Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Personal Musings, Photography Art, Quotes, Reflections

Finding the Harmony

“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.” Rabindranath Tagore

In the chaotic existence of the days, as we come across many people and numerous interactions, there is one set of people that I admire the most. They are open to all ideas, listen to entire narratives with infinite patience, kind to many but rarely allow others to interfere in their lives. They look for the truth by themselves, gathering their world bit by bit and at times with gentle subtleness, not paying attention to the surprised and condemning views of those around them.

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity. From discord find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

These kind of people are so rare being many-sided and beautiful. They are open to others, but they will never knock on doors where they are not welcome. They live in harmony with themselves, as their heart tells them. Usually they are considered insane, but these people love life, and she reciprocates them, giving them their best gifts. Harmony is the word that centers around these people.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” Thomas Merton

The peacefulness and concurrence with each other cannot be born in a day. For harmony to be attained it needs each one of us to be aware of the expectations and requirements that encompass us as we adapt in our own particular approach to life. To be in concordance with others will happen when we are in agreement with ourselves, living consistent with our most profound feelings of what is genuine and what matters most. The joy of life can be seen exemplified through the quiet power of harmony. When the state of harmony is balanced, one often discovers that life blossoms even through the tired, difficult, bleak and lonely days. All we need to do is find and synchronize the rhythm within to the thoughts, desires and dreams in our mind. Though this may seem difficult, it is never impossible to do so.

“The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace. A persistent simplification will create an inner and outer well-being that places harmony in one’s life.” Peace Pilgrim

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Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art, Quotes

Hot, Dark and Chocolaty

Watch the sunrise at least once a year, put a lot of marshmallows in your hot chocolate, lie on your back and look at the stars, never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on, never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline, don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

First believed to have been created by the Mayans 3000 years ago, this drink has been popularized across the world transitioning from religious or medicinal purposes to being a luxurious and recreational or comfort concoction. Popularly known as hot chocolate or cocoa, (aka drinking chocolate and chocolate tea in Nigeria); it would be a grave error for any chocolate fan to give this drink a miss.

“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.” Henri Frederic Amiel

Hot chocolate comes in multiple variations including the Latin American spiced chocolate para mesa, the very thick Italian cioccolata calda, Spannish chocolate a la taza to the thinner hot cocoa consumed in the United States. The distiction between “hot cocoa” (from powder made by removing most of the rich cocoa butter from the ground cacao beans) and “hot chocolate” ( melt bar chocolate, already rich in cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter) lies in the cocoa butter, the absence of which makes hot cocoa significantly lower in fat than hot chocolate while still preserving all the antioxidants found in chocolate.

“Some days you get up and you already know that things aren’t going to go well. They’re the type of days when you should just give in, put your pajamas back on, make some hot chocolate and read comic books in bed with the covers up until the world looks more encouraging. Of course, they never let you do that.” Bill Watterson

Add a higher percentage of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, eliminate or decrease the sugar and voila, dark chocolate (also known as black chocolate, plain chocolate, or bitter chocolate) is ready. Although the percentages may vary as per brand, government and industry regulations; dark chocolate has taken the 21st century by storm. Either way, hot or cold; dark or light, bitter or milky; chocolate still reigns supreme among the desserts, gifts, treats and moments of deliciousness and is here to stay.

“You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about.” Ray Nagin

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art, Quotes

Chocolate to Cake

“Part of life and part of the enjoyment of life is a croissant and a chocolate cake and eggs and milkshakes and oatmeal. There’s so many things, you have to learn to appreciate it all. When I don’t eat as much as I should, I’m not fun to be around; I’m fussy.” — Nina Dobrev

Almost like development of civilization, chocolate cake or chocolate gâteau made an entrance around late 1800s. Retrospectively that’s a long time considering that chocolate drink was there around the times of the Mayans and Aztecs. Chocolate cake lovers’ need to thank Coenraad van Houten (1828) for extraction of cacao butter and “rock cacao”. With Rodolphe Lindt (1879) developing “conching” for silky smooth chocolate; slowly the experimentation of chocolate began from fillings and glazes to the cake batter.

“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” Audrey Hepburn

Chocolate decadence took on full swing with molten chocolate cakes with liquid chocolate centers. Furthermore the cakes were infused chocolates with exotic flavors such as tea, red pepper, passion fruit and champagne were popular. Chocolate lounges and artisanal chocolate makers took on the show.

