Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Law of Attraction, Hope and staying Positive

I am hopelessly in love with the concept of the Law of Attraction. As a schoolgirl with a very impressionable mind I happened to read a book called “Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill. At the time it was one of my dearest wishes  to see my name on a nameplate in front of a house of my own. My OWN. Reading the book inspired me to turn my wish into a goal and set my mind to achieving it. Almost as if on cue, I came across a story called “Glenna’s Goal book” in one of the Chicken Soup books. It cemented my belief that dreams are worth pursuing and when a wish becomes an obsession, life gets you to the place you want to be.
Almost like a divine hand gently guiding me to believe without question, I read this sentence in Paulo Coelho’s 'The Alchemist' -

 "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
 I don’t remember anything else about the book. But this sentence got etched in my soul. Then came The Secret. The book, the movie, the philosophy, I lapped it all up because I felt I had already seen the miracles it worked in my life. I gifted copies of the book to people I wanted to share the joy with..the joy of having discovered something that really works. I already had the house I had ardently wished for. I happily looked at the nameplate with my name on it a little longer every time I passed by it. I used affirmations religiously and whenever something positive happened, I attributed it to the Law of Attraction and the Power of Intention. I thought all goodness came from keeping a positive frame of mind and expecting good things. It all seemed perfect. Until recently.
Becoming a parent is a life changing, irreversible event. I have wanted my baby girl long before I actually had her. I remember telling my mother when I was a teenager that if at all I do marry and have a baby, I want a baby girl. When she was born, my joy knew no bounds. But the beauty of motherhood is fully enjoyable only when you have people around to help you with everything else and you just enjoy being a mother. Being a nuclear family didn’t help my cause. In between washing bucketfuls of soiled cloth nappies, lack of sleep and having to attend to other chores, moments of pure joy were few and far between. I remember crying out of exhaustion, wishing I’d  just get 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
 Just when I’d  begun to adjust to my new role as a mother, we decided it would be the best thing for our baby if I were to quit my job. My mother was a working woman. She had no choice but to go to work to provide for her children. Thanks to a supportive husband, I had a choice. I couldn’t bear the thought of staying away from my baby and miss watching her grow. I couldn’t think of leaving her with a babysitter to go to work each day with an image of her crying for me with her arms outstretched burning my soul, while I’d count hours to be back with her. So I quit my job.
Now any working woman who is good at her job will tell you, the financial independence and job satisfaction that comes from working and being good at what you do has a massive impact on self esteem. The assurance that I got from knowing my job and doing it well, the friends I had at my  workplace, the happy times I spent at work, all the new skills I gained each day, all the little fears I conquered each day and the many little challenges that I shone through..everything that made Me the person I am..all gone.
It was in these days that I tried again to reconnect with what the Law of Attraction taught me. Like attracts like. Thoughts become things. So while I coped with the challenges of getting accustomed to being a clueless first time mom and losing my identity as a financially independent, career oriented woman, I tried to apply the Law of Attraction to keep thinking positive thoughts. After a while I just gave up. It seemed like escapism to me. I could no longer replace a negative thought with a positive one. I could no longer shift my mood from unhappy to happy just by humming a tune or distracting myself by looking at something nice. Its hard to stay positive when you’re alone, listening to your baby cry for  hours and have no clue why.
The exhaustion, the worries about our future, the mood swings I had while my hormones went crazy, the unending list of chores I had to do with baby practically attached to me, the loneliness of suddenly being home alone all day with a bawling baby..all of it just sucked my energy and enthusiasm. My inability to explain to my confused better half just why I wished to simply curl up and die added to the stress. The sudden change from living a predictable, somewhat organized life to being hurled into this whole new world of being a mother, then being a full time homemaker was an emotional roller coaster.
I couldn’t see HOW I could use an affirmation like “I am a joyful person” without feeling foolish. I couldn’t add any more pictures to my scrapbook, of things I hoped to have one day. It made me feel like an idiot. When I was earning, it made more sense to hope to have that nice modular kitchen someday and paste a picture of a beautiful holiday destination. I knew it would be within reach. It all seemed like I was asking for too much now.
Yesterday I picked up The Secret again. I wanted to know if I still had a shred of belief in me that the Law of Attraction may work for me again.
The page I opened read  You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” -  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  A little hope glimmered in my heart.
I remembered a quote I read somewhere -  "When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."

