Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lettuce Wraps with Peppers spicy and everyones favorite at home

Lettuce Wraps with Peppers 

One you make a choice to eat healthy and make it a life style change it's hard to eat food that's mono colored. Healthy eating to me means having fresh, organic as much as possible, and multitude of colors on your plate and preferably in their original recognizable shape . I cringe when I have to make meals with just one ingredient. Prefer to include greens, some healthy portion of nuts, spices and tons of vegetables.

Lettuce wraps are a favorite at home. Had it first time at P.F. Chang's and since then keep going back just for wraps. Inspired by P.F. Chang's  here is my version. P.S I am really particular about cutting vegetables to a specific and uniform size ALWAYS, I am obsessed that way :). Feel free to cut the veggies to suit your taste.

2 medium sized Yellow, Red, Orange peppers each chopped extremely fine
1/2 cup of Chestnuts, skip if you cannot find it
1/2 cup walnuts
2 shallots substitute with medium sized red onion
1 Jalapeño
1/4 cup mixed greens corriander & mint 
fresh butter lettuce 

For Dressing
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chili sauce
3 tbsp of garlic olive oil/ use olive oil if you can't find flavored oil
2 tbsp of spicy mustard
1 tsp of brown sugar/sugar
salt according to taste
fresh pepper
chili pepper flakes according to taste

1. Seperate lettuce leaves and wash and allow to dry
2. Cut all the vegetables finely including chestnuts
3. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add the diced vegetables, including chestnuts, salt and pepper and sauté  for a minute or two till they get caramelized. Keep aside to cool

4. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing

5. Layer lettuce leaves and scoop a big portion of vegetables and pour over the dressing
6. Sprinkle with lemon juice and chopped walnuts and serve
It's like a party in your mouth, such layers of flavors from spicy, sweet and sour. Nuts give an additional texture to wraps. Make it a weeknight dinner and allow for kids to serve the way the like. Makes for a fun dinner/ snack.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sweet Cherry Tomato, Watercress & Shallots Salad - Ode To Summer

Sweet Cherry Tomato, Watercress & Shallots Salad - Ode To Summer

Summer is gone, I can feel the change of season. The chill in the air, falling of leaves, shorter days are all tell tell sign of the change. This Summer was relaxing, fun, and most importantly spent time with my parents. There is no better feeling in the world then being a child again.  Spent my Summer with kids in India, kids visited both maternal and paternal grandparents, spent time with their cousins, we did some travel, I did a whole lot shopping and we ate to heart contents. Loved every minute of vacation and now its back to the grind, As much as I crib about the "grind" there is something very good about the predictability of the day, the daily discipline and the oh so hectic weekends. Life in the grind is not so bad after all.
Summer and Tomatoes are synonymous in my mind, as the season progresses the quality of the fruit gets better. Was given a bowl of these cherry tomatoes and sweet were they. It would be a crime to make anything of them except a simple salad, so simple salad it is ..

1 cup of ripe cherry tomatoes
1 shallot diced finely
1/4 cup of Watercress

2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp of fine olive oil
2 tbsp of vinegar - I used honey vinegar which is epic
pinch of sea salt
fresh pepper according to taste
1.Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and keep aside
2. Clean and cut tomatoes in half
3. Toss shallots and vinegar and pour over tomatoes and mix well
4. Now mix in the watercress and give it one gentle toss.
Serve cold or at room temperature
A rustic bread with tomato salad seems like a company made in heaven.
so here's to a summer gone by, thankful for all the memories and happy times. Time to soak in  my favorite season Fall.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Panna Cotta - Three Simple Ingredients & Unlimited Possibilities

Panna Cotta - Three Simple Ingredients & Unlimited Possibilities

We are half way through the year and it's hard to believe. Each passing month seem like a blur the rush, the activities, the rat race its hard to take a pause and breathe and live the moment. As my parents would always say there is a time and place for everything and assure me that this phase in my life is when I should run and sprint and there will time later to soak in the efforts and relish the fruits of all the hard work. Glad that it's summer, a break from the routine and a chance to catch up on my blog.

