Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flirting on the Foothills

Covered in a blanket of fog,
As the wind whispers sweet nothings in my ears.
The crisp scent refreshes the senses,
From the stately eucalyptus tree.
A slight shimmer in the air from the raindrops,
The smell of earth envelops the air.
The snow covered peaks resplendent,
Untouched in their beauty...
Am I in love with these foothills...
Or is this a brief interlude, to be replaced again by the random busy life?

My visit to Kalimpong is etched in my mind - so much so that I had written this poem about that visit in 1995. Four days of quietude spent with my parents in beautiful Dak Bunglows ...quiet elegant beautiful buildings from the pre-Independence era with lots of character and sumptuous meals cooked and served by the  attentive messman, trips to the monastery and the vast tea estates, not to forget the flea markets. We never did get to try any of the ghati cuisines which would have exposed me to a multitude of international flavors - Burmese, Bhutanese, Tibetan and Nepali....truth be told even until last week I was a stranger to most of these cuisines...but not anymore. Last week on a relaxed trip away for Thanksgiving I got to try Nepali cuisine twice (in four days).

The food was simplicity ...very close to Oriya /Bengali cuisine yet with difference. The dal was channa dal simply laced with cumin, hing and ghee...there were 2 tarkaris/curry ( one vegetable, one chicken), Mango and Cilantro chutney, Rice and sookhi chapatis...a meal to remember. Do you know what K2 polished off - the Momos...they are very pot-sticker like.
Given K2's intense love for all things pot-stickers and the chilly, foggy weather I have made this quick soup to warm us and ward away the chill...

What you need?
  1. 1 package of Annie Chun Pot Sticker's - with shitake mushrooms
  2. some fresh veggies - I used shredded  carrots, edamame (soy beans), enoki mushrooms and some campari tomatoes ( go with whatever veggies you like that fits into this recipe : bamboo shoots, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc.)
  3. Minced Garlic, Chopped Scallion, 2 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar, 1 tsp Soy Sauce, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  4. Pacific Vegetable Broth
  5. Cilantro to Garnish
  • Combine the Vegetable Broth, Rice Wine Vinegar, Soy Sauce and Minced Garlic and bring to a gentle simmer
  • Add the vegetables and the potstickers
  • Simmer gently for about 5-7 minutes. Add the Chopped Scallions and freshly chopped Cilantro
I didn't add any green chilis to the soup as I was sharing it with my little boy. He slurped up his share, it was the second soup after the cheesy tomato soup that I have seen him enjoy so much. This recipe goes out to Vardhini @ Zesty Palette for her event Dish it Out ( featuring tomatoes and soy) and to Kalyani @ Sizzling Tastebuds for the event "Flavors of China" ( Kalyani is guest hosting Nayna's event).

Hope you got a breather with the "flirt with the foothills in your life" can find them in the most innocuous of places. Life feels like an adventure whether it is one with travelling, the gym, reading, doing homework with my son, food and work...and I am glad I am able to be a part of so many new experiences and drag the 2K's with me...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recipe to Success

Here is an inspiring email forward from my dad -

Success is not a secret. It is a choice that is made over and over again.
Success is not something that can be denied to you.
It is something that you can always choose to accept.
How do you accept success? You accept success by making the effort instead of making excuses.
You accept success by taking responsibility instead of counting on someone else to do it for you.
You accept success by being truthful with others and, just as importantly, with yourself.
You accept success when things get tough, by being positive and innovative
instead of becoming despondent.
You accept success by being who you are and by contributing what you can,
rather than pretending to be someone else.
Every day you can choose either to accept success or to just let it pass you by.
With each thought, each word, each action, choose to accept success
I used to read CK Prahalad's writings : we had his book Competing for the Future as a mandatory read, and it is a book that I  occasionally go back to even today...I loved his key insight :  "Billions of consumers await at the "bottom of the pyramid"

And my dad had the chance to debate with CKP on State and Industry issues...while I was feeling self-important launching (in my mind) cutting edge services...he was running a brings home the point to me :

Success is a state of mind,
Success is a choice made by you,
It doesn't come with dollars, dividends or a title,
It is self-generated....

                                                                                                         ---A Note to Self

On this positive uplifting note and no actual recipes....I hope you have a wonderful Turkey Day...I know I am planning to with the 2K's.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

$550 Dimsum...anyone?

