Saturday, May 23, 2020

What sustains us?

Food, for one.  I am cooking twice as much while we stay home together and I've tried to keep it interesting. This week I cooked several winning recipes (and yes, I am patting myself on the back) that my family loved. It's amazing how busy we are finishing up school projects, books clubs, and homework.  Oh and planning a mini socially distant grad party to celebrate our senior. Luckily in our house we are not on top of each other so it is wonderful when we can gather together at the end of a long day to eat together and talk. While the food is important its really the gathering as one that sustains us.

Recipes of the week:

Chicken and Rice with Scallion-Ginger Sauce from the New York Times. It's worth it to download the Times' cooking app; it's my idea starting point. I loved that this recipe used sushi rice and that the flavor reminded me of eating sushi without the rolling work. I sautéed a block of firm tofu to add to it as I'm not a fan of eating chicken. I also used veggie broth instead of chicken broth and we had chicken thighs instead of breasts.  I love recipes with a lot of flavor but that aren't going to take me five hours to prepare. This one won on both accounts and when my husband and I ate the last of it for lunch the next day I added diced orange pepper and zucchini, sprinkled in a little more  sesame oil and rice vinegar to refresh the rice. It was amazing the second time around as well.

Chicken Tikka Masala from Jaime Oliver: This one did take a little more time but after hearing my husband talk about really missing Indian food one night I decided to give this recipe a try. I do make a lot of Indian recipes and have a great cookbook, Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla, that I've learned a lot from but this one popped up on Jaime's IG feed and I was inspired. Searing the chicken was new for me but also made it easier for to eat my Tikka Masala chicken-free because it's not mixed together during but added as the last step.  I served it with Roti from my freezer and cooked in my cast iron skillet on both sides to make it nice and toasty. I'm not a great pre-planner so our chicken breasts didn't get much more than 20 minutes of marinating time. Next time I would plan ahead a bit more but my two other dinner companions didn't complain one bit.

Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew again from the NYT: I made this one just last night. I don't go out much at all but we had some errands to run for our soon-to-be graduate and I went to the grocery store with my husband. He pushed the cart while I tossed things in and realized I missed being able to see stuff and choose it instead of me relying on my husband with the list. In preparation for the long weekend I had two recipes picked out to try and purchased all ingredients plus pantry replacements. This white bean dish was so, so simple to put together and added a spicy warmth to a chilly day. There was murmurings of joy and I watched my husband literally like his bowl. Next time I will double this recipe so there are more leftovers. I imagine it would be excellent the second time around. I served it with mini Naan flatbread toasted from the oven. All three of these recipes will be on rotation at my house now. It's great to find new favorites to get us through this world crisis.

Books, for two. I recently read two amazing fiction books and feel that everyone should read them as well. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was a compelling story about Agnes who has been sentenced to death after the man she works for and has loved is murdered. This book takes place in Iceland in 1829 and I can't say I've ever read a book with this particular setting. I thought I might get bogged down by the unusual and long names but they flowed once I connected with Agnes's story. This book is based in reality as their was a real-life Agnes accused of murdering her employer and lover. From Adelaide, South Australia Hannah Kent heard the story during the year she spent  as a teen in Iceland on a Rotary Exchange. This was her first book. Right out of the shoot an amazing story, award-winning and all!

A little over a year ago I joined Book of the Month Club because, after reviewing the format, I wanted some hand-picked and new book choices. I have thousands of book already in my house-maybe less now that we cleaned one entire book shelf clean over Spring break-still many, many volumes of great books already live here.  To justify joining a club that would bring me more shelves of books I asked my husband to share the experience. So every month we look at the selections together and make a choice. That way we are both invested and we like reading the blurbs from the literary crew that does the picking.

One month as I read through favorites on the BOTM website I came across The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne which won Book of the Year in 2017 and added it on to my order. I finally picked it up a week ago with some trepidation because of its size but as I read the first few chapters any lingering concerns were flung away as I buried my nose in the book sneaking hours away from my to-do list to get another section read. The book made me laugh out loud many times yet I cried when I turned the last page as I stood up at my kitchen counter waiting for my toast to pop. I loved this book. I felt such a deep connection to the main character, Cyril, and his ability to mess things up unwittingly. When your nearest library or local book store opens up, don your mask, and get yourself a copy.

Stay safe out there even as many business begin to reopen. During this time we've found much to sustain us right here at home and we will continue that through the summer so stay healthy.

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