Friday, March 29, 2013

Quick and Easy Snack - Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Evenings are kind of stressful with two kids back from school hungry and the two adults back from work hungry. Nobody thinks straight with all that hunger running around. One adult is especially stressed with the need to put dinner out in a few hours and has no time for elaborate snacks. Anyway to tide over the few hours till dinner time it is better for everyone's sanity if something is put into the respective stomachs without too much hard work.

It is times like those that sweet potatoes are a life saver. They cook pretty quickly. Although they can be eaten just boiled nobody prefers them that way. I can understand because I don't much care for mushy (or not) boiled sweet potatoes either. Once they see the toaster oven for a few minutes the very same sweet potatoes become a sought after snack.

The other interesting thing I am noticing is a lot of people eating sweet potatoes with their protein instead of rice or pasta or whatever. I know sweet potatoes are kind of fad these days.

I prefer the white fleshed and purple skinned sweet potatoes over the orange fleshed and brown skinned sweet potatoes. Both work well for these fries. The white ones take a bit longer to cook than the orange ones. Toaster oven is what works best for this. The big oven takes longer to preheat and it is not worth it methinks for the small quantity.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
  1. 1 or 2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut in half
  2. salt
  3. chilli powder or any seasoning preferred
  4. 1-2 tsp oil
  1. Boil the sweet potatoes till it is half cooked (do not cook it fully)
  2. Cool and cut into thin strips.
  3. Toss it with salt, chili powder and the oil.
  4. Spread it on a baking tray in a single layer and broil (using toaster oven) for 8 minutes on one side, flip and broil for another 8 minutes.
  5. If there are more than can hold do it in batches.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Zucchini Chutney (thuvayal)

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that seems to be available throughout the year. The good thing it can be easily adapted to Indian recipes with ease. Since it does not have a strong taste it adapts nicely to most recipes.

This Zucchini thuvayal (thuvayal is a thicker version of a chutney and is usually eaten with rice whereas chutney is a bit watery and eaten as a side with idli or dosai) came about when all there was Zucchini and a need for some side dish for rice.

The same recipe should work with any vegetable like ridge gourd, bottle gourd, brinjal or leaves likes cilantro or methi.

Zucchini Chutney (thuvayal) Ingredients
  1. 2 Zucchini diced about 2 1/2 cups
  2. 1/4 cup onion diced
  3. 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  4. 2 tbsp channal dal (bengal gram)
  5. 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  6. a pinch of cumin seeds
  7. a few pepper corns
  8. 4-5 red chilies
  9. a small piece of tamarind about an inch piece
  10. salt to taste
  11. 2 tsp of oil
  1. Heat oil in a saute pan when hot add the channa dal and roast till it starts to turn brown, add in the red chilies, coriander seeds, cumin and pepper corn and saute for a couple more minutes. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan saute the onions till they get translucent. Add in the tamarind and zucchini pieces and saute till it is cooked (no need to add any water). Add salt and turn off the heat.
  3. Add the roasted dal and spices first to the blender and let it powder. Now add the rest of the ingredients and blend without any addition of water. (this should work if using the Indian blender else add a bit of water to get the blades to spin).
Serve with rice.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fresh Cranberry Beans Masala Fry (Varuval)

Few days ago Mathy Kandaswamy alerted me to the fact that Google was killing off its Google Reader service in June. Bummer! That is by far the primary means of subscription to this blog. There is not much I can do but sign the petition to Google to keep Google Reader -

Leave your comments regarding your thoughts on Google Reader being killed. Refer to the sidebar for other means of subscription for this blog. I saw an article in LifeHacker for alternate readers which might be of use to some. If any of you are using a reader besides Google that you like it will be greatly appreciated if you can share that.

Now on to the recipe, Fresh Cranberry beans are something I look for during the winter months and found them last week at the International (Korean) market. A bit pricey but well worth it I would say. I was thinking of some spicy roasted beans using my mom's fool proof recipe. Similar to this butter means masala varuval.

