Fate has an interesting way to make people meet. And an interesting way to get you to do the things you swore you never would again. Like baking. After these two disastrous attempts at baking, I thought I should sign off of all baking altogether. Baking banana bread, which is the simplest most idiot-proof thing any bad baker (like yours truly) can put together, is the closest I felt I could get to being successful at the craft.
But little did I know that this evil little thing called fate would get me all over again. Fate played me once after I swore I would’t study in an academic setting EVER again when I wrote my last MBA exam in India; I ended up pursuing one more Masters degree in the US. Ha.
And it happened again when I met someone at work, who is now also a good friend. A few months ago, I was introduced to someone who happens to be the talented blogger behind Healthy Life Happy Cook. Amanda’s blog is filled with yummy, healthy recipes, many of which I have to try myself. Much to my chagrin, when I was assigned dessert for Thanksgiving dinner last year, Amanda suggested I make this flourless espresso chocolate cake that she adapted from the blog Eating for England. Needless to say, I expressed my concerns about baking to her and she promised me this recipe was as idiot proof as it needed to be for a bad baker like me.
And she was so right – she gave me some great tips and suggestions, that helped me make this simple, luscious, dense, fudge-ey cake that was such a surprise when I bit into it. The cake was gone in a few minutes and my friends’ kids lapped it up with some Cool Whip. I used all dark chocolate chips as I love the slightly bitter taste of dark chocolate. Amanda’s recipe calls for half dark and half milk chocolate. Here’s the recipe! (from Amanda’s blog)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup good quality chocolate – you can use all milk chocolate but Amanda recommends 1/2 milk and 1/2 dark chocolate
- 1.5 tablespoon espresso powder (I used Nescafe instant coffee)
- 1/2 cup double dutch dark cocoa (unsweetened cocoa powder would be fine too)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trace the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan on a piece of parchment paper. Cut out a circle. Spray the cake tin with cooking spray and place the parchment paper at the bottom. The spray will help the paper stick to the tin
- Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl. I did this over a pan of boiling water because I have a messed up microwave, but you can do this easily in a microwave, in 30 second intervals. Mix the melted goodness together
- Mix in sugar, and add the eggs. Then add all the dry ingredients – cocoa, salt, and instant coffee powder / espresso powder. Mix well.
- Pour in the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Mine was done in about 25 minutes so check at around the 20 minute mark. A toothpick inserted through should come out clean
- Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then gently invert it onto a plate, dust with powdered sugar and serve! It tasted the best when it was a little warm. I served it with Cool Whip at Thanksgiving, but you could also do vanilla ice-cream. Can’t wait to make this again!
Thanksgiving came and went so quickly, but the memories of the amazing food and people I was with last Thursday, remain fresh in my mind. Between the whirlwind of grad school, full time work, and… life, come these special opportunities to take a step back and evaluate, and remind ourselves to be thankful for all we have. And remind myself I did.
I’ve been so busy and so consumed with my work and my studies, I’ve barely had a breath to myself. Despite being busy with so much, in moments of silence and lull, I find myself wondering if I’m on the right path. Whether I’m doing the right things the right way. Whether I’m being and becoming the person I’d like to be. We’re all deliberate and strategic about what we do and how we want to behave on a daily basis. But we rarely have enough time to truly evaluate ourselves with an honest eye and confess whether we’re being true to our inner compass. Before I get more sentimental on you, the point of this little confession was to tell you that this Thanksgiving was particularly special for me because of all the blessings I’ve been showered with this year.
So, early last week, as I reached through my inner compass and asked myself what I was missing, I realized I was missing – ‘cooking’! Yes, I haven’t been cooking much lately and so, I decided to make something special to bring with me for this year’s Thanksgiving feast. I decided to make a very simple and light chicken appetizer, but also got a little adventurous and decided to make a chocolate cake. More on this in a later blog post! Here’s the appetizer I whipped up:
I took a common Indian dish – kheema (spiced, ground meat) – and decided to pile it into these little pre-baked phyllo-dough cups. I then topped each ‘cup’ with some shredded cheese, and three trays of the appetizer were gone in no time! I made the kheema a little spicier than usual, as the phyllo dough cups are fairly bland, and end up neutralizing the extra spice. I made the kheema using ground chicken, but you could go traditional, and use mutton. You can also skip the shredded cheese to make it lower on fat. Here’s the recipe:
Serves: Around 6-7 people as an appetizer
- 4 trays (packages) of pre-baked phyllo dough cups
- Shredded cheese of your choice (optional)
- 1 package ground chicken – I buy the Gold-n-plump variety that has 10% fat
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3-4 dried bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 3-4 garlic pods – minced
- 1/4 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tsp cumin-coriander powder (available as a blended spice in Indian grocery stores)
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp chaat masala (spice blend available in Indian grocery stores)
- A few drops of lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Fresh chopped cilantro
- In a non-stick pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Ad the cumin seeds and bay leaves. When the cumin seeds begin to splutter, add the chopped garlic and onion. Allow to cook until translucent
- Add the tomato ketchup and powdered spices, except for the chaat masala. Mix well, and add the ground chicken. Stir the chicken well until it is mixed in with the spices. Let the chicken cook. It will have a brown color when done. Make sure you break up all the chicken lumps
- Add salt to taste and the chaat masala. Mix well and add the lemon juice and chopped cilantro
You can eat the kheema made this way, with flatbread or with a pilaf. For this recipe proceed to the next step.
