Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce



How does 'Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce' sound?  I know it sounds great, but we have a perception that we can get it from the store without much hassle, why bother making it.  I also felt the same way until I started making my own tomato sauce.  It's always good to have some homemade sauce handy, which is free from any additives and preservatives.


I have a small garden in my backyard and I got lots of tomatoes last year from there.  I was lazy to make sauce, but I managed to chop them and freeze it.  It came handy one day when it was snowing really bad and kids asked for spaghetti for dinner.  I was reluctant to go out in the snow and buy the sauce, so I ended up making my own.  So this year I thought to plant more tomatoes and make the sauce ahead and freeze it, and guess what I made a mistake of planting them in containers and they didn't yield much.  So I ended up buying tomatoes this year :(.  Below is the picture of tomatoes from last year.



 I used the ripe tomatoes on vine for this sauce.  It is really easy, you just have to put everything into a pot, set a timer, go do your stuff and come back and just blend the sauce and store it in sterilized bottle.  I am sure you want to give it a try now, right?



You can use this sauce  for pasta dishes and pizzas.

Yields - 3 mason jars

Ingredients

15 - tomatoes (I used tomatoes on vine)
2 -  chopped onions
10 cloves - chopped garlic
15 - basil leaves chopped
3 tsp - tomato paste
1 tbsp - olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions

To blanch the tomatoes
  • Take some ice cold water in a big pot and keep it aside.  
  • Bring a big pot of water to boil and put the tomatoes carefully into the pot and leave it in there for 2 minutes.  Take them out and plunge them into the ice water and leave it for 5 minutes.
  • Gently pull the skin of the tomatoes and cut each of them into 4 pieces.
To make the sauce
  • Take a heavy bottom pan and cook the garlic till slightly brown in olive oil.  Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes with salt and pepper.  Place the chopped tomatoes and 3/4th of the chopped basil into the pot and cook it covered on low heat for 30 minutes.
  • While the sauce is cooking bring a large pot of water to boil and carefully immerse the mason jars and their lids in the hot water.  Make sure that you don't put the plastic coated lid into the water.  Let it stay there for 5 minutes and boil.  Turn of the stove and let the water cool till you can transfer it to a clean surface and dry it completely.
  • After 30 minutes of cooking the sauce, turn off the stove and let it cool down.
  • Transfer the sauce into a food processor or blender and blend it for 1 minute and place it back into the pot.  Add the tomato paste and rest of the basil and cook till it starts to bubble.
  • Ladle the warm sauce into sterilized jars and store them in the refrigerator.
Notes
  • There is no need to blanch the tomatoes if you have a good blender or food processor.  Cooking the tomatoes with the skin gives the nice red color to the sauce.  Just make sure that you puree the thick sauce well.  I prefer not to remove the skin.
  • You can use any tomatoes those have more flesh.
  • If you want your sauce to be chunky, reserve few ladles of cooked tomato sauce before blending and add them back into the blended sauce.
  • The sauce will remain good for one week in the refrigerator.  If you are not planning to use it right away, just freeze it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Orzo with Lemon Herb Chicken and Vegetables



   
     I have a habit of going on shopping spree to get items for the recipes I might have came across and want to try it zealously, which sometimes increases my stock pile in the pantry.  During one of those shopping trip I noticed the 'Whole Wheat Orzo' on the pasta aisle.  I couldn't resist picking it up and adding to the things I already got on my cart.  I wanted to make something tasty and healthy that is perceptible by kids and came up with this idea of 'Orzo with Lemon Herb Chicken and Vegetables'.

      Beginning of summer I decided to plant some herbs like Rosemary, Oregano and Basil in a container.  I prefer the fresh herbs in my pasta dishes rather than the dried ones.  Planting them in a container was a wise decision I made, as I could bring them inside during winter and still enjoy the fresh herbs during snowy days.  Running to the patio and snipping some herbs not only thrills me but also gives me the satisfaction of what is going into the dish.




     The fresh herbs along with lemon zest gives a pleasant aroma to this dish.  This a perfect dinner that balances carb, protein and fiber without the fatty sauces you get from the store.




To save the time of entire cooking, you can cook Pasta and chicken simultaneously and start cutting the vegetables when they are cooking.

Serving 4

Ingredients

2 cups - Whole wheat or regular orzo
3 cloves - finely chopped garlic
1 - medium size red onion sliced
1 cup - colored bell peppers sliced lengthwise
5 - button mushroom sliced
1 cup - broccoli florets
1 tsp - lemon zest
1 tbsp - extra virgin Olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Lemon herb chicken

1 1/2 cup - chicken breast cleaned and cubed
1 tsp - oregano
1 tsp - rosemary
1 1/2 tsp - basil chopped
1/2 a lemon - juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp - lemon zest
5 cloves - garlic chopped
1 tsp - red pepper flakes
2 tsp - extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese & chopped basil to garnish

