Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Last year of being Single Digits: Happy Birthday Miss V

This is her last year of being Single Digits.

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

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

A very Happy Birthday!

Miss Chatterbox,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Gnocchi in Red Sauce: Instant Pot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But nope, not writing a love letter to IP.

So here is the recipe for the Quick fix IP Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oil for frying

Garnish: Sea Salt or Chaat Masala

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016: Wishing you a Happy Balanced Year Ahead

Of course it started with our crazy (bad) flight experience coming back from India via Turkish Airlines, getting stranded with the two girls on foreign soil in winter for 4 days is no fun for anyone!
That debacle aside, I was a bit nervous getting into this year..... I still believe what you do on the New Years Day(s) sets a pace for the rest of the year... and this was not a good pace.
For once, I was the one who asked Sumit, no fancy travelling this year, I really was shaken up!

The girls are growing to be very fine young women now... if I can say so myself. 
Little Lady (Now 4) is charming and is filled with sillyjokes and fun anecdotes. Her highlight is always skipping around the house. She is one 'Happy Soul' 

The Miss Chatterbox (Almost 9) is getting more mature, testing our boundaries a little but still her passion for learning is infections! She is now hooked to Harry Potter Series and is finishing up Book 4. She is definitely wise beyond her years

Sumit and I professionally have had a change of pace all in the right direction. It's gotten busier for us, more challenging and above all more satisfying for both of us. Which is always a really good thing.

A few key highlights, a WONDERFUL relaxing Spring Break trip to Florida and meeting cousins in Everglades. The kids enjoying their summer in India while we traveled up here- Yosemite, Montreal, Quebec and Pittsburgh. All this with a life altering trip to the wonderful 'Leh and Laddakh'. The serenity of that place still mesmerizes me. There were a few more quick getaways from the city, but all in all a nice pace of travel.

We are finishing off the year to a lovely road trip: Chicago-St. Louis-Memphis- New Orleans-Nashville-Chicago

What do I say, travelling and trips are more for memories and really spending time with the family to enjoy, relax and learn something new

This year health wise and 'Getting Fit' has been better than last 2 years for sure. I went for my annual check up and even my doctor commented, am glad you ending this year strong!

Life has been good to us in general, we have parents who dote us and inspire us even today. We have kids who remind us that tomorrow will be even more beautiful. We have each other giving support, holding when we fall and laughing as we go along. We have wonderful friends who are there for us when we need them and are there for us even when we dont know we need a shoulder. We are blessed and happy!

2016 was definitely a better balanced year, what I learned is a Power of No.
If you really think that place is not letting you achieve your potential, say NO and have the courage to walk out.
If you really think that relationship is getting heavier, then say NO and maintain the peace for yourself.
If you really think your family needs something else, then say NO and do what makes the core happy.

To a more balanced year ahead!

Wishing you and your Family a very Happy New Year

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Little Lady is 4!

Little Lady,

You are Four now... yes, its your birthday, Finally!

I asked you what you wanted to do for your birthday and here is your complete list
1. Go to Skinner park and have a picnic
2. Get 4 cards: Flamingo, Cat, Princess and Queen drawings on them.
3. You want Paav-Bhaaji for lunch
4. Lots of candies and chocolates
5. A cake with more M&M's and choolates
6. Meet the friends and family

That's it.
AND I love your list and I promise we will do EVERY single one of them and then just a little bit more!
Well except the going to the park, being outside in negative 15 F. is no fun for anyone!

The best word to describe you is 'Firecracker'
Reason: You enter the room and it is filled with your firecracker jokes, your vivacious personality and the 'batting of eyelashes'

You leave us in Awe Little Lady
1. Awe of your charms
2. Awe of the crocodile tears that come and go really quickly
3. Awe of your non-stop chatter about 'Let me tell you something'
4. Awe of your tantrums for a chocolate
5. Awe of 'Lets do Writing Practice'
6. Awe of you trying to converse with us in Hindi, Spanish and 'Hinglish' as you call it.
7. Awe of your devotion to your older sister
and above all..
8. Awe of just you!

Little Lady, you are four today I write you this letter of four things that I want you to know my lovely little angel.

Little Lady,

1. Be strong and be kind.
2. Have an opinion but be open to learning and listening to the other's point of view.
3. See the world through the Rose Tinted Glasses, there will always be ups and down's but seeing the silver line makes it always worth it!
4, Know yourself and if you do, then others opinion of you really does not matter.

Lots of Love'

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

I have a bead up my nose: She did what!!!

Another one of the "Kids say the darnest things' edition with our usual suspect: Little Lady!

Scene: 5:45 am, weekday morning, our 11th Wedding Anniversary!

Mommy hears Little Lady walk slowly in her room

Mommy lovingly says: Come on in my bed and snuggle in!! πŸ’—

Little Lady whispers: Mommy I can't, I had a Mishap (Implying pee'd in her bed) πŸ˜“

Mommy consoled groggily: It's okay honey, head to the rest room, I will help you πŸ˜’

(She has been potty trained fro a long time, so mishap is not usual, no
big deal, it happens)

Little Lady whispers: Mommy, I also have a bead in my nose πŸ˜”

Mommy sprints up from bed and says'calmly': what? 😑

Little Lady whispers: Mommy, I have a bead in my nose  πŸ˜”
(She keeps a brave face and looking pitiful)

Mommy has a mini freak out and says'calmly': How? 😑

Little Lady whispers: I put it there πŸ˜”

Mommy quickly wakes up husband snoring peacefully: YOUR little angel has put a bead in her nose. WAKE UP  πŸ˜ 

