Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Creamy Polenta with Shiitake Mushrooms & Truffle Oil

This polenta dish is my new go-to weeknight favorite. It is an ultimate comfort meal but also looks and tastes quite sophisticated to deserve a place at a sit-down dinner! 

Polenta serves as a departure from the usual noodles and pastas that attend the weeknight last minute meals. Sometimes varierty is all your need to keep weeknight dinner rotations interesting!

The Creamy Polenta:
I use Bob's Red Mill's polenta corn grits. The regular corn meal might work as well, but this one is specially made for polenta and it cooks up really quickly. I use the ratio 1:5 for a ceamy polenta - ie, add 1C corn grits to 5C of hot water gradually stirring constantly. Then drizzle in some olive oil, add salt to taste and let it cook away partially covered for about 20-25 minutes stirring every few mins. 

I use a large pot to cook polenta because it sputters a lot and can sting your hands while stirring, so be careful!

Mushroom and Tomato Sauce:
While the polenta is cooking, I start the sauce. While any mushrooms will work, I must say I am absolutely in love with the fresh shiitake mushrooms our farmer's market carries, particularly in the rainy season, they are just a delight to cook with and devour! I highly recommend you to try buying freshly picked Shiitake if you can, but if not any regular supermarket mushrooms will do.

Heat olive oil in a pan, add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, pinch of chilli flakes and saute for a minute or two until oil is fragrant with garlic and chillis. Then add handful of chopped mushrooms, season with salt & pepper and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms have released all their juices. Then add 2 large tomatoes chopped, season with fresh or dried basil and cook for 5 more minutes until tomatoes have softened. If tomatoes aren't very juicy, please feel free to add 1/4C water along-with tomatoes to create "sauce". 

Finishing Touches:
To serve: add creamy polenta to a small pan or bowl. Then laddle some sauce and drizzle with a good quality truffle oil (or just regular olive oil if no truffle oil at hand) and finish with some finely chopped basil. 

Eat while warm and enjoy!  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays - Holiday Baking!

It is that time of the year again - when homes everywhere are adorning beautiful Christmas trees dazzling with twinkling lights, cherishing family memories over the years as pretty ornaments. Love and laughter of friends and family is everywhere. And the tiny kitchens and ovens become stars of the homes churning out wonderful dishes and wafting beautiful baking aromas that are so reminiscent of the holidays!

When my daughter turned two, we started an annual Christmas Eve cookie baking tradition - we don't have many traditions in our house, but we have that one and we have been on it year after year. As a toddler, all she could do was lick the dough and be the eager taster - but now, she helps select recipes, makes dough and takes charge of decorating half the batch. 

Life gets soo busy and stressful year around that I have really come to cherish these small pleasures and tiny moments of baking together on Christmas Eve!

We rarely bake cookies otherwise in the whole year, so it's something we both eager look forward to just as December rolls in.

This year we made 3 cookies:
  1. Simple sugar cookies which we decorated with icing. 
  2. Gingerbread cookies
  3. For grown-ups of the house, a fresh batch of almond biscotti to dip into afternoon tea or coffee.
Of the three biscotti's were my favorite. I skipped almond liquor but instead added almond extract. It came out wonderful. At baking times of 35-10-15 mins, the biscotti were not super hard - a pleasure to dunk in but also could it on it's own too. I'll definitely be making these again and again!

I made only one change to the gingerbread cookies recipe. I really avoid to buy large portion of an ingredient, when only a little bit is used in a year - so in the spirit of limiting waste, I substituted molasses with dark honey we bought from farmer's market the day before. It turned out just fine.

This year we also experimented a lot with icing decorations - specially using unique patterns by mixing colors using toothpicks. A cookie then becomes only but an empty canvas to express yourself with colors - as my daughter called it, it's just like painting!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my friends and readers! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Everyday Granola

Do you make granola at home? If not, I'll highly recommend giving it a try. It's super simple - no recipe needed and highly customizable to your taste! Just mix the dry and wet ingredients together and bake at low temp while stirring every 10 minutes. 

Organic pre-made granola can get pricey and besides you can make endless variations to suit your taste buds when you make it at home. As an added benefit, home is filled with cinnamon and nutmeg baking aromas for hours afterwards - just as I like it. 

