Thursday, December 31, 2015

A new year

Year 2014 was good but still weird and confusing!!!
All I wanted at the end of 2014, was a 'simple event free healthy year'

I am so happy to report that 2015 has been just that.

We completed 10 years of marital bliss.
Our kids are now 8 and 3 aka amazing young kids who are explorers at heart like us.
Our nearest and dearest families have had new additions to their families aka, making my joys quadrupled. And I get to play with all these little babies and pamper them silly!

Health wise, knock on wood, its been really good. Small maters continue to persist, but all in all I think compared to any of the recent years, I am so happy that my annuals gave me an almost clean bill of health.

As usual, we explored, some short trips, like camping an hour away,  some long trips, like our coastal break in Oregon; some quick last minute getaways, can you believe my CA trip was a 'quick getaway' and some elaborate holidays planned, aha, the Indian Exploration this year!!!!

We have had both sides of the family visiting form India, Dubai, Ethiopia which is all so wonderful since we get to reconnect, we bond, we fight and we just be ourselves however silly it may be!

For me, my friends are such important part of my life. I thrive, unwind and bitch with them. It's really nice to have a close knit of friends around me now. The edits in my relationship from last year have really helped me be more at peace with myself. I am coming to realize that I am more content now.

What do I hope for my next year: Well I am hoping, more of the same, more fun, more frolic, more travel and above all more happiness.

Wishing you and your family a Very Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Finally a good sign

Put on the dancing shoes... or may be the dancing dress.

If I could, I would somersault today. As vain as it may sound... I fit almost perfectly in my favorite pair of jeans today. Yippie Yeah!

No holding breath to button it up, no wearing larger t shirts to cover the bulge, no keeping it lowest in my stack of jeans!
Yay!!
I have been quiet diligent in my 'MyFitness Pal' journeythat’s about 8 weeks old now. I have been tracking it, weighing in and definitely working to follow through. I have not started 'working out' or made drastic adjustments to lifestyle yet. But the one thing I have been doing quiet diligently is 'portion control' and more protein and less carbs. 

If you read my first post or actually any post regarding this whole business: You know I love my carbs, The roti's, the bread's, the pasta's.They are my staple meal.

This tool classifies your meals in' 50% Carb, 30% Fat, 20% Protein. In all honesty, I am generally over in carb and less in protein. In the 'Fat' content depends on the day :-).

The toughest part of using the 'MyFitness Pal' is reducing the carb intake.

Regardless today is the day to celebrate, I am almost fitting in my favorite part of jeans. I will take that.



The really nice part of this tool (and the key reason I have been able to follow through this) is that it does not say: don’t do this, don’t do that. I can eat everything and still lose some of the weight and above all fit into my jeans!

I love my food and I love the fact that I can eat everything, enjoy the flavors and just manage controlling the portions. It so far has been sustainable. Of course I go over my 'recommended calorie' intake generally on weekends. There have been days where I have consumed twice the number of recommended calories (We just had Diwali season, I mean come on!!!).

But the good thing is weekdays it’s fairly easy to follow through. Brown bagging lunches, skipping on sugar in coffee, no eggs in desserts have all helped me a little bit.

The biggest help has been Sumit and his sweet compliments :-) It is quite a motivator I tell you.

So over all- Yippie Yeah

Do you know how I celebrated my fit in the jeans: Over a bowl of Sriracha Flavored Potato Chips!!!

First Goal: Continue using the tool till October Trip: Done
Second Goal: Increase protein and use the tool till December Trip: Almost There!
Third Goal: Re-start the tool after December trip and get to my target weight by end of first
quarter 2016: Hmm, Will report in 2016.


But I love the compliments and the confidence I have that I can get to my third goal as well.




Friday, December 4, 2015

Comparing kids with each other is blasphemy

Comparing kids with each other is blasphemy, or so they tell me.

But I do compare my own kids with each other. It's so natural, they are right in front of me! (All the time!) I turn up comparing my two daughters. I know, bad mom, etc etc, but hey I console myself by saying, at least I dont share results of my comparison with them...... but on the blog. I agree to pay for the trips to the shrink due to the result of them reading this stuff eventually!!
Here are my comparative notes.

Food
My older one is a natural foodie, she will attempt all foods, increase spice levels. Of course she is closer to 8, so maybe I am forgetting what she used to do at tiny toddler age. If memory serves me right, she was a good eater but a very slow eater. Very Very slow. And on that front nothing much has changed, even today she could spend an hour on dinner table and day dream her way through it if given a chance.
The little one, aha, is allergic to color 'green'. I kid you not! She will pull out the greens from anything unless of course it's a green M&M. How she ate the ‘Brussel Sprouts’ I have no clue! To her credit, its getting better and she eats regular spice levels of an Inidian House hold. ANything more, and her face turns red, and she screams 'Spicy' and will drink 5 glasses of water.

Clothes
The little one wears her dresses with pride. She will wear them, twirl, carry her purse and say 'Pretty Pretty' all day. It's a battle to get pants/ t-shirt (For Chicago winters, the only choice) on her.
The chatterbox, Miss 8 going on 18. Her favorite clothes: Jeans- T Shirt,  Shorts-T Shirt. I take great lengths to convince her to wear dresses for parties. She won't fuss about it, but if she had it her way, it would be jeans T all the way!

Hugs
Now here there is some commonality: Both are huggers and kissers. They both love to hug us, ask for a kiss on their fore head and are generally affectionate.

My little one has the most melodious voice I feel, she will wake up, go room to room and wish everyone Good Morning and greet us with the sweetest of her smiles. The older one would be the more quiet one in the mornings and will sneak in our bed and hug us till we wake up.

Similarities is also a form of comparison, right?


Both the girls can sit for extended period of time (age appropriate) and keep themselves busy. They both have a natural instinct in soccer and dancing. They both are daddies daughters, for all the 'show off things' they go to Sumit. For all the hugs, ideas and thoughts, they come to me.


