The Apartment- By Danielle Steel

Dear friends,

I am starting my first book review with The Apartment by Danielle Steel.

I had an hour of free time between dropping off and picking up my kids from an Thursday  night art class. So I headed to the library. I straight  ahead stood in front of the New Fiction section, browsed the rows of books from top left to bottom right and I stopped at this book.

I usually glance through the jacket  to get a summary of what the book is about.

Four independent women, friends living in NewYork City. That sold me the book. I flipped through the first couple of pages right there in a quiet corner of the library and then by the end of the hour I brought the book home.

The book is neither thumbs up nor thumbs down. It is pretty much about Life, As we know it. It is about friendship, love, heartbreak, family and in the end friends becoming family!

The story is set in NewYork city in the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. I am aways excited about NYC, and the whimsical feeling that you get when hearing about the great city. So, I was expecting the author would take us deep into the city life in much great detail but I was disappointed. The story mostly focuses on the four women sharing a Loft in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen. The author  dives right into the characters, their busy lives, their aspirations, dreams, commitments and how everything goes wrong and then yet everything will become alright.

My favorite character is Sasha, the OB/GYN. I could relate to her more easily than anyone else. I admired her character where she is beautiful, intelligent and is very sure of what she wants and also I admired her values as opposed to her erratic sister/model Veronica. Mostly because of my upbringing and my culture. I was hoping that my daughters would one day be like Sasha. I also loved Sasha’s man Alex and his relationship with his parents.

The book takes you through the journey of these four beautiful, independent and intelligent women who have shared the loft and have lived together for 9 years.

In the course of 9 years their life goes through ups and downs. There is happiness and heart break. There is this unflinching bond among friends, friends who are more like family. The male partners who truly love and worship their women and then a couple  who subject them to deceit. There is tears, there is joy, there are fun moments where the whole gang have just simple good fun. As a reader I was looking forward to their Sunday night dinners and guessing what Max might cook that night.

In the end the book made me happy. It is about life as we know it. It made me wonder if there could be anywhere in the world such strong friendship among women where there is no jealousy, no judgement. Just pure friendship.

Weekend brunch. ALC Sandwich

Simple weekend brunch with coffee.  My new Avocado-lettuce-cucumber sandwiches.

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Easy preparation, tastes so good and puts me back on my lounge sofa with coffee and my smartphone checking facebook pictures:)
Oh yeah, my kids loved them too. In fact, they had fun building their own sandwich:)
You should definitely try  them .

I used:
Slices of regular bread toasted lightly with oil
Cucumber roundels
Avocado slices
Leaves of boston lettuce
Some ketchup
Some pesto sauce from a tube
Salt n pepper

Preparation:

Just prepare and keep ready the above ingredients.
Start building your sandwich
Take the bottom piece of the bread and spread some pesto sauce .
Layer with a large leaf of lettuce .
Add the cucumbers and Avocado slices.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Squeeze some ketchup.
Close the sandwich with a top piece of bread also smeared with some pesto!!!

Food Truck Adevntures

I have always loved food trucks. I love the whole experience of eating at a food truck. I love the whole casual vibe that comes with it. No frills. And the food tastes SO GOOD!

Recently I have embarked on this new adventure of trying out food at different food trucks.

Lexington, MA had a food truck festival recently and I fell head over heels with this vegetarian/vegan truck rhythmnwraps.com.

OMG their vegan wraps are to die for. The smoky flavored tempeh with their unique dressing and sauces the wrap tasted out of this world. At least  I have never eaten a veggie wrap that is so good ever before. I tried out their fire wrap and Gangsta wrap and I can’t wait to go back to this truck again!!!

Clover is another truck which has been on my list from the past 4 years. I first heard of it when we lived near MIT in Cambridge,ma.

My friends raved about their chickpea or eggplant sandwich or something like that…Don’t know. I have to try it out yet!

Now Clover has spread out across the neighboring towns with even their restaurants. I still would love to go to one of their trucks nearby!

My latest discovery is the food truck festival at Arsenal mall, Watertown,ma. Can’t wait to be there one of these Wednesday, to grab a bite from a Mediterranean truck!

Will write more about these adventures soon.

Until then Happy eating!

Minty Aloo Tikkis (Potato cutlets)

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At a time of crisis, Like a good friend, A potato is there. Always there. Anytime everytime.

Those brown muddy spuds are lifesavers for me . I feel desolated without their presence  in my kitchen.

And all that thoughts and talks about starch and carbs does not matter, when you are hungry and every member of your family is restless and asking for something to “EAT RIGHT NOW” !!!!

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for those potatoes that saved my evening the day before. It was seemingly a long day. The heavy rains would not stop. They started the moment I opened my eyes  in the morning  and persisted the entire day.

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The rains would not stop, but the rains would not stop our day either. Life has to go on.

Wake up time, brush, breakfast, backpack, lunchbag,off to school, with an umbrella- That was my 5 year old.

wakeup time, breakfast, bath , off to work- that was my hubby.

Wakeup time and hang around with me , on me, all over me, make a mess of the house and bring the whole house upside down, no nap, just play, play with kitchen utensils, play with gadgets, play with dangerous objects, making my heart skip a beat and almost making me collapse by noon- That is my 18 month old.

