Friday, March 30, 2012

Paneer Jalfrezi Pizza

We had frozen spinach pizza once and all of us became huge fans. But those frozen pizzas from Whole Foods are not a regular option and I guess most of you know why. So on DDs insistence I got some fresh spinach, small pizza bases and cheese. The enthusiasm with which they asked me to buy the ingredients it seemed like they would be making them the very next day. But it never happened. I figured blanching the spinach and then assembling the pizza after school might have been a tall order especially when they are hungry.

So the pizza bases kept occupying precious real estate in the pantry. It had to be used soon.

On a Lavash

But the topping I had in mind was not spinach but some paneer jalfrezi. I also used Lavash - a Middle Eastern bread which is flat and has no pockets but tastes almost
similar to a Pita. The Lavash turned out to be perfect base for the Pizza.

Rolled like a burrito works too!

Pre-made pizza base

Paneer Jalfrezi Pizza
1. Paneer Cubes about 3/4 of a cup
2. 2 bell pepper (different colors) seeded and cubed
3. 1 cup of cubed onions
4. 2 tomatoes cut into cubes
5. 1/2 cup tomato pulp (run a couple of tomatoes in the blender) or use canned tomato puree.
6. 1 tbsp grated ginger
7. 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
8. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
9. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
10. 1 tsp cumin powder
11. 2 tsp turmeric powder
12. salt to taste
13. 3 tsp oil + 1 tsp ghee

For Pizza
1. 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used pepper jack bits)
2. 4 Lavash bread or small premade pizza bases

1. Heat the ghee in a pan and saute the paneer cubes till they start to get golden here and there. Set aside
2. In the same pan heat the oil and saute the onions for a few minutes. Add in the bell pepper and continue to saute till the onions are translucent and the bell pepper starts to turn color.
3. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add all the powders now and saute for a couple more minutes.
5. Add salt and the tomato puree and let it cook till the raw smell goes (about 5-8 minutes)
6. Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook till they become soft (5-8 minutes).
7. Add in the sauted panner and let it cook in low medium heat for another 3-4 minutes.

Turn off heat.

Assembling the Pizza
1. Take the Lavash or pizza base, spread the jalfrezi on it, sprinkle with some shredded cheese and place it in a toaster oven at 400F for about 3-4 minutes till the bread is heated through and the cheese has melted. Alternatively the bread can be heated on a non stick pan.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pumpkin Curry

In my maternal grandparents home Amavasai (no moon day) was an auspicious day. The day when prayers are offered to the dead ancestors so they provide blessings for the welfare of the family. Adults observe fast in the morning and consume food only after Noon. The kitchen gets washed and the stove cleaned and certain items have to be on the menu.

One of them is pirandai kozhumbu (the English name for Pirandai is Cissus quadrangularis) the taste slowly grows on you and it became a favorite, beetroot thayir pachadi, vendaikkai puzhikuzhambu, pumpkin poriyal and the usual suspects rasam, paruppu and payasam.

The pumpkin poriyal is also a special occasions dish but not cooked very often on regular days. The pumpkin was sweet and the poriyal with grated coconut sprinkled on top was always a delight. So when I purchased my first pumpkin here with that taste in mind it was a disappointment (might have been a Halloween pumpkin for all I know), did not taste sweet and the texture was all wrong. I stopped buying pumpkin and switched to squashes. The butternut squash my favorite is the one that comes close to the taste and texture of the pumpkin (arsanikkai) back home.

Anita's recipe made me want to give pumpkins a try again. I bought a wedge of Spanish pumpkin, the skin is much thinner than the American pumpkins. I modified Anita's recipe a little bit and the end result was so very good.