It's wonderful to have these two beautiful creatures in my house. They remind me that life is joyous with the right glasses on!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I Love Brussel Sprouts

Remember my recipe of 'Roasted Brussel sprouts with apple'. It's been a while since I made it, so last evening, I went for it.

While the sprouts were in the oven, the kids had their dinner; they brushed their teeth and basically got ready for bed.

My little lady comes to the kitchen, point to my casserole and asks: 'What is that'

G: 'Its Brussel Sprouts honey'
LL: I want to eat it
(In my mind, yeah right, you see anything green, you run away from it unless its Green M&M)
I scooped out some in a dish and showed her
G: 'There you go; do you want to try it?
LL: Yes
(In my mind, yeah right, this is yet another excuse to not go to sleep)
To my surprise: 'Little Lady' sat, finished the bowl, asked for seconds!!!


I know you won't believe it, so here is a video of her enjoying and saying: 'I Love Brussel Sprouts!'

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Quick Food Fix: Vegetable Tofu Stir Fry

It's so surprising that i have not written any new recipes here in a while now. There was a phase that I was only writing recipes and no updates and now its all about 'This and That'

So to break this barrier, here is the recipe of our 'Go to Meal' nowadays. First and foremost, the speed, its definitely a Quick Food Fix: From start to finish, it is about 15-20 minutes.
It's flavorful, high protein content and the kids love it. We love our 'Vegetable Tofu Fry' also because of its repeatability. Sumit has managed fixing this meal up quiet frequently on days I am running late, too tired or he is just in 'Pampering me mode'

Ingredients:
Organic Tofu: 1 packet: Chopped
Chopped Vegetables: 1/4 th cup each:
Onion, Celery, Pepper, Cabbage, Carrots, Kale, Spinach, Tomato, Bean Sprouts (if available)
Other Alternates: 1/2 cup frozen corn & Peas
Optional: 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
For Sauce/ Seasoning:
Soy Sauce: 3 tsp
Chili Oil- 1 tsp (Optional- we like our food spicy)
Ready Made Asian Sauce: Example: Iron Man Sesame/ Vegetable Stir Fry etc. Bottom line, any Asian flavor you may like
Salt: Per taste
For Garnishing:
Scallion -1/4 cup
Toasted Sesame Seed- 1 tsp


Process
1. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil
2. Add the garlic and all vegetables and Sautee them with half the soy sauce (Just remember, whatever vegetables you have at home work wonders!)
3. When tender remove from flame and cool'
4. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil
5. Add the tofu on low flame and the seasoning/ sauce and let it simmer
6. Now, if you like it crunchy, keep the flame high and make sure you turn the tofu over so it does not burn
 If you like it soft and tender, just keep turning it over and cook evenly.
7. Either way, the 'cooking of tofu' takes 5-10 minutes
8. When cooked, add all the prepared vegetables
9. Garnish, serve and enjoy!
10. Feel free to add lemon juice per your taste- Sumit like it a lot, me not so much


Voila.... Vegetable Tofu Stir Fry

Monday, November 9, 2015

The season for festivities....


 Diwali comes around and it's my favorite time of the year!

I get in a completely festive mood. What XMAS is to kids is what Diwali is to me! I reminisce about my Diwali celebrations back home in India. Highlights were buying new clothes, cleaning out closets, re-arranging books, decorating the house, helping mum with her sarees, buying new clothes etc. Like any other Indian Festival, The food was the highlight. My mom would slave for hours preparing our favorite dishes and the traditional food that goes with Diwali.


Firecrackers was definitely not my thing at all. Partly due to the environmental and noise pollution philosophies our schools imbibed in us and partly because papa said, whatever you spend on firecrackers we could use for something else. Which my enterprising brother would invest and well me, I would buy more clothes.

Fast forward to now, my kids are growing up here in US, in this melting pot of cultures. We celebrate Indian festivals, American Festivals, Hallmark festivals, basically anything and everything which makes it fun for the kids and involves sugary treats. But Diwali, I go above and beyond.


It's our annual tradition, we call it our 'Diwali Dhamaka' We have all our friends over, its one massive gathering with lots of food, lots of Indian finery, lots of pictures and pooja. Lighting up 'PhoolJhari's/ sparklers', Kids painting diya's and rangoli's and our new highlight: The kids practicing and performing a Diwali Dance with all our friends cheering along!

I love how My Chatterbox has been thinking of songs that she and her friends could dance to. I love how she is thinking of new ways to decorate the house, the clothes she would wear, the excitement of the days itself. I am seeing the wonder in my little lady's eyes as she sees this chaos around. I think she is just excited about the 'mithai'  and the 'dressing up'. I do hope that with time, they really do remember the festivities and the joys of this big gathering of friends and family.

Wishing you a very Happy Diwali and a Prosperous New Year.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

I am feeling all better!



That's the mantra of my Little Lady, my almost 3 year old bundle of utter joy.

Chronicling a little of this little cute cheeks and her stories that enthrall her, make us laugh and forget of the world around us even for that little minute.

Story 1:
Any time her older sister, Miss Chatterbox V, has an ouchie or gets a band-aid. She needs one. Surprisingly Little Lady 'Pretends' to get hurt at the exact same place. She will do all the drama and ensure we give her bad-aid and it's quickly followed by 'I am feeling all better!'

It is adorable.

Story 2:
Halloween came and went and she was old enough to truly enjoy the same this year. Considering she is in a Montessori school, the whole make believe is not their philosophy aka, no Halloween in School.

So we made sure she enjoyed. My shy in public child went to every house, said 'Trick or Treat, her Thank You's and growled like a Tigger' I was so proud of her. Of course my sweet tooth would do anything for candy! I kid you not!

