Thursday, September 3, 2015

Spicy Pan Roasted Eggplant And Potatoes/Aloo Bhangain Masala



A lavish meal sometimes leaves a small prickling pain inside me thinking if you need that entire extravaganza just for a meal?  I make lavish meals only on special occasions or parties.  My normal cooking plan includes a meat, veggies and grains.  That is the reason why I use to get panic attacks when unexpected visitors show up during lunch time...LOL.  But blogging had made me tackle this situation to a great extent.  The short cut methods of preparing food in a jiffy are my resorts for these situations.  Keeping a batch of freshly ground ginger garlic paste and caramelized onion paste in the freezer gives me the ease to make curries in jiffy.  It’s almost a routine for me to make a small batch of these pastes every month.  Before winter starts I have to make a bigger batch of caramelized onion paste to save some time in the kitchen.  I like to plan the weekday dinner on the weekends, so that I can prepare either the base or get the ingredients ready to cook on the weekday.  I do this preparation for kids’ lunch box too, which makes my life easier every morning when everyone is busy. 


Here is a simple recipe for Spicy Roasted Potatoes with Eggplant/ Aloo Bhangain Masala that I make to serve with Rotis/Chapathi.  The spices used in this dish enhance the plain bland taste of eggplant and they can be served well with steamed Basmathi rice too.  I like the dry version of this curry rather than the gravy version.  In fact this dish is not very dry. It has a very thick paste like gravy that will keep the dish moist.  I usually use the long Asian egg plant for this dish because they cook faster and absorb the spices fast.  Hope you will try this recipe and let me know how it turns out for you.

Ingredients:
3 - long Asian purple eggplants
5 - small potatoes 


Masala Ingredients
1 tbsp - ginger garlic paste/finely chopped ginger & garlic
1 - medium size onion finely chopped/ half a cup caramelized onion paste
2 - medium size tomatoes chopped
2 - green chili splits
2 tsp - cumin/jeera
1/4 tsp - fennel seeds (optional)
1 tsp - coriander powder
1/2 tsp - Kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder (divided)
1/2 tsp - garam masala

5 tbsp - oil
salt to taste

Garnish
1/4 cup - chopped Cilantro
1/2 tsp - dry fenugreek leaves/kasuri methi


Directions:

  • Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes.  Keep them in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation.  Wash and pat dry the eggplants.  Cut them into 1 inch thick pieces and cut into half.  Each piece should look like semi circle.
  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wide mouth non stick pan.  Once the oil is hot add the eggplant pieces and 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder.  Sprinkle some salt to taste and cook on medium heat till the egg plant is cooked and becomes soft.  Stir in between and cover with a lid to help even cooking. Don't over cook them, they will lose their shape.  Transfer to a bowl lined with paper towel.  Now add 1 tbsp of oil to the same pan and add the potatoes.  The oil should have enough turmeric in it.  If not add 1/8 th tsp of turmeric powder.  Adjust the salt and cook the potatoes on medium heat with the pan covered with a lid.  Flip the piece in between to help even cooking.  Once the potatoes are cooked well and lightly browned, transfer them to a bowl.
  • Lower the flame and add 2 tbsp of oil.  Splutter cumin/jeera and fennel seeds (if using) in the hot oil. Add ginger garlic paste, chopped onions/ caramelized onions, green chili, salt and  turmeric powder and cook on medium heat by mixing well.  Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes.  Now add the coriander powder, chili powder, garam masala and cook them till the raw smell is gone.  Add the chopped tomatoes.  Close the lid and let it cook on low heat for 10 minutes or till tomatoes get mushy and the masala becomes a thick paste.  Add the roasted eggplant and potatoes to the masala.  Mix the vegetables, so that the masala/thick gravy gets on all the pieces.  Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes.  Rub the dry fenugreek leaves/Methi leaves between your palms and add along with chopped Cilantro to the dish.  Cook for another minute and turn off the flame.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy it with some freshly made Roti/Chapathi/Indian flat bread.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Eggless Coconut Cranberry Banana Bread




When life gives you bananas, what will you do?  Summer time is the time when I have overload of over ripe bananas in my kitchen.  Being a banana fan, my hubby never forgets to grab a bunch whenever he stops at the grocery store to buy anything.  When I do my weekly grocery shopping, I too make sure to grab his favorite fruit.  At times, we will end up with lots of bananas and if they don't finish within the anticipated time, we will have an overload of these overripe fruit.  But I always make sure that none of them gets wasted.  The overripe bananas are peeled and dumped into a ziplock bag and they go straight into the freezer.  I use them in smoothies, banana bread and Unniyappam (a Kerala tea time snack).  Just puree the frozen banana in the blender and you are good to use them in the batter of banana bread and Unniyappam.  




