Monday, October 16, 2017

#MeToo

"#metoo - whether it was close at home or outside on that public bus (where the older "gentleman" copped a feel) or at work where you are told "you will get promoted after you come back from maternity" and yet life makes you stronger and more resilient - you take the learning and pass it along to your next generation. You teach your young man to cook, clean and help but more importantly to empathize with and respect women. That for me is true progress" 
#Metoo Campaign - is just a "tip of the iceberg" - 9 out of every woman I have talked to at work or personally has a gender discrimination or harassment (or both) story to share.  There is a monumental amount of work to be done in confronting this climate of  gender discrimination and harrassment—one in which women are belittled and undermined and abused and sometimes pushed out of their industries altogether. But uncovering the colossal scale of the problem and having women speak up is revolutionary in its own right.

In anticipation of  a "bright future" where equality is not just a buzz word but something we consciously add into our psyche AND   Diwali I made one of my favorite desserts with a healthy twist - "Sakkarai Pongal" with a blend of quinoa and brown rice. This recipe is definitely not a #metoo but one of it's kind - easy to make, healthy and an acquired taste (my family loves it!). The ghee used in this recipe was also made in my Instant Pot ( I use Organic Valley  butter).

Here's my quick and easy recipe for Sakkarai Pongal -

 Sakkarai Pongal ( to bright futures)


Ingredients

  1. 1/2 Cup Quinoa/Brown Rice Blend,  1/2 Cup Moong Dal (toasted)
  2. 1/2 Cup Powdered Jaggery ( I used 1/4 cup jaggery and 2 tsp Stevia)
  3. 2 tablespoons ghee ( use more or less, based on your preference)
  4. Cashews and Raisins, Crushed Elaichi Powder (Cardamom)
Method
  1. Put your Instant Pot in Saute Mode -  heat the ghee and fry the cashews and raisins golden brown. Remove and set the fried cashews and raisins aside
  2. Now to the same pan add the toasted quinoa/brown rice blend and moong dal (or this might be a good time to toast it :-) )
  3. Add two and a 1/4 cups of water and set on "Rice Mode" - natural release
  4. When you open your instant pot you will see that the Pongal has a semi-watery consistency. That is perfect !!! I add the powdered jaggery and mix it into this mixture thoroughly ( I don't make the jaggery water mix separately...if you have the time and the inclination please feel free to do that additional step). 
  5. I then add the crushed cardamom powder, raisins and cashews
  6. Enjoy with your family !!!
Happy Diwali!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Troublesome Thursdays!

Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like.                                                                                              --Lemony Snicket
Thursdays are always a drag for me NOT Wednesday...it starts off at a crazy pace for the week - at work, the school lunch run, the hundred other little things that need to be completed. My Thursday started of with a "series of unfortunate events"...the racoons getting into our garbage and having a midnight party...which means you are on your hands and knees picking up garbage first thing in the morning (yeah! yeah! I would rather you picture me in an LBD with perfectly coiffed hair and a moisturized made up face ;-) ), the HOA gardner blowing all the leaves on to my clean porch (what!) and my son losing the binder that had an important paper he had to return to school...an hour into the morning and I am ready to jump into bed and pull the comforter over my head and will the day away...

Then slowly things right themselves out and I have the chai made, a load of laundry running, the son's hot chocolate is on the table, the instant pot did it's magic with my 15 minute sambar on the side and my son's  lunch box was a yes on the checkbox and soon I was off to work and with hours of work down my belt...yup! all is right in my world now and I am ready to face the rest of the day. And while I take a quick walk after lunch, this beautiful view is what I get to see "every single day at work"...so for that I feel #gratitude



I am excited for this week to be over and the next one to begin - I will be attending the GraceHopper Conference in Orlando ( Thanks MC for making this a reality for me :)) and I can't wait to hear all those amazing women in tech share their ideas.

15 Minute Sambar

You need :
  • Chopped Onion (1/2), Chopped Garlic (3-4 Pods), Chopped Tomato (1)
  • Frozen Vegetables Bag from Whole Foods (Carrots, Peas and Beans - 1/2)
  • 1 cup Toor Dal (soaked in hot water)
  • Aachi Sambar Masala (Indian Store)
  • Imli Pichku ( pouch of tamarind )
  • Other items : Turmeric Powder, Hing, Whole Mustard, Curry Leaves, Ghee
Steps :

  1. Turn the IP to Saute Mode -  Add in 1/2 spoon ghee, add the hing, now splutter the mustard seeds and curry leaves. 
  2. Add the Chopped Onions and Garlic and brown it in the instant pot.
  3. Once onions are browned, add the turmeric, aachi sambar powder, chopped tomatoes, frozen veggies and soaked dal. Add 2.5 cups of water, more if you like your sambar a watery consistency
  4. Give it a whirl, add salt to taste and the tamarid paste
  5. High Pressure 7-10 minutes (depending on how mushy you want your sambar - I tend to go longer) - No Release
Once done - enjoy a bowl  by itself, its delicious, my dinner usually is a big bowl of Sambar and a cup of greek yogurt. It's really filling.

Tips & Tricks : 

  1. Double the Quantity and save some for the next day! I always do and it tastes better
  2. Pack Quinoa and Sambar for a quick hot lunch for your kids (add a dollop of ghee, they need it)
  3. Add a cup of Quinoa and an extra cup and half of water - it's an easy version of BesiBelaBhaat


How has your Thursday been going...:)

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.

CHANNA/CHOLEY MASALA




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!