September 30, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
What's yours, is mine. And vice versa.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.


Things are pretty busy now, but in a good way. I am keeping up with the food blogging, but hope to get back to my usual blathering about my sad little life here in the soul-sucking suburban prairie.

In the meantime, let us discuss the concept of ownership as it applies to recipes. The topic came up last week on my meal-planning post when Emily of Pantalones del Fuego pointed out that one of the recipes in my book had originated with her, and not the person to whom I had attributed it.  It wasn't a big deal, as Emily and I are friends.  And I apologized.  Sort of.

The thing is, I attribute recipes to the person from whom I actually received it.

It is Celeste's Baked is Caroline's Chicken Divan.  Even though I know both of the recipes were not created, per se, by them.

My understanding of recipe copyright and how I go about personally sharing recipes here is based upon the following tenants:

1) you can put a recipe on your site if you change the preparation instructions and credit the original source. You can't just print word for word.
2) once you change 3 ingredients, the recipe technically becomes "yours"

It turns out, I was a bit too strict.  Per, an ingredient list alone is not copyrightable, although instructions are:
If you take the list of ingredients (say for egg and olive salad) and write up, in your own words, how to make it, then, by law, you have an original recipe.

..... your list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted. The directions and other information can. Practically speaking, this allows every food writer in the world to publish traditional recipes, home cooking favorites and simple recipes. 
Oh, and all of those Pioneer Woman Haters will now have to find new reasons for their venom since it is obvious she is not breaking any laws.  You can now sleep at night, Ree. You're welcome.

I have always felt that I should refer to the cookbook author from whom I have gotten recipes. At a minimum, it is the polite thing to do, no?  However, this clarification makes me feel better that I am not breaking any sort of law.  Furthermore, I have two cookbooks in particular where I HATE their method of writing instructions  For example, my recipes for Pad Prik Kai (Thai Chicken in Red Chili Sauce)  and Kai Kratium (Thai Garlic Pepper Chicken) came from these cookbooks.  The original instructions were simply awful, but the end product is awesome and a part of my regular rotation for meals.  I got tired of digging through confusing steps and re-wrote their recipes for simplicity, for my own use.  And then I shared them with you, Gentle Reader

Because I love you like that.

Today, I am sharing a pumpkin erisheri recipe that was inspired by Maya Kaimal's Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala.  I've changed the instructions and fiddled with a few ingredients.  Namely, I substituted pinto beans for the mung beans - I just didn't feel all the work involved resulted in much difference in taste or texture.  And Manoj agreed.

Anyway!  This is essentially a pumpkin curry and I love that this is a recipe  from my husband's state of Kerala in India.  This is a dish that his own mother would have cooked and it makes me happy that my own kids will have cozy memories of this dish from their own childhood.  My mother-in-law died when Manoj and I had only been dating for a few months.  I never got to meet her and it still makes me sad that my children will never know her.

Pumpkin Curry (Pumpkin Erisheri)

15 oz can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups of fresh pumpkin cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/4 cup grated unsweeetened coconut
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 and 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chilies

Coconut Paste:
3/4 cup of grated, unsweetened coconut

1 tbs chopped garlic
1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp turmeric

1. For the coconut paste, place ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup water or more and blend to the consistency of thick pesto. Set aside.

2. In a wide deep pan place the pumpkin, turmeric, cayenne, salt, and 1 and 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

3.Add the pinto beans.  Continue cooking until the pumpkin is tender and a fork easily slides through (10-15 minutes.)

4. Add the coconut paste and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

5. In a frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, toss in the dried red chilies and fry for a few seconds. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of coconut and stir constantly over medium-high heat until the coconut turns cinnamon brown and no white remains. Stir this into the cooked pumpkin and beans and heat the mixture until warmed through (add more water if it begins to dry out.)

6. Remove from the heat and check the salt. The curry should appear as chunks of pumpkin with a thick sauce.  Serve with white rice.

