Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Growing Turmeric- 2 - Making Turmeric Powder At Home

Growing turmeric was an experiment I had tried and it turned out to be a success. I had written about it last year. It had been such a pleasure to see the plant bloom in 2017! Later in the year last summer, I had two patches of turmeric growing and to my delight, there were several flowers in each patch.

Turmeric Flower- young flower on the left and one blooming on the right

At one time, there were 7 flowers! 

Turmeric Flowers

I had used the leaves for some traditional recipes described here in my previous post. I had also added a small piece of the root in a spice mix.

However, I was told that making turmeric powder is an elaborate process and this underground stem or 'rhizome' needs to be treated a little before you can powder it. I had pushed this project to the back burner for a while. Yesterday, I wanted to chop some garlic. I noticed some of the garlic cloves were ready to grow leaves. I decided to put some in the soil. I do this every year (for the past three years) in the hope of growing garlic, but I have not been successful yet. I went outside and started to dig, and found a lot of turmeric rhizomes looking up at me!

Homegrown turmeric rhizomes

I dug out a handful of them.

Freshly dug out homegrown turmeric rhizomes

And I hosed them down. They cleaned up pretty nicely to reveal fresh, yellow growth.

Washed homegrown turmeric rhizomes

These rhizomes were then put in a pan with enough water to cover them. The water started to boil. I didn't really stand there fussing over them. Fresh turmeric aroma was filling up the room, but not in an overwhelming way. It was delightful!

Boiling homegrown turmeric rhizomes in water

The water slowly reduced. It took about 45-50 minutes for that to happen, and when there was only about 2-3 tablespoons of it left, I turned the gas off, and drained out the water.

Boiling homegrown turmeric rhizomes in water

I let the rhizomes cool a little.

Then I peeled them lightly. The bright yellow turmeric color was now on full display!

Drying Organic Turmeric - from homegrown rhizomes

The rhizomes were then chopped into little circles. These pieces can be air dried but it has been very wet lately, so I oven dried them. They went into the oven preheated to 175 deg F. A dehydrator will work great too, but I do not have one.

Drying Organic Turmeric- from homegrown rhizomes

The bits were dry after about a couple of hours in the oven, and they went into a coffee grinder after they were cool to the touch. The Vitamix dry grinding jar would have worked just fine, but since this was a trial run, I did not have enough material for the big jar.
I had to grind multiple times, sieving after each round.

Grinding Organic Turmeric powder- from homegrown rhizomes

Ta-da!!! Here it is! Freshly ground organic homegrown turmeric!!! I am now going to dig up more rhizomes and make some more! Do share if you found this post helpful, and how your experience went with this gratifying process!

Organic Turmeric powder- from homegrown rhizomes

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Pencil Drawings

It was by accident that I discovered the joy of pencil drawing. Here are a few of the drawings I have done in the past three months. I would appreciate feedback.
This one of Half Dome from Yosemite is my most recent endeavor. More about it at the end of this post. 

Pencil Drawing - Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite

A friend needed this sketch to be drawn for an important event in her family. She called to ask if I would do it for her. I was skeptical and confessed to her that drawing faces was a very challenging task for me and that I would end up ruining it. She was persistent and very encouraging, she insisted she had a plan B in place in case this attempt did not work out.
Very hesitantly, I started out. She wanted it on canvas, and erasing lines on canvas wasn't easy. Slowly, it began to take shape, and very soon, I realized I was enjoying it immensely!
This was the result, Krishna with a flute. My friend was very pleased with the drawing and thanked me profusely. What she did not realize was that she had opened a door for me that I never knew existed! I shall forever be grateful to her for coaxing me into trying something new.

Pencil Drawing- Krishna with flute- on canvas

I was bitten by the bug of pencil drawing. I had a couple of extra canvases. I decided to turn to YouTube to check out tutorial videos. This lighthouse was from one such video. YouTube is such a great resource to learn new skills. I thank the artist for uploading such a fabulous video.  
I found this process of drawing so meditative! 

Pencil Drawing- Lighthouse

Lighthouses are very dear to me. I have written about 20 of them earlier on this blog here, here, and here. This one below was a picture I found of the internet. It is a beautiful lighthouse at Kovalam, in the state of Kerala in India. This canvas was to be a gift to someone from India, so I chose this lighthouse. Again, it was a very enjoyable experience figuring out how to adapt the technique to reproduce a photograph.
At about this time, an artist friend told me that generally, pencils are not used on canvas. As much as I had enjoyed doing these drawings, I decided to buy some drawing paper from the art store. Michaels, here I come!

