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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Achaari Paneer Wrap

I love gadgets. Gadget Gal - that's me! Be it a knitting/crochet needle, a food processor or just a simple zester/grater - my tools of trade are my priced possessions and I am always on the look out for anything interesting. Unfortunately I live in a rented apartment with a small kitchen where two people standing the kitchen cannot help but bump into each other at every turn! So DH keeps threatening to throw things out of the house and keeps a tight rein on my purchasing tendencies. But I still get away with a few things here and there.

Last week, a visit to Target resulted in the purchase of a stove top barbecue grill thingy! I couldn't wait to get home and try it. I absolutely love it! So, this weekend, I made some achaari paneer wraps using this handy tool. Not having a deck to barbecue and grill things, I usually use the oven broiler to make paneer tikka and such things. But the burnt roasted flavor from a grill cannot be replicated in the broiler, its just not the same.


This barbecue roaster is perfect - just cut add whatever needs to be roasted into this grill kind of thing with a handle and place it on the stove top flame! Absolutely delicious! It was just the perfect brunch for a lazy weekend and a filling meal just before a road trip!

Marinating Time: 30 minutes            Preparation & Cooking: 15 minutes           Serves:2 

Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Chapathis - 4
Capsicum - 1 medium, diced into chunky pieces
Onion - 1 Small, diced into big pieces
Paneer - 1 cup, cubed
Achaar Masala - 2-3 heaped tablespoons
Greek Yogurt - 1 cup
Chat Masala -  1 teaspoon
Lemon Juice - 1 tablespoon
Roasted Pepper Hummus - 4-5 teaspoons
Mint-Coriander Chutney (Green Chutney)- 4-5 teaspoons

Salt - to taste (use very little as the ready made achaar masala and chaat masala have salt in them)

Method:
  • Mix the Achaar Masala and Greek Yogurt and make a smooth marinade.
  • Add in the vegetables and paneer pieces and let this marinate for 30 minutes.
  • Roast the vegetables and paneer on the flame, turning them over so they cook on all sides, till they turn a brown color and give off a nice aroma. This should take about 10 minutes.
  • Now add the chaat masala and lemon juice to the roasted paneer and vegetable mix.
  • Take a pre-warmed chapathi. Spread a couple of teaspoons of green chutney and hummus onto the chapathis, then add the roasted vegetable and panner mix.
  • Fold the chapathi to form a wrap, using a toothpick to secure it, if required. Repeat for the other chapathis

Serve wrapped in an aluminum foil with any chutney or ketchup on the side. Or enjoy it as it is...


Handy Tips:
  • If you prefer to use the broiler, feel free to do so. Just insert the veggies onto skewers and place them in the broiler for 6-8 minutes and then turn them over and leave them in for another 5 minutes or so.
  • I made the wraps using home made chapathis with whole wheat flour. But feel free to replace them with frozen chapathis or even tortillas.
  • I used ready made achaar masala. Instead, you could just roast 2 tablespoons fenugreek (methi) seeds and grind them coarsely along with ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and 2 teaspoons fennel (saunf) seeds. Finally add in ½ teaspoon turmeric (haldi) powder and a pinch of asafoetida (hing).
  • I have used Greek Yogurt for the marinade because it has a tangy taste that I love. You could use regular plain  yogurt instead.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vegetable Fried Rice (Fast Food Style)

Hi friends, am back after almost a week long break - enjoyed a relaxing, long memorial day weekend! While I do have a couple of things that I wanted to write about, today am handing over the reins to fellow contributor Nutmeg, who has submitted the following guest post. Enjoy...


This is simple and delicious alternative fried rice, prepared without soy sauce and ajinomotto. This is a low sodium and nutritious version of the fast food style fried rice which can be made in a jiffy without even worrying about whether we have soy sauce in our pantry.

Prep & cooking time: 30 minutes        Serves - 3

Ingredients:

1 cup basmati rice
1 cup of chopped vegetables (Carrot, beans and peas)
 2-3 chopped Green Chillies 
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 Onion Sliced
1 tsp black jeera (Optional/for flavor)
Salt & pepper to taste

Method:
  • Wash and soak the rice in enough water for 10-15 minutes and drain.
  • Add rice, little salt, black jeera and 1tsp oil in boiling water.
  • Cook uncovered on medium heat till rice is tender.
  • Take care, the rice should not be overcooked and each grain of rice should be separate.
  • When rice is done, drain the excess water and spread the cooked rice in a large plate and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large pan and stir fry all the chopped vegetables, ginger garlic paste and chillies for 3-4 minutes.
  • Vegetables should not be overcooked, they should be crisp.
  • Mix salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the rice and toss it gently and cook on a medium flame for 2-3 minutes
  Then add crispy fried onion on top of the fried rice (optional) and serve hot. 

