Thursday, December 31, 2015

Spicy Black Eyed Peas and Kale Soup

This is a new take on an old favorite. Our new house has a large vegetable patch solely dedicated to many varieties of kale. And while I have always wanted to be someone who eats a lot of kale, the truth is I barely cook with kale always finding it a little on the bitter side. 

However now this flourishing vegetable patch is forcing me to find ways to add kale to our meals.

The easiest way to get more of kale for newbees is to add it in your favorite soups or daals - paired with a little tartness from lemons, kale really shines in these preparations.

This particular soup has black eyed peas - my favorite legume! It can be as thick or as soupy as you want. Mine is usually on the thick side. I love to serve this with a dollop of cream cheese or greek yogurt and some freshly chopped green onions or chives. No bread.

But you could also make it a lot thinner (just add more water or stock) and serve with a crusty bread for dipping. 


Recipe: Serves 6
Ingredients:
1C dried black eyed peas
4C water
1/4 of a large onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 celery
4 large leaves of kale
4 large chopped tomatoes or 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2Tbsp olive oil

Seasonings:
1tsp hot chili paper flakes
2tsp cumin powder
1tsp paprika -- for color
dash of hot sauce
pinch of oregano (thyme has worked well for me too)
salt, black pepper
juice of 1lemon
Recipe:
  1. Rinse and cook black eyed pease per package direction.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot on medium-low heat. Add chopped onions and cook for a few minutes.
  3. When onions are tender add finely chopped ginger and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes until aromatic.
  4. Next add sliced celery.
  5. Remove the stems from the kale leaves and tear the leaves up using your hand into small pieces. (I find that kale is much easier to tear using hands than chopping with a knife). Add kale to the pot and cook for just a few more minutes until the greens are wilted.
  6. Add tomatoes, paprika and chili flakes and cook for 10minutes or so until the rawness of the tomatoes is gone.
  7. Transfer cooked black eyed peas to the soup pot next. Add cumin, oregano, salt and hot sauce. Cook for 10more minutes on low heat uncovered.
  8. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and ground black pepper. Adjust the seasonings per taste. Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

To Home Cooking & Family Dinners....

About time to say good-bye to 2015 - can't believe another year has gone by! It's time for me to be thankful for the little joys this year has brought and review how well the resolutions held up. On the food front, 2015 was a great year of eating more family dinners together at our household. 

Mostly all home cooked. We are not big on takeouts. And I have a whole stash of 30 minute recipes so putting a simple and healthy dinner on table even on crazy weekdays has never been a hassle as long as you have a well stocked pantry and fridge.

I truly feel there isn't a more important way to take care of ourselves than managing what we eat. What we eat influences our health & beauty, happiness, stamina to work/productivity and increasingly I am finding out that it heavily influences family bondings too!

A simple home cooked meal is the best way to manage what we eat - and it doesn't have to be very fancy either. A pot of hot soup with some store bought crusty bread when eaten with family together may give you just as much joy and satisfaction as an elaborate Indian feast cooked over many hours. The idea is to sit together, talk share and enjoy a simple healthy home-cooked meal made with love and care. 

We all lead busy lives and grab lunches on the go. I am guilty of exclusively eating all of my work lunches on my desk while catching up with emails. So the evening ritual of coming home, hustling about in the kitchen, putting something delicious on table and everyone sitting together enjoying the meal while talking about their day just feels so important!
Taco Tuesday this week - looks like a spread but very simple and takes 30 minutes
My daughter is always running around me when I am in the kitchen - she is my helper, grabbing a lemon from front yard or few mint leaves or chilli pepper from back yard or helping fix a salad. She loves that - and I feel this combined with visiting farmer's markets have made such a positive impact towards her atitude on food and eating (and touch-wood on that!). 

She also looks forward to the meal times when we all go around the table and share a story of the day - it helps you connect with the families and specially helps kids form stronger family bonds.

On warm summer nights, we take our dinner outside and eat with a candle lantern hung to a nearby tree. Then we blow off the candle and take turns watching stars and matching them with star gazer apps on phone - just so much fun to make your own small customs around meal-times and make that a focus of the evening. 

After-all good food brings everyone together... Here is to keeping the home-cooked family dinners stronger than ever in 2016! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Leek and Potato Soup

If the soups were to have personalities, I think this leek and potato soup will be the simplest and the humblest of the once I cook. Yet, there is something so homely and deliciously satisfying about gulping bowls of this hot soup on cold wintry evenings that you will not feel like you are missing any fancy ingredients or embellishments!

