Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cheesecake Bars

I trust everyone is in a festive holiday mood... I have 2 weeks off and I couldn't be more thrilled... this is much needed downtime after a rather busy year at work. I hope to spend some fun times with the kiddos and also with some friends who are visiting us. Having the kids at home with me means lesser time for the things I usually do in my free time such as blog hopping, posting new recipes and even cooking something new... so today I'm here with a recipe I made a month ago for a get-together - Cheese cake bars.
They are very versatile and you can play around with the basic recipe and make many variations - such as adding crushed oreo biscuits or topping with a layer of ganache, adding in some nuts etc.


CHEESE CAKE BARS


Ingredients
For the Crust:
1 3/4 cup graham crackers (honey or chocolate) or nilla wafers - crushed to a powder
1/4  cup roasted almonds - powdered (optional, or you could increase the crackers by 1/4 cup)
Brown Sugar - half cup
Butter - 4 tbsp, melted


For the Filling:Low fat cream cheese (Neufachtel) - two 8 oz pkgs, softened
Sugar - half cup
Eggs - 2 large

Sour cream - 3/4 cup
Semisweet chocolate chips - about 1/2 cup
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Jam (strawberry, raspberry etc) - 1/4 to 1/3 cup (I used plum jam since i wanted to finish that)

Method:1) Preheat oven to 300F. Line a 13x9 inch pan with aluminium foil - this will ensure that it's easy to lift out the cheesecake when done.


2) For the crust, combine the crumbs, powdered nuts (if using), brown sugar and melted butter. It will seem crumbly... press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 8 minutes and allow to cool.

3) Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a big bowl. Add eggs one at a time. beating the mixture until fluffy. Add sour cream and vanilla stir well. Pour over the crust & spread it out evenly with a spatula.



4) Microwave the jam for about 15-20 seconds to soften it... drop spoonfuls on the filling randomly... make swirls with a toothpick.. you will want to work quickly because the swirls are easier to make when the jam doesn't cool down too much.



5) Sprinkle chocolate chips on the top and bake for 40 mins. Allow to cool and refrigerate for atleast 4 hours before cutting into bars and serving.


In case I don't get to post again before the New Year starts, I'd like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year ahead!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stir-fried Eggplant

I know that this is not a popular vegetable and it wasn't mine either growing up but now it's a different story... My kids & husband are not totally crazy about it but there are certain recipes that can hook them in and this is one such.


This recipe was inspired by the eggplant dish one finds in Chinese restaurants... you can make it as spicy as you want it and it goes great with some fried rice or even plain rice. For this, I use the long, slender chinese eggplants. The cornflour ensures that the sauce hugs the eggplant & gives it a nice sheen.

STIR FRIED EGGPLANT / BRINJALS (Chinese Style)



Ingredients:
Long Chinese eggplants - 2, sliced into 2 inch pieces
Onion - 1 small, sliced thin (optional)
Garlic - 4 cloves, chopped
Oil - 2 tbsp (use half sesame oil if available)
Spring onion greens - for garnish (I didn't have any, unfortunately)
Chilli powder / red chilli flakes - half tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste


Sauce mix:
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Chilli sauce (e.g. Sriracha) - 1 tbsp
Vinegar - 1 tsp
Sugar - half tsp (optional)
Black pepper - to taste
Corn flour - 1-2 tsp (mixed with 3 tbsp cold water to form a thin paste)


Ingredients:
1) Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wide, shallow pan and fry the eggplant with a bit of salt and chilli powder (if using) on medium. Flip over after several minutes and cook the other side as well until they are tender. Remove from stove and keep aside.


2) In the same pan, heat the remaining tbsp of oil and add the garlic and sliced onions (if using) and fry till golden. Now add the cooked eggplant and cook for a few more minutes.

3) Combine all the sauce ingredients and add to the eggplant-onion stir fry and allow to combine. Cook for a few more minutes until it thickens. Garnish with spring onion tops & serve with rice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pad Thai Wraps / Rolls

It's not common for my husband to like healthy food.... (like salads and soups) but I have to admit that he has come a long way and now eats broccoli, tofu and a whole lot of other vegetables that he once refused to even look at.... So I was quite surprised when he complained that I haven't made the summer rolls in a long time - essentially they have a salad of veggies and seasoned tofu wrapped to make a roll.



