The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including Gluten Free dishes.

March 27, 2011

My Peachy Atlanta Adventure - Part Two

Here are my favorite sights and sounds from the trip. The first of the sights was this long line of motorcycle cops in front of the CNN Headquarters. It looked like they were prepping for a parade or something. By the way, I saw police patrolling the streets on Segways too. Wish I had that picture!
What do you think they were up to? Anyways, our convention was held at the Georgia World Congress Center...it was way too big to capture on film. After the convention I didn't really want to look at it again. The convention officially started on Sunday and apparently that was the same day as the Eastern Conference Playoffs: Kentucky Wildcats vs. Florida Gators. The streets were swarming with people in blue and orange shirts, skirts, face paint holding loads of knick knacks. It was an awesome sight. By the way, the Kentucky Wildcats won and boy was there a lot of partying that night. It was "Dinner Impossible" that night; everywhere we went, there was a 2 hour wait for a table.  
I didn't really get to go sightseeing until Friday morning; a few hours before my flight back home. What a Whoop!  I've heard so much about the aquarium that I decided to go there first. The Georgia Aquarium is the world's largest aquarium...I couldn't believe it. I've been to aquariums before and I thought what is the big deal. My views were shattered once I stepped inside this place. What a sight! Beluga whales, exotic fish, albino crocodiles, sea anemone and those are just a few things you'll see. It's great for kids of all ages. 
Sea Anemone
I touched a sea anemone. I was scared at first but when I saw little kids doing it, I went for it. It was squishy and gel-like. You've got to come try it. Then I got down on my hands and knees and visited the African Penguins' habitat through the Penguin Crawl. I crawled through this small tunnel and was able to get up close and almost personal with them. Here's the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBG0TFCUCvM. Next up are the Beluga Whales***. I was expecting something quite different than what I saw and heard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSVnLrf-oU8. I didn't know Beluga Whales are part Dolphin and part whale (in terms of their size). I thought I was looking at a Frankenstein experiment in action but they were so cute! This is just a fraction of the wondrous creatures at the aquarium. This is a MUST SEE!!
While I was walking through the aquarium, I ran into an acquaintance from the convention. So with my new friend, I headed off to the World of Coca Cola museum. I'm a big Coca Cola fan, so of course I had to go there. After learning about their history and pop culture, we headed off to watch the international commercials.  There were so many to watch but I just didn't have enough time, so we made our way to the Tasting Room. You read that correctly. You get taste all the beverages brewed by the company all around the world. I tried fruity drinks made in Latin America, Asia, and even North America. Who knew there were so many beverages? I was hiccuping and full of caffeinated energy by the end of it. Mind you I'm all grown up, I can handle all that sugar in take...there were little kids in there too...I feel sorry for the parents!
Cheers To You!
Before I left the museum, I walked away with my own glass bottle of Coca Cola. The prices were reasonable so I bought some souvenirs. Overall, I had a wonderful time in Atlanta and my next visit will be purely for vacation so I can see what more the city has to offer.

***I apologize for the short video, I think I caught them during their feeding time and wasn't able to get a more close up shot. 

March 23, 2011

*~~*Spring Into Holi*~~*

Don't let a little snow and cold weather bring you down. Spring weather is just around the corner. Once I got back from my business trip last weekend, I was ready to party. I was so excited because Sunday, March 20th was an important day for me. It was the first time I would be celebrating Holi (Spring Festival) in New York City in over 15 years. Holi, "the festival of colors", is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and water on each other. Not even the cold temperatures would stand in my way!


