Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cows, Milk, and Thandai #FoodieReads

I finally got around to this book in my 'to read' stack: The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan.* Actually, this was my second time reading it. The first time I read it, earlier in the year, I didn't realize it was a true story. Going through it again - with that lens - I found it much more enjoyable. Though the first time through, I did like it as well.

In The Milk Lady of Bangalore, Narayan immerses us in the culture, customs, myths, religion, sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of her homeland. Narayan was born in India, immigrated to the United States as a child, and returns to Bangalore with her husband and two daughters so they can be closer to grandparents and experience their heritage first-hand. This is a charming read about the clashes and resolution of ancient and modern traditions. For instance, the book opens with Narayan moving into her new apartment in Bangalore. She gets a cow to walk through their house. "My uncles will be thrilled" (pg. 13) she tells her husband.

"But not the kids. Don't tell them" (pg. 14) he warns.

The narrative rambles a bit and I was shocked at how many years passed between the beginning of her story and when her daughter heads back to the United States to attached college. Some of the scenes seemed forced and contrived; I think that's why I didn't clue in to it being an actual memoir the first time I read it. But, both times, I enjoyed reading about the different kinds of cows, how the milk is graded, and how they view the milk from the cows.

"Milk from a black-colored cow is best because it balances all three doshas (imbalances) of the body. Milk from a red-colored cow balances vata, the air element that causes arthritis, gas, and bloating. Milk from a white cow is the worst: it causes kapha (mucus)."

But she is not the milk lady. This is about her friendship with Sarala, the woman who keeps cows in a field across the street from the apartment building. Sarala and Narayan grow close through the years and Narayan even buys her a cow.

"We have to be careful to buy a cow that is suited to our own dispositions, Madam," says Sarala. "Otherwise, these cows will simply take charge" (pg. 161).

I readily admit that my relationship with cows and beef has a checkered past. For the greater part of a decade - through my teens and early 20s - I didn't eat beef or any other kind of meat. I was a vegetarian. But after six or seven years, despite creating complete proteins by combining vegetable foods, I began to notice unwelcome changes. I know this might sound frivolous and vain, however, for an early-20s gal, thinning hair and brittle fingernails is problematic. Really problematic. So, I began to ease back into being an omnivore. I started with seafood first, then added in chicken, pork, and beef slowly. Now, I can't imagine not eating beef! It's versatile and tasty.

Also it's important to me that my kids understand from where their food comes. I want them to know that meat comes from an animal; it doesn't just appear wrapped in cellophane at the grocery store.

Luckily I have a couple of friends who have beef cattle. So, when we were invited to a friend's ranch in south Monterey County, to help with the tagging and branding of some calves, I said 'yes!' This was several years ago, but we still talk about Uncle Brian's cows. It was an experience that's burned into their brains.

Sometimes, when we're eating beef, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf queries, "Have I met this beef?" 

His brother corrects him, "You mean cow. Your question should be 'Have I met this cow?'"

"No, I know what I mean!" D insists. "A cow has legs...and ears...and a tail....like Uncle Brian's cows. This is beef!" he gestures insistently at the plate. "Have I met this beef?" Usually the answer is 'no,' but we did buy a portion of the last cow that Brian slaughtered, so it's possible that we've met the beef.


Given that milk was at the root of this tale, I wanted to make something with milk. And I wanted it to have an Indian tie. I thought about sharing the Golden Milk Latte I had just made with my cooking kids, but I've shared a similar recipe before. Then I came across a drink called 'thandai' which literally translates to 'something that cools.' I was intrigued by the addition of bhaang (a marijuana derivative) to make thandai a festive libation. So, I swapped in my favorite gin as I thought the floral spiciness would match the thandai well. Please note that this is not a traditional recipe for thandai; I created it based on what I had in my kitchen.


  • 1⁄3 C raw pistachios
  • 1⁄3 C raw cashews
  • 1⁄3 C sesame seeds
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 1 t anise seeds
  • 2 to 3 star anise
  • 1 t whole cloves
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  •  1⁄2  black peppercorns
  • one (1") stick cinnamon
  • 1 dried rosebud
  • a few strands of saffron

Thandai (cocktail)

  • 3 C whole milk
  • 4 heaping T paste
  • 4 heaping T organic dark brown sugar
  • gin (I used St. George's Botanivore)
  • rose petals for garnish, optional
  • freshly grated nutmeg, optional


Combine pistachios, seeds, and cashews with boiling water; soak for least 30 minutes.

Drain nuts and seeds; set aside.

Place the cloves, star anise, anise seeds, cardamom, peppercorns, rosebud, saffron, and cinnamon in a spice grinder. Whirl until a powder forms. Set aside. 

Place the drained nut mixture, the spices, and 1/2 C soaking liquid in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until a thick paste forms. If you need more liquid, add it.

