Monday, July 24, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Grilled Zuchini Boats

As we improvise our vegetarian BBQ recipes, we have discovered our new favorites like 'Grilled Edmame; Crusted Tofu, Tangy potato' and as we explore new recipes like today's Zuchini Boats..... the one main BBQ item that has been dropping off our menu is the Vegetarian Burger.

Imagine a BBQ with no burger and you are still full!
To be honest, a Trader Joe's masala burger is a staple in my house, I love it! This is the one frozen ready made food that i actually keep stocked for those days when I just want to do nothing with cooking and still eat at home.

When we started with grilling, we will make a few variations and then stick to the tried and tested Vegetable Burger as a main... however in the past 6 weeks of grilling (We grill at least twice a week), I have made the vegetable burgers only once!

So our BBQ sessions are interesting for sure even sans the burger! Here is the new 'concoction' Grilled Zuchini Boats!

Serves 6-8 adults as a side

Ingredients:
Zuchini (But of course): 3-4 medium length

Stuffing:
Corn (husked from the cob): 1 or frozen corn 1 cup
Note... its summer, enjoy the fresh husked corn, the frozen ones can be used in winter!
Onion: Medium: Finely chopped
Pepper: 1 medium: Finely chopped
Seranno Pepper: Per taste, finely chopped
Pesto Sauce : 3 tsp
Spices:
Per taste: Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes

Toppings
Goat Cheese: crumbled 1/2 cup
Shredded Cheddar Cheese: 1/4 cup
Basil: Finely chopped: 1/4 cup



Process:
1. Wash the zuchini and Slice it in the middle length wise
2. Core the centre and save the pulp

3. Stuffing: Mix all the ingredients along with the zuchini pulp and the spices
4. When the grill is hot, on the grill mats place the stuffing for 3-5 minutes and toss once or twice.
5. While the stuffing is getting cooked, place the sliced and cored zuchini on the mat as well.
5. When the stuffing is ready, : Stuff the stuffing (no pun intended) on the zuccini boats and and top with the cheese mix

6. Grill the stuffed boat for another 2-3 minutes and tada!!! Ready, the finely chopped basil helps to elevate the look

Enjoy as a warm accompaniment on your grilling evening.
And yes vegetarian grilling/ BBQ parties are a thing! We are living proof.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Paneer Tikka Masala

Another grill edition and definitely a super hit with Indians and even my local American friends.
I used home made Paneer for this round, but you can use store brought one like I have done for the past 14ish years!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1. Bell Pepper 1 Medium: Quartered in chunky pieces
2. Yellow Onion 1 Medium: Quartered in chunky pieces
3. Paneer: Quartered (You can adjust the amount of paneer based on your taste, I say, more then merrier)
4. Tomato 1 Medium: Quartered in chunky pieces
5. Ginger: 1 tsp grated
6. Garlic: 2 cloves grated
7. Yogurt: 3/4 cup

Herbs & Spices
1. Paneer Tikka masala (Easily available in Indian Store/ Whole Foods): 2 tsp
2. Seeka hua Jeera: 1/2 tsp
3. Red Chillo Powder: 1/2 tsp
4. Sookha Pudina: 1/2 tsp
5. Rock Salt: 1/2 tsp
6. Salt & Pepper: Per taste

Garnish:
1. Chopped Cilantro: 1/2 cup
2. Squeezed Lemon Juice: Per Taste
3. Chaat Masala: Per Taste

Process:
1. In a mixing bowl, mix the yogurt with all the spices and ginger, garlic
2. Once all is mixed, add Onion, Bell pepper and Paneer (Not the tomato)
3. Mix well and ensure everything is coated well
4. Now add the tomato and toss lightly
5. Marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge

Note: If you leave the marination overnight, skip adding the tomato's since tomato releases the water, it will make the marinate 'thinner'

To Cook:
On Grill: (Perfect for summer) Save some of the marination, and layer the tikka on the grill mats. Cook for 4-8 minutes and ensure to flip the vegetables and paneer to cook evenly

Alternatively: You could add them to presoaked skewers, I generally forego this step since it adds more prep time and for gobbling them down, have to take them off the skewers anyways.

