Product of India

Remember this tin?

If you are a child or grandchild of an immigrant, then the answer is most likely yes. You’ve had this blue tin in your home. You may still have it, full of nails or thumbtacks or something. Check your junk drawer.

We never had Oreos or Chips Ahoy in our house – not that I remember. We had Parle G biscuits and this blue tin. Parles were shipped from India and never came in a big package. You got them in these little packs of 10. Most likely due to how many preservatives you were allowed to ship at once overseas. They were/are sweet and crispy – with just enough aftertaste to know the FDA didn’t approve them.

Yes that says Glucose!

Listen, there’s no such thing as a bad cookie right? So I’m not complaining.

My husband, on the other hand, did grow up with Oreos and Chips Ahoy. But he also spent a lot of time with his beloved Nana. She was a feisty, strong Ukrainian woman who came to this country without much and raised four sons. As the matriarch of the family, she had all the grandkids over every weekend and holiday. And ofcourse, she always had this blue tin of cookies.

The cookies were super simple. Just a shortbread cookie. Each tin had a few different shapes that all basically tasted the same.

I got excited last week when I saw a cute little version of the blue tin. I grabbed it right away for my husband. Thinking it would make him smile and be reminiscent about his childhood. When he saw the tin, he immediately smiled and cracked it open. It didn’t taste the same. Something was different.

We took a closer look and it turned out that this tin was a phony. A fake.

Artificially flavored?? Danish Delights? Oh no. And here’s the real kicker…

PRODUCT OF INDIA!!

My poor husband. He just can’t get away from products from India. Lol!

Happy Sunday all.

2011 in 2020

Way back in 1995, we were gifted a very special ornament from a Pier One collection called Li Bien. These are hand painted from the inside (which is what li bien means in Chinese, from the inside) and each one has the year on it.

This started a tradition. Our first tradition ever.

And a collection. Every year since then we are gifted another one. Sometimes two. I love them. I have dreams of my kids taking them to their homes. And the packaging! For me it’s all about the packaging. These little beauties come in a velvet box.

This year, since we’re all trapped at home together, the kids and my husband helped me decorate the tree. A job that usually takes me 2 hours was done in 15 minutes. Mostly because the crew wanted it over and done with. Still counts as family time right?

As we were unpacking the ornaments, I was telling the kids – for the millionith time – about how much these mean to me etc. I was also telling my 17 year old son who is all arms and legs to be gentle, delicate. As I said this, I went and dropped an ornament. A Le Bien ornament. 2011 to be exact.

I was devastated. I wanted to throw-up.

I know there are bigger things to be upset about. I tried to pretend it was ok. My husband, who is usually one to make a big joke out of a mistake like that, stayed silent. He knew.

I took a deep breath and shook it off. It’s just our ONLY yearly tradition. No biggie. It’s just the ONE thing we have that connects us to family through time and space. It’s fine.

Cut to last night. When my husband brought in this little gem.

He went on Ebay, found the old ornament, and got it for me.

And I cried.

When people ask me how it’s possible that I married someone I met at 19 and never looked back – it’s because of this story. And a hundred others like it.

He knows me, from the inside.

Gobbled 2020

Happy Sunday night! I hope you all had a good/weird Thanksgiving. Doesn’t it feel like it was a year ago? Tomorrow it’s back to work. Which isn’t so bad, but it’s not as good as sleeping, let’s be honest.

You know that line from Elf? The one where he says, “smiling is my favorite.” Well for me, sleeping is my favorite. Oh I love it so much. My bed. My pillow. My very unsexy pjs. Love it all.

Two friends of mine both just recently recommended CBD to me. Independently. They just started taking it at night and now they sleep like a baby. Lucky for me, I’ve always been a big baby. No sleep issues here.

I’m always worried when I hear that excessive sleeping is a sign of depression. I mean… what’s excessive? That’s a very broad word. Like when they say, “that’s an excessive amount of wine.” Tomato, tOEmato.

