Monday, November 26, 2012

Howdy Folks?

Ah..the long weekend was refreshing... I could use one of these every month. One can always wish. Eh? Roasted the bird and all the accompaniments. I am a little wary of snapping pictures when company is present since that could be seen as the telltale sign of a food blog:-) It is similar to feeling squirmy when I see a cop car on the road even if I am a law abiding and safe driver. Almost always! So no pictures at all but the turkey was the tastiest yet. Kids helped splendidly with potato peeling and cleaning the sink all in anticipation of the Thanksgiving dinner and I felt gratified. For why would I be doing all this if not for them? My son was quite content with the leftovers for the next two days! A cue to stop with the curries and start with the roasting? Don't know. We are going to India after a gap of 5 years. Looking forward to see the leap year changes happening in the old homeland. Main aim is to see the aging parents. Mom, HMom and Hdad are all excited and so are we. Going to India is never a vacation because of all the running around between two families. I am just afraid of saying "I need a vacation" on the first day back at work. The look on my boss's face: priceless:-) OK guys so I just came up to say hello and hope all of you are doing well and to wish you all wonderful holidays. i.e if I don't come up again until the New Year.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Muringa Ila/Drumstick Leaves Thoran

H's birthday was coming up sometime back and I was looking to do something that can deliver the most happiness quotient with the least effort. Who but HMom to the rescue! While chatting on the phone one day she mentioned how H had always loved muringa ila and was happy to recite her recipe to me. I typed it down on my iPhone notepad - quite handy eh? no need for papers or pencils anymore... - and saved it for d-day. The leaves were available at the not so local Kerala grocery store and I hid'em all the way on the bottom shelf of the fridge. All for naught! Guess who had to pull out everything on that shelf the day before his birthday and spoil the surprise? Yup, H did it. But it was still sort of a surprise when I made the actual thoran 'cos it came out almost as good as he remembers it and we had never made it here before. So it fulfilled my requirements for a sweet and simple thing to do. I also consulted Mrs. KMM's book to fill in some gaps in my notes.

In The Mix
toor dal - 1/4 cup
muringa leaves - from two bunches (cleaned and separated)

for curry mix

fresh grated cocunut - 1 cup (gently crush this if you don't want to grind it all)

jeerakam/cumin seeds crushed - 1/2 tsp
garlic - 1 pod
turmeric - 1/4 tsp
chili powder - 1/4 tsp (this is for color)

for seasoning
olive oil - 2 tsp
mustard - 1 tsp or less
shallots - 1 or 2 sliced and diced big
curry leaves - a sprig or two
dry red chilies - 2 or 3 torn in halves

Salt to taste - My discovery is that, veggie taste is enhanced if we don't add any salt at all. For non-veg controlled amounts of salt may be good than no salt at all.

 How To Do
 Boil just enough water in a large pan and cook the toor dal. Once cooked through, add muringa leaves, cover  and cook for 5 minutes. The result should not be watery. Combine all the items in the curry mix together. Add this to the pan and stir well together. Add enough salt to taste. Now close and steam for 3-4 minutes on high.

Heat oil in a small pan, break mustard, saute the shallots, curry leaves and dry red chilies for the seasoning.
Add to the cooked mix and combine. Serve over hot rice with buttermilk curry or yogurt. Drool!

Healthy, nutritious, easy and pleasing! What is there not to like?

BTW, see below for a corn/tomato picture Our veggie garden is slowly winding down to rest in winter. I am trying to setup some herbs in the kitchen. Just moved to a new company so life's a little hectic and I hope to make it to India this year somehow to see my Mom and everyone else.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chettinad Chicken from Kaipunyam

Kaipunyam is a well organized, to-the-point cooking blog with incredible food pictures and a good sprinkle of love. Something about this blog begs you to go back there all the time. It is a single point stop  for any Kerala recipes you might be thinking of. I had bought some chicken this week and wanted to try something different. Went to kaipunyam and with close to 40 recipes just for chicken it was easy to pick one right away! The recipe there is mostly as shown in the post. I made it with small changes for convenience and quantity and less salt and chili as we do now and it turned out well. Thanks 'kaipunyam' for the recipe and the easy to follow format!

