Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla

Everyone in my family loves Mexican food.  My hubby used to work part time in Mexican restaurant during his college days, so I was introduced to Mexican food during my early days of US life.  Later the take out place 'Chipotle' was our go to place to grab some Mexican food on busy evenings.   As kids grew they also got acquainted with Mexican food and we all love them. 

My previous notion about making quesadilla was that a quesadilla maker was imperative.  Later I found out from a cook book that you don't need any fancy appliances to enjoy a homemade quesadilla.  So here is the verdict, it is easy and quick to make and your family is going to love you!!!

 My daughter is a big fan of tacos & quesadilla.  So I make them often with either turkey or chicken fillings.  My family prefers the chicken quesadilla.  I use both boneless thighs or chicken breast to make these quesadilla.  The most important step is to cut the chicken into very small pieces so that the fillings won't make the quesadilla too thick which will help in flipping the stuffed tortillas easily.

Yields - 5 full Quesadilla

1 1/2 lb - boneless chicken cut into very small pieces
5 cloves - garlic finely chopped
1 tsp -  finely chopped ginger
1 - medium size onion chopped
1  - medium size tomato chopped
1 1/2 tsp - oil

1 tsp - Chipotle Pepper Marinade (I used McCormick Grill Mates)
1/2 - a pepper in adobo sauce chopped (optional - it is hot)
1/4 tsp - ground pepper
1/4 tsp - red chili flakes

1/2 cup - fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup - red & green bell pepper chopped
1/4 cup - fresh Cilantro chopped

Other Ingredients
1 -  1 1/2 cup - low fat Mexican Cheese blend
10 - soft Tortilla
Salt to taste

  • Heat  1 1/2 tsp oil in a cast iron/non stick pan.  Saute the ginger and garlic till it turns golden brown.  Add the chopped onions and salt and cook till translucent.  Add the spices from spice list mentioned above and saute for another minute.  Now add chicken and cook for 5 - 6 minutes covered.
  • Remove the lid and add chopped tomatoes, corn and chopped pepper.  Adjust the salt and seasonings.  Cover and cook till the chicken is cooked completely and no more moisture is left.  Add the chopped Cilantro and cook for 1 minute.  Turn off the burner.
To Assemble
  • Heat a cast iron/non stick pan on low - medium heat.  Place a tortilla on the pan, flip the sides so that it gets warm.  Now spread 2 - 3 tbsp of shredded cheese on the tortilla.  Take 1/4 cup + 1 -2 tbsp of the chicken vegetable filling and spread on the cheese.  Spread another layer of cheese (2 - 3 tbsp) above the filling and place a tortilla above it.  Press the tortilla with a spatula so that the melted cheese sticks together and hold the tortilla and the fillings together.
  • Now gently using a big spatula and one hand, flip the quesadilla on the other side.  Cook it till light brown spots appear on the quesedilla.  At this point the quesadilla will be crunchy on the top.
  • Cut the quesadilla into 4 pieces.
  • Use rest of the tortilla and fillings to make 4 more quesadillas.
  • Serve them warm.
  • You can use any ground meat like turkey, beef or even black beans to make Quesadilla.
  • Make sure you use a long and wide spatula so that flipping of Quesadilla can be easily done.
  • Serve them warm, other wise they will lose the crunch.
  • Left overs can be refrigerated in air tight containers.  Warm them on a pan instead of microwaving.  Gently place them on pan and flip the sides till they gets crunchy. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Baked Spicy Cajun Potato Wedges

If I say that I am getting busier during summer, it’s not an exaggeration. People in cold countries would know that when you are cooped up inside for a long period during winter would like to use every bit of sunlight they get during summer which includes all outdoor summer activities. Kids are approaching their school year end, so less homework make them jump outside as soon as they reach home. I have to keep up with their energy level and the endeavors of gardening. So blogging during summer is quiet tough.

Signing up for weekly yoga class had busied up our evening. When we signed up for Yoga, I assured my hubby that it will not be intense and will be some stretches and some poses. The first class itself proved otherwise. The intricate poses made me peek at by hubby each time to check how he was performing the art of yoga. The whole class was reminded by the instructor to do according to everyone’s comfort level than comparing others. The excellent flexibility of our instructor who might be approaching her 50's astonished me. When the first class was over, we met a guy who was practicing next to us. He introduced himself as the instructor's husband who was in the same boat as we were. He told us that the simulations were not easy as everyone thinks. The look on my hubby's face was perplexing to determine if he was happy or not :) The classes are going smoothly now and I think we are doing better than the first class. Before I leave for today's class I want to share with you with this guilt free easy and quick baked potato wedges that you can enjoy for evening snack.  Let this be the appetizer for the Memorial Day weekend BBQ.

