Good Thanksgiving Memories

November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’d like to give thanks today for how this year has progressed and the wonderful people in my life who make living it quite so fantastic.

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American/Canadian holiday that I’ve been aware of but never really celebrated or participated in until I left the United States to study in Wales, followed by two separate and equally memorable occasions with friends in Chicago.

I vaguely remember attending two Thanksgiving meals prepared by the American members of the International Students Association (of which I served as Vice Chair). It was a potluck but I didn’t contribute a dish, I remember, as I was still under the impression that the holiday food was centered around Turkey and meat. My memory of those two days are filled with everyone sitting along a looong table, the room filled with the echoes of chatter and laughter, and everyone seemingly stuffing food down their own throats until food coma commenced. If I wasn’t so very close to everyone who worked so hard to prepare the food and organize the holiday meal, I would probably have given it a miss altogether. I particularly remember my Greek-German-American friend’s ‘secret family recipe’ cheeseball which was the size of a fist and that I finished almost singlehandedly. No doubt, Thanksgiving became synonymous with a good excuse to enjoy a fun-filled thematic party, mid-day with friends – particularly featuring out-of-this-world cheese and crackers!

My next invite to join in Thanksgiving festivities came from a dear friend over 4 year later in Chicago. Hyde Park resembled a ghost town during those few days, when nearly all my friends and classmates returned to their respective homes to spend Thanksgiving with their families. My dearest friend decided to stay in Chicago and invite her mother to drive up from Nashville and a childhood family friend (also living in state) to celebrate the day with her instead.  When she heard I would be around (and alone!) on Thanksgiving, she insisted I join her and her two guests for the day. Accepting her invite wasn’t difficult, not because I didn’t want to spend the day alone, but because I knew the day wouldn’t be hyped and low maintenance. I knew I wouldn’t have to anything  to lose. In fact, if nothing else, I knew I had a new culinary experience to enjoy because she was a fellow vegetarian and her whole Thanksgiving meal would be meat-free and featuring the ‘tofurkey’. Now isn’t that enough intrigue to accept her invitation graciously?!  This time around too, I didn’t contribute my own vegetarian Thanksgiving dish – partly because she told me there would be loads of food already…and also because I’m not a fabulous cook like her! Hahaha.

Chicago Thanksgiving 1

My First Tofurkey!

We were four ladies and a kitty that day, and I must say, the food and company was enviably fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed being able to dig into the side and main dishes and I can’t honestly remember how many helpings I had of everything until I no longer had any space. In addition to my Wales experience, Thanksgiving now also became synonymous with sharing a lavish meal with your nearest and dearest, showered with much love and affection, and no less than three extra helpings of carved Tofurkey!

My most recent Thanksgiving memories are from two years ago, only a year after my Tofurkey experience. Again, I found myself in Chicago and with no company for the traditional Thanksgiving meal. This time, it was my lovely married friends who invited me to join in their celebrations. She was my classmate in Chicago and got married the first winter after we met. It didn’t take long for the three of us to get together and realize we had a lot in common. Like me, they both spent considerable time outside and inside the US and were well aware of the pros and cons of both scenarios. One grew up in Peru while the other spent some formidable years in Papua New Guinea as a child. We quickly got into a lovely routine of meeting up with this power couple every week or two for a meal and lovely chatter.

So when Thanksgiving plans were discussed, I happily accepted an invite to give my friend company while she prepared Thanksgiving dinner for her meat-loving husband and brother-in-law. I arrived early to assist with the preparation (barely!) and setting the table for the meal and we sat and watched the annual dog show that gets televised in the US while food cooked. I fondly remember that my friend’s husband tried to carve the turkey when we sat down, but quickly handed the carving knife to his wife who he knew would do a better job! The meal was unsurprisingly fabulous thanks to the culinary skills of my lovely friend. From the sides to the specifically vegetarian tofu alternative to the wine, it was a wonderful meal. I’m not sure if football featured or not that day…probably not if I stuck around. (I’m not a big sports fan.) But it was long past dark when I left their warm aromatic apartment to head home with a bunch of leftovers to tide me over the next day. This experienced added to my already beautiful memories I already had of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving additionally became synonymous with an intimate and sacred family gathering that is multi-cultural, all-encompassing, and full of sharing.

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Setting the table for a Thanksgiving feast

In the past decade, I’ve partaken in no less than three Thanksgiving celebrations with people I love and care deeply for. Each experience has been cemented as beautiful memories that only increase the appreciation I have for this American holiday. I can’t wait for my next Thanksgiving memory!

