Sunday, August 29, 2010

Temperatures Rising

What happens when you put a really sick child and a doting mother in the same room…the above mentioned mother plying her young un with OJ, Pediasure, Rice Pudding etc. etc. What you get is a sick mother…over Friday, I felt like death warmed over, a throbbing headache, a really sore throat and a slow fever. I dragged myself to K2’s pre-school, picked him up and took him to the pediatrician…and then crawled into bed with a dose of Tylenol. Superwomen do exist – on Friday I was one…despite the fever and discomfort, I accompanied the 2 K’s to PF Changs for a dinner…K2 loved his “Flied Rice” and K1 was happy with his spicy Dali Chicken…and I was happy for having averted meal planning for Friday.
Came back home and took my temperature 101.5….hmm…I went to bed not a happy camper. Next morning my fever had steadily gone up to 102.something and that was when I called up my MIL (yes, she is the doc) and started on heavy duty antibiotics…fever was steadily rising and almost touching 103…the 2K’s were keeping K1’s cousin from Dallas entertained, while I was in the master bedroom, dozing, hallucinating and having bouts of self pity…all in parts or together. What I did realize was – I am a low maintenance patient…no complaints, no requests…at times I remember K1 coming in and saying – you need to eat something; however, I went with the tenets of Ayurveda for most of the day, no food just warm teas and fruit juices (Bossa Nova). The fever is down to 101 today, slowly and steadily on the path to Getting Better. K1 and I are giving K2, uncomplicated simple meals – lunch today was a Puran Poli ( a flatbread made with yellow lentils and jaggery); Breakfast was a Pediasure and a banana. No plans for the rest of the day except rest up…
I am reading 2 books right now- The Strength Finder 2.0, especially after a lot of urging from K1 who is a huge fan of the book. The second book is called “Hungry Monkey – A food loving father’s quest to raise an adventurous eater”…there is a nagging question in my head -Are you really what you eat or what you read ? What do you think?
I raise my Bossa Nova to temperatures NOT rising…and right now I feel like eating something hot and nourishing and what I want is a bowl of hot Pho Ga or JL’s wonderful Chicken Soup or my mama's cool hand on my warm head....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kicking it up a notch...

Things were hectic over the weekend…but slowly and surely things are almost back to normal. After about three days of soul nourishing Khichidi, my palate was craving something super charged spicy. Given the lack of time, coupled with necessity driving creativity and an almost endless cavern called the “freezer” – I conjured up this master piece. Don’t be fooled by the humble orange color, this sandwich packs a whopping punch. K1 made the comment that – You can sell this Sandwich and make profits on it - and he is not one to make such profound comments about something as mundane as food.
My mother makes a killer Grilled Cheese Sandwich – the secret ingredient was Amul Cheese. I will share that recipe with you soon I promise and that recipe is the basis for this sandwich…but you gotta make this sandwich if you have a hankering for SPICY
The Spiced Up Griller
  • ½ Red Onion – Finely Chopped
  • 1 Habenaro Chile – Finely Chopped
  • Deep Madras Tomato Chutney
  • Habenaro Jack Cheese ( I usually pick up whatever is available at Whole Foods)
  • 4 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread ( I used the TJ’s 100% Whole Wheat sweetened with Honey)
Take a bowl. Mix all the ingredients (except the bread). Sprinkle Salt and Cracked Pepper to taste. Put one sandwich slice on the sandwich grill and pile it up with the filling. Put the next slice of Sandwich on top. Grill for 5 minutes or until the Sandwich has this wonderful smell and a crisp brown look...Killer Sandwich Griller…!!! I am dedicating this sandwich to my colleague “V” who is the first Finn I met who can “spice out” an Indian. I am truly deeply impressed...
To welcome K2 back to the world of solids today, I made him a special porridge of Red Quinoa cooked in Vanilla Almond Milk and brown sugar, laced with blanched almonds and raisins’. On his favorite plate (bright and sunny just like his disposition…) I layered a banana…doled out the porridge on top and frizzed it with Organic Non-Fat Whipped Cream. He ate half of it, though he didn’t seem totally into it for the amount of time it took me to whip it up…
So how are you spicing up your week….?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A bite of the Big Apple & a trip to the ER

Ok…so I have a confession to make. In the almost decade and a half that I have lived in the US, I had never been to New York or the Emergency Room…wait a minute that came out sounding not quite right. But I have averaged about 2-4 hours of sleep in the last week, so if my blog sounds fuzzy today, blame it on the fogginess in my head. Let me rewind…

I was in NY on work this week and yes work was busy but I did get a glimpse of the Empire State Building, Central Park, Time Square and some of Manhattan in the short 2 days that I was there. Food wise, I had some really good meals…my favorite meal was all of ten dollars at a food cart called Halal Cart on 52nd and 6th, right next to the Hotel. I had the Chicken on Rice with a liberal sprinkling of a devilishly spicy red sauce and a mild and creamy white sauce….spectacular (I did get to spend a couple hours with my cousin, saw him after 3 years). I also ate a killer spicy red vegetable curry the next day with some great company and a red quinoa salad for lunch that I am itching to recreate (it had I think red bell peppers, cucumbers and dried cranberries with parsley and lemon juice).