This blog wasn’t supposed to be about sleeping. I digressed.

Anyway, our turkey day was great – I started it by digging into the apple pie, which I had with my morning coffee watching the Macy’s Parade (sad spectacle). I decided since it was 2020 and we need to do literally anything to makes ourselves happy right now, that I could cut right into the store bought pie with no feelings of guilt or weirdness. I was wrong ofcourse. Guilt and weirdness are like my home-base. I end up there whether I like it or not. Pie was still delicious.

The rest of the day was a blur of activity – not as quiet as I thought it would be. But Kera and I squeezed in a walk. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, Bucks County. It’s got the best of all worlds all around it. Philadelphia, New York City, the beach and everything in between. You wanna go to Target, go left. You wanna go to the Delaware Canal, go right. It’s amazing. So we walked. Never in a million years – pre-covid years – could I take a walk on Thanksgiving day. So I guess thanks Covid? It was great.

It was just the four of us that night at dinner but it felt full and complete. I missed our other family, but sitting at a candle lit table with just our little humans was just as good. Food wise? Let’s see – I ran out of turkey for reasons to be explained at another time. The mac and cheese and stuffing both were over cooked and dried out. But my husband crunched his way through dinner and the kids were sweet about it. It’s fine. It wasn’t our last meal.

I hope you had a good day and a good weekend. Now, it’s time to take some CBD, have a piece of pie or give yourself a heavy pour of vino. This holiday is a wrap, but no worries, there’s another one right around the corner.

Goodnight.

Biscotti blues

Last week I made my first biscotti. I followed a Cook’s Illustrated recipe because it used melted butter. I’m all about the melted butter recipes these days – mostly because I never plan ahead and get butter to room temperature in time to bake. And when you melt the butter, and happen to forget to check it, it turns even better! It becomes brown butter. Deep, nutty flavored magic. Laziness pays off here – don’t tell my kids. The recipe also used classic flavors like citrus and almond, how bad could it be? That night we were meeting some friends for dinner so I boxed my new creations and proudly presented them. This is the text I got later that night…

Umm what?? 4 out of 10?? Now, to be fair I asked for an honest, critical review since it was my first time making them. But when I said honest I didn’t mean honest…geez. Ok fine, I’ll never use citrus again. I wish citrus was dead. But even with no zest I’d only get a 6 out 10! Still a fail! A fail!

So I did what any normal person would do – I read 1,000 biscotti recipes and reviews and planned my revenge. Revenge for what you ask? All he did was tell the truth. So I guess revenge for honesty. That’ll teach him.

So today was round 2.

I adapted my recipe using both the Cook’s recipe with King Arthur’s American Vanilla Biscotti recipe. But I didn’t leave it to that – nope – I messed with it further with my very own twist. That’s right bitches. I browned the butter. Boom.

Ok here’s the bastardized version… I’m making two versions from one dough. Classic Almond and chocolate chip.

  • 1 stick of salted butter (this is the kind we have. If you have unsalted use that and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the dry mix)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of AP flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds (you can use whole and just chop up)
  • Preheat oven to 350

Brown that stick of butter on medium heat. This is what it’ll look like when ready.

Remove from heat add the sugar right into the brown butter

Add the vanilla and almond extracts (are these not the cutest measuring spoons ever?? Thank you Marcela!)

It’ll look nice and smooth and bonus – it helps to cool down the butter so you can add the eggs right in. But buyer beware, once the egg goes in stir stir stir! It’s still a warm mix and you don’t want scrambled egg biscotti!

Combine the flour and baking powder with your buttery mix and you’ll get a very wet dough. You’ll now doubt the dough and think you’ve made a mistake. You haven’t. Leave it alone for 10 min. Which is exactly the time you need to toast your almonds!

