baking bug

One of the greatest things about being done with coursework is that when I get home, I can do whatever I want (listen to music, read for leisure, inline skate, ride my bike, or cook).

I really had an itch to bake last night, so to get the baking bug out of my system, and get my friends loving me even more, I baked some of these peanut butter/banana/m&m cookies last night (I loosely followed this recipe). The edges ended up being perfectly crispy, and the added banana kept the center of the cookies moist.

I really loved the colorful cheer that the m&ms imparted.
To all my friends with final exams next week; I don’t envy you 😉
but I will give you a cookie.

xoxo
-P

Delight

I hope you had a lovely weekend, mine was certainly eventful!

Friday night I got to meet a really cool new person (couch surfing ftw!). The CSer was this really neat news reporter for NPR, here in Bloomington on a freelance reporting assignment. She is really well connected, and had a lot of inspiring advice, and life story to tell. It was great meeting her and I think we learned a lot from each other!

On Saturday evening, some friends and I dolled up to try out a new restaurant on the town square and then we headed off to the opera (to see Candide). I had never before been to an opera, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Candide felt more like a musical, or at least more like an English operetta as opposed to a traditional French opera, but it was a fun experience and evening out on the town. Also, I had never read Candide, but now, I think I should. Candide’s experience of being impossibly optimistic prior to being exposed to the realities of life mirrors my experience of coming to graduate school. Three years ago, when I started graduate school, I was ridiculously naive and idealistic. At the moment, I am impossibly realistic/pragmatic. ‘Life is neither good nor bad. Life is life.’

Sunday was spent lounging in the beautiful weather, and going to a vegan cooking class!
In class, we learned how to make vegan springrolls, a seaweed salad, and a kabocha squash/chickpea coconut curry.

I really enjoyed learning to cook (Pei is a great teacher… I’ve gone to a couple of her other classes, and I’ve written about another one of them here).

Eating everything at the end, was by far, the best part 🙂

xoxo
-P

Monday Meal: Black bean & Sweet Potato Tacos

I don’t know what I was thinking when I went to the farmer’s market on Saturday.
It was the first weekend of the outdoor market, and I suppose I got caught up in all of the market hullabaloo that I just bought random food items without considering what I would actually make with them.
Sweet potatoes? Onions? Cilantro? Avocado? Jalapenos? Goat cheese?

So I managed to broil a few corn tortillas, roast the sweet potatoes, and make some black bean tacos with sweet potatoes (and goat cheese!)

Yum!

xoxo
-P

Springtime

Spring is in the air, and spring cleaning has been on my mind.
I got around to feeling a bit domestic over the weekend and decided to put away the winter clothes/blankets, do a few loads of laundry, tidy up the house, and do a bit of Easter-season baking.

One of the greatest things about spring is the sign of new life. Walking around, I can’t help but get joy out of seeing budding leaves on branches, blooming flowers, baby rabbits, deer, and eggs/baby birds. I decided to make these coconut macaroons. They have turned out to be a wonderful hit (keeping my fingers away has been so incredibly tough!)

In the evening, Verena, Will, and I headed to see a play that the Cardinal Stage Theater had put on; Bachelorette the new comedy by Leslye Headland. I found the play to be witheringly funny yet bitterly sad at the same time.

The play was somewhat illuminating of many of the young people I meet today; they are unable to feel anyone else’s pain, and are unable to process their own. Another aspect of the play is summed up beautifully by the playwright; Ms. Headland writes:

Bachelorette is a play about the in-between space. The place you are when you’re reconciling who you thought you were gonna be when you grew up with who you’ve become.”

We ended up leaving the play, and chatted a bit about it afterwords. It definitely made us think….At least we are not alone in our feelings. And at least we are not that lost.
We are making progress in life. We are going somewhere, and somewhere wonderful at that!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

xoxo
-P

Bake a cake, and eat it too.

I baked a cake Friday evening for a surprise party I was hosting for my pal Ben (who just passed his qualifying exam, and turns 25 next week!).

This was my first time baking a layered cake. I baked a classic yellow cake (recipe here), and topped it off with Magnolia Bakery’s creamy vanilla frosting (recipe here) which I promptly dyed mint green (Ben’s second favorite color). I only had 1 spring-form pan available, so it took the better part of my Friday evening to get all the layers baked, cooled, and iced, but the result was totally worth it!

I also made some rainbow fruit kabobs (idea courtesy pinterest) that were a huge hit!

