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October 18, 2014

Awadhi Food Festival Review: Sheraton at Brigade Gateway

Earlier this week I headed over to the Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway located in the heart of city on Malleshwaram-Rajajinagar road to experience the flavors of Awadhi cuisine. I was invited to be a part of this 10 day long food festival hosted by Sheraton in all splendor to celebrate the traditional cuisine of Lucknow - it's warmth, feel and richness you will experience right at the entrance of Sheraton's Feast restaurant where this festival is currently running till the 19th of October. Make your way through the city and be there to indulge in the vivid, rich flavors of Awadhi khana.

Cuisine from Awadh isn't unknown to many. It comes with a legacy from the Nawabs and the kings. With heavy influences from the Mughal cooking techniques such as dum, Awadh cuisine bears striking similarities to those of Persia, Kashmir, Punjab and Hyderabad. It's essence lies in its richness with liberal use of exotic spices including saffron and sandalwood. While Awadhi cuisine is predominantly known for its non-vegetarian delicacies, my eagerness to visit this food festival was to explore the uncharted reigns of vegetarian delicacies of this region. What's in it for me and if it was really worth the visit? A year ago I had a chance to visit Lucknow and savor their local cuisine. However with Sheraton's Guest Chef Rehman and their in-house Chef Maqsood re-creating the Nawabi flavors, this food festival promised to offer more than what I had known and savored in the past. So I put my thoughts to rest and headed for an evening to savor the royal feast put together by the F&B team at Sheraton. Indeed worth every bit.


The food festival is being held at Sheraton's signature restaurant - Feast, which is located on the ground floor of the hotel. As a well designed restaurant in warm shades and rich feel, Feast has 4 counters boasting of live cooking at every counter, each specializing in a particular cuisine. The staff is courtesy and willingly helpful beyond what can ask for.

Accompanying the theme for food festival is a musical stage with live musical play, scoring the perfect background to set traditional mood.

We started off with a platter of starters that catered to both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian taste buds. Through it's course, Chef Rehman walked us through an array of dishes on the menu they had to offer, explaining their history and significance, each unique and rich. Aloo Neze Se and Achari Paneer Tikka served were both delicately flavored with smoky tandoori flavor that's typical of the Nawabi cuisine, a delight to someone like me who loves tandoori food and its grilled flavors. Grilled babycorn was good, but nothing of out the box to state.


Next came along a basket of some delicately fragrant Sheermal Roti and Awadhi Naan. Sheermal Roti was unique with light toned sweetness from saffron and cream. So delicious that you could snack on them by themselves. The Sheermal Roti went through second and third helpings. Awadhi Naan, a crisp and flaky mildly spiced bread with herbs and spices was in the second lead.

On the main course was Nawabi Baigan Bhurta that stole the show away. Unlike the Punjabi Baingan Bharta, Nawabi Baigan Bhurta though not visually appealing, was rich, creamy and delicious. Worth every bite and rightly fit for the kings. The Paneer Begam Bahar, a chic cottage cheese based dish, lightly spiced in gravy of cashewnut and almond paste was another dish I thought was delightful. The chef did highlight that Dal Mumtaz was a must try. This unique dal made of urad dal was simple and grounded and so satisfying to my taste in contrast to its rich, cream laden counterparts. Dhingri Dolma and Subzi Sheek Noorani, both heavy on Indian spices were delicious. Subz Dum Biryani was robust in flavor, but not any spectacular. So was Dal Makhani as a usual accompaniment.

Up on menu for desserts were Shahi Tukda, Balushahi, Malai Sandwich and Anjeer ki Kheer. I loved the simplicity Awadhi desserts had - not cloyingly sweet, nor heavily creamy or fatty as I had presumed. Anjeer Kheer was delicious. Shahi Tukda was unlike what it usually is, distinct, soft and just right on sweet.

The Awadhi cuisine is undoubtedly a royal feast meant to pamper your senses and made to feel like Nawabs. So if you are in a mood to dine out or celebrate an occasion or pamper in some Nawabi indulgence, head out to Sheraton where this festival is currently running till the 19th of October. The Dastarkhwan awaits!

