Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baked Chipotle Flavored Quinoa Veggie Balls

Blogging - Why do someone blog?  Is it really necessary?  Is that a means to show off? These sort of inquisitiveness and disparage sometimes pricks the zeal of a blogger.  This little space is like my fourth kid I would say :) who never complains even when I ignore it.   Cooking and taking pictures of what I make is my passion and I love what I am doing.  I strongly believe that it might have benefited someone in some way.  For me it’s a way to keep my recipes organized and inspire myself to look at the collection and cook them again.  I love to share the successful recipes with you all, so that I am not just cooking it for myself but if anyone can benefit from this, I am more than happy to do so.   

Baking always stir up the fervor; let it be savory dish or sweet decadent desserts.  Quinoa is a staple in my pantry for last couple of years and I love to experiment with these tiny pearls which are packed with lots of goodness.

Health benefits of Quinoa
  • Quinoa contains antioxidant phytonutrients and flavonoids which are anti-inflammatory.
  • It has a higher fat content that provides heart healthy mono saturated fat when compared to wheat.
  • It is a best source of vegetarian protein.
  •  Quinoa is a very good source of manganese. It is also a good source of phosphorus, copper, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate, and zinc.
  • Quinoa is a gluten-free grain.

This recipe was developed when I was pondering to make an appetizer with some leftover cooked quinoa and some veggies those were sitting in my refrigerator for long.  I make these Quinoa veggie balls and serves as a snack.  You can serve this as an appetizer for parties.  I usually make a big batch and freeze them and warm them up in microwave or bake it in the oven to fix a quick after school snack.

Yields - roughly 25 - 30 veggie balls

1 cup - cooked quinoa
1/4 cup - rolled oats
1 cup - boiled and mashed potatoes
2 cups - shredded/ grated vegetables like cabbage, carrots, spinach, chard, broccoli (refer notes)
1 - Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce chopped
1 - 2 tsp - sauce from chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce (refer notes)
1 tsp - chili garlic sauce
1/2 cup - onions chopped
2 - garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tsp - oil
salt to taste

1/2 cup - shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/4 cup- chopped  fresh Cilantro
1 1/2 cup - salt & pepper seasoned bread crumbs
1 tbsp - oil

  • In a non stick pan roast the chopped garlic in 1 tsp of oil.  Add chopped onions with salt and cook till golden brown.  Now add the chopped veggies, mix well.  Add the rolled oats, quinoa, chipotle pepper and the sauces.  Cover and cook for 1 minute.  Turn of the burner.
  • When the mix cools down little bit, add it to the potato mix and mix well.  If needed add more chipotle sauce per your spice level.  Adjust the salt.  Add the chopped cilantro leaves and shredded cheese and mix well.
  • Make small balls (1 1/2 tbsp of mix for each ball) and roll them in seasoned bread crumbs.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wide  frying pan.  Place the balls gently into the pan, rotate the sides of the balls to get light brown color evenly on all sides.  Its takes 5 -7 minutes.
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 ° F.
  • Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the balls on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes or till golden brown.
  • Set the oven to broil and bake for 5 more minutes to get the light brown color.
  • Enjoy the Quinoa Veggie balls while they are warm.  You can serve them with ketchup or with your favorite dip.
  • You can use any vegetable of your choice to make this snack.  Make sure you grate or  finely chop the vegetable for even cooking.
  • Wash the quinoa thoroughly in cold water before cooking according to the packet direction to avoid the bitterness.
  • You can increase the amount of cheese for more cheesy snack.
  • Chipotle pepper is hot and the sauce gives the kick to the snack.  Feel free to adjust the amount per your taste.  It gives the smoky flavor which is the highlight of the snack.  You can find it any grocery store on international/Mexican aisle.  If you cannot find Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce at your local grocery sauce, use chili flakes and Sriracha sauce to spice it up.
  • You can either microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm up the snack or if frozen, pre-heat oven to 350 F and bake for 15- 20 minutes on a parchment paper or aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Black Magic Cake With Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting - 100th post and 2nd year Blog Anniversary Celebration

Yes, it's been 2 years since I started my blog where my passion for cooking meets the culinary journey of experiencing and experimenting different cuisines in my kitchen.  I thank all my wonderful readers for the awe inspiring comments and regular visits.  Hope you will hang in there with me at times when I am inconsistent in posting recipes.  I am really surprised at myself that I have it for 2 years.

