Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Hummus Bowl, and February Round-up

Happy March! February was a short and speedy month- the days flew by. I've been making random meals, nothing blog-worthy, and his space has been quiet as a result. But before we head into March, here's a random round up of life in Feb 2023

On Sunday, I made these hummus bowls that turned out hearty and tasty. The motivation was to get through a Costco-size tub of hummus that my daughter made me buy. Here were the components:

  • Brown rice
  • Chickpeas cooked with cherry tomatoes (they were squishy and needing using up) and spices
  • Quorn grounds (mock meat) sauteed with green peppers and jalapenos
  • Hummus (lots of it)
  • Jarred Olive salad
  • Carrots, cucumbers, onions, cilantro

Toppings for the hummus bowl

Hummus bowl

* * *

I am trying to make all my favorite cold-weather dishes while it is still cold weather out there. Developing this easy and fuss-free recipe for undhiyu- the Gujarati winter-special mixed vegetable dish- was a highlight of last winter for me. This month I made two big batches of undhiyu and happily ate my way through them with a few rotis as accompaniment. 

* * *

We has a few friends over for a Valentine-themed potluck dinner. I made these "heart beet" patties- vegetable patties (the usual type, with potatoes, peas, green beans) with some beets cooked along with the potatoes to dye everything a bright pink. I just shaped them with my hands. My friend made heart-shaped Brazilian guava pastries. Other friends brought a beet and grapefruit salad- delicious! 

"Heart Beet" Valentine's Day patties

Guava pastries

Heart thumbprint cookies made by my sister
(two angled indentations of the thumb)

Valentines made by my son for his classmates
(idea found online)

Valentines made by my daughter for her classmates
(idea found online)

* * * Random photos incoming * * *

A meal at a Persian restaurant

Signs of spring in the neighborhood-
cherry blossoms

Also in Feb--
  • I reconnected with a bunch of college friends- there is a reunion in the making. It is great to start chatting again like no time has passed at all. (In reality a LOT of time has passed since I was in college)
  • I watched a production of The Vagina Monologues- I have seen it a few times before but this production was special because a close friend of mine was in it. Like others in this production, she isn't a professional actress. She is a graphic designer and a mom. She was SO GOOD!! It blows me away how much talent is among us. If you ever get a chance, don't miss this show. Every time I have seen it, I have laughed and cried and come away empowered.
  • I ran my first 5K in a few years. The course was frustratingly hilly (as is every course in our wonderful town) and I was just thankful to finish without puking or passing out. I posted a decent time- better than I expected- considering that I really started running regularly last month. I'm motivated to keep at it. Say what you will about running but it is a very efficient workout. Even better, I now have a running buddy who I run with most weekends. She elevates the whole thing for me. 
Your turn: Tell me your highlights of February. 

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Vegetable Dumpling Soup and a Layer Cake

Yet another bout of cough and cold ran through the family in January, in what seems like an endless stream of respiratory infections that started in Fall. Last weekend, as we hacked away, this soup felt like the perfect remedy. We have a new Costco in town- my first introduction to bulk shopping- and I bought a big box of dried mushrooms and used them for the first time here. They added great umami flavor and texture to the soup. 

Dumpling Soup

  1. Rehydrated a handful of mixed dried mushrooms and save the soaking liquid. 
  2. Chop a bunch of veggies and set them aside. I shredded 1/3 head of green cabbage and 1 carrot. And sliced/diced half a onion and half a green pepper.
  3. Make a stock by whisking together the mushroom soaking liquid, 1-2 tbsp. white miso, 1-2 cups water, soy sauce. I also added some sweet and sour spice mix that I had on hand. 
  4. Set Instant Pot to saute mode. Heat 1 tsp. oil and add 1/2 tbsp. ginger garlic paste. 
  5. Add the veggies and saute for a few seconds. 
  6. Turn off saute mode. Stir in the stock and chopped mushrooms.
  7. Add 1 packet frozen vegetable dumplings.
  8. Pressure cook on HIGH for 3 minutes. Wait for 5 minutes, then release pressure
  9. Serve hot! 
The dumplings ended up a bit overcooked. Next time, I might cook them separately and add them to the soup. I added some salt and pepper tofu as a topping for the soup to make it a hearty meal. Add a dollop of chili crisp to clear those sinuses!