In The Mix
chicken - 1 lbs
fennel seeds (perum jeerakam) - 1 tsp ( i am not a fan of this..)
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
shallots - 6 to 8 sliced (add more if u like it, i do!)
dry red chili - 10 to 15 split into halves
coriander(cilantro) leaves - few sprigs
curry leaves - few sprigs
tomatoes - 4-5 diced
oil - 1/2 tbsp
salt to taste

How To Do
Cut chicken into pieces, wash, drain and marinate with salt and turmeric.
I always do this part overnight but this time could only do about an hour and it still tuned out good!
Heat oil in a pan and saute fennel seeds, dry red chilies and curry leaves. Add shallots to
it and saute till golden brown. Add tomatoes, stir and cook for a while. Now add the chicken, salt and enough water to keep things moving around. Saute the chicken for a few minutes, cover and cook. Remove from fire and add chopped cilantro before serving. I think plenty of curry leaves, dry red chili and shallots are the secrets of this recipe. Very tasty results with a small effort!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Garden Sambhar

I bet you hadn't seen this one coming.  Yup almost all ingredients came from our garden (hence forth to be referred as the G). Except maybe the sambhar powder and drumsticks. Er.. maybe the dry red chilies for seasoning, potatoes and toor dal also didn't come from there... What are you, the food inspector? If I say it is from the G, then it is ! On the fun side, half the okra, all beans, onions and green chilies came from the G. Isn't that still good? We thought we could feel the freshness throughout. The onions were the best. Yes, they didn't reach their full potential because we were too lazy to separate the plant clusters. But the resulting size was perfect to replace the pearl onions I normally use for sambhar. Some friends donated squash and zuchini from their garden which also went into the sambhar. I have to say no other curry represents G as well as a sambhar. We did make bean and lettuce leaf thoran earlier which was pretty good. Them beans grow a plenty when paired with the corns. Native Americans knew what they were doing...

Before the veggies went into the curries we made some patterns with the onions, chilies etc and the donated squash. Didn't use the bell pepper in sambhar. Enjoy!

H and my girl did the arrangement below. Neat. Eh?

The beans have been harvested more than once.

Lettuce leaves show no sign of giving up and keeps on growing despite constant harvesting.

Tomatoes galore are coming up and will be ready soon.

Chilies and beans After harvest:

Corn is a longer than anticipated wait but is the most lush in the patch.

Until now I didn't know that corn has a male branch that shows up first.

The female branch shoots up later under it, to be pollinated from the top by the wind!!

And I thought the corn like flowers on the male branch was the actual corn because in the beginning it looked a lot like a corn. See what I mean?

Have no idea what the carrots are doing down there but we go on in the belief that they too are doing what they need to do:-) Okra is the one disappointment. Not thriving as we'd hoped but there are a few coming up to keep us happy.

That's it today for news from lan's garden. See you next time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chef Viviani's Sugar Cookies

I have to get this off my chest. I've been bad, very.. very.. bad. Yup, I'd been rolling in materialism. In the pursuit of acquiring things, in the process of placing them at various places in the kitchen and admiring them shamelessly. Kitchen possessions never meant much to me as it is sort of a work place if you think about it. Now, a reading nook with ample sunlight is something to talk about. But, but...redoing our kitchen awoke something in me and I find myself constantly on the lookout for things for the kitchen. Thankfully I can feel it coming to an end. Till then I will be enjoying my worldly kitchen possessions with pride and glee:-)

On the other hand Chef Fabio Viviani's cooking show is all about making good Italian food and not at all about materialism. Most recipes seem loaded but he is very engaging and we end up wanting to try a few of those seemingly simple recipes. One such recipe was for this sugar cookie. The perfect opportunity presented itself when one of my daughter's friends came over for a playdate during the much relaxing Easter break.

