01 December 2010

Children's Aid Society soon gone?

For people downtown, the Children's Aid Society has been extremely helpful in getting child care out for poor families. They're looking to sell the building in Greenwich Village, however. They just sent out an email:

We have been pleased to be a part of the Greenwich Village community for more than 100 years, and have tremendous pride in the great early childhood, nursery, arts, after school, and summer camp programs that are currently offered there. Children’s Aid has been dedicated to helping the poor children of New York City thrive since 1853, and we constantly struggle with difficult decisions about which services are most closely aligned with our mission.

We thought it was important to take the unusual step of informing you that we are considering putting the Center up for sale. This is not a final decision, but is under serious consideration. If a decision is made to sell the buildings, it is likely that the Early Childhood Program and other programs will operate through June 2012. We know that many families will want to explore other nursery school options for next year under these circumstances. For that reason, we did not want to wait for a final decision before alerting you to the potential sale.

We are aware that this news will come as a shock to many. The programs are wonderful and the staff is comprised of supremely talented and caring people. We appreciate the support we have received from families to make the Center a nurturing and enriching environment. We will be working hard to support families and staff through this transition if the buildings are sold. We will keep you informed as this process unfolds.

If Children’s Aid decides to move forward with the sale, we will hold a meeting to explain our reasons and provide a detailed timetable. If you need to speak with someone before then, there will be agency administrators on site at various times during the next few weeks to speak with staff and parents. To begin, Vito Interrante, Division Director, will hold an Open Forum meeting for families, Thursday December 2nd at 5:30pm in the 219 theater. We are sorry to be bringing you this unsettling news, and will work to make any transitions as seamless as is realistically possible.

Sincerely,
Richard Buery President and CEO

Bill Weisberg
Chief Operating Officer


I know a fair bit of my friends have children, or have gone there as children. Rest in peace, Children's Aid, Greenwich Village. D:

15 November 2010

Musings




Those two pictures are from the path on my walk. The first photo is a picture of the subway station that I get on every morning.

Today, at least four people let me know in no uncertain terms that when they think about food/cooking, they think of me. It made me feel all warm and glowy inside. I'm "that food obsessed guy" in my friends's lives.

14 November 2010

I quit smoking and can smell things more clearly. This is not an asset on the subway platform. I can pick out four different deposits of stale, ripe, dry urine,

04 November 2010

Not missing much

I haven't really bothered watching TV in the past couple of months. There's a couple of shows I used to follow fairly regularly, like Simpsons, South Park, or Top Chef. I don't feel like I've been missing much. Maybe this means we'll just cancel the cable when the contract is over?

02 November 2010

Weekend recap

So, Saturday was (I think) about the most sensible kid's birthday party I've attended in a very long time. This is, of course, in Falls Church, VA, where my brother (Kumar), sister-in-law (Sowmya), nephew (Vinyakak), and niece (Nithya), along with their neighbours the mom (Shobha), dad (Rajesh), daughter (Neha), and son (Rishul). For reference, Nithya is 8, Vinayak is 6, Neha is 6 and change (or is she 7 already?) and Rishul is 5 (turned 5 last week, and was having his birthday party on Saturday).

We went about an hour out of Falls Church to some tiny little town with a bunch of trees and fields and such. I guess they need a lot of space for this play place, because it was enormous. Essentially, it's a giant room full of bouncy castles, bouncy obstacle courses, and bouncy slides. Everything is bouncy. And there's a music in the background, a rack where you dump your coats, shoes, etc., and pretty decent carpetting everywhere. The mix of children were pretty decent, so they actually liked playing together, and there weren't any (that I recall) tantrums or the like.

For the better part of two hours solid, you've got the children running, jumping, climbing, sliding, and laughing their heads off. Add to that the fact that the facility encouraged parents to go join their children, and you've got a clear recipe for every child in there really giving it their all to take advantage of fun time. When mommy and daddy (and a fair few of the parents did partake of all the festivities, as well as Steve and I) are crawling through the obstacle course, or sliding down the enormous slide, or jumping in the bouncing room, it somehow amps up their energy even more.

Fortunately, a lot of fun for the nephew and niece is having their uncle come watch them do something or other, so I could happily park myself somewhere, make appreciative faces, cheer when appropriate (yes, that really /was/ an impressive jump), and make sure nobody's trying to do something dangerous (rare, because everything is soft and bounces). After a good two solid hours of this, it was time to get everyone in the room to eat pizza and cake. Steve and I had eaten at home, so we were fine by then.

Anyone who's been to a child's birthday party can generally forsee how things will end up. Someone is going to get into a screaming tantrum at some point. That one screaming and fussing is going to rile up the rest. Then, nobody really wants to sit and eat, so the parents fret, because now they know the child is going to come back like 30 minutes later to whine that she/he is hungry, and why can't you get me something NOW NOW NOW.

No. Nothing like that here, thank you. After spending two hours running and giggling like loons, one tends to be ready to sit and eat. Then, once your tummy is full, and you've seen all your friends, and had a good time in general, you'll take your cake, your goody bag, and your balloon (Kumar saw to it that those got handed out to each child). There was minor fussing, but that was mostly tiredness and a readiness to go home and get some sleep. I'm very sure that the other parents had just as easy a time putting theirs down for sleepy time as we did.

Sunday was Halloween, and my mother's birthday, as well as the eve of Sowmya's birthday (her birthday was the reason that I had planned the trip that weekend). Steve's friend Rehmah was going to come over, because she lives in DC area, and it's a lot closer to hit up the train for like 30 minutes or so, than to get on a bus for 5 hours to get to New York.

Sunday was also trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving day. Sowmya, being wary of those enormous pumpkins, snagged fairly small one for the children. Each child got one that would be carved by one of the adults. No harm, no foul. First came the cleaning out part. That in itself can take a fair bit of time. Then came the carving part. I hadn't a clue what I was doing, so as soon as Rehmah came in, I promptly conscripted her to the task of carving Vinayak's pumkin, while Somya and Shobha made quick work of Nithya, Neha, and Rishul's pumpkin.

Then, off to scatter for changing, shower time, and costume putting on. Because the two houses were so close, there was the inevitable ferrying back-and-forth of various pieces of make up, hair product, and the rest. By around 6~ish, everyone was ready. We all trooped over to Shobha's house, for Sowmya's surprise party. Her friends were over, there was a small cake, but Rajesh and Kumar weren't back yet. So cue the children playing and carrying on for a few minutes until the fathers did arrive. Once Kumar and Rajesh came back bearing dinner from an Indian restaurant a short distance away, Rehmah, Steve, and I headed back to my brother's house to pass out treats from there, and the rest all went off for their door to door thing.

Apparently, the mothers on this block plan it so that said trick or treating starts promptly at 6:30, and ends in about a half hour, give or take. The efficiency was stunning. Seriously. When you have all the children in a two block radius descend for treats in a 30 minute period, it leaves you much more time for socialising, and hanging out. I sincerely doubt that it's even about the candy, because the parents are pretty good about keeping a keen eye on how much sugar the children are guffing down. Essentially, the limit is one piece per day, full stop.

We got plenty of children coming over. Sowmya didn't pass out candy, but instead had a large selection of spider rings, bracelets, stamps, pencils, mini puzzles, all sorts of things. Neat thing is that the children /were/ excited by it. Other neat thing is that Sowmya had bought a /lot/ of the stuff, so she said, "Be generous. Let them take however much they want. I don't want it sitting around my house, so get rid of as much as you can." Happily. When you see a child's face light up at being told, "Take as much as you can carry", it makes you remember back to when you were that age, and a stamp or pencil or some other junky toy was the Coolest Thing Ever at that moment.

Once trick or treating was over, everyone trooped over to Shobha's house for the cake (see how they planned it? cake at the end of the night, so you're done eating, running around, and playing, then you're ready for sleep). Once that was all done, and clean up was finished, we went back to Kumar's house to settle the children in for bed time, and for Steve and me to get packed for the trip back to New York.

After all the excitement for that weekend, Vinayak was more than happy to settle in quietly with his book, as I was with mine. For about half an hour or so, we read quietly. Then, we joined Sowmya, Nithya, Kumar, and Steve in the living room to park in front of the TV for a bit. I had Vinayak next to me, and he conked out promptly in five minutes. Nithya and Sowmya followed suit soon after.

For what happened after this, the previous entry tells about our adventures on the journey home.

01 November 2010

Next time, let's spend the $10

We got to the train station well in time, around a little past midnight. Apparently, others had the idea to catch the overnight bus back to New York. I think there were about five or six people (at the most) in front of us. I’m blaming that rally for the full bus, but the rest is just a function of being anywhere out at that hour in a city that seems to shut down around 11 PM on a Sunday.

As soon as we queued up behind those other five, we were treated to a loud, drunk, sobbing Mexican guy carrying on to his girlfriend on his mobile phone. Along the side where the pre-boarding people are to stand is a long power strip (about 20 outlets or so) where people can charge their devices. This guy thought he was plugged in, but the actual plug itself was on the floor, as he loudly and openly wept on the phone.

I, being the ever so considerate person, quietly plugged it back in for him, because I didn’t want the soap opera to cut off early. I also quietly texted Steve a translation of the Spanish, so that he didn’t feel left out. If you thought you’ve seen bad overacting in Bollywood, you haven’t seen anything yet. It started with “I’m dying, because of all the pain you’re putting me through …” and wound up around “You’re so cold and heartless my love, my life, my heart is tearing into pieces”, etc etc, interspersed with plenty of “Why do I even live anymore? I work at a bar! AT A BAR!” All the while most of the people are completely oblivious, and only see this guy sobbing a lot.

Clearly, he missed the part where working at a bar meant that he’s getting all the drinks he can get through, because he was well and truly flying in the clouds.

