1 February, 2017  |   1 Comment

Weeknight Palak Paneer Recipe

Weeknight Palak Paneer

Career-wise, life-wise, events feel more pressing right now and I want my kids to know that, “Your mom, she cared about some things.”

One of those things I care about is how working people can feed themselves and their families, especially as it feels like we need to work even harder just to tread water.

Ahem.

This is a recipe we enjoyed from our meal plan. You know, the meal plans I’ve been posting nearly every week for ten years or so. This recipe is a spinach-packed powerhouse. Bonus points for making your own cheese (!!!)

We’re making more Indian food, it’s the only food our pickiest eater absolutely adores. Sure! That makes sense! Out of every ethnic cuisine, she prefers the most complex spice balance. She wrote a love letter to our local Himalayan restaurant. She will eat heaps of Tandoori-prepared vegetables but she won’t touch a summer tomato. That’s my girl.

Making your own cheese, especially as a working person, will make you feel powerful and strong, able to take on marching, phone calls and fight against voter suppression.

You can pull most of this dish together at the last minute, but if you want the homemade paneer, you’ll have to give the recipe 24 hours head start.

Did it get down to the wire?  Substitute tofu for the paneer and most people will never notice.

Weeknight Palak Paneer Recipe

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry powder (we use Penzey’s Now Curry because Penzeys is a most wonderful company from Wisconsin that stands up for what’s right)

Penzey's The Now Curry
1 large onion, chopped rough

Chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt
1 3 inch piece ginger, peeled and diced tiny
8 cloves garlic, smashed, peels removed and diced tiny
2 teaspoons Garam Masala (again we buy ours from Penzeys)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and stems removed
3 tomatoes chopped into 1/2″ chunks — we used whole peeled tomatoes from a can
1 cup water
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
16 ounces baby spinach – a whole container if you buy it prepackaged and washed at your grocery store
1 cup cream
1 recipe Paneer (see below)

You’ll also want a large dutch oven and an immersion blender or regular blender.

Directions
In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium-high heat, add the 2 tablespoons of curry powder and toss together for about half a minute – stir well to make sure the powder and oil integrate and sizzle a bit.

Add the onion and salt – cook for 3 minutes or until melty. Then add the ginger and garlic and toss for another minute. Add the Garam Masala, jalapeno pepper, tomatoes and water, add the tomato paste. Cook over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, or until the ingredients are blended together.

Add the baby spinach in batches – letting each specific batch wilt down so there’s room for more. Continue to stir and fold and work together until the spinach totally cooks down (about another 3 minutes).

Use your immersion blender or blender to blend – we still like our spinach to have a bit of shape to it.

See here, I was blending so heartily, it’s out of focus!
How hearty the blend!

Immersion blender craziness for Palak Paneer

At this moment, I added the mix to a container so that we could have it ready to go quickly on Monday night.

Put that Palak Paneer in the fridge!

On Monday, I pulled the Weeknight Palak Paneer from the fridge, put it in a pan over medium heat. Then, I added the cream and the paneer. That paneer was chopped into roughly 1″ pieces.

We served it with naan and rice and we were so happy and we almost forgot we had a president that hates us. I love to toss some cilantro and hot sauce on it, but I leave that choice up to you.

weeknight Palak Paneer

Homemade Paneer Recipe

Ingredients
1 half gallon whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt

Directions
You will pour an entire gallon of whole milk into a large dutch oven. You will feel weird about this, like it’s wasteful, but then you will remember that flank steak is 9.99/pound at your local grocery store so you take a deep breath and commit.

Pouring a whole gallon of milk in the pan? Okay!

Heat the milk over medium-low heat until it just barely boils. You’ll want to stir it fairly frequently to avoid the milk burning to the bottom of the pan.

You’ll know it’s time to add the buttermilk and salt when there are bubbles are just starting to break the surface and it’s steaming heavily. That looks something like this:

Nope! The paneer isn't ready yet

Then lower the heat as much as you possibly can and stir in the buttermilk.

Buttermilk to make the paneer

Stir it in gently, and then continue to stir over the next 7-10 minutes as curds magically appear. Stir them toward the middle of the pot to congeal into a largish disk.

Paneer curds in whey

Isn’t that crazy? You just made cheese! Little Miss Muffet ain’t got NOTHING on you!

If you have a gas stove, turn off the flame, cover the pot and let it rest for 15 minutes. If you have an electric stove, move the pot to another (cold) burner before resting the cheese.

After 15 minutes goes by, remove the curds to a cheesecloth lined strainer. Mine looked like this:

Paneer in cheesecloth, draining

Squeeze all the juice out and twist the edges. Put in an edged container and add a weight to the top. Let solidify in the fridge. When I did this, I had to drain the plate twice. You can let this drain for up to 24 hours.

Draining paneer in the refrigerator

You’ve made paneer! You’re a cheesemaker! You’re a cheesemaker and a patriot!

Like I said above, chop the paneer into about 1″ chunks and mix into the spinach mixture with the cream before serving.

 

9 December, 2016  |   2 Comments

Advent Practices Beget a Fresh Poetry Friday

Advent Practices, hung on the doorFor Advent, my very religious mom used to write good deeds on tiny scraps of paper. She would put them in a fish bowl.

Then, every night during Advent, all 5 kids lined up to pick our deed out of a fishbowl. The next day we actually did the practice, and then we would talk about our action at dinner.

So this year, instead of Elf on a Shelf or Advent gifts, we continue our family tradition of Advent Practices.

We put our advent practices in envelopes up on the playroom door. Every day, one of these two kids take an envelope off the door and read it out loud. Every day, we do one of these actions that, in a very broad way, “make the world a better place.”

