Thursday, March 30, 2006

Spring Break Snack - Banana Nut Muffins

Banana nut muffin

Banana Nut Muffins


I am not much of a baker. My repertoire of baking is limited to the cake mixes. I can make a decent cake with the boxed mixes, but since my kids don't eat cake (!), I have no incentive to expand my culinary skills in that direction.

We are in the midst of spring break and having both the kids home all day can be quite fun and quite challenging!!! You can only hear "I'm bored" so many times before it starts to get to you :)

One activity that they are always up for, is to help me in the kitchen. I too see it as an opportunity to teach them some "life lessons" like team work, sharing duties, taking responsibility for your messes, cleaning up after yourself etc.

So this week found us in the kitchen making "Banana nut muffins". This is an old recipe that I pulled off the internet a few years ago and it has always produced good muffins.

This time I wanted to try it without the eggs that are called for in the recipe. The reason for this is two-fold. I just don't like the "eggy" smell, and try to avoid it whenever I can. The other more unpleasant reason is this - whenever we are cooking together and eggs are in the list of ingredients, there is always a squabble over who gets to crack the eggs. Cleaning up after 2 kids that have cracked eggs into a bowl and over a large part of the kitchen counter is not pleasant !!! Worries about salmonella weigh heavy on my mind and I end up scrubbing the counters several times.

So, it was to be muffins without eggs!!

I'm happy to report that the muffins came out perfect! No one would have guessed that there were no eggs in it. It was just as moist and fluffy as the original version.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas (The original recipe was 3. I increased by 1 to compensate for the egg)
1 egg (I omitted this)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter (unsalted)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of flour (all purpose)
Small handful of walnuts, chopped.


Muffin batter

Muffins, ready to bake



Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line muffin pan with muffin paper cups
  3. Mash bananas well
  4. Chop the walnuts and reserve 1 tbsp for sprinking on top.
  5. Add sugar and melted butter
  6. Mix the dry ingredients really well or sift and then add to banana mixture [ Mixing dry ingredients is important. Otherwise you will be biting into lumps of uncooked baking powder - not a pleasant taste!]
  7. Add the chopped nuts.
  8. Mix just enough to bring everything together
  9. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 to the top
  10. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes or till the muffins are golden brown.

This makes 12 large muffins.



muffin closeup

Eggless Banana Walnut Muffin

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fusion Confusion - Chip'n Chaat

chip'n chat
Mexican Indian Chaat


Ok, I did it again. I went shopping when I was hungry!! You would think that by now, I would know that it is a very bad idea to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Luscious looking baked goods, chips, honey roasted peanuts- all beckon to me from the grocer's shelves. I go into a sort of trance, my cart has a will of it's own, and when I find myself at the checkout line, I have a cartful of the dreaded "Junk Food".

I had a shopping spree like this last week and I brought home a bag of Tostitos scoops chips. Not as bad as some of my other purchases, which "ahem" shall go unnamed for the purposes of this post.

Anyways, I was about to make my usual dip of flaming hot salsa for me and hubby and cheesy dip for the kids, when I remembered the FMR #4- Fusion Event being hosted by the lovely Meenakshi of Hooked on Heat. I had also wanted to participate in the VCC held by VKN of MyDhaba fame. Hmmmm, I wonder if can get a two-fer with this appetizer by submitting it to both events!!

Nostalgic memories of Bombay street food combined with a desire to create something healthy led to this delicious snack. I tried a batch and it was proclaimed a hit by both my kids. Tried it on hubby when he came home and he too loved it.

Thus was born - "Chip'n Chaat" - my MexIndian remix of "Dahi Batata Poori"

It has less carbs than the potato version. The corn chip holds up beautifully to the filling and doesn't go soggy up to an hour, making it very ideal for party food. It requires very minimal prep work. To give it a Mexican touch, I substituted the potatoes with black beans for additional protein and fiber. I replaced the yogurt with sour cream, because I am in a sour cream phase of late and have been putting it on everything !!

My 6 year old says "this is so good, you should be one of those men in India who have a cart of food on the beach and sell food to people" !! Well, I suppose it is nice to know that I will make a good "Bhelpuri-wala" - not that there is anything wrong with that - Seinfeld anyone?

