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Monday, 1 June 2015

How to boil potatoes in a Microwave: Recipes for the bachelor's kitchen

Today I am going to share with you the recipe for boiling potatoes. Seriously?? Boiled potatoes!! Are you actually hearing me right?
You must be thinking I have lost my mind and wondering what has come over me? Anyone can boil potatoes, right? Who in the right mind would need a recipe for a simple thing like that? 
Well!! Well!! There are some people out there in this world who do need to be taught the very basics. To elaborate better my dear hubby!! 
Sometimes you feel life just isn't fair!! We had barely settled down here in Houston when my husband got a transfer to Indianapolis to start work on a new project. He had to move alone so that both our children could continue with their education here, especially since my daughter has just finished her first semester of college. Moreover the new project is just for a year and a half, after which, most probably we would have to move again, so in everyone's best interest, me and the kids decided to stay back in Houston and poor hubby will have to so hop-scotching between here and Indianapolis. 
Like most wives, the foremost worry on my mind was about his food. Luckily the place he is staying at provides the breakfast and lunch would be at office but what about dinner? Till now he has never had to stay alone or having had to cook for himself. Sure, he has always been a good apprentice around the kitchen, cutting, chopping but never really cooked a meal all by himself. Its not that I am doubting his capabilities, he sure can whip up a mean omelet, but sadly it doesn't stretch to anything much beyond that.  And unfortunately, like most hotel rooms, there is only a microwave and a refrigerator in the room and of course 'someone' just cannot imagine an omelet can be made in it. 
Eating out everyday just did not seem a very healthy option, so while he was packing his stuff I coerced him (literally forced you can say) to take a microwave safe glass bowl and a wooden spoon so atleast some sort of a meal can be prepared. After reluctantly packing the utensils came a zillion queries of "how much of this" and "how much of that" and "how many minutes", "how will I come to know when its done"?
I thought of this easy option of putting the recipes down in a post so at least whenever he gets stuck anywhere it will be easy to look it up. As it is most of the time when one is cooking  at home you don't really keep the time and measurements in mind as most of the times you just learn to eyeball it especially after so many years of cooking.
So from now on, some of the recipes on my blog are going to be very basic, quick and easy to whip up with the minimalist of fuss and most of the cooking done in the microwave.(Somehow people have the misunderstanding that microwaves are really meant for reheating. You will be amazed at what all can be prepared in the microwave).
When you see them, you will know exactly whom these recipes are targeted at!!
I am very confident that this might be a wasted effort and most of this is actually never going to be really put into practice and know in my hearts of hearts that most of the time it is either going to be dining out or take-aways but a gal or should I say a wife got to do what she gotta do!!
So here is to my dear hubby and many others who have undertaken this brave attempt to put their first step into experiencing our wonderful world of creating magic in the kitchen!! You can do it man!!

Ingredients
4-5 potatoes (you can always boil extra and keep in the fridge handy for later use or just eat them sprinkled with salt and pepper.
A microwave safe bowl

Instructions  (I just love using this word, sounds so powerful, especially if your husband is reading it)
Wash the potatoes clean under running water in a sink until the dirt is washed off.
Place the potatoes in a microwave safe bowl. You can either put them whole or dice hem into 1 to 2 inch cubes.
Fill the bowl with water approximately 2 to 3 inches above the potatoes.
Add 1/4 tsp salt.
Spray the top with cooking spray or add 1 tsp vegetable oil to ensure the water doesn't boil over while cooking.
Do not cover. Cook the potatoes for 12-13 minutes.
You will know the potatoes are cooked when you can easily pierce them with a fork.
Remove them from hot water and they are ready to be eaten. 
Congrats!! Now that the potatoes are boiled, here are some quick and simple ideas what you can do with them.
-You can toss them with some butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have a great dish on your hand.
-Toss boil potatoes with a couple of spoons of pesto(pesto paste easily available in any grocery store in the vegetable section) and a little salt to eat.
-Toss boil potatoes with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic (don't worry this too is easily available in jars in the vegetable section) and any fresh herbs of your choice like mint, coriander, dill, rosemary, thyme etc 
-Cream potatoes or mash them with a fork, add a tbsp of sour cream and chives (chopped green of spring onions) These are also great as a topping on a slice of bread or bagel.
-Cut the potatoes into 1 inch cube Take 2 Tbsp yogurt, 1 tbsp Mayonnaise, salt to taste and mix it well. Take 1/4 cup chopped onion and 1/4 cup thinly chopped celery. Now combine the potatoes, onions and celery in the mayonnaise mixture till well coated. We have a great potato salad on our hands.