There is no recipe as such but these are some very general guidelines I follow: 3C rolled oats + 1C nuts & seeds to 3/4C wet (sweeteners + oil) to 1C dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, dried coconut flakes) and finally the flavorings - my favorite combo is cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg powder or just substitute pie spice if you have at hand. Granola bakes at a low temp - like 300F for a long time (40 minutes) - all you need to do is keep stirring every 10-15 minutes.

We enjoy granola as a snack to munch on, with milk as cereal or topped on Greek yogurt as dessert. One thing is for sure, once you make it at home, it's going to be difficult to go back to store bought one :)

Makes ~5C

3C rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
1C chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios)
2Tbsp seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
1C chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, strawberries etc)
2Tbsp packed brown sugar
1/2C maple, agave syrup, honey or molasses
2Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2tsp cinnamon powder
1/2tsp ginger powder
pinch of nutmeg powder
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2tsp salt


  • Pre-heat oven to 300F
  • Mix all dry ingredients except dry fruits and coconut flakes.
  • Mix all the wet ingredients (syrup, oil, vanilla extract)
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well to quote thoroughly.
  • Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Spread the granola mixture in a thin layer on sheet pan.
  • Bake for 40 minutes until granola turns golden brown. Spread around with a spoon every 10-15 minutes during baking.
  • Remove from oven. Immediately add dried fruit. Mix well.
  • Let cool. Once cold, store in an airtight container.
  • Serve as a cereal with milk, or on top of yogurt or just munch on their own.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Black Bean and Sweet Corn Enchilada

We love Mexican food at our place. Enchilada in particular is a crowd favorite - served hot, bubbling with freshly baked melting cheese, it's quite a treat! And much less messier to eat for the little ones compared to tacos or burritos.

The only hindrance to making Mexican feasts often is time, or the lack of it. It takes a while to put together Spanish rice, black beans, guacamole, salsas and for enchilada, the enchilada sauces and baking is additional time on top of it. It just doesn't fit my dinner time budget - which on most days is no more than 20-30 minutes. 

But that's where this new line of Mexican sauces and condiments I found from chef Rick Bayless comes in so handy! We have tried their red chili enchilada sauce, green chili enchilada sauce and roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce - and all were great! None of that pre-cooked and packaged taste but instead brimming with fresh flavors and no-one could tell sauces were not home made. I bought ours from Whole Foods but I believe many other grocery chains like Target carries the brand.

I use the roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce to make green salsa or spoon over as a cooking sauce. To make green salsa from this sauce just add some freshly chopped onion, coriander and season with salt & lemon juice per taste. I also find heating the sauce once and then letting it cool brings more umpf in the sauce.

The red chili enchilada sauce is a personal favorite - it's perfectly mild making it good for kids but at the same time rich in flavors. I have tried many enchilada sauces but with this one, I don't miss making sauce at home. It's just as good or may be better.

So this was our dinner on a lazy Saturday when we skipped doing groceries and fridge was looking bare.

Photos are not great, but that's only because we couldn't wait to dig in!
Spanish rice: 1.5C rice, 1Tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 2 small tomatoes chopped, 1tsp tomato paste, 1/4tsp oregano dried, salt & pepper, 2.5C water. Recipe here.

Enchilada filling: 1 small can black beans - rinsed, kernels of one white corn, handful of edamame, 2Tbsp of roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce, Mexican shredded cheese per taste (we put just a little bit), salt & some salsa seasoning (optional). Mix together, using the back of your spatula crush some black beans so the filling holds together better. And set aside. 

Green salsa: roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce, finely chopped onion, coriander, salt & lemon juice (per taste).

Guacamole: 3 small avocados, finely chopped 2Tbsp green onion, chopped coriander, salt, lemon juice. Recipe here.

Assembly: pre-heat oven to 375F. Brush an oven-safe large casserole dish with oil. Warm up 8 corn tortillas in microwave or on a skillet. Fill 1Tbsp filling in each tortilla in the middle, roll, add it to the casserole pan. Keep adding until the tortillas are snuggled to each other. Then drizzle red enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Sneak in any remaining filling. Add some shredded Mexican cheese on top. Bake for 15 minutes on a middle rack until cheese is bubbly and sides of enchilada look cooked well.

