Saturday, October 24, 2020

Recipes & Reading Update - Oct'20

2020 continues to be a very strange year. For many of us, it's been close to 8 months of working, schooling from home. While I continue to enjoy the no-commute part and spending more time w/ kids parts, a little monotone fatigue is also setting in. To add to that, we went through a crazy fire season in bay area, fueled by (guess what) a rare freak lightning storm event late summer igniting multiple fires across the nearby forests and mountains. For weeks, the sky was filled with smoke and the sun looked like a red orange ball in yellow orange skies. We lost parts of our beloved Big Basin Redwood State Park to raging fires and countless mountain communities suffered damages. Only recently that we are back to better weather now.

Anyhow, through all that, here we are in the crisp fall season! Days are getting shorter and mornings are crisper. It's a blissful feeling to sit in the front yard watching the increasing yellows on the trees, fall roses in the air, basking in a nice warming sun, sipping hot coffee. We must all enjoy life's little pleasures!

Cooking has been a challenge of late both with work picking up and the fatigue of the same recipes over and over. So we changed things up a bit last month. I found convenient salad kits at our local Whole Foods. They are great - just mix prepped things together, add the dressing from the kit and serve! We have tried kale ceasar salad, asian salad, greek salad, cranberry walnut salad, sweet kale & Southwestern salad. I pair the salad with a warm soup - either leftovers from a big pot cooked over the weekend or bought from Whole Foods (creamy tomato, carrot ginger, Indian spiced red lentil soup - are all great!). Easy fuss-free lunches! We had a few crazy days when adults were all in meetings during daughter's lunch hour, but the salads are so simple that an 8-year old can put them together and manage to have a healthy lunch with little oversight.

Friday and weekends is when we *really* cook. Last weekend, as a nod to fall, I made a simple pumpkin bread from this recipe. It came out wonderfully. The only edit to the recipe I made was to reduce the sugar and increase the fruit (pumpkin in this case + cranberries). A slice of this bread with butter on top is a great fall afternoon treat!

I also got into naan making recently. It's always something I have wanted to try and I was amazed at how easy it was to put together the dough and how tasty it came out cooked on a cast iron pan! Truly restaurant quality... this is a keeper recipe, I'll be sure to be making it again & again.

Our fig tree has been overflowing with fruit this year.. though finishing it up has never been an issue at our home. We all love ripe sweet figs and can polish off 10-15 big ones in a sitting :) They are also great added into salads or on toast with goat cheese - yum!

Another fun treat this summer was grilling Indian papad on an outdoor grill. We have an electric stove which is not much friendly to papad making. I tried microwave method but wasn't really a fan of it.. until my husband decided to throw them on the grill one day. Nicely toasty and yum - great with chopped tomato onion masala on top!

Reading Update:


While my reading velocity slowed down quite a bit recently, I still managed to dig into a few interesting reads. The first was a bestseller Where the Crawdads Sing - a mystery set in the marshlands of south which is also a coming of age story of a young abandoned girl living alone and figuring her way through life. I enjoyed the book - it was a page turner for sure.

Second was a portrayal of Jane Seymour, the Tudor queen #3 of King Henry VIII. I am interested in the history of that era and enjoyed the book of the queen seldom portrayed compared to her well-known predecessor Anne Boleyn. 

Third book was by an Indian author Recipe for Pursuasion - while the book itself was a bit hard to keep going at times, it was interleaved with delicious food writing that kept me from putting it down. 

Lastly, my Mom recently made this wonderful knitted/crocheted Diwali Faral plate (snacks) which made our day. Retired after many years of working as a maths professor, now she is able to devote all her time to her passions - which has been arts and crafts of all sorts. She takes a lot of joy and pride in teaching these crafts to the younger generation through her Youtube channel Kalopasak - check it out!

Till next time, folks, hope you have some spooky time watching scary movie, candy scavenger hunt or whatever else you plan to do this Halloween :)

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!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Polenta with Ultimate Spring Vegetable Saute

Early in the lock-down days, I subscribed to CSA deliveries. So every week a box full of fresh veggies and fruits gets delivered to our home. It has been a huge source of respite and inspiration to see the familiar farmer's market fresh veggies during these lock-down times - not to mention I feel good about playing our part in supporting local farms who are feeling particularly challenged as local restaurants slow down.