Some days are highs, some days forgettable and others unforgettable for all the wrong family and friends know I am the "nervous driver"...I am usually 5 miles below speed limit, counting at the stop signs and also being sorta kinda tickets or parking violations in 11+ years of driving in California. Yet every time I see a police car -- my heart starts I mean it...really pounding -- I check the odometer, get the point now that K2 sees a cab and he is like - Mama, I think it is a cop car !!!  OK, so this is my long-winded way of justifying why I hate dislike driving into San Francisco. Anyway it was a strange feeling to go to the Indian Consulate for a visa to enter India...but procedures had to be followed and paperwork filled....once the work was done I had this hankering for Dimsum and given that China Town was but a mile away, I gave in to temptation and drove over to Grant...parked at a parking meter - paid up...noted that it said - street cleaning Monday and Wednesday...totally blanked out on the Towaway - 3.00 PM-7.00 PM....yep! you got it...when I came back with 5 bucks worth of dimsum, my Prius had been towed away :-(..breakdown below...lesson learnt...Priceless !!!
Then began the guilt trip, the frog in the throat and the mental whipping...K1 told me to chill and just go out to a yoga class or yoga teacher (God Bless Him !!!)...was saying to the class - We have a tendency to beat ourselves...push ourselves...blame ourselves. Maybe once in a while we need to practise kindness...kindness to ourselves (ahimsa towards self).
So here is my "sort-of" funny story on the $550 Dimsum that I enjoyed...I would have much rather spent that money  here or here...but you roll with the dice.

Here is the Turkey K1 and K2 made for the Family Turkey Project this contribution (you guessed it!) is the bling...the glitter. How is your week shaping up?

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's a man's world...

Talking of addictions...apart from the gym and grocery store I have been addicted to the "good ol' telly" and for the past month or so have been watching "Prime Suspect" (1-7) with Helen Mirren. I was hooked...K1 lost interest somewhere around Episode 2 and to be fair to him, the storyline was slow moving, procedural and focused on the struggles of the female protagonist against the misogyny and sexism of her male colleagues during the investigative process. I watched "The Final Act" and as it ended there was a sadness that I won't have any more episodes to look forward to and a resentment at how it all ends for Jane... who was in most circumstances a police officer first and a woman second - leaving us an impression of a woman dependant on alcohol, who was losing her identity (she was retiring from the job that consumed her life)...broken, lonely, lost....and trying to survive. I try to tell myself things have changed and there has been a lot more progress now since the 20 years back that they first conceived the idea of "Prime Suspect"...but then has it really?
 Last week I was reading  an eye-opening report "Stemming the Tide" by professors at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - the study focused on women in Engineering (but I would put forward that this would broadly apply to  roles in technology companies/start-ups in the Silicon Valley). They found that just one in four women who had left the field reported doing so to spend more time with family. One third left "because they did not like the workplace climate, their boss or the culture," while almost half departed due to "working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement or low salary"....Cultural Stereotypes have women branded as "nice and compassionate" and men as "aggressive and competitive" and if a woman exhibited the latter traits - the behavior is considered inappropriate and presumptuous (Note: I didn't say this the Dept. of Sociology at North Western makes this claim).

Reality is I have never really thought about it being a man's world and have always believed that you focus on the tasks at hand and delivering results and then demand expect the appropriate rewards. I have been exposed to situations where my belief system has been shaken and questioned BUT then again I have been in multiple situation where I have discovered that actions do get rewarded...however for the most part I think what is key is the following : a woman needs to balance her personal goals  with her professional goals and prioritize the must- haves for success. I know that I want to get home  to a kindergartner and I choose to cook dinner for him every night vs. do take-outs. Yes, that means more chores (cooking, grocery, clean-up) but it also gives me a peace of mind and satisfaction that I am making healthy choices for my family. It also makes me more efficient at work because I focus on getting the task at hand completed vs. taking coffee breaks, lunch breaks, walk breaks (all of these principles fly out of the window if there are no tasks on hand :-) )

 Balance in my mind is not a resting place. It requires flexibility, adaptability, strategy, intuition, moving quickly and yet keeping still. Perhaps this balancing act is the ultimate art of the feminine, reflective of our daily quest to juggle family, career and self. So yes, I  understand it is a Man's World  but I choose to play work in it on my own terms. There might come a time in my life when I question my decisions and reprioritize but for goes on...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Easy Come, Easy Go...

As I was going through the warrior poses in the cold, semi-dark studio two days back my eyes were drawn to a sentence written on the wall - "Change begins with self-reflection"...I have been mindlessly driving myself to zumba, aerobics and cardio classes. This has been mainly because I feel like I have let myself fall into a rut (stuck to Yoga for 9 years and not much else).The reality is that it just felt like I was not there 100% in these new classes...the muscle pain was constant...and yet like a mindless zombie, day in and day out I kept going in for yet another hour of the torture which never did deliver...on Tuesday I gave in and went back to a vinyasa yoga class (after about a month) felt felt like I had finally arrived...and I don't really feel so bad about letting go of  some of these gym routines, which  are oh! so! cool and in with the trends yet for me they just don't cut it...George Straits song plays so true here :

"We tried to work it out a hundred times,
Ninety nine it didn't work,
I think it is best that we put it all behind,
Before we wind up getting hurt,
No hard feelings darling, no regrets,
No tears and no broken hearts
Calling it quits, calling off all bets
It just wasn't in the cards"
Easy Come Girl, Easy Go...

My body is still complaining through the planks and my mind refuses the thought of letting my body go upside down...yet every time I sit quietly in the Lotus and reflect on "nothing"...I am glad that Yoga is with me for the long haul. I think Change is great but if we find something that makes us happy...we should hold on to it.

