Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kerala Style Tuna/Fish Cutlets



Today I am sharing the first deep fried recipe on my blog.  Yep you read it right...I meant deep fried.  There are certain foods that taste best when cooked in certain ways and my family prefers the fried version of cutlets opposed to the baked ones.   I am not sure how the baked version of vadas (lentil donuts) would taste;  well there might be someone out there who might have tried it too.  Baking is another option in the case of cutlets, if you could get the cutlets to  bake uniformly, which cuts down the fat content.  But hey....I don't make these all the time, it's when I hit a bad craving, I go for these cutlets.  My family absolutely love this spicy snack.  On a rainy day a hot cup of tea and a plate of these yummy cutlets make my evening perfect.



I remember my Mom used to make beef cutlets by cooking the beef and mince them manually using a shredder when we were small.  But she used to make fish cutlets too which was way much easier than the beef cutlets.  Even though I was not a fan of fish when I was small, I loved fish cutlets.  I had made chicken cutlets too during my initial cooking experiments, but my favorite is fish cutlets.  Since I make only fish cutlets these days, I kind of imposed the taste on my family and they only like fish cutlets now :).  I believe the taste palates of your family can be changed by the cook's choice. 



Nathan who is a big fish lover in our house reminded me of making these cutlets last week and I made these on the weekend for the evening snack.  As usual I setup my photo shoot spot and camera ready for taking pictures.  But there was something missing, so I went to grab some green chilies from the refrigerator, but when I came back, some cutlets were gone.  I had to guard the cutlets for the photo shoot and direct them to the kitchen to get the cutlets from the other batch I made.  Finally I managed to take few pictures!!!!  These spicy cutlets are highly volatile :)..

Yields - 25 cutlets

Ingredients
5 cans  (5 oz cans) -  canned tuna in water
2 - medium sized potatoes cooked and mashed
1.5 inch - ginger finely chopped
10 cloves - garlic finely chopped
1 - medium size onion finely chopped
5 - 6 - green chili's finely chopped
1/2 tsp - ground pepper
1 tsp - garam masala
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1 tbsp - oil
5 - 6 - curry leaves finely chopped
2 - large egg whites
1 cup or more - salt and pepper seasoned bread crumbs
salt to taste
Oil to fry


Directions
  • Drain the water from the canned tuna and squeeze out excess water from the meat using hands and keep it aside.
  • In a non stick pan splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 tbsp of oil.  Add chopped ginger and garlic and cook till lightly golden brown, followed by chopped onions, salt and green chili.  Let it cook till the onion is translucent.
  • Add turmeric powder, garam masala, ground pepper and cook till the raw smell goes away. 
  • Add the drained fish meat and chopped curry leaves and cook for 3 - 5 minutes till the mix is well blended with fish.  Now add the mashed potatoes to the fish mixture and check the salt and seasonings.  Give a final mix and turn off the burner.  Let the mix cool completely.
  • Meantime mix well the egg whites using a fork till frothy.
  • Divide the fish mix into 25 golf ball sized balls and flatten them into a round or oval shape.
  • Dip the cutlets into the egg white mix and roll in the bread crumbs.
  • Fry the cutlets in a heavy bottom pan till they are browned enough to your desired color and crispiness.   Drain the excess oil from the fried cutlets using paper towel.
  • Enjoy the cutlets using fresh homemade salsa or ketchup.
 Notes
  • Make sure you squeeze out all the water from the fish, if you are using canned fish.
  • The cutlets can be stored in air tight container in refrigerator for couple of days.
  • If a big batch of cutlets are made, you can freeze them in ziplock bags.
  • Thaw the frozen cutlets and use a toaster to warm them up.  This helps to retain the crispiness of the cutlets.  If you don't have a toaster, use a pan to warm them by flipping the sides to attain crispiness.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Whole Wheat Chia Waffles



Weekends for me are the heavy cooking time which involves 'Keralite or Indian food'.  My hubby and kids look forward for Keralite breakfast on weekends.  For some reason, if I am late to wake up in the morning, hubby will make his special 'Upma' (Indian breakfast made with Semolina)  :).  I always encourage him so that he would do it again :)..even though I have to clean up the mess he makes in the kitchen after his cooking.  But you have to appreciate the help you get rather than complain right?   So I suppress my urge to say "Don't put the Upma spoon directly on the counter top, place it on a plate" and embolden his cooking. 



