Tuesday, September 16, 2014

5 more minutes, please!

That is a statement I tell my 'Alarm' each morning. 5 more minutes, Please! I need to just laze for 5 more minutes.

Those 5 more minutes do nothing to me, I am not sleeping anymore, I am not resting, I am fitful at best. I am already planning the day, chores, schedules, meetings, strategies when the alarm buzzes.

But there is something so nice about that additional 5 minutes. Isn't it?

Like most people, I wake up cranky; 5 minutes additional or not.

I am trying to adapt. Slightly. I am trying to wake up with the alarm. The alarm buzzes 15 minutes before my older baby wakes up. So those 15 minutes are precious. I get the 'me-time' in the morning, I can brush in peace, start the kids breakfast, prepare the kids lunch, make my coffee and be 'awake' by the time the first one doles out of bed.

In all due fairness, I have been doing it only for 2 weeks plus, the waking up with the alarm bit! But I have seen the slight difference. I am not as stressed anymore. I still am rushed, but not as stressed.

It's slowly coming to a well- oiled machine! And I like it.

It's crazy mad still; I am in hyper multi-tasking mode from 6:15 to 8:15, that's the time it takes me to
Get two kids fed with 'healthy' breakfast
Get two kids ready for school
Cook and Pack Miss V's lunch
Wipe kitchen, pre-prep dinner
Get myself fresh and presentable for work and kids drop off's to school
And oh yes, start Roomba.

Thankfully Sumit and I divvy up the drop off’ s when he is not travelling, he has one kid to drop off, I have the other. So Phew.
By the time I finish the drop off and sit in the bus for office, that's the first 'sigh' of relief.
So I am learning, the 5 minutes of laziness in the mornings somehow throws the schedule off. I am cranky, hasty, rushed and translating the effect to the kids as well.
I am at least 'less cranky'

I'll take that!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Munch Bunch: Burmese Food- Vegetarian Khao Suey

This weekend marked our next cooking adventure in Munch Bunch. We wanted to challenge ourselves and decided that let's do something different: Burmese

Appetizer: Tea Leaf salad
Entree:    Sambusa Kadhi
           Khao Suey
Dessert:   Tapioca Pudding
Drink:     Pineapple, Pomegranate lemonade

My story with Burmese food is simple, there is only one restaurant: Myanmar in Virgina that I have ever eater Burmese food in. I Love it. We used to go there once a week when we lived there if not more. We have seen that restaurant transform from a little 20 people family run to the full-fledged establishment it is today.

So, the attempt for re-creating some of that was so worth it.
I tried the Vegetarian Khao Suey.
Now, this time, my friend reminded me, munch bunch is to try, sometimes fail and sometimes succeed with our attempts. This time my attempt was not as successful.

So I write this recipe, I will include things that I plan on doing differently next time. It was delicious, but I do think it can be tweaked a little to improve.

For Khao Suey-
Coconut Milk: 1 1/2 cans
Onion: 1 medium sized, finely chopped
Garlic: 2 cloves, finely chopped
Ginger: 1/2 inch, finely chopped
Lemon Grass: Root-1, shredded
Chili: 2,finely chopped
Besan(Ground gram flour):  4 tsp
Finely Chopped vegetables: 3 cups (Carrots, Broccoli, Green beans, Peppers, Corn)
Water: Per taste
Fine Rice noodles: 1 packed, cooked per instructions
Olive Oil: 2-3 tsp

Chili powder: 2-3 tsp, add if you like it more spicy
Cumin Powder: 2 tsp
Coriander Powder: 2 tsp
Salt: Per taste

For Toppings-
Garlic -4 cloves, finely sliced
Chili: 3, cut length wise
Onion: 1/2 chopped and fried. I used store bought fried onion
Ginger: 1/2 inch, sliced
Fried Noodles: 1 cup
Spring Onions: 1 cup thinly sliced

Making the Khao Suey-
1. Heat olive oil in a deep pan
2. When heated, add ginger, garlic, chili and sauté
3. Add onion and the spices and stir until translucent
4. Now add lemon grass, Ground gram flour (besan), mix well cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes
5. Take a blender, add the cooked onion paste and the coconut milk. Blend well
6. In the deep pan, sauté the chopped vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Add the blended onion-coconut milk mixture
7. Feel free to add water to make it slightly liquid. Consistency should be like a 'tomato basil bisque'
8. Separately cook the rice noodles per instructions.

