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Archive for the ‘Afghani’ Category

Khat in her tiny, inspiring workspace. She's debuting her jewelry line, Khatera Ahmad. Find the pieces at http://www.KhateraAhmad.com

I’m always fascinated by how artists work. Forget the proverbial Fourth Wall. Behind the scenes is where it’s at for me. So when my friend Khat invited me over recently to take a sneak peak at her brand-new jewelry line and show me around her workspace, I was intrigued.

One of my favorite pairs of earrings, the pair that I wear all the time, with everything? A Khat creation. Necklaces that I love to wear, and I don’t even generally enjoy wearing necklaces? Khat made them. Yes, the girl’s got talent. Here’s a look at where the magic takes place.

She says the inspiration for this line of jewelry comes from graffiti and the grit and beauty of the urban landscape of New York City.

Some samples.

Workspace, included sketches and inspirational photos on the walls.

Some of the tools of the trade.

Khat has a whole ladder layered with paints and other supplies she used to make her creations.

Bowl o' baubles n beads.

Necklaces!

The colors she uses in some of the pieces are so rich and vivid.

Beautiful creations.

The obligatory self portrait of Khat and I. 🙂

Just in time for the holidays, find the finished products of Khat’s collection at www.KhateraAhmad.com

Be back soon with a food post.

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Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng (Cuz I'm feelin' too lazy to snap my own pic of my sprouts from the farmer's market).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope anyone who’s celebrating is having a most excellent time. And if not, at least excellent food 😉

What am I grateful for this year? For starters, for taking the year off from being Head Biyatch in Charge in the Kitchen. That’s right, I’m putting up my mitts and saving the cute Anthropologie apron for some other holiday, because I’m officially not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. I think the technical term for how I feel about this is: “Wooo hooo!”

To put this into context, this is a major departure for me. I’ve been in charge of Thanksgiving for several years now. Don’t get me wrong; typically, I loved every second of it. Sure, there were stressful moments. (Sourcing organic, free range turkeys can be a bit of a hunt, and prepping and cooking everything takes some planning and coordination).  Yet overall, I was totally into it. Fast forward to this year. For many reasons, both big and small, I strongly felt that I needed a rest from Hostess With the Mostess duties. When I expressed this sentiment to my friend Khat, she promptly invited me to celebrate the holiday with her family in Long Island. Score!

Khat, left, and me, right, at her brother's wedding, April 2010.

Yes, this is the same sweet friend who invites me to dinner on random nights, and whose brother’s traditional Afghan wedding I attended earlier this year.

Speaking of tradition, there will be traditional Thanksgiving foods, including a turkey. But there will also be delicacies prepared in the Afghan manner, such as leg of lamb, many rice dishes, and elaborate desserts. I can’t freakin’ wait! I’m contributing a dish of Brussels Sprouts with pomegranate molasses, vanilla almond butter, and a garnish of pomegranate seeds. It’s based on this Bobby Flay recipe. I think it will be a nice little pop of green and red to add to the table, and it will meld well with the other flavors.

So I’m off for a pre-dinner power walk, then ramping up to roll out.

Everyone have a great holiday. I’ll leave you with a (partial) list of some of the many people, places, and things I’m extremely thankful for:

  • My health
  • Family and friends (a truly amazing assortment of people are in my life)
  • My readers/bloggies/Twitter friends (you guys rock and are just so fun, talented, and amazing)
  • My Yoga students (the best, seriously!)
  • My Yoga teachers, past and present
  • Being an omnivore with no serious food allergies
  • Books, magazines, etc
  • Hot chocolate (Actually, chocolate of ANY kind)
  • My cat (he’s on my lap now. What a sweet and funny boy he is)
  • Yoga
  • Nature
  • Freedom
  • Having a roof over my head
  • Thanksgiving (one of my fave holidays; it’s not religious; anyone can “play”)
  • Food, especially veggies
  • Green smoothies
  • My naturopathic/Ayurvedic doctor (a Godsend!)
  • That I got to go to the U.S. Open (tennis) again this year
  • Music
  • That both of the Yoga retreats I hosted this year went well
  • That I got to teach a class at Lululemon this year
  • Some fun travel this year to places I’d never been
  • Inner peace and serenity, when I find it. It’s always there. We just have to be open to tapping into it.

