Fried Brown Rice

This recipe looks complex but it’s fun and not that hard!

In a small capacity pressure cooker, add

2 cups brown short-grain rice
3 2/3 cups water.

Close the cooker and turn heat to medium high.  After the first blast of steam, turn the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes (this will vary by cooker, check the manufacturer’s instructions).

While the rice cooks, add

1T canola or peanut oil

To an enormous skillet or wok on rocket-hot high heat. Then add, one at a time:

6 green onions, white part only
2 carrots, diced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 cups snow pea pods, strung and cut into thirds (or sub 1 cup green peas)

After each addition, stir and allow the vegetable to sauté to dark golden. In the meantime, in a glass measuring cup, add

2T corn starch
1/3 cup soy sauce
1t toasted sesame oil
1T freshly grated ginger
1T finely minced garlic
2t five spice powder
1t hot chili flakes
1 1/3 cups water

Stir vigorously to combine.  Put in microwave on high for two minutes.  Remove; stir.  Put back in microwave 2 more minutes; remove and stir.  Repeat until the mixture is no longer cloudy and starch has gelled.

Now that veggies are nicely seared, deglaze the pan with

½ c sake or 1/3 c Coca-Cola (no I’m not kidding).

Add the finished rice to the vegetables.  Stire to combine; push aside and, with the pot still on very high heat, add

3 eggs, lightly beaten.

Stir to scramble.  When eggs are loosely scrambled, turn off heat, stir to combine, and add the soy glaze to the rice and vegetables.  Serve immediately, garnished with the green parts of the onions.

This recipe is a meal in itself.  I add tofu to crank the protein on occasion.  The first time I made this, it was a mess, trying to manage a rice, sauce, and veggies.  The best advice is make-ahead to start: the rice can be pre-cooked a day ahead, and the veggies should all be chopped well in advance.  You can even pre-scramble the eggs if you like.  But once you have done this a few times, you will see that it is a fun and easy meal, full of vitamins and flavor!

A note on the Coca-Cola: don’t laugh.  It is a fantastic way to deglaze a pan for a stir-fry of any kind, especially if you want to avoid alcohol.  It’s basically sugar, citrus, and spices; these are core elements of teriyaki anyway.

Per 1 ½ cup serving (please note these are estimates, not a diet plan):

Calories: 314
Fat: 6.9 g
Carbohydrates: 52.6 g
Protein 9.5 g
Fiber: 2.6 g
Prep time: 25 min (most in advance)
Cook time: 25 min
Taste: [rate 5]
Ease: [rate 2]

Nicola Masala (my own chana masala)

Nicola Masala and Spice Caddy (hot chilli, turmeric, cumin, custom masala, cumin/coriander blend)

In a small capacity pressure cooker, add

1 ½ cups dried chickpeas
4 cups water.

Allow to soak for eight hours.  Close the cooker and turn heat to medium high.  After the first blast of steam, turn the heat to medium low and cook for 25 minutes (this will vary by cooker, check the manufacturer’s instructions).

While the chickpeas cook, add

1T canola oil

To a skillet on medium-high heat. While the oil shimmers, add

1t iodized salt
2t black mustard seeds
4t cumin/coriander, ground
2t whole cumin
1t chilli powder
3t chana masala

The spices will darken and turn fragrant.  Chop finely and add

1/2 small yellow onion.

After onion has started to turn golden, add

One can petite dice tomatoes, or 4 finely diced roma tomatoes.

Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until mixture has thickened. Drain the chickpease and reserve the liquid.  Add the now-cooked chickpeas to the spices and tomatoes; stir to combine.  Use the reserved cooking liquid to thin the sauce if needed.

Stir to combine; serve immediately, with brown basmati rice and papad.

I start with authentic spices from India, no exceptions.  I used to cook Indian food from recipes and supermarket curry powders.  It tasted like decent spicy food, but not like Indian food, until I started using Khyati’s special blends.  Buy the chana masala blend prepackaged at any Indian grocer.  Chana Masala is a huge favorite of my daughter’s.  To cut the spiciness, mix the rice and chana with plenty of full-fat yogurt.  Ainsley enjoys adding her own yogurt and adjusting the “spicy mouth.”