In Oven: (Perfect in winters)On a slightly oiled foil/ oven dish add the paneer tikka and cook at 375 F for about 20 minutes

On Stove Top: (Least Recommended)Add 1 tsp of olive oil in the pan and then add vegetables and Paneer, Let it cook for 5-10 minutes on medium flame. Please note in this method, the vegetables tend to get softer and the paneer will not have the 'crunchy exterior'

Garnish with the toppings and any leftover marinated yogurt and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The half year mark...

We are roughly in the middle of the year and with both my girls being winter babies, its only apt that I write a simple homage of the half year it has been with these little angels or devils... or creatures who keep our lives filled with laughter, fun and definitely some angry tears!

Little Lady:

She is working hard to overtake her sister's title of 'Chatter box' and we love it.... she definitely has the most singy songy voice and the batting of her eyelids with that voice... she does get away with a lot more... a lot more!
She is chatty, definitely has made strides of progress in being 'less shy'. From the girl who played on her own for hours is now her gathering up her friends in the park and chasing butterflies. It's wonderful to see her blossom. 
She is being assertive and negotiating way more for every single thing. But the batting of eyelids has my heart in a mush consistently. 
She is gotten progressively annoying when it comes to food. She will still eat everything we give her, however sloth can eat faster than her. She is chatting more and eating less at meal time. 
The coolest part of her newest passion is reading, she will sit with her early reader books and make attempts. She will sit with her writing books and has moved on from scribbles to coherent writing. 
She is my musical kid, will skip instead of walking and can sing and sing and sing some more... simply to annoy her room mate, her love of her life, Didi aka Miss V aka Miss Chatterbox

Miss Chatterbox: 
This year was quiet a formative year for her, there was a lot of tween drama in her class, some crushes, some teasing, some girl gossips and definitely a lot of 'Mom, I am not a baby anymore
One word that best describes Miss Chatterbox, she is Strong. She is in very good control of her emotions and mature way beyond her years. She does not like to being vulnerable or cry and will really put on a brave face. 
And I really have to look in her eyes truly understand how she feels, she is sensitive and the strong face does not fool me. 
I love my long conversations with her about anything and everything. I love her complimenting/ dissecting my wardrobe. I thoroughly enjoy watching her with the soccer ball. 
Admist all this, She is definitely working on my patience by being more defiant and  more 'annoying' in the tween kind of way: Rolling of the eyes, some back answering and definitely being a little disrespectful. 
How am I dealing with this? You ask, I am not. It currently reverberates between yelling at her, to giving her silent treatment to more often than not 'What is going on man'
I guess deep down I do know the answer, nothing. So I need to figure out a way to learn with her and be the mature one in the relationship. 


But both these girls have one thing in common, their total dedication to each other. Where Little Lady will save an extra candy for her sister, the older one Miss V will hug her and calm her when Little Lady is sad. They fight, they annoy each other but they are each other's  biggest confidante right now. 

I will say this for the record: Currently, the older one is the tattle tale right now and the little one defensive of the other. I honestly thought at ages 9 and 4, it would be the other way around. 
Oh well, there is no 'guidebook to bringing up siblings 5 years apart' So, I will learn on the job!

My babies...or not such little babies anymore!



Home Made Paneer, Yes Please!

With young kids in a vegetarian house hold, Paneer (Think of it like a dense cottage cheese)very easily becomes favorite. Its' high in protein and calcium, very easy to cook and above all the kids will eat it in any form possible. And vegetarian or not, Paneer is one of the easiest to cook with after potatoes of course.

Over one of our countless BBQ sessions, a friend mentioned that she makes the paneer at home and its super easy. I was laughing and had the 'No way in hell' look and she said trust me. And I did trust her, noted her process down and then and I attempted it we had amazing home made fresh paneer with a simple-process.

Process in Instant Pot (Adapted from my friend’s recipe)
1. In IP: Yogurt-Boil Mode, boil 1/2 gallon of whole milk (Whole milk will yield more paneer!)
2. When milk is boiled, in a cup mix 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Add it to the milk
3. The milk separates from the whey. Stir a little more. You can save the whey for other uses(!)
4. Strain the curdled milk using a cheese cloth, just hang the cheese cloth with the curdled milk for about 30 minutes for additional water to drain out.
5. This is the soft paneer. However most of my recipes call for the firm paneer, Wrap the curdled milk in the cheese cloth, keep a heavy weight on top overnight to squeeze out any additional liquid.

