Look what the Dork (Doggy Stork) brought….

It’s a Girl!

And she blogs!

Meet Zara, the newest addition to my family 🙂

Woof goes the Beagle

It was a long ride to my new home … but I finally got there.

First thing I did was to check out the facilities.

Darn!

They had to put the plants up where I couldn’t reach them, didn’t they.

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I’m sure I’ll figure something out eventually.

I must say that car rides can be so tiring. So it was good that Ave had my crate all set up and ready. But there was a bear living in it and we hadn’t even been introduced. So I slept outside.

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I also got to choose from a range of cuddlies.

The rabbit seemed the most chewable with those lovely long ears. Though I would have preferred her slow braised with a side of carrots.

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I think I spoke out too loud!

Because the next thing I got was… you guessed it…

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I’m Back!

After a very long hiatus and I’ve finally decided to revisit the place that started me of on my food blogging journey. I may not be as regular as I’d like to be but I’ll try and post as often as I can. Here’s a shout out to Rhonda Sittig from http://thethankfulheart.wordpress.com who wrote in to check if I was still blogging on my other website. Thanks for your thoughtfulness Rhonda. I’ll be dropping by your blog as soon as possible. Hope you are well?

And to my fellow bloggers and all those who’ve continued to follow me here. Here’s to you all…I’m happy to be back 🙂

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know I’ve gone on record saying that I don’t quite care for chocolate chips. And it was true… up until I saw these little babies staring up at me one day and this recipe took shape.

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It’s simple, it’s scrumptious and the best part is that these cookies are perfectly bite sized.

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Here are the ingredients –

3/4 cup A. P. flour

1/4 cup butter (softened)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup baby white chocolate chips

1/4 cup dried cranberries (chopped and steeped overnight in 2 tablespoons white rum)

1 small egg

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon mixed spice

Get a medium sized bowl and cream the butter and sugar. Add the beaten egg, vanilla, salt, mixed spice and combine by folding the ingredients together. Add in the chocolate chips and cranberries and fold in. Finally add the flour that has been sifted with the baking powder and fold to combine.

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Refrigerate the cookie dough for about 10 to 15 minutes while you preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and line your cookie trays with parchment.

I wanted small bite sized cookies ( I got 14 cookies from this recipe which I halved from my original recipe), so I used a tablespoon to measure out the dough-balls…

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Bake the cookies for about 15 to 18 minutes till the bottoms begin to brown and the tops of the cookies get a touch of colour…

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Transfer the cookies onto a wire rack and let them cool completely before digging in…

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And since they were so perfectly sized I didn’t feel guilty eating more than one 🙂

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It’s not Blurry any more… and a Couple of Blog Awards

It started getting blurry a while back. Yeah… old age can bring great misery if you don’t smack it on the back, sit it down, pour it a nice stiff Scotch on the rocks and make it your best bud… Or at least your drinking companion till the bottles don’t run dry 😉

I have presbyopia. Nothing to be alarmed by. It’s just one of those things that guarantees you admittance into the 40+ league of which I’m a proud member. It sort of says, “Yup, you’re here, like it or not… so suck it up and put those darn glasses on a cord around your neck please”.

I started wearing reading glasses about a year and a half ago, more off than on and suffered the consequences of not having them around my neck when I’ve needed them most. I read a lot and my laptop works as office, library and entertainment centre rolled into one on most days. Then one morning the old glasses stopped working like they were meant to. The distance between the screen and my eyes crept up to 30 inches or more and started increasing steadily. The font on my phone was set to max and was still a blur. I’d wake up, brush my teeth, fix my coffee, and on days when I did get the newspaper pick it up, and just look at the headlines and the pictures. Not that I was missing much by not going through the fine print anyway… So I did away with the morning paper.

But there was still the laptop to negotiate, and I couldn’t do away with it. So I hauled myself off to the ophthalmologist for a check-up and yeah, no surprises there, my number had increased. Now I have new glasses and with them on, the writing on the screen’s pretty clear. The doctor did add that I have great distance vision (for someone my age) and absolutely no other issues with my eyes. So my glasses are perched halfway down my nose as I write this, the frames a dark sap green.

Which brings me to another thing I’ve been putting off for ages… passing on Blog Awards that my fellow bloggers have been generous enough to nominate me for. In my defence I guess I could say that I’ve been in a state of flux over the last few months, that I’ve been travelling and that I simply haven’t had the time. But I shouldn’t procrastinate any longer. After all I owe it to the kind people out there who’ve nominated me to pay it forward at the very least.