-Nutmeg

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vazhakai Bhajji (Plantain Fritters)

It was raining pretty hard today. In fact the whole week has pretty much been a washout. But today, it kind of caught us by surprise, because the forecast was for very slight chance of rain, so most of us left home without umbrellas. Then out of no where, the skies opened up suddenly! It rained steadily throughout the day, but off and one there was a deluge of water! Hubby dearest came home all drenched and declared it perfect weather for bhajias!


Well, I had just finished making dinner and was in no mood to slice up different veggies and make bhajias. But I realized that I had 3 small plantains lying in the refrigerator, so just decided to make plantain fritters - they could be served as the appetizer. Plain potato fritters or capsicum ones or any other vegetable for that matter would feel a little incomplete without the other veggies. But plantain fritters can be served as a stand alone dish, so just made them. Served them with tomato ketchup as I was too lazy to make coconut chutney, which would have been the perfect accompaniment.

Preparation & Cooking: 15 minutes  approximately             Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:
Plantains - 3
Chickpea Flour/Besan - 4 tablespoons
Rice Flour - 2 tablespoons
Red Chilli Powder - 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Water - to make a thick batter
Oil - for deep frying the fritters

Method:

  • Peel and slice the plantains.

  • In a bowl, take the chickpea flour, rice flour, red chilli powder, asafoetida and salt.
  • Add water gradually to make a thick smooth batter. Make sure there are no lumps.
  • Dip the plantain slices in the batter and coat them thoroughly in a thick layer, leaving no gaps.
  • Deep fry these in hot oil till they turn a golden brown in color.
  • Drain them out on absorbent paper or kitchen towels.

Serve hot with coconut chutney or tomato ketchup!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Crayola Artist



During the Easter break last month I had taken my little one to the Crayola Factory in Pennsylvania along with a group of friends. It was a group of 7 moms and their kids. We hired a van and had a blast on the drive as well as at the place.
The kids just loved it there. There was this white car that that they could scribble all over, there was also a street where they could use sidewalk chalk to their heart’s content, they got to get their pictures with Lightning McQueen and Spiderman on coloring sheets, they were allowed to write all over glass panes, they made a flying disc with clay and baked it in the oven, they used liquid color for coloring and saw how crayons are made. What’s more, they also got to make and wear their own space suit! I mean what’s there to not like about it when you are encouraged to do stuff that your mom would usually yell at you for? It is a wonderful experience full of fun and learning.

Now, with regards to today’s post, there is a souvenir shop and have we ever managed to escape unscathed through it? I remember when we went to an aquarium as a part of the school field trip last year, the teachers made the kids hold up their hands as shark fins and made them rush through the souvenir store without letting the kids turn left or right! Boy did we get lucky that day! Wish that it could always be the same!!

Anyways, this time, we went in and got a few packs of their Model Magic clay! There was also this kit that I got him to make his own show piece. It had been lying untouched for quite some time. Finally one fine day, when the persistent rains made it impossible to go to the park and play, we decided to tackle this project. All I did was open the packets and place a weight on the center of the frame so that it would not move about when my son worked on it. The rest was his own effort and I must say I was impressed. He sat through it and finished it the same day.


I love such creative ideas where the kids get to display their own work and can get a sense of pride and responsibility. I will definitely be on the lookout for more such fun stuff…

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Love Affair With Knitting & Crocheting


I have spent my teen years and most of my adult life in the northern part of India. I have memories of coming back from school/college and seeing these groups of ladies sitting on charpoys chatting away to glory, all the while their hands would be busy knitting a mile a minute! In the north, the winter season marks the knitting season as well! So all these “aunties” would be out enjoying the warmth of the sun, after having completed their chores and before the kids are back from school, knitting sweaters for the family members as well as crocheting doilies and sofa covers and catching up on the community gossip! My mom used to knit too, but not for socializing! She was more of an indoor knitter! She has made sweaters for my dad, my sister & me as well as our cousins. 

Though I saw this activity year after year at such close quarters, I never had the urge to pick up the needles myself. And I was in one of those schools where surprisingly knitting was not a part of the craft activities (most of my cousins and friends had it as a part of their school curriculum - the basic scarf knitting). I remember my sister once developing a keen interest towards crocheting and my mom teaching her the same, in fact, if memory serves right, she urged me to try my hand it as well but I refused.

