Wednesday, July 30, 2014

20 - MINUTE HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE

20 MINUTE MARINARA SAUCE
I try to cook food from scratch as much as I can. But, having said that, I do take shortcut methods when I am pressed for time or when I cannot keep my hands off of trying a recipe which calls for shortcut ingredients.We have decided to go local as much as we can so we buy a lot of ingredients for our daily cooking from the local Co-op. Off late, I am reading a few cookbooks written by fellow food bloggers. I follow them on their social media too,to get inspired with their meal planning for their families.It's an inspiration of sorts for the lifestyle they follow and not exactly the recipes.
20 MINUTE MARINARA SAUCE
When I read a cook book, I enjoy reading the headnotes more than the recipe itself. A cookbook without headnotes doesn't go well with me.It gives a personal touch to each recipe. Like, how they came up with that idea and how it evolved into a recipe gives you an insight of their day to day life. I am a person who imagines a lot when it comes to food. I can spend hours and hours on it. Infact, I've spent almost 3 weeks trying to develop a recipe based on an appetizer we ate at the wedding in Chicago.I read similar recipes online but, nothing came close to what we ate there.But, since I decided I would not give up on it, I did some calculations in my head and made a batch of that amazing dip and it tasted awesome. Infact,it was so much better than the one we had in Chicago, if I say so myself.It was served at Ian's 2nd Birthday Party as Thai Curry Chicken Wontons. 
20 MINUTE MARINARA SAUCE
We used to buy Marinara sauce all these years but after reading and following Jennifer, I made a mental note to try out her recipe next time I needed some sauce for my pizza and pasta. Ian loves pizza.Be it Pepperoni,Sausage,Cheese...anything as long as it's a pizza.He now knows that it comes in a thin cardboard box too! So, recently we had a package delivery and it came in a sleek carboard box. He was sleeping when Jobin brought it in. We didn't throw the box because we know that he loves to play with it. When Ian woke up, he saw the box and exclaimed,'Pizzi!'. He was very sure there was Pizza in it and when he realised there was none, he started asking me for it!
20 MINUTE MARINARA SAUCE
Yesterday, after putting him to sleep, I set out to caramelizing some yellow onions with thyme,olive oil, butter and white wine. The house smelled incredible and I knew that would wake him up because from the time he was a baby, any food that smelled good woke him up. No, I am not kidding! He would also tell me what exactly he is eating everytime I gave him something to eat! I know I am raising a Little Foodie and I am very happy about it.So, he did wake up and then immediately asked me to give him Pizzi! I wouldn't blame him. It did smell like an Italian resturant with all those onions caramelizing along with fresh thyme!
20 MINUTE MARINARA SAUCE
So, I decided to make a Pizza just for him with the sauce I've been itching to make.All things came together very well and I baked a thin crust pizza for him and the dough was made according to Jennifer's recipe too,from Homemade with Love. It was a very good one.Even though I made it *just* for him, it ended up being our dinner :) I wizh we had a slice of that Simple Strawberry Pie that I made a few weeks ago, using Jennifer's recipe for dessert. It was so good! Do try to make some before the sweet Strawberries go out of season. It hardly takes any time to bake!

20-MINUTE MARINARA SAUCE
Makes about 1 quart (900 grams)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 (28 ounce /784 grams) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes*
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method: Heat oil in a fairly large pot over medium heat. Add the whole garlic cloves and cook until they are fragrant and golden, 2-3 minutes. In another bowl, break up the tomatoes with your hands and add them to the garlic,along with the tomato juice from the tin.You can puree the tomatoes if you like a smooth sauce or just break it up roughly,if you want a sauce with some texture,like I did.Season with salt and pepper and add the torn basil leaves. Stir it and let it cook on medium-low for 15 minutes.If not using immediately, let the sauce cool completely before storing it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for upto 3 days. They will stay good, frozen, for up to 2 months.

*IF you want to use fresh tomatoes, blanch -peel -deseed them before using. The taste will vary a bit because they don't taste exactly the same as the tinned ones. There's no harm in trying,though! A pinch of sugar may be needed to balance the tartness of the fresh tomatoes. This is just my suggestion.
I was really happy with the results. If you find it a bit tart, I would suggest that you add a pinch of sugar to balance it out. This sauce worked very well with Ian. I saw him peel off the cheese layer to lick the sauce.One of the first words he learnt to say clearly was sauce. He loves ketchup and must have thought this Marinara sauce was it's cousin. They are in a way, right?