Remove and serve with Spanish rice, guacamole and green salsa. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings

For a long time I was not enthusiastic to eat at a dumpling place. I love dumplings but having strong vegetarian preferences, I rarely found entrees I could enjoy - vegetarian menu options always seemed like an after-thought at dumpling places I visited. But that changed the first time I ate at Din Tai Fung - it's the best dumpling place I have come across and hands-down awesome for vegetarians dumpling fans!

So it was only a natural next-step that I ventured on a quest to make the Din Tai Fung style vegetarian dumpling at home :) I don't think I have gotten 100% there yet, but close enough and it's a version we devour at home so that's good enough for me!

These are steamed dumplings - not pan fried. I prefer the steamed version but you could pan fry and then steam by adding a cup of water to hot pan and put the lid on.

(photo isn't great - we could hardly wait to dig in!)
Making dumplings can bring the whole family together. Rolling the dough disks, filling them and then locking them into a dumpling is a process ripe for parallelism and more than one pair of hands. To little ones, it's also a time to unleash her creativity and make different shaped dumplings! 

And to be sure it is a slow process, takes time, but the results are very rewarding; and if you have good enjoyable company, what's not there to love making dumplings as family bonding cooking activity!

You can make your own dough and wrappers; but to save time you can also buy pre-made gyoza or wonton wrappers from your local supermarket Asian refrigerated section, which is what I do. They are quite cheap - $3 for 52 wrappers or so.

This is how I made the dumpling filling:
Serves very hungry 3, or moderately hungry 4 (made about 32 dumplings)
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu (extra firm is important)
  • 1C finely chopped mushrooms (shitake would be great, but I used regular brown mushrooms and they work well too)
  • 2 carrots - grated
  • 1 bok choy (finely chopped)
  • 1Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1-2 spring or green onions (finely chopped)
  • 1C finely shredded cabbage
  • few mint leaves - chopped (optional)
  • handful of thin rice noodles
  • 1Tbsp soy sauce
  • salt to taste (go low as soy sauce has salt)
  • 2Tbsp vegetable oil
Vegetables - prepped


  • Prep all the ingredients before starting.
  • Try to drain as much water from tofu as you can - pressing it between two paper towels. Then break into small pieces.
  • Heat oil in a wok or large bottom pan.
  • When hot, add ginger and saute a minute until oil is fragrant.
  • Then add tofu and mushroom. Add a little salt to release mushroom juices. Saute until mixture looks dry.
  • Then add rest of the veggies, mint and saute until mixture looks dry.
  • Add say sauce, mix, taste - season more salt if needed.
  • Remove from heat. Spread the mixture in a large plate and let it cool completely.
  • Meanwhile soak rice noodles in hot water in a covered pan to cook the noodles for 10 minutes. Remove, check for done-ness. Chop into small bites and add to the filling mixture. Mix well.
Dumpling vegetarian filling
Assembly is very straight forward once you get the hang of it. Take a dumpling wrapper. Wet the edge of the wrapper using wet fingers dipped in water. Add filling in the middle (I add about 1Tbsp per dumpling). Fold the dumpling and press and pinch the edges together to make a half moon. 

Then make a sliding folding pattern on the edge to lock in the edges using your thumb and index finger (optional for that distinguishing decorated dumpling edges). Set them on a plate with seam side up. Steam in a steamer for 10 minutes. It's great if you have the special bamboo steamers - but regular vegetable steamer works well too.

Serve hot with dipping sauce (= soy sauce + very thinly sliced ginger)


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Cinnamon Star Bread

Recently New York Times ran an article about procrastibaking - have you heard the term? "Procrastibaking — the practice of baking something completely unnecessary, with the intention of avoiding “real” work — is a surprisingly common habit that has only recently acquired a name." says the Times article. Rings a bell, anyone? :)

As the article goes on it explains that people procrastibake for many reasons, from avoiding the particular bit of work you are dreading, to using baking as a creative time to get your creative juices flowing for work that requires creativity. Whatever may be the reasons, procrastibaking sounds fun and something I could quickly get into - given the condition of working from home regularly.

This cinnamon star bread is not a result of procrastibaking per say. I had long since bookmarked this recipe when I saw it run in King Arthur baking blog. I just got around to trying it out now.
Your first instinct looking at it might be that it's a recipe that will take a really really long time with lots of artsy decorative twists more fit for a pastry artist than a humble home-cook - but let me tell you, it's so easy! Beyond baking basics there is nothing more complicated in it and it is a breathtaking starter bread to put out at your next party and wow your guests with what they might think as the baking Goddess within you!