Yields - 36 - 40 wedges

6 -  small yellow/golden potatoes
2 tsp - extra virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp - low fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp - parsley flakes
1 tsp - Red Chili flakes
1 tsp - garlic powder
McCormick Cajun seasoning
Kosher salt

  • Pre-heat oven to 410 degree F.
  • Scrub the skin of the potatoes to remove any dirt.  Wash and pat dry the potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into wedges by cutting into half and then cutting each half into 3 or 4 pieces lengthwise.
  • Sprinkle chili flakes, parsley, garlic powder on the potato wedges.  Drizzle 2 tsp of Olive Oil and toss well.  Now sprinkle the Cajun seasoning just to coat the sides of the wedges as per your taste.  Add the 2 tbsp of cheese and toss well.
  • Arrange the wedges on the greased baking sheet with cut side touching the sheet.
  • After arranging the wedges, check if any sides of the wedges don't have seasoning.  If needed sprinkle some Cajun seasoning.  Sprinkle kosher salt over it. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Flip the sides and bake for another 5 minutes.
  • Enjoy them while they are warm.
  • Using golden/yellow potatoes gives the nice color to the baked wedges.  I try to use the smaller potatoes to cook uniformly.  The baking time may vary depending on the size of the wedges.  Please adjust the cooking time according to the slices.
  • The Cajun seasoning is already seasoned with salt, so adjust the kosher salt accordingly.
  • Make sure that you bake it just before serving, otherwise they lose the crunch and taste.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Kerala Style Beef with Bell Peppers

There are only few preparations of beef I tried in my kitchen.  Among them the Kerala style beef ularthiyathu (spicy roast) is my favorite.  Today’s post is a slight variation to the regular Kerala style beef.  Kerala beef fry is a delicacy served in southern part of India which is close to the heart of Keralites even if they are far away from home.  Beef cooked with a handful of spices are then stir fried with freshly crushed pepper.  This spicy dish is usually served with plain steamed rice, Roti or Chapathi (Indian flat bread).

The wacky presentation of this recipe doesn’t give justice to the beef dish.  But I can assure you that it was a yummy beef variation I tried and was a perfect combination with radish Paratha (stuffed Indian flat bread) I served with.  I used Top Sirloin cut beef for this preparation, which is supposed to have lower fat content that other parts.  The bell pepper imparts a nice flavor to the spicy beef preparation.

The piece of banana leaf you see was supposed to be the 'Fresh Banana Leaf’ I got from Indian store.  Few months ago I heard from someone that our nearby Indian grocery store carries fresh banana leaves.  I was impelled further by my friend Vineetha’s post at Malabar Ruchi to get hold of some fresh leaves.  The next day, I paid a visit to the store to grab some leaves.  To my dismay, the store owner told me to special order.  He gave me the details, it was a bit expensive for single leave, but I told him to order it as I was so determined to get it.  He took my phone# to confirm the arrival and pickup.  A day later I got a call at work from him confirming the order.  I was over excited and shared the news with hubby and kids, not sure if they really cared or not :).  Couple of days later I got another call confirming the arrival of the leaves.  The next day after work, I picked up my kids and rushed to the Indian store to get the precious leaves.  The helper in the store took us to back of the store and opened the cooler room and cut opened a very long box, I was impatiently waiting.  He took the first leaf out and I was shocked, it was all ripped and wilted.  Seeing my face, he told me to pick what I want.  Frantically I started checking the rest of the leaves and picked one which was 60% ripped :(, the best I could get from there.  With a smile on the face, the guy told me I am sorry this is what we get.  You can imagine my feeling.  It was hard for me to determine my emotion, shocked, disappointed, sad… not sure…my daughter told me it’s OK Mom, let’s get one leaf and go home.  Apparently I was not able to make the breakfast what Vineetha posted with the leaves, but used a piece for the picture.  So the gloomy look of the picture reveals my attitude towards the leaf :). 

Here is the recipe for Kerala Style Beef with Bell Peppers.  Give this recipe a try and have a great weekend!!!

