Thursday, June 30, 2011

To Amy with love...

I had an Aha! moment today. I dragged myself out of bed at 5.45 AM to prepare for a call...back to back calls later, I rushed to get my son ready for school - just as I was packing his lunch I realized they had a BBQ at school, so quickly got him to school and went along with my work 5.30 PM I was drained and exhausted and ready to crawl under the blanket  but of course my day was just beginning - I picked up K2, walked the dog, hauled the trash out and came into the house to contemplate dinner. As much as I love cooking was just not the day that I wanted to cook dinner. So for K2 I made a plate of small eats featuring Amy's Kitchen  : Amy's Tomato Bisque (I melted shredded mozzerela cheese on top), Amy's Toaster Cheese Pizza and Blue Horizon's Salmon Sticks (and he talked me into giving him a Yoplait yogurt). I microwaved in less than 2 minutes an Amy's Organic Black Bean Vegetable Burrito (that I topped with a smoking spicy salsa from Mrs.Renfro called Ghost Pepper Salsa). Now I am relaxed in front of the TV watching "Iron Chef" with a hot cuppa "African Nectar"...Life is good !!!

Coming to the Aha! moment - It's ok to not keep pushing myself to perform like a race horse - at work, trying to place a balanced meal on my family's table, trying to stay on top of a growing to do list is ok to take a short cut and create an equally balanced and healthful meal for my family. On days like this when going near the kitchen has a negative "value proposition"...I lean heavily on wonderful Amy, so for that support I will be grateful. So this blog post I dedicate To Amy with love...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Backup Plan

Do you know what a typical Product Manager does -
  1. Creates a kick-ass product road map
  2. Prays hard that all ducks line up
  3. Creates a back-up plan
  4. Creates a back-up plan for the back-up plan
Having spent about a dozen years in product management, I let my tendency to create backup plans at work creep into my personal life too...when we were buying our home, even though we had a solid mortgage broker, I talked to a second mortgage broker and lined up a second approval...and guess what! the first loan fell through and it was the backup plan that came through for us. One thing is obvious though, as much as the idea of planning and over-planning (think financial goals, personal goals, grocery lists, to-do lists, meal plans, etc.) was comforting -- there comes a stage in life when one wants to kick the habit - live for the moment as they say and damn the consequences. We will see how this thought process conceptualizes in my head and actions.

Today was a long and rainy sort of a day and to perk up the sniffling K2 I served him homemade mini-pizza (with Turkey Pastrami and Mozzarella Cheese with a baby carrot in an orange plate to cheer him up for dinner. For myself,  I made a quick broccoli fried rice which will also serve as lunch for K2 the background my mac book was playing Karen Carpenter's Rainy Days and Mondays

Sending out my Easy Broccoli Fried Rice to "Vardhini's Kitchen" for the event  Healthy Lunch Box Ideas : Broccoli and this event was concepted by Kalyani from the blog "Its Not Madrasi"

Truth be told 50% of the time the lunch box comes back half eaten - K2 does not relish his broccoli as much as he does Amy's Toaster Cheese Pizza or the Blue Horizon Salmon sticks  (or sour cream or cup cakes :( )....but hey! I have learnt which are the important battles to fight with a 4 year old and I try to let him have his occasional sugar rushes.

Easy Broccoli Fried Rice

You need :
  1. 1 cup (or two) Cooked Brown Rice (I cheated, I had a carton lying from the Thai take-out)
  2. 1 Head Chopped Broccoli (I use the stems too) - from my local farmer's market
  3. Soft Tofu (add as much or as little as per taste)
  4. Red Onions, Garlic and Ginger (all finely chopped)
  5. Vegetable Oil
  6. Soy Sauce to taste, Rice Wine Vinegar to taste
Add the oil to a wok...when it's shimmering hot - Add in the Onions, Ginger and Garlic (if you want it spicy now is the time to add in your Jalapeno, Serrano, per your taste. I was making this for the kiddo, so I added the Habenaro Hot Sauce from the top later on). When the Onion Garlic and Ginger mixture is cooked through, I added in the chopped brocolli, when it is half way cooked I added in the soft tofu and scrambled it up with the brocolli - the mixture resembles scrambled green eggs :)
Now add in the Brown Rice and season with soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.

