Baseball Season and Feels

i.

Baseball is my favorite sport. Seriously. Nothing beats sitting in your favorite ballpark, watching your favorite team on a hot, sunny day, with a hot dog smothered in all the goods in one hand, and an ice cold beer in the other. This scene is symbolic to American culture.

It is also symbolic of the ten years, between 2004 and 2014, during which I vowed to be the most neutral, the most socially acceptable version of myself, and, for the most part, succeeded in doing so.

Opening Day brings out the weird in me.

When I was in the 7th grade, I was bullied at school– specifically, cyber-bullied on AOL messenger by kids who found my precocious nature to be worthy of ridicule in their “AIM profiles.” So when I was invited to opening day at the Phillies in a group chat with a bunch of my peers, I thought it was a turning point in my middle school career. On the appointed day, my mom drove me all the way to Philly, only for me to get stood up by my “friends,” and get ridiculed at school the following Monday.

Summer break couldn’t come sooner that year. 

In an attempt to help turn my terrible year around, my parents sent me to summer camp, and the bullying there hit a new dimension– the lets steal her clothes and towel while she’s showering in the woods dimension. It was rough, and at thirteen years old, I made a vow to myself to never be treated that way again. I decided to hone my social skills so finely, I would be liked and appreciated and lauded for the rest of my life. I would not feel too much, say too much, seem too different, or embrace any shred of authenticity. I decided that, if I couldn’t change them, I would suppress me.

Rather than saying what was on my mind, I trained myself to gauge what people wanted to hear from me, so I could say the right things at all times, in effect, becoming inherently likable. This became a pattern woven deeply into the fabric of my personality, so much so, that when, ten years later, I found myself in an abusive relationship, one in which gaslighting was the key feature, it took me months to snap myself out of it.

ii.

It’s ironic how these things work. You read about partner violence, abusive language, instances of gaslighting, and personal accounts of other women’s firsthand experiences your entire life, and think to yourself “this will never be me.” You tell yourself that you will never be so naive as to miss the signs. You will walk out. You will step away. You will not let someone demean you.

But then it happens. It happens to you, and you allow it, not because you don’t know any better, or that you are helpless and have nobody to turn to. You allow it, because, despite being smart, educated, gainfully employed, social, likable, and surrounded by a wonderful support system, you’re simply too good a person to believe that another human being can be and is inherently bad. You hope it will get better, or that it is a phase. Or that this person will eventually come to their senses. After all, they love you. After all, you can’t change them, but you can suppress you.

I eventually learned that it does not and will not get better, so long as you stay in that relationship and refuse to stand your ground.

iii.

Red Sox Opening Day 2014, exactly three years ago from today, and ten years from the day I resolved to start being “likable,” it happened. I decided to unravel the threads of my perfectly guarded being. I made a conscious decision to stop optimizing my life to be liked by others. I decided it was time to stop giving into social constructs of how a woman should be, and to, instead, focus on just being myself. 

I don’t want to get into the details of what transpired that evening. It has been three whole years, and I am still not quite ready to divulge what happened, what was thrown, how hard things were flung, how loudly I screamed, how many stitches I had to get, how I hid it all from my roommates at the time, or how much I cried. But this was the last of several such events that lead to me rediscovering and re-claiming my authenticity.

I decided then– when it seemed like everything around me was on fire, sitting 3 rows from the dugout, with the wind blowing through my long locks, yet feeling like Fenway was closing in on me, gearing up to swallow me whole with the next pitch– that I would speak up. I would stop being a pushover. I would not let some guy, or any guy, or anybody ever make me feel small again. And I resolved that, unlike 10 years ago, this time, I would reach my goal by being an even greater, even more outspoken, even more heightened version of the personality I tried to bury years ago. I would no longer align myself with social norms and societal expectations. I would not let the bad in my life outweigh the good, and I would never let naivety come in the way of emotional acuity.

Now, three years later, I am still struggling to find what makes me “authentic,” but at least I am trying. I am not sure what you, or anybody thinks of me. But on most days, frankly speaking, I really don’t even care. It has taken me my entire life to become happy, to feel contentment at every level of my existence, to develop drive to pursue more and better. I occasionally worry that this happiness will be fleeting. But then one of my good friends– who once comforted me through a nightmare by showing me pictures of Iceland and sheep brain delicacies– reminded me the other day that life happens in cycles. The good and the bad are inevitable. But it is my outlook that determines my happiness, not necessarily the severity of the events taking place around me.

So on Monday, I’ll go to a Yankees game, and I’ll enjoy that hot dog smothered with an ungodly amount of mustard, my iced cold beer, and, weather permitting, let the wind blow through my locks. This time around, the stadium will not be closing in around me, there will be no horrendous boyfriend, no bullies, no introspection on how I can change myself to cater to the world around me.

