Monday, March 28, 2011

Strawberry and mango shortcake trifle


 Recently, I stumbled upon a bookstore that was closing with huge discounts on everything. It was packed with people trying to find books or stationery or anything of their interest. I was very excited but nervous as it looked like a battleground. Most of the books were gone or were out of place. I am not very good at bargain hunting but I managed to pick a few books, calendars and a tangram puzzle. One of them was obviously a cookbook. It was a desserts book and even though I am not too fond of making desserts I picked it up, as it had recipes with just 4 ingredients. They looked simple, interesting and different.  The recipes that had caught my eye were creamy espresso pudding and key lime and peach trifle. Something, I will be trying soon. Most of the recipes in the book are easy  with no prep time  and can be easily adapted according to your taste or liking.

So this recipe is based on the strawberry shortcake recipe from the book. I decided to add mango too to it. Some chopped pistachios and almonds would make it extra special.

3/4 cup  cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup sliced strawberries
a few vanilla wafer cookies
2 mangoes cubed

Puree half of the strawberries in a food processor. Whip the cream with the sugar until stiff. Divide into two portions. Mix strawberry puree in one. Puree half the mangoes and mix it with the remaining cream. Taste and adjust the sugar. Now spoon a little strawberry cream in a bowl or a glass, arrange a few cookies on top, then add a layer of fresh mango and strawberries, followed by mango cream, cookies then fruit. Add more layers if needed. Refrigerate for a few hours. Serve chilled. It is a rich dessert but great for kids as any fresh fruit can be sneaked in it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Forsythias, spring and lemon rice

 We get a lot of wildlife in our backyard from raccoons, foxes, deer, gophers to wild birds and squirrels. Over the years I have really enjoyed the wild birds in the backyard. During the winter months when food is scarce the birds flock to the feeder until the pesky chipmunks completely overtake them. Nothing can deter the chipmunks who apparently are fearless and indestructible. Some of the birds that visit and are the American gold finch, chickadee, cardinal, robin, blue jay, sparrow, nuthatch, and the hummingbird during the summer months.

Even though I like snow I am happy when winter ends and the beautiful forsythia usher in spring. It has been nice and pleasant for the last couple of days with forsythias in full bloom in the backyard and other flowering trees just ready to bloom.  Looking at the beautiful and bright yellow flowers I decided to make lemon rice which is golden yellow. It doesn’t take too many ingredients and I already had some left over rice in the fridge.

 Lemon rice is light and refreshing and it can be a complete meal if had with a bowl of rasam. Sometimes I add  vegetables to it but today I did not.

2 cups cooked rice
a few peanuts or cashews
1tsp each of mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal (soaked in water for half and hour)
1 sprig curry leaves
a pinch of asafoetida
1 slit green chili
1-2 dried red chilies
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
salt to taste 
oil for cooking 


Heat oil in a pan and and add the mustard seeds, once they splutter add the red chilies urad dal, peanuts, chana dal, curry leaves, cashews, asafoetida, green chili and turmeric. Stir well and and mix in the rice. Mix everything well and cook for about 1 minute till the rice is well coated with seasonings. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Garnish with cilantro.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Carrot and tomato soup with fresh basil

Comfort food.
My all time favorite soup!

1 can diced tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes
4-5 carrots diced
1 large onion chopped
3-4 garlic
1tsp grated ginger
4-5 fresh basil leaves
1tsp Italian seasoning (herbs de Provence)
3 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
2 tbsp brown sugar(or as needed)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to cook
butter for taste

Heat some olive oil and add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and cinnamon. Cook for about 1-2 minutes then add the diced carrots, salt, and dried herbs. Cook for a little while then add the tomatoes and stock.(If using fresh tomatoes, 1/4 cup of tomato paste is require to get the right consistency and color).  Cover and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add sugar  and basil leaves and check for seasonings. Now puree the soup using a blender till smooth. I use the immersion hand blender as it is easy and I can  blend the  soup in the pot. Add more water if needed. Top with freshly ground pepper and butter.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ricotta cheese sweet treats

I like to use ricotta cheese as it is not too heavy and has a nice and creamy texture to it. I made a simple dessert with just ricotta cheese and sugar. It is a quick and easy recipe. Sometimes I fill it up in a puff pastry, bake it and then brush a little honey with rose syrup just before serving.

