December 06, 2016

Roasted butternut squash and onions

Roasted butternut squash with onions

It is the season you know, for butternut squash. While the offerings in the Farmer's market are dwindling here, but you can still find a good butternut squash for $1 or $2. I have tried it baked, in soup and was ready for something new.

This past week, I was working on a story about an Indian poet and someone commented about his work, "the genius of this music is it has simple individual parts, but when it comes together it is modern and complex."

I would like to say the same thing for this dish by Ottolenghi that has been our companion multiple times. Don't be deceived by the simpleness of the dish. It will be the star of your table and what better time to make it than Christmas dinner.

Some adjustments we did on our end -- instead of chunks of squash and onions, we make them thinner like fries and it can double up as a starter as well. We opted out of the pine nuts, but you can easily toast some and add them on top.

Here is the recipe.

October 29, 2016

Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali to all. May the coming year bring health, happiness, love and peace in our lives.

October 26, 2016

Making rasgullas for Diwali

Indian sweet rasgulla

This year Diwali starts the string of festivals for us. Diwali, Halloween, follwed by Tiny M's birthday, three in one week. To contribute to the sugar high (after all it happens once a year) I decided to to make some rasgullas. It has been a favorite for years and now it's time to make it at home.

Truth be told, I have gone through several rounds of rasgulla making and testing before the recipe was ready to be posted on the blog. So the pictures are all a mix from those several rounds.

In paper, the recipe looks rather simple -- make chana (paneer/indian cheese), make it into round balls and then soak it in sugar syrup and cook till it is ready. But it's easier said than done. The first couple of times it crumbled, the ones in brown sugar were brown and were swiftly made into rasmalai. But this one were soft and spongy. In fact, Tiny M was so excited, he stood up (not sit) on the chair and tasted them.

So this Diwali, it's back to the basics with homemade rasgullas. I hope you have a joyful festive season too.

October 20, 2016

Rose sandesh for the puja season

Nolen gurer sandesh

It is a little late, but I hope you had a joyful pujo season. Shubho Bijoya! My parents were here for the pujo, so we had a wonderful time too. We spent time at the local pujo organized nearby; participated in shandi pujo, went to a concert by an artist from Kolkata and ate delicious food.

For pujo I made this rose sandesh. The taste and the smell of rose comes from rose water that I added to the chana or paneer when I was making it. Other than that, there's no other rose flavoring. But you will feel it at the first bite.

My kids have not been too fond of sandesh before, but this time they loved it. Must be the loving hand of the grandparents.

Here is the recipe.

September 26, 2016

Aloo -Begun Diye Chingri Macher Jhol (Shrimp Curry With Potato And Eggplant)

Shrimp Curry With Potato And Eggplant

We were visiting friends for dinner, when one of them turned to me and said, "you know you should have a special place in the blog for all your father's recipe." All my friends know it. My father is a terrific cook. He picked it up a few years ago when he retired and has not looked back.

Vegetables, dals, chicken he can and does cook everything, but I think fish is his specialty. You can look at the the earlier recipes I've posted from his last visits - aloo potol diye chingri macher jhol, or pyanj tomato diye salmoner patla jhol.

This time, when my parents came I asked him what recipe he had in mind for chingri mach this time. He said he was going to make it with eggplants.

The Ann Arbor Farmer's Market has had a bumper of eggplants. Every week, for one dollar, I get a big, fresh eggplant that we then use for bharta, beguni or in macher jhol among other recipes.

So coming back to a special place. I hesitated as his and my mother's influence is in a lot of my cooking. It's little things I have picked up over the years. It may not be his recipe, but it may have some thing that I may have learned from him.
Plus, I have learned my lesson with Aswin's corner. It's not just a corner, it's us. So instead of a place, I let it permeate the overall blog as it already does.

September 18, 2016

Making modaks and a food blogger comes to the rescue

Making modaks with the help of a blogger

This year Ganesh Chathurthi coincided with long weekend in the US. We planned on making a big feast for Ganesha which included idlis, payesam and modaks.

While the first two were easy to make (have experience doing it) the third was a little tricky. Modaks are sweet, steamed dumplings that are made especially for this festival.

Making modaks with the help of a bloggerThe few times I made modals was with my MIL. This time she was not here. So Aswin called her and she gave him the recipe for the filling. For the modak rice outer covers, he looked up a website (vegrecipesofindia) for making the rice flour dough.

When I started making the dough, I was at a loss. The recipe proportions were vague and the steps were not clear. And I ended with this gooey mess.