Address:
Feast, Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway,
Dr. Rajkumar Road, Bengaluru, Karnataka
Ph. No.: 08042521000 / +91-9880699111



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September 22, 2014

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I feel shy and terribly diffident at times. I was ruminating over a conversation with an old associate I have known for over three years now and the fact he knew I blogged. That happened a few months ago. It was one of those familiar moments I have encountered when someone says, 'Aah, so you blog and you make food look good? Okay. Let's see, cook us something and let us say'. I get awfully nervous to a point of quivering knees and nervous breakdown. Neither it puts me into shoes of comfort, nor do I blush. I hate being judged. Its the kind of casual statement made to assume that you are a professional at the best. All bars are raised and expectations set too high. It's hard to satisfy such tastes, where preconceived bias swamps the confidence in me. It could turn anyone into cold feet. It's like a stab on your back testing your skills to restraint the blow, bridling any creativity you want to execute. Not really. I have bad days in my kitchen and I am no perfect for sure.

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But little moments of joy come from those folks, unknowing to my penchant for cooking or being irrespective of the fact I blog or not, appreciate my food. For someone who does not know I blog, I post recipes, and yet appreciates that I have cooked good food, that's when you'll see me smile ear to ear. That moment of truth is really a winning moment for me. Honestly, I wish to create memories of food that can be remembered and revived by virtue.

You'll see this often that I don't spill out the fact to many that I blog. A lot of my close friends don't know I have a space out here. And with the ones who happen to know I do, more accidentally or through word of mouth and query about my passion in cooking or blogging in amusement, I wish to bury my face down in my hands and run away miles in embarrassment. Its such a strange awkwardness and I wonder if this has happened to any of you. Most readers whom I know are the ones whom I have never met personally, whom I have never known and strangely I feel the most comfortable posting here for them. Be it musings, my photographs or recipes, there is no prejudice what so ever. That for me is the most comforting factor. I wonder if I would ever be able to write and share so much here if my own folks were so regular at reading my blog. Thankfully I know they are not. That, for me is a consolation in many ways.

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That brings me to this Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies here. A recipe that's strangely simple and unprejudiced. You throw in the said measures of all goodness and you have chocolate-y orange aromas wafting within minutes, it's zest leaving you in an all high. So true to the fact, the matrimony of orange and chocolate cannot go wrong. Sometimes you get the most out of the unexpected and that's what these Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies promise to do. Not just you, to your biased friends too!

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Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup non-dairy margarine (can be replaced with vegetable oil)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 cup orange juice
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy-free for vegan)
Zest from 2 oranges

DIRECTIONS

Beat the margarine along with both the sugars (brown and white) till it's light and fluffy. Next, add in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt, mix well. Dissolve baking soda in orange juice and add to mixture immediately. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring the entire mixture to form a lightly wet dough. Next add in the chocolate chips and stir them in. Drop by tablespoonful on to an un-greased cookie tray. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Don't over bake!

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August 24, 2014

Garden Fresh Pizza & Snapshots from IFMB

I have taken longer than imagined to pen down this post, that I almost assured myself if I may even let go documenting it here. I mentioned about being at IFBM here a while ago. Exactly about 3 weeks ago I was at Aloft, Cessna Business Park being a part of the first-of-its-kind food blogger meet that was beyond any scale I had expected it to be. It was hosted in all splendor and grandeur in true sense. True to its intentions, it brought together the like minded us from various parts of the country and across the globe, with an agenda to meet, greet, learn, share and build a stronger food blogging network. Beyond all, it was meant to break free from our friendships and acquiantances in the traditional virtual world and translate to a real one, which in every sense was truly accomplished.

Its hard to sum up the two days that went by in utter frenzy. If you followed me on Instagram you probably have witnessed the IFMB craze over these 2 days. Its hangover still hitting hard weeks after it's over and settled. I am quite certain that all the bloggers present over this meet may have experienced these hangover and withdrawal symptoms! It had me reeling.

IFBM had way too much to offer that it would be impossible for me to weave them into words and cover it all on a single post. Even tougher would be to justify the depth of effort the organizers had put in. The fabulous ladies Aparna, Nandita, Revati and Arundati deserve a huge round of applause for the length and breadth at which they have gone to put this show together and make this meet a grand success. To sum it up all, there were crazy 50+ fabulous food bloggers packed into a well-decor conference hall of a star hotel with high projectors, a fabulous host (Arundati) and many esteemed speakers nailing interesting substantial topics covering food photography, styling, writing, SOE, self-publishing, social networking and live cooking demos over a well carved program. Interspersed with awesome food, shutterbugs, media coverage, hugs, handshakes and loads of goodies from generous sponsors, IFBM was a one hell of an experience that will stay rooted in our memories for long.

