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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Anything Maggi eatery

A couple of weeks back, I got this gem of a menu wedged in my door handle. If you follow me on my social media outlets, you probably saw that picture already. If you don't, this is a menu of all things Maggi. And by Maggi I mean the ramen type instant noodle that has become a household name all over Indian. You know, the packaged junk that promise you to be as tasty as it is healthy, or more recently guaranteed happiness in two minutes. Yes THAT Maggi, the ultimate lazy day comfort food item that everybody knows how to cook.
I was unaware that there were other ways of eating it to be fair. But apparently judging by this eatery, you can have Maggi burgers, Maggi subs, and Maggi pizza among other equally crazy fare. In the case of a Pizza it seems the base is made of Maggi noodles instead of bread. I googled it, there is no way I would attempt eating that thing at the said outlet, I am too much of a purist when it comes to noodles.
One of my friend pointed out that one has to be a teenager to really enjoy that place. I must have been an extra special kind of teenager myself, because I would still have gone for a real burger or a real pizza instead.
And...a Chinese MagBhel? Really?

Friday, January 23, 2015

When Insomnia knocks at the door

Are you a toss n turner? Do you wake up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep for hours? If so, welcome to the club.

I am an insomniac, not the chronic type that dread bedtime, fortunately. I'm however regular enough at that game of let's wake up at random in the dead of night. It can happen several time a week at its peak, and still a couple of time enough in a month for me to remember what it feels like.

I've been at it for as long as I can remember. As a child, it was exciting, mostly because I was up at a time I was not supposed to. There was something mysterious and probably magical about that time in the dead of the night, and my parents never got to know I was awake. I would just peek through the gaps in the blinds, observing the stillness outside. Then lay down in bed making up stories in my mind until I fell back asleep.
And despite the fact I was starting school at 8, it was still manageable then, school wasn't very demanding until I turned 12.
The teenage years were a whole different ball game, I was chronically late to school, and finding myself struggling in every topics that were served to us before 10 am. It wasn't even that I was going late to bed at night, it is just that my body clock is incompatible with societal norms.

The early bird gets the worm must be the most ridiculous idea I ever hear. This notion that only those who get up at the break of dawn can have a life of success and triumph. Last time I checked, owls get to feast on mice all night long, who needs a worm then?
I am of that lot that can't be productive at sunrise, that doesn't mean I am lazy or unproductive. The years I had the freedom to work on my own timetable, freelancing from home were the best and most productive years of my life. Back then, bouts of insomnia did not feel so crippling. I had the freedom to work around them, sleeping a bit longer in the morning, getting about with my daily life later, and still clocking in enough work hours. Insomnia has alway felt great when the pressure to be an achiever of the dawn age was lifted.

Heck, I often gets great ideas in the dead of the night. Ideas I would not get otherwise.

Sadly, my timetable isn't too compatible with the system. And even less so with a child that despite being born from two night owls is an absolute lark. I am back to dreading these nights of light sleep again. Waking up at 2am to go back to sleep at 4-5 feels daunting. I inevitably know that I'll be up at 6 again. Against my will and better judgement, forced to act remotely productive and doing a half backed job of faking it.

This week has been a rough one when it came to sleep, and as a result, the nice planning of blog posts I had on paper pretty much went out the window. A couple of nights of no good sleep in a row left me in a zombie-like state. A state widely incompatible with creativity that left me dry.

Gone is the plan of editing pictures for coming post, out the window the home decor post I was planning to draft yesterday and post today. I turned to my personal diary full of insomnia fuelled rambling to make up for it.
One day, I might even whip up a series of tip to make these nights easier...because I do have some. All veteran light sleeper do have them, and some of them do actually work.

