Saturday Night Dining – Pasta Carbonara

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The Independence weekend was a nice relaxing staycation this year. Is staycation really a word??! I don’t mind this word that much, but some words really make me mad when I hear them. Like ‘Selfie’. Or ‘Yatch’. Does anyone else feel the same?

Anyway, I digress. We get an extra day off, so I had a good four days to relax and rejuvenate and get all my energy back. My husband and I had been contemplating moving to another apartment when our lease ended in about 2 months, but then a better decision was made to paint and redecorate! So it ended up being a not-so-relaxed, but fun weekend spent painting accent walls and buying new stuff for the home. We are so happy with the final outcome!

So one of my goals was also to do some nice cooking over the weekend, to make something other than our usual home-cooked meals. We had absolutely loved the Pasta Carbonara that we tried all over Italy this summer, so I decided to try it at home as well.

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Pasta Carbonara

A super easy and quick recipe to make this universal favorite! The ingredients can be adjusted according to personal taste. Even though, it traditionally does not have onions or veggies or cream, it can also be made extra fun with ingredients like mushrooms or peas.


What you need:

Spaghetti {or your favorite kind of pasta} – 16 oz (1 lb)
Thick-cut Bacon, diced – 6 strips
Medium Onion {white or yellow}, diced – 1
Garlic cloves, minced – 4
Eggs – 3
Parmesan cheese, grated – 1 cup
Heavy cream {or light cream for a lower calorie option} – ½ cup
Salt – to taste
Black Pepper – to taste


The Method:

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Keep it al-dente.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the bacon in a skillet till brown. Keep aside on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain the excess fat.

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Throw out the bacon fat left in the skillet but use the same pan to sauté the diced onion and garlic on medium heat till light brown.

Whisk together the eggs, cream and parmesan till smooth. Add salt to taste and plenty of black pepper for seasoning.

photo 2Drain the cooked pasta and save the starchy water to use to thicken the sauce later.

While the pasta is still hot, slowly add in the egg and cheese sauce while stirring the pasta continuously so that the eggs get cooked.

Add in the cooked bacon and onions and mix well.

If the pasta seems too thick, add a little bit of the saved pasta water till you like the consistency.

Serve hot topped with extra parmesan!


Happy cooking!

Save my lips, Dr. Rescue!

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Some people bite nails, some (i.e. your’s truly) apparently like to peel the dead skin from lips with their fingers or teeth..gross, I know!! When you have extremely dry and flaky lips and bad habits such as the one just described, you want to try whatever remedy you can lay your hands on to resolve the problem. In this quest, I had tried the regular Maybelline Baby Lips moisturizing lip balm in Peach Kiss after hearing all the rave reviews for the product. I was, however, quite disappointed! The balm did not do anything for my lips. It felt like a heavy, slick layer that just lay on top of the lips without getting absorbed or making them any better. The texture just felt completely wrong! Enter Baby Lips Dr. Rescue in the shade Berry Soft.

According to Maybelline: “No more basic lip balm.
Medicated care + 12 HR hydration.
Soothes quickly with a hint of eucalyptus.
Cools sore lips with a touch of icy menthol
In 6 new natural tints to even out lip tone for healthier-looking lips

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Packaging:

The Baby Lips balm comes in a roll-up lip balm container with a white cover that snaps shut. The packaging is simple and cute with the name written across the cover in a fun font. It looks young and super vibrant. The packaging also seems sturdy and travel friendly, which is always important to me.

Product:

Baby Lips is a tinted product and gives a colorful sheen to the lips. It does not replace lipstick but is good to have for no make-up days to get some color and moisture on the lips. The balm itself is quite hard but easy to glide on. I like that it is one of those products that will not melt in the heat, unlike the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments which I love but they have that super soft and melty texture. I like that these are a little more sturdy, especially for the summer.

Also, even though the description mentions that it has “icy menthol”, I only feel a very slight hint of menthol on my lips. The color Berry Soft has a beautiful berry color that makes my lips look very pretty and naturally pink.

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Perfume:

When you open a tube of the Baby Lips Dr. Rescue balm, you really just smell menthol and not in a bad way. I don’t mind the smell of menthol and it also dissipates quite quickly.

