Sunday Short Stack

I love Sunday breakfast with my hunny!!  We kept it classic and just did pancakes and bacon.  I’m pretty picky about pancakes-they have to be fluffy and light.  I’ve got the perfect recipe for the fluffiest pancakes ever!  I’ve been making them this way for years and have never had a bad batch.

What you need:

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter, melted

I don’t know many people who just have buttermilk on hand.  So here’s how you make it = mix the milk and white vinegar together and let sit for 5 minutes, voila!  You have buttermilk!

During that 5 minutes, mix your dry ingredients together.

Once the milk is done transforming, mix in the egg and butter.  Then mix together the wet and the dry ingredients.  It should be a thick consistency.

Heat the stove to somewhere between medium and low heat.  Nice and slow is the trick with pancakes.  I see some people crank the heat up and the outside of the pancake cooks too fast so it doesn’t have a chance to get fluffy.

Once you pour your batter on the skillet, just wait for the bubbles to appear.  Once you see those flip the pancake over and leave it alone.  Don’t move it around, don’t lift it up, and for Pete’s sake don’t tap the top of it with your spatula!

(FYI – my batter is thicker so you won’t see as many bubbles as you would with a thinner batter, but this picture below shows the bubbles as they start to appear.)

 

Just watch the sides of the pancake, the whole thing will lift and when you see the sides looking done, place it in a dish.  Look at mine…see how thick and fluffy!!

Patience is key here.  When the pancake cooks slow it allows all the gas to release and fluff up the pancake.  What you end up with is light airy goodness!

Sometimes I add a little vanilla and cinnamon, or white chocolate and strawberries.  This is the standard pancake and you can add anything you like to it.  Blueberries, chocolate chips, nuts, anything!

Don’t forget your bacon!  We just seasoned ours with black pepper and red pepper flakes.  We makes ours in the oven to cut down on the mess.  We set the oven to 350 degrees and make a little foil basket in a cookie sheet to catch the grease.  If you like your bacon crispy but soft too, this is a great way to make it.  We just stick them in before we make pancakes and they’re done by the time we’re done.  Once you pull the bacon off just let the foil basket sit there and cool off.  Once the grease hardens crumple up the foil and toss it!  Easy peasy!

Positive State of Mind

This was in my fortune cookie today and I wanted to share it with you guys.  I think it is so important to count your blessings everyday.  This is a habit I’ve had since my college years.  Each day I like to think of things that I am thankful for and it always puts me in the right state of mind to have a great day.  When I start my days in a positive frame of mind, it usually stays that way.

I’d like for you guys to think  of things that you are grateful for and list them.  Not things like cars, malls, or jeans.  Dig deep and find out what you truly cannot live without and feel so blessed to have.

For me it’s:

  • family
  • my home (not house)
  • my beautiful son who is so healthy and strong (hasn’t been sick once!)
  • affection/support/love/friendship from my husband
  • all the support in my life from friends or family
  • my mother-in-law who takes care of my son-because of that I can work and pursue my dreams, who teaches him our language and sings religious songs to him, who keeps him safe and loved all day long…I can’t be grateful enough for this wonderful woman
  • my mother who keeps me company on my boring drive to work, always gives me wonderful advice, and has my back no matter what, the one person in my life besides my husband who has NEVER lied to me.
  • my brother and sister-in-law who have really been there.  I know they would drop anything to help me and now that I’m not living near them anymore they take care of Mom and Dad.
  • I could go on and on…with several years of practice, I’ve got a pretty long list.

Sometimes it might seem silly to throw in a positive, but it really helps build perspective.  So sometimes while I’m cutting someone’s hair I think ‘Gosh my back really hurts from doing this all day.’ and then I immediately think ‘Thank God I have hands to cut and create with!’  And then the backache doesn’t seem so important anymore.  Each time we have a negative in our path, there is always a positive reason it is there.  Let your negatives lead you to positives and thus lead you to a treasure trove of things to be grateful for!  Next time you find yourself complaining and painting yourself as a victim, stop and think and find the positive.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken – Vegetarian Substitute Tofu

 

If you’ve never tried Indian food, this is a good place to start.  Butter chicken is one of my favorite dishes.  It is so decadent and really very bad for you, but so so delicious.  There’s ways you can cut back on the fat and calories, but it just won’t taste as good!

