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Mini Tomato-Basil Bread Puddings

9 Sep

Mini Tomato Basil Bread PuddingBread puddings are the epitome of warm, homey comfort food. We always remember all the delicious dessert bread puddings and often overlook that savory bread puddings are celebrated soul friendly brunch entrées or a dinner side dishes.

A few years ago I came across a remarkable Tomato-Basil Bread Pudding recipe created by Giada de Laurentiis. Over the years I have created several brunch versions of this and have enjoyed all of them. It’s a versatile recipe that can take on the addition of any favorite omelet ingredient – ham, mushrooms, green peppers etc. This version doesn’t deviate too far from the original recipe. I add in some Fontina cheese for extra creaminess and some hot sauce for an underlying kick. Creating individual portions in cupcake tins gives a little vigor to comfort classic. Individual Tomato Basil Bread Pudding

These mini tomato-basil bread puddings symbolize comfort food at its best – rustic, humble, inexpensive and heartwarming!  Continue reading

Spinach & Pepper Jack Cheese Muffins

16 Apr

IMG_2632We live in a world filled with uncertainty and reoccurring horrific events that are so complicated to fathom. The news coverage of these recent tragic recent events – Boston and Baghdad bombings, fatal earthquake in Iran and the continuing Syrian Civil War send shivers down my spine.  The images depicting carnage of innocent citizens and widespread annihilation of their towns and cities reiterate the fragility of human lives and the world we live in. They are reminders that everyday is a gift and one must constantly cherish and love our family and friends.

The very ethos of this blog is to express your love and nurture by cooking for the special people in your life. Now more than ever, I must reiterate “Cook for someone you love”.  While we think and pray for all the families stricken by these ghastly events let’s also remember to articulate our love for the important people in our lives.  Continue reading

Hash Brown & Vegetable Mini Frittatas

14 Mar

Hash Brown & Vegetable Mini FrittatasAs we (slowly) move into spring, brunches are on everyone’s minds. And why shouldn’t they be? It’s almost time for Easter and even if you do not celebrate Easter after a long winter it’s time to start brunching again. Hosting a brunch is also one the best ways to entertain friends and family. It is an inexpensive and hassle free way to entertain with flavorful and charming dishes. Several brunch dishes can be prepared in advance so you can join your guests and indulge in those Mimosas or Bloody Marys.

Frittata’s are a great way to feed a crowd at brunch.

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Indian Whole-Wheat Pancakes

5 Mar

Saffron and Cardamom pancakes

My earliest memories of pancakes are my dadi’s (paternal grandmother’s) “meetha pudas”. They are eggless, whole-wheat pancakes laced with Indian spices and cooked in ghee (clarified butter). Reflecting on these pancakes conjures up several food memories of my childhood that are often centered on my grandmother’s cooking.

My grandmother embodied the very concept of “Feeding Your Appetite”, expressing the depth of her love through her cooking. I believe that my innate desire to cook for the ones I love is something I inherited from her. Unfortunately, my grandmother never experienced the birth and development of my culinary passion and I never had the opportunity to cook for her. Since my blog is just a week shy of its 6th month anniversary, I wanted to share a recipe that could have played a small part in developing my culinary zeal.

These pancakes are laced with fragrant Indian spices – fennel seeds, cardamom powder and saffron. Replacing all-purpose flour with

Saffron, cardamom and fennel seeds

whole-wheat flour and eliminating the eggs creates a healthier alternative to traditional pancakes. I use lesser sugar in the batter in order to add honey in the end, which really augments the flavors of the Indian spices. These pancakes are perfect for a nourishing breakfast (or after-school snack) and are a remarkably delightful way to show someone how much you care.

Indian Whole-Wheat Pancakes
Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4-5 large pancakes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon 2% milk, slightly warm
1/8 teaspoon of saffron
1 cup whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons fine granulated or powdered sugar
¾ Teaspoon of green cardamom powder (See note)
1 ½ teaspoons of fennel seeds
1-1 ¼ cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil divided
Good quality honey for drizzling on the pancakes

Note:

  • Cardamom powder is readily available in all grocery stores. In case you only have whole cardamoms pods at home you can easily make cardamom powder. In a mortar with a pestle break apart the cardamom pods and discard the green skin. Use the pestle or a coffee grinder to powder the seeds of the cardamom pods.

