Monday, June 24, 2024

Summer Solstice and Pool Days

Rainbow noodle salad
The summer solstice has come and gone; the days are long and hot and water play is on the menu. This year we have been enjoying pool afternoons for the first time in recent memory. Until last year, our son needed close supervision in the pool- it was more stressful than fun- and we preferred to go to splash pads as a safer alternative and run through water features and giant sprinklers. Now, after sustained swim lessons and a great swim coach, he is confident and competent in the water, and pool days are IN. We are able to lounge around, swim laps, and read while the kids play independently for hours, making trips to the concession stand for ice cream bars and packets of chips (according to my kids, chips purchased at the concession stand taste WAY better than the same brand of chips brought from home.) A dear friend and I spent nearly 4 hours yesterday alternating between wading in the pool and lounging on the deck, chatting happily while the kids had a blast and entertained each other- truly a joy of summer. My skin is burned to a crisp but I am so happy with the way the week ended.

The best thing I ate all week was a noodle salad with whole wheat spaghetti, full of shredded raw veggies, edamame, and a savory peanut sauce. With a mandoline, blender, and some patient knife work, it comes together quickly. This hearty salad keeps well in the fridge and is great to come home to, on those aforementioned pool days. 

I try not to use the oven too much during these months, but the hash brown casserole does get on the menu now and then. This one has broccoli in it and on the side. And also a veggie sausage patty on the side.

Eggplant is another great summer veggie, and I used a big globe eggplant to make eggplant kaap to serve with usal and yogurt rice with a chili pickle. A heavenly and homely meal. 

The wonderful thing about summer is the early sunrise. Tea and toast on the porch at sunrise is one of life's luxuries, while listening to the twitter of the birdies. The only kind of twitter worth engaging with, IMHO. This time the toast was topped with a tart cherry spread- a new product I found at Trader Joe's.

* * *

This weekend, our big project was to paint our daughter's room from an child-friendly aqua blue to a grown-up, sedate "marshmallow" white. The room had not been painted for a dozen years, so the makeover was overdue. Even painting a modest bedroom is quite labor intensive (especially going from a darker to a lighter color) and needed a couple of emergency trips to the home improvement store- but we all pitched in, including little bro wielding a roller, and got it done, all except the baseboards, anyway. It was quite the upper body workout. Funny enough, the Wordle on the morning we started painting predicted how the day would go. I use my morning Wordle the way other people use tarot cards.

Watching: I saw that the movie Annie (1982), based on the famous musical, was leaving Netflix on June 30, so I scrambled and watched it with my son. To my delight, he was very engaged and enjoyed it, and not only because it delayed his bedtime considerably! It is nice to see him willingly watching a non-animated film, and that too, an "old-timey" one- the movie is set in the 1930s. It is a fun and wholesome movie with familiar and catchy songs.

Every now and then, I watch an episode of the detective comedy-drama Remington Steele on Prime. It is full of mad capers and implausible situations, but the main draw for me is the trio that make up the main cast- Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele has great chemistry with Stephanie Zimbalist as Laura Holt- her character is adorable, with sparkling intelligence making it one of those beauty and brains combinations. And their secretary is Mildred Krebs- played by Doris Roberts, who became more famous as the mom/grandmom in Raymond. This nostalgic show is a blast and an excellent mindless distraction if you're looking for one.

Reading: My reading life was exciting this week as I read a book called Beneath Divided Skies, a debut novel by Natasha Sharma. I bought this book a few weeks ago and I'm glad it finally got to my bedside table to be read and savored. I cannot write an objective review of this book as Natasha happens to be my close college friend! We met up in person after decades when I was in Pune last summer. I stayed in her home and was spoiled by her family's hospitality. 

Natasha has her own boutique software company but is truly a writer at heart. The story in this slim novel starts during the throes of India-Pakistan partition in the 1940s and catches up with the characters in the 1980s. Partition brought cruel horrors and upended millions of lives, and this book focuses on events endured by women- forced abductions, conversions, and marriages, and the efforts- first informal and then formally legalized- to repatriate the women, and the ethical conundrums of those efforts. It is a beautiful story, simply told, and while heart-rending, it is also life-affirming and heartwarming in the end. Bravo, Natasha, for highlighting a little known aspect of the history of partition! Find Natasha on Instagram and Facebook to learn more about the book and the wonderful things she is doing to promote writers and books in India. 

