Summer days have given way to cooler temperatures and darker evenings. We continue to take life one day at a time. My new job leaves me pretty frazzled at times, and the rest of the day is spent in putting dinner on the table, parenting and chores. We try to get out and walk on trails and in parks every chance we get.
My daughter and I have started doing "cozy evenings" and those are the highlights of our days- we draw the curtains and turn on the lamps in the living room, then snuggle under blankets on the couch with mugs of herbal tea (she's partial to the fruity flavors) and play a rousing game of Scrabble.
The other cozy thing that we do once a week or so is a baking project. We have a new favorite cookie recipe- jam thumbprint shortbread cookies. I used this recipe which calls for all of 6 simple ingredients. The dough is mixed in a bowl, then goes into the fridge to chill for an hour. Dough balls are imprinted to make a little well, jam is spooned in and the cookies are baked. This is an easy recipe to make with kids.
We get around 28-33 cookies from each batch and each one is scrumptious. Fruit preserves or jams that are loaded with fruit taste the best. The cookies are classic, sweet and simple- they taste like the popular Pepperidge Farm cookies or the Indian jam biscuits that I so loved as a kid.
The kitchen churns out simple meals of the beans and rice variety but I haven't had the bandwidth to try anything new or different. Speaking of beans, while I remain an ardent fan of the Instant Pot, I have been trying and failing to determine the right amount of time to cook beans so they are just-cooked and tender, not mushy and falling apart. Mushy beans are fine for dal and soups, but I like tender, intact beans for salads. Suggested times on Internet recipes (even well-tested ones) have been no use at all.
I wanted to make black eyed peas salad (known more colorfully as Texas caviar) but knew that the IP would turn the black eyed peas to mush, so I chose to soak the black eyes peas (chawli in Marathi, lobia in Hindi) and cook them in a pot of salted water right there on the stove-top. They took all of 25 minutes to cook to perfect tenderness.
The salad itself has a few fresh vegetables and herbs and a warm dressing which serves to flavor the beans well. Texas caviar is one of those great recipes- easy to make, holds in the fridge for a few days and pairs with simple sandwiches or pulaos or casseroles to make a complete meal.
Black-eyed peas salad/ Texas caviar
(I used this recipe as an inspiration)
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can of corn, drained
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 minced red bell pepper
Dressing: Make the dressing by heating together in a small saucepan
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. juice from picked jalapenos
1 clove garlic, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
minced pickled sweet and sour jalapenos
Toss all the salad ingredients together into a big bowl. Add warm dressing and mix together. Add minced jalapenos and cilantro. Chill and serve.
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After making and eat the Texas caviar, I still had some cooked black-eyed peas in the fridge. So I paired them with brown rice pilaf for another meal. Brown jasmine rice has a nutty flavor and nubby texture and we have come to love it.
Soak 1 and 1/2 cups brown jasmine rice for a few hours.
Heat 1-2 tsp. oil in the instant pot on saute mode. Saute minced onion for a few minutes.
Add ginger garlic paste, salt to taste and spices- turmeric, Kitchen King masala, kasuri methi.
Add 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes, soaked and drained brown rice and 2 cups water. Turn off saute mode.
Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then do a quick pressure release.
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I found a new sitcom to watch last month- Derry Girls on Netflix- and it was a fun way to end the evenings. Each episode is only about 20 minutes long, so chances of falling asleep on the couch are lower.
The series is set in the 90s and revolves around five friends in an all-girls' Catholic high school. Hey, I went to an all-girls' Catholic high school in the 90s too, and was part of a group of five close friends! Therefore nostalgia is a big factor for me in liking this show.
The series is set in the city of Derry (or Londonderry) in Northern Ireland. The teenagers are up to the usual teenage shenanigans against the backdrop of "The Troubles", the struggle and violent conflict over whether Northern Ireland should be part of the UK or the Irish free state. I vividly remember references to the Irish conflict in the news from the 90s- Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, the IRA.
Derry Girls also made me very nostalgic for 90s music, which always and forever will be my comfort music. Snippets of dozens of iconic 90s songs liven up the scenes. One of my favorite supporting characters on the show is Sister Michael who definitely reminded me of some of the nuns who taught me. (To this day, if I see a nun, I am on my best behavior.)
One thing that I didn't really care for is the weird dynamic between the grandfather and the father where the former bullies his docile and decent son-in-law. But apart from this, a fun show and highly recommended. Rated Mature. If you want to watch just one episode as a trial, I suggest Season 2, Episode 3, "The Concert".
From Ireland, I took a virtual flight straight to Bihar. Having finished Derry Girls, I was looking around for something new to watch. Something similarly light and heartwarming. An old friend (who I hit up on Instagram for media recommendations) told me about the Hindi series Panchayat on Prime. I enjoyed this series so much- only one season has been released but I hope there will be more.
Panchayat features Abhishek Tripathi, a city boy and recent graduate who fails to land a lucrative job. He reluctantly accepts the post of panchayat (village council) secretary in the tiny village of Phulera in Bihar. There he finds himself living in a room at the back of the council office, and his coworkers consist of the council head, his deputy and an assistant. Secretary Abhishek navigates the comedy and drama of rural government and village life while desperately trying to study for his MBA exams so he can get out of there. With haunted trees, family planning slogans and a dramatic flag hoisting, this slice of life series is definitely worth a watch. And I was thrilled to see a very well-known actress playing a prominent role.
A series I started watching with my daughter- Worst Witch on Netflix. Fun and recommended for the 8-12 year old set. The episodes are all about friendship, the struggles of growing up, fitting in, etc. all with some magic thrown in. It will appeal to fans of Harry Potter (which she read over summer) because it is a fantasy drama about a group of young witches at a school of magic- although to be clear, Worst Witch is based on a book series that predates Harry Potter by a couple of decades.
Quick link: Chatting on Food Waste Day.
What are you cooking, eating and watching these days?