So, here it is - my entry to the FMR #4 Fusion event : Chip'n Chaat

Ingredients:

Tostitos "Scoops" chips, as many as you feel like eating!
1 small can of black beans, rinsed and drained (I use Progresso)
1 cup green coriander/cilantro chutney
1 cup tamarind chutney
1 small tomato, chopped
1 small carton of sour cream
1 packet of sev
couple of tablespoons of chat masala I use MDH's chunky chat masala
chopped cilantro for garnish

Method:


  1. Arrange the Tostitos on a plate
  2. Drop in a couple of black beans in each chip
  3. Spoon in the chutneys as per your taste
  4. Drizzle on the sour cream
  5. Sprinkle the chat masala
  6. Garnish with cilantro,tomato and sev
  7. Munch with gusto



That's all there is to it. What could be simpler?

chat

Mexican-Indian Chaat


Go ahead, pop one in your mouth, you know you want to !!!!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Palette of Flavors - Chutneys

palette of chutneys

Chutneys: clockwise from bottom - tamarind , coconut , coriander, capsicum


Chutney - colorful, tangy, tasty, spicy, zesty, lip-smackingly delicious, yummmmm !!!

So many words to describe the ubiquitous, humble, earthy chutney!

The word "Chutney" has become synonymous with the Indian subcontinent and immediately conjures up images of scorching heat, dusty roads, noisy markets, fresh produce, spicy foods, savory smells, .. Oh, I could go on!!!

Chutneys have earned their place of honor in the English lexicon and it is not uncommon to find the word associated with any spicy/sweet condiment. Chutney is simply ingredients that are crushed and blended together into a thick sauce. Check out a description of chutney in wikipedia here.

Chutneys play a very important role in the Indian cuisine. They are the tried and trusted side dishes for various main courses. Some pairings of chutneys are legendary - idli-chutney, dosa-chutney - while others are not so common. But there is no dish that cannot be pepped up with the addition of a chutney or two.

Chutneys vary widely depending on the region in India. Chutneys in the south are often made with fresh coconut and green chillies where as chutneys from the north region are often made with coriander, onions and green chillies.

I love chutneys of all kinds and eat them with chappatis, puris (my favorite!), toast, buttered bread, crackers etc.

I often make a batch of chutneys to have on hand. My favorite, top-ranking chutneys are

  • Tamarind or Imli chutney
  • Red capsicum chutney
  • coriander chutney
  • Coconut chutney

The order is not how much I like them, but how long they keep.

Most of the ingredients needed for these 4 chutneys will be readily available in any well stocked pantry and kitchen:

Ingredients:

chutney ingredients

chutney ingredients for all 4 types:
Clockwise from top left: brown sugar, curry leaves, red chillies, tamarind, fresh coriander, peanuts, grated fresh coconut, red capsicum, cumin/jeera, roasted chana dal(dalia), green chillies, black pepper, red chilli powder, lemon

Tamarind Chutney

Tart and sweet, this chutney can be used for bhels and other chats. It goes very well with green coriander chutney and can be served with all kinds of fried snacks like bajjis, pakodas even french fries :) . It keeps forever in the freezer. It gets a consistency like soft icecream and I just scoop it out and thaw it whenever I need some.



tamarind chutney

Tamarind, brown sugar, chilli powder, black pepper

Method:

  1. Soak the tamarind in hot water and extract the pulp.
  2. Take equal amounts of tamarind and sugar and heat in a non-reactive saucepan
  3. Simmer till quite thick. The consistency should be just a little runnier than that of ketchup
  4. Add salt, black pepper and chilli powder according to taste
  5. Cool and store in container
  6. This will stay for months in the freezer. Thaw as required.

Red Capsicum Chutney

With a brilliant orange hue, this chutney is lip smacking good. It is creamy like a mayonaise, but has almost no fat. Goes well with dosas. Spread it on dosas to make Mysore Masala Dosa. mmmmm...

If you take care to grind it without any water, it will stay fresh in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. If the blender absolutely will not grind it, add a tsp of oil to help loosen it up. We've packed this chutney in a bottle for a road trip and it kept beautifully.

red pepper chutney

red capsicum, cumin seeds, dried red chillies

Method:

  1. Seed and finely slice the red capsicums
  2. Heat one 1 tsp of oil in a frying pan
  3. Add the jeera and fry till it gets a golden brown and aromatic
  4. Add the dried red chillies and the sliced capsicum
  5. Fry well till the capsicums are cooked and all the water from them has evaporated. This is very important. If there is still a lot of water left, the chutney will not keep well.
  6. Cool and then grind to a velvety smooth paste without adding any water. Trust me, this will grind in a regular blender.
  7. Add salt to taste.

