Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Breathe and Breathe again

We all lead busy lives whether we accept it or not! We are running from pillar to post be it work, be it kids, be it social activities or be it just for yourself! There is always a plan, an activity, an agenda.

As a list maker, trust me I know.

The one time when I don’t have an agenda is a holiday, I can spend hours on a book, on a beach, on a hike or sleeping in. But I digress!

On Columbus Day which luckily for Sumit and me, we both have a day off, and I had an agenda for the day, well I should say we did have an agenda: Errands which never get done otherwise, pending projects which need a little more than just nudging. With the kids busy with their school and playdates, we actually had time to run the errands without distractions.

We started the day off on schedule and being in PJ's on a Monday morning, it felt good especially since I volunteered (aka bullied) Sumit to drop off the kids to their stuff!

We got a few things done around the house and I was a lady on a mission: On to the next topic. But by the time afternoon rolled around, Sumit got on a- “can’t we just stay home and watch a movie mode”. And the logical part of my brain was like, “Nope, got to go,” and then I dont know what it was... 
whether it was him just looking exhausted and me realizing, man, he does not get this down time. At all.  
.....I dont know if it was, Miss V returning from her play date and snuggling next to me on the bed, or .....if it was, just the laziness in me creeping up and a voice in my head saying: Breathe and breathe again!

We stayed in, saw two movies back to back, picked up the second kid from school and then enjoyed a long family dinner! Our date night was overruled and instead we spend the night watching some pictures, some videos and enjoying a warm apple pie made from our weekend outing of apple farm!

So yes, I didn’t check off my list of "to do's". We accomplished only 30% of what we wanted to get done! But still, with a heavy heart I say: Sumit you were right.... by your 'cant we just stay home and watch a movie'... I actually remembered to breathe.


Of course the apple pie's helped!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Thai Green Curry in Instant pot

With school back in action, weeknights are back to being crowded and busy and also, we are all super hungry by the time we get in!!

So, Instant Pot,  is back in action! The kids needs a variety of food and I want it healthy, yummy and above all: quick!
Our amazing BBQ evenings, park strolls or just going with the flow.....are missing! aah Summer, I miss you.

So a weeknight, we come home.  I ship the kids off for a long shower (trust me I could smell them from a mile away) and while they showering, I made a Thai Green Curry and Rice.
Kids come out smelling divine and I am partial, but I still think the Thai Green Curry was smelling better

Instant Pot: Thai Green Curry: Serves 4 super hungry people!
Cooking Time: 15-18 minutes (Start to finish!) and hence it definitely qualifies for  my Quick Food Fix mantra and is definitely not the same Old Same Old!

Ingredients for curry: 
1. Store bought Thai Green Curry paste: 4-5 tsp.
2. One can coconut milk
3. Vegetables: Chopped chunky monkey style
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
One Onion
3-4 medium tomatoes
8-10 baby carrots
8-10 green beans
1 bell pepper

Oh and I wish I had Super Firm Tofu! But that night, we didnt have any!

Process
1. Put Sautee mode in the IP
2. Add ginger, garlic, onion and the thai green paste and mix.
3. Once fragrant (2-3 minutes) add all the chopped vegetables and sautee for 3-4 minutes
4. Now add the can of coconut milk and 1/4 cup water
5. Add salt per taste, mix.
6. Close the IP and set to Manual, High Pressure Mode for 5 minuttes
7. Garnish with chopped cilantro!

Ta Da: Your Thai Green Curry is ready and enjoy with cooked rice

Comments: 
1. The Green Curry Paste can also be made at home, but I generally stock the Vegetarian pastes readily available in Whole Foods/ Trader Joes. And yes can also substitute with Red Curry Paste
2. Coconut milk is healthy, and no please dont skimp on using half a can (I have done it and the end product is not just the same)
3. Rice: Regular cooked rice is great, while everything was getting cooked in IP, I prepared rice on regular gas.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

If this continues, I will become my mother!


Which is definitely not a bad thing, but still. Man!
So here is the new thing I am doing- Making yogurt at home: Yep bye bye to the store bought convenience and always running out of yogurt! I have started making yogurt in my Instant Pot.

Its a two step process and it is very simple(again I cant believe I am saying this, but it really is)

1. Boil the milk in IP (It has a Yogurt/ Boil Setting), After boiling, let the milk cool for 10 minutes
2. Add the yogurt starter and then set it in IP in Yogurt mode for 9 hours and next am, tada, delicious home made yogurt is ready.

