Monday, December 31, 2012

Aloha Pasta Salad!

Aloha! We had a wonderful week at Hawaii during thanksgiving. It was also my daughter's first birthday. There is so much pressure on parents now a days to make your kids birthday special - don't you think? There are all these theme based parties to host, games and entertainment to provide during the party, theme based tablewares, buy perfect gift to the birthday kid, favors to trade for her friends and cakes to order..... the list of chores is endless. And for a kid who goes to daycare, repeat all of that for a daycare party - phew, just thinking about it was taxing enough. But still, we wanted to make it special being her first - something she will look back years later through the pictures and fondly cherish, so after days of mulling over we decided that a quiet beach-side cake cutting in the beautiful islands of Hawaii with Mommy-Daddy was a perfect plan for the special day! Not to mention Mommy-Daddy also needed a celebration for surviving the first year of being parents ;)

We rented an oceanfront condo with a fully-equipped kitchenette. The pantry however was very light consisting only of olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar and a few cookies. We were expected to grocery shop in the nearby village market and farmer's market and cook in the kitchenette. It sounded a lot of fun! I packed carefully - allocating a large ziplock in our suitcase for the dry pantry items brought from home so we can get away with buying a few vegetables at Hawaii and have a wonderful week-worth of meals. I packed a serving of dried lentils for lentil soup, a serving of rice for my favorite vegetable spiced rice and two servings of dried bowtie pasta for pasta salads.

I kept pasta salad for last hoping to use various remaining ends and scrapes of the produce in the salad before we leave the island. A large bunch of cauliflower was sitting around so I thought I'll make roasted cauliflower pasta - but I guess the bountiful beaches and gardens of Hawaii had another plan in store for my pasta salad :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

This has been a very special year for me. This year I cherished so many moments of my daughter's first year and all her subsequent firsts - her first smile, her first crawl, her first solid meal, her first word ("no" - can you believe it!) to her first wobbly step! When we welcomed 2012 last year, she was this tiny little newborn tightly swaddled in a blanket and look how grown up she is now, no more like a baby but almost like a little girl! The Mom in me is so proud and happy yet also silently saddened by how fast the time seems to be running. Just for a while I want to freeze the time and enjoy her baby days just for a little bit longer... I am so not ready to let go of her newborn smell or her gummy grins! hey, may be that should be my wish to Santa.. :)

2012 is always going to have a special place in my heart... but I know the next year will be equally happy and adventurous in it's very own ways and while I am not quite ready for her toddler days (read toddler tantrums!), I am happy for this holiday break in between - planning to just sit back, relax and slip in the happiness of the holidays spreading all around.

So many of you have kept in touch through emails, facebook and comments while I have been on an on-and-off blogging break - one thing I hope to do much better next year: blog more, write more!

I made this Edible Christmas Tree a few years back - ever since then it has had a permanent place in all the holiday parties we have been invited too! I am so happy so many of you liked the tree, made it, improvised on it and sent all those little encouraging words and feedback through countless comments, emails and links! Thank you also to all of you who have linked and credited the fruit tree on your pages and spaces and helped spread it's reach much farther - when I see each and every one of the new links, it never fails to make my day :) I know I will never be able to list out all of you but many thanks to Frugal Novice, Carlene Thomas, Cute for Kids, examiner, Welch's, Hawaii Island Garden School Network, El Pais newspaper, Canadian Family, Disney Baby, Amy's Kitchen and so many of you from Pinterest, Facebook and particularly all the bloggers for making my simple edible fruit tree a part of your special Christmas celebrations - a very happy holidays and a wonderful new year to all of you!
Instructions to make the tree are here

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Roasting chestnuts...

(If you have never roasted chestnuts before, I highly recommend giving it a try this holiday season! Sure, there is some work in roasting and particularly shelling part, but what better way to spend your holidays chatting with friends or family camped in front of fireplace shelling and snacking on these delicious chestnuts.. give it a try if you can - it sure won't disappoint you. This post one of my very early 2009 posts; I had forgotten I wrote this until recently I was reading through my earliest posts and came across "Roasting Chestnuts" and had to re-share it again - 'tis the season after-all!)

