Back from a break..

I know..I know..I haven’t blogged in weeks now..unlike my usual blogging every weekend and I have some excuses for it..some of which are real and some of which not so much.

a. I have been very busy at work and just managing to go to the gym reasonably regularly has been a problem, forget time for extracurriculars like blogging

b. Hubby dearest is around during the week too, so I have enough entertainment :-)

c. I have been making recipes from Raghavan Iyer’s book 660 curries and hence due to the lack of original cooking, I haven’t had much blogging material

d. I am beginning to feel like I am getting food-obsessed..this happens to me every couple of years..I start to feel like my life is revolving around food and I feel really really fat and I just go off trying not to think about food, which ends up being a vicious cycle because when I try not to think about food, I think about it even more..I know, I know..I’m crazy! :-)

Do you ever feel like blogging is making you food-obsessed?

e. Also, I was beginning to feel like my blog was turning into a recipe site, which is definitely not the intention. Hence, here’s my first post without a recipe.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon..with a recipe, this time, I promise. I just need to be suitably motivated :-)

Oh..by the way, in terms of other things..I won a raffle prize in the recently completed Charity raffle run by Jugalbandi..a beautiful photo from Manisha of Indian Food Rocks..to be posted once I receive it! :-)

See you soon!

Easy Decadence with Masala Chawal

Life has been kind of busy recently….and of course crazy hours at work don’t help. Weekends would usually be the only thing keeping me sane..now, if only I didn’t have to work on the last few weekends :-( Ok, enough cribbing!

Thankfully, today I actually managed to get home by 7.30 pm and I even managed to cook on a weekday…very, very unusual for me. :-)

Guess what the motivation was! Open Sesame 2 (started by Siri and Dhivya)!! :-) I guess I am becoming a true blue blogger now..if I am tailoring meals around blog events, right? :-)

My ingredient was cloves and I thought and thought about what I should make with cloves all weekend. Unfortunately, nothing really appealed and I decided to rely on an old favorite that I always make whenever I am bored of basic rice and can’t stand hubby dearest’s microwave rice :-) (which I think taste awful on Day 2)

So, here’s my recipe for easy decadence with Masala Chawal…my entry for Open Sesame 2.

MASALA CHAWAL

Ingredients:

  •  2 cups basmati rice, washed in several changes of water and soaked in enough water to cover it for 30 minutes. If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, soak the rice in warm-hot water for 10 minutes.
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 black cardamoms (skip if you don’t have them)
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup milk (optional)
  • A few strands saffron (optional)

 Steps:

1. Heat the ghee in a saucepan on medium-high heat.

2. Add the spices and wait for the cumin seeds to pop (5-10 seconds, depending on how hot the ghee is).

3. Add the onions and stir fry until they turn translucent and begin to change color.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Add the drained rice and stir very lightly until the rice looks very, very white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Add 2 2/3 cups of water. Let it come to a boil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the water dries out and the rice tastes cooked. If the water dries out while the rice grains are still hard, add a little more water. If there appears to be too much water and the rice tastes cooked, increase the heat to high and let the excess water evaporate.

7. Meanwhile, dissolve the saffron in the milk that has been heated in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add this to the rice when they are almost cooked. I put mine in a pretty S (standing for my name and because an S looks like 2 C’s for clove..ok, I made that one up.. I admit I am self-obsessed :-) )..and actually hubby dearest put it in an S for me :-) Thanks, hubby dearest!

8. Once the rice is cooked, turn off the stove and cover.

9. Let the rice rest covered for 10 minutes before serving (This is a trick my Mom taught me to ensure that your rice stands up on its head and looks pretty:-) )

Memories of Palak Paneer

When I first moved to the US as a student and was learning to cook, I began with experiments on Bawarchi.com. However, I soon got tired of the hit and miss results from that.

Hence, one sunny afternoon, boredom with class morphed into a frantic search for all possible Indian cookbooks in the school library. One of the recipes I found was for a classic and very common dish in my family…Palak Paneer. I had always loved this the way my Mom made it and although my version does not taste exactly like hers, I have received many compliments for it (one even from my notably hard to please mother! :-)  ) and hence am assuming it is mighty good too! :-)

Here it is.