And now on to the first thing about Blog Awards which is thanking the Bloggers who’ve nominated me and linking back to their sites. So I’d like to thank Kate from http://thecosycreative.wordpress.com/ for her Easter surprise when she nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award last month.

And Jen from http://lovefoodcookfood.com/ who nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award also in April.

 

Thanks Kate and Jen for your thoughtful gifts 🙂

Now… to be honest I’m a bit confused about the rules of the Kreativ Blogger Award since I couldn’t find them on Kate’s blog… and that just means one thing. Ditch the rules and enjoy the award, which is precisely what I’m going to do, and pass it on to a few great blogs that I’ve had the good fortune of visiting.

Oh…by the way… there should and would have been more nominees per award, but I’ve not been active with follows, something I hope to remedy soon. But I’d rather not procrastinate any longer, these awards are just itching to go out. So in the spirit of paying it forward, I’ll nominate three blogs per award.

And they are –

For the Kreativ Blogger Award

1.http://arignagardener.wordpress.com/

2. http://keepinitkind.com/

3. http://whataboutthepie.wordpress.com/

And the nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award are –

1. http://stirandstitch.wordpress.com/

2. http://perisspiceladle.com/

3. http://filingawaycupcakes.wordpress.com/

Do drop by all these incredible blogs… They are well worth not just a visit… but a ‘Follow’ as well, if you aren’t already following them.

Have a great weekend… and yeah I suppose I ought to try knitting myself a nice, happy, multicoloured cord for my glasses just so that I manage to keep my number in check. I doubt the binocular look would be flattering… not on me.

Have got to learn to knit first 😉

Window Bird-watching and Spinach Frittatas

I woke up to the happy chirping of birds outside my window this morning, and the lingering smell of paint. My bird-book packed away against the dust (you’ve got to read my previous posts to know what I’m talking about) I can’t identify most of them except for the obvious, the kites, ravens, crows, pigeons, and sparrows, all speaking their own languages, and sharing space, as the Lord intended. The sparrows chirping out their greetings have been scarce this time, who knows why, but the mynahs have been creating a racket, adding to the constant cooing of pigeons which abound, much to my dismay. The odd Asian Koel or two settle down amidst the leaves of the tree, some brave enough to perch on the barren branches of the tree across my window whose only reason for being, its status as favoured bird sunning spot, its long claw like branches soaring heavenward, serving as a perch for its feathered visitors who drop by faithfully every morning, in their myriad sizes and hues.

A curious crow strikes a pose for the camera and a parakeet drops by, just to check on the painters doing their work. Then there’s also a ringed parrot which drops by every alternate day. I think the parakeet and he or she take it in turns to show up. One not wanting to upstage the other I suppose, in some screech or squawk code that I would not be able to decipher.  

“They aren’t in yet. They come in at 10” I yell out to my green visitor, the parakeet, who stopped by this morning, with his red beak and long blue tail, as he squawks and flies off.

The kingfisher usually camera shy, sits on a wire a safe distance away. Today he perches on the tree. An early bird, he’s up before the sun starts its climb up from the horizon, staring into the distance, his vividness dulled by the limitations of a tiny camera, and a sun that hasn’t yet risen.

But the White-browed Wagtails pop by every now and then, hopping about before the fierce sun compels them to seek refuge amidst the larger branches of some densely foliated tree. And then there are the others, the red vented Bulbuls, a friend and I had nicknamed the Elvis birds, and what looks like a Tailor-bird with its long slightly curved beak, and the green Bee-eaters, with their exquisite colouring and long needle like tail extensions, their rudder against the air currents.

Speaking of birds, I’m a bit wary of the larger ones, the kites who soar majestically in the sky, and who I secretly admire, and the ravens, the variety of crows with their wings flapping menacingly close, with talons and beaks that can rip and tear. Whoever said that fear was an irrational emotion needs to have his head shrunk. There’s absolutely nothing irrational about a bunch of ravens swooping down and trying to scalp you one tiny bit at a time. So yeah, I’m wary of large, big-beaked birds, and I hold du Maurier and Alfie responsible. Ol’ Daph if I may take the liberty to refer to her as such, wowed me with Rebecca. Such an easy read for a young voracious reader, it had none of the jargon that many writers employ to impress their verbal prowess on their readers. No frequent visits to the dictionary or the use of a guide, like I was compelled to use the first time I read Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, or should I say ‘attempted to read’, when I was still in school. Silly me! But Rebecca was a joy, and I consumed it from cover to cover, feeling her overpowering presence in the room as I read through, wondering if she was watching me, her presence all too real. I ultimately did manage to re-read Ulysses in its entirety several years later, with some degree of understanding I hope, but that’s another story.

