The rice didn’t get washed the other day before it was cooked and I just couldn’t bring myself to eat dinner knowing that the black specks (not pictured) were little creepy crawlies. It didn’t help that we found bugs in the cooked dal too. I don’t mind having to rinse our grains first, but something about actual bugs on my plate crosses a line. 😬 Otherwise… meals are actually going really well. 😉 Around this time a few years ago we were in India spending night after night in tears at the dinner table. I didn’t know how to cook much of anything with what was available, and I have no idea where our Didi managed to get the heat from, but everything she made was SO spicy. We were so burnt out on rice, the kids weren’t eating, all I wanted was everything I couldn’t get, I felt like a terrible mom, and… if only I knew then what I know now.
In India, we jumped in full force to the local cuisine… and it was a train wreck. This time, I think we’ve implemented a good balance of familiar and adventurous. I pulled out an old spreadsheet and have been meal planning breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks, and it’s been fantastic. Last week, we made grilled chicken sausages and veggies tossed in oil and herbs, we had meatballs and mashed potatoes, omelets and French fries, veggies and hummus, and tacos, as well as local dishes and even some of our favorite Indian foods as well.
I’ll be honest, I don’t do much of the actual cooking. Having to shop, clean, chop, prep, prepare, and then tidy up after every meal is an all day affair. Also, I just don’t particularly love being in the kitchen. I’d much rather clean, or rearrange, or build something, or… a whole lot of other things instead. 😉 It’s been years now that I’ve enlisted help in the kitchen; from Stephen, the kids, nanny’s, house guests, Didi’s, and other families who have lived with us. So, needless to say, our Didi’s do most of the cooking. I have been teaching them how to make some American and Indian meals, and it’s been a sweet time together. The other day, I got a wild hair and an early start and went straight away to three shops and then spent the majority of the day in the kitchen with our Didi. I baked a heap of granola (see recipe below), put together a pot of lemongrass and rosemary chicken broth, made a batch of apple, cinnamon, and cardamon kombucha, and mixed up a jar of snack mix. It wasn’t a typical day; I didn’t do any language, I didn’t do any homeschool, I really didn’t do much of anything else actually. Even the simplest of meals can take a couple of hours to prepare.
For context, this is what meal prep looks like here in Nepal:
Shopping – A stop at multiple locations for all the things you need is required; the meat parsal, a produce stand (which likely only has either fruit or vegetables), and a shop for all your staples, though they are almost guaranteed to be out of something essential like salt, sugar, or milk boxes, so, an additional stop will likely be necessary. And then, there are the random specialty items like brown sugar that can only be found in one store and is not always in stock.
Cleaning – Produce has to be soaked and washed, and depending where we buy meat from, we’ve had to wash that too. We have a bag of veggie wash, and also, Apple Cider Vinegar is great for soaking and disinfecting. (Pray for the food we are eating; apparently, produce with toxic amounts of pesticides are being imported, you can find and read the shocking reports about why they are still being sold in the markets). Grains often have to be rinsed here as well. Even a pre-bagged “expensive” brand is not unlikely to be infested with bugs. And after bringing groceries home, we transfer what we can into air tight containers, and we wipe the dust and dirt off any packaging before putting it into the cupboard. Oh, and we have to use clean water. We don’t use the tap water; not for drinking, cooking, or brushing our teeth. If we run out of bottled water, or there isn’t someone around who can lift a new jug… we wait, or, we take the time to boil water from the faucet. And then… there are the times that we run out of of water completely, because the tanker hasn’t come and all the jugs are empty. I definitely took water for granted in the states. Definitely.
Prep and Chopping – In America, we are so accustomed to pre-packaged and pre-cut everything. Minced garlic came in a jar. Pre-shredded cheese, chopped lettuce (and even full salads), any cut and combination of meat you wanted, all came easily accessible in resealable packaging. Here; not the case. We wash, peal, and chop our garlic. We chop our own tomatoes and make our sauce and paste. Plain tortilla chips are available, but we make our own tortillas, refried beans, and salsa (we haven’t found a single jar of salsa here). We pay a premium for cheese and shred it ourselves. We make breads and roti’s from scratch. We make our applesauce from scratch (no convenient cinnamon flavored pouches here). We make our own hummus and chop up veggies (the first time I had the Didi’s make the hummus on their own resulted in having to purchase a new blender, pretty sure the same scenario happened in India). And, oh my goodness, does anyone know where I can find a couple of tea infusers, because I’m currently flavoring tea, kombucha, and pitchers of water by pouring things back and forth using my little chai cup strainer.
It’s definitely a different way of life here. But, you do get used to it. And this time, we knew how much what’s for diner, can affect moral. Though there are even less available western imports here than in India, I’ve thought and planned a lot more than the first time around about how to use what is available. I haven’t felt drained or stressed. And the kids haven’t complained about meals at all.
Nepalies eat a dish called Dal Bhat for most meals. We enjoy Dal Bhat once or twice a week, as well as a couple of other local dishes like egg curry, fried rice, and chili chicken. Dried beans are cheap and we make hummus every week, I make dosa batter from scratch, potatoes are also cheap so we make French fries a couple times a week, and I taught our Didi’s how to make grilled cheese, tacos, and mashed potatoes. I taught them to use our blend of white rice, oats, and xanthan gum, to make a GF roti, and we use corn flour for tortillas. Even if an entire meal isn’t “American,” just substituting mashed or fried potatoes for rice every now and then, splurging on a bottle of BBQ for shredded chicken or meatballs, making muffins or no-bakes for dessert, or soaking beans for a pot of chili on a cool day all brings a little comfort to the dinner table that goes a long way!
Download a pdf copy of our MealPlan this week, or, get a blank customizable template of my weekly meal plan in my Family and Home Organization Pack on Etsy.
Granola Bites Recipe
First, to make a batch of Granola, mix:
- 42 oz. tub of oats
- Cup of pumpkin seeds
- Cup of chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup of raw sugar
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of flax seeds
- 1 tbs cinnamon
- 2 tbs vanilla
- Cup of fine graded coconut
* You can totally leave out the sugar and sweeten with you favorite healthy alternative.
Then, mix in a cup of melted butter and coconut oil until oat blend is evenly moist and begins to slightly clump together.
Spread evenly into two 9X13 silicon baking dishes and bake at 350 degrees until fragrant, dry, and just slightly golden.
Remove from oven and mix in one cup of raisins and a cup of dried blueberries.
Leave out to cool, and then store in an airtight container.
For granola bites:
Mix 2 parts granola with 1/2 part pure raw honey and 1/2 part unsweetened peanut butter, and then roll into 1 inch balls. Great for breakfast, snack, or dessert!