Making the toppings:
1. Shallow fry the garlic, chili, ginger all separately.

Assembling/ Serving the Khao Suey
1. Dish the noodles, top with the Khao Suey, add toppings per taste


Things I would do differently next time around:
1. My noodles got overcooked, So when I added to the Khao Suey, it was chunky and did not separate. So next time, as mentioned in the recipe above, I would serve the noodles and top the Khao Suey soup/gravy as a topping on noodles
2. Spice: I realized that the Khao Suey was not as spicy. So add additional chili powder/ finely chopped chili as needed.
3. Since coconut milk is heavy, feel free to reduce the quantity to 1 can if you need it more liquid.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

They are back!

Without much fanfare and happily no crazy stories the kids and hubby are back. And I will be clichéd enough to say, I missed them while they were away and then am super-duper happy that they are all back.
The home is now complete with the two monkeys jumping off couches and the two adults trying to ensure things stay sane. Well at least they stay sane.

The changes, oh the changes.

Let me start with the Chatterbox. Miss V

Well, she is fluent in Hindi. Yes you read that correctly. The ' I am too shy to speak in Hindi' is fluent and has enforces rules around the house: Though shall only speak in Hindi. It's awesome. And yes, I get a punishment if I don’t speak in hindi, last night: Say Dinner in Hindi?? Anyone!
Next, she is more 'why?' 'Yes So' 'I don't care' 'So what?' Yes, my 6 and a half year old is getting to the phase of 'I KNOW EVERYTHING' and "I CAN ARGUE AWAY'.
I have been commanded by one and all to keep clam and endure this and be patient and that this is a phase and it shall pass. So o wise ones, I will listen to you all and TRY to keep a rational head and answer and be patient. Man, I can feel my energy slump already!
But on the positive side. She is full of stories, energy and the craziness that goes with her being back. She was excited to be back in her 'revamped room' Sumit and I spend hours re-arranging furniture, building new ones to have a room ready for an avid reader and a crafty girl. She loves every inch of it.
She is appreciative of all the hard work and is excited to be back in school and her friends. She is helpful and neater in her dealings around the house. She is still the little kid who will come and give you a hug just because, still negotiating her way around the candy, feed her little sister since no other one can get a morsel of food in her, smile and express her opinion.
And as usual the Chatterbox V is more independent and more self-reliant than before. Trust me; they are awesome qualities to have in a little kid.

And now the Little Lady. Miss S.
Interactive, Repeat mode: What we call- Rattu Tota = A parrot, and expressive. Oh man, the expressiveness. You ask her a question and she will be very clear in what she wants: It's a Yes or a vehement head shake saying no. Not just polite, vehement head shake. She is chatty, smile and now is developing a smile that you know, something fishy is coming up next.
For a 20 month old that is crazy. I know, I should resign to the fact that I have two highly opinionated and independent girls.
She is still relaxed, will spend hours playing with her toys. Will come in the middle to check in on you, and then go about back with her toys. It's adorable to see her carry a book, she calls 'boo'. She gets it to you, you read to her, She smiles and keeps 'reading'
The 'shoes' enthrall her. She brings her shoes to you and is ready to go 'bye bye' every single minute of the day. Oh yes, she is a traveler and from what I gather, she was ready with her shoes in India before you thought it.
She is however now a co-sleeper. Hmm. Now this one, this Little Lady never needed any training. She took to crib from Day 1 like her second home. No sleep training, no tantrums no nothing. By 6 months, she was in her room sleeping from 7 to 7. And yes, I am not exaggerating. It was perfect. I have friends who asked, how did you train her, I don’t know, she was just a good sleeper.
So now, I am in land of the unknown.

