Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kongu Style Roasted Chicken

Food has been in the news a lot this past week. It started with this article in the New York Times Magazine about the (un)science of junk food and food companies do not care about the health of the customer (obviously) and more about their bottom line (of course).

Then this study about the Mediterranean diet and the benefits of eating wholesome meals.

The two articles have created a lot of buzz but it is not something that we do not know. We all know eating more whole grains, vegetables, legumes, leaner meat and less processed junky fatty foods is good. What all this means is cooking more at home. Cooking at home is wrought with juggling the several things we all tend to do in our daily life. To make a good tasting meal should not take more than 30-45 minutes with enough left over for lunch the next day.

The thing is to choose a meal that is fast to cook and does not involve too much preparation. Take this recipe for example, it works with both rice and as a filling for burrito.

Ok, most times I start with the intent of making a dry chicken roast but end up adding a bit more water and a gravy, so do not add any extra water. The moisture from the chicken and the yogurt should be sufficient. You can make this shiny and a lot more roasted if you are open to adding twice the amount of oil I used.

As with most Kongu dishes this one is made with minimum of spices.

Kongu Style Roasted chicken
Cooking Time : 45 minutes
  1. 1 1/2 lbs of chicken thighs (bones included) cut into bit sized pieces
  2. 1 1/2 cups of onions (or shallots) chopped
  3. 5 garlic cloves chopped
  4. 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger chopped
  5. 2 tbsp of tomato or 1/2 tbsp of tomato paste
  6. 2-3 tbsp of curd/yogurt
  7. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  8. 1 tbsp curry masala powder or kuzhambu thool or dry roast 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp pepper corns and make a powder
  9. 6-7 red chilies
  10. 1/2 tbsp + 2 tsp of oil
  11. 1 tsp of powdered cinnamon + cloves powder or whole spices
  12. salt to taste
  13. seasonings - curry leaves, cumin seeds and a pinch of fennel seeds
  1. Make the Paste: Saute half a cup of the onions, ginger, garlic and red chilies in half tsp of oil, cool and blend to a paste without adding any water. A half tbsp if the blades absolutely refuse to move. Set aside.
  2. Wash the chicken and drain the water completely. Add the turmeric powder + half of the chicken masala powder + salt + yogurt and let sit for about 1/2 hour.
  3. Heat the 1/2 tbsp of oil in a wide mouthed pan or kadai and when hot add the seasonings followed by the cinnamon/clove powder.
  4. Add the rest of the onions and saute till they are starting to turn brown. Add the tomatoes and let them get mushy.
  5. Now add the chicken and let it cook till it starts to turn white.
  6. Now add the masala powder and the ground masala and mix it in well. Cover and let the chicken get fully cooked.Check for salt.
  7. Now bring the heat to medium and slowly cook till the moisture is completely gone. Add in some oil now and then.
Tastes good with rice or rolled up in a tortilla.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sustainable Seafood Diet a Guest Post

Gabriela Sneider a third year student contacted me to write on the blog about the benefits of keeping a well balanced diet while in college. She wanted to talk from a college student's perspective in maintaining a healthy diet. Absolutely habits learned while in college where for the first time most young people start to live on their own are probably the basis for life long food habits. Gabriela maintains a healthy life style by following a sea food based diet. Following is her guest post. Please Welcome Gabriela!

Sustainable Seafood Diet is the Key to Success
Often times, college students feel under the weather and lacking of energy due to the high levels of stress faced on a daily basis. Is it because their diet is missing key elements for a nutrient balanced diet? Nowadays, college students are in desperate need to obtain more energy in order to perform better in school and maximize their efficiency level. Energy drinks and caffeine are not the way to go, but a healthy sustainable seafood diet will definitely do the trick! Choosing to eat sustainable seafood not only gives you health benefits but it protects our precious environment and ecosystems. Often times, we don’t have a clue of what we are feeding our bodies but it is important to take a second and reflect on the after effects caused by certain foods; some of which can be beneficial! Eating a balanced diet and living a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate goal, here are a few ways that eating scallops can help lead you to that improved way of life.