This soup has few ingredients and as long as I buy leek from farmer's market, all other ingredients are pantry staples which is a huge plus for weeknight dinners.

It is also very quick cooking - about 20minutes. And the recipe is forgiving so no worries if you are multi-tasking in kitchen or playing with kids while a pot of this is bubbling away!

(Incidentaly, I really need to spend more than the 5 secs I have gotten used to spending on my food photos. I went down from an SLR to a Canon decent mid-ranger to my Nexus5 phone for photos and the quality has relatively taken nose-dive too. And while this phone does an okay job in natural light, it's barely manageable in night home yellow light. But anyway, it's either having some photo or no photo, so I am going to deal with the poor quality photos for now. Hope you will excuse the photo quality too :) )

Recipe:
1 sliced leek
2 russet potatoes
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
dash of dried oregano (thyme works well too)
dash of whole milk or heavy cream
juice of half a lemon
1Tbsp olive oil + 1Tbsp butter
salt & pepper

Clean and slice leeks in thin half-moon slices. Leeks are notorious for hiding dirt in between leaves, if this is your first time working with leeks, check out this cool page on how to clean and prep leeks.

In a large pan, heat 1Tbsp olive oil. When hot, add garlic and saute for a minute. Then add chopped leek and saute for a few mins until they are tender.

While the leek is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes.

Add potato cubes to the pan and cook for a minute. Add water for desired consistency - I added about 6C. Add thyme or oregano, salt & pepper, cover and cook on low medium for about 15mins.

Check that potatoes are tender, remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or just a potato masher, mash or blend soup. I like my soup chunky so I use potato masher and mash lightly. If you like silky smooth soup, then please use blender and puree.

Add 1Tbsp butter, dash of milk/cream and lemon juice. Taste, adjust seasoning. Serve hot!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Naankhatai - Indian Eggless Shortbread Cookies

As a kid growing up, I always looked forward to our bakery visits. There was only one reputed bakery in our town - and something about the freshly baked breads and warm pastries there was so enticing to me even as a child -- just as it still is now :) 

We rarely baked at our home while growing up. Now I think it must have been because of lack of oven in most Indian homes at the time. So us kids were always in a treat visiting bakery!

The one item I bought every time there was naankhatai. Naankhatai is Indian shortbread eggless cookies; meant to be dunked into Chai -- which I did a lot of growing up!

I never bought naankhatai in US though plenty of Indian stores sell it here - it just never felt the same as the freshly baked once I was used to eating. So I have been meaning to try my hand at baking naankhatai this holiday season. I was surprised at how easy it is.

I made 2 batches. The picture below is from batch #2 where I reduced the butter and sugar - turns out they tend to crack a bit with reduced butter but that is just fine for my everyday eating - better actually. Less guilt. But please go with the full butter, full sugar version if you are gifting someone or sharing with friends.

Recipe (makes about 15 small naankhatai):
1C all-purpose flour
1/2C melted butter or ghee (1/2C = 8Tbsp; in the reduced butter version I used 5.5Tbsp)
1/2C powdered sugar (in the healthier version I used 1/4C + 1Tbsp sugar which ius just barely sweet)
1/2tsp baking powder
pinch of pumpkin spice (optional, sub with 1 crushed cardamom and a pinch of cinnamon)
pinch of salt

Mix the dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt & pumpkin spice. Mix well.

Slowly add melted butter to the dry ingredients and keep mixing to form a dough. Knead for a minute and then wrap in a plastic wrapper and set aside for 20mins in refrigerator.

Then preheat oven to 365F. Divide the dough into about 15 balls. Flatten them slightly and add them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a serving knife, make small cuts in the form of a + sign on each ball. Add some crushed nuts on top of each if you prefer (optional).

Bake for 10-15mins until desired brown-ness and crunch is achieved. Remove from heat and let cool for few mins. Store in an air-tight container.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and Have a Very Happy Holidays!

A very merry Christmas and happy holidays from the kitchen of Ginger & Garlic to yours! We hope your holidays are filled with lots of happiness, relaxing time with those you love and lots and lots of cooking and/or eating!

