Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spinach Rice with Chick Peas

Has anyone been following the Republican contests? It is a big yawn really even for a political junkie like me. The more I see of them the more I understand why America is headed in all the wrong directions. Glad that Newt is out of the picture but with him you never know. He was the single reason why the 90s were such a bad time even with all the economic success. It also showed what lengths he'd go to win.

I am not sure which planet Santorum inhabits but the shocking thing is there are a lots of people in this country who think he makes sense. According to him it is snobbish to go to college!! He found fault with President Kennedy's speech in 1960 about the separation of Church and State. He is as radical and for one do not want to live in an America that he is envisioning and I certainly do not want my President to be my Priest.

As for Romney even he does not know what he stands for. Sad. Sad.

Best are the days when one of these guys are not uttering some outrageous comment or the other and I am not watching news on TV!

Now on to the recipe,
We are lucky to have the Amish market nearby. The fresh spinach leaves, green beans, snow peas are as fresh as they come. As we all know there are umpteen ways that Spinach can be cooked. A simple mashed spinach is one of our favorites and paired with some roasted potatoes or taro root makes for very happy tummies.

The recipe today happened because I wanted to make a rice dish and had some soaked chick peas ready. It is very simple and paired with some raita makes a quick one pot meal.

Spinach Rice with Chick Peas
1. 2 Cups of Basmati Rice (or any long grain rice)
2. 4 cups of packed fresh Spinach leaves washed and chopped roughly
3. 1 1/2 cups of soaked chick peas
4. 1 medium red onion sliced
5. 5-6 garlic cloves chopped
6. 3-4 green chilies slit
7. 1/2 tomato chopped fine
8. 1/4 tsp garam masala
9. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
10. 2 tsp pepper powder
11. 1 tsp ghee + 2 tsp oil
12. 1 bay leaf + 1 tsp cumin seeds
12. salt to taste

1. Partially cook the chick peas and set aside. (see Note) Wash and soak the rice for about 20-30 minutes.
2. In a pressure cooker (or a vessel large enough to cook the rice) heat the oil and add the cumin seeds, bay leaf and the garam masala, let it be for 30 seconds.
3. Now add in the onions, green chilies and saute till it starts getting translucent. Add in the garlic and saute for a minute more.
4.Now add in the tomatoes and let cook for a few more minutes till soft.
5.Add in the chopped spinach leaves and saute till they are wilted.
6. Add the pepper and chili powders and mix it in well.
7. Add the rice and saute gently and mix it into the spinach.
8. Add the required amount of water, salt and let it come to a boil. When the rice is partially cooked and most of the water is absorbed place the lid with the weigh on and cook for 7-8 minutes on medium heat. Just before closing the lid add the ghee on top.
9. Once the cooker has cooked open the lid, mix the rice gently, place the lid and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with raita of choice.

1. The cooking time for the rice is not sufficient to cook the chickpeas hence the need to partially cook the chickpeas.
2. Can be done on the stove top for 10-15 minutes.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lamb and Bean Chili (Spicy)

Yes! another chili recipe in the space of a few weeks. It feels like I am rediscovering the joys of eating chili all over again. All thanks to DH who likes the way the dish comes together and finds that the cutting and chopping (of course without me throwing instructions) relaxes him. The kids especially DD2 is given a lot of sous chef work which she seems to relish.

It was this article - Lamb Finds a Match in a Fragrant, Earthy Chili which got me started in the direction. We buy minced lamb from Whole Foods and generally cook it this way. But this time lamb was bought which this recipe in mind.

The taste of the chili at lunch the next day was so much better and I assure you it was not the hunger. A crusty piece of bread to mop up the juices was all that was needed. The kids loved it too. I finally realize that chili needs chili powder the red spicy kind to make it tasty.

Recipe Source: Lamb and White Bean Chili

We used the Red Kidney beans we had on hand instead of the white beans the recipe called for.

