Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Easy Minestrone

Although I love cooking, I don't like to spend half the day in the kitchen making a meal (contrary to popular belief). This is a receipe that comes from Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen. Its so easy even I couldn't mess it up! I did use fresh veggies in place of the frozen ones as my only change. I love a bowl of this with a baguette.

Easy Minestrone
Yield: serves 4-6


Ingredients:
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup pasta, dry (a small pasta is best)
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen vegetables (zucchini, carrots, broccoli and beans) OR one zucchini, carrot, broccoli and some green beans cut up
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves or use 2 T of dried basil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring broth, beans, and tomatoes to boil in large saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth mixture and pasta and simmer until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in vegetables and basil and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spinach Pesto

I love pesto sauce and always looked for vary the way its made. I found a spinach pesto reciepe online and it intrigued me. Since I didn't have pine nuts on hand, I made it with walnuts and it turned out just as yummy! This is a versatile sauce that can be used for sandwiches to pasta. In

Spinach Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups washed, baby spinach (stems removed), well packed, 16 to 24 ounces
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved (or more depending on your taste)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt (to taste)
Directions:
  1. Place a few spinach leaves, garlic, walnuts and a little oil in blender or food processor container. Cover and puree until leaves begin to look crushed. Continue adding spinach leaves a few at a time with small amounts of oil to blender, using a rubber spatula to help to combine pureed mixture. Add Parmesan cheese and salt (if using). Cover and process until spinach pesto mixture is smooth.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pancakes!

I've been making pancakes since I was a kid...not sure how we got to eating them so much. I started out as a loyal fan of Bisquick. But as I grew older, I wanted to try my hand at making them from scracth (hearing the rave about how they taste so much better that way!). I found this recipe on the side of my unbleached all-purpose flour and have never looked back. I modified it by cutting the salt out (didn't find it necessary, but if you like, add a small amount (<1/2 teaspoon) in. I substitute the sugar for agave if my bananas are not sweet enough. Read the notes for making all sorts of yummy pancakes. This is yet another kid friendly recipe that we have on a weekly basis. Light n' Fluffy Pancakes
(adapted from TJ's Unbleached All Purpose Flour/King Arthur's Unbleached All Purpose Flour)
Yield: 6 pancakes

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups Unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or less or a substitute)
  • 1 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon (if using), flaxseed (if using). Make a well in the center and pour the milk and melted butter and mix until smooth.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle/pan over medium heat. Pour or scoop the batter using ~1/4 cup (or estimate) for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot!
Notes:
  • Banana walnut pancakes: add one ripe sliced banana and 1/4 cup (or more to taste) chopped walnuts at the end of step 1.
  • Applesauce/blueberry pancakes: add one small carton of applesauce and crushed blueberries to the end of step 1.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tortellini and Vegetable Soup

I tried yet another wonderful soup recipe from the delish.com site. I varied this (as always) based on what I found and had on hand. The recipe below will serve four people and goes good with some fresh bread.

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
  • 2 cup(s) frozen bell pepper and onion mix, thawed and diced
  • 4 clove(s) garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) crushed red pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 can(s) (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can(s) (15-ounce) vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) hot water
  • 1 teaspoon(s) dried basil
  • 1 (9-ounce) fresh pesto tortellini (choose any flavor you like)
  • 2 cup(s) (about 2 medium) diced zucchini
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add pepper-onion mix, garlic, and crushed red pepper (if using) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, water, and basil; bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
  2. Add tortellini and cook for 3 minutes less than the package directions. Add zucchini and spinach; return to a boil. Cook until the zucchini is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Season with pepper.

