Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bird Watching in INDIA

Indian subcontinent plays host to a number of Migratory bird in summers as well as in winters. It is estimated that over hundred species of migratory birds fly to India, either in search of feeding grounds or to escape the severe winter of their native habitat.



The numerous wildlife sanctuaries set up in the country serve as their temporary habitat. Birds lovers from all over the country visit these sanctuaries to get a glimpse of some of the rarest species of birds in the world. The beauty of the birds, combined with the splendor of the natural environment provides the perfect setting for a nature lover.



With the onset of Winter, Migratory birds have slowly started to arrive here in Agra, India. Many species of migratory birds arrive in the plains from colder regions and stay from November to February.


I have been looking out for birds in the last few days and have started seeing the first trickle of birds. Grey wagtails are often seen near small roads. Brown shrike have started appearing. You can see the small flocks of Teal and Mallard feeding near waterbody. It should be a matter of a couple of weeks before more birds start coming in.




If birds interest you, don't miss to make regular visits to nearest waterbody or a forest area. If you enjoy the outdoor picnics and birdwatching, then I highly recommend these places, around Agra; Keetham Bird Sanctuary, Keoladeo National park, Patna Bird Sanctuary, Chambal Sanctuary etc. It is a pleasure to watch these little avian species go by their daily routines.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Watching this Dawn!!!


Watching this dawn…

I muse, as I am graced to be a part of this enchanting day

Seeing... 
this sunrise, I marvel at such glorious splendor

  
Hearing...
 the nocturnal orchestra welcoming the dawn of daybreak's gift


 Feeling...
the warmth radiating a spectacular eternal love


 Smelling...
  the fresh morning dew seeming to say; life a new today began just for you


Touching...  
 the sky, knowing this day is full of possibilities.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nainital: the town of lakes

According to Hindu legend when the body of Shiva's consort, Sati, was dismembered, one of her eyeballs fell into the Himalayan foothills and the emerald green Naini Lake (or Tal) was formed. There is no denying that Nainital is unbelievably beautiful.



Nainital : a brief introduction
This renowned hill station is one of the most important tourist spot of the Kumaon region of Uttaranchal. Its altitude is 6343 feet (1934 mtr), roughly the same as that of Mussoorie (2003 mtr). It has got its name from the Naini lake. Tal in hindi means lake. This emerald green lake is said to resemble the eye of sati, the wife of Shiva. Nainital was once known as Chakta, meaning a city of 60 lakes. But most of the lakes in the area have vanished and only few bigger one remains. The city as of today is the head quarter of the Nainital district. The high court of Uttaranchal is located here. It was an important military station during the Brtitish reign. It was the summer capital of the Government of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and also the head quarter of the Eastern Military Command. Lord Barron discovered it around 1840. The best time to be here is either in summer or during November.



How to reach there:
There are several ways to reach Nainital. Nainital is well connected by road to other parts of the country. You can reach Nainital by road from Delhi, Lucknow, Agra and Bareilly. If you are traveling by road from Delhi, then state roadways buses starts from ISBT at Anand Vihar. There are two daily trains to Kathgodam, the nearest railhead. Nainital is just 34 kms from Kathgodam by road. It takes about an hour or so to reach Nainital from Kathgodam.  Pant Nagar is the nearest airport, which is 71 kilometres from Nainital. From Pant Nagar one can hire a taxi or take a bus.


Local sightseeing at Nainital:

The Naini Lake:
The main attraction of Nainital is the lake and the mall road. A boat ride in the lake is almost unavoidable when in Nainital. Boats in every size and shape are available for an enjoyable ride. You can catch a boat from any of the many boarding points. To make the ride more enjoyable without any effort, we hired a shikara type boat with rowman. So, we did not have to row or pedal for the half an hour ride. Here again you can bargain for rates because there is fierce competition. Boats trips are available for half trip (for covering only half of the lake) or full trip. We enjoyed full trip for Rs.80/- per boat. On the northern side of the Naini lake is built a temple dedicated to Sati and is called the Naina Devi temple.