Come December all of my car's FM radio preset channels seem to be falling pray one by one to the ever pervasive Christmas music. Now I love the holiday tunes and enjoy them most of the time, but there just isn't something right when I am driving to work burdened with an impending end-of-year deadline and the lady on the radio is cheering happily "its the most wonderful time...!":-). Anyway, one such morning I was driving to work and heard the song "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.." by Nat King Cole and I was suddenly inspired to roast some chestnuts at home in the spirit of Christmas!

I shared the idea with a friend at work who looked at me with a why-in-the-world-would-you-do-that kinda way. "It is just so much easier to buy pre-roasted pre-shelled chestnuts and they don't really taste that different from the ones from your oven, you know!". Well, I didn't have much of an answer to her other than "I have never roasted them before and I want to give it a shot". Sure thing, a little while and a lot of googling later I knew what she meant, it did look like a reasonable work, particularly the shelling part.

Undeterred on my way home I bought a pack of chestnuts at Trader Joe's. I put on my favorite CD, made myself a cup of Chai and got to work! Just as chestnuts were coming out of the oven my husband walked in commenting "something smells nice!". I was shelling the chestnuts and he decided to join me. This was a departure from our usual after-work routine of checking emails/blogs and watching TV. While shelling and eating the chestnuts we talked about how our day went by, gossiped a little and just had a good time in general... we shared some tricks to make the nuts easy to shell and we both shared with the other the ones that we thought were the best.. and while doing that I realized it is indeed worth the time and effort to roast & shell chestnuts yourself the old-fashioned way once-in-a-while just to give you that breaker from the always-connected always-busy world we live in and spend quality time with friends and family making new memories on the way :-) afterall, it is the season!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Winter has finally made it's appearance loud and clear. For last few days temperatures have been steadily dropping, evenings are chilly, mornings are frosty, my hot cup of chocolate is just that much more warming to body and soul - and that means one thing in our household, lots and lots of soups!

On many winter days our quick lunch is a pot of soup with some thick crusted sourdough bread brushed with olive oil and broiled at high temperature with just a rub of a fresh garlic clove. Throw in some salad (my favorites are couscous with butternut squash and dried cranberries salad or quinoa salad or a simple greens salad topped with some fruits and nuts dressed with an easy olive oil red wine vinegerate) and it's a perfect meal any time of day..

The recipe below is a slight adaptation of an old recipe I had posted earlier (but no new photos this time - what with a warm aroma of soup and garlic bread wafting your way sometimes all you can do is eat!). 

The early readers of Ginger & Garlic may remember I was in big favor of not adding creams to savorys as a rule (yes, I know I am the singleton who doesn't like alfredo sauces or cream based soups either!) However I have had some softening of my palette recently - I think motivated by my one year old's preferences ;) - so the cream lovers would be happy to know now that I am slowly edging towards their camps :) 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Banana Nut Muffins

The weather Gods have been quite unpredictable recently. It seems we can not quite decide whether to take that leap forward into chilly fall evenings or lapse into those gorgeous bright sunny summer days. I do not mind either. Rainy days like this week is just another excuse to spend hours cuddling with my little doll while the kitchen fills up with a wonderful heartfelt aromas that only bakers can rejoice :)

I was home early today and spent most of my early evening reading a book I have been planning to finish for a long time (Sister of My Heart - good read, not exceptional but very catchy). The weather was getting cloudier by the hour but once in a while sun would shine through the tiny pockets between the clouds basking the surrounding yellow hills with a warm glow. It was so tempting to just give up the book and take a nap for a while or just stare outside mindlessly. I lost count of how many times I refilled my coffee cup after two. Just as I was finishing up the last of the pages, a thought crossed wouldn't it be nice to have some snack baking right now to enjoy after the book? Telling you, its the weather making you crave all sorts of things. I figured a good old batch of banana nut muffins would be just perfect for the day!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Lentil Soup with Garlic Bread

It is such a tick-off when you start feeling under the weather right on the eve of a long weekend... not to mention the _last_ long weekend of the summer and the one where you had plans for beach picnic and doing tourist-y things in San Francisco. But that is exactly what happened - right around Friday afternoon was when I started feeling some early onset of cough and sore throat. Not very surprising considering the little one was coughing on and off sporadically last few days. Before I became a Mom I used to wonder how grown-ups can have cold and cough multiple times a year, unfortunately now I know only too well how the chain of germ breeding ground moves from sharing toys to hugging Mommy & Daddy :)

Anyway, after my third cup of coffee on Saturday morning (all to sooth an itchy throat), I decided to make a large pot of hot soup - and that too my favorite soup, the one I always turn to  for comfort on cold winter nights or whenever someone in family has cold or fever. Lucky for us, we were about to do our weekly visit to farmer's market - so I quickly made a mental note to buy stuff for a lentil soup and for good measure also bought a loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread to go along with my soup.

