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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pecan Sandies

 I have an addiction for Keebler's Pecan Sandies. I could munch a whole packet in a day! Not a good idea though - what with the calories and all! So, I thought, why not try my own version, where I could control the fat and sweetness content. I am not sure whether I achieved that, but they turned out pretty good! 

Preparation: 15 minutes                 Cooking: 10 minutes              Makes: 25-30 (large)

Ingredients:


Unsalted Butter - ½ cup, softened
Canola Oil - ½ cup
Brown Sugar - ½ cup
Confectioner's Sugar - ½ cup
Egg - 1
Vanilla Essence - ½ teaspoon
All-purpose flour (Maida) - 2 cups
Baking soda - ½ teaspoon
Cream of Tartar - ½ teaspoon
Cinnamon -  ¼ teaspoon 
Salt - ½ teaspoon
Pecans - 1 cup, chopped
White sugar - ¼ cup


Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Line a cookie sheet with a greased foil or use parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, cream together the butter, oil, brown sugar and confectioners' sugar until smooth.
  4. Beat in the egg , then stir in the vanilla essence. 


  5. Sift the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, remaining cinnamon and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. 


  6.  Mix in the chopped pecans. 



  7. Scoop out the dough with a teaspoon measure, roll them in the white sugar and place them in the cookie sheets.



  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are golden. Remove from cookie sheets to cool, then store them in an airtight container.

 

Mint Coriander Chutney

There are some basic recipes that my kitchen can simply not do without! Mint coriander chutney is one of them. I find it so handy so always have some in my refrigerator. I usually make a container full every 2 weeks or so. They go in my sandwiches, as a side to samosas and other snack items, in some stuffed parathas and even raitas. This is a very simple recipe but with a lot of versatility in its uses. I make it extremely spicy, you could reduce the chillies to bring down the heat.


Preparation: 5 minutes 

Ingredients:

Coriander/Cilantro - 1 bunch (approx 2 cups)
Mint - a handful
Green chillies - 15-20 (reduce number for a milder version)
Ginger - 1 small bit
Asafoetida - a pinch
Cumin Powder - 1 teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Lemon juice - 2 tablespoons

Method:

  1. Clean the mint and cilantro leaves, discard the stems.
  2. Put everything in a blender and grind it to a smooth paste. That's it!

Shopping Tips

An interesting and very useful article from guest blogger Pepper...

Shopping is fun. Really? Not as much fun if you have to go to the store again for a missed item or you come to know you have paid more for an item on sale. Here are some tips that would save your money and your shopping trips. 

1. Make a list:
Always make sure to take a list of items you want to shop. This way you can avoid forgetting any necessary item or buying an unwanted item, and can also save time wandering in the store trying to remember what brought you to the store.

2. Clip coupons:
Coupons might not be useful when you buy a single item, but it’s huge saving when you have multiple coupons. So whenever you see a coupon for an item that you usually buy, clip it and save it for your next shopping trip.
3. Try store brand products
If you are not very brand-specific, give the store brands a try. There might be a difference in quality, I must admit, but not much. But there would certainly be a difference in price. 

4. Take a look at store journals
Before stepping into your local supermarket, don’t forget to go through the store’s journal. An item you wished to buy could be on sale, and you would have a clue about it.

5. Get your perishable groceries in the right quantity
Don’t stock up perishable vegetables or fruits. You might just use them once and forget them in your refrigerator until they turn into a home for fungi. Instead get different varieties in small quantities so that you may have a different option for each day, and avoid throwing your money in trash.

6. Empty your fridge before your next shopping trip
Avoid your grocery shopping until you have used up all the vegetables and/or meat/poultry/seafood in your refrigerator. This way, you can avoid buying more fresh groceries while leaving your old ones to rot in the fridge.

7. Stock up!
Stock up on bath tissues, paper towels, batteries etc., which almost don’t have an expiry date or have a longer shelf life, whenever you find them on sale. (But be careful not to buy a huge pack of paper towels when you just bought one last week, simply because they are on sale).

8. Keep a check on your inventory
Keep a notepad in the kitchen and note down immediately when there is only little of an item left. This would help you to remember the items you have to buy, when you are making your shopping list.

9. Shop at the right time
Go for shopping when you are relaxed and don’t have much work to do after. In my opinion the right time to shop is after dinner. The crowd would be less and you would be almost done for the day, and you could do your shopping at peace.

10. Avoid taking kids with you
Even if your kids are extremely good at other times, shopping trips could make them whiny when they see those large piles of snacks and you would either be forced to buy some unhealthy junk stuff or to run out of the store before you finish your shopping. If you don’t have a choice than to bring them with you make sure they are well fed before your shopping trip. This might make them less cranky.
Hope these tips help you in your next shopping trip. Happy shopping!!