The Mall:
The mall road in Nainital is unique. One call strolls on the mall road or can take a man pulled rickshaw. There is an organized system of ricksaws. You need to buy tickets of 5 bucks each for hiring a rickshaw. So, you do not become a victim of fighting of rickshaw pullers. There are few shops on the mall for souvenir shopping. But the main attraction is a bhutia market located on the field next to the lake. This place is called Mallital. What one should look to buy here is designer candles. These candles serve as a good souvenir.



Cave garden:
We had hired a cab for 400 bucks for local sightseeing. The hotels arranged it. This would spare us the headache of driving in an unknown hilly place. The cab took us first to the Cave Garden. To our surprise this spot is located on the road we had traveled from Kaladhungi.



This is a cluster of 5 underground caves. We started with the Tiger Cave. It was the easiest to get in and out. Then we got into Panther Cave. Getting in out got harder. After Panther Cave we move towards third cave named Porcupine Cave. It was the hardest to get in and out. I have read that there are 5 caves. But I could found only these three.



Later, when you emerge back into the world of today, you can relax in the hilltop-garden, surrounded on all sides by the lush green hills, from where you have an un-interrupted view of four peaks that stand as sentinels over this beautiful resort town. Aesthetically designed to give you a glimpse of the hill-culture of this region.

Himalaya Darshan Point:
The cab then took us to the Himalaya Darshan Point. There is nothing to boast about this spot. But on way to this point you get another point from where the Naini lake looks like a mango. This is the point from where you get a complete view of the lake.



Lovers Point:
The cab then took us to Lovers Point. The view was magnificent from this point. This is the point from where you get horses for going to Tiffin Top. These horses earlier operate from Mallital near the lake. But the horse dung was polluting the lake and beauty of the mall. So the high court had to step in and pushed them this higher. Someone told us, that there were huge protests, even violent protests, from horse owner when this order was implemented. The rate for a horse was 175 bucks for the trip to Tiffin Top and few other spots. It is easy to get fooled by the talk of the horse owner and get to believe that you will be taken to many points. But the truth is that, they will actually take you to two points --- one from where you get a view of the Khurpa Tal and the second is Tiffin Top. All other points are worthless spots that lie on these routes. They would just stop en-route and tell you the name of that spot.

Tiffin Top:
After traveling for about half an hour, we reached Tifin Top. With an altitude of 2352 meter (about 7710 feet), it is the second highest point of Nainital. It provides a majestic view of the Nainital town and the lake. What impressed me is the view you get of the thick lush green cover of pine trees down below. There are few tea / snack stalls here. The descend to Mallital started here. Tiffin Top also know as Dorothy's seat.

Well, that concludes the local sightseeing. Considering the distances we were actually driven, I felt that the 400 bucks we paid for the cab was a bit high. He hardly drove 15 km. One should try to bargain for 300 bucks. 

We also enquired about the rate for going to Bhimtal and Naukochiyatal. For this roundtrip of about 70 km, the cab quoted 800 bucks. If you are traveling to Kausani then, try visiting these two lakes en-route. 

Corbett National Park:
The Corbett National park wasn't just the home of tigers, You may get to see, panthers, wild elephants, chital, pythons, wild boar, jackals, fish-eagles etc. This enormous patch of wilderness were brought down by a hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett. The park shuts down for the monsoon between June 15 and September 15 and roads in and out of the park become flooded. Every visitor to the Park has to obtain an entry permit as well as pay for accommodation in the park. The only place to stay inside the park is Dhikala which is a fortified camp and getting there is difficult without your own transport. Once there they do dusk/dawn elephant rides into the park.

Nainital Zoo:
Nainital Zoo is among the very well maintained Zoos in India. It is situated in the hills of Sher ka Danda at about 1 km. from Tallital Bus Station at an elevation of 2100 meters above sea level and connected by motorable road. This high altitude zoo serving habitat to :

-  Snow Leopard
-  Himalayan Black Bear
-  Barking Deer 
-  Sambhar Deer
-  Palm Civet Cat
-  Wolf
-  Silver Pheasants
-  Hill Fox

-  White Peacock







Entry fee :- Adults Rs 25, Children Rs 10 
Camera fee :- Rs 25 Fees
Professional Video Camera Rs. 200.00

Students get free entry on World Environment Day, Zoo Foundation Day, Ozone Day and during Wild Life Week.