Ta-da Paneer is ready. You can use it right away, however I recommend keeping in the fridge for about 24 hours especially if grilling with it, just so that it hardens up a little.


FYI- I used instant pot, well because its super easy to clean .... and then I was in a mode, so boiled the entire gallon of whole milk, used 1/3 rd for paneer, 1/3rd for making yogurt and 1/3rd for making Indian Ice Cream- Kulfi!

FYI- If you are using a regular stove top for boiling milk, the word on the street is, add 1/4 cup water to the pan before you start boiling the milk, it helps in not having the milk stuck on the stove top pan.

We of course used the home made paneer for grilling as Paneer Tikka and I realized the home made paneer was softer (less chewy) and above all; I was just crazy excited that it was home made. So the child in me took over and I ensured that the family tasted the paneer



Of course this needs to follow with an easy breeze quick paneer tikka recipe for Grilling of course! Coming Soon- I Promise.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Silly Races and A picnic

The tradition for Munch Bunch is simple.... 4 foodie families meet once every 4 to 6 weeks and try to cook a new themed menu to test different menu's and just explore a little outside our comfort zone. We have attempted Greek, Vietnamese, Indian Area Specialties, Ethiopian, Burmese.... aah so many more!
This month's theme was ..... 'Silly Races and a Picnic'.

With summer in Chicago, heading to the beach/park/somewhere outdoors is a must and miss Chatterbox decided that having silly races would be the perfect way.... so 12 adults, 8 kids ranging from 3 months to 9 years all headed to one of the Chicago Beaches right next to a park with all the picnic gear is full force.

Silly Races: Miss V made a list of 11 races and we managed to play 1: Lemon in a spoon race which was awesome fun! But we did play lots of Frisbee, catch the ball, cricket, walking on the beach, Simon Says and just having kids run around as we sat and caught up and just enjoyed sitting on the mats and soaking in the wonderful lake breeze.

Menu:
To begin with crunchy Vegetable Pastry Puff followed by Potato Kathi Rolls just reminiscent of the Mumbai infamous street food and then a delicious take on the Bahn Mi sandwich.
Of course for dessert we had a cake and to celebrate the American Independence Day ... a gorgeous cake.
For drinks this time since we were at the beach, we had lots of water, juices to keep it simple.



Kathi Roll/ Frankie:
This is a Mumbai special and totally reminds me of a simpler time walking on Breach Candy with my friends and asking the Rajesh Frankie wallah, please make it spicy! And then giggling along with friends and walking a lot more.

Makes 16 Frankie’s

Ingredients
Yellow Potato: 10-12: Boiled, peeled and mashed well
Yellow Onion: 2 thinly slices
Garlic: 3 cloves finely chopped
Ginger: 1/4 inch finely chopped
Serrano Peppers: 3-6 finely chopped
Cilantro: 1 cup finely chopped
Olive Oil: 3 tsp
Spices
Jeera: 1 tsp
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Chilli Powder: 1 tsp (Use more to make it spicy)
Amchoor: 1 tsp
Chaat Masala: 2 tsp
Salt: Per Taste
Black Pepper: Per Taste

For Garnishing
1 Red onion: thinly sliced and marinated in 2 tsp chaat Masala
6-8 Serrano Peppers: Chopped well and marinated in 1 cup vinegar
Garlic Chutney: Readily available in Indian stores or homemade =
Tortilla: All purpose tortilla - 16

Process:
Making the Stuffing
1. Heat the olive oil and add Jeera till it splutters
2. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, serrano peppers. Sautee for 5-7 min. (till onions are translucent)
3. Add all the spices and cook for 2-3 minutes
4. Add the mashed potatoes and mix well, cook for another 5 minutes add cilantro and turn the flame off.




