Cook's Hideout: August 2013

August 31, 2013

Vegetarian Wonton Soup

This is our first International Food Challenge and this month we are exploring Cantonese Cuisine, which comes from Guangdong Province in Southern China and it is one among the 8 great traditions of Chinese cuisine.
The basic cooking techniques of Cantonese cuisine includes roasting, stir-frying, sauteing, deep frying, stewing and steaming. Steaming and stir-frying are most commonly used to preserve the natural flavors of the ingredients. The most characteristic cooking methods of this cuisine are cooking in salt, cooking in wine, baking in a pan.
Vegetarian Wonton Soup
Saras @ Sara's Yummy Bites and Shobana @ Kitchen Secrets and Snippets selected 4 Cantonese recipes to try. I picked 2 dishes that I have always wanted to try -- Vegetarian Wonton Soup & Scallion Pancakes.
Wonton soup involves quite a few steps; making the filling, cooking the noodles and assembling. But the end result is very hearty and worth every minute of the time spent. I followed the recipe given to us to the 'T' and it came out yummy!! 
Vegetarian Wonton Soup

Scallion Pancakes

This is the second dish that I made for the International Food Challenge. Scallion pancakes have been on my to-make list for a long time and when I saw them on the list of Cantonese dishes to try, I knew I had to make these. I found a recipe using whole wheat pastry flour in Whole Grains Baking by King Arthur flour and made them. They turned out great.
Scallion Pancakes
The dough for these pancakes is very sticky and that is how it is supposed to be to get nice and chewy pancakes. Recipe also requires quite a bit of oil, so don't attempt this recipe if you are on a low-fat diet or watching your calorie intake. But you need the oil to make the pancakes less sticky and easy to work with. 
I halved the recipe and made 3 pancakes. They are so addictive, that me and my husband ate them all in one sitting. The best part of the whole recipe is the dipping sauce; salty, sour, spicy and sweet.

August 26, 2013

Indian Style Cappuccino

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 4/ Day 3
Theme: Cooking BM# 31 Themes - Member's Choice/ Coffee Variations
Dish: Indian Style Cappuccino
I didn't plan to make Cappuccino for today's post. I'm not a big fan of coffee, even though I enjoy  an occasional latte or mocha from Starbucks. I don't like the bitterness that is associated with coffee and I end up adding whole lot of sugar. To avoid the unnecessary sugar intake, I pass on coffee and only indulge in it once in a while. 
Indian Style Cappuccino
I attended 'Vegan Donut' making class in ICE, New York yesterday and it was so much fun to working with the dough and making different flavored cake & raised donuts. Our instructor was Adam Sobel of the famous Vegan & Organic food truck Cinnamon Snail. He was informative, funny and very enthusiastic to teach the techniques and tips of vegan donut making. I came back home with a box full of goodies.

August 25, 2013

Glowing Green Smoothie

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 4/ Day 2
Theme: Moderator's Choice/ Healthy Smoothie
Dish: Green Glowing Smoothie
Day 2 of BM# 31 under 'Moderator's Choice' theme, I picked 'Healthy Smoothie'. We recently bought a new blender and I have been making smoothies quite often. They have come to our rescue when afternoon hunger pangs occurred.
Glowing Green Smoothie
Today's smoothie is super healthy. It is one of Dr.Oz's 5 beautifying smoothies. If you read the article, you will know that this smoothie has more 'gorgeous goods' than any other smoothie. That's because of the chock full of carotenoids found in Kale. Ingesting carotenoids (like the ones found in Kale) was associated with healthy looking skin and helps our tissues from oxidative stress and wrinkles.

August 24, 2013

Basic Set up for Food Photography

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 4/ Day 1
Theme: Moderator's Choice/ Behind the Scenes of a Click
Dish: Banana Bread Oatmeal
We start the final week of Blogging Marathon today and my theme for this week is 'Moderator's Choice'. Our moderator, Valli, gave us 5 themes to choose from. For the first day I chose to show you behind the scenes of one of my click, Banana bread Oatmeal.
Banana Bread Oatmeal
One of the most important aspect of food photography (or any photo in general) is lighting. Natural lighting is the cheapest and best option. The thing to note is not all light is is good for taking pictures, like for example harsh day light creates shadows that results in unappealing food photos. Light changes during the day and differs in intensity and color in different seasons. Knowing and understanding light is one of the biggest step towards taking better food photos.

