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'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 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 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 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...


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 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 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 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) 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 is all about choices and paths taken and hopefully the path taken is an enjoyable, fulfilling one.