Cook's Hideout: November 2014

November 30, 2014

Borani Banjan (Afghan Layered Eggplant Dish)

For this month's International Food Challenge, we are visiting Afghanistan. Big Thanks to Saraswathi for giving me the opportunity to host this month's event. Researching for recipes and sharing with the group was quite a fun experience. 
Afghani cuisine has many similarities to Indian cuisine especially in the variety of spices that they use in their dishes. Afghanistan is located on the historically important trade route called the Silk route/ Silk Road which meant Afghani cuisine is influenced by the trading communities on that route. Afghani cuisine has the influences of Iran, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China.
Borani Banjan (Afghan Layered Eggplant Dish)

November 28, 2014

Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash & Pomegranates

Hope all of you had a good Thanksgiving meal yesterday. We had our Thanksgiving party at our friend's house and we had some amazing food and great time chatting. I felt like I was in a food coma yesterday after eating all that food.
Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash & Pomegranates
So today I have a healthy and light salad recipe to get back in track before the holiday and more noshing starts. This salad is very filling, colorful and tastes great. Using brown rice makes it fiber rich and fills you up very easily.

November 26, 2014

Afghani Sheer Payra (Afghani Milk Fudge)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 4/ Day 3
Theme: Bookmarked Recipes from A-Z International Marathon
Dishes: Afghani Sheer Payra

I'm going to end this month's blogging marathon on a sweet note. I have made this delicious milk fudge from Afghanistan 3 times in the past 1 month. It is that simple to make and quite a crowd pleaser. My husband really liked the fudge because it has a really nice flavor from ground cardamom and rose water.
Afghani Sheer Payra (Afghani Milk Fudge)
The only thing that takes time in making this fudge is melting sugar and boiling the syrup and letting the fudge cool -- other than that the whole process is very simple and quick to make. The most important and critical part of successfully making this fudge is the consistency of the sugar syrup. it should not be too thin (fudge won't set) or too thick (fudge would be very very hard). 

November 25, 2014

Lebanese Moussaka (Vegetarian Recipe)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 4/ Day 2
Theme: Bookmarked Recipes from A-Z International Marathon
Dishes: Lebanese Moussaka
For Day 2 of blogging marathon, I picked my favorite ingredient and made this delicious Lebanese eggplant dish that I bookmarked long time ago. I made another hearty & comforting Lebanese dish for the mega marathon and mentioned about how I wanted to try this Lebanese Moussaka dish from a local Middle Eastern restaurant.
Lebanese Moussaka (Vegetarian Recipe)
It so happened that we went to that restaurant a few weeks later and my husband ordered their Lebanese Moussaka and he really liked it. That is a really big compliment coming from an ex-eggplant-hater. It sure was very very tasty and I decided it was time to try the dish at home.

November 24, 2014

Sri Lankan Curry Powder Recipe

This is a very flavorful curry powder from Sri Lanka. It has all the typical ingredients in garam masala and curry powders: cinnamon, cloves, fennel, mustard seeds, cumin seeds etc. I thought rice was an unusual addition to the curry powder, but all in all this is a multi purpose masala that can be used in make curries or spice up rice.
Sri Lankan Curry Powder Recipe 

Sri Lankan Coconut Rice

This Sri Lankan coconut rice is a tasty accompaniment not only to the Sri Lankan vegetable curry but also to any spicy curry. Fresh grated coconut is added to cooked rice along with fried peanuts and a flavorful tempering.
Sri Lankan Coconut Rice
I loved the addition of soaked dals to the tempering, I think it made the dals nice and crunchy when sauteed. I used coconut oil to enhance the coconut flavor, but ghee or regular cooking oil can also be used.

Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 4/ Day 1
Theme: Bookmarked Recipes from A-Z International Marathon
Dishes: Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry with Coconut Rice
This is the last week of this month's Blogging Marathon and my theme for this week is 'Bookmarked Recipes from A-Z International Marathon'. It is quite a big challenge to narrow down just 3 dishes from the mega marathon -- I had a ton of them bookmarked during the research and then a ton more from my fellow marathoners.
Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry
Some of the mega marathoners did elaborate meals for each country and initially I was tempted to do a complete meal for this week. But reality set in and I realized it would be impossible for me to cook all those dishes, so I decided on simple dishes for this week.

November 23, 2014

Green Bean & Corn Casserole (Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu Ideas)

We are only a few days away from Thanksgiving and this will be my last dish for this year's Thanksgiving recipes. This dish is a variation to the traditional Green bean casserole that is usually made using cream of mushroom soup and has a crispy fried onion topping. In this modified version, mushrooms and onions are cooked down and then a bechamel like sauce is made right in the pan -- then topped with crispy breadcrumb topping and baked off until hot and bubbly.
I loved the addition of corn and the crispy breadcrumb topping the most in this recipe. It is creamy and cheesy but not overly so. Give it a try if you are looking for a different green bean casserole recipe.

