Sunday, March 29, 2020

Chocolate Bundt Cake & Another Week of Stay-At-Home

I now completed 3 weeks of working from home; and 2 weeks with family working from home. The second week brought with it much needed smoothness in our daily routines. We went for walks everyday; made simple dinners every night which served as left-over lunches for the next day and found us managing our work time with daughter's remote learning time without anyone having to pull their hairs apart - all in all, it was harmony and I think we are settling into this new normal :)

I found some strategies which work well for us, the first is time limiting the news hour and coronavirus topic at home to evenings 5-7pm, which hugely helps manage stress/anxiety particularly as kids are always listening, even if we don't think they are! The other is shifting the kids school week so that she has no work on Mon/Tue two of my busiest workdays while she makes up for those days on our weekends. 

We also set aside some time every week to just have family fun - cook something together, play board games (chess and Jenga are current favorites!) or watch movies (+1 to Disney+, great kids and NatGeo content). 

I think this phase is going to be bring a tactical shift into how we cook and eat and bring back the forgotten value of family time. For a while now, a lot of us have been so busy in our lives (both professional and internet social) and reliant on modern day luxuries like DoorDash or countless restaurants or frozen meals that we forgot the basics - the basics of cooking from fresh ingredients and the basics of enjoying leisurely dinners with good ol' family time. I wonder if this phase will force us to explore those skills and if so, I think we are going to come out of it stronger as a society! 

The vegetable patch and a fruit orchard in our garden was always a luxury until now, but now it's a much necessary supplement of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs for our meals (even though it's tiny in quantities today). I find myself baking bread out of necessity instead of curiosity. It's challenging times for sure, but I do think as a society it will help us reconnect to some of the basics of simple fresh family meals and enjoying each other's company. 

Anyhow, on the food front, this week saw us making simple meals like egg curry w/ roti, spinach daal w/ rice, fajitas, burgers and simple cauliflower curry w/ tortialla. We did manage to squeeze in a few luxuries like this no-fried batata wada and also a very yummy chocolate bundt cake!
stay-at-home week2 meals
This chocolate bundt cake was a sudden inspiration... while going through pantry I found an old half used packet of chocolate cake mix. The only additional ingredients it required was 1 egg and few Tbsp oil, we had that so we quickly put the batter together. It's been many months since I made a cake, so while looking for the regular cake pan, I instead came across our bundt cake pan (another well loved kitchen utensil catching dust in the pantry) and decided to tweak the cooking times a bit to make a bundt cake instead. 

The result was this delicious light and fluffy chocolate cake. I waited 10 minutes after removing the cake from the oven before doing "the flip"... and we cheered like the staff of NASA when it made the "pop" sound noting the cake had successfully landed from the pan to the plate!

We dusted it with powdered sugar and ate with a few fresh chopped strawberries on the side. It was delicious! These small impromptu luxuries I feel are super important to keep the spirits up, particularly with kids. Enjoy and stay safe!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The No Fried Batata Wada (Potato Fritters)

One of the silver linings for me during this stressful stay-at-home period is that it's the first time I really spent so much time with my daughter at home! Otherwise it has always been daycare or school or summer camps - we took vacations together, sure, but those were generally time spent away from home. 

It has been lovely spending more time and doing more activities with my 8 year old. One of which has been trying new recipes or making something we haven't made in a long long time.. generally by her "farmaish" or request. This is how one rainy and cold afternoon we decided to make batata wada.

Batata wada is a crowd pleaser deep fried dish which almost everyone loves! However I am not a fan of deep frying and also at these times wasting a whole bunch of oil after frying seems a bit risque move, don't you think!

So we settled on a plan B - which is using my trusted aebleskiver pan (or appe patra) which had been sitting catching dust at the back of the pantry. I bought mine on Amazon many years ago to make appe, dahi wada but it's also great for making healthier versions of popular fried items.
Aebleskiver pan is a heavy cast iron pan with 7 holes for making small fritters or pancake balls. Due to it's uniform heat and high temperature, you can "fry" in it without using a whole lot of oil. I use 1tsp oil per ball and the edges get nicely crispy. 

