Thursday, 16 March 2017

Collecting memories and experiences (not things) - My Bucket List for 2017

Hello Everyone!!!!! It's March already can you believe that??? But wait... where is Spring? πŸ˜‘ Just when I thought it was here we were hit by snow showers last week and a big snow storm 2 days back. The temperature has dropped drastically and all I can think about is Summer!! But I am sure it will be here before we know it. 

So before summer greets us into its warm embrace, I am all ready with my bucket list of activities and events that I wish to experience this summer. Now when I think about it, this is actually a very good way to sit back, contemplate and think about all the experiences that you wish to have rather than impulse buying for a change. Give that expensive bag or a shoe or any "thing" that you may see on an Instagram feed or Pinterest or any social media for that matter a pass this time around. Simply think about what truly makes you happy. For me its the small, simple moments of life. One of my blogger friends (Sonal) had asked me to list 10 things that make me happy on Instagram some time back. Without thinking twice I listed 10 things that make me happy only to realize later that I had listed my "memories and experiences" and not "things". Some may find my happy list very simple and mundane but when you think about it, it is the little moments of life, the times that you spend with your loved ones, family and friends that you will remember and cherish forever. 

Someone very aptly said that - 

"Fill your life with experiences and not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show"

We have already kick started this year by attending a Bollywood dance workshop, an impromptu trip to Arizona and Vegas and played very fun point scoring game of golf with friends for the very first time πŸ˜€.

So this is my bucket list for Summer 2017:

1) Travel to a new country - By now you all know how much I and my husband love traveling. We have been planning to visit Europe (at least one or two countries) for a while now. We feel a bit lost and incomplete if we are not traveling. Traveling is something that we are very passionate about. Hoping that this time around everything will fall into place (fingers crossed) and we will soon be on our way to a new place, learning about a new culture, tasting new food and most of all collecting new memories.


2) Celebrate Holi, Festival of Colors - Holi was celebrated few days back in India. Holi, the Hindu festival of colors is celebrated to signify the victory of good over evil, arrival of spring and end of winter. I simply cannot remember the last time that I celebrated Holi. Goshhhh that was a long time back. I do miss all the fun of playing with colors, water and not to mention the delicacies that comes along with it. Spring is yet to arrive in my part of the world so it was kind of impossible to celebrate Holi at this time of the year. However, there are some upcoming Holi events in the month of April and May in NYC. Definitely planning to attend one with our friends this time around. 

3) Go biking at Central Park - We enjoy biking and did it on a regular basis when we lived in Austin. However after moving back to New Jersey we haven't gone biking even once. Sighhh... I do miss biking a lot. Can't believe that it's been a little more than 2 years already. This is something we think about doing every summer but somehow never gets materialized and we end up canceling it or simply plan other things. This summer though I have decided not to give this one a pass. It is happening for sure. 


4) Go Cherry or Berry Picking - This is definitely a fun activity which can be done with your partner, friends, family and kids. Something surprisingly we still haven't done.

5) Go Hiking - We are not regular hikers but we both thoroughly enjoy it. Hiking almost always finds its way on our travel plan. This is best way to get close to nature and most of the time to catch a glimpse of some of the most beautiful sceneries. We hiked in Peru, Kauai and Alaska as well. Although we still have to decide on a spot but I am sure this one will also be definitely checked off from our list this year.





6) Go to a Chocolate festival - Yes. This one is a must do on my list. Being a foodie and a chocolate lover this one should have been off my list a long time ago. But it's never too late.

7) Go to a Street Fair - We have been to some of the street fairs before and we certainly don't mind going again. Being big time foodies how can we possibly miss this. I am already day dreaming about all the yummy wonderful food that we will be having.

8) Play an "Escape the Room" game with friends - So here's the thing. I am pretty sure that you must have played an Escape the Room game on your smart phone some time or the other. I totally love this game, finding hidden clues, solving mystery puzzles and then finally finding the key to escape. Now what fun it would be if you actually get to do all of it. Ohhhhh soooo exciting!!! Isn't it? The moment I came to know that there are places in NYC and NJ were you can go with your friends and play this interactive game, I knew I had to do this no matter what. 

9) Go on a picnic - Sounds mehhh right. But with all the travel, biking, hiking, cherry picking I think by the end of it a small picnic would be really nice πŸ˜€. But no, I really do want to go on a picnic. I love everything about it. Be it preparing and packing lunch, to sitting and relaxing under the shade of a tree some place near a lake, followed by few games of badminton or frisbee etc etc. You get the scene right? 

