Monday, February 27, 2006

How Far Can I Push The Pantry (HFCIPTP) # 3: Pasta sauce

Here is another in the series of using up stuff in my pantry to whip up balanced meals. A few thoughtful opening and closing of pantry and refrigerator doors later, I had my mind made up. It was going to be pasta that day with ready made sauce. Then as I put the pot of water on the stove and waited for it to boil, I remembered Indira's recipe of pasta sauce which used peanuts. That got my mind scheming on how I can adapt that recipe to my limited pantry. After a few seconds, the answer seemed obvious.

This is why I love blogging and blog hopping. I find myself spending less and less time pondering about whats for dinner. Thank to all fellow food bloggers for sharing the seemingly mundane details of what you had for dinner/lunch!

On to the sauce... lets give it a name "Roasted Pepper sauce with peanuts and soy burgers". I don't have a picture of this yet, but it was delicious (for now you have to just take my word for it)! Will update with the pic soon.
Roasted Pepper sauce with peanuts and soy
2 cups roughly chopped bell peppers
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 frozen veggie burger, thawed and chopped
2 tsp olive oil
Heat oil in a skillet, add the chopped peppers and roast well untill browned. You may also use onions in this step if you have some in your pantry. Add roasted peanuts and chopped burger and cook till the the burger is slightly browned as well. Cool and process in a blender to desired smoothness/chunkiness.
2 cups Ragu pasta sauce (Optionally, use canned or fresh tomatoes)
2 tsp sugar
grated parmesan/romano cheese to taste
Return the blended pepper mixture to the skillet and add the tomato sauce and sugar. Stir until heated though.Serve over cooked pasta,topped with grated cheese and crushed pepper.

The sauce was ready with the pasta and tasted great for a last minute meal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

And the award for the Most Misleading Product Name goes to...

This being Oscar season and all, I thought I would hand out of couple of awards of my own. First up, is the category of the Most Misleading Product Name. A clear winner in this category is the Post Grape Nuts cereal. The ingredients do not contain any grapes or nuts! Apparently this cereal was christened after its inventor Charles William Post, who reasoned that grape sugar is formed in the baking process of this cereal and that it has a nutty flavor! Talk about misleading... they should put that info on the box , like a statutory warning :-D. But it is supposed to be an excellent source of whole grain and therefore heart healthy.

I bought it at our local Costco some time back, simply because we were mostly tired of the other brands and cereal types. We try to stick to 'low' sugar cereals as much as our morning taste buds will allow. Grape nuts looked interesting, so we adventurously bought a wholesale sized carton. Showing incredible courage and will to eat healthy, we poured cereal and milk into our bowls. The first spoonful tasted like gravel and it only got worse from there on. We immediately gave it a more fitting name ... 'Hindi: Ghode Ka Chaara', translation Horse/Cattle feed. Hubbie promptly stopped eating it when he couldn't take it anymore and handed his bowl to me, saying he would pick up something for breakfast on his way to work. The next morning, we both got up with the same gloomy thought... 'Oh no, we forgot to pick up some cereal last night'!

We are still left with oodles of the un-Grape-Nuts, which we mix with other taste friendly cereals to decrease the impact of the healthy pebbles. And once again, we resolve to first try out new things in small quantities before buying bulkloads of them.

Monday, February 20, 2006

ARF/5-a-Day#8 and HFCIPTP #2

Another week gone by and it's Sweetnicks' ARF/5-a-day Tuesday again! This event has truly changed the way I approach my Monday night dinners :-) I did not need to be extra creative to accomplish ARF meals on my stock-limited pantry. I had plenty of canned chick peas which formed the basis of my 'Methi Kabuli Channa (Chick peas with fenugreek leaves). Here's a great picture of methi leaves by Indira. Today's recipe is adapted from Hemant Trivedi's, specifically I substituted dried kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) for fresh ones. This is a Rajasthani (a desert in India) recipe, which is cooked without onions, garlic and other vegetables since they were hard to come by in the desert climate. Still, this is one of the best chick pea recipes I have tried, and I will definitely be making it again (with fresh leaves!)

Chick peas are a great source of protien, and contain a substance called saponin, which can act as antioxidants. Here is the recipe for "Fenugreek Chick Peas"

Fenugreek Chickpeas
1 tbsp Ghee (Clarified butter) or oil
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 cloves
1/2 inch sticks cinnamon
1/2 tsp asafetida
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
Heat oil in a saute pan/sauce pan and add the seeds. Allow seeds to sputter.
2 green chilies, chopped finely
3.5 tablespoons kasuri methi
Add and allow to sear very briefly until fragrance exudes
3/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp asafetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
2 tbsp tomato paste
Add to the 'tadka' and stir
2- 14oz cans of chick peas drained and rinsed
1 cup of water
Amchur (dry mango pow) or tamarind paste, to taste for desired sourness
Add and allow to simmer. Crush a few chick peas to thicken the gravy/sauce
1 tsp besan (chickpea flour)
2-3 tbsp cold water
Mix flour and water to form a thick paste. Add to the chick peas and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes

Serve hot with warm chappatis or a bed of steaming rice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

HFCIPTP #1: Veggie Pizza Indian Style

How Far Can I Push The Pantry... This is the question I have been asking myself. It has been almost four weeks since a visit to the grocery store. Most of the perishable items I have are mostly wholesale items purchased at the local Costco (carrots, peppers). We were planning of going shopping over the weekend, but the Nor'easter came gatecrashing into the east coast. We got plenty of the white stuff and sat at home with friends, sipping Leo coffee.

