Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Veggie Orzo Pockets

I am always breaking my head over what to pack for lunch for my little one. Doesn't matter that I try not to repeat the same thing very often, I still get the "amma, please give me something different" from him! I am sure most parents with school going kids would relate to this, or should I say most moms? Now I understand why my mom's daily bedtime lament used to be "naalaiku ennadi pack pannaradu lunchuku?" - meaning, what am I going to pack for your lunch tomorrow!

Idlis, dosas, chapathis, pooris, rice based dishes, soups, pasta , sandwiches and even maggi - you name it and I have packed it! His favorite is stuffed paraatha, because he finds it easier to hold the paraatha rolled in a foil and eat while yapping away with his friends. But there are only so many varieties of stuffing that I can prepare at 5 in the morning!

Anyways, I am always looking for ways to combine vegetables and some form of grain in an easy to handle compact form that would appeal to my fussy eater! While thinking along those lines, I hit upon this idea. Am sure its nothing unique and has been tried by someone or the other somewhere. But this is the first time I tried this, and it was a huge hit!

I always keep crescent roll dough tubes stocked up in my refrigerator as they come in very handy - specially during the weekends when we have friends over for "chai-nashta". Now I thought, why not make pizza pockets with the same. But I wanted to add something more filling to it. My son loves pasta in various shapes and sizes - so I settled on orzo as the grain. He loves marinara sauce. While I have made sauces from scratch, it is just too much to ask of me if you are expecting me to make a small amount of the sauce everytime I make pasta for my kid! Though I am not a big fan of ready to use products, there are certain instances where I make an exception - pasta sauce is one of them - to be specific, store bought bottled marinara sauce; I am not too brand specific, though my current favorite is Giada's Vegetable Marinara sauce. I added a bit of this. Now, how could I leave out the veggies - so I went ahead and added some carrots, zucchini and broccoli as well. Feel free to add any vegetable you like - infact I even thought of using radishes but dropped the idea the last minute as I felt it would be too pungent and wouldn't blend in with the rest of the flavors. Forgot to remove them before clicking the final picture though :p!! Finally comes the cheese - come on, its a baked product for my kidddo - obviously am going to add cheese - loads of it!

The end result was a surprisingly quick, delicious and filling meal that was easy to handle and well liked by my sweetie pie! After the way he asked "amma, can I have the same thing tomorrow?" - this one is a keeper!

Preparation & Cooking: 30 minutes          Serves: 3-4


Mixed Vegetables (Sliced Carrots, Diced Zucchini and Broccoli Florets) - ¼  cup
Orzo - ¼  cup, cooked tender

Ready Made Marinara Pasta Sauce - 4 tablespoons
Kraft Shredded Natural Italian Five Cheese Blend - ¼  cup
(Mozarella, Provolone, Romano, Asiago and Parmesan)
Parmesan Cheese -  ¼  cup, finely grated
Fresh Cracked Pepper - to taste
Salt - to taste
Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon
Cooking Spray - to grease the baking sheet
Pillsbury Crescent Roll - 1 tube

  1. Preheat  the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).
  2. Cook the orzo till tender. Drain and keep aside.
  3. Saute the carrots and zucchini in olive oil till they soften. Then add in the broccoli, and marinara sauce. Give it a good stir.
  4. Now add in the orzo, salt and pepper. Mix well.

  5. Roll out the dough, keeping the rectangles intact. Smudge over the dotted edges of the triangles with your fingers so they smoothen out and don't break into triangles. Cut each rectangle into three smaller rectangles.
  6. Place a small amount of the vegetable orzo on each cut piece and top it with the cheeses.
  7. Wrap the pockets over and seal the edges. Place them on baking sheets and bake in the oven for about 12 minutes till the top is nicely browned
  8. Serve hot. Or cool down completely, wrap in a foil and pack them up in the lunch box for the little ones to enjoy at school!

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Quinoa Puliodarai

I love the luxury of online shopping - my favorite site being! But it has certainly spoilt me to the extent that I find it extremely frustrating when I cannot simply order something with a mouse click! While going to the store, picking, touching, smelling, trying and bargaining has its own charms (come on, you have to agree with me, specially if you are an Indian like me :) ), there are times when all I want to do is log in, browse and buy - specially if there is a fast shipping option!

The reason for my starting off on this point is, recently my friend spoke about her having tried quinoa puliodarai at her aunt's place and that set off a craving for it. But the main problem was, while I had all the necessary ingredients for making a pulikaachal, I did not have any quinoa on hand. Boy did I wish I could just order some online during the day and get it by evening - just on time for dinner! But alas, that was not to be, so I had to drive down to the local grocery store to get some. I know, I know, I could have just gone ahead and made it with rice, which is probably what any sensible person would do. But moi being moi - just had to go and buy the quinoa!