Story 3:
Little Lady goes back and forth for her favoritism with me and Sumit. Sometimes she is all about papa, and then for a small phase she will be 'Mummy do this and that'.
Current flavor of the season: Papa.
At pick up time she ran to Sumit instead of me and it broke my heart in a million pieces

Story 4:
Cake & Sweet Tooth.
I cant stress enough at how much my little one likes her sweets, it can be anything, candy, chocolates even sugar.
It was Sumit's birthday recently, and we pampered him. Sang Happy Birthday at every possible place, hugged him a lot and generally made him smile.
So every time we sang the 'Birthday Song' she asked us: Where is the cake?

It was adorable to see how association works for little minds. Birthday Song= Cake and yeah may be a hug!

My almost 3 year old bundle of joy, stay as sweet, melodious and unique as you are!
You make us smile and want to hug you all the time. You and your older sister make any worries go away with the adorable Good Morning's and I miss you Mummy :-)


Friday, October 30, 2015

Holiday Season and this whole My Fitness thing really SUCK!!!


 Yeah, the title sort of says everything!

It's lovely Fall Weather here and there are pumpkins and bright orange all around you see. There is Apple Cider smells on the streets and Delicious treats at every table you see. There are pot lunches and deliciousness all over.
And its only October, the best is yet to come, we have Thanksgiving & XMAS just around the corner.

AND I complain.

Simple Reason: I want to stick to my next target: Follow MyFitness Pal through my big vacation in December.

And this means all this deliciousness around me makes me cranky. I see the warm hot cider and I calculate calories mentally. I see this candy which I can steal from the kids and mentally I check the fat content. In pot lunches, I see all this food and mentally dream of the butter that was put in these delicious smells.

URGH!

This Sucks. Of course I eat, but in moderation (That's the whole point behind the My Fitness Pal).
Instead of the full chocolate, I manage surviving on 1/2 of the size. It satisfies the tongue but not the greed.
And Yes, of course I could eat it and not write it down, but hey I am doing this for myself so if I cheat, it really does not help.


I know its good for me to do this and I have made some progress. But I can complain and am complaining and will complain. I better fit into my target dress by December!!!

And yes, Happy Haloween

Friday, October 16, 2015

Foodie turning into Select Foodie

With the whole: 'My Fitness Pal' eating habits are now changing a bit(Finally!). I must commend myself for achieving my last week'sgoal: 'To meet the prescribed calorie intake at least twice a week'
I am happy to report, that I met it 5 days and was even under for one day (only 45 calories under: But hey, every bit of it counts, or I hope it counts)

I continue to have my one cheat day, its generally on the weekend!! I tell myself, it makes me sustain the ' My Fitness Pal'

My friend who nudged me on for this app still nudges me on says: 'It's about making better choices'.
Since I 'document' every morsel of food in my tummy, I better be smart about it. Case in point: At a Birthday party, I skipped on the chips and salsa and chose another vegetable sandwich. No Empty Calories is what I told myself!

The Mini Milano Dark Chocolate cookies are helping me keep me chocolate craving in check. Yay! I am trying to practice moderation. I say 'trying' since it’s really hard to stop at one Mini Milano.  The menu and the content of the dinner plate are changing ever so slightly! Hence the term 'Select Foodie'. It should be Foodie in moderation but then it sound boring!


This slight change has made a slight change in weight going in the right direction! Slight but hey, every victory counts!

I have a new person joining in my attempt to use this app and improve eating habits. Sumit, he joined the bandwagon and it's been fun to have someone to complain with and to. Someone who gets it.

Honestly, however: having him join in, is good and bad. He has a tendency of really truly following through (Yeah Yeah, I know that is so awesome).
So the Bad: 
1. On Day 3, he stopped by picked up Tofu & edamame and made his own dinner so that the protein content is high! Me on the other hand was eating Kale Paratha with vegetables due to my 'carb overload' issues.
2. He has lost the same number of pounds as me now (I took three weeks to get here and him only 1 week) URGH!!!
3. He manages to go for a run/ a tennis game here and there and me, well I am still lazy about that! URGH!!

And the Good:
1. It’s amazing to have him make Tofu for me before dinner so I can 'snack right'
2. He will happily take my bowl of 'snack' away and pass me edamame!
3. Our dinner conversations are now more like: 'I better eat more tofu and get my protein up instead of pass me another bowl of namkeen'
4. Plus I think it’s really cool to discuss 'Protein-ifying everything' with someone else other than google.

So yeah, the good outweighs the bad!

When I started this, I wanted to follow this through until my vacation in October. With the vacation almost here, I am so happy thinking I did it. I am hoping I can continue at least 'logging the food' for the duration of the trip!

Next Step: Follow through till my big vacation in December.

Remember: It is one step at a time!!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Story of brown bagged lunches



Home cooked homes will always be healthier, less expensive and more convenient. I know that. I have known that all along my career. But I dislike packing food from home and bringing it to work. Trust me, laziness is not a reason. I am used to packing lunches for the family.
For myself, I like to eat out mainly because someone else has cooked and delivered it. I just go, pick it up and enjoy! The other reason is, I like to step away from my desk and get a break or process work stress or just not think of work for a bit.

But in my attempt to use 'myFitness Pal' to its full extent, packing home cooked meals is more calorie efficient for sure. And the stepping away from my desk has become a post lunch brisk walk around the block to refresh and de-stress.

So I am trying to pack my lunch from home, at least 2-3 times a week now as against none before.

My brown bagged lunch recently was: Tofu-Vegetable noodles (From the night before) and Soup. I made more than enough to ensure lunch is packed for both the adults of the house.

