Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Durga puja at Houston Durga Bari Society

Being a Bengali I miss the Durga puja a lot here in the United States. The "kash phool" , "dhaker awaz" ,  new dresses and "pujobarshiki"......I miss every bit of it. Being surrounded by all non Bengali people, it is really hard to make them understand the craze of this five day long celebration. Long before the puja days, all my friends from West Bengal started to post puja related status in their Facebook pages and that made me more sad. I was remembering all the old good memories of puja. And then suddenly I came to know about the Houston Durga Bari Society. A temple of Goddess Durga. The location is quiet good, its not in a crowded area. The private road that leads to the temple has ample greenery and a lake. This lake is used for the "bisorjon" (immersion of the idol). The Society is a decade old one and many people are associated with it. This year they celebrated the Durga puja for public for four days from 25th October to 28th. I was there for two days over the weekend. They did  "sandhya arati", "dhaki", "balidaan", "puspanjali" ...everything!! The "balidaan" was a surprise for me as they cut five different vegetables instead of an animal. It was a really nice idea. And who can forget the delicious "bhog". The "khichudi" with "beguni" was the attraction on Saturday while the final day's menu was fried rice with mutton. In the auditorium section they had some cultural activities. To have a look at these programs and to eat the dinner/lunch you need some passes which you can buy online. The registration fee was around $250 for family which increased by $50 during the puja days.

After the Dashami puja all the married women played with "sindur" there. And then the "bisarjan" happened. Since it is USA we can not immerse the idol in the lake (it will cause water pollution), hence they immersed only a banana plant along with an earthen pot. Thus the Durga puja came to an end this year with a hope in our heart "Asche bochor abar hobe"!!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Choco Chip Muffin

Chocolate...who does not like it?? And if its the molten one I just love it. Choco cip muffins are one of the hot favorites among kids. And its my favorite too......so I made it at home this time. I have eaten the one which are dark chocolate color but I always prefer to have white muffins with choco chips peeping out here and there. So I did not use cocoa powder in this recipe to make it brown in color. 

Ingredients :

1. All purpose flour (Maida)- 1 and 1/2 cup
2. Sugar- 3/4 cup
3. Cinnamon powder- 2/3 tsp
4. Salt- 1/2 tsp
5. Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
6. Baking powder- 1 tsp
7. Chocolate chip- 2/3 cup
8. Egg- 2
9. Milk- 1/2 cup
10. Canola oil- 1/2 cup
11. Vanilla essence- 1 tsp

Procedure :

In a pan mix all the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips. Keep it aside. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs with other liquid ingredients. After that add the dry mixture into the liquid mix slowly. Mix with a spoon lightly. Do not over mix it. Pre heat the oven at 350 degree F. Put the muffin papers in the pan and fill them up to 2/3 rd. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check it with a sharp knife if its done. Take it out and place on rack.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Some of California's Best Beaches

 California is the land of World’s few best beaches, the white sand and the blue water. If you are planning a trip to the West Coast of USA, then a visit to this state is a must.There are many beaches in this state which are famous worldwide for various reasons but there is one common thing among all of them…..that is their natural beauty. If you go to any well-known cities of California like San Francisco, Los Angeles …..you will see some very popular crowded beaches.  Also if you drive through the famous California highway 1 then you will come across many beaches which are not that crowded yet they are very beautiful.  I have listed here some of the nice beaches :

Baker beach : If you want to enjoy a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge along with the beach, then go to this beach in San Francisco. It is pretty difficult to find the exact address of this beach. Follow the Bowley street and then enter the Battery chamberlin road. There you will see the sign for the beach and the parking lot. It is dog friendly. There is a nice trail which is accessible through wooden stairs.There is a picnic spot too which is good for family fun. Walk towards the north side of the beach and you will see the GG bridge behind the rocks. That part of the beach is too windy and the rocks are a little sharp.

Stinson beach : If you drive through GG bridge towards north, you will reach Muir wood and this beach is close to the wood. Follow Panaromic highway and look for the signs. The road is narrow and quite steep, hence, sometimes you will find slow moving traffic here. The views on the way are awesome.You can see the beach from the cliffs clearly. Since the beach entrance is through a small town, it’s a little tough to find a parking space in the parking lot. It is the best place for sun bathing, surfing. Dogs are allowed here.  

Maverick beach : Half moon bay is another famous place in California. Once you reach this place you will hardly miss the big golf ball sculpture (pillar point) which will guide you to the beach.  This beach is famous for surfing. There is a small parking lot which can accommodate only twenty cars.