I walk you through a couple of photographs snapped at this event, in a bid to capture as much I could and etch it in my memory for years to be cherished. They cover mainly food, a yet another highlight of this event. It was amazing to see how the team at Aloft had carefully crafted their menu over these two days, each following a theme and artistically put together in place. I've refrained posting photographs of individuals here in due respect to their privacy. However, if you follow me on Facebook, my timelines are currently tagged and loaded with all the action and happenings of this event that you can witness. Walk over to my Instagram feeds for more of its mania.

IFBM ended on electric high notes, positive vibes and ravishing raves garnered from the fraternity of us like minded blogger folks. There was so much to learn, explore, socialize and motivate oneself to better as a blogger that it will take me some time to put all of it into practical use. I came back with a hope that there will more of these interactive sessions packed with fun, learnings and new friendships in the years to come.

Before I close, I bring to you this Garden Fresh pizza that happens to be an all-time favorite of mine. That for the number of times I have baked at home, I presume it should feature here. I am a huge fan of peppers, mushrooms, baby corn and olives on a pizza and when all these feature on a single pizza how can it not taste delightful. This pizza is baked with a whole wheat mixed flour base, slathered with fresh tomato sauce and generously topped with fresh-sliced baby corns & green peppers, mushrooms and black olives. The base is made out of aashirvaad multigrain atta that's popular in India. I suggest you keep the pizza base thin since multi-grain flours have lower gluten in them and hence a thicker base can be less soft and springy as compared to the all-purpose flour counterparts.

Garden Fresh Pizza

INGREDIENTS

For the pizza dough:

1 cup + 1 tbsp. multi-grain flour (I used Aashirwad aata)
½ cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. olive oil

To assemble:

½ cup pizza sauce, homemade or store-bought
1 Green pepper / capsicum, sliced to wedges
6-7 Mushrooms, chopped to quarters
6-8 Baby corns, slit vertically to quarters
5-6 Black olives, halved
3-4 tbsp. mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, blend yeast in lukewarm water along with a teaspoon of sugar. Allow this to rest for 10 mins. This should be frothy by now. Heap the multigrain flour into a large bowl and make a pit in the center. Pour the yeast mixture, salt and 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Knead gently to form a smooth, soft, slightly sticky dough. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place for an hour like an oven until almost double in size. About 20 minutes before baking, punch down, knead a minute or two and then form into a ball. Roll out thin crust pizza base, about ¼ - ½ inch thick. Allow it to sit on the counter for 10 mins.

Pre-heat the oven on 220 deg C. To assemble the pizza, spread the pizza sauce over thinly rolled out pizza crust. Layer green peppers, mushrooms, baby corn and black olives. Top generously with mozzarella cheese and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a pre-heated oven of 220 deg C for about 20-30 mins. Cut into wedges and serve hot with Italian herbs.


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July 30, 2014

Two Grain Chocolate Granola

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I like to believe that my seriousness in cooking sparked when I got married and moved to live with D. It’s the kind of interest that spurs in any newlywed bride. I had a pretty decent experience being around the stove, but what it marked was, really my first stint at baking. In a pressure cooker, the way with sand and gas. Not neat, but a risky effort I remember. A few months later when my parents moved to Bangalore, my mother handed me over her old oven that had been idling for decades in the recess of her loft, so I could try my hands at making some cakes and cookies and overcome all my baking fads. She was quite certain about that.

An old Racold oven it was. With a round glass top, shiny aluminum rim and base, and as light as feather. It was a legacy thing that could burn anything in its vicinity, but bake a cake. Oh yeah, seriously. It got so hot that it ate up its own wire once. It had a thermostat knob that could not go beyond 180 deg C, that meant I had to bake pizzas over an hour and above for that perfect crust. It electrocuted once, gave me shocks, went on repair and got a brand new cabling. Yet it walked through all odds of its age, like an old granny with loads of wisdom, fraying strength and a sound heart. Each time it tumbled, I had assumed the service guy would tell me it was beyond repair, but it came back crippling to life. Having it around was a bit of charisma for the age it carried along. If it was a thing with life, there could have been a celebration for its silver jubilee. It was still precious. After all it was my mother’s. And all things lovingly handed over by mothers to daughters have a special charm, don’t they? For me, this one did.