We will be back soon with some fresh content but meanwhile here are some of our Christmas themed posts over the years:

Mommy & me Christmas Cookies: 2013, 2014 & 2015
Edible Christmas Tree (pictured below)
Roasting Chestnuts
Holiday Craft Projects
Espresso Chocolate Truffles


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Oven Baked Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

T'is the season for sweet potatoes and I have just the perfect recipe for you! Everyone loves fries and these sweet potato fries are oven baked yet crispy and have just the right sweet notes paired with the hint of heat from black pepper and crushed red peppers.

In the winter months, our oven is always working very hard as we cook most of our winter meals in oven. Since the oven is alwats toasty, I often like to throw these in last minute and they serve great either as appetizers or sides to Indian or non-Indian meals.

Recipe is quite straight-forward. Pre-heat oven to 420F. Trim the ends off and peel the sweet potatoes. Then cut them into wedges using a sharp Chef's knife. Season the wedges with olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper (optional). Mix well so each wedge is covered in seasoning.

Spread the wedges in an even single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Be very sure to not overcrowd (been there, done that, not good) - otherwise the fries will be soggy. 

Bake for 20mins or so, checking in between and rotate the baking tray once in between for even cooking. When the edges start to become crispy and brown, they are ready. Take off from oven and serve hot!

We like to finish off a tray of these fries just on their own but you can serve with either ketchup or your favorite mayonaise based dipping sauce. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Pinwheels (Green and Red Pesto Pinwheels)

These pinwheels are so easy to put together, so delicious and are the perfect party appetizers.

And in the spirit of holidays, I chose to make them with holiday colors of green and red -- making them the perfect holiday pinwheels!

Recipe:
1) Make (or buy) basil pesto - grind together basil leaves, olive oil, parmesan cheese, roasted pine nuts, one clove of garlic, salt & pepper - set aside

2) Make sundried tomato pesto - grind together sundried tomatoes (I used once packed in oil), a clove of garlic, parmesean cheese, salt -  set aside

3) Thaw puff pastry dough per package instructions. Each package contains 2 sheets. One sheet will give you about 10 pinwheels.

4) Generously flour a large cutting board or work surface, spread the puff pastry dough. Spread basil pesto on the bottom half of pasty in a thin and even layer (leaving half an inch of each side bare to roll). Spread thin and even layer of sundried tomato pesto on the other half, again leaving about half an inch on each sides bare for rolling.

5) roll the sheet from one side upwards making a log. Gently press the edges to seal. Using a shap chef's knife cut about 10 pinwheels.

6) On a pre-heated 375F oven, bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 10-12 mins.

7) Remove from oven and serve hot.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Rainy Party Menu...

We hosted a birthday party at our home recently. And as is expected with any December parties, one way or the other they evolve into holiday parties - there is just so much holiday spirit around!

I have used restaurant catering for every single event of 30-40 people we hosted so far. And after each event I resolved to cater the next one myself. Well, for one reason or another it never materialized.. that is until this one.

The day turned out to be stormy and rainy. When the weather forecast didn't show signs of budging, what best to do than to make use of it --- change the party menu to evolve around the rainy foods and warm, homy aromas! So that's exactly what I did.

Drinks:
We had the wine and the beer and the coke, but the warm drinks which greeted the guests were spiced mulled apple cider (love it!! and so easy to put together) and of-course a large thermos full of ginger chai. We also kept a hot water dispenser and a couple of bagged teas: jasmine, spiced chai from Trader Joe's and lemon orange tea for the green tea lovers.

Appetizers:
It was the day of appetizers. All of my appetizers were oven cooked and served hot which meant I ended up spending the first hour of the event in the kitchen warming by the side of the oven, sipping hot cider and chatting up a storm with friends while a steady flow of warm appetizers went in and out of the oven. It was soooo much my happy place :)

(Excuse all the photos - I tried to take them with a phone during the event, often asking a friend to hold eating for a minute! I am a blogger, they understand :) )

I made sweet potato fries - cut sweet potato wedges, drizzle olive oil, salt & pepper - roast at 420F for 15-20 mins, keep checking to ensure they don't burn. And very important that you spread a thin single layer in baking pan and don't crowd them or else they turn soggy.

Second and perhaps the most in demand appetizer was the holiday pesto pinwheels sporting the red and green holiday colors. Recipe upcoming soon.

