Welcome Autumn. End of summer almost feels like the end of a wonderful vacation. The one where you enjoyed to the fullest, drank wine a bit too much and feasted on supposedly light desserts. Now its time to go back. Although nostalgic about the end of the vacation , in your heart you are also longing for the comfort of the home and looking for solace in the routine.
With the end of summer it is also time to start thinking about the plans next year. Perhaps its too early for some but i think I want to get it out of hands so I can start preparing for the big Holiday season. We have Hindu festival Diwali coming up then Thanksgiving and Christmas. A1 is in Girl scouts this year and boy, do they have a ton of activities. One of them is a camp out in October and I am really excited about that as I get to go with her.
Back to the food, we had a wonderful Sunday night feast to celebrate Autumn. That also means we are going to have to move our Sunday dinners indoors and have some comforting food.
For the first of such, I made Coconut curried Corn soup, Pasta with Mushrooms and Sun dried tomatoes and an Orange cake.
Coconut Curried Corn soup
This soup is on the sweeter side. I paired it with a wonderfully aromatic white wine from Loire valley, France. Its called Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine.
Corn on the cob about 4 (should be sweet and young)
Coconut Milk 1 can
Onion 1 small
Garlic 2 cloves – peeled and crushed
Vegetable broth 1 cup ( substitute with Chicken broth if you would like)
Curry powder 1 tsp.
Dried Mint 1 tsp.
Paprika flakes or Adobo chili powder to sprinkle
Honey 1 tsp.
Salt per taste
Butter 1 Tbsp.
- With a good knife, cut the corn kernels off the cob making sure you are leaving some of the Corn still on the cob.
- Roast each of the Cob on open fire (if possible) for 2-3 minutes each, making sure it is roasted on all the sides. Set aside.
- In a large cast iron pot (preferably), melt butter.
- Add the Onion and Garlic. Saute for 3 minutes while stirring occasionally.
- Add the Corn that removed from the Cob and saute for another minute.
- Add Vegetable broth and the roasted cobs and let the mixture come to a boil.
- Add Mint, Honey and simmer for another minute or two.
- Remove the Cobs with the help of tongs.
- Add Coconut Milk and simmer for a 4-5 and up to 8-9 minutes.
- Add Salt and take off the heat.
- When serving, sprinkle some Paprika flakes on it.
If you have seen one of my previous posts, you know I changed my job few months back. One of the reasons I changed because at the new place I could work from home once in a while when needed. Like one of those days when you think you are going to come down with something but an extra hour of rest clears things up. Last week I did work from home and realized it has been years since I made lunch just for myself or at least I don’t remember making it. When I used to make it it was right after I got married. I didn’t have a job and I was so new to this beautiful country that I now call my home. N had a job that was literally across the street so he used to make it a point to walk over to our little apartment almost everyday for lunch. He used to also tell me to make more snacks for after work indulgence but that is for another post. Once in a while he would go with his coworkers and I would rejoice the small vacation from cooking. I used to probably make a quick omelette with only salt and cumin powder. Yes, I was that lazy. Last week though was different. I decided I was going to make an elaborate lunch. Barley Salad and Green Peas Soup.
Then I sat alone in the backyard and devoured my few moments of silence and my lunch followed by a cup of coffee before heading back to work. A few steps away. Ah, what a glorious existence even just for a day.
Barley 1 cup cooked
Corn roasted 1
Red or Yellow Capsicum 1/4 cup
Tomatoes cherry 1/2 cup
Shallots a handful
Red Onion 1 Tbsp.
Strawberries 6-7 washed and cut into pieces
For the Dressing
Olive Oil 2 Tbsp
Sherry Vinegar 1 1/2 Tbsp
Ginger 1/2 tsp
Honey 1 Tbsp.
Salt as needed
Pepper flakes (optional) as needed
- Cook Barley per package instructions. Typically Barley takes almost an hour to cook and then you have to wait for it cool down. I typically start cooking Barley first right after breakfast so i can use it for lunch.
- Mix all the ingredients for the Salad
- Mix all ingredients for the dressing
- Pour the dressing over the Salad
In my last post I complained about the stress at work in the last few months and how I am not able to post as often as I would like. I do want to admit that part of this stress is my own doing. Do you know about load bearers? When we were in Michigan back in 2003, the entire Northwest was plunged into darkness. Part of the reason for the blackout was overloaded transmission lines. I believe the systems usually have some leeway or redistributing mechanism should the transmission lines get overloaded and those are called load bearers. This applies to us too. Almost everyone has some load bearers to deal with contingencies. There is always a bit of time that can be redistributed should one area of your life get too busy. I, on the other hand have none of those. I prefer to keep my life fully loaded at all times. There are so many things that I want to do and there is never enough time so I schedule my time so closely that there is absolutely no leeway when I really need to readjust. Do I feel I should change, not really. I just pick up and move along.
I make this Chickpea wrap for once every other week for us and the kids get just the spiced Chickpeas to go with whatever they are eating for dinner that day. The sandwich is very easy to make. I highly recommend using canned Chickpeas for those running short on time.