Directions

  • Cook Orzo according to the package direction in water or chicken broth.
  • In a non stick pan add the olive oil, chopped garlic and cook till it is lightly browned.  Add the chicken, herbs, pepper, salt, lemon juice and pepper flakes and cook covered till the chicken is no longer pink.  Add the lemon zest to it and cook for another minute and remove from heat.
  • Mix the cooked left over juice from the chicken with orzo and keep it aside.
  • In another non-stick pan add the olive oil and cook the garlic till it is lightly browned.  Add the onions, salt and pepper and cover and cook on medium heat to high heat for couple of minutes, followed by mushroom and cook for another 2 minutes till the mushroom starts to lightly caramelize. Cook rest of the vegetables covered for 2-3 minutes.  
  • Add the lemon zest and cook for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
  • Mix the orzo, chicken and vegetables together and garnish with chopped Basil and Parmesan cheese.

Notes

  •  You can skip the chicken if you are preferring a complete vegetarian meal.  Use mushroom instead of chicken and season with lemon and herbs.
  •  Try to use the fresh herbs which enhances the flavor.
  •  Lightly browning the garlic in extra virgin olive oil enhances the flavor of the pasta dishes.
  •  Use medium to high flame and non-stick pan or a cast iron pan to cook vegetables as it uses less amount of oil and retains the color when cooked fast.  Make sure you don't overcook your vegetables as they tend to lose their color and nutrients.
  • Adjust the seasoning and lemon juice according to your palate.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Veggie Stuffed Omelet

by Shibi Thoms



     I 've been thinking of organizing my recipe collection for quite a while.  Due to immense support and inspiration from my family and friends I decided to settle on a food blog.  And here comes my first post and the launch of my tiny space on the blog-sphere.

     I remember making Omelet with my brother, which was one of the basic things I knew during my college days.  He used to whisk the egg and I used to chop the onions.  We used to add fresh grated coconut to it which gives a wonderful crunch to the omelet.  Grabbing hand full of coconut from the plate when Mom grates it, was a fun activity for me and my brother. 

     Being a working mom, its really like running a Marathon from Monday through Friday for me to pack lunch and make a quick and healthy breakfast for kids. My daughter reminds me of my childhood....not to mention she is the pickiest one I got.  Omelet is something all 3 of them says "YES" to.  It's a good way for me to sneak in some veggies they don't like.  Mushroom is something they don't appreciate in their food.  But I am hesitant to give up trying giving Mushroom to them.  You guessed it right, I always try to sneak in mushrooms in the Omelet.  They know Mommy is tricking them, but they eat them without much fuss because its hard to separate them from the Omelet which they love. 

     The veggies in this recipes can be substituted with veggies of your choice.  Use colorful vegetables like bell peppers rich in antioxidants and  greens like spinach, which are not only appealing to eye but are packed with antioxidants and nutrients that are essential to give you a good start for the day ahead.  You can also add ham, turkey or chicken if you prefer some meat in the omelet.

This is a quick breakfast you can fix in the morning which is healthy and the same time filling too.  The protein and calcium in the egg along with the healthy colorful vegetables makes it a complete breakfast.  I am sure you will enjoy it. 

Servings 2

Ingredients

3 - medium size eggs
3 Tsp - low fat milk
salt & pepper to taste

Stuffing
  
4 Tbsp - Chopped onions
2 Tbsp - Chopped broccoli
2 - Small button mushrooms chopped
2 tbsp - Chopped Red bell pepper   
2 tbsp - Chopped spinach
4 tbsp - Shredded Mexican cheese blend 
1 tsp - Red pepper flakes (optional)

salt and pepper to taste
oil/cooking spay to grease the pan

Directions

  • Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together till well blended.
  • Take a small size non-stick frying pan and apply the cooking oil or cooking spray on it and place it on the stove with low heat.
  • Once the pan is hot, pour half of the egg mixture into it and cover and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the half of the chopped vegetable on one side of the omelet and sprinkle pepper flakes, salt and ground pepper powder.  Cover and cook for 2 - 3 minutes on low heat till the egg is not watery.
  • Open the lid and sprinkle half of the cheese blend, approximately 2 tbsp of cheese on the vegetable mixture.
  • With a non stick spatula gently lift the other side of the omelet and fold on to the side where the vegetables and cheese are and cook for 1 minute and remove from the pan.
  • Repeat the above steps with the rest of the egg mixture and vegetables.
  • Transfer the omelet to a plate and drizzle some ketchup or hot sauce over it and enjoy.

     Notes

    • You can substitute the vegetables with veggies of your choice.
    • You can use cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend.
    • Slow cooking of the omelet gives it the soft texture and color without browning the omelet.
    • Use a small non-stick pan so that you can easily fold the omelet.
    • I used the milk in the omelet to make it soft and fluffy.
    • You can increase or decrease the amount of cheese or completely skip the cheese if you are looking for a low fat diet.
    • You can make a white omelet by excluding the yolk which makes it even lower fat ones.  In that case you may need more egg whites to serve one person.

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