Archive for August, 2013

Creatures of Yard and Garden

Just a few of the interesting guys (or gals!) who have surfaced lately…

walking stick
have you ever seen a walking stick?

who am I?
no idea what sort of caterpillar this is…

some kinda wasp
dg probably knows the scientific name for this ~ I think it’s a (harmless to humans) parasitic wasp

OK, enough insects…

baby chickadees
a family of baby chickadees has been hanging around…

took me awhile to figure this one out ~ there were several out under the woodpile the other day ~ ovenbird!

scarlet tanager
scarlet tanager!

hermit thrush
this little hermit thrush loves the pond ~ when they sing, they sound like bells…

little miss squeaker is quite elderly ~ she spent the day outside while her room was scrubbed down

she loved the carrots!

At last, a few days with temps over 70 have provided the garden with just the nudge it needed to start producing in earnest. We’ve been picking cucumbers like crazy, banana peppers like mad, and a few other odds and ends like bell peppers, dusky variety eggplant, and the odd cherry tomato. Fairytale brinjals are next in line and I hope the beans aren’t far behind. There are two varieties of pole beans, and some long beans and papdi beans have flowered along with the horticultural beans mom sent.

dusky eggplant
this dusky eggplant looks like the big bitter variety, but it’s sweet and tender

wall o'beans
one side of the wall o’beans!

beautiful bean flower
at last I caught the beautiful purple long bean flower open!

garden entrance
the entrance to the garden has been taken over by the lebanese squash ~ no end in sight!

Meanwhile, back in the house…

I made some pakoras with fresh picked veggies including lots of my fav, peppers ~ yum πŸ™‚

pinks and gibby form a tenuous friendship ~ sharing space but studiously ignoring one another πŸ˜‰

I can’t wait to get outside in the morning — it was over 90F today so I expect the cucumbers will be thick.
How does your garden grow?

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Make Bhature While The Sun Shines!

here come the sunflowers!

here comes the sun, and the sunflower! this one has a double blossom…

Make hay while the sun shines, the old farmers’ proverb says.

Take advantage of your opportunities, and make good use of your time! πŸ˜‰

That’s what’s been happening here in the woods. No hay, but a lot of projects underway.

Last week, workers finished the new roof and a little sun porch which was enclosed and fitted out with five brand new windows! Dear G has been painting the house from dawn till dusk, as long as there is light to see by. I have been running back and forth to my two little jobs. Today was a welcome day off. Since I am not much good with roofing nails or house paint, I indulged myself by working in the kitchen πŸ™‚

Some while back, my dear kitchen fairy gifted me with a new pressure cooker. It’s been packed away all this time, waiting patiently for its inauguration celebration. Reorganizing the fridge and freezer was just the beginning for me (thanks again, Nupur!).
A few days ago I did the same for the kitchen cupboards; there is space now for a few of my treasured cooking vessels and this big beautiful Presto is a gem. Today was the long-awaited day to break it out and make an inaugural curry. I chose something I have been craving — spicy rich chole. I even made an attempt at bhature.

I read several (ok, many) recipes for chole bhature, some old and some new. Finally I settled on the version at Tasty Appetite.
I liked the way the chick peas were pressure cooked *with* the masala rather than separately. I changed up the chole ingredients a little, and the bread has the odd addition of dhokla flour, since I have no sooji!?! I loved the way the chole turned out, and the bhatures weren’t bad for a first try with the wrong ingredients πŸ˜‰

Chole Bhature
mostly from Tasty Appetite’s recipe here

3 c dried chickpeas (measured after soaking overnight)

2 TB canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom
2 green chiles, slit
1 dried red chile without seeds

1 TB ginger paste
1 TB garlic paste
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 c fresh tomatoes, measured after grinding

1 heaping TB chana masala powder (I used Badshah brand, yum)
2 TB anardana powder
salt to taste


Heat the oil in your shiny new pressure cooker. When hot, fry the cumin seeds for thirty seconds, then add the other whole spices and chiles.

sizzling whole spices
inauguration photo ~ frying the spices in the new cooker!

Cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic pastes. Cook another couple of minutes, then add the onion. Cook until onion has browned and softened, then add the tomatoes and cook a few minutes longer. Add the chana masala and anardarna powders and combine well. Cover and cook on low until the oil starts to separate — this took about 5 minutes for me.

mmm... smells so good!
the rich spice mix

Add the soaked chick peas and 2 c water and mix well.
Now it’s time to test the new cooker!

ready to close the lid!
before pressure cooking

Bring the mixture to a boil, then put the lid and weight on and lower the heat to medium. When the pressure comes up, set the timer for ten minutes. When the timer goes off, remove from the heat and allow the pressure to come down on its own. Remove the lid and mash a few of the chick peas into the gravy.

smells even better now!
after pressure cooking

If you prefer thicker chole like I do, simmer the mixture for a few minutes, uncovered, before serving.

again with thanks and credit to Tasty Appetite ~ I made only minor changes

2 c flour
(I used what I had on hand — 1 1/2 c bread flour and 1/2 c all purpose)
1/4 c dhokla flour (substituted for sooji)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 c yogurt
2-3 TB water (my addition, as the dough would not come together for me without it)
salt to taste (I forgot to add salt!!)


Sieve the flours together with salt, sugar and baking powder into a medium bowl, mixing well. Add yogurt and a little water. Mix to form a (stiff) dough.

**Aside: was my dough stiff due to dal in the dhokla flour, or the use of bread flour perhaps?**

Knead until smooth, at least ten minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest 4 hours in a warm place.

After resting, the dough was much softer as promised in the original recipe. Divide the dough into 8-10 balls.

making bhature for the first time!
making bhature for the first time

Roll them out one by one…

handy little roller tool!
how is this for a handy little rolling pin ~ from dg’s wide assortment of utensils!

…and deep fry one by one. Keep the dough submurged using a spatula until it puffs up. When golden on one side, flip and fry the other until also golden.

frying bhature ~ it puffed!
frying the first bhature ~ look mom, it puffed!

Drain well and serve hot with chole.


chole bhature
chole bhature plate ~ I love this because everything except the onion is homemade or homegrown!

Also, dg started the pickle jar tonight! More on that later πŸ™‚

dg dills
dill refrigerator pickles ~ an annual tradition for dg, and now me

A few garden photos to end this lovely day…

cukes climbing
straight eight cucumbers make good use of the teepees we built in june…

at last, brinjals! these are fairytale variety and they grow in little clusters

long bean flowers
long bean flowers had closed for the day when I took this, but were light purple in the morning… look to the left and see where the dear deer have been feasting on the tender leaves πŸ˜‰

afternoon sun on squash
lebanese zucchini bathing in afternoon sun

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The Road Goes Ever On ~ Moving Home Part Three (With Summertime Pasta Salad)

*** long post warning ***

“I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.

I’ve hauled some barges in my day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay
And I know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo…

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, for we’re coming to a town…”

The above is from “Low Bridge” or “The Erie Canal Song”, an old song my dad taught us when we were kids. I sang it, in turn, with my kids. You can hear Pete Seeger singing it here. Not quite the same as our car chorus but… πŸ˜‰

We typically sang only the first verse — I guess the song, like the canal, went on for miles πŸ˜‰ When our version ended, my dad would jump into this:

“Oh the Ee-rye-ee was a risin’
And the gin was a’gettin’ low
And I scarcely think we’re gonna get a drink
‘Til we get to Buffalo-oh-oh
‘Til we get to Buffalo…”

And so on and so on, went the car-trip songs of my youth. I will spare you the one about the fox (he went out on a chilly night…) πŸ˜‰ You can read more about the Erie Canal song here.

ny thruway stops are all alike...
a travel plaza on the ny state thruway — here called the amvets memorial highway

To cheer myself during the long winter of uncertainty, I carefully charted a springtime course to take in as many sights — old and new — as possible. This leg of the trip home took us from Albany to Buffalo and beyond. I wanted to travel back to my future! With that in mind, as we set out from the outskirts of Albany, I had two detours planned. First was Scotia — where I lived from age three to age five or thereabouts. Most memories I have of that time are rooted in old photo albums and tales from my folks. It would be fun to visit now!

the little town of scotia
a bank in downtown scotia, ny

There was much confusion and frustration en route — partly due to Mom’s old directions. She insisted there would be a Woolworth’s across the main road from the old street, because, as the story goes, one day she was backing out of the driveway there and I piped up “look out mom, you’re gonna hit the W!”.

