February 4, 2016

Why 2016 Is The Year Of No Regrets + Roasted Beet, Orange, & Shaved Onion Salad



So now that we're all comfortably into the new year, I have a question. Do you guys do New Year’s resolutions? Personally, even though I’ve played with the idea in past, I’ve always remained a little iffy about self-improvement schemes. Last year, though? Total game-changer. Very pregnant and very determined to avoid another round of postpartum depression, I silently made a vow — no more perfectionism. No more obsessing over inane details. No more “everything needs to be just right or my entire existence is worth pigeon poop”. 

Do you have any idea what decades of that drama does to you? It turns you into an A-grade indecisive procrastinator, paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. So, I was going to try and spend less time stressing, more time getting things done, and be a little kinder to myself when shit happened.  

Long story short: nailed it. 

You guys! I think I might actually be adulting!

Khair, now, obviously, I’m all gung-ho about this whole goal-oriented personal-growth thing, so I’ve kicked the year off with another oath...


2016 is the year of No Regrets.

Of course, because I'm not Allah Mian, I'll inevitably find myself in situations that’ll leave me cringing for all eternity  — my fashion choices in my twenties, forgetting that, after 30, hangovers are a raging three-day trip of death and despair, hugging Shoaib Akhtar — I may never fully recover from these abominations.

Even worse, the pact probably won't protect me from feeling supremely shitty when stupidity strikes either. The only thing that can fix those feels is one too many nights of melodramatic hichki-wala rona dhona, sticky choohas dribbling down my face, and obscene amounts of cake.

But the point isn’t to not make mistakes or save myself from occasionally feeling like an incredible idiot. Both these things are probably good for my ego. 

The real goal is to try and dodge dodgy ~regrettables~ by making better decisions to begin with. Informed decisions. Deliberate decisions.

All that’s required is the ability to stop being a dheet haddi for five seconds and knowing three things...


1. KNOW WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE



It’s always good to know who’s got your back and who’ll bring you Mickey D’s and a trashy TV series to binge-watch when you’re PMSing. It’s even better knowing who’s going to dish out zero judgement and a brutal reality check when they catch you hurtling towards a mountain of shame and embarrassment.

Like, this one time, in band camp, I showed up to a party totally feeling my look. And then I tried to sass a pal with my look-at-me-looking-super-fine speech. “You look hot, babe…and there’s a foot-long curly hanging out your nose,” she smiled. "Tuck it back in, immediately.”

WTAF! I was mortified. I was pissed at her for pissing on my prima donna parade. But as I proceeded to pluck that bad-boy out, I was so very grateful.
I mean, yeah, being cut down to size a total bummer. And, yes, it harsh and so not what I wanted to hear. And, no, the roasting and hysterical laughter that followed wasn’t fun either.

But was it worse than walking around like a pompous, hairy-nosed jackass all night? Abso-fucking-lutely NOT.

Seriously, your best buds have your best interests at heart, so step lively when they speak.


2. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES



Being clear about what’s really important to you can be intimidating AF. No jokes, I struggle with this one every damn day. It requires patience, which I’m not naturally blessed with. And it means being bare-naked honest about personal choices, without constantly apologizing for them, which, in my case, induces mild nausea, sweaty palms, and frayed nerves.

The rewards are rich, though. Prioritizing is like creating a blue-print to base your decisions on.

Like, for me, my babies always come first.

So, even though there’ll always be some maami/khala/phupi-saas who’ll go nuts if I don’t attend her kumayti-milaad-brunch-exhibition, the priority pyramid simplifies things by a thousand percent. For one, it makes it abundantly clear that their opinions have nothing on my children’s well-being. Of course, it’s also an excellent reminder that their taanas and leaving the kids alone for hours on end drives me batshit insane.
So, yeah, no-brainer. Sorry, not sorry.

Just try to figure out what matters most — there are no hard and fast rules here — plan accordingly, and work on mustering a pair of gargantuan balls to help you stand your ground.


