Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Holidays!

There is no evidence of food since I couldn't get pictures before they finished. You'll just have to take my word for it. I do however have a picture of our house all lighted up for Christmas. You will of course note the natural light provided from up above to accentuate the whole effect.

So Thanksgiving went by. We had turkey at a friend's place and we made turkey at home the next day because both my kids just love it. This year I made fruitcake for home and family. All finished and shipped. Kids don't like this very much though. Neighbors delivered delicious cakes and so we've been having a sweet fest this holiday season. My HAunt has e-mailed me her cheesecake recipe which is to die for. I will post a pic and recipe once I make it. We've had some setbacks in terms of health in the immediate family. No, not the four of us but it is a source of sadness. By God's grace things seem to be contained now. Hope and pray this progress will continue.

It is almost time to put away the nativity set and dismantle the christmas tree but basic laziness and busy work schedule is interfering with best laid plans. Kids are off for their usual two weeks. I am happy to be mostly staying home with them even if I have to do some work from home to alleviate pressure buildup at work. Hope you are all having a good time during the holidays. I will leave you with the gingerbread house that my girl and her friend made on a playdate.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meenum Mangayum (Fish Curry with Mango) - From Vanitha

Scene 1:  Lan opens the door to a knock on the door and who is there but the friendly neighbor who goes on fishing trips! They had a good trip and generously wanted to share some of that bounty with the neighbor who seems to brighten up every time at the mention of fresh fish:-). Lan is grateful to see the wild caught trout but puts it away in the freezer till she can get to it.

Scene 2: It is the weekend. Lan puts the fish out thinking to cook something with it or at least marinate once thawed. She then drops off kid #1 at the local library for volunteering and takes kid#2 for her regular dentist appointment. Kid #1 will be taken to the dentist next week due to the conflict with the volunteering time. Once done at the dentist's, lan and kid#2 make a beeline to the eye doctor to get lan's contact lens supply that was waiting there for a week. Now she realizes that there is a half hour window of free time before getting some burgers at their favorite fast food joint (In 'N' Out) and heading home after picking up kid#1 from the library.

Scene 3: With the unexpected bounty of extra time, lan decides to visit the Kerala grocery store since it is close by and it's been a while. Picks up some junk as well as some good stuff and spots  a 'Vanitha' magazine at the register. Picks it up, gets the burgers, picks up up kid#1 and gets home. Although she forgot to deposit that check, lan decides enough has been done for the day and curls up to read the 'Vanitha' after the household's been calmed with the burger lunch. Happens to read an article about a fish tasting journey across Kerala and sees a recipe the author tasted at a house on the way. It sounds yummy enough that lan drools a little without thinking but gives up the thought as it means making another trek to gather the key ingredient.

Scene 4: Lan walks into the kitchen towards the evening and while clearing up the pile of dishes for the dish washer, chances upon the bag of fish languishing in the smaller sink. Idea! Since lan had also read many magazines at  the dentist's office that day with and without recipes, she couldn't right away remember where she had spotted that inspiring fish recipe. Then she remembers that it was in Malayalam and zeroes in on the 'Vanitha' now all but forgotten. Grabs the recipe and gets to work on the marinade. It was simple enough yet so good looking on the fish that H was impressed even before cooking! The fish is set to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Scene 5: It is the morning of the next day. Lan wakes up with a start and realizes she had forgotten all about the key ingredient not being there! Calls H who had gone for his regular yoga class and he was only too happy to bring the raw green mangoes for this promising curry. As soon as the mangoes are in, lan goes to work. Recipe had mostly clear instructions and so all progressed well and the household was introduced to a new curry in no time. Kids decided to stick to their 'red fish curry' but lan and H couldn't get enough of this heavenly dish.

