Friday, June 29, 2018

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking


Author: Susan Cain

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When I read the title of the book, I thought that this is going to tell me ways of how introverts can exert their power. In some sense it does but it is not predominantly about that. It talks about everything related to introverts and exercising your power is probably just another chapter. This is where I was a little disappointed because I was coming with different expectations. What I did like is that after reading the book I realize that being an introvert is normal. That you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t want to be amidst a group of people (read party). That sometimes you prefer to sit in a corner and read your book.

I learnt quite a few things from this book. It talks about how a long time ago the culture in US was the Culture of Character. What people appreciated most was your character and hence that is what you focused on. Then in the 1900s it changed to the Culture of Personality. What people looked for was how outgoing you were. How comfortable and confident you were talking to people around you. This is what led to the promotion of extroversion. Kids in school are encouraged to participate in group exercises, public speaking and so on. The more you speak up, the more you are heard. Be it in college or in work place. Extroversion is more or less correlated with leadership in everybody’s eyes. People have ignored that not everybody is born alike and not everybody appreciates these extrovert activities. Because extroversion is valued, everybody strives towards it whether they like it or not.

The author also talks about how different races have different degrees of extroversion. Asians as a race are quite introverts (of course this doesn’t mean that all of them are but more people are introverts than extroverts) while Americans by virtue of their origin are not. Most Americans were immigrants – they came from far away lands. This fact implies they have to willing to be travel to new places with new people. Asian culture on the other hand promotes introversion. Kids who talk less and read more are admired more. This is why Asian students take some time to adjust in American universities where they are expected to speak up and in a group setting.

Further, introversion is not just related to people. Just as they shy away from new people, introverts also shy away from new things. They like to take baby steps.

That said it doesn’t mean you will never find an introvert doing anything extrovert. If they have a passion or love of something that requires them to go out of their boundaries then they will do that. They will find it a little taxing though because it will take them a lot of effort and energy to do that; and for that they will have ways to recover their energy back.

My takeaway from this book is – we should identify introverts around us and accept them for who they are. More so with the kids. If there is an introvert kid don’t push them towards extrovert activities. Expose them slowly to new things and people. See what they like. One would wonder why wouldn’t the same advice go for extroverts. Well it does except that people are more accepting towards extroverts than introverts in today’s culture. It is easier to see why someone would want to go to a party vs why one wouldn’t. It’s easier to accept that doing things in a group is fun vs doing it alone. How many times have you seen a lone traveler and wondered to yourself why did they come alone? What fun is that? That is the reason we need to be more accepting of introverts.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dry Veggie manchurian

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I love indo-chinese food and especially all kinds of manchurians! It’s just so yummy! Another friend of mine also likes manchurian so I thought why not make some and then all of us can savor it! I found this recipe by Tarla Dalal (she’s my trusted source for most Indian recipes – except south Indian recipes). I wouldn’t say I followed the exact proportions, just went with ballpark measurements.

Ingredients

For The Manchurian Balls
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions whites and greens (I didn’t have these so skipped them)
1 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup cornflour
1/4 cup plain flour (maida)
2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
1 tsp finely chopped ginger (adrak)
2 tsp finely chopped garlic (lehsun) (skipped this as well since wasn’t sure if DH would like the taste of raw garlic)
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper (kalimirch) to taste
oil for deep-frying


For The Dry Sauce
2 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
1 tsp finely chopped ginger (adrak)
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic (lehsun)
1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions whites and greens
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp red chilli sauce
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper (kalimirch) to taste
1 tbsp finely chopped spring onion greens

Method:

  1. I chopped the cabbage and carrot using a food processor.
  2. Combine all the ingredients along with 2 tbsp of water in a deep bowl and mix very well.
  3. Divide the mixture into 14 equal portions and shape each portion into a ball (if you find it difficult to form balls, sprinkle a little water).
  4. Heat the oil in a deep non-stick pan and deep-fry the balls, a few at a time, on a medium flame till they turn golden brown in colour from all the sides. Drain on an absorbent paper and keep aside.