Pencil Drawing- Lighthouse at Kovalam, Kerala, India

The Bass Harbor Lighthouse at Acadia National Park in Maine, was my first drawing on paper, and what a difference it made, in the ease of execution. This drawing is again from a photo I had taken, and I see there is room for improvement when I take this one on again.

Pencil Drawing- Bass Harbor Lighthouse at Acadia National Park, Maine

This historic landmark from Goa, India- Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church at Panaji, was my next project. Growing up in the city of Panaji makes this monument a dear subject and I thoroughly enjoyed working on this one. I have learned so much from every one of these drawings.

Pencil Drawing- Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Goa, India

After drawing buildings for a while, I decided to take another look at YouTube tutorials for pencil drawings, and found this beautiful beach front drawing tutorial. It was such a pleasure to learn new techniques, and managing to get some of the effects explained in the tutorials that I was seeking to bring into my work. Thanks to these wonderful artists for sharing their knowledge!

Pencil Drawing- Beach front

Another historic place of worship from Goa, India is the Shri. Shantadurga temple, Kavle, Goa. These old temples have a beautiful structure called 'Deep Mal (दीप माळ)' or 'Deep Stambh (दीप स्तंभ)' or 'Pillar of Lights', in the courtyard in front of the main temple. They are illuminated on special occasions and are fascinating architectural elements. This drawing is from a photograph I took when I visited, and shows the water tank in the foreground, with a Tulasi vrindavan in it.

Pencil Drawing- Shri Shantadurga Temple, Kavle, Goa, India

As I move back and forth between architectural stunners and natural ones, Yosemite cannot be left behind. I was mesmerized by the granite wonders at the valley and had written about them here
Here is Half Dome as seen from Glacier Point. This majestic structure and Clouds Rest right behind it (the name does not disappoint, clouds are almost always around it), just beckoned me to try drawing them. The clouds in the picture may seem dramatic, but they are just like this in the photograph I took a couple of years ago. 

These are my attempts at pencil drawing in the last three months. It was one of the those art forms that I had previously decided was too hard for me to pursue. There is truth to that adage about not dismissing anything without trying your hand at it. With each of them, I learn something new, and each one of them has given me immense joy. I guess that is the essence of any art form, enjoying the journey.  

Pencil Drawing - Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Almond Jalapeño Crackers

Almond Jalapeño Crackers- with Guacamole- Gluten free snack

We love the gluten free almond crackers they sell at Costco, and I was buying a box every week to snack on. I soon realized that the price was pretty steep and wondered if I could make the crackers at home. Today, as I was passing through the snacks aisle, I saw jalapeño chips, and that brought on a craving I thought I had forgotten about. So when I got home, I decided to look up recipes of vegan almond crackers. Lots of amazing people have shared fabulous recipes with varying degrees of tweaks. I decided to add my own tweak to it. I got a fresh Jalapeño pepper growing in my kitchen garden and chopped it fine. 

Mine is not a food blog, so the presentation is a little different. However, you will find all the necessary details you need if you decide to try out this recipe.  

Almond Flour (Fine)- I cup
Flaxseed meal- 1 tablespoon
Sea Salt- 1/2 teaspoon
Olive Oil- 1 tablespoon
Fresh Jalapeño- chopped fine

Water- 3 tablespoons

The oven was preheated to 350 degrees.

Almond Jalapeño Crackers- Ingredients

The ingredients were mixed together to form a ball of dough, which was placed between two pieces of parchment paper, and rolled with a rolling pin. I have never done this before using parchment paper, and the shape turned out a little different than what I intended.

Almond Jalapeño Crackers- Dough rolled out

Using a pizza cutter to cut the flattened dough into squares, the parchment was placed on a tray and it went into the oven for about 17 minutes.
Once the color had turned to a light brown, the tray came out onto a cooling rack.

Almond Jalapeño Crackers- Fresh out of the oven

Today, we had homemade almond crackers with a Jalapeño flavor, and homemade guacamole to go with it. It was a delicious crispy snack!
Note- The jalapeño only added a mild flavor, some zing, it did not make the crackers spicy.

Tips for next time, I can roll the dough out thinner, and I can add garlic and fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or chives for additional flavor.

Almond Jalapeño Crackers- with Guacamole- Great crispy snack

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Growing Turmeric

About three years ago, someone gave me turmeric rhizomes. I decided to try growing the plant, so I dug up some soil in the raised beds I had recently built, and placed the rhizomes horizontally and lightly covered them with dirt. Soon enough, I had fresh green leaves growing.

