Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wild Blackberries in the farm

I ran out of jelly. Now that we are used to eating home made jelly I try to find fruits that can be made into jelly. Earlier in the summer DD2 harvested mulberries from the trees around here. Mulberries can be eaten just like that, with purple juice and their natural sweetness they are a delight but cannot be kept around for a long time. So I made jelly out of them.

When that ran out our currant bushes gave just enough fruit to make currant jelly. When that was almost coming to an end the wild blackberry bushes were starting to fruit. I am not that fond of cultivated blackberries. They are not as sweet as the other berries. But these wild blackberries are sweeter and smaller than their cultivated counterparts.

Picking blackberries is an adventure unto itself. It might be a good idea to be in hazmat suits :). Wearing thic gloves is a good idea. Anyway I managed to pluck about a couple of pounds of blackberries getting pricked and pulled by the thorns that are abundant on the plant. But they are sweet and fresh and the jelly turned out pretty good as well.

Here is the blackberry bush in pictures,

See the thorns?

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Button Mushrooms Fry

These white button mushrooms were my first introduction to mushrooms. We started seeing mushrooms in my corner of India when I was perhaps in middle school. These tiny button mushrooms were fresh and cooked with just minimal of spices and the taste was earthy and hearty like eating succulent chicken. That is the taste that comes to my mind when I think of mushrooms. But mushrooms were not an every day affair. Occasionally you got them in the markets.

Fast forward to life here in the US. There are umpteen varieties of mushroom but for some reason I kept away from the white button mushrooms perhaps this thing that anything white is bad was perhaps playing in the back of head when I was passing by these white button mushrooms?

These cute white fresh button mushrooms came home with me on one of my grocery runs and they have several times since. We are all glad they did. Cooked this way the mushrooms are a treat.

Button Mushrooms Fry
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
  1. 1/2 - 1 lb small white button mushrooms
  2. 1/2 cup of chopped shallots (Red onion can be used but it is preferable to use shallots)
  3. 2 tsp chili powder or 1/2 tbsp sambhar powder
  4. salt to taste
  5. seasonings: mustard, curry leaves
  6. 2 tsp oil

  1. Wash the mushrooms and let the water drain completely and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Leave them whole, no need to chop.
  2. In a kadai or a wide mouthed pan, heat oil and add the seasonings.
  3. Add the onions and saute till they are nice and brown.
  4. Turn the heat to high and add in the mushrooms, saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add in the spice powder and salt and saute for 4-5 minutes more and turn off the heat.
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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Crisp Bread with melted cheese and vegetables

As you are on the road driving have you seen heads on the driver side bent and you are wondering when that car is going to cut into your lane? Then the head lifts up at the last minute and the car corrects itself on the lane and you breathe a sigh of relief and think to yourself you are much smarter than that right? This is until you realize you are doing exactly the same thing!! Though DD2 thinks that I have finally joined the digital world after purchasing a smart phone. I feel like I have lost something and I realize instead of observing people in the cars I am one of those people with a bent head.

I apologize for not being active on this blog. Too many things going on. We moved and now live in the farm, which means more fun and lot more work. Anyway on to the recipe,

A friend made an unexpected visit a weekend. She brought some crisp bread with her. They are more like crackers but only bigger and crispier. While I was wondering what to make I thought who doesn't like melted cheese on crackers? Pair them with some sliced Avocadoes or fig jam and they are a treat. You can also add sauted some vegetables and top them on the crackers.

Get the crsip bread ready. Get the vegetables sauteed and ready to go.
Add the cheese and vegetables to the crisp bread. Place them in the toaster oven till the cheese melts for about 10-15 minutes.
Add the cheese and vegetables to the crisp bread. Place them in the toaster oven till the cheese melts.

An easy to eat snack is ready in just a few minutes. If you do not want to bother avocado, tomatoes or even minced jalapeno pickles very well.