One of them being to take it easy during the day. So on these "wise" words, I'll take a bow and practice what I just preached.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thick and Silky Pumpkin Soup

I don't know about you, but Winter is just about the perfect time to enjoy soups. I myself could call them lunch, dinner, and possibly breakfast. I love soups, well, now that I am a sophisticated grown up anyway. As a kid, I hated them, and sadly this is how meals started in my family. If I could go back in time I would tell my 7 years old self that she is plain old stupid for whining in front of her plate of tomatovevetablemushroomcreamwhatever soup.
Soups are also easier to make from scratch than one think. In India, the only challenge being finding stock. Something I haven't yet been able to find. The closest would be the Magic Masala Cube from Maggi. Their chicken cubes will somewhat do the trick, their vegetable variant is sadly not up to the all.
The best solution would be to make your own stock and freeze it, and a I admit I prefer chicken stock over vegetable stock, and have no idea how to make a homemade veggie based one.
To make a chicken stock, you need chicken bones. I usually save these each time I make a roast chicken and dump the whole leftover carcass in my rice Cooke, add lots of water, some salt and boil them for hours, adding water regularly. The longer they cook, the more flavourful the stock will be. I then pour it in old take out containers and put them in the freezer.
But, back to my pumpkin soup shall we? To make it you will need the chicken stock mentioned above. It would also be a good idea to have pumpkin purée on hand, and that pumpkin spice mix :
If you don't have any pumpkin purée ready, making your own won't take too long, you just need to cube enough fleshy pumpkin and cook it in as little water as possible and mash using a potato masher. Like chicken stock, I do these in batches when they are at their ripest and freeze. I invite you to try it, to save yourself time and possibly your sanity.
And now, the recipe you were waiting for!
You will need :
4 cups of chicken stock
2-3 cups of pumpkin purée
One big white onion sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp Pumpkin spice mix
Salt and pepper to taste

Walnuts to garnish (optional)

1) Heat about 2 tbsp butter in a flat bottomed sauce pan (I use my Dutch oven pan). Once the butter has melted sauté the onion and garlic until they start turning golden brown and give out a nice fragrant flavour (it takes about 2 minutes)
2) Once the onion and garlic is ready, pour the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the pumpkin purée, pumpkin spice mix, salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and switch of the heat once it does.
3) You will need a stick/hand blender at this point. If you don't have one, a good old mixie will do too. BUT, and I can't stress that enough, it is very important. Do NOT put the boiling hot mix in the mixie right away, let it cool first.
If you have a stick blender (and you should, they rock), plug it in and immerse directly into your pan full of clumpy lumpy soup and blend it to a smooth velvety cream.
You are done
Serve it with toasted bread and sprinkle walnut on top. You can also add fresh cream to it before serving, though it is against completely optional. This is a thick soup, if you want it to be runnier, add more chicken stock or less pumpkin purée.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cute find of the weekend

Cricket indifferent lot, the World Cup has arrived. This means that unlike you managed to find your perfect match, your significant other has been sucked in and bowing to their flat screen.
Instead of trying to compete for attention you'll never get (11 guys hitting and chasing a ball alway come first), find ways to enjoy your free time solo.

Or, In my case, with a kiddo banned from watching cartoons (the Octonauts not being a cricket team). Fortunately, I was on the mission this weekend. Gracefully dumped on me by the school who decided to ask the kiddos to come in white ethnic wear to celebrate Republic day instead of letting them wear anything tricolour.
Got to love the specifics huh? White AND ethnic, not one or the other, nope had to be both. And, as it is the case with all these parental shopping assignment, the simpler it appears to be, the harder it'll get.

So, this Sunday, I safely abandoned DH in front of the flat screen (newly purchased, apparently the coming World Cup meant our old square and cathodic tube had to go). Ishita and I hit the mall instead. Me full of energy, Ishita full of hope at the idea of getting a fancy party dress.
3 shops later I was dragging my feet and Ishita kept whining that she didn't like the idea of getting a white kurta.
By the time we hit shop number 5, she was impossible, hungry, and I was just pissed at yet once again having to figure a holy grail-esque quest for yet another school commissioned outfit.

Left between the choice of exploding all over the place or committing a murder. I decided that the school could go get lost, grabbed the first almost all white kurta I could find in her size, red and orange accents be damned, then dragged Ishi to the leggings shelves to grab something white.
My primary mission accomplished, I zoomed to the food court for a pit stop. Marvelled at the fact that it takes only a little fast food crap to get a kid back to being happy an cooperative on a serious shopping expedition and we moved on to my secondary mission.

