Monday, May 21, 2012

Breakfast Bars


Summer holidays will start next week! I'm saying that like I've been saying it forever and yet, this is my li'll S's first summer vacation from school.
Here is the bee that is buzzing in my bonnet, what and how am I going to keep S busy with!? 
Swimming classes, crafting classes for pre-k kids, some more indoor activities (yes, ONLY indoor activities, I am not  flinging myself outdoors more than I can help, in the Texan heat). 
All these and the fact that I will want to stuff my scrawny little boy (though M and the pediatrician may not agree on the term scrawny, I am a Mother and to me he is scrawny and needs some fattening up, humph!) with some food.

Like many 4 year olds, S, is picky and fanciful, he likes few things, dislikes anything that is healthy and would willingly run a mile in high heels at the very mention of 'bhaji' (vegetables)- Like Mother, like Son- as the husband puts it, humph

S and I make a awesome team. We both love sweet. I like simple baking and S likes to eat what is baked. And my li'll one is now the age where he stands on a little step stool and offers to help me in the kitchen.
This is such a far cry from the time when he was a few months old, I would sit him in the high chair, in the kitchen , relaxing it all the way and talk to him as I cooked, I sometimes want to rewind life a bit, go back to holding the smiling infant in my arms, sit him in the high chair and just look at him, gaze into his soulful eyes and smile with him, no words exchanged, none needed. 

Much as I want to go back in time, there isn't one minute that I want to lose now! Today we baked these breakfast bars, well, anytime bars, I think! 

I borrowed Nigella Express from the library. Many a times, I just get books by the authors/ chefs, just to look thru the glossy pages , the beautiful pictures. Like reading a novel. But there are many recipes that are Vegetarian friendly and I was  thrilled to try one so simple and kid- friendly! 

So if you have a willing little chef at home, try these bars. Easy to make and good to eat, you will love them! 



Adapted from: Here, with my substitutions ( in bold

Makes 16

1 Can (14 oz) Condensed Milk
21/2 Cups Rolled Oats (not instant)
1 cup Shredded Coconut
1 cup Dried Cranberries
1 cup Mixed Seeds ( pumpkin, sunflower Sesame)
1 cup Natural Unsalted Peanuts

I did not have mixed seeds and I avoid peanuts, I used a mix of Almonds, Cashew and Walnuts. 

I blitzed them in the food processor to make it into a powder, my little one will not eat chunky pieces of nuts. This is a personal choice, you could pulse the nuts slightly to break them or just leave them whole. 

Preheat the oven to 250 F and oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Alternatively, use a disposable Aluminium foil pan.

Warm the condensed milk in wide pan

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients  together, add the warmed condensed milk, using a rubber spatula to fold and distribute

Spread the mixture into the oiled pan / foil and press down with the spatula or hands ( use latex gloves)
*I  used a flat bottomed steel container (vati) to press down the mixture evenly.

Bake for 1 hour and after about 15 mins. cut into 4 across and 4 down to get 16 chunky bars

Let it cool completely.


Sending these bars to Bake Fest hosted by Priya, originally started by Vardhini.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Green Chutney Sandwich : Bombay Sandwich

If you are ever in Churchgate, Mumbai, and you travel in the local train, when you step outside  the station, in one corner, you will find people flocking, young college going students, working men and women , around a small stall,which at first you may not even notice because of the flock. At a glance you will also notice, the flock is engaged in similar actions and you think, smiling to yourself, birds of a feather.... , and then you see what action it is, plate in one hand (left, mostly- unless that person is a left handed person, then right) and the other hand carrying a small square 'something' to the mouth and enjoying every bite. You are drawn to the flock and then you see what the fuss is all about. It's the sandwichwalla!
This sandwichwalla ( The sandwich stall owner) I am talking about used to ( and maybe he still is there) operate outside Churchgate station and my news is at least 8 -9 years old.
Rapidly preparing sandwiches, he works at a fast and smooth, unfaltering pace, slathering butter on the slices of bread creating a mound in one corner and then quickly laying these slices in a grid and smearing chutney on top. adding the vegetables ( as per customers preference) and slapping the second slice of bread on top and then using a thin but razor sharp knife, deftly cuts it into 8 little squares and slides the whole thing, neatly onto a plate. Using squeeze bottles, squirts ketchup on top and hands it to the hungry and waiting customer.