Pumpkin Curry
1. 1 wedge of pumpkin, skin peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
2. 1/2 onion chopped
3. 1 tbsp ginger
4. 2-3 tsp of red chili powder
5. 1/2 tsp of roasted powdered methi seeds
6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
7. 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
8. 1 tsp amchoor powder
9. seasonings: asfoetida 1/4 tsp, methi seeds and curry leaves
10. salt to taste
11. 1 tsp of oil

1. In a pressure cooker heat the oil and when hot add the asfoetida, methi seeds and curry leaves followed by onion and saute till the onions are translucent
2. Add the ginger and saute for a minute more.
3. Add in the pumpkin pieces saute for a couple more minutes
4. Add in the powders and salt saute a bit and add a cup of water and let it cook for a couple of sounds. If cooking on a stove top add a bit more extra water and cook till the pumpkins are really soft.
5.Turn off the heat and mash the pumpkins a little bit, add in the sugar and let cook for a minute more. If it is more liquidy than required let cook till the water evaporates.

Serve with chapathis or rice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spicy Potatoes with Tomatoes

As with everything in life there is always unintended consequences. After seeing and reading a lot about factory farming and the ill treatment of animals I started paying close attention to where I buy meat(chicken) and fish. I also started avoiding buying chicken in most grocery stores and buying them only at our local Amish Market. The meat there is fresh and also the hens are raised in a humane way.

The Amish Market is open only 3 days a week. We occasionally buy goat meat (mutton) but not enough to replace the reduction in chicken and the intake of fish reduced because of the fear of mercury poisoning and other factors.

We were considering slowly moving to becoming vegetarians.

All of this changed when I was forced to visit a doctor because of sudden feelings of fatigue throughout the day. I have not been to one in 6 years. The doctor did all the required tests and the results showed very low levels of Vitamin B-12 the vitamin that is readily available in you guessed it meat products.

I researched B-12 and learned that it is an essential vitamin for several important functions of the body. I was put on supplements and also advised to include diet rich in B-12.

Well now we are conscious of eating avoiding meat instead of avoiding meat like we were. Ironic isn't?

The change in diet and the supplement has helped immensely.

Even with all of this we are still predominantly vegetable eating family and potatoes plays a prominent role in our diet. The thing is it is quick to whip a tasty dish with a minimum of ingredients when potatoes are involved.

Spicy Potatoes with tomatoes
1. 10 - 15 baby potatoes
2. 1/2 cup of onions sliced thin
3. 4 garlic cloves sliced thin
4. 1/2 tbsp of ginger
5. 2 tomatoes blended
6. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder + 2 tsp turmeric powder
7. 2 tsp coriander powder
8. salt to taste
9. 3 tsp of oil
10. seasoning - curry leaves, mustard seeds, cumin seeds
11. 2 tbsp coriander leaves

1. Boil the potatoes till they are tender, peel and slice the potatoes
2. In a pan heat oil add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves
3. Add the onions, garlic and saute till the onions are translucent
4. Add ginger and saute for a minute or two
5. Add in the turmeric powder and chili powder and saute till they mixed in.
6. Add in the blended tomatoes and cook till the raw smell disappears. I added about 1/2 cup of water and let it cook till the water evaporated.
7. Add in the potatoes and salt and continue to cook till the oil separates.
8. Add the coriander leaves and turn off the heat in a minute.

Serve with some soft chapathis or with curd rice.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Taro Root and Cauliflower Curry

There was a time when I thought Rmoney Romney would be a good opponent to President Obama. This was before the candidates got down to debating and letting out their beliefs and wishes in public. The right wing conservative agenda has always made me uncomfortable. I thought that was a fringe crowd and not mainstream and hence was not all that scary. But hearing these candidates speak is actually making me quite nervous for the future of this country. Why is there no serious outrage among women for the Taliban like views these guys are mouthing?

