Monthly Archives: November 2008

Giving Thanks That It’s Over!

Yes, I am thankful.  Thankful that the week of cooking for my and My Client’s Thanksgiving is finally over.  I cooked at my own peril.  I did not study for the LSAT.  I am behind in my email (not like that is so perilous, but it is anti-social of me).  My back is aching and I am way too tired.  But everything is finally done.  Except, of course, the pots.  But I don’t even want to think about that now.

We celebrated our own family affair with my friend, Ekadasi, and her five kids.  I have known Ekadasi since 1997, straight outta Brooklyn.  It was a low key afternoon spent at her place and the meal reflected that.  Ekadasi made a huge loaf of white bread (my husband loved it), mac and cheese, tomato soup and also heated up a pot of apple cider.  We brought salad and dressing, Bryanna’s Seitan Roast, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, gravy to put on everything and ginger cookies.  
Sufficient to say, we all ate too much. 
Afterwards I went home to get started on My Client’s Post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Friday evening (that would be tonite).  Between shopping and cooking and cleaning I don’t even want to tell you how many hours I spent working on this.  But I will be sure to tell my client so that I get paid.
Here is the menu (It is tres gourmet):
For the kids:
Broken Pasta Vegetable Barley Soup
Organic Cheese Pizza w/Whole Wheat Crust
For the bigger kids:
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese over slices of Sweet Oranges on a bed of Shredded Fennel
Steamed Fresh Artichokes stuffed with Raw Cranberry Relish
Kalamata Olives, Green Stuffed Olives, Roasted Peppers, Marinated Artichokes
Persimmon Sorbetto
Primi Piatti–
Insalata Verde (Green Spring Mixed Salad w/Roasted Candied Pecans and Pomegranite)  served with Raspberry Vinagrette Dressing
Secondi Piatti–
Escarole Zuppa w/Vegetarian Meatballs
Strawberry Sorbetto
Piatto Principale–
Stuffed Seitan Roast Roulade filled w/Cherry Chestnut Stuffing surrounded by Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Asparagus, Brussel Sprouts, Apples and Pears
Fresh Honeycrisp Applesauce
Meyer Lemon Sorbetto
Fresh Kabocha  Pumpkin Pie w/Whole Wheat Crust
Whole Wheat Apple Pear Gallette
Almond Cheesecake w/Homemade Graham Cracker Crust topped w/Raspberry Caramel Sauce
From sorbetto to candied nuts, it was all me.  And now I feel a bit pecany.  Since it is Thanksgiving weekend, my kids were home.  Oh yeah, and my husband was working. Fun.  
Actually, my kids were great.  They are totally at peace when I am in the kitchen because that is where I have been before they were born and that was where I was with them while they were little tiny babies (not recommended though folks….too many kids in hospital burn units are there from kitchen accidents).  The real problem was my anxiety.  
I retired from the kitchen at 11:30 last nite only to return at 3:30 AM.  My alarm clock didn’t ring (I was too tired to set it). But I couldn’t sleep because I was too freaked out that not everything would get done.  And rightly so.  The menu was totally gourmet and so much attention was necessary to individual details–like stuffing the artichokes or sectioning the oranges or dealing with the endless amounts of chopped escarole for the zuppa.
And let’s talk about the zuppa.  My Client told me how many heads of escarole to purchase and I followed his instructions precisely. But when it came time to making the soup, it seemed like too much. I left a few heads out, but still, this soup was packed full of escarole. Prior to cooking the soup, I had gone online to look up traditional recipes and see pictures. My Client told me his mother only used water in her soup.  No mirepoix.  No spices or herbs.  Just water, salt, escarole and meatballs.  Well, that sounded bunk to me and in fact no recipe online reflected such a sparse and monastic broth.
Chicken broth.  Every recipe called for chicken broth.  But I didn’t want to make my veg chicken broth because then the soup would taste just like the stuffing and roast, so I just boiled up a vegetable broth and added that to the mixture.  Fine no problem.  But the look of the soup was a problem. I mean, it smelled like boiled lettuce and looked like something that would be served in an orphanage.
I called My Client.
He told me that the soup sounded just right and that I should turn the stove off and be done with it.  He told me, in fact, that the recipe is from his grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression.
“Yes,” I told him.  “This soup is a recipe for depression.”
I thought it had way too much escarole in it and suggested me removing some before bringing it over to him. 
“No, no, no,” he said.
I rolled my eyes and got off the phone.
Upon bringing everything over to his house he removed the lid from the soup, setting his eyes upon the depression-era ration and declared it “Magnifico.”
To each their own.
So there aren’t many pictures.  I was too busy cooking to stop and shoot.  But here’s what I could muster.  
Drool factor: low.

This is a kabocha squash, perfect for homemade pumpkin pie.

Stuffing from our family meal.  Tasted like Stove Top. But in a good way.  Four sticks of butter and some sage will do that.

Fresh baked whole wheat loaves for  My Client’s Cherry Chestnut Stuffing.