Baking something sweet was more apt to celebrate the 3 special occasions.  I am also happy to announce that this is my 100th post, a milestone to celebrate along with the blog anniversary.  Last week was Nathan's birthday too.  His only demand was to bake a chocoholic cake.  Luckily it all worked out well and I got a recipe to post for my blog anniversary and 100th post.  I had a family and friends gathering on his birthday, so I made sure to bake the cake couple of days ago.  On his birthday, I frosted the cake with chocolate butter cream frosting, which I thought was better than the regular butter cream frosting.  I am not a huge fan of butter cream frosting, but I thought to make it for him as he wanted a sweet chocolate frosting.  As usual, I didn't like my cake styling when done is hurry.  But I had to click few snaps here and there.  The best part of this cake was the dark, soft, moist chocolate cake which is not over sweet and the frosting really balanced the sweetness with the dark chocolate cake.  I barely got to save a piece to click a picture of the inside of the cake the next day in the natural light.  Even the bits and crumbs left over on the cake stand were wiped out and gobbled by my kids.  It was the best dark chocolate cake I had ever tasted.  My hubby asked me to bake this cake again; 'a tiny one for us' he said :).

Recipe adapted from here


2 cups - sugar
1-3/4 cups - all-purpose flour
3/4 cup - Hershey's unsweetened Cocoa powder
2 tbsp. - Hershey's Special dark cocoa
2 tsp. - baking soda
1 tsp. - baking powder
1 tsp. - salt
2 - eggs
1 cup - buttermilk or sour milk*
1 cup - strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup - vegetable oil
2 tsp. - vanilla extract

Butter cream Frosting
1 1/2 cup - unsalted butter at room temperature (3 sticks)
3 cups - powdered sugar
3/4 cup - cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. - salt
2 tsp. - pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp. - heavy cream/milk


  • Pre heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 8 inch round baking pans.
  • Sift together flour, cocoa powders, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
    Add eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl of the stand mixer and beat well.  Now add buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; mix well.  Add the sifted flour mix and beat on medium speed of mixer till well combined.  Batter will be thin.  Pour batter evenly into prepared pan.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen cake from side of pan and remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. 
Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
  • Sift together powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt and keep aside.
  • Cream the butter on stand mixture.  Add the sifted sugar and cocoa powder mixture 1/4 cup at a time and mix.  The mixture will initially crumble, but it will all come together with the consistency of the frosting.  Now add vanilla and cream and whip on high for 30 seconds and turn off the mixture.  If the frosting is not used right away, keep it refrigerated.  If refrigerated, keep it outside to thaw little bit so that frosting /piping can be done with ease.
Assembling the cake
  • Cut any bulged  (the cake will not bulge that much) top of the cake.  Apply some frosting on the cake stand and place the first cake.  Apply a dollop of frosting on the top of the cake and spread.  Place the second cake and crumb coat the cake with the frosting.  Then frost the cake as you desire.  I used the tips Wilton 104 to make ruffles and 2D to make swirls and edible white pearls to decorate the cake.
  • To sour milk: Use 1 tbsp. white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.
  • If you are not serving the cake the same day as you are frosting, then I recommend to refrigerate the cake. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spicy Stuffed Eggplants / Bharwa Baingan