How do I sleep train an independent, expressive, know what I want 20 month old who thinks I am a toy!

I am taking all suggestions at this point.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quick Food Fix: Mixed Lentil Pancakes

It's always about how quickly can you get from start of putting the meal together to serving to the family. On any given day, I have about 20 minutes, 25 minutes if I am really lucky. With four hungry tummies growling, it better be quick, nutritious and delicious.
My mom's teaching is ingrained in me, 'Everything in life can wait, except food. Must be good, healthy and delicious. 'Oh mom, why o why!
I am a big advocate of cooking fresh for the kids et al. The more I expose the kids to different flavors, cuisines and concoctions, hopefully, easier they will have in life as Vegetarian Foodies like me.

Another addition to my Quick Fix Recipe
Name: Mixed Lentil Pancakes.
Note to self: Be more creative with the names
 Time to prepare: 10 minutes
Time to cook: 10 minutes
Yields: 6-8 medium size pancakes
Onion: 1/2 cup finely chopped
Ginger: 1 tsp finely chopped
Garlic: 1 tsp finely chopped
Chili: Per taste, finely chopped
Millet Flour: 1 1/2 Cup
Gram Flour (Besan): 1/2 Cup
Boiled lentils/Quinoa: 2 cups
Water: Approx 1 cup
 In this recipe: I had used the pre-boiled 'Quinoa, Toor Daal, Moong Daal' from the night before. But feel free to choose your own concoction; any left over lentils will be perfect addition.

Fennel Seeds: 1 tsp
Ajwain/ Carram Seeds: 1 tsp
Jeera: 1/2 tsp
Salt: Per taste
Mirchi: 1 Tsp
Lemon Juice: 1 Tsp

1. Mix all of the above ingredients with a little water to make the batter. It should not be runny, nor should it be too thick.
2. On a heated pan, spread out as you would do pancakes. I used non-stick, so no oil was needed.
3. On Medium flame, cover the pan and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Flip the pancakes, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes
5. Serve with Chaat Masala, Green Chutney/ ketchup

The cooking takes slightly longer, since you have lentils and millet flour both of which have longer cook times, so if you take a larger pan, you can make more at the same time like I did, see picture below.

Now, if you have been following my blog (Yay!), you know I love making Chilla's/ Indian Pancakes a lot for our breakfasts/ quick snacks. This one qualifies as a meal in itself. The lentils are heavier and hence you do tend to get filled up quicker.

So Bon A petit! Enjoy yourself.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Quick Food Fix: Queso De Cabra; Munch Bunch edition

Another munch bunch, another great relaxed evening with friends, another complete spread, another successful food feast.

Munch Bunch is a gathering of four couples who are self-proclaimed foodies and love to attempt making new cuisines and then enjoying the delicious meal over laughter, food and awesome company. We have made Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Greek, Boys cooking evening amongst a few!

This month our theme was 'Spanish Tapas' and we were all excited at making tapas. A friend actually commented, there are so many options, I don’t know what not to make.

The picture speaks a thousand words, this was our spread:

I attempted to make two things, a cold Soup: Gazpacho. Somehow soup and cold does not go well for me, but it being summer and Munch Bunch is all about challenging ourselves, I said, let’s try Gazpacho. The other tapas for me was Queso De Cabra (Baked Goat Cheese). It's my favorite item to order at any Tapas place I go to!
Surprisingly, The Queso De Cabra was very quick to cook and easier to assemble. It qualifies for my 'Quick Food Fix' Needless to say, going forward, it will be a regular in our meals at home.  Quick Food Fix for me, is something that can be put together from start to finish in under 25 minutes and should be substantial, a complete meal. Simple
 Queso De Cabra:
Serves 6
Time to Prep: 5 Minutes, or how quickly can you chop?
Time to Cook: 15 Minutes
Time to bake: 5 Minutes

