Meaty Mushroom Pasta

mushroom pastaWarning: the foodstuffs here do not look at all like their components. This is a wonderful little guise for those who rabidly desire meat but venture into a tepidly omnivore household that leans toward herbivoraciousness. It’s an entirely mushroom-based pasta sauce, but with the right ingredients becomes rich, succulent, and fulfilling.

So, Ramadan came and went, and I surprised myself by how enthusiastically my body responded to the call. Like a horse fresh out of the gates, I galloped full stride into the blazing long days of fasting, somehow procuring during my first week alone at least 4 new recipes for dinner meals. Let us not discuss how the subsequent three weeks unfolded, with root canals and illnesses. But that first week was glorious! (and the last week, pretty good too.) For the unfamiliar, breaking fast during Ramadan consists of iftar, followed by the evening prayer, and then dinner. Traditional iftars vary from culture to culture, but are usually filled with much fanfare. I tried to change that for the husband and myself this year, especially since the fasting was so long (15+ hours) and the feasting so short. So we usually broke fast with a few dates and water (or Rooh Afza, a rose-water syrup which is sublime when mixed with water and a generous squeeze of lime). Dinner as such became the exciting mealtime (which typically included some fruit chaat because how can I deny myself the quintessential dish of my Ramadan experience). Continue reading

Cardamom Orange Yogurt Cake

Cardamom Yogurt Orange small cakeI promised to post this recipe eons ago (if you follow me on Facebook) and  I’m only now getting around to it. I think we have moved beyond the stage of apology at this point. One can only do as much as she can with the cards dealt to her, and mine include classes, research, interning, feeding the husband (hehe) and a growing number of extracurriculars as well. This is not to say I lay my excuses humbly at your feet, or my life has become monumentally more important than my blog. Nay, I cannot emphasize the degree to which I miss this blasted nook in my life, where I might seek escape and comfort amidst piles of books and heaps of spices.  I think grandly day and night about the possibilities that reside in this modest corner of the internet. Not even a corner, more like a floor pillow, or a footstool. A step to lead thoughts and tastes into hard-to-reach places.

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Blueberry Spinach and Chocolate Cake… What?

What with books upon books upon articles upon blogging upon events upon books upon trying to drum up the courage to speak up more in class, it’s no wonder I’m under a wee bit o’ stress. Also hasn’t helped that the husband has been away but he shall return in the offing, so at least that bit is solved. Now, what to do with all the other stress… I know! Sweets! Sweets and cakes and cookies and fruits and ice cream and brownies galore! Well, it surely hasn’t been a dining extravaganza the likes of Willy Wonka around here, but I have had my fair share of comfort food in the guise of delectable goodies. But since my regular running regimen isn’t quite up to snuff yet (ok regular has become thrice weekly? That’s improvement from nil eh?), I figured I ought at least try to make something semi decent without a thousand pounds of sugar and other monstrosities for my health.

And so… I googled. Naturally. And sure enough came across a recipe that was easy (and easily adaptable) and which I already had all the ingredients. Don’t be alarmed by the … well, the blues and greens. Trust me, this cake is all chocolate by the end of it. If you like richer or sweeter cakes, you might not go for this. But it turned out perfect for me, fluffy but with the right amount of density to lend a rich factor, not overly sweet but that can be adjusted to your liking. And best of all, not a scant hint of spinach whatsoever. I might try just a berry mixture or something next time, just for kicks. But for now, if you or someone you love won’t eat his or her veggies, you might as well try this. No harm. And Really, it soothed my soul. Continue reading

LiterEature 101: Beka Cooper Series (Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff)

Cover credit: Random House (US)

Well, this is a slight departure. An entire series? A full trilogy? Would that not make my post even more verbose, bordering on the edge of interminable? On another day, another life, another fork of time’s limitless pathways, yes there could be a danger of reviewing an entire series, but not so today! The reason is a bit pathetic really: I read all three books about two to three months ago, while still residing a lifetime away in Maryland. My memory of them individually lacks monumental detail.  So then why bother? Why keep these books hanging on tenterhooks instead of moving on to more recently consumed literatura? If you must know (and naturally you must, else this blog would be quite meaningless to you as a reader), I just loved the food descriptions. I also thoroughly enjoyed the novels, but I marveled at Tamora Pierce’s use of food in these books. So read on, folks, read on. Continue reading

Jamaican Stir Fried Eggplant

Oh my friends. Where do we begin? I promised myself I would get this out to you within the next hour so I could return to that most beloved of acts, reading. But the word and all its magic has taken quite the toll on me this past week, as I have never been so overwhelmed with such a deluge in recent years! the short of it: grad school is demanding! It dares to challenge my love affair with words (second only to that for my husband though it does fluctuate spots with food. Words or food? Food or words? I love them equally!). Of course, I am thoroughly enjoying myself, but at the same time I have never imbibed so much theoretical text coupled with philosophical writing along with a Thomas Hardy novel in so short a period of time! My brain, she hurts a wee bit.