November 22, 2014

Fruit & Toasted Almond Stuffing for Thanksgiving

Stuffing is a quintessential Thanksgiving side dish. I never understood the concept for stuffing, to me stuffing has to be inside something to be called that, but this stuffing is usually served on the side.
There are regional differences in the way stuffing is made. Southerners make their stuffing, called dressing in the South, from cornbread, while those in the other parts of the country make it from white, wheat or rye bread as base. Apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/ or other vegetables, sausage are added to stuffing.
Fruit & Toasted Almond Stuffing for Thanksgiving
Generally there is meat added to the stuffing and even if it is meat free, the bread is usually moistened with chicken/ turkey broth. So I've eaten stuffing very few times and never thought of making at home either. But my Thanksgiving recipe series made me look for traditional recipes and try and make them vegetarian.

Duchess Potatoes

Duchess Potatoes is a classic French dish where flavored mashed potatoes are piped in cute shapes and baked until golden and crisp. In my opinion it is a 5-Star version of good old mashed potatoes :-)
This dish has been on my to-make list for a few years now. I saw them for the first time in a Vegetarian Times magazine and loved how cute they looked and I was sure my potato loving husband would love these. But it took me so many years to actually make them that too when my husband was traveling :-)
Duchess Potatoes
All that this dish requires is boil and mashed potatoes which are then combined with sour cream, butter, some chives and egg yolks. Then the mixture is put into a piping bag with a star or round tip and then piped & baked till golden. My Duchess potatoes didn't get that pretty swirl shape -- not sure why -- but they tasted great. The outside firms up after baking, but the inside is light and airy.

November 21, 2014

Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions (Thanksgiving Side dish Recipe)

We are less than a week away from Thanksgiving and this weekend I have some traditional Thanksgiving sides but a little jazzed up and a little out of the ordinary. First up is everyone's favorite mashed potatoes.
All the mashed potatoes I have eaten were way too buttery and bland. So I stayed away from making them myself at home. But when I saw this spiced up mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and flavored with cumin and cayenne, it caught my attention immediately.
Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions (Thanksgiving Side dish Recipe)
I made it and my potato loving family loved it. Even my picky eater son loved it a lot and gave me 2 thumbs up. So if you are looking for a slightly different mashed potatoes and like spicy food for this Thanksgiving, then do try this recipe.

November 19, 2014

Brownie with Ice Cream (Eggless recipe)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 3/ Day 3
Theme: Combo Dishes
Dishes: Brownie with Ice Cream
I am ending the final day of this week's 'Combo dishes' theme on a sweet note with this easy to make and addictive eggless Brownie and Ice cream combo. I like cakey brownies more than fudgy ones cna these brownies are cakey, moist and delicious.
Brownie with Ice Cream (Eggless recipe)
I made these for our Halloween party and added a chocolate frosting and some spidery web icing on top. I made the spider web with some homemade creme fraiche mixed with confectioners sugar but another easy alternate would be some melted white chocolate.

November 18, 2014

Vegetable Manchurian (Lower fat version)

Manchurian is a quintessential Indo-Chinese dish that is loved by many Indians, including my husband. I am on the fence for this one -- I don't love it and I don't dislike it either. My husband says he used to eat excellent Gobhi & Veg manchurian during his college days and since then made it a point to order it whenever we are at an Indian restaurant. I reluctantly agree for it because I've had my share of really good ones and really bad ones too and I'm usually skeptical how the dish we ordered is going to be.
Vegetable Manchurian (Lower fat version)
I don't make them at home because manchurian are generally deep fried and that is something I avoid as much as I can. But when I realized they can be made in the paniyaram/ appe/ ableskiver pan, I was ecstatic and made these vegetable manchurian. I was even more ecstatic when they came out perfect and tasted much better than the resaturant ones (or so I thought).

Schezwan Sauce (Indo-Chinese Red Chili-Garlic sauce)

Nothing beats homemade condiments and sauces. Even though it is quite tempting to buy store bought sauces because of their convenience, I think if you have time it is much better to make them from scratch at home. Homemade sauces have no preservatives and are much healthier than the ones in the bottle.
Schezwan Sauce (Indo-Chinese Red Chili-Garlic sauce)
The schezwan sauce is made with red chilies along with the regular Indo-Chinese ingredients like ginger, garlic, soy sauce etc. Recipe is adapted from Veg Recipes of India. It is spicy, tangy and sweet at the same time. The sauce can also be used to make schezwan noodles or even used to dip momos or dumplings.

