Saturday, October 10, 2020

Texas Caviar, Brown Rice Pilaf and What I'm Watching

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

minced cilantro

Toss all the salad ingredients together into a big bowl. Add warm dressing and mix together. Add minced jalapenos and cilantro. Chill and serve. 

* * * 

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. 

Brown Rice Pilaf

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. 

* * *

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? 


  1. Hi Nupur,
    I have been cooking and creating some things fun in the kitchen these days. I just posted my recipe on Peanut Sesame ladoo. I made yellow moong dosa which I also hope to post soon. Also on Netflix I have been watching the I.T.Crowd which is a British sitcom. It is quite funny , but not appropriate for kids or teens .

    1. I'll have to look for IT crowd! I tend to love British shows. Glad to know you're trying new things in the kitchen!

  2. The texas caviar looks delish!
    I love the idea of having cozy routines..especially in these unendingly depressing times. I need to work on that.
    We are cooking really basic one pot meals that get done quickly and are at the same time full of veggies. Weekends I try and cook something relatively "fancy". Son and I made chocolate almond ice cream last weekend and it was wonderful to have ice cream after almost 7 months!
    If you like Hindi series, I quite liked Bandish Bandits on Netflix (has naseer shah and atul kulkarni). Its musically based and a welcome change.
    I have also been re watching MASH which I have on my hard disk. It stars Alan Alda and is SO SO funny and poignant at the same time.

    1. Neha- I highly recommend blocking some time off every day for the simple pleasures in life! For me, that is books, board games, sitcoms, tea. I love that you made ice cream at home. We own an ice cream maker and I haven't used it in a couple of years.

      Panchayat was the first Hindi series I watched in AGES. I'll have to look for Bandish Bandits. MASH is my all time favorite show and truly a blend of hilarious and touching situations. Too bad it isn't streaming anywhere at the minute. Can I borrow your hard disk ;)

  3. Hi Nupur,
    The first few months of a new job are always the hardest, so hang in there!
    The jam cookies look awesome. I don't have a food processor, though. Any guesses if it can be made without one?
    Ive been eating a lot of granola with yoghurt or avocado toast for breakfast. Simple meals, since all of us are working from home. Ill be glad to see the end of 2020!:)

    1. Thank you for the kind encouragement! I'm really enjoying my new job (and lucked out with great coworkers) but boy there certainly is a learning curve at times.

      You don't need any equipment for the jam cookies. We mixed the dough with a bowl and spoon! I don't even own a mixer and prefer the simple bakes.

      My breakfast still steel cut oats with blueberries and nut butter. I have surprised myself by not getting tired of it! Avocado toast is another favorite, I like it topped with a fried egg.

  4. I love black eyed peas, its so versatile- i make salad, hummus (for a different variation from the traditional chickpeas one), the tamil savoury nombu adai and even tikkis. im going to try your salad for sure.
    panchayat's been on my list, your testimonial makes me want to watch it asap. ive been hooked on to jane the virgin ever since my sister recommended it to me. its very entertaining and fun, though with 5 seasons with 20 odd episodes each and 40 minute long each, quite a time sucker- not complaining though :)

    1. Hi Hamsini- I too love black eyed peas, and would love to try the hummus and nombu adai that you mention!

      I will have to look up Jane the Virgin. We have a long winter ahead and will need to line up some fun shows for a bit of levity every evening.

  5. Your posts are so cozy - I look forward to them!
    I did know what Texas caviar was - learnt something new. Jam cookies are on my to-bake list.
    I have watched Derry girls and Panachayat. Loved them both. My 5 year old and I are in the process of watching Worst Witch.
    We have our family cozy evenings too - my 11 year old,5 year old and I watch shows together, like Series of Unfortunate events, Just Add Magic (highly recommend!), Lost in Space (highly recommend) and now Halloween baking championship.
    I have been baking and cooking with pumpkin lately including pumpkin lassi, muffins, bread, soup etc.
    Here's to a safe and cozy Fall!

    1. Thank you Sangeetha :) You will love the jam cookies- just so simple and tasty.

      OOh thanks for mentioning the shows you watch with your kids- I'll have to look for these. The only one she has watched is Series of Unfortunate Events.

      I have a couple of cans of pumpkin in the pantry and need to get into Fall baking mode. Pumpkin lassi sounds most interesting.Yesterday we used up some overripe bananas from the freezer to make marbled banana bread.

    2. Here is what I used for pumpkin lassi: canned pumpkin, maple syrup and dates for sweetening, pinch of cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and ofcourse yogurt. Was so yum! I also had it for breakfast the next morning (smoothie right?!)

  6. We just had a week off (fall break) and it was ok... relaxed. We cancelled a glamping plan and I was bitterly disappointed. But, better safe than sorry. Sigh!
    I am not ready to go back to school (online).
    That Texas caviar looks so pretty but the jam thumbprint cookies have my attention. Something I'd love to try with my son and also use up the jam.
    My son and I watched Harry potter movies, he wanted to do a comparison between the books he has read and the movies. We had a fine time pointing out where the story was changed. We prefer the books.
    I am binge watching 'Downton Abbey' and enjoying it so much!

    1. Fall break has so little meaning in this strange year, right? Glad you got to relax a little bit!

      The Harry Potter books are so detailed, the movies cut out a good bit of stuff. Seems like Harry Potter would be better as a long TV series.

  7. Nupur, Did you try the Beans setting on Instapot.I find that it works well for me.For chickpeas i use Bean(high) becoz we like softer chicpeas but for for smaller beans i use low, normal.For my 3 qt 1-2min on low , high does the trick.
    Love the part of the netfliz shows and i will try those.


    1. Suparna- the beans setting cooks for way too long. But you're right, I could try the low setting and see how that works. Thanks!

  8. Good luck with election week next week - the interesting times will continue in your country but I hope it wont take long to settle. I have been doing a little baking but not lots. I need to do some more beans and rice - haven't had much rice lately!

    I love derry girls - the music is very nostalgic for me too though I don't think my catholic girls school as strict. My mum was a teacher and friends with nuns so I think that humanised them a bit for me - I remember having a chat with one strict nun a few years after I left school and she was so much more relaxed.

    I also enjoyed watching some of the Worst Witch with my daughter. We are currently enjoying watching an Aussie Masterchef junior.

    1. Johanna- things are rough in the US. This is a bad patch for us. Ordinary people are trying to live their lives one day at a time, those of us who still have jobs are the lucky ones.

      I too loved most of the nuns who taught me. There were a couple of really strict ones though! How nice that you met one of the nuns years later.

      My daughter would love Masterchef. We're watching the latest British Baking Show.


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