Cherishing Monsoons…in a foodie’s way

So… It is there in full swing!!!

All drenched roads, damp clothes, green lawns, moist air…yes you guessed that right. I am referring to the Monsoons. Monsoons that have arrived in full form; monsoons that are showing their colors all around and every time the showers pour, the temptation for a hot cup of tea and some crunchy snacks becomes so invincible.

And if we manage to visit my parents in this season, Mom has a few pet delicacies for the weather, which are so customary in Northern states like Himachal and Punjab. Kheer poode is one of such feasts which is cooked to celebrate the onset of Saawan/Monsoons.

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With a weekend confined at home, due to all the colossal and insane traffic jams in the city, luckily there was some leisure time at hand, to pick this meal as a part of weekend menu. As both kheer and poode require a longer time than usual meals, so a person like me has to be mentally prepared in advance to venture into the entire process. Nevertheless, the outcome is of course, motivating enough to go through the grind.

Kheer, the rice pudding, in spite of being such a familiar dessert in India, with so ordinary ingredients i.e. a lots of milk and a handful of rice, is made in so many different tastes and flavors. I prefer to cook it for a long time and keep mashing the rice while stirring the pudding until the rice and milk become congruent and the color of milk changes to slightly pinkish. The consistency of pudding also matters a lot and has to be just the right-neither too dense, nor too liquefied. The aroma of cardamom makes it further enticing and I don’t mind letting it be overloaded with nuts, when it has to be prepared only once a year.

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Another significant part of this meal, that is, Poode is also made of very elementary ingredients-wheat flour and sugar. However, making poode out of the slightly sweet batter is itself an interesting process just like dosas or chillas. The only difference being that layer of poode has to be slightly thinner.

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When all the sugariness has been imparted, then it’s the time to add a saline portion. And I selected Chana masala for that matter, Zeera aloo is another preferred choice to complete this delicacy. However, the simply boiled and sauted brown grams not only turn out to be the highlight of the meal, but in fact, they save some of the time and effort too.

So finally the complete mouth-watering product is ready to serve and let you have a finger licking experience this monsoon. Have fun!!!

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A Delicious Start to a Sunday

December begins and suddenly there is quick rush towards the year-end. With the days approaching New Year’s Eve, the chill in the air keeps getting severe and sharper. Yes, I am talking about the real chill, the real cold, the winters. By now, all your woollens and winter wear must be out, especially in North India and the favorite part of your day must be cuddling within your warm quilts and blankets.

Still there is one more thing that makes winters so special-the lots and lots of veggies flocking the vegetable markets ;). If you are also the ones who love to add the season’s best in your meals or simply relate your food with both taste and health, then I bet this special feature of winters will not go amiss your observations.

Veggies-that you can use in so many forms, in so many ways-it’s all up to you, how innovative you want to get in that. Soups, gravies, pulaos, pastas, noodles, sandwiches, salads-whatever, these veggies give a special color, a special flavor to everything. There are plenty of options to tingle your taste buds.

Hence, apart from all the other ways of utilizing these abundant veggies, I didn’t miss the chance to use them for a vegetable Uttapam as well-tomatoes, onions, capsicum and what to talk about the fragrance that coriander adds to any damn thing. Since the batter was ready beforehand, it was not really tough for my sleepy eyes on a chilling wintery Sunday morning to get into the kitchen and start preparing the breakfast.

Within 15 minutes, we were ready to have the moist, soft and light Uttapam with coriander and coconut chutney, lending a wholesome and delicious start to a Funday-that is Sunday.

How do I see this….Rockstar?

Ohh I know… I know guys, it’s late-it’s too late for this post. It won’t be strange if you even want to kill me for posting about Rockstar after a month of its release; when other movies like The Dirty Picture, Ladies vs Ricky Bahl are already out and making big money and of course, Big News.

In spite of all that, the crazy free-bird, Jordan still persists. Masand has rightly said “In these times of instant gratification, here’s a film that makes you think. Not a perfect film, but one that stays with you long after the lights have come back on.” Huh! I am thinking even longer and the more I listen to the songs, the more I fall in love with the devil-may-care attitude of this Rockstar. The intensity of emotions, intensity of passion, intensity of music, intensity of love-above all, the intensity of eccentricity-is simply engrossing. Some people are born free; you can not enclose them in bounds. Hence in this made-up world today, it’s a good deal to watch this unconventional tale of honesty and unattainable passions.

Rockstar is the real analogue of passion-a passion for anything, any damn thing in this world. It portrays how passions transform lives. How passions know no logic, how passions take us beyond the rights and wrongs. How a lad can miss looking at even the most beautiful girls in his peak youth, while yearning for his passion to become a singer and how even the apex of stardom and popularity, doesn’t matter at all-when all that he wants is-to be with the love of his life. No calculations, no regrets-only following his heart. Where else can you witness this level of honesty, in these times?

