Saturday, April 25, 2020

Food in the Time of Lockdown- 38 days and counting

It has been about six weeks since our family has been sheltering in place at home, like most of the rest of humanity. As non-essential workers, our only mandate at the minute is to stay home and be out of the way. There is much to be grateful for- we have food and a comfortable home, a yard where we can enjoy nice Spring weather, and a neighborhood that is safe and very quiet, where we can go for walks and jogs while social distancing.

My husband and I are working from home, caring from our kids and sharing housework- all of this keeps us on our toes and the days go flying by. Our daughter is busy with schoolwork, much of it online. The rest of the time she enjoys reading for fun, writing poems and letters, doing crafts and playing some video games. The biggest challenge is to keep the toddler boy engaged- he is too young to do much on his own, and while he's happy most of the time and plays with his sister a lot, we have noticed an uptick in temper tantrums out of sheer frustration at missing school, outings and friends. His sleep patterns have gotten worse so V and I are in the baffling situation of being home 24 a day and still not getting enough sleep. On the whole the kids definitely have a lot more screen time than they ever did before, and we have made our peace with it at this unusual time in our lives.

The kitchen is busy in a cycle of cooking and cleaning as I churn out three meals a day, plus some snacks for the kids. My style of cooking lends itself very well to what's being called "quarantine cooking"- simple fuss-free meals, made with fairly basic mostly whole foods, with ingredients being swapped out easily based on what's on hand, and with the very minimum of waste.

For breakfast, I tend to eat steel cut oats with nut butter and fruit- generally frozen blueberries and sometimes apples. On occasion, I'll eat avocado toast with a fried egg. V eats homemade granola with non-dairy milk every single morning. The kids choose from what we're eating, or cereal or toast, and pancakes on the weekends.

Lunch and dinner are simple meals- dal, khichdi, idli and dosas, tacos, soups and tofu stir fries are always on the rotation. I start with whatever vegetables I have on hand, and then craft a meal around that, adding beans or tofu or eggs, and some grains.

Here's a sampling of recent meals that I thought to take pictures of, with shorthand recipes.

Impromptu Misal: Start with sprouted moong beans. Make a Maharashtrian usal-like curry. I did this in the instant pot by tempering with mustard seeds and turmeric, sauteeing onion, a bit of tomato and goda masala, adding salt and water, and then cooking at high pressure for 4 minutes. We topped this stew with shredded carrots, cilantro and onion, a swirl of yogurt and crunchy roasted peanuts. 
Edamame bowl with Thai flavors: A sheet pan of mixed roasted vegetable is the starting point for many, many of our meals. This time I had some cabbage and broccoli, red pepper and a bag of shelled frozen edamame- all roasted together at the convection setting at 400F for 12 minutes. In the fridge, I had half of a can of yellow Thai curry paste, and a third of a can of coconut milk. I simply mixed these together and warmed the mixture in a saucepan to make a sauce. We drizzled the sauce on a base of some rice and a big helping of the roasted veg-edamame mix. 

Congee: This recipe was adapted from the book The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for your Instant Pot by Kathy Hester. My daughter loves the mushroom bok choy soup from a local Chinese restaurant. This brown rice congee had the same flavors in a heartier version. In an instant pot, add together half cup brown rice, 4 cups water, baby bok choy chopped, baby Bella and shiitake mushrooms sliced (used two small boxes total). Season with better than bouillon (or other stock concentrate) and some ginger-garlic. Cook on high pressure 40 minutes, natural pressure release. Taste and add some soy sauce and vegan chicken seasoning (new spice blend from Trader Joe’s that I am liking very much). I served this with oven baked marinated tofu slices and a dollop of my favorite condiment- spicy chilly crisp. 

Sheet pan sausages: On a sheet pan, toss together potato cubes, sliced cabbage, and other veggies (broccoli, peppers, carrot) with some salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 400F on convection setting. Add sliced veggie "sausages" in the last few minutes of roasting. I served this with a fried egg. 