Here is the experimental banana bread I tried without eggs and they turned out to be very moist and delicious.  The addition of chewy coconut flakes and tangy dried cranberries complemented the egg-less banana bread.  This recipe is a keeper for lent period when it's a challenge to bake egg-less.


Ingredients:

1 cup - all purpose flour
1 cup - whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp. - baking soda
1/4 tsp - salt
3/4 cup - brown sugar
1 cup - mashed overripe banana
1 tsp. - pure vanilla extract
1 cup - sweetened coconut flakes/fresh grated coconut
1/2 cup - dried cranberries
3/4 cup - low fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup - low fat milk
4 tbsp. - oil

Directions:
  • In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, mix the 3/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/2 cup brown sugar.  Add baking soda and baking powder to the yogurt and mix well.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350ยบF.
  • Meantime, sift the flours and keep it aside.  After 5 minutes, you will notice some bubbles in the yogurt mix.  Add milk, oil, mashed banana and vanilla to the yogurt mix and mix for 30 seconds.
  • Add the sifted flour mix and salt to the wet ingredients.  Fold in all the dry ingredients and mix for another 10 seconds.  Fold in the coconut and cranberries.
  • Pour into a greased loaf pan or parchment paper lined loaf pan and bake for 50 - 55 minutes or till the loaf is bulged on the top and a toothpick comes out clean when tested on the center of the loaf.
Notes:
  • Keep the bread in a air tight container or wrap it with a aluminum foil and refrigerate.  Properly stored banana bread lasts for a week in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Berry Fruit Roll Ups



We used to visit Kerala once a year during our summer vacations when we were in North India.  Our stay will be with the grandparents and we get to see our cousins from Bombay.  It will be a fun filled vacation.  Our grandparent’s house was surrounded by fruit trees like Mango, Guava, Jack fruit etc. There was a Citrus tree in the corner of the front yard, which my grandma watered and raised from an orange seedling which survived a long time without bearing any fruit. There was a humongous sweet mango tree right in the front yard which was there from my grandpa's childhood.  There were 2 swings setup for the kids to play, one on the mango tree and the other on the guava tree, but everyone preferred to play on the swing tied to mango tree because it was strong and steady and will help you to swing high.  Being scared of heights, I always liked to hang around the guava tree swing.  Another personnel reason for me was that the mango tree bears tons of sweet mangos and when you start swinging hard, you might get knocked out by the falling mango :).  But nothing seemed to bother anyone.  Everyone waits patiently for their turns and occasionally parents had to separate the fighting ones from the scene.. lol.  When it rains in the monsoon, the mangoes will be at their peak season and you can literally see a mango rain from this tree which generous drops the ripe mangoes into the river pebble filled front yard.  After the rain subsides, the mangoes will be filled in baskets with burlap lining to remove moisture and the ripest ones will be handpicked by the adults to serve immediately.  The rest will be placed in the storage to ripe.  I don't remember us cutting any mangoes as they were in abundance and we used to bite into each and gobble some and threw the rest.  Those were some good old memories.  I regret now for the amount of the honey sweet mangoes I had wasted then.  Now it hard to find that kind of sweet mangoes here.  Few years ago when we visited our grandparent's house, now owned by my younger uncle, I saw the same tree standing there without much branches and it barely bears any fruits now.  It still brings the warm nostalgia to all those who grew up in that house.  The old mango tree is still in the front yard with lots of wild Vanda orchid growing as a parasite on them.  It’s not just an old mango tree, but by standing firm it reveals the lesson of good work and hard labor of our great grandparents who planted it and passed on the fruit of labor to be enjoyed by generation after another.





During one of our summer vacations we were introduced to the mango roll ups/leather that my grandma made.  The mango leather was made in bulk by sun drying the mango pulp.  The scorching sun and the availability of the honey sweet fruit were the best circumstances to create the delicious mango leather.  My grandma used to make this for her kids when they were young and she continued to make it for us too.  We were fortunate enough to enjoy the delicious treats she used to make for us during our visits.  And those irresistible tastes take me down the memory lane and made me try my hands on these berry roll ups.



