Sunday, August 2, 2020

Summer Bruschetta & July Reading/Activities

Any time is a good time for bruschetta but, it's at it's best in mid-summer when the tomatoes are at their sweetest and fresh basil is abundantly growing in gardens everywhere. We often make bruschetta in summer - it's our favorite camping food. 

4-5 weekends every summer we go camping to nearby beaches or redwood forests. Only one night spent camping every visit, but it's a lot of fun, and undeniably a highlight of our summer. 

We always make bruschetta when we go camping... it's so easy and a perfect camp food! I pack 3-4 nice ripe heirloom tomatoes, a bunch of basil and usual condiments. Chop the tomatoes finely (seed and all), grate a clove of garlic and add to tomatoes, add handful of finely chopped basil ribbons. Season with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper - and voila, bruschetta is ready! Sometimes I add chopped kalamata olives or mozzarella cheese for an extra oomph but totally optional.

While the bruschetta is resting, we slice and grill the bread loaf using lots of olive oil straight on the campside grill and then rub the freshly grilled bread with a clove of garlic to impart more of the garlicky flavor. Then laden the bread with bruschetta and dig in! 

I don't mind tomatoes releasing water and making a little sauce in my bruschetta, I love dunking the remaining parts of toasts in that and devour at the end. But if you do, just salt the chopped tomatoes and set them aside for 15 minutes, gently remove the water and follow the remaining steps.

This year all the campgrounds are closed.. but we are keeping the camping spirit going by making camping foods in our backyard on the weekends and sharing scary stories under the starlit sky. Here is to hoping the next summer brings us lots of missed outdoor activities and travel :)

July Reading 

I started July with an ambitious book list but at these times when so much around us is changing rapidly, sometimes a lot of comfort can be found in an old beloved book... a book where you intimately know what happens next and you have read it and enjoyed so many times but still every reading brings you a new round of joy and happiness. One such book for me is a beloved copy of Pride & Prejudice. I re-read it again and enjoyed every bit of it!

Another good read for the month was "The Stationary Shop" by Marjan Kamali. It's a sad but ethereal love story set in 1950s Iran, woven with the political backdrop of the time. There are no major spoilers but a story describing political climate of the nation and it's effects on everyday people. I enjoyed reading the book, the culture and the often detailed descriptions of Iranian foods and recipes :)

On the beach reads front, I read "Distant Shores" by Kristin Hannah. I have enjoyed a lot of her books but this one fell off the mark for me.

Last book of July was a juicy mystery by Lucey Foley "The Guest List". While not very thought provoking, it is indeed a page turner keeping you glued to the book as often a good mystery can :) 

In terms of activities, on the same theme of familiarity, I binged on the season 2 of Downton Abbey - which is by far my favorite season :) Daughter and I also finished our embroidery projects and spent a wonderful afternoon weaving these hand bracelets - so fun!

Hope you are having a good summer and staying safe!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

OT: Kids Craft - Paper Lilies

This is a guest post by my daughter (who incidentally has been pleading, crying and in-turn trying to convince me to give her a guest post once in a while on this blog... but, let's see :) ). To her credit, she does spend a lot of time inventing her own recipes and making crafts. This is one of her favorite craft project this summer. So without further ado, here are the paper lilies. 

How to make paper lilies

Lilies come in different shape,size,and color! It is time to design your own lilies. Even though it is not spring you can still make paper lilies! This is the way you can express yourself, culture, and ideas. Also this is a good craft to do with kids!! If you don’t have craft paper I suggest you use two sheets of regular paper and stick them together. Also, if you still don't want to do that you can use paint paper. If you don't have yellow pipe cleaner you can use whatever pipe cleaner you have unless it is not matching your flower.

I hope you are doing well in the covid 19! Stay safe, get creative, and enjoy this craft!!!   

You will need: Craft paper, yellow pipe cleaner and green pipe cleaner, pencil, hand, scissor!!

(if you don’t understand, look at the pictures)

It is gonna be fun okay!!