These are some of the activities that we want to do this summer. There are ofcourse more options, so many more activities, events and we might end up doing some other things as well. But I think we are good for now. 

So what is on your Summer Bucket List of 2017? Need ideas? Then simply head over to Eventbrite to see if there is anything of your interest, which I am sure there will be. Eventbrite is a free resource that has all of the tools that you will need to plan amazing experiences for your family, friends and even your community. Want to run a marathon? Want to join a cooking class? Or want to go to a dance workshop? EventBrite has got you covered. Search for various events be it music festivals, food, fundraisers, games, workshops etc. You can even plan and upload your very own events and even search numerous other events that are happening around you! So what are you waiting for?? On your mark, Get Set........EXPERIENCE!!!!

Thank you so much Eventbrite for suggesting such a wonderful blog post idea. This idea was something that I could relate to so much and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it!!! 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Ever since I tried the roasted bell pepper soup from Trader Joe's (a grocery store here is US) few years back, I had instantly fallen in love with the flavor and the simplicity of the soup. Believe it or not my first experience of this soup was right out of a tetra pak carton πŸ˜›. Its quite amazing how just the roasting procedure gives such a boost of flavor to the the peppers and the soup. 

So today I will be sharing my version of roasted red bell pepper soup. The first time I made this soup I had included tomatoes as well but somehow I didn't like the addition of tomatoes or I think I may have added a little too much tomatoes as compared to red bell peppers.  So this time around I made the soup only with red bell peppers and skipped the tomatoes and kept it very simple using very few ingredients. I also have not added any kind of cream in this soup. The end product in itself is so creamy that you will not need cream at all. This soup is perfect for this weather with the warm smoky taste of the red bell peppers and its beautiful creamy texture. Top it off with any of your favorite soup toppings or with some garlic croutons. 


This is a small recipe and serves 2 -3 people.

Ingredients:
3 large red bell peppers
1 medium onion chopped
1/3 cup of chopped carrots
3 - 4 cloves of garlic minced
3 cups of low sodium chicken stock/vegetable stock 
1/4 tsp of smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp of chili powder
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 - 3 tsp of oil 
Croutons and cilantro leaves for garnishing

For variation in flavor you can also use fresh thyme, bay leaf and or basil. 

1) First step is roasting the bell peppers. This is the only time consuming part of this recipe. There are 3 ways in which you can roast the bell peppers. 
Stove top: You can roast the bell peppers on the stove top by placing it directly on the gas burner (just like the way we roast eggplants for baingan bharta). Roast and the keep on rotating till the all the sides of the bell pepper has blisters all over and is charred.  

In the oven: Pre heat the oven to 500F (260C). Simply wash the bell peppers cut them in half deseed and remove the core. Toss and coat them in little oil and place them cut side down on to a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 25 to 30 mins until they form blisters. Another way is you can place the whole bell pepper on to the baking sheet and put it the oven for 30 - 35 mins. 

You can also roast the peppers on a grill if you have one.


So far I have tried the first two methods, stove top and in the oven. Personally I think it is much more easy and less time consuming when they are roasted in the oven.

1) Pre heat the oven to 500F (260C). Wash and wipe the bell peppers. Coat them with little oil and put them on a baking sheet (I did not cut them) and place the baking sheet on second from the top rack of the oven. Set the timer to 30-35 mins and remember to keep turning the bell peppers every 10mins with the help of tongs so that they are roasted evenly. 

2) Once they are nicely roasted remove them from the baking sheet and place them in bowl and cover the bowl with a cling wrap or lid and let it rest for 10 - 15mins or until they are warm enough to handle. This process will help to peel of the skin of the peppers very easily. 

3) After 15mins or so remove the peppers from the bowl. Cut them in half deseed and remove the core. And then start to peel off the skin. Repeat this procedure with the remaining two peppers.

4) Once all the peppers are cut, deseeded, cored and peeled, roughly chop them and keep them aside. Also do not throw away the liquid that oozes out during this process. 

5) In a stock pot or a heavy bottomed pot heat up oil. I used my everyday cooking oil but you can also use olive oil or even butter. Once hot add the minced garlic and cook it on a low to medium flame for few seconds. Now add the onions and saute them for a min. Now add the chopped carrots. Cook until the onions are translucent. 

6) Add the smoked paprika and chili powder and saute for few mins. Now add the chopped cilantro and saute. Finally add the roasted red bell peppers with its juice and saute for a min or two. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

7) Finally add the chicken stock or vegetable stock. Let it simmer on a low to medium flame for about 15 mins. Check for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if required. Switch off the flame and remove the pot from the stove. 