Just a girl in impractically tall wedges, enjoying her favorite sport, thanking the weather Gods for cooperating so her selfies turn out well.

A Messier Love Story

A boy I dated in college once told me he wanted to be a lawyer because he was a political science major, and he said it seemed like “the right thing to do.” When I told him I wanted to be a writer because, at the time, it seemed like the only thing to do, he told me writing was not a viable profession in the same way you tell somebody that the milk carton is empty, or you’re out of paper towels. So I decided, while he fondly admired his peers’ law degrees over Rolling Rocks and spoke down to me like I would amount to nothing more than a gypsy nobody, that I would write him up and down, backwards and forward, inside and out, until he had no other choice, but to eat his own words for breakfast.

That boy soon became nothing more than a second rate fragment of my memory.

Nothing more than a few lines in my story.

Oh, and a lawyer.

Needless to say, we didn’t last. And it was then that I realized I was never cut out to be the girl who gets the guy at the end of the romance novel. You see, Nicholas Sparks didn’t write a single love story with me in mind. Nicholas Sparks wrote me out of all his stupid love stories the minute I learned how to pick up my own pen and write the damn story, myself.

Let me break down my issues with the “Modern Day Love Story.”

Nowhere in a Nicholas Sparks book do two lovers stray away from the countryside love affair to indulge in really spicy buffalo wings, wine out of teacups, and a soccer game. There’s no “Safe Haven” with me; just an amalgamation of quirks, bad jokes, and hypochondriac traits that probably fall short of leading lady material. I laugh when I am squeezed too tightly. I am violently ticklish. I am not always poised, and my clumsiness hits record levels at times. I will be an accident I won’t apologize for because I warned you, and you chose not to listen. I leave the fridge open when I cook, I sleep with all the windows open, and the heat cranked up. Speaking of sleep, there will never be a “my side,” or “your side.” I will sleep in the middle of the bed, and you will have to physically move me, but don’t let it happen within the first three hours of my REM cycle.

And speaking of beds, I hate cotton bed sheets. Not fitted sheets, you weirdo. I understand their place in the normal sleep paradigm. But cotton sheets stress me the fuck out. Even the super fancy, million-thread-count, Egyptian cotton sheets. They get wrinkles. I hate wrinkles. And they slide off when I aggressively toss and turn in my sleep. I always wake up feeling like Criss Angel trapped in a double straight jacket, and God forbid I tumble out of bed like a burrito rolling down a hill, only to be left dangling by the ankles in my Calvins.

It’s a very real fear.

The heroines in Nicholas Sparks novels probably love crisp, cotton sheets. And I just don’t. I can’t.

We are not “The Lucky Ones.” I am not going to try to fix you when I am still working out my own kinks, because I think, in real life, people should have kinks. Nicholas Sparks always seems to write one deeply flawed character with tons of kinks, and one noble, brave, do-it-all-for-love character whose primary job is to save said “kinky” individual from inevitable self destruction.

I am not interested in gentrifying whatever mess the last girl left you in. I am not interested in rebuilding your ruins so the next girl can move in. I am not interested in the next girl.

You have to rebuild yourself.

I do not need you to fix me, either. I do not have abandonment issues, intimacy issues, or commitment issues. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got issues. They just don’t involve people leaving me, so they probably aren’t scalable enough to turn into a 300-page book. I am impatient, but not a little unkind. I am not the Marilyn Monroe image quote all the basic girls post on their Instagrams. None of this “love me at my worst” nonsense. If you choose not to love me at my worst, I will not hold it against you. “At my worst” seems like it would be a dark place for you, especially if we just met. So be my friend, take off the pressure, and see which way the wind blows.

I am actually impatient. I am impatient with slow walkers, my beautiful mother, the Uber driver who keeps saying he’s five minutes away, our political climate, abject sexism and racism, the MTA, my health, and when my Amazon Prime order does not arrive on time. I am impatient with the phrase “time heals all wounds,” with man-spreading  on the subway, and every train that runs through Brooklyn. I am impatient when someone calls, and you call them back immediately, and they do not pick up. Did they suddenly throw their phones across the room and decide to go running? Where could they possibly have gone in fifteen seconds?

I am not the party girl, the cool girl, the “it” girl, or the crazy girl. I am not the “one-of-the-guys” girl. I do not watch football every Sunday, crush bud light at lawn parties, or wear t shirts and jeans on the reg. In fact, I am not even the career girl, or the “bring-home-to-mom” girl, or the “lady-in-the-streets-but-a-freak-in-the-sheets” girl. None of these girls are singularly real. They are limiting characters. I am, perhaps, a little of all of them, and I am not ashamed of that reality. Maybe that’s the problem. It always seems like the main character is trying to hide her flaws. I have plenty of flaws, and they are out in the open, on my sleeve, for you to view.

