Thursday, December 31, 2015

Spicy Black Eyed Peas and Kale Soup

This is a new take on an old favorite. Our new house has a large vegetable patch solely dedicated to many varieties of kale. And while I have always wanted to be someone who eats a lot of kale, the truth is I barely cook with kale always finding it a little on the bitter side. 

However now this flourishing vegetable patch is forcing me to find ways to add kale to our meals.

The easiest way to get more of kale for newbees is to add it in your favorite soups or daals - paired with a little tartness from lemons, kale really shines in these preparations.

This particular soup has black eyed peas - my favorite legume! It can be as thick or as soupy as you want. Mine is usually on the thick side. I love to serve this with a dollop of cream cheese or greek yogurt and some freshly chopped green onions or chives. No bread.

But you could also make it a lot thinner (just add more water or stock) and serve with a crusty bread for dipping. 

Recipe: Serves 6
1C dried black eyed peas
4C water
1/4 of a large onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 celery
4 large leaves of kale
4 large chopped tomatoes or 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2Tbsp olive oil

1tsp hot chili paper flakes
2tsp cumin powder
1tsp paprika -- for color
dash of hot sauce
pinch of oregano (thyme has worked well for me too)
salt, black pepper
juice of 1lemon
  1. Rinse and cook black eyed pease per package direction.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot on medium-low heat. Add chopped onions and cook for a few minutes.
  3. When onions are tender add finely chopped ginger and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes until aromatic.
  4. Next add sliced celery.
  5. Remove the stems from the kale leaves and tear the leaves up using your hand into small pieces. (I find that kale is much easier to tear using hands than chopping with a knife). Add kale to the pot and cook for just a few more minutes until the greens are wilted.
  6. Add tomatoes, paprika and chili flakes and cook for 10minutes or so until the rawness of the tomatoes is gone.
  7. Transfer cooked black eyed peas to the soup pot next. Add cumin, oregano, salt and hot sauce. Cook for 10more minutes on low heat uncovered.
  8. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and ground black pepper. Adjust the seasonings per taste. Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

To Home Cooking & Family Dinners....

About time to say good-bye to 2015 - can't believe another year has gone by! It's time for me to be thankful for the little joys this year has brought and review how well the resolutions held up. On the food front, 2015 was a great year of eating more family dinners together at our household. 

Mostly all home cooked. We are not big on takeouts. And I have a whole stash of 30 minute recipes so putting a simple and healthy dinner on table even on crazy weekdays has never been a hassle as long as you have a well stocked pantry and fridge.

I truly feel there isn't a more important way to take care of ourselves than managing what we eat. What we eat influences our health & beauty, happiness, stamina to work/productivity and increasingly I am finding out that it heavily influences family bondings too!

A simple home cooked meal is the best way to manage what we eat - and it doesn't have to be very fancy either. A pot of hot soup with some store bought crusty bread when eaten with family together may give you just as much joy and satisfaction as an elaborate Indian feast cooked over many hours. The idea is to sit together, talk share and enjoy a simple healthy home-cooked meal made with love and care. 

We all lead busy lives and grab lunches on the go. I am guilty of exclusively eating all of my work lunches on my desk while catching up with emails. So the evening ritual of coming home, hustling about in the kitchen, putting something delicious on table and everyone sitting together enjoying the meal while talking about their day just feels so important!
Taco Tuesday this week - looks like a spread but very simple and takes 30 minutes
My daughter is always running around me when I am in the kitchen - she is my helper, grabbing a lemon from front yard or few mint leaves or chilli pepper from back yard or helping fix a salad. She loves that - and I feel this combined with visiting farmer's markets have made such a positive impact towards her atitude on food and eating (and touch-wood on that!). 

She also looks forward to the meal times when we all go around the table and share a story of the day - it helps you connect with the families and specially helps kids form stronger family bonds.

On warm summer nights, we take our dinner outside and eat with a candle lantern hung to a nearby tree. Then we blow off the candle and take turns watching stars and matching them with star gazer apps on phone - just so much fun to make your own small customs around meal-times and make that a focus of the evening. 