Or perhaps you can make it next time you are procrastibaking, whatever, when it comes to baking there is no judgement here :)

I followed the recipe pretty much as is. My only subtraction was vanilla extract (ran out of it!) and reducing quantity of cinnamon sugar brushed on the bread. As a tip, before you make filling, leave a little bit of beaten egg aside for top coat - I didn't need the full large egg for cinnamon sugar filling and had to crack open a second egg just for the top coat (top coat is just egg brushing, not cinnamon sugar + egg brushing). Hate to waste perfectly edible things away!
Cinnamon star bread - before baking
It came out just as I was expecting it to be. 

My daughter also helped along by brushing the cinnamon sugar filling over the bread layers and helping me twist the two "petals" together. That's the most fun pat of baking for me - baking with the little one! We share stories - mostly of my childhood which she is always super interested in or about some small tidbits of her school world. It's a time I cherish.

That is exactly as how baking should be - utterly relaxing and enjoyable - happy time spent together kneading dough, rolling with a pin and expectantly looking at the clock wondering when it's time to open the oven or atleast have a peek!   
Cinnamon star bread - after baking
Happy baking (or procrastibaking) this long weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sabudana Khichadi

In my mind there are two quint-essential Maharashtrian snacks - kande pohe and sabudana khichadi. Almost everyone I know who grew up in Maharashtra region of India grew up eating them - even those who were not locals (neighbors generally took it upon themselves to feed local delicacies to out of state neighbors - Marathi folks love to connect with each other over food and tea :) )

Unlike the more spicier, richer and well-known North Indian cuisine, Marathi food has a lot milder flavors and simple preparations with locally grown vegetables. The food is lightly influenced by neighboring Gujarat region taking it's cues to add a little sugar to flavor many savory preparations.

Sabudana khichadi to this date reminds me of Tuesdays. Tuesday was the fasting day growing up at our house and Tuesday dinner was predictably the mighty sabudana khichadi - everyone's favorite fasting food. Fasting was religious and was supposed to teach us abstinence, control over what you eat for one day a week. But, this khichadi is so tasty, we never felt like giving up anything or controlling what we eat - instead we kids used to look forward to Tuesday dinners the whole week!
Sago (or Sabudana) is found abundantly in tropical climates. It's an edible starch obtained from a type of palm tree, I believe. These are perfectly round small super white crystals that look like tiny pearls in your hands. The way to cook it is to soak them in water for a few hours and then lightly saute in oil (for savory) or boil with milk (for sweet). Like many ancient foods, these are multi-purpose - you can make khichadi, fry them for sabudana vada or make a sweet kheer. 

Recipe is super simple and being a fasting food, you don't generally add onions, garlic or any other spices other than cumin seeds - but unless you are preparing it for fasting, feel free to add whatever will taste good to you!
Serves 4
  • 2C sago - dried
  • 1C crushed roasted peanut (or 3/4C roasted peanut powder)
  • 1 large potato
  • 1tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1Tbsp oil or ghee
  • 2 curry leaves
  • 2 green chillis - chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2tsp sugar
  • Garnish: chopped coriander leaves, freshly grated coconut, lime juice (optional)
  • Thoroughly clean and then soak sago/sabudana in 2x the water for a few hours.
  • Drain sago, add peanut powder, salt and sugar. Mix well. Set aside.
  • Boil the potato and then peel and chop it into pieces.
  • In a wok, heat oil or ghee. When hot add cumin seeds, curry leaves, chilli and ginger and saute for a few minutes
  • Reduce heat, add potatoes. Cook another minute.
  • Then add sago mixture, mix well. Cover and cook for a few minutes stirring regularly until sago is translucent meaning it's ready. Please don't overcook otherwise they will get gluey and harden.
  • Remove from heat. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, freshly grated coconut, lime juice. We serve it with some yogurt (optional).
Enjoy with a hot steaming cup of tea or coffee!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Tea Time Baking - Making Scones, Rose Cookies and Lemon Curd Sponge Cake

This weekend, like countless others around the world, I swooned over the pictures of the royal wedding across the seas. A lovely ceremony, a smart and beautiful bride's journey from a commoner to royal and just the picture perfectness of this modern day fairy tale - what's not there to love and rejoice! I completely resonated with a Washington Post article this weekend saying did we ever realize how much we really needed this message of love and hope particularly at this time which has the power to bring everyone together - so true.

