Sunday, December 25, 2011

Return of the Native...

How I long for a hot shower to ease this throbbing headache and this lingering need to be somewhere familiar...when did India become this place that  doesn't feel like home anymore. There is a sharp need to be back in my routine which is comforting, mechanical and detached. Is it that I have just moved beyond the need to revisit the past and live in the present or is it that India brings back a "bag of memories" I would rather not revisit -- chauvinism, a false sense of progress and a fatalistic approach to life.
Maybe it is the lack of sleep - 18 hours in 7 days...or the realization that some things will never change : however much you move forward in your life (career, money, other parameters...) I have searched for approval from a few close people...approval that I never got...approval that I convinced myself I didn't need...and the resentment of not having the approval gets to me every time.
Sorry - I guess most people treat Facebook and Blogs as a way to discuss how wonderful and perfect their life's are, how wonderfully they have aged and how much their career has progressed and to be honest I was one of those people - I transformed myself through sheer will power from this weird plump little child to a woman I liked (most of the time). I was am a little hesitant to talk about fears and inadequacies but the truth is I am human and I like it this way -
I am strong, I am also weak ; I am a mother, but I am also a woman; I do get lost, but I try and find myself in time; the deep vortex of despair capture me sometimes (more in the past year)...but I am a Phoenix...I believe that out of the ashes of despair will rise a brand new person.
I wish I could call my visit this time to India a vacation, wear a happy face and do the normal things I do - meet people, eat the foods I love, just absorb the atmosphere...yet there is this lingering cloud on my head. Why you ask...I don't want to be a parrot so read it here ...what would you do if you were me?
For now the native has returned....there is a year to say good bye to and a year to welcome...
How apt is this saying -
We can travel a long way and do many things, but our deepest happiness is not born from accumulating new experiences or things. it is born from letting go of what is unnecessary, and knowing ourselves...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Buddha : 24* 7 , Shempa and a good cry...


What are the odds of discussing Buddha, Buddhism and the eight-fold path with two devout Buddhists within 24 hours of reading the book - " Buddha : 9 to 5" - not too many...but it happened to me. I was going to tell you about this book anyways because not only do I believe it helps me "learn and grow" in the work place but it also helps me be "mindfully aware" at home...try to avoid...Shempa...BUT also because it is practical and you should read it if you are so inclined.


Deep...you say...me says focus on the word very practical....
Dimwit...I don't do Shempa...you say...me says...let me explain further
When we experience Shempa, we generally will tighten around a thought or concept and eventually we are hooked to that idea. We are stuck. The attachment paralyses us from seeing issues in any context that is different from our own view of the situation at hand. We are unable to act from a perspective that is open to the creativity of a new approach. As we continue to push the envelope and fixate on the outcome, we are actually building momentum towards attachment....
Sounds familiar...come on admit it...Living life brings with it either an innate learning or wisdom...this wisdom manifests itself in business in level-headness and reasonable decisiveness. It also manifests itself in intangibles like warmth, humor, compassion, humility and graceful strength...we release our fixation on ego and focus outward on understanding people (be it at work or home) and through that understanding where we can create and add value ( for the organization and on the home front). "T" the insightful one said in our conversation yesterday - we are very fixated on a need...we don't know what that need is...we think it is title, money, car, clothes, other material things...we try to fill that need -- yet there is an awareness that there is a gaping hole...something that craves more...maybe we are wiser for recognizing this emptiness and not trying to fill it with the material but reaching for a deeper understanding beyond maybe for something spiritual...

I know that was the exact sentiment I had as I picked up this book from the business section in our public library...I don't think I am even half way there in this journey ...yet as I like to say a journey begins with but one step...for me I think this  journey roadmap would read as follows in both my personal and professional life:
  • Right View : the ability to view the situation for what it is...it is what is truthful and right. With K2, I know that I do fixate and make the issues bigger then they have to be and with mindful awareness, I am working towards taking a more level headed approach.
  • Right Intention : over the years I have realized that there is a desire in me to love what I do, have a positive impact (whether it is on my family or my work) and have a purpose. Once in a while that sense of purpose might seem a little foggy but it always comes back...
After developing that wisdom, it is about building our ethics system...in most of us it is something we have built over the years with our understanding of what is right and what is wrong? but like every framework even ours could use tweaks...right?
  • Right Speech  and Right Action: there is an interesting concept LEAP which is about listening, exploring authentic listening with genuine interest, questions and empathy, appreciate the other person's point of view and present one's own view point. I will provide you a glimpse into a typical day - K2's extended day care had a "talk" with me on K2's arguing every point with the care givers...I tried to sit down with K2 and understand the incident from his view point ( in from of the caregivers L & C), I asked questions, I did get an appreciation on K2's view point BUT with empathy was also gentle strength...an explanation that he needed to respect his elders and I presented my view...the view presented resulted in lots of tears and a I don't like Mama...but I was glad to go through all the steps with K2. The next day K2 understood exactly why he had lost some privileges and tried hard to work on his version of LEAP. We should pay attention to our actions and clearly understand their consequences
  • Right Livelihood : Simple from my perspective...do what you love doing and something that your gut/heart tells you is right...and it is probably the right one...K1 keeps steering K2 to say he wants to be a doctor...and I keep steering K2 to follow his heart and his heart tells him to be a dinosaur hunter today...maybe 16 years later he might want to be the doctor his father wants him to be...but whatever he picks..it should not be because of pressure but because it is something he really wants to do..
  • Right Effort : I think the book five dysfunctions of a team covers this well - make an effort not to avoid conflict for right, don't avoid accountability,and make an effort to develop and deliver...
All this leads to mindful awareness of self, family, situations both personal and professional -- I am really excited with some of these concepts...they are very applicable to our lives...
I am sure you are fixated on the "good cry" part --- ok so here is what happened. I had a huge stock of red onions in my pantry and beautiful campari tomatoes from my local farmers market -- being the frugal person that I am rather than see all my beautiful produce disintegrate...I sat in the evening yesterday and chopped 14 red onions ( not one not two...) and an obscene number of tomatoes, green seranno chillies, 2 garlic bulbs, huge finger of ginger...and made a huge batch of  indian masala base laced generously with turmeric and roasted cumin powder....this I packed and put in the freezer and will probably last me over at least a dozen rounds of Rajma, Chole, Aloo Dum and other wet subzis....the red onions made me cry for over an hour...my swollen eyes got me weird looks...
So how has life been treating you on the path to Nirvana....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Y(in) the Dark....