Cocktail and/or Mocktail
Place 4 T paste and 4 T brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Pour in milk and whisk until well combined. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the solids.

For the mocktail, serve as is. For the cocktail, place 1 ounce gin in a glass and top with 4 ounces of thandai. Garnish with rose petals and freshly grated nutmeg, if desired. Serve immediately.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in February 2018: here.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Homemade Mayonnaise #KitchenMatrixCookingProject

Today we are continuing the Kitchen Matrix Project, after Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix cookbook...and wrapping up our second month of posting. You can read about it: here. I'm very excited about the dishes and the bloggers who are joining me. This month, Wendy at A Day in the Life in the Farm picked the recipes. I can't wait to follow along with her choices.

This week, She picked 'Condiments + 7 Ways' for the group which means we could make ketchup, chimichurri, teriyaki sauce, sweet and hot pepper relish, corn and tomato relish, barbecue sauce, and mayonnaise...along with any variations or adaptations that we needed or wanted.

The Other Condiments

Homemade Mayonnaise

I opted to make a homemade mayonnaise this week because I don't really like store-bought mayo, but I do like it when I make it. I need to do this more often. Also, I like making homemade ketchup when I have a ton of fresh tomatoes; and chimichurri is on our table at least once a month as it is.

  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 t mustard
  • 1 C oil (he suggests a neutral oil, I used olive oil not extra virgin)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put egg yolk, mustard, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Turn the food processor on low and add the olive oil in a thin stream through the access chute. Once an emulsion forms, add the oil a little bit faster until it's all incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This stores in the fridge for up to a week. Makes approximately 1 C.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Punctuated with Tea #FoodieReads

Another Sunday. Another hike. Another book. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan* was the book du jour as we nestled in on a ridge overlooking the Salinas Valley.

Let me admit this: I bought this book for the cover. Seriously. I did. Then, I noticed that it had received many, many accolades and I was excited about digging in. But, in the end, I think the best thing about this book is that gorgeous cover.

If you are looking for a fluffy, rambling novel, you might enjoy this. I am not against reading about ghostly shenanigans and failed romances; I can certainly keep dual plot lines straight in my head. But the seemingly unconnected flip-flopping between the Laura plot and the Eunice plot grew tiresome quickly. I felt that all of the characters were one-dimensional and caricatures of people who might have been interesting.

I loved the idea of this book: a man collects lost objects, stores them in his house, and pens short stories about the object's significance in its owner's life. In fact, had the entire book been Andrew's stories about the lost things, I would have loved it. But with his death early in the book, my interest also died.

Still I slogged through, hoping that the book would redeem itself. It didn't. But I will say that they could certainly sell a lot of tea with this book! The characters were always having tea. Interactions were punctuated with tea. Tea provided ellipses between scenes. Tea, tea, and more tea.

After the reading of the will...
Three expertly poured cups of tea and two custard creams later... (pg. 80).

To fill an awkward gap in conversation...
"Would you like a cup of team?" she asked.
He smiled gratefully.
"You're a diamond and no mistake. I'm proper parched. The last brew I had was at seven o'clock this morning. Milk and two sugars and I'm a happy man" (pg. 176).

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having tea with friends. I even love the nibbles you get when you have tea.

But I don't need to read a book whose every chapter includes two characters drinking a cup or two. This book was just not my cup of tea.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in February 2018: here.

4-2-5-5 Lasagna

So, this season I was determined to have the robotics team eat well during both the build season and the competitions. I started a meal train and different families signed up for different weeks. For the season kick-off, I brought lasagna. Apparently, it's been the talk of the team for weeks.

One day at breakfast, this happened...

R: You know the kids at robotics were talking about your lasagna.
C: What about it?
R: They were wondering when you were on the schedule to bring food again...and J1 asked if you could bring lasagna. J2 said, "It doesn't matter what she brings, it'll be good. I've had her corned beef and cabbage, too. Besides, it's rude to make requests like that."
R: No, her friends make requests all the time. It's not rude. It's how you get what you want from my mom. You just ask.

Too true. Well, apparently, they took the advice to heart and when I stopped in to see if they needed anything (you know, I was thinking fruits or water), J2 muttered 'lasagna' under his breath. This happened multiple times. I took the hint!

So, when I was on the schedule to bring lunch, again, I decided to make a batch of 4-2-5-5 Lasagna. That's their FRC team number, in case you're wondering. But it's also...4 kinds of meat, 2 pans, 5 kinds of cheese, and only took 5 requests!

Jake was excited to help me. I'm not sure if he wanted to learn my lasagna secrets...or if the kitchen is just the warmest room in the house. It's been a chilly week.