So birds bring to mind Daphne du Maurier, and Hitchcock, who found her work so compelling, he made three of them into films. ‘Birds’ scarring a couple of generations, creating an aura of dread around ravens and crows, with a terrified Tippi Hedren cowering as those big black flapping beasts tried to gouge her eyes out.    

Given my fear you’d expect me to avoid our feathered friends all together, so it is a bit odd that I would count bird-watching as a hobby. But it is a truly fascinating activity, one I discovered twelve years ago, all thanks to a friend I met on the meditation trail. A gentle soul, Toni advised me on which books to buy, and took me through the paces. Generous enough to commend my sharp eyesight as being better than her field-glasses at spotting details, she would often ask me to verify the striations or the hints of coloured crown or neck or underbelly. Toni passed away from cancer a few years ago, her tryst with the disease thankfully short, her numerous postcards of stained glass windowed cathedrals from places she visited around the world a reminder of how fortunate I was to have known such a wonderful soul.

So the birds chirrup and chirp and caw and squawk and hoot and gurgle, and trill excitedly when the sun comes up each morning before the city awakens and the raucousness of the day drowns out their voices. And a tiny baby owl pops out from under the rafters of the old printing press in front of my window a short distance away, but too far for me to get a clear shot. A crow doing a couple of sorties, curious at this plump little morsel that suddenly materialized out of nowhere, and then curiosity satisfied or fearing Mama Owl lurking somewhere, flew off. The baby, popped back under the rafters, then stepped out again, in what I would like to think was a bit of gauntlet throwing down, and finding the crow gone hopped back up.

What a hoot!

Two coffees downed I figured I should get brunch going before the painters turned up. After a couple of days of boiled egg and bread breakfasts I felt like I had earned my lavish eggy feast…

A Spinach Frittata with Grilled Tomatoes.

Limited choices make for simple, speedy and very tasty decisions.

Here are the ingredients –

4 eggs

2 loosely packed cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped

One large clove of garlic, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon salt

2 chillies (I used 1 green and 1 red, just for colour)

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (more if you want it cheesy)

2 tomatoes cut down the middle… for grilling

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

My oven packed away, I had to cook this on the stove top. But I covered the pan with a tiny wok like utensil called a kadhai, which fit snugly over the egg pan. This is a super easy recipe. All it entailed was whipping up three of the eggs, folding in the spinach and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan (leave a little for later), before adding the garlic, chillies and salt. I couldn’t seem to find my pepper mill, so left it out of this recipe, but a twist or two of freshly milled white pepper (or black if you like) would be lovely, without overpowering the spinach which I wanted coming through.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and the same amount of butter into the pan, swirling it around, before adding in the egg mix.

Keeping the heat low throughout the cooking process, whip up the fourth egg with a tiny pinch of salt and the rest of the Parmesan and pour it over the already cooking eggs.

Cover the eggs with the kadhai and cook/bake for 5 – 7 minutes. Remove the lid and flip the Frittata over for that lovely golden crust.

kadhai covered…

Serve with grilled tomatoes, or anything you fancy. I chose to go with grilled tomatoes and decided to share it with a friend.

What a delightful way to start the day.

 

If it’s Tuesday Orange Pancakes, and a doze of ethics

The Tuesday just before the Lenten season begins with its prayer, fasting and reflection on our humanness, and of being dust and returning to being one with it, has been and will always be synonymous with… Pancakes!

I’m talking crêpes, the thin, curled at the edges kind of pancakes I grew up eating every Pancake or Shrove Tuesday from the time I could eat solid food. But now my kitchen’s been laid siege to, ambushed by a couple of painters who are trying their best to overcome their natural instinct to dawdle and still do their work with a smile, while nodding sagely at every comment I make or fault I point out, and then promptly forgetting it the next moment. But they’re a nice twosome. The older one with his collection of racy Bollywood songs on full volume and a mobile phone with 3G on cricket match days so he can watch the Indian cricket team lose to Australia and then to Sri Lanka in the tri-series during his break, lamenting loudly whenever the home-team drops a catch or loses a wicket. The younger one, eager to move on as he told me yesterday, and away from a career in house painting to start a food stall selling fried batter coated spicy potato balls called batata (potato) vadas. 