Chili and cornbread: This was a bid to finish up the last cup of cornmeal that had been lingering in the pantry. I tried a recipe for cheddar kale cornbread and served it on a black bean and sweet potato chili.






Tortellini stew: This was an easy Instant Pot stew of canned crushed tomatoes, a pack of refrigerated tortellini, a few meatless meatballs, a minced carrot and about 3 cups stock, all cooked under high pressure for a minute, then natural release after 4 minutes. I stirred in a can of white beans at the end.


Lasagna: My kids love lasagna and now I have standardized a version that is heavy on vegetables and relatively light on cheese. This time I only had one box of frozen spinach so I used some frozen green beans in addition and the combination worked well. A large tray of lasagna lasts us for meals over 3-4 days. 





* * *
In little bits of stolen time- an hour here and there- I decluttered and organized our spare room which doubles as our storage room and my sewing space. It was a rewarding activity, and mentally therapeutic. I folded all my fabric neatly into bins, keeping only what I like and can reasonably use. The rest got bagged up and donated to a local group that is making face masks. I found a few half-done projects, dusted off my long-neglected sewing machine and finished them. Now when I look around the tidy space, I feel inspired again.

My favorite fabric collection- block printed
cottons from India

I made a bunch of face masks, mostly to
share with neighbors and friends

A half-finished project that finally got done.
Darling little hanging baskets- free pattern from
Jennifer Jangles.

Hats for my dear friend's twin boys. I can't imagine
being socially isolated with twin newborns in the
middle of a pandemic!

* * *
Only 6 months after our sweet dog Duncan had major knee surgery on his left leg, he had to have the same procedure on his right knee. He had been recovering really well from his first surgery, but then last month we started to notice that he was limping again. The vet surgeon had warned us that most dogs who have the procedure on one leg eventually need it on the other leg, and that the time between when the two surgeries are needed  is unpredictable- it can range from weeks to years.

Ten days ago, things got really bad all of a sudden and to make a long story short, we had a miserable night of him not being able to get up off the ground, followed immediately by two nights in the hospital and TTA surgery on his right knee. We are thankful that vets are operating at this time- the whole thing was done with strict social distancing. You drop off your pet in the vet's parking lot and they take him in and do the exam and call you to talk about the findings and next steps.

The good news is that he's doing really well post-surgery. We are home to watch over him and give him company 24/7. It has been a rough year for this sweet dog. The hope is that with two brand new knee implants, our bionic pup will have many more healthy years ahead.

Duncan enjoys spring sunshine in the yard.
You can see the bandaged right hind leg.
Duncan's plight last week prompted
our daughter to write this poem.

Tell me how you're doing and what the COVID-19 situation is looking like in your part of the world. Best wishes to all!

27 comments:

  1. That is just the sweetest poem ever. It brought a smile on my face after ages! Much love to all of you. Stay safe.

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    1. Thank you! It brought both a smile and a tear to my face. She was distraught over her beloved dog, and wrote this poem spontaneously as an emotional release- which I guess is the essence of poetry.

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  2. hi Nupur, i completely relate to how you feel about keeping a toddler busy. we are also having the same with our 1.5 year old. and boy am i exhausted. luckily schools and daycare open up in 2 weeks and all of us cant wait to get back into some sort of normalcy again though i guess it will be weeks before we can go to work. but atleast the kids would be outdoors and can play with their friends. hope Duncan feels better soon. what a lovely poem by Lila! sweet girl :-)

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    1. Kejal- I'm so glad you have childcare opening up in 2 weeks- that's excellent news. Humans, especially young humans, are just not designed to live in isolation. Grownups are a poor substitute for the way kids play with each other. Over here, the best we can hope for is daycare opening in June. Meanwhile my daughter's summer camps are cancelled so I don't have childcare for her for months. But she is by far the easier child; it is my son I am most concerned about. Take care!

