Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks for stopping by.
When I went to an okonomiyaki restaurant for the first time with a friend of mine, Imroz, it was an interesting experience for sure. It had been a very tiring week where my days at the school began at 7.45 in the morning and I would come home after 8 in the evening. It was a Friday and we were heading into a long weekend and I was able to come home by 6.30. Imroz’s apartment was one stop on the subway and we decided to meet for dinner along with Rika, who I later went to become great friends with! It’s strange how one remembers such details even from years ago while things from yesterday often slip from our minds. The restaurant was a modest one as many Japanese places tend to be and every table had the teppan (metal plate/hot plate) and we were given the option of cooking the okonomiyaki ourselves. Rika was a native and Imroz had been in Japan for a long time and much more attuned to things that often took me by surprise! How was I supposed to cook okonomiyaki? And why would I have to cook it myself when I have come to a restaurant to precisely not wanting to have anything to do with cooking! Little did I know at that time that it was/could be also a part of eating okonomiyaki🙂
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake where other than flour and eggs, cabbage is the primary ingredient. Dashi (fish stock), eggs, other vegetables, meat are added and a cooked okonomiyaki is usually topped with bonito flakes (shredded dried tuna..like flakes of dried tuna), seaweed, pickled ginger, Japanese mayonnaise. We opted to cook it (and by we I mean Rika and Imroz) and it was fun though a bit scary at first. To begin with, I found sitting at the table a little uncomfortable as one would have to be very cautious with the hands with the hot teppan right in front! But you get used to it soon, to be honest. That was the scary part. But the cooking part was fun and a bit messy but when you are with good friends, making memories you could care less:) And they made delicious okonomiyaki-s and I have been a fan ever since. It did get a bit warm at the table with all the cooking being done but we had some very cold iced tea to help with that and it was a wonderful dinner that we finished off with some matcha ice cream.
The good man has come to love Japanese food and it makes me very happy! And he has taken it a step further by cooking it from time to time and when he made okonomiyaki for the first time, I was on top of the moon:) The recipe he followed was from here and it was oishi, hontoni! (delicious, really). It is not very involved, this recipe, and tastes great. You could surely give this a try and you won’t be disappointed.
Do you have stories that involve your adventures with Japanese food? Have you ever tried okonomiyaki? Did you have it in Japan in an okonomiyaki restaurant? Did you have it in the Kansai area, like Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto or in the Hiroshima area? Those of you who did have it in Japan , how was your experience? Did you get to make one for yourself or was one made for you? How has your experience with Japanese food been where you live? Are you someone who is open to all kinds of food or is there something that you would never even try?
Please share your stories, experiences, photos, recipes, links to recipes you have tried, bloggers who you follow for making special dishes…anything that you wish to! It is always exciting to read about our collective experiences and find out ways in which we are more connected and what makes us unique!
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This week Sandy invites us for ‘coffee conversations’ and while I would ideally really like to have coffee with quite a few of you wonderful people, I have come to know a bit about through here, for now those wishes have to be put on hold. And maybe someday, somewhere we would share a drink or two…who knows. Am I a tea person or is coffee my preferred drink is something even I can’t answer with certainty. And so you may see me answering different things…but please believe that it’s a conflict I often deal with within my tea-coffee loving brain! However, plain black tea (and sometimes that cha I fondly remember from the bygone days) and plain black coffee are almost equally loved and always my go to version from among all the many available variations!
Now, I am someone who rarely takes photos of food when eating out or in, but a bit of that has changed since Cook, Eat, Repeat. But taking photos of food while at a restaurant- I am still a little uncomfortable with that. However, I do have these 4 ( one was taken Sunday afternoon!) that can be shared for this week’s prompt… yayyy!
Taken at one of our favorite brunch places, The Turning Point in Princeton,NJ. It was also one of those handful of times when the good man and I both indulged in something other than the good old black coffee! I guess that’s why the photo;)
We welcomed our darling baby girl in Nov 2018 and it was beautiful but obviously exhausting. We were saved by the love and care that my parents showered on us, while putting their lives on hold so we could feel better, eat better and sleep better and be there for the kids. And one such day, they encouraged us to go take a little break and so we did! We went on our first ‘coffee date’ after a very long time and though it was very brief and we worried for the little one for the duration of the date, it was still wonderful:)
It was a gorgeous sunny day on Sunday;) We went out for lunch to one of our favorite places. And a bad cold made me order coffee, instead of something deliciously cold, that I was happy to take a photo of! And while our ‘conversations’ were mostly about how much fun the baby girl was having dropping things on the floor and how her big brother had started liking different kinds of food, it was still wonderful to be able to go out as a family and enjoy a meal together. We have been going to this particular place for the last nine years and while a lot has changed since, the food here has always been comforting!