* * *

King Arthur Flour is one of my trusted sources for baking recipes. They came out with a cookbook a few months ago called Baking School. I can't remember the last time I bought a cookbook, but I bought two copies of this one, for my sister and for myself. I bake a fair bit, but I feel like this book has a wealth of tips and technical information that I miss when I scan online baking recipes.

Someone close to us was celebrating an 80th birthday- what a milestone! I decided to make a layer cake and practice frosting it properly. The cake itself was a simple dark chocolate cake from this baking book, one made using the blending method- the easiest cake making method of them all. You mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another, and stir them together by hand. 

I made the cake the day before, following a tip from the book to make cakes a day or more ahead of time when they are to be decorated. This allows the starches to set and the cake to be less fragile. The morning of the birthday celebration, I cut the domes off of the two cakes (and put them together with frosting to make a snacking sandwich cake, see pic below). Then I drizzled the cakes with a soaking liquid- 50:50 orange juice and simple syrup- and frosted it with orange buttercream frosting. Finally, some sprinkles finished the simple yet tasty cake. 

Snacking cake with lopped-off tops!

* * *


  •  The Maid by Nita Prose. Molly is a quirky but hardworking maid in an upscale hotel and somehow ends up as a murder suspect. I could list several flaws in the plotting, the characterization...but in the end, this is a light-hearted and uplifting read, and if you're looking for something of that sort, I recommend this book.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a juicy read- what I would describe as chick-lit meets historical fiction. A retired and reclusive actress tells her life story in her own words- and narrates how she came to have the seven marriages she is famous for. This book gives a glimpse into Old Hollywood and the studios of the era and the stars they spawned. A fun read! 
  • This parenting anti-advice thread from Twitter. I love where she says, "...there are a million different ways to be human & they're all valid".

  • Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery on Netflix. The movie started off with a lot of things that grate on my nerves- billionaires and disruptors- but on the whole it was an entertaining movie.
  • Spirited Away, the gorgeous Studio Ghibli animated fantasy film directed by Miyazaki. It is over 20 years old at this time but this is the first chance I had to watch it. It is strange and so fantastic. 
  • A live performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company- it fed my soul. The program included ballets choreographed decades ago that still feel fresh and relevant- Steps in the Street (1936) was a response to the rise of fascism in Europe, Appalachian Spring, a ballet created in 1944, and Canticle for Innocent Comedians, dance vignettes that are an ode to nature.


  • A spin class for the first time. It was fun but I don't know if I will go back regularly. 
Duncan is healing well from his bite injuries. We started calling him Doggy Potter because of the scar on his forehead but even that's almost disappeared now (this pic is from 10 days ago). 

Tell me your highlights from the month of January! 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Instant Pot Black Bean Stew

A theme of the last week of 2022 and the first week of 2023 was that we were putting out fires, figuratively- burst pipes, flat tires on cars, and the like. The most upsetting of these incidents was that Duncan got bitten on the face by another dog. 

We needed care for Duncan while we were away in New Orleans for a few days, and found a great pet sitter who could take our pup into her own home. For several days, Dunkie has a blast with the loving pet sitter, her dog and other guest dogs she was hosting over the holidays. Then, literally two hours before we were to pick him up, the sitter's dog inexplicably attacked Duncan and left him with gaping wounds on the forehead and cheek, digging into a tooth pocket. Dunkie spent hours at the vet being sedated to get his wounds cleaned, and came home groggy, with a regimen of pain meds and antibiotics. We were distraught that he had to go through all this, just two months after his cancer surgery. The silver lining is that the bites could have been much worse than they were- so close to his eyes- and his wounds healed quickly, so we are grateful for that. Also, the dog sitter took full responsibility and covered the vet bills, which I am sure were considerable (they always are). 

