Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It is that time. Vegetable plants are starting to bloom. Berries(wild growing on the road side) are ripe for the picking.

Bean Flowers

Wild Raspberries

Okra flowers

Flower I do not know the name of:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rustic Chicken and Potatoes in a Dutch Oven

The flower from the last post was in fact Lavender. It was not a very familiar flower for me but that in no way meant that my readers were unfamiliar with it. Everyone who took a shot at it got it right. I am proud of you all.

How do you have your cake and eat it too? Exercise of course! That you already know. When you exercise makes a lot of difference. I hear that exercising before breakfast offers vastly more benefits than after a big breakfast.

Jump to the Recipe >>>

Eating a carbohydrate rich meal after exercising in a fasted state does not seem to cause any ill effects is the conclusion of the study published in the Journal of Psychology. Don't for a minute assume I scour medical journals. I came to this information through NY Times - Phys Ed: The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast.

It is easy to follow a regular exercising schedule if you have an exercise buddy or an exercise group. I am lucky that way, I have a friend in the neighborhood who walks (with her dog) around the same time and I tag along. If I walk by myself even a 2 mile distance is an arduous task but with a friend for company even 4 miles is easy peasy. Personally I prefer swimming to any of the land based or gym based workouts.

Swimming is like meditation and cuts down the need for a therapist. Seriously! I read somewhere that there is no sceintific proof that endorphins released during exercising really improve moods or causes euphoria. I do not believe the study because exercise does help elevate my disposition during the day - having more energy, being more alert and giving me the ability to deal with bullshit at work.

If before breakfast is absolutely impossible doing exercise later in the day or any time of the day is better than no exercise at all. Is there any research to prove it I bet there is.

Which is your favorite time of the day to exercise? Do you have an exercise partner?

Now to the recipe,
I put my Mother's Day gift to good use in this recipe. A dutch oven is something that I always wanted and this Mother's Day the family lovingly presented me with one. What if it was a size smaller than the one I really wanted. I think cooking chicken in this oven makes it taste better.

Rustic Chicken and Potatoes in a Dutch Oven
1. 2 lbs Chicken cubed (breast, thighs, any part works)
2. 3 medium potatoes quartered
3. 1-2 cups shallots (red onions works)
4. 8-10 green chilies
5. 2 tbsp of minced garlic and ginger
6. handful of chopped coriander leaves and stems
7. 2 sprigs of curry leaves + 1 tsp of cumin
8. 2 tbsp of masala powder (3/4 tbsp coriander seeds , 2 tsp of pepper corns, 1/2 tsp of cumin, piece of cinnamon and a few cloves - roasted and powdered)
9. 3 ripe red tomatoes diced
10. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder
11. 1 tbsp of lemon juice
12. salt to taste
13. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
14. 4-5 tsp of oil (a bit more than I usually add but well worth it)

Prep the chicken
1. Sprinkle the turmeric on the chicken and let it sit for about 20 minutes

1. Heat about 3-4 tsp of oil in the Dutch Oven, coat it evenly on the surface, when hot add the chicken and let it brown on both sides and set aside
2. Add the cubed potatoes and let it brown as well (loosen the bits stuck to the bottom before adding the onions)
3. Add more oil if required add curry leaves and cumin and add the minced garlic and ginger and let them saute for a few minutes, add the onions and let it brown nicely
4. Now add the powdered masala powder followed by the diced tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes become mushy
5. Add the chicken and potatoes, minced coriander leaves, salt and about 2 cups of water
6. Set the heat to below medium and let cook for about 30 minutes or so.
7. Just before it is done add the red chili powder and the lemon juice

Taste great with rice or bread of any kind.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quick and easy snack - Popping Corn and a Guess?


What flowers are these?

Popcorn was once a snack available only in the movie theater. Some smart entrepreneur packaged it to be sold on the street just like pori(puffed rice) and roasted peanuts.

Here in the US the ubiquitous Oriville Redenbacher just did not cut it in the taste or the pleasure department. This was the only option until DH's friend popped some tasty spicy popcorn in his kitchen. To this day that is the only kind of popcorn that is worth eating for me.

It is a very easy process and dare I say a lot better without the added sodium and butter that is a feature of most packaged popping corn. I like the smaller kernels which are far more tastier IMO.

1. a little more than 1/4 cup popping corn (about 3 quarts of popped corn)
2. 3 tsp oil
3. 1 tsp chili powder
4. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
5. a sprinkling of salt

1. In a heavy bottomed pan with a lid big enough to hold all the popped corn, heat the oil and when it is warm add the salt and chili powder. (Do not overheat the oil)
2. Quickly add the corn and spread it around so it is in a single layer. Do not overcrowd.
3. Place the lid and set the heat on medium
4. Takes about 6-8 minutes for all the corn to pop. The popping sound is frequent and when it becomes lower in frequency switch off the heat. Remove the lid and let it cool.