Fast forward 10 years or so. I am a new mom visiting my husband’s cousin. She is into painting, knitting and such, a major fan of “Michaels”(a popular crafts store in the US)! I see her stash of yarn and have this sudden itch to try knitting. It’s a stubborn itch that won’t go away, so I ask her to teach me. She just picks up some spare yarn she has and a pair of needles and teaches me the basic knit and pearl stitches. I come home and finish of my first scarf with that left over yarn! 

There has been no looking back since! I went on the net, checked out you tube videos, bought a few books and started off. I nagged my husband to take me to Michael’s (since I wasn’t driving back then), bought my own needles for both knitting & crocheting and some yarn. I have also ordered stuff online at Joann’s and the Lion Brand website. The patterns I have used have also been from these two websites as well as some from book patterns that I bought.

My first ever scarf was a masterpiece in itself, what with the twisty curvy shape! But I wear it proudly! I stuck to knitting for quite some time, made a few scarves.  The one on the bottom left is a crocheted scarf, the rest are knit.
Once I got comfortable with that, I went on to make a sweater and hat set for my kiddo – not my best product, but hey, that was the first time I had made a sweater! Though I must admit, knitting and attaching sleeves on sweaters is still a sore point with me! The difference in color is because of some lighting problem, they are actually an exact match as I made them with the same balls of yarn!
The next I tried was a hoodie, once again for my little one. This one turned out quite good, even if I say so myself!

Then came our wedding anniversary and I knit DH this cap and scarf set. 

When I saw this yarn at a local craft store, I just couldn’t resist – the result, a rug for my kitchen area. 

I made another smaller rug/doormat for the living room entrance.

When the cousin who started me off on this hobby got pregnant with twins, I knit her this matching double set of blanket, socks & cap.
My last knitting project was this small pouch that I made with a really long strap, so that I could hang it across my shoulder and use it to carry a small wallet, my cellphone and keys on my way to the gym, school or the park. Convenient & handy!

As far as crocheting is concerned, the first thing I made was this tote. Came out pretty neat and I have been using it for the past 3-4 years.

Then I went on to make a few covers for throw pillows on the sofa, but they did not withstand repeated washes and I can’t find any old pictures of them! On a trip to Michael’s, I found this free pattern for a shawl and made it. I love it and have got compliments every time I use it. 
My next aim is to make a tablecloth with lace work. It is a painfully slow process and so I have been putting it off for quite some time now. When I will finally get around to doing it, I have no idea.

So, it wasn’t exactly love at first site, but this has been a wondrous affair nonetheless. But of late, I have been neglecting this relationship of mine. I have heard of writer’s block, but if there is some such thing as a “knitter’s block”, I seem to have hit it! It’s been almost a year and I haven’t knit anything new. I started off on 2-3 projects but have shelved them with no sign of getting back to them. So, I decided to do this write up on my blog, hoping that seeing it all in black and white will give me that much needed push! Let’s see, fingers crossed – hope to put up a few more projects very soon…

Monday, May 21, 2012

Falooda Kulfi

During hot, summer days, after a light meal, a chilled glass of falooda kulfi is just what the heart desires. I have made kulfi in the past, but never bothered to go the whole nine yards for the falooda kulfi. One major deterrent was the making of the falooda sev. I have never made this, and somehow I feel that it is a very complicated thing to make.

Then the other day while doing my grocery shopping at one of the Indian stores, I came across this packet of ready made falooda sev. I immediately bought one. So, now I wanted to try making this chilled beverage.

One of the ingredients in a falooda is this pearly substance that I always thought was tapioca pearls. But one of my friends told me that it was actually basil/tukmaria seeds or सब्जा. A little browsing around the shelves where I found the falooda sev resulted in my getting the basil seeds as well. The remaining ingredients I already had in my pantry.

We loved this refreshing dessert! It was the perfect end to a hot Sunday. As DH said, definitely worth a repeat! The only thing I might change though is that I might reduce the quantity of sugar syrup used as it was a tad sweeter than what we prefer.

For flavoring the kulfi, I used ready made Badam Milk Masala. This contains powdered almonds and sugar. Feel free to replace with any other flavor, or just finely powder almond and sugar and use.

