Of Cowardice And Courage

We recently finished the basement of our home, a process that we had started in September of 2021. What once used to be a cold and dark place- wires jutting out from here and there, strange pink insulation padding peeking out from corners along with a wonderful display of cobwebs- has now been transformed into a warm and inviting place, that is part play area and part music area. The kids have found a slice of heaven it would appear, the good man enjoys his guitar and we all groove to music that plays over a new speaker. In addition to having a functional space that we all get to enjoy as a family, chances of us stepping on tiny pieces of toys, while walking around in the main living spaces of the house and shrieking out in pain, are also a lot less now.

But while I enjoy a good book on the couch in our new basement, all cozy under a bright yellow blanket, I know that across the ocean, basements are being used as bunkers, as shelters, as make shift care centers, as temporary nursing homes. Videos and images of atrocities and also unfaltering courage, in the face of all the senselessness, have caused for a sudden silence in our house after the kids fall asleep. They sleep in peace on their beds with their favorite stuffies, as their lullaby plays on and the twinkling star lights on the ceiling of the room create a space that comforts them, keeps them safe. My babies are safe.

But at this exact moment in time, thousands of kids, like mine, are traumatized, to put it mildly. They are homeless, they are refugees, they are separated from their parent/s, many will lose a parent or both, and many will also pay for this senseless act with their precious lives. What was once their warm site of endless recollections, their comfort, their source of happiness has all but vanished or is in the process of vanishing. We all watch in horror and disbelief. We express solidarity, we donate and march in town squares, where possible people are opening up their homes and hearts to provide for a safe space for those fleeing and seeking shelter, while politicians and law makers and others with important job titles scramble to find ways to stop a madman in his path. History sighs. What the world is witnessing today- this unforgivable act- She has always had such pages. Always. The sun that rises each morning is hopeful, and yet it, sadly, continues to set on an unjust, unequal and vicious world.

While I tuck my kids safely under their blankets and kiss them every night, a mother somewhere watches over her sick kid and prays for more time with them; while someone raises a glass to congratulate a newly married couple, another buries their loved one. Painful and precious moments have coexisted in this strange world since time immemorial. A wishful thought maybe, but since man has reached the moon and beyond, has tamed grave illnesses and attained heights of glory through music and art, wouldn’t he have also figured out a way to prevent humanity from ever reaching a juncture- something similar to the one we are at now- where history would repeat itself? But as we all know, truth is stranger than fiction and so, some men continue on in their path of destruction, led by greed and all that seek to strip them of their humanity. The world descends into chaos. Yet, when sanity takes a backseat and there is not much to hold on to, when tears no longer fall as every drop has been shed, it is man again, a different kind, who rises to inspire and to believe and to show what courage can look like, what humanity should look like. The cycle continues. This omnipresent dance of cruelty and beauty, of cowardice and courage is oppressive and still strangely uplifting, don’t you think? The display of gallantry shows the power of togetherness, the power of humility and of honor and while it comes at a cost that is too much to bear, it paves the way for future generations to learn from, to write more hopeful chapters in the story of our shared world.

The winter carries within it the heart of spring.

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

“…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. Saut√© 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.