Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Himalayan Paradise

Although it's been over three weeks since returning to the USA after my 3-month tour of SE Asia and India, there is one place in particular that is hard to shake from my memory.

From K - India I


Dana and I spent the last ten days of the trip relaxing in Mcleodganj, a small town in the foothills of the Himalayas. We were surrounded by the Tibetan exile population. We were also surrounded by mist, rain, yoga studios, fresh yogurt, fruit, and vegetables, and a host of eccentric Western tourists.

Among the unique travelers was Brad from Australia, a long-haired, bearded, linen-pants-wearing New-Ager. He told me about his prophetic dreams and his thoughts on reincarnation as I attempted to finish Murakami's Kafka on the Shore over cups of jasmine green tea and vegetable momo soup at Om Cafe.

[Side note: Om Hotel and Cafe was one of my favorite places we stayed on the trip. The hotel was on the edge of an enormous hill, providing beautiful and unobstructed views of the valley. See below]

From K - India I


Anyway, Brad shared some nuggets of wisdom with us. Although he was preoccupied with his search for the Grail (which, according to him, extends into his multiple reincarnations and lifetimes), he managed to find some time to tell me about his prophetic dreams. Apparently a large earthquake will be striking the world, probably the West coast of the US, in the coming months. Now, I've heard (from scientific, reliable sources) that there is a pattern of major earthquakes hitting the Western US every few hundred years. So I guess it's not a completely improbable prediction. However, it's unlikely that it will happen so soon. I just thought I'd put it Brad's prediction out there. Don't say I didn't warn you.

All kidding aside, Mcleodganj was a perfect place for self-reflection. Nearing the end of our travels, it was nice to be in a calm place with cooler weather, high above the frantic chaos of Amritsar and the other Indian cities I had previously visited.

From K - India I


From K - India I


These pictures were taken on our first night in Mcleodganj. After arriving and eating a salad (my first vegetables after arriving in India), I watched the sunset on the balcony of Om Hotel while talking to one of the hotel's employees, a 32-year old former Tibetan monk.

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Quite possibly the best part of traveling is meeting people with varied and unique lifestyles and histories. I would venture to say that my life experiences are almost diametrically opposed to those of Keso's, but it was powerful to talk to the exiled Tibetan and learn about his time in the monastery and his decision to leave his life as a monk. After visiting Tibet in 2008, I fell in love with the place andthe spirit of the people. Despite immense oppression and hardship, Tibetan culture is one of the the kindest and most peaceful on the planet.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Here's to Tibet. May the Tibetan people soon be free of the injustice that leads to horrible events like this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/world/asia/two-tibetan-monks-set-themselves-on-fire-in-protest.html

From K - India I

Quick & Healthy Homemade Hummus

After returning from three months of traveling, I've been making up for lost time in the kitchen.

I've also been playing around with my new food processor.

 


This recipe uses chickpeas. You can either use canned chickpeas or dried chickpeas - I used dried chickpeas, and soaked them overnight in preparation. After soaking them, I simmered them for about 30 minutes on medium heat in a pot of water.

Quick Lemon Hummus:

1.5 cups chickpeas
Juice of one lemon
2 T nutritional yeast
1 t salt
1/2 T dried parsley
1 clove garlic
1/8 C olive oil

Combine ingredients in food processor or blender. Top with fresh or dried parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.



 
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Late Summer Vegetable Frittata

This was my first experience cooking a frittata. For some reason, I thought frittatas were tricky, like a souffle. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is one quick and easy dish, and it's really easy to heat up a leftover slice the next day. Definitely a good dish to prepare in anticipation of a busy schedule.

I started with some extra vegetables I had on hand.
Saute a large white onion with some bell peppers and a couple of mushrooms until the onions are caramelized.

 


Next I added some yellow squash, zucchini, sea salt, and pepper.
 


To make a smaller frittata, I used 5 eggs plus one egg white, beaten with some low-fat milk (2 Tbsp?).

 


After adding the egg mixture to the veggies and cooking over medium heat on the stove for a few minutes, I added some fresh basil and put the frittata under the broiler for about 3 minutes.

 
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One protein-packed, easy meal.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hindustan!

Before this trip, I didn’t know that the Hindi name for India is Hindustan. So fitting, seeing as how the country is bordered by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other –stan countries. I’ve always wondered why we don’t just call all countries by their native names? Why do we it Japan and not Nippon? I think it would make sense if everyone just learned the correct names.

But I digress.

Since Amritsar is only about 28km from the Pakistan border, Dana and I headed to the Wagha border one evening to witness the special border-closing ceremony between India and Pakistan.

Waiting in line to access the border area:
From K - India I


From K - India I


The stands starting to fill up:
From K - India I


The crowd on the Indian side of the border put the Pakistan side to shame.
From K - India I

From K - India I

Pakistan:
From K - India I


Rainbow Sikhs!

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Indian women breaking it down with some Bhangra dancing:
From K - India I


Basically, soldiers from each country don old-fashioned uniforms with ridiculous hats and march around in a choreographed spectacle.

From K - India I


At the end of the “show”, a Pakistani and Indian soldier shake hands and the border is closed for the evening. They repeat this spectacle each night and it’s a huge draw for (mostly domestic) tourists.

