Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Cabbage Uppu Huli Dosa & Waffle Dosas

This, I understand is a popular Mangalore / Udipi dish and the addition of spices and tamarind sounded very interesting so I decided to give it a try. I used this recipe from RedChillies as a base and we really liked the end result... It's a flavorful dosai and we really liked the coconut flavor that came through as well and I added some cabbage as well to add some veggies and a slight crunch and the best part is no fermentation so just a few hours of soaking and it can be made about 30 minutes later.

CABBAGE UPPU HULI DOSA (Cabbage Spicy, sour dosa)



Ingredients:

Raw Rice - 1.5 cups
Dried Red Chillies - 5
Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Tamarind - gooseberry sized ball
Grated Coconut -  1/2 cup
Jaggery - 1/4 tsp (optional)
Cabbage - 1.5 cups, very finely chopped
Coconut oil - to cook dosas and little to fry the masalas
Salt - to taste

Method:
1) Wash and soak rice for 4 hours at least.
2) In a small pan, heat half tsp of oil on low flame and fry the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and dried red chillies.
3) Drain the soaked rice and add to a blender, add the fried spices, jaggery (if using), salt and grated coconut. Add sufficient water to grind to a smooth batter.
4) The consistency usually is that of a dosa batter, however once i stirred in the finely chopped cabbage I discovered that it was not easy to spread the batter. Once it was mixed with a bit more water, it was easy to pour the batter onto a hot pan (without spreading like we do normally for dosas) and it turned out crispier this way too. 

5) I used coconut oil to drizzle on the dosas. Also i covered the dosa when cooking the first side and flipped it over and cooked the other side too. 

That's it, dosas are ready and it was awesome with chutney and sambhar. 

WAFFLE DOSAS
This is not a detailed recipe but more of a twist/idea on an existing recipe. Since the kids were getting bored with the usual dosais and idlis, I decided to pour dosa batter (follow the same recipe as idli batter and mix with a few tbsps of rice flour and water) on the waffle iron and the result was a crispy, crunchy exterior with soft dosa in the middle. Kids really loved this twist. I used about 1/3 cup for my waffle iron and this is a normal waffle iron (not the one that makes belgian waffles).

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lemon Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

Even as I signed up for the Bake Sale at my daughter's school, I started imagining the possibilities and initially started with lofty goals of making cutely decorated cake pops or pretty cupcakes but then as the date drew closer and I realized I would be doing much of the baking on a weekday and so needed baked goods that were quick and easy to make, would keep well and not require refrigeration....  So, I started to fall back on my usual recipes like Chocolate chip cookies and Brownies but my daughter got swept into the excitement of it all and insisted that we offer something different and with a twist and not the usual fare.

She searched high and low for recipes or ideas and since her favorite flavors are lemon, mint and raspberry she was thrilled to find Emeril's recipe for these Lemon Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies. I was skeptical about trying something new for a bake sale (in case it flopped, I may not have time for a redo ) but she convinced me fairly well on how this was an easy recipe, had great reviews and that it would taste good.  So we chose this cookie recipe and a twist to our usual brownie recipe to incorporate some whipped cream cheese with vanilla and sugar for a Cheesecake Swirl Brownie.

True to her words, this is a very easy recipe that gives fabulous results.... The cookie is buttery with a fragrant, bright lemon flavor and the tartness of the raspberry jam makes for a cookie that is not cloyingly sweet but tastes fabulous.

LEMON RASPBERRY THUMBPRINT COOKIES - makes 48 cookies



Ingredients:
Raspberry Jam/Jelly - about half cup (I used Smucker's Natural brand) 
All purpose flour - 2 1/4 cups, levelled
Baking Powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp 
Butter - 2 sticks (1 cup) at room temperature
Sugar - 2/3 cup
Egg Yolks - 2 (from large eggs), preferably at room temperature
Fresh Lemon Juice - 1 tbsp

Lemon Zest - 1 tsp (I grated the zest of 1 large lemon)
Vanilla extract - 1tsp

 Method:
1) Combine Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Lemon zest in a medium bowl and mix together.
2)  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar till light and fluffy (takes about 2-3 minutes)
3) Next beat in the egg yolks , lemon juice, vanilla extract.
4) Add the Flour mixture in 2 batches and beat until moist clumps form. Mix the dough with your hands and refrigerate for about 30 minutes atleast (you can also let it stay in the fridge covered for a day).
5) About an hour before baking, remove dough from the refrigerator and leave it out. Knead the dough until it becomes pliable. This ensures that the dough won't crack
6) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
7) Make 3/4 inch or 1 inch balls, roll them tight and place on a baking sheet. With a 1/2 tsp measure (dipped in flour) press into the dough ball gently to form an indentation (this is where the raspberry jam will go) and is technically our thumbprint :)  We could use our thumb to press down but I found that using a half tsp measure provided a better, more uniform indentation. (see video below)

video

8) Once the cookies are pressed down, fill the indentations with half tsp of Raspberry Jam.
9) Bake for 13-16 minutes until the bottoms turn golden. Remove and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
 

This is a very versatile recipe and you can change the fillings to make different variations and flavors.. such as strawberry. Or you can skip the lemon flavoring and fill the cookie with some nutella or with some chocolate and nuts.

We packed our goodies in ziploc bags and stapled some decorative napkins (cut into strips) to make them "fancy" and more appealing. Both, the cookies and the brownies were sold out and that made us very happy.





 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fried Rice

For something I make quite frequently, I was quite surprised to note that I have not posted this so far...
This is my saviour on most days when it comes to preparing school lunches for the kids, especially if I have leftover rice from dinner. No time to chop veggies? eggs can make this come together in a jiffy.  Or you can even mix both veggie and eggs when making fried rice. Or substitute with chopped mushrooms for a mushroom fried rice.