I literally came back home to a sick child. K2 had developed a cough and cold. On Friday I got the call from K2’s preschool that he was running a fever and I needed to pick him up…the long trek late afternoon from the office to K2’s pre-school and the rush to hit the last pediatrician appointment was nerve wracking. Friday evening and Saturday was a blur of repeated cycles of Motrin, Tylenol and Cold Compress (and I can’t forget the antibiotics)…early on Sunday Morning (about 2.00 AM) K2’s fever was almost 105 and my panic mode was on red alert…we rushed K2 to the ER (yes that was my first trip to the ER…) and honestly I was pleasantly surprised at how humane all the doctors and nurses were …they did a battery of blood tests and cooed over how amenable K2 was to the blood draws and exams…finally red eyed and exhausted, we made it back home about 5.00 AM…a couple hours of restless sleep and we are not really out of the woods – K2 still has a high fever but I think we are finally in the “cope” mechanism where we are able to take care of him without me hitting panic button.
For the past 2 days, sustenance wise I went back to my roots for comfort food – the humble Khichidi. I made it twice this weekend and it is seriously a 10 minute effort and one of the most nourishing meals and the most prescribed Ayurvedic meal for nourishment and recovery. Here is one of the Khichidi recipes (of course it was a grab what is in the pantry and cook fast kind of a deal).

Butternut Squash Khichidi
½ Cup of Brown Basmati Rice and (¼Cup of Red Lentils and ¼ cup of Moong Dal) – Soak for ½ hr and rinse and keep aside.
1 Carton (Imagine Organic Butternut Squash Soup – 16 Ounces)
Ghee, Cumin, Hing (Asafoetida) and Turmeric
  1. Heat the Ghee in my pressure cooker (Don’t have a pressure cooker, then make it in your Dutch/soup pot)

  2. Add in a pinch of the Hing, Cumin and Turmeric. When it smells fragrant, I added in fresh chopped garlic and fried it till it carmelized).

  3. Add in the Rice and Dal mixture. Fry till the Rice and Dal mixture smells nutty

  4. Add the soup and additional water depending on how soupy you want the Khichidi.

  5. The consistency totally depends on you. Some people like their Khichidi firm. Personally, I like to make my Khichidi soupy (so I keep it in the pressure cooker longer and I make the proportion of liquid to the rice and lentils 3:1 instead of 2:1).

This meal helped us keep our balance during the over-the top weekend. I know that the next week will be hard but I am ready for it (Dear God – just grant me a couple extra hours of shut eye this week and I will be a happy camper…and please make my little trooper better).

How was your weekend?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cooking for Real

A furrow of concentration around the brow as I focus on caramelizing the onions to perfection, while the pressure cooker startles me with its shrill whistle, the new potatoes roasting in the oven and letting out an amazing aroma…yet it isn’t this harmonious every time…there are times when the tea boils over, the curry just doesn’t taste right and I just got battle scars aka blisters and burn marks galore…the marks of a Chef in Training.
The past 3 months has been a revelation to me…till K2 had his Aunty, his food habits were set – Breakfast was 2 organic fruits stewed and mixed with barley cereal, Parathas (whole wheat flat breads filled with grated broccoli and carrots) or Khichidi (Brown Rice with Moong Dal cooked with zucchini and carrots, a touch of ghee), a dinner of Quinoa and Sweet Potato pudding . The focus was on getting him to eat healthy foods…in the past 3 months all learned food habits have been set aside – K2 gets to experiment with food – Let me give you a rundown of some of his new food experiences in the past 10 days –
  • Duck Foie gras with mini toasts

  • Butter Chicken with Jeera Rice

  • Spiced Kheema Matar (Chicken Mince with Peas) and Rice

  • Flan

  • Rice and Spiced Mexican Black Beans ( with Red Onions and Bell Peppers)

  • Pinto Beans cooked Indian style with Roasted Mushrooms

  • Falafel & Babaganoush

  • Fish Cakes

  • Baked Salmon

  • Healthy Egg Chowmein ( homemade with tons of vegetables)

  • Mac & Cheese (tons of vegetables)

  • Vegetable Frittata
And if I am totally honest with myself, some of the dishes he absolutely adores, the others not so much…for the days when I don’t have the time to cook , I do have healthy alternatives in the fridge and freezer –
  • Amy’s - Cheese and bean Burittos, Vegetable Lasagna, Spinach Pizza