Monday, July 28, 2014

A HOMEMADE BIRTHDAY PARTY -2

Ian's 2nd Birthday Party
Iam very sure what I want when it comes to Ian. That is only till he starts to demand what he wants though! No matter how crazy the whole party planning turns out to be, I want that to have my touch in every single thing. It could be because Amma made every thing for our birthday parties. We never catered food for it. I remember, as a child, I would wait to go for birthday parties but once I get there and see caterers standing there in uniforms...I would lose my appetite.
Ian's 2nd Birthday Party
I am talking about what I liked and disliked while growing up and all your views could be different. For our birthday parties, every person whom we invited would turn up and the first thing they would mention was the food. Since they knew Amma would be making everything, they thought it would be better to come! Food has always been an important part in my life.
Ian's 2nd Birthday Party
Ian is too little to decide what cakes he wanted for his big day. So,I decided that I would like to make something that reflected what he likes at this age.So,it was a car cake for the birthday and a green lego cake for the party. He loves his building blocks and the first colour he learnt to say was Green. So that's how the green lego cake was born. He loves the Chocolate Cake I make for him almost every week. So that was the flavour choice for the party cake, obviously.
Ian's 2nd Birthday Party
I don't believe in having theme parties for a boy so little plus, this is the only time i would get to do so. Once he grows, I think he would have made uphis mind on what he wants! It might be a superhero of some kind. We did a picnic style birthday party this year,just like last year. Jobin and I have very similar tastes in almost everything,so decisions are made very easily. We love open spaces and especially because he is a Summer baby, a park was the most ideal place for the party. It was at the same location as last year but a different shelter. The birthday party ended with a 20 minute fireworks (10,000 lbs!) as a part of the one-week long celebrations by the City.It was a beautiful one!
Menu for Ian's 2nd Birthday Party

Purple Surprise
Mango Soda

French Onion Pastry Puffs
Thai Curry Chicken Wontons
Red Neck Sushi
Sticky Wings

Spicy Chipotle Chicken
Cuban Style Black Beans
Lime - Cilantro Rice
Fiesta Corn
Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
Tostadas
Tortillas
Fix -ins : Tomato, Onions, Lime, Sour Cream, Scallions

I would like to extend my thanks to all those who sent in wishes for his big day and a bigger thanks to all who started sent those in advance! I really, really appreciate it!
 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HAPPIEST SECOND BIRTHDAY,IAN!

Ian's 2nd Birthday Cake
Our little boy turned TWO today! The past year was a very busy one for him. He learnt a lot of new things, made new friends, traveled across the globe,enjoyed getting drenched at the beach,learnt new tricks and even started to talk! He loves to sing and sings really well. We are planning to send him for singing lessons soon. He also loves to read his story books to me and one thing I've noticed is that, he enjoys reading as much as I do. I am indefinitely going to supply him with more books!The photograph you see above was taken this morning, as soon as he woke up. We hang streamers in our living room as a part of our celebration.Of course, he took it down one by one!
Ian's 2nd Birthday Cake
I was sad and happy yesterday because it was his last day as a one year old but at the same time, it's his big day tomorrow! I know that he doesn't even realise all that, but,as a mother I was just remembering all those moments of joy from the time he was born. He has been a very good boy ever since he was born. He never gave me a sleepless night,loves to eat and is totally a fuss free lovable kid! We are really blessed to have him and we thank God for that!Over the past two years, I've realised that I'm much more patient and selfless than I though I was.Being a Mother has changed me for good.
Ian's 2nd Birthday Cake
Like how I mentioned earlier, he loves to read. He has a tiny book of numbers and he likes a particular page in it because of a car. Like most boys,he loves his trucks, cars,bikes, jeep etc., He even places it in a particular order, very impressive actually and doesn't approve of that being disturbed.So, to celebrate this Little Man,I decided to bake him a cake today. A cake which resembles the car he loves from his book.I saw a cake on BHG and decided to go ahead with the idea.It's a plain Butter Cake with Buttercream frosting. I usually stay away from fondant decorations for our personal celebrations The birthday party is not until Saturday and I've planned for another cake for that day. The menu and photographs will follow! Just like his First Birthday party, I will be making every single thing! No catering in our household !

Thanks to all my dear readers who've been sending Birthday Wishes for Ian! Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart! You are the best!

Monday, July 21, 2014

MALAI KOFTA

You will not find many recipes using Paneer in this food blog of mine. It's because I am very picky about it. I'd eat it in an Indian-ised Cheesecake,Chili Paneer from a restaurant in Bangalore( I do not remember it's name now!), Malai Kofta from Sukh Sagar, Bangalore& Amma's Cheese Fingers.Malai Kofta was not a dish we made at home. It was never a dish we ordered when we went out together as a family. We are hard core non vegetarians and eating out only means eating meat,poultry & seafood!
MALAI KOFTA
But. There is always an exception when you live in a hostel which serves a not-so-good packed lunch along with breakfast.It gets cold by the time you get to the college and gets very very cold by lunch time. So, Jitha and I would eat out at the college canteen or at the close by restaurant called Sukh Sagar.They served only vegetarian food which was totally delicious by the way. We simply loved eating there.
MALAI KOFTA
Malai Koftas were the highlight of all the food we ordered out there.Each plate had one huge kofta with lots of gravy. The kofta was like a tennis ball. Huge! But,it was so soft and so good! I've never eaten one after that. Recently, I was going through my recipe collection and found a recipe for it which I had noted down a very long time ago from one of Smita Chechy's cookbooks. I think it is Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe.
MALAI KOFTA
I always run out of ideas for our dinner curries,to go along with Chapathis.I had a block of leftover Paneer after making Amma's Cheese fingers,sitting in the freezer which, I knew would go for a toss if I didn't use it immediately.That's how I landed up making this curry.Here's how I made it.
MALAI KOFTA MALAI KOFTA
Serves 6