August 19, 2013

Pepper Besan Curry (Capsicum Chickpea flour dry curry)

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 3/ Day 3
Theme: Main Course
Dish: Pepper Besan Curry (Capsicum besan dry curry)
There are days where all you need is a simple curry that takes no time to put together. Today's recipe fits the bill because in this dish all the ingredients are mixed together first and then cooked until done -- no fuss, no mess. 
Pepper Besan Curry (Capsicum Chickpea flour dry curry)
This is a very simple dry curry made with bell peppers and besan. I used a combination of different colored peppers, but just green peppers will also taste great here.

August 18, 2013

Shahi Baingan (Eggplant in Spicy tomato-almond sauce)

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 3/ Day 2
Theme: Main Course
Dish: Shahi Baingan with Bagara Rice
Being a eggplant lover I thought this 'Main Course' theme for BM# 31 will be incomplete without an eggplant dish. So here I am with a very fancy Baingan/ Eggplant curry that goes well with plain or spiced rice or even rotis. I actually made this curry way back in April to go with the Pressure cooker Bagara rice and it is now time for this post to see the light (of your computer).
Shahi Baingan (Eggplant in Spicy tomato-almond sauce)
I wanted to make a different masala base for the eggplants I had on hand and came across this recipe at Daily Musings by Indosungod. It sounded spicy, creamy and delicious. I made a few changes to fit my pantry needs and this turned out excellent.

August 17, 2013

Aratikaya Annam (Raw Banana Rice)

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 3/ Day 1
Theme: Main Course
Dish: Aratikaya Annam (Raw Banana Rice)
Today we are starting the 3rd week of Blogging Marathon and my theme for this week is "Main Course". Like Valli mentioned in her post, even I'm not sure which dish is considered as 'main course' in an Indian meal. Is it the Curry that goes with the rice or is it the rice itself. It's almost like the 'who came first question -- chicken or the egg??'
Well anyway I'm going to post 3 dishes that I think are 'main courses' in the next 3 days. For day 1, I have this raw banana rice. I saw the recipe on 'Eenadu' site and since I had all the ingredients, made it right away. It is a modification of good old pulihora or lemon rice and tastes great without any side dishes. Quick and easy to make, perfect for lunch boxes and picnics.

August 16, 2013

Vanilla Ice Cream (Eggless Recipe, No Ice cream maker needed)

This is my go-to recipe for Vanilla Ice cream. Recipe is from Eagle Brand site. It is super simple to make with just 4 ingredients. All that is needed is to mix all the ingredients and then churn in the ice cream maker. If you don't have ice cream maker, don't fret I've included the procedure to make it without the ice cream maker too.
Original recipe uses 4 cups of light cream or half-and-half, but I always have heavy cream and whole milk in the fridge, so that is what I used to make this ice cream. If you don't have ice cream maker, then use only Heavy Cream to get a creamy, smooth ice cream. Using light cream or half-n-half will make the ice cream too icy.

August 14, 2013

Mocha Ice Cream (Eggless recipe)

It looks like Summer has almost come to an end (bahhhh). Good things pass way too quickly and this summer flew past at rapid speed. Didn't do anything fun to mention with the husband travelling most of the season. I guess the only fun thing that my son did was to learn swimming :-)
I want to post some of the summer recipes that I have in drafts before the season ends. I made this Mocha Ice cream from King Arthur flour site in June, around the beginning of Summer. It is very simple to put together and even my 5 year old loved it.

August 12, 2013

Event Announcement of International Food Challenge { IFC } - A joint effort of Shobana and Saras

International Food Challenge is evolved out of similar interests, passion in exploring all the cuisine from all over the world. As a result, we, Saras of Saras Yummy Bites and Shobana of Kitchen Secrets and Snippets have teamed up to welcome foodies, our talented food bloggers to join in this mission to learn, explore the world cuisine along with the heritage every country possess and get to know some ideas what every country has to offer with respect to food.
Come foodies, let’s all join our hands in this journey of crossing many virtual boundaries in the quest of finding new food, fresh tastes from around the globe through this event IFC. 

How it works: 
  • The host and the founders are the one’s who will go through the cuisine of the given month and they will narrow down the results to 3 top most recipes. In the beginning of every month, say on 1st, the host of the given month will let out all the three recipes in detail along with the link and the members have to select the one they like and should submit the challenge on the said date, which is 30/31st of every month. 
  • The best presented dish gets the privilege of being the cover picture of our Facebook page for the whole month along with their copyrights. How cool is that!! 
Do u have the urge to learn the world cuisine as simple as that, u want to try some new dish one at a time, then, what’s stopping you foodies, come join us let’s form a group and let’s get started.. Yay!!!

