Hello! Welcome back for a quick weeknight recipe. Aditya and I mostly prefer ethnic foods, so I’m always interested in cooking non South Asian meals (since this is the default in our house). Tonight I felt like a Hispanic dinner would be so yummy so I made a quick trip to Trader Joe’s on the way home from work. Trader Joe’s had everything I needed, and I already had some essentials at home – adobo, saffron, garlic, sazon, rice.
Growing up in Leominster I was always surrounded by a good mix of ethnicities! I had a lot of Hispanic friends who would share their foods with me. How lucky was I?! Spanish food is one of my favorite, always wholesome, comfort foody, and so rich in flavors!
So here’s the recipe. This took me like 30 minutes…so easy. Seriously though!
1 cup rice (I used jasmine)
1 lb chicken breast
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp olive tapenade (mix of olives and capers, get it at TJ’s)
3 hot and sweet cherry peppers (found at TJ’s)
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 bell peppers
1/2 cup peas (optional, add 5 minutes before rice completion if using)
1 medium onion
1 packet sazon (I used no msg Badia)
1 tsp adobo
1tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of saffron
Chop onions, bell pepper, cherry peppers, and chicken into small pieces. Sauté chicken for 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat (this can be done while preparing the base to save time.) For the base, start by frying onions in oil. When brown add green pepper and garlic. Add more oil if needed. Rinse rice in cold water until water runs clear, let sit in water. Add tapenade, cherry peppers. Sauté 2 minutes. Add broth, wine, saffron, adobo, sazon. At medium heat add tomato sauce, boil 5 minutes, until base becomes thick. Add chicken to base and cook 2 minutes. Drain water from rice and add to pot. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 7 minutes. Check pot and if rice is sticking move around and cook 8 minutes more on medium low. Check to make sure rice is done and enjoy. Muy sabroso!!
Happy almost Spring! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged but I’m back at it again. I’ve been literally hibernating all winter, and it feels great! Although how odd it is that it’s 68°F today!!! Nothing much has been going on lately, other than my habit of hashing out short-term and long-term goals.
Anyways, I’d like to outline a few of my experiences from Fall and Winter; my trips to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Goa, and Mumbai. I’m fortunate to have family all over the world. For the European trip, Aditya and I traveled with my family, and for the India trip we traveled with my his. They were both fun trips and we got to see such gorgeous sites. Although I’ve been to Amsterdam and India before, this time around was way more fun with my sister in Europe and Aditya throughout all trips.
In October we had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam for a family wedding. We picked out some Indian/Pakistani outfits for the mehndi and reception, and an American dress for the ceremony. The wedding was beautifully decorated with delicious homemade Pakistani food galore. On non-wedding days we were able to venture out into Holland and explore. I subscribe to Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast traveler as well, and a post about “Geithoorn – the Venice of Holland” popped up on my Facebook feed. We got a chance to squeeze in a quick trip to visit Geithoorn and take a canal cruise to see the city and history. There are no cars here; everyone travels through the canals, like in Venice, although this placed smelled a lot better! It was very quiet and quaint, like a sleepy village out of a fairytale story.
My parents spent most nights with family, but we (my sister, cousin, and hubby) got to venture out into Amersfoort downtown and Amsterdam most nights. We explored the many bars and nightlife and had a lot of fun together. Here we also took a canal cruise through the narrow, winding, and plentiful Amsterdam canals.
The Dutch know what’s up
Fields of Holland
Copenhagen was a really cool experience, even though we only had a few nights there. Denmark has been noted as one of the happiest countries in the world, and that was truly evident in our time there. Everybody was very friendly and the overall vibe was calm and relaxing. It was rainy throughout our whole Europe trip, but we managed to stay warm and keep moving. We got to see Stroget, which was a long street of shopping, known as one of the longest pedestrian streets for shopping in Europe. We strolled through Nyhaven, which is the waterfront area that has the picturesque colorful houses that we often see as stock photos for Denmark. We took a canal cruise and saw the Opera House and Little Mermaid. After all this we were tired, but still managed to find our way to Tivoli at the end of Stroget. Tivoli was so magical! Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest amusement parks and was an inspiration for Disneyland. Here we went on cool rides and saw beautiful lights and castles. We also got to drink lots of Glögg, a Danish mulled wine, with a generous shot of rum and liqueur. This later became the drink of the night for Christmas at home, so yummy!!!
