Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Comfort of Indian Food - Channa Masala and Puri

Let's play a game. You tell me which one of the following does not belong in Texas: horses, oil, Tex-Mex, snow, Piyusha.

I'll give you a minute to ponder. I'll even give you a hint with the next picture :)

That's right folks.. SNOW does not belong in Texas... and yet, there it was in all of its white glory. Did I make a snowman you ask? I would have but the hubster is a New Yorker and therefore the authority of snow and told me "It's not the right kind of snow... it won't pack." HMPH!

After 4 consecutive days of being trapped at home, I was going crazy! I couldn't look at the assorted cans of beans and jars of pasta without feeling eich... What to do what to do?

I decided today was the day. I could feel the planets aligning in my favor. I was going to face my arch-nemesis cuisine - Indian (pause for suspense music). I know what you are thinking.. Piyusha, aren't you Indian? I mean you got that whole UPS "What can brown do for you?" thing going. But Indian food is different than a lot of cuisines with the call for a perfect balance of spices and understanding how each spices adds a different dimension and layer to your final product. It also doesn't help that the typical Indian mom/auntie explains measurements with "just add one finger worth."

I decided to tackle channa masala (aka chick pea curry) and puri - fried dough that puffs up in little clouds if done right. My close friend Pooja will tell you that channa masala and I are not bffs4eva... Don't get me wrong, I love chick peas... hummus, curry, in a salad.. yum. Cooking them Indian-style is another story. Poor Pooja, who loves me very much, has eaten many failed attempts at channa masala over the course of a decade. Poojie, this one's for you.

My puri puffed up perfectly! My mother will be so proud!

So, where's the picture of the final product? Guys, it was so delicious, I went back for 2nds... ok fine, 3rd and realized it was all gone before I took a picture... My bad.

Now it's time for you to conquer your fears! Or perhaps, you're now craving Indian food... Here ya go!

For the Channa Masala -

2 tbsp of oil

1 small or 1/2 medium white/yellow onion finely diced

1/2 jalepeno pepper (or 2-3 Indian green chilies, I didn't have them on hand)

3 tbsp of canned diced tomatoes or 1 medium fresh tomato diced or 2 tbsp of tomato paste

1 - 15 oz can of chick peas aka garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp of garlic, finely minced

1 tsp of black mustard seeds (rye)

1 tsp of fennel seeds (jeeru)

1 tbsp of coriandor

2 tsp of cumin

1/2 tsp of cayenne (adjust to taste)

1 tsp of turmeric (halder)

1/2 tsp of salt

1.5 tbsp of lemon juice

1 cup water (you may need more)

The "How To" -

1. In a medium pot, heat the oil and add in the mustard seeds and fennel seeds

2. Once the mustards start popping (be careful! They do fly!) add in the onions, garlic and let cook until the onions are almost translucent

3. Add in the tomatoes and add in the spices (coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt, cayenne). Mix around until the ingredients become a paste-like consistency

4. Add in the chick peas and stir around

5. Add in the lemon juice, stir

6. Using your large spoon, mash up some of the chick peas (just about 1/5 of the pot) so the starches can make a gravy

7. Add in the water and cook covered

8. Check after about 10 minutes, stir around, add in more water if needed. You are looking to make sure the chick peas are tender and flavor full and the gravy is thickening

9. Once the chick peas are cooked, you may need to add in a little more water at this point, cook uncovered for about 5-10 minutes, basically until the gravy is no longer watery

For the Puri -

Ingredients -

1 cup of durum wheat flour (I used the Golden Temple brand from the Indian store) - the wheat flour you find in normal shops doesn't work - trust me, I tried

1/2 tsp of tumeric

1 tbsp of oil (vegetable or EVOO)