Performance:

One thing that really confused me was the “Use” of this lip balm. It is made to sound very medicinal! I am not sure of its efficacy for fever blisters and cold sores, but I do know that I like the balm for use on a daily basis. It deposits a really thin layer on my lips (unlike the original Baby Lips) that absorbs quickly and feels moisturizing. My lips have been feeling so much better since I started using this balm. They’re less dry and flaky, so peeling them has been tougher (thankfully!). This is one balm I will keep going back to!

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Back from Vacation, and a Quick Organizing Tip

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Hello All! We are just back from a wonderful and super long vacation to India, Italy and Switzerland! I am so exhausted that I should be glad, but in fact am sad to be back. Having to go back to work has been tough! Italy is such an amazing country – the food, the people, the landscape – everything is truly exquisite. It has so much personality and the language is truly beautiful. SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

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SONY DSCWe also stopped over to take in some of the pristine, picture-perfect sights of Switzerland.

SONY DSC I’m back home after almost 5 weeks and feel totally exhausted. I think I need another vacation to recover from my vacation! On that note, my skin is completely out of whack. It has breakouts and is looking dull and tired due to an entire lack of pampering. The first thing I did when I got back was drench my hair is oil, scrubbed my face with my Eminence Strawberry Rhubarb Dermafoliant, put on a cleansing face pack, and pampered my body with my home-made coffee scrub. I need to really look after it to get it back in good shape.

Since I’d been away from home for so long, it was a total mess when we got back. I’m going through an organizing phase and giving my OCD self some work to do. I tried to make a quick, yet effective solution to keep all my necklaces organized and in one place. Just stuck some thumb-pins in a soft board, and voilà!

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A Culinary Journey Through Japan

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When it comes to food, I usually play it very safe. I will always order the same sandwich, the same pasta or pretty much the standard tried and tested dish at a restaurant that I know I like because more often than not, I end up disliking anything new I try. Yes it is a surprise since I absolutely love to cook. But when it comes to cooking, I like to do it for others! I enjoy making interesting dishes for friends and family who enjoy food, rather than for myself.

On my recent visit to Japan, I was surprisingly experimental. I tried so many kinds of foods that really changed my perception of Japanese cuisine. My experience had been limited to sushi, miso soup and some kind of Japanese barbecue, and I hadn’t particularly been a fan of any of those (except that I completely love the Americanized sushi!). I also considered Japanese food to be too bland for my Indian taste buds that are used to a confusing blend of masalas in our meals.

But the food in Japan is incredibly flavorful despite the lack of any spice! It feels very fresh and light, and super healthy to eat. And the accompanying green tea with every meal is an absolute delight!

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Bento boxes and Set meals are very popular for a reason!

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Oh they do have a Japanized version of the curry, which was quite delightful as well! I am extremely amazed by the karaage (fried chicken) and katsu (fried pork cutlets) that are poles apart from the regular American fried-chicken. Even the fried Japanese stuff feels light and a delight to eat!

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One other thing in Japan that was my favorite was the vending machine on every street and corner. You can buy all kinds of cold as well as hot drinks from these machines at any time of the day or night. So convenient!

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There are some other absolutely wonderful things about the food in Japan – from the mouth-watering Mochi to the perfectly packed strawberries. I also experienced a community mochi-making session which was so much fun!

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photo 1 (1)And of course, there is no lack of western food, Japanese-style!

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photo 2 (3)I had so much fun trying food in Japan. Hopefully, I will get to go back and try some more of the local delicacies!

 

Beauty Shopping in Japan!

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The number one item on my wishlist for my trip to Japan was shopping for cosmetics and skin care! I absolutely love cosmetics in the US because of the huge variety and quality available. However, I have heard so many raves for Japanese products and I really wanted to try some for myself and see if they were indeed better. I have been here a week and have bought quite a few things that I wanted to try. I do intend to shop some more on the coming weekend right before I leave.

The biggest problem in shopping for stuff in Japan is the language. There is not a single word of English on their products! I have been buying stuff based on pictures I found on the internet of loved products in reviews and blogs.

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{From left: Kate BB gel cream; Sana Soy milk Isoflavone Milk; Hada Labo Perfect Gel}

The Perfect Whip facial cleanser is a highly praised product and so inexpensive – less than 400 Yen (that’s less than US$4!), so I definitely wanted to try it. Plus how can you not get the DHC cleansing oil from the land of DHC!!

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{Clockwise: Shiseido Perfect Whip Facial cleaner; DHC Deep Cleansing oil; Kanebo Media lipstick in RS-22}

Sheet masks are everywhere so I had to try one!