The folks in the South and Mid-West who are voting for Sanitorium - there are women voting for him too right? If you have only listened to Newt, Sanitorium and RL you would not be surprised to read a manifesto that reads like something below:

1. I love Hypocrisy - moral values is for the next man not for me. ( I can cheat on my wife and ask for an open marriage but I will do everything in my power to get the other guy disgraced)
2. I admire Dishonesty - It is OK for me mislead and collect government money (like homeschooling kids in one state and collecting money from another state) but I would call people on welfare all sorts of names and consider it socialism.
3. Women should stay at home and cook, clean and give birth to kids - exception when they are from my own family.
4. I as a man will like to take control of every women's womb and what makes me so smug is because women who have their brains washed also support it.
5. It is fair for people with pre-existing conditions to pay higher insurance premiums as long as they are not my own children and I am not one paying the premium.
6. Conservation of the earth's resources is a crime against humanity.
7. Advocating higher education for all makes you a snob and an elitist though I hold multiple degrees.
8. I am a deeply religious person and I will wage indiscriminate war against anybody and anything that comes in my path. War under false pretexts is all par for the course. I would lie to go to war.
9. I think just by talking my country will become great and if anyone suggests that the steps to keep this country involves hard work, better education and innovation I will call him/her a traitor.
10. I am beholden to billionaires and millionaires but I will stress my blue collar roots which unfortunately belong to my grandfather or great grandfather and pretend that I will do everything to help blue collar workers though I know the poor blue collar worker has no chance once he votes for me. My paymasters belong to a different class altogether and they unlike you the blue collar worker will need favors for the millions they bestowed on me.

That was fun writing but it also scary because I do not think any of it was written with tongue in cheek it is the sad truth.

I bet you are ready to move on to the recipe?

A few days of eating Pasta, sandwiches, soups and the mouth starts to crave for some spicy, coconutty gravy with a bit of sour taste thrown in. The spices and masala works great with cauliflower and potatoes. I had some Taro root and decided to use that instead of the potatoes.

Taro Root and Cauliflower Gravy
1. 4 Medium sized Taro root cooked till just about done but not mushy. Peel the skin cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds and set aside.
2. 1 head of cauliflower separated into florets (about 2 cups)
3. 1/4 cup of chopped red onions
4. 3-4 garlic cloves chopped
5. 1 medium tomato chopped fine
6. 1 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
7. salt to taste
8. seasonings: cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves
9. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
10. 2-3 tsp of oil

For the Paste
1. 1/4 cup of roughly chopped red onions
2. 1/2 tbsp of coriander seeds
3. 5-6 red chilies or 1 tbsp red chili powder
4. 2 tbsp of grated fresh or frozen coconut

1. In a pan heat a bit of oil, roast the coriander seeds and red chilies till they start to turn brown. Set aside.
2. Add the onions and saute till they are starting to turn brown.
3. Add in the coconut saute for a minute and set aside.
Cool and blend to a paste.

1. In a wide mouthed vessel add the oil and when hot add the seasonings, add in the onions and saute till they turn translucent.
2. Meantime in a shallow saute pan heat some more oil and roast the cooked taro root till the outside turn brown and it is sealed.
3. To the onion add the garlic, cauliflower and turmeric and let cook for 4-5 minutes.
4. Add the ginger saute for a minute and then add the tomatoes and let it cook till they turn mushy.
5. Now add the blended paste with 1 cup of water. Let it cook and come to a boil.
6. At this stage add in the taro root and salt and let cook for a few more minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 1/2 hour before serving.

Serve with rice or like we did it is a good side for chapathis as well.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lara Bars! well sort of with roasted almonds and dried blueberries

I know I read Mark Bittman a lot. I scour all remote corners of the internet and devour what he has to say. You have got to read the linked article if you think cereal and granola bars are healthy food.

I have a severe addiction to sugar so it is a good thing I cannot stand cereal and milk and not very fond of granola bars either. The biggest problem though, I do not dislike all of them bars, so I end up eating the few of them a lot. I am not averse to munching on dry cereal either. The problem though with these food items is with their reputation as health food it is easy to overlook and get an overload of sugar.

