Saturday, January 11, 2020

Cracked Wheat Pilaf (Pulav)

Bulgar wheat or cracked wheat is packed with vitamins, minerals and lots of fiber and it's very delicious. It has a slightly crunchy and nutty taste which I love. Cracked wheat being a thick and more substantial grain has the advantage of standing up really well to spices.

As part of adding more different grains to our meals, I have been stocking up on cracked wheat, couscous, quinoa, wild rice and cornmeal - all of which make usual rotation appearances on the dinner table. Bob's red mills is generally a well trusted and readily available brand which carriers many different grains, but if not you can always find them online. 

This recipe is a healthy make-over of a beloved classic. It is also part of my fast 20-minutes or less weeknight dinner collection. It is very adaptable to different vegetables and herbs - feel free to use whatever you have at hand or tucked away in that forgotten corner of the fridge.

For every cup of dried cracked wheat, I try to pair it with atleast 2 cups of chopped veggies.. any combination works but we try to go seasonal as much as possible. Our favorite combo is sliced onions, sliced mushrooms, asparagus and chopped butternut squash (depending on season). 
Our favorite seasoning is a combo of curry powder and sambhar powder and a generously chopped handful of fresh mint leaves. But this dish is like a blank canvas so feel free to experiment with your favorite Indian spice blends and/or herbs :)

Recipe:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1C cracked wheat
2C water
olive oil

Vegetables:
6-7 button mushrooms (sliced)
quarter of a large onion (sliced)
1 carrot (chopped)
1C butternut squash cubes

Seasonings:
handful of mint leaves - chopped
few cilantro sprigs
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp sambhar powder
salt & pepper

Instructions: 
  1. Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add onions and let them cook down for a few minutes.
  2. Follow-up by adding all the veggies and cook for another few minutes.
  3. Then add cracked wheat, water, spices, mint and season with salt & pepper.
  4. Let it come to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook covered for 10 minutes or as per package directions.
  5. Remove from heat and fluff up using a fork. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot!
Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Christmas Baking & Beach-side Cooking

At our home we don't have many traditions, but one tradition which we love to follow year over year every year is our mother & daughter Christmas baking day. Every year we set aside a whole afternoon to bake and decorate many batches of cookies and share with teachers, household help and family friends. It's a wonderful time doing what we love and cherishing the time together making holiday memories.

This year I had big plans to attempt some new cookies - mainly my eyes were on a particular chocolate chip mint thins with candy cane crunch from nytimes.com and a recipe I found online for gingerbread swirl fudge which simply looked delicious. We couldn't quite make the time to bake chocolate dipped mint thins; but we did put together gingerbread swirl fudge which was very easy to put together and looked great but we found it too sweet and didn't enjoy as much.

So we stuck with our usuals - which in our house is this trusted recipe of sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies and a big batch of almond biscotti flavored with peppermint extract (not in the recipe). 
They were all fantastic - and best of all, as my daughter gets older she was fully in-charge of decorating the cookies this time, leaving me to focus on churning out the new batches while she did a great job decorating them with some abstract patterns. 
All in all, a great time we had baking and decorating and everyone enjoyed the cookies we shared! 

Can't wait for next year's holiday baking again :)  
We also took a beach vacation this holiday which is always fun! As we do every beach vacation, we get an oceanfront studio with fully equipped kitchenette. It's usually pricey being oceanfront and all, but has the best advantage of stepping out of your patio to get to the beach and watching many sunsets and sunrises right from your balcony! And offsets the extra price tag if you cook & eat all breakfasts and dinners at home. 
One of my personal highlights of the vacation is always the candle-light dinners we cook and eat on our patio overlooking the beautiful Pacific. We buy simple groceries once we land in the city and pack a few staples with us in our airline check-in bag. I find it so challenging but also rewarding to cook without the usual crutches of spices and herbs! 

I have learnt to season most of our dishes just with olive oil, garlic, lemon and a good quality sea salt and pepper. It's amazing the flavor miracles this simple seasoning combos can pull! 

We pack and carry a couple of ziplocks with meal sized dry uncooked rice, lentils for soup, turmeric seasoned uncooked lentils for daal, pasta and then cook in the kitchenette. This vacation we made many happy means blending our staples with the fresh produce from a visit to local farmer's market. 

Here was our 5 day dinner menu: 1) Rice and green lentil bowl topped with avocados 2) lentil soup w/ sourdough bread 3) simply seasoned angel hair pasta with garlic and tomatoes 4) potato curry w/ corn tortilla and 5) stir fried local veggies w/ rice.