-Pepper

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Puli Aval Upma

Yesterday's brunch was a mix between puli pongal and aval upma. I wanted to make puli pongal, but was too lazy to get the pressure cooker out - I know, crazy right? I don't mind cutting the veggies and doing tons of other stuff, but for some bizarre reason, taking out the pressure cooker just feels like too much effort at times!  So instead of using rice and dal, ended up using poha. And of course I had to include a few veggies. Hence the puli aval upma!

Preparation & Cooking: 20 minutes              Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

Beaten rice flakes/poha/aval - 2 cups
Tamarind paste - 2 teaspoon
Molasses - ½ teaspoon
Onion - 1 small chopped
Capsicum - 1 small, sliced
Tomato - 1 small, sliced
Potato - 1 small, diced
Carrots - ½ cup, grated
Green Chillies - 2, chopped fine
Ginger - 1 small piece, chopped fine
Cumin Seeds - 1 teaspoon
Mustard Seeds - 1 teaspoon
Black Gram Dal/Urad Dal - 1 teaspoon
Bengal Gram Dal/Chana Dal - ½ teaspoon
Curry Leaves - a few
Red Chillies - 2
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Turmeric - ½ teaspoon
Peanuts - 2 tablespoons
Salt - to taste
Sesame Oil - 1 tablespoon
Cilantro/Corriander - for garnish

Method:


  1. Wash the poha and mix in the tamarind paste and molasses with 4 tablespoons water and set it aside.


  2. In a non stick pan, roast the peanuts and remove the skin from them. 


  3. Heat the oil and mustard seeds, cumin seeds, black gram dal, bengal gram dal, red chillies and asafoetida.
  4. Once the seeds splutter, add the onion, capsicum, curry leaves, green chillies and ginger. Saute till the onions turn translucent.


  5. Now add the tomatoes and potatoes and give it a good stir.


  6. Add the turmeric, salt and grated carrots.


  7. Pour in about ¼ cup water and cook this, covered, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are fully cooked.
  8. At this stage add the poha mixture and the peanuts and stir until well blended. If the poha feels too dry, you might want to add a few tablespoons of water.


  9. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve. All it needs is a dollop of yogurt and some pickle.

Handy Tip: You could use a wee bit of jaggery instead of the molasses or you could completely omit it. I just feel like the addition of a hint of sweetness takes any dish with tamarind in it to a totally different level!

Bottle Gourd Kootu (Opo Squash)

Kootu in my house is prepared without onions. I guess its the "Iyer" influence! This is a different kootu, using onions from guest blogger Nutmeg.


Prep & Cooking time: 30 minutes   serves: 4-5
 
Ingredients:


  1. Medium size bottle gourd (Opo squash /Sorakaya) – 1 no
  2. Moong dal (Paasi paruppu) – 1/2  cup
  3. Small onion – 1 no
  4. Tomato (medium) – 1 no
  5. Turmeric Powder – 1/2  tsp
  6. Green chilies – 4 nos
  7. Cumin seeds – 1tsp
  8. Asafoetida – couple of  pinches
  9. Salt to taste
  10. Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
 Seasoning:

  1. Mustard seeds – 1tsp
  2. Curry leaves


Method:


1.      Peel the skin, remove the seeds from the squash and cut into small cubes.

 

2.      Pressure cook the squash with moong dal and all other ingredients (except coconut).


3.      After 5-6 whistles, remove the cooked kootu and bring to a boil.
 


4.       Heat the coconut oil in a cooking vessel, add mustard seeds, curry leaves and wait till the seeds splutter, then add the cooked kootu
5.      Cook, till the water content is reduced, then add grated coconut and let it cook for another 5 minutes.



6.      Bottle gourd kootu is ready and it goes well with Chapatti and Rice.




-Nutmeg

Friday, February 24, 2012

Couscous with Spinach, Sun-dried Tomatoes & Pine nuts

I had some sun-dried tomatoes lying around in the freezer. During summers they get used up to make pesto and sandwiches. But during winters, I can't seem to find much use for them. I also had a packet of couscous with toasted pine nuts in the pantry. So, I thought, why not put the two together and make an
entrée for tonight's dinner? Perfect! But something was still missing - greens! And then I thought of adding some spinach - why not! The end result was a quick dinner that my kiddo absolutely loved - though he was amused with the word "couscous"!

I did have a flavored instant couscous packet, but you could replace with regular couscous as well. Just double the amount of minced ginger & garlic used in the recipe. Also add some toasted pine nuts and dried herbs (personally I would prefer dried basil & parsley, but no harm playing around with the flavors). I had homemade sun-dried tomatoes, but am sure the store bought ones would work well too, just adjust the salt and spices accordingly.

