Sunday, March 27, 2022

Mediterranean White Bean Soup

Simple and easy one pot meal option for weekdays with a bit of meal prep makes life easier during weekdays.  Weekend meal prep includes cutting vegetables, cooking some protein ahead.  Then weeknight dinners becomes a breeze to prepare. 



During great lent days, we are strictly vegetarians.  This makes me scratch my head to pack in the alternative protein options for the teens in the house.  I rely on different kinds of beans and lentils for that.  Garbanzo, Black beans and White Cannellini beans are our favorites.  




This simple Mediterranean White Beans Soup is a one pot vegetarian meal option that does not compromise on taste, yet delicious and healthy.  Even in Spring weather, we are getting snow here.  So a soup is always a comfort food in my household even in Spring weather.  Hope you will give this recipe a try.




Ingredients

2 cups - cooked white beans (refer notes)

1 - medium yellow onion diced

1.5 tbsp - chopped garlic

1/2 cup - diced carrots

1/2 cup - diced celery

2 cups - oven roasted tomatoes with juice (refer notes)

1 tbsp - tomato paste

4 cups - vegetable broth

1/2 tsp - dry chili flakes

2 cups - baby spinach

2 tbsp - olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

To garnish

Fresh/Dry Rosemary 

Grated Parmesan Cheese (skip this for vegan soup)


Directions:

  • In a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Add chopped garlic and sauté till golden yellow color.  Add the diced onions and sauté for few seconds.
  • Add carrots, celery and salt and cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Next add the oven roasted tomatoes, tomato paste and the cooked white beans.  Add the vegetable broth, ground pepper and salt.  Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or till the vegetables are soft.
  • Adjust the seasonings and add the rosemary.
  • Add the 2 cups of spinach to the soup and mix well.  Immediately turn off the flame and let the soup sit for 1 minute.
  • Serve it hot and garnish with grated Parmesan Cheese.  It goes well with garlic bread or baguette.
Notes:

  • White Beans - You can use any white beans like Cannellini beans or Northern white beans.  Soak 1 1/4 cups of dry beans in water for at least 8 hours.   Rinse well and discard the water.  Add 2 cups of water to the beans and pressure cook till 5 whistles.
  • Oven roasted tomatoes 
        1 lb - ripe tomatoes (medium sized cocktail tomatoes are the best)
        1 clove - garlic miced
        1 tbsp - olive oil
        salt to taste
  • Preheat oven to 430°F.  
  • Add cut tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and salt to a baking dish and bake for 20 - 25 minutes till the tomatoes are mushy and juicy.


Saturday, February 26, 2022

Baked Spicy Chicken Meatballs



I like to do meal preparation for weekdays, as it gets really busy during work days and you don't feel like cooking elaborate meals.  My weekends are mostly jam packed with chores like cooking, cleaning, shooting and some self care.  Most of the time, I plan ahead and do meal preparation during weekends, so that I can serve a healthy meal for kids when they come from school and makes life easier for weekday dinner plans.





A quick and easy baked version of meatballs is one such time saving protein option that does not compromise on taste.  This baked spicy chicken meatballs can be prepared within 40 minutes and it goes well into many meals.  Kids love to enjoy them as a snack.



How to serve

It can be served as quick after school snack for kids with a side of cut vegetables and ranch dressing.  I usually serve them in salads, creamy pasta and our family favorite is when served in pita pockets with cut cucumber, onions, cherry tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of ranch dressing.  

Do give this recipe a try and make sure to adjust the spices per your taste and heat tolerance.


 Ingredients

1 lb - ground chicken breast

1 - egg beaten

1/2 cup - onion thinly chopped

1 tbsp - garlic chopped

1 tbsp - jalapeno pepper chopped

1/4 cup - chopped cilantro

1/2 tsp - red chili flakes

1/2 tsp - ground pepper

1/4 tsp - turmeric powder

1/2 cup - bread crumbs

1/2 cup - shredded cheddar cheese and Mexican cheese blend

1 tbsp - olive oil

salt to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 ° F.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix all the ingredients listed above in a mixing bowl.  Divide the mix into 24 equal sized balls.  Place 12 meatballs on each baking sheets with enough separation.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or till the chicken is well cooked.
Notes:
  • Use cold ground chicken in this recipe so that its easy to roll the meatballs.
  • I mix everything using a spoon first.  Test a small potion by cooking a tsp of the mix in a pan with a tsp of oil to check the salt and spices.  That way you can adjust the spices and salt for the test of the mix.
  • Its easy to divide the mix into equal size with a cookie scooper.  Alternatively use gloves to portion the meatballs equally.  The mix will be slightly sticky, but don't add more bread crumbs as it will make the meatballs dry.
  • You can reheat the meatballs in air fryer at 350 ° F for 5-8 minutes. Alternative you can bake in the oven at 350 ° F for 10 minutes.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Chocolate Mocha Cake