Join our FB group HERE to get in touch with the event as well as for the latest updates.

Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 2/ Day 3
Theme: Meatless Dishes
Dish: Vegetarian Eggplant 'Meatballs'
'Meatless' Meatballs are one of my son's favorite dishes. I keep some store bought ones in the freezer for quick meal options. I posted a recipe using soy crumbles earlier. Today's recipe uses eggplant and I was surprised how moist and 'meaty' these meatballs taste (by 'meaty' I mean they have lot of body or bulk, don't know how else to express that :-)) 
Vegetarian Eggplant Meatballs
Meatballs are great with some tomato sauce in pasta or on a salad or just to munch on as appetizer. I flavored these meatballs with mint and parsley to give them a Mediterranean flavor. I served them with homemade tzatziki and it was a very delicious combination.

August 11, 2013

Vegan Curried Eggless 'Egg' Salad

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 2/ Day 2
Theme: Meatless Dishes
Dish: Vegetarian Curried 'Egg' Salad
Day 2 of BM# 31 and today I'm remaking my favorite Egg salad into a meatless dish. There are a ton of recipes that use only tofu, but the tricky part of making good eggless egg salad is getting the creaminess right. Egg yolks give that creaminess and using only tofu might make the salad too dry.
For those of you who never tasted Egg salad, it is a mayonnaise based salad with chopped boiled eggs and then seasoned and flavored as per taste. I think the first time I ate an egg salad was during my Masters while working at the deli. The owner used to make me an egg salad sandwich on rye bread with all the fixings and it was super yummy!! I've peeled a zillion eggs during my stint at the deli and learnt how to make a good egg salad too. But today it's about this eggless tofu salad :-)
Vegan Curried Eggless 'Egg' Salad
So when I found this recipe that uses pureed chickpeas I knew this would be a winner. The pureed chickpeas mimic real yolk in both texture and taste. The only thing I would do differently next time is not to pulse tofu in the food processor. I think I like bit more texture to my salad and I would break tofu into bigger chunks rather than pulse to crumbles the next time I make this salad.

August 10, 2013

Pizza Monkey Bread

For this month's 'Home Baker's Challenge' we are making Bread. Manjula of Desi Fiesta is the host for this month and she chose 4 different breads for trying. After deliberating on which one to choose, I finally ended up making a quite simple, but super tasty Pizza Monkey Bread. I hope to make the others on the challenge too sometime.
Pizza Monkey Bread
Monkey Bread is usually a sweet, sticky, gooey bread served for breakfast in the US. I went with a savory pizza flavor this time and used a pizza crust for the bread. The bread was so soft and fluffy and tasted great when dipped with pizza sauce/ marinara sauce. To make life easy, you could also use store bought pizza dough and make this monkey bread in a jiffy.

Vegan Andhra Kodi Kura (Vegan Chicken Curry)

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 2/ Day 1
Theme: Meatless Dishes
Dish: Vegan Andhra 'Kodi' Kura
Today we start Week 2 of BM# 31 and my theme for this week is 'Meatless Dishes'. I'm a life long vegetarian, but I've a fascination towards non-veg dishes. I worked at a deli during my Masters and I use to loves the smell of meats cooking away in the kitchen, but luckily the smell was not strong enough to make me eat it :-)  
Vegan Andhra Kodi Kura (Vegan Chicken Curry)
I'm not sure how many of you agree with me but in my opinion it is difficult to cook meat than vegetables and whoever does it well means they are really good at cooking. Here's my explanation: different meats have to be cooked differently and knowing the right technique is really important (knowledge entirely based on watching waaaaaaay too many cooking reality shows.. thank you). What I'm trying to say is cooking meat needs greater understanding of the ingredients. Veggies on the other hand need little thinking and even if you mess it up, oh well, it's still edible -- think of mushy peas or green beans--you can still eat them. right?? 