Apparently, he was also on a really bad phone card, because the call would drop frequently. So he’d stop crying for a few minutes, while he’d sort out how to dial the innumerable. It was like watching a young child throw a really bad tantrum. He looked around and asked if he could borrow a pen. I politely offered mine, and the use of paper, should he need. Always helpful, right?

That went into another 15 minute crying bawling fit to try to get her new phone number, so he doesn’t have to go through this rigmarole every time he’s trying to call her. She wouldn’t acquiesce, and he’d continue the waterworks. One of the greyhound employees tried to break in, and he stopped crying long enough to explain in broken English that it’s a long distance call, while pointing to the phone card. She seemed to get the picture.

So, it gets to boarding time. Suddenly, the pre-board side fills up, as if by magic. The entire lot of them had paid the $5 extra to board early. There were all of five or six of us who didn’t. While those people were all getting on, as we silently wondered if Greyhound is in the habit of overbooking, I asked Steve to snag some water. Of course, we had completely forgotten to fill our bottles at the house before leaving. That would be too easy, right?

He searched up and down the station, to see that every machine was flat out empty of water. All except the machine directly in front of us. I guess rather than spending $4 on two bottles of water, the rest of the folk heading to New York decided to spend $5 on guaranteeing a seat. I’m not sure how much I care for that, but that’s neither here nor there.

Finally, all the pre-boarding people were on. We got on to a completely full bus. Again, I’m blaming the rally, but whatever. It seems stupid that we got there that early, and were basically the last ones to get on. It seems even more stupid that a trip out of DC in the middle of the night, when the Metro isn’t running, and half the state is asleep would be quite so full. Take my word for it when I cast my doubts about the ability for the folk sharing our bus home to be able to get a rental car or taxi happening. I’ve seen what those things charge.

As seems to be tradition by now, Steve was seated at one end of the bus, and I’m on the other. Fortunately, because the hour was so late, both of us promptly conked out, and slept until (more or less) arriving in New York. Had it not been for the half hour of nervously watching the bus fill up, and hoping that we actually /get/ a seat, we’d have not really minded the wait at all. The screaming drunk guy was actually entertaining, because he was fairly skilled at changing up his diatribe enough. I also got plenty of time to charge my computer and iPod (neither of which I used, because the bus on the way home didn’t have wifi, and because I was sleeping).

I woke to see New York out the window, which meant that we’d be home shortly. There was absolutely no traffic on the tunnel in, and there was no traffic to get into Port Authority Bus Terminal. This meant that we got into the bus terminal and out of there in minutes, and were on the way to the subway station.

At 5:30 in the morning.

And the entrance to the subway via the bus terminal doesn’t open until 6 am.

We walked out around 42nd and 8th (basically, the west end of Times Square, which is still very well lit up at that hour) to realise how hard the cold has set in. Neither of us was prepared for that bone-chilling blast of cold air, having just come from DC, where it was pretty pleasant and mild. We managed to make it to the subway platform in a minute or two, but only well after having been chilled to the bone. This is after both being seated next to snorers.

At some point that night, Steve said, “Next time, spend the $10.” Fair enough. Either that, or book that Megabus or that Bolt Bus and the heck with the weird pick up locations. At least the drop off location isn’t that bad (in DC side).

We made it home fairly quickly from there, even though the train took like three or four minutes to get there, and was running local. I conked out for a second nap (I don’t leave for work until 9:45, and it was around 6:30 by the time we walked into the apartment). Steve did his coffee thing, and something else, but I was well into sleepy time by then. Three snooze buttons later, I threw on a pot of rice, and went out the door to work. I got in about 5 minutes late, but that was fine, because I was still on time to get to the stack of stuff that piled up from the weekend. It didn’t occur to me until about 11:15 that my boss wasn’t coming in on time today for some reason. Oh right. He had a meeting with investors who wanted to get some capital to expand the business.

A meeting that’d last well into the day.

As the waitress is telling me that the state Kosher inspector is there, and needs to be dealt with. Thankfully, I remembered where everything was, and he was suitably satisfied about our Rabbi’s inspection records from the previous months. Just as he’s walking out the door, and I just managed to get the soup on the stove (there were about three servings of the previous one, and blistering cold days like this on whet t the appetite for soup), I get a call from the accounting firm to sit down with me to show me how to handle deductions and work the new QuickBooks something or other. An hour after chatting to “Vincent” and “George” (I surmised by the accents that were coming through that it was likely Vijaykumar and Gopalakrishnan, but try saying that to one of the Caucasian persuasion, and watch the wholesale butchering of the names), I managed to finish off the list of the cooking that needed to get done that day, and got out the door only one hour later than usual.

Next time, we’ll spend the $10 and sleep properly in the bus.

29 October 2010

On the bus. No internet. Five more hours to dc.

19 October 2010

How to do customer service right.

Dear Companies Who Use Automated Answering Devices for your Customer Service,

It's cool if the option is "press 1 for English, press 2 for Spanish". I don't even mind entering my account number (if I can find the damn thing). But that's about the extent of patience I've got for your automated system. Much more than that, and the rage begins to build. Having me route myself is merely going to piss me off, because often times, it took /way/ longer than it should have.

Verizon is a prime example. It takes me at a minimum, 2 minutes and 47 seconds to get through /just/ the prompts to get to tech support. Time Warner? About 15 seconds, give or take. Bank of America is another one that's pretty foul, especially if you have one of their credit cards. TD Bank? ANSWER WITH A HUMAN THE FIRST TIME. No automated anything. You ring up the 800 number, and a human answers. Yeah. THAT is outstanding. I think that my brother was calling (if I recall correctly) Dish network or something. Same deal there. He was actually surprised at not having to enter anything on his phone. He called the number, and a human answered.

It's getting to where I'm actively avoiding those folk who make me jump through hoops to get stuff done. I've spent more hours than I care to think about at work, sitting through Verizon's obnoxious phone prompts. Even if it takes a long time to sort out the mess, I don't mind, as long as I reach a human promptly. Because the thing is? All those prompts did NOTHING. I still have to restate all the information. What the fuck was the point of the prompts then?

So you mean to tell me that I spent the last 3 minutes of my life, punching random buttons, so that you can ask me to repeat it all again? Are you serious?

It's going to take anywhere between 10 - 15 days to do it, and it's going to cost us money to get the switch over to happen, but it's gotten to where I've flatly told my boss to switch to Time Warner, and the hell with the cost. Anything is worth getting decent customer service, promptly, and on my terms. You know what was even BETTER? When I was done with the call with Time Warner, the lady said, "And if you need to call me with any other questions, here's my direct number. Call me, and I'll personally handle everything for you."

I used TurboTax this year to file the taxes for Chow. It was difficult to use, because our books were a mess, and I had to do some fenagling. However, when I had an issue with technical aspects of th software, a techinician sorted me out in minutes after I asked the question. For that reason (along with the ease of /reaching/ said tech), I'll be using them again in the future.

17 October 2010

The News is for crap

I used to have respect for CNN news. Note the past tense. Yesterday, Steve and I were sat in a government building to sort some stuff out, and they had the news on the idiot box. There's a reason why I haven't watched TV since I quit smoking: it fills me with rage.

There was a story about how thin women make more money than plumper women.

I turned to Puppy, and said, "Next they'll have as breaking news: 'Cake is delicious!'"

Seriously, people. I understand that it's a slow news day, but there comes a point where there is no point to saying something, if what you're going to say is bloody inane and mindless. There was other news going on. Unfortunately, none of that was apparently ratings-worthy enough to warrant any time. No no. I had to sit there and listen to inane patter about how the study was so "interesting" and how it "revealed so much".

If I were rolling my eyes harder, they'd turn around.

The preceding story was about how people with high IQ tend to drink more. Guess what? Now we know why.

06 October 2010

Weekend of busy

This upcoming weekend is about to get a little crazed. Steve has his GRE on Saturday, and Sunday is our trip to Pennsylvania to attend the wedding of a friend of mine (I've known him for years). The sweetest thing ever was to get the wedding invite, and see a little check box for "If you'd like a vegan meal, please say so here".

I was stunned, and floored by it.

When I've been to other weddings, I was the lone vegan there. The "vegan option" generally consisted of roasted vegetables (delicious, mind you) with nothing else. No, seriously. No starch, no protein, nothing. Just the roasted veg. Yeah. It would be filling, but not satisfying, if that makes sense. In this case, they're having a vegan option built into the wedding meal, which is incredibly nice.

OK. Onions on the stove are starting smell a little strong. Time to get back to work.

25 September 2010

Vegan Blogging

- Food
- Personal Life
- Politics

Regardless of which of those categories you choose, there's bound to be overlap between the three, because so much of what we do is so interconnected with so much else. When you get into the political aspects, we get questions about "Well, then what do you eat?" Enter food. When we chat about food, people want to know how you manage to make "such elaborate" things on a busy schedule. Enter personal life stuff. When you talk about your personal life, the other two /always/ come up, because they're part of your personal life.

However, the preponderance of the blogs I've read have been about a general category, and occasionally have little sprinklings of the other two. Why? Because unlike TV, the Internet is sorted neatly into those special niche markets that people go seek out. If you don't care about something or someone, you merely ignore it, and find someone who is catering to your whims. Why? Because there's a /lot/ of stuff out there, and adding to the cacophony without some kind of focus leaves the blog lacking in something.

It's like those cookery books that try to be everything for everyone. People end up getting overwhelmed by all the stuff on there, and promptly ignore it. Instead, those books that make a strong statement (::cough::, like mine), and continue with that message all the time end up attracting their audiences, and flourish.

So what's the reason behind my writings and the rest? To show that being vegan is easy, enjoyable, and can be done by anyone, regardless of whether they're not huge fans of soy, living in a place where convenience ingredients (tofu, soymilk, bla bla) aren't readily available, or those who simply can't afford those things. All the entries (ok, not all, but most) are gathered around that central tenet: regardless of where in the world you are, and what your budget, if you can afford to buy enough calories for your needs, you can make it tasty and interesting, while keeping strong hold of your moral convictions. There are no excuses that apply to a majority of people.

