Rava Upmaa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coarse semolina/sooji/rava (roasted lightly)
  • 1 very large onion
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • salt to taste
  • 1 ½ cups of hot water
  • 2 tbsps Ghee/oil (Ghee gives a great flavor, coconut oil is also great)
  • Several curry leaves
  • 1 tsp ginger powder

Preparation:

  • Finely chop onion and green chili
  • In heated oil drop mustard seeds and curry leaves, then add chopped onion and chili. Once onions are sauteed and reduced a bit, add ginger powder and after a few minutes the diced tomatoes. Next add the semolina and hot water, mix and set aside in closed container.
  • It is easy to do variations with upmaa. The simplest upmaa you can make is without onions and tomatoes. Then anything you add makes it different.  To the above recipe I added some chopped cilantro and cashew nuts to give it just a little bit more. The end result is what you see as the feature image for this post. Have fun playing around with ingredients you like to make your own rava upmaa!

When the Music Happens

Show up, pay attention.
The music happens.

Wyane Dyer in the movie  “The Shift”

It is important to do a vision board or visualize our dream job.  We should do a practice that brings a more tangible awareness to our desires.  (The nature of our desires and their discernment is a whole another topic, but in short for me it is through my God centered focus.)  Then comes the actualization…

(1) We “show up” by continuing to be in the world.  We do not just quit the job we do not like and stay at home imaging our dream job.  We continue working, BUT

(2) We “pay attention” to what is happening around us.  Through being mindful, observant to life we see opportunities.  We are open to possibilities that will connect us to our path, to the job that is for us.

(3)  Then “the music happens”

Let’s take the example of finding a life partner.  We do the work of dating people, and by paying attention we learn from our mistakes and eventually find the one.  Simply visualizing the desired life partner and not doing anything else, is not going to give that to us.

The Juiced Carrot Cake

Today some unique ingredients and processes, so do not miss out on the fun. Cooking a la casa de Virgilio is always about adventure and using what you have to make great tasting food. And the cake turned out great, so follow along below and enjoy a taste from my home to yours. If you do not understand “juiced carrot” or any other tid bits you can go to the end of this post for an explanation, but I figured many of you might just want to get along with the baking.

And do not worry – I have provided the more conventional alternatives and equivalents so you can choose to be adventurous like me, do the conventional thing and ignore ideas like “juiced carrots”, or take the road between – the choice is yours.

Ingredients

  • all purpose flour – 2 cups
  • baking powder – 2 tsp
  • baking soda – 2 tsp
  • salt – 1/2 tsp
  • ground cinnamon – 2 tsp (almost all recipes call for 3 tsp – I am not a cinnamon fan)
  • ginger powder – 1/2 tsp (I like ginger, most other recipes don’t have this)
  • nutmeg – 1/2 tsp
  • eggs – 5 (most recipes use large eggs. I use medium -smaller so I use 5 instead of 4)
  • oil – 1 1/8 cups (recipe called for 1 1/4 cups and I missed that – oops)
  • juiced carrots – 1 1/2 lb (1 lb shredded carrots = 2 cups and we need 3 cups of grated carrots)
  • confectionery sugar – 1 cup (didn’t have 1 cup of granulated white sugar)
  • packed brown sugar – 1 cup
  • chopped cashew nuts – 1/2 cup (recipe called for 1 cup of walnuts or pecans)
  • soaked raisins – 1/4 cup (recipe called for 1 cup, and said nothing about soaking – I soaked in a mix of swiss chocolate syrup, Afri Koko liquor  and cashew feni. for 12 hours)
  • chopped blanched almond slivers – large handful to serve as garnish (no recipes I found had this as they typically make/use cream frosting which I do not fancy)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare two 9” pans or one 12” cake pan or one 9”x 13” sheet pan by lining with parchment or wax paper. In my case I used two 1.5 qt pyrex loaf pans and a 1 2/3 cup pyrex bowl. I had two potlucks so one for each, plus something for me to enjoy beforehand and make sure it passed the stomach test as it was all an experiment.
  2. Mix together in a bowl together flour,baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger.
  3. In a bigger bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, sugars, for about minute or so.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix for about 2 minutes more.
  5. Add the grated carrots. Then add nuts and raisins, and vanilla.
  6. Pour batter in prepared pans and bake for approx. 45 to 50 minutes. Then raise temp to 350 and do it for another 10 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer, it should be dry when taken out, or just barely touching to have something a touch more moist. (Original recipe suggested just 40-50 minutes at 325 but I discovered it was too wet at the 45 minute mark, and so adjusted accordingly.)

A slice of my moist juiced carrot cake is the featured picture for this post.

Variations (Yes More Variations): I always say that any flavor ingredients like powders of nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, clove, ginger, allspice, chili, black pepper are fair game and can be added and subtracted according to mood. Any nuts suggested can be substituted for a different kind. Raisins can be switched with dates, currants… Soak your dried fruit in different marinades of liquor, hard liquor… and you add to the list of choices. Naturally I keep in mind what is the main product that I drew my initial inspiration from and who is going to consume the end result. For the potlucks I was not very adventurous.

