Ginger Garlic Chicken with Chickpeas and Peas

We’re not vegetarian, but we’re trying to be more ‘lessertarian’ these days, for a variety of reasons. Anand is tender-hearted, and would rather be vegetarian if he could bring himself to give up meat. It’s clearly better for the planet if we eat more plant-based, and it’s generally healthier too.

But it’s going to be a process in our household getting there, as the kids aren’t used to eating beans and chickpeas and the like, and of course, I really like and cook with meat all the time. So, a compromise — we’re starting with trying to incorporate more vegetables and beans into our meat dishes, which I think of as Mediterranean-style. We’re aiming towards Meatless Mondays within a few months, but it’ll help a lot if they start actually liking beans! (I have some sympathy, as I didn’t start liking beans until I encountered Ethiopian food in my 20s. Then I fell in love with them. Yemisir wat, shiro, yum.)

This dish was a success on the flavors front — I took our standard ginger-garlic chicken that the kids love, added a cup of canned chickpeas (it would’ve been better texture with soaking dry chickpeas overnight, but I was also aiming for easy dinner on a week night with no planning ahead) partway through.

I added some peas at the end, to bump up the vitamins and fiber a bit, which were pretty and tasty, but got mushy on sitting, which is not ideal, esp. as Kavi already doesn’t like cooked peas. Next time I try this, I might try this with kale or spinach, though the kids are even less likely to like those.

I really liked the dish as it came out, and though I had mine with some toasted ancient grain naan (which Whole Foods carries now, which kind of bewilders me, but okay), if you served this with rice, it’d be a great gluten-free dinner option. Or you can skip the starch entirely — it’s on the salty side, though, so something to cut that would be nice. The kids had theirs with lots of raw bell pepper, which is one of their favorite veg.

Anand ate the chickpeas (though he preferred the chicken). Kavi tried one chickpea and refused to eat the rest; I didn’t push her, because she gets very distressed when forced to eat food she doesn’t like, and no one wants a sad Kavi.


But I think we’ll make this with the chickpeas from now on, with the hopes that if she tries one or two every time, she’ll eventually get used to them, and even start to like them. That’s generally how it works with her — it’s just a slow, slow process. Patience is key to changing food habits around here!

Will have the recipe in the new Gluten-Free Serendib ebook going out to Kickstarter backers, but here it is, just for you!


Ginger-Garlic Chicken with Chickpeas and Peas
(90 minutes, serves 6-8)

1 heaping tsp ginger powder
1 heaping tsp garlic powder
1 heaping tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
12 chicken thighs, about 2 lbs., deboned and cut bite-size
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 to 2 heaping tsp red chili powder (to taste, optional)
1 c. canned chickpeas, drained (or dry chickpeas, soaked overnight)
1/2 c. frozen peas

1. Mix first four spices in a large bowl; add chicken pieces and rub with your hands until well coated. Marinate 1/2 hour

2. Heat oil on high; add chili powder (if using) and cook 15 seconds, stirring.

3. Add chicken and sear on high, turning to brown all sides.

4. Reduce heat to low, add chickpeas, and cover; cook approximately 15-20 minutes, until meat is cooked through.

5. Uncover and cook until all the liquid is gone. Stir in frozen peas and cook a minute or two more.

6. Tilt pan and push chicken pieces to one side; allow excess oil to drain to one side for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to dish and serve hot.


Final Thoughts on Croissants

Croissant dough looks like marble.  Lovely veining.

Triangles. I don’t know who figured out that croissants would look pretty if you made triangles and rolled them up, but good call, yo.

These actually look exactly like the Pillsbury crescent rolls that I usually make, but they are, in fact, baker’s croissants, that I made with my own two little hands and lots and lots and lots of butter.

Pretty pretty croissants. Some of them do look a little thick; I could’ve rolled them more evenly. But they will taste good regardless.

The kids wanted to try the croissants before bedtime last night, so even though they hadn’t had time to rise, and I hadn’t had a chance to brush them with egg, I tossed a few in the toaster oven. Just as well I did, because the temp suggested (425 for 15 minutes, drop to 350 for 10-15) was too high for my oven — these burnt just a bit. Without rising, they were pretty dense too!

The kids ate¬†them anyway, but a) protested the dark chocolate in some of them, and b) like the Pillsbury crescent rolls better. I promised to make them some of those today, stuffed with apple and cheddar, and some milk chocolate ones too, once I pick up some milk chocolate. I think Kavi and Anand felt quite sorry for Mommy after all the work they’d seen me putting into these; they were very apologetic about not finishing their croissants!

