Sunday, April 07, 2013

Assorted recipes

Bok Choy soup

Boil water, grated ginger, a couple of cloves of garlic, few sprigs of thyme and a few dashes of Bragg's sauce. After it simmers for several minutes, add bok choy (and any other ingredients such as tofu or snap peas). Allow the ingredients to cook through for a few minutes and serve. Add a drop or two of toasted sesame oil for garnish if desired.

Mashed Potatoes

Wash, peel, quarter & boil 4-5 medium-large red potatoes for ~15 minutes or until fork can easily pierce through. In a separate saucepan, gently simmer 3/4 cup of milk, a few dollops of butter, salt, pepper and any herb of your choice (rosemary, thyme, etc.).
Drain water used to boil potatoes in. Mash with potato masher while stirring in milk mixture

Balsamic Kale

Heat olive oil in saucepan. Add couple of cloves of crushed garlic, washed & cut kale, salt, glug of balsamic vinegar and a few tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for several minutes

Baby zucchini and carrots

Heat olive oil in large pot. Toss in the zucchini, carrots, salt and several sprigs of thyme. Turn heat up to high and cover to try to get some of that braised flavor while it cooks. Add a sliced tomato and the end and switch off heat - let it sit covered while you wait for the rest of your food to be done.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

Advance warning: don't waste your energy finely cutting vegetables in nice even shapes. Large, coarse pieces will do just fine - take my word for it and all will be clear by the end.

Start off by making a vegetable stock. Chop a few carrots, a couple of heads of celery and a couple of onions. Throw it all in a pot with as much water as you can fit in, along with a few sprigs of thyme (optional) and a good shake of salt.
(Yes, I am quite incapable of measuring ingredients. I hold that patience in reserve for the science of baking.)

Set the stock pot on the stove and let it do its thing for a good 40 minutes or so - 10 of which will be consumed by the water heating up to a boil. By the end you should have a delicate, fragrant stock; just scoop out all the veggies with a slotted spoon. My husband insisted on saving these veggies. You'll see what happens to them soon - suspense!

Meanwhile, peel and cut 3 potatoes, 1 apple, ginger and garlic to taste. If you are patient enough to process butternut squash from scratch more power to you, but I settled for 2 pre-cut packets from Trader Joe's.

Heat olive oil in a large sturdy pot. Gently saute the ginger & garlic. Add the potatoes, apple and squash. Sprinkle generous quantities of salt, turmeric, paprika and garam masala (optional). Add only enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot and let it all cook - about 20 to 30 minutes. If you play your cards right this should get done shortly after the stock is ready.

Add a couple of ladles of the stock water to the aforementioned sturdy pot and pour it into the food processor. (If you don't own one, do the best you can with a masher of sorts.) It will all come together quite nicely in less than a minute. Transfer the contents back into the pot, using some of the stock to wash out the mushy paste stuck to the food processor back into the soup - no waste! Bring the soup back to a gentle boil, adding stock as needed to bring it to the consistency you desire. Taste the soup - add salt, pepper, any other spices if needed.

And that's about it...unless you own a husband who insists on pureeing the veggies that yielded our stock. He's eating them as I write this..earning his world championship title as the human garbage disposal.

Freeze any leftover soup and stock in labeled ziploc baggies. Trust me on the labeling. We have way too many mystery bags in our freezer. At the time of freezing we were convinced we could distinguish items...NOT. Recently we could not even tell whether a soup like thingy with green bits was zucchini soup or lentils seasoned with curry leaves...

Here's what it looks like!

Life comes a full circle

Closely observing the rich biodiversity around our home in Durga Vihar, once a rocky terrain, this patch of human settlement continues to be a friendly home to several birds of flight. A stunning view of the Gray Hornbill perched upon a tall tree that I sighted, in response to its repeated call to its mate, left me to look for more of its kind! Indeed, sensing my presence, the bird flew away high up in the sky and emerged with its mate several blocks away, took a wide circle together and disappeared from my sight. A bottom up view of this rare bird was my facebook post recently.

My earlier post has pictures of their smaller kindred; the attractive little Green Bee-eater perched upon the branches of a dry tree. Go to this blogpost for a view of these birds that home Gun Rock in large numbers.

I am pretty certain that these Bee-Eaters are now endemic to this terrain almost bidding goodbye to the friendly Sparrows and the not-so-friendly Baya Weawers. These intriguing green birds, lining up on the hanging electricity wires in the morning hours, are now a familiar sight as we see them each day on our return from the morning walk. Besides the lush greenery around our home, the tree of Mimosaceae family (Jungle Jalebi) is an appropriate niche for several other small birds. These birds reprise their flight to the tree day after day and swoop down at least twice a day to savor nature’s delicacy. Sheer delights of spring. They seem to bird-voice “Eat local food! Available in great quantities!” Protein aplenty! I am reminded of this optimistic take from Shelly’s poem Ode to the West Wind, especially when the summer heat kicks in “If winter comes, can spring be far behind? Circle of Life! Life Cycle!

Back to bird stuff, can you guess what is the secret behind the health of the Yellow warblers, Red-vented bulbuls, House Sparrows, Crimson-breasted barbets and other winged creatures great and small, all of which I sighted in the last couple of days? Of course this includes the endangered Common House Sparrow. Yes, it is the jalebi that is delicious raw or otherwise….

