Monday, April 24, 2017

Ziggi Ziggi

Ziggi Ziggi

Meaning Ok Ok... and that was not the only word we learned in our ten day trip to Phenomenal Philippines.
The trip was wayyy more that Ziggi Ziggi, it was simply astounding!

Philippine’s is a cluster of 7500 plus islands, breathtaking natural beauty and really simple and happy people. We are left mesmerized and would love to go back and explore more of the islands some day!
We visited two main islands: Cebu and Palawan. Our itinerary is shared below with more details to follow soon

Part 1: Cebu
Day 1     Reach Cebu @ 10 am, Meet friends, beach, pool, private pool and luxurious dinners
Day 2     Full day trip to Oslob and Kawasan falls: Swimming with the Whale Sharks yay!
Day 3     Rainy days, but a stay at the plush resort with friends: Pool time, chill time, Catch Up time!
Day 4     A morning flight to Palawan and a long 7 hour drive to El Nido : Looong travel day

Part 2: El Nido/ Palawan
Day 5     El Nido: Tour A: Caldao Tours : The lagoons, the day at the sea and the lovely Asian hospitality
Day 6     El Nido: Tour C: The beaches, the boat and the sun and breathtaking views and snorkling
Day 7     Early am drive back to Palawan via the Underground Caves @ Sabang: A Natural wonder of the world along with a zip line with the kids… the longest zipline over the ocean!
Day 8     Stay at the resort with Sandbar, boat rides, water slides and a local dinner, a relaxing and pampering day
Day 9     A few more water slides and then fly back to Cebu for more beach/ water and local candy shopping
Day 10   11 am: fly back to Chicago and day dreaming of the beach!
Day 11  Settle back to reality and relive the fun of the trip

This trip was dotted with a combination of really action packed days, some long travels, some really chillaxed days and meeting our dear friends after 5 years!!! Yes we did all this in only 10 days and we all wished it was longer. Philippine’s though really far from Chicago was totally worth it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Before the trip, an update on 'Getting Fit'

Spring Break is here! Yay, well let me restate, spring break for my 9 and 4 year old is here, yay and instead of maniacally looking for child care and classes, we are using the time wisely and heading to the beach.

So before start our beach bumming and lazing around on the soft sand under a gentle sea breeze and the sun making us relaxed, here is an update on the wonderful buddying up and Getting Fitter business.

My buddies are ‘at it’ along with me; we are sharingdelicious yet healthier variations of recipes, tracking our meals in My Fitness pal and above all are nudging each other to push a little harder in the gym. And the support helps, it really does!
We are just nudging and not nagging and my husband, Sumit will be quick to remind me that I am on the 'edge between nudging and nagging' so back off! :-)
Trust me when I say this: NOT A SINGLE POUND LOST- in 65 days of continuous logging in my meals painstakingly in Fitness Pal and 45 days of waking up at idiotic 5:30 am on weekdays for my gym class, NOT A SINGLE POUND LOST!

BUT, and this But is important: I am feeling so much healthier, I can hold a plank for 41 seconds instead of three seconds, I can do 14 continuous push-ups instead of zero and above all, I can carry 2-2 gallons of milk on my 4th floor walkup unit without crashing on the couch right after!
Yes, my standards of fitness are very basic, I call them 'achievable goals' or 'baby steps' or even 'let me get to this goal and then move a small step up'.

Trust me, for as long as I remember, I have felt 'unhappy about my shape or my arms or my flab or my F-A-T or just hating myself after I chow down that cake' and for right now, just doing something about it is making me feel happy.

The other day my 9 year old was talking about fitness and Sumit asked her, who is fit according to her and why: She very casually said: You and mummy, since you do yoga every day or go to the gym and are happy.

Of course we were gushing and explaining her about the three pillars of being Fit according to us: Good food, good work out but above all Mental Peace. With the most emphasis on the last one ‘mental peace’

BUT, my 9 year old's comments made me very happy; she does not look at me as ‘as I view myself’. She looks at me being F-I-T and being happy and that itself is the best body image lesson I could ever give her without even trying to.

Now, all heavy conversation aside....... be safe and be happy and I will be back from my beach vacation all relaxed and sun-tanned and craving more fun in the sun!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Keep it Simple Silly!

This past weekend weather wise was gloomy, rainy and a little cold. Well its Chicago in Spring time :-)
All right, no weather comments, our winter was really good this year.

But in this weekend in midst of meeting friends, celebrating our friend's kids milestone birthday's by Sunday evening we were all 'spent', not tired but just really needed a relaxed evening in.
Sisters, Friends for life!

So what did we do? Really nothing but still a lot!

Both the girls received long oil massages a la moi, followed by their long baths. And then the sisters unwind-ed with a board game while I sat with them and hand fed them- by choice.

The girls are now 9 and 4 and really self sufficient (the 4 year old does get fed her last few bites at mealtime), but it felt really good- Just to feed them with no time crunch.
From a while ago, remembering their baby zone

The little angels are growing up and there is only I realize as they get older, the time for cuddling and 'I Love you's' will reduce.... and so this Sunday evening, they played, while I hand fed them their favorite meals and time stood still for me to get amazed and just enjoy them be in their normal zone!

From even more 'long time ago'

Keeping is simple, really simple!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Femi-Nazi….. No Thank You Please!

Here is what Mira Rajput, Shahid Kapoor's wife said" “I love being at home, I love being a mother to my child, I wouldn’t want to spend one hour a day with my child and rush off to work, why did I have her? She is not a puppy; I want to be there for her as a mother.”
Does her line bother me? Like the hoards of posts out there, of how her thoughts are antiquated. Honestly no!

