Sunday, March 31, 2013

#272 Got Eggs? It's Easter

Happy Easter to all who celebrate the holy resurrection of Jesus Christ!  The word Easter reminds me of colorful eggs and the pink bunny--- all of which were favorites of my children too. Although we don't celebrate Easter at its full glory, it's natural to celebrate when everyone else is having a good time. My 'eggspectation' was to make nothing less enjoyable than an Easter Ham. But, I was out of ideas and decided to quickly put together these colorful and spiced up eggs for a family snack.
It is nothing out of the ordinary,  nor is it something totally new, yet it is simply something kicked up and special! What's not to like about spiced Devilled eggs?

Eggs-6 whole boiled and shelled
Mayyo-2 Tablespoons

Any spicy sauces, chutneys or relishes of your choice may be used.
My custom made choices were
1. Mint and Basil chutney.
2. Hot salsa and Sriracha
3. Beets mashed with salt and pepper.
4. Honey mustard and horseradish. with chopped ham.

1. Slice eggs cross wise. Remove the yolks gently in a bowl.
2. Add 1 tspn Mayyo,Mint and Basil chutney, blend to smooth with the yolks using a spoon or wooden spatula. keep aside.
4. Add 1 tspn Mayyo with Hot salsa and sriracha, blend to smooth with the yolks. Use very little Salsa to prevent the yolks from getting too watery. Keep aside.
5. Add 1 tspn Mayyo with the mashed beets, season well and blend to smooth with yolks using a spoon or wooden spatule. Keep aside.
6. Add 1 Tblpn Mayyo with the yolks and mash until the yolks are smooth. Add 1 tspn Honey musard and 1/4 spoon horseradish. Add finely chopped deli meat like ham, Keep aside.
7. Place the white cups from the eggs in Step 1 on a colorful platter. Scoop each of the above flavored yolk mixtures into the cups, garnish and serve cold.

Friday, March 29, 2013

#271 Charity & Toasted Bisquick Paniyarams

I admit I can easily get caught up between family, work and be lost in the foodie world. However, I do try to share my two cents with the community sometimes- especially when it involves children and the Ronald McDonald Home- the home for those parents who attend to seriously sick children at the INOVA hospital and 2012 Feds Food Drive. I avoid named organizations deeply involved in community service nor can I afford to donate large sums of money to them, but I believe my two cents could make a small difference to someone. I don't respond well to any propoganda or promotions, but I decide what cause I should donate to and then go from there. When I heard that Wal-mart is helping to fight hunger by donating over 50 million meals to local food banks and joining Wal-mart in this fight were other groups like Conagra(Hunts, Egg Beaters), Kraft, Kellogs and General  Mills, I was interested in making a small contribution by buying a few of their products.  I've been diligently collecting cans of food and products dropping them off at the Food Bank Trucks in the DC area. It really doesn't take much to simply buy an extra can or two while doing my own shopping. Besides, it's good to know that perhaps it will go towards a meal for at least one hungry child. 

Anyway, as a result of my binge shopping, I picked up a few products from Conagra mostly "Hunt's" tomato cans, Kraft cheese, PAM spray, General Mill's Potato Gratin and Bisquick boxes which I normally do not  stock-up in my pantry. Some of you may remember the cast iron skillet with holes in it that I used to make sweet Unniappams. Well it is being retreived in this post to make a soft and savory snack I used to make once for my young daughters. It's called Kuzhi Paniyaram and it was brought back by my younger daughter V's friend. Her mother shared this recipe with easier way to use Bisquick mix and PAM spray from my pantry shelf. 

Bisquick buttermilk pancake mix- 10 oz packet
Chopped onions- 1/2 an onion
Chopped ginger- 2 Tbslpn
Chili powder- 1 tspn
Curry leaves- 1 sprig chopped
Asafoetida powder- 1/2 tspn
Yogurt- 1/4 cup
salt and oil as needed

1. A paniyaram/unniappam pan made of cast iron is the perfect pan for making this snack.
2. In a glass bowl, toss in pancake mix, yogurt and all the rest of the ingredients except oil.
3. Using a wire whisk mix and whip together the batter until very thick (it should be much thicker than pancake consistency).
4. Place the paniyaram pan over a medium fire. Wait until it is hot enough and add a drop of oil in each of the indentations,
5. With a teaspoon scoop a spoonful of batter into each of the indentations and cook for a minute or two on one side before turning over to cook the other side.
6. The edges of the balls start changing color and then it is time to turn over.
7. Serve with a coconut chutney or any sauce for dipping.
8. These snacks make a lovely alternative to urad dal vadas and healthier version.
9. Soft and savory these can be served with Pudina chutney as an appetizer for any meal.