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Over the years I baked many small cakes, muffins, pizzas and breads in it with much anticipation and content. Even in moments of anxiety, it was my little companion through my journey as much this blog was. This trusted one was such a little thing that I could cuddle in my arms and tip it into my cupboard after use. Despite my keenness to buy a replacement oven, I stayed with this one so long. Because it was probably meant to be around to coach me.

A while ago, I gave this old granny away. Her age, experience and years of worth so rich. With lot of love, hesitation and self-assurance that she’s found a new home. A new home to tutor another new bride, like she did to me. So she could foster her love for cooking and try her hands at baking. She took her along with a hope. A hope that this little granny would impart what she did to my mother and me – to nurture the appetite for baking, teach patience to bear, appreciate the fragrant waft of labor and find happiness in the sweet love of sharing. May be after some trials she may overcome all her baking fads. Though I am not convinced about that yet.

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For long I had stashed the thought of investing in a new oven. I don’t bake all that often either, so I stood by convection microwave ever since I parted with my old oven. But that isn’t always my preferred choice, simply because I haven’t mastered the art of baking in them the right way. Though I think they do a good job for cookies and muffins and I have baked several of these with pleasing results. So I gifted myself a brand new Bajaj 35 lt OTG. It came in a new, shiny silver armour, heavy with a promise of convenience. Oven, toaster and grill with settings from 40 to 240 deg C. There’s rotisserie, grill tongs, skewers, and what not. A whole lot of these accessories that I may never even use. Still for a domestic goddess it will be a thing to flaunt.

In this celebration here comes a recipe for Two Grain Chocolate Granola. A thing you can bake in an oven or make on a stove stop. Either ways, they always come out good. And should you prefer to keep it plain, go ahead and skip the dark chocolate. For me though, addition of chocolate is like an icing on cake and there can never be enough with some.

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Two Grain Chocolate Granola

INGREDIENTS

2 cups whole grain oats (old fashioned oats)
1 cup puffed millets
1/4 cup dry fruits (used here are raisins, cranberries and dates)
1/4 cup dry nuts (used here are walnuts and broken almonds)
1/2 cup 70% dark chopped chocolate
1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

In a clean bowl, combine oats along with nuts. Drizzle the vegetable oil and maple syrup and toss well. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes at 180 deg C till the oats just begin to brown. Meanwhile, grate the chocolate in another bowl. Remove the roasted oats from the oven and toss in the dry fruits along with the grated chocolate. Mix well. While still warm, toss the puffed millets. Allow to cool completely and store in a clean dry container.

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Notes:

Try to look out for old fashioned oats. If not easily available, I suggest you sieve the cooking oats and use the thicker one that settles on top of the sieve.

Puffed millets are high in nutrition and hence make this a very healthy breakfast. I add them post baking the oats since they tend to easily absorb moisture and become soggy if you bake along with oats.

If puffed millets are not available then substitute with rice cereal or puffed rice or equal measure of oats.

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July 23, 2014

Kokum Mint Spritzer

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Its taken longer than intended to be here. Between this time, I slipped and slid deeper between cracks of workload. At this very moment, I have several windows running on my taskbar, sticky notes spread in all corners of my screen, many official mails to respond and a constant juggle with alt-tab keys to switch between the screens. There’s an excel sheet burdened with numbers everywhere, so heavy that I'll soon need to pop some pills to fight off my pounding head. My weary eyes have been rolling from ends to ends of screen with my fingers constantly prancing on the keyboard. The sudden surge in workload has been keeping me busy late nights and in offbeat hours.

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A bit of relief comes from this Indian Food Blogger Meet that I so much look forward to. When the girls at IFB meet got together and rolled out this idea, I instantly knew my calender had to be blocked for these two days. Despite being an active blogger for over 5 years, I haven't been actively participating in blogger meets owing to personal constraints. So when this came across, I sent out leave notes to my manager highlighting my absence from work for that day.

IFB Meet has loads to offer. It comes with many unspoken promises. If you are not convinced, hang around here and you'll know the depth of effort these girls have been putting in to bring food bloggers together. I am looking forward to meet and greet many lovely people there, all sharing similar interests and passion for food blogging. It will be a great place to break ice with many fabulous bloggers whom I have never seen or met or virtually known. I trust my instincts that this will be worth every bit; that there will be an overload of fun, filled with learning, food, friendship, giggles, laughter and loads to take away!