  1. Take the paper and put your hand over it!

  2. Trace your hand neatly using a pencil and cut using scissors. 

  3. Fold it like this:

  4. Now with your pen roll the paper like this:

  5. Take your yellow and green pipe cleaner, fold the yellow pipe cleaner into a small thing,and stick both together, like this:

  6. Now, stick it in your flower

  7. Wrap it in a bow and enjoy!!!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Rustic Summer Plum Tart

I have been taking daily walks in our neighborhood during this work from home phase. Boundaries between the "work time" and "home time" have become hazy for so many of us, that it helps to set small rituals to remind you of just that. Our ritual is to go for long evening walks across our neighborhood right after I finish my work and before we start dinner prep. 

There are so many things I am noticing about our neighborhood that I never did before! Like there is a beautiful creek and an old style footbridge tucked away merely a mile from us (I had no idea!).. and how many of our neighbors have fruit trees in their front yards - all laden with apricots, plums and lots and lots of apples! The apples are still small and green, but the plums are ripe everywhere.. we often see perfectly good plums lying on the sidewalks fallen from a tree laden with fruit.

As you can imagine, we are over-flowing with plums at our house as well - some given by our young plum tree, a lot shared by generosity of neighbors and our CSA. After enjoying a lot of plums this summer for snacks and deserts, I was left with a bag which was not super sweet and more on the tart-sweet side. What better motivation than make a plum tart then!

This is a very simple recipe and perfect for weeknight deserts too. I used the pie-crust recipe I always user - but you are welcome to use frozen crust too.. works just as well and a huge time-saver!

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

To prepare the filling: thinly slice 5-6 plums. Add 1/2C sugar (or less depending on how sweet the plums are), 1/4tsp cinnamon, 1/4tsp salt, 1/4tsp cardamom powder (optional). Mix well and set aside for 20 minutes. After 20 mins, drain the plum juices but do not discard! Arrange plum slices on the pie crust tightly and fold the edges inward to "seal" the tart. Brush the edges of the crust with melted butter. 

Bake for 40 minutes until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. While the tart is baking, cook the plum juices + 1Tbsp of whatever fruit preserve you have at hand (I used strawberry) until it forms a thick sauce. When the tart is out, brush the sauce on the plums, let it cool completely and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Easy Bread Loaf & Summer Home Activities!

I caught on to the COVID home baking trend pretty early on, I think. It started with a need to make a sandwich loaf at home but once I mastered that, I realized that baking bread, even without a bread machine, can be super easy and deeply satisfying - just as long as you have access to flour and yeast! 

My mind has been set for a while now on learning to bake a crusty bread loaf.. the kind of loaf with thick crusty skin and soft fluffy bread inside that you can dunk into hot soup and enjoy. I came across this recipe on King Arthur Flour and true to it's name it was indeed a very easy bread loaf to put together. 

I didn't change anything from the original recipe except halving it and making one bread loaf instead of 2. In the hindsight however I should have made 2 for the work of 1.. the one loaf I made in the morning was long gone before the dinner time :)

I am sure to be making this bread loaf again and again now. A keeper recipe.

Summer Home Activities:

This summer has been special for my daughter because she got to spend all of it at home, without any summer camps or travels. She was excited about no summer camps - she is at the age where she has gotten over the fancy of the camps and just prefers spending her time her own way. However she was bummed about the no travel plan. Anyhow, she got a promise out of us to make up for it by 2x longer vacation next summer :)

We did manage to do a lot of fun things at home however and had a lot of summer fun. It was a different kind of summer than traditional summer, but fun-filled neverthless!

She is quite outdoorsy and likes to learn a new outdoor activity every summer. This summer learning to skateboarding has been her main project. After a few falls and bumps, I think she is coming along quite well!