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A couple of years to turning forty, I often find myself thinking about regrets that I may or may not have. And while there certainly are things that could have gone better or slightly differently, I don’t have much to complain about. But one thing that I really regret is not having a good camera during my stay in Japan (and not buying one as well) and on top of that, losing more than 95% of whatever photos I had to a case of ‘laptop in the bathtub’ 🤦🏾♀️ Before you start wondering…I was working on an assignment that was nearing its deadline, sitting on the edge of this deep bathtub, while soaking my feet when a moment of carelessness resulted in a soaking laptop. It was near the end of my stay as well and so I lost most of the photos and a few other stored documents in that mishap. I still cannot believe that I was, to put it as frankly as possible, dumb enough to do that. But that’s what happens when you take the laptop to the bathroom and later question your reasoning!
I haven’t visited many countries yet and so I cannot say with absolute certainty but from whatever I have seen of Japan and the experiences I gathered during the time I lived there, I can say with a good amount of confidence that it is one of the most beautiful places one could ever visit. And it’s beauty does not merely lie in its mountains and seas, the coming and going of the seasons, the traditional homes, the perfectly landscaped gardens, beautiful castles that are spread throughout the country…it transcends this physical part and seeps into the way of life there. There is a feeling of serenity and contentment in the beauty that enraptures one when in Japan -be it through the mesmerizing Sakura, the sight of women clad in kimonos, in the discipline that they exhibit in their daily routine, in the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, in their sense of aesthetics that ranges from how they dress to how their dining table is laid out to the placing of the hashi (chopsticks) to the way they say itadakimasu (I humbly receive – a phrase they say right before eating)…the list can be endless. I feel deeply honored to have had the opportunity to work there for two years and immerse myself in the culture and cuisine with the help and love of people I was fortunate to have crossed paths with.
Cherry blossoms in New Jersey
I fell in love with Japanese food pretty easily and have never not liked anything that I had except for Ikura (salmon roe) and natto (fermented soybeans), with the latter being a bit too out of my comfort zone! I have made meals with and shared those with my colleagues, my students, amazing neighbors and every time the experience has been rewarding, to say the least. A name that stands out from all the wonderful people who I made memories with is Chikako Yasunaga- a woman who embraced me with open arms and heart and showered me with her kindness and love and called me her fourth child (she has three kids)! I never know how to describe her as I feel any words I use would not do justice to capturing her true essence and the wonderful human being she is. The day before I left Kobe, she came to meet me and obviously brought me food! When we said goodbye, she hugged me tightly and said ‘Chatterjee, daisuki desu‘ (I like/love ‘Chatterjee’- my last name), I suddenly realized I was leaving family there who I probably would not be able to see again and that thought was heart wrenching. I also remember crying a lot after she left. I have watched her cook and cooked with her, shared innumerable meals with her family and I owe a lot of my love for Japanese food to her and so not mentioning her here would be dishonoring her.
Yasunaga sensei with her husband (another wonderful person, a professor of law by profession) in Naples! We still send each other little life updates and it is just as easy talking to her over the phone with her broken English and my very rusty Japanese (that she had made me conversational in during my stay in Kobe!) as it was 12 years back!
So, for this month’s first recipe I am sharing a pretty simple recipe of Ramen that both my husband and I love and is a staple in our home during the winter months! It reminds me not only of Yasunaga sensei’s kitchen but also of my amazing neighbor Tom, who was a ramen enthusiast and we often explored various ramen places in our neighborhood! Those made for some great conversations, long walks and some wonderful food!
This is a version that we make at home and is not an absolute authentic Japanese one, in terms of the way some ingredients have been modified. It is a version that suits us best and also does not deviate a lot from traditional methods of making it. It tastes pretty good too!
HOW TO MAKE
I was in a hurry and I cut the chicken really sloppy…please excuse that!
(For the unnitiated, the Japanese end every meal by saying this – it is a way of showing their appreciation for the food they just had and also for the person who cooked…it means “thank you for the meal or that was delicious”)
What is your take on Japanese food?Are you a fan or do you stick to sushi only when it comes to this cuisine? Do you cook Japanese food at home? Which ones? Is there a favorite restaurant you go to? What is your favorite Japanese food? What about sake? Have you visited Japan? Do you have stories to share? I am eager to hear your association with this country and its food, both of which I have come to love dearly! Please share anything that you want to in the comment section or write your own post and share your story, photos, recipes….anything that you can think of! It will be wonderful to read:)
Here’s how to participate:
Thank you for stopping by.
Here I am with my third and final post for this month – the ‘Aam Panna‘ (Aam- Mango in Hindi language and Panna – a concoction of sorts).
As Google will tell you, it is drink made from raw mangoes that helps one cool down during the intense heat of the summer months in India and supposedly has heat-resistant properties. While I can’t comment with a 100% guarantee on the latter, I can certainly say that it is something that is just perfect for the hot and sultry days of the summer in my home country. And if you gave it a try, I am sure you too would love this wonderful concoction of raw mangoes, mint, a bit of sugar, a pinch of black salt and a pinch of roasted cumin!