Other reading this week-  Dhruv Khullar's article in the New Yorker on longevity and what is sometimes called "healthspan"- years of healthy life. A good bit of the article is focused on the longevity guru Peter Attia who charges wealthy clients hefty fees to undertake expensive and extreme interventions...stuff that I have little patience for. But one sentence caught my eye, "...individual choices matter not because they are all-powerful but because they are the power that we have." Health is such a complex thing, and many health determinants- genetics, luck, environment, social factors, to name a few- are way outside an individual's control, but it is empowering to focus on the things that are within our control, the most important of which are thought to be these 4- stay as active as possible, eat as healthily as possible, get enough sleep, and nurture relationships.

I came across a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye that I loved- it made me chuckle, and it made me thoughtful. Read it if you like-  The Art of Disappearing

Pitcher plants at our
botanical garden

Tell me how your week is going!

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Mid-June and Watermelon Season

Mid-June is here and the temperatures are climbing up in Georgia. But nothing compared by the brutal heat faced by so much of the world- my schoolfriend who now lives in Delhi texted me a pic of the thermometer on her balcony- it registered 50 Celsius at 10 AM- that is 122 Fahrenheit! Unimaginable, and yet a reality for millions.

I haven't had the bandwidth to try new recipes or the urge to make anything elaborate, but we are eating homemade meals with plenty of vegetables. Here's a sampler of what I ate this week:

Egg salad coleslaw- a mash-up of two summer favorite hearty salads. I started making a big box of cabbage mix (mandoline-sliced cabbage, red pepper, cucumber in this one) and eating it over the next 3 days. When it was time for lunch, I would take a bowlful of the veg mix, and add 2 sliced hard-boiled eggs (the egg slicer is one of my favorite kitchen unitaskers) and a "dressing"- teaspoon-sized gobs of mayo, mustard, plain homemade yogurt, a drizzle of pickle juice and some sweet and spicy jalapeños, salt and pepper. Mix it up and eat. 

Assembling the egg salad coleslaw

Cabbage salad mix

All mixed up

Misal-adjacent curry- Cook up a pot of lentils, and make it a meal with toppings of boiled potato, onion, cilantro, roasted peanuts, and other such assortments.

Dumpling salad- Much like the one I've posted before, only on a bed of roasted veg- broccoli, zucchini, green pepper, cabbage. 

The best thing I ate all week was something I actually drank- watermelon juice, made by blending fresh watermelon cubes, ice, and a squeeze lime juice in the blender, and sprinkling with some salt. Serve in a chilled glass for maximum luxury.

* * *

What I'm watching: This week, I watched three episodes of Black Mirror- Demon 79 (brilliant acting by Anjana Vasan), Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too, and Playtest. Black Mirror is so, so brilliant. Even the less than stellar episodes stay on my mind for a few days, and this is not a series I can ever binge-watch. I can only handle a few episodes at a time. 

My son and I were home by ourselves this week (dad was on a work trip and big sis was at her first sleepaway camp) and so we had ourselves a couple of movie nights. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed/tolerated Pokémon Detective Pikachu on Netflix. I also took him to the theater (my first time in a movie theater since 2019, I think) to see Inside Out 2. We both enjoyed it, but with the theme of emotions in puberty, really it is big sis who is the target audience for this movie. 

Speaking of emotions and puberty, what I'm reading: Untangled: Guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions into adulthood by Lisa Damour. Damour is a clinical psychologist who specialized in adolescent girls, and says that the way people typically talk about teenage girls isn’t fair to girls or helpful to their parents (this part is very relatable.) But these years do not have to feel tangled and out of control because in fact there is a predictable pattern to teenage development. Damour describes seven developmental strands and how girls move along each of them at different rates and grow on several fronts at once. This is an extremely helpful book and while I did not agree with everything she said, I wrote down pages and pages of notes as reference. If you have a tween/teen girl in your life, I highly recommend reading this one. 

