Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Undoing Project - Book Review

I am not big on Psychology only because I had not heard or knew much about it or its application before I came to the US. Once in the US I was astonished more than surprised at the number of people who have a psychology degree. It was as if the study of psychology permeated every aspect of life. I wondered why would someone wanting to do software development for instance want to learn psychology? Since everyone was studying it I thought this was the subject that people landed on when they had interest in nothing else.

I did not quite understand the need for so many folks to learn psychology and I did not get it. But only if I had paid a bit more attention to what psychology really was! The mind and human behavior does affect the way everything around us functions doesn't?

DD went off to college this year and I hoped that she would not spend any more time than required on psychology courses. In my mind learning psychology was not all that useful.

The only reason I even picked the book "The Undoing Project" was because of the review I saw in Wall Street Journal and wanting to know more about cognitive bias and how it affects thinking and its application in Big Data.

What a fantastic book it turned out to be. I read it faster than I read my favorite court room dramas or a John Grisham - my favorite author of whose books I have never missed one. My understanding of psychology and its application has changed quite a bitI have lots more respect and appreciation for this branch of science.

Michael Lewis is a fantastic writer and has the gift of writing a fast paced book that is not fiction and making it a lot more interesting than fiction books can ever be. Interwoven with the lives of the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his partner and collaborator Amos Tversky spins a fascinating tale of their research and along the way teaches a thing or two about psychology. This is the one of the first books by Michael Lewis that I have read though I have seen a movie based off of his book - Moneyball but never quite got around to reading any of his books.

I landed on the book by chance and now DD is making rumblings about registering for a few more Psychology courses after taking one in her first semester in college. Glad that I have a new respect for the science I am better prepared to accept her wanting to study the subject without simply shutting it down. Who said events in life happen at random?

For those of who are not interested in Big Data or Cognitive Bias but are interested in simply reading a very good book about 2 brilliant scientists go ahead and pick this book and I assure you, you will not be disappointed. You might even come away with a greater understanding of the human mind and its limitations and its approach to every day events.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Quick Spicy Fish Fry - Pan Fried Spicy Fish - Mahi Mahi

Coming home at the end of a long day, cooking perhaps is the last thing anyone has on their mind but having something tasty to eat should not be hard. I am not sure if this is a good thing or not but I prefer the frozen Costco fish to fresh fish for these quick weeknight meals. Fresh fish is for the weekend methinks. Don't get me wrong, having this for a weekend brunch or lunch is perfectly fine. Paired with some wild rice, fruits or roasted vegetables it is a perfect meal.

I used mahi mahi - frozen for this recipe, any firm flaky fish will work. I used the same marinade as the pan fried tandoori paneer which was also a big hit. I have completely switched over to pan frying fish from baking them in the oven. Unless fish is baked in a bed of onions or tomatoes - something to keep it moist the fish gets dry. Pan frying on the other hand keeps it from over cooking and drying out.

It is best to apply the marinade and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or as many hours ahead as you want.

Pan Fried Quick Fish Fry
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 1-2 tbsp of sunflower oil (or any other high smoking point oil not olive oil)
For the Marinade(for about 6 pieces of 4 inch steaks)
  1. 3 tsp of chili powder (more or less depending on the heat level required)
  2. 1 tsp of turmeric powder
  3. 1 1/2 tsp of ginger powder
  4. 1 tsp of mustard powder
  5. 2 tsp of garlic powder
  6. 1/4 tsp of garam masala powder or 1 tsp of chicken masala powder (optional)
  7. salt to taste
  8. 1 tbsp of oil (I used olive oil)
  1. Apply the marinade about 1/2 - 2 hours ahead of time.
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the Marinade into a smooth paste.
  3. Wash and pat dry the fish.
  4. With the tips of your finger (or a brush) apply the paste evenly on the fish pieces. Lay them on a plate without touching each other, put a cling wrap on top and refrigerate till ready to cook.
  5. Use a heavy bottomed pan or a cast iron pan, grease with oil generously on the bottom of the pan, there should not be excess floating oil.
  6. Place the fish slices without touching each other. Cook for about 3-4 minutes - the fish should be easy to flip when it is cooked. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes more till the fish is golden brown.
Served with some mixed wild, brown and red rice and some cut fruits (mangoes, persimmon or any fruit of choice).

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Spicy Cabbage Dosai - Spicy cabbage Indian crepes or pancakes

What do you do when you have too much work to do? Even my biggest and happiest hobby - this blog has take a back seat. Try as I might I am still able to not make a regular appearance here. So what do we do? Increase our responsibilities and take on even more work. Yup! This time it was not my doing thankfully.

DD2 and DH decide that there is too much stress in the house or more importantly DD2 convinced her dad that she was lonely and wanted a companion and they went and got a puppy. End result, it is like having a new baby in the house. DD2 when she puts her mind to something just does not stop and DH blinked. Though having a puppy around the house is lots of work it is also soothing and unbelievable how something could possibly give love so unconditionally. There is a lot that a dog can teach us about selflessness, loyalty and forgiveness.