Much light, peace, and happiness to you all this Thanksgiving,
Bria

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My friend Khat made these dumplings for me for dinner the other night. The name of this lovely dish? Ashak (Khat's favorite, and one of mine as well) . . . it's a scallion and leek-filled dumpling over a yogurt sauce, topped with a ground lamb sauce. No recipe yet. I'll see if she'll share it with me 🙂

I have this funny habit. If someone asks me how I am and I know them pretty well, I might just skip past the niceties and tell the truth. Some days, all is well and I’m happy to leave it at that. Other days, not so much. Not that I’m trying to be Debbie Downer, but if I’m having a tough time, I’ll generally cop to it.

So when my friend Khat texted me the other night asking how I was, I was honest. I told her I’d been feeling a bit down. She promptly invited me to dinner. My outlook immediately improved!

Yes, it’d been a rough week, and my energy was low. She invited me over AND cooked for me. A true home-cooked meal rarely happens for me in New York City. I either cook for myself, go to a restaurant, or eat popcorn out of a bag. Ha! So when someone does invite me over for dinner, and a home-cooked one at that, it’s a real treat.

Khat is from Afghanistan, but she grew up mainly here. She’s quite the cook, and I love Afghan food. Her making this meal for me was a lovely, heartfelt, and healing gesture.

We started out with crunchy samosas with a ground lamb filling and a garlic yogurt dip. I had to restrain myself from eating them all. The main dish was called Ashak, scallion and leek filled dumplings over a yogurt sauce, topped with a ground lamb sauce. Such a subtle flavor, yet so vibrant and irresistible. I’m seriously in love with dumplings, and dumplings with these particular flavors practically made my week.

I took the night off from blogging (almost!), and didn’t get the recipes for these goodies. But I’ll see what I can do going forward.

Khat and I, at her bro's wedding back in April. I love this girl! She's such a good friend and a talented and creative person.

We closed out the meal with some skillet brownies I doctored up from a Trader Joe’s gluten-free brownie mix. I was testing the mix for possible use at my upcoming Yoga retreat. They were quite good. I call them skillet brownies because Khat didn’t have a baking dish, so we commandeered a skillet instead, greased it up nicely,  and baked them in that. With a sprinkling of sour cherries and chocolate chips, they tasted homemade.

I almost let myself simply enjoy the meal and Khat’s lovely company. But then the blogger in me made and appearance, and I snapped a couple of (quick, I promise!) pics of the  with my camera phone before we devoured it. The food, not the phone! (Sorry, but the samosas were long gone at this point).

Khat is an incredible jewelry designer, and she’s prepping a collection now. I’ll be blogging about that very soon. Beyond that, she’s a wonderful friend. I feel truly blessed to have so many good friends in my life. Thanks, Khat!

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Hey gang. I’m back from Texas. Sorry for the dry spell here on the blog. I’ve been working my tail off in the humid, heat waved NYC. This is a busy time of year for me, so if bloggage isn’t as regular, you’ll forgive me and we all can pretend I’m keeping leisurely “summer hours,” right? Which, in a way, I suppose I AM keeping summer hours. Long hours, not leisurely hours, but whatevs. Ha!

Oh, and let me apologize upfront for the randomness of the images in this post. Beauty shots will have to wait, because I’m busy 😉

Luckily, it’s not all work. Mostly work, but not all. You might recall my “Big Fat Afghani Wedding Adventure” post from back in April, where I posted pics of the lavish buffet dinner at a wedding I attended. To be sure, it was a meal to be remembered, and I didn’t eat lightly. Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?

I drafted this here post a while back and never got around to publishing it. Now I”m glad, because what better time to publish it than in summer, where there are lots of parties, but also lots of pool and beach and bikini and bathing suit time? For me, this post is especially timely, as I’ll be spending some time at the beach in the coming days.