Lamb and Bean Chili
1. 1 lb minced lamb
2. 1 1/3 cup of dried bean or 3 1/2 cup of cooked beans
3. 1 large onion chopped
4. 2 bell peppers seeded and diced
5. 5 cloves garlic chopped
6. 3 jalapeno pepper chopped fine
7. 1/2 cup worth of chopped cilantro
8. 1 1/2 tbsp of tomato paste
9. 3/4 tbsp chili powder (taste and add according to tolerance level)
10. 3 tsp coriander seeds + 1 tsp cumin seeds - roasted and powdered
11. salt to taste
12. 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tbsp safflower oil (use any oil you choose) or 2 tbsp of olive oil
13. 2 tsp of black pepper powder + 1 tsp salt
14. lime wedges

1. In a dutch oven or a hard bottomed wide mouthed pan heat half the oil and add the minced lamb and let it brown. Add the black pepper and salt and set it aside.
2. Now add the rest of the oil onions and bell pepper and let them soften (6-8 minutes).
3. Add in the cilantro leaves and let the leaves wilt. Add in the garlic and jalapeno and let them cook for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the coriander, cumin and chili powders mix them in well. Add the tomato paste and let it mix and cook for 5-6 minutes.
5. Now add 4 cups of water and the cooked lamb and salt let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
6. Serve with a squeeze of lime.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spicy Vegetarian Chili Whole Foods style

Growing up I was a voracious consumer of what my mother rightfully called pulp fiction. Language did not matter. I consumed them in my native tongue Tamil and of course my adopted language - English. English fiction books were very expensive with most of them being imported from the UK or US. If you wanted to buy you had to travel to Madras (a.k.a Chennai) the state capital or other bigger cities. Remember Higginbotham's? With no good libraries or the wherewithal to buy every book you want to read you learn to forage for books. Oh! those second hand books stalls were a god send.

Lucky for me my maternal uncles were voracious consumers of pulp fiction too. One summer I found their stash. It got introduced to authors like Harold Robbins, Ayn Rand, Earl Stanley Gardner, Robin Cook, John Steinbeck and several other others. The stash included book like Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead and Grapes of Wrath. The first two kept me engaged for a few weeks, Grapes of Wrath well lets says I am still working on that.

When I got to this country and saw the public libraries the first thought that went through my head was how lucky the kids here were. The problem here is the opposite of what we had back home. With an abundant supply of books you have the job of discriminating between the ones you want to read and the ones you had no reason to bother with.

My ears are always sharpened for book recommendations. DD is at an age where she chooses her books. For DD2 who is beyond the beginning reader stage and has started to read a bit more longer books I am on the lookout for any sort of recommendation. On radio one day we heard the Back Seat Book Club on NPR discussing Breadcrumbs a book by Anne Ursu. DD2 had a fun reading it, while DD and me had a good time of our own reading it too. If you have kids in the 7-10 age range this is will be good read keeping them engrossed with the bowl of this tasty chili on the side.

Now on to the recipe,

Chili has never been one of my favorites. Mostly because it was the only option available in a lot of restaurants in those days with no meat. It looked spicy and red but that did not mean it was spicy or flavorful. It was bland and the cheese made it worse. I pretty much kept away from it whenever possible. That was till I tasted some at Whole Foods. It was tasty, spicy and very good. DH decided to make some on one of his cooking days. The difference between his style and mine, he follows the recipe exactly.

It is a straightforward recipe. It is great for making in bulk and freezing. Once reheated it tastes as when fresh and in some cases even better. The whole family can participate in the cooking - chopping, stirring and tasting. Only thing to be careful of is the cooking vessel. Start with a sturdy thick bottomed vessel because of the long cooking time.