It is so easy to lose one's "Yin" in the constant struggle to meet deadlines, work schedules, travel schedules and personal to-do lists...girl stuff like buying clothes, girl's nights out, make up, movies, gym, grown up dinners and spa days ain't happening...it is a vicious cycle and once it starts, it is easy to make excuses and let things go...you know you have really let things go when  you suddenly notice that your clothes are two sizes too big (yep! for a change losing it not packing it on)...in theory seems like a good thing but in practice...ain't a good place to be in...so there was a point when I told myself enough already and set myself two ground rules (a) have fun (b) explore "me" time.I have really stretched and grown in this area  in the past three months - No Judgement, Only Action...
Zumba is something new and strange for me - I keep rejecting it and then approaching it tentatively again (all in a period of half a year)...it has helped me loosen up...learning to have fun with music and movements.Pink has become the new black in my wardrobe - shopping more consciously for clothes that are an opposite of what I normally pick...mixing things up. And most importantly, I have gone back to the roots with my cooking and food-- it is comfort (with a healthy twist). My "new" bread maker bakes me breads....filling the house with the yeasty warm smells you associate with a bakery...I get feedback from K2 on the taste of the bread ( the important part) and from K1 on the shape and the thickness of the bread (not so important part). I just baked this fresh loaf  with 100% Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat (Arrowhead Mills), Mango Lassi (don't ask me -- creativity sometimes flows), Honey, 2 Handfuls of Raisins and one handful of walnuts


 K1 and I make breakfast together on weekends : Waffles and Pancakes with whole grain mixes, organic eggs cooked whichever way seems right for that day...here is a peek at K2's breakfast last weekend - a homemade waffle sandwich filled with sliced bananas and smothered in Nutella  and an omelet

I treat myself every night to a decadent tasting dessert ( the famous "me" time) : Oikos 0% Non-Fat Greek Yogurt with a tablespoon of local honey...and maybe the Yin Side will not be sidelined or stay in the dark any more...
This week has been a blur of activity - birthday parties, shopping, followed by a quick trip to the city to pick up passport...car servicing...K2 is loving the transition from nanny to extended day care...he is at the stage where he is happier with other kids...an articulate story teller and a superb artist ( I don't think  I can draw an elephant and he drew an awesome one... hmm I wonder where he gets that from?).

I had an interesting Yoga Class today...we were expected to keep our eyes closed for the entire class....I succeeded maybe about 20% of the time..it was uncomfortable, it  made me go inwards, embrace the dark and find balance within the chaos...
Here is a sweet sweet song from the 1960's with a totally different notion of  Yin...so quaint and yet so sweet and refreshing...


So, do you have your holiday plans yet...mine involves travel, work and some vacation...I look forward to some quiet times with loved ones, some great food and a time to create memories and welcome the New Year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flirting on the Foothills

Covered in a blanket of fog,
As the wind whispers sweet nothings in my ears.
The crisp scent refreshes the senses,
From the stately eucalyptus tree.
A slight shimmer in the air from the raindrops,
The smell of earth envelops the air.
The snow covered peaks resplendent,
Untouched in their beauty...
Am I in love with these foothills...
Or is this a brief interlude, to be replaced again by the random busy life?

My visit to Kalimpong is etched in my mind - so much so that I had written this poem about that visit in 1995. Four days of quietude spent with my parents in beautiful Dak Bunglows ...quiet elegant beautiful buildings from the pre-Independence era with lots of character and sumptuous meals cooked and served by the  attentive messman, trips to the monastery and the vast tea estates, not to forget the flea markets. We never did get to try any of the ghati cuisines which would have exposed me to a multitude of international flavors - Burmese, Bhutanese, Tibetan and Nepali....truth be told even until last week I was a stranger to most of these cuisines...but not anymore. Last week on a relaxed trip away for Thanksgiving I got to try Nepali cuisine twice (in four days).


The food was simplicity ...very close to Oriya /Bengali cuisine yet with difference. The dal was channa dal simply laced with cumin, hing and ghee...there were 2 tarkaris/curry ( one vegetable, one chicken), Mango and Cilantro chutney, Rice and sookhi chapatis...a meal to remember. Do you know what K2 polished off - the Momos...they are very pot-sticker like.
Given K2's intense love for all things pot-stickers and the chilly, foggy weather I have made this quick soup to warm us and ward away the chill...

What you need?
  1. 1 package of Annie Chun Pot Sticker's - with shitake mushrooms
  2. some fresh veggies - I used shredded  carrots, edamame (soy beans), enoki mushrooms and some campari tomatoes ( go with whatever veggies you like that fits into this recipe : bamboo shoots, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc.)
  3. Minced Garlic, Chopped Scallion, 2 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar, 1 tsp Soy Sauce, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  4. Pacific Vegetable Broth
  5. Cilantro to Garnish
  • Combine the Vegetable Broth, Rice Wine Vinegar, Soy Sauce and Minced Garlic and bring to a gentle simmer
  • Add the vegetables and the potstickers
  • Simmer gently for about 5-7 minutes. Add the Chopped Scallions and freshly chopped Cilantro
I didn't add any green chilis to the soup as I was sharing it with my little boy. He slurped up his share, it was the second soup after the cheesy tomato soup that I have seen him enjoy so much. This recipe goes out to Vardhini @ Zesty Palette for her event Dish it Out ( featuring tomatoes and soy) and to Kalyani @ Sizzling Tastebuds for the event "Flavors of China" ( Kalyani is guest hosting Nayna's event).

Hope you got a breather with the holidays...do "flirt with the foothills in your life"...you can find them in the most innocuous of places. Life feels like an adventure whether it is one with travelling, the gym, reading, doing homework with my son, food and work...and I am glad I am able to be a part of so many new experiences and drag the 2K's with me...


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recipe to Success

Here is an inspiring email forward from my dad -

Success is not a secret. It is a choice that is made over and over again.
Success is not something that can be denied to you.
It is something that you can always choose to accept.
How do you accept success? You accept success by making the effort instead of making excuses.
You accept success by taking responsibility instead of counting on someone else to do it for you.
You accept success by being truthful with others and, just as importantly, with yourself.
You accept success when things get tough, by being positive and innovative
instead of becoming despondent.
You accept success by being who you are and by contributing what you can,
rather than pretending to be someone else.
Every day you can choose either to accept success or to just let it pass you by.
With each thought, each word, each action, choose to accept success
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I used to read CK Prahalad's writings : we had his book Competing for the Future as a mandatory read, and it is a book that I  occasionally go back to even today...I loved his key insight :  "Billions of consumers await at the "bottom of the pyramid"

And my dad had the chance to debate with CKP on State and Industry issues...while I was feeling self-important launching (in my mind) cutting edge services...he was running a state....so brings home the point to me :

Success is a state of mind,
Success is a choice made by you,
It doesn't come with dollars, dividends or a title,
It is self-generated....

                                                                                                         ---A Note to Self

On this positive uplifting note and no actual recipes....I hope you have a wonderful Turkey Day...I know I am planning to with the 2K's.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

$550 Dimsum...anyone?