There’s no need for a large meal to cause ongoing drama. So can we indulge a bit yet still keep on track overall? I definitely think so. It’s important to look at the big picture. One large meal doesn’t have to make or break our eating and health goals. It doesn’t have to be the start of a downward spiral!  But there are a few things we can do before, after, and during the meal to put the odds of bouncing back  in our favor.

As a Yoga teacher, I try to maintain balance, both in my eating and exercise habits. It’s also important to not be rigid–to be flexible and not such a slave to one’s own principles, as of of my friends (also a fellow Yoga teacher) likes to say.

So here are a few tips I find helpful for celebratory special occasion meal. The tips that follow are tips I’ve gleaned from nutritionist friends, research, and my own personal experience, and I share them with my clients, and now, with my readers, too.

I’m using these tips now myself, as my friends Denise and Rich are getting married and their engagement party is coming up. They’re foodies, so you know the cuisine will be excellent. An aside: Denise actually has a really hilarious website called Really Bad Dates that she hasn’t updated in a while, so I encourage everyone to go on over there and submit bunches of bad dates you’ve been on. Your tales of woe are completely anonymous, of course, I’m hoping that she’ll see some fresh new submissions and start updating the site again  (in between bouts of wedding planning and working). Her site’s a winner.

Ok, now on to the tips. Remembering that these tips are not medical advice, and that your mileage may vary. If you have any tips of your own to add, please leave a comment. I’d love to know your tips and tricks for enjoying a big meal without big misery after.

Before the Meal:

1. Cut out or at least limit bread and desserts for a few days (or at least a few hours!) ahead of the meal. Eat lots of vegetables to have a good fiber intake.

2. Daily: Drink a warm cup of filtered water with fresh lemon or lime juice as your first drink of the morning. It’s very cleansing to the digestive tract, liver, and blood. For an extra boost, add in a splash of apple cider vinegar, which can help ease bloat.

3. Consider taking a probiotic, or eating or drinking something with natural probiotics. These helpful bacteria help to ease our digestion. Probiotic sources include kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha. Or you can use this vegan probiotic that I happen to like a lot.

4. The day of, eat lightly but don’t starve yourself. What works for me is a green smoothie for breakfast and a large salad with some sort of protein for lunch. For example, the day of the Afghani wedding, I had a late lunch of a spinach salad with a wedge of a vegetarian frittata as a protein source. A filling, nutritious, yet light meal.

4. To further prevent bloat: Only eat fruit on an empty stomach, and well ahead of any protein. Since fruit digests quickly–usually within 45 minutes–it’s important to time when we eat it carefully. Eating it too close to a big meal (either before OR after) can cause bloating, because the fruit gets stuck in our digestive tracts as the bigger, heavier proteins and fats digest. In other words, things get, uh, “backed up.” We start to feel bloat and perhaps constipation. Not fun!

During the Meal:

1. Scope out the buffet/menu choices ahead of time if at all possible, to get a sense of what is available, what you want to eat more of, and what you might prefer to skip.

2. Slow your roll. As in, eat slowly, putting your utensils down in between bites.

3. Use small plates if possible. You can always go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Studies have shown that we do tend to eat what’s put in front of us, and I find the small plate trick really works. I do this at home most of the time, except for big servings of salad and veggies.

4. Enjoy. Seriously, this important. If you’re going to have a lavish meal, enjoy every bite. You might even find that by tuning into each bite, you are satisfied with less food overall.

5. Enjoy not just the meal, but the company you’re with. Savor the moment. Life is short, and we have to remember that every moment is precious.

After the Meal:

1.  MOVE! Walk around and/or dance a bit (or a lot!) to stay active.

2.  Lemon Water, again. Start your next morning with warm lemon water again.

3. Probiotics again. Take another probiotic to aid digestion.

4. Drink some unsweetened cranberry juice. This will ease bloating. My double whammy trick to get a healthy dose of  both probiotics and cranberry? Cranberry kombucha.

4. Then drink a green smoothie for breakfast, but only sip it when you’re hungry. You can always make it and take it with you to enjoy once the hunger pangs hit.

5. If you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat. It’s okay to eat very lightly for a day or two after a large meal.