1 1/2 lb - Top Sirloin beef cut into 2 cm long strips
1 1/2 cup - red onions sliced thinly
10 - garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 inch - ginger finely chopped
1 - tomato chopped
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - ground pepper
1/2 tsp - garam masala powder
1/2 tsp - chili powder
1 tsp - coriander powder
1/4 tsp - asafoetida powder
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1/4 cup - coconut pieces (Thenga kotthu)
1/4 cup - water
1 sprig - curry leaves
2 tbsp - oil
salt to taste

To saute
10 - small shallots/pearl onions thinly sliced
10 - whole peppercorns slightly crushed
1 - bay leaf
1 cm - cinnomon stick
2 - cardamom pods
2 - cloves
1/2 - green bell pepper cut into 2 cm long strips
1 - sprig curry leaves
2 tbsp - oil

  • Clean and drain the water from beef and keep it aside.
  • Take a non stick pan and splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 2 tbsp of oil.  Cook the garlic and ginger till it gets slightly brown.  Now add sliced onions and salt and cook till light golden brown.  Add turmeric, corainder powder, chili powder, ground pepper, garam masala and asafoetida and cook till raw smell goes away for 2 -3 minutes.  Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft.
  • Add the beef, coconut pieces, curry leaves and 1/4 cup of water and cook well covered on low to medium heat till desired texture is attained and all the moisture is dried up.
  • Take another non-stick pan and heat 2 tbsp of oil.  Add the whole spices like cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom and roast for 2 minutes.  Add the sliced shallots and bell pepper, give a good stir to mix well.  When the shallots turns translucent, add the crushed pepper.  You can smell the aroma of crushed pepper.  Add the cooked beef and saute to 2 -3 minutes till the bell pepper is cooked.  Don't over cook it, so that it will lose the green color.  Add the curry leaves and mix well and turn off the burner.
  • Enjoy the spicy beef with rice or any of the Indian flat breads like Roti, Chapathi or Paratha.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Berry Mousse Chocolate Cake

I was reminded of baking a cake for Mother's day by my friend Manju who blogs at Manju's Eating Delights when she posted the stunning cupcakes she made for a bake sale.  There was plenty of chocolate in my pantry and I thought to bake a chocolate based cake on Sunday, since there was church on Saturday.  My cake baking plans occur spontaneously, they are not well planned and executed.  Thinking that I have a full day of Saturday to determine what to bake I went back to my daily routine on Friday.  Went to grocery shopping after work, picked up kids.  While I was driving back home, I heard some whispering behind me between Noah and Nicole.  I pretended like clueless.  They sneaked the gift bags into their school bags after showing each other.  Finally I reached home.  There comes the call from hubby, we are going to do the Mother's day party at our house on Saturday after church.  We have an extended family here and the brothers decided to have the party at our house.  I was in total panic, how am I going to cook for 30 people (including kids) within this short time.  To my relief, there comes the sweet words from my hubby, Men are taking care of the food, you don't have to cook.  Hubby ordered food from a nearby Indian restaurant and other brothers BBQ ed and brought all the necessary items for the party.  Since I already had a plan to make a cake for Mother's day, I convinced hubby that it will be an easy cake to make and there was no need to buy a cake.  Checked my refrigerator for ingredients and came up with the Berry Mousse Chocolate cake idea.  Finishing decoration was done with chocolate Ganache and some fresh berries.

The cake was frozen when we cut it and tasted like ice cream cake, but the next day it tasted much better when left in the refrigerator and thawed.

On Sunday I was treated with a delicious breakfast made by my hubby and kids.  They woke up early in the morning to make stuffed omelet, heart shaped cut mangoes and coffee and when I woke up they were not done.  So my little one escorted me back to my bed saying 'Mommy you cannot come now' with a secret smile on his face.  After few minutes of wait, they all came with a tray of food with big victorious smile on their faces that claimed 'Mommy had no clue of this surprise'.  I played along with a big surprise on my face.  The smile I saw on their faces was the rewarding moments of motherhood.  I joined them in making rest of the omelets and cutting mangoes...and we enjoyed the breakfast together.

Chocolate cake recipe adapted from here

Yields - 9'' round cake

Chocolate Cake
2 cups - all-purpose flour
2 cups - sugar
¾ cup - cocoa
2 tsp - baking powder
1½ tsp - baking soda
1 tsp - salt
1 cup - milk
½ cup - vegetable oil
2 - eggs
2 tsp - vanilla extract
1 cup - boiling water

Berry Mousse Layer
1 cup - mixed berries fresh or frozen (raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, blueberry)
4 tbsp - sugar
1 3/4  - whipping cream divided
1 1/4 tsp - unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp - cold water
3 drops -  organic Red food color (I used India Tree brand)

3 oz - Semisweet baking chocolate bar
1/4 cup - whipping cream
1 tsp - light corn syrup
1 tsp - oil