So give me all of YOUR flaws.

I want messy love. Wild love. Accepting love. The “I won’t judge you” love. I want love incapable of fitting between bookends. I want a love that is okay getting lost, as long as it finds its way back. I don’t care if you laugh so hard that you snort, as long as we are laughing together. I want the kind of laughs that happen when your day is so bad, it can’t get any worse, so you have to laugh. Real life laughs.

Real life laughs don’t happen in Nicholas Sparks novels. That wasn’t exactly what Nicholas Sparks had in mind when he wrote “The Last Song.”

I want the kind of love that’s okay showing its worst insecurities because sharing them makes them less heavy. And sharing them over wine and candy makes them even more tolerable.

What I want is for us to challenge each other to become better people than we were last year. Conscious people, considerate people, people who see outside of their own lives and their own privilege. People who challenge the world around us to step up and bat. The chase is not a fucking challenge. Dogs chase things. I don’t want to be a dog (but we should adopt one!). I certainly don’t want to be a bird if you’re a bird. Birds are kind of the worst, and I’m afraid of them. I have never seen anyone get super excited about birds, and I want love I am super excited about.

What I want is for you to have a mind of your own, and know that it is okay if you change it a million times. What I want is for you to know that if you let it slide that I kick the bed sheets to the bottom of the bed, I’ll let it slide that everything in your life is organized alphabetically, and once in a while, I’ll mess up the order on purpose, just to see if you’re still paying attention. I think there’s humor in that. Dry humor. The kind of humor that indie flicks try (and fail) at romanticizing.

Really, that’s what we all want, right? Somebody who isn’t going to try to peel away every complex fiber of our being until all that’s left is Allie and Noah. Or Jack and Rose. Somebody who understands that we’re all simply trying to stay afloat–just not on a door in the middle of the North Atlantic with a sinking ship behind us.

Wait . That wasn’t Nicholas Sparks.

But you get the idea.

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Comfort Food Trumps Hate

I’ve spent so much of the last month filled with anger, dread, and utter panic for what the next four years have in store, I’ve neglected the habits I often use as a crutch to zen me out.

In the time since my last post, my initial fear, disdain, and disgust for the upcoming four years has been replaced with a renewed sense of responsibility to continue living my best life, but more consciously–to give to my community, with a focus on those who will be most affected by these upcoming years, to spend more time with my family, with the specific intent to be the best role model I can be for my younger brother, and to find more time to work on my health, with explicit regard to mental and emotional stability. And in doing so, I find myself reverting back to the hobbies that zen me out most–an evening spent cooking with and for the ones I love, an afternoon with a warm bowl of ramen and a book, or maybe a two-hour breakfast by myself–a rare indulgence in the rushed madness of the adult world, as my friend Nadia pointed out to me last night.

So I called up a friend of mine, a renowned chef and restaurateur in his own right, and asked him to make my terrible electoral Monday a little bit better. I brought the ingredients and a rough sketch of the flavor profile I was chasing, he brought the technique and unreal knife skills. We poured a glass of wine, and below is the result.

FENNEL GINGER SALMON

**Recipe adjusted to serve four**

I’m separating this recipe into two parts, as the broth is an incredible winter soup on its own. In fact, we made the soup first, then later paired the salmon with it to create the actual dish.

Fennel Broth

Ingredients

4 bulbs of fennel

4 tablespoons of coconut oil

1/2 cups of roughly diced shallots

4 cups of seafood stock, preferably lobster stock

3 tablespoons of fresh, grated ginger

2 tablespoons of ground fennel seeds

1 tablespoon of ground coriander seeds

1/2 cup of coconut flavored Greek yogurt/skyr

1 tablespoon of flour (optional, as thickening agent for the broth)

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

3 whole star anise

Preparation

Cut the fennel bulbs in half, and discard the white core at the bottom of the bulb. Slice the bulbs across into thin slices, so as to speed up cook time.

Place the coconut oil in a large saucepan, and if solid, melt over medium heat. Add the star anise, fennel, and shallots, and cook until the shallots are translucent. Pour in the seafood stock and bring to a boil, then cover the saucepan. Allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and let cool for 10 minutes. Take out the 3 pieces of star anise, and discard. Then pour the mixture into a food processor or blender, along with ginger, ground fennel seeds, coriander seeds, salt, and pepper. Puree the mixture and return to the saucepan for a second boil. Add the lemon zest and a generous squirt of lemon. Whisk in the Greek yogurt.

While the mixture approaches a boil, pour a small ladle into a bowl and whisk in the flour, making sure no lumps form (this will thicken the broth to a more bisque-like consistency).

Pour the contents of the bowl into the broth, and bring to a full boil.

