Saturday, November 8, 2008

Trader Joe's Punjab Spinach Sauce (to the rescue!)

I haven’t been around for a while, and can place the blame directly on our house and its never-ending need of maintenance. Again, since I mentioned this earlier in October when this fall-fix-up blitz began, if anyone out there has some romantic notion about restoring an old house, please talk to me first! Especially if you are in your mid-20’s and are under the impression that both your youth and energy are of endless supply. I was that person, but am much wiser now…

Our area was blessed with five consecutive days of unseasonably warm weather. Near 70 degrees in early November is unusual, and we took full advantage of it. Although our house is brick, the trim is wood and, no matter what brand/type of paint I buy, needs to be repainted every few years. However, with all of the painting I have done in these almost-25 years here I simply never get around to the front porch. This is not the main entrance to our house; it doesn’t even have a path or sidewalk access, so it has been ignored while I was kept busy with the windows and other parts of the house. The front porch is 2 story’s in height, with fancy spindles on both levels, as well as recessed panels and sidelights. There were over 140 years’ worth of paint accumulated, some had fallen off to the bare wood and the rest was cracked. The job was just so overwhelming that we put it off every year, and every fall wished that we hadn’t. This year was different. We just did it.

We completed the first level 2 weeks ago and, this past Monday morning I saw the weather forecast and suggested that we see if we could finish the second level. Some of the work had been done last year, and protected with plastic which recently tore and had to be removed.

This was taken on Thursday (sorry, our politics are showing!).
Yes, Jack is standing on a ladder with only one side supported.
He insisted that it was the only way he could get the angle which he needed to scrape paint from one area, and he since didn’t fall off and break a leg, I guess that it worked.

All week we scraped and burnt off the remaining paint layers, repaired cracked windowpanes and missing pieces, caulked the numerous areas where pieces has “moved” apart, sanded, primed, and added a layer of topcoat. Even though the spindles on this level are rotting and need to be replaced, it still looks beautiful! We do need another top-coat, but that can be done in the spring. And we finished with two hours to spare.

This has been a brutal week, though. We both have bruised, scraped, sore hands and many aches and pains as well. A cold front arrived last night (thankfully!) and brought high winds and rain. I had cleaned the kitchen after dinner then joined Jack in the living room where a book held my attention of a whole 15 minutes before I fell asleep until 11pm. We went to bed and, to illustrate how wiped out we were, Jack was awakened by the storm (because he was so achy that he wasn’t sleeping well) and I slept through it (because I was exhausted). Normally I am the light sleeper and he is definitely not.

The outdoor work is over for this year, yahoo!

Lunches this week became very quick meals. We didn’t want to spend too much time inside, since we had to quit working at 5 since the daylight hours are shorter now. A few times I was able to make extra for dinner the night before and recycle those meals, but we did have one outstanding lunch which took only 20 minutes and really hit the spot.

I have mentioned my love of Trader Joe’s Indian simmer sauces in previous posts and I shall reiterate that again here. A jar of TJ’s Punjab Spinach Simmer Sauce, a can of chickpeas, some veggies, and J's tandoori naan—a great meal in about 25 minutes, tops.

Here is what I did:

(If you want to serve rice instead of naan, start it first)

Prepare 1 cup cauliflower florets and ¾ cup diagonally sliced carrots

Bring ½ cup water to a boil in a large nonstick sauté pan and add the cauliflower and carrots. Cover and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes while you prepare:
1 cup diced onion and ¾ cup diced green pepper

Add to the pan and cook for 2 more minutes until cauliflower is almost tender.

(At this point, I started to preheat my toaster oven to 425F* for the naan.)

Add the spinach sauce and another ½ to ¾ cup of water (the directions on the jar call for a cup of water in addition to the sauce, but you will have some water still in the pan from steaming the veggies; make your own decision here). Add one 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (this is about 9 ounces of cooked chickpeas).

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

(About 3 minutes* before serving, heat the naan, if using.)

Serve with a large dollop of nonfat plain yogurt.

A sprinkling of chopped cilantro would have been good, but my plants froze last week...

The beauty of this kind of recipe is that almost any vegetable can be added (green beans, red bell pepper, peas, broccoli, etc.) and canned kidney beans or cooked lentils can be subbed for the chickpeas.

I steam the vegetables instead of sautéing because that eliminates any additional oil, and the cooking water is then used in the sauce so that more nutrients are retained.

*- About the naan-- I have found that, even though the naan instructions call for a 400F oven and about 2 minutes of baking time, my toaster oven needs a lightly higher temperature and a longer cooking time than my “regular” oven or the grill (which remains my favorite way to heat this particular bread).

Now, especially if it is served with rice, this could probably make at least 3, or possibly 4, servings. We ate it all. We were hungry!!!

I should be posting more regularly now that the outdoor fix-up blitz is over. :)


foodfly said...

About time you finished sanding, painting & caulking! What the heck took you so long? ;)

Vicci said...

Foodfly, the weather was too nice! And the guilt from having "played" much of the summer and having not done nearly the work on the house that we should have, well that added to it. But it's cold now, and I'm not sure whether to be happy or not... ;)