- When the kheema has cooled, pile it into each phyllo cup with a teaspoon. The dried bay leaves are not edible so leave them out when spooning the kheema into the cups. Top with cheese if you like, and serve immediately.
Last weekend I did something quite ridiculous. (I’m really loving the word ‘ridiculous’, aren’t I) Can you guess? Give up?
I WENT SKY-DIVING! It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, but couldn’t quite muster up the courage to do it. With all the ridiculously (there it is again) amazing things that have been happening in my life this year, I said to myself – “Why not jump out of a perfectly good plane, 10k feet above the ground?”And so I did. What followed was the time of my life, scared sh****ss, screaming like there’s no tomorrow, insane experience of my life that I will be definitely repeating a few times again. Yeah :)
So, when I got back home from the ‘event’ and it was time for dinner, I needed something light, comforting, and easy to put together to counter the adrenalin rush from the morning. With a few simple ingredients and a bowlful of assorted veggies, this curry is easy, healthy, low-fat, and very delicious. This is what I did:
Cube up some assorted veggies you can find in your fridge. I had some zucchini and yellow squash in mine. If I had some, I’d also include carrots, broccoli, and sugar-snap peas. Then, finely chop up some onion, sautee on medium heat with some olive oil until translucent, add in a dollop of tomato paste, mix, spice, mix, add the veggies, stir, add a can of coconut milk, simmer for a bit, and… DONE! I garnished the curry with some chopped cilantro but you could add parsley or chopped thai basil too.I also cooked up some quinoa in the rice cooker to go with it, but basmati or jasmine rice would go beautifully too.
Here’s the whole recipe:
Ingredients: (serves 2)
- 1 yellow squash, 1 zucchini (or other assorted veggies in the fridge)
- 1/4 large onion, very finely chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp Cumin-Coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder (or less, per taste)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 can low-fat coconut milk
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Chopped cilantro, parsley or thai basil for garnishing
- Optional – lemon juice to taste
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Sautee the minced onion until it is translucent and beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
- Add all the powdered spices, mix, and then add all the cubed veggies. Allow the veggies to simmer for 30 second or so before you add the salt
- Add the coconut milk, mix well, and let the curry simmer for about a minute.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and lemon juice, and serve immediately over a bed of freshly steamed rice or quinoa
After over 3 months of no updates here, it feels strangely comforting to be writing another post. Over these 3 months, while I craved preparing a creative meal, lovingly plating it, and then carefully photographing it, there was so much going on… I never had the time nor the right frame of mind to do all the things I enjoy doing so much. I come here after this short hiatus, feeling like a renewed woman. So much is different, yet so much is the same. This time away from OneLifeToEat and my lovely readers has taught me so much – I realize now the strength of my family, their faith and love in me, and the surprising reservoir of strength I seem to have in myself. I cannot thank them for all the support they have given me, enough. I stand here today strong and positive, only and only because of the love of my family. I want to do a special call-out to my two amazing, beautiful sisters who have been my rock, my conscience, and my courage this past year.
Challenging life situations have a way of testing true friendship. People who I thought would stand by me have fallen away, and strength and support has come from some of the most unexpected places. Friends who I hadn’t known for long have gone out of their way to show solidarity, and welcome me in their homes when I needed an escape. One such friend is Shruti. Shruti and I met through a common friend, who has also been such an amazing support to me. As fellow foodies, Shruti and I decided to do a fun cooking project together. We decided to make something that I don’t know how to prepare, and something that she loves to make – Kathi Kebab rolls.