My crock pot broke 😦 so I wasn’t able to make this with step by step pictures as per usual.  If you don’t have a crock pot you can make this on the stove and just simmer for a while.  The flavor really matures over time, but it will still taste good either way you do it.
This isn’t entirely from scratch, but it is the easiest way to do it at home.

Here’s what you need:

4-6 boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil

Stir fry these ingredients on medium heat until the chicken has some color and the onion is translucent. Then pour entire contents of pan into crock pot.

Then add:

15 cardamom pods (we just eat these, but if you don’t just put them in some cheesecloth)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp curry paste (like Patak’s hot curry paste)
1 tsp red chili powder (optional)
2 tsp tandoori masala
1 tsp garam masala
8 oz (?) of heavy cream or milk (you can use coconut milk, but that makes it Thai!)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 5.5 fl oz can of tomato paste
Salt/Pepper to taste

Throw all of that into your crock pot and mix gently.  Set it to high for 4-6hours or medium for 6-8 hours.
Serve it with some rice or naan.  I have a good recipe for home made naan without a tandoor!  Ours tastes just like the restaurant kind!  I’ll give you that recipe soon.

 

A couple of notes from the chef 🙂

If you have Indian spices at home use those to customize this dish.  If you like more of certain flavors.  The ingredients I listed make this dish less complicated and more user friendly.  If you aren’t used to cooking with Indian spices, it can be intimidating until you learn them and figure out what each one adds to the dish.  You should be able to find the things I listed here in the international aisle.

Also feel free to increase the amounts of curry powder or curry paste.  2 tsp is really very little, usually I am putting spices in by the tablespoons.

Another thing that really adds to the flavor is using bone in chicken and getting it cut so that the marrow is exposed.  The marrow darkens the gravy and just adds a nice flavor to it.

For vegetarians just add in tofu where there’s chicken!  Simple!  You should probably saute the onion and garlic before you add in the tofu because tofu doesn’t take long to brown.

If you have any questions, feel free to write me.  If you end up making it please tell me about your experience!

 

 

Pinterestpiration

I was browsing Pinterest the other night and stumbled upon this tutorial:

 

 

Here is my attempt:

Not only was it super easy, but I’ve been getting tons of compliments.  It looks way harder than it is and when you see the tutorial images you realize just how simple it is.

I used some new China Glaze Neons and the glitter on my ring finger is OPI from the Muppet Collection.  It probably won’t last very long since my hands are constantly in water at the salon.  Maybe next time I will seal it with my gel top coat.  Worth a try!  Get into the neon trend, it’s so fun to look at!  My nails have been cheering me up!

Looking for a really good top coat? – use Seche Vite!  It is so so shiny and makes the color really pop!  It also distracts from minor imperfections because of the high gloss.  What are some nail trends you’re into?

Hugs from Beyond

My Grandfather passed away the year I met my husband.  And just like that the relationship was reincarnated.  Read about that here:  A Lesson in Value

Here’s a moment in my life I hold very close to my heart.

When I was about 1 years old, my Dada (that’s what I call him) came to live with us.  At first it was just a visit, but I missed him so much when he left that he ended up coming back and never leaving.  That decision changed my life forever.

Growing up with Dada was such a blessing.  He was calm and collected, intelligent, full of stories, and a gentle soul.  From him I learned the art of forgiveness, and letting things go.  He had unconditional love for us, and no matter who came to him for help and advice, he was always willing to help.  That’s how I learned about compassion.  Dada was an astrologer and a damn good one.  He’s never been wrong.  And just a few weeks before he passed away he said something to me that changed the course of my life.