During the last few months experimented with various cuisines , ingredients and cooking techniques have lots of posts in drafts. I find it hard to find words to blog, experiencing writers block I guess.

Coming to today's recipe it's one of the easiest and delicious dessert to make. Have eaten Panna Cotta numerous time but never realized how easy it was to make until last week. Was flipping through Cooking channels and saw the recipe. I knew I had to make it instantly and the fact that we were expecting friends for dinner was a perfect excuse.

Three ingredients suffice for the basic Panna Cotta recipe and you can customize your flavor with additional flavored sauces, toppings or flavoring. Below are my experiments with various flavors. Traditional Panna Cotta recipe uses heavy cream, I used whole milk instead and consistency was as good as heavy cream.

Basic Panna Cotta Recipe
Makes for about 6~8 serving
2 cups whole milk/Heavy cream
1 envelope of Gelatin ( You can use Agar Agar or other vegetarian options available)
1 cup sugar

Optionally for additional flavor you can use Vanilla, Lemon or other flavors. I used Vanilla in my recipe.

1. In heavy sauce pan add two cups of milk and boil in the lowest possible flame, taking care not to over heat
2. In a separate cup add one envelope of gelatin and cold water and allow for the gelatin to mix well
3. Now add gelatin and sugar into the milk and allow to boil on low flame for about 4~5 minutes till you see small bubbles form along the rim.
4. Remove from heat and pour into ramekins. You can also butter the ramekins in case if you would like to serve on plate.
5. Refrigerate for at least  six hours and serve cold.

This can be prepared a day or two in advance.

Strawberry Compote Panna Cotta
Cut Strawberries into about half an inch cubes add some honey/sugar and lemon juice. Add a pinch of fresh mint and mix well. This can be made ahead and allow to marinate and allow Strawberries to soak in the flavor or made fresh. Top Panna Cotta with a scoop or two spoonfuls of Strawberries and serve cold.

Nectarine and Orange flavored Panna Cotta

Cut ripe Nectarine into tiny pieces, add about two cups of freshly squeezed Orange juice to Nectarines, add sugar/honey if required. Add Freshly chopped mint or basil to the Nectarines, mix well  and serve on top of cold Panna Cotta. This is by far my favorite. With such beautiful fruit, ripe and juicy it's hard to go wrong with the topping. You can add Orange flower essence to milk while boiling to enhance and elevate the flavor even more.

Caramel Panna Cotta

Scoop couple of tablespoons of store brought Caramel on top of the Panna Cotta and allow to cool. Each spoon gives such contrasting and lovely texture of Panna Cotta.

Mango Panna Cotta
Fresh juicy and sweet Mangoes, technically you need nothing more but just to add an element of flavor add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger juice and toss in fresh mint. Now add this delicious topping to you Panna Cotta and wait to see your guests reactions, guaranteed to get ooohs and aaah's

As I said possibilities are endless and making with whole milk instead of whipping cream and addition of all these flavors enhances the taste without having to add a whole lot of sugar. And fact that this can be made ahead helps too. Make various topping and allow for your guests to choose their topping making it very engaging.

So which one would be your favorite?

Summer means color burst in my backyard, though California is experiencing severe drought glad to see these beauties bloom.

Have a happy and a safe summer !!!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Instant Yogurt Oats

Yogurt Oats - Healthy alternative to Yogurt rice

Life is running at full throttle. Days, weeks & months seems to pass by in a blur. Looking forward to summer and some downtime. Have quite a few posts in drafts and its been crazy trying to find time to post. Made this today for lunch, simple, easy to make and delicious and not to mention healthy, I knew I had to post it. Traditional yogurt rice recipe is made with rice and every family has their own version. My version today has the same traditional seasoning but added some toppings and replaced rice with oats for a healthier version.

