Archive | May, 2014

{Restaurant Review} Vapiano – fresh and delicious

31 May

What do they say about never saying never?

Insalata di arance e noci

Insalata di arance e noci

Well, I experienced it myself very recently. Vapiano in Bahrain City Center always looked promising but the previous two dining experiences at Vapiano were sub-par and less than delightful that I was quite sure I wouldn’t want to try them again. But with a little coaxing from Obai & Hill’s Zainab, I thought about giving Vapiano’s summer, fresh menu a try with a disclaimer that if I didn’t like it (again), I would refrain from doing a review on my blog.

On the scheduled day, my family and I stepped into Vapiano to sample their new menu. We were ushered in by a very friendly server who then educated us about all the new dishes and desserts. On her recommendations we settled for 1 starter, 2 main courses, 1 salad and a dessert. All this was to be accompanied by freshly squeezed orange.  For the starters we ordered the Caprese  that had cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzerella on the bed of basil and rocket leaves. The cherry tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the rocket peppery as its supposed to be – all fresh and crunchy.

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Caprese

This was just the right antipasti to whet our appetite for the remaining courses to come. The hubby had ordered Estiva – a tender chicken breast pasta drenched in semi- dried tomato sauce, with a mild kick of ginger, mint and rocket . We specially asked our server to request the chef to cook the pasta a bit more than the “Vapiano” al dente. As per our request, the pasta was just perfectly done with succulent chicken pieces and  flavoursome tomato sauce and herbs.

Estiva with conchiglie

Estiva with conchiglie

My daughter who is notorious for shunning restaurant food was content with her bread and butter. She particularly enjoyed the fresh orange juice with her simple grub. As for me, I had ordered a barbecued chicken pizza which was sumptuous to say the least. It was quite a large portion unexpectedly and so we had the rest of it in a take away bag.

barbecued chicken pizza

barbecued chicken pizza

All the wonderful food was balanced by a very citrus-y , sunshine salad adorned by pistachio called the insalata di arance e noci. To my mind, it feels like summer on my plate with juicy orange fillets, pistachios, lamb’s lettuce and chicory. The flavours were heightened by a very light walnut and orange dressing. This was the highlight of my meal at Vapiano and it would be something that I would keep going back to Vapiano for many times over.

Insalata di Arance e noci

Insalata di Arance e noci

The close of the meal was marked by the unavoidable chocolate dessert called the Cioccolata e espresso which is Vapiano’s own homestyle chocolate espresso mousse, cantuccini (literally translates as coffee bread or popularly known as biscotti)  refined with grape juice and sweet amarena cherries.

Cioccolata e espresso

Cioccolata e espresso

Feeling happily sedated after such a wholesome meal, we thanked our hostess for the day and returned home with the lingering memories of the summer food at Vapiano. Thank you Vapiano for a wonderful experience that was so fresh and delicious that I don’t think I can have enough of it this summer!!.

 *This is a sponsored post but the opinions expressed all solely mine.

On how important it is to be selfish and a healthy grilled chicken, quinoa, mango and wilted kale salad

23 May

Just yesterday I was invited to a colleague’s birthday lunch. It was great to catch up with my colleagues ( 8 women and 1 guy) and to say that the lunch was hearty, would be an understatement. In between the talk turned towards what the birthday girl was going to do in the evening. I was told that she had her celebratory birthday breakfast with her fiance, lunch with her favourite acquaintances and friends from work (that would be us) and evening would be devoted to another grand meal with her family of sisters and parents. To me that sounded absolutely perfect. A day planned around food!! What a perfect birthday indeed!

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The topic from there on turned towards how important it is to make sure that one enjoy’s her/his birthday to the  fullest. Birthday is one day where everybody is entitled to having  their wishes granted and being the center of attention. I nodded my head to all of it except to the one about being the center of attention. My modest and fiercely grounded upbringing and related conditioning refused to accept any claim that suggested being the center of attention was a good thing. It’s because being the center of attention was akin to being selfish and being selfish meant being a bad person. No way was I going to be a ‘bad person’. And if that meant, shunning attention and allowing the limelight to fall on someone else, so be it.

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One of colleagues, a young Bahraini girl – 20 something old, known for her love of celebrating her birthdays spoke up. I listened to her in rapt attention. She talked about how she put a countdown on her iPhone counting down days, hours, minutes and seconds to her birthday. Everyday she took pains to remind her family and friends about her up coming birthday, giving everybody enough time to plan something special for her. After all, family and friends were supposed to do something memorable on her birthday as they were in her life for a purpose which was to see her happy. She described with stars in her eyes about how excited she felt every year when it is her birthday month. Each year she saved up enough money to buy herself the gift of her choice. This year too, she had already bought herself, her own ‘surprise gift’!!!!!