Palak Paneer

Ingredients:

  1. 1 big bunch spinach, washed thoroughly (or 2 bags of triple washed baby spinach, which you don’t have to get the grit out of! :-)) To wash spinach, I soak it in a big bowl of cold water and take out just the spinach that floats to the top as all the grit sinks to the bottom of the bowl.
  2. 1 tbsp canola oil
  3. 1 small pack of paneer (or 16 oz of homemade paneer), cubed
  4. 1/4 tsp turmeric
  5. 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  8. 4 dried red chillis
  9. 1/2 cup plain yoghurt

Steps:

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  • Add the paneer and fry them on all sides until they are golden. Drain on paper towels.
  • Meanwhile, add the cleaned spinach to a saucepan with about 3 cups of water.
  • Drain the spinach after the water comes to a boil. Save some of the water.
  • Blend the spinach, turmeric, chilli powder, salt with about 2 tbsp of the drained spinach water.
  • If there is oil remaining in the pan in which the paneer was fried, you can use that. Else, add about 1/2 tsp oil. Heat the oil.
  • Add the cumin seeds and the dried red chillis (stemmed and broken into pieces) to the hot oil, until they sizzle.
  • Add the spinach mixture from the blender to this pan. If you can’t get it all out of the blender in the first try, add upto 1/4 cup of milk to get it out.
  • Stir to mix. When the mixture starts to boil, add the yoghurt and stir it in.
  • Finally, add the paneer, stir and let it simmer for about 3 minutes.
  • Serve with rotis or rice.

 

 

 

European B&B on the cheap..Cheesy Scrambled eggs with scallions and tomatoes

The current exchange rate of the dollar has made vacationing in Europe prohibitively expensive for most people. Of course, that did not stop me from travelling to England last summer…but since no such vacation is probably going to happen this year (hint..hint..hubby dearest!), I might as well enjoy the breakfast you would get in a Bed and Breakfast or Pensione and imagine that I am in Europe! :-)

Here’s my recipe for a great breakfast regardless of whether you are in America, Europe, India or anywhere else in the world!

CHEESY SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH SCALLIONS AND TOMATOES

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  1. 1 bunch of scallions or spring onions or green onions, chopped (Can be substituted with half a finely chopped onion)
  2. 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced. You can substitute these vegetables with bell peppers, cilantro, pretty much any veggies of your choice.

   3. 1/2 tsp olive oil
   4. 1/2 tsp butter (can be substituted with more oil, instead)

   5. 3 eggs

   6. 1/8 cup light cream (my new discovery in the grocery store!) (Can be substituted with regular milk or heavy cream)

    7. 1/8 cup fat free milk (or 2% milk, or whatever milk you like to drink)

    8. Salt to taste

    9. 1/2 tsp pepper

   10. A 1 square inch piece of smoked gouda, cubed (that’s what I had at home, but provolone, cheddar or any melty cheese would be a good substitute) 

Steps:

  • Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan.
  • Add the scallions and tomatoes (reserving about 1 tsp of scallions for garnish) and stir.

  • While the veggies cook, beat the eggs in a medium bowl.
  • Add the cream, milk, salt and pepper to the eggs and continue to beat, until frothy.

 

  • Continue to stir and cook the veggies until there is no longer any liquid in the pan, about 5-10 minutes on medium high. 

  • At this point, reduce the heat to medium and add the beaten egg mixture and the cheese cubes. It is important for the eggs to be cooked on medium to low heat, so that the water does not separate.

 

  • Leave the eggs alone for a minute and then begin to stir. Continue stirring until there is no more liquid and the eggs start to look like solid fluffy bits, rather than liquid.

 

  • Garnish with the remaining scallions and serve with buttered multi-grain toast and a big glass of orange juice.

 

Sick Kitchen Kapers

I can’t believe I’m sick again..I had a cold two weeks back and again started to develop a sore throat yesterday afternoon. I thought there was a sick quota for everyone, that could not be exceeded!

After waking a bunch of times last night, I finally gave up and decided to do something that I knew would cheer me up early on Saturday morning..I baked.

