Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chocolate Graham Bars

Crunchy Graham Crackers filled with rich chocolate and whipped cream - a delicious twist to a traditional campfire s'more! These bars are so easy to make that they have become perfect petite desserts on a weeknight. And you do not need campfire for this!

Ideally S'more have melted marshmallow, but as we are not big fan of it, I used whipped cream instead. And instead of consuming them immediately, I chilled them for couple of hours.

Makes 8 bars
Preparation Time: 10 Minute
Cooking Time: 5 Minute + chilling time

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle)
1/4 cup whipped cream
24 graham crackers (I used whole wheat)

1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips for 2-3 minutes and keep it aside
2. Once chocolate cools down, spread it on a cracker, top it with second cracker, spread  cream and cover it with the third cracker. Drizzle some melted chocolate
3. Chill them (in freezer) before serving

These bars can also be served with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mexican Chaat!

Who can say no to delicious Indian Chaat? Smothered between tamarind and coriander-mint chutney, yogurt and usually stuffed with potato and chickpeas mixture and then loaded with other bunch of spices - Indian Chaat is the most popular street food. It is kind of addictive too. You know it's not healthy and hygienic, but you just cannot resist them.

And when you do not have luxury to live in your home country, you become adapt in ways you haven't imagined. I make Chaat very often and mostly completely from scratch, but still I do not have satisfaction of having the very same dish on the streets of India. Lately I wanted to try something different based on Chaat and I came up with this Mexican Chaat idea. It was not much of an experiment though since I use almost all ingredients in salad except sour cream.

I literally replaced essential Chaat ingredients with their Mexican counterparts. Like,
Chickpeas = Beans
Potato = Pepper + Corn
Chutney = Taco sauce
Yogurt = Sour cream with taco seasoning

Ideally we need Tortilla Scoops as base but as this was my last minute idea, I worked with Toastada Shells.

Makes 8 Tostada or 25-30 tortilla scoops
Preparation Time: 15 minute + soaking time
Cooking Time: 15 Minute

1/2 cup red kidney bean
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup cherry tomato, cut in halves
1/4 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup mixed pepper, diced
1/4 cup taco sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 cup Mexican blend cheese
1/2 tsp lime/lemon juice
8 Tostada shells or tortilla scoops
Salt and Pepper

For Garnishing,
Coriander leaves,
Scallions, finely chopped

1. Soak beans for 6-8 hours and pressure cook them with salt
2. Add salt and taco seasoning to sour cream and whisk thoroughly
3. If using toastada shells, bake them as per instructions till become crispy
4. Mix diced onions, peppers and corn and season them with salt, pepper and lime juice

How to serve,
1. Take a scoop or a shell, spread layers of beans, veggie mixture, sour cream, taco sauce and cheese
2. Top with cherry tomatoes and garnish with coriander leaves and scallions
3. Serve immediately

See, now Chaat can be healthy too and I'm sure kids who say BIG NO to salad will literally hog this :).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

I was all set to make stuffed peppers with first batch of home grown peppers. Inspired from Mexican Cuisine, these colorful bites are festive and mighty tasty. Stuffed with rice and beans, topped with cheese and sauce and then baked at perfection, these peppers make delicious side dish along with Tacos/Enchiladas/Burritos.

Originally I had thought to make Indian version, stuff them with potato and onion and fry them on griddle.I so much love this dish but unfortunately cannot make often since it requires small and tender peppers. During summer, I pick fresh peppers from farm exclusively for this dish only.So this year when I decided to plant a few vegetables myself, peppers were top in the list. However, about the same time when first batch was ready, I also found small red, orange and yellow peppers as well in a local grocery store. Hence I decided to make Mexican style instead.

Yields 12 servings (Small size peppers)
Preparation Time: 10 Minute + soaking time
Cooking Time: 1 Hr

1/2 cup rajma/black kidney beans
1/4 cup sliced onions
1/4 cup corn
1/4 cup tomato, diced
2 tbsp black olives, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup rice
2 tsp taco seasoning
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp salsa
1/4 cup taco sauce
1/3 cup Mexican blend or cheddar cheese
12 pc peppers (I used different colors)

1. Scoop peppers and take out the seeds. Lightly brush them with olive oil and bake them at 350 F for 30-40 minute or until they are cooked. Turn the sides frequently
2. Soak beans for 6-8 hours and then pressure cook them
3. Cook rice with 1/2 cup of water, keep it aside
4. Heat oil in skillet, add cumin seeds, onion and garlic. When onions become translucent, add tomatoes, corn, olive, beans and rice
5. Add salt, taco seasoning, salsa and mix well, turn off the heat
6. Now stuff pepper with this rice-bean mixture, top with sauce, cheese and bake at 350 F until cheese is melted (About 10 minute) and then broil it for another 4-5 minute so cheese can form crispy layer
7. Serve hot

Friday, July 15, 2011

Corn Panki

Corn Panki is Corn and Soji pancakes steamed between banana leaves. This quick, easy and healthy yet delicious fix is perfect for breakfast, brunch or even light supper. As I do not have banana leaves, instead of steaming I fried them on griddle with very little oil.

Long ago when I was looking for healthy recipes I came across this one. I exactly followed the recipe (which used only Soji and Plain Flour) but did not find the end product very appealing since it was not crispy. So I thought to add rice flour to have crispy Panki and also added more whole corn kernel to feel the corn in every bite. So here is my version of Corn Panki..