Image Credit: Barnes & Noble
In spirit of the royal wedding, our local Sur La Table had a special going on their British Baking class making the tea time baked favorites - rose cookies, lemon curd sponge cake and savory scones.

I have always loved traditional English tea time foods and experiences and combined with my baking mania of now, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to spend an afternoon baking tea time favorites with fellow local foodies.

All three recipes were from The Cottage Kitchen cookbook

Rosedrop cookies:
Of the three, rose cookies were our family's favorite. They are light crumbly cookies with a strong English rose flavor. They are the perfect companion for an English cup of tea. They just melt in your mouth and leave you with an enticing lingering rose essence on your palette to cherish. It took us about 10 minutes to finish the 12 small cookies I brought home. 
Rosedrop Cookies
The recipe used potato starch - which I used in baking for the first time - resulted in a dough which was not sticky at all and was a pleasure to handle! I'll definitely be using more potato flour or potato starch in home baking going forward.

Prosecco Scones:
No English teatime would be complete without a savory and flaky scone! We made ours with prosecco - it turned out wonderful. An addition of thyme in the recipe gave it the what is it intrigue. Slice the scone in half, slather with some cottage cream and jam and it's the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon high tea.
Prosecco Scones
Lemon Curd Sponge Cake:
I felt this recipe was a bit too sweet for my taste. I preferred the other two - but there were many swooning over the lemon curd sponge cake. We made two sponge cakes. Made lemon curd and whipped cream to go as filling in between the two cakes. Topped with more lemon curd and sprinkled some powdered sugar and lemon zest on top for good measure! It tasted lovely.
Lemon Curd Sponge Cake
All in all, it was another enjoyable baking class I took spending a lazy afternoon with local foodies, sipping our tea and the hard-earned tea time goodies!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Steamed Kale with Garlic

This recipe is a homage to it's namesake dish we enjoy at a Taiwanese upscale dumpling place called Din Tai Fung (highly recommended, if you are in bay area or Seattle). 

I must say, this kale preparation was a turn-over point for me in my kale experience - I went from got to eat it, it's good for you to oh wow, I love it, I can't wait to make it again! I feel like being forever indebted to Din Tai Fung for introducing me to this lovely side dish and giving me a delicious new perspective on this well known vegetable.

For over a year now this is the only way I prepare kale at home and every single time the pot is wiped clean with not even a single sprig of kale remaining.
The preparation is very simple - you take a bunch of curly kale. Tear up the leaves in smallish pieces discarding the tough stem. Wash the pieces well and then steam them until soft but still have a little bite to it. On my instant pot I use the steam setting and set it to 1min. In my stand-alone steamer, I steam for about 10-12minutes. 

While the kale is steaming, prepare garlic oil. Heat a few Tbsp olive oil on low-medium heat, add a couple of (1-2) finely chopped garlic cloves while the oil is warm but not too hot. We just want to infuse oil with garlic flavors, not brown the garlic - use low-medium heat for a few minutes. 

Once kale is steamed and ready, add it to the pan. Sprinkle a good quality salt (we use pink Himalayan salt for this recipe) and mix thoroughly to ensure garlic oil and salt quotes the kale evenly. Serve while warm!

My favorite way to eat this is a bit unusual. I take a whole bowl full of kale and broil a slice of a nice crusty bread, rub the bread with a bit of raw garlic while it's warm and then use the bread to mop up any of the kale juices that it will release a few minutes after adding salt. So good!

Steaming and sautéing with garlic oil is my in general favorite preparation for vegetables and I have adopted it to more than kale now. It's a wonderful way to enjoy seasonal vegetables!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nankhatai (Indian Eggless Butter Cookies)

My daughter can not imagine how Mommy's home did not have an oven growing up! But it is true, a home oven was very rare in those days in small Indian towns where I grew up. Baking at home was a rarity and a very elaborate procedure using pressure cooker generally left to kids birthday cakes only. 

Our main source of everyday baked goods was a single bakery in town which is where we would go to get freshly baked loaves, cupcakes, toasts and other yummy baked goodies. I still have vivid memories of that bakery, though I haven't visited it in decades!

Going to baker's was a major treat for us as kids. I loved visiting the baker shop - taking in enticing wafting baking aromas along-with simply joys of tearing up the freshest loaf of bread straight from oven was such a treat to a young foodie self! 