Living in a land that is far away from the sights and smells I grew up with has been an adjustment and even after all these years, it still is. I wonder if it is the same for others who are away from their motherland as well. I have heard some people say, who have been here much longer, that they still feel that something is missing, something no amount of opulence and comfort can make up for. A pull that does not let go, a love so deep and poignant that it is hard to put into words.
This drink is humble and accommodating and reminds me of growing up in India. It reminds me of quiet afternoons and the fiery Gul Mohor (flame of the forest); of the exhilarating champa (plumeria) and bushes of hibiscus; of that sole peddler whose voice could be heard over the whirring of the fan blades, trying to make the last sale of the day; the occasional tired barks of stray dogs lying in the shade of the trees, coiled and too tired, from the heat, to move; of my Ma’s beautiful voice humming a tune while going about the daily chores; of that heavily fragrant smell of ‘Keo Karpin hair oil that Baba could not, and still cannot, do without; of the repetitive thud of a ‘cambis‘ ball hitting the wall as my brother tried to get the ‘spin’ perfect; of that small black and white ‘Oscar’ television that stood in the corner of the room, hidden by an embroidered TV ‘cover’; of special summer programs that we watched on that same TV with cousins who often visited when school was closed; of secret crushes and stolen innocent glances; of undiluted love from warm embraces of my Rangadadu (my mom’s uncle..my favorite grandpa among all). It’s a drink that reminds me of the matters of the heart.
HOW TO MAKE!
There are many ways by which you can dress up or dress down this simple drink, all of which you will find online, in plenty. Here’s how I like mine!
Serves : Happy souls! Time : about 20 minutes (that includes 15 minutes of boiling mangoes)
Ingredients : Raw mangoes (either 2-3 fresh whole ones or about 2 cups of frozen pieces)// Water- about 2 cups for boiling and more(about 1 cup per person) for making the actual drink// Sugar- 3-4 Tbsp// Mint Leaves- a handful// Black salt- 2 tbsp// Roasted and ground cumin powder- 2 Tbsp// Ice Cubes
Method : If using fresh raw mangoes, cut the mango in small pieces and boil in water for about 15 minutes. If using the frozen ones (which are already usually cut into pieces) you may have to increase the boiling time by 5-7 more minutes. Once done, strain.
[Note: Sometimes the frozen mango is cut in slices and not chunks- in that case the boiling time will be about 7-8 mins total only. ]
In a blender, add ice cubes, the mangoes, and the other ingredients mentioned above and puree . (Note that you will not be needing the entire batch of this purée for a glass of aam panna. You can store the rest in the fridge for 3-4 days easily).
In a glass, add a couple of ice cubes and fill about a little more than 1/4 of the glass with the mango purée . If you want a slightly fuller taste, and this is better tasting for sure, fill 1/2 of the glass with the purée. Then fill up the glass with water. Add a couple of mint leaves and give the concoction a good stir! I sometimes also add just a pinch of the roasted cumin at the end, on the top.
[ You could grab cumin powder from your spice shelf or if you happen to have whole cumin, spend a couple of extra minutes and roast about 2-3 tbsp on a pan in low heat till their color turns darker and you get that wonderful smell. Grind it using a mortar and pestle and store in an air tight container. Using this will enhance the flavor much more].
Aam Panna is indeed a very refreshing drink and you can easily adjust the sweetness by adding more or less sugar! Go ahead and make one yourself one and be sure to pour out another for your loved one!
Thanks for stopping by. And I will see you next month, which is just next week, with something totally different! Till then, cook- eat- repeat!
I am a bit behind my intended schedule but here I am with the second and soon to follow third drinks of the month. Today’s post is about the famous Mango Lassi which will be followed by the less famous (only in the Western World though!) distant cousin of its- Aam Panna. (aam-Mango in Hindi language while “panna” could be called a concoction.)
But before I proceed to the ridiculously easy recipe (not sure if we can use the word recipe even!), I wanted to give you a slice of what’s been happening at this end, though I must warn you it is nothing exciting! Rather something so mundane that all of you have probably experienced it or are going through this in some form or the other:)
Our son turned five this weekend and boy was he excited for his big day! And so was his biggest cheerleader- yours truly;) We were going with a Superhero ‘theme’ this year and big bright balloons and banner and other celebratory decorative items had been slowly piling in the guest room that looks more like a storeroom, if I were to be honest. Everything was going according to plans till 9pm the night before. Our baby girl started crying and soon we figured out that it was not a normal cry but more of a severe distress that had totally thrown her off. She would cry for 2-3hours at a stretch with intervals of 10-15 minutes, fall asleep for a bit and the cycle would repeat itself. We figured that the grand day was going to have major setbacks. We contemplated of taking the baby girl to the ER around 2am but the awful weather outside and us finally figuring out what was really bothering her (premolars were on their way through those delicate gums) let us deal with the issue indoors for that night.