Easy wasn't it?
Wow!! now that we are off to a good start, I am sure you are looking forward to many more easy peasy recipes to enjoy your culinary adventures and basically to survive in this Big, bad World!!
Here's to many more adventures....

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Emeril's Turkey Meatloaf


I am feeling a bit awkward writing this post right now. It has been a long long gap of three and a half months (OMG!!) since I last posted anything on my blog. 
I really believe the  American life has got the better of me!! I can tell you life has been pretty hectic and inspite of my promise to myself to regularly update my blog I have failed miserably. A lot has happened since our move here to Houston 8 months back - I managed to procure my driving license after passing a really tough written test (I don't think I must have studied this hard since my school days), somewhat got over my fear of driving on the freeway, familiarized myself with the 'mind-bogglingly' confusing routes around the city, got my work visa, then managed to get a job at a preschool (was that me a few years back who had promised myself that I would  never to go back to teaching again but here I am!!) which I totally enjoy doing. The 3-4 year olds are absolutely adorable and sure can teach us a few lessons on life. And then of course the mundane daily chores of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, driving kids around kind of routine just got the better of me and Alas!! the pleasures of chronicling my food adventures had to take a backseat. 
Hey!! Its not as bad as it sounds - I have actually been having a good time!! Apart from experimenting and cooking new recipes (hopefully they will see the light of day soon on this blog) I have a new passion - that of cycling and exploring the beautiful bike trails around our area. We have over 111 bike trails in Woodlands and believe me each more picturesque than the other. After the dusty overcrowded roads of Gurgaon this place is a haven for people like me who love to be close to nature, Biking through these trails, feeling the rush of the wind against your face, zigzagging through forests, lush green Golf courses and riding by lakes, watching the ducks and turtles swimming in them just makes your heart soar. 
So after fitting in all these activities in my daily routine can I blamed if I don't have enough time for doing anything else? Now lets get back to the real business for which I am here - the business of food! 
For you I have a wonderful recipe of Turkey Meatloaf which I tried sometime back. I have adapted this recipe from Emeril's Meatloaf and made an addition of adding hard boiled eggs which I think not only added to the presentation but really upped the taste. (Also because I love boiled eggs). I loved Emeril's healthy twist on the traditional beef version of this classic favorite. Though I doubt but incase you have any left overs it makes great sandwiches too.
Incase you are wondering about these pics, they are from our recent trip to the Universal Studios at Orlando, Florida where Emeril Lagasse has a restaurant called 'Emeril's Orlando'. I had read somewhere that sometimes Emeril made an appearance in his restaurant and being a crazy fan of his that I am, for the three days we were there, every night I used to go up and look in to see hoping that I would get lucky and get to meet him!! Hopefully some day.......

Ingredients
4 slices turkey bacon, chopped
½ yellow onion chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
11/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3 to 4 tbsp milk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
11/2 pounds ground turkey(preferably 85%lean)
1 cup sweet chili sauce or ketchup
1 tsp dried Rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 hard boiled eggs
 
Method
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large skillet, cook bacon on medium heat stirring till almost crisp.
Leaving one tsp oil in the pan, spoon out the extra bacon fat.
Add onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook for about 2-3 minutes until vegetables are soft.
Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Combine the bread crumbs and milk and let sit 5 minutes
Peel the hard boiled eggs. Keep aside.
In a large bowl  add in the minced turkey, 2 eggs(not the boiled ones), dried rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoon chili sauce, salt and pepper,
Stir well to combine.
Divide the mixture into 2 parts.
Take a 5-by-9 inch loaf pan and cover the bottom of the pan with one half of the meat.
Place the hard boiled eggs in a row down the middle of the meatloaf.
Shape the remaining meat mixture over the top of the eggs until they are fully covered.
Pat and smoothen the top with the back of a spoon.
Spread remaining sweet chilli sauce over it.
Bake for about 1 hour until meatloaf is cooked through (an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 165 degrees) and the juices run clear. Let it cool in the pan before slicing.
Serve with a sides of mashed potatoes or sweet peas.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”― Henry David ThoreauWalden