If we had a late movie night on Fridays I go for the quick and easy breakfast like Pan Cakes, Waffles etc.  Homemade Waffles and Pancakes are lately taking the place of weekend Keralite breakfast.  Does that mean that I am getting too lazy?  I have my days you know....  Anyways we make these waffles using my hubby's waffle maker, which he used during his college days.  I don't think he ever used it even though he claims that he used to cook :).  It still works, so I never bothered to buy a new one.  Besides the older appliances works better and are reliable. 



It is always good to know what goes into your food, so homemade waffles are healthy choice when compared to the store bought pancake or waffle mix.  I sprinkle flax seeds or chia seeds depending on their availability in my pantry.  Feel free to add the adds-on per your taste.  Think about a plate with warm waffles topped with some fresh strawberries, jelly, maple syrup and whipped cream sitting on your breakfast table waiting for you to take the first bite.  Isn't that inviting?  If I triggered the cook in you, go ahead and make this for your loved ones, your family will definitely enjoy it!!!

Yields - 12 medium size waffles

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup - low fat milk
2 - eggs
2 tbsp - low fat sour cream/ Greek yogurt
2 tsp - sugar
1/4 cup - oil
1 tsp - vanilla extract
2 cups - whole wheat flour
2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - salt
1 tsp - chia seeds

Directions
  • You can use a blender or an electric mixture for making the batter.  Mix the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sour cream or yogurt and oil till they are frothy.  Now add the dry ingredients into the wet mix and blend on high speed for 10 -20 seconds.  Let the mix stand for 5 minutes.
  • Pour the batter into the waffle maker and cook the waffles according to the waffle maker directions.
  • Serve the warm waffles with the toppings of your choice.  I serve them with pure maple syrup, fresh berries, homemade jelly and a dollop of whipped cream. 
Notes
  • You can sprinkle the chia seeds on the waffle once the batter is poured into the waffle maker if you prefer to see the chia seeds on the waffles.  I usually mix it with the batter to make my job easier.
  • You can substitute 1 cup of wheat flour with 1 cup of all purpose flour if you don't like the wheat flour waffles.  But trust me on this, you won't even notice the difference, they are soft inside and crispy on the outside and tastes better than the regular flour waffles.
  • The topping always add the jazz to the waffles, so make sure to use your favorite toppings.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kerala Style Fish Pickle




Pickles were never my favorite until I started my hostel life in college. The monotonous food at hostel was nowhere near to the homemade food. Eventually I relied on pickles. We friends used to bring bottles of different kinds of pickles to hostel and they never lasted over a month. Those were some days when you long for a holidays to go back to home and have something tasty. Weekend visits to restaurant was the only relief. And also we have to be back in time in the hostel within the permitted time. But hostel life was fun and we even enjoyed some cooking experiments in our small room.




Hostel life had made fish pickle one of my favorite pickles. Even now when I go and visit my parents, I check the refrigerator for my Mom's pickles. No matter how many curries she makes, I always ask for pickle :). Mom's touch makes it taste even better.  Here is the recipe I follow to make fish pickle.