That is what prompted me to make my pulikaachal in a crock-pot instead of going the traditional gas top way. So, while I ran my grocery errand, the pulikaachal was cooking away in the crock-pot and got ready just around the time I finished cooking the quinoa - perfect timing!

Now, I have used quinoa for making "curd rice" with tempering and pulao, even khichdi. But never for puliodarai. I loved it, will definitely be making it again.

The spice level on this was through the roof - well we do have a high tolerance for heat, but if you prefer your food on the milder side, feel free to reduce the amount of red chillies used. The same goes for the tamarind - but this dish is an extremely tangy one.

The pulikaachal prepared can be refrigerated and used whenever required. The ingredients mentioned below make pulikaachal to serve 6-8 people. But I added a few tablespoons of it to 1 cup of cooked quinoa which was sufficient for me and my husband and stored the rest for future use.

Preparation & Cooking: 3 hours         Serves: 6-8


Qunioa -  1 cup
Tamarind - big lemon sized
Jaggery - 1 teaspoon, powdered (optional)
Coriander Seeds/Dhania - 2 tablespoons
Fenugreek Seeds/Methi - 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Red Chillies - 20-25
Peanuts - ¼ cup
Turmeric Powder/Haldi - ¼ teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Mustard Seeds - 1 tablespoon
Black Gram/Urad Dal - 4 tablespoons
Bengal Gram/Chana Dal - 2 tablespoons
Fenugreek Seeds/Methi - 1 teaspoon
Curry Leaves - a few
Sesame Oil - ¼ cup

  1. Soak the tamarind in hot water for a few minutes. I usually microwave the water and tamarind for a minute then set aside for 5 minutes. Then prepare a thick tamarind pulpy juice by squishing the tamarind. With the said amount of tamarind, you should be able to extract 1½ to 2 cups of thick pulpy juice. Strain this and set aside.
  2. Dry roast the coriander seeds, asafoetida and fenugreek seeds and grind it to a smooth powder.
  3. Heat the sesame oil and all the ingredients for tempering. When the seeds crackle, add in the peanuts.
  4. When the peanuts turn a golden brown, add the red chillies and fry for a couple of minutes.
  5. Now, at this stage, if you want to continue cooking on the stove top, add in the remaining ingredients (except the ground powder) and cook, stirring slowly. When it starts boiling, reduce the flame and simmer till the raw tamarind smell disappears and the mixture thickens considerably into a paste like consistency. Finally add in the ground powder. Some people add in the ground powder just when mixing with the rice.
  6. But on the other hand, if you are out of patience and kitchen standing time, as I was, then go ahead and take out that additional gadget that's resting somewhere in you kitchen - yes I am talking about the crock-pot!
  7. Add all the ingredients (except the ground powder) to the crock - pot, set it at high for cooking, cover it with a lid and go ahead finish of your chores in the next couple of hours!
  8. Oh yes, one more thing - cook the quinoa as per the package instructions. I usually rinse it thoroughly and cook it in the microwave for about 6-8 minutes in double the quantity of water, stirring once or twice in between. Then I cover and let it rest for a couple of minutes and finally fluff it up with a fork. Some people say you should soak it, but so far I have not bothered to do that.
  9. Finally, mix in the ground powder, add the required quantity of pulikaachal to the quinoa and set aside for a few minutes before serving, that way the quinoa will absorb the flavors better. Usually for the amount of qinoa cooked 3-5 tablespoons should do the trick, depending on your taste buds. Add a little at a time and keep tasting till you get your desired taste.

PS: If you have left overs, don't worry, puliodarai always taste's better the next day!
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dark Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

The last week was a very hectic and tiring one. There was so much to do throughout each day that by the time evening rolled in, I was ready to say good night! So, decided to stay away from the laptop as well as reading and other hobbies/activities that I usually indulge in before bed time. Now am much refreshed, thank you very much :). I guess sleeping in through the long weekend with no classes to chauffeur the little one to did the trick! Now am back and revving to go...

Another Valentine's Day came and went by. During the initial years of marriage I used to be pretty excited about "celebrating" V-Day - treating it at par with birthdays and our anniversary. As the years passed, it was just another day, though my husband never failed to get me flowers and/or chocolates, and  of course we ate out. Then the little one came along, and at school, it certainly is a grand occasion. So, now I get a personalized hand made card from him :). As do his teachers and classmates!

