Jul 21, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Quinoa Salad

Here’s another good recipe for all you Quinoa lovers out there. How can I be so sure about it? Because I’m a love of Quinoa myself and if you made this for me, I would sit down happily and chow down a big bowl of it. And I’d be happy because I got my protein fix for the day.

Before I go into the recipe, here’s a question for all of you. What is Quinoa known as in Hindi and Tamil?

I heard that it was Thenai in tamil. But, after an extensive Google and Wiki research, I tend to disagree with that.

Thenai is a very common grown grain in India and the English name for that is Foxtail Millet. This is also known as Kangani in Hindi. And one of the points that Wiki talks about is how this grain feeds a lot of poor people in the northern part of India. That can just validate that this is not Quinoa at all because I heard Quinoa costs about Rs 500-600 per kilo. So, now it brings me back to the question – what is Quinoa called locally in India. Looks like even the Agriculture department has not yet categorized it – here’s a glossary for the names of many grains, pulses etc straight from the agri folks! So, if you’ve cracked the case, do share the knowledge!

Meanwhile, check out the Wiki facts on both Quinoa and Foxtail Millet. They clearly belong to different families.

Call it what you want, but this wonderful grain with its nutritious properties makes for a great salad or meal. Here are a couple of my other favorite Quinoa recipes on the blog – Cold Quinoa Salad and Quinoa Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Just adding al dente Quinoa to any salad makes it more appealing and healthy. But today we’re going to look at a toasted salad recipe where Quinoa is the king. And of course the king has him many flavorful sidekicks!

I cook Quinoa similar to rice in a rice cooker. If you are using raw Quinoa, make sure you wash it clean multiple times. Some store bought packaged Quinoa comes already cleaned but I still wash it a couple of times. Yes, I have trust issues. For 1 cup of Quinoa, add 2 cups of water or veggie broth and cook similar to white rice.

The next step will be to organize the sidekicks. So, here I start with lots of ginger (my favorite), a couple of green chillies, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, corn and black beans. Feel free to substitute your favorite veggies here. Avocados would go great and I know one person who as soon as she reads this will make it along with avocados! Nod your head when you read this, you know who you are.

Now you could just add all these ingredients raw, throw in the Quinoa, mix well and refrigerate for a cold salad. But I wanted it to be a slightly toasted and then chilled salad. Your Kitchen, your wish. Do it anyway your heart desires.

In a pan, add a tsp of oil. Throw in the ginger and green chillies first. Then add the onions and don’t let this over cook or brown. Just sauté for a min and immediately add the bell peppers and tomatoes.

Again, let all the ingredients cook for only a few seconds – they should still be crispy when you eat the salad but at the same time, you won’t have to breathe out the raw onion on your family or co workers!

Add in the corn and black beans in the end. Sprinkle some salt to taste and add about ¼ tsp of paprika or red chilli powder. Toss in the Quinoa and mix well. Switch off the stove immediately.

Finally add some fresh cut cilantro for a fresh flavor.

This is ready to serve as is. I was actually making this late at night to take to work for lunch the next day. So, I ate it cold the next day and absolutely loved it. The onions were still a little crisp and perfectly done. And I could bite into all the veggies and that crunch provided the needed texture rather than all it being a smushy upma consistency. Sometimes that would taste good too – but today I just loved it all crunchy.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your protein fix for the day – cook up some Quinoa and get started. Here’s to a healthy you and me!

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Jul 13, 2011

Slow Cooker Gajar Ka Halwa

Gajar ka halwa has always been one of my favorite goto sweets in the sweet aisle. There is never a time that I have and ever will say no to Gajar ka halwa. When you say out the name loud, it almost seems that you are referring to a royal king of sorts. And this humble and yet royal dessert deserves all that loud royal name calling. Why not.

One thing with the traditional preparation of Gajar ka halwa is that it is a labor of love. You'll have to stand there stirring it, making sure it does not stick to the bottom and burn and if you don't have that whole hour to stand there and cook this, you might as well get some from the store.

But, there is indeed an easier way to go about this - the slower method. Even though the cooking time is way more than normal, this can be prepared much in advance and you don't have to lift a spoon while its cooking. Just pile up the ingredients, switch on the button and forget about it for 6 hours. And when your guests are ready for dessert, just open up a warm pot of delicious tasting gajar ka halwa.

Grate a bunch of carrots and even though I love my food processor like a child, I skip that and instead hand grate the carrots - just because I want a shorter grate than what my food processor gives me. Its complicate, I know. But I just can't get myself to compromise on this one.

Add all the grated carrots to the slow cooker. I was preparing this for a party dessert and hence grated about 7-8 carrots.

Add two cans of evaporated milk on top of the carrots.