Schezwan Fried Rice with Vegetable Manchurian (Indo-Chinese Recipes)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 3/ Day 2
Theme: Combo Dishes
Dishes: Fried Rice with Manchurian
For Day 2 of combo dishes, I made this super popular Indo-Chinese combo, Schezwan Fried Rice with Vegetarian Manchurian.My husband loves ordering manchurian whenever we go out to Indian restaurants and he keeps asking me to make it at home too. But I keep postponing because manchurian are typically deep fried and I try to keep away from deep frying as much as I possibly can.
So when I saw this combo on Valli's list, I knew it was time to try these delicious dishes and I did not deep fry the manchurian either. I used my paniyaram/ appe/ aebleskiver pan instead. It worked like a charm and I was able to make some yummy vegetable manchurian.
Schezwan Fried Rice with Vegetable Manchurian (Indo-Chinese Recipes)
To go with the manchurian, I made some vegetable schezwan rice. This is spicy fried rice made with veggies and schezwan sauce. Bottled schezwan sauce is available in stores but it is quite simple to make at home, most of the ingredients are readily available in the pantry.

November 17, 2014

Rajma Chawal (Red Kidney Bean Curry with Rice)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 3/ Day 1
Theme: Combo Dishes
Dishes: Rajma Chawal
We are starting our 3rd week of Blogging Marathon today and my theme for this week 'Combo Dishes'. Valli gave us a list of combo dishes and we have to select 3 and post under this theme. So the first combo I chose is Rajma Chawal.
Rajma Chawal
Rajma or red kidney beans cooked with tomatoes and spices is a very filling and hearty dish that is perfect for this time of the year. Served with chawal or rice, there is nothing more comforting than that. I didn't use a whole lot of spices in the curry since I was cooking for the kids, but you can definitely amp up the spice volume, if that is how you like it :-)

November 16, 2014

Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes (Thanksgiving Recipe)

Here's another super simple, yer super tasty Thanksgiving recipe with Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes are cooked in a blend of maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. As the potatoes cook this sugar & vinegar thicken into a light glaze making the potatoes glisten. 
Using pure maple syrup and good quality apple cider vinegar is crucial for this dish. The only time consuming part in this dish is peeling and dicing the sweet potatoes -- after that the dish is cooked entirely in the oven.

Roasted Green Bean Bundles (Thanksgiving Side dish)

Continuing with the Thanksgiving recipes, here's an interesting roasted green beans recipe. Traditionally green bean casserole is made for Thanksgiving or during the holiday season, but I'm not a big fan of creamy mushrooms, so this individual bundles of seasoned, roasted green beans sounded like a perfect alternate.
Roasted Green Bean Bundles (Thanksgiving Side dish)
This dish needs a little bit of prep work. Beans need to be blanched, drained and tossed with dressing. Then they are formed into bundles and roasted. So the best thing to do is to blanch and keep the beans ready the day before and then they can tossed with dressing and roasted just before the dinner starts.

November 15, 2014

Rajasthani Badam Halwa (Almond Pudding for ICC)

For this month's Indian Cooking Challenge, Valli gave us Vaishali's recipe for Badam Halwa/ Almond Pudding. My mom makes awesome badam burfi, but I have never tried badam halwa before, so I really wanted to make it before the deadline. I knew I had some whole almonds in the freezer and this is a great recipe to use them up before I go buying for more. Holiday season is a great time to stock up on nuts, flour & sugar since many of the stores have them on deep discounts. So if you have the pantry space, then this is the right time to go shopping for dessert & baking staples :-)
Rajasthani Badam Halwa
Sorry, I digressed. Coming back to this amazingly delicious badam halwa. Recipe had clear instructions to use non-stick pan to avoid sticking, so I used by brand new ceramic coated pan that I bought from India and it worked like a charm.

November 14, 2014

Curly Kale with Caramelized Onions (Thanksgiving Side Recipe)

I am continuing with my Thanksgiving recipes again for this week's Cooking from Cookbook challenge and today I have a healthy & delicious side dish made with Kale. It is quite simple to make too.
Curly Kale with Caramelized Onions
Kale is one of the tougher greens and needs to be cooked a little longer. This is one of the more time consuming dishes which involves caramelizing the onions and cooking the kale till tender. But thankfully the dish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to serve. If you want to make it ahead of time, then caramelize onions and cook the kale -- cool and refrigerate. Reheat just before serving and then drizzle with vinegar and garnish with almonds.

