Such a special time of the year. A time to celebrate with your family and friends. As expats in Bahrain, we make sure that we have some kind of celebration planned to feel the same vibe and spirit as back in our home country. Ofcourse crackers aren’t a possibility but lighting diyas (lamps) and preparing sweets and desserts make it just as special.
While the scale of celebrations remains unaffected, this Diwali is going to be slightly different.
I am going SUGAR -FREE!
But does that mean that I won’t be enjoying any desserts or sweets? Absolutely NOT! What are festivals without the usual burfis, pedas, kheer and halwas! An opportunity came along that made me more resolute about keeping this Diwali sugar -free. At Aster Medical Center , the month of November is all about diabetes awareness and they reached out to me to create diabetes- friendly desserts for this festive season. It was challenging to create recipes that not only taste good but also diabetes-friendly.
In the coming few days, you will see a series of sugar-free, low calorie desserts that are easy to prepare and enjoy, guilt-free. The first of the series is Shrikhand.
Growing up in Gujarat, a state in the western part of India, Shrikhand – a yogurt based dessert- was a regular for festivals. Until now, I never realized how easy it is to make it at home especially when you can buy Greek yogurt. Traditionally, Shrikhand is made using hung yogurt – yogurt that is strained to drain all the water overnight. This allows the yogurt to be creamy and just right for Shrikhand.
Aster Medicals Centers intentions are backed by efforts where they are holding a camp for free check up at Lulu Hyper Market in Riffa between 6 pm – 9 pm. You can get your diabetes checked for free until the 12th of November. For more information you can check Aster Medical Center’s social media channels and search using #AsterAgainstDiabetes – Facebook, Twitter , Instagram.
Now for the recipe – I replaced the sugar from the recipe with ‘Stevia’. Stevia is a super sugar that is natural and has no side effects. It is wonderful for diabetics and people who want to stay off processed sugar. It does take some getting used to since the after taste is vastly different from what we are used to. Having said that, there are ways to mask that after taste with slight addition of honey or other alternate sweeteners like agave nectar.
Some of the best books grace my book shelf but I have no time to read them. I look at them with guilt and they look back at me with a lot of contempt. They don’t say much, mostly because I don’t give them a chance. I turn away to tend to some of the more ‘urgent’ things that need my attention. My bedside table has some of the lighter reads and some cook books. Nigella’s cookbooks are always at my hand’s reach. I flip through some recipes and read a line of two from the novel who’s name I forget until I close to book to look at the title.
I am drifting. Again. This happens when I get too busy in my busyness. I read a post written by Saheli called Floating and I knew I was feeling the exact same thing. What’s reassuring is I know its just a phase and it will pass, so I am not despairing.
Initially I used to fight it but it never helped. Now I just drift along only because I know it will end. There are few things I know make me feel better and one of them is baking. So I baked a chocolate frosted peanut butter cake. It was a friend’s surprise baby shower. I poured myself into it and even before I prepped for the cake, I hadn’t a shred of doubt that it will be wonderful.
The pictures are pathetic because they were rushed, but who cares! The cake was fantastic. I didn’t need anybody else to tell me that and I didn’t even have to taste it. I just knew it. There are a few things you should know about the cake before you try it.
– Its barely sweet and that allows the peanut butter taste to shine through.
– It uses no butter. Only oil and the cake is soft as a baby’s bottom.
-The sweetness is from the chocolate frosting which if you avoid, you’d be doing the cake a lot of disservice.
Before I end this post, there is a video I would like to share here. It is a Ted talk by one of my favourite writers – Elizabeth Gilbert of the Eat, Pray, Love fame. She talks about the creative process and of managing our own expectations that we have from our creative selves. It made a lot of sense to me. I watched it twice and each time it felt like she was talking to me. Here you go.
Being a parent is the most fortunate thing to happen to anyone – seems like an overstatement but I think it’s absolutely true. When Mimi was born, it took me a while to step out from the state of awe. Tiny and vulnerable, my new-born looked like the most exquisite thing I had ever laid my eyes on. Unfortunately, unlike most of you, I didn’t take to motherhood naturally. It took me a great while to figure her out. I was too scared to trust my instincts or for that matter even my husband’s as far as Mimi affairs were concerned. Be it her colicky experience, her natural tendency to run before she started walking, her difficulty in pronouncing ” Y” and “Th” words ( words like yellow were pronounced as Lello and Bath was Baff). Rather than trusting my own instincts, I would look up the internet or talk to my mother who I thought is the authority in raising a child since she managed to make something out of me! But over a period of time, I have understood Mimi and my instincts are better positioned to work and deliver.