Assembling
1. On a flat bottom pan, heat the tortilla till warm
2. Spread the garlic Chutney
3. Place the cooked potato in the center, top with marinated onion and chilli-vinegar.
4. Roll like a burrito and sprinkle with chaat masala if needed


I covered with parchment papers since I wanted to keep it simpler to pick up and eat at the picnic, this is a wonderful idea for school lunches as well, since quick to grab and eat and you can include choice of vegetables as a filling. The best part of this Kathi roll/ Frankie was....is... it reminds me of home. 
Enjoy!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Grilled Corn Crostini

Let's make your vegetarian grilling more fun !

Now, we all know that without corn, the grilling is too boring. But corn on the cob gets too boring and too filling after a while.
So here is our new variation of consuming the corn!

You could either use kernels from corn or even frozen ones, I used the kernels fresh off the cob since, well I was in the mood of adding more work for myself!

Serves: 6-10 as a side

Ingredients
French Bread: One loaf, sliced 1 inch wide
Goat Cheese: 8-10 tsp
Corn: 1 cup kernels
Cherry Tomatoes: 1/2 cup sliced half
White onion: 1/2 cup finely chopped
Fresh Basil: 1/4 cup finely chopped

Marination
Pesto Sauce: 2 tsp (You could make fresh or use any of the nice store brought ones like I did)
Olive Oil: 1 tsp
Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes per taste
Note: If you like your food slightly spicier, i highly recommend adding  Chili Oil as a topping.

Process:
1. Mix the onions, corn and the marination ingredients and let it sit for 5-10 minutes
2. When the grill is hot, let the vegetables grill/ crispen for about 3-5 minutes. Take off the grill
3. On the sliced bread, spread a generous amount of goat cheese.
4. Top the bread with the grilled vegetables and garnish with Basil

Enjoy the perfect cold-warm crostini!

Now, FYI-I highly recommend using these grill mats, they are amazing and the corn kernels don't fall off and above all very easy to clean! We use these mats all the time!

Variation: If you want to make the crostini in the oven instead of grilling, the setting should be broil, and let the vegetables cook for 5 minutes! Layer and enjoy

The fun about Crostini's is it looks amazing, is simple to put together and is a lot of fun to sample variations!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017 Summer: BBQ Edition

Summer in Chicago is short lived and because of this, we make every minute count! Every single evening needs to be outdoors, getting wet in the ample water areas in the city parks or simply enjoying the breeze on the deck with some BBQ.
As a vegetarian, I get puzzling looks when I am asked... what do you grill?
Just so you know.... we have BBQ'ed 3 times in a row this July 4th weekend, so if anything, we really do try to mix it up on the menu to not get repetitive. And my list of grilling recipes is growing furiously!

Continuing the tradition of last year and adding recipes in the mix... here is our new concoction for Tangy Potato's. Per my MIL who is visiting from India, it’s her favorite!!!

Recipe: Serves 6 greedy adults!
Golden potatoes 8-10 cut in wedges (Don’t make them too thin, since the grill will burn them)
Marinate Ingredients:
Olive Oil: 6-8 tsp
Spices:
Red Chili- 2 tsp (If you like it spicy)
Dried mint powder - 1 tsp (You can even take fresh mint and chop it up finely)
Salt: 1 tsp
Chole Masala: 2 tsp (Available at Whole Foods, Indian Stores)
Chaat Masala: 1 tsp (Available at Whole Foods, Indian Stores)

Process:
11.      Mixes Potato with the marinate ingredients and let it sit for 15-20 min
22.      Grill for about 5-10 minutes, you need to turn it with the grilling spatula soon!

Feel free to season with Squeezed lemon and add in additional salt from top as needed.


Enjoy as a side, or use this as a burger patty or just binge on it while you wait for the rest of the food to grill up!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Salsa kind of night

First things first... pictures below are borrowed from Internet....... We were super hungry so gobbled up the food prior to the pictures..
It's a weeknight and with grandparents in the house, there has been a lot of Indian food. The kids, the grandparents and us, we all needed a break... So Mexican menu with its flair of spice and its simplicity of 'assembling' was perfect!

We cooked in the house and then took everything on the deck to enjoy the weather, play games and enjoy the food- the summer way!

Menu:
Nacho: Tortilla chips smothered with cooked black beans, salsa, cheese and Guac
Taco: Toasted shells with black beans, roasted vegetables and all toppings
Quesadilla: The black bean quesadilla with Guac is the perfect combination
Accompaniments: Pico De Gallo, Salsa Verde and Guacamole along with finely chopped Habanero chilies, Cilantro and of course lettuce!