And caramelized onions with sage mushroom squares - which were my favorite! Love the mushroom sage combo. Picture is a mug shot which does it no justice - just take my word for it.
We also made a couple dozen frozen mini-samosas, just bake and serve on the day.

And none of my parties would be complete without a cheese platter. I can make a perfect meal anyday with just the cheese, crackers, fig butters and wine! This time our cheese platter had a blend of spanish hard cheese (manchego, cabra al vino and ibreco (sp?)), a soft garlic and herb goat cheese served with pumpkin and cranberry crackers and fig olive crackers with soome fig butter on the side.

Main course:
Rain demanded paav bhaji, and lots of it, for which I used my trusty recipe from One Hot Stove.

A pasta salad also has a guaranteed place on my party menus - it's versatile with ingrdients and seasonal flavors; mild to taste and kids generally love it. I added avocados (yes, they go so well in place of cheese in cold salads), sauteed mushrooms, red onions, 3 coolor peppers tomatoes and seasoned with meyer lemons juice and zest - perfect!

I also made a small quantity vegetable Biryani - in hindsight I should have made more of it; this was the first dish completely cleared off the table.

And we did takeout of idli & vada platter from a nearby South Indian restaurant.

Dessert was a banana cake with chocolate filling and vanilla cream cheese frosting -- my next adventure is going to be to try to make the cake on my own.

All in all was a great day - both food and weather wise. It was mostly drizzling throughout party hours and when the weather outside is frightful, chatting with friends over warm foods and a cozy fire is truly delightful :)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Cookies

Continuing with our own cooked up mother-daughter tradition of 2013 and 2014, this year also we baked many cookies, shared them with friends and family during a holiday get together and ate them in delight!

This year we made a mix of sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies with the focus on cookie decoration. Sugar cookie recipe was the same tried and trusted one from here - proportions quartered. Gingerbread cookie recipe was from here with the only difference that I completely cut the white sugar and added local wildflower honey instead. Cookies weren't sweet per say, which is what I wanted, but had just a bite of sweetness from the icing and were perfect with a hot cup of coffee (huge plus!). I'll probably go back to using molasses in gingerbread cookies next year, for the intense sweetness and the color.

As for the decoration we used the standard tubes of holidays colors green and red from grocery store with plain white icing leftover from a birthday cake decoration.

My daughter had a lot of fun decorating the cookies this time! The one on the top with happy, sad and angry pumpkins are decorated by her; she called them "pumpkin moods cookies" :) and the gingerbread men ofcourse which she loves to decorate.

All in all it was a great mother-daughter evening spent together making the dough, tasting it, watching anxiously for the cookies to rise in the oven and of-course decorating it! 

Baking is sooooo relaxing and therapeutic to me and I honestly can't think of a better way to stop worrying about work and daily chores and get into holiday mood than finding yourself a partner in crime and baking these holiday goodies! Enjoy and have a very happy holidays!

(Excuse the poor quality photos - I have decided to not let photo quality prevent me from blogging more these days :) )

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Easy breezy pad thai

I have always had a love-hate relationship with pad thai.

My first taste of pad thai was at a Thai restaurant in San Diego. An evening out on a student budget used to be a huge treat then! A group of us visited a decently good bus accessible Thai place we used to pass en-route to university. As it was our very first Thai experience, we asked the waitress to order whatever she likes within budget and she ordered this extremely tasty spicy pad thai followed by coconut ice-cream! I absolutely loved the flat rice noodles drenched in a tangy, hot and sweet sauce with crunchy peanuts on top.

Over the time though I realized that a good pad thai is hard to come by. Many times either the sauce is too strong or the whole dish is oily.. After a few unfortunate encounters with pad thai I switched my go-to Thai dish from pad thai to a green curry which probabilistically is always decent (yes, I calculate probabilities when ordering food).

But the cravings for a that San Diego pad thai was always there! Then recently I came across this Mark Bittman's minimalist column urging people to think about pad thai as a make-at-home option and I wondered why I never thought about making pad thai at home. The recipe seemed easy enough, was uber-flexible and luckily I had all the ingredients at hand.
I made this dish on a weekday evening. It came together fairly quickly. You make the sauce (which is just putting things together in a bowl), soak the noodles in hot water and meanwhile stir fry the ingredients and bring everything together in a wok. Easy breezy!

The pad thai was extremely tasty. We enjoyed it with a hot cup of peach flavored dragonfruit tree. All-in-all a pad thai dinner well-served at last!

