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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 ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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! ūüôā

See you soon!

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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! ūüôā¬† ) and hence am assuming it is mighty good too! ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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! ūüôā ), 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! ūüôā 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! ūüôā 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 ūüôā . 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 ūüôā )
  • 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!¬†ūüôā ,¬†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? ūüôā ).¬†
  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! ūüôā

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

The easiest recipe ever..after all I can make it :-)

Last weekend, I was planning to cook a Mexican feast, in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Thankfully, guilt over the lower number of visits to the gym in the previous week prevailed and I decided I should be eating more vegetables, instead. Hence, I decided to cook South Indian food including a sambar full of vegetables and green coriander-coconut chutney. After all, what could be healthier than that? Best of all, this obviously delighted my husband, who loves rava idlis and sambar.

Nevertheless, I always get scared cooking something for someone who might know that food very well and knows exactly how it should taste. In fact, when I invite Indian friends over, I try not to cook Indian food, so as to avoid any comparisons with their own cooking ūüôā

However, my guilt prevailed (I have been really irregular with the gym, and my brain is revolting, I guess:-)), and¬†I made my version of sambar (with all kinds of veggies, the turnips which I had bought for Gogji razma the previous weekend, broccoli, shallots, french beans, etc.) These may not be traditional, but they sure do taste good in a sambar ūüôā

There isn’t much to blog about here as I followed the recipe on the back of the sambar powder pack and only used my creativity for the choice of veggies. I¬†also made coriander-coconut chutney, which I had learnt on a trip to visit my cousin in Rhode Island. Thanks, cousin M and Congratulations on the baby! Finally, I made rava idlis from a ready mix. Sorry,¬†all you die hard idli fans, I just don’t have the patience to make it from scratch. ūüôā

Here’s a pic.

 

However, to me,¬†a south indian meal is incomplete without my Mom’s Aloo Pyaaz sabzi, especially since¬†I like eating the sambar¬†less with idlis or dosas,¬†and more¬†with plain steamed rice.¬†In fact, this has been one of my favorite recipes for a long time and¬†was one of the recipes I carried over the oceans with me, not on the Mayflower ūüôā , but on Air India’s flight from Bombay to Newark, when I first moved to the US. Best of all, my Mom probably thought the level of complexity involved in this dish was probably just right for my level of incompetence in the kitchen ūüôā

Anyway, here’s¬†an easy South Indian¬†recipe from a North Indian girl ūüôā

ALOO PYAAZ

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium yukon gold or red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)

Steps:

  1. Cover the potatoes with enough water in a saucepan and boil until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
  2. Drain and set aside.
  3. In the meantime, slice the onion (cry as much as you need to :-)) and heat some oil in a large skillet.
  4. Saute the onion until golden.

    5. Add mustard seeds, turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. Stir to mix.

    6. Let everything cook for a minute and then add the drained potatoes.

    7. Cook until the tasty masala sticking to the edges of the pan turns brown (or so my notes from when I watched my Mom make this recipe say :-))

    8. Turn off the heat and cover.

    9. Serve after a few minutes, garnished with fresh cilantro, if needed.

Finally, some furniture…

Even if it is outside our house ūüôā We finally bought some patio furniture last night and made 4 trips to the store to get it¬†ūüôā Here’s a pic from a proud blogger.

Anyway, in celebration of having finally bought our patio furniture, I decided to make some fun food. No, that’s not true. I was planning to try a recipe from my favorite magazine in the whole wide world, Good Housekeeping, and just made the patio furniture an excuse ūüôā

Anyway, Good Housekeeping has been my favorite magazine for many many years. I grew up reading the British version from the British Council library, where my Dad was a member and where I became a member when I turned 18. I remember it would always be a rush to get the best magazines¬†before anybody else¬†every Saturday. I loved the “A Look for a Lifestyle” feature and I loved reading the recipes, never mind that I had absolutely no intention of actually trying them.

When I moved to the US, it was no surprise to anyone in my family, when I immediately started subscribing to the US version. And when I started cooking, Good Housekeeping was one of my first sources for tried and tested (triple tested!!), interesting recipes from the GHI kitchen.

Getting back to the topic at hand, this weekend I tried their Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo and Peppers recipe from the May issue. Of course, as usual I made a few modifications based on what was available to me at home.

Unlike the name, this dish actually does not involve any tortillas in the way that we usually think of them. Instead, a tortilla is a traditional Spanish dish and is a thick omelet of potato, onions, and egg.

Here’s my version of the recipe.

Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo and Peppers

(Makes 8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bag of small red potatoes (I always have these on hand due to my husband’s love for oven-roasted potatoes)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 8 large eggs
  • 4 links of fully cooked chorizo sausage (I used D’Artagnan brand), casings taken off and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cups of¬†parsley leaves, roughly chopped (I used some from my own plant..Yippee! It’s actually thriving quite well! Thanks Bee for inspiring me to start with a few herbs..My tomato plant is getting some flowers and my rosemary is doing pretty well too!!)
  • Black Pepper

Steps:

  1. In a saucepan, boil the potatoes with enough water to cover and salt to taste, until fork tender.
  2. Drain the potatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in an oven safe non-stick skillet or any other non-stick skillet that you can make oven safe by wrapping the handle with a double coating of foil.

5. Add the onions and peppers and saute until the onions are golden and the peppers are soft.

6. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the chorizo, parsley, salt and black pepper.

7. Gently mix in the potatoes and the sauteed onions and peppers into the egg mixture.

8. Add 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in the skillet and return the egg mixture to the pan.

9. After cooking it on medium for about 30 seconds, place the pan in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

10. After removing this from the oven, invert the skillet over a circular baking dish or a plate.

11. Cut into wedges and serve.

True to my experience with Good Housekeeping, this was an awesome dish. It made for a very filling lunch when served with the Corn Chowder I made from scratch.