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Matar Ke Chilke Ke Pakode

Matar Ke Chilke Ke Pakode

Ingredients:

10-15 matar ke chilke (prepared peapod shells)
1 tbsp besan/chickpea flour
1 tbsp chawal ka atta/rice flour
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
a pinch of turmeric powder
oil for frying
salt to taste

Procedure:

  1. Wash and pat dry matar ke chilke.
  2. Cut them in 1 1/2″ pieces.
  3. Take besan and chawal ka atta in a bowl. Add salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder. Mix well.
  4. Add water, little by little to get a dropping consistency of the batter. It should not be too thick or thin.
  5. Heat oil in a deep pan/kadai.
  6. Drop the batter laden chilke in the hot oil.
  7. Cook till they get a light brown colour and drain on an absorbent paper.
  8. Serve these crispy yummies with imli/tamarind chutney.

Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 2 servings


Matar Ka Chilka Ka Chaat

Add crispy matar ka chilka pakodas to the chaat along with chopped onions, chopped coriander, imli/tamarind chutney, dollops of curd and bhujia sprinkled on top. It tastes truly amazing.

Matar Ke Chilke Ke Chaat

Russian Baklazhannaya Ikra / Poor Man’s Caviar

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**This classic Russian eggplant spread is best served cold with Russian rye bread. The flavors remind me of Indian dishes like Pav Bhaji and Baingan Ka Bharta, and would taste great warm with roti as well! This Ikra was made using local Indian produce and will require readjustment in amounts if cooked elsewhere.**

This is a Vegan, and Vegetarian dish that can be eaten warm or cold!

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized eggplantsIMG_20151119_125950.jpg
1/4 cup tomato puree
4 tomatoes
3 onions
1 green pepper
1/2 head of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Directions:

Place whole eggplants on direct heat and roast until skin begins to bubble. Take off heat, peel skins, and dice eggplant. Dice or mince the tomatoes, onions, pepper, and garlic too.

Heat oil in a frying pan and put in onions and garlic. When translucent, add green peppers and eggplant pieces. After 2 minutes, stir in tomatoes.

Now add tomato puree, salt, and sugar. Mix, cover with lid, and turn down the heat to medium low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes while stirring occasionally.

Your caviar is ready to eat as is (that is what I did) or refrigerate for a few hours (or overnight) before serving with your choice of bread!

Note: I tried an online recipe much like this one (no tomato puree) about a year ago and loved it, but I misplaced the recipe, so this time I made it from memory and it still tasted delicious. A lot of the recipes you will find are either pureed to a paste or a lot chunkier, but I like making mine with minced/diced vegetables so that it can evenly be spread on the wheat bread we have at home.

Cooking Time: 60 minutes
Serving Size: 4  people

Vegan Carrot Cinnamon Cake

**I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com according to what local Indian ingredients are available and take into account my family’s food preferences. This delicious recipe is super simple to make and very moist to eat. It doesn’t require frosting and can be gobbled up in a matter of minute!**

This is a Vegan, Vegetarian, Egg-Less Recipe!

Ingredients:

Ingredients for Vegan Carrot Cinnamon Cake

carrot cake ingredients

5 carrots finely grated
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal
3/4 Tbsp cinnamon powder
3/4 cup hot water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/8 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 180 degrees Celsius). Prepare a greased baking pan (I used 3 small bread loaf pans).

How To Make Vegan Carrot Cinnamon Cake

dry and wet mixtures

In a mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: whole wheat flour, cinnamon powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl, soak flax seed meal in the hot water until it absorbs the water, then add sugar and vanilla essence.

Vegan Carrot Cinnamon Cake Batter

ready to bake!

When sugar has melted, add grated carrots and almonds. Now add dry mixture to this wet carrot mixture and pour into baking pan.

Baking Vegan Carrot Cinnamon Cake

bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius

Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the cake is cooked properly in the center.

Sliced Vegan Carrot Cinnamon Cake

sliced and ready to gobble up!

Let it cool before slicing, and it’s ready to eat!

Note: I halved the original recipe, which also suggests eating this with frosting but I found it sweet enough on its own. It was gobbled up in a matter of minutes!

Cooking Time: 60 minutes
Serving Size: 10-12 people

Writing Piece: Simplicity

November 22, 2015

**I found this little gem I wrote as a sophomore in high school and it resonates with who I am and want to be. Although my life is nowhere as carefree as it was back then, I think the true goal of “voluntary simplicity” is a high and virtuous art of living!**


Simplicity

My life is simpler than most people would prefer.  People would say I am very lazy, but it just turns out that I like to sit around at home doing what I call “nothing” all day.  My hobbies and routine fit perfectly with my way of life as well.  I am not in the least fond of shopping, computers, using cell phones, etc… and would rather spend that time watching television, reading books, eating, and sleeping.  I prefer to have as much free time as possible, instead of cluttering my schedule with classes one after the other.  As I become stressed very easily, I find no need to strain myself with things that don’t interest me.