Coriander Chutney

The good old standby coriander chutney! Lots of uses for this chutney. Use it for bhels and chats and also for making wonderful sandwiches. Spread on bread with butter and then layer with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and other veggies of choice for yummy bombay-style sandwiches.


corriander chutney

peanuts, coriander, cumin seeds, green chillies

Method:

  1. Grind all of the above and adjust salt to taste
  2. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice to retain color and give it a tang.
  3. This will stay fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days

Coconut Chutney

The "King of the South" - this chutney reigns supreme in all south indian kitchens. A perfect accompaniment to idlis, dosas, oothapams, upma, kozhakattai and other south indian breakfast dishes. This can be made with fresh or frozen grated coconut - dessicated coconut is not a good substitute!! . Sadly this chutney will spoil quickly and turn rancid the next day, if it lasts that long!!


coconut chutney

grated coconut, green chillies, roasted chana dal(dalia)

Method:

  1. Grind coconut, green chillies and roasted chana dal to a smooth paste.
  2. Add salt to taste.
  3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan
  4. Add 1/4 tsp asafoetida, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and a few curry leaves.
  5. When the mustard seeds pop, pour this mixture on top of the chutney.

This is the basic version of the chutney. There are umpteen variations. Some people add a bit of tamarind for a slight tang, others add a spoonful of yogurt. I've had this with red chillies instead of the green. Some add one or more of - ginger, garlic, coriander leaves, curry leaves while grinding.

There are no set rules for chutneys. You can let your creativity flow and come up with new combinations to make chutneys and new ways to use them.

That's the universal appeal of "Chutney"!!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Breakfast of the Gods - Upma Kozhakattai

uppuma kozhakattai

Upma Kozhakattai - Steamed rice dumplings



The first dish I missed when I left home, were these tasty morsels - "upma kozhakattai". My mom makes the most awesome kozhakattai and I used to gobble these up, with a dollop of ghee melting on top and some chutney podi to dip 'em into.

I feel like I am continuing the tradition when I make these at home now, and watch my kids relish them. That's what it is about, isn't it? Passing on these traditions to the next generation? I feel that I make only about half the dishes my mother used to make, on a regular basis. Our palate has expanded to include so many other dishes of other ethnicities. I like to try out exotic dishes from other cultures and traditional indian dishes often have to wait for their turn in the monthly menu! I wonder how many of these traditional dishes our kids will make?

Anyways, on to the "Upma Kozhakattais" !! This is a twice steamed dish, so it is very healthy. There is not much oil involved in the making, and the addition of fresh coconut is entirely up to you. You can omit if you wish. I make a big batch of these once in a while and then have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!!

"Upma Kozhakattai" does require a fair amount of prep work. The rice has to be processed i.e. "broken" to make a coarse rava. I have never really tried to make it with the readymade rava available in the indian stores, but that might be a good option.

Ingredients:

2 cups long grain rice
1/4 cup shredded coconut (fresh or frozen)
4-5 salt cured, dried chillies (with yogurt)
1 green chilli
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp oil
a few curry leaves

drying the rice

Washed rice, spread on a towel to dry



rice rava

cup of washed, dried rice blended to make a coarse "rava"


You can also make a double batch of the rice rava and store for future use. Be careful however, to make sure the rice is absolutely dry before storing it. I have found out the hard way that little lifeforms will happily romp in the rice and make the most interesting colored mold colonies!! Needless to say, the kids were thrilled with this "science project", but I had to quickly make some backup plans for breakfast :)


Method:

  1. Wash the rice well in several changes of water until the water runs clear.
  2. Spread it out to dry on a clean towel or dish cloth for a few hours or even overnight.
  3. Coarsely powder the rice in a blender or food processor. Work in batches till the rice resembles bread crumbs.
  4. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. When it is hot, add the asafoetida and mustard seeds.
  5. When the mustard seeds pop, add the dried salt-cured chillies.
  6. When they turn a dark golden brown, add the green chillies and curry leaves.
  7. Add 5 cups of water (ratio of rice to water is 2:2.5)
  8. When the water comes to a boil, add the salt and shredded coconut.
  9. Add the rice rava and stir well to mix.
  10. Cover and steam like for "upma" till the rice is cooked.
  11. It may still taste a bit raw at this point, but will be fine when it is steamed again.
  12. When the mixture is cool, form into small balls.
  13. Put the balls in a greased idli plate or in a chinese style steamer or even the steamer of a rice cooker and steam for 10 minutes.
  14. The balls will subtly change in color and texture and get a glossy shine. That indicates that they are well cooked.
  15. Serve hot with a dab of ghee on top. Serve with chutney, dosa chutney podi, or sambhar.

