Me, myself and I

I sit down to write, with a coffee (black, one sugar) and my favorite music in the background (Beyonce mix, what a cliche, I know).

My mind wanders, did I clear the pillows from my daughter’s cot before putting her in. Is my son alright, he’s been having a dry cough. What will I cook for them? I have to vacuum before they are up. I drag my mind back to the page on the laptop. I type, and I see my fingers. My nails are grown slightly. Reminds me, I have to cut the kids nails. But where is that nail cutter. It has the ability to disappear just like half of all our socks and tupperware lids, to be never seen again. I should go find it, else I may forget again. Beyonce starts singing Single Ladies. Makes me laugh at the irony. Take a deep breath, smile and focus.

I then realize, what I want to write about – How does one enjoy life as a busy mom. I know most mom’s do, but I also know that motherhood or rather parenthood is extremely exhausting and repetitive. Studies show that parenthood is also associated with a higher risk of depression. How on earth can the thing that brings us the greatest joy put us at the risk of depression?! But I know, every mom and dad will acknowledge this to be true. As for me, I didn’t plan on being a stay home mom, but here I am. I didn’t think I was equipped to be one, first of all. I am not patient, I have a quick temper and dislike the invasion of my private space and time. But yes, here I am. Practicing patience, smiling at the spilt milk on the carpet and have two kids attached to me like extra limbs.

Yet, I absolutely love being their mom. 

But enjoy? Not as often as I would like to. 

Enjoying parenthood means placing great importance on fulfilling our own personal needs and wants. I know it’s hard, and we tend to tell ourselves that we will get time for ourselves maybe in the next few years when the kids are bit older. Let me burst that bubble for you, which was burst for me by other parents. It NEVER gets any easier! It just moves from one set of challenges to another.

LOL. At myself.

So there is really no later for this, it has to be now. It is now that I need to exercise, now I need to go on a date with my husband and now that I have to read that book. 

I love this article How to Enjoy the Often Exhausting, Depressing Role of Parenthood. She talks about the importance of leisure time, both personal and with the spouse. Personal time has been linked to positive mental health by numerous studies. So make time for exercise. Laugh outrageously while watching the comedy you have long wanted to. And more importantly, pursue a hobby or project that brings happiness to you and lets you feel rejuvenated. Because, not only will it increase our mental health, it will also allow our kids to see us in a different light. An empowered parent who enjoys life.

She also highlights the importance of free play for children, where the child has freedom to explore and learn on their own. A decline in free play has been associated with increased level of negative feelings in children. So, it is justified that we take a step back from our tendency to helicopter parent or fill their day with structured and supervised activities. I remember what my grandmother used to tell us about growing 10 children. She says all they needed was empty cardboard boxes and tins to occupy their day. I think she would find me and my two baby complaints hilarious. What surprises me is that my aunts and uncles recall stories of their childhood with so much fondness and happiness. Isn’t that good enough reason to stop our guilt for not entertaining them all their waking hours, give them an old box and put our feet up?

Maybe write a blog and enjoy a cup of coffee. 

Have some quality time for ourselves.

Beyonce sings, Run the World (girls).

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Armenian Baklava

A Pahklava (baklava) a coffee and good company.

Is all I need somedays.

Baklava, known in Armenia as Pahklava is made with layers of Phyllo pastry. Between the sheets is generous layers of butter, and chopped up nuts such as walnuts, pistachios, almonds and cashews. The layers are also sprinkled with honey, cinnamon and sugar.

Originally knows as a richmans dessert, this dish originated around the 8th B.C by the Assyrians. It was baked in their primitive wood ovens and enjoyed occasionally as a kings meal. While is it popular is Armenia, it is also enjoyed by the Turkish, Greek, Iranians, Azerbaijans, Turks and many other middle eastern countries. I decided to do the Armenian variant for the weeks food challenge.

How blessed are we that food is no longer just a bare necessity for some, but something that you could get creative with and pose as means of enjoyment. This is what I felt when I made this. I placed the sheets, jar of honey, bottle of cinnamon, bottle of nutmeg and cup of pistachios on the table, took a seat, turned on my favourite show for binge watching and just sat there applying butter on the sheet, while filling it with honey, spices and nuts. It is a slow job, since the layers are so thin and needs a lot of sheets. But satisfying also, the kind you may get popping a bubble wrap. Well, until I realised by babies only nap for so long, and this definitely is a timely process. 

I ended up under baking the pakhlava, in my hurry to eat it before my little ones woke up. I skipped the part where the baked pastry is dunked in sugar syrup, for obvious reasons!  Still, it was very tasty. Who can go wrong with honey and pistachios right! And I was so glad I attempted making a it! Before my daughter was born, we used to spend evenings at this beautiful cafe’ where they serve middle eastern sweets and coffee. This is how I got introduced to baklava, with sweet memories. At the time, I had always been intimidated with how complex, yet rich and and elegant it is. So to attempt making it, and coming out somewhat triumphed is definitely a victory. Also, my son really like it. I am now a guilty mom who has shamelessly introduced sweets to a child who was not really interested in it. Oh well, at least it’s made with a lot of love. 

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Austrian Pancakes

Pancakes!

There is a day dedicated to pancakes, World Pancake Day. And surely, pancakes deserve a day for itself. It is cake, in a pan, made in under 5 minutes. You can be creative with toppings, with flavor, shape and size. It can be sweet or savory. But most of all, it is an ultimate comfort food. In our house pancakes are a favorite. Even when my son was unable to say words, he still would nod his head with a huge grin when I say its pancakes today. When he is unwell and loses his appetite, its pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the only thing he will eat.

