Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy day

July 25, 2009
Fresno California Temple

Thursday, July 23, 2009


That's what my kids call me, even Z, and the Spanish speakers in the waiting room at the dentist's office think it's pretty funny. I do, too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Our India

It's been a while since I posted an Indian recipe, but it's something I come back to quite frequently, as I did tonight. Here's what I love about Indian food:
  • Complex spices and flavors ... and lots of onion
  • Fresh and inexpensive ingredients, especially if you make it vegetarian, which I usually do
  • Contrasts - mild rice, spicy curry, cool raita
The thing I do not so much love about Indian food is what it takes to make it - long lists of ingredients, mostly spices, and many steps to layer all the flavors together just right.

However, today I took it easy somewhat. I put together the dal early in the afternoon, just heating it and adding the final seasoning mix right before dinner. The veggie curry with a pre-blended biryani spice mix was an easy one that I made up out of my head (so ok, it is probably inauthentic). We had plain white rice from the rice cooker. So I got brave and tried making naan for the first time. Here's how it all went.

First I made the dal, called this in my "A Little Taste of India" recipe book:

Parippu (a red lentil dal)
(edited with my substitutions and notes)

1 c. red lentils (masoor dal)
1 shallot, diced [recipe called for onion here but I was out of onions at this stage ... had to run out later in the afternoon and grab some]
1 large, ripe tomato, peeled and diced
1 c. coconut milk (save the rest from your can)
[recipe calls for two green chilies, chopped; I omitted them in hopes of winning over my children]
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 c. water

1 tbsp. olive oil [recipe calls for 2 tbsp. oil]
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds [recipe calls for black mustard seeds but I only had yellow so I used them]
1 tsp. ground cumin [recipe calls for whole cumin seeds, which are not in my pantry]
1 onion, halved and then sliced lengthwise
10 curry leaves [I omitted; if you think I am going on a search for curry leaves in a small town in central California with four kids in tow you are crazier than I am]

Combine all items in first group of ingredients in a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook about 25 minutes or until lentils are cooked to a soft mush. They will lose their shape. If needed, you may add another 1/2 c. of water.

You may remove from heat and hold at this point until just before serving.

Before serving, place lentils on low heat. Place oil in skillet or small saucepan over medium heat and heat until it sizzles when a few drops of water are added. Add mustard seeds [and cumin seeds if you have whole ones] and cover until seeds pop. You might want to shake the pan as if you were making popcorn on the stove, to avoid the seeds burning. Add onion, curry leaves if you have them, and cumin if you are using ground cumin at this point. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are well caramelized (golden brown). Add entire mixture, scraping out pan, to simmering lentils. Season with salt to taste and cook 5 more minutes.

After you set your lentils aside in the early afternoon, start the ...

[adapted for electric mixer by me]

4 c. all-purpose flour plus up to 1 c. more for adjusting dough
1 1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. oil or ghee
3/4 c. plain yogurt (Mountain High full-fat plain is my favorite for pretty much everything)

Put the flour in your mixer bowl.

In a medium-sized, microwave-safe liquid measure, warm milk on high heat 1 minute. It should feel tepid, not hot, to the touch. Stir in a teaspoon of extra flour and your yeast. Set aside to grow. Wait a few minutes. If it smells yeasty you're in good shape.

In a small bowl, mix the egg, oil, and yogurt. Pour it into the flour along with the milk. Mix with dough hook on low until incorporated. Add more flour as needed until dough is sticky but mostly leaves sides of bowl. Knead using dough hook 5 minutes on medium speed. Remove hook. Cover with a wet tea towel or with plastic wrap coated in cooking spray. Allow to rise until double in size.

**Note that this rise will take longer than most bread recipes - maybe 3 hours or so! I think it is because of the active cultures in the yogurt competing with the yeast.

When ready to bake (start about an hour before dinner), heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a 9x13" pan half full of water on the lower shelf of your oven. Place a stoneware baking sheet, or two if you can fit them, on the top shelf to heat before you place dough on it. A metal cookie sheet would work also if you don't have stoneware, but I used stoneware to try to mimic the effect of the tandoor (clay oven) where naan is authentically baked. If you use metal you will certainly want to oil the sheet. For the seasoned stoneware it was not necessary.

Punch or stir down dough. Remove from bowl and cut into 10 pieces of approximately equal size. Shape two at a time into flat circles, then pull one side to make a teardrop shape. I used my hands, but when I do it again I think I may use a rolling pin to make them thinner and more even.

Place two pieces at a time onto your heated baking sheet. Bake 7 minutes on one side, then turn them over on the baking sheet and bake them for 5 minutes on the other. Repeat shaping and baking for all 10 pieces. As you remove each batch of two from the oven, place them on a plate and cover with a cloth (I used two towels to hold in heat) to keep them warm and soft.

