January Update

It has been a month of too much on my plate. Mainly because there were almost 3 trips that I took, thus, leaving no weekend for just being. I am sure all of you have seen those memes about ‘this is the fastest January ever’ and right now, I am feeling exactly that.

So, where did I travel to?

Before 2022 ended, Rahul and I took a quick trip to Rishikesh with two of our friends. It was quite impromptu as Rishikesh is only 6 hours drive away from where we all live and Rahul & I were anyway visiting my parents, who live even closer to Rishikesh. Our friends decided to pick us up on their way and it was a very smooth and chill trip. I’ll write about it in a blog post and link back here.

After that, my friend and I took a much awaited trip to Banaras, the ancient, holy city in India. I don’t remember properly but I am very likely to believe that she and I have been thinking about making this trip since 2016 and so glad that we finally made it. Again, a post is due.

Then, this weekend that just passed us by, Rahul and I went to Jim Corbett National Park with my parents. I would probably not dedicate an entire post to it as it has very limited things to do, so let me just get to it here. Basically, its a national park where you can be one with the nature – flora and fauna both. The place is famous for tigers and there are regular forest safaris arranged for tiger spotting. I have been here once more before with my engineering friends and there used to be only early morning safaris back then. This time, there were afternoon safaris as well, which is what we opted for to avoid the early morning cold. Literally no one I know has ever spotted a tiger in the Corbett Safaris and so was the case this time for us. πŸ˜€ There are very less tigers in the entire national park region anyway. We did, however, spot tiger paw marks. My trip highlight was the Kosi river that flows from this place. When I had been to Corbett the last time, I didn’t know about the river, neither was my resort situated near it. My husband researched and told me about the river and that there are resorts next to it. Hence, I spent time looking at the river from my room’s balcony and we also went to sit there. It was really peaceful and calming.

I am then taking cue from Lyssy’s post here to take stock of my month, she calls it “What’s Up Posts”, it was started by her blogger friend Shay 8 years ago it seems!! Let’s see if I manage to do it every month.

I am going to answer all the questions in the below card for the post then.

What We’re Eating?

I mentioned here how I am trying to eat healthy in my daily routine. The only thing is that this month didn’t have a lot of routine days, but that also means I loved so many things during my trips. Banaras trip was exceptionally good when it comes to food. I have written all about my Banaras food expeditions on my Instagram here, in case you would like to know.

What I’m Reminiscing about?

I am in general someone who reminisces a lot, so its difficult to keep a track of this. πŸ˜€

What I’m Loving?

Absolutely loving my rhythm and carving a routine for myself in all the chaos. I should also mention here even though I hadn’t considered it while writing out this post that I am thankful for the chaotic but fun travel opportunities.

What we’ve been up to?

Work, travel and finding moments for myself and even for me and my husband.

What I’m dreading?

I am going to meet a lot of a particular side of my extended family in the upcoming days, dreading is too strong a word, but I am cautious of it getting too overwhelming.

What I’m working on?

Snail’s pace but I am trying to work on this. Trying being the keyword, haha!

What I’m Excited about?

Even though I mentioned I am worried about getting overwhelmed about meeting the said side of my extended family, I am looking forward to enjoy in the wedding this is for. I love Indian weddings more than anything!

What I’m Watching/Reading?

I just completed my first read of the year – The Hindu Way by Shashi Tharoor. It was a roll over from 2022, now I am onto my second one – The Accidental Prime Minister by Sanjay Baru, I have never read a book on politics and, surprisingly I am quite enjoying it.

I am watching ‘The Crown’ every now and then, mostly with my meals. I am not able to binge watch it because a) I cannot play it as background music while working since it requires attention the first time, b) my husband does not enjoy it, and a couple of hours at night is the only time we have in common apart from breakfast so I don’t want to watch such a long series during that time.

I recently concluded ‘Emily in Paris’ and man do I love it! I never expected to enjoy it so much. I might do a post on it, you know.

I am also watching the Indian version of Shark Tank, not enjoying it as much as the Season 1.

I may have re-watched a lot of stuff, and I am also looking forward to watch SRK’s latest movie Pathaan after 4 years in a movie hall. Although I don’t have a lot of hope from the story, but just for the heck of watching SRK on big screen.

What I’m Listening to?

Oh, this is a good one for me. So, I may have mentioned that I am not into any specific music, mostly anything nostalgic Bollywood or any famous Punjabi songs float my boat. Every now and then I listen to random podcasts but I haven’t found one that I love and its very random and also very infrequent. However, very recently, I have kind of started building my podcast listening habit to avoid looking at my phone in mornings and right before bed. I am liking it not only to avoid screen time but also because I am leaning to informative stuff. I won’t share which ones I am listening to because I don’t have a strong opinion yet on this. πŸ˜€

What I’m Wearing?