Some days are highs, some days forgettable and others unforgettable for all the wrong reasons...my family and friends know I am the "nervous driver"...I am usually 5 miles below speed limit, counting at the stop signs and also being sorta kinda lucky...no tickets or parking violations in 11+ years of driving in California. Yet every time I see a police car -- my heart starts pounding...no I mean it...really pounding -- I check the odometer, get extra-cautious...to the point now that K2 sees a cab and he is like - Mama, I think it is a cop car !!!  OK, so this is my long-winded way of justifying why I hate dislike driving into San Francisco. Anyway it was a strange feeling to go to the Indian Consulate for a visa to enter India...but procedures had to be followed and paperwork filled....once the work was done I had this hankering for Dimsum and given that China Town was but a mile away, I gave in to temptation and drove over to Grant...parked at a parking meter - paid up...noted that it said - street cleaning Monday and Wednesday...totally blanked out on the Towaway - 3.00 PM-7.00 PM....yep! you got it...when I came back with 5 bucks worth of dimsum, my Prius had been towed away :-(..breakdown below...lesson learnt...Priceless !!!
Then began the guilt trip, the frog in the throat and the mental whipping...K1 told me to chill and just go out to a yoga class or something...my yoga teacher (God Bless Him !!!)...was saying to the class - We have a tendency to beat ourselves...push ourselves...blame ourselves. Maybe once in a while we need to practise kindness...kindness to ourselves (ahimsa towards self).
So here is my "sort-of" funny story on the $550 Dimsum that I enjoyed...I would have much rather spent that money  here or here...but you roll with the dice.

Here is the Turkey K1 and K2 made for the Family Turkey Project this evening...my contribution (you guessed it!) is the bling...the glitter. How is your week shaping up?

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's a man's world...



Talking of addictions...apart from the gym and grocery store I have been addicted to the "good ol' telly" and for the past month or so have been watching "Prime Suspect" (1-7) with Helen Mirren. I was hooked...K1 lost interest somewhere around Episode 2 and to be fair to him, the storyline was slow moving, procedural and focused on the struggles of the female protagonist against the misogyny and sexism of her male colleagues during the investigative process. I watched "The Final Act" and as it ended there was a sadness that I won't have any more episodes to look forward to and a resentment at how it all ends for Jane... who was in most circumstances a police officer first and a woman second - leaving us an impression of a woman dependant on alcohol, who was losing her identity (she was retiring from the job that consumed her life)...broken, lonely, lost....and trying to survive. I try to tell myself things have changed and there has been a lot more progress now since the 20 years back that they first conceived the idea of "Prime Suspect"...but then has it really?
 Last week I was reading  an eye-opening report "Stemming the Tide" by professors at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - the study focused on women in Engineering (but I would put forward that this would broadly apply to  roles in technology companies/start-ups in the Silicon Valley). They found that just one in four women who had left the field reported doing so to spend more time with family. One third left "because they did not like the workplace climate, their boss or the culture," while almost half departed due to "working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement or low salary"....Cultural Stereotypes have women branded as "nice and compassionate" and men as "aggressive and competitive" and if a woman exhibited the latter traits - the behavior is considered inappropriate and presumptuous (Note: I didn't say this the Dept. of Sociology at North Western makes this claim).

Reality is I have never really thought about it being a man's world and have always believed that you focus on the tasks at hand and delivering results and then demand expect the appropriate rewards. I have been exposed to situations where my belief system has been shaken and questioned BUT then again I have been in multiple situation where I have discovered that actions do get rewarded...however for the most part I think what is key is the following : a woman needs to balance her personal goals  with her professional goals and prioritize the must- haves for success. I know that I want to get home  to a kindergartner and I choose to cook dinner for him every night vs. do take-outs. Yes, that means more chores (cooking, grocery, clean-up) but it also gives me a peace of mind and satisfaction that I am making healthy choices for my family. It also makes me more efficient at work because I focus on getting the task at hand completed vs. taking coffee breaks, lunch breaks, walk breaks (all of these principles fly out of the window if there are no tasks on hand :-) )

 Balance in my mind is not a resting place. It requires flexibility, adaptability, strategy, intuition, moving quickly and yet keeping still. Perhaps this balancing act is the ultimate art of the feminine, reflective of our daily quest to juggle family, career and self. So yes, I  understand it is a Man's World  but I choose to play work in it on my own terms. There might come a time in my life when I question my decisions and reprioritize but for now...life goes on...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Easy Come, Easy Go...

As I was going through the warrior poses in the cold, semi-dark studio two days back my eyes were drawn to a sentence written on the wall - "Change begins with self-reflection"...I have been mindlessly driving myself to zumba, aerobics and cardio classes. This has been mainly because I feel like I have let myself fall into a rut (stuck to Yoga for 9 years and not much else).The reality is that it just felt like I was not there 100% in these new classes...the muscle pain was constant...and yet like a mindless zombie, day in and day out I kept going in for yet another hour of the torture which never did deliver...on Tuesday I gave in and went back to a vinyasa yoga class (after about a month)...it felt good...it felt like I had finally arrived...and I don't really feel so bad about letting go of  some of these gym routines, which  are oh! so! cool and in with the trends yet for me they just don't cut it...George Straits song plays so true here :

"We tried to work it out a hundred times,
Ninety nine it didn't work,
I think it is best that we put it all behind,
Before we wind up getting hurt,
No hard feelings darling, no regrets,
No tears and no broken hearts
Calling it quits, calling off all bets
It just wasn't in the cards"
Easy Come Girl, Easy Go...

My body is still complaining through the planks and my mind refuses the thought of letting my body go upside down...yet every time I sit quietly in the Lotus and reflect on "nothing"...I am glad that Yoga is with me for the long haul. I think Change is great but if we find something that makes us happy...we should hold on to it.

Today seems to be the day of self-reflection and confessions...another semi-dark side of my persona...I absolutely love walking mindlessly down the aisles of Trader Joes and Whole Foods --- checking out all the new things and buying strange stuff that I am clueless what to do with (yet)...like the bag of  Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour, Barley Malt, Mango Butter, Amaranth...I am sure I will figure it out.  How has the end of fall been treating you...mother nature in our neck of the woods hasn't yet figured out whether to keep it warm or cold...today was a wonderful sunny day and I just couldn't resist taking this picture...

I hope you have fun weekend plans...my weekend is jampacked with birthdays, baby showers and a 10 pound pumpkin (more on that later :))..

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tentative Parenting : Clouds, Storms and Positive Discipline

I picked up three different editions  of "Positive Discipline" this week - (a) Positive Discipline for Pre-Schoolers (b) Positive Discipline for Working Parents and (c) A-Z of Positive Discipline. I don't know how successful I will be in reading and incorporating the principles of the book into my life but as I say to myself everyday  take"baby steps". K2 is mostly a bright, mentally exhausting engaging and precocious precious  little boy BUT even he has his off-days. His school has a reward system : every child starts the day with a sunshine, they can over time either get a rainbow (if they did something extraordinary) or a cloud (if they did something wrong) or a storm (something really wrong and the parent gets summoned)...K2 in 50 days of school has two rainbow and two clouds and multiple off-days. I love the fact that his teacher Mrs.B lets me know of the off-days (K2 not that much)...he does not want me talking to Mrs. B about him because he knows that he "loses" some privilege on the cloud/off-days days. So here is our conversation from yesterday:
Me: So why was yesterday an off-day K2
K2: Ma, I had my listening ears sleeping and so I didn't listen to Mrs. B
Me : You know that is bad right!
K2 : Yes, but my listening ears are all awake now with you Ma (notice the slight-a-bit brown nosing)
Me : Well, I guess then you can hear clearly that you lose TV  privilege today
K2 : What about the computer?
Me : No
K2: ipad?
Me: No
K2: Leapster
Me: No
K2 (in tears) : What can I do then?
Me: Eat your parathas and work on a puzzle and some drawing homework

 K2 eating dosas on the kitchen counter as his Ma makes them for him...one of his favorite foods is dosas.

