Pura Naturals!

What caught my attention about these sponges is “no need to microwave or put in dishwasher”…I routinely throw my kitchen sponges in the dishwasher and then microwave them for 30 seconds once they come out of the dishwasher to kill the bacteria and odors.  So when I saw these sponges at WholeFoods I grabbed them to give it a try.  I researched the company only after I bought it and was quite pleased to learn that these sponges have a negative carbon print.  The technology – BeBetterFoam – was initially developed to clean up the BP oil spill and the company has since launched home and beauty products using the same technology.

The sponges I bought are soap infused and have citrus fragrance.  Once the soap runs out I can add any dishwashing soap I have.  I have been using this sponge for over a week and I am quite happy with it…absolutely no smell and dries out pretty quickly.  The only thing I would have liked is a scrubber since the sponge is too soft to attack stuck on food.  The company does have other sponges with a scrubber or this sponge can be used in conjunction with a steel scrubber.

Not sure how this will hold up but after a week the sponge is still fresh and has soap left.  Clean dishes and greener planet!

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Shrimp Curry!

This is a very basic and simple shrimp curry that you can whip up in under 30 minutes.  Perfect for those busy weekday nights.  I usually keep a bag of easy peel shrimp in my freezer.  Costco raw shrimp is deveined and peeled with just the tail on…so it is even easier to use.  You can use cooked shrimp too for this recipe but I personally prefer to use raw shrimp – I find cooked shrimp a bit hard.  The key to cooking shrimp is not to overcook it.  I usually prepare shrimp separately and add it to the curries or pasta sauce in the last couple minutes.  This is like shrimp fry – another variation of shrimp – with  tomatoes and yogurt added so it’s a bit tangy.

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Ingredients:

  • Raw or cooked shrimp – 2 pounds
  • Onions – 2 medium diced
  • Tomatoes – 2 medium diced
  • Green chillies – 2 slit
  • Frozen peas – 1/2 cup
  • Ginger Garlic paste – 2 tbsp
  • Yogurt – 2 tbsp beaten
  • Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch
  • Chili powder – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander leaves – a few sprigs

Method:

  1. Thaw and peel shrimp per instructions.  Add a pinch of turmeric powder, a sprinkle of salt and a tbsp of water and cook on low heat until the shrimp turns pink.  Turn off heat when the shrimp turns pink
  2. Heat oil in a pan and add onions and green chillies.  Saute until onions brown and add a pinch of turmeric powder
  3. Add ginger garlic paste and saute until the raw smell goes away – around 30 seconds
  4. Add peas and cook for a couple minutes
  5. Add tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes become soft; add salt (remember that a pinch of salt is already added to shrimp), chilli powder and coriander powder and cook until the oil separates from the tomatoes; add beaten yogurt, mix well, cover the pan and cook for a few minutes on low heat
  6. Add shrimp – I usually discard any water that comes from cooking the shrimp – and mix well
  7. Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes
  8. Add garam masala, coriander leaves and cook uncovered for a minute more
  9. Serve hot with rice

 

Flounder!

I try and make fish at least once a week but typically stick to salmon and tilapia.  This week I thought I will try a different fish and picked flounder – I tried cod a while back with not so good results so I may not go back to cod for some time now.  Flounder is not as rich in Omega-3’s as salmon but is a good lean source of protein.  I bought frozen filets from Wegmans and since the filets were quite thin decided to make breaded fish for dinner and served it with Italian bread and grilled asparagus and broccoli.  The recipe can be found here.

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A guide to the Birds of East Africa!

“A guide to the birds of East Africa: A novel” – by Nicholas Drayson. This book is an accidental find – a happy find but purely accidental. I recently went on a safari and a friend who had been on safari recommended that I take a book on birds on East Africa since it will be handy to identify the birds I see on safari. Everyone talks about animals, especially Big 5, and the Great Migration if you go on East African safari but no one talks about the birds…and that is such a shame because the number and variety of birds you see is amazing.

So, shortly before I left I went to the library and searched the catalog for “A guide to birds of East Africa”, scribbled down the call number, grabbed the book and rushed out.  Even when I picked this book up from fiction section of the library – and not from the reference section – it did not occur to me that something was off.  I realized only after I started reading that it is a fiction based on birds set in Nairobi…that the most important theme of the book is ornithology.  With its pencil illustrations of birds – which are very nice – at the beginning of every chapter and reference to different birds of Kenya the book is sort of a guide to the birds of East Africa.

It is, however, about an unusual love story of Mr.Malik, a retired and widowed Indian, and Ms.Mbikwa, an expat that made Kenya her home and leads the Tuesday morning birds walks for East Africa Ornithological Society.  As the book opens Mr.Malik is trying to profess his love for Ms.Mbikwa and invite her to a ball, although he is not a dancer himself, when a childhood nemesis, Harry, shows up to steal Ms.Mbikwa right from under Mr.Malik’s shy, loving gaze.  As all gentlemen do, they decide to fight each other to determine who gets to ask Ms.Mbikwa out and in the spirit of East Africa Ornithological Society and the title of the book the one who gets Ms.Mbikwa’s hand is the one who sees most birds in a week.

The stage is set and the game is on…who you root for and how the book ends is all so very predictable.  What makes it a pleasant read is the narrative style – full of wit and charm.  It is hilarious when the author calls out on English explorers on naming that “huge wet patch in the middle of Africa” Lake Victoria.  The author lived in Nairobi for 2 years and so he presents the landscape – both geographical and political – well.  The book starts out slow but chapter by chapter it gets deeper and more complex.

A reviewer called this “a sort of P.G.Wodehouse meets Alexander McCall Smith” and I completely agree.  What I also loved is the way he ended the story…yes, it does end on a happy note but with a slight twist.  Through out the book the author fills you in on Mr.Malik’s and Harry’s childhood but he leaves one particular and important story untold…”he may be sharing the story on Jack but I never shall tell”…and I thought that was a brilliant touch.

At 262 pages, it is a short read and when you close the book on “If at this moment he is not the happiest, short, round, balding brown man in all the world then I don’t know what happiness is” note…you will be smiling! A delightful read!

Lemon Garlic Salmon Pasta

A friend had made salmon pasta a long long while ago and I had been meaning to try it since then.  On the nights kids have basketball practice I try to make something quick and simple and so pasta it was for dinner today … tossed with some protein.  This is a super simple recipe and takes less than half hour to make and kids loved it.  So, it is a keeper and what’s not to love about pasta and fresh basil!  I made the following changes to the recipe:

  • I used only 8 oz of pasta and two salmon filets with skin on
  • The filets I had were pretty thin so I only baked them for 15 mins and peeled off the skin after baking
  • I added 1/3 cup of peas to the last 2 minutes of cooking pasta
  • Skipped zest since the kids are not crazy about it
  • Heated olive oil and sauteed garlic and 3 cups of baby spinach leaves* before tossing with pasta

*Can easily add up to 5-6 cups of spinach leaves

You can get the original recipe here.

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