This Month's Featured Resources...

Father's DayTravel - CookingLatin WW2

Thursday, November 30

Twelve Days of Christmas....Twelve Great Giveaways!

Welcome to the Twelve Days of Christmas landing page!  We created a landing page for you to bookmark, so that you could find it easily.

Every day, we are going to be bringing you a great new giveaway....the giveaways will be on that day's be sure to check in daily and enter to win!! 

Each giveaway will be open for ten days.  The first will close on the 16th....the last will close on New Year's Eve.  Good luck!!  

Daily Theme :
  1. Magic of Advent (Dec 6)
  2. Mason Jar Lights (Dec 7)
  3. Baking with Kids (Dec 8)
  4. Lego Goodies (Dec 9)
  5. The Nutcracker Ballet (Dec 12)
  6. Melting Snowmen (Dec 13)
  7. Saving for the Holidays (Dec 14)
  8. Crafts for Littles (Dec 15)
  9.  Ninjabread Men (Dec 18)
  10.  Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide (Dec 19)
  11.  Holiday Printables (Dec 20)
  12.  Puppy-Themed Crafts (Dec 21)

Wednesday, November 22

Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers)

We’re always looking for fun, unplugged activities that are both entertaining and educational, so when we stumbled across a photo for Mail Order Mystery, it immediately struck a chord.  We showed it to the children, who were pretty excited about the prospect of receiving something in the mail (what kid isn’t?), and allowed them to choose the theme they were most interested in.  The winner?  Spies, Lies, and Serious Bad Guys!

Mail Order Mystery is a fabulous company who has come up with an absolutely brilliant and FUN idea for kids! They create incredible, ‘top secret’ mysteries. For each mystery a series of letters, documents and curious objects will arrive by mail and each one is connected to an ongoing mystery. The story arrives in six installments with a final larger mailing.

Ten Reasons Why Your Family Will LOVE this Mystery
  1. It’s unplugged.  There is an area where you can choose to use a website, but it’s not required and doesn’t add to the story.  The only tools required are pencil, paper, and a thinking cap.
  2. Puzzles, ciphers, adventure, and a plot to catch some bad guys!  (This was a big draw for the kids, and I loved the puzzles and ciphers aspect.)
  3. The kids get real mail addressed to them…and it’s not even their birthdays.
  4. It feels so real!  We completed the mystery within a week because of how excited they were to keep going.  The old letters, clues, maps, de-coding;  it’s an elaborate, impressive game that had a lot of work put into it.
  5. Code wheels, mystery boxes, and other trinkets that they get to keep when the puzzle is solved.  You can keep everything together (number the envelopes) and reuse at a later date, or with younger siblings when they are older.
  6. You have the option of receiving six separate packages (over six weeks) or one lump package and parceling out on your own timeline.  (This is great for families on the go.)
  7. Appropriate for ages nine and up, but just as engaging for older kids, too.  Our older son (well into his teens) enjoyed it the most!  Of course, he loves all things codes…but our younger son enjoyed catching the bad guy and getting to learn how to be a spy.
  8. If you get stuck, there is a way to get help solving the puzzles.  The customer service is great about helping out, but without giving you the answer right away.  First, you get a nudge in the right direction.  If you’re still stuck, then they’ll help more.
  9. It fosters sibling relationships.  My boys worked together really well, with the common goal of stopping the bad guys.  There were stretches of hours with no bickering or tackling as they solved the puzzles together.
  10. The final package contains a locked box full of goodies!  But you have to crack the code to access them.

How it works

  • Choose your Mail Order Mystery and order it.
  • Let us know who the mystery is for and when you would like it to begin.
  • Receive an order confirmation and download a gift note for the recipient.
  • Parent(s) or guardian(s) get an email announcing the beginning of the mystery and explaining the process.
  • A series of letters, documents and curious objects begin to arrive in the mail, all connected to an ongoing mystery.
  • After several weeks the story comes to its exciting conclusion. All is resolved. The final mailing contains an artifact or collection of keepsakes related to the mystery.
The price of this Mail Order Mystery is $85, plus about $9 shipping. While it may seem steep, the quality of the materials they send is very nice, both the paper and non-paper items. Also, the experience lasts for six weeks (more, if you choose to reuse it).  