I think it’s a very matter of fact line and often I have felt the guilt of only spending one hour with my kids and just hugging them before jumping back on a conference line. So Yes, it’s actually a true statement. I have wondered why it feels like I am juggling the world to ONLY get an hour with the kids. Is it worth it?

What Mira says is actually true. Whether I like it or no, for us mothers the guilt follows no matter what our path.

Privilege of not working, privilege of making a choice of working, privilege of husbands pitching in, not having the privilege to choose, all aside. I think as mothers, if one thing we have not learned is being supportive of each other as mothers!

I have my own village of friends, my mom friends and it’s not based on if they work or not, it’s based on 'we genuinely like each other and have shared core values (yes cussing and bitching is also a shared common value)'.

Our friendship is based on ‘Please can you pick up my child since I am not well', It’s based on, “Can you talk to her, I am loosing it right now with her” Its based on 'I am just too tired today, can you please.. .' It’s based on ‘Let me pick up the school play costume for your daughter”.
Its a village of MY friends and trust me working or not has nothing to do with it. It’s just a support system in place.

I actually agree with every single thing Mira has said. So let me break up her lines and give my two cents...

Mira: I love being at home...
Garima: and I am sure she has to go out supporting her hotness-Greek- god- of- a- husband (Sumit, sorry!!!) in his media events, or running errands or whatever. Don’t we all?  I do love being home and just putting my feet up or folding laundry while Netflix binge watching on or just having a board game night with my friends and family!

Mira: I love being a mother to my child... 
Garima: I mean I have posts and posts gushing on them and gmail accounts filled to the brim with their pictures! I am who I am with my two beautiful kids in tow.

Mira: I wouldn’t want to spend one hour a day with my child and rush off to work... 
Garima: Oh yes, the mommy guilt. I even feel guilty when I am out with my girlfriends on a spa party (true, I just think of them a little less though while getting my nails done as compared to a conference call). It doesn’t mean I don’t live my life, but I do miss them. And I do wish I could pause time and just watch them sleep or just not be yelling 'Lets go we are late' ALL THE TIME!

Mira: Why did I have her? She is not a puppy; I want to be there for her as a mother.”... 
Garima: I have had this similar feeling more than I would like to confess! This one I differ a little though. I feel with whatever I do, work or not, I want to be there mentally, emotionally and physically for my child.

Currently I am a working mother of two, I have tried being a Stay at home mommy for two and that really didn’t work out well for me, I was really cranky all the time and snappy and generally nasty. I was there physically but not happy emotionally.

And I realized FOR MYSELF (Yes Sumit you can now say I-Told-You-So). I am better person and a happier person when I do something for myself, be it working, be it going to the gym, be it sleeping in, be it sending my kids for summer in India and reconnect with my partner in crime.

And I very strongly believe in, If I am happy, it shows and overall my family will be happier!!

My social media stream filled up with dishing Mira on a platter and saying 'Its' not the right example for the daughters, it’s not with today's age' etc etc. . I STRONGLY disagree; I am daughter of a home maker, a very strong, extremely well educated and really awesome example of a mother. And I think she has set an amazing example for me, and she reminds me and my sister in law often: working or not, Be yourself, be happy and you need to be there for your kids, for your family!

Me working right now does not make my choices wrong or right. It just makes it something that makes me happier, more content! Of course, I do fantasize about the other side, grass on the other side is always greener isn’t it?

More diplomatically, every mother is a working mother.
Trust me, food does not magically appear, snots don’t get magically cleaned up, laundry does not get magically folded, schedules don’t magically work like a well-oiled machine, homework’s don’t get turned in on time, family balance does not magically happen.

All mothers are working; it’s a lot of freaking work to be a mother, a parent!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sometime I get fancy without trying...

.....or rather I get fancy when I make a mistake.

Now Mac N Cheese, at times is like the quick fix dinner on those days when you'd rather not do anything else. The Aunt Annies's and the veggie loaded Mc N. Cheese quiet a staple in our family for the simplicity of it.

Blob of the pasta!
The other evening, Sumit said, lets make the mac n cheese from scratch instead, and it had been a while, and I said why not. Long story short, my pasta/ mac n cheese looked like a 'blob' of too much sauce and over cooked pasta. I was quiet confident that the kids and me would not like to eat it. Sorry, we are vain that way, food needs to look good.

That evening, I was on the mend from a nasty flu and was in no mood to start over or even order in. So the brain sparks flew and 'Mac N Cheese Balls' were born!

Mac N Cheese Balls Recipe
1. 3 bowls of cooked Mc N Cheese (it being gooey and sticky is not required)
2. For crisping: 2 cups Panko, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3. Oil for roasting/ crisping the Mac N Cheese balls

Note: I have this cup pan which makes quite a lot of things in my kitchen, and is non stick, so easy to clean and its an amazing alternative to frying. It gives amazing round shaped whatever you want with 1/10 of the oil needed for frying. I have made, Veg. Manchurian, Kofta Balls, Lauki Kofta, Appa, and now mac n cheese balls!

1. Mix all ingredients of the crisping and lay it in a flat plate
2. Let you ready to eat Mc n cheese cool down and make balls of it. Roll it in the crisping flour (Panko, Cheese+ herbs)
3. Heat the pan, and place a little oil add the ready to cook balls and let it get crisp (Yes you can fry them as well, but then you will need more panko and more oil.... and more time in the gy ot burn it off!)
4. It takes about 2-3 minutes to get crisp on each end

Note: Since Mc N Cheese is soft, you have to be careful in turning the 'balls over'. One can even make a 'Mc N Cheese' patty/ burger on a regular pan, like this Falafel recipe of mine. and enjoy!!

