Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Creamy Veggie RISOTTO with left over cooked rice!


Hello folks... being a North Indian Muslim- Biryani is my obvious choice when I think of a yummy rice dish... and our Indian Biryani has numerous versions from different states.... Awadhi to Hyderabadi to Kashmiri, to Kachcha Gosht Biryani etc and etc.
But what if you dont want all the spices and the meat... then you can go for a North Indian rice favorite like the "Tehri" a simple rice dish cooked with minimum spices-yellow in color  because of the turmeric and potatoes and peas... served with papad and desi ghee...ummm...
Or Khichdee... a rice and pulses (daal) combination (daal can be different for different tastes) with ooodles of ghee and yummy pickle.....  fantastic comfort food!
Or the South Indian favorite which I love- curd rice... fragrant, light and oh so healthy!
But here we are not talking about our Indian or desi favorites....
We are talking about a dish called Risotto... a creamy rice dish which traces its origins to Italy and uses a special kind of rice called "Arborio Rice"
If you are living in a big city, arborio rice is easily available in most gourmet stores, and I suggest you use that for an authentic risotto!
But if you are living in an out-of-the-way place like me, where even getting a simple thing like Nutella is a struggle, then you can use normal small grain rice that one gets everywhere.
Don't use the Biryani long grain rice because we are not making biryani... we are making "risotto"!
So here goes... 
I have used pre cooked rice wherein I haven't strained the rice but cooked it in its own starch, so its soft.
But if you have pre-cooked left-over rice that you had cooked and strained the starch off-don't fret, you can use that too because we will be recooking it in broth to make it more creamy and soft.

Creamy Veggie Risotto (with left-over rice)

Ingr:
1 cup mix veggies- peas, diced carrots and sweet corn kernels
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
3 cloves garlic- crushed and minced
2 tsp red chilli flakes
2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked rice
1 and1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup milk
(if cooking with Arborio rice then take a cup of rice and cook in 1 litre of broth/stock or go on whats written on the package)

Method: 
1- Boil a couple of cups of water with a pinch of salt and dunk the veggies in it. Give it a boil, strain and keep aside
2- Heat a heavy bottomed kadhai or wok and add the oil.
3- Add the onions and garlic and saute till fragrant, then add the blanched veggies that you had kept aside along with the chilli flakes.
4- Now lower the heat and add the cooked rice, stir for two minutes, then start adding the vegetable stock, little by little, stirring continuously so that it doesn't stick to the bottom.
5- Once you've added the stock let it bubble on low heat for a while...
6- Add the milk and the grated cheese (reserving a tbsp for garnish)... check the seasoning to see if the salt and pepper are ok. Let it bubble on low heat for another 5 minutes.
7- Garnish with chopped coriander and remaining cheese (and if you like-some chopped olives also taste good!)
8- Serve warm.













Thursday, June 4, 2015

14 Traits that sets apart most ARMY wives from the rest!



and I stress on most because for these qualities to develop in an Army Wife (esp. if she is from a civil background), she needs at least 5 years experience of “being an Army wife” under that delicately perfumed chiffon pallu!


1- We can talk down a pole… literally become an expert on small talk with total strangers…
we have some tried and tested ice-breakers that do the trick…
-"Oh what a lovely saree this is…is it from this and this city?"
-"So how long have you been in this station? have you had your child admitted in school? Oh I know a wonderful jeweller in the market…."
-"So where was your last posting? Oh-you are coming from that station? Do you know…...."
and believe me, with India having soooo many Military station spread all over the countryside… we do know most stations or at least know of them!!
-we know where you get the best food, which hotel/resort gives the best deal in throwing pool parties, what’s that particular station’s USP, which school is the best in that city and what are the star attractions of that areas as well! 
And having talked to the stranger for two minutes, we kinda gauge that lady’s interest in no time…
whether its clothes, or food or music or if she only wants to talk about children… we will give her a sparkling conversation about children and the pitfalls of bringing them up…

2- We have a boxful-, a couple of boxes or more of suitcases bursting with all kinds of sarees, and believe me, we wear all of them…. Chiffons and georgettes and light airy ones for the summer, silks and heavy crepes for those cold months…. designer sarees for those special days and occasions… all colors and hues for those flower themed or ocean themed Coffee Mornings or Ladies Clubs…
So there is a saree from every station…Chikan saree from Lucknow, Kanjeevarams from the south, Benarsi sarees to Mysore Silk Sarees, Chanderi sarees to Bandhani Sarees...
You name it, we have them.... or at least we will have most of them after a decade or so in the fauj!
You get my drift?
We are like the unproclaimed cultural brand ambassadors for most states of India!