And what of these green smoothies? Well, here is one basic recipe to try:

Summer Green Smoothie with a Tropical Twist.

Ok, so if you made it to the end of this post, congrats. Got kinda long-winded there! Now go out and enjoy that summer fun!

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Vintage Bollywood poster. Bollywood movies are popular in the Middle East.

I adore dinner parties. Love giving them, love attending them, and love, of course, all of that wonderful eating and socializing. Dinner parties are such a civilized way to re-connect in our GO GO GO world. But let’s face it–dinner parties can be WORK.

My friend Khat and I at her brother's traditional Afghan wedding in April. She will be at my Bollywood dinner party. Her dress is a traditional Afghan getup, while mine's a more Bollywood style outfit.

I’m having one in a few days, and this time, I’ve resolved to let it come together in the most chill way possible. A little pre-planning will go a long way. I hope ;- )

It will be a Bollywood Night, complete with a campy Bollywood movie and optional glittery costumes (if anyone is so inclined to go there, wardrobe-wise. I know I am, having a couple of shimmery Bollywood style outfits I’m eager to debut).

In the spirit of keeping things chill, I have to say, “Sorry, guests, but no homemade cheese and bread from this kitchen, at least not this time.”  To combat the summer heat, our spread will be seasonal, with invigorating and cooling recipes and  influences from both Persian and South Asian cuisines.

Why South Asian specifically, besides the obvious Bollywood theme? Well, first of all, I just love the cuisines of India, Pakistan, and the many other countries in that whole amazing part of the world. Middle Eastern cuisine and South Asian cuisine have many elements in common, and have exerted their respective influences on one another for centuries. Plus, these cuisines have many wonderful recipes that are cooling. Perfect for steamy summer heat!

Plus, we happen to have a very fun Desilicous dance party to attend after our Civilized Dinner Par-tay. A Gay-Themed Bollywood party, if you will, all in honor of Gay Pride Week. Yes, love my gays. They kinda own my heart 🙂

Here’s what I have planned for our menu:

My Watermelon and Mint Cooler. Like a slushy, but much better for you, and better tasting.

A pre-dinner Cocktail (and Mocktail) Hour with my Watermelon Mint Cooler as the star.

A to-be-determined app, for which one of my friends has signed up to provide. (Key component of dinner parties: let others share in the fun, by either contributing an item of food or drink, or, if they’re so inclined, helping with light food prep or selecting music or lighting candles, etc. Keeps things interactive and who knows, it’s interesting to see what novel ideas our guests have about music or lighting or how to slice a scallion).

Salad of roasted golden beets on a bed of arugula with cucumbers and whatever goodies look appealing that day. Perhaps a yogurt or tahini based dressing. Something very simple, elegant,  and cool.

A summery Chilled Avocado Soup I haven’t tried this recipe out, but I simply can’t wait, as I’m in love with avocados and no longer afraid of the good fat they so generously provide!

Summer squash kuku sabzi, an Iranian omelette. Love this Persian souflee sans drama!

My Summertime Squash Kuku (Perfect for dinner parties, because it tastes great at any temperatures. Any late arrivals will feel well-fed, not deprived.)

Dessert will be So Delicious coconut-milk based ice creams. Because I’m seriously addicted to this stuff, it has that cooling, South Asian vibe thanks to the hint of coconut, and the company was nice enough to send me coupons to sample some of their product line. Thanks, So Delicious. You’ve just made my dinner party a heck of a lot easier, creamier,  and tastier.

I’ll be sure to snap some pictures of our festivities, and report back. Don’t wait up, my loves!

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Cherry trees are in bloom all over New York City. If you know where to look, that is. How are our resolutions blooming right about now?

Hello again! This might seem a very odd time to bring up the topic of New Year’s Resolutions. You might be thinking, “Woman, that’s soooo January!”

Well, take a peek inside my crazy mind. I think this is the perfect time to take stock of old resolutions, and perhaps make new ones.

Why?

