Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Souvalaki With Roasted Potatoes

The best thing that happened to me after having come to North America is that I've got exposure to so many different cuisines of the world. Ever since I was a little child, I have been interested in cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I know these days in India also, they have access to different cuisines but I believe it's not like what we get here. First of all, we have the people from those countries around the world who have brought the rich heritage with them to North America. I work in a huge company and am friends with people from different countries from around the globe. I have Chinese, Greek, Italian, Spanish etc. co-workers who are equally fond of cooking and learning new recipes and new methods of cooking. I can say that I can make the best known Greek, Italian, Spanish (or Mexican for that matter!) dishes effortlessly, thanks to them. And of course, who can forget Food Network?! My channel is set on it all the time!

I have made this so many times. Even before the blogging, I used to take pictures of my dishes if I really liked what I saw on the plate. I now carefully watch the restaurant dishes and try to recreate them at home and at the same time, present them also the restaurant way. We have stopped going to the Italian restaurant as my hubby puts it: I cook better Italian food at home! Well, dear, not just the Italian. I can make equally good Greek food and here is the sample! Needless to say both father and son enjoyed this finger-licking dinner!

Chicken Souvalaki
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
4 tbsps. Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, grated
Juice of one medium lemon

How to:
Marinate chicken cubes with these ingredients overnight in the fridge. Grill or roast them in the oven till chicken is done.

Greek Potatoes

1 lb. potatoes, quartered or halved
Salt and pepper to taste
Oregano and garlic, crushed to taste
3 tbsp olive oil

How to:

Mix all the ingredients and bake in the hot oven till the potatoes are fork tender.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Apple A Day!

Apple is perhaps most versatile fruit. You can crunch on it, juice it, cook with it, puree it and bake with it. It's equally good for adults, kids and babies. Applesauce is the first semisolid food babies start to eat. Even now, I like to eat apple sauce whenever I feel like having something sweet. I could absolutely have an apple, but when you crave the dessert, you are not looking for that high crunch.

I froze the crepes I made for Mark's birthday dinner. I had planned to use them for different fillings and this one was one of those fillings. Who doesn't love a warm piece of apple pie with cold vanilla ice cream?! Apple and cinnamon is such a perfect marriage. The aroma of apples being cooked in butter with cinnamon and sugar is so heart warming and inviting. It's very homey. It's something you would like to come home to in cold winter days to warm up with.
I've made apple pies in the past. My only problem is the pastry dough! It's half flour half butter. That's what you call killjoy! Butter does make everything taste better but you definitely wouldn't want something to from your lips to sit on your hips! That's why I stopped baking and having apple pies. Yes, once in a blue moon, no problem. But I just can't have it every single time I crave for warm apple dessert. That's when the idea struck me. Why not use the crepes as a carrying vehicle for that warm, gooey apple pie filling? I followed my heart and the result was such hit.

The problem with the picture here is the sauce! I forgot to pour more sauce over the top of this crepe. And leftover sauce ended up in the kitchen sink! Not going to make the same mistake again.

Apple Pie Crepe
For Crepes:
Same as my Strawberry Crepes

Filling ingredients
2 apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
How to:

Cube apples. Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add apples, sugar and cinnamon, cook till apples are tender crisp.
Fill the crepes with it, serve the way you want!

And now the muffins! You can call them doughnut muffins or cake muffins. They came out soooo good. I loved to have my family wake up at the sweet, spicy, warming aroma on a Sunday morning! Since we go to the church on Sunday mornings at around 10, I had just about enough time to whip up a batch of these muffins. I decided to make them for Sunday breakfast so I prepared and mixed the dry ingredients the night before. All the wet ingredients were waiting for me either on the counter or in the fridge. I also laid out the required utensils so that I don't have to pull the drawers out and disturb anyone's sleep. My reward: Mark commented that I should make these muffins often as they are much better than the storebought! Hooray! I just hit the jackpot!

Apple Pie Muffins
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
¾ cup Evaporated Milk
1/3 cup plain yogourt
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated apple

For Topping:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

How to:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder,baking soda and salt. In separate bowl, mix
evaporated milk and yogourt.
In a separate bowl, beat shortening, butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in eggs,
beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.
With mixer on low, add flour and yogourt mixtures to shortening mixture, starting and ending with flour
mixture and scraping down between each addition.
Fold in apple. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until firm to the touch.
Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Topping: In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. While muffins are still hot, brush with
melted butter. Roll each muffin in cinnamon sugar until thoroughly coated. Best served warm.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Deep "Cup" Pizza!