While food bloggers on facebook have been pouring in recipes for a line up of contests for the registered participants at IFB Meet, I wasn't too far from this temptation. IFB Meet 2014 announced The Urbandazzle Contest recently, where the participants are expected create an interesting monsoon / summer cocktail or mocktail recipe with an Indian flavour. I put together this beautiful Kokum Mint Spritzer, quite inspired by an ingredient that belongs to my culture and is traditionally so Indian. I couldn't have thought of anything better. And I wonder how much more impressive this drink would look if you presented in UrbanDazzle Glassware! A stylish drink that's a perfect coolant on days when sun shines on your shoulder or when raindrops pitter patter on the window sill.

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Kokum Mint Spritzer

To know more about kokum read here.

15 dry kokums
2 1/2 cups sugar
A generous pinch of salt
5 cups of club soda
1 cup warm water
Handful of mint leaves

Wash and soak the kokums in 1 cup of warm water for atleast 2 hours. Once they soften, grind them along with their water till they are fine in paste. Sieve them through and discard the fibre. Into the collected kokum juice, add in sugar and salt and stir well till they are completely dissolved. Allow to chill in fridge for 2 hours. When about to serve, top with sparkling water or club soda. Add in broken mint leaves and shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker. Sieve and serve chill. If serving this to toddlers (as in my second picture), skip the sparkling water / soda and replace with regular mineral water instead. Top with mint leaves. Serve chill.

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July 6, 2014

Vegan Banana Berry Smoothie

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Its three years past since the time our daughter came into our lives as a bundle of immense joy, love and responsibility. There she was, my little tiny tot whom I held close to my heart; so close that our breaths and heart beats felt one when I first cocooned her in my arms. That every laughter or wail of hers was instinctively a signaling feat only I could decipher. She moved out of her infancy far quicker than I had realized. I could carry her around like a doll, cuddle her fondly, swirl around with her in dance and soar her high so she would drop soundly into my arms. My playmate in every sense. I could plant a kiss on her baby cheeks at my will and dress the way I own her. She was my perfect baby doll.

By the time she turned two, she had popped out of my cuddling arms, and learnt to balance herself on foot. Her bunny jumps on our black-brown sofa has a deep dent on it. We've left it behind without mend as a hint of her mischief. She could chuckle by now, mimic her grandpa snoring and babble a rhyme or two. She could feed herself by a cup, but by no means was a neat or willing eater. She loved tender hugs and basked in the joy of being pampered. And she always needed me for her company through nights.

Her regular watch at height and weight tells us she’s tad below the normal range. But then she’s been that way since her birth. She’s now a hyper active kid of age three, in an age ripe for a child to be schooled they say. We pulled it this long home-schooling her elementary basics, avoiding so far any methodical training that would culminate her freedom to enjoy learning or push her to any orderly duress. As a quick learner she’s been way ahead of her peers. She can be friend with you quickly, can walk you through a dozen of nursery rhymes with ease, sing A-Z in phonic rhythms confidently and catch your misreckoning for your count on 1 to 10, pretty much putting many to surprise.

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She needs a bit of seasoning though. She loves adults for her company and at times behaves like one. In company of other children, she is timid and demure. For long, she has been around with big folks, growing up in lack of company of children belonging to her age group. She speaks a ton that could tire anyone. Her mind is constantly bustling with dozens of questions every minute; the why-s, where’s, what’s, in constant need to be answered. She gets bored and cranky at the busyness of house and its people. She loves having someone around her every minute to play and keep her busy. As demanding as she sounds, she is a very happy child in company.

Last week, after much forethought, we placed her admissions with a nearby school. So she could wean away from comforts of being winged under parents and grandparents all the time; and find new friends for herself. To make friends with kids of her age group and discover joy in childhood and friendship. So that her curious mind would be busy with fun filled activities and play, instead of grown-up conversations. It’s a charming little place amid the bustling traffic ridden cross roads of Bangalore. With an artificial turf, bracing landscape, couple of outdoor and indoor games for play, and responsive teachers around, there’s enough there to keep her safe, busy and creative.