3. KNOW HOW TO BE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SKIN



Face it, we’ve all experienced moments of self-doubt — is this blazing orange lipstick meant to be worn in broad daylight, am I too cheap to shell out for a Netflix subscription, is it totally ajeeb and besharam to have a mild crush on a Jonas brother, do I really want to damage my ovaries by driving? The truth is, nobody knows what’s best for you better than you. Except, maybe, your mom. Moms know everything we wish we knew and more. Always listen to your mom.

Having said that, try not to forget you’re a grown-ass adult and you probably wouldn’t have made it this far in life if you were an actual dum-dum. So, aunties, mean girls, and evil in-laws be damned, trust your gut.
Or you can do what I did and learn the hard way.
Year 1: Less than 3 months into marriage, young, insecure newlywed receives endless heat from posh, judgy trolls over her summer wardrobe. Khulla-thaan shirt pieces from Auriga? How…middle class. Young, insecure newlywed tries to prevents further assaults by investing in scads of 3-piece joras — chiffon dupattas, of course.

Year 2: Young fool proudly pulls out last year’s lawn, convinced those catty old crows will be left speechless with her sartorial selection. Putting on the previous season’s prints? How…tacky. Young fool bolts to buy the latest prints and have them tailored before the week is up.

Year 3: Not so young, but still frighteningly foolish fool shops off the latest catalogs for a fresh batch of outfits before summer sets in. Eat that, you stone-hearted sarroos, she thinks. But donning designs from the season’s first catalog? When mid-summer styles hit the racks three days ago? How…cheap. Realizing lawn has become a security blanket, not-so-young fool hits rock-bottom.

Year 4: Nope. Nuh-uh. Can’t even. Bye, losers!
Moral of the story: You can’t be the master of your own destiny if you aren't even capable of picking an outfit. Seriously, disapproval is the demon that never quits, so show that microscopic scrutiny the middle finger, have faith in your judgement, and call your own shots.
Really, go ahead, crack that dirty joke, buy your chappals from a thela, ugly-cry in public, eat with your hands, loudly tell that gross chaar-bachon-ka-baap who keeps hitting on you to back the hell off, and give zero fucks if people don’t like it.
Ultimately, though, just remember that all wizardly decision-making skills aside, spontaneous stupidity will always be a thing, so cut yourself some slack. You’re a person, not a cyborg. Unless you are, in which case, take me to your leader. 

Waisay bhee, you know what’s really going to make 2016 the year of no regrets? The fact that instead of sitting on your hands, waiting for things to happen, and wallowing in self-pity when they don’t go your way, you’re being brave-bordering-on-crazy and giving this whole grab-life-by-the-balls thing a real shot. Plus, you’re willing to stare that shame-o-meter straight in the eyes and own your fumbles like a goddamn boss. 

So, regrets? What regrets?

Happy, happy New Year, kittens!

ROASTED BEET, ORANGE & SHAVED ONION SALAD


I’ve been meaning to bust out my Roasted Beet, Orange, And Shaved Onion Salad for a while now, but this has got be the most goddamned perfect opportunity ever. Start the new year off with some sparkle, amirite? I know you rolled your eyes there. Fine, okay, agreed, a salad doesn’t sound super sexy or spectacular, but just hear me out. 

Every year, as calendars are reset, millions of people vow to eat better, get buffer, and stay that way forever. And, every year, sure as shit, many of those same millions fall off the wagon before February even rolls around, and, of course, there’s guilt and shame abound.

Look, I get it. For us regular folk, the struggle to be our best selves AND become the next Bear Grills is very real. But, sorry, kittens, I don’t get 42 Day Challenges, and juice detoxes, and uncertified “fitness experts”, and teeka diets, or any kind of alarmingly rigid carb-fat-sugar-deprived sadness.

Eating right and getting fit can’t be that complicated. Or at least it shouldn’t be. 

Forget the organic, gluten-free, soy-based, low-fat, grass-fed, zero-preservatives, all-natural labels for a second. Shut out whatever those extreme fitness fools are trying to sell. Just focus on eating food that’s fresh, local, and seasonal and you’re in solid shape (all puns intended).

