Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pinterest Challenge- The Fall Edition

Hello from (mostly) sunny Georgia! The huge storm Sandy battered the North East US this week- we in the South East were spared and got only high winds and cold temperatures because of the storm system. My best wishes to everyone in the North East- I hope you stay safe and warm and dry.

Our family moved this month and all in all, it was a smooth ride. V and I divided up our precious creatures for the move. He drove down with Dale sprawled in the back seat and our curry leaf plant strapped in the passenger seat; a 12 hour drive over 2 days. I took a flight with Lila. I'm happy to say that dog, plant, baby all arrived happy and intact. We're settling into our new home and exploring our new town.

I wanted to pick up the blogging thread where I left off and the Fall Pinterest Challenge on Young House Love (YHL) gave me the perfect excuse to make something and post about it. In case you don't already read it, YHL is an endlessly fun blog written with humor and grace, full of design inspiration and craft ideas. As we transform this house into a home, this is a blog I'll turn to this blog often.

As you might expect, the Pinterest challenge is to stop pinning and start doing. I chose one craft and one recipe.

The Craft Pin: Pumpkins are the dominant decor in this season of Fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I had pinned an easy paper craft- making paper pumpkins from strips of patterned paper. I loved the simple, modern look of these pumpkins and thought it would be fun to make a few. The tutorial on It's Always Autumn is very well written. All I needed was some wire and patterned paper from the craft store. I did not find very cool patterned paper so I made the best of the limited selection I found- one black and white damask design, a textured orange and a metallic paper. I eyeballed the width of the strips and one fun evening of cutting and wiring later, I got this.

I would call this pin a moderate success- I enjoyed making these pumpkins and arranged on a cake plate, they add a pop of DIY festive fun to my otherwise-bare dining room. But it is challenging to make the pumpkins keep their shape; the strips keep sliding off to one side.

The Recipe Pin: When I moved from St. Louis, I tried to eat down the pantry as much as possible. In the last week, I still had a few things left that I did not want to move and gave them to friends to use up. The big bag of idli rava eluded all my attempts to get rid of it. I haven't been using idli rava since I switched to using idli rice for idlis. That was the only thing I ever made with idli rava so the stuff just sat there. None of my friends wanted it and I can't throw away food, so the idli rava joined the husband, dog and curry leaf plant on the long trip to its new pantry!

I resolved to use it up- can't have the idli rava still sitting there until we move to some other place. And that's how I pinned Nandita's recipe for Arisi Upma. In her post, she does a nice job of describing all the selling points of this recipe: made in minutes, no need to roast the rava and no chopping!

I had made ghee and the pot in which I make ghee always had a nice amount left on the sides once I pour the ghee into a jar. I don't wash the pot; instead I use it right away to cook something else, and that dish turns out more appetizing than ever with all the burnt on bits from ghee-making. That's the pot I made this upma in.

Arisi Upma
(adapted from this recipe on Saffron Trail)

1. Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee in a pan.
2. Make the tempering: mustard seeds, asafetida, curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, bits of dried red chillies.
3. Add 3 cups water, handful of frozen peas, salt to taste and a tsp. of jaggery or sugar. Let the water come to a rolling boil.
4. Add 1 cup idli rava while stirring constantly.
5. Cover the pan and let the upma cook for 3-4 minutes. The water will be completely absorbed.
6. Turn off the heat. Add a handful of chopped cilantro.

Just as advertised, this was a quick and easy recipe. I have no doubt that the idli rava will be put to good use after all. But if you have any other ideas for using idli rava, I'm all ears.

I'm linking this post to the round-up on Young House Love, where you'll see hundreds of pins being tried and tested. 
In a fit of ambition, I have decided to participate in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), traditionally held in November of each year. The idea of NaBloPoMo is to exercise one's writing muscles by posting every single day. So November will be one long buffet of posts here on One Hot Stove. Not every post will contain a recipe. There might be crafts and photos and ideas and lists and book reviews and random musings. I'll just go with the flow and see what happens. Consider it a fair warning, dear readers (LOL). If you'd like to see a post on any particular topic, now is your chance to request it.

