Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Roasted Fennel, Sweet Potatoes And Arugula Salad


Amidst the confusion of the times, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives. ~Thomas S. Monson


How meaningful is that quote?  I have the habit of listening to the FM radio on the way to my work and sometimes way back from work.  My kids also get a share of the world news. For the past 2 weeks they have been following the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines and it was heartbreaking when the announcement came that the plane was lost in the Ocean.  Yesterday when I told them the news, they were so upset.  I still like to hope for the best since there was no solid evidence attained to prove that it was lost in the ocean.  Hoping for the best and abiding in your faith keep you hanging in there to hurdle the day to day trials and tribulations.  It always concerns when you don't hear from someone you know for sometime or you don't see them for long time.  I started noticing this homeless lady from last year summer on my commute to work.  She carries 2 large bags on her hands and walks everyday on the sidewalk of a busy street.  She then disappeared during winter, but when I saw her yesterday on the street walking, there was a slight relief inside that she is still there.  We may not need to know someone personally to have a concern or care for someone.  For all the 239 people who boarded the Malaysian flight and the families who are desperately waiting for their return, all we could do is hope their prayers be answered and their ordeal come to a closure soon.



I have been stumbled on Fennel recipes for a long time on blogsphere and was deliberately putting it away into the back burner due to my prejudice.  Even though we use the seeds in Indian cooking, I was never daring enough to use the bulb.  The other day I got a chance to check out the farmer's market that was opened recently near my home.  The Fennel bulb was so gorgeous and fresh sitting on the produce aisle which was hard to bypass.  So I picked up them and came home and tried this wonderful salad.  This was one of the best warm salads I had tasted.  The aroma of roasted fennel was so divine and it didn't have the pungent taste after cooking.  I made them yesterday again and my kids ate them without adding it to the salad greens.  You could even serve it as a snack.  I was totally impressed by the way it turned out and I highly recommend you to try this recipe.  I even sent a snapshot of the salad to my friend soon after taking the first bite.  So you could imagine how excited I am to share the recipe!!!



Fennel bulb not only tastes wonderful, they are very healthy too. 
Here are the health benefits of Fennel: 
  •  The phytonutrient Anethole, found in fennel has shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.
  •  They are the excellent source of Vitamin C, an antioxidant that can neutralize the free radicals and boost up the immune system.
  •  The high content of fiber, folate and potassium in Fennel bulb promotes cardiovascular and colon health.


Tips to select and store Fennel Bulb
 A fresh Fennel bulb will be clean, firm and solid without spots or bruises.  These white bulbs usually are sold with stalks and they should have fragrant aroma.  They are available from fall through early spring.  You can store them in refrigerator with plastic wrap for retaining their crispiness for 1 week.  It is better to use them when they are crisp and fresh.




Serves 2
Ingredients

1 - bulb fennel
1 - sweet potato
1 clove - garlic minced
1 tbsp - brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp - extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp - ground pepper
1/4 tsp - red chili flakes
sea salt to taste

Salad
4 cups - Mixed greens/Baby Spinach/Arugula

Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/4 cup - Red wine (I used homemade beets wine)
2 tbsp - extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp - apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp - crushed black pepper
1/8 tsp - red chili flakes
1/8 tsp - minced garlic (optional)
1 tbsp - honey


Directions:

  • Add all the ingredients for the Vinaigrette in a bottle and secure the lid and shake well.  Keep it refrigerated till ready to use.
  • Pre heat oven to 400 ° F.
  • Wash the fennel and cut the stalk and little bit of the base part.  Slice them length wise into thick pieces as shown in the above picture.
  • Scrub the sweet potatoes, wash and pat dry.  Cut them into bite size pieces.
  • Sprinkle all the ingredients for seasoning over the fennel and sweet potatoes and drizzle with olive oil.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, by flipping the veggies after 10 minutes. Let it cool and get to luke warm temperature.
  • Divide the greens of your choice for the salad in the 2 salad bowl.  Top them with half the quantity of the roasted fennel &  sweet potatoes in each bowl.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and enjoy the warm salad.  Its absolutely delicious!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Curried Yellow Peas With Potatoes And Kale


Blogging had changed my perception of food!!!  I remember myself as a picky eater and the traits are inherited by my kids too.  But the blogging world had extended the horizon for me to a vast spectrum of food that I would have never tried years ago.  It impacted the eating habits of my whole family.  I still remember to this day, the first expression of my kids when I served the Roasted Brussels Sprouts to my kids.  The very look on my daughter's face after taking the first bite was hilarious.  But now they absolutely love them. 


