Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pumpkin Pecan Crunch

I had made this recipe for the Thanksgiving of 2012 and had put some notes on my blog post about how I would tweak it next time. And that is exactly what I did this Thanksgiving and it came out better :). What a nice feeling. This is exactly what I started this blog for. To keep track of what I make and to keep notes on the recipes.

This Thanksgiving was perfect. My cousin and her family came over and we watched football and had a lazy lunch for which I made butter chicken followed by coffee and dessert (recipe below) and a late chai. That's the kind of Thanksgiving meal I like.

Here is the recipe for pumpkin pecan crunch with my tweaks.

Recipe based on Pumpkin Pecan Crunch. Yellow cake mix recipe based on this one.

Serves 8-9

canned pumpkin             1 15oz can
evaporated milk              1 12 oz can
white sugar                     2 cups
brown sugar                    1/2 cup
eggs                                 3
pumpkin pie spice           6 tsp
vanilla extract                 1 tbsp
salt                                  1/4 tsp
pecans, chopped             1 cup
butter, unsalted              1.5 sticks (3/4th cup)
all-purpose flour             1.5 cups
baking powder                1 tbsp
dry milk/ milk powder     1/2 cup


Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Spray a 13×9 baking dish with non-stick spray; set aside. 
  3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add to it the pumpkin, evaporated milk, brown sugar, 1 cup of the white sugar, 5 teaspoons of the pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and salt until well-blended. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  4. Mix the remaining 1 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice with the all-purpose flour and the baking powder. Blend with wire whisk. 
  5. Sprinkle this dry mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. 
  6. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. 
  7. Drizzle evenly with melted butter. 
  8. Bake 50 minutes or until golden brown.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

What we should be eating everyday

I'm trying out a new way of eating healthy. Instead of focussing on what not to eat I'm trying to focus on what I should be eating everyday.

Here are some snacking options that you can go to whenever you are thinking of reaching out for that cookie or ice cream, and instead pick something from the list that you have not eaten all day.


Fruit
The whole fruit, not fruit juice. Fruit juice contains too much sugar while fruit skin contains valuable nutrients and insoluble fibre.

Yogurt with active bacterial cultures
Make sure to steer clear of sugary flavored yogurt. My favorite is plain non-fat greek yogurt with a dash of honey and sliced almonds.

Nuts
More of peanuts and almonds. Some cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts. I combine this with a little bit of cheese to make a filling snack.

Beans
Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and many others.

This works as a snack only if you have canned or cooked beans handy. Some of my favorites are Black Bean Salad and Chickpea Salad.
Hummus is a great thing to have in the fridge and makes for a great beany snack with crackers.
With some planning, beans can be incorporated into meals easily.

Egg
My favorite is boiled egg with salt and pepper.

Oatmeal
Steel-cut are the best, though take longer to cook than rolled oats. But hey, any of them is better than an oatmeal cookie :)


While putting this into practice, the challenge is that the cookie is readily available whereas beans or oatmeal or eggs are not.
The way around that is to find simple and quick yet tasty ways of preparing them and eating them ceremoniously. This last bit is very important.
If you are eating an apple, cut it and put it on a plate, add a dash of seasoning (yes I do that) and then eat it. If you are going for a boiled egg, cut it into cross-sectional pieces, sprinkle salt and pepper and eat it out of a plate with a fork. Eating even a simple thing ceremoniously satisfies our indulgent side.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm posting something after a really long time - blame it on two big events - new job and new house. My new job is located in a very exciting area of SF, especially from a foodie's point of view. I can eat lunch and buy produce at the Ferry Building everyday if I wanted to. What more can a food-lover ask for?

Friends and family have been visiting to see the new house. Recently at one of the parties I baked a cake that is so perfect for fall.