Well, for me, Persian New Year (Nowruz) just passed. And while I haven’t always celebrated it, I do appreciate the fact that it’s a beautiful holiday that’s all about a fresh start. Nowruz is bursting with symbolism about starting over, getting rid of bad vibes, and having a sweet life. Love that stuff. Easter, too, is all about rebirth. And speaking of birth, my birthday, April 4, just passed. An auspicious time for sure!

One of my new year's resolutions was to get this little guy leash trained. Progress on that? Nil.

Having a birthday in early spring always gets my thinking about ways to have a good “new year” of my own. And I know I’m not the only one who thinks of their birthday as the start of their personal new year. So see, in Bria’s World, talking about new year’s resolutions now makes perfect sense.

I’d love to hear where you are at with any resolutions that you’ve made or are making now as we start this new season.

So how am I doing? Here’s some of my progress:

1. Get onto Twitter, and actually use it: Progress: Good. I have 3 Twitter accounts. Well really, my personal one is @BriasWorld

I also set up one for my Yoga group: @Yoga4Soul

And my cat, Bise, has his own, which he updates in a very catlike fashion. That’s to say whenever he feels like it: @BisetheCat  Meow!

I’m on Twitter as @BriasWorld pretty much daily, and have met some really cool people from there, so I’d say that resolution is going well.

2. Get Pilates certified and take at least one Pilates class per week: My certification class is happening in June (note to self–actually sign up for it!), and I have probably averaged more like one Pilates class every other week. So not as many as I’d hoped, but I’m going today, so this resolution is definitely still in play.

3. Shoot some cooking videos and get them up onto this blog: This is happening, slowly but surely. The people who are helping me with this are slammed with jobs and busy lives of their own, but we’re making progress. See some of the video here and here. Progress so far: Fair.

4. Leash train the cat and walk him in the nearby park: Uh, I bought the leash and harness, does that count? LOL! Now that the weather’s improved, I just might try my luck. But don’t be surprised if he scratches me. His comfort zone is narrow, so we’ll have to take this endeavor very slloooowwwww.

5. Plan and pull off a Yoga retreat: The planning is happening. Yes, we’ve booked the space, and are taking reservations for a retreat in Upstate New York, May 7-9.  Slots are filling up, which is excellent. As for pulling it off, check back with me May 10th! 😉 Website for the retreat: www.Yoga4SoulRetreats.Wordpress.com

What about new resolutions? I have some specific small goals, like things that need to happen around my place (boring but important stuff like closet cleanings, furniture re-arrangings, and other assorted to-dos). Now that my crockpot and I are good friends, I need to learn to use the pressure cooker my mom got me. I need to be better about sharpening my knives. See, exciting stuff, right? 😉 Well, it actually is exciting to me. Part-time domestic goddess that I am 😉

I’d like to travel more, and some of that might come to fruition in the coming months if I play my cards right now and in the near future. We shall see. I probably need to get more specific about the travel stuff to really make it happen.

I’m also trying to get better at taking photos, especially food photos for this blog.

There are bigger career goals and dreams that I’m working on and have made some important progress with, but I only share those with those who I’m very close to.

Not that I don’t feel close to you guys, but this is da Interwebs, after all, and you never know who is reading. Or not reading, for that matter 😉  Ha ha!

So that’s a rundown of what’s on my mind as far as resolutions go. Share yours, and I promise that my next post will be a recipe. . .maybe even one inspired by the amazing Afghani wedding I went to this past weekend.

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Khatera (left) and Bria (me) at her brother Zem's wedding. Khat is in traditional Afghani dress for a dance that's performed to honor the bride and groom. The rest of the time she had another fabulous dress on, which I sadly didn't get of pic of. I'm in a Bollywood style outfit that I was thrilled to have an excuse to wear.

This past weekend was so amazing in many ways. No, I didn’t get married–don’t let that headline throw you. But it was my birthday on Easter, which I think is quite auspicious and refreshing. After all, my birthday should be a major holiday every year. At least that’s what I think! (I kid, I kid!) 😉 Well, only half kidding.

Plus, I got to do something I’ve long wanted to do–attend a Big Fat Afghani Wedding. Whoo hoo!