After-all good food brings everyone together... Here is to keeping the home-cooked family dinners stronger than ever in 2016! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Leek and Potato Soup

If the soups were to have personalities, I think this leek and potato soup will be the simplest and the humblest of the once I cook. Yet, there is something so homely and deliciously satisfying about gulping bowls of this hot soup on cold wintry evenings that you will not feel like you are missing any fancy ingredients or embellishments!

This soup has few ingredients and as long as I buy leek from farmer's market, all other ingredients are pantry staples which is a huge plus for weeknight dinners.

It is also very quick cooking - about 20minutes. And the recipe is forgiving so no worries if you are multi-tasking in kitchen or playing with kids while a pot of this is bubbling away!

(Incidentaly, I really need to spend more than the 5 secs I have gotten used to spending on my food photos. I went down from an SLR to a Canon decent mid-ranger to my Nexus5 phone for photos and the quality has relatively taken nose-dive too. And while this phone does an okay job in natural light, it's barely manageable in night home yellow light. But anyway, it's either having some photo or no photo, so I am going to deal with the poor quality photos for now. Hope you will excuse the photo quality too :) )

1 sliced leek
2 russet potatoes
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
dash of dried oregano (thyme works well too)
dash of whole milk or heavy cream
juice of half a lemon
1Tbsp olive oil + 1Tbsp butter
salt & pepper

Clean and slice leeks in thin half-moon slices. Leeks are notorious for hiding dirt in between leaves, if this is your first time working with leeks, check out this cool page on how to clean and prep leeks.

In a large pan, heat 1Tbsp olive oil. When hot, add garlic and saute for a minute. Then add chopped leek and saute for a few mins until they are tender.

While the leek is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes.

Add potato cubes to the pan and cook for a minute. Add water for desired consistency - I added about 6C. Add thyme or oregano, salt & pepper, cover and cook on low medium for about 15mins.

Check that potatoes are tender, remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or just a potato masher, mash or blend soup. I like my soup chunky so I use potato masher and mash lightly. If you like silky smooth soup, then please use blender and puree.

Add 1Tbsp butter, dash of milk/cream and lemon juice. Taste, adjust seasoning. Serve hot!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Naankhatai - Indian Eggless Shortbread Cookies

As a kid growing up, I always looked forward to our bakery visits. There was only one reputed bakery in our town - and something about the freshly baked breads and warm pastries there was so enticing to me even as a child -- just as it still is now :) 

We rarely baked at our home while growing up. Now I think it must have been because of lack of oven in most Indian homes at the time. So us kids were always in a treat visiting bakery!

The one item I bought every time there was naankhatai. Naankhatai is Indian shortbread eggless cookies; meant to be dunked into Chai -- which I did a lot of growing up!

I never bought naankhatai in US though plenty of Indian stores sell it here - it just never felt the same as the freshly baked once I was used to eating. So I have been meaning to try my hand at baking naankhatai this holiday season. I was surprised at how easy it is.

I made 2 batches. The picture below is from batch #2 where I reduced the butter and sugar - turns out they tend to crack a bit with reduced butter but that is just fine for my everyday eating - better actually. Less guilt. But please go with the full butter, full sugar version if you are gifting someone or sharing with friends.

Recipe (makes about 15 small naankhatai):
1C all-purpose flour
1/2C melted butter or ghee (1/2C = 8Tbsp; in the reduced butter version I used 5.5Tbsp)
1/2C powdered sugar (in the healthier version I used 1/4C + 1Tbsp sugar which ius just barely sweet)
1/2tsp baking powder
pinch of pumpkin spice (optional, sub with 1 crushed cardamom and a pinch of cinnamon)
pinch of salt

Mix the dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt & pumpkin spice. Mix well.

Slowly add melted butter to the dry ingredients and keep mixing to form a dough. Knead for a minute and then wrap in a plastic wrapper and set aside for 20mins in refrigerator.