Per 1 ½ cup serving (please note these are estimates, not a diet plan):

Calories: 520
Fat: 14 g
Carbohydrates: 78.6 g
Protein 23.7 g
Fiber: 20.3 g
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 55 min
Taste: [rate 5]
Ease: [rate 3]

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto


2T butter and
1T olive oil

To a skillet on medium-high heat. While the butter foams, chop and add

1/2 small yellow onion.

After onion has started to turn golden, add

Eight ounces porcini or other mushrooms, chunked into quarters

Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until mushrooms have given up their water and all vegetables are golden. If pan is small, remove from pan and add a little more oil. Crank the heat to high and add

15 skinny stalks asparagus, cut into slices ¼ inch thick

and stir occasionally until brown. Deglaze the pan with

4T good white wine (I used Buck Creek Sauvignon Blanc). Remove veggies from pan.  Over medium-low heat, toast

1 ½ cups risotto rice (Vialone nano or arborio)

until barely golden.  Using risotto technique, slowly add

1 ½ cups mushroom base
2 cups good white wine

Stir frequently. Add the vegetables back to the pan.  Warm and add

1/2t black pepper
2t coarsely chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan.

Stir to combine; serve immediately.

I made this before but didn’t sear the asparagus enough, and the pieces were too large.  The mushroom base has plenty of salt; salt to taste if needed.  This time I “graduated” from arborio to vialone nano and I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.  I will stick to arborio until I figure out the new, less forgiving ingredient.

Per 1 ½ cup serving (please note these are estimates, not a diet plan):

Calories: 468
Fat: 10.4 g
Carbohydrates: 62.5 g
Protein 12.1 g
Fiber: 4.6 g
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 55 min
Taste: [rate 4]
Ease: [rate 4]

Let Me Bleed!

Amy and I have been blood sisters for several years now, encouraging each other to donate blood when we can. I have been out of the habit due to first my pregnancy, then nursing a baby. I am not sure if nursing precludes donation, but I had enough going on!

Anyway it’s my job to drag her to the gym, and her job to drag me to be poked by needles. We went after the gym today and poor Amy failed the iron test.

But I bled just fine. I really detest the needle stick, but it’s worth it to save lives. Thanks for the motivation, Amy!

Do you donate? If not, give it a shot. It’s easy and the cookies afterward are tasty.

Hobby Jump Start: Circle City Aquarium Club

I’ve been seeing their ads in the classifieds at work, and in the back of my favorite aquarium magazine, for years, and kept intending to go.  I never found the time.

My aquarium hobby has fallen into disrepair with my busy life taking over.  My fish haven’t suffered- I keep low stock levels.  But the appearance of the tanks has definitely taken a bad turn.  I look at the tanks and just feel like someone could write “clean me” in the algae.  Or “failure.”

I’ve also been unable to find the kind of hobbyists I used to know in Bloomington, when I worked at an aquarium store.  The folks bred their own fish, had really nice setups, and cared for the creatures- not buying something that was ‘cool’ only to kill it.  The South side pet stores include chains who don’t know fish and a semi-local chain with a good selection of fish but horrible husbandry habits.  They churn through livestock and personnel so much that it is really sad.

So Carlton almost forced me to go to this meeting.  I’m so glad I did.  Aquarium nerds are a lot like Gen Con nerds, but with different witty sayings on their t-shirts.  They are also some of the nicest people on the planet.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2008

The new wine shipped from France and we gathered with friends old and new. Beaujolais nouveau got a terrible reputation a couple of years ago when the harvest was subpar. This year, it regains its status as a wonderful way to taste the raw wine.

We tried two types (see pictures below) and I preferred the bottle on the right: more structure and body. The first was fruitier and lighter with a great clean taste for a summer picnic.

I really am too busy to go out on a weeknight, but in point of fact I feel that these events are what makes life. It’s so easy to blink and miss weeks passing.

Ainsley was trying to drink the wine, too, and really loved drinking water from a wine glass. She also tried (and loved) goat cheese and gâteau chocolat.