I did them at 300 degrees and checked them every other minute. Why? Because I’m a notorious nut burner. I’ve burned almost every level ever toasted. From pine to peanut – burnt them all.

This is the color you want. Not any darker.

Go back to your dough, which should be manageable but still sticky. Cut in half and add the chips and almonds.

Bake for 25 minutes

My loaves are wider than I wanted – but so are my thighs – nothing’s perfect.

For the second bake reduce the temperature to 325

I cut my logs in half because they were too big. I like a two bite biscotti. If you’re ok with a gigantic one – don’t cut it in half.

This time they go in for 30 min. But after 15, it’s important to not only turn the pan, but also flip each biscotti – which is a pain in the ass but worth it!

And viola! Here are two different ways I wanted to end this post. I couldn’t pick so included both.

Ending 1) Now box them up and give them to everyone but the dude who told you the truth… just kidding just kidding.

Ending 2) So here they are – revenge biscotti! Like regular biscotti but baked with bitterness and anger. Just kidding. Just kidding.

Pandemic schmandemic

When this first started it was scary and jolting and downright horror movie-like. Many things about 2020 still are. Hundreds of thousands of people dead, businesses shuttered, jobs lost, all awful. I know it’s serious. I am not making light of that at all. I know this is no joking matter…but humor is how I deal. If I’m not laughing, I’m crying. Which I think is the definition of a psycho or a clown. I’m one of those for sure. Or both.

Anyway there were/are some small, happy turn of events in all this madness. Things that were little spots of joy, and I’m not talking about sourdough starters.

1) Plans got cancelled. Really important things got cancelled like weddings and birthdays and baby showers – which is awful. But I have to be honest. I was overextended. Weekends booked for months on out, a calendar full of plans (all good stuff). It simply evaporated. Poof. Gone. Once I got over the initial sting, it was all ok. There was no FOMO (fear of missing out) because nothing was happening. We were all finally in the same boat. Home. Isolated. I know it wasn’t good for everyone. I know I was lucky to be baking and cooking and puzzling, while others struggled. I do know that. I’m just so grateful for my time. It was surreal and odd, but also kinda great.

2) Masks are fine with me. I’m gonna tell you a secret. People are fucking disgusting. They snort, they sneeze, they walk around with pneumonia with not a care in the world. People are DIRTY. They just are. I know, I know, not you! Never you! But other people. They don’t wash their hands. They don’t cover their mouths. They are walking geysers of germs. Exploding at every turn. We needed a good dose of hand sanitizer in our lives. Some more than others.

3) Outdoor restaurants with people seated 6 feet away from you. Genius! Let’s never go back! I never want to be in a packed bar or restaurant again. Ever. I want all of them to do well but I don’t want to ever feel like a sardine again. No reservation, no service? I’m in!

4) Teens and kids with minimal places to go. I don’t know about you, but my family had more family meals together in March and April then we’ve had for years! Sometimes we had MULTIPLE meals together at the table. WTF!

5) Office time productivity was always a scam. Someone put that on a pillow. We never needed to commute!! Grrrrr! All those hours on the train for what? So we could be in person for meetings that should have been emails?? Or commute in so you could sit at your desk on calls all day? As god is my witness I’m never doing that again… I mean until they make me…then of course I’ll do it again.

6) We cooked. A lot. I love to cook but this much cooking was next level. And we baked. And by “we”’I don’t mean my family. I mean me and the collective universe. We cooked and baked a lot. I think I made 1 million egg sandwiches. I also made eggplant bolognese, Thanksgiving turkey in April, cookies, cakes, and on and on. Not all of it was good, r.i.p vegetarian matzo ball soup, but most was. Just ask my pre-Covid pants.

7) Pods!! Pods!! We have a pod. A group of people who we have been lucky enough to live next to that has saved our sanity! We are safe. We don’t travel. We wear masks. It’s not perfect but it’s kept me happy. Backyard get togethers, front yard get togethers… thank goodness for these times with friends who became family.