Recipe:
Source: adapted from here
makes 3 medium servings or 4 small servings
Ingredients:
8ounces flat rice noodles

Sauce (adjust according to taste):
4Tbsp tamarind paste (taste your tamarind paste; every one is different. If its very tart, use less to begin with and then add more as you go. For 8ounces noodles, I needed 4Tbsp Joy tamarind concentrate)
3Tbsp rice wine vinegar
4Tbsp sugar
3Tbsp fish sauce
3/4C warm water

Stir-fry:
2 cloves of garlic - minced
14oz extra firm tofu
4 bok choy or some chopped chinese cabbage
1 egg (optional)
peanut or canola oil

Garnish:
handful of roasted chopped peanuts
chopped scallions
bean sprouts
lime or orange wedges
crushed red pepper
Recipe:
** Fish sauce is not vegetarian. It has fermented anchovies. You can get a fake 'fish' sauce which is vegetarian or just omit that ingredient and adjust the other flavors accordingly.
** Egg is optional.
** Tofu can be easily replaced with shrimp or any other protein if you prefer. 

Prepare the sauce:
Mix all the sauce ingredients. Taste. It should not be very tangy or very sweet. Adjust the ingredients per taste.

Prepare the noodles:
Pour warm water over the dried noodles in a large bowl. Cover and let stand for 10mins or so until the noodles are cooked through.

Prepare the stir-fry:
Chop tofu and bok-choy into small byte sized pieces. In a wok or a large non-stick pan, heat some oil on high heat. When the oil is very hot, add tofu pieces. Fry on each side for a few minutes until the tofu skins are crispy. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan if desired. Add garlic and bok-choy and stir fry for a few minutes on high heat. Add the egg and scramble for a few minutes.

Put everything together:
Add the noodles and the sauce back to the pan. Mix well; add some salt and cook for a few minutes until the noodles absorb most of the sauce (do not overcook).

Remove from heat. Add tofu and the garnish ingredients. Serve hot with your choice of hot tea.

Hope you all had a great weekend and a good week ahead!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Preschooler Lunchbox Tips and Ideas

The first time I faced the daunting task of preparing lunchboxes for my preschooler, I have to admit I was worried. I have been spending hours in kitchen for years, but let me tell you, pleasing a preschooler with his/her healthy lunchbox is not a simple task!

As always before starting a new endeavor, I scourged the web for tips and recipes. I found lots of good once for kids but not as many for preschoolers or 3-4 year olds. I wanted the lunchbox recipes to be healthy, home-made and quick with no more than 10mins in the morning to assemble!

So below is a compilation of my tips and some tried-and-tasted lunchbox ideas which I hope will come handy to other new moms faced with the daunting task of preschool lunchboxes :)

Some tips to make the daily lunch boxes hassle free:
  • Bento style lunchboxes with a little bit of everything works best for preschoolers.
    • I add one portion savory meal, one portion fruits, one portion vegetable, one portion dairy and a sweet reward for finishing lunchbox
    • Kids always find something they like...
  • Easy does it...
    • If you are a busy person, accept that and stay away from fancy time consuming recipes for lunchboxes (that's what weekend meals are for!)
    • Your child will love any meal you prepare with love taking in consideration his/her liking - no matter how fancy it looks.
  • Plan in advance! Make lists! 
    • Pick a time of the weekend to jot down what you will put in lunchboxes for the entire next week.
    • Make a grocery list and shop everything over the weekend.
  • Prep ahead
    • I try to prep as much as possible ideally over the weekend or the night before.
    • If your mornings are as crazy as mine, plan to not spend any more than 10mins on lunchbox in the morning, which will make the whole process sustainable and happy for both you and the kids!
  • Add a reward!
    • We do a carry over reward thing - if she finishes her lunchbox today, she will get a reward in lunchbox tomorrow.
    • Reward can be anything from few M&Ms to a breakfast strawberry bar to a piece of chocolate or a mini muffin.
    • They work like magic!!