They work in tandem to get the job done these two and they’re not bad. Better than most I’ve encountered before them, they get through their day cracking the odd joke or two, sans any protective gear against the acridness of the primer they apply to the walls, or from the dust they inhale from sandpapering the walls. They’re simple folk, the older one hasn’t been to school, taking up jobs within a certain radius of his home because he cannot read the destination on the bus, even when its written in the vernacular. But he’s happy that I understand and attempt to speak his language, even though my attempts are at best atrocious.

I should inform you now that India is a country where hundreds of different languages and dialects are spoken, so it’s impossible to know them all. That said, it pays to know the local lingo, howsoever broken your attempt may be. So I pop by every now and then and engage in banter with the guys. It helps get the job done.

My kitchen still needs a couple of coats on the highlight wall, a brilliant yellow, but they ran out of colour… again. I’m planning to have a couple of words with the painting contractor when he drops by next, but given that he did that with my bedroom as well, it seems like the norm. The concept of ethics when it comes to work is still a very niche concept in India, with customer service way down the pecking order of things. ‘You want, you buy, and you shut up’ the mantra, or, perhaps it’s… ‘I’m working isn’t it, so what’cha cribbing about’.

A school friend who now lives in Canada and works as a physiotherapist there, once complained about the patients at the hospital where she worked. Many of them on state sponsored medical care, they cribbed about the wait and the quality of treatment, and just about everything else, she said. Those were the moments she thought most of home. Of having to wait hours in the waiting room of a doctor’s clinic, despite paying an average of 200$ US per visit, for just for a 5 minute consultation. No chance of reclaiming your money unless there’s something seriously wrong with you which warrants surgery. Then you can add that tab to your Medi-claim bill, cross you fingers and send up a prayer to the Lord that the doctor spelled your name right, and hope that the consultation fee was for something related directly to that surgical procedure. ‘Proximate cause’ and all that spiel.

Medical Insurance is big business in India, and human life here (and I suppose in many countries around the world), cheap and dispensable, not to mention that we’re all potential cash cows. So you better take that medical insurance policy, pay your yearly premiums and hope and pray that you don’t need to use it. The government does precious little apart from implementing new schemes mostly in rural areas for the economically deprived, most of which are prone to misuse and abuse from within that hallowed bunch of government servants themselves. Can you imagine one woman delivering eight babies in a five year period and we’re not talking multiple births. Now where are those Guinness Record guys when you need them. So the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) gets scammed of hundreds of thousands of rupees, with fake birth claims and cataract operations on non existent patients, and my medical insurer loads my premium when I put forth a claim for money already paid for an essential surgical procedure. That, when the amount I have claimed is less than half the amount I’m insured for. I wonder if it happens around the world, but I’m really peeved with my insurer. So I’m increasingly on my knees praying to the Lord to keep me healthy. I just hope I don’t need to get my knee-caps replaced.

Speaking of prayer, I started this post with pancakes. So yesterday once the painters had left for the day I managed to reclaim part of my kitchen and whipped up a tiny batch of pancakes. I couldn’t let the day go by without at least trying to whip up a couple even though my kitchen was quite bare. Rather than stress myself out, I decided to go with what I had instead of griping about what I didn’t. And I ended up with a delightfully light and tiny, but extremely delicious batch of Orange Pancakes. All it took was some self-rising flour, an egg, orange juice and yoghurt instead of milk. I added in a little nutmeg, grating it on the edge of a serrated knife, and a little sugar (just about a teaspoon) to counter the acidity from the citrus. The next time I make these I’ll zest the orange as well, but the zester was packed away.

Batter meets butter...

I love crisping up my pancake at the edges, so they don’t just look like they have a frilly edging of a different colour, but the texture provides a lovely contrast to the softness of the pancake. Then place some cut segments of a lovely plump orange all along the centre, before drizzling over some condensed milk.

My mum’s Pancake Tuesday pancakes are filled with sweet and juicy grated coconut with raisins, with a touch of rose water and cardamom. So these pancakes are a departure from tradition as I know it, but they were delicious nevertheless.