Enjoy with a matinee movie :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gardening 102

Have you transplanted your seedlings?
With the danger of frost long past the seedlings are all transplanted to the ground or into container gardens by now. Some of these plants are loving the heat wave that has put most of the US in extreme discomfort.

Direct sowing of seeds into the ground has all been done.

The late winter and spring plants are starting to bear fruit. Seeds can be sown or plants transplanted close to them so by the time the plants dies down the summer plant grows to take up its place. Move over peas!

Watering during the hot summer months
I find that the best time to water the plants before the sun rises in the morning. This is essential mostly to prevent evaporation of water and to enjoy the cool summer mornings in the company of the green plants. I have heard that watering plants during the warmest part of the day hurts the plants. I am not sure if that is a myth or truth.

Once you have plants outside you start to wish for rain like you have never done before. As I type this I hear thunder and lightening and some hard rain coming down fast. Really good even it lasts for less than 10 minutes.

Manure for the plants
Once the plants are set and growing fast apply manure or compost around the plants. Do this throughout the growing season.

Support for the plants
Set tomato cages for the tomato plants so they do not fall over when they start to set fruit. Netting or support for the climbing plants.

There will be some heartburn along the way like ground hogs nibbling on your just sprouting pea or bean plants. The good will be much more than the bad we hope.

Once all this has been done sit back and enjoy what the garden offers you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

No cream Pineapple ice cream (eggless with custard powder)

USDA has dismantled the difficult to understand food pyramid with a supposedly easier to associate food plate. Hopefully this will make it easier for us to choose and eat the right kind of foods

Jump to the Recipe >>>

Will this make it easier to control food intake and make everyone healthier? Let's sure hope so. By the latest count there are 260 million overweight adults in the US. That is a lot no?

There might be quite a few things that I admire about this country but food is not one of them. It is a disgrace what is served as food here in restaurants, schools and in several homes as well.

What bothers me most though is the school lunches. The scary part is Republicans blocking every bill that is introduced that puts some sort of government oversight on sugar, salt or calories in school lunches. Kids are so low on the totem pole and they are still not too big to fail and make a difference at the polling station.

Don't get me wrong I hate governments of all kinds - democracies, dictatorship, socialist, communist you name it I hate it. But in a country like America which has made it it's mission to not only feed itself bad fool but to spread it all over the world it is time to put some sort of oversight.

Now let's move on to the recipe. Most recipes for ice cream ask for full cream which besides the fat content is also very heavy. The first time I made ice cream in the new ice cream maker I used a recipe which did not use any heating of the milk but used a lot of cream with obviously a heavy dose of fat. Delicious obviously, but took a bit of effort and a lot of dish soap to clean the utensils after the ice cream making and eating. If I were going to make ice cream throughout the summer I needed a low fat and lighter ice cream to save the heart.

The kulfi recipes which use corn starch to thicken the milk seemed a better way and an easy to follow recipe on NY times website.

cooking custard

Just before we went off on the long weekend there was a very ripe pineapple sitting on the counter top. It got pushed into the fridge and needed to be used real fast. I dreamed of pineapple upside down cake but it way beyond my league. Pineapple ice cream that was something I could manage. The ice cream maker in storage during winter got dusted to be put to good use.

I used custard powder in place of corn starch. Uncomfortable with tempering eggs and making custard that way making custard with custard powder seemed a better idea.

Adapted From: Cornstarch Ice Cream

Pineapple ice cream (with custard powder)
1. 3 1/4 cups of full milk (2% should work)
2. 3 tbsp corn starch
3. 1 cup chopped pineapple (ripe juicy pineapple) + 1/4 cup of finely chopped pineapple
4. 1 cup sugar

1. Set cups of the milk and the sugar to boil and let it heat through till small bubbles start to appear
2. Dissolve the custard powder in the 1/4 cup of milk without and lumps
3. Add the dissolved custard powder to the steaming milk all the while whisking
4. Let it cook (use a spatula and keep stirring) for 6-8 minutes and bring where it just starts to boil
5. Reduce the heat and in low heat let the mixture thicken (keep stirring continuously) for another 5 minutes or so
6. Let the mixture cool
7. Blend the 1 cup of pineapple into a smooth pulp
8. When the custard mixture is cool, pour into the ice cream making machine
9. Add in the pineapple pulp (it takes about 30-40 minutes of churning for the ice cream to reached desired consistency
10. Mix in the small cubes of pineapple towards the end
11. Place in the freezer for the ice cream to mature

Serve with slices of fresh pineapple.