Well, sticking to tradition, I gave myself a holiday from the kitchen as far as dinner preparations are concerned. But we ordered delivery as it was freezing outside and it felt like too much to get dressed to dine out, specially after DH returned home tired from office and DS was about ready to doze off! But I decided to make dessert at home. Made jelly for the little one, so was at liberty to try out something different for us.

Last year, on my trip to India, my cousin made this delicious molten lava cake that I absolutely loved. Have been meaning to try it out for sometime now. So took this opportunity to do the same.

I used the molten chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart's website, but modified it to suit what I had in mind! For one, I used a combination of Ghirardelli intense dark 86% chocolate and Hershey's bittersweet chocolate chips. Also, I served it with French Vanilla ice cream instead of whipped cream.
A few years back, I used to watch Chef Curtis Stone's show Take Home Chef. In the show, chef Stone would visit a grocery store, randomly pick one of the customers, shop for them, go home with them and cook them a wonderful meal. Am sure that show has prompted me on many an occasion to pay attention to what I was wearing before I went grocery shopping! How many times have I wished Curtis Stone would film his show on the east coast! Imagine, a meal cooked by a celebrity chef - that he is way too cute in the looks department and speaks with that Aussie accent of his doesn't hurt either ;) Not any more though - now I am a regular in my "mommy" clothes, rushing along like a headless chicken trying to get all my chores done before rushing off to pick up kiddo from school and take him to whatever extra curricular activity is scheduled for the day!

OK, my reason for going off at a tangent like this is that, in one episode of the above mentioned show, chef Curtis added a bit of chilli powder to his chocolate cake and the couple who tasted it were raving about it! Fast forward all these years, I decided to go ahead and do the same to my molten lava cake. After all, how many chances was I going to get to try something risky in desserts when I am not cooking for my son!

OK, we have Martha Stewart and Curtis Stone. What about Priya? Oh I am there too - in a dash of Jamaican All Spice, a pinch of dry ginger powder and a few drops of Earl Grey tea!

All the flavors worked pretty well, but the cake is REALLY REALLY intense! You definitely need the ice cream (preferably vanilla, so that the flavors don't clash) to enjoy this dessert.

Another thing I'd like to mention is, bake the cake just before serving. If you leave it uneaten too long, it will deflate. Also, the inner molten layer will thicken. It just won't taste the way it is supposed to taste. The advantage with this recipe is, you can prepare everything, cover it with a cling wrap and refrigerate it, taking it out when you are ready to bake.

Preparation & Cooking: 30 minutes         Serves:6

Unsalted Butter - 4 tablespoon plus some more to grease the baking cups
Sugar - 1/3 cup
Eggs - 3
All Purpose Flour - 1/3 cup
Bittersweet Chocolate Chips & Dark Chocolate - 8 oz
Confectioner's Sugar - For Dusting
Red Chilli Powder - ¼ teaspoon
Earl Grey Tea - 1 tea bag
Dry Ginger Powder - a pinch
Jamaican Allspice - a pinch
Salt - ¼ teaspoon

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Grease the baking cups with butter, dust with sugar and set them aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring well after every minute. It will take around 2-3 minutes to melt smoothly, without any lumps.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together till fluffy and add in the eggs one by one, beating well between additions
  4. Add in the flour, salt and spices and mix till well blended.
  5. Dip 1 bag of Earl Grey tea in a glass of hot water,  add a few drops of this to the mix as well.
  6. Finally, mix in the melted chocolate, divide batter among the baking cups and bake for around 10 minutes, till the tops of the cakes do not jiggle when shaken lightly.

  7. Remove from the oven, let it stand for 10 minutes.
Turn out the cakes bottom side up, dust with confectioner's sugar and serve immediately with your favorite ice cream.
PS: Don't forget to notice how the the inner chocolate layer simply oozes out when you make that first cut with your fork! I was too busy drooling over it, and by the time I finally managed to get around to clicking the picture, it was too late! So the picture does not do justice to the real thing!

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and the "Lets Cook/Bake For Valentine" event.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sweet & Spicy Nuts

Irene, Sandy and now Nemo! Hurricanes, floods, blizzards - you name it, we've seen it in the past couple of years! Very soon, we'll be pros at natural disasters - definitely not something I would have voluntarily asked for my list of achievements! As I am writing this the blizzard's going pretty strong!

By the way, who came up with Nemo as the name. I mean I love Nemo but no way would I associate anything so harsh with something so sweet - not even a furious Nemo :)

Well, whatever the name, I just hope everyone stays safe and mother nature decides we have been subjected to enough of her ire!