This is a very versatile recipe - swap whatever fresh vegetables you have at hand. I used green lentils, you use whatever lentil is lying to be used up in your pantry. I used dried oregano and fresh basil, you can use whatever herb combination is crowding your backyard or suits your fancy for the day :) The trick to this soup is slow simmer - can't stress this strongly enough, once the soup starts to boil, reduce heat to as low as your gastop would allow, cover and forget about it for another 40mins or so. Then check the done-ness of the lentils by tasting a little bit and cook further as needed.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Romano beans sabji and A Year of Local Eating

It has been close to a year since I switched-over to buying and cooking local and seasonal produce. Mostly that means buying my week's fruits and vegetables at farmer's market and supplementing only as and when needed from Trader Joe's.

One of the perks of living in bay area is that there is an Indian grocery store right around the corner - doesn't matter where you are! So its always very easy to hop into car and buy whatever you need at nearest supermarkets or Indian groceries. Most of the produce here though is shipped from miles away and has the dreaded high food miles.

Right around when I was entering the second-semester of my pregnancy last year that I thought of making this big change in our lifestyles. Part of it was sustainable eating for ourselves and the environment we live it, part of it was supporting local farmer's community but the biggest part of it was changing our lifestyles so the new addition to our family would get to enjoy not the only the fresh seasonal tasty local produce but also the very enjoyable Saturday morning farmer's market family visits right from her childhood :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer's Peach Cake

Well, hello again! Hope you are all doing great and enjoying the wonderful summer's bounties with your family and friends. This is my first summer as a Mom and it has been a blast so far - Sun Gods have been unusually good bestowing us with sunny but relatively mild perfect weekend picnic days; farmer's markets are overflowing with sweet peaches and plums and nectarines and my own tomato plant (which I had planted two summers ago and thus far thought to be dead) somehow miraculously propped up again start of the summer making my day.. So much for the life's little pleasures :)

Needless to say we are treating ourselves to a whole array of delicious and super-sweet stone fruits from farmer's market this summer. In all the midst of the summer, one of our best friends are relocating across the country and I thought what better way to treat them than some home-made stone fruit cake. I rarely bake cakes. The last one I baked was six years ago - yes, that long! Not that I don't like cakes or don't like baking but the trouble is if I bake cake then I eat it all :) and thus one year I made plans to treat myself occasionally to coffee and a slice of cake in nearby bakeries in an effort to keep me away from baking and then munching the whole thing.

But some occasions deserve breaking of the rules! And what's a better occasion than to enjoy a piece of home-made cake reminiscing over our happy times together with old friends - and thus came a Google search which got me to this absolutely delicious peach winner recipe from food52.

I pretty much followed the original recipe to a delightful end-result; a few things I changed from the original recipe and a few things I would change the next time (yes, this is coming back my kitchen next year for sure!) are:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Methiche laddo (Fenugreek sweets)

It was such a blessing to have my Mom help us out those first few post-delivery weeks! I think its the only time you have to be babied up while you settle into a rhythm caring for your own little baby :) While she was here in addition to the fresh lunches and dinners she also made a big batch of methiche laddo (fenugreek sweets). It is traditional in our region of India to gift fenugreek laddos to the new nursing moms. 

Benefits of fenugreek for lactation are well know. No one quite knows how it works but fenugreek is famous in many cultures as a milk-boosting herb. While fresh fenugreek leaves can be added to the daals and sabzis; the easiest way to get enough dosage of fenugreek for its lactation benefits is to either take fenugreek in capsule form or a better-tasting yummy alternative would be make these fenugreek ladoos which are made from powdered fenugreek seeds. 

While fenugreek seeds or powder is easily found in Indian grocery stores; for those in states, its also on Amazon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pumpkin cranberry muffins

I am on my maternity leave at present. My parents were here for the first 2 months with the baby and it has now been close to a month of three of us managing by ourselves. While there have been rare days with the baby fussing and crying and dishes pilling up in the sink; in general we are managing great - spending majority of the time cuddling and playing with our little girl, eating very simple home-made food everyday, resting whenever we can and housekeeping and cleaning as time permits. 