Veg Hot Pot (Noodle Soup)

I love noodle soup. Whats not to love? Warm broth, noodles with tofu and veggies. Yum! This is one soup that is hearty and good for you. My son loves this soup and eats it up whenever we make it. The original recipe can be found on the delish.com site. Below is my modified version to fit our palate. The veggies can be varied to your own taste. This is a fast and easy recipe that makes about 5 servings (depending on your appetite).
If you're non-veg, you can throw in chicken potstickers, use chicken broth and omit the tofu for an equally hearty dish.
Ingredients:
  • 5 1/4 cup(s) vegetable broth
  • 4 slice(s) (1/4-inch thick) fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 clove(s) garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoon(s) olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) crushed red pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup each of your favorite veggies (brocolli, onions, spinach, frozen edamame)
  • 3 1/2 ounce(s) Japanese Udon noodles
  • 1 package(s) (14-ounce) firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 teaspoon(s) rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon(s) reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon(s) toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup(s) chopped scallions, for garnish (optional)
Directions:
  1. Combine broth, ginger and garlic in a Dutch oven; bring to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Discard the ginger.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and crushed garlic and red pepper (if using). Cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add other veggies; cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
    Add the veggie mixture to the broth. Add noodles, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until noodles are cooked. Add tofu; simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar to taste, soy sauce and sesame oil.
  3. Serve garnished with scallions.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes


As much as I'm not a fan of desserts/sweets, I've gotten into a baking kick lately. A co-worker had brought these cheesecake cupcakes into work and they were a big hit. I attempted to recreate them for a cupcake exchange that I hosted. Below is the recipe I mismashed. These remind me of Eli's cheesecake from Chicago which is light and tasty, not dense like NY cheesecake. As a variation, you can put berries ontop when baking rather than the glaze.

Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes
Makes 16 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Crust

  • ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 graham crackers)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar

Filling

  • 16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line muffin/cupcake pan with liners.
  3. Crust: In a small bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Press crumb mixture into bottoms of prepared baking cups. Bake for 6-7 minutes.
  4. Filling: Beat the cream cheese, sour cream or yogurt, lemon zest and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. beating well after each addition.
  5. Scoop filling over crust in baking cups and bake in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until the centers of cupcakes are firm. *Note: These bake even better if the cupcake pan is in a water bath.  To create a water bath, put the cupcake pan on a baking sheet.  Add warm water to the baking sheet and bake per directions.  The cupcakes won't "fall" after baking if done in a water bath.
  6. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  7. Before serving, place a dollop of reduced pomegranate jelly over the top or fresh berries.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Puda/Uttapum/Chile/Savory Pancakes

Here is a quick and easy recipe for my take on a traditional Indian savory pancake (called many different things depending on what part of India you are from). In Gujarat, these are made with besan (chickpea flour), in Northern India with sooji (semolina) and in South India with a rice/lentil flour. My take is to use Cream of Wheat or Malt O'Meal. Either works and makes a nutritious pancake that is filling and has many veggies. This was done in part to increase the amount of veggies my son ate. The batter below can be made thick or thin, depending on what thickness you want the pancakes to be. Thick batter, makes thicker pancakes and will make less of them. You can vary the flour used from besan, rice flour, bajra or do a combination. Either way, it comes out delicious.

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup Cream of Wheat/Malt O'Meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 small handful baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (or less) finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 small tomatoe finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • chili powder (to taste, optional)
  • water as needed

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl throughly.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat. Add a dollop of oil or spray with nonstick spray. Add a small amount of the batter and cook. When the top begins to dry out, flip and cook on the other side. Serve warm.

Key Lime Cupcakes

I fell in love with the idea of key lime cupcakes after having some great ones in Chicago at Sugar Bliss. Alas, there is no Sugar Bliss near me and cupcake aunty doesn't have a storefront...so P and I decided to bake our own! I can take very little credit for the creativity as baking is not my forte. All the credit for the yummy cupcakes goes to P. We varied a recipe that was inspired by Paula Deen (the queen of butter!) and found the recipe to be fairly moist. We added a graham cracker crust (YUM!) and changed the frosting to a whipped cream frosting (so-so..changed the recipe below to have a cream cheese frosting). The recipe makes a dozen cupcakes.



Ingredients:

Crust
  • ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 graham crackers)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar

Filling
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping teaspoon grated key lime zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons key lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
Frosting
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin/cupcake pan with liners.
  2. Crust: In a small bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Press crumb mixture into bottoms of prepared baking cups. Bake for 6-7 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, key lime zest and juice and mix well.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 5 parts total, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold the coconut into the cupcake batter.
  6. Add the batter to the cucpake linters. A spring loaded 1/4 cup ice cream scoop works great for this and ensures the cupcakes are all the same size.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops begin to brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer cupcakes to a baking rack to cool completely.
  8. While cupcakes are baking, beat all the ingredients for the frosting and frost cupcakes once they are completely cool.

