Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pitru Paksha & the recipe for the mother of all Dals

"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intentions"

Today was the end of "Pitru Paksha" - according to Hindu beliefs, the souls of our three preceding generations reside in Pitru-Loka, which is considered to be a realm between heaven and earth. This realm is led by the god of death, Yama. It is believed that when a person from the next generation dies, the first generation is taken to heaven bringing them closer to God. Only the last three generations in Pitru-Loka are given shradha rites.
According to Hindu scriptures, during the Mahabharata, when Karna died his soul was taken to heaven where he was offered lots of gold and jewels. However, Karna was looking for food to eat and asked Indra, who is considered as the lord of heaven, the reason for serving gold as food. That's when Indra told Karna that he donated gold all his life, but never donated food to his ancestors during Shradh. Realising what Indra claimed, Karna answered that he never knew who his ancestors were, so he couldn't donate anything in their memory. However, Karna was given a chance to amend his mistake and was permitted to return to earth for 15 days, so that he could perform shradh rites and donate food and water in their memory. This 15-day period was then named as Pitru Paksha. It is believed that the more you feed the poor the more it will reach your ancestors and they bless you.
We celebrated Pitru Paksha in our own unique way by offering sandwiches to a few homeless people - don't know how they felt about the sandwiches...but  I felt amazing.

At home my mother made Dalma and offered it to the Gods and our ancestors and after a semi-fasting day I got to eat a HOT steaming bowl of Dalma...some kind of magic that was. Dalma is a dish that is  an quintessential Oriya dish made with lentils.
Dalma : the mother of dal

What you need?
  • Roasted Moong Dal ( 1 cup) - wash and keep soaked in water for 20 minutes
  • Medium Pieces of Cut Vegetables (2-3 cups) : Brinjal/EggPlant, Sweet Potato, Banana, Beans, Cauliflower, Carrot, 
  • 2 Cut Tomatoes
  • Masala - Panch Phoron (Mustard, Kala Jeera, Fennel, Cumin, Fenugreek) , Turmeric, Ginger, Green Chillies, Hing, Jeera, Red Chillies
  • Ghee, Sugar/Salt
Dalma Recipe 
  1. Dry Roast cumin seeds and red chilies and grind to a powder
  2. Turn the Instant Pot to saute mode and add 1 tbsp of ghee, put hing, splutter the panch phoron, crushed ginger and green chillies (add bay leaf optional).
  3. Add the cut vegetables and tomatoes. Then add turmeric, salt 
  4. Add the soaked moong dal
  5. Manual High Pressure 5-7 minutes (no release)
  6. Garnish with the roasted jeera/chilly powder to taste and cilantro (optional).  Squeeze lemon juice and  enjoy with a bowl of quinoa or as I did by itself.
What did you do for Pitru Paksha today?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Don’t turn away, Give today!

“I’ve found the best way of tackling steepish hills is not to look for the top but to focus on my feet”

We are a 12 people strong HeartFit team. Our team has been thinking of innovative ways to get folks to donate to our cause and Rosh on our team has a BRILLIANT idea - he is offering the following
"He will do an amazing caricature of you  for a $25 donation to his heart walk account . Send Rosh  a picture with what activity you would like to associate to the caricature. So he can do a pencil/pen cartoon and deliver it on the day of heart walk.Here is a digital cartoon he has done for reference  on Instagram...and here's one that he did of me today (and yes! I happily donated again to the walk :) )

What do you have to lose? You are donating $25 to a cause to build Heart Health and Stroke Awareness and you have an AMAZING caricature of yourself made by this awesome dude. WIN-WIN !!!

Need more motivation  on why we walk and give- watch the video below -

Please donate to our cause on our Team Page @ HeartFit

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DREAMers United...

                                                 "I had a dream
                      I had a dream that we were ... a generation to behold 

                Writing fires with our words ... Instead of useless smoke that blurs"

I watched a really powerful movie over the weekend - "Hidden Figures", the messages in the movie struck a chord in me - a society that aims to deny opportunity to any of its members shoots itself in the foot. The task is to exhume and examine the struggles of our past, to move beyond hidden hate, find talent wherever it may exist and, together, reach for the stars.