upma for kozhakattai

rice upma, before forming the dumplings



kozhakattais before steaming

kozhakattai, ready for steaming

Here's another picture of these yummy dumplings. My favorite way to serve them is with "Mor Kozhambu" or buttermilk sambhar. Yummm....



kozakattai closeup

Upma Kozhakattai

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sneaky Nutrition - Spinach Cheese Parathas

spinach-cottagecheese parathas

Potato, Spinach & Cottage Cheese Parathas


What do you do when you have to feed picky eaters? You get sneaky - is what you do!!!

I am always trying to sneak in various "healthy" things into foods for my kids. Some of my "experiments" get good reviews and encores. Other times it is "Mom, what were you thinking??"

I had read about adding cottage cheese to chappati dough in a cookbook a few months ago. I have forgotten the name of the cookbook, but the idea stayed with me. If anyone knows of this book, please drop me a line. I'd like to give the author credit for such an innovative idea.

Recently I decided to try this out and to my surprise the chappatis came out pretty good. Not content with this, I decided to "kick it up a notch" and made "aloo-palak-cheese-parathas". This is definitely a keeper recipe and I will be making this for years to come.

The parathas are yummy, they are very very soft and the spinach and potatoes add a lot of iron and potassium and the cottage cheese provides a healthy helping of calcium that is so essential for the kids' growing bones and our creaking ones :-)

The parathas look delectable as well, a pale jade color, flecked with the dark green from the spinach, with a brilliant yellow stuffing of mashed, seasoned potatoes.

You can use the basic dough to make any parathas of your choice, stuffed or plain. The parathas need very little oil, because of the creaminess of the cheese and stay very soft for quite a while. I used low fat cottage cheese, so you can indulge without guilt!!

"Aloo-Palak-Cottage-Cheese-Parathas" - Quite a mouthful to say, but utterly delicious to eat.

paratha ingredients

Spinach, Cottage Cheese, Wheat flour


Ingredients For Dough:

1 cup of wheat flour (I use Golden Temple Chappati atta)
3/4 cup of cottage cheese
1/2 cup of spinach
1 tsp oil
salt to taste

Note:

For this recipe, there are really no exact measurements. You can add as much or as little spinach as you wish. Also there is NO WATER, yes, NO WATER to bind the dough. It is all just the cottage cheese and the moisture from it!! Can you feel your bones growing stronger already??

Method:

This process can only be done in a food processor. I don't think anyone can knead the dough so well as to incorporate all the cottage cheese!!

[Addendum: if you don't have a food processor, I suppose you could give the spinach and cottage cheese a whirl in the blender and then incorporate the flour by hand. I haven't tried it, but it might work!]

  1. Chop the spinach in the food processor.
  2. Add the cottage cheese, oil and salt and blend well
  3. Add the flour and pulse a few times
  4. Don't worry if it seems to stick. Add more cheese if it seems dry and more flour if it seems too runny!!
  5. Take the dough out and let it rest in a covered bowl for 20-30 minutes. This is extremely important! The dough may seem really rough textured and coarse at this point. Something happens to it when it rests. It seems to get this inner peace and relaxes into a smooth pliable dough, soft as silk!!
  6. Roll into chappatis or stuff with filling to make parathas
  7. Cook both sides on a hot griddle, brushing with a little oil if required.

paratha dough balls

Balls of paratha dough





paratha dough

round of dough with potato filling



paratha dough cup

cup of dough encasing the filling



paratha dough cup2

closed cup of dough with filling



paratha rolled out

rolling out the paratha


Potato Stuffing Ingredients:

2-3 large potatoes
1 small green chilli or 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala (optional, I omit if making for the kids)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste

Method:

1. Boil the potatoes and mash them well
2. Add turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala (if using), salt and mix well
3. Heat oil in a frying pan
4. When the oil is heated, add the mustard seeds
5. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the green chilli (optional) and then the potato mixture.
6. Fry for a few minutes till the raw smell disappears.
7. Cool and use for stuffing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Blood is thicker than? - Molagootal?

molaghootal

Molagootal with Rice, Thogayal and Potato Curry


My husband and his brother were practically raised on this dish - "Keerai Molagootal". This is a dish from the Palakaad region and is typically eaten with rice. The traditional accompaniment is "Thogayal" (a type of chutney) or Pulikaachal (tamarind chutney). Keerai Molagootal is similar to a spinach dal, but has a few additional ingredients that add a layer of complexity to the taste.

