Archive for Cooking

Pumpkin Sambhar ~ Literally!

During my short break from classes, I am having a blast just going to work and coming home — sometimes even having a day off like today. I was poking around for something to do with a leftover ‘pie pumpkin’ from the fall. After Halloween, a local farm stand had these for fifty cents apiece and I couldn’t resist — I bought three. Two went out to the deer.

two fawns
two fawns at the bird feeder in broad daylight ~ that’s how cold it is and how hungry they are

With the last pumpkin, I thought I might make this pumpkin soup in a pumpkin.

As usual when I have time on my hands (a rare occurrence these days!), my mind started turning after reading the recipe. I decided it would be far more fun to make sambhar. OK, I know, when is it NOT more fun to make sambhar? Never! But this sambhar is baked in the pumpkin.

I made a regular onion sambhar with some carrot as well. I added fennel seeds and fresh garlic to the usual tadka, and a pinch each of ginger powder and nutmeg powder with the sambhar powder. A little extra tamarind water offset the sweetness of pumpkin. I made the sambhar on the stovetop, but did not cook the veggies all the way. I hollowed out the pumpkin, rubbed it with oil outside, and filled it with the half-done sambhar. Baked in a 350F oven for about two hours, the sambhar came out delicious. The fringe benefit was the pumpkin bowl — its softened insides bathed in all the spices and just waiting to be scraped out into the sambhar. A little bit of trouble but well worth it!

pumpkin and onions
hollowed out pumpkin with unusually small regular yellow onions ~ I treated them as sambhar onions and they worked perfectly

sambhar ~ ready to bake in a pumpkin
all ready to bake ~ I covered the pumpkin with its natural lid for the first hour ~ then removed the lid and baked an hour longer

voila ~ sambhar in a pumpkin!
voila! sambhar in a pumpkin bowl ~ perfect comfort food for the cold weather

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Happy New Year!!

Just a few shots of low-key holiday happenings here in the beautiful north woods…

Wishing you lots of love, good health, and happiness in 2014!

winter birds
pileated woodpeckers in the front yard

meg in the leelanau peninsula
a wintry trip up the leelanau peninsula to show miss m sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore

sleeping bear nat'l lakeshore at Glen Arbor
sleeping bear point as seen from glen arbor ~ snow covered dunes

the new kitchen aid!
for christmas dg and I got ourselves a mutual gift ~ a kitchen aid mixer!!! seen here after whipping up maple buttercream frosting for miss m’s cookies :)

pileated woodpecker
pileated woodpecker at the window suet feeder ~ this amazing woodpecker is the size of a crow and so beautiful! we have three around the yard…

red haven peaches
summertime dreaming… locally grown red haven peaches

summer bounty in Oct
more summertime dreaming… the mess of tomatoes still ripening indoors in october

spice cabinet
dg built a new wall cabinet for spices and things… here it is in progress

the tree
the tree

Comments (2)

A Wee Christmas Verse and How To Wrap A Cat

‘Tis the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a kittie is stirring, not even to chase a mouse.
The stockings are hung by the wood stove with care
In hopes that Saint Kittielaus soon will be there.

The kitties are nestled all snug in their chairs
While visions of kittynip dance in their heads.
I’ve thrown down my apron, Meg’s picked up her book,
After hours in the kitchen, we’ve nothing left to cook.

So from Pinks and Daisy, from Gibby and Lemur
From little old Squeaker, asleep by the fire,
We wish you much happiness, your joy our desire.
And let us exclaim as we purr out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a good night!

xmas eve kitty buffet
pre-christmas kitty buffet

xmas eve daisy
daisy, asleep in her chair

xmas eve pinks
pinks has decided he will not be starring in how to wrap a cat for christmas — the sequel

xmas eve squeaker
little squeaker is going on 22 yrs old…

xmas eve deer
magical deer outside ~ late afternoon on christmas eve

german apple pancake
we made german apple pancakes!

the golden boys
the golden boys

my christmas gift!
the best gift any day of the year ~ miss m is here!!

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Back To School

office assistant searching for APA citations...
my office assistant ~ searching for proper APA citations :)

After years away from school, I found a way to finish my bachelor’s degree online!

