Cook's Hideout: 2011

December 30, 2011

Kid's Delight-Deceptively Delicious Roundup

First and foremost, big Thank you to Valli for giving me the opportunity to host Kid's Delight event. Thank you to all of you for sending in 'deceptively delicious' entries. Finally my apologies for delaying the round up for this long.

I asked all of you to send me dishes that are "deceptively delicious", so the kids are happy that they are eating something yummy and the moms are happy that they fed them something delicious. I received a total of 45 entries and I've almost all of them bookmarked to try very soon. I loved the way how some of the everyday dishes have been cleverly interpreted to make them more appealing to kids. Without further ado, here's the list of entries:

December 29, 2011

Split Level Pudding

It's the final day of the Blogging marathon and I had so much fun making and eating all these yummy Holiday/ Weekend special dishes. I wanted to make something sweet for the last day with the whole milk and cream I had in the refrigerator. I had rice pudding in mind, but didn't think that I had enough time to make it on a weeknight. 

When I saw this Split level pudding recipe in Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From my kitchen to yours", I decided to give it a try. Also my son has been pestering me to make pudding for a while, so went ahead and made it yesterday night.

December 28, 2011

Mixed Vegetable Sambar

For a lot of South Indians Sambar does not fall under holiday special dishes. But for me this sambar with freshly ground masala (spice) paste makes for a comforting weekend meal. I usually make sambar with sambar powder (store-bought or homemade), but when I have time or have company coming over, I take the time to make the masala myself.

Recipe I use is from Chandra Padmanabhan’s Dakshin cookbook.

December 27, 2011

Creamy Mixed Vegetable Curry with Nutty Rice Pilaf

This holiday season has been extremely busy for us with parties everywhere, at home and at work. The theme for one of the office parties was organic & vegetarian. I jumped up with excitement and decided to make this curry and rice dish. 

I thought of adding paneer, but wasn't sure if my co-workers would like the texture, so kept it simple with mixed vegetables. For the rice dish, I wanted to make something that wasn't too spicy and I found this nutty pilaf recipe in Raghavan Iyer's "660 Curries". This rice is a keeper and goes well with any spicy side dish. Both the dishes were a hot at the office holiday party.

December 26, 2011

Nutella & Strawberry Jam Bread Pudding

Today is the day after Christmas, last day of our 3 day long weekend and I woke up really late this morning. If it was like any other weekend I would have skipped breakfast and went straight to lunch, but as I said it is the last day of our 3 day looong weekend and I wanted to make something special for breakfast.

I had this bread pudding in my mind, but I wanted to make it without the croissants and make it (very very) little healthy. I had whole grain white bread on hand and I used this recipe with nutella and strawberry jam to make the bread pudding. 

December 25, 2011

Tiramisu Cake

Here's Wishing everyone a Very Happy Christmas.

Hope everyone had a fun holiday with lots of good food and got to spend time with family and friends. Talking about good food, I made this delicious Tiramisu cake from scratch for my cousin who happens to love Tiramisu. For a change I wanted to use a cake as the base instead of lady fingers. I made a vanilla yellow cake from the recipe here and used half of it to make a 8" round cake. I split the cake in half and layered it with mascarpone filling and chilled it until ready to serve.

You can use store bought yellow cake mix instead of making your own. Just follow the package instructions to make the cake. Make a note that this recipe uses only half the cake mix, so adapt the recipe accordingly.


December 24, 2011

Lentil Salad with Cranberries & Walnuts

After hogging on these yummy cookies, I think it's time for something healthy, yet festive and delicious. This brown lentil salad is very easy to make and will make a great item for a holiday menu or even for potlucks. You can adapt the recipe and add nuts or cheese (feta would be excellent) to make it even more holiday worthy.

The recipe is slightly sweet and tart with the agave & dried cranberries and crunchy with the toasted walnuts. Dish can be served at room temperature or chilled, which is perfect for a make ahead menu.

