Wednesday, July 25, 2007

All is well.....

I know I have "gone missing" from the blogsphere for the past few months. Thanks a ton to all my friends and fans who have been inquiring about me. I'm doing ok and all is well at this end.

I apologize for not responding individually to all the emails that you have been sending me. I hope to be back online soon and start posting recipes.

Hope everyone is having a great summer!



Friday, January 19, 2007

Laidback Lunches - Stromboli

spinach and kale stromboli
spinach and kale stromboli with marinara sauce

You wake up at the crack of dawn. You wish you could luxuriate under the warm blankets for just a little while longer. You want to finish those dreamy happy thoughts that come to you in that half-asleep, half-awake state in the morning. You wish you could wake up to a sound other than the blaring ear-numbing shriek of the alarm. "Is it a weekend?", you wonder. "Did I forget to switch off the alarm last night? What day was yesterday? Please, let it have been a Friday, Please!!"

But no! It is not the weekend. you cannot lie there in bed! you have to wake up. It is a week day and a million things need to be done. For starters, there is school. You have to get them ready. If it wasn't for them, you could sleep in an extra half an hour. The thought is very tempting, and you slip into a little flashback...of the days before them. Days when you had that extra time in the morning for a leisurely cup of chai and the crossword. Days when you could linger in a hot shower forever...Days when.....You shake your head and try to brush those thoughts away. You shouldn't be thinking about them in such a negative way in the morning. "Shame on you, What kind of a Mom are you?", you chide yourself.

You have to wash them and get them ready for school. Some primping and prepping, a little tugging and tucking, a dab of this and a dab of that and finally they are ready! You pack them off with a flourish and rush to the stop to catch the bus. Of late they have been missing the school bus a little too frequently and you have had to drop them off at school. You fervently wish that today won't be such a day. You have a million errands to run and you don't want to make an extra stop at the school to drop them off. You break into a sprint just as the bus rounds the corner. You see them off on the school bus and heave a sigh of relief that the crazy rush of the morning is behind you.

The rest of the day goes by in a blur and before you know it, it is afternoon. They will be home soon. You anxiously await the return of the school bus. You find yourself wondering how they would have fared in school. Would they have been popular and in demand? or neglected and ignored? did you rise to the challenge as a mother? did you do well? would the others have passed judgement on them? commended you for your efforts?

With great anxiety you pounce on them when they get home and look at them with a critical eye. YES! they are clean as a whistle and licked clean! "'twas good Ma!" says your normally taciturn 11 year old and your heart starts to sing. You go into the kitchen and do a little happy jig.

The lunches you packed for the kids were a success! Your efforts in the morning were worth it. That 1/2 hour of sleep that you gave up was worth it! The kids loved their lunch and ate it all.

Well, what did you think I was going on about? I was talking about "lunch boxes" and life before "them". The kids??? Oh, compared to the trouble of making "kid approved school lunches", raising kids is a piece of cake!!

An extra half-hour of sleep? No problem! you will gladly give that up if the kids will eat their lunch. One whole hour? Ok, don't push it now!!

Here's a recipe for spinach & kale stromboli. Very nutritious with the greens and very yummy with the cheese. The filling is quite easy to prepare and you can make it the night before. In the morning, you just have to assemble and bake the stromboli. You can even bake the whole thing the night before and just pack it for lunch the next day and sleep in that extra half-hour :)

The basic idea was inspired by this recipe from Rachael Ray. I made the filling according to my preference.

stromboli stuffing stromboli before baking
Stromboli dough with filling

Ingredients:

1 can Pillsbury® Pizza Crust
3-4 generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves (or thawed frozen spinach)
3-4 medium kale leaves
1 small clove of garlic, chopped
3/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
1 heaped tsp pesto sauce (I used store bought)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tsp parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Boil water in a large pot.
  3. Add the kale leaves and once they wilt slightly, add the baby spinach leaves. If using frozen spinach, omit this step for the spinach. Thaw and squeeze out the extra water from the spinach and proceed to step 8.
  4. The spinach will wilt immediately.
  5. Remove the spinach and kale to a bowl of cold water with some ice cubes in it.
  6. Let cool slightly.
  7. Gently squeeze handfuls of the spinach and kale to remove all the water.
  8. Chop the greens finely.
  9. Add the finely chopped garlic, the pesto sauce, grated mozzarella cheese, chili flakes, 1 tsp of the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Open the can and unroll the pre-made pizza dough.
  11. Cut the crust vertically down the center to get 2 long pieces
  12. Spread the filling down the long rectangle, leaving a little bit of a border around the edges
  13. Roll the crust from the long side to get 2 long logs.
  14. Press down lightly along the edge to seal well.
  15. With a sharp knife, make a few slits in the log.
  16. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese and again press a little bit to make the cheese adhere to the dough.
  17. Bake for 12 minutes or till the stromboli is golden brown.
  18. Cut into pieces of desired size. I did mine about 5 inches long.
  19. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping or pack for a tasty lunch.