Recipe:

Ingredients:
Wide rice noodles: 1 pack

Vegetables:
1. Onion: 1/4th cup slices
2. Carrots: 2 cups: Julienne
3. Green Beans: 1 cup: Finely chopped
4. Cabbage: 1 cup: Finely slices
5. Kale: 1 cup: Finely chopped
6. Tomato: 1 cup quartered
7. Bean Sprouts: 2 cups
8. Tofu: Firm, sliced: 2 cups
9: Pepper: 1/4 cup: Thinly sliced

Spices:
1. Salt per taste
2. Red Chili Powder: per taste
3. Soy Sauce: 2 tsp
4. Vinegar: 1 tsp
5. Soy Sesame Sauce: 3 tsp (I used Iron Chef pre made sauce)

Garnish
1. Wedge of lemon
2: Shallots: 1/4 cup sliced
3. Crushed Peanuts: 1/4 cup

Process
1. Boil the noodles al dente as per package instructions and let it cool
2. In a wok, heat 2-3 tsp of olive oil.
3. When hot, add the onions, once translucent, add all vegetables except Kale & Bean Sprouts
4. Cover the wok on medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, once the vegetables are tender; add all the spices, kale and tofu
5. Cover the wok on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, add bean sprouts and adjust seasoning.
6. Add the cooked noodles and toss. The wok makes it easier to mix the noodles with the vegetables.
7. When ready to eat, complete the garnishing and enjoy.

I added SriRacha sauce to increase the spice level and skipped on crushed peanuts.

Here is a picture of my 'Lunch' at work

The good thing about this recipe is, its very basic. I basically took all vegetables at home and chopped/ sliced them. Secondly, from start to finish it is about 30-45 minutes and is a hit with the kids and adults alike. I have the soy sesame sauce at home so its easy for me, honestly any of the pre-made sauces work, you can also make a tomato gravy for this. I just cut corners. On a lazy Sunday, we enjoyed watching our Hindi Movie: 'Chak De' with the kids and pigged out on the noodles.


The bean sprouts added at the end make it a bit crunchy which I like!

Cook & Enjoy

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Quick Fix Recipe: Bruschetta

It's been a while since I have posted recipes, I guess a lot of it is to do with my MIL being here and she is pampering me and cooking for us.
This past weekend we had some dear friends over for relaxed conversations and a fun evening. My chatterbox had been 'demanding' spaghetti for a really long time, so that resulted in an Italian Menu.
For me, an Italian dinner starts and ends with Bruschetta... no questions asked
 Here is my quick adapted recipe for the delicious Bruschetta
 Time to Prepare/Cook/ Assemble: 10 Minutes
Ingredients:
Base:
1. French Bread: One Loaf
2. Butter: 3-4 tsp
Topping:
3. Tomato finely chopped: 1 cup
4. Onion finely chopped: 1/4 cup
5. Olive Oil: 3 tsp
6. Garlic cloves: Finely chopped: 2 cloves
7. Spice: Salt, Black Pepper per taste
Garnishing:
8. Fresh finely chopped Basil: 1/2 cup
9. Toasted Sesame seeds for garnishing

Process
1. Mix all the topping ingredients and let it sit for 30-45 minutes.
Note: You can use it right away, but if you let it sit then the juices blend really well together
When ready to eat:
2. Cut 1/2 inch slices of French bread, and butter on one side.
3. Toast on a pan very slightly
4. Layer the topping and then the garnishing and serve.
This time around I didn’t take any pictures, one I was super hungry and two they got devoured before I even thought of it.
So enjoy this 'Quick Fix Bruschetta' as and when you please!


Friday, September 25, 2015

Finding people to share our journey

1 week into My Fitness Pal, I am excited. No, I have not miraculously lost any weight or feel even a tiny bit curvier. It is Business as Usual.
 

But I am excited. I get the general idea of my calories intake for the day. I say 'general idea' since I don’t spend the time to find the 'exact food' I eat. It helps me think about, oh I have this big dinner tonight, maybe I should have a lighter lunch. What I truly appreciate in the app is my graph of nutrients and breakdown by meals.
For the first time, I see how Carb heavy my meals really are.
I always knew I eat a lot of carbs, but when I see that over 60% of my day intake is carbs, I go like Wow. Of course, my roadblock is: my intake of carbohydrates is directly proportional to energy level. Yes, I am aware scientifically it does not make sense, but hey, you can't change a life time of eating habits in one week.
The other cool thing is the validation that dinner is my heaviest meal of the day. I know it should be 'King's breakfast and pauper's dinner'. But honestly, with our lifestyle, it really does not happen. This is the meal I can truly sit down and enjoy with the kids and Sumit!
But here is the shocker, I am calorie counting! I was such a stuck up and always said, 'Yeah not sustainable'. That's why they say, “Never say Never". I think I am still a stuck up and continue to say 'It's not sustainable but I am sticking to at least trying'
My daily calorie intake is still 'way' higher than what is prescribed for me. The good thing is that I have not cheated on the app yet. If I eat it, I log it. If I drink it, I log it. So it's good and bad. I am hoping to make some tweaks in my meals to come closer to my recommended calorie intake.
Aim for next week is first to continue using the app and next to meet the prescribed calorie intake at least twice a week. I am doing this 'One Step at a time'
So I am finding people to share my journey. As usual the first line of support is with Sumit. I think deep down he knows, I will give up soon, but while I am doing this he is cheering me on. His nudge, do it till our next vacation which is only a month away! Second line of support is my friend who got me introduced to this app: 'My Fitness Pal'. I continue to bitch to her about how hard this is. She encourages me none the less. And then of course to keep me honest, log it here and in the app.
Now for the complaint: 'It's so hard, just counting every morsel of food that goes in your head. It sucks!'
And the Update: 'I am still going to try’

Monday, September 21, 2015

Getting Fit.................round 2354346593764

See there is a pattern here, I start this 'Getting Fit' business' follow through for a bit and then let it slide. And then another phase comes and then I start something new. I wonder if it’s a follow through problem or just that I get bored problem.

Whatever the problem may be, the weight is definitely not sliding off on its own. The tiny silver line, its not increasing, but I am over my target weight at the rate of 10 pounds each kid.
See what I did there; blame the kids of extra baggage and not myself!
Getting back to the point, I have tried only salads for dinner 4X a week, Fit Bit, Meal planning, 3X a week work outs, walking, climbing stairs, slight modifications to lifestyle etc. And case in point, I just lose track of it, be it a vacation, a busy phase or just life in general.