Lentil Dal

Growing up, I was not fond of dal. It was something I had to eat....now I can't get enough of it! Here is a simple recipe that I learned from my hubby. Its so yummy that even our son loves it...although he doesn't like to eat it the leftovers the next day. This recipe serves about 4 people.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablesppon or less olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • handful of chopped cilantro
  • salt to taste
Directions:
  1. Thoroughly wash lentils.  Soak for 15 minutes (if you have time, this speeds up cooking).
  2. Put lentils plus 4 cups of water in pressure cooker.  Cook for 3 whistles (if soaked, 4-5 if not soaked).  Alternatively, you can make this one stove by adding water and lentils to a pan.  Bring to a boil and then cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Place oil in small pan over medium-high heat. When oil heats up, add cumin. Once cumin begins to sizzle and brown, add ground coriander, turmeric, paprika and chili powder (if using). Heat for 30 seconds. Add to cooked lentils.  Then add in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve with roti, naan, rice or eat it by itself.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cutting onions...

While I am still buried on this new project, here is another fun food fact from Cook's Illustrated.

Published July 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.

Can the way you cut an onion affect its flavor?

We took eight onions and cut each two different ways: pole to pole (with the grain) and parallel to the equator (against the grain). We then smelled and tasted pieces from each onion cut each way. The onions sliced pole to pole were clearly less pungent in taste and odor than those cut along the equator. Here’s why: The intense flavor and acrid odor of onions are caused by substances called thiosulfinates, created when enzymes known as alliinases contained in the onion’s cells interact with proteins that are also present in the vegetable. These reactions take place only when the onion’s cells are ruptured and release the strong-smelling enzymes. Cutting with the grain ruptures fewer cells than cutting against the grain, leading to the release of fewer alliinases and the creation of fewer thiosulfinates.

Bottom Line:
CUT WITH GRAIN = LESS PUNGENT

CUT AGAINST THE GRAIN = MORE PUNGENT

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bhinda/Bhindi...aka Okra

I love okra! It is sad that so many people (maybe its just the cousins in the family) do not like this yummy veggie. There are so many ways this veggie can be made, stuffed, fried or in soup! Here is one of my favorite ways.





Bhinda/Bhindi/Spicy Okra

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb okra
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3-4 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 jalepeno, finely minced (or more for added spice)
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchur
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (optional)
  • salt to taste
Directions
  1. Clean okra. The method I learned from my mother, take a damp towel/paper towel and individually clean the okra.
  2. Cut okra. For this recipe, I like to cut them into 1/4 rounds. That is start cutting at the top or bottom and work your way to the other end. Leave out the tops of the okra.
  3. Heat oil in nonstick pan (one with a large flat surface). Add cumin and jalepeno. When cumin brown, add the onion and garlic. Sautee until the onion gets translucent (clear) and starts to brown.
  4. Add okra, salt and spices. Stir gently.
  5. Cover for 10 minutes and open up. Make sure the steam from the lid doesn't fall into the pot. Stir gently and cook for another 10 minutes covered. When you open, the okra should be bright green and ready to eat. You can cook further uncovered if you like your okra crispier (the way I do). The key is not not over sitr or the okra will be mushy.
  6. Enjoy with rice or roti or just plain.

Random Tip...tomatoes!

Although I experiment, I don't get a chance to put up the recipes. So until I get more free time, here is a tip that I thoguht was useful. Now that tomato season is upon us and all the amazing varieties are at the Farmer's Market....The tip is from Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen:

"How can I prolong the shelf life of a tomato?"
"We’ve heard that storing a tomato with its stem end facing down can prolong shelf life. To test this theory, we placed one batch of tomatoes stem-end up and another stem-end down and stored them at room temperature. A week later, nearly all the stem-down tomatoes remained in perfect condition, while the stem-up tomatoes had shriveled and started to mold. Why the difference? We surmised that the scar left on the tomato skin where the stem once grew provides both an escape for moisture and an entry point for mold and bacteria. Placing a tomato stem-end down blocks air from entering and moisture from exiting the scar. To confirm this theory, we ran another test, this time comparing tomatoes stored stem-end down with another batch stored stem-end up, but with a piece of tape sealing off their scars. The taped, stem-end-up tomatoes survived just as well as the stem-end-down batch. "

