Thursday, December 21, 2017

Munch Bunch: Fried Banana Fritters

Munch Bunch: 4 like minded couples meet on a rotating schedule, choose a cuisine to make and experiment with and spend the time to cook, critique and enjoy.

With the kids getting older, they experiment eating it, not all is successful, but hey, which 5 year old can say brag they have tried home made sambussa, or a Spanish ensemble, A Greek Night or a zesty Cranberry relish with a Thanksgiving Feast!!
Mission Successful!

Theme Vietnamese!!! 
And as always it was a feast! This time around, I chose Dessert. I love sweets and desserts and suck at making them, plain and simple! So munch bunch is the best way to experiment!

Fried Banana Fritters!
Honestly, you search for eggless Vietnamese Dessert and this one is the first thing comes up. I was surprised, I always thought of fried banana/ plantains are a South American/ Peruvian thing. Happy to learn

Serves 16 (greedy people!)
I made it in three distinct steps
1. Fried Banana (of course)
2. Caramelized Banana (Since I was being fancy)
3. Assembling (with Vanilla Ice Cream)

You will need Sugar Syrup, This is the best recipe to make this! I did use Brown Sugar though!

Step 1: Fried Banana Fritters
Banana for frying: 6 medium well done
Wheat Flour: 2 cups (give or take)
Cinnamon: 2 tsp

1. Mash the bananas really well and add flour
2. The batter should be like a thick pancake batter, feel free to add more flour
3. Add cinnamon

Only fry, when you are ready to eat!

Step 2: Caramelized Banana (This step is optional)
Banana: 2 sliced medium
Sugar Syrup and caramelizing the banana

1. Heat the 6 spoons of sugar syrup in a shallow pan until thick
2. On low flame add the sliced banana, let it crisp and then flip over
3. When both sides are crisp, let it cool off!

Note: This is a time consuming process, you can add caramel, however I am mortally afraid of burning myself with hot caramel, so I stick to sugar syrup!

Though long and painful, I loved how the sugar crystallized over the banana!

Step 3: Assembling

When ready to eat, please fry the banana fritters then, there is nothing better than warm fritters with cold ice cream!

1. Fry the fritters in medium round shapes till brown
2. Place in the sugar syrup for 1-2 minutes
3. In a serving dish
a. Place the warm fritter
b. Top with Ice cream
c. Add caramelized banana


Monday, December 18, 2017

She has the music in her... Little Lady is 5

She loves rainbows and unicorns and Sparkles is still her favorite color!

She is spirited beautifully, is such a happy go lucky kid, smiles, laughs, lights up a room and above all gives you tonnes of hugs and kisses and peeks in your room to just say "I love you"

Yep, that's my Little Lady turning 5!

Her charms..At a soccer game, her team mates run behind the soccer ball, and My Little Lady, skips and then kicks the Soccer ball and twirls in delight!

On a coloring sheet, my little Lady hums a song (making it up along the way)and colors the hair of the princess pink!

On a phone call with India, we chat, we share stories and pictures with grand parents and the little lady takes the phone and starts singing a song, why? Just because!

I think its fair to say that this little lady is keeping us on our toes and off our chairs! Why you ask, we are giggling all the time with her and at her!!

Little Lady: You are 5 now.

My baby,

Year after year, I try to capture your 'updates' amongst all the fun that ensues as a family.

You are 5

Food: Oh man, your one BIG issue. Yes, you will try 'almost everything provided is not green' but you are VERY slow eater. I have asked you to go to bed without dinner since no timers seem to work on you. One thing that definitely gets you excited for food is presentation. If it looks 'awesome' you gobble it down right away

School: You are blossoming in your new school and I love that you just go in school skipping and are always complaining at pick up time that I picked you up too early! You have become an avid reader and in your break, you amazed us at sitting in your bed and just reading all the books, chapter books.