Underneath it all, I do enjoy writing. I like putting my thoughts to paper, and I like letting the piece go where it will. Why? Sometimes I find myself writing something that I would have never said aloud.

How do I get started?
First, set up the thing. Because I'm not technically savvy, and because I'm not too fussed about the look (as much as I am about the content), I chose blogger. You may or may not have the same situation, so work out what is best for you.

Then, before launching, have a few entries planned in advance. There's nothing as disappointing as seeing someone get started on a blogging journey, and see the first few entries be utter crap. Any accidental readers who stumbled across your blog will ignore you from that point on, and you've lost a potential audience.

Then, once you have a few entries sorted out, space them out on a regular interval. The web comics and blogs I regularly visit are updated on a specific schedule, and I know I can expect there to be content there when I come back to view it. Yes, there are RSS feeds and the like, but for someone like me, who likes a small, uncluttered RSS list, inactivity means deletion. And deletion means I won't likely be coming back.

Then, as the days and weeks go by, keep ahead of yourself by at least five entries. That way, if life happens, you can still throw out a good solid entry in the interim.

Also, don't be afraid of posting extras in between your regular schedule. Sometimes stuff comes up that needs immediate attention. Be flexible enough to give your readers bonus content.

Avoid adverts at all costs. Unless you're reaching hundreds of thousands of readers, avoid any stuff that distracts from the main content. Even worse is that you can't exactly control what ads show up on your page, for the most part. What happens when the entry you wrote for mock beef has an ad next to it with a bleeding, dismembered dead thing in it? Yeah. Avoid that.

That's what worked for me when I was dedicatedly blogging. Now, I just keep the blog going for when I have major reports of my life, or plenty of pictures to share. Since mine is a food blog, pictures are priceless. Unfortunately, I have neither the attention span nor equipment to upload very many of them on a regular basis. I'll leave that to those more talented than I.

But there's a key to attracting a huge audience. Frequently update your blog with high quality images of delicious food. You'll have 'em eating out of your blog.

03 September 2010

"Excuse me," she said to the whole train. "I don't want to bother anyone, so I'll be fast. I don't need money, but I'm really hungry. If anyone has any leftover food or pieces you're not going to eat, please let me know. Thank you and God bless."

She spoke in a soft voice, just barely above a whisper, so that those who didn't want to listen didn't have to. She looked to be all of 100 lbs, and was wearing a full sweatsuit, which hung off her body like loose drapes. My stomach lurched with the thought that here I was, bemoaning the lack of cigarettes, and there she was, wasting away because nobody wants to help her find food.

There was some leftover chocolate cake that my boss wanted me to take home for Steve.

Steve agreed that she probably enjoyed it more.

30 August 2010

Back from DC

I just got back from a trip to DC.

Cast of characters
Kumar Anna: means Kumar older brother.
Sowmya Manni: means Sowmya wife of my older brother
Nithya: their daughter, 9(?)
Vinayak: their son, 6
Shivakumar Anna: Sowmya Manni's brother. He has the same exact name as my brother, so I'm using the full version to keep them sorted.

So I got to DC, and one of the first things Kumar anna asked me is "Why didn't you just catch the bus at 1 am on Friday, sleep on the way here, and just arrive into DC in the morning?" D'oh! The answer was so obvious that I couldn't see straight. OK, so that's what we'll do the next time. Vinayak was well and truly conked out. Nithya was playing with Kumar anna's new ipod touch. Sowmya Manni was driving in the front, and chatting with Shivakumar anna.

I updated Kumar anna about my committment to quitting smoking, having learned that he'd undertaken the same journey. On the way to the store, we find out that Shivakumar anna had done his own quitting about 4 years back. Huh. Interesting, eh? So with that knowledge under my helmet, I was free to relax about curbing cravings.

Once we made it to their house, got the car emptied, and trooped indoors, I was quite ready to tuck into Sowmya Manni's cootoo. It's a South Indian dish made from vegetables (generally things like radish, squash, bit of onion, cumin, mustard seed, and coconut milk). It's a pretty simple (though very tasty) dish, and it looked ravishing after that five hour bus ride to DC. I immediately helped myself to a bowl.

I mentioned off-hand what a pain it was that my ipod's bluetooth had gone under with the latest software update (which no amount of rolling back fixed, thanks), and I had to use wired headphones, because that's all that will work.

"What's wrong with the wired?"

"They keep getting caught on everything."

"Just wear the wire under your shirt."

The day had barely begun, and he'd already delivered two hugely useful bits of advice without a second thought.

I thought of these exchanges today, when I was at work. "Huh? What does '1 bucket of soup, broken and discarded'," even mean? I stared at the "broken/discarded items" log blankly. Last year, I'd keep forgetting to update the Quickbooks with any losses because of damaged items. This year, I'm jotting it all down on a log, so I can keep a running tally.

Upon further investigation ("Boss, what on earth does this mean?), it would mean that one of the service buckets, inside which soup is stored, was dropped by accident (everyone was OK; the service buckets are plastic), and the bucket broke, meaning that the soup and the bucket had to be thrown out.

Now we're getting somewhere. Right, but what do those cost? Boss Man shrugged. I silently cursed as I stalked off to the office to get to the bottom of this. I calculated the rough liquid capacity of the soup mug (12 oz~ish), and the rough size of the bucket (3 quarts?), and went about converting the one to the other and dividing across, and looking at the final score.

Then I cursed aloud, balled up the paper, and flung it across the room at the wall. 8 servings per bucket? That made no sense. So I started up again. Maybe the buckets are 2 quarts. Yeah, that's it, it's 2. Then I checked my math, and the cost of the soup. If that indeed was how much soup I'm getting for that soup recipe, we're not charging nearly enough. This makes no sense! I balled up a second sheet of paper, and stewed for a minute.

Wait a minute.

Excitedly, I ran out into the plating area, grabbed a soup mug, grabbed an empty service bucket (it needed washing out anyway), and filled it with water. Then, counting down, I started to empty the bucket, one mug at a time.

7.

Sometimes, it takes an intelligent person a frustratingly long time to find the same answer that you could have figured out in 10 seconds. I cross-checked the math with the pricing, and the little lightbulbs went off in my head. Yes. Everything fit neatly, and easily. Also, now I had a quick way to assess whether or not I'll need more of a particular thing. If I've only got 1 1/2 buckets of soup left, I'd better get into the kitchen and whip up another one. If it's lunch rush and I've only got 1 1/2 buckets of soup left, then I'd better crank the stove, crank the oven, and /run/.

Why is this so exciting to me? Because now I /know/. A little thrill of triumph crossed my face as I completed the maths problem the easy way, made my notations, and moved to the next set of hurdles to jump, with its own set of numbers to rescue from the clutches of "I don't know."

All in a day's work.

To be continued ...

29 August 2010

300th post!

Welcome to post number 300. I've been doing this blog thing for a fair bit now, and it's introduced me to some awesome people. Thanks for sticking around with me this long. It's nice to know that other people out there are interested in hearing my voice.

I'm in DC with my eldest brother and his family. The neice and nephew are adorable, as always. Their neighbours, who are such good friends that they pass in and out of each other's house all the time. I didn't realise that there were such friendly and open people around who are that comfortable with each other. I sometimes wish I could have that with another family.

To be fair, Dan and Nate are pretty cool with us, to the point that we can throw spontaneous dinner parties at random, and they'll happily come over to partake of the feast. It's pretty cool.

I've also realised that leaving Manhattan won't kill me, and that I need to chill out a bit more about it. No, this doesn't mean that I'll be voluntarily leaving very frequently, but visits to other cities aren't out of the question.

No, I'm still not hitting up the left coast.

Switched from the patch to the Chantix. So far, so good. It's not nearly as debilitating as the patch, and the dehydration would be easier to handle were it not for the fact that I'm sitting in the middle of a city that used to be a swamp. The heat is stifling hot, and there's nothing for it but to escape into the recesses of air conditioning.

Ah, well.

I'm looking forward to getting back home to Steve, because I miss him terribly even though it's only been a day thus far. My sister-in-law let me know that they have his mother's old sewing machine. Reconnecting it with Steve will be very awesome, because he's had the sewing bug in him since day one, and we thought it to be lost in space.

Life has this funny way of magically making things work out.

26 August 2010

I still hate it

I'm thoroughly not enjoying this quitting process. The patches dry out my mouth to the point where I'm dehydrated by the end of the day, and even drinking things with electrolytes in doesn't help. This is extremely unpleasant. If it weren't for the cost, I'd still be happily smoking away, but let's be honest. It's only going to get /more/ expensive. I don't fancy spending half a month's grocery bill on a luxury product like cigarettes. That's kind of ridiculous.

It still doesn't make it easy. I'm on the last 2 patches that were provided by the city. Next step is only 1 week long, and the step after that is another week. Hopefully, the smaller patches will mean less side effects.

20 August 2010

Oops

And like an idiot, I forgot to put on the bloody patch this morning. And I don't notice until I'm here at work. Good job.

To be fair, I'm not a morning/daytime smoker. So the nicotine delivery in the daytime isn't really necessary. So I texted Puppy to ask him to bring me a patch IF and only if he's in the area. Otherwise, I can deal, and put one on tonight when I get home. Maybe I should be doing that anyway. Y'know, just putting on the patch around the hours when I'll need it?

I had a phone conversation (a quick one) last night with Steve's nephew Trevor. I had to be quick, because I didn't want to reach for the no longer there pack of cigarettes, but I guess it's a step in the right direction.

So I made this soup from red bell peppers, and I didn't hate it! Why? Because I couldn't taste it strongly, that's why.