Rainbow colors and sprinkles make everything wonderful.

xoxo
-P

Because my parents are Indian

Random Person: So where are you from?
Me: I’m from Texas
Random Person: No, Really, Where are you from?
Me: Well, I grew up in Houston, and spent my college days in Austin.
<Awkward silence ensues>
Random Person: No, I mean where is your ancestry from?
Me: My parents are from India
Random Person: So, you eat curry?

Yes. That is how conversations often happen when I’m out and about. I’m inevitably the token brown girl at functions here in Indiana and for explicable reasons, I’m designated the responsibility of bringing Indian food to potlucks and the like. I’m proud to be American, and I first and foremost identify myself as one.

But, I am brown. I have Indian parents, and quite frankly, I hold and practice many of the Indian values that my parents instilled within me. So naturally, I also identify myself as Indian.

Anyway, I vividly remember asking my mom to teach me out to cook something Indian. She was all too excited to get me in the kitchen, so she happily obliged. I joined her one Sunday morning (her cooking day), armed with a notepad and pen ready to write it all down only to realize that her cooking methods were without rhyme and in my mind had no reason. She would say, ‘just add a pinch of bay leaves’ while then dumping in what seemed like a handful. Needless to say, I gave up after 20 minutes; she couldn’t really slow down on her end, and I being an analytical chemist could not deal with her arbitrary measuring skills.

But, I still needed a curry recipe. I am an American Born Indian after all. So I’ve done extensive playing around in the kitchen and have discovered what is in my mind, the perfect, vegetarian curry recipe. Not only is it close to the real deal in taste, but it is also healthier than traditional curries, and written using standard measuring units. I hope you like it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 14 oz packages of extra firm tofu (Drained and prepared as described here)
  • 1 cup/can chickpeas (drained)
  • 1 pack frozen chopped spinach (10 oz)
  • 1 bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 TBSP each of coriander, cumin, and turmeric (I buy these in the bulk foods section to ensure freshness while also saving money)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 TBSP mild curry paste (Brand: Patak’s Original)
  • 1 inch ginger (grated)
  • 1 TBSP lime juice
  • 1 tsp agave sweetner
  • 1 can coconut milk (Make sure it does not contain guar gum… a thickening agent that isn’t so good)
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat a skillet on medium high heat. Add 1 TBSP extra virgin coconut oil. Saute the garlic until aromatic. Add in the stir fried tofu.  Add the mixture of coriander, cumin, turmeric powder, garam masala, and optional cayenne pepper. Stir for 30 seconds.
  2. Add chopped onion and a pinch of salt to help release water from the onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add spinach and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add chickpeas, coconut milk, grated ginger, curry paste, lime juice, agave, and salt to the skillet. Cover and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Serve warm with rice, naan, or pita bread (or eat as it is)

🙂

xoxo
-P

 

Another semester

The first day of spring classes start today and I’m trying my hardest to not think too much about the fact that it is a Monday and that there are 162 days left until summer. I’m not taking classes anymore, but I still have to face the drones of undergraduates that have returned to Bloomington (and have taken up the parking lots).

I did manage to have a blast this past weekend. A friend and I headed over to Indianapolis and went shopping and tried out a new place to eat in Broadripple (the hipster/indie district of Indianapolis). The food was phenomenal; by far the best tacos I’ve eaten in the Midwest! The awesomeness was all compounded by the fact that we got to save a bit of money thanks to a previously purchased Groupon 🙂

Sunday was spent lounging around and staying warm with some miso soup. It is so easy to make, I’m not sure why I don’t make it more.

Ingredients:

1 14-oz package of tofu – cut into one inch cubes and pan fried
8 oz shiitake mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped,
2 inches of peeled ginger root
1 tbsp mellow yellow Miso
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp celery root powder
Udon noodles
2 cups of baby spinach leaves

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil and all everything except for the udon noodles and spinach leaves. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer. Add in noodles and spinach. Soup should be ready in 8 minutes.

I’m already dreaming of leftovers for dinner.

xoxo
-P

What’s cooking Wednesday: Pan-fried tofu with basil

Hello lovelies! A few weeks ago I attended a vegetarian cooking class. Several of you have asked me for recipes from the class. I am happy to oblige.

Here is a recipe for pan-fried tofu with basil:

Stuff you’ll need:

2 packages firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes (I use locally-made Phoenix Farm Tofu, but other brands like Westsoy or Nasoya would work wonderfully as well)
2 medium sized tomatoes cut into 1 inch chunks
1 small onion, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
Handful of Thai basil, stems removed (I love basil, so I used the whole bunch that I picked up at the farmer’s market)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 TBSP canola oil
2 Tbsp Bragg’s liquid Aminos (likely found near the soy-sauce or health food section at your local grocer)
1 lime, juiced
1 TBSP vegetarian stir fry sauce (or other fish sauce substitute)
touch of agave
salt & pepper to taste

 

One of the most important things about cooking tofu is to dry it first before pan frying. I did this by simply sandwiching the tofu between a towel for a few hours and allowing gravity to drain the liquid from the tofu onto the towel.