And trust me when I say this, my family loves Mexican food and the best accompaniment to the Mexican food is the 'Fresh Salsa' So make small portions and enjoy! Here is my recipe for the quick Salsa Verde....

Portion: 1 cup
Ingredients:
1. Green Tomatillo 4-6 washed and quartered
2. Garlic Cloves: 2 peeled and washed
3. Jalapeno: Sliced and De-seeded: 1 (If you like it spicier, feel free to use Habanero Chili)
4. Spices: Salt, Black pepper: Per Taste
5. Olive Oil: 2 tsp


Process:
1. In a flat pan, heat the olive oil
2. After 1-2 minutes place all the ingredients in the pan for 'pan roasting/ Fire Roasting'
3. The flat heated pan helps in 'charring' the ingredients which is what you want
4. After 3-4 minutes, place the lid on the pan to let the tomatillo juices flow out and get cooked
5. Turn off the flame and let it all cool
6. Pulse in a food processor for 1-2 minutes.

Note: I like my salsa, chunkier to I don’t pulse it too much

Note: Tomatillo is quiet tart by nature, so cooking it well makes it tangy and reduces the tartness, you don’t need additional lemon.


If you don’t have Tomatillo you could fire roast the red tomatoes, however you do need to be careful since tomato is juicier than tomatillo so cover the pan sooner, you may add lemons to the red... needless to say, this will not be 'Verde' 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vanity is beautiful

A story, a realization and the simplicity of it

A friend of my older daughter Miss V, lets calls her Ms. Inspiring.

The kids were hanging out together, laughing, giggling and just having a great time especially since they met after such a long time. They are now in different schools but hang out when schedules permit. I notice Ms. Inspiring's hair cut... I mean she went from a hip length to a short bob and she totally rocked it. But I asked her, how come?

Ms. Inspiring tells me, ' I donated my hair for kids who need it' and I was astounded. Before I could respond she continued: 'It's hair, they will grow back' and she went off to play with Miss V and the other kids.

And I was standing in the doorway.... astounded and definitely inspired.

That was 1.5 years ago.

I started growing my hair, honestly mainly out of vanity. I haven't had long hair since a very long time (11 years ago I had grown them out to style them well for my wedding!)
So I started growing them and thoroughly enjoyed the buns, the  braids, the wind through them and having the girls style them and play with my hair. I had completely forgotten about that conversation with the 8 year old friend of V.

Recently someone in the extended family was diagnosed with a 'Big C' and that's when it all came crashing in...... the conversation with the 8 year old, the face of my relative and the shallowness of my vanity.

Long story short (no pun intended):

The before and The after


Thank you Miss. Inspiring for making it so simple 'It's hair, they will grow back'

The hair donation went to Wigs for Kids whose motto is 'Helping children look like themselves and live their lives!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Day 3, 4: Resort Stay & Journey to El Nido

Continuing the story of the Phillippines in a week, read here for Day 1 and Day 2

Day 3: Rainy days, but a stay at the plush resort with friends

This day started again with torrential rain fall and was our day with the friends. We had originally planned to take an island hopping tour and explore Mactan/ Lapu Lapu. But rain forced us to improvise and we all headed to the lavish pools of the resort.
So when it rains, we enjoy the pool even more! It's brilliant actually!

A lazy lunch and some more conversations followed. My friend and I decided to get matching tattoos (sticker ones) and this day turned out to be a lovely relaxed and fun filled day. By the evening, they were 'not' ready to return to HK and we packed and 'got ready' to head to Palawan/ El Nido the next morning.


I am so thankful for great friends, who adjust their own schedules to take a combined vacation. Though we met them after 5 years, it felt like we started where we left off and it was just simple and of course with a few more kids in the mix.


Day 4 A morning flight to Palawan and a long 7 hour drive to El Nido

Cebu- Flight to Palwan/ Puerto Princesca- 7 hour drive to El Nido!!!
The TRAVEL TIME is the ONE thing I wish I could change. It was really late that we found out about a a direct flight from Cebu to El Nido, so for anyone who is planning, do that. Cebu- El Nido direct
It saves you a day of travel time and this way you can maximize your time on the beach instead of travelling from one island to the other.