This batch had enough time to rise properly. Now that’s a better color. Please note the literal POOL OF BUTTER.

Lamination, baby. Eat that, Paul Hollywood!

Kevin looked at the recipe, and says that I managed to get 81 layers in there. Roll out, fold into thirds (3 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (9 layers), chill, roll out, fold into thirds (27 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (81 layers).

It doesn’t look like 81 layers, but it’s certainly a lot of layers.

Look, I’m not saying I’d win the technical challenge, as these are not PERFECTLY the same size, but for a first pass at croissants, they’re not terrible. I wouldn’t be embarassed to have these at my station for the judging. I lowered the heat to 400 for the first 15 minutes, 350 for the next 15, which I think is about right for my oven.

(And I think the bigger ones at the bottom are stuffed with chocolate and cheese, respectively, in my defense.)

Final croissant-making notes — they’re good, but not perfect. The exterior is MUCH flakier than a Pillsbury crescent roll, which makes them somewhat messy to eat, but quite satisfying — I believe the King Arthur flour recipe described these as ‘shatteringly crisp,’ which is about right.

The interior is rich and buttery and I did very happily just eat an entire croissant. But my complaint is that they did not come out as light and airy as the ones I ate in Paris, or at L√©a, the French cafe two blocks away from me. Kev and I spent a while trying to diagnose what went wrong, and I’m not sure I’ve convinced him, but I *think* I overworked the dough.

When I first started mixing it, I mixed it in the stand mixer with a dough hook, and it wasn’t coming together well, so then I turned it out and started kneading it, but after five minutes of kneading, it still wasn’t holding together, so then I added a little water and it finally came together, and then I kneaded it some more. I think all of that probably doubled the working time on it (from 5 minutes to 10 minutes) and made it tougher than it should’ve been.

And then THAT may have led to it being SO HARD to roll them out. I mean, I was seriously feeling like a wimp — after two turns and roll outs, both times, I broke a sweat and felt a little shaky, even though I was working in a cool kitchen. If the dough was tougher than it was meant to be, maybe it made rolling out harder than it should’ve been?

I hope so, because that is the ONLY possibility that makes me even think about attempting these again some day. And even so, if I do them again, I plan to have Kevin ready and waiting to help with the roll outs, in case that wasn’t the issue, and the dough is just normally that difficult to roll.

Ah well. All that said, I have several croissants to eat and feed people in the next day or two, and they are yummy, and I have half a batch of rolled out dough in the freezer, and in a few weeks (after the intense rush of finishing all the sweet & curry powder prep for the Kickstarter ship out of Feast), I’ll pull it out and experiment with some Sri Lankan-inspired fillings for croissants. Suggestions welcome! My first thought was seeni sambol, but that actually seems like it’d be too much oil in a croissant. Passionfruit chocolate, though….

As for whether I’ll ever make croissants from scratch again — we’ll see! Thanks (?) to¬†Pooja Makhijani, food inspiration, for the challenge.¬†


The first batch of roasted curry powder for Kickstarter fulfillment

So, I finally ground the first batch of roasted curry powder, and then did the calculations as to how many batches I’ll need to do for Kickstarter fulfillment. To send out 128 packets of 4 oz. each, it turns out that I need to do 100 batches. Eep.

I can do them roughly 10 batches at a time (that’s the max my big pan will hold), with about an hour each for roasting and grinding (grinding would be faster, but I need to let the grinder rest between cups, so I don’t burn out¬†the mechanism). So 20 hours of roasting & grinding await in the next 10 days. Packing party on 10/30, with shipping starting on Halloween.

I think it’s time for Kevin, Kavya, and Anand to learn how to make Amma’s curry powder…

Also, my hair, sweater, house are going to be PERMEATED with curry powder scent by the end of this 10-day stretch. Good thing it’s such a DELICIOUS scent.

Layers of flaky, buttery pastry

I came home from teaching thinking I’d knock out the croissant lamination, no problem. Well, first off, it turned out I hadn’t made my dough square quite large or square enough. So I took the butter square off to try again. More rolling.

Second roll got it square enough, so I put the diamond of butter inside the square, folded over the triangles (like making an envelope), and pinched them sealed. Easy-peasy. Next — flipping it over and rolling it until it measured 10″ x 20″. I have to admit, having looked at the rest of the recipe by this point and seeing just how often it asked for measurements, I caved and went down to the basement to get a ruler. [shakes fist at the French] It took a while, and my shoulder muscles had started to ache, but I did it, finally. 10″ x 20″, achieved.

