Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In Amma's Kitchen - December 2014...Our Travels - Hyderabad, India

It's time for another round of the very cool monthly happening called "In My Kitchen" run by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
So here we go....

This Month in my Amma's Kitchen...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Raw Pumpkin and Sunflower Seed Brittle

As most of you are aware, the seasons are changing in the Northern Hemisphere. With the coming of Fall, comes Pumpkins...and Pumpkin Spiced Everything in the Northeast USA!
One of my favorite things to make after Halloween is raw dried pumpkin seeds.
They are great to use in a variety of ways from salad toppings and snacks, to breads
 and my favorite ... brittle!
This Pumpkin and Sunflower Seed Brittle is crisp, crunchy, and sweet with just the right amount of spice to it.
I like using a mix of shelled raw and non shelled raw pumpkin seeds, shelled raw sunflower seeds, and hemp seeds. I feel that the shells give an extra crunchiness to the brittle and the combination of seeds give it a hearty, nutty taste.

Here is my recipe for Spiced Pumpkin and Sunflower Seed Brittle:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

In My Kitchen - November 2014

It's time for another round of the very cool monthly happening called "In My Kitchen" run by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

So here we go....

This Month in my Kitchen...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How to Tuesday - Pumpkin Seeds

In the Eastern US, Autumn means pumpkins...Pumpkin pie, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Pumpkin Carving, Pumpkin Seeds, Pumpkin everything!

Since we got married, we've made our own tradition of carving theme pumpkins for our steps for Halloween.
Last year was Kishore's introduction to "The Nightmare Before Christmas" with carvings and this year we got into "The Walking Dead" just in time for Halloween!

As much fun as carving is I always try my best to make use of as much of the pumpkin as possible. I know a lot of people have this idea that you can't eat carving pumpkins, well that's simply not true. Before carving,  I usually save the seeds for roasting and scrape the inside throughly and cook that down. While it's true the larger the pumpkin the more water, this just means you have to cook it down longer and drain off the water before using it in pie, bread, or pancakes.

I'll just focus on the seeds for this post...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to Tuesday - Pickled Jalapeño Peppers

"Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. 
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. 
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. 
Where's the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?"

I remember trying to say this tongue- twister as fast as I could as a kid, and I always wondered what a 'peck of pickled peppers' was. I knew what pickled peppers were but what was a peck? I mean Mad Martigan used it to describe Willow in the movie, so it must mean a small something...right?
Well after a little research, it seems like Mr. Piper really liked pickled peppers because a peck is equal to roughly 16 pints! That's 16 pints of pickled peppers that he put away!
This recipe is only for 2 pints but if you have a hankering as bad as Peter I'm sure you can multiply the recipe!

Here's my recipe for Spicy Pickled Jalapeños:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

In My Kitchen - October 2014

I can't believe it's already time for another round of the very cool monthly happening called "In My Kitchen" run by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

So here we go....

This Month in my Kitchen...

Monday, October 6, 2014

Garden Vegetable Antipasto Platter- Part 2: Grilled Eggplant Rolls

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we had some friends drop in on us and I hadn’t prepared anything before hand. While Kishore kept them company in the garden I put together a quick vegetarian antipasto appetizer platter for the four of us. The platter included: Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Grilled Eggplant Rolls, Garden Giardiniera, Olives, and Rosemary Parmesan Flatbread Crackers. We sat outside in the garden by the Koi pond and talked about our vegetable gardens and our plans for next year. We sat, talked, and sipped on a lovely Muscato. Here's the second recipe I promised...

Part 2: Grilled Eggplant Rolls

I used Ichiban or Japanese Eggplants from my garden but you can usually buy them in the local market. I prefer using the Japanese eggplants because I find they are less seedy, and less acidic than the large Italian Eggplants. While you can use the large Italian Eggplants in this recipe, it does require slightly more prep work of soaking the slices. These Eggplant Rolls, are grilled then stuffed with a nutty herb spiced cheese mix. It's great as an appetizer or as part of a antipasto platter. 

Here is my recipe for Grilled Eggplant Rolls:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Spicy Sriracha Honey Cashews

Now that the school year has started, I thought it would be a good idea to post a healthy snack recipe for lunch boxes or afternoon snacking. I made these awhile back for an afternoon movie marathon snack...between Kishore and my Sister, they polished them off and then proceeded to asked if there was anymore! Now that being said, be prepared to make more pretty soon after the first batch! This is a great anytime, anywhere healthy snack. The cashews are lightly pan roasted, then covered with Spicy Sriracha Powder and drizzled with Local Raw Honey.
Here is my recipe for Spicy Sriracha Honey Cashews.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

In My Kitchen - September 2014

It's time for another round of the very cool monthly happening called "In My Kitchen" run by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

So here we go....