Note: This recipe can also be made with sweet potato and butternut squash. I like to mix the two because with the sweet potato, otherwise it is a little too sweet.

September 23, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
What's the plan, Stan?

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

In June, I mentioned Stan, our contractor. This man, this Stan, ended up being the bane of my existence for the entirety of Summer 2011. For much of the summer, I was constantly having to call him. Then, the tables turned and for the remainder of the summer, he was constantly calling ME. For money. That our insurance was in the process of sending in the form of FIVE separate checks. Money that got delayed partly because Stan's company wanted MORE money and took their sweet time finishing their own damned invoice.

It will be a long, long time before I erase the memory of his phone number from my brain.  Seriously, I have his phone committed to MEMORY.

Anyway, today's title is in celebration of the end of my tortured relationship with Stan. I handed over the last and final check him yesterday.

So. Today I want to talk about menu planning. Hands down, a minimum of menu planning goes a long, long way for me. And when I say minimum, I am not jesting.

Each Sunday/Monday morning, I pull out my cookbooks and a folder of print-outs to get ideas for the coming week. I only plan meals for Monday through Thursday. Friday is a our long-standing take n' bake pizza night. On Saturday and Sundays I usually wing it. Most lunches are scrabbled together with leftovers and whatnot.

In short, I plan for 4 dinners a week and I add the ingredients to my shopping list.  The entire process takes about 15 minutes.   Often, while I am at the store, something in the produce section will catch my eye or happen to be on sale and then I will have my 5th and 6th meals taken care of.

I have a hoard of cookbooks, but these are the ones I use most frequently, so I keep them handy and easily accessible.  I used to have them on the countertop but I prefer them tucked away since it protects them from dust, grease, etc.

My Favorite Cookbooks List

Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India by Maya Kaimal

Simply Thai Cooking by Wandee Young and Byron Ayanoglu

Simply Mediterranean Cooking by Byron Ayanoglu and Algis Kemezys

Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

The Asian Bistro Cookbook by Andrew Chase

Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala by Maya Kaimal

Awhile back, I had mentioned that Paper Coterie was giving away $40 worth of product.  I spent $17 of my alottment on this handy recipe book:
Full Disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored.  I simply received the recipe book for free.


It took several hours worth of work digging through emails, bookmarked links, past blog posts, etc.  Recipes that had all been printed out previously and existed in a chaotic mess inside a red folder.  But it was worth the work and now, I have some of my favorite recipes in a single book.  In MY book.

I love how many of the recipes have come from friends - old and new.  It was quite a trip down memory lane.

I also love that I was able to use some of my favorite food photos as well.

I will always have a folder full of printouts and whatnot, that is the most exciting part of cooking as a hobby -- that constant discovery of new recipes and fresh ways to use one's favorite ingredients.

What are your favorite meal planning tips?  I am always looking for new ideas on how I can improve my schedule.

September 16, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
If It Ain't Fried, Then It Died.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Last weekend, Team Chaos and I met my dad for the Old Settler's parade here in Olathe.  We spent the morning reminiscing about old times, family members and past Old Settler's gatherings - even stories my great-grandpa passed along to my dad from when he was a boy and Old Settler's was actually a reunion of sorts for the folks who originally settled the town. Back in the day when they would gather on the lawn in front of the courthouse and everyone would bring a covered dish.

The most important part of the fair is the food, of course. Particularly, the culinary tradition that is exclusive to Olathe --- Grange Pups!  The Kansas Grange Association has been serving these pups for at least 60 years now -- essentially, it is a fresh, hand-dipped hotdog.  The breading is not made from corn flour, but rather seems to be made from a non-sweet pancake batter.  At least that is our guess -- it is also tradition every year to ponder the mysterious origins of the Grange Pup.

The recipe is top-secret and hopefully the folks who know it do not travel together.  Right?

My dad has been eating Grange Pups since 1947 and he is quite proud of this.

