Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Swiss Chard and Black-eyed Peas

Creamy flavorful curry with swiss chard and black-eyed peas, cooked with onions and spices. Great with naan breads or simple pilaf.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she was wondering if I spend half of my life in the kitchen. Well, even if we do assume that I spend half of my life in the kitchen, I would not mind. If someone would take care of the rest of the things for me, I would be happy. The creative process is exhilarating. Well, truth be told : I do not spend a lot of my time in the kitchen, I love recipes that are quick and easy - not semi-home-made. I prefer to make things from scratch- like to know what we eat.  However, my recipes are usually easy and fits my lifestyle of doing multiple things in a day, cooking being one of them. Love working on labor intensive recipes, that require mastery of a technique...that's not something you can do everyday. For everyday it should be simple, soulful and delicious - at least for me.

Last week we visited one of our friends in Moline, it's about three hours drive from home friend has a tiny community farm that she maintains and it was an absolute treat to see it. She was so generous to give me a huge bag of produce and I was thrilled....These swisschard are from her farm. I paired it with blackeyed peas. Loved the combination! The sweetness of the peas with the mild bitterness of swiss chard - perfect balance, caramelized onions and tons of garlic...y u m !
Fresh swiss chard - Simi jois


Here are some of the images from my her farm. It reminded me of fresh produce from India. I remember the vegetable vendor would bring fresh veggies from his farm early morning (he still does), he would carry it in a cart and push it door to door, selling as he went from one home to another.  He would hide some extra fresh stuff for my mom :). My mom buys veggies every single day. It's hardly refrigerated, as she gets it directly from the farmer - it's almost everyday, other than Sunday ! Everyone needs a day off. What we take for granted in one part of the world is such a luxury in another part of the world. I do love farmer's market in the US and love to shop in the summer, but the luxury of having the farmer home deliver is something I can only dream off. I was super excited to get fresh organic produce and needless to say it was super delicious.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sunday stills


Sunday stills... I started it on the blog as a exercise to improve my photography...I'm so in love with it that it is like a stress relief for me. What I cherish about photography is the silence. I usually like to photograph when there is no one at home or my make shift studio in the basement. Just me, my camera and of course the most important - the light. When I'm working on my still life - it's a world of options, I do not have any boundaries. I think I have yet to explore push the boundaries.  I want to start working on some more complicated pieces - inspired from the great masters. I'm not sure how that will turn out, since this is more about the journey than the destination, I am looking forward to it.

Everyone must save a little bit of themselves for their own self.... I wish I can make images with more depth.

Hope you guys a wonderful Sunday XOXO

CherryPeach-800PX-SimiJois-2016 Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Strawberry Rubdi - rich and creamy

Strawberry Dessert, Rabdi, Strawberry rabid, dessert, milk, Indian, Simi Jois Photography
I'm a total dreamer, who actually lives in a bubble. Not sure if it is something to be proud of, no judgement here...but this is who I am. Somedays I just want to melt into the wilderness. I look at the wild lady-lace in the fields and envy their existence...freedom ! All they need is sunshine and rain and  they bloom till winter casts it's cold spell...some spring they rise again...!! Life was meant to be so simple...just like the life of the lady lace and yet we humans have complicated it in the pursuit of comfort and luxury.  It's such a comforting feeling to walk and be part of this big creation ...! Well, I do get into this 'abstract -philosophical' side of me ...every now and then. I inherited it from my dad, I cherish it. But, I also inherited his love for food and desserts.

I love Indian dessert and if calories were free, I would just live on desserts. I do a mini version - tiny mason jars desserts. They are a wonderful way to enjoy the richness and keep the calories in check. I do not like to make fat-free versions of rich desserts, I rather reduce the portion size. Keep it real !

This is an old recipe and was meant to be shared on a different platform.  For some technical reason that did not work out and I thought I should share it here.

Make sure the strawberries are not tart - they will spoil the milk. Tip : add the strawberries after the milk has cooled.

StrawberryRubdi-800PX-SimiJois-2016LadyLace- 800PX-SimiJois-2016

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Stills

This week I was planning to skip SundayStills. Had a lot going on and just could not keep up. I met a friend of mine after almost fifteen years, it was a treat and the bonus was her little farm patch- where she does community farming.  Not everything was ready for harvest, but the kale, swiss chard and kohlrabi were almost ready and I got a bounty full with tons of recipe tips from her. It has been fifteen years and it felt like we had never lost touch. Thanks to her I could post this today.

The deep red and green lured me to do a couple of still life shots...