Soup is ready to serve!

If you want a bit more out of your broth, keep reading for the salmon recipe!

FENNEL GINGER SALMON

Ingredients

3 carrots, sliced vertically (I used a variety of purple, yellow, and traditional carrots)

1/2 cup of apple, sliced

1/2 cup of shallots, sliced

1/4 cup of fennel, sliced

1 tablespoon of ground ginger

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 parsnips, sliced vertically

4 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of Chinese 5-spice

4 salmon steaks

1 whole lemon

1 sprig of rosemary

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven preheats, line two separate baking sheets with foil, and coat both with cooking spray.

On a chopping board, lay out the salmon steaks and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Chinese 5-spice, salt, and pepper to taste. Squeeze lemon on all sides, generously. Let it sit for a few minutes.

Put carrots, apple, and parsnips on one baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Chinese 5-spice, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss in oven with a sprig of rosemary.

While the apple and veggies roast, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and add the minced garlic, fennel, and shallots. Saute until the shallots are translucent, then spoon out the mixture and evenly spread it onto the sheet with the roasting veggies.

Heat up another tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet (no need to clean it–the skillet should retain some of the garlic flavor) and on a high heat, add the salmon steaks. Grate 1 tablespoon of ginger directly over the salmon. Give both sides a good sear (about two minutes per side), and remove from heat.

Put all four salmon steaks on the second sheet, and layer round slices of lemon over each steak.

Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes.

While the salmon and veggies are baking, reheat your broth to a piping hot temperature, and place the desired amount into four shallow bowls. Once cooked, place veggies over the broth, then salmon on top, and fall in love a little bit!

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It Takes Patience to Understand Hatred

i.

I am broken.

I keep saying it like that, despite the melodramatic undertone, because that sentence captures the feeling better than any other sentence.

“A part of me broke” doesn’t cut it.

A lot of me broke. All of me. Every identity I have ever assumed–as an immigrant, and a person of color, as a South Asian, as someone who has spent the first nine years of her life in the Middle East, as a woman, and as a human being—came under fire yesterday. It’s a hurt I tried to capture in a few words when I posted this to my social media accounts at 3AM, frantic, shaking, crying inconsolably because the shock of it all hit me with the surge of a thousand volts.

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I cried myself to sleep for the hour I could muster before my 5AM alarm, and I woke to a soaking pillow, 45 messages in a thread with my closest friends, and a Facebook post from my cousin that said “Never in my life have I ever been afraid to look the way I do until now…”

He is a turbaned Sikh.

That one sentence took my “I am broken,” and substantiated it, tenfold.

Later in the day, I spoke to one of my closest friends—a cis, white, male–who of course understands the gravity of what has happened, but whom I went off on because the frustration got the best of me. Because I am not simply upset my candidate of choice did not take office. Because I feel attacked and threatened more deeply than he does. Because to me, this is not a case of “America’s going to shit, let’s move to Canada.”

To me, this is a case of feeling as though every promise this country dangled in front of my family 17 years ago has gone out the window. We left behind the comfort of our “home,” for a bigger, better one in America. We left behind our traditions, so we could adopt new, advanced ones. We left behind our identities, in order to assume an American identity characteristic of progress. But yesterday, the prospect of progress went away. And that is a hurt I feel so personally, I cannot stay quiet when someone says “get over it.” I cannot get over it. It is a grief that is personal to me because I am not simply waving goodbye to progress in one area. I am waving goodbye to progress at every level of my existence.

I am questioning the life we moved here for. I am questioning if that dream will ever come to fruition. I am questioning whether the color of my skin will affect my next trip to the grocery store, or the next subway ride. I am questioning which opportunities my cousin or my brother will have access to, and I am wondering what will happen to the 10-year-old girl who proudly wears a hijab to school every morning. My friend Nadia, who also moved to this country in pursuit of the liberties her country failed to provide her, told me she wore a hijab for two years as a child, but “I can’t imagine wearing one now.”

Yet isn’t that what her family moved to this country for? To freely practice a religion, to evade contempt, to assume whichever identity they want, not fearing consequences? We are a nation built on the backs of those who wanted a new land where they could feel free, yet we have come to a point in our history where “other” is no longer celebrated.

A Muslim name raises eyebrows.

A turbaned man evokes fear.

Refugees are to be avoided.

Our doors are quickly closing.

We are turning our backs on those who need us.

We are turning our backs on people who are no different from our own ancestors.

We have become that which our forefathers fought so bitterly never to become.

We have lost empathy.

We have adopted hatred.

ii

Last night, I discussed the results of the election with my mom, trying to make some sense of what had happened. We kept circling back to one word:

Hopeless

I couldn’t shake it off. But mom being mom brought in some mom logic that I have promised myself I will dedicate time and energy into understanding.