A good part of the birthday morning was spent at the doctor’s office and then on our way back, snow squall hit us and it snowed like crazy afterwards. Family, who was supposed to come over for birthday lunch, got delayed naturally and the little guy who was doing a great job of keeping it all together till then, broke down a little bit and asked if no one was going to celebrate his big day. It was heartbreaking to say the least and I looked around to see that a little birthday banner and two balloons brought from the store was all that was there. I hugged him as tightly as possible. Baby girl was still going through that cycle and we as parents were clearly not been able to step up to the game as fatigue was slowly catching up. We remembered at that point that a few months back when our baby girl had turned 1, the big brother was down with asthma and a fever of 103F. A pattern of sorts?
Anyways, the good man cooked good food as I cradled a very distraught baby and a little upset birthday boy. Family arrived and there was a good amount of jumping up and down from all possible surfaces for the kid and his cousin, lots of car races and other things that a five year old’s heart desires. Which brings me to part two of the eventful day! By the time it came down to cake cutting, the birthday boy was so exhausted that he decided he did not want to cut the cake and started crying. After what seemed like forever, he stopped and we cut the cake and took pictures. And right after, he started complaining of ear ache (which apparently had been bothering him since afternoon but he did not want to stop having the fun he was having!). After another round of crying in which the baby girl joined in as well, family left and just like that, the day was over.
So much for a grand birthday!
The kids suffering so much took all the fun out of everything and made me actually forget that it was also our anniversary! But the red roses on the table jolted my memory back to that and while nothing went according to the plans, I was still grateful that we had each other to fall back on and as long as the four of us are together, nothing else mattered.The next morning was spent visiting the doctor’s office again, this time for the boy, picking up medicine from the pharmacy and getting stuff from the store that would help with the general crankiness of little humans.
You probably should not have to read this when you are looking for Mango Lassi. But I guess what I am trying to say is that things always don’t work according to plans and we all know that. It can be disappointing, saddening and many other unhappy emotions. But we can in many cases, still steal moments from days that unfold in a less grand and ideal manner.
In this case, while we may not remember the day for all the grand celebrations that should have taken place, we will certainly remember it for the little ones’ discomfort and my big boy’s wise words. He was having a conversation with his father while having his lunch all by himself…sitting quietly. His dad mentioned that he was sorry for not being able to have a big celebration and that things did not go as planned, and without thinking for a second, the little guy had said : “It’s okay Baba (dad)…bonu (his name for his sister) is so small and she needs Ma now and you have to make food as we have people coming over. We are all busy. That’s okay. Also, I was sick on Bonu’s birthday…do you remember?!” There is so much that we can learn from kids. As he is “singing” at the moment…has picked up these lines from his dad –“Take it Easy….We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again”.
After the absolute madness dwindled down a bit, I was trying to think of my birthdays when I was growing up and could not really remember my 5th birthday. I guess my son will be okay too! But it was very nice to remember something that is uncannily related to the drink of this week…as my birthday falls in the hot summer month of May, mangoes (my favorite fruit in the whole wide world) were always a part of the day…be it as aam panna, or lassi or custard or just slices of that golden/yellow lip smacking fruit! There’s something wonderfully satisfying about this drink specially in the sweltering heat of the summer and that tantalizing smell of fresh cut mangoes (typically Himsagar or the Alphonso variety) is a matter of million memories.
And so, here goes Mango Lassi…an absolute easy drink to make and cherish.
Serving size: 2, Time- 5-10 minutes
Mango (Fresh, cut into pieces) 1 large or canned/frozen mango pulp : 2 cups—-Yogurt: 1 cup—-Milk: 1/4 cup—-Ice cubes: as needed—–Sugar: 1/2 tbsp (you may need less or more depending on the sweetness of the mangoes and your own preference)—-Ground Cardamom Seeds: 1/2 tsp
How to make–
Put all of the ingredients in the blender and puree! Check for sweetness. You may add a little cold water or a couple of ice cubes to adjust the consistency and make it to your liking.
Do you have a drink that reminds you of your childhood days?Or is there something that you associate with specific celebration/s in your culture? Whatever it is, I would love to hear from you! You can join in with a recipe or a story or even just a photo:)
Here’s how to participate!
Cheers and thanks for stopping by!
Tea/Chai/Cha: Call what you will
Thin frozen puddles crackle under my boots and as I have, once again, forgotten to wear the gloves, my hands almost freeze the moment my fingers touch the icy steering. It had rained last night and the below zero temperatures turned the tiny droplets of water into a beautiful work of art, resembling a fern. I quickly get out of the car to take a photo and turn on the wiper to give it a couple of quick swishes and my boy and I are off to school. Winter has made itself comfortable here in New Jersey and while snow days have been few and far in between, the early morning frost has been a regular visitor.