So in spirit of yet another attempt at "Getting Fit' is using 'My Fitness Pal'. Trust me anyone with a smart phone has this app and people who have tried it swear by it. A dear friend on a lazy Friday afternoon chat session swore by it and said she is only 5 pounds over her pre baby weight. That was motivation enough and of course her nudging me on and saying: Don't do anything just log your food. That's it. Simple enough.
She knows how much I hate dieting since for me it’s not sustainable. I get super cranky! Her punch line was, just do what you do and start noting it down, since the calories of everything you consume are right in front of you, it makes you question the choices.  And so I did, 4 days of using it has made me realize I am eating an average of 600 calories over my target for the day. Hmm.
Its only day 4 and as of yet I have not made any changes to my diet. Small things like: taking the pita on falafel sandwich adds 200 calories, so I skipped the pita. I skipped sugar on my daily coffee mainly so the differential of my target calorie intake and my actual consumption is not that much. One step at a time.
This comes to the next point, is 'One step at a time' the right thing to do? I am young and at a place that I should be definitely more active and fitter than what I am. Do I need the 'Big Bang' approach since the pattern of 'One step at a time' is not really working for me? I wonder.
While I wonder, I start using 'My fitness Pal'

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I am partial to her, a lot. She is my child!

There are always two schools on thought on everything, some say, appreciate your child, it gives them a lot of confidence. Some say compliment but advise, they need the guidance and don’t need the re-enforcement.
I don’t know which school I follow with my daughters. I guess I never will know.
But I do know, I tell my Chatterbox, Miss V often, how proud I am of her and then at times, I tell her how silly she is (this generally is in my angry voice). I tell her often to not be over confident and then in gatherings not to be shy. Sometimes I yell at her for being 'such a child', sometimes I hug for being a child, my baby.
Bottom line, I KNOW I confuse her. But I hope deep down she knows, I love her! A lot. I wake up to her sneaking in my bed and hugging me. I can’t imagine starting my morning any other way!
My little Chatterbox (7 years old) was preparing her speech for 'Student Council & House Captain' last night. She wrote the speech and rehearsed it in about 2 hours. She enunciated, engaged with her pretend audience, made it exciting and smiled through her test run.

Last night while I tucked her in bed,
She asked me, "If I win, can I sleep in your bed?"
I replied: "Even if you lose you can sleep in my bed!"
She rolled her eyes and said: "Yeah yeah, I should just go and have fun" (My Smarty pants)
As I write this, she must be in school gearing up for giving her speech in front of primary school. I wonder what she is feeling. This morning, it was a combination of happiness and excitement for her. Me, however, I have had butterflies all morning! I could barely sleep last night since her video of the speech was playing in my mind in repeat mode.
Let me add, I am not anxious of the results, I am just amazed at this little wonder of mine.
But Miss V, My Chatterbox, is wise beyond her years. She is confident (sometimes over!), she can keep adults engaged in conversations (earlier I used to feel they are being polite, but now I see them coming over just to spend time with her!). She plays with little kids, her little sister and young friends follow her like a shadow. She loves hanging out with her friends and Sumit and I look forward to spending our lazy afternoons playing Scrabble with her.

She is sweet and yes, I know she is my daughter and I am partial to her, but hey in my school of thought: 'Be proud and share your pride'

Friday, September 11, 2015

Summer of 2015


For the past two summers the kids have been going to India for their summers. They travel, eat delicious food, travel some more and get pampered by the grandparents.
This summer was different, very different.
Both the girls stayed here with us. My In Laws visited us from India. I took 8 weeks off from work before my new role. Sumit didn’t travel for work.
So all in all, we had one of the most memorable summers.

V, my Chatterbox (7 years) was in Camp for a few weeks. She was really excited about it since she had NEVER been to camp in her whole life.
I think she was disappointed and I don’t blame her, even I felt it was a lot of unstructured time and maybe I can choose better camps for her next year. There were however lots of field trips which she loved, daily swimming which I loved and lots of pick up early, lets stay home, lets gallivant around town which we both enjoyed a lot
S, my little Lady (2 years) was in her school as normal. To take her out for a few weeks didn’t seem right since she is so well adjusted now. She went to a field trip a week in a 'yellow school bus' which was her highlight. We went to parks almost every evening, slept late, woke up later and just generally relaxed.
My In laws, I thinking enjoyed the summer, the heat not so much. They walked a lot, to pick up V from camp, to stroll while the girls enjoyed the park, they got to spend a lot of time with the grand kids which I think is amazing.
 For me, having summer off was the best, I truly relaxed and now feel really rejuvenated. I went for massages, long lunches with girlfriends, evening dates with Sumit, shared a lot of giggles with the girls and accompanied them to as many field trips and activities as possible.

We didn’t travel this summer with a full house, but had a stay cation with Horse rides on Millennium St., evening picnics at Maggie Daley Plaza, Summer Movies at Jay Pritzker, Musical nights at Ravinia, camping with friends, grilling on our newly renovated expanded deck, impromptu dance party with girls, trips to cousins in Indiana, enjoying long swims and splash pad at Crown Fountain!
I think my highlight was the girls sleeping in later and a relaxed start to the mornings.

As I write this and skim over my summer pictures, the one phrase that sticks is: 'A lot of nothingness and A lot of memories'

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I can't bake... but I bake!

I guess the title: 'I can't bake... but I bake' says everything doesn't it!

Baking is just not my things, I still try! mainly to overcome this "i cant bake' mindset and limitation and also since I LOVE desserts!

Of course, my Chatter Box, 7 year old v loves to bake aka: eat the batter, do the icing etc. Sumit avoids eggs in dessert so if i bake at home, I can skip/ substitute and make eggless desserts for him. My Little Lady, the 2.5 year old loved anything sweet!