When this comes to an end (come on vaccine!) I hope we continue some pandemic traditions. Not too many people in the store, zoom calls from near and far, free weekends, and disinfectant everywhere… that was enjoyable.

What helped you? What got you through? I’d love to know. We are almost there…

Scenes from a pandemic…

One of 8 puzzles we did March – May
Zoom, zoom, zoom
Masks on! They love it when I show people this pic
Pod!
Food for the pod !
Dessert for the pod!

Toasty soup for a toasty day

It’s not exactly sweater weather this weekend. It’s been warm and sunny and beautiful in PA. But way back on Tuesday – when it was chilly, I bought some butternut squash in hopes of making a soup. I googled a couple of recipes for a chilled soup but decided to do my usual. It’s so easy and so good.

Start by roasting the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Maybe 15 minutes considering I scorched mine.

Once the butternut squash is done sauté a small onion until translucent and add some ginger if you have it. I’ve now reverted to buying chopped garlic and ginger. I know fresh is better. I don’t care. I blame 2020.

Once the onions are done, add the squash.

You can snack on the bits that burnt to the pan and act like you meant to do that.

Add 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and blend.

Add a little heat (you know I can’t help myself)

Now add a little honey for sweetness. Look at my cute little honey jar. My husband’s beloved aunt made them. She’s so stinking talented. Every time we go to visit her I wander in her studio and somehow beg my way to several pieces. I’m shameless. One day everyone will be able to order from Kathy Gray Clay (if I can help it).

Ok back to the recipe… add about a 1/3 cup of heavy cream. I bought light by mistake but it’s fine. Either one works. I bet even coconut cream would work.

And viola! Serve in your beautiful Kathy Gray Clay bowls and you’re ready for a rocking Sunday night.

Yesterday

Here’s what I did in an effort to not watch the news…

I baked a cake. Alison Roman’s Sticky Apple cake. Google the recipe – it’s so good. I know lots of people don’t like her now. She was a popular NYT food writer and had a ton of cooking demos on YouTube. Then she started getting popular and said something snarky about Chrissy Teigen in a magazine article. Chrissy responded. The internet blew up and long social media story short – Alison was “cancelled”. She lost followers. Lost her job. Had to write a public apology. Then had to write another because the first was deemed not sorry enough. Then people started accusing her of appropriating recipes, for example her very popular The Stew, which people thought was really just an Americanized version of an Indian dish called Chana Masala. Was it? Kind of. But I didn’t agree completely. There’s no coconut milk in Chana Masala. And her recipe didn’t have the one main thing that makes Chana Masala Chana Masala – garam masala! The combo of spices that makes it smell and taste like the Indian dish. It did have turmeric – but so what? Do Indians own turmeric? Don’t answer that. So now she’s a pariah and had to work her way back quietly into the world. It’s all too much. I like her. I like her chickpea stew. And I really love this apple cake so apologies for spending so much time on Chana Masala.

Then I got my hair did.

I had taken half the day off from work just so I could be trapped in a salon, covering my greys for two hours. This is the first time in my adult life that I have a hair dresser. A woman who I consistently go to and who I can call my own. For years I bopped from one salon to the next. There were also years were I went to one of those fast food type hair places – you know what I mean. $18 cut. You might get Shirly who has done hair for 20 years, or you might get Wendy who just got her license last night. I’ve also gone to the places in NYC where no less than 5 people “work” on different parts of your haircut. I’m happy to never go to either of those places ever again. All in all it was a good visit until the end. She said, in her cute Mexican accent, “I’m going to put a little extra hairspray at the back because you have fine hair”. Fine hair? Excuse me? Ummm no. No I don’t. I have thick, healthy hair. All my life hair dressers have commented on how very thick and healthy my hair is. I’m from a culture that sells hair to the entire world. That’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t. I just smiled and died inside. Fine hair. Ok ok, it’s just a comment. Nothing to obsesses about. No big deal. I immediately drove from the salon to CVS to get these hair vitamins. Sigh.