As I drive back home after dropping the kiddo off at school, I suddenly have this urge to make myself a cup of tea the moment I get home..but not the simple one I am used to drinking. I want to sip on a more aromatic version, one that is steeped in milk and sugar and has a hint of ginger and cardamom, giving it that heady smell that easily transports me to some cold evenings in my hometown of Calcutta, railway stations, the joy of stopping at one of the many tea stalls scattered throughout this grand old city for a refreshing sip of the city’s famous ‘bhaar cha’ (bhaar– Bengali for handmade tea cups that are typically made of clay and have been used for serving ‘cha’ -Bengali for tea, that is sold on the streets throughout India and definitely Calcutta, where Bengali is the native language).
This is what bhaars look like in a typical tea stall in Calcutta. Notice some plastic jars to the right of the photo- these usually hold biscuits and other tidbits to accompany the cha that keeps boiling (see the big pan) for as long as the stall remains open to never return a customer. These are rustic road side tea stalls and cater to people from all walks of life. The tea is then poured into kettles like the ones seen here and it goes around filling up these tiny bhaars.
I hear from friends and family that bhaars are rapidly disappearing from the streets, railway stations, train cars and even street corners and getting replaced by the awful plastic everywhere in India. My city is no exception but I hear she still perseveres; probably an example of its unshakable love for the quintessential past that gets reflected in the contemporary lifestyle of the youth and creates a unique juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.
Calcutta has been called ‘a city with soul’ (Vir Sangvi) and I couldn’t agree more. Not because it is my city, my birthplace, a place that has seen me through my best and worst and embraced me with a warm hug every time I have visited it in the last 13 years but because it is true. As true as the sun that rises everyday. There is a warmth of emotions that reigns supreme and lets you drown in the genuineness of passion. And the clay cups, the bhaar’s are a testament to that. The often rickety benches at these tea stalls have been a seat of powerful discussions about art and culture, about sports ranging from the gully cricket to that played by the likes of Gavaskar and Viv Richards, about political ideologies that have had people miss their last bus for home. When you walk along the side walks of Calcutta, you might find, in some, such bhaars crunching under your foot. You see, it is said and believed that after slurping on that aromatic concoction, people smash it on the ground to return the clay to the earth from which it was made. I have never done that myself as every tea stall has a bin meant for throwing the bhaars there, but I have surely stepped on broken clay pieces a great number of times. While it does not speak to the ‘keep your city clean’ banners and posters that are seen splashed all over the city, it certainly speaks to the emotional side of bhaar cha lovers.
If you ever visit my beautiful city or any other lovely city in India, you should try sipping on this tea, that aside from being intoxicating, also has an earthy flavor distinctive of its holder that may or may not transport you to the bygone days but which would definitely make you pause a bit. And if you are lucky, you might get to experience that on a rainy day when that earthy smell of the rain will act as the perfect setting for your bhaar cha experience.
The sweet concoction that is far superior to any chai tea/ masala chai that is sold in the supermarkets and cafes in the Western World and I say this not just out of my love for this! These photos were taken by my brother yesterday of the local tea stall near my parents’ flat in Calcutta. Thank you, my dear brother:)
The well heated kitchen of our apartment about 8000 miles away from the streets of Calcutta is not a place for that experience. Nor are the cups. But I still made that tea and while it lacked the heady smell of the rain, or that of the kettle that is usually black from being on the stove all day long, as boiling milk and tea pour down the sides, it was satisfying nonetheless. The western world has a version of this tea “the masala chai”or the “chai tea”, but the bhaar cha of Calcutta differs.
So, as I was pondering about what to share with you on my first post at Cook, Eat, Repeat and what to hear from you about, I could not think of anything better than drinks that comfort you, that transport you to a different place maybe, that bring joy to you, that you cherish occasionally. It maybe something that you sip on everyday or something that is reserved for special days. Or something that you stir up with memories from days gone by. It could be anything. Anything that makes you smile.
Please share your own memory, an anecdote or just the recipe of your favorite drink or drinks and let’s all toast to a wonderful New Year!
Here’s the recipe for two cups of Calcutta style ‘bhaar cha’. I must note that there are quite a few versions of this and so to claim that this is THE ‘bhaar cha’ will be incorrect. Many also add cloves and cinnamon. Tea that is typically sold as “Chai Tea or Masala Tea” here in the Western World is similar to the more aromatic version with cloves and cinnamon. But this recipe is a much lighter, yet fragrant enough version. I, for one, do not like the smell of clove or cinnamon in my tea and hence always omit those when making myself a cuppa! So, if you are like me too, go ahead and give this a try and I hope you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s how you make it
Serving size – 2 cups
Total Time – About 10-12 mins
Ingredients– Lipton Tea bags: 4
Water: 1 cup
Milk: 1 cup
Cardamom: 2 pieces
Ginger: a quarter inch, smush it a little with the back of a spoon.