More tears and negotiations later....K2 did exactly that. But I fear that my tough love might be psychologically impacting the brat...hence the need for positive reinforcement (the eternal Pavlovian dog)with a book like the above mentioned ...what journeys has parenting been taking you in?

There is an incessant cold filling my world...it is the precursor to winter and the chills and I would trade it in any day for the warm sun...I prefer the warmth and sunshine. Both K2 and I are prone to the winter sniffles, so I am trying to bolster the immunity system with a lot of warm foods (kapha alleviating foods) and chyvanprash for K2...we will see how successful I am with this. Anyway, while I was at the library picking up the parenting books, my eyes fell on another book "Sukham Ayu"and I was hooked. According to Ayurveda, Ayu or life is a synthesis of the body,senses, mind and soul. For there to be positive synergy, there needs to be balance. Balance is delicate and comes with moderation and the recognition of what food goes with one's system and what doesn't...For example - I absolutely adore spicy, heavy "goat curry" but don't have it often (think 2-3 times a year)...the reason being that my tongue rejoices at first taste while my body revolts...there is this heavy sense in the stomach followed by severe heartburn. Unfortunately, even though the head says no, there are times when I give into the temptation knowing the repercussions. The first recipe that I tried from this book was a "soopa" or a "soup"....I made the Vegetable and Lentil Soopa today and that will be our dinner with toasted multigrain bread.
 here is a picture of the soopa pre-blending....check out the beautiful orange hue from the pumpkin.

Ingredients:
  1. 2 cups cut pumpkin ( Halloween remnants)
  2. 1 cup Lauki/bottlegourd
  3. 1 cup Cabbage
  4. 1 cup Green Beans
  5. 1/2 Cup of Mung Dal
  6. 1/2 cup finely chopped Onions, 4 cloves of garlic
  7. Ghee, Salt, Pepper 
Steps:
  • Pressure Cook the first five items
  • Now fry the onions and garlic in a tad bit of ghee
  • Now take the veggies and the sauteed onions and garlic and blend in a blender ( I did it in my magic bullet)
  • Add back to the saucepan and simmer for a minute or two. Add salt ( they recommend rock salt, all I had was sea salt) and pepper to taste. I added toasted cumin powder and cinnamon powder too ( this was not recommended in the book but I felt like it).
  • Sprinkled Fresh Cilantro and enjoy with toasted multi grain bread.
Sending this recipe across to Vardhini  @ Vardhini's Kitchen for the Zesty Palettes Series : Halloween Fiesta and Srivalli of Cooking4allSeasons for the Soups and Salads Mela  and I promise there will be more recipes to come from this book.

The truth my friends is the words of a Al Stewart song that someone had once penned for me - "Nothing that's forced can ever be right, if it doesn't come naturally, leave it"...different context but the words still ring true...if the philosophy of Ayurveda and mostly vegetarian eating sound strange just leave it...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tentative Parenting : Crushes and Mushes

Imagine my horror when an 8 year old tells me her 4 year old sister has a crush on my 5 year old boy...ONLY the 11 year old standing next to me saw the jaw drop, the look of utter panic...she didn't probably see the palpitations and heart "stops"...but she did give me an understanding smile. When did my little boy join a world where the girls in his class watch - Hannah Montana and talk about "girl friends et all"...Thankfully, my son is still at the stage of Diego and Caillou...he mostly ignores the comments and focuses on playing, drawing, crafts and puzzles but I know the external influences will soon impact his behavior and ideas. I won't be the mother who is the naysayer but I definitely won't say I am comfortable with this. We soon forgot about it to loud bollywood music and uncoordinated dancing (mother and son).

Today is Diwali -- yet it was a full school and work day - so we had to make do with short cuts. For food we made a wonderful "mush" called Khichidi to warm our souls and lighten our stomach. In India Diwali is all about sweets, puri and aloo, heavy dinners and lunches and we decided to go the opposite path....khichidi is like a "mush" a thick porridge like creamy consistency -- the simpler you keep it the better it tastes.

Detox Mush Khichidi
1/2 Cup Brown Rice
1/2 Cup  Moong Dal (slightly toasted)
1/2 Cup Fresh chopped veggies (carrots, beans)
1/2 Pack Pacific Foods -- Creamy Organic Butternut Squash Soup
Fresh Cilantro, 1 Half Lemon, Chili Oil (if you so please)

Heat Ghee in the pressure cooker. Add Hing (Asefotida) if you have it, when it sizzles add turmeric powder and grated fresh ginger. Then add the chopped veggies. Fry for a minute. Now add the brown rice and the moong dal --- fry it for a minute. Instead of water, I add the soup in lieu of water. I let the pressure cooker go 3 whistles....check salt and season if needed. Now squeeze in the lemon, sprinkle the cilantro and if you need an added kick add the chili oil (mine is from Trader Joes). Enjoy Mush Khichidi with a glass of spiced buttermilk....
p.s :- The Rangoli is made with sidewalk chalk and the diyas are environmental friendly tea lights.Happy Diwali !!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Touchy Feely....

What do you get when you couple an overly zealous nutritionista with an equally health conscious freak...someone who is looking at every meal that she is feeding her family with "evaluative" eyes - it was when K2 looked at me...rolled his eyes...and sighed  like the drama king that he is ---Parathas...AGAIN ( let me clarify these are not regular parathas - they are made with equal proportion of whole wheat and millet (jowar) and are stuffed with grated, cooked and lightly spiced broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes..teamed with a cup of yogurt and apple) that I realized that I needed to loosen the leash a little. An article "Food Trends Men Hate"on Yahoo brought home this point amply...if interested you can read the article here.
I have to admit to doing some of the things mentioned in the article (and then some more)...from plying reluctant K1 with Tofu (gullible K2 ate it thinking it was cheese, he still loves it...note to self - train them early) to bringing home beanitos instead of regular chips which K1 still refuses to touch....the list goes on and on. Anyway when I said I am loosening the leash...I really am (ahem! at least trying to...). When I was young my mother made a scrumptious snack called "Shakkarpara"...mostly during Diwali. Every Diwali, the house was cleaned out, the pandit ( the religious cook) was summoned and he cooked on a huge wok outside and he dished out amazing dishes like the Malpua ( a crispy fried pancake like dish) , Rabdi ( tastes like condensed milk only 1000 times better), Coconut Burfis, Gulab Jamuns, Sev....the list goes on.But I mostly looked forward to the Shakkarpara and Namakparra (nimki)...