Occasionally, I stumble on one of my own posts from the endless blog archive and it is fun to read it again. This week, I re-read this book summary I wrote in the pandemic summer: The End of Overeating and chuckled to myself about how much I love writing book summaries and summarizing information in general. Note-taking is literally my biggest hobby, some would say a most useless trait in this age of Chat-GPT! 

* * *

In my last post, I mentioned my newly acquired personal trainer certification. In the last dozen years, I've gone from being completely sedentary to a regular exerciser, and coupled with all the real-world experiences of these years, plus the textbook knowledge from the certification and a lot (lot!) of extra reading and experimentation (you'll see a few fitness-related posts sprinkled throughout the blog), I have plenty to share from what I've learned. 

I've put together a slide deck with the idea of conducting virtual and in-person fitness chats, or personalized consultations about understanding the world of fitness and how it relates to an individual's own exercise habits. This is designed to answer questions like- Working out is boring; how can I make it interesting?, or Where do I even begin?, or, I've heard of strength training but don't really understand what it means. You get the idea. 

I'm looking for a few testers, so if you have an active interest in fitness plus one or more fitness-related questions you'd like to brainstorm with me, and if you're willing to give up an hour of your time for a zoom call, email me at onehotstove AT gmail DOT com, and we'll try to schedule something. This is intended to be a win-win situation where you as the "test client" will get an hour of personalized advice and motivation and a boat-load of interesting information (with access to slides after) and in return, I would appreciate your honest feedback on whether this kind of thing is useful and how well you like the content.   I found all the testers I need for now- thank you! 

In the meantime, if you have fitness-related questions or if you want tips/resources on any specific topic, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer you. There are NO secrets in fitness, and yet it can feel very daunting and overwhelming. 

What was the highlight of your week?

Monday, May 27, 2024

Resurfacing After a Break

It has been several weeks since I sat down to write a blog post. I have no idea where the last few weeks sped by- it was a whirlwind. School is out for summer and the end of the school year is always a packed schedule of moving-on ceremonies, dances, and recitals. I am grateful that both kids have had a good school year- with ups and downs, to be sure- but with a nice group of friends and loving teachers to help them along. 

My companions for the
last 4 months
Apart from the usual things, I've been busy with another project. Some time ago, I had the somewhat crazy idea of taking my newfound interest in fitness to the next level and getting a certification in the field. At the start of the year, I enrolled in the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) personal trainer certification program, and have been attending lectures, studying every inch of this textbook, making copious notes, and essentially reliving my student days in my "free time". 

This weekend, I went to a standardized testing center in Atlanta to take my exam, thankfully passed it (it was harder than the 8 practice exams I took!!) and as of yesterday, I am officially an NASM CPT (certified personal trainer). I undertook this certification not to change careers or anything, but in order to be my own trainer, and help any of my family/friends who are interested. My head is buzzing with ideas to share my new-found knowledge and excitement. 

Dinner at La Semilla
While in Atlanta for the exam, we had a rare splurgy dinner at a wonderful vegan restaurant, La Semilla in Reynoldstown. So fancy and absolutely delicious. It is a treat to be able to order anything from the menu. And now I want flower petals sprinkled on everything I eat! 

Pictured clockwise from top left: batter-fried lion's mane mushrooms, Enmoladas Con Verduras, strawberry tres leches cake, Chochoyotes (dumplings)- this was easily one of the best dishes I've ever tasted. We also had the Croquetas de Jamón and the queso blanco- both amazing. And interesting cocktails and agua fresca. If you're ever in ATL, I highly recommend this place. Also, go walk on the charming beltline (trails) near the restaurant. 

While I loved the lion's mane mushrooms dish pictured above, my personal favorite fried mushrooms are found closer to home in a bar here in town- it is what I chose for my birthday lunch a few weeks ago.