1/2 tsp of salt (adjust to taste, I prefer less salt)
1/2 tsp of cayenne (again, adjust to taste)
1 cup of water but you may not need all of it
a bowl of extra flour on the side
1 cup + of canola or vegetable oil depending on your fry pan
The "How-to" -
** Heat your fry pan with oil before starting
1. Mix all the ingredients, except the water. Your dough should be loose crumbs
2. Add in the water as needed to make a soft, loose dough
3. Divide the dough into small 1 tbsp dough balls
4. Dip them in the extra bowl of flour so they don't stick to your rolling pin and roll them out into 3" diameter circles. Make sure they aren't too thick because they won't puff up
5. Take a small piece of dough (just a tiny piece) and drop it in the oil to check if it's ready. If the dough starts bubbling up and floats to the top, your oil is ready. If it sinks and does nothing, the oil is too cold
6. Make sure you are all step up before you start frying your puri. I place newspaper on a plate so the excess oil will be soaked up from the fried puri
7. Drop your puri in the oil and using the ladle, push the puri back in as it floats to the top, this will help it puff up. Should take about 20-30 seconds, flip for another 10 seconds and remove from oil and place on your newspaper or paper towels
8. If your oil starts smoking or if your puri cook (turn golden brown) before they puff up, your oil is too hot. Reduce the heat and wait a couple of seconds before proceeding
Done and done! Finally, after years of attempts, it worked.. I'll remember to take more picture next time. It was just soo good!
Hot Indian food was just what I needed for this very non-Texas day :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


As you can probably tell I'm obsesses with baking right now... I thought I found my niche but then the Great Pumpkin Disaster happened. *sigh* But then! A revelation! At work we took personality assessments and it clicked... I'm not a great combo for baking - low patience but high detail... well.. I'm going to my self-awareness to work!

The hubster and I have a lot of fun friends... this year we were invited to several themed holiday parties... one being Booze-a-Palooza. Well who am I not to contribute? I decided to get created with Bakerella's cake pops and make little beer mugs. Learning from my previous mistake of adding too much frosting (this is when I attempted to make longhorn shaped cake pops for the UT/OU game... that disaster was more of a defeat which is why I didn't share).. I took leftover cupcakes and crumbled all but 3 in my food processor. This way, if I've added in too much frosting, no biggie, I had cake reserved to help balance it out.

TIP: The consistency of your cake should feel like dough... For 1/2 a 9 x 13 cake, I use about a 1/4 of the container of frosting.

After I made my "dough" I used a cookie dough scoop to make 25 equal shaped balls. I pushed them through a one inch flower shape cookie cutter and kept the top part round. That would eventually be the "beer foam" part of beer mug cake balls.

After I had all my cake balls shaped, I put them in the freezer over night.
Day Two: I got a bunch of chocolate covered pretzels as a gift at a holiday party, so I just used though. Using a knife, I "sawed" the curved part of the pretzel to be the handles on the "beer mugs." I glued them on using Wilton peanut butter flavor candy melts. You just need about 5-6 discs for this step. If you are planning on coating them, then melt more.

Day 3: Dipping... so when in my first attempt at cake balls this is when this fell apart (literally). So I wanted to go very slow. I decided to make two flavors of cake balls - Wilton peanut butter candy melts as "golden ale" and Wilton dark chocolate candy melts as "Guiness." Before dealing with melting the chocolate, move the cake balls from the freezer to the fridge.
Reading a ton of reviews online, here's how I melted the chocolate for a smooth consistency:
(I use about 8-10 oz and a pretty shallow bowl)
1. Place candy melts in a microwave friendly glass bowl (I heart Pyrex)
2. Defrost the candy melts for about 30 seconds, stir and then defrost for another 30 seconds
3. Add in about 1 tsp of vegetable shortening OR, if you have it, 1 tsp of paramont crystals
4. Melt in the microwave for 15 seconds, stir, 15 seconds, stir, etc... until smooth
5. Place the glass bowl over boiling water (as a double boiler)... turn off if it starts getting too hot

Take out 2-3 cake balls from the fridge, leaving the rest, take your stick, and dip it in the chocolate, insert it into the mug (make sure you don't push all the way through!) Wait about 15-20 seconds for chocolate melt to harden.
Dip your cakeball into the chocolate and don't swirl! Just rotate the stick until the entire ball is coated. Lift out and tap, while rotating the stick, to let the excess melt drip off.
Since my mugs had a lot of nooks and crannies, I took a toothpick and "scraped" out the excess melts so you could actually see the shape and handle on the pop.

Now for the "beer foam" on top I used Wilton candy sprinkles in white. Along the theme of Booze-a-Palooza, I actually found that a shot glass was the perfect height and had the best diameter for dipping my beer mugs into the sprinkles without making a mess.
After I got the hang of it, I was able to move quickly from scraping the excess chocolate and dipping into the sprinkles. For my first initial ones, where the chocolate harden before I had a chance, I just redipped the top part and then dipped into the sprinkles. I doubt anyone will complain about an extra layer of chocolate!

They ended being a huge hit!! Who says cake pops have to be round??