I have a full proof recipe for pancakes that I always follow as the base. To me, the secret is mixing the eggs really well to make it fluffy before folding in other ingredients. Also, the first thing I do before making pancakes is to add couple of table spoons of vinegar to a cup of milk. Viola – Buttermilk in few minutes. Buttermilk adds to the flavor so well. Okay, so pancakes – one of our favorite food in the world. But this post is not really about pancakes, it is about my food challenge of Austria.

Looking through recipes of Austria, I came across Kaiserschmarrn, a dish that’s a dramatic twist to traditional pancakes. This is a popular and local dessert in Austria, and for me this was the perfect opportunity  to try a new variety of pancakes.

We decided to make a day out with pancakes, at the park. We took hot coffee flasks and fresh berries. This pancake is more custardy and resembles torn up french toast. I made a plum sauce to go on it, and also sprinkled with a mixture of icing sugar with cinnamon. It was the ultimate comfort food.

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Australia – food down under

Dear Australia,

I have been anxiously waiting to cook your distinctive food since I have started my global food challenge. You cannot imagine my excitement when I reached you on my list. I have always loved cooking but it is only after coming here to Australia that my interest has peaked. You have such a wide variety of food to offer to all palates, which makes you so welcoming to people from all over the world. For me your food has been a savior, amidst our adaptation to moving continents. Your ingredients and food has been a solace that I have derived warmth and comfort from. I may be over dramatic and a little bit cheesy but that’s what you have done to me.

You, being so multicultural and diverse have adopted a cuisine that is so rich and mostly based on inexpensive everyday ingredients. Although, you have still managed to maintain certain iconic Australia dishes intact and yet so modern.

I chose to cook with beef as a main dish, as meat is the core component of your cuisine. I made beef and mushroom pies, a very wholesome and filling meal that creates a homely feeling and just begs to be shared. As for the ingredients –>mushroom, beef, onions, seasoning, beef stock, tomato paste, cornflour and pastry. 8 ingredients! As simple as that, but taste is incredible.

For dessert, I made a Tim Tam cheese cake. Tim Tam biscuit is iconic to you Australia and has been around since the 1960’s. I chose the Adriano Zumbo Red velvet flavor just to kick in the Australian-ness. Was it not only beautiful, it was such a hit among friends and of course my husband and son. All thanks to having a chef as a friend who gave some really good tips for the menu as well as the cooking.

I had some friends join in, who made classic Aussie dishes as well. We had a beautiful black forest pavlova, sausage rolls, more beef pastries, cheese and spinach scrolls, fairy bread and a potato salad.

So I would like to thank you Australia. You made a wanna be cook out of me and you have given me a sense of belonging through your cuisine.

Love,

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Argentina

The 8th biggest country in the world, founder of the dance Tango and where Lionel Messi is from: Argentina! I am not hardcore football fan, but I have been surrounded by Messi fans and it’s always exciting to cook something from a country that I sort of am familiar with. It’s also home to the famous Diego Maradona and Che Guevara.

As for the food, Argentinians absolutely love their food and celebrate it greatly. The food is a blend of Mediterranean, greatly influenced by the Italian and Spanish cuisines. Argentina is apparently a beef country, and beef is made in a number of delicious ways. I chose to make the popular Argentinian Empanadas. And for dessert I made Alfajores with a Dulce de leche filling. All three dishes are immensely enjoyed by the Argentinians.

The Empanadas is similar to a dish we make locally called pettis, which is a pastry with a tuna filling. Instead of the tuna, Empanadas has a spicy beef filling. I had a slight disaster with this dish as I cooked the beef thoroughly on the stove before baking it, duh. Hence, a slightly dry beef filling!

Alfajores, oooooh the Alfajores! This is a version of the biscuit melting moments, which true to it’s name just melts into the mouth. It’s a very soft, delicate and crumbly biscuit that is also very rich. Words describing it makes me want to jump up, run to the kitchen and bake it. It has became my all time favorite cookie. And the best part is that I used dulce de leche as a filling. I had no idea what this is before this day. Apparently it is condensed milk slow cooked over few hours. It develops into a thick pasty condense milk with an enhanced condensed milk taste. Talk about richness! The buttery taste of the Alfajores with the condensed milky filling was just absolute heaven.

All in all, not a bad cookout as the cookies made up for everything. Cant’ wait to do Armenia!

Antigua and Barbuda

Number of countries in the world – 195

I have only made food of 6 countries so far but it seems like a huge accomplishment. I have learned a few things along the way while enjoying this so much. For this week, I did Antigua and Barbuda. They are two beautiful low lying coral islands known for its beautiful beaches and resorts. They also boast a large variety of flora and fauna and is popular for its rainforests.  Fun fact about the country – Crab racing is held once a week. Must be really laid back people! They are positioned where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet and enjoy a Caribbean cuisine.

While Carribean cuisine is at the heart of their traditional dishes, it is also quite diversified. The local diet includes shawarma’s, kebabs and dumplings, obvious influence of Arab and Chinese. I chose to make a butter bread, ducana (traditional sweet potato dish) and stewed beef Antiguan way. For a while now I have considered trying my hand at bread baking. So it was the perfect opportunity when I learned that butter bread is popular as a Sunday treat.

I absolutely loved baking the bread! I loved it when the dough rose to double its size. The bread came out so soft in the inside. My son loved eating it so hands down, no more questions. This was a success.

The sweet potato dumpling, called Ducana was also tasty. It was a combination of grated coconut and sweet potato with sugar and spices. After the mixture was complete I was supposed to wrap it up in banana leaf and boil in water. But I settled with aluminum foil, and I would say it still worked.

Stewed beef or chicken is a favorite in our house now. I slow cooked the beef with a number of vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, celery and potato).

Next country on the list is Argentina! See you soon.

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Antiguan Sunday Butter Bread
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Ducana – popular Antiguan sweet potato dumpling
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Caldo de Res  –  Beef stew