I am sad that I didn’t use a lot of my winter stuff on my trips, but kind of repeated the same things. I just wanted to be super comfortable and not try at all. I am also sad that my two boots that I love have started to chip, because I definitely wanted to use them more. I’ll probably check with a shoemaker who sits outside my house if something can be done.

What I’m doing this weekend?

The coming weekend, i.e. Feb first week, would be the weekend I would want to chill completely. Let’s see how that goes, although knowing some upcoming things, I think it would be busy again.

What I’m looking forward to next month?

The said wedding fun.

Planning for more travels, especially a big one, fingers crossed.

Most importantly, improving some things about my work.

What else is new?

I had to think hard for this, so I am just sharing a silly thing that came up in my mind – I am soon going to try a fun takeout and planning to convert it to date night. Let’s see how that goes.

4 foods from Himachal I cannot get over with!

Remember my trip to Manali and Kasol in 2021? First of all, please show that post some love since it was truly one of my favorite trips. Living for so long in the mountains is a dream come true for me, and I cannot be more thankful that this pandemic allowed us to do that.

Now, onto the topic for today, I had this post sitting in my drafts since long from the time I was reminiscing about all the good food I ate on that trip. A disclaimer though – all the dishes mentioned below except one are not specific to Himachal Pradesh. They are popular in the rest of North India as well, but I am specifically going to talk about the Himachali versions today.

Let’s get started:

Siddu: This is the only one on the list which is a pure Himachal based dish. Siddu is basically a dumpling made of flour (it didn’t seem like wheat flour or all purpose to me but I Google-d and it is in fact wheat flour only) and its filled with spicy pastes, like the regular North Indian Spices, salt, pepper, red pepper, coriander powder etc, but the real deal is poppy seeds paste. It seriously changes the game. It’s usually served with, well, again some spicy chutneys (dips) and loads of ghee (clarified butter) on top. I think its the kind of dish which either you would love a lot or hate a lot. For me, its the former. I would kill to eat a nice Siddu plate right now, but its a very traditional Himachali dish. Honestly, I have started appreciating foods that are only available at certain locations a lot more as I realize that everything being available everywhere just takes the charm away.

Rajma Madra: Rajma is red kidney beans and though rajma curry is the most popular North Indian dish, but “Rajma Madra” is specific to Himachal. It is basically Rajma curry but in a very thin and spicy gravy. Its almost like a thin consistency, spicy soup and despite the thinness, goes well with rice. Personally, I am not as much of a rajma lover as North Indians usually are, but I love this Himachali version a lot. I also read up just now that its probably different because the gravy is yogurt-based. Yumm!

Kadhi Pakora: Funny thing, as a kid, I used to hate Kadhi and never understood how can it be someone’s favorite food. As a grown up, I have nothing but respect for this yogurt curry. I was once out with few colleagues in Ljubljana, Slovenia to an Indian restaurant and a foodie colleague of mine ordered Kadhi (which was served under the soup section there). I didn’t expect him to like it because its a very distinct taste. He fell in love with it. Anyhow, coming back to the Himachali Kadhi. Now, the thing is that Kadhi is made in many variations across India, or at least in the states above the peninsula. πŸ˜€ Rajasthan has a very thin soup-like Kadhi and Gujarat ones have some sweet and sour thing going on but the Kadhi in Punjab, or higher up North, like Himachal, is super thick and rich, and is always served with Pakoras (fritters) dipped in it. What I especially liked in the Kadhi in Himachal was that it was not supremely thick like the ones you get in restaurants, which are nothing but killjoys really. It was just the right consistency, thick but not chokingly. πŸ˜€

Bun Chole: I don’t know which North Indian state this street/fast food belongs to but in recent times, I have most commonly seen them in Himachal. Basically, a super spicy Chole (white chickpeas) dish is made and served stuffed inside buns like a hamburger, along side green chillies and raw onions. My spice-loving a*s loves it and misses it now.

I know, I know. My list is very generic and I haven’t even touched upon very traditional cuisines. I really hope I get to taste more of Himalayan cuisines. In fact, on that note, I recalled that I love this restaurant in Delhi – Yeti, the Himalayan Kitchen – I think its Nepali and Tibetan food. I have only been there once but I wholeheartedly recommend it IF AND ONLY IF your spice tolerance is high.