Picture taken by Hubbie after about 15 in of snow had fallen

I am prepared for this pantry stretching challenge, and to start off, I made (streched :) ) some pizza. I used a breadmaker to prepare the pizza dough. But it is really easy to make it by hand too. Here's a recipe from Priya. Be sure you have active dry yeast and some all purpose/whole wheat/bread flour in your pantry. My pizza dough from the breadmaker rose bountifully.

Pizza Dough - risen and all ready to roll

Like I said - no melting cheeses (I had a small amount of processed Amul cheese from the Indian store), no tomatoes for the sauce... just some peppers, chilies, my last onion and some garlic. Here is an Indian take on pizza. I think Hubbie and I like this better than regular cheesy pizzas.

Indian Style Veggie Pizza
1 recipe for 10-in pizza crust doughRoll out dough into a 10 in crust on a pizza tray. As far as possible try to strech by hand. It doesn't make the crust too dense, plus its fun!
5 tbsps spicy tomato ketchup (I used the Indian brand Maggi)
3 tbsps Garlic Chutney (Nupur's recipe, made ahead)
Spread ketchup on the crust and sprinkle generously with the chutney
1 onion, sliced into half-moons
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup assorted colored peppers, sliced
2 chilies chopped fine
some chopped chunks of Amul cheese (optional)
Top the crust evenly with the toppings. Bake in a 425F oven till crust is light brown. Remove from oven, cut into slices and serve. Top with crushed red pepper flakes.

I think I am now going to turn to Rajasthani or Jain dishes in the Indian cuisine, which do not use onions, garlic, tomatoes etc.

ARF/5-a-day-Tuesday #7: Green Tea

It's Sweetnick's ARF/5-a-day time again! And, one the home front, this is our fourth week running without a trip to the grocery store. We are out of most fresh produce except for some sweet red and yellow peppers and a couple of potatoes. Now's the time test just how well stocked my pantry really is. I have a decent stock of flours, dals/lentils, frozen peas and corn, canned beans and tomato paste. Without further ado, I declare this week, HFCIPTP week aka How Far Can I Push The Pantry week.
This reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld, where Kramer and Newman are test driving a car with the fuel indicator dangerously pointing at empty. After several tense hours, they get to their exit, but in a Thelma Louise moment, they dare to ask, "just how far do you think we can go? " And they continue on the freeway not sure how long they would last :) Lets see if I can last till this weekend... with different types of balanced meals everyday, without testing Hubbie's patience and understanding tolerance :)

We usually jump start our mornings with a hot cup of masala chai (tea). Unfortunately this morning when I woke up and got to the kitchen to start up a batch of tea, I was taken aback to find that we had run out of Indian Tea. Drat, I added tea to the looong grocery shopping list hanging on the refrigerator door. Then my eyes fell upon the Green Tea (I have lost track of how long I've had it). My eyes lit up (like they do so often these days) - Green Tea! This would make a great ARF entry :) I used tea bags, but for best results, use tea leaves.

Green TeaServes 2
2 cups of filtered cold water
2 teaspoons green tea (or 2 teabags)
Bring water to a boil. Take it off the heat. Add the tea (or bags) and cover. Let it brew for 2-3 minutes. Not more or it will become bitter.
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
touch of milk to taste (optional)
Add one teaspoon of sugar and a touch of milk into two teacups. Microwave for 30 seconds to warm up the milk. If not using milk or sugar, warm the cups by filling them with hot water. When ready to serve it, empty the water from cups.
Strain or pour tea into the prepared cups and enjoy!

Green tea is said to have potent antioxidants (25 times the amount found in most fruits and vegetables) that have been shown to be extremely beneficial, among many others, believed to lower cholesterol and prevent cancer.

Welcome back Sweetnicks!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Faux Kheema Mattar (Faux Minced-meat with Peas)

When I saw a recipe for this faux kheema on Bilbocancook's Smorgasbord, I mentally bookmarked it. Who wouldn't want to stretch their grocery visits, stock up on non-perishable items like soya nuggets and frozen peas? There will come a time in any home cook's life, when all they'd have in their pantry in terms of vegetables are some onions. Times like these don't think any further, pull out the stash of nuggets, peas, a can of tomato paste and whip up a quickie vegitarian kheema. Thanks bilbo, now I have one more thing I can make from Soy Nuggets. I am not sure what the shelf life of tofu is, but these nuggets will last a looong time.