Other vegetables and grains I may not have tried before are stocked in my refrigerator & pantry now.   Being a person who never liked to even try something new has transformed into someone who would at least give it a shot is the big change I noticed in myself since blogging.  Appreciating different cuisines;  experimenting them in my kitchen; enjoying them with my family are the perks of blogging.


I might have crossed the legumes and grains aisle so many times in Indian store without paying attention to these yellow peas, as peas was never my favorite.  My elder son also tries to avoid it if possible, which he inherited from me :).  It was a month ago I started using these yellow peas and realized what I was missing. To my surprise, the whole family devoured each and every bit of the peas curry with Roti when I made it for the first time.  That gave me the courage to pair it with healthy green kale and it was an instant winner.  The yellowish peas stewed in masala with cubes of potatoes and dressed with green kale gives this curry an appeasing look that even a picky eater cannot resist.  When fresh peas are not available, it is always good to have a pack of dried peas in your pantry to enjoy it.


Are you interested in knowing more about dried peas?

Health Benefits
  • Dried peas are a good source of cholesterol lowering fiber and helps to maintain healthy levels of blood sugar. 
  • They are good source of heart healthy nutrient like Potassium that can reduce high blood pressure.
  • Dried peas provide energy to burn with its high fiber content.
  • Dried peas is an excellent source of mineral called molybdenum that can detoxify sulfites.  Sulfites are preservatives used in foods that can cause increased heart beat, headache and even disorientation to people who are sensitive to it.  A cup of cooked peas can help you if you are sensitive to sulfites.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup - dry yellow peas
4 cups - water
1 cup - onion chopped
1 tsp - oil
1 tbsp - garlic ginger paste
1 tsp - Kashmiri Chili powder (refer notes)
1/2 tsp - garam masala
1 tsp - chhole masala (refer notes)
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1 - medium size tomato chopped
1 cup - potatoes peel and cubed into bite size
1/2 cup - water
1/2 tsp - dry fenugreek leaves
1 tbsp - oil
salt to taste

Tadka/seasoned topping
2 cups - chopped fresh kale leaves (refer notes)
1/4 cup - chopped Cilantro
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
2 tbsp - thinly sliced shallots
1 1/2 tsp - oil

Directions:
  • Soak 1 1/2 cup dry yellow peas in water for 8 hrs or over night. Drain the water and wash twice.  Place the soaked peas in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Cook till 4 whistle blows.  Turn off the burner and let it cool.
  • While the peas is getting cooked, you could make the tadka.  Take a cast iron pan or non stick pan and splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 1/2 tsp oil.  Add the sliced shallots and cook till light golden brown.  Now add the chopped Kale and mix well.  Season with salt and cook for 1 minute.  Turn off the burner and add the chopped Cilantro leaves.  Transfer the Tadka to another bowl and set aside.  Clean the pan with a paper towel.
  • In the same cast iron pan, add 1 tsp of oil and 1 cup of chopped onions. Add a pinch of salt and saute till the onions are light brown color.  Remove the onions and let it cool.  Add 1 to 2 tbsp of water and make a paste out of this caramelized onion in a food processor or blender.
  • Add 1 tbsp of oil to the same pan and add the caramelized onion paste and ginger garlic paste.  Cook till the raw smell of garlic is gone.  Add turmeric powder, chili powder, garam masala, Chhole masala.  Cook for a minute.  Now add the chopped tomato and cook till it is mushy. Add the cubed potatoes and stir for another minute. Adjust the salt.  Turn off the burner.
  • Transfer the prepared masala from the above step to the pressure cooker with cooked peas.  Add 1/2 cup of water to the pressure cooker.  Close the lid and cook till 2 whistle comes.  Turn off the burner and let the pressure subside completely.  Open the pressure cooker and add the dry fenugreek leaves by rubbing them between your hands.
  • Add the prepared Kale tadka to the curried peas, give a stir.  Enjoy it with vegetable pulao or Indian flat breads like Roti, Naan or Chapathi.
Tips to make the curry easily in less amount of time
  • Make the caramelized onion paste ahead and freeze - I always make a batch of caramelized onion paste with 3 or 4 big onions and freeze them.  The best way to store them is by first freezing them in a glass container like a rectangular pyrex container.  Once the onions are set, take the container out and let it sit in room temperature for 5 minutes.  Now using a serrated knife, cut the frozen paste into cubes.  Transfer the cubes in a zip lock bag or any freezer safe container.  So when you want to make any curry that needs a thick gravy, just take 2 or 3 cubes and  throw it along with ginger garlic paste.  This makes my life easier on weekdays to cook something Indian.
  • When the peas is getting cook, make the Tadka with kale and the masala for the curry.  This will cut down the cooking time and helps to prepare the curry within 30 minutes.
Notes:
  • Kashmiri chilli gives the bright color without the heat.  You can substitute it with Paprika powder if you don't have Kashmiri Chilli powder.  Make sure you cook the Paprika along with other masala powder to remove the raw smell.
  • You can use spinach instead of Kale.
  • You can get the Chhole masala powder from Indian stores.
  • The dry fenugreek powder gives a unique north Indian flavor to this dish.
  • I like the gravy of this curry to be thick instead of runny.  So I used less amount of water.  Feel free to increase the volume of the water if you don't prefer a thick gravy.
  • Don't skip the step of adding caramelized onion paste to this curry.  Trust me, it adds a nice flavor to this dish.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy Eggless No Bake Mango Cheese Cake