Tomato: 3 chopped finely/ pureed
Onion: 1: White/Pink finely Chopped
Garlic: 1 clove finely chopped
Butter: 1-2 Tsp
Goat Cheese: 5-6 spoons
Basil: 3-4 tsp dried basil or 2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh basil
Jalapeno: 1 finely chopped
Red Chilli Flakes: Per taste
Salt, Pepper: Per taste
Sour Dough bread: 3-4 slices cut in medium size cubes (any other type of bread will do as well)

1. In a heavy bottom pan, heat butter on medium heat
2. Add Onion and Garlic till translucent and fragrant
3. Add the herbs and sauté for 1-2 minutes
4. Now add the tomato puree and jalapeno
5. On low heat, cover the pan and let the sauce cook for 10-12 minutes
6. The sauce gets thicker, so remember to stir and you know it will be ready when butter floats on top.
7. Taste and adjust seasoning.
You are welcome to add 1-2 tsp. of heavy cream for a more creamy texture

1. In a ramekin/ shallow bake ready pan, put 2-4 cubes of bread
2. Pour the sauce till 3/4 to the top
3. Put 2-3 spoons of goat cheese and bake at 250 F for 4-5 minutes

Serve with bread as a dipping suace/ as a main

Here is the picture of My Queso De Cabra

 And yes, it was as delightful and delicious as it looks, if I can say so myself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Same thing, Different Rules: Mommy Confession

She is 6, and I am well a little over my late twenties(Wink Wink!). But, I am realizing I have different rules for her and for me for the same thing. 
And since she does not know what a blog is, or this space, I will confess. Because I can.

1. Ice Cream: We were on Foster Beach this weekend with some amazing friends walking, laughing, giggling and enjoying the breeze. An ice cream truck comes by. 4 ice creams/ popsicles bought with no second thought. The same truck that my older one pleads to for us to get her an ice cream and we tell her no- Not good water/ milk. Then we take her to the gelato place near our house and get her the ice-cream.
It's not about the ice cream but where she is getting it from. But somehow I feel she would have enjoyed the one from the truck way more. Instant gratification. Same thing, different rules.

2. Bread Crust: I love bread in all forms, shapes and sizes. No discrimination here. My morning breakfast comprises of toast mostly all days. But I-Dont-Like-The-Crust. V, my 6 year old has seen me remove the crust every single day. She asks for the same thing, 'Please remove the crust'. And more often than not, I comply. I understand. But then there are times, when I am like, just eat the crust, its so soft, its so crunchy, its so.. More out of my laziness than anything else. You get the idea Same thing, different rules.

3. Laundry: Like most, when I come home, I need to change out of work war-wear to simple PJ's. And its been a long day, I 'sometimes' leave the clothes on the floor/ bed/ bathroom. And mostly by end of day, its in the basket. Mostly is the word I am stressing on. When my 6 year old comes home from school and changes into her favorite shorts and T-shirts, her school gear is on the floor. Every Day. I nag, I plead, I threaten and then with heavy feet she will 'sometimes' throw them in the laundry basket 2 steps away. But still, I ignore her 'long' day and well make her put the clothes in the laundry basket.
 And the one that is a conversation EVERY single day when she asks : "why do I need to sleep so early?'

4. Sleep time: Hers is 7:30 pm and mine should be 10:00 pm. Ideally. Realistically she is in bed at 7:30 and then sleeps by 8ish. For me, I am in bed by 11ish and sleep by 'have no clue' She says: I am trying, closing my eyes and trying really hard. And she does. Me however, Lie down, see something on i-whatever, read something, see something, read something, yawn, water, snooze and then after tossing and turning sleep. She makes and effort and I don’t 'really' make the effort.

And it's natural. I get that; I can justify both our behaviors.  I can lecture on 'good habits start early', 'practice restraint' but then it contradicts with 'be happy', 'go with the flow'.
You need to let them be kids. But maybe not too much 'kid'
 Urgh, bottom line. Same thing, different rules. We both, the 6 year old and me, a little over my late twenties should follow along the same rules. But we don’t.

Why? Since you see, I am a little over my late twenties and well, she is 6.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A memorable vacation.. for us.