We liked almost everything in the bakery but our favorite treat was this Indian buttery flaky cookie/biscuit called nankhatai which is perfect for dunking into tea or milk. It is not very sweet, just sweet enough to nibble on it's own and take up the flavor of tea when dunked. Kinda like the scones without the sugar sprinkled on top.
I was craving nankhatai recently and looked for it at our Indian store but didn't find a fresh(ish) batch so I decided to whip up a batch myself. The recipe is very simple and quite forgiving unlike some of the more pickier baking recipes. From the time I decided to bake a batch to the time I popped one in my mouth was about an hour - quite fast with ingredients generally available in an Indian pantry.

Makes about 20
  • 1 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4C besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1/2C butter (must be room temp)
  • 1/2C powdered sugar - see note below (must be powdered for the texture)
  • 1/8tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/4tsp cardamom powder
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Dash of milk (if needed to hold the dough together)
  • Cream the butter and sugar together (I used my handy hand mixer)
  • Sift all purpose flour, besan, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cardamom together and after sifting add to the creamed butter and sugar along with vanilla extract.
  • Mix together using hand mixer or stand-up mixer until dough forms. If dough is not sticking together, add just a dash of milk and mix again.
  • Cover the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30mins.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375.
  • Make small balls (about 20 or so), flatten them slightly and spread on a parchment paper.
  • Using a paring knife make a small cross on each (not sure if this is for decoration purposes or has a baking impact, but I remember every nankhatai has it, so I do it anyway :) )
  • Bake at 375F for 12-18mins. At 12mins on a top rack, I get slightly browned exterior but soft chewy interior, which is how we like it. You could bake a little longer if you like the nankhatai to be more crunchy instead of chewy.
  • Remove from oven, let cool for 10 mins. Enjoy with hot tea! 
  • 1/2C sugar makes it just right sweet for us. Not overly so. You may want to up the sugar to 3/4C if you like your cookies on the sweeter side.
  • Please don't reduce the butter; this recipe relies on it for the flaky texture so characteristic of nankhatai!

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Art of Sushi - Making Avocado Rolls

We love eating sushi. We have sampled sushi from about a dozen places in bay area and finally arrived at one place we really like. 

It always amazes me to see so much subtle art is there in sushi making. Even though the ingredients are few and simple, the taste and texture of sushi can be so varied! It is almost like every chef makes the sushi his or her own in a unique way!

Sushi is great but the only problem is eating out can get expensive rather quickly, not to mention the hour or more wait at really good places can be tiring with young kids. I wondered instead if we could attempt sushi at home. To begin with just simple avocado rolls. It seemed very simple at first but boy I was in for a surprise!

It took us upwords of 10+ attempts to produce a recipe that comes even close to the one we really liked. After a couple of not-so-great attempts, I had a smart idea - to buy sushi rice from the restaurant and then make different sushi rice at home (vary water, cooking times and seasoning) until I could get the same texture and taste - and voila, now that the rice is perfect, the home-made sushi rolls are a treat!

The recipes are fairly straight-forward. I used this base recipe to make rice for sushi in instant pot. I reduced the cooking time to 9mins instead of 12 which suited better for our rice. I also reduced the vinegar a bit than recommended, the full quantity was a bit too strong for the daughter.

And I practiced my sushi rolling techniques from this illustrative article.

Here are my key learnings from the dozens of times making sushi and trying to improve upon the techniques:

Ingredient tips:
  1. A trip to an Asian store is well worth it to get the right tools and ingredients: a good quality sushi grade rice, a sushi mat, rice vinegar and nori (seaweed wrapper).
  2. There are prepared sushi seasonings sold in Asian stores. I found them to be a bit mild and on sugary side; making your own is not that difficult and highly recommend so you can adjust to your taste.
  3. Buy good quality nori sheets - there is a whole range there. The cheaper once can get a bit chewy quickly.
Rolling tips:
  1. Place the nori on sushi mat, rough side up. Spread rice on nori sheet. Don't press rice too hard, instead gently spread it using your wet fingers. Leave atleast a half an inch border on the edge of nori farthest away from you. You will use this empty edge to seal
    the roll.
  2. FIllings (avocado in this case) should be thinly and evenly sliced and placed at about 1/3 point on the sheet closer to you.
  3. Dab the empty edge away from you with water, just before you roll.
  4. Follow a roll and press, roll and press model. Don't press too hard, gently.
  5. While rolling sushi, always keep a large glass full of water next to you - really helps to keep the rice from sticking to your hands and also to clean the knife in between cutting the rolls.
Cutting and serving sushi:
  1. Cutting the sushi roll is a learnt technique. Use a non-serrated knife, don't put a lot of pressure (unlike how you would cut a potato or zucchini); instead move the knife gently forward and backwards until it cuts through the nori layer, rice and then another nori layer.
  2. And to top the experience, you really need a good quality prepared wasabi in a tube. There are many varieties - experience until you find the one you like. The wasabi powder didn't really have much punch for us.
It is a lot of fun and a lot cheaper to make sushi at home. I highly recommend you try it - embark on your own adventure to achieve that sushi perfection and let me know how it goes! Good luck!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fresh Spring Rolls w/ Peanut Dipping Sauce