Fresh Cranberry Beans Masala Fry (Varuval)
  1. 2-3 cups of fresh cranberry beans
  2. 2 tbsp of minced shallots
  3. seasonings: curry leaves, cumin seeds and fennel seeds
  4. salt to taste
  5. 3-4 tsp of oil
  6. For the paste
  7. 1/2 onion red onion chopped roughly about 1/4 cup
  8. 1/4 of a tomato about 2 tbsp chopped
  9. 2 garlic cloves
  10. 1/2 inch of ginger
  11. 4-5 red chilies + 1 tsp of pepper (adjust to taste
  12. Saute the above in a bit of oil till the onions are browned and tomatoes are mushy. Cool and blend to a fairly smooth paste without adding any water.
  1. In a sauce pan boil the beans till they are tender and fully cooked. Pressure cooker would work but I did them on a stove top.
  2. Heat the oil in a flat bottomed pan and season with the curry leaves, cumin and fennel seeds and let them turn brown.
  3. Add the shallots and saute till it starts turning brown.
  4. Add the blended masala paste and saute for about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add the drained cooked beans and mix into the masala. Add salt.
  6. Fry till the masala is nice and dry. If you need a slightly moist gravy like consistency turn of the heat earlier.
Serve with rice and dal (upppu paruppu).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grated Radish Beetroot Paneer Spicy Paratha

I had lamented this fact many times before. The lack of quality libraries in small towns in India. It is still the same today in my hometown. Even in bigger cities having a quality library used to be a hit or miss unless you had access to the USIS or the British Council. Do let me know if things have changed and the library situation has improved. Well I was lucky to have access to a school library which had plenty of books and that is where I read through all of Perry Mason's books. They are not as popular here in the US as they were back in India in those days. Or maybe I am just showing my age.

Summer holidays were another matter altogether books could not be borrowed from the school library. Lucky me I had uncles who read a lot of English fiction. They went to colleges in Madras or Bangalore and had access to book stores or used book stores that sold these books I guess and looks like my grandfather financed their reading habit knowingly or unknowingly.

It was from among their collections that I chanced upon Ayn Rand and her 2 tomes Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged. It was a day of great joy like chancing upon a treasure trove. At about a 1000 and odd pages it gave me several days of reading pleasure. I doubt that I would have read that many pages of drivel now. Those days with a lot of time on hand and little else to do reading was the primary mode of time pass.

I am glad I was not old enough or mature enough to think or take ideas presented as guiding moral principles. Even in my most wildest dreams I would never have imagined that some people would take her words to be philosophy and that it would dictate their policy in the inner reaches of the US government. One of her admirers was Fed Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Selfishness and Self interest as guiding philosophy and to most right wing politicians she is a hero. They are plenty of material on her in the web if you are interested in reading more about her. No doubt she is a very fascinating personality.

Where did I suddenly pick up Ayn Rand to talk about? It was this article - Is capitalism moral? in the Outlook section of Washington Post. If you are a news junkie like by all means read this article.

Moving to the recipe,

Radish is one of those vegetables I buy even though I am not very fond of it. Reason being it is perfect in sambhar and stays fresh for a long time especially the red round ones we buy from the Amish market. Invariably after a few months even the sight of the radish is unbearable. I stop and then they start again later having forgotten. The difference this time I was intent on trying to make stuffed parathas. Once grated and the water squeezed out they become about half in mass so grate twice of what you would normally want. Once sauteed they shrunk a little bit more and I needed aa bit more so used some grated paneer in the mix and the paneer was what made it a big hit.