Chickpeas 1 Can drained and rinsed
Canola oil or any other oil that is unflavored such as Grape seed oil 1 Tbsp.
Shawarma Masala 1 tsp. (I bought mine from Whole Foods)
Cumin ½ tsp.
Smoked Paprika ½ tsp. or more per taste
Cucumber seedless ½ of large or 2 to 3 small
Yogurt about ¼ cup per sandwich
Cilantro chopped a handful
Chat masala 1 pinch per serving
Salt per taste
Sugar per taste (optional)
Pita bread or Flatbread 2
Red Onion sliced or chopped per taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl, mix Chickpeas, Shawarma Masala, Cumin, Paprika and Oil. Mix well to coat thoroughly.
- Spread the Chickpea mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until Chickpeas are golden brown.
- While Chickpeas are getting roasted, add all the ingredients for the sauce to your blender and blend until smooth. Or alternatively, grate the cucumber and mix with rest of the ingredients for the sauce. Keep aside.
- Once Chickpeas are roasted, remove from oven and keep aside until they are slightly warm to touch.
- Once they reach desired temperature, start assembling the sandwich.
- To serve, warm Flat breads in the oven or in the microwave for 20 seconds.
- Place it flat on a piece of parchment.
- Place Lettuce, Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Onion in that order. Pour over the Sauce evenly.
- Fold the Sandwich and Enjoy.
You could make the sauce and Chickpeas ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.
We had a fun filled week-end enjoying the mid-summer weather. Work has been really stressing me out last few months so you see these few and far between posts. Past week-end though I decided to shut down my laptop and enjoy bit of summer weather. The best way of destressing for me is to by cooking and taking the kids to the park. It was such a joy to see them run around the ducks. This is such wonderful age for them and I am loving every moment of it.
Cooking on the week-end is a completely different ball game than cooking on week-days. I can try new recipes and put on the dishwasher as many times as I want. If a recipe fails, I usually have enough time to make something else so everyone is fed. This week-end I got some glorious Organic Blueberries from the store. I actually went a bit overboard and got too many. So the menu for the week-end was planned around Blueberries. I made Blueberry tart as dessert for dinner and Blueberry Corn salad for lunch the next day.
There are so many versions of the Blueberry Tart but most use Honey as a sweetener. I am not very fond of the combination of Honey and Lemon. It reminds of the early morning Lemon and Honey drink and I didn’t want anything to do with that taste for dessert so I used Maple Syrup. I have bunch of Lavender growing in the backyard so I used that too.
If you do not have Fresh Lavender flowers but have Lavender extract, that would really well in this.
For the main course I made Chickpea Schwarma Wraps that actually turned out exceptionally well and so easy to make. I used ready-made Tortilla but if you want to go even healthier and use freshly made Roti, go for it. As long as you have a Can of Chickpeas and few minutes to spare, you are all set for lunch or dinner with these wraps.
- Frozen Puff Pastry sheet 1
- Ricotta Cheese 1/4 cup
- Cream Cheese ¼ cup
- Maple Syrup 5 Tbsp
- Heavy Cream 2 Tbsp
- Lemon zest ½ tsp
- Lemon Juice 1 tsp
- Blueberries 1 box or more
- Egg beaten (optional)
- Thaw the Puff pastry as per directions on the package.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush the beaten egg on all 4 sides of the pastry only on the outer 1 inch.
- Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or per package instructions.
- While the pastry is baking, in a separate bowl, mix the cheeses, Maple Syrup, Lemon Juice, Lemon zest. Add Heavy cream to make it smooth consistency.
- Once the pastry sheet is baked, take it out on a cooling rack.
- Once cooled, spread the cheese mixture on top and in the end, top it with blueberries.
This past week-end we had a wonderful dinner party to celebrate my younger daughter’s birthday. I catered all the food since it was Saturday evening and I didn’t want to pull an all nighter cooking on Friday night. It is summer time here in Chicago, we were all outdoors. The kids had a ton of fun playing in water. The only thing I made was the Cake. A2 has been quite indecisive lately about which characters she likes. One day she likes Peppa Pig and fondly calls me “Mommy Pig” and the next day it’s Little Einstein. I decided to play it safe and made a Rainbow Themed cake. It was actually much simpler to make than some of the other cakes I have made. Total time I spent was about 6 hours or so but I didn’t do all the steps in one go so it was bits and pieces here and there.
For the cake itself, I used the recipe here.
This recipe makes 2 layers. I doubled the recipe and used 3 8 inch pans. This way I got three separate layers from each separate layer. You have to be careful when dividing the batter so all the layers are of equal height. I recommend using a measuring cup instead of eyeballing it.