Method:
1) Crush the saffron with your fingers and add it to the warm milk. Mix it and set it aside for 10 minutes.
2) While the milk and saffron is set aside, you can start making the rest of the pancake batter. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the whole-wheat flour, baking soda, sugar, cardamom powder and fennel seeds.
3) Add 1 cup of milk and the saffron and milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir all the ingredients well but do not over-mix – it is okay to have a few lumps. If the consistency of the batter is too thick then add in the remaining ¼ cup (or some part of it) to this batter.
4) Heat a skillet or a griddle to medium-high heat.  Heat the oil in batches and add 1/4 – 1/5 of the batter in the center of the skillet and spread out to make a round pancake. Cook till brown on both sides and the insides are fully cooked. Repeat this process till all the pancakes are made.
5) Serve hot drizzled with a good quality honey.

Healthy Quinoa Upma

10 Jan

IMG_2391

I revealed my love for Indian breakfasts when I shared my Chai Chocolate Truffles Recipe a few weeks earlier. I have always loved a good Upma for breakfast. Upma, is a common South Indian savory breakfast dish made with dry-roasted semolina. Vegetables and spices are added in the cooking process to create a wholesome and delicious breakfast item.

Since I am still repenting for my gluttony in the last few months of 2012, I wanted to recreate my favorite upma with a lower carbohydrate and higher protein substitute for semolina. The ingredient is (yes, yet again!) the super food – Quinoa! Quinoa, turned out to be a perfect textural substitute and a wonderful blank canvas to be enriched by the tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves in a little ghee (clarified butter).  I only included peas and corn for the vegetable additions to this upma, but you can substitute or supplement them with  cauliflower, green beans and even cabbage. This upma is sure to satisfy your palate without undoing your ongoing New Year’s resolution of eating healthy.

Quinoa Upma Recipe
Time: 25 minutes
Yield: About 3.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, washed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons of ghee/clarified butter (See note)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • ½ cup red onions, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 green chilies, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, defrosted
  • ½ cup frozen yellow corn, defrosted
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, chopped (optional)
  • Store bought mint chutney/cilantro chutney as an accompaniment (optional)

Note:

Method:
1) In a medium pot cook 1 cup of Quinoa along with 2 cups of water, as per the package instructions. When cooked, fluff with a fork and set aside.
2) In another medium non-stick pot heat the oil and ghee on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to sputter, add the curry leaves and cook them for 1 minute.
3) Now add the onions and green chilies and sauté until the onions start to change color. Add the ginger paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4) Add the peas and corn along with 1-2 tablespoons of water and cover and cook till the peas and corn are tender.
5) Add ½ teaspoon red chili powder and salt to taste. Now add the quinoa and toss gently to mix all the ingredients into the quinoa.
6) Turn off the heat and remove from the stove-top. Add the cilantro and give the quinoa another quick toss.
7) Season with lemon juice to taste and garnish with crushed peanuts. (Add more salt if you need to at this stage).This can be served by itself or with an accompaniment of store-bought mint or cilantro chutney.

Bacon, Apple and Onion Stuffing Muffins

5 Dec

Bacon, Apple and Onion sTUFFINMy last recipe post – Chili-Cheese Wontons was a simple and elegant Hors d’oeuvre for holiday entertaining or a cocktail party. Life would be way too simple if the only entertaining during the holidays were cocktail parties. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple! There are sumptuous and comforting dinners to be served, brunches and lunches to be cooked, and finally guests who stay a few days and need to be fed around the clock.

This is when you need a crowd-pleasing recipe that can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled up to be served as an appetizer or a side dish at dinner or a brunch. That is exactly what I thought when I came across Rachael Ray’s Apple Onion and Stuffin’ Muffin’s recipe. Bread, apples, onions and celery are elements that can be consumed at all mealtimes. Combining them creates a luscious dish that can be savored at various meal occasions. Plus making muffins out of this stuffing nudges it from being just a dinner side to a brunch side or even a heavy appetizer. Holiday Muffins

I made various changes to the original recipe to personalize it. Specifically, I added bacon and introduced a tart apple to add multiple layers of flavor. The smoky and savory flavor profile of the bacon marries harmoniously with the tart granny smith apple as well as the sweet McIntosh apples. There is nothing to not love about these muffins – they are delectable and unique and best of all can be served at any time of the day!

