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Magic Of Maui

December in Maui

We were in Maui for a week in December.

After Dubai and before starting our life in San Francisco.

Hawaii has always been our milestone destination. For our fifth anniversary we were in Oahu ( after Australia) and our first baby moon we were in Kauai. It made sense to continue with our Hawaii theme for our 10th anniversary as well as second baby moon (if a vacation with an active 3-year-old when you are at fag-end of second trimester can be called as any kind of “moon”).

Maui has always been an elusive destination for us. We have planned to visit many times before Varun. We almost had purchased tickets but something or the other was always in the way. This time we wanted to visit Maui as we started our second phase in US.

I wasn’t sure how I would fare the long flight from India to US. I wanted to see if I could manage another 5+ hours flight so we booked our tickets fairly late minute.

Where We Stayed 

December in Maui

Since we had “researched” the island earlier, we knew where we wanted to stay. It was either Lahaina in West Maui or Wailea in South Maui. Both have excellent sunset views, calm crescent beaches and luxury resorts catering to every whim you would have. We didn’t really plan to do much of sight-seeing anyways so we didn’t really care to be in center of things.

December in Maui

Based on the deals that we saw at that time, Four Seasons, Maui was booked. And boy was it a fantastic choice or what. Luxurious expansive rooms, water views, top-notch service and little details that make your stay memorable. Its expected at a resort like this. What really blew me away was their kid friendliness.

December in Maui

Little robe for Varun? Check

One Planet Lotion/Shampoo/ Bath wash for kids and babies? Check

Complimentary Pool/Beach toys ? Check

Complimentary kid friendly books, video rentals? Check

Kids for All Season – A complimentary play area with activities (gecko hunting, swimming, beach combing etc) and toys for kids including meals and snacks ? Check

The last one was so loved by Varun. Between that and the beach he couldn’t decide where he wanted to go.

But it was not overrun with kids. There was a separate adults only area with swim up bar and infinity pool , up and away from the chaos of kid and family pool.

December in Maui

December in Maui

We enjoyed that as well thanks to the babysitting service that we could avail from Four Seasons concierge. The baby sitters are carefully shortlisted and checked so you can actually enjoy your vacation without worrying about your kid not being in safe hands.

We met so many families by the pool who return here every year around the same time every year from various cities in US to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of Four Seasons. They have formed friendships over their vacation and are excited to see them. I think that speaks the most about the resort.

If you have a child and are looking for a chilled out resort in Maui, really look no further than Four Seasons. I would go again in a heartbeat.

What did we do?

There is literally a ton of activities to do in Maui. Shortlisting ones to do given the limited time you have on the island is a challenge. We didn’t plan to do much other than drive to Hana and Snorkel. Rest was pool and beach time.

A drive unto Haleakala summit was out of question as was some of the other activities we would typically have indulged in on such a vacation – hiking, learning to surf or even scuba diving.

Luckily, Varun didn’t mind the drive to Hana. He actually loves waterfalls and was excited to visit one after the another. He didn’t snorkel but we took turns snorkeling by the Molokini crater. The reef is alive and teeming with colorful fishes. Very vibrant and reminiscent of our scuba diving experience in Cairns.

By the day, Varun played in the pool with other kids or played in the sand digging our feet in on the beach.

December in Maui

December in Maui

Or chasing birds

December in Maui

December in Maui

Afternoons were either in the kids for All Season or napping.

December in Maui

December in Maui

Evenings were spent watching pink sunsets along the beach or the board walk.

December in Maui

Tiki torch lighting ceremony and Hula dancing at the resort was followed by dinner.

December in Maui

A movie or books reading time for Varun and then bedtime.

December in Maui

Sometimes its an adrenaline packed vacation that you remember for ever. Like our time in Costa Rica. Other times its relaxing vacation that makes wonderful memories. Varun talks about waterfalls and beach from Hawaii. He remembers how we had to get back from Hana before it got very dark.   And the beautiful pictures of Varun and Vipul are something I will cherish forever.

I got to chill out, enjoy a massage and sleep in before the fast pace of life took over again. I would so not trade our time in Maui for anything.

They say Hawaii spoils you forever. The greenery, the laid back pace of life, coffee, soft sand, waterfalls, seafood, naps in middle of day and the Aloha spirit. We have visited three island so far and I agree, we are spoilt. Can’t wait to go back again – this time with two kids in tow!

Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip

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Need I say more?

Dips are something I cannot eat in moderation. Salsa’s and Hummus are ok. They can be had without restraint. Possibly some seven layer dips. But what about the warm cheesy dips? They are inviting and very scrumptious.

In restaurants, I manage to finish the dip as I eat it as is.

So much cheese can’t really be good for anyone in a single serving. But sometimes heart (or rather taste buds) don’t listen to your brain and then next think we know is that the dip bowl is empty! Now satisfaction kicks in. Later regret kicks in.

I needed something that was amazing to taste with no regrets.

That’s where a healthified artichoke Spinach dip came into picture.

