Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sweet Potato Lettuce Tacos

We had Halloween potluck party at my work. I wanted to bring something fresh/refreshing instead of the same old chips and dips, and cookies etc. I needed to make sure that whatever I pick, can be made the day before and can be assembled in no time. I usually don't have enough time in the evening, so I was looking for a "quick-fix" type of dish.

This dish worked out perfect for my criteria. Everyone loved it. It is not spicy, but it is still wonderful and fresh tasting dish.

2 Heads Bibb (butter) Lettuce, Iceberg lettuce will work too.
4-5 Sweet Potatoes,
1.5 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds,
2 Dried Red Chili Pepper, or Per Taste
Salt to Taste,
1 Teaspoon Chat Masala,
2 Tablespoon Cilantro, Chopped,
1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder,
2 Tablespoon Oil,
3 Tablespoon Salted Almonds or Salted Peanuts, Coarsely Chopped,
1/3 Cup Mild Cheddar or Mexican Blend Cheese, Shredded
1/2 Cup Tortilla Chips, Crushed
Lemon Juice, From 1 Lemon.

Pressure cook the potatoes for 2 whistles. Let them cool. Peel and mash the potatoes.

In another pan, roast the cumin seeds and red chili pepper on low flame for about 5 minutes. Switch off the stove and let it cool. Grind to a fine Powder.

Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.

Add the dry ingredients to the potatoes and mix well. Heat oil in a pan. Add the potato mixture to the pan. Stir to combine and cook on medium high heat for 7-8 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add 3/4th of the lemon juice.  Transfer the potato mix to a deep dish. Sprinkle almonds and crushed chips on top of the potato mix. Cover with a layer of cheese.

Just about 10-15 minutes before serving, arrange the lettuce leaves in single layer on a big tray/baking or cookie sheet. Drop about 2 tablespoon of the potato mixture into each leaf. Sprinkle some more lemon juice on top of the leaves. Serve immedietly.

If you have a potluck at your home, or you don't want to go through the trouble of assembling each boat/taco, just keep the lettuce leaves stacked up next to the potato filling. Let the guests help themselves.

PS: I was so focused on making the dish last night (before my daughter realized that I am not sleeping next to her) that I forgot to take a picture.
This morning, again, I was trying to get the stuffing in the leaves before the potluck started, so I forgot to take pictures. I did take some pictures mid way thru, but they are not appealing:). I will still upload them, because that is all I have.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paneer Pinwheels or Paneer Rolls

We had invited some friends at our house for dinner last night. There were going to come with their kids, so I wanted to make some fun appetizer for the kids to enjoy.

I saw the green chutney bread rolls recipe on Anuja's blog and decided to tweak it to suit my taste and to use what I had in the house. That is how I came up with the Paneer Pinwheels recipe.

2 Puff Pastry Sheets (1 Package)
1.5 Cups Paneer, Grated,
Salt to Taste
1 Tablespoon Oil,
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder,
1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder,
1 Teaspoon Cumin Powder,
1/2 Teaspoon Garam Masala,
1/2 Teaspoon Chat Masala (or Amchur Powder)
2 Tablespoon Chopped Cilantro
2 Tablespoon Butter, Melted

Thaw the pastry sheets in room temperature for minimum 30 minutes. Do not try to unroll/unfold the pastry sheets until it has thawed completely (30 mins), otherwise it will break apart.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine paneer with all the dry spices and cilantro in a bowl. Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add the paneer mixture. Cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Take off the stove. Transfer to a bowl or plate and let it cool.

Carefully unfold the pastry sheets. Divide the paneer mixture in half and spread on both sheets, leaving about 1 inch room on 1(shorter) side of the sheet.

Starting from the opposite hand side, carefully roll the sheet, to make a tight log. Do not apply to much pressure. Just try to make as tight log as you can. Apply some water on the plain end of the sheet and roll over to seal the end. Follow the same steps to make a log for the other sheet.

Place the sealed side down. With a sharp knife make about 9-10 equal cuts on each log to make discs ("pinwheels").

Place a parchment paper or silicone mat on a cookie sheet. You can also grease the sheet instead. Place the pinwheels on the sheet leaving about 2 cm room on each side of the rolls to allow them to puff up.

Transfer to the oven. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown.

Carefully, take out of the oven. Brush the melted butter on each roll immediately. Let it cool to room temperature before serving. Serve with your choice of condiment. I served with ketchup.

It was a big hit among the kids and adults a like. (There were none left for me to taste)).