Here are some ideas for preschool lunchboxes:
  • Main course (lunch is usually served cold for preschoolers):
    • Methi thepla roll with oil & chutney 
    • Stuffed paratha - potatoes, cauliflower, peas paratha
    • Steamed idli
      • we buy prepared idli batter which makes the whole process < 6mins
    • Dosa
    • Rava upma
    • PB&J sandwich
    • Veggie sandwich
      • TJ's masala burger works great!
    • Pulav, tamarind rice, mango rice etc
    • Rajma rice, chole rice
    • Moong bean cheela
  • Fruits:
    • grapes, chopped apples, sliced banana, melons
  • Dairy:
    • Babybel cheese, string cheese
  • Snacking:
    • crackers, TJ's strawberry breakfast rolls
  • Vegetables:
    • Cucumber, sliced yellow/orange/red pepper, roasted broccoli w/ salt & pepper, roasted & mashed yam/sweet potato
Happy lunchboxing...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Couscous Mint Chutney Side

If you are in a hurry and want a healthy side or a big serving of a side-salad as your main course, this recipe is a great idea! 

If you are not familiar with couscous, it's a Moroccan/Middle-Eastern grain made out of semolina which is cooked by streaming. Yeah, just steaming and that too cooks in minutes! Making it an ideal pantry staple for every busy cooks who wants to put something healthy and home-cooked on table or in lunchboxes in minutes! 

If you are looking to be a bit carb conscious this year, then Quinoa, another wonder grain packed with protein is also a great substitute for couscous. Or the good old rice of-course works great. This is also a great lunch box meal.

Mint chutney is another staple at our home. I tend to buy 2-3 huge bunches of fresh mint whenever I see them in season. And then I make a big pot of this chutney, really "making" is an overkill, it's all about throwing things in blender :) Use half the chutney and freeze half. This chutney is so versatile making it a great pairing for sandwiches, topped over salads or as a side to parathas or daal-chawal.

Without further ado, here is how you would go about making this couscous mint chutney side.

Recipe:
Serves 4 as a side
Ingredients:

For mint chutney:
2 bunches of fresh mint leaves
1 small green chili
juice of 1 lime
1 small clove of garlic - peeled
salt

Recipe:
Blend all the chutney ingredients together and taste and adjust for taste. Set aside.
Couscous:
1C dried couscous
1.5C water (or as recommended by couscous instructions)
2Tbsp olive oil or butter
1 tomato - chopped
salt & pepper

Recipe:
Prepare couscous as per instructions. Mine said to boil 1.5C water, when water is boiling then turn off the heat. Add couscous and cover and let steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, add oil or butter and mix well. Then add few Tbsp of mint chutney, tomatoes, salt & pepper to taste and mix. Taste and adjust ingredients per taste.

Enjoy!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Black Eyed Peas Fritters (chavaliche bonde)

There is a really good reason behind why I never posted these fritters here even though I have made them countless times before. And that is because I never managed to get a photo. And there is a really good reason behind why I never managed to get a photo. And that is because everytime I make it, each and every one of them gets over in about 15mins after they are out of the fryer :)

So, I am going to post them today anyway even though I still don't have a photo. You just have to take my word for it that these are amazing and a sure to be crowd pleasers.

This is a fried snack which I make when we have guests over. If I am in the mood for fritters just for us at home, I make a baked version which is also noted below. Fried version of course gets a better crunch but other than that they both taste the same.

Recipe:
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1C dried black eyed peas
2 strands green onions
handful of fresh cilantro
2 cloves of garlic
1/2tsp crushed ginger
2 green chili
1tsp cumin powder
1tsp coriander powder
1tsp carom seeds (optional)
salt to taste
oil for frying

Recipe:
  1. Soak dried black eyed peas in enough water (~6C) for 4-6hrs or overnight. 
  2. Drain all the water and add the soaked peas along-with all the other ingredients in a grinder or mixer and chop until fine.
  3. Remove from mixer and make small balls using your hand
  4. Deep dry the fritters
  5. Serve with ketchup or tamarind chutney
Baked version: pre-heat oven to 375F. Coat oil on both sides of each ball, bake for 10-15mins on one side, flip them over, bake again for 10-15mins. If the fritters are cooked but are not crispy broil for another 5mins. Remove from oven, serve immediately. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

Winter has finally made it's appearance loud and clear. Temperatures have been steadily dropping last few days, evenings are chilly, mornings are frosty and my hot cup of cocoa is just that much more warming to body and soul - and that means one thing in our household, lots and lots of soups!

On many winter weekend our quick lunch is a pot of soup with some thick crusted sourdough bread brushed with olive oil and broiled at high temperature with just a rub of a fresh garlic clove. Throw in some salad (my favorites are couscous with butternut squash and dried cranberries salad or quinoa salad or a simple greens salad topped with some fruits and nuts dressed with an easy olive oil red wine vinegerate) and it's my perfect meal any time of day any season of the year..