This is very exciting… but I don’t have a minute to breathe.
I work, I study, I sleep. When I study, I am lost in a sea of APA citations. When I sleep, I have nightmares about APA citations.
I think one could get a PhD in APA citations alone! :(

But all work and no play makes a grumpy Linda :)

Tonight I took an hour off to make to a dish I have been craving ever since I left Massachusetts — months ago now. I have canned jackfruit in the cupboard, which is what I always used. Somehow I had convinced myself that I didn’t have time to make it. I wasn’t worth it? HA.

Why do you suppose we deny ourselves permission to do the things we love best? Well, leaving social science behind, suffice to say that this evening, at long last, I made dear Solai’s jackfruit pirattal once again.

If you have never tried Solai’s jackfruit, I say, do! It’s beyond simplicity and beyond delicious. Plus it gives me reason to forage in the spice cupboard I took over in the north woods, which around here is affectionately known as “Little India”. :):):)

In the first three weeks of school, I have made A grades. The rice is nearly done. My kids, DG, and the kitties are cozy warm in their respective beds. All is right with my little world… and I hope, with yours too :)

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Weather With You ~ Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans

spicy brinjal with shelly beans
spicy brinjal with shelly beans

More lyrics, tonight :)

This time it’s an old favorite by Crowded House.

Listen here or just read, here :)

“Walking ’round the room singing Stormy Weather
At 57 Mount Pleasant Street
Well it’s the same room but everything’s different
You can fight the sleep but not the dream

Things ain’t cooking in my kitchen
Strange affliction wash over me
Julius Ceasar and the Roman Empire
Couldn’t conquer the blue sky

Well there’s a small boat made of china
It’s going nowhere on the mantlepiece
Well do I lie like a lounge room lizard
Or do I sing like a bird released

Everywhere you go
Always take the weather with you…”

— excerpt from Weather With You
(Neil Finn / Tim Finn)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Given that choice, this bird will sing, thank you :)

If only Nupur had time for another series; let’s say: The A-Z of Weather and Veggies!

I am prepared with “S is for Snow and Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans” ;)

wall 'o beans oct 4
wall ‘o beans ~ beginning of october

wall o'beans oct 23
wall o’beans ~ this morning

A heavy, wet snow fell overnight and the sun rose feebly over a winter wonderland complete with frosted trees and garden. Sadly, the weight of the snow was such that the sweet old apple tree out front was nearly toppled. Time will tell whether it recovers.

apple tree snowed under
the poor apple tree ~ nearly touching the ground

With snow covering the plants, and more lurking on the horizon, we hurried to finish harvesting the last of the garden. A few days ago we got in the last of the tomatoes and brinjals, a lot of peppers and a few other goodies. It had been unusually warm so we let the garden grow…

late harvest in northern michigan
late harvest in the north woods ~ few days ago

Today, in the fickle in-and-out sunshine of late afternoon, we picked all of the shelly beans and *another* big mess of papdi beans. I have no doubt these papdi would keep growing and growing. They are flowering yet. Perhaps next year I will plant them where they don’t have to be taken down with the fence! ;)

fresh papdi beans ~ variety priya
latest, greatest, and probably last mess of papdi beans ~ these will be prepared simply so DG can get a taste of them :)

OK, but what on earth are shelly beans? Good question!

Shelly beans are described nicely here in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and also here at BBB Seeds.

I have grown them in the past, but I didn’t know them as shelly beans. I knew them as horticultural or cranberry beans, and cooked them in succotash only.

Mom sent a few seeds of those cranberry beans for the Michigan garden. Planted in July alongside the Priya papdi beans and the long beans (of mixed variety), they flourished as did the others. When I mentioned the pods were turning cream-and-red, Mom told me to hurry and pick them for shellies.

Shellies. Who knew? I think we picked nearly two quarts of them today.

It may be a little late for them in stores or farm markets. It’s certainly late for them here.

shelly beans in the pod
shelly beans in the pod ~ greener pods yield plain beans, while the ripe cream-colored pod yields speckled beans

After learning about them, I knew what I had to do. I shelled those lovely beans. And then…

I thought of my great kitchen buddy, ISG — and how she always pairs brinjal with beans to such great effect. I know a good dish when I taste one; after years of tasting ISG’s recipes, I had no hesitation. Shamelessly taking my cue from her, (and mostly from her recipe), I dove under the bed to dig through my stash of spices. Armed with fresh coriander seeds (is that an oxymoron??), I headed for the kitchen.

