Saturday, January 31, 2015

Valentine's day gift ideas-Part 2

Valentine's day (Feb 14, just in case) is just around the corner, y'all!!
"You don't have to get me anything for Valentines's day" - said no one ever!!
Even if they really say that, it only means that they are fishing for the gifts..So you better make your significant someone feel extra special this Valentine's day, okay?
 I know, finding the right gift for that special someone can be tricky- don't worry, we've got you covered.. So let's look at this year's fun finds

Some paint. some wine makes a fun-filled date night.. 
Coupon code: BECREATIVE40

because memories
Coupon code: FRIEND10QDQ

This book as a gift will never disappoint anyone!

4. Movie Night Gift Basket
source: Pinterest
Pick your favorite movie, some popcorn, soda/ beer and a cozy throw. I'm sure it's way more romantic at home than at theaters.

5. Skin/Hair care gift set
Source: The Body Shop

You can get such gift set from SephoraThe Body Shop or Bath & Body Works

6. Beauty Bag Subscription
Source: Birchbox

You can get such beauty bags at Birchbox or ipsy

7. Hobby Related Gifts

source: cafepress

For him : Photography related, fishing, running, golfing, gaming..
For her : Baking supplies, craft supplies, cookbook, gardening essentials..
you can find them all here
coupon code : GETAGIFT

8. Personalized Coffee Mug

9. Personalized Music Video

10. Photo Book

You can get them here : Shutterfly, Picaboo or Snapfish

Check out more ideas here : Valentine's day Part 1

Hope this helps!! 

Psst, hope you guys know that 50 shades of Grey, the movie is getting released on Valentine's day 

Friday, January 30, 2015

5 Home Remedies for Dry Skin

Winter and my skin are not exactly good friends. I am sure those of you with dry skin will agree with me on that. And for people like me who do not have much of a proper skin care routine, it can be a real pain. To be honest, it is not just winters, but my skin is dry all year round and no matter how much water I drink, it still remains a desert.

 One of my New Year’s resolution for 2015 is better personal care routine. So I am trying to get into an easy and simple routine for hair and skin.

It need not be going to a salon for an expensive spa or facial (although, it feels great to be pampered by someone). It need not always be buying expensive beauty products.

But do you know you can have your own facial treatments at the comfort of your home with products readily available in your kitchen?

It is not about skin lightening. It is not about fairness. It is not about skin whitening. But it is all about keeping your skin healthy and giving it the care it deserves. Healthy skin is what that really matters.

So, what are you waiting for? Go to your kitchen right now and get yourself pampered. IT is not only inexpensive but is also a natural and healthier option. These are more suited to dry skin tones although it may work for oily skin tones.You can do these once a week rotating them between weeks.
  • Besan/Gram/Chickpea flour: This is the most popular among Indian moms. Be it any big event, my mom would suggest this face pack for me and trust me, it does wonders. Just mix few teaspoons of the flour with milk to form a thick paste. Apply it on your face. Wash it off after 15 minutes or after it is completely dry. This can be used on dry/oily/combination skin
  • Olive Oil/Coconut oil: This is more suited for dry skin. Massage your skin with oil before bath. Take bath in warm/cold water after 15 minutes or so. Hot water draws out the oil leaving your skin more dry
  •  Almonds: Soak few almonds (around 5 to 6) overnight. Peel the skin and grind, Mix with milk and apply on face. Wash off after 15 minutes. This nourishes your skin and prevents dryness.
  •   Carrots: Boil a carrot in little water. Allow it to cool and grind to a paste. Apply on face. Wash off when it is dry.
  •  Honey: It can be used as a great moisturizer. Apply honey all over your face. Wash it off with warm water after 15 minutes.

So that is it. 

Quick and easy ways to keep your skin healthy and happy. No complex formulas. No time consuming procedures. I hope it is simple enough to suit any busy women. 