I prefer eating sweets cognizant of the fact that it is to be consumed in small quantities. With stealth sweets like granola bars and cereals it is hard to figure out how much is too much.

The kids too eat a lot of these bars grabbing one before any activity they are off to. So this recipe for Homemade Cherry Pie Larabar inspired me try making them at home again. They are very similar to the Date 'n Nut Balls which I have been meaning to make forever.

I had dried blueberries so used that in place of the cherries in the recipe. I prefer using toasted nuts to raw nuts but use what works for you. I used a spatula to press the powdered stuff into the the pan but hands would have worked much better. That is how they ended up as balls rather than bars. The kneading also brings out the natural oils which helps bind them together much better methinks. I used Deglet Noor Dates. Mejdool dates according to Jen the author of the original recipe are supposed to be better because they have more moisture in them.

Roasted Almond and Dried Blueberries Energy Bars Balls
1. 1 1/2 cups of roasted almonds
2. 1 1/4 cups of Dates
3. 1 1/2 cups of dried Blueberries

1. Take equal portion of nuts, blueberries and dates and chop them with the blender so the nuts are roughly chopped and the dates have lost their shape and are in small pieces. (the blueberries are harder to chop)
2. I mixed them together with a spatula. Dumped them into a square shaped cake pan and pressed them down and left it in the fridge for 3 hours. When I dumped them on to a board they fell apart so at this stage I used my hands to knead the mixture and shape them into balls.
2. Dump the mixture into a bowl and knead them with the hand so they are coming together and the nuts and fruit stick together. Transfer the mixture over to a pan and press them down firmly. Refrigerate for an hour and cut them into bars .

Energy in the palm of your hands.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Easy Rice Bake Casserole with Cheese and Spinach

Happy Women's Day everybody! In true American style it was celebrated at my office by cutting some cakes with colorful icing. Surprised by the gesture but it was sweet of whoever thought of it. My fervent wish is that women will be more supportive of each other.

I read this opinion piece in the Washington Post - What's so bad about American parents?. The topic of parenting and parenting advice especially is loaded with heartaches, judgements and other not so happy stuff but I liked the gist of this article which said to focus on kids' happiness rather than their achievements. Happiness should lead to achievements and not the other way around. This advice is true not only for bringing up kids but for leading one's life as well one would think.

Anyway we have been a month into our shared cooking duties and it has been working out well so far. DDs have been doing pretty good and enjoying creating food that everybody can eat. Last week even with a lot of work to do DD asked me not to step in. She had already picked out the recipe and purchased the ingredients and wanted to complete it. Yes! they are into it 100%. The week before she had made butternut soup and it turned out to be like baby food (her words not mine) so she was determined to come up with a better and tastier recipe and with this recipe she succeeded beautifully. The recipe was top class if I might say so myself.

You have leftover rice and don't know what to do with it this recipe deserves a second look.

Recipe Source: Food Network

Easy Rice Bake Casserole with Cheese and Spinach
1. 2 tbsp of butter
2. 1/4 cup of minced onions (about 1/2 medium sized onion)
3. 2 cups of loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
4. 1 cup milk
5. 2 eggs
6. 2 cups of Mozzarella cheese (recipe called for sharp cheddar cheese)
7. 2 tsp of red chili powder
8. 4 cups of cooked rice
9. 3 - tbsp of chopped coriander leaves (parsley, thyme and basil leaves as per recipe)
10. 1 tsp black pepper powder
11. salt to taste

1. Preheat oven for 350F. Butter a large casserole dish.
2. In a saute pan heat the butter and saute the onions till soft. Add in the spinach leaves and saute till they are slightly wilted. Add in the red chili and pepper powders and salt and mix it in. Add in the rice and mix it into the spinach mixture.
3. Whisk together the eggs and the milk. Add the milk and egg mixture to the rice and also half the cheese and the coriander leaves and mix it in well.
4. Now pour the rice mixture into a prepared casserole dish. Spread the remaining cheese or if needed add even more cheese on top.
5. Bake for 30 minutes.