Table shot:  Thanksgiving @ Ekadasi’s.

The Delivery.

Lots of stuff. 

Cooking Zombie

Mise en Place

If My Client remembers to take pictures, I will surely share them with you. That is, if he shares them with me.  Now I need to shut off the boiling pot of kheer in my kitchen.  Oh, did I say I was done cooking?  Seems like it never ends….


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Madhumati’s Big Tendu

My daughter was taking ballet on Tuesdays after school with Prtha.  Most of the girls in the Bhakti Bhavana class participated.  This past Tuesday was the last class and many of the parents came to observe the grand performance, which wasn’t really a performance in the traditional sense, but we got to see our daughters’ dance skill on display nonetheless.

Prtha had the girls go around in a circle and say what their favorite ballet move was as well as demonstrate it.  There was a lot of shyness and a lot of acting like animals–an exercise Prtha had the girls perform regularly during the class.
When it came time for Madhumati’s favorite, she very cutely said, “Uhhh…a tendu.”  Madhumati is very tiny and hearing her say a so very French ballet term was, uhhh….adorable.  And yes, she did manage to extend her leg and point her toe.  
I was sad that the class ended. Prtha is wonderful with the kids and Madhumati loves her.  Prtha even baked peanut butter cookies for the last day of class and distributed them to all the kiddies.  Thanks, Prtha!

Strrrrretch. Madhumati was one of the few girlies without ballerina clothes.  Next year, Sweetie, I promise.


Good toes.”

Harini and Krsnaya….not twins, but close.

It was difficult getting a shot of the girls with Prtha without having Prtha’s head totally chopped off.  At 5′ 11″ she towers above the girls; literally giving them someone to look up to.  At 5′ 2,” I also look up to Prtha!

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Vegetarian/Vegan Thanksgiving: You Need This Link!!!

Bryanna and her veg bird
This woman Bryanna has an awesome seitan turkey recipe. I just made 3 batches of the stuff for my kids’ school Thanksgiving par-tay tomorrow and for my own Thanksgiving shindig on Thursday.
I will make it again on Friday and will measure out and write down my own onion/garlic free tweaks but I can tell you this: I subbed onion and garlic measure for measure with yellow hing.  And my “chicken broth” is my old standby of nutritional yeast, mustard powder, hing, Braggs, sage and thyme.  
I cooked it for a long time, possibly 3 hours.  I flipped mine a few times but I might omit that step in the future.  Also, I don’t think it needed all the broth for the basting, but whatever.
This recipe is VERY GOOD!!!  A great, juicy texture. Not too gluteny.  There is tofu in it which I know some people don’t like but hey, a little extra estrogen once a year won’t make you develop breasts (just look at me!).
Okay kids, get to work!  This is easy to make but requires a lot of oven time.  Nothing like a little make ahead entree to make your Thanksgiving day serene while you keep your kitchen clean.
Aright, enough rhyming. It’s not like I’m having a contest or anything.
***Check out Bryanna’s blog, which I linked on my sidebar.***

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Tuesday Cook Day

Today My Client invited a few guests for lunch. So in addition to considering My Client’s Italian tastes when planning the menu, I also needed to factor in the guests’ dietary restrictions. No carrots, no dairy, low fat and no vinegar. No problem. Sure, the original guest lunch menu included pizzas, fried side yummies and figs soaked in raspberry vinegar (as opposed to alcohol) and then stuffed with whipped cream cheese and jam. The new restrictions meant a little strategic regrouping on my end, but I got it together with a major thumbs up from My Client.

We decided he would take a jar of tomato sauce I made for him out of the freezer and boil up a box of cappellini before the guests arrived. I would do the rest (of course…it’s my job!).

Roasted vegetables were a safe bet. I cooked them with only a drizzle of olive oil and a good squeeze of Braggs, allowing a moist yet charred texture. My Client really wanted baguettes, so I set to work researching a good recipe that seemed like it would yield positive results when tweaked to be all whole wheat flour. Here is the recipe I used. The baguettes turned out fab, although I would recommend purchasing tube pans so that the shape is more upright. The dough is very wet, which allows for wonderful air pockets to develop. But it is a bit iffy looking when you hand mold a loaf. Personally, I would add a little more salt to the recipe next time, but maybe you wouldn’t. I’m just a salty kind of girl.

Hot from the oven, ready for transport.

Whole wheat, airy baguette

For dessert I stuffed fresh mission figs with fresh cherries, covered them in extra dark premium chocolate, added a little marzipan leaf and stem garnish and then wasn’t happy with the results. I feel it would have fared much better if I followed my original non-vegan plan; the results would have been moister. To compensate I cooked up a light vegan saffron lemon custard to serve with the fig bon-bons. It should be eaten as a no-heat fondue. Hey, everybody loves a little dip!

Cherry stuffed fig bon-bons

Bon-bon in saffron lemon custard

Admit it.  It’s cute!