Next step, fold it over in thirds, like a business letter. No problem. Flip and turn and…roll it out to 10″ x 20″ again? Okay, I can do that. It went a little easier this time, as the dough wasn’t quite as chilled, but I feel like a wimp admitting that I was super-tired by the end of this roll. I think I still have some sort of stupid lingering cold, as I have been weirdly exhausted for much of the last week (weeks?).

I did the roll out, folded it in thirds again, wrapped it and put it back in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes, sat down on the couch to look at the recipe again. Two MORE turns and rolls? Seriously? How many layers of flaky, buttery pastry does one person need?

ALL. I need ALL the layers. But I acknowledged that I had hit the point of tiredness where this was starting to be no longer fun, and there is no point in this kind of nonsense unless you are also having fun, so I paused for the night. Croissant-finishing would have to wait another day. Instead, I took myself to bed with a few episodes of dumb interior design TV and called it a night.


Croissant-making hurdle #1 — Kevin insists that the brewer’s yeast he has on hand will work just fine in bread-making, and that that jar of active dry yeast we have is very old and I shouldn’t risk it. I trust my husband, right? Right. Onwards.

Croissants, next step. So far, so good. Mix eggs, warm water, flour, sugar, yeast. This is totally within my power. I am a baking god.

Croissants, step 3. I let the frozen butter sit for about an hour, so it was no longer hard as a rock, but still cool to the touch. Sliced and into the mixing bowl. Is that enough butter for ya?

Croissants, next step. Mix butter with salt and flour in a stand mixer. Um, I used the dough hook (think maybe the paddle attachment would’ve been better), and ended up having to do a lot of shoving butter down towards the center with a spatula, which I don’t remember ever seeing them do on GBBO; am starting to question my baking god qualifications.

Still, looks all right?

8 inch square of butter mixed with flour. When we say 8 inches, we mean that I held up a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and eyeballed it from there, because I don’t actually keep a ruler in my kitchen because I am not as obsessive as the French, and I am also too lazy to go down to my craft table in the basement and get one. But that looks vaguely right, I think. Into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Ha ha ha! You thought we surely had ENOUGH butter with the pound of butter that we just sliced up. Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you have to melt MORE butter and pour it over the ‘sponge’ as they call it. MOAR BUTTER.

Um. This seems very dry. And crumbly. I’m supposed to have it come together into a dough, and then knead five minutes, adding a little four if it’s too too sticky at that point. It is not too too sticky at that point. It is super-dry at that point, and has still not come together into a dough. Also, my arms are aching from five minutes of kneading because I made the mistake of doing it up on¬†the island instead of the kitchen table, so I don’t have as good an angle as I could have and also, I almost never make bread and am really out of practice with the whole kneading thing.

I gingerly add some warm water (about 1/4 c.), fearing disaster, as this is NOT in the instructions. And that was too much — the dough finally comes together, but now it’s decidedly sticky, sigh. Should’ve been more conservative, tried a T or two instead. GAH.

(No photo of the sticky portion, as my hands were covered in goop. As it was, my phone was getting a little more flour-y than was perhaps wise, but seems to have survived, whew.)

Okay. I think I salvaged it. A few more T of flour, and it came together into a reasonable dough, and it’s now shaped into a 9″ square (and yes, I eyeballed this one too, what kind of obsessive baker do you think I am? (There is a reason I’m more of a cook than a baker. Precision is NOT my thing.)), wrapped, and delivered safely into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Just one problem; in 15¬†minutes, I’m supposed to be across town at¬†Oak Park Works, teaching publishing and writing for the next 3 hours. So I’m going to go do that, and hope that an extra 3+ hours of chilling doesn’t hurt either the butter or the dough. It’ll be fine, right? And when I get home, experiments in lamination — hopefully my sore arm muscles will have recovered by then.

(This may be the most elaborate thing I’ve ever baked. Are flaky, buttery layers worth it? Hmm….)

Croissant-making challenge, and passionfruit marshmallows

In theory, I’ve agreed to join¬†Pooja Makhijani’s croissant-making challenge this weekend. She suggested I plan to laminate my dough on Saturday and shape and bake on Sunday.

