Monday, September 23, 2013

Biscotti Baby!

Soft dough ready to go into the oven
Yay! I did it JJust one post ago I said I was eager to make Biscotti; one of my first full-fledged baked dish. I finally got the chance to make it today. Originally I was going to make it on Saturday; it’s easy to make on a weekend as my husband is available to baby sit my son who is hyper active these days, rolling all around the house. I literally pick him up every 5 seconds to put him to square one and he reaches the end of the room by the time I step in the kitchen.

Out from the oven after round 1 of baking
Since couple of weeks I had been gathering all the baking ingredients and I waited for the right time. Being a novice baker, I didn’t realize that the butter in the freezer was to be kept out all night to use it for baking the next day. So my Saturday was wasted waiting for the butter to come to room temperature L. By evening when I came home, it was perfect. So I laid it outside all night and today morning, first thing after my cup of tea I started off confidently. 

Sliced up for round 2 baking

The recipe is really so easy and quick to make. Of course, I don’t have the electric mixer stand to mix all the ingredients. So I had to go the old fashioned way, using a whisk and a big bowl to mix all the ingredients. My arm was already hurting in the first step of mixing the butter and sugar. Well, I went on and on…

Biscotti ready to dunk and eat with coffee

After laying it in the oven and watching it rise from pale dough to golden large cookie, it felt so good! Baking being new to me, it’s like magic. How a small slab of soft dough turns into this a big golden cookie! We couldn’t wait to taste them. I followed the exact recipe but for half the quantity. I wanted to try a small batch and see if I can really follow recipes and bake well. And I made simple Biscotti’s with only vanilla and anise extract flavors, nothing fancy for starters! What a day! Here begins my baking journey! Hope you guys don’t get bored with food and more food.

I have become a complete fan of Laura Vitale. Tried her simple stuffed mushrooms couple of days ago! Again just for trial used my left over mushrooms; her recipes really work! Oh FYI - Biscotti in Italian means twice baked cookie ...2 rounds of baking!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Veggie Pasta Bake – Thanks Laura

As I mentioned in my recent post that I have been looking forward to using the oven, today I cooked a pasta dish. Of course it’s not entirely baked dish; just the finishing is baked. I love making pasta. This time around I learnt and successfully made my first ever white sauce actually called B├ęchamel.
Veggie Pasta Bake - hot from the oven

I have been checking out recipes of Laura Vitale on Youtube; she's Italian and cooks such simple recipes. Every recipe I see, I wish to cook it right away. It all started when I started to look for how to make toasts/rusk…the hard bread that we dip in chai and eat. I knew they are also called Biscotti here in the US; I had eaten chocolate flavored biscotti in Starbucks once. So I started to look for the recipe and that’s how I learnt about Laura Vitale. I have almost seen all her Veg recipes and decided to cook the Veggie Pasta bake this weekend.

It turned out to be a successful adventure. I also cooked zucchini for the first time and loved it. Hopefully I will make some biscotti soon and have a post for it. If I get the recipe and final product right, it will be one of my best achievements in recent times, coz my husband loves chai and rusk! So wish me luck! J

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Oh my GOD!

How often do you get this question, “So, what are your thoughts about GOD?”? My counter question to this one would be, how do you feel when you are asked this question! To me it almost is as bad as a racist question! Why do we ask this question at all, to judge the other person?

Shouldn't your relation with GOD be one on one? Because now if we ask the same question to another relationship of a couple say wife, what are your thoughts about your husband – that would be crossing the limits. You are entering one’s privacy! Why should it matter at all what one thinks of GOD. God’s realization should be to each his own. It should not be influenced or forced.

I come from a family where my father is an atheist; he is an engineer and scientist by profession. His knowledge and intellect tells him to believe in what he sees, life is a form of energy. He has always shared his theories but then he has never forced them on us. We were always free to choose to believe in God. My mother, a working woman is averagely religious; such that she celebrates her couple of festivals round the year, lights the lamps before going to work and every evening; some days she gets late to work and hence can’t light the lamps. She doesn't think too much of it. Her thoughts “I try my best to do as much as I can”. Both have never forced us in to GOD or taken away.

Through my childhood, for every exam I have always touched my parents feet for blessings and good luck than running to the Gods. When I listen to my father’s theories I tend to lean towards nonexistence of God. My mother has taught me to pray to Lord Ganesha, so I do that. I am 31 and I haven’t put too much of my head to this HEAVY topic. My thoughts are, as long as we are doing our duties, responsibilities and being a good human being, that’s all we need. Isn't every god saying the same things? We always hear that God is within us. Then why do I have to sit 2 hours praying and show that I am such a sincere devotee? Or explain my thoughts on GOD?

Only recently I had to answer this question, and I answered just as above. Before this another time when I was asked this question, was a guy – possible alliance for me. Needless to say I never married him; the question totally pushed me away. His expectation was to be religious.