At least I’m predictable. I’ll let you know if they work. Good news – during all that time I was getting my hair done and getting emotionally wounded by my hair dresser, I was…..drumroll…not watching the news!

I worked the polls! It was my first ever civic-minded volunteerism. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I mean it was a bit….disorganized…they could have used a project manager or an admin or something. I was there for 3 hours trying to help people who were actually just fine. They just wanted to get in and out and back to their lives. But I tried right? More importantly, it was 3 hours that I wasn’t watching the news!

After all that – at the end of the day, I did watch the news. We went to a neighbor’s house (someone we’ve been in a quarantine pod with) and watched some of the live action, ate some food and had some booze. It was just what the doctor ordered. I did want to share something funny I noticed as we were watching the results.

Do you know the app Calm? It’s pretty cool. It’s a meditation and stress relief app that I’ve been using since last year. It has everything from quick breathing techniques to bedtime stories that are peaceful and…for lack of a better word, calming. Anyway as I was watching the “countdown” to our country’s finale, I caught this. Calm sponsored that portion of the night. Genius! Give that marketing department a raise.

We didn’t stay long. That night my husband sent me this picture he’d taken earlier of the sun setting behind our house. I had spent the whole day avoiding being here because I thought it would cause me stress and anxiety. But looking at this picture gave me the most peaceful feeling I’d had all day. Dorky but true.

So that’s what I did yesterday.

Today was another day. Back to work. Back to life. Back to stress, and back to the news.

Pasta not so fagioli

Hello friends. So I feel like in the past I’ve shared a ton of meat/poultry based recipes, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except for the teeny weeny fact that I don’t actually eat any of them. I’m a total vegetarian (Not vegan. Never vegan). But since I married a carnivore and then gave birth to little carni’s – most of what I make is non-veg (like the Desi’s call it).

But I do cook for myself too and I think going forward I’ll share that more. Although it might get boring. I’m not exactly making culinary delights for myself because, well, I’m pretty easy to please.

During Covid I was trying to make more Indian food, and I even tried some Thai recipes. But can we be honest about ethnic recipes? They’re a giant pain in ass. Ok not all of them. I guess making nachos is easy if you count that as ethnic (I don’t but you might). The recipes that I grew up eating are not exactly… speedy. I mean I’m starting with dried beans for gods sake.

Here’s another reason I tend not to cook too many Indian recipes. My kitchen is outdated. Sounds like an excuse right? I already see judging fingers typing a text to me about dirt huts in India with an open fire, etc. Take it easy. Let me explain why a dirt hut and open fire would be easier than cooking this in my kitchen…

I have no ventilation. None. I have an el fako vent thing on top of my microwave. Allegedly it “purifies” what it sucks up before releasing it right back into the room. Guess what? That’s a bunch of BS and it does nothing. And because our kitchen big and wide – the entire house basically smells like whatever I’m cooking. I love the smell of garlic and ginger… when I’m cooking and eating. I don’t love it while I’m trying to fall asleep or watching Netflix. It’s like lightening a vindaloo candle in the house. I’m not into it. Shoot me.

All that said, I do promise to share more Indian food. Just not today. Today I’m sharing Bon Appetit’s Chickpea Pasta, which is more like a soup because it’s made with a tomato broth (and you now know how I feel about a good broth). This is so easy and good.

I’m sorry for this long long preamble. There’s nothing more annoying than having to get through all this crap to get to the recipe. I didn’t plan on it. I just haven’t talked to you in so long so I’ve got shit to say, you know? For instance, I love rosemary. The herb. I hardly ever get to cook with it, which is why this recipe was even more appealing to me. It packs a rosemary punch. Hope you try it and like it!