I remember eating Kathi kebab rolls for the first time on the Churchgate train station in Mumbai. The Churchgate station is a busy metro transit station in downtown Mumbai, and the final stop for many office-goers. A multitude of small food stalls and vendors are at the station, selling every type of food from the mundane to the phenomenally interesting. One such stall was a small ‘frankie’ stall that made mouth-watering chicken, paneer and vegetable rolls wrapped up in Indian flatbread. Soft Indian flatbread is coated on one side with cooked egg. Then, a spicy chicken or paneer mixture is placed in the middle of the flatbread, which is topped with an assortment of tangy, spicy chutneys. The whole thing is rolled up and served piping hot in parchment paper! It tasted like the perfect remedy after a grueling day at the office.
When I moved to Pune, India to pursue my MBA degree, I had a slightly different kind of Kathi kebab roll – it was spicier and certainly had much more character. Later, when I visited Delhi, I had a third type of Kathi roll, that had more of a charred, tandoor flavor to it and the chicken was wrapped in naan instead of flatbread.
Shruti, being from Pune, taught me how to make the Pune style of Kathi rolls. Her method is incredibly simple and quick to prepare and I would highly recommend you giving it a try if you’re in the mood for an innovative cooking and eating experience. Here’s Shruti’s Kathi Kebab roll recipe:
Ingredients: (makes 5 rolls)
1. For the Chicken Kebab mixture: (all spices available at any Indian grocery store)
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, washed and cut in 1-inch cubes
- 4-5 tbsp canola oil
- 1 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
- 1 tsp Dhania-Zeera (coriander and cumin seed) powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 3/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp Chaat masala
- 1/2 tsp Tandoori Chicken Masala (This will add an interesting tandoor flavor to the chicken. I like the MDH brand the best but you can pick up any brand available at your local Indian grocer)
- Salt to taste
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- A handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onion for garnishing
2. For the egg coating:
- 2 eggs, whipped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Whip the egg, salt and pepper together in a bowl and set aside.
3. For the roll:
You can make Indian flatbread using fresh wheat dough from scratch, or you can buy it ready-made from any Indian grocery store. Most Indian grocers sell frozen Indian flatbread.
You will also need mint and coriander chutney – you should be able to find this at any Indian grocer.
- First prepare the Chicken stuffing – Heat the oil in a large shallow pan and when well heated, add the finely chopped onions. Cook on medium heat until translucent and slightly brown
- Add the ginger and garlic paste, mix well, and then add the tomatoes. Mix again, and cook on high heat until the tomatoes are soft. The idea is to let all the water from the tomatoes and onions evaporate
- Now add all the powdered spices as well as the salt to taste. Mix well, allow to cook for a minute or so, and then add all the chicken. Mix to envelop the chicken in the onion, tomato and spices mixture
- Lower the heat, put a lid on the pan and allow the chicken to cook. When cooked through, check if any water has released – if it has, continue to cook until the mixture is fairly dry. Garnish with coriander leaves and a handful of sliced onions. Set aside.
To assemble the roll –>
- Heat a large, circular pan and place one cooked Indian flatbread on it. When the flatbread is heated on one side, place a small ladle-ful of the egg mixture on one side. Allow the egg to cook over the flatbread over medium heat. When you can see that the egg is partially cooked and begun to stick to the flatbread, carefully flip it over to let it cook completely.
When the egg has cooked through, remove and place the flatbread + egg, egg-side-up, on a plate. Place a small strip of the chicken mixture in the middle, spoon a dollop of the mint and coriander chutney, sprinkle some of the sliced red onion, roll up and eat!
Special thanks to Shruti and her daughter Niassa, who made this cooking project so very special for me. Isn’t Niassa totally huggable? :-)
Hello dear readers! As Sabera is busy with her hot and happening life (that was sarcasm. she’s drowning in class assignments and some pretentious business school stuff ;) ) I thought I’d drop by here and share a recipe I hold quite dear to my heart. The reason I do is because this Mango Fish Taco recipe is a culmination of several hours of experimental cooking in my kitchen, not to mention the winner of the last Iron Chef cooking competition my friends and I organize and participate in!
I’m quite proud of this recipe because it has so many yummy flavors that I love all combined together – the fresh meaty flavor of Mahi-mahi fish, the tang of mango, and the spicy flavors from different types of seasonings and spices such as Caribbean jerk seasoning. While my recipe involves making every separate component from scratch, you can most certainly substitute some components with the store-bought variety. You can also use the exact same recipe and serve with soft tortillas as a main dish or with tortilla chips as a snack. This is a very very good recipe for entertaining and I strongly suggest you make it if you’d like to delight your guests. My tip is to make the condiments a day in advance so all you have to do the day of is grill the fish. So, here’s my recipe for yummy yummy Mango Fish Tacos!