If you have read this far, it means you would like to see the recipe now. I'll add it here with what I did based on the instructions thanks to Vanitha and the person of that house who made this. A little background here before I start. Both H and I had never liked mango in curries growing up. In my house especially, not many people favored mango in fish and it was rarely made. When it did I made sure not to go anywhere near. So I am surprised at my own tastebuds that love this heavenly dish now! When we had gone for the wedding in the East, one of the family friends had brought a similar dish over and I had enjoyed it much. Maybe that memory combined with all the things falling into place so well is what got it to such a good end. Recipe was for half a kilo of fish. The fish I had was about 1 kilo and so I doubled all the suggested numbers as follows.

In The Mix

Fish - about 1 kilo cut into to medium size pieces (~weight of 4 trouts with head removed & cleaned)

for the marinade
shallots - 4 medium sized, peeled and diced large
green serrano chili - 4 sliced to smaller size
ginger - 1.5" piece diced to smaller pieces
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
chili powder - 5 tsp
coriander powder - 4 tsp
salt to taste
olive oil - 1 tbsp or less
curry leaves - from 2 sprigs

raw mangoes - 4 (peeled and diced- slightly ripe is ok)
coconut milk - 2 cans of 165ml. each

curry leaves - 2 sprigs
shallots - 2 sliced lengthwise
coconut oil - 2 tsp

How To Do

Score the fish pieces if there is enough space on the piece. I kept the skin on since the trout was not scaly and the skin was thin enough. Looked good too.

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade up to and not including the olive oil and grind well in a blender. Add this to the fish pieces. Add the olive oil and curry leaves and mix well together. Recipe asked for coconut oil but since coconut oil freezes now I did not want to add it warm. So I added olive oil instead. Set to marinate for as long as you can. At least half an hour outside or longer in the fridge is good. The reference recipe did not say for how long. I did it overnight. Green chilies I guess can be added or taken out based on your heat tolerance. This was not specified and adding 4 did it for us.

The recipe called for coconut milk from 1.5 coconut halves and asked for 'second milk' from the coconut. I didn't know how to convert this to the canned coconut milk I had. So I went with what I thought best. Made my 'second milk' by adding 3 cans of 165 ml of water to one can of the coconut milk. So pour the coconut milk into a cup first and then use that can to add the water. Can add a bit more as needed.

Add the diced mango and the prepared 'second milk' to a pan.  Boil once, add the fish and cook covered in low to medium heat for 9-10 minutes or till done. Add salt as needed and move the fish around by rotating the pan instead of using a spoon. Now the gravy would have reduced somewhat. Add the remaining one can of coconut milk to this without adding any water. Rotate the pan to mix well, boil once and remove from heat.

Heat the coconut oil and sauté  onions and curry leaves for seasoning.  Add this to the fish curry and mix gently using a spoon as well as by rotating the pan. Now is the time for tasting. Since I had forgotten to cook rice on time we had to wait impatiently till it was ready. Felt like a long wait but it was all good when that first ball of rice mixed with fish curry melted in the mouth with exploding flavors!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Triple Hazelnut Truffle

This is an easy dessert or shall I say, snack? After all that work they do taste like glorified milk chocolate which is perfectly fine with me. The crunch gives it a healthy snack persona:-) And beware, if you hope to taste some you might as well do that right away since there may not be any left if you wait. So here is the scoop which is actually available all over the net with a search for 'triple hazelnut truffle'. I found this recipe in a magazine while waiting - can you guess? - in the dentist's office!

In The Mix

Nutella Hazelnut Spread - 3 tbsp
Hazelnut flavored liqueur - 2 1/2 tbsp
Light colored corn syrup - 1 tbsp
Milk Chocolate - 5oz
Hazelnuts - 1/3 cup (salted, toasted)

How To Do

The 'triple' in the name comes from the three forms of hazelnut in the recipe. Since my girl and I spent most of the time hunting for the liqueur, we substituted hazelnuts with walnuts which were easily found that day. The liqueur maybe difficult to find. Frangelico is the recommended brand. Can be substituted with any fancy sounding hazelnut syrup as we did.

Once you are setup with all the ingredients, you need an expert chopper like my girl. Chop away the walnuts and chocolate to as small as you have time for. She does this job very well.