The Most Productive Meal Menu

What is a productive meal menu, you ask? Depends on what you are trying to achieve from your food habits, but I classified this week as productive because I managed to completely clean the fridge before I embark on my trip for two days and also didn’t order in even once! Not that anything is wrong with ordering in, in fact, its one of the things I enjoy, but you know what I mean.

You will notice as you go along in the list of things I ate over the week, that the consumption of protein was not as good as I would have liked, but that’s because I was focussing on using up stuff. In general, I am critical of food wastage and my fridge is usually easier to clean before a trip because its not filled with a lot of store-bought condiments or things like that which you can’t consume in one go.

Have a look at what I ate this Monday to Friday πŸ˜€ and I am thinking of doing this again soon, when I eat more of what I wanted to and didn’t focus on fridge cleanse. This week also had a lot of other things that are not part of my usual routine. For example, it was a chill work week, so I was waking up quite late which meant a heavier breakfast & a snack type lunch. Also, a friend was staying over, so lots of rice type one pot meals instead of roti (Indian flatbread) which require more effort.

Also, I enjoy Youtube content of meal plans and such a lot, do share your food related stories in the comments as I would love those!

Don’t forget to look beyond the picture for some explanation of the meal menu :D:

I created this table in my notebook especially for this post and I am going to give you some more context if you are not an Indian & some of the words don’t make sense. First of all, my husband and I usually can’t do without three proper meals. However, in this meal menu, you would notice two lunches as just chai (Indian milk tea) and something to munch on. As I already mentioned, that’s because I was waking up late and breakfast was heavier than usual. Aside this, I would like to incorporate a lot more protein and actually my other weeks are definitely better than this one in that regard.

Now, a glossary of sorts πŸ˜€ –

Roti is nothing but the staple Indian basic flatbread, I usually use multigrain flour for this, but its traditionally meant to be whole wheat.

Chawal is nothing but plain boiled white rice.

Chai is Indian milky tea, which some people call as masala tea, but just so you know, I hate masalas in Chai. Only ginger and tulsi (holy basil) for me.

Idli is steamed rice cakes, traditionally made in South India.

Sambar is a vegetable stew that goes well with Idlis.

Poha is cooked rice flakes, and I would say its an acquired taste, but its a staple in our home, especially because its filling but not as carbs heavy as bread and also because we make it with matar or green peas always, which are high protein.

Gobhi is cauliflower & paratha is a heavier Indian flatbread. So, Gobhi paratha is an Indian flatbread stuffed with cauliflower and then fried with ghee (clarified butter), again a winter delicacy but this is one of my husband’s favorite treat so its a regular with us.

Methi is fenugreek leaves, which is a gift of winters in India and both of us love it.

5 Indian things I appreciated after living abroad | Blogmas 2

I clearly remember how much I used to hate my mom’s habit of putting excessive coriander in everything. And then I went to Europe for around 10 months and I missed it’s presence in regular food terribly. I came back and became equally or more obsessed with coriander.

So, i dedicate this post to 5 such Indian things that I have only appreciated either when living abroad or with age. I am sure Indians who moved abroad to settle can add a lot to this list. If you are reading this, please do consider adding yours in comments!

1. Amla: Indian gooseberry is a superfood that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I know you will say that it’s way more popular than many other superfoods but my point is just how versatile and tasty it is in so many dishes. Why people don’t eat it more often? Maybe because they don’t know how easy it is to incorporate in so many dishes! Apart from amla candy & murabba (preserve), nothing else seems to be super popular. I think I’ll do a post on some easy peasy recipes with amla.

2. Coriander: of course. No brainer . Chop and put it in any Indian dish and see its magic happen.

3. Spice box: just why do people elsewhere not use a spice box? Just why? If you are reading this and don’t know what this is, please Google. You will know its importance in a South Asian’s life. This point can also be extended to pressure cooker actually. Why are people buying canned legumes and not using a pressure cooker?

4. Fresh mangoes need i say more?

So this is my list but i am sure many others can be added to this list. Please do let me know in comments. Mine are a lot around food but yours don’t have to be. πŸ˜€

My Favorite Recipe from the internet | Garlic Pull Apart Rolls

Why I decided to write this post – we come across many recipes on the internet everyday and that too from so many different sources that I am sure all of us have bookmarked and saved recipes across portals. But this one stands out so much for me in many ways –