Now Dada had always given me sound advice, and he seemed to always know what was going to happen in my life.  By the time I was in my teenage years I had come to blindly trust him.  He had never failed to warn me of money pits, accidents, no good people, etc.  So that day when I went to visit him after work was no different.  I sat and asked how he was feeling.  I scratched his back for him and held his hand while we just sat and talked about my day, just the way he used to hold my hand when I was sick.  I told him he needed to hang on until I got married and had kids.  I needed him in my life.  I was feeling so lost and alone.  He was in the hospital for an extended time and my routine at home was turned upside down.  The times in the evenings when we used to sit and joke around had turned into quiet evenings alone, waiting for my parents to come home.  I missed him in a way I’d never felt before.  He had warned me several times that his time was coming.  I couldn’t accept it.  I foolishly, perhaps naively,  relied on the doctors to turn him back into the Dada that I grew up with.

So that day, I asked him for a final piece of advice.  I asked him to tell me everything I needed to know.  I knew that from the day I was born he had made my astro charts and he knew all along what would become of me, and as I grew and matured he would give me little nuggets of information that would help me along my path. I was asking him for guidance.

He squeezed my hand, and told me that he wouldn’t “physically” be at my wedding.  Tears filled my eyes as I squeezed his hand back and nodded, accepting the information.

“You’ll be married by 26, don’t worry.”

“But how?  There isn’t even a man in my life right now.”  I frowned wondering who on Earth was going to come into my life and sweep me off my feet in a matter of 11 months, at which point I would turn 26.

“He’ll be tall and good looking, educated, and from a good family.  Don’t worry you’re a very lucky person, you have all good things in your future.”  He went on to vaguely describe light colored eyes and an unusual last name.

I asked Dada how I would meet this man, and he told me when he figured it out he would tell me.

He also told me that I would go back to school for another degree and really help people.  He said I’d be like a doctor.  I took all this information and put it in my pocket.  A month later, he passed, just the way he said he would.  With my mom by his side and peacefully.  It all happened the way it was supposed to.  I wasn’t supposed to be there, and so like he had foretold, I got stuck at a meeting for work and instead of going straight to the hospital, came home to meet my parents.  I vaguely remember walking into the house and my dad telling me “Dada is no more”  and I hit the floor.  My muscles just gave out and an invisible hand violently snatched my heart from my body.  My cousins were all around me and my dad was hugging me and I just remember saying “No” over and over again.

The day of his funeral, I had a dream.  I couldn’t see him but I could feel him.  Even the things he said to me, I couldn’t hear them, but I could feel them.  He told me to get on a matrimonial site that I hadn’t had luck with before.  I even protested in my dream.  He insisted that I needed to do this now or my life would take a different path, and one that wasn’t intended for me.  I woke up confused and crying.  Despite the confusion, I ran to my laptop in the middle of the night and through tears and choked sobs I put up my profile on shaadi.com.

It was only a week later that I saw the profile of a mysterious looking man with kind, light colored eyes.  Within a few months I was engaged to be married and happier than I could imagine.  I now knew the meaning of soul mate and true love.  Everything my grandfather told me came true.  And he kept his promise, as soon as he knew how I was going to meet my husband, he told me.  I know without a doubt that if I had never had that dream I wouldn’t have put my profile up.  I had such bad luck with matrimonial sites in the past, that I wasn’t willing to take that chance again, but how could I ignore a message from beyond?!

This past Saturday was my Grandfather’s birthday and in his memory each year we go out to eat.  That was his thing, for birthdays and death-days we would all go out and eat in honor of that person.  To keep his tradition alive, my husband and I go out on birthdays and death-days as well.  Typically my parents will go out at the same time and I spend dinner on the phone with them as we remember and share favorite stories. We keep it small and intimate and it always feels like such a special occasion.  Like we’re really honoring him and everything he contributed to our family.

I love to remember him and share stories with my husband about him.  Jayesh tells me that he feels like he knows Dada as if he grew up with him too.  I’m so excited to share this tradition with my son.

As for the other predictions, I did end up going back to school and as a hairdresser I help people by listening to them and being a friend to confide in, and by making them feel good about themselves.  As for the doctor part, well I do a lot of that for my family.  With all the prior experience and the education I’ve received, I’m blessed to be able to decipher medical reports and interpret diagnostic images for my family.

Dada, you changed my life, and even after you’ve moved on to your next life, you continue to inspire and motivate.  I thank God for the time we had together.  I feel you when you’re around, and your wisdom resonates in our lives.