Now mix all the ingredients together and boil in a double boiler. I just boil water in a larger pan, place the ingredients in a smaller pan and place it over the boiling water. Keep on stirring while all ingredients mix together. Remove from heat and set to cool after pouring into a flat pan. You can refrigerate it to satisfy little people who cannot wait that long.

Once cooled, make them into little balls and start enjoying right away. I had some biscotti at home that I dipped into the still pliant mix and results were extremely satisfying as you can see below. Gives it a nice twist. I loved these too. But kiddos preferred the truffles. Easy activity, tremendous returns!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

PW's Key Lime Pie !

It is no secret that I am a fan of Pioneer Woman. Now that she is on Food Network, I have a little fan to watch it along with me. One of the episodes featured a quick Key Lime Pie and my girl wanted to make it. We could not find a recipe on PW's blog or on Food Network site. She wanted it so bad that she recorded the already recorded show using a tablet so we could watch it in the kitchen for instructions while making it! She had also entered the ingredients in her little book so we can shop for it. Family was visiting and HAunt & HCousin happily offered to help her in this pie making quest. They had fun making it and the end result was delicious as well as good looking! We will definitely be making it again. It is the perfect summer dessert. I wanted to put down the recipe here so next time we don't need need to hunt for that video. Thanks PW for an "OMG, it is sooooo good!" recipe. This recipe is halved and can make 6-7 cups. This is mostly an eye witness account and from hearsay as I had no part in making it.

In The Mix

for custard
fresh squeezed lime juice - 1/2 cup (not diluted with water)
sugar - 1 cup (or less if you are not a sweet tooth)
butter - 1 stick
eggs - 7

for crust 
graham crackers  - 6
sugar - half of  1/3 cup (1/6th cup)
butter - half of 1/3 cup (1/6th cup)

for the whipped cream
heavy cream - 3/4 cup
powdered sugar - 1/4 cup

How To Do

Heat the lime juice in a pan. Add the sugar and butter and let that melt in. Beat the eggs and add that in and wait for the custard to become thick and heavy. Set to cool. You can refrigerate it to fasten the process if needed.

Now we go for the crust. Crush the graham crackers. HAunt did this by crushing them in a ziplock bag using a rolling pin. Mix the sugar and butter with the crushed graham crackers in bowl. The resulting mix should be slightly crunchy without any lumps.

Now we are whipped away to the whipped cream. (In the words of my little chef who is dictating the recipe while mom is furiously typing away) First add the heavy cream into a mixer along with the powdered sugar. Mix together until nice and fluffy like a long haired cat's fur:-).

Done! Finito! Well not really. Time to pick a clear glass container and add each layer to make the mini pie. First add in the crust, then the custard on top of it and lastly the cream. Cover in plastic wraps and leave in the fridge to set. When dessert time comes get these beauties out, add some lime zest (we forgot this), get a spoon and dig in!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup!

I know this is not the most popular summer recipe but I assure you that you will be rummaging for this on those cold winter nights. Especially if you and family are feeling a bit under the weather and just want some comfort food. I am posting this now as comfort food for reflections. A bowl full of CNS goodness and I know she will  feel like adding a new post on her wonderful blog:-)

One of the things I like about my kids' school is the hot lunch feature. It beats having to scramble for lunch in the mornings. They don't love every offering there but I'd heard them speak of the chicken noodle soup many a times. So I asked the lunch lady for the recipe and she was happy to oblige. I am writing down her recipe here mostly as is.

I updated this recipe in 2017 to reflect what I do now since the kid tastebuds are thirsting for flavor instead of the pristine clean soup they used to insist on.

