Sunday, February 24, 2013

Aloo Mattar Paneer / Cottage Cheese With Potatoes & Green Peas In Thick Savory Sauce




Lent is observed all over the world in traditional ways.  It is our tradition to give up non-vegetarian food for the period of 50 days.  During the lent period, I rely on an array of recipes those are mostly Indian, which has a vast variety of dishes and curries that can be merely prepared with vegetables and dairy products.

Shallow fried Paneer

If you ever had been to an Indian restaurant, you might have ordered this savory curry that comes with steamed rice and Indian flat bread called Naan.  The combination of 'Mattar Paneer' and 'Naan' is well know among Indian restaurant diners.   Shallow fried Cottage Cheese and green peas are prepared in a slight spicy sauce.  You can also add potato to the dish.  Whenever I prepare this dish the aroma of the light spicy dish fills up the air which takes me back to my childhood days, when we used to visit the city in my Dad's scooter and we dine out at our favorite restaurant where these authenticate Punjabi food were served.



Nathan, our older son is very picky when it comes to green peas.  But when the green peas are cooked in the spicy sauce, it takes the flavor of green peas away and he loves the curry with Indian flat bread Chapati.


I am pretty sure you are now scrolling down for the recipe.  Here it is!!!

Serves - 5

Ingredients

400 g/14 oz - Paneer/cottage cheese cubed into bite size
1 tsp - oil
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
salt to taste

To Grind
2 inches - chopped ginger
5 cloves - chopped garlic
1 - small onion chopped
10 - raw cashew nuts
a pinch of salt
2 tsp - oil
1/4 cup - water

Other Ingredients
1/2 cup - cubed potato or one medium size potato
1 - small tomato chopped
1/4 cup - fresh/frozen green peas
2 -  green chili splits
1 1/2 tsp - coriander powder
1 tsp - chili powder
1 tsp - kashmiri chili/paprika powder
1/2 tsp - garam masala
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1 tbsp - dry fenugreek/Methi leaves
2 tbsp - tomato paste
1/4 cup -  chopped fresh coriander leaves
1/4 cup - fresh cream / sour cream
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
2 cups - water
2 tsp - oil

Directions

  • Take a non-stick or cast iron pan and add 2 tsp of oil and shallow fry the cubed cheese/paneer till they are light golden brown.  Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel to remove excess oil if any.
  • In the same pan add 2 tsp of oil and cook the garlic, ginger and onions till it is light brown.  Add a pinch of salt to make this process go fast.  Transfer the cooked garlic, ginger and onion mix to a blender (use the small jar).  Add 10 raw cashew nuts to the mix and blend it into a smooth paste by adding 1/4 cup water.
  • Take a deep pan and add 2 tsp of oil and splutter the mustard on low heat.  Add the cubed potatoes, turmeric and salt to the pan and cook it for 5 minutes.   
  • Flip the potatoes and add the coriander powder, chili powder, kashmiri/paprika powder, garam masala and cook till the raw smell it gone.  
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, green chili and cook for 5 - 6 minutes till the tomatoes are soft.
  • Next add the garlic, ginger, onion and cashew paste to it and cook for another five minutes.
  • Add the shallow fried cheese cubes and 2 cups of water and cook over medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes or till the gravy becomes slightly thick and the potatoes are cooked.
  • Now add the dry fenugreek leaves by slightly rubbing them between your hands to bring out the flavor, followed by tomato paste and 1/4 cup of fresh/frozen green peas.  Adjust the salt.  If the gravy is too thick, add some water to loosen it. Cover and cook for 5 - 6 minutes.
  • Add the cilantro/coriander leaves and gently fold in the cream or sour cream and cook for 2 more minutes and remove from heat.
  • Let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes covered till are the flavors are infused into the cheese and vegetables.
  • The flavorful 'Aloo Mattar Paneer' is ready to be served with some freshly made Naan or Chapati or steamed white rice. 