I wanted to share this to honor his memory.  This is the story I remembered when we were celebrating this weekend.  Do any of you have personal traditions that you keep?  If you don’t, I think it’s a wonderful thing to share with those closest to you.  I hope to pass this on to my children and perhaps they’ll find positivity on a day that would normally bring feelings of sadness.

It’s a Boy!

Photo taken by Belkis Cruz Photography

Being a mother is the most rewarding job I’ve been granted.  It’s been about 15 months.   It’s hard work, the hours are continuous, the job touches every corner of my life, and there are no vacations or sick days, but the amount of work that goes in is directly proportional to the amount of happiness received.

Motherhood and pregnancy is often glamorized and I just wanted to touch on some of the things about pregnancy that no one ever tells you about.  Books often put it very mildly and women never seem to want to talk about the ugly embarrassing part of it.  Well today is your lucky day.  I clearly have no shame so I will be divulging this priceless information.

This post isn’t just for the ladies who are expecting or thinking about getting pregnant.  I’m talking to the men too.  The sooner you understand what a woman goes through, the easier that 10 months will be for you.  I have to really commend my husband, he is so patient and kind.  He has got to be the most understanding man I’ve ever met.

So let’s talk about body changes.  Obviously you get bigger and the weight gain is scary fast.  Your boobs grow into planets and cause back pain.  This is common knowledge I think.  What people don’t like talking about are those pesky stretch marks.  There are some wonderful people (like my mother) who never get a single stretch mark.  That’s just luck of the draw, ladies.  No amount of cocoa butter or bio-oil is going to save you from these bad boys, if you’re meant to get them.  I took cocoa butter baths and still ended up with a smattering of tiny little marks around my belly button.  The best part was that I didn’t get them until a few weeks before my son was born.  I almost thought I had made it!  I was really worried about this part before I got pregnant.  Oh, how vain we are!  But you know what?  Now when I see my stretch marks I am actually fine with it.  They are a reminder of the sacrifices I made for my sweet boy.  They remind me of what a miracle we’ve been blessed with.  At first they are an angry red and seem a lot worse than they are, but eventually they fade into shimmery ribbons and then it’s like having sparkly tiger accents on your body.  And who doesn’t love animal print?!

Almost right after I found out I was pregnant I had some serious back pain.  Some days I wondered if I’d even be able to walk around and function.  I went to the doctor and told her and pointed to my lower back and she says ‘Oh yea, that’s normal’  Be prepared to hear this every time you complain about anything.  What I’ve gathered is that no matter what happens and how weird it is, it’s normal during pregnancy.  Oh, your face turned dark, that’s normal.  Oh, your feet look like you’ve got elephantiasis, that’s normal.  Oh, you’ve had diarrhea for 8 months straight, that’s normal.  However, if your gut is telling you something isn’t right, ask your doctor, get it checked out.  My back pain ended up being SI Joint displacement.  Which means that the point where my hip connects to my spine was dislocating spontaneously.  It hurt like hell and at times if I laid down I couldn’t get back up.  I also got severe migraines on and off.  It’s all part of the ride.

You know that long beautiful hair that people look forward to during pregnancy.  That happens everywhere.  Hair and nail growth increase during pregnancy.  So while I was cutting my fingernails every other day, I was also having to shave just as often.  It’s annoying because at first everything’s normal and then you have this juice belly in your way and you can’t quite reach your legs.  Then you have this huge belly and can’t even see your feet.  At some point I just said oh well and turned into the Amazon woman.  However this wonderful lady named Monica dipped me in wax and took care of the issue.  Speaking of waxing.  If you don’t do it regularly, then as you approach your due date, go get a Brazilian wax.  You will thank me later.  Not only is everyone in your business the day you go into labor, but healing afterwards is much easier when you don’t have stubble trying to fight its way out past staples and stitches.  I had a c-section so my healing process was different, but it’s all much easier sans fur.

Let’s talk about the brain for a bit.  I typically have a very good memory and during pregnancy that was no where to be found.  They call it “baby brain” because during pregnancy the energy is concentrated on “baby tracking” and developing those crazy mom instincts you’ve probably experienced with your own mother.  There would be times where mid sentence I would completely forget what I was talking about.  This one time I was on one side of the bed and needed something from my night stand so I walk to the other side and totally forgot what I needed.  It’s bad.  I would get funny looks and impatient stares, but oh well, I’m busy growing a person, I don’t care.