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I was a bundle of nerves on the first day of her school. Worried as I was, several frantic calls went to my parents to know if she was doing ok or if the school had summoned them to pick her before time. In my mind I had expected her to cry her throat out, more in the company of thorough strangers and alien classmates whom she had never known. She came back home dancing happy feet instead. Certainly a joyous news for me. On day two, I accompanied her to drop at school; walking hand in hand, she, ideating about her dress and the matching shoes, and waving a cheerful bye-bye to me. A majority of her schoolmates were seen wailing, as their parents, grandparents, and aayas came to see them off. I expected she would cry for me. Instead she was still a happy child like the day before. It was a big proud moment, a revelation that my little one was adaptable and loved her time at school. Over the past two weeks, she has walked through her nestling period with no tears shed or anxious moments to deal with, making good progress at school. She is slowing getting accustomed to the company of other children, but has certainly got into good books of her teachers, gaining their confidence of being a good child. Soon someday she will wean away from tête-à-tête approach and come back to us with stories, games, learnings and activities from her friends at school. She will soon grow up with an aura of her own. An individual with an independent mind who may not require her mommy or grandparents around for her being. A girl with definite thoughts, empathy and strong opinions of her own. I hope this is what good schooling will instil in her.

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My little girl now carries a mid-morning snack for her school breaks. Her snack box that has healthy titbits like cut fruits, a piece of sandwich, bites of khakra or paratha wedges excites her, and each day she looks forward to what's being packed in her dabba. Mid-morning snacking was customary to her even during the time we were vacationing in US. That was the time, my little girl and me spent most of our mid-mornings together in the kitchen either chopping vegetables for lunch, baking a quick snack or whipping up berry smoothies to quench our thirsts. She would sit perched on the kitchen counter, while I stayed on my foot near the blender. She would peel bananas and I would slice them for her. The tall blender jar could nearly consume a quarter her height. Yet, she would unyielding adjust them neatly between her tiny legs and throw in ingredients by the order I said, all in for a game when it came to identifying colors and fruits.

This Banana Berry Smoothie was our all time favorite mid morning drink. I could say more deary hers. She has a penchant for bananas. We would gulp tall glasses of it in a single go, sometimes go for seconds. Add in some oats while blitzing and it makes up for a breakfast too. Thick and luscious. Sincerely healthy. And vegan to boot.

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Vegan Banana Berry Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

1 cup orange juice, cold
1 big banana
3 strawberries
12 raspberries
A dash of honey / maple syrup, optional

DIRECTIONS

Wash and clean all the berries thoroughly. Peel and chop the banana to rounds. Blitz them together along with orange juice and a dash of honey or maple syrup. Serve in tall glasses.

Note: You may use frozen berries for a cold drink. Frozen bananas work well too. I used chilled orange juice here since the drink was served for a child and was about the right temperature for a toddler.


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June 29, 2014

Vacation that went by, a glimpse

Hardly a couple of months ago while I was planning my sabbatical, I wondered what life would be for me as a stay-at-home-mum. I had never known myself being this way. For the past decade I had spent my life too busy moulding my career, dug deep into learning the dynamics of ever-changing technology and delivering to the whims and demands of my IT job, that I had least cared I would ever see a favourable chance to witness this side of life too. I spent more than three quarters of my day at work and rest quarters catering home needs for my beloved people. The boost came from the strong parental support that gave me innate strength and satisfaction to leave my daughter in their hands when I was at work. My husband relentlessly pursued me at every step to do better and grow up the career ladder. I couldn't have asked for more.

With my husband moving to the States, even if it meant for a period of time, was tough on me; since managing work and home was never easy and in his absence it only got me taxing and dissipated. Taking sabbatical was planned indefinitely. We knew little if it would happen or not, if an extended leave from work would ever be destined or never. We just hoped. And hoped through all those days of January and February. I felt being tossed on and off, like being slowly roasted on a fry pan, and flipped on both the sides to be cooked through, more so in its supposition and anticipation. In turn of moments, things moved cohesively and in the short span, a break from work worked out for our good. So what, even if it meant a leave for just 3 months, it was an opportunity to be seized. When this vacation came through, I intended to pack every bit of it with all that I wanted to do, that I had dreamed of if I could ever break free and gamble some time for myself.

While crossing continents three months ago, I carried along a long list of things to do - many must tries, places we wanted to visit together, cuisines to be explored, foods we wanted to eat, hobbies I had cared for and meals I wanted to cook with best of seasonal ingredients I could lay my hands on. Given the short period I had (3 months?), there was enough packed on my to-do list.