Crisp Bread with melted cheese and vegetables
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 1 Zucchini (mushroom or any kind of squash, avocado, tomatoes)
  2. 1/2 tsp chili or pepper powder
  3. salt to taste
  4. Pepper Jack Cheese chopped or sliced (or any cheese of your choice that can be melted)
  5. 1 packet of Crisp Bread or any hard fairly larger size crackers **
  1. Chop the zucchini into tiny cubes (if using mushroom or squash do the same thing). Slice the avocados and tomatoes if using but skip the next step. *
  2. In wide mouthed pan heat the oil and when hot in high heat add the zucchini and saute till it partially cooked. Add salt and pepper or chili powder and give a good mix and turn the heat off.
  3. Take the crisp bread and line it with cheese mixed in with the vegetables.
  4. Place in a toaster oven at 350F for about 10-15 till the cheese melts.
  5. Note:** Use crackers that can toasted to get the cheese melted.
  6. * If using avocados or tomatoes add them and sprinkle the pepper after the cracker comes out of the toaster.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Raw Plantain (Banana) Pepper Fry

Does chronological age increase the mental maturity? We all assume that as we age we get better at dealing with problems in a calm and measured way. Personally for me this is not the case and more often than not continue on with old habits without realizing. Learn not to react right away and ponder over the situation a bit before responding or in some situations not respond at all. How? By being mindful of everything around you.

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment by calmly accepting and acknowledging one's feelings, thoughts and bodily functions. Stress brought on by doing too many things at the same time both physical and mental can be offset by being mindful. Setting aside a few minutes to practice mindfulness is what I am trying to do albeit unsuccessfully. I first started with the 3 minute Body Scan to Cultivate Mindfulness and that is the first 3 minutes that I had spent doing one thing fully without multitasking. While it is easy to tell DD2 to focus trying to do it myself has been a challenge.

We often find people complaining that they are not being listened to. While it has a lot to do with the person who is talking, the person who is listening has a part to play by putting effort at being mindful of what the person in front of them is saying. This simple interaction that takes place every single day in our homes and work places can be made better by being aware or in other words mindful.

I have heard lots of friends tell me that cooking is for them the act that brings them a feeling of well being. If you are one of those people good for you. While cooking is a much enjoyed event for me there are some days all I want to do is get it done and out of the way. The most annoying part of any activity are the deadlines that get put to accomplish simple things. I digress a bit but,

I worked on a project where the management did not believe in deadlines. Needless to say it was one of the most enjoyable projects that I worked on and it was the only place where most projects were delivered on time. Moreover people were more mindful about what was going on. All this planning for what? Go Figure!

Anyway when there is no deadline staring you down in the face and you have a some time to do some relaxed cooked, here is a recipe. It is quick and easy so it can be done when you are rushed for time but it might not be as enjoyable ;)

While green plantains are common in most grocery stores here, raw bananas are not that common a sight. Have to go to the Indian
grocery stores to purchase those. But for purposes of this recipe both kinds work very well. Simple and very easy recipe but with some impressive results.

Cut the raw banana in half and steam for 6-8 minutes and peel the skin.
Slice the cooked banana. Meanwhile heat a wide mouthed pan with oil.
Add the sliced bananas and the spice powder and mix them well.
Roast till the bananas are well coated.

Raw Plantain (Banana) Pepper Fry
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
  1. 3-4 raw plantain or banana
  2. 2-3 tsp finely ground pepper powder
  3. 1 tsp turmeric powder
  4. 1 tsp red chili powder (optional)
  5. salt to taste
  6. 1/2 tbsp of oil
  1. Cut the banana into half, edges trimmed and steam for about 6-8 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Peel the skin and cut into rounds or any shape you prefer.
  3. Heat a wide mouthed pan add oil and when hot add the sliced banana and let it saute for a about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the turmeric, chili and pepper powders and salt and mix it in.
  5. Continue to roast, adding a tsp or 2 of oil, till the outside gets crisp and the banana slices are well roasted.
  6. Serve as a side dish.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spring Flowers - 2017 Update

Spring means allergies - watery eyes, scratchy throats and runny noses. All not from being sick but from the pollen these beautiful flowers put out. Thank my lucky stars that allergies have not been a problem all these years but this year either the pollen is very bad or my immunity to pollen is slowly reducing.