The girls and us loved it. I think Miss V was excited to have 'appetizers for dinner' and Miss Chatterbox S loved dipping this in Ketchup and enjoying!

For me, I enjoyed the 'fanciness of cooking' and getting complimented 'Such fancy every day cooking mom'

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sometime you don't need to say 'I love you'

It was one of those days.... those tired long days where you are just exhausted and you still have a lot on your plate left...

It was one of those days and I am driving home around 6:30 pm with the two girls in the car listening in while I whine to my husband, "I am so tired tonight honey'. He acknowledges and says, 'I hear you, see you soon!'

I pull into the garage and climb up to the house and am left astounded.

The husband has done the following: moved his meetings around for an hour to complete dinner preparations and emptied the dishwasher and I am greeted with a quick peck on the cheek and he runs to get back on his work calls.

I was left speechless and misty eyed!

The Panini that night could not have tasted better!

This one evening was way more that any amount of "I Love you” s we have said to one another.

It's the empathy of " I understand”, it’s the acknowledgment of “It’s tough and I got your back” and it’s the true sense of feeling “We are in this together

Miss V was quick to observe and say 'Thank you papa for dinner tonight'.

We all talk about gender equality, empowering our next generation of children but actions speak louder than words. I am hoping my girls realize that being in this world today: It’s the partnership and it’s the support of one another which makes a successful person, a successful spouse and a successful family.

Girl or Boy at this point really does not really matter.

Thank you Sumit for always being there for me and the girls and actually following the ideology you believe in so strongly!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

They are only this little.... now

Kids say the darnest things....

This qualifies more as 'mis pronunciations' rather that funny anecdotes and as my final baby is growing up, I want to make sure I track this and embarrass her later as she grows older!

'Lipzoc'... Mummy can you please put strawberries in my lipzoc.
---It is funny as hell, we corrected her once saying its Ziploc and she thought we were making fun of her, so she said 'You don’t know, its 'lipzoc' and not 'Ziploc'

'Valina'... Little Lady says... my favorite flavor is Vallina
--- We know its Vanilla, but I just don’t want to correct her, Vallina ice-creams are just so good, what do I say!

'Ear is broken'...Little lady sadly gets ear aches pretty often and then she says the next mornings 'My ear is broken please be careful around it!'
--- Yes, I can tell her its ear ache, but where is the fun in that, Ear is broken is just so innocent.

Kids grow up way too quickly (cliche but true) and in a few years when I am reading these posts, it will me remind of 'Valina icecreams' and the giggles that surround my house!

Life is too short, enjoy the silliness!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A balanced meal... and Alloo Tikki Recipe: Yep, the healthier kind!

Being on any kind of fitness regime does not mean giving up food, its actually quiet the other way around. You need nicer and healthier food to ensure you can continue any workout you are signed up for. This way you dont pass out with less energy!!

And if you are just following portion control like me, it's even more important, since you want to ensure that every morsel counts for a filling feeling and a delicious taste!

So there are days, when my lunch looks like this: A delicious salad loaded with goat cheese, fruits and quinoa!

and then there are days when my dinner is this: Alloo Tikki

I could to the latter, any day you want! But to ensure we stick better to our goals, I modified for a healthier version.

So here a recipe of 'Allo-Chole Tikki' a North Indian Delicacy/ Chaat item which is high on taste and with this modified version, a healthier version as well. I agree this is elaborate, so definitely not an everyday item!

'Allo-Chole Tikki' = Potato Patty, smothered with garbanzo curry and garnished with beaten yogurt, chutney and spices

Makes 10

Potato Tikki(Cutlet)
Potato: Mashed 3 cups
Quinoa: Boiled 1.5 cup
Finely shredded carrot: 1 cup
Finey chopped Kale: 1/2 cup
Salt, Pepper, paprika: Per taste
Cinamom: 1 tsp
Chaat Masala: 2 tsp
Bread: 1 slice torn in smaller pieces (Helps to bind better)
Panko: For coating: Optional
Oil: 2-3 tsp for cooking

Potato Cutlet:
1. Mix all the ingredients really well in a dough consistency and adjust seasoning
2. Make medium balls (~10-12) and flatten like a burger, coat in panko/ bread crumbs
3. On medium flame, on a pan with some oil, let the burger crispen 3-4 minutes each side.
4. When both sides are crisp, alloo tikki/ burger is ready!

Chole: IP Version
Onions: 1 medium finely chopped
Tomato: 1 medium finely chopped
Garlic: 3 cloves finely chopped
Ginger: 1/2 inch finely chopped
Carrots: 1 cup finely shredded/ chopped
Serrano Peppers: per taste
Salt, Pepper, paprika, Garam Masala: Per taste
Cinnamon: 1 tsp
Chole Masala: 3 tsp
Optional: Moti Elaichi -1, Bay Leaves- 2/3, Cloves 3/4
Garbanzo: 1.5 cups soaked. If you use canned, adjust cook time- see below
Oil: 2-3 tsp for cooking

Chole in IP:
1. IP in Saute mode: Add 2 tsp of oil all spiced
2. After 1 minute, add ginger, garlic and onions
3. Saute for 2-3 minutes till fragrant
4. Add the tomatoes, carrots and saute for 4-5 minutes
5. Add the washed soaked garbanzo (or canned)
6. Close the lid. IP in Manual, High Pressure for 25 minutes. (If using canned time= 10 minutes)
7. It was a slow release of pressure, and I opened the IP after 1 hour or so.
8. Note: If making in regular pressure cooker, pre-soaked (overnight) is better, or use canned, timings for pressure cooker is the same.