We reached El Nido around 7 pm and met our host of the Bed n Breakfast we had booked for. Tony was the sweetest host and really helped us navigate the local area. His BnB was one street off the beach and really in the middle of the activity hub, all the fun and frolic the city of El Nido has to offer. He made us feel so at home and went above and beyond to help us book our tours for the next two days.

Though we had done research and knew we wanted to do Tour A & C, he connected us to his known tour company Caldao Tours and booked us in for the next morning with a custom Vegetarian Lunch order. We walked around town, grabbed some dinner and then headed back for some rest and more sleep.

More on Tour A & C coming up

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

You thought I forgot???

Nope, I have not forgotten about the whole business of buddying up, logging food and being a little more active than I was before. The long, painful but satisfying journey for 'Getting Fit' 

So I am still 'at it' albeit slower with hiccups and not 'glamorous results' but hey the slow and steady wins the race.
And the winner gets a pat on the back :-)

Working Out
Last few weeks, with a travelling spouse, the 'workout' took a back seat. Yes, I could have done the exercises at home, but I decided sleeping in will be better (It was!!!)
But now that life is back to normal with equal number of adults to kids, I am back at the gym. The first day back in the class after 3.5 weeks was crazy bad and though I was not really sore, I definitely was 'tired' sooner. But the rhythm is settling back in which is a good thing. However, my old old knee injury is acting up and until the doctor gives me a clean bill of health, I plan to just enjoy the "Ride" class, which is 45 minutes of riding a bike mixed in with limited strength and cardio. Love it!


My Fitness Pal
Yippie, 50 days streak aka logging in almost every morsel of food in the app to see how much I am eating. I have been logging but have been over the calorie intake almost every single day. I have been unbalanced, ideally it should be in the ratio of 50:30:20 for Carb: Protein: Fat. I have been 'Way Off' and I blame all the delicious goodness of Indian sweets and snacks around the house.

BUT I am logging religiously, sometimes at a high level sometimes faking the data based on memory for the day.  I know I know, hopefully will get back in the groove soon enough.


Buddying up
With summer setting in and our eagerness to be out and about, my buddies and I are 'at it'. Even a simple message of 'Good Job' or 'Let’s go to the gym tomorrow' or 'Why haven’t you logged in' are good encouragements.
Of course, my new buddy aka my husband is waking up at the ungodly hour of 5:30 and coming with me to the gym. And having this new buddy is all the more 'fun'



So there you have it, the details...

Summary: 
There has been no weight loss, but NO GAIN as well. There have been NO clothes being suddenly too big for me (I wish!), but the best result for me: I am able to sustain extended soccer games with my kids in the park and really make a run after the Frisbee in the evenings, so I am truly loving that!

For me getting fit is less about 'the vanity' of it but more about the 'energy levels' of it. And though the compliments help, the true fun is listening to my daughters chat in the morning: 'Mummy just came back from her yoga and she is stinking eeeew'
I chase them every now and then to slather them with a 'sweaty hug'.


Perfect way to start the morning.

Friday, June 2, 2017

When you least expect it...

When you least expect it...

There was a time when I was IN the 'blogging circuit', meeting fellow bloggers, attending various events, reviewing theater etc.
And now as time has gone by, I have become less and less involved in these.. I do still enjoy blogging and writing and having an outlet. I still follow my favorite readers and enjoy the conversations, i am what you call a blogger with no readers ;-)

And then yesterday I get an email from 'Indian Top Blogs' that I am listed in the directory and have earned a spot on the the 'Top Blogs'
Well... what do you know!


Don't believe me, I know you don't... check out their link..

So when you least expect it, you may get surprised and its definitely a good feeling!

I guess a speech is needed, I mean all 'Oscar winners' give it... So here it goes
'Thank you my faithful reader(s) [I wonder if anyone more, the stats on the blog show a few daily, so thank you for being patient with me]
Thank you my kids, my husband, well you are the topics in most posts and it is indeed fun to capture your antiquities [Though not fun to live them.. I mean she did what]
And then of course thank you food... you add the 'spice' to my posts, no pun intended'


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A newly created Milestone

I have older kids, well 4 and 9, and I since I am off the diaper duty, I call them 'older' kids... but they are teeny tiny in my mind.
But as they are getting 'older and wiser' there are lesser and lesser milestones that I track or remember to track. No more first steps, first words, first solids, first steps...