Recipe based on Pumpkin Sheet Cake


Serves around 12

canned pumpkin             1 15oz can
white sugar                     2 cups
vegetable oil                   1 cup
eggs                                4
all-purpose flour              2 cups
baking soda                    2 teaspoons
pumpkin pie spice mix    3 teaspoons
salt                                  1/2 teaspoon

For the frosting:

cream cheese                 8 oz
butter, softened              1/2 cup (1 stick)
vanilla extract                 2 teaspoons
confectioners' sugar       1 & 1/2 cups
milk                                 few tablespoons
pecans                            3/4 cup


Method
  1. In a mixing bowl, beat pumpkin, 2 cups white sugar, and oil. Add eggs, and mix well.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice mix and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, and beat until well blended. Pour batter into a greased 15 x 10 inch baking pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until done. Let cool.
  4. Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add 1 & 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, and mix well. Add milk until frosting reaches desired spreading consistency. Frost cake, and sprinkle with pecans.



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baked Eggplant Chips (Vaangyache Kaap)



Serves 3-4 as an appetizer

regular large eggplant              1

salt                                        1/2 tbsp
powdered black pepper            1 tsp
red chilly powder                     1/4 tsp
amchur (raw mango powder)    1/4 tsp  (You can find this in an Indian grocery store. It adds tartness.)

Method -
1. Cut eggplant into very thin round slices of roughly 3mm width. A mandoline slicer comes in handy for this. For slices that are too big, cut in half.
2. Put all the spices and the salt in a bowl and mix well.
3. Take a large baking tray, cover it with aluminium foil and grease it with oil or spray generously with oil spray.
4. Take half of the eggplant slices on the baking tray. Drizzle oil or oil spray over them. Toss them well with half of the spice mix, making sure you rub both sides of every slice with the spice mix.
5. Then arrange them in a single layer on the tray and once again drizzle with oil or oil spray.
6. Repeat steps 3, 4, 5 for the rest of the eggplant slices.
7. Bake at 350 deg for 15 mins and then broil at 350 deg for 5 mins. Watch them frequently as they can get burnt easily. You may have to adjust the oven times according to the thickness of the slices.
The slices may look burnt when done but taste great and crispy! The thicker slices will most probably remain soft. I combined them with some crispy slices and put them in a sandwich - tasted pretty good.
We had the eggplant chips with a very simple and quick dip. For the dip, take a half cup of low fat ricotta cheese and add 2 tbsp of mayonnaise to it. Mix well to make the ricotta a bit more creamy and less grainy. 
Other creamy dips would also go very well with the chips, such as a greek yogurt-garlic dip.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nigella's Coffee Ice cream - Recipe Review

Last year I had the opportunity to meet Nigella Lawson at a book signing for her book 'Nigellissima'. In an interview before the signing she mentioned that her coffee ice cream recipe from the book is one of her favorite recipes. What's good enough for Nigella is good enough for me, so I tried it and it turned out to be fabulous! It was hard to believe it was made without an ice cream maker and yet tasted exactly like great ice cream.




Apparently it is the alcohol that keeps the ice cream from become icy.
I followed the recipe from the book, which is slightly different from the recipe from her blog, though I don't know if that matters.

For the instant espresso powder I used Medaglia D'oro brand. Next time I would reduce its amount from 2 tbsp to 1.5 tbsp as I thought the ice cream was a tad stronger than I'd like.
I think it would be ok to use instant coffee too, though in that case you might need more of it.

For the coffee liqueur I used Kahlua and it seemed to have worked well.
I also thought the ice cream was a bit too creamy. I don't know if half-n-half can do the job of heavy cream in the recipe. I might try out a 60-40 mix of heavy cream and half-n-half next time.

I served the ice cream with a stick of chocolate wafer. Next time I'm planning to add some kind of nuts such as walnuts or chocolate-covered almonds to the ice cream before freezing it. Or even choc brownie pieces. The possibilities are endless!

One thing to note: The ice cream took an awfully long time to freeze. I made it in the morning and served it at night, but it was far from set. But after a couple of days it set beautifully and the picture above was taken at that time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Breakfast Casserole with Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper



Dishes like casseroles and lasagna - as you can figure from my recent posts - are my newfound favorite type of recipe. They are pretty easy to make, especially for large groups and require little active time.

Recently I made a cauliflower and penne casserole with white sauce (bechamel) the night before we were heading out of town. Worked out perfectly to finish off some leftover cauliflower that would have gotten really sad sitting in the fridge for a few more days.