“Maybe this happened because a very large amount of Americans have felt what you are feeling for far too long.”

Hopeless

Something clicked, in that moment. I will never shake off this hopelessness if I meet it with the same anger, hostility, and divisiveness that pushed this man into office. Instead, I have a duty to at least attempt to understand why half of the American people felt hopeless enough to vote for this man because I refuse to believe that half the American people are racist, intolerant, misogynistic, xenophobic, sexist, hateful people.

They are not. They can’t be. Because despite my own hopelessness, my own feelings of betrayal and anger, I still believe in this country and its great promise. I still believe that we have it in us to create an inclusive society that offers human rights to those who aren’t afforded them in their country of origin. I still know that love is not simple, and it does not simply exist between a man and a woman. I believe that we are on the brink of being a country that treats women with the respect, dignity, and the equal pay they deserve. I know that prejudice is not ingrained in every single one of us, and that we will rightfully stand by our brothers and sisters and neighbors and community members who are the target of bigotry.

But I also know that it will take mobilizing, organizing, and a brutal amount of work. The odds are against our liberties, and we have to work together, more than ever before, to come out of the next four years with our liberties intact. It will take a great amount of patience to understand where an entire half of this country came from when they cast their ballots two days ago, but we need to fully understand the root of this hatred and this hopelessness in order to reverse it.

So we will march, and we will cry, and we will protest, and we will lift one another up. We will reach out to friends, classmates, people whom we haven’t spoken to in years. We will make sure they are okay. We will remind them they are loved. We will assure them that they are just as much a part of this country and its story as everybody else.

We will beat down hatred with inclusivity and love and the best of what this country has to offer.

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“You Cannot Find Peace by Avoiding Life”

Here’s the thing about mental peace and clarity: a lot of us want it.

We want the clear picture, the google map directions on how to get there quickly, the path, hell, maybe even the next step. We feel like we are in the dark a lot. There is a reason why every time I talk to a friend about feeling “lost,” the returned sentiment is “me too, omg, me too.” Life is weird. It is confusing. We do not always know if we are doing the things we should be doing, or the things that feel right, or what even “right” feels like. We want to listen to our intuition, but sometimes, it feels like our intuition has gone on hiatus, and left us in a dark tunnel, scratching around for some footing.

Clarity, though, is connected to timing.

Sometimes, it takes a lifetime to recognize the parts of us that need work. But that recognition, when reached, feels like an enlightenment. With dedication, you slowly crawl, stumble, then walk your way toward clarity. But it always has to start with that initial self-reflection. 

This reflection hit me in the face with the force of a hundred slaps a few days ago. And I decided to channel it, immediately. 

I decided to stop avoiding my emotions and wants and needs and real life. I decided to ask for what I want. I decided to raise my middle finger to “fitting in.” I decided to be a little selfish, a little “me-centric.” I decided I would stop being, and start living.

I decided to grab life by the horns and finally reach that clarity I’ve been chasing in my dreams.

But clarity requires more than just a realization of what needs fixing. It requires action, and sometimes, we are not in a place where we can put ideas or new information into action. That’s okay. That’s why it takes time. That’s why we need to listen and get ready. Sometimes, we’re blooming. Sometimes, we’re being planted. It’s not always easy to know the difference.

Because gaining clarity usually means something needs to be broken down, re-structured, re-learned, re-created, put on hold, shelved, and sometimes…just sometimes…discarded .

That “something” can be you, a behavioral trait, or a way of life, or maybe a friendship in need of re-modeling, something, anything. We have to act on the clarity, otherwise there’s no point. And sometimes we’re just afraid of the action we’re going to have to take. We want to know, but sometimes we block knowing, because knowing means we have to act. We have to start doing the things. We have to take the scary risk, and make the big jumps, and take all those ideas that are rumbling around in our minds and put them to work, not knowing the outcome.

Because clarity is wasted on the inactive.

So, maybe that piece of the puzzle you’ve been waiting for is waiting for you to get ready. Maybe it’s not the time. Maybe you’re not as willing as you think you are. If you’re stuck in that dark tunnel disconnected from your intuition, there’s a reason. Make sure you’re receptive. And that you’re willing to act, act, act on new information, new ideas.

Because clarity wants your commitment before it comes screaming into your life.


Rosy Complexion Smoothie

If I could rave about the benefits of rose water all day, it still wouldn’t be enough. For the last year, it’s been a featured member of my skincare routine, and its effects on my skin have been remarkable.

I was first introduced to rose water as part of skin care, when I swung by my local Lush Cosmetics store, and picked up a spray bottle of the Eau Roma Rose Water Toner. The scent was deliciously relaxing, and it left my skin feeling dewy and soft, rather than harsh and irritated. It was just light enough that it got off residual make-up, unlike pharmacy toners, which often leave my skin puffy and dry.