Few lessons learnt: 1) food can be equally delicious without any spices or herbs, yes even Indian recipes 2) just make sure the basic seasonings (olive oil, salt, pepper) and the produce used is the best quality and freshest that you have access to! and 3) pair with some in-season fresh local vegetables or fruits from local markets - and you have a meal to remember!

Hope you all had a happy and relaxing holiday break.


Sunday, January 5, 2020

My 2019 Reading List

I love to read. Fiction, non-fiction, history, memoir, tech books.. as long as a book is put in front of me, I read! It's like the Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series -- I totally get her reading addiction and empathize with it too :)

Unfortunately I don't get as much time as I would like to read now a days what with work and daily grind, but my insomnia ensures at least 20-30 mins of quiet reading baked into the day before turning off the lights. It's like a silver lining to my nightly sleeping ritual.

2019, I am happy to report, was an excellent year when it came to bedside reading. I was able to work in a good mix of fiction and non-fiction. By the end of the year as December rolled in, all I wanted were light beach fiction reads to put me in the mood for holidays and our warm beach vacation - and that's just how I ended the year, with some feel good easy to read fiction!

Non-fiction:


Image Source: goodreads.com
In the non-fiction category, one of the best reads of the year was Becoming by Michelle Obama which I absolutely loved. I have always looked up to Michelle Obama, but reading the book made me appreciate her even more and also made her more human. It was truly delightful to read and recognize the potential she has and the hardships she endured to get to where she is against all the odds. Full of small life lessons everywhere. I highly recommend it!


Image Source: goodreads.com
The second book equally loved was Hit Refresh by the Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. As a leader I have always appreciated the hard task of changing the culture of an old behemoth that Microsoft was, how challenging it can be to hit refresh so to speak for such a large ship and how he maneuvered it so effectively, being a lifelong insider but also being an effective voice for the new era of the company. Along with his leadership of Microsoft a second theme woven into the book is his family life and challenges of raising a child with disabilities - how those personal struggles taught him what he considers his signature leadership trait - empathy.
Image Credit: goodreads.com

Leading Matters: Lessons from My Journey is a crash course of 10 essential leadership traits written in a very engaging way with multiple personal anecdotes by former Stanford president John Hennessy. It is a delightful and thought provoking read.
Image Credit: goodreads.com

I love to read historical books - so Daisy Goodwin's Victoria was a beloved read this year chronicling the first few years of the new 18 year old queen's reign on the British throne, how she struggled to get the respect being a young woman at throne in a largely male dominated society and how much support of just one person, her Prime Minister, meant to her at the time and perhaps how critical it was for her to have confidence and mentoring of that one person at that critical juncture of her reign.

Fiction:


Asian American Fiction:

Image Credit: goodreads.com
It was not planned for but somehow or other I ended up reading a lot of high quality Asian American fiction this year. First of which was a great graphic novel Pashmina - which was an accidental discovery when finding YA books for my daughter in the kids section of the library. It's a tale of a teenager of Indian origin in US - it is as much a book of her navigating her way through the teenage years as it is about women's empowering - a delightful graphics read!

Image Credit: goodreads.com
Sophia of Silicon Valley is by a local valley author - while not a memoir it is widely understood to be loosely based on life experiences of the author as tech executive in two big valley companies. Perhaps it's a novel that will appeal more to the tech women in the valley than general audience, but it has my recommendation for all women neverthless.

Image credit: goodreads.com
I also enjoyed reading Unlikely Adventure of Shergill Sisters and Memoirs of a Geisha - both wonderful books focused on lead women characters. The former in particular I picked up thinking it would be a light read but it turned out to be filled with complex well drawn characters. The later is a wonderful portrait of a Geisha life in Japan many years ago pre world war II.
Image Credit: goodreads.com

Other book in this category I read and enjoyed is The Milk Lady of Banglore - based on an expat's experiences settling back into Banglore after years of NYC life.

Image Credit: goodreads.com

General Fiction:


I love to do light reading particular when going through stressful work cycles - this year's light reads were a delightful mix of the Only Woman In the Room, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, Angel Falls, Winter Garden, A Bend in The Road and Little Fires Everywhere.

I am thinking about and planning my 2020 reads now! The first book I am waiting on hold at our local library is the Alpha Girls and may go for another Daisy Goodwin historical book too. Here is to hoping the new year is filled with delightful adventures reading and exploring as many books as we can!! Have a very happy and prosperous new year!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Foil Baked Salmon w/ Lemon & Garlic

This is one of the super healthy, super quick recipes which we often cook for weekday dinners but never posted. I think it's because we make it mostly on days when we are starving and dinner is over within minutes of being out of oven leaving no time for photos! Whatever may be the reason the recipe is a sure keeper!