Bonny doon beach : If you drive through highway one you will reach the Bonny Doon road where you will see the roadside parking lot on the right. Park the car there and climb the small rocky hill to reach the railway line. There are two different paths through which you can climb down to reach the beach. One path is steep, rocky and very difficult. If you walk along the railway track, you will find another slop of sand. It is an easy path to reach to the beach safely. The water here is crystal clear blue. It is a nude beach so be careful if you are going with your family.

Asilomar Beach : In Pacific Grove it is one of the most beautiful beaches. The beach is small and has rocky shore. There is a trail for pedestrian. A quite place. Park your car at the roadside parking spaces (easily available even on weekends) and enjoy the natural beauty sitting on one of the benches.

Pebble beach : It is a must place to visit if you are going for 17 mile drive. The drive itself is relaxing and calm. The views from the vista points are simply breath taking. To enter the drive you have to pay the entrance fee of $9.75 per car. If you eat somewhere in the restaurants and spend more than $25 (I am not sure about the amount), you will get the entrance fee back!! The Pebble beach golf link is very famous. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fredericksburg and Pedernales State Park, TX

A visit to the country side on a sunny day is an awesome experience. The moment you leave the city, you will see the difference all around you. The tall concrete buildings will be gone. Instead, you will see the small huts, some tiny farms here and there and small shops. 
Last weekend we went to Fredericksburg , a small place close to Austin , Texas. Drive on US 290 W and it will take around one and a half hour to reach there. On the way to this place, you will find acres of sunflower field on both the side. There are some nice view where you can have a look at the town from a hill top. 

On the way we stopped at a small farm who sell all fresh farm made products, like: jam, spread, peaches, ice cream etc. We tried their peach flavored ice cream. It was simply mind blowing, no preservatives no artificial taste!! We saw people buying the ice cream in huge quantity. If you like to buy something from these road side shops, buy it. Do not wait for the return trip, because these country side places close early even on weekends.

On the way we stopped at Wild seed farm. If you like hand made art and crafts, do visit it. I loved their aromatic lip balm. They have some nice crockery collection different from what we get in shopping centers. There is a small garden area behind the farm where they have cultivated some beautiful Dahlia flowers. You will get some tasty spread there. Try the samples and choose the one that suits you the most.

In Fredericksburg there is a race track at the Gillespie County fairground, where you can watch the Pari-Mutuel horse racing on any weekend in the month of July and August. It is a fun activity. You can enjoy the race with your family. There are several rounds of race and it starts after 1 pm and continue till 6 pm. The price for adult is $5 each. We had fun betting on the horses. 

If you plan to have lunch at the Fredericksburg , then keep an eye on the time. We went for lunch at 4:30 pm and most of the eateries and shops were closing! Finally we went inside a brewery and had our lunch. The one thing that I did not like is the taste of water. It was so different!! I will prefer to carry my own bottle next time.
On the  way back to Austin we stopped at the Pedernales State Park, which is about 35 miles from Austin. It is a nice quiet park. A perfect picnic spot. You have nature , water, what else do you want? The park is open till 10 pm, though the park office closes at 6 pm. The entry fee is $5 per person. Once you enter the narrow road you will see the greenery all around you. No one around you to disturb. Follow the map and you can go to the river area where swimming is permitted or you can directly go to the waterfall area like us. This park is under high alert of flash flood. So be attentive while you reach the ground. The waterfall region has some breath taking views. The water is cold and crystal clean. Sit on the rocks quietly and you can see the small fishes coming close to you. The rocks are obviously slippery. But over all it is a nice clam place. Do not miss the sunset view here. One can also go for camping in this state park with permission.

Gradually the day came to an end and we headed back toAustin. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Statue of Liberty , New York

When I think of India , the first thing that comes to my mind is Taj Mahal. And when I think of United States of America......its obviously the Lady with torch. When I got a chance to visit New York, I did not miss the opportunity to visit the Statue of Liberty.