December 23, 2011

Nutella Cookies, Scottish Shortbread Cookies & Mexican Wedding Cookies

I'm back for the 11th edition of Blogging Marathon. I can't believe another year has almost come to an end and kudos to Valli for taking time and organizing these BMs. With the holiday season right upon us, I chose  "Holiday Specials" theme for the marathon. So for the next 7 days, I will posting some dishes made for holidays or made on holidays (including weekends).

This is my 500th Post and I'm celebrating with some homemade cookies.


I made cookies for this years's holiday gift-giving. I tend to stay away from cookies that require rolling & cutting and prefer slicing and baking cookies (psst.. if you really want to know why..... 'cos I'm a little lazy). So when I saw these slice & bake icebox cookies in Vegetarian Times magazine, I decided to give them a try and glad I did as they were easy to make and turned out pretty good.

December 19, 2011

Oriental Curd Rice (rice with yogurt)

This is a special post for our blogging buddy PJ who is expecting her second child in a couple of weeks. Our ever enthusiastic blogging marathon group thought of having a virtual baby shower for PJ and all of us have cooked up a dish from her blog to celebrate this event. 

PJ's space has a ton of awesome recipes and I had a lot of them bookmarked. I also chose a couple of dishes that I wanted to make for this celebration, but as usual time just flew out of my hands and I finally decided to make this very interesting and unique Oriental curd rice. I changed the recipe a little bit to suit our tastes.

December 12, 2011

Pancakes with Sweet Potatoes

I've been thinking on what to make for Kid's Delight-Deceptively Delicious event going on in my blog. My 4 year old used to be very flexible and would eat everything that I gave him, but nowadays he's become a little picky and unpredictable which is why I try to add healthy ingredients to foods that he enjoys and wouldn't notice the "other" stuff that's in it.

He loves pancakes for breakfast, so I sneaked in some sweet potato puree into the yeasted pancake batter that i was making this weekend to boost their nutrition and they turned out delicious too. I used vegan butter and egg replacement powder to make these vegan, but feel free to substitute with butter & egg for a non-vegan version. 

November 30, 2011

Scallions & Cheese Scones

It has been a long time since I took part in Nicole’s Taste & Create event and decided to sign up when Min @ Bad Girl's Kitchen asked for participants. For this month I got paired with Corina @ Searching for Spice.

Corina has a ton of great dishes from all over the world, but I narrowed down to these spicy and yummy looking Cheese scones with chili kick. I added some finely chopped green onions and used jack cheese with veggies. Also to make them a little healthy, I added some whole wheat pastry flour as well.

November 29, 2011

Herbed Tempeh Stew

We came to the end of yet another week long blogging marathon, as usual it went by pretty fast. I enjoyed making and eating all the “winter special” dishes and also the awesome dishes my fellow marathoners have cooked up this whole week. Thanks to Valli for organizing the marathon and I’m already looking forward to the next one. 

For the last day of the marathon, I made this hearty stew with tempeh, veggies and herbs. I bookmarked Vaishali's Savory Herbed Tempeh Stew recipe more than a year ago and finally got to make it for the marathon. Stews are thicker and heartier than soups. This recipe is thick, creamy and delicious -- a perfect winter meal. I let my stew simmer a little longer to make it thicker.

November 28, 2011

Gajar Halwa (Carrot Halwa)

For Day 6 of BM, I made the most widely made and liked dessert in India, Gajar Halwa aka Carrot Halwa. I read somewhere that carrot halwa is generally made in winters because the sweet carrots or gajar is widely available in winters. My MIL makes the best Carrot halwa and she makes hers with khoya, but I took the short cut and made mine with condensed milk. 

For best results, this dessert has to be cooked low and slow, on a low flame stirring occasionally in the beginning and more frequently at the end when the halwa is coming together. 

