MYVALUE365 – A perfect solution to sourcing ethnic groceries

When I was moving to Chicago from Mumbai my primary concern was, how am I supposed to source all my Indian groceries in the US? I knew that there were a limited few number of stories stocking Indian groceries but they had a limited collection and they were located far away from where I stay. So going there and getting all the stuff you need is a task. I know there is always Amazon, but the cost of the products on Amazon was something I wasn’t ready to pay for my basic groceries. Also, they do take time to deliver – even on Prime. Hence, I got quite some amounts of spices and groceries from India but there is always a limited amount which you can carry along with you from India.

The solution to all my problems came in form of MYVALUE 365.

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Shop with the coupon code BLOG365 for an additional $5 discount and free delivery 

 

 

MYVALUE365 is a one stop, online grocery store for buying all regional groceries including Indian groceries. They aim at providing the freshest of produce, right at your doorstep, on the same day. An added plus to this is – they do the delivery for FREE (if you order over $30). When I visited their website, I was truly surprised with the wide array of fresh produce, groceries, spices, household items and personal items they provide. They also have some great food ideas on their website which made it easier for me to plan a great traditional Indian festive spread for my family.

MYVALUE365 delivers in the Chicago area, they are also expanding from the Chicago downtown area to cover additional locations… which is truly a boon for the chi-city residents. They aim at providing efficient service, high quality products at a great deal in a timely manner. MYVALUE365 is specially created to bring together retail outlets who sell specialized International groceries together under one roof (or on a web-site 😉 ) to create a fun and interactive shopping experience for everyone. Their website is divided into three stores – FRESH FARMS, MEHRAB HALAL MEAT and their newly launched KAMDAR PLAZA. You can shop at all these three stores, in addition to their collection on just one website.

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I was invited by the team at MYVALUE365 to visit their website and check their products and I was truly surprised at the variety of products they sell and the fact that most of these products are local to my home country and I never imagined getting them here in Chicago. I used to use these brands regularly at home and now that I know these brands are available even in Chicago through MYVALUE365 makes me more delighted to be here.

Here is an added advantage – shop with the code “BLOG365 and get an additional $5 off on your order and a free delivery of the products to your home (on a minimum order of $30).”

The secret for their awesome service is that MYVALUE365 has a unique way of supply chain management – they aim at bringing together all the retailers for international products under one roof and provide their products to the public. They have encompassed more than 15,000 brands from the markets of India, China, Spain, Japan, Middle-East and Mexico and brought these products to your doorstep.  This majorly helps the customers who want to source international products but do not know how to manually visit different stores for each product. More so it is an added advantage when they deliver your products on the same day. I placed my order in the morning for all the ingredients I needed to cook a festive Indian spread at home, by noon my products were delivered to me and I was able to cook with ease. This convenience which is offered by MYVALUE365 is hard to find and a great quality.

THE PRODUCTS

I love cooking Indian food, especially since there are so many different cuisines available in India it is always fun to cook a wide variety of dishes. Since the spices I use at home are inspired from Western Indian regions, I decided to try something new and experiment with the North Indian cuisine. The gravies in North Indian cuisine are thicker, made with clarified butter/ Ghee and extremely delicious, especially the Mughlai cuisine. My favorite in the Mughlai cuisine is Butter-Chicken gravy or is known in Hindi as Murg Makhanwala, paired with their quintessential bread known as Naan, and a milk based creamy dessert. This spread is like soul food to me however it is a tedious spread to make from scratch. So, I was really glad to see that MYVALUE365 has ready pre-mixes available for Butter Chicken, ready Naan and my favorite the Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer) pre-mix. Hence, it was decided I wanted to use to convenience and ease of shopping provided by MYVALUE365 to make my favorite Mughlai spread.

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The basic ingredient for Indian cooking is Ghee or clarified butter. Although it is hailed by many as an unhealthy product, in reality Ghee is extremely beneficial to your health. It promotes your bone health, it is free of lactose, it has a great rich buttery taste and is useful for healthy weight loss! Yes, it is an healthy delicious fat which makes you lose weight. I use ghee for tempering (Indian tadka) while cooking my food and brush a bit of it over my rotis/flatbreads. Although loaded with benefits sourcing good quality ghee in Chicago was a trouble. MYVALUE365 however has great brands for Pure Ghee and the one I received has a rich taste and no doubt of great quality.