Happy eating!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cardamom Rosewater Cupcakes with Mango Frosting


I've had a craving for cupcakes for weeks. Since Cupcake Aunty's goodies cannot be bought in any shops, sis and I decided to try on our own. Although baking intimidates me, with the help of P, these were fairly easy to make. We started with a recipe we found online and modified to make it our own (added rosewater). Two modifications for next time: 1) decrease the amount of sugar in the batter; the amount recommended (3/4 cup) makes the cupcakes a bit sweet, like Indian pedha; 2) change the frosting recommended in the original recipe (meringue butter cream concoction). One variation for next time is to place the mango puree inside the cupcake and frost with fresh whipped cream. This truly was one delicious mistake!

Ingredients (makes 1 doz cupcakes):

  • ¾ stick unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1¼ cups flour
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of rose water (optional)

Directions (cupcakes):

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in Kitchen Aid mixer.
  3. Beat in egg, vanilla, cardamom, salt, rose water and baking powder
  4. Add half the flour and mix to just combine with the wet ingredients.
  5. Add half the milk and mix to combine.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5. Beat on low speed until the batter is smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds.
  7. Place cupcake papers/foils in cupcake pan. Place the batter in papers. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. After 10 minutes, rotate the cupcake pan. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack until the cupcakes come to room temperature, then remove the cupcakes from the pan.

Ingredients (Mango Whipped Cream frosting):

  • 5-6 tablespoons reduced mango puree
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar

Directions:

  1. To make mango puree: Place 2 cup of the fresh mango puree in small saucepan and simmer over low-medium heat until it is reduced to 1/3 of original amount. The reduction should be thick and dark orange. Let cool.
  2. In mixer bowl, put the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover the bowl and chill with wire whisk for at least 30 minutes.
  3. When chilled, beat the mixture until soft peaks form. Then add the mango puree a little at a time and beat until stiff peaks form. Taste and fold in additional sugar or puree if desired.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Galic Edamame


I first had these at Citrus Club in San Francisco and loved them. I tried to replicate them at home as we don’t make it out into the City as often. I’ve come close to replicating it…and that will have to do for now.

Ingredients:
  • 1 bag frozen edamame (no salt, in pods)
  • 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (use less or more depending on your preference)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of oil (olive or canola)
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
Directions:
  1. Prepare Edamame per directors on package. Drain and set aside.
  2. While edamame is cooking, heat oil in sauce pan or nonstick pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add garlic and crushed red pepper. Let cook for ~1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Mix soy sauce, corn starch and water. Stir to dissolve. Add to garlic and redpepper. Keep stirring over medium until sauce thickens (~3-4 minutes). Turn off stove.
  4. Pour sauce over edamame and toss to cover evenly. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mexican Rice

I've tried various ways to make Mexican/Spanish rice. This method is one of my favorties and is fairly easy to make. A quick/dirty way to make it is by adding your favorite salsa to the rice.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes or 1 large tomato or 1/2 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, diced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (better if its roasted ground cumin)
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of water (or veggie broth)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt to taste
Directions:
  1. Warm oil over medium heat in pan. Add onion, garlic and rice. Saute until onions are tender and rice is slightly browned (~10 minutes).
  2. Add bell pepper, tomatoes, and jalapeno and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add water or veggie broth, cumin, and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and cook for 15-120 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ginger Ale

(Yet another recipe from hubby. This one reminds me of a good ginger drink sold in India.)

I was inspired to make home-made Ginger Ale after I saw a recipe on the New York Times website that fit my culinary capabilities - in other words, it was easy. The original recipe called for fresh ginger juice and sugar. Let me first start with their recipe (below).

