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