Sunday, July 12, 2020

Blueberries, Chanterelles and Noodle bowls

To state the obvious, the summer of 2020 is not like any other summer ever. The present feels dystopian. The future feels ominous. In all honesty, I find myself very dejected and anxious these days while also acknowledging that my family and I are OK and luckier than so many.

I haven't felt like blogging for weeks even though the kitchen has been extra busy. Working at home on my laptop all day long is draining and makes me less inclined to pick up the laptop again to blog after work. But this weekend I felt like posting so here I am.

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"Mountains and Fountains rain down on me,"
"Buried in Berries, what a Jam Jamboree !"
- Jamberry by Bruce Degan (a beloved board book of both of my kids)

Early one Sunday morning we headed out to a farm about 20 minutes away from town for some blueberry picking. I found out about this You-Pick farm where else but on Instagram and jumped at the chance for some socially distanced family fun. The place operated on the honor system. Buckets were stacked on the fence posts of the gate. You grab a bucket or two, walk in and pick all the blueberries you wanted, and slip the payment into the slot of a lock box.

It was such a beautiful morning and a lovely respite- we could marvel at the beauty of nature while looking at gorgeous Georgia skies and rows of blueberry bushes laden with fresh fruit.

Blueberry muffins

When we got home I froze down most of the blueberry haul- freezing them in a single layer on baking sheets for a few hours, then pouring the frozen berries into bags and back into the freezer- this keeps the berries from freezing into a big clump. I eat blueberries most mornings with my steel cut oatmeal so it is nice to have this stash.

Of course my daughter and I also made a batch of jammy blueberry muffins that very afternoon and they were a treat. 

A couple of weeks later, I used some of the frozen berries to make a blueberry almond crisp, using this recipe and dividing the recipe into two baking pans, one for our home and one for friends. It was fantastic. 

The finished crisp

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Hot, damp weather and frequent thunderstorms and downpours- this is the recipe for chanterelle mushrooms popping up around here. Our daughter is an expert mushroom hunter and now her brother is learning from her. They will happily walk on nearby trails for hours as long as there are mushrooms to be foraged. There is some prep work required to get the dirt and grit off of the mushrooms but it is so worth it for that exquisite wild mushroom taste. I love that our city-bred kids get this small taste of what it is like to forage for food and enjoy it straight from the earth.

Our biggest haul- several pounds

Pan fried chanterelles with garlic and pepper

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For a long while, I've wanted to do a pantry/fridge/freezer series on this blog, listing out the workhorse ingredients that help me produce meals day after day. Over years of family cooking, I have my favorites and buy them over and over again rather than experimenting too much. I'll do a mega post at some point sharing my idea of a well-stocked kitchen but here's a spotlight on one ingredient for now.

Noodles are definitely a pantry staple- we enjoy them in Asian ways or Italian ways or with countless inauthentic derivations thereof. After trying several different varieties of whole wheat noodles and soybean noodles and lentil/chickpea noodles, I found a noodle brand and variety that my family loves the best- Barilla Protein+ or Plus or something- I recognize the yellow box- and that's what I have been stocking up on. (As always, when I mention particular products, it is because I like them and not because the company is paying me!) I cook a whole box of these noodles and work them into 2-3 meals. 

One of the big mushroom hauls was too big to fit into even our biggest pan, so I roasted the shrooms with a bunch of broccoli. Cooked spaghetti and the roasted broccoli-mushrooms went into two quite different meals- 

1. Loaded peanut noodles

a. I tossed the noodles with teriyaki sauce, rice wine vinegar and peanut butter to make quick peanut noodles
b. The bowl had a crunchy salad layer of lettuce, cucumbers and red peppers. 
c. Then came the peanut noodles.
d. Then some thinly sliced baked tofu and the roasted broccoli and mushrooms.

2. Faux Chikn Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan and chicken parmesan (breaded, fried, eggplant or chicken smothered in red sauce and cheese and baked into a casserole) are staples of Italian-American comfort food. This was my low-maintenance, semi-homemade version of the same. Unlike the original, it does NOT sit in your stomach like a brick. 

1. Meatless chikn patties (there are several brands that I like and I usually stash a box or two in the freezer)- thawed in the microwave, then sliced.
2. Layer the chikn strips with jarred pasta sauce and shredded mozzarella in a baking dish.
3. If you are short on time, cover the dish and warm in the microwave until heated through and melty. If you have a little extra time, do the same in the oven until bubbly and browned. 
4. Serve with what else but your favorite noodles and roasted broccoli and mushrooms! 

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If you enjoy medical dramas, I highly recommend the Lenox Hill on Netflix- a documentary/ reality TV series that follows four doctors- two neurosurgeons, an OB/GYN and an emergency doc- their lives and their patients. I just finished watching it and gave me all the feels.