Life is getting back to its routine rhythm. These days, I'm back in the office 3 days a week and working from home the other 2 days. Even though my commute is barely 10 minutes, it does mean that I have to plan ahead and keep dinner ready for the days I'm at the office. (We eat super early!!) Recipes that are even slightly more involved, like enchiladas, are now out in favor of recipes that virtually cook themselves, such as this black bean stew which I make at least once a week. 

Black Bean Stew

1. Soak 2 cups black beans in lightly salted water for 6-8 hours

2. In an Instant Pot insert, add

  • Soaked black beans
  • Frozen fire roasted bell peppers and onions (or chopped fresh veg)
  • Minced garlic
  • 2 chopped canned chipotle chilies
  • Canned or fresh crushed tomato or tomato paste
  • Dried organo
  • Ground cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Enough water to cover the beans plus more as needed

3. Pressure cook on HIGH for 14 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. 

The chipotle chilies and smoked paprika give a wonderful depth of favor. I serve this stew in many different ways- as a soup with a quick quesadilla, or in a bowl with rice (brown rice is wonderful here), chopped onions and cilantro, a bit of sour cream, avocado, or cheese, lettuce or cabbage slaw- just whatever I have on hand. Pinto beans can also be used in place of black beans. 

* * *

This week I am...

Eating- We went over to our friends' place for a casual supper, and they made the most delicious thin crust pizzas. Our friend rolled out and stretched dough onto individual pans (he told me he bought them from a local Holiday Inn when they had a closing down sale!) and set out toppings so we could each make our own pizza. My homemade pizzas are the thick focaccia-style ones, and while those are great, these thin crust pizzas were a treat. Our friend mentioned that the pizza dough recipe came from the cookbook Ratio, and is the 20 ounce flour: 12 ounce water ratio. Someone has posted the recipe here. It does require a scale which I don't own. 

Watching- The 2022 series of the British Baking Show; one or two episodes of the kid version of the British Baking Show (it bothers me that they don't set simpler challenges for kids); random episodes of Murder, She Wrote

Reading- I'm in a reading slump where I pick up a book (and another and another) but find that I'm not in the mood for it. I think a trip to the library this weekend will perk me up. I did read an adorable book- Yummy: A History of Desserts, a middle grade graphic novel. With enticing stories and a few easy recipes, this book is informative and fascinating. My favorite part of this book is the world maps depicting how, say, doughnuts have versions across cultures. 

Trying- Two new classes at the gym. I wore boxing gloves for the first time for a cardio boxing class! The class is not a good fit for me, but it was fun to swing those boxing gloves around :)

How is the first half of January going for you?

Monday, January 02, 2023

Happy New Year, plus New Orleans Pics and Thoughts on Feeding Young Ones

Happy 2023! Another year is in the books and we have a blank slate in front of us. In these anxious and unsettled times, I'm wary of making any predictions, but cautiously hoping for the best. 

On a personal note, my word for 2023 is PAUSE. It represents an overarching theme to work on all year. Pause and not be so reactive with my kids. Pause and take a minute to enjoy the day. Pause and be more intentional. Pause and collect my thoughts and things before leaving the house. P-A-U-S-E. 

I don't know what this year will bring, but the graphic below shows some things I'm hoping for- making a long overdue trip to India, running a 5K in February with my daughter, and getting into the habit of meditating- which I have tried and failed to do over and over again. No sense stressing out about meditating; I will keep trying.

* * *
2022 had me traveling way more than usual. I took one international trip- to the UK- and visited four great American cities- Chicago (conference), Philadelphia (work but also fun because I met teammates in person and I love them), Seattle (conference but also fun as I met up with family and friends), and New Orleans (family fun). Here are some pics from the NOLA trip- it is a charming, fascinating city. 