In North India, people specifically wear white on this day so the color shows out more. The celebrations typically can be from 3-16 days. If I were in India, I would go out into the street and enjoy with all of my friends and family. Alas, NYC is not India, but it was close enough.
The Holi celebration was hosted by NYC Bhangra and it was a FREE event. It's nice to know there are still people out there following our culture and feel it's important to share with everyone. My friend Avaneesh and I drove into the city for the festivities and had the time of our lives. Even though we parked the car a few streets up from the park, we could hear all the hangama from where we were standing. I couldn't wait to join in the music, the people, and the colors. As we made our way to the festivities, we saw people with colorful faces walking out of the park with big smiles. The festival was full of surprises including an exciting performance by New York Masti, an all Indian Female A Capella group. Also there were various types of dance performances from Indian Classical to Bollywood, Flamenco and Bhangra. Here's a glimpse of one of the Bhangra performances.
For more fun sights and sounds, check out the video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBp1shv0xL8
During all the performances, the event's volunteers worked their way around the audience and smeared colors on people's faces. My friend Avaneesh got lucky and the girl with the colors just put a tikka on his face and walked away. I grabbed some color off the plate and smeared some on his face. HA! It's not Holi without color all over your clothes. Good thing he wore his old clothes.
He looks too happy in this picture, doesn't he? He grabbed the color I hid in my hands and smeared it all over my hair...hey, at least now I don't need to go to a salon for highlights.
We were having so much fun that we worked up an appetite and were so glad they served delicious Indian food for a minimal price: samosas, chaat, chole kulche, pani puri, wadaa pav, keema pav, biryani, masala chai and lots of sweets. It was truly an awesome day.
After the festival, we drove back and ate more goodies; the halwa I made for the holiday. In my our culture, we do two things on every holiday: wear new clothes and make something special for the occasion. You can't tell but I wore a new sweater and I made Sooji Halwa.
It was my first time making it and you know what, it came out pretty well. So from our family to yours, Happy Holi!!

March 21, 2011

My Peachy Atlanta Adventure - Part One

Last week, I attended an interesting event called PITTCON in Atlanta, GA. It's a conference for product innovation in Laboratory Science. My company was amongst the many who had booths showcasing their products in the week long event. I arrived in Atlanta early Saturday morning and spent the better part of the day and all day Sunday helping to setup our booth. My team and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner on Sunday night and went to this Mediterranean restaurant called Truva.  It's a good place for entertainment and dessert. I was impressed by the belly dancer's performance; she really knew her stuff and made the evening more enjoyable. For dessert, we ordered two types: Baklava and Kunefe.
I really liked Kunefe, which is pictured above. I haven't tasted anything like it before; it was so creamy and moist. That night was one of the few nights I had a complete meal and relaxes a bit before the convention. The week was filled with product discussions and meetings with various vendors and prospective buyers. I got a chance to walk around and browse through some of the booths. Overall the conference was a valuable and knowledgeable experience for me.
I told myself at the start of the week that I would try to keep a healthy diet so I don't fall sick. There weren't a lot of options and I ended up eating a lot of fried food during the week that I missed eating my simple yogurt rice meal. I thought I would share some of my food adventures from Atlanta to give you an idea of how I survived the week. During the convention, the only place I liked to eat lunch was at Sonny's where I had the best Pulled chicken sandwich ever. I don't know how they make it but the chicken was marinated in their own blend of BBQ sauce and spices. It was simple and delicious and wasn't overly saucy or stuffed.
Affordable sandwich, what a shocker!
Additionally, out of all the restaurant kiosks located in the convention hall, the sandwich prices here were the most economical. The last day of the convention fell on St. Patrick's Day and it was the shortest day of the whole week. Woohoo! After we packed up our booth, we dined at this popular seafood restaurant by the CNN Center called McCormick and Schmicks. Since, Atlanta is known for their seafood, I thought this place would be a perfect way to go. My colleagues were pretty satisfied with their meals but I wasn't too pleased with mine. I think I set my expectations too high and was a bit disappointed with the result.
I had the Ahi Tuna Seared Rare with Crab Roll, Pickled Ginger and Wasabi, pictured above. All I can say about the tuna is that "looks can be deceiving". The tuna wasn't flavorful at all and I ended up cutting the top off and just eating it plain. The best part of this entrée was the seaweed salad. Although the tuna was a downer, I didn't leave the restaurant totally unsatisfied. We ordered this lip smacking dessert called the Decadent Chocolate Trio:
A Collection of Chocolate Treats consisting of a Chocolate Walnut Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream, Mousse Cake and Pot de Crème. The mousse cake melted in my mouth and the chocolate walnut brownie made me forget about the hectic week. I used to think Chili's or diners have the best warm brownie desserts but McCormicks beat them out of the water. I went to bed with a smile on my face that night. My last dining experience was after I explored a bit of downtown Atlanta with my new friends from the convention. We went to Legal Sea Foods. Two of us shared the Legal Experience: blackened raw tuna “sashimi”, oysters legal, shrimp cocktail and crab cake. Pictures aren't included due to the fact that I was stuffing my face with all the delicious samplers. By the time I remembered, the plate was left with oyster shells and forks. I would definitely recommend this place for future visits.