Enjoy the pictures!

But Can I Roast It? Tandoori Dipping Sauce

The fall weather had me in a roasting kind of mood last week.  Vacation gave me the time to post.

I’ve posted roasted vegetables before, but the difference here is the dipping sauce. (Quickly: the vegetables were roasted at 450F in homemade garlic olive oil for 45-60 minutes until golden brown).

In a medium saucier at medium, heat

about 8 tablespoons peanut oil

until shimmering.  Add

3 cloves garlic, minced
1t cumin seeds
1t cumin and coriander powder
1t turmeric
1t red chilli powder
1t mystery chilli powder (brown in color- in a small bag- Khyati please tell me what this is!)

2-3t tandoori masala
1 pinch asafoetida
3-5t kosher salt.

Fry gently until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  In the meantime, in a food processor, puree

one large onion
2-4 cloves garlic, minced.

When the spices are fragrant, add the onion-garlic puree.  Fry gently for 7-10 minutes, until reduced by one third.  Turn off heat.  Taste for spices.  Add salt if needed.  The mixture should taste strongly flavored.  Add

3/4 cup full-fat yogurt.

The picture shows what the spice blend should look like before adding yogurt.  It will be like a thick paste and should be extremely flavorful but not hot (scoville units-type hot).  Add yogurt to achieve a smooth, creamy sauce.

I love hot and spicy sauces, but this tangy sauce better suits my daughter’s delicate taste buds.  I actually had to add even more yogurt for her to be able to use it.  Kids love to dip- here’s a sauce that is used on healthful vegetables.

I must admit that I’ve eaten this sauce with a spoon. Mmmmmmmm

Prep time: 10 mintues
Total time: 40 minutes

Taste [rate 3.5]

Ease [rate 2.5]

Amazon Subscribe and Save Review

I am pressed for time. Yeah, right, aren’t we all, but I do work outside the home, and I have a young daughter. I’d rather spend time reading her books than strapping her into the car for a long trip to the grocery or mall. I’ve significantly reduced my time at stores by using Amazon’s new Subscribe and Save program.

I first found it while shopping for diapers. I can tell the store how often/how many packages I want and I never have to think of it again. If I’m running low, I can have the delivery sent early; if I have too much, I can delay or skip a shipment. It is intuitively customizable and can be changed at any time. As if that isn’t enough, there is always free shipping AND the item is 15% off of regular price. I’ve never bought a diaper in a brick and mortar store.

After the success with diapers, I added more and more subscriptions for items I use frequently, from detergent that’s hard to find locally to nutritious whole grains for my baby. I currently subscribe to 14 different items.

As for prices, I have (of course) created a spreadsheet to calculate the prices versus the regular grocery store. As you can see, not every price is better. So I make sure that my subscriptions are those that won the cost war.

What about environmental impact? Well, the UPS guy drives past here every day anyway, so I’m actually saving fuel by not driving to the store as often. That detergent I can’t find easily is at a store that’s a 30-minute drive from my house and would consume about a gallon of gas per trip. And about all the packaging? Well, most quantities are by the case, so they are delivered in the manufacturer’s original packaging. I recycle every bit of the cardboard and packing plastics.

Just a few downsides… while the packaging is recycled, there have been occasions when it’s out of hand. Of note was this package. I was pretty excited when I saw the big box: six feet long, three feet tall, and a foot wide. I thought it was a gift from someone. But no, it was the result of my purchase of a cord channeling kit, with dimensions of 3’ long by two inches wide by half an inch thick. This is a ridiculous waste.

Also, I can’t use manufacturer’s coupons. For things like diapers, this can be up to $5. There should be a place to enter the UPC from these coupons.

I absolutely love the program and would recommend it to anyone.

Vegetable Stroganoff

Have I touted the delicious benefits of Farm Fresh Delivery? I receive a bin of fresh, seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables every week. They offer a standard selection that varies by week; also, they allow for modifications and substitutions if you don’t want a rutabaga and would prefer oranges.