And about 1/2 to 1 cup of regular milk. You can actually skip this if you are using lesser carrots and there is enough evaporated milk to cover the ca

Add one can of sweetened condensed milk. I love love the fact that we now get fat free condensed milk!! Yay for that!

Add about 1/2 cup of sugar - remember carrots themselves are sweet, and you also have condensed milk in there. So about 1/2 cup of sugar is all you'll need.

Gently mix it all up well. As you can see, there's just about enough liquid to cover the carrots. The more liquid you have in here, the longer its going to take you to make the halwa. But, the great thing is that you still don't have to lift a spoon - your slow cooker will do all the work for you. Just time it correctly so you don't have your guests waiting and this still not done.

Close the lid. Switch on the cooker and go take care of your to-do list for the next 6 hrs. Maybe once every 2 hrs, walk over back and give this a stir - not that it needs that, but you can get an idea of the consistency.

And don't fret if you see a little darkening around the pot. You see the white space in between the halwa and the scorched walls - that's how much the halwa has reduced in quantity in about 5-6 hrs. It still needs to go on for about 45 mins to get thicker.

When the halwa is completely done and pretty thick in consistency, add sliced almonds and pistachios and add about 1/2 tsp of cardamom powder and some saffron if you have it at home - this just adds a subtle flavor to the halwa.

What else do you have to wait for? Dig in and enjoy. And thank the makers of slow cooker for making life easier for us halwa lovers!

Serve hot as is or along with a cool scoop of ice cream. I also do love to eat this cold out of the fridge.
So just eat it anyway you like. This version is super moist and when you pick up that spoon and place it on your tongue and all that milk goodness just flows out, aaaahhhh..life is so good!

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Jul 7, 2011

Red White and Blue - A colorful dessert with Pound Cake

The timing to bake a cake for the Sweet Punch Series could not have been better. It was the 4th of July weekend and like every other year, we attend a neighborhood potluck to get together, chit chat and get to know our neighbors. And of course, all the getting to know happens in the middle of a lot of food. And I did not have to think twice on what to take. I just had the pound cake recipe ready and knew exactly what to do with it.

This is a really easy and basic recipe but gives you the the perfect pound cake. However, this recipe yields a  smaller cake - perfect for one loaf pan. So, if you need more quantity, either double or bake it twice. I've made many pound cakes before because the pound cake is probably the only cake that my hubby actually eats. He calls it his tea cake and loves to bite into it with a cup of hot tea or coffee. Simple pleasures! Here another pound cake I baked for his birthday!

Pound cakes can be used as a base for many desserts or of coruse can be eaten as is. One of the best ways to use them is to make a trifle with some pound cake, whipped cream and fresh berries or cherries. That is a combination from dessert heaven! This time though, I wanted the same combination but wanted to change the presentation a little bit and make it all red, white and blue to celebrate the special day. So, I baked the pound cake, chopped it up into little biteable pieces, added some fresh strawberries for the red and blueberries for the blue and of course topped it off with some whipped cream. What's not to like in this!

Here's the recipe from Rose's The Cake Bible for a perfect pound cake. I actually made two cakes. Used one for the potluck and the other was just for the family to munch on and shared a little with friends from work too. Like I always say - good things are meant to be shared!

3 tbsp Milk
3 large Eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
13 tbsp Unsalted butter , softened

Let's get started.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and keep in a small mixing bowl.

In another small bowl, add the milk, vanilla essence and 3 eggs. Whisk together well and set aside.

In the mixer bowl, add all the dry ingredients, softened butter and sugar and mix together, starting at low speed and moving up to medium speed. Add 1/3 of the egg mixture and mix till the moist batter starts to form. Then, while the mixer is still on, add the rest of the egg mixture in two batches. Scrap down the sides if needed. Mix just until you see no more dry ingredients. The batter is ready.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan or a square pan. Since I was anyways going to cut them into small bits, I did not mind that this could be a flat cake. If you need tall slices, use a loaf pan or a small bundt pan.

Bake in a 350F preheated oven for about 25-30 mins or until the toothpick test passes.

Cool down the cake and serve it any way you like.

If you are making dessert for a small party at home for a few friends, this makes a wonderful individual trifle dessert. Mix it up with whipped cream or even condensed milk and add some fresh fruits in here. Can you imagine a condensed milk soaked pound cake topped off with mangoes?? How awesome would that be? If I made that, I doubt there will be any left over for the friends!

For a bigger party or a potluck, get your creative hat on and present it in a way to suit the occasion. You have one of the most versatile ingredients at hand - so go as crazy as you can and pep up the party.

Here's my red, white and blue platter lined with whipped cream and topped with some festive 4th of July confetti.

Thank you Sweet Punch team for making my potluck planning easy and also for a wonderful pound cake recipe!

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Jul 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

To all friends in the US, Wish you all a Very Happy 4th of July! Enjoy the fireworks and the barbecues!