Preparation and cooking: 15 minutes         Serves:2

Ingredients:

Cousous - 1 packet
Scallions - 1 small bunch (sliced fine)
Ginger - 1 small piece, minced
Garlic, 1 clove, minced
Sun-dried tomatoes - 2 tablespoons
Spinach - ¼ cup, chopped fine
Vegetable Stock -1 and ¼ cup
Parsley - for garnsish
Oil - 1 tablespoon

Method:
  1. Place the oil along with the white part of the scallions and the minced ginger and garlic for 1 minute in the microwave.


  2. Now add the sun-dried tomatoes and spinach to it and microwave it for another minute.


  3. Next, stir in the contents of the spice pack (or whatever spices you are adding as well as the toasted pine nuts) and the vegetable stock and cook covered for 5 minutes until the water boils.


  4. At this stage, add the couscous and let the covered bowl stand alone for 5 minutes.  Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork.


  5. Garnish it with the green part of the scallions and finely chopped parsley.


I served it for dinner tonight with some Schezuan Broccoli



Tip: The couscous can be cooked with plain water as well, I prefer vegetables stock as it gives it a good flavor. I have cooked instant couscous for which the ratio of liquid to couscous would be the one given. If cooking regular couscous, the ratio would be different and would take longer to cook as well.

Sending this across to  Kiran’s  ”Cooking with Whole Foods – Spinach” event.

Schezuan Broccoli



My family is really fond of Chinese cuisine. We also love spice in our food, so Schezuan dishes are real popular with us. And my son belongs to the rare species of kids who love broccoli – mind you, not just like, LOVE broccoli! 

So, today I decided to make broccoli in schezuan sauce. Fortunately, DH & DS are extremely sportive about being guinea pigs to my kitchen lab experiments! So, I do try out a lot of different dishes, making my own modifications to recipes. Sometimes they are a hit, sometimes a miss! Tonight’s was in the former category, thereby making it to the blog!

I used readymade schezuan paste this time (Ching’s brand to be specific), but if anyone has their own recipe for the same, go ahead and use it.

Preparation and Cooking: 15 minutes                       Serves: 2
Ingredients:

Broccoli – 1 small head, broken into florets
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Ginger – small piece, grated
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Schezuan paste – 2 teaspoons
Soy Sauce – 2 teaspoons
Sriracha Sauce (hot red chilli sauce) – 2 teaspoons (omit this if mild food is preferred)
Honey – 1 teaspoon
Vegetable Stock – ¼ cup
Sesame Seeds – 1 tablespoon
Salt – to taste
Sesame Oil – 2 tablespoons

Method: 

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a nonstick pan till they turn a light brown shade. Set them aside.
 

2. Heat the sesame oil and sauté the chopped onions along with the minced ginger and garlic (I grate them with a microplane grater), till the onion begins to brown.


3.       Add the broccoli florets and mix it well.




4.       Add the schezuan paste, soy sauce and sriracha sauce.


5.       Now drizzle some honey over this and add salt to taste. The salt added should be less than what  you would normally add, since we have already added soy sauce. Now add the vegetable stock and cook for a couple of minutes.




6.       Empty this into a serving bowl and top it with the toasted sesame seeds.


Schezuan broccoli is ready. Tastes really good with rice (I used basmati rice). The heat from the schezuan paste and sriracha sauce provided a nice contrast to the saltiness of the soy sauce and the subtle sweetness of honey. The crunchy sesame seeds sealed the deal!




Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Badam Chutney

For most people, chutney is a must when eating idli, dosa, upma, vadai or pongal. Though some of us like peanut chutney, tomato chutney etc, coconut chutney is typically preferred. I once visited a friend who served sevai with chutney that tasted just like the regular coconut chutney, but I was told that it wasn't coconut but badam/almond chutney! I was intrigued and tried it out myself at the first opportunity! Needless to say, badam chutney has replaced coconut chutney as a favorite at my dining table!

Preparation: 10 minutes                     Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:

Almonds/Badam - 15-20
Chana Dalia/Roasted Bengal Gram Dal/Pottu Kadalai - 2 tablespoons
Green chillies - 4-5
Ginger - a small bit
Lemon Juice - 2 tablespoonsSalt - to taste

For tempering:

Mustard - 1 teaspoon
Urad Dal (Black gram dal) - 1 teaspoon
Curry Leaves - a few
Red Chillies - 2
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Oil - 1 tablespoon

Method:

  1. Blanch the almonds in a microwave for 1 minute. Remove the skin.
  2. Put the almonds along with the rest of the ingredients (except those for tempering) in a blender and grind it to a smooth paste, adding a little water, if needed.