2 cups Yogurt
1/2 cup milk

1 tbsp oil
1 tspn mustard seeds
1 tspn jeera/cumin
1 tspn urad dal
1 tspn Vamu/Ajwain 
pinch of hing
10~15 curry leaves
Salt according to taste

for toppings
finely chopped onions, tomatoes, green chiles, coriander, cucumber & grated carrot

1. Add tbsp of oil in a pan and allow to heat and when hot add all the seasoning ingredients and fry till you see the mustard seeds pop
2. Now add oats and toast for about 4~5 minutes constantly till you have a nice aroma

3. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl
4.  Add yogurt to the oats and mix well, add milk and salt and toss till all the oats are covered, if the mixture seems too thick add a little water/yogurt.
6. Mix well and wrap the container with foil and allow for oats to soak the  yogurt for about 15 minutes
7. Serve Oats with all chopped vegetables as toppings.
Delicious and satisfying Yogurt Oats healthy without being carb rich.

Have a good week ahead ..............

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Coriander, Coconut Masala Quinoa - Oh No, Not Your Traditional Coconut Rice

Coriander, Coconut Masala Quinoa - Oh No, Not Your Traditional Coconut Rice

Food fads come and fads go, one day there is research showing the benefits and the very next day there is research showing just the opposite. Off late with so much information available online it gets even confusing and harder to make the right choice, point in case is today's ingredient. Once upon a time eating coconut was deems extremely dangerous, cholesterol causing, fattening etc etc.. today suddenly there are so many studies suggesting its benefits. Go to any organic/ Whole food you would find tons of offerings of Coconut products from oils to butters to soap to paste. Well what ever the benefits might be for South Indian belle like me its just a staple, something that has bee used on a daily basis for generations.
The uses of coconut in a typical south indian home are many, growing up my hair was drenched in coconut oil, babies were massaged with coconut oil, infact every part of the coconut tree was used up starting from the fruit to the bark. Today's recipe is a modern adaptation of traditional Coconut Rice recipe.

Fresh ingredients

1 fresh coconut grated
2 cups of coriander washed and chopped
1~2 green chilies
1/2 cup green bell pepper/capsicum dices finely
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup grated carrot optional
1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

Dry ingredients

2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1~2 elachi
1 tbsp of garam masala
2 big tbsp of channa dal
1/4  cup cashew nuts/almond/walnuts (nut of your choice to your hearts content)
1/2 tbsp of oil
salt according to taste


1. In a shallow pan add oil and when oil gets hot add all the dry ingredients and sauté for a minute or two till you get a strong aroma
2. Grind coriander, mint, green chiles in a food processor and keep a side
3. Add the grated coriander, bell pepper and carrot and sauté till coriander is well fried and the raw smell is gone takes about 3 minutes
4. Now add the freshly grated coconut and sauté for another couple of minutes
5. Add boiled Quinoa, salt and fresh pepper and sauté till all the ingredients are mixed well

Remove from heat and adjust for salt and serve piping hot or at room temperature with some fresh coriander as garnish.
Guilt free, delicious and protein filled cannot ask for a better alternative. Eat it for dinner or lunch.You can also squeeze some fresh lemon juice if you would prefer.

On a different note, we at home have been feeling the gardening itch and started seedling indoors and one experiment with Hydroponics. Looking forward to a steady temperature to transplant them into the ground. Nothing excites me like seeing a sapling breaking the seed and out of the ground. Hoping all these plants would survive for the next couple of weeks.

Have a beautiful rest of the week my dear readers, chow .....

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Avocado Taco's

Avocado Taco's 

When I first moved to US almost couple of decades ago, it truly was a cultural shock. Unlike today where every component of living can be mapped with the help of technology and social media, it was learning and adjusting every day. 
For the first couple of months every day was a something first, my first ride in train, my first library card, my first attempt at driving test( no guesses for how many times I had to take a test to get my license). Thinking back and reminiscing  “Everything First” days makes me so nostalgic, those days were filled with either/or excitement, triumph’s, experiments and learning. Cannot imagine how we survived without Google, Cellphones or Facebook and those expensive calls to India which were always rationed. 
Come one more year I would have spent my life exactly half in India and half in US. Time did fly by very quick and I have enjoyed every step of the journey so far and can’t wait to see what is in store ahead. A part of becoming Americanized and adjusting was adapting to various cuisines.  California and Bay Area in specific is a melting pot, Californian’s enjoy high quality and fresh food. The abundance of fresh produce and the ease of access make us very pampered and not to mention the Sunshine. 