Jasmine Rice has the perfect texture  for fried rice but pretty much any other rice that we normally use (ponni raw rice, sona masuri, or basmati) will still work. It is better to have rice to that has been cooked and refrigerated so the grains stay separate... Wet fingers and crumble the rice so they don't stick to your fingers.

FRIED RICE

 

Ingredients:

Cooked and refrigerated rice - 1 cup, grains separated
Egg - 1   OR
Minced Veggies of choice - carrots, beans, cabbage or corn - half cup OR substitute with chopped mushrooms
Soy Sauce - 1 to 1.5 tsp (or to taste) 
Sriracha (Chilli sauce) - quarter to half tsp
Ketchup - quarter to half tsp 
Salt and Black Pepper powder - to taste 
Oil - 2 to 3 tsp

Method
1.  Heat a wide pan on medium or med. high. Once hot add the oil and coat. 
2. Add egg (or the veggies). Scramble (or saute) with some salt and black pepper. 
3. Once egg is scrambled or veggies are crunchy, add the rice and the soy sauce, chilli sauce and ketchup and stir on a med-high flame.

Hot, tasty fried rice is ready to serve.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Baked Green Bean "Fries"

We had these Green Bean "Fries" at a new movie theater that has opened near our home... The new concept these days is to combine snacks/dinner with movies.. where you can order while watching a movie or buy and take inside to much on while enjoying the movie and the varieties are much more than popcorn/candy. While I would much prefer samosas and hot tea as munchies, we did enjoy these spicy green bean fries and brownie bites.

Back home, I wanted to re-create the dish but had no intentions of deep frying green beans and decided to try a baked version and it was delicious - especially when it's just out of the oven.  The beans were cooked perfectly and they had a spicy, crunchy exterior. 

BAKED GREEN BEAN "FRIES"



Ingredients
Fresh French / Green beans (fresh)  - 30 to 35
All purpose flour - 4 tbsp 
Egg whites - 3 to 4 tbsp  
Sriracha chilli sauce - 1 tsp
Bread Crumbs - for 3 larges slices of bread
Parmesan cheese - 1 to 2 tbsp
Red Chilli Flakes - 1 tsp
Garlic powder, pepper powder, dried italian seasoning, salt to taste
Oil - to spray

Method:
1)  Prehead oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with oil evenly.

2) Keep three separate wide bowls or plates ready: in the first one add 3 tbsp flour, in the second one combine egg whites with 1 tbsp flour, garlic powder,  dried italian seasoning, salt, pepper, sriracha. For the third one combine in a mixie/blender , bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, red chilli flakes and spread out (preferably in batches so it doesn't all get wet and clumpy). 

3) Wash and trim the green beans... (do not dry completely, they should be wet - but not dripping water)

4) Take a few beans at a time and dredge in flour,  the wetness of the beans will help the flour adhere to the beans. Next dip in the egg-white mixture and roll in the breadcrumbs and off to the baking tray... Repeat this process until all beans are done. 

5) Spray some oil on top of the beans and bake for 10 mins one one side, flip the beans and allow to cook for another 7 minutes. Enjoy hot.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lemon Pull Apart Rolls

I was fascinated after seeing this recipe and bookmarked it to try. I finally got to making it last week and we were very impressed with the simplicity of the recipe and the fabulous results, so much so it even motivated me to get out of my blogging slumber and post this :)

You could use your favorite dinner roll recipe and make it from scratch but I took the easy way out and used the frozen dinner rolls (Rhodes brand) that I purchased from the supermarket.  I also tweaked the original recipe a bit to reduce the butter & sugar used.

LEMON PULL APART ROLLS



Ingredients:
Frozen Dinner rolls, thawed but still cold - 20
Lemon zest  - from 2 whole lemons, be careful to get just the yellow skin and not the white pith
Sugar - 1/2 cup (can reduce to 1/3 cup, if you don't have a sweet tooth)
Butter - 1 to 2 tbsp melted


Glaze: Powdered Sugar - half cup
Butter melted - 1 tbsp
Fresh Lemon juice  - 2 tbsp


Method: 
1) Mix lemon zest with sugar in a small bowl. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with oil.
2) Cut each roll in half and place on the baking pan, close to each other but with some space (once they rise they will touch each other) Brush the rolls with the melted butter. 
3) Sprinkle half of the sugar-lemon zest mixture over the buttered rolls. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size. 
4) Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the remaining half of the sugar mixture evenly over the rolls.
5) Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 °F for 20 to 25 mins (or till baked through and golden) Remove immediately from pan and place on a cooling rack. 
6) In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the glaze and mix well till smooth... drizzle over the rolls once they cool a bit. 


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Birthday cakes 2015

Missed posting these birthday cakes earlier this year but did not want to miss the extra special celebrations since my daughter had her "Golden Birthday" - she turned 10 on 10/10 so I thought it would be apt to make her cake shaped as a 10 as well... She gave me details on what flavors the cake should have and I must say both combinations turned out awesome and the cakes were loved by all...


One was a chocolate cake with a raspberry whipped cream frosting.
The other (zero) was a vanilla cake (recipe below - used the one for magnolia cupcakes) with a lemon whipped cream filling ( i added some zest and it made for a vibrant, tasty filling).