August 08, 2013

Mango Coconut Pulao (Pilaf)

After trying Mango curry, I was ready to expand my raw mango recipe repertoire. So when I saw this recipe for Mango-Coconut Pulao on a telugu cooking show, I promptly noted it down.
Mango Coconut Pulao (Pilaf)
With Summer being in full swing in our neck of woods, fresh green mangoes are widely available in the Indian groceries. I always make sure that I get a few, so I can use them to make pappu (dal) or this aam ka panna or this masala curry. But this mango coconut pulao is simple to make and is perfect one-pot meal for weeknights.

August 07, 2013

Plum Tomato Chutney

One of the Indian cookbooks that I really enjoyed leafing through in the recent past is Hari Nayak's 'My Indian Kitchen'. It's beautiful to look at and the recipes are very easy to follow too. I have already posted this quick and easy Avocado Raita recipe from the book.
Plum Tomato Chutney
This tomato chutney is also a very quick to make recipe and goes well with just about anything; rice, rotis, chips, bread etc. The freshly ground spices make this chutney taste so vibrant and tasty. A must try!!

August 06, 2013

Watermelon Salsa

This watermelon salsa recipe does not technically require an entire blog post. But the clicks were so colorful and pretty, that I thought I needed to do another post just for them. Like any other no-cook salsa, all this recipe requires is mixing of the ingredients. So the more fresher and sweeter the melon, the more tasty this salsa is going to be. 
Watermelon Salsa
 Recipe is from a book that we got from my kid's Pediatrician's office. Even though my 5 year old wasn't very impressed with the salsa, I really enjoyed it's refreshing taste. I served it with Grilled veggie Quesadillas.

August 05, 2013

Mango Gelato

Gelato has been on my to-make list ever since I bought my ice cream maker which was some 3 years ago. So when I saw the recipe for mango gelato in King Arthur flour's newsletter, I knew it was time to make this icy, creamy treat.
Mango Gelato
Gelato is the Italian word for Ice cream. I searched online for the differenc between ice cream and gelato, there is a ton of information, but I understood was that gelato has less air incorporated because it is churned much slower. Also gelato uses more milk than cream, so it has less fat than ice cream. Read this post from Serious eats to get a better understanding of the differences.

Baked Vegetarian Chili Rellenos (Low fat)

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 1/ Day 3
Theme: Mexican Cuisine
Dish: Baked Chili Rellenos - low fat 
I usually try to include 1 dessert recipe whenever I pick a theme for BM. So keeping that in mind I tried to make a Mexican flan and made it eggless. But unfortunately my caramel got burnt and the flan was way too rubbery. Imagine my embarrassment when I took it over to my friend's place for dinner -- it was so bitter, we ended up eating ice cream from my friend's freezer :-(
After that colossal dessert failure, I figured it's best to try something savory. I had bought some poblano chilies without any particular recipe in mind. I remembered this amazing Chile Rellenos dish that we ate at a Mexican restaurant years ago and wanted to give it a try.

August 04, 2013

Vegetarian Chimichanga with Kidney Beans

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 1/ Day 2
Theme: Mexican Cuisine
Dish: Vegetarian Low-fat Chimichanga
For Day 2 of BM# 31 under 'Mexican Cuisine' theme, I made this low(er) fat vegetarian Chimichanga. 'Chimichanga' is essentially deep fried burrito that is stuffed with either meat and/or beans. Since deep frying is not something I do regularly I decided to pan fry them. I already have a recipe for baked chimichangas that I posted way back in the olden days :-)
Vegetarian Chimichanga with Beans
Filling for the chimichangas, like any other Mexican dish, is very versatile and can range from meats to beans to veggies. I have made these with different beans (black or red kidney or pinto) and sometimes even mix some TVP (soy granules). But the best I've found is using Trader Joe's Soyrizo and beans cooked with some onions, red pepper and some cheese -- yummy!!

August 03, 2013

Grilled Vegetable Quesadilla

Blogging Marathon# 31: Week 1/ Day 1
Theme: Mexican Cuisine
Dish: Grilled Vegetable Quesadilla
We are starting BM# 31 today and Valli had very interesting themes, all starting with the letter 'M'. So for the first week, I picked my most favorite theme, 'Mexican Cuisine'. Mexican dishes feature at least once or twice a week in our household. We all love beans, cheese and spicy food, so Mexican cuisine ranks right next to Indian for us.
So for the next 3 days, I'm going to post some of my family favorites. For the first day, I have quesadillas which are basically Mexican version of grilled cheese sandwich. My cheese loving son loves these. Add some grilled/ roasted veggies or beans and you have yourself a filling meal.


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