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This Ghee is unadulterated and pure and the golden color with the grainy texture at bottom is a proof to this 🙂 

 

 

Butter-Chicken when made from scratch takes a long time and involves some prior preparation. Cooking this lovely gravy instantly is not really possible unless you have a pre-mix ready in your pantry. MYVALUE365 has a wide variety of such pre-mixes to choose from. I obviously chose the butter chicken mix. These pre-mixes are also great if you are new to Indian cooking and want to try your hand at some lovely Indian recipes but are skeptical to cook them because of their complex cooking process.

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Similarly the Naan is a type of Indian bread which is very complex to make, often requires special ingredients and its process is very time consuming. MYVALUE365 has a variety of different ready to eat Naans available with them, which are available in any quantity you like and are available at a great rate! A true catch I would say.

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Warm and soft Naans ready to eat in just 5 minutes of baking..such a blessing indeed!

Whenever I plan a whole spread, desserts are necessary. Depending on the cuisine which I was cooking, I try to make the local desserts specific to that cuisine. Since I was planning to make Indian Mughlai food – i.e. food inspired from the Mughal era in India, my all time favorite dessert in this cuisine is the creamy sweet rice pudding loaded with dried fruits with a mild flavour of cardamon. Again, this is a tedious process to make from scratch – reduce the milk till its thickened, cook rice in it, source the dried fruits etc. I was really glad that I could complete my spread of Mughlai food with the ready-to cook Kheer mix available with MYVALUE365. The Kheer-mix is pre-made with all the essential ingredients, so you really do not need any special ingredient for it. All I had to do was follow the instructions, mix in rice and milk for a delicious dessert.

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By far this has been the best Kheer Mix I tried till date. Extremely easy to make and equally delicious.

THE RESULT

 

This was the delicious Indian spread which I could prepare, just under one 1 hour, with hardly any prior preparations all thanks to MYVALUE365. 

The service provided by MYVALUE365 is supreme. It is a dream to get your local home products miles away from home, in great quality, within your budget range and on the same day! So I am really impressed by them. Also, the products provided by MYVALUE365 are of high quality and they are not expensive at all. The food I cooked using these products was simply delicious and it is truly a boon to be able to make such delicious meals in short time using the service provided by MYVALUE 365. So my suggestion you be, go ahead and make your favorite spread with MYVALUE365 and dont forget to share your experience with me.

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Protein Packed Lentil Curry

Split Bengal Gram or Chana Dal is a common lentil in the Indian Household. It is usually used in its ground form as a flour for making a variety of products. In my house, split Bengal gram is used for making a sweet dish called Puran-polis – a sweet roti stuffed flatbread made with Bengal gram and jaggery. But I did not know any other way in which I could use this lentil in my cooking. I wanted to find a dish which was easy to make, delicious and off course healthy 🙂 . I try to make my recipes wholesome and full of nutrients. They need not always be low in calorie content but they are definitely nutritious and most of them have a high protein content.

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The best way I like eat my lentils is as a Dal/ stew with flatbreads or rice. So the next step was to look for a recipe for Bengal Gram which can be incorporated in weekly cooking ritual. Also the best part here is Bengal Gram is packed with protein, which means those on a high protein diet can opt for this lentil when they want a break from meat. Lentils are also vegan…so this is a perfect vegan meal choice.

The catch here is to add sufficient flavor to the Split Bengal Gram because the lentil itself is a bit bland in taste and if not cooked thoroughly it will taste undercooked and have a powder-like texture. To ensure that the Split Bengal Gram is cooked well, we need to soak it for a minimum of 2 hours before proceeding to cook it. I cooked it in a small traditional pressure cooker for about 10 minutes or 4 whistles, if you do not have a pressure cooker you can directly boil them in a pan till they are completely tender and cooked. This will take about 20 minutes.

Once the lentils are cooked through, you need to prepare for the curry. I made a spicy & tangy Indian curry base for these lentils because they do need some flavor. Start with tempering hot oil with dried red chili,  cumin and mustard followed by chopped ginger garlic and onions.

Pro-tip – Use extra mustard seeds than usual while cooking lentils like Split Bengal Gram, they help enhance the flavor.