GCQ5To me, all of it sounded preposterous. Attaching so much value to one day is equal to setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet I listened to her in fascination. She rambled on about her love for gadgets and precious stones, clothes and branded shoes and her father’s credit card. In my head, I was judging her against my will as someone who was so self – absorbed. I couldn’t ever be like her and  concluded  how different individuals we were. Suddenly the shine in her eyes, the unbridled happiness on her face drove me to think beyond the obvious. While I was this 30 -something, unexcited professional; she was this 2o – something, full of hope professional at the other of the table. What was so different that our worlds couldn’t meet? Why was I so resentful of her happiness which was self-generated and did not depend on anything external? Materialistic it might be, yet it was genuine.Truth be told, I envied her sitting on the other end of the table. I wanted to be enthusiastic like her about my own birthday, about my life and everything around me. I wanted to make each day count until it was my big day. I wanted  to celebrate. Growing up has cost me. It has taken away from me my enthusiasm for self – created small joys.

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No wonder I felt trapped between my contempt for her selfishness and my readiness to trade places with her and her attitude towards life.  What was that exact point in life where I lost my uncontainable curiosity and enthusiasm for life? Sitting there among all the chatter and immensely enjoying my chocolate lava cake, I tried to trace back the path in vain. The change had happened so slowly and in many ways, irreversibly. To watch this girl revel in her selfishness, was the takeaway for me that afternoon over good food and other interesting conversation. As women, after we get married and have children and  how soon we forget that we need to be selfish. The word feels abusive because as wives, mothers and hence caretakers, it has no business being around in our dictionary. But with that don’t we also forget to find joy from within us. Our children, our families become our sources of joy. Ofcourse they are. It is not debatable. But isn’t it important to find our own joy. Our self-generated joys such as gifting ourselves what we think we deserve or spending time doing things we love. For most of us, what we deserve is decided by what our family or children think we deserve.

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Just sit back and think hard. What do you really enjoy? Let that not include (for once) your child’s smile, his/her achievements, your spouse’s appreciation or your boss’s dependency on you for work. What do you as a person enjoy doing/thinking/creating? Make a list and take a positive step towards achieving it. I did my list which I define as my sources of self- generated joys. One of them is developing healthy and tasty recipes. The Salad pictures that you see interspersed along with all this ‘selfish’ monologue is my own creation.  I enjoyed creating it and executing it. Well to tell you the truth, I didn’t bother sharing this salad with any one else. I enjoyed it for lunch and felt good about it. May be I am being necessarily rebellious but this concept of finding my own joy for my own selfish reasons has taken root in my mind. The recipe is so simple that it shouldn’t take more than half hour to bring it all together.

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I would recommend that you use a sweet dressing for this salad as it complements the flavours of the tart mango, the delicious dullness of the wilted kale and the hearty goodness of the pepper crusted grilled chicken. The quinoa provides the much need foundation to hold all the flavours and gives it roundness of a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy this and spend some time contemplating selfishly about what makes you smile and your heart jump with joy.

In other news, my blog has been rated as one of the TOP 10 Blogs cooking blogs in India. Woohoo!! I am thrilled to bits. Check out the post here

Also, this is my 250th post on this blog. It is such a huge milestone for me personally because I cannot begin to explain how difficult it was at times to keep going – developing, creating content, taking pictures of food and presenting it in an interesting format each week. I am relentless about my blogs because perhaps because this is MY space and I am stubborn about not allowing it to wither away!

With this note, wish you all a happy weekend! Be creative.

A detox diet tale and a very healthy oats uttapam recipe

17 May

I have had many weddings to attend in the past four months. Indian wedding food and the late night extravaganza can wreck the metabolism for a long, long time. By the time, I came back home reeling from the heady glitz of my best friend’s wedding, I could feel my body protesting. A detox was in order. On a separate note, I have been on a good gym schedule with a trainer for more than 6-8 months now and needless to say, I have been feeling fit end very strong. But even such a robust exercise schedule’s effects are nullified by the sullied food and sleep cycle on vacations. To start afresh, I jumped into a 5 -day juice detox plan with the help of my Bahraini friend and colleague. Eva is an expert when it comes to diet, detox, fitness and holistic health. She prepared a stringent 5 -day juice diet with her own ingenious juice recipes.

OA5

Her plan consisted of Green, Red, Purple, Orange juices for five days with varied ingredient combinations under each colour group. On the fourth and the fifth day, she added a meal each rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates for lunch. Since I wasn’t used to anything this intense, I was very apprehensive. But with Eva’s gentle encouragement, I embarked on the diet. Each day I made a mental note of how I was feeling and this post is about these observations and a very healthy oats egg white uttapam that finds it way on my breakfast plate more often than not.

juice

The funny thing about starting a diet is that, the first thing you do is  to mentally prepare for the ‘deprivation’ from your favourite foods. The previous night, I filled myself with a dinner and ate till I felt my stomach could take no more. Post that I felt extremely guilty which was immediately replaced by a sense of ‘compensation” that for the next five days, I will have little or no solid food.