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    2. I completely agree. However hard we try to play with them its no match to how they enjoy with their friends. My daughter is also an easy child its my son who sometimes drives me crazy as he has started developing his own opinions but cant really express them. Good luck to you too and take care. Stay safe :-)

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  3. We are well. Mostly staying indoors except for the occasional grocery trip and the daily walk. The weather is so pretty! I am so grateful for the sunny days, cool mornings, and breezy evenings. I have been doing some focused gardening this time. We sowed methi, cilantro, mustard, a variety of beans, peas, etc. in the backyard, and some of them are ready for plucking! I have also sown seeds into little containers, and monitoring them is a daily task. These are summer crops, namely tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. Keeping my fingers crossed that these babies make it into the ground safe, and we can have a good summer crop.

    We signed up for a produce box from Misfits Market, and I got the first delivery today. Exciting! Cooking has been fun and interesting. We had some store-bought purple sweet potatoes that were too dry, so my husband made them into cutlets. I had cooked some black-eyed peas earlier, and he made a ragda out of them... It was a new, delicious combination! Husband also concocted a delicious vegan carrot halwa with almond meal, almond milk, and Nolen jaggery (a variety of date palm jaggery gifted by a generous friend got from Kolkata). We also tried our hand at making almond cheese at home.

    It has been a surreal time, a little like Groundhog Day. But there have been many lessons, and I am learning what I can.

    Hope both your families are well.

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    1. Hi Lakshmi! Like you, we only step out for weekly grocery shopping and walks/runs. Truly the weather has been a blessing and everyday, I am grateful for blue skies, warm sunshine and being surrounded by greenery. Your summer garden sounds absolutely amazing! I loved hearing about your cooking experiments. Truly there are many lessons in these times. I hope you continue to stay safe and eat well!

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  4. Lila's poem is adorable... So are the face masks!

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  5. Lovely to hear how you are going. So much good food and interesting projects. I find it frustrating and weird that I have less to do and less time and energy as well. I have plans to make lasagna today but Sylvia wont eat it she says. I like the sound of the cheddar kale cornbread. I think supporting the kids without much help is taking it out of all of us. We are all missing the village it takes to raise a child. So pleased to hear Duncan is doing well - and that he is having poetry written in his name - that is so gorgeous! It has occurred to me it must be hard to have twins now because when my sister had twins my mum visited her every day for the first 6 months! (And of course there were many other visitors and supports)

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    1. Hi Johanna! My energy and mood is very up and down. There are so many times when I feel just discombobulated and restless. I'm just going with the flow and taking it an hour at a time. By the way, the cheddar kale bread was really good, the kale was chopped up in the food processor which gave a lovely green color and leafy flavor throughout the bread.

      It is not an easy time for parents. If you have a single child, that child is pretty lonely. If you have multiple kids, they bicker all the time. If you have young kids, the hours stretch endlessly as you try to occupy them. As for having newborns at this time, that must be a special kind of stress and loneliness!

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    2. Yes, I feel restless as well. In fact, I have been finding it a real challenge to even read these days. I cannot even make myself watch a movie on Netflix. There is an internal churn that rears its head, especially toward the end of the day. Previously, I used to go from one task to another, in an attempt to keep that restlessness at bay. Now I try to just watch it... It's a kind of gnawing emptiness, and I feel it's becoming futile throwing "things" to fill it.

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  6. lila's poem is adorable!! In bangalore its been almost a month and half of being indoors. Both hubby and I are WFH with our schedules busier than ever. That leaves the 6 year old to fend for himself. The good part of it is that he has becomes exceedingly independent - makes his own snack (PB n J mostly), entertains himself and the best part is he has learnt to read fluently. That means he will be cooped for hours with his tintin and other superhero comics reading. By late afternoon he does get cranky but I try to end my work day by 5 since I start very early. Hubby and I take turns to cook in the evenings and eat leftovers for lunch. Even though I realise we are much better off than so many other people, I really wish this whole situation improves. I really have had enough of being indoors :(

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    1. Neha- That's one very good thing to come out of this crisis- kids becoming a little more independent and learning to amuse themselves. 6 is a great age when they start becoming so much more capable. Your days sound incredibly busy but you guys are a great team of three!