What is good about the sugar cookies is how easy they are to make. Their uses are many fold! For bowling over your friendly neighbor's grandkids, as a warm welcome gift to our new neighbor lady on the other side and to get the most important customers in your own household jumping with joy. Don't let the simple appearance fool you. These old fashioned treats are indeed a treat. You find yourself reaching for another one after telling yourself the first one tasting sooo good must be a fluke. Recipe follows from Chef Viviani's site. They are called Mama's Sugar Cookies. Yields 4 dozen. In the comments there was a discussion about the quantity of baking powder and soda being swapped. So I swapped when I made them as it made more sense to have more baking powder than soda and is listed here as I made.

In The Mix
Almost exact copy from the Yahoo Shine site except pics which are mine.

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

How To Do

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder with a whisk and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth with a hand or stand mixer.
Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients in two parts, mixing thoroughly between each addition. I am finding that adding ingredients is a piece of cake with a stand mixer. Hands free!
Mix the dough until the dough pulls away from the edges of the bowl.
Place dough on on a floored surface.

Roll dough into one large log and wrap in plastic wrap and chill to firm for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes slice into ½ inch cookies.

Place sliced cookies on baking sheet.
Bake 8 minutes, and rotate the pan, then bake another 8 min. in the preheated oven, or until golden.
Let stand for a few minutes to make it easier to handle before removing to fully cool.

Store in a an air-tight cookie jar and enjoy whenever you feel like having a good relaxed time. I dip'em in coffee sometimes to honor an old habit from childhood and they taste oh so delicious and homey!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bounty From The Garden

It is a little strange to consume the lovingly brought up green beauties but it is harvest time in the lan household. No, the beans and corn are not ready yet. Neither are the tomatoes, chili etc (I wish!) But the lettuce leaves are. I wouldn't have realized that they ready, had it not been for visiting HAunt asking what we are waiting for! So took a basket, collected leaves from the mixed variety and made a salad with a quick dressing recipe poached from PW's website. Here is the know-how:

In The Mix

Veggie patch in your backyard : 1
Basket to hoard the green goodies : 1
Green lettuce leaves ready for plucking - as many as you want
cherry tomatoes - a handful cut in two
herbs  - a sprig or two ( i used cilantro and spearmint ehem.. from my garden)

For the Dressing
( With slight changes from PW)
olive oil     - 2tbsp
lemon juice - from half a lemon
garlic - 1 clove
salt - 1/4 tsp
pepper - as much as you want
sugar - 1/4 tsp
paprika - a pinch
parmesan - didn't use this as i didn't have some at hand.

How To Do
Place all ingredients for the dressing in a jar. Shake well. Store in fridge for 24 hours and it is ready. I used a glass and covered it up with plastic wrap. Peel the garlic before adding but no need to crush or slice. Didn't have enough time to let sit the first time but still tasted pretty good. Sitting for a while obviously infuses more flavors and next time I might add the cheese to see how it differs.

Cut the aforementioned salad green as small or as big as you want. Throw in a sprig or two of the herbs of your choice torn to desired size. Add halved tomatoes and dressing and toss well in a bowl before serving. Good for the body, good for the mind:-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Oh Glorious Spring!

The smoothie in the glass if you can see it is with water melon, banana and milk, generally following this recipe. Yes spring is here in all its beauty!

I am beginning to enjoy the changing seasons here. Spring, of course is the best as it heralds the end of winter and fun time outside the house. This year is special because we finally decided to start that vegetable patch. Yes, you heard it right. V-e-g-e-t-a-b-l-e patch! My family will be so overwhelmed by this turn of events. The I-don't-want-to-get-my-hands-dirty girl is doing what? My oldest brother however is quite the green thumb and was probably happy to see this picture of our humble patch that I texted him.