Paint Update: They’re still not done with the kitchen, and I’ve plateaued as far as take out goes. Another bite shall make me… I’m not saying the word. After all, this is primarily a food blog.

Have a holy Lenten season.

Dust, Paint, Basic Dining and a 2nd Liebster

I’m having my house painted which means that my kitchen is not just out of commission, it’s out of bounds. But this is India improved, so what used to be a 25 day job, 10 years ago, has thankfully come down to 15, give or take a couple.

I’m hedging my bets on give by-the-way, with a silent prayer to the good lord of the kitchen. Withdrawal symptoms can be a female dog with a bad attitude. (Gee Ma, why did you have to fine us every-time we used a cuss word when we were little. It’s cramped my vocabulary for life, not to mention that I’m compelled to use six words when one succinctly stated one would have done the job most effectively.

Mothers!

My house is coated in a fine powdery dust from all the scraping, not to mention that awful smell of primer that goes on to the walls, getting your throat all itchy. Thank heavens for Hot Toddy, glugged by the tiny mug-full every evening, and big airy windows that send in gusts of cool breeze. The only down side to all that lovely breeze being corners, not to forget the appliances and other little things the infernal dust manages to find its way into, despite being covered. I’ve learned that tarpaulin, plastic sheeting and newspaper, howsoever lavishly applied, offer no protection against dust. Besides, even if you do a thorough job of cleaning, you never manage to catch all of it. The painters who clean up after their work is done for the day don’t, so I’m left vaccuming and mopping the floors twice over when they’ve left.

But I shouldn’t complain too much. I’ve had to step on their tails a bit, but they’re on point now.

Mother trained me well.

Well worn = Experience?… Hopefully

But having a kitchen out of bounds means that I’m compelled to eat take out at lunch and dinner, until my body finally rebelled and I walked out on auto-pilot down to the local veggie vendor and got myself some basic supplies. I had left out a tiny pan for frying eggs, and one saucepan along with a wooden spatula… everything else boxed away safely against that darn dust. The saucepan I used to par-boil the kernels of corn, before tossing the corn with a little olive oil, a knob of butter, some garlic and two chopped green chillies (de-seeded). Adding in the spinach, cabbage and tomato (I removed the pulpy innards ;-)) and chopping them into largish chunks, before finishing it off with some pan-fried pieces of tofu, and a sprinkling of sea salt… all in my tiny egg frying pan.

Reminded me of camp way, way back when.

A simple and light dinner for one, packed with fresh veggies and a good protein fix from all that yummy tofu.

Fresh n Basic Cooking with Crunch

How’s that for basic, fresh, wholesome and good food.

But it isn’t just the food I’m grateful for, I’ve also got to thank Beccy from A Foodies Voyage for honouring me with a 2nd Liebster Blog Award.

My mug of hot toddy runneth over and falleth to the floor, which means more cleaning ;-(… but I’m truly honoured for the mention Beccy and here’s a ‘Thank You’ coming your way with a basketful of virtual baked goodies ;-).

And now in the tradition of the Liebster Awards here are the rules…

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog. (√ check)

2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you. (√ check)

3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog. (√ check)

4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 (or 3) blogs of 200 followers or less. (√ check… I’m passing it on to 3)

5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog… (shall do so when I finish this post. First things first… right?)

I’ve got to confess that it isn’t just my stomach that’s been rebelling since the painting started, my typing fingers are a bit stiff (I’m a two finger typist/computer user), but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and having received it shall pass it on post-haste (not exactly this time around) lest the luck of the Trojans befalls me 😉

So I shall attempt to fulfil my blogging duty and pass on this award to –

1. Jillian from Whisky Drinkin’ Chimney Sweep whose blog and recipes I love… and have got to try (and I mean every single one of them yummies).

2. delicio8 who is a self confessed bad-ass… don’t believe me? Check out her blog, where she admits that she’s ‘bad to the bone and sweet to the tooth’. Now that’s a person I identify with.

3. Angela or Los Angelas (her blog moniker) as she’s also called from Up close in my world, who puts together a real treat in her photo n food blog, while her cat mews in appreciation.

These are my three chosen blogs, amidst the scores of other fantastic blogs I’ve been so very lucky to read, follow and adore. I wish them all, and these three blogs in particular the very best till I return to my kitchen, and life as I would like it to be.

So here’s the night-sky from my window, with the stars twinkling…

twinkle… twinkle…

Have a fabulous weekend… and see you soon.