Saturday, February 03, 2007

Weekend Dog Blogging, Weekend Jabber

Caught on camera!!
DaleCouch
Dale is found on people-furniture...again! See that guilty look?
Go see all the puppies having their weekend fun over at Sweetnicks.

Also, today...

Happy Birthday, One Hot Stove!!


My wee blog turns TWO today. For the occasion, I tried, in my highly painstakingly and inexpert way, to give the blog a fresh coat of paint and a brand new banner. Many thanks to the unknown artist who knitted the beautiful Marathi thali, a perfect example of folk-art and creativity. If you would like to know the names and descriptions of the food on the thali, see the end of this post. Thanks to everyone who gave suggestions and advice, and more suggestions are always welcome. People are divided about the orange color of the banner background. I do love that shade of pumpkin, but 'tis true that a lighter color would bring out the color of the thali more. hmm...

You will notice that the drop-down recipe index in the side-bar is gone. In its place, I have made a new blog with links to all the recipes featured here: One Hot Stove Recipes. The Marathi recipes have a link of their own. I will add all the typical Marathi recipes there whether they were made in the A-Z series or not. It *is* the house specialty so it deserves a page of its own.

The blog birthday is also the time for me to thank everyone who makes food-blogging such a fun part of my life. First off, V, the un-fussiest (and most appreciative) diner on the planet and guinea pig par excellence! Family and friends who cheer me along (you know who you are). Fellow bloggers who inspire me and set standards that I can only aspire towards, and all the wonderful readers who spend precious minutes reading my words and leaving me feedback. It is incredible how in the short span of two years, food blogging has become, by far, the most fulfilling hobby of my life.

This is also the time for me to reflect on where I stand as a cook. In the last six years of cooking on an everyday basis, I sure have learnt a little bit, but have a very long way to go. This coming year, I will be working on some basic recipes that I have neglected so far: like how to make bread (Indian and otherwise) from scratch. Meanwhile, here are the top 5 things that I have learnt over the years that made the biggest difference to my ability and efficiency as a home cook. Surprisingly, I find that they have less to do with actual cooking methods and more to do with organization. I'll share my tips, and you share yours. Deal?

5 tiny steps that make a big difference in my kitchen:
1. Start on a clean slate: Nothing ruins the joy of cooking like a chaotic kitchen where you are scrambling to find anything and there is not a square inch of clean counter space. No matter how rushed I am, I take 5-10 minutes and completely clean the kitchen before I start cooking. That means doing the dishes, putting away stuff from the counters and wiping all surfaces down with a damp sponge. Then I start afresh, actually looking forward to cooking. It also helps to clean as you go along. Those few minutes while you are waiting for something to come to a boil are perfect for rinsing and putting away stuff, clearing vegetable peels, etc.
2. Wear a kitchen apron: I am dumbfounded at those apron-less chefs on Food Network...surely there was room in the production budget for an apron or two? Wearing an apron in the kitchen (a) saves your clothes from all kinds of food stains, (b) makes you feel more at ease to move around, knowing that clothes are safe and (c) puts you in Cooking Mode! I have to thank my mom for getting me into this habit very early. She also keeps me supplied with aprons, many of them beautifully hand-sewn!
3. Keep a running grocery list: Every time you use *any* ingredient, give a quick glance to how much is left, and jot it down if it is running out. It is so annoying to start making something and realize that you are out of a key ingredient. This is my preferred method for maintaining a well-stocked kitchen.
4. Organize the refrigerator: I have one zone in the frig reserved for prepared food (meal leftovers etc) which is a reminder to use them up or pack them for lunch. One small space is reserved for ingredients that need to be used up soon: partial contents of a can of tomato or coconut milk, half a cauliflower etc. This small tip really minimizes food wastage.
5. "The secret ingredient": In one episode of the TV sitcom Will and Grace, Will is making soup for his sick friend Grace. Grace's husband, Leo, is waiting for the soup to be made so he can take it home to Grace. Will says something like "The soup is almost finished, but look away for a minute, Leo, so I can add my secret ingredient...I don't want you to know what it is". When Leo rolls his eyes and looks away, Will leans towards the pot and blows a heartfelt kiss into it. Groan if you like :) but the infusion of love into a dish *is* the secret ingredient. I only cook for the people I love, and I definitely put my heart into it. All those times when I am tired and grouchy and not in the mood for cooking, I thrown down the apron and dial for a pizza or rip open a packet of instant noodles.
Now its your turn: Over the years, what have you learnt in the kitchen?

Stay tuned for the "B" of Indian vegetables, coming in the next day or two!

17 comments:

  1. Congratulations on successfully completing two years Nupur. Your blog is one of the best for Marathi cooking.

    Your list is very nice. I have to learn few things from these. I like your new blog design.

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  2. Happy blog birthday!

    I'd add to your list: listen to happy, energetic music while you cook; and don't store things higher than you can reach easily, or you'll never use them.

