Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dream Away, Little One!

One thing from my childhood that my little one could do… Hmm...

As I sit here pondering over what this “one thing” might be, I soon come to the honest conclusion that I didn’t do all that much as a child. I had a pretty normal, run of the mill kind of childhood and thanks to working parents I also had large chunks of time all to myself. To do what? Well, pretty much nothing; and by nothing I mean no summer classes, no special classes, no tuitions, coaching classes, no this class, no that class. So what did I do with all that time on my itty bitty hands? Afterall, there is only so much time that can be spent reading or playing with the neighbourhood kids. Don't worry; If I may say so myself, I did not turn out to be a total dunce just because I wasn't sent to umpteen classes. Instead of running from one class to another, my time was spent in blissful dreaming! I lent wings to my imagination and let it soar high with no restrictions whatsoever.

There were no deadlines to worry about nor any distractions to side-track me. I created a whole world of imaginary friends who kept me company when alone and a wide range of fantastical situations which kept me entertained thoroughly! Now, some might doubt if I had schizophrenia but rest assured, I was well aware of the distinction between my make-believe world and the real one. So, at times I was one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, hot on the path of solving an important mystery; at another time I was the Princess with magical powers; or I was a teacher who was beloved by all her students; or I was the mother who cooked yummy food for her children and scolded them to eat their vegetables – the scenarios were simply endless! I played all the characters in a story regardless of age or gender and one could often notice me talking to myself, pretending to be one character or the other.

Nowadays, where do children have the time to simply sit and dream? At once, they are accused of wasting time and are packed off to a music class or a dance class or a karate class or a swimming class and what not! Of course, I don’t mean to say that learning new skills is not important. Certainly, they are and one learns the most in the growing years. However, what with the all-pervading spirit of competitiveness that seems to have seeped into our system, as parents we start wanting our children not only to learn everything but also to excel in everything! It is just not enough if the child can draw and colour but she must draw more realistically and colour more perfectly and hence she must be sent to a drawing class asap. It is no longer enough that my child can work out a maths problem on her own, but she must also do it at lighting speed like my friend’s son and hence she needs to attend a brain gym. Amidst all these “serious” commitments when and where does the child have the time, leave alone the energy to dream, to imagine, to fantasize, to simply escape into a make-believe world of her own? What’s more, even if the child does manage to have some time to himself, there are a plethora of distractions right at his fingertips – ranging from the TV to the Tablet - to keep him pretty occupied! Isn’t it a pity? All said and done, only in our childhood do we really have the luxury of indulging in dreams. As the poet William Henry Davies says in his poem Leisure: 

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

Yes indeed! So, let's let children free! Simply let them be, let them play with their imagination and let them revel in their dreams – I assure you, you will be pleasantly surprised at the wondrous tales that their budding minds can weave!

*This post is written for the Women’s Web #BachpanWithFlinto blogger contest.

Flintobox creates award-winning discovery boxes filled with fun exploratory activities and games for children in the age group of 3-7. If you wish to gift Flintobox to your child, niece/nephew, or friend’s child, use the exclusive coupon code WELCOME to avail Rs. 250/- off.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Del Monte Pasta In Vegan Avocado Garlic Sauce

Pasta was definitely not one of those things which I can claim to have grown up eating. Rather, it was a late addition to my culinary canvas. I was first introduced to pasta only a few years back on one of my international trips and I promptly fell in love with it! From the heartiness of a scrumptious lasagna to the spicy bite of an arriabata sauce and the creamy goodness of a carbonara, I simply loved it all. It is easy to see why the Italians are often teased for their affinity to food. I mean with such delicious fare on hand it is hardly surprising that one gives in to the temptation to indulge in some gastronomic affairs is it?

I have never visited Italy, even though it sits high on my travel bucket list. However from what I’ve heard and read, I’ve often felt that the spirit of Italy bears several striking resemblances to India. Both have cultural sensitivities which have developed from deep and ancient roots. The chaos, the heat, the people, the passion – and of course the love of food – it is quite easy to imagine that India and Italy are twin souls indeed!