Despite having four solid years of experience of raising a child, both my husband and I still struggle when it comes to trusting our instincts as parents. It becomes increasingly difficult especially when a credible source like school and especially your child’s teacher tells you certain things about your child that you find difficult to refute. It was when Mimi joined nursery that I went back to work. It was a trying time for both of us because we spent nearly 3.5 glorious years together before this abrupt separation happened. ( including the pregnancy months when I took a sabbatical from work)
The first year passed incident-free but the second year onward we received a steady stream of complaints from school regarding her behaviour. Mimi suddenly resorted to displaying sudden bursts of temper and several cases of disobedience. These complaints did not cease even after several attempts of intervention with Mimi. We, as parents, were at our wits end. The teacher and school started to label her as someone with ADHD and that increased our anxiety levels beyond imagination. Every single day was spent trying to make Mimi understand about good behaviour but none seem to work. Somehow we resigned to believe that maybe Mimi did have ADHD and perhaps as the teacher suggested would need medical attention and therapy. We spoke to several counselors, Psychotherapists and child psychiatrists and each one of them strongly recommended that we should wait it out because at 3 years it was too early to diagnose anything. It was the most grueling time for us as parents and midst all of this confusion, the school gave us a hard time questioning our parenting skills.
Finally, after months of sleepless nights, we decided to trust our instincts and take her off the school especially when certain stray incidents of discrimination came to my knowledge. It was as if the school did not want her too. Truce was declared and Mimi spent several months at home doing what she liked – painting, writing, watching her favourite shows, eating wonderful food and chilling out. What surprised me was that she was a completely different person at home as compared to how the teachers projected her – A devil child.
For a parent, there no bigger grief trust me.
Once she was off school, there was collective sigh of relief and life went on. Towards the beginning of a new year, I went up to one of the smaller nurseries in town and requested them to take Mimi. The new school gladly took her and Mimi began a new life with new classmates, new teachers and a brand new atmosphere. By the grace of God, she took to this new school rather easily and the positive environment did a good deal of good. Her beautiful character sparkled through and she started to enjoy the new tryst. There were never any complaints from school and we thanked our lucky stars that she found a loving environment that cherishes her for what and who she is.
We are so happy that we trusted our instincts and got her off the previous school without falling for the teacher’s random observations of Mimi having ADHD. These days ADHD has become the easiest label given to a child who is slightly naughty. I feel it is utterly unfair when schools and their ‘qualified’ teachers assume this easy way of relinquishing all responsibility when it comes to handling children with different capacities and energy levels by pronouncing them as either developmentally slow or suffering from ADHD.
Hence a lesson to learn from our bitter experience would be always, ALWAYS trust your own instincts in matters relating to your child.
Only yesterday we got to know that Mimi got accepted at the “Big School” after a thorough interview process and fantastic recommendation from her current school. We are so proud of her and how she has transformed in the last 6-8 months with the new school. It is a big milestone for us as parents and a beautiful opportunity for Mimi. This joyous moment called out for something sweet and beautiful and the chocolate pistachio fudge was the right choice – instinctively. 🙂
It asks for very few basic ingredients and very little prep. It is fudgy and full of chocolate goodness. You would be surprised how quickly these vanish – these little bites of heaven. Enjoy these one at a time with your children and treasure every moment spent with them because time’s flying away. Wishing you all a terrific mid-week!
It is that time of the year where corny rules and cheesy is the flavour of the day. Valentine’s Day is a week away and my inbox is spammed with emails from chocolates and flower companies with shopping suggestions. As years have rolled on, Valentine’s day for me isn’t about fluttering heart beats and romantic cards anymore. As a matter of fact, the only times I have been aware of this love-day was when my husband surprised me with gifts. Even he knows that this day doesn’t stir me though I appreciate all his efforts. But this year, it was different. This new person in my life just blew my mind away with the most wonderful gift. I know now that you can never be too old for mush.
Do you see that little red heart in the center of the red velvet I and U?