 1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup or less sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 pinch of saffron
a few roasted and chopped almonds

Mix the ricotta cheese, sugar and saffron in a bowl. Spread the mixture in an oven proof dish in a thin layer and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. Keep checking to make sure it doesn't burn. Remove from the oven and break or crumble it into pieces. Add the chopped almonds and cardamom.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spicy paneer wrap

I had more than 2 gallons on milk in the fridge and it seemed impossible to consume it all by the expiration date on it. I decided to make paneer with it. And the moment I thought of fresh homemade paneer I started craving for the spicy kathi paneer roll that we get in India. So this is my version of that. I have always felt that bell peppers, onions and paneer go so well together. It is hard for a dish to taste bad with these in it together.

1 cup paneer cubed
 Green and yellow bell peppers sliced
1 large onion
1 tomato sliced
1 green chili finely chopped
1 tbsp ketchup
(For the marinade)
2 tsp grated ginger and garlic
1 tsp corn flour
1 tbsp gram flour (besan)
1 tsp each of turmeric, paprika, coriander/cumin powder, kasoori methi, black pepper powder, red pepper flakes, carom seeds powder, a few pine nuts, salt)
Black salt and chaat masala
Oil for cooking


Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and add the paneer cubes and a few tomato slices. Cover and keep aside for 10-15 minutes
Heat oil in a skillet and add the sliced onion and bell peppers.Cook on high heat for a few minutes without stirring too much.Let it get slightly charred but still crunchy. Remove and keep aside. In the same pan add the marinated paneer cubes. Stir and cook till the gravy dries out a little and paneer looks cooked. Add the ketchup and mix in the onions and peppers. Cook for a few more minutes and turn off the heat.
To assemble, take a chapati, wrap or a pita bread and apply some green chutney (recipe below), a few leaves of lettuce, and paneer. Sprinkle some chaat masala, red chili powder, and black salt for taste. Roll it up and serve.

Green chutney
Grind a bunch of cilantro and mint leaves along with green chillies, salt, sugar and 1tbsp of yogurt.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Gnocchi with vegetables

I had this pack of gnocchi sitting in the pantry for a long time. I had bought it initially to make it with sage and butter sauce (recipe I read somewhere but forgot where) Finally after getting sage a couple of times and forgetting about making gnocchi with it I decided to make it with whatever I had in hand.
1 packet of gnocchi (about 2 cups)
1 large onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic grated
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
Black pepper and salt to taste
Mushrooms sliced
Broccoli florets (1/2 cup)
Marinara sauce to serve on the side
Olive oil and butter to cook
Sour cream


Boil the gnocchi as per directions on the package. It takes very little time (about 1-2 minutes) Keep aside.
Heat some olive oil and a little butter in a pan and add  the bay leaf, onions and garlic and fresh thyme leaves, saute till the onions are turn golden brown. Now add the mushrooms and broccoli. Sprinkle the salt and pepper and mix in the gnocchi. Mix well and serve it with marinara sauce topped with sour cream. Gnocchi also tastes great with basil pesto and  fresh tomatoes topped with toasted pine nuts.

Gnocchi and thyme
Boiled gnocchi

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soba noodles with peanut sauce

Soba noodles are Japanese noodles made of of buckwheat and are healthier than the regular spaghetti. They are rich in protein and vitamins B1 an B2. The ones that I have used here have wild yam added to it.
I pack of soba noodles
Frozen artichoke (about a cup)
Other mixed vegetables (snow peas, carrots, chestnuts, peas, mushroom, bean sprouts etc)
 Crushed roasted peanuts (1/4 cup)
2tbsp ginger garlic paste
For the sauce
Peanut butter unsweetened(1/2 cup)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp honey
1tbsp chilli oil
1-2 tsp sriracha (Thai hot sauce)
1tbsp hoisin sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Sesame or peanut oil for cooking
Cilantro for garnishing

Boil the noodles for about 10 minutes or as per instructions and keep aside. Heat oil in a pan and add the ginger garlic paste, stir for a few seconds and add the noodles. Add all the vegetables, salt and pepper. For the sauce mix all the ingredients and blend well and add to the noodles. Add some water if needed. Adjust seasonings according to taste. It can be made spicier or sweeter by adding more honey or chilli sauce. Cover and let it cook for about a minute till the sauce coats the noodles. Serve the noodles with crushed peanuts and cilantro.