Cook's Hideout: December 2010

December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

I’ve never done a Best of any year before, because to me it’s extremely difficult to pick “the best” in anything. I like everything, but I don’t usually love something (except for eggplant of course). For me to love something, it has to be extra special and I think this year there are a few that I really loved and would like to share it with you guys. Also this happens to be my 400th post, so I wanted to make it a little special.

So here is the list of my Best things this year (everything is not food related):
2010 was really a very eventful year for me: Buying our first home, moving in and organizing everything as per our taste took a lot of time; a lot of time away from the blog. Family visit this summer was one of the Best family times we had this year; again lot of time away from the blog. But then came the Best time for the Blog in the month of November with Vegan Mofo and I was able to post 22 posts which is unheard of for Cook’s Hideout in 2010.

Here are some more Best Of 2010 list:
Best Vegetarian restaurant: We stopped by Veggie Heaven in Teaneck, NJ one weekend, just because we were looking for Chinese restaurants in the area and this was the first one that came up on my Iphone search. We were pleasantly surprised how flavorful each dish was and thoroughly enjoyed everything we ate there. They had some killer Kung Pao Chicken dish (all veggie, of course) and the Spicy Hunan dumplings were to die for. We’ll definitely be going there frequently now.

Best Dish in a Restaurant: I’m partial to eggplant dishes, but this Baingan Mirchi ka salan (Eggplant-Chili gravy curry) that we had at Moghul restaurant in Edison, NJ is probably the best salan dish I’ve ever had in my life. The eggplants were creamy and just melted in your mouth, chilies tasted spicy, but not fiery hot and the gravy was so smooth and delicious. I’m actually on the quest for the perfect salan dish now.

Best Dish I made/ tried: This has to be Rasmalai that we made for ICC. Even though it is a time consuming and involved recipe, loved the end result.

Best Ingredient tried: My newest favorite ingredient is “Almond Butter”. I love it so much that I’m thinking of adding it to everything I cook, be it dal, subzi, rice, anything (I don’t add it to everything, but the thought definitely crosses my mind). It’s perfect for making creamy pastas & curries without adding cream and tastes super yummy on toast too. I buy 16oz. Trader Joes Almond Butter for $4.99 and that’s the best deal I found in town (beating even Walmart).

Best Picture(s): I love both these pictures:

Best Kitchen investment: This has to be hands down my new KitchenAid Stand mixer. I got the most basic model for $110 ($199-30% discount-$20 Kohl’s credit-$20 Mail-in rebate+7% NJ Tax) and I love love love how easy life’s got and how many things that can be done when your hands are free from holding a mixer. This is money well spent for me.

Best Pants I bought: Now this is totally off from the kitchen, but I wanted to mention about these pants from Coldwater Creek since I absolutely love them. They are knit denim, they look like regular denim pants but they are so comfy that you could wear them the whole day. A must in everyone’s wardrobe, I’d say.

Well 2010 went by quite fast as any other year, but I do have lots of good memories of it to remember for years to come and made quite a few good friends both online and offline. Hoping that the New Year brings lots of joy and happiness to all of you.

To end the year the old year and begin a New Year on a sweet note, here’s Almond cake I made recently from David Lebovitz’s blog.

The only change I made to the recipe is to use 4 whole eggs and 4 egg whites (to replace 2 whole eggs). I don’t think this changed the texture or the taste of the cake, it was still very moist and extremely delicious. The top cracked a little bit making it look very rustic.

Wish you all a Very Happy & Prosperous New year. Enjoy!!!

Sending this over to Srivalli @ Cooking4allseasons for her "Best of 2010" event. Thanks Valli for reminding.

December 27, 2010

Roasted Veggie Enchiladas with Creamy Tomatillo sauce

I love making casseroles, I think they are very comforting and I especially like to dig into the cheesy crusts. I sometimes buy frozen entrees by Amy’s Kitchen and I really liked their enchilada entrée with tomatillo sauce. I tried to re-create it at home and the end result was pretty satisfying. I found this recipe by Rick Bayless for Creamy tomatillo sauce and tweaked it just a little bit to suit our taste.

