Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Quick Food Fix: Alternate Falafel Sandwich (Slightly Indian Touch!!!)


 It was one of those weekday evenings when things were actually moving well. Kids were picked up on time, Sumit was super busy with work, so he was in his 'Do Not Disturb' mode and well I was 'Craving home cooked food'
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind, friends visiting, implying lots of eating out, me travelling for work, implying Sumit taking charge of the kitchen for kids and then just generally lots out meals out!
Hence I was 'Craving home cooked food'

While the kids played, did homework, I made our delicious home-made pizza's. But I wanted something more, so attempted at 'Falafel'. Here is my older and more 'standard' recipe of the falafel sandwiches. Its with chickpeas, tofu vegetables.
But this evening, I tried something different and it turned out simpler, different and still very delicious

How about we call it: Falafel with an Indian Twist
Ingredients
1. 1 cup soaked Moong (Green Gram)
2. 1/2 cup soaked kala channa (Black Garbanzo)
3. 1 cup zucchini quartered
4. 1/2 cup onion finely chopped
5. 1/4 cup Bajra Atta: Millet Flour
6. 1/4 cup Besan Atta: Chick Pea Four
7. 1 slice of bread for binding
8. Spices: Salt, Black Pepper, Chili

Process:
1. Mix all the ingredients above and blend them in a food processor.
2. Make little Patties, cover in breadcrumbs and shallow fry (On low flame)
3. Turn after 10 minutes to crispen on other side

Assemble the sandwich as you please: Shown in my recipe before!

Making Sandwich
1. Open the pita bread, spread hummus and yogurt,
2. Layer the vegetables,
3. Add the Warm falafel
4. Top with additional yogurt/ add any spicy sauce you like

Advantages: 
Garbanzo and Tofu combination is delicious, but this Moong-Chana combination makes the flavor's slightly nutty and crisper.
Since I am not cooking the mixture and just 'blasting them in the food processor' its just quicker to make.

The most important one: Under my 30-minute rule. Recipe above makes: 10-12 falafel and it took me exactly 27 minutes while I was doing other things, so yay for a Quick Food Fix



Monday, March 21, 2016

Movie Review: Kapoor & Sons


It was a last minute plan for a late night movie show... and it worked out perfectly: We went to see 'Kapoor & Sons'

A very simple story, a very real story, a movie with very raw emotions and above a very simple message that we tend to forget: its family, it may not be perfect at times, it may drive you up the wall at time but it will stand by you no matter what!

Without giving away the twists and the turns of the movie: It’s about a dysfunctional family. A cool dadu, parents with two sons, both writers, one struggling and one published. It is about a dad who 'attempted' his hand at business and things really didn’t work out resulting in a series of bad decisions. It is about a mother who is the rock of the house and still so vulnerable. It's about a 'Mr. Perfect' son and his struggle with maintain the perfect facade and being true to himself. It's about an 'imperfect' son being true to himself but struggling with his family having any confidence in him. It's about a girl who is so bubbly that you want her in your life, but is so complicated that you just want to untangle the world around her and hug her.

It's about us relating to these characters in different ways, it’s about simple jokes we crack in our daily lives and chuckle along. It's funny yet intense. It's definitely 'not commercial' which I loved. Case in point: A scene in the movie was a house party scene which left me reminiscing a few our own college days with no care in the world.

From a review perspective: All I can say is go see it. It might be a movie you could wait to come on DVD/ Online versions. But still you should see it 'properly' aka: See it one stretch with no disturbances.

As usual, Rishi Kapoor was amazing, he was himself at 90. I loved his crude humor and his wisdom transferred in a funny way. This would be the 'Cool Dadu' one would always want.

Alia Bhatt: I see her as this small bundle of potential. She is bubbly with layers of emotions sowed in her. The one scene in which she captures her life with her parents leaves you speechless. You could empathize with her, relate to her and above all feel sorry for her.

Siddhartha Malhotra: hmm, Okay. Definite Eye Candy, but performance wise, it left a lot to be desired. Considering the story was such a strong one. His intense scene of being angry seemed like a 'shouting match' the emotions really didn’t translate well.

Fawad Khan: I want to now go and see all his movies. He, in my mind was the true star of the movie. Such a rock solid performance and of course his chiseled looks helped. But he was cashing in on his performance more than his looks. Amazing!!!

Ratna Pathak, the mother: I love love love this lady. She can do no wrong. Simple. Okay may be, the make up in the movie wanted to make her 'look old' especially the hair. But hey, like I said, this fabulous actor can do no wrong in my mind.

Rajat Kapoor, the father: He is such a person next door quality about him that you could simply see this happening
Supporting Characters: Some very hilarious and some elements were silly but cute. I liked that everything felt very 'normal', no larger than life syndrome. The silliness was never ‘Oh gosh, yet again!’