In the Mix

chicken thighs - 5 or 6 (with skin on, washed & drained)
water - 1 quart (4 cups)
chicken broth - 3 quarts , low sodium(12 cups)
better-n-bouillon - 10-12 tsp (I used chicken flavor)
poultry seasoning - 1/2 tsp or to taste (now that kids are older I buy a dried blend of onions, thyme, rosemary, garlic etc and add a generous portion)

baby carrots - 1-2 cups
baby green beans - 1 1/2 cups (fresh or frozen)
celery sticks - 3-4 stalks, quartered
green onions - 2-3 stalks, quartered
shallots - 2-3, peeled and halved
cilantro - a small bunch , quartered

medium wide egg noodles - 1 pk of 12 oz. (340 gms)

How To Do

Boil water and chicken thighs covered in a pan for about 20 minutes. Let it boil once before covering to cook. Remove the chicken pieces and set to cool. Save the pan with the cooked broth for the next step. Once chicken is cooled, remove skin and bones and shred to bite-size pieces.

Add chicken broth to the cooked juices in the pan and simmer. I tried switching some of it with vegetable broth but the little sleuths found me out and would not touch the resulting soup however yummy it is!

Now add 'better-n-bouillon' to simmering water to make broth taste very rich with flavor in the short time. I am sure regular bouillon blocks will do just fine if 'bnb' is not available. Add poultry seasoning and stir. Here you can go to town by adding your own flavors as little or as much as you want. Mix all well together. Time to add the shredded chicken and all other ingredients. Veggies can be of any kind so long as they are strong enough to withstand the cooking. The trick is not to get them too mushy. Bring all to a boil. 

Add the egg noodles now. Cook on low to medium heat for about 8-10 minutes and the soup is ready to roll. I mean to roll onto your tongues and tummies:-) Wait for the warm comforting feeling to emerge and envelope you in a cozy sense of well being as you sit and enjoy your soup.. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Great Outdoors & Parippu Vada (Lentil Cakes)

We finally did that thing that an average family aspires to do at least once. Yup, we went camping this weekend and spent an entire night in a tent nestled among tall redwoods! We went hiking, made s'mores, parippu vadas and tea and really just chilled.

Managed to watch a Malayalam movie on our fully charged laptop before retiring for the night! There was no cell phone access and even the mosquitoes decided to give us some space.

Boy was it fun.. Needless to say, the kids and H loved it. What was surprising was how much fun I had! I love the outdoors but not to the extent where I want to sleep in it. The buck stops at sleeptime. This camp site however had everything I could wish for. Full car access so we don't have to haul camping supplies along a long hike to the actual site. Bathrooms with
flushing toilets and hot showers not too far off and mild and relaxing hikes so my 8 year old won't tire so fast. Happy kids, happy mommy!

The weather last weekend was just perfect too. As the evening set we made s'mores in the warm comfort of the campfire.
We were also lucky to get a site that was hidden enough but close to the amenities. The stars just conspired to make me thoroughly enjoy this first trip. Let us hope it will continue. H and son had gone camping one time before with another father-son pair and that experience helped us to prepare for this one. As we are putting away the supplies I hope to do at least one more camping trip this year. When you are at camp and if you are not hiking or relaxing then you are probably engaged in cooking. We wanted to eat some parippu vadas for snacking and this is what led me to bring along ground parippu mix on the trip. It was worth the trouble of making patties and frying them when we dropped them into our mouths washed in with some freshly prepared tea!

So here is the scoop on the vadas. I know many of you are parippu vada experts. Since the first recipe I tried from spicyana came out well, I had always relied on it to reproduce the magic. She has combined it with a 'rasam' recipe for 'rasavadas'. I just follow the vada part of it. Thanks spicyana for this wonderful recipe with easy to follow steps.

In The Mix

lentils/parippu - 2 cups (i used toor dal. chana dal is also good)
ginger - 2tbsp (finely chopped)
onions - 1/2 cup finely chopped (spicyana's recipe asks for 1 cup)
green chilies - 1 tbsp chopped
curryleaves - 5 -10 leaf petals (i forgot to add it this time)
salt to taste

How To Do

Wash, drain and soak the parippu in water for 2-3 hours. Chop ginger, onions and green chilies finely. Now is the time to make that tea. Drain the parippu well and grind coarsley while adding salt to taste.
It is good to see a full sized parippu disc once in a while in the mix. Add the chopped mix to the ground parippu and keep covered for 10 minutes or so for flavors to blend. In our case it sat in the cooler for a few hours. All for the better!