Notes

  • If you don't have cream or sour cream, use 1/4 cup of plain yogurt.
  • Adjust the spices according to your taste.
  • The dry fenugreek leaves gives the dish the unique flavor, so don't skip this ingredient.  You can get the dry fenugreek leaves from any Indian store.  They are also called 'Methi' leaves.




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pull Apart Bread With Garlic, Basil & Sun Dried Tomatoes







It's been awfully cold here and we are getting dumped with piles of snow for the last few days.  I always wish for hot tea or a warm bowl of soup when I get home after work on cold winter days.  A soft garlic bread stick or garlic bread with a warm bowl of soup is more comforting than anything else on cold evenings for me.





Garlic bread is one of our favorite breads.  My kids cannot have enough of these breads when accompanied with soup.  I had been procrastinating to make these breads for a while, till my blogger friend Manju from Manju's Eating Delights made this wonderful pull apart bread.  It definitely impelled me to bake this yummy 'pull apart' bread.  I had made these few times now and my family is hooked into this soft bread and they prefer it over any other bread that goes with soup.  The basic recipe of the 'pull apart' bread is adapted from Manju's Eating Delights and I had made some variations to the recipe.




There is no exaggeration, my kids absolutely love this and it's a big hit in my family.  I believe I wrote enough to wake up the baker in you and prompted you to give this recipe a try.

Disclaimer:  The only problem is that my kids will finish the bread within minutes and fill up their tummy and the soup will be still sitting in their bowls :).




Recipe adapted from Manju's Eating Delights

Serves - 5

Ingredients

Bread dough
1/2 cup - lukewarm low fat milk
1 tsp -sugar
7 g or 1/4 oz - yeast or one small packet active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups + 3 tbsp - all purpose flour
1 tsp -salt
3 tbsp - softened butter
3 cloves - grated garlic
1/2 tsp - red chili flakes
1/2 tsp - dried oregano + parsley
3/4 cup + 1 or 2 tbsp - low fat milk
1 tsp - extra virgin olive oil

Filling
6 cloves - grated garlic
1/4 cup - chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tsp - chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
3 - cherry tomatoes seeded and chopped
3 tbsp - melted butter
3/4 cup - low fat grated cheddar cheese
1 tbsp - melted butter
1/4 tsp - kosher salt to sprinkle

Directions:

  • Dissolve the sugar in 1/2 cup of warm milk and add the yeast to it.  Let it stand for 10 minutes or till it gets frothy.
  • Combine flour, softened butter, grated garlic, chili flakes, oregano, parsley, salt, 3/4 cup milk and the yeast mixture using an electric stand mixture or using hands to form a soft dough like pizza dough.  If the dough is too tight add 1 or 2 tbsp of milk.  If it is sticky add 2 or 3 tbsp of flour.
  • Use 1 tsp of olive oil over the dough to form a nice ball and keep it covered in a warm place to rise for 1 hr.
  • Meantime you can prepare for the filling.  Mix together the chopped basil, sun dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and grated cheese in a bowl.
  • After 1 hr,  punch down the air in the dough and divide the bread dough into 2 equal parts.
  • Roll the first ball into a rectangle on a floured surface.  
  • Brush the melted butter on the rolled dough and sprinkle half of the filling evenly on it.  Press the fillings on to the dough using a spatula or your fingers.
  • Gently lift the rolled sheet and transfer to a baking sheet.
  • Roll the second ball into a rectangle and repeat the process of brushing with butter and sprinkling with rest of the cheese filling.
  • Now carefully transfer the first rolled sheet on to the top of already rolled (second) sheet.
  • Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the stacked sheets lengthwise into 4 pieces.
  • Now gently place the second strip over the first one and the fourth strip over the third strip, so that you get 2 stacked strips of dough.
  • Cut each strips into 6 pieces to get a total of 12 pieces.
  • Grease a loaf pan or bundt pan and dust with flour.  Place the cut pieces of dough in such a way that the next piece overlaps the end of the previous piece.  Please refer the collage to see how the strips are arranged.
  • Brush the top of the bread with 1 tbsp of melted butter and sprinkle kosher salt over it.  Cover the pan and let it rise for 30 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree F and bake the bread for 30 minutes or till the top is light golden yellow and the cheese starts to brown little bit.
  • Serve the warm bread with hot bowl of soup.  
Notes
  • Please refer the collage to check the steps of stacking, cutting and arranging the bread.
  • Feel free to increase the amount of cheese if you love cheesy breads.  
  • Make sure to brush each rolled sheets with butter, otherwise the bread will not pull apart in layers.
  • There are endless possibilities to fill the bread.  Be creative and experiment with different options.
  • Any leftover bread can be wrapped in aluminum foil and refrigerated.  I never got a chance to do so, because it finishes the same day in our house.