I rolled up my sleeves and tried to recreate the magic of days past...when life was uncomplicated, carefree....there was no thought of nutrition or heath as we gorged ourselves on sweets, savory dishes, exotic meat dishes...of course, the way my mother made her Shakkarpara was this with Maida and with a sugar syrup which thickly coated the fried crisps. I made a few changes to the traditional and if I may say so, I was not only surprised but absolutely loved the recipe -- this one is a keeper.This recipe goes out to Radhika of Tickling Palates for the event : Diwali Special


Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/5 cup sugar (add Stevia if you want to avoid sugar, I used Turbinado Organic Brown Sugar)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp ghee ( I make mine at home from Organic Valley Butter)
  • 2 pinches of finely ground cardamom powder
  • a pinch of salt, a pinch of baking soda
  • Saffola (Canola or any healthy oil for deep frying)

Sieve the whole wheat, they usually do this in India but I skip this step. I warm the milk slightly and add to the flour and start kneading...same with the sugar and the 2 tbsp of ghee. Once the dough is pliable I covered with a wet cloth and kept aside for an hour. Then I started rolling out the dough in circles (much like a paratha)...I used a regular knife and cut it into diamond shape (or sort of a diamond shape....work with me here). Finally deep fry the diamonds. Enjoy as is (that is how K2 enjoyed his...see above). I had mine with a hot cup of herbal tea -- Mighty Leaf (African Nectar).


I know a lot of my thoughts on nutrition and health are  based as much on gut instinct as learnt knowledge from books, blogs and the internet.Unlike most other folks I know I can't  dismiss the "touchy-feely" in my life.In the business world "touchy-feely" is taboo but more often than not that primal gut instinct aids us more than most other skills...human beings have a tendency to be "organizational icebergs"...a public face and a private face...I find that pretty tiresome...how can you de-personalize or compartmentalize12-14 hours of your work life. I can't...anyway there my friends I give you the excellent concept of "touchy-feely"...trust your gut, practise WYSIWYG and be true to yourself...then life will be sweet all the way...just like my awesome Shakkarparas.
p.s: k2 turned 5...another milestone, and more to come!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Feeling Blue...

Some random scribbles in the notebook on a random sort of a day at a random sort of time:
What do you do when you are feeling blue
Maybe whine, frown or mope,
Or do you sigh, grieve sulk and moan?
Maybe punch a pillow (someone) real hard? 

The sky is blue,
The water is a turquoise blue
My son's room is blue,
What's the color blue got to do with a foul mood?


If you were feeling red would you still be in bed
If you were feeling green would you need some codeine?
If your feeling yellow would you go to the clinic pronto,
Blue I think is -  for jumping in and having fun all day

The past 3 days have been quite miserable, intermittent rain showers, cold and a lack of enthusiasm to do much except listen to Carpenters ...hearing the news about Steve Jobs made it worse :

The world has lost someone who has truly changed the way we live : a visionary, a creative genius...

What do you do when Life throws you a curve ball - you try to catch it aka you try to maintain a semblance of normalcy...so for me that normalcy meant watching - Michael Madana Kamaraj, a hilarious tamil movie from 1990 - the dvd that I fortuitously found lying in a drawer that I was cleaning and who isn't ready for a good mindless laugh at a time like this...K2 is sitting and working on his homework and suddenly he looked up and said - Ma, I am hungry, can we eat something !!!


I rummaged in my overflowing freezer. I picked the Annie Chun - Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons which I pan-fried and steamed and made a dip sauce with low sodium soy sauce, mirin, minced garlic and brown sugar. That is always a sure winner with him (he ate 8).
I also made "Muri-Mixture" -- something I hadn't had in ages but which I associated with good memories - I made it in less than a minute
 
  1. Muri (Puffed Rice)
  2. 2 drops Mustard Oil
  3. Haldi Ram - Navarattan Mixture
  4. Chopped Red Onions (in my fridge)
  5. Thai Red Chilly ( minced - in my fridge)
Put it all in a bowl...mix and enjoy! K2 got a kid friendly version without chillies or red onions. If I was more inclined I would have added some cilantro leaves and some fresh chopped tomatoes. Sending my "Muri Mixture" over to Srivalli's event - Kid's Delight Party

I am almost done with my movie - K2 is done with his homework and I am not so "blue" anymore...yet there is a sense of poignancy...a sadness that won't go away today and I am ok with it remaining : RIP Steve. You sure rocked my son's world with the ipad2 !!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Snack Attack...

Are you a harried mother who has to plan balanced, nutritious snacks for your toddler every morning? I know I am -- and yes, forgive me for I have sinned...I don't prepare a snack from scratch - instead I look to the grocery aisle and Amazon for support and inspiration when it comes to packing my son's snack.

Here are some of my snack options :

Dairy : Babybell Cheese, Organic Valley/365 String Cheese, Gogurt
Beverage :  Water in a stainless steel water bottle, SO Coconut Milk,  Juicy Juice ( the small 4 oz cartons),Low Fat Chocolate Milk
Produce : Apples (Baby Apples or lunch box sized apples), Carrots (rarely - I usually need to monitor the intake), Organic Grapes, Organic Strawberries
Snacks : Revolution Foods Mash-Ups, Revolution Foods Sammy Jammies, Kashi TLC Bars, Cliff Kids Bars, Cliff Kids Fruit Strips, Ritz Handi Snacks, Terra Chips, Nature's Bakery Fig Bars, Nilla Wafers (Reduced Fat - My son's absolute favorite from pre-school), Pirates Booty, Fig Newton - Apple Crisps, snack bags of nuts - almonds and walnuts.
Prepared Meals : Half a Sandwich with Maranatha Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter

Hope this gives you some snack ideas for school...
For the past few weeks I have been making healthy smoothies every morning with a flat of organic berries that I picked up from the Farmer's Market - I keep it a little different every morning...here's how I made the smoothie today and I call it the Berry Surprise Smoothie. The surprise being the black grapes and plums which add another layer of  flavor and the enriched soymilk which makes it  silky and luscious...Enjoy !!!
  • 4 oz of Strawberries ( 6-7 big ones)
  • 2 Oz of Black Seedless Grapes (about 6)
  • 1 Black Plum
  • 3 Oz of Wildwood Probiotic Soy Milk
Blend in Magic Bullet. Add Honey or Agave Nectar if you want it sweeter. I enjoyed it without any added sugar. This recipe goes out to Smitha @ Smitha's Spicy Flavors who is hosting the event  Healing Foods : Berries, a series  which was concepted by Siri.

Have you been taking care of yourself lately?
ps: my pictures are usually taken with the camera on my phone...so if it is blurry, my apologies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Que Sera Sera...

IMs are chatty...informational, work-oriented...for me never a medium that leaves me with something  profound to think about...yet yesterday B told me via IM - You are dealt the cards you are dealt and you learn to play...Something to think about right. So I refused to be that Joe...some guy in the cartoons from the 1940s with a perpetual cloud over his head.
I grabbed K2 and we did his homework - yes we added a little bling (not called for but oh! so enjoyed) with glitter glue and we had so much fun doing it -- it is something called a friendship quilt (who would have thunk this mom got creative...hey if I see you sniggering quit it...this is someone who couldn't draw a straight line). When we were all done and K1 got home, I wore my dancing shoes and went to a zumba class -- some me time, lots of sweating...and I felt better.