* Note :  The company is based in Canada, so if you see $109 in the checkout cart - that is Canadian dollars.  It is $85 USD, but the cart automatically converts. *

If you have questions, check out the Mail OrderMystery FAQ page.
Find out more about Spies, Lies, and Serious Bad Guys.

 My children received this product in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are our own.

Tuesday, November 21

And So This is Christmas (Beatles)

During the holiday season, we relax our homeschool studies to focus on family and Christmas.  One of our favorite things to do is study traditions from different parts of the world - it's geography, history, cultural studies, art, and language arts all wrapped up into one (and sometimes I can sneak in some science and math, too!).

There are many different resources for Christmas Around the World (see a book list here), and we even created some ourselves, but this year we're taking a different route and using this resource from the Awe-Filled Homemaker.  It has over seventy pages, and features twenty different countries, as well as some Christmas staples...

Scroll down for the Giveaway!

The Christmas Around the World unit study includes informational text, question and answer activities, and a craft for each of it's twenty-four units.  We will be using extra books and video clips to further study each country, and probably doing some cooking from each country, too!  However, you don't have to add anything to it.  The unit study stands alone as a supplemental resource, perfect for elementary aged children.

While it's true that we do a lot of US geography, our international geography is limited to what we can learn from books, which means that the kids aren't nearly as versed.  I like that, while America is featured, the other nineteen countries come from all over the world, providing them with lots of exposure.  Also, they are not all of your basic 'let's put it in a geography primer' countries.  (Scroll down for a detailed list of featured countries.)

One of the featured countries is the Phillipines....that one was our family's favorite, as it was a jumping off point for oh-so-many stories from my husband's side of the family.  They were stationed there for a few years with the Navy, and brought out photos, trinkets, and stories about Christmases spent there!

For each country, we started by find it and its neighbors on a map.  Then we read the story and did the art project.  We watched a tourism video and one other 'kids' pick' video about the country, and then did some sort of food-related project.  As my children are older, we did one country each day, but you could stretch each one out over a few days.  Our unit included these :
Christmas Around the World unit study  (use code Black Friday to get it 50% off!)

Before hitting the countries, the first study is on Advent. We have a handmade Advent calendar that our family reuses each year, filling it with candies and trinkets, and the boys have been saving up for a Lego Advent calendar this year, too.  In light of their enthusiasm, it was nice to go over the reasons behind Advent with them.  Other 'Christmas staples' studies include the birth of Christ and St. Nicholas.

Though our family did not use the Christmas Passport (which is currently free with the unit study), I think it would be a wonderful tool with elementary children.  It's a hands-on way of accounting for each country you have visited through the unit.  There is a passport with stickers for each country, and they can track their progress.

Awe-Filled Homemaker has generously offered to give one of our readers a free copy of this unit study.  

To enter, visit the Awe-Filled Homemaker and leave a comment below with another resource in the store that you would like to use. (While you're there, use code 'Black Friday' to receive 50% off anything in her store!)  Winner will be chosen at random on December 1st.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, November 20

Slow Cook November

November : Thanksgiving Sides
Learn the Crockpot Basics!!

The point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with family and friends, rather than stressing over the kitchen.  These recipes draw from ready-to-eat ingredients from the store shelf, such as condensed soup and baking mixes, rather than creating everything from scratch.  This should free up some extra time to spend with your loved ones...

Here are a few more Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes to accompany these.  😊

Savory Wild Rice
  • 2 1/3 c chicken broth
  • 3/4 c wild rise
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • 2.5 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 c dried cherries
  • 1/3 c sliced green onions
  • 1/4 c crushed pecans
  1. Mix broth, rice, carrot, mushroom, butter, marjoram, salt, and pepper in crockpot.
  2. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours.
  3. Turn off heat.  Stir in cherries and onions.  Cover and let sit 10 minutes.
  4. Top with pecans before serving.

Apple Butter Yams
  • 3 lb yams, cubed
  • 2 green apples, sliced
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 1 c apple butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  1. Mix everything together in crockpot.
  2. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours (or high 3-4 hours).
Sweet Herbed Stuffing
  • 16 oz seasoned stuffing mix
  • 1 c golden raisins
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 8 oz sour cream
  1. Mix everything together in crockpot.
  2. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours (or high 2-3 hours).