For my husband and brother-in-law, this is the ultimate comfort food. My SIL often jokes that they have "molagootal" running in their veins rather than blood!! that is the power of this dish :-)

Contrary to what the name might suggest, there is no "molaghu" or black pepper in this dish!! But, with spinach and tur dal, it is a very nutritious dish, full of vitamins and antioxidants.

Ingredients:

For the dal:
4 cups spinach leaves, chopped
3/4 cup tur dal, boiled
1/4 cup grated coconut

For masala paste:
2 tbsp udad dal
4-5 dried red chillies
1 tsp jeera

For seasoning:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 dried red chillies

Method:

1. Boil the spinach leaves in water, till tender and grind coarsely in the blender
2. Fry the masala ingredients in 1/2 tsp oil till the udad dal turns a deep golden brown and is aromatic.
3. Grind to a fine paste with the coconut.
4. Mix the ground paste, the ground spinach and tur dal and boil for 2 minutes
5. Add salt to taste
6. Heat the oil for seasoning
7. Add mustard seeds and when they pop, add the curry leaves and red chillies.
8 Add to the molagootal when the red chillies are fried.


Thogayal

Thogayal or chutney is a tangy accompaniment to the molagootal. There are no set rules about the ingredients for the thogayal and can be varied according to what's on hand.


Ingredients:

3 tbsp udad dal
4-5 dried red chillies
1/4 cup grated coconut
2 green chillies
a small handful curry leaves
a small handful cilantro leaves
a small handful mint leaves (optional)
a lime sized ball of tamarind
1 tsp jaggery or brown sugar
1/2 tsp asafoetida
salt to taste

Method:

1. Mix the tamarind in a little bit of water and extract a thick juice.
2. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan
3. Add the asafoetida and the udad dal
4. Fry the udad dal over slow heat, till it is a deep golden brown
5. Add the dried red chillies and roast
6. Switch off the heat and add all the other ingredients
7. Grind to a coarse paste using very little water

Serve with molagootal. I love it it hot rice and ghee. This also goes well with chappatis, toast etc. The other day I noticed my little one with a bowl of thogayal and tortilla chips!!!

Enjoy!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Cook With Your Kids - Sand Laddoo/Sand Balls

sand ladoo

Sand Laddoo
Caution: Not Edible!



The little one came up with this title! She says "Hey! how about you write a blog about our trip to the park?, Tell everyone that you don't need to waste your time near the stove...you can also cook with sand!"

She has been watching me create this blog, take pictures and talk about it ALL the time (or what seems like ALL the time to her). She is amused that I have got something else to do than nag her to stop watching TV, clean up, practice her music...yadda yadda...

We had an unusually warm and sunny day today. We went to the park for a little while and made "Sand Laddoos or Sand Balls". After a while, the laddoos became our ammunition and we threw them at imaginary enemy soldiers that were advancing to attack our fort. The other parents and kids at the park observing us, looked a bit amused. It's not often they see a parent making a fool of themselves and getting their hands in the sand and throwing sand balls around !

Well, anyway, a few more rounds on the swings and slides and then it was time to come home. An afternoon well spent. We brought a laddoo home as a keepsake.

It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of life, that we often don't think about taking a break and having some real honest-to-goodness FUN! Sometimes it takes a child to remind us to do that.

So..... here's reminding everyone to take a breather and find your bit of sunshine - outside, in your loved ones, or in your inner child.

Have a Great Weekend!!

Mystery Dish - Guess this Dish!

DSC05711

Guess what?


This is my 3rd week of blogging, and I'm thrilled that my site has had over 1000 visitors!! Yay!! A big "THANK YOU" to my fellow bloggers and visitors for the support, encouragement and friendship.

Here's a little something to brighten up your march towards the weekend....TGIF!!!

This dish is an old time favorite in our house. Can you guess what it is?

I'll post the recipe later :-)






Warning! Spoiler Follows



Thanks for playing the guessing game with me!! We had a lot of correct guesses - it is indeed "Bread Upma" .



Typically made with stale bread, it is an ingenious way to use up old bread and the few odds and ends in the refrigerator. It also packs very well for lunches and picnics.