Its full of veggies and using less cheese compared to traditional recipes. Thick Yogurt is what gives it extra creaminess and protein without the excess fat.

We topped it with finely diced bell pepper and ate them with veggies ( as well as multi grain toast fingers) for a filling afternoon snack.

It makes about 3 cups of dip and can be made ahead, frozen and then thawed before serving. We have a stash in our freeze for days when the baby arrives and we are hungry for “something fun/interesting”. It tastes yummy even as is out of the fridge.

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Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip Recipe

Makes ~ 3 cups of dip

  • 1 can Artichoke hearts drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water removed
  • 1 cup milk , divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 goat cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper and red onion ( for Garnish)

1.  In a skillet, add artichoke hearts, spinach, 1/2 cup milk, garlic, cumin seeds and paprika. Mix well and let cook for a few minutes on medium-low heat.

2. Stir in the parmesan cheese and let cook for another 2-3 minutes till the cheese melts and is incorporated in the mixture.  Lower the heat if necessary. Once cooked, let cool for a couple of minutes.

3. In the meantime, in a bowl, whip greek yogurt with goat cheese. Set aside.

4. Once the artichoke-spinach mixture is cooled, blend it till desired consistency. I like the dip to be smooth with some chunks of artichoke. Skip this step if you like the dip to be chunky.

5. Add the yogurt – goat cheese mixture to the artichoke mixture. Add salt. Mix well.

6. Top with bell pepper and red onions.

Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

Chinese Lunar New Year Mini Parade

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

On Saturday, we took Varun to see the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Its the year of the horse per the Chinese Zodiac Calendar.

To celebrate, there was a mini parade in Chinatown, sponsored by Southwest Airlines. It was a free event starting at the St. Mark’s Square ( intersection of California and Grant) with the parade going down the Grant Avenue and then turned to go up Jackson.

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

The 30 minute long parade promised the noble dragon, lions dancers, costumed stilt walkers and children playing electrifying music etc followed by a street fair. Kettle corn, new year flowers and plants, candy, tea and other knick knacks that you find in Chinatown.

The atmposhere was energetic and colorful – thanks to the colorful costumes, fans, ribbons and flags. These kids must have practiced so much for the big Day!

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

It was crowded after the parade with people milling about buying flowers, candles, tea and generally having a good time. We were there for a couple of hours with a long tea break to have some really good ginger – honey tea.

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Varun loved the parade, the music and watching the lion dancers and the dragon. Even as I was uploading the pictures he kept telling me what we saw yesterday and when we can go see it again.

There was another parade in the evening and streets in downtown were cordoned off. It was a pain getting back home but so much fun while it lasted.

Will probably give it a go again next year. Or may be checkout the Vietnamese New Year festivities instead!

Overnight Oats With Blood Orange and Almonds

Overnight Oats with Blood Orange and Almonds

Thanks everyone for reading the rather long post on Real Food Matters. I know it was long but I wanted to write it up so when we fall off the wagon or are tempted by unprocessed foods, I could go back to it and remember why we are doing this in the first place.

Appreciate all your likes and comments on Facebook!

One of the first things to get your day’s diet on track is to have a healthy filling breakfast. But for most of us to prepare breakfast in the morning rush is hard. Plus if you have to balance all food groups including vegetables then it gets trickier.  Also, some of us don’t have time to wait for porridges, omelets etc to cool down before we can sit down and eat.

It becomes easy to resort to coffee and a bagel routine. And while at that coffee shop, donuts and other pastries always tempt me. I see past the whole grain wraps and pick myself a sweet treat.

Overnight Oats with Blood Orange and Almonds

But a little effort previous evening pays off. Not just in saved $$ but in a healthier meal. And you let the refrigerator do all the work while you sleep. By the time you wake up and have your coffee, you have a creamy porridge ready.

Boiled eggs, overnight oats and low sodium V8 is a colorful, healthy start to the day.

It can be made in individual servings making things even easier or stored in a to go container to eat on the go. I read online about folks who make it for the entire week with different toppings (peaches, berries, stewed apples, nuts, granola etc) and you are set.

Give it a try next week for an easy – breezy healthy wholesome breakfast!

Overnight Oats with Blood Orange and Almonds

Note:

1. Don’t use the instant oats for this, they will turn into a mush which I am not a fan off. While nutritionally the same, instant oats have higher glycemic index as they break down and are digested faster compared to the thicker rolled or steel-cut oats.

2. Adjust the sweetener based on fruits that you are using. Go light if the fruit is sweet or stewed – like apples.

Overnight Oats Recipe

  • 1 cup whole rolled or steel-cut oats ( not the instant kind)
  • 1 1/2  cups water
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 banana mashed or 1 tablespoon dark Grade A maple syrup (optional sweetener)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped nuts ( walnuts, almonds , pecans based on what you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fruit ( based on what you have on hand)
  • Nuts and Fruit – For Garnish

1. Wash the oats in water and then mix all the ingredients listed above other than garnish.

2. Put them in individual bowls. Keep it in the refrigerator overnight.

3. Top with nuts and fruits.

Serve as is.