There are no key milestones with these kids, just good and onward and upward development.
I know that's how it should be and it is, but it makes me a little sad every now and then. They are still my babies.

So today, I 'create' a new milestone for 'Tween' (my 9 year wise girl) and my 'Pre-schooler' (The 4 year old Chatterbox)

Tween, Miss V: First sleep away trip from school!
Pre-schooler, Miss S: First night not sleeping in the same room with her older sister!

The morning of the trip.....  
Miss V, was up and packed 3 days prior to the trip, she wakes up at 5 am, makes her own milk and is ready at 5:45 to leave. We don't have to be in school before 8 am, that's how excited she was!

Miss S, the little sister shadows the older one, gives her extra hugs, steals older sister's bear for the night (since no one to fight with) and is just holding her older sister's hand throughout the early morning!

The morning of the trip.... me an my thoughts! 

I know the trip is only 3 days, 2 nights long. But its freaking long in my mind. She is off to a camp which is open pre-season for just their school. She is with her wonderful friends and her super involved and caring teachers. It's super safe and even more protected than I can imagine. 
Her school has gone above and beyond to ensure kids are looked after and parents are comforted. But still, this is a big milestone! 

It's a school trip which encourages her to be more independent, explore the nature, hike the wilderness, mount and do the horse riding, play unlimited soccer, Grill smore's by the camp fires!

But here I am on the other side of the white bus waving good bye with a brave grin showing her how trully Happy I am for her!
And then I sit in the car and breathe, That's my baby hitting another milestone...


She is ready, I am not!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Day 2: Philippines: Oslob & Kawasan Falls

Before we had booked Philippines, one thing that was a MUST DO for me was the swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob.

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE.

Yes, the day was super long, we started at 5 am and ended at 9 pm, but booking a private tour, having a 10 seater van after a jet lagged flight was totally worth it, since when not doing the activity, we pretty much slept in the big van.

Note: Booking tours in Philippines is a big plus, they have really good cars, all in one package including pick up, stopping for food, activity, suggestions for local stuff and then they drop you back. It's quiet brainless during the day for you then and you are never worried about safety if you have pre-booked using a good company. I used Cebu tours for Oslob-Tumalog-Kawasan falls and they were really nice.

Now, we were driven to Oslob and the day started out with torrential rainfall. i was definitely nervous, but the tour guide/ driver mentioned to us, we will be fine So kids packed up and we headed out!
The drive was gorgeous, but taking the 18 hour flight the day before, we were all knocked out and slept until we stopped a a cute cafe outside Oslob.... we could see 15-20 boats in the water and lots of tourists.

But we started at the cafe with a local's breakfast of sticky rice and mango. yes, Mango, you can imagine our utter happiness. After breakfast and changing into our swim gear we headed to the Whale Watching tour area. Now, reminder: No sun-block allowed since the chemicals harm the whale.

Here booking with a tour company really helped since they had secured our permits and after our orientation of the 'what to do with the whale shark' tour we were loaded on the boats for a 30 minute 'swimming with the whale shark'

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!!

The whale Shark are peaceful and so massive. My older daughter V jumped in the water with us, but was nervous and stayed closer to the boat. The little one S stayed in the boat and awed the Whale Shark. I was half prepared for a 'crying session' with the little one, but she was super strong and stayed on the boat being our whale shark spotter.


Sumit and I swam or rather 'shivered' with these gorgeous creatures. We really tried to toughen up and get a picture with the whale shark, but were partially successful. This is definitely a recommended trip.

After the Whale Shark and the oohing and aahing,we headed to Tumalog falls, where more than the falls, i had fun on the bike ride to the falls and then the 'natural fish spa' eeeew, we all sat in the water, the fishes come to feed on the dead skin and eeeew, I could not do it for a long time, of course the older monster loved the 'spa' and Sumit was pretending to love it to.