Ingredients:
Koftas:
250 grams paneer
125 grams potato,boiled,peeled & mashed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt & Pepper to taste

Masala 1
2 onions,sliced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
2 small green cardamom
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
3 dried red chilies
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 black cardamom
3 cloves
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 green chilies
2 inch piece ginger,cut up
3 tomatoes,chopped
3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
4 tablespoon oil

Masala 2
3 tablespoons cashews
3 tablespoons grated coconut

Other ingredients:
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 cup yogurt
4 tablespoon malai / fresh cream
2 tablespoon ghee
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Method:
Koftas: Mix all the ingredients together and form a smooth dough. Divide into 12,shape them and deep fry in hot oil until browned.Drain and set aside.
Masala 1 : Heat oil  on medium high heat and saute all the ingredients through ginger,for 4-5 mins.Add the chopped tomatoes and cilantro and cook for another 2 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool completely. Once cool, grind to a smooth paste.
Masala 2: Grind together coconut and cashewnut to a fine paste using a little bit of water.

Heat the ghee in a large pan and once hot, add the ground masala (Masala 1)to it. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Then add the turmeric powder,yogurt & sugar. Cook for another 1 minute.Add the ground masala (Masala 2), 2 tablespoons malai,salt & some water and simmer covered, for a few minutes. Open the lid,add the koftas and remove from fire. Pour remaining malai on top & sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon garam masala and serve immediately.
That aroma when you are sauteeing Masala 1 is incredible! It smells like you are cooking something non-vegetarian! :) This curry will thicken as it cools, so adjust the water accordingly. The sauce can be made ahead,re-heated and then add the koftas in the end, if you want to make this curry ahead of time.We shared this curry with some friends and they felt that it tasted really good and different!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

BLENDED MOCHA ICED COFFEE

Acold coffee holds so many precious memories for me.So so many! It was one of those drinks Amma made for us after school.She used to be so delighted in making it for us. And the two of us were equally happy to gulp it down during those hot,humid Summer-y days in Kannur. Ritchie,my brother, loved it more than me. It was a fact that was known to all 4 of us. He was almost addicted to it and would ask for two tall glasses every time we drank it.
BLENDED ICED COFFEE
Then later, when Amma refused to make as much as he used to ask for,since it's quite high in sugar, he learnt to make it all by himself. He was really small then. We have an age gap of 8.5 years between the two of us. So when I was in 10th standard, he was only in 2nd grade. He was so happy to have learnt the art of making a good cold coffee that, he would check with me ever so often, whether I needed some.He never measured the ingredients.He just knew it!
BLENDED ICED COFFEE
Tropical Iceberg will always be the drink I'd order from Cafe Coffee Day.Those countless cloudy evenings when Vasu, Anjana & myself would spend at the M.G. Road Cafe were such fun filled days! We would carry our assignments,sip into our cold coffee ( just me and Vasu...Anjana is an espresso drinker!)and pretend as if we were working on them just so that they wouldn't ask us to clear off from the tables.
BLENDED ICED COFFEE
Moving to the United States ended my Tropical Iceberg dreams.Seriously.Wherever I went, it just wasn't the same. I was pretty sure that it existed somewhere. Maybe not by the same name but it did exist. That's how I consoled myself. Whenever I ordered a cold coffee here, it would be ice cubes and some coffee diluted with milk thrown into one big container with a straw.The coffee orders are huge unless you know what size you want. And when you place a wrong order while you are experimenting with things,a Large can feel like an XXL!
BLENDED ICED COFFEE
Later, I even hated the idea of going to coffee shops here. But. After moving to Minneapolis, I went to a coffee shop called Caribou and tried explaining to the girl behind the counter, the kind of coffee I wanted. I did this at every store I visited before, but in vain! Immediately,she said,'Oh! You mean the blended kind?'. THANK GOD! Yes! That's exactly what I wanted. Atleast,it sounded like that. When the order came, I was so so happy that it was the exact same thing I always wanted!
BLENDED ICED COFFEE
From then on, I only go to a Caribou. Yes, no Starbucks for me.I've even got Jobin's Mummy hooked on to it. She tells me to order that coffee I like.The problem starts when we go out of State. Caribou is not as widespread as it's counterparts. Which means, I don't drink coffee when we go elsewhere! Why take a chance,right? So guys, this is how we make it at home. This tastes more like what Amma makes and a bit of Tropical Ice Berg. And the blended coffee I drink here, is a mix of the two.
BLENDED ICED COFFEE
BLENDED MOCHA ICED COFFEE
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 scoops of Milk Chocolate Gelato / Ice Cream
Chocolate syrup