Slice and serve.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Green Bean with Onion Paste

We had bought plenty of fresh green beans from our favorite Amish market. DH chose Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for green beans with onion paste. This is a delicious but a bit time consuming recipe. The onion paste has to be cooked long enough for the raw smell to be completely gone.

I would have sauteed the onions, ginger and garlic before blending them but I was not cooking and DH is a stickler to recipes and this is how he chose to cook. If the onions, ginger and garlic are made into paste before cooking they tend to take a long time to cook, if they are chopped really fine they cook a lot faster. How you choose to do it your personal preference.

Green Beans with Onion Paste
1. 4 Cups of trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces - Green Beans
2. 3/4 of a medium onion chopped
3. 4 garlic cloves chopped
4. 1 tomato chopped
5. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
6. 3 tsp whole coriander seeds + 1 tsp cumin seeds, roast and then powder
7. seasonings: 1/4 tsp cumin seeds + 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
8. 2 tsp red chili powder (optional)
9. 2 whole red chilies + 2 green chilies slit
10. a handful of chopped coriander leaves
11. 1/2 tbsp lime juice
12. salt to taste
13. 1 tbsp of oil

1. Blend the onion,ginger,garlic,tomato with turmeric powder to a smooth paste (do not add any water).
2. In a wide mouthed saute pan add 1/2 tbsp of oil and saute the paste till the raw smell is gone and when the paste sticks to the bottom add a tsp of water and continue to saute till oil separates or the raw smell completely disappears.
3. Add in the coriander cumin powders and mix it into to paste.
4. In another pan add a tsp of oil and add the seasonings and when the mustard starts to pop add the whole red chili and the slit green chilies.
5. Add the chopped green beans and saute for a minute.
6. Now add the sauteed onion paste and saute for a few more minutes.
7. Add salt and lime juice, cover and cook for 5-8 minutes till the beans are soft.
8. Add the chili powder when the beans are cooked and saute for a couple more minutes. Add in the coriander leaves and turn off the heat.

Serve with chapathis or with rice.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Homemade Waffles (or pancakes) with berry sauce

While we were in New York we spent most of our time in and around Times Square and to our great surprise we could not find a place that served waffles. Don't get me wrong the breakfast we got there was darn good but no waffles. DD2 wanted waffles so bad but no way to get them. As with everything with kids she forgot by the time we go back to DC. Every now and then she'd ask for waffles.

Hence our decision to buy ourselves a waffle maker or more like DH decided to buy one. Now that he has his breakfast days and I am positive he wants to impress and the kids have been happy customers. We got apple pancakes one day, banana pancakes another day and last weekend it was Waffles. I am not a big fan of waffles or pancakes but homemade steaming hot waffles will make a convert out of anybody.

Cooked and ready to be frozen for the week.

DD2 found the recipe on the internet and most of the mixing was done by her.

Recipe Source: - Pancake and Waffle Mix

The recipe was being followed methodically till I stepped in. I added 4 cups of milk instead of the 3 the recipe called for so we skipped the oil. The waffles till came out very good I think.

1. 3 1/2 cups of flour
2. 2 tbsp baking powder
3. 1 tsp salt
4. 2 tbsp sugar
5. 4 cups of milk
6. 4 eggs (we did not separate the eggs and beat them separately)
6. 1 tbsp cooking oil

1. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
2. Beat the eggs until frothy.
3. To the dry ingredients add the milk and whisk them together (electric whisk works best).
4. Now add the egg mixture and oil to the batter and continue whisking till the batter comes together.
5. Heat the waffle iron and make waffle as per direction or heat a griddle and make pancakes.

1. Beating the egg whites separately to stiff peaks and folding them in the end would give fluffier pancakes.

For the sauce
1. Heat berries (any kind) in a sauce pan with a tbsp of sugar till the berries break apart. Spoon over waffles.