People become extremely familiar during pregnancy.  I would go to the grocery store and have complete strangers come rub my belly.  Sometimes they would just ask me when I was due and if I knew the sex, and just when I think I’ll get away without being touched, they reach out and pat my belly.  Total strangers!!  Pregnancy brings out the angel in everyone.  People were so nice to me.  I would get to sit down or eat when I wanted.  It was wonderful.  People were so worried about whether I was tired, hungry, thirsty, stressed, etc.  It’s funny, people are so worried about stressing out a pregnant person, but if anything I was so much more calm during my pregnancy.  Those that know me well, know I don’t get stressed and I’m a very go-with-the-flow kind of person.  During pregnancy, I was even more so.  I honestly thought it would have me on edge and I’d heard about mood swings, but that didn’t happen to me.  I felt normal.  The only thing that changed was I felt more compassionate and I would cry often.  Commercials, really nice people, sweet stories, my husband being really kind and thoughtful…all these things made me tear up.  I know each women is different so just based on people I know and what’s worked for them-meditation, yoga, pilates, keeping fit, eating healthy, these are ways they stayed relaxed.

Be prepared for the onslaught of unsolicited advice.  I knew this was going to happen, but I didn’t know to what extent.  I’m not really sure what compels people to get so involved, but they do.  Hopefully they’ll just give you the advice and leave it alone.  Some get really offended if  you don’t take their advice, just nod and smile and do things the way you feel is right for you.  Every child is different and every family is different.  You have to make decisions based on your child, your family, and what balances with your values and life rules.  Don’t shut your ears to the advice though, sometimes there’s valuable information there.  Being a parent puts you on stage.  People judge your life and your parenting without even knowing you or your situation.  It’s frustrating and so ignorant, but that’s life.  Have faith in your abilities and keep your goals in mind.

Men: If you can just listen, comfort, and support you are golden.  Don’t take things personally, this woman that you once knew will return, her body is being taken over for some months.  Rub her feet/back, tell her she’s beautiful, love her, be patient and kind, you get the picture.  It can be frustrating and confusing.  You may not understand her feelings for the baby growing inside of her, mainly because most men don’t feel attached to the baby until they actually see it and hold it.  That’s totally normal.  My husband could feel the kick on the outside but he couldn’t feel the kick on the inside.  It’s two different things.  I could see my husband falling in love with this baby or perhaps the idea of it, but it finally came together the day our son was born.  Do nice things no matter how insane:  I’ll never forget the time I was craving birthday cake and Jayesh ran to Cub in the middle of the night to get some.  He called me sounding worried “They don’t have marble, do you want me to try another store?”  What a wonderful man he is.  He even patiently drove around to 3 different stores to find me real chicken nuggets.  Well that was more him than me.  You see the minute we found out I was pregnant Jayesh became this super protective version of himself.  He’d keep me away from high fructose corn syrup, tons of sugar, processed foods, etc.  I craved sweet and he would gently tell me to try and control the craving.  He made sure I took my vitamins and ate healthy and stayed active.  He was as involved as he could be.    I can only imagine how hard it was on him to pick up the slack around the house.  He would clean so I wouldn’t inhale fumes and let me relax after work while he whipped up some delicious meals.  Men, just because you aren’t carrying the baby doesn’t mean you don’t play a role in the whole process.  I remember in the evenings we would lay in bed and Jayesh would talk to my belly and tell it stories.  He would idly rest his hand on my belly- protectively, lovingly…it melts my heart.  If you could see them together now…peas in a pod!

As loving, patient, and protective as Jayesh was to me, he’s about 10x more to our son.  He is such an amazing father.  I know, I’m gushing.

LABOR!  I had a million questions about labor.  Most of which I just couldn’t ask.  Some of my friends were kind enough to give me every detail and paint this horrific picture of what I was about to go through.  Then my mom said the most intelligent thing ever and put all my fears aside.  “You want this baby more than anything right?  Well this is what you have to go through to get it.  There’s no way around it, it’s just the way it is.  Deal with it.”  Simple, but so true.  All of a sudden I had perspective.  It’s just the way it is.  No use in worrying about the pain or getting an epidural.  It all seemed like such little payment for the blessing we were about to receive.