8) Now if you have an immersion blender or hand blender you can blend the soup right inside the pot. If you don't have an immersion blender then blend the soup in batches in your normal countertop blender. Before you start blending the soup keep it aside for a while to cool down a bit. Do not try to blend the mixture when its too hot.

You have to be very careful while blending. DO NOT fill the blender more than half else your soup will be over the kitchen. Use a kitchen towel to hold the blender and the lid to save your hands from the steam. Also here is a tip, initially give it a few pulses then open the lid and let the steam out. This way there will be less vacuum created because of the steam. Do this a couple of times and then go ahead  and blend the soup until it looks smooth and creamy. Remember to blend the soup in small batches. 

9) Transfer the soup again to the pot and reheat as required. Check again for seasoning. 

Serve hot with you favorite soup toppings or simply with some croutons. I quickly made some homemade croutons with some left over multigrain bread by using some butter, minced garlic and grated parmesan. 




Saturday, 21 January 2017

Kothimbir Vadi (Cilantro/Coriander Fritters)

Hello all!!!!! Today I will be sharing the recipe of an Indian snack which brings back fond memories of Mumbai.  πŸ˜ƒ

Being born and raised in Mumbai and surrounded by Maharashtrian friends had its perks cause I got to eat some delicious food. I love love Maharashtrian food, be it vada pav, misal pav, komdi vade, puran poli, sabudana vada, kande pohe or just the plain old amti bhaat. And Kothimbir Vadi is one such favorite Maharashtrian snack item of mine. Kothimbir Vadi or Cilantro/Coriander Fritters is a popular Maharashtrian snack and I absolutely love munching this with a cup of hot ginger chai. There is an old bakery near my home in India which makes delicious Kothimbir vadis and this used to be one of the regular evening snack at my house and I made sure I grabbed some hot hot vadis on my way back home from college. 

Kothimbir Vadis are made using lots of cilantro/coriander leaves, gram flour and spices which is then steam cooked, cut and then shallow fried or deep fried. Kothimbir is the Marathi word for cilantro or coriander leaves. These crispy crunchy fritters are gluten free and can be a healthy snack if it is just pan fried rather than deep fried. My mother in law taught me how to prepare these yummy vadis. This recipe has the perfect amount of cilantro and gram flour. There are other ways of making these vadis which calls for more gram flour in comparison to the cilantro leaves and a batter is made rather than a dough which is then steamed. But I like it this way since the flavor of cilantro/coriander stands out and also has the perfect balance of gram flour (besan). So lets check out the recipe. πŸ’





Ingredients:

3 - 4 bunch of cilantro leaves/coriander leaves washed (roughly 4 cups)
2 cups of gram flour (besan)
1 tsp of green chili crushed
1 - 2 tsp of grated ginger
1-1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of coriander powder
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tbsp of roasted peanut powder (optional)
2 tsp of sesame seeds
Salt to taste
2 - 3 tbsp of water or as required
Oil for pan frying or shallow frying

Method:

1) Separate the cilantro leaves from its stem. Wash thoroughly and squeeze out all the excess water. Spread them onto and paper towel. Pat dry and let it air dry for sometime. 

2) Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and add it to a big bowl. To the chopped cilantro leaves add crushed green chili, grated ginger, cumin seeds, chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, roasted peanut powder (if you are allergic or do not like peanut this is optional) and salt to taste. Mix everything nicely and keep it side for 5 mins. 

3) Now start adding the gram flour to the chopped cilantro mixture little at a time (approx half a cup at a time) and start kneading with your hands. If you feel the mixture is dry and needs water add very little at a time around 1 tsp or so and keep kneading until you use up 2 cups of gram flour (besan) and the mixture forms a soft dough. (As shown in the pic below)


4) Apply oil to your hands and carefully divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal balls. Make logs out of the balls (As shown in the picture below). I made 3 logs since my steamer is small in size and can only fit 2 at time. Also keep in mind that the logs will expand a little when steaming. 

5) Get you steamer ready with water. I used Idli steamer for this. Once the water is boiling place the cilantro logs into the steamer plate and stem cook them for 15 - 20 minutes or till they are completely cooked. 

6) Remove the cilantro logs from the steamer and let them cool completely. 

7) Once cooled cut them into small discs. 

8) And then pan fry, shallow fry or deep fry these discs as desired. I pan fried them with 2 - 3 tbsp of oil. 



Serve hot with ketchup or green chutney and enjoy these crispy yummy fritters with your evening cup of hot chai or coffee. 





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