Brings me to current day and the very real problem of the revocation of the DACA by our erstwhile President. Being a first generation immigrant, I understand the hardships firsthand of making a spot for yourself in a new country, slowly settling in and "sort of" fitting in and getting comfortable. My son being born in this country was not his choice but a part of the adult's decision making process....so as I was trying to explain the implications of the revocation of DACA to K2, he exclaimed - but it's not their fault, this is so unfair. If a 10 yr old is able to understand the implications of this action, why is a grown up 71 yr old  who is responsible for the well-being of this entire country not able to make the right choice ...boils down to one thing...he doesn't believe in equal rights for all...almost feels like we are going back a century into the times when it was ok to have segregation between races...

As I ponder these potentially flammable topics on a very hot day ( the Bay Area has been touching 110 degrees in temperature this week...), we cool down with some scrumptious Dahi Vada.

We made yogurt for the first time in the IP :

  1. Phase 1 - Heat the Milk, 2% Organic Milk 1/2 Gallon (make sure vent is in sealing)
  2. Phase 2 - Cool the milk ( ~ 35-40 minutes)
  3. Phase 3 - Add the Starter - I added the Nanak Yogurt, tastes the closest to Indian Dahi
  4. Phase 4 - Set the Dahi - Press the Yogurt button and let the IP  do it's magic
We made a super simple Dahi Vada with "Deep's Vada"...we don't fry in my house...so this is the work-around ;-)

As I enjoyed the Dahi Vadas on a hot day, the words of Martin Luther King rang loud and clear in my mind - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So I am asking myself the question - what am I going to do about it?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bridging the Gender Gap

“Too often women overestimate the risks and underestimate themselves. Only by doing the very things we’re afraid of can we come to realize how little reason we ever had to fear. The only way to build confidence and courage is by acting with it.”

A creature of habit - I got up this morning at 6.45 AM. I jump into the morning "school run" routine. I heat up the water for the morning chai, start the pressure cooker for a choley subzi , heat up my son's AM hot chocolate and start emptying the dishwasher. I am like a "robot on auto-pilot" packing my son's lunch box with snacks and drinks, waiting for the choley to get done so that I can pack it in his thermos. I am done with most of the activities around 7.30 AM and sit down with my cup of chai (after I have poured out a cup for my mother and K1) and my customary handful of peanuts to check on urgent emails that need a quick response. As I was in the middle of a work email, suddenly the pressure cooker whistles and I instruct K2 aka my general boy friday - my son to switch off the pressure cooker and my husband to get a bag of Annie's cookies from the garage. My mother suddenly comments - Come On you are doing nothing...just ordering them around - how do you get your exercise - BollyX? 
That was the proverbial matador waving a red cloth before the bull - of course! I lost it !!! But the reality is this is not just my mother's  (Note : I said mother not MIL) attitude...this is the attitude of most women my mother's generation from our part of the globe - the expectation that a woman/girl should seamlessly don multiple hats while the men can rest and relax (on the merit of the fact that they were born men !!!).  Seriously - if women can't be a support system for women (especially your own mother) who else will be?
Anyway enough said about my gender gap travails and lets talk about the above-mentioned Choley/Channa Masala that is honestly a life-saver in my meal plans because it's so simple.


What you Need?

Bhuna Masala - I make this by the truckload and freeze it ( I make enough to last me 1-2 months). I take a little bit of oil (about 1/2 tsp) and add jeera and turmeric - then I add grated ginger ( 1 huge knob) and garlic ( one entire one) and let it cook with 6 Red Onions till the onions brown, then I add 6 large tomatoes or 8 medium tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes, the more you cook the better the bhuna masala tastes. When it has cooled down a bit I grind the masala in my Blendetec and store in small mason jars in my freezer for use as and when needed. This makes my normal day to day cooking way uncomplicated. And if we are honest here, I am no cooking diva - just someone who loves eating and loves eating healthy. I used the Bhuna Masala from my freezer today.

Choley Masala - I use Roopak's Pindi Chana Masala - I swear by this one - but I am sure you have your favorite brand, go ahead and use that

Canned Organic Garbanzo Beans  (from Trader Joe's) - no preservatives in this only sea-salt. I wash and rinse the chickpeas out to control how much salt goes into the dish.

Ketchup,  Cilantro, Cinnamon Powder (optional)

In your Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot - first Saute the Bhuna Masala (no oil for me) but if you are so inclined with a bit of oil. Use one large table spoon of bhuna masala per can of choley. Then add the Chana Masala - everyone has their formula - I add a large teaspoon per can of Choley. I cook for a while and then add the choley. In the Instant Pot I cook the Choley for 5 minutes high pressure, NR. On the pressure cooker I cook it for 2 whistles, QR. Add salt to taste. I add some ketchup (don't ask me why, it kicks the taste up a notch) and then sprinkle cinnamon  to taste and Cilantro (if I have it).