We wrapped up our Spanish learning course on duolingo and embarked on Scratch programming. Scratch is a programming language for kids - like blockly, where building a game or a program is simple putting the right blocks together. It encourages kids 8-12 to build logical thinking which is a key skill of computer programming but at the same time keeping it fun and exciting. I spent some time teaching her scratch, she attended an online camp and had fun building some fun new games like this obstacle run and a simple translator (being a young coder and all, both games need keyboard and not mobile friendly yet :) )

I also bought an embroidery starter kit and we had fun doing embroidery together on long weekend afternoons. It took us about 4 weekends to finish the two projects - but we had a lot of fun. She did the simple straight stitches and attempted some loops. I finished remaining loops and all the french knots. We are super happy with how it turned out!
I hope you are all having fun and relaxing summer break and staying safe!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Flax-Seeds Chutney (Javasachi Chutney) & Reading Update

Javas (or brown flax seeds) chutney is a quint-essential Maharashtrian condiment. Easy to prepare, cheap due to the abundance of flax seeds in the region and super tasty. This chutney is a staple of farm lands, where fresh roti (or bhakri), this chutney with a glob of oil and some sabji can make a flavorful easy to prepare everyday meal.

While flaxmeal (ground flax) is more common in supermarkets across US, for this recipe I prefer using whole flax seeds. You can find them at Trader Joe's or buy bulk from Amazon of this Bob's Red Mills brand.

The "recipe" is super simple. Roast 1C golden flax seeds and 4-5 large peeled garlic cloves on medium heat stirring frequently until they release a nutty aroma and are starting to turn brownish. Often flax seeds pop while you are heating them, so be careful not to be to close to the stove. Remove from heat and let them cool completely.

Once cool, add the roasted flax seeds and roasted garlic cloves to the blender, along-with 1/4tsp red chili powder and salt to season. Blend until smooth and powdery. Taste, adjust salt as needed. Store in an air-tight container and serve as condiment for any meals! Mix 1Tbsp of this chutney with warm cooked rice, olive oil and salt for a quick meal or add oil to 1Tbsp of this chutney and eat with warm pita breads - yum!

Reading Update:
My reading front is still going strong. This stay at home phase has provided a unique opportunity by saving the commute times that I am putting to good use by exercising  couple times a week and reading 30 minutes almost every day. Access to kindle and online library makes finding content a breeze!

I would classify June reading as 2 hits and 1 miss :) I read highly awaited book The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. This is a beautifully told story transporting us back to the 1950s India, Jaipur in particular, told from the voice of a henna artist, Lakshmi, known for her most unique and creative patterns - it's a story of many contrasts, women's struggles and empowerment in a paternal society, cast systems and middle class vs upper class struggles. All in all, this was a true page-turner.. transporting me back to 1950s Jaipur. A must read!

The second hit was this well awaited Marie Benedict's Carnegie's Maid. This is a book about a young girl, Clara Kelley, leaving her family behind in Ireland to travel to America to support her family and earn some money. She doesn't have much more other than her wits, an uncanny business sense and resolve to strive and do better, both for herself and her family. She ends up as a lady's maid in the Carnegie household of Pittsburgh, and soon her employer starts to trust her business instincts. It is again a story of a woman ahead of her time, with a business sense parallel to the business magnet Andrew Carnegie, but needing to hide her talents and thoughts behind a subdued ladies' main persona. I have enjoyed all of Benedict books so far, so I knew I would love this book, and happy to say it didn't disappoint me :)

Third book, and a miss, was "Ada's algorithms - How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age". Ada has been long considered as the original computer programmer, and a key but overlooked figure in the history of computers and programming. I wanted to love this book, I really did, but unfortunately writing was hard to keep up with - not being written as a story and not being quite a well engaging non-fiction either, I finished the book but it was quite a struggle at times.

Anyhow, my July reading list is promising and I look forward to posting about it here soon!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Zucchini Paratha & A Sudden Sweet Tooth

I love the changing seasons -- like now, a crisp and flowery spring is giving way to hot summers, just as the life we know it is inching back to what is likely a new normal for the rest of the year. The usual bearers of the summer events like end of school carnival, trips to local ice-cream parlor and visits to the magnificent California beaches were very much muted this year... but one thing screamed summer loud and clear - and that is lots and lots of zucchini and stone fruits in our CSA boxes!

For last few weeks, our CSA box has been overflowing with zucchinis, peaches, plums, nectarines and juicy California apricots. We have no problems finishing any amount of fruit at our home but finishing loads of zucchini is another matter :) This year, along-with grilled zucchini, zucchini "spaghetti" and zucchini raita, one new thing I introduced in our rotation is this zucchini parathas. 