  • Pre heat oven to 350 degree F.
  • Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and keep it aside.
  • Whip sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla and oil using a stand mixture.  Gently add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and mix with a rubber spatula.  Whip it for 30 seconds.  Now add 1 cup of hot water to the batter and mix for 1 minute till everything is mixed well.
  • Bake the cake in a greased 9'' round springform pan for 45-50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean when tested at the center of the cake.
  • Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
Berry Mousse
  • In a small bowl bloom 1 1/4 tsp of unflavored gelatin in 2 tbsp of cold water and keep it aside.
  • Meantime you can prepare for the mousse.  Puree 1 cup of berries in a blender and strain.  Transfer the berry puree to a sauce pan.  Add 4 tbsp of sugar and cook the berry mix till bubbles start to appear on the side of the sauce pan.  Turn off the burner.
  • Gently add the bloomed gelatin to the warm berry mix and give a good stir till gelatin completely dissolves.  Keep the mix aside to cool.
  • Whip 1 3/4 cup of whipping cream + 2 tbsp of powdered sugar using a stand mixture till soft peaks are attained.  Make sure that the cream is cold before whipping.
  • Add 3 drops of organic red food color to the berry mix and stir well.  Gently fold in the berry mix into the whipped cream using a rubber spatula and mix using the spatula till uniform color is attained for the mousse.  Don't over mix.
  • Cut the bulged part of the cake (top) using a knife.  You will get almost 4 cm of height for the cake after cutting the top.  Transfer the cake back to the springform pan.
  • Pour the whipped berry mousse mix over the cake and level it using a cake spatula.
  • Cover the springform pan with a plate and freeze the cake for 30 minutes to 1 hr.
  • Heat 1/4 cup whipping cream in microwave till it starts to bubble.
  • Pour the whipping cream over the chocolate pieces in a bowl and stir well.
  • Add 1 tsp of oil and 1 tsp of corn syrup and mix well.  Let it cool slightly.
  • Using a pastry brush, gently apply the ganache on the bottom layer (cake layer).  Make sure to brush good on sides that have even edges.
  • The chocolate mix will be cold enough now.  Pour the rest of the chocolate mix at the center of the cake.  While the chocolate is still gooey, place the strawberries on it. Dip the bottom of blackberry and raspberry alternatively in the left over chocolate in the bowl and decorate the edges of the cake.
  • Leave the cake in the refrigerator till ready to cut.
  • I am not a fan of raspberry, but the raspberry flavor didn't over power the mousse part.
  • You can skip the ganache part if you don't like too much of chocolate.
  • You can decorate the cake as you desire.  I just wanted to give it a fresh touch with the berries I used.
  • Make sure that the cake is completely thawed in the refrigerator before cutting.  It helps to bring out the flavor rather than the frozen cake.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lo Mein

Recently I had a discussion with my husband about blogging and about the viewers/readers of the blog.  If you are a blogger, you might have come to same conclusion as mine.  My observation was there are basically four types of visitors for food blogs:
  • Group 1 - who visits and reads the complete posts and responds
  • Group 2 - who are interested in the recipe only.
  • Group 3 - they only check the pictures.
  • Group 4 - they are the silent visitors.
I distinguish these groups by the comments they post on the blog.  It's the way I perceived.  You may not concur with my findings.

Couple of weeks ago one of my friends told me that her daily lunch time reading includes posts from my blog, but I never knew it...I was in cloud 9 when I heard that.  So there are visitors who are regular readers of blog but never pens anything, but supports you.  Anyway I love to hear from you, so that I can improve and learn from you.  Your valid comments are suggestions are the backbone of this blog.  So please don't hesitate to comment when you want to say something about the post.  I guess you can decide in which group you belong now :).  My hubby's suggestion was to not make short posts, but I guess it depends on individuals.  To me, it's different.  I have an array of food blogs I visit regularly during my lunch time.  I find these sites as a means of connecting to writer and knowing more about them.  The more you read, you feel he/she is your next door neighbor.  Some blogs has the mesmerizing power that you would never like to miss a post.  Don't you agree?  'That's enough Philosophy Shibi' innate impulse reminded me.

Lately I am in real love with this Lo Mein which is pretty easy to fix for dinner.  The sesame oil imparts the authentic flavor to this dish.  My Mom's parents used to have Sesame farm and  I still remember the unprocessed oil looks darker.  I believe more processing makes it lighter.  So if you use a good quality Sesame oil, the better the Lo Mein will taste.  Now scroll down straight for the recipe :)

Servers - 5 - 6

1 lb (12 oz) - Sphagetti or chineese noodles

For Chicken
2 cups - Chicken  cleaned and cut into thin long strips
1 tsp - red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp - ground pepper
8 - finely chopped garlic
2 tsp - grated ginger
1 tbsp - Lo Mein sauce
2 tsp -  Sesame oil
salt to taste