Sugar: 3 tsps (less or more depending on your sweet tooth)
Method – Add water in a saucepan and to it, add the cardamom and ginger. Let it boil on the stove top for 3-4 mins on a low flame so that the flavors from the spices are released. Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil. This may take another minute or so. Then, add the milk and carefully let it bubble. Add the tea bags (I cut open the tea bags and pour out the tea into the saucepan) and sugar and boil on high for a quick minute till the liquid is almost about to pour out of the pan. Lower the heat and partially cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 3-4 mins. You have to watch it carefully so as not to let the tea spill over and leave you with a very sticky saucepan and stove top. You will notice that the tea might change color from a brown to a darker brown (almost orange-ish). Strain it. Let it cool a bit and taste for sweetness.
You might have to make it a couple of times to get the perfect balance of sweetness from the sugar and the flavor from the spices. Neither should be overpowering!
As I had mentioned previously, this is a version of the Calcutta “bhaar cha” that I prefer…a bit subtle yet flavorful enough to be enjoyed on a cold day:)
I remembered to take a photo only after I had taken quite a few sips!
This is a monthly challenge so you will have the whole of January to share anything you like on your favorite drink/s. You are more than welcome to share more than just one drink recipe! I will be posting through the month about drinks that are my favorite and I am looking forward to hearing from you. What’s your favorite cocktail? What do you like to drink after a stressful day? Is there a special drink that is reserved for your most important people? What’s your favorite beverage from your childhood days? What’s your favorite holiday drink? Are you a tea or a coffee person? It can be anything! The recipes don’t necessarily have to be original as long as you share them with due permission from whose the original recipe is/ share the link to the blog/website you are sharing the recipe from.
Here’s how to participate…pretty much standard stuff!
Cheers and thanks for stopping by!
The blog is about a couple of years now (though it was private for almost a year) and while I still don’t know exactly the direction it is moving towards, I am enjoying the process. I am certainly thankful for crossing paths with some lovely people here who have inspired and encouraged in their own way, knowingly and unknowingly.
And one such inspiration made me want to explore the option of hosting a monthly challenge. And I decided it focus on food! Why a food challenge you ask? I am not an expert in any area of cooking or baking and have almost no original recipes! But, like many, am a huge fan of good food. Food that is not fancy, but is more hearty and something that gets cooked at home with ingredients that would not require a trip to specialty stores, at least not a lot!
Food brings people together and sharing a meal with someone is something we all do. It keeps us connected to our roots while also inviting others to explore our culture through our food. In our increasingly interconnected and ever changing world, we have so many means of knowing and sharing it has generated more inspiration, has created avenues to reach out for help, created cheerleaders across borders, made us aware of all the good that is going on in spite of all the fanaticism, the greed and utter non sense.
We have our favorite childhood dishes, memories of coming together as family and sitting at the table. It is a tradition in that many uphold, especially during holidays while in “joint families” it is an everyday affair. Whatever may be the situation, sharing food with someone continues to be special and an affair close to the heart.
With that in mind, I am taking a leap of faith and starting a monthly section dedicated to food – “Cook, Eat, Repeat“ -that I would love for you to participate in! A challenge of sorts, where we will get to break bread with each other, share an anecdote or two and bond over food and wine!
I will be sharing a theme for the month and will continue sharing recipes, anecdotes throughout the month centering on that. Some will be original recipes while others will be from bloggers I follow or have looked up for inspiration (will share their recipes with permission and credit, of course). Some will be from friends and family who I have had the good fortune of sharing meals with.
A very informal food blog where ‘a pinch’ is a perfectly acceptable measure of ingredients!
Will you join me please? The first post will go up this Sunday!
Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you there soon!
This is the year that has gone by the fastest- is what I tell myself every December. Because it truly does seem that way. And so, as this year is closing to an end, I have been thinking along the exact same lines and trying to pause to reflect on what has been. Not for any revelation or grandness of any sorts, but simply because I fear I let a lot of precious moments pass by me because I was too busy trying to make things as close to perfect as possible. Does it happen to you? Do moments pass by and you realize it only later?
A lot has happened in this last year, the most significant being we became a family of four from a family of three and, we are filled with gratitude. It has been a busy year of learning and unlearning things, as is every year and it has been a positive year so far. But when I step outside of this little cocoon of ours, so many people continue to be in pain, in suffering that it at times feels selfish to be wanting a new pair of shoes. Refugees continue to fight for existence all around the world, for acceptance, for recognition; families continue to be torn apart by practices that are inhumane; the “I” reigns supreme and our glaciers continue to melt, religion still divides and turns friends into foes. Pretty grim picture…right? How to come out of this, I wonder.