In recent months, however, I have begun making my own toner. I purchased a spray bottle at my local CVS, and poured in an entire bottle of Cortas Rose Water, added 10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil, 10 more drops of Jojoba Oil, and haven’t looked back.

Most mornings, I wash my face with a gentle cleanser like this coconut face wash, then spray on a couple generous sprays of my toner (don’t forget to give the bottle a good shake, as the oils tend to layer on top of the water), moisturize, put on some SPF, BB cream, and run out the door.

At nighttime, however, I put in the additional effort to dab cotton pads into the toner and wipe the day’s dirt and bacteria off my face. The results are always this soft, supple, hydrated facial texture that makes me feel brand new again.

My obsession with rose water extends to my diet, too!

Below, I’m sharing my favorite morning smoothie recipe! I’ve mentioned before how I start every single morning with a large mug of warm water and one whole lemon sliced in. This smoothie is what follows about a half hour after I gulp down the lemon water. It fuels my morning with just enough energy to hit up a HIIT class, and it wakes my skin up immediately with its rosy goodness. Since rose water is such a staple in my skincare routine, adding a tinge to my smoothies only takes my routine a step further.

Ingredients

1 banana, chopped

1 1/2 cup of ice

1/4 cup of almond milk, unsweetened and carageenan-free

1 serving of Siggi’s plain Icelandic Skyr

1 teaspoon raw honey

1/4 teaspoon grated ginger

1 small pinch of cinnamon

1 small pinch of fresh nutmeg, grated

1 tablespoon of rose water

1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil or ghee (I like to start my mornings with a healthy dose of fat)

1 tablespoon of maca powder

1 tablespoon of chia seeds

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a high-power blender (I use a NutriNinja), blend until smooth, garnish with chia seeds, and sip away!

 

The Most Basic Time of the Year

Each fall, as the wind gets crisper, the leaves get crunchier, and that summertime humidity slips away, I promise myself I won’t give into the pumpkin spice madness that has now become synonymous with autumn. Still, I end up cheating my way toward that indulgent latte, that pumpkin ale, a slice of pumpkin bread, and maybe a forkful of pumpkin pie, too.

Even though it’s not quite fall yet, I recently came across this incredible recipe for pumpkin curry ramen on The Skinny Fork, and I just had to abandon my cooking plans for the evening to immediately produce this seemingly delicious recipe.

Anyone who knows me well knows that ramen is my lifeline in the winter months, and thanks to Amanda at the Skinny Fork, I’ll be eating this all winter long, feeding it to my family, and raving about it all over town!

I made a couple small adaptations to her original recipe to suit my own palate (I’m a big fan of lots and lots of spice), so here’s my take on this recipe!

I highly recommend you all check out her recipes, as they’re wildly innovative and one-of-a-kind, and her varied photographs give you a good idea of what the ingredients should look like at each step of the process!

Ingredients

2 1/2 tablespoons of Thai Red Curry Paste (altered from original recipe)

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 small pinch of garlic scapes (optional, and altered from original recipe)

  • Garlic Scapes, though often hard to come by, have this herbiness that totally enhances the flavor profile of any dish they are used in. Often, we tend to chop ’em off, and toss ’em away, but I love using them in my cooking, and highly recommend using them, either as a garnish, or as a flavor enhancer in the base of the food.

Small, one-inch nub of fresh ginger, grated

1 whole white onion, diced

1 tablespoon of raw coconut oil (altered from original recipe)

3 cups of chicken stock

1 large chicken breast, sliced into strips

1 cup of sliced crimini mushrooms

Small handful of dried shiitake mushrooms (altered from original recipe)

1 can of coconut milk

1/2 cup of pumpkin puree

9 ounces of ramen noodles

1 cup, roughly chopped herbs (altered from original recipe)

  • I cooked some coriander, fresh basil and scallions into the broth for added flavor
  • Set aside some coriander, garlic scapes, and juliened scallions for garnish

2 eggs, soft boiled, separately (altered from original recipe)

1 teaspoon of sesame oil (altered from original recipe)

2 tablespoons of minced jalapenos (altered from original recipe)

small handful of round-sliced jalapenos (altered from original recipe)

1 tablespoon of sriracha (altered from original recipe)


Preparation

Add the red curry to your soup pot, and heat on medium for a couple of minutes

Add the coconut oil and garlic, and cook garlic until slightly golden, but not toasted (about two minutes)

Add the ginger, crimini mushrooms, chopped herbs, and onion–cook until the onion is slightly translucent

As the onion becomes translucent, pour in the broth, pumpkin puree, dried shiitake mushrooms, and coconut milk