Step 1: Make the slaw (make this a day in advance)
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup diced red peppers (roasted preferred)
- 1/4 cup diced green peppers
- 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
- 1/4 cup diced carrots
- 1/4 cup diced celery
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1 head green cabbage, quartered and sliced into thin strips
In mixing bowl mix all ingredients together except the cabbage. Once evenly mixed add the cabbage and turn with your hands or spoons until the cabbage is evenly coated. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Should be made 24 hours in advance.
Step 2: Make the BBQ Sauce (Can also be made a day in advance)
Mix all of the following ingredients in food processor and puree. Pour into a bowl or jar and refrigerate.
- 1/2 cup mango chunks
- 2 roasted red bell peppers,
- 2 tablespoons brown balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon Caribbean jerk seasoning or any BBQ seasoning
- 1/4 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
Step 3: Make the Cilantro White Sauce (Make a day in advance)
Mix all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and store in the refrigerator.
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp white vinegar
Step 4: Make the Guacamole!
Mix all these together. Cover and refrigerate.
- 2 fresh avocados, halved, pitted and flesh diced
- 2 fresh jalapenos, diced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/4 cup diced red onion diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
- ¼ cup of roasted corn
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Step 5: Make the fish
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds mahi mahi or talapia skinned and cleaned
- Blackening seasoning
- Olive oil
- 1 dozen (6-inch) flour tortillas or taco chips
- 1 cup shredded cheese of choice
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat the mahi mahi with blackening seasoning. Add some olive oil to a saute pan and add the mahi mahi. Cook until flaky, about 3 to 5 minutes. When the fish is no longer pink in the center, add 1/2 cup BBQ sauce on top of the fish and crisp up the fish on both sides for a nice crunch! Heat the tortillas in the oven for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Shred the fish with a fork or a spoon and keep aside.
AND FINALLY! To serve:
- Spoon the guacamole down the center of each tortilla then add a layer of shredded cheese and diced tomatoes. Add the slaw and the mahi mahi. Top with the white cilantro sauce. Arrange on a serving platter, get a napkin and dig in.
- Alternatively as a fun appetizer, you could spoon some guacamole in the center of a taco chip (I bought the triangular large chips), then the cilantro sauce, place a small piece of the fish on top, top with slaw. You don’t need the cheese or tomatoes.
My mother is in the habit of making every ingredient she uses in her cooking from scratch. In recent years, while she has ‘outsourced’ a few items such as paneer (cottage cheese) and a few spices from local stores in Mumbai, for the most part, she uses from-scratch ingredients. One important ingredient she makes at home is the ginger-garlic paste.
Ginger-Garlic paste is an essential ingredient in North Indian cooking and is used to put together curries and sabzis. The place where I have personally found it most useful is in meat marinades; as ginger is a tenderizer, having the paste on hand helps put together a quick marinade for a non-vegetarian dish. If you’ve been following OneLifeToEat, almost all my recipes use this paste.
Many of my friends use ready made ginger-garlic paste available at all Indian grocery stores (and I did too for a while). However, those pastes tend to have a lot of preservatives as well as sodium in them. The biggest advantage of making this paste at home, is controlling exactly what goes into my food. It’s really quick to make and a little goes a long way.
The one thing that held me back from making my own ginger-garlic paste at home, was the lack of appropriate implements. Now that I have a very good Cuisinart grinder, the first thing I did with it was to make my own ginger-garlic paste. Here’s how you make it:
- 1lb garlic, peeled
- 1lb ginger peeled
- 2 tbsp good quality olive oil, or any vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt
Blend all the above ingredients until it is a well-ground paste. Add 2-3 teaspoons of water if necessary, to loosen the solids in the blender. Store in sterilized glass jar in the fridge. This paste should easily last you a couple months.
Happy happy new year to you! What a year 2011 was… I started my second graduate program here in Minneapolis, made more friends in one year than I did in the two years before that, learned a whole ton about myself, and of course, tried many more types of food and cuisines!
A big part of 2011 was doing things a little differently here on OneLifeToEat. In the midst of being busy with a graduate program, I slowly but surely started trying to take better pictures of the blog. A few even made the cut on TasteSpotting! Although that is something I wasn’t hoping for, it felt fantastic when I got the approval email. I also added a new header to the blog, and redid the layout to make it look cleaner, and more easy to navigate.
I leave you with links to the top 5 most-viewed posts last year. It was my goal through this blog to simplify and demystify Indian cooking, and the top posts show that visitors come to my blog to learn about the basics of this exciting cuisine. So, if 2012 is the year you want to learn how to make Indian food, look no further! Here’s to more food, more photography, more blogging and more fun in the kitchen!
Top 5 OneLifeToEat posts in 2011