The amazing thing is the speed at which these little puppies grow up and learn things and bring so much joy.

Meet Zuko when he was 8 weeks old!

DD2 and her best friend.

The puppy wakes us early in the morning and weekends doesn't matter to him as DD2 quickly realized. We are making her hold her end of the bargain and take care of the dog duties she agreed to.

Well anyway that is that. On to the recipe for today. All of us I bet have a bit of cabbage or some half used vegetable lying in the refrigerator. The left over can be salvaged before they hit the garbage and made into something delicious. I am sure there is some of that old dosai or idli batter in the back of fridge. With the batter and the left over veggies and some onions and some chili powder you are in for a treat. The cabbage that is hard to get excited about gets exciting when it becomes this spicy cabbage dosai. Can be made crispy or soft, spicy or not, jazz it up any way you like. Here is how you can make dosai batter.

Finely mince the cabbage, onions, curry leaves using a food processor.
Taking the spices and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the minced onion.
Add the omam/ajwain and the minced cabbage. Add the dosai batter.
Mix in the vegetables and the batter. Heat a griddle and add a laddle of batter and spread it in a circular motion to make the dosai.
Cook on one side till golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side.

Serve with chutney of choice.

Spicy Cabbage Dosai
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 3 cups of dosai batter
  2. 1-2 cups of finely minced cabbage (or spinach or zucchini or broccoli or carrots)
  3. 1/2 cup of finely minced red onion
  4. 1/2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
  5. curry leaves
  6. 2 tsp of red chili powder or 3-4 finely minced of green chilies or to taste
  7. 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  8. 1/4 tsp of caraway seeds (omam in Tamil, ajwain in Hindi)
  9. 1/2 tsp of salt

  10. oil for making dosai

  1. Finely mince the vegetables using a food processor or blender (do not make a paste).
  2. Mix the vegetables, spices, salt and the batter together to form a smooth batter. Add about 1/4 cup of water if the batter is too thick.
  3. Heat a dosai griddle and spread a laddle of batter in a circular to form a thin crepe, drizzle oil on the sides. Cook on one side till golden brown.
  4. Flip and cook on the other side till golden brown.
Serve with any chutney of choice. We had them with coconut chutney.
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Stuffed Bell Peppers - with minced turkey

While Thanksgiving is when most people of think of turkey, I buy them throughout the year. No! not the whole bird but the minced (kheema) turkey. Spiced up they are tasty. Those days when getting goat kheema was almost impossible turkey filled the void pretty nicely. Those of you who are trying to use up the turkey you cooked up last week this could be a change from the usual sandwiches and soups people tend to use the leftovers for.

This past summer I had a few bell pepper plants but due to lack of water or nutrition or whatever the pepper I grew were not the ginormous size we usually see in the grocery store instead there were about 1/3 of the size and tastier. Smaller the size, tastier the end result - go figure.

I had wanted to give chile relleno a try but was not too keen on the the tomato because at that time in the summer we were to our gills with tomato and did not want another meal with tomato sauce so left that out.

Though it looks like a time consuming affair, cooking these stuffed bell peppers is pretty easy. Clean the bell peppers and pat them dry. I have used minced turkey for stuffing but really the choice is really up to you. Mashed and spiced potatoes or beans can be used. If you like soy granules they could be used here too. Cook the turkey kheema using whatever spices you prefer. Cook rice - I used brown rice.

Recipe in pictures.

Clean the bell peppers and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes.
Drain the bell peppers, apply oil on the outside and set aside. Cook the minced turkey .
Arrange the bell peppers in a oil coated baking dish. Add some rice followed by the kheema into the bell pepper.
Top with cheese and bake in a 350F preheated oven for 15 minutes or till the cheese is melted and looks golden brown.
Serve with some preferred sauce on the side.

For a vegetarian version use mashed spiced potatoes or soy granules cooked the same way.

Stuffed Bell Peppers - with minced turkey
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
  1. 10-15 small sized bell peppers or use 5 large bell peppers preferably green
  2. l lb cooked turkey kheema(minced turkey) - recipe
  3. 2 cups cooked brown rice
  4. 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  5. spicy ketchup or any other tomato sauce (optional)

  1. Cook the turkey kheema as per recipe of your choice, should be dry.
  2. Cook rice if desired with a bit of butter, lemon juice and salt. Fluff and set aside.
  3. Clean the bell peppers, cut the top step portion off and remove the seeds and ribs. Set aside.
  4. Bring a pot of water to boil, the pot should be big enough to hold all the bell peppers or do them in batches.
    Submerge the bell peppers and let it blanch for about 3 minutes. Drain the water immediately and set aside.
  5. Spray or rub the outside of the bell pepper with oil.
  6. In a oil coated baking dish arrange the bell peppers so they stand upright.
  7. Start by adding rice to each of the bell pepper for about quarter of the way. Fill with kheema or add the kheema and add a bit more rice and top with cheese as much as you want.
  8. Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, till the cheese is melted, looks golden brown and the bell pepper look roasted on the outside.
  9. Serve with ketchup or any other salsa or tomato sauce.

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