Oh hi. It’s been awhile.

horse-heart

After a longer than expected break, I feel renewed creativity, and am wanting to get back in the blogosphere – and also back in the kitchen, which I’ve been desperately missing for the last couple months!

Because: very exciting news! We have a little bitty naan in the tandoor (which is a more fun way to say bun in the oven). Which is making me very happy, but also very tired and nauseous. My poor family has been getting very little in the way of home cooked meals and lots in the way of peanut butter sandwiches. And let’s be honest, not much in the way of laundry either. However, this last week I started feeling a little better and this weekend I even made soup.

Just like with my pregnancy with my daughter, things I used to love are completely turning me off, and not just in the way of food. With my daughter, I had to quit listening to Latin music, watching The Wire, and wearing this one yellow shirt, because they all made me nauseous. It’s weird and I have no explanation. This time around I have been forced to give up: lavender soap, pumpkins, rings and bracelets, general bohemian gypsyness in favor of a more streamlined aesthetic both in dress and home, and Indian food.

However, what has blossomed is a renewed interest in experimenting with web design (like playing with some HTML5 animation), and a return of a love for geeky things such as anime and fantasy novels. Stuff I liked anyway that has lain dormant for awhile. And that I guess is the strange way hormones can make you flip flop.

Here’s what I’m into nowadays, besides neglecting my household chores:

1. Sweet and Salty Granola Bars and a cup of Earl Grey

Earl Grey and Granola BarsSince I’m not cooking much, I’ve been buying all that packaged crap that I normally never buy, and I have to say these are delicious. And I’m not drinking my beloved coffee (at first it was on purpose, but now just the smell produces waves of nausea), but am instead sipping on lovely bergamot scented tea, with sugar.

2. Game of Thrones

Awhile ago I watched the first season and loved it, but decided to read the books before I watch the second season. My sister is on the third book, I need to catch up with her so we can discuss. Right now it’s mainly her going: I can’t believe what just happened!!! And me: No spoilers I’m not there yet!!

Boars, Gore, and SwordsSo now I’m pretty much obsessed, and am also listening to a Game of Thrones podcast, Boars, Gore and Swords which is really funny and also comforting as sometimes they have as much trouble as I do figuring out what the hell is going on. Introduces words and phrases like “bro king,” “the three-eyed crow of happiness,” and “the Dink.”

Inn at the Crossroads Horse HeartI’m also perusing this amazing food blog featuring recipes from the books, Inn at the Crossroads. I mean, come on. They made a horse heart out of red velvet cake. I’ve already made the Beef and Barley Stew – authentic Winterfell fare (and tasty on a chilly night!)

3. Japanese Food

Not cooking it much yet, just thinking about cooking it as I ease back into the kitchen. As opposed to my usual spiced-up desi dishes, I am wanting the more delicate, clean flavors. Once I really start feeling better (which is to say, once the smell of food heating in a pan doesn’t make me want to vomit) I am going to go crazy in the kitchen, but so far all I’ve made is a cucumber salad and some pickled daikon and carrots, and a couple umeboshi onigiri (pickled plum filled rice balls).

Harumi's Japanese CookingI have purchase a cookbook which I have been pouring over and can’t wait to try out: Harumi’s Japanese Cooking.

MisohungryI’ve also been listening to episodes of Miso Hungry – a super cute and informative podcast all about Japanese food!

So yeah. Lots of culture absorption, not too much actual activity. Kind of just biding my time over the next couple of weeks until I feel like staying up past 9 PM, and I have energy for all the things I love like yoga, working on non-work related projects, and of course cooking!

Goodbye Old Year. Hello 2012!

asian-market-trip

Yesterday my friend Gloria (who loves to grocery shop as much as I do) took me on a field trip to the Asian markets, one of which is just 3 miles from my house, uh oh. Check out my goodies! Clockwise from top left: lavender green tea (I love lavender anything), lemongrass, white miso, jackfruit in syrup (Zoeya and I tried today, yum!), silken tofu, dried shrimp, pickled mustard greens and dried seaweed (I also bought some jasmine water I forgot to put in the picture). I see lots of Asian food experiments coming in 2012; we are already investigating how to make bulgogi.

2011 is drawing to a close. In a lot of ways 2011 was productive, but in other ways it was just laying the ground work. I have good feelings about 2012 and am motivated to make things happen and move our lives forward.