MAGNOLIA CAKE

Ingredients:
Self-rising Flour - 3/4 cups (see substitution below)
(If you don't have self rising flour, sift together 3/4 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp Baking Powder and 1/4 tsp salt) 

All purpose flour - half cup + 2 tbsp
Butter - 1 stick, unsalted & softened
Sugar - 1 cup
Eggs - 2, room temperature
Milk / Buttermilk - half cup
Vanilla - half tsp


Substitute for Self-Rising Flour : (Sift together the following to get 3/4c)
All purpose flour (Maida) 3/4 cup,
Baking powder - 1 tsp,
Salt - 1/4 tsp


Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2) Grease and flour a 9 inch cake pan.  Combine both flours in a small bowl. Combine milk and vanilla.
3) In a large bowl, cream butter till smooth. Then add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). 
4) Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
5) Divide flour mixture into 3 parts - this is the dry mixture. Add one part of dry mixture and alternate with half of milk and vanilla mixture. Alternate ending with dry mixture. Beat each time until ingredients are incorporated without over beating. 
6) Transfer batter to a pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

As for my son's birthday in August, I couldn't be around and missed his birthday since I had to travel for work. We just got back from a trip to India as well and that meant I didn't have time to unpack before I had to pack up and leave for the work trip so I couldn't make a cake in advance either. However he had his grandparents, dad and sister to celebrate with him as he turned 6 and I had to be content with videos and pictures. After I got back, I asked him what cake he would like and though he was talking of an "Iron man cake" initially he was excited at the prospect of an Icecream cake so we did that instead and it turned out to be a different experience... I basically layered vanilla and chocolate icecream with some chopped oreos thrown into the mix... so it was super duper easy.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chipotle Veggies with Black Beans Rice

This is now a new family favorite. Thanks to my colleague Alex who shared his mother's recipe for this delicious chipotle sauce. These chipotle chillies in adobo sauce are available quite readily in the US and even this specific brand is easy to get. The kids also really loved the different flavor and I've made it a few times since I got back. Last time I served this with some tasty guacamole 
A salad, as pictured, also works well as a side. It's also easy enough to be a weeknight dinner.

VEGGIES IN CHIPOTLE SAUCE


Ingredients:

Chipotles in Adobo Sauce (canned) - 2 chillies and some sauce (the rest can be transferred to a glass container and refrigerated for use later)
Mushrooms - 16 oz, wiped with a moist towelette and quarter (can substitute with boiled potatoes)
Paneer - 200g, cut into cubes
Onion - 1 medium one,  peeled & chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled
Tomatoes - 1 medium, chopped
Butter - 3 tsp
Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt - half cup

Tequila - 1 shot (as per the original recipe but I skipped) :)
Salt - to taste

 Method:
1) In a pan melt 2 tsp of  butter and saute onions, garlic and the chopped chipotle chillies, saute for a few minutes. then add tomatoes and a bit of salt. Allow this mixture to cool a bit.

2) Grind together  the onion-tomato-chili mixture with some sour cream or greek yogurt to a smooth sauce.

3)  In a pan, melt 1 tsp of butter and add mushrooms (or boiled potato cubes) in a single layer. Allow to cook down - no need to stir. sprinkle some salt and saute for a few more minutes before adding the chipotle sauce with some water to thin it down.

4) Allow this to come to a boil and simmer together for about 10 minutes or so until it thickens. Add in the cubed paneer and allow to cook for 5 more minutes.


BLACK BEANS RICE 



Ingredients:
Basmati Rice - 2 cups, rinsed
Black beans - 1 can, drained and rinsed
Onion - 1 small, chopped
Carrots - 1 small, chopped
Corn - half cup, frozen
Tomato - half, seeded and chopped
Garlic cloves - 3 to 4, chopped
Jalapeno peppers - 1, seeded and chopped (optional) 
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - half tsp  (reduce if using jalapeno)

Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp (optional)
Vegetable Broth - 2 cups OR  1 heaped tsp of Vegetarian Bouillon paste
Water - 2 to 4 cups (adjust based on whether broth is being used - total must be 4 cups) 
Coriander/Cilantro leaves - 3 tbsp, chopped
Lemon juice - to taste
Salt - to taste
Olive oil - 2 tsp 

Method:
1) Heat oil in a pan, and add cumin seeds, toss in chopped garlic, jalapeno (if using)  and onions and saute for a few minutes.

2) Next add chopped carrots, corn, tomatoes and continue to saute with some salt & turmeric powder. Add chilli powder at this point and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

3) Next add the basmati rice and keep tossing for another 5 minutes on medium flame until well toasted.

5) Transfer to a rice cooker, and add vegetable broth and water combination (or veg. bouillon paste + water) - the total must be 4 cups. Adjust salt as needed and cook till done.

6) When rice is cooked, stir in the drained and rinsed black beans, coriander leaves and lemon juice to taste. Cover and let the flavors come together for about 15-20 minutes before serving.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Lemonade Syrup / Concentrate

Summer is here and the kids are often clamoring for something cold.. Though I now make quite a few fresh fruit/veggie juices (thank you Blendtec), lemonade is always a favorite at home and with the abundance of lemons one sees in the market at this time, it's hard to resist. I like to make a lemonade concentrate so it's easy to whip up lemonade in a jiffy...

My favorite method to get the most juice is to whack each lemon with a hammer on all sides (really, I kid you not). What this does is, it breaks down the cell walls and the lemon turns softer and it makes it super easy to get maximum juice out of it. For my carpal tunnel afflicted hands, this is an important step... Whatever juicing method works for you is fine but this is mine...

LEMONADE SYRUP / CONCENTRATE


INGREDIENTS:
Fresh Lemon juice - 1.5 cups (about 10 lemons or so, depends on size)
Sugar - 1.5 cups
Water - 1.25 cups
Ginger - 1 inch, grated (optional)
Zest from 1 lemon
 
METHOD:
1) Combine sugar, ginger & water in a bowl, bring to a boil, stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest and remove from the stove. Allow to cool.

2) Meanwhile juice the lemons and measure so you have 1.5 cups.

3) Strain the cooled ginger flavored sugar syrup and mix in the lemon juice. 

This can be refrigerated for several weeks.

To make lemonade - add about 1/3 cup of the prepared lemonade concentrate, add ice cubes as necessary and top the glass with cold water. 

Variations: Add orange juice (pictured) with water and lemonade syrup for an orangey lemonade. Or mix with Pomegranate juice or brewed and cooled tea. 




