Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tidings of 2015: and a Salute to 2016



Tampa, Florida, Dec 30th, 2015.










“You don’t need to be the tide to rise and fall, 
you don’t have to be a wave to touch the shore; 

just be a little sand-grain and feel them all” 
― Munia Khan



2015 was a giant tidal wave that left me breathless. 

I ushered it in with promises of a new career  - one that would offer me the flexibility that I needed while taking me a step closer to the path that I had always wanted to carve out for myself. The experience was still very new when I was challenged to confront the ghosts of the years past. Fears and my insecurities mocked at me, gave me no choice but to look them in the eye, surrender and embrace.

I had been looking forward to new professional path; just as fervently as I had been avoiding facing my own sorrow and despair.  Grappling with both, within the first half of the year, caught me completely off-guard and exposed my deep-rooted, carefully-hidden vulnerabilities to myself again. The first change was the one I consciously made, and was excited about; the second- even though I made the decision of my own will, was enormously heart-wrenching. But with both, I learnt that accepting the change as inevitable is the most difficult concept of all. Emotions and fear of the unexpected is just a way to come to terms with; and to cope with the change - of any kind. 

Krabi, Thailand, June 29th  2015.
The second half of the year threw more transitions my way. Not as emotionally exhausting; but equally inordinate. Looking back at 2015, I have learnt that however unforeseen or painful; life-lessons are meant to take us places we would never dare to go and transform us into people we were meant to be.

2016; will be.......2016.  An invigorating step forward in the path of life that is yet to come. As the sun sets on 2015 tonight, I promise to reflect on the years gone by; and ones yet to come; to again remind myself to face my fears, surrender and go with the flow of the inevitable, to be that grain of sand that soaks it all in and emerges stronger than the biggest tsunami.

For you, I will wish for Hope & Happiness; Goals & Successes; Love & Laughter.


I wish you a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016.









Sunday, August 9, 2015

Daily Dinner (21): Weekend Indulgence - Paalak ki Poorie


Once in a while, I give in to indulgence- in the name of children, award to self for good behavior, or just because….

Weekends are especially tempting. I find it harder to stick to a diet and exercise regimen when I am at home all day. Goodies beckon, and everyday lunch salads are the furthest from my mind. It is a good thing that the kids love poories - the fried Indian bread. To break the guilt, I do keep a little green (as in salad) on the side. Plus, I try to sneak in veggies in the poorie itself for the kids.

Every mom I know of has her own way of making this universal kids’ favorite. But here’s how I make my Paalak ki Poorie for an indulgent weekend meal.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day - and my 200th post


I recently heard on radio that salary.com has come up with logistics to calculate work hours of “mom” job; and according to them, a stay-at-home mom deserves a salary of 130,000$ per year. Of the jobs assigned to a mom, a few include being a driver, cook, facilities manager, teacher and computer operator. In case you are wondering, that figure is estimated at the rate of “per child”! Which to me, seems all fair. Of course A isn’t home for me to throw the hatchet at, but when he returns, he better find a way to pay me back for for the past 12+years - with interest, no less :-) What made my day even better was reading that a dad’s median salary is estimated at at just about $40K a year, assuming he does some amount of cooking, cleaning and laundry! Which of course the dad in my home does not- so he gets nothing!!!

A mom is on the mom-job 365 days a year, without a break. Yet, there’s only one day a year set aside for us to show her we care. I am hearing a lot from friends and family about how acknowledging mom on Mother’s Day is irrelevant and that we should show our appreciation every day. My take on that- please don’t ruin it for us. We know how you mean the love for us all year- I will take you SHOWING it to me once a year very gladly. It is the little gestures that count; big thoughts don’t always travel through unsaid jumble of trivia every day.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Gujhiya- Taditional Holi Recipe


Wishing you all a bountiful spring- Happy Holi!!!

If Holi is here, can spring be far behind? 

Traditionally marking the beginning of Spring in India, Holi used to be quite an affair in Delhi. After hours of running around with water pistols, colors and water-balloons, we would return home exhausted and ready to curl into sleep. Except that our mom had a different idea... she, for the first time since winter set in, would make us take cold water baths. All my childhood years, I remember being bathed in ice-cold water with our teeth chattering while my mom scrubbed away the colors of Holi from inside our ears and hair. It seemed like hours before she considered us clean enough to step in anywhere inside the house. And all through the ordeal, she kept repeating that since it was spring time, we had to start bathing in cold water….

