Category Archives: For Your Kitchen

Is it expired?

Is It ExpiredAhh, the infamous question…

The husbo & I often ask each other this during our periodical fridge sweeps. He’s usually quick to come to a conclusion, but me? I like to ask follow up questions. Does it smell bad? Is it moldy? What does it taste like? Is it furry?

Dude, I cannot tell you the number of times I have had the ‘expiration date’ discussion with people… everyone always has a different opinion and, honestly, I never know who to believe. In the past, I’ve heavily relied on my senses – tasting, sniffing, prodding & poking to make sure everything is “ok”. It’s worked out pretty well… though I’ve definitely had my fair share of sour milk sips & nasty cheese sniffs… yuck.

About a week ago, I came across this article and thought it would be a good idea to share it with you guys; it’s very telling. It sets the record straight and details the difference between Use By & Best By vs. Sell By. So the next time you get into a discussion re: expiration dates (oh, because I know how popular of a topic it is), you’ll know just the thing to say to make people believe you!

Masala Dabba

Masala Dabba

If you’re Indian then you’re probably already well acquainted with what I’m about to say, and if you’re not, well…then just keep reading, ok?

A masala dabba (pronouned ma-sa-la dub-bah, aka. the dubs) quite simply translates to “spice box”. It is a staple in all Indian kitchens, and – honestly – you can’t make a single Indian dish without its contents. Speaking of its contents, this tends to vary from kitchen to kitchen (because no two chefs are alike) but there will always be a few things that everyone has: cumin, coriander, turmeric & salt. There are variations when it comes to the actual box, but the basic components are pretty much standardized: stainless steel round box, 7 little compartments, and metal spoon(s).

I think any Indian kid can associate, when I say that I would watch my mum take the dabba out, scoop up a combination of spices and throw them into the pot, releasing a puff of smoke – as if she was a sorceress making a potion in her cauldron. Ha! Then almost instantaneously, the kitchen exhaust would go on to suck up the heavy aroma before it infiltrated the apartment.

I like to imagine the passing down of the spice box, from mother to child, is almost like a right of passage for Indians, lol. Unfortunately, my mum never got to do this with me (so sorry, Mum!) because when I was younger I used to very anti-Indian. Anti-Indian cooking, anti-Indian music, anti-Indian everything. I thought I was too cool for it.

So where did I get one, you ask?  Well, it’s the husbo’s! He got it from his mum a while ago, and of course it was never used… until we got married, so thank you, Mum Khaneja!

I’ll be honest, when I first started cooking I didn’t cook any Indian food & never touched the dubs (I mean, the whole process of Indian cuisine was very, very intimidating to me) but as I experimented in the kitchen more and more, I found the courage to tackle it! I quickly realized that there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of, because once you understand what each spice does for a dish, you’ll be doing a little bit of hocus pocus of your own.

The Balcony Garden

With the exception of a 5 year period, my family has always lived in a high-rise flat. That, however, has never stopped my mum from keeping a small herb garden. I’m not gonna lie, as a kid I thought it was kinda weird that she would care for her plants and talk to them affectionately. But now, as an adult, I totally see what all the fuss was about… there’s something very soothing, very therapeutic about tending to a plant (total granny status right here).

In Spring 2012, the husbo & I put together our balcony garden and, really, it started as a casual activity, just to spruce up the outdoors with some fun flowers. We then discovered some easy-to-manage veggies at a local Mom & Pop hardware store, and ended up with full spread of tomatoes, cucumbers and jalapeños! I wasn’t around much last summer to enjoy the crop (that makes me sound like such a farmer, lol) but the husbo constantly iMessaged me photos and couldn’t stop talking about the juicy, crispy cucumbers. This year I made it a point to stick around for the summer and really tend to the garden because, heck, I want to eat homegrown food, too!

Balcony Garden

Up here on the 17th floor, Mother Nature & I are homegirls. She has been very kind to the plants; providing them with just the right amount of sun, rain & wind, and for that, I am thankful. I’m even going to go as far as saying we have better results this year. More fruits, more veggies and more excitement!

So without further ado, let me introduce you to the gang…

JalapenosStrawberriesBaby BazCukeVines

Jalapeños

These are our hermanos. There are about 6 -8 of them growing, and in about a week I am going to pick one! I’m just waiting for them to mature a tad more, so they can really develop their flavor & heat. Once that happens, I’m gonna throw them into some guac and it’s going to be great.

Strawberries

Dude, let’s not even get me started on how excited I am about these guys. I think it’s only because we were I was so skeptical when we bought them… I mean who grows strawberries in their apartment?! We literally went weeks without seeing any progress and the husbo had to remind me to be patient. Then, this past Sunday (all of a sudden) we find these babies! They’re still so tiny and delicate (we noticed a bird took a bite out of one, grrrr) and seriously need a lot of TLC before anyone can enjoy them! That’s talking to you, you damn bird. But eeeek, I cannot wait!

Basil

We actually have two basil plants (Baz & Baby Baz) both of which were purchased from our local grocery store’s fresh herb section. I felt so bad about using & abusing the plants (they’re only intended for one-time use) so I put them into tiny, and I mean tiny, bowls and changed the water every day. Needless to say they did well for themselves, up until recently… the leaves would yellow quickly and they just seemed so blah. That’s when we decided to let the little guys go outside, and I cannot tell you what a good idea that was! Literally within days the plants spruced up and flourished among their new friends.

Cilantro

The cilantro was also purchased from the grocery store, but this time we went ahead and just directly planted him outside. I was worried the birds would go crazy and pick on this guy, but he’s done really well for himself and has grown into a great big bush.

Cucumbers/ Yellow Squash 

Honestly, we have no idea what is going on here. All we know is that the plants we purchased we labelled cucumbers and they were all in one little section… so they better be something good. These are sneaky little guys, though, they wrap their vines around anything they can get a grab of. We planted them in the same pot as the jalapeños and they weren’t  playing nice, so the husbo moved the vines towards the railing. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve grown these before and sort of know what to expect, so we’re patiently just waiting for the cucumbers (or whatever they are) to make an appearance. I’m thinking another 3 weeks? We’ll see.

Last, but not least, let me introduce you to the Kardashians carnations…

Carnations
Yes, I said Kardashians (I thought it was clever and who the hell doesn’t love them a Kardashian?!) We originally had four: Kris, Kourtney, Kim & Khloe, but over time Kris unfortunately (?) died, Kim plumped up big time and Khloe thinned out. What about Kourtney, you ask? Well, Kourtney – she just stayed the same… boring. If you didn’t already know, carnations are perennials, which means they are dormant in the winter and then come back to life in the warmer months. Much like the famous sisters, these girls add so much sass to the balcony, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All right kids, so that’s the balcony garden for you. Now, if there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from all this, it’s that I  very much encourage you to grow something of your own, in your home. I mean, it’s a great activity for your & your signification other to do together, and I hear it’s good feng shui. So go buy yourself a plant, now.