Walking thru Mumbai, you will find such small stall owners in practically every lane, catering to the hunger pangs of one and all for a small price.

                                  
I have no idea what a simple sandwich costs these days, but I remember, in my college days, it was Rs.5/- and on a student pocket money, it was affordable nutrition.

What made this sandwich so addictive was the spicy chutney, slathered onto a slice of soft buttered bread.
I have a similar version for you today. 

Cilantro chutney:

1 Large bunch, Fresh Cilantro ( leaves and tender stems)
4 Green Chilies ( reduce quantity to suit your preference)
1/2 tsp. Cumin  Seeds
1/2 tsp. Coriander seed powder
Pinch Asafetida
1/2 inch Fresh ginger knob
Salt to Taste
2 Tbsp Lemon juice

Wash the cilantro. Add all the ingredients to the blender/ mixie jar, except lemon juice and blend to a smooth paste, with minimum water.
Remove to a container, add lemon juice and mix it in.



This chutney is versatile and can be used in bhel or sev puri or ragda patties when coupled with meethi (date and tamarind) chutney

To assemble the sandwich:



For one sandwich

2 Slices of Bread ( the original uses white sliced bread)
A pat of Butter
Green
 Cilantro Chutney





Fixin's :

Thinly Sliced Cucumber
Thinly sliced Tomato
Thinly Sliced, Boiled Potato
Thinly Sliced Red Onion
Thinly sliced Boiled Beetroot
Dash of Salt and Pepper ( if required)
Tomato Ketchup

Butter both slices of bread.

On one slice, apply the Cilantro chutney ( on both, if you want, but make sure that it does not overwhelm the over all taste it is a dominating taste and the vegetables are plain / raw)

Pile on the fixin's. Choose what you want, but the most common are Cucumber, Tomato and Boiled Potato ( and the ones we almost always have on hand). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if using.

Place the second slice, buttered side down on top and carefully slice the sandwich into squares or triangles

Serve immediately with ketchup



NOTES: 

Use water carefully when blending the chutney ingredients, you do not want a runny chutney, it makes soggy sandwiches

Mint can be added to the chutney to enhance the flavor ( about 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves)

Cream cheese can be used instead of butter, it alters the taste, but is a nice change

Substitute Whole Wheat sliced bread or a multi grain bread or Ciabatta roll ( as I have used here), instead of white bread

In most Indian stores, you will find a sandwich masala, this can be sprinkled instead of salt and pepper, it is purely optional. 

For a Gluten allergies here is a recipe for Coconut flour bread 

For a Vegan Version, substitute with vegan butter 



These sandwiches make great picnic food.
Just don't assemble and pack them to eat later on! Soggy mess- unappealing! 


We walked this path on Saturday, there was a slight breeze and the sun, mercifully behind a few clouds, in short, nothing to mar my happiness. Bombay Sandwiches for a picnic lunch and this view, priceless! 

Serenity

P.S: call it Mumbai Sandwich , if you want, either way, it tastes the same! 
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Parfait : Summer Breakfast



Are you a breakfast person? I am a breakfast person. Miss my breakfast or do not eat it, I am a grumpy bear, with a headache. You can hear me growl for miles around! 

As a child, teen and young adult, I never made my breakfast, Mom always saw to it that we got fresh food to start our day. But, oh my! how the breakfast options have changed over the years!
Mom was a working woman and had to prepare and pack our lunch boxes before she got ready for work and dashed off to catch the 10:10 a.m local to V.T. She would make fulkas (roti/ chapati/ Indian flat bread) and a vegetable dish to go with it. I would get ready for school go into the kitchen and many a times just take the fulka off the flame, smear it with a bit of ghee and perhaps a tiny pinch of salt sprinkled on it, roll it and eat up. Or instead of salt, sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar or crumble some jaggery, roll up and eat! 
On weekends a leisurely breakfast of upma or  idli or something similar on those lines. It was a practical approach. No one thought of cereals, indeed, we did not even think of those until I went to college. Even then, with cereals, I think I'd still have preferred thalipeeth! I still do, I suppose.