This soup is my favorite and there are endless variations I keep trying on it. The recipe below is a slight adaptation of an old recipe I had posted earlier (but no new photos this time - what with a warm aroma of soup and garlic bread wafting your way sometimes all you can do is eat!). 

Recipe:(Serves 4-6)
edited slightly from Nov'2009 version here
2 fresh red peppers
2 tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper
4 cloves of garlic - unpeeled
1/2 onion
Olive oil/salt/pepper
Pinch of thyme
Splash of heavy cream or whole milk (optional)
lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 420F
  2. Place the vegetables on a baking sheet. 
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. 
  4. Roast for 30-40 mins (or until well roasted -- you will know by blackened patches of skin on red pepper and onion would be browned a bit). In between once after 20 mins of roasting flip the vegetables over for uniform roasting.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. Next remove the skin of the red pepper and tomatoes (it should easily come off after roasting). De-seed the red pepper and tomatoes. Place all the roasted vegetables in a blender alongwith water enough to make desired soup consistency. 
  7. Puree the soup.
  8. The soup may have a slightly raw taste even after roasting. To get rid of the rawness I transfer the blended soup to a pot; add a dash of heavy cream or whole milk, add pinch of thyme (or to taste); adjust seasonings of salt & pepper and let it simmer for 10mins on medium heat. 
  9. Take the soup off heat; add lemon juice and serve with a nice toasted slice of french bread spread with some butter and garlic spread for an extra kick! 


Friday, January 9, 2015

Instant Shrikhand (Sweet Thick Yogurt with Saffron)

I am not a person with a sweet tooth but as it happens often my daughter is.! So after years of hiatus from sweet recipes I am starting to poke my hand back into the dessert section.

Even though we love Indian main course and appetizers, almost always when I think of desserts I think Italian, American - Tiramisu, cakes, puddings and pies or the simple ice-cream! The two exceptions being Shrikhand (sweet thick yogurt with Saffron and nuts) and puran poli (sweet roti) both of which are Indian/Maharashtrian sweets our family loves.


The characteristics of a shrikhand is a thick yogurt which is usually achieved by tightly wrapped regular yogurt in a cheesecloth and hanging it in fridge using a spatula and a pan for hours until most of the water in the yogurt drips out and you are left with a thick shrikhand class yogurt.

However if you have access to greek yogurt, which now a days is available in pretty much all supermarkets, then the whole process of shrikhand becomes so much simpler! Greek yogurt is a very thick and creamy yogurt perfect for an instant shrikhand. I have made shrikhand with greek yogurt with and without the step of hanging the yogurt, and I can tell you for sure that in case of greek yogurt it does not make much difference. So please feel free to take the short route of instant shrikhand as long as you are using regular greek yogurt. If you use non-fat greek yogurt then you still need the step of hanging the yogurt in cheesecloth to remove all the water for better texture.

Recipe:
Serves 6
Ingredients:
32oz plain greek yogurt (if you use non-fat, texture may not be as thick but taste is just fine!)
1/2C sugar
1Tbsp warm milk
pinch of saffron
handful of chopped pistachio nuts
6 cardamom - crushed

Recipe:
Mix saffron in warm milk and set aside.

Mix yogurt with sugar and using a spoon blend together. Then add cardamom, chopped nuts and milk with saffron, mix together and chill for a few hours before serving.

While serving, add chopped nuts or strands of saffron for garnish.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

OT: Holiday Craft Project Update (Crocheted Very Hungry Caterpillar Hat & Quilled Children's Flower Card)

Holidays are a perfect time for small craft projects to get your creative juices flowing. And really, if you are caught at home with chilling cold and short daylight outside, these craft projects are a really good way to keep everyone occupied in a productive way without bringing the house down!

This holiday we made two small projects. First, a crocheted very hungry caterpillar hat for my daughter. She loves the book and was super excited about this hat, so much so that she made two trips to Michael's with me and stood patiently while I selected the yarn and the needle and even made some useful color suggestions :)

It has been years since I last crocheted. I enjoy knitting and crochet but my day job takes over most of the time I have (though no complaints there, it's a rarity to be able to earn your bread doing something you love and I don't take that for granted!).