My book says they won't cook properly if you try to use the bottom rack of your oven. I decided not to test that.


While you are baking naan you can put these two recipes together:

Carrot and anise raita

3/4 c. plain yogurt
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 tsp. anise seeds, crushed in your hand

Stir together and refrigerate to allow flavors to combine.

Vegetable biryani
(I am just calling this "biryani" because that's the name of the spice blend I used, pictured below. The biryani recipe in my Indian cookbook is for lamb and involves sealing a pot with dough and all kinds of stuff. It looks amazing, and I am probably never going to cook it.)

1 onion, diced
1 tsp. oil or ghee
1 tbsp. biryani masala spice mix (see photo above)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 head cauliflower, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 package fresh spinach, rough-chopped
Leftover coconut milk from previous recipe (about 1/3 cup)

Saute onion in oil or ghee until translucent. Add spice mix and stir until fragrant. Add tomatoes, cauliflower and potatoes. Cook until everything is tender. Add spinach and coconut milk and simmer until spinach is softened. Season with salt to taste. Fish out any large chunks from the spice mix you can find before you serve it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Just a little photo story.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pina colada froyo

It's getting to the point where my blogging is so predictable (when I get around to it) that I should just write in code. So here you go.

Summertime. Creamy frozen treats.

Pina Colada Frozen Yogurt

1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 can coconut cream (not coconut milk)
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. full-fat plain yogurt

Blend it all in your blender. Then process it in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions. Mellow in the freezer before serving.

Tropical bliss, and no dairy except yogurt in it, so my lactose-intolerant husband should be able to eat it without undesirable aftereffects, and I will not end up snarfing it all myself. Let's see if this works. Dr. G. has a lot of willpower, unfortunately for me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Never say never

My S basically flunked the second half of 4th grade. He just refused to do the work, and the teacher's approach seemed to be to let him choose what to do and experience the consequences. I don't totally disagree with that, but getting Fs didn't seem to wake him up, even though we had consequences at home too.

In thinking about it I came to the realization that the change was more in expectations than in S. He just was not getting the guidance and attention that he did when he did better in school - he excelled academically through all the lower grades in spite of his ADHD-related behavior issues. Obviously in 4th grade you do not get as much hand holding and the class size is much bigger. And I started to feel like he was just not ready for that transition. He has an August birthday and as early as kindergarten I had concerns about his readiness, but I hesitated to make him wait, because he is so big for his age.

I was leaning toward having him repeat 4th grade. Well, Dr. G. was very much against that and ultimately I think he is right - the stigma is just too great at this age. Plus, S does know the 4th grade material; he just refused to do the work to show it. So repeating would just make him bored and embarrassed and not do much good.

At the same time I really did not believe he was ready for 5th grade in the public schools. I mean, that is almost middle school! He does not have the skills to meet those expectations!

So there was one alternative ... something I never thought I could do ... We are going to homeschool S this year. I can hardly believe I have decided this but with much prayer I know it is the right thing to do.

The great thing is, in California, there are charter schools that give you funding and guidance and help you a lot. So we just scheduled our intake interview for a school in the Modesto area. I think this will be a great way to help him get up to speed before middle school. We are on our way!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Three books, mixed thanks

So, I will thank my dear, brilliant friend Miriam for recommending that I read Neil Gaiman. Dr. G,. on the other hand, is probably not so happy about it. I have read three freaky, amazing novels in the last couple of weeks and done little to no housework. Each book has a premise so imaginative and writing so engaging and witty that it's kinda tough to break away ... well, yeah, you know me and my character flaw related to a good book. Visiting teachers, social workers, and anybody else reading this blog, I may need a week or so before you try coming over here. (Just kidding, my visiting teachers already know how I really live, and social workers are not coming here anymore because our kids are finally and officially adopted!)

One. Anansi Brothers. Two half-mortal sons of the trickster-spider god and how they mess things up and fix them again, along with significant ideas about good and evil, myth and magic, and so on, in a story that moves at romp speed with sympathy and humor and fright woven in its ... web, yeah, I couldn't resist.

Two. Good Omens, or the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. What happens at Armageddon if the Son of Satan gets misplaced in a hospital switcheroo, because nobody in Heaven or Hell really knows what they're doing. Funny and philosophical.

Three. Coraline. Read in an hour or so this afternoon. So deeply frightening, I need to get out in the sunshine. And I really do not trust that well, and when you read about it you will know what I mean. SHUDDER.

Have fun!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

After tomorrow

After tomorrow, this can never happen to me again.

Social workers and attorneys and judges will be officially out of my family's life. Unless I get crazy someday and foster kids again.

But I will never say goodbye again to the kids I have, not that way.

Happy tears ... I sort of can't believe what I have been through the last two and a half years. That was one long, painful labor.

We'll be in court at 9:30.