As an appetizer, enjoy the collage below!

I promise a reward if you can name the bird-in-black!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Remembering Anna, my Dad!

Sleepless in Gunrock,
Dreaming Big! You reach for the stars and go beyond!
Is sky the limit? A vehement no!
Magic # 108*,
At your beck and emergency call,
Dad’s last journey!
Filled with remorse, the question remains,
Solace in many shades emerge,
A shining star,
Dancing with the stars,
Beyond this beautiful Universe!

*Although belated, my sincere thanks to GVK EMRI and the dedicated at emergency CARE!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Rest in peace!!

Simply Original & Outstanding,
Truly Talented and Task oriented,
Energetic Engine,
Versatile, Vivacious and Victorious,

remembering JOBS...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The lost Diary - Will pictures suffice?

My daughter dedicated this blog to her grandfather, Koti Thata!, Ramaswamy Viswanatha Sarma ~6 years back!

Tallest man in both pictures (B & W unedited), he was healthy, independent and a nonagenarian. Lived until 94! Inspiring!

I recently located these two interesting pictures of her grandfather: Top) standing tall with a felt hat and Bottom panel: stylish with a cigarette! Her Dad is not so sure he smoked. I am assuming he posed for the picture.

What I know is that he was a strong-willed person healthy, witty, appreciative and brilliant! I thought this would be a temporary respite for the missing diary she craves for!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Lifelong Learning

My college graduation requirement was 195 credits - with 1 hour of lecture counting as 1 credit, and 2 hours of lab counting as 1 credit. My husband is on a similar system, except that he needs only 120 credits to graduate. I was doing ~50 credits every year; but my husband only needs to do about 30. This means that I had to cram in order to pass my courses and get a good GPA (a prerequisite both for job applications & grad school).

The differences in educational methods are telling. My husband was able to explain economics concepts to me almost a year after he first learned them. I don't think I remembered much of any course after I took the final exam. Even though I am grateful for my Indian education, and the excellent job opportunities it has opened up for me, I don't think I will take the same approach for lifelong learning.

I learned SAS by reading on the internet, trying it out with my data, failing miserably, and then trying to determine what I did wrong. Rinse, repeat. But I can guarantee that some concepts have stuck. The consequences of not remembering something vital can mean crashing the whole server because your code consumed all the resources available. This will not win you any friends among other server users or the sysadmin.

Earlier this month,I spent a few days studying about Internal Rate of Return on the internet (and credit goes to an excellent tutorial I found by Prof. Baker at University of South Carolina). I spent two more days working out how to apply this to our marketing campaigns. But I don't think I will forget this concept easily, because of the time and effort I invested in doing the calculations accurately.

With modern medicine, plumbing and sanitation, most of us can expect long lifetimes. Why does my culture place so much emphasis on cramming to pass competitive exams at such a young way? This is a rhetorical question; testing is the most objective & efficient method of screening candidates when there are so many competitors for each spot.

However, the internet has revolutionized access to information. To everyone who hates tests & exams (myself included), I ask you to try this alternate method of education. It has changed my life.

Chickpea Kale Curry

As part of a continuing effort to include more greens in our diet, this recipe uses kale fresh from the farmers market.


1 bunch kale, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of smashed garlic
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
3 oz (1/2 of a small can) of tomato paste
1 can garbanzo beans
Salt to taste
chilli powder and turmeric to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp paprika
1 - 2 tbsp oil
1-2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add bay leaves & cumin seeds to hot oil; and chopped onions shortly after. Add the smashed garlic, chilli powder, turmeric, salt and paprika at this stage and stir to combine. After the onions look reasonably cooked, add the chopped kale and about a quarter cup of water. Cover the pan and let the kale steam on high heat for a few minutes. Take off the lid and add the tomato paste & can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Add more water and salt at this stage if needed. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes; or until all the ingredients are soft enough - some people like it mushy, and some don't - just follow your instincts! We let this sit for an hour or so before dinner, and that really allowed all the ingredients to blend together.

Apologies for the inexact instructions. This was an experiment, and I did not know it would succeed so well!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Joshua Tree National Park

My husband took this gorgeous panorama at Joshua Tree National Park; I just couldn't resist showing it off. We were both in awe of the vast expanse of space unoccupied by human presence.

Click the image to enlarge

Who thought Swiss chard could taste this good?

My husband, being the caring soul that he is, donated blood today. In anticipation of the iron his body needs, I bought a bunch of swiss chard to feed him afterward. I separated the leaves from the thick red stems, since I knew they would cook at different speeds. Here is how I cooked them, with surprisingly good results:

Swiss chard - stems
I steamed these in the rice cooker steamer basket, a convenient way to use the steam generated by the rice cooking process.
I boiled the softened stems with red lentils (cooked in advance), a teaspoon of rasam powder, and salt to taste.

Swiss chard - leaves
I fried a finely chopped red onion in coconut oil with a few green chillies, half a teaspoon of powdered cumin, and a pinch of powdered black pepper and asafoetida. Once the onion was nicely browned, I added finely chopped swiss chard leaves to the cast iron pan, sprinkled salt and water, and cooked covered on medium heat until the leaves were half cooked. Then, I stirred the leaves around a bit, sprinkled coconut powder and cooked it some more until the leaves turned a deep green.

My husband gulped down both dishes with hot basmati rice.