“The W” was Woolworth’s, a five-and-dime store which has long since disappeared into the history books. That landmark was no help. Nevertheless, we managed to arrive at the old homeplace.

I recognized the house from photos. Driving around the road that encircled our short, straight street gave me a glimpse into a few memories of my own — such as riding my bicycle on training wheels to the little house with the triangle entry, where Mrs. Sheehy would give me a glass of orange Tang. Perhaps you remember Tang — the beverage of astronauts!

I remember this place!
I think I remember this place!

the old house from the circle street
view of the old home from the ‘circle drive’

Taking leave of Scotia, we set out on the long haul across the Empire State. I wish now that I had stopped to take a few photos on the side of the road; much of the drive was quite scenic with rolling hills and farmland. Mostly we stopped to check on the kitties. The first day was harrowing, with driving rain and miss daisy trying to get through the ‘pet barrier’. I’d look in the rear-view mirror and see two little ears and a nose pressed through the gate. Day two, she chose to scooch in *between* the base of the barrier and the back seat. It took an hour to coax her out, but at least I knew she felt comfortable back there, and she was safe. As for Mr. Pinks, he rode half of the first day with his tail in the litter box. That very night we scrapped the litter box in the back — cats weren’t using it in the car, and I couldn’t stand the thought of his tail in there.

kitties at a rest stop along ny state thruway
we’re getting used to this car thing mom… but we don’t LOVE it! πŸ˜‰

And so we drove on, paralleling the old Erie Canal, until we reached the heart of the Finger Lakes region in the sunny mid-afternoon.

finger lakes region ~ stop on ny state thruway
most stops (called travel plazas in ny) along the thruway have a sign like this one at the finger lakes, with historical details of the area

Approaching Rochester, we took the second detour of the day — this time to see another old homeplace which I do remember — I lived there as a young teenager. Heading north and slightly east from the thruway, we came quite easily to Fairport — site of an engineering marvel along the Erie Canal.

Off route 31F, we stopped to see the grocery store my mother once referred to as ‘an airport store’ due to its size. Its outward appearance has not changed one bit from my days in junior high.

the old wegmans... looks the same as ever!
wegmans grocery ~ the airport store!

Just a hop skip and a jump from the ‘airport store’ found me gazing upon another old home — where I spent many an eve full of teenage angst, cozied up in the window seat of my bedroom. This time, I remembered it well!

the old home in upstate ny
I remember this place! my bedroom was the dormer on the right…

It was just a short drive from the little brick house to the little town, where we finally got to see the Erie Canal!

erie canal
erie canal at fairport… looking muddy!

de land sign at erie canal
when I lived here, I attended Minvera De Land middle school — evidently the De Land family was important in these parts — never made the connection till now

the famous bridge
famous (in days of yore) bridge over the erie canal ~ fairport

Leaving the canal behind, we continued along I-90 through the suburbs of Buffalo, finally making the Pennsylvania state line in late afternoon. I couldn’t get a ‘welcome to NY’ photo due to the rain, so I was determined to document PA πŸ˜‰ Of course, dear G indulged me — he did not complain when I stopped on the side of the highway; he even took the pic.

pa welcomes us!
pennsylvania welcomes us!

At the state line, there was a fun rest area with tunnels over each side of the road, leading to the facility in between. Inside, there were neat signs over opposite doorways — heading east or west. We traveled west towards Erie, the last stop for the day.

at the pa/ny state line
the door to the eastbound side

west to erie!
go west, young kitties!

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

— J.R.R. Tolkein

view from the overhead bridge ~ ny into penn.
view from the overhead walkway ~ looking westward into pennsylvania


If you’re still awake, I have a summertime garden pasta salad for you!

pasta salad ~ lightened up
pasta salad ~ or veggie salad with pasta!