So all the more reason to 'Try Baking'

Here is my 'Baking Experiment and Success Story'

Strawberry Crumble

Time to Prep: 15 minutes (Varies depending on how long your seven year old takes to mix and chop the berries)
Time to Bake: 30 Minutes

Ingredients:
Berry Mix:
Strawberries: Of Course!: 1.5 pounds hulled and quartered
All purpose flour - 1 tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Lemon- 1 tsp

For crumble:
Oats: I used rolled oats: 1.5 cups
All Purpose Flour: 3 tsp
Sugar: 3 tsp
Cinnamon: 1 tsp
Grated Ginger (Optional): 1.2 tsp
Butter: cold unsalted:3 tsp

Process
1. Pre-heat the oven at 375 F
2. Butter your baking dish, mix the Berry Mix ingredients and leave for 5-10 minutes
3. In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients of the crumble except the butter
4. cut butter in small pieces and rub it in with the crumble: the topping should look 'crumbly'!
5. Now layer the crumble on top evenly and bake

Eating:
Enjoy warm with Whipping Cream/ Vanilla Ice Cream

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A day of Summer Bliss


Living in the mid-west, we are sort of 'used to' the idea that within a 4 hours driving radius, we really don’t get to anything SUPER FUN.
And if there are SUPER FUN, we have been there already! So it gets boring!

I miss east coast for that. When we lived in DC, within 3 hours we could hit the mountains to the beach or SUPER FUN stuff! And when I lived in sunny California, i guess I should not complete that sentence; else there will be an overflow of tears!

Anyhow, back to my Midwest, with July 4th fast approaching, we wondered what we should do! A friend said Lake Geneva, and we all said, Yes, why not (I have been there a few times already (5, but who is counting), it’s the ONE really nice place to head out from the city, and close enough to do a day trip too)

So it was 5 families, 19 people from the wonderful City of Chicago who headed with beach bags, picnic baskets and summer gear to Lake Geneva.

Only one major disappointment, who charges 7$ per person forbeach access, well Lake Geneva does! But I got over that, the minute my feet touch the soft warm sand! We found some place for all of us to sprawl, changed headed in the lovely water! It was wonderfully warm, the kids played on the sand, kept going in and out of the water. So did we, and so did our parents who are visiting from India.

The picnic baskets kept opening, more food, more fruits, more juices, more sugary and the grand finale: Samosa's and Kachori's on the beach after an amazing afternoon. It could not get any better!

This turned out to be one of those days, where every single person enjoyed themselves, the youngest being 2 and the oldest about 70!

Funny. Chicago has lots of beaches to choose from (free access), Chicago has lots of sprawling space, lots of ice-cream shops and definitely lots of fireworks. But, just the process of driving, going to some place simple with friends and family and no rush, missed nap times, sugar high, eating Indian goodies on the beach are totally worth it!

Here is hoping for more summers and more such simple outings.

I wish there were more such simple joys in the mid-west! I just need to explore more I guess!



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chicago Summer Delights: Vegetarian Grilling


 If there is one time I see Sumit really content cooking is at the Grill. At the onset of summer, we finally bought our grill and it’s been a super duper hit. Making us ask ourselves: 'Why did we wait for so long?'

A few of our evenings are spent grilling and chilling on our deck. The kids can play with bubbles; we happily chat after a long day at work with the delicious smells of the grill food, relax and enjoy the city view!

Here was the super appropriate gift for him this 'Father's day':



As we explore this grilling journey, we are realizing there are not many recipes out there outside of vegetarian burgers, grilled vegetables with salt and peppers. As foodie's out here, that is great but definitely not enough.
So I introduce another tag today' Vegetarian Grilling'

Hence we are exploring and experimenting. Some success and some failures.

Here is one of the recipes: Spinach & Kale Stuffed Peppers:
 
Vegetarian Grilling Recipe
The best part of this, they follow my rule of 'Quick Food Fix'

Spinach & Kale Stuffed Peppers:
1. 3 to 4 peppers: Here are used the sweet peppers and split in half, feel free to use regular peppers and take the cap off.
2. Spinach- 1 bunch
3. 2 to 3 Kale Leaves destalked
4. 1/2 cup of frozen corn
5. Goat Cheese: About 1/2 cup
6. Spices: Dried Oregano leaves, Red pepper Flakes, Saunf/ Fennel Seeds, Salt- to taste

Recipe:
1. On a pan, on medium heat, add 2 tsp of olive oil, add the fennel seeds
2. Add finely chopped spinach and kale leaves. Saute for 2-3 minutes
3. Add spices and corn. Saute for 1-2 minutes
4. Add 1 tsp of goat cheese and switch off the gas.
5. Stuff the split peppers with the spinach Saute, top with goat cheese and take it to the grill
6. Grill for 5 minutes till smoky
7. ENJOY!


This definitely is what a cool dad looks like!!!



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Quick Food Fix: Vegetarian Falafel Sandwich

One of these evenings en route back from school, I was telling my Chatterbox V, oh its Mexican night!
She just didn’t seem excited. Excited is too strong a word, she was disappointed. Her exact words to me were: 'No, Not really"
She then chimed in saying 'I want that thing with pita bread' . After some probing and prodding, I realized she was talking about Falafel sandwiches!

So the menu changed, and it became Falafel Sandwiches.
This was my FIRST attempt at it, here is my version of the recipe modified to make it filled with iron & additional protein!