Today seems to be the day of self-reflection and confessions...another semi-dark side of my persona...I absolutely love walking mindlessly down the aisles of Trader Joes and Whole Foods --- checking out all the new things and buying strange stuff that I am clueless what to do with (yet) the bag of  Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour, Barley Malt, Mango Butter, Amaranth...I am sure I will figure it out.  How has the end of fall been treating you...mother nature in our neck of the woods hasn't yet figured out whether to keep it warm or was a wonderful sunny day and I just couldn't resist taking this picture...

I hope you have fun weekend weekend is jampacked with birthdays, baby showers and a 10 pound pumpkin (more on that later :))..

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tentative Parenting : Clouds, Storms and Positive Discipline

I picked up three different editions  of "Positive Discipline" this week - (a) Positive Discipline for Pre-Schoolers (b) Positive Discipline for Working Parents and (c) A-Z of Positive Discipline. I don't know how successful I will be in reading and incorporating the principles of the book into my life but as I say to myself everyday  take"baby steps". K2 is mostly a bright, mentally exhausting engaging and precocious precious  little boy BUT even he has his off-days. His school has a reward system : every child starts the day with a sunshine, they can over time either get a rainbow (if they did something extraordinary) or a cloud (if they did something wrong) or a storm (something really wrong and the parent gets summoned)...K2 in 50 days of school has two rainbow and two clouds and multiple off-days. I love the fact that his teacher Mrs.B lets me know of the off-days (K2 not that much)...he does not want me talking to Mrs. B about him because he knows that he "loses" some privilege on the cloud/off-days days. So here is our conversation from yesterday:
Me: So why was yesterday an off-day K2
K2: Ma, I had my listening ears sleeping and so I didn't listen to Mrs. B
Me : You know that is bad right!
K2 : Yes, but my listening ears are all awake now with you Ma (notice the slight-a-bit brown nosing)
Me : Well, I guess then you can hear clearly that you lose TV  privilege today
K2 : What about the computer?
Me : No
K2: ipad?
Me: No
K2: Leapster
Me: No
K2 (in tears) : What can I do then?
Me: Eat your parathas and work on a puzzle and some drawing homework

 K2 eating dosas on the kitchen counter as his Ma makes them for of his favorite foods is dosas.

More tears and negotiations later....K2 did exactly that. But I fear that my tough love might be psychologically impacting the brat...hence the need for positive reinforcement (the eternal Pavlovian dog)with a book like the above mentioned ...what journeys has parenting been taking you in?

There is an incessant cold filling my is the precursor to winter and the chills and I would trade it in any day for the warm sun...I prefer the warmth and sunshine. Both K2 and I are prone to the winter sniffles, so I am trying to bolster the immunity system with a lot of warm foods (kapha alleviating foods) and chyvanprash for K2...we will see how successful I am with this. Anyway, while I was at the library picking up the parenting books, my eyes fell on another book "Sukham Ayu"and I was hooked. According to Ayurveda, Ayu or life is a synthesis of the body,senses, mind and soul. For there to be positive synergy, there needs to be balance. Balance is delicate and comes with moderation and the recognition of what food goes with one's system and what doesn't...For example - I absolutely adore spicy, heavy "goat curry" but don't have it often (think 2-3 times a year)...the reason being that my tongue rejoices at first taste while my body revolts...there is this heavy sense in the stomach followed by severe heartburn. Unfortunately, even though the head says no, there are times when I give into the temptation knowing the repercussions. The first recipe that I tried from this book was a "soopa" or a "soup"....I made the Vegetable and Lentil Soopa today and that will be our dinner with toasted multigrain bread.
 here is a picture of the soopa pre-blending....check out the beautiful orange hue from the pumpkin.

  1. 2 cups cut pumpkin ( Halloween remnants)
  2. 1 cup Lauki/bottlegourd
  3. 1 cup Cabbage
  4. 1 cup Green Beans
  5. 1/2 Cup of Mung Dal
  6. 1/2 cup finely chopped Onions, 4 cloves of garlic
  7. Ghee, Salt, Pepper 
  • Pressure Cook the first five items
  • Now fry the onions and garlic in a tad bit of ghee
  • Now take the veggies and the sauteed onions and garlic and blend in a blender ( I did it in my magic bullet)
  • Add back to the saucepan and simmer for a minute or two. Add salt ( they recommend rock salt, all I had was sea salt) and pepper to taste. I added toasted cumin powder and cinnamon powder too ( this was not recommended in the book but I felt like it).
  • Sprinkled Fresh Cilantro and enjoy with toasted multi grain bread.
Sending this recipe across to Vardhini  @ Vardhini's Kitchen for the Zesty Palettes Series : Halloween Fiesta and Srivalli of Cooking4allSeasons for the Soups and Salads Mela  and I promise there will be more recipes to come from this book.

The truth my friends is the words of a Al Stewart song that someone had once penned for me - "Nothing that's forced can ever be right, if it doesn't come naturally, leave it"...different context but the words still ring true...if the philosophy of Ayurveda and mostly vegetarian eating sound strange just leave it...