Fried oyster mushrooms with lemon aioli
and a whippet- a cocktail of gin and grapefruit juice

I don't have a recipe to share today, but have a new staple in my pantry that I've been using a lot lately- soy curls. These are a dried product made with 100% soybeans as the only ingredient. I bought a bulk box that will last us for months. It is nice to mix up my usual protein sources- beans, lentils, tofu- as you can cook soy curls in a hundred different ways. These are two soy curl dishes we loved recently. 

Soy curls makhani
(a take on butter chicken)

Soy curls- broccoli stir fry
with steamed rice and mixed greens

Other assorted pics from recent days---

My daughter and her friends made
this Chinese street snack- tanghulu- fresh fruit with a
shiny and crunchy sugar coating

Gardenias and magnolias
are blooming!

Light filtering through the leaves
on an urban trail walk yesterday

How was the month of May for you? Share your highlights! 

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Pasta Primavera

I've been meaning to post this recipe for weeks- and I managed to get to it before spring turns to summer. When I bought a bunch of asparagus a few weeks ago, I thought of using it in a classic Spring dish- pasta primavera. It sounds like an olde time Italian dish (primavera= spring), but was actually invented and popularized by an Italian chef in the 70s in the famed NYC restaurant Le Cirque. Whatever the origins, this is a pasta dish that absolutely celebrates springtime produce, featuring a colorful assortment of vegetables cooked until just tender and tossed with pasta in a light cream sauce.

I used this recipe as a starting point. The first time I made it, I chopped all the veggies and put them in a box in the fridge before work. The pasta came together very quickly in the evening, making it a nice weeknight dinner. Today, I made pasta primavera again for a brunch gathering, and my guests adored the flavorful sauce. This recipe is a keeper. I like a high ratio of veggies:pasta but that can be adjusted as desired. 

Pasta Primavera

  1. Cook 1/2 box of pasta until just tender (or even slightly undercooked). I used spaghetti the first time and farfalle (bowties) the second- any shape will do. Set cooked pasta aside. 
  2. Chop a bunch of veggies into bite sized pieces; can be mixed together-
    • 1 bunch asparagus
    • 1-2  cups broccoli florets
    • 1-2 cups green beans
    • 1 red/yellow/orange bell pepper
    • 1 carrot
    • 1 zucchini
  3. You also need 1/2 cup frozen green peas and 1 chopped tomato (or a handful of cherry tomatoes).
  4. Heat some olive oil/butter (or a mixture) in a large saute pan.
  5. Saute 2-3 cloves minced garlic, and the chopped veggies for a few minutes. 
  6. Stir in 1 cup vegetable stock and cook until the veggies are barely tender.
  7. Now add the frozen peas, tomato, and 1/2 cup cream. Bring to a simmer.
  8. Mix 1.5 tbsp cornstarch with 1-2 tbsp. water to make a slurry, and stir into the sauce to thicken it.
  9. Finally, stir in 1 tsbp. pesto, 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, and the cooked pasta. Serve! 

 * * *

Some random pics from the last month-- we took a short spring break trip up to Vogel State Park in the North Georgia mountains. Our second trip there, and it was beautiful weather. The highlight for the kids was riding the Georgia mountain roller coaster, and the highlight for me was the short but steep hike up to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. It has a 360 degree observation tower and a gorgeous view all around. If you consider how high the highest points are in all 50 states plus DC, Georgia is smack dab in the middle at number 25. Our neighbors to the North, TN and NC, have taller peaks. Our neighbor to the South, FL, is number 51! 

We made a campfire and s'mores on the trip, of course, and then used leftover ingredients to make s'mores in the toaster oven at home using the broil function. 

Lake Trahlyta
Trahlyta Falls

Hiking up to Brasstown Bald, the
highest point in Georgia
S'mores in the toaster oven!

The herd of deer that live in
our backyard- I caught a family pic
one morning
Tulips in all their glory
in the nearby botanical garden

* * *

What I'm reading- a textbook, for a certification program I'm doing. But I also read a Maisie Dobbs mystery,  An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, and it was a good one. 