Toddler time - Cognizant about the lack of adequate time spent watching my little one grow older with me while I was away at work often put me in terrible guilt. I guess this complicity comes to all working mothers as a boon (or a bane?) with motherhood. The vacation meant a good time to bond. I distanced from the social radar and stayed away from cell phones. Basic phone calls went out to the most dear folks. No whatsapp. No instagram. No FB updates. No television. No radio. To say I missed them sorely in the first few days is an understatement. To take this stance was deliberate. I wanted to decelerate. Slow down and unwind from chaos of our technologically strung-out life. This, in every essence, was the occasion to pamper my little tot and inscribe the time she deserved. There was a lot we did together. We taught each other, bonded over long strolls, explored little things, ideated stories, amused ourselves with new games, chirped new rhymes, teased the dad, dressed each other, played keyboard on terrible pitched notes, baked muffins and rolled the dough, peek-a-booed a ton, cuddled beneath the blanket, shared unending kisses and laughed our hearts out at all crazy things we did. These were the best moments I am still reviving. Like in trance that treads along till it gradually fades into hinders. Saving and etching a memory for her and us.

To witness the snow and changing seasons - There's something magical about crisp flakes of fresh snow, the spread of black and white beauty the mother nature has blessed this region with during the winters. Our trip was planned to overlap between the fag ends of winter and the advent of spring and summer, so we got the best of both seasons. To witness this land in its monotone and in its burst of colors. Winters were undoubtedly beautiful, but harsh at the worst of its bearing.


Rest, and that too ample of it was the most needed and I made the best of it during these winters, yet it never seems enough to get more.

Travel - Both, my husband and me have gone exploring places as and when we could make time, the case being even when we were together in India. This trip was meant to have loads of travel packed in its itinerary. Our weekends were chalked out to exploring places in and around the New England region where we lived in. We made trips to Washington DC, Boston, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Niagara and NYC exploring far and wide as much the weather and our holidays could permit. I am touring you through a quick glimpse here. Really a short walk-through in comparison to the number of places we visited and the photos we shot.


Our first long distance road trip covering around 1000 miles round-about was to Washington DC (WDC). The roads to WDC lead us through various states of US, an eight hour drive, reaching apt in time to witness the Cherry Blossom festival, an annual celebration in budding flowers signifying the onset of spring, also commemorating the friendship between US and Japan. Given the breadth of this city and the number of sightseeing places Washington DC had to offer it was hard to cover it all in the short period we spent there. If you ever visit Washington DC as a tourist, reserve a handful of days to tour around in leisure. Above pictured in Washington DC... Capitol Hill, Washington Monument, Tidal Basin, Streets of WDC, Cherry Blossom Festival, WDC Street again.

A must visit to the beautiful iconic Niagara Falls, a collective name given to the three waterfalls that traverse the international border between Canada and the United States... Niagara, I guess, needs no introduction. Pictured above, Horse-shoe as seen from American border, The American Falls including the Bridal Veil Falls, Horse-shoe Falls, Night shoot of Ontario, Canada from American border.


There are some cities that welcome you beyond what you would expect. In them, there's an old world charm, a pride in their heritage they carry from the stories that have made into history. Boston was one of those cities that was as warm, friendly and welcoming as our friends over there. A city that is seemingly rustic and historian, yet it seamlessly blends and connects to the modern era of progressive today. Yet another city we loved, truly being a visitor's delight. Oh, did I tell you? Boston skyline is in vogue and beautiful!


Vermont welcomed us with dreary skies and cold showers through most of the time we were there. Really, not the best of the weather to be in, but we did not want to let go a weekend either. Despite the onset of spring, it drizzled and remained icy chill. Yet, with heavy coats, curling toes and freezing nosetips we headed out to explore Vermont. If one would ask me to describe my go-to destination to retire, I think this would be. Vermont. Subtly rustic with an old country charm, it's countryside settlements on banks of meandering river beds, ogling out to stark grey skies and interspersed mountain peaks covered in depths of greens and browns, so beautiful and scenic that it left us mesmerised by the virginity of the scenic flora surrounding it. So colonial and submissive that we would have loved more of it. We hopped to Burlington city in the day to sightsee, while retired to Stowe at dusk, to nestle beside Vermont's highest peak, the majestic Mt. Mansfield. Despite not being in the right season to visit Vermont, it was quaint and picturesque, so close to nature than anything we had ever seen. Pictured above Lake Champlain, Stowe Mountain Ski at Mt. Mansfield and Cider Mill in the Green Mountain State of Vermont. Not the best of photographs given the dreary weather, yet I have no complains.