Fresh rolls is a new beloved addition to our dinner repertoire. I am not sure if fresh rolls originated as Vietnamese or Thai or both - but they do taste amazing and are very quick to put together if you have all the right ingredients at hand.

They are a perfect accompaniment to a more richer spicier meal of Thai curry with rice or just enjoy on their own on hot summer days when turning on stove or oven just doesn't feel like it's in the cards.

As a family we are trying to eat less processed and cooked foods at dinner time and instead swap them with lightly cooked or uncooked vegetables. It's hard because we are so used to relating dinner with comfort food and comfort food with cooked rich food - but I have learnt that it's not impossible but just a matter of retraining your taste buds and the delicious raw recipes like these are a great help!
Assembling these fresh rolls is very simple but I have found out the hard way that the quality of rolls heavily depends on how uniformly the veggies are chopped. If you have a food processor accessory to make julienne cuts, this is the time to take it out - if using old fashioned way with knife, treat it as a time to practice your uber knife skills :) 

While most of my sliced veggies were passable, a few did manage to be long enough or thick enough to stubbornly stick out of their wrappings.

  • Spring roll wrappers (found in Asian stores)
  • Crunchy vegetables - radish, carrot, zucchini, cucumber, jicama etc
  • Protein - extra firm tofu (the extra firm is very important in this recipe)
  • Noodles - thin vermicelli noodles (or skip if you don't have at hand)
  • Greens - lettuce cut in stripes (I have also used Arugula which is not traditional in fresh rolls but something I always have at hand)
  • Herbs - thinly chopped mint and chives
  • 1tsp oil
  • 1Tbsp peanut dipping sauce (to glaze pan-fried tofu)
Prepare tofu and veggies:
  • Try to take out as much water as you can from the tofu slab by lightly dabbing and pressing it against kitchen towels. Cut into long stripes, fry the tofu lightly in a non-stick pan with 1tsp oil until lightly browned on all sides.
  • Remove from heat. Spread a little dipping sauce on the tofu on all sides and set aside.
  • Prepare all the veggies - thin julienne cuts, not too long. I usually cut the thin slices lengthwise at the end so that no piece of veggie is more than two inches or so.
  • Prepare the vermicelli noodles per package instructions.
  • Thinly chop the aromatics and set aside.
  • Take warm water in a wide bowl. 
  • Dip a spring roll wrapper in warm water, wait just a few seconds and take it out and spread on a large plate.
  • Add the filling about 1/3rd point of the circle closer to you.
  • First add a nice bed of greens. Then add a few veggies, noodles if using then a little tofu and roll.
  • See this for step-by-step illustrations of how to roll a spring roll.
  • Roll tightly trying to tuck away all the veggies together.
  • Use as many spring roll wrappers as you have the fillings for. I usually make about 16 at a time with one radish, one cucumber, one zucchini and one package of extra firm tofu.
  • Enjoy with a tasty peanut dipping sauce.
Peanut dipping sauce is very simple: few Tbsp crunchy peanut butter, some warm water to thin it, soy-sauce, lemon juice, sugar and salt. I made the peanut dipping sauce using this recipe - keep tasting and adjust ingredients to your taste. 


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

OT: Our Favorite Book Series for Kindergarteners

Both my daughter and I eagerly look forward to our reading time. It's a time we spend together cherishing the one thing we both dearly love: reading! I read to her in the morning and at bedtime and we set aside half an hour on weekend evenings as our family's quiet reading time when everyone reads - even the house-guests are invited and encouraged to read at the time! (a beautiful tradition she picked up from a Berenstein Bear book).

