Pokemon – Gotta Catch ‘Em All

 

Our first introduction to America was through Pokemon and Raffi. I still love Raffi songs. When we landed in the US of A almost 18 years ago, our son Aditya at that time was 4 years old. Our friends took us to the mall with their son who was about 8-10 years old. There we were first introduced to Pokemon and trading cards. We thought it was funny that he pleaded with his parents to get him the cards and his argument was that it was really valuable and years later, he could make a lot of money selling those cards. Little did we realize our son would soon ask us for trading cards and give us the same reason. As the years went, a lot of his Christmas presents were Pokemon and Yugioh cards. We went on eBay to get the collectibles and “more difficult to find” cards. We watched the Pokemon TV show and hummed the catchy theme song – Pokemon, Gotta catch ’em all, Pokemon. The younger one followed in his brother’s footsteps.
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I loved to bake and I always baked their birthday cakes. I procured the Wilton cake pans – dinosaurs, Spider-Man, Scooby Doo, Pokemon. Every year it was a different cake depending on their interests. It started off with dinosaurs and my younger one had a Scooby Doo cake a couple of times. Some years it was chess, soccer, basketball and some years Pokemon.

I thought that like Dinosaurs, Sports and Pokemon were also a phase. But I was mistaken. They are still very interested in Sports and video games. Pokemon eventually moved from TV shows and cards to video games. Little did I realize that this phase may not end. They now play competitive video game tournaments and I have been told that it includes a lot of strategy and thinking.

With one kid visiting and the other off to college soon, I decided to make a Pokemon cake for them. I suppose it was for me too. Nostalgia, maybe or just the sudden feeling that life will not be the same.

Am I ready to retire the pans? Not yet!

Go Catch Em, boys! Not just Pokemon but success and happiness in life too!

I made a coffee chocolate cake with lemon buttercream frosting. The cake still brings a smile on my boys’ faces and that makes mom happy!

Read!

20180602_082109I don’t remember much of what my teachers told me in school. But I remember my library teacher telling us read – It does not matter what you read, just read! I remember the love of reading started in school. My mother would take me to the British library to borrow books and I remember the aisles of bookshelves of all types; borrowing them and reading them. I remember acting like I was studying with a novel hidden between my textbooks; I wished they would make textbooks more interesting.

I always had a love for cooking. I could not afford to buy many cookbooks when I was a kid nor were there much choice. I would meticulously copy recipes from books, magazines, and newspapers – days before the internet. I found one recipe book which I may have started in high school and continued much later. I wish I had written dates.

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Don’t miss the price on the book

Even today, I love reading cookbooks. Cookbooks are like reading an atlas, a memoir, a travel book and a food chronicle all rolled in. The recipe is important, but the story of the writer that goes with it, the style, the anecdotes, their notes all make it an enjoyable read. The recipes do not have to be made, just getting lost in the book is enough. Read!

I plan to read and write about books – cookbooks, children’s books and others – this year. Here are some images of my recipe book from yonder years.

 

 

 

 

 

Memories from 10 years ago

I found an email today from 2009.

I was approached to teach a cooking class at the local co-op. It was a wonderful experience, I still remember the adrenaline rush I had. The other time I had the same feeling was the same year when I campaigned for President Obama. Here are the recipes I cooked that day, which was a huge hit. These were pre smart phone days, so I have no pictures. But I did find my handouts.

If you have leftover boiled eggs from Easter, there is a recipe for egg curry.

Cooking of Southern India , with Preethi Vaidyanathan

Jan 29, 2009; 6-8 PM

As a new cook, Preethi was interested in non-Indian cuisine.  Moving out of India in 1994 awakened her interest in the fare of her native Bangalore. This menu of food from southern India is fast to make and fun to eat! Preethi will start with a demonstration of the preparation of  Spicy Peanut Salad, featuring peanuts, onions, chilies and  cilantro; and then prepare Egg Curry, featuring hard-boiled eggs in a  spicy sauce served over rice. Plain rice is fine, but Preethi will show Lemon Rice or Coconut Rice is even better! Next Preethi will prepare the traditional dish Poriyal, a finely chopped stir-fry of green beans and carrots seasoned with asafoetida, mustard seed, and green chilies. The perfect beverage for hot weather is Majjige, a buttermilk  drink blended with  mashed ginger.  For dessert Preethi will demonstrate the preparation of the candy-like coconut squares called Barfi. Sample size portions will be served.

PEANUT SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts or raw peanuts

1 red onion chopped (1/2 cup)

1-2 tomatoes chopped (1/2 cup)

½ bunch cilantro chopped

1-2 green chilies (or more) chopped

Salt to taste

Chili powder (optional)

Juice from ½ lemon

Method

If using raw peanuts, roast on a skillet.

Mix the above ingredients and serve.