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Once the onions are well cooked, add in the tomatoes and cover and cook till they are pulpy and well incorporated to form a gravy base. This base is extremely important to master in any recipe. If the onions are under-cooked you end up raw onion taste in your gravy and if the tomatoes are not well done you dont get the desired taste. I still goof up many times but practice is the key here. Once you can make a simple gravy base perfectly, all Indian recipes seem easy 🙂 This is a pro-tip which my mum shared with me when I first started cooking!

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Coming back to the recipe, once the tomatoes are cooked through, add the spices – red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder (1 teaspoon each), half a teaspoon of turmeric and salt to taste.

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Mix this well till the spices are cooked and well incorporated.

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Once this is done, it is time to add the cooked Split Bengal Gram and mix them well with the gravy. Add some water to the gravy if you want a thinner consistency and adjust the salt. Let this simmer for another 5 minutes on a low flame.

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Heres the final step the tadka or the second tempering. This is completely optional and you can do away with it if you do not like added garlic flavor or don’t want to add extra oil. Here you temper some chopped garlic in hot oil/ ghee till the garlic is golden brown and add this oil to the lentil mixture. Mix the tempered garlic well with the lentils and garnish with fresh coriander.

This can be eaten by itself as a spicy thick soup or make a drier version to eat with rotis or serve with rice. My favorite is the drier version with rotis! 🙂

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I try to make my recipes wholesome and full of nutrients. They need not always be low in calorie content but they are definitely nutritious and most of them have a high protein content. Since it is easier to get higher protien from meats I initially started created only meat-based dishes. But I’ve read a lot about protien from vegetarian sources and the benefits for vegetarian and vegan meals. This is why  try to incorporate vegetarian food in my cooking too. Indian cooking has a large number of vegetarian options and trust me they all taste amazing! I will try to share and develop as many vegetarian dishes as I can which have a high nutritional value and taste yum. Till then, do give this Dal/ Lentil gravy a try and let me know how you liked it!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 small Dried Red Chillies (use 1 if you want a milder version)
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Mustard Seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste/ mince
  • 1 teaspoon oil ( an additional teaspoon for the second tempering)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional, only if using for the second tempering)
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato  finely chopped
  • 2 cups Split Bengal Gram (boiled)
  • 1 teaspoon each of cumin powder, coriander powder and chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnishing – coriander, finely chopped onions and bell peppers (optional)

Instructions

  • Boil and cook the split Bengal gram in salted water till well done and set it aside.
  • In a pan, heat the oil and temper it with cumin seeds, mustard seeds and dried red chilies. Once the mustard seeds crackle add the chopped ginger garlic paste and mix well to avoid the fibrous ginger from sticking to the pan.
  • Once the ginger garlic is cooked add in the chopped onions and cover and cook them till they tenderize.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and once they are cooked through add the spices (cumin powder, coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric powder and salt) and mix the gravy base well till everything is incorporated.
  • Cook this for around 5 minutes and then add the boiled lentils to the gravy.
  • Adjust water and salt as per your choice and let it simmer for another 5 minutes before turning off the heat.
  • Pre-serving optional step – Heat another teaspoon of oil in a smaller pan and fry chopped garlic till it is brown. Add to the lentil gravy and mix well.
  • Serve with rotis/ flatbread or rice.

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The Basic Chicken Curry

Everyone loves a simple, easy to make yet a delicious curry. Most of the recipes I checked online required a particular spice mix/masala which may or may not be easily available easily or required a long process of roasting and grounding spices. Not that I do not like it, I enjoy the process of making my own spice mixes, experimenting with them and trying recipes with longer preparation time. There is a certain kind of relaxation which cooking gives me which works like nothing else. I love my time in the kitchen, listening to music, cooking food surrounded with the aromas and sizzling sounds! But sadly it is not possible everyday…sometimes I prefer quick to cook easy meals which require no special preparations, no longer cooking times, no marination and no special ingredients.

This curry is unique because its ingredients are something you can find in your kitchen easily or easily source them. The flavor comes from its unique cooking technique which my Mum follows every time she has to add that extra flavor to the gravy, this is basically to enhance the flavors of all ingredients in the gravy so you don’t need any special spices to here. This gravy is can be used for multiple dishes, so far I’ve used it for cooking Chicken, Eggs, and mixed vegetables and today I am sharing with you the recipe for this easy Chicken Curry.

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Serve this with fresh rotis/flatbreads or steamed rice, it works well always!! 😀

Since we are working on improving the flavors of the gravy, we don’t really need to marinate the chicken here. You can use chicken thighs or boneless breast pieces or work with the whole cut chicken. I’ve used boneless breast pieces since it is the leanest part of the chicken. Using whole cut chicken or chicken thighs will make this gravy slightly more oily because of the fat content in these pieces.