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Homemade Tahini (Tahina)

I have to go to a kid's Halloween party this weekend. I have signed up to bring kids friendly appetizers. I wanted to make hummus, but I didn't have any Tahini at home. Instead of running to a store and looking for Tahini (we don't get it in all stores), I thought of making it at home and saving me some time. I was quiet pleased with the end result. You can view my hummus recipe here.

Makes a little less than 1 cup.

1 Cup Sesame Seeds
1/4 to 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Dry roast the sesame seeds on very low flame until fragrant (about 7-10 minutes). Stir frequently while roasting and do not let it brown. Let it cool.

Add the sesame seeds and 1/4 cup oil in the food processor. Grind it to a fine thick paste. Add more oil as needed. Grind again to mix things well. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tofu Scramble

This is a vegetarian version of eggs scramble (or scrambled eggs). I added some vegetables to this dish to make it even healthier. My daughter likes this dish a lot.

1 Block of firm tofu, Cut into 1 Inch Cubes,
1/4 Cups Onion, Finley Chopped
1 Bell Pepper, Chopped Finley
1/4 Cup Frozen Peas,
1 Teaspoon Oil,
3 Tablespoon Water
Salt to Taste,
1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Crushed Black Pepper,

Heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the veggies are a little tender. Add the tofu pieces, salt, pepper, and turmeric powder. With the help of a potato masher, mash the tofu pieces in the pan. Add the water. Mix well and mash again until it breaks into crumbles. Cook on medium high flame for 5 minutes. Take off the stove and serve.

Note: You can also use this as a filling for a burrito. Just add place some sauted veggies in the burrito, place some of the tofu. Add your choice of sauce (salsa, ketchup etc), some grated cheese and enjoy.

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Panera Bread Style Low Fat Garden Vegetable Soup

As I mentioned in my previous post. I had the Low Fat Garden vegetable Soup with Basil Pesto from Panera bread for dinner two days back. I love their soup. It consists of a lot of vegetables. It also has some pasta which fill you up. The soup is a low fat soup, which is always good and it tastes good too. I tried to replicate it at home last night. I would say it tasted pretty close, if not the same.

The Panera Bread soup consists of pearl barley. I didn't have pearl barley at home, so I added quinoa, to get similar texture. I also added farfalle (bow-tie pasta), instead of the elbow pasta, which is what the soup has.

The following recipe makes a big batch (atleast 6 bowls full) of soup. Cut the recipe in half if you would like to make a smaller batch.

3 Large and juicy tomatoes (2 Cups) cut into medium size pieces)
1 Big Zucchini, Cut into Small Pieces
1/2 Cup Yellow Onion, Finley Chopped (any mild tasting variety will do),
1 Cup Bell Pepper, Finley Chopped,
1/4 Cup Frozen Corn,
3 Cloves Garlic, Finley Chopped,
6 Oz Tomato Paste (1 Small Can)
1/4 Cups Quinoa
3 Cups Water (for Soup)
1/2 Cup, Uncooked Farfalle or Bow-tie pasta (You can use any shape of small sized pasta)
3 Tablespoon Olive oil
2 Tablespoon Parmesan Cheese,
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil, OR 4-5 Fresh Basil Leaves, Chopped
1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning, (herbs blend),
1 Teaspoon Salt, or to Taste,
2 Teaspoon Freshly Crushed Black Pepper, or to Taste,
3 Tablespoon Homemade Basil Pesto
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (Optional)

Heat the oil in a big pan. Once hot, add the onion, bell pepper, corn, quinoa and zucchini. Cook on medium high heat for 5 minutes. Then add the cut tomatoes and garlic. Cook again for another 5 minutes. Now add water, tomato paste, salt, and pepper to the soup and bring it to a boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
In the mean time, on another stove, boil enough water to cook the pasta in. Add salt and let the water come to boil. Add the pasta and cook for recommend time (on the package). Drain and keep aside.
After 30 minutes of simmering, add the basil pesto, pasta, Italian seasoning, pamersan cheese and dried basil (or chopped fresh basil)to the soup. Cook on for another 5 minutes, just to get everything mixed up well. Turn off the stove. Add crushed red pepper if desired. Serve hot with warm baguette.

-- I like my soup very thick and chunky. You can add more water if desired.
-- You can also add other vegetables of your choice. Some Examples: carrots, peas, green beans etc etc. Some kidney beans would taste good too. I wanted to add carrots, but forgot about it when I was chopping the rest of the veggies.