Ingredients makes 1 pan; I doubled this for the 4255 team
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 1/2 C diced bacon
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 sausage links, cooked and diced
  • 2 C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 C fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 T fresh oregano
  • 2 T fresh basil
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • no boil lasagna noodles
  • 3 C shredded cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella and provolone)
  • 1 C shredded parmesan
  • 1 C small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 C whole milk ricotta

In a large, flat-bottom pan, sauté the onions, fennel, and diced bacon in a splash of olive oil until the bacon fat is rendered and the onions are softened and translucent. Add in the ground meats and cook till browned through completely.

Add in the tomato sauce, wine, water, and cooked sausages. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in herbs, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To assemble the lasagna, layer meat sauce, noodles, shredded cheese blend, cottage cheese, ricotta, and more meat sauce. Repeat till your pan is full though the last layer should be meat so that the noodles are completely covered.

Cover with foil. Bake in the 375 degree F oven for one hour. Remove the foil. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan. Return pan to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese melted. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

This afternoon we have D's history day team here working on their display. I didn't have any sweet treats, so I decided to bake them some cookies. I had no butter and no (regular) eggs. But I made due with olive oil and duck eggs. I don't think they could tell...or cared. They devoured a dozen cookies in 5 minutes flat!

Ingredients makes approximately 30 cookies

  • 2 ½ C flour
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ¼ C olive oil
  • 1 t vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • ¾ C organic granulated sugar
  • ¾ C organic brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, 3 if small (I used 2 large duck eggs)
  • 1 to 2 T milk (I used almond milk)
  • 2 C semisweet chocolate chunks


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugars, vanilla, and olive oil together in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one a time. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, then add in 1 T milk to make the dough a bit firmer; you can add a second tablespoon if you feel the dough is too dry.

Use a small (Tablespoon) scoop to place dough on parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheets. 

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly golden and set. Move cookie sheet to a wire rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes before moving. You can move them to a wire rack and let them cool completely or eat them warm. You can guess what the kids did!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Shrimp and Clam Paella + Donkey & Goat's Grenache Blanc Skins #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Donkey & Goat Winery.* All opinions are my own.

This was a recipe I tested to go with Donkey & Goat's Grenache Blanc Skins. While, in the end, I opted to post my Petrale Sole, Fennel, and Potato Gratin for their Spring wine release, it was simply because this recipe can be seen as complicated and requiring a special pot - a paella pan. You can accomplish the same thing with any large skillet. But I agreed with Jared that this crossed the line from inspiring to intimidating. That is definitely not where I wanted to go for the project.

But I did want to share it regardless because it was a fabulous dish with the wine! This is not a traditional paella, at least not the way I was taught...with chicken and seafood. But it's what I had and I wanted to pair the wine with a seafood dish.

Ingredients serves 8
  • 1/2 pound fresh shrimp, peeled (peels and heads reserved)
  • 1 pound clams (scrubbed and dried)
  • 8 T olive oil (a good rule of thumb = 1 T per serving)
  • 1 organic onion
  • 3 to 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 bell pepper (I used a yellow bell pepper)
  • 3 ripe, organic tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 C Spanish paella rice
  • 1 generous pinch saffon
  • 1 Carmencita Paella Spice Mix sachet+ 
  • 5 to 6 C fish stock, warmed

+ friends brought some back from Spain for me, so I use it. You can also order it on Amazon. But, in a pinch, you can add a blend of paprika, pepper, and clove to the pot. These packets also include a food coloring that makes regular paella a rich golden color. 


Peel and dice the onions. Deseed and dice the bell pepper. I love my son's solution for his eyes while chopping onions: his snorkeling mask. No tears!

Heat olive oil in the paella pan. Stir in the garlic. Add onions and bell pepper. Sauté until the onion is softened and translucent. Add in the tomatoes and cook until they have lost their shape slightly, approximately 6 to 7 minutes.

Sprinkle the seasoning packet into the pot and add the saffron to the side so it's not where the heat is most concentrated.

Tip in the rice. Nestle the shrimp and clams in the rice. Pour in the stock. At this point, do not stir. Gently shake the pan to distribute the rice and seafood evenly. But do not stir. Ever. As my friend who taught me how to make paella instructed me: "This is not risotto."

Bring the pan to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Watch the pan and keep turning it so that the rice cooks evenly. As it cooks, the stock will be fully absorbed.

You will see fewer and fewer bubbles popping up through the top. When it is completely dry, it's done. The rice should also be crackling. It reminds me of rice krispies. Snap, crackle, and pop!

When you no longer see any bubbles, remove the pan from the heat. Tent it with foil and let it steam for 10 minutes.

To serve, use a flat spatula to scrape the soccarat from the bottom. Invert the scoop onto the individual plates to show off your soccarat, that delicious, crusty goodness on the bottom of the pan! 