Gingerbread Cake

  • 15 oz gingerbread mix
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 2 1/4 c water
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 3/4 butter
  • ice cream (optional)
  1. Mix together gingerbread, milk, and raisins.  Spread batter into crockpot.
  2. Mix together water, brown sugar, and butter, and bring to a boil.  Pour over batter in crockpot.
  3. Cover and cook on high 2 hours.  Uncover and cool at least 45 minutes.
  4. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Wednesday, November 15

Christmas Dreaming (Frank Sinatra)

When the holidays roll around, we break out the 'Christmas Box' for special
out-loud reading time.  This is a box of books that are kept off to the side and considered special, only to be read during the Christmas season.  About mid-November, we'll pull down the box and start reading a new book aloud together as a family each night before bed.

One of my secret pleasures, too, is reading good Christmas books.  I love everything about the season, and don't just read them at the end of the year.  I've been known to pick up a good holiday read in the middle of August!  

Given our passion for reading, and for the season, we've spent some time coming up with our favorite Christmas books - both classics and some new ones that haven't been publicly released yet (hooray for Advanced Reader Copies!) - and are sharing it with you -- our favorite readers!

Download the Bibliophile's Christmas Wishlist  (fill out form below)
Broken down into five separate categories, this list includes everything you'll need to gear up for the holiday season.  It includes old classics as well as brand spankin' new reads.  The five categories include :
  • Kids' Inspirational
  • Kids' Fiction
  • Adult Inspirational
  • Adult Fiction
  • Non-fiction

If you don't have a Google account or the form doesn't work for any reason, please just drop us a line and we'll email it to you!

Twelve Days of Giveaways
Be sure to use the newsletter signup option on the entry form so that you'll be in the loop when our Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaways begins in just a few short weeks!!  Email subscribers will be the first in on the action...with some behind-the-scenes subscriber-only giveaways....

One lucky reader will receive a mystery Christmas book prize box with books from the Bibliophile's Christmas Wishlist (inspirational section)!

Tuesday, November 14

November – No One Else for Now

Alone time is a pretty difficult concept for some of us to grasp. Between cell phones, email, and social media, we are spending more and more time plugged-in.  Solitude is the state of being alone with no one to communicate with, but it’s not loneliness.  You can be connected and lonely, and you can be disconnected and not lonely.  

Alone Time is Good for the Soul…
  1. Being alone gives you time to think. -- Life can be crazy sometimes, and being alone gives us the time we all need to reflect on important events and to organize our feelings about the things that have happened. Without this, we can get overwhelmed with all we are trying to juggle mentally, and this can cause extra anxiety and stress.
  2. You can get creative. -- There's nothing like putting on headphones, listening to your favorite songs, and getting down to work. Being by yourself gives you the motivation and the opportunity to open your mind and explore new ideas, then put those ideas to good use.
  3. You can recharge. -- Being around people means having to constantly be alert and aware of what's going on around you and in conversations that require your full attention. When you're alone, you can use that quiet time to recharge and regroup.
  4. You get to know yourself better. -- Spending time alone means putting yourself first, and getting a chance to explore your personality in depth. The more you get to know yourself, the more you'll find out just how awesome you are.
  5. You become more independent. -- When you're alone, you don't have the option of depending on other people for their opinions, advice, or help. You call all the shots, and even though that can be scary sometimes, it also means you become more reliant on yourself — and this is a great thing.
  6. You see and hear things you wouldn't otherwise. --  When we're quiet, we can hear and see things we don't notice otherwise. We are able to appreciate the small things in life because we’re not distracted when they happen.
  7. You get to do whatever you want to do. – You can spend all the time you'd like to doing exactly what you want to do, without compromise.  And going on your own private adventure can be exciting!
  8. You appreciate the people in your life. -- Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Taking some time away from the people in your life can help you realize how important and valuable they are to you.