  • Trader Joes - Turkey Bolognese Sauce

  • Aidells – Teriyaki & Pineapple Chicken Meatballs, Chicken and Apple Sausage

  • Alexa’s Sweet Potato Fries

  • Monterey Company – Spinach and Mushroom Tortellini, Tomato and Gorgonzola Pasta Sauce

  • Red Pepper Babaganoush (from Sinbad’s), Sabra’s Pinenut Hummus

  • Scones and Pumpkin Bread ( Beckmann’s)
I just packed and froze a couple lunch boxes for K2 for his lunch box for the week (did I mention I am gone to the Big Apple for next week)…I have roasted some new potatoes, cooked some green Moong beans for K1….now it’s all about Cooking for Real…no longer a whimsical mood based thing but a realization that my cooking is what my family is eating. Life is exciting…
I am looking forward to watching Next Food Network Star today and am hoping Aarti wins…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Redefining Boundaries…

My legs hurt, as do my arms and my so-called nonexistent core…yet there is a sense of satisfaction. Five days of bloody hard yoga (stretching myself to the very edge, bending into a pretzel, holding the warrior while ignoring the burning thighs…). But what did stay from the practice is I am rewriting my own boundaries – while juggling work, taking care of a demanding toddler and cooking healthy meals for my family, I have given up on the constant procrastination that I can’t exercise because there is no time to making the time…and what I have found on this journey is a vibrant enthusiasm for life, a lot more energy and happiness.
I am still that person who tries to live with little – frugal to the point where K1 questions my sanity. I am learning to live on little not because I have to but because I want to...from shopping at the Farmer’s Market for seasonal vegetables and fruits to buying my organics on sale to cooking my meals from scratch. Here is an example which makes my case – I asked my son what he wanted to eat for dinner on Monday evening – he said Mac and cheese mommy…now the nutritionist in me wouldn’t just quickly make a quick cook Mac and cheese for my son …so out comes Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese. I sautéed about equal amounts of vegetable to pasta in lemon infused olive oil and K2 got a semi-gourmet Mac and Cheese ala vegetable bake. I of course had left over Mac and cheese the next day. So when I asked K2 what he wanted for dinner he said Eggs – So was born the idea of Mac Frittata and lo and behold – two wonderfully nutritious and healthy meals for K2 ( did I mention the pasta was whole grain)…for visual stimuli please check the pictures taken with my E72.

I show my roots every time I quote Freud, Maslow or Herzberg BUT Herzberg with his 2-factor theory makes my point for me – there are 2 kinds of factors that motivate/demotivate people – Hygiene Factors (which in my case are basic things like a clean house, an organized closet/pantry/refrigerator, a diminishing to-do list, a well fed and happy family for Personal Needs and my work needs are not very different – good interpersonal working relations, job security, self worth, the list goes on…). However, in the past couple years I have noticed that money is not as big deal as it used to be about a decade ago…nor is it branded clothes, cars, fancy house/appliances (ok here I do have to confess that I have been lusting after a Le Creuset Dutch Pan for about 3 months and my self restraint will crumble and I will probably end up buying it…). In terms of the Motivators which is the other set of important factors in life – I am looking for in my personal life Health, Contentment, Happiness and constant learning…big words I know, but every day I strive to learn, change the little habits that I can change and grow…I won’t say it is easy and I won’t say I succeed every day but I try. In my work life I want to have an impact, I want to help change the way people perceive things and I want to learn and be liked and respected…(I never did say I was self-actualized). Every day of my life is a day I adapt, grow and constantly redefine boundaries…ask me a year back and I would have never been able to say that a Mac & Cheese can morph into a Frittata…but today I know different.

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty eventful. A wonderful dinner on Friday at a fancy Californian French Restaurant (whatever that means) with a 4-course meal of Crab Cakes, Caesar Salad, Grilled King Salmon on a bed of Greek Salad ending on a sweet note of Chocolate Ganache (accompanied by a blackberry mohito). Saturday saw us at a picnic in the zoo with close friends followed by a family style Italian dinner with another set of close friends, celebrating K1’s B’day (I won’t tell you how old he is). Sunday saw me take a trek to the Farmer’s Market – I got from my vegetable guy – Habenaros (a pound), Cherry Tomatoes, Persian Cucumbers, Broccoli, Cauliflower and sweet corn; From the fruit stand – Black and Red Grapes, Juicy White Peaches; from the Egg Ranch – Jumbo Organic Brown Eggs and Quail Eggs (the little guy wanted those) and from Beckmann’s Bakery - Lemon and Currant Scones and Shortbread Cake (tastes divine with fresh berries) – Life is good. Yes, there have been a couple hiccups along the way – what with K2 getting a fever on Monday…but we will survive.
How have you been redefining your boundaries…?