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Monday, December 18, 2006

I heard, I read, It happened ...

mooli parathas

Mooli Parathas

....to me! Plagiarism is by no means a new phenomenon - it happens all around us all the time. I have heard about it on several other blogs. Manisha of Indian Food Rocks has tons for information on what to do and how to prevent plagiarism. Nevertheless, when it happened to me, I was shocked. Even more shocked because the site in question was India Times!

The above picture from an earlier post was published by India Times/Economic times as part of their article "Food to lift your spirits" on 18th December 2006. They did not contact me for authorization to use my picture or acknowledge the source in their article. In fact unless you read closely there does not appear to be any connection between the picture and their article and I fail to understand why they would need a plagiarized picture when a stock image would have served the purpose.

One of my readers (thanks Maya!) alerted me to this or I would not have been aware that my work was being published elsewhere. I have sent a polite email to several links provided on their website, but haven't received any response yet.

This is the 4th time one of my pictures is being used. It was used as a picture for "Recipe of the week" by SIFY at food.sify.com before this and they did not even bother to respond to my "nice" email informing them that they were using a copyrighted image. The other 2 cases were individual blogs and they removed the picture once they were informed. [No, neither of them apologized]

I know 'tis the season and everything, but really! Whatever happened to common courtesy?

Happy Holidays everyone!

Edit 12/21/06 : And another one! This time it is a picture of a plate of poha that has shown up here!





Tuesday, November 14, 2006

By The Book - Coconut Burfi Fudge

coconut fudge
Coconut burfi/fudge

Here is a confession....I hardly ever cook anything from cookbooks!

"Gasp!" you might say. "What? Really? How can that be true? You love food and have a food blog and a ton of cookbooks!" Well, it is true. I love cookbooks and have a HUGE collection of cookbooks. I even own a few cookbooks in languages I'm not really fluent in and a couple in languages I can't even read! But as for cooking something from them, I hardly ever do. I may sometimes use a recipe as an inspiration, but usually add/modify ingredients to suit my tastes.

I buy cookbooks to pour over the beautiful pictures. Cookbooks are part of my bedtime reading repertoire. I like the light reading that cookbooks offer - pleasant, relaxing and soporific. I flip the pages, drool over the exotic dishes and reminisce over the familiar ones. I admire the food styling in the pictures and make a mental note about some unusual ingredient or spice that catches my eye. I lay back on the pillow and try to image what it must taste like. I have pleasant, happy images of me churning out one perfect looking dish after another - just as the cookbook promises - and drift off to sleep with lingering thoughts of delightful dishes all lined up on a perfectly set table, with perfectly behaved kids (and husband!) sitting at the table, tucking in heartily and singing praises of me. Sigh! a girl can dream, can't she?

Once in a while though, a certain recipe will catch my eye for its sparsity of ingredients, simplicity of preparation and the promised elegance of taste. Once such recipe I saved from a newspaper is for "Coconut Fudge". I love coconut based sweets, but have never tried to make the traditional coconut burfi. It tends to be a bit sweet for my liking and I've always been afraid to meddle with the proportion of sugar because it seems sacrosanct to the recipe. When I came across this recipe, I filed it away as I do with a lot of recipes.

Years passed before I stumbled across it again. This time, I immediately added the required ingredients to my weekly shopping list. At the next available opportunity, I made the dish and followed the recipe exactly!

I was rewarded with wonderfully moist, chewy, coconut fudge. It was perhaps a little bit too sweet and the next time, I'm going to reduce the sugar a little bit. It was still fantastic and the empty box in the fridge was a mute testimony not only to the deliciousness of the sweet, but also to the fact that my family does not remove empty boxes from the fridge! They happily help themselves to the last of the laddoo or burfi or milk and place the empty carton back in the fridge! Arrrghhh!

coconut fudge tray
tray of coconut burfi

The recipe is from Chicago Tribune a few years ago. Here is the recipe verbatim:

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Chilling time: 8 hours (I started sampling right away!)
Yield: 32 pieces (considerably less after 8 hours due to constant sampling)

Ingredients:

1 cup each: sugar, milk, whipping cream, unsweetened grated coconut (I used frozen grated coconut that I thawed in the microwave)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons sliced pistachios or almonds

Method:
  1. Heat sugar, milk, cream and coconut to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Reduce heat to simmer.
  3. Cook until mixture becomes very thick and starts to leave the side of the pan, about 50 minutes.
  4. Transfer mixture to a buttered 8-inch square baking dish/tray. I lined the tray with aluminum foil and ghee'ed (new word alert!) the foil.
  5. Sprinkle with cardamom powder and nuts.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 8 hours.
  7. Cut into 1 inch diamonds or squares.