It was a hot Sunny day.  The school bell rang for the break.  The first graders lined up behind the line leader.  They went outside under the shades of the trees to have their brunch/snack.  She opened her lunch box, saw the jelly sandwich, had couple of bites and put it back into the lunch box, drank her water from the pink pony water bottle that she fancied.  She was interested in chit chatting with her friends than eating her sandwich and sipping the water as a relieving thirst quencher on the scorching hot day.   One hour of recess didn't seem to be good enough for her, the giggling, whispering, kids running around were abruptly ceased when the bell rang again to get back to the class.  She made sure her navy blue pinafore was clean, grabbed the lunch bag and her fancy pony water bottle and went back to the class.  After another hour or so she heard the bell for dismissal.  She ran to her pre schooler brother's class room and he was all ready to join his sister way back home.  She grabbed his hand and told him not to run way back to home which was just the next block.  Her little brother was kind of running to get back to home with his water bottle string running across his chest and back pack on his back.  She tried her best to keep up with the pace by juggling her chart paper of drawings she made in the art class, pony water bottle and the back pack, but he made it to the home before her and pretended as the winner.  She was eager to complain to her Mom about him for not paying attention while crossing the road.   They saw their Mom waiting at the door with a smile.  As soon as she entered the home, she got the aroma of the home made Rotis and her favorite stuffed vegetable dish. She forgot about what she wanted to tell her Mom.  Mom got the bags and water bottles and asked them to change and wash hands to sit down for lunch.  As a picky eater, she never preferred non-vegetarian, so when the Mom served her favorite ghee slathered Rotis with the spicy gravy stuffed vegetable dish, she enjoyed each and every bit of it since she was hungry and was waiting for the warm homemade food that her Mom made with Love. .....Aww that was one typical day of my childhood elementary school days.

Since my childhood days in North India I never had the stuffed vegetable dish once we moved to Kerala.  My Mom's cooking style changed drastically.  She prepared more south Indian food.  Whenever I visit her now, I remind her of the stuffed Okra, stuffed bitter guard and stuffed eggplant she used to make.  But for some reason she never made it for me again.  It was last year, I got to taste the stuffed eggplant after so many years at one of the friends gathering, I was totally thrilled to experience my childhood taste and I even bragged my hubby about it and wanted to recreate it.  So I kept hunting for the recipe desperately and finally with couple of tries I made them to the fit our palate.  Couple of months ago my Mom and Dad visited us and I made this dish and surprised them.   This recipe may not be the authentic version, but this is how I make it and my hubby loves it to the core. 

Please read the recipe to the end and the notes before you start.  Please follow the steps as mentioned in the recipe to get a consistently cooked eggplant that tastes delicious and have the look.

10 - small Indian eggplants(refer notes)
2 tbsp. - oil

1/2 tsp. - cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. - fennel seeds
1/4 tsp.  - turmeric powder
1/3 cup - caramelized onion paste
1 1/2 tsp. - ginger garlic paste
1 tsp. - kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp. - coriander powder
1/2 tsp. - garam masala
1 tbsp. - dry mango powder/Aamchur (refer notes)
1 1/2 tbsp. - oil
salt to taste
chopped Cilantro to garnish

  • Wash and pat dry the eggplant and leave it open in the air to remove any moisture.
  • Meanwhile you can prepare the stuffing.  Add 1 1/2 tsp. oil in a cast iron pan/non stick pan.  Splutter the fennel seeds and cumin seeds on low heat.  Now add the ginger garlic paste and cook till raw  smell is gone.  Add the caramelized onion paste and mix well.  Add the rest of the ingredients from the stuffing list and cook till the raw smell is gone.  Adjust the salt.  Turn off the flame and let it cool.
  • While the stuffing is cooling, make slits in the eggplant by cutting the eggplant from the bottom into 4 quarters without cutting the stem and top part.  You should be able to gently separate the 4 pieces with the stem intact. 
  • Using a butter knife apply the stuffing in the inside of the cut eggplant.  Make sure that it should not be over stuffed, just enough to coat the insides.  There should be some left over of the masala/stuffing.  Reserve it in the pan.
  • Take another cast iron pan (refer notes) and heat 2 tbsp. of oil.   Place the eggplant in the pan without over crowding.  They should be touching the bottom of the pan.  Cover and cook on very low heat for 10 minutes.  Now open the lid and turn the eggplant on other side, and cook it covered for 10 minutes.  You have to repeat this turning sides and cooking on low heat for 10 minutes on each side.  So it takes approximately 40 minutes to get the eggplant cooked completely.  After 30 minutes of cooking, add the reserved stuffing into the pan and cook along with the eggplants.  The dish is ready when the eggplant is very soft and delicate, but still retains the shape.  Turn off the burner.
  • Garnish the stuffed eggplants with chopped Cilantro and serve with steamed rice or Indian flat breads.
  • Pick the fresh and the smallest eggplant from the stores.  You can find them in Asian stores or Indian stores.
  • Dry Mango powder also know an AamChur is available at Indian stores.  This ingredient is not recommended to skip.  It gives the tangy flavor and dark color to the dish.
  • A wide Cast iron pan is highly recommended to cook the eggplant which helps in even cooking.  My trials with non stick pan resulted in half cooked  eggplants and burned stuffing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tempered Yogurt With Tomatoes, DrumSticks and DrumStick Leaves / Muringa Ella Morru Curry