The key in this gravy is the caramelizing the onions. We start off with tempering hot oil with whole cumin and ginger garlic. Once the ginger & garlic is cooked, we add in finely chopped onions and let them cook till a nice deep shade of brown. Usually we cook onions till they are soft and translucent but here we have to wait beyond that time till the onions have caramelized to a brown shade. This takes about 8 minutes of cooking on a medium flame with occasional stirring.

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However if you want to quicken the process and are fine with a little sweetness sprinkle a bit of fine powdered sugar on the onions, it will help them develop a deeper texture. I skipped the sugar because this gravy does not have a lot of spice anyways so I wanted to avoid the additional sweet taste.

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Once the onions are caramelized add the spices, I used 4 spices here – 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric.

I love adding turmeric to my gravies as this gives a rich orangish tinge to the gravy and turmeric is loaded with health benefits! Also adding just 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric to your gravy won’t really change the flavor.

Make sure to lower the temperature of your gas while adding in the spices and keep on stirring the mixture as the spices may burn easily. Once the spices are well incorporated into the onion mixture add finely chopped tomatoes. Here you can even add canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes. Stir the gravy well for around 3-5 minutes till everything is well mixed.

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Now here’s the trick for the next trick about adding flavor to your gravies, once the tomatoes and spices are well mixed add about 1/4th cup of warm water to the gravy and let the gravy cook till it is reduced back to its original volume. This really enhances the flavor of all the ingredients in it. Once your gravy is reduced its time to add in the chicken / or if making with vegetables, add chopped vegetables at this stage.

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Cover and let the chicken cook for around 10 minutes stirring occasionally to avoid the gravy from sticking to the pan. After 10 minutes adjust the thickness of the gravy as per your choice (add more warm water for a thinner gravy or cook on higher flame for the gravy to reduce) Let it cook for another 5 minutes or till the chicken is cooked through and then top it with fresh coriander leaves and serve warm.

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Recipe

Ingredients

  • 500 gms chicken
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp each cumin & coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup warm water
  • fresh coriander for seasoning (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a pan and temper it with cumin. Once the cumin is fragrant add the ginger garlic paste and stir it till its cooked.
  • Add finely chopped onions and cook them till they develop a deep shade of brown. Keep stirring occasionally to avoid the gravy from burning.
  • Once the onions are browned add the spices (chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder & turmeric)  add some salt to taste and stir the gravy well till the spices are incorporated with the onions.
  • Add finely chopped tomatoes and cover and cook till the tomatoes are mixed well and breakdown in the gravy.
  • Add half a cup of warm water and let the gravy reduce till the excess water is evaporated.
  • Add the chicken pieces (or if cooking with vegetables add the vegetables at this point). Cover and let the chicken cook for around 10 minutes on a medium flame.
  • Adjust the salt and gravy thickness as per your choice after 10 minutes and cook the gravy for another 5 minutes or till the chicken is cooked through.
  • Top with fresh coriander and serve warm with roti/flat bread or steamed rice.

There are a number of additions and variations you can do to this recipe. Some of them are listed below –

  1. Stir in a tablespoon of greek yogurt in the end with the coriander for a slightly tangy and creamy flavor
  2. Add some butter and fresh cream before switching off the gas for a richer gravy
  3. Add some slivered almonds and raisins to it
  4. Top off the curry with halved hard boiled eggs.

This recipe makes about 3-4 servings and can be easily halved to make it for 2 people. Do give this one a try next time you want to make something delicious yet simple! 🙂

The Go – Green Curry

Chicken curry is my favorite way to experiment with Indian Cuisine. With so many variations in spices and ingredients you can always come up with a great tasting curry with minimal efforts.  Also, if you yearn to add as much as nourishment possible in a single bowl of curry, you would love to load it with nutrients. This Go-Green Curry or the Indian Green Chicken curry is my Mom’s way of making me take my daily dose of greens when I used to hate eating greens as a kid. This curry has Spinach and green chutney which I shared earlier and the best part is the Spinach is not broken down by excessive boiling.

This is also a quick go to recipe when I want to make something neither too spicy nor to bland. That is how I usually work with my cooking because my husband loves super spicy food and I love mildly spiced food so we have to work out a mid-point ;). I’m pretty sure thats the case in most of the households.