Like in the past, I need my breakfast, but here is the weird part, most people are early breakfasters (err, you know what I mean) I am a bit on the late side, though an early riser, the day begins with a sip of Chai, to lift the fog, then of course there is the mad rush to get S ready and off to school. Once this gargantuan task is over and done with say by 10:00 a.m,  I like to relax, take my breakfast, sit comfortably on the sofa, feet tucked under me, start the laptop to catch up with e-mails, FB and blogs or read my book. I savor every bite of my breakfast and this whole routine makes me happy, sunny and fuels me thru out the day.

These days, with the temperature rising and making me cross as a dozen sticks, I need to keep cool! One of my easy breakfast options ( and with a chockful of nutrition) is making a parfait. Nothing as easy! 

You Need:
There are no measures, you make it up as you go! 


Yogurt ( Plain or Vanilla Flavor)
Chopped fruit- Berries ( Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Blueberry), Banana, Mango
Granola
Toasted Walnuts and Almonds 
Sugar (optional)
Vanilla extract (optional)


If using plain yogurt, add 1-2 tsp of sugar and whisk, set aside.
If using vanilla extract, add a few drops along with the sugar and whisk, set aside.


The use of sugar and vanilla is purely optional. I exclude it, I like plain yogurt.


Alternatively, use store brought Vanilla Yogurt. You can use flavored Greek Yogurt too.


In a glass bowl (like in the picture) o any other bowl you want, spoon in some yogurt to cover the bottom of the bowl.
Add the chopped fruit on top.
Layer with yogurt
Top with fruit
Garnish with a sprinkling of granola and toasted chopped nuts


Enjoy your chilled breakfast and chill out! 


*NOTES :
Use any combination of fruit that will pair well and taste well with yogurt.
Use cold yogurt
Make as many layers as you want, just make sure that it is manageable and you can finish it. It looks nice and light, but remember, yogurt is filling! 






Have a great weekend, Folks! 
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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Mango Lassi- making summer tolerable!

The only thing that makes a hot sticky, unbearable summer tolerable, in India ( or for that matter, here in Dallas, for me) is the Mango. A  mango crate, the ripe color of the sun, the setting sun, makes it feel cooler, already! 
If you are a mango devotee, like I am, you would want to eat THE fruit in every possible way. In it's raw stage, I like to make it into a spectacular chutney or a tasty mouth puckering sour-spicy pickle and last but not the very least Panha



In school, many of you reading this part will nod in agreement, we had this bhaiyya with his bushel full of  raw mango, berries , starfruit, tamarind and a plastic bag full of cayenne and salt. As per our order, he'd cut the starfruit or raw mango in wedges and sprinkle the cayenne-salt over it and hand it to us thru the school gates in to our eager hands! 
Mouths watering , we would enjoy these treats sitting on the steps of the school or perhaps under the tree. 



The ripe mango can be pureed and added into shrikhand to make Amrakhand which is ambrosia with a puffy poori! Or just cut wedges of the ripe Alphonso mango and eat them, just as, pure heaven!  

The one way my mother could shove milk down my throat was making Mango milkshake, bung mango pieces and a cup of cold milk in the blender, give it a whizz, pour into a tall grass and drink up. It was the only time I did not say No to drinking milk! 

Moving on to what I have for you today, is the famous Mango Lassi ! Nobody doesn't like love mango Lassi! 
Whoever thought of combining yogurt and mango was brilliant! 
There is no recipe folks, just a matter of absently putting things into the blender and blending, taste, adjust sweetness to your liking, give it a whizz if you make changes and then just pour yourself a tall glass of bliss, sit in your favorite chair or where you like and sip! 




For those who still need guidelines, here is what you do,

Pick a ripe and big mango. Alphonso, being the BEST variety, but here I make do with Atulfo variety. 
The best fruit is a big plump mango, with a deep rich, mango-ey color ( sorry, how else can I describe it!?!)
Give it a good sniff, the heady aroma of mango should waft, that's it! That's the fruit you want!
Alternatively, you can use canned mango pulp, use about 6 oz when making  this lassi.