Start with two large Spanish onions, and sautee it in enough oil that the pan is well lubricated. Keep going until they're almost brown. While they're going, chop up 6 large baking potatoes. Get them into an even dice, if you can. If you can't, who cares. You're going to puree the thing anyway. Then, chop up 6 large red bell peppers. Dump the peppers and potatoes in together when the onions are cooked through. Stir everything around. Add in a good kick of curry powder. It needs it, trust me. Also, heave some salt into the mix. Keep stirring. When everything is a lovely yellow, slam on the lid, and let it cook in dry heat for about 10 minutes. You can open the lid and stir every couple of minutes if you're a nervous nellie, like me. :)

To make cheater cheater pumpkin eater type quickie stock, get 2 litres of boiling water, and pitch in 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, and whatever dried herbs you have lying around. I used oregano and thyme. Let it sit for five minutes, and you have stock. Wahey. Don't add salt, because hi. Who adds salt to stock? You might as well leave it unsalted, and adjust at the end, so you have control over your flavourings.

OK. So once the potatoes and peppers have cooked for a good 10 (or 15, because I got distracted and forgot) minutes, throw in the cheater stock you just made. If you don't have nutritional yeast, no big. Leave it out, and just use the herbs. If you don't have herbs, go to the bloody store and /get/ some herbs. Come on, people. Gotta work with something, right?

Then, once that's all sorted, blend 2 cups of coconut milk with 1/3 cup of cornstarch, arrowroot, tapioca starch, potato starch, or whatever other starch you have. Use a stick blender or a regular blender, because those starches can get stubborn, and clump on you for no reason. No, you can't use all purpose flour, because you then have to cook the raw flour taste out of it. If you /really/ were determined, go ahead and make a roux, and add coconut milk to it. I won't tell anyone if you won't.

Let the potatoes and peppers boil together until the potatoes are tender enough that they're almost falling apart. Pour in the coocnut milk and starch mix. Let it come up to a full boil, and then turn off the heat. Blend the soup until it's smooth. If you're one of Those People, strain it. If you're not afraid of a tiny bit of texture, leave it be, and eat it.

It was tasty. There was the savoury taste of the bell peppers, but none of that yucky bitterness.

17 August 2010

Reeling it in more.

OK, so because of the horrible nightmares, and terrifically bad insomnia, I stopped wearing the patch before going to sleep, and don't bother putting it back on until I'm good and awake, and have seen the better side of a shower. So from about 9 PM to 10 am~ish, I'm not wearing it. That's fine, because I never was a big smoker in the mornings anyway. Hopefully, this means that when I have to get to the next stage, it won't be quite as challenging as getting rid of cigarettes was.

The improved weather conditions means that I'm not going through such dehydration issues anymore. My appetite is back, and I am able to get through the day as long as I keep a glass of water on hand at all times. It's a good thing that I'm trying this when the weather is clearing up, because if I were sweaty, dehydrated, and generally physically miserable, I'd be outright unbearable to be near, much less live with.

Yesterday's books were Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl (sp?) and Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett, as well as Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey. Garlic and Sapphires is Ruth Reichl's memoir of her tenure at the New York Times as their food critic. She talks about the various disguises she used at the restaurants, so as to remain anonymous. Interspersed are recipes for various foods that she enjoys. Nothing that I can eat, but a fun read nonetheless. Lords and Ladies is another Discworld classic, and features Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg (and the rest of the Ogg clan), and Magrat Garlick. They're amongst my favourite characters, so it was definitely a fun read.

Sleeping Beauty is another story in Mercedes Lackey's 500 Kingdoms series. It's about a princess who is being pushed into a Traditional fairy tale life (beautiful looks, mother dies, wicked stepmother enters, handsome prince, etc. etc.), and is none too thrilled with the prospect. You learn early on that Fairy Godmothers sometimes need to use expediency over strict rules, so that the people they care for are taken care of. Definitely a fun read, in my opinion. It's technically a romance novel, but there's no smut. This is a Very Good Thing, as the thought of a man and a woman being intimate turns my stomach.

I've noticed that every time I crave a cigarette really badly, I tap on, or touch the area where I've placed the patch. I don't know why it comforts me, but I'm not going to complain. It's doing its job right now. I guess when I finally am no longer wearing said patches, I can wean myself off with a bandage or something. It won't be quite the same, but it'll get me there, just as touching the patch isn't the same as lighting up, but it gives me something to temporarily discharge the all-encompassing craving very quickly. I'll take what I can get.

I'm still quaranting myself from high-trigger situtations, such as talking on the phone, watching TV, or eating big meals. Hopefully, in a few week's time, when the worst of the edge isn't there anymore, I can slowly integrate those parts of my life back into my regular schedule. Mind you, watching TV and eating big meals aren't exactly the best things in the world, but I do miss talking to my mother and my friends on the phone. There's something that the phone does that is missing with an email.

Oh well. Baby steps, right? It hasn't even been a week yet.

15 August 2010

Ratcheting down

When I'm feeling sad, or scared, or in need of comfort, I tend to make soup. I don't know why, but the ritual itself has a calming effect, especially when I do it Properly, and chop all the ingredients really finely, and have everything in neat little bowls, arranged atop the cutting board, ready to go. No last-minute chopping for me! When I make soup in this manner, the point is not to get a pot of soup finished. The point here is to get the perfect pot of soup on, and to savour every step of the ritual, and completely lose myself in the process, so as to have it almost be a sort of meditation.

Yesterday, when my mood was particularly bad, I decided to putter into the kitchen, and make soup. See, the thing about it is that with the nicotine patch on overnight, as they suggested so that I don't get morning cravings, I ended up with pretty disgusting, violent (prolonged, not one-off), and gory dreams, and I would wake up with a sick feeling. Unfortunately, this would mean that more than a couple of hours of sleep was just not going to happen. This also meant that I would feel even more out of sorts the next day, which kind of defeats the purpose.

So anyway. I'm feeling a bit rough, and decided to go into the kitchen and make soup Properly. I started with two medium sized onions, and chopped them into a fine mince. I chopped one large jumbo horse sized carrot (you know the kind; one of them weighs a pound) into 1/4 inch dice. I diced up 2 plantains (peeled, 1/4 inch dice, please), 1 yucca (1 lb yucca, peeled, split in 4 lengthwise, middle stem removed, then 1/4 inch thick slices), 1 medium potato (1/4 inch, unpeeled waxy potato), and a medium head of cabbage (quartered lengthwise, then each 1/4 cut into 3 lengthwise pieces, then shredded with a knife of about 1/2 inch thick slices). Since my soup pot is cast aluminum, I did have to use a bit of fat to get things started, instead of doing just a couple of drops as I normally do.

Usually, what I do is that I get the stove started, throw the pot on, and throw in some oil. Then, while the oil heats, I make a mad dash for the fridge, grab the onions and carrots, and start frantically peeling. The oil is hot enough by then (and almost smoking). I then throw in the mustard seeds and run back to chopping, then in with cumin and back to chopping. It's chaotic, frenzied, and ever so much fun. It's almost like a race to beat the stove.

But today was about slow, deliberate, and thorough cooking.

The whole chopping of the vegetables took about 30 minutes solid, which gave my brain time to completely blank out. Even though I can carry on conversations with others when I'm cooking, I tend to prefer to let my brain clear completely when I cook alone.

Once the veg were chopped, I did the standard mustard seed and cumin seed thing, then threw in the carrots and onions, along with a bit of turmeric for colour. I turned the heat down to medium, covered the lid, and turned around to clean up after myself. See, usually when I'm cooking, there's a fairly big mess to be had, because I'm mainly concerned with getting all the food cranked out at the same time. This means that any spare moment is spent getting more food cooked, and clean up becomes secondary. This time, however, I had the time to putter around for a bit, and watching a pot of onions and carrots sweat slowly isn't my idea of amusement, no matter how pretty it may be.

I remembered that I should have put a pot of rice on, so I shut the lid, and quickly threw in 4 cups of brown rice, along with the needed water. That barely took a few seconds.

By the time the requisite 15 minutes had passed (for the cooking of the onions and carrots), I'd managed to clear out most of the breakfast dishes, along with the new ones I'd created while cooking. In went the plantains, potatoes, and yucca. Since they're all chopped small, they'll cook at the same speed. I tossed them around to get them evenly coated with the spices and aromatics, then increased the heat just a tiny bit, and replaced the lid. Back to cleaning! After another ten minutes, I added about 3 litres of water.

Side note: I don't use stock, because it doesn't actually add enough flavour to my soup. When I have all these spices going, only water will do, so that the spices can come through, rather than being muddled as they would be were I to use stock. Save your stock for when you're in a real rush, and don't have even the time to throw in a couple of powdered spices to the mix, and just want to dump everything into a pot, throw in some stock, throw on the lid, and set it to simmer away.

I increased the heat to high, and went back to my cleaning. I have one of those gas stoves that has the super high heat burner, which meant that it wasn't going to give me but 3 or 4 minutes to clean. Just like with Proper Cooking, I tend to let my mind wander when washing dishes or doing other cleaning. I just mentally disconnect, and let myself go for a while.

After the water came to a full, rushing boil, I went to my freezer, snagged a few stalks of curry leaves, and scattered them in. I would ordinarily throw them in with the spices, but with frozen, I wanted the taste and colour maintained, so I added it at the end. I also added a clove of garlic, and a bit of salt and black pepper to taste. As a finishing touch, I sprinkled in a bit of red chile flakes, and shut the lid again.

The water needs to now boil quite fiercely for about 15 minutes. If you chop your veg slightly larger, they'll need closer to 25 - 30 minutes. At the end of the 15 minutes, the kitchen was mostly clean, save for the cutting board atop which the cabbage rested. I opened the pot back up, threw in the cabbage, let it keep boiling, and opened up a tin of coconut milk. In that went, and on the lid went. I turned off the heat. Cabbage chopped that small doesn't need to boil. It can cook in the residual heat. I cleaned off the cutting board, and went to lie down for a bit, while the cabbage finished its cooking. I picked up Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel. Very good book.