Another great part about this curry is the minimal prep time, the chicken requires no marination so you can skip that part. (Somehow the fact that I need to marinate my chicken 2-12 hours before cooking tenses me up…what if I forget to marinate and ruin the dish).  This does not take a long time to be cooked either, so it makes up for an easy weeknight meal and this curry can be paired perfectly with rotis, breads or rice.

Also I’ve added a paste of dried melon seeds in this gravy which I usually add to my gravies to give them a thicker consistency. These seeds are full of unsaturated fat and fibers which add nutrition to any dish you cook. They do not have any strong flavor so adding them to your food will not change its taste. I’ve got a batch of these dried seeds at home, which I soak in water for at-least an hour and grind them into a fine paste. I pack this paste in an air tight container and refrigerate it, it lasts for at-least a week. You can freeze it up for a longer shelf life. These seeds are easily available in India and you can buy them online too.

If you want to give a restaurant-like thick consistency to your gravies without adding too much of cream or butter, add this paste for similar and healthier results.

Coming back to the gravy, I skipped tomatoes in my recipe today simply because I have been adding them in all my gravies so I wanted to make something different. You can always add tomatoes in this and I will add the step in the recipe. The recipe is pretty simple – Start with a tadka / or tempering a bay leaf, one whole red dried chilly, mustard and cumin seeds in hot oil. Once the cumin seeds were fragrant, add finely chopped ginger and garlic to it. (You can always add ginger garlic paste here, we like the tiny chunks of garlic when we eat so I use it finely chopped)

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Once the ginger and garlic was cooked, add finely chopped onions and let them tenderize.

Sprinkle a bit of salt over the onions after you add them in the pan, cover and let them tenderize. This helps the onions to cook evenly and quickly.

Once the onions are cooked, add in the spices – here I used cumin and coriander powder 1 teaspoon each and 1 and half teaspoon of Kashmiri Red Chili powder. I love this particular red chilly powder because it adds to the dense color of any dish you prepare. Lower the heat and keep stirring to mix with spices with the onions and let them cook. Avoid putting the spices directly on the pan as they may get burnt quickly.

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Once the rawness of the spices is gone, add in the chicken (you can use any cuts for this, I went with tiny cubed boneless chicken). Cover and let the chicken cook for around 5 minutes. After that, add in a paste of fresh spinach mixed with the green chutney  stir well and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

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Add in salt to taste and add a teaspoon of the dried melon seeds, cover your pan and let it cook on medium heat for another 10 minutes or till the chicken is cooked through.

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Serve warm with roti, naan, bread or rice.

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Recipe

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a pan and add 1 bay leaf, whole dried red chili and mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start crackling, add the cumin seeds & saute them till they are fragrant.
  • Add in the ginger & garlic and saute till its rawness is gone, then add the onions – cover and cook till the onions tenderize. 
  • Once the onions are soft add the spices – cumin,  coriander and chili powder and stir the mixture together till the spices are cooked. 
  • Add the chicken pieces and cover them with the spice mixture and let them cook for about 5 minutes
  • Then add the spinach paste and the green chutney, you may not need to add additional water to this as the chicken will release its own juices too. Add in salt to taste, cover and cook for another 5 minutes. 
  • Finally add the melon seed paste stir the gravy well and let it cook covered on medium heat for another 10 minutes till the chicken is done and gravy is as per your desired consistency. 
  • Serve warm 

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Fun & Free things to do in St. Louis

In my previous posts I have shared things to do  and places to eat in St Louis. Since it was a 2 day trip where we did a lot of exploring, I made two different posts to do justice to the wonderful things that the city has to offer. But as I explored more about St. Louis, I realized that there are a lot of things to for free here and these are really fun things. So I have made a one day itinerary for St. Louis which only has things you can do for free in St. Louis. Because a penny saved is a penny earned 😉

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VISIT CATHEDRAL BASILICA

Completed in 1914, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is a must visit attraction for its beautiful stained glass mosaics. If you enjoy art and history I can assure you that you will spend atleast an hour in the Cathedral alone and some more time enjoying its beautiful garden and its museum.

There are no entry fees for the cathedral or the museum however the Cathedral is closed for visits when the prayers are in progress.