I like to make bread upma rather plain, with very few spices, so that the flavor of the bread comes through. The key to making a good bread upma is of course the bread!. Crusty breads work the best. Don't even attempt this with sliced bread! Today I used old "Pan Turano" bread, the same that I used in the "PottleBell Sandwiches".

Here's how I make my version:

Ingredients:

1 6 inch loaf of Pan Turano or similar crusty bread
3 tbsp of yogurt (preferably homemade)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp jeera seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder
a few curry leaves and cilantro leaves
salt to taste

Method:

  1. Cut the loaf of bread into 1/2 inch chunks.
  2. Whisk the yogurt to make it smooth. Add some salt to taste. Marinate the bread pieces in it, till you get the other ingredients ready or for 10 mins. This step is what gives the bread upma a very tangy, yummy flavor.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard and jeera seeds. When they pop, add the green chillies, and curry leaves.
  4. Add the onions and saute lightly.
  5. Add the turmeric powder
  6. Add the bread pieces and turn gently to mix well
  7. Add salt and chilli powder to taste
  8. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro leaves

Notes:

  • If you use french bread or other similar crusty bread, it stands up very well to the marinade and retains it shape and texture.
  • The yogurt gets absorbed into the bread, gives it a lot of flavor and also a nice crispy crust if you fry the pieces well
  • If you don't like yogurt, you can add a little bit of lime/lemon juice

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Oldies Goldies - Pottlebell Sandwich

sandwich2

PottleBell Sandwich



A new sandwich place has opened up in our town - "Potbelly". We went to eat there last week. The place is nice and laid back with a very vintage decor. They serve soup, sandwiches, smoothies, ice cream, and cookies. The service is very fast, the soup is piping hot and the sandwiches are good. Nice place for a quick lunch or dinner.

Their signature sandwich is piled with cheese and toasted in a hot oven, till the cheese melts. Then you can fill it with fillings of your choice (we of course like it with everything, including the hot peppers).

There was "live" music - a middle-aged guy playing a few "oldie goldies" on the guitar and singing along. DH and I seemed to be the only ones in the restaurant who could relate to and reminisce about the songs ...sigh!! We clapped enthusiastically after each song (again, we were the only ones who did so) and so the chap went on playing more Rod Stewart, Eagles, Eric Clapton numbers. Kids were a bit embarrassed at our behavior, and kept nudging us to stop. That only made us clap and whistle some more!! We told them that they could feel embarrassed by our behaviour for a change. Oh, it was fun !!

When we were craving their sandwiches again, we thought we would try to make it at home. The sandwiches are really easy to make and turned out very yummy. The trick is the bread - "Pan Turano French Bread" is just perfect and toasts up beautifully. I'm sure some other crusty french bread will work just as well.

We had no live music at home and had to make do with CDs !! :-)

For some reason, my daughter has a hard time with the name and calls it "PottleBell" - hence our name for these sandwiches "PottleBell Sandwiches"

Every bite delivers a satifying crunch from the toasted bread, gooey melty cheese, creaminess from the mayo and the flavor of the vegetables.

bread

bread basket



veggies

lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles



cheese

swiss, provolone and american cheeses



Ingredients:

1 6 inch loaf of bread
1/4 slice of deli-sliced provolone cheese
1/4 slice of swiss cheese
1 slice of american cheese
1 tsp mayonnaise
veggies of your choice (lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, red onions, hot peppers)

Method:

Layer the cheese on one side of the bread.

Pop under the broiler to melt the cheese and toast the bread.

Slather with mayo on both sides (yes!)

Pile high with veggies

Serve with hot giardinaria and jalapeno flavored chips on the side ! Yumm!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Protein Packed Power - Paruppu Usili

broccoli usali

Broccoli Usili with Chappati



I am a self proclaimed "Freezer Queen". I LOVE freezing food! I experiment all the time with freezing cooked food, semi-cooked food, raw food - well, you get the idea.

I especially like freezing semi-prepared food. Keep it handy in the freezer, pop it out, finish cooking it and voila! dinner-in-a-jiffy. Also very handy when unexpected guests drop in.

One semi-prepared food that freezes very well is "Paruppu Usili Mix". "Paruppu" is lentils in Tamil and I think "Usili" is mix, so there's a little redundancy in my terminology there!

I make the basic mix and freeze in small single-serve containers. When I want to make any kind of paruppu usili (beans, cabbage, broccoli, spring onions, leeks etc), I pop out a container, thaw in the microwave and add to the sauted vegetables. No one can tell it's been frozen!