By the time I got to the chapter with Tita's wedding cake, the rice pot beeped (it had a few more minutes when I left the kitchen). The cabbage was done to a turn. Not soggy and limp, but very slightly crisp still, although cooked through.

Books read thus far as of Friday:

Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
Up the Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman (I didn't know what to expect from this one, but from the teachers I've spoken to, such things still go on.)
Thief of Time, Terry Pratchett

For the record, the soup was delicious.

14 August 2010

Still craving, slightly cranky

After not getting decent sleep last night, from the horrible nightmares, and then getting a fairly massive high-level craving like I haven't had in a very long time, even when I was smoking and I'd forgotten my cigarettes at home, I picked up "Up the Down Staircase". Definitely a good read. To give you an idea, I powered through it in the space of roughly 2 hours and change. That, alongside a stiff drink, took the edge off, and I'm not craving, until some jackhole is smoking right outside my window, and the smoke is drifting in. Going back to the dining room, where it's a different side of the building that faces out.

2nd day

Last night was rough, I finally got to sleep around this morning at 6:30 ish, and couldn't manage more than an hour, because I started getting horrific, violent, bloody dreams. Same thing happened the first night, and early last night when I did get that quick sleep. I don't watch violent film, watch the news, watch violent TV, read books of that nature, or anything else along those lines, so it's a little disconcerting to try and figure out where my brain is manufacturing these images from.

I'm mainly talking to Steve, who's talking me through the rougher patches. Fortunately, I haven't really had any other purely physical withdrawal symptoms, which is reassuring. I guess then that I need to alter my patch schedule, and just not wear it at night before sleeping, else this may end up to be a rather nasty little set of side effects that can make this more miserable than it needs to be.

I'm thinking it might be best to snag some chamomile from the store to brew as tea for bed times, so that I can at least get to sleep without any further chemicals going into the mix, but we'll see about that. Still, today shouldn't be too hard, because I don't usually smoke in the day time when I'm by myself, or relaxed already from the night before (as is the case), and I'm just staying home. It's a tiny bit difficult to be computer-less, but hopefully, they'll get that sorted soon enough.

Currently reading Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel to occupy the hands. Will keep you all posted.

But in everything, there is some good.

So, as stated earlier, I've made the leap and decided to quit smoking. This morning, we woke up at 6:30 (as we always do), and the patch had stayed on (miraculously) overnight, and hadn't budged. So far, so good. I dashed into the kitchen to scare up some breakfast for Steve (I'm not a morning person; my job is to /make/, not eat said breakfast), and truly wake up. There I am, making some curried plantains, when it sunk in. Once I put on that first patch, I needed to go forward and commit to it completely.

I walked into the living room, picked up my lighters, ashtrays, and cigarette boxes, and threw them all in the trash. That way, even if I am tempted to bring home a cigarette, I won't be "set up" to smoke the thing. It's a small concession, but there you go. Removing the triggers will likely help me to think of my house as nonsmoking now.

We made it out the door to get to City Hall. After four years, we finally decided to stop procrastinating, and get our butts down to get a domestic partnership agreement signed and sealed. It was difficult not to bite down a bitter thought towards the couple in front of us who were getting a real marriage license, her in her pretty white dress, and him in a nice black suit, but I managed, because those two were having a wedding in City Hall, whereas mine was with family and friends. Small concession, but there you go.

On the way to City Hall, we stopped by the Starbucks, where I got an Earl Grey to clear out the morning cobwebs. Bad idea. I've known for some time now that I can't hold my caffeine, and that it hits me strongly. That stupid tea is the reason I'm still awake right now, after like a 1 hour catnap. Anyway.

It was still freakishly early by the time we got out of City Hall, and I had a good two hours until work. On a whim, I asked Steve if he'd like to just go to Washington Square Park with me, and hang out for a bit till I had to go in to work. He looked at the time, and thought that sounded positively fabulous, because the day was very beautiful (cool breeze, very light bit of sun, empty streets). We decided to walk, because he didn't have an unlimited ride card, and again, beautiful day. He took me up Broadway, past Chinatown, across Houston, and up Sullivan Street. On the way to the park, the buildings stood out so much more vividly than ever before.

Things that I'd never paid attention to before came to the forefront for me. It was a wonderful excuse to just be together a little longer, and make plans for the future (shopping and otherwise), chat about stupid things, and for him to show me "his" neighbourhood. He works down there around West Broadway, and is very familiar with that trail.

We got to the park, and the first big craving hit. Usually, when I'm early for work because I planned it that way, I'll grab a soda and a cigarette, and sit on one of the benches in the sun to just relax for a bit. I kept it light, choosing instead to talk about anything that would distract me. We walked to the Fountain, facing the Arch. Then, a man walked onto the fountain on the opposite side, took off his shoes, and waded in. Watching him collect coins that people had tossed into the fountain provided a good bit of distraction.

See, the literature that I got told me that if I'm to kick the habit permanently, I need to break patterns. For example, if I come home, and sit in one particular favoured spot, and do a certain set of activities before lighting up a cigarette, to do anything but that when I get home. So this time, instead of buying a soda, I had a tea, and instead of the benches we headed to the fountain. I don't know why, but that small thing took me out of that head space, and got me distracted enough by the new experience. I guess that's also why the buildings looked so pretty.

I headed to work an hour early, as there were more and more people coming into the park, and having their own cigarettes. The smell was becoming too tempting, so I asked Steve if he minded if I head into work early. He seemed game, and walked me to the restaurant. I showed my boss the domestic partner certificate, and he and Steve got into a heated rant about how stupid it is that I can't just get a marriage and get it over with. I quietly agreed, but didn't really get into it, because my brain was still thinking of those cigarettes in other people's mouths. I know that this will pass too, but it's still hard to get past that initial craving.

Aside from being ritualistic (smoking on the phone, while walking, after eating, etc.), smoking is also a very social habit. You'll tend to smoke when others are smoking, whether or not you really crave a cigarette. I guess it's like any drug in that way, eh? So seeing someone else light a cigarette makes me subconsciously reach for my bag, even though I stopped carrying cigarettes in the day time a long time back (except on those one or two days that I'd have in the Park).

Work wasn't stressful until I started plunging into the numbers part, which started to give me a throbbing head ache. There were records that weren't being categorised correctly, and when I saw the large list of them that needed to get done, a ghost of a headache started from the back of my skull, and spidered its way forward.

Stupid cravings.

Of course, it doesn't help that the nicotine patch is giving me dry mouth something fierce, because the kitchen is dehydrating as it is. A few hours of sweat later, I managed to get onto the subway, shaking a little. An uneventful, though anxious trip home followed. I dreaded it a little, because the first thing I do when I get home on a Friday night is to have a glass of water. Why? Because the water is tasty, and it helps me disconnect from the world that I just left behind. Then, I'd either flip open the phone, and chat to a couple of friends or Amma, pour myself a drink, and have a cigarette in front of the TV. In between phone calls, I'd keep having more drinks, and more cigarettes, until the rest of the week would fade away.

It makes it pretty bad, because now I associate talking on the phone or watching TV with having a cigarette. I don't want to avoid my friends or family, but right now, I'm still a little rough around the edges, and don't trust myself very much to handle contact. So I poured myself a drink, and sat at the dining room table, in front of Steve to chat to him. Pattern breaking, you know. It seemed to do the trick for about five minutes, before Steve noticed me fidgeting.

"Did you finish that Pratchett novel?"

"Oh shoot! No I didn't!"

He inadvertently struck on the one thing that I never smoke while doing: reading. When I read, I'm so engrossed in the book that I can't be bothered to. Sure, I can eat, or drink water, or whatever, but smoking is a definite no, especially since I could end up damaging the book. I guess I've found my distractor for the next few days: reading.

For the curious, the novel was Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett. Not his best work, but still quite diverting. Yes, I did finish it, by 9:00 which is bed time. After we both went to sleep around midnight~ish, I got back up at 1:00.

Damn tea.

13 August 2010

Good god day one of no smoking was rough. Threw out all my lighters and ashtrays. No turning back. But the dry mouth is murder.

27 July 2010

How to eat hummus

Side update: I'm still having issues with the heat, because when the oven gets turned on at work, the temperatures skyrocket, and no matter how much water I drink, I go into mild heat exhaustion, and I start shaking, and my head gets light and floaty, and my muscles get really weak. Once I'm on the subway in the air conditioning, I'm fine. It's been persisting for about a week and change now, and I don't rightly know what to do about it, save not go into the kitchens, which isn't an option. If anyone's got any suggestions, feel free to weigh in.

Now. Onto how to eat hummus.

With a spoon.

The end.

I'm only teasing. Irma asked in a comment what to do with hummus, and/or different ways of using the stuff, aside from just putting it onto pita bread. I had a couple of suggestions mulling about in my head, so rather than just replying to the comment, I figured I'd just answer it here, in a new post.

First off, here is my little blurb about how to get perfect hummus every time. If you've got any input for that recipe, feel free to weigh in. I went extremely detailed and slow, because a lot of times, the recipe will be vague, or so rushed in its eagerness to show you how simple it is that people aren't going to be able to reproduce your results. That's just not right.

For starters, let's talk about different ways of using the hummus all by itself. I really wasn't joking when I said I could cheerfully eat it with a spoon. I can, and do so regularly (someone has to taste the hummus to make sure it's perfect, right?) at home and at work. Sometimes, it's nice to just appreciate something for what it is.