Part of my creative process and what exactly is “juiced carrot”:
I had a lot of extra carrots that I was taking a little too long to consume and with a couple potlucks coming up I thought that some dessert was the perfect solution. And what is easier than cake? So, carrot cake it was. Now, that was what I initially thought… I searched the net and all the cake recipes that I found asked for grated carrots! Now this was supposed to be easy and I couldn’t see it being easy to spend all that time grating cups of carrots. So, I looked around and saw the juicer. Why not use the juicer using the coarsest setting and the right extruder nozzle? At the end I could simply recombine liquid and pulp. Further internet research gave the right equivalents so I could also just weight the “juiced” carrots and know I had the right amount. Easy Peasy.

 

 

Filing Taxes the Easy Free Way – The VITA Program

I realize we are in tax season and filing taxes isn’t easy. You may not make much, so spending some of that hard earned dough to file your taxes may be another hardship that you are not sure you can afford. Well, I have the solution for you.  If you meet the income guidelines you can get free tax filing through the IRS VITA program. Most students are eligible, as well as many others. Find out more info, including a location near you, at the IRS VITA website

Hope for the Flowers and An Orchestra!

A caterpillar, Stripe, is born hungry, and starts eating.  He eats one leaf and then the next and the next.  He enjoys it.  As he grows he starts to feel dissatisfied with his situation and thinks there must be more to life than just eating and sleeping.  So he decides to venture out and explore the big wild world.

Stripe finds many delectable and interesting eats but it is not enough, and he continues searching for more.  Then one day he sees caterpillars on the march.  And not just one or two, but hundreds upon hundreds!  He looks and sees them heading to a column that pierces through the clouds and climbing up and up and up.  He asks his mates what they are doing, but they are too busy with the task at hand and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.  Anyway, Stripe decides that if so many are doing it this must be something grand and wonderful, and joins along.  So with a renewed sense of purpose he rushes, reaches the column and jumps into the scramble to the top.  Stripe pushes, shoves,climbs on top of other caterpillars, whatever it takes, all for the purpose of just reaching the top.

Along the mad dash to the top Stripe meets that special someone.  He notices and meets another caterpillar, Yellow.  The chemistry is there and now the trip to the top isn’t so important longer.  Both Stripe and Yellow decide to clamber back down and are happy with the company of the other, in addition to eating and sleeping and doing all the other things that caterpillars do.

Unfortunately, Stripe gets the itch once again.  He cannot get that column from his mind and that so many of his compatriots are on this journey/goal, and he isn’t. He asks Yellow to come along with him and she says no as she cannot believe that is their destiny.  He leaves.

Yellow is distraught, and eventually not knowing what to do she wanders away from all that is familiar.  It is there on her travel through the unfamiliar she notices this elderly gray caterpillar all tangled up and hurries over and offers assistance.  The stranger declines saying that he is living his life purpose.  He says, I am creating a cocoon around myself.  I am doing this to become the hope for the flowers.  I will become a butterfly and then carry the seeds of love from one flower to another.  Upon hearing this Yellow asks how to start, and the elderly gentleman says you must want it so much that you must die to everything else and then you will fly.

The climax of the kid illustrated story, “Hope for Flowers”  by Trina Paulus.

There is a lot more to the story, but the message has already been told.  A story about caterpillars that is more than just caterpillars, a purpose of life that is larger then just living.  It is like an orchestra where each musician plays music, but together the orchestra is a lot more then the sum of the parts and accomplishes something wondrous and grand.  We are all part of something larger then ourselves.  That maybe the God of the Christians, or the Catholics like myself.  It maybe Allah of the Muslims, Yahweh of the Jews, karma, Tao, Mother Nature….  Whatever “it” is “it” shapes and colors our lives in a miraculous way, without which our lives are like the grays of a black and white world.

What is your life guide?

The Skylark Diner and Swing

I enjoy combining my love for food and dance, and what better place to celebrate swing, dance Americana then by eating at the place synonymous with American comfort food, the local diner.  I stopped by the Skylark in Endicott, and enjoyed my meal.  I had the Skylark Burger and fries, pic of which is being used as the featured photo in this post’s header, and is shown down below.  The food was good, without the grease that one sometimes associates with diners, and the portion size too.  The fries were a golden yellow brown and crisp, and the burger was well done just the way I liked it.  I perused the menu and all the prices were similarly reasonable.  Be sure to check this out if you are in the area and looking for decent food at reasonable prices served by friendly folk.

One caveat…I believe you can only pay with cash, so make sure to have some money in that wallet of yours if you stop by.

The Skylark Burger and Fries.

The Skylark Burger and Fries.

The weekly Tuesday swing hop at Rexer’s Karate Academy is just a few minutes away, but I would recommend coming to eat after swing, and not before.