How to Find the Time…
  • Set aside time each day to unplug from all the ways you connect with others. Turn off your cell phone, TV, and computer. You'll be amazed at how much more you can get done when you're not distracted.
  • Wake up a half hour earlier than everyone else in your house and use that time to create, produce, problem solve, meditate, or just “be.” 
  • If you’re at an office, close your door for a period of time and just concentrate on the tasks at hand.  If you’re a mom at home, close the bathroom door…..and good luck with that!
  • Once a week or even just a couple of times a month, commit to spending lunch with yourself. Don’t work through lunch, but take a walk, sit in the sun outside, and enjoy the time you have alone.
  • Mark off time in your day planner or calendar for spending time with yourself -- it doesn't have to be long. Any time that you can spend alone with yourself to reboot is better than no time. 

Homeschool Parents : The Challenge of Finding Time
We all know homeschooling is difficult.  It is a unique type of stress we shoulder as homeschooling mothers.  But if you’re not making time for yourself, you’re going to be facing burnout…

Symptoms of Burnout
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling depressed – lack of hope
  • feeling irritable & fatigued
  • considering putting children in school
  • feeling angry and resentful towards family members
  • lack of confidence
  • feeling like your kids are behind or not learning enough

 Help for Burnout
  • Stop homeschooling.  The kids won’t suffer if you take a week (or two or three) off, especially if you school year-round.  Sometimes, you just need time to be their mom, and not their teacher.
  • Quit comparing.  My kids, your kids, the kids in public school….they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.  And no matter how it appears, almost no one has a super genius kid that excels in everything.  Recognize your child’s strengths and work on his weaknesses, and take joy and pride in his growth.
  • Get outside.  Sunshine, vitamin D, fresh air….need I say more?
  • But cut down on outside activities.  Too many extracurriculars, and you’re just running a shuttle service with an endless task of coordinating everyone’s projects.  Are you the CEO or the secretary of this operation?  Get back to basics.
  • Talk it out.  Sharing with another homeschool can really help put things into perspective.  I often find that, after starting the conversation, we both have concerns and confidences, and we can help each other find perspective and balance.
  • Consider a change.  I was the mom that spent hours planning 
    unit studies and fun learning, but it was very draining!  We investigated year-long unit study programs, and found one that was similar to what we had been doing.  I still supplement and change a few things, but the pressure to create something for each day is no longer there.   And for the aggravation that it’s saved, it’s been entirely worth what we spent.
  • Spend time with your husband.  You need to have adult interaction, and maintain your marriage.  We have a three-part series here about putting life back into your marriage.  You’ll be surprised at the effect on your whole family!
  • Spend time alone.  I know that it comes off as being selfish, but remember what they always say on the commercial airlines…before applying someone else’s oxygen mask, apply your own.  If your spirit is empty, you have nothing to give to your children.  Take the time to fill up your spiritual and emotional tank.

Monday, November 13

Forbrain for Speech Therapy - Homeschool Review Crew

Our son struggles with the basic skills of speech, memory, and concentration.  We’ve been through all kinds of therapy, with minimal improvement, but the struggles stubbornly remain.  Forbrain (Sound for Life, LTD) developed the bone conduction headset to help with speech and language difficulties, brain stimulation, auditory processing disorder, reading issues, add, and ADHD.  Given the opportunity to try it out, we lunged!

About the Headset
The headset consists of a microphone, two bone conduction transducers (the part that goes next to the ear) and the dynamic filter.  (The dynamic filter is the box that has the on/off button, volume control, and a light.)  It also comes with a quick-start guide, which is handy.  It’s very easy to charge up – we plugged in the USB cable to the computer and let it sit for a few hours.  There’s a red ‘charging’ light that turns off once it’s fully charged ; that light becomes blue when the device is in use.  One of my favorite parts about the kit, however, is the hard-shelled, zippered carrying case that makes it easy for us to take it with us everywhere (all of the pieces and the guide fit into it). 

The headset can be used for exercises such as:
  • Reading aloud
  • Dictation
  • Narration
  • Recitation (especially fun reciting poems)
  • Memorization
  • Singing
  • Dialog (role playing with toys, mine did this with their dragons and legos)
  • Story telling

What is Bone Conduction?

Bone conduction is the conveyance of sound though bones in the skull to the inner ear.  When you speak while wearing the device, you are hearing yourself loudly in your head.  It gives excellent auditory feedback to the user, and is particularly useful for those with speech issues who may struggle to hear how they sound.

One thing I liked about the headset was that, while he was getting a boosted auditory signal of his own voice, it wasn’t blocking out or muffling the sounds of those around him.  He was still able to carry on a conversation with others.