Then preheat oven to 365F. Divide the dough into about 15 balls. Flatten them slightly and add them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a serving knife, make small cuts in the form of a + sign on each ball. Add some crushed nuts on top of each if you prefer (optional).

Bake for 10-15mins until desired brown-ness and crunch is achieved. Remove from heat and let cool for few mins. Store in an air-tight container.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and Have a Very Happy Holidays!

A very merry Christmas and happy holidays from the kitchen of Ginger & Garlic to yours! We hope your holidays are filled with lots of happiness, relaxing time with those you love and lots and lots of cooking and/or eating!

We will be back soon with some fresh content but meanwhile here are some of our Christmas themed posts over the years:

Mommy & me Christmas Cookies: 2013, 2014 & 2015
Edible Christmas Tree (pictured below)
Roasting Chestnuts
Holiday Craft Projects
Espresso Chocolate Truffles

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Oven Baked Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

T'is the season for sweet potatoes and I have just the perfect recipe for you! Everyone loves fries and these sweet potato fries are oven baked yet crispy and have just the right sweet notes paired with the hint of heat from black pepper and crushed red peppers.

In the winter months, our oven is always working very hard as we cook most of our winter meals in oven. Since the oven is alwats toasty, I often like to throw these in last minute and they serve great either as appetizers or sides to Indian or non-Indian meals.

Recipe is quite straight-forward. Pre-heat oven to 420F. Trim the ends off and peel the sweet potatoes. Then cut them into wedges using a sharp Chef's knife. Season the wedges with olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper (optional). Mix well so each wedge is covered in seasoning.

Spread the wedges in an even single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Be very sure to not overcrowd (been there, done that, not good) - otherwise the fries will be soggy. 

Bake for 20mins or so, checking in between and rotate the baking tray once in between for even cooking. When the edges start to become crispy and brown, they are ready. Take off from oven and serve hot!

We like to finish off a tray of these fries just on their own but you can serve with either ketchup or your favorite mayonaise based dipping sauce. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Holiday Pinwheels (Green and Red Pesto Pinwheels)

These pinwheels are so easy to put together, so delicious and are the perfect party appetizers.

And in the spirit of holidays, I chose to make them with holiday colors of green and red -- making them the perfect holiday pinwheels!

1) Make (or buy) basil pesto - grind together basil leaves, olive oil, parmesan cheese, roasted pine nuts, one clove of garlic, salt & pepper - set aside

2) Make sundried tomato pesto - grind together sundried tomatoes (I used once packed in oil), a clove of garlic, parmesean cheese, salt -  set aside

3) Thaw puff pastry dough per package instructions. Each package contains 2 sheets. One sheet will give you about 10 pinwheels.

4) Generously flour a large cutting board or work surface, spread the puff pastry dough. Spread basil pesto on the bottom half of pasty in a thin and even layer (leaving half an inch of each side bare to roll). Spread thin and even layer of sundried tomato pesto on the other half, again leaving about half an inch on each sides bare for rolling.

5) roll the sheet from one side upwards making a log. Gently press the edges to seal. Using a shap chef's knife cut about 10 pinwheels.

6) On a pre-heated 375F oven, bake on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 10-12 mins.

7) Remove from oven and serve hot.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Rainy Party Menu...

We hosted a birthday party at our home recently. And as is expected with any December parties, one way or the other they evolve into holiday parties - there is just so much holiday spirit around!

I have used restaurant catering for every single event of 30-40 people we hosted so far. And after each event I resolved to cater the next one myself. Well, for one reason or another it never materialized.. that is until this one.

The day turned out to be stormy and rainy. When the weather forecast didn't show signs of budging, what best to do than to make use of it --- change the party menu to evolve around the rainy foods and warm, homy aromas! So that's exactly what I did.

We had the wine and the beer and the coke, but the warm drinks which greeted the guests were spiced mulled apple cider (love it!! and so easy to put together) and of-course a large thermos full of ginger chai. We also kept a hot water dispenser and a couple of bagged teas: jasmine, spiced chai from Trader Joe's and lemon orange tea for the green tea lovers.