I also make and freeze batches of chappatis and parathas and they really come in handy on "crazy" days.

Getting the RDA of protein can be really challenging for vegetarians. Protein packed Paruppu Usili is one yummy way of getting a mega dose of protein. It also gives the much-maligned Broccoli a chance to shine :-) :-)

Enjoy!

DSC05520

Usili mix, ready for the freezer



chappati

stack of chappatis




Ingredients:

For the Usili Mix:
1 cup of tur dal
1 cup of chana dal
handful of dried red chillies
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp jeera seeds
2 tsp udal dal
1 tsp asafoetida
salt to taste

For the Subji:
1 small onion
2 green chillies
1 cup broccoli (or vegetable of your choice)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp jeera seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
a few curry leaves
salt to taste

Method:

For the Usili Mix:
Soak the dals and chillies for 2 hours. Grind to a smooth paste. Add turmeric powder and salt to taste. I use a microwave egg poacher to steam 2 "idlis" of this dough at a time. Prepare all the "idlis" this way. Crumble with your fingers and keep aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the asafoetida, mustard and jeera. When they sizzle and pop, add the udad dal. When the udal dal gets golden and roasted, add the crumbled dal mixture. Fry well till the mixture gets roasted and become a lovely orange/golden brown color.

Cool completely. Pack into freezer containers and store away :-)

For Making Usili Subji:
Chop the onions and vegetables. Heat 1 tsp oil in a frying pan. Add the asafoetida, mustard seeds, jeera and udad dal. When that is roasted, add the onions, green chillies and curry leaves. Saute lightly. Add the broccoli and fry till it is cooked. I like it quite crunchy. Then add the thawed Usili Mix . Adjust the salt to taste and serve garnished with chopped cilantro.

Yummy with rice and sambhar or rasam. Less carbs with chappatis :-)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Birthday special - Dahiwale Baingan

eggplant subji

Dahiwale Baingan with chappatis



Yesterday was our little princess' "star" birthday i.e birthday according to the Indian lunar calendar. She had started a countdown to this day, about a week ago.

She woke up suitably excited, demanding that everybody be nice to her and treat her special. She is treated like this everyday, but that's another discussion!.

She did not let us forget for a minute that it was her birthday and that it was a special day for her. Her brother was strictly instructed to be nice to her and not bother her, which of course meant that he was going to push her buttons and see how far he could go before I had to be called in to negotiate!

I wanted to make her favorite things for her birthday and upon asking, she said that she wanted "payasam" and "eggplant subji" - Who knew!! I would have never guessed that eggplant was her favorite vegetable. That's the thing with kids - their tastes change and a new favorite comes up every now and then.

Anyways, I was not going to question it, or let this opportunity pass me by. Eggplant subji it was!! - served with chappati, fried cauliflower florets(another one of her favorites) and of course payasam.

Here's my recipe for the "Dahiwale Baingan" - adapted from a Sanjeev Kapoor TV program, with my modifications:


subji ingredients

Japanese eggplant, onions, green chillis, garlic, curry leaves, ginger and cilantro



Ingredients:

4 Japanese eggplant
1 medium onion
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
4-5 green chillis
2 tbsp sour cream (or use yogurt mixed with 1 tbsp all purpose flour)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp jeera
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
curry leaves
cilantro for garnish

cut eggplant

sliced eggplant



fried eggplants

pan fried eggplant



Method:

Cut the eggplant lengthwise and then slice into half moons. Sprinkle eggplant with salt and mix the ginger-garlic paste. Put in a colander and leave to marinate for 1-2 hours. It helps to keep a bowl filled with water on top to weigh it down. The bitter juices will come out of the eggplant and the eggplant will fry up nicely.

Heat a little oil in a wok and pan fry the till brown and crispy. Fry in small batches to get them nice and crispy. Next time, I am going to try to bake 'em in a sheet pan.

Chop the onions and green chillis. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and jeera seeds. When they pop, add the curry leaves, green chillis and chopped onion. Fry lightly. When the onions turn translucent, add turmeric powder and salt.

Gently mix in the sour cream and heat slowly. The mixture will slowly boil. Set aside.

Mix the eggplant and gravy just before serving and garnish with chopped cilantro. The combination of turmeric and the sour cream gives it a very flourescent yellow color - quite unusual!