This Month in my Kitchen...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hibiscus Limeade with Lemon Balm

Yesterday I put up a How to post for making your own Hibiscus Syrup, so it only seems fair to share one of my favorite recipes to use it. As I mentioned in my previous post, the first time I had Hibiscus tea was from a Trinidadian neighbor. She would make the tea by putting about 3-4TBLSPs Hibiscus Syrup in a glass with ice and filling it the rest of the way with water, simple and refreshing. I decided to experiment a little and add some herbs and fruits from the garden, and that's how I came up with Hibiscus Limeade with Lemon Balm. This refreshing summer cooler has a slightly sweet floral taste with hints of citrus. It's perfect for a hot summer afternoon, and it can always be taken up a notch for an evening social by adding some Rum. I like to add Coconut Rum to top off that Tropical feel! :)

Here is my recipe for Heavenly Hibiscus Limeade with Lemon Balm:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Tuesday - Hibiscus Syrup

If your only knowledge of Mahakali
comes from the embarrassing
'Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom'
Please do some reading.
I've always loved the way Hibiscus flowers look. They just evoke images of tropical paradises, warm sand, and beautiful blue waters. This tropical connection is strengthened by it's official title;   national flower of South Korea, Malaysia, Haiti, and state flower of Hawaii. Red Hibiscus also has particular meaning in Hinduism, it is considered to be the favorite flower of both Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali. Red Hibiscus, like a lot of things, however, has much more going for it then just its beauty. Hibiscus flowers, particularly of Hibiscus sabdariffa and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, have been used in traditional medicine from China, India, Egypt, and many other places around the world. One of it's primary uses was as a diuretic tea, and recent preliminary USDA tests suggests that regular consumption can lower blood pressure in pre- and mildly hypertensive individuals. It's also high in Vitamin C and in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what give them, and cranberries, that distinct red color and tart taste. 

My introduction to Hibiscus tea was as a teenager babysitting for a neighbor from Trinidad. She would always offer me some of her special ice tea, as I called it, to cool off on hot summer days. I loved how it had a sweet, full bodied yet flowery somewhat cranberry-like tart taste to it. It was refreshingly sweet without being cloyingly so. This unique flavor makes it perfect for a number of different uses: iced/hot tea, fruit punch, mixed drinks, and granitas. This syrup recipe is based on the tea I remember from those hot summers.

Here is my recipe for Sweet Hibiscus Syrup:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Garden Vegetable Antipasto Platter- Part 1: Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Last weekend we had some friends drop in on us. We weren’t expecting company that afternoon so I hadn’t prepared anything before hand. While Kishore was showing them around the garden I put together a quick vegetarian antipasto appetizer platter for the four of us. The platter included: Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Grilled Eggplant Rolls, Garden Giardiniera, Olives, and Rosemary Parmesan Flatbread Crackers. We sat outside in the garden by the Koi pond and talked about our vegetable gardens and our plans for next year. We sat, talked, and sipped on a lovely Muscato. Since the platter was a hit I thought I'd share the recipes...

Part 1: Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Left- Female, Right- Male
I used Squash Blossoms from my garden but you can usually buy them in the morning at a local Farmer’s Market. If you have your own squash plants, I’ll show you how to harvest your own blossoms. 
There are two types of blossoms on a squash plant: Male and Female.
The Males are usually more abundant, open first thing in the morning, and have a thin stalk. The Females have a thicker stalk that resembles a baby zucchini. While you can harvest and stuff both, I prefer to harvest a few male flowers from each plant, and leave the female flowers to produce zucchinis later!

These Squash Blossoms are stuffed with a nutty herb spiced cheese mixture and baked till the outside is lightly crisp and the cheese is melty. It's great as an appetizer or as part of a antipasto platter.

Here is my recipe for Stuffed Squash Blossoms:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

In My Kitchen - August 2014

It's time for another round of the very cool monthly happening called "In My Kitchen" run by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

So here we go....