Soya nuggets can be used in any gravied curry or pilaf recipes. Before adding to the dish, soak in warm water (salt the water if the nuggets are added at the end of the recipe) for 5 minutes, drain and squeeze out all moisture from nuggets. Use as desired in stir fries and curries.

Faux Kheema Muttar
1 cup soya nuggetsSoak in hot water to cover for 5 minutes. Microwave for 2-3 minute intervals until cooked. Drain, run under cold water and squeeze out excess moisture. Process in a food processor until well minced.
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
Heat oil and saute onion and garlic until soft and fragrant
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt to taste
2 tsp fresh garam masala powder
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Add to the pot, incorporate the paste and cook till aroma exudes. Add the reserved 'kheema'.
1/2 cup waterAdd water and simmer for 5-7 minutes

This is a great way to add soy to your diet. Thanks Bilbo, for the recipe. Serve hot with warm chappatis, a salad and butter milk.

A Balanced Meal

Doodhi Aur Jowar ki Masala Roti

Jowar aka sorghum is a gluten free, wheat free whole grain. I was blissfully unaware of the existence of this grain until MIL came into the picture. I instantly liked the bhakris (rotis that are rolled by patting), warm off the tawa with ghee and garlic chutney. The texture of the bhakri was unlike anything I had tasted before. Because the jowar flour is gluten free, it is difficult to roll out and breaks easily. One tip MIL graciously shared with me, is to prepare the dough with hot water. Add hot water to dough while stiring around with a spoon and when it forms the consistency of scrambled eggs, use both hands to form a firm dough. This makes the dough on the stickier side, which makes it easier to roll out. That said, I will be the first to admit that I have great difficulty rolling out the bakri, and end up doing patch work. As a result, the bhakris are not round, nor do they puff up ever so slightly when cooked :-( If you want to take a look at what jowar rotis should look like, you might want to visit Ashwini's Food-for Thought. Edit: Another excellent resource can be found at the Cook's Cottage. Thanks! I feel a renewed zeal to try out the jowar bhakris.

But... No despair, MIL gave me another recipe for masala jowar rotis which is very forgiving. It tastes great - all patched up. It is sorgum roti, stuffed with doodhi or bottlegourd. It is quick, nutritious and best of all - one-dish-meal! No fuss cleanup. This roti is best eaten fresh, smeared with ghee or butter accompanied with garlic chutney and a glass of buttermilk.

Jowar Aur Doodhi (Bottle gourd) ki masala Roti
1 cup bottle gourd peeled and cut into large chunks
3-4 green chilies
3 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, peeled and chunked
Place all ingredients in a food processor and give it a 'whir' until the ingredients are grated. Transfer to a wide mouth mixing bowl
2 cups jowar flour
2-3 tbps sprouted moong or bean sprouts (optional)
1 tbsp coriander powder
salt to taste
Add to the vegetable mixture.
Incorporate into a dough adding hot water only if necessary. Most often the water from the gourd and onion would suffice.
Break dough into 6 lumps, shaping each into a ball.
Use extra dry flour for dusting, and roll out each lump into a thick disc with hands. Carefully remove with a spatula.
Place on a heated tawa, press and cook on both sides till blistered.
Remove from heat and smear with ghee/butter. Serve immediately.

Cooking this roti tends of take its toll on nonstick coated (strongly discouraged for this recipe) or even hard anodized griddles/tava. Use a cast iron griddle if you have one. Or like me, use an old tava saving it exclusively for jowar/bajra rotis.

ARF/5-a-day-Tuesday #6: Marinated Tofu Stir Fry Noodles

Using a variety of veggies and antioxidant rich food is a challenge for me on week nights. But cooking and blogging about them later is a great incentive to eat right for me. So I jumped at Sweetnick's ARF/5-a-day Tuesday event. Albeit 6 weeks late, I hereby join the bandwagon. This week the event is hosted by Stephanie aka The Happy Sorceress. Thanks for hosting ladies!

I never say no to any form of one-dish meal, this week I dabbled with whole wheat noodles. I tried to include soy protiein (tofu) and antioxidant rich, bright colored peppers and carrots. The end product looked and tasted satisfying.

Marinated Tofu and Vegetable Noodles
1 package extra firm silken tofu
4 tbps soya sauce
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
Cut tofu into one inch cubes, place in a shallow baking dish. Add water to cover and stir in soya sauce until amber in color. Add ginger garlic paste. Let tofu marinate for 20 mins. Drain.
2 tbsp oil (preferably dark sesame)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 red onion, cut into thin slices
1 carror julienned
3 green chillies minced or chopped fine
Heat oil in a wide skillet, add the garlic, green chillies, onion and carrot and saute on high heat for 5 minutes.
2 cups green, red and orange bell peppers, cut into strips
1/2 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
Add to the stir fry and cook till peppers are slightly crisp.
1 10oz package of dried whole wheat noodlesCook noodles in plenty of salt water, according to package direction. Drain well. Add immediately to stir fry to prevent clumping.
Cook till noodles are heated through. Top with additional soya sauce or hot sauce (sambal)