For all humility our intentions for the patch are quite lofty. The following members are thriving in it so far: beans, corn, lettuce, chili, okra, onion aaaaand tomatoes. Our carrots however were not happy to be transplanted and some of them are giving up despite tender and constant care. Good that at least a few are planning to stay. The kids were out in full force helping till the soil, adding plant mix, food, digging holes and what not. The best loved activity is of course watering! It is pleasant and very relaxing to be in the presence of these growing things. Leaves moving gently in the wind always do something to me and I can watch this activity for all eternity. So I love watching the little beauties braving the hot sun and living it up with the backyard wind! Now I get my Mom's fascination with growing things although I had always appreciated that in her. I surprised myself by this sudden passion to grow things! I certainly hope at least a few of them will bear fruit so the passion will live on. My husband had always loved working with roses and other flowering plants but had put things off for a while. Now that I am in the melee he is having fun too. He is seriously trying to grow a muscat grape vine and I hope it will thrive. Grapes are not easy but he is confident. My Mom had brought up this grape vine in our garden in India by her constant vigilance and I still remember the few white grape clusters that grew on it and the joy! My oldest brother had brought the seeds for her. He texted me this picture of his rose garden.

There is not a veggie or fruit tree that he has not grown successfully in their ample backyard. My sister-in-law often talks happily of their yearly harvest which is always so plentiful. They are visiting us along with my Hfamily for my girl's first communion and I hope these little guys will be thriving by then. The weather is so weird this year! Just last week we had a day of hot hot sun, two days of rain and a few regular days! I hope we are not over watering them which happened the one time I tried this before. This time we are faithfully following the garden store lady's advice to the letter. I even tried to draw a picture! I know, I know. It was a passing fancy and I won't repeat it.  But this beautiful flower in our garden begged to be drawn and here it is:

Yes, it was on the back of a picture bingo game paper and you can see some of it showing up. What is great is that I got a precious award from my girl for the picture. Proudly I bring it to you my fellow Moms:

Wait till she grows up and sees it for all its shortcomings. Untill then allow me to bask in it....


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cauliflower Soup by Chef Tyler Florence from House Beautiful

 My kids were having their regular dentist checkups and I was whiling time away by browsing the magazines. This recipe and accompanying pictures in House Beautiful caused me to pause and take a closer look. Being veggie heavy in ingredients seemed like a plus and I decided give Chef Tyler Florence's recipe a try. So took some snaps of the recipe and came home where I had some of the ingredients. Recipe and method follows with the little that I changed.
In The Mix
Olive Oil                 3 tbsp
brussel sprouts       6, separated into petals.
unsalted butter        3 tbsp
cauliflower              1 head, separated into florets and cut to medium sized pieces
yellow onion            1/2 sliced
fresh thyme             5 sprigs (recipe asks for lemon thyme and since i didn't have it used regular thyme hoping to offset by using lemon juice)
bay leaves              2 (recipe asks for fresh, had to use dry as i didn't have fresh)
whole milk              3 cups
lemon juice             2 tbsp (recipe asks for 1, added 1 more tbsp in place of lemon thyme)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
salmon roe (2oz) is requested by the recipe which I didn't have.
extra virgin olive oil and finely sliced chives to garnish (had oil but no chives)
How To Do
Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the brussel sprouts petals and saute for 2-3 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Set aside to drain on a paper towel. 
Add butter to the same sauce pan and lightly saute the cauliflower pieces and onion. Cook over medium heat until tender. (2 to 3 minutes) Season with salt and pepper.
Make a cheesecloth sachet with the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and add it to the saucepan. I loved this step. Felt I was doing some serious 'chef'ing'  Now add the milk and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10-12 min until cauliflower is soft.
Remove the sachet and transfer mixture to a blender. Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to the blender. Puree until smooth. Add more lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed. Remember, salt is not your friend:-))
Serve the soup in tea cups like I did if you don't have espresso cups suggested in the recipe. Garnish with extra virgin olive oil and a brussel leaf or two.Salmon roe and chives can be added if you have them.I am sure it will bring the taste to the next level as intended by Chef Florence.
The soup as it was, looked good and tasted good. As with all soups, remember to have it hot. Kids did not take to it much.I liked it enough to want to try it again with another vegetable and all required ingredients. How it looked was priceless!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ruthie's Bread & Butter Pudding - from Nora Ephron's 'I Remember Nothing'

When I finished reading Nora Ephron's book, the one thing that I wanted to do was to make that bread pudding. Ephron's love for her deceased friend Ruthie got eternalized when she added Ruthie's recipe into the book.