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  7. It's fitting Lila wrote dunkie the poem as it's supposedly national poetry month.

    We went one evening for a walk to a neighbouring borough.

    Rocky hill is a place filled with an old world charm near us...they celebrated earth day and national poetry month with a poetry walk in a meadow behind the local town hall. Felt really special.

    P.s: hope your pooch recovers well. And tell the poet laureate to keep 'em coming. Do you know of this link btw https://poets.org/poems-kids

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    1. Janani- yes, indeed, it is national poetry month and in her school (now online) they are doing a series of poetry lessons, including learning about rhyming, haiku, acrostic poems, alliterative poems etc. Poetry has been on her mind. A poetry walk sounds so wonderful and meaningful.

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  8. hello Nupur,
    I posted a comment on your previous post; looks like it didn't make it. We've been WFH both hubby and myself. My boy who's a junior is home as well; week 4 of remote learning. Just like you guys, going out only for essentials and staying indoors all the time.
    He has kept himself busy. He writes music reviews on blogs- this has been going on for few years now and he's now busier than ever with all the spare time available. Never thought a hobby would be so handy during such times of extreme isolation (from friends, school, swim etc.) We've been trying out new recipes and we all love to cook, and enjoy trying new stuff. I've started meditation just to find some peace in a world of chaos all around and loving it. Have been reading a lot and like everybody else, catching up with friends virtually.
    I love your sewing projects; have not spent any time on my machine.Enjoying my time with books now; hopefully will get back to sewing soon. I absolutely love Lila's poem. Kids are so compassionate and thoughtful. Sending prayers for Duncan to heal soon..

    Be safe and stay blessed
    Meena.

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    1. Hi Meena- Sorry about your lost comment, I don't know why it happened! I love that your son has an interesting hobby that keeps him busy. We all need those "passion projects" that can keep us engaged and give us a reason to bounce out of bed. My neighbor across the street was also saying that she and her husband and their two young adult kids are taking turns cooking elaborate meals during this time. Good for you guys who have grown kids :) Thank you for your healing wishes for our doggie boy- he is a sweet pup and we're doing what we can for him. Kids indeed have a lot of empathy for the suffering of others.

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  9. Hi Nupur, I follow your blog regularly and I love it! Your pav bhaji recipe is my fav. I am a maiden author, having published a book : Hemant Karkare,a daughter’s memoir in nov 2019. My father was the anti terrorism squad chief killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. I would love to send you the kindle version of the book so that you can review it. Please let me know if that is something you would be interested in reading and reviewing. Thank you.

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    1. Jui- yes, absolutely, I would be glad to read and review your book. I'll need about 6-8 weeks to read it and post a review- just being upfront about my timeline because my time is now my own these days!

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    2. I meant to say "my time is NOT my own these days", Jui. Typo.

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    3. Thank you nupur! I will send you the kindle version. Please let me know the email address. Also are you in good reads? Would love to add you.

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    4. My email address is OneHotStove AT gmail DOT com. I am Nupur on Goodreads. Thanks Jui.

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  10. Thanks nupur ! I emailed you the kindle book.

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    1. I'm reading it now. Thanks for the book.

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  11. I love those baby caps! So adorable!
    With work from home, it's a bit hectic here. We are all sitting on our individual laptops. I have my math and reading groups to teach, but they are no fun! I miss my students so much.
    My son is lonely.
    My husband is on con-calls all day.
    Being confined is no fun, but we must look for a silver lining. I'm just happy that we all are safe and healthy. I'm thankful that my family in India is also safe.

    Sending Vaghoba a ton of love, cuddles and healing vibes. Lila's poem is so perfect. She is amazing!

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    1. Manasi- Kudos to you and all teachers for teaching from home. I can imagine how much you miss the face to face teaching! Kids are getting so lonely and restless as we head into the third month of isolation. Glad you are all well! Vaghoba is healing well, and we are grateful for that. It is nice that we are home to look after him round the clock.

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