Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adventure Ho! Off to Bangladesh We Go!

So we are about to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, through 12 time zones, halfway across the world to Bangladesh. This is a bittersweet trip. We were originally supposed to visit in winter, with my parents. My dad was as excited as a kid going to a circus. He'd appointed himself tourguide for my kids' first trip to the first country I had ever known. Instead, my cowboy husband and I are leading the trip.

Part of me keeps thinking of all the people and things that won't be there: my dad, my maternal grandmother (the one who told me my first djinn stories), my favorite teacher, the house I grew up in. But another part of me is determined to do my best as substitute tour guide. So here are some things I'm hoping will get done:

1. Visit with my dad's extended family, many of whom will be meeting the kids for the first time.

2. Tasting my way through all my dad's favorite foods. He loved grocery shopping and I hope to visit one or two of the markets while I'm there.

3. Visiting my old school and haunts with the kids in tow. Show them the trees I grew up with.

4. Visit my mom's village where we spent many wonderful summer holidays.

5. Go on some crazy, bone-jolting, fun rickshaw rides.

And on a personal note, I hope to be taking many pictures, collecting stories, and learning to see Bangadesh through my kids' point of view.

I'm going to help my kids know the country like their grandfather used to, I'm going to make Bengali memories for my family. I'm going to embrace this trip as a joyous adventure and know that my dad is along for the ride in spirit.

I don't know when I'll be able to post may your summer too be fun, safe & full of happy adventures!

Bangladesh Biman, the official airlines of Bangladesh

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Comfort of Pie & Words When Missing Dad

The upcoming Father's Day is going to be my first one without my father and it's hitting me pretty hard. I stayed up until about 2:30 a.m. sifting through photographs. Just me and my memories in a sleeping house. And lots of tears. I did find a photograph of the two of us that I wanted to share:

Happier days...of course, at a restaurant. He loved eating out and taking the whole family --not just the immediate, but as much of the extended he could gather together -- on his culinary adventures.

Another thing I discovered suddenly early this morning...I thought I had a handle on my grief. It's been exactly five months and four days since his death. I thought I had dealt with it. Well, I haven't.

"Grief was like a deep-dish pie whose filling takes longer to cook: it cannot be rushed." ~ Making Piece: A memoir of love, loss & pie by Beth Howard.

Since I'm finding it difficult to write about my dad today, I'll share about this book I'm reading, or re-reading. Yes, it was sent to me by the publisher Harlequin (their non-fiction department) for a review in the newspaper, but it explains grief through the language of pie and it touched something deep inside me. I understand life through words and food...and this has both.

Howard, a freelance journalist and a piebaker, writes about dealing with life after the death of her 43-year-old husband. He dies just hours before signing the divorce papers. There's guilt and love, forgiveness and passion in the pages. The author sums up her book perfectly in the introduction:

“You will find my story is a lot like pie, a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It’s bitter. It’s messy. It’s got some sweetness, too. Sometimes the ingredients get added in the wrong order, but it has substance, it will warm your insides, and even though it isn’t perfect, it still turns out okay in the end.”

Being a piebaker, Howard deals with her grief to a large extent by baking pies. Lots and lots of pies. She writes:

“With each push of the rolling pin and each pie that came browned and bubbling out of the oven, my soul was soothed and my heart mended a little more.”

I like pies, but I'm not a piebaker and bake pies only occasionally. So her route won't be my route. However, I have been a life-long reader and now, I'm a writer. Words have always sustained and supported me. So I seek refuge in reading and sometimes in writing. Thankgoodness for books. Making Piece is ultimately about courage and survival and living with purpose. So thank you Ms. Howard for your sharing your story and letting me make sense of my grief through your words.

One day, I don't exactly know when, I hope I will be able to sit down and write about my dad and my family and my grief with grace and love. Make it coherent.

My dad loved all things sweet, and apple pie was definitely on the list. He was the captain of a passenger ship and at meal times, passengers were invited to sit at the Captain's Table. Very formal affair.  My father was also a storyteller and would love entertaining his guests with stories. One time he was so busy talking, he accidently grabbed the ketchup boat instead of the cream and spooned it all over his piece of apple pie. Mouths fell open and people stared. Instead of admitting his mistake, my dad just calmy ate his pie to the last crumb.... My mom and I still laugh about this story. So I'm sharing a recipe for apple pie from Making Piece, ketchup optional.