After a tiring day and her ruthless cold-water scrubbing, lunch this day was usually something good - hot and deep fried. Mostly pakoras, the sweet saffron rice called Zarda, and a cup of warm milk to beat the cold- followed by a short nap. Late in the afternoon, my dad's friends gathered in our house for a "mushaira". Not quite sure what went on there, but they laughed loud and made plenty of ruckus. All the "aunties" would pack their kids and their knitting, and meet up in the neighborhood park themselves for some "girl time". Before my mom left for the park, she and I would ply the uncles with goodies to sustain them for a few hours - pots of Kanji and Thandai, Mathi, Gujhiya and besan ladoo - all from my mom's kitchen. By the time we came home, the uncles usually had eaten them all!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Turning a Page; and a Year.


“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering 'it will be happier'…” 

---Alfred Tennyson--

Sometimes, there are years that you can’t wait to be done with. Other times, the year flies by in a blink. Thinking back a year might make you laugh out loud, smile with love or cry your heart out. The year changes, we turn a page in the calendar and hope for things to change. In recent years, through this space, I have started taking a peek back at the year past; and re-living moments that weren’t significant enough to be etched in memory forever, but momentous enough to deserve a mention.  Well over a week into the year 2015, I want to recount to you some of the tiny, unforgettable moments that made up my 2014. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Daily Dinner (20): Easy Weeknight Lasagna

Have you struggled with time getting away from you? Not wanting to compromise on home-cooked, comforting family meals on a weeknight, and not knowing how to? I do. I can whip up an regular Indian meal for my family of four in an hour or less. But when I hear “not dal-roti-sabzi” again, I draw a complete blank. That being said, I have gotten pretty adept at sneaking and quickly passing off a lot of my food in a newer non-Indian avatar. The girls lap it up. Take my weeknight quesadilla dinner or re-inventing our very own Paav Bhaaji as the vegetarian Sloppy Joes.  But as the girls get older, hoodwinking them is becoming more and more difficult.

Which is why I keep trying out new recipes. The winners always are the cheesy, non-spicy dishes across the board- which is probably why Italian is the food-of-choice for both my daughters. I still use a lot of jarred and boxed ingredients in coming up with a non-Indian meal…but lets just take one step at a time. Today’s story is about my journey in the world of vegetable (mostly spinach) lasagna.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dee-Day (3) : A special guest post….

Many decades ago, my life came to be haunted by a devil-in-disguise. He broke my carefully-kept toys, tore my cherished books and ate up all the chocolate that I’d been saving “for later”. All I did was cry lodes of tears on daddy’s shoulders as he tried to comfort me by saying “now your toy (or book or candy) is gone. What can we do. You stop crying and I’ll get you more….”. As far back  as I can think , he got away with everything.

And yet, my most vivid memories are those of seeing him walk for the first time. Or leading him to his kindergarten class. Or him seeking me out in school with tears in his eyes because someone had been bullying him. My dad told me that he named him Amitouj - the celestial bed rest that Brahma reclines on - because he was going to be my pillar of comfort when he grew up. Somewhere along the way, I named him Divyu - because I wanted his name to have the same initials as mine. 

Today, my younger brother is still a devil. But I have seen his comforting side when I was hurting the most. He’s all grown up. But he’s still my first baby.

In 2009; on my vacation to his place in Abu Dhabi, my mom told me that he’d become very good at cooking. She said, “some things, he cooks even better than me”. At her request, he made me a dinner - his signature “tadka wali dahi”, as my mom called it. Since then, I’ve been pestering him for the recipe. Today, he’s decided to share it with me; and you. Read on ahead….from the mouth of the devil himself :-)!
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The journey to my culinary expertise started in year 1999 when I moved from Delhi to Mumbai. Taking national integration to core I moved in with 3 other gentlemen: one from Bengal – representing East, One from Andhra Pradesh – representing South, and the other from Sholapur on the west coast of India.  I completed the missing link from North – Delhi.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lemons and lemonade…..