In all fairness, something that I feel Hindi movies lack is the 'Character Building' and in this movie I think you could relate to all characters and see them as 'complete wholes' explaining their emotions and jest.


Hope you do see the movie and make sure you carry a tissue or two in the movie. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Indo-Chinese Cooking: Kung Pao Noodles

Another gathering, another fabulous munch bunch and another recipe!!

My blog has two distinct genres recently, one about getting fit and the other about recipes... I guess its pretty evident why I need both.

Not such good jokes aside, recently my foodie buddies and we got together for a munch bunch: A gathering of like minded foodies who meet periodically on a pre-decided theme to attempt at cooking different cuisine, styles of cooking for the sole purpose of 'Eating it' and definitely hopefully learning something on the way

Theme this month: Chinese that ended up being Indo-Chinese!

Menu:
Appetizers: Sweat Corn Soup, Chili Paneer
Main Course: Fried Rice with Schezuan gravy
                       Kung Pao Noodles
                       Schezuan Noodles
                      Gobhi Manchurian
                      Manchurian Style: Mushroom stuff with Potatoes
Dessert:         Mango Dofu
                      Strawberry Dofu
Drinks:          Lychee-Ginger
And of course my friends infamous homemade chili oil as a perfect complement to these dishes!!!

I massive spread, hell yeah :-)
We were left content and with a lot of left over which was happily gobbled up the next day by the kids and adults...

Before I share the recipe of the noodles, let me say: Cooking Indo-Chinese is a pain- Just so many vegetables to be julienned and then some to be finely minced and then some to be pureed, its annoying. But oh so worth it!!!

And yes: long Post Alert

Now here is the recipe of the Kung Pao Noodles very hastily devoured by the kids and adults alike!!

Quantity: A lot!! I made this proportion for 8 adults

Vegetables to be Sautee’ d (All Julienned)
1 Cup green cabbage
1/2 cup red cabbage
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup Brussel sprouts
1 cup beans
1/2 cup red/green pepper
1 cup onions
1 cup carrots
2 tsp ginger- minced
2 tsp garlic- minced
3 tsp Oil
1 tsp Vinegar
2 tsp Soy Sauce

Kung Pao Tofu
1 package firm tofu
2 tsp oil
Ready To Eat: Kung Pao Sauce 1 tsp
1 tsp Soy Sauce

Kung Pao Sauce
2 tomato - blended to form a puree
1/2 cup onion, Garlic finely chopped (Minced)
3 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp stoneground mustard
Ready Made Kung Pao Sauce: 3 tsp (Any brand works)

Noodles
Any wheat noodles- this is the one I used this time, was super hit~~
Rice noodles tend to get really sticky, and hard to toss for me!

Toppings & Voila
Crushed Peanuts: 1 cup
Bean Sprouts: 1/2 cup
Shallots: 1/2 cup
Finely chopped cilantro: 1/2 cup
Sesame seeds: 2 tsp
Lemon Wedges

PROCESS: 
To Saute Vegetables
1. In a wok, heat oil and then add onion, garlic, ginger, and Saute till translucent
2. Add all julienne vegetables in no particular order
3. Keep stirring in the wok till all vegetables are slightly tender
4. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and take off the flame.
5. Add 1 tsp of salt/ chili

To make Kung Pao Tofu (Optional)
You are more than welcome to skip 'crisping' of tofu and use it as is, I like the flavored tofu more so went for it
1. Take the tofu out of packaging and leave on paper to dry for 4-5 minutes
2. Meanwhile in a flat pan, heat oil on a medium flame
3. Chop the tofu to desired size, i prefer cubes, and then add to the oil
4. Every 4-5 minutes keep moving the tofu so no side gets burned
5. In about 25-30 minutes, you will have the tofu crisp
Now you can definitely add more oil in the start and shallow fry the tofu to quicken the process, well I was trying to use less oil!
6. Now, in a separate bowl mix the kung pao and the soy sauce and add to tofu and coat evenly.
7. Take off the flame; however let it stay on pan to crispen further

Noodles:
1. Based on package instructions, cook noodles and allow to cool
2. Recommendation: Cook just a little over al dente!

Sauce:
Hey, i warned you, this process is long
Alternatives: Just use the readymade sauce and mix with water, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard!!!
The longer process
1. Heat oil, add the minced onion, garlic.
2. When slightly browned, add the tomato puree
3. On medium flame, let it cook (until the portion becomes half) and the sauce look deep red!
4. Now add the ready made sauce, soy sauce, mustard, salt per taste
5. And my secret ingredient: A little bit of black pepper
6. Let it cook, for another 5-10  minutes

All you have done so far, is cook your noodles, Sautee the vegetables and make the sauce... but for serving your noodles, you cant just mix them!!! You have to stir fry them all together to let it be one uniform taste!