While perusing fresh-squeezed limeade options, I saw that a stand was serving deep-fried Twinkies.  I had never eaten one before and thought that in the interest of Intestinal Fortitude, I should try one at least once.

Oh my......It was amazing.  A greasy, delicious hunk of melted sponge cake, cream filling and goddamned magic.

The food stand was ran by a church.  So technically, I ate that thing FOR JESUS.

And for you, Gentle Reader.

Let us never speak of this again.

What is your favorite Fair Food?

September 14, 2011

Paint Box

Pink Floyd, Relics 1973

I have mentioned in a long ago post, Love, American Style, that my Indian is a Special one (and he's mine, can you believe it?)  He is a Syrian Christian Malayalee, born and raised all over the state of Kerala.  He came to America to build a new life and has worked his ass off toward that goal. And unapologetically so.  He is not particularly sentimental about his heritage -- after all, he IS Indian, there is nothing that can really be changed about that and there is certainly nothing to be proved.

We are both adamant that our children are 100% American and in Any Colour You Like, I wrote about we also actively discuss skin color (I have found that for some folks that is Too Much Talk, for others, that is Not Enough Talk. Unlike Charlie Sheen, I NEVER WIN.)  For all the cynicism and politically driven separations currently in our country, we do love living here and fully intend for this to our home.  And in that sweet, precious idea of what it means to be American, there is a place for my husband.  He can be both Indian and he can be American (someday!)

With Manoj having a Catholic background, I struggle with the figuring out what to celebrate culturally in light of what is archetypically "Indian".  Diwali holds few emotions for him.  The same goes for Holi. Those are Hindu festivals and while he did join in the celebrations as a kid with his friends, they were not something that his family actively celebrated.  Once, he mentioned that what he loved most about Diwali and Holi was that he got out of school for the day (which leads me to ponder if this is not how Jewish folks feel about Christmas in America.)

However, in Kerala, there is festival in the fall that is uniquely Keralite and seems to transcends religion.  It is called Onam and it celebrates the harvest.

While I doubt that we will be hosting snakeboat races in the backwaters of our jacuzzi tub, parading elephants on our sidewalk, or busting some kathakali moves in our living room,  it did seem that even this here White Girl could muster up the skills needed in order to create a pookalam.  A pookalam is essentially a carpet of flowers that you arrange in front of your house. Frankly, I had no idea what I was doing.

Gentle Reader, has that stopped me yet? .

First, I drew an awkward, lopsided decoration with sidewalk chalk.

Emphasis on the "lopsided".

Then, I bought a dozen roses from the grocery store and pilfered a flower arrangement left over from my sister Maureen's wedding.

 In Grand White Trash Tradition that would make my daddy proud,  I realized as I was posting this snap that Arun was NOT WEARING UNDERWEAR in this photo.  A quick photocrop later and the authorities were thwarted.  Yet again.

We laid out the flower petals according to the design.

Unfortunately, we ran out of flowers.  The nearby Rose of Sharon was quickly relieved of some leaves and flowers.  Fortunately, it did not complain.

Overall, it was so much fun doing this with this Arun and Anjali.  Next year, we will buy far more flowers, but we will definitely still include the Rose of Sharon.  I loved that we used flowers from our own yard.

As we worked on the pookalam, Arun excitedly exclaimed, "I'm half-Indian today!"  And I told him, "You're half-Indian every day.  But you are 100% American.  You can be BOTH.  Isn't that cool?"

His beaming smile said it all.

September 9, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Cheese, Glorious CHEESE.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

This is the last post of Wedding Week at Rancid Raves. (See Also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Behold, the Cauldron of CHEESE.

My sister Jill and I have a long history with cheese.  We LOVE cheese.  Cheap, mass-produced cheese. Expensive cheese crafted lovingly by an artisan. Goat cheese.  Cow cheese. Smelly cheese.  Not-smelly cheese.

We... Don't.... Care.