The bride and groom. Aren't they a lovely couple?

The opulent festivities didn’t disappoint, the peeps I hung with were cooler than cool, and the food was nothing short of amazing. There was so much of it and every bit was delectable. I was (mentally) playing detective with every bite, wondering what spice was in this chicken dish, if this bird was quail, pheasant, or pigeon, and how long this sauce had to simmer to reach perfection in flavor. For me, eating is one of life’s pleasures, but cooking is a close second, so if I can figure out how to reverse engineer some amazing dish, then it’s pretty thrilling. Of course, simply scoring the recipe will do.

Flavorful chicken kebabs. I was sort of surprised these weren't made with lamb, but I totally dug the lighter flavor of the chicken, the juicy texture, and the depth of flavor thanks to plenty of spices.

Of course, I was lurking near the buffet as they put out every dish, snapping pictures for myself this blog. Photojournalism, I tell ya! Luckily, the photography and videography crew at the wedding was also snapping pics of the food, so I’m telling myself I didn’t look like too much of a weirdo snapping pics right alongside them.

The full outfit. I snagged this beauty on my trip to L.A. back in October. I got it at an amazing price--much less spendy than what similar outfits go for out here on the East Coast.

Confession time: I haven’t been to a Persian wedding in many years, but I do remember the dinner being eaten very late, and the festivities running into the wee hours. Apparently Afghani wedding roll like this as well. We probably didn’t eat dinner til around 10:30 p.m. But food tastes better when you’re hungry, and we danced before and after the meal to work up that appetite, and then work off some of the meal.

Throughout the meal, I kept noticing how Afghani food is so varied, absorbing influences and exerting its own influence onto many different cuisines. I guess it makes sense when you look at a map of the Middle East and Central Asia. Geography lessons another day. For now, let’s let the food do the talking:

Torshi. Spicy pickled veg appetizers. Hmmm, I've seen these in both Irani and Arabic cuisines.

Note the East Asian influence in the manti, aka dumplings. I LOVE dumplings and could've easily made a meal out of these lamb-filled beauties. My friend Nilofar was loading my plate up with them. I had to tell her to stop, but not because I didn't want them 😉 Just had to save room for other goodies.

Like Persians, Afghanis are all about their rice. This carrot and raisin topped rice was delicious and gorgeous. I'm such a rice girl. So I had to make the pic of the rice bigger 😉

The question of the night on this poultry dish was "what bird is it?" I'd hazard a guess that it was quail or very small pheasants. Pigeon is a distant second possibility. I had to restrain myself from picking up this little birdie and eating the meat off of the bones.

Look at that gorgeous yellow color! This was my possibly my favorite chicken dish of the night. I detected turmeric, possibly some saffron, and some sort of tangy citrus in there. If anyone knows exactly what this is or how to make it, hollah at me in the comments section!

Curry in a blurry! Sorry for the blurry shot, I'm just including it because it's a mild curry-like dish, which reminds me that there Indian and Afghani cuisines have influences one another quite a lot through the ages.

Nilofar (left), and her sister Mary. My girls! It was great seeing them again. Aren't they gorgeous?

As well all know, weddings are a great chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, so I was so happy to get to hang with Mary and Nilofar, among others, and to meet their adorable nieces and nephews.

Dancing was a big part of the festivities, and I even took some video of one of the more traditional dances. I hope I can get it uploaded soon. (Can you tell I’m not the most tech-savvy blogger out there! Ha! 😉

This shot is blurry (again, not very tech savvy over here, and still learning how to use my new camera. But at least you get a (vague) sense of the traditional costumes. No, these folks weren’t walking around like this the entire time, but they changed into their gorgeous costumes for a dance honoring the bride and groom:

Traditional dance moment. Loved it! Gonna try to get some video I took of it uploaded.

And as we know, weddings are a great time to meet new friends as well as catch up with old friends. Here’s one of my sweet new little friend:

Fast friends!

Overall, it was a fun evening and quite entertaining. I do plan to feature some Afghani cuisine on this blog very, very soon. As you can see, it’s creative, delicious, and full of beautiful flavors.

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