Friday, December 3, 2010

Merry Christmas to Meeee

Some people want their two front teeth for Christmas.. Others want the latest fancy gizmo with blinking lights. Not me, I've never been much of a technie. If it was up to me, we'd still be playing 2-D Super Mario Bros. where yes! you do need a running start to jump over the gap and Ms. Peach is waiting for me to school King Kroopa to get her to grab a shake (which has yet to happen). I've never really needed the "latest and greatest" of anything until my cake decorating class. After the 4 a.m. Great Pumpkin Disaster that involved many initimate hours with my hand mixers, it was time to graduate to the big leagues... investing in a countertop stand mixer... and not just any mixer! I was going to join the elite group of bakers (in my mind of course) and get a Kitchenaid Mixer! (Please imagine me onto of a cupcake with the theme of Superman playing in the background)

You know when the big box came, I was going to open it. Pshhh... I'm on the forefront of a generation of instant gratification... Santa can leave me a lump of coal on Christmas morning.
So what was I going to make?? I mean this was the kick-off to many many years of mixer explosions... err.. success ahead! I decided to start of with a good ol'chocolate chip cookie :)
Look at that! No flour on my counters! No gooeiness leaking! And best of all, no Zack Morris bang wave due to shortening in my hair!

Ok I didn't take picture of the end results mostly because 5 were consumed right away. I couldn't control myself... My inner Cookie Monster was released! But they were delish!
What you'll need:
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar (make sure you pack this down tight in the measuring cup)
1/2 cup of butter or margarine (softened at room temperature)
1 tsp of Pure Vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp of baking soda
1.5 cups of flour
6 oz of chocolate chips
The "How-to":
1. Beat the sugars, butter and vanilla for about 2 minutes; pre-heat your oven to 375F
2. Add in the egg and beat in about 30 seconds
3. Gradually add in the flour and baking soda, mix for about 2 minutes of medium speed
4. Add in the chocolate chips and beat for another 30 seconds (until well incorporated, should be less than a minute)
5. Using a small scoop or a tbsp, place the balls of dough about 2 inches apart on a cookie tray
6. Back for 10-12 minutes, cool and enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Great Pumpkin (Disaster) Cake

I love the holidays... I mean what's not to love? Fabulous friends, tons of parties, mounds of food and convincing yourself that the holiday calories don't count. I love wandering around Michaels, Joann's... Target... William Sonoma (you know I have a shopping addiction) and buying things that I know will make me cook and bake just like the Food Network stars and the awesome bloggers I read about... which brings me to my latest kitchen adventure. The Great Pumpkin Cake *insert suspenseful music*

Every year the hubster and I attend a friend's Thanksgiving potluck and every year, I search high and low for that perfect recipe. One that will ensure that I leave with an empty platter/bowl confirming that "YES! You brought something so delicious that we ate it right up!" Three years ago, the mashed potatos with corn combo (I swear at the time it sounded like a good idea) was not a huge hit... Last year's veggie meatballs went over pretty well. This year... this was going to be the year I take on dessert *GASP*... you know it had better be good.

I decided that after 3 cake decorating classes under my belt I was a true baker (Top Chef: Just Desserts look out) and I was going to take on a multi-layer cake. I found a recipe for the structure of the cake off bakerella.com (Just to avoid torting the cake, I used multiple cake pans) and a pumpkin cake and cream cheese frosting recipe on allrecipes.com. I gathered everything I needed... whirled the mixer for a power check. "How long do you think this will take," asked the Hubster with curiosity. My response: 5 hours.

And yes, that's how long it took me. I started at 11 p.m. (after a night of bowling and kicking the hubster's butt with a score of 94 boo yah!) and I finished at 4 a.m. Why you ask? No, it wasn't the adreline high from bowling. If you know me, you know caffeine and I are frenemies. I drank soda and sleep just wasn't happening. The hubster says it's psychological and to that I say "pshhhh.." Back to the cake.
It started off well... see:

Then around 3 a.m. it started sliding south... literally:

At 3:30 a.m. I decided to peel my cake apart and try again (do not attempt at home).

Finally around 4 a.m., as I finally came up from the well of frosting and powered sugar to look around my kitchen that was splattered with various baking essentials, I threw in the towel... but not before I thought adding graham craker crumbs would be a nice touch:

I took The Great Pumpkin Cake to the putluck and prayed you could see the layers... YES! YES YOU COULD!

It was a success! Gosh it was really yummy!
And even though I took 1/2 of it home, my co-workers were than happy to step in and finish the job.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Risotto Challenge!