My baby made it for me. She drew a heart which she claimed was only as big as her own heart that beats “thud thud , thud thud”. She coloured it with her red colour pencil and used her child-friendly scissors to cut the heart out. She came up to me while I was busy with something in the kitchen and called out, “Hello, I love you..”
I turned around to see her holding out this little red paper heart out to me.
“Happy Valentines Mamma. Keep this in your purse. I made it for you. Don’t ever lose it.”
I took it from her tiny fingers that were dented from the intense pressure of colouring the paper heart.
I stood in the kitchen holding the paper heart long after the little artist was gone. I placed it delicately in the palms of my hands wondering how much I loved this little person. To have her reciprocate in this fashion was the ultimate joy I have ever experienced. My child is growing up and she is exploring different emotions. I sense a change in her and in the way she reacts to the world around her, including me. Her reciprocation blew my mind away. For that moment, I felt she loved me more than I thought I loved her. I slid her precious heart in my purse and as I looked up I saw her observing me. She smiled because she was happy I was following her instructions.
When I got back to my chores, I noticed her rummaging through my purse to make sure her heart was in the right place and safe. Satisfied, she went back to doing her own thing. That is when I thought of making these lovely red velvet chocolate brownies to show my 4 year old how much I appreciate her gift of love. I used a red velvet recipe to capture the colour of her red paper heart that went “thud,thud thud thud”.
The recipe makes a very small batch – just enough to please a 4 -year-old girl. 16 pieces in all but full of chocolate and red velvet goodness. I refered to Averie Cook’s recipe to make these decadent plum coloured beauties.
The recipe is below in the recipe card (click on it to see the enlarged version). I urge that you make this small batch of beautiful red velvet brownies and see how happy it makes your loved ones.
It is remarkable how love takes different forms as we grow older. Its meaning and its essence changes over time and becomes mellow and enduring. My daughter’s eyes lit up the moment she saw this chocolate covered squares and I realized I hit a home run.
Hope everybody has a beautiful Valentines.Celebrate love, celebrate closeness and feel lucky.
My love affair with Nigella’s recipes is legendary. I already have all her popular cook books and by the end of April this year, I will have added another one of her books to my ever – burgeoning collection of books. My poor book case in groaning under the weight of so many books and soon I would have to buy a new one or build a make shift one to accommodate the new ones.
On back to the point of this post. In this post, I share Nigella’s Cheat’s chocolate croissant. When I watched the video, I couldn’t believe making a croissant could be this simple. Well they are cheat’s croissants and so they had to be quick and hassle -free. This year, I hope to undertake the real croissant challenge working my way through the layers of pastry sheets and tubs of butter.
When I made mine, they turned out to be slightly different looking as compared to Nigella’s. Says a lot about my incredible crafting abilities. My chocolate croissants looked like crabs heavy in the middle after a large meal. But, but , but, they were enormously delicious! Isn’t that what we want at the end of it all. So I thought I should rightfully call these croissants “Crabby” ( only in the way they look and not crabby- mood inducing)
For the recipe you could see this incredibly engrossing video of Nigella doing her cheat’s chocolate croissant for Nigella Express.
Usually I am a very keen cook and I love spending time in the kitchen dishing out home made meals. But off – late, I am all about lazy cooking and cheat’s meals. Guess its the weather in Bahrain that is making me snuggle up on my couch and eat whatever I can lay my hands on. It was then I came upon this very interesting video my Micheal Pollan ( Fantastic , fantastic author of the book called “Cooked“) To anybody who enjoys to read about now culture intersects with food and behavioral patterns, this book is for you.
I want anyone who is reading this blog to watch this video with all the care and attention you can. In here, Micheal Pollan stresses why and how cooking can change your life! It completely transformed my perspective about how powerful it is to take control of what we eat and feed our families. Learning how to cook and/or applying ourselves in the kitchen can result in long term health and other benefits.
Michael Pollan’s empowering thought process sure had enough pull to get me off the couch and start cooking again instead of reaching out for comforting / addictive packets of food that are so easy to make. Hope it makes you all who don’t cook enough at home, sit up and make that conscious promise to cook and eat healthy.
Next weekend, I have my favourite comfort food – Couscous and vegetables – that I will cover on my blog. Make sure you come back for this healthy couscous recipe. Take care and happy weekend, all!