Recipe Source: Spicy Vegetarian Chili

Spicy Vegetarian Chili
1. 4 1/2 cups of cooked beans 3 + 1 1/2 (we used 1 1/2 dried red kidney beans + 1/2 cup dried black beans soaked overnight)
2. 1 medium sized White Onion
3. 1 Green bell pepper cored, seeded and cubed
4. 1 Red bell pepper cored, seeded and cubed
5. 4-5 garlic cloves
6. 2 carrots peeled and chopped
7. 3 sticks of celery chopped
8. 3 tablespoons of chopped chipotle in adobo sauce
9. 1/2 tablespoon red chili powder (adjust accordingly ours was noticeably spicy)
10. 2 tsp cumin powder
11. 28 ounces canned tomatoes (we used the whole ones and diced)
12. 2 tsp safflower oil and 1/2 tbsp olive oil
13. salt to taste

1. Cook the beans in a sauce pan till they are just cooked but still very firm. (do not overcook as they will cook in the chili for another 30 minutes)
2. In a dutch oven or a wide mouthed thick bottomed pan add the oil and when hot add in all the veggies (2-7) and let them cook till they are soft (about 10 minutes) in medium heat.
3.Add in the cumin, chili powder, chiptole and salt and stir it into the veggies.
4. Add in the tomatoes and 4 cups of water and let cook for 45 minutes.
5.Now add the cooked beans and let cook for 30 more minutes.

Serve with some crusty bread or garlic bread.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A life too short ...

I am deeply saddened by the news of Miri's passing away. My first thought on reading about it on Bong Mom's page was that it was a mistake and not true. Miri who wrote over at Peppermill. Miri who always had a kind word and an encouraging comment.

My words fail me but our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and young daughter.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Orange Raisin Muffins with Cashews

I feel kind of sad for the besieged American parent. I can call myself an American parent because I do have a paper which says I am an American citizen but my parenting style would be what I learned from the country I was born in no? There is no bunching American parenting style into one bucket is there? This is a melting pot with parenting styles from all over the planet is it not?

First it was Amy Chua, telling us that Chinese Mothers Are Superior now it is Pamela Druckerman telling us that French Parents Are Superior. I feel obligated to jump to the defense of American parents at least where matters of food is concerned.

The one thing that really interested me in the 'French Parents are superior' article is the attitude of French parents to food. To tell you the truth when I first came here I was pretty impressed at the American child's ability to eat by himself/herself. In comparison to an Indian child that was a remarkable feat in itself. What you see as better behavior/attitude is all relative isn't?

No other parent in the world feeds their children like an Indian parent does. I am in no way suggesting this is a good thing but quite the contrary. It is a lesson in patience and perseverance. The more patient the parent the more difficult it for the parent to get the child to eat.

If you are at any Indian party one sight you would not miss is mothers running behind their kids trying to feed them. I have been there done that overriding DH's advice to let DD be. I am not really sure what is it in our DNAs that makes us want to feed our children by coercion. The child has to eat no matter what. There is no incentive for the child whose mother is begging him to eat and would do anything to get him to eat to actually do it by himself is there? That just get proven over and over again. There are some sage like parents with older kids who tell you to do otherwise but no one listens.

I ran behind DD getting her to eat and doing anything to make her eat whereas with DD2 with some experience behind my belt I let her eat by herself and did not get myself worked up if she did not eat. I started enjoying going to parties rather than being anxious. DD2 managed to eat just fine without my help. Ate what she wanted and did not bother to touch stuff she did not like. I on the other hand actually had time to have conversations with adults.

With that background an American child sitting in a high chair eating what is put on his plate seemed like amazing parenting skills to me. I might be stupefied just looking at the French parent I bet.

Everything is relative my friends. If you want to have sane meal times, don't feed an young child like an Indian parent does. You are in for meal time anxiety and frustration.

Remember our schedule, DD2 is a very good enforcer. Sunday morning breakfast had DH's name against it and DD2 wanted muffins and the daddy obliged her. They set about to make Orange Craisin muffins but with no craisins on hand it became raisin muffin. DH is good at following recipes to the the T so where baking is concerned that is a very good thing. The muffins came out beautiful. The recipe for this was from

Orange Raisin Muffins with Cashews
1. 2 Cups unbleached all purpose flour
2. 2 tbsp baking powder
3. 1/2 cup sugar
4. 3 juice oranges
5. 1 stick unsalted butter
6. 1 egg
7. 1/4 cup golden raisins
8. 1/4 cup of roasted unsalted cashews

1. Melt the butter in a pan and let cool to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Juice 2 of the oranges and section the 3rd orange and blend it in a food processor till smooth.
3. Beat the egg and combine with the blended oranges along with the melted butter.
4. Add in the liquid to the flour, baking powder and sugar and mix till it comes together.
5. Pulse the cashews so that it is coarsely ground
6. Slightly saute the raisins in a few drops of melted butter
7. Mix in the raisins and cashews into the flour mixture.
8. Spoon the mixture into muffin cups till 2/3 full.
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes till tops are golden.

