A more personal article

American journalism schools teach reporters to put their own biases aside. That’s a cornerstone of how we report. We want to be open to all perspectives, weigh each side, and let the reader come to their own conclusions about what we cover.

Enter the era of fake news and Internet memes and advertorial and native advertising. Where are we headed? It’s a mystery that many of us trying to figure out. But one thing that seems evident is that there has been a shift in how readers/viewers perceive the neutrality stance that journalists hold to be sacred. Many are skeptical and believe that bias still finds its way into the news, and that pretending that it is unbiased is itself a lie. I for one think this raises some great questions for news professionals and we will be better for all the self-evaluation and rumination that we are undergoing right now.

On a personal level, I decided to take a leap of faith and try something new. After President Trump was elected, I had a lot of feelings about the divisiveness of the country, the political rhetoric about Muslims, and how me and my family fit into all of that.

I proposed to my editor at KCTS 9, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, a story about how Muslim parents are talking to their young kids about the political shift. Surely, the increase in hate crimes and mosque vandalism might be prompting concerns about playground bullying.

During the Iraq war, I remember my baby brother, then in middle school, being called a terrorist. And I also remember trying to get his vice principal to take action, and her dismissing it as the “harmless” bullying that goes on in those years of schooling. We have grown a lot in our understanding of bullying and its dangers since then, but the threat seems as real today to many parents.

My editor saw through my pitch, noting the very personal nature of the idea, and asked me to write it as a personal essay rather than simply report what others are doing. The result was an article that is a mix of my personal confessions around the topic, along with really valuable input from other parents and therapists on how to cope with the challenges of talking to young children about hate, racism and the darker sides of our society. It was particularly challenging because I am so private about my faith. It took a lot for me to admit where I stand and how I’m parenting my children, as I know that many in my community have thoughts on what is the right way to raise Muslim children. That being said, I felt so supported by the others parents I interviewed, who were open and vulnerable about their own struggles. And I have felt so supported since this article published, by my Muslim community and my community of journalists — many of whom welcomed such an open dialogue on a difficult topic.

I have several Muslim friends at esteemed news organizations such as NPR and Guardian US who covered the Trump campaign, and they too have written personal essays about what it felt like to be a Muslim in that role. I think that being so bravely honest in this era where the truth is becoming harder to sniff out is refreshing and reminds us all of our humanity — the ways in which we’re all connected and all the same. There isn’t that much that differentiates us; we just get hung up on all the differences.

Please give the piece a read, and share your thoughts.

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Desi food service dishes up nostalgia

One of my goals as a writer has been to bring together my passion for food with my interest in immigrant stories. My recent article for KCTS 9, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, did just that by highlighting a South Asian meal service that provides weekly home-cooked meals to an audience that includes many of Seattle’s recent tech transplants.

Because of companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, so many Indian and Pakistani immigrants have come to the Pacific Northwest over the last decade. It’s one of the most visible shifts that stands out to me having returned here after spending that time on the East Coast. In many cases, the tech workers are here on visas and must wait to bring family over.

Coming from a communal society like that of South Asia, the people I interviewed for this story told me it’s a real adjustment to have to do everything alone. In New Delhi, Priyanka Wadhawan, who works at Amazon, tells me she had her parents and other family nearby and that they often shared meals. She had a cook to help prep food, and she never actually learned howt o cook until coming to the U.S. Now she loves cooking simple Northwest fare like salmon, but she leaves the heavy duty, laborious work of South Asian curries to Turmeric ‘N More, and says that owner Sadia Bukhari is like her local mom. When Wadhawan had a baby, Bukhari even sent her soup spiced with herbal remedies known in South Asia to help mothers heal postpartum.

Check out the story.

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Back in the game

Trump article

KCTS 9 homepage


I took a good part of this year off to focus on raising my daughter, who was born last fall. I’ve started freelancing again, however, and I am feeling pulled back in the game now that the presidential election is over. The country voted for major, major change, and I think it’s an awakening for many of us.

I was reminded of the time I spent covering the Tea Party movement as I reflected on the Trump victory and many people’s shock that it happened. Like many people living in urban centers and the coasts, I work up Tuesday morning expecting to end the day with the country having elected its very first female president. That Donald Trump could win seemed unthinkable, and yet, many other Americans saw it coming. Why did we ignore them?

Reflecting on that led me to write a piece for KCTS 9, the Seattle-area PBS station.

I’ve received a lot of support for my words, but also a lot of anger. Some liberals believe that it is wrong to offer empathy to people who chose to back a racist or misogynist man to serve their selfish interests. They say that those same people have ignore the plight of minorities and continue to do so.

On the right, there are many college-educated, well-to-do conservatives who backed Trump even though they have not been left economically behind. They don’t believe the typecasting of Americans voting for Trump because they were so desperate is accurate, and say that they chose to back him because they see him outside of the party system, because appointing conservative Supreme Court justices will have impact way beyond four years, and because the media painted him out to be a racist megalomaniac but that he is not.

Time will help us understand what the implications of electing Trump are. I had been pretty checked out of the election, perhaps not unlike many others who were not excited by either candidate, but now I am so motivated to re-engage. I hope you are too!

And because politics isn’t everything, I am also going to revisit the food blog. I haven’t been blogging about it, but food is still my comfort and escape. I have been assisting with cooking classes at a local school, The Pantry, and am continuing to develop recipes. I’m also starting to write about food for other outlets. Stay tuned!