For the Sauce:
Tomatillos – about 8 medium size, husked and rinsed
Onion – 1 large, roughly chopped
Garlic – 3 cloves, peeled
Heavy cream – ½ cup
Veggie broth – 2 cups
Sugar – 2tsp
Salt & Pepper – to taste

For Enchiladas:
Corn Tortillas – 10
Vegetables – 8 cups, chopped (I used carrots, red & yellow peppers, zucchini & onion)
Pepper jack cheese – 1 cup, grated
Salt & pepper – to taste

  • Heat the oven to Broil. Evenly spread the tomatillos, onions and garlic on a baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes; Turn the vegetables around and broil for another 5 minutes or until the tomatillos are charred on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  • Lower the oven to 425°F. Spread the chopped veggies on a baking sheet (lined with foil for easy clean up), add 2tbsp oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast them for 25-30 minutes turning them around half way, until the veggies are lightly browned around the edges. Remove and keep aside.
  • In the meantime make the tomatillo sauce: Blend the roasted tomatillos, onions and garlic along with the juices until very smooth. Heat 2tsp olive oil in a sauce pan, pour in the tomatillo puree; cook until the puree turns darker and thicker, about 8-10 minutes. Add broth and cream; simmer on low flame for 30 minutes until the mixture thickens. Be careful with the spluttering of the hot simmering sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Keep aside.
  • To Assemble: Pour 1 cup of the tomatillo sauce on the bottom of the casserole/ baking dish.
  • Brush tortillas lightly on both sides with oil; stack and wrap them in a damp paper towel. Microwave for 1 minute. While the tortillas are still warm and pliable, place 2tbsp roasted vegetables, roll and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with all the tortillas.
  • Pour more sauce over the tortillas, top with grated cheese.
  • Bake in the preheated 425°F oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve warm and enjoy the gooey goodness.

December 23, 2010

Blogging Bites: Holiday Buffet

I’m doing one post with all the recipes that I've bookmarked and tried for Nupur’s Blog Bites: Holiday Buffet event. Hold your belts tight as this is going to be one tummy filling buffet.

Breakfast Granola:
Nupur’s Chocolate-Cherry Granola: I gave Homemade granola to my co-workers for Christmas this year and I made 3 batches of different granola including this festive & yummy Chocolate-Cherry granola. (See the recipes for the other 2 granolas here).

Appetizer & Dip:
Mini Quiche from the Perfect Pantry – These one bite appetizers are perfect for any party and they come together really quick too. My guests loved them and most of them were gone before I could take the picture. I followed the recipe to the T and they turned out awesome.

Nupur’s Caramelized onion dip – This is THE best dip I’ve ever made. It is a little time consuming than other dips, but the result is worth the effort. I couldn’t take a picture of the dip, but here are some veggies that we ate with the dip.

Curries & Side Dishes:
Indira’s Kakarakaya Kura – I made this dish two times and absolutely loved it. Indira mentions that this is a 100 year old recipe that’s been shared by home cooks for generations. Big Thanks to her for posting it on her blog so everyone has a chance to taste this century old dish.

Dee’s Vankaya chikkudukaya kura: I love all eggplant dishes, but eggplant paired with broad beans is probably my favorite combo ever. Dee's curry is slightly different from how I make it, but the addition of tamarind paste & sesame seeds powder makes it extra special and yummy.
Sree’s no-cook chutney: I had to try Sree's chutney as soon as I saw her post. Served it with Karachi dosa.

Tiramisu from Served with Love: After Nupur mentioned about Tiramisu on her post, I had to try it too. I had made Tiramisu ages ago and remembered it being a big flop, but this time with the perfect recipe, it turned out just perfect.

Archana's Fruit Cake: I wanted to make fruit cake this Holiday season and decided to make Archana's version since I had all the ingredients on hand. I made a double batch and took one to work for Holiday party and everybody loved it. I'll post the picture soon.

Merry Christmas!! Have a fun Holiday everyone.
I'm 2 posts away from my 400th post. I'm hoping to post them before end of this year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

December 15, 2010

Kashmiri Dum Aloo for ICC-November

For this month’s Indian Cooking Challenge, Valli chose a yummy gravy dish from Kashmir. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything Kashmiri and didn’t know that they use ground ginger in cooking. I was excited to try the recipe, but had to make some changes to the recipe due to my husband’s dietary concerns. He doesn’t eat yogurt, I can sneak in couple of spoons of yogurt in a dish but the original recipe from Indian food called for 2½ cups of yogurt, which is a little difficult to camouflage for a super-sensitive dairy hater.
I used the same spices as the original recipe, but changed the sauce ingredients to suit our taste. I used onion paste & cashew butter to make the sauce rich and creamy. I made it in a pressure cooker instead of using the traditional ‘dum’ method due to lack of time. Here is how I made it:

