thrives on variety and by the end of the day two much as I liked the juices I would have preferred some variety. For someone who wants to try this out for seven/fourteen days it could get very boring after a while.
Like it or not, everybody needs to detox from time to time to revitalize and cleanse your much abused bodies and to flush out those toxins and replace the nutrients. Choose what works for you.

Eat healthy and stay fit.

Disclaimer: All views expressed here are my own and Bean Machine invited me to try out their juice diet. 

Images: Personal Album. While you enjoy reading this post with visuals. Please do not use them without asking. They belong to Orange Kitchens unless otherwise stated

Monday, January 6, 2014

A fresh plate: 2014

A very Happy New Year to all you lovely readers. I absolutely love new beginnings for they give us a chance to look back on how the last year fared, an opportunity to start afresh, several new possibilities to grow, to learn and to experiment.  

Fresh plates and clean slates I love them both. For I can fill up my empty plate with things I have never tried and write new goals on my slate.
These are my resolutions for the year with respect to food.
  1. Bread making: I really would like to make 52 loaves this year. I did try several last year and I have to admit most have been just so-so. I have several books that have some very doable recipes and this Christmas I got another book that just might make my dream of baking and breaking my own bread more achievable. Do you have any online resources you’d like to share? I don’t think I will be making my own starter I will still depend on the good old dry yeast but I will be using my hands for sure. We’ll leave the starters for another year.
  2. Make pasta from scratch: So I own a pasta maker and it has NEVER been used (Hangs head in shame). This year I’d like to take it out of its box and show it my kitchen. That I learnt how to make ravioli from Chef Marco Sacco should help.
  3. Explore more of Indian cuisine: At home we love to eat a bit of Indian, a bit of Thai, a bit of Italian, a bit of this and a bit of that…you get the idea…right? And when I say Indian I mean Indian not just Butter Chicken and Dosa. kori gashi one day, khichra the next, Mum’s rajma chawal one day and my mil’s cholar dal another. But who am I kidding? Indian Cuisine is vast and even If I spend a lifetime exploring it I don’t think I would still be able to do justice to it. I have already made a little beginning in that direction though which I intend to share with you once I am allowed to (insert wink) and I am spending considerable time reading more and more about it; getting to know the history and the geography of the wonderful country I come from through food.
  4. Blog more about what I am cooking with my littlechefling: Orange Kitchens is my space where I like to talk about what is on our table and in our kitchen. It is also a space where I like to share what Sara and I have been cooking and we do spend a lot of time in the kitchen but for some reason I fail to share a lot of it here. We make, we eat and we move on. This year I intend to mend that; just what the New Year doctor ordered. Reflect and repair. So you will see a lot of kid friendly recipes that they can help with and ofcourse that I hope they will relish.
  5. Concentrating on Kids and their relationship with food: I’d like to devote a large part of my year working in that direction. I took babysteps last year by writing relevant food stories and conducting food demos where I talked about it but this year I intend to focus more on the subject of connecting the children with real food (the obesity and diabetes figures here at Dubai are really alarming) and also how it is very important and ofcourse fun it is to get into the kitchen. I have a little roadmap but it needs more work and I will be sharing that with you pretty soon.
  6. Use more cookbooks rather than using the same ones over and over again: I own several cookbooks. I own more than 100 cookbooks. But you know what like a lot of you out there (please tell me you belong to this group) I end up using the same ones each time for they and I have made this little bond over the years. They are familiar and I trust them. They help me when life takes over and I have to get a meal on the table each night. But this year I am going to get to know my other “friends” a little better.
  7. Try a new cheese each month: We are a cheese loving family. Right from my little chefling who knows her Cheddar from Gouda or DH who hearts the stinky old cheese, the more pungent, the better for him. But once again we stick to the familiar ones. This year I’d like to meet more cheese. One new cheese each month. Stand alone bites.
  8. Reduce my dependence on packaged/processed food: I have already been working on this one for several years now and this year I intend to continue. Less and less dependence on the processed and packaged food. I admit some of it actually makes my life easy but today we have some wonderful healthy options that are both easily available and not so hard on the pocket and of course like I said earlier make one’s life convenient. Plus I have been following her for a while now and I have to admit I am hugely influenced by her writing.
  9. Meal planning: Family, friends and work and several other things that one wants to somehow fit in those 24 hours; I love them all. But there is one thing that I completely detest; staring at my refrigerator and trying to decide what I am going to be serving that night. And I have observed that If I plan my meals in advance (we ofcourse eat better, reduce wastage, eat variety…the usual you know) it makes a me a happier and calmer person. The fact that I have most of my meals planned for the week always-always takes the pain (Read: Thinking) out of cooking away. Let’s admit it making three meals a day, each day is not always fun.
  10. Eat breakfast everyday: While we are on the subject of making me feel like a better person (if not actually make me one :)) the last one is my personal goal. I have observed that I religiously start my day with a walk and my morning cup of coffee and then begin work and before I know it I have already missed breakfast (I work largely from home and working from home does that to some people like me). This year I am making a promise to no one else but me to have that breakfast that I make sure my entire family eats and that I usually miss.

So those were my foodie resolutions for the year and we will see how I fare at the end of the year. What are yours? I’d love to hear from you.

Eat well and stay healthy.

Image: here