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, July 26, 2015

Ghee - A guide to slow cooker version.


Ghee is the name for anhydrous butter fat, an ingredient originating and deeply revered in IndiaAyurveda, the ancient medical science of India, recognizes ghee as an essential part of a balanced diet, and celebrates it as a  symbol of auspiciousness, nourishment and healing. Ghee is the very essence of butter; the end result of a long, slow, careful clarification process that removes all the moisture, milk solids and impurities. The butter is melted and the simmered long enough to boil off all the water, during which time it separates into layers and the fat takes on a buttery taste. Ghee is the layer of clear butter fat. The slow cooking needs to be precise, or else the fat layer burns and darkens easily.

One of the oldest memories I have is of my grandmother making ghee; and of me relishing every ingredient in the process. Naani began by starting to collect malai (milk fat) - she would buy cow’s milk for days, and simmer boil it for hours on end in a bronze pot. After the milk cooled down, she skimmed off the thick layer of fat that formed on the top of the milk. She was always gracious enough to ladle out large spoonfuls of this malai into our outstretched bowls. We’d layer our parathas with sugared malai for lunch, instead of the boring sabzi.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Warm Comforts - Savory Oats Upma

About a year ago, while I was still working at the University, a new student joined our group. After a long time, Having a fellow-Indian to talk to at work place meant that lunch-time conversations often meandered towards reminiscing about food in India. A month or so later, her husband went to visit his parents in Southern India, and when he returned, she came bearing some gifts for me. One of which were packets of the very popular, "Maggi" brand instant oats breakfast. Apparently, that product had recently been launched in India, and she really liked the convenience of it for breakfast. You essentially had to pour out the ingredients into a bowl, put in some water, zap it for a couple of minutes in the microwave and you had a warm bowl of Indian breakfast.

"I never eat Maggi"; I informed her, referring to the widely popular instant noodles available in India. "I hate the smell of it."

"This one isn't the same", she said. "This is made of oats and tastes like Upma. You do like Upma, don't you?" 

That is how I ended up with 3 packs of this Maggi Oats Upma product. 


The packs languished in my pantry for a few months. Then one night, I found myself alone, hungry and craving something warm without having to go through the pain of cooking or cleaning after. Rummaging through, I found these packs again. With no other alternative in sight, I decided to go for it. 5 minutes later, with a warm bowl in hand and a Hallmark movie on demand for company; I decided that I actually liked what I was eating. It was a tad too spicy for my taste, and still had that artificial flavor after-taste; but it was comforting and hearty.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Get Grilling - without the grill!!


One of the coolest things about this new work place I'm at is the awesome cafe. Not only does it promote healthy eating, but the food is delicious too. And the very first thing I noticed was the well-stocked salad bar area. Ever since I started with a  salad-at-lunch routine, keeping a meatless salad interesting, and satisfying, has become quite a challenge. So I took to peeking in the cafe's salad bar to glean off some ideas outside of what I do to my salad.

One of the very first things I noticed was a bunch of grilled vegetables. Duh! Why didn't I think of it.

"Because you don't have a grill pan, and it's not grilling season yet", pat came the reply from the devil within. Of course!!

Around a month ago, when the weather finally started turning spring-like, I asked A if he would get the grill cleaned and ready (we have a small, outdoor gas grill that I have no idea how to use....). He nodded, ....and that was the end of it.....

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.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chawal ka Paratha- Reliving Childhood.


I have been told that kids should learn to eat everything. And that offering them with a choice is spoiling them for life. But believe me, if catering to foodie likes and dislikes is spoiling, then I was a thoroughly spoilt brat as a kid! And I changed when I grew up (not all, but quite a bit!)….

For many of my growing up years, I refused to eat roti. Eaten the traditional way, it got my hands dirty, food got under my fingernails, and I complained about smelly food fingers after lunch at school. I’d only eat whatever I could with a spoon. That pretty much made rice or sandwiches the only option for school. I wasn’t ready to even consider anything else. Then one day, my mom packed my school lunch with stuffed parathas, filled with rice – with the reasoning that she was still giving me rice - and I got a new food to love for life!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Taking Navratris West- with Sphagetti Squash

I have compiled a few of my go-to Navratri recipes from 2013 here and from 2012 here.