November 27, 2011

Ven Pongal & Gosthu

For Day 5 of BM# 10 under Winter Special theme, I have a very comforting and hearty combo, Ven Pongal & Gosthu. I'm sure these dishes are made all year round, but a hot bowl of pongal with the hearty vegetable & lentil curry just warms you up from within, making it a very special winter dish in my opinion. 
Ven Pongal
Recipe for Ven Pongal is adapted from Chandra Padmanabhan's Dakshin cookbook and I made Suganya's gosthu to go along with it. A perfect way to end a looong day of shopping. 
Ven Pongal

November 26, 2011

Thai Style Split Pea Soup

Bowl of hot soup is such a comforting meal on a chilly winter day. I'm not a big fan of soup, but this split pea soup is so hearty and delicious that I went back for seconds. Original recipe is from Culinate. To make it perfect for a weeknight dinner, I pressure cooked the split peas making it a perfect one-pot meal that can be made in less than 30 minutes. I also used ready made tom-yum paste that a dear friend gave me. But I have included the recipe for spice paste at the end.

November 25, 2011

Baked Manicotti

For Day 3 of BM, I made this hearty and comforting baked pasta dish. Turning on the oven makes the kitchen nice and toasty -- perfect for chilly winter nights, so you know where I spend most of my time in winters ;-). This is a stuffed pasta dish with creamy Swiss chard and ricotta filling smothered in spicy tomato sauce and topped with lots of cheese -- great to please a crowd.

Stuffing traditional manicotti/ canneloni pasta can be tricky since cooked pasta tubes are very delicate and have a tendency to tear. So to make life easy I used no-boil lasagna noodles, an idea borrowed from Cook's Country magazine. Filling recipe is adapted from Giada's Swiss Chard & Pea Manicotti. Here's how I made it.

November 24, 2011

Mooli Paratha

For Day 2 of BM# 10, I made some good old Indian style winter comfort food --- mooli paratha. These parathas are made with daikon radish which is generally available in the winter. My husband is not a big fan of mooli, so I followed Rak’s recipe to cook the mooli before stuffing in the paratha. Parathas turned out hearty and delicious, not stinky at all like my husband predicted.


November 23, 2011

Homemade Hot Chocolate

I can’t believe it’s end of November and we will be in a brand NEW year in little more than a month’s time. Time seems to fly with no worries, but here we are trying to play catch up with time. My space has been quiet for some time now due to a personal tragedy and I’m still struggling to pull myself together to do anything. But I thought Blogging marathon and hosting Kid’s Delight event will cheer me up and get me back into cooking and into the upcoming holiday mood. 

So here I am ready for another edition of Blogging marathon. Thanks to Valli for organizing 10 successful BMs this year. I picked “Winter Special Dishes” as my theme. Growing up in Southern India where the temperatures are mild to high throughout the year, dishes remain the same almost throughout the year. We use seasonally available produce, but the basic dish did not change dramatically. It’s only after coming to chilly northeast US that I realized the reason and need for making winter “special” dishes. Weather in winter makes me want to just curl up under a throw with a hot bowl of soup to warm up. 

These are the reasons I think what makes a dish “winter special”:
  • Warms you up from within when eaten, like a soup. 
  • Warms up the house when cooked/ baked, like a baked pasta dish etc. 
  • Use produce available in winter, like winter squashes etc. 
  • Since winter also means Holiday season, any dish that is rich and festive falls under this category too. 

November 15, 2011

Kid’s Delight Event Announcement – Deceptively Delicious

I am sure most of you would agree that you would prefer a healthy brownie with beets/ spinach in it instead of a bowl of salad greens. I know I definitely would. Brownie to me means rich, decadent and it does not matter if it is made with healthy ingredients and is completely raw. It’s the look and feel of the food that we are so used to that matter most. 

The same is true for kid’s foods. I’ll bet my son would rather eat that brownie without complaining than eat just beets & spinach as sides. So for this month’s Kid’s Delight event, I’m looking for dishes that are "deceptively" delicious. Make your kids’ favorite dish healthier by adding nutritious ingredients but still make it tasting good and looking delicious. 