Ingredients 

To Marinate
1 1/2 lb - firm fish without bones cleaned and cubed into 1 cm thickness
1 tsp - ground pepper
1/2 tsp  - chili powder
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - garlic powder
1 tsp - oil
salt to taste
oil to shallow fry

Ingredients for masala
1.5 inch - ginger chopped
10 - garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 - green chili splits
2 tsp - red chili powder
1/4 tsp - fenugreek powder
1/4 tsp - asafoetida powder
1 1/2 tsp - vinegar
1/2 cup - water
1/2 tsp - mustard seeds
1/4 cup - oil
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves

Directions
  • Mix all the ingredients for marination and apply on the clean cubed fish and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  • Take a heavy bottom pan and shallow fry the fish in minimum amount of oil.  It will take 5 - 7 minutes to cook the fish.  Drain the excess oil on a paper towel and keep the fried fish aside.
  • In another pan, splutter 1/2 tsp of mustard oil in 1/4 cup of oil.  Add ginger, garlic and green chili.  Cook till it is light golden brown.  Add chili powder, fenugreek, asafoetida and cook till the raw smell goes away.   Now add the curry leaves and cook for 1 minute.   Add 1/2 cup of water and vinegar and boil.  Add the fried fish pieces and cook for couple more minutes and turn of the burner.
  • Transfer to sterlized dry glass jars and let it cool uncovered. 
  • Once the jars are completely cooled, store them in the refrigerator.  Enjoy them with steamed rice, biriyani or fried rice.
Notes
  • Make sure that you don't over fry the fish pieces.  This will make the fish pieces hard.
  • The pickle should be good for a month or so.  If you feel there is not enough oil, warm extra oil and pour it over the pickle.
  • You can use kashmiri chili powder to avoid too much of heat.
  • Always use dry spoon to take the pickle. 
  • You can use the same recipe to make shrimp pickle.
  • If you want to store the pickle for more than couple of weeks, avoid using water.  Substitute oil for water.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting


The past one week was a rough week for us.  I was totally out of the tech world, no gadgets, no fb, no blogs and no entertainment.  Me and my hubby were down with flu.  Yes you heard it right, you won't expect it around this time of the year, but we were terribly sick.  It was the worst cold I had and still recouping from the cough.  I had to rely on antibiotics for my cough.  Kids were so understanding and I cannot thank them enough for taking care of the household chores by themselves and even taking care of us in their own ways.  It was a great time for us to realize and recognize the blessings granted to us.  My SIL was kind enough to drop food for us which was a great relief.  Thanks to all the friends who called and inquired about our health.  It meant a lot to us.  We felt blessed and lucky to be around the people who cares.

Ok, now I want to come to today's post.  This is something I made before I got sick, but never got a chance to post it.  As mentioned in one of the earlier posts, I am not a big fan of buttercream frosting.  It is good to pipe and decorate, but too sweet for me.  But here is a frosting that is so fluffy and light and they are perfect for piping and decorating cakes.  You can add any flavors to it and they are glossy and shiny and not too sweet either.  Once you try this frosting, you would never ever go for another frosting.  I made these frosting a year ago to decorate a mother's day cake and since then this is my favorite frosting.  I made some cupcakes for Sunday school and frosted them with Chocolate Swiss Meringue ButterCream frosting.



Patience is the key factor in making this frosting.   You need a standing or hand electric mixture to make this frosting. The butter used should be cold. 


Please follow the step by step instructions to make the frosting.

Yields - to decorate 24 cupcakes

Ingredients
3 - large egg white
1/2 cup - sugar
1 cup or  2 sticks - cold butter cut into cubes
1 cup - good quality semi sweet dark chocolate pieces