Maybe it isn't time to throw away that scrapbook yet.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Veg Cheesy Pasta

Quick and Easy meal – Veg Cheesy Pasta

Anything with Cheese in it is good in my book. In my attempt to replicate the recipes of all my favorite junk foods in my own kitchen, I tried to make the kind of pasta we shell out good money for, at Pizza Hut or Dominos. Was the end result as good as their stuff? You decide! All I can say is, it was all gone soon after I served it and the dear husband says he thinks about eating this when he is at work. Now that is a good enough compliment for me!

It’s a bonus when something that tastes as good as this is quick and easy to cook, AND is quite healthy too. This pasta dish keeps me fuller for longer because of its high carbohydrate content. The milk and cheese in the recipie are good sources of protein and calcium while the other ingredients supplement this recipe with iron, folic acid, fibre and vitamin C. Besides, it is SO easy to put together.

Heres What you’ll need :-

2 cups pasta (I used fusilli)

2 tsp Olive oil

Enough water to cook pasta
onion, sliced
1/2 cup capsicum, sliced

½ cup carrots, sliced
½ cup sliced mushrooms, optional
1 cup green peas, frozen or fresh
1 cup milk (Skimmed milk works too)
cheese cubes ( you could use cheese slices if that’s what you have at hand)
2 Maggi Magic cubes or 1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp refined flour/maida (corn flour works too, if you dissolve it in some milk and use it as instructed below)
1 tsp Oregano -  This is where those little Oregano packets that I get with Pizza
 came handy
1 tsp butter
salt and black pepper powder to taste

Method :-

1.      Bring the water to a boil and add around 2 tsps of salt. Add the pasta and let it cook. I am not in favor of adding a little olive oil to the boiling water as many recipies would suggest. Pasta seemed to take on flavors better when I didn’t add oil while cooking it.

2.      You can taste the pasta to know if its done. It should be firm without a hint of rawness. This took around 15 minutes.

3.      While the pasta is cooking, you could prep the vegetables. Begin by heating 1 tsp of olive oil and sauté the onions in it till they lose the raw smell. When the onions are soft and transluscent, add the carrots and capsicum. You need these to remain crisp, so don’t cook them too much. Any other vegetables like corn, spinach can be added. Just ensure that they aren’t overcooked.

4.      Add powdered Maggi Magic cubes. If you have vegetable stock, you could use it. Maggi Magic cubes are just stock cubes.They are salty, so do taste the dish before you season it with salt.

5.      Add the milk and cheese slices/ finely chopped cheese cubes and bring to a boil. When that’s boiling, make a runny paste of 1 tsp of refined flour and water or milk. This mixture needs to be without lumps. Add this to the boiling milk and vegetables. Stir while adding so that lumps aren’t formed. 

Alternatively, you could heat a tsp of butter and add the refined flour to it. Cook it till it loses the raw smell. This is done on low heat so that the refined flour dosent burn.

6.      I have tried both, the butter-refined flour mix and the milk-refined flour mix. Flavor wise, it didn’t really make that much of a difference.
It gives the whole white sauce a thickness good enough to coat the pasta well.

7.       By now the pasta would be cooked so drain it. Add the cooked pasta in the sauce and bring to a boil. Toss the pasta well so that all of it is coated in the sauce.

  If you're not too fussy, you could top it up with some more grated cheese. Hey, you only live once!

(Note: If the pasta thickens before serving you could add a little warm milk to it.)

Gobble up!

Donuts!! Glorious DONUTS!!