Monday, February 18, 2013

Avocado Chutney



 
Avocados are regarded as 'Mother Nature's Skin Moisturizers'.  It is a fruit that is edible as well as topically applicable.  Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, Potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.  The Phytonutrients and the healthy fats offer remarkable benefits to the skin.






Last time when my brother and family visited us during summer, I bought some Avocados and made Chutney with it. I made some face pack with the rest of the Avocados and me and my S-I-L had to hide from the kids as they would scream at our face for the green mask. It was hilarious when my hubby looked at my face as if I had the left over Chutney on my face.  While we were waiting for the face pack to absorb, somebody rang the door bell and we had to rush to wash it off :).  I believe this might have happened to you too!!!



  The Chutney can be used with lentil dumpling (Idli) or lentil crepes (Dosa).  Avocado tends to change the color when exposed to air due to oxidation just like apples, so it is wise to add an acidic ingredient to stop the oxidation.  I usually use lemon juice or green mango in the chutney to prevent browning.  The nice blend of ginger, shallots and curry leaves will take away the avocado flavor from it and it tastes more like a mango chutney.


Serves - 2

Ingredients

1 - Avocado pitted
1/4 cup - grated coconut
1/4 cup - green mango chopped
2 - shallots/pearl onions
2 - green chili
2 cm - ginger root
1/2 cup - water
1 sprig - curry leaves

Salt to taste

Directions:
  • Blend all the ingredients for the chutney in a blender till the consistency of a smooth paste/ Chutney is attained.
  • Serve with Idli (Lentil dumplings) or Dosa (lentil crepe).
Notes:
  • Increase the amount of green chili if you can handle more heat.
  • If you are not using green mango, use the juice of half a lemon.
  • Adjust the green chili per your spice level.
  • You can garnish with tadka too.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Linzer Cookies for Valentines Day


I was scanning through my recipe collection for a perfect treat for valentines day and was not able to bypass the Linzer cookies.  I never attempted to make these cookies due to the perception that Linzer cookies are one among the labor intensive recipe.  Since I wanted to make something good enough to post on my blog for valentines day, I thought I will give this sweet treats a try.  It was not really hard as I thought; the most time I spent was to cut the cookies.  But each bite gives you the crunch of almonds and the hint of lemon, which makes it worthy for all the effort you put into it.  My kids loved them without the jam in it.  The flavor really tickled the taste buds the next day.  I made these cookies on the weekend to give myself enough time to do the cutting and baking while enjoying a movie.





Try this recipe to bake some sweet treats for your loved ones. 

