Sunday, March 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The No Fried Batata Wada (Potato Fritters)

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pantry Meals & Social Distancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.