That would’ve been wise, I’m sure, but yesterday I actually made two batches of passionfruit marshmallows and one of milk toffee, in preparation for shipping out Feast with Kickstarter goodies (also so I could take some milk toffee to¬†Madhurima’s Diwali party last night, where it was honestly entirely¬†unnecessary because she made a massive amount of delicious food including homemade chai and mango ice creams, and yes, I’ve told Kevin that he should seriously consider an ice cream maker for my Christmas present this year).

Anyway, I am just now about to even look at the recipe Pooja sent me, so this is likely to be a disaster, esp. as I have never even attempted croissants before. But onwards unto the breach, dear friends! Disastrous croissants await.

(I mean, how bad could they be, really? With all that butter….)


Bonus: my kitchen smells amazing.

I mostly have masses of computer work to do these days, but the volume of it has slowed down just enough that I can start intercutting it with other things, which is a) less stressful, b) better for my back, and c) fun.

Send twenty zillion organizational e-mails? Interesting and productive, but not especially fun. Roasting twenty zillion bags of spices to make all the Kickstarter curry powder for Feast? I suppose it’s less interesting, in some sense, and I wouldn’t want to do it all the time. But it’s a lovely break from the computer work.

Bonus: now my kitchen smells amazing.

Reminder that I’m teaching writing classes locally

Quick reminder that I’m teaching writing classes locally this coming week through Maram at¬†Oak Park Works¬†— it’s rare for me to teach outside of the university, so this is a great opportunity to dip your toe in, if you’ve been thinking of trying some writing. I’m teaching with¬†Alec Nevala-Lee, and we’re offering some intro to fiction / nonfiction classes, along with some writing coaching sessions (2 left).

Class prices are significantly discounted from normal (due to my birthday fund drive on Facebook — thanks, folks!), and we also have scholarships available; just ask if you could use one, please! It’s also a great opportunity to check out this new co-working space!

Instructor Bios:

Mary Anne Mohanraj has published over a dozen books with big presses (HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin) and small presses, and has even indie-published a few books too. She’s run multiple successful Kickstarter and Indiegogo arts campaigns. Learn more at¬†

Alec Nevala-Lee is a novelist and freelance writer who has sold over a dozen stories to the magazine Analog Science Fiction and Fact. His group biography Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (HarperCollins) was recently named one of the best books of 2018 by the Economist. Three of his suspense novels have been published by Penguin, and he contributes occasionally to the New York Times Book Review.


Sunday 10/20:

9 – 10:30 — INTRO TO FICTION: LANGUAGE & STYLE: Writers of all levels welcome for a workshop focusing on language & style, with a focus on inventiveness, creativity stimulation, and fun (poets also welcome for this one). Instructor: Mary Anne Mohanraj, $30 (limit 12)

11 – 12:30 — INTRO TO FICTION: CHARACTERS, with a focus on exploring various aspects of identity. Instructor: Mary Anne Mohanraj, $30 (limit 12)

1 – 2:30 — INTRO TO FICTION: PLOT & STRUCTURE. Instructor, Alec Nevala-Lee, $30 (limit 12)

3 – 4:30 — PUBLISHING OVERVIEW: INDIE AND TRADITIONAL — a review of the current state of affairs of both traditional and independent publishing, from big presses to small presses to hybrid & self-publishing, including crowdfunded. We’ll look at what your options are for short fiction, essays, and novels, with a discussion of why you might want to choose one approach or another for a given project, and what are some effective steps towards your publishing goals. Instructor: Mary Anne Mohanraj, $30 (limit 25)

25 minute COACHING SESSIONS (4 available)
We can discuss any aspect of writing / publishing that you’d like. I’d love to help talk through areas where you might be stuck, advise on further study (classes, retreats and residencies, MFAs, etc.), discuss publishing options, answer questions about agents, etc. and so on.
Instructor: Mary Anne Mohanraj, $30 each, limit 1

6 – 6:30 — Coaching Session #3

6:30 – 7 — Coaching Session #4



Monday 10/21:


An overview of the process, from collecting family recipes (and navigating family politics), researching and developing your own recipes, deciding how you plan to share / publish the recipes, reviewing various publication options; snacks will be provided, and Mary Anne will have some of her cookbooks available for purchase.

Instructor: Mary Anne Mohanraj, FREE, but registration required (limit 25)


We’ll use prompts to explore different types of nonfiction writing, from food to travel to memoir to reported articles, and will celebrate and critique each others’ efforts.

Instructor: Mary Anne Mohanraj, $30 (limit 15)


HOW TO WRITE A COOKBOOK: Saturday 10/26, 12 – 1:30 p.m.