This fudge/burfi has to be refrigerated or else it becomes very soft. The taste is reminiscent of Dulce De Leche and if you like that flavor or that of caramel, then this burfi is for you. I happen to love Häagen-Dazs version of this flavor, so I loved this burfi.





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Friday, November 10, 2006

More is More - 16 Bean Adai

bag of beans
Bag of 16 kinds of Beans

  • Do you want to add more protein to your diet?
  • Do you want to eat more whole grains?
  • Do you want to increase your fiber intake?
  • Do you want to feed your family traditional dishes that they love eating?
  • Do you want a quick lunch/dinner/brunch option that you don't have to slave over?
  • Do you want to use up that bag of brown rice you bought, but is lying unused in the pantry?

If you answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, read on....

Ever since I saw this post in Linda's blog, I was intrigued. I have always had a love-hate relationship with beans. I love beans of all kinds, but tend to over indulge on them. When I am on a bean-loving phase, I make all kinds of bean dishes without respite for days on end - dals, sprouts, salads, koshambir and so on, till I am so full of beans(excuse the pun!) that I cannot look at another bean in the eye. I veer away from beans and stick to vegetables till the enchanting allure of beans draws me to them again.

When I saw Linda's post for a 16 bean soup, I knew that it was a recipe I had to try. If 1 bean is good, 16 beans has got to be better, right? So, a bag of 16 bean soup mix came home with me on my next trip to the grocery store.

I soaked the beans for the soup and then had a sudden change of plans. I thought of the perennial favorite of my husband - Adai. Typically Adai can be made with 3 beans (actually lentils, but who is checking?) but why not with 16? So I soaked 1 cup of brown rice (yes, that bag of brown rice that's been sitting in the pantry for ages) along with the beans and threw in a handful of udad dal to act as a binding agent. This is in case the beans didn't form a homogenous mass. I wasn't sure if the beans would bind together without some binding agent like udad dal.

I flavored the batter with a good dose of fresh ginger, some red and green chillies, a handful of fresh cilantro and was estatic when this batter turned out crisp, crunchy, absolutely delicious Adai!

Who says you can't have it all? With this 16 (umm..17) bean Adai, you can have both taste and nutrition!

According to the packet, the bean soup mix contains the following:
  • Northern
  • Pinto
  • Large Lima
  • Blackeye
  • Garbanzo
  • Baby Lima
  • Green Split Pea
  • Kidney
  • Cranberry Bean
  • Small White
  • Pink Bean
  • Small Red
  • Yellow split pea
  • Lentils
  • Navy
  • White Kidney
  • Pearl Barley
  • Black Bean

Keen readers will notice that there are more than 16 items listed above. My guess is that some are not beans!!

And to leave you similing, here a little poem my son came home singing when he was in 3rd grade:

Beans, Beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So eat some beans with every meal

Yes, 3rd graders are very amused by such jokes :-)

16 bean adai
16 Bean Adai with tomato pickle and Spinach Chutney

Ingredients
:

1 cup of 16 bean soup mix
1 handful of udad dal
1 cup brown rice (I used organic long grain)
6 dried red chillies (caution: reduce if you prefer the Adai less spicy)
1 green chilli
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root
a handful of cilantro leaves
5-6 curry leaves
scant 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder (to reduce the aforementioned "tooting")
salt to taste

Method:
  1. Soak the beans and udad dal in 6 cups of water for 2 hours
  2. After 2 hours add the rice and red chillies and soak for another 2 hours
  3. Drain and grind to a coarse paste in the blender with the ginger, green chillies, cilantro. You can add the soaking water to get a pancake batter like consistency.
  4. Add asafoetida and salt to taste.
  5. Tear the curry leaves into 2-3 pieces and add to the batter.
Notes:
  • Make adais right away or store the batter in a tightly covered container for upto 1 week
  • You can add finely chopped onions to the batter before making the adai
  • Follow the instructions in this post for step-by-step instructions to making the adai