Saturday, December 2, 2017

Guest blog: Healthy can be yummy and crunchy!

Today, Shalzmojo is my guest blogger. She is a truly incredible blogger whom I met through Write Tribe, which is a group of bloggers who #writebravely. I asked her to write about food and to share a recipe. Here is this wonderful recipe from Shalzmojo. I, for one, am looking forward to trying it out. Enjoy!!!

A recipe from my kitchen
I was diagnosed with thyroid this summer and was in a frenzy to start eating healthy to eliminate all the processed flours/sugars from my food. In a bid to purge out my shelves, I threw out the store bought items like crackers, biscuits, cookies, savoury mixtures, etc. I began to trawl the net for healthy substitutes for the same and was amazed at the research of such recipes, which were super easy to make. Best part is that you make fresh batches every week and keep up the healthy eating motto.
Sharing with you all a healthy baked cracker recipe that I experimented with in various combinations, till I got the one I liked!

2 cups wheat flour
1 cup sooji or semolina
1 cup Jau / barley flour (optional)
1 cup oats flour (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil ( you can use refined oil / ghee of your choice too)
Salt to taste ( I use an herb/chilli flakes salt or rock salt store bought; you can use common salt or sea salt or whatver you use for salt)
1 tbspoon of ajwain / Caraway seeds
1 tbsp of kasuri methi  / dried fenugreek herb (optional)
1 tsp of kashmiri red chilli powder for color (optional)
* Instead of fenugreek, caraway, etc;  you can add oregano / basil / thyme / rosemary - any herb seasoning to make it another flavour. One can experiment with the flavour with using different kinds of herb mixes.
** Optional flours can be used in combinations- I make these crackers with 4 types of flours; you could use 2 /3 / all four – it’s up to your palate.

Dry rub in the entire mix and then add oil and crumb rub the mix. Add plenty of water to make slightly tough consistency dough. 

Roll out into a 2mm thick circle of 12" diameter and cut to shape with a knife or cookie cutter. While rolling, place a silicon mat or a sheet of butter paper; this will make lifting up the cut pieces easy.

Place on an oven proof  plate/tray and bake at 200 deg C in a preheated oven (200 deg c) for 20 mts; then flip and bake another 20  mts.
Time variation can be 15-20 mts depending on how hot your oven gets. I bake mine in a LG microwave at the convection setting!

Thinner the flour rolled out, crisper the crackers will be.

About Shalzmojo
An interior designer by profession, writing is a passion which coupled with travel love blossomed into this blog where I love to just “do my thing”! Be it recipes, food events, travel jaunts, fiction dreaming or even meditative musings; all of it’s taken up quite passionately on my blog. I am a serious wine guzzler and love to chase butterflies in my free time.
Please do check out my post on  my version of a  ginger-carrot cake
This post is written for the December bloghop #mymojo with Shalzmojo
Linking up for #wordsante with Namysaysso for every post deserves some love 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Small business Saturday in Grand Island

Friday was "buy nothing day," which amounted to a fun response to the excesses of "Black Friday," which features people waiting on lines for hours at stores, followed by fistfights over who gets to buy a toy in short supply.

If you don't like crowds, battles over things, and crabby people, you skip "black Friday," which is exactly what I did on "buy nothing day." Instead, I walked to Grand Island's wildlife sanctuary and restored wetlands, Buckhorn Island State Park, where I enjoyed the beauty of the Niagara River, the marshes, and the swampy areas. 

Yesterday was "Small Business Saturday." The purpose of Small Business Saturday is to support small, locally owned businesses. Here in Grand Island, I visited a few businesses that were celebrating Small Business Saturday.

The first business that I visited was Momma De's Mixing Bowl, owned by Ellen DeNormand.
The last time that I visited was a month ago, when I went there for a cookie decorating class.
Today, I went there to eat breakfast. I had a veggie breakfast pizza, fruit, and green tea with pomagranate. 

