Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer: A different kind...Empty nest for 6 weeks

The kids are in India for summer this year. They have done this before, and its always different!

My husband went to drop the 3.5 and the 8.5 year old to spend time with the grandparents, cousins and just 'relax' over summer.

Day 1: That's what they are doing, relaxing. They have played cricket with cousins, eaten more ice creams then they could count, chatted with daadi and are over all, done nothing but still accomplished everything: Peace of mind and giggles. Lots of them.



This experience will be fun for them. It really is and I am hoping the next 6 weeks is filled with more 'nothingness'. I can call it 'cultural immersion' it's honestly not. It is just kids being kids!

As a parent, I get selfish, i miss them. The house seems like a ghost town. There is no 'Finish your oatmeal' battles, no 'snuggling on couch to read' no 'bed time struggles' Nothing, there is this silence. And it's weird.

I am super thankful for both sets of grandparents to making the girls trip as memorable. Putting their own lives on hold just to spend time with them. My family flying into India from across the world just to be with the girls. To spend time with them, to teach them, to learn from them and above all to give them a summer of a lifetime.

Of course after they flew, I was miserable. I just wanted to be left alone. But I have good friends. They checked in on me, planned dinners, planned events, grabbed me out and ensure I was not sulking at home, messaged me every few hours to just check in, called me with crying kids in background reminding me I should cherish the peace.

And I will.
The 6 weeks will be very long and yet very short. I am goingto keep ourselves busy and really enjoy the little things. I told the girls when they were at airport: Just has fun.

And that's what I am going to do in addition to missing them terribly- Have Fun.
These 6 weeks will be different. Very different.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Look Ma: No Training Wheels


My Chatterbox, the 8 year old is off-training wheels on the bike. It took 3 days, one dedicated child and a lovely morning with the slope to get her started and zoom she goes...

Honestly, I was mesmerized by her. One, she kept at it until she got it, she fell down once and went back up again and above all, she was going fast and I had to 'Be Okay' with not seeing here every minute.

That was the hardest part for me..... Seeing her go fast and be on the corner of the parks and my eyes fixated on her and straining to find her. Luckily I was with friends who kept me happy and distracted else I would for sure have been a bucket of tears... one for being proud for her and the other for .....She is become so big!

No training wheels...wow!

I vividly remember learning the bike with no training wheels, it was in my maternal grand mother's courtyard. There is a small elevation and my cousins saying they are 'holding' on to me but letting me go and ride. I think I remember the cheers and then me plummeting into the wall and laughing my head off.

It was a big step for me.. and now letting go of Miss V with no training wheels for her.

In three social settings recently we told friends, oh V is off training wheels and they were like: Isn't 8 too late. I think now I have the answer practiced: 'I was ready now to let her go without the training wheels' 


Miss V, go, go on the hills, on the slopes, by the lake, enjoy the bike! I will watch you from afar but my eyes will be fixated on you. Always.

Inspired by her, I went biking this weekend with dear friends after 14 long years and what they say about biking is true: Once you know it, you can forget!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Falling off the 'Getting Fit' wagon


I am still kind of doing the 'My Fitness Pal', I am conscious about it, but am not being very strict about it. And it shows, The pounds that were melting away like ice cream in a scorching sun has become more like the stagnant water puddle!

The silver line, the pounds that fell off are almost still off! I have gained 2-3 pounds back. But knowing me, if I don't get serious about it, they will all climb back in slowly but steadily. And there goes my 6 months of effort. 
I am getting back to, 'Oh its just one spoon of Bhujia, oh it’s just one cookie' However, I know firsthand how harmful it truly is. I want to be able to get back to me: 'It’s one cookie, that I will quarter up and consume throughout the day instead of all at once!' This way, I still eat it, manage the cravings, but don't cave in.

That's what this 'Getting Fit' business is all about: Eat healthy, manage portions, enjoy life but make healthier choices!


So this post, is more like a reminder/ kick in the hind side, whatever you want to call it, but I do need to get back 'serious' about it.
Changes now are going to be a little more drastic, especially since I have done this before.
So yes, my husband is fore warned that I may be crankier....

Change 1: Be within the calorie recommendation for at least 4 days in a week
Change 2: Walk, Walk, Walk: So far I have been managing the intake and nothing else. So now with the weather warming
up, I could do the simplest thing: Walking
Change 3: Snacking, there is no point denying it, i love snacking. At home, I will hover near the snack cabinet and pop a few things here and there. So, I have gotten things like Skinny Pop, Multigrain crackers and my favorite Rice Puffs!

Here in my latest love: ' Masala Skinny Pop' Here is the simple recipe
1. Heat olive oil, add Jeera/ Rai, 1 tsp Haldi
2. Add skinny pop popcorn, add Mirchi + Salt to taste!!
And ta-da a healthier and more delicious version of the plain old pop-corn!

I am truly enjoying how my dresses fall and my 'older shirts' fit me finally. I know I am away from my dream weight and it will stay in my dreams if I don’t do anything about it.

So one more kick in the back side to 'get serious about the 'Getting Fit' wagon. Again!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Healthier version of Bottle Gourd/ Lauki Kofta



Bottle  gourd/ Lauki is something that took me a really long time to develop the taste for. Growing up, I definitely didn’t like it much. Sumit on the other hand devours it. Therefore, I cook it often, and the kids now like it and have developed a taste for it. Of course, it helps, since they think it’s 'Cucumber Sabzi'

Sadly, we don’t get bottle gourd/ lauki closer to where we live, so recently, Sumit went to the Indian Store and got me my 'Lauki' I was so excited, I said: Fine, let’s make the Kofta.
But keeping 'MyFitness Pal' in mind, I didn’t want to fry the kofta, so here is my modified version... still very delicious, much quicker and above all healthier

For Kofta:
1. Grate 1 medium Lauki
2. Finely chopped onion: 1/4 cup
3. 1/4 tsp finely chopped ginger
4. Spices: Salt, Chili, 1 Pinch: Ajwain, Poppy Seeds, Saunf
5. Chick Pea Flour: 3-4 tsp
6.  Oil for cooking

To make kofta:
1. Squeeze the lauki to remove excess water, save the water.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients except oil, The batter should be thick so the shape stays, make: 10 round balls
3. In an 'appa' pan/ a cake pop pan/ on simple skillet: Heat one tsp of oil, Add the round balls. Cover and let them cook
4. In about 2-3 minutes, turn sides to cook on the other side
5. In about 2-3 minutes: the crisp Lauki kofta are ready!

Note: If you make on skillet, the kofta will be like 'Patty' and not round, which is fine; it still tastes delicious.

For Gravy
1. 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2. 1 cup Tomato: chopped
3. 1 clove garlic
4. Green Chili: Per taste
5. Carrots chopped: 1/2 cup
6. Spices: 1 tsp Jeera, Salt, 1/4 tsp Haldi, 1/4 tsp Red Chilli Powder, 1 tsp Jeera powder

To make Gravy:
1. In a skillet, warm oil
2. Add all spices except salt,
3. Add Onion, Garlic and Ginger; Sautee for 2-3 minutes
4. When onion is translucent, add the tomato and carrots and reduce the flame and let it cook for 8-10 minutes
5. When tomato is all cooked (in a mushy pulp); remove from flame and let it cook down
6. I personally prefer a smooth gravy' so I put the gravy in the food processor and blend it in well
Note: Carrots are options, I like adding vegetables to my gravy to enhance flavors and more nutrition


Assembling:
In the serving dish, add the gravy, then the kofta, then sprinkle fresh chopped cilantro and enjoy!!!


This goes really well with 'Paratha/ Roti or even Rice'

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!