Some examples:
Find a country on the globe and learn an interesting fact about it
Choose 1 toy to give away
Talk to someone new today
Eat a new fruit today

All of this is to say that this week, one of our good deeds was to write a poem about something beautiful. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

A Poem About Somethings Beautiful
Inside her sleeping palm
Between her thinking brows
His broad shoulders as he
straightens
the
porch
the
day
after
Your arm thrown around my shaking shoulders
from laughter,
tears or
fear

Happy poetry Friday!
Happy Advent Practices to everyone!

 

8 December, 2016  |   3 Comments

Telescopes and art supplies for everyone

So much seems worse these days. You know that. I know that.

But for now, we have this one thing that makes us happy.
Our kids don’t ask for a bunch of crap for Christmas.

And we have technology to thank for it.I received this Barbie Bubbling Spa when I was 9 and didn't have the patience to read the instructions for how to put the stickers on properly, so I was vaguely disappointed in myself every time we played with it. Let that be a lesson to you, always RTFM.

One of the most upsetting memories I have about being a child at Christmas was the WANT.

My Christmas list went on for 5 pages, with page numbers and references.

I wanted a new Barbie whirlpool, I wanted every third listed item in the JCPenney Christmas catalog, I wanted everything I saw on the cartoons and everything I saw on the commercials. (Except Gobots, no one wanted Gobots).

For me, one of those unexpected parenthood fears was knowing that my children were going to feel that intense WANT. They would be tortured with all the things they couldn’t have.

Thanks modern technology (and the internet) they’re largely exempt.

We recycle catalogs before they come in the house and most importantly, we stream the vast majority of entertainment that comes to us without commercial interruption. Without cable, they simply aren’t exposed to the relentless commercial manipulation of the 80s and 90s.

At this specific moment in their brief lives, they have less of a hard time of it than I did.

It’s an utter delight, that the kids aren’t yet consumed by the WANT.

Thanks technology, I’ll take this one as a win.

Anything you want from the JC Penney Wishbook can certainly NOT be yours.

23 May, 2016  |   Comment

100 Graces

Hello! If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m taking part in the 100 Days project from Elle Luna. Thanks to a trip to Green Bay, Mom 2.0 and a new job (!!!) I got a little behind.

No matter! Instead of clogging your Insta-feed with pre-meal graces, I’m catching up here.
Thanks for indulging me!

23_blessings
23/100

24_universe
24/100

25_negativity
25/100

26_clap 27_strong
26/100

28_earth
27/100

22 March, 2016  |   3 Comments

Crownberry Day

01_crownberry

Tuffenbee woke early. It was crownberry day – she would need the extra time.

Every six weeks, Tuffenbee needed to get the berries on her head refreshed in a long process.

That’s how it was in Beepaland. For as long as anyone could remember, every egg-laying Beepa kept 15 crownberries on her head at all time.

02_tuffenbee

The berries had to be fresh.
The berries had to be placed just so.
The berries had to be in perfect condition.

Every six weeks, Tuffenbee woke early to get to the salon. The salon was where the Pincerpaws replaced crownberries.

03_pincerpaws

Beepas didn’t have hands like the Pincerpaws. Beepas paid the Pincerpaws to replace their crownberries. It cost nearly two hundred dollars for fifteen berries!
Can you imagine?

Tuffenbee was trying to save her money for a vacation at the beach. She was saving four hundred dollars for a vacation just by herself.

Every six weeks, Tuffenbee walked to the berry salon. She put the five dollars she would have spent on the bus in a jar. She couldn’t wait to save enough money for that vacation.

05_money-jar

When she got to the salon, Tuffenbee paid $200 to the Pincerpaws, sat down on the log and prepared for several hours of boredom.

It’s not that replacing her crownberries hurt, it was just boring. Tuffenbee had a lot of things she’d rather be doing.

06_tuffenbee-salon

Tuffenbee just wanted to put her feet up and relax for the night. Being an egg-laying Beepa meant that sometimes, you needed some extra rest.

01_crownberry

Six weeks later Tuffenbee woke early.

in-jar

Tuffenbee put the five dollars she would have spent on the bus in a jar.

tuffenbee-rounds-corner

Tuffenbee walked to the berry salon.

After rounding her first corner, Tuffenbee came face to face with a group of Beepas. These were the kind of Beepas that didn’t have to get crownberries replaced every six weeks. These were the kind of Beepas that didn’t lay eggs every month.

beepa_assault

This group of Beepas yelled at Tuffenbee,

“HEY YOU, YOU! YOU SHOULD SMILE YOU KNOW,
YOU WOULD LOOK EVEN BETTER IF YOU SMILED!
SMILE!”

Before Tuffenbee knew what she was doing, she yelled back at the Beepas, “HEY YOU! YOU SHOULD STOP YELLING AT ME TO SMILE! MAYBE I DON’T WANT TO SMILE”

after-beepa

Tuffenbee felt so confused and scared, she ran for several blocks before she could sit down and take many big breaths to calm herself.

By the time she’d slowed her heart, she realized she’d missed her appointment.

tuffenbee-on-bench

In that moment she said to herself,

“Just wait a minute! Just because I lay the eggs doesn’t mean I have to get crownberries on my head. Who cares if my berries look like everyone else’s? I’m going to let them fall out on their own and see what happens. “

Tuffenbee went home, put her two-hundred dollars in a jar and felt happier than she had in years.

05_money-jar

Yes, it’s true, over the next six weeks, the berries rotted and fell off her head.  Tuffenbee worked hard to keep her head clean and berry-free.

Six weeks later, she put another two hundred dollars in a jar.

She laid her egg, put her feet up for the night and planned her vacation at the beach for next month.

04_tuffenbee-walks