Today’s recipe was inspired by the fresh Haas Avocado’s at the local store. Creamy, delicious and oh so nutritious. Spread the creamy Avocado on a whole wheat toast and sprinkle with fresh pepper and salt, boy my kind of snack any time.

Very easy to prepare and makes for an healthy snack or an appetizer. Recipe was inspired by here 

Ingredients Makes for about 10 mini sized Taco's
Whole wheat Tortilla's  or I used whole wheat Lavash bread
1 large ripe Haas Avocado
cup of Humus, I used spinach & feta humus ( you can substitute your favorite flavor) 
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
sriracha sauce
flavored oil such as garlic oil
sea salt 
fresh pepper
cilantro for garnish
1. Warm Tortilla/ Flat bread slightly over the  pan on both sides
2. Cut Tortilla/ Flat into disks using a cookie cutter/pizza cutter
3. Slather Humus and lay a slice of Avocado on the top
4. Drizzle with garlic oil, generous Sriracha sauce, salt and pepper
5. Garnish with shredded cheese

7. Fold the disk to make a taco,sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.
8. Fresh made Salsa makes for a perfect accompaniment
9. Perfect bite size makes it easy to eat and serve. Can't stop at one guaranteed 

This can make a perfect make your own Taco appetizer for your next party, serve multiple flavors of Humus, breads and various toppings, sauces and fresh slices of Avocado's for your guest to make their own creations.

So much healthier and better than your fried and run-of-the-mill appetizers.

Try it my dear readers and let me know what you think....

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Flaky, Utterly Buttery, Delicious And Super Easy Cinnamon Rolls

Flaky, Utterly Buttery, Delicious And Super Easy Cinnamon Rolls 

We like many other families in the valley are always on the go. There is always a deadline looming, always some  project due, some exam to prepare and always, always a never ending task list. If you have lived in the bay area and are raising kids I see you nodding in harmony. As crazy and quick the weekdays passes by our family over the years have developed a Sunday morning ritual.
Usually or most Sunday mornings, all four of us head to our local bakery for breakfast. Its the usual for me and my husband, coffee and bagel and kids change it up every time. Over the last few visits both my boys started loving the huge cinnamon rolls slathered with frosting, gooey and delicious.
And when I saw a recipe for Quick & Dirty Cinnamon roles at Joy the baker, I knew I had to give it a try.

This is my adaptation of the original recipe. You can find step by step instructions of the original recipe here 

For Dough
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk

For Filling

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup store brought cinnamon sugar )if you would like to make it home mix 1/2 cup sugar with 3/4 tbsp ground cinnamon)
3/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

For Glaze
1/2 cup of condensed milk thinned with a 1 tbsp of sugar ( As I said its the easy version)

1.In a small saucepan combine milk, butter, and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted completely. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool from hot to just warm.
2.Place sweet milk and butter mixture in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast over the liquid. Stir to incorporate. Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes to allow to yeast to activate, foam, and froth.

3. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and the egg yolk to the milk and yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon or hand beaters with the dough hook attachment and stir or beat until incorporated. Add more flour, a few tablespoons at a time if the dough feels to wet. Bring the dough together into a ball and knead a few turns with your hands.

4.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
7.Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a roughly 9 x 12-inch rectangle.
Spread with about 4 tablespoons of butter.
8.In a small bowl stir together cinnamon sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
9.Generously sprinkle over the melted butter. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Roll starting at the longer edge into a tight coil.Slice into 6 pieces.
10.Use remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch baking pan. Place rolls in the pan leaving about 1/2 inch of room between them. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

11.While the rolls rise, place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown, puffed, and bubbling
12. Remove from oven and douse with condensed milk mixture and melted butter.
Serve them hot or at room temperature
Cinnamon rolls come out flaky, buttery and delicious. Serve with warm milk or hot coffee.

Pamper your loved ones with breakfast in the bed this Valentines Day with these rolls some hot coffee and lots of LOVE !!

Happy Valentines Day !!!

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