Category Archives: Uncategorized

Building community, then letting go

We’re about to move back to the East Coast after 2 1/2 years in Seattle. If it seems like we can’t make up our minds, you’ve got the right impression! I’m going to miss being near my family and the familiar surroundings of the Pacific Northwest so much, but I am also excited about returning east to some of our closest friends. Things I’m excited about: public transportation, beautiful springs and falls, hot summers at the beach, vibrant city life, diversity.

But there will be many things I’ll long for, like the views of Mt. Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympic mountains on a clear day; the calm of watching ocean tides crash onto the boardwalk; the views of Puget Sound as I run through my parents’ winding neighborhood down to the beach; my neighborhood’s vibrant gardens and the verdant forest all around us; Seattle’s quirkiness and politics; the city’s many great restaurants and all the Asian and Asian-inspired cuisine; my local independent bookstore and Elliott Bay Books (there are dozens more to love); The Pantry, where I have learned so much about professional kitchens and benefited from the knowledge of great chefs; our alt weeklies; all the water; sunsets at Golden Gardens; UW and its glorious campus; the fresh air; and that feeling — elusive for an immigrant — of being home.

Sigh. Now this is getting hard to write.

The great thing is, I always have an excuse to come back. I can’t wait to visit my parents and enjoy Seattle as I have over the last decade-plus — as my little vacation city (and it makes a spectacular one).

Next time I come, there will be two more awesome things about this place that I can say I help built:

B and I have been part of bringing Subcontinental Drift, a South Asian open mic group, to Seattle. We have held two sold-out events where more than a dozen artists (including B!) shared their work, including comedy, rap, musical performances, spoken word and dance. We were so blown away by the talent we found, and I am so excited that the venture is going to continue after our time here.

Subdrift

The other was a group I created and billed, unoriginally, as Seattle Desi Moms. I wanted to meet more South Asian moms who lived in the city, and I sort of took a note from Field of Dreams and decided to build it. Today, more than 60 moms are part of the group. Together we’ve used the group as an excuse to leave the kids at home, get a night out to sample some of Seattle’s great cuisine, and made friends. Yesterday, I met four new moms through the group who have just moved to Seattle, and I’m so excited that one of them will be taking it over to make sure it carries on.

Our time in Seattle made us better people. Our daughter was born here, and we became a family of four. We lived in our first house, and we’ll always associate it with our children’s earliest memories. They went to two awesome preschools that not just taught them, but offered us so much guidance as we navigated life as new parents. And, hopefully, through our efforts, we are leaving Seattle a slightly better place, too.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5 things I learned about crash dieting

spring
A lot has changed since I last posted on the site. This photo, for one, is from our new neighborhood in Seattle, where spring has decided to make an early arrival. Our cross-country move is one excuse I have for not having written for quite some time. My apologies! But I return with a bit of wisdom I am excited to impart on you.

You see, I ended last year about a dozen pounds heavier than I started it. The tipping point came when I took my son for a doctor’s visit, and, since he fell asleep, the doc suggested he weigh me by myself and then with my son to subtract out my son’s weight. I don’t know what’s up with the scales in doctor’s offices, but, boy, was it an eye opened. I weighed way more than I thought, so much so that I felt sick.

I’ve never really dieted in my life, at least not in earnest, but I knew drastic measures were necessary to get myself back in range. I did a bit of research and realized that weight loss is really just as simple as this no-brainer formula:

Calories in – Calories out = Some negative number

I decided to be dramatic and run a 1,000-calorie deficit, no easy feat, but one that would help me lose about two pounds a week if I stuck to it. I’m writing to you 6 weeks into the regimen, and I have lost 10 pounds. Riding this latest weight loss success, I decided to share what I learned with all of you:

1. Exercise. Sure, you can just lie in bed all day and eat 500 calories and run a calorie deficit. You will lose weight. But you will also feel incredibly weak, and you won’t last on the diet long before your body demands food. Instead, exercise. Each calorie burned is an additional calorie you can eat. Sure, exercise will make you hungry, but it will also give you energy and make you feel strong — which is key to making a diet work!

Also, choose a form of exercise you like. If you hate going to the gym (like I do), then don’t go to the gym! We’ve been very lucky to have a pretty dry winter in Seattle, and I have been running or taking long walks daily. I also try to incorporate my exercise into my day, running to the preschool when I have to pick my son up, or running to the grocery store to run errands before walking home. This helps me tremendously with time management!

2. Cook. I don’t think you can successfully lose weight if you always eat out. Sure, it’s possible, I suppose. But, highly unlikely. That’s because restaurant food is, on the whole, insanely caloric. And most places don’t present you with healthy options. I just returned from a cafe where my choices for breakfast were 10 kinds of white-flour baked goods doused in sugar. At home, breakfast can be a fruit-and-vegetable smoothie, or a piece of toast with sliced avocado and egg — the sort of healthy, vitamin-rich calories that keep me filled until lunch.

3. Eat fat. Running a calorie deficit will very naturally mean that you feel hungry. One way to feel more full from reduced calories is to eat higher fat food. Not fried food or anything that would blow your calorie limit for the day, of course. But that toast with avocado I mentioned? Half an avocado has 15 grams of fat but just 150 calories. You better bet that’s going to keep you more full than 150 calories of cereal.

4. Snack. Winter is prime citrus season, so I stocked my kitchen with grapefruit and cute tangerines from California. When I felt hungry, I reached for one of these for a quick rush of sugar that doesn’t have many calories at all. Snacking is important to keeping your body full of energy, but be sure to make smart choices!