Although I had been visiting Italian restaurants for quite some time, it is only recently that I actually started cooking Italian at home. It is exciting to try and recreate the flavours of a special dish which you’ve tried at a restaurant, within the confines of your own kitchen; and sometimes after some trial and error when you end up exceeding even your own expectations and you are overjoyed! Thanks to high quality pastas such as Del Monte Pasta which are available in the market today, if you are hit by sudden cravings for a comforting bowl of minestrone, you can go ahead and whip up a batch right there in your kitchen! In fact, Del Monte even offers a wide range of yummy pasta sauces made from the finest ingredients to make your life even easier.

Del Monte Pasta

While certain dishes such as the ever popular lasagna is quite a labour of love which can be reserved for lazy Sunday lunches, there are also a number of easy and quick pasta recipes which come in handy on busy weekdays when you are juggling a million different things and racing against time to put a healthy, filling and tasty meal on the table. Today, I am going to share one such fantastic recipe with you. It is a family favourite and I make it quite often these days as it is loved by one and all!

Vegan Pasta with avocado sauce & sautéed mushrooms. 
Serves: 2. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

Avocados are chock full of good fats and they are packed with nutrients. They are rich in anti-oxidants and fibre. They aid in digestion and can help lower your cholesterol levels too. Ripe avocados have a rich, buttery texture and a mild flavour to them. We are going to exploit these very characteristics to come up with a creamy pasta sauce – without any dairy and sans the guilt!

Tip: Choosing good avocados - Unripe avocados are hard, taste bitter and to be honest, horrible. On the other hand, overripe ones tend to get mushy and unappetising. When buying avocados, I prefer to buy unblemished ones that have not yet ripened and then I allow them to ripen at home. Simply put them in a paper bag and leave them on your counter-top for a couple of days. You will find that they soften and yield slightly to the touch. You can refrigerate them when they reach this stage and use within a couple of days. Now, let’s get on with the recipe without much further ado!


Del Monte Pasta – 2 cups. (I’ve used spirali but you can use almost any other pasta as well; however pastas with ridges on them will help the sauce to stick to the pasta more efficiently.)
Avocado – 1 ripe
Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves
Mushrooms – 2 cups
Salt, pepper, chilli flakes – according to taste
Italian herbs – 1 teaspoon
Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon
Olive oil – 2 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon



Step 1: Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a generous helping of salt and then throw in the pasta. Cook till al dente. 
(Tip: Alternatively, you can crumble in a stock cube and then add the pasta. It adds so much flavour to the pasta.)

Boil Pasta

Step 2: Extract the flesh of the avocado. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and a teaspoon of olive oil. Blend the mixture into a smooth paste in a mixie. Sprinkle the lemon juice over this to avoid the avocado from darkening and your sauce is done. Keep aside.

Avocado Garlic Sauce

Step 3: Add the remaining olive oil to a pan and once it heats up throw in the sliced mushrooms. Add salt, chilli flakes and the dried Italian herbs. Sauté till the mushrooms leave out their moisture and are well cooked. Turn off the heat.
Sauteed Mushrooms

Step 4: By now your pasta would have cooked up. Drain and add to the sautéed mushrooms. Next add the blended sauce. Mix well.  
(Tip: Reserve a small amount of the water that the pasta cooked in. If you find that the dish is a bit dry to your liking you can add a few teaspoons of the reserved water to make it smoother.)

Step 5: Serve garnished with fresh sliced tomatoes and a sprig of parsley.

Pasta with avocado sauce

Delightfully creamy and refreshingly light, this dish is simply bursting with a buttery flavour tinged with just the right hint of garlic. It makes for a fresh and satisfying meal and what’s more, I guarantee that you will not miss the cheese!

Pasta with avocado sauce

Enjoy! (Tip: To make a non-vegetarian version, you can add substitute the mushrooms with grilled chicken)

*This post is an entry to Indiblogger's Del Monte #ItalianEscapades contest.


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