I love New Years resolutions. I am definitely not in the camp that says “I don’t make resolutions because I never keep them, it’s just discouraging, blah blah…” That annoys me, if you want to keep them, just keep them! Every year I make a giant list for myself. An old boyfriend saw it once and told me “I had no idea there were so many things you didn’t like about yourself.” That’s not the point at all! I love everything about myself, but I also have so much potential, and no one ever becomes better by staying the same.

  • In 2011 I started a new job. This year I want to flourish in work. I go through hot and cold spells in regards to everything, web design included, and right now I feel very inspired.
  • In 2011 I paid off our debt (inherited through marriage of course, haha). This year I want to save, especially for Zoeya’s future.
  • In 2011 I started to green our life in big ways. You guys, I stopped washing my hair with shampoo. I’m almost ready to talk about it. I want to do even more this year, as well as simplifying.
  • In 2011 I had the saddest loss. This year I feel brave enough to try again.
  • In 2011 I cooked my ass off. This year I want to cook even more. More Indian and Pakistani dishes, more vegetarian dishes, more homemade condiments, more witchy dishes, and just becoming more organized about everything.

And of course all the usual stuff – do more yoga, drink less coffee, spend more time outside with little Zoeya, have more dates with my sweet husband. This year’s giant list includes Big Food List 2012, a bunch of things I want to make throughout the year.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year, may it be the best year (so far) of our lives!

Spice Reboot

spice-dabba

After October’s Gourdfest and November’s Thanksgiving Extravaganza I’m worn out. This week we’ve been eating simply – scrambled eggs, sauteed greens – an effective holiday detox. It’s pretty imperative though that I ramp it back up quick for the festive Yule season. Something that inspires me is to clean out my dabba and my spice cabinet before I get started. I can feel my warm holiday kitchen coming back to life.

I’ve written about my masala dabba before, and this morning I cleaned it out and refreshed the contents a little. Instead of powdered cumin and coriander, I put cumin and coriander seeds which I can either use whole, or toast and grind. I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful and fragrant freshly toasted and ground spices are! I also replaced the cayenne with red pepper flakes – I’ve mixed up my paprika and cayenne only once, but that ruined a pan of roasted cauliflower. No mixing the two up now.

I cleaned out my spice cabinet too. I love taking mental inventory of my cabinet, and it’s contents remind me of dear friends and what we’ve cooked together (Sazon = Denise, Fancy Salts = Gloria, Tony’s = Meg, Shan Masalas = Shan my husband). Some things, like ground mustard and safflower, I don’t use often and it gives me the notion to experiment more. Other things, like the store-bought candied ginger, were a complete rip off, bought in a Thanksgiving panic, and remind me I need to make my own before I’m in another pinch.

For so many recipes I already have everything on hand, so I can definitively say the best reason for having a well-stocked spice cabinet is pure laziness.

I’ve got overflow in my spice drawar…large bags of spices that I use to refill smaller containers, or dried herbs that I use in dishes and also for their medicinal benefits.

And then of course I have more little goodies stashed around the kitchen in jars and pots, like cloves and my beloved cardamom…and it occurs to me (nerd! nerd!) to start indexing and writing a little about my spices and herbs. I’ve started with cardamom – with which I am admittedly obsessed! And plan to add more little by little, with a little information and links to recipes.

Wishing you a spicy holiday season!

Thanksgiving: Always the Hostess

thanksgiving


An evite to Thanksgiving at our house.

Remember that episode of Friends where the girls and the boys have switched apartments, and Monica exhausts herself cleaning and decorating the place? “I am always the hostess!” she screams.

I love to be the hostess. I love to stress myself out and spend too much on food and clean and cook myself into a frenzy. I’ve gotten pretty good at the art of timing. I know exactly how long it takes to scramble around in the kitchen as a crazy be-aproned hag, then leave something simmering on the stove just long enough to run upstairs to fix my hair and makeup and arrive downstairs looking lovely and relaxed, sipping a glass of wine and stirring something languidly as my guests arrive.

Two years ago we hosted our first Thanksgiving at our home, and this year I am so excited to do it again. Everyone is kind enough to bring food of course, but I planned the base menu.

Thanksgiving Menu 2011

Pistachio and Sour Cherry Goat Cheese Ball
Sage Butter Roasted Turkey with Cider Gravy
Cardamom-scented Cranberry Sauce with Apricots
Scalloped Potatoes and Fennel
Walnut Green Beans
Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Butternut Squash with Pecans and Vanilla
Chocolate Ginger Pie

Several of the dishes (the turkey, the potatoes, the green beans, the salad) will be repeats from the first Thanksgiving we hosted, though I do deviate from the recipes just a little – they are all delicious and I’m working to make them yearly family Thanksgiving favorites! Others like the butternut squash and chocolate pie are close to things I’ve made before, but with little twists I’ve been wanting to try. I borrowed most of these, but the cranberry sauce – something I think gets too little love – is all mine!