5. Cheat. I went over my calorie limit some days, usually on weekends. But tracking it still helped me compensate by running a little extra the next day, or making smarter choices to make amends. In the end, I succeeded in losing weight. It’s okay to cut yourself a little slack and keep the end goal in mind.

By the way, there is no reason to run such a high calorie deficit as I did. You could run a 100-calorie deficit and lose weight too. It would just take a bit longer. It’s also far more sustainable and will ensure that you can still be a non-zombie, productive member of society.

I’m actually looking forward to ending my calorie counting this month, once I’ve dropped the last couple pounds. Dieting is really not for me. I hate the self-restraint and the obsessiveness with what I put in my mouth. But, I plan to keep these principles and a controlled diet in my repertoire so that, hopefully, I won’t be writing about weight gain again come next year!

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Next time you have 5 minutes to cook…

I can cook a meal in five minutes if I have shopped properly. That’s the truth. When you have tasty ingredients that you’ve bought from the farmers’ market and you have things in your pantry that are good. Then it takes no time to cook them. I have greens from the garden and I have, maybe I have chicken breast. I sauté that. I make a little vinaigrette for a salad. Three minutes for that. I put the greens in a bowl. I am washing them while I am cooking the chicken. And then, maybe I boil a little potato. Maybe I have some brown rice. That’s it.

That’s Alice Waters on her go-to quick meal. It sound delicious, honestly. The interview itself is interesting, although I find her thoughts on food and her personal history more interesting than her opinions on how to fix our larger food system. I feel like she’s speaking a little out of her league on that one, and her stubborn optimism that everyone can afford to eat organically will alienate many.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feed Me, Uncategorized

Getting back in the cooking groove

Image

Three years ago, B gifted me a class at Just Simply… Cuisine as a birthday gift. On Sunday, I co-taught my second class at JSC, a marker of the progress I have made as a student of food.

It was only fitting that it be the place that I return to cooking after my maternity leave. Baby S was born on January 13, and I have sustained myself since on anti-colic chicken soup and lactation cookies, courtesy of the midwives who helped bring my son into the world in a beautiful birth. But S is now six weeks old, and I finally feel like I have enough of a handle on motherhood to begin cooking again. Here’s a photo of him visiting with Chris, the founder of JSC:

Image

Eleven people attended the JSC winter class, where they learned to make a hearty menu of kale salad, decadent macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie and chocolate bread pudding. I taught the latter two recipes, the first of which was featured first on this blog! For the class, we made a classic butter crust and used chicken instead of turkey. None of the students had made a pie crust from scratch before, and it was a real pleasure showing them how simple it can be. 

Now that I’ve returned to the kitchen, I’m looking forward to the next JSC class, which will feature a spring menu sometime in May. Stay tuned, and consider signing up for a chance to learn the cooking techniques featured here and sample the dishes firsthand!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Life moves

Just a quick note to apologize for not posting lately. I have a few food items queued up but have not had time to write them because B and I are in the middle of a move.

The exciting part is that Texas should be one big food adventure, and you’ll read all about it here — starting in May!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fall fashion week

I have mixed feelings about our society’s obsession with stuff, but I admit that I’m a sucker for fashion. It’s fall fashion week in New York, and I couldn’t wait to get home yesterday and go through the runway styles.

Now I don’t know anything about designers, but I put together a palette of sorts with a dozen styles I liked. Here’s my read on what appealed to me: slouchy blouses, jackets and scarves up top paired with sharply cut bottoms. I’m loving the cropped pants that are still on the runway, and I’m itching for better weather to wear them. High-waisted pants also look like fun. Yellow was the only exciting color I saw, but it certainly is a good one!

I won’t go any further, lest I betray my ignorance of haute couture, but I did want to share the styles that drew me in.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

What I’ve been cooking

After a summer of avocado soups and cold pasta, I embraced fall with full force and learned about the beauty that is squash. I made butternut squash soup, roasted acorn squash with brown sugar, and kubocha squash risotto. B’s desi taste buds didn’t take to the sweetness of fall squashes, but I fell deeply in love with the season.

Well, the leaves have been raked and our farmer’s market dwindled down to its winter size. The good news is that our mushroom vendor is back for the season, so I have been exploring the great variety of mushroom harvests she is selling. I made a mushroom soup inspired by the canned cream of mushroom soup I devoured as a child. I wanted to do away with the thick cream (and sodium!) and create a soup that accentuated the mushrooms and warmed the body.

I found an Anthony Bourdain recipe that turned out great (of course). I cut down on the butter, used my mix of mushrooms from the market, and substituted red wine vinegar for sherry. I also added a touch of milk at the end to liven up the grayish color:


It was really tasty and served as a great lunch for work.

I also had friends over for snacks last week and decided to make a savory bread pudding out of a stale loaf of bread. I used a New York Times recipe sans cheese. I used up some of the sage I recently bought too, and cut up the pudding into bite-size pieces for the party:

I should note that I also just bought The Essential New York Times, which updates many classic recipes for our worldly and health conscious palates. I can’t wait to try out recipes and share them here.

Finally, I made a Betty Crocker recipe (recipe not online) of thumbprint cookies for the same party. The inspiration came from a jar of strawberry jam that has been lurking at the back of my fridge. The cookies actually came out wonderful, and I will be making them time and again for friends and parties.

The harmony of butter, almond, and jam made this one a crowd pleaser:

Leave a comment

Filed under Feed Me, Uncategorized