I spent most of my time in labor watching movies and joking around with family.  My husband, mother, and mother-in-law were in the labor room with me.  I ended up having no pain at all, pushed for 3 hours and was finally told that my pelvis is too narrow to allow the baby to pass through so they’d have to do a c-section.  I was terrified to hear it because that wasn’t the plan and I wasn’t expecting to be cut open.  I’d never had surgery in my life.  They prepped me by numbing me from the chest down-scary feeling.  They draped me in the OR and allowed my husband to be with me.  I laid there with my arms out straight out to the sides.  I couldn’t feel anything, I just remember it being hard to breathe and it was a real effort.  The anesthesiologist told me that was because of the drugs.  They pulled out my son and took him to clean up and weigh and all that.  Then when they were closing me up there was a whole LOT of movement.  Like violently being shaken about.  It was really scary and made me wonder what the heck was going on behind the drapes but finally they just wrapped me in blankets and I was able to see my son for the first time.  My husband brought him over and I just couldn’t believe my eyes.  There was this tiny little guy that I’ve been obsessing over.  With tears in our eyes we just couldn’t stop grinning at each other.  The only other time I’ve seen that look on my husband’s face was our wedding day.  I can’t describe the feeling, it’s overwhelming and so exciting.  At the same time it’s just surreal like you’re dreaming.  You’ve been imagining this baby for months and now it’s finally here and all yours.

The change is profound.

Pregnancy isn’t easy, everything changes.  Your body doesn’t look the same, you can’t seem to remember ANYTHING, your boobs are borderline scary, you either lose your hair or grow 10x the amount…AH!  I would do all of it 5 times over just to have my little angel in my life.  Although things aren’t easy anymore, and no one gets to sleep in, there is meaning to everything.  One little person who can barely do anything for himself, has done so much for me.  He gave my life meaning.

Chai, Chai, Chaaaaaai

I know it’s as hot as the devil’s toenails outside. So why on earth would you want a chai tea recipe?! I’ll tell you why. Because it’s good. I’m not a big chai drinker, I usually only have it if my husband wants it on a Sunday morning. Sometimes in the winter I will make some. It is great for warming you up because it’s not just hot tea, it also has SPICE. Chai is so common in an Indian house, it gets made every 10 minutes, really! Well not always, but I have an uncle who has like 25 cups a day. So here’s what you need:

 

Black Tea

Water

Milk

Sugar

Chai Masala

Mint

Ginger

Vanilla

 

Milk and water will be half and half. So if you want to make two mugs of tea then start with one mug of water and then you’ll add one mug of milk.

Put your water in a pot and set the heat on high. Add in the black tea, sugar, and chai masala. Also add in a few sprigs of mint and some ginger shavings. The amounts are all based on how much you want to taste. Bring this mix to a boil and let it boil for a minute or two.

Add in the milk and bring back to a boil.

Let it boil for a few minutes and then pour through a sieve into coffee mugs.

Now you can make your own chai masala at home so that you can control it’s flavor or you can buy a packet of it at your local Indian store. Some of the main things that go in it are:

Peppercorn

Cardamom

Cloves

Nutmeg

Cinnamon

Soonth or Dry Ginger Powder

You would toast the whole ingredients and then add the powdered ingredients and blend until it is a fine powder. The roasting helps to bring out all the flavors and it will make your home smell amazing!

Whenever I make chai I add in a lot of masala because I love when my tea is spicy. I add in vanilla to smooth out the flavor. Just a little bit though, the vanilla can overpower the flavor.

Mess around with the recipe.  Some people don’t like their tea as strong so they add the milk and water to the pot from the start.  The milk doesn’t allow the tea to steep as much so it’s a lighter tea.  I like my tea stronger so I boil the crap out of it with just water and then add milk at the very end.  Have you tried chai?  Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

 

You can get any black tea and make this.  We use loose tea but tea bags work just the same.  Red Label is a good one.