Now, Saturday mornings are always hard because I like to make a special breakfast because it’s the weekend and because breakfast is my favorite meal, (not that the other meals are very far behind, but comparatively! :-) ), but I always seem to run out of groceries by Saturday. I usually have eggs, some left over bread and some left over fruits (which I usually whip into a smoothie).

Today, I knew there was no bread at home. As you can see, there is a reason I always go grocery shopping on Saturdays. But there were eggs, scallions and a couple of oranges. So, what do I do but decide to make my own bread.

Now, I knew I had no patience to wait for yeast based bread to rise, I am sick after all! :-) So, I looked in my encyclopedia of cooking, Joy of cooking, and found a recipe that I actually had the ingredients for, even if it is Saturday morning. I thought the Orange bread might be like Banana bread and may actually be sweet, not a good combo with my planned scrambled eggs, but I took a chance that worked very well.

The Orange bread is actually a little bit like banana bread and quite a bit not like banana bread. It has a tinge of the orange flavour, but is definitely not sweet and works very well with savory sides.

In typical fashion, I adapted the recipe to suit my healthy sensibilities, including incorporating whole grains and substituting some ingredients.

Here’s my version.

ORANGE BREAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 2/3 cup sugar/ Splenda
  • 1 1/4 cups fat free skim milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (juice from 2 medium navel oranges)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together including the zest, sugar and the nuts.
  3. Beat the wet ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Fold in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir as little as possible just ensuring that the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet to form a batter.
  6. Pour into a greased loaf pan.
  7. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Cool and unmold.
  9. I served slices of the Orange bread with butter and scrambled eggs with scallions.
  10. Finally, I prayed that the comfort food would make my sore throat hurt a little less!

 

 

Grilling fun and Tropical Peach Melba

Hubby dearest’s latest hobby is grilling..of course, the benefit is that we go out for dinner less often, maybe saving some money, probably needed, considering how much we are spending on (slowly, very slowly!) furnishing the house! :-) We are also eating healthier, since we tend to not grill red meat as often, but stick to onions (which are awesome), bell peppers, fruits, chicken, etc.

Of course, when it comes to grilling, hubby dearest is the boss and I am the creative head :-) . I create the ideas and he executes them! And it’s a lot of fun.

Anyway, we decided to try an elaborate version of a dessert I used to make on my baby George Foreman grill on our big Weber grill today. It was super simple, it turned out pretty awesome and the best part is that it is reasonably healthy. Now, that’s not as common, right?

Here’s the recipe!

TROPICAL PEACH MELBA

Ingredients:

  • 4 peaches, sliced around the pit (We tried doing what all the TV shows do, by slicing down the middle and twisting the pit out, but that so did not work! I think it’s just a TV stunt :-) )
  • 2 tbsp sugar (adjust depending on how ripe the peaches are, ours were not at prime ripeness)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 slices of fresh pineapple, round or long (just big enough pieces so as to not fall through the grill grates!)
  • Vanilla icecream (We used Haagen Dazs Light Vanilla Bean ice cream, but I have served this with just Fat Free Cool Whip too)
  • Lady Fingers (not bhindi! :-) , the ones available in the baked goods aisle or dairy aisle or kept with the strawberries and used for Tiramisu). You can substitute pound cake or sponge cake, if you prefer)

For the Raspberry Sauce:

  • 1 small box raspberries
  • 2-3 tsp sugar (We used Splenda instead)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Toss the peach slices with the sugar and lemon juice.
  2. Put the peaches and the pineapple on the grill on direct medium heat and shut the lid of the grill.
  3. In the meantime, use the side burner to bring the ingredients for the raspberry sauce to a simmer. Let it simmer for a few minutes, until the sugar is blended. In the meantime, break down the raspberries with the side of a spoon.
  4. Sieve the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to get a reasonably thin raspberry sauce. I make this with strawberries quite often to eat with pancakes. I am sure the raspberry version will go great with waffles or pancakes too. It lasts for about a week in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  5. Turn the fruits over a few times (but definitely not before 4-5 minutes the first time), getting good grill marks all the while. The peaches took us about 10 minutes to be done and the pineapple about 12 minutes, all on direct medium heat. If the idea of grilling fruit sounds odd, you will definitely reconsider once you try it for yourself..grilling just brings out the sugars in the fruit much more than if you ate it raw and makes them sweet and caramelly (is that a word? :-) ). 
  6. Serve the fruits with a serving of icecream and the lady fingers with the raspberry sauce on top.
  7. Heaven on earth is ready! :-)

Hope you try it and like it just as much as we did!