Monday, June 8, 2015

Baby Potato Roast

I'm sure I've said this before but baby potatoes are the cutest :) Potato fry or roast is an eternal favorite but when made with baby potatoes it is extra special. Peeling them can be a bit laborious but it's worth it to bite into tender, spiced potatoes with a crisp crunchy coating... The kids love this too and using sambar powder instead of chilli powder lends flavor without it being too spicy for them.

My MIL gave me this tip to add some bread crumbs and it lends a lovely crunch to this dish.

BABY POTATO ROAST

 
Ingredients:
Baby Potatoes - about 35
Sambar powder - 1 to 1.5 tsp (I use Shakthi brand - you could use chilli powder for a spicier version)
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Bread crumbs - about 2 tbsp (optional)
Oil - 1 tbsp

Method:
1) Pressure cook baby potatoes with some salt - I followed the same method I use for sepakizhangu, allow to cool a bit and peel.

2) Heat oil in a wide pan on medium  preferably non-stick/ceramic, add turmeric, salt and sambar powder to the oil, stir for a few seconds (ensuring they don't burn) before adding the potatoes.

3)Toss on medium flame until well coated with spices and cover and keep for about 10 minutes or so.. stirring every once in a while. This will allow the salt and spices to penetrate the potatoes.

4) Remove cover and allow to toss until it crisps up on the outside.  Add bread crumbs if using.. it lends a crunchy exterior to the potatoes.

NOTE: The key is to not increase the flame or rush the process but continue roasting on a medium flame until done.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Jicama Cucumber Mango Salad

I mentioned jicama (pronounced hicama) in my previous post  as one of our snack items when in Mexico... sprinkled generously with tajin which is a Mexican spice powder and with a squeeze of lime a lot of things taste great! I've always seen jicama in the global food store near our place so bought some to make a salad. The friend who introduced me to jicama told me that people who want to lose weight eat it because it is high in water and fiber. Infact, 1 cup of jicama has about 50 calories,  approx 12 grams of carbs, 7 grams of which is fiber.  It doesn't have a very strong taste.. but it's more neutral, crunchy and juicy so blends well. Looking it up in wiki reveals that it's the veggie used in popiah and rojak in Singapore as well.. interesting!

Coming back to my salad recipe...

JICAMA CUCUMBER MANGO SALAD



Ingredients:

Jicama - 1small one OR half of a big one, peeled &  cut into thin matchsticks
(English) Cucumber - 1, washed and cut into thin matchsticks
Mango - not too ripe or raw (refer to this post on how to pick), peeled and cut into strips
Coriander/Cilantro Leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped
Tajin (mexican seasoning) - chilli lemon powder - to taste
Honey - 1 - 2 tsp
Olive oil - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

Method:

1) In a large enough bowl, toss together thin strips of  jicama, cucumber and mango with the coriander leaves.

2) In a small bowl, combine the honey, olive oil and the tajin seasoning (you can use some lemon juice with a combination of chilli powder & chaat masala as a substitute)

3) Mix this in with the veggies. Taste and add salt as needed. Allow to marinate (I put it in the refrigerator) for an hour or so before serving.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Mexico Trip

I visited Mexico for the first time as part of a business trip and wanted to document the fun week & mainly the food I had at Guadalajara (pronounced Guada-la-hara) - which is the city I visited. I was treated to different kinds of Mexican food thanks to my colleagues who played such gracious hosts.  What struck me most was how much it resembled India...  I'm also thankful I got to experience the real Mexico and not an Americanized tourist version, which I understand from friends is what most holiday spots there are.

Soon after I landed & checked in at the hotel,  my friends picked me up and we visited Tlaquepaque which is a nearby city that has many restaurants, small street shops that sell a range of items such as souvenirs, wooden toys for kids, handmade bead bracelets,chains,  painted pottery, glass art etc. We walked around to look at the handloom items & did some shopping as well  before going to the Casa Fuerte restaurant... It was a great open atmosphere with a live cuban band playing and very relaxing and cool. My friends suggested I order  the tamarind margarita and it didn't disappoint.  I was quite nervous about what vegetarian options I would have but with a "no carne" check on every dish that the waiter suggested, I realized i had quite a few options... I chose the nopalese (cactus) salad served with an avocado by the side and a fried slightly sweet plantain stuffed with cheese - two appetizers that tasted great. This is my first time tasting cactus and I quite liked it. For dessert we shared a guava tart drizzled with caramel and served with some kiwi and strawberry sauces on the side.

Nopalese Salad, Plantain Tortillas & Tamarind Margarita at Casa Fuerte


Guava and Caramel Tart

Breakfast was usually the buffet at the hotel and it we had quite an elaborate selection each day - even for a vegetarian like me... I usually had the egg white veggie omelette with a spicy salsa that absolutely reminded me of the freshly ground (on the ammi) red chilli chutney from my grandmother's kitchen. The highlight was the variety of fruits we had - perfectly ripe, red guavas, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges and grapefruit. I haven't had such tasty guavas in a long time. They even had a guava dish where it was sliced, scooped out a bit and replaced with a mild & sweet creamy cheese & coconut filling and topped with some caramelized coconut flakes and walnuts. I really enjoyed it.

For lunch we visited different places each day.. I had a tasty panela (cheese) salad the first day at Roby's and the dressing was the highlight - it was a cilantro based one that was absolutely refreshing and light. I also tried chilaquiles divorcidad - which is basically a dish of fried tortilla strips topped with 2 kinds of salsas the green one and the red one and drizzled with some cream and with some crumbled queso fresco on top and washed it down with a hot cafe con leche.  Some days we ate in the office cafeteria and I had a medley of veggies with rice that tasted exactly like lemon rice (sans the seasonings and with some corn). They use chayote (chow chow) in their stir fries and fajitas and i quite liked the crunchy sweetness it lends.  I also tasted jamaica (hibiscus) juice and that is something i plan to make so have bought dried hibiscus leaves.

