“…a hazy shade of winter”

Simon and Garfunkel are one of my all time favorites and I love this song. In New Jersey, it is cold now. It is not below zero yet nor has it snowed, but it is still cold. And it will get only colder. Just the other day, while driving to the grocery store, I notice that the trees which had these dazzling colors till last week, are bare and lonely. I feel almost sad. They must be feeling lost too. The drive around the neighborhood suddenly is not one that warms up the heart, but one that sets a more somber mood.

But, a closer look warms up my heart again. The trees are beautiful and they stand proud. I remember that I love these winter trees. They tell the world to admire them just the way they are. They may be a shadow of their former self, but they sure own their story at the moment. There is a stillness, perhaps even a sense of grace. If we listen closely, we may hear them say : Whatever I am…I am enough.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind.

Soup: Broccoli Cheddar-Ish

It’s that time of the year here in New Jersey, a place I have come to call home. A place that is cold and wet for the most part of the year and probably frowned upon by many, especially those in the sunnier parts of this country. We hated this place too when we came here first, a decade ago, but just like a lot of other things, this place has grown on us and for now, this is home. But, I digress. While the riotous colors of autumn continue to enamor us whenever we step outside, indoors it is time for soft blankets, hot cocoas and soups.

I think, when it comes to soups, there are two types of people. One who love soup and the other who would opt to have the bread on the side instead. I belong to the second category while my husband stands tall in the first. And so, one can imagine the conundrum we find ourselves in when we decide to make soup, typically for lunch. But, may be it’s the weather here, starting November, that has been nudging me slowly towards, I admit begrudgingly, to like soup. While I still prefer to stay as far away as possible from soups like Minestrone and the chicken noodle, I have found a few which I can slurp up bowls full of. Broccoli Cheddar tops that list. My version of the classic soup has ingredients which are not typically added in this, but I feel they put an interesting twist on this very cheesy soup. This afternoon I added one more thing! And before I ran the risk of forgetting, I penned it down in my first and brand new recipe notebook (though the pages in this picture are of recipes I am planning for Thanksgiving!)

Disclosure: Since most of the time, I forget to use measuring cups and spoons, instead relying on ‘a pinch here and a dollop there’ policy, if you happen to use this recipe, it is likely that you may have to adjust a few things here and there! Whatever it may be, I hope you like this and it encourages you to continue your experiments with food. I cook because I believe in the motto of Chef  Auguste Gusteau of the Ratatouille movie fame: “Anyone Can Cook”!!

Here you go: Recipe for Broccoli Cheddar-ish soup (serves around 4-6)

Ingredients

  • Butter (3 Tbsp)
  • All Purpose Flour ( 2 Tbsp)
  • Milk (1 1/2- 2cups)
  • Roasted Chicken Broth (1 cup)
  • One medium onion (finely chopped or sliced)
  • Broccoli (chopped, 1 cup)
  • Carrots (About 2 medium ones, grated)
  • Baked Chicken (Shredded or chopped finely, about 1/2 cup)
  • Potatoes (Boiled and cut into small pieces, about 3/4 cup)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese (1 1/2 -2 cups)
  • Cream Cheese (Chive and Onion Flavored or any other or you can make your own by mixing spices with the plain cream cheese- 1 Tbsp)
  • Salt and Black Pepper (To taste)
  • Sweet and Sour Sauce (About 2 Tbsp)
  • Chipotle Chili Pepper Flakes

Directions

  • Take 1 large potato and cut into really tiny pieces. Transfer to a microwave safe bowl, add some water and cook for about 5 mins till tender. Keep aside.
  • Steam in the microwave a packet of broccoli florets (or use a fresh broccoli head, cut into small pieces and steam to soften it). Set aside.
  • Grate two medium carrots. Set aside.
  • In a small pan, add some butter (1 Tbsp) and add the sliced/chopped onions. Sauté a bit and add the shredded/ chopped chicken to the onions. Since the chicken is already cooked, a bit of stirring will be enough for the flavors to mix .
  • Take a deep pot and put it on low flame. Once heated, add about 2 Tbsp of butter and then 2 Tbsp of all purpose flour to make a roux. Keep stirring to make sure the flour doesn’t crumble and doesn’t get brown. If need be, add a little milk.
  • Once the flour is cooked, add milk (1 1/2-2 cups) and stir a bit. To that add a cup of roasted chicken stock/ broth (I use roasted because it lends an interesting flavor to the soup. You can use the regular chicken broth or stock) and keep stirring. Once almost done, reduce the flame and let it simmer, about 7-8 minutes.
  • Now add the onion and chicken mix. Stir.
  • Add the broccoli, carrots and the boiled potatoes. Stir.
  • Add hot water if needed.
  • Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Now add the Cheddar cheese and the cream cheese (softened). You can, though, totally skip the cream cheese part. I had done this one day since I had no shredded or sliced or block cheese in the fridge! The result of adding the cream cheese was a much creamier soup. So, now I end up using it always, though I just add it as an ‘extra’.
  • At this point, you will notice the soup becoming thicker, and you can use hot water to adjust the consistency.
  • Add some salt and pepper to season. The cheese and roasted broth already add a lot of saltiness to the soup so it’s a good idea to add salt at the end.
  • Now, I do this because the kids love it- Once the soup is almost done, I add a 1 or 2 tbsp of any sweet and sour sauce (the ones for marinading) to the soup. It adds a wonderful ‘something’.
  • And for my husband and I, when we have poured out the soup in our bowls, we stir in some chipotle chili flakes and that almost transforms the soup.