Prepare 3 pans 8 inch size for baking with Parchment paper and Baking oil spray. Prepare the batter for first batch and color it Orange, Yellow and third one will be the mixture of Blue and Yellow making it Green. If you have Green color separately, that’s very well. Make sure to use enough color so the cakes come out in vibrant colors. Also, remember that cakes will look more vibrant than the batter when they come out of the oven. Bake these cakes as per instructions. Since your cakes are thinner, they will be done about 3 minutes or so before recommended time. Remove the cakes from pans and onto the cooling racks after about 10 minutes out of the oven. Clean the cake pans by wiping them off and prep them again for the next batch. For this batch, I used Blue, Purple and Red colors. Again if you don’t have Purple, you can make it by mixing Red and Blue. You do not need to mix the colors separately and then add. I usually start adding both colors to the cake batter and then adjust by whichever color is needed more.
Although the cake is simple to make, it does need lot of bowls and makes a bit of a mess so do not make it on the day of the party unless like me, that’s the only food item you are making. Once this batch is out of the oven, let it cool. I generally freeze my cakes for at least an hour before I put the crumb coat on. If you are doing the same, wrap each cake separately in plastic wrap tightly and place in the freezer. After an hour, take one cake out of the Freezer and level it. Using a cookie cutter, cut out about 2 inches round from the middle of the cake. Do not cut out the top layer that is the Red color layer. All of them go back in the freezer while you make the Cream Cheese Frosting.
Use caution when you are handling these layers. They are very fragile and could break and you will have one less layer to use. For Cream Cheese Frosting, I used the recipe below. You will need two batches of this recipe. I made one batch and crumb coated the cake. Then next day, made the second batch and coated the cake from outside. When you stack the cake, stack all but the last layer. Fill the inside with M&Ms and then place the Top Red layer. From outside the cake looks very simple. All I did was put plenty of Rainbow colored sprinkles on it.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream cheese at room temperature 12 Oz
- Butter at room temperature 1 1/2 cups
- Powdered sugar 5 1/2 cups
- Vanilla extract 1 Tbsp.
- In a stand mixer using paddle attachment, whip the Butter first.
- When it has a good consistency, add vanilla Extract and Cream Cheese.
- Once thoroughly mixed, start adding Powdered Sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
- Be careful as the Sugar will blow up if you suddenly start the mixer at higher speed.
- Run the Mixer at medium speed for at least 5 minutes to let everything mix properly.
- Use on the cake as directed.
Happy Summer Solstice. What else could I be posting today other than a wonderful and filling salad to enjoy on a cool summer night.
- Couscous 1 cup unprepared
- Mango 1 peeled and cut into small pieces
- Red Pepper 1 medium cut into small pieces
- Red onion ½ cut into small pieces
- Green onion 2 branches cut small
- Boiled water to make Couscous
- Salt per taste
- Pepper per taste
For the dressing
- Balsamic Vinegar 3Tbsp
- Olive Oil 2 Tbsp
- Honey 2 Tbsp
- Yellow Mustard 1/2tsp
- Chili flakes (optional)
- Prepare Couscous as per package instructions. Usually you have to boil the water, turn off the heat and add Couscous. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes and separate it out with a fork.
- Mix all the Salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Mix all Dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk it to mix properly. It is essential that you use very good Balsamic Vinegar. The taste will substantially be different depending on what Vinegar you used.
- Pour the dressing over Salad and mix just before serving.
Summer is finally here. I can say it has arrived when I can drink my morning cup of tea out in the backyard. Since my tea drinking is usually at 5 AM, it doesn’t happen outside unless we are deep in the summer. At the end of Winter months, this is the ritual I truly long for. The quiet of the house, chirping of the birds and rustle of leaves with occasional footsteps of runners that are out on the road even before me. If it’s raining in the morning, I am sad about missing the run but also happy that I get to sit enjoying the sound of raindrops for a few more minutes before the morning hustle begins.
Now that summer is finally here, it’s time to move to lighter desserts. The desserts that don’t weigh you down and make you fall asleep. The desserts that let you enjoy the cool evening breeze and take you late into the night chatting with friends or sometimes just sitting in the quiet of the night looking at fireflies that are abundant around us.
Strawberry Pecan Crumble is just one of these desserts. Its light and can be made and served in individual Ramekins.
- Strawberries 8 oz. box washed, hulled and cut in medium size pieces
- Sugar Granulated 3-4 Tbsp.
- Salt a dash
- Corn Starch 1 Tbsp.
- Vanilla extract 1 tsp.
- All-purpose flour ½ cup
- Almond Meal ½ cup
- Brown sugar 2 -3 Tbsp.
- Pecans roasted and chopped ½ cup
- Butter unsalted room temp 4 Tbsp.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet to catch any spills. Don’t worry if don’t have it, you just have to wash your cookie sheet a bit vigorously. A good Arm workout anyway.
- In a bowl, combine Strawberries, Corn Starch, Vanilla and Salt and keep aside.
- Combine the flours, Brown sugar (if adding), Pecans and mix well.
- Add small cubes of Butter and using hands incorporate it into the flour. It should look like this.
- In 6 Ramekins, about 4 to 5 oz. each, divide and place Strawberry mixture equally.
- Top the Strawberry mixture with Flour mixture.
- Bake in the oven for 24 to 26 minutes.