I
have some coffee lovers in my house, so it was easy to decide the cake flavor for my daughter's birthday.   Even though I was very late in baking a cake for her, she didn't want to buy a cake instead.  She wanted me to bake a cake for her.  



Kids love cold coffee and they make sure that we swing by Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts to get their weekly dose of coffee after every Sunday church service.



I have been wanting to make a coffee flavored cake for a long time, and a birthday was the perfect occasion.  The swiss meringue mocha frosting pairs well with this chocolate cake.



I tweaked the recipe of my black magic cake base to fit for the 3 layered 6 inch cakes.  The Nutella cupcake frosting is always a hit everywhere I take it.  So deciding on the frosting was easy.  The swiss meringue frosting was flavored with coffee and chocolate for the coffee lovers.


Yields - 3 layered 6 inch cake

Ingredients

Chocolate cake

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

Swiss Meringue Mocha Frosting
5 - large egg whites (refer notes)
2/3 cup - granulated sugar
2 cups /4 sticks - cold butter
2/3 cup -  powdered sugar
2 tsp. - vanilla extract
1 tbsp. - instant coffee powder mixed in 2 tsp of hot water

1 tbsp - heavy cream

2 tbsp - melted semisweet chocolate

Coffee Simple syrup

1/4 cup - water

1/4 cup - sugar

1 tsp - instant coffee powder

Ganache Topping with drips

1/2 cup - semisweet chocolate

1/4 cup - heavy cream

Ferrero Rocher for final decoration

Directions:

Cake

  • Pre heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 6 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 pans.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool them for 10 minutes. Loosen cake from side of pan and remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. 
Swiss Meringue Mocha Frosting
  • Double boiler Method - Fill half of a sauce pan with water and let it simmer over a stove top.  Place 5 egg whites and 2/3 cup of sugar into the heat proof bowl that can fit on top of the sauce pan without touching the water.  Using a wire whisk, 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.   If you have a candy thermometer, it should read  160°F which makes the egg whites safe to use. 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.  At this point you will notice that the frosting looks lumpy and soupy, you will also notice little wetness in the frosting.  Don't panic, this is part of the process.  Just keep beating.  It will start to come along.  Add the powdered sugar in batches to the butter mixture at this point and keep beating.
  • The frosting will come along as a smooth fluffy frosting within 2 -3 minutes.  Now add 2 tbsp. of melted chocolate, coffee mix, and vanilla extract.  Whip it on high for 1 - 2 minutes or till the frosting forms sharp peaks.  Add 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream and whip for 10 -20 seconds till the frosting is fluffy.
Coffee Simple syrup
  • Boil 1/4 cup of water + 1/4 cup sugar in microwave till sugar is completely dissolved..  Add 1 tsp of instant coffee powder into the boiling water and mix well.  Let the simple syrup cool completely.
Ganache 
  • Melt the semisweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl with 1/4 of heavy cream in the microwave with a burst of 30 seconds till everything is melted and gets the right pouring consistency.  Let the ganache cool completely.
Assembling the cake
  • Add a small amount of frosting on to the cake board and place a cake on it.  Apply coffee simple syrup on the cake.  Add a dollop of frosting on the cake and even the top using a frosting spatula.  A turn table is helpful in frosting all the sides evenly.
  • Repeat the above steps for other 2 layers.    Crumb coat the cake with the frosting.  A piping bag with round nozzle helps in evenly layering the frosting.
  • Once the cake is crumb coated, frost the outer side of the cake using the frosting spatula.  Try to even out as possible.  Plop the cake in the fridge for 10-20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, take the cake out of the fridge.  Use a spoon to make dripping of ganache on the top edges of the cake.   Wait till the drippings get set. Pour the rest of the ganache on top of the cake.  Use a small offset spatula to even the top.  Decorate the top with the Ferrero Rocher candy.

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