Recipe adapted from - Joy of baking

Yields - 12 sandwiches

Ingredients
1/2 cup - softened butter
1/2 cup - granulated sugar
1 - egg yolk
1/2 cup - almond flour/finely ground almond
1 cup - all purpose flour
1/4 tsp - salt
1/4 tsp - ground cinnamon
1 tsp - vanilla extract
Zest of half a lemon
Confectioners sugar to dust
Blueberry Jam or Jelly to apply on the cookies

Directions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree F.
  • Mix the softened butter and granulated sugar in an electric mixture.
  • Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract and almond flour and mix for another minute.
  • Gently fold in the dry ingredients like flour, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest and knead for couple of minutes till everything is mixed together and form a big ball.
  • Divide the dough into 2 equal halves.
  • Use a parchment paper or plastic wrap and place one dough ball on it.  Place another plastic wrap on the ball and roll the ball into a thin rectangular sheet as shown in the above picture.
  • I gently pushed the cookie cutter (any shape) on to the plastic wrap and made design on the dough, so that I could cut it easily once the dough gets firm.  Please see the image in the collage.
  • Place this sheet of dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Repeat the above steps of rolling the rest of the dough into thin sheet and refrigerating.
  • After 30 minutes, take the first set of rolled cookie sheet and cut the hearts (or any shape) using a cookie cutter.
  • Place the cut cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes and let it cool.
  • With rest of the rolled cookie dough cut out enough hearts to pair with the first batch.  Using a small heart cookie cutter, cut out small heart from the center of the big heart.  I used the wide end of the cake decorating tip to cut circles out from the heart shaped cookies.
  • Bake them for 10 minutes by placing them on parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Once the cookies are cooled, place the cookies with hole on a board and dust the confectioners (powdered) sugar using a sieve.
  • Apply a thin layer of jelly or jam on the cookies without the hole.  Place the cookies with sugar dust on the cookie with jelly/jam to form a sandwich.  Spoon little bit of jam/jelly into the center of cookie through the hole.  Repeat the process for rest of the cookies.
  • Store the cookies in air tight container.
Notes
  • I ground roasted almonds with skin to make almond flour.  You can buy almond flour if you don't want to make your own.  Use 3 tsp of granulated sugar while pulsing the almond which will help to eliminate the tendency of almonds to form a paste.
  • If the dough is sticky, put them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before you start cutting the hearts.
  • Feel free to cut the shapes as you desire. 
  • I used the remaining dough from the cut out hearts to make more hearts after refrigerating them.  Repeat the process of rolling, refrigerating and cutting out hearts till no dough is left.
  • I used a homemade blueberry jam to apply on the cookies.  Feel free to use the jelly of your choice.

Wishing you a Happy Valentines Day!!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mushroom and Potato Stir Fry (Mezhukkupuratti)



Mushroom is a vegetable that is not welcomed by my kids in their food.  I am one among them who won't give up on trying the foods they really get picky on.  I believe persisted trial of food you hate can change your palate.  The fact is that as kids grow they become more finicky and you cannot relinquish your responsibility of providing healthy food.

Mushrooms are known as the meat of the vegetable world.  These cute little umbrella shaped vegetable is the only source of Vitamin D in vegetables.  Studies shows that there are 14,000 kinds of mushrooms identified and among them only 3000 are edible.  The rest are considered to be poisonous.  They have the following nutrients:

  • Niacin
  • Riboflavin
  • Folate
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron 
  • Panthothenic Acid
  • Zinc
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B6
  • Selenium
  • Thiamin
The health benefits of mushrooms are:
  • Mushrooms are used as a weight loss food.
  • The higher content of potassium helps the body process sodium and lower blood pressure.
  • The antioxidant Selenium in mushrooms works with vitamin E and protects the cell damage from free radicals.
  • They are good source of copper which promotes cardiovascular health.

Well, these are some good reasons why you don't want to miss them in your diet.  I always sneak them with other vegetables and make something that kids cannot easily pick out like in omelets.  I got the recipe of 'Mushroom and Potato Stir fry' from my S-I-L couple of years ago.  I was eager to try it with kids with the intension of easily disguising the mushroom with potatoes.  My elder son Nathan has a strong palate, no matter how much I try, he will find out, he will pick out the mushrooms and just eats the potatoes :( ....but the other two will eat the stir fry without any fuss.  I had this recipe sitting in my draft folder since I started the blog, but never got to take pictures as they finish quickly.  Last weekend I got the chance to make it again and was able to make use of the new props I got from my India trip.