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EGG CURRY

Ingredients

6 eggs hard boiled, (shelled and halved)

¼ tsp turmeric

1 inch ginger, finely chopped or grated

4-5 garlic pods, finely chopped or grated

2 green chilies (Serrano or jalapeno) halved lengthwise

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

3 dried chillies

5-6 peppercorns

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

½ cup grated coconut

1 sprig curry leaves (optional)

½ tsp mustard seeds

A pinch asafetida

Chili powder (to taste)

1 large red or yellow onion, sliced

1 tbsp canola oil

Salt to taste

½ can coconut milk (optional)

Chopped cilantro 2-3 tbsp

Method

Roast coconut, poppy seeds, red chilies and pepper in a pan. Cool and grind with chopped garlic, ginger and a little water to make a paste.

Heat oil. Add asafetida and mustard seeds. When mustard seeds splutter add the curry leaves and sliced onions, and green chilies. Sauté till the onions are golden brown. Then add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powders. After a minute add tomatoes and coconut paste and some water. Add salt and cook till the tomatoes are cooked. If it is not spicy enough add some chilli powder and mix.

There are two ways to serve this.

  1. DRY: Place eggs on a platter and spoon the mixture on the eggs and sprinkle cilantro on it. This can also be served as an appetizer or a side for any meal.
  2. With gravy: Add coconut milk and cook for a few minutes. Add eggs gently and heat through and Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or bread.

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Lemon Rice (Chitranna)

Ingredients

 2 cups basmati or long grained rice

4 cups water

Juice of one lemon

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 green chilies, chopped

1 inch ginger, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

3 tbsp roasted peanuts

Salt to taste

1 tbsp chopped cilantro, for garnishing

 For tempering

2 tsp canola oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp black gram lentils

1 tsp Bengal gram lentils

1 pinch asafetida

A few curry leaves

Method

Cook rice and cool.

Heat oil. Add all the ingredients for tempering. When mustard seeds splutter add onion, green chilies and ginger and fry till onions are translucent.

To the lemon juice add salt and mix till dissolved. If needed add a couple of teaspoons of water.

To the onion mixture add the turmeric, peanuts and lemon juice. Take off heat and mix rice in.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

 

Coconut Rice

 Ingredients:

2 cups basmati or long grained rice

4 cups water

1 cup coconut

Cashew nuts 2 tbsp

½ inch ginger, chopped

2 green chillies

Salt to taste

For tempering

2 tsp canola oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp black gram lentils

1 tsp Bengal gram lentils

1 pinch asafetida

1-2 red chillies, halved

A few curry leaves

 Method

Cook rice and cool.

Heat oil. Add all the ingredients for tempering. When mustard seeds splutter add green chilies, cashews, ginger and coconut and fry till the grated coconut is reddish brown. Add rice and salt and mix well and serve.

 

Beans and Carrot Palya

 1 pound beans, chopped fine (or 1 pound French cut frozen beans)

2 carrots, diced small

2-3 tbsp grated coconut

1-2 green chilies

Salt to taste

For tempering:

2 tsp canola oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp black gram lentils

1 tsp Bengal gram lentils

1 pinch asafetida

1-2 red chillies, halved

A few curry leaves

Heat oil. Add all the ingredients for tempering. When mustard seeds splutter add chopped beans, carrot, salt and stir fry. Cover and let it cook till beans are tender. Add grated coconut and mix well.

Serve hot.

Raita

Ingredients

1 red onion

2 tomato

1 cucumber

1 green chilli

2 tbsp cilantro chopped

1 32 oz lowfat or non fat yogurt

salt to taste

Method

Chop onions, tomato, cucumber, chilli and mix with yogurt, salt and cilantro. Serve with rice.

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Makalidurga Trek – A road less travelled!

 

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“Climbing is really great, we all love climbing. But what’s interesting to me is what happens in my head or in my life because of it. Ultimately, I think climbing is a vehicle for exploration – of the world, of the self.”
Steph Davis

 

I started hiking/trekking around four months ago after much persistence from a friend. I never did these things, I have done short treks to see the fall colours with family, walked around lakes and parks but never hills and mountains. I lived in the midwest for many many years which was almost flat. For our holidays we usually went to museums and local eateries. Trekking was too much of physical work and not for me.

I started an MA this year and there we talked about reflecting about ‘oneself’, and do things we usually don’t do. We had electives to do and I wondered if I could put this under an elective 🙂 (I don’t think I can ). I sometimes wonder, if it is my ‘midlife crisis’, wanting to do things I had never done before, before it is too late. This is better and cheaper than buying a sports car, I suppose.

After the first trek it really got me motivated. It is almost like a drug, you can get addicted to it. However difficult the trek was and however tired and achy you are, at the end of it, you are thinking of the next trek. It is also about the company. Going with friends, encouraging each other on, giving a helping hand, laughing at the atrocious messages written on the rocks by ‘wanna be lovers’; that’s what keeps us going.

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Yesterday, we went to Makalidurga hills which is close to Doddaballapura. There are some overgrown trails and arrows drawn by people. As we go up, we have to look out for the arrows. Many times, we had no idea which way to go but we finally reached the top to see the fort walls. On the top, there is a small shiva temple and deities climb the hill to get there. All the way up, the views were beautiful. There is a huge lake in the shape of South America. I think another high about trekking is to be one with nature. You can listen to the ‘quiet’. You feel tiny compared to the magnitude of nature around you.