Bright and shiny; like the sunshine that makes them mature - lemons invade Delhi's vegetable scene at the peak of summers. 

Summer mornings at home always started with a freshly squeezed lemon in a glass of warm water sweetened with honey - to cleanse the system, my mom said. 

We came back from school, sweaty and hot - to be handed an ice-cold glass of Shikanji - to beat the heat

When dad returned from work in the evenings, even sweatier than us because he chose to walk the 2km stretch from the bus stop to home, he preferred his lemonade tart and spicy - with just a hint of fresh roasted cumin seeds. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Momspeak: A Mother's Day Post

A lifetime ago, deep inside my stomach, I felt the stirrings of a longing to be a mom. I blame it all on the fact that it was Christmastime and we were in the Toys R Us, in New York. There was no escaping dressed up little babies in strollers or adorable toddlers hanging onto their mammas for dear life. I didn't really "think" my "want" then.

Nine months later, I brought home my first little one. 

She was beautiful. Perfect. A headful of black hair, milky white smooth skin, all fingers and toes intact. For the first year, I loved dressing her up and cooing over her every milestone. I fed her every hour; stayed up with her  most nights. I couldn't put my camera down. In her two's, she made me grit my teeth and curb an urge to hand her over to another mom.  Right after she turned three, I started to have serious doubts on my mental stability when I decided to have a baby. By the time she'd turned four, I'd totally decided that my being a mom was all a big, scary dream. I was sure I'd wake up soon….

A week after her fifth birthday, we brought home our second one. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creamy Vegan Borscht

I had heard about Borscht several years ago- from a Russian colleague. The way I remember that story was her complaining about having to change her mom’s signature Borscht recipe because her Jewish husband wouldn’t eat it. So she switched to her mother-in-law’s recipe; and wasn’t that great a fan of it as her own (obviously….). I don’t recall what went into particular version, but I remember looking it up online and deciding that I wouldn’t like it because it had Beets in it.

After all, I am a staunch beet-hater (even though I’d never tasted them in my life….until I made this Swedish pickled beet salad)

The second time I looked up Borscht was maybe a year ago…again, from a newly-arrived-to- US couple from Armenia. They were educating me about the many vegetarian dishes from their country that I could eat - all because not only had I tread forth and tried out their potato pancakes, but actually liked them. They gave me a quick run down too…and again I convinced myself that I would never eat something with beets- or cabbages…..

Monday, March 17, 2014

Holi again,….Vade-ki Kanji?

Last year, on Holi, I rambled on to you about Thandai and my quick fix of my mom's version….

Today, I want to air my rant about a snow day….

Whoever wakes up on Holi to be greeted by a good sprinkling of powdery white instead of the vibrant reds and yellows of Spring? We did, today. Officially, Holi in Philadelphia was a snow day. We even had a two-hour delay at school….Guess Holi lost it's battle to St. Patrick's Day here!!

On the bright side, we had our share of fun over the weekend. Good friends, family, food and color. It was pretty good.  While I don't have any good pictures of us colored to share on a public platform, food; I definitely shall. I managed to make a small batch of gujhiya (watch this space for more on this traditional delicacy…) while my MIL whipped up a good-sized batch of besan-ki-barfi (just a teaser herevisit me again soon…. :-)) and Vade- ki -Kanji . Now I've talked to you about the Kanji that I grew up with….made with black/purple carrots... that was a Holi ritual at my parents. I loved it. The one that my MIL made, I don't recall seeing my mom make it. Don't know if the reason is personal preference, or a regional diversification…..

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dal Makhani- Pressure cooker and Crockpot versions


Almost everyone from Northern India makes Dal Makhani. I hadn’t thought two hoots about mine, until one friend commented about me using black-eyed peas in my version. Apparently, that was new. But this is how my mom always made it, and I’ve continued with her mix version as well. 