Chilaquiles Divorcidad & Cafe con leche

For snack we usually got cucumbers or jicama (which is a crunchy tuber) or watermelon slices sprinkled generously with Tajin (a spicy and tangy chili powder) and squeeze of some small green lemons. I have since then bought a jicama and made a salad, combining it with cucumbers and mango - very tasty. Will post the recipe sometime soon.  Another interesting dish i tasted was a lemony dessert made with cream and marie biscuits called "Carlotta" - something I want to recreate at home as well.

Cucumbers with limon and Tajin spice mix

I also had some Chile Rellenos - chilies stuffes with cheese and served with rice and beans at the Los Otates restaurant. We went to the Las Tequillas restaurant for dinner one day,  opted for the patio seating and enjoyed the cool weather.. it overlooked a ground where a soccer match was being played while we munched popcorn dipped in the spicy salsa with some mango margaritas... For dinner the suggestion was for me to try quesadillas (and these are not toasted but deep fried like puris) with different fillings like oaxaca cheese, zucchini blossoms, corn truffles (huitlacoche). Each one was unique and with some of the spicy salsa it tasted good. I also wanted to try the famous mole sauce so I ordered a dish of sweet plantains that were topped with a dark mole sauce with hints of chocolate in it... it was a delicious dinner and the ambience was great too.

Fried Quesadillas with Tortillas and Chocolate Mole Sauce

We also visited the downtown area of Guadalajara one evening , walked around soaking in the sights...  the Cathedral there is beautiful and grand, there is also a statue of the father of Mexico - Miguel Hidalgo and the orphanage that is now converted into a museum... The courtyard also had some sculptures by Sergio Bustamente - very different... had chairs and sofas with legs and arms and some even had eyes...  and some that were positively alien looking. We then we to La Cantina which is almost 100 yrs old and tucked away with a small unassuming entrance where we were entertained with live music and it was a great environment where everyone was friendly and singing together. We then went to a small restaurant which seems very popular called La Chata where I tasted some good Enchiladas with salsa verde and perfectly cooked and seasoned fried potatoes.


The Guadalajara Cathedral


Miguel Hidalgo - the Father of Mexico

Orphanage turned Museum


Me with one of Sergio Bustamente's creations

After several days of Mexican food we went a Fusion place and didn't think I would be ordering burgers in Mexico but i was quite glad I did that in the Il Latina restaurant because they were fabulous... I liked the ambience of this restaurant - it was quite cool and I liked how for lamps they used  inverted buckets that were painted and decorated and there was a framed  wall filled with paper boats ..  The burger had portobello mushroom, grilled zucchini and red peppers layered with some caramelized onion - delicious. For appetizers we shared a wonton dish, filled with sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese served in a creamy green sauce & some tomato bruschetta that my friends and I enjoyed. The desserts looked very tempting but I was too full to even share one.

Stuffed wontons with a green cream suace and roasted red peppers

Grilled Vegetables Burgers

Finally on Friday, we drove to Lake Chapala after work and had a late lunch of veggie fajitas with some super guacamole and fresh made corn tortillas. Walked around the lake which was beautiful.. it was quite expansive & surrounded by mountains. It was nice to see houses with fences lined with bougainvillas and frangipani trees and it reminded me of India quite a bit.

Lake Chapala


Veggie Fajitas, Guacamole and Corn Tortillas served with rice and frijoles (beans)

I had a great time, picked up some Spanish along the way and hope to one day visit with my family. My daughter suggested I pack her in my suitcase the next time I go there.. :)  I also picked up some mexican candy for the kids -  there are a lot of tamarind based ones that are sour, spicy and sweet. Also some coconut based ones - one in particular that reminded me of kamarkattu (found in TamilNadu made with coconut and caramelized sugar). I also tasted something that reminded me of the Agra Pethas but this was made with calabaza squash cooked in sugar syrup.  Interesting how these 2 countries so far apart have quite a few similarities....

Thanks to my friends who made sure I had a great time and treated me like a "princesa".
Muchas Gracias A & G :) 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Rajma Salad

I had no idea that the kids would love mashed potatoes.... The few times I have tasted mashed potatoes myself (in the past), I wasn't really impressed -  it tasted quite bland so I had no desire to make it at home myself.

However, for a school potluck, I had signed up to bring in mashed potatoes and my search took me to Alton Brown's recipe... I liked the idea of a garlicky, creamy mashed potato and like all of his recipes,  it didn't disappoint- in fact it was quite a hit. I have made it many times now and the kids can't seem to get enough of it - even my daughter who is not a big potato fan relishes it like it's some creamy chocolate mousse or some such delicious dessert... with her eyes closed and with a long "mmmmm...." sound for every spoonful. In contrast, my son is the kind who is keen on gobbling down food as fast as he can and if he likes something the gobbling rate just increases... :)  My husband who only likes spicy food also enjoys this and me, well I wish I didn't like it as much as I do... considering how it's not exactly diet friendly :)

Here,  I've served the mashed potatoes with a crunchy kidney bean salad and it made for a satisfying and easy dinner that the family enjoyed.

CREAMY MASHED POTATOES


Ingredients:

Potatoes (preferably Russet) - 3 to 4 big ones
Garlic - 3 to 4 cloves, sliced
Milk - 3/4 cup
Heavy Cream - 1/4 cup (replace with milk for a lighter version)
Cream cheese (low fat) - 1 oz, softened (this is my addition and is esp. useful if you are not adding heavy cream)
Dried Rosemary - 1/4 tsp (optional), I add this because i like the combination.
Parmesan cheese - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste (about half tsp to a tsp)

Method;
1) Rinse, peel and dice potatoes into big cubes. Add to a pan and cover with water & add salt. Let this come to a boil and allow to cook until potatoes are very tender (test with a fork) - must be at a fall apart stage.