The recipe is super simple! We boiled potatoes in the afternoon and afterwards it took me about 30 minutes start to finish in the evening. We served it with a simple raita which my daughter put together with yogurt, salt, home-grown mint and cumin powder. Yum!
Recipe:
Serves hungry 3
Ingredients:
For potato filling:
  • 2 medium sized russet potatoes
  • 1 shallot - finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
  • handful of cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2tsp mustard seeds
  • 3-4 curry leaves - torn
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
For batter:
  • 1C chickpea flour or besan
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • water to make batter
Recipe:
  • Boil potatoes. I used instant pot high pressure for 12minutes and then natural release. Once they have cooled to handle, remove the peel and mash finely.
  • Heat oil in a non-stick pan, when hot add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the seeds start to pop, add onion and garlic and cook until onion starts to brown stirring often. 
  • Add turmeric, mashed potatoes, salt and mix well.
  • Cook for a few minutes and remove from heat. Let cool.
  • While it's cooling, make batter by gradually adding water to chickpea flour + spices and salt. The consistency of the batter should be pancake like but on the thicker side. It's important for the batter to be thick so it stays coating the filling while the wadas are cooking. If it's thin, add more chickpea flour and adjust spices.
  • Make small balls of the potato filling using your hands.
  • Heat aebleskiver pan on medium high heat until it's hot. Add 1/2 tsp oil in each hole.
  • Dip the potato ball into the batter and quickly transfer it to the hot pan. Let cook for a few minutes until the bottom edges have crisped but not burnt (you can peek after a few minutes - reduce heat if necessary).
  • Flip the wads in the pan. Add 1/2 tsp oil on the sides of each pan hole so the bottom can crisp again.
  • Remove from pan and serve hot with your favorite condiment - raita or ketchup!
Stay safe everyone!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pantry Meals & Social Distancing

Here in California we finished our first full week of social distancing and shelter-in-place. It's an unprecedented time which calls for unprecedented actions and co-operation from everyone. 

The usually overflowing bay area freeways were empty this past week and home streets were lined with parked cars as most of the residents stayed home and practiced social distancing and did the best they could juggling work from home with kids' school from home.

It was hard to get going at first but I think I am settling into this new rhythm. Even as we complain about small inconveniences, I keep reminding myself that we are amongst the more fortunate ones - not having to worry about living paycheck to paycheck or having jobs to go back to or with elderlys or folks with special conditions to care about.

Like others we spent a bunch of time getting groceries and pantry organized. We stocked our pantry with staples such as different kinds of rice (plain, wild rice, jasmine rice), beans (black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans) both dried and canned, lentils (split peas, urad daal, red lentils, french green lentils), pastas and noodles (spaghetti, bowtie, udon and soba noodles) as well as other whole grains such as cracked wheat, couscous, quinoa and cornmeal. Most of these are regular residences of my pantry, so it was mostly a task of checking up on stock and refilling if low.

Our freezer is generally well stocked too, with some frozen veggies like peas, spinach and fruits like blueberries, pineapple cubes and some frozen ready to eat meals from Trader Joe's - dumplings, palak paneer and Thai curry.

The dairy was more challenging - we stocked up on milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese and also bought some shelf stable milk and soymilk.

It is a time I feel good about having invested in basic kitchen skills and a trove of quick cooking recipes to dig into.  Somehow the fact that I can whip together bread if needed with ingredients from pantry is deeply assuring and satisfying!

We have been cooking and eating all the meals at home - which is a challenge in itself juggling everything else, but like everything else it's settling into a new rhythm of it's own.

Cooking and baking has always been very relaxing and rewarding activity for me and it's a daily comfort to cook for and enjoy meals with the ones you love.

Here are a few largely pantry based vegetarian meals we have enjoyed these past 2 weeks:
  1. Polenta with sauteed mushrooms
  2. Pasta with roasted grape tomatoes
  3. Black Bean and Cheese Quesadilla
  4. Noodles with Stir-fried vegetables
  5. Spiced Cauliflower Rice (masale bhat)
  6. Simple vegetable sabzi
  7. Gobi parathas
  8. Apple tart as a special Friday evening treat!
Social distancing week 1 - pantry meals
Here is to wishing us all health and happiness and that we all keep our sanity through this period of social distancing and to the world a quick recovery from the current crisis!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Persimmon Smoothie

This weekend was the last weekend of Persimmon season in our farmer's market around here. Generally Persimmons are all over by end of December but this year winter has been mild and so we have persimmons for much longer as a delicious side effect of that :) But, sooner or later I suppose the persimmons need to give way to juicy oranges and then to spring berries.

We devour persimmons when in season. The Fuyu variety in particular is our favorite. Persimmons are perfect for after dinner fruits - when ripe they are so sweet like candy that you won't miss desserts!

However the fruit can be overripe soon if you don't finish it off quickly - when that happens this yummy persimmon smoothie comes to rescue. It is super simple and takes only 2 minutes to make. 

Blend together:

  • 3 ripe persimmons chopped into cubes (we keep the skin but feel free to remove skin if you prefer that way).
  • 1C almond milk (or regular milk or soy milk etc)
    • adjust the quantity of milk based on how thick of thin you like the smoothie to be.. 
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of nutmeg and 1/4tsp cardamom powder (optional)
  • sugar to taste (if needed)
Just blend together, taste, adjust as needed and enjoy!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Ukadiche Modak & Roti Minnibels

Ukadiche Modak is basically steamed modak, think of it like sweet dumpling made with rice flour wrapper and sweet coconut stuffing - they are more popular lately because they are a healthier alternative to traditional modak which are deep fried in ghee or butter. I have always loved Ukadiche Modak more than the traditional one -- I think if you are a dumpling fan in general, this is right up your alley!!

