Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring is Here

It has been a whirlwind month (and some) since my last post. We had a big meeting at work that just ended yesterday, and it took a lot of time and mental space. At the end of a long day, much as I want to update the blog, I just can't face flipping open the laptop- I need a break from the computer screen and the keyboard. Ironically, I tend to veg out in front of another screen- the TV- this month, my favorite show of all time, M*A*S*H, is leaving Netflix streaming so that's what I just finished (re-re)watching.

But Spring has sprung and the entire town is awash in delicate blossoms and tender leaves, which gladdens my heart even as it gives me itchy allergy eyes. The switch to Daylight Savings Time means that there's still light outside as I sit here after the dinner and dishes routine, and today it motivated me to flip open the laptop after all.

We took a long weekend off in early March and went to a beautiful state park. I won't call it "camping" though. Glamping is what it was. We shared a very well-equipped cottage in the park with friends. Each family toted some food and we took turns rustling up simple meals. We lit bonfires and fired up the charcoal grill. My favorite camping dish was the foil-wrapped potatoes that we cooked directly in the bonfire, then split open and dressed with salt, pepper and butter. Between the open air meals, hiking, and gorgeous waterfalls, this was a nice escape from the routine. Like the public libraries, the state parks in this country are precious gifts that I enjoy gratefully.


Spring cleaning and decluttering has been on my mind. For several weeks, I've been taking on mini-projects in the kitchen, going through every drawer and every shelf, 20 minutes at a time. I empty out the space, wipe it down and examine every object to see if it is useful and functional before putting things back. My goal is to know exactly what I have in my kitchen, and to use it well.

Two boxes of kitchen items ended up at the thrift store. The tongs that I found unwieldy, that aspirational baguette pan, the twee serving pieces that never got used- they will all have to find new homes.

It is not just a question of getting rid of things but in some cases, getting better versions of things that I use all the time. Like the two cheap plastic colanders that I bought 15 years ago- I replaced them with sturdy stainless steel ones that are much nicer to use.

My "big" kitchen project was a pantry remodel. We have a small closet in the family room (next to the kitchen) that I use as a pantry- but it was dingy and dark, with deep shelves where pantry items were never easy to organize and find. One of my neighbors retired from the construction business and takes on woodworking and other handy jobs to keep himself busy. I hired him to remodel the closet, changing the deep shelves to wrap around shelving like this blogger did. He was able to take the old shelves out, split them and paint them and reuse them as the new shelves. We had paint cans left behind by the previous homeowners, and found white paint for the shelves and pale grey paint for the closet walls. The whole project was finished over 2 days, using materials we already had on hand, with the only costs being labor costs that went straight to my nice neighbor. That worked out well.

I still don't have electrical wiring for a closet light, but we put in a motion-sensor battery-operated light, and now the pantry is a whole lot more functional. Having a well-stocked and organized pantry makes it easier to put together quick meals, and minimizes waste because food doesn't languish at the back of a shelf.

I'll leave you with a quick pic of our dinner tonight: tacos with asparagus (sautéed quickly in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice) and a cucumber avocado salad- this was a recipe I saw here on Smitten Kitchen, and for something so simple, it is a surprisingly tasty and refreshing salad that we'll make often.


Happy Spring! How have you been?!

26 comments:

  1. Hey! It’s spring here too: the forsythia and laugh-o-dills miss you! :-) I made Smitten Kitchen’s salad dozens and dozens of times last summer, hmm, in fact, I did it sort of tonight except without the mayo and with a few strawberries. I even did a version with honeydew and blueberries last Memorial Day for a wedding brunch. Love that salad!

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    1. Hi AK! Happy Spring and Happy Easter to you and yours! I can see how this simple salad will be on the regular meal rotation in my home too- how intriguing to do a version with melon and berries. Of course being in the South, Mayo is a must ;)

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  2. oh hello Nupur,
    It's spring here as well and I'm loving the warmth and pleasure of taking walks outside and enjoy the lovely blossoms and chirping of birds early morning.Heavenly :-)
    We've started doing some remodeling of our house. We started repainting the house and just finished kitchen. We're also getting hardwood floors early next month and look forward to decluttering several areas of the house. I like your 20 minute clean up ideas. Not too long; but just long enough to make an impact !!!
    Enjoy your clutter free home :-)
    Meena.

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    1. Meena- Good luck with the remodeling, I must say I love taking on small home improvement projects (although yours sound more like major projects) and Spring always makes me want to declutter and clean with a vengeance!

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  3. Hello Nupur,
    Good to see you back!
    Your post made me wonder--why does everybody have a separate pantry there? Here, in India, I don't know of anybody who has one. Or do you not have much storage in your kitchens there?

    Any way, I actually came here to ask you, do you know you and your blog were mentioned on food journalist Vikram Doctor's fortnightly podcast? In case you didn't know about it, here's the link: http://www.audiomatic.in/show/family-cookbooks-preserving-memory-through-taste/
    Congratulations!

    Aarti

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    1. Aarti- I hadn't known about the podcast but will listen to it- thank you for mentioning it :)

      A pantry is just a term for wherever ingredients are stored in a kitchen- could be a cabinet or two, or a cupboard/closet with a door, and some homes (generally the bigger, newer ones) have very spacious walk in pantries that are the size of a room. I've never had one of those! In this home, I took over the family room closet (the previous homeowners had their children's toys and games in it) and converted it to a pantry cupboard because I cook a lot and it is nice to have the extra space.