2) Meanwhile, in a small pan on medium low, combine sliced garlic, dried rosemary, cream and milk and allow to simmer for about 4-5 minutes. Cover and let rest until potatoes are done.

3) Once potatoes are at a fall apart stage, drain them completely and mash them with a potato masher till nice and smooth. If the potatoes are well cooked, this should be a breeze. Now add in the cream cheese and the garlicky milk-cream mixture and mash together. It will seem soupy and watery but fret not, it will thicken to the right consistency as it cools down a bit.

4) Stir in parmesan cheese and serve while still hot or warm....




For the Salad, toss together canned and rinsed kidney beans (cooked Rajma) with chopped peppers, cucumbers, carrots, de-seeded tomatoes, chopped kale or spinach. For the dressing, combine a tbsp of olive oil with some lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss with the veggies. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ribbon Pakoda

I prefer savoury snacks to sweet ones and karaboondhi, seedai, thattai and these ribbon pakodas all fall into my favorite category. Though my mom uses a different recipe for ribbon pakoda, this one is from one of my aunts (J periamma). When I tasted her ribbon pakodas they were just perfect in the flavours they had and had a melt in the mouth texture (which sounds counter intuitive for a crunchy snack but I'm unable to find a more suitable description).  I found that her secret was ground pottukadalai (dalia or roasted channa - that we use when making coconut chutney). It also had a lovely garlic flavoring... so here's her recipe - the only change is that I've added extra chilli powder and some sesame seeds...

RIBBON PAKODA


Ingredients:
Rice flour (Arisi Maavu)  - 2 cups
Besan (Kadalai Maavu)- 3/4 cup
Pottukadalai maavu - 3/4 cup (grind pottukadalai to a fine flour)
Black sesame seeds - half tsp (optional)
Salt - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Butter melted - 2 tbsp
Oil, to deep fry

To Grind:
Asafoetida /Hing/ Perungaayam- small piece
G. chillies - 10
Garlic - 7 cloves of garlic
Water - about half cup

Method:
1) Grind Asafoetida, Green chillies, garlic with water to until well blended. Strain this and set aside the flavored, spicy water.


2) Sift rice flour, besan and pottukadalai with salt to ensure there are no lumps. Take this mixture in a bowl with chilli powder and add melted hot butter and mix well. 

3) Next add the flavored water from step 1 above gradually while mixing to form a stiff and smooth dough. Add water as required if flavored water is not enough.

4) Use the dough press with the one for ribbon pakoda (it has 2 slits). Grease the press and add the dough. 

5) Heat oil on medium (or slightly more) until a small bit of dough when added sizzles immediately and floats on top. Do not heat the oil too much. 

6) Press the dough to form strips directly in the hot oil ( a swirling motion of the hand when pressing enables the dough doesn't pile up and is spread out as a single layer)

7) Allow to cook on one side before flipping over and cooking till done (the bubbles surrounding the dough will subside quite a bit when ready). Drain to a paper towel and repeat this process until all the dough is used up.  

Store in an airtight container (once completely cooled) and enjoy!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Shortcut Undhiyu

I love undhiyu and first followed Nupur's recipe - and blogged about it a while ago. It truly is a labor of love and the flavors of the different vegetables and the methi dumplings are phenomenal. However, wanting a quick fix solution that will allow us to indulge in this curry on a weekday, I devised this shortcut method of using a combination of frozen foods and some fresh vegetables and this doesn't disappoint. This is in no way a traditional way of making this curry but it satisfies my undhiu cravings fabulously and enables us to have it more frequently.You can change the veggies around to your preference.

I use the Bhagwati brand Methi Gota (frozen) - see picture below for the Undhiyu recipe and also to make Kadhi Pakodi effortlessly and it has a great flavor and all it needs is some heating up in the toaster oven.

SHORTCUT UNDHIYU


Ingredients:
Methi Gota - half pack, frozen
Potatoes - 2, small to medium
Surti Papdi Lilva -  1 pack frozen
Carrots - 2 (or use 1 small sweet potato)
Suran (yam) or Raw banana - half cup (optional)- cubed
Oil - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 1/4 tsp  ( to maintain green colour of curry)
Salt - to taste
Lemon juice - about half tbsp

To grind to a coarse green  paste:
Shredded Coconut - half cup, loosely packed
Green Chillies - 5 to 6
Garlic cloves - 3 to 4
Ginger - 1.5 inch piece
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Coriander leaves - half bunch, (stalks and leaves, ends trimmed)

Method:
1) Pressure cook (in separate pans) the surti papdi lilva, yam & sweet potato (if using) and potatoes. Peel potatoes, cut into big cubes and set aside
2) Cut carrots into small rounds. microwave or parboil with a bit of water for about 5 minute.
3) Cook the frozen methi gota in a toaster oven for about 10 minutes (or follow package directions). Cut each into half.
 
4) Heat oil in a wide pan, add the veggies and continue to saute for a few mins.  Add about half cup water to this mixture with some salt, sugar and the ground green paste.  Cover and allow to cook on medium-low flame.

5) Once the water has evaporated, stir in the methi gota and continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes more with occasional stirring.

6) Finally switch off the stove and stir in the lemon juice.  Delicious with rotis.  



Monday, March 9, 2015

Stuffed Mini Peppers

I have been seeing these colorful mini peppers quite frequently these days and couldn't resist buying them. Many times, I just use them as substitute for bell peppers but there was a recipe on the back of the bag for a stuffed pepper that sounded pretty tempting... I modified it from a purely cheese filling to include some chopped spinach. The white filling with specks of green contrasts really well with the colorful peppers (this time though since I blended everything it's a green filling, but tasty nevertheless).