September 07, 2011

Bachchali kura Pappu

I go to Indian groceries with mixed feelings: I’m excited about all the different Indian produce and ingredients that I’m about to buy, but at the same time I’m extremely worried about the bill that I have to pay at the end of my shopping spree. We go to Indian grocery may be once in 2 months and I don’t remember the bill ever being less than $150. 

I get so excited seeing my favorite baby eggplants, bright green karelas (bitter gourds) and those ripe juicy mangoes, but my bubble bursts when I look at the prices. Well that doesn’t stop me from shopping there, but it just makes me disappointed that I’ve to pay a buck for 2 stems of curry leaves whereas my mom has endless supply of it right in her back yard. Life’s not fair. 

Well the reason for my rambling is because the price I paid for this bachali kura almost made me cry thinking of the plant we had in our backyard back home. But as I said nothing stops, we still have to buy and eat. On a happier note, this dal tastes awesome. I like bachchali kura since it has a very mild, almost sweet taste and cooking with moong dal accentuates this sweetness and is just perfect with steamed hot rice with a dollop of ghee and some of that panchadara avakaya on the side. This makes life perfect or at least masks all the imperfections.

August 29, 2011

Greek Style Panini

Good news is our area was not affected by hurricane Irene as much as predicted. We had gusty winds and heavy rain, but thank god we did not have power outages or flooding. So all is well that ends well..

Today is the last day of our week long Blogging marathon and keeping with the theme of "Cooking with 5 ingredients or less", I made this tasty and healthy panini. Another recipe from vegetarian times magazine. It turned out super simple to make, filling and tasty too.

August 28, 2011

Banana-Cocoa Smoothie

Hurricane Irene is causing major destruction in the east coast this weekend. As I type, I can hear the wind blowing and the pouring rain. They say there are thousands of people without power due to fallen trees. I can see a big tree limb from a neighbors tree in our backyard. I just hope my tomatoes and bottle gourd survive the hurricane (I know I'm being a little wane, but can't help thinking of them).

So for today I have this very simple smoothie that I made for snack time the other day. If you have frozen bananas this is a snap to make. I have been storing my over-ripe bananas in the freezer, so they can be used in some way or the other rather than throwing them out.

Smoothie has only 5 ingredients and is very filling. I had it with some pita chips and hummus.

August 27, 2011

Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Fried Rice)

The theme for next 3 days for BM# 8 will be "Cooking with 5 ingredients or less". I turned to Vegetarian Times magazine for inspiration, since they have a monthly feature called "5 ingredients". I wanted to try new recipes that make a meal or at least a filling snack and do not require any side dishes to go with it.

Today I made this simple rice dish with left-over rice and it seems it is made as a breakfast dish in the Philippines with lots of garlic. Eating rice for breakfast may sound strange to some of non-rice eating people, but for us rice  being the staple grain it was served for all 3 meals in the day. I remember my mom making lemon rice or alu-bhath or tomato rice or some fancied up rice dish with left over rice, which kept us going until lunch time. 

August 26, 2011

Tomato Pachadi (Chutney)

This is a delicious and classic tomato chutney that needs no introduction. Every household in India might have their own recipe for this yummy dish — some tangy, some spicy, some a little sweet—any which way you make it, it is absolutely delicious and comforting.

I bought 2 packs of Campari tomatoes that needed to be used up and I thought this would be the perfect. Campari is a variety of tomato that is juicy, less acidic, and sweeter than a regular tomato. A quick call to my mom and I was on my way to make this easy pachadi.

August 25, 2011

Peach-Mango Jam with Vanilla

What do you do when there are only 2 adults (and one kid who doesn’t eat fruit AT ALL) and crate full of peaches and mangoes to eat before they go down south into the garbage. First thing I would do is to bring some sense into the people who are buying these excessive fruit. But come on who can resist those sweet smelling mangoes in Indian grocery – one fruit is definitely not enough and the next best (cheapest) is the crate with a dozen of them, I picked up the latter. Also peaches had a $2 coupon at BJs, so they came home too.