Thus was born…

Spicy Brinjal with Shelly Beans

for the curry

a mess of brinjals (I had about 20 in all, small and medium)
one large red onion, diced, divided
4-5 medium fresh tomatoes, pureed (about 2 cups)
1 c shelly beans, shelled and boiled 30 min in salted water, drained
thick tamarind water from a large piece (about 1/2 cup)
jaggery to taste
salt to taste

for the paste

dry roast:
1/4 c coriander seeds
2 TB cumin seeds
a few methi seeds
a few curry leaves
3-4 red chiles, seeded (I used fresh from the garden chiles!)

Saute half the diced onion until lightly browned, then grind with the above to a paste.
Set aside.

for the seasoning

1-2 TB canola oil
curry leaves
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing
half the diced onion

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To prepare:

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. When the oil is ready, add urad dal, curry leaves, hing, and mustard seeds. When the seasonings are hot, add half the onion and saute for a few minutes while you prepare the brinjals.*

Add brinjals and saute over med heat until they begin to brown and wilt. Clear a space in the center and add the ground paste. Cook this over medium heat, stirring, until the paste is fragrant. Keep stirring to coat the brinjals.

After five minutes or so, add tamarind water and pureed tomatoes. Mix well. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook about ten minutes. Now taste and add jaggery depending on the sourness. Add a pinch of salt, cover, and simmer until brinjals are tender.

Uncover, stir in the cooked shelly beans and additional salt to taste.

Serve with hot rice to soak up the spicy gravy, and pass the ghee, please!

spicy brinjal and shelly beans curry
oh so spicy brinjal and shelly beans curry ~ thanks for the great idea, ISG!

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*Slit long brinjals in four pieces, leaving tops intact. Make four cuts in smaller round brinjals. Cut any large brinjals into pieces to match the size of small brinjals. I even had some really tiny ones which I just slit in half as above. I did this while frying the seasonings, so I did not have to worry about discoloration.

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There are now five cats in the house…

lemur and gibby
the golden boys ~ lemur and gibby

pinksdaisy
pinks and daisy

Little 22 yo Squeaker is out in her cozy bed by the furnace…

All the kitties are safe and warm. All is well, and winter is coming…

I love it here :)

the kitties are in :)
the kitties are all snug inside

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Season of Change ~ Time Heals, As Do Fritters :)

autumn in northern michigan
stormy sky in autumn ~ my favorite!

Wow, this post has taken a long time to write. It’s cathartic and contains some things I needed to set out on paper — even virtual paper — in order to work through them.

Thanks for your indulgence!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have always been glad to live in a place where I can experience four seasons. Without winter, I don’t think I would appreciate spring. I’ve always especially loved autumn. In my old life, I looked forward to this season of change; trees adorned in flaming colors against dark and stormy skies and that brisk feeling in the air lending new energy to my walk and to my outlook on life.

Then last autumn came crashing in.

old house being packed up
living room of the old house ~ almost through packing

It’s just over a year since the Massachusetts house was sold.

It had to be sold and I was glad, but… it resulted in a period of panic and mayhem which gave way to a period of anger and frustration, all due to circumstances beyond my control.

Memories of that time are bitter, and I hate that.
I don’t like to be bitter. That’s not *me*!

Since April I have been racing from that old life headfirst into the new. I’ve been frantic.

Frantic is not good. It’s time to stop and remember. It’s time to assimilate all that happened. It’s ok to have a good cry over what should have been. It’s time to heal.

Therefore, I am doing my best to allow myself to feel every emotion I pushed deep down inside last year. If I can do that, I can continue to forge ahead into my new life with my customary enthusiasm.

My new life is a bright one and happy, but sometimes it’s hard to be cheerful *every day*.

It’s tough to be away from my kids. Though they are grown to adulthood I am forever bound to them. There are moments when I am a bit lonesome for the m’n ms.

I can’t always predict or control when those moments occur.
They sneak up and ambush me. I’ve had a good meltdown or two, lately ;)
That’s ok; it’s not my fault.

It’s natural.

who would not miss these kids  :)
the best kids in the world ~ nope, I am not biased :)

In my new life, I strive to make each day positive and peaceful after the uncertainty and upheaval of the past few years. Sometimes I succeed, other times I am still struggling.

