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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Children – To have or not to have…


It all began with a couple of articles by columnist Petula Dvorak that I read on the Washington Post. The first one was “Midnight moms are in the grip of holiday mania” followed by “What is the point of having kids if your life ends when theirs begins?”

The titles say it all, don’t they? The first one was about how working moms have to deal with their careers during the day and how the struggle to make up for the time spent away from family keeps them up through a major part of the night. But the article scared one of the readers and put him off the idea of having kids. His question made it as the title of the second article by the columnist.

That set me thinking, have I ever let that thought form in my head? Have I ever felt like my life ended when my baby was born?  I didn’t have to wait a heartbeat on that one – NO, NEVER!

Sure, the life I knew, before my child was born, changed. I may have been this ambitious career woman, the carefree wanderer, the experimental dancer. I gave up all that of my own free will to become a full time mom. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a life! Yes, I am primarily a mother, so my day begins with what to make for breakfast for my kiddo and meanders through school, extra classes, hurt limbs and bruised egos and ends with menu and play date planning for the next day. But that hug and good night kiss (for the time being at least) that I get at end of the day, the adoring eyes that say I can do no wrong - makes it all worth it! I am growing and learning with my child. Each day brings with it its share of amazing discoveries and exciting adventures, all seen through the wondrous eyes of my little one. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in this world.

There are moments when I envy the neatly put together working women who I see on the train on my way to drop my kid at school. I wonder how different my life is from theirs – me in my jeans and sneakers that scream “mom clothes” with the quintessential all-encompassing tote and them in their starched suits and killer heels with smart handbags. But all it takes is a tug at my hand, the tug at my heart, to pull me back to what I would rather have in my life. And I bet the multitasking abilities of a mother would put the most efficient of professional to shame :).

I don’t feel like I have lost my identity. I intend getting back to work soon and am sure I can juggle being a professional at work as well as being a mother. Aren’t all the working moms doing just that? It’s not a piece of cake. But for every hour of lost sleep, there is a memory to cherish, for every extra hour of effort put in; there is a smile to treasure. My child has enriched my existence, made me a stronger person. So to those who say they don’t want a child, I say – your loss.

"The soul is healed by being with children." - English proverb

The articles referred to can be read here:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vegetable Grilled Sandwich


While we make various versions of the "Indian Sandwich", this is one method of preparation contributed by my guest host - Cinnamon.
 

It's a tasty roadside snack which is very simple and easy to make.
Prep & Cooking: 15 min approx. Serves: 2

 

 Ingredients:

Bread 8 slices
1/4 cup boiled and chopped potatoes
1/4 cup chopped capsicum
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 tbs mint coriander chutney
1 tbs butter
1 tsp black pepper powder
Salt to taste



 

Method:

1. Mix all the veggies, salt and black pepper powder.
2. Take two slices of bread. Trim them on edges. On one slice, apply butter on both the sides. On the other slice, apply butter on one side and chutney on the other.
3. Put the mix vegetables on one side of the bread that has butter on both the sides. Cover it with the chutney slice.

4. Place it in a grill sandwich toaster till it turns brown and crisp on both sides.
5. Take it out and cut diagonally.
6. Serve hot with chutney and ketchup.


 Yumm!! Isn't it?

                                      Cinnamon
                                                                                                 ''A little goes a long way''

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baked Bhindi Masala


Okra – you either hate it or love it – depends on how it is cooked. Crispy, crunchy or just about softened – I love it as long as it is not a slimy mush! This is a no fuss recipe for okra, or ladies finger as we desis call it. And somehow, as a prefix to masala, I just have to use it with its Hindi name – Bhindi!

Prep & Cooking: 30 min approx.           Serves: 2

Ingredients:
Bhindi/Okra/Ladies Finger – About 15 in number
Onion – 1 small
Mixed bell peppers - 1 cup (I use a couple of each color of the snacking/salad mix variety pack)
Sambar powder - 2 heaped tablespoons
Besan/Gram flour - 1 tablespoon
Amchur (dried mango) powder – 1 teaspoon
Turmeric – ½ teaspoon
Salt – to taste
Oil – 2 tablespoons
Cooking Spray (or oil) – to grease
Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons


Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit (232 degree Celsius).
  2. Wash and pat dry the okra. Slice it lengthwise from one side, leaving it intact on the other side.  
  3. Slice the onions and the bell peppers lengthwise and set them aside.
  4. Combine the sambar powder, gram flour, amchur powder, turmeric and salt in a bowl.
  5. Use part of this mixture to stuff the okra. 
  6. Coat the sliced onions and bell peppers with the remaining mixture.
  7. Layer a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease it with cooking spray/oil.
  8. Spread out the okra along with the onion and bell pepper mix on the sheet.
  9. Drizzle it with a couple of tablespoons of oil (I prefer olive oil).
  10. Bake it in the oven at 450 degree Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. After this, take it out of the oven and give the contents a stir.
  11. Put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes and then switch it off.
  12. Leave it in the oven to stay warm. Spoon it into a serving bowl and drizzle the lemon juice over it just before serving. Enjoy!!
The blend of caramelized onions, sweet roasted peppers, tangy lemon juice and crispy okra are best enjoyed with hot phulkas!