For the sauce
  1. Combine the cornflour and ¼ cup of water in a bowl, mix well and keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a broad non-stick pan, add the green chillies, ginger, garlic and spring onion whites and greens and sauté on a high flame for a few seconds.
  3. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, tomato ketchup, red chilli sauce, cornflour-water mixture, salt and pepper, mix well and cook on a high flame for 1 minute.
  4. When you are ready to serve (do not do this ahead of time):
    1. If there was a gap between when you made the sauce to when you are ready to serve, the sauce would have thickened. That is how cornflour is. So add some water and heat it. Bring it to the original consistency.
    2. Add the manchurian balls to the dry sauce, toss gently and cook on a high flame for 1 minute.
    3. Switch off the flame, add the spring onion greens.
    4. Serve immediately.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Animal Farm

Author: George Orwell

Print

I was looking for books to read when I remembered that I’d been wanting to read Animal Farm for a long time. I had heard a lot about this book so when it finally came up in my library queue, I was so excited! This book did not disappoint me – it was so interesting! The edition that I had, had a preface about George Orwell – what his political inclinations were, how he came about to write this book, his writing style etc. That was the icing on the cake! Fun fact – George Orwell was born in India (to his british parents). It turns out this story is a satire on Soviet Union. To me it felt like this is how most of the world works.

George Orwell’s writing style is very easy going while at same time it’s not as casual as having a conversation. It felt like just right to me. Left to myself, would have loved to finish this book in a few hours but you know how life goes! The story is about a farm where there are a bunch of animals. They have a human owner and his human employees. The humans are detested by the animals for they do not treat them well. No surprises so far. Some animals sow the idea of a rebellion amongst all the other animals and while the animals feel that they would never be able to do such a thing, one day they drove the humans out of the farm and became the owners of the farm. Since the animals don’t like humans and the other farms are run by humans – they do not interact with the other farms. They would like to spread their word to other animals on these farms that they can also take over their farms. However, that doesn’t happen. At this point, it was a true democracy – for the people, by the people and of the people. All the animals are very happy because they are all equals. Everybody (mostly) works equally hard, they get bumper harvests, are well fed and very happy. Slowly and gradually, as time goes by, without anybody realizing some animals get more power and better status than other animals. They now have a leader amongst them who dictates who does what and how the farm should be. This change in dynamics is so interesting to read and love how the author has shown the progression. I will leave the rest for you to read.

While reading the book, I was thinking isn’t this how real world is? Which is what made it all the more engrossing. Highly recommend reading this book!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Vacationland: True stories from painful beaches

Author: John Hodgman

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I came upon this book when I was searching Amazon for some book in the humor category. I feel it’s always so hard to find books with humor. There are so many thrillers, drama, etc but humor – nada! This book disappointed to me. It was not like Where’d you go Bernadette or Sex Lives of the cannibals. It was more regular conversational humor – that you and I would add to our conversations. The author talks about his life at his vacation home – how it come about to be, what were his experiences and so on. Honestly nothing much to say about this book. It is more of narration but a funny bit here and there.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Whole grain brownies

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These brownies are so delicious that you will hardly notice the difference! I always try to substitute all purpose flour with a whole wheat flour when possible. Only if the taste is not much compromised. I feel that there are so many avenues these days through which we consume all purpose flour that it’s better to avoid when possible. This recipe from KAF is a keeper! I baked half a batch of the recipe and then froze some. I also skipped adding the chocolate chips to avoid making it overly chocolatey – DH doesn’t like it then. To brownie purists I would say that it’s not there isn’t a difference but these taste really good!

Ingredients:

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a small pan; I used an 8” X 8” pan but even that was big for the half batch. Bread pan seemed to small. So if you have anything in between use that. Line the pan with parchment paper if desired.
  2. In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine.
  3. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly just till it's hot (about 110°F to 120°F) but not bubbling. Don't worry if it separates; just stir it briefly to recombine a bit. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder if using, and vanilla.
  5. Add the eggs, stirring till smooth.
  6. Then add the flour and chips, again stirring till smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, until a cake tester or sharp knife poked into the center reveals wet crumbs, but not raw batter. The brownies should feel set on the edges and in the center. Remove them from the oven, and cool completely on a rack.
  8. Cover and let sit overnight before cutting and serving; this gives the bran a chance to soften and become "invisible" in your mouth. I was guilty of tasting it the same day – hard to resist brownies!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Chutney powder/pudi