See you tomorrow- wheeee!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A Birthday Picnic

Lila turned ONE just a few weeks ago, as did her little buddy Nico, the son of our friends just a few doors down. The two babies have been friends since even before they were born; Nico's mama and I went on post-dinner walks together when we were pregnant. The babies were born only a week apart and we all thought it would be fun to have a joint first birthday party for them. That way we could share the fun while splitting the work.

There seems to be a trend with birthday parties having a theme- jungle, princess, cowboy and so on. When the subject of the birthday party would come up, people (even my mother) asked me what the theme would be- and I was flummoxed. The theme is "birthday", I told them. Balloons, cake- isn't there already a theme to a birthday party? Now, I have to acknowledge that some parents go to great lengths to throw fabulous themed parties. I took Lila to a "Very Hungry Caterpillar" birthday party recently and it was super cute. But it is all too much work for me.

In the end, we figured Lila and Nico would each have about 20 guests, and there's no way 40+ people could be jammed into either of our apartments even with creative rearrangement of furniture, so we rented a pavilion in a local park and hosted the party outdoors. So our party ended up having a theme after all: PICNIC!

The Venue
Having a late September birthday at a park was very exciting. When we were planning this, I was worried about the weather and kept asking Nico's mum to discuss a rain plan. She waved me away saying "You're such a pessimist. Think positive- we're going to have great weather". Later, her husband told me that they had an outdoor wedding and she didn't have a rain plan even then! Well, I don't know what to say except that our party day turned out to be simply fantastic- it was a Goldilocks day- not too hot, not too cool, not too sunny, not too cloudy.

A beautiful park in St. Louis called Tower Grove Park has several historic pavilions; we rented one of them for our party.

The South Humboldt Pavilion, built in 1871.
Having a picnic takes care of the entertainment. We were surrounded by lush lawns. A few blankets were spread out so the crawling babies could have a safe place to play. The older kids ran around. Some of the grown ups played impromptu football games. We had beach balls and frisbees so everyone could run around and enjoy the park.

The Food
The menu was a diverse one. A portion of the food came from local restaurants- a large tray of samosas and a 5-foot Italian hero sandwich. The rest of the food was home made.

For appetizers, we served chips and vegetable sticks and several types of dips: creamy ranch dressing, sweet potato hummus, pimento cheese and a 3 layer dip with sour cream, refried pinto beans and guacamole. Of these, the sweet potato hummus was the biggest hit. Several people told me they loved it. I used this simple recipe, only sauteeing the sweet potato in a cast iron skillet instead of roasting it. It makes a huge batch!

Then there were the salads- pesto pasta salad overflowing with vegetables, Asian-inspired noodle salad with raw vegetables and a peanut almond dressing, a rice salad with corn and avocado, a potato and egg salad and a raw zucchini salad with parmesan shavings. Here are links to some of the salad recipes: pesto pasta salad, noodle salad, zucchini salad.

We had several types of cakes- tres leches cake, a chocolate sheet cake, lemon bliss cake and no-added-sugar date cupcakes. These were the cupcakes that the babies got to devour (and devour they did).

On one side, we set out some kid-friendly food in the form of cut up fruit, cheese cubes and mini crackers.

That was a lot of food and I'm happy to say that all of it was enjoyed and none wasted. When guests left, we invited them to take home food if they liked. We brought home leftovers to enjoy over the next few days. V's coworkers got lots of cake!

Party Favors 
We wanted guests to have a little something to take back home, and ended up making reusable sandwich bags (slight modification of the pattern in this tutorial) stuffed with sugar cookies. I started sewing the sandwich bags and it was so hard to get sewing done with Lila underfoot. Nico's maternal grandma rescued us- she came into town, took over the project and expertly hammered out 20+ bags in 2 days! This nice lady saved me from many hours of midnight sewing. The adorable cookies were made by Nico's aunt, a baker in Florida- butterflies for Lila and guitars for Nico.



All in all, it was a wonderful way to celebrate the babies and marvel at their first year, in the company of friends who we will miss dearly when we move away from this city in a couple of weeks. Both Lila and Nico enjoyed tumbling on the lawn, being passed around from guest to guest and at one point, they each snuck in a power nap too!

Since this was an afternoon celebration with food and friends, I'm sending it to Anita's Mad Tea Party. And since the deadline went by several days ago, at this point you can safely picture me as a dapperly dressed white rabbit rushing by with a pocket watch muttering, "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"...