1 cup yogurt beaten and 1/2 cup water added to liquefy
Green Chutney
Tamarind Chutney
Chopped cilantro, onions
Fine Bhujia/ Sev & Peanuts: Optional

In a plate, lay the cutlet, cover with the chole curry and garnish!

Enjoy when hot, tastes better with company, so call me over when you make it next!

Sorry, no pictures... this was gobbled up fairly quickly!

Note: This has a high content of protein thanks to quinoa and the chickpeas. So though this is higher on calorie count, it is well balanced with all the healthier vegetables. The other element for all my curries which is a big hit int he family is shredding carrots in any gravy I make. Be it gnocchi, or Chick Pea stew, or even simple potato curry! Carrots : well the kids enjoy it without knowing there was ever carrots in them!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Getting Fit, some good and some even better

By now you know, I am not the 'fittest person' and I am far faaaar from being the size I want to be, but, well I am doing something about it.

Last year was much better health wise for me and definitely spirits wise as well. This year, I want to continue the trend in the right direction. And I have a buddy system in place now with a lot of follow through and just checking in with each other to ensure we are 'doing something about it'

So what's going on in the 'Getting Fit' business?

1. My fitness pal: I have been logging religiously on this for 36 days now and I want to continue until spring break and then enjoy the beaches to come back to more of the same.

2. Balanced meal: I have been eating everything (which is what I love about this tool), and I have increased protein in our vegetarian meals, more tofu (this tofu steak has become a staple in our house), more quinoa and definitely more lentils (which I really don’t like and hubby loves) and continuing our regular vegetable infused dishes

3. Working out: So this has been a big game changer, I have signed up for a neighborhood gym and 3-4 days a week, I have been waking up at god awful 5:30 am to go for a 45 minute class. I have been crashing every single night at 9:30 pm. Some days I have even gone for a 5 am class, which for me is crazy good.

4. Weighing in: I have been weighing myself once a week, there has been no weight change, it has not gone up or down. My trainer says: Muscle formation. I will go with that story, makes me feel better, but weighing in day makes me feel like ‘examination day’ and so far, no pass and no fail. I am focusing on the no fail element! It gives me hope that I can Pass someday

5. Buddying Up: This has been the real motivator. I take a morning class; Sumit heads out for an evening class. We encourage each other and discuss the crazy workout our instructors think we can do. The kids have a hearty laugh when we enact the trainers! I message my partners in crime, it’s just nice to be able to say: ‘I am so sore, I can’t walk!’ or 'Why haven’t you logged in today'

I was debating whether I should post this or not especially considering it’s only been a month and my before and after pictures look exactly the same!

So here it is
Yay, I have been going strong for a month    : the good
My gosh, waking up at 5:30 am really sucks: the bad

I can do this……. and sustain it                    : the best

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What's your 'soul food'

This one is not about recipes, or healthy eating or my kids keeping us in splits of laughter, this one is more about 'soul food'

We all have that one thing in our minds and in our palates, that we think of that menu item and there is a sense of 'gush and warmth'. On a long tired day if that was on the menu at home, you will gobble it up. When you think of that food, you remember your growing up years sitting on your tall dining table with your mom serving you and coaxing you to eat. You really didn't need the coaxing since you were ready with your spoon and all to dig in and finish it off! Seconds please?

So what's your soul food, that one item that makes you think of being a child again. That one item that just makes your worries disappear!

For me its a very simple one: 'Chawal-Curry-Bhujia' aka 'White Rice - Yellow curry - chick pea crisps'.
You dig in with the Papad-um as a spoon and just eat it! Nothing else matters....
A very traditional and wholesome Indian meal.

I wonder with my kids what will it be 'soul food' for them? They are growing up in this melting pot of cultures where the influence's are what we eat at home, outside and with their own friends. Will it be a simple 'Rice-Curry' or a 'hot piping soup'. Will it be 'bowl of noodles' or a simple 'mc n cheese'. What will be the one thing that will make their taste buds tickle, eyes misty and they imagine the smell of food.
As they grow older, form their own minds and personalities and set on their paths of the future. I wonder, what will be their 'true soul food' !

Note: Picture above is from 'google'. thank you having the images of my childhood food that I could cherish

Monday, February 13, 2017

Homemade Granola Bars

Mornings are rushed and I should be the 'good parent' and say, my kids eat a healthy wholesome breakfast, but reality is very different. They are generally chugging milk down, or being coerced to finish the last few bites of the cereal/ oatmeal. every single weekday.

I have no issues if they eat in the car, and fruits and the kids cereal bars are our go to energy boosters in case we are really running late or in between school and classes. I have a bag now in the car just dedicated to collect the orange/banana peels and cereal bar wrappers. And it gets filled up really fast!

I used to feel guilty about this, now I dont. It is what it is! So yes, I am the best mom my kids can get!

Recently I was wondering, these granola bars whould not be that hard to make! And well after researching eggless versions, i combined a few recipes to 'try making' this.

Honestly, start to finish (except cooling time), it took my little lady and me only 20 minutes to make, which was really awesome!