But after years of yarn hiatus I was starting to worry if I forgot the yarn crafts and that would be too bad (you see, I still have hopes for some miraculous time in future with lots of time to decide what projects to fill it with, though not for next 14 years I assure you ;) )

So I was delighted when I came across this simple pattern from Crochet d lane while browsing flipboard craft section. A 2 day project is exactly what I needed to get back into game and not to mention finishing a project gives a sense of accomplishment so crucial to keep the craft spark alive. 
I had to make modifications to the pattern to adjust to her size (it may be my gauge is too tight causing the original pattern to be too small for her, I don't know) but overall it was a great fun and definitely a success as the customer is super happy ;)

Our second holiday craft project was a quilled greeting card my daughter and I made together for her grandparents. If you are new to quilling, it's a paper craft with minimal tools and lots of fun. You can read more about it here . Due to it's simple nature it's an ideal craft to do with kids. My daughter was not old enough to be able to make intricate shapes on her own yet, but she helped with rolling paper, was in charge of glue and did the final arrangement. 

If you are new to quilling and want to be introduced to it, I recommend investing in a beginner's kit such as this one. I bought this kit many years ago and have made many projects with it so far. The kit has enough paper stripes to last multiple projects.

This bunch of flowers was a lot of fun for us to make and a great way to spend our day after Christmas morning, lots of fun discussing what to make and then making it! Afterall, such precious family time is what holidays are all about, isn't it?!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The One Food Resolution Everyone Should Consider for The New Year....

Happy new year to everyone! As we say Good-bye to 2014 and welcome 2015 with open arms and with lots of hopes and expectations for a happy, prosperous and fun-filled new year, it's also the perfect time to make resolutions! Review what was good about the past year and identify where things could improve for the new year.

If there is one food resolution which is most near and dear to my heart for many years now it is to eat home-cooked meals often and buy locally and seasonally grown food as much as possible.
Before global transportation was as pervasive (think our grandparent's generation), eating local and seasonal is what everyone did. You ate apples in fall, squashes and tomatoes in summer and strawberries in spring - it was all part of enjoying the season. And you preserved or pickled seasonal vegetables to enjoy year-around..

Then happened global transportation boom and food industrialization - both resulted in foods being easily transportable 100's of miles from their original picking destination to being shipped to opposite parts of the worlds for consumers to enjoy year-around. Not only it's taxing to the environment but it also causes foods to be picked ahead of ripening and more use of pesticides or other ways to keep food remain fresh while it's being shipped oversees.

The best way to start buying local and seasonal is to visit your local farmer's markets or be part of local CSA or co-ops which will deliver a basket of locally grown seasonal produce right to your door-steps.

There are innumerable advantages of eating locally and seasonally. 
  • First, you are eating product picked right at it's peaks within hours of being picked. Not only does it taste fresh, it also tastes so much better than the supermarket equivalent that even the pickiest eater will find something they love. 
  • You will help local farmer's eco-system and sustainable growing practices
  • Fruits and produce bought seasonally is often cheaper due to it's availability helping you save $$
  • Just the weekly ritual of visiting farmer's markets, looking at rows and rows of freshly picked produce and choosing what to buy can be so therapeutic and if kids are part of it right from their childhood, I do believe they are naturally grown towards eating more vegetables and eating healthier!
There are also some challenges to seasonal/local eating and here are some tips I found useful:
  • Seasonal can often mean repetition - you end up buying same vegetables weeks in a row because that's what is in season. But then, this is your chance to be creative in kitchen! Google various ways to cook with that vegetable and experiment with a new one every week - who knows, you will find a keeper recipe somewhere in there that you didn't even know about!
  • How do you know what's in season - there are great resources online or visiting farmer's markets is a more fun way to find out for yourself :)
  • Access to locally grown seasonal food - farmer's markets, CSAs, produce co-ops or even some supermarkets now-a-days carry local seasonal produce marked as such!
In this day and age of genetically modified everything and food industrialization, I truly feel that eating local and seasonal is a small step in the right direction, for our health, for our local farming ecosystem and for the environment! 

I personally know the farmer's now who serve us vegetables on our plates everyday and I know I am doing my part in developing the local sustainable ecosystem, but really the main reason I eat local/seasonal is the taste, there is just no comparison to supermarket food grown halfway across the world -- just try your local farmer's market next time and see it for yourself!
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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.