Scallops are incredibly high in nutrient content including vital minerals such as, magnesium, selenium, and potassium. These minerals act in a way, which prevent and protect our bodies from harmful conditions.

5 Top Health Benefits from eating scallops:
  1. It is a great source of vitamin B12!
  2. Incorporating scallops into your diet 2-3 times a month may prevent ischemic stroke.
  3. It is rich in fatty acids (omega-3) which help reduce inflammation throughout the entire body.
  4. Extremely high in protein!
  5. Eating scallops can protect against many serious conditions such as, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
How to prepare scallops?
You have to be careful when cooking scallops because you don’t want to overdo it! Too much heat will cause the scallops to become tough and rubbery. Setting an alarm would be a great way to avoid this issue!

A Few Quick Tips:
• Broil scallops in the oven, add a hint of olive oil and serve them on a skewer • Sear scallops in butter and oil while adding a few spices like paprika, cayenne, or nutmeg • Make a delicious lemon sauce to pour over the yummy scallops • Add salt and pepper before serving!

About the Author: Gabriela Sneider is a business development associate for Santa Barbara Fish Market where you can support our local fishermen and buy fresh seafood online or buy fresh fish online.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fun Breakfast! Mexican French Toast Rolls

There are those who eat breakfast and those who don't. My family falls into the former category. We I consider eating breakfast to be an essential part of our day. Most weekdays it is a chore to get something ready and if you have a high schooler at home it means breakfast at 6:00AM. So oatmeal makes it's appearance a lot met with moans and groans. Try to be creative and jazz it up with fruits, nuts and dried fruits but oatmeal is oatmeal isn't?.

Nutella and Apricot Preserves
Weekends though is a different matter altogether. Without the rush breakfast can actually be an enjoyable affair and this is when I try out new things. Not that I do it every single week but occasionally I try to make the effort.

I had watched this recipe for Mexican French Toast Rolls on Pati's Mexican Kitchen a few months ago. The time arrived for me to finally give it a try. It is ridiculously simple to make but the payoff is enormous.

savory - with mango thokku pickle, harissa or humus would work too

This recipe lends itself to several different variations - sweet or savory you take your pick. Fresh fruits or preserves or nut butters again there are several options.

Recipe Source:Pati's Mexican Kitchen
Mexican French Toast Rolls Ingredients
  1. 1 loaf whole wheat bread (you can trim the edges or leave them be)
  2. 1 tbsp of butter
  3. Apricot Preserves, Nutella, Mango Thokku pickle - about a few tbsp of each
  4. 1 egg
  5. 3/4 cup of milk
  6. Powdered sugar with 1/4 tsp cinnamon, I did not use cinnamon
  1. Using a rolling pin roll, roll the bread slices so they are flat and thin.
  2. Spread about a 1 - 1 1/2 tsp of any spread you are using and roll them like a cigar.
  3. Make a mixture of the egg and milk and whisk it well with a fork.
  4. Dip the rolls in the egg mixture like you would for French toast.
  5. Heat a skillet and spread it with butter (I just take the stick of butter and rub it once to cover the surface) and when the butter turns hot place the soaked rolls as many as would fit in one layer.
  6. Let it cook and brown a bit on all sides.
Now roll it in the powdered sugar/cinnamon mixture or just sprinkle on top and serve with more preserves or Nutella on the side.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Power Breakfast! Zucchini and Spinach Dosai

Living as we do in the shadow of the Nation's Capital we take "Power" and talk of power seriously. Who doesn't like to have power? Don't know about you I would certainly like to. Does the rest of the country take this power thing as seriously as my neighbor's in the Capitol do? Not that the rest of the country is any more immune to the lure of power than my neighbors in the DC area. The only difference is we get all the bad name that is associated with it.