The clock keeps ticking and with that, my mind travels in so many directions, trying to hold together thoughts- thoughts that want to talk about that beautiful sunset I had watched hiking among the mountains near a remote village near Osaka many years ago and the cathartic effect it had on me; thoughts that want to talk about my desire to travel around the world with my camera; thoughts that want to talk about how crazy it gets at times as a stay-at-home mom and not working; thoughts that want to talk about all the ‘what-ifs’ that got left out from the pages of the life. And then there are thoughts that are grateful and happy and silly and together, the good and the not-so-good continue to help carry on.
I have never done a ‘year-in-review’ post (not even when I had an account on Facebook) as I have felt I have not accomplished a lot as compared to the others. But I am changing that, as I am changing a lot of things, and one of the first things in that list would be- to let go and not overthink! I am sharing with you some of my favorite clicks of the year ( starting a tad bit early- Nov ‘18) and life’s big and little moments that are all special in their own unique way! I was inspired by some of my fellow bloggers (check their links….gorgeous photos!) and I am thankful for that:)
Nov-Dec ’18: Our baby girl joined us to be part of our everyday adventure and the big brother has been as caring and loving as possible, from the first moment they ‘met’. I had wanted to capture a good sunset on the 31st of Dec but this was the only one I could manage.
Jan ’19- Our little boy turned four and we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary- we share the date! My parents showered all their love and more in taking care of us as we adjusted to the new routine. And we celebrated not only our wedding anniversary but theirs as well and it was the first time in 10 years that I was with them on their anniversary…such an awesome feeling! Also, I baked a fruit cake for the first time:)
Feb-Mar ’19: The good man and I went on our first ‘date’ after a veeeery long time and though it was for a total of 30 mins and the whole time I panicked for the baby at home, it was like a breath of fresh air:) We had a lot of snow again, something that my parents got tired of, but never complained having to stay cooped up indoors for all the months they stayed here. Our little boy started spelling on his own and I baked one of my most favorite cakes- the red velvet cake, also for the first time!
Apr-May ’19: My favorite season for taking photos and this spring, I took more photos than I had ever done before.
June-July ’19: I took photos of more flowers than I can ever remember having clicked and that was something new for me. Our little boy completed his pre-school and from the teary eyed kid who had walked in unsure into the classroom last September, he soon became this kid who couldn’t wait to go to school every day. Our baby girl had her “annoprashon“( a ceremony that takes place when a baby turns 5-6 months and gets a taste of her first solid food typically ‘payesh‘- which is a type of a pudding, made with milk, white rice and sugar. This is an important celebration as it marks her introduction to solid food) and it was a whole lot of fun dressing her up:) My father- in-law and mother-in-law were here to celebrate as was my sister-in-law and her family. It was surely a special occasion.
Aug-Sept ’19: It was about sunsets and rain drops, apple picking and our first picnic, solitary red leaf and the unmistakable blue sky, heralding the beginning of Fall.
Sept-Oct ’19: The little boy started Pre-K, we had beautiful evenings in the park running around and we made memories as a family during our first Durga Puja together. The good man carved our first jack-o’-lantern.
Nov-Dec ’19: Our baby girl turned one, mastered climbing up the stairs and brother and sister have been just in their own world, laughing and rolling around! There has been baking and decorating too, while the last signs of fall and the start of winter gave me opportunities for clicking some photos around the neighborhood. Our baby girl also just got her ears pierced and I still can’t wrap my head around that!
We make our memories and they are for us to enjoy whenever we want to. Sharing that happiness adds to the feeling of gratefulness. We learn so much along the way from each other that distances don’t seem to matter that much…our shared narrative keeps us together. This year that we are set to bid adieu to, ends a decade and we begin another one with the new year. It was a year, for me, of ups and downs as it was for all of us, probably. And while I generally don’t do ‘what-did-I-learn-this-year’, I am inclined to do one this time. I have been showered with more love than my heart could hold and I have been made to feel the exact opposite as well- unworthy of the slightest recognition; I have felt on top of the world and I have also succumbed to postpartum depression; I have laughed till my sides ached and I have cried till no more tears came. And all of that has helped me understand a tad bit more the slippery slope of our relationship with life. It is never going to be perfect and neither are the people in it. I read somewhere recently that ‘mindful life is not about the next moment. It’s about the present one’. It is so easy to read these quotes and get inspired and feel energized but it’s a whole different ballgame trying to put that into practice, to live by it. But when you think about it, is it really that difficult? I have been taking baby steps towards this and while it does feel daunting at times to live in the moment only, probably because we are not used to that, it has been invigorating for the mind. Letting go of feelings that harbor negativity is another lesson I am going to be taking along with me to the new year and perhaps letting such people go as well! This year has brought me many things but the gift it has brought me more than ever is a new perspective. Many things were not part of the plan but they happened anyways. Some brought joy while others were downright painful. But they happened. And my wishing otherwise did not prevent them from taking place. And then a new day also came and better things brightened up the grey. What have I learned, you may ask. I have learned to accept and move on, I have learned to keep my faith and know that it will work out, I have learned to not stop trying in spite of all signs pointing at the opposite, I have learned to keep breathing. I have learned to pause a little when needed and ask for help, I have learned to trust more and appreciate more. I am still learning. Learning from my kids, from the good man I share this life with, from my parents who I watch from oceans apart, from the kindest neighbor one could possibly have, from that friend who will run to my side if I ever asked her and the 8000 miles between us would not matter.