It allows for endless variations. I recommend keeping the lemon slices and juice, but switch it up with herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint, even Indian cilantro-mint chutney works excellently as top coat!). The fish will be moist and super juicy and it's a true delight to eat. We serve it with a green salad or a Mediterranean salad on the side. Enjoy!
Source: adapted from this wellplated recipe.

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium sized piece of boneless salmon filet
  • 1 lemon (half thinly sliced; half juiced)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic - thinly chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 tsp herbs de Provence - crushed
  • few springs of fresh rosemary
  • crushed chili flakes
Recipe:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375.
  • Line a large baking sheet with large piece of aluminium foil
  • place a few lemon slices and a spring of rosemary at the bottom. 
  • Place fish on the lemon slices. Drizzle olive oil, add salt & pepper and rub into the fish
  • Then add garlic, herbs de Provence, chili flakes, springs of rosemary and remaining lemon slices on top.
  • Pour lemon juice over the fish evenly.
  • Seal the foil over the fish leaving no open pockets
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Remove from oven, careful unwrap the foil and broil for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from oven; serve warm!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Celery Root Soup

(recipe enhanced from this original post back in 2010!)

Do you cook with a celery root (also called celeriac)? It's in season right about now.. along with other root vegetables like parsnip and rutbaga and it's divine! It has a unique mild lemony celery-ish taste. I find it to be an amazing starch to be working with in fall and quite fancy compared to the same old potatoes or parsnips.

It can be quite daunting, and to be frank - unappealing, the very first time you are faced with picking one up... in it's unprocessed form it resembles a misshapen turnip with beards growing here and there. But once you get past the unfamiliarity of a new intimidating vegetable, it's actually quite a pleasure to cook with and very easy! 

Just peel the outer skin using a knife and chop into bite sized pieces and then you can use it wherever you would use a potato or parsnip. I like this soup in particular because it let's the subtle taste of celery root shine, enhancing it's lemony flavor and at the same time not inviting a direct comparison to the popular cousin - potatoes!

The recipe is very simple: heat olive oil in a large pot. When warm, add 1 leek (chopped), 2 celery sticks (chopped) and 1 celery root (chopped into bite sized pieces). Saute, season with salt & pepper. After a few minutes, add enough water (about 6C to start with and add more as needed depending on the consistency of the soup you prefer). Cover and let cook for ~30 minutes. Remove from heat. Using immersion blender puree the soup. Season with a dash of cream and few red chili flakes for added heat! Enjoy :) 

A very happy Thanksgiving to all of you! May this weekend and the holidays be filled with happy times with friends and family and lots and lots of delicious food!

(celeriac)

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Thai Vegetable Stir Fry

In the world of weeknight dinners, when you are trying to balance speed, healthy meal and fresh home cooked one, nothing takes the prize like the stir-frys! They are fast, healthy and are ready within a jiffy if you have all the ingredients at hand.

This is one of our house favorite stir-fry version. Most of the ingredients can be scavenged from the fridge and the recipe is very amenable to any seasonal veggies and proteins. The one thing I wouldn't swap out, as much as possible, is the Thai basil - which really brings out a fresh vibrant and slightly lemony basily taste to it. But if you don't have handy, you can try Italian basil or just sprinkle dried basil.

Every Saturday we shop for vegetables and fruits at our local farmer's market. Summer is a special treat because there is an abundance of choices, so feel free to mix it up a bit!

Thai Vegetable Stir-Fry:
Ingredients:
  • 1 small packet of extra firm tofu - cubed
  • 4 button mushrooms - sliced
  • 2 carrots - sliced
  • 2 zucchini - sliced
  • quarter of a large onion or one small onion - cut into chunks
  • 4-5 bok choy - greens chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic - minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger or galangal (Thai ginger)
  • 4-5 springs of fresh Thai Basil leaves chopped - about 1/2C chopped
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or sesame oil
  • handful of chopped peanuts
  • pinch of salt
For Sauce:
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
Recipe:
  • Prep all the veggies and tofu and keep ready. 
  • Heat oil in a wok or a large frying pan on high heat.
  • When hot, sizzle with ginger and garlic. Within a minute, add thicker veggies like carrots, zucchini and tofu. Stir fry for a minute or two.
  • Follow with thinner quicker cooking veggies like mushrooms, bok choy and onion. Stir fry for another minute or two.
  • Add sauce, pinch of salt and stir fry for another minute. (the sauce has good amount of salt with soy sauce and oyster sauce, so please go easy on additional salt - you can even skip the additional salt)
  • Finish with Thai basil leaves and chopped peanuts and take off heat.
  • Serve with freshly made jasmine rice - enjoy!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

15-Minute Snacks - Puff Pasty Rolls w/ Pesto

If you need a fresh hot home-made snack for those last minute guests, neighborhood get-together or playdates, look no further than these puff pastry rolls with pesto. They are super tasty and every single time I whipped up a plate, not a single one was left behind!