Contrast to our tour in and around New England and Vermont, New York City (NYC) offered us a view from the other side of life in US. A city in true sense. A city that you can easily draw similarities to our very own Mumbai in many terms, yet in varying degrees. Vivid, electric and fast. The moment you step into this city, there a sudden fullness in every nook you see. There's life in everything; living and material. Friction from shoulders of strangers dashing into. Pavements spilling with hustle bustle of people from all walks of life. Real estate crammed into one another. The skyscrapers so tall that if you craned your neck above to view their top floors, the skylight could easily blind you, yet it may be hard to see their receding point. New York is a maze with people and cars rushing by honking horns between tall buildings in parallels and cross roads. The unruly yellow city cabs, the neon flashing lights, the iconic billboards, the late night life is what sets it apart. It's this commotion that makes New York what it is. Yet for us, New York had more to offer beyond just the busyness of city life. Be it the metro train travel, or the view from 82nd floor of the Empire State Building or the night walk at Times Square, NYC leaves you smitten. The Lady at Liberty (Statue of Liberty) was beautiful. The Manhattan skyline, just stunning. Its wants you to be there and capture more of it. New York's hysteria and madness is so hypnotising that left us craving for more.

There was a lot we saw in past couple of weeks, tons of it registered, capturing as much we could through our eyes, our heart and our camera, in every attempt to record and inscribe beautiful memories for the three of us. We made long drives in and around New England region covering all possible states around and places to see. Although not captured here, Rhode Island and Martha's Vineyard were yet other favourite scenic spots we loved. Above, couple of shots at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Connecticut. I have 1000 odd photographs idling on my drive that are yet to be processed, so I spare you from going through more photographs of our travel here.

Travel apart, I was armed to cook a ton and bake like none. Considering my husband is not much of a sweet tooth and enjoys not more than a piece or two of any dessert, all of the cakes, muffins and cookies I baked went into adding couple of unwarranted inches to my waist-line. I did cook and bake a lot in the first month that I was home. But I switched over to baking pizzas and grilled veggies and enough breads were made to feed a gang.

For love of food and cooking, I instinctively love to explore local cuisine and ingredients on any travel I make. Many local fruits and vegetables that are seasonal here are exorbitantly priced and are sometimes hard to find in India. Back home, I abide by cooking with ingredients that are mostly procured fresh and locally. Glad I got to test and taste fresh produces like watercress, arugula, brussel sprouts, asparagus, variety of cheeses, berries, nuts, peaches and pears. I'm trying to figure out the craze for donuts, coffee and chocolate chips cookies, that in the past months I had seen so much of it, I felt compelled to make some at home too! On another note, the above pictured, Stew Leonard's was our hop on place to buy farm fresh produces; a place where I could spend hours exploring fresh ingredients.

A sabbatical also meant making time for hobbies galore. Well, the easiest thing to say, but hard to accomplish all. There was so much I have always wanted to do and learn for myself that the number of hours that sum up a day would never be enough if I had to accomplish it all; read books endlessly, sketch and paint from dusk till dawn (somehow my creativity is the best between these hours), cook, bake, photograph, write and blog a ton (well, I did that partly, but, if only I could have been any better), surf the net, gawk social networking (did I say this is a hobby??? shame!), listen and learn music (I have been harboring a secret interest to learn a musical instrument since long), stitch and knit dresses for my little doll and her dolls (my mother did a lot, I am certain I have it in my DNA too), raise a kitchen garden (I have flopped here in the past, I seriously need some lessons), do home interiors and carpentry (oh yes, I have a strange impression I could fare well here), watch tv, sleep, and sleep more, and shop like no one (if only I had a million bucks a day in this world). God, I wish I was blessed a week in a day please!

All said, this moment of life has been wonderful. I lived life of being a true homemaker, or rather a domestic Goddess as Nigella would put it through. A fortnight ago the daughter and me headed back to India, leaving behind the husband. We've stumbled back to a routine, adjusting to the contrast differences both the countries have to offer, each beautiful in their own way. I will soon be back with another post and a recipe. Till then wishing you guys a great Sunday!


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