These Tumalog falls are nothing to write home about, but just since the water was so shallow and th mist was worth it with the kids. We returned back to our cafe and Miss Ruth, the tour guide to enjoy a Vegetarian Lunch. These were by the far the best noodles I have had. So simple and so earthy and so delicious, These lemons, were tiny, juicy and tangy!!

A little more relaxation and then we bid farewell to Ms. Ruth and headed to Kawasan falls. Again the drive though gorgeous, our jet lagged bodies forced us to deep slumber. By the time we reached Kawasan falls, it was pouring down really hard.

But we braved it out and hiked a mile to reach the Kawasan Falls. Complete disclosure, I added this to  our custom tour, one can do Oslob and return back, but I really wanted to explore these much spoken about falls.
The highlight here (minus the rain) was the clear water and the raft ride which takes you below the falls. After much waiting and getting wetter in the rains, the three of us went on the massive raft and were 'water massaged' on it. The little one decided to stay on shore and watch us. Good call. The pressure of the water is crazy hard and though it was amazing fun, it would not have been worth it.

We hiked back and enjoyed some coconut water. And then drive back to Cebu was loong. I think about 6 hours. We were all knocked out solid. By the time we reached the hotel, we were exhausted and tired and happy to see our friends.

We freshened up and met our friends for dinner and some more cake and conversations which are never ending.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The drive back home

As parents, our weekday life is pretty routine to be honest, morning routine, dropping the kids to school, work, picking the kids, shuttling them to classes, park/ summer fun, dinner, bedtime. Simple and routine and I like the predictably, I like the simplicity of it.

But in all this routine, the kids are super busy and honestly as a parent, I am generally pre-occupied, be it for work or whats for dinner or even my phone.

The one time, that I am focused and ensuring I hear the kids is when it's just the kids and me is the drives and of course dinner time. The radio/ music is generally on low volume in the car ride and we chat, they talk and I listen. 

In the mornings, its generally a readiness for the day and hugs and kisses, but the evening is when the girls are chatty, they talk about their day at school, what they ate, whom they played with, what they didn't like and what was so awesome about their day.

And that's my best uninterrupted listening ears to them. I try to listen on all these conversations since without the girls knowing, they shed a light into their minds.

Its about them and what bothered them when someone didn't play with them. Or how they felt when a friend stumbled in the park. This is that one conversation which makes me realize every single day that these girls are being their own person. They are not just telling me how their day was, but telling me what moves them, what bothers them what excites them.

And as much as I think I know my kids, this one conversation is an eye opener every single day and i learn something new about them.


What's your best 'uninterrupted listening ears' time with your kids?



Monday, May 1, 2017

Day 1: Flight into Cebu and relaxing in Mactan

Day 1:
Our flight into Cebu was via Taipei and of course flying on my Birthday Day, going east means, I lose a day since I cross a date line, my Birthday was less than 12 hours long. And that was not fun. 



But my kids and friends and hubby made up for more than that.... they sang Happy Birthday whenever, I got flowers, cake and more cake and lots of hugs, so in effect it did become a 10 day birthday celebration! So no complaining.


After reaching Cebu, we reached the hotel to be greeted with their delicious fresh fruit juices as welcome drinks and our friends and extended long hugs. For the Cebu portion of our travels, our friends, their cute 15 month old munchkin had flown in from HK to have a combined vacation and catch up. It was really awesome to see them and be able to coordinate our chutti together.

We started with pigging out on food, after a 20 hour flight getting daal tadka with palak paneer in the most unexpected place was awesome. The one thing we were warned about Philippines was its not vegetarian friendly, I disagree, the pounds I packed in my trip also disagree with you.

Anyhow, after pigging out on food and see the 15 month toddle around, we headed straight to the beach for some sun, sand, snorkel and sand castles. Then the pool and then our friends had renter a private villa with a private pool. So heading into their pool with some 'desi music' and kids going crazy swimming, life is good. It was the perfect start to the vacation.


By the time dinner time came, kids were zonked out and before the meal was served. I think it was more helpful for having them sleep then eat, so they slept, we ate and caught up with our friends and of course there was cake!!!!

We crashed early tonight… well midnight is early when you are with friends, since we had the next morning of our much awaited trip to Oslob, for swimming with whale sharks!


More to come!

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!


Process
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!