So I purposely set myself to write this up for you, because my lovely little eggplant dish which I may have raved about at an earlier time has been pouting at me with forlorn eyes, wishing to be shared, desperate for worldwide web attention. I do have a Litereature post brewing in the works (Oh if I had a cauldron! I could actually brew something! Halloween approacheth, and there are plenty of awesome witchy stories…. alas, another lifetime perhaps. Unless you want to buy me a cauldron?). It helps that I am now working, at least for the semester, within the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at school, and will be limitlessly exposed to all sorts of kids/Young Adult books! I dream of all the food/book connections I could come up with… Continue reading

Sweet Habanero Tofu Salad

The journey begins. She rolls forward without hesitation, a new experience lying in wait, a prowling tiger ready to pounce and capture her in the thrilling jaws of the new, the unknown. Daunting though it is, there’s definitely excitement and joy in setting up a new home in a new locality with new resources and a new pursuit. But then the cavalry arrives, charging past like a drove of raving dogs. If she looks hard enough she can see the saliva dripping from the growls of each unnecessarily raging engine. Sigh. Perhaps this is a generalization (a very loose one) but the typical San Diego driver is INSANE. These astounding people blow the speed limit out of the galaxy everywhere I go, and then come to screeching halts at the very obviously looming red lights beyond. Maybe I just like to save my gas, my sanity, my life, but I can’t understand why everyone has to fly on wheels, especially when the roads are splattered with cracks, potholes, unevenness, and just about every bane of your tires’ existence. Why torture your car? Why? tell me. Why, why do it?

Ok my rant of the day is done, I can move on now having relieved my mind of that. I’m sure there are San Diegans who will revolt to this assessment but I speak with my eyes and my nerves. I know you aren’t all bad, just … a lot of you. But I’m done.

As you can see, I’ve set up the home base now, and am actually acclimating myself to the experience of graduate school at this moment (meaning I’m sitting outside with my laptop counting down the minutes until my next class commences while looking ruefully at my Literary Theory text and worrying about when I have to decide between writing a thesis or developing a portfolio). It’s only the first day! Yikes!

So instead, I return to my beloved baby, my comfort, my responsibility and my joy and am writing up this blog post for you all. It’s been a bit of a culture shock moving here, I won’t lie, and if it weren’t for the awesome program and all its promises, and the cool breeze that juuuust hit me as a blessing amidst the sun-spitting heat, I’d high-tail it back to MD, back into my uber-sheltered cocoon. But life is unfolding in an exquisite array of colors, the myriad of which I will enjoy witnessing. And despite feeling a bit out of place and more than a little overwhelmed, the husband and I are carving out the paths (least-trafficky ones at that) which lead to good living and of course good food. Case in point, organic markets and farmers markets abound here. In fact, if I wanted to drive, I could come across at least four farmers markets every day within a 30 minute radius of my home. Naturally I’ll stick to the one closest to home but the existence of such possibilities warms me. So for the first week I scoured food sources ad nauseum, and came across gorgeous produce like the largest and softest okra I had ever seen as well as the silkiest super firm tofu my eyes and mouth ever tasted. Not to mention the freshly ground and richly aromatic spices at my fingertips. And the SPICIEST jam ever. Good stuff. I’m happy. Continue reading

Plum Vinaigrette and Summer Salad in tow

Between the husband and I, salads have become a much more frequent main dish of the dinner (and/or lunch) time. I have to give the boy some props for being open to trying new flavors and realizing the salad is so much more than just some lettuce tomato and cucumber tossed in lemon and olive oil. There aint nothin’ wrong with that, but… it’s boring. Thankfully he married a culinarily curious food lover who likes to try and learn new techniques, resulting in such beauties as the orange vinaigrette and soy ginger and chili lime dressings. We have discovered that he prefers the tangy and spicy versions more than the fruity but as I am the predominant cook I get to decide. And lately what I wanted was something that spoke of summer, of sun, of the fruits of the season.

As it happens, I have seen plums everywhere and naturally surmised the most obvious and pleasant route would be to endeavor a taste of the plum vinaigrette. I’d never tried anything like this, and while it wasn’t heard, it certainly took more labor than my dressings usually require, but I daresay for the eyes alone it was worth it. The colors I was left with took my breath away. I’m only disheartened I had to leave this beautiful concoction in Maryland when I moved this week. Did that come as a surprise? Yes I am currently in CA now, temporarily with la familia before I settle down in San Diego. It is with a heavy heart that I must bid adieu to all the great food and great people I encountered, along with the lush majesty of trees galore, but new adventures await! One cannot sit idly by and moan about the past whilst the present offers a smorgasbord of delights.

Anyway, here I am now reminiscing about the bright, sweet, and rich homemade vinaigrette which really was worth the effort! I am ready to explore with other fruits soon, now that the basic technique has revealed itself to me with delightful clarity. I implore you to do the same, lest the fruits of summer pass you by with nary a glance from your direction. What better than an ideal summer salad to live through this horridly hot days? Continue reading