Keep in fridge and enjoy! Please note, we cook a lot with yogurt and hence it really does not last more than 2-3 days, so I cannot honestly comment on home made yogurt's 'Shelf life'

A few pointers: 
1. Milk: I use full fat milk since the yogurt comes off more creamy!
2. Starter: I used an organic greek yogurt starter, got one of those smaller boxes and then for future, I just save some yogurt for the next batch!
3. Boiling milk: Yes you can use microwave to boil milk for 4-5 minutes instead of IP
4. Home made yogurt tastes great and I dont know if its better than store bought! i just like showing off: 'Oh, I make my yogurt at home now'


My older kiddo, the Chatterbox is not a sweet tooth, she will not crave any of the sweet stuff! With trial and error, the one dessert she will eat is 'Srikhand' and now every other morning, i make it for her. Why you ask, its SUPER SIMPLE!

Serves: 2 greedy kids, a bowl each!
Process
1. In a cheese cloth, put 5 big spoons of yogurt and let it hang overnight to let the water drain out
2. Next morning, place the hung yogurt in a dish and add 5-6 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of cardamom, some kesar, slices almonds and pistachio
3. Fold and fluff and keep in the refrigerator.
4. Enjoy the creamy 'Srikhand' with the kids after a long day at school

Now: Hanging the curd is optional, I like it since it makes my Srikhand more 'thicker', if you skip step 1, its okay, your srikhand will be a little watery, which is fine.

Also Now: Yes after step 2, you can serve immediately, but I like a 'cooler srikhand' and the kesar leaves golden streaks of richness through the day!

So yes, two recipes in one blog post and all about cooking and how simple it is and preaching you should do it...well I am turning into my mother!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Hosting a Vegetarian BBQ Party

Summer has ended, luckily for us in Chicago, the weather is still awesome. And that’s not something that we say often! This summer, we grilled and grilled a lot! With time I learned that hosting a BBQ party is very different from regular ones!

Here are a few tips that helped us host grilling evenings at a frequency of two per week :-)

Be safe: Ensure to instruct the kids to be away from the grill when you are cooking. We generally keep some games (Ring toss/ bean bag throw/ water guns) at the other end of the deck. It keeps them entertained and I am not stressed.
Imagine a triangle. Grill being on one corner, the kids activities on the other and the drinks on the third corner. This layout helps keep the party flowing well, kids away from hot grills and drinks cooler!

Planning:
Menu: Have a broad idea of what you are grilling. Raid the produce section and be well stocked! For a vegetarian grilling event, have 2 mains which are heavy and then a lot of accompaniments to go along with it.

Food Prep & Cooking:
- Appliances: Apron, Gloves, Grill cooking utensils, grill mats and foil! Be always safe and these are one time expenses and totally worth it!
- In our house, I prep/ marinate and Sumit grills. Admist the coversations and relaxing, he tends to forgets that food is still on the grill and then I jump into the rescue (You see how I slid that in)
- One thing I recommend is 1-2 things at a time! Start with the lighter items, one at a time and then progress. I have realised with time, though you may have 6-8 items ready to be grilled, your party will always be more relaxed on the deck!So just taking is slow and cooking 1-2 things at a time is highly recommended. This way everyone including you gets to enjoy the weather, the conversations and the food!
- We grill in a 'sequence' defined by increasing order of flavours and cooking time. Implying things that grill quickly go first! Simple reason, at the onset you are hungrier and food should come in quickly, as the evening progresses you and your friends would enjoy the breaks in food!



Drinks:
I highly recommend a main cool drink, be it sangria, a punch, jal jeera. It just makes me feel nice to pour cold jal jeera then opening a can of La Croix, I am just saying!
Keep a mini cooler/ Ice box ready and stocked with the group favorites. Have a variety of cans/ bottles ready for serving!
I have learned over time and now attached a bottle opener to my cooler, this way I am not scrambling for this essential item

Water: I prefer just having jars/ reusable bottles ready with water and ice! We as a family have been trying to avoid plastic bottles and considering we host a lot of friends over BBQ, having the reusable bottles is ideal (and cheaper!)

Condiments:
I have a tray ready with my essentials: Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes, Lemon Wedges, Hot Sauce, Ketchup, Chaat Masala etc. and definitely a knife!
Of course there are edits to these based on the menu for the evening.

Serve Ware:
- Food Prep: If you use skewers, pre-soak. i generally avoid them. I use  glass containers for the marinated vegetables and then use the same ones for serving after grilling. (Read less clean up time for Sumit!)
- If your space allows a a table where you keep the marinated food and then eventually the grilled food. I line up the marinated food in the order that Sumit will grill (Read FIFO- First in First out), makes it so much easier
- Have ample serving spoons, forks etc handy... you do go through them very quickly!
- Keep paper plates, bowls, napkins, flatware ready. I highly recommend using the paper dishes, since you will be grilling a variety of things and walking and chatting around! (Read less clean up time for Sumit!)
- Thrash Can: A MUST. keep it lined, empty and ready to go. If you recycle (which you must), keep a double bagged paper bag ready!
(Read less clean up time for Sumit!)