Choose the yogurt. It MUST be Plain. 
You don't want sour yogurt.
Low fat, no fat yogurt is okay. But, Plain.
You need 1/2 cup of Yogurt

2-3 Ice cubes
2tsp sugar, optional, if the mango is really , really sweet, you won't need this ( adjust it to how sweet you want the lassi to be)

Peel and chop the mango, do not use the seed. Reserve some chopped mango pieces to garnish.
Place the mango, yogurt, ice cubes and sugar in the blender and blend until smooth.
This will make a thick, spoonable lassi, if you want., thin it out with some water. 
Do a taste test, if everything is just as you like it, pour into a tall glass, add the chopped mango pieces on top  and drink up! 

If you want some more sugar, add it, blend it and then pour it into a glass, enjoy! 

Optional

You can add a pinch of cardamom powder when blending.
You can add a few strands of Saffron to give the lassi another dimension (soak the strands in some warm water, for about 10 mins. and add when blending)
You can use Chopped almonds and pistachios to garnish the lassi.
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Friday, May 04, 2012

Tondli Bhaji (Ivy Gourd Stir- Fry) - As simple as it gets.

It really is, as simple as it gets. There are some vegetables (Ivy Gourd or Tondli/ Tendli) in this case, that are meant for simplicity.
All they need is a simple tempering (tadka) and basic spices, that are always present in an Indian pantry.

I like Ivy Gourd, it nice, it is not strong ('ugra' as we call it in Marathi, for those who do not know this word, try biting into a white radish, *blink..blink*, yes that), not that I am against radish, I love my Mooli Parathas, just giving you an example. 

I first liked the humble tondli when it was mixed and cooked with 'Lagnacha Masale Bhaat' the fragrant spices elevated the vegetable to a new height.

From there trying the simple stir fry my Mother made; was but a small step and she made it well! I am sure she smiled secretly to herself, watching me eating and enjoying the 'poli-bhaji' and praising her for making 'zabardast' bhaji.

I make this frequently. When we travel with M, a hotel kitchenette isn't exactly your best friend, with 2 lousy small burners, which take ages to cook anything, I find it easy to cook Ivy Gourd, just like Dudhi / bottle gourd or Farasbi / french beans bhaji. The common factor here being the limited list of ingredients
Plus- minus an ingredient , you will not mind, you might not even notice! 
Oh! and did I mention, you can eyeball the ingredients ( use your judgement, don't overdo anything) and still end up with a great dish ! That is a win-win for all.

One thing, when you are chopping the gourd, discard any that are yellowish/ orange or red on the inside, use gourds that have nice green and soft seeds. They are the best to cook with.

Here's what you need : 

2 Cups Ivy Gourd, chopped lengthwise ( cut off the ends and slice in half and then quarter, lengthwise, like shown in the picture)
1/2 Onion, chopped like the gourd
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Tsp each, Mustard seed and  Cumin seed
Pinch Asafetida
Few curry leaves
1 Tsp each, Cumin powder and Coriander Powder (Dhana-Jeera Powder)
Salt to taste
Walnut sized ball of Jaggery (gul) or 1 heaped tsp. Brown sugar
1 tsp Red Chili Powder ( adjust according to taste)
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Goda Masala ( optional) - I have not used it.
1-2 Tbsp.Fresh Grated Coconut, to garnish ( I skipped this, the husband has a psychological allergy to coconut)



Heat oil in a wok / kadhai. Add the mustard seeds, after they pop, add the cumin seeds
The cumin seeds will sizzle, add in the asafetida and curry leaves
Add the onion, saute for 8-10 seconds ( don't time it, just stir it in and mix well) add the chopped tondli /ivy gourd, mix well so that the tempering coats the vegetable
Add the turmeric, red chili powder salt , mix, cover and cook on a medium flame.
After the tondli  is fork tender, add the jaggery, cumin-coriander powder and Goda Masala, if using
cover and cook for a few minutes more
Turn off the flame, add the Fresh grated / shredded coconut and mix well.
Serve with Roti/ phulkas.
I like my tondli along side rice as well, specially to liven up yogurt-rice.





Have a great weekend, Folks! 


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