After eating the fruit for a week, I started thinking of options of consuming them in bulk. Some of the peaches went into this yummy summer soda that I made for the BBQ – very summery and refreshing. With the rest of the peaches I made this peach-mango jam and added some ground vanilla as flavoring. I still have a couple more mangoes that I’m planning to make mango lassi with – don’t want to end the summer without enjoying an ice cold lassi.

Traditionally whole vanilla beans are used to flavor the jam, but I used pulverized vanilla (ground vanilla??) instead. I added pectin to the jam to get a more jam like consistency. I also used a hand blender to make a smooth jam instead of chunky.

August 24, 2011

Indian Style Mushroom Bruschetta

We have a love-hate relation with mushrooms in my home. I love mushrooms and my husband hates them with a passion. I don’t cook mushrooms when he’s around. So now you know what features on my menu when he’s travelling!!! But the past weekend we had a BBQ at our place and I saw this Indianized version of Bruschetta in Cooking Light way to Cooking Vegetarian cookbook.

This bruschetta is a thick tomato based curry that was wonderful as bread topper. (I ended up making Italian style eggplant bruschetta for my husband.) Ingredient list is quite long compared to the simple Italian bruschetta, but my Indian palate really enjoyed the different flavors in the dish – it’s spicy, tangy and delicious. 

August 23, 2011

Corn-Tomato Relish

I’m back to blogging, thanks to Valli for another edition of Blogging Marathon. This is the 8th edition and I join the 2nd group of 20 bloggers who are all set to blog for the next one week. I chose “Condiments” and “Cooking with 5 ingredients or less” as my themes for this week. So you will see 4 lip smacking condiments and 3 easy to put together 5 ingredient dishes.

For the first day of the marathon, I made this fresh, no-cook Corn & Tomato relish that goes well with some corn chips or as a side for tacos. Use the freshest corn and tomatoes you can find for the best taste. Also I read somewhere that it is best to use corn as soon as you buy them; if you keep them too long they start to develop starches and make the veggie mealy.

August 09, 2011

Injera (Ethiopian Sourdough Crepes)

This is a foolproof recipe for Injera that I found on one of the forums at Fresh Loaf website. I forgot to write down the name of the person who gave the recipe on the forum, but it really works. I have read that many people had trouble making injeras, with stinky batters, crepes sticking to the pan etc. But using sourdough starter and steaming the crepe before flipping them made “the best” Injera I’ve ever eaten (to be honest I ate them only once in my life in, Mesob, an Ethiopian restaurant in NJ). This is another great way to use some of the Sourdough starter.


August 07, 2011

Gutti Vankaya Kura (Andhra Style Stuffed Eggplant Curry)

This is one of my absolute favorite dish, but I’ve never made it myself before. You can call me a lazy practical cook, as I like to take short cuts while cooking. As a matter of fact, I’m constantly thinking about how to maximize the efficiency of whatever I do (now don’t ask me if I’m successful in increasing the efficiency of everything I do, but it works may be 50% of the time---for the other 50% I say to myself “there’s nothing wrong in trying”).

Gutti Vankaya Kura4

For example, I wash my dishes while sautéing onions. I don’t like babysitting my dishes, but I know a lot of people who would stir and hover around the stove until the onions turn translucent, then red, then brown. I don’t have time for that.
Well anyway coming back to the gutti vankaya curry, I’ve never actually stuffed the eggplants before; I cook the pieces in the gravy and call it a day. The fact of the matter is, when you are eating you eat the piece with the gravy anyway, so why spend time on the stuffing part.

But this past weekend, I bought these tiny eggplants that were begging to be stuffed. I couldn’t turn my back on these beauties, so I succumbed and made this awesome stuffed eggplant curry.