Cooking with fresh berries is so much fun!! I am having a whale of a time here discovering new flavors and experimenting with new ingredients, some of which were quite difficult to access back home in India.
 Nowadays its a visual treat for me to go to the supermarket. Inside the store, what lures me is the attractive display of neatly stacked boxes of fresh Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries and Blackberries in the fresh produce section, just dying to be picked up. Except for the strawberries, which now are easily available in India, the rest of the berries are quite commonly uncommon. Seriously, the only place you are likely to find them are in Gourmet supermarkets stacking imported food products and even then they cost a bomb. So even if you did feel like cooking with them, your heart always skipped a beat looking at the astronomical price.
By now, I think you would have guessed that my current passion is cooking with fresh berries - and eating them too :). I just cannot have enough of them. I love adding them to anything and everything or even just enjoying them as it is. Recently for Valentine's day I made a Red velvet cake with strawberries and this time I thought of trying my way with fresh blueberries as I had never tasted them before.
Fresh and plump, I love the way the fresh blueberries add a bit of drama to my muffins, sensually oozing out their sweet blue nectar, leaving vivid indigo blue streaks all over the muffins. They look so delectable that it just makes you want to grab one and stuff one in your mouth. Rich and buttery with a moist tender center bursting with blueberries, not only are they delicious but are simple and quick to make.
Don't believe me? Try out for yourselves and then let me know how much you loved them!!
Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks),  softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
23/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups fresh blueberries
                           
Method
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Grease a muffin tin or line the cups with paper liners.
In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in one by one and beat thoroughly till fully incorporated.
Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Alternately add in the sieved flour and buttermilk, till all is used up.
Gently stir in half the blueberries.
Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
the batter into a greased muffin pan.
Then sprinkle rest o the blueberries on top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes till the top has a beautiful golden brown crust and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Love is in the air.....Celebrating Valentine's Day with the classic Red Velvet Cake

                            
Love not me for comely grace,
For my pleasing eye or face,
Nor for any outward part:
No, nor for a constant heart!
For these may fail or turn to ill:
Should thou and I sever.

Keep, therefore, a true woman's eye,
And love me still, but know not why!
So hast thou the same reason still
To dote upon me ever
                                       - John Wilbye

Celebrating love is such a beautiful feeling and Valentine's Day makes it the perfect time to express our love to your family, friends and someone you love in the most special way. February 14 is known as Valentine's Day, Saint Valentine's Day or the feast of Saint Valentine and is celebrated in every corner of the globe. Come February and a million ways to express your love are almost pushed into your face- heart shaped balloons, heart shaped chocolates, flowers, cards, special valentine menus at restaurants all trying to seduce you in toasting your love for that 'special someone' in the most unique way. 
Some of us also see this day as majorly overrated, overpriced and over-hyped - a money making propaganda by most business institutions trying to cash in on peoples sentiments and commercializing the concept of love. Its no wonder that V-Day brings with it unattainable expectations.
Valentines day sure can feel lame if you surround yourself with these feelings. I agree with most people that why need a special day to express your love- shouldn't it happen every day?
Then on the other hand, I feel why not go with the flow. There is nothing wrong in celebrating a day of love, pampering and spoiling your loved one making them feel special. Wouldn't you yourself liked to be pampered and spoiled silly by someone? And if it is done everyday for you then would the emotions not become too mundane and you will soon start taking things for granted? 
Then why not have that one special day set aside to express your feelings?  And as for showing your love, you need not burn a big hole in your pocket by doing something really fancy and spending too much money. You can keep it simple by just spending some time together, cook his/hers favorite dish, go for a beautiful drive, see a favorite movie at home together, laugh together.....I think there are a million things you can have fun doing together. We were lucky as this year V Day was on a Saturday and everyone was home.To add to the charm, it was a beautiful sunny day, the perfect day to just laze out in the sun and that's just what all of us did!!
I think as we age we become too cynical and hard hearted and start being too judgmental about every small things(and that sadly includes me too).
Its about time to 'shake our sillies', loosen up a bit and start taking pleasure in small things surrounding us. Life is too short to start holding grudges, who knows what lies ahead in your next step. So move on ahead with a big smile and grab every opportunity you can to make beautiful memories in your life.
My Red Velvet Cake celebrates all the good things in life that I hold close to my heart and are more precious than anything in my life - my family and my friends. Cheers!! 
Ingredients
21/2 cup flour
1 cup vegetable oil
11/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp red food color
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
11/2 cup buttermilk
11/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp red liquid food color
1 tsp white vinegar
For the icing
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 tbsp(1 stick) unsalted butter,room temperature, cut into pieces
1 up confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp milk
For Decoration
Sliced strawberries (optional)
                                    