  3. Heat oil and add the ingredients for tempering in it.


  4. Once the mustard seeds splutter, add this to the chutney. Badam chutney is ready to be served.



Rava Idli

Weekends are meant to be leisurely days - I try not to make any elaborate meals as far as possible, unless of course we have guests over. Most weekends, we settle for a brunch, as opposed to an early breakfast and a lunch. And this being a long weekend, Monday was also a brunch day! So, I made some rava idli and served it with Badam chutney.

Preparation & Cooking: 30 minutes approx.            Serves:2

Ingredients:

Rava/Soji/Semolina - 2 cups
Yogurt - 1/2 cup
Sour cream - 2 tablespoons
Cashews - 2 tablespoons
Water - 4 cups
Salt - to taste
Ghee/Clarified butter - 2 tablespoons
Oil/Cooking spray - to grease the idli moulds

For tempering:

Mustard - 1 teaspoon
Cumin - 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Curry leaves - a few
Green chillies - 2-3, chopped fine
Ginger - a small bit, grated
Ghee/Clarified butter - 1 tablespoons

Method:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee and roast the semolina in it until it turns a light reddish tinge and gives out a nice aroma.


  2. To the roasted semolina, add the yogurt, salt and sour cream and mix it until it blends smoothly.


  3. Heat another tablespoon of ghee and fry the cashew in it until they turn golden brown. Add these cashews to the semolina mix.


  4. In the same ghee, add the remaining tablespoon and all the ingredients for tempering. 


  5.  Once the mustard seeds splutter, add the tempering to the semolina mix as well.

  6. Now add water to this mix to make a smooth batter like normal idli batter. Usually 3-4 cups of water for 2 cups of semolina should be fine - use your judgement.


  7. Grease the idli moulds and pour this batter into them. Steam for about 15 minutes. 


Rava idli is ready to be served. It pairs well with any chutney or milagai podi (gun powder). Here I have served it with Badam Chutney.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Paalak Kadhi


There are some days when you just don’t want to go the daily roti - sabzi - dal route. I love rice (that’s kind of obvious I guess, what with being a Tam-Bram & all)! And some days I have a hankering to eat a simple rice based meal. On one such day, I decided to make kadhi chawal.

Kadhi is a yogurt and chickpea flour based gravy dish. There are different kinds of Kadhi’s – you have the Punjabi kadhi (ooh for some kadhi pakoris), the Gujarati kadhi (served with the quintessential khichdi) and the Sindhi kadhi (this one is a more elaborate mixed vegetable based one). You can think of it as a cousin of the South Indian Mor Khuzambu!


The simplest of kadhi’s I have ever eaten was one my mom used to make when in hurry – but that one is for another day and another post. Today I am going to write about my Paalak/Spinach Kadhi.

Preparation & Cooking: 15 minutes                        Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:
Onion – 1 small (finely chopped)
Spinach – 1 small bunch (approximately 2 cups chopped)
Cilantro – a handful (finely chopped)
Green chillies – 4 small (can reduce the number if you prefer mild food) (ground into a paste)
Ginger – 1 small piece
Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
Carom seeds (Ajwain/Omam) – ½ teaspoon
Red chillies – 2-3
Curry leaves – a few
Asafoetida (Hing) – a pinch
Chickpea flour (Besan/Kadalai Maavu) – 2 tablespoons
Turmeric – ½ teaspoon
Yogurt – 1 cup
Water – 1 cup
Sour cream – 2 teaspoons
Oil – 2 tablespoons
Salt- to taste

Method:

1.       In a pan, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, carom seeds, curry leaves, red chillies and asafetida.



2.       Once the seeds splutter, add the chopped onions and sauté them till the turn translucent.


3.       Now add the green chilli paste along with the chopped spinach and cilantro.



4.       Make a smooth mix of yogurt, water, sour cream, chickpea flour, and turmeric. Pour this into the pan.



5.       Keep the flame low and let this simmer until it begins to boil and thicken, stirring off and on. Now take it off the flame. Kadhi is ready to be served. It is best served hot with rice.



Handy Tip: Keeping the gas on a low flame and stirring prevents the yogurt from curdling. I added sour cream because I did not have any sour yogurt on hand. You may replace the yogurt & sour cream with just plain yogurt that has turned sour or even with butter milk.

Sending this to Lisa's A Celebration of Indian Food and a Giveaway - Part Two
and  Kiran’s  ”Cooking with Whole Foods – Spinach” event guest hosted by Vardhini at