This is a kid friendly version and lacks the normal kicked up spices- like an overdose of Sriracha or Sambal...yet in some ways this is a very satisfying one pot meal.

Did you do anything fun this weekend? We saw huge life-size dinosaurs on Saturday that scared K2 speechless...ate Ethiopian food -- it was almost like a race to the last morsel.On Sunday, A left for India and we will miss him but as K2 says but Ma his plans are back and forth (meaning he will be going back and forth between US and India). After we dropped A in the airport, we picked up grilled chicken burgers and a Ham and Cheese Croissant for the little guy and sat by the waters and had an impromptu picnic....the simple pleasures in life are the most memorable what's your backup plan...wait a are smarter than me don't have you?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Come cook with me...

This past week I got from my public library a wonderful book by Miriam Hospodar called "Heaven's Banquet". I have been reading the book quite intently however for me cooking is as much a gut instinct kind of an activity as a cerebral activity. So tomorrow I will venture to make two of my favorite dishes from the book with my own special tweaks. The dishes are the humble Khichidi and themselves simple but when paired with each other - the perfect couple, yin and yang, two peas in a pod...yeah yeah you get the drift. They remind you of home, the comfort of your mother's arms soothing out uncertainity and unrest...warming not just your physical being but filling you with a sort of a mental peace. It is not by chance that these two dishes reign as super stars in Indian Ayurvedic cooking.

Here is my simple and straightforward way of making Khichdi and Kadhi, hope you will walk this journey with me -

For the Khichidi you need
  • 1 cup of Moong Dal (use whatever lentils you have but Moong lovingly dry roasted in a stainless steel container works best)
  • 1 cup of Brown Basmati (or whatever rice you have, try to make a move to unprocessed, whole grain rice and your body will thank you)
  • 1 cup of mixed vegetables ( I will use a cup of frozen peas, carrots and beans mix)
  • Hing, Turmeric powder, Fresh Roasted Cumin powder, Ginger (thinly chopped), clarified butter, fresh chopped cilantro leaves
The steps are simple :-
  1. Wash and soak the rice and lentils in water for an hour
  2. Take your pressure cooker ( if you don't have one use a stainless steel or cast iron pot).
  3. Heat the clarified butter (about a tad bit, I usually use Olive oil but this tastes the best). When it shimmering add the Hing, Turmeric Powder, and the ginger. Cook for about 1/2 a minute 
  4. Add the vegetables and the cumin powder. Cook for a minute and a half. Add the Dal and Rice mixture (soaked). Mix thoroughly. Add Salt to taste
  5. In the pressure cooker let it go about 6 whistles (minimum), if you want a creamier khichidi like I usually do, I let it go another 2 whistles (total of 8 whistles).
  6. Garnish with Cilantro and add Black Pepper and Lemon Juice to taste

For the Kadhi you will need:
1 cup of Yogurt
1.5 cups of water
3 tsp besan (chickpea flour)
1 tsp sugar
Dash of salt
  1. Mix the above in a bowl and keep aside
  2. Heat a pan and add some vegetable/olive oil and temper with hing, mustard and cumin seeds and  5-6 curry leaves ( Tip: I usually buy 1-2 bags from the indian store and microwave them to dry and then they last me 3-6 months in my masala daba). Now add minced ginger, cut green chillies
  3. Once the tempering is sizzling and fragrant add the yogurt mixture and bring to boil. Simmer it for 10-12 minutes until the chickpea flour is cooked.
  4. Garnish with Cilantro
So are you going to cook with me today? Walk the path seldom walked in this fast paced life...yes there is stress right stress that I would not wish on anyone...yet there is a sense in the background of peace to come and every evening that I cook a meal alone in my beautiful kitchen, the sense of equilibrium slowly returns and there is an inner reassurance of good things to come.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On my death bed...

