Savoring Summer Break At Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Varun’s preschool had a 3 day summer holiday last week. He graduated from previous “Rabbits” class into pre-K “Giraffes” class.

Vipul could take a couple of days off as well.

We took off to Lake Tahoe to enjoy its crystal clear waters. A 4 hr drive from SF, Lake Tahoe is a large alpine lake boasting crystal clear water and surrounded by mountains on all sides. Numerous beaches, hikes, ski resorts, casinos dot the area, Playing on its sandy beaches, taking the cruise boat ride to Emerald Bay, bob around on a cheery yellow paddle boat was the agenda. That and relaxing at the hot tub overlooking the golf course was on mine. Vipul added golf lessons at a nearby driving range to his travel wish list. And we all wanted to enjoy the scenic 72-mile drive around the lake one afternoon when both kids were asleep.

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Last minute booking on vrbo and a roomy minivan, found us at this modern-take- on log cabin on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. Comfortable beds, great room, wood burning fireplace, spacious decks and a private hot tub. We couldn’t wait for the vacation to begin.

Day 1 – Playing in the Sand, Kings Beach 

Summer at Lake Tahoe

After breakfast and a non traditional -first-thing-in-the-morning-soak in hot tub, we headed to Kings Beach. The non traditional soak was needed to distract Varun till Vihaan was nursed/burped/changed and ready to go to the beach. It also allowed for us to have a slow morning rather than the get up -dash around- hurry- go routine that we have every morning when getting him ready for preschool.

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Kings Beach is a very family friendly beach with fine golden sand. Varun was so happy to be on the beach. He literally rolled in the soft sand, splashed in the shallow pool of warm water and chased waves. After an hour or so of horsing around he was tired. It also became windy and we left to  grab lunch and headed out for the 72 mile drive around the lake.

Day 1 – Drive Around Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Shades of bluw

Both kids were asleep and we made most of it and cruised the winding road around the lake. The shimmering water, low fluffy clouds, the 50 shades of blue of water were simply scenic. We stopped en-route to take in the breath-taking vistas. Finally we ended up in Emerald Bay late in the evening. Emerald Bay with its island and a tea house is the most photographed place in Lake Tahoe and is best visited late in the afternoon for that perfect light. Colorful kayaks and canoes broke the expanse of blue.

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

We bought coffee and ice-cream at a local vendor truck and then scrambled up to the rocks to enjoy what Sunset magazine calls “soul-stirring” vistas.

Rested from his nap, Varun wanted to jump and run around on the rocks. Luckily, Vihaan woke up which signalled nursing time and we all headed back to the car. I bribed Varun with promises of marathon video session and marshmallows. That did the trick and allowed us to head back home in time for a BBQ dinner.

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Vihaan slept, Vipul manned the grill (corn on the cob, burgers, peaches anyone?) and Varun plonked himself in front of some cartoons on TV.  Vipul’s parents rested and I scrambled off for a short walk around the golf course.

Day 2 – Cruise on Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Vipul started the day early with golf lessons at the With Vihaan and Vipul’s parents we knew we wouldn’t be able to enjoy water sports on Lake Tahoe. Jet Skiing, Para Sailing, Tubing, River rafting are big time summer activities and you will see a lot of college kids around enjoying the hot summer days cooling off on beaches. We took the “familial” route and went on a cruise ride around the lake.

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

The cruise starts from Crystal Cove on South East end of lake and heads towards Emerald Bay. We had a late lunch on the boat and then hung out on the deck soaking in the scenery and sunshine. The lake has boat camps, hike – in lake front camp grounds and so many beaches that we made plans to come back again once the boys are older ( and can swim on their own).

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Like calving glaciers in Alaska, Lake Tahoe beaches are not a good sign. It is an indication of the climate changes, global warming and drought like conditions that rest of CA is facing. Its sad but an in your face indication of degrading climate. Unfortunately, like most others, we didn’t dwell too much on it and spent rest of the day on the Crystal Cove beach. Paddle boats, Hawaiian Shaved Ice, more running on the beach rounded off the day and we headed back home to stretch and relax.