Vegetables. Vegetables are a perfect excuse to eat more hummus. Break out the carrots, celery, cucumbers, apples, pears, broccoli (steamed or raw), cauliflower (steamed or raw), beets, or anything else that comes to mind, and try it with your hummus. If you're making hummus with nice fresh herbs, like dill, or basil, or oregano, it's especially delicious with apples, pears, or other sweet but firm fruits, so that you get that contrast of the crisp, juicy fruit, and the salty, creamy hummus. Yes, I know that pears and apples are a fruit. Moving on.

Breads. Pita bread is excellent with hummus, but it's not your only option. While I'm here, let me make a sideline note about pita & hummus. You will find that your eating will be ten thousand times more pleasurable if you simply toast the pita bread with a little bit of oil before eating it. If you're doing like 20 or 30 pitas, just brush them with oil, and toast it in the oven, until it's lightly browned (about 10 minutes), and warmed through. Otherwise, heat up a skillet, drizzle in just a tiny bit of oil, and lightly fry the pita on each side until it's toasty and brown. Then, slice it up into triangles, and serve immediately. The pillowy steam that escapes the pita bread will make it so much nicer to eat, and you'll soon find yourself out of pita.

But aside from pita bread, try other breads. Often, when you go to the store, you can get day old bread for cheap. Take it home, and lightly sprinkle on a bit of water onto whichever slice of bread you want to eat. Then, fry as you would the pita bread, but use a touch more oil. Then, slice the slice of bread into strips, and dip away. Pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, baguettes, or any other dense, hearty bread works great.

While we're on the subject of breads, let's talk sandwiches and wraps. What better bread spread can you think of than hummus? It's high in protein, and lower in fat than those margarines and other rich dressings (like vegan mayo, etc.), while still having plenty of taste to boost the sandwiche's prospects. This is also a great spread for when you want to make a wrap of some kind. Think of it. Just a generous dose of hummus, cucumber, spinach, olives, and maybe some red onion and salt, and that's a wrap! Soooo good.

On to more advanced techniques. When my friend Mikeypod came over for Thanksgiving one year, he brought some pita from this place in Brooklyn that makes it fresh every day. They were like eating clouds. I split one open lengthwise, so I had two circles. I smeared both with a thin layer of hummus. I sandwiched them back closed, so that the hummus is on the inside. Then, I sliced them into triangles. I then dipped it into my bajji batter (it's in the book), and deep fried them. You heard me. Mind you, it's not something I'd do nowadays (or if I did, I'd make only a very small batch), but it was a special occasion, so I decided to splurge a little on the calories. What ended up happening was that the batter sealed the traingles well from the oil, so that the triangles started to puff up into fat little pillows. When they were golden brown in both sides, I served them piping hot. It was so much fun to eat those little pockets.

Of course, one must never forget hummus dressing. Essentially, it's just hummus thinned out with water until it's as liquidy as you want. You can do it with the store bought stuff or home made, depending on how much space/time/appliances you have. If you want it to be better still, dump it in the blender, and drizzle in a bit of extra olive oil as well as a bit more garlic and salt, and then add the water, with the blender going on medium speed. This will ensure that it's as smooth as possible. Try it some day over mixed greens, or other vegetable or bean salads, and you won't be disappointed.

My mother likes to stir into hummus some cabbage, carrots, and diced dill pickles, to make a sort of a cole slaw without the mayo. Try it some time, and I'm sure you'll love it as much as we do. She did it the first time, because I had added too much salt for her liking, and she wanted to eat those raw vegetables anyway.

When it's just for me and Steve, I like to make hummus really spicy, by adding a fair bit of chiles to it. When you do such a thing, an excellent way to serve it is as a canape. Just get some cucumber slices, pipe on the hummus, and top it with a little spray of dill. The presentation looks so cute to see all those little slices of cucumber with their hummus hats. The same works with zucchini, summer squash, tomato, or any other vegetable you can get into nice little rounds. If you felt like it, you could also do this with rounds of toast, but the vegetables are already in that adorable shape.

Hummus is excellent on crackers, especially if you do a cracker, a thin layer of hummus, a slice of vegetable, another thin layer of hummus, and then top it with a slice of tomato, a dollop of hummus, and a bit of cilantro or parsley. Again, it's a bit of work, but it looks so fetching. The fat in the hummus will protect the cracker from getting soggy, but it really should be eaten as soon as possible.

I know that others will have plenty of their own ideas, so feel free to weigh in if you wish. Hope this helped, Irma!

24 July 2010

Random Call

I've been feeling sick all this week, so I haven't really been up to posting much of anything. It's those kitchens. In the 90┬║ heat, you start feeling dehydrated and dizzy, and mentally loopy, not matter how much water you get through your system. So I'll leave work, and just come home and pass out from tiredness.

In better news, my friend Denise called me last night (early, so she caught me before my inevitable collapse into sleep), and said "I have some cauliflower and some chickpeas and some tomato, and I'm not sure what to do with it". I told her to use the QUICK Garbanzo Soup (sort of a quick and dirty Chana Masala type thing), and do a shortcut type aloo gobi (pop cumin and coriander in a pan with oil, add garlic, onion, ginger, sautee, add potato, turmeric, salt, cook till tender, add cauliflower and cook till tender, then turn off the heat and stir through garam masala). Apparently, she already had leftover rice, so that was no problem at all. If she did have access to an oven, I'd have asked her to simply toss the cauliflower and potato with the spices, garlic onion, ginger, oil, and what have you, and just throw it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Either way, the food came out great. She graciously took a photo for scientific purposes. Here it is.

16 July 2010

Dino's Mac & Cheese

I mostly eyeball it, but I can share the rough outline of how I put it together, because people have asked, and I don't really mind sharing. Some of the amounts are approximated, but there you are.

1 lb pasta (I like the large, fat, ziti noodles, but elbow macaroni works too; FOR GF: Quinoa pasta tends to be the best pasta substitute)
1/4 cup flour
3 TB oil (TO MAKE GLUTEN FREE: Replace 3 TB of oil with water, and replace flour with potato, tapioca, or corn starch. Best is tapioca. Add AFTER all other ingredients come to a boil, and whisk constantly until thickened.)
2 cups coconut milk thinned with 2 cups water
1/2 cup water, reserved
1 TB miso paste (sweet white miso)
1 TB dijon mustard
1 TB nutritional yeast
2 tsp tahini
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
Breadcrumbs, tossed in oil (FOR GLUTEN FREE: Substitute crushed almonds or walnuts.)

Set a pot of water on the boil, and cover the lid. It'll boil faster this way. You'll want about 1/2 gallon of water per pound of pasta, so that the noodles don't stick together. While the water comes to a boil, we'll make the sauce.

Start off with a roux (fat + flour, over heat). Over medium high heat, set down a large skillet (larger than you think you’ll need). Add the 3 TB of oil, and ¼ cup of flour. Whisk the two over heat, until the flour smells slightly nutty, and the oil and flour are bubbling slightly. When you’ve reached this light light blond stage (called a blond roux), pour in your room temperature water and coconut milk. Many recipes say to have your liquid hot, but I don’t care to mess up another pan. So nuts to them.

When the sauce (now a b├ęchamel) comes up to a boil, drop down the heat to low (as low as it’ll go), before adding the next set of ingredients. Add the miso, mustard, nutritional yeast, tahini, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, paprika, salt, and pepper, and whisk vigorously, until all the ingredients are in a smooth creamy sauce. If it’s thickening up too much, add a few tablespoons of water from the reserved water. I often find that I do need to add water, but your mileage may vary.

Once the water has come up to a full rushing boil, dump in your pasta, and generously salt the water. I’ve been told that it should be salty, like the sea. I grew up in Florida, near the sea, and I know what that means. For those of us who have never been in the ocean, think of it to be as salty as your tears of disappointment at never having been to the sea. This is so that the pasta gets good and salty early on.

Once you have the pasta in the pot, slam on the pot’s lid, so that the water comes up to the boil faster. The sooner your water comes to the boil, the easier it is to prevent it from sticking to itself. As soon as you hear the water in the pasta put bubbling away, and making a boiling noise (it sounds like when you blow bubbles in your juice in the morning to annoy your sister), remove the lid to prevent the pasta from overboiling and making a mess on your stove. Set the timer for 7 minutes. Yes, this means that the pasta will be under-done, but that’s the point. Stick with me.

Now that your pasta is merrily bubbling away in its hot bath, the sauce has had a chance to simmer over low heat for a few minutes. See what we did there? Rather than fussing at the sauce, we let it just relax, and the flavours combine properly. This is important. At this point, you may taste the sauce (but just a little—you want to save some for your pasta, right?) for seasoning. If you feel like it could use a bit more salt, go ahead and add it. If you feel like it has too much salt, panic. No, don’t panic. Just add a bit of sugar until the salt seems to be neutralised. Whisk, whisk, whisk. Right then. Once it’s seasoned to your liking, turn off the heat under the sauce, put on the lid, and let it chill out while your pasta finishes cooking.

Generally, by the time I’ve finished fiddling around with the sauce’s flavours, the pasta would have finished cooking. Drain the pasta once the timer beeps, and put it into casserole dishes. Why? Because this way, the pasta pot is only dirty with water, which is easily cleaned, versus being dirty with sauce too. This way, you can also gauge how many casserole dishes you need without making a big huge mess. My pasta pot’s opening is much narrower than the top of the casserole dish. I make less of a mess when I transfer from colander to casserole dish.

Make sure that the casserole dish is only filled up ¾ of the way. Now pour the sauce over the pasta in the pot. If you do end up having to split the pasta up into two or three dishes, it will have been fairly easy to do if you did it when the pasta is unsauced. Now, toss the pasta in the casserole dish until it’s combined with the sauce. If you have extra sauce, this is very good. Dump that over the pasta in the dish too. It won’t hurt anything.

Finally, sprinkle the tops liberally with breadcrumbs that you have tossed with oil. This is not an optional step. The crispy breadcrumb crust makes it all the more worthwhile. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, run down to the bodega and grab a few packets of soda crackers, and crush them with a rolling pin (while they’re still in the package). That’ll do the same thing.