Grated Radish Beetroot Paneer Spicy Paratha Ingredients
    For the stuffing
  1. 2 cups of grated radish and beets and let sit for about 10-15 minutes
  2. 1/2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
  3. 1 cup of grated paneer
  4. 6 green chilies seeds removed and chopped very fine
  5. 1 tsp turmeric powder
  6. 1 tsp coriander powder
  7. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  8. salt to taste
  9. For the Dough
  10. 4-5 cups of whole wheat flour
  11. 1/2 tbsp of yogurt
  12. 1/2 tsp of salt
  13. water as required
  14. Combine the above ingredients for the dough and mix it with water as required to form a stiff but pliable dough, cover and set aside.
  1. Combine the beets, radish and ginger and with the palm of your hands squeeze out as much water as possible.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan add a bit of oil and saute the radish mixture and green chilies till it cooks a bit.
  3. Add all the powders and salt and combine them well.
  4. Add the paneer give a good mix and turn off the heat. Let cool.
  5. Make small lime sized balls and set aside.
  6. Take a slightly larger portion of the dough and flatten it out with your hand to form a cup shape, place the filling inside the cup and bring the edges around to cover the filler. Check this link for a better idea.
  7. Dust some flour over the rolling board and roll into a circular shape careful not to let the filling spill out.
  8. Heat a griddle and when hot place the rolled paratha on top and cook on both sides applying oil on each side till brown spots appear.
Serve with any raita of choice.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Minced Turkey (Kheema) with Navy Beans

We have a new Pope now. Not that I am a Catholic but I went to Catholic schools for 14 years. I remember Pope John Paul visiting India and Chennai in particular. We got a day off so the nuns could go and see him perhaps. Who knew in a such a short time we would see 2 popes being elected. Hope the new pope will bring much needed reform and common sense to the Church which it badly needs.

Onto the recipe,

I rarely cook non-veg during the week because of rules like I won't take it for lunch from who else? DH. But having some minced turkey on hand is a life saver during the week. It is fast to cook and goes well with rice, chapathis or bread and the next day they become snack or these stuffed rolls for the kids lunch boxes.

I add some beans - kidney beans, navy beans or black eyed peas work great in this. If you are like DH again and you like the kheema to have some moisture follow my aunt's trick and add some finely chopped cabbage while cooking the turkey.

Turkey Kheema with Navy Beans Ingredients
  1. 1 lb minced turkey
  2. 1 Cup of navy beans soaked overnight
  3. 1 cup of minced onions
  4. 6-8 green chilies chopped
  5. 5 garlic cloves minced
  6. 2 tbsp grated ginger
  7. 1/2 tbsp curry masala powder
  8. 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  9. 2 tsp of red chili powder if required
  10. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  11. salt to taste
  12. 2 tsp of oil
  13. 1 cup of cabbage optional (I did not use it)
  14. seasonings: fennel seeds and cumin seeds
  1. Cook the navy beans till they are tender (make sure they are not overcooked)
  2. Heat a wide mouthed pan, add the cumin and fennel seeds ,wait for half a minute and add the onions and green chilies and saute till onions are translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and saute a bit more.
  4. Add the minced turkey and let it cook for about 5-6 minutes. Add in the cabbage if using, turmeric, masala powder and chili powder if using and continue to saute till the turkey is fully cooked.
  5. Add in navy beans, tomato paste and salt and continue to cook till the turkey is nice and dry like I want or if you want some moisture turn off the heat when the desired consistency is reached but make sure the turkey is completely cooked, it turns white from pink when fully cooked.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pretty in Pink! - Coconut/cumin/green chilli flavored beets

DD says that vegetables cannot be called photogenic only humans can be but I consider this by far the most photogenic vegetable. I reluctantly picked these when I saw these instead of the usual purple ones. They looked like turnips a little bit and turnips are not my favorites unless they are made into vegetable pickles.

I was floored once I cut them. These beets made me happy or what? They are so pretty that it seemed a crime to even cook them. I did some searching and found that they are called Chioggia beets and brought here from Italy. They are also called as Candy or Bulls Eye Beets.