This goes especially to dear Vani for her eating better challenge. The lightened up part is the proportion of veggies to pasta — it’s really a veggie salad with a little pasta thrown in πŸ˜‰ You can substitute any of the ingredients for your favorites. The idea is to have a colorful, flavorful mix. Here is how I made it:

Lightened Up Pasta Salad
makes about 10 cups

2 cups cooked pasta of your choice (I used bow ties)

Wash and dice the following:

1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
2 red peppers
2 banana peppers
1 cucumber (remove seeds, if large)
1 summer squash (I used the lebanon zucchini from the garden)
10-12 fresh green beans

In a large bowl, mix the above with:

2 c baby spinach
1 c grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes, I would cut in half if using those)
1 can black olives, drained
1/2 c diced provolone cheese
1/2 c diced salami (optional)

Add 1/3 cup vinagrette dressing of your choice (I used Garlic Expressions) and mix well. Allow to sit for a few hours, or preferably overnight, for flavors to blend.

cucumbers on teepees
cucumbers reaching to the sky…

banana peppers, yum!
prolific banana peppers ~ one of several varieties growing in spite of a cool summer

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Cleaning The Fridge and Shrimp with Bamboo Shoots in Spicy Coconut Curry

celebrity tomatoes
here come the tomatoes ~ if only they have time to ripen!

In the new home, I find myself sharing kitchen space. It’s a most delightful experience for me. Who wouldn’t love to have another interested cook in the kitchen — especially one who is willing to chop all the onions I desire, and even asks, “how finely chopped do you want them?”!!

That is none other than dear G, a whiz with onions, pizza crust, and much more.

When I arrived with my assortment of must-haves, a full fridge swelled to overflowing. I knew it could be transformed into a more functional space, but I couldn’t just swoop in and take over. The situation called for tact and timing. Fortunately, what I may lack in the former, I often make up for in the latter.

That, or I am just lucky πŸ˜‰

The other day I discovered the Chill Out and Clean Out over at
One Hot Stove. Talk about great timing! Here was the perfect opportunity to pitch my plan. Thanks Nupur!

Given the green light from G, I set out in earnest to fix the fridge.

I thought about how I cook — I am constantly bending and stooping and digging to find something hidden way at the back of the bottom shelf, simply because the jar is big and heavy. Why not have easy access to the things I use most often?

I also wanted to open up the space to make it easier to find *anything*.

One hurdle was the sheer number of bottles and jars. Mustards, relishes, homemade pickles, and numerous ingredients for my cooking passions, Indian, Korean and beyond — many of which require refrigeration — are in residence.

The first idea, which allowed me to free up plenty of shelf space, was to store the smaller bottles of less frequently used condiments (Chinese mustard, for example, or Jamaican jerk paste) in one of the crisper drawers.

Then I removed a middle shelf which made a narrow space, perfect for hiding cans of cat food, sliced turkey, bits of cheese, half an onion, and the like. I found a suitable plastic box to act as deli drawer, and placed it on the bottom shelf. Take that, scraps of cheese and onion! Another box on the top shelf holds condiments that won’t fit in the door, but would tip easily on a wire shelf.

In the door itself, I placed the condiments we use most often — now they’re at our fingertips. The giant bottle of ketchup has been relegated to the back of the top shelf — but at least it’s easy to find! πŸ˜‰

G is not so sure about having a drawer full of condiments instead of veggies. I hope those veggies sitting out on the bottom shelf — always in sight and easy to grab — will translate to fewer forlorn, forgotten bunches of green onions melting away into green goo in the corner of the ‘crisper’. You know what I mean πŸ™‚

One result of the reorganization is this: I have resolved to stop buying giant bottles of anything unless I know it will be used quickly (jars of ginger and garlic paste would be an exception, for example). When my evil penny-pinching twin whispers in my ear that I will save 3 cents per ounce if I just get that gigantic bottle, I am going to remember just how long it took to use up the gigantic bottle — not to mention the contents aren’t so fresh at the end of year four πŸ˜‰
A savings of pennies per ounce may seem wise at time of purchase, but if I have to pitch out that bottle months down the road, I will have wasted more than I saved to begin with.

