SLF on Amazon Smile!

Here’s an ask to support the SLF during our membership drive, one that hopefully is pretty painless if you already use Amazon and haven’t selected a non-profit to support yet. (If you choose to boycott Amazon due to their labor practices, etc., I totally understand and support your choice! But if you do use Amazon already, read on…)

They have a program called AmazonSmile, that directs .5% of your eligible purchases to the charity of your choice.

If you’d like to pick us as your non-profit, you just need to select the Speculative Literature Foundation, and then start your Amazon shopping at the link — I have it bookmarked for ease, so I always start at the right link.

Start here!

And whether or not you choose us as your non-profit of choice, if you could link / comment / share to help with visibility, it’d be much appreciated!


Lime soaps for Island Relaxation

I’ve been finishing up the soaps for the Island Relaxation package for Feast Kickstarter, which we will be shipping out VERY VERY VERY SOON. Last night, my writing workshop showed up as I was finishing unmolding these, and some of them were startled, I think, by how fabulous these look.

But let me just reiterate, these are SUPER-EASY to make. I’m just using melt-and-pour soap (half power in a microwave), add color and scent, pour and let solidify and unfold. You could do these with 5-year-olds. You could do them for stocking stuffers yourself. SO EASY. (And Stephanie, per our conversation the other day, it seems to work fine not to even cut them up first, so you can skip that step — just takes a little longer to melt.)

All the real artistry is in the molds, which are just gorgeous. I can’t figure out if I like the intricate details on the phoenix soap better, or if I prefer the perfect simplicity of the leaf-wrapped parcel. Both so good! This batch is lime-scented; I’ve been trying to use Sri Lanka-appropriate scents.

Mmm….tasty. (Don’t eat the soaps.)


Cinnamon-Tossed Mulled Apple Cider Marshmallows

Cinnamon-Tossed Mulled Apple Cider Marshmallows

Kavya has a new favorite marshmallow! For a long time, passionfruit marshmallows topped her list, but yesterday, they were unseated unceremoniously by the flavor of the season. 

(I like these a lot, but passionfruit is still the queen of my heart.)

1 c. apple cider
1 stick cinnamon
6 cloves
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
butter (for greasing the pan)
cinnamon powder for dusting (a few T)
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (about 1/2 c.)

1. In a small pot on the stove, heat cider with cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes or so. Remove 1/2 c. for marshmallows, sieving out any whole spices; drink whatever remains. (Can be done in advance — in my case, I mulled a bigger pot of spiced cider to enjoy straight up on a cold day, and just set some aside for marshmallows.)

2. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with 1/2 c. mulled cider. Stir briefly to combine.

3. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.

4. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.

5. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes. Add food color if desired — if not, they’ll be white.

6. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan. Prepare an oiled spatula. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with the oiled spatula.

7. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and dust the top with enough of the powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest of the powdered sugar for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares, and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.


Ephemeral beauty

This was a fun experiment — I brushed on a little mica powder to highlight the details on this soap (this mold reminds me of traditional Indian block print patterns that you’d see on clothes or wallpaper, etc). Sort of silly, given that the mica will wash away immediately when you start using it, but is beauty not beauty because it is ephemeral? I think not. 

(These soaps are jasmine, and jasmine-rose.)


We are go for liftoff!

We are go for liftoff! (I’ve recently started reading Mary Robinette Kowal‘s second lady astronaut book, The Fated Sky, and as a result, seem to want to pepper my speech with space travel lingo…)

Thanks to everyone who’s joined us as new members recently — the SLF has hit its first mini-goal of $125/month in support, and is accelerating nicely. Members are absolutely critical towards sustainable funding — having that steady support lets us actually make plans and be confident that we can afford to carry them out.

If you can join us this fall, please do — $2 / month will go a long way towards helping us bring the Portolan Project to life. Better science fiction and fantasy for all!

Join us:

More about the SLF and the Portolan Project:

(This rocket is for our annual goal — for the fall membership drive, we’re hoping to hit $625 / month. Totally do-able, right? Right!)

Sri Lankan food without coconut

What if you want to try Sri Lankan food, but are allergic to coconut? At some point when I have free time (hah), I’d love to create a section of the Serendib Kitchen website that suggested adaptations. (Stephanie, add to queue?) Vegetarian / vegan, allergies, low-carb / keto, etc. For example, yesterday I was cooking dinner for 30 students, for my colleague Anna Guevarra‘s food and culture class, and there were a few restrictions we had to work around:

We had:
– a vegetarian (so I just kept it all vegetarian, super-easy to do well with Sri Lankan food)
– a cashew allergy (so we skipped the cashews toasted in ghee for the rice pilaf, and it was still good with saffron, rose, and sultanas), and
– a coconut allergy.

Now THAT one is tricky, as I’d learned back when I was cooking for my roommate Cliff Winnig, also allergic to coconut! (And nutmeg, and nuts — he says he had a lexical allergy…) We could just leave the coconut out of the kale mallung, bumping the sugar up a bit to compensate for the sweetness. It’s still tasty and worth making, but honestly, it’s not as good as it is with coconut, and so far, I haven’t come up with anything that would really work as a substitute.