The book pictured here, Conversations on Consciousness by Susan Blackmore, has been on my bedside table for a month and it is fascinating to read a few pages every night. Blackmore interviews 20+ scientists/philosophers, and this book has introduced me to some intriguing concepts and theories.  

My comfort TV these days: Brooklyn 99 on Netflix. A warmhearted and lovable sitcom. Enjoy the rest of the month! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Chopped Asian-style Salad

Restaurant menus are a constant source of inspiration for my home cooking. This recipe was inspired by a recent lunch at a local gastropub. I ordered a hearty ramen noodle salad with tofu, and even as I took the first couple of bites, I knew I had to recreate it- which would be easy enough. The salad had mixed greens and shredded carrot, a soy-sesame vinaigrette, and lots of tasty toppings- pickled onions and jalapeños, green onions, fried wonton strips, crushed raw ramen noodles, and some grilled tofu.

Ramen salad with tofu

Veggie Reuben sandwich with fries

There was another reason to try making this chopped Asian-style salad: I had the perfect dressing for it waiting in my pantry. A few months ago, V got us a really fun holiday gift- the "By Jing" box of Sichuan flavor essentials from the gourmet Sichuan spice company, Fly by Jing

V is a huge fan of spicy chili crisp- an absolute essential in our pantry- and I think he came across this fancy set and thought it would be fun to try. It came with a bunch of chili oils, chili crisps, a spice powder, and a chili crisp vinaigrette that I had been waiting to use. 

I started by making a batch of this beautiful, colorful salad mix
  • Romaine lettuce, shredded
  • Red cabbage, shredded finely on a mandoline slicer
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Cucumber, cut in medium dice
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
Meanwhile, I made some quick pickled onions: Slice onions thinly and place in a mason jar. Boil water, vinegar (white+ apple cider vin), salt and sugar, pour into the mason jar, and refrigerate. 

When we were ready to eat, I cooked a few vegetable potsticker dumplings, from Trader Joe's and pan-fried a block of tofu

To serve: Place salad mix in a bowl, top with tofu and dumplings, and crunchy chow mein noodles (optional; sold in the Asian section of supermarkets), and drizzle with the chili crisp vin. A fantastic dinner! 

Days later, I got a chance to make this salad again, when the middle school parents were asked to bring in salads for a teacher appreciation potluck dinner. This time, I made the same salad mix, skipped the tofu and dumplings, and made my own version of the vinaigrette with chili crisp, soy sauce, maple syrup, canola oil, and sesame oil. I sent the salad mix in a box, and sent the vinaigrette "on the side", in a squeeze bottle. 

Using red cabbage and shredding it finely on a mandoline makes all the difference here, in my opinion. It tastes and looks just beautiful. The mandoline I own is a very basic one, purchased from an Indian cookware store decades ago. I should really use it more than I do! 

* * *

The second dish I took to the teacher dinner was a potato salad. Instead of the usual American-style mayo-based potato salad (which I also love), I tried a long-pinned recipe, Vaishali's potato and peas salad in a turmeric coconut dressing. I followed the recipe quite closely, adding a few chopped fresh curry leaves to the tempering. The salad was terrific and I will definitely make it again in the coming warmer months. 

* * *
I am on a neighborhood email list of a thousand or so people. Among the workaday emails flying back and forth all day- strollers for sale, recommendations for plumbers, lost cats, cranky complaints about traffic- there is one neighbor who sends along poems once a week or so. Every so often, one of the poems strikes a chord with me. 

This is a recent such poem if you would like to read it- For everyone who tried on the slipper before Cinderella by Ariana Brown. 

Happy Spring Equinox 2024. Coming up in the next post: a classic Spring pasta recipe. Can you guess what it is? 

Sunday, March 03, 2024

A Sunday Afternoon Cooking Spree

For most of my cooking life, I've not really been one to meal prep, preferring to cook a meal most evenings. Lately, though, evening activities and scheduling have made it so that it is nice to have pre-made food on hand, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays. When I get around to making 3-4 dishes on Sunday afternoon, the week gets off to a more peaceful start. 