From K - India I


From K - India I



It was definitely a cool sight – as foreigners we got great seats and I came closer to the Pakistani border than I’ll probably ever be.

From K - India I

Grow Your Own Sprouts

I love sprouts in salads, and I recently came across my old sprout grower, hidden in a kitchen cupboard.

Growing your own sprouts is incredibly easy, and you don't even need a special sprouter. In a pinch, you can grow sprouts in any glass jar.

I looked around and found some adzuki bean seeds, alfalfa, and radish.

Since my sprouter has three trays, I thought I would try to grow one tray of each. I think they take different amounts of time to germinate, but I'll just wait and see.

Apparently raw sprouts are one of the foods most likely to become tainted by bacteria that leads to food poisoning. On the package of adzuki bean sprouts, it recommended that you soak the seeds for 5 minutes in 135 degree water, in order to kill any bacteria.




Don't keep the seeds in the water for longer than 5 minutes, or else they might not germinate. I took this precaution for the adzuki bean seeds, but the alfalfa and radish seeds seemed too small and I didn't want to deal with painstakingly draining the seeds after soaking them. Honestly, I'm really not that worried about getting food poisoning from my own sprouts.

Alfalfa seeds:




Adzuki bean seeds:




Radish seeds:



After pouring water into the top level, it drips through each of the three trays, moistening the seeds.




We'll check on these little guys in a couple days!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Golden Temple

After our Golden Triangle tour wrapped up, we took the train from Delhi to Amritsar, in the north of India near the Pakistani border.

Some say a visit to India is incomplete without a train ride. We were fortunate enough to experience the Indian railway system at its most authentic, as all the cars with air-con were sold out and we managed to squeeze on the general train car. It was an 8-hour journey, making many stops, and supplying us with fascinating people-watching opportunities.

During the train ride, a constant parade of beggars, children, amputees, musicians, chai-wallahs, people selling chips and soda, transvestites, gypsies, and 4-year old acrobats walked down the aisles of our train car. There were men shining shoes and men playing drums. At one point a man walked by, balancing a large pot on his head that contained hot oil and was frying up fresh pakoras and samosas. I was quite impressed by his balance. The last part of our train ride was especially exciting, because there was some sort of altercation between the men in the seats behind us that nearly came to blows.

After 8 hours of constant stimulation, we arrived in Amritsar, the holiest city of the Sikh religion.

Amritsar is home to the Golden Temple, a beautiful temple located at the heart of the old town. I really enjoyed visting the Golden Temple because it seemed very unique and welcoming. The design of the temple is symbolic: it has four entrances, meaning that people from any religion are welcome in the temple. There is also a kitchen providing free meals for all visitors to the temple. After walking around the temple, Dana and I visited the free kitchen and ate some lentils and flatbread on metal tins on the floor, surrounded by Sikh pilgrims.

Afterward, we had a tour of the Temple and we learned a bit about the history of Sikhism and Amritsar.

Now this is a golden temple.

THE Golden Temple.

From K - India I


Sikh pilgrims circumambulating the temple.

From K - India I


As the sun set, the temple grew more and more golden.

From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I


From K - India I

Butterscotch Cinnamon Coconut Pancakes

This morning I decided to break in the new food processor. After 3 months of vagabonding, and eating at restaurants 3x per day, I am so excited to be back in the kitchen, able to cook up strange concoctions.


 



My project this morning: High-protein, gluten-free, low-carb, sugar-free pancakes.

Adapted from this recipe at the edible perspective

Butterscotch Cinnamon Coconut Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 egg plus 2 egg whites
6 T unsweetened almond milk
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t Saigon cinnamon
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t stevia (optional)
1/4 butterscotch extract (can substitute vanilla)
2 T coconut flour
2 T ground flaxseed

Blend eggs for 30 seconds in food processor. Add other ingredients and mix for additional 30 seconds.

 

 



My toppings? Greek yogurt with a tiny bit of homemade strawberry jam. And some peanut butter.
 

 


Sprinkled with some additional Saigon cinnamon, local bee pollen, and topped with frozen raspberries.
 

 

Feels good to be back in the kitchen.
 
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back on Home Turf

After one last crazy overnight bus ride, 16 hours waiting in the Delhi airport, 2 days recovering in Bangkok, and the flight back to LA, Dana and I returned home from our trip intact. Delirious, but intact.

So. In the madness, there was not time to blog about my last adventures in India, namely Amritsar/the Golden Temple, visiting the Pakistan border, and spending 10 wonderful days doing yoga in Dharamsala.

I'm going to put up some pictures of these places soon, because although they happened at the end of our trip, they were some of my favorite destinations of the entire trip. Timely or no, those photos will be going up!

From K - India I


From K - India I


Just a taste of pictures to come.

Also, since returning home, I've been thinking about continuing to blog. Obviously the focus of the blog will change, since I'm no longer on an awesome adventure in Asia. Instead, I'll probably blog about the crazy projects I pursue in the kitchen. I've always liked to read cooking blogs, so I may start writing about my own concoctions. We'll see how often I'll have time to blog, since I'll be starting my MBA program in a week!

Being home is nice, although I have been avoiding spending too much time looking through closet. After wearing the same clothes and living out of a backpack for 3 months, it is overwhelming and terrifying to think about the sheer number of material possessions I own.

My wardrobe for 3 months:
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