Lattice pie

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Berry-beet smoothie

spelt
Spe.lt is a useful tool if you’re trying to calculate calories. It has a fairly extensive database of branded and natural food products that pull up quickly as you type in the quantity and type of food you’d like to look up. What’s nice is that you can build a list, so you can input a bunch of ingredients that went into making, say, a smoothie, and it will add up the total nutrition facts. (My Fitbit app also does this, but that requires a lot more button pushing than this simple interface does.)

The image above lists the calories for two 12-oz. servings of a berry-beet smoothie I made this morning for me and B, who showed me this site. It isn’t perfect, so some things are an approximation, but the list also serves as a handy recipe in case you’re wondering how to make the smoothie. Just drop everything in a blender and give it a whirl. Note that the item listed as “plain” is actually plain yogurt. Full fat, in my case, because I love whole-fat dairy.

What are your go-to smoothies? It’s easy for me to fall back on some variant of the smoothie above, or a peanut butter-banana version I also consume often. I’d love more ideas!

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Is it time to give up salad?

Salad

Pixabay


You might know that lettuce is mostly water and contains little in the way of nutrition. But did you know that cucumbers, radishes and celery share lettuce’s nutritional futility? Or that we may be wasting precious resources growing the vegetable equivalent of Dasani water bottles?

This Washington Post piece is enlightening, if a tad provocative:

Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table. When we switch to vegetables that are twice as nutritious — like those collards or tomatoes or green beans — not only do we free up half the acres now growing lettuce, we cut back on the fossil fuels and other resources needed for transport and storage.

Now, I think cucumbers are really refreshing in summer, and I enjoy salads a lot. Greek salads some to mind, because without the lettuce and cucumbers, they are little more than a tomato with onion slices, olives and feta cheese. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good way to fill up on a hot day, or that they might help satisfy a craving without busting the calorie count. A bed of lettuce is a great accompaniment to protein and a substitute for carbs, but I think the article offers a good rule of thumb for avoiding salads that are unhealthy. Yes, there are salads that are packed with more calories and saturated fats than fast food:

Next time you order a salad, engage in a little thought experiment: Picture the salad without the lettuce, cucumber and radish, which are nutritionally and calorically irrelevant. Is it a little pile of croutons and cheese, with a few carrot shavings and lots of ranch dressing?

That’s a useful exercise to keep in your back pocket. What else is going in your salad? I just had one for lunch that, minus the lettuce, was a vehicle for figs, cranberries, blue cheese, avocado oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. That isn’t all that nutritious, now that I think about it. One way to make a salad count is to consider swapping out lettuce greens for spinach, kale, collards or other dark greens that do offer more nutritional benefits. And pack on the nuts and lean proteins that, ultimately, are going to fill you up.

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Gooey yummy chocolate cupcakes

I was in the mood for some chocolate cake yesterday but didn’t want to make a giant batch that would lead to overeating, so I searched around for a recipe that makes individual-sized portions.

I discovered this amazingly simple method for making four portions of chocolate cake, which were the perfect amount for us to enjoy with a scoop of ice cream each. It’s a very rich recipe, heavy on the chocolate, so vanilla ice cream or whipped cream feel essential.

Give these a try next time you feel like eating chocolate cake and want to satisfy that craving within 20 minutes.

A few notes on the recipe: It’s difficult to get the cake out of the cupcake tins, so if you’re serving this to guests, bake in round cupcake-sized ramekins and just dollop scoops of ice cream over them before serving with spoons. Dust with powdered sugar or add a garnish of mint or strawberry to really make it look like you worked hard!

And, I found 12 minutes to be just right, but some commentators have said that they had to let the cakes cook a little longer. Just look for the cracked tops and be aware that the cakes will deflate slightly as they cool.

Follow the recipe exactly for success, including starting with room temperature ingredients, carefully folding in the cooled melted chocolate and flour, and cooling the mixture before baking it.

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Banana yogurt popsicles

popsicle
Life enjoys being a bit ironic, I think, so it isn’t surprising to me that my little kiddo has little interest in food. Getting him to eat is one of our biggest challenges, which I guess isn’t that atypical for a two-year-old. But he does love his ice cream. The blistering heat in Seattle this summer gives us both good excuses to consume it in copious amounts, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

So, I’ve been on the quest to find some cool treats that are slightly healthier. We recently had popsicles at a fair that were creamier than your usual ice pops, and I really enjoyed them. I chanced upon a recipe in Saveur for strawberry rhubarb yogurt popsicles, and a lightbulb went off.

Using yogurt to cream up a popsicle is a healthy way of simulating that ice-cream goodness. I didn’t have strawberry or rhubarb on hand, but I do have lots of bananas (thank you, Costco). Now, I have frozen banana halves with popsicle sticks before, because they taste very creamy and satisfying frozen, so I suspected that I could dial back on all the artificial sugar if I went this route. I decided to add a little more flavor and creaminess with peanut butter. And that’s it. These popsicles are a simple mix of those ingredients, plus a dash of milk.

To make six 4 oz. pops, simply blend 2 medium-sized bananas, 1/3 cup of peanut butter, 1/3 cup of full-fat yogurt and 4-ish tablespoons of whole milk. Let the blender go for a few minutes so you get a very smooth consistency. It should be thick like the texture of heavy whipping cream. Add a little milk or yogurt to thin it out as needed, or more banana to thicken, then pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

When S enjoys these, I can feel good knowing he is getting protein, fresh fruit, good dairy fats and healthy bacteria. Chalk that up to a win!

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