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FOREST PARK & ST LOUIS ZOO

The Forest Park of St. Louis occupies more space than New Yorks Central Park and the St Louis Zoo is located in the heart of Forest Park. The Park is beautiful and definitely worth a visit. It has several spots for picnics, long walks or just to lounge and enjoy yourself. This makes it an ideal spot for a family’s day out. The best part here is the free entry to St Louis Zoo which is home to a number of animals. It is divided into different areas as per the origin of these animals and this is a great spot to spend 2 to 3 hours exploring in St. Louis.

TIP – My suggestion would be..grab a takeout from Imos Pizzeria next to Cathedral Basilica and drive for around 5 minutes to the Zoo where you can have a small lunch picnic before exploring the zoo 

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CITY GARDENS IN ST LOUIS

Located in the Gateway Mall area, the city-gardens are developed and maintained by a non for profit organization named the Gateway Foundation. The gardens are not enclosed and can be accessed from any direction. There are 6 rain gardens including a spray fountain for children.  city garden 2.jpeg

Beautiful sculptures are installed in the garden and you get amazing views of the Gateway Arch too.

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You can also download their free app for an audio tour of the city gardens narrated by the prominent residents of St. Louis

WIND UP WITH A FREE BEER

Another highlight of free things to do in St. Louis is the free tour of Anheuser Busch Brewery. The very first Anheuser Busch brewery started in USA was in St. Louis and now they offer free tours of the brewery to show their beer making process to the world.

 

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The highlights of this tour are –

  • walk through the beer making process where you see all the equipment in action from start to finish
  • the famous Clydesdale stables
  • free sample of beer during the trip
  • free tall glass of beer at the end of the trip

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Plus, their Biergarten makes the perfect spot for a bite to eat before you wind up your day or hop on to the next location.

These are the free things which I tried while in St. Louis and I feel that one day is sufficient for exploring all these things. But if you want some more options of the free things you can do while in St. Louis, I went online..did some research and pulled out the following list for you all  😀

  1. St. Louis Art Museum – having a large collection of around 33,000 art-works this will be a great spot for the art lovers. Especially because this museum has paintings by Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Monet and I’ve read that they are glad to organise the free tour if you call before hand. Located close to the Zoo in Forest Park you can easily work this into your itinerary.
  2. Grants Farm – Originally home to the 18th President of United States, this is now an 80 acre animal reserve managed by Anheuser Busch. The admission, tram ride and all the shows are free of cost here. It is home to some exotic species of animals and you get to play with the goats and come face to face with the famous Budweiser Clydesdale
  3. The Missouri History Museum – This museum features exhibits which helped shaped the history of St. Louis. This museum is also located in Forest Park and has extended hours on Thursdays
  4. The Muny – The Municipal Opera is the nations oldest and largest outdoor theater. Every summer they stage live performances with 1450 free seats on first come first serve basis so  check the schedule and seating here and start planning 🙂

There are many more free things you can do while in St. Louis but I have included those which I tried out myself and those which I found interesting. As far as food in St. Louis is concerned click here  for all details about the delicious food St. Louis has to offer.

Do give this a try and share your experiences with me.

 

Weekend Ideas for Staycation and Book Marathon

This one is for all the homebodies out there (including me 😉 )…don’t we love the idea of staying at home on a weekend, doing hardly any chores, just curled up in your corner with a great book and hot cuppa? Let your mind travel, take you on journeys through the past ages, the magical worlds and lost kingdoms or be thrilled with the suspense and rush of a gripping page-turner!! For those who love to read, this seems like the perfect weekend idea 🙂

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When the weather is rough or when I’ve had a long week I love to stay at home through the weekend and read. This staycation and book marathon used to happen a lot while I was in India. A lawyers life is never slow during the week…and luckily when the courts closed down for the weekend I would love to immerse myself in the world of books.

So what would you need for this kind of weekend –

  1. A couple of great books
  2. A relatively free weekend
  3. Your favourite spot in the house 😉
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I love reading my annual share of Harry Potter in my spot

Reading can also be meditative and refreshing. I have had many conversations with people who do not fancy the idea the reading a book. Their reason for not liking reading is because they simply do not have the right book. So it bores them to read things which do not interests them. Happens a lot with me too..when I don’t like a book I get bored reading it…but most often than not I complete that book anyways just to be fair to the author and thats just the way I am 😀 But I do not want you guys to be stuck in the same ‘wrong book’ dilemma so here I will suggest you some great books which I have read and I would love it if you guys give them a shot.