Everyday Dinner: Skillet Grilled Cheesy Whole Wheat Quesadillas

Vegetable Dinner Quesadillas

Would you like a cheese paratha?

Varun’s aunt asked him during one of our visits to Mumbai. His default answer. No.

Knowing that this is something he would like, I asked her to make one for me instead.

And when he saw the crunchy, cheese oozing paratha, he wanted to have one too.

Recently we bought whole wheat tortillas and while preparing a salad for Vipul, I wondered about our dinner. It had to be quick and easy, since Varun wouldn’t allow me to tinker around in the kitchen for long.

A cheese paratha inspired whole wheat quesadillas were born.

Spring onion, cilantro and ginger were quickly sliced up and mixed with a bit of salt and paprika. Cheese was grated and added to the mix.

A tortilla roasted on the skillet. The mix spread out, tortilla folded and then grilled on other side.

Within minutes, we had a piping hot meal that was enjoyed by all ( Vipul had one wedge as the aroma of grilled cheese was hard to resist!)

Skillet Grilled Cheesy Whole Wheat Quesadillas Recipe

Makes 2 servings

  • 2- Ready made whole wheat tortillas or roti (from Indian stores)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 spring onions sliced ( white and green parts)
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger root peeled and minced
  • Handful of cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika or red chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oil for grilling

1. Mix all the ingredients from cheese to salt in a bowl. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

2. In a skillet, heat a whole wheat tortilla. One heated, flip it over. Spoon the cheese mixture liberally and fold in half. Cook on each side for a minute or so till the cheese melts. Take care that the tortilla doesn’t burn.

3. Cut into wedges and serve warm with fresh fruits and salad.

Spiced Eggplant, Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

Spiced and Roasted Eggplant, cauliflower and chickpea salad

Salads are basis of all diet programs. Eat more veggies!

And that’s where we falter. After a while the green salad becomes boring. We start craving carbs and bolder spicier flavors.

Spiced and Roasted Eggplant, cauliflower and chickpea salad

Before Vipul reaches that point, I made him a bold and spiced eggplant-cauliflower and chickpeas salad. Roasted eggplant and cauliflower make a “warm and nourishing” base for this salad. It has that “feel good” effect of a fulfilling meal on a cold winter night. The flavors are reminiscent of Indian curries – cumin, coriander and red chili powder. Paired with protein powerhouse of chickpeas and crunch of other veggies like celery and radishes, this was a complete meal.

Spiced and Roasted Eggplant, cauliflower and chickpea salad

I topped mine with diced cooked chicken sausage for an extra boost but any other protein would work just fine. Vipul had his as is and was blown away by the flavors of eggplant, roasted cauliflower and lemony-mustard flavors of the chickpeas.

Spiced and Roasted Eggplant, cauliflower and chickpea salad

Don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. The hands on prep is really easy and mostly it is the oven that does the work. It roasts and caramelizes the eggplant and cauliflower and brings out their natural flavors. This is probably the only way I will eat eggplant – ever!

Use a Chinese or Indian eggplant that has a thin skin rather than the globe one that I used. The skin was a bit tough on roasting. Or maybe I should have peeled it before roasting.

I am loving this diet phase of Vipul’s. I get to try new recipes, new vegetables ( fennel, butternut squash, and now eggplants!) and he gets a fresh home cooked meal every night! Bring it on weight loss 🙂

Spiced and Roasted Eggplant, cauliflower and chickpea salad

Spiced Eggplant, Cauliflower and Chickpeas Salad Recipe

  • 1 cup cauliflower florets sliced
  • 1/2 eggplant sliced into rounds ( any 1/4 inch thick)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, divided
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2 celery sticks diced
  • 4-5 small red radishes diced
  • 1/4 red onion diced
  • 1/4 cup pre-cooked edamame pods
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

While the oven pre-heats, lay cauliflower and eggplant on two baking sheets in a single layer. ( I used a bowl and foil as I don’t have baking sheets in temporary accommodation here; but baking sheets will give even results). Lightly sear the eggplant in a cross hatch/tic-tac-toe pattern  with knife on both sides.

2. Oil the eggplants and cauliflower. Then add the spices  (cumin, coriander,, chili) and salt. Toss the veggies to make sure that the spices cover it.

(Alternately prep these in a bowl and then layer them on baking sheets)

3. Bake the cauliflower and eggplant for about 30 – 40 minutes till they are golden brown. Depending on how thick the eggplant slices are they may need additional time. Keep them in till they looked cooked and their sides curl up.

4. In another bowl, mix mustard, lemon juice and salt. Marinate the celery, edamame, chickpeas, red onion and radishes in the mustard-lemon mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

5. Once the cauliflower and eggplant are done, take them out. Start with eggplant as a base, layer cauliflower over the eggplant circles and then top with the chickpeas-veggie mix.

Serve warm.

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