Batter ready
Anyway I am proposing that 'Power Lunches' to give way to Power Breakfast. When these powerful people start off with a 'Power Breakfast' they won't get on each other's nerves and maybe would put the affairs of the country in order.

I wasn't thinking of that kind of power when I started talking about a power breakfast but nutritious power to start the day. The recipe is simple and the payback enormous. Having this kind of power is way better. What say you? How does someone get this kind of power? If you have left over idli/dosai batter or you can do the same thing with pancake if you like savory pancakes.

How to make - Idli Batter
Carrot Chutney
Zucchini and Spinach Dosai Ingredients
  1. 3 Cups of idli/dosai batter
  2. 1 Cup of Spinach
  3. 2 tbsp of chopped onions
  4. 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  5. 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
  6. 2 green chilies
  7. 1 Zucchini grated
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. oil or cooking spray for making dosai
  1. Blend the spinach, onions, cumin seeds and green chilies together to a smooth paste adding about 1-2 tbsp of water if required. Alternately spinach and onions can be chopped fine.
  2. Mix this blended paste along with salt, the grated zucchini and salt to the batter.
  3. Heat a dosai pan and add a laddle of the batter and spread it around to a circle. Add a few drops of oil around the edges. When it start to get a bit browned on the edges, flip and cook on the other side.
Serve with some carrot chutney`.
  1. Can be made a bit thicker oothappam (pancake) style.
  2. Instead of blending the spinach and onions, they can be chopped into pieces and added to the batter

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Black Pepper Roasted Tuna with Onion Relish

Who would have thought that buying fish is wrought with such pitfalls. It is hard to keep up with all the research regarding sustainable, wild, farm raised, imported etc.,. The end result I have become very reluctant to buy fish. I resort to buying frozen fish mostly from Costco to make it all simple. Living as we do near all this water you'd think it would be easy to buy fresh fish! So if an agency comes along and says that they are going to do the certification it is that much easier. Look for the label and you are good to go. Not so fast.

I listen to a lot of radio while in the car. A few days ago it was this one - Under The Label: Sustainable Seafood . A three part series that explains how a label from a private agency called 'Marine Stewardship Council' which stamp its approval guaranteeing that particular fish is sustainably caught. Nothing is ever that easy when food is concerned. This article says a MSC stamp does not necessarily mean sustainable. A MSC label might mean you pay more for the fish but it does not guarantee it is sustainably caught or even if the fish falls under the safe and not over fished category. So there goes our easy way to buy politically correct fish.

As a skeptic of these green labels and my mistrust of councils or agencies that work very closely with the industry proved correct in this case. If you are interested in buying fish that does no harm then the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is a better place for reliable information. As for me I am still bumbling along and for now the easy way out is not to buy fish too often.

Anyway for the fish story of the day, Apart from canned tuna I don't recall having bought any other form of tuna. So when a chance presented itself to taste something different I grabbed it. A tuna apparently caught in nearby Annapolis and was sold in Whole Foods and samples cooked by Chef Charlie were available for everybody to taste. Light and flavorful they were hard to resist. So I bought a few steaks to try out for myself. It was also quite interesting the chef recommended using ghee to roast the fish. Ghee and fish I could live with that. I am glad I did not over power it with a lot of spices and decided to stick with the recipe he suggested. Fish, pepper and ghee all complemented each other.

Black Pepper roasted Tuna with Onion Relish Ingerdients
For the Fish
  1. 4 steaks of tuna
  2. 1 tbsp of black pepper powder
  3. 1/2 tbsp of garlic powder or finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic
  4. salt to taste
  5. about 1 tbsp of ghee
For the Onion Relish
  1. 1 onion sliced thin
  2. 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes
  3. 2 tsp of chili powder
  4. 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  5. salt to taste
  1. Rub the pepper and the salt on the steaks and set aside.
  2. In a saute pan or a griddle heat the ghee and when it is hot add the tuna steaks, gently press in the chopped garlic. Cook for 2 minutes on one side flip and cook another 2 minutes on the other side. Take care not to overcook. The fish will become dry. Set aside.
  3. To the same pan add the sliced onions and saute till the onions become translucent.
  4. Add salt and chili powder, mix and add the tomatoes. Let cook till the tomatoes become soft.
  5. Add the wine vinegar mix and turn of heat in a couple of minutes.
Serve the tuna over rice topped with the onion relish.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Quick and Tasty Snack -Spicy Roasted Snow Peas