Mommy looks up Little Lady's nose with a phone torch: "Hell, it is a BEAD' 😠

Daddy wakes up, calls the doctors office and finds out process of 'almost 4 year old with a bead up her nose'
Mommy picks up the soiled Little Lady and rushes to bathroom and makes her sit down 'withoug getting angry, since last thing momy wanted is to upset Little Lady'
Big Sister aka Chatterbox wakes up with the commotion and comes to the bathroom 'What's going on'

Mommy still speaking calmly: Little Lady has a bead up her nose. 😠

Big Sister bursts out laughing is asuper confused but laughs a lot! 😈
Little Lady is now parked on the bathroom sink and smiling and 'checking herself' out in mirrorπŸ˜‡

Mommy 'googles' and finds out that before ER, try the following
1. Have the child blow her nose: Okay that I can do
2. Use a 'nose bulb' and 'vacuum it out': Hmm, how hard can that be
3. Use tweezers to pull it out: Hell no, I am NOT doing that!

So mommy barks these instructions at Daddy and starts looking for the 'nose bulb' which is used for kids under 1 year!!
Mommy is getting angrier and angrier, seriously: bead up her nose! what the hell was she thinking!

In ONE minute, there is a loud burst of laughter from the bathroom and mommy rushes in 😠

Daddy while demonstrating 'how to blow the nose' has 'nosy' all over him and kids are laughing a lot!!!!
Mommy is really  ANGRY now and she stomps off to look for the 'bloody nose bulb' 😠

In ONE minute again, there is loud cheering from the bathroom and mommy rushes in

Little Lady did manage to blow the bead out of her nose!
Daddy and big sister are searching for bead on floor to double check
Little Lady is laughing and smiling since 'she did it'

Mommy is calm outside: "Phew" 😢
In all these past '8+3' years of parenting, I HAVE NEVER SEEN MY CHILD WITH A BEAD UP HER NOSE, WHAT THE HELL! 😠

Morning continued as 'normal', kids were bathed, fed and ready for school by 8! πŸ™†
Mommy was left bewildered πŸ™
Daddy was left feeling like a champion 'Since he helped the bead out her nose' πŸ™‹

Well Happy 11th Anniversary to US! πŸ˜‚

Life is full of surprises, some good, some bad! You  see the Silver Line and Smile. 

We are blessed to have these kids who can keep calm even when they messed up, a support system which can find things funny even when an almost 4 year announces at 5:45 am
 'I have a Bead Up my nose'

We did manage a Date Night for our Anniversary!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Quick Food Fix: Minestrone Soup: Instant Pot

I caved and I bought a Kitchen Gadget!!

We cook quiet a bit in the house and I 'most of the times' really enjoy the process. We make fresh food 4-5 times a week and the rest is either parties or eating out, but food does not come in a can in my  house and I want my kids to love and appreciate that.

I am not much for cooking gadgets, two reasons: 1. I don't like a cluttered kitchen counter and 2. I am old-school.

The ones that I swear by is my 'Ninja' Its a blender its Dough maker is a blessing for me. Besides that, nothing much. Simple chopper etc, but nothing really fancy. I have never found a need for it.

Over the past few months, my friends have been raving about "Instant Pot' sending me things they make, how simple it is, stress free and above all Time Saver.

Honestly this was one gadget that I thought, well great, but I think I am fine, my start to finish off cooking daily takes about 45 minutes! So don't need this. But for some reason, Sumit was very convinced for this, way more than me. His Reason: Well it frees 20 minutes for you, great!

The feature that sold me, automatic timer: Put all ingredients in the morning, have this start at 4 pm so by the time you come home from work and picking up kids, one thing is ready and done!

Then came Black Friday with an awesome deal and I caved and I bought my Instant Pot. Considering I have my 'New Toy', I am starting a new Tag 'Instant Pot Vegetarian Recipe'

I started Simple: Veg Minestrone Soup

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes, but you have Zero Involvement!

Chopped in bigger pieces

1 Cup Carrots
1/2 Cup Orange Pepper
1/2 Cup Cauliflower
1/4 Cup Broccoli
1/2 Cup tomato
1/2 Cup peeled Edamame
1/4 Cup Onion: Sliced Thin
1 Garlic peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup Cannelloni Beans: Not Soaked

Butter: 1/2 tsp

Fried Oregano: 2 tsp
Chili Flakes: 1 tsp
Salt: Per Taste
Black Pepper: 1 tsp

1. Turn Instant pot (IP) in Saute Mode
2. Add Butter, when it melts, add the garlic and Onion
3. Saute for 2 minutes, add spices
4. Saute for 1 more minute
5. Add all vegetables and beans
6. Add Water About 4 cups
7. Switch to 'soup' option
8. Relax!!!
In 20 minutes, the steaming & Delicious soup was ready!!!

Now.. this is my 'maiden' recipe for the simplest setting. So crack your Instant Pot Open and try this!
I am going to spend sometime learning the different modes...this one was being cooked in'High Pressure' mode, so we vented out the steam before opening it.

To be honest, when this was cooking, I was a little stressed, I am used to being an involved chef, checking my food, sauteing, stirring etc. But this I could get used to.... start, dump all ingredients and read a book, When its ready, it turns off automatically!

Advantage: I finally used my beans.... they have been sitting in my pantry, but I always forget to pre-soak them!

Next, though Instant-Pot is nothing but an Electric Pressure Cooker, my vegetables stayed intact! In its shape, no mushy liquid, The minestrone turned out like a wonderful clear soup with vegetables and herbs!


If not using Instant-Pot: Follow the same recipe as above but use the pressure cooker instead, vegetables will get a little mushed since I have done that before.

And No Pictures :-( I really didn't think the first recipe I used would be this good!

Stay Tuned, more recipes to follow for sure!!