We simply love CHEESE.  Before we had kids, one of our favorite quickie meals when we would get together would be a plate of fruit and cheese.  In fact, one of my favorite meals at the Freestate Brewery in Lawrence, KS is their fruit and cheese plate.  Then, we had kids and for some reason, children require actual meals rather than scraps of fermented milk and bits of fruit.


And fruit.  I loved this shot of picture-perfect Alaina eating a messy cherry with juice dribbling on her fancy dress.  Also, that gorgeous bouffant?  Screamed for a 1960s Picnik effect.

Since Jill and I raised our daughters RIGHT, they love cheese, too.  Lactose intolerant kids need not apply for membership in our family.

Move along, kiddo.  You'll need to find another family to support you and your lame-ass digestive system.

Cheese?  Is serious business, folks.

September 8, 2011

Literally Literary: Henna For the Heartbroken and a Killer Library Room

I have decided to write separate posts regarding books and I am calling this feature "Literally Literary". Why am I going to such bother? My hope is the post title will provide a subtle hint that I am posting about BOOKS. For those of you where the topic of books results in narcoleptic fits thereby causing you to faceplant onto your keyboard, this will allow you to just click away from the horror that is the written word. Also, I simply adore the word "literally", it is literally my favorite adverb. Bonus points if pronounced with a Rob Lowe/Parks n' Recreation affectation.

Special Note: All posts contain non-affiliate links - I do not have an Amazonian Fancy Pants Affiliate Thingie.


Yesterday, I began reading author Sharell Cook's Henna for the Broken-Hearted (I bought my copy through Amazon, Sharell offers other options here - with it being a non-US publication, it's a little dicey to get a hard copy right now)  Sharell, who writes the blog Diary of a White Indian Housewife, currently lives in Mumbai with her Indian husband. However, Sharell is from Australia and Henna for the Broken-Hearted is the story of how she ended up in India.  We both belong to a few Pardesi groups that I affectionately refer to as my groups for "Brown Boys and the White Girls Who Love Them".  For me, reading Sharell's account of how she came to settle in India is fascinating.  And I thought it worth mentioning here.

As I've mentioned, this is Wedding Week at Rancid Raves (See Also: Part 1Part 2Part 3).  My sister Maureen's wedding was SO much fun, that I knew a single post wouldn't capture it all.  The wedding and reception was held at Williams House in Lawrence, Kansas.  The house was simply gorgeous and held so much beauty, interest and charm.  Also, the entire house was full of books - stacks of books adorned every table, dresser.  Piles of books were in every room. I could have spent hours just sifting through the titles.

In particular, I fell in love with the library room:

My pictures do not do this room justice.

However, these shots will simply have to suffice when I build my Dream House and I hand these snaps over the architect so that he or she can recreate the entire damned thing.

Including the corner step-ladder, which will be a requirement in the Library Room of My Dreams.


September 7, 2011

Love Scene (Version 6)

Pink Floyd, Zabriskie Point (Extended 1997 Release)

It's Wedding Week here at Rancid Raves! (Part 1 is here)

By the end of the day, Arun had collected a snail, more than one caterpillar and a myriad of leaves, pods and seeds.  Thank the little baby Zeus for Oxyclean.

I just loved this shot of my dad dancing with Anjali and Alaina.  I know some folks get snarky and nasty with the entire "wearing a kilt" thing, but my dad did the research into our family to get the appropriate tartan.  He loves wearing the kilt and feels completely comfortable doing so.

Furthermore, he looks quite handsome.

All the naysayers can bite me.

Double-fisting the drink.  We were so proud.

We did get the long-awaited cousin shot that my dad has spent years asking for..  This was the best snap of the bunch.

Better luck next wedding?  Sigh.

Nobody got tagged the entire day by the tire swing.  Folks, that is what you call a goddamned miracle.

September 6, 2011

Love Scene (Version 4)

Pink Floyd, Zabriskie Point (Extended 1997 Release)

Welcome to Wedding Week at Rancid Raves....