Ingredients (makes 1 serving):
  • 4 teaspoons fresh ginger juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice plus lime wedge, for garnish
  • 1 1/4 cups cold club soda.
Directions:
  1. Stir ginger juice, sugar and lime juice in 16-ounce glass until sugar isdissolved. Add ice and the club soda. Garnish with lime wedge.
Now let tell you my short-cut version. (Yes, I can even shortcut the easy stuff.):
  • Personally, I've found that trying to dissolve sugar in cold water is a royal pain. My wife actually suggested that instead of messing around with making ginger juice and stirring the concoction endlessly till the sugar dissolved, I use the honey ginger crystals I already had at home. They're called Honey Ginger Crystals (http://popus.com/health.html - scroll down to the bottom of the page) and they're available at the local Asian grocery store. Even if they do not stock this exact brand, you should be able to find a very similar product.
  • Dissolve the ginger honey crystals in a bit of warm water, and then add the club soda and lime juice. I also used much less lime juice than the recipe. The end result was refreshingly delicious!

Honey Green Tea

(The recipe and post below is from my hubby. He loves making different drinks. This is one that is usually finished when we have guests over.)

I love honey green tea. But what I don't love is paying $1 for a bottle of it or $4 for a gallon. Moreover, much of the store-bought green tea has more corn syrup in it than honey. Ugh. So, I decided to try making it at home. You only need three ingredients (water, green tea, honey). There are a lot of different types of green tea out there, and you will have to find one that you like. Personally, I use the Trader Joe's Green Tea. I like the flavor and it's damn cheap (48 bags of tea for $1.99).

Ingredients (makes 7 servings):
  • 7 bags of green tea
  • 7 cups of water
  • Honey (to taste)
Directions:
  1. Bring the water to a boil and then let it cool down for 5-7 minutes. Add the green tea and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. (Be careful - green tea can become bitter if it sits in the water too long.)
  2. Add honey and stir to dissolve. For an extra twist, use flavored honey. When the green tea has cooled, move it to a pitcher and place it in the fridge. Serve chilled and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mexican Food

Growing up in New Mexico it is hard not to love New Mexican/Mexican food. The Mexican food in NM has a blend of Mexican, Spanish and Native American influences. The most famous items are the green/red chili sauces. We love the Hatch enchilada sauce so much that my parents have to bring some from New Mexico at every visit. Below are some recipes that go well with making enchiladas, wet burritos, tostadas, quesadillas…you get the picture.

Guacamole
Ingredients
  • 2 Haas med-large avocadoes
  • ¼ red onion finely diced
  • 1 small tomato finely chopped, seeds removed
  • 1 small jalepeno, finely diced, seeds removed (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoons cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (can add more)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt to taste
Directions:
  1. Place onion in cold water for 5-10 minutes. Drain and place in bowl.
  2. Add tomatoes, jalapeño, garlic and cilantro.
  3. Add avocadoes then lime juice and salt. Mash and enjoy!
Red Chili Sauce
With this recipe, the milder the dry red chile used, the milder the sauce. If you leave the seeds in, it will make for a spicier sauce. The sauce can be used for enchiladas, eggs, wet burritos, and just about anything else.
Ingredients:
  • 4 dry New Mexico Red Chiles
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregno
  • Salt to taste (at least ½ teaspoon)
Directions:
  1. Remove seeds and stem from chilies. Pour boiling water over chillies and let soften for 30 minutes or more. Remove chillies but do not discard the water.
  2. Place chillies in blender, add garlic, oregno and 2 cups of soaking water to the blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water if needed. Salt before using.
Beans
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1 medium sized onion, cut in quarters
  • 1 jalepeno (optional)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (can use less, but the taste of the garlic is muted as it cooks)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
Directions:
  1. Wash and soak beans for 4-6 hours.
  2. After soaking, rinse off and place in pressure cooker with 4 cups of water, onion, jalepeno, garlic, salt and cumin. Bring to a boil and lower heat. Cook for 20 minutes until beans soften.
  3. If you want whole beans, do nothing more. If you want “refried” beans, drain some of the water out and mash with spoon or potato masher.

Classic Béchamel…Healthier

The classic béchamel is a versatile sauce that is rich and creamy. It is known as one of the 'mother' sauces in French cooking (not sure why its called a 'mother' sauce). Although I love this sauce, it is too heavy to eat on a regular basis. The recipe below is a healthier version but still has all of the yummy taste. I substituted light butter (butter with canola oil) for the whole fat butter and fat-free milk for whole milk. You can use low-fat milk and full fat butter to increase the creaminess. The addition of parmesan cheese adds salt and makes the sauce creamier. The basic recipe below makes enough for 8 oz of pasta or one pizza pie.