Forbrain is recommended for use as a daily tool for reading, speaking, attending in class or for general use for six to ten weeks.
  • 10 minutes a day for little ones
  • 15 minutes a day for ages 5-15
  • 20 minutes a day for teens and adults
  • 30 minutes a day for seniors

Our Use & Thoughts
He used it for the recommended amount – a mere fifteen minutes a day!  I know, you’re thinking that this isn’t enough time and it should be worn for longer, but in this case, more isn’t better.  Wearing it too long can lead to headaches and fatigue.  Results really do appear with just a few short minutes each day – consistency is really the key.

He has struggled with speech issues since he began to talk at age three….yes, age three…a bit late to the game.  We’ve seen several different speech therapists, and each has worked hard to help improve his speech, but his issues are not your ‘classic’ ones.  He has apraxia of speech, and really struggles with certain sounds…such as the short /A/ in his name…which makes it very difficult for others to have a conversation with him.  We have tried all sorts of techniques, but he doesn’t seem to be able to hear how he is pronouncing that sound.  This device really opened his eyes to how he is saying that /A/, and while it did not “cure” the issue during the review period, he did make great strides just by the fact that he is now recognizing how his version of that sound differs.  I consider that progress.

Additional Points
  • The headset retails for $299.  That’s a steep price, but if you’re paying out of pocket for speech therapy (like we were before it became too expensive), and you see results from it, then that’s really not much.  Auditory processing issues are difficult to tackle, and this looks like it will get us over a crucial ‘hump’ so that we can progress with his therapy.
  • Some sort of pre / post-test from the company would be a nice addition.  To be honest, I’m not sure how they’d do that from afar, but it’d be nice to have some concrete results that your money had been well-spent.
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See what others are saying about Forbrain at the Homeschool Review Crew!

Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, November 8

A Freebie for you from The Good & the Beautiful!

We've tried A LOT of different curricula on for size....and they all kind of fit, but nothing has ever clicked for every family member (including mom) until we tried The Good & the Beautiful.  It all started when my friend posted this video on her blog last year....

This video is about the History curriculum, but I liked it so much that I began to dig into their other products.  What we discovered was a streamlined curriculum that really fit our needs!  

As an even sweeter bonus, it is SO affordable, I'm even going to let the kids write in the books and not give it a second thought - because they're that affordable!  The older one can write in it, and I can buy a new one as the younger one advances.  (And 'affordable' isn't a word I often use beside 'curriculum'...)

In a nutshell....

Pros :  

  • Affordable (seriously so!)
  • Multi-child teaching (do all your grades together...promotes family cohesiveness, too)
  • Teaches good character
  • Combines subjects into one well-rounded book (particularly with Language Arts)
  • Beautifully illustrated (also covers Fine Arts)
  • Did I mention affordable?
  • Great customer service
  • Children enjoy it (this is a biggie!)

Cons : 

  • None that we've found yet!

A little more about The Good & The Beautiful....  

The language arts programs cover several different subjects at once - including character, literature, geography, spelling, writing, reading, art appreciation, and grammar.  Both of my children - the advanced one and the special needs one - have benefited greatly from using this.  The readings are wholesome, clean, and full of teaching moments.  It is similar to the Lamplighter Books - old-fashioned at times, but so much better than the junk that's made readily available to impressionable minds these days.  

My husband and I have both commented on the change in our children's attitudes as we've made the switch in their readings.  It's a whole lot of small things that come together to create a beautifully-designed curriculum.

Levels 1-5 are available as free downloads, so that you can check it out and see if it's right for you, but I promise that it's a lot cheaper to buy their print version!  This is hands-down the most affordable curriculum we've ever seen.

If you do decide to download only, and then want to print it yourself later, we recommend the Homeschool Printing Company.  You can see more about that here (there is also a discount code).

See Language Arts Levels 3 & 5 above....these are Levels 4 & 7.  (Level 7 is approximately 8th-9th grade...they are not done by grade level.)

In the classical style, this is a four-year program that wraps around to begin again after completion.  Each year comes with four different sets of printable pages, spanning kindergarten to twelfth grade, with age-appropriate work.  There are timelines, audio adventures, craft projects, and Charlotte Mason-style read-alouds.  