After breakfast, I went next door, to the Island Ship Center, which is owned by Seema and Fahim Mojowalla. They call their business the Spa of Shipping. You can take your packages there to be shipped. And, if you don't know how to wrap your packages, Seema and Fahim will wrap them for you. They are impressively good at wrapping packages. I had them ship a painting. They also do printing. I get all of my greeting cards printed there. The Island Ship Center is also a boutique, full of lovely things, which includes soaps that Seema makes. The soaps are pretty, colorful, and aromatic. I love to treat myself to Seema's soaps.

Yesterday, to celebrate Small Business Saturday, Seema hosted a Purse Party.
The back room was full of purses of different sizes and shapes. I took a look and I took a few photographs. 

I bought a bar of soap and a green moleskine book to carry around with me, just in case I get the urge to write a story or a poem. You never know. I might get the urge to write a poem. It could strike at any time. After I paid for the soap and book, I was given a little ticket. With the little ticket clutched in my hand, I returned to the Island Ship Center. Fahim's and Seema's daughters were taking turns handing out pieces of baklava and cups of chai.
They had baked the baklava, but there was no room at the Island Ship Center to serve it. It was delicious.
I had never had chai before yesterday, and, with one taste, I was hooked. I could be happy drinking loads and loads and loads of chai. 

My next stop was Kelly's Country Store. It is a tradition on Grand Island. I've written about it in the past.
Every year, Santa Claus comes to Kelly's Country Store. He comes there because it's the most decorated place in Grand Island.
It is quite spectacular. If you like chocolate, you have numerous choices. They sell the Buffalo specialty, sponge candy. The back room in a Christmas wonderland. Your eyes will bulge out of your head.
I'm still pushing my eyes back in after that impressive display of Super Christmas lore.

My last stop was to Christmas on the Farm, just around the corner from Kelly's Country Store.
Shannon Zaccharia, owner
of Everything Grand Island, with
some of her creations, including
Beaver Island mugs, Buckhorn
Island mugs, sweatshirts,
and more.
It was at the farm where the weekly farmers market was held. It was kind of rainy by then but Christmas on the Farm is always delightful.
Donna makes handmade
pine cone
ornaments, which
look festive on a tree.
I bought a garlic. A really, really big garlic.
This is Lisa and Donna. In addition to selling handmade ornaments, she also sells eggs. She and her husband own an old farmhouse and 25 chickens. By day, she is a cleaner at Huth Road Elementary School. Donna, a semi-retired professional photographer, sells Christmas candy, made of white chocolate and peanut butter. She describes it as "Matthew's favorite."

And... if you live in Grand Island and you feel sad about missing out on Christmas on the Farm, it will be held again on the sixteen of December. 
Julie, in the center, holds up one of the wreaths that her 17-year-old twins Josh and Jenna make.  They started making the wreaths last year as a way to earn Christmas money. (not pictured, their dad Eric)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Looking upward #SkyWatchFriday

Today was a windy but sunny late November day. I decided to go visit Buckhorn Island State Park. Every time I visit this wildlife sanctuary and restored wetland, I see something that I hadn't noticed in the past. Today, one of the things that I observed during my walk, both in the park and on my way there and back home, was the sky. Here is the sky and how it changed during the course of the afternoon.
Some people seem to touch the sky when they work. For them, gravity is a choice, not a law.
The sky over the Niagara River is clear and bright.

November in Buckhorn Island State Park.

Clouds appear in the sky, resembling bunches of cotton balls.

The clouds that form spread out, consuming the blueness of the sky.
The trees, most of which have lost their leaves, reach toward the clouds.

The sky turns shades of pink and blue as the sun begins to set.
The pinks and blues deepen and the sun sets...

... and the nighttime moon rises.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teacher stories 13: following your passion

Today's teacher story is with Patricia Kwarciak, who teaches third grade at Huth Road Elementary School.