While the kids are enjoying themselves with Grandparents, Mama, Maami, I was left sulking and whining. On any given day you are bone tired by 8 pm, but at 9pm, when you peek in their bedrooms and see them snoozing, its rejuvenating. Kids do that! It's refreshing, makes you count your blessings and yes, get ready for next day at Casa De Chaos.
I digress, Sumit sensed me being home was too painful without the kids, so last minute, we headed to Toronto, Niagara On the Lake and Niagara Falls. 3.5 days of complete bliss, relaxation and well moments when you wish the kids were just with you to snuggle with. And you can't say no when a vacation starts with this!

We booked our hotels an hour before we took on the long drive from Chicago to Toronto. The 8 hours drive became 11.5 hours thanks for July 4th rush. But our drive was beautiful, we chatted, listened to 'our' music, caught up, reminisced and just unwound.
Next day after a scrumptious Indian meal in Brampton, Canada (Come on, you can’t go to Canada and not eat delicious spicy Indian food!).

We headed to Toronto to our fabulous hotel- Shangri-La. What a treat! Sumit had called prior, we entered an upgraded room with a box of chocolates and cake. Just perfect and yes sooo romantic.

This was my first time in Toronto, and I wanted to visit the city, but the room and the hotel was so luxurious, I didn’t want to head out.
After much cajoling, we headed to the Distillery District. It was like time stood still, we lazed out in art galleries admiring very interesting pieces. I participated in a small salsa lesson. Was so much fun, under the Toronto sun. (Poetic, eh?)
We held hands, walked and before the sight of any kids laughing would pinch my heart, Sumit would point to the next interesting art work. With the World Cup scores in background we cheered, shouted and well laughed. A Lot. It reminds me of the countless hours we have spent in the Italian Piazza's- Town Squares!
Tired, we then headed to the 'Dunda's Street' time square. We caught the end of an amazing victory of Brazil. Walked around a little more and with exhausted feet headed back to the hotel. The plan was rest, freshen up and head to the lively night life of the city. Come on, no kids, there is no reason to be indoors at 8pm!
But, a detour to the hotel Jacuzzi, pool and Sauna followed. I have no idea where the 3 hours went by. The cabanas were so inviting after the swim, I read that book I have on my night stand since 2 months. Smile. I think time stood still.
We returned and swore we will be out in 10 minutes. And then I said the famous last words, ‘Let me lie down for 5 minutes” The next I remember was waking up, stumbling across the room to see the time as: 11:15 am. Yes, next morning.
Aaaa! So much so for not calling it  a day at 8 pm! It was such a nice feeling to wake up that late, that refreshed and that hungry.
We then enjoyed the sights and scenes of the lively China Town. Eating lychee and drinking sugarcane juice in the heat was perfect. We then walked some more and headed to the harbor front and spend the next few hours looking at the water, the planes, the cyclers at the AmsterDam Brewery! The wood fire pizza was so delicious, the service impeccable and the ambience, pure bliss.

Time to head to the Falls. We made a quick detour to the Niagara-On-The-Lakes. Such a charming town, walking in the lazy town, having ice cream and enjoying Crepes. I think this was the town my kids would have gone crazy in! In a good way, there was an ice cream shop every 10 steps. I kid you not.
The Niagara Falls are breathtaking as always. Our room overlooked the falls, and with the view, you could gaze out for hours. Which I did while Sumit tried his luck at the casino!
We walked and talked on the Falls Ave Strip, enjoyed the liveliness in contrast to the relaxed walks in Distillery.
Next morning, we swore, we will wake up when we wake up. A 11:15 am call woke us up from the slumber. After a heavy meal, we headed to the 'Horn Blower' The Maid of the Mist. It’s my third time at the Falls and I think I will do this Every-Single-Time! It was enjoying the spray of the water, catching the rainbows and just taking it all in!

With heavy hearts and relaxed bones we drove back to Chicago. I think the getaway did us good. The best part, I know the next road trip to do when the kids get back from the Grand Parents.

Note: Picture's are property, please don't use without permission