Wrought iron balconies

Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde

More beignets

Colorful homes

A rosewater latte at Bearcat cafe

Street art

Street music

* * *

I was asked in a comment, "What are your thoughts on bread and all purpose flour? How much is too much?" and that's an interesting question. The short answer is I would buy and consume a LOT less bread and all purpose flour if I was not living in a home with children. But since I am living in a home with children, bread and all purpose flour are my compromise. Let me explain. 

Kids are born with different levels of pickiness, in my experience. You can influence it, sure, but you cannot control what they eat. I have two kids that were raised the same. Child 1 is an adventurous eater (she ate pickled okra with fried eggs for breakfast every day when she was 2 years old) while child 2 eats like six things in total. At a restaurant two days ago, child 1 asked for Greek salad, said she was craving vegetables, and tasted food from everyone's plate, while child 2 asked for French fries and nothing else (wait, no, he did eat gummy worms for dessert). Kids grow out of it so I try not to waste time worrying about the pickiness. My sister and I were very poor eaters as kids and we are nothing like it now. 

For child 2, bread is the one thing he will eat reliably. PB+J sandwiches is what he eats for lunch every day, and grilled cheese sandwiches fill in the gap when he refuses to eat what I make for dinner. I always- ALWAYS- set up a plate of regular dinner in front of him- curries, dals, pasta, tacos- whatever we're having. Whether he picks at it or not is 50:50. 

For child 1, bread represents independence. I want my kids to be competent cooks by the time they leave home. Around age 10, it is reasonable to be able to follow simple recipes and be sous chefs under my direction, and also to fix their own simple meals. Since this summer, child 1 has fixed her own lunch boxes for day camp, etc. She'll make a sandwich (Caprese is a favorite), add fruit, a granola bar, some veggie nuggets and so on. She makes lunches for herself and her friends with whatever she can find in the fridge. She chooses and helps herself to her own breakfast every day, no matter if it is something simple like yogurt, fruit, toast or cereal, or something a little more involved, like avocado toast and omelet. 

Two kitchen items have really helped her along- one is a little ceramic bowl for making omelets in the microwave oven in 45 seconds, and the other is a toaster oven. The toaster oven is so much easier and safer for budding cooks to use independently. 

Recently, V was out of town and I had leftover curry in the fridge for dinner. Neither kid wanted the curry so I happily ate it myself and invited them to feed themselves whatever they liked. Big sis set up a step stool and got lil bro to grate cheese. They worked together- a miracle in itself- and made tomato grilled cheese sandwiches in the toaster oven, with peeled oranges on the side. It may not be a nutritionally marvelous dinner, but they made it themselves, and that counts for a lot in my book. 

Likewise, all purpose flour is my way of making child-friendly foods at home- pancakes, waffles, muffins- with relatively less sugar and more wholesome ingredients. In time, I hope they will both expand both their cooking and eating repertoire, and be grateful for every meal.

* * *

This week I am...

  • Watching Dine With Me, a reality show where strangers cook dinners for each other and rate each other's dinner parties (we found this time-pass show at our vacation rental and it was ridiculous drama, but I had fun imagining what I would cook...) + this cute music video recommended by my sister. 
  • Reading Tranquility Parenting: A Guide to Staying Calm, Mindful, and Engaged by Brittany Polat- you can tell that I'm tired of constantly losing it at my kids' shenanigans :D 
  • Listening to lots of 80s and 90s music
  • Starting to train for a 5K run
  • Making cinnamon swirl bread- one loaf for home and the other to donate to a local soup kitchen. I finally bought a stand mixer a couple of years ago and use it often. Maybe it was beginner's luck, but this bread exceeded my expectations. My kids wouldn't believe that I made it.
  • Cinnamon swirl bread

    Loaves of fresh bread

  • Assembling a birthday gift for my sister. It was a "five senses" gift with something for each of the senses- a customized playlist and earrings for Sound, skin care products for Touch, a colorful board game and jigsaw puzzle for Sight, a cookbook and recipe binder for Taste and perfumes for Smell. Plus a book on spirituality for the sixth sense, Insight.

How did you spend winter break? Are you making any resolutions for 2023?