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.


Sunday, January 5, 2020

My 2019 Reading List

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

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

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

Non-fiction:


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


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

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

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

Fiction:


Asian American Fiction:

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: goodreads.com

General Fiction:


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

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

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Foil Baked Salmon w/ Lemon & Garlic

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

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

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

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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.