I love that the bin comes with recipes for using the stuff. For example, I had never eaten fennel, and the fennel salad recipe was simple, healthful, and delicious. I’m licking my own produce section.

On the negative side, you can’t pick your own items, so you may get an apple with a mushy spot. And I’ve found that the shelf life for organics is half what it was for chemically-enhanced produce. Also, the website for updating produce is not the easiest to navigate. Not only do I have a short window to adjust the bin, if I miss the window, I have no clue what they are sending me! Difficult for menu planning.

OK enough. On to the recipe. I was inspired by a bunch of things I found in my bin this week and some potatoes from last week.


2T butter and
1T olive oil

To a skillet on medium-high heat. While the butter foams, chop and add

One small yellow onion.

After onion has started to turn golden, add

One small bunch rainbow carrots (see note below)

One pound porcini or other mushrooms, chunked into quarters

Reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until mushrooms have given up their water and all vegetables are golden. Add

3T whole wheat flour

and stir until mixture has cracker-y consistency and flour is turning gold. Deglaze the pan with

4T good red wine (I used cabernet). Slowly add

One teaspoon No-Beef stock base, dissolved in one cup warm water

1/2t black pepper
2t coarsely chopped parsley
2t finely chopped fresh rosemary.

Stir frequently. Once mixture has thickened (about 3 minutes), add

1/2c fat-free yogurt and
1/2c heavy cream
(I know, these two ingredients are an oxymoron).

Simmer until thickened. Serve over garlic mashed potatoes.

I had fun inventing this recipe. You’ll note that there’s no salt added. That’s because the only drawback to the No-Beef base is that it is a bit too salty.

The purple carrots add a beautiful color to a sauce that could have been brownish grey. Hey, Pasta Queen, have you ever licked a purple carrot? (I promise that’s not as bad as it sounds!!!!)

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 15 min
Taste: [rate 3.5]
Ease: [rate 3]

The Marriage of Sense and Soul by Ken Wilber: Book Review

Google Reader supplied me with this quote today:

Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.

Ha ha, look, he poked fun at religion. What a popular and savvy thing to do. So highbrow; religion is for the ignorant masses, and we intellectuals cannot make time for such ineffiency. Now, I know I’m probably not as smart as Bill Gates, but this quote is very depressing to me.

I can think of few things in life (other than work) where the absolute efficiency is the goal. In fact, when it comes to nearly any other activity, I prefer a great lack of efficiency.

Is it better to eat plain bread “on the go” and swallow vitamins because it’s more efficient? Not for me. I want to cook; I want to enjoy the savory smells and frantic sizzling sounds as I deglaze a pan. Is enjoying a home-cooked meal (or any meal eaten at a table) efficient? No. But the company of friends and family makes it enjoyable.

Is it better to take a snapshot of the sun setting, and paste it to the wall for “efficient” referral? No. I want to view it as the colors unfold. I want to sip a glass of good beer and talk with a friend as we inefficiently comtemplate.

Religion is the weary scapegoat of many a modern intellectual. There is a preconception that all of us- all billions and billions– are blindly following a broken, wrong path. Religious experience in their lives may not have always been good, so it is absconded, and all of it labeled “wrong.”

How sad.

In The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Ken Wilber discusses the fact that many people are quickly dismissing religion:

According to the typical view of modern science, religion is not much more than a holdover from the childhood of humanity, with about as much reality as, say, Santa Claus.

Wilber’s book requires deep introspection to read, and the stripping of personal paradigms. This is difficult to do for religious and agnostic alike, but provides for a great reading experience. There were several sections that I had to re-read in order to fully erase my previous assumptions.

I’m not the only semi-intelligent person who has thoughtfully integrated religion into daily life. I propose that the religious individual can be smart, savvy, and diverse in belief and practice. I propose that we don’t all try to impose a strict set of beliefs and judge those who don’t fit our ideas.

I propose that – hey! – we aren’t morons. And that our Sunday mornings, and Friday sunsets, and Monday fastings, and daily prayers (how pedestrian of Gates to suggest worship only occurs one day and time) are a gloriously inefficient but wonderful allocation of our time.