Thursday, May 26, 2011

Organizing 101

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After all the boring de-cluttering its time to move on to something interesting.

Organizing - Assigning everything a rightful place in the house. A close friend taught me - Organizing does not have to be expensive.Yes, it can be tricky. But with some tips to start off you will be a pro in no time.

And remember the tasklist I told you about.Its made on this little dry erase board. A find at walgreens.Its a great investment for busy people. I saw this at a friend's place and loved it.

Next came the toys. Aamod has several sets of legos, puzzles that he loves to play with. I store each of these sets in 2Gallon or jumbo sized zip lock bags. 

These are then be put away into a large plastic box. So far its worked out well for him. He loves opening and closing the zip locks  and even puts them away when he's done with them. Overall he seems quite happy about this arrangement. Who knew ?

I also sorted the toys by type. For instance the balls were together so were the other miscellaneous smaller toys. You dont have to buy pretty containers for that. Use what you have. Like I used this tall plastic box that serves the purpose.

 Extra clothes 
I stored Aamod's extra clothing into storage bags that I got from dollar store. They are not super quality but they do the job well. Am sure other stores would carry them in better quality.

You see the box on the left. It holds all the party supplies leftover from Aamod's birthday party. The top shelf of closets is perfect for items such as these that are sparingly used.

We had several pairs of shoes occupying the floor of our shoes and jacket closet. This hanging shelf uses the vertical space to store all our shoes. Now the floor can be used to store other things like vaccum cleaners, strollers etc.

Another great alternative is to use an over the door shoe organizer. You dont have to use this organizer for shoes. Check out where all you can use it here - 10 things to store in shoe organizer.

Going Green
We have also dropped the grocery store plastic bags and switched to cloth bags. A set of 5 bags from walmart cost about $2.50. They are more than enough for our family of 3.

This frees up the space under the sink where we trash all the polythenes. And we all feel good about it too. I keep them in the car and its only a matter of habit to remember to take them along.

Refrigerator Baskets
I got one of these from walmart and the steel one from Goodwill store for $1.50. 

These are especially useful if you have lot of frozen stuff that falls off when you open the freezer door. Avoids serious accidents when you have little ones running around. 

Basket,Bins and Totes
These are a great organizing tool. Get pretty ones for the outside such as in the living room and dollar store ones where you just want some organizing, like this one under the sink.
It stores all the items for cleaning. They can hold a lot of stuff and still look great. 

This red one cost me 7 bucks at HomeGoods and was on sale that day.So be sure to invest wisely. 

Canvas Totes or baskets are great for clothes. Walmart, Biglots carry them for a reasonable price.They are light and look great too. Be sure to choose colors that match the rest of the room. Use separate color totes for multiple kids.

I had a dresser in my hall to hold stuff like stationary, bills etc. I now use it to hold Aamod's clothes. Some clever reorganizing frees up space and makes full use of existing furnuture. Same goes for book racks, cubes etc.

The crux here is to keep is to group items together. For instance this narrow shelf in our bathroom that holds personal items.

And this is defintely not all. I am sure there are lots of ideas out there. And it all depends on personal taste and habits. As for me , I still have lots to work on.

And finally...

Your house is your home - a special place to call your own. Its a place where you can be yourself and so can the kids. So do not be too finicky about the arrangement.After all your home is not a model home. Things will scatter and messes will be made. Be prepared to readjust and revisit as per personal preference. And ofcourse do not stress out too much.

Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. 
 ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

A big thank you to my friends D,A,Z for all the inspiration and motivation. You all know who you are and I love you a lot !!

Drop me a comment if you have questions, comments or more advice for me. I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mission Decluttering

Pin It Now! For the past few weeks I have been actively de-cluttering and organizing my home. On the way, I taught myself a whole lot of new things. It was tiring but a lot of fun, and utterly satisfying. These are some of my lessons learned that may help some of you in your next organizing project.

My goal was to make my home - neat,spacious and definitely more organized.

The first step was to ask myself questions- lots of them.What do I want to change ? What is creating the clutter ? I looked around and the answers came right back.

There were lots of things that needed de-cluttering. For instance, Aamod's toys. So many were broken and not used. I donated a big bag of them and trashed several. I now have only the toys that I want to keep. Less stuff to keep means more space and easy organizing.Ditto with shoes,clothes,zip lock containers etc.Closet and cabinet space is precious real estate that should be wisely used.

I cannot stress how important this step has been. In fact I plan to do it every few months. If I cannot decide if something needed to go or stay I follow the 3-6 month rule. I store it away and if I do not recall or use it for 3-6 months I probably do not need it.

Another trick I learned is to start with small spaces and small projects. I am a working mom and I can only devote so much time to my home. I planned to do a few tasks( may be 2 or 3 small ones) every weekend. That way I do not stress out and lose out on the fun. Make a task list and target it over a few weeks.

I also realized that its not easy to let go of things. Specially toys, clothes - that have been so fondly bought and even gifted.But believe me when you see your clean, organized home it will be all worth it.

Coming up next - are clever ideas to organize your home. Don't head to the IKEA store unless you read this.And this one will be a picture post, I promise.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rajasthani Panchmel Dal

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 You know what I got on mother's day ? This... 

And for someone who never expected this, it came as a very pleasant surprise.

As mothers we know that we are being appreciated and loved, but its nice to see the feelings being expressed.

Needless to say I was deeply touched.

Coming back to the recipe of the day. This Rajasthani Panchmel dal is mixture of 5 dals ( though I only used 4 to make Its cooked in fragrant spices and then tempered to give a nice smoky flavor. This recipe was a great find as its perfect for daily dinner rotation.