Makes 8-10 cereal bars.
1 heaping cup packed dates, pitted (deglet noor or medjool)*
2 pouches of Instant Oatmeal (If you have steel cut/ rolled oats: crisping time is longer)
1/2 cup mixed nuts, chopped : We used almonds and cashews (Other recipes I reviewed had pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts etc.)
1 1/2 TB butter
1/3 cup honey
2 TB brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (A dear friend had gifted me home made vanilla extract for Xmas, delicious!)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup craisins (or raisins)

* Note: If your dates have become hard for being in the fridge too long like mine, don't worry, just put the dates in hot water for 4-5 minutes and they will be 'hydrated'

Step by Step Process: 
1. Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a "dough" like consistency.
2. Toast your oats and the nuts in a 350 degree F (176 C) oven for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
Note: Toast them in different pans, its quicker!
3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium heat, while stirring. Cook and stir for a minute
4. Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl
5. Stir the warm butter and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
6.  Add craisins
7. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper so they lift out easily.
8. Press down firmly until uniformly flattened - really pack the bars
9. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. Now this is optional step, i did make mine for additional crispiness. If you choose not to re-bake, please put this is refreigerator to cool.
10 Remove bars from pan, let it cool overnight and chop in 'cereal bar' length

To store: I cut the parchment paper around each bar just to avoid them sticking to each other and also because I was feeling 'fancy' and kept in an airtight box.

These turned out delicious and in the morning, it was not the kids who devourved them but us. But yes, I am definitely planning to make more variations of these. I will always have the store baught ones in car, but for mornings, this may go really well with my 'luke warm' coffees

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Kids say the darnest things...

If there was a race between my two girls of who spoke the 'most outrageous' things... well in my opinion, the Little Lady will be first followed by a close finish by the Miss Chatterbox.
Yes you read that right: the 4 year old will win for the most ridiculous things said instead of the 9 year old! Uff!

Case in Point

Story 1:  'Cow Dog'

Scene: While driving to school
Little Lady: Mummy look there is a cow dog
Mummy looking around on the streets of downtown Chicago.... and a Cow, hell no, Dog yes
Mummy: I cant see it baby.. oh wait a minute, the black and white spotted dog: that's a Dalmatian
Little Lady: Yes I know its a Dalmatian, but from today it will be a 'Cow Dog'
Mummy: Why?
Little Lady: Well only cows have black and white spots but this is a dog, hence 'Cow Dog'

No reasoning can trump this 4 year old

Story 2: 'I know how this will end'

Scene: In a afternoon 'scolding' the Miss Chatterbox for something
Mummy: I am shocked and disappointed in you
Miss Chatterbox: I know this will end, you will now yell at me, I will cry, you will take something away, I will cry, We will hug and make up
Mummy: Ouch....

In my mind: I better change my 'scolding play book' and get something more effective

Story 3: 'Dress and leggings'

Scene: The older one is home due to an injury and has some friends visiting to check in on her, I take a quick trip out of the house to pick up the little one from school and tell her on way back: We have a surprise at home for you. On entering the house peeps in the living room and sees the friends and squeals with happiness

Little Lady: oooh, yay. Let me run inside and change into my dress and leggings
Mummy: Really laughing loudly: They want to just see you.
Little Lady: noooo, i want them to see me in my dress and leggings!

10 minutes later, the little lady enter with aplomb in her dress and leggings: My friend said correctly: This one is going to be an interesting one to raise.

I agree and run for the hills....

Friday, February 3, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Crusted Tofu

Breakfasts on weekday's in my house is cereal/ oatmeal for the kids. A hot coffee which becomes warm by the time I get to it and then a lot of 'running out the door'

Yes, Yes I know, breakfast should be the biggest meal yada yada yada. I swear whoever came up with that either woke up at 5 to ensure that happens or just preached and didn’t practice. 

So yes, breakfast is definitely not the biggest meal in my house, it’s just the most rushed!

However, the other day, I had an extra '20 minutes' at hand! so instead of sitting and sipping on my hot coffee, I said let me try this 'Hot breakfast on a weekday thing'

It worked out, it was quick to put together, was delicious and well I did enjoy it. However, it was once in a blue moon thing of a weekday breakfast for me, definitely hard to keep up. 

Recipe for the crusted tofu

1 package extra-firm tofu

Wet ingredients:
3 tsp All purpose Flour/ Chickpea Flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Water to mix

Dry ingredients:
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (Takmariya)
2 tsp Crushed Peanuts (optional)
Salt, pepper, red chili as per taste 

Oil for toasting/ frying on a pan
Scallions, sliced 

For the nuoc cham: Dipping Sauce:
1 tsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp chilli sauce (optional)
2 red Thai chilies: thinly sliced

Optional: Drain the tofu for as much time as possible — 20 minutes to an hour. It makes the crisping portion quicker, however if you don’t drain no worries, just let the tofu crisp for a few more minutes!

The nuoc cham/ Dipping Sauce: 
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients! Ta Da

1. Mix Chickpea flour/ All Purpose flour with 1 teaspoon of water to a smooth and runny paste. 
2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a plate.

1. Cut the drained tofu into cubes
2. Submerge the tofu into the Flour-Water mixture,
3. Then coat the tofu in the sesame-panko mix.
4. Repeat with the remaining cubes
5. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and add about 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil. 
6. Place the tofu cubes into the frying pan. 
7. Crisp tofu slices for about 3 to 4 minutes a side, then transfer to a serving platter. 
8. Garnish with scallions. 

Enjoy a healthy, quick to put together 'dish' with the dipping sauce. 