They are very sweet raw and salad eaters will love the crunch and taste but people like me will cook them with spice and eat them alongside rice and chutney. They lose their beautiful color when cooked but are tastier and sweeter than their purple counterparts. I cooked them in a simple coconut - cumin paste.

Coconut-cumin-green chillies flavored Beet(root)
  1. 1 1/2 half cups of beets cut into small cubes
  2. 1/2 red onion chopped
  3. seasonings: curry leaves, a pinch of cumin seeds and mustard seeds
  4. 2 tbsp grated fresh or frozen coconut
  5. 5-6 green chilies
  6. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  7. salt to taste
  8. 1 tsp of oil
  1. Blend the coconut, green chilies and cumin seeds to a paste with only a tiny bit of water if required.
  2. In a wide bottom pan or kadai heat oil add the seasonings followed by the onions and saute till they turn translucent.
  3. Add the beets and let them cook till they are tender (depends on how much you want to cook a minimal amount might be sufficient, I like then fully cooked.
  4. Add salt and blended coconut paste and mix well, let cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Goes well as a side with rice. We had with rice and Zucchini thuvayal.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stuffed Croissant Rolls - Kid Friendly

I have gone back to spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the yogurt aisle again. I like to avoid using the vending machine at work. Seriously the stuff in those vending machines is abominable but when those hunger pangs strike... If I have to avoid dropping coins in the vending machine I need to have a proper breakfast and for the 10 AM hunger pangs something like a smoothie or a yogurt. But store bought yogurt is increasingly becoming a minefield to navigate with stuff that I don't need and moreover stuff that I don't know.

Let me explain this on again off again obsession with added sugar in food products. I am generally not averse to sugar and have an addiction for sugary stuff. It is not the addiction or the sugar itself that I am afraid of. If I am eating an oreo cookie or almonnd burfie I know I am eating sugary food and I need to control the number that is consumed.

It is the stealth sugar that I am afraid of especiallyin foods that are considered healthy like the yogurt for example. Most of them have between 16 - 35 gms of sugar about 3 tsp to 7 tsp of sugar and some smoothies have even more. I would not gobble 7 tsp of sugar during breakfast so why should the smoothie I buy have that much sugar? I don't appreciate being tricked is what it is.

Anyway now on to how these Croissant rolls came to be. DD sports after school which means I have to pack a substantial snack besides the lunch. Those of you who pack kids lunches know how difficult that job can be. Easy to eat, tasty and stay fresh for a long period of time. So I was talking to my friend who also has a very active teen. This was her fantastic idea and I am loving it.

DD2 claims it was the best lunch ever (she got it as lunch). DD says all her friends were jealous (OK I made that up).

Store bought croissant rolls and stuffing you fancy. Stuffing has to be dry and not soggy is the only requirement. I had made Turkey Kheema with navy beans and that is a perfect filling and the one my friend intially suggested.

Or this Goat Kheema that gave Sandeepa several meals for the week.

No reason that this should be a kid only lunch box item. It is perfect for adults as a snack too.

Stuffed Croissant Rolls Ingredients
  1. 1 pack ready to bake Croissant rolls (I used Pillsbury Crescents)
  2. About 3-4 tbsp of Turkey Kheema
  1. Place about 1/2 a tbsp of the turkey kheema on each roll.
  2. Roll it out like you would a croissant and bake in a 375F toaster oven for 8-10 minutes or till golden brown.
  3. Let cool and pack for a tasty snack or meal.
Recipe for Turkey Kheema coming up shortly.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nutty Magdalenas with pecans, almonds and pistachios Muffin or Cupcakes?

Two high profile well positioned women were in the news recently. One with a book and the other with a decision that affects a good number of employees. The decision by Marissa Mayer the CEO of Yahoo to stop telecommuting options for its employees is ironic coming from the CEO of a company which is considered a pioneer in this connected world.