But me being me, what do I do when the stomach’s growling with hunger, and I want something “good” to eat while fasting? Sometimes, “good” for me is just another way of saying “out of the mundane routine”. Off and on, I try recipes and sometimes tweak it a bit to make it adhere to rules of my fasting. This year has been especially trying since we couldn’t get to do Indian grocery before the fasting week began. And so I got stuck with improvising.

I did have a little bit of Sama ke chawal and singhora flour. Not enough to tide me through the week though. So I have been living on whatever I can conjure up with groceries I can buy from local stores. One day each of aloo ki sabzi and zucchini had me wanting something “good”. The third day to satisfy my wandering mind and growling stomach; my dinner was a clear spinach-tomato soup and this  wannabe salad with Spaghetti squash – a fun vegetable that looks like spaghetti after it’s been cooked.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Going green- Simple lunch salad.


It takes very little for one to realize that they have let themselves go. What one does with that realization, is another matter. 

Here is my 6-month journey against extra baggage accumulated unknowingly. My moment of realization was pictures of our summer trip to Disneyland posted by extended family on Facebook. I couldn't believe what I saw of myself in those pictures. I have always had body image issues; but this photo was beyond my wildest dreams. My clothes appeared to be stretched thin. My mommy-waist had definitely grown some new, and pronounced, bulging additions. Earlier that month, at my doctor’s, the scales had tipped at 12 lbs. higher than my normal weight- but I had chosen to dismiss that. The doctor had advised me to get “more active”; but I had convinced myself that “I had no time”. 

I went to Facebook and looked at that photograph every day for at least a week before making my mid-year resolution …. I started small- the goal was to lose 5 lbs before the end of the year 2014 (this was sometime in August). The means were ambitious- I was going to diet (no big deal for me…) AND Exercise (way huge of a commitment…..). The reason was not just vanity – agreed that I wanted to look better, but I also wanted to feel healthier. My kids are growing up, and are fairly independent. So " I have no time" didn't quite  cut it. Why should I not be able to steal away an hour a day for myself? I told myself (repeatedly, I must add) that I deserve that hour, that I wasn't taking away my “quality-child-time” by doing this and that the world wouldn't stop if I didn't finish all the chores on my to-do-list. 

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!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vegetable patties- Anytime Snack.

Another one of those forgotten foods from our times in India.

Patties were a staple in all Delhi University South Campus college canteens. Our post-lunch, mid afternoon chai time would not be complete without a few orders of these delicious, mouthwatering accompaniment. Between the ten of us classmates, a few plates of patties vanished before they appeared on the table.

Living here, I didn't see them for a very long time. And with time, memories dimmed. Then, on one of my visits to a friend in New York (the one who taught me the badam halwa), I had a chance to taste them again. My friend's neighbor had made them, and I remember being so awed at her ability to be able to recreate that magic. Another few years later, at a picnic potluck, another friend offered to bring patties.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gobhi ka Paratha- Cozy Comfort of a Cold Morning.


The humble cauliflower; and the mighty peas –possibly, two of my dad’s favorite things.

Sometime in November, the sabzi-wala bhaiya would come all excited and call out for my dad, announcing that he had procured the first cauliflower and peas of the season. My dad would hurry on downstairs. Then, they would engage in at least a half-hour haggle on prices; the bhaiya, unrelentingly adamant that his prices were reasonable, and my dad, equally strong-willed about making a good bargain. Finally, they always came to an agreement on “wholesale prices”, and my dad came back laden with 5kgs of fresh peas and 5kgs of cauliflower. The next half hour- my mom hemming and hawing about shelling all those peas and my dad trying to calm her down by saying that he’d help- which of course was the biggest lie ever!

Then I remember those afternoons when I came home from school to find my mom sitting on the balcony in the winter sun, elbow-deep in shelling peas. She not only seperated the sweet pea seeds, but also skinned the tender shells of new peas to make another one of my dad’s favorite – “matar ke chilke ki sabzi” (more on that, later some day….). Sometimes, I helped her. More often than not, the peas went straight in my mouth!

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.