Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Point Reyes Hiking

Have you ever been in a  situation like us? Let me tell the situation. On a narrow mountain road, with the inclination toward the cliff, sharp turn, without any guarding fence beside the cliff, a child who was throwing tantrums from backseat, a bunch of bicyclists who were climbing the mountain in front of your car, amid all those my husband drove the car towards our destination. When he was driving on Lucas Valley Road, I was just cursing myself for asking him to take us on a hike at Point Reyes Lighthouse. After driving more than ten miles on Lucas Valley Road, when we entered the Nicosia Road, I sighed in relief. At least there was no such cliffs. Rather we were in between two mountains, without any fear, though the cyclists were present through out our journey.

The cyclists on the road

Anyway, we started from our home around 8:30 in the morning, on a day trip to Point Reyes Lighthouse. When we started it was hot. I had been hesitating taking jackets. But Mr. Man told me to take the jackets. Still in mind I didn’t want to them. However, I was proved wrong, when I came out from the car after reaching there. When we entered Lucas Valley Road, leaving behind the freeway, the scenery changed totally all of a sudden.

the scenic road

 From unappealing freeway we entered on a narrow mountain road full of trees. The amazing part was, the both sides of the road was covered by the trees, but the nearby mountains  were gray and barren with little desert bushes here and there. So, I don’t know whether the road side trail of trees planted by men or not. I didn’t realize that we were moving slowly upwards, until I saw the cliff on a sharp turn. Then we faced turn after turn without any place to pullover, and we faced the situation what I told earlier. There was no place turn around like other mountain roads. Till date all my journey on mountain road was not so much problematic like this one. 

Cypress trees

I always watched that a single road was going upwards or downwards like a serpent. But, here, through out our journey we had so very many left turns, AND RIGHT turns, that sometimes I feared whether we had been going on wrong route. It seemed that the journey was endless. At last when we entered the Nicosia Valley Road, I sighed in relief. There was no sharp turn, or cliff, rather the road was strangely flat, with beautiful vast Nicosia reservoir on left side. Then we entered in dense red wooded lane. It was also just a little patch. Then the road was barren.
Point Reyes was the tip of the land. As we proceeded towards the point, the weather started changing from shiny to cloudy, and foggy. We drove through many historic ranches, which were established back to early 19th century. It was really amazing how the ranches were established, after crossing so many rugged mountains. I last few miles before reaching our destination we could see the ocean on the both side of the road. 
When we got down from the car, I realized the need of jackets. The weather was foggy, and on the top of that it was so windy, that I could hear the sound of wind through the hood of my jacket. I never heard such sound of wind through my hood. Our plan was to see the Point Reyes light house at the tip of the land. It is really amazing, that these lighthouses had an immense importance in life of pre-radar era. 

Point Reyes Lighthouse

This historic Point Reyes light house was established in 1870, at the windiest place of Pacific ocean, which is also one of the foggiest place. From history, which was written on a board near the lighthouse, I came to know that, one employee’s wife of the lighthouse once tried to plant vegetable near it, but failed miserably due to foggy weather, and salty wind blows from the ocean. Due to dense fog, specially during summer time increase the danger to the ships to enter to the San francisco peninsula.

The cliff near the lighthouse

 This light served more than hundred years to the mariners  to enter the bay without danger. The job was very monotonous at the lighthouse. On the top that life was extremely lonely. The employees had to work on sun, rain, snowstorm, frost without any fail. The Point Reyes Lighthouse lens and mechanism were constructed in France in 1867. The light house was built, below 300 feet of the cliff. The place was made flat by blasting with dynamite. The lighthouse endured many hardship including earthquake in 1906. 

Splashing waves

I came to know many interesting facts by reading the boards where the history was written. Though the area was surrounded by water, the Point was never had any spring or wells to supply fresh water. “The light-keepers were forced to devise the elaborate system for catching and storing rainwater. They piped the cistern water to the residences and to the fog signal for making steam.”
While coming back from the lighthouse I saw big dome. Out of curiosity I went to read the board, where it was written about the dome. I came to know that the big dome which was the cover of the cylindrical concrete cistern. “The catchment area around the cistern extends far up the hillside and capture runoff from natural rock formations.”
As the Lighthouse was 300 feet below the cliff, we had climbed down a steep narrow stairs to the reach there. Going downstairs was easy, but climbing up was a real challenge. When I reach the top of the cliff, I was out of breath. That warned me how much unfit my body was. It was already 12:00 at noon, but the weather was still foggy and cloudy. Though we could see the beach, but there was no way to access the beach. So, just standing beside the road we watched the beautiful deep blue water of the Pacific ocean, which splashing the deserted beach exerting its presence to us.