In Maharashtra where I come from there is a saying that you can gauge the quality of a home cook by their Ukadiche Modak, it is supposed to be a very tricky recipe - however I did not really have any trouble with it; I am guessing because of all the practice I have had making vegetable dumplings at home - and these are a very close cousins.

I followed this recipe to proportions. I found that kneading the dough really well matters a lot; as well as letting it rest a bit before working. Frozen coconut works just as well and is a huge time saver. We recently substituted all of our regular white sugar with this coconut sugar Trader Joe's carried - it's extremely flavorful and tastes closer to Gud/Gul than sugar.. it goes very well in this modak recipe.

With that all you need is a steamer and a bit of practice rolling and steaming dumplings and you are all set making these yummy ukadiche modak anytime you want!

Roti Minnibels:

We don't make rotis often at our home. It takes too long and often the convenience of using pita breads or tortiallas is a huge time saver. But every other Sunday or so, we do make fresh rotis. My daughter always asks for a couple of dough balls and she experiments with it with her own mini size rolling pin. 

These minnibels were her creations and her branding. She rolls the dough and then uses various cookie cutters of her liking to cut the shapes from the dough and then I cook them on the stove just as I would regular rotis. 

These "minnibels" as she calls it have become a favorite of our Sunday lunches and a great way to get the kids experimenting in the kitchen!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Our 5 Favorite Winter Vegetarian Soups

At our home winter means lots and lots of soups and stews. One of the best perks of braving cold and rainy winter days is you can look forward to coming back to warm home and dig in through a bowl of your favorite hot comforting soup right in your PJs! 

We make lots of soups and stews at our home, particularly in winter and mostly all vegetarian. And when we make soups, they are not starters or sides.. they get the place of the main dish! You can pair a hearty bowl of soup with nice crusty french bread broiled with olive oil and it can be a meal to remember. You can also pair with a protein or a salad if you wish, but I think bowl of hearty soup and bread can be a fine meal in it's own right.

Here are our top 5 favorite winter vegetarian soups which often make appearance on our table. They all use seasonal vegetables and almost all of them are quite forgiving and adaptable so feel free to experiment and suite to your taste.

One of the healthiest and most filling is this hearty lentil soup using green lentils, onion, garlic, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and herbs (basil, thyme). The beauty of this soup is that as long a you have lentils in the pantry, you can make this -- rest of the ingredients are very swappable. Use what you have at hand! 



I usually pair it with home made garlic bread. It does take about 30-40 minutes of low heat simmer but it's largely unattended cooking time you can wheel away sipping hot tea while you wait for dinner to be ready :) 

In the category of roasted soups, this roasted red pepper and tomato soup is like your everyday tomato soup but has a slightly complex flavor with red pepper in it which I love a lot more than pure tomato soup. It's a kids favorite and goes amazingly well with a side of grilled cheese. I don't like to put cream in my soup (just wired weirdly that way I guess :) ) but if you like creamy soups, by all means add a dash of cream at the end. An immersion blender makes this soup a breeze to make. 


Another very beloved fall roasted soup is this roasted butternut squash soup at our home. A small butternut squash makes a large pot of soup! It's super easy to roast the squash yourself. I have also made a non-roasted version with apple, where you cube the squash and cook it down with chopped apple and crushed ginger on stove and then immersion blend everything -- either method works well and takes about the same time. As for the seasoning, I add cinnamon, nutmeg and clove with the apple version and curry powder with the non-apple roasted version. Experiment away, it will taste amazing either way!


In terms of easiest soups of the lot and the one which truly needs nothing more than three very basic ingredients, look no further than this potato and leek soup. If you have never tasted this soup, I highly encourage you to try -- it's amazing how 5 simple ingredients butter, leek, potatoes, salt & pepper and 20 minutes can pull something so delicious! A go to winter soup for sure!

And finally the new year's day favorite
black eyed peas with kale soup which often makes appearance on the first day of the year at our home. Eating black eyed peas and greens on the first day is a tradition supposed to bring you good luck in the new year. But to be honest I would eat this soup just any regular day because it's just so much tasty! You can eat it as-is or with bread or top it with a dollop of yogurt, lemon juice and chopped onion - simply delicious!

Soups are the under-rated stars of the meals on cold days. And yes even vegetarian soups can be quite hearty and can make a meal on their own paired with a nice crusty bread. 

I hope for sunny warm spring days soon but until then I wish you and us lots of yummy soup filled warm meals! Enjoy!

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.


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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.