Life is unpredictable, but it still is beautiful. It submerges us in its never ending waves but also teaches us to ride along and ride out. It lays quiet at times and then springs on us moments that are unexpected and unsought, some euphoric while others woeful, but all riveting nonetheless. Learning to ride along and ride out is what keeps our love affair with this life so gripping.
Wishing you all a happy and peaceful year ahead. May we crank up the music a little louder and dance if we want to, or take up a new challenge and not be afraid of failing; may we never stop being kind but also protect ourselves from being taken advantage of because of that kindness; may we keep moving ahead with the sure, albeit a bit wobbly, steps and may we know we are all in this together. It’s going to be okay!
What are some of your takeaways from this year? Did you stumble upon something new about yourself that took you by surprise? Would love to hear from you.
Thanks for stopping by.
I am glad that Fall is here…well almost here. It is getting harder to get up in the mornings and that desire to cover myself up with another light blanket and just be cozy for a few extra minutes, is getting harder to fight. The dazzling blue sky, crisp air and that autumn smell is enticing and while it feels tricky to calculate in how many layers to dress up the little guy for school, it is a happy feeling overall. Till winter shows up.
I have written on a similar topic before as well and you can read that here but I get this urge to write a bit more around this time of the year. You see it’s ‘Durga Pujo’ time back in Kolkata and few other parts of India and the Bengali in me still yearns for it, in spite of being in this country for a good number of years. And that longing does not go away. I get super nostalgic and reminisce till it almost hurts a bit and at the same time makes me ecstatic and sometimes, I chew off the good man’s ears with favorite memories from that time. My kids have not reached that age yet where they will understand that frenzy and since we live in a land far away, I doubt they ever will. For them the excitement of Halloween and Christmas will always be a bit more and that’s probably okay. My son does get excited though about getting dressed in Panjabi (or Kurta– the traditional attire for men in India) and going to see Goddess Durga and Her full Family, all decked up! He loves the general merriment, especially the beating of the dhaak ( a membranophone instrument from India) that is almost ethereal and one of the most awaited sounds for every Bengali around this time back in Kolkata. And that makes me happy. So, while it is quite different here physically, in my mind I keep taking short trips to past Pujos during this time. That’s the wonderful thing about weaving memories…they remain for you to enjoy and cuddle in whenever you want to.
New Jersey nights are different from the glittery glamour of Pujo nights back home. They are quiet and offer a very different symphony. Chirps of crickets, occasional rustling of leaves, a solitary car alarm breaking the sound of silence in the neighborhood. They are colder too. The intoxicating smell of the shiuli (night-flowering jasmine) does not fill up the senses here but the reds, yellows, and oranges of the leaves sure make for a visual treat. While we do stir up Bengali delicacies during this time of the year, Fall also heralds the beginning of trying various casseroles, one pot dishes, hearty soups, ramens and similar comfort foods! And that gets me scouring the internet for inspirations and recipes and firing up the stove eventually. A couple of nights ago, I had this desire to have some chicken and gravy, something that I have somehow never made before and after going through a handful of recipes, I found one from https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/one-pan-smothered-chicken/. I made a couple of minute alterations and I will note them in red in the recipe below. It was super delicious and an instant hit even with my little guy who is a picky eater! I am sharing the recipe here and I hope you get to try it sometime and enjoy it as much as we did.
The good man made some mashed potatoes that was super smooth and yummy too. We had this with seasoned quinoa (and by seasoned I mean I had added salt, paprika and lemon-pepper powder to the water when the quinoa was cooking). We enjoyed the dinner as a family and even our 10 month old joined us in her high chair, squished some of her orange puffs and made various noises, which according to the little guy was her trying to join in the ‘grown up’ conversation we were having!
And as I went to bed that night and drifted away to sleep, the festive nights of Kolkata seemed to be a world away, and the gentle lullaby and the humming of the pedestal fan were the only sounds breaking the lull of a sleepy house.
[I don’t know the name of this tree or the flower, but this look reminded me of the Shiuli phool (Bengali for flower) back in India that blossom during these autumn months and a whiff is enough to tell you that Pujo is here.]
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are weaving memories that will keep you warm and snuggled, wherever you find yourself.