Ingredients:
Assorted Mini Peppers - about 15 to 16
Onion - half of a small one, chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced (or use garlic powder)
Spinach - 1.5 cups, chopped
Cream cheese - 3 to 4 oz, softened
Cheddar Cheese - 2 tbsp
Mixed Italian herbs (dried) - half tsp
Dried Red Chilli Flakes - half tsp
Salt and Black Pepper - to taste
Bread Crumbs - 2 to 3 tbsp (optional)
Olive oil - 1 tsp and to drizzle

Method:
1) Wash and dry the peppers. Slice them in half (you can keep the stalks or remove them)

2) In a small saucepan, heat olive oil and add in chopped garlic, onion and red chilli flakes. When they soften a bit add the spinach and some salt (go easy on the salt). Saute until spinach has wilted and cooked down a bit.

3) Stir this into the softened cream cheese along with cheddar cheese and italian herbs - season with black pepper to taste
NOTE: (this time since I forgot to leave the cream cheese out I put that along with the spinach mixture and blended.. hence the green colored filling - I personally prefer leaving little green specks in a white filling, which didn't happen this time).

4) Lay them on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil and top each pepper with a bit of bread crumbs and drizzle lightly with olive oil (a few drops on each peppers is more than enough).

5) Bake in a 350 degree F (pre-heated oven) for 15-20 minutes....  Allow to cool a bit and enjoy warm. .

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fruit & Chia Yogurt

Here's another snack or mini meal or even dessert that we love at home..  It packs a good protein punch from the greek yogurt and also has the goodness of Chia seeds & fiber from the fruit added. The topping is optional but it makes for a tasty, crunchy addition and takes the snack to the next level.

Another versatile recipe that you can change and play around with by using different flavored greek yogurt & various fruits such as blueberries, apples etc.

FRUIT AND CHIA YOGURT



Ingredients:
Greek Yogurt (I use the Fage brand) - 6 oz flavored or unflavored
Fruit of choice - Apples, Blueberries, Strawberries etc
Chia seeds - 1 tbsp, soaked in 3 tbsp of water for 10 minutes
Honey or Agave nectar - to sweeten (if desired)

Topping
Almonds - 3, chopped
Chocolate chips - 6 or so, chopped
Craisins (Dried cranberries) - 5, chopped

Method:
1) If using unflavored yogurt, sweeten with a drizzle of honey or Agave nectar.
2) Stir together the soaked chia seeds, yogurt, fruit and add in the toppings (which lends a crunchy texture).  Enjoy! 

TIP: As a substitute for Greek Yogurt, take plain yogurt and scoop into a strainer lined with a muslin cloth, set over a bowl and into the refrigerator for a few hours. You will be left with a thick creamy yogurt in the strainer that can be used in lieu of store-bought greek yogurt.



Friday, February 13, 2015

Potato Soup & Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Our dinner yesterday was a very satisfying meal and it pleased me no end that the kids couldn't get enough of the soup. Even though it was a tad spicy by their standards they still slurped it up once i topped their bowls with a bit of parmesan cheese and kept asking for more.

I just played off of my Broccoli Soup recipe with some tweaks and it worked  - the potatoes add a smoothness and creaminess that is unbeatabale :) 



POTATO SOUP



Ingredients:
Medium Russet Potatoes - 3, washed, peeled and diced into small cubes
Medium Yellow Onions - half, peeled and chopped 
Carrot - 1 medium, chopped into small cubes
Celery Stalks - 2, chopped into small cubes
Broccoli florets - half cup, chopped (I used frozen ones that have been defrosted)
Flour - 1 tbsp
Milk - half cup
Vegetable Broth - 4 cups (I used  4 cups water + 1 tsp better than bouillon)
Salt - 1/4 tsp, or to taste
Red Chilli Flakes - half tsp, or to taste 
Dried Rosemary - 1/4 tsp (optional) 
Cracked black pepper - to taste
Extra Virgin Olive - 1 tbsp

Method:
1) Heat oil in a deep pot and toss in onions, carrot, celery & broccoli stalks and saute for a few minutes. 
2) Add in the diced potatoes and continue to stir - add some salt, red chilli flakes and rosemary at this point. 
3) Pour in the broth and allow this to cook on medium for about 10-15 minutes... 
4) Mix the flour with the milk until there are no lumps and add to the soup pot and allow to cook for another 10 minutes or so. 
5) You could puree the whole thing using an immersion blender... but i scoooped out slightly more than half of the soup and blended it (I used a Blendtec - make sure you are careful when blending hot liquids, some blenders need slightly cooled ingredients, else they can splash out) . 
6) Return the blended ingredients back to the soup pot, adjust seasonings (salt and pepper) and stir for a few more minutes.

Tasty, creamy potato soup is ready to serve. For kids, you may want to top with some cheese (parmesan or cheddar would go great).

As for the salad, it's as simple as tossing together some cooked quinoa, black beans and some veggies with a lemon-olive oil dressing.  The sweet mini peppers add a wonder burst of colors... i think some fruit could also be added... avocado or oranges would go great.