Wanting something warm for dinner, I decided to twist my usual recipe to make a Pad thai inspired filling... so it's basically a combination of the Pad Thai recipe with the Vietnamese Summer Roll recipe. I sauteed veggies and tofu and added in a splash of the tangy, sweet pad thai sauce & added in some crushed peanuts - we loved it !

PAD THAI WRAPS/ROLLS



Ingredients:

Vietnamese Spring roll wrappers (rice wrappers) - here's a link that shows how to wrap them

Cabbage - 3/4 cup loosely packed shredded into thin, long strips
Carrot - 2 medium, julienned into thin slivers
Mung sprouts - about 2 cups
Tofu puffs - about 8, cut into strips (you could use sauteed tofu too)
Spring Onions - 3 to 5 stalks, chopped
Cucumber - cut into thin strips
Garlic - 3 to 4 cloves, minced
Soy sauce - 1 tsp
Sriracha chilli sauce - to season
Roasted Peanuts - 1/3 cup, chopped coarsely
Oil - 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves/Spring onions - for garnish

For the Sauce:
Tamarind extract - 1 cup (soak tamarind in water and extract juice)
Soy sauce -2 tbsp
Jaggery - about 1 to 2 tbsp (or to taste)
Sriracha chilli sauce - 2 tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste

Method:
1) Heat oil & add garlic, next add the cabbage and carrot and saute with a bit of salt. Add about 1 cup of sprouts and a tsp of soy sauce and some sriracha if you want some extra spice. Remove from the stove while veggies are still tender crisp (so a few minutes in a hot stove should do). Stir in the chopped spring onions and set aside.


2) Make the sauce by simmering together the tamarind juice, soy sauce, sriracha and brown sugar/jaggery till it thickens to a sauce.


3) Heat a tsp of oil and add the tofu puffs with a splash of sriracha and a tsp of water which will allow the tofu puffs to soften a bit and absorb some spicy flavor. Use your favorite seasoning if sriracha is not your thing.



3) Heat some water in a wide, shallow pan (this is to dip the rice roll wrappers) - it should be a more than warm but not boiling hot.


4) Dip the rice roll wrapper (one at a time) and once it softens (takes about a minute or lesser) lay it out on a flat surface and it's time to make the rolls - in one corner, put the sauteed veggies, top them with some fresh sprouts, cucumber, tofu, peanuts and coriander leaves, drizzle some of the tamarind sauce and a bit of sriracha - roll it like you would a burrito (refer to this link for more detailed pictures). Serve with the tamarind based pad thai sauce for dipping and enjoy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Baked Zucchini Crisps

Using the oven on a cold night gives the kitchen a cozy feeling and the tummies a delicious meal. Last week, I whipped up these zucchini crisps for dinner and they were devoured by the family. Thin slices of zucchini are coated with seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and baked till crisp... As for the first coating, you could use egg or a mixture of all purpose flour and water if you don't eat eggs - I didn't have any eggs at home that day. Try it and I'm sure this will be a very tasty way to get your family to eat zucchini.



BAKED ZUCCHINI CRISPS


Ingredients:

Zucchini - 1 (big), washed & sliced thin - about quarter inch thick slices
Bread Crumbs - about 1 cup (I ran a few slices of bread through a food processor)
Grated Parmesan - 1/3 cup to half cup
Garlic powder - half tsp
Lemon - Pepper seasoning - quarter tsp (optional)
Red Chilli flakes - half tsp to 1 tsp (or to taste)
Maida/All purpose flour - 1/4 cup mixed with water to form a paste OR Egg - 1, beaten
Salt - to taste
Oil - to spray


Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 475F. Cover a sheet pan with foil/parchment paper and spray with oil.


2) In the first bowl, mix the all purpose flour with water to form a thin paste (or beat egg if using instead) add a pinch of salt.


3) In the 2nd bowl, mix breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese, salt & seasonings (garlic, chilli flakes, pepper etc)


4) Dredge the zucchini slices, first in the flour paste (or egg) and then in the bread crumbs to coat. Arrange as a single layer on the baking sheet.


5) Bake for 5 minutes on one side, flip and cook another 5-7 minutes on the other side.


Best when eaten fresh..... I wouldn't know if it keeps well and tastes good the next day since we always finish it the same day :) I served them plain but you could put out a bowl of marinara sauce or ketchup to dip.