Our local Lancaster Dutch Market always carries snow peas. Generally vegetables purchased here are fresh because they probably do not refrigerate and the store is open only 3 days a week. The same goes for snow peas. Since we (actually DH) are on a quest to eat more fresh green vegetables these snow peas fit the bill perfectly. They offer room to work with unlike green salads.

Eating raw does not come to me naturally so do a simple pan roast of the snow peas with a minimum of spices and they are delicious.

Not much of a recipe really just a suggestion.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan, add the peas and toss them around till they start to blacken slightly. Sprinkle pepper or chili powder and salt and a crunchy irresistible snack is ready

This is my favorite way to cook snow peas. What is yours?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Butternut squash and Spinach Quesadilla

Butternut Squash is one of those vegetables that has become a regular in my kitchen. Use it make a stir fry, or in Pasta or better yet make this sweet potato, butternut squash curry.

roasted butternut squash


flat bread prepared and ready

Butternut squash being a regular in my kitchen am always on the lookout for ways to use them. Can't hurt that they don't rot that quickly. So when I saw this recipe for butternut squash quesadilla on The Pioneer Woman Cooks I had a half butternut squash in the fridge and in an urgent need of something to cook for dinner. No kale in hand but a box of frozen spinach in the freezer.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Quesadilla Ingredients
  1. 1/2 of a butternut made into 1/4 - 1/2 inch dice (smaller the better)
  2. 1/2 of an onion chopped fine
  3. 2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
  4. 1/2 tsp of pepper powder
  5. 2-3 tsp of red chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it to be)
  6. 10oz pack of frozen spinach thawed, water squeezed out
  7. 1/2 - 1 tbsp of oil
  8. salt to taste (a bit under salted because the cheese has salt)
  9. 4 flat bread or 8 tortilla
  10. 1 cup or more of Pepper Jack Cheese grated
  1. In a wide mouthed saute pan heat the oil, add the onion and garlic and saute till the onions are translucent.
  2. Add in the cubed butternut squash and continue to saute till the butternut squash is soft.(see note)
  3. Add the chili powder,pepper powder and salt and continue to cook till the squash starts to brown on the edges.
  4. Set aside. To the same pan add the spinach and sprinkle a little bit more of the chili powder and salt and heat through.
  5. In a griddle place a flat bread, spread some cheese on and when it starts to melt remove and set aside.
  6. Now add another flat bread add more cheese, spread the butternut squashm spinach and a bit more cheese and slap the first flat bread on top and, let one side get crispy, flip carefully and let crisp on the other side.
  7. Cut into halves before serving.
  1. When cooking butternut squash do not add any water but can cook with the lid on for a few minutes to speed the cooking process.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Yogurt for Breakfast!

The yogurt aisle at the grocery store is gotten a lot more interesting these days! OK I veer towards European sounding brand names. Don't ask me why? Just that the yogurt that I taste on transit in Europe or in the flights from there always taste so much better.

Anyway last week I buy a yogurt which sounded European but was perhaps made right here in USofA. With a name like Quaker where else can it be. The yogurt contained Milk (of course), Wheat and Tilapia (really?). DD helpfully suggested maybe the gelatine came from the Tilapia.

Anyway if you don't want Tilapia in your yogurt, you could always make it at home.

Some homemade yogurt, drizzle a few swirls of honey. Add a few avrils of pomegranate or blueberries and a delicious breakfast is ready. If you like Greek Yogurt add a couple of table spoons and it can also double as dessert. I am not too fond of Greek Yogurt but home made yogurt with full milk or even 2% milk serves the purpose.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chickpea Salad (with cucumber and tomatoes) fit for a SuperBowl Party!