Here are some lessons on general and dining etiquette I learned through the course of the week:
- Book a hotel room/suite with a kitchenette so you can cook your own meals.
- Always pack enough hearty snacks to prevent eating unhealthy food like wings.
- Drink lots of water and exercise...even if that means walking around the hotel.
- Always pack an extra pair of comfortable shoes (in the event heels just don't cut it).

***Oh, don't forget to read Part Two of my adventure which is dedicated to sights and sounds...just for the heck of it. 

March 9, 2011

For The Love of Cheese...

Ever since my mom bought Feta Cheese from Costco, I've been adding the cheese to everything from paninis, sandwiches, salads, and even rice.
I found a new love: Feta! So it's not surprising that I ended up ordering feta sprinkled dishes at Kefi*, a Greek restaurant by my sister's place in the city (located on 505 Columbus Avenue between 84th and 85th streets). I was surprised to see the place packed and full of chatter considering it was just beginning of the week. The best dish of the evening was the Shrimp and Orzo (cooked with spinach, tomato sauce and feta cheese). I didn't realize how hungry I was until I spooned every last orzo into my mouth. Next time, I'll take pictures without my sister looking. The funniest part of the whole evening was our waiter; he reminded me of Eric from That 70's show (Topher Grace). Every time he strode over to refill our glasses, I couldn't help but giggle. If you're in the neighborhood, check out this place and keep an eye out for the waiter. After dinner we walked back to her place and drifted off to sleep while watching the Star Trek Enterprise marathon.
After my dreaded morning meeting, my sister and I decided to go for brunch at this place she's been talking about, called Good Enough To Eat. This is a great brunch spot; especially after a night of clubbing or you just feel like having eggs. They have over 10 kinds of egg dishes which are served with buttermilk biscuits and strawberry butter. Let me tell you something, the butter was heavenly. Fruit butter is a totally new concept for me. I felt like I was on vacation and dining at a bed and breakfast where you can easily chat with your neighbor. It was cozy and pleasant. My sister told me that during the summer this restaurant has long lines waiting to dine. Now that's saying something.
I ordered the Special Scrambled, which is scrambled eggs with red onion, tomato and fresh dill. It was comfort food for the soul. My sister had the Provencal omelette with roasted red and green bell pepper, Spanish onions and goat cheese. She was very pleased with hers as well. I was in awe with the butter so much that the foodie in me had to know the secret. Apparently it's a mixture of strawberry jam and butter...of course the waiter didn't go into detail. He just said we would love for you to come back and have more at the restaurant. I've already bookmarked this place as a favorite spot whenever I'm in town. After our meal, we took a stroll through Riverside Park and enjoyed the midday. This was a perfect ending to my day. Next time I have a meeting in the city, I know which dining scene I'll be revisiting.

***Interesting Fact: Kefi has been described by various Greeks as meaning the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, or frenzy. That's exactly how I felt dining at this restaurant. The name fits the place.