Friday, March 22, 2013

#270 Nationally Famous Murg Makhani /Butter Chicken

My North Indian rotation of side dishes has been pushed aside for a while and it's time to make my version of this silky gravy with chunks of tandoori-style baked chicken for my daughters. What is Murg Makhni and why is it Nationally famous? Murg means chicken and Makhan is butter in Hindi- and I don't know any non-vegetarians who dislike either chicken or butter!! Do you see why this fabulous combination can spruce up your taste buds sending a tingling sensation to your tummy? It's nationally famous for the rich gravy with masala and the lovely aroma in all Indian cooking...butter or pure ghee.

Well lets see what it's all about-- Butter Chicken is a curry with a velvety smooth red gravy enhanced by creamy tomato paste and cream, and above all the spices used are unlike any other Chicken curry. Not everybody loves the curry because of a distinctive sweet touch to the gravy. Although double cooked  the chicken floats in the rich gravy and keeps moist and flavorful so dipping in with some Naan bread will just about satisfy your curry temptations. Unfortunately, R my husband does not include Butter Chicken in his list of favorite curries. He prefers the Chicken Chettinad the spicier kind.

Boneless skinless chicken- 1 lb (thighs or breast can be used)
Melted Butter-1 Tablespoon
Garam Masala( can substitute Tandoori paste)- 1 Tbslpn
Yogurt-1 Tablespoon
Chili powder- 1 tspn
salt, lemon juice
ginger paste- 1tspn
garlic paste- 1/2 tspn

Onions chopped fine- 1 Tablespoon
Ginger paste-1 Tablespoon
garlic- 1/2 tspn
Clove powder-1/4 tspn
Cinnamon powder- 1/4 tspn
Tomato Paste- 3 Tablespoon
Butter- 2-3 Tablespoons
Heavy Cream- 1 Pint
Salt to taste
Water- 1/2 cup
Kashmiri Chili powder- 1 Tablespoon

1. Wash, clean and dry chicken pieces with paper towel.
2. Mix together the first set of ingredients and rub all over the chicken. Marinate for 4 hrs.
3. Pre-heat oven to broil and roast until the chicken is lightly browned. (Alternate way is to grill chicken).
4. Remove, cool and shred the chicken. Keep aside.
5. For the gravy, place a deep skillet over a medium fire, add butter and when it melts add the
onions, saute until golden. Then add tomato, ginger, garlic and saute gently until the
oil seperates out but be careful not to burn or allow the tomato to lose its red color. It should not turn brown.
6. Before the tomato paste turns brown, add Kashmiri chili powder and salt to taste.
7. Add enough water and stir to form smooth paste add more water if needed (1/4 cup).
8. Add the rest of the powders, salt and the shredded chicken and let it come to a boil.
9. Turn off the stove add the cream immediately stirring while you add it to prevent it from
10. Remove from heat and serve with hot rotis, pulao or tandoori naan!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

# 269 Handvo -a Steamed, Savory Veggie Lentil Cake

Happy St Patrick's day to all my Irish friends! Let's go green today--- Oh no, I'm not talking about the environment, or shamrocks (3 leaf clovers) that drive away evil spirits, I meant green food. On this day of the festival of Patrick I'm re-creating a green recipe from Tarla Dalal and her delicious collection of veggie recipes. The Irish celebration is not in any way related to Tarla Dalal- but it's time for my pure-vegetarian spin and so I'm out to get my fill of healthy veggies today. I remembered that she always has a variety of savory and satisfying veggie tidbits from the state of Gujarat and  that's what led me to this green snack!

Handvo is usually made of pulses, wheat, rice, yogurt, oil, sugar, baking powder, cilantro, ginger and green chillies. There are so many variations and the little cakes may be served with cilantro/mint chutney or eaten just plain since they are loaded with nutrition and flavor. I happened to taste Handvo for the first time a few months back, and to me it was yet another version of Dhokla only it had a lot more veggies and is loaded with protein, so I'm making my version of  Ms Dalal's Moong Handvo. What  caught my eye was that this Handvo could be baked in the oven.  I always thought it was steamed but this turned out to be awesome!!!

For the handvo
1 cup moong dal (split green gram)
2 1/4 cups finely chopped spinach (palak)
2 tbsp yoghurt
1 tsp level soda-bi-carb
3 tbsp chopped coriander (dhania)
8 to 10 green chillies, chopped
ginger chopped-1/2 tspn
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tspn asafoetida (hing)
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste

For the tempering
1 tsp mustard seeds
1small onion, chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds (til)
1-2 Tablespoon grated coconut
a pinch asafoetida (hing)

1.Soak the moong dal overnight or at least for 5 hours.
2.Grind into a coarse paste.
3.Add the spinach, yoghurt, soda bi-carb, coriander, green chillies, lemon juice, asafoetida and salt.
4.For the tempering, heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds until they crackle. Add the onion, sesame seeds,coconut and asafoetida. Mix into the moong dal mixture or keep aside and spread half the mixture over the Handvo after baking.
5.Spread the mixture in a well greased baking tray.
6.Bake in a hot oven at 400 degree F for 20 minutes or until golden brown in colour.