It did take some time to cook the dish, but I thought the end result was worth the effort – at least in the looks category. May be I’ll try stuffing if the vegetable really forces me to; otherwise I’m back to my quick & easy route.
Gutti Vankaya Kura

August 04, 2011

Almond Brown Rice Pudding

This recipe was love at first site for me. When I saw the recipe on Whole Foods website, I just had to make it right away. But that right away did not come for another 2 months, even though I was thinking of the dish a lot. It is a simple rice pudding with brown rice, almond milk and pureed dates and I usually have all the ingredients in my pantry & the fridge. What really caught my attention was the use of pureed dates in the recipe and I was imagining the combination of creamy almond milk with the rich sweetness of the dates even before making the dish.

Almond Rice Pudding1

It was so totally worth it when I finally made it, wasn't disappointed at all. It was slightly chewy, sweet and nutty - a perfect balance of taste & texture -- totally awesome. I used Lion brand date syrup that I brought back from India instead of pureeing the dates. I also used long grain brown rice, but short grain rice would probably make a more creamier rice pudding. So if you want to make this dish, try to get some short grain brown rice.

Almond Rice Pudding4

July 29, 2011

Banana- Wheat Germ Muffins

For the last day of our BM# 7, I made these Banana-Wheat germ muffins from Veganomicon. These muffins come together in less than 10 minutes and are high in fiber and are delicious too. But by the time I wanted to take pictures, weather got cloudy and started to pouring rain. So had to move my set up indoors and as you can see the pictures have suffered due to lack of good light. I'll try to take some better pictures tomorrow and update the post.

Update (7/30/2011): Post updated with new pics.

Banana Muffins2

July 28, 2011

Sprouted Cowpeas Stew (Chawli Kokum Chi Dal)

When I started buying cookbooks (with my money), I didn't think too much about the content. It didn't even matter if the book had only 3 vegetarian recipes and once I was done making those, I was practically done using that book. But soon I realized that it's not just buying books, I should also use them to make them worth the buy. Since then almost all the books I bought are vegetarian oriented except for "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer.

I borrowed this book from the library and after seeing the vast selection of recipes, I bought my own copy from Amazon. I made a ton of recipes and except for one disastrous recipe with broccoli, everything turned out excellent. So for Day 6 of our BM#7, I made Sprouted cow peas (chawli) stewed in coconut milk and kokum. Recipe turned out to be another keeper, slightly sweet from the coconut milk and tangy from the kokum. 

Red Cow Peas-Kokum curry1

July 27, 2011

Methi-Paneer Pulao (Fenugreek Leaves & Cottage Cheese Pilaf)

For Day 5 of our blogging marathon I made this quick and easy one pot rice dish. Recipe is adapted from Vidhu Mittal's Pure & Simple: Homemade Indian Vegetarian Cuisine cookbook. I had borrowed this book from the library and I was really impressed with the way the recipes were laid out and the mouthwatering pictures. I had to return the book, but I jotted down the recipes that I really wanted to try and this Methi & Paneer Pulao is one of them.

Methi Paneer Rice1

Original recipe was made in a pan, but I used my pressure cooker to make it quicker. I added some carrots for added nutrition and some biryani masala for some spice. 

Methi Paneer Rice2

July 26, 2011

Tabbouleh with Guacamole in a Tortilla Wrap

This morning my son, who just woke up, asked me why doesn’t our town have “nowhere”. I was searching for words for a little bit and said there is nothing called “nowhere”. He retorted back, then how did Lightning Mcqueen (the race car in Cars movie) get lost in the middle of nowhere???? Every town should have a "middle of nowhere". I was thinking to myself, how the heck am I supposed to know that, ask the people at Disney who made the movie. Phew, these kids make you sweat sometimes.. 


Well since the day started with a LOT of thinking, I decided not to think too much about dinner and to keep it simple and easy. Keeping with the “Cooking from the cookbook” theme I made Bulgur tabbouleh with guacamole from The Ultimate Book of Vegan Cooking, wrapped them up in a tortilla and called it a day..



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