A staple during the the winter "Shaadi season” and in the restaurant menus; Dal Makhni is a delicious, rich blend of beans and lentils originating, I think, from the Western Punjab region. My best memories of this dish are from roadside dhabas that we encountered while traveling within the state of Punjab. Add to it their tandoori roti, raw sliced onion drenched in vinegar and a glass of lassi….sheer heaven. My recipes have never quite reached that level of comfort- and I think that’s because I generally tend to skimp on butter and cream. But if you don’t, then this is probably one of the easiest dishes to make. Here, I have for you the traditional pressure cooked version first, followed by how I tried to go low-cal by making it in a crock pot.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Daily Dinner (18): A classic Punjabi Meal & Sarson Ka Saag

To a Delhite, nothing could get more Punjabi than a meal of makki-ki-roti  and Sarson ka saag -  a green leafy staple that I managed to keep away from; most of my childhood. The only exception was this one time….for some vague reason, we went to my Naani's during the spring break. She lived in a town called Bhatinda at that time - in the heart of Punjab. As always, the whole mohalla descended to meet "Delhi to aayin kudi"…the daughter who came from Delhi. In a blink, we'd been invited to a "Sanjha Chulha" meal next day…..

Sanjha Chula- a beautiful Punjabi culture that I got to witness in the peaceful early 80's. The gali (street) that my naani lived on, was a dead end- and hence perfect for a permanent home to a communal clay oven. Once the decision was made, news spread like wildfire. What a Sanjha Chulha meant was that the whole community would meet at the oven for their evening meal. They brought with them some wood, to feed the fire. And wholesome food- to feed the soul….Most women came with prepared side dishes- typically maa-di-daal, daal makhani or sarson ka saag. And they brought with them prepared dough- all kinds- regular, missi roti, or more often than not- makki di roti. Come dusk; and the chulha was surrounded by big, hearty men on charpais; a cacophony of children running around and  of course; gossiping women that could mould rotis with their palms, stick them into the chulha and not miss a beat…That was my first time “feeling” a community. All rotis went into a central stock; and you pick whichever one you fancied. All the daal and saag were free-for-all; as was the stock of makhan (butter), ghee, gur and lassi (buttermilk).  Here, I couldn’t escape all the beeji’s that insisted on feeding me the makki-ki-roti and makhan drenched sarson-ka-saag to their newest puttar (child)……

Friday, January 10, 2014

Swedish Red Beet salad (Rodbetsallad) - an adaptation.

This summer our vacation took an impromptu, unplanned detour through the three Scandinavian countries. Although rushed, the trip was amazing. Being handicapped by language, I had many escapades in Norway- hilarious in hindsight, but really frustrating then. At one time, I had a collection of 9 bottles of water- all weird tasting- when all I'd asked for in all the supermarkets was clear, unflavored water!

Sweden was different. We were met with A's cousin and her family - so language was no barrier.  The first day we were treated to an all-Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner. By next day, the host's young daughter could take Indian no more. So, she laid out a breakfast of several different kinds of cereals, breads, cheeses and condiments - all surprisingly foreign-looking. A being more adventurous tasted first- and I nibbled from his plate before getting anything on my own.  The breads were good, and the cheeses better; but I'd prefer American breakfast cereal any day to their cereal. That leaves out the outstanding-

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tulsi-Adrak ki chai: warmth for your heart.


Boy, is it cold outside! We've had 3 rounds of snow storms, and rain, at least the same many times as well. We even got a snow day at work this past Friday. I entertained myself by making Instant Coffee- Indian style (more on that later) and a perfectly well turned out Banana-Berry bread. Now they predict a severe weather watch for tomorrow as well. 

But this morning, as I smelled my morning cuppa made with the newly acquired prized ingredient while gazing out at the pouring rain, I was reminded of my mom…again. Her go to cure for everything monsoon  - getting drenched, runny nose, body aches - was a cup of milky, aromatic broth, generously infused with wild-growin Tulsi leaves on our balcony. I was so used to tea with Tulsi  that my first couple of years in USA I felt truly deprived and tried desperately to get a plant survive with me. I got them multiple times from our local temples, but the seedling never grew healthy enough to be useful. Then I gave up. I tried using Italian basil in my tea- didn't even come close to my needs. And until recently, I had even forgotten how heavenly a Tulsi infused chai smelled like….But let me start from the beginning…..

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year Gone By.....