As always, these are few things that works for my skin. All skin types are different and use your judgement to refrain from using what you think may be allergic to your skin.

Happy skin makes every girl look all the more beautiful. Happy pampering!

Let us know if you would like to know more such tips for hair and skin.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Spinach Pasta


My husband and I have pasta once or twice a week as we both love it. I like the combination of pasta and spinach always, they go well with each other. My hubby loves pasta and I have seen him enjoying marinara sauce pasta at the restaurant but I love white sauce based pasta. I have already tried and posted vegetable pasta which we love the most. Last week when I made this spinach pasta he loved it so much, that he was quietly digging in without telling a word ;). Any bachelor can try making this! Kids will surely love this too <3.


  • Pasta (elbow pasta) - 1cup 
  • Baby Spinach - 2cups 
  • Garlic (finely chopped)- 1tbsp
  • Parmesan grated - 2-3tbsp
  • Milk 2% - 1/4cup 
  • Chilli flakes - 2tsp
  • Onion (finely chopped) - 2tbsp
  • Green chillies - 2 
  • Salt as needed 
  • Olive oil as needed


  • Cook pasta with salt, olive oil, till soft, as per the packing instructions. Drain the water and keep aside.
  • Remove the leaves off the stem and wash them. 
  • Heat a pan with oil in medium flame, add garlic and fry for a second without burning.

  • Then add onion, green chilli, saute in medium flame for about 2-3 minutes. Add spinach, fry till it reduces in quantity. Mix well.
  • Now add pasta, mix well then add grated parmesan along with milk. Give it a quick toss. Cook for 1 minute not more than that, because the milk may curdle.

  • Finally add chilli flakes, mix well and switch off the flame.
  • Serve it hot with your choice of bread. While serving add grated cheese and chilli flakes.


  • You can also use normal spinach.
  • You can use half n half instead of milk. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nutella Swirl Banana-walnut Muffins

 I love to have desserts or something sweet for breakfast, so having the stock of fresh fruits or freshly baked muffins or cake is a must in our house. When I say muffins/cake, it's nothing fancy.. to be honest most of the times I end up making banana muffins or the orange cake. As much as I love the classic banana muffins, the Gemini in me wants something new every time and I was wondering why not include the Nutella in the recipe. Why not?? give me one good reason why I shouldn't!! haha
Nothing can go wrong when there is Nutella in it, right?

These muffins are wonderful; moist, light and Nutellicious!! Its almost similar to the classic banana muffins recipe with the addition of your favorite and my favorite Nutella and some walnut which gives a  nice crunch! :)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour/whole wheat flour
  • 2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil/butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Spray the muffin pan with non-stick spray.
  • Add a  tsp of flour to walnut and just shake them so that they get coated evenly. set aside
  • In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt. Set aside
  • In another bowl, add banana and mash mash mash. Add sugar,oil and mix well
  • To this, add the flour mixture & walnuts, mix until just combined. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin cups.
  • Place nutella in a microwave safe bowl and heat it for 30 secs.
  • Spoon a dollop of nutella on top of all the muffins. Swirl the nutella on top of the batter in circular motion using a toothpick.
  • Bake for 15-18 mins or until the toothpick inserted comes out clean/crumbly. 
  • Let these dudes cool down for 5 mins. They have gone through a lot!!
  • Transfer them to wire rack and let them chill for more time.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Potato Fry / Urilai Kilangu Varuval


We all love potatoes, don't we? I often prepare potato fry but was wondering why we haven't posted this simple recipe in our blog. Potato fry is an unbeatable combination when had with rasam or curd rice. It goes well with other rice dishes like sambar, coconut, lemon rice or bisi bele bath.