Ingredients:
2 cups - fresh blueberry and strawberry mix
4 tbsp. - sugar

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 200°F.
  • Puree the berry mix with sugar in a blender.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour the berry puree on the baking sheet and spread it evenly using an offset spatula by leaving some space on the sides.  Place the baking sheet in the oven in the middle rack and let the puree dehydrate for 30 minutes.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 170°F and set the timer for 3 hrs.  After 3 hrs, take the baking sheet out of the oven.  The center of the fruit roll up will be still smooth.  Let the roll up cool for another hour.  You can peel off the fruit sheet from the parchment paper once it is cooled down.
  • Place the fruit sheet on a wax paper/parchment paper.  Cut them into long strips along with the parchment paper and roll them into fruit roll ups.  Secure them with a string and store them in air tight containers.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Super Easy Spicy Grilled Chicken Sandwich



Sun shines at its peak when I get out of work around 4:00 pm.  By the time I come home after picking kids from their Summer Camp, I will be exhausted and wish to lay down on the couch and cool down a bit.  Soon the reality of preparing dinner awakes my indolent brain and I give up the relaxation mode of my body.  At times I put a halt to my instinct to cook and will be completely on a relaxation mode by not moving a single finger.  I will be the queen of laziness on those days.  I am sure all Moms experience this mode once in a while when she is exhausted to the core.



During summer I hate to spend more time in the kitchen on weekdays when the evening sun shines so bright into my kitchen through the window.  I don't like to close the window blinds and cook in the artificial light, so to make things easier, quick meals are planned for weekdays.  Grilling is the best option for us in summer.  This quick and easy spicy chicken sandwich was created without any planning.  I threw in few ingredients from what I had in the pantry and viola it turned out to be a quick and easy filling dinner option. You can see from my pictures that it was not a planned one and I was randomly clicking pictures just in case if it turns out to be a recipe that I can blog about.  Obviously it was worth sharing and hence this post originate.  

Growing some Jalapenos in my patio..



The spices in this recipe can be adjusted per your taste.  You can melt a piece of Swiss cheese on the top of the chicken and add your desired condiments to the sandwich to suit your palate.



Ingredients:

5 - thin chicken breast
2 tbsp. - mayonnaise
2 tbsp. - sour cream
2 tbsp. - paprika powder (to add color)
1/2 tsp. - garlic powder
1/2 tsp. - ground pepper
1/4 cup - Frank's red hot sauce
1 tsp. - olive oil
salt to taste
additional Frank's hot sauce for brushing

Other Condiments:
1 - Hass avocado peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 - red onion rings
5 - lettuce leaves
5 - slices tomatoes
1/2 tsp. - lemon juice
1 - Jalapeno sliced
Mayonnaise , ketchup, Mustard
5 - sandwich buns

Directions:
  • Wash and pat dry the chicken breast with paper towel.  If the chicken breast is thick, slice it thin horizontally or you can pound the chicken breast by placing it between plastic wrap and pound with a kitchen mallet.
  • Mix all the ingredients from the first list except chicken in a bowl.  Taste the marinate for salt and adjust per your taste.  Now add the chicken breast to the marinade.  Mix well.  Make sure each piece is marinated good.   Keep it in the refrigerator for 15 - 20 minutes.
  • Heat the grill to medium heat.  Cut a onion into half and insert a fork into the top of the onion half with flat side in the bottom.  Dip the onion in oil and brush the grill with it.  This acts like a non stick coat.  Place the chicken pieces over the grill, cover and cook for 5 minutes.   Flip the side and cook for 5 minutes.  Lower the flame to low; cover with the lid and cook till the chicken is fully cooked and center of the chicken is no more pink.  Brush some Franks's hot sauce on both side of the chicken and grill for another 5 minutes.  Turn off the grill and transfer the chicken into a plate.
  • Add the lemon juice to the avocado slices, onion rings.   Spread some mayonnaise on the buns. Assemble the sandwich with the desired condiments and secure them with a clean toothpick.  Serve them hot.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cheesecake With Berry Topping



It’s almost a month now I had posted any recipes.  I had mentioned in the past that summer is very hard to blog and schedule is tightly packed with family activities and work.  Summer always intrigues me to blog with good pictures, but time constraint deters my plans.





This year my gardening effort went down the drain.  My exertion to have an organic garden was devastated by the uncontrollable deer problem that we are facing now.  Even though I have a fence around my garden, deer jumped in and ate all my plants.  The pathetic look of my garden dissuades me to spend more time in the garden this summer.   They get smarter and smarter each year when I try tricks to evade them from my garden.  Yesterday when I went for a walk in our neighborhood, I noticed that it was not just my garden, it seemed like the whole neighborhood is getting invaded by the deer.  I saw different kinds of deer repellent products in the yards of many houses.  Nothing seems to be working due to the excess population of deer.  I remember when we used to live in a different city where I wished to see a deer crossing.  I think my wish is granted to live and share food with them now :).  I don't feel like giving up though.  Hmm...A tall fence is the only resolution I can find for the persistent deer issue.