The place I work right now does not miss a chance to hold a party. So of course there was a pre-superbowl party last Friday. How can they when our local team was playing in the finals. Super bowl party means there will be lot of chicken wings, pizza and other popular finger foods. I decided to make a salad. Not the green kind which I am not that fond of but a cooked salad with chickpeas which was surprisingly a hit.

I initially thought of making a Sundal, the South Indian quick recipe for cooking beans. I started with the idea of making sundal but veered towards adding some fresh vegetables and came up with this.

This could just as easily be a meal by itself. There is nothing much that can go wrong with chickpeas so go on get creative and see what you end up with.

Chickpea Salad with Cucumber and Tomatoes
  1. 2 cups Chickpeas soaked overnight
  2. 1 English Cucumber cubed
  3. 1 cup of grape tomatoes split in half
  4. 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  5. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder or use black pepper powder
  6. a pinch of cumin seeds and a pinch of mustard seeds
  7. 1 tsp of olive oil
  8. salt to taste
  1. Cook the chickpeas until they are soft but not mushy.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and season with cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
  3. Add the chickpeas and the chili powder and toss in the oil.
  4. Add salt and lemon juice, toss together and turn off the heat.
  5. Toss with the cucumber and tomatoes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Martha Stewart's Double Chocolate Brownies

Duck Duck Go

I was searching for a saute pan on Google at work one day (my bad!). From that point on every website I visited was advertising saute pans. Thank goodness I wasn't searching for something funky! I was being stalked literally. I miss the old days when I could search without feeling like someone is watching all the time.

When Google announced they were going to store histories I started logging out of the myriad Google services that I have become addicted to. It is quite annoying actually and think what an irony that Google's corporate motto once used to be "Don't be Evil". Logging out alone is not enough, if cookies are enabled they track based on IP address. To me they are no more the new, trusted and admired company they once were. I am suspicious of their motives all the time. I wonder if the top search result is there because of the advertising dollars they have paid.

Then I discovered Duck Duck Go the new kid on the block. There is no targeted advertising with the search results and the top billing does not go somebody who has paid a few bucks for top placement. Their search results are not necessarily as good as Google but I don't have to keep looking over my shoulders all the time.

Has Google's policy changes altered the way you do searches? I am trying but undoing my Google addiction is proving to be hard. My fingers type even if I am sleeping. That is how much Google has penetrated our lives.

Now on to the recipe, you guessed it. I was Googling for a brownie recipe and hit upon Martha Stewart's Double Chocolate Brownies. With her recipes there is very little that goes wrong. DD, her friend and DD2 did most of the work and the brownies turned out pretty good. We kept it a few minutes longer in the oven and did not pay attention to the crumb on the tooth pick when checking for doneness. Pay attention to that and you have yourself some very good looking and delicious brownies.

Double Chocolate Brownies Ingredients
  1. 1 stick unsalted butter
  2. 6oz semi sweet chocolate chips
  3. 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  4. 3 Eggs
  5. 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. half cup + 2 tbsp of white whole wheat flour
  8. 1/2 cup of chopped pecans
  1. Line parchment paper(see note) in an 8inch pan. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a double boiler(see note) melt the butter and chocolate and whisk together till it gets shiny and remove from the fire.
  3. Whisk in the sugar and the eggs one by one followed by the cocoa and salt.
  4. Now slowly add the flour till it is combined. Add in the chopped nuts.
  5. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
  6. When the toothpick inserted comes out with some moist crumbs remove from the oven and let cook for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the pan using parchment, let cool completely and make squares.
  1. Double Boiler Setup: Use a sauce pan and fill it with water to half. Place a mixing bowl on top. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the pan. Pictures here.
  2. Though buttering the pan should be sufficient, using parchment paper helps getting the brownies from the pan easier.