Method:
Freeze the milk in a ziptop back until it's almost frozen.It should squish if you press hard.Pour the chocolate syrup randomly inside,on the sides of the serving glass.
Blend together the chilled milk, sugar & coffee powder together until they become slushy. Pour it into the chocolate syrup lined glass, top it with a scoop of gelato and decorate with extra chocolate syrup and coffee powder . Serve right away!


Ian can probably have a sip or two of this iced coffee and that would be it! It's too much caffeine for that little guy! Please feel free to adjust the ingredients to your taste. You can even use Vanilla Ice Cream or Coffee Ice Cream if that's what you have on hand! Don't forget to sit back, relax and enjoy this cold summery drink!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

HONEY CHILI POTATOES

I am back with another recipe using honey! This time it's paired along with a favourite ingredient of mine, Potatoes! I can eat anything made with potatoes,any time of the day! It's such a versatile ingredient and is an instant favourite with most people. I tasted this dish 11 years ago at Mainland China,Bangalore. One of my closest friends,Vasu, is a vegetarian and she had ordered this as her appetizer. The entire plate vanished in no time and it was just the two of us!
HONEY CHILI POTATO
A few months later, I spotted this recipe in a book Mamma gave me.I noted it down in my navy blue diary. You should see the condition of that diary now. It's falling apart but at the same time, it's filled with delicious recipes too! So, I have kept it safe. Have you ever come across people who steal other's hand written cookbooks? I have and it's not a good experience at all! The number of years and effort you put into writing that book is just too precious! So,wherever I am now, all my books are kept safe! If someone wants a recipe and asks for it, I will be more than happy to share it with them.It's better to be safe than sorry!
HONEY CHILI POTATO
The original recipe calls for blanching sliced potatoes and then frying it. Instead,you can use frozen fries and skip a step. I am giving you the recipe from the book but feel free to substitute it. It will yield the same result. There's some joy in skipping steps in a recipe,isn't it? Especially if they give the same results!
This is a delicious appetizer and tastes best when eaten immediately. Fried potatoes retain some crunch when served alone but, when they are tossed in a slightly sticky sauce, they get soft faster.So,if you are planning to take this appetizer with you,to someplace, it will taste just the same but they will be a bit soft.
HONEY CHILI POTATO
There are a few things that you need to be careful about while making this recipe. We are adding the sauces directly to the oil,which means,it can get burnt very very easily . Once burnt, no amount of modifying can rescue it. It will taste bad.So, reduce the heat to low before you add the sauces. It's applicable for all recipes containing sauces &  powders. This recipe calls for chili paste and since I didn't have it on hand, I substituted it with red chili powder / cayenne. Feel free to increase or decrease the amount to suit to your tastes. Try to have the fried potatoes ready on hand before you make the sauce, so that way you can toss it immediately. The sauce will thicken a bit as it sits and might not coat the potatoes as much as it would,when hot.
HONEY CHILI POTATOES
HONEY CHILI POTATO Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
250 grams potato (or frozen fries)
50 grams cornstarch
Salt & pepper
Oil for deep frying
2 tablespoon oil
3 dried red chilies
2 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon green onions
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Method:
IF you are using store bought frozen fries,fry as mentioned behind the packet and toss them in the sauce.
IF you are making the fries at home,wash,peel & cut the potatoes into fingers. Blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes and let it drain completely. Once cool, toss it with cornflour,salt and pepper.Shake off the excess flour & deep fry in hot oil (350F) until golden brown in colour.

For the sauce: Heat oil in a large saute pan and add the ginger garlic paste. After 30 seconds, add the dry red chilies and mix well. Decrease the heat and add the remaining ingredients and stir it well.Add the fried potatoes and toss well to coat. Serve right away garnished with green onions, cilantro and white sesame seeds.

Ian loved it! Just like his Appa & Amma,he loves potatoes in any form. He took his share and sat on our rocking chair to eat them peacefully. Every now and then he would ask us to get him water because it is a bit hot for him.These days he calls Jobin,'Jobi'. So it was very funny to see him call out to 'Jobi',for water!  I hope you try this sometime,it really is a quick one to pull together and tastes fabulous!Next time, I will use the readymade fries. We usually don't stock fries in our freezer. So, it's going to need some planning next time on!
 
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