Ever have one of those rare, wonderful days where everything goes right... you get your work done on time so you're out when there's still day light... there are no misplaced "to-do's"... You didn't leave the AC running all day for the millionth time since you moved in... Yeah, today was definitely not one of those days. My work list never seems to end... *sigh* I resorted to Taco Bell for lunch (yes, that's right.. don't judge me.. Yo quiero Taco Bell)... and even though I didn't leave the AC running (go me!).. it just wasn't one of those days that one would feel inspired to make anything.

So I went to my current happy place... The library (don't worry Target, you are a super close second). Yes, that's right... I heart the library... never again will I buy a book only for it to collect dust under my bed. Rather, I will do a test run... I love walking up and down the aisles looking for my next adventure. Yes, that's right I am a library fiend. Some things never change...
I came acoss a book that made me a laugh, titled "Girls can't cook." I looked in the appendix for "asparagus" thinking about the pound of sprouty greens I bought last week that are nearing that inevitable turning point sitting in my fridge. There.. *cue the chimes*.. was a recipe for asparagus risotto! Inspiration! A recipe I had meaning to try forever but got intimidated each week when I watched contestants on Hell's Kitchen fail to make it to Chef Ramsey's expectations. Eh... Let's give it a shot shall we?

(Btw... when the hubster found out I was going to attempt to make risotto, he decide he would play the role of Chef Ramsey, explicits and all...).

I called my friend Vaishali for some "lessons learned" since she's made risotto several times. I realized that this cooking process was going to definitely test my patience level, but I digress... Let's move on to my latest cooking adventure..

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

What you need (for 4 servings):

  • 4-5 cups of vegetable stock, boiled
  • 1 cup of medium grained rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 lb of asparagus, stems broken off and chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 cup of mushrooms (the store didn't have any decent ones, so I used can mushrooms), chopped
  • 3 tbsp of chives, chopped
  • 3/4 cup of white wine
  • 3-4 tbsp of EVOO
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp of butter

The "How to" -

  1. In a small pot, boil the vegetable stock, covered so it doesn't evaporate on you
  2. In a larger pot, heat the EVOO, make sure it coats the bottom of the pan well
  3. Add in the onions, cook for about 5 minutes, till they are clear
  4. Add in rice and cook until rice most of the rice is transparent, make sure you are stirring frequently (this takes awhile so be patient)
  5. Add in the wine, stir frequently and until all the moisture is absorbed
  6. Add in a 1/2-1 cup of stock, until the rice is covered, at time. This step (repeated 3x) requires a lot of patience and upper arm power (lots of stirring is required). Let the rice absorb the stock, it should be a slight soupy consistency before adding another cup or so of stock, again, covering the rice
  7. Before the 3rd cup of stock, add in the asparagus and mushrooms, make sure the asparagus gets tucked in so it does have a chance to cook
  8. Let the 3rd cup of stock absorb, again a slightly soupy consistency. Do a taste test... it should be al dente
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  10. Turn the heat off and add in the 2 tbsp of butter and the cheese. Mix well
  11. As you are mixing the butter and cheese, this will help the soupy consistency of the rice become creamy and the rice should be cooked now.

Can I just say, for my first attempt at risotto, this was D-E-L-I-S-H! Definitely be more mindful of making sure the rice is covered with stock at the beginning of each pour. Also, making sure the rice is transparent prior to the stock is key in making sure the rice is in fact "al dente" and not just plain uncooked rice.

Happy cooking!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Easy Peasy Pizza

I'm back! It's been a long long time since I've shared my cooking adventures and due to popular demand (ok my 3 followers), I have returned! Don't worry, just because it wasn't posted here, doesn't mean the cooking has stopped! The hubster and I finally bought a house... meaning there's ample counter space for happiness to occur :)
So I have a love-hate relationship with Sundays... on one hand, *sigh* it's a great day off... hardly ever have plans, do my errands, lounge on the couch, catch up with my 2nd love (the hubster being my first)... my DVR (I love reality competition shows and ABC Summer Season). But at the same time, Sunday means that Monday is just around the corner... I think of the laundry list of things I meant to get done but just didn't quite make it... eh, I technically still 3 more days to return that impulse buy before the 30 days is up :) Really the last thing I want to do after a weekend of play time is spend the last wee moments of my weekend in the kitchen.