One week passed by without any blog post which left an inhibiting sense of guilt in me.  On the other hand, a prudent decision made to post one recipe per week seemed cumbersome.  'Well, I have several reasons to justify the passive mode' my brain tried to mitigate the situation.  But I was reminded to circumvent the frenzied schedule accompanied by stupendous laziness and post something by the weekly fb page manager notification that warned my inactivity.  That was a boost to revitalize the blogger in me.



Since I started baking, I make birthday cakes for everyone in my family except for myself :).  Once in a while I like to grumble that I wish somebody baked a cake for me :)...


My hubby, lil Noah and my Mom share their birthdays in the month of March.  So March is special for me and their birthday falls mostly around the great lent time.  Following the tradition of great lent, we usually give up non-vegetarian food during the 50 days period.  So it is a challenge each year to bake eggless cakes for their birthday.  But I have used gelatin, which is an animal product in this recipe.  You could very well use agar agar instead of gelatin if you want.  This year I planned ahead and wanted to bake the Mango Cheesecake.  Mango being my hubby's favorite fruit, I knew that he will be delighted to see the surprise cake.


  I made this small 6'' cake while he was at work.  Nicole took the charge in crushing the graham crackers and together we whipped up this easy breezy no bake eggless mango cheese cake.  I served this delectable dessert on his birthday after a vegetarian lunch.  Since it was a small cake, we gobbled them in minutes without any traces.  The only complaint I heard was that 'Mommy why you didn't make a bigger cake?'



Yields - 6 inch round cake that serves 5-6

Ingredients:
1 pkg /8 oz - Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup - mango puree without pulp
1/2 cup - sugar
3/4 cup - low fat milk
1 tbsp - unflavored gelatin or use agar agar (7 - 8 gms)
1/4 cup - water
1 1/2 cup - crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup - melted butter
1/4 cup - mango puree

Directions:
  • Take a 6'' round spring form pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper or wax paper.
  • Mix 1/3 cup melted butter with 1 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers till everything is wet.
  • Press the graham cracker butter mix on to the bottom of the spring form pan with your fingers to form a firm base for the cheese cake.
  • Microwave 1/4 cup water in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute or till it boils.
  • Add the gelatin to the hot water and mix till it dissolves completely. 
  • Add the gelatin mix to 3/4 cup of mango puree and keep it aside.
  • Blend cream cheese, sugar and milk in a blender till everything is mixed well. Now add the mango gelatin mix to the blended mix.  Blend for 20 seconds.
  • Pour the mix over the graham cracker base.  Cover with a cling wrap and refrigerate for minimum of 2-4 hrs or over night.
  • When the cheese cake is set and ready to be served, gently release the cake out of the spring form pan.  Peel off the wax paper/parchment paper from the sides.  Using a wide spatula, lift up the cake from the base (including the parchment paper) of the spring form pan and transfer to the serving platter/cake stand.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of mango puree over the cake and top with fruit pieces for the final touch.
Notes:
  • You don't need a spring form pan to make this, you could use a pyrex glass container or a cake pan to make this cheese cake.
  • If you don't have a food processor to crush the graham cracker, just take the crackers in a bowl and crush it with the base of a heavy coffee cup that has a flat base.
  • Don't forget to use wax paper or parchment paper to line the base and the sides of the spring form pan.  This makes it easy to release the cake from the pan.
  • Left overs can be covered and refrigerated. 
  • This cheese cake has the texture of a pudding rather than a firm cheese cake. 

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