An overview of the process, from collecting family recipes (and navigating family politics), researching and developing your own recipes, deciding how you plan to share / publish the recipes, reviewing various publication options; snacks will be provided, and Mary Anne will have some of her cookbooks available for purchase.

Instructor: Mary Anne Mohanraj, FREE, but registration required (limit 25)

These women.

These women. Cee Gee came over and told me all kinds of things about fundraising that I didn’t know (Carollina, you need to meet her sometime soon re: Maram), and Karen Murphy has agreed to take on Managing Director of the SLF (!!!), and Stephanie Bailey is here right now opening Feast boxes to make sure we have enough books for shipping, after first making me go through my task list and take actual note of what is urgent, as in must-do-right-now-MA, and don’t-you-dare-start-another-project, and Heather is off in Ann Arbor, sending e-mails to the Kickstarter backers to confirm their addresses…

Kel, you were right, what you said at WisCon. I was in desperate need of a tribe. And I’m not saying they all had to be women, or mamas, but so far, the mama tribe has been an amazing enhancement to my life.

Many updates for Feast and events!

Feast production & event updates, many! Kickstarter ordering is officially closed! Kickstarter backers (THANK YOU), please do update your shipping addresses if needed, as we’re going to be shipping out SOON.

1) LOS ANGELES: First and most time-sensitive — if you’re going to be in L.A. on Halloween weekend, I’ll be there for World Fantasy, and will be delighted to hand-deliver signed books to you! The convention is at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, so we can meet for a drink in the bar, and I can hand you a book!

Some will be available in the dealer’s room at WFC at the Book Universe table (along with The Stars Change and Perennial), but Kickstarter backers should contact me if they’d like to pick up their copies, so I’ll be sure to set your copies aside. And ditto for anyone reading this who’d like to pre-order a copy; just let me know.

Kickstarter pricing ended last night, so books will be at the World Fantasy sale price of $37.95 (hardcover) and $22.95 (trade paperback, no photos in book). (Normally $40 / $25).


2) SPRING 2020 LAUNCH: As for the main launch in March, I’ve now paid the thousands of dollars of shipping cost (eep!) for 2000 copies of Feast (Mascot Books edition, not Kickstarter). This is to get it from the book production facility overseas to the warehouse in America. They will literally be coming on a slow boat from China, arriving sometime in mid-January.

I’ll then be paying again to get some copies shipped to me. You’d think I could split the order and send some here and some to the warehouse, for efficiency’s sake, but it’d be an extra $2K or so to do that, just because they’re not set up for that kind of thing. Sigh. Going to try to keep it to a few hundred dollars instead.

Ah well. More unanticipated costs here, there, and everywhere. But on the other hand,¬†Farah¬†just sent me a lovely note about her copy of the book, so that’s at least one happy customer, which bodes well for future sales. Fingers crossed.

(I am learning a LOT in the process; I do still want to do more books with Serendib Press, but big print runs of full-color hardcovers are a major project and serious financial risk, so may not do a lot of those! Ebooks. Ebooks are lovely.)

When it’s time to get books over to me in Chicagoland, we’ll be ordering them in cartons of 14 hardcovers each, and it’ll come via UPS ground — I thought media mail, but this hybrid publisher has stopped using media mail because too many books were damaged in transit. So by mid-February, I think, barring disaster, in good time for launching at FogCon in early March. Look, it’s a schedule! We’re keeping to it. Yay!


3) EVENTS: Next week,¬†Pem Hessing¬†and I are going to sit down and start working on the launch calendar in earnest. There’ll be some local events before that, though — please note the two FREE cookbook classes coming up in the next week at¬†Oak Park Works:

Monday 10/21, 6-7:30, FREE
Saturday 10/26, 12 – 1:30, FREE

They’re free, but do require registration, link in comments. I’ll have cookbooks and curry powder available for sale there, and some milk toffee and passionfruit marshmallows to taste!


4) COOKING CLASS: There’s also a fun event coming up soon, a cooking class at SugarBeet, where I’ll be teaching people how to make hoppers: plain, egg, and sweet coconut. I’m going to make some curries (probably one chicken and one eggplant) and sambols (coconut and caramelized onion) in advance, to accompany the hoppers.

Bring a friend or partner; you’ll make yourselves a delicious brunch, accompanied by mango-passionfruit mimosas. Print books not included, but I’ll have some books available for sale (and $10 off!), if you get inspired, and you get to take home some fresh-roasted curry powder too. What a great date!

I’m not sure how many spots are left, so register quick!

Sunday 10/27, 10 – 12, $45.