Hubby stirring cauldron
Experiencing European culture is always interesting, especially exploring the deep, rich history which varies just by crossing borders not too far from the next one.
In January we had the opportunity to go to Goa and Mumbai for Aditya’s cousin’s wedding. This was a bit of a struggle for me, being of Pakistani origin, because getting a visa was a long process and a nuisance. Luckily I did get it, but it’s a shame what is going on over there, and that these ideals are happing over here. I’m lucky that love transcends borders and that the ignorance does not transpire through our families, or at least the ones we choose to keep around!
I’ve been to India before, but only to northern areas. This was my first time in Goa and Mumbai, and I was nervous and excited. Goa was a relaxed beachside state, with lots of fish dishes and historic sites to see. We got to visit Aditya’s families’ temples, and we got to see some other historic sites and churches as well. Goa has a Catholic and Portuguese history, so it was cool to see those influences in the culture and architecture here. We stayed in a really, really cool villa and spent nights relaxing on the beach.
Chilly chicken and yummy kingfisher
Villa Portuguese style
St Francis remains
Breakfast with a view
Next up was Mumbai, which I was imagining in my head to be like an Indian Manhattan. It surely was! It was totally comfortable and I hardly had any culture shock experiences because it was so city-like, and most people knew English. I can get by on Hindi, but it’s nice to know I can speak English, too. There were beautiful lights and skyscrapers, shopping, food, and the hustle and bustle of any major cosmopolitan city.
Meeting my in-laws was nice and spending moments with them for the wedding was truly quality time. We got to catch up with our cousins and grandma, meet our new baby niece, and witness a beautiful union at the same time. For this wedding I brought some lovely pink saris. Luckily we had a beautician come and wrap my sari on professionally. She did a great job, and I was wonderfully desified for the wedding. The wedding was the first Marathi wedding I’ve been to, so it was cool to see.
As far as exploring Mumbai, hubby and I stayed in a couple of hotels to capture the action. We explored some cool restaurants, delicious Indo-Chinese food, hip malls, and took a personal driver from the Taj to show us all the key sights in Mumbai. The most magical sight was the India Gateway, and we had such a perfect sight of it from our hotel room in southern Mumbai. The fact the city is oceanside made the whole touring experience even better. We got to see so many highlights, and stop near the water to take a breather, peering out at the Arabian Sea and imagining how ironic it was that Pakistan was just across this flowing waters.
Happy Friday! I’m back to blog about some Italy details. Aditya and I did over a week in Italy for our 2nd wedding anniversary. Italy was amazing. You could feel the richness in history, the depth of the Italian culture, and the beauty of the ancient gems. Italian food is really bold and flavorful! Since I’m not quite into meat other than chicken and fish, I didn’t have many options other than pizza and pasta. Italians are more into seafood and cured meats. The wine, however, is exceptional and strong. The people are kind, but since it is Europe, we found ourselves often frustrated with poor service (snooty Americans!). Every now and then we would have to speak Spanish since some Italians didn’t understand English. We took a sigh of relief when we took refuge in a Pakistani cafe (how ironic, huh!) late at night, where Aditya lovingly spoke Urdu and got us some Pakistani rice to ease our otherwise cheese/carb/tomato palettes.
I must add that in several tourist spots it felt a bit strange to see armed guards with huge guns. That’s also something we don’t really see around here. Anyways, coming through with some deets…
We flew Alitalia non-stop Boston to Rome and traveled by the high speed Italo in club level seats so that we were assured no pick-pocketers (a common threat in Italian trains). Flights were purchased through Priceline, train tickets were purchased on raileurope.com, hotels were purchased on various sites (I scooped out the best deals). We took Viator tours and ItalyOnABudgetTours, and we loved them! These we actually booked last minute so that we could really feel what we wanted to see and do once we landed in Italy (if you know me, waiting until the last minute is usually blasphemous! But worked out so well).
Here’s a breakdown of our itinerary and major highlights:
Venice – 2 nights
St Mark’s square and basicila
Florence – 3 nights
Uffizi Gallery Museum
Tower of Pisa and Cinque Terre
Naples -2 nights
Castell del Ovo – Fort
Rome – 3 nights
St Peter’s Basilica
Castle Santa Angelo
Daytimes were filled with touring, waking up at 5a.m. and running around exploring.In the daytime I really felt the Mediterranean sun! At night we relaxed to some date nights and nightlife. Nightlife was mostly quiet, nothing overly crazy.