Sticking to seasonal ingredients guarantees that the product you're using is in its prime, which means tons of extra flavor and peak nutritional value. Plus, locally sourced food usually spends a lot less time in transport and storage, so whatever you’re eating is likely as close to fresh as possible. Bonus: you’re cutting down your carbon footprint and you’re helping the local economy. SCORE!

Aside from that, once in a while, it’s a-okay to be the utter heathen you really are and eat that triple-patty-extra-cheese-extra-sauce-extra-heartburn monstrosity, but, FFS, you can’t constantly eat like a beast and then pray on bended knee for a bangin’ bod. God’s a busy guy. 

Moderation, sweet children, moderation. 

So, back to the salad. I picked this recipe because a) I want to show the non-believers that healthy doesn’t have to mean hard or ho-hum, b) I love oranges and I love beets, and c) a Roasted Beet, Orange, and Shaved Onion Salad is a breathtakingly beautiful and darn delicious way to show you guys the crazy cool colors, flavors, and textures that come alive when you combine fresh, seasonal produce.

Personally, I’m nuts about the earthiness of both raw and boiled beets, and the fact that they’re magenta-hued is bloody magical, but there’s something about roasted beets that makes them really special. See, when beets spend some cozy quality time in the oven, the natural sugars in these bulbous beauties begin to caramelize and all those mild naturally sweet notes find some serious depth and complexity 

Layer these tender jewel-toned babies with slices of zippy bright citrus — in my case, local maaltas  and ombre blood oranges. Add crisp shaved onions for a  much-needed touch of heat and finish with some herby fresh cilantro. A squeeze of lemon juice. A slug of good olive oil. Salt. Cracked pepper. Boom. Done. Delicious.

Eat that, health nuts!

Roasted Beet, Orange, And Shaved Onion Salad (4-6 servings)
Adapted from, Blood Orange, Beet, And Fennel Salad, by BonAppetit.com

Ingredients
4 medium beets* (see recipe notes)
4 oranges (use a sturdy variety like blood oranges or local maaltaas)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced (about a 1/2 cup)
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt
Black pepper, freshly cracked
1/4 cup cilantro (or) mint
4-6 cups salad greens* (optional, see recipe notes)

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius. 

Trim the tops and roots off the beets, but leave the skin on. Wash the beets and individually wrap each beet in foil. Pop the wrapped beets onto a baking tray and stick them in the oven for about 1 hour or until the beets are tender when pierced with a knife. 

Alternatively, you could boil the beets, but they won’t be as flavorful as the roasted variety because the sugars haven’t caramelized as much. To boil beets, place in a pot, cover with water and a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until tender. 

Using a very sharp knife, peel all the skin and bitter white pith off the oranges. Slice the oranges into rounds and the then cut them down the middle into half moons. Poke out all the seeds and place the slices in a bowl and drizzle with lemon juice. 

Trim the top and roots off the onion, peel, and slice into very thin rounds. The reason you want paper-thin slices is so that the flavor of raw onions doesn’t overpower the rest of the salad. In case you feel like your onions are on the thicker side, you can get rid of some of the heat and bite by rinsing them well under some cold running water for a couple of seconds. A mandolin would be perfect for getting those super-fine slices you’re after, but a sharp knife and a firm grip should get the job done just fine.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, carefully peel the skin away. It should slip off quite easily. Slice the beets into thin rounds. If you’d prefer mixing up the textures in your salad, go ahead and cut the beets into small, chunky wedges. 

Plate up by layering the beets, oranges, and onions. Finish up with a generous drizzle of good olive, some salt, and a good grind of fresh black pepper. Garnish with cilantro. 


*Beets: Opt for fresh ingredients whenever possible, but if fresh beets aren’t available, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with reaching for the canned variety. They aren’t roast-able, but because most canned and frozen vegetables are picked at their peak, you’re still getting most, if not all, of those great nutritional benefits, so no harm done. For this recipe, substitute with two 8oz cans of beets. 


*Salad Greens: If you’re going to use leafy greens, whisk together a couple of tablespoons of orange and lemon juice with a big glug of olive oil and drizzle over the salad before serving to keep the things from running dry. 

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