The recipe is very similar to the methi and chard paratha I have posted before. I used 2 large or 3 small zucchini, grated them fine, salted them and then pressing very hard removed as much water as I can. Instead of discarding the zucchini juices, I used part of it to make the dough. I seasoned the whole wheat flour dough with grated garlic, cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt and chili powder (but skip adding chili powder if cooking for kids). Other than that, it's the same recipe as the chard paratha

These parathas are very tasty, soft and best enjoyed right off the griddle with a dollop of yogurt or any chutney you might have at hand. Enjoy!

Normally, we don't make a lot of sweets at home. We enjoy sweets once in a while, when visiting bakeries or coffee shops or one of the numerous birthday parties we attend every year. This year however, may be it's the lack of bakery visits or the birthday parties, but suddenly we have all developed a strong sweet tooth and craving sweets at home! 

In addition to the usual chocolate cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate bundt cake and fruit tarts, I posted previously, I also dabbed my hands at some Indian sweets - mainly this besan ladoo! Believe it or not, this was my first time making it at our home :) I often shy away from home-made sweets because none of us usually crave it, and if it's home you would eat it whether you crave it or not.. but like I say, this stay at home has changed a lot of our palette and what's made at home!

On healthier side, my mid-afternoon pick-me snack has been this very berry cereal bowl with any two types of berries (strawberries and blueberries are my favorite combo) with cereal of your choice and milk of your choice... yum!

And the bear banana pancake which brought a huge smile to my daughter's face when she found them in her plate our Saturday morning :) 

Hope you are all staying safe and healthy - until next time!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Spaghetti Pomodoro

One of the things we miss the most in this stay-at-home phase is going out to our favorite local restaurants. Sure, we can always do takeout, but it just doesn't feel the same without the anticipation of the evening out or the ambiance.

So instead we have been cooking at home, a lot - but we also crave a few of our go-to restaurant dishes, like this sauteed kale with garlic from Din Tai Fung or the spaghetti pomodoro from Campo de Bocce. Campo de Bocce is a lovely Italian restaurant chain in Norther California combining scrumptious family style Italian food with the appeal of outdoor bocce courts to play a few games! It's a lot of fun with a large group of family or friends, where you can combine fun of playing a few bocche rounds and nibbling on their amazing appetizers or enjoying a relaxed brunch!

Anyhow, my favorite dish of their menu is the humble spaghetti pomodoro. I have been attempting to re-create it at home for a while now, but my attempts took a new urgency the last few months. I am happy to say this version I think comes super close! 

What I like about this recipe is that it's simple, easy to put together but very tasty with fresh, vibrant flavors which burst right in your mouth! Pair it with a good Chianti or your favorite dry red wine, and it's a meal to remember.

Spaghetti is cooked just al-dente with a bite left to it and the sauce is a simple saute of fresh roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, olives and a really good quality olive oil. I am not a fan of pasta with canned tomato sauces, so I like this fresh vibrant sauce with barely cooked roma tomatoes. Give it a try and I am sure you will love it (and won't miss the meat or fancy additions :) )
Spaghetti Pomodoro
Recipe is simple: 
  1. Cook spaghetti al-dente in a boiling salted water per the package direction (I use 4 servings of spaghetti per the package direction). 
  2. While pasta is cooking, warm few Tbsp good quality olive oil in a large pan. 
  3. Add 4-5 finely chopped garlic cloves and cook stirring until the oil is fragrant but taking care the garlic doesn't burn. 
  4. Follow-up with 5-6 fresh roma tomatoes, chopped fine. It's best if you can find freshly picked tomatoes either from the garden or farmer's market - but if not store bought would be just fine too. 
  5. All salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Cook tomatoes until they are just about to soften and loose their shape - 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat. Do not let them become completely saucy, they should soften but partly retaining their shape.
  7. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar, pinch of sugar to balance the acidity and stir well.
  8. Right before serving, add handful of chopped fresh basil and chopped olives. Mix well.
  9. Serve sauce over pasta. Drizzle with a little more olive oil & top with grated Parmesan cheese and chili flakes (if using). Enjoy!
I don't think olive is in the original version but it's an addition I love it in pasta. But feel free to skip too.