 There are two ways in which you can see the Statue. One is through the normal boat trips which will take you close to the Liberty island but will not take you to the island. The other one is the statue cruise which is authorized to take visitors to the island. This cruise combine the Ellis island tour with the Liberty island tour. You can find more about the cruise at www.statuecruises.com. The best part is that you can buy your tickets online avoiding the long queues in front of the counter and believe me you will feel good for this decision. The tickets were $13 per adult at that time. Once you buy the ticket online , you will receive a ticket's print out which will mention your date and travel time on it. Take a print out of it and do carry a photo identity with you. Though they did not ask for it but it is better to be safe. It is advised that you should reach the place half an hour before your scheduled time. Now you can either reach at the Battery park (New York) or at Liberty state park (New Jersey) to catch the cruise. I went through the New York side. You can reach the park by subway. I think the green line reach there. It is the last stop at the south of the New York. Get down and follow the road signs to reach to the gates. 

view from the ferry

At the gates show your ticket's print out and get inside. One thing you should remember these cruises are generally over packed all the time. Hence, they do not allow large bags with you. But backpacks are okay. Enter the security zone and go through the metal detector and pass your bags through the x-ray. Get into the cruise. Be careful , sometimes the tides are really strong and that can shake the plank , so its better to hold the ropes while climbing up the plank.

Ellis island

 If you want to avoid the sun , get into the first layer or in the shaded portion on the top floor. To get a nice view of the skyline and the approaching Statue of Liberty, I will suggest you to be in the open area of the top floor. Reach the Liberty island first, spend time there, click photos, enjoy the nice views around. There are ferries coming and leaving the island at an interval of 30 minutes. So you can take any leaving ferry to reach the Ellis island. The last ferry leaves at around 4 p.m. 
waves crashing down

Manhattan skyline at a distance

It is true that a visit to USA without a visit to the Statue of Liberty is incomplete.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chilly Cauliflower

I always get confused what should I make as a side dish for our daily dinner/lunches. And that is why  I experiment with the vegetables. Now a days I prefer the baked version of anything. It is so healthy... right? And easy too!! That is why I made this spicy cauliflower recipe for the dinner. Hope you will enjoy it.

Ingredients :

1. Cauliflower- 1 small
2. Cornflour- 3 tbs
3. Ginger-garlic paste- 1 tsp
4. Garlic- 3 cloves
5. Salt to taste
6. Green chilly- 4
7. Soy sauce- 1 tbs
8. Black pepper powder- 1 tsp
9. Red chilly powder- 1/2 tsp
10. Red bell pepper- 1/2
11. Oil

Procedure :

Cut the cauliflower in medium florets. In a pan boil water with salt. Add the florets and cook for 3 to4  minutes till the florets become a little tender. Now in a bowl mix cornflour , 1/2 tsp black pepper , red chilly powder , salt and ginger-garlic paste. Add little water to make a thick batter. Drain the water from the florets and dip the florets in the batter. Preheat the oven at 400 F and bake the florets for 15 minutes. Do turn the florets in between. Now in a pan add 1 tbs oil and chopped bell peppers, saute them for 2 minutes. Add the chilly , soy sauce , remaining pepper powder , garlic and the remaining of the batter. Stir fry everything until it thickens. Add the baked cauliflower and mix well. Sprinkle some salt and turn off the heat.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mixed Seafood Soup

What else can be better than a bowl of light seafood soup. This light soup is a little spicy but it is not harmful. So I generally prefer this seafood soup over any other heavy ones. 

Ingredients :

1. Fish fillet- 1
2. Small prawn- 1/2 cup
3. Mushroom- 5
4. Carrot- 2
5. Garlic- 2 cloves
6. Whole black pepper- 1/2 tsp
7. Salt to taste
8. Bay leaf- 1
9. Clove- 3
10. Black cardamom- 1
11. Chicken- 1 medium piece
12. Worcestershire sauce- 1 tsp
13. Oyster sauce- 1/2 tsp
14. Cayenne pepper- 1/2 tsp
15. Fish masala powder- 1/2 tsp
16. Black pepper powder- 1/4 tsp
17. Butter- 1 tbs


 First make the chicken stock. In a pan add 1 tbs oil and bay leaf, cardamom , clove , whole pepper, chicken, carrot and fry for a minute or two. then add 2 glass of water , some salt and cover the pan and cook over medium flame for 15 minutes to make the chicken stock.
In a stock pan add the butter , cayenne pepper , sauces and chopped garlic. Heat over medium flame. Then add the chicken stock (remove the chicken piece) and the prawn , fish and mushrooms. Add some more water and salt to taste. Add the remaining masalas and cover the pan and cook over medium flame for 5 to 8 minutes until the mushrooms are done.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup

A healthy soup recipe for everyone. It is not too heavy though it uses cream. Tastes good when served hot. 