Stir Fry of Noodles
1. In the wok, heat 1-2 tsp of oil, add noodles and toss!
2. I like personally to get my noodles slightly crisp here, but your choice!
3. Add the Sautee vegetables and the sauce
Note: My portions above are to feed a mini village, so I had to do this 7 times!! Yes, I made that much!!
4. Any ways, let is cook and simmer for 5-10 minutes

Dishing it out!!
1. Place warm noodles in the serving dish.
2. Sprinkle all the toppings & Voila!!!!

Your 'True Kung Pao' noodles are ready for consumption!






Note:
Yes the process above is long and tedious, but for everyday cooking feel free to follow this recipe or the simple 'cheat sheet' below
1. All vegetables can even just be chopped in your food processor/ alternatively use any of the readily available frozen stir fry mixes.
2. Tofu can be used as-is or just lightly toasted
3. Sauce can Just using the ready-made sauce and mix with water, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard!!
4. Assembling it all together and munching on it.


Yes, there is a difference in flavor, the long-ish process results in more flavors (Or at least I think so, since I spend 2 hours preparing them!). But on a school evening after a long day at work, I am completely fine with the 'simple' yet delicious noodles!

Monday, February 22, 2016

A little of this... and a little of that!

It is almost the end of February and time as usual seems to be flying, kids are getting cuter and more mature with every passing day. I am sort of keeping it together in the busy work lives and amazing family times.

They do say, time passes quickly when you are having fun. However, to be honest, not all has been fun, work has been crazy stressful, resulting in off-moods at home a la moi. It should be out of sight, out of mind. Somehow work wise, it’s not happening.

Slowly but surely, I am getting to a point of 'Being Stressed about the fact that I should not be stressed!'

On not so good news, I am at a plateau 'Getting Fit' business. On the up side, I am still using my app for tracking my food intake, but on the other side, I am not 'leveraging' the tools.

This implies, on a daily basis, I blow through my calories quickly and the real downer is that my ‘fat intake’ is still higher than ‘Protein’, which has been my biggest failure!

Yes, I continue to blame the delicious Indian snacks we got from our December vacation!

Oh well, the aim of getting to my target weight by my birthday seems a bit far right now. Its only 5 pounds away!!! So close yet so far!

Let me clarify, my 'true target weight' is still a far, however, you know me, I need to take small steps... So by end of Q1, I had a weight in mind and as of today, I am 5 pounds away from it.

I know I still have a month and it’s achievable within a 10% range. Still, since I am not doing anything about it, I am getting to a stage of self-pity!

On happier notes, life has been busy but good. This week, a friend of mine booked me in for a massage and then later this week we are planning to start the yoga classes together. 

We finally visited the MSI, started playing the game ‘Clue’ with my older Miss Chatterbox and playing the ‘Memory Game’ with the Little Lady. 

I have a series of baby sprinkles that I am helping host, implying many smaller babies coming in that I could play with. With the weather warming up, the Evening Park and picnic trips with the kids is 
not that far!


Warmer Weather = Happier Me!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The journey of 'Myfitness pal' continues


Progress: I have documented every morsel of food in my mouth in the app. Yes. I have been +10% of calorie intake, which is well ok I guess. My percentage distribution of food sucked. My FitnessPal recommends 50% carb, 30% Fat, 20% Protein. I have been blowing that for sure, it has been more like 50% carb and 50% fat. So though the calorie intake is farely ok, the kind of food I have been consuming is not that great.

What this means, in plain English is: Since protein is not up to the mark, I get hungry more often and I snack more (read unhealthy snacking) and as you know I can't stay hungry since my crankiness is directly proportional to my hunger, I snack more.

So aim for week 2: Well the obvious, continue tracking progress and then this week, may be increase the protein intake and 'try reducing' the unhealthy fat intake.
Plain and simple. Nothing fancy, nothing out of the world. Increase protein so I stay fuller longer.

Weight Wise: I am at the weight I was before my India trip implying, the weight I gained in India is off. So Yay for small achievements!

What's worked for me this week: Home lunches! I know Sumit laughs now when I say that I will carry food from home! He has been nagging me for years now. But definitely brown bagging lunches has helped. Most importantly for portion control. I still take the Kachori and the Mithai for snacking, but even then knowing the exact intake helps.