And today...I focused on soul food...if you asked me what is the one thing I "yearn" for in all things food...it is not Dalma or Kosha Mangsho or Rosgulla...I know...I know...I am betraying my north-eastern heritage....what I crave for is : Mor Kuzhambu and Kothavarakai Poriyal ( kadi and guvar subzi with a south indian twist).

And guess what...I made it today and savored every bite of  food in my bowl ( V- thanks for being patient during my recipe check-in, it turned out fabulous !!!). Life is slowly looking up...of course it is not perfect...it never will be, I don't have answers and maybe I never will. and I am ok with it...Que sera, sera.Whatever will be, will be.The future's not ours to see.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The ticking timebomb...

I am generally not a person prone to fears about death and disease and usually believe that there is order and balance in the way that life moves around us. Three distinct events have shaken this belief of mine in a period of three years - Cancer  hit  close home twice, reaching straight for my heart and mind, pulling out ruthlessly all the emotions and fears and creating a writhing cauldron of negative feelings inside me , shaking me to the core...if I thought I was strong, it proved to me that I was weak. Yesterday,we spent time with R&M and I revisited the story of a young mother who lost the battle to cancer, her young child was not even 2 years - there is no justification in your head for such a happening.

Is our body really a ticking time bomb? Am I  being extremely morbid when I say that it almost feels like the immigration office where every single one of us has a number and it is just a matter of when it is called out...does it really matter - all the treating yourself right emotionally, spiritually and physically? Life has left me with a series of questions that - I don't have the answers to yet ...I read a beautiful poem by someone called Crystal (a cancer survivor), it was almost as if she had snatched the words out of my mind...

 Hope

Its Magic & Its Free
Its not in a prescription
Its not in a IV

It punctuates out laughter
It Sparkles in our tears
It simmers under sorrows
and dissipates our fears

Do you know what hope is?
Its reaching past today
Its dreaming of tomorrow

Its trying a new way
Its Questioning All the Answers
And always seeking more"


Hope your weekend has been relaxed and not too introspective as mine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thinking outside the box

My father shared with me yesterday an insightful presentation on the "10 Rules to Success" - of course how each one of us defines success differs dramatically. If you are interested in getting plugged into the "How To" go here . Couple things that resonated are -
  • Be Decisive
  • Be Focused
  • Plan Thoroughly
  • Take Purposeful Action
  • Welcome Failure ( Failure teaches you how to be prepared for success)
Today was a day for "thinking out of the box" in the kitchen. With the economic downturn, a lot of people are having to tighten their purse strings, the first thing to get impacted is grocery budgets and eating healthy...my food budget hasn't increased (might have actually decreased) in the past 4-5 years, however we have shifted 80% of our produce shopping to Farmer's Markets (Local, Pesticide Free or Organic),Organic Wheat and Whole grains, Organic Milk and Yogurt...I  buy seasonal produce, I shop sales and it is interesting how much the economic situation is making grocery stores like Whole Foods offer excellent values (For eg. Organic Multigrain Bread at Whole Foods is $1.99, Organic Milk 1 Gallon is $5.99). You just need to watch out for the deals vs. the rip-offs and of course be savvy with the Whole Deal Coupons.


This week I picked up a couple of cartons of Almond Milk and two pounds of Organic Carrots and with that simple duo I recreated a delectable Carrot Halwa which is traditionally made like this -



My recipe however was as simple as these 4 ingredients -
  1. Coconut Oil - 1 tsp
  2. 2 pounds of Organic Carrots - grated
  3. 1 carton of Almond Milk (vanilla, sweetened)
  4. 4-5 Strands of Saffron, Toasted Almonds (optional)

Take a saute pan and heat the oil, add the grated carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the Almond Milk (and then it is a labor of love)...cook on slow flame for about an hour till the mixture solidifies. Add the saffron strands soaked in warm almond milk and stir for a minute or two. Add toasted almonds if you so wish ( I roasted a few raw almonds in the microwave and rough chopped and added it to the halwa)...enjoy slightly warmed with a cup of cardamom chai.
I won't rave over the health benefits of this vegan carrot halwa (1/3 fat, 1/2 sugar of regular halwa) but more importantly this recipe had me stretching into territories unknown....success was not guaranteed, failure very much a plausible outcome...yet the desire to stretch myself in the kitchen the driving factor...Have you been thinking out of the box lately?
This recipe goes to Anu's Healthy Kitchen where she is hosting the event : Cook.Eat.Desserts : Almonds. This event is the brainchild of Raven, a native of the Food Lover's Dream San Francisco whose blog you can read here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Show some heart...

I am not a morning person, neither am I one of those "breakfast" people. K2 unfortunately is like me...sunny temperament most of the time but a grouch in the mornings...it is painful to get him to drink his bottle of pediasure before leaving for Kindergarten.K1 however is a morning aka breakfast person...from the breakfast aisles in the grocery stores ( Think Honey and Oats Cluster), to huge cartons of breakfast bars from Costco (think Kashi, Fiber One)  to the muesli from the bulk section at Whole Foods, to pancakes and eggs (omelette's are pretty much all he cooks) he goes through it all.
Seeing his avid appreciation for all things Muesli and the fact that we paid close to $7-9/lb for it,  I did a little bit of research on it -
  1. Muesli is a popular breakfast cereal based on uncooked rolled oats, dried fruit and nuts.
  2. It was developed around 1900 by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital.
  3. It can be had hot or cold, primarily for breakfast and in some countries as a light dinner.
  4. Health Benefits
    1. All Around Nutrition -Eating muesli at breakfast will enhance your energy, and also help you to maintain high concentration levels throughout the day  
    2. Fulfills the daily fiber requirement- helps in lowering the blood cholesterol level. The soluble fiber (beta-glucans) in muesli helps in avoiding dramatic changes in blood sugar level.
    3. Aids weight loss - Complex Carbs are harder to digest making us feel full longer and also speed up metabolism
    4. Reduce risk of cancer - Oats, nuts and seeds, when added to Muesli, contribute plenty of phytochemical agents called lignans and antioxidants which decreases the risk of problems like breast cancer, prostate and ovarian cancer. 
    5. Prevents heart diseases -The presence of manganese in muesli along with low saturated fats keeps your heart safe. The nuts bring to the table the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and essential omega-3 fatty acids.
 Guess what I did next - I rolled up my sleeves and ended up making some muesli (really good stuff if I can say so myself). I used
  • 2 parts rolled oats
  • 1 part Barley Flakes 
  • 1 part nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios)
  • 1 part Dried Fruits (blueberries, cranberries, golden raisins). In a large mixing bowl I mixed all the above ingredients along with 2 tablespoons of  organic turbinado sugar. I made about 3 pounds of muesli for roughly $10.
p.s - I had Muesli this morning with some greek yogurt and honey and it tasted great.Have you done something good for your heart lately?