Today, I managed to do that with these 4 dishes. Without planning it that way, it ended up being a variety of proteins (eggs, paneer, tofu, beans) and a variety of veg in each, and a diversity of cuisines and cooking styles- curry, stir-fry, salad, casserole. 

First up, hash brown casserole, made with pesto this time. My kids love this for breakfast, dinner, snack.

The second dish was a tandoori paneer and mushroom kati roll filling. We eat paneer rarely but I had this block left over from the cooking class. I marinated paneer, mushroom, red peppers and onions for 20 minutes or so in a tandoori marinade (yogurt, besan, kasuri methi, tandoori masala, salt, red chili powder, cumin coriander powder, turmeric) and then sauteed it in a pan.

Third, a bean salad. I soaked and cooked black eyed peas (not pressure cooked- they would turn to mush. Black eyed peas cook quickly on the stove top) and then tossed them with fresh tomato and cucumber, a little onion and cilantro, salt and pickled jalapenos. 

Finally, there was some Thai red curry paste in the fridge, and I used that along with half a can of coconut milk, some cabbage and carrot and extra-firm tofu to make a quick curry in the instant pot. 

All of this, along with clean-up and a side mission- pantry tidy-up- all took me more or less 2 hours. 

* * *

Some random photos from the last couple of weeks:

My spouse went to Australia for 8 days for a work trip and sent me this pic of a koala perched in a tree, somehow looking more like a stuffed animal than most stuffed animals.

Koala near Melbourne

While their dad was away, I promised the kids I would take them out to dinner anywhere they liked, and my son inexplicably chose a pretty fancy Italian bistro- not what you would call a kid-friendly place. I honored my agreement after many reminders that he would have to use his nice manners and inside voice. We went and were sat in the loveliest booth in our regular school and work clothes, amid nicely dressed couples on dates and groups enjoying celebratory dinners. The meal was quite a success but the 7 yr old discovered that he does not like fancy pizza (a Margherita with buffalo mozzarella) and fancy spaghetti (with lemon and cream) as much as he likes regular pizza and regular spaghetti- lol. 

Fancy mango gelato topped with
toasted coconut 

A dear school friend came by for Sunday brunch with her family- I was seeing them after 7 years. The success of the meal was...mixed. It was an idli brunch and while the sambar was tasty, the idlis were the absolute worst I have made in my life. I have to reluctantly concede that no matter your perceived level of expertise, idli batter does have a mind of its own, especially in winter. My heart sank, much like the idlis themselves. Everyone was gracious, of course, and no one left hungry- there was other food and they even bravely ate the idlis. The one success were the eggless rose and pistachio cupcakes I made, which my daughter adorned with a simple glaze of icing sugar, rose water and lemon juice, and a sprinkling of dried edible rose petals.

Eggless pistachio and rose cupcakes

Our town has had hazy skies for a while because of wildfires in neighboring areas. Today we were graced by clear spring-like weather and I sat on the deck and was mesmerized by this sight. Also, two turkey vultures circled over my head for 10 minutes. Should I be worried??

Turkey vultures have their eyes on me

I'll end with a link to a lovely article I read recently. I've been reading off and on about meditation and was intrigued with the concept of non-dualism and did a quick web search looking for some extra reading on it. I stumbled upon an article, a truly lucid and beautiful explanation of the rather abstract (but really, not abstract at all) concept of non-self.

Happy March! How was the last half of February for you? Also, One Hot Stove turned 19 years old last month. Thank you for being here 💙

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A onesie cake, and chutney sandwiches

We're almost halfway through February! It has been a busy month full of fun and not-fun things so far. But just life, ya know, and it is all good. 

I had the opportunity to teach an Indian cooking class at a very cool local cooking establishment that is a combo gourmet cookware store, plus has a beautiful cooking school set-up, and employs a professional chef for their in-house cafe and prix-fixe dinners. The theme of the 2-hour class was Indian Buffet Favorites and it was sold out, with 18 participants who worked in pairs of two to put the meal together. We talked about buffet food and homestyle food and regional Indian cuisine while they enjoyed some bubbly and namkeen- store-bought chakli and khakhra and mixture. The rest of the menu was cauliflower-potato puff-pastry samosas with date and tamarind chutney, matar paneer with cucumber-carrot raita and jeera rice, and mock kulfi with store-bought gulab jamuns. I enjoyed teaching the class immensely.  