November 12, 2014

Limeade with Brown Cane Sugar (Agua de Papelon)

Blogging Marathon# 46: Week 2/ Day 3
Theme: Lemon/ Lime Recipes
Dish: Agua de Papelon (Limeade with Panela/ Jaggery)
For the final day of 'Lemon/ Lime recipes', I was thinking of making something sweet. But I'm not a big fan of lemon flavored desserts -- I prefer vanilla or chocolate flavors. As I was looking through 'Viva Vegan' cookbook, I found the recipe for a Limeade with Panela or South American unprocessed cane sugar.
Limeade with Mexican Brown Sugar (Agua de Papelon)
I bought a slab of panela a while back but totally forgot about it until I found this recipe. Papelon or Panela (as it's called in Venezuela and Colombia) is produced by cooking the juice of freshly squeezed sugar cane down to a solid, crystallized mass. I wasn't sure how it would taste because it was really dark in color, I thought it will have a molasses-ish taste but I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted just like jaggery (our own unprocessed cane sugar from India).

November 11, 2014

Lemon Oats (Oats Nimmakaya Pulihora)

Blogging Marathon# 46: Week 2/ Day 2
Theme: Lemon/ Lime Recipes
Dish: Lemon Oats/ Oats Nimmakaya Pulihora
For the 'Lemon/ Lime recipes' theme, I have a very simple and healthy dish with oats today. My husband is not a big fan of oats or may be I should he doesn't like oats cooked in any way. But I like oats, both in savory & sweet preparations like this breakfast oats or this vegetable oats. I usually make these dishes for myself when my husband is traveling :-)
Lemon Oats (Oats Nimmakaya Pulihora)
Today's recipe is a healthier alternate to Lemon rice/ Nimmakaya Pulihora. I can eat these lemon flavored oats any time of the day -- filling breakfast or light lunch/ dinner. My peanut loving 2 year old loved it too.

Balbuljata (Maltese Egg & Tomaotes) for #Food of the World

We are visiting Malta this month for Food of the Month event. I realized I didn't know about this country until I started looking for recipes for Food of the month event. Here's a little knowledge about Malta from Wiki: 'Malta is a southern European island country comprising an archipelago of 7 islands in the Mediterranean sea. The country covers just over 316 sq. km (122 sq.miles), making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated country. Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate and architectural & historical monuments.'
Balbuljata (Maltese Egg & Tomaotes)Maltese cuisine is highly influenced by Sicilian and English cuisine as well as Spanish, Maghrebin & Provencal cuisines. Having to import most of its foodstuffs, being positioned along the important trade routes and having to cater for the resident foreign powers who ruled the islands, opened Maltese cuisine to outside influences.

November 10, 2014

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

Blogging Marathon# 46: Week 2/ Day 1
Theme: Lemon/ Lime Recipes
Dish: Cilantro-Lime Quinoa
We are starting another week of Blogging marathon today and my theme for this week is 'Lemon/ Lime recipes'. Adding lemon juice to any dish brings out the flavor and makes it taste refreshing.
Cilantro Lime QuinoaI wanted to make Cilantro-Lime rice for today, but used quinoa instead of rice and made this cilantro-lime quinoa. This is a light and fresh tasting dish that is a great alternate to plain quinoa. Lime and fresh herbs make this dish a perfect complement to heavier stews and fried foods, and it's super simple to put together, too, a great plus when there are other dishes cooking on the stovetop.

November 09, 2014

Spicy Greens with Sunflower Seeds (Thanksgiving Side)

Here's another easy Thanksgiving side dish that is also quick and simple to make. Recipe is from Vegetarian Time magazine. Sunflower seeds are roasted or cooked with spicy jerk or barbecue seasoning and then tossed with wilted spinach or swiss chard leaves.
Spicy Greens with Sunflower Seeds
I didn't have the suggested jerk or barbecue seasoning, so I used some homemade Tandoori masala giving the sunflower seeds a spicy Indian twist. These roasted sunflower seeds can be eaten just as is -- they are that good.

Buttery Garlicky Broccoli (Thanksgiving Side dish)

I have started making Thanksgiving side dishes to post here before the big day, so if any of you are looking for simple vegetarian side dishes then you can add these to your repertoire.
Buttery Garlicky Broccoli
This broccoli side dish is truly buttery and garlicky. It's very simple to make -- takes about 15~20 minutes at the most and is sure to be a hit at your Thanksgiving table. My 2 year old absolutely loved it and so it is kid-approved/ kid-friendly dish.