Sending this muesli recipe out to Tickling Palates  for the  Let’s Cook Series #7 ~ Scrumptious Breakfasts


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Not So Perfect Day...

Sleepless at 2.00 AM in the night, sinus congestion, howling mutt, whining kid and endless errands around the house all culminated into a splitting headache and a snappy mommy. However, K2 was a trooper, he worked on his homework for 90 minutes and then we went for a long walk with Jinx where we saw a heron  standing and waiting...we wandered around hoping to see "Charlie" the friendly seal (we didn't) and the day seemed to look up



Dinner was low-key. K2 ate this -
it comes with Nilla Wafers (K2's favorite), Caprisun and Apple Sauce. He got the whole thing minus the drink with a raspberry smoothie. I really wanted to pick up the take-out chinese menu and order out but resisted the impulse and stuck to eating home. To clear up my sinuses I had  an Annie Chun Udon Noodles spiked liberally with Sriracha and my pick-me-up drink of choice was a pink frothy smoothie with fresh raspberries from the farmer's market, unsweetened soy milk and a squeeze of organic Agave Nectar.
Just finished reading the book "Saying Goodbye to Lulu" to K2...he had picked it up last week along with  books on a caterpillar and counting. K2 actually grasped the sentiments behind the story...my voice was all choked up as I finished the story (blame it on the not so perfect day) but as I finished K2 was sobbing for a couple minutes - I think he finally grasped what dying and going away meant. Hugs and kisses later, he is sleeping now...I love the fact that the "Apple System" at K2's school has him all motivated to read new books, he has already read 6 books in the past week...hope your day (and night) has been more perfect than mine :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

To be or Not To Be...



It was a quiet moment tonight as K2 and I were walking Jinx...the full moon was shining softly down and K2 in his super high pitch (wonder where he gets that from ;-) ) asked me...Ma, do you know what I want to be when I grow up? I pretend to think for a minute and say Pilot (ask me for the long version sometime)...then silence for a minute and he asks me - what will you be when you growed up? I think for  a moment and say - K2's mom...I get a puzzled stare and then of course with the propensity of a chronic ADD child moves on to another topic...I think it was monsters.

Brand Identity is a complex thing and it is critical to both individuals and businesses to figure oneself out in one case for peace of mind and for the other profitability,survivability and bottomline. This hit me this weekend as I was visiting my  favorite indian joint - Curry Up Now. I was a little under the weather and nothing that a cup of cardamom chai couldn't cure...but I was stuck by how clear CUN's value proposition was - Indian Street Food. The menu was short, consistent and clear, a few new adds every week (I did a little jig everytime it was goat curry, so much for me going vegetarian)...not confusing and in software terms very WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)...love that !!!
What I have been exposed to is companies that don't know if they want to play to consumers or enterprises while others don't know if they want to sell devices or services...they play the field vs. sharpen the focus.

What I learnt in Kotler almost sixteen years back still stays clear in my head in terms of marketing mantras
(A) Come in Under the Radar - The key to brand-building is to have something good that you roll-out in a very intelligent way. Maybe even invisibly for a while because you want to be under the radar screen of competitors.
(B) Know your customer
(C) Own your branding - know what appeals to your customer, the emotional trigger and play to it
(D) Make it an experience

The critical question to ask is - To Be or Not to Be...

So has your Monday been Manic...I seem to be on a Bollywood roll this past week having watched - 7 Khoon Maaf, Rakta Charitra 2, Break ke Baad, I Hate Luv Storys...still to go - Robot (Enthiran - I have the tamil version), the flat (supposed to be a horror film) and Chalo Delhi

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You Again...

As I was watching "You Again" a proverbial chick flick that I was enjoying with a cup of hot chocolate while the boys were busy washing the cars...there was a sense of dejavu...I remembered those miserable college days where I would enviously eye my nemesis cigarette toting  "D" who possessed a panache and experienced air that I lacked. She was surrounded by a crowd...always sharing gyan with that look of scorn for the likes of me...of course I behaved like it didn't matter but there were times when I wished I was less like me and more like her...time flew by rocket speed and suddenly I was a person who was comfortable in her own skin...yet "D" always remained a distant memory...even today every now and then I glance at the social networking sites and when I find her...I wonder if she is the same scary sort of a person she was :-)

Moving from scary people I knew in the distant past to a warm, caring and wonderful person I had met in my first year in the US, who had made me comfortable and been there when I needed a friend - I met JL after 9 years and it was as much an emotional reunion as a reunion of foodies. We ate at New Canton Restaurant, Straits Cafe, Langkawi,China Village, Moveable Feast and Briannas. It was with a full heart and an even fuller stomach that I bid adieu to JL  and Rishi (her son) on Saturday night. Sunday saw me making a trek after a 10 day hiatus to the Belmont Farmer's market

My picks included over 2 pounds of Okra (Bhindi), 2 bunches of beets, 1 big bunch of Carrots, Red New Potatoes, Baby Brussels Sprouts, Tomatoes, Daikon Radish, 2 Sinqua (Ridgegourd), Sweet Potatoes, Jalapeno, Plums and Champagne Grapes. Nothing cooked yet the plans are grand vegetarian meals including stuffed vegetable parathas for K2 (beets, sweet potatoes and carrots), Dal Palak, Bhindi Fry, Sinqua with Aloo and Postey, Roasted Cauliflower...we will see. Sunday and Monday were super relaxed...on to the next four week days.

To get my son to paint a dinosaur on his hand ( he obstinately refused to get his face painted) I got a beautiful flower painted on my arm...K2 loved his dinosaur...life is all about choices and paths taken and hopefully the path taken is an enjoyable, fulfilling one.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Whole New Mind.

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell,or a hell of Heaven.
                                                                                        ---John Milton, Paradise Lost


I  finished reading the book "A Whole New Mind" last month...truth be told I am not as sold on it as K1 who gave me this book with a solemn "here is the book that made me think". I do agree with some of the concepts outlined by the author- the world has evolved from Agricultural (farmers) to Industrial (factory workers) to Computer (information worker) and is now evolving into a Conceptual Society with focus on Creators and Emphathizers. Daniel Pink, the author talks about three trends that are pointers to this evolution - Abundance (consumers have too many choices), Asia (things are getting outsourced) and Automation ( repeatable things can be done by machines). Basic Premise is that if something can be automated or outsourced then the differentiator is "Human Creativity and Initiative"...I was wondering - if  with Product Management software tools like One Desk , would the  Product Manager become redundant? If you see yourself as a scrum master, bug prioritizer , revenue forecaster or a PRD writer - then you better be ready for software to do your role. However, if you see yourself as a service owner, decision maker, influencer, team builder, creative chief, the adjectives go on....you are in luck - you will survive the conceptual age... 
Pink talks about 6 essential senses
  1. Design - Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
  2. Story - Narrative added to products and services - not just argument. Best of the six senses.
  3. Symphony - Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
  4. Empathy - Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
  5. Play - Bringing humor and light-heartedness to business and products.
  6. Meaning - the purpose is the journey, give meaning to life from inside yourself
As Lao Zu says - A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
Yet to begin that journey, it is key to understand that it is an evolving process, no need to predict the ending, no need to try and write the middle...just look within to see if this journey makes you happy.
And though I am not 100% sold on the book, it did give me a lot of room for thinking and reality be told, it made me feel good about some of the career skills that I believe I have honed over the past decade and a half - a lot of it has to do with creativity and thinking outside the box, Empathy, Humor  and Being able to tell a story...and the author says that the value on these will not get commodotized.
Highlight of the evening was a 100 piece puzzle that K2 completed...his first 100 piece ever.WTG K2 !!!