Near the Light house

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Three vegetable cake

I baked carrot cake. I baked zucchini bread. I baked beet root cake. But I never baked anything combining three of the vegetables. Today, I was just sitting lazily on my bed in the afternoon, thinking of baking something. First I thought I would bake zucchini, as I had loads of zucchini in my refrigerator. Then suddenly I thought mixing all the vegetables together in one cake. 

Here is the recipe:
Two cups all-purpose flower
One cup grated carrot
One cup grated beet
One cup grated zucchini
Half cup yogurt
Half cup margarine
Half cup milk
Half cup sugar
One tsp ginger powder
One tsp nutmeg powder
One tsp cinnamon powder
One tsp baking powder
One tsp baking soda
One fourth cup brown sugar

Take One large carrot, one median sized zucchini, and one medium sized beet root. After grating all them will yield one cup of the shredded vegetable each.  I used half cup sugar, as carrot and beet are quite sweet.
Preheat the oven at 350 degree F. In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients well, except the brown sugar. With an electric mixer, mix yogurt and margarine well. Add all the dry ingredients and continue mixing. You may face difficulty in mixing, as the batter can be very tight. Add half cup of milk and continue mixing. If you see that the batter is still tight, do not worry. The vegetables contain a lot of water. If you mix more milk, the batter will very watery after adding vegetables. Then add all the vegetables , and fold nicely with a rubber spatula. Grease one 13” round pan, pour the batter. Crumble brown sugar over the batter. Bake for forty minutes, or until a fork comes out clean when inserted at the center of the cake. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Zucchini Sandwich

Actually once I found a sandwich kind of dish recipe with eggplant in a cookbook of Martha Stewart. I couldn’t make that, because all of us have eggplant allergy. So, I decided to try the same dish with zucchini, when there are plenty of zucchinis in my backyard garden. I also have changed some in the recipe. Instead of using feta cheese I used homemade cottage cheese. The dish turned out delicious.Here is the recipe.

One cup milk (full fat or 2% reduced fat)
One 1sp. vinegar or 1 tsp lime juice
One big zucchini
One tomato ( I didn’t have large tomato, so I used few cherry tomatoes)
salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper 
canned olives
Salt to taste
Few fresh basil leaves
Oil for frying

Cottage cheese:
Boil one cup milk in a heavy bottomed pan. When the milk start rising from bubble to foam, add the lime juice or vinegar, and constantly stir the milk. Milk will start to curdling. Let it cool down. Drain the whey by cheese cloth. Tie the cheese in the cheese cloth  and hang for half an hour to drain the remaining whey. 
Cut zucchini into thin slice. You will need four slices. Here I’m giving the recipe for two sandwiches. Apply little salt on the pieces. Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan on high. Slightly oil the pan. I used oil spray. Fry the both sides of the zucchini slices on high heat. Set them aside. Switch off the stove. Now add salt, black pepper powder to the cottage cheese, and fold nicely. Cut the tomato into thin slices. Take one piece of zucchini slice, spared nice a layer of cottage cheese mix. Put a tomato slice on the top of it. In the mean time cut the marinated olives,and take out the pit. If the olive are already pitted just cut them into halves. You will get marinated olive at any Mediterranean grocery store. Place one slice of fried zucchini on the plate. Put a dollop of cheeses on it. Then put tomato, basil , and olive. Cover it with another piece of fried zucchini. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Vegetable-fish stir fry