Vihaan had spent both days strapped in a car-seat with very few breaks and we wanted to give him space to roll and wiggle his legs. A simple dinner of pasta and a glass of wine was much savored while Vihaan played with his grandparents.

 Day 3 – Drive back home

After two days of summer fun, it was time to head back home. Varun, true to his genes and parents nature, didn’t want to leave. He stalled and resisted every bit of the morning till we let him chase squirrels in the backyard. We packed and loaded the car after a rushed breakfast and started driving home.

Along the way, Varun wondered over and over again ” Why do vacations end?” and “Why do we have to go home?”.

A very pertinent question to ponder over next vacation indeed!

North African Lemon Dressing

North African Lemon Dressing

Tucked in the corner of the top kitchen shelf  was an old blue hardcover. The spine binding was falling off, the cover was faded. I had seen it when we moved in January and shoved it further as I crammed some plastic water bottles in front of it. All in the name of unpacking and getting settled.

Last week, I was looking for some serving bowls when I peered into this top shelf. The plastic containers and bottles came crashing down upon me revealing the The New York Times Cookbook (1992).

North African Lemon Dressing

Curious, I took down the book and thumbed through its yellowing pages. It was obviously well used with some watermarks, check-marks, scribbles and other recipe cut outs taped to its inner cover. Flipping through the pages, the north African Lemon dressing caught my eye.

Vipul has been asking for a change from the simple salad dressing. This one with its use of tabasco, cumin and liberal use of lemon was intriguing. With mostly staple ingredients, I made the dressing quickly and we had it over lentil salad as well as our usual greens salad. The lemon juice and zest made it tangy. Tabasco and cumin add deep flavors.

North African Lemon Dressing

Although its recommended over tomatoes, cheese and fruits; we loved it over routine green salad. A refreshing change from our staple salad dressing, this is quickly becoming our summer favorite dressing.

We love it so much that we have it over stir fried veggies, over pohe and anywhere where you would use plain lemon juice.

Give it a try, you will be a convert as well!

North African Lemon Dressing

North African Lemon Dressing Recipe

Adapted from The New York Times cookbook.

Makes little less than a cup

  • Grated peel from 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (original recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (original recipe calls for 2/3 – 3/4 cup oil)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (originally 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (originally 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon corriander powder (I omitted this)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (I omitted this)
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight lid. Shake well to combine. Refrigerate and shake well before using.

 

 

 

Mind-blowing Super Easy Tiramisu

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Father’s Day weekend and a weeklong Vipul’s trip to London (read as absence at home) made my heart go fonder. My heart debated should it be JEALOUS ( it absolutely was when I saw his pictures drinking beer outside pub’s in London); HAPPY that I get to hog the entire bed, plain UPSET that he gets to be off parent’s duty for an entire week or GLAD that when we go to London, I get to sightsee without kids (as he will be on parent duty as he has already been to the tourist spots).

Finally, his LUCK prevailed. It was Father’s Day weekend, it was not the weekend to be MAD at him or his work travels. His arrival made me forget all the negative feelings (after a jibe or two at him while I saw his pictures from London Eye) and I decided to make it up ( to my own sanity) by an extra large serving of Tiramisu.  Oh, I mean how can I be MAD at him. I ought to make him something special ;) . That’s how this extra large – super delicious Tiramisu was made on Saturday night.

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Seriously this is the best and most easy recipe of Tiramisu possible. It is so freaking easy that I am afraid I am gonna make some next week as well. It’s easy because most of the ingredients are store bought and the only hard part of beating egg yolks and mascarpone cheese is made easy by using an handheld electric whisk.

Leaving it overnight in the fridge makes the flavors meld, the biscuits soften and everything becomes this one big flavor feast that only begs to be had over and over again. It ends the meal on a special note.

It can be doubled easily and made ahead. Be warned, its easy to make and even more easy to have second helpings. And more than one serving, it will dent your summer bikini plans. But with a luscious dessert like this on hand who gives London or bikini’s a damn?