Remember that other episode of Friends where Monica puts the turkey on her head and dances around?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Edit: My uncle took pictures! Here are a couple.

The food:

The fam:

Paki Tacos…Remixed

paki-quesadillas

My Paki Tacos are now my Award Winning Paki Tacos! I brought them for a work potluck and won Best Entree. Check out my fabulous prize:

Microwave Pasta Boat! Woohoo! Don’t worry, it’s not for cooking, only for looking at and laughing. It was one of the many as-seen-on-TV prizes. I’m only sorry I didn’t win the Snuggie.

Anyway, I got a little excited and made a double batch for the potluck, which left me with lots of leftovers. I love to have a head start on a meal, but I hate, HATE to eat the same thing over and over. No worries – Paki taco leftovers make for delicious Paki quesadillas. Actually, these might be even better since I’m pretty sure just about everything gets taken up a notch with cheese.

Dinner took about 10 minutes to make, including a simple green salad with grapefruit and a dijon vinaigrette. And that is how you eat leftovers.

Inspiration for the Brain-fried: Two Snacks and a Dessert.

goat-cheese-ball

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you feel burnt out, brain-fried, and instead of figuring out what to cook you prefer to lay in bed eating smashed avocado on toast and catching up on episodes of Project Runway?

So that’s me. I don’t feel too bad about it; after all, everything waxes and wanes. While I may have nothing to say, the rest of the internet remains gloriously alive with interesting and delicious-looking recipes. Here’s a few I’ve managed to whip up while I wait to perk back up.

Goat Cheese Ball with Sour Cherries and Pistachios

When I saw the gorgeous photo on 6 Bittersweets I knew I wanted to make this for last weekend, when we had friends over for dinner. This is one of those recipes with an absurdly good payoff – a snap to make, but delicious with a fantastic presentation. Also, for me it’s a balance of the fresh, somewhat exotic flavors I love combined with the food of my heritage (southern, waspy). I went the lazy route and made one big ball instead of a bunch of little ones, but one good tip I can give is to lightly coat your hands with oil before rolling the ball so the goat cheese won’t stick to your hands.

Cucumber, Yogurt, and Walnut Dip

The snacking continues with this yummy Persian dip I saw on The Spice Spoon, a blog I continuously come back to for inspiration. I make cucumber and yogurt raita to accompany dishes all the time, but the addition of walnuts adds a richness which is perfect for a dip. I threw some pistachios in just for fun, as I had some leftover from the dish above. Note: I took this lame picture of leftovers; the cucumber had lost its color so it looks a little muddy, but made fresh it’s green and lovely.

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Skipping straight to dessert! Shan is generally not a big fan of sweets, but he does love tiramisu so I make him one every year on his birthday. This year I decided to mix it up a little and make cupcakes, and who better to look to for festive inspiration than Martha Stewart. The spongy vanilla cake and espresso marsala syrup was delicious, but the best part was the mascarpone frosting – yum! The only thing I would change would be to poke holes in the cupcakes so the syrup would soak in a little better – which is probably in the directions anyway and I just missed it (I hope Zoeya’s critical reading skills turn out to be better than her mother’s).

Hmm, I’d say that’s enough to hold me over!

Season of the Witch vol 2 – an(other) October Mix

sotw-vol2

October is here, the best time of year! Last year I posted a mix called Season of the Witch. This year I’ve added a volume that’s just as witchy, maybe a little darker, and that actually contains an amazing cover of the song it’s named for. Also this year you can download it…I recommend putting it on in the kitchen while you’re cooking up a brew soup.

Lovely images from Diana Pinto’s and ell brown’s flickr pages.

Season of The Witch vol 2

  1. Season of the Witch Karen Elson (feat. Donovan)
  2. Half Asleep School of Seven Bells
  3. Love Song Niyaz
  4. Angry Johnny Poe
  5. Youth Knows No Pain Lykke Li
  6. Paints Peeling Rilo Kiley
  7. Witches Paperfangs
  8. Wandering Star Portishead
  9. The Lantern Beats Antique
  10. Spark Tori Amos
  11. Half Awake Widowspeak
  12. Grow Grow Grow PJ Harvey
  13. Mimoso Lentejitas
  14. Linger The Cranberries
  15. Rocking Horse Kelli Ali
  16. The Piano Duet Danny Elfman
  17. And He Slayed Her Liz Phair

#Unprocessed in October

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” – Andrew Wilder.