Turn the heat up just above medium, and bring it to a boil

Once you hit a boil, add the noodles and chicken, sesame oil, sriracha, jalapenos, and give it a good stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover

While the soup mixture stews (I gave it 20 minutes for the flavors to truly absorb), in a separate sauce pan, bring water to a boil and add two large eggs

  • As soon as you add the eggs, bring the water down to a simmer, cover the sauce pan, and let the eggs cook for exactly 7 minutes
  • Once the 7 minutes are up, take the eggs out carefully, and put them in an ice bath. A small bowl with cold water and ice should suffice
  • Let them sit in the ice bath for an additional 3-4 minutes before peeling

Ladle the soup into a bowl, slice eggs in half, set on top of the soup. Garnish bowl with the chopped coriander, scallions, jalapenos, garlic scapes, and slurp up!

*NOTE: My phone rang in the midst of boiling the eggs, so mine are definitely erring on hard-boiled!

As an aside, I’ve linked back to many of the products I’ve come to love from Thrive Market. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Thrive Market is an online retailer of ethically sourced food and health products. I bought into a membership last fall, and have not looked back, since. It’s saved me money, cut back on my Whole Foods expenses, and introduced me to tons of great products I never would have known existed!

#CURRYSCENTEDB***%

A couple months ago, Azealia Banks decided to call Zayn Malik a “curry scented bitch,” and while I’m typically super secretive about my guilty pleasures (old re-runs of Gossip Girl, Lizzie McGuire, and The Hills), I am not the least bit embarrassed about my penchant for celebrity feuds because, duh, #thisiswhaticameforI was on this story like white on rice.

Jokes aside, however, my immediate reaction was abhorrence and repugnance. But I also wondered, for the first time, why anything curry-related has ever been used as a derogatory slur toward South Asian peoples, alone, when you can find some sort of adaptation on curry in virtually every corner of the world.

In fact, curry is such the comfort food, it’s been modified over the years, and introduced to lots of different cuisines outside the South Asian subcontinent. Ever had German currywurst? What about goulash? I once had an Irish friend whose mother made the most delectable Irish Chicken Curry I have ever tasted, possibly in the history of everdom, and if someone were to tell me I smell like curry, well then fuck yeah, I’m okay with it because I like spices, and ginger, and garlic, and onion, and I especially like all of them together, so go home, Azealia, because curry is goddamn, motherf*cking tasty, and anybody who disagrees must not have taste buds.

Below, I’m sharing one of my absolute favorite curry recipes–inspired by Thai green curry, but with MamAnand’s special twist. Every time my mom makes this, I immediately go from a wilted flower to the happiest gal on Earth, and maybe one day, I will be able to make it half as incredibly as she does.

Ingredients: 

2 teaspoons raw coconut oil

1 small white onion, diced

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger (about a 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of salt

½ bunch asparagus, tough ends removed and sliced into 2-inch long pieces

1 stalk of lemongrass (outer layers peeled, tough ends removed, and finely grated)

3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into ¼-inch wide rounds (to yield about 1 cup sliced carrots)

1 medium piece of yellow summer squash, sliced into rounds

2 tablespoons Thai Green Curry Paste

3/4 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup coconut water

½ cup water

1½ teaspoons coconut sugar

2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil

2 stalks of scallion, chopped

1/2 cup of fennel, finely chopped (typically 1/4 of a bulb)

1½ teaspoons rice vinegar

1½ teaspoons soy sauce** (I used reduced-sodium tamari)

2 pounds uncooked, large shrimp

Garnishes: handful of chopped fresh cilantro and red pepper flakes, to taste

Preparation
Warm a large skillet with deep sides (cast iron is best) over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add a couple teaspoons of oil
While the oil heats up, mix the asparagus with half a cup of coconut water and pulse in a food processor until pureed
Cook the onion, ginger, fennel, scallions, grated lemongrass, and garlic with a sprinkle of salt for about 5 minutes, stirring often
Add the asparagus puree, squash, and carrots and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally
Then add the curry paste and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes
Pour the coconut milk into the pan, along with ½ cup water and 1½ teaspoons sugar
Bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the carrots and asparagus are tender and cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes
Add shrimp into the curry, and cook until it is just about opaque
Once the vegetables and shrimp are done cooking, stir the spinach and basil into the mixture, and cook until the greens have wilted, about 30 seconds.
Remove the curry from heat and season with rice vinegar and soy sauce
Add salt and red pepper flakes (optional), to taste
Shrimp Coconut Curry

 

 

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

Every now and then, I grow weary of my usual snacks–yogurt, homemade granola bars, oatmeal cookies, the usual–and reach back to those good old Middle Eastern roots.

Eggplant was always a favorite, growing up. Whether roasted and lightly spiced with potatoes, or pureed in spices and served over rice, it was a staple in our home, and has slowly become a staple in my own diet. I always find little ways to sneak it into my meals or incorporate it into salads.