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French Baguette

Right out of the oven
I love all kind of breads. White, Whole wheat, Focaccia, Baguette, Sour dough bread etc etc. Two days back, I had Panera Bread's garden vegetable soup for dinner. I always go for Whole wheat baguette for side instead of chips. Their breads are always warm, fresh, dense but soft with crunchy and chewy crust. This time was no exception. I usually don't feel like sharing the bread with anyone, but this time Srishti (my 20 months old) wanted to eat the bread dipped in the soup. I couldn't say no:) I split the bread, took off the crust, and gave the entire bread to her:(.
Since that day, I have been thinking of making the same bread at home. I tried to look for recipes for panera bread style baguette, but couldn't find anything. So I read different articles on how baguettes are made, and tried to make it on my own. The bread turned out very good, with thin and crunchy crust. It tasted great right out of the oven. But the crust softened after a few hours. I will have to experiment with different oven temperature/time ratio to get the crust to stay crunchy for hours.
Here is my recipe for making french baguette.

3-1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1-1/2 Teaspoon Yeast
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
1-1/2 Cups Warm Water (Not hot),
1/2 Teaspoon Oil
Cooking Spray

Mix the yeast and sugar with the water. Stir well to dissolve the yeast and the sugar. Keep it aside for 10 minutes. Mix the flour and salt. Now add the yeast water mixture. Apply the oil to your palms and knead the dough. The dough will be a little sticky. Don't add flour yet. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. (If the dough is still sticky, add a teaspoon of flour and knead again).  Knead util the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Very lightly spray a glass bowl with cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with a lid or a plastic wrap and keep it in warm place for 1 hour. The dough will have doubled in volume.

Sprinkle some flour on a kneading surface and take out the dough from the bowl. Divide it into two equal sizes. Cover one portion with the plastic wrap. Take the portion and knead it for a minute or so. Then with the heel of your hands, press lightly on the dough to flatten it. With your fingers, spread the dough to about 6 X 4 inch rectangle  Now lift one of the longer sides and fold it to the center and lightly tap with your fingers to seal it. Lift the other side, and fold it to the center and lightly tap with your fingers to seal it. Now, you have two sealed edges in the center. Fold the longer side again, this time to the end of the other longer side, creating one seal at the end. Lightly tap again to seal it.

Keep the sealed side down, and lightly roll the dough 1/2 way thru with both of your hands to give it a log(tube) like shape. While rolling, move your hands to the outside edges while applying pressure. This creates uniform thickness on the log. Do this until your roll is about 10-12 inches long. Your seal should get better each time your roll the dough. Just keep in mind to keep the sealed surface down.

Lightly sprinkle the base of a baking tray with little flour. Place the log in the baking tray. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes. Follow the same process and make a log from the other portion of the dough.

Fill an oven safe deep dish/pan with 2 inches of water. Place the pan under the rack on which the bread will be baked. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Remove the plastic wrap from the baking sheet. Just before placing the bread in the oven, make slanted cuts on the top surface at about 4 inches distance. The cuts shouldn't be more than 1/4 inch (5 mm) deep.

Place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Then carefully take out the water filled pan from the oven. The water will be boiling hot. Be very careful while handling the pan otherwise the water will splash everywhere. Wear thick rubber gloves, gently take the pan out. Discard the water and keep the pan away. Close the oven door and bake the bread for another 12-15 minutes.

Turn off the oven. Take out the bread. Enjoy hot, right out of the oven, with some hot soup. You can also have it as is with butter. OR Let it cool down completely and make sandwich. It tastes great either way.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Masala Paneer for Kids

We had invited our friends for lunch over the weekend. They have 2 kids, both under 5 years of age. Though most of the dishes I had prepared were mild enough for the kids to eat, I still thought of making masala paneer for them. This way, even if they don't feel like seating at one place and eating the whole meal, they can run around the house, and grab a bite of the paneer.
This dish is very easy to make, and usually a hit with kids who like paneer. You can change the spices used in the recipe to your kids liking.

1/2 lb Paneer, Cut into 1 Inch Thick and 2 Inch Long Pieces,
1/4 Cup Oil,
Salt to Taste,
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika,
1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder,
1/4 Teaspoon Amchur Powder (Dried Mango Powder),

Heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the paneer cubes and shallow fry it until all sides are golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Take off the heat, and transfer to a straining basket. This will get rid of all the additional oil. Immediacies sprinkle the salt, turmeric, paprika and amchur powder. Mix well. Transfer to a serving plate, and serve with your choice of chutney or with ketchup.

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