Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cardamom Apricot Oatmeal Cookies

Last year for the holidays I decided to try an alternate version of my Oatmeal Raisin cookies because I know a lot of people really don't care for raisins and because I happened to have some dried apricots on hand.

I always buy the oats and the apricots from the bulk section of Sprouts but you can just as easily buy the Sun Maid apricots or any another brand of dried apricots. And of course Quaker makes great oats.

1/2 cup(s) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick or old fashioned oats
1 cup dried apricots, cut up into quarters
parchment paper to line the cookie sheets - total life and time saver!

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and salt.
2. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed of an electric mixer or by hand if you have to (but mixers are the way to go if you have one! My KitchenAid is the best thing in my kitchen)
3. Add the combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and salt; mix well.
4. Fold in the oats and the apricots with a wooden spoon or heavy duty spatula. Just mix until blended.
5. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 Substitutions - you could of course use raisins or any other dried fruit, or chocolate chips or add nuts. I've also used this recipe with 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. So tasty!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Aloo Patta Gohbi

Not long ago I was at my favorite Indian restaurant (like I could happily eat there every day and never get tired of it), Star Of India and I tried Aloo Patta Gohbi which I think translates to Potato and Cabbage. It's a dry, stir-fry like dish that traditionally comes from the North of India and I was blown away.

I love cabbage, I love potatoes, I love spicy Indian food, how could I not love this dish? I used my Google-Fu to search for recipes online and then cobbled my own variation together based on the ingredients that I had on hand and my own personal preference.

This is supposed to be a dry curry with no sauce, I realized I had to keep a close eye on it near the end to ensure that all of the moisture wasn't cooked off before the potatoes and cabbage was tender and cooked through.

Couple of notes - I use garlic and ginger separately but you can also buy ginger garlic paste which is wonderful stuff, I'm just out of stock on it right now. Also you will need a large, deep covered skillet, I have the GreenPan Rio 5 quart pan from Target and I love it especially for the price.

1-2 tablespoons canola oil  - or another oil with a high smoke point, do NOT use olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger paste or 1 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
4 potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2" chunks
1 cup peas, frozen or canned
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder (or more if you want more heat but be careful, too much and it will have a weird almost dirty flavor)
1-2 bay leaves
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water (or more if needed)
1 small-medium head of cabbage, washed and shredded or cut into small chunks
2 teaspoons garam masala

1. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet pan. Once the oil is hot (you can check it by tossing a cumin seed in the pan and make sure it sizzles), add the cumin and mustard seeds and cover immediately. The seeds WILL pop and get everywhere so you have to make sure you cover it right away. Fry the seeds for 1-2 minutes or until they change color. It doesn't take long for them to burn so only a minute or so will do.
2. Once the seeds change color add the onions, garlic and ginger paste and saute until the onions are translucent. Depending on your stove you may want to lower the heat so nothing gets burned.
3. Add the potatoes, peas, tomatoes, water, bay leaf, and the powdered seasoning except for the garam masala, stir until the potatoes are coated with the spice mixture. Reduce the heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are pretty close to being done
4. Add the cabbage, cover and cook until the cabbage has wilted down, once  it starts to get tender remove the lid and cook until most of the moisture in the pan is gone.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fresh Mozzarella Sammich

This is one of my all time favorite sandwiches ever. It is really simple (not that sandwiches are ever really that hard to make!) and tastes incredibly fresh.

 It is really important to use ciabatta bread or something else that has a thicker, heartier crust to help prevent your sandwich from getting soggy. I also recommend using a high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar as it can really affect the flavor. Remember with balsamic vinegar - a little goes a LONG way.

This is for one sandwich but it's easy to make a couple of them. They do not store well so be sure to eat it right after making it although you can make a "kit" of all of the making of the sandwich so that if want to eat this at work you can just have all the pieces and just assemble on your break or whatever.

Ciabatta roll (or in a pinch you can use kaiser rolls)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 roasted red bell pepper (if using the kind in a jar be sure to pat it as dry as you can using paper towels or something)
thinly sliced red onion
thinly sliced tomato
4-6 fresh mozzarella medallions
garlic salt with parsley

1. Sprinkle or spritz the inside of the roll with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with spinach, red bell pepper, onion, tomato, mozzarella. Top the mozzarella with fresh cracked pepper and a light sprinkling of the garlic salt.

And that's really it.
I'm no food photographer but this doesn't look too bad. 

Variations -
add Fresh, Roasted or Grilled mushrooms, especially portabella, they lend a nice earthiness to the overall flavor.

Use roasted Hatch green chiles in place of the roasted red peppers

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cuban inspired Black and White Beans with Rice (now with crockpot action)

Growing up we ate a lot of beans and rice and even to this day it's one of my favorite comfort foods. I decided to make Cuban inspired beans in the crockpot since I had a busy day planned and  I didn't want to deal with cooking when I got home. Thanks to my handy dandy rice cooker, dinner was a breeze to prepare! I served this with this Two Onion Relish and cornbread muffins.

I think the leftover beans are going to be used later this week to make chili, especially since the flavors I used to prepare them will lend themselves well to chili.