Dance: My gosh, the music in you. You loved your Indian Dance class and I cannot tell you how proud I am of you for dancing in front of a hundred people at your dad's birthday! Ballet, I love your passe and you love your ballet outfit more than the dance for for sure

Sports: Remember the skipping at soccer, well that's you. Ice Skating, you have been at it for about a year, but I think you like chatting with your friends more than the ice skating for sure. Let's try gymnastics next year, what do you think?

Love: You are affectionate, kind and above all very observant. You complain if we dont hug you before school or at bed time. You are happy soul and a very content sole (No contentment when it comes to candy/ sweet stuff though). I think of you and it makes me smile, since your kind heart makes me want to be a better person also

Reading: My gosh, what a difference 4 months in this new school has made! You are reading voraciously, you are writing pretty well and you can spend hours on your laptop and play games, play puzzles and above all sing yourself merry!

Yes 5 is a milestone and we are celebrating in 5 ways
(Especially since you have been bugging asking what we are doing for your birthday for about a year now)
1. Your surprise trip to Disney before your birthday... gotcha!!!
2. An upcoming surprise trip to a Waterpark (Shh!!!)
3. On the day of, dinner to your favorite restaurant with your favorite people and painting your toes
4. A daddy-daughter day on your birthday!
5. And your party with your friends, i am thinking Unicorn & Rainbow themed!

Phew, yes turning 5 means 5 special celebrations! But more importantly turning 5 means:
1.  Be yourself, always
2. Be kind as you already are
3. Be the goofball you already are
4. Please eat and not just candies!
5. Be 5, be a kid, scale the mountains, swim deep waters and twirl just because!

My Little Lady: We love you!

Monday, December 11, 2017

China: Travel nice to knows

With any international trip, one thing you need to know and plan for is logisitics. The other things that might be helpful is what should I plan for beyond the itinerary. Since I just got back from China and jet lag is still keeping me wide awake. What better way to use the time to document a few nice to knows before you travel to China

 For China, check with the consulate for their latest on visa requirements for your country and status. But they are very efficient and very organised, so it was a quick 5 day for us to secure our visas!

Ensure you have at least 6 months validity on your passports, I had to renew 50% of my family passports prior to the trip

We used phison pro for VPN and WeChat and translate downloaded on our phones! I highly recommend WeChat for this trip, it translates any conversation with the tour guides. Other thing that helped us was downloading English Maps for the cities, having DiDi (Uber in China). Getting a local SIM is advisable, I pretty much hogged my brothers phone for any calls. Please carry battery packs!!

Food: We were 7 vegetarians and 7 non vegetarians in this trip. I will of course write this from a vegetarian point of view.
Please carry food, ready to eat packages, oat meals, cereal bars, biscuits, snacks. Yes you will get vegetarian food, but will be really tough to ensure it is perfect. For us, when in doubt, we didn't eat.
Having said that, our tour company had pre-arranged some meals and having warm rice with boiled vegetables and some flavor was a life saver.
All our hotels had breakfast and it was lavish. We pretty much spend an hour hour daily to ensure we were well fed for the day. For most of our trips, we like a heavy breakfast, since then we can be out and about more.
You will find Pizza Hut, Sub ways in bigger cities and trust me, the Pizza Hut in China was AMAZING.....
Plus fruits, oh man the fruits! You will find all the fruits including dragon fruit and rambutan!
As a vegetarian I say, China is not about a culinary experience but more about ensuring you have food and energy in your system!

Clothes: We traveled in end of November, so was fairly cold. However we got really lucky with the weather. But as any cold trip, jackets, layering, definitely hats and gloves. The winter here was very dry, so we moisturized heavily and chapped our lips consistently!

Shopping: If you go to any of the local markets like Silk Market in Beijing or the AP market in Pudong, be prepared to haggle, walk out and definitely be prepared for very aggressive sales staff. We were accosted, told off and also pressured! It probably deserves its own blog with the stories, however its fun as well. I mean its China, they really have mastered the mass production and the quality!