Venice was a quaint city. The city is entirely on water so you travel through the canals on a waterbus (vaporetto). It was really pretty and cute. We only had two days there since there’s not too much to see other than the overall city.
I had a hunch I would love Tuscany and I did enjoy Florence a lot. Here we checked out the Uffizi and saw some Da Vincis. We got a panoramic view of Tuscany from Piazzele Michelangelo. My favorite part of our trip was Cinque Terre, which was a few hours away from Florence. Cinque Terre was heavenly!
Margherita (best pizza we had!)
Tower of Pisa, Tuscany
Galileo Museum (how they thought our universe looked like)
Cinque Terre, Tuscany
da Vinci, Uffizi
A and Pisa
Cocktails at McDonald’s
Next stop was Naples. Naples was not such a great city (lots of crime) but we stayed near a Fort, so we were near tourist sites and we had a beautiful view of Mt Vesuvius. We absolutely had to check out the Amalfi coast. We took a tour that drove us all the way up the Amalfi and a boat cruise as well. It was beautiful! We also checked out Pompeii.
A in Pompeii
Amalfi – Mediterranean Sea
Nightime in Naples
Lastly, we ended our trip in Rome. Aditya and I love natural beauty but also enjoy city life and it’s wonders. Rome was a breathe of fresh air and was reminiscent of NYC but with an ancient vibe. Here we checked out the Colosseum, Vatican, and Sistine Chapel. The famous Michelangelo painting of God and Adam was nice to see, but I was unimpressed (not sure why just that piece was famous). The entire Sistine chapel overall was impressive, however, so Michelangelo’s other work seems to be underrated. Italy had such great and talented artists, including Michelangelo, Raphael (The School of Athens), and da Vinci ( some pieces in Uffizi, Florence). An appreciation for good art is a must when visiting Italia!
The ancient sites in Rome were magnificent. We loved the Colosseum. It felt magical and was such a wonder. Nightlife in Monti was nice, with some cute bars, restaurants, and live music. The Trevi fountain was beautiful at night.
Vaticn modern art
Our hotel, converted palace
Sculpture at Vatican
Vatican gold ceiling
School of Athens, Raphael, Vatican
Embalmed Corpse in a Church
St Peter’s Square
Overall, Italy was beautiful! Since we successfully left our mark on Italia, we are on to our next conquests…
I have taken a bit of a break from blogging due a tumultuous few last months. I’ve been going through a lot, the worst of which was the loss of my baby pup bro-in-law. He was the most precious and innocent soul…he is with us forever….RIP Dusty. He has truly left a mark on our hearts.
I’m looking forward and onwards into summer. With time comes growth. I am trying a few different things to change my mindset and hopefully that will bear fruitful energy in the coming months.
Since I don’t have too much to say right now I’ll leave a recipe. Tonight I attempted lasagna for my first time. My mom makes my favorite lasagna, it’s so delish! This is one of the best things she makes, and there are many delish dishes she makes!! This recipe uses no boil pasta, and ground turkey (since we are South Asian we prefer to use this instead of beef, but any ground meat works!)
-nonstick spray (i.e. PAM)
-bowl for mixing
-spoon for mixing
-1/2 cup ricotta
-1/2 cup parmesan cheese
-1 lb ground turkey or other ground meat
-1/2 chopped onion
-salt + pepper to taste
Happy Sunday! I’m trying to post a blog at least once a month, so I’m sneaking this in here real quick. Feb was spent celebrating A’s bday and vday as well. This year I hosted my first home birthday party, in which I did some serious #adulting. I had a few festivities in Boston, some at Mohegan Sun, and some more at our place and Boston again. We had a potluck at our place with our parents, cousin, and uncle, and hit up a fun Bollywood dance party in Boston. A is starting to get into Bollywood/bhangra music and that is really awesome for me!! Bruahh’in for days!!
As we get older, I’ve noticed that birthday parties become less about socializing and more about honoring the person’s birthday. I feel like I’d rather have people who want to show up to show up, instead of people who feel like they have to show up. This is one of my 2016 goals, and it’s going by pretty well!!! Expectations can hurt you, but if you set them loosely, it can help things move smoothly. Spending time alone has been great for me, too. It’s always nice to spend time with yourself and really listen to your mind and needs. How do you feel about alone time?