When did you know that you wanted to be a teacher?
I think that, when I was growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher, but my high school counselor talked me out of it. So I actually was in a different career field, and I wasn’t happy. I was a bank auditor. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t my personality, and that’s the reason that I was so unhappy. So I did a little soul searching, and I went back to school. I am so happy that I did because it was one of the best decisions that I made.

Where did you go to school?
I went to Canisius for my undergraduate degree in business, and to Medaille for my masters in education.

Did you teach in any other school districts before Grand Island?
Actually I was very fortunate. I started out as a teaching assistant about 15 years ago. I started here at Huth Road Elementary School. Then the following year, I was hired as a K-1 teacher at Sidway Elementary School. I was a looping teacher (a looping teacher teaches the same group of students in both their kindergarden and first grade years). It was fun. It was a great group of kids. Actually, they are graduating from high school this year. After two years at Sidway, I came here and taught fourth grade. I had a couple of my former students in fourth grade. It was great to see how much they grew academically as well as physically. I’m going to their graduation in June. I’m looking forward to that.

You were a fourth grade teacher. When did you become a third grade teacher.
I taught fourth grade for a couple years, and then there was an opening in third. I came down to third, and I love third grade. There’s so much that I love about it. I love that the children are independent enough to work on some things on their own. They are so open to learning and being challenged. 

Could you describe something that your class is doing this year?
In my classroom, we do something called genius hour, which was started at Google. Employees are allowed 20 percent of their work time to do a pet project, something that they are passionate about. Basically, it is adapted for the classroom, where students are encouraged to find out what they are passionate about and then learn about it. So they pick a topic, they research it, they find out all about it, and they present it to the class.  

I had a student last year, who wanted to become a chef. Basically, I act as more of a guide so I told her to research a couple of famous chefs, interview some local chefs, which she did, and she put together a beautiful Power point Presentation. She created a cookbook, and then she brought in samples of food that she made for the class to taste. 

When the students have an active role in what they want to learn about, it makes them more enthusiastic about their learning. We’re just starting out this year. We have our wonder wall. The students come up with questions of certain things. One student last year wondered what it would be like to have a pet pig. The student researched everything involved, including what to feed it, how to take care of it, everything that was involved in having a pet pig. Its a lot of fun. The learning never ends in here. Even as an adult, the learning never ends. We are always learning. There is always room to learn.

What makes you happiest about teaching?
I think that I love sharing knowledge. The learning never ends. I love to see how excited the kids get when they’re excited about learning, too. You see their eyes light up in excitement.

What would you like to tell parents?
I think that what we try to do here in our classroom is that we have this thing called the growth mindset, where we like to take on challenges and we don’t easily give up. If we come across a problem that seems a little difficult at first, we just need to figure out a way to maybe attack the problem differently or look at it differently and keep trying. So I would say to parents is to challenge their children at home. Let them become a little frustrated and try to figure out problems on their own. But do so within reason.

What do you like to do when you're not teaching?
I am very involved with my children and the sports that they are in. I have two children, a boy (age 17) and a girl (age 19). If I am not here, I am usually at their sporting events. They are involved in volleyball and hockey. My daughter is working full time, and she is in school full time. She wants to do something in the law enforcement field. My son is graduating from high school this year and his intent is to go into biomedical science. He wants to become an anesthesialolgist. 

I also have two furbabies at home. Two dogs. My little bentley. He’s a King Charles cavalier, and the world revolves around him. He is my little guy. Then my other furbaby is a rescue dog that was actually my mom’s dog.  He is a little Shih tsu.My daughter wanted to keep him because he reminded us of my mom, who passed six years ago.

Now I am going to be doing volunteer work at Roswell Park. I’m going to be a cancer coach for folks that are going through cancer. I have an attachment to Roswell. I am a cancer survivor. Two years ago, five days before Thanksgiving, I had my last chemotherapy treatment. I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I am almost two years in remission so I am very thankful for that. In order to be  a cancer coach, you have to be two years out from treatment.