Directions
  • Microwave the dark chocolate pieces in a microwave safe bowl for 40 -50 seconds or till they are completely melted.  Keep them aside to cool.
  • Take a sauce pan half filled with water and place a steel bowl over it.  Place 3 egg whites and 1/2 cup of sugar into the bowl and turn on the stove to medium flame.  Using a long spoon, stir the egg sugar mixture continuously till you don't feel any sugar crystals when rubbing the mixture between your fingers.  At this point you can notice that the egg sugar mixture is clear with light pale color.  Turn off the flame. 
  • Transfer the egg white mixture into the standing mix bowl.  Make sure that the steam from the bottom of the bowl don't get into the mixture while transferring.   Use the whipping paddle and whip till the egg whites are silky white and forms soft peaks.
  • Now add the cold butter pieces one at a time and whip till the butter is mixed well with the egg white.  This needs good 10 minutes of whipping.  My stand mixture turned off automatically after 10 minutes.  At this point you will notice that the frosting looks lumpy and soupy, you will notice little wetness in the frosting too.  Don't panic, this happens.  What you have to do is just cover the bowl with a plate and stick it into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes take the frosting out and whip for another 5 - 6 minutes.  You will start seeing the difference  the frosting will come along as a smooth fluffy frosting.  Now add the cold melted chocolate and whip for 2 -3 minutes on high till chocolate is mixed well and frosting forms sharp peaks.
  • Place the frosting into piping bags with Wilton 1 M tip and make swirls to decorate the cake.  I tried the swirls on a plate first and once they looked OK, I scooped the trial swirls on the plate and put them back into the piping bag and started decorating the cake. 
Notes:
  • If you don't want your frosting to be too chocolaty, start with 1/4 cup of melted chocolate first and add according to the desired color and taste.
  • Any left over frosting can be stored in air tight container in the refrigerator for a week.
  • The decorated cake doesn't need to be refrigerated.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tomato Cilantro Chutney


The word Cilantro itself makes some people run away from food. Lately I found a site that is for people who hate Cilantro. I personally know people who hate Cilantro flavor in their food. To me, any North Indian food without a Cilantro garnish is incomplete. I always keep a bunch in my refrigerator and use them in Mexican and Indian dishes.


Cilantro is a wonderful flavor offering herb. Cilantro is widely used all over the world to promote flavor to their cusines. Ancient Greece used cilantro essential oil as a component of perfume. During medieval times, the Romans used cilantro to mask the smell of rotten meat. This herb is a powerful natural toxic metal cleansing agent. The health benefits of Cilantro are:


  • Studies suggests that they might prevent cardiavascular damage.
  • Strong antioxidant activity.
  • Anti diabetic activity.
  • Anti anxiety effects.
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Might lower blood sugar
  • Known for anit-bacterial activity
  • Also an excellent anti-fungal agent.

Couple of years ago I was introduced to this Cilantro Tomato Chutney with some idli (lentil dumplings ) when I visited by brother and family in NY.  My SIL's mom makes this chutney.  They were awesome when accompanied with Idli.  Since then I make this chutney with Sambar (spicy lentil vegetable soup) whenever I make dosa (lentil crepe) or Idli.  This spicy chutney is low in fat because it doesn't use coconut as in regular Kerala Chutneys and they can be prepared very easily.  Our son Nathan will complain if he doesn't see this chutney on the side with dosa or idli, so I always make sure to prepare this chutney along with Sambar.  My personal preference is to combine it with Sambar and enjoy with crispy dosas.   You can also enjoy some baked veggie bread rolls with Tomato Cilantro Chutney.  Along with the recipe I would also like to share the tip to store Cilantro fresh in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 weeks. 

Serves - 4

4 - ripe medium size tomatoes chopped
1 - medium white onion
4 - green chili splitted
2 tsp - chopped ginger
1/4 cup - tightly packed chopped fresh Cilantro
1 tsp - oil
salt to taste

Tadka/Garnish
2 - thinly sliced shallots
1 - dry red chili broken into 2 halves
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp - oil
1 sprig - curry leaves

Directions
  • In a non stick pan, heat 1 tsp of oil and add ginger, onions, green chili and chopped tomato with salt and cook on medium heat till the onions become translucent.  Now add the chopped Cilantro and cook it for 30 to 40 secs till the leaves are wilted.  Turn off the stove and let it cool.
  • Once the chutney mix is cool, blend them by adding 1 cup of water till the desired consistency of chutney is attained.
  • Transfer the chutney to the same pan and cook till it boils for 1 minutes.
  • In a separate small non-stick pan, heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil and splutter mustard seeds.  Add sliced shallots and dry chili and cook till light golden brown.  Turn off the stove and add the curry leaves.  Be careful while adding the curry leaves, they splutter vigorously.
  • Garnish the chutney with the tadka and enjoy with idli or dosa.
Tips to store Cilantro in the refrigerator