Life is setting into a rhythm. I make fresh dinner daily and the leftover dinner serves as my lunch the next day - works great for me as I get to spend the whole morning with my little bundle without worrying about lunch logistics. My little girl naps in the afternoon.  After her nap I take her out to a stroll nearby; then we come home, she plays in her baby gym while I take a quick coffee break (gotta have caffeine!). Then we play together some more; spend time in the backyard counting guavas and playing peek-a-boo :) After another quick nap, its time for making dinner! We got a wonderful rocker chair as a gift from a friend and it has proven so very useful! I place my little girl in the rocker in kitchen and start working away preparing dinner. I keep talking to her about every little thing I am doing like asking her what to make, chopping veggies, sauteing etc.. I am pretty sure she cares not much about our dinner menu or the recipe, but neverthless she keeps looking at me trying to babble away making conversation as I cook... its our together time making food memories -- and needless to say it makes preparing dinner time just that much extra special for me :)

Anyway, coming back to today's recipe! I had some leftover pumpkin puree in a can which I wanted to use up one day. I was thinking of making my usual pumpkin kheer but instead thought why not make some pumpkin muffins - they would serve great as my coffee snack for next few days. Thus a little Googling later, this recipe came about. Its mostly a derivation of the banana muffin recipe I had posted earlier. The muffins were awesome - and I'll be sure to make them again next fall when fresh pumpkins are in season.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate covered strawberry bride & groom & other treats!

Valentine's day is just around the corner and to a foodie like me that means chocolates, chocolates and more chocolates! I love how everywhere around this time one starts seeing the bouquets of beautiful roses, various chocolate treats and all sorts of beautifully wrapped gifts.

Strawberries and chocolates are two of my most favorite things so its only logical that chocolate covered strawberries happen to be on the menu whenever I am in the mood for making something cutsie without a whole lot of effort. With plump fresh strawberries and white and dark chocolates, your imagination is the only limit when it comes to making designs for strawberry chocolates but here are some of my all time favorites (and something I have blogged previously here) which sort of differ from the usual chocolate covered berries.

These chocolate bride and groom are the perfect treats if you are in the mood for a more delicately worked strawberry designs and perhaps a perfect gift for a dear friend's bridal shower :) Instructions are here

If bride and groom are not on the menu then you can always try one of these free-fall designs which are equally delicious. Really your imagination is the only limit! Instructions are here

Happy Valentine's day everyone! May the year ahead bring lots of love, peace and well wishes for everyone near n dear to your hearts :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

20-minute lime-orange cookies

Wow, can't believe it has been so long since I last posted over here! For the past few months I have been a blog lurker, drooling over all the scrumptious recipes which have been making the rounds. Continuing to post was always on my mind but somehow or other different priorities took over. Never mind though, I suppose better late than never!

There really is no excuse for being absent for so long - however time flies by so quickly! It seemed only so recently that I heard I was expecting and needless to say life's priorities took over and now I am a proud mommy of a month and half old cutie pie who is entertaining us all throughout the days and nights :)

So many things change so unexpectedly with a little baby and the life as you knew before changes so utterly and completely - but you know what the best part is, every time she looks at you and smiles or holds your finger with her little fingers, you know for sure you won't be treading these moments for anything else!

I am still learning the tips and tricks of being a new mommy and juggling work, life and mommyhood (so feel free to share your tips in comments!) but one of the first few things I learnt is to go for easy, clutter-free lifestyle. Long gone are the slow simmering, 2-3 hr recipes which used to entice me so much (atleast for now!) and in its place are the quick cooking, fresh and healthy meals which can be put together from start to finish in 20-30 minutes and require very everyday ingredients.

One such recipe is this quick cooking easy lime cookies from Anjum's new Indian. These cookies are very easy, they cook up in ~20mins, are made from all pantry ingredients and are very forgiving. Best of all these are the cookies to go to when an afternoon sweet craving strikes to a largely empty cookie cabinet to go with a simmering pot of afternoon tea or coffee.

Original recipe called for adding lime zest to the cookies. I modified this by adding equal parts lime and orange zest so technically these should be lime-orange cookies.

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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.