Let cool and enjoy a happy Sunday breakfast.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pasta with roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers - Kid Friendly

Something happened last week. I forwarded this article - My Sons, the Sous-Chefs to DH. Sometime in the next couple of days I was standing over the dishwasher complaining yet again about having no energy to cook in the evenings. Don't get me wrong cooking makes me happy but there are days when I would be very happy if there is food already cooked and ready to eat when I reach home.

DH got tired of the cribbing and he whipped up a schedule assigning certain days to himself, certain days to me and a weekend dinner to the DDs. DD has been behind me to let her be the head chef for one day. The article linked in the first paragraph just propelled us to do it.

The schedule went into effect last week and Saturday's dinner was served in style by the DDs. I controlled my interfering self by removing myself from the kitchen and watched some TV. It felt good to be not responsible. The dinner was a grand success and the kids were pleased as punch.

Recipe Source: Washington Post Recipe Finder
Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers
Serves 4 people
1. 1 Red Bell Pepper seeded and diced
2. 1 Pint Grape Tomatoes cut in half
3. 1/2 Red Onions diced
4. 3 Cups Farfalle pasta
5. 1 tbsp pepper powder
6. 1 tbsp olive oil
7. grated Parmesan cheese
8. salt to taste

1. Spread the vegetables (bell pepper, onions and tomatoes) in a baking sheet, spray some oil over it sprinkle with pepper and salt and roast in a 350F oven for 30 minutes or till the tips of the bell pepper start to get brown.
2. In the mean time boil the pasta in salted water with a tsp of olive oil. Drain.
3. Now toss the pasta with olive oil, roasted vegetables, pepper and salt.

Served with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and with some garlic knots on the side.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ginger Lemon Kollu Rasam (Spicy soup with horse gram ,lemon juice and ginger))

I will never look at Susan G. Komen, the charitable organization quite the same way again. I have never really paid attention to the charity other than thinking highly of the work they do for women's health. I have not directly contributed to the organization but have participated indirectly by buying pink yogurt boxes, chips or other items with pink ribbons on them. I have reached for the pink ribboned items rather than a brand I usually buy.

The drama the last few days with Komen cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood proved how far ideology can move an organization away from what should be it's core mission namely protecting women's health. After the latest episode I started reading about the organization and what I found out is not making me comfortable.

To have right wing ideologues in the board and top positions in an organization that is purely run from donations collected in the name of women's health is one thing. Right wing radical groups have made it a mission to jeopardize women's health and rights every chance they get. To sway to pressure from these groups is another thing altogether.

I also spent some time in Charity Navigator and looking through Komen's audit report - not that I understood much from reading those reports anyway but enough to know that the percentage they spend on Administration costs is way too high. I would not willingly contribute to an organization with that high of an overhead and who pays a failed right wing politician that high of a salary to run a non profit organization.

Whenever I make a donation I do check up on the charity to see their expenses but an organization like Susan G Komen I probably would not have because of their reputation and them being in our face all the time. This is another lesson not to judge a book by its cover. Never ever make a donation to an organization without finding out who sits in decision making positions. Especially an organization like this one which has ardent supporters and chapters all over the country.

Have any of you made donation to the organization and did the episode last week leave a sour taste in your mouth?

Now on to something tasty like this rasam for example. I saw this delicious looking rasam on Cilantro for Ginger Lime Rasam and I could not wait to give it a try. Add to the urgency was the fact that each one of us had a runny nose. Kollu Paruppu and Rasam does what all the cold medications of the world cannot do.

I decided to give Cilantro's lime rasam a try with horse gram instead of the toor dal. The combination of lime and horse gram is one that you have got to try. It was perfectly soothing for those scratchy throats. I mashed up a quarter cup of the horse gram into the rasam and so it was a slightly thickish rasam.