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 half small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 6 oz. orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Easy peasy ingredients
Olive oil, onions and garlic go first
Chickpeas drained and crushed red pepper go in once onions are translucent
After about 5 min, add in an entire stalk of rosemary and crush some of the chickpeas
Can of tomatoes goes in next – crushed by hand. Cook on medium for 10 min. Add 4 cups water
Add pasta – I used Campanella so the chickpeas would have a place to bury themselves into
Pasta will cook directly in broth in about 10 min and everything will reduce down
Once finished I added more red pepper… because, well, I’m me

It’s so good. Some notes:

  • Use a whole onion. I hate recipes that say 1/2 an onion. Use the whole thing
  • I have been using tubed garlic in the past few months… I think it’s fine but if you’re offended, use the real stuff
  • Salt as you go! Forgot to say that
  • I didn’t have any parsley so I skipped it
  • I did add fresh parm before serving and drizzled it with good olive oil
  • I skipped the black pepper in lieu of more red. Do what your heart tells you to

Rando Friday fodder

Things that started thriving after I stopped taking care of them:

At the beginning of each summer, my husband goes out and gets me beautiful, colorful hanging plants for the front of our house. They hang on hooks on our front porch and look like dangly earrings for the house. Makes me so happy. This year, he also brought home two Hibiscus plants. And just like every summer past, I watered, nursed, and loved them…to death. No blooms. No growth. They didn’t die. But they weren’t happy. In the past I just threw them out in disgust, but this year I didn’t. At the end of August, usually the time I give up, I brought them to the backyard and stopped looking after them. I literally put all the plants in a corner. Ignored them. No more watering. No more pruning. Nothing. And guess what? They are living their best, blooming life! Who knew (except people who know flowers)! Moral of the story – I will no longer be parenting my kids. I’m assuming the same is true for them 🙂

Squirrel Smorgasbord:

Long story short – I spent a buttload of money on beautiful pumpkins and gourds which basically fed all the squirrels in our neighborhood. I really wanted to do a whole Fall Festival vibe in my backyard. I know that sounds corny (ha ha), but it’s Covid, and I gotta have something to focus on. I went and bought these pumpkins and put them all around – in back, in the front – everywhere. We’re tripping over pumpkins. But it didn’t look right. Something was off. So I started asking people what I was doing wrong. My neighbor, Marcella, who has a really creative eye, came to my rescue. And she brought props. Different textures and heights, she said, that’s what was missing. She was right. Stacking crap on top of each other doesn’t count as décor. So she tweaked, she leaned, she brought a silver urn to the party – it was fabbbbbbulous (as she would say). Then she convinced me to buy corn stalks to add to the ambiance – I jumped and got them. Did you know decorative corn stalks are actually real corn stalks? Did you know that corn stalks have actual corn on them? Did you also know that squirrels love corn like I love wine? True story. This is why we can’t have nice things.

The rat bastard

(side story….a left one of the gourds in my husband’s Jeep and it rolled under one of the seats and rotted. He found it because of the pungent Doritos-like smell that now covers every inch of his beloved car. He’s cleaned it with everything he could get his hands on. Smell will not go away. I don’t know if there are other Jeep owners reading this, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was the very first time in our 24 year marriage that I was afraid he would leave me. I felt terrible. The smell is better now… but not gone. All I wanted was a Fall Festival vibe people).

Tarot Thursday

One of the many perks of living in Bucks County are all the local farms and vineyards. There’s always something to do, even now. This past Thursday I went with a small, safe group of gals to do a reading at a local vineyard. It was outdoors and there was plenty of social distancing. Do you believe in Tarot? I’ve only done it twice and both times my mind was blown. Am I an easy target, maybe, but it was so much fun. I won’t tell you the cards I drew because I’m still processing, but the whole thing was completely on point. I’ll just say that there was swords, swords and death involved but apparently it’s all good! Like I said – still processing.

Hope you all have a great weekend. Stay away from squirrels, swords and me, apparently.

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