Full disclosure, I feel this would be a better appetizer recipe, it was filling for breakfast for sure, however the flavors are strong and I had 2 breath mints before work to ensure that no one else knew about my 'breakfast of a king' mood!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Buddy System

Ever since we were kids, the concept of 'buddy system' existed. Going to the loo in a restaurant, take a buddy. Getting punished in class for being naughty, a buddy gets out with you. In college, the partying night, have a buddy. And then in life as you progress, the buddy system continues.

And it’s a good system to have. There is someone who is accompanying you, has your back and above all: is there.

Why should the "Getting Fit" journey be any different?

For me, Getting Fit is not about losing weight (though it would be an added plus and it is a good indicator), it’s about being active, doing things without being out of breath and above all, being able to enjoy the food without feeling like a glutton. Considering that I am self proclaimed vegetarian foodie and over 50% of my posts are recipes, the last part is really important for me, enjoying the food

Among-st all-the-things-I-have-tried, MyFitness Pal has worked out for me.

Have I lost oodles and oodles of weight, hell no. But do I feel better, stronger and above all more in control of my body. Hell Yes. But I know I have a long way to go still!

For me, its about small steps, so in order to progress and continue this journey, I am doing a buddy system for different elements of the 'Getting Fit' business...

So now I have a buddy, a friend who I nudge and she nudges to continue tracking, just logging what we eat. Every single day. Simple.

So now I have a buddy, my hubby who is competing with me to get to a particular number by year end.

So now I have a buddy, a friend who is my 'workout partner' and we encourage each other to go for another 10 minutes through the class.

So buddy up,  keep logging, keep moving and keep enjoying the process. 

Above All continue to Get Fit. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Who is more tired???

Imagine the following setting:

Your day started at 6:30, waking up the family, getting ready for school/office and nudging the kids to finish the breakfast 'quickly'. While you mad dash from getting 'game face ready' for office, sip on 'now' luke warm coffee and ensure all the 'winter gear: all 40 minor things needed' are on the tiny kids bodies and yours! This is followed by urging yelling everyone get in the car, driving safely but angrily against the clock to drop kid 1, kid 2, adult 1 to the office and then to adult 2 office.

And then you get home after a full day at 6 pm with over tired and over hungry 4 people of the family.

As you are prepping a 'wholesome dinner' you wonder:

Who is more tired?

Kid 1: The 4 year old who was yelled at first thing in the morning to finish the last bite of oatmeal followed by lots of work cycles in school and playing with 20 other kids. This is then followed by their much awaited weekly activity 'Getting ready for Ice Skating' and yep, you forgot the gloves! When they ask for the cookie, you nudge the banana forward. She comes home after a full day!

Kid 2: The 9 year old who started her day by realizing, oh no i didn't pack my swim or school bag or uniform the night before. So now she is rushing to finish the breakfast, getting the bags, uniforms ready and then being rushed in the car to reach her school 2 minutes before the day starts. She does her grown up school work and is excited for the 1.5 hour swim meet that evening which ensures she is faster than her last time in the lap. She comes home after a full day!

Adult 1: The mom, who is semi-yelling at everyone to get ready, finish the breakfast, sit in the car! Heading into a busy working day, but at least getting time to finish the luke warm coffee in the last leg of the drive. Amidst a wonderful but crazy day, she is mentally managing the family calendar for all the events/ food menus and downtime needed. She comes home after a full day!

Adult 2: The dad, who is trying to calm the mom, trying to be the good cop and making kids rush to complete all morning chores while answering to emails from work already! He quickly starts on his crazy busy day working with his team spread across three continents. He is taking care of all logistical issues around the family schedule, all pending to'do's and he comes home after a full day!

So, now Who is more tired?

Work is work, and is busy for all. But so is school for these kids. They go from work/ lesson to the next and then have their PE/ recess/ jumping around the playground followed by swim/ ice skating. While you outside of work hours are their unpaid chauffeurs driving them, dressing them, undressing them, making small talk with other parents realizing, oh gosh i forgot gloves for the ice skating class. At the same time ensuring they finish the banana/ snack/ milk.

Who is really more tired.... All four of us, i guess!

The evening family dinner is one 'down time' all four of us get where is no pressure (except for finishing what's on your plate). Just enjoying the food and catching up the others with your busy day. This meal is filled with chatter and laughter and giggles and definitely yawns. This one meal in the day makes all of the day's trials and tribulations are totally worth it!

We are all tired but if we are together in it, we can all comfort each other too!

But for the record... I am the 'most tired' today!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Spicy Cauliflower Steak

Needing my mommy moment~

Last night, I really craved 'good food' something rich, delicious and yummy, and home made.

I wish my mom lived closer and I could call her and tell her, I was this and this. But oh well, reality sinks and I am a mom now and I still wanted some 'good food'

So I got down to business and now a total show off - I started food prep 5:40 pm and by 7:20, dinner was made, kids were fed and were getting ready for reading and bed time! So a very satisfying evening!

Dinner Menu:
Vij's Adapted cauliflower steak
Malai Kofta,
Cucumber sabzi....
followed by left over fruit custard from the night before!