I absolutely LOVE donuts. Who can resist donuts?!! And WHY would you deprive yourself of such a yummy thing? Its like biting into a soft cloud of light sweetness. With or without frosting, I could gobble them with my eyes shut even if you wake me up at 3 am. I cant rush to Mad Over Donuts whenever I feel like it. I’d shamelessly eat into my retirement savings if I were to give in to every craving like that. So whats the next best thing ? HOME MADE DONUTS, of course!
As with every dish I decide to try, I read and read and read recipies until I found the PERFECT one for me. EGGLESS. I saw a couple of recipies for Baked Donuts too..but hey, Deep fried is what I dig. Ya dig? (Sorry! Blame the sugar rush…)

Please excuse the picture quality. Either that, or gift me a nicer phone with a better camera. I cannot waste the calories I blissfully gained from these donuts on fetching the digicam, taking pics, then uploading them. Naah. I'm sorry about the weird shapes too..I just couldnt waste any of that awesome doughnut mixture! But the recipie, I promise you, is perfect. Guess what the secret ingredient is? POTATO!! YES, one mashed boiled potato gives these donuts the smooth texture you’ll love. If you haven’t worked with yeast before it could be a pain in the business end to proof the yeast..fancy way of saying that the yeast wont do what its supposed to do if you don’t treat it right. It may take a few attempts to get it right, so browse a few nice pictures of donuts to get yourself motivated to keep going..
Heres what you’ll need :-
1 1/3 cups warm milk,
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 boiled potato, mashed smooth without lumps
5 cups all-purpose flour or maida
A pinch or two of nutmeg (jaiphal), freshly grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar, powdered works better
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder

Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in a bowl. Stir in the yeast and set aside for five minutes or so. Be sure your milk isn't too hot or it will kill the yeast. Keep this bowl aside in a warm place. I placed it in an oven that was off but still warm from being used a few minutes previously.
Once the yeast-milk mixture becomes frothy, stir it alongwith the butter and sugar into the remaining cup of warm milk. With a fork, stir in flour, mashed potato, nutmeg, and salt. Knead the mixture. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth. Add milk or flour as required to get this non sticky, soft consistency. Turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead a few times and shape into a ball.
Transfer the dough to a buttered or oiled bowl, cover it with a cloth and put in a warm place. Let it rise for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on your floured countertop. I used a drinking glass to stamp out circles. Stamp out the smaller inner circles using a smaller cutter. I used the handle of a spoon used in my mixer ginder. Don’t throw away the precious bits! They can be fried just like the rest of the donuts.Cover the donuts with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.
If you are the calorie counting type, you could bake these at 170 C for around 10 minutes and get out of my face..I tried and preferred the deep fried ones instantly. Make sure that the oil isn’t too hot. You could test it by dropping a little ball of dough into the oil. It should come up to the surface fairly quickly.
Drain excess oil and while the donuts are fairly hot, dust on powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon powder or plain powdered sugar.
I couldn’t wait to eat them as soon as I could bite into them, so the cream cheese frosting never happened. If you search for frosting recipies, you’ll find many. I just loved them as they were. 
Makes 1 1/2 dozen lovely donuts.

Kubera Kolam

I recently read about “Kuber kolam”, which is a kind of floor painting or rangoli done to please Lord Kuber.

Kuber is regarded as the god of wealth in Hindu mythology. Lord Kubera is also known as the God of yakshas (savage beings). Kubera is always remembered with the goddess of 
fortune, Lakshmi. Lakshmi Kuber pooja is done on Diwali for prosperity.

It is believed that Chanting the Kuber Mantra blesses the worshipper with money and prosperity by drawing new avenues and sources of income and wealth. Mantra of Kubera helps to increase the flow of funds and the ability to accumulate wealth. It is said that One who worships lord Kubera and Goddess Lakshmi, can never fall short of money and material comforts. Auspicious dates to worship Lord Kubera is between Oct 15th to Nov 15th each year. Tuesdays and Fridays are the most auspicious days to draw the Kuber Kolam and worship Lord Kuber.
I managed to get myself an idol of him from e bay some days after I drew the Kolam. He looks quite like your friendly Laughing Buddha with his pot belly. His face has quite a stern look though, as I would imagine anyone guarding massive wealth would have on their face. (I hope I’m not offending him! God knows I cant afford to!)