BLACK BEAN QUINOA SALAD

Ingredients:
Quinoa - 3/4 cup, washed
Water - 1.5 cups
Black beans - 1 can, drained and rinsed completely
Cucumber - half, chopped
Tomatoes - 2/3 cup, chopped (I used grape tomatoes), for normal tomatoes de-seed them.
Sweet Mini Peppers (or any bell peppers of choice) - 4, chopped
Salt - to taste
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Lemon juice from half of a big lemon
Cracked black pepper - to taste

Method:
1) In a small pot add washed quinoa with double the quantity of water, add some salt and allow it to come to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. 
2) Toss the hot quinoa with the black beans (helps cool it down)
3) Meanwhile combine the chopped veggies (and fruit, if using) in a large bowl. 
4) Whisk together Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to make dressing. 
5) To the veggies, add in the black beans and quinoa, pour dressing and toss together. Salad is ready to serve. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Thavana Podi (Coconut-Tamarind Powder)

I hadn't heard of Thavana Podi until recently, when my MIL mentioned it... Intrigued, I asked her to describe it and she said that it uses a lot of the same ingredients as Theeyal and was a drier version with similar flavors and is usually paired with curd rice.  When my husband's aunt (G athai) visited us a few weeks later, I asked her to make it so I could observe and also note down the recipe... Apparently this is quite popular in Nagercoil and something that her mother in law would lovingly make for her often since G athai loved this podi.  She said she likes to make it tangy....

She set about roasting the coconut and gathering all the things needed for the podi while I took note of the measurements.... This tastes great with curd rice.. it has a tanginess and spiciness with the coconut flavor shining through. Instead of fresh coconut, we used dessicated coconut since that makes the process go by faster. With thanks to G athai, here's the recipe for Thavana podi...

THAVANA PODI (Coconut Tamarind Powder)



Ingredients:
Dessicated Coconut - half cup heaped
Garlic - 8 cloves
Dried Red Chillies - 5-7 (depending on spice level, increase for a spicier version)
Black whole urad dhal - 1 tbsp (you can also use white, split)
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Tamarind - one 3 inch piece (flat), when rolled up it was the size of a small gooseberry
Coconut oil - half tsp

1) Heat coconut oil on medium in a pan and first roast coriander seeds, urad dhal and red chillies for about 4-5 minutes. 
2) Then add in half of the garlic cloves (4), curry leaves and the dried coconut and roast till coconut is dark brown (since we are using dried coconut it's easier to achieve this step quickly).  
3) Add the tamarind piece and stir for a minute more before switching off the stove. Finally add the remaining garlic cloves. 
4)Allow the mixture to cool completely and grind to a powder. Store in a clean, dry jar. 

p.s. Athai explained that the reason for adding some of the garlic cloves without frying is to lend a bit of moisture to the podi that helps the texture of the end product.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cranberry Orange Bread

This is a quick bread which I made a few months ago for my husband's office Thanksgiving Potluck - it's very festive and has all the perfect flavors for something to bake during the holidays. I heard from him that his colleagues loved it and were asking for the recipe. I then baked a loaf for us to try at home and we were very pleased with the rich taste coupled with the brightness from the cranberries and orange. Easy to put together and tasty - so a winner of a recipe really.

What I love most about this recipe from Anne Burell is that it can be made in no time using a food processor and orange and cranberries go so well together...

CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD

Ingredients:
All purpose flour - 2 cups
White Sugar - 3/4 cup (in one variation I reduced to 1/2 cup)
Brown Sugar - 1/2 cup
Butter - 1 stick, cold (cut into small pieces 1 stick = half cup)
Orange zest - from 1 large orange
Orange juice - 3/4 cup
Orange - chopped segments from 1 orange (I used canned mandarin oranges)
Egg - 1
Craisins (Dried Cranberries) - 1 cup
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp

Method:
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
2) In a food processor, combine flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and butter. Pulse until this resembles crumbs. 
3) Add orange juice, orange zest and egg, pulse until just combined.
4) Remove to a bowl, stir in dried cranberries and chopped orange. 
5) Transfer to prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 15 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Do remember to rotate the pan once mid-way (for even cooking). 
6) Allow to cool for 20 minutes in pan, before removing... Slice when completely cool. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fruit Tart (Easy and Eggless)

This is such an easy dessert to make and looks so elegant and makes you seem like such an accomplished baker, when in fact this is something that can be put together with just a little effort.  This dessert has been made several times in the past few months and has always been well received... and my kids have declared this to be their favorite. This is also a very versatile recipe and you can change it around to use different fruits that you prefer or are available at any point in time.

Onto the recipe now... this is based on Paula Deen's recipe which I have modified a bit...

FRUIT TART
 


Ingredients:

For the Crust:
All Purpose Flour - 1 cup
Butter, unsalted - 6 tbsp (softened and cut into pieces)
Confectioner's (Powdered) Sugar - 1/3 cup

1) Preheat oven to 350F
2)  In a food processor, or using your hand, combine butter, sugar and flour together until it comes together like a ball.
3) Press this evenly into a 12 inch tart pan... I used 11 inch spring form pan and use a fork to form ridges along the edges and also used the tines of the fork to press holes on the base so it doesn't puff up too much. 
4) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until light golden and set aside to cool.Remove from pan.

For the Glaze:
Lemon/ Orange Juice - quarter cup (I used storebought)
Lemon Juice (fresh) - 1 tbsp
Cornflour - half tbsp
Sugar - 1 tbsp

1) While the crust is baking, in a small pan, heat together the juice, lemon juice, cornflour and sugar on medium heat and cook with frequent stirring until slightly thick and clear.  Allow this to cool down a bit.

For the Filling:
Cream cheese / Mascarpone cheese - 1/2 pack (4 oz), softened, if using cream cheese, which is what I used.
Sugar - half cup
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

(You could also replace a part of the cream cheese with whipping cream, if you wish to give it a lighter texture and taste, but the slight tartness of the cream cheese helps strikes a good balance with the fruits and helps it keep the tart not too sweet).

1) Beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla till smooth.
2) Spread  this on the cooled crust.

For the Fruit Topping:
Anything that suits you... I once used strawberries, pineapples, kiwi slices and blueberries and another time used cherries, blueberries, strawberries and pineapple.
Arrange the fruit slices on the cream cheese filling in a patter or even just randomly.

Thanks to Amar anna for his shot of the tart (or pie as he remembered it)
Brush the glaze on the fruits and refrigerate for at least 2- 3 hours before serving.