...and what have I done?
Plenty; but not enough......
As a part of self-improvement plan, I aspired to, and got into a fellowship program. Whether the goal came of  a need for a mid-life career change, or a sense of underachievement, is irrelevant. Just the odds of competing against kids almost half my age, and succeeding, was fulfilling. It hasn't been easy going back to the life of assignments and grades, but I've survived half a year...and I look forward to actually getting back in a classroom at the receiving end this Spring.
I've kept up with this space here...sporadically, but surely. Writing this blog and hearing back from all of you has been uplifting in my darkest moments. Lets just suffice it to say that through you, I've managed to fill in a niche as close to my loved ones as possible.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekend Morning Brunch with Samosa

We grew up in a time when schools and offices in India dictated a 6-day work-week rule. To re-affirm Sunday as his day off from work, my dad did all the things that he normally wouldn’t on a week-day. He was always an early riser, but on Sundays, he made tea for mom and himself.   He also let her sleep that extra half-hour - a big concession since he was a stickler for time and schedule. My dad was also a foodie, as well as overtly conscious of hygiene. He loved eating spicy chaat and “gourmet" food; but then insisted that his digestion-related issues were because of the unhygienic conditions of the roadside stalls rather than his over-eating. In his mind, the perfect solution was to start a Sunday Brunch tradition where he insisted that we break free of the dal-roti-sabzi routine and cook something “special". My mom wasn’t too keen initially; but he promised her he would help her with getting the brunch started. And he kept his promise as far back as I can remember….

One of the first recipes I remember him bringing home is that of a Samosa. He had it on a piece of a greasy, lined notebook sheet, with step-by-step diagrams for my mom to follow. He said he’d given 10 rupees to his favorite roadside-samose-waale-panditji for the recipe. Mommy was so miffed, that she refused to make it for him. So him and I sat down with a bowl full of all-purpose flour and emptied a big jug of water to make the pastry dough. And then, we were stuck- for the recipe said to break the dough into balls while we had a river of white gooey stuff in our bowl…nowhere near a dough that you could break balls out of….The samose-waale-panditji, in all his wisdom, hadn’t bargained for complete novices trying to replicate his recipe. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Craisin Scones

This past Thanksgiving, the kids were hankering for a meal like they had read about at school. Baby P actually came home with a written down menu that was a "vegetable..rian". We were to have corn and potatoes and beans :-) So I humored her. We had creamed corn soup, mashed potatoes, pickled beets (beets and beans sound the same…so I chose to mis-hear her since I just had beets in the fridge!!), oven roasted sweet potatoes….and this easy cranberry scone recipe for bread.  Went fairly well with the rich soup, even though I didn't add enough milk, and so the scones came out a bit crumbly….

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks.


The beginning of this week- A came home from work and told me. Some one we knew, not very well but well enough, had passed. I knew he had cancer. In fact he had had a surgery less than a week ago. He'd been delighted when I went to meet him in the hospital. " The prognosis is good"- he wrote for me since his tracheostomy prevented him from speaking. "The doctors give me at least 3yrs, but I'll show them how to beat it". Five days later, he was dead. The news left me shaken up. Made me realize how fragile and precious life is. And how obscure, the line between being alive and not. Though  Thanksgiving is not a traditional holiday in our family, today, I needed to look back at my life and give some measure of thanks. 

First of all, I feel blessed to have my life as it is today. There have been ups and downs, trials and tribulations. But that is what is meant to make us stronger. So I'll take whatever came my way and learn to be thankful. My past made me what I am today, shaped my dreams and hopes and expectations. I'll live up to them, and work towards a spiritual contentment, a sense of balance.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

15-bean Vegetarian stew in a slow cooker

Today, I want to talk about now. No stories, no memories.

A couple weeks ago, a recipe of Panchmel Dal that I's submitted to a fabulous event called My Legume Love Affair, first started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook was chosen to be a winner of the giveaway. As a result, I became the proud owner of a gift basket sponsored by Hurst Beans.  Then, in a separate pack, Susan sent me this great looking soup spoon. I couldn't wait to try the great bean selections I'd got.


My Gift from Hurst Beans courtesy Hurst Beans.