Beth Howard’s Apple Pie (from Making Piece)
 (makes a double crust)
 2½ cups flour (but have at least 3 and ½ cups on hand, as you’ll need extra flour to roll dough and to thicken filling)
 ½ cup butter
 ½ cup vegetable shortening
 Dash of salt

Ice water (fill one cup, but use only enough to moisten dough)
 In a large bowl, work the butter and shortening into the flour with your hands until you see marble-size lumps form. Pour in ice water a little at a time, sort of “fluffing” the flour to mix in liquid. When the dough feels moist, do a “squeeze test” and if it holds together you’re done. Your dough should feel tacky, but not wet. (Do not overwork the dough! It takes very little time and you’ll be tempted to keep touching it, but don’t!) Divide the dough in 2 balls. Form each ball into a disk shape. Roll flat and thin to fit your pie dish. Sprinkle flour under and on top of your dough to keep it from sticking to your rolling surface. Trim excess dough around the edges with scissors so that it is about 1 inch wider than the dish edge.

Filling: (Beth originally learned this from Mary Spellman)
 7 large Granny Smith* apples (depending on size of apple and size of pie dish)
 3/4 cup sugar
 4 tablespoons flour
 Dash of salt
 2 teaspoons cinnamon (or more, depending on how much you like)
 1 tablespoon butter (to put on top of apples before covering with top crust)
 1 beaten egg (to brush top crust before putting in oven)

(*It’s also okay to use a combination of apples, try Braeburn and Royal Gala. Do not use Fuji or Red Delicious—they lack tartness. Also note, the approximate rule of thumb is three pounds of fruit per pie.)
Lay the prepared bottom crust into the pie dish. Slice half of thepeeled apples directly into the pie, arranging and pressing them into the dish to remove extra space between slices. Cover with half of your other ingredients (sugar, fl our, cinnamon, salt), then slice the remaining apples and cover with second half of ingredients. Add dollop of butter. Cover with top crust and crimp edges, then brush with the beaten egg (this gives the pie a nice golden brown shine). Use a knife to poke vent holes in the top crust (get creative here with a unique pattern if you want). Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes or so, until juice bubbles. Poke with a knife to make sure apples have softened. Do not overbake or apples will turn mushy.

Here's a list of other #Letslunch posts honoring Dads:

Emma presents Dad's Ham and Rice
Eating My Words has On Dad & Onion: A Love Story
HapaMama has a great post on her dad and his taste for diversity
WokStar has great pictures and Poached Salmon with Bokchoy
Pat's Father's Day Tribute is Egg Candy

#Letslunch is great virtual feast where food bloggers from around the world come together once a month to cook around a theme. If you want to join in the fun tweet at us with the hash tag #Letslunch and we'd love to have you join the party. :)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Curried Roasted Veggies For An All American #SundaySupper

My husband and I have a Cowboy & Indian (the sub-continental kind) marriage. I often joke that I traveled halfway across the world to marry my Texan. While that's very adventurous and romantic, it does get a bit dicey making sure our mixed-heritage family learns and appreciates both our cultures. Our kids need to appreciate mixing together curry spices and making sausage, their heritage of cotton farming and adventurous immigration. Our two worlds come together most often at the family table.

Summer in Texas mean firing up the grill every chance we get. My darling husband in the grill master, and I'm happy to put him to work. Here's a picture of a recent #SundaySupper grill out:

To balance the meal out, I added in Curried Roasted Veggies. Right now we have a wonderful abundance of produce at our local Farmers' Market and there's nothing easier than throwing together a variety of vegetables with some oil and spices and roasting them. I could have threaded the marinated veggies on skewers and grilled them to make smoky vegetable kababs, but since I didn't want to compete for grill space, I opted for the oven.

Also, slow roasting brings out the depth and sweetness of the vegetables. Here's what the finished dish looked like:

Once everything was served my husband took one look at the table and declared it an All-American Meal.

Thanks for joining my family at our table and sharing a typical mix-n-match meal with us. This is my first #SundaySupper post, an initiative started by Isabel at Family Foodie. Her mission is to bring back Sunday Supper around the family table in every home. Every Sunday on a twitter a group of bloggers share Sunday Supper recipes, tips and stories.

Renee from Magnolia Days is hosting the theme for this week, which is Celebrating Family Heritage.

Curried Roasted Veggies

1 large red onion, cut into eighths
3 large red potatoes, cut into large cubes,
2 red bell peppers & 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch thick strips
16-oz package of baby carrots
4 large yellow squash cut into chunks
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
a handful of dried cranberries
A handful of cilantro, chopped
A small bunch of mint, slivered


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients.
3. Lay the vegetables out in a large roasting pan, preferably in a single layer.
4. Roast for 30 minutes, stir and then roast for another 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
5. Once done, let cool for 10 minutes. Top with mixed herbs and toss together.
Serves 12