She probably made a sound business decision which is the right one for her company by all means but the message it sends that telecommuting workers are slackers sucks really.

I feel the need to defend telecommuting because it has enabled me to do what I like to do. In the late 90s when DD was born the company I was working for let me work from home on days that I could not make it the office. None of the high speed internet in those days. A dial up connection with a 56K modem was more than enough speed to get the work done.

If it was not for the telecommuting option I would have had to quit my job and ended up being a grumpy stay at home making everyone around me miserable too. I am fairly good at what I do and actually enjoy it and the stimulation and sense of achievement does not hurt either.

Moreover for a good part of 6 years I telecommuted working far more hours than I would have if I had been present physically at the office. One of the reasons being that my office bound co-workers should not assume that I was slacking off or doing house work or watching TV. The other was I just could do a lot more without the distraction.

There are a lot of downsides to telecommuting which are both tangible and intangible. Talking around the water cooler not only stimulates ideas it also plugs you into the office pulse and politics which is also essential for a good number of things.

Now that I do not have the need to telecommute regularly I prefer being at the office. But I would not trade away the flexibility of being able to telecommute when the kids are off from school, when they are sick or need to go to a doctor's appointment etc., Now that going to work is the norm the few days I telecommute I enjoy it a lot more. Besides being able to finish whatever I am doing with plenty of time to spare. I also save a good one hour even though my commute time is less than 10 minutes.

Or on days like today with a weather emergency and the kids off from school you can do two things at once. Not that there are no downsides to telecommuting. There are people who tend to treat telecommuting as another day off albeit a paid one. But I am sure the very same people would not be productive at work either. It all comes down to work ethics and being responsible isn't? Though it is considered to be a women thing telecommuting is used by a lot of working men as well. So it affects us all.

This is my telecommuting story. How about you all? Do you think it was right decision?

I am not a winter person and snow is not one of my things but absence does make the heart fonder. So I am actually enjoying the first significant snowfall of the season and doesn't hurt that it gave me an opportunity to telecommute. Maybe it will also kill of a lot of the bugs that are going invade come summer.

Now on to the recipe,

I am not much of a baker but DD and DD2 seem to enjoy baking. Now that DD is older she takes the lead and I tend to give only expert advice. Ahem!!

The muffins we buy are too sweet and may not be all that good. So I have been looking for something that will is not so sweet and easy to bake as well without too many ingredients.

One look at these Nutty Magdalenas on David Lebovitz's, a blog which needs no introduction I would think and I knew those were exactly what I was looking for.

Once DD set aside some time from here busy schedule we gave it a go. These are perhaps the easiest and if you are not a regular baker these are something you should try your hand at. I used raw sugar and it is not as sweet as the white sugar. If you want them to be like cupcakes add a bit more sugar.

Recipe Source: Nutty Magdalenas from David Lebovitz
Nutty Magdalenas with pecans, almonds and pistachios Ingredients
  1. 3 large eggs kept at room temperature
  2. 1 cup raw sugar
  3. 1/3 cups almonds + 1/3 cups pecans both slightly roasted and powdered
  4. 1 1/2 cups of unbleached white whole wheat flour
  5. 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp of olive oil
  6. 1 tbsp baking powder
  7. a tiny pinch of salt
  8. 1/4 cup roughly chopped raw almonds, pistachios and pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Beat together eggs and sugar with an egg beater till it is nice and fluffy and doubles in volume.
  3. If you have a mixture powder the nuts and add in the flour, baking soda and salt and mix it together. I do not have one so used a blender to powder the nuts and sifted together the flour, salt and baking soda.
  4. Add the olive oil to the egg sugar mixture with the egg beater running.
  5. Now add the flour and powdered nuts into the egg mixture and gently fold it in.
  6. Line the muffin tins with paper cups and fill it half way with the mixture. The batter was enough for 12 muffin cups and 2 ramekins.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes till the tooth pick inserted comes out clean.