(PS – while creating a list of these books I have included Amazon Affiliate links for them.  Clicking on these links will not incur any additional costs to you, but will help support this blog in a small way)

So here is my list of tried and tested Stay-cation Weekend Books

1. Harry Potter Series – Always the first on my list for reading and re-reading I can never get tired of the Potter-world. Read Harry’s adventure through the world of magic which starts in a cupboard under the stairs and goes on the be a marvelous journey.  I have read these books numerous times infact, I now read the series every year (just a small little ritual of mine) and every time I read it, its just like the first time 🙂

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2. The Book Thief – Recommended to me by my sister, this book is about the journey of a girl Liesel who lives under the care of her foster parents during World War II and is drawn towards the world of books. This is her story when reading books of your choice was a deathly risk and she decided to take it just for the love of reading. The most interesting part of this book is that the story is narrated by Death, from its perspective which is chilling and interesting at the same time.

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3. The Bourne Series– Looking for a slick adventure series…Jason Bourne is here to accompany you. I remember starting to read the first book The Bourne Identity on a Friday night and I had finished it by the time the weekend was over. My tip…read this book in depth, you don’t want to miss out on the details here.

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4. The Millennium Series – The award-winning crime novel series is something which will set you on a gripping adventure with Lisbeth Salander a woman with sharp mind, photographic memory but poor social skills and Mikael Blomkvist an investigative journalist and publisher of the magazine called Millenium. The first three books written by Stieg Larson are worth a read and I assure you, if you are a fan of crime fiction and smartly written books, this ones for you.

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5. The Girl on the Train – This thriller fiction novel is something you will love to read on a weekend. This is now also a major motion picture movie, although I haven’t seen the movie I loved reading the book. The story-line is very fresh and unconventional, the novel has a good pace and you will enjoy this one throughly!

 

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6. Memoirs of a Geisha – If crime fiction is not your cup of tea, try reading memoirs of the Geisha. The novel is written in a first person perspective of a Geisha – Chiyo who narrates her journey from her poverty stricken fishing village to working as a Geisha.

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7. Last Train to Istanbul – For the romantics out there, this is a story about love, sacrifice and family ties set against the backdrop of World War II. Written by Ayşe Kulin, this is an uplifting story which send the message that nothing — not war, not politics and not even religion can break the bonds of a family.

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8. House of Cards – The famous television series is based on this book. This is a great book for those who love political fiction. The characters are well written the book does not bore the reader at any point and you will truly enjoy this one.

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9. The Help – Based on a true story, this book records the life of African Americans working in late 1960’s in Mississippi. As you read the book, you truly grow to like the characters in it, root for their freedom and happiness and this is one book which could move me to tears. This book too has been adapted into a movie but I would really suggest that you read this book before checking out the movie.

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10. Me Before You : Another one for the romantics out there. This is a story of young and quirky Lou and Will a banker left paralyzed. Lou is hired as Wills caregiver and this changes the lives of both Lou and Will forever. Altough it seems like a typical romantic plotline, this book leaves you with a good message and a happy heart.

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Go on and give one of these books a try, if you have any favorite books which you would like me to try do leave a comment!! Happy reading.

The Lean Bolognese Sauce

Its rare to find a person who does not like pasta! Pasta is like a blessing to us 🙂 and I personally love to indulge myself regularly in a hearty plate of Pasta. It is the perfect meal after a long day, comfort food on a rainy day (like today 😛 ) and also helps you energize for a good session of workout! I have been experimenting with Pasta and different sauces since a long time, I am yet to try my hands on ravioli and lasagna though and also try to make pasta from scratch but despite the less adventures on the pasta making side, I have had quite some adventures and failures too while making different pasta sauces! 

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I usually order a hearty plate of pasta after a long day of exploring too!

I always try to make a leaner, healthier version of the food I love…be it ice-cream or minced turkey gravy So next up my list was making a version of bolognese sauce with lean meat. Once again I choose to work with turkey. This meat is flavorful, does not have a long cooking time, can be used in a variety of dishes and is available in a lean version..I was cooking with minced turkey which is 90% Lean. 

 

This bolognese sauce can be used in multiple ways, the best would be topped on some spaghetti 😉 but you thicken it more to use it on Lasagna, or with any other pasta of your choice! 