Bake the casserole dishes (covered for the 1st 15 minutes, then uncovered) at 350°F (180°C) for 20 minutes. If the breadcrumbs on top aren’t browned to your liking, slide the casserole under the broiler for 30 or so seconds. Serve in generous slices, with a side salad of something healthy, so that everyone can pretend that they’re not eating pure indulgence on a plate. Enjoy!

05 July 2010

More pongal love

My husband is heading home after a long trip to Chicago, and I had to think of something to make for him when he gets home. He's been mostly cooking for himself, and that's all well and good, but sometimes you need that food that only someone else knows how to make just so. I know I harp about it endlessly, but for me, the ultimate comfort food is beans and rice in some form or another. My favourite method for beans and rice, is of course, venn pongal in all its varieties.

Yesterday being the birthday of the USA meant that the thermometer was rising steadily higher, as the noise level outside grew steadily noisier. I live in Inwood, which is a part of Manhattan that's quite removed from the rest of the city. People tend to get away with more, because it's not as densely populated as say, Greenwich Village or Midtown. The buildings don't really go up that high (maybe 10 stories tops), because for the most part, prewar buildings don't have a lift. So although there is a fairly strict fireworks ban in New York, with Bloomberg getting onto the news and sternly warning people that they're engaged in Dangerous And Illegal Activities So Cease Now OR ELSE, people in a less crowded neighbourhood take those warnings as mere suggestions.

I needed to make something that wouldn't test my patience or my nerves. The dish that I turn to in a crisis is Venn Pongal. Traditionally, it's made with split mung beans, white rice, and a few spices, ginger, salt, and black pepper. Copious amounts of black pepper, if you're me or my mother. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any mung beans in the apartment, nor could I find the yellow split peas which one uses to substitute. Instead, I looked to my fridge. There, nestled between a bottle of orange juice and a couple of knobby looking yucca, was a box of lentil daal that I'd made the night before for my dinner.

Hmmm.

I also had a full pot of brown rice waiting in the rice cooker. Hmmmmm. I had flavoured the dal simply, because when I cook for myself, I keep things very basic. I used mustard seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, asafoetida, ginger, turmeric, salt, black pepper, a bit of red chile powder, salt, and curry leaves. In other words, the same spices that I'd use to make a venn pongal. In went the daal into the rice cooker, along with water to thin it out. I tend to make daal a bit on the thick side, and I wanted the rice to get thoroughly cooked. And since this is brown rice, it can take a long cooking and not fall apart on you. I hit start, and wandered into the washroom to douse myself in water so I could sit in front of the fan, soaking wet. On hot days, I prefer to cool off this way rather than using the a/c, because I saw the electric bill last month, and was Very Displeased.

Ten minutes later, the apartment filled with the aroma of the ginger and other spices cooking in the pot. While I was waiting, I ground up the soaking rice and urad daal and fenugreek seeds that I'd soaked to make dosa. Yes, I used brown rice for the dosa as well. If you're going to be healthy, might as well go all out, right? By the time I finished grinding my dosa batter (which needs to ferment overnight in any case), the pongal was cooked to perfection.

Oh but it was tasty! I think from now on, I'll use this method to make pongal, because then I can get more than one meal out of it. First night is daal and rice, where the two are cooked separately. I can serve it with a side of cucumber tomato and lime juice salad (garnished with plenty of cilantro or parsley, of course, and a few chopped green chiles for good measure). If I make a double batch of daal and rice, it'll leave me plenty for the next day. Then, when we have both eaten our fill, I can dump the leftover daal into the rice cooker along with the leftover rice, throw in some extra water and grated ginger, and hit start to cook it. When it's done cooking, I can then put it away into the fridge, and defrost some grated coconut in the fridge overnight before I go to bed, satisfied and full.

The next day, I can pull out the pongal and heat it up. While it heats, I can bang up a quick coconut chatni (coconut, green chiles, a small onion, unsalted peanuts, a bit of salt, and some water to get it moving, along with some curry leaves for pretty colour), and whiz it up in the blender. Then we'll eat the venn pongal with the side of coconut chatni, and a side of sour mango pickles. If I have any leftover venn pongal, I'll just shape them into patties, and put them in the fridge, tightly covered with plastic wrap. The next day, I just have to bake them on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes, and I'll have lovely little rice croquettes, that I can serve with a simple salad of shredded carrot, grated cabbage, onions, cilantro, and lime juice. I'll have three lovely meals for the price of one! And it's only the first meal that would take any effort. The other two are super easy, because the bulk of the cooking is done.

Or, I'll be lazy, and just eat daal and rice until I hit another day where I feel like doing something creative again. Wonder what's the next time we go on vacation ...

18 June 2010

Needing reminders to slow down.

I guess these "new outlook on life" dealies take more than a day to really sink into one's thick skull. And trust you me, my skull is plenty thick. I give the word "head banger" a whole new meaning when you watch me fumble around in the low-celinged office that I work in. My head is throbbing just thinking about how many things I've hit it on, or have fallen on it. And still nothing has budged all that much.

So here I am, in the sidewalk along 14th street, on the way to the subway. I'm stuck behind this guy who's ambling. Not because there's anything wrong, but mainly because he's spending an awful lot of time looking up at the buildings and the surroundings and the rest. I wanted to just shove him aside and plow on through, but I didn't. I slowed down for a minute, found an opening, and walked around him.

Attitudes may change, but walking speeds are important to maintain. I may be working towards being kinder and less angry, but I've still got places to be!

17 June 2010

Taking my time.

I have a tendency to look at mass transit as a speedy means to an end, rather than a comfortable and easy way to get to and from the places I need to get to. For example, I will often sacrifice personal comfort to get there faster. I know which trains run express where, and for how long on all the routes I take regularly. I will cheerfully switch from express to local back to express again, so as to avoid having to wait for a slow train in between stops. Today, I decided to flip it around, and see if I couldn’t ride in such a way as to maximise my comfort and give myself enough time to relax before getting to work.

So far, not so bad at all. I got onto the 1 train this morning, rather than walking directly to the A. Surprise surprise, it was running express to 168th, which meant that I not only had a fast ride, but also a comfortable one, because I got on at the front of the train (even though the exit platforms at 168th are towards the back). There weren’t that many people on that particular car, and I was able to set my bag down next to me, and stretch my legs out a bit. Once I got out at 168th, I took my leisurely time to get to the lifts (because there is no stairway connection to the upper platform), walking all the way from the front of the platform to the back to get to that bank of lifts.

By the time I got there, everyone who had jostled for position up front had already gotten onto the lift and dropped down on the upper platforms. I was there by myself, with about four or five others. Nice. We had a big empty lift to ourselves, where we all had plenty of breathing room. Very very nice. This time, I walked all the way to the back of the platform to get onto the back of the C train (local). I generally just wait for the A, and take it straight down, standing at the car furthest to the front, because that’s where my exit is at West 4th. Today, I wanted to stretch my legs and relax, so I got on the C until 125th street, where the A pulled up after the C arrived. Funny, that. Again, instead of going towards the front, I stayed far in the back.

Good choice. I’m typing this from my comfortable seat, on my relatively empty car. Most of the seats are empty. No obnoxious street preachers hollering about damnation and hellfire. No beggars. No crappy “dance” performance that make people in epileptic seizures look good. Nothing. Just a nice, quiet, clean car. And now here’s my stop. Where I will exit in my own sweet time, and walk to my exit, and not have to wait behind slow or annoying people.

I like this plan.

14 June 2010

Had to make breakfast

Last night, before going to sleep, I soaked about two cups of beans in cold water. Why? Because I needed to get a handle on this whole eating more healthy thing that Steve and I started. No time like the present, right? I've already switched our rice to brown rice instead of white, and already the changes are evident. I don't have to go back to the rice pot quite as frequently as before, because I'm able to stay full longer after a meal of brown rice and beans, versus white rice and much of anything else. Frankly, white rice is as bad as white bread, and it wasn't doing me any favours.

Again, because the fridge was looking a little scant from the weekend (I tend to make the most elaborate stuff on Saturday and Sunday, so that I'll have enough of those dishes for the week, then I do a catch-up mid week feast where I do more of the same), so it was cabbages, some leftover yucca curry from last week, carrots, and those beans. Onions have gotten grotesquely expensive, but for whatever reason, I'm able to find ginger on offer nearly every time I go to the store.

Over the weekend, I also invested in a non stick skillet, because I'm trying to watch my fat intake as well. When I can really feel the fat, and know that it's there (for example, when frying pita bread in a little olive oil before serving it up with the hummus), I'm happy to use it, but when I don't really notice the difference in the end product, I feel like I can very well just skip it as much as possible, and get my calories in places that count. To do this, the non stick skillet is quite a handy tool to have on hand, which is why I splurged a little (OK, a lot) on the skillet. It was marked down to $40 for a 12 inch heavy skillet with a nice non stick coating on it. It can handle high heats, and is oven and dishwasher safe. Mind you, I don't have a dish washer, except for the two legged variety, but I wanted dishwasher safe because it'll tend to be a bit more durable than those delicate things.

Anyway. This morning crept up on me, because it's been overcast, so I didn't get up until nearly 6 am (and I was asleep by 9:30). As soon as I got up, on my way to the washroom, I drained the beans, and put them on to boil. I figured that if I needed a few minutes to do my morning ablutions in any case, might as well have something going at the same time. It barely took me a couple of minutes to get the beans onto the stove. After I got out of the washroom, it was 30 minutes later, and the water in the bean pot was cheerfully bubbling away. I threw on a pot onto the back burner, and dumped in the yucca curry, along with two roma tomatoes and some cabbage. I also threw in some extra water, so that it becomes a stew like thing. Then, while that was doing its own thing, I quickly chopped up the rest of the cabbage, and a few carrots, and got the nonstick skillet heating.