Bacon, Apple and Onion Stuffing Muffins
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray’s Apple and Onion Stuffin’ Muffins
Yields: 12 regular size muffins
Time: Active: 20 minutes; Inactive (Baking) 12-15 minutes

Ingredients
Butter favored cooking spray (Recommended: PAM)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup chopped bacon (I used center-cut thick bacon)
1 fresh bay leaf (use a dried one if you cannot find fresh bay leaves)
4 ribs celery and greens, from the heart, chopped
1 medium to large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, quartered and chopped
1 ½ McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, quartered and chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
7 cups cubed stuffing mix (Recommended: Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing – Cubed)
2 to 3 cups chicken stock, store-bought from the soup aisle

Note:

  • To make these vegetarian eliminate the bacon. Increase the butter by another 1.5 tablespoons. Substitute the chicken stock with vegetable broth/stock.

Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a regular muffin tin (12 muffins), liberally with butter-flavored cooking spray and set aside.
2) Preheat a large skillet (12 inch) over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil to skillet and 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter melts, cook the bacon.
3) Add the bay leaf followed by celery, onions and then apples. Sprinkle the vegetables and apples with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 6 minutes or until the vegetables and apples begin to soften.
4) Add the parsley and stuffing cubes to the pan and combine. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until all of the bread is soft but not wet. (This was about 2.5 cups of stock for me) Do not over-wet the mixture as this will make it harder for the muffins to stay together. Taste the mixture and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
5) Remove the bay leaf. Use an ice cream scoop to fill and mound up the stuffing in muffin tins.
6) Bake until set and crisp on top, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove stuffing muffins from the muffin tray and serve hot or room temperature.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Hash with Fried Eggs

23 Nov

If you cooked a holiday meal yesterday, it is safe to assume you have leftovers that may include turkey (or chicken or ham), herbs, gravy and chicken stock. We had some herb-roasted turkey breast, fresh herbs and gravy leftover. Here is the recipe of what I did with our leftovers today. I love a good breakfast hash that’s topped with fried eggs. There is something divine about runny yolks on slightly charred and crispy potatoes and onions. Granted this is not a diet recipe, but it’s still Thanksgiving weekend – so go ahead and indulge a little more.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Hash with Fried Eggs Recipe
Serves: 2
Time: 25-30 minutes (start to finish)

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed into small pieces (See note)
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup leftover cooked turkey, ham or chicken, cubed (See note)
2 tablespoons of leftover, gravy or chicken broth (See note)
1 tablespoon grated parmesan or asiago cheese
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of parsley for garnish

Notes:

  • Cut the potatoes into really small cubes. This will reduce the cooking time significantly.
  • Use whatever leftover cooked meat you have – turkey (white or dark meat), chicken (white or dark meat) or cooked ham.
  • If you have gravy or chicken stock leftover, it’s great to use it to warm up the leftover meat without drying out the juices. If you do not have any left, just use some water.
  • The bottoms of the potatoes (touching the skillet) will get dark brown, while you are cooking the eggs. Do not worry – the slightly charred taste is amazing!

Method:
1) In a 10 inch non-stick skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and jalapeno to the oil and cook till the onion is soft.
2) Now add the potatoes and stir them to coat them well with the oil. Add the chopped rosemary and thyme, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything together. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally till the potatoes are fork tender. If the potatoes start to stick to the bottom, add a little more oil and stir them more frequently.
3) While the potatoes are cooking in a small saucepan heat the broth, gravy or water and add the turkey to it. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the turkey/chicken/ham is warm and slightly moist.
4) Once the potatoes are cooked, add the turkey/chicken/ham to the potatoes and toss everything together. Add the cheese and stir for 30 seconds.
5) Now make a nice even bed of everything in the skillet and break the eggs (one by one) on the hash. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Now uncover and complete cooking the eggs till the whites are fully formed and the yolks are still slightly runny (or to the doneness that you prefer). Season the eggs with salt and pepper once they are cooked.
6) Garnish with parsley and serve with a salad or leftover dinner rolls for a complete meal.

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