This Month in my Kitchen...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Avocado and Tomatillo Salsa - Salsa Verde con Aguacate

This year we decided to try growing tomatillos in our garden. We got our first plants at a local farm, where we were told that they wouldn't grow more then 2ft high or wide...Needless to say they exploded! 
We have been picking tomatillos almost everyday since Mid- June. A tomatillo is a small, round, green tomato-like fruit that is covered in a husk resembling a paper lantern. It originates in Mexico, where the Nahuatl word for it 'Tomātl' (pronounced 'toe-maa-tal') means 'fat, water thing.' You gotta love that description! If you've ever had Salsa Verde at a Mexican restaurant, you've tasted tomatillos. They have a similar taste to tomatoes but are a little more firm and tart. With all these tomatillos I decided to make my own version of Salsa Verde. This Salsa Verde or 'Green Salsa' is perfect as a summer dip with chips, as a topper to Veggie Tortillas, or as a side dish for grilled fish. The avocado, tomatillos, and red onions tie this salsa together giving it a unique piquant yet slightly sweet taste, full of summer sunshine and flavor.

Here is my recipe for this terrifically tasty and tart Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to Tuesday - Preserving Herbs

*Oops! So sorry this should have posted yesterday...

In the previous 'How to' post we talked about planting a kitchen garden, this time we'll talk about drying herbs for later use.
I love using fresh herbs from our garden, and luckily we've had an abundance of herbs this year. But with that abundance comes the question of what to do with the excess? The simple answer...Everything that we don't use immediately after cutting, I dry for later use.  
Drying your own herbs is a great way to continue using your summer produce through the winter. It also means you won't have to rely on old, dried out, tasteless supermarket herbs that have been sitting on the shelf God only knows how long! 

So let's begin, there are two main types of herbs: 

  • Woody - Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Sage, 
  • Leafy - Mints, Basil, Lemon Balm, Dill, Cilantro, Parsley, Chives, Stevia

L to R: Woody Thyme, and Leafy Sweet Mint

To go along with those two types of herbs, there are also two common techniques for drying them: air drying and using a dehydrator. We'll go through each technique below:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thai Lettuce Wraps

On one of our first dates, Kishore took me to P.F. Chang's. He said it was one of his favorite places to eat for one particular dish. The entire 30 minute drive I was trying to coax it out of him but he kept saying, "Wait till you try it." I'd never been to P.F. Chang's, so I was curious what the food would be like...Would it be Americanized Chinese food almost too sweet to eat, more traditional, or fusion cuisine? Well, I'll tell you what it was delicious!
Tender Romaine hearts were served with lightly sweet, spiced ground chicken with sauce on the was very, very tasty and this wasn't the first time I'd tasted it. I'd had something similar before at our favorite local Thai restaurant. The restaurant simply called it 'Nam' and it is a favorite to order on hot summer nights. It's a great, satisfying summer meal; very little cooking and filling without being heavy. Crunchy lettuce leaves filled with fragrant ground pork with hints of lime, topped with a sweet and tangy peanut sauce...Just talking about it makes me hungry!

Here is my recipe for these tasty Thai Lettuce Wraps with Ground Pork and Lime:

Monday, July 7, 2014

In My Kitchen - July 2014

It's time for another round of the very cool monthly happening called "In My Kitchen" run by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

So here we go....

This Month in my Kitchen...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Blackberry Jasmine Iced Tea

This weekend was hot...

It was beautifully sunny, with clear blue skies, but incredibly hot! 
And of course the harbingers of this warm weekend weather would be...
On the up side - Our blackberry bush bursting with juicy ripe dark purple blackberries.
On the down side- Our AC unit going on the fritz. 

The heat and lack of AC, of course led us to be two pretty cranky people, but we tried to make the best of it.
We both were trying different ways to cool down: popsicles (recipe coming soon!), ice compresses, water from the garden hose, and cool drinks. We finally decided to try to cool off in the garden, sitting in our swing and picking/ eating blackberries. In that one afternoon we picked a little more than a pint, with plenty more still ripening on the bush. These blackberries are twice as big and twice as sweet as the ones I use to buy in the store; luckily for us they are too big for the birds to pick! :)
After we ate a good number of blackberries, the question was what to do with the ones we hadn't was absolutely out of the drink it is! I grabbed a few sprigs of mint and off I went to make our cool refresher! This ice tea is a great summer cooler. Light, refreshing taste; floral jasmine flavor melding with sun ripened sweet blackberries, and a hint of mint to top it  all off.

Here is my recipe for this Refreshingly Floral Blackberry Jasmine Iced Tea:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mongolian Spicy Stir Fried Noodles

I went to California a few years ago with my Aunt to visit family in Mountainview. The weather was nice, and the parks were lovely. While I did have a nice time, I would have to say the 4 major highlights of the trip were:
1- Walking through Muir Woods. Walking along those huge ancient giant trees it makes you wonder what they've been through and what they've seen, figuratively of course...trees don't have eyes.

2- Accidentally Off roading in a Nissan Maxima while trying to find Big Basin Redwood State Park, and finding out later we had been driving through the middle of it the whole time!