Baby Potatoes – 12, scrubbed (I peeled them as my potatoes were a little dirty to begin with)
Onion – 1 large, chopped
Tomato paste – 2tsp
Yogurt -3tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1tsp, roasted and ground into a powder
Kashmiri Lal mirch powder – 1tsp
Ginger powder – 1tsp
Cardamom powder – ½ tsp
Cloves – 6, roasted and powdered
Garam masala – 1tsp
Ginger + garlic paste – 1tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Cashew butter – 2tbsp
Asafetida (Hing)– pinch
Salt – to taste

  • Poke the potatoes with a fork and drop them in a bowl of salted water for 20 minutes. Drain the water and set aside in a colander.
  • In the mean time, heat 2tbsp oil in a large sauté pan. Sauté the potatoes until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove onto a paper towel.
  • In a bowl whisk together yogurt, ginger powder, cardamom powder, fennel powder, Kashmiri chili powder and ½ cup water. Add the fried potatoes and mix well.
  • In the same pan used for frying potatoes, add onions and sauté until lightly brown. Add ginger+garlic paste and cook for another minute. Let the mixture cool for a bit and grind into a smooth paste along with cashew butter.
  • Add 2tsp mustard oil in a pressure cooker, add hing and clove powder and mix well. Add the onion paste and cook for couple of minutes.
  • Next add tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour ½ cup water and salt, bring to a boil.
  • Add the potato & yogurt mixture and garam masala, mix well and cover with the lid. Cook on high flame for 1 whistle.
  • After the pressure releases, open the lid and garnish with coriander leaves and serve with roti or naan.

Thank you Valli for choosing such a flavorful dish for ICC and I hope you wouldn't my tweaking the original recipe. We thoroughly enjoyed the dish and I’ll be making this whenever I get my hands on some baby potatoes.

December 11, 2010

A Juice & A Review

Winter is definitely here in our neck of woods. Temperatures have plummeted defying gravity and it has been extremely cold the last few days. This seems to be the beginning of a looong, cold winter this year. Now why am I posting about a juice recipe in this weather instead of something warm and comforting, you ask!! This post has been in the drafts for a long time and it took me all this time to realize that taking a decent picture of freshly made juice (at least for me) is D-I-F-F-I-C-U-L-T., that too if it has apple in it.
CSN Stores have contacted me to do a product review for them long time back. I ordered this lovely Breville Juicer from their site. After opening the box we received we realized that the main plastic component of the juicer was completely shattered during transit. I called CSN and the friendly Customer service agent offered to send a complete new juicer instead. I was very happy and impressed with the professional manner in which they resolved the issue. We received the replace juicer in couple of weeks and this was prefect condition.
We have been using the juicer almost every day, but as I mentioned earlier none of them seemed to be picture perfect. But I didn't want to postpone my review any longer, so here I am with this yummy purple-pink juice that tasted much better than it looks.

The Juice:
My husband is the official user of the juicer and he tries different combinations everyday. His favorite combo to date is Grapes, Apple and Strawberries. Here's how he made this purple-pink juice:

Pineapple chunks - 3 -4 cups
Carrots - 2 medium, chopped
Red Grapes - 2 cups

  • Drop all the fruits and veggies in the juicer and enjoy the juice.

The Review:
My 3 year old loves these freshly made juices and I am happy to give him something that is fresh and includes some of the fiber, with no preservative and no added sugar. He is a picky eater and does not like to eat fruits, which is another reason why I let him have an extra glass of the juice.
Breville Compact BJE200XL as the name suggests is very compact and can be conveniently stored on the counter or in the cupboard. It has a central 3" feed tube that lets you add whole fruits without chopping them and the pulp container holds up to 1.5 quarts of waste before it needs to be cleaned. There are quite a few parts that need to be cleaned after using, but if that is done right after juicing, it does not take too long as the fruits don't have a chance to harden and can be cleaned easily.
I would like to Thank CSN Stores for giving me the opportunity to try this amazing Juicer. I apologize for the delay in posting my review.
Have a great weekend everybody.



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