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  4. your kitchen sounds spic and span - I really need some spring cleaning in my kitchen - started over summer and then it fizzled out. And I am glad to hear the cucumber and avocado salad is as good as it sounds because I have considered making it

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    1. Hi Johanna- The kitchen is quite tidy but not clean- you know the difference ;) I have to use some elbow grease and do some scrubbing to get there. You have got to try the cucumber avocado salad!!! I'm enjoying reading all about your travels.

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  5. Hi
    Missed your blog all this time.
    I can see the avocado salad and the asparagus, what is the 3rd thing used as taco filling? Just curious.

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    1. Yes, that was my question too. :)

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    2. The taco filling is sauteed onions, peppers, zucchini and mock chicken (veggie protein) seasoned with tomato puree and taco seasoning.

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  6. Enjoying the cool, sunny days here in Atlanta. Cooking is on in FULL SWING. :) It is probably a combination of the lovely days and the gorgeous produce that I am so excited about cooking daily, every meal (save breakfast).

    Eggplant dal (your recipe), Kerala-style vegetable stew, ragi dosas, avocado toast sandwiches, steamed asparagus, thin moong dal soup, fennel-carrot soup (tonight's menu), Sweet potato and cilantro jowar muthias... the list is long, filled with old favorites and new variations. It is fun. :)

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    1. Everything you're making sounds so appetizing!!

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    2. I tell you, this is a good phase, and I am milking it for all its worth. I think it must be driven by the good weather. Planning to make your Peanut Sesame Curry tomorrow for lunch. :)

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    3. After reading Lakshmi's comment, instead of getting a take out, I made some tomato dal and bhindi curry for dinner. Thanks for the inspiration. :-)

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  7. The weather in bangalore is horrible and HOT! Plus, this being my first summer in India after almost 10 years, I am finding it difficult to cope with the heat. The salad sounds wonderful, will be trying it out soon once i get hold of avocado.
    The only best part about indian summers is mangoes! I ate my first yesterday cut in cubes along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it was bliss!

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    1. Ah the mangoes do make the Indian summers bearable- enjoy them!

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  8. Yay, Happy Spring to you too! Always love your posts no matter how often or not you post;-) I sometimes come back just to look at old ones and get inspired to cook.
    Like you we've been enjoying the spring weather and looking forward to spring break next week with the kids. Planning lots of park time, preparing our kitchen garden beds for summer tomatoes and some cooking lessons (my 5 yo son LOVES the great british baking show and has been on my case to make a swiss roll - and thats what we're going to do ;-).
    Ottolenghi's falafel is on the menu tonite along with a crisp salad and yogurt.
    Your dinner plate looks so delicious. I need to try that cucumber and avocado salad - two of my favorite veggies!
    Prashanti

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    1. Prashanti- Thank you- you are very sweet! Hope you have a fantastic Spring break- cooking and gardening and park time all sounds good to me. Swiss rolls are great fun to make- there are endless flavors and fillings to experiment with. You must try the cuke-avocado salad- simple but really tasty.

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  9. Happy spring to you and congrats on the pantry makeover :)

    Summer has started here in Chennai. Watermelons, muskmelons and jackfruit are in season and adorn all the roadside pavements. Waiting for the mangoes. Have got tender mangoes (Maavadu) for making pickles.

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    1. Shreem- What fun to enjoy (quite literally) the fruits of the season! Nothing quite like tender mango pickle! And raw jackfruit stir fries. Stay cool :)

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  10. Happy Spring to you too!! Like you public libraries and National and State Parks are some of favorite things about the U.S. The remodel sounds exciting. My goals for the weekend are to organize and clear up ( read throw old clothes. I find it so difficult to throw stuff) a couple of spaces that I haven't organized since we moved in to the new place.( which basically means my closet).

    Have a fun filled April ( is April your birthday month?)

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    1. Lavanya- I haven't made it to a single national park yet but I sure hope to visit them some day! The state parks are accessible on short trips and we have been enjoying them. Yup, April is my birthday month and I am very excited about it- my sis and then my BFF are visiting!

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  11. Dear Nupur,

    Every time I visit your blog, it is like a breath of fresh air. After all these years of knowing you and your blog, it warms my heart to see that you haven't changed at all. Your beautiful posts have the same old-(food) world charm with no gimicky photos. Thank you my friend for reminding me what blogging is (was) all about. Happy Spring!

    Hugs,
    Siri

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    1. Oh Siri- you are too sweet! Well, I gave up on gorgeous food photography a long time ago- now whatever I can shoot on my phone shows up on the blog :)

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  12. So lovely how you had a neighbor who could do your remodel. Sounds like a great way to keep things local :) I aggressively spring cleaned my kitchen few weeks ago and got rid of a lot of things that I was not using and like you said, got better versions of some things. I went a bit further and got drawer organizers etc and I just enjoy being in my kitchen so much more now.

    We were busy with back to back visits from family and friends from India. Two weeks flew by and now we're slowly easing back into our normal routine. It's bluebonnet season here in Texas so we spent Saturday on a long drive looking at the beautiful wildflowers.
    Your State park visit sounds wonderful. I recently came across this site and signed the petition. Take a look if you get the chance:

    http://www.protectourpublicland.org/

    -Anu

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