Religion/ God should never be forced. If we are good and we do good acts, what we’ll achieve will always be good.

Note: These are purely my views and opinion. This topic is no invitation for any religious debate!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pathenon – a glimpse of Greece

The Parthenon - Nashville TN
Over the weekend, we visited the Parthenon in downtown Nashville; which is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The monument is located within the Centennial Park, a large public park. The building from outside looks regular size until you actually come close to it; when it does look huge. Especially, the huge rigged pillars are enormous. The monument is surrounded by lush green park lawn. I waited patiently to get a front view of the monument without any visitors. 

Comparison of me to the size of the Pillars
We walked over the green lawn to find an entrance on the other side of the monument. The monument has an entrance fee of $6 – adults and $4 – children/seniors. The benefit of entrance is the chance to see the statue of Athena inside the monument.

I had read reviews about this tourist spot that the statue is worth seeing hence we decided to go inside the monument. On entering, there are two walkways full of pictures from the time it was built. The building was first built for 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. It was constructed of brick, wood, lath and plaster and represented city’s reputation as the “Athens of the South”. The building was so popular that the city left the temporary structure standing after the Exposition. In 1920 due to crumbling pediments and decaying plaster, the city authorized the reconstruction with permanent material like concrete which finished by 1931.
The row of Pillars
Close up of Athena
The ground floor has paintings from 19th- and 20th-century American artists. One of the most striking pictures I saw was Edwin Howland Blashfield’s, The new Dress (1874). It has got this 3D look that for a moment I thought the pink paint is actually a silk cloth pasted on the canvas! Among recent artists, there are very intricate paintings by Paul Lancaster.
On the first floor is the ultimate attraction – The statue of Athena – Goddess of wisdom, prudent warfare and the useful arts. The original Athena Parthenos (lost in ancient Roman wars) was created by sculptor Pheidias in 5th Century B.C. made of ivory and gold plates. 


This modern statue was sculpted by Nashvillian Alan LeQuire. It is a magnificent piece of art standing 42’ 10” tall. The details are exact to that I read in the Wikipedia; left hand resting on the shield, left knee slightly bent, her weight shifted slightly on the right leg, the snake head by the shield, the Nike-Goddess of victory perched on the right hand. This statue is surrounded on its sides by original sculptural fragments from the Acropolis that where purchased from the British museum to be placed here. These are called Elgin casts. Also found is a statue of Gryphon - is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle's talons as its front feet.

Elgin casts
The Gryphon
Pillars inside have an architectural beauty - scroll finish
The New Dress painting
Painting by Paul Lancaster
Funny thing, I play short quizzes on this website; and just a day ago I had played a quiz on Greek mythology where I learnt so many names of their gods and goddesses. The park is huge and I will surely visit few more times to write what's more to this park.

Note: Painting images taken over internet, as photography of them is not allowed.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to the land of abundance!

So we moved to the husband is here for work and I quit from my work, mainly for my infant son...and the US job came along coincidentally! The last time we were here, it was 2009-2010. We lived on the west coast, the ever green state of Washington. Now we are in the middle of the country in Nashville, Tennessee. Its HOT here...hotter than Bangalore! Now I am wondering why I bothered to get my long coat that I bought the last time I lived in the US. 
It’s warm and sweaty at as early as 7am! So the AC goes on all day long. My journey was good considering we had a 5 month infant and a 22hr journey with one transit! He barely cried except when he was hungry or sleepy. I had passengers praising my son; that he was such a good baby! He sure was a good traveler.
Moving from India to USA is like building your whole life all over again, especially when you are married. You have to buy all the things all over again; the utensils, the bed, the furniture, the electronics etc. This being our second time, we have our lessons from before. I am myself shocked to find the smallest things that I brought along with me this time. Settling down here this time was not that difficult since we knew what exactly we need and where to get it from! But settling has been on priority thanks to an infant at hand! 
Pasta with eggplant puree, oven roasted potatoes and salad
Surprisingly, both I and my husband got sick after we reached here; but my son was fine until he got an ear infection after a week. The doctor thinks he got it from my husband; the cable and the maintenance guys here said that cold, cough and ear infections are very common in Nashville! Not a nice thing to hear! I surely don't want him to fall sick again! 
French bread with garlic, parsley, olive oil and mozzarella cheese
Now after 2 weeks, we are kind of settled with all essentials ready at home. And almost after 4 years, today I have cooked one of our favorite oven dish - Pasta with Eggplant puree; first time trial of baked potatoes and a salad! Had a hearty Italian/American dinner tonight! The best part of being the US, is the OVEN. Can't wait to start baking some dishes. I wish to master a few bread and cake recipes this time. For starters, I made some quick garlic bread with garlic, parsley, olive oil and mozzarella cheese - comfort food! 

Will start to share Nashville experiences soon...