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  3. Hi Nupur,

    Congratulations on onehotstove's second birthday! I love your blogs and especially because it features Marathi cuisine (very few blogs are as articulate as you are).
    Good luck for the coming years. I completely agree with your 'secret ingredient', add a dash of love to your cooking and you can never go wrong!

    Best Wishes,
    Smita.

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  4. Happy Birthday One HOT Stove!!!!
    May you celebrate MANY more!!!

    Excellent write up (as usual!)and i totally understand how u feel about a clean kitchen, it is so inviting!! I, too, make out lists on my frig and keep a tab! Gr8 minds think alike!?!?!?!?! ;))
    As for the 'secret ingredient', I hv used it (ever since i read a story in 'chicken soup for the soul' series... believe me.. or call me a loony , it works! :D

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  5. Happy Birthday OHS!!! Loved reading your 5 things. I am fussy about a clean kitchen myself err... too fussy sometimes. But I find it impossible to work if everything isnt in its place!!!
    B for baigan bharta??? :-D

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  6. Congratulations, Nupur, and may you have more happy blogging b'days ahead! I'm sure I wouldn't be the only person to tell you that your blog was one of my first inspirations and continues to be so. Thanks for sharing your love of traditional food -- it's contagious :)

    Great kitchen tips too!

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  7. Congratulations Nupur, and wishing your blog many more Birthdays !!
    Your list of 5, basically sums up everything there is for the perfect cooking experience !!
    One other thing I realized while blogging was arranging all the ingredients before I start cooking. This was initially for a photo in the post but then stuck on as it made cooking easier. I never again had incidents of forgetting a spice and having to skip it or trying to add a veggie I had planned a lil later, ruining the dish !!

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  8. Congrats Nupur! You derserve all the praise for 2 years of amazing food blogging from where I have cooked so much and not left many comments... so, this is to thank you today for One Hot Stove :)

    And I must tell you, you sound like my twin with your list! After I showed my hubby your post today he was like 'Hmmmm there are more like you eh?!' :))

    Cheers!
    Sonia

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  9. Great listing of your tips! Happy Birthday, One hot stove.

    I love your new layout.

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  10. hi nupur,
    [to be sung to yr blog]
    happy birhtday to you.........
    happy b'day dear onehotstove
    happy b;day to you.
    from old gourmets and new
    wish you a long warm life too........
    may you never feel cold,
    more savoury as you turn old ,
    dear to our heart we hold,
    our cooking may you always mould........
    with special warm wishes to onehotstove,
    luv,yoma.

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  11. happy birthday to ur lil blog. It definitely has come a long way.
    My tip ?
    Well, while I do agree with the importance of a clean kitchen, I always get some stuff started, and then carry on cleaning. For instance, if I am making pasta, I atleast get the water boiling. By the time I am ready to eat, my kitchen is clean and all I need to wash later is the dish I eat in.
    Sometimes , I come home too hungry to take that 5 minutes out from cooking time.
    Like your tips abt organising the pantry and refrigerator.

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  12. Came back to say, that I agree with the use of your secret ingredient. Ive never been able to cook for any one and every one. I have to know and like the people and , yes that love that goes into the cooking shows , in the taste and then the look of sheer satiety. The joy of cooking indeed.

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  13. Great Tips Nupur! Congrats on the second bday of your blog.Do continue the great job!

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  14. Hey, happy blogday! It's been a pleasure getting to know you and your boundless enthusiasm for Indian food over the past two years - long may you continue :-) I love your kitchen tips too, although I always forget to put on my apron, usually because my husband has put it somewhere out of sight...

    My kitchen tip is to sit down the day before a complicated multi-course meal (when you're calm and under no pressure) and to make a detailed list of things to do (e.g. peel and boil potatoes, make dressing, plate starter, re-heat soup etc etc) on the day. Then assign each of these a number so that you can do things in a logical sequence. If I don't do this, I find myself running around like a headless chicken when the guests arrive and opening the fridge after they've gone to find the raspberries I had planned to garnish the dessert with!!

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  15. Thanks, everyone!

    Lydia, I love the idea of music while cooking...really can add to the fun. In my present kitchen, all the cabinets are so high that I keep a step-ladder off to a side :)

    Priya, now that is something I still have to work on! I still find myself scrambling for ingredients as the frying pan threatens to burn my food :) Great tip!

    Bilbo rani, I have been in your kitchen and it is one the neatest and cleanest I have ever seen in my life!

    Jeanne, I love your tip! I do find myself highly stressed out on days when I am cooking for company, and I am going to use your suggestions next time. You are awesome!

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  16. Happy birthday to your blog. I actually visited you bolg when I was googling the recepie for Barbeque Paneer Tikka last summer and one of the sites listed was yours, naturally I visited it and loved it. I dont know if I followed your recepie or somebody else's but Paneer Tikka was an instant hit at the party.
    Anyways keep up the good work. Hope to see a lot more from you.

    Samir

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