Pot Luck/ Grilling:
- Most of my grilling gatherings have been with dear friends over and I enjoy the cooking process, so I tell them, please come and enjoy!
But if you are hosting a larger party, keep it simple for yourself as well. A salad, a dessert, some drinks are perfect and simple requests for your guests to bring along!

Menu Ideas:
- Always keep a cold appetizer/ fruits ready for the evening: Simple things like a tossed salad, chopped watermelon helps. You can be fancy and have fruit skewers ready, but trust me if you grilled as often as we did, you want a simple repeatable model
- Finger foods like chips, salsa, pretzels etc should be served but in smaller portions, you would rather have the guests fill up on grilled gorgeousness!
- Marination: If you want marinate the night before it helps with the flavour in the vegetables/tofu/paneer what ever you are planning on. If your evening is more impromptu, fret not, increase the qty of herbs and spices in the marination by a little and even 30 minutes of marination is enough.
- Grilled vegetables with cold dips is always a hit: Think Grilled asparagus with a creamy pesto dip, delish!
- Think concoctions, you have 10 beans and 1/2 pepper lying around, slice them up marinate in olive oil, salt and pepper! Tada... Gril and then serve with crubled goat cheese (Ready!)
- For kids, encourage them to try everything coming off the grill, they will enjoy the 'not sit down and eat' type of meals. In addition, if you have more kids may be have a main like Mac N Cheese or something as a back up is a great idea!
- Trust me when I say this, a cold pasta salad is a hit with the kids and more with the adults!!!!


So have fun, enjoy the process and remember: Grilling parties are fun, simple, can be impromptu and you tend to eat a lot more...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Story of the The Spoon & The Child

In a house filled with kids laughter, some of my yelling and a little of the delicious smells of MIL cooking, funny stories ensues!!!

It was one long Sunday,we all had back to back events and obligations and errands and it had been a long (and cranky) day and last stop was Costco for essential shopping.

To lighten up the mood and just have the kids be 'less' cranky a costco size ice cream was bought to share.

Sumit asked almost 5 year old Little Lady: " Can you please give me a spoon?"

Little Lady takes the spoon, fill it with ice cream proceeds to put the ice cream filled spoon in her mouth and then licks up the spoon and hands it over you Sumit

Sumit asks: "What is this?"

Little Lady responds: "A spoon "

Laughter ensues!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer of 2017

 As a mom, Summer equals the months when the kids are off school. 
And now my summer draws to an end. 

Over the next two weeks, The Little Lady starts hew new school closely followed by Miss Chatterbox in her new school as well. Touch wood, both are supremely excited for their new beginnings. 
I am sure Little Lady will have water works for the first day, I am mentally prepared for it. 
I am sure I will have some water works for both their first day's, I am mentally prepared for it.

To continue the tradition, her is my Summer of 2017 recap:
The kids did absolutely nothing and had a really good time (I think). They lazed and got pampered by grandparents, they went to the park countless times, they had ample late nights, BBQ's, Ice Creams, play dates, lots of crafts, some beach time, some lake time, some swim time, loads of biking and a whole load of nothingness to have them recuperate and energized and truly spend summer like kids are supposed to.


The whole nothingness, no plans, no agenda, it sort of worked out. With my In-laws around, I got massively pampered. I barely cooked implying coming home to food being ready is amazing. They spend countless hours with the girls, taught them, and just basically bonded with them, which I really think is the best part. And cheeky husband and I got in ample date nights! So this summer was a nice working holiday for me as well.
















Though I love having kids home, I do need them back in school. As I often say, my 'regular scheduled programming to start'

I know- I suck! In summer, the mornings when I leave for work, I get long sullen kids’ faces telling me- You are going to office again! And then the mommy guilt creeps up even more.  And then I come home in evenings to a house hit by hurricane, toys strewn around, half-finished books, writing material on the floor and urgh! So then instead of hugging them, I get them on task and have them help clean up becoming the non-fun mom. 



So honestly, Minus the mess, I think it was a perfect summer!!

What made your summer super special??

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

They did this....

I come home from work... and see this!!!!


The Little Lady wanted her face painted, the Chatterbox wanted to be creative and hence they were a perfect match!
I climb our stairs and am greeted with this beautifully painted face and lots of chuckles and lots of giggles.

These two together are a riot, a menace and the most adorable pair of sisters who can spend hours playing, fighting, troubling and uniting against me!

Touch wood, Siblings truly are friends for life