I usually make 3 cans worth of choley and it lasts us two meals - honestly it tastes better the next day with just a side of toast. I am enjoying a quiet lunch at my desk of Channa Masala and a banana as I write this blog post

I will leave you with the thought that - the way I am countering this gender gap is I am bringing up a boy who appreciates working women, who empathizes with the efforts we put into keeping our work lives & personal lives running smoothly. More importantly I am bringing up a boy who can  COOK a killer Channa Masala.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Soul Soup...

"Each day is an adventure in discovering the meaning of life. It is each little thing that you do that day - whether it be spending time with your irritatingly adorable 10 yr old, bickering over nothing with your husband, catching up with friends, dancing your heart out or just watching that humming bird flirt with the flowers - that holds the key to discovering the meaning of life. I would rather be out enjoying these things than doing too much introspection on the meaning of life. There is always that hot bowl of soup which lets me do some of my soul-searching instantly...."
                                                                                         ---Soul Soup

If you know me you know how much I hate spending too much time in the kitchen...but then you also know how much I love eating which brings me to my dilemma of how do I eat a really awesome meal cooked in < 30 minutes.

The past two weeks have been hard on K2 and me...just the "busyness" of life getting to us and not having K1 around making our familiar routines unfamiliar and we are really trying to make the best of the "pressure cooker situation" - K1's dad is having a major surgery in India today and it has us all on the edge literally. In the kitchen I have stuck to making brain dead easy recipes and last night was not very different - K2 and I had made our trek down to the farmer's market and one of our picks had been organic beets with the beet tops.

I usually make beetroot cutlets (patties) for K2 with the beets and sweet potatoes...I save the beet greens for a soup. Here's a super simple soup recipe for your Instant Pot

What you need:

  • Beet Greens ( 1-2 bunches - cleaned and cut to small pieces)
  • Other vegetables : carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, opo squash (lauki)...anything works. I used a full opo-squash and 2 carrots (mostly because I had it and wanted to add more veggies)
  • 1 cup Red Lentils (Masoor) - soaked for 1 hr
  • 1 container Low Sodium Pacific Foods - Organic Creamy Tomato Soup
  • Secret Weapon : Aachi's Rasam Mix - 1 tbspoon ( find it in your local Indian Store)
  • Chopped Onions, Chopped/Minced Garlic ( 6 cloves)
  • Optional - Coriander Leaves/Cilantro, 1 lemon

What to do

Turn your Instant Pot on Saute....add half a tsp of oil/ghee...I used ghee. Add a pinch of hing, a tsp of turmeric powder and let it sizzle -- then add the garlic and onion and let it sweat for 2-3 minutes till the onion turns brown and smells some kind of awesome. Now add in the Beet Greens, the veggies, the Aachi Rasam Powder and the soaked lentils....cook for another 2 minutes. Now add the entire container of soup and another container of water. Put the Instant Pot on Soup Mode (if it shows 30 minutes reduce to 25 minutes). Now forget your pressure cooker....go watch some TV or read a book.

Once the soup is done, you can do a quick release--- squirt lemon juice, adjust the salt to taste...I usually keep it low in salt and add lots of cilantro...I just love the freshness Cilantro adds to the soup.

Enjoy with crusty garlic bread....some kind of delicious :-)

This  served  my son and me  three soul-warming meals this week!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dil Toh Pagal Hai -A path to making your heart more healthy!

It's ironic that one of my conversations with a colleague was around the fact that with Aging a number of our conversations are around aches & pains, parents getting sick, us getting sick vs. births, engagements and romance gossips.