3- Like you must’ve gathered from my earlier point-we love to dress up!
 Don’t get me wrong..I love roaming around in my PJs like the best of you, (or in my case-paint stained-shabby clothes) but by dress-up I mean the Bollywood Theme, or the Mafia-Night or the Cowboy theme, which is also what perks up any dull, small-town station…
So bring on the coloured wig or the cowboy boots and hats, I say!!
We are so ready to party!

4- We develop myriad talents over the years… and we are more than willing to share them with our brethren. Most of the big stations or at least the stations that hold courses for Officers have smaller courses running alongside to keep the wives busy and out of trouble!
So, from baking or home-made chocolates to fabric painting or glass painting to paper maiche and candle making…. we’ve done them all!!
We might not have become expert enough to start selling, but we can teach you a thing or two about them for sure!!

5- We have perfected the art of “living life KING size, but within a budget!” 
because though our salaries have definitely gotten better over the years but the our spending habits have zoomed up too!!
So with most of us throwing at least one dinner party or two-every month, having the latest gadgets and gizmos, the Fauji wives have learnt the fine art of getting the best out of the humble Rupee….
Oh we are treading the edge of empty bank accounts most of the time but some months are good… we manage to save a teensie bit too!
and our thrifty souls have learnt the art of DIY (Do-It Yourself)!
So we do want to throw a nice themed birthday party for our kids but instead of spending a truckload on a party planner, we do most of the theme ourselves…
Many a time even the theme based cake is home-made!! because where can you get an Angry Bird(click here) or a Chota Bheem (click here) cake in a small town like Lal Gadh Jatta??? (have you even heard of the place?)
and its an unsaid rule in the Armed forces that no matter what financial background one might have, there is no showing off… no birthday gift or an anniversary gift that goes beyond a certain price limit…
so that the other guests don’t feel bad about getting a gift that didn’t match up to the others…
And everyone has a jolly good time without the one-upmanship!

6- We can have our entire house packed in a jiffy, in a sea of black boxes…
Though I often wonder why “Black”??? why not any other color? why not brown? or dark green?
But black its always been… for generations!
Anyhow, we keep aside the tall one for the paintings (box no-24)…
the large one (box no-15) for the kitchen appliances (big enough to take in the 4-burner stove),
Those huge ungainly crates for the TV and the fridge…
Those wooden boxes for the delicate crockery and drawing room knick-knacks…
That big one for the bedsheets and the towels, 
another one just for the curtains… and believe me, we have enough curtains of varying sizes, to put a home furnishing store to shame!
we have silk sheers and cotton sheers, we have damask curtains and striped cotton curtains…
we have bathroom curtains and kitchen curtains… and so on.
and we know exactly which one goes where!
And why you might ask, do we have to pack in a jiffy?
Because though we usually know when our next posting is due… we wait a month, then another month… then another… and then when it comes, sometimes all we get is maybe just a week or 10 days before the officer has to join the next station…
so that one week goes by in a flurry of black paint (yes the boxes have to be repainted before any stuff can go in them, I dunno why) bubble wrap, cartons, endless cups of chai and farewell dinners and lunches!!
which brings me to the next point!

7- We Fauji wives do make the best neighbours…
Its an understood thing that when a new neighbour comes in the station… 
especially an immediate neighbour, we flock around the new person, send her meals for the first few days so she doesn’t have to worry about making food etc., and she can concentrate on setting her house up… give her inputs about the station, the city, the schools so that she gets assimilated in no time.
The same thing is when a neighbour is leaving, the family is called for dinners and hot meals are sent to their home once they close the kitchen, so that they can get the packing done on time!

8- You know how one accumulates stuff in a home that one has been living in, for years
Those homes become like bottom-less wells…
Things just keep piling up in the attics and basements and extra cartons and probably forgotten over the years, extra books, old clothes, broken or unused toys… They collect dust over the years and become invisible!
But we Fauji wives don’t like to carry the extra baggage… we can’t afford to!
If one has to empty the boxes nearly every other year, the stuff that we haven’t used in the last couple of postings but we are lugging them around- is difficult to ignore!
So with every posting that we pack for- out go the old and out-grown clothes, broken toys, small and dented bicycles and tricycles, chipped momentos (which the Army-man is very reluctant to part with, but we bring him around)…
Though for some reason I haven’t been able to make him get rid of his huge collection of yellowed-with-age victory cups which never come out of the boxes but are lovingly packed every year!!
But yes, other than a hiccup or two, we have become experts on regular spring cleaning of our ever changing homes....
Why?
To make space in our boxes for more stuff to pick up in our next station, of course!