I hope you enjoy this bowl of warm soup. We are under the weather now, and the little ones have the sniffles and sneezes. This soup surely brought in a lot of comfort to them today. As I am typing this, they are getting ready for some ‘Beauty and the Beast’ movie time. I can see from the corner of my eye, they are getting the blankets and figuring out if it is on the Disney channel or Netflix! I have been called a few times to join in since some mommy supervision is needed for the ‘scary’ parts.

Warm wishes to you and your loved ones. Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind.

A celebration of colors

I no longer write here or anywhere. There seems to be a lack of purpose or even interest. I do go through words and pictures some of my favorite people here share. And that is enough for now. Autumn has been in full swing in the United States and I have clicked away to my heart’s content. The mind and the heart seem to be in sync during autumn.

Ever so quietly now, the days are becoming shorter. No longer a minute erased here and there. Before long, it will be Joyce’s gloomy evenings- bitter, cold and dark. But till that time comes, we are celebrating autumn. We are filling up our senses and paying attention to the easily missable details that make life just that much more fulfilling. We are continuing to find ‘magnificence in the mundane’.

We hold on to the little things, that which are known and comforting. We also rush to check things off of our daily to-do list. But, once in a while we are allowed a moment here and a moment there, a bit of a stillness to take in what the heart already knows. The colors have popped and are here, however, only for a short while. The amber, and scarlet and the golden yellow are competing with each other, like every year. I wonder if they know that there’s no need for that, for the competition.

The heavier jackets are out and hats are a must. Mornings are busier as the school bus does not wait and routines have changed a lot. Yet, we pause when we can and breathe. Breathe the air that promises to be fresh and teases to be free of this virus that seems relentless. I sometimes wonder if we admire more the stillness of our lives or its mad chorus. Sometimes, we are at peace with our inner selves, and that perhaps, happens oh so rarely that we don’t even realize that we did hold such a moment inside of us, however briefly. But when it does, we do not feel the need to rush and this overwhelming need to be perfect or get everything done gets watered down. Even if for a minute, we do forget, the spinning world around us and revel in the calm within.

Do you wonder that you need to be constantly visible for others to think about you or remember you? Does it in some weird twisted way add more value to your worth? Is it even possible- to measure someone’s worth? Can we not just quietly escape and see who comes along with a hello. I always find those hellos so much more gratifying than the ones splashed across the social media. They are quiet and seek no impetus. I don’t know. Days come and go in mostly unspectacular manners, some perhaps more kind than others. Such rare days know how to unfold while others are just in a race with themselves. And yet in the middle of this madness and stillness lie our entirety. That’s the elegance of our lives.

During languorous autumn evenings, I often find myself seeking out the strength of what I perceive as the mundane, as the usual. And that brings me peace. I hope the mundane brings you peace too. Because in everything we do, places we go to, the present moments lead us gently back to moments in time, the details and the nuances of those revealing themselves slowly and telling us that that what is now, is good. It can be better, it will be better, but it may also be the other way. So, seek the now and celebrate that which is.

Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind.

Here’s looking at summer

As I frantically try to match the back-to-school shopping list to the items that keep arriving at my doorstep in brown boxes, I try to pause to appreciate the warm days that are slipping by, slowly but steadily.

Summer was supposed to be different and I can’t say that it was not, compared to last year. Could it have been better? Yes. Should it have been better? YES. But, I am taking what comes my way and am letting myself choose gratefulness and gentleness.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl

Moving on.

Summer was good. Unexpected moments of peace and happiness filled it up along with the usual dose of crazy. There were trunk picnics and beach time, strolls in the park and just lazying around with family. There was a lot of music and a whole lot of boxes to unpack in our new home. There were lots of new books and play dates too.

We are learning to make this new home ours. We are finding our happy spots and we are finding corners that keep our secrets. We are learning. The little boy’s best friend moved across seas to a different country and he had his first heartbreak. He learned to miss his friend. The baby girl is discovering the joys of riding a tricycle and eating a whole lot of ice cream. I don’t know what the husband man is up to but I am learning, slowly, to be okay with being around people. Sounds strange, doesn’t it.

As the new school year is a few days away, my heart wants to rejoice. Rejoice as my son and his friends will be going to school for the first time, a big step indeed. Rejoice at them being together, learning and being goofy and playing and doing all that six year olds are supposed to be doing. Their face masks will be hiding their big smiles but I am confident the eyes will be shining as brightly as possible.

But I am rejoicing cautiously.

I am relying on the kindness of neighbors and fellow parents when it comes to the mask. I am relying on the fact that they will be doing what is needed to keep all the children, mine and theirs, safe.

And so, as the last week of this year’s summer vacation starts, I am looking at more ice creams in the backyard and extra cuddle time in the mornings. I am looking at family movies and silly finger paintings.I am looking at the brother who just knows what the baby sister wants and I am thinking about the little sister who gives the best hugs. I am looking at the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe. Stay kind.