My sister Maureen got married this past weekend.

It was such a lovely, fun wedding full of laughter, tears, wine, music and rain.

Let me rephrase that - it was such a lovely, fun OUTDOOR wedding full of laughter, tears, wine, music and rain.


Team Chaos was stylin' and profilin'.  When Arun tried on his tux for the first time, he exclaimed, "I look like a DAD!!!!!!"

The wedding was held at the Williams House in Lawrence KS.    A gorgeous location.

It started to pour rain just as Maureen and my dad started to walk down the path.  The entire ceremony was conducted in the rain.  However, we Oliver Sisters just don't sweat weddings and Maureen had such a sweet, positive attitude.  She didn't let it ruin her day, that's for sure.  And the reception was mostly under a tent.  Which helped.

As did the Oliver wine.

Arun got to spend an entire day with his favorite cousin Brendan.  An ENTIRE DAY.  He was on Cloud 9, folks.

A lobbyist wearing a pin-striped seersucker apparently did a Marty McFly from 1850 Louisiana in order to join us present-day  Seriously, LOVE THE SUIT.

The mad scientist from Jurassic Park took a break from wrangling dinosaurs to join us.  The guy in the kilt double-fisting drinks?  None other than MY DAD.  Clan Frasier, represent!  And yes, there is a bone-handled knife tucked into his sock.  In case we are attacked by a roving band of wild-turkeys.  Or Democrats..

Lookin' good, Mr. Kotter!

Anjali has obsessed about this wedding the entire year.  The cake had purple flowers, per her "instructions" but there was no ice sculpture as she had so hoped there would be.

Alaina and Anjali gained a new cousin-in-law this weekend.  We gained a new brother-in-law (a brother-in-law who dated Maureen long enough to know what it means to be marrying an Oliver.  No excuses, Brian.)

And we couldn't be happier.

Congratulations, Maureen and Brian.  May your basement always be filled with potatoes.

September 2, 2011

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
'Til Death Do Us Part

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I do not necessarily want to be a food blogger, but I do LOVE to talk about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food. Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.


My sister Maureen is getting married tomorrow.  Besides the whole "joining her life partner for eternity" bit, I am really excited about the cake.


I am not normally a Sweets Person, I am more of a Salty, Savory Person (add Spicy to that, while you are at it.)  But man, oh man, wedding cake???  I am so THERE.  The only problem is that I love a traditional white wedding cake with buttercream frosting.  It breaks my heart when couples choose Fancy Pants Flavors for their cake. No, actually I feel cheated.    I buy a gift, get all dressed up and you serve me Fancy Pants Flavored cake???  Sure, it's supposed to YOUR special day, but what about me and MY needs, dammit?

So, you can imagine my relief and utter joy when Maureen told me that not only would she be serving white wedding cake, but also that the cake is coming from Muncher's Bakery in Lawrence, KS.


One of my favorite memories from my own wedding is our cake.  And to give you an indication of what sort of bride I was, I simply called the baker and ordered a "plain white cake with 3 tiers and buttercream frosting.  Decorate it however you want, I don't care."  We were married in New Hampshire and had the reception at the Mt. Washington Hotel.  I did the majority of the planning via phone.

Furthermore, at the actual reception,  I laughed when the cake started to list.  It began to tilt under the weight of the cake topper and so we had to quickly cut n' serve, lest it tip on over.  And I laughed at it all because I thought it was hilarious.

Because it WAS hilarious.  If the worst thing to happen at my wedding would be my cake falling over, then I consider that to be a grand success.

And let's not talk about the massive amounts of champagne I consumed after the cake.  Because that wasn't pretty.  Particularly, hiking in the Flume Gorge the next day with a Champagne Headache FROM HELL.

Welcome to your new life, you lush.

What about you?  
Do you like your wedding cake traditional white or do you prefer Fancy Pants Flavors?