3- Spotting a handsome young man at a Starbucks on El Camino Real...only to meet him 3 years later at a Starbucks in NJ and 1 year later marrying him. :)

4- and of course The noodles at New Mongolian BBQ on Castro St. in Mountainview.

The noodles were delicious! It was lunch and a show. You would go in, pick what you wanted off the menu or opt for the buffet style stir fry. We opted for the buffet, we made our way to where they had a large spread including numerous raw veggies, thinly sliced raw marinaded meats and seafood, a wide array of sauces to pick from, and at the end of it all oodles of cooked cold noodles! After you picked what you wanted, you headed to the front of the store where the chef stood in front of this huge round grill, with a large sword-like spatula. He'd take what you chose and cook it right in front of you. Truth be told, it took longer to pick from the buffet then to cook it!
I loaded mine up with Snow Peas, other veggies, sliced lamb, and a spicy, spicy sauce, yum!
This week, after the rain we had an abundance of Snow Peas. So I decided to make a version of those quick spicy noodles showcasing those snappy garden fresh Snow Peas. This is a great versatile recipe that can be veg or non-veg; it's completely up to you what to put in it. Use the recipe as a template for a tasty quick meal.

Here's my take on those Spicy Stir Fried Noodles:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fabulously Spicy Falafel - Chickpea Fritters

This past week has been warm, humid and very rainy. While it's great for the plants and the garden...I was missing the sun. Luckily for us, we are in for a beautiful weekend, warm and sunny. Today, we spent the better part of our day outside in the garden, harvesting, tending and staking plants. I asked Kishore what we were going to do for dinner, after some thought we decided... Spicy Falafel it is! When we've had a long day, don't really want to spend too much time cooking, one of our favorite quick light dinner meals is Falafel. The nice thing about falafel is that it's a great throw together meal. I always have some canned chickpeas available in my cabinet; along with cilantro, parsley, and mint in the fridge or garden depending on the time of year. 

The first time we had Falafel was at this lovely Lebanese restaurant that was literally in the lower level of the owner, Maria's, home. When you came in she, and her mother or daughter would be sitting at one of the tables chopping herbs, or rolling stuffed grape leaves; she'd ask you what you were in the mood for meat or vegetable. On this day there was this lovely herbal smell drifting from the kitchen and I said, "Whatever you are cooking now, that's what I want to try." Out she came, 10 minutes later, with steaming hot falafel stuffed into a warm homemade whole wheat pita with cucumbers and tomatoes with tahini was delicious! I had to ask Maria her secret in making these, she kindly said, "Always use fresh herbs, the fresher the better. Grow it if you can, that's the secret to good falafel." Well, I happen to agree with her and take her advice to heart about any dish involving herbs; So once we had made our dinner decision... Out I went to cut some fresh garden herbs for this Fabulously Spicy Falafel!

Here is my recipe based on Maria's, Fabulously Spicy Falafel:

Monday, June 9, 2014

In My Kitchen - June 2014

I stumbled upon or should I say StumbleUpon'ed the cooking blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial this past weekend, and came across a cool monthly happening there called "In My Kitchen." 
It is a monthly peek into the kitchens of bloggers worldwide. I'm so excited to join the conversation and share the views from my kitchen!

So here we go....

This Month in my Kitchen...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Broccoli and Rainbow Chard Quiche

So as I've mentioned in the last few posts we've been harvesting lots of greens from our garden; lettuce, spinach, rainbow chard and now broccoli. This year for fun we decided to try growing broccoli. Everyday we would go out and check to see if the crown was starting to show. When it finally started growing we were so excited! I've always liked broccoli; crunchy and tasty it's the perfect side for a number of dishes. 
Garden Broccoli Progress :)
I usually eat it steamed, well...more like I show it the hot water, it cringes and I eat it. I think it's an absolute sin to overcook broccoli. Much like spinach, I avoid eating it in restaurants because it's often served in the shape of stinky, green mush. This no doubt is why so many people have an aversion to it, and frankly I don't blame them!
Since the weather has been so nice we've collected 4 large heads of Broccoli so far, and I've had to come up with other ways to eat it then gently steamed. We've tried it: Raw with dip, in Pasta Salad, as a Side with Salmon, in Chopped Salad, Stuffed Broccoli Leaves, and of course Broccoli Quiche.
Broccoli is a great vegetable, full of vitamin C, protein and fiber; all very important in maintaining health. This quiche is great as an appetizer, brunch, or as a light meal.