A lot of people are not going to be eating processed food during the month of October – sounds fun, I’m in!

I don’t think this would be a huge stretch for our family; we eat pretty well most of the time. Of course, we are coming off a weekend of takeout (as our kitchen was in pieces, now we have a new floor and counters – beautiful!) but that’s really even more reason to detox with some decent food.

My first thought was that this will be a piece of (homemade, lovingly prepared) cake. Upon further reflection, I do foresee some things being a challenge. Bread for example. I pack Zoeya a sandwich for lunch at least once a week, and we often eat naan with dinner. Not a huge problem, just means a little baking on the weekends and whipping up some homemade roti.

Other things to consider are condiments and canned foods used in cooking otherwise whole foods. I’ve decided on a two pronged approach. Some things, like my sauces and chutneys, and even mayonnaise I’m going to make from scratch. Other things, like the coconut milk I use that contains stuff like guar gum (not an ingredient I usually have hanging out in the pantry) I’m not going to stress about.

A final challenge – isn’t Halloween in October? Not much I can do about that…maybe October is #unprocessed except for a couple funsize Snickers.

Cloth Napkins, Scraps, and BYOF

Here are 3 easy things you can do to be a just little bit greener whilst cooking and lunching.

Cloth Napkins

Although it’s actually greener to use recycled paper napkins at restaurants, it is marginally greener using cloth napkins at home. (See this informative little article on TreeHugger.com). Yes you have to wash them and that uses energy, but (shh) I don’t wash them after every meal. Not fancy at all, in fact quite the opposite, I get the paper napkins out for guests. Even little Zoeya takes a cloth napkin in her lunch box.

Kitchen Scraps

This surprised me, but it’s actually greener to throw your scraps away than to put them down the disposal. Down the drain, they will have to be treated with chemicals and will be strained out and sent to the landfill anyway. So shift your habit! Now I can feel a little better about all those months the disposal was broken. Of course, scraps in the landfill are not much better, leftover food will sit around releasing methane, so the best thing of all to do is compost.

BYOF

Bring your own fork! This is a big one for me, I bring my lunch to work every day and I forget to do this half the time and end up using one of the plastic forks from the break room. Reducing single-use plastic products is a really important thing to do; besides filling up our landfills, plastic takes a huge toll on marine life. This is something I’m really going to focus on. I use reusable shopping bags, we have a water filter instead of buying bottled water, and I’m really going to try to remember to pack my fork.

Spilled Milk, Home Cooking, and Spicy Honey Chicken

thumb_honey-chicken

Spilled Milk Podcast

Who knows why it took someone such as me, who is very into food and very into podcasts, so long to start listening to Spilled Milk, but once I did I’ve been snapping up fifteen-minute episodes like Puffy Snacks (see ep. 25). Molly Wizenburg (Orangette, A Homemade Life) and Matthew Amster-Burton (Roots and Grubs, Hungry Monkey) are a charming, knowledgeable, and very funny duo, who basically cook up good food and talk about it. I absolutely love it, but it’s difficult to listen at work because they make me laugh and look stupid and they also make me hungry.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

I’ve read Laurie Colwin’s second book of food-related essays, More Home Cooking, and just loved it. I can’t explain it, but something about her writing makes me feel both comforted and nostalgic. I picked up Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen at the library this week and am just diving in, but it promises to be another collection of essays that illustrate her life through food, written with honesty and humor.

Spicy Honey Chicken

“What’s for dinner?” Ah, the eternal question with a different answer every day. I often find inspiration in other (better!) food blogs. One of my favorites, Rasa Malaysia, recently featured a guest post by Zurin@Cherry on a Cake, this yummy-looking Spicy Honey Chicken. However, you can’t expect a harried working mother to follow a recipe, so I completely remixed this in a way that would probably make Malaysians cry. Instead of bone-in, skin-on thighs, I used boneless breasts which I sliced. Instead of deep frying on a weeknight, I stir fried. Instead of ketchup, which I have an un-American distaste for, I used tomato paste. I made a little more sauce than specified and thickened it with a little corn starch. Somehow despite all my irreverence, it turned out delicious.

Also, I submitted a recipe to Spicie Foodie’s Your Best Recipe of July, a nice little list!