1 cup black beans
1 cup white beans
5 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 chopped green bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
cooked brown or white rice

1. Place the beans in a large bowl, add water to cover by 2 inches, and let stand overnight. Drain and rinse.

2. Put the beans, bay leaf and water into a crockpot on low.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute garlic, onion, and green pepper and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes. dd the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and stir until it's absorbed into the onion mix. Add into the crockpot. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or until the beans are tender. Discard the bay leaf.

4. Serve over rice and top with onion relish.

Two Onion and Garlic Relish

Very simple relish that adds a nice punch of flavor on a lot of dishes. I particularly like it on bean dishes like Black Beans and Rice or what my cousin calls Ham Beanies. I really like the strong flavor and bite of raw garlic but you could always omit that if you feel like it's too much for you. You can also sub cilantro instead of the parsley if you like cilantro. 

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1/2 cup chipped scallions (white and green parts of the scallions) 
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

I used a quart size baggie and put all of the ingredients in and just shook it up. Easy peasy. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vegan Yellow Pea Curry with Crispy Veggies

I found a recipe in one of my cookbooks that inspired this recipe. It helped me think about using the peas differently than I usually do when making Indian style food. I usually only think of them in relation to dal but today I cooked them as the sauce for the curry with lots of seasonings and then added some tender-crisp fresh veggies at the end.

* I use a LOT of curry powder and I like mine a bit spicy so feel free to adjust the curry powder blending as you see fit for your own taste buds but use at least 1 1/2 tablespoons to ensure that you get enough flavor*

One thing I recently realized - growing up I rarely ate fresh vegetables, they were mostly frozen or canned because at the time, that is what we could afford (and basically all my mom could cook, love her but cooking is not her strong point) so lately I've made a point of using all fresh veggies whenever possible and boy does it make a big difference!

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoon hot yellow curry powder
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup yellow split peas, rinsed (I usually can only find these at Sprouts)
2 3/4 cups water
1 can coconut milk (be sure to use the full fat one not the light version, it's worth the calories for the taste)
1 cup sliced carrots
3 cups broccoli florets
1 cup thickly sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup cut green beans
1 each - yellow, green, orange, and red bell peppers, chopped
4 roma tomatoes chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

1. In a 3 quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic, cook stirring until the onions are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the curry powders, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne until the spices are absorbed into the onions.

2. Add the peas and stir until they are coated with the spices. Add the water and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour to hour and fifteen minutes, or until the peas are mostly dissolved. Be sure to stir it occasionally.

3. When the sauce is almost done, about an hour into cooking, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet or a wok. Add the carrots and cook until they are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the veggies and cook until they are your desired tenderness. I like my veggies pretty tender so I cooked mine for about 10 minutes but 3-5 will cook them so they are still pretty crisp.

4. Stir the vegetables in the curry mix and add salt. Serve!

One of the things I like about this the most is it's really easy to modify so you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Everything from cauliflower, snow peas, squash, mushrooms, the sky is really the limit! Just be careful with the cooking times depending on what veggies you end up using.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

I stumbled across a recipe for Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie and it piqued my interest. I liked all of the things that went into it and I love Shepherd's Pie so I thought I would give it a shot. As usual I took several different recipes and cobbled it into one of my own and oh man, it turned out a million times better than I thought it would. As a matter of fact I might actually like this better than my meaty Shepherd's Pie and my meaty version is pretty damned good.

I used mushrooms in it to help give it a meaty, earthy flavor but you could easily do this without them and it would be just as good. You can also use whatever kind of mushrooms you like best, I went with what they had fresh and in bulk at the grocery store.

This is a vegetarian recipe but I think it can be altered to be vegan fairly easily. The only real trick is the mashed potatoes but I know my vegan friends know how to make some pretty good vegan mashed potatoes!

1 cup brown lentils cooked in vegetable broth
2 cups Savory Mashed Potatoes 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion (white or yellow), diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cups fresh green beans, in 1" pieces
4 oz shiitake mushrooms
10 oz cremini mushrooms
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste (the kind in the tube is best IMO)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

2. In a large frying pan, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over med-high heat until the onions are tender, about 3-5 minutes

3. Add the carrots, celery and green beans and cook until the carrots are tender, about 3-5 minutes

4. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt, rosemary, cayenne, and pepper and saute for approximately 4-5 minutes, sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce over the mixture and cook for 2 more minutes.

5. Add tomato paste and flour and cook until veggies are fully coated and a pasty mix starts coating the bottom of pan or forming on the mixture. I use a ceramic pan so it doesn't really form the pasty mix on the bottom of the pan but it's pretty easy to tell when it starts to come together.

6. Add the broth and stir everything together to dissolve the flour and tomato past mixture. bring to a simmer and let it cook for a couple of minutes until it starts to thicken a bit. Stir in the cooked lentils and the peas and heat through.

7. Pour the lentil/veggie mixture into a 13" x 9" pan or casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes on top. Try and make some little peaks with the potato mixture as they will brown up really nicely and make the dish look extra pretty.

8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Remove from the oven and turn the broiler on. Once it's heated to broil, put the pan back into the oven under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown up the potatoes. Be sure to keep an eye on it as shit can burn REALLY fast under the broiler.

Once it's browned, remove from the oven and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes to cool down and set and then serve!

Tomorrow I will be working with another new dish - Yellow Split Pea Curry with Crispy Veggies. Recipe to follow once I make it up!