Yippie and it was totally worth it! All four of us thoroughly enjoyed the dinner  and licked our fingers and cleaned the plates! Even Little Lady, who picks and chooses which vegetable she wants, took second and third helpings of 'Vij's Adapted cauliflower steak'

The recipe is adapted from here. A friend had made it a few munch bunches ago. I modified to fit in my 'Quick Food Fix Rule'

Serves 4:
Caulifower florets cut length wise
Spices: 1/4 tsp
Salt, Pepper, Mirchi/ Cayenne Pepper, Cinamanon, Crushed jeera powder, rock salt
Ginger: 1/2 inch- Grated
Garlic: 4 cloves- Grated/ finely chopped
Olive Oil: 3 tsp

For coating:
All Purpose Flour/ Chickpea Flour: 2 tsp mixed in a liquid paste in 1 cup water
Panko Breadcrumbs: 1/2 cup (feel free to use other variety, i just have some left over from my Onion Rings evening)

1. In a box mix all ingredients, oil and the florets should be marinated with all spices well

2. Add the coating ingredients and again mix well
3. In the pre-heated oven (425), on a greased dish, lay out the marinated florets evenly spaced

4. Let it bake/ crispen for 10 minutes
5. Flip and let them bake for another 10 minutes
6. Ta Da!! Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

It is the perfect combination of crispy cover, soft flavorful cauliflower, who new 'Gobhi' could taste so well!

And yeah, a weeknight malai kofta recipe will follow: I skipped all frying and just enjoyed the 'healthier' twist. However truth be told, the portion i gobbled was not 'healthy; for sure.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Last year of being Single Digits: Happy Birthday Miss V

This is her last year of being Single Digits.

She reminds me very frequently and I really don’t want to know. She is turning 9, that is a freaking big deal and now the reminder: 'Last year of Single Digits mummy'

Miss V, Miss Chatterbox, Dadi Maa, Didi, Nunu, Bittu, Vedu, Champion... all different names for this amazing 9 year old!

A very Happy Birthday!

Miss Chatterbox,

I tend to gush about you a lot, you are my first born and you will always be my baby. You are mature beyond your years and extremely observant. But let’s stop time for a minute and really enjoy yourself at 9.

You tell me right now: 'I don’t want to be a teenager soon, since they are so annoying'
(You and me Both!!)... but you are growing, older and wiser. As one of your aunt's told you... you don’t have to be one of those annoying ones!

You takes her role as 'an older sister: didi' really seriously.
There are times I have to remind you- just be an older sister and not a parent! Be your little sister's confidante!
I love watching the two of you play, and as you are growing together, you giggle together when I yell at you. You have your own secrets and little eye rolls.

You were the first kid in all our friends and family and that makes you super loved and adored. It makes you super lucky and yes sometimes you get annoyed being the oldest. It has its own pressure.
I am getting impressed at how you are standing up for yourself and saying: 'I can help so and so at the party, but I rather do this' I do like it. It is such a fine line and you are doing well on it.

Its a mental reminder to let you enjoy being yourself and your age.

You are definitely getting your sense of humor from your father (thank god for that!). You and your papa have started ganging up on me a little bit now.... boo hoo. I giggle and I chuckle and I love that daddy-daughter 'grown up' bond of yours.

My lovely 9 year old. I love you, I yell at you, I snuggle into you, I dance with you, I laugh hysterically with you, I cry with you, I just love you so much!

You are growing up to be this beautiful, kind, sport and above all confident girl.
I love it, you inspire me!


Now, as always, here are the highlights of your year 9!

1. Harry Potter:
You are me are reading this together. We start the book together and all through the five books, you complete it before me! Yes, now we can watch the movies together

2. Swimming:
You joined the Sheridan Swimming league and though we cannot make it all the practices or the swim meets, you are doing well. Your back stroke is the strongest stroke. Thanks to your nana

3. Phone:
You are talking more enthusiastically to your grandparents in India on phone now. There have been a few calls with your friends as well and that is amazing. But no phones till you turn 13 or may be 20!

4. Sleepover:
Yep, my baby you have had your sleepovers this year. Your friends are welcome anytime for a sleepover, but I am sorry you are not allowed to stay over at your friends yet. House Rules. Have your friends over whenever!

5. Foodie:
Oh my gosh, you are a spice lover (Yay!) You will try different things and always want to help me make them at home. Your favorite this year has been 'Kutiyonaam' by your aunt and surprisingly 'Daal Baati' made it back in the list. I am impressed.

6. Soccer:
Yes, I am a soccer mom now and I love it. And yes I think to encourage you more and let your love for the sport continue, I will look for a girls only league for next term. You loved the Secret Santa gift of cleats and shin guards the best!

7. Bike:
Yay, you are riding without training wheels now! And thanks to you, I bought a bike as well. We had fun biking along Lake Shore, in forests, in the park. Looking forward to all our vacations dotted with bike rides

8. India:
This past summer you spend 8 weeks in India with your sister and grandparents. You did get bored a little and saw a lot of TV and bonded well with your cousins, swam a little, travelled a lot. I like your disconnected summers, its 8 weeks of just being chilled!

9. Kumon:
Its worth mentioning this in yearly highlights. Why? Since this is the ONE thing, we have had a lot of water works, yelling matches and drama on. Yes, you don’t like it. at all. However you will be continuing this. It has helped you immensely on the speed element. And logically you do get it, and though you love being the 'Math Champion' in school, you don’t like doing Kumon.

10. Birthday List:
Your 8th birthday was a massive birthday party and then also a bowling party with your friends. And your 9th is a birthday list! You have made a list of things you want to eat/drink/visit and I am so happy that the list is simple and it shows me, you enjoy the little things.

My very kind, gentle heart-ed, inquisitive and lovely young woman.
We wish you a very Happy Birthday

Friday, January 13, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Gnocchi in Red Sauce: Instant Pot

Its been a while since I have written about the Vegetarian cooking in my new kitchen gadget Instant Pot.