Since past few days unusual bizarre things are happening in my house. First the strange sound from all pipes through out the house. One fine morning I was cooking and teaching my son simultaneously. First my son noticed the odd sound, which was like a distant sound of garbage truck. He repeatedly ask me from where the sound was coming. Every time I told him it was a distant garbage truck. However, after some time I went to garage, and I heard the odd sound very loudly, and realized that the sound was coming from my very own garage. I called my husband , and he found the sound was coming from the pipes. I searched on the Internet, and found the solution. Next two days were fine. Again on the fourth day heard that same sound. After much thinking we found out that, whenever the sprinkler on the front yard had been started the sound was coming. Then imperatively we called the plumber. He told that, the main valve of the water source was to be changed. 
Next our green trash can suddenly vanished from our front yard. Here usually the garbage trucks come on Friday. So, we put out our garbage cans on Thursday night. That Thursday night  we did the same. Next morning, I didn’t notice whether the green trash can was still there on our front yard after the garbage truck took the waste. In the afternoon I didn’t see that. I saw my husband kept the other two cans aside. I thought he already put that very can inside. Next day while both of us working on the backyard, I couldn’t see the can. I thought he took that can to front yard, to put yard waste in it. I asked him to take the can on our backyard. He told me, he didn’t take it. Then we realized the can was missing. Again we called the Waste Management, to get another green trash can.
What happened latest was the most abnormal among all the incidents. None of us were at home. Mr. Man was in office, I took our son to swimming class. When my son and I came back home I saw the backyard door was open and again another strange sound was coming from somewhere. My son kept the backyard door open. But from where the strange sound was coming? I saw the backyard door, one of the glass panel was looking very unfamiliar. I stared to the panel for few moments then I realized that, the glass was broken into tiny pieces and on the verge of falling on the ground. A chill downed spine, how it happened? Had anybody came inside the home? I couldn’t figure out how did that happen. I even didn’t find out any stone or something on my backyard, which could be thrown by someone. Till now it is a mystery to me. We call the glass repair personnel, who told this kind of bizarre incident can happen one in a 15000 glass. And we are that one. 

Anyway, I’m jabbering for long time. Those who are reading my nonsenses are deserve a recipe. 
Two tilapia fillet
One small zucchini
One small onion (thinly sliced) 
Few big mushrooms
One red bell pepper (you can use any color bell pepper)
Three-four fat garlic cloves
Corn flour to give thin coat over the fish pieces
Salt to taste
Oil for frying (I used olive oil)
One tsp. of cumin powder
Pinch of turmeric powder

Wash the fillets and dry them with kitchen towel. Cut into medium pieces. Marinate with salt and turmeric powder. 
Chop the garlic cloves. Thinly slice the onion. Cut the mushroom, zucchini, and bell pepper into small pieces.
In a flat bowl take one cup of corn flower. Add salt and mix well. Heat  a deep wok in medium, add one-fourth cup oil. Wait until the oil is steaming hot. Dip the fish pieces into the corn flour mixture to put a thin layer of corn flour all over the pieces. Fry until slightly red. Keep them aside. Fry the pieces 3-4 at a time depending on the size of your wok. 
In the same oil add the chopped garlic. When you get the fine aroma, add all the vegetables, give a good stir. Cover the wok, and let them cook stirring occasionally. Cook the  vegetables throughly. You don’t need to add water, as the vegetables are is high in water content. When the vegetables are almost fry, add cumin powder, mix well and cook for another few minutes. Lastly add the fish pieces, carefully stir the mixture without breaking the pieces. Cover the wok, and cook on very low flame for another few minutes. Serve hot with roti. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A quick trip to Hong Kong

This time we traveled to India by Cathy Pacific airlines. While coming back we decided to take a quick trip to Hong Kong to utilize the 16 hour long stop-over. Before we started our journey from India, my husband and I searched for any guided tour in Hong Kong. We had not much time in our had to explore the country by our own. Moreover, we didn’t want to travel a lot, just wanted to have glimpse of a place new to us.There were several of them, and we chose the one with less time, because, specially I didn’t want to take much strain. So, we decided to take the Lantau tour. Lantau tour was only 5 hours long, so we could have plenty of time to have rest at the airport. Basically,  Lantau was the island where the Hong Kong airport was situated. When I saw the pictures of the island on Internet, I really fell in love with the island. As it was guided to tour, we didn’t have much to think about it or plan it.  The tour-bus picked us from Regal Hotel adjacent to Hong Kong airport at 10:00 in the morning, local time. Here, I  must mention that , getting visitor’s visa was extremely easy. The immigration area, was in fact totally empty when we went there, we just gave our passport and got 15 days visa instantly. 
We waited at the Regal Hotel lounge for few minutes to board the Splendid Tour Bus. The area near the airport was little bit congested. The tour guide told that, the tall buildings near the airport we could see was the only part of Lantau Island’s  residential and commercial area. Only five percent of the land was used for housings and businesses, and rest of island was green and didn’t invaded by humans. The commutation was easy as the part was connected with the mainland with railway and ferry. And the railway was just five minutes from the residential area. People there had to pay for the convenience they were using. A 900 square feet apartment cost one million US dollar!!
The million dollar homes