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I’ve been on a roll making instant mixes and powders! Don’t ask me why because I don’t know myself Smile Maybe because it’s been a long time since I did this. As part of my list of to-make-instant-mixes/powders was also this item – chutney powder/pudi. DH loves chutney pudi so I thought it would be nice to try making it at home. That also gave me a chance to try doing something different! I used the recipe here. The proportion called out in the written recipe is a little different than the one in the video. I followed the written directions. The result was a yogurt box full of chutney pudi! Will probably last us a year Open-mouthed smile The taste is really good – the mix of tamarind, jaggery and chilli has got out well. It’s a little on the spicy side – so next time I will reduce the amount of chillies by 1/3rd. I might also increase the curry leaves quantity.

If you’re using your vitamix to grind this – I can’t say about the full size version, I have the S50 – then do so in small quantities. If you put it all together or even half of it, it’s not going to work that well. I know the hard way Smile. Eventually I split it into 5 batches I think and that worked very well. So impressed with my Vitamix Smile

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 1/2 cup urad dal
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10-15 curry leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp jaggery
  • big lemon sized tamarind
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut or dried coconut
  • 25-30 byadgi chillies (they are mild chillies)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Dry roast the chana dal for about 5 minutes. It gets a little brown in color.
  2. Dry roast urad dal for about 2 minutes till it also gets a little brown in color.
  3. Heat the oil and add mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies. Saute till mustard seeds splutter and the curry leaves become crisp. Turn off the heat.
  4. Add the dals and the rest of the ingredients to this and mix well.
  5. Let it cool.
  6. Grind to a powder. Leaving it a little gritty is good.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dhokla

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This fail-proof dhokla recipe is indeed fail-proof! I had bookmarked it a long time back but couldn’t try it because I didn’t have citric acid. The recipe calls out that it is important to have citric acid. I had tried other dhokla recipes without citric acid and they didn’t come out that well. Actually they were also without Eno. So hard to say if one is more replaceable than the other. Nonetheless, I’m glad that this turned out just perfect. DH and I both like dhokla and we both like snacks which is why I’m always on the lookout for healthy snacks. Since dhokla is a healthy snack, I always wanted to get it right so that I don’t have to depend on ready mixes. Not just for their availability at home but also because of high sodium content in ready mixes. I halved the recipe called out and it was great for 2 of us (probably a little extra but it was so yummy that we ate all of it!). You can see how nice and spongy it has come out!

I made the dhokla in a rice cooker. I put around 3/4 cup of water in it. Put in the utensil with the dhokla batter – make sure you elevate this so that water doesn’t get in during steaming. When the rice cooker turned off the dhokla was done. I modified the recipe just a tad.

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Besan (Chickpea flour/ Gram flour)
  • 3/4 tablespoon Sooji (Semolina)
  • A pinch of Hing
  • 1/2 tablespoon Sugar
  • Salt to taste

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon Crushed ginger and green chilies (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Citric acid
  • 1 teaspoon Oil
  • ~1/4 cup water (get pouring consistency)
  • 3/4 teaspoon Eno (fruit Salt)

For tempering

  • 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
  • Curry leaves (I skipped these since I didn’t have them)
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • ~1/4 cup Water
  • 4-5 small Green Chilies
  • 1 1/2 tsp Oil

Method:

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients.
  2. Add all the wet ingredients except Eno to the dry ingredients.
  3. Beat the batter (with a whisk) well to incorporate air.
  4. Get your steamer ready. If you’re using rice cooker, add the water to it’s bowl.
  5. Grease your dhokla mold with some oil.
  6. Now add Eno to the batter and mix well.
  7. Pour the batter into the mold and steam. After adding Eno, you shouldn’t keep the batter. If you want to make multiple rounds, add Eno to the batter for one round, steam it and then repeat.
  8. Let the dhokla cool for half an hour and then take out of the mold.
  9. Cut it into pieces – cut like you would cut cake with a back and forth action and not a up and down stroke.
  10. Prepare the tempering:
    1. Heat oil in a small pan.
    2. Add mustard seeds, chillies. and curry leaves.
    3. When mustard seeds splutter, add the water.
    4. Now add sugar.
  11. Now pour the tempering over the dhokla. Dhokla should be all wet.
  12. It’s all yours to devour!