I just feel the need to give back. So our class is making blankets for the pediatric patients at Roswell.

What would you tell someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer?
Stay positive. That’s what helped me a lot. Even though it might seem dark and difficult, we have to keep thinking positive. 

Monday, November 20, 2017


Ten years ago, I had pneumonia and was very sick. One day, my mom walked into my room and asked me how she could help me. All I could think of was how I could fill myself with air so I could withstand the next coughing fit. I was wondering if my life expectancy could be measured by minutes, hours, or days. I did not think months or years nor did I imagine that I would be writing these words ten years later. I squeaked, "I'm scared. Tell me a story." My mom said to me, "I have an idea. I'll be right back." Within minutes, my mom was back with a book of fairy tales.

My mom read to me every day until I recovered from my illness. The antibiotics took away the illness, and the stories excited my imagination and distracted me back to health. 

Stories have power, in addition to the power of healing. Stories make us laugh and cry. They tell us where we came from. They tell us about other cultures and they let us experience the world through another person's eyes. 

On Saturday, November 18th, I experienced Tellabration, an international storytelling event that occurs on or close to the third Saturday of every November, as a listener. I let the stories wash over me and fill me up with many feeling: amusement, empathy, joy, hope, and more. The theme of Tellabration this year was hope.

Here are synopses of the stories, as well as pictures of all of the story tellers. 

Gooseberries to Oranges is an immigration story, told by Diane Evans. Fanny was a little girl who lived in Eastern Europe. She talked about picking gooseberries and little brown pears in the summertime. "With winter came war." With war came disease. Fanny went to America in a huge ship. In America, she lived with her Papa, but she learned that the streets were paved with garbage, not gold. She tasted an orange for the first time and it was good and helped her not feel so nostalgic for the gooseberries and little brown pears of her homeland.

The Tale of Human Pathos on the High Seas and Zombies was set in the 1970s, when everyone was cool, despite their bizarre fashion statements. Blue Sky said that he lived with his family in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, which is a very cool place to live. His mom was into composting and organic gardening. At some point, the food waste was tossed directly into the incredibly organic garden, and the compost heap was sadly neglected until a huge object was discovered there. It was a MONSTER ZUCCHINI! What could be done with a vegetable of that size? Dad got out the chainsaw and transformed the Mutant Vegetable into a dugout canoe. Sky and his brother Sterling got into the canoe and they tried to paddle to Toronto. They used snow shovels for paddles. Unfortunately, beavers started eating the boat. Before long, the beavers consumed the entire boat, and Sky and Sterling were left, bobbing in the water. The Coast Guard came by and issued Sky and Sterling tickets for "unauthorized feeding of a protected species." They departed without rescuing Sky and Sterling, who soon were DEAD! But not quite dead. "Sterling and I were Zombies."

Watch out for Sky and Sterling or you might become... ZOMBIEFIED!!!!

Bobby Minkoff told the story of The Man Who Wanted to Live Forever. A man prayed that he could live forever. An angel asked him if he was sure that's what he wanted, and a bird took him to the land where people lived forever. They ate poisonous mushrooms and took all sorts of wild risks because they said that living forever was boring.
Lorna Czarnota's story was called The Pool. It is a story about your identity and the joy in who you are. 

Craig Werner told a story called Just One Choice, about a couple named Nancy and Jackie O'Gormley. They had three daughters and they wanted to have a son. Other characters in the story included a magical seal, the wee folk, and changelings.

Pat Feidner told the story of a city boy named Michael, who was sent to live in the countryside with his uncle and his many cousins. He discovered his love of mules and he decided to save up his money to buy his mother a mule. He was told that mules don't belong in the city, but that didn't stop him from trying to buy a mule.

Big Mamma Boo told the story of A Dog Named Amen. She explained the meaning of her name. Big Mamma is an elder mamma, and boo means love. She talked about the prayer warriors who met at church to do intercessory prayer. She said that her friend's daughter adopted abused dogs. One of the dogs alerted people to a break-in and saved everyone's lives. That was the dog named Amen.