Make flat round patties from the mix and set aside. Make sure the patties are not too thick in the middle even if the rounds are large. Light the stove and heat oil in a wide, flat bottomed pan. Add the patties one by one to the oil and fry on both sides till golden brown and crunchy if you like'em crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Sit down with tea cup in hand and finish it all off while still warm!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Slow Cooker Pot Roast!

The kids are getting antsy with Indian cooking. So long as it contains red fish curry, papadam and yogurt I don't hear many complaints. But the moment I veer off to a little more of the curried versions, the battle erupts. They do like it but not too much apparently. How can a cook take pleasure when her customers are not happy? I try not to listen too much as the wheel of life has to continue uninterrupted but do try some stuff that I feel is a good match. The recipe for pot roast was found on the package for a slow-cooker sauce. I was led to it by the mother of one of my daughter's friends when I asked her for culinary advice on easy dinners. It is easy enough and both kids and Dad loved it. I am thinking of branching out and finding an Indian sauce solution to the pot roast. Here is the recipe which comes on the package of  'savory pot roast sauce powder' found in grocery stores anywhere. You need a slow-cooker (crock-pot, 4 qrtz. or more) to enjoy the full convenience of it.

In The Mix

Crock-Pot Savory Pot Roast Seasoning Mix - 1 package
Shallots - 3 peeled and halved
Small red potatoes - 3 cups washed and drained - no cutting needed
baby carrots - 2 cups

How To Do

This is the best part! Since it can be done in 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low you have the choice of when to have it. I put it all together the morning and it was ready when I got back. There are many sites that gives out slow-cooker recipes. I prefer the ones that do not require any extra steps like searing or sautéing before adding to the slow-cooker.

Wash and drain the meat and add to the slow cooker. Mix the packaged powder with 1 cup of water and add to the pot. Add the potatoes, shallots and carrots. Close the lid, turn on to the desired heat and go have fun. Come back to a dinner ready house! I have finally found what I need. Slow cooker, here I come! I think a masala sauce mix would work just as well for Indian palettes. Will let you know once I find a good solution but it shouldn't be rocket science.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Happy New Year!

Nope,  I am not lost in time. This is the first post of this lazy year and I reserve the right to wish you all a Happy New Year! Hope it is going well so far. Also wanted to make a note on the 5th blog anniversary which came and went unnoticed on Jan 16th, 2013.

So.... the trip to India went well and we are back in the rat race as if that was a dream. Great to see my Mom after so long. She is her cheerful busy self which is a relief at this age. This December was not all that in terms of weather in Kerala. Sweat was pouring down the entire body anytime we had to be outside. Coming back to sunny California was another jolt. We were welcomed by one of the coldest weird weather fronts in recent history. Now I understand what it means to go 'from the frying pan into the burning fire'. Only in our case it was, 'from the steaming pot into the freezing chamber'. So I decided to chill (pun intended) and hibernate. But every gopher has to come up for air one day. Er.. The kids and I saw some gophers doing just that on the library grounds on a recent trip. So here I am but having no pictures I cannot yet post anything.

I just replaced my laptop with a new one and the pictures I had on the old one are yet to be uploaded here. I am almost done with the taxes though. What else? I finally learned to make a decent 'chicken noodle soup' that the kids deemed passable. The recipe came from the lunch lady at the kids's school. Her recipe is very easy to make and the ingredients readily available in the Grocery store. I have yet to snap a picture but the very memory of the warm, filling soup on a cold winter night is making me want to prepare another batch soon. It is time to start the veggie garden but I find myself hesitant to step out of the house. It is not as cold now but the mental block is still there. Maybe I'll grow some herbs on the window sill as I'd been promising myself. I'll soon be back with some pictures.