But for the dal (lentil curry), it proved surprisingly easy to compensate for lack of coconut milk. I started with using cow’s milk instead, but as I asked the students, there’s still two major elements missing that we’d want to add back in. After a few moments, they correctly identified them.

Want to try to guess before reading further?

(The pictures may have given you hints!)

1) Sweetness, since coconut milk is sweeter than cow’s milk. We added in a little sugar, in the form of grated jaggery, and that worked very nicely to bring out the sweetness of the onions and help balance the dish.

2) Fat! Coconut milk has notably more fat than cow’s milk, and while the lentils were still tasty on their own, stirring in a stick of butter towards the end of the cooking time gave them that lusciousness that has you coming back for seconds and thirds. 

I’ve heard that the latter is actually a common restaurant technique when making sauces (maybe a French thing?), to stir in a stick of butter towards the end. I don’t indulge in that normally, and honestly, I don’t even want my daily dinner food to be that rich.

But in this case, a stick of butter stirred into a big double batch of lentil curry, feeding 30 people, was the perfect addition.  Mmm…


Sripati update: spacecats!

Sripati, etc. update. I really can’t call these guys my #spacekittens anymore — they’re pretty obviously adolescent #spacecats now. Anand slept in the guest room with Sri last night; his idea, so Sri wouldn’t be lonely, which was very sweet (though if he hadn’t, I was going to).

And then in the middle of the night, Anand woke up and got scared, as happens sometimes, so he came and climbed into our bed, which was VERY crowded with me, Kevin, Arya, and Ellie. We have a king-size bed, but somehow Kevin gets one half and everyone else is in my half. Hm. So I was pretty happy to decamp to join Sri in the guest room. The bed arrangements can get complex around here, even when poly isn’t relevant. 

I woke up early, at 5:30, so I closed Ellie and Arya into the bedroom with Kev and Anand, and then let Sri out to explore the house for a while (also closing the dog door, so he couldn’t get outside). We spent about an hour with him wandering about, exploring in the way he loves to do, and then I brought him back to the guest room.

Anand was up by then, so came to join him for 30 minutes of video game playing (Anand, not Sri). I closed that door, let Ellie and Arya out of the master bedroom, opened the dog door so they could do their business in the yard, and gave them breakfast. There is much management of doors here today.

The animals are clearly fascinated by each other — Arya and Ellie are lurking a lot outside the guest room door, and Sri periodically puts a paw under the door for Arya to bat at. I brought Arya in again for a bit, and there was much sniffing and no hissing or sharp claws threatening from Sri, so that’s already a big improvement from initially yesterday.

I’ve ordered a Feliway diffuser (two of them, actually), which is supposed to decrease tension in cats, because it replicates the hormone mother cats release, I think? I’m guessing it won’t have any effect on Ellie! But Ellie hasn’t been aggressive towards the cats at all.

There’s some confusion, when Ellie tries to play with Arya — there’s a play-running-towards-you that our old dog does (she can’t keep it up for very long), and Arya just blithely ignores Ellie at this point, which doesn’t give Ellie what she wants, but is at least better than swatting at her, which was what used to happen. Arya seems to have figured out that Ellie is profoundly not scary. Hopefully Sri will also figure that out quickly!

I’m going to mostly try to work in the guest room with Sri today, keep him company and give him lots of snuggles and scritches. He’s clearly wanting affection — he’ll get up and wander around the room, but then come back and stick his head under my hand, demanding petting, then snuggle up pressed against my leg. Affection needed? Can provide. That is within my power.

And that’s the state of the #spacecats, #earthdoggo, and #hoomins at #serendibhouse. All’s well.

A little surprise treat for locals

Hey, locals — here’s a little surprise treat! This Sunday, Amanda Daly and I are hosting a Sri Lankan bagel brunch. This was part of the Kickstarter Amanda ran to raise funds to help open a physical Daly Bagel shop (coming soon to 130 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park), and we have a few more slots left.

Tickets are $60, for this coming Sunday, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and include an experimental but guaranteed delicious fusion of Sri Lankan cuisine and Amanda’s awesome bagels, mango-passionfruit mimosas, and as much conversation about bagels, Sri Lankan food, and women starting up their own businesses (both brick-and-mortar and online) as you can stand.

Attendees will also get a little packet of my homemade Sri Lankan curry powder to take away with them, and I’ll have discounted copies of my new cookbook, A Feast of Serendib, available for purchase. (It’s not in stores ’til March!)

Hope you can attend! Would be a fun activity with a girlfriend — maybe you know someone who’s been thinking about starting their own business? Also a great and unique date with partner or spouse! Come join us!

Buy a ticket:

Read some glowing cookbook reviews:

Join the Daly Bagel group on FB:

Read more about the Daly Bagel:…/the-daly-bagel-finds-a-home/

Melissa Elsmo talks about the cookbook at Oak Park’s Wednesday Journal:…/lunch-at-a-sri-lankan-table/

ACCESS NOTE: The event will be held at my house, an old Victorian — as a result, it’s sadly not wheelchair-accessible, and we do have a dog and two cats on the premises.