This polenta with spring veggie saute is a spur of the moment creation from looking at the CSA box and thinking of what to make. Last week we got fresh fava beans in pods, early asparagus shoots, celery, young garlic and some mint sprigs.  
Preparing fava beans:
To prepare fava beans, remove them from pods (get your kids to help with this step! :) ). Boil water in a small pot, add fava beans to boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and drench them in ice-cold water to stop cooking. Remove from the icy-water and shell the beans to remove the outer skin. That's all! Young spring fava beans are super flavorful and are a treat!

Preparing polenta:
Add 5C water to a large pan along with a Tbsp of olive oil and some salt. Let it come to boil. Then reduce heat to simmer and slowly while stirring continuously, add 1C dried cornmeal for polenta. It is important to keep stirring so the cornmeal does not stick together. If it does, just try to mash up and separate with the back of your spoon. Cover and let cook on low heat simmer for 15-20 minutes until you get the desired consistency. Some people like it loose and some other like it more congealed. Add water as needed. Once polenta feels done, add another dash of olive oil and mix well and remove from heat. 

Preparing veggie saute:
While the polenta is cooking, prep the veggies. Chop the asparagus, celery, green garlic (or regular garlic cloves), handful of olives and capers. Heat olive oil in a large pan. When warm, add garlic and saute for a few minutes until fragrant. Add fava beans, asparagus, olives and capers. Saute for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and add fresh chopped mint (or basil would go well too). 

To assemble, in a plate, create a bed of warm polenta. Add spring vegetable saute. Season with any sauce or chutney you may have at hand (I used left-over mint cilantro chutney) or just plain good quality olive oil. 


Saturday, May 2, 2020

Quick Lunch: Lavash Wrap w/ Roasted Veggies

I finished week 8 of working from home this week! Wow, but who is counting, right? There are so many things which are so heartbreaking about this current phase we are in, not to mention sufferings of so many; but just to look at the bright spot a bit, I find myself starting to like the perks of remote working too - like no commute to and from work (which in bay area traffic is saying something!), no waking up early in the morning to prepare for school drop offs and the best perk of all has been getting to spend sooo much time with my daughter. 

We are always running around so much, this new forced isolation has helped us connect better as a family and just slow down the pace of the day a bit. Still not to say that the weekdays don't fly by! By the time Friday afternoon rolls, I am just about ready to shut the work laptop off and spend the next two days reading books, playing board games and baking some treats or just napping!

Lunches have been especially tricky as I am often back to back in work meetings; so most days lunch is left-over from the dinner last night. But on days where that's also not available, I see myself going back to the two tried and trusted quick healthy lunches: the veggie bowl and this lavash veggie wrap.

We have a CSA subscription which delivers a fresh box of veggies and fruits every week, so we often have some veggies in the fridge waiting to be used up. Lavash is a thin unleavened bread made in Tandoor which is eaten in many parts of Asia. I like it best because it's ideal for wraps! It's thick enough to hold everything in without being dry or chewy. We get this brand from our CSA, but any other brand that's pre-cut for wraps would work equally well I think.

The "recipe" is not a recipe at-all but rather an "assembly" which is perfect for hurried lunches.
Lavash Wrap w/ Roasted Veggies
There are a few components to the wrap:
  1. spread: first spread the lavash with a spread of your choice. Hummus, pesto, chutneys or cream cheese - whatever you have at hand. Spread a layer evenly on the wrap.
  2. filling: I add roasted veggies (broccoli florets, carrot slices, mushrooms - roasted at 400F for 15 minutes) or raw (cucumber slices, tomatoes, lettuce, olives).
  3. cheese: optional but I love a sprinkling of mozzarella on my wrap.
That's it. To make it easier to roll, I add filling on one side of lavash leaving the other side empty and roll as tightly as I can to make a log. You don't need to tuck the ends in. Once rolled, slice the wrap in half and use toothpicks if needed to hold it together. 


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Home-made Pizza

At our home we do Friday pizza nights. The pizza is usually "home-made" but with store-bought dough. I have always used Trader Joe's dough which is convenient and makes good pizzas. However as is right at this time, we are trying to not hit the stores for every small thing and trying to make alternatives at home as much as possible. 

So I decided to try my hands at making pizza dough. Surprisingly it was extremely easy and so tasty, making me go "duh" why haven't we made it before. Home-made dough while being very easy to put together was so much more flavorful than store bought one. It elevated our pizza 10x notches! I don't think I'll be going back to the store bought one anytime soon, atleast not on days when I have time to let the dough rise.

