How to Make Instant Pot Beef Smoore

Morning peoples! I meant to post this Sri Lankan beef smoore recipe on Saturday, because this Dutch-influenced dish is more of a Sunday roast sort of thing, but this weekend was VERY hectic for me, and I forgot. On the other hand, with so many folks working from home, maybe that’s less relevant than it used to be.

If you do it the old-school way, it’s long, slow cooking on the stovetop — with a slow cooker or Instant Pot, you can speed that up dramatically. Like most roasts, this is great for a luscious dinner, and the leftover slices makes fabulous sandwiches in the days after. It’s the sauce that really makes it spectacular. 

Link to the Instant Pot recipe at the YouTube site. The stovetop recipe is in my cookbook, A Feast of Serendib!

Gingered Pumpkin Spice Muffins

(30 minutes, makes about 24 small muffins)

With a little extra ginger bite and plenty of warm spices, these are terrific slathered with salted butter. Autumn in a muffin! I like baking these in Nordicware’s Autumn Delights cakelet pan for extra charm.

(My kids don’t love the candied ginger pieces, so feel free to skip those if you aren’t feeding ginger-lovers. They’ll still be yummy. You might want to up the sugar by 1/4 – 1/2 cup in that case.)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup jaggery or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 15 ounce can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 c. chopped candied ginger, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two small muffin pans with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour, or use liners).

2. Measure out flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl and whisk together.

3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined; stir in candied ginger.

4. Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

A Gentle Autumn

I was a nervous wreck before yesterday morning’s live TV thingie, and as a result, even though I’d gotten 7 hours of sleep the night before, was absolutely exhausted for the rest of the day.

I didn’t even try to work — I binge-watched Private Practice and lay on the couch or in bed all day. It’s a little shocking just how tired I was from only stress.

So I guess I wanted to note it, and put it out there as a reminder — the pandemic is stressful, e-learning with kids is stressful, the upcoming November election is stressful in America, and of course, many of us have other big stressors in our personal lives, aside from what’s happening globally.

It takes a toll on your body, on your physical health and capability, as well as mental health.

Go easy on yourselves, folks. Lower expectations where you can, for yourself and for those around you. We are still in the midst of a global disaster. If the e-learning is making everyone cry, take a break; it’ll be okay.

We could all use a gentle autumn.


(And hey, if you missed the TV thingie, I’ll link it here. It actually went pretty well, even if I did run out of time (and apparently they asked a question I couldn’t hear, so to be clear, you want unsweetened coconut for this!). I think I’d be less stressed if I get the chance to do this again — it was just a lot of firsts to cope with all at once, with new tech, etc.)

Free Pantry Update

Little free pantry update, and a request for help — I’ve been keeping an eye out it, and in the last few days, other people have contributed food items (thank you!), and two things have gone — peanut butter and canned tuna. I checked some lists of what food pantries are most in need of, and those are high on the list, so I’ve ordered some more, and we’re going to try to keep those in stock there; I’ll be adding canned chicken too.

Again, if you’re in a position to give funds, locally, Beyond Hunger is a great organization to donate to — they have far more reach than we do, and can buy in bulk and make your money go further. The main point of having a LFP is that it’s hyper-local, that we can try to take care of our immediate neighbors on surrounding blocks.

To that end, I want to add some flyers to our LFP telling them what other options are out there. Someone who’s just moved to the neighborhood might not know about Beyond Hunger, or about Oak Park Mutual Aid.

And while I know that some of the churches do food distribution, I don’t know any specifics. If you’re local, can you help me crowdsource a list of relevant local resources? Dropping relevant info in the comments would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Decorative Leaves

I pulled some greens from the garden to show examples of what else you could sambol — curly kale, dinosaur kale, rainbow chard — and of course, I now have kale sambol coming out of my ears, having made multiple versions of it for this morning’s TV thingie, so I decided that for now, these leaves can be decorative instead.

(We’ll probably still eat them tomorrow. )

I Survived Cooking on Live TV

Sunday brunch segment at WGN, our local station. Shout-out to Kavi who got up at 7 a.m. (very early for a teenager) to be my videographer, and who did TikTok dances behind the iPad to make me laugh and calm me down while I was waiting for them to start.

I am not sure I’ve ever been that nervous in my life — my hand was literally shaking when I started cutting the onion, and good thing I was prepping beforehand, so I could pause and steady myself. I’ve been on live TV a few times before — once for a town hall about sex and the internet, twenty+ years ago, and twice to talk about books on the summer reading segment on local TV.

So why so nervous this time? I think I’m not as confident about cooking as I am about books! I’m just a home cook, no culinary training, etc. But I think it basically went fine — I got in most of what I wanted to say, and I actually managed to cook a little too. But boy, 4 minutes goes REALLY fast.

Kavi’s even cleaning the kitchen for me now while I collapse on the couch. Best daughter.

(Addendum — I wore a kurta top I picked up at Selyn in Sri Lanka and my Sri Lankan 24K gold hoop earrings that my parents bought me when I was little, for good luck. Purple hair is Midnight Tanzanite by Splat! )

(And thanks to Pam Whitehead for building me a beautiful kitchen to cook in!)

Link to episode:…/wgn-weekend-…/sunday-brunch-kale-sambol/

Calm, Mary Anne. Calm

A little chaotic today, trying to prep for the TV show tomorrow (I’ll be on live TV, WGN’s Sunday Brunch segment, around 7:35 or so, teaching how to make kale sambol), while also attending ReconveneSFF convention (on a Wild Cards panel in a few hours), and also get the new 100 days challenge kicked off on my fitness group AND start a new writing accountability group, with a 100 days challenge too. It’ll all be fine, but it feels like a LOT of moving parts. 

Morning cooking was carrot and green bean curry, which I’m planning to have out on the counter tomorrow, as something you might include in a Sri Lankan meal, along with kale sambol.

Carrot curry was a staple of my early cooking and got me through a lot of grad school, sometimes alternated with green bean curry — at some point, I decided to try putting them together, since the cooking method is almost identical, and yup, I like it. 

Just cook the carrots for a while first, so they’re almost cooked through, then add the green beans and cook for a few minutes more. Yumyum.…/…/09/sri-lankan-carrot-curry/

Okay, going to go color my hair now, and then I need to prep the beef smoore, and test-run the actual video, and and and….well, we’ll see. One step at a time. Calm, Mary Anne. Calm.

What’s your Favorite Sandwich?

I need to go revise the last chapter of my novel and I’m in major procrastination mode. Here, I’m going to leave a question, turn off FB for an hour, and come back to your lovely responses. It’ll be a nice reward.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

Mine currently is a toasted open-face tomato and cheddar on multigrain, with honey mustard, salt and pepper. DAMN, I want one now.

I may have a different favorite tomorrow.