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced (add more for more garlic flavor)
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (from the refrigerator asile, not the canned dry stuff)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
Directions:
  1. Melt butter in heavy bottom pan (use stainless steel if possible) over medium heat. When butter starts foaming (don’t brown!), whisk flour in slowly. Continue whisking until flour is incorporated. Cook for about two minutes while stirring. Make sure not to brown the flour/butter.
  2. While the butter/flour is cooking, warm milk in microwave for ~one minute (it should be warm, not hot).
  3. Slowly add in warm milk in; add small amounts and whisk into to prevent clumps. Once all the milk has been added in, continue to warm on medium for about five minutes until the sauce thickens.
  4. Once sauce has thickened, add garlic, parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper and black pepper to taste. Taste the sauce before adding salt. Cook for a minute/two more.
  5. Toss with pasta and enjoy!
Notes/Variations:
  • Spinach Sauce: add either a cup of thawed frozen spinach (water removed) or 1 cup of fresh chopped spinach to step 4.
  • Macaroni and cheese: Add 1 cup cheddar cheese at the end instead of parmesan cheese. Add some salsa for an extra kick.
  • Pink pasta sauce, add marinara to the finished sauce and toss with a pound of pasta.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cookies

I am not a baker. This is probably due to my love of salty foods over sweet ones. However, there are a few sweet things I love. Mexican wedding cookies are a favorite that melt in the mouth. They bring back fond memories of growing up in a small town…going to the bakery near the library and treating myself to these cookies. When I started work, I found the cookies at the Culinary School , however, I had to find a recipe to make them myself once I moved. The recipe below is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen. The original recipe called for walnuts and pecans. Since I only have walnuts on most days, I use them and it is delicious. I’ve learned from others that you can use almonds as well. If you love chocolate, you can put a piece of chocolate in the middle of the snowball to make a yummy treat.

Mexican Wedding Cookies (aka Russian Tea Cookies)

Ingredients:
  • 2 sticks room temp butter
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups super fine chopped walnuts
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Directions:
  1. Cream together 2 sticks of butter and sugar for 1 ½ min; get divet on bottom; add 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla. Mix together.
  2. Slowly add 2 cups of flour, chopped nuts and salt. Do not overmix but thoroughly mix. Soon as it starts to clump, its done.
  3. Shape into small balls and cook at 325* until the bottom is browned.
  4. Cool in baking sheet for 2 min. Put cookies in a bowl of powdered sugar to coat and remove. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pizza Pizza…



I love pizza! I began making them as a kid and am working to perfect the crust. I started out with the help of Ragu pizza crust mix; it was so easy, just add oil and water and poof, you had a decent pizza crust. Those were the good old days when my family was easily pleased. Once Ragu stopped making the mix, I moved onto buying ready-made crust from an Italian bakery. That came to a halt when I moved and did not have access to an Italian bakery. Then I began a quest to find a recipe that would make a tasty crust. After much experimentation, the recipe below is the one that tasted the best thus far.
What I changed from the original recipe: decreased the amount of salt (the original had 1 teaspoon of salt); decreased the amount of sugar (the original had 1 tablespoon). The more oil you add to the dough, the flakier the crust.