Here's the recipe for the breakfast casserole. I'm looking forward to making this for a larger group by doubling all quantities. If you try that, remember to use a larger baking tray!

Serves 4

sausage                       3/4 lb (I used Isernio's Italian chicken sausage)
bread                           4 slices of regular pre-sliced bread
milk                             1.5 cups
eggs                             4
grated cheddar cheese  3/4 cup
roasted red pepper        1/2 pepper

Seasoning -
dijon mustard               1 tsp
salt                              1 tsp
ground black pepper      1 tsp

Method -
1. Make bite-sized pieces of the bread.
    Dice the roasted red pepper.

2. Cook sausage in a pan with a little bit of oil while breaking it up into pieces until brown and thoroughly cooked.

3. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients to the bowl and mix well.

4. Pour everything into an 8x8 baking pan. Bake at 350 deg F for 25 to 40 mins or until set.

If desired, top with some more cheddar cheese and bake for a few mins until cheese melts.
Take out when it is still moist and juicy.
If using french/ italian loaf bread, soak the bread in the milk mixture for 30 mins before baking.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Butternut Squash & Kale Lasagna






There was this butternut squash lasagna that I wanted to try for a long time and this Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect occasion to try that out.

An 8x8 baking tray is prefect for the recipe below. When making lasagna, it is really important that the entire tray is full otherwise the sauce will drain away.

Recipe adapted from this one.

I got a whole butternut squash and prepared it from scratch. Half of it sufficed for this recipe (for 4 people).

Serves 4

half of a medium-sized butternut squash
large kale leaves (little less than half of a typical bunch)  3-4
2% reduced fat milk                                                     3 cups
all-purpose flour                                                           4 tbsp
finely chopped garlic                                                    2 large cloves
no-boil lasagna noodles                                                6
shredded Italian cheese                                               1 cup
unsalted butter                                                            4 tbsp
powdered black pepper
salt
sugar


Method -
1. Cut the butternut squash in half and peel one half with vertical strokes using a knife or a peeler. Cut it in small flat-ish pieces since we have to stuff them in between 2 layers.

2. Put aluminium foil on a baking tray, and toss the squash pieces on it with salt, pepper and vegetable oil.
I saved some squash seeds and roasted them along with the squash. They were toasty and crunchy - a nice garnish for the lasagna.
Roast at 400 deg F for about 25-30 mins or until it is soft, tossing the squash once after 15 mins.

3. Wash the kale leaves, remove the thick veins and chop them. Then sprinkle salt over the chopped leaves and massage them vigorously by taking a fistful in your hand at a time and releasing. This "tames" the kale and makes it more manageable as well as palatable.

4. Mix the roasted squash and the kale well.

5. Heat the milk in a pot. In a different pot, add the 2 tbsp butter on medium heat. Once it is mostly melted, add the chopped garlic and saute for 1-2 mins.

6. Then add the 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour to the melted butter, saute for 2 mins. Now add the hot milk gradually, keep your heat a bit higher than medium and keep stirring until the mixture thickens a bit.

7. Now add 3/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp powdered black pepper (adjust amounts to your taste). Also add 1/4 cup cheese and stir well. Turn off heat.

8. Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Grease the baking dish. Pour roughly 1/4th of the white sauce on to the baking dish.

9. Place 2 lasagna noodles over it and half of the squash-kale mixture over the noodles. Pour another 1/4th of the sauce, sprinkle 1/4th cup cheese.

10. Repeat #9

11. Top with the remaining 2 noodles, remaining white sauce and 1/4th cup cheese.

12. Cover with aluminium foil, make several slits for the steam to escape and bake at 375 deg F for 10-15 mins.

13. Then remove foil, top with pecans, walnuts and/or toasted squash seeds. Broil in the oven for 5-7 mins or until brown spots appear on the lasagna. Serve hot.

Update [Oct 2016]:
I made this last night with sweet potato and it turned out great! I did not notice any difference in the taste. Also sweet potato is a lot easier than butternut squash to peel and prep!