Falafel Ingredients
Chickpeas- 1 can rinsed thoroughly (You could soak 1 cup of garbanzo overnight and boil as well)
Tofu: Firm 1/4 cup chopped in cubes (Use firm, else the falafel will be too soft)
Kale: 3 leaves, chopped
Onion: 1/4 chopped
Carrots: 1/2 cup chopped
Parsley(Optional): 1/4 finely chopped
Spices: Cinnamon 1/4 tsp; Salt, Chili - per taste

Sandwich Ingredients:
Pita bread, halved
Chopped:
Cucumber
Tomato
Onion
Arugula

Toppings:
Hummus (I had the roasted red pepper hummus from Costco)
Yogurt, blended: I was missing Dill, else I would have added that

Making Falafel:
(Steps 1-3 are optional)
1. In a pan, Sautee onion, carrots, kale with the spices
2. When tender (About 2-3 minutes), add in all other ingredients and spices
3. Sautee for additional 5 minutes

4. Take the mixture of all falafel ingredients and blend in the food processor, add 1 tsp of lemon juice
5. Pulse for 2-3 minutes, until a slightly chunky paste

6. Make into small patties and cook them turning slightly until browned- 4-5 minutes


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

5. Enjoy and Eat!


Dinners for us have to be quick, since the time from entering home, to dinner to bed time is very short and action packed. I loved this revised recipe- it took me about 30 minutes to prep, prepare and serve! And hence the Tag 'Quick Food Fix'.

Plus I think since it was the first time I made it, I was super proud of me, I am sure so was Miss Chatterbox!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Foodie Troubles, the Meal Plan Edition

So last week was my first ever Meal Plan. Aim was that I have less wastage around in the fridge and use more vegetables/ fruits!

Well, I would say that part was definitely a success. In addition Miss V, my 7 year old absolutely loved it, she was excited about, oh wow, I am getting this tomorrow! She and Little Lady would chat about 'dinner'. It was adorable.

For me, I didn’t spend time thinking what's for dinner tonight in my travel back from work. Since I knew what was 'On Menu' I actually prepped a bit in the morning.

In addition, creating this made ample variety through the week which was a breather and not the 'same old, same old'

Now for the cons, since it was the first time for a 'Weekly Meal Plan', I had 'over-engineered' it! Implying I had over-planned! (Yes there is something like over planning). Here is my 'After' look at the meal plan. I have highlighted the changes made!



I like this concept enough to try continuing this. In addition, we recently bought a Grill, so I think leaving a few summer evenings open for that is- as my 2 year old would put it 'An Excellent Choice'


Here is this week's plan:


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

She did what??


 Its 5 am, hubby is travelling on a business trip. I hear soft whispers of my 2 year old Little Lady across the hall. I ignore, switch sides and try falling back to sleep. The soft whispers are getting louder and I really don’t want her to wake her older sister up, so I rub my eyes and drag my feet to her room.

Once I enter, my eyes are wide open and I said: "You did what??"

I rub my eyes again and I hoped it was a dream, but alas.
Little Monster Lady managed to remove her pants in the night, opened the diaper and slept. And she is NOT potty trained yet! So at 5 in the morning, her room has a faint strong stink, she is smiling through it and saying: I am wet mummy, change my clothes: And I am still saying: 'You did what'

So the 5 am became, start the laundry, change sheets, clean up the Little Lady, hug and kiss, hoping she sleeps a bit more. Yeah Right!

May be I need to pull in the Potty Training Schedule or May be just put her to sleep in Onesies!




I call up Sumit later to tell him... and I didn't have the heart of saying: 'She did that!'

Monday, June 1, 2015

Less wastage = Less annoying, right?

Food is a very important part of our household. Not just because we all are foodies, but also since partially because I love cooking and partially I love seeing the content faces of the family.

But, sadly for whatever reason, though we cook a lot at home, there are vegetables which get bad in fridge since I didn't get to them. There are fruits which we have to toss out since they have just gone bad. It's annoying. It's a waste of money and definitely food.

We have tried buying lesser, rotating more menu's/recipes, there is slight improvement but we have also come to a place where the menu becomes repeated- since those are the only vegetables left and having 'Cauliflower-Carrots' three times a week is no fun, Sumit will attest. So yes, It’s annoying.


So this week a borrowed idea: Weekly Menu Plan: I am hoping this will help me use the groceries we bought this past weekend more effectively. And of course, putting this together made me re-think a little to ‘mix-it-up’ and offer a bit more variety to our palates. I pack lunch for my older daughter V and Sumit regularly so don’t judge on dinner leftovers as lunch next day!

Here is the weekly menu plan for our household. Needless to say, I will report next week of what really happened!!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

A bowl of golden bliss


 I know I should call it Tabbouleh, But I will continue to call it a 'Bowl of Golden Bliss'
Because that's exactly what it was!!

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients
Bulgur/Cracked Wheat/ Daliya: 2 cups washed (Readily available in grocery stores)
Very Finely chopped vegetables
1/4 onion
1/2 Bell Pepper
1 celery stick
1/2 cucumber
2-3 leaves of Kale
1/2 bunch Parley
1 tsp Lemon Juice (feel free to include more lemon juice if you like it tangy)
1/4 tomato

Spices: Per Taste
Salt
Paprika

Process:
1. Boil the washed cracked wheat and drain excess water: Takes about 15 minutes,
2. Let it cool and meanwhile chop all the vegetables very finely
3. Add all vegetables, lemon and spices except parsley to the boiled Daliya/ cracked wheat
4. Keep in fridge until ready to eat.
5. Add the finely chopped parsley at time of eating for the freshest taste of the 'Bowl of Golden Bliss'

Testimonials:
1. Supportive husband loved it, gobbled up my share, his share and the extra for later.
2. Miss Chatterbox aka my 7 year old Miss V ate 1 cup and tasted from all other cups that hubby ate
3. Little Lady aka my 2.5 year old Miss S tried a few spoons and seemed interested. She is a sweet tooth, so this was awesome!

4. Me, aah a Golden Bowl of Bliss

Friday, March 6, 2015

India's Daughter


Yes, yet another Media Mention of the infamous documentary  India's Daughter.

When I sit to write about it, there are so many topics that come to mind, Poverty, Lack of education, Gender inequality, political media censorship, patriarchal society, judicial system, women safety and yes, Rape.

So instead of talking about all, I choose none. I will talk about how it all relates to my experiences growing up in a middle class simple Marwari family.