Ingredients:
(Makes one 14-16" pizza crust or 3-4 individual pizza crusts for grilled pizza)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (I go with 3/4 b/c 1 teaspoon is too much)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of sugar (I've stopped measuring. it was 1 tablespoon in the original recipe, but I've found you can use less)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 packet of rapid rise yeast
Directions:
  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar). Add oil and mix. Add water (a little at time) to form soft dough.
  2. Place dough in oiled bowl and put a small amount of oil on the dough to prevent it from drying out. Cover bowl and place in warm place (usually I put in the oven) and leave alone for at least one hour or more. ( If you're pressed for time, you can bake in as little as one hour or wait longer if you have time.)
  3. For grilled pizzas: Divide into four equal parts. On a baking sheet, add some cornmeal and pat out dough into thin round discs. Grill one side for ~2 minutes (watch the dough to ensure it does not burn) and take off grill. Add sauce and toppings to grilled side and return to grill the other side until done. If you want the cheese browned, place under broiler. Cool for a minute or two and enjoy!
  4. For oven made pizza: Pat out into a circle onto lightly oiled pizza stone (or lightly oiled pan) and bake without any toppings at 400F for a pizza stone and at 375F for about 10 minutes. Pull out of the oven and then top with your favorite sauce (recipes included) and toppings and cheese. Put back into the oven to finish baking. Pizza is done when bottom is golden. Optional, turn on broiler for a few minutes to brown cheese. Let cool for 5 minutes before enjoying the results.
Notes/Variations:
  • Prep for the yeast varies on the type you buy. The rapid rise does not require you to “soak” the yeast; you can add it directly to the flour. Check the yeast.
  • Almost any type of oil can be used. The taste changes slightly based on the oil.
  • You can use wheat flour, however, this makes the crust more dense. Check out this recipe for a wheat crust: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/25/health/nutrition/25recipehealth.html
  • Extra ingredients can be added for additional flavor. Add any of the following to the mix in the first step: ground flax seed, rosemary, garlic, black pepper.
  • Sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza stone or pizza pan to give the crust an extra crunch.
  • You can use 1 packet of yeast for doubling the recipe; it works just as well.

Sangria Blanca

Although I’m not a huge fan of wine, I came across a recipe that almost made me change my mind. A friend brought this sangria to an event at the Hollywood Bowl and wowed everyone. After tasting her yummy sangria, I attempted to make it non-alcoholic. A few tries later, I came up with a recipe that resulted in a sangria that is a summer favorite.

Non-alcoholic wine can be found at your local grocery store or Trader Joes. The proportions are slightly eyeballed and you can substitute real white wine/sweet wine and add rum, brandy or gin for an extra kick. You can change this recipe up by using different fruits and proportions of some of the ingredients, creating your own personal sangria.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles non-alcoholic white/rose wine (can use Riesling or any sweet wine)
  • 1 can pineapple chunks packed in pineapple juice (make sure no sugar added)
  • 2-3 cans ginger ale (add more if you want it sweeter)
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice (adjust to your taste)
  • 1 peach (washed, cut in bite size pieces)
  • 1 nectarine (washed, cut in bite size pieces)
  • Handful strawberries (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in pitcher or container the night before the event. Refrigerate.
  2. Taste the next day, if it does not taste right, adjust flavors (add sugar, more ginger ale, lime juice, etc).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jalepeno Cilantro Hummus

I became a fan of hummus after a friend brought some from Trader Joe's. I had a few critieria for the perfect recipe, the hummus had to be garlicky, have a lot of flavor and spicy. In my search, I came across this one and tweaked it for my taste buds. This has become a family favorite that is made often. It is a fairly easy one to make and has many uses. I love using the hummus in veggie wraps as it adds a lot of flavor and makes the wraps even healthier. We take these on long trips all the time. Even my 14 month old loves the hummus (minus the jalepenos)!
Ingredients:
  • 2 cans gabanzo beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice (decrease if you don't like it tart)
  • salt to taste
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded/minced (optional)
  • 4 medium cloves garlic (decrease if you don't like a lot of garlic)
Directions:
  1. Place garlic in a food processor and process until minced, about 10 seconds. Add beans, lime juice and salt. Process until it is pureed. With the processor running, slowly add olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube. Process until mixture thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Add cilantro and jalapeno and process until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Enjoy with pita bread, chips or in a wrap. To make the veggie wrap, spread a generous amount of hummus on a tortilla. Add your favorite veggies (I prefer spinach, onion, bell pepper, green chile, cucumber) and cheese; fold and enjoy! If you want to kick up the heat, add hot sauce on the veggies.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What should my next meal be?

That question is always on my mind (even if I am eating). I started this blog as a way to catalog my cooking experiments. I loved to experiment with cooking as a kid...so much so that my mom would tell me that no one else would eat some of my creations (their loss!). Now that I'm all grown up, I try to expand my horizons beyond the three cuisines (Indian, Mexican and Italian) that I tried as a kid. So join me on my journey of making some delicious mistakes.