I do not use the traditional recipes which are available, most of my recipes are fusion of these recipes with my technique of simplifying it to cut out the cooking time and make it leaner. From the requests for second helpings and clean plates post dinner I can assure you guys that this tastes good too 🙂  

The traditional recipes for lasagna work with beef and need a lot of time to simmer …some recipes I read said you need to let the sauce simmer for 4 hours!! I am sure it will taste delicious but I haven’t worked with that meat yet and 4 hours seemed a bit too long for me. (Although I would be interested in making it once as a challenge). With that being said lets get to the basics of this recipe. 

The Basics of Bolognese Sauce

  1. The consistency is the key here, the sauce should not be so thick that it dries up by the time you serve it with the pasta and not so thin that it resembles a soup. So don’t add water in the sauce till it is utterly essential.
  2. This sauce does not have a lot of spices, it’s flavor is derived from enhancing the flavors of the meat, tomatoes and onions with salt & pepper. Yes its that easy 😉 
  3. Add wine!! A splash of white or red wine gives a great depth to the sauce which you will love. 

Ingredients

7 oz Minced Lean Turkey 

2 large tomatoes chopped fine

2 medium sized onions chopped fine

7-8 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon Hunt’s Tomato Paste No Salt Added, 6 Oz., Pack of 12

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon Pepper pepper powder

1 teaspoon dried Oregano

1 tablespoon Red wine

1 tablespoon milk or whole cream as per your preference

1 tablespoon Olive Oil 

1 packet Protein SpaghettiPasta

Instructions

Add pasta to boiling salted water and boil for 10-11 minutes depending on the consistency you need. Drain (reserve a bit of pasta water for the gravy) coat with a small amount of olive oil and set aside. You can cook the pasta in the end too, I usually like to cook it before serving the meal so it stays plump and fresh.

In a deep pan,  heat olive oil and sautee garlic till its raw flavor is gone. IMG_20180501_152513.jpg

Add in chopped onions and let them tenderize. (Pro-tip : sprinkle some salt over the onions once you add them to the pan so they tenderize well! ) Once the onions are soft add in the chopped tomatoes, cover and let them cook till mushy. 

 

After the tomatoes look cooked, add the turkey meat, stir in well and cover and let is cook. The turkey while it cooks becomes more juicy adding in to the whole gravy. Chances are after this you may not have to add any water to change the consistency of the gravy.   

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Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper at this stage

 

Let the turkey cook for around 10 mins on a low flame so it simmers softly, check the consistency and flavor after 10 minutes and add the red wine to the sauce. Cover and let it cook for another 5 minutes. 

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Add the milk (this is an optional step you can opt out of adding the milk if you wish) 

Cover and let the sauce simmer on low flame for another 12 minutes. Keep it covered till ready to be served. 

Serve with a dollop of spaghetti and enjoy 🙂 

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The Lean Bolognese Sauce
Ingredients

  • 7 oz Minced Lean Turkey
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped fine
  • 2 medium sized onions chopped fine
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Red wine (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon milk or whole cream as per your preference (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 packet Protein Pasta
Instructions

  • Add pasta to boiling salted water and boil for 10-11 minutes depending on the consistency you need. Drain (reserve a bit of pasta water for the gravy) coat with a small amount of olive oil and set aside.
  • In a deep pan,  heat olive oil and saute garlic till its raw flavor is gone. Add in chopped onions and let them tenderize.
  • Once the onions are soft add in the chopped tomatoes, cover and let them cook till mushy.
  • Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper at this stage
  • After the tomatoes looks cooked, add the turkey meat, stir in well and cover and let it cook.
  • Let the turkey cook for around 10 minutes on a low flame so it simmers softly, check the consistency and flavor after 10 minutes and add the red wine to the sauce. Cover and let it cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the milk (this is an optional step you can opt out of adding the milk if you wish)
  • Cover and let the sauce simmer on low flame for another 12 minutes. Keep it covered till ready to be served.
  • Serve with a dollop of spaghetti and enjoy 🙂
Nutrition Facts
Servings 4
Amounts per Serving
Calories 278
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6.6g 9%
Saturated Fat 0.6g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 594mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 39.8g 14%
       Dietary Fiber 3.6g

       Total Sugars 5g

13%
Protien 16.8g                 
Vitamin D 0mcg
Calcium 40mg 3%
Iron 2mg 14%
Potassium 320mg 7%

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by https://www.verywellfit.com/