For me, it was a stretch opportunity as I had to take recipes that I have made for 6-8 people dozens of times, and scale them up to feed 20 people. I made the curry sauce, date chutney and samosa filling in advance, and had to cook them on the blazing burners and oversized pots and pans of the commercial kitchen- a very unfamiliar milieu for me. My confidence was boosted by the fact that I did not burn down the place, or injure myself or others, and, to top it all, my eyeballed estimates for spices/seasonings for all the recipes worked fine and all the dishes tasted as they should. 

The chef made jeera rice in the oven- just placing basmati rice (6 cups of it), boiling water, butter, cumin seeds, salt in a foil-covered baking dish and baking at (I think) 425F for 20-25 mins. It turned out beautifully and I'll have to try baking rice at home now. 

The not-fun thing this month is that there is a wave of respiratory illnesses and stomach bugs blazing through town. My daughter and I had what we thought was a bout of the flu, but now it has progressed to what is colloquially known as "walking pneumonia". We're both back at school/work but on a course of steroids and antibiotics, and hoping to resolve our inflamed lungs and congested heads. 

I was on a real exercise/running streak last month and now I am sedentary with no exercise other than brief walking. It is a sobering reminder that - cliched as that sounds- the active lifestyle is a lifelong journey. I won't even say it is a marathon and not a sprint, because marathons end in a few hours! There will surely be ups and downs. Life will humble us, throw curveballs big and small, and we have to get back on our feet. Every day we have to wake up and do what we can with what we have. It makes me appreciate good health for the true gift that it is. 

Onesie cake

I have two quick recipes to share today. I hosted a small baby shower for a friend and made a cute little onesie cake for the occasion, using this Craftsy tutorial. This is a good one for people like me who enjoy baking but are blessed with rudimentary decorating skills. I used this cake recipe to make a 9x13 cake, and a batch of this less sweet frosting recipe. With a couple of cuts (remember the baker gets to snack on the off-cuts- those are the rules), the rectangular cake was transformed into a little onesie, then frosted with an offset spatula, sprinkled with some rainbow nonpareils as the fabric print, outlined for extra cuteness and personalized with an initial. Ta da! 

* * *

To go with the cake, we had some veggies and dip, and crunchy snacks, a cheese plate, and V made some chutney sandwiches, the kind that are such a popular street food in Mumbai. The herbal green chutney is easy enough to make at home, but these days, I often buy a tub of zhoug sauce from Trader Joe's to use as the chutney. The taste is spot-on and spicy! 

Chutney sandwiches

  1. Use good sliced bread. Our favorite supermarket bread is the Goldminer sourdough square bread. Either use fresh bread or toast it slightly before assembling sandwiches.
  2. Butter the bread (a non traditional sub for the butter is mashed ripe avocado).
  3. Slather on some homemade green chutney or zhoug sauce on both slices. 
  4. Layer one slice with sliced fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.
  5. Shower with salt and pepper. 
  6. Sandwich together and enjoy! 
* * *

For a baby shower gift, I knitted a couple of hats, and made a set of burp cloths using store-bought cloth diapers and bits of novelty fabric from my stash. I had similar burp cloths for my kids when they were younger and those were some of the most useful things I had around when they were age 0-5! Here's the quick tutorial I used. 

Burp cloths set

 * * *
V and I rarely get around to organizing dinner dates for the two of us- childcare and all is a big drag and apparently so is my 8:30 PM bedtime! But we escape our desks every now and then for a lunch date. We went out for Eritrean/Ethiopian food and it was so good. I have not had this in a good long while. Pictured- soft injera with mounds of collard greens (gomen wat), lentils (misir wat), and cabbage/carrot/potato (atakilt wat), all perfectly cooked with Ethiopian spices. I love how hearty and vegan/vegetarian friendly it all is.

How is the first half of February treating you?