After the tofu is rid of excess water:

1) Preheat 1 TBSP canola oil in a non-stick skillet, fry the tofu cubes on medium high heat until browned on all sides. Add 1-2 tsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and swirl the skillet so that the tofu is evenly coated. Remove tofu from the skillet and set aside.

2) Switch to a non-acid reactive pan. Preheat 1 TBSP oil on medium high heat. Saute the garlic until aromatic. Add the onion and a pinch of salt (so that the onion sweats) and cook for a minute.

3) Add in the tomato chunks and stir for another minute or two.

4) Add tofu back into the pan, season with stir fry sauce, agave, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Cook for another minute or two adjusting taste as needed.

5) Add the Thai basil at the end of cooking until wilted (30 seconds or less). The heat from the ingredients should cause the basil to wilt to perfection.

This is a great recipe for when you need a quick meal but are low on time. (just remember to set the tofu out the night before to dry). I also think this is one of those recipes you can’t get wrong… it is that easy!

Yum!

xoxo
-P

All about tofu and a minor explosion

Earlier this year (back in April), I was doing my weekly grocery shopping at Bloomingfoods (a local food coop) and happened to run into Pei.  She was demoing a raw food compote, I took a bite, and fell in love.  After talking with her a bit, I realized we had a lot in common… and I also learned that she hosts cooking classes!

I’ve long been interested in going to a cooking class, but being a vegetarian makes things a bit difficult…. I don’t really have a desire to make meat based dishes and it isn’t easy finding veg-friendly classes that aren’t for dummies.

I took Pei’s vegan cooking class that she hosted in her home kitchen and learned how to make a lot of great vegan dishes.  Not only was the food great, but the class was totally affordable (even on my measly grad student stipend). I met a lot of really cool people, and Pei was such a sweetheart and oh so patient at teaching me little tricks (like how to expedite things in the kitchen without slicing myself  ;-p)

I ran into Pei again recently at Bloomingfoods (I live in a small town), and was happily surprised to hear that she’s moved her cooking classes from her home (which was a bit limiting due to space constraints), and is now hosting her cooking classes through the Bloomington Parks and Recreation  as part of the People’s University Cooking Classes.  When I heard this (and that she was hosting a class on tofu), I signed up immediately.

The class moved quickly and we made several dishes. I’m thinking Ben and I will try making a couple on Sunday 🙂

Preparing tofu patties

Pei demonstrating sauteing technique

Finishing off a dish

Pretty food!

Kabocha squash with avocado and sweet dressing

Some of the dishes we learned to make

 

In other news, I was recently informed by EHS that there was apparently an explosion in my lab at 3 am.

That brown stuff is grease from the aerosol can that exploded.

Such a mess!

Look at that range!

The culprit?

…an aerosol can of some graphite in some solvent circa 1980-something… the label is so worn on the can, we can’t even tell what it is!

Caution tape, gloves, and the split-in-half aerosol can

I’m just glad I wasn’t around at 3 am to witness all of this, and that the janitors who were around during the explosion were at the far other end of the lab. What a mess!

xoxo
-P

 

What’s cooking Wednesday (creamy carrot and fennel soup with tumeric)

In this weeks CSA share I received a bunch of carrots

I love carrots, but with so much other stuff in the bag, I decided to make a side dish using them. I have a feeling I’ll make a zucchini quiche and basil pesto with the remaining veggies.

This soup reminds me of dal my mother used to make for us when I lived at home except this one lacks lentils. Maybe it is that curry that brings back the memories… whatever it is, it has done the trick!

Ingredients:
1 bunch of carrots (finely chopped)
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 onion (vidalia preferred)
1 fennel bulb (roughly chopped)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cups water
1 orange (juice + 2 tbsp. zest)
4 tbsp. honey
1 cup milk

Directions:

Begin by sauteeing the onions, fennel, and garlic with the olive oil for 4 minutes (or until the onions are clear). Add in the spices and herbs and let sit for 3 minutes.


Add in the carrots and water and allow the soup to simmer under low heat for 30 minutes (or until the carrots are tender).


Blend the soup to a fine liquid (strain if desired) and return back to pot. Finally, add in the milk and re-heat the soup and serve.

Fortunately, I made enough to freeze so I can have a taste of summer in the winter 🙂

-P