In the Mix
large eggs - 5
egg yolks  - 4
granulated sugar - 1 cup
salt - 1/4 tsp

whole milk - 1 quart (~960ml)
heavy whipped cream aka heavy cream - 2 cups
vanilla extract - 1 tsp

brioche bread - 12 half inch thick slices, crusts removed
butter - 1 stick or less, brought to room temp
confectioners sugar - 1/cup or as needed 

How To Do
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a flat baking pan (2 quarts) with shortening or butter. Need an extra baking pan larger than this to place it in a water bath while baking. I used my turkey roasting pan which was big enough.

Gently beat/whisk the eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar and salt until thoroughly blended. You can use home baked brioche bread if you have any. Butter one side of the bread slices and set aside.

Scald all the milk and 1 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan over high heat. Do not boil. When you tip the pan and it makes a sizzling noise, remove from heat.Add in the vanilla extract. Stir this gently into the egg mixture without beating until blended.

Overlap the bread, butter side up in the greased baking pan and pour the prepared mix over it. Not all pieces need to be submerged I guess but do make sure those pieces get poured over with some of the liquid. Set in the larger pan and add hot water to come halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake for about 45 minutes or a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. The bread should be golden and the pudding puffed up. Can be done earlier in the day.

Before serving, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and place under a broiler for a minute or so. Or use a crème brûlée torch to brown the sugar. Serve with heavy cream. I did not brown the confectioner’s sugar and it was still yum. Adding heavy cream is optional as the dish is loaded enough!

I loved it even more after refrigerating for a few hours. Do any browning before you refrigerate. If you can imagine our household (mainly the mom and dad) forgoing dinner and walking more than usual just to enjoy a measly joint of this heavenly dish, then you know how good it is! I have a nice crème brûlée recipe from the net that I make but this is way easier and as tasty!! I had meant to take it to the office for our group meeting but just couldn’t do it in the end. Why not have a fun whole week where everyday is filled with the anticipation of devouring a piece of this dessert and achieve Nirvana instead of giving it away? Not generous I know. So sue me:-))

Sunday, February 12, 2012

One Of a Kind Veggie Patty!

My husband has devised this veggie patty for his lunch needs so he won't have to face the multitude of salty yet tempting lunch choices at work. This is especially since he figured that his 'go to' lunch of the Subway veggie patty has more sodium than needed. We wish for Subway to make an unsalted version soon. Until then this veggie patty will do more than just fine. It is so healthy and full of goodness that just looking at it should be enough:-) Recipe follows.

In The Mix

mixed lentils and beans (dal) - little less than 2 cups (we keep this pre mixed in a jar - about equal amounts of black eyed beans, kidney beans, toor dal and masoor dal)
potato - 1 large or 2 medium sized peeled

red onion - 1 medium sized, finely chopped
fresh frozen veggie mix - 1 bag (16oz) of corn, green peas, green beans, carrots
fresh carrot - 1 peeled and chopped
red bell pepper - 1/2 deseede, chopped
green bell pepper - 1/2 deseeded, chopped
porta bella mushroom  - 1 large (4" to 5") chopped
button mushrooms - 5 chopped
jalapeno pepper - 2 large deseeded, chopped

regular oatmeal - 3/4 cup (crushed into crumbs in the blender) or can use bread crumbs instead
egg - 1
salt - add ( if you must... veggies have their own natural sodium and you won't miss the salt. trust me)

How To Do

Preheat oven to 350 F (180C)

First cook the lentils and potato in separate pots. Mash together the lentils once cooked. Mash the potato coarsely in the pan after draining any water. Combine together gently and set aside.