November 07, 2014

Warm Farro Pilaf with Dried Cranberries & Kale

It's November and the beginning of holiday season. I can't believe that the stores here started selling Christmas trees from early October. From my experience, it is better to buy them when you see them in the stores even if it is ridiculously early in the season because by the time you are mentally ready for the holidays, all the stores will be out of holiday stuff and you will have nothing to decorate the house (true story -- from about 2 years ago). So now-a-days I go shopping with an open mind, hopefully I'll find a great deal on summer patio set in the middle of winter -- you never know ;-)
Warm Farro Pilaf with Dried Cranberries & Kale
Holiday season also means lots of parties and food. I pulled out my old magazines and bookmarked quite a few recipes for this time of the year -- some festive and some seasonal -- all perfect to entertain for the holidays. So my self imposed theme for 'Cooking from Cookbook Challenge' for November & December will be holiday/ seasonal specials.

November 06, 2014

Chocolate Risotto

Chocolate Risotto:
This chocolate risotto is creamy and absolutely divine. Unlike making traditional risotto which involves a lot of stirring, this dessert is mostly hands free. Arborio rice is cooked in milk along with vanilla until tender and then chopped Perugina dark chocolate is stirred into it to make the most luscious chocolate risotto ever.

Recipe is from Giada's cooking show. She flavored her 'Chocolate Rice Pudding' from orange zest, but I used vanilla bean. Orange and chocolate is a lovely combination and I would probably try this pudding with Perugina Orangello dark chocolate next time I make it. I topped the pudding with some chopped Baci and it provides nice nuttiness to the otherwise creamy texture.
Prep Time - 10 minutes
Cook time - 30 minutes
Chill Time - 2 hours
Total Time - 2 hours 40 minutes
Serves - 4

  1. In a saucepan, combine arborio rice, milk, scraped vanilla bean and the vanilla pod. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, cook till it melts and the mixture thickens a little bit, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and grated chocolate. Mix well until the chocolate is melted.
  4. Cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chill for 2~3 hours before serving and garnish with chopped Baci.

November 05, 2014

Vegetarian Potpies for Thanksgiving

Blogging Marthon# 46: Week 1/ Day 3
Theme: Festival Special -- Thanksgiving
Dish: Vegetarian Potpies
For the third day of Blogging Marathon, I made some Individual Vegetarian Potpies. Pot pies are hearty and filling and can be easily customized to ones dietary requirements and/ or ingredient availability. They can be made into one big casserole or as individual potpies. 
Vegetarian Potpies for Thanksgiving
Creamy filling made with assorted vegetables forms the base of these delicious potpies. I used chickpeas to add some protein to the dish. The pastry topping that covers the filling adds an extra layer of texture and flavor to these pies.

November 04, 2014

Vegetarian Meatloaf (with Rice & Lentils) with Checca Suace

Blogging Marthon# 46: Week 1/ Day 2
Theme: Festival Special -- Thanksgiving
Dish: Vegetarian Meatloaf (with Rice & Lentils) with Checca Sauce
Well's Vegetarian Thanksgiving from New York Times is a great resource for vegetarian and vegan dishes to make for Thanksgiving. The New York Times editors curate a huge list of non-traditional no-turkey/ meat dishes on their Well's blog. I think they have been doing this every year since 2010. They have an impressive line up of dishes from famous food writers and chefs utilizing the fall harvest and delicious vegetables. 
Vegetarian Meatloaf (with Rice & Lentils) with Checca Suace
The idea to make a Vegetarian meatloaf came from one of the Well's Thanksgiving menus. Meatloaf is exactly what it sounds like --- meat made into a loaf. Most vegetarian meatloaves are  made of lentils, mushrooms or TVP (soy granules). The recipe I used today uses both lentils and rice for the structure. I remember watching Giada making it on Food Network and wanted to try the recipe.

November 03, 2014

Pumpkin Rice for Thanksgiving (Arroz con Calabaza -- Vegan Recipe)

Blogging Marthon# 46: Week 1/ Day 1
Theme: Festival Special -- Thanksgiving
Dish: Pumpkin Rice/ Arroz con Calabaza
We are starting a new edition of Blogging Marathon today and my theme for this week is 'Festival Special. Since it's November and we are only few weeks away from Thanksgiving, I decided to make some easy Vegetarian dishes for the occasion.
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday that is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in the United States. It is the day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. The holiday's history in North America is rooted in English traditions -- it has aspects of harvest festival almost similar to that of Pongal in South India. 
Pumpkin Rice for Thanksgiving (Arroz con Calabaza -- Vegan Recipe)
For the very first Thanksgiving in the US, the Dean of our Department invited few of us poor graduate students who didn't have anywhere to go. There was so much food and that was the first turkey I saw in my life (dead that is...) Thankfully they had lot of vegetarian food too that I was able to enjoy.


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