Tom Burger told the story of Pandora. Zeus gave her the gift of curiosity when he breathed life into her. She was beautiful. Pandora means "all gifted." She was also given a dowry in a box. She was not to open that box, but she had more curiosity than common sense. She accidentally let out all of the troubles of the world: hate, disease, prejudice, deceit, poverty, and death. She also let out hope. "I am hope. Hope is already around and behind all of those troubles."

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Autumnal kitchen fun

Not only are pumpkins great decorations for the porch on Halloween, they are also delicious and nutritious. The best pumpkins for eating are the smaller variety, known as pie pumpkins. They can be cut up, baked, and eaten like winter squash. Actually, pumpkins are winter squash. And, speaking of winter squash, you can roast and eat the seeds of any winter squash. It makes for a very tasty snack.

Giant pumpkins are considered to be edible but are not as tasty as smaller pumpkins. So, when I go out to get my pumpkins in the autumn, I always look for a smaller pumpkin that will both look nice on the porch and be very tasty.

Pumpkins aren't the only reason for autumn being kitchen fun season. Autumn isn't complete without numerous varieties of apples. There are plenty of opportunities to pick apples and take them home to your kitchen to prepare in so many ways.

Soooo... this is how I had my kitchen fun. I had volunteered to make refreshments for Tellabration, which is a worldwide storytelling event that is held on or close to the third Saturday of November. In Western New York, the event was held at Trinity United Methodist Church, in Amherst on Saturday.

I made two breads for Tellabration: an applesauce bread and a pumpkin bread. But... before I could make the breads, I had to make the applesauce and I had to bake a pumpkin. OK, I guess that I could go all the way back to growing apples and pumpkins. No, I don't have a pumpkin patch, so I had to acquire fresh pumpkins. I do have an apple tree, and some of the apples from that tree were put into the applesauce.

The first bread that I made was the applesauce bread. I found a recipe in for spiced applesauce bread. Here is the link: spiced applesauce bread recipe  When I started getting the ingredients together, I realized that I had a little problem. One of the ingredients that I needed was allspice, but I didn't have any. Going to the supermarket for the missing ingredient was not a plan. It was already dark, and there was no way that I could walk to the store safely to buy allspice. So I had to make do with what I had.

I looked on line to see if I could substitute something for the allspice. The internet can be a great cookbook so... substitutions? What I found was... to make a teaspoon's worth of an allspice substitute, combine half a teaspoon of ground ginger, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg. The second-choice substitute would be to replace the allspice with pumpkin pie spice, which is a combination of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

I put together my "allspice" and was able to make the applesauce bread.

The next day, I made the pumpkin bread, using this recipe from Genius Kitchen: recipe for Fresh Pumpkin Bread 
There were various suggestions from readers about changing the recipe to suit different tastes.
One involved using molasses, but I didn't have any molasses. Another suggestion was to increase the amount of pumpkin in the recipe from one cup to one and a half cups. I did that.
The recipe also suggested the option of adding half a cup of nuts. I decided that raisins, in addition to nuts, would be a fine touch, so I added a third of a cup of raisins and a third of a cup of nuts.
One of the things about this recipe that made me look at it several times, just to make sure that it was right, was that it called for adding a tablespoon of pure vanilla. Since most recipes that I use call for a teaspoon of vanilla, I was surprised by this. I added the vanilla and...

Yum! Vanilla does make baked goods taste even yummier. I brought the breads to Tellabration, where they competed with donuts for attention. They got good reviews but were not finished. I brought the remainder of the breads to church, to add to the goodies at coffee hour. At the end of coffee hour, the breads had been finished. Seeing my creations finished off was a happy experience.
Thanksgiving is coming and, with it, a baking experience that I've never had. Check later for... adventures in gluten-free baking!!!