Time was running out. That's when I remembered Saee Khandekar, another food blogger from my early days of blogging. She is an expert Maharashtrian cook (check out My Jhola ) so I quickly looked up to see if she had a modak recipe.

She did! I did a mental hallelujah and set about making a second batch of rice dough.

With her specific instructions like this, you know you cannot go wrong.
At the slightest hint of rebellion, stir in the rice flour. Don’t worry about the dryness yet. Remove pan from heat and stir continuously. Cover and place back on heat for a minute or two, until the mixture doesn’t smell powdery.
So thank you Saee, the proportions and the descriptions helped.

We had fun making the modaks for neivedyam (offerings to Ganesha) and then eating it. The modaks were nowhere as beautiful as hers, but it was fun sharing this activity with the little ones. We will surely be making modaks again.

August 11, 2016

Olympic ring pancakes

Olympic ring pancakes

Over the weekend, Lil A and Tiny M woke up all excited ready to watch Olympics. It was the theme of the summer camp they had been attending and were really into it. I had watched the opening ceremony the previous night and was feeling it too.

To get us all into the spirit, I decided to make some Olympic ring pancakes, at kids request. It meant a big batch of pancake batter and food color. It was such a hit. Usually there is a lot of talking, music requests etc. There was nothing. They were quiet, on their chairs, just eating. Lil A chose blue and green and Tiny M had the red and yellow pancakes. We had some too, with a nice cup of hot tea.

Try it with your kids, and have a fun morning.

July 16, 2016

Flavors of India

Traveling in India means food-  lots and of different kinds. When I am with my parents and relatives I experience the Bengali flavors - Ilish mach, kosher mangsho, potoler dolma, post, payesh etc.

When I am meeting Aswin's family I relish the Tanjore marathi flavors or pitla, tokku and kadhi.

The biggest thing that has changed is eating outside. There are many more avenues that offer different kinds of cuisines, many more varieties of Indian food as part of a buffet (it was once available only at five-star restaurants) for lunch and for dinner. I had a chance to experience it in Delhi and in Bangalore. The food for delicious and scrumptious and I saw long lines waiting outside, it was clearly popular.

I was able to also go out for different cuisines this time in India - eat a fish taco at Arbor (Bangalore), a eggplant pizza at Toit (Bangalore) and Asian fusion at Momagato (Delhi). It was great combination of flavors and done perfectly.

It was fun and here are some of my favorite pictures through the trip.

Bengali niramish (vegetarian) plate - rice, dal, alu posto, potoler jhol. Not in the picture saag, doi and aam (mango).

Another Bengali plate: aloo karela sheddo, dhudul er tarkari, aloo bhindi posto, kalai er dal, Rui macher jhol (fish curry) and bhaat (rice). Not in the picture aamer tak (mango chutney) and yogurt.

Akki Roti with bhaji and chutney

Ambe bhaat made by Aswin's grandmother (recipe coming up in the next post)

A small dessert selection from Sattvam in Bangalore

June 16, 2016

Playdate #7 and making pizza from scratch

Making pizza from scratch

Making pizza from scratch? I couldn't imagine doing it, even a couple of years ago. But it was the most fun I have had in a while. Even the kids made their own pizzas and gobbled it all down, while the adults waited for theirs in the kitchen.

The playdate was overdue, so when Nicole suggested a pizza party I heartily agreed. We selected New York Times Roberta's pizza dough recipe and we each made a batch of dough. The recipe called for making the dough overnight and letting it rise in the fridge.

Neither of us had time to make it the day before, so we put the dough together in the morning and let it rise through the day outside. It was soft and perfect for all the pizzas we made - mozzarella, BBQ chicken, spinach and egg and veggie overload.

Since then, we both have made a couple of batches of the dough again on popular demand.

The mix of 00 flour and all purpose flour threw me off. But Nicole was gracious to drop it off. I wouldn't have found it.

June 11, 2016

Trying out Blue Apron - A review

I have been reading about the new trend of meal delivery service pre-portioned with all the ingredients and was curious to try one out. So when a friend gave us a coupon to try Blue Apron, we heartily agreed. And here is what I thought of it.

Before I begin, this is NOT a paid review.

We signed up for two meals for four priced at around $69.99.

A Primer:

Blue Apron, is a nation wide food delivery service that sends pre-portioned meals with recipe cards and all the ingredients. They post their menu in advance so you can choose your meals.