Have you ever come across a child who doesn't like pizza?! I don't think there is a single kid in this world who resists an ooey gooey cheesy slice of pizza! And frankly, why just the kids, we adults also love pizza . Pizza has become a household name. We all know that it was invented in Italy but it could have been Greece, Spain or anyone who learned the secret of mixing flour, yeast, water and heating the flat breads on a hot stone! And it is so versatile and so adaptable. Almost every country has its version of pizza! I can't help to mention the pizza I saw in Ahmadabad about 20 years ago, with lots of hot tomato ketchup slathered on the base, regular cabbage-potato-pea curry as topping and shreds of cheese! I simply refused to eat that pizza at that time! I did have some good pizza(definitely not similar to what we have here!) there though.

Now we know that pizza is a baked pie-like crust covered with seasoned tomato sauce, cheese, and often other toppings such as sausage or olive. But as adaptable as it is already, why not try to make it portable in the form of pizza cups?! That's exactly what I did. It was really a nice lunch packed with the goodness of turkey, all the veggies that went in there. In any shape, it will still be a much loved food!

Basic Pizza Dough
1 pkg. dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 cup flour

 How To:

Mix ingredients together, adding flour last. Cover and let rise 1/2 hr. Top with whatever ingredients you like!

For pizza cups, roll out thin discs from the dough. Place them in the muffin cups and bake till the cups are done. Put some homemade marinara sauce. Then make layers of browned turkey sausage, a slice or two of green & red pepper, a tbsp or two of caremalized onions, a pinch of dried oregano and lots of shredded mozzarella cheese. Let it cook in the hot oven till the cheese melts. And get ready to enjoy the hot pizza cups with warm marinara sauce!

My deep cups ready to be filled!
As we know, the topping possibilities are endless! Let your imagination run wild and create YOUR pizza or pizza cups or pizza pockets!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Satay Chicken

When I look back at the special meals we shared on our little lunch 'dates', one dish that is always fondly remembered is Satay. Satay is a Thai version of the kabab. Skewered pieces of meat are marinated in aromatic flavours and grilled to perfection. The highlight of this dish however, is the spicy peanut dipping sauce.

For those of you who know me, also know that I’ll go to pretty much any length to duplicate my favourite dishes from the restaurants and at the same time, struggle to create a much easier and simpler and healthier version of the recipe in question. I check out the ingredients over and over again on the restaurant menus, make notes and start trying out the recipe at home. Satay is just one such recipe amongst those. So many times, when I start to put down the ingredients on the different menus for different dishes, I almost fall off the chair! So easy dishes, such simple ingredients and we spend so much for those dishes at the restaurants!

Re-creating the Satay was a breeze. What hurt my back though, was the peanut sauce. Until I threw caution to the wind and just followed my instinct. Works every time! And my version of the spicy peanut butter sauce is a breeze to make! It's literally 5-ingredients fix!

8-10 chicken tenders, boneless
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
Juice of 1 medium lime
Salt and pepper to taste

How to:

Marinate all the ingredients for at least 2 hours. Best overnight. Skewer the tenders and grill for about 4-5 minutes each side. Keep warm.

Spicy peanut sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp Thai red curry paste(my secret ingredient!) or to taste
2 tbsp hot water or as required
Pinch of salt
Chopped coriander leaves for garnish

How to:

Mix all the ingredients till you get smooth dipping sauce! You might need more hot water. Didn't I say it was a breeze to make?!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chicken Spiedini

I was talking to one of my Italian co-workers and she mentioned something about spiedini. It instantly caught my attention. I asked her that really is, she said it means food cooked in skewers! That's the Italian way to grill the food! Well that's kebab! It certainly didn't sound anything like spiedini! Spiedini-the word itself is so much musical! Full of different notes that could make exciting music. And it's so easy to prepare! Only a handful of ingredients and you're on your way to taste the juiciest, most succulent chicken breast.

I will definitely use the skewers once I start grilling in summer. Since I was using my trusty cast iron skillet, I didn't bother to skewer the chicken pieces. Also, my family don't like to take time to pull out the chicken off the skewers when they are hungry!

I followed the exact recipe, given by my co-worker's mom. They serve it over pasta with hot marinara sauce. Since I had some spinach pesto in my fridge, I built the theme of dual color dish! Mark commented that this is the kind of food we eat on the cruise ships(we love cruising, have taken about 9 cruises since 2002!). That was the biggest complement.

Chicken Spiedini

2 lbs chicken breast, boneless, cut in big chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Juice of half a lemon

How to:

Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients for at least 2 hours. Overnight the better. Grill until chicken is cooked through. Serve with your choice of sauce.