  • Wash the Cilantro thoroughly to remove any mud or sand while they are fresh bought from the store.  Discard all the yellow leaves.  The key is to not let them go into the refrigerator before they are ready to be stored.
  • Spread them on a kitchen towel or paper towel on the kitchen counter.  Let them air dry.  I usually flip them again after an hour.  Once all the moisture is gone, put them in big ziplog bag.  Make sure that there is enough room for the leaves to breath.  If too much leaves are squished into a small bag, they will perish fast. 
  • Store them in refrigerator and they will remain fresh for minimum 2 -3 weeks.  Mine usually finishes within 2 weeks because I use them a lot in my dishes.
Notes:
  • This chutney can be stored in air tight container in refrigerator for 2 -3 days.
  • Adjust the amount of green chili if you don't prefer the chutney to be spicy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Orange Blueberry Muffins With Greek Yogurt


Sunshine for the last few days are cheering up things around us.  Couple of days ago I noticed my tulip plants were sprouting and today I saw them being eaten by deer :(.  Signs of summer are all around us even though the temperatures are still dangling between 30's and 40's.  At least the sunshine keeps the mind refreshing and energetic.


Versatility in breakfast is one thing kids always asks for.  Providing a healthy breakfast keeps me on my toes to try different options that kids would enjoy.  I came across the citrus topped blueberry muffin in one of the BHG magazines and wanted to try from the day I saw them.  The recipe calls for butter, but I wanted to substitute it with something healthy and tried the non-fat Greek yogurt and I was really happy with the results.  I also added some orange juice concentrate to get the orange flavor and substituted half of all purpose flour with wheat flour.

Blueberries are rich in pro-anthocyanin natural pigment anti-oxidants.  They are low in calories.  These berries have other flavonoid anti-oxidants such as carotene-β, lutein and zea-xanthin.  The phyto-chemical compounds in the blueberry help rid off harmful oxygen-derived free radicals from the body.  They help to lower blood sugar levels and control blood-glucose levels.  They are good source of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron and zinc.

Couple of years ago, I planted a small blueberry plant in my backyard and they produced 10-15 blueberries.  I am planning to plant more this year.  I am so excited for summer gardening :).


Nathan, who doesn't eat blueberries by itself loved the muffin when mixed with orange.  My daughter loves orange flavor.  So it was a great success.  I love the orange and blueberry combination and it was a moist muffin as you can see from the below picture.



Yields - 12 muffins

Dry Ingredients
1 cup - Wheat flour
1 cup - All purpose flower
2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 cup - sugar

Wet Ingredients
1 - egg
1 cup - non fat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup - frozen orange concentrate thawed
1/2 cup - fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup - oil
1 tsp - orange zest

1 cup - fresh blueberries

Topping
1 tbsp - finely shredded orange peel
1 tsp - sugar

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degree F.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together.  It is better to swift it once so that all the ingredients are mixed well.
  • Mix all the wet ingredients together till blended together and is lightly fluffy using a electric mixture.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently mix using a rubber spatula.
  • Fold in the blueberries gently and spoon the muffin mixture into muffin tins lined with muffin cups.
  • Bake for 25 - 30 minutes till the top is light golden brown color.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and top them with orange peel sugar mixture.
Notes
  • If using frozen blueberries, add them into the batter just before baking, otherwise they will ooze out lot of moisture and the muffins will look bad.
  • You can use a orange glaze as topping by mixing 1/4 cup powdered sugar with 2 - 3 tbsp of fresh orange juice and spoon them on the muffins.
  • Store the muffins in air tight container.  You can also freeze them by keeping in zip lock bags.

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