Kuber Kolam

Kuber Yantra

 I read several articles and decided I should try drawing the Kolam myself. So on a Friday alongwith my regular little prayer ritual I drew the Kolam with rice flour. I wrote the numbers as required and placed a coin in each square. The value of the coin  should face the number in the square. I applied kumkum on each coin and placed some flower petals on each coin. Ideally red flowers should be used but I didn’t have any on hand. Then after lighting the lamp and burning incense, I prayed that I may be forgiven if I have not done everything as it should be done. I expressed gratitude for everything, all the goodness my life already offers and then chanted the a Mantra 11 times.
Om Shreem Om Hreem Shreem Hreem Kleem Shreem Kleem Vitteswaraay Namah"
Meanings: Shreem for Lakshmi (love, beauty, health, prosperity), Hreem for Great Goddess/Sun (illumination/dispel illusion), kleem for Kama/Krishna (love and fulfiller of desires from material to moksha, where your intention is) and Vitteswaraay (Kubera) Lord Kuber, the lord of riches and wealth.

Once the this is done, the coins can be kept safe for the next time it is to be used.
For the longest time I had stopped lighting the lamp and spending some time in prayer. I grew up watching my mother remembering God in her casual conversations but never lighting the lamp at the altar at home so I guess I followed the same. Its only recently in a desperate attempt to be free of the worries that were getting to me, that I cleaned the dusty little temple and all the idols in it. I lit the lamp, prayed for a while and felt a sense of peace descend upon me.
To each his own, I say. Sometimes instead of questioning why as a Hindu I have a multitude of Gods I can pray to, I just like to surrender thoughtlessly. I find peace in some rituals.

No matter which religion you follow, what rituals you do, FAITH is all that matters.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rajma Urad Curry

Stove Top Tandoori Roti  & Rajma Urad Curry

I get bored of eating the same few dishes day after day, dont you? We are blessed with the internet, an amazing resource for every imaginable recipie, so I hardly have any excuse to get my lazy butt off the couch and try cooking some new dish when I get bored of the dal-roti-sabzi routine.With the luxury of my darling husband keeping my little girl entertained, I manage to get the time and peace to try a new recipie. I thought I should share the joy, because the end result was just super yummy, dhaba style!!

(PS: Sorry I dont have step by step pics, this wasnt intended to be a cookery blog so I didnt plan on it.)

Rajma Urad Curry

1 cup rajma (kidney beans)
1/2 cup urad dal
1 large onion, chopped
1 chopped tomato
4 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon butter or cream
salt to taste
1 inch piece ginger, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chilly powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tbsps Fresh Cream


1. Soak the rajma overnight, urad dal for 3-4 hours.Cook it in the pressure cooker until mushy. 5 whistles did it for me.I used a hand blender to mash it further.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee,or oil, if youre watching the calories (get a life!!!). Fry the chopped onion till transluscent. Add the ginger and garlic mince and fry till slightly brown.Add the chopped tomato and cook until it gets a pasty texture.

3. Add the coriander powder and fry till its brown.Then add turmeric powder,chilly powder and stir the mixture till  all the spices have blended well. Be careful not to burn the chilly powder.

4. Add the mashed dal to the masala paste and blend well. Add garam masala and salt to taste. I usually dont fry garam masala with all the other spices.The dish tastes better this way. Let the mixture boil for a couple of minutes. You could add water to achieve the consistency you prefer.

5. Add a generous tablespoon or two of cream after you take the dish off the heat.This just gives the curry a silky, heavenly texture :-)

Dig right in!!

We had this with my version of Tandoori roti. I love tandoori roti and have always wished I could make it at home. Some fine day I WILL have a big tandoor in a huge, spacious designer kitchen which is a part of a huge, spacious, well furnished, luxurious, centrally air conditioned home equipped with the biggest entertainment center, a nice library and a cozy Lazyboy...sigh!!

For now, I'll just go with making Tandoori Rotis on the stove top. I read a few recipies on the internet and I must tell you, I have SUCH a problem following instructions obediently. I end up giving every recipie my own twist. So this recipie for Tandoori roti is a blend of some methods I read and what I saw on the show "Highway on My Plate". Its not an authentic Tandoori Roti Recipie. But then, STOVE TOP Tandoori Roti isnt very authentic is it?!

But thats the subject for another post. Maybe. Cant promise..