Rajasthani Panchmel Dal
(Inspired from this recipe on

What's needed :
2 tbsp each of toor dal,masoor dal,mung dal,chana dal and green whole mung dal ( i did not have the last one)
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1 tomato roughly chopped
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp or more of chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste

For the tempering
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 or 2 dry red chillies or green chillies

oil as required

How To:
  • Soak all the dals for at least 10mins and set aside.
  • Over hot oil combine the ginger-garlic paste and the chopped onion until onion is soft. 
  • Add the tomatoes and the dry powders. Saute till the mixture is fragrant and leaves oil.
  • Add the dal plus 5C of water. Allow the dals to cook. This may take around 30min.
  • Optionally you can transfer mixture to a a pressure cooker or rice cooker to speed up the process.
  • Once the dal is cooked, over hot oil combine the ingredients of tempering and add it to the cooked dal.
  • Add salt and taste. 
  • Serve with rice , rotis or like I did with dosas.
"This is the only dal you should make" was Vijay's remark. We all love thick and hearty stews.

But like I said this is a very hearty dal with bursts of spice, since the dals are cooked with the spices. Hearty and smooth because of the heavy dals like chana dal and toor dal. A perfect accompaniment to any meal and also to the rava dosas I made this weekend.

Have a great weekend !!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Brown Rice and Mushroom Burgers

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These brown rice burgers are so good that you would forget every other veggie burger you've had so far. No, Really !! Actually I made almost 12 of them a few weeks back and we finished all of them in a matter of week. They stay so well in the fridge and are great for snacking and as a meal. 

 I accidentally overcooked my brown rice the other day resulting in rice that was mushy and sticky. I get my short grain brown rice from Whole Foods in the Bins section. But I have seen it many kroger stores also.

 Wondering what to do with it I looked on the internet for inspiration. Found this recipe. We loved it from the very first bite. 
I made them again to take them out for a picnic at the park. 

Brown Rice and Mushroom Burgers
(Inspired from this recipe on ecurry)

1 C cooked brown rice ( 1/2 C uncooked short grain brown rice )
4-5 mushrooms chopped
4 tbsp coursely crushed almonds/almond meal/ crushed walnuts
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1 tsp red chilli flakes
2 tbsp sricha sauce or your favorite hot sauce
sooji/cornmeal/breadcrumbs as required
salt to taste
oil as required

  • Cook the brown rice with 2C of water (1:4 ratio of brown rice to water). This will yield sticky and mushy brown rice since this is the main binding agent. Allow to cool and set aside.
  • Over medium heat combine the garlic, onion and cook till onion browns up. Add the red chilli flakes and black pepper.
  • Then add the mushrooms. Cook on high heat till the moisture dries up and mixture is dry and lumpy.Set aside.
  • In another bowl combine the rice and the crushed nuts, sricha sauce and salt. Add the mushroom mixture.
  • Combine everything and refrigerate the mixture for 20 min.
  • After 20 min. form the mixture into patties. If the mixture is dry add a tsp of water or mix it with wet hands. Wet hands will also ensure that mixture does not stick to your hands.
  • Roll the patties in sooji/cornmeal/breadcrumbs and shallow fry till golden brown and crispy.
  • Assemble into a burger or have them on their own.
 These are very filling and really addicting. The brown rice is all nutty and crispy. Like I said these can be made ahead and refrigerated for a week at least. Do not skip the nuts. They are the little bites that add to the texture. 
I served them with some chipotle mayo. Its just chipotle in adobos combined with mayo. Really good !! Your favorite dip would work too,
Serve with some salad and lemon wedge for a complete meal.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Panchphoran Aloo

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Indulgence for some is having a pedicure, for some it is a piece of dark chocolate and for others it might be a branded pair of jeans. My indulgence is shoes - not just any shoes, but a comfortable, trendy pair of my favorite brand. What is your indulgence ?
Panchphoran is a magical mixture of seeds - aromatic and full of flavor. To create this mix equal parts of mustard , cumin, methi ,fennel seeds and another spice called radhuni. Radhuni is not easily available here so I omitted it.
I made this simple but flavorful aloo sabzi this weekend. I tasted it at a potluck party and loved it. Thank you dear Z for such a tasty recipe.

Panchphoran Aloo

What's needed :

3 medium potatoes cooked chopped ( can use whole baby potatoes too)
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 dry red chillies
1 green chilly
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tbsp oil
1/2 an onion sliced thinly
2 tbsp thick yogurt
salt to taste

For the panchphoran tempering :
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp panchphoran
3 tbsp oil

Cilantro to garnish
1 tbsp garam masala

  • Over medium heat combine the oil,green chilly,dry red chillies and ginger garlic paste.Then add the onions and saute till soft. 
  • Then add the spices - cumin,coriander,chilly and turmeric powder. If mixture becomes too dry add 3-4 tbsp of water.
  • Add the potatoes and coat them with the spice mixture.Add 5-6 tbsp of water to thin out the gravy.
  • Do not add too much water at once. 
  • Lower the heat. Smooth the yogurt and add some of the gravy to it and add this to the gravy.
  • Add salt, pinch of sugar and allow to come to a gentle boil. 
  • The gravy will thicken slightly.Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

For the tempering:
  • In hot oil add the panchphoran and allow the seeds to sizzle. 
  • Add this to the potato mixture along with the garam masala and the cilantro. Mix well.
  • Serve hot with rotis.