9- Whatever education/professional background we might have…
we might be Btechs or an MBA or have an LLB under our belt…
worked as a banker or a software professional or an animator, 
if we want to be with our husbands in whatever back-of-beyond place he might be in, we all eventually give up resisting, get a B-Ed and start teaching…
and finally realise, a couple of years down the line that we do have a flair for teaching, and its not so bad after all!

10- We are adjustable to a fault… 
We might enjoy the luxury of having a huge bungalow complete with a cook and a sahayak and a gardener and a driver in one posting while in the next posting we might not even get a house for 6-8 months, let alone having a cook!
So back to buying your own veggies and sweating away in a tiny kitchen for the next two years!!
and we do it no complaints (or maybe just a grumble or two?)
and lo and behold the next posting gets us all the trappings that we were missing and yearning for!
So one learns to live in a 6 bedroom house with 4 bathrooms and do it up with all the style possible,(thats where all the dozens of curtains come in use) and before we know it -we are sharing a two room set (not a two bedroom mind you) with two kids and 3 dogs in the next posting with more than half of our luggage still in boxes!

11- We Fauji wives might have no love for cooking, or we might even have been closet cooks before our marriage…
but 5 to 7 years down the line… We realise that we have become quite the adventurous chef!!
Even the most reluctant Fauji wife knows at least the basics of chinese cooking to a few simple dishes of continental fare and maybe a few Mughlai dishes thrown in as well…
She has no choice but to learn all this after going for some fantastic dinners at her neighbours’ places and realising that she had better tighten up her belt and get cracking if she has to survive in the Fauji social merry-go-round… especially after getting some subtle and some not-very-subtle hints from her patient husband…
But some of us take to cooking with a vengeance… not because we want to shine socially (though that’s also a motivator) but because we realise the fact that where would we get a chance to try out the Thai and Moroccan cook books that we have been secretly hoarding over the years, than on the unsuspecting dinner guests that we have every other weekend?
Those guest who never tire of praising our food even though the lasagna may be a little burnt or the Thai green curry a little too spicy!
So thank you for your unflinching encouragement...
And Master Chef here we come!!

12- We are the best party planners, ever!!!
After years of throwing parties and Coffee Evenings and Ladies Clubs with themes of Flower and Spring and Under the Ocean and Rockstar and Arabian Nights… complete with the themed decor and a game or two… even matching food if thats possible!
And all within a very strict budget and mostly hand-made!!
So if you have a vague idea for a party, bring it on…
We will make it rock for you!

13- Oh and have you ever nursed a glass of apple juice for over an hour?
Apple juice or orange juice… not whiskey, not brandy… but a simple fruit juice with “lots of ice, please”??
We Fauji wives have learnt the knack of taking a sip… having a 10-15 minutes conversation, a nibble at the snacks, then a small sip again, and back to the conversation…
and the drink lasts for an hour!!
I learnt it the hard way in the early months of my marriage, after gulping down my first coke of the evening and then before I knew it, I had another one in my hand… and down in went again… and so it carried on…
and before I knew it… I was high on sugar and bloated stiff!!

So now, 10-12 years down the line…I can nurse my fruit juice till the wee hours of the morning, be high on life and enjoy the good times that we as Army wives have gotten used to.

14- You might be thinking from all the above indications that we Fauji wives have it real good…
All parties and fabulous lifestyle and loads of fun-times!!
But ask us about the times when we have to stay strong for our children and husbands…
When our husbands are away for months and years on ends on military exercises or Field duties…
when our children are born and cross their important milestones and their fathers are not around to nurture and applaud.
When we stay up all night with a feverish baby and cry ourselves to sleep, exhausted!
but when he calls in the morning we tell him everything is fine.
When Birthdays and Anniversaries come and go and we bake a cake and blow out the candles ourselves…imagining the strong arms around us- whispering "happy birthday"!
When we stay apart in a big city on purpose, so that our children can get a stable schooling in those crucial years…
and we attend the Parent-Teacher Meetings, Annual Functions and Football Matches all by ourselves and shout ourselves hoarse, hoping to compensate for his missing voice…
Yes that’s why when we are together we party like there is no tomorrow
Because if Fauj has taught us one thing… it is live in the present because who knows about tomorrow?

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Free Desktop Calendar for June 2015

Its blistering HOT and painfully sunny outside and with strong winds and sandstorms every other day...
Its a wonder that I have anything blooming in my garden!
But my sunflowers are hardy plants... and the best part is, they love the sun!
The brighter the better!
So in this sweltering month-only my bright sunflowers seem to inspire me...
Enjoy!!

 just right click, save.
then set as desktop image.
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