Here are some bday pics:
Taj Boston Biryani, one of the best in Boston
On Sundays we like to brunch at home. Since I haven’t done groceries in over a week, this was an easy, quick go-to meal. The Taj Boston has a similar burger and I think this comes pretty close to it’s grandeur.
What you need:
Trader Joe’s masala burgers
pav bread (or bulkie/hamburger roll)
The bread and chutneys can be found at any Indian store. Luckily, the burgers are frozen, the bread has a long shelf-life, and the chutneys can stay in your fridge forever, so it really is a quick back up meal for any time of the day! Cook the burger on your stovetop for 3-5 mins on both sides, and toast the pav bread. Spread chutneys on the bread and put it all together. So easy!!! And so delish! Add some lettuce and red onion to oomph it up.
Happy Sunday! The sun is shining and it’s a nice relaxing Sunday for me. I have no plans, other than checking out Kung Fu Panda 3 at night. Hubbz and I have made Sunday Movie Night a regular thing. It’s nice way to end the weekend before heading back to dreaded Mondays.
This morning I woke up and checked my Facebook. I saw a post regarding cultural appropriation and Indian culture. The post claimed things like – you can’t wear bindis, bangles, henna, unless you are South Asian or getting married as a South Asian bride. I thought those claims were way over the top so I commented.
Usually I avoid commenting on articles on Facebook because I can’t stand trolls and I also don’t want to invest time in reading replies to my comments. This time, however, I just had to! It irked me that this idea was out there, so I responded –
“Wow this is extremely strict. Sarah Tinawhat do you think? I think wear and do whatever, but sometimes it might look corny to rock another culture so hard, i.e. Beyonce in cold play video.”
I always tag Sarah and Tina in brown posts because they’re smart and desi and they get it! Yes, that Cold Play video did bother me – why is Beyoncé in this? Why couldn’t they just have Sonam Kapoor represent India, if that was the intention. I may seem contradictory in my opinions (see next comment below), but I just wasn’t feeling that video. Anyways I also said –
“As a Pakistani American, my opinion is wear whatever you want! My friends have rocked sarees, bindis, henna, and I love that it’s a way of sharing the culture I grew up in. Also as a non-hindu I may have a different perspective because we wear bindis, henna, bangles for fashion (yes even in Pakistan). Some south Asians may get offended if they feel that these items are religious.“
When I state my opinion, I like to say “I think” or “my opinion is” because I believe it feels unfair and sometimes inaccurate to make a claim without actual science to back it up. That may just be because I’m a Libra, or perhaps because my Masters in Science has the idea engrained in me to Google it first (using reputable, legit sources) or to do an actual study.
What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation or cultural exchange? I’m really grateful to be in America, where we can actually discuss things like oppression and psychological ideas and problems as well.
I woke up thinking, it would be nice to go to brunch with A. However, brunch equals money and extra calories. It also means I would have to yelp a few places, make a reservation and actually get ready while the sun is still out. Let’s be real, that’s just too much work for a Sunday morning! Instead, I decided to make Chana Pullao – spicy chickpea rice. My mom makes the best food in the world, and her Chana Pullao is off the charts. A decided to make Indian Huevos Rancheros – spicy egg + veggies. You’ll have to ask him for the recipe!!
Here’s my recipe for Chana Pullao.
1 tablespoon ghee or cooking oil
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 medium tomato
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 15-oz can chickpeas
1.3 cups Basmati rice (I go a little over 1 cup to match the proportion of chickpeas)
1 tablespoon milk
water as needed
1 teaspoon each of:
cumin seeds (you can add 2 tsp if you love cumin seeds, like I do!)
garam masala powder
Chana Masala spice mix
curry powder spice mix
medium sized pot
two small bowls (for chopped cilantro and tomato)
one medium sized bowl (for rice to sit in water)
one spoon to scoop tomato paste, garlic paste
1.) Rinse rice three times in cold water. Let it sit in enough water to submerge the rice.
2.) Chop onions, tomato, and cilantro. Set tomato and cilantro aside. Fry onions in the ghee or oil on medium heat until golden brown.
3.) Rinse chickpeas in a strainer and set aside. Add cumin seeds, garlic and garlic paste. Stir until you hear the seeds pop.
4.) Add all of the spices. Fry for a minute. Add chickpeas, chopped tomato, and tomato paste. Stir for a minute.
onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, ghee
added spices and chickpeas
added chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato paste
5.) Reduce heat to medium-low. Strain water from rice then add to pot. Add milk. Add water if needed to submerge rice and chickpeas up to 5 mm (half a cm) above the rice.