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Tiramisu Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups boiling-hot water and 4 tablespoons instant-espresso powder ( Alternately make 2 1/2 cups of espresso which is what I used)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons Tia Maria (coffee liqueur) (I use Kahlua, which works well)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup dry Marsala
  • 1 pound mascarpone (2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tub whipped cream ( or use 1 cup heavy whipping cream and whip it till it forms stiff peaks)
  • 36 savoiardi (crisp Italian ladyfingers; from two 7-ounce packages)
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1. Stir together espresso ( or hot water and espresso powder), 1 tablespoon sugar, and Tia Maria in a shallow bowl until sugar has dissolved, then cool. Set aside.

  1. Beat egg yolks, Marsala, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water using a whisk or handheld electric mixer until tripled in volume, 5 to 8 minutes.

If whisking by hand it will take about 10 mins of constant beating till the eggs are foamy and double in volume. I figured double in volume is good enough. And it was.

  1. Remove bowl from heat. Beat in mascarpone until just combined. Don’t over-mix.

4. Fold mascarpone mixture into whipped cream gently but thoroughly.

  1. Dipping both sides of each ladyfinger into coffee mixture, line bottom of a shallow Pyrex 9 X 13″ pan with 18 ladyfingers in 3 rows, trimming edges to fit if necessary.Spread half of mascarpone filling on top.

Remember there is no need to grease the bottom of the pan.

 

  1. Dip remaining 18 ladyfingers in coffee and arrange over filling in pan. Spread remaining mascarpone filling on top and dust with cocoa.

  2. Chill, covered with loose foil , at least 6 hours to overnight.

Serve chilled.

 

 

Pinterest Told Me To Make: Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Before Mom and Dad left for India, I wanted to make something special for them. They are unlikely to visit for another year or so; this was my way to end our time together on a high note. With summer produce on a high in markets, ratatouille it was.

I had pinned this beautifully presented ratatouille dish for some time now and it was time to give it a try. The flavors are traditional and the presentation contemporary. It’s not the mush like stew that it originally was intended.

Ratatouille

The veggies are sliced thin, pan-fried to take out excess moisture and then baked over a ripe fresh tomatoes sauce.

If anything is a summer on a plate then this is it. Colorful, vegetarian and seasonal to boot.

Ratatouille

I made mini ratatouilles as individual servings and then paired it with big pearly Israeli couscous for a filling meal. It’s a great alternative to good old salad and a great way to eat that 2 cups of veggies per meal.

My kid didn’t touch it but we all loved it. Give it a try this summer while veggies are at their peak!

Ratatouille

Ratatouille Recipe

For the Sliced Veggies

  • 2 Zucchini thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash thinly sliced
  • 1/2 eggplant thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes thinly sliced

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided + 1 teaspoon to grease the baking dish
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup white onion finely diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper finely diced
  • Handful of parsley, finely chopped + more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Crumbled goat cheese to garnish
  1. Heat a table-spoon of olive oil in a skillet. Sear the zucchini, squash and eggplant on each side lightly till light golden brown. Set aside.

  2. In the same pan add another table-spoon of oil. Saute the garlic and onion in the oil for 2 – 3 minutes till onions are translucent over medium heat.

  3. Then add red bell pepper. Saute for another 2 – 3 minutes till softened. Add tomatoes, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for another 4- 5 minutes till cooked into a thick sauce.

  4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

  5. Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Spoon sauce at the bottom. Layer the vegetables on the sauce in rows or a spiral alternating zucchini, squash and eggplant. Bake in top third of the oven for 10 minutes till the vegetables are seared a bit on the top.

Garnish with goat cheese and parsley. Serve warm with couscous, quinoa or pasta.

 

Road Trip 2 Ukiah & Mendocino

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Over Memorial Day, we drove up north to Mendocino county – of wine country , red wood forests and rugged northern Californian coast fame. It’s about a 3 hour drive north from San Francisco which took longer with multiple pit stops. With a large group of friends it was bucket loads of fun.

As we were all driving up from various places in Bay Area we decided to meet up for lunch en-route at Quivira winery.