We ordered:
  • Oven roasted chicken and mixed mushrooms
  • Catfish piccata with linguine and spinach


May 04, 2016

Barley salad that goes with everything

It has been a month away from blog, a month of unsettling with news from India. A loss that was hard, I needed to be away.

As I slowly begin to heal, I come back to my comfort place, a blog that has given me comfort.

The weather is changing here (even though it's cloudy and rainy), you see it in the buds of the trees, in the chirping you hear in the morning and in the energy around you. And what better way to celebrate the heralding of spring than with a refreshing salad.

Barley salad

I have been making this barley salad for a year and it's finally ready to be shared. The raw garlic that I put in the first time, has been replaced with toasted garlic chips. Chickpeas have been added, so it can be a hearty lunch in itself. It has served as a side with roasted chicken and had as a main lunch with some tandoori shrimps.

The herbs are what make it perfect for spring, it brings that freshness right in your spoonful.

March 28, 2016

Making lemon bars with meyer lemons

Making lemon bars

Happy Holi everyone. I hope you enjoyed the festival of colors with something sweet.

Holi kind of sneaked up on me. I was on the phone with my parents when they asked what our plans were for Holi, and of course what was I making for the festival. I sputtered and went on overdrive.

I remembered that my moms kitchen is busy at this time - the gujias my mom would make, along with sandesh or even naroo if fresh coconut was available.

Instead all I had were two bags of meyer lemons that I had greedily picked up on my last grocery trip. I had to make a quick decision and I decided to tackle two problems with one solution. Holi mithai and meyer lemons. I initially thought of a cake with lemon curd but swiftly changed my plans for something simpler.

I settled on lemon bars. I was kind of nervous attempting it just like lemon curd last year. And just like lemon curd, this is easy to make and super delicious.

I followed the Betty Crocker lemon bar recipe substituting lemons with meyer lemons. With meyer lemons the bars weren't as tart, and had a divine floral smell.

March 17, 2016

Kasoori methi chicken -- Mohana's recipe

Kasoori Methi chicken

The best part of blogging has been meeting people. Someone's cousin is in town, would you recommend a good restaurant, or a friend of a friend is visiting over the weekend and contacts us, or connections through relatives or through another blogger.

When Mohana,  Soma's (who blogs at e-Curry) cousin moved to Ann Arbor, I made another friend. When we were at her place for lunch, she had made this kasoori methi chicken.

Usually, my kids are not big fans of curry. When I ask them, they will pour a little curry over rice, minimal I say, and eat the chicken on the side.

That is not what happened with this curry. They asked for multiple helpings and had a proper jhol-bhath (rice soaked in curry). I immediately asked Mohana for the recipe that she graciously shared with visual descriptions of how much of each ingredients.

I have made it since then and even sent it for lunch with the kindergartner.

Thank you Mohana! it is delicious.

I just add some grated ginger to her original recipe and you can decide to omit it out.

(serves 4-5)
2-3 Chicken breast pieces cut in strips
2 1/2 tspoon kasoori methi
1 tspoon garam masala
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk (you can also use 1/4 cup cream instead)
1/2 tspoon grated ginger
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon chilli powder (change it according to your taste)
4 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Marinate the chicken strips in 1 tspoon kasoori methi, 1/2 tspoon garam masala salt and turmeric and let it sit for a couple of hours.

Now heat a pan with 3 tbspoon oil and brown the chicken strips on each side about 3-4 minutes on each side.

In a saucepan, heat the rest of 1 tbspoon oil. Add 1 tspoon kasoori methi sort of cruch it with your hands over the oil and then add the garam masala. Add the ginger and the crushed tomatoes and let it cook for 3-4 minutes till the chicken is done.

Now add the chicken to the saucepan, lower the heat and add the milk stirring constantly. Add the salt, chilli powder and the rest of the kasoori methi (1/2 tspoon).

Kasoori Methi chicken

Cook on low heat with frequent stirring for another 7-8 minutes or till the chicken is cooked.

Take it off the heat and serve it with some plain rice.

March 04, 2016

Simple tadka mixed dal for vacation

Simple tadka mixed dal
We had received 12 inches of snow and another 4-5 inches was in the forecast. In middle of this huddling down and going about our routine, it was great to pack our bags and head for the sandy beaches and miss the snow in the forecast.

Instead of shoveling, we soaked the sun, played in the pool, collected shells on the beach, watched birds and enjoyed the warm weather of Florida. 

Dolphin spotting

One of the highlights was going on a boat tour to watch the dolphins. We ran into a nursery of dolphins and the mother and the baby regaled us by swimming behind the boat and jumping out every minute or so. It was wonderful. Look how cute they are!