Schools had an early closing today, so kiddo & I were safe home by 1 in the after noon, but DH reached home only after the drama started! He said the snow was stinging his face as he walked home from the station, what with the winds howling away!

With all this talk of lousy weather, I had to make something take my mind off it. Well, since everyone was home comparatively early, decided to make something for the evening munchies. My kiddo insisted that he wanted only cookies, so I thought why not make something else for us adults.

Amongst my earliest memories of this city that I call my home now is one of going out to NYC, just roaming the streets with my then new husband, in the blustery cold, munching on honey roasted nuts from the street vendors and absorbing the sights and sounds around me... I have often wondered if I could make those honey roasted nuts at home, but never tried it. Well, with this uneasy weather outside, I thought why not recreate the snack that reminds of something good that I enjoyed during the cold winters gone by.

The little one is allergic to nuts, and since he wasn't in a mood for anything but his "jam bikkis and milk" for evening snack, I decided to try my hand at this slow cooker sweet and spicy nuts recipe that I had come across a while back while browsing the net. I forget what website it was or what exactly they used to make it - but do remember the use of cinnamon and cayenne pepper along with honey and maple syrup.

I decided to tweak it to suit my taste. Sure is a keeper - not too much effort required, just dump everything in to the crock pot and stir every now and then! I used Kashmiri red chilli powder for that kick of spice and since I did not have any maple syrup on hand, I used some pancake syrup along with brown sugar. Now, for me, cinnamon always goes hand in hand with nutmeg and I also added a pinch of Jamaican All Spice.

The end result was something both hubby and me loved, but the next time, I am going to take my better half's suggestion and add a hint of dry ginger powder - it would just take things up a notch flavor wise...

Preparation & Cooking: 2 hours         Serves:2

Almonds - ¼ cup
Pecans - ¼ cup
Cashews - ¼ cup
Walnuts - ¼ cup
Pumpkin Seeds - 2 tablespoons
Kashmiri Chilli Powder - ½ teaspoon
Cinnamon - ½ teaspoon
Nutmeg - a pinch
Jamaican Allspice - a pinch
Brown Sugar - 2 tablespoons
Honey - 2 teaspoons
Pancake Syrup - 2 teaspoons
Salt - a pinch
Unsalted Butter - 1 tablespoon
Cooking Spray

  1. Grease the crockpot with cooking spray.
  2. Add all the ingredients to the crockpot, mix well so that all the nuts are coated evenly with the spices.

  3. Cover and cook on high for about an hour and a half, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

  4. Spread everything evenly on a parchment paper to cool down, about 20 minutes or so.

  5. Serve with your favorite beverage.

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as well as Cooking With Love - Spouse event
and the "Lets Cook/Bake For Valentine" event.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vegetable Medley In Sour Cream Sauce

Most of us Indians have a tendency to cook vegetables to the nth degree and add plenty of masala in everything! And us Southies, in addition to the above two propensities, love adding fiery heat to the food - red chillies, green chillies, dry or fresh - you name it, we use it! While I do enjoy food prepared this way, I also like veggies cooked just till they have a little bite left in them. On occasion I also leave out the masalas, keep a light hand on the spices and let the the flavor of the vegetables do all the talking.

While such dishes are too bland to suit DH's tastes, my little one loves them. As far as my kid is concerned, just blanch, flash steam or saute vegetables till they are tender, sprinkle some salt and pepper and serve - he loves it! I used to initially think of it as "बीमारों का खाना " - sick bed food! But over a period of time, I have come to like such stuff.

Today's recipe is one such and for once, DH did not complain! Initially I thought of just mashing a couple of cloves of garlic and adding it to the veggies, but then I would have had to fish it out later as I did not want any chunky piece of garlic in my mouth. So I used my micro-plane grater to directly grate the garlic into the pan. In addition to this, I used just a bare minimum of spices for the flavors. This helps bring out the flavor of the vegetables beautifully, while the sour cream helps enhance the taste.

Preparation & Cooking: 15 minutes        Serves:3-4

Onion - 1, sliced
Carrots - ¼ cup, sliced
Beans - ¼ cup, halved
Cauliflower - ¼ cup, broken into florets
Peas - ¼ cup
Garlic - 1 tablespoon, minced/grated
Pepper - to taste, freshly cracked
Nutmeg - a pinch
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes - to taste
Sour Cream - 1 tablespoon
Salt - to taste
Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan, add the minced garlic to it and give it a stir,
  2. Add the vegetables (except peas) and saute till they are tender but still retain a bit of bite.

  3. Mix in the peas, freshly cracked pepper, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes and salt to taste.

  4. Finally add the sour cream and take it off the flame.

  5. Serve hot with rice or rotis.