Onam is around the corner!!!  Yes, it’s a festival of Kerala (South India) that each Malayali takes pride in and celebrate it where ever they are.  Last year we had a family Onam Sadhya (feast) hosted at our house.  We dressed up in Kerala attire and had our vegetarian feast on banana leaves (of course the fake one). If we had planned ahead, we could have got hold of some fresh banana leaves.  Oh well, it really doesn't matter, all that matters is the fun you have when you feast together as a family or with friends. 

When I spotted the fresh drumstick and drum stick leaves at the Indian store the other day, I don't know what my emotion was.  It’s hard to explain, I am pretty sure that my face was blushing due to excitement when I confirmed that it was drum stick leaves with the store manager.  The next thing in my mind was to cook up something with it.  The specialty of Malayalis is that they can make anything and everything with a vegetable.  Just name a vegetable and you can come up with tons of recipes with that.  If you are a Malayali, you know exactly what I meant.  So with this in my mind I called up my Mom to get the recipe with 'Muringa Ella' and reminded her of the small ziplock bag of leaves I got from the store.  She recommended this curry and I still had the taste of this curry lingering in my mouth from last India visit.  So all I had to do was to recreate the traditional Keralite taste which was apt for the Onam post. 

1 - onion sliced
2 cloves - garlic sliced
1 tsp - chopped ginger root
3 - green chili splits
3 - medium tomatoes cubed
1/2 tsp. - turmeric powder
10 - pieces of drumsticks
2 tbsp. - oil
salt to taste

To grind
1/2 cup - grated coconut
1/4 tsp. - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. - cumin seeds/jeera
2 - small shallots sliced
1/3 cup - water

 For Tempering/Tadka
1/2 tsp. - black mustard seeds
2 - dry red chili
1/4 tsp. - roasted cumin/jerra powder
1/4 tsp. - roasted fenugreek/methi seeds powder
1 tbsp. - thinly sliced shallots
1 cup - tightly packed clean drumstick leaves
1 sprig - curry leaves
1 tbsp. - oil
2 cups - thick yogurt

  • In a non stick or heavy bottom sauce pan heat 2 tbsp. of oil and add the onions, green chilies, garlic, ginger and turmeric powder.  Saut√© for 1 minute.  Add the drumsticks, mix well, cover and cook for 5 - 6 minutes on low to medium heat.  Open the lid and add cubed tomatoes and mix well.  Lower the flame and cook for another 5 minutes or till the drumstick is well cooked, but still have the shape.  Turn off the burner.
  • While the drumstick is cooking you can grind all the ingredients from the list into a smooth paste.
  • Add the ground mix to the cooked drumstick mix.  Add additional 1/4 cup water if needed and let the mix come to boil and cook for another minute and turn off the flame.
  • Use the same blender jar and add the 2 cups of yogurt and blend it; pour into the cooked drumstick mix and stir well.  Make sure that the flame is turned off at this step.
  • Prepare the tadka by heating 1 tbsp. oil in a non stick pan and splutter the mustard seeds.  Then add sliced shallots.  Once the shallots starts to turn golden brown, add cumin/jeera powder, fenugreek powder, dry chili.  Lower the flame and add the curry leaves and drumstick leaves.  Mix well. Turn off the flame.
  • Pour the tadka over the spiced yogurt curry.
  • Enjoy it with steamed Kerala brown rice.
  • You can make this curry even without drumstick and drumstick leaves, it will be the tomato yogurt curry.
  • Make sure that you turn off the stove before you add the blended yogurt, otherwise it will curdle.

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