Timings :- 10:00 AM - 4:30 PM

Please Note :- The Nainital Zoo remains closed on Mondays and on all National Holidays.


Before concluding, I must say the only way to enjoy Nainital is to walk. The best time to be Nainital is in November when the chinar leaves turn yellow giving a different look to the area. Or, go there during summer, which is the peak season. To make the trip more interesting one should look forward to go beyond Nainital – to places like Kausani or Binsar.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

World Vegetarian Day (Try it, you'll like it!)

October 1st marks World Vegetarian Day as well as the beginning of Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends with November 1, World Vegan Day, as the end of that month of celebration. "It celebrate to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism." It brings awareness to the ethical, environmental, health and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.


So what's so great about going Vegetarian? Well, first of all you're saving animals from the misery and pain of being killed for our benefit. This diet also reduces the risk of and protects us from conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

What's more? The choice to avoid meat will have great environmental benefits in the long run and also preserve our wildlife.

 

It's one thing to eat raw tomatoes and cucumbers and zucchini. But Vegetarian diets include a wide variety of tasty dishes. Grated vegetables are surprisingly tender. Pair it with some fresh ginger to increase the aroma and add some dried fruit for sweetness, serve with coriander that will delight the eyes and the taste-buds! A small serving is "low carb" and even a larger serving adds up to only  a small sum.. Some simple yet delicious Veg Recipes for all...  

Indian Cucumber Salad


This salad comes from North India and tastes excellent. A lovely combo of flavours and textures. The original recipe calls for unroasted and unsalted peanuts, but I find the roasted, salted and esily available peanuts work great. Omit or reduce the chillies if desired.


SERVES 4

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces cucumbers (200g)
  • 3 1/2 ounces ripe tomatoes, finely cubed (100g)
  • 3-4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 red chile, very finely chopped ( suit your taste)
  • 1 green chilies, very finely chopped (suit your taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chat masala
  • 125 g salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • salt (to taste)

Mix red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro, chilli, lemon juice, oil, pepper and chaat masala in a bowl and mix well. This could be done some hours in advance as the flavours will improve.

Just before serving, add the chopped peanuts and taste if extra salt is necessary.

Fruit Salad


Preparation Time : 5to7 mins
Serves / Makes : serves3

  • 1 cup peeled skin and seed removed oranges
  • 1 cup finely chopped pineapple
  • 1cup red colour pomegrane
  • 1ts kaala namak
  • 1/2 ts pepper powder
  • 1/2 ts red chilli powder
  • 1tbl sp honey-style sweetener

Take a big bowl.Add all the fruits above said one by one.Then add the said powders.Mix gently .Oranges should not be crushed. refrigerated it. While serving add the honey and served in cups. It is a colourful and delicious salad.

Fresh Tomato Salsa



  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, seeded & -- finely chopped
  • 1 cup sweet onions -- finely chopped
  • 4 to 6 jalapeno peppers -- minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro -- chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Optional preparation: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer 30 mins.
Allow to cool, place in non-metallic bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tofu Enchiladas
  • 14oz. enchilada sauce
  • 14oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 medium onion -- chopped
  • 2 ounces diced green chiles
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 16 ounces White Wave Tofu, drained and -- crumbled
  • 6 ounces Soy-A-Melt, cheddar style -- grated
  • 6 ounces Soy-A-Melt, mozzarella style -- grated
  • soy oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 ounce black olives -- sliced
  • 1/4 cup Soy-A-Melt -- grated
In a medium saucepan combine the enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, garlic powder, onion, green chiles, chili powder, and basil.
Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Combine the tofu and both Soy-A-Melt cheeses in a bowl for the filling, and mix well.
Place soy oil in a medium skillet to a 1/8" depth over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, fry the tortillas one at a time just until soft, not crisp.
Place some filling in the middle of each tortilla, top it with some sliced olives and roll it up.
Place the enchiladas in an oiled 9X13-inch baking dish seam-side down.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cover the enchiladas with the sauce and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of Mozzarella Soy-A-Melt.
Cover and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Nacho Cheese Sauce



  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  • 1 t. seasoned salt or garlic salt (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1-2 T. diced green chile
  • Jalapeno Tabasco Sauce (the green, not the red), to taste
Put first three ingredients into small saucepan.
Whisk in water over high heat, stirring frequently.
Heat until it begins to bubble.
Allow to bubble about one minute, or until it thickens.
Remove from heat.
Whisk in chiles and Tabasco.
Great with chips.