One of my friends had gone to the doctor, who said that his numbers weren't looking so great, and that he'd have to change his diet and lifestyle, because he was pre-diabetic. After talking to a nutritionist, he does things like use a paper towel to wipe on a thin layer of oil onto the cooking pot, and then proceed as normal. This is especially ideal on a nonstick skillet, because nothing sticks in any case. So, I wiped on a bit of oil, and popped my mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida, and sesame seeds. It worked just fine. I don't know why I was so afraid of cutting out that fat, because I'm familiar with cooking and should have been able to do do it a long time back.

But, no matter. Dwelling on past mistakes is time that is better spent on correcting future ones. By the time the seeds were popped, I'd also managed to get the curry leaves off the stalk from my freezer. My mother sent me a large batch a while ago, and I've started to use it a fair bit more, because they're there, and they're tasty, and they're loaded with iron and the rest. In went the curry leaves with the seeds, then in went the carrots. While those were getting tender, I poured myself my first glass of water for the day (I go through a fair bit of water, because being in a kitchen tends to dehydrate you if you're not careful). The carrots cooked up to a turn in about five minutes, which meant that the cabbage went in just as I was ready to drain the beans. They took a total of about 45 minutes from start to finish. I did the same exact spicing technique that I used for the cabbage with the beans. Instead of making the beans like a soup as I normally do, I drained off the water, and made them dry roasted on the stove.

Finally, towards the end of the cooking process for everything I threw in a very large load of ginger. You see, at the restaurant, it's often quicker to have something pre-chopped, so that you're encouraged to use it. At home, the same thing tends to happen, so with things like ginger and garlic, I have a bit of it sitting around in my fridge.

Put it to you this way. You know how when you're in a rush, and want food slammed down in a short time, this is not the time that you want to be fiddling around with peeling garlic, or grating ginger. You want to put on the pot, get your spices in, and then move forward. Any delays that you go through are going to slow you down. It's why I prefer to just mince up a large load of ginger at once, because then I'll be encouraged to use it, and I've only dirtied up the food processor one time. I tend not to do the same with garlic, because I generally just throw the clove of garlic in whole, so I just need to peel it. However, if I did tend towards minced garlic, I'd have a load of that ready as well.

Here's the caveat. At the restaurant, when I chop up a bunch of garlic or ginger, we'll go through it in a day or so. At home, it takes a bit longer, so be mindful that you'll need to go through the stuff when you have it in your fridge, or else it'll go bad. It's just an excuse to be more generous with it, right? I certainly get no complaints about having a generous hand with the ginger or the garlic.

Once the beans were cooked to a turn, and the cabbage curry was done, and the yucca stew was cooked, I just had to warm up the rice (in my case, the rice stayed hot in the pot, because my rice cooker keeps rice fresh and hot for three days), and eat. By around 7 am, everything was put together, and ready to go.

If you really break down the amount of time I spent in actual physical work, it's more like 20 minutes of intense cooking, and 30 minutes of letting stuff park on the stove and cook. I had my breakfast at 7:30~ish. It's currently 11:30, and I'm still feeling satiated. When I used to have white rice at breakfast time, I would start feeling hungry again in another two hours, making me have to sort something else out. And of course, by then I'd be at work, and surrounded by lovely things that are just crying out to be eaten, and I'd eat that as well. Then when I get home, I'd eat yet again. More white rice. Then, I'd have more food just before sleeping, because I'd inevitably get hungry in a couple of hours after my last meal.

Overall, we've been following the more careful diet (as in, cutting back on cooking fat, and switching to more whole grains and green vegetables) for about a week, and haven't noticed a change in the quality of our meals. It's still as tasty as ever, because spices are fairly easy to use, and neither of us misses the fat, because we're not actually restricting anything. There's plenty of food, and many options in the fridge at any given moment, so even snacking times are healthy. Then, when we want a treat, like a freezer pop for hot days, it's not that big a deal.

Let's see how far this goes, right?

08 June 2010

Food


This dish is a basic cabbage & carrot soup. I wanted to keep it really simple, so I threw in some water, fenugreek seeds, and carrots, and let it all come up to a boil. Then, when the water was boiling, I threw in some turmeric, a bit of salt, and some red chile flakes. I dropped down the heat to medium low (gas burners are wonderful things, no?) and went to chop up the cabbage. I roughly chopped the cabbage, and added it to the pot when I could see through the fenugreek seeds. The seeds take the longest to cook, and I wanted them to release their thickening powers before adding anything else. Then, I added in the cabbage, and let it all cook together for roughly five minutes or so. I turned off the heat, and stirred in about a cup or so (for roughly 2.5 litres of water) of coconut milk. For a dish with so few components, it was very tasty.


Steve managed to find some sweet potatoes and bell peppers (both of which I hate to eat, but enjoy cooking because they're so pleasing to look at) at the store on Manager's Special. At any decent food store, you'll find various little bags of vegetables priced at about $1, with about two or so pounds of vegetables. They'll frequently feature ingredients that are fairly expensive at full price, so it makes sense to take advantage of those Manager's Special bags. The neat thing is that you never know what you'll wind up with, because each store and each day has something a little bit different.

Because I wanted to control the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, I added many different spices. After the oil in the wok got very hot, I added fennel seeds, ajwain seeds, and cumin seeds (in that order). When they were done popping, I added the sweet potatoes, and tossed them in the spices and the oil very quickly, so as to get everything coated and evenly heated through. When the potatoes started to steam, I dropped down the heat to medium low, and covered it tightly with the lid. This gave me time to chop up the peppers.

Because red bell peppers have more sweetness (and sugars) than the green ones, I chopped up the green bell peppers a little more roughly, and in slightly larger pieces than the red ones. Every five minutes or so, I'd go back and stir up the potatoes, so as to prevent sticking (for about 20 minutes or so). When the potatoes were about half cooked, I stirred in the bell peppers, some thyme, and salt. I tossed everything to combine the ingredients thoroughly, and put the lid back on. While the whole thing cooked for a few more minutes (I needed another 10 minutes, but that's because the sweet potatoes were roughly cut; a smaller dice would make it quicker cooking). The pan dried out a few times, so I added a bit of water to keep it from sticking. If this were white potatoes, I wouldn't need to bother, but because sweet potatoes have so much sugar in them, you need to be careful to keep them from sticking to the pan and to keep them from burning.

At the end of the cooking process, I added some minced garlic, and turned off the heat to let it cook the garlic with the residual heat in the pot.


I found Brussels sprouts in the store for 50¢ a pound, which is very cheap. I decided to do a very quick cooking, with mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, and crushed coriander seeds (in that order). Once the seeds were popped, in went the trimmed sprouts. These Brussels sprouts were extremely small, so I didn't bother to cut them into smaller pieces. I'd say they were a bit smaller than a ping pong ball.

Anyway, on with the food. Once the sprouts started getting translucent, I stirred in some dijon mustard, white miso, salt, soy sauce, minced garlic, and lots of red chile flakes. To dissolve the miso, I threw in a couple of tablespoons of water, while stirring constantly. I turned off the heat, and let them cook in the residual heat of the pot.

It may seem like a fair bit of food to cook in one day, but if you notice, there were large gaps during the cooking processes of all the dishes. The quickest one was the Brussels sprouts, so I did them last. The longest cooking was the sweet potato dish, so I started on it first. Essentially, while one dish is parked on the burner over a lower heat, I can start working on the next dish that will have to do the same thing after I get it started.

Here was my work flow, so you can follow along at home if you want to.

  1. Pour cold water into a pot, and add fenugreek seeds. Place on stove over high heat, and walk away.
  2. Peel and chop sweet potatoes. Heat wok, add oil, add spices, add sweet potatoes. Toss toss toss. Slam on lid, walk away.
  3. Slice carrots into even slices. Throw into pot with fenugreek seeds, and walk away. While you're at the stove, this is a great time to stir up the sweet potatoes.
  4. Chop up bell peppers. Set aside.
  5. Chop up cabbage, set aside. Go back and stir the sweet potatoes.
  6. If you're as fast as I am with the chopping, you'll also have time to trim up the Brussels Sprouts right now. If you're not, you'll have time later. Either way, we need to get stuff into the pots on the stove. About 15 minutes should have elapsed by now since you put stuff on the stove.
  7. Dump cabbage into pot with carrots, add other seasonings, drop down heat, close lid.
  8. Add bell peppers to the pot with sweet potatoes, and stir thoroughly. Drop down heat, slam on lid, walk away.
  9. If you haven't trimmed your brussels sprouts, go for it now. You have 10 minutes before anything else needs to happen. If you have already trimmed your brussels sprouts, set a timer for 10 minutes, and go clean up around the kitchen. By now, you probably have a sizeable mess in the sink from all those vegetables you've chopped, trimmed, and peeled. This is also a good time to get yourself a glass of water, because by now, all this walking away stuff makes you thirsty! The cook must not collapse from dehydration, so remember to keep yourself drinking water.
  10. Splash water into the sweet potato pot if needed, and throw in some coconut milk into the cabbage pot, and turn off both burners. My stove is small, so I needed to clear off the stove to cook the brussels sprouts. If you have a non-idiotic kitchen layout, and have a reasonable sized stove, you can probably cook the Brussels sprouts at the same time that you cook the other dishes. However, having three burners running at the same time is a very good way to pass out from heat exhaustion, because your kitchen will start feeling like an inferno.
  11. Cook the brussels sprouts from start to finish. If you have beautiful tiny ones like I did, you'll have them done in 10 minutes. If you're cooking them much longer than that, they get overcooked, and mushy. Ew. When you're at the step where the Brussels Sprouts are just parked on the stove, go back and clean up a bit more.
I hope this gives you a few ideas of your own for what to do with the new vegetables coming out in the market now.