I loosely followed this Food Network recipe but changed the proportions to suite the amount we need and also tweaked to the ratios that had worked for me with the flour I am using in the past. If you are new to dough baking, I recommend to follow the FN recipe as is.
Add 2C AP flour, 2tsp sugar, 1tsp salt, 1 packet instant yeast, 1Tbsp oil and 1C warm water (110F temp) to mixer and mix and knead until the dough forms and is soft. Put the dough covered in an oiled bowl and let rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size. After 2 hours, punch the dough, make into 2 balls and let sit for 10 minutes while you prepare sauce and the toppings.

Tomato sauce:
Warm olive oil in a pan, add 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 large tomato chopped, dash of balsamic vinegar and dried basil, salt & pepper and let cook for 5-10 minutes. 

Slice onions, mushrooms, red pepper, olives, pineapple - whatever you would like to top your pizza with.

Roll the dough into a crust using flour and oil as needed. Top with tomato sauce, cheese and toppings.

Bake for 20 minutes in a 450 pre-heated oven. Rotate half way so all sides cook evenly. Enjoy hot!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Wild Rice Veggie Bowl & Kindle Love

I love eating veggie bowls for my work lunch. However I don't make them at home as often, so with this stay-at-home period I am hoping to add a bowl into the lunch rotation once a week!

Bowls are super simple and super adaptable to what you have at hand - making them particularly attractive options these days. A good bowl essentially has a few components, each prepared separately and put together at the end customized to eater's taste:
  • Cooked grain: this serves as the base. It can be plain cooked rice, wild rice, couscous or quinoa.
  • Protein: baked tofu is my favorite but can also use roast chicken or boiled egg.
  • Veggies: roasted broccoli, sliced onions, avocados, cucumbers, carrots, chopped cabbage, micro-greens all good :)
  • Garnish: sliced nuts or sesame seeds
A good bowl comes together quickly and is a healthy powerhouse. This version with wild rice is my particular favorite. The only other thing I would add to this is sliced avocado but we were out of avocado and so skipped it. This is how I put it together.
  • Wild rice: in instant pot cook 1C dried wild rice per package instructions. I added 2C water, a little olive oil, pinch of dried rosemary, 3 peeled cloves of garlic, salt & pepper. Cook for 28 minutes high pressure and then natural release.
  • Baked tofu: marinated tofu in peanut butter + soy-sauce + dash of water + sugar for 15 minutes. Then baked at 400F for ~15minutes. Broiled 1 minute at the end.
  • Roasted broccoli: roasted broccoli at 400F for 15 minutes with salt, pepper and olive oil. Remove from oven when broccoli looks to slightly charred. Drizzle with lemon juice.
  • Veggies: slice onions, cucumbers.
  • Garnish: Top with sliced almonds.

A few weeks ago when I realized that we were going to be in this work from home phase for atleast a few weeks, along with pantry buying, a spur of the moment purchase I made was a kindle! We borrow books quite often from library - my daughter is an avid reader and goes through atleast 20 books in 2-3 weeks and is always asking for something new to read. So not having access to our local library and being stuck at home was going to be hard.

However all public libraries now a days have an amazing collection of e-books on their e-library sites usually served through apps like Overdrive or Libby. The only concern is that reading on phone for an extended period of time can be stressful to eyes. And in addition I don't like to leave a phone or laptop with kids unattended. So Kindle made perfect sense. Our library app was compatible to the kindle and so we borrow e-library books and send them to Kindle.

I love the e-ink display - it's so easy on eyes and feels paper-like and very light. The lack of distraction when reading is a huge plus. My only quip is the UI interface is a bit sluggish and with gray-scale only it's not the best experience to browse new books and choose what to read, so I do the choosing the next book part on a phone, but once a book is chosen and pushed to Kindle, it's the best e-reading experience.

Anyhow, we are loving it a lot. Our e-library has more than plenty choices for kids and I am finding a lot of high value content there too particularly as our local librarians are curating content to appeal to the demographic and the suddenly increased reading appetite of their patrons!

I hope you too are finding creative and relaxing ways to take your mind off of the news and spend the time well and stay sane!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Home-made Sandwich Bread Loaf

This social distancing is inspiring a new wave of home-bakers don't you think?! Along with the usual suspects such as hand sanitizers, wipes and toilet papers, it was interesting to see that even the humble bottle of yeast was out of stock almost everywhere! I guess during these uncertain times simple skills like bread baking can be deeply comforting. Or perhaps baking serves as a creative and therapeutic outlet to battle the anxious news surrounding us... whatever may be the reason, I am happy to say that I have joined the bread baking bandwagon as well :)

So on a Sunday morning we set off making our first loaf of bread. I wasn't ready to attempt a sourdough starter, and besides we eat simple sandwich bread loaf a lot often than a crusty round loaf.