Make 8 6" Panki
Preparation Time: 15 Minute
Cooking Time: 30 Minute

1 cup rice flour
2 tsp oji
4 tsp plain flour
1.5 cup + 2 tbsp corn kernels
1 tsp green chili paste
1/2 tsp ginge paste
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1/4 tsp roastd cumin powder
2 tsp curd
Oil for frying

1. Mix all three flours and sieve them
2. Roughly chop 1.5 cup corn kernels using chopper and add to flour
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well
4. Add water and mix well for thick consistent batter (like pancake)
5. Fry panki on griddle on both sides until crispy and light brown
6.Serve hot with curd/chutney

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Veg Paneer Kabab

During long weekend we planned a potluck picnic in a nearby park and my job was to prepare appetizers. I had to make something that can be prepared in advance, liked by kids and tastes good even when served cold and of course, something that is easy to carry. I asked for suggestions and people came up with ideas like cutlets or vegetable patties. (Last time I had prepared Alu-vada for the same group and was well received)

I liked the idea of cutlets and I thought to add tasty twist by increasing quantities of veggies, adding paneer and adding besan for binding instead of only conventional bread crumbs. Kabab is generally referred to middle eastern dish made of meat which is roasted, grilled or stewed or sometimes even fried. I replaced meat with mashed potatoes and here is my delicious version of veg kabab!

Makes 50-55 kababs
Preparation Time: 30 Minute
Cooking Time: 1 hr

6 cup mashed potato (About 9-10 medium pc, approx. 2.5 lb)
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped green beans
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup green pepper
1 cup paneer, crumbled
1/2 cup besan/gram flour
1.5 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp green chili paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
2 tsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp lemon/lime juice
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp clove-cinnamon powder
Oil for frying

1. Boil and mash potatoes, keep them aside
2. Dry roast besan on low flame until it turns pink/light brown and add it to potato mixture
3. Heat oil in skillet, add cumin seeds, sesame seeds and all veggies
4. Lightly cook veggies uncovered on medium flame, stirring in between
5. Add paneer, mix well and turn off the heat
6. Once this mixture cools down, add it to mashed potatoes
7. Add remaining spices and bread crumbs, mix well
8. Make small patties (I made oval shaped) and shallow fry them on both sides until golden brown. If they fall apart or do not come out crispy, add more bread crumbs and/or besan

Serve warm with chutney (We had them at room temperature and they tasted perfect)

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Vegetables/Herbs Garden

I consider myself lucky to be raised in a family where blooming of flower or vegetable is considered an occasion. I have fond memories from childhood seeing my parents always talking about how to mend and care our garden. We have always had flowers in front and side of the house and different kinds of vegetables in back as long as I can remember. Mom would always offer flowers to God every morning from our garden. We had luxury to have home grown vegetables almost all winter.

So when I got married and came to US, I have always wanted to continue this tradition. Unfortunately, I did not have an apartment so far with outdoor space. Hence when we moved to this new place last winter, I was eagerly waiting for summer. (Though my parents are quite pro, I myself had never done any job.) I shared this idea of having few plants with my husband. He did not sound as enthu as I was but he left everything up to me.Finally one fine evening I went to Home Depot, picked few vegetables which I will be using frequently. I was quite disappointed to find that all of them require direct sunlight at least 6 hours a day since direction of my balcony does not support it. I read tutorials online and watched videos and yes, kept my fingers crossed.

It has been couple of months now and all of them are fully grown. This year I have only 4 of them but next year I intend to have more, thinking to add parsley, jalapeno and oregano. And yes, I am indeed happy and satisfied.

Sweet Cherry Tomato

Sweet Green Pepper

Basil (I use fresh ones during summer and dried leaves during winter, I use it in pasta/pizza sauce and salads)

Mint (This has been my favorite. It hardly requires any care and I use it almost everyday in Raita, Chutney, Tea and Salads)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mediterranean Chickpeas Salad

Summer is a season for cold and delicious refreshing salads.Chickpeas are versatile and welcomed in salad, pasta and stew. Chickpeas along with feta cheese lend Mediterranean flair to this easy and healthy salad.

During summer, somehow none of likes to have salad and I have to work hard to bring varieties in this category. The other day I already had boiled chickpeas and thought to make salad as a side dish. Then I looked online and found several recipes for chickpeas salad in Mediterranean cuisine. I found it simple, elegant and healthy. So here I am..

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 15 minute + soaking time for chickpeas
Cooking Time: NIL

2 cup chickpeas, boiled
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
6 pc black olives, chopped
1 tsp scallion, finely chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I did not use)

For Dressing,
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
1 tsp yogurt
Herbs (chopped) of your choice (I used 1/4 tsp flat leaf parsley, 7-8 leaves of fresh mint and 5-6 leaves of fresh basil)
Salt and pepper

1. Mix all ingredients for dressing and keep it aside
2. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients except cheese
3. Pour dressing over to chickpeas and veggies mixture, mix well
4. Add feta cheese
5. Serve cold

This salad can be prepared well in advance. In such case, add salt and tomato when ready to serve. This salad will make healthy snack as well. Take a whole wheat wrap, spread hummus and fill it with this salad. And you have another healthy yet tasty delicacy!