Because, yes I wasn't crazy enough to just go brave an entire mall of Cricket widows and widowers for one stupid white outfit. This lady is wise and prepared!

The second mission took me to the place any sane people would dread on weekends: Big Bazaar. This in India will understand (and possibly throw me some accolade or pronounce me crazy...I'll accept both). If you are unfamiliar with India, Big Bazaar would pretty much be the equivalent of Walmart in the US.
Just replace the half naked crazies by a horde bunch of crazy aunties and out of control kiddos. Picture a queue from hell at the only 3 cash counters out of 15 that are operational and you have it.

What prompted me to head there was finding a replacement for our wet laundry hamper, or possibly a hamper to store Ishita's stuffier while we highjacked her pink basket to do the trick. All the Kirana stores, junk stores and supermarkets closer to home proved to be fruitless.
I had hopes, hopes that Big Bazaar, the world champion of plastic containers and baskets would come to my rescue. And even more shockingly than all the other stores I visited came up as equally disappointing.

Not a single hamper with holes, or stupid collapsible springy clothes hamper in sight! Ishita lost patience in the temple of all things plastic very quickly and the whine monster menaced. Until she found what we will call the cutest find of the weekend :
Surprise cute find at Big Bazaar

An adorable green watering can! To be fair, we needed one, I just never really decided to go hunt that kind of elusive thing for years. The plastic toilet mug made the job a bit harder since we moved into this particular flat. Something with a longer spout would not hurt. But, seriously? All the way to the mall and Big Bazaar to just get a 160 rupees watering can? Really?
No way, if I were to go braving the mighty cash counter queue, I had the duty of at least checking if there were no other things I needed without actually knowing.

Except that I knew...

Or kitchen towels were all threatening on going thread bare, with a few alread half way there. I kept thinking to pick up a few at the first opportunity that never really showed up. So, trapped in Big Bazaar on a Sunday with a 160 bucks cute green watering can and a cranky daughter seemed like the perfect time to do it. This is the type of crap Big Bazaar tend to sell cheap.

Except that since the last time I needed some cheap kitchen linens, they have hyped their game. the linens in question were still fairly cheap, but remarkably cute too. Ishita fell in love with a set of two blue and white towels, and I agreed. We headed to the cash counter, got assaulted by Club Mahindra and Country Club while waiting and escaped without loosing too much sanity. Without any laundry basket or storage stuff, but in the procession of two cute items...CUTE.

The watering can alone had magical powers, it made Ishita happy to follow me in Lifestyle to hopefully find what we were looking for on sale. And we did...but that is another story.

We returned back home with our loot. Sorted out the mess in Ishita's room while DH watched India loosing against Australia and hung my happy looking dish towel in the kitchen. Towel that DH claimed looked really good...of all small things to notice.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunset over Powai Lake

This week, I visited a friend who lives in IIT Powai and we took our kiddos down by the lake for a picnic. We wrapped it up by sunset because IIT is famous for getting visits from Leopards who become active at sundown.
Before leaving, I could not resist snapping a quick picture with my mobile phone. Looking at the lake from that angle, you would not guess that it is now surrounded by the city. It wasn't the case would it be just 30 years ago, when Powai wasn't synonymous with the posh Hiranandani Township just yet. There was a time when all there was around was IIT in the middle of what was pretty much just a jungle with a few villages. It was once a weekend picnic spots for Mumbaikars who looked for an escape from the city.
The jungle is still there to be fair. It's just that it is more concrete than trees, and more wild traffic than natural animalistic wilderness.
The lake itself is artificial, it was built by the British as a water reservoir. It is however no longer in use, it's water have been declared unfit for consumption. It is polluted and it has a big problem with water hyacinths that stubbornly refuse to clear. It is still home to a few crocodiles, and the source of living for a few fishermens. It also share a border with the Sanjay Gandhi National Park from which Leopards come from, roaming from one jungle to another.

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