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. white flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 Tb. baking powder
  • 3 pkgs. sweet and low or other
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 1/2 c. water approximate

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl first.
Then add oil and water.
Stir with a big spoon at first and then knead until a large mass of dough feels like biscuit dough.
You can add a small amount of water if mass feels dry or add small amount of flour if it fees damp and sticky.

Break up large mass of dough into 2" balls.
Roll out balls into a large round flat shape.
Bake on a medium hot grill for 15 seconds on both sides.
There will be some dark spots to show it is cooked on each side.
Make sure you roll then out on a flour dusted rolling board.

Herb Stuffed Mushroom Caps
Serving Size: 8
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons green onion -- finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- chopped
  • 1 clove garlic -- minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup herb stuffing mix
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
Wash mushrooms.
Remove and save stems.
Put caps in a shallow baking dish.
Heat margarine and oil in a medium pan.
Finely chop stems and saute with onion until soft.
Add parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Cook for 1 minute.
Stir in stuffing and hot water to make a stiff mixture.
Stuff each cap and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. 

Pepper Cabbage
Serving Size : 8
  • 1 c green bell pepper -- finely chopped
  • 1 c red bell pepper -- finely chopped
  • 1/4 c green onion -- finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 c cabbage -- finely chopped
  • 1/2 c cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp honey-style sweetener -- to taste
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • pinch red pepper -- optional
Combine peppers, onion, and cabbage in a glass or ceramic bowl.
Heat vinegar, honey, water, salt, celery seed, mustard seed, and red pepper in a small saucepan until mixture comes to a boil; simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour over vegetables and stir well.
Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for several hours.

Vegetable Pot Pie



  • 1 pckg. pie crust
  • 2 tbsp. margarine
  • 2 medium onion
  • 2 tbsp. white flour
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cooked vegetables (yellow squash, mushrooms, string beans, diced carrots, etc.)
Roast all vegetables in oven for one hour.
Melt margarine in a medium saucepan.
Add onion and saute until soft and translucent about 7 minutes.
Add flour and stir until it starts to thicken.
Stirring constantly, pour vegetable broth in saucepan.
Continue stirring until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Preheat oven 425 degrees.
Pour vegetables in pie crust and then sauce, cook about 35 minutes or until done.

Apple Cinnamon Compote



  • 6 apples, cored & chunked
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon, or to taste
Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
Put into baking dish and bake at 350 for 35 minutes
Variation:
Serve unbaked.
If served unbaked, serve soon after preparing before apples brown.
Serves 4-6

Chocolate Pudding Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. apple sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 3/4 cup hot water
Mix the first eight ingredients together.
Pour into a 8" square baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray.
Mix the brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa.
Sprinkle over the batter.
Pour the hot water over the entire top surface.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.
The topping sinks through the cake to form a pudding layer at the bottom. 

Bengali Kheer (Rice Pudding)

  • 6 cups soy milk
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup turbinado (or white) sugar

In large saucepan combine milk, rice, and bay leaf. Cook on high heat for 15 minutes, stirring very frequently. Bring to a rolling boil and then lower heat. Simmer for 40 more minutes until it thickens. Remove bay leaf and add sugar, raisins, and cardamom. Refrigerate until cold. The kheer will thicken as it cools. Serves 4.

Eggless Dairyless Chocolate Cake
 



  • 1 c. Maple sugar, sucanat, or crystalline fructose (corn sugar )
  • 1 1/2 c. unsifted flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. cocoa
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. cold water
Mix ingredients in the order given.
Pour into ungreased square cake pan.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Frost or serve plain

This is a good way to treat your family or friends.




3 Major Reasons to Go Vegetarian

Stay healthy and Live longer

Protect environment and 

Stop animal cruelty 

 

 

Save animals from suffering in factory-farm conditions and from the pain and terror of slaughter.