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{From left: DHC Lip Cream; Lululun sheet mask}

And some more…

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And of course mascara and something from Bioré. Before coming here, I had no idea Bioré was owned by a Japanese corporation! Though I’m happy to finally see something in English!

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{Bioré UV Aqua Rich Sunscreen SPF 50; Heroine Make Volume & Curl Mascara}

I can’t wait to get back home and try some of these products. Reviews soon!

Do you have any Japanese recommended beauty products I need to buy?

Fekkai – A Mini Review

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When I was traveling this time to Japan, I decided to bring along some of the shampoo samples I had lying around. The ease of carrying those during travel is so much as compared to lugging full size shampoo and conditioner bottles and dealing with potential leakages and weight problems! One of the packets I wanted to try and brought along was the Fekkai Shea Butter Moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. I am so amazed and happy with this shampoo that I’m regretting not having tried it before. It has to be my new favorite!

According to Fekkai: “Care for and smooth hair daily with the decadent cleansing experience of Essential Shea Shampoo. An ultra rich shampoo that leaves hair feeling soft and moisturized. Care for and smooth hair daily with the decadent conditioning experience of Essential Shea Conditioner. An ultra crème moisturizing conditioner that quenches hair in rich hydrating indulgence.

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The shampoo is intensely hydrating and makes the hair incredibly soft. After using it, my hair was shiny and much less frizzy. The shea butter in the shampoo really does what it claims and helps moisturize and condition the hair and removes any dryness. It also helps moisturize the scalp and reduces any scalp itchiness occurring due to dryness. I had earlier refrained from using a shea butter shampoo and conditioner because I was afraid it might make my hair too oily since I already have oily hair. But my hair has been surprisingly balanced and much less oily for some reason!

After using this shampoo, I’m definitely loving my hair!! Definitely recommended.

Dry Shampoo Madness

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I went to the drugstore today to pick up a prescription and return some stuff I bought and disliked – read Physician’s Formula Happy Booster blushes. There was just no color in them and nothing to like about them. I don’t know why people rave them – they just did not work for me! Anyway, I digress. So I had a 20% off coupon and a $3 off $15 hair care purchase at the drugstore. And thus I went a little crazy buying dry shampoos!

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My scalp is extremely oily and the hair starts getting flat and greasy the very next day after I wash it. But I also don’t want to wash my hair everyday and damage it. I like the idea of dry shampoos, and really want them to work for me. Let’s hope they do – life would become so easy!

Random Beauty Thoughts

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Happy Hump Day!

It’s been SUCH a busy time! I have to get a million things done since I found out I have to go on a business trip to…..Japan!! Yaay I’m so excited, but also stressed with figuring out visas, passports, paper work, the like.. I have to be in Japan for 2 weeks, then India for a week, back to the US for a week and then back to India for another 4 weeks. We will finally go for a week to Italy before returning back home in June. Phewwww! Exciting times!!

So my friend sent me some drugstore favorites this weekend and I tried the Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure. This is the first time I have tried this nail paint, and I must say the first impressions are looking prettyyy good. The nail color has a nice shine to it and looks great even without a top coat. I gave my nails a twist by adding a stripe with a Zoya nail color that I received in my Ipsy bag recently.

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Also just bought the Flower Beauty lip suede matte velvet finishes in Berry-more and Mauve Over that I had been wanting to try for a while now. The moment I returned to my hotel room at about 8 in the night, I put on the one in Berry-more on my lips and have been wearing it for almost 4 hours now! Here’s a random swatch of Mauve over. It looks more peachy nude than mauve on me. It’s looking good so far and feels light and non-drying on the lips, but I’m afraid it might settle into the lines and make lips look drier since I don’t have the smoothest lips. A more detailed review will follow once I have tried these for a bit.

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The Miracle Soap

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One thing that makes me sad is that despite a major drive to move towards all things natural and organic in skincare and makeup, none of the beauty brands from India, which is really the source of all Ayurveda, is known / recognized / popular at an international level! Now I haven’t tested a lot of the new beauty products in the Indian market so I can’t vouch for the efficacy of a majority of them. However, I have tried one soap, and for over 10 years now, that I can certainly vouch for!!