While on these vacations, we try to find a place that has a small kitchen so we can cook one meal in the room instead of eating out and it works out very well with little kids. 

The set up is minimal, few ingredients, I carry a few spices, dal and rice and we buy a few vegetables. 

In these trips, I make a simple tadka dal that we love. I just cook the dal outside (instead of a pressure cooker) and then put a simple tadka at the end. It tastes great with a quick stir fry and some rice.

(serves 4-5)
1/2 cup moong dal
1/2 cup masoor dal
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin powder
salt to taste

For tadka:
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
1 tspoon oil

Wash the dals together and then boil it with 3- 3.5 cups of water, salt and turmeric and cumin powder. I just stir it every few minutes till the dal is soft to touch, somewhere between 10-15 minutes. 

 Heat the oil in a small vessel and temper it with the cumin seeds. Once it starts sputtering, add the red chilli. Immediately take it off the heat and add it to the dal.
Simple tadka mixed dal

It's ready to be served.

January 27, 2016

Celebrating 6th birthday with StarWars vanilla cupackes

celebrating birthday with vanilla cupcakes

Lil A turned six. Before I get too sentimental, let me tell you all about the party.

Birthday was a big discussion for weeks. Lil A changed themes every week if not every day. We finally settled on Lego birthday theme. I started preparing, ordered a few things when he announced that it had to be Star Wars birthday.

We switched gears midway and finally settled on Lego activities and Star Wars food for the kids birthday party. A few of his friends came over and we hosted it at home.

The menu was:
    celebrating birthday with vanilla cupcakes
  • Cheese and pepperoni pizza
  • Carrots
  • Watermelon
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Grape lightsabers
  • Starwars chocolate in both white and dark chocolate
  • Marshmallow stormtroopers and
  • Starwars cupcakes 
Ameya made Lego masks for his friends and some friends chose to make it themselves. Then we played a game of Lego bingo. I wasn't sure but the kids really got into it. They would shout out "Bingo" as they crossed a line on their page.

Finally, it was time for food and the Star Wars theme won over some of the critics as well. The cupcakes are really my go to vanilla cupcakes with Star Wars pictures! But we'll keep that a secret.

Those who know me know that I have been experimenting with oil, buttermilk combination in cakes and the cupcake has it too. I find them more moist and kids prefer it too. The frosting is just whipped cream, another favorite. In fact, they come for multiple tastings when I am whipping it, acting as my testers. :-)

Here is the recipe:

(makes 12-14 cupcakes)
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 tspoon baking powder
1/2 tspoon baking soda
1/2 tspoon salt
2/3 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3-4 tbspoon powdered sugar
food color (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degF. Butter the cupcake liners and put them in the pan.

Sift all the dry ingredients together and keep is aside.

Whip the 2 eggs for about 1 -2 minutes till it turns fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for another minute.

Then add the oil and vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds till well incorporated. Then add the dry ingredients in three and buttermilk in two installments, ending with the dry ingredients.

Make sure to clean the sides.

Pour the batter, which is a little liquidy into the liners filling a little more than half.

Bake for 12-16 minutes till the toothpicks come out clean.

Cool them completely before frosting.

Beat the heavy cream with sugar till soft peaks form. Use it to decorate the cupcakes.

I got the pictures of Star Wars characters from here which I cut out and put on toothpicks.

celebrating birthday with vanilla cupcakes

The cupcakes are ready to serve.

January 09, 2016

Khao soi

Khao Soy

-->Happy New Year!
I am back with a new recipe - Khao soi. It is coconut milk soaked noodle dish topped with meat/vegetables and a variety of toppings. It's can be a lot of fun to have this at dinner parties where everyone can make their own bowl.

I made it several times in 2015 and it was a lot of fun. Instead of preparing a prepared bowl, I put all the ingredients on the table and everyone could choose and make their own Khao soi bowl.

It can be done with chicken or any other meat. I also added a vegetable dish as I had vegetarians on the table as well.

After you add the coconut soup, noodles on top and choose chicken and vegetables, then come the toppings - fried onions, fried garlic, ginger soaked in lemon juice and sugar, cilantro, spring onions, crispy bhujia, fresh radish, boiled eggs or any other multitudes of combination you can think of.

It may take a little bit of time getting all the ingredients, but the bowl with all the toppings will be the talk of the night, not to mention so delicious that it will be gone in no time.

Here is how I do it:


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