You can whip them out of oven and serve on a platter with a side of chopped fruits and tea/coffee, and it seems a mid-day meal fit for a king! No-one needs to know that all it took was 15 minutes of assembly, prep and bake time :)

Trader Joe's carries these amazing frozen puff pasty rolls. Each packet contains 2 sheets for $3.99. One sheet makes 18 puff pasty rolls (shown in the picture below) which is plenty to snack on for 4 people (or 2 very hungry folks!). Our nearby store does not carry puff pasty the whole year but only in the fall during holidays - so I always make it a point to stock up a few when I see them in the frozen aisle.
Other than frozen puff pasty sheets, the only other thing this recipe needs is pesto. Store bought is just fine but home-made is better if you have some at hand!

Other than that "recipe" is not really a recipe but an assembly and prep. Thaw one sheet of frozen puff pastry roll in the fridge overnight or on the counter for 30-mins. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Unroll the puff pastry on a large cutting board (to contain any mess or spills) and then spread a thin layer of pesto evenly all over leaving a little border on each side aside to avoid overfills.

If you can't fully unroll the sheet, it means you need some more time thawing. Give it another 10mins and try it again. 

Once the pesto is evenly spread, roll the sheet back like it was. Using using fingers try to seal the final edge. Then using a sharp knife, cut the roll into small disks - you will get about 18 disks per sheet. Puff pastry will puff up while baking, so smaller disks are just fine.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and add the pastry disks leaving space between each to puff. Bake for 10-12mins until the outside is golden brown and inside is cooked through. Remove from oven and serve hot! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Preserved Lemons & A Springy Beginning

When life gives you lemons.... and I mean, a tree loaded with high quality juicy and orangy Meyer lemons.... the kind which sell for $1 each at farmer's markets... you got to be more creative than making lemonades! We use these Meyer lemons in everyday cooking, we freeze the juice in as many ice-boxes as we can, gift them to neighbors and still be leftover with a large bunch to use. 

We don't enjoy lemon curd as much and while we devour lemon bars, it seems more butter and sugar than lemons - and predictably guilt ensues :)  So this year I decided to try preserving some lemons and wow, am I glad we tried that!
Preserving is very simple. All it takes is 15-20mins of prep time and then a few seconds of work each for next 5-6 days and that's that! You put the container in fridge and enjoy homemade preserved lemons for a few months to come! 

My favorite way to use preserved lemons is to rinse them (to get rid of excess salt) and chop them fine and add as flavoring to any number of tagines or pasta salads, couscous with preserved lemons, olive oil and mint is exceptional, add on top of roasted fish or chicken or just toss on salads for an extra salty slightly tart crunch. 

Preserving is easy, even for novice jam-makers like me. All you need is lemons (preferably organic), salt and a fully clean and dry canning glass jar. I followed this easy step by step tutorial with photos. Added a couple of whole peppercorns, bay leaf and a few cloves as seasonings and the process took just over 15 minutes.

It is important to ensure the lemons are covered in their juices before you can them. If needed, please add more lemon juice on top. Add more salt on top, and that's it, close the jar tight and leave it on counter top for 5-6 days, lightly shaking every day so salt and juice redistributes evenly. I transferred my jar to fridge after the 5th day and we have been enjoying preserved lemons since then.

A Springy Beginning:
Can you feel the spring in the air? Just as the weather is warming up and days are getting longer, our neighborhood is filled with spring blossoms and our evening walks are just that much more pleasurable. 

Due to the heavy rain this year, wild flowers are popping everywhere in California and they are so beautiful! We had one in our own front yard - it looks like white painted jewels and it popping up in between the landscaping of our front yard.

We also have a new visitor in our front yard this spring. It's a little bunny who visits every morning right around when kids are about to start for school. The bunny spotting has been our favorite morning ritual for few weeks. Here is he with a friendly squirrel who is trying to figure out just who this new one is?!

Enjoy the scenes of spring!
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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.