Read my thoughts about this wine in the gratin post. It's amazing and I can't wait to get my hands on another bottle soon.

You may find Donkey & Goat...
on the web
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*Disclosure: I received complimentary product for the purpose of recipe development. This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.*

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rib-Eye Steaks and Single Malt Scotch #FoodNFlix

For the February edition of Food'N'FlixEvelyne at CulturEatz hosts as we watch Guess Who's Coming to Dinner*. Here's her invitation.

On the Screen
I had never heard of the movie before this month, so it was definitely a treat to discover it. But I mentioned it to my sister-in-law who said, "Great movie!" And, when I came home from work yesterday, my mom was there with D. They were watching it. She commented, "I saw this when I was 17...I definitely got more out of it today."

Released in 1967, the film stars Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn and addresses interracial marriage as Joanna Drayton surprises her parents (Tracy and Hepburn) by bringing home her new fiancé, John Prentice (Poitier). Add to the surprise that, not only is he African-American, he is considerably older than she, he is a widow, and they only met ten days before. But, sometimes, when you meet 'the one', you just know, right?

One of my favorites lines is when Christina (Hepburn) chides her husband Matt (Tracy): "She's 23 years old, and the way she is just exactly the way we brought her up to be. We answered her questions. She listened to our answers. We told her it was wrong to believe that white people were somehow essentially superior to black people or the brown or the red or the yellow ones, for that matter. People who thought that way were wrong to think that way. Sometimes hateful, usually stupid, but always wrong. That's what we said and when we said it, we did not add, 'but don't ever fall in love with a colored man.'"

Needless to say, there was lots of interesting conversations between her parents, between her father and their family friend Monsignor Ryan, between the mothers, between the fathers. And, then, all of them all together. I won't tell you what happens...you really should just watch it! But, I will say, that I thoroughly enjoyed the film though there wasn't a whole lot of food in it.

On the Plate
Given the title of the movie, I would have actually expected more food. There was some, but not a lot. We see them eating sandwiches on the terrace. Tillie, the domestic help, says she is going to serve celery soup though Joanna says, "Turtle Soup!" The Draytons pull into an ice cream shop and have fresh Oregon boysenberry ice cream. Christina Drayton sure drinks a lot of black coffee. I'm with her on that!

I've actually had fresh Oregon boysenberry ice cream! It's delicious. We always stop at a spot on our 10-day summer camping trip and it's a favorite. But it's not berry season and it's definitely too cold for ice cream these days.

So what inspired me into the kitchen were the steaks that were delivered for the dinner...and the drinks. When then parents are convened in the living room for cocktails, the mothers drink sherry; the priest drinks bourbon; and the dads drink scotch. I had hoped to see the dinner spread as they all walk into the dining room at the end of the movie. But just as the camera could have panned in, following them in as they take their seats, the credits ran. So, I still have no idea what Tillie served. I'm going with steaks...and scotch!

Ingredients serves 4 (sharing 1 rib-eye for 2 people)
  • 2 rib-eye steaks, about an inch thick
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • smoked paprika
  • ground cumin
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • Also needed: a griddle or grill pan
Let steaks rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking - and up to an hour. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and ground cumin.

Melt 1 T butter in 1 T olive oil on a griddle or grill pan. Heat the point that it is almost smoking. Sprinkle another layer of salt and pepper over the meat, pressing them into the meat.

Place your steak - newly sprinkled side down - in the pan. Depending on thickness, you will want to cook the steak for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Sprinkle the top side with salt and pepper before flipping. You should have a nice crust formed with an internal temperature of about 130 degrees F for medium. Remove from pan and tent with foil. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. I sliced the steak and served it with caramelized onions, crisped mushrooms, and broccoli.

Scotch Whisky
The land of Scotch whisky is not as complicated as you might think. Let's start with this, though, it’s spelled 'whisky' without the 'e,' unlike American whiskies such as bourbon and rye. Then, whether you’re pouring a single malt whisky or a blended Scotch whisky, expect it to taste smoky.

Some technical things...scotch can be made with other grains, but it must contain malted barley. Single malt is pot-distilled and, unlike bourbon, scotch has to age in oak casks for at least 3 years. The tasting profiles of scotch run the gamut from floral to spicy and salty to sweet.

For this dinner, I poured a Glenmorangie 10-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Note this: there are plenty of whisky snobs out there. I am not one of them. The bottom line is that if you like it, then it is great whisky. I prefer smooth whiskies and this is an excellent and affordable bottle. On the nose, I sense a soft sweetness. On the tongue, it's heftier than I would have thought with subtle spices and a touch of honey. I like that this is clean and well-balanced.

Next month, Ali from Fix Me a Little Lunch will be hosting the group as we watch Runaway Bride. Stay tuned for that invitation.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.