There are 'N' number of potato recipes but this is a simple and basic potato recipe for a lazy day in your kitchen ;)


  • Potato - 3-4 
  • Sambar powder - 2tbsp
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4tsp 
  • Mustard seeds - 1tsp
  • Urad dhal - 1/2tsp
  • Asafoetida - a pinch 
  • Curry leaves - few 
  • Salt - as needed 
  • Oil - as needed


  • Peel the skin off potatoes and cut into small strips. 
  • Now transfer the cut potatoes into a bowl of water. This is to avoid the decolouration of potatoes. 
  • In a pan heat oil, temper with mustard seeds, urad dhal, curry leaves and asafoetida. 
  • Add potatoes and mix well. 
  • Then add turmeric powder, sambar powder and salt. Mix well. 
  • Roast the potatoes in medium flame for about 10-15 minutes. Saute in between to avoid burning.
  • Potato fry is ready to be served with rice of your choice. 


  • You can replace sambar powder with red chilli powder.
  • If you are immersing in water, drain the excess water and pat dry them with kitchen towel before using. 
  linking party

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pepper Rasam/ Pepper Spiced Broth

I am not sure about other places, but its still winter here in Chicago. Although, days are more pleasant recently, it is bitingly cold most of the days.

I always wonder what is it about the cold weather and food. Who doesn't want to snuggle up to a warm meal especially with the freezing temperature outside?!?

But as much as I tend to crave for hot,spicy comforting food (at times, even ice creams and shakes), there is something about the winter that makes me want to make a burrito of myself with super cozy comforters and pillows...along with hot coffee and my favorite novel - PURE BLISS !! 

If only a magic genie can make me any food that I want at anytime I ask for!

Ummmm.... if only....!

At times, I go all gaga on weekends and try to make complete breakfast, full course meals for lunch and even snacks for the evening just to burp away the weekend to my heart's content.

But then, It is so 'ME' to turn a bag of lazy bones at the flick of a switch. And most of the times, I happily waste away my weekends.After all, my wise friend once said, 

"A weekend wasted is never a wasted weekend !"

At times like that, this recipe comes handy. It is quick and easy, hot and spicy and probably just the thing you may need on such cold winter days!


To grind:
Toor Dhal : 3 tsp
Black Peppercorns :  4 tsp
Red Chilli : 1
Cumin Seeds : 2 tsp

For Broth
Tamarind Paste : 1 tsp ( or lemon sized pulp)
Water: 1.5 cups
Tomato : 1 chopped finely
Turmeric Powder : 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida: 1/4 tsp
Salt: as required
Curry leaves : 1 sprig
Cilantro : few roughly chopped

Ghee/oil : 1 tsp
Mustard seeds : 1/2 tsp


1. Grind the ingredients mentioned under 'to grind' to coarse powder.You can store this powder for at least a week although freshly ground powder tastes even better.

2. Mix tamarind paste/pulp with water. You can also microwave the solution for 30 seconds. IF you are using tamarind pulp, make sure you filter the solution to get just the liquid leaving away the pulp.

  •      Boil the tamarind water along with finely chopped tomatoes,turmeric powder, asafoetida, salt,curry leaves and some cilantro. Stir at regular intervals. The tomatoes should be soft and well cooked.
  •      Add the ground powder. I add about 3 tsp of the powder. But it can vary with how much spicy you want the broth to be.
  •      Allow the powder to get well combined with the liquid and turn off the stove.    
  •      Heat a teaspoon of ghee/oil and add mustard seeds. Allow it to splutter and add them to the broth.
  •      Garnish with cilantro leaves and it is ready to be served with steamed white rice.
     Adjust your tamarind paste measurement with how much dilute/concentrated the paste is. The measurement I have provided is for concentrated paste. Add more,  if the paste is not concentrated enough.
     The color is usually on the darker side than usual rasam as we are using peppercorns.
     This is linked to the series - South Indian Tamil Kitchen! If you want to know more about it, click here

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DIY Wall Art- using perfume/shoe box lid

Hey guys, long time no crafts!! 
I know, I know!! But here we are with a great idea to upcycle your shoebox/perfume box lid.
I'm sure you all have plenty of spare shoeboxes lying in the closet, get them out let's give them a beautiful makeover.. If you don't have any, what you waiting for? 
Time for new pair of shoes or a  perfume ;)