Monday, March 11, 2013

#268 A Taste of Greece with Gyro and Tzatziki

A traditional Greek gyro is normally made with at least 50% ground lamb and beef but this one has half ground pork sausage and beef. Other common ingredients in Greek cooking are marjoram, garlic, rosemary and thyme and slow roasted over a pit the meat is roasted full of flavor and succulent to be eaten with Tzatziki sauce drizzled all over the pita. However, I baked the meat mixture after marinating overnight and then broiled the tops until it browned since I did not have a roaster or pit.

Ingredients for Gyro meat:
Ground Beef - 1 1/2 lbs
Ground Pork sausage-1 1/2 lbs
Grated carrots-2
Onions chopped fine- 1/2
lime juice- 1/2
Mint leaves chopped fine- 1 cup
Dried mixture of oregano, rosemary, marjoram and thyme-  2 Tablespoons
Cumin powder- 1 teaspoon
Garlic Paste- 2 large Tablespoons

Tzatziki sauce:
Cucumber grated- 1
Greek yogurt-1/2 cup
garlic cloves crushed and ground- 3
Lemon juice-2 teaspoons
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Other Ingredients to assemble the gyro:
Pita bread/ Naan bread
Slices of Cucumber, Tomato, Lettuce

1. To make the Gyro meat, usually lamb meat is used but since I was not able to find good ground lamb I've used Sausage as a substitute as it is my family favorite.
2. Mix the meats together and add the rest of the ingredients together. Pack gently into a meatloaf pan. Cover with saran wrap.
3. keep in the refrigerator overnight or until ready to roast in the oven.
4. Heat oven to 375 degrees to roast meat. Roast  the meatloaf covered for 30 minutes.
5. Cover with Aluminum foil. remove foil after the first 30 minutes and roast for another 40 minutes
or just until the meat is no longer pink.
6. Remove from oven and turn over onto a glass pan.
7. Slice as thin as possible the meat so that it resembles gyro meat.
8. Roast the sliced top of the loaf again in the oven and repeat slicing until all the meat is roasted, brown and sliced.(I had to repeatedly roast the top of the loaf in the oven since I do not own a rotating chicken roaster, But, if you are the proud owner of one, it will definitely save you a lot of time if you place the meat around the metal rod and roast evenly.)
8. Warm a pita bread lightly and make a pocket. Add lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes as desired.
9. Now add 5-6 slices meat into the pocket and serve drizzled with Sauce.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

#267 Italian Style Stuffed Braided Stromboli

"Stromboli" is a small island in Italy---doesn't the name of this island also remind you of a stuffed bread loaded with dangerously delicious meat fillings resembling pizza toppings? But of course, so are Calzones. The big difference between the two is that Strombolis are rolled like a swiss roll and Calzones are made like turnovers. The Italian influence is very prominent on the east coast of the US, and a pizza may not always satisfy your Italian cravings. The mixture of sausage with peppers and onions can never be denied in my home either! The daughters and husband love to make sandwiches or even mix it into pasta and enjoy it just as much as carry-out pizza. However, I turned this staple into a Stromboli braided bread with a light dipping sauce. The family gave it a 5 star rating since it sort of met everyone's taste.  Be it a large meal or a snacking requisite, this Stromboli is bound to satisfy all appetities presumably well and the best part is that it can be made real quick if you have pre-made bread dough readily available.

Smoked Polish Turkey Sausage- 1 package
Red Peppers sliced-2
Green Peppers sliced-2
Spanish onion sliced-1
Garlic- 5-6 cloves
Dry thyme- 1 tspn
Olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Velveeta Cheese slices-4
pre-made frozen Bread dough/or crescent rolls
egg wash (beat 1 egg with 1 tspn water)

1. Place a skillet over medium fire. Add olive oil.
2. When heated through, add sliced garlic cloves, but do not let them turn brown.
3. Add thyme, sliced onions and saute adding salt as needed.
4. The salt caramelizes the onions drawing out the moisture and sugar.
5. Now add the peppers. When the peppers are just about done, remove and sprinkle with pepper.
6. Remove the mixture from the skillet onto a plate to cool.
7. Slice the sausage into thin cross-sections and add to the skillet
placing it over a medium flame and browning on all sides. You will not need oil since it draws out fat.
8. Remove from fire and allow to cool mixing it with the cooled pepper-onion.
9. Remove the Bread dough from the package/can and roll into a rectangle using a wooden board
and just enough flour to prevent it from sticking.
10. Cut into four strips. One of the strips should be broader than the other three.
11. Heat the oven to 375 degrees, take the broad strip and place the sausage mixture
at the center of the strip all along it so that there is dough on both sides.Place slices of cheese over this as desired.
12. Now, fold the three smaller strips together and pinch them at the top, over the broader strip with the meat.
13. Slowly braid the three strips of dough over the meat mixture pinching the sides in to seal the meat in
the center of the braid encasing it inside the dough.
14. Brush the top of the braid with the egg wash and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 mins or until the top is just browned.
15. Serve with Marinara sauce or just plain....enjoy!

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