Ingredients :

1. Mushroom- 10
2. Salt to taste
3. Butter- 2 tbs
4. Pepper powder- 1/4 tsp
5. Worcestershire sauce- 1 tbs
6. Home made stock- 2 cups
7. Sour cream- 1 cup
8. All purpose flour/cornflour- 1 tbs
9. Garlic- 2 cloves

Procedure :

Wash and chop the mushrooms. In a deep bottom pan add the butter and the chopped mushrooms. Fry the mushrooms until they leave water. Cover and cook for 2 minutes until the water evaporates. Now add the flour and mix well. I used all purpose flour but you can also use cornflour. This is done to give a certain thick consistency to the soup. Pour the home made stock and cover the pan and cook over medium flame. Add the garlic too.
Now for the stock , I have used chicken , carrot , bay leaf , cinnamon , clove , salt , black cardamom and whole black pepper. In a cooker add some oil and fry all these ingredients together then add 2 glass of water. Cover the cooker and cook it for 15 minutes on medium flame. A nice aromatic stock is ready to use!!
When the stock starts to thicken up , add the cream and mix well. Sprinkle pepper powder , sauce and salt to taste. Cover and cook until the soup reaches its desired consistency. Here I would suggest to use a little less salt before so that when the soup thickens up , it does not turn out to be too salty. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool down a bit. Then blend the whole soup into a smooth puree. Boil once again before serving.

Strawberry Roulade

 This is the first time I tried my hands on roulade recipes. And what else can I make apart from the famous Strawberry Roulade!! The mild sweetness of this roulade impressed us a lot as we both are not that big fan of sweets. If you prefer extra sweetness, you can change the sugar quantity according to your taste.

Ingredients :

1. Egg- 6
2. All purpose flour- 100 gm
3. Confectioner sugar- 200 gm
4. Whipped cream- 200 gm
5. Strawberry- 1 cup

Procedure :

In a bowl take the egg whites. Now while separating egg whites from the yolk be extra careful. If you mix up the yolk with the egg white , the beaten egg white will never be stiff enough. Beat the egg whites until they turn fluffy and stiff. Keep it aside. In a separate bowl take the egg yolks and mix well. Add the sugar and beat until the color turns pale and the mixture becomes fluffy. Fold in the flour. Do not over mix it. Pre heat the oven at 350 F. Prepare the baking pan. You can spray some cooking oil and dust a little flour in the pan or you can use a baking sheet. Fold in the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Mix well and pour the batter in the baking pan and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the surface turns light brown. Test with a toothpick if its done or not. Take out and roll it softly. Do not put much pressure. I rolled it while it was warm so that it does not break. Keep it rolled for 5 to 7 minutes.

 Meanwhile, beat the cream and add some more sugar if needed ( I added 3 tbs sugar). Take half of the strawberries and puree them. Cut the remaining strawberries into pieces. Now open the roll. Spread the strawberry puree and then the cream and on top place the strawberry pieces. Roll it again and hold it with the help of toothpick. Place it in refrigerator for 2 hours and then cut the roulade into pieces and serve.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Laal Murg

Its a similar version of Laal maas that is a famous Rajasthani lamb recipe. Here I have used chicken instead of lamb. But the dish came out pretty good. And specially the red color!! And the most amazing part is that I did not find it too spicy :)

Ingredients :

1. Chicken breast- 3
2. Onion- 1
3. Tomato- 1
4. Dry red chilly- 7
5. Bay leaf- 1
6. Clove- 3
7. Green cardamom- 2
8. Cinnamon- 2
9. Garlic paste- 1 tbs
10. Ginger paste- 1 tsp
11. Curd- 2 large tbs
12. Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
13. Coriander powder- 2 tbs
14. Cumin powder- 1/2 tsp
15. Crushed black pepper- 1/4 tsp
16. Chicken masala powder- 1/4 tsp
17. Salt to taste
18. Ghee

Procedure :

Wash the chicken breasts and cut them into medium chunks. Soak the dried red chillies in warm water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile finely chop the onion. Make a smooth paste of the chillies. In a pan add 2 tbs ghee and add cardamom, cinnamon, clove and bay leaf. Fry them for a minute until they leave a nice aroma. Add the chopped onion and fry until they turn brownish. Add 1 tbs of the chilly paste and fry until the mixture turns dark red in color. Add ginger and garlic and fry until the raw smell goes off. Add all the masalas and if needed some more ghee and fry until the mixture starts sticking to the base. Add the chicken chunks and fry them, covering the pan.

 Cook the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes and then add puree of the tomato. Beat the curd properly in blender. Let the chicken soak the tomato puree. Cook on medium heat. When the tomato is soaked add the curd and cook until the curd is soaked completely. Add some water and add salt. Cover the pan and cook until the chicken is done. Sprinkle the crushed black pepper.

Serve it hot with plain rice or paratha.
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