Now cook all the veggies including the peppers without adding any water in a closed container on medium heat. Frozen veggies have extra water in them which is OK.

Add cooked veggie mix to the lentil potato mix. Add a beaten egg and oatmeal or bread crumbs. Add salt to your needs and gently mix all well together.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the mix on to the tray and flatten to desired thickness. We needed 1 1/2 cookie sheet space for the whole mix. Use a dinner knife or spatula to split to patty size. Makes about 18 patties. Insert into oven and bake for 5 minutes. This is so everything gels together since most of the stuff is already cooked. Take out and set to cool.

Freeze and use as needed by heating in the microwave. Thawing is not necessary but if you take it out of the freezer in the morning and heat it up at lunch that will workout just fine. Yum when placed between 2 toasted pieces of your favorite bread. Can add sauces to increase flavor but be warned that they are salty by nature. Follow this recipe for your sandwich needs and your one way ticket to the health wagon is on to a good start!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Awards And Anniversaries!

Er.. There is only one award and one anniversary. I went for the plural because it sounded way better than 'an award and an anniversary':-))) The anniversary is of my blogs. Yes, they've been in existence now for four years! I am happy that I have them ready to oblige when the need hits me. Yet they are pliant and waiting when I run dry. Maybe I should get a dog. eh? My daughter and I have discussed this many times and we even got rejected in a puppy adoption interview because H and I work full time. So now we are thinking of a compromise and maybe thinking of getting a cat. They are such independent creatures yet so cuddly! It is still a big commitment and so we have not yet wet our feet on that one. for the award. Reflections in her kindness has given me the versatile blogger award. I am truly honored and am hoping to fulfill the tag that came with it though I am not very sure if I will succeed. Thanks Nance!

The rules of this tag:

 Add the Versatile Blogger Award picture to your Blog Post
 Thank the Blogger who nominated you
 Share 7 Random things about yourself
 Nominate 15 fellow Bloggers
 Inform the Bloggers of their nomination

Instead of 15 I bestow this award to all my readers who blog and urge them to put this up and follow the rules as necessary including the random tag.

As for 7 random things about myself, here we go in no particular order:
1. I am a woman.
2. I am a mother.
3. I am a sister.
4. I am a wife.
5. I am a daughter.
6. I am an aunt.
7. I am a niece.

Hey, I am getting the hang of this and loving it. I want to add more!
8. I am a granddaughter.
9. I am not a grandmother yet and hope it will stay that way for a reasonable time for all involved:-)
10. I am a grand niece.
11. I am a daughter-in-law.
12. I am a sister-in-law.
13. I am a niece-in-law.
14. I am an aunt-in-law.
15. Changing the tone a bit now: I am a friend.
16. I am a blogger.
17. I am an employee.
18. I am a citizen.
19. I used to be a student. Wish I could be again...
20. I love to read. Bet you couldn't have seen that coming!
21. I love to cook/experiment new things.
22. I am remodeling our kitchen.

OK. time to stop and take stock of what we have here. See number 22? Yup that is what is going on in our kitchen as we speak. Only, instead of the promised 4 days it is now into the 3rd week that we have been doing without a kitchen. So then how are we surviving? The kids subsist on butter chicken and naan lovingly cooked by the nearby Indian store cooks, I on brioche bread from Whole Foods topped with honey and H on the brown rice we had cooked before all this started but which is now finished. If the contractors won't get off their lovely bottoms and speed things up we might be heading towards marital disharmony with all the juggling that's been going on... It is not all that bad though. We steam/bake our way into most that we can and do cook some food outside. If only it wasn't winter though... I am having some fun on the side doing kitchen decor shopping. It is supposed to be all done by this Thursday and I have fingers crossed left and right so wish me luck.

Thanks nance, I guess I got a little carried away but I had fun doing the tag.