And the lyrics that still keep the flame on:

Mann bole ke ras mein jeenay ka harjaana duniya dushman
Sab begaana inhe aag lagaana
Mann bole mann bole, mann se jeena ya marr jaana

Rivaazon se, samaajhon se kyon
Tu kaate mujhe, kyun baante mujhse iss tarah
Kyun sach ka sabak sikhaaye, jab sach sunn bhi na paaye
Sach koi bole toh tu niyam kanoon bataaye.

Had days been a few hours longer

Haylo good people! How are you? What’s up? Must be very busy in your daily schedules-ehh?? Yeah yeah, I understand. Otherwise, what else could be the reason that I bunked for over a month from this mini-world of mine? How a week’s break can spread over a month, how getting back to routine can become such a task, how you never get time for the morning workout, reading, blogging and all the other things, you can ever imagine for a perfect life-I understand that … quite well.

Now, if you are nodding your heads in affirmation and feeling so eased that someone could comprehend your plight, then hold on for a second. I am not going to spoil you guys by saying that yes, it’s not possible in this era to manage time for so many things in mere 24 hours. Are bhai…everybody has only 24 hours, still people do wonders. Then why should we give up?

 I don’t want to end up fretting over ‘no time at all’ and so must you be feeling deep in your hearts. Chalo not deep down, but somewhere there in a corner? Please allow me to share the steps I recently identified and followed to drag myself out of a phase where I was totally out of sync, and are helping me overcome the sick rush against time and rather stride with it:

1. Stay Organized

How many times has this happened to you? You require some document saved long back and get something done-whether it’s at office or at home. And then, you spend hours searching for that tiny piece of paper? Sounds familiar? Then read this carefully. Although, it might be the 98765th time you are reading the phrase ‘Stay Organized’, even then, keep your eyes wide open and trust me for this. Put your things in order, now. Simple, clutter-free and clean space is the mantra. As they say ‘Everything in place, place for everything’. Once you do that, measure the time you actually gain.

2. Planning:

‘Don’t waste time in planning, just get back straight to work. Plans don’t work’– I know you don’t belong to this school of thought. That’s why my dearies! I am saying-plan things in advance, even the slightest details; let the plans be as exhaustive as possible-it reduces the chances of error. Devote time to planning and see how quick you accomplish things, the right way.

3. Priorities:

Now don’t look for a checklist or a format ready-made for you. Take out your own scales for your priorities and make some effort to measure the importance or urgency of things in your life. Only then you can take smart decisions of devoting your precious time. Get rid of the things and activities, that don’t matter.

Heard about the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 rule? 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. That simply means-80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts and 80% of your failure results from your 20% mistakes. Hence, focus 80% of your time and energy on the 20% that matters. Don’t just “work smart”, work smart on the right things.

4. Delegate:

Now stop behaving like a Superhuman yaar. People know you have the capability, and even if they don’t know-why worry? The point is in getting things done without overburdening yourself. Get adequate help/assistance of the right people in your tasks, it lends you a smarter hand. Also, it helps you sharpen your people skills. So it’s a total win-win situation-Just Go Ahead.

5. Avoid distractions:

Emails, feeds, futile tensions, phone calls or any other unimportant thing that gets you off the track is nothing, but mere distraction in whatever you are doing. Keep them aside when something important is going on. Instead dedicate hours with least distractions, to the most important tasks. That’s  one of the reasons, why early mornings are remarkably productive.

6. Keep your cool:

With blood pressure soaring all heights, heart palpitating like a bass drum-isn’t it a matter of common sense that you will end up your day getting all drained out, all exhausted? And now, if you are saying yes, then do I need to mention further that keeping your cool can help you sustain longer, work bigger and perform better? So by all means, Take Things Easy.

7. Recharge:

And above all, don’t miss any little chance to refresh, rejuvenate and celebrate life. Work hard, work smart but make conscious attempts to refuel your batteries. By all means, your productivity will increase much more than you can imagine, the hurried times will squeeze genuinely.

December is already here; the whole year has gone by and you don’t know how many more will pass by without even budging the things lying in your wish-list. In order to check them off and do things that really matter, anyhow, you need to fit them in the daily schedules, wherever you can.

(Am wondering whether this post would work even for a month and will I be able to get back to a regular regime of writing 😉 )

Stress-Me-Not

There is something terribly morbid in the modern sympathy with pain. One should sympathize with the color, the beauty, the joy of life. The less said about life’s sores the better.

Oscar Wilde

I am sure while writing the last line ‘the less said about life’s sores, the better’, Oscar Wilde actually meant ‘the less thought about life’s sores, the better’. Because you talk about it or not, if you keep thinking about the obstacles, the complications, the unjustness of life, it may never end. It can go on, in a spontaneous flow, taking away your peace of mind unless you deliberately put an end to it. The more you think, the fierce things become.