So I came up with this super quick and easy (and so super yummy) pizza pie... It has a great balance of oozy cheese and your veggies... Fondue lovers beware... you may fall in love all over again ;)

What you need:

  • pizza crust (I cheated and bought the ready made kind)

Cheese Sauce

  • 2.5 tbsp of margarine

  • 2.5 tbsp of flour

  • 1.5 cups of milk (this may vary)

  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

  • garlic powder

  • pepper


  • red crushed pepper

  • broccoli

  • sun-dried tomatoes

  • chicken - seasoned and cubed (optional - I put this on my husband's half)

  • Morning Star "Chik'n Strips" - seasoned and cubed (optional - I put this on my half)

  • EVOO

  • Grill seasoning

The "How To" -

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350

  2. You'll start off by making a basic roux. Melt the butter over low heat. Slowly sift the flour in and whisk it all together. You'll have some buttery balls when it's combined together. Let this cook for about 45 seconds (otherwise your cheese sauce will have a chalky taste)

  3. Slowly add in the milk and whisk like you've never whisked before. I initially take the pot off the eat because the first few tbsps of milk just evaporate... keep adding and whisking until all you have a creamy, thick consistency (your milk will vary at this point)

  4. Add in your cheese, one handful at a time. I turn off the heat for this because if your roux is too hot, your cheese can curd (this usually happens with cheddar cheese but still). Once the first handful is incorporated, put back on the eat and don't forget to keep whisking! If it's too thick, add some milk and this will help loosen it up.

  5. Moving on to the chicken and/or tofu strips. Season them with grill seasoning and heat up 2 tbsp (about 2 turns of the pan) of EVOO. Place strips in and cook until chicken is done or the strips have a nice light golden color

  6. Now the fun part! The assembly! Place your pizza crust in a baking pan or pizza stone. Sprinkle red crushed pepper flakes on your pizza crust, spread broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and the cubes of meat on the pizza

  7. Pour cheese sauce on top! Ooey-gooey goodness gracious! Yum! (Be careful not to go over-board like I did b/c it well make your crust smooshy)

  8. Place in over for about 15-20 minutes

Any left over the cheese sauce can be used for a fun fondue night or as a spread... but really? Do you need an excuse to just eat cheese? Go ahead.. grab a spoon and eat it out of the pot... No one is judging you :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tomato Basil Pesto Pasta

Mama Mia... Papa Pia... How I love pasta... This past Saturday morning, I was lounging around flipping between Food Network and HGTV (whatever happened to Saturday morning cartoons??) and I started watching Sunny Anderson make this delicious tomato pesto. I thought "Well that's a great alternative to the usual marinara sauce!" Luckily I had most of the ingredients on hand and it came to be a delicious dinner last night!

What you'll need:
10-15 cloves of garlic (OR 3 tbsp of pre-minced garlic from a jar)
1/2 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 lb cherry tomatoes (or plum tomatoes... I actually used 3 Roma tomatoes and it was fine)
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
Linguine, fettuccine or spaghetti
2 tbsp of pine nuts, toasted (this may be hard to find, Whole Foods sell them in their bulk section)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Tomato Sauce (optional)
Red Crushed Peppers, toasted (optional)

The "How to":
1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Place garlic in a single layer in a small baking dish. Add 1/2 cup olive oil to cover cloves, cover with foil, and bake 45 minutes, until golden brown and fork-tender.
a. If you are using the pre-minced garlic like I did, then spread them into a thin layer and spray them with cooking spray and cover with foil
3. In another baking dish, toss tomatoes with enough oil to coat. Roast at same temperature until tomatoes blister, about 25 minutes (you’ll see the skin of the tomato split)
4. Put your pasta to boil – follow the instructions on the pasta box
5. While the tomatoes and garlic are roasting, place the pine nuts and red crushed pepper (optional for heat) in a saute pan. Toss occasionally, until the pine nuts start goldening
6. Once garlic and tomatoes are ready, strain garlic cloves and put them in the blender along with the tomatoes. Reserve the olive oil from the garlic for straining or you could make a yummy salad dressing!
7. Add basil, parmesan, salt, pepper, pine nuts and red crushed pepper to the blender.. Pulse until combined. While machine is running, drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil until pesto comes together. If you feel like the sauce is too chunky, add in the tomato sauce until it becomes the consistency you want.
8. Add in seasoning and extra cheese if needed and blend

So incredibly yummy and I didn’t even need to add extra cheese on top! There will be leftover pesto, use it as a bread dip!