Today, I’m sharing a recipe that combines eggplant with my all-time favorite, anyime/anywhere food-hummus!

Tip: I have used fairy tale eggplant, which has a mild eggplant flavor. Feel free to use any type of eggplant you have on hand, or whatever is available. I used a mixture of garlic and shallots, although any kind of onion in addition to, or instead, will work. I like to peel the light skin off my chickpeas for a smoother finish. This step is optional, but in my opinion, it’s totally worth the time. This takes about 30 minutes to make, and yields 2 cups of hummus. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

large bunch fairy tale eggplants or 1 medium sized eggplant

1 head of garlic

3 shallots

2 tablespoons tahini

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup fresh parsley + more for garnish

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

olive oil

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Wash and slice the eggplant, lengthwise

Take the bulb of garlic and slice the top off so each clove is exposed

Cut the shallots into large-sized bites. Toss with a light coating of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Turn the eggplants, cut side down onto a baking tray, add in the garlic and shallots.

Roast until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Flip and continue cooking until the eggplant is totally soft, depending on the size of your eggplants, 5 – 15 minutes more.

Remove the eggplant from the pan when it is done cooking. If the garlic still needs a little more time, continue cooking.

You can use this time to prep the hummus. Scoop the flesh out of the eggplants, leaving the skins behind. You’ll want to get together about 1 cup of cooked flesh.

Once the garlic is done cooking, combine the chickpeas, eggplant flesh, garlic bulbs, shallots, tahini, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper in the food processor. Pulse until smooth, adding a drizzle of olive oil in as needed to loosen.

Enjoy topped with more parsley, olive oil + crushed peppers, and serve with chips or veggies!

 

The Little White Dress and the Little White Lies

As someone who has feigned confidence for years, I have been an avid proponent of the “fake it until you make it” mindset. I have faked confidence, happiness, ease, and comfort for so long, my entire life seems like a string of memories held together by the little white lies I have been telling myself. Maybe it stems from a semi-traditional upbringing by foreign parents. Maybe it stems from the way women are portrayed in the media. From a young age, I was constantly put under the pressure to measure up, physically, to what the ideal female form should look like.

But “should” is a social construct.

“Should” makes young girls go on diets when they are 8 years old.

“Should” convinces mothers that their little girls should play with barbies, not trucks.

“Should” keeps girls out of the sun, so they don’t get dark. But boys can play soccer until the sun goes down.

“Should” means splurging on skincare products, diet supplements, and anti-aging creams at an age when we are meant to live life so fully and so freely, aging should seem like a far-off event.

“Should” molds us into the girls we think guys will like, rather than molding us into the women we have the potential of becoming.

“Should” wreaks havoc on our ability to self-actualize, to take control of our lives and live them on our own terms, to abandon social constructs and societal expectations, and instead live happily–whatever that happiness may mean to us.

I have been tied down by one “should” or another for my entire life, conforming first, to cultural expectations, then parental expectations, then patriarchal expectations, then societal expectations.

About a year ago, I looked around at my generic life, and could not find a single source of originality. Nothing screamed Janam, and everything felt dull. I was a woman turning the quarter century, with no identity of her own, no true sense of belonging, and no zest in her life.

So I moved to New York.

And I naively expected this city to change my life. In many ways, it has. But the changes in my life began when I opened myself up to happiness. I stopped faking confidence, and instead, started building a character I could be proud of. I stopped trying to be like all the other girls, and instead, started molding myself into a woman who takes inspiration from the strongest women in her own life. I started asking for what I want, rather than agreeing to what I should want. I began saying “no,” for the first time in my life, to all the things that veered me away from the person I want to become. I stopped being critical of my physical appearance. I stopped hating myself for every bite I ate, for every glance in the mirror, for every soft spot on my body, for every scar, and instead began respecting and appreciating the body I have been given.

Then, at some point last week–dressed in an itty bitty white dress and sky high heels, standing on a rooftop in this beautiful city, surrounded by men and women of all shapes, sizes, and colors, from all over the world, the sun dipping in the background, the city coming to life in the foreground–it happened. I felt confident. For the first time in my entire life, and I really mean my entire life, a wave of real deal confidence washed over me. I smiled because I was happy, not because I should have been. I laughed because my friend Kartik said something funny. My hair was blowing in the wind, and it was not romantic or uniform, or perfectly timed. It was messy, and frizzy, and a disaster, and I did not care. I did not care what I looked like, I did not care what other people looked like, I did not care about how I was perceived, and every ounce of anxiety that has ever held me back sort of just drifted away in the wind.

A perfect stranger looked over at me and said

“You must be the happiest woman I’ve ever met. The happy one in the little white dress.”