It was even more ironic that as my husband, my mother-in-law and me were walking around the lake and rejoicing the fact that my MIL had lost 19 lbs in 8 weeks and no longer had knee issues and could walk comfortably for 1 hr (she is 73), we got a panicked call from my sister-in-law...my father-in-law had suffered a massive heart attack (Posterior myocardial infarction with anterior infarction in case you were wondering). My MIL is back in India with my FIL and his condition is stable now and he is in the recovery phase. The reality is even though my FIL walks regularly, he doesn't pay much attention to diet ( he is a diabetic) and my MIL is determined to make a change to that. She asked me to send a diet chart for him and I was working on this a couple hours in the evening and hence my thought - why not share the knowledge and information.
Here are some key things to remember while planning your diet for heart -health 

  1. Focus on Portion Control (we have started eating in salad plates vs. dinner plates)
  2. Eat more vegetables and fruits (especially cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranth and methi greens and high fiber fruits like Apple and Pears...one banana a day is great if you are not a diabetic or on the border line)
  3. Select Whole Grains but limit your whole grain servings to twice a day ( steel cut oats, barley, quinoa and if you absolutely must have rice swap white out for brown)
  4. Limit unhealthy fats (basic thumb rule - say no to red meats, don't eat too much fried food, use ghee in moderation or not at all, we have swapped out whole milk for 2% and limit the amount of dairy, we have more yogurt than milk because it gives us the protein and is probiotic and good for the stomach, we use coconut oil in moderation for cooking - 750 ml lasts  3 people about 6 months in my cooking ( I pressure cook a lot in my Instant Pot) 
  5. Choose low-fat protein sources - Egg Whites, Tofu, Beans & Legumes ( I make a lot of sprouts or beans salads, dals/lentil soups), choose chicken and fish over other fatty meats.
  6. Reduce the sodium in your diet...flavor with lemon, pepper and all the wonderful warm Indian (or non-Indian) spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon etc.
  7. Plan Ahead - make meal plans, diet charts - do your grocery shopping mindfully
  8. Supplement as needed - Fish Oil, Flax Seed Capsules, Garlic Capsules, Red Yeast ( all work for heart health) - what's more important is find out what works for your body!
  9. Have a hurrah - it's OK to get a treat occasionally, you don't have to go cold turkey, treat yourself to foods that you miss once in a while, don't binge on it though
Here's the diet chart I built for my Father-in-Law. Reality is I have kept it easy with a focus on the tenets I have above - lesser carb, more protein and heart healthy foods (flax seeds, green tea, oatmeal, high fiber).

Do ensure that you take a probiotic and give your stomach the time to get used to eating more vegetables and legumes...it might take a couple weeks. Consult your doctor before starting any diet, I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist. My mother-in-law is a practicing doctor and she stuck to my diet plan and believes that it really helped her in the two months that she was here (but then again, she is my MIL and she might be forced to say nice things ;-) )

Try this delicious Chickpea and Coconut Milk Ishtew (non-fat/light coconut milk) - you can make it in your pressure cooker or Instant Pot. If you are in the mood for some meat try this heart-healthy Haleem recipe (again made in my trusty pressure cooker or Instant Pot).

You heart will thank you!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How Sunshine Returned to Joyland?

Cancer in my dictionary is a bad word...it stole away from me my champion, my best friend, my motivator & my role model...my father. So, I have watched cancer from far with trepidation and fear...knowing that it's this evil beast that can strike at any time...When SC walked into my office last week and shared this book with me How Sunshine Returned to Joyland?, I didn't really want to read the book, this is about someone's baby having cancer...could I really deal with it?

The book sat on my night stand a couple days untouched and my 10 yr old attracted by the beautiful artwork asked me if we could read it together. I couldn't chicken out or find an excuse to say No, so we started reading the book.

  • We read it once, he said - Ma, she draws really well. Is she only 6 years old?
  • The second time we read it, he said - so the darkness was this ALL (blood cancer), Ma she is brave. Can you google me her picture?
  • The third time we read it, he said - can I keep the book?  
I feel I am very inadequately attempting to share the emotional journey my son and I made in those three readings of this story about Aparajitta Dutta, this brave 6 year old who fought cancer head-on. The struggles that she  and her parents went through are many, but the reality is that her story is an inspiration for parents across the globe whose brave kids are fighting cancer.

The lessons she teaches simply in her book are lessons we can all find strength in :

  • Dream Big
  • Smile
  • Enjoy the Present
  • The Magic of Happy Thoughts
  • The gift of true friends

Hats-off to her parents who are thinking beyond just their own child and focusing on greater good - funding cancer research for childhood cancer and also setting up a support network for parents whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. All proceeds from the book are going towards St.Jude Children's Research Hospital

If you want to read the book, you can buy it on Amazon here  
If you want to donate to the cause - Brave Kids Fight Cancer you can do so here