I take comfort in believing that I made the best choices I could during a trying time — I did what I thought was best for both the kids and myself. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but this too shall pass. Time is a great healer.

So is love.

chickadee at feeder
autumn view at my new home ~ bird pond and chickadee at the feeder

There is a lot to be said for a small gesture made by one, which means so much to another. The old adage is true — sometimes actions speak louder than words :)

When the corn had been eaten (mostly by raccoons) and the plants began to fall over, I mentioned to DG that a corn shock would be the perfect autumn decoration. At that time, he didn’t really go for the idea — perhaps it was too festive ;)

Several days ago, a corn shock was waiting when I returned from work. Dear G made it for me. That small gesture, as well many larger ones have spoken volumes.

I am snug under a new roof, with a new room at the back of the house besides. The garage has been cleared so that my car fits in, and that enormous supply of wood mentioned in a previous post, cut and stacked by hand, is at the front door. All this is done in anticipation of the cold and snowy winter to come, and it is all very much appreciated by me.

awesome wood pile and corn shock made by dg  :)
the corn shock that DG made for me, leaning on the huge wood pile he made for winter warmth… yep, I am happy :)

Did I mention I have a little pumpkin and scarecrow near the front step, and the maize is hanging on the front door as I have always had (and probably he has never had) — making the new home more home-like for me.

So, to you Dearest G — thank you for your constant winter preparation, as well as festive fall decorations.

Thank you for your love; spoken and unspoken alike.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen…

I made some garden fritters a la Mandira!

I did make changes to the veggies. Mandira’s recipe called for besan, we had just picked green peppers, and I love green peppers and besan combo! I boiled the corn and cut it off the cob, and I added jalepenos. I roasted all the veggies in a non-stick pan with a spritz of oil. I tried two versions — with and without egg. The egg version came out something like a pajeon!

Both were great with maggi sauce :)

Garden Fritters a la Mandira
see original recipe here

For veggies:

2 c corn kernels (2 small ears, cut from the cob after boiling)
1 c green bell pepper, seeded and diced (1 large pepper)
2-3 jalepeno peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 c onion, diced

For batter:

1/2 c besan
1/4 c rice flour
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chaat masala
salt to taste
ground pepper to taste

water to make a thick batter
canola oil (or Pam) for spritzing
canola oil for shallow frying

optional: one egg

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heat a nonstick pan over med-high heat and spritz with canola oil or Pam. Add diced veggies and let them roast for 5-10 minutes — it depends somewhat on the heat of your burners. We don’t want to burn the veggies, only roast them golden with a few dark spots. Flip and toss them from time to time, until they smell and look roasted. Remove to a plate and allow to cool for a few minutes.

pan-roasted veggies
pan-roasted: corn, bell pepper, onion and jalepenos

Meantime, mix the besan and rice flour along with the seasonings in a large bowl.

When the pan-roasted veggies have cooled, add them to the bowl of seasoned flours. Mix well and add sufficient water to form a thick batter. I used approx. 1/2 c plus a couple teaspoons.

thick batter for fritters
a thick batter for fritters ~ optional egg added after frying the first batch :)

Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan over med-high. When it’s hot, make the fritters by dropping spoonfuls in, flattening them as you go. Cook until golden and then turn to fry the other side — approx. 5 min per side but your mileage may vary depending on your burner.

Remove fritters and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve hot with Maggi (dg’s favorite) or your favorite chutney/condiment.

*Optional: mix one beaten egg with the batter and cook in the same manner. These will be softer inside and more like a Korean panjeon. The jury is still out on which was tastier :)

garden fritters a la mandira
garden fritters a la Mandira! classic on the left and more korean/pajeon style on the right

autumn in the north woods
view from the mailbox is some changed from May ~ still a very happy camper!

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The Weather Rock

The weather rock sits outside the front door of the cozy red house. Who needs The Weather Channel?

If the rock is wet, it’s raining.
If the rock is white, it’s snowing.
If the rock is warm, it’s sunny…

weather rock welcoming autumn

the weather rock, dressed up for autumn in the north woods ~ where it is unseasonably warm (and raining)

Please go and visit my dear friend Shammi, who posted a perfect autumn recipe complete with turnips, mushrooms, and everyone’s favorite, pasta! Shammi, I love you for that post :) As miss m would say, YAY! ;)

Comments (3)

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