But admiring these flowers is still allowed :)

Look at the color! Want to take a guess what flowers these are - Flowers of a PawPaw Tree!

Closer Look!

These - Pink Cascade Weeping Peach!

Beautiful aren't they?

How about These - Purple Lobe Locust!

Brightens up the area!

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sweet Potatoes in a Spicy Tomato Gravy

How do you deal with events that are beyond your control? Especially when you live far away from close family. Dealing with unexpected life events requires a certain acceptance of fate and what it hands to you. 2017 has already been a tough year, hopefully the later part of the year will turn out to be better.

Events this year has taught me not to postpone meeting people be it visiting or at the least calling. It might sound old fashioned in this age of texting and snap chatting but most of you know what I mean. And moreover nothing like doing it today. I got retaught not to take things for granted and being aware and cognizant of people's generosity. Keeping these things in mind all the time is hard. Anyway...

Being glued to the idiot box is something I do a lot though I tell my children that it will make them more idiotic. But advice is to give but not to take right? TV is just made for those nights when jet lag makes sleep impossible when everybody else is sound asleep, add to that a mind that is not at ease with 1000 things swirling around. For just those days thanks to whoever came up with 24 hour TV.

It was during one of those mind numbing TV watching days that I stumbled on to this recipe. The name of this recipe is what caught my attention "Silakadi Thamba Kari". I don't remember if the lady who demonstrated the recipe telling why such a name.

Sweet Potatoes seem to be all the craze even in India. Filled with vitamins and also extremely tasty what is not to like? If you live in the US look for Japanese Sweet Potatoes or the Jersey White Sweet Potatoes to make this recipe. Both of these have a white flesh and is much firmer than the orange sweet potatoes that you normally see in most grocery stores. If you are using the orange fleshed yams just be careful not to overcook it.

I used Jersey White Sweet Potatoes which works perfect in this recipe. The gravy works well with either chapathis or rice.

Recipe in pictures,

Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Make 1 1/2 inch dice and put them in a bowl of water to prevent discoloration.
Heat a wide mouthed pan and heat the oil. Add in the seasonings and when the mustard starts to pop add in the onions and green chilies. Add in the spice powders - turmeric, coriander and chili powders.
Add in the tomatoes and let cook till the tomatoes become mushy. Add salt.
Add in the sweet potatoes and mix it into the gravy. Cook for about 10 -12 minutes or till the sweet potatoes are tender. Do not overcook.

Sweet Potatoes in Spicy Tomato Gravy
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
  1. 4-5 medium sweet potatoes peeled and diced into 1 1/2 inch dices.
  2. 1/2 red onion finely chopped or 1/2 cup of diced shallots
  3. 5-6 green chilies slit
  4. 1 cup of finely diced tomatoes
  5. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  6. 2 tsp coriander powder
  7. 2 tsp chili powder
  8. salt to taste
  9. seasonings: mustard, cumin and curry leaves
  10. 2 tsp of oil

  1. Clean and peel the sweet potatoes and make about 1 1/2 inch dice. Place them in a bowl of water till ready to use. They tend to turn black otherwise.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil and when hot add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard starts to pop add the curry leaves.
  3. Add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions turn translucent. Add in the spice powders, turmeric, coriander and chili powders and give a good mix.
  4. Add in the tomatoes and let it cook till it becomes mushy. Add salt and cook for a few more minutes.
  5. Add in the diced sweet potatoes. Let it cook for about 10-12 minutes till they are soft. (see Note:) Turn off the heat.
  6. Note:Adjust the cooking time based on the sweet potatoes you are using. Some cook quicker than the others.

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