Young Turmeric Plant emerging from Rhizome

Young Turmeric Plant

They grew to a height of about two feet and died back with the first freeze.

In Spring, out came the shoots again. I had dug up some root at that point, and had used it in a spice mix.
The lush green leaves are used as a flavoring agent in South Asian cuisine. 

Turmeric Leaf

This is a traditional dish called Patolya. Rice flour dough is spread out flat on turmeric leaves, a sweetened fresh coconut filling is added and the leaf is folded. It is then steamed. That infuses the dish with a distinct aroma.

Turmeric Leaf - Patolya/ Patoleo

They can also be used as a wrap around rice flour dumplings with a variety of fillings. Traditionally, the filling sweetened fresh coconut. This rice flour gets a lot more pliable if you add a little all purpose flour to it, but I prefer to not use it and keep this dish gluten free. These are called Modaks, and are often made without using turmeric leaves.

The dumplings are then steamed.

A wide variety of other uses of Turmeric leaves include flavoring a popular traditional pudding made with Bovine Colostrum, called Kharvas. The leaves can also be used to wrap marinated fresh fish, then baking the fish, giving it a heavenly flavor.

Last year, after Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast, we had a lot of rain during three days, more than anybody ever wanted. It created havoc in so many communities. After it had passed, I went out to check on how my plants had fared. I lost some, some had thrived, and the turmeric had actually flowered! It was a surprise. I had written this at the time to describe how I felt.

"Amidst constant reminders of how the community and neighborhood are inching their way to clean up the mess Harvey left behind- people tearing sheetrock, pulling carpets, some utilities still under water and not running to capacity, it is hard to be upbeat with what you see around you. Then you see scores of volunteers stepping up to help in numerous ways I'd have never imagined. There are guys with trucks who are working all day transporting people to their homes whose streets are still flooded. Others are handing out water and snacks/ lunches. My husband helped muck a colleague's home, and he said it was overwhelming to tear down something put together so lovingly. My son offered on his own to volunteer, and helped some ladies put cleaning supplies together for those who needed them. It's heartening to see everyone do their bit.
This morning I stepped out into the backyard to assess how many of my plants had succumbed to the storm, several had. Then, in the corner, hidden among the big turmeric leaves was this! My first turmeric bloom! Silently reassuring!
'Umeed pe duniya kaayam hai'- Ghalib
-The world thrives on HOPE!"

Turmeric Plant with Flower- Inflorescence

Turmeric Flower- Inflorescence

This year, we had a lot of rain in the first week of July, but I had not expected to see this surprise. Here it was, once again, exuding infinite charm in a quiet corner!

Turmeric Flower- young

In a couple of days, yellow flowers emerged from the lower part of the inflorescence. It is so beautiful!

Turmeric Flower- Inflorescence

Friday, June 22, 2018

Summer Solstice- 2- Artistic Pursuits

In the past few years, my artistic endeavors have usually happened on a sudden whim in the latter half of the year. Sometimes, the idea has been in the head for even up to a couple of years, and I suddenly happen to find the perfect materials I need for my project. That spurs me into action. These things hardly happen when its cold outside at the beginning of the year.
This year, winter was packing a punch. It was cold, as cold as the Gulf Coast can get. Instead of just bundling up and making plans in the head, I luckily chanced upon a book while on a quick visit to the craft store. It was called Zentangles. I liked what I saw and then found a whole lot of videos on YouTube explaining the concept. I was obviously late to the party and people had been on this bandwagon for a few years now. Nevertheless, I found this to be an exciting discovery. The play of lines and geometric patterns, shading and colors, it was a lot of fun to explore how this genre of art is presented.
I made a frame using the Celtic knot and found it to be so meditative and therapeutic!

Zentangle Celtic Knot frame meditative drawing Sharpie art

This Phicops pattern below reminded me of Foraminifera shells I used to learn about and got a chance to sort, while studying geological oceanography for one semester. One found such intricate designs in what otherwise seemed like grains of sand. While I was at it, I began to realize that pencils were a very interesting medium when you wanted to give a three dimensional effect to a drawing. 

Phicops- Zentangle

Another variation of the Phicops.

Phicops- Zentangle- variation

At about this time, I found a lot of doodling designs. People are so gifted, and so versatile! I decided to try one with my favorite animal, the dolphin. Henna style patterns filled in the shape. I used a gel pen for this small trial in my book.

Doodling Henna Design Dolphin and Baby- meditative art

You will notice that I may have given up Marine Science as a profession a long time ago, but some of it still remains within my being.

This was another random design of a silken cord that I really enjoyed drawing.