Method
Heat oven to 350 F. 
In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.
In another bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.
Using a mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
Pour the mixture into a prepared pan.
Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan. Invert the cake onto a plate and re-invert it into a cooling tack, Let cool completely.
Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Whisk with a hand beater till it becomes soft and creamy. Gradually add butter and continue to beat till smooth and well blended, Sift in confectioners sugar and continue beating till smooth
Add vanilla essence stir to combine.
If the icing seems too thick, add more milk a little at a time until icing reaches desired consistency.
Once the cake is completely cooled, ice it with the cream cheese frosting. Decorate with sliced strawberries if desired. 
Now it is time to sit back, relax and enjoy the day with your loved ones!!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Chicken in Citrus Herb Brine and a Honey Soy Glaze

Recently while flicking through the pages of a glossy entertainment magazine ( I think it was 'Closer'), the picture of a succulent roasted chicken grabbed my attention. I was immediately  entranced by the glossy, gorgeously moist looking picture of the luscious chicken. Nothing new it was just an age old recipe of a Roast chicken which many of you must be familiar with but with a slight twist. Reading through the recipe I found the technique quite simple and easy one to follow, something I knew I had to try out. What I really found appealing to make me want to try it was, that instead of the usual method of roasting the whole chicken, in this recipe the chicken was cut into half and placed to roast in the baking tin. 
This way, I who have always found it quite a task to carve a whole chicken, found slicing the chicken so much simpler. Also because of being cut in half, I found that the chicken got evenly browned all over, the meat was beautifully cooked inside out and that not only the outer skin but the complete chicken got a lovely flavour from the honey soy glaze.
And the best part about it is that it was so so easy to make. 
Looking at it, can you deny that it is quite a stunner?  Go ahead and try it for yourself and don't forget to let me know how it turned out for you.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Kikkoman Soy sauce
1/2 gallon water
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/2 brown sugar
1 orange juiced
1 lemon juiced
3 sprigs fresh Rosemary leaves or if unavailable use 2 tbsp dried rosemary
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
to taste kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 small roasting chicken (about 5 pounds)
For the glaze
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
4 tbsp honey 

Method:
Combine soy sauce with water salt and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir well till everything is dissolved. 
Remove from heat and stir in the orange and lemon juices with rosemary.
Place the frozen chicken in the brine, cover and refrigerate. Be sure to place the chicken in a seal proof dish or away from the prying hands of the kiddos as I don't want you to go through what I went through. My 'not-so-young' son accidentally tipped the covered bowl of brined chicken which was kept in the top most shelf and what happened next was a complete nightmare!! There was sticky soy brine all over - the shelves, the containers, dishes, the vegetable drawers, the chill tray everything was dripping and smelling. And it was 3:00 in the afternoon, when I had just begun to think to myself that finally my work was over and I could go lie down and get some rest. But alas!! That just wasn't what was in store for me. It took me solid two hours to have the fridge completely cleaned up inside out and you can tell by the end of it  I was a very unhappy and tired soul. 
But looking at the brighter side of things - my refrigerator had been screaming for a clean up since quite a long time!! But you please be careful!!
When ready to cook, take the chicken out of the brine.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Place the whole chicken on a cutting board and cut the chicken right down the backbone and spread flat on a baking dish. 
Rub the skin with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour or until the internal temperature reaches to 180F.
When about 10 minutes are left combine all the glaze ingredients in a bowl.
Baste it with the glaze and turn it frequently to create a glossy crust.