What does one do when one is told that one's time is up - People grow a lot when they realize that there is now an "expiry date" which has been indelibly stamped on their existence, not tangible yet ominous....coming to terms with their mortality, struggling to define the validity of their existence, remembering the good times and more importantly the regrets.I read an interesting article on Yahoo this week by Bronnie, a palliative care giver on the top five death bed regrets people had -
(A) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me : It is so easy to get caught up in the mundaness of life and believe that the mediocrity makes us happy --- I had always had this dream of being a theatre artist…a dream that I gave up before I even tried to see if I would ever be any good at it because I did not want to fail.
(B) I wish I didn't work so hard : More than me this applies to K1. We spend so much of our time in mindless madness, that we lose objectivity and focus on what is really important and it brings a dark cloud over our lives…something is not right with that picture.
(C) I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings – I have always been a “in-the face” sort of a person. If I don’t like you – you will know it, if I like you – you will also know it…I am not shy about expressing my opinions, likes and dislikes. I just hope and wish that my near and dear ones have the courage to get there. Life is too short, say what is on your mind – you will not have yet another regret
(D) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends: If there is one regret I have, it is in being content with just my small little family, leaning too heavily on them for emotional support. There are a few people who have touched my life but they are far in between – I cherish those friendships fondly – yet sometimes I feel like I have let some of those friends slip me by. The classic introvert who reaches within when the tumult outside reaches a crescendo
(E) I wish that I had let myself be happier: There are “times” when I keep telling K1, I am not happy, I am miserable with the circumstances and the state of limbo “ness” that life has pushed me into in the past few months and then he tells me “ Happiness is a choice” – a person or a situation cannot make us happy. We have to choose to be happy. Hey K1 – how about you taking on and implementing your own advise.

Today I make a pact with myself to try to face some of my fears, resolve some of my internal conflicts and choose happiness.
On a bright note I got my first basket of “co-op” grown fruits and vegetables – luscious peaches, bright apricots and grapes. Heirloom tomatoes that begged to be converted into a Caprese salad, crisp cucumbers, a head of cauliflower, beets, bunches of carrots, a bunch of celery --- all organic. All of this wonderful produce will be the main players in my week’s cooking. Dinner for today is : Rice, Daal (Lentil Soup laced with ginger and ground toasted cumin), Aloo Matar  ( Potatoes and peas cooked in a tomato-onion-ginger-cilantro gravy) and Beet Greens ( cooked down in olive oil with garlic and fresh ground pepper). How has your week been shaping up?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

To the Fathers in my Life....

With relationships,
There's one sad truth in life I've found
While journeying this road -
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.
                                      ---A Wise Person

My father and my son's father are two people I take for granted in my life. Two incredible human beings that have taught me so much in life - while my father taught me that life does make you fall, it also makes you rise, treat every adversity with a smile, courage and dignity -- what the father of my son taught me is - it is alright not to be in control all the time, it is OK to let go and enjoy the moment, live in the present.

The love that I feel for these two human beings is immense- however, like the wise person above said - they are also the people I hurt the most with my criticisms, my high expectations and unreasonable demands. The truth of the matter is - without you in my life, I would be incomplete. Thank You for everything.

Happy Father's Day to all the special Fathers in my life (you all know who you are :-) )

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A weekend whizzing by....

A hurried plane ride...

Barely making it to a graduation for the shining star

To a surprise birthday party for a dear friend...

Friday was a wonderful day.
Saturday was relaxed....errands galore
Get the house cleaned, cooking and chores done and grocery shopping done.
Sunday started lazy....a brunch at IHOP, K2 ate this

A trip to the farmers market - basket filled with peaches, plums, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries,quail eggs and 2 mint plants (apple mint, strawberry mint)...
The fair was nearby...Ferris Wheel, fun rides...what an afternoon
K2's evening snack....and then it is "Sleeping Babies" time :-)

Now it almost midnight and I am wondering where the weekend has gone by....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A week of Simple Beginnings...

There is something therapeutic about watching "Chopped"...the intense passion, the rapt attention and the push to get the dishes on the table. I was watching one of the episodes - the one with the Uni (sea urchin) as one of the mystery items -- and it was the first time I was rooting for two contestants - a young woman who was a personal chef and a mother of  twin girls and a  man who was trying to fight out of the shadows of his father who is a great chef in China. Two radically different personalities but both in some ways equally appealing to me.