This spring our garden is flourishing with lots of flowers, lavender and citrus blossoms! Our pomegranate tree is laden with flowers and a promise of bunch of small fruit buds. There is soft soothing aroma of new lavender in the air! It has been a pleasure to sit in the yard and work the hours away!
Native cactus, lavender and pomegranate blossom
We have also been able to enjoy a few hikes to nearby mountains while social distancing. They have been very relaxing and therapeutic, a time to steal from all the stresses of the work and unease in the world!
Mountain hikes - wildflowers, city views and a laden peach tree!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Stay-at-home Food & Activities

It is hard to believe we are in the week #11 of stay at home here. Over 10 weeks of home-schooling, 77 days of not going out for sightseeing or dinner and over 230 meals made at home later, here we are!! 

The cycle of the prepping, cooking and cleaning is endless! Managing work and home-school has been a bit of an adventure with kids sneaking on and off into work meetings and parents walking into school zoom :) but on the whole we are settling into the new rhythm well and might I say, even enjoying it a bit. It has been stressful to see the news; but personally also enjoying no daily commutes, no drop-off and pickups and just less juggling social commitments with everything else.

With so many meals at home, our kitchen has been churning non-stop! I learnt to make a few things from scratch not being able to just go out and buy prepped ingredients - like this dosa and idle batter for example. We always bought dosa/idle batter, but now with the abundance of hours at home, I realized it's actually pretty easy to make batter at home. Home-made dosas and idlis have been making a rotation every-other week at our home and they are always a hit.
Dosa & Idli w/ Home-made Batter
Home-made pizza dough and bread
We are also making bread and pizza dough at home. To be honest, given a choice I would still buy store bought bread - because while my plain white bread is coming out great, the whole wheat one still needs improvements and I love the store bought whole wheat. On the other hand, home-made pizza dough has been a solid hit! Given a choice, I don't think I'll ever go back to store bought pizza dough anymore.

To nibble on, we have been baking lots of baked goodies like chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, blueberry mini-muffins, simple chocolate cakes and banana oatmeal bread. The daughter definitely takes the lead in this department :)
Baked Goodies!
Thai Basil green curry w/ tofu
While lunches have been simple - left-overs from previous dinner or wild rice bowls, veggie wraps or veggie burgers -- we attempt different rotations in dinner to avoid the dinner fatigue. Our recent favorites have been pav bhaji, Thai basil curry with tofu, udon noodles and lots of different pastas!

Very berry pancakes
Another family favorite has been this very berry pan-cakes. Made with chopped raspberries and blueberries in the batter and a strawberry-orange sauce, it has been a huge hit with everyone and something we will keep making for a few more weeks until berries become scarce with summer.
Stay at home time has also been filled with lots of reading time for everyone in the family! With less outdoor distractions, I am happily finding little time here and there to make a dent in my to-read list.

Most notable read was The Tenth Muse, which is a story of an Asian-American woman mathematician at a time when it wasn't common for women to be professors or pursuing careers in mathematics. It is a story of the challenging Math problems she solves, strength, courage in her profession she exhibits as well as her journey to finding her lineage along the way and finding who she really is. Overall a highly recommended read!

On the thought provoking side, I also enjoyed reading Range: Why generalists triumph in a specialized world, Red At the Bone as well as Night Diaries. And on light side, lots of good page-turner mysteries and Tudor English stories like the Couple Next Door, Gone Girl, The Other Queen and Katherine Howard.

On the kids reading front, my daughter's school shared a subscription of Epic! Reading e-reading platform with her, which has been a life-saver engaging her with countless books and hours at end!

My daughter and I are also crafting a lot - we recently took up sketching, which does not need a lot of supplies; and next we are taking up embroidery.

However the most fun activity we are sharing together is learning Spanish on a free Duolingo app. I have always wanted to learn a new language, so with more time at home we took up Spanish. Today is our 30th day of learning. We only spend about 15 minutes a day after dinner but we are making good progress and most importantly, having a lot of fun speaking Spanish to each other!

I am looking forward to summer ahead - enjoying the warmer weather and perhaps a chance to get out a bit more!

Copyright and Disclaimer

This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.