Pav Bhaji…and my first entry to a (or two) blog event(s)!

Remember the time a few weeks back when I felt that I had never ever been as busy as I was then…Well, I was wrong and not just a little wrong, but way off. Not only have I been busier, I have been going completely crazy with everything going on around me! Hence, the ignorance of the blog for a little while.

Anyway, since I have been following blog events for a little while, I figured it was about time for me to take the leap and submit an entry too. Hence, here goes, my first entry to a blog event and why not make it double trouble by sending this to 2 events?

The idea of making Pav Bhaji originated a few weeks back, when I read this post on Mallika’s blog. Additionally, I saw the note on Monsoon Spice, about Street Food being the theme for this month’s Monthly Blog Patrol. Well, does it not seem like destiny conspiring to ensure that I make some Pav Bhaji? :-)

Of course, having grown up eating Pav Bhaji, it was not something new to me. It just wasn’t something I’d made in a while.  My usual recipe for Pav Bhaji was taken off the back of the Everest Pav Bhaji masala pack, just like my usual sambar recipe. However, I also remembered that the last time I made Pav Bhaji and bought Pav from the Indian store, it came with mold growing on the inside. Ugh! absolutely disgusting! Luckily, I also recalled seeing a recipe for making your own pav (and that too, a whole wheat version!) on Jugalbandi a while back. Thankfully, unlike my plans for making Asha’s Masala Potato bread, these plans actually materialized.

PAV BHAJI

The recipe I followed for the bhaji is Nupur’s recipe from One Hot Stove. It is an excellent recipe (and an excellent blog!) and was very tasty, although I made a few modifications for our taste buds. Here’s my version.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 medium potatoes (or 5 small, as I used) , peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • salt to taste
  • 1 big can tomato puree
  • 1/2 small bag of frozen sweet peas
  • 2-3 tbsp pav bhaji masala
  • 1 tbsp butter

Steps:
1. Boil the cauliflower and carrots with a little bit of water in a covered microwaveable bowl in the microwave. I cooked them separately and the cauliflower took about 15 minutes and the carrots took about 8 minutes to soften. 

2. Also, boil the potatoes on the stove with enough water to cover, until they are soft.

3. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the ginger and garlic. Saute for a couple of seconds and then add the bell pepper.

4. Once this softens a bit, add the pav bhaji masala, salt, tomato puree, peas and the cooked vegetables.

5. Now, bring in the strong men or call the hubby dearest to start mashing and mixing with a potato masher.

6. Once mashed, simmer for about 10 minutes and serve with a pat of butter, finely chopped red onions, chopped cilantro and lemon wedges.

Some of the main differences between Nupur’s version and mine are that I added about 2-3 tbsp of the Pav Bhaji masala powder, rather than 1 tbsp. This might just be because my spices are older and not as fresh (although I do freeze them, but just don’t use them as much). Also, I had half a small bag  of baby carrots lying around, which I put into the bhaji, giving it a slightly sweeter taste. Finally, I also cooked the cauliflower and carrots in the microwave.

This is my entry for Monthly Blog Patrol – Street Food hosted by Sia of Monsoon Spice.
Photobucket

 As for the double trouble I mentioned earlier, this is also my entry for the new event, Eat Healthy – Fiber Rich started by Sangeeth. After all, anything with that many veggies in it has to have a lot of fiber. :-)

Additionally, I made my own fresh Pav from scratch, using this recipe from Jugalbandi, which I sliced in half and sauteed in butter before serving with the Bhaji. Surprise, surprise..I really did follow this recipe to the tee! :-) And I’m glad I did, because it was absolutely delicious.

Here are some pictures of the final product.