Here is my recipe for Garden Fresh Broccoli and Rainbow Chard Quiche:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fig and Feta Spinach Salad

Al fresco Sunday Brunch

As the weather gets warmer we are less inclined to eat heavy meals opting instead for light refreshing satisfying meals. And of course a major reason for light meals is...
Red Kitten Spinach
Who really wants to stand in front of a hot stove or grill when it's hot?....Answer no one! 
As I mentioned in the previous post we planted a varied kitchen garden this year, and one of the most plentiful vegetables we've been harvesting the last few weeks has been spinach. We've had a range of dishes including Spinach Pastas, Spinach Dals, Spinach Pakoras, Spinach Quiches...and of course Spinach Salads. We also shared the harvest with Family and Friends.
It's funny, as a kid I hated Spinach...I mean I HATED Spinach. I always thought of it as cooked bitter mush, reminding me of the gross seaweed that gets tangled in your feet on the beach. Yea, not particularly appetizing imagery. Then something changed, after moving out here there was fresh baby spinach available, no more canned, frozen, or bitter spinach. You can keep those cans Popeye!

Baby Spinach leaves are tender, flavorful and not bitter at all. I prefer to eat them raw in salad; it almost feels wrong to cook them. I leave the more mature leaves for cooking purposes.
This salad is chockfull of vitamins, spinach contains iron, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals important for skin, hair, and bone health. It is great as a light meal, an appetizer, side dish, and goes great with grilled chicken.

Here is my recipe for Sweet Fig and Feta Spinach Salad with Zesty Honey Mustard Dressing:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How to Tuesday - Planting a Kitchen Garden

Growing up in Manhattan in the 80's, there were few places to garden, this however did not stop my mom from trying. I remember our apartment window ledge filled with petunias, marigolds, and portulacas. This is probably were I got my love of marigolds. :)

When our family moved to NJ, I was initially devastated. I missed the city, taking the A-train to school, walking to Fort Tryon park, visiting the museums, and of course visiting with my Grandmas (One lived on the first floor of our building, and the other we would visit every Thursday for black bean soup).

The second year we were at the house, my mom really started gardening; my dad did too though it was mostly cleaning up weeds etc. Mom had planted some flowers, roses etc., but the best part was the tomatoes and zucchini. As a kid I hated gardening, pulling out weeds, helping plant bulbs, mulching... I would do anything to get out of it, it was punishment. The worse part was during the early spring when mom had horse manure delivered, of course this was placed directly outside my bedroom window. Now imagine this if you can: Warm weather, no AC in the house, open windows with the aroma of the wrong end of a horse wafting into your bedroom...not a particularly appetizing smell and unfortunately this was what I associated gardening with.

Oh! But collecting those sunkissed tomatoes, and twisting off the zucchini, that was fun and delicious and slightly made up for the horse shit!

Cruise before the craziness.
Both sides of my family, and my husband's family come from agrarian backgrounds, it's in the blood.

I remember watching "Far and Away" when I was younger with my family. Tom Cruise was handsome and in his prime, but outside of that what always stuck with me was what his father tells him in the movie...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Whole Wheat Artisan Salt Soft Pretzels

A while ago I bought some Artisan Sea Salts from Pepper Creek Farms, and I've been trying to figure out a way to use them.
While I have used them to season dishes, I  really wanted to use them in a recipe that would give them center stage. After some brain idea! I almost kicked myself for forgetting about the obvious...Pretzels!
Pretzel sellers in NYC Circa 1936

And not just any kind of pretzel, but those soft, salty warm pretzels.
The kind of pretzel you can only get in NYC, off a rather dubious looking cart outside a Subway station or in Central Park. After all it is a New York City tradition!

Now imagine those same pretzels topped with Applewood Smoked Sea Salt, Hiwa Kai Black Lava Sea Salt and Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, Yumm!

Here is my recipe for these Soft, Salty, Hot Pretzels:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter! - Tsoureki (Greek Easter Dessert Bread)

Happy Easter!

Everyone takes turns hosting holiday celebrations in our family; this year Mom hosted Easter. My assigned job was to bring a dessert. Last year for Easter, I make Tsoureki and it was a hit so I made it again this year!

Tsoureki, pronounced 'sue-wreck-ee,' is a traditional Greek braided bread made for Orthodox Easter. It's usually braided with three dough ropes and three red dyed eggs are placed on top. The number three is significant because it represents the Holy Trinity in Christianity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
While traditional bread is flavored with sour cherry seeds, makhlepi, I like to flavor my bread with more familiar spices such as Allspice, Caraway Seeds, Cinnamon, and Star Anise. These freshly ground spices add a lovely licorice aroma to a slightly sweet yeasty bread.

Here is my recipe for a Sweet and Spiced Tsoureki:

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