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Category Archives: Dinner

Back to the drawing board.

I took a temporary break from blogging a few months ago. The break was my time to finish up the Browny book and make good headway on the Skyla Boneigh books. Alas! It wasn’t to be. I have spent the time instead on reading books. LOTS of them.

It started out with me wanting to turn Browny’s story into a full book. I found that I was having a hard time adding detail to the story outline. What seemed like a good idea for a story detail in my head, turned out to not be so once I put it down on paper. Once or twice I found myself going, “Who wrote this nonsense?” before realizing, the who in question was me. I decided to read books, blogs and have lengthy conversations with my sons to learn about how to write a story. Communication Arts are emphasized in American education and my sons are able to teach me a lot on that front.

But it was the reading of the books which was my undoing. You see, I have always been a reader. I LOVE books. I can devour books. But between birthing kids, raising them, work and life I let reading take a back seat. Notice how I don’t mention husband as being one of the reasons for letting reading slip my list of to-dos. That is because he has never let his reading slip. He always makes time to read and write no matter what is going on. And he always encouraged me to read. He used to bring home books for me that he thought I might like to read when he went to the library. I never read those books. And he has the same amount, if not more, of things going on his life all this while as well. Oh well! Moving on.

It was last year that a teacher of my first son told me that he has a brilliant mind and a lot of potential but he may not reach his true potential if reading books is not something he enjoys. I tried the “I am your mom and I order you read” routine for a while but had very little success with it. So I decided to lead by example instead. I started going to the library a whole lot more, taking him along, borrowing books, reading them and discussing books he has read with him. That seemed to have done the trick! He is a voracious reader now. But alas! my addiction was back full force.

I was slowly ignoring writing. I initially masked my addiction with “reading will help me learn how other authors add detail”. But when my addiction was at its worse I would pull all nighters to read a book. I forgot about the art of writing and was more worried about who committed the murder. This past week, I was reading one of short stories written by my son and it finally hit home! While I was impressed with how he took a simple idea and made a story out of it, it also made me realize I truly missed writing.

Hopefully, I have now come a full circle and find a happy medium between reading and writing. Reading enriches the mind but writing helps one express their thoughts and ideas. I want to do both. I want to finish up writing my books. I will also share with you all through my writing some of the amazing authors I have read recently.

How have you all been? Read any good book lately? Do share.

-Radhika.

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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Dinner

 

About nothing in particular.

This post is about nothing at all. Ok, that isn’t true! It is about writing, something or anything or everything. My goal is to write on most nights if not every night. Past two nights I have had nothing to write about. Again, not exactly true. Last night as I was making dinner (savory polenta with veggies), I had an idea for a lengthy post on the hominess of polenta even though I had never eaten polenta till about 6 months ago and even then last night was only my second time. Seems confusing doesn’t it!? Let me explain a little.
Polenta made the way I make it tastes just like upma, a South Indian dish. You see, you can take a girl out of South India but you can’t take South India out of her! Upma to my family and I, falls into the category of homey comfort food. It is not “comfort” as in stick to the ribs, but just something that means simple, tasty and comforting. Upma is made from semolina which somewhat looks and feels like polenta. So I see polenta and end up making upma from it.
My post last night was going to explain all this and more but by the time it came to write, the polenta had filled my belly and because it tasted like upma (almost!) and looked like upma, it warmed my heart and any thoughts I had for writing the post left my mind and instead I slept like a baby. That is what upma does to me.
I must have upma hangover today cause I could not string together thoughts for a post tonight either. But then I forced myself to sit at the computer and just write. I am glad I did! I could not even come up with a title for the post. Browny is no closer to finding a home, and Skyla is still waiting to solve her first crime, but at least I practiced writing tonight.
Starting this month we have decided to create a monthly newsletter with articles and updates from the four of us. We sent it to family and a few friends. The January newsletter was a big hit. Now we have no clue how to fill in the pages of the February newsletter. Bligh!! Darn writer’s block! Each of us is hoping that the other will involve themselves in scandalous behavior so that we can fill the pages of our newsletter.
But tonight’s post, this post and as much as I have been able to write towards it, is now giving me hope. Maybe it is a matter of just starting the newsletter and soon we will have to stop ourselves from making it a February news novel.
Tomorrow we plan to go watch eagles. Hopefully we get to take some good pictures. I hope that writing and taking pictures and constant practice of both will get us to be good enough to get us to where we have a body of works to show for it that we can be really proud of!
Here’s to keeping at it!

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Dinner, Life size Bytes

 

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A simple curry.