I strongly believe that one’s lifestyle is heavily dependent on how he is raised in his childhood.  Coincidentally for me, my life has never consisted of too much busyness. As a child, my parents encouraged me to take a few classes in Japan and New York but they never interfered with my daily life.  Now, I don’t take any classes, other than joining a few after-school clubs.

I have stayed at relatives’ houses over a period of time on numerous occasions and I find their lives too fast for me.  My cousins have to run from one place to another, and literally fall asleep before their head even touch the pillow because they are so exhausted from the day.  I quickly become worried for most of the day for no apparent reason and am aggravated when put into this atmosphere.  Being a perfectionist, I find myself troubled about everything as it feels like I have no time to breathe once in-between activities.

If someone were to ask if my life could be any simpler, my answer would be absolutely not.  However, if asked what I could do to less simplify my life, I wouldn’t mind taking a few classed, the way I did several years ago, but nothing more.  I like the way my like has shaped up and find no reason to burden myself with clutter so early in life, as I will have to go through more hardships in college and later on in life.  Some people choose to adopt the lifestyle of “voluntary simplicity” and I am one of them.

UV Resin Craft: Name Charms

November 21, 2015

IMG-20150703-WA006I came across UV Resin Craft for the first time when I walked into Tokyu Hands and came upon their big counter display that looked both interesting, beautiful, and (shock!) doable. I didn’t end up buying anything from there initially, but did cave in and buy some supplies when I saw they were available at Daiso for only ¥100! I just couldn’t resist trying this fun project out!

UV Resin involves lots of hand eye coordination and working with tiny materials. It took ages (and hours of YouTube how-to-make videos), but I had fun making my first charm, and the results when I cured the resin under sunlight weren’t bad at all. Realizing I could experiment more, I decided to go back and buy a wider variety of material from both Daiso and Tokyu Hands (maybe not the best idea because I haven’t used 90% of those materials in the past 5 months).

Anyway, since these UV Resin Charms look soo cute, I decided to make and gift one each for my younger cousins who are 11 years and 9 years old. I wanted to make them something personalized, so I decided to put their names on the charms and try to incorporate fun elements into the design. It took me a few sunny days to complete them, as I kept retouching them until I was satisfied, but they turned out much better than I had ever imagined in the end! The photographs I took of them before presenting it to the girls were pretty awesome too!

What do you think?

elevator-up-button-1024x440Using the elevator isn’t as easy as it sounds. Elevator logic and etiquette are actually rather complex and forever changing, and you suddenly realize (if you’re anything like me) that a day doesn’t go by when you’re not annoyed at somebody’s behavior or mannerisms while riding the elevator that day. It’s not like lifts have directions or a how to manual that everyone is required to read. Neither does it have visual diagrams that illiterate people can use to understand how to use this machinery. On top of that, using an elevator is not taught at primary school as an essential life skill, unfortunately.

I’ve really gotten used to the non-uniformity in elevator practices among riders, but it hasn’t escaped my critical eye. I feel like today’s blog post has been waiting to be written for about 10 years now. Well, at least I finally got around to it!

I feel like its commonplace for myself and other people to make occasional mistakes while riding an elevator and getting embarrassed over our actions. However, I believed these mistakes were a rare occurrence while I was growing up. But when I moved to India, the ratio of clueless elevator riders seems to exponentially increase. (Is this why buildings still have a liftwala to guide you?) Unfortunately, since I’ve been living in India, the error in people’s thinking and ways is all-too-evident to see.  Whether it is getting on the lift without paying attention to the direction it is going in, forgetting to press the button for which floor you’re intending to get to, or not pressing the appropriate ‘up’ or ‘down’ key when calling the elevator to you, elevators are contraptions used to serve knowledgeable and ignorant folks alike.

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So let me just cut to the chase –  it doesn’t matter where the lift is at that point in time, whether you press the ‘up’ or ‘down’ button is very straightforward. If you would like the elevator to take you up to a higher floor – press the ‘up’ arrow. Even if the elevator is already on a higher floor and needs to come down to get you, you simply need to press the direction button for where you want to go. The elevator doesn’t need to be told how to act, you need to feed it information on where you want to go and it’s up to the machine to figure out how to do it. And if you want the elevator to take you down to a lower floor – press the ‘down’ arrow. Regardless of whether it is already on a lower floor and needs to come up to pick you up and take you back down, you simply inform the lift through the ‘down’ button that you’re destination is below you’re current location.

Related Sites:

How to Operate an Elevator and Make the World a Better Place (disorganisationguru.com)
How to Use an Elevator (katyjane.wordpress.com)
Nudging to choose elevator arrows correctly (mostlyeconomics.wordpress.com)
Going up in the world? Why where you stand in the lift reflects your social status (www.dailymail.co.uk)
How to use an elevator… this is silly but plz help? (in.answers.yahoo.com)
How to Ride an Elevator (www.wikihow.com)