Isn't it great to reuse these boxes/lids, give them a new life and spruce up the bland walls with these inexpensive custom wall art? We have a couple of canvases hanging on the wall and this one looks almost like one of those. Looks great, if I may say so myself *smug face*

You'll need a box/lid which has a neat finish, sturdy and looks best if the edges are canvas-alike, say around 1 inch(refer pic)

Here's what you'll need :

  1. shoe/perfume box lid
  2. a photo of your choice/ old calender sheets/ fabric/decorative paper 
  3. glue/mod podge
  4. scissors
  5. paint/duct tape (to cover the edges)
How to :
  • Start by the cutting the photo (or calender sheet or fabric whichever you are using) large enough to cover the lid.
  • Apply the glue on top of the lid and place the photo, smoothing out the bubbles and wrinkles.
  • For the edges, you can either paint them with the suitable color, or I just happen to have matching duct tape. I just had to stick it all over the edges.
  • Since it's really light weight, I just hung it using the board pin.. That's it.. You're all set!   
Now, what I made with the perfume box is another story for another time.. I promise I won't keep you waiting..

 If you like this, you might like these too.. check out few other upcycling, trash to treasure ideas, cheap decor ideas.. 

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Strawberry Lemonade

This homemade strawberry lemonade is delicious and extremely easy to make. Ripe strawberries combined with freshly squeezed lemon will create a refreshing drink for a summer day. Pretty beautiful red color aren't they? :). This lemonade can be experimented with fruits like raspberry, blueberry, mango etc. Everyone will love it!!
Have fun and stay cool.....



  • Fresh strawberries - 8 
  • Lemon - 1 
  • Sugar - 3 tbsp
  • Salt - pinch 
  • Water - as needed 


  • Wash and remove the top green part from the strawberries. 
  • Now slice the strawberries.
  • Grind strawberries with sugar and water to a smooth paste.
  • Now strain the paste with strainer by adding more water.
  • Squeeze lemon and add a pinch of salt. Mix well. 


  • Adding salt will balance the taste of lemon. 
  • You can also use frozen strawberry.   
Linking parties 

Friday, January 9, 2015

South Indian Tamil Kitchen #1

The story goes like this…

“The husband says he has come one complete circle when it comes to food. Having stayed away from home for many years, he has had the opportunity to explore different cuisines and his favorite is now back to Indian Food and to be more specific, South Indian Food(Tamil).

In the last two years after marriage, our dining table has seen overcooked food, salt less food, and many other disasters but never has it seen complaints ( at least, till date). So as his reward, I wanted to be equally sweet (if not, more) and knowing his preferences, decided to make South Indian food more frequently!

Sadly enough, I knew the insides of kitchen only after marriage and so I was just doing Sambar + Rasam which became really monotonous and boring. Only then I started exploring more of it and came to know of the variety that I did not even know it had! So many dishes deserve better recognition than they have right now. "

PC : top left -

So here it is  - South Indian Tamil Kitchen ! I hope this series motivates me and make me explore different recipes from Tamil cuisine. It can be a simple Rasam or something I haven’t even heard of but all I can assure is most of them are going to be family recipes preserved for generations. It can be something really authentic to something that is tailored for convenience. I want to document them all so they doesn't get lost over time. 

I hope you find it helpful and feel free to let us know if you need any specific recipe. I can try as much as possible and get them for you from my different sources - mom, mil, sis, friends, relatives and wait for it… husband’s grand mom (precious ones, right?). 

See you soon with an interesting South Indian recipe.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chilli Tofu


Tofu is a common Southeast Asian food. It's gaining popularity around the world, but still mysterious to many. It's is also know as bean curd, made by coagulating soy milk. Tofu is a good substitute for those who doesn't like paneer.