It was the day of appetizers. All of my appetizers were oven cooked and served hot which meant I ended up spending the first hour of the event in the kitchen warming by the side of the oven, sipping hot cider and chatting up a storm with friends while a steady flow of warm appetizers went in and out of the oven. It was soooo much my happy place :)

(Excuse all the photos - I tried to take them with a phone during the event, often asking a friend to hold eating for a minute! I am a blogger, they understand :) )

I made sweet potato fries - cut sweet potato wedges, drizzle olive oil, salt & pepper - roast at 420F for 15-20 mins, keep checking to ensure they don't burn. And very important that you spread a thin single layer in baking pan and don't crowd them or else they turn soggy.

Second and perhaps the most in demand appetizer was the holiday pesto pinwheels sporting the red and green holiday colors. Recipe upcoming soon.

And caramelized onions with sage mushroom squares - which were my favorite! Love the mushroom sage combo. Picture is a mug shot which does it no justice - just take my word for it.
We also made a couple dozen frozen mini-samosas, just bake and serve on the day.

And none of my parties would be complete without a cheese platter. I can make a perfect meal anyday with just the cheese, crackers, fig butters and wine! This time our cheese platter had a blend of spanish hard cheese (manchego, cabra al vino and ibreco (sp?)), a soft garlic and herb goat cheese served with pumpkin and cranberry crackers and fig olive crackers with soome fig butter on the side.

Main course:
Rain demanded paav bhaji, and lots of it, for which I used my trusty recipe from One Hot Stove.

A pasta salad also has a guaranteed place on my party menus - it's versatile with ingrdients and seasonal flavors; mild to taste and kids generally love it. I added avocados (yes, they go so well in place of cheese in cold salads), sauteed mushrooms, red onions, 3 coolor peppers tomatoes and seasoned with meyer lemons juice and zest - perfect!

I also made a small quantity vegetable Biryani - in hindsight I should have made more of it; this was the first dish completely cleared off the table.

And we did takeout of idli & vada platter from a nearby South Indian restaurant.

Dessert was a banana cake with chocolate filling and vanilla cream cheese frosting -- my next adventure is going to be to try to make the cake on my own.

All in all was a great day - both food and weather wise. It was mostly drizzling throughout party hours and when the weather outside is frightful, chatting with friends over warm foods and a cozy fire is truly delightful :)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Cookies

Continuing with our own cooked up mother-daughter tradition of 2013 and 2014, this year also we baked many cookies, shared them with friends and family during a holiday get together and ate them in delight!

This year we made a mix of sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies with the focus on cookie decoration. Sugar cookie recipe was the same tried and trusted one from here - proportions quartered. Gingerbread cookie recipe was from here with the only difference that I completely cut the white sugar and added local wildflower honey instead. Cookies weren't sweet per say, which is what I wanted, but had just a bite of sweetness from the icing and were perfect with a hot cup of coffee (huge plus!). I'll probably go back to using molasses in gingerbread cookies next year, for the intense sweetness and the color.

As for the decoration we used the standard tubes of holidays colors green and red from grocery store with plain white icing leftover from a birthday cake decoration.

My daughter had a lot of fun decorating the cookies this time! The one on the top with happy, sad and angry pumpkins are decorated by her; she called them "pumpkin moods cookies" :) and the gingerbread men ofcourse which she loves to decorate.

All in all it was a great mother-daughter evening spent together making the dough, tasting it, watching anxiously for the cookies to rise in the oven and of-course decorating it! 

Baking is sooooo relaxing and therapeutic to me and I honestly can't think of a better way to stop worrying about work and daily chores and get into holiday mood than finding yourself a partner in crime and baking these holiday goodies! Enjoy and have a very happy holidays!

(Excuse the poor quality photos - I have decided to not let photo quality prevent me from blogging more these days :) )

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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.