How is July going for you? I hope you are all safe and in good health, friends. 


  1. So good to know you guys are all safe! July, like majority of this year is spent huddled indoors (when will this end!!!), worrying about the surge in Bangalore, worrying about the sister who is studying in US, worrying about family in other cities. Basically just worrying :( sorry to sound so morose. But in truth on most days I really have to try hard to find some positivity and small routines to look forward to. There will always be a silver lining, but its getting hard to see that. Immersing myself in work helps. Spending time in my veggie garden, playing silly games with my 7 year old and having quiet cups of coffee with the husband also helps. So trying to do more of that and less of worrying ;-)
    Please do stay safe!

    1. Neha- I'm so sorry about all the worry and the stress. Yes, there is much to worry about and it is only natural. Apartment dwellers in big cities must be so fed up of being cooped indoors. At least here I can walk outside and be in my yard. Cases are surging like crazy here in Georgia and the rest of the US and another severe lockdown may be coming our way soon. Sending love and best wishes!

  2. HI Nupur! Nice to see your post. Your dishes as usual look simple and delicious! I hear you about feeling anxious and vexed. I have tried to be not overly disturbed about this (I mean we strictly social distance, wear masks and do our part, but it is getting to me especially since Fall school plans look so up in the air. Working from home and remote learning is just not sustainable. I am trying to be thankful for our blessings. On a positive note, July has been about gardening, exercise, yoga and reading. Also trying out come cool recipes. Take care.

    1. Hi Sangeetha- Working from home without childcare (and with the added responsibility of remote learning) is truly daunting, we've done it for a few months but now it looks like we will be doing it for several more. In all of this, to be sure I am grateful to still have a job. Good luck to us all! Sending you love and best wishes :)

  3. Thanks for sharing your recipes, nupur. your posts always brighten up my day.

    I started watching Lenox Hill on your recommendation and really liking it! I previously watched 'Babies' (both seasons) and 'Baby-sitters club' both on netflix and enjoyed them immensely.

    I too am plagued by anxiety and being shut home without any end in sight.

    1. Thank you, dear Hamsini! I've been wanting to watch babysitters club- I want to see if it is appropriate to watch with my almost 9 year old :) Anxiety and stress is truly plaguing us as much as the virus itself. I hope you stay safe!!

    2. hey, nupur, im sure lila will love watching it with you, AFAIK, its very pre-teen friendly and appropriate :)

  4. ARGH - I think blogger just ate my comment - I was saying how hard it is but there will be good times ahead - the break between our two lockdowns was like a breath of fresh air - I have a recipe for chanterelles that I want to make one day so am sharing it with you and your fine foraging - and wish you the best of health in body and mind!

    1. Johanna- I'm sorry blogger ate your comment- that's always frustrating! I'm sorry your location had to have another lockdown. These waves will keep on happening, it looks like, until we have a vaccine or a decent drug/ treatment.

  5. The times are hard indeed, but let's keep reminding each other that this too shall pass. There have been periods in history where some endemic or pandemic forced folks to change lifestyles for months to year. I try always to look at the brighter side - eg: this is the only stretch of time when I have spent so much time with my daughter. I feel like I know her better because of it. Someone at work recently shared - how Isaac Newton used his time in the lockdown. Very inspirational.

    How lucky to be able to walk and forage chantarnelle mushrooms! The noodle recipes look amazing.

    1. PJ- How true that pandemics and epidemics have changed human history and influenced lifestyles for centuries. It is wonderful that you are spending lots of time with your daughter- I enjoy reading about all the things you're cooking together!

  6. hello Nupur,
    Good to read your post and rightly put; this summer is unlike any we've lived.
    Past few months have been crazy at work; long hours weekdays and weekends. It has been mentally exhausting. On a positive note, a good samaritan reached out to me just around International yoga day and got me hooked to meditation.This has truly come at the right time and I'm blessed to be immensely enjoying its benefits. A little over a month now, it is helping me let go, relax, rejuvinate and be at peace.Another positive thing is I'm able to spend more time with my son. He swims 6 hours a day all year long and this pandemic has limited that to just 2 hours. He'll graduate next year; so it is truly a blessed time. Also, we've a flourishing garden right in our backyard from tomatoes, potato, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, green chilies, bell peppers, eggplant, mint, basil and flowers galore.
    Something to ponder.If we stay quiet and observe the world, we notice it is only human species that is suffering in the pandemic. Mother nature is thriving and so are birds/animals and ocean animals.

    Blueberry picking and mushroom hunting is so fun and something your family will enjoy always :)Quality family time.The noodle variations are awesome and yes, variation of sauces provides us with variety.

    Take care and be safe


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