Recipe Source: Cilantro - Ginger Lime Rasam
Ginger Lemon Kollu(Horse gram) Rasam
1. 1/4 cup horse gram
2. juice from 2 limes
3. seasoning: mustard, cumin and asfoetida, curry leaves
4. 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
5. 2 tsp ghee
6. 1 tsp red chili powder
7. salt to taste

8. 1 tomato chopped
9. 2 inch piece of ginger

To Roast and Powder
10. 5 red chilies
11. 1/2 tbsp of pepper corns
12. 2 tsp coriander seeds
13. 1 tsp cumin seeds
14. few fenugreek seeds

1. Cook the horse gram with 5 times as much water till soft and mushy. A pressure cooker works best. Cool and blend the cooked dal to smooth.
2. Blend the tomatoes and ginger to a paste.
3. Roast 6-10 till they start to turn color and make a powder (Coffee grinder works best for this)
4. Mix 1-3 with the coriander leaves and in a vessel gently bring it to a boil. I let it simmer for about 3-4 minutes for the raw smell of tomato to leave. Add salt and chili powder half way through.
5. In a small pan heat the ghee and add the seasoning ingredients and pour over the boiling rasam. Turn off the heat.

Drink as a soup or with white rice.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Potatoes, Eggplants and Drumsticks in a hot and sour gravy

Driving back home from work is when I usually make a mental menu of what to cook for dinner that night and by extension lunch for the next day. On cold windy winter nights all the tongue needs is a hot and spicy curry with some steamed rice.

I had seen this recipe on Peppermill for a spicy curry with drumstick and brinjals cooked with tamarind. That is one combination I can't resist.

In the cold months eggplants in most grocery store look really pathetic. Eating out of season!!. Anyway I had the curry in mind and picked up a few less pathetic looking eggplants. When I started to make the curry though I realized that it wasn't enough and decided to add a few of those non complaining get along with everybody potatoes.

Potatoes were the star in this curry. I have since made the curry with raw bananas in place of potatoes and that turned out quite good as well. I followed Miri's recipe with a few additions.

If you are cooking this as a side for chapathis leave the tamarind out completely. I always add a bit of sugar with any tamarind based gravies. You can skip that if you do not want it. The sugar evens out the sour taste.

Potatoes, Eggplants and Drumsticks in a hot and sour gravy
1. 10 to 15 - 3 inch pieces of drumstick
2. 3 potatoes cut lengthwise or 2 raw bananas
3. 1 Japanese eggplant cut into 3 inch pieces or small eggplant sliced
4. 1/2 - 3/4 cup of red onion chopped fine
5. 3/4 cup of chopped tomatoes
6. 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp from a small lime size piece of tamarind
7. 3 cloves of garlic cut into pieces + (2 tsp of grated ginger - optional)
8. 1 tbsp sambhar powder
9. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
10. 1/2 tbsp of jaggery
11. seasonings - cumin, fenugreek seeds , curry leaves
12. 2 tsp of oil

1. Set the drumstick to boil in a pot of water. Cook till just about cooked. I find this step is useful especially when using frozen drumsticks which take a while to cook.
2. In a large pan or pressure cooker pan heat the oil and add the seasonings. When the mustard starts to splutter add the onions and saute till they turn translucent. Add in the garlic and ginger if doing so.
3. Add in the eggplants and saute for a few minutes. Now add in the potatoes and saute for a few more minutes.
4. Add the turmeric and sambhar powder and give a good mix.
5.Now add the chopped tomatoes and salt and about 1 1/2 cups of water and let it cook till the vegetables are fully cooked. In between drain the drumsticks and add it in as well. (about 8-10 minutes)
6.Add the tamarind pulp and let it cook for another 8-10 minutes. Till the gravy is well formed. Add in the jaggery and check for salt. Turn off the heat.

Serve with steamed white rice which is the best. If serving as a side for bread see Note.

1. If using as a side for any Indian bread, reduce the tamarind pulp. Add in a 1/4 cup more of onion.