  • One, it turned out really amazing! It initiated me into not being scared of baking, because if your first recipe is so good, what can you not do? πŸ˜€
  • I found it online really long ago on a blog (details below). This was at a time when Instagram probably didn’t exist and I used to read many random blogs regularly. πŸ˜€
  • I made this recipe with multiple variations (one suggested by my brother which he also ended up loving the most) many times, but once I decided to make it after a long hiatus and I couldn’t find it again online. In baking, as many of you would know, knowing the right ratios & measurements is very important unless you are a seasoned baker, so I was really heart broken to not find it!
  • Ever since then, I have searched for this lady’s blog online and the recipe many times. I clearly remembered her blog name and her name also, this recipe meant that much to me. πŸ™‚ I also saw multiple other recipes of the same dish but I wasn’t happy with their descriptions. It was totally a “she’s not Rachel” thing. πŸ˜€ And, then, one day I finally saw her old blog popu in some pinterest post on one of my Google searches for the recipe. It’s still not clickable but I took frantic screenshots & I am sharing them below.

On a separate note, I think the same person now blogs here – http://cakencurry.com/. Again, found out because of trying random searches of her name, user name and what not! πŸ™‚

Here’s the recipe for you. Garlic, cheese & bread – what’s not to love?

Blogmas Day 5 | My 2020 Favorites! The year that was!

Ushering in the new year watching Mirzapur in bed (truly grateful <3). I had one more new year plan which didn’t quite materialize – put a besan (gram flour) face mask on with Rahul – this Rahul refuses because it’s cold. So, well, Mirzapur it is.

I don’t want to end this year without doing a roundup of my favorites, because it would be a nice recollection of the year that went by:

Favorite movie
Cannot say that I watched too many, but still from the limited ones, I don’t have a favorite. In fact, I would rather link this list of my favorite re-watches. I watched most of these in 2020 as well.

Favorite Show
I watched quite some shows online this year, especially with the lockdown. I know I am still far behind what with people consuming every new show on Netflix these days (something which you may have guessed because of my watching Mirzapur in end of Dec!) but by own standards, I watched quite some. Among these, Panchayat was my favorite, simply because it was a refreshing concept.

Favorite Food
Well, well, well. This is a tough one, because I love food too much to pick just one favorite. However, I am going to pick an unexpected one – Momos is one of my most favorite things on Earth and I didn’t expect to find them in Surat, but forget finding them, I got to sample some of the best ones I have ever had here in Surat. There is a ‘Darjeeling Momos’ stall right next to where I live and the people selling the momos seem to be from North East, some of the best ones I have ever had!

Favorite Outfit
I scored a pair of Zara formal pants at Brand Factory on great discount and it was everything I have ever wanted in a pant – well fitted but flared bottom and that steely Grey color! I love it and am itching to wear it to work, except that I don’t want to go to work, I am quite happy with wfh now!

Favorite Skin Care Product
None. I tried a lot of new stuff this year and I was so looking forward to chemical exfoliation changing the game for me but nothing really worked. As in, nothing bad happened, but nothing good happened either. On the other hand, this was an year of all the random make-up purchases working awesomely. The irony is that there were not much occasions to wear them to. πŸ˜€

Favorite Book
I am going to pick 3 here because I enjoyed all of them equally – 1) A Man called Ove – endearing & emotional, I have logged down my love for this one here at Instagram, 2) I’ve Got Your Number – nothing new here, it never happens that I read a Kinsella and don’t enjoy it to the core and 3) Shoe Dog – this was an unexpected one. Phil Knight’s autobiography on how he set up Nike was one of the best stories I read this year and a lot of people will relate to this feeling. So well written! As the testimonials on the book say, Phil is a great storyteller.

Favorite Event
One of my closest friends got married this year in November. This was a wedding which I was waiting for since the beginning of the year because it was the last wedding of my friend circle of post grad. We were really hoping that it doesn’t happen during Corona, but it did and while we were in extreme dilemma about attending, but since the beginning we knew it will be a huge regret if we skip this wedding. Hence, we went and it was truly one of the funnest times of my year. I just realized that even the other two of my friends from my post grad group got married to each other this year as well, in Jan, when Corona didn’t exist for us. Aside this, small joys like watching random things on tv with family when lockdown had just started counts big time too. I have always enjoyed watching Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and it started airing like a proper show on TV during the beginning of lockdown. We recently went to a beach resort here near to Surat and it was a lovely experience too. I also want to give a special mention to an amazing product that I bought this year in the middle of lockdown – it was my first non-essential purchase after March. The below lovely Parama blouse.

While typing out this post, the new year has just begun. I wish you a very happy, healthy and successful new year! Hope this new year brings tons of luck and happiness for all of us! I couldn’t be more thankful for 2020, even though it was the oddest year that we have been alive for but still there’s a lot to be grateful for – being near to your parents more often, a healthy life, food and roof, a fulfilling life. Truly grateful.