This week has been quasi busy for me - pouring over documents, scouring for discrepancies, re-reading -- while there is this sense of constant waiting. I get on a plane in the evening today and leave for the "Emerald City" for a short halt (pray for me - that I make it back in time for my son's momentous graduation from pre-k to kindergarten : he has been so zealously preparing his songs for the event -- my heart fills up with pride). I have been  for the past 4 days having the "pranic breakfast" that I revealed to you in my last blog - so out of sheer boredom  changed the routine today. There was a big box of berries - strawberries and blueberries -- that were looking at me accusingly every time I opened the crisper drawer of the fridge. So out came my magic bullet - one big handful of strawberries, one smaller handful of blueberries, 1 small banana, 9 teaspoons of rolled oats, 1 tsp of Agave Nectar and Almond Milk (give it a whir in the magic bullet) and voila! my new and improved - Breakfast on the Run. It took me all of 5 minutes to make and I did not feel hungry for 4 hours afterwards...Go Figure!

K2 just got back his acceptance letter from his school (public) and I think there is an excitement and anticipation  for the new experiences to come... I have already got my son a Diego Lunch Box and Back Pack...(yep! I am his favorite flavor for this week ;-) ).I took K2 to the public library (we do that once or twice a week) for Chuck's last Story time @ 7.00 PM. I was feeling a little sad about Chuck the Children's Librarian retiring after 36 years, he really is the most amazing story teller with his stories, songs, puppets and guitar. K2 and I will miss him...especially his "Y" song.

We also just blocked our vacation for the summer - a 7 day cruise to Alaska. Plans are to take K2 Apple picking this weekend or next depending on inclination and energy.
How is your summer shaping up?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food Sense and a pranic breakfast

My brother hooked me on to the Inner Engineering guru Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev - K1 and I have watched a number of his videos (I re-watched the one on food and quieting the monkey mind). One thing that he had said that has stayed with me is - "The fear is simply because you are not living with life, You are living in your mind." This blog post however is not about fear or the monkey mind but about I will desist from meandering.

Food Sense is listening to your body on what it needs food wise...eating simple and consciously is key to respecting your body and treating it well.  One breakfast habit that we have developed  at home in the past month that we follow religiously  3-4 days in the week is this simple fruity nut porridge that was served as breakfast at an Inner Engineering workshop (my brother generously makes this porridge for us most mornings).

Ingredients (breakfast for 3 adults)
1 handful of Peanut
12-15 Almonds
10 Walnuts
1 big handful of Rolled Oats

Soak all above ingredients overnight. Peel Almonds in the morning (you don't need to peel walnuts and peanuts). Cut 2 medium organic apples, 2 medium or 1 large Banana. Blend in your food processor (in my case magic bullet) with Almond Milk or water to get to the desired porridge like consistency. Add Honey or Jaggery as sweetener if you want it. A satisfying protein filled breakfast is ready for you to consume. Honey is said to have immense positive prana as do the fruits and nuts.

This recipe for a fruity nut porridge goes to Anamika who hosts the blog - Taste Junction for the event "Drive me Nuts". 

As time passes me by I am becoming increasing conscious about the transient nature of life - the key thing I have learnt is to look within for answers. Sadhguru encapsulated it wonderfully below -

The world is trying to do so many things. We’re trying to go to the moon, to Mars, but, fundamentally, I feel the most important thing is human consciousness, the quality of life here. How happy we are here simply depends on how we are within ourselves.

P.S: Picture taken with my Mobile Device - so you know where to direct your compliments and criticisms

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Life Etc.

Life gives me both a cheese pizza and a chocolate cake and I choose to eat both....

Life is a sunny road, or a choppy grey sea and I choose to venture beyond my comfort zone...

Life gives me friends who are old and ...some who are young and I have learnt to cherish them both....

Life lets me ride high one day....and low another and I have learnt to take life in my stride...

Life is every where
Life is fleeting and sometimes eternity
Life is like the road winding...ending...sometimes neverending
A bundle of contradictions and yet so clear,
Life kisses me good night and wakes me gently in the morning...
Real at times and unreal sometimes
Yet like a true friend...never lies
Life Etc....