I keep coming back to why this model of tracking food in an app works for me: I can eat everything I want. I am foodie and for me to 'diet'is the biggest form of punishment!
So last night at my friends place, I happily ate the pizza and the kidney beans and the Bread Rolls. Knowing that I was still at decent 'balance of food intake'. And I think that's the key for a sustainable model: 'Eat everything, make the right balance and this way you can enjoy food and shed some pounds'



I am hoping to re-start yoga (Re-start after 2 years!!!!) next week, so if anything else, I will strengthen myself. Since I have learned, Yoga does zero for weight loss and wonders for calmness!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ooooh the Jalebi story!



We were in Ahmedabad at Vishala: A theme restaurant with delicious Gujarati food. At dinner, our Little Lady (3 year old) is dancing around and eventually offers Sumit a Jalebi.

Now, if you have been following my Little Lady Chronicles, this one stands out: She loves her mithai and chocolates.

So her sharing 'Jalebi' her favorite Indian dish is a surprise. Sumit, the doting dad that he is, very happily eats it immediately followed by a long 'eeeeeeeeeeew' by my Older chatterbox Miss V.

She says: 'You know what Little Lady did, she licked it, sucked all the sweet stuff out and then offered the half eaten jalebi to you'

Both Sumit and I went 'eeeeeeeeeeew' as the Little Lady chuckled and continued dancing


This my friends is 'the Jalebi story'


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tween in the house!!!


 Miss V, My wonderful 8 year old, here is wishing you a Very Happy Birthday. To continue our 
tradition, here is my annual letter to you:

Miss V, Miss Chatterbox, Miss Know-It-All, My adorable munchkin

You are an amazing and smart kid. I know you know it. Keep up the amazing work and continue being as humble as you are. I get thoroughly impressed at how easily to navigate challenges, be it physical, academic or even personal ones. I love your inquisitiveness and how with a book in your hand you are the happiest. 
You will try all cuisines and attempt the spicy sauces. Your favorite foods this year have been Kutiyonam and White Pullav. Sadly, my daal-baati has fallen off the list.

Babes (I know you hate me calling you that!!!) stay simple. Please, no matter how old you are, how smart you are, your attitude is your true character. And right now, you are awesome: friendly, frank, caring to the point of forgetting about yourself and completely selfless.  Above all you are honest!

I see you with your little sister; you are her fierce advocate, her protector and her role model. I love of how you put her needs ahead of yours. You scold her but if I scold her, you come in the middle and tell me: 'I Got this'.

At time, It's been a tricky relationship we have shared this past year. You are testing your limits and seeing how far you can go and I am adjusting to this newfound 'eye rolls' and 'over-enthusiasm' in you. Luckily for us, these limits have been for simple things like screen time, commanding the menu, giving me 'comments' on my dressing etc. Very simple and manageable stuff. You are adorable when you start your sentences with “I don’t want to sound mean, but this….”

To be honest, It's been tricky mainly for me, since I am not sure of how to react to the eye rolls. I know there have been more times that I have yelled at you for simple things, I guess it's a learning process for me and I know I better learn quickly to continue having this amazing relationship we have.

I love spending time with you, be it crafts, board games, walking on Michigan Avenue (Oh you hate shopping right now!!!) or even just observing you as you sulk over your Kumon or attempt at writing stories. You are getting to be older and wiser now, but you are still so innocent.

A few highlights of this year:
1. You joined the soccer league, your true calling and though the Saturday mornings are crazy, soccer is something you can’t skip no matter what!

2. You cried inconsolably when your Mama (my brother) left after his vacation (It was no longer, see you soon, why cry when someone leaves; that's just silly!)

3. You are teaching me Chess, or rather you keeping asking me to learn and I keep saying no. Glad your papa is playing with you.

4. You danced at three weddings/ engagement parties, Diwali parties and just on the deck with the music on. We love your enthusiasm and self- confidence on stage. Standing in India, with over 800 guests staring at you and being the first to kick off the dance night is not an easy feat! You did it with such elegance and grace.

5. You had your first summer camp and you hated every minute of it. This year you had asked me if you could stay in Chicago and see what all the fuss is about, you didn’t enjoy it at all.

6. Piano: You started the class very enthusiastically, however are not practicing or enjoying it, sadly, just like Kumon I am going to ask you to stick with it!

7. Travel: You loved Dells, visited Door County, toured the Packers stadium, Camped, visited Portland and of course the India trip with the forced stay in Istanbul! You do have wheels on your legs, as soon as we got back, your question was, where next?

I love you, even in those moments when I yell at you. I love your agility, your kid and honest heart, your enthusiasm to know everything, your affection towards science, your caring nature, your not-so-clean room, your looking up to your dad as the strongest and mom as the coolest, your passionate heart!

Honey, grow up, stay the same and remember, like I told you, no matter where you go in life, you know you can count on me and your dad. 

We got you.

Happy 8th birthday love.
XOXO