My maternal grandfather was a historian and a freedom fighter. He got married really early and has a family of 6 kids. 4 boys and 2 girls. My mom grew up in a small UP town and he mandated, 'My daughters will study'.  My maternal grandmother, not educated herself supported this and wanted the independent young girls in her family. She supported her older son's wife entire education after marriage. My mom did double MA (Masters of Art's). Much against the society norms in the 1950's 60's.
My maternal grandparents are a typical Marwari couple, conservative and yet very progressive.

My father, is one of 11 siblings, comes from a very simple and modest family of farmers. Having lost his dad at a very young age, he tells me stories of how much resistance he had to fight against him studying. He got support from one of his siblings and completed his education. His is the story of studying under street lights, living in cramped quarters with roommates and being focused on one thing: Education. He saw most women in his small town Rajasthan being house wives, girls being married really early and no support structure for women. But my mother tells me tales of my paternal grandmother, widowed really early brought up the 11 kids independently. This and my father’s education broadened his horizons and his perspective. His one hope for his kids: Education.

My parents form a very progressive couple. Growing up, they had similar rules for my brother and I. We had the same opportunities for education, lifestyle and extravagance. My brother now is an entrepreneur and as for me. I am an Engineer with a Masters in Engineering from one of the top 10 school in US.

But this story is not about my brother or me. 
It's about the foresight of our grandparents and parents. They didn’t follow societal norms. They followed the path of 'What's right'. They had a vision of their own family being educated, being equal and being independent.

I am sure they dreamt of having their kids in the best possible jobs, businesses and with happy families. And that is the best part: They thought of 'Their Kids' Not just sons! Kids.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

With kids, funny things happen, ALL THE TIME.

You just have to stop and smell the flowers as they say.

But sometimes things happen that you just laugh your socks off... and this was one of those:
Now I qualify this as 'Kids say the darnest things' though not word was said.

A few weekends ago, one afternoon we were chilling with very dear friends of ours. And they have the most friendly and cute dog.... lets call him 'Roomba'. Why? Since if there is a piece of food on floor he eats it away! I always say, they never need a vacuum.

So, my friend was teaching Miss Chatterbox a few tricks for Roomba, the dog, like Sit, Sleep and then offer a treat.
The story goes like this.

My friend holds out the treat and says.
' Roomba, Sleep, Roomba, put your head down, Roomba stop wagging the tail'
The adorable dog, Roomba is, he does all three and then happily gets his treat.

My chatterbox (7 years old)follows the cue and repeats the same :
' Roomba, Sleep, Roomba, put your head down, Roomba stop wagging the tail'
The adorable dog, Roomba is, he does all three and then happily gets his treat.

Everyone is happy and cheering the dog, Roomba and the girls.

My friend then asks Little Lady (who just turned two), Do you want to try?
And the little lady does the following:
'She Sleeps,She puts her head down, and she stops moving'

So now, the two year old is cutely lying on the floor and we are in splits and laughing hysterically.
Miss Chatterbox goes and says, 'Little Lady deserved a treat!' and feeds her a cheerio

I assure you, this will be a memory etched in all our minds for a long time to come. I swear, I wish we were making a video, it completely would have made it to AFV!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dosa from Scratch: It's NOT hard at all..


 We are a foodie family. We experiment, we attempt, we fail and we try.
I am one of those who try to cook a fresh meal daily for the kiddos. I say try. The menu needless to say has to be quick and easy to put together. Our week's menu range from Indian Staples: Tortilla/Roti, Vegetables, Curry to Pasta, Quesdilla, Burgers, Panini and snacks... Who says snacks can’t be dinners at times!

In the last 6 months there is one new item: Dosa I have learned that has changed our weekly menu's

My friends MIL gave me a recipe and I have been at it pretty much once every 2-3 weeks
Dosa from scratch!

As you read below, you will think 'My Gosh, it's a 3 day process' yes and no. From the time you soak to you cooking the dosa is 2-3 days. But your involvement is only 20 minutes tops. I guarantee, else I would not be sharing this recipe

Time Breakdown
Soak: 12 hours
Grind: 5 - 10 minutes
Ferment: 24 hours
Prepare the dosa: Depends on your speed!

Ingredients: Makes about 25-30 dosa
2 cup rice
1 cup Udat Daal
1 tsp Methi Dana
1 tsp Chana Daal

Process:
1. Mix and wash all the ingredients and soak overnight
2. Next morning, drain the mixed rice/udat daal and grind them using a heavy duty blender, Example: Blendtec, Ninja Turbo
3. Grinding Notes
1. The grinding takes about 5 - 10 minutes
2. Add less than 1/2 cup water during the process of grinding
3. The batter is a thick white paste, I feel it with my hands, if its grainy, I blend some more.
4. At the time of grinding, feel free to add 1 cup of Poha (washed) for extra crispy dosa's

Ferment:
Pour the batter in a box that seals well and after pouring there is some : My Pyrex works magic!
Size of the box in which you seal the batter should be 2/3 filled since on fermenting the batter rises.
Place the batter in the closed oven (no need to start it)for 24 hours plus to ferment.

Making Dosa:
1. The fermented batter generally rises a little more.
2. Take 1/2 the batter and gradually add water (1 cup) to make the batter liquidy. The batter should be like the pancake batter consistency to make dosa's
3. Add 1 tsp of spoon of salt and roll out the Dosa like Crepe's

The remainder half can be stored in refrigerator upto 5 days. 

To Eat:
I have attempted the following varieties over the past few months:
Sada Dosa,
Cheese Dosa,
Aalloo Masala Dosa,
Paneer Dosa,
Mysore Masala

You have some other variations, please do send my way!

Accompaniments with dosa:
Nariyal Chutney: Recipe coming soon
Green Chutney:
Red Habanero Chutney: Recipe coming soon

Sambhar: I make a 'quick fix' one of these days I will learn the traditional recipe for Sambhar, for now my family is happy with the 'quick fix sambhar’ which tastes really good, if I may add that!