A Fresh Start. . . and 2008′s Last (Food-Related) Hurrah
First, and most importantly: Happy 2009, everyone! Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and good wishes for the new year. I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate them all and how much blogging has brought into my life. But by far, the best part is you–readers and other bloggers. Thank you for sharing 2008 with me, and I look forward to 2009!
The HH and I (sans The Girls, unfortunately, as our Elsie Girl refuses to play nice with the other five dogs who live there) spent another lovely, bucolic New Year’s Eve with my friends Gemini I and II and their broods up at Gemini I’s palatial country “cottage.” We ate, we drank, and Gemini II’s hubby lit fireworks just before midnight, when we toasted in 2009. The rest of the time, we chillaxed to the max, reading in front of the fireplace, watching ice fishers huddled by their hut atop the lake, taking photos of indigenous birds perched at the feeder outside the window, or working as a group on the massive, 2-page annual crossword puzzle that’s printed in The Globe and Mail. I didn’t even mind the snow and ice (a New Year’s Eve miracle!).
And now, back to reality. . . and back to business.
Although I more or less threw resolutions out the window many years ago (really, don’t I already know I’ll want to lose weight after the holidays?), I do update a list I call my “Five Year Plan.” In it, I write down goals for the following six months, the following year, two years, and five years. I try to arrange them so that the earlier goals might naturally precede the later goals (eg., six months: take a course in html; one year: design own web page).
Okay, so maybe it’s just another version of resolutions after all. . .but this long-term view has worked well for me in the past: one of the most unusual “goals” that came to fruition was “work with a business coach–for free”; and so far, the best one (way back before I met the HH) was “own my own home,” something I’m adding back to the list this year, now that we’ve been renting for. . . well, far too long.
I’ve decided that this list works best when it’s kept private, as last year’s list, while not that different from the ones I wrote before it, was a total bust. Instead of losing 50 pounds over the past 50 weeks or so, I’ve gained about four (definitely more than the “1.5 pound” holiday average. My parents always encouraged me to try to be above average, so I guess I can say I’ve accomplished that now).
Still, I believe the concept is a great one and one that most people should try at least once. As the famous Harvard study demonstrated, those who write down their goals (as opposed to simply thinking of them) tend to concretize them, and the goals are more apt to come true. For whatever reason, putting something down on paper triggers a mechanism in the brain that impels you to action. I will share the easiest goal on my list, though: remain part of the blogging world, and keep blogging regularly. That one, at least, I know will be pure pleasure to enact!
Before I bid 2008 adieu permanently, however, I wanted to share the amazing Indian feast we had when the CFO visited at Christmas time. Although our meal on December 25th was relatively traditional, it was this one (the following night) that became the high point of holiday meals for us.
[Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce]
I first discovered Indian cuisine about 10 years ago, after having to change my diet dramatically and seek out foods that met my dietary challenges. At the time, being both a meat eater and a wheat eater, those challenges were plentiful.
Then I began to frequent Indian restaurants. Most dishes were not only wheat-free, but gluten-free as well! And the vegetarian/vegan options seemed endless. Here in Toronto, many Indian restaurants operate as all-you-can-eat buffets. These ostensibly boundless displays of vegetable- and legume-based dishes were dazzling and even a bit overwhelming at first, as I was determined to try every dish in my new culinary repertoire. (Eventually, I realized, many of those dishes had been sitting out under warming lights for hours, or were thrown together from leftovers of two or more of the previous day’s dishes; I began to opt for sit-down restaurants instead).
It seemed natural to attempt to re-create those spicy, saucy, succulent meals at home. I bought a couple of Indian cookbooks and went to work. In those days, I cooked a lot of chicken and meat dishes, some of which I’ve converted over the years. Perhaps it was curry overload; perhaps I assumed I’d never achieve a comparable result without the meat. For whatever reason, I hadn’t cooked a full Indian meal in some time.
Then I remembered that the CFO was also a fan of the cuisine and had an idea to whip up our own little Indian buffet as a post-Christmas dinner. The results were stellar, and made me wonder why I’ve neglected those recipes for so long.
Our meal included a fabulous multi-lentil dal based on Lisa’s recipe (my only change to the original recipe was using three types of lentil instead of lentils and moong beans); peas in a creamy sauce; curried potatoes and kale; and cheela (chickpea pancakes) along with basmati rice. While the potato dish was pretty much a haphazard combination of leftover tomato sauce, chopped kale, and chunks of spud, I did take note of the other recipes and can share them here.
Each of these dishes on its own would make a warming, satisfying light meal; put them together, and you’ve got a memorable finale to an eventful year.
One definite item in my next 5-Year Plan: Cook Indian more often.
Peas in a Creamy Curry Sauce
Super quick and easy, this side dish provides a lovely visual contrast to the mostly dull colors of long-simmered curries. The vibrant green and sweet flavor of the peas is perfect as an accompaniment to the intense spice of the other dishes. From an unidentified cookbook–sorry!
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) Sucanat or other unrefined evaporated cane juice
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cumin
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) garam masala
3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml.) fine sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. (1-2.5 ml.) chili powder, to your taste
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) tomato purée (I used organic ketchup and omitted the Sucanat, above)
3/4 cup (180 ml.) unsweetened almond or soymilk
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. (10 ml.) chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 fresh green chili, chopped (optional–I omitted it as all the other dishes were very spicy)
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. (2. 5 ml.) black or yellow mustard seeds (I used black)
2-10 ounce (285 g.) bags frozen peas, defrosted under lukewarm water and drained
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder, if needed
Combine the Sucanat, ground cumin, garam masala, salt, chili powder and tomato purée in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl. Slowly stir in 2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) water and mix well. Add the soymilk gradually and mix; then add the lemon juice, cilantro and optional green chili. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry until the seeds begin to pop (about 20-30 seconds). Add the peas and fry for 30 more seconds before adding the sauce to the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. For a thicker sauce, ladle out about 1/2 cup of the sauce into a small bowl and blend with the 1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) cornstarch. Add this mixture back to the frypan and stir until thickened.
Serve over rice or with cheela. Makes about 6 servings.
Cheela* (Chickpea Pancakes)
adapted from Meena Pathak’s Indian Cooking for Family and Friends
*From what I can tell, these are also sometimes called pudla. Whatever you call them, they were so remarkably good that we consumed them all before I realized I’d not taken a photo. But other versions abound on the net; for photos, check out the blog posts by Johanna, Lisa, Pikelet and Pie (with zucchini) or (for an Italian twist) Kalyn.
9 ounces (250 g.) chickpea flour (besan)
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) ground cumin
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) soy or coconut milk
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2-1 green chili, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) chopped fresh cilantro
olive oil cooking spray (I use an atomizer)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, turmeric, baking soda, cumin, soymilk, and enough water to make a slightly thick, yet still flowing, batter. Stir in the chopped onion, green chili, tomato and cilantro.
Heat a nonstick (5 inch or 12 cm.) pancake pan [I just used a regular frypan] and spray with olive oil spray. Pour in about 1/3 cup batter, spreading it around to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin pancake. Spray the top of the pancake with oil as well.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook the pancake for about 2-3 minutes, until the top begins to dry and the bottom of browned in spots. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes until the other side is browned as well. Remove and keep warm while you make another 7 or so pancakes. Serve hot. Makes about 8 pancakes. Best eaten immediately (they do dry out if kept till the next day).
Last Year at this Time: Pear and Ginger Mini Loaves or Muffins
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs