I know you've all been wondering ... where are the new posts from AHBL in my reader?
There have been a lot of reasons for my silence, but basically they come down to: repeat performances in the kitchen (lack of blog fodder), not much news to report (lack of blog fodder), feeling like I can't come up with interesting things to say (i.e. lack of blog fodder), too much time spent commenting on other people's blogs (and therefore less attention paid to my own blog), making baby food (not exactly blog fodder), and sick kid (anti-blog fodder). Oh yeah, and I actually finished reading a book cover to cover for the first time in a loooong time--and it wasn't even Goodnight Moon.
I also went to yoga this week for the first time in a few weeks (for more various reasons, including an out of town husband and a milk-demanding infant who had no regard for yoga schedules two weeks ago). It was good to be back; I really missed my teacher, and even though switching nights and times means that there will be chaos to get me out of the house on Thursdays in order to get to class on time, I'm willing to accept the fallout. As an added bonus, it's a mixed-level class, so there were some new asanas and more challenging variations--something I've been wanting anyway.
I love the way my teacher talks through the class, blending mythology with philosophy with contemporary life experience, sometimes reading to us, all the time adjusting our asanas, getting us to notice our own bodies. Her voice and the music and the movement through asana are all part of the seamless experience of her class. She makes teaching yoga look effortless.
If you're anything like me, you sometimes like to make simple things appear complicated. We end up looking good, we think, if it seems like we had to put more time and effort into something than it really cost us. But the real trick is to make something complicated and time-consuming appear easy.
One thing my teacher talked about this week is the balance between exertion and release in yoga: while we work to go deeper into our asanas, we also need to figure out what we can release--what muscles, what parts of our bodies, we are not using. And this got me thinking that maybe the secret to making something look effortless is to let go a little. Not necessarily not-caring, or even aspiring to mediocrity, but knowing how to work efficiently in order to achieve our goals. (For those Christians out there, that understanding is sort of like the Serenity Prayer: knowing what we need to accept, and what we need the courage to change.) I was running downhill today, thinking that while running downhill appears easy, there's quite a lot of effort that goes into making sure I don't fall flat on my face. It's a matter of figuring out what I need to tighten (muscles somewhere around my midsection), and what I can surrender to gravity. Once I get it right, it's almost like flying.
Biryani is a complicated dish that looks basically like a casserole, but it takes time and care to prepare, and for that reason, is actually one of the most popular menu items in Indian weddings. Don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients: most of them are spices anyway (and if you really can't find things like garam masala, just use the equivalent of good curry powder for all of the spices in the biryani section). And maybe while you're making it, you can let go of something that's not really as important as you thought it was, after all.
(this is good even on its own)
1 1/2 T. vegetable oil
2 med. onions, quartered and thinly sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods
2 allspice berries
1 1/2 c. basmati rice
3 1/2 to 4 c. water
3/4 t. turmeric or a pinch of saffron
1/3 c. raisins
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, allspice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and slightly golden, about 15 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 3 1/2 c. water, turmeric, and raisins. Cover and cook, gently bubbling (not boiling) 20-25 minutes. If the water boils out, add a little extra.
2 1/2 t. garam masala
1 1/2 t. turmeric
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 1/4 t. coriander
2 t. sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece ginger, minced
1 1/2 t. salt
1 c. plain (Greek) yogurt
1 1/2 c. peeled butternut squash or sweet potato, 1" cubes
2 c. cauliflower or broccoli, bite sized
1 1/4 c. sliced green beans
3/4 c. fresh or frozen peas
1 c. cooked brown lentils, chickpeas, or kidney beans
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1/2 c. water
3 T. toasted almonds for garnish
In a large bowl, combine spices through yogurt. Add vegetables and let stand 30-60 minutes.
Lightly grease a 2 1/2 to 3 quart baking dish and set aside. Prepare rice.
Preheat oven to 350. In a large saucepan over medium low heat, cook vegetable spice mixture, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Be careful that the yogurt doesn't burn!
Spread half the rice in the bottom of the prepared baking dish and top with beans/lentils. Cover with all of the vegetables. Layer remaining rice over vegetables. Insert broken bay leaves into rice.
Pour water into the baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 50-60 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Garnish with toasted almonds.