How is the middle of the week rocking and rolling for you?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Madras Nalla Madras....Two for the price of One...

Anyone who knows me knows of my inordinate love for the city I called home 15 years back, if you are new to this blog, do read this (read it anyways...it is good or so I say)
One of my favorite memories was hearing Ma's stone grinder whir away in the afternoon and then there was the inherent knowledge that for the next couple days our breakfast would be crisp dosas, onion utthapams, egg dosas, spicy adai and other breakfast goodies. She always had a chutney - coconut, onion, kothamali (cilantro) and my absolute favorite the spicy madras chutney as she called it (made with Tomatoes and the tiny spicy chillies found in India...close to thai bird eye), even as a young one I absolutely adored that spicy combination with a crisp, slightly sour and light dosa...my idea of food bliss (ok to be true I am schizophrenic when it comes to food -- so you will see me going raptures over quite a few dishes and different cuisines --for eg. today it was Malay food with JL at my favorite haunt Langkawi).
Given this "shortcut" life that we live today: my dosa, Adai and utthapam batters are Shasta and they come from my friendly neighborhood Indian Store. But my tomato chutney makes up for the shortcut. Try it and I guarantee you will either love it or hate it ...

You Need: for the  mother sauce

  • 6-8 vine ripened tomatoes ( usually picked fresh from the farmer's market)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 Habanero Pepper (I used the orange one)
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • Salt to taste, half spoon of brown sugar
Roast the Tomatoes, rough cut the onion into 4 big parts, Habanero pepper and Garlic (peel the garlic after roasting). I usually drizzle EVOO liberally and sprinkle sea salt and broil.  Keep a close watch or it will burn vs. roast -- in the case of my toaster oven takes me about 7-10 minutes. I prefer to use my smaller toaster oven for these smaller ventures. Take your magic bullet and you can whiz the mixture in your food processor along with brown sugar and the salt to taste. Add a little water to allow the mixture to process easily.

Spicy Madras Chutney
  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 Spring Curry Leaves
  • Hing, Mustard Seeds, 1 tsp Sambhar powder
Heat the Oil,add the hing, then the mustard seeds and the curry leaves and let them sizzle and snap for a bit. Add the "mother sauce". Now add the Sambhar powder and simmer for 5 minutes.
Warning : Habaneros have an intense heat, so if you have a low tolerance for spice use a milder chili OR use twice the amount if you  are insane like things intense.
 Pasta Ala Simple
I usually make double the quantity of the "mother sauce" and it double times as a pasta sauce for me.  Isn't that already a "fusion"...In a pinch of course, I use Trader Joe's Marinara sauce, but this sauce has much more flavor.

  • 1/2 Cup Basil
  • 1/2  Cup Mozarella Cheese
  • 1/4 Packet - TJ's whole wheat sphagetti pasta
  • 2 Cups of Mother Sauce
I sometimes add about 4-5 more crushed roasted garlic to the sauce. Cook the TJ's pasta as per instruction. Drain and then in a big wok/skillet add in the mother sauce and toss in the pasta. Add in the Basil and mozarella cheese. Eat Hot with a side of roasted vegetables.
Note: In this version I have some grilled Brat Hans chicken meatballs and added to the Pasta for some added protiens and used no cheese.

The Pasta Ala Simple recipe goes out to Ramya@ Ramya's Recipe who is hosting her first blog event " Fusion Food : Pasta"


And the Spicy Madras Chutney goes to Reva @ Karasaaram who is guest hosting  the event "Dish it Out : Tomato and Chilli. This event was concepted by Vardhini of Zesty Palette
Who says East can't meet West?
As quoted by an unknown....As long as there's pasta and Chinese food in the world, I'm okay...
And I share the same sentiments. Hope your week is shaping up exciting.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A bowl of rice...

"same old slippers, same old rice,same old glimpse of paradise"
                                                               --William James Lampton

 I prove time and again that I am in heart and stomach a true indian girl by needing my bowl of rice every other day. Of course over time the quantity and type of rice has changed -- the quantity is now minuscule and it is mostly brown basmati rice interspersed with black sticky rice, burmese red rice, jade pearl jasmine rice and parboiled indian rice. Let me clarify - K1 barely eats rice, K2 is slowly developing a liking for rice especially with Dal and Kootu...and cooking the rices above does take a longer time than their white counterpart - so my commitment to this venture is total.
Some fun statistics about rice:
  • There are 120,000 different kinds of rice....only 10% is grown and cultivated commercially and I have only tried about 50 kinds of rice --- 40 of them after I moved to the US
  • China is the largest producer of rice followed by India
  • 75% of the rice is consumed in India and China
  • Rice is the main staple of 50% of the world population and provides about 20% of dietary energy
  • Govinda Bhog is my favorite kind of rice hand's down found in Orissa and Calcutta and the perfect accompaniment for your dalma and aloo postey and begun bhaja...also known as aambe mohur and found in Maharashtra, which I am sure they have with aamti (given that K1 is Marathi I felt like I needed to add that in)
There is nothing as satisfying as sitting down on the table with a hot bowl of rice with ghee and paruppu podi OR the same rice with Dalma poured over it and some bodi chura on the side...my slice of paradise. I have had many a failed experiments with my black sticky rice -- I first tried to make a porridge/stew with the rice and purple cauliflower...my house ended up with a weird smell unique to the cruciferous family and I had to regretfully throw away the gloppy mixture (including my beautiful ruined purple cauliflower). So I leaned heavily on a tried and tested comfort dish - Rice Pudding/Kheer. It was a hit...so when I read up about this event : Food Palette : Black


all I could think of was my wonderful  black rice kheer.

You need :
1 small cup of black rice (soaked overnight)
2 drops of Spice Drops (cardamom)
750 ml 2% Milk ( I sometimes use vanilla SO Coconut Milk - then I skip the cardamom)
Brown Turbinado Sugar (use whatever you normally use or have at home)

Simmer all the ingredients above till the rice is well cooked and the milk has reduced to about half the quantity and the texture is thick and creamy. I don't have a religious order to adding these ingredients, just throw everything into my stock pot and it turns out fabulous. I have in a pinch (only once) pressure cooked the rice and then simmered it for 15 minutes in condensed milk and it tasted yummy.

I have realized in my adventures with food - that there are hits and misses...but mostly what counts is the journey and the spirit with which you take it. So with that thought I hope that you try something new this week...for me it's meeting JL whom I am seeing after 9 years...I am meeting her son R for the first time. Hope you have a wonderful relaxed weekend.