Tofu is a highly nutritious, protein-rich, low calorie food. It's also a good source of Iron, Calcium, Manganese and Omega-3 Fatty acid. It lowers the risk of cancer and bad cholesterol. Last but not the least, it's gluten free ;-) 

Over the weekend, I realized that I was making very few tofu recipes like noodles, fried rice, soups etc. Then I decided to make chilli tofu instead of chilli paneer. This recipe is for people who love Indo-Chinese cuisine, like I do... 


  • Extra firm tofu - 1&1/2 cup
  • Capsicum (cut into cubes) - 1
  • Onion (cut into cubes)- 1
  • Garlic (finely chopped)- 6
  • Spring onion (finely chopped) - 3
  • Green chillies (finely chopped) - 3-4
  • Soya sauce - 2 tsp 
  • Chilli sauce - 1 tbsp
  • Tomato sauce - 1 tbsp 
  • Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp 
  • Salt as needed
  • Lemon juice - 1-2 tsp 
Batter for frying 
  • Maida flour - 1&1/2 tbsp
  • Corn flour - 1&1/2 tbsp
  • Baking soda - a pinch
  • Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
  • salt as needed 
  • Oil for deep frying


  • Make a thick batter using above ingredients in the "batter for frying" table. It should coat the tofu nicely. 

  • In a pan heat oil and shallow fry the tofu till golden brown color. Then transfer the tofu to a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
  • Heat a wide pan with 2 tsp of oil and add garlic, green chilli, white part of the spring onion, fry for a minute. 
  • Add onion and fry till transparent. Then add capsicum, give a stir in high flame.

  • Now reduce the flame and add all sauces, pepper, salt and mix well.
  • Add the shallow fried tofu. Mix well. 
  • Then switch off the flame and finally squeeze the lemon and garnish with spring onion. 

  • Transfer to the serving dish. Spicy tofu is ready to be served hot with fried rice or noodle or have as such!


  • Always serve hot.
  • Add tofu while serving otherwise it will become hard.
  • You can add any colored capsicum. 
  • Adding garlic and pepper gives a nice aroma and taste to the dish.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Orange cake

Looks like I have been bit by the baking bug, not complaining!! Been baking like crazy this holiday week; baking in the evening, baking after dinner, baking in the midnight, baking in dreams..a week of my baking shenanigans and I'm loving it.. Nothing fancy though.. Just the basic ones but certainly delicious ones.. 
Cookies and muffins are staple at home.. Recently, tried baking focaccia, nutella-swirl banana muffins, nutella cookies and this beautiful orange coffee cake.. recipes for the rest are coming soon.. For now let's enjoy this orange cake..

This cake is perfect for breakfast or as an evening snack with a tall glass of milk. You can smear the cake with your favorite frosting or just enjoy it as a plain coffee cake like we did. I have already posted recipe for orange cupcakes but this recipe is a little different, more of a coffee cake which you can enjoy without any guilt. This has part all-purpose flour, part whole wheat flour and no butter- not-so-sinful! They aren't as orange-y as my orange cupcakes were but there is a generous hint of citrus in this cake.. 

This recipe is adapted from here
All-purpose flour- 1 cup
Whole wheat flour- 1 cup
Sugar- 1 cup
Eggs- 3 
Oil- 3 tbsp
Fresh Orange juice- 1/3 cup
Orange zest- 1 tbsp
Baking powder- 2 1/2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
1 tbsp warm milk + a pinch of saffron

  • Pre-heat oven to 350F. Spray/butter the cake pan.
  • Dissolve saffron in 1 tbsp of warm milk. 
  • Sift together flour,baking soda and baking powder well
  • In a large bowl, add oil & sugar; cream until light and fluffy for about 3 mins.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beat well after every addition.
  • Add orange juice,zest and the milk and mix for 2 mins.
  • Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and fold in gently so that it's mixed well.Don't over mix.
  • Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 30-35 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  • Very important - Cool completely before slicing.


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