I am finding that when it comes to reading, six year old is an interesting age - she is growing out of picture books and is about ready for more complex plots and longer books but her attention span is still limited. The picture books we used to read a year ago, she likes to read them on her own now so I am experimenting with more "big kid books" to read together with her to keep things interesting.

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These are some of the book series we really loved this year - in case they come handy to another parent looking for some good quality books for their kindergartners.

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 My daughter loves the Mercy Watson book series! We have read all 6 multiple times. It is a book about a pig named Mercy, her "parents" Mr. and Mrs. Watson and their neighborhood and the hilarious tales and situations that their beloved Mercy brings their way. We picked up the first one through a recommendation of our librarian. Written beautifully with simple words, comedic plots and beautiful illustrations this series is a major hit with my daughter. 

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Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems is another favorite one. My daughter loves to read these books to us. They are simple to read, great starter books for young kids and have hilarious plots. A very caring and brotherly elephant with a tendency to worry and an equally fun loving and relaxed piggie - their mutual friendship is very cute to read. There are many many books in this series. I don't think we have read all but are on our way!
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Other series we really loved reading are the Berenstein Bears series about a family of bears with their everyday problems and the simple family lessons re-enforcing core family values; Angelina Ballerina about a mouseling whose greatest wish is to be a famous ballerina; Froggy series of a forgetful Frog and his family and an Arthur adventure series depicting adventures of Arthur, his sister DW and their friends.

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Finally, this is a series my daughter stumbled upon all on her own while browsing in the library. She is all about science these days. This Magic School Bus series is a great series for young scientists - lots of age appropriate information - nice big pictures and a fun way of narrating it. We have read many in this series and looking forward to reading many more.
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Reading together is so much fun and makes such a big impact to kids to have spent that quality time with a parent - we are giving them a lifetime love of reading, a gift that hopefully keeps giving!

As a parent I am always looking for good books to add to our virtual library, if you know of any of your favorites please let me know!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Roasted Chicken Provencal

This recipe is inspired from Sam Sifton's NYTimes recipe. Did I mention how much I love the cooking section of NYT? Both the recipes and the writing is just amazing! I have a stack of about 50+ to try recipes saved in my NYT recipe box - and many others I have successfully added to our daily meals. 

This is one such winner recipe for us. We have made it on countless occasions - from simple comfy family weekday dinners to serving guests at an elaborate sit-down dinners, and every single time this recipe has never failed to please! The pot is always wiped clean to the last bit and no left-overs what so ever :)

Put simply this is roasted chicken pieces seasoned with liberal amounts of herbs de provence (spice blend from Provence region of France) and roasted with lemons, whole garlic cloves, shallots, olives and potatoes until the meat is tender and flavored with all the seasonings. 

The dish is so simple and yet so flavorful! It's a perfect recipe for a new cook to try and wow their guests. There are only two steps: gather everything in a large cast iron oven ready pan and put in the oven. How easy is that!

I made one change to the original recipe: I prefer chicken breast halves instead of thighs or drumsticks and accordingly reduced cooking time to 30minutes @375. I use about one teaspoon of herbs de provence per chicken breast half.

Herbs de provence is a blend of herbs used in the Provence region of France. The one I have has marjoram, thyme, lavender, savory, rosemary and oregano. You can always substitute by mixing these herbs yourselves - but honestly the blend is divine and I highly recommend investing in a jar of this. I add it to meats, roasted potatoes and soups. Trader Joe's carries one for about $4.99 for a large jar - great investment!

Season the chicken piece with salt, pepper and herbs de provence. Dredge in some flour. Arrange them in a large cast iron pan (oven-ready pan) drizzled with olive oil. Add sliced potatoes, shallots, lemon slices and whole cloves of garlic. Tuck some garlic and lemons below the chicken pieces and some in between. 

Add 1/2C of chicken stock or veggie stock or just plain water. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until chicken pieces are cooked through - center of the thickest piece should be clear when pierced by knife and the juices should run clear.

Remove from oven, add a juice of half a lemon, cover with an aluminum foil and let rest for few mins. Serve while still hot with a nice crusty bread to mop up any sauces! 

The dish pairs great with any salad - couscous salad, quinoa salad or just some simple greens salad and a glass of bold red wine!


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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.