While talking to my father yesterday, I came to know about one of his friends who was in the hospital since past 2 months. Doctors couldn’t diagnose the real cause of illness for around 3 weeks until they concluded that he’s been suffering from tension and is severely depressed due to which his body metabolism is all disturbed. In other words, he’s suffering from ‘taking things too seriously’.

Also, following Sonal Kalra’s weekly column ‘The Calmer You’ for 5 months now, has brought into light so many differently sized issues that cause day-to-day stress. Some stress out at intimidating, boasting people around while others feel awful about their looks; some fret over how people become pushy for petty things (sometimes important ones too) while others get disgruntled by their bossy bosses; some envy how people take shortcuts and succeed, while others don’t find any relief from their Gmail, Facebook, Twitter; some wish they throw away their mobile phones until they stop ringing at random times while others are too concerned and always ready with their precious advice on Cricket or Politics or Ethics; some worry how their kids will get through while others threatened by the competitive surrounds. Relatives, traffic, exams, relationships, jobs, EMIs,rains, inflation and what not!!! The list is simply endless…

Sometimes there might be bigger reasons too, to worry. But ultimately, all this is taking its toll on your health, resulting into outcomes as small as insomnia or headache to as large as life-taking fatal diseases. Ups and downs keep coming and are inseparable part of life. God has his own methods of regulating them.

No one has everything and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with the gladness of life.

But, our lifetime is precious; getting baffled by ‘the things not working out’ or regretting about the choices made, will only stress us more. We are a small part of this universe and so are our problems too. After pondering hard about this whole thing, I came across the following three ways out:

1. ‘Keep it simple silly’: Getting into deep down details and finding complex solutions is itself a stressful activity, so better keep things simple. Accept the things you can do nothing about and move on further. Don’t take it too seriously.

2. Adopt more healthful ways of living: Health doesn’t come merely by following a healthy diet and an exercise/work-out regime. There is a third cause too that affects and that is Stress. So adopt ways to de-stress yourself, de-clutter your thoughts on regular basis.

3. Just do your bit: In any case, you will NEVER BE ABLE TO PLEASE EVERYBODY, to meet up to their expectations. What best you can do in any situation is: performing your best. Leave the rest!!!

What do you think about the stressful patterns of life? What are your ways of handling it? Share with us your calmness tips, you never know who gets a benefit out of it…

Save those ‘pako-day’ for a rainy day

It is already September and look at the sky, it’s still comin’ up a cloud. It’s still raining, raining heavily. Somehow, by this time of monsoons-all of us have had enough of it. Don’t know about Paris, but I am so sorry, I cannot second Owen Wilson (of ‘Midnight in Paris’)on rains being romantic, especially at this point of time-here in Delhi NCR. Getting wet in showers doesn’t seem any romantic after two months of monsoons . The sound of raindrops falling on the ground is no more therapeutic. It’s no more a relief or a change from the blistering sun because you acutely want that sun to shine and dry off those damp clothes.

What to talk of the greenery monsoons brought by? Even those plants and flowers have wiped the smile off their faces as those rain drops have begun to hit them hard. Soil too, is all saturated and has now turned into wetlands.

A walk in the drizzle seems no more appealing, there is no clear space to walk. Roads are all jam-packed with vehicles, so forget about calling it a ‘season for togetherness’ . What? What did you say? You get so much time together with your spouse way back home and you’ve started knowing people who meet you everyday in those jams? Stop kidding me!!! How can you amuse going on a long drive when there is horrible water logging at intervals or else no chance to budge an inch, in the stuck traffic? So better join the crowd this time and pray for rain-to-go-away; find some other better way to spend time with your beloved.

Just being at home, curled up on a couch with garma-garam chai (any hot beverage of your choice) and watching the downpour from the window seems perfect. But that is too incomplete without the crispy and crunchy home-made pakode. It seems a bliss when you’re wet and cold  and much more, if there is Maa to nourish you with all that. Only then you can take off and forget about the mess  being generated outside.

Mommy dear is not here and the home-made pakode will remain a mere fantasy without stepping into the kitchen. Hence, apart from relishing the potato and onions pakode, I somehow managed to unfold these innovative traditional and contemporary versions of pakode this season.

Corn and capsicum balls
Capsicum & paneer pakode
Aloo kurkure

These are the few ones I tried at home, otherwise some other possibilities are also there like Bhindi pakode, Stuffed Spinach pakode. The beauty of all these recipes is: the ingredients are readily available and seasonal.

So what’s up at your end? How are you coping up with this cat-and-dog weather?? If you also went through some creative pursuits somehow, come and share here…We’ll be pleased to share more knowledge 😉

Recipes Courtesy: http://www.tarladalal.com