“I had a little epiphany when I was a writer at ‘Chicago’ magazine. I sat down to dinner at the Ritz-Carlton. Somebody poured a white dessert wine with chocolate cake. It was a wine I would never have expected to make sense. The idea of any wine tasting fabulous with chocolate cake was fascinating to me.”  Ted Allen

There are many varieties and variants of chocolate cake especially chocolate layer cake, fudge cake, Joffre cake and Devil’s food cake to list a few. When one feels like celebrating or enjoying the feel of “breaded chocolate”, it triggers the memories and anticipation of delving into that piece of cake of chocolaty goodness. Besides it would be quite remiss for a chocolate lover to crush the taste buds on “National Chocolate Cake Day”. So here’s to that little splurge of calories but irresistible goodness.

“I like quinoa. I like gingerbread. I feel they should be kept separate. I’m not in favor of this thing of making kind of raw, vegan chocolate cake and saying it’s as good as chocolate cake. I mean, just eat cake and be done with it. And then have a separate meal of quinoa.” Bee Wilson

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Of Gourmet Coffee

“Coffee in Brazil is always made fresh and, except at breakfast time, drunk jet black from demitasses first filled almost to the brim with the characteristic moist, soft coffee sugar of the country, which melts five times as fast as our hard granulated,” wrote Bob Brown and Cora Rose in the 1939 South American Cook Book, adding “For breakfast larger cups are used, and they’re more than half filled with cream. This cafe con leite doesn’t require so much sugar as cafe preto – black coffee.”

The brewed drink prepared from roasted beans and the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species have grown to worldwide acclaim. Initially the genus Coffea was native to tropical Africa and certain areas like Madagascar, the Comoros, Mauritius; coffee plants are now cultivated in over 70 countries. The two most commonly grown varieties are C. arabica and C. robusta. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. Dried coffee seeds or “beans” are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor. Roasted beans are ground and then brewed with near-boiling water to produce the beverage known as coffee.

“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Gourmet coffee has been in vogue now. They are coffees grown by a specific country which can also refer to a specific grade or region of a country. For example Dejardin Supremo Colombian refers to the region: Dejardin, the grade: Supremo and the country: Colombian.

“No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness. Sheik Abd-al-Kadir”

Regardless of the type, what matters most is how coffee tastes, smells, and whether or not it makes you feel alert and happy. There are quite a lot of different types of coffee beverages with more than thirty on my count with most popular being Cappucino, Cafe au lait, Caffe Americano, Espresso, Mocchacino and Irish Coffee available at most coffee outlets.

“Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.” Benjamin Franklin

Posted in Christian, Daily, Life, Photography Art

Flexible through the Winds

In the areas where the winds are mighty, the tall palm trees often grace the landscape. Though there are hardly any oaks or similar tall stately trees to be found around. The strength and beauty of the tall palm trees to survive through the huge storms or strong gusts of wind lies in their ability to be strong and flexible. They sway with the wind, bending almost down to the ground at times and that ability allows them to survive the forces of nature.

Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach. Tony Robbins

The Word of God teaches us to be resilient and pliant when we face the powerful winds that are part of life. When we put our complete faith and trust in His Word, we would be able to adapt to anything that comes our way. As the destructive forces and thoughts push us; lean to adapt keeping our principles and Faith strong so that we can be flexible to plan our sway according to the Lord’s Will. In fact, in doing so we learn to use the force of the winds to make us even stronger and sheltered under the Lord’s wings.

“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” Confucius

Have you ever observed children as they learn new things ? They don’t have any fixed notion or ideologies. They listen to what is told, the first words and sounds they say are what they hear when we as adults say them. When a child begins to learn to write and does not know what is expected of him, their hands are completely flexible and obediently controlled by the hand of their parents and teachers mother; as soon as they imagine what they understood and comprehend, tries to “help”, everything goes at random: that’s what I mean when saying that the power of God is accomplished in weakness.

Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family. Virginia Satir

Like the sails of the ship, the wind can fill it so that it will carry the whole ship – just because the sail is flexible; if instead of a sail you put a solid board, then nothing will come out. One of the many things that God constantly tries to teach us instead of the imaginary, insignificant and anarchic “strength” that we hold to is fragility, flexibility, complete surrender to God.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.’ James 4:13-17

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Albert Einstein

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Art of Chantilly Cream

Whipped cream also known as Chantilly cream or crème chantilly, is one of those discoveries whose origins have been lost in obscurity. From being attributed to accidental discovery in the ancient times, to whipping instead of churning the cream for butter or the common folk tale of a fast horse ride with a half filled container of cream, whipped cream has become an answer to transform the boring mundane to fresh, new and exciting view.

Essentially whipped cream is made by whipping the cream by a whisk or mixer until it is light and fluffy. It is often sweetened and flavored with vanilla, coffee, chocolate, orange to mention a few. The colder the equipment, ingredients and the cream, the easier to whip and better the results. Cream must be below 50 degrees to whip, for at 50 degrees or above it gets churned into butter. From whipping siphons to food processors and electric mixers, the hand whipped cream has progressed with time and technology.

Popularized from the 16th century onward, whipped cream became aromatized and sweetened. Then it was added to various desserts from pyramidal shapes with coffee, liqueurs, chocolate, fruits and so on, to make either as a mixture or poured on top known as crème en mousse (‘cream in a foam’), crème fouettée, crème mousseuse and fromage à la Chantilly. Modern mousses including “mousse au chocolat” have continued this tradition. As written, “Mousses are made with sweet cream, not very thick; one whips it, which makes it foam, and it is this foam that one uses: one may give it whatever flavor one wants, with aromatics, flours, fruits, wines, or liqueurs.” M. Emy, 1768

Continuing through the years, whipped cream still remains a popular topping from fruit to desserts of pie, ice cream, cake, puddings, waffles and even to beverages ranging from coffee to milk or plain hot chocolate. These days imitations of whipped cream, for those with milk allergies or vegan diets, extended shelf life and convenience have been made available as whipped topping or squirty cream. Although the original whipped cream is the best, whichever way it may be made, whipped cream makes a good treat for the eyes as well as the palate. So in honour of National Whipped Cream Day (January 5th), I’m planning to shut down the inner calorie counter, to have whipped cream on any topping like, cake, pie or even coffee for a delicious weekend splurge.

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Oatmeal Art

“The oat is the Horatio Alger of cereals, which progressed, if not from rags to riches, at least from weed to health food.” Waverley Root, ‘Food’ (1980)

From being a weed, oats has been transformed to being one of the essential health foods, so much so as to declare January as the month of oatmeal as per “foodimentarians”. From its’ origin as early as 3000 years ago, oats were a common occurrence among the cultivation of other crops. Greeks and Romans considered oats to be a diseased form of wheat. Though most of the Scottish and the Germanic tribes would disagree with that thought.

Slowly over the years, oats has been embraced as a part of dining, especially for breakfast. The slow acceptance can be attributed to the fact that oats was and still is a primary fodder as pasturage and hay crops especially for cattle and horses. Additionally oats can turn rancid pretty quickly if not processed immediately after harvesting.

It truly amazes me all the things you can add and mix in to truly transform a plain old bowl of oatmeal. Ayesha Curry

Nevertheless the acceptance of oats especially as oatmeal (made of hulled oat grains, groats which have either been milled or ground, steel-cut or rolled) is on the rise. From the least to most processed oatmeal can be prepared from oat groats or whole oats, oat bran, steel cut (Irish) oats, rolled oats ( known as old fashioned oats), quick oats as well as instant oats and oat flour. From simple oatmeal to protein bars, brownies, oatmeal bread and cakes; the experimentation with oats is endless.

Oats are great – you can make meatloaf and use oats instead of bread as the binder, or you can make oatmeal cookies, my husband’s favorite. Ree Drummond

Besides being wonderful art decor for foodists, oats can be mixed with an “n” number of ingredients to make weird combination like oats dosa, oats and chicken salads, oats “upma”, to shakshuka, medley of vegetable or meat and even into stuffed bell peppers or spicy seasoned stuffed bitter-gourds. Try an online search, there would be numerous recipes including the addition of oats.

There is no doubt that some plant food, such as oatmeal, is more economical than meat, and superior to it in regard to both mechanical and mental performance. Such food, moreover, taxes our digestive organs decidedly less, and, in making us more contented and sociable, produces an amount of good difficult to estimate. Nikola Tesla