I followed this recipe to the T and to excellent results! The bread came out just as we expected and the whole process start to finish was very easy. A perfect recipe for beginners who don't have a bread machine or want to make it the old fashioned way.
The bread was light, fluffy and very tasty! Best of all it filled our kitchen with wafting aromas while it was baking. A few tips I found very useful though not listed in the original recipe:
  1. It is very important to proof the yeast properly if using active dry yeast. I tend to be impatient in this step. The yeast started bubbling after full 5 minutes and it's really worth the wait of upto 10 minutes until it's done it's thing before proceeding to the next step.
  2. Also important is the temperature of the warm water. I find it really needs to be around 110 degrees. If you have a thermometer, worth checking for preciseness. If not, remember that your body temperature is generally 98, so 110 will feel warm to your wrist but not very hot.
  3. Equally important is the kneading step. It's time to workout those hand muscles! Every now and then I watch the Youtube primer of how to knead to get the techniques right. Kneading is a big step which defines how well the bread will be structurally.
  4. Other than that let the bread rise twice and bake to it's perfectness!
We enjoyed warm bread with butter and jam - it truly was so good! Once you start baking your own bread, it is hard to go back to store bought and not compare :)

Meanwhile the natural cycle of the seasons and trees and plants goes on. It's a beautiful weather outside with early spring flowers blossoming everywhere.

Whenever possible I take meetings sitting outside on our patio or in the garden and just marvel at the beauty of the nature! Here are some early poppies and daisies from the garden. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Chocolate Bundt Cake & Another Week of Stay-At-Home

I now completed 3 weeks of working from home; and 2 weeks with family working from home. The second week brought with it much needed smoothness in our daily routines. We went for walks everyday; made simple dinners every night which served as left-over lunches for the next day and found us managing our work time with daughter's remote learning time without anyone having to pull their hairs apart - all in all, it was harmony and I think we are settling into this new normal :)

I found some strategies which work well for us, the first is time limiting the news hour and coronavirus topic at home to evenings 5-7pm, which hugely helps manage stress/anxiety particularly as kids are always listening, even if we don't think they are! The other is shifting the kids school week so that she has no work on Mon/Tue two of my busiest workdays while she makes up for those days on our weekends. 

We also set aside some time every week to just have family fun - cook something together, play board games (chess and Jenga are current favorites!) or watch movies (+1 to Disney+, great kids and NatGeo content). 

I think this phase is going to be bring a tactical shift into how we cook and eat and bring back the forgotten value of family time. For a while now, a lot of us have been so busy in our lives (both professional and internet social) and reliant on modern day luxuries like DoorDash or countless restaurants or frozen meals that we forgot the basics - the basics of cooking from fresh ingredients and the basics of enjoying leisurely dinners with good ol' family time. I wonder if this phase will force us to explore those skills and if so, I think we are going to come out of it stronger as a society! 

The vegetable patch and a fruit orchard in our garden was always a luxury until now, but now it's a much necessary supplement of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs for our meals (even though it's tiny in quantities today). I find myself baking bread out of necessity instead of curiosity. It's challenging times for sure, but I do think as a society it will help us reconnect to some of the basics of simple fresh family meals and enjoying each other's company. 

Anyhow, on the food front, this week saw us making simple meals like egg curry w/ roti, spinach daal w/ rice, fajitas, burgers and simple cauliflower curry w/ tortialla. We did manage to squeeze in a few luxuries like this no-fried batata wada and also a very yummy chocolate bundt cake!
stay-at-home week2 meals
This chocolate bundt cake was a sudden inspiration... while going through pantry I found an old half used packet of chocolate cake mix. The only additional ingredients it required was 1 egg and few Tbsp oil, we had that so we quickly put the batter together. It's been many months since I made a cake, so while looking for the regular cake pan, I instead came across our bundt cake pan (another well loved kitchen utensil catching dust in the pantry) and decided to tweak the cooking times a bit to make a bundt cake instead. 

The result was this delicious light and fluffy chocolate cake. I waited 10 minutes after removing the cake from the oven before doing "the flip"... and we cheered like the staff of NASA when it made the "pop" sound noting the cake had successfully landed from the pan to the plate!

We dusted it with powdered sugar and ate with a few fresh chopped strawberries on the side. It was delicious! These small impromptu luxuries I feel are super important to keep the spirits up, particularly with kids. Enjoy and stay safe!

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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.