Produce from a friend's farm
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Friday, July 15, 2016

5 things that have improved my photography

It is not uncommon for me to get upset and impatient with myself. I think a lot of us are like that.  We  live with constraints and limitations, some of those limitations can be addressed others - not really. When I was doing a shoot which involved a bicycle, I was trying to balance the bike and take a picture - at the same time.'s not possible, two hands can only do so much. To berate myself for my physical limitations is not going to help...or probably set me up for failure. However, there are a lot of things that can be worked and re- worked. I try and follow some basics principals that have helped me with my craft. I have them in my photo-journal, and it helps to go back every now and then to read it and reinforce it in  my own mind.

This may not be generic, we all our different - this has been true for me.

1- Commitment : You can't get much out of anything unless you invest. You have to invest yourself in your art. You have to want it. Time, effort, equipment and most important consistency.  It's not a few hours in a day or a few weeks. I don't think the learning ever stops. Initially, I struggled to execute, causing a lot of heart burn and disappointment. I wanted to rush the process and learn and execute overnight. It's a journey, I have to keep telling this to myself. A path of a self-learner and it's so fulfilling. The question in my mind, initially was, "where do I begin?" A few things that helped me...
  • I made a list of,  websites, tutorials and set aside a time to read. It really helped me learn at my own pace. Workshops are great, but since I have never been to one and I enjoy learning at my pace - I prefer books and online tutorials. 
  • I would gaze at images on Pinterest, analyze them, not just food - landscapes and portraits too.  (Pinterest is a great resource - I have a few photography boards,  here is a link
  • The most boring and the most effective - reading the camera manual. I realized,  I cannot create an image unless I know my tool. I'm still working on this...!! It's not easy, they make the manuals so boring - how can anyone blame us. I'm still not done with reading the whole manual, this is a good reminder for me. 
  • I love to maintain a journal of my learning - to remind me of the basics and the core. 
  • I use my camera - everyday - 365 days no excuse. Practice, practice till I ran out of 1 TB of space and wondered how that happened. 
As my friend Bart says, "We will rest when we die, now its time to work..." 

2- Critique : Most of us are, our worst critics. I'm a firm believer in critiquing my own work. I can be harsh with myself and push myself - no one else can do that for me. It's like an adrenaline rush - to overcome your limitations. However, to get a third eye which is trained better, always helps. Critique is a double edge sword - use it wisely with more than a pinch of salt. Don't let anyone tell you - your work is not worth it !! I have had that experience - the condescending side comment, it not only hurts but makes you self doubt. It's not about you - but their inadequacies. WALK AWAY from toxic criticism no matter who they are.  I think this is THE most important aspect. It shakes your self confidence and it's not good for your work.

I constantly get my work critiqued from my mother, my peers (love the support of my readers) and people I look up too. I have approached them and I have got some very constructive inputs, a lot of times very specific, which helps a lot.

In case of doubt, rather have your work not critiqued than ask opinion from someone who is wearing colored glasses.

How do you know who's the right person to critique your work ?

For me it was my peers like Bart, Sophia, many friends. Specially my family, my husband always pushing me to a challenge, propelling me to learn something and my mother my pillar of strength. My teen is my favorite critic - very factual and specific. They gave me constructive feed back and it was never a monologue - always a discussion. A lot of times I would argue to defend my work...then when I sat back , I realized I need to get objective, to learn. I'm still learning to receive critique - but I must confess, I have evolved quite a bit, but room to improve.  Social-media critique groups have helped me a lot.

3- Don't seek validation: It is a bit of a paradox. We create for consumption...but if you are constantly thinking of what your consumer thinks of your cannot give your best. I remember my author friend tell me once,"your biggest validation will come from you " - Monica Bhide. Do not seek it from outside.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Grapefruit Thyme Cocktail

While surfing on Pinterest for good cocktail recipes - I found some recipes that we loved : grapefruit thyme cocktail. Recipe adapted from shutter bean. I'm not much of a cocktail person and prefer non-alcoholic beverages, but there are always exceptions ...this is a great recipe for summers. Hubs and me, both love grapefruit and always have, yes even as a child... grapefruit with black salt, yum, yum, yum!.  I almost always have a grape fruit for early in the day for a cocktail, lol. You can do a non-alcoholic version without the gin and for kids replace the grapefruit (no gin) with a combination of orange and peach. Grapefruit is not something that is enjoyed by kids...don't look at me, I was a crazy kid who ate everything. The syrup is very versatile and is great in lemonade and 1/2 tsp in your margarita or even on your yogurt.

The thyme from my garden is doing so well and this is from my herb garden.


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