6.) Let cook for about 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and add more salt to taste. Serve with raita or yogurt.
Total prep time: 5 mins
Total cook time: 20 mins
Here is A’s Indian Huevos Rancheros masterpiece.
Yumminess galore! Enjoy with mango mimosas like we did!
Warm, white sands pillowing on your feet while you lay in the bright, bold Caribbean sun gazing at the turquoise waters…ah such is the sweet life of the Caribbean islands. My husband and I truly relish island hopping as we call it. Ever since we got engaged on a cruise in 2012 we have been avid cruisers. There’s nothing like cruising the ocean and watching every wave sway by as you meditate on why we are on this Earth. Whoa got real deep real fast! That really is the number one reason we love cruising, though. We are on this Earth for a reason and being one with the water truly feels connecting to the foundations of our existence.
Additional perks to cruising are unlimited food, drinks, and entertainment, including world-wide cuisine and Broadway shows. A cruise is a practical mode of transportation for island hopping! You get a chance to taste a bit of each island on your list and feel the flair of each culture and terrain. We love connecting with the locals and getting an idea of the way of life. We pick out our favorite islands and make a note to visit again.
On this trip, we visited Miami and boarded the Norwegian Getaway to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel Mexico. The cruiseline’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas) was originally on the itinerary but was cancelled due to poor weather.
Our first night in Miami we stayed at a swanky hotel on South Beach – The Shelbourne. We checked out our favorite spot in South Beach at night, called Mango’s. Mango’s has a variety of performers and a dance club in the back as well. Here’s some shots from Espanola Way and a performance at Mango’s.
Espanola Way, Miami
Mango’s Tropical Cafe, Miami
After a night in Miami we boarded our cruise. The ship is a sister ship to the Norwegian Breakaway, part of the Breakaway class. This means that they are mega ships and you can literally find anything to do on the ship. There are yoga classes, an arcade, craft making seminars, and several places to simply gaze at the ocean. Here are some shots from the ship.
Shanghai’s Noodle Bar
Bliss Ultra Lounge
We chose a package that included unlimited beverages. This was a great perk since you could order a mango mimosa in the daytime and end with coconut mojitos by night. The variety of complimentary restaurants on board satisfied our diverse tastebuds. I was really happy to find daily rotating Indian food specials, since I’m addicted to rice and daal (lentil curry). At night, we would kick it at the Bliss Lounge where they played hip hop, 80’s, and international music as well. Everything on the ship was so thoughtfully designed and upscale. Some nights we checked out the arcade and Dueling Pianos lounge. There were also Broadway shows – Burn the Floor and Legally Blonde. Here’s some snaps of activities on the ship and a video from Dueling Pianos – an improv of Pulp Fiction to hip hop.
On the way to an island there were some Sea Days, where you simply enjoy the perks of the ship. We had a balcony so we would stay there most of the time and stared at the beautiful blue sea.
At ports, we mostly found a nice beach and went in the water. We also went around the islands on historical tours. In Jamaica, we revisited the site where Aditya proposed – at the beach near Dunn’s River Falls. Since we have been to Jamaica, we didn’t see anything new. We love Jamaica for it’s fun vibes and gorgeous beaches.
Dunn’s River Falls
Bamboo Blu Beach, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Beach at Dunn’s RIver Falls
Grand Cayman was very fancy. We hung out at the beach at the Ritz Carlton. We visited “Hell” in Grand Cayman. This was a tourist attraction and consisted of a group of limestone formations that resembled what one could imagine as hell! Seven Mile Beach felt so luxurious; this was definitely my favorite beach on the trip.
Seven Mile Beach
The last island we visited was Cozumel, Mexico. Here we visited the Mayan ruins and saw ruins from structures built from an ancient community/village. Walking through the village was tough and rocky, but worth seeing. We also saw the rough yet serene coastline of Cozumel, which had massive cerulean waves hitting the shore.
Cozumel had a warm feel, despite the fact that there is active drug trade happening on the island, especially at night. The people of Mayan origin were very welcoming and kind.
Lastly, we finished our vacation with one more day in Miami – we just adore Miami! We went to the Everglades and had brunch at the Ritz Carlton, Coconut Grove.
Ritz Coconut Grove
Alligator at the Everglades
I hope you enjoyed the highlights from our trip! We can’t wait to cruise again!!!