Preparation: 20 minutes    Kulfi Freezing & Basil Seeds Soaking: Overnight     
Kulfi Servings: 8             Falooda Kulfi Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

Basil/Tukmaria Seeds - 4 tablespoons
Falooda Sev- 1 packet
Rose Syrup - 5-6 tablespoons
Sugar - 2 tablespoons
Water - 4 tablespoons (for sugar syrup)
For Kulfi:
Heavy Cream - ½ pint
Condensed Milk - 14 oz can
Evaporated Milk - 12 oz can
Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder -3.2 oz
Low Fat Milk - 1 cup
Badam Milk Masala - 2 heaped tablespoons
Kesar/Saffron - a few strands
Elaichi/Cardamom Powder -½ teaspoon
Jaiphal/Nutmeg Powder -½ teaspoon
Mango Pulp Puree - ¼ cup
Mixed Fruit Essence - 1 teaspoon

Method:

Soak Basil seeds in water overnight.

Mix together all the ingredients for the kulfi in a large bowl.
Whisk it into a smooth flowing consistency, making sure there are no lumps
Fill Kulfi/Popsicle moulds with the mixture.
Seal the kulfi molds and freeze them overnight. The next day un-mold them and eat them as it is or garnish with chopped nuts of your choice.
Pour the remaining kulfi mixture into a wide container and freeze this as well overnight.

When you want to make the falooda, take sugar in a vessel and add water to it.
Bring this to a boil and continue boiling till the sugar dissolves completely. Let it cool.
Boil the falooda sev in adequate water for 5 minutes.
Once the sev has cooked and softened, replace the hot water with cold water and let the sev rest in this till it is ready to be used.

In the glass to be served, add the basil seeds at the bottom.
 Next add in a little of the falooda sev, 2-3 tablespoons of rose syrup & 2 tablespoons of sugar syrup.
 Finally add in a couple of scoops of kulfi & drizzle a little more rose syrup on top.
Tada! Yummy and refreshing falooda kulfi is ready!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Pasta

It was half day at kiddo's school today & all his classmates' parents decided to meet out at a local park for a picnic lunch and play date. The question was what should I pack for lunch that would be tempting enough to make him sit through the meal without distractions at the park. And I did not have much time to prepare anything. Had to prepare this meal along with dinner in a little over an hour as the rest of the day was jam packed with activities.

Pasta seemed like the best alternative - he loves it and if I used ready made pasta sauce and added some veggies it would satisfy my needs too. All the cheese would also make it filling.



I had bought some jumbo pasta shells with the idea of trying some stuffed pasta recipe. So, I decided to use those. Now came the question of stuffing. Used whatever cheese I could find in the refrigerator. I had some Parmesan cheese and a packet of shredded five cheese blend for pizza, so used both those. I also had some Creamy Swiss flavored Laughing Cow Cheese, so used that as well.

Now came the veggie part. Spinach seemed like the most suitable option, so that's what I used. The pasta sauce was some ready made tomato basil marinara sauce.

My son of course ate his limited portion size but I absolutely pigged out!

Preparation & Cooking: 50 minutes            Serves: 2
Ingredients:
Jumbo Pasta Shells - about 15 shells
Spinach - ½ cup, chopped fine
Basil - 2 tablespoons, chopped fine
Instant Mashed Potato Flakes - ¼ cup
Grated Cheese - ½ cup (I used a mix of Mozzarella, Parmesan, Somked Provolone, Asiago, White Cheddar & Romano)
Creamy Swiss Flavored Laughing Cow Cheese - 3 wedges
Sour Cream - 2 tablespoons
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese - for topping off
Pasta Sauce (Marinara) - 1 & ½ cup
Nutmeg - a dash
Pepper -  to taste, freshly cracked
Salt - to taste
Oil/Cooking Spray - to grease the baking dish

Method:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
  • Cook pasta in boiling water al dente (about 8-10 minutes approximately). Drain and set aside.
  • In a bowl take the chopped spinach and basil, grated cheese, cheese wedges, sour cream, mashed potato flakes, nutmeg, pepper and salt to prepare the stuffing.
  • Microwave this mixture for 2 minutes with about a tablespoon of water & mix  well.
  • Grease an oven safe deep dish and fill it with about a cup of pasta sauce and keep it aside.
  • Fill each pasta shell with the spinach & cheese stuffing
  • Place the stuffed shells in the prepared dish.
  • Ladle another quarter of a cup of pasta sauce over the pasta shells and then grate some parmesan cheese over it
  • Bake it in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) for about 35 minutes. Take it out of the oven once the cheese gets bubbly.

Serve hot...