One of the things that makes this different from a traditional classical curriculum is that each of the four historical eras (Ancient, Middle Ages, Early Modern, Modern) is covered during each year.  Each year, however, a different aspect of that era is covered.  (ie, for Ancient : Year 1 = Egypt, Year 2 = Greece)  

The curriculum was created to be used together by the family, and this is the only thing that all of our students will be doing together this year.  Years 3 and 4 have not been completed, but are currently in the works - you can see the progress here.

The children are both really enjoying the hands-on aspects, as well as the audiobook component (it all comes with the surprise add-ons).  There is also a game for fun reinforcement of facts.  I love that it is one curriculum spine that can be re-used several times.  The accompanying workbook covers every level from preschool to twelfth grade....just print the correct grade level for the year.  The work is age-appropriate and comprehensive enough to count as a full credit.

Year 1 & Year 2

When is handwriting not just handwriting?  When it pulls double duty by reinforcing other subjects!!  The handwriting courses include artwork, poetry, Bible verses, and quotes that support character qualities. The courses also help provide practice with drawing skills.

Interestingly, some of the very activities given in the handwriting books are the same ones that my son's occupational therapist have assigned as homework activities to improve fine motor skills!
The Good & the Beautiful also offers Science and Typing programs, but we have not used them, so I cannot speak on them.  Currently, the high school program is being written and projected to come out within the next year or two.

The company is offering our readers a free download of their recommended book list (typically purchased) from today until November 11th.

Cultural Cooking : Indian

They say that curries and turmeric are really good for your immune system. I don't know about that, but I do know that my Indian friends, who eat traditional cuisine, tend to get sick a lot less often!  Let's try a tasty immune booster with this Indian meal...बोन अप्पेतित (Enjoy!)

  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1 c warm water
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 ½ c flour
  • ¼ c melted butter

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
  2. Punch down dough and knead. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.
  4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.

Chicken Biryani
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 potatoes, peel & chop
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger (fresh)
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp slt
  • 2 tomatoes, peel  & chop
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 lb boneless skinless chicken, chunked
  • 2 ½ tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 lb basmati rice
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

  1. In a large skillet, in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or ghee) fry potatoes until brown, drain and reserve the potatoes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and fry onion, garlic and ginger until onion is soft and golden. Add chili, pepper, turmeric, cumin, salt and the tomatoes. Fry, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Add yogurt, mint, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are cooked to a pulp. It may be necessary to add a little hot water if the mixture becomes too dry and starts to stick to the pan.
  2. When the mixture is thick and smooth, add the chicken pieces and stir well to coat them with the spice mixture. Cover and cook over very low heat until the chicken is tender, approximately 35 to 45 minutes. There should only be a little very thick gravy left when chicken is finished cooking. If necessary cook uncovered for a few minutes to reduce the gravy.
  3. Wash rice well and drain in colander for at least 30 minutes.
  4. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil (or ghee) and fry the onions until they are golden. Add cloves, cinnamon stick, ginger and rice. Stir continuously until the rice is coated with the spices.
  5. In a medium-size pot, heat the chicken stock and salt. When the mixture is hot pour it over the rice and stir well. Add the chicken mixture and the potatoes; gently mix them into the rice. Bring to boil. Cover the saucepan tightly, turn heat to very low and steam for 20 minutes. Do not lift lid or stir while cooking. Spoon biryani onto a warm serving dish.

Indian Vegetable Bhaji
  • 4 potatoes, chopped
  • 1 c cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • ½ c green peas
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 green chiles, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger (fresh)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp curry

  1. Place the potatoes, cauliflower florets, carrot, and peas into a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on High until the vegetables are very hot and starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, and drain the vegetables in a colander.
  2. Place the vegetable oil in a large skillet, and heat over medium heat. Cook and stir the onion until it turns golden, about 10 minutes, and stir in the cumin seed, black mustard seed, and bay leaves. Cook and stir until the seeds begin to sputter, about 30 seconds, and then add the green chiles, garlic, and ginger. Cook and stir until the garlic begins to brown, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the ground cumin and curry, and then add the partially cooked potatoes, cauliflower, carrot, and peas. Cook and stir until the vegetables are tender and coated with spices, about 30 minutes.