Sending to Bake Fest @ Zesty Palette started by Vardhini and hosted at Anusha's Tomato Blues.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Makarsankranti

On the auspicious occasion of Makarsankranthi, which I observe as Pongal, my friend who goes by the name of Cinnamon provided this guest post to show how this festival is celebrated in other parts of India...


Makarsankranti is a festival celebrated all across India, in varied formats differing from region to region. It is the worship of Sun God who starts his journey towards the North- making the days longer and the nights shorter.

When I think of Makarsankranti, it reminds me of kites and til ke ladoo. The smell of the ladoos made by my mom engulfs me in my childhood memories. How the sky was so colorful with kites flying all over as early as December. As soon as I returned from school I used to run to the terrace with my brothers and stay with them till dawn, this use to happen every day till Sankranti. My mom used to start the preparation for the til ke ladoo a week before. She used to call us all, give a sack and ask us to make the til colour lighter as they are black in colour. We all used to rub them on the sack and kept comparing, whose til is lighter in colour, who did more and every time me and my brother ended up fighting. That was so much fun. On the day of Makarsankranti, we used to give the ladoos to the poor and stay on the terrace the whole day flying and catching kites basically I used to help my brothers with everything they needed. At the end of the day I used to count how many kites I caught and come running to tell my mom. Taking the path to the memory lane opens up a whole new world which I might have almost unconsciously forgotten. Making me feel happy and sad both at the same time.

Makarsankranti is celebrated with different names and beliefs all over India. While it is Pongal O Pongal in south, it is Lohri in Punjab and the famous kite festival in Gujarat. The day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhogi in Tamil Nadu where people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. On the day after Makara Sankranti, the South celebrates the Mattu Pongal for the holy cow. In Bengal, Makar Sankranti is noted for the Ganga Sagar Mela and Pithey parban. Bhogali Bihu is celebrated on the day in Assam. Makar Mela is observed in Orissa. In Kerala, the famous Sabarimala Pilgrimage comes to an end with sighting of the Makaravilakku. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is known as Uttarayan.

According to the Puranas, on this day Surya (Sun) visits the house of his son Shani(Saturn), who is the lord of the Makar rashi(Zodiac Capricorn). Though the father and son duo did not get along well, Surya made it a point to meet his son on this day. He, in fact, comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day thus symbolizes the importance of the special relationship between father and son. Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar (the point where the river Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal) and Prayag and pray to the Sun God (Surya).

Another legend is that King Bhageeratha brought Ganges down into Patala on Makara Sankranti day. This was to get salvation to his ancestors who were cursed by Sage Kapila and turned into ashes. Essentially it symbolizes how it is time to throw the darkness of the past and begin a brighter life. A life with more warmth with the winter behind. -- Cinnamon

Chakkara Pongal

It is Pongal! What is the best part of the festival – the dish of course! Not being in India, where custom and tradition take precedence, the sole significance for our kids seems to be what they get to eat. My kiddo chooses to call this festival – “Chakkara Pongal Day”! This being my first contribution to the blog - glad to start with a sweet dish, and on such an auspicious occasion!



Prep & Cooking: 30 min approx.           Serves: 8-10
Ingredients: 
Rice - 2 cups
Moong dal - ¾ cup
Jaggery - 5 cups (not powdered, I am talking about the mini rectangular blocks)
Raisins - 2 tablespoons
Cashews - 2 tablespoons
Cardamom – ½ teaspoon
Nutmeg – ½ teaspoon
Saffron – a few strands
Edible Camphor – a pinch
Salt – ¼ teaspoon
Water – 7 cups
Milk – 1 cup
Clarified Butter (Ghee) – 2 tablespoons

Method: 
  • Roast the moong dal until it gives out a nice flavor – don’t let it brown.
  • Combine it with the rice, water and milk in a pressure cooker and cook until soft and mushy. Fry the cashews and raisins separately in ghee and set them aside. In another vessel, melt jaggery with about a tablespoon of water. 
  •  Add this jaggery syrup along with the cardamom, saffron strands, salt, fried cashew and raisins to the cooked rice and dal mixture and stir until everything blends nicely.
Yummy chakkara pongal is ready!