Zentangle- Silk cord

At about this time, I was looking for something to gift to some close friends. I hoped this family would like it if I made a custom pieces of art for them. I ended up making two pieces. 
As classical music buffs, I thought they would appreciate an instrument they were learning to play. How I wanted to do this was debated for over two weeks. I might still work on my initial design idea I had in my head! Tune in in a few months to see if I did!
For these two pieces, I used canvas. The canvas was first spray painted with a deep blue paint. Then, acrylic paint and embossed fabric paint was used.

Tablas- Fabric paint Musical instrument art on canvas

My friend being a fashionista of sorts, I figured that my depiction of her passion would be admired. This would be art for her closet!
Here again, I used embossed fabric paint to give depth.  

Jewelry and Accessories -Fabric Paint Art on Canvas- Doodling, Endless Knot motif

Closeups of the two main designs are posted below. I used an endless knot motif on the handbag. It was very reminiscent of the Celtic knot I had done earlier.

Handbag/ Accessories -Fabric Paint Art on Canvas- Endless Knot motif

I used doodling design elements for the necklace. Finding turquoise fabric paint to give a bead like feel in this jewelry was very enjoyable as an artist.

Indian Jewelry design- -Fabric Paint Art on Canvas- Doodling

These are a few pieces I made until the end of March. Going forward, there are so many inspiring art forms that I have begun to explore. More on those later. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Solstice- 1 -Gardening update

Writing has not been prioritized lately.  A whole lot of ideas for posts lie unused in my head. Today being the longest day of the year, I decided to brush aside the lethargy and get down to business. This post is in two parts and will be a mosaic of some facets of my life that have found prominence in the past six months. The first part is an update on the gardening front.

Winter this year dragged on for longer than usual. Spring was kind of long too, and suddenly in May, it felt like July. The plants were confused. Some of my regular plants did not do well. Fewer sunflowers sprouted from seeds, some other seedlings died, and tomatoes were the biggest failure. It's the first time in 5 years that we had no cherry tomatoes to snack on.

Some others did well though. It was my first time growing Kohlrabi. I had bought two plants at the local county plant fair and sale. They did pretty well, considering I had forgotten they were growing in one corner.

Purple Kohlrabi

Cilantro volunteers grew in several places in the yard, even in the lawn!


It was great garnishing several dishes with fresh cilantro, including this stir-fried kohlrabi, sauteed with some olive oil and cumin seeds. 

Purple Kohlrabi- stir fry

Carrots were planted later than usual but they enjoyed the longer period of cooler temperatures until the end of April. I could harvest them about four times all through April.

Home Grown Carrots

I had also got Arugula plants from the county sale. They grew nicely and finally bolted. The flowers turned into pods. I have collected seeds to plant later in the fall.

Arugula flowers going to seed

Collard greens was another one I was growing for the first time. Peeking from behind it are a few leaves of red mustard.

Collard greens

Sunflowers are always such a pleasure to have growing in the yard. They are happy flowers! A bee with pollen all over the legs, doing its job in the greater scheme of things.

Bee on Sunflower

Mushrooms growing among day lilies and Nasturtiums after a soaking shower.

Mushrooms growing after summer showers

Romaine lettuce is still producing seeds. I will collect them for next year. These wind-pollinated seeds are so beautiful!

Romaine lettuce seeds

Eggplants are all volunteers in the yard this year. I am yet to ascertain what kind they are.

The Cardinal Climber- I love the leaves and flowers of this vine. Hopefully they will last until fall. Hummingbirds are supposed to love them, and I can confirm that only in September.

Cardinal Climber

Speaking of which, the Northern Cardinal continues to visit often. I think their nest is somewhere nearby, the pair is often in our yard together.

Northern Cardinal

The House Finch is also a regular visitor.

House Finch

They seem to love the Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, and native Salvia flowers/seeds.

House Finches on Thai basil

American Robins visit often. They love the bird bath. 

American Robin

I had bought a Chamomile plant at the county fair back in December. It showed a lot of vegetative growth for a while, and has only just begun to flower.

Chamomile flowers

I want to collect the flowers, dry them and use them to make tea. Their calming effect is known, and coupled with Lemon Balm, it should make an interesting herbal supplement when needed. 

This bounty is from today. It rained a lot these last couple of days. I found two purple bell peppers, some green peppers, and decided to bring some lemon balm leaves to make some tea. The tea promises to soothe!

Bounty from the garden- Purple Bell Peppers, Green Peppers, Calming tea Ingredients- Lemon Balm leaves and Chamomile flowers