First Up – Lunch at Quivira Winery

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A boutique winery in Dry Creek area, the lunch stop here was perfect. We had asked them to reserve us tables under their olive trees which oomph-ed up a casual lunch. They have a huge vegetable garden, hens and a little pond with fishes and fountains that kept the kids entertained. We had idli’s for lunch while Varun ran about with his friends. A light breeze cooled us as we sat under those shaded trees, chatting about the rest of the trip and looked over the vast acres of vineyards around. The wines – Chardonnay and Rose were particularly good so much that we bought a few bottles for the weekend.

This was a fabulous start to a great weekend with friends.

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Home Base – Shambhala Ranch Inn

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Next we drove to Shambhala Ranch Inn – our home away from home for the weekend. It’s a rustic ranch overlooking a pond, sloping lawns and surrounded by mountains and trees in the distance. The drive from Ukiah to the ranch was as rural as it gets in California. Forested road winding up and down the mountains, an almost dry river bed with its stones gleaming in sunshine, open valleys and views and occasional houses with their horses or cows grazing in vicinity. The drive truly makes you leave the city with its routine behind. There is no cell phone reception in the area which helps unwind.

We drove past the Orr Hot Springs Resort and Montgomery Redwoods State National Preserve and finally reached the ranch late in the afternoon. Tara, the owner was around to let us in and we all settled in. Older kids explored, younger ones stayed put in the great room. We all gathered at the deck or in the kitchen with steaming cups of chai and pondered over dinner plans. Another Indian parents on Road Trip special – Theplas with Yogurt; Cheese dosas for older kids and khichadi for young ones.

Later that night we star-gazed, some saw shooting stars while being serenaded by crickets and bull frogs.

Varun was too excited to sleep though finally sometime later at night he crashed out of sheer exhaustion.

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Green Pine Cone

Foxgloves

Montgomery Redwoods State Nature Preserve

The next day we all woke up late. Had a communal breakfast and explored the woods around the ranch. Little swallows and dragonflies flitted around. Blackberry was in bloom. It was peaceful.

Swallow

Blackberry flower

Later than afternoon we drove down to Montgomery Redwoods which is famous for its old growth and massive redwoods.

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We hiked a bit to see a groove of majestic redwoods. Some of the trees were so massive that we could barely form a ring around its base. And of course it’s never possible to photograph them in entirety in a single image – they are towering. I always feel humbled in their presence.

It was cool, quiet and refreshing. Vipul and I headed back after the first grove of redwoods as it was time to nurse Vihaan but the rest of the gang continued up the trail. The trail is not wheelchair accessible and slopes steadily up. There are picnic tables very close to trail head and make for a nice spot for snack next to a stream.

Later that evening we used the outdoor grill to make burgers, corn on the cob and roasted marshmallows. A first for the older kids and many of us adults as well. It was hit.

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The ranch has a large meeting room space where we lounged at night. Kids played, we chatted over more bottles of wine till wee hours of morning. A couple of rounds of Settlers of Katan and other casual games were played for old times sake.

Drive to Mendocino Coast

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On Monday, after a late breakfast; it was time to pack up and leave the ranch. Our earlier plan was to drive to Ukiah and visit the Temple of Thousand Buddhas but at Tara’s advice we decided to drive to the coast.We planned to drive to Mendocino for lunch and then spend some time in the area (Fort Bragg’s, beaches etc ) before we headed  home.

On the drive to the coast, all kids piled into one car. The kids valued their time with their friends as much as we did with ours. While it made for a quiet drive to the coast, it felt weird to not have our chatterbox with us in our car. Another parenting first for us.

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The coastal scenery here is breathtaking. Rugged cliffs, blue pacific water, little kayaks bobbing in coves.The beaches at the confluence of river meeting the sea were particularly tempting. But the coast was windy and we decided to skip the beach.

Drive Thru Anderson Valley and back home

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Luckily after lunch, Varun missed us ( warmed my heart!) and decided to come back in our car. He wanted to go to the beach but he was exhausted and slept all the way to San Francisco. He had too much fun over the weekend.

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On the drive home, we drove by more magnificent Redwoods on Route – 128 and through Anderson Valley – another excellent area for wines.

We were all tired by the end of the trip. And equally refreshed. Something that only those who do road trips with close friends will understand. Blessed and grateful for Memorial day weekend!!

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