Day 1 : The morning wasn’t eventful as I was used to only juices and negligible breakfast certain days of the week. But then the realization struck that there would be no lunch – not the one where I would chew and spend time over. It would only be a glass of banana- strawberry smoothie with lemon! I had my smoothie lunch and  it was satisfying to say the least. But the mind is a tricky being and I can go ahead  and say at the risk of sounding silly that- the mind has a mind of its own! By mid – afternoon, I was feeling low – not on energy – but on feelings. Like all my restlessness was put to rest. All my nervous twitching settled down on my face and I felt peaceful. I wanted to be left alone and didn’t feel like talking to anyone. It was one of the best feelings ever. The day passed without any incidents and at night I slept peacefully.

Day 2: The next day, I woke up feeling refreshed and lighter.  I followed the juice diet strictly for the day and I was full of energy. I struggled in a very minor way with not feeling full enough but quickly learnt the tricks of the trade. I felt full when I sipped on my juice slowly and in a relaxed way, rather than gulping it all down in a single shot. Constantly talking to myself that this is not going to my last meal and that I will be providing  my body more nourishing juices the entire day helped a lot. I continued with my regular gym sessions with my trainer during the diet as well to rev-up my metabolism. I found it easier to run as I was breathing better.

Day 3; If you think that all the bodily functions would shut down because you haven’t been eating solid food, then you are in for a surprise! Well I won’t go too much into the details here but definitely say that I hadn’t felt this bloating-free in ages. The third day was a clean sweep and I did not even realize how it passed. Mentally, I was feeling lighter and happier and my cravings had diminished and I was breathing more easily. My trainer noticed I had more energy during my intense circuit training sessions.

Day 4: I had never thought I would look forward to a day so much. I was sleeping so well after a long time. Couple of times I did weigh myself but my weight hadn’t budged. It was a bit demoralizing for a second or two but the happiness of the lightness I was feeling clouded any feelings of sadness or depression. Also, I reminded myself why I was doing this. I was doing this diet to get a boost, free my body of the toxins it had collected over time and extract maximum from my work-out. Once you have certain fundamentals set straight, it becomes quite easy to stay focused. The fourth day had a lunch- meal in it which was a small bowl of mushroom -quinoa and grilled sweet potato. Post my lunch, I felt extremely uncomfortable. The solid food felt like an intruder in my system but soon by evening and after my work out the solid meal intrusion was vanquished.

Day 5: I woke up with a feeling of sadness inside me for I had grown attached to this way of having juices as meals. I wasn’t ready to give up this feeling of being so happy and light. It does drive  home a point that we are what we eat. What we eat /drink creates a deep impact not only on our physical being but also on our mental health. It is a science in itself but at a basic level, it taught  me to be extra careful about how I nourish my body. Like they say, each meal time is an opportunity to nourish your body and post this detox, I have been quite careful about it. The fifth day also included one meal which was lunch. The solid meal felt much at home and I enjoyed every bite of it.

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Notes: This was a detox diet for 5 days which included very specific juice recipes meant for the purpose. 

It was NOT a weight loss diet plan at all.

It is safe to do this diet plan atleast once in six months to boost your sluggish metabolism

My initial thoughts about the diet being very difficult were  unfounded. It is moderately easy to follow this juice plan. 

The difficult part of this diet is the juicing bit. Chopping of vegetables and fruits and then juicing them fresh is advisable. Juicing is tedious and on a work day it seems a bit of a task. 

There are only advantages in exercising while doing this diet. In my personal opinion, I did not feel there was any calorie deficit at all and that is perhaps why I didn’t find it difficult to stick to gym schedule.

I did lose in inches after the diet but nothing on the weighing scale (which wasn’t my concern anyways)

Post the diet, I still juice atleast 3 times in a week.

I have only Eva to thank because she inducted me into this juicing habit which has really altered my way of thinking. I also have to thank my husband who took over the task of juicing every morning.

To end this post, I have a wonderful oats egg-white uttapam recipe to share that I found on Bulbul’s blog. The original recipe does not have egg whites but I added it for a protein boost. Bulbul has some very yummy, tried and tasted healthy recipes to try. Do hop over to her blog to find out more.

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It is very simple to whip up and makes for a very satisfying meal  and guilt -free too. I had this with the green cilantro and mint chutney. But I bet it will taste good with coconut chutney too.

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The recipe is as follows;

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Hope everybody is having a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

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