Vegetables to stir fry
2 cups - broccoli florets
1 cup - carrots cut into thin strips or matchstick style
1 - medium white onion cut into big pieces
2 - finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp - chili flakes
2 tbsp - Lo Mein Sauce
1 tbsp - Sesame Oil
Salt to taste

Lo Mein Sauce
1/4 cup - light soy sauce
4 - 5 tbsp - Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp - chilli garlic sauce
2 tsp - rice vinegar
1 tbsp - water

To drizzle
2 tsp- Sesame Oil

  • Cook the sphegetti according to the package direction and keep it aside.
  • Mix together the ingredients for Lo Mein sauce together in a non reactive bowl and keep it aside.
  • Use a wok or non-stick pan and lightly brown the chopped garlic and 1/2 tsp of chili flakes in 1 tbsp of Sesame Oil.  Add the White onions and stir for 1 minute.  Add carrots and broccoli and stir fry for couple minutes by coverig the wok for 1 minute.  Don't over cook the vegetables.  Add 2 tbsp of the mixed Lo Mein sauce and mix well and transfer the vegetables to another dish.
  • In the same wok, add 2 tsp of  Sesame oil and cook the chopped garlic, followed by ginger till light golden brown.  Add chili flakes, pepper powder and roast for another minute.  Add the chicken and season with salt and 2 tbsp of Lo Mein sauce and cook covered till the water dries up and the chicken is all cooked well.
  • Now gently add the cooked noodles to the chicken and mix well.  Add the remaining Lo Mein Sauce to the noodles and chicken and mix well.  Now carefully add the vegetables and mix.  Drizzle 2 tsp Sesame Oil.  Cook on low heat for 2 minutes and turn off the flame.
  • Lo Mein is ready to serve.
  • You can use vegetables and meat of your choice in Lo Mein.  Shredded cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms, bean sprouts etc can also be used.
  • Adjust the Lo Mein sauce and pepper flakes according to your taste.
  • Soy sauce and Hoisin sauce are already salty, so be cautious when adding salt.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cinnamon Loaf

If you ask me which area of cooking you like the most, I would say baking.  Whipping up the batter, putting it into the oven and patiently waiting and peeking through the oven window are some things I enjoy with my kids while baking.  The first bite of the warm baked item is the rewarding moment of the wait.

Today's spice of interest is Cinnamon.  Cinnamon is used in sweet and savory foods world wide.  It is obtained from the inner bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum.  Cinnamon is native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malabar Coast of India and Burma.   It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC.  There are several references to Cinnamon in Hebrew Bible.    It was regarded as expensive gift for Monarchs during ancient times.

Health benefits:
  • Some research has found that a particular type of cinnamon, cassia cinnamon, may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • Studies have shown that a very small dose of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.
  • Prevention of certain types of cancers.
  • Arthritis related pain relief.
  • Anti bacterial.
  • Smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.
  • A great relief for the common cough when taken with warm honey.

Store brought Cinnamon loafs were never my favorite, either they were very sweet or the ingredients in them make me dodge away from them.  But homemade items not only tastes better but give you the satisfaction of knowing the ingredients you are adding into the food.  Yesterday evening I baked this Cinnamon loaf that filled our entire house with the tempting aroma and my kids were anxiously waiting for me to pull it out of the oven.  To be honest, it was the best cinnamon loaf I ever had.   The soft and flavorful bread didn't last till this evening.  As it was already getting dark and I had to serve dinner for my family I didn't spend much time on the photo shoot, so the pictures didn't do justice to the bread.  But the texture and sweetness was perfect and it tasted divine.

Recipe Source - Everyday Light Meals Cookbook by Taste of Home

Yields -  9-in. x 5-in loaf

1/4 cup - softened butter
1 cup - sugar
2 - eggs
2 cups - flour
1 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt
1 cup - low fat buttermilk
1 tsp - vanilla extract

1 tsp - Cinnamon powder
2 tbsp - sugar


  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degree F.
  • Mix together softened butter, eggs and sugar till frothy for 2 minutes using a stand or hand mixture.
  • Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and add to the egg mixture.   Gently mix them with a rubber spatula.
  • Add the buttermilk and vanilla and mix on high speed for 1 minute or till everything is blended together.
  • Mix 1 tsp of cinnamon with 2 tbsp of sugar in a bowl.
  • Pour 3/4 of the batter into a greased loaf pan.  Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mixture on the batter.  Use a butter knife and make some swirls.  
  • Pour rest of the batter into the pan and sprinkle the top with rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  • Bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested at the center of the loaf.
  • Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.
  • The loaf can be left outside for couple of days.  You can also store the bread in an air tight container in refrigerator for a week.

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