I have also resolved to redouble my effort to cook with what’s on hand rather than giving in to my frequent I-feel-like-chicken-tonight whims. In that spirit, I made a coconut curry based partly on a favorite of mine: Goan Shrimp a la Bong Mom, and partly on
this delicious looking recipe which I found showcased at
Divya’s Recipes. Thanks ladies!!

I had shrimp in the freezer. I added bamboo shoots that I picked up at Asian Delight Marketplace when the kids flew home. Hooray for Grand Rapids — the closest ethnic markets are just hours away! πŸ˜‰

Shrimp and Bamboo Shoots in Spicy Coconut Curry

For the paste:

4-6 dried red chiles
6 cloves garlic
6 peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2″ cinnamon
a few cloves

Toast the above until fragrant.

Grind to a paste with:

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Keep aside in the grinder.

For the curry:

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (sprinkle the shrimp with turmeric and a little salt and leave to rest while cooking the following)

2 tsp canola oil
1 big onion, chopped
2 green chiles, seeded if desired, and chopped
curry leaves to taste
2 TB dried coconut (optional but adds great aroma!)
1 tomato, chopped
the reserved paste
3 medium fresh bamboo shoots, diced **see note below**
1 can coconut milk

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pot, add the onion and chiles, and cook for a few minutes. Add the curry leaves and optional dried coconut. Saute over medium heat until the onion turns color and the coconut aroma fills the kitchen πŸ™‚ Add the chopped tomato and cook a few minutes longer.

Add the reserved paste. Rinse out the grinder with a little fresh water and add this to the pot too. Cook a few minutes, to bring out the flavor of the paste.

Now add the diced bamboo shoots and mix well. Let this simmer for 20-30 min over med-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the dish is nearly dry and very fragrant, add the coconut milk. Raise the heat to medium high and watch carefully, stirring often. When the curry is just below the boil, add the shrimp and mix well.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for about 6-8 minutes or until the shrimp are just pink. Time will vary depending on size of shrimp.

When the shrimp are pink, remove from the heat and cover. Let it sit for an additional 5-10 minutes to be sure the shrimp are cooked through. They will continue to cook from the residual heat, and in doing so should not become tough.

This is a very interesting and rich, flavorful dish, which I served with soft barley rice (1 c rice, 1/2 c barley, 3 c water — soak for 30 min then cook per your usual rice rule).

As usual, it was even better as leftovers the next day.

**note on bamboo shoots — I purchased water packed shoots that looked something like the photo here. I wish I had those on top when I took the ‘before pics’ of the fridge, but I did get a shot of some narrower shoots packed in similar fashion. Bamboo tends to be very bitter tasting to me — I cut these puppies up and brought them to a boil in lightly salted water, then drained them, covered in fresh water and let them sit a good 30 minutes before using.

Let me add that it’s well worth the effort/expense to try these fresh(er) shoots as opposed to the garden variety canned version. Even after all that boiling/soaking/further cooking, they are so crunchy and tasty!


I am too late for Nupur’s deadline, but I thought it would be fun to fill out the virtual survey regardless!

before pics of fridge

eek! what a mess!
yikes, what a mess!

good grief! πŸ™‚

and more...
and the drawers…

The most unusual/exotic/interesting item in your fridge: homemade kimchi

Three items you always have in your fridge: ginger and garlic pastes, tamarind, sesame oil (only three!??) πŸ™‚

The oldest item in your fridge: strawberry jam from the Keweenaw Peninsula, purchased in 2006!

Item(s) from the fridge that needed to be used and how you used it/them up in meals or recipes: ate up the aforementioned jam on toast πŸ™‚ made milk into yogurt, didn’t cook for a week eating leftovers, consolidated all store-bought horseradish and spicy brown mustard and ghee into one jar each, and so forth.

after pics of fridge
easier to find things!
lighter and brighter ~ complete with homemade yogurt in mason jars, yum!

look mom ~ nothing falling over!
much better!

my favorite!
and my favorite part ~ the condiment drawer!

And that’s all folks… I can’t believe how long this post is. If you made it this far, you deserve a medal — or at least a serving of shrimp and bamboo shoots! πŸ˜‰

shrimp and bamboo shoots in coconut curry
shrimp and bamboo shoots bathed in rich coconut curry

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