Soon we passed the big tall buildings, and our bus hit the road amid dense forest. It was Saturday, so the roads were almost empty. However, on weekdays, the scene were totally different. Traffic jam was a big problem in this small island. Anyway, our first stop was Upper Cheung Sha Beach. 
Upper Cheung Sha beach

When we reached there, the beach was almost empty. It was little cloudy and it was a very quiet morning with pleasant breeze. We have very less time in our hand, and we also not ready with our beach equipments. Though my son wanted to run on the damp sand , I resisted him to do so. We didn’t have slippers with us, and I didn’t want to make our feet as well as the shoes dirty. We had another 15 hours journey ahead, and it was next to impossible to stay with dirty feet for almost a day. So, instead of taking a  beach walk, we 
walk along the sidewalk to see the beautiful green landscape, with narrow yet  clean hilly roads. 

Our next stop was HongKong fishing village. It was an awesome experience. Our tour guide, guided through the narrow by-lanes of Hong Kong’s large dry fish market to the fishing village. Surprisingly I didn’t get any smell in the fish market. I myself can’t tolerate the smell of dry fish. The boat ride was awesome. That was not any luxury boat. That was a small speedboat, where you can only sit on some humble seats, you might get drenched with the big splash of water hit the boat when it tried to maneuver. The main attention of the fishing village was Tai O stilt houses. 
Fishing Village

Those were the homes of Tanka community people who built their houses on the tidal flat, and they were living there for ages. The small stilt houses were interconnected. The stilts were made of a special kind of wood, where no barnacles could grow, and the woods didn’t damage in water. 
Stilt houses

The small houses showed how much humble the villagers were.They seemed very happy in their little cozy homes. Some of the houses were nicely decorated with potted plants. After the short tour on water, our tour guide took to 600 years old temple,called Hau Wong temple. Legend said that, it was constructed to commemorate the Hau Wong Yeaung Leung-jit, a Chinese general who helped the king to escape from the hands of invaders by refuging in Kawloon. It was a small temple. The temple started of very small, gradually the area was increased. 

Hau Wong temple

The name of the people were inscribed on the walls of the temple, who helped to build it. We were told that we could light the incense to wish. We did that. From there we started our journey again towards Giant Buddha. The scenic journey on the bus took us up a meandering mountain road to Ngong Ping Plateau, where the majestic Tian Tan Buddha , popularly known as Giant or Big Buddha sat near the Po Lin Monastery. The statue was more than 111 feet high, making it the world's largest seated, outdoor bronze Buddha. Two kilogram of gold was plated on the two cheeks of Buddha. I heard that in the beginning, everyone laughed, because 2 kilo of gold is nothing to the comparison of the size of Buddha. However, our guide told that, when the statue was illuminated at night, the gold plating on the cheeks gave an eternal beauty to the statue. While we were traveling on the narrow mountain road towards the statue, we could see it from distant looking through the woods. As we gradually approached to the monastery, we could see the giant statue. It was so big, that we faced difficulty to see the entire statue , when we stood at the foot of the statue. Then we went inside Po Lin monastery .Our tour guide told us about the monastery, the monastery was relatively new. There were three life sized pictures depicting from birth of prince Siddhatha to the birth of Gautama Buddha. Those pictures were painted by a monk from Sri Lanka, and he gifted them to Po Lin Monastery. The guide told us many facts about the monastery and Buddhism, but unfortunately I couldn’t remember them. One thing I came to know from him that, laughing Buddha, is actually not original Buddha, he was one of the disciple of Lord Buddha. We had a delicious vegetarian meal inside the monastery.
Giant Buddha

Then we went to take the cable car tour to return to the airport. The joinery was over the scenic, unperturbed mountain of the Lantau Island. By sitting on the cable car we could see the vast greenery of Lantau Island. Amid the forest, somewhere there were trails, and people were hiking through the forest. When the cable car was moving upward it was fine. However, I was scared when it was about go downwards. I closed my eyes in horror. But, no, the car moved in same pace, didn’t move like the roller-coaster. It was long ride over the scenic mountain. Lastly it crossed the ocean, to land near the airport. The scene was just beyond my words to describe, when I the forest meeting the sea. 

Cable car tour

Anyway, that was the endif our tour, but I would remember it forever. I  got immense pleasure in that 5 short hours.