It was during my late teens in the early years of the 2000 decade, and I was fighting with a major acne breakout on my face and body – mainly upper back. I had been able to control my face acne to a reasonable level by using dedicated face washes, but had no clue what to do for my body. Then I saw a commercial for this Ayurvedic soap called Medimix, which was claiming to be a handmade, body-beautifying soap for controlling acne and all kinds of skin ailments. I am glad for the day I decided to try it because that was the day my life changed. It really did!!

Packaging:

The soap comes in a simple white and green cardboard box. Inside, it is packaged in sealed plastic to keep it fresh. I have no complaints about the packaging – after all it’s a soap! :D

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Product:

The soap is dark green colored that comes in a 125 grams size bar. It is quite a “soft” soap and can become gooey if left in the water. It is recommended to drain the water from the soap case, as with all soaps, but more so with this one!

Perfume:

Due to the presence of all the herbs, Medimix smells really fresh and herbal! It does have added fragrance, so I would not recommend using if you’re allergic to fragrances. However, the smell is very pleasant and is great for a fresh bath.

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Performance:

Contrary to its name that makes it sound like a “medicated” soap, Medimix is a 100% natural handmade soap with 18 herbs (read here) and claims to get rid of all skin ailments, make the skin bright and smooth, control body odour, and even remove dandruff (though I have never felt too comfortable using a soap in my hair)! From the time I started using it, my body acne vanished, my acne scars disappeared, and my skin was overall brighter and smoother. I am in love with this soap and always go back to using it after dabbling in fancy body washes for a while. It can be a bit drying for the face so I would not recommend using it all the time on the face – I typically use it on the face about once in 2 days while in the shower.

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I have used the “original” Medimix for a long, long time, though recently they have come out with more varieties including a moisturizing soap with glycerin, another with Sandalwood for skin brightening, and even a liquid face-wash. I am dying to try the one with Sandalwood, which is one of my favorite herbs for the skin! On that note, do give Sandalwood a try if you haven’t already. This is the stuff that Indian princesses used all the time for a natural glow to their skin, and is a wonder herb for the skin.

You can buy Medimix in any “Indian” grocery store (there are many in all major cities across the US now), or even on Amazon. It is so inexpensive and sooo good, I promise it will be the best 3 dollars you ever spend!

Saturday Night Dining – Asian Style Shrimp Stir-Fry Noodles

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The nice thing about Asian cooking is that there is no recipe. Everything that goes in a dish is approximate and can be adjusted according to taste. A recipe merely serves as a starting point and can (and should!) be changed as needed based on personal preference.

I recently bought a huge wok and was dying to try a stir-fry with noodles. And this past Saturday presented the perfect opportunity for it! If you’re trying this recipe, you can change the quantities of the veggies and shrimp based on what you like, or the ingredients themselves. This can also be made with any choice of meat.

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Asian Style Shrimp Stir-Fry Noodles

An Asian inspired noodle dish that is quick and easy, full of nutrition and very tasty!


What you need:

Noodles {wheat or egg, depending on what you like} – 225 gms
Shrimp {washed and de-veined} – 1 cup
Red peppers, sliced – 1 cup
Shallot, sliced – 1
Broccoli – 1 cup
Mushrooms {any type of your choice}, sliced – ½ cup
Matchstick carrots – 1 cup
Water chestnuts – 1 cup
Garlic cloves, crushed – 4
Sesame oil {any oil can be used} – for cooking
Coriander, chopped – for garnishing

For the sauce:
Soy sauce – 3 tbsp
Oyster sauce – 3 tbsp
Rice vinegar – 3 tbsp
Lime juice – 3 tbsp
White pepper – ¼ tbsp
Crushed red pepper – ½ tsp
Brown sugar – 1 tsp


The Method:

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Keep them al-dente since they will be stir-fried later.

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce till the sugar is dissolved. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a wok and add the crushed garlic and shallots. Sauté for a few minutes till they are transparent and add the carrots. Add about a tablespoon of the sauce to stir-fry the carrots.

When the carrots are a little soft, add the rest of the vegetables with a little more sauce and sauté a few more minutes. The red pepper should be soft and the broccoli should turn dark green but not soggy.

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At this time, add the cooked noodles and the remaining sauce. This is also the time to add the shrimp.

Toss for a 4-5 minutes till the shrimp is cooked (it will turn opaque). Taste the noodles and add some more soy sauce if more flavor is required. Some more sugar can be added to cut the sourness.

Enjoy hot garnished with fresh chopped coriander!


Happy cooking!

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