Last weekend I made this cheesecake for a get together and it turned out to be a delicious dessert.  I was pleased with the outcome of my trial.  The most exciting fact was that cheesecake came out without any cracks.  The best part about this recipe was it was so easy to prepare.   All it takes is some mixing and baking to the right consistency.  The combination of the cheesecake with berry topping takes the plain cheese cake to the next level.  So don't skip the topping if you are planning to make this.  Go ahead and make this cheesecake for a party and wow your friends and family. 




Please make sure to read the notes and the recipe before you start.




 Recipe adapted from here

Ingredients

Cheesecake Filling
4 (8 oz) - Philadelphia Cream Cheese blocks at room temperature
1 cup - granulated sugar
3 tbsp. - all purpose flour
5 - eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup - heavy cream
1 tsp. - vanilla extract
1 tbsp. - lemon zest

Cheesecake base
2 cups - graham crackers crumbs/digestive biscuits (refer notes)
4 tsp. - sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick - butter melted

Topping
1 1/4 cup - fresh/frozen strawberry and blueberry
3 - 4 tbsp. - sugar depends on the sweetness of the berries
1/2 tsp. - fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. - cold water
1 tsp. - unflavored gelatin

Directions:
  • Take a 9 inch spring form pan and grease it using butter or cooking spray. 
  • In a separate bowl, combine graham crackers crumbs and melted butter, so that the crumbs are all coated with melted butter and wet.  Press the wet crumbs with your hands on to the bottom and to the sides of the spring form pan leaving one inch space from the top of the pan.  Cover it with a plastic wrap and refrigerate till you are ready with the filling.
  •  Prepare the filling in the meantime by mixing the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer or regular hand mixer.  Mix it till it becomes were smooth.  Add 1 cup of sugar and 3 tbsp. of all purpose flour to the cream cheese and mix well for 30 seconds on low speed.
  • Now add 1/3 cup of heavy cream and mix till combined.  Scrape the sides in between for uniform mixing.
  • Add one egg at a time and mix well on low speed.  The mix will be little loose at this point.
  • Add the lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix for 20 seconds.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Take the spring form pan out of the refrigerator and pour the cream cheese mix into the spring form pan that has the graham cracker base.  Tap the pan few times to remove any air bubbles.
  • Set the timer for 15 minutes and place the pan in the middle rack.  Cook for 15 minutes.
  • Now lower the temperature to 250°F and set the timer for 1 hr 15 minutes and cook till its done.
  • Take the pan out of the oven, it may look little bulged at the top and the center will be wobbly.  This is the perfect.  Turn off the oven and return the cheesecake back into the middle rack and let it sit inside the oven and cool for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes take the pan out and let the cheesecake cool completely inside the pan.
  • Meantime you can prepare the topping.  Take a small bowl, sprinkle 1 tsp. of gelatin over 1 tbsp. of cold water and keep it aside to bloom.  Puree 1 1/4 cup berries in a blender.  Pour it into a sauce pan and add sugar and lemon juice.  Cook on low to medium heat for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  Turn off the flame and add the bloomed gelatin into the hot sauce and mix well till the gelatin is dissolved completely.  Let the sauce cool completely.
  • Once the sauce is cooled, pour it over the cheesecake and spread on the top by leaving the edges.  Cover the spring form pan with a plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  • The chilled cheesecake can be easily released from the spring form pan and transferred to a cake stand.  Slice it as desired and top them with a piece of strawberry and blueberry before serving.
Notes:
  • You can use a food processor/blender to make the graham cracker crumbs.  Alternatively you can use the base of a cup to crush the graham crackers.
  • Make sure that you leave the cream cheese and eggs outside the refrigerator to get to the room temperature which helps to achieve a smooth batter and results in a smooth textured cheesecake.
  • You can prepare the base just by pressing them to the bottom and avoiding the sides.
  • Make sure not to over beat the batter which will end up in big air bubbles that can ruin the texture and cause cracks in the cheesecake.  Use low speed settings of the hand mixer or stand mixer.
  • Cool the cheesecake for 30 minutes in the oven, which will help to set the cheesecake to the right consistency.
  • Cheesecake can be prepared in other metal pans or in glass bake wares.  But please note that the cooking time will vary depending on the bake ware you use.  Aluminum pans take less time, while dark metal pans and glass bake wares takes longer time.  I baked mine in dark 9 inch spring form pan.
  • If your cheesecake happens to crack, don't fret, you can hide it by the fruit topping which not only gives an appealing look, but also adds more flavor to a plain cheesecake.