So I take a deep breath and look at the clock, and it  is already time for my kindergartener to come back from school. I am startled but  gather myself up, with my 18 month old still lurking by my side, grab my coat,slide into my shoes when I suddenly heard a knock on the door.

It was my hubby !!! “Oh thank god you are here. Ok here is Sahana.  I am leaving. I have to take Mahati to the piano class”. I dashed out of the door.

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The rain did not cease. I picked my daughter from the bus stop, drove her straight to the piano class, which lasts for about two hours.

By the time we came back home by  evening, every single person in the house is STARVING. Remember, I did not feed my hubby when he came home?

So now it calls for quick action. I peered inside the fridge and what did I see? Some boiled and mashed potatoes from last night. Problem solved!

I decided to make tikkis. Darn that rain and darn those cravings for spicy tangy chaat. When I announced what I was making , my husband raised his eyebrows and sat up straight on the couch almost ready to eat. My daughter said  “yaaay, but Amma this time can you make it Yummier?”

I rolled my eyes, but smiled and promplty said “I will try” 🙂

Thus, these tikkis, which I very quicky put together for our evening chaat. Then there was dinner time. But that is another story :).

Minty Aloo Tikkis:

2 potatoes boiled peeled and mashed without lumps.( any kind. I used 2 big russet potatoes)

3 slices of bread (i used just white bread from pepperidge farm)

1/2 a cup of mint finely chopped

Oil for deep frying

Seasonings:

1tsp Jeera, 1 tsp Chaat masala, 2 tbsp lemon juice, salt, 1 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 cloves of garlic-grated, 1 green chilli finely minced.

Method:

In a wide bowl, combine mashed potatoes, mint, salt and all the  seasonings.

Take the bread slices,  dunk them in luke warm water. squeeze out all the water and throw them in the bowl with potatoes.

oil your palms and start kneading the potato bread mixture. After kneading for a few minutes, the whole mixture comes together like a nice firm dough.

Next divide the dough into equal portions. Roll them into a ball and pat them flat on your palms.

Frying:

I chose to deep fry them because they will cook evenly inside out. Alternative is to shallow fry them on  a griddle.

( if the dough gets too sticky or has some water content , then sprinkle some all purpose flour(maida) to the mix)

Methi Thepla

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Methi or Fenugreek is often considered as a superfood in India. It is believed to have cooling properties. It is very therapeutic. Breastfeeding moms are often seen consuming fenugreek seeds in quite high amounts, as it is believed to increase milk supply. I have tried it too , and I must say it works!

Because of its cooling properties fenugreek powder is added in spicy pickles  to compensate all that heat from the chilli powder. I remember my grandmother using fenugreek to help her digestion. Just before bedtime she used to make herself a glass of cold buttermilk with little salt and  adding some freshly powdered fenugreek seeds.

I just so love methi too. It is so fragrant and therapeutic. Be it the seeds or the leaves, I love to use them quite often. The leaves are very tender and fragrant and hardly bitter . The seeds carry a nutty and  quite bitter taste but the bitterness subdues when we dry roast them . And that aroma!!! ….

I always wish that methi was available in American supermarkets. Unfortunately it is not and I always have to visit the Indian store to grab a bunch or two and always will have to make a choice of what to make out of Methi. Those are hard choices to make, as anything made out of Methi  leaves is absolutely delicious.

There is a whole array of dishes both South and North Indian that uses fresh Methi leaves in its cooking. Parathas, rotis, gravies,curries, fritters, dals you name it!

This time I chose to make Theplas out of Methi. Theplas are similar to rotis or parathas. They have all spices incorporated in them and typically needs no side dish to go with it. They can be enjoyed as a snack, brunch, lunch or dinner. Kids Love them too. Just pay attention to the spice levels when making for kids. It makes a great lunch box recipe too.

The process is quite simple and here is how to make theplas out of these ever green Methi:

What we need:

2 cups of whole wheat flour

2 tbsp gram/chickpea flour

1 cup of finely chopped fresh methi leaves

2 green chillies

1 tsp cumin/coriander powder( optional)

1tsp turmeric

salt

Method:

Combine all ingredients together.

With little sprinkles of water, knead into a soft dough.

Divide into equal sized balls

roll them into round rotis

On a hot griddle roast them by sprinkles of oil.

Serve warm or not so warm with yogurt.

 

 

Tawa Pulav with Pav Bhaji Masala

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Tawa pulavs are quick fixes and a delicious alternate to the much time consuming Biriyanis.Although,the way I make Biriyani is not often very elaborate or time consuming. check it out here.  For this recipe, All we need is some cut vegetables and precooked rice. The rest of the proccess goes very easily by adding our favorite masalas.

This time I just wanted to try it out with the Pav Bhaji masala(store bought). And it turned out pretty darn good!

Check it out!

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Ingredients in order of appearance are:

Oil 2 tbsp

turmeric- 1/2 tsp

Jeera – 1 tsp

Ginger garlic paste- 1 tsp

finely chopped onions

finely chopped toamtoes

finely chopped capsicum

fresh corn kernels

fresh peas

fresh carrots cubed.

Pav Bhaji Masala 2 tsp, garam masala and red chilli powder 1 tsp each

Pre cooked rice,( basmati preferred)

Salt to taste.

Method:

Heat oil in a wide skillet or tawa on a medium to high heat. Add ingredients in the order above. Mix well to make a thick curry. FInally add rice and mix.

serve with raita.