Transportation: Due to the tour, we were very connected from cities to cities with the bus, however we did explore on our own in Beijing and Shanghai.
Beijing and Shanghai: The city is well connected with trains and very easy to maneuver. And yes, the trains do get crowded. The cabs are pretty affordable, but please based on recommendations of millions traveled before me, dont take the unmarked cabs! My brother and Sumit took a few local trains (at 300 km/h) and were amazed at the country's infrastructure
The food in local flights is well nothing to write home about!

Kids: We traveled with a lot of kids with us. People are really kind and polite, we were given seats on crowded trains. Strangers stopped by to entertain a crying kid, they played with them and above all they were really amazed at us 'foreigners' so they kept asking to take pictures with the kids. The kids loved the attention and happily obliged. Any tourist attraction is crowded so needless to say, please be attentive. Miss V made a lot of fun of me, since every now and then I'd panic and she would be right behind me to 'scare me'. Not cool!

Language: Yes, this is definitely a big one. It is hard to find English speaking locals. But hey you are travelling to experience this. So please dont be an ass. When you call someone, first say:"English Please" and they will try to get someone to help out! People are very polite and will really try to help out, or use translate to help! I was ordering a fresh noodle salad at one local store and I had 10 shoppers (none spoke English) who stopped by and really helped to ensure my food was vegetarian as the salad lady mixed ingredient only after making me sniff it

Water & Tea: Nope, you are not going to iced water easily here. Most of the places served warm water like the pizza hut even. We loved it and saw locals carrying their tea in hot cups and just refilling with hot water wherever they went. The tea culture was really interesting and it really explains their clear skin!
Hope you travel to China sometime!!! Sometime soon!

Friday, December 8, 2017

China... an experience

4 families.... 8 adults, 6 kids ranging from 20 months to almost 10 years of age making a 12 day trip to China. What did you expect?

We expected, fun, frolic and lots of memories and man.... it was all that and more!

Let me first get the following out of the way: This was a first one of the 'organised tours' we did and boy was that an experience. It was definitely very well organised, very hectic also very touristy at the same time. We covered a lot in the places in China but at the same time did waste some time at those 'sell ups of Jade market and Pearl Factories'. But not planning the minutiae details ourselves, travelling with such a large group and above all getting brilliant time together was perfect!!!

Now back to trip itself.
Our itinerary
Day 1- Day 3.5: Beijing
Day 3.5 - Day 5: Wuxi
Day 6: Suzhou
Day 7: Hangzhou
Day 8-10: Shanghai
Day 11-12: Shanghai- Disney

As you can see, lots of places visited and lots and lots of pictures and above all, memories to last a while, a long while!

I am not sure writing about every minutia detail of the trip would do justice, so i will stick to highlights!

For me, my biggest highlight was meeting my brother, SIL and my nephew. They flew in to do the trip together and though we were always touring and going from one place to the next, just having them sitting in the bus behind me and taking silly pictures of my SIL sleeping was just the best.
Dearest friends from Chicago decided to do this trip together and the giggle at the silliest of stories is perfect. I think travelling with friends and family is special, you can be yourself even if that means huddling the group to be on time!
Sumit and I rang in our dozen years together! Yep, we celebrated our anniversary on this trip. And it was amazing, since we fought a little, we enjoyed a little and as always fell in love a little bit more!

We scaled the Great Wall, wandered in the halls of the Forbidden City, lazed around at tea plantations, got massages, experienced jaw dropping Olympic Ceremony, rode the fastest train on the planet, cruised through canals and Shanghai skyline views and of course said Hello to Mickey in the Shanghai Disney!

All with a group of "my peeps"

More details to follow, but for now I have to leave you with this... the kids we traveled with are champions and troopers. We were all jet lagged, but they were super excited, barely any tantrums and above all they were more excited at learning and experiencing China and being respectful of knowing the world is larger than them!