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” Ed Viesturs, No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks

As we descended, the sun started shining and it started getting hotter, the boulders around us was emitting heat. We stopped in the shade and had breakfast which we took with us. We had poha (flattened rice) with chutney, boiled eggs (eggs had never tasted better) with salt and pepper, khakra, bread and butter, banana bread and granola bars (recipe in previous blog posts).  As we went down the sun beat on us harder and it got more difficult. We lost our way a bit but then found the arrows. The above quote is so apt, getting down is mandatory. Though at one time when we were resting, I was looking at the beauty of nature (and getting internet connection) was wondering if I could just sit there.

This was a long, strenuous trek but well worth it. Two of our group members Nandita and Azmee, have founded  DreamDestinations -Aznan, where they customise vacations for women and they specialize in trekking.

Antara Gange (Ganges from the depths)

Antara Gange is situated close to Kolar which is approximately 65 km from Bengaluru. It forms part of the Shastashrunga mountain range. It is a trekkers delight as there are a lot of granite rocks and many caves to explore. Interested in more information, click here.

We reached the base of our trek around 7 a.m. We were meeting some people in the group for the first time. After our introductions, we were ready. We were armed with granola bars (see my earlier post for the recipe), nuts and other snacks. This was the first time for most of us so we did not know what to expect other than what google said. Monkeys welcomed us; learning from experience, we hid our food in our backpacks. As we were going up, we met a group of guys coming down. They were returning from a night trek. It must have been an experience trekking in the dark.

In front of us, we could see a fleet of stairs. We started climbing, around 500 steps; it was not that difficult. Once we reached the top, we saw the temple. This is a Kashi Vishwanath temple. Beyond the temple, was a rocky path. We started our climb. The rocks were slippery so we had to be more careful. We walked for another km or so, when a village boy who said he would take us to the caves met us. We were advised that we should take a guide so that we will not get lost in the cave. This boy was a 9th grade student making some money. He said his name was Darshan, which was apt as Darshan means ‘an opportunity to see’. He took us to a cave, which was an opening in the ground and lots of huge boulders in there. He jumped in easily and asked us to come down. The first step was the scariest. There were no footholds, but Darshan showed us how to get there. Going in a group is great as we all egged each other on; the people who had gone ahead giving the others suggestions and advice. The rocky caves were dark and we had to use flashlights to see. Some of them were slippery and quite perilous. I was hoping I would live to tell the story. We reached a spot where there was an opening and we could see the sunlight and thought we had come to the end of the cave. Our happiness was short lived when our guide informed us that we need to go further. We then had to climb up to get out of the cave. Thanks to helping hands, I climbed out of the cave. It was an exhilarating experience.

Other than enjoying the experience and the thrill of doing a daunting task, we bonded with the group. This is so different from going out for a meal, the connections we make by doing something together and helping each other is very different. We returned home tired and happy.

Avalabetta

img-20161015-wa0016It seems like I like  have been bitten by a bug! The last time I got bitten by a bug (mosquito), I was down for months with viral arthritis. Wonder how long this will last? Luckily this is a good bug, I have been bitten by the hiking bug.

This time, I did not need much coaxing and getting up at 4.00 a.m. did not seem so bad. I made sure my bag was packed the previous night, have never been so organised, and alarm set. This trip was to Avalabetta. ‘Betta’ in kannada means ‘hill’ and I am assuming ‘avala ‘ means ‘her’ as there is a Lakshmi temple at the top. Avalabetta is in Chickballapur district. It is around 100 kms from Bengaluru. It was a nice smooth drive. It is always fun driving with friends chatting, some gossip and of course lots of laughs.

We reached around 6.00 a.m. and were famished. I had brought along some banana bread and we started eating it when a troop of monkeys decided to descend upon us. First rule when you see a monkey, do not be brave and hold on to your food. Couple of us had to sacrifice the banana bread and threw it to the monkeys. The monkeys also seemed to enjoy the banana bread as much as we did.

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We started climbing with a friend who had been there before. She had told us it was 100 steps which was not bad at all. We reached the top, when we were informed that we had to go down a rocky, bouldery area. It was steep and looked very dangerous. A few decided to brave it and go down. Three of us were not as courageous as the rest and decided to stay up. We spent our time enjoying the view and watching people posing for pictures. It is quite amusing to watch people pose, like they were going to be on the cover of Vogue. When we got bored watching people, we found an easier way to go down. We went down and met our friends there. What a view! There was a ledge 5-6 metres in length tapering off. The ledge looked like it was a few inches in thickness and was precariously placed. It looked like it could not hold the weight of a person.

We then noticed the long line, people waiting to take pictures on the ledge. Our friends had already taken their picture, so we requested the people in line  to let us get our picture taken.

It was intimidating to go on the ledge but like everyone else in that line, I wanted a photo taken too; for my profile picture and what lengths we go for that picture!!!

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