Ingredients
2 - medium potatoes cut lengthwise ( 2 cm long and 1/2 cm thick)
2 - cloves garlic crushed
2 green chili split
2 - shallots thinly sliced
1/4 tsp - chili powder
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
2 tsp - oil
Salt to taste

15 - button mushrooms cleaned and sliced lengthwise
2 - cloves garlic crushed
2 - green chili split
2 - shallots thinly sliced
1/4 tsp - chili powder
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
2 tsp - oil
1 - sprig curry leaves
Salt to taste

Directions
  • In a wide non-stick or cast iron pan add the mustard and 2 tsp of oil.  Wait till the mustard splutters.
  • Add the crushed garlic and shallots and cook till light brown.  Add the potatoes, green chili, chili powder, turmeric powder and salt.  Cook it covered on medium heat for 8 -10 minutes by gently flipping the potatoes in after 5 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and cook it open till they are lightly browned or crunchy outside.  Transfer the potatoes from the pan.
  • Use the same pan and splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard in 2 tsp of oil.
  • Add the crushed garlic and shallots and cook till light brown.  Add the mushroom, green chili, chili powder, turmeric powder and salt.  Cook them for 5 - 6 minutes without closing the lid.  Wait till all the moisture is gone and add the curry leaves and mix.
  • Gently add the cooked potatoes to the mushroom and cook for couple of minutes and turn off the stove.
  • Serve the stir fry with Indian flat bread (Roti) or plain rice.
Notes
  • Don't cook the potatoes and mushroom together.  They need to be cooked separately to retain their shape and texture.
  • Use a wide pan so that the potatoes are not over crowded while cooking; this helps to get the potatoes a crispy texture.
  • Avoid adding water when stir frying potatoes.  
  • Adjust the green chili and chili powder according to your spice level.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Breakfast Casserole Flowers



Breakfast being the most important meal of the day, it is vital to prepare and present to the kids in an appealing manner.  I always go for quick breakfast on Monday through Friday.  On the weekends you get the leisure to spend more time to make a sumptuous breakfast.  My kids have no complains with eggs, which makes my job easier :).  



The other day when I was talking to my co-worker about kids' breakfast and how they get bored by the monotonous quick breakfast like oatmeal, she gave me this quick casserole recipe from 100 days of real food.  I used the basic recipe and added all the vegetable I had in my refrigerator.  To make it more impressive to kids, I baked them in flower cake pan.



This is an easy make ahead breakfast which you can freeze the left overs to use later.  Feel free to add the veggies of your choice.  You can bake them in mini muffin tins too.  It is an easy to go breakfast that you can make ahead especially if you are one among those who got to hit the road in the early morning and have no time to spend in the kitchen.


I made some mini muffins too with rest of the egg mixture.


Look at the flower above, kids won't say NO to this.

Yields - 15 flower bites

Ingredients

1 - piece whole wheat bread cut into small pieces
8 - eggs
3 - chicken/turkey sausage links cooked and crumbled ( I used Al Fresco breakfast sausage)
1/2 cup  low fat milk
1/2 cup - low fat cheddar cheese
1/8 cup - chopped broccoli
1/8 cup - chopped onions
1/8 cup - red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Grease the flower pan or muffin tin or line the muffin tin with liners.
  • Whisk the eggs, milk, bread, salt and pepper together and divide into the flower pan or muffin tin equally.
  • Spoon the broccoli, pepper, onions and crumbled sausage equally into the egg mixture in the pan.
  • Top with cheese and bake for 11-12 minutes or till the center is cooked well.
Notes
  • Adjust the cooking time depending on the muffin tin size.
  • Omit the sausage if you prefer a meatless version.

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