Now before I give an update, I have to talk about the rage this tool has caused.

There are FB groups dedicated to cooking with IP, be in Indian Cooking, or any Recipes. There are daily conversations which fill my FB stream, there are love letters written to IP, some break up letters, some thanking messages to the IP, pictures of the IP on their trip like it’s their child, there are squabbles about whose recipe it originally was, plagiarism and oh my gosh!!!

Seriously? It's like a daily soap opera on cooking in IP

May be I will get banned/ ousted from said groups for writing this post, but oh well!

Now rant over and back to IP in my house, its used quiet often.

Instant Pot is really nice, I will give it that. I of course did buy mine when friends of mine kept raving about it and saying how it simplified the rush evening’s food wise. I was convinced since friends of mine are like-headed and I trust their recommendations.

What have I cooked: I have finally done the 'Pot In Pot' a vegetable stew at the bottom and lentils getting boiled on top. So truly used the IP for cooking multiple things at the same time. I have made Green Curry, Quinoa Pulaav, Butternut squash soup, rajma, daals and just last night the red sauce for the Gnocchi.

I must add, the red sauce to cook, only took 6 minutes, so prep time of 10 minutes and cook time of 6 minutes, is freaking awesome to have a wholesome meal under 20 minutes!!! Loved it!

But nope, not writing a love letter to IP.

So here is the recipe for the Quick fix IP Recipe

Ready made Gnocchi - I used the egg less Costco one, delicious
Tomatoes: 3
Baby Carrots: 6-10
Onion: 1 cup chopped finely
Garlic: 2 cloves chopped finely
Zucchini: 1/2 cup chopped

Oregano - 2 tsp
Salt, Pepper,Chili flakes - per taste

Optional Additions:
Ready made Pesto Sauce: 2 tsp
Shredded Cheese: 1/2 cup

1. Boil gnocchi on stove top per package instructions
2. In IP, on Low Saute Mode: Add butter, onions, garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add herbs to the IP and sauté
4. Puree the carrots and tomatoes together.
5. Add the puree and the zucchini to the IP now.
6. Close the IP, Manual: 5 minutes, low pressure.
7. Meanwhile, strain the gnocchi and have it ready to be added to sauce
8. When IP 5 minutes is complete: Vent and open. Add the optional additions and Gnocchi.

TaDa!! Enjoy! we gobbled up the Gnocchi with warm toasted bread before we could take the pictures!

But dinner was DELICIOUS and really quick.
Picture: Borrowed from Internet, however mine looked really similar

Note: If you are making the sauce on stove top and not Instant Pot, after step 5, stir the sauce for 10-15 minutes on medium flame till ready.

However you make the above recipe, enjoy and remember a gadget is something that makes your life simpler.

So enjoy it and the simplicity of it, but writing love letters is a bit much!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Life gives you onion... you make Onion Rings!

When its crazy cold and you really don’t want to go outside for anything... what do you do

Option 1: Sulk and complain of how cold it is
Option 2: Make Onion Rings!
This weekend, one of those Chi-beria days, we got together as a family to make Onion Rings from scratch.

'Why onion rings' you ask.... well, Miss V, my chatterbox, her birthday is around the corner and she has a 'List of things to celebrate' and onion rings was one of them.
Secondly, I really didn’t want to 'Sulk' one more time! So this was a perfect family activity to do!

Now, finding an egg-less/ beer free recipe which was workable by kids was tough... so I googled, combined 3 recipes to make our onion rings which came off AMAZING

To make life simple for you.. and for me to be able to find my own recipe, here is the recipe that kids can make with you.

A Chi-beria kind of day.. is not necessary to make these
1. Large White Onions: 2: Cut into 1/2 inch slices/ Rings
Recommendation: To avoid 'crying' while cutting onion, after peeling the onion, wash them in cold water. It helps reduce the tears

Dry Coating
1 cup Besan (Chickpea flour)
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Coating
2 cup besan (Chickpea flour)
Salt - per taste
2 tsp Oregano
2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
2 cloves garlic (Finely chopped)
Milk- you will have to add to get the right consistency (~ 1.5 cup)
2 tsp baking soda

Top Coating
2 cups Panko Breadcrumbs
You could use any other type of bread crumbs as well, I used Panko since I love the crispiness on frying that it offers

Oil for frying

Garnish: Sea Salt or Chaat Masala

Kids Edition Process
I followed this recipe with the kids, so it created a bigger mess... but in my mind, no mess, no memories!!
We set up a manufacturing line on the kitchen platform
1. First kid dry coats all onions,

2. Second kid dips the coated onion ring in the wet batter
3. The first kids comes back to dip the battered onion in panko

4. Mommy happily fries the onion rings
5. Daddy happily sprinkles with the chaat masala and prepares for a movie evening while we all gobble up the onion rings together!

Detailed Process
1. In a mixing bowl, mix the dry coating ingredients: besan and salt
2. Coat the sliced onions with the flour and place the onions on a tray
3. Except the baking soda, mix all the wet coating ingredients in another mixing bowl
4. Add milk slowly, the consistency of the wet ingredients should be a little thinner than pancake batter
5. Now add the baking soda and mix
6. Dip the flour coated onion in the batter and place on a tray
7. Now dip this battered onion ring in the plate of panko
8. Coat evenly and then fry
Recommendation: Fry on medium flame so the onion ring cooks more evenly. You will have to turn the onion ring at least twice to fry from both sides
9. Sprinkle with sea salt/ Chaat Masala and enjoy!

Sp yes, when life gives you Onions... you make Onion Rings!