Like I mentioned earlier, My Client was very pleased with the looks of things. He even vowed to purchase baguette pans so there can be more baguette making in the future.

After I get cleaned up from today’s cooking I will organize for Friday’s cook day. And in between? Cooking the faux turkey for my kids’ school Thanksgiving lunch and getting stuff together for our own Thanksgiving fete’.

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I Miss GN *AND* NJ!!!

This picture, which I lifted from Laghima’s Facebook album, is too cute. Now I only wish I had a picture of me and all the mommies on the apple tree outside the B.A.
I miss you and your kids so much!  XOXOXO


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Friday Cook Day

Today’s cooking couldn’t have been easier. My Client requested three things and three things only: pizza, pizza crusts and calzone.

I baked two whole wheat pies for him, one plain and one with spinach. Both pies had a lite sauce. In addition to these, I also made My Client two buckwheat crust pizzas. These were rather rustic and will definitely hit the spot tomorrow when My Client fasts from grains. They were simple pies–olive oil, real salt, fresh basil, organic mozzarella, tomatoes, and pan seared eggplant on one and zucchini on the other. Since the oven was already fired up I threw in a pie for my family: fresh mozzarella, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes. Nothing fancy but both of my kids ate it and that is what counts at the end of the day.  

When I was living in Philly I remember hearing an episode of The Splendid Table presented by American Public Media. That episode was on the pursuit of baking the perfect homemade pizza pie–an often elusive pursuit.  I have to say that Radharadhya out of Emmaus, PA definitely earns his “Dairy Bear” gang name with the pies he cranks out on his old range.  But I barely knew Dairy Bear back then so this episode of The Splendid Table really helped me out.
Basically, on the home front, one shouldn’t shoot for anything much bigger than a pie 8″ in diameter. The oven should be hot–500 degrees. And a pizza stone should be used.  My stone cracked spontaneously in the oven about a year back so I have been half baking my pizza on a hot baking sheet and then transferring it mid-bake directly onto the oven rack for a good crisping up. This technique gives the crust a nice grilled-pizza effect.  And that is the other thing that is crucial to the success of the homemade pizza pie:  bake time.  The pie really shouldn’t be in the oven more than 8-10 minutes.  

Rustic and grain-free:  buckwheat pizzas

Whole wheat crust, red sauce and spinach

Our dinner.  We also had long beans cooked in the cast iron skillet. Yum.

Half baked, by request.

The plain crusts I made My Client were in the oven about 4 minutes each, enough time that the yeast stops yeasting and the disc has enough form to it that it will freeze easily.
Calzones were also made in the 500 degree oven on the pizza stone and the results were fantastic.  I made three varieties, all with a ricotta/mozzarella/fresh tomato and basil base.  There was plain (just the aforementioned), vegan sausage and spinach.  Of course, I just threw them all in the box and didn’t label which was which because I don’t want My Client to start taking me for granted. Or something like that.

The making of the calzone: I decided to roll the dough in crushed rosemary.

A hefty filling of mozzarella, ricotta, spinach and tomato.

Brush-a brush-a brush-a.

Getting stoned.

Cooling off.
For my own fun, I made the most delicious hor devours using the yeasted whole wheat dough, astringent persimmon jam, fresh diced basil and mozzarella.  When my client tasted it he declared them “awesome”  and told me to remember how I made them.  No problem. Here is the photo documentary to remind me.

Whole wheat dough, astringent persimmon jam, chopped basil and mozzarella. I have given up grating cheese.  You may have noticed.


Now I have to focus on getting my shopping list together for My Client’s post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.  I am hitting the markets on Sunday to avoid the big rush. Hopefully that will give me plenty of time to get organized, both mentally and spatially.  The best part about cooking for My Client this coming Friday is that my kids will be off from school yet my husband will be working.  
Thankfully my kids are used to me being in the kitchen.  I just hope there is not some cosmic shift that takes place this week, throwing my kid/kitchen alignment out of whack.  If anyone out there would like to do a little babysitting in exchange for some gluten kabobs, please, do not hesitate to email me.  
And if you do email me and I am not so comfortable with you watching my kids because you are, like, just some hungry stranger, please don’t be offended!


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Venumadhava’s Birthday Walk

Today is Venumadhava’s Birthday Walk at school. It is a Montessori Thing. Here is my boy, through the years. I had a hard time picking shots of him since most of them are on disc somewhere (note to self: find that cd!). I was torn between adorable action shots that actually show off his personality and getting pictures where his cute yet ephemeral curls are visible. This is what I came up with:

Me and my one day old boy in our apartment in Philly.

One year old and curly in Philly.

Holding brand new Madhumati in North Carolina.

Two years old in North Carolina (with 5 mo. old Madhumati)

Three years old (almost) at Gita Nagari House.  With Nimbu, Kichari and Gita Nagari (kittens).

Four and farm.  In front of Salauni at Gita Nagari Farm.

Almost five. First time at the beach (thoroughly enjoying a pomegranate).  Tampa, Florida


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