Dahiwale Baingan or rather Sour Creamwale Baingan!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ode to Chai - umm Joy!



chai2

Cup of Chai

I belong to the small percentage of people in the world that are "musically challenged" . I have absolutely no ear for music and can neither sing nor hum a tune. But if I had any musical talent at all, and if I could somehow magically compose music, my magnum opus would be "Ode to Chai". It would be a musical masterpiece extolling the virtues of my favorite drink - chai!

I love chai and drink a minimum of 2 cups a day. I could drink several more cups, but usually limit myself, unless it is a special occasion or a special day like a weekend or a weekday!

I follow the same routine every morning. I wake up, brush my teeth still half asleep, go downstairs and put on a pot of water for tea. I stand by the stove, savoring the morning calm and the radiant heat from the stove. There is something calming about this ritual of making a morning cup of chai. The canisters for tea leaves and sugar are at hand and I can measure and pour with my eyes closed. As the aroma of the tea wafts from the boiling pot, I add a pinch of cardamom. The satisfying wooshing sound of the tea boiling and rising up to touch the lip of the pot wakes me from my reverie and I pour out the 2 cups of steaming hot tea. As I sip the chai, I really start to wake up and start my day.

In the Indian culture, chai is much more than just a drink. Stories are shared, gossip is passed around, sorrows are drowned, advice is handed out and friendships are bonded - all over steaming hot cups of chai.

I like my chai strong, with a pinch of cardamom powder. How do you spice your chai?

- With apologies to Beethoven, whose "Ode to Joy" has been adopted as the European Union's nation anthem. Check out the full article here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Too Many Tomatoes!! - Tomato Pickle


Tomato pickles


We have a small vegetable patch in our backyard and every year we plant 4-6 tomato plants. This summer, we had very good growing conditions and got a bumper crop of tomatoes. We had fresh tomatoes all summer long - salads, rasams, pasta sauces, curries, sandwiches, simply sprinkled with salt and pepper - you name it and we tried it! The flavor of garden fresh tomatoes is just unbeatable.

In the summer, the kids go out on tomato gathering expeditions and can often be found sitting in the backyard, sinking their teeth into those juicy tomatoes, seeds and pulp staining their flushed faces until some wandering bees chase them indoors :-)

We are also lucky enough to have an ethnic produce store close by that has vine ripened tomatoes at reasonable prices throughout the year. When you can't get home grown tomatoes, vine ripened tomatoes are perfect.

In an attempt to preserve that fresh, intense, sun-kissed tomato flavor and to tide us over the dreary midwest winter until summer rolls around again, I make batches of tomato pickle; spicy and fiery hot for us and without any chillies for the kids.

My son (check out his blog athttp://planesplanesplanes.blogspot.com, he will be thrilled if you drop him a comment) loves aloo or spinach parathas smeared with zero-chilli tomato pickles packed for his school lunch. It is one lunch that he gobbles up without any leftovers.

As for me, hot freshly steamed rice, a dab of ghee and tomato pickles...yumm....winter doesn't seem so unbearable after all!


Ingredients:

Roughly 2 lbs of fresh tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup of oil
4-5 pods of garlic (optional)
8-10 green chilles (or adjust to taste)
a few curry leaves
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp asafoetida powder, hing
1 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste



pickle spices
From the spicebox: turmeric, chilli powder, salt, mustard seeds, asafoetida


pickle ingredients
Tomatoes, green chilli, garlic, curry leaves

Method


Wash the tomatoes and deseed. Pulverize tomatoes in the blender along with green chillies and garlic (if using any).

You can also go the additional step of skining the tomatoes by plunging them in hot water to loosen the skin. I believe that a little skin doesn't hurt anyone and leave it be. It gets quite minced in the blender anyway.

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add asafoetida and mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the tomato mixture. Add the salt and turmeric powder. Cook on a slow flame, stirring every so often, till the mixture thickens. The oil will start to seperate out from the tomato paste and the mixture will begin to resemble a pickle/jam consistency. Take off the stove at this point.

Add the chilli powder to taste and leave to cool. I find that adding the chilli powder early in the process causes an acrid, burnt smell.

Bottle into sterile jars. Top off with some heated oil if storing for a long time and refrigerate.

There you have it - summer sunshine in a bottle!

Notes:

  • Tomato pickles goes well with rice, chappatis, parathas and bread.
  • If made with generous quantities of oil(!), the pickles can last for more than a year in the fridge.
  • If you don't want to bother with fresh tomatoes, the pickles can be made with canned crushed tomatoes.





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