I cook dinner almost every week night and at least one day of the weekend or both. The exceptions to the rules are if work commitments prevent me from making dinner or we have been invited to dinner at a friend’s or we decide to eat out or I am sick. And sometimes sheer laziness will cause me to serve PBJ sandwiches for dinner. But overall, we mostly eat a home cooked meal for dinner.
I am not at all a planner. My weekly meal planning involves my husband asking me what I will be needing for the week night dinners, as he heads out to the grocery store on Sunday and I always reply “Mmm..blllg..djdjd..”. Over the years he has learned to translate that to “whatever you find interesting at the store”. So I end up with whatever he has picked up on a given Sunday.
Strangely, it is a system that works great for us! Sometimes I am keenly aware of what my husband has picked up. During such a week as I drive home from work I think of ways to put together edible meals for my family. Other times I have no idea what is in my fridge. Such an evening involves me opening the fridge and pantry and coming up with some edible. To add to this my husband and sons are very vocal critics of my food and I always feel like I am on “Chopped”. It is actually a very fun process. I highly recommend it to everyone.
My sons categorize my dinners into “special” dinners which generally means non-Indian food or non staple(in our house) Indian food and “simple” meals, which are my fall back Indian meals. For the past few days I had been making “special” meals but today I decided to fall back on a “simple” meal of fish and potato curry served over rice. They thoroughly enjoyed it, probably even more than any other meal this week. This just goes to show is nothing like simple, comforting food to bring a smile to one’s face.
This just like in life. It is always the simple things in life that bring us the most joy and comfort. The smile on their faces of a having enjoyed a satisfying meal is my greatest reward.
Here’s to a simple curry and a blessed life!

Simple curry recipe (made with ingredients on hand, no measurements and a lot of love):
Olive Oil
Onion
dried red chillies
jeera
turmeric
cloves
Indian Cinnamon
1 large tomato
fresh ginger (half-inch)
Tilapia filets cut into cubes
Cooked potato cubes (I had some leftover from Saturday)
Bay leaf
Salt to taste

In Olive oil, fry the first nine ingredients till the onion is translucent. Let cool for a bit. Grind into a fine paste adding water a necessary. Do not add too much water.
Add some olive oil into the pan along with the bay leaf. Once the bay leaf is slightly toasted add the ground paste prepared above.
Let cook for 5-10 minutes. Then add in the salt. Mix well.
Finally add in the fish and potatoes. Lower the heat and let cook till fish is thoroughly cooked.

Serve over white rice.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Dinner, Life size Bytes

 

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Dinner for two.

I haven’t blogged since last Thursday. I did miss you guys but I had a lot going on that kept me away from blogging. My husband recently gifted me an iPad. Woohoo. Thanks honey! And it arrived on Thursday. I could hardly contain myself. All I wanted to do was spend time with my new toy. So I hurriedly put together something that resembles a dinner and got right back to the iPad.
Pongal in its glorious form is an excellent rich flavorful dish. I, unfortunately, in this go around, did not do it justice. My husband rejected it (rightfully so) but my sons devoured it. I was speechless at how much they liked it. I found it too salty for consumption.

Pongal and leftovers curry.


I was off on Friday since it was Good Friday (yay!!) but my good little sister and her good husband had to work. That meant that it was our opportunity to have my niece spend the entire day with us. We actually made it into a sleep over with my niece.
I had made plans to cook with my friend Lisa but abandoned that in favor of a mani-pedi with my niece. Sorry Lisa.
It was raining cats and dogs and we were in no mood to brave the weather, so we had my sons give us girls a mani-pedi and we followed that up with an indoor picnic. And later we watched some Scooby-Doo.

Mani-Pedi for the princess.


Indoor picnic.


Dinner on good Friday was steamed mussels and baked fish. Sorry all. I could not take pictures or focus too much on the dinner I was making. My husband was home by then (thank God!) and we were all anxiously following the tornado watch in our area, ready to run to the basement at a moment’s notice. We were spared but people in the North County were not so lucky. The tornado destroyed an entire concourse at the airport and lots of homes were destroyed. Lucky no lives were lost.
We enjoyed the mussels but the fish was a HUGE hit. I made a coffee-blueberry sauce for the fish. OH so good! It was a pleasure having Riya sleep over.
The kids headed over to my sister’s house on Saturday. That gave me time to finish up a book I was reading. Oh my gosh! What a great book. A must read. So inspiring.
For dinner, it was just my husband and I that night. So I made him his favorite dinner of chapati and curry. We wrapped the night up with a movie. We had a great date night! Simple food and each other for company. Good times!

Chapati served with mushroom-peas curry and some yogurt and pickles.

Chapati (Indian Bread)
**Makes 11 chapatis
Ingredients:
2.5 cups chapati flour or atta
hot water
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
**Rolling pin
**1/2 cup oil for use during rolling and for frying the chapati

The chapati flour I used. It is what was available in my grocery store.


1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, oil, yogurt, salt till thoroughly combined.
2. Add the water, starting with a 1/4 cup of water until a dough is formed. The dough should not be wet and sticky but it should not be dry and hard either. Knead thoroughly, adding water on a need a be basis till a nice elastic dough is formed. The dough should bounce back when pressure is applied.

The chapati dough.


3. Set aside cover for 1/2 hour. Use this time to make a curry to serve with the chapati.
4. Divide the dough into 2 inch diameter balls.
5. Flatten the dough with your hands into a circle of about 4 inches diameter. Apply a thin layer of oil.

Flatten the dough with your hands and apply a thin coat of oil


6. Fold in half. Apply a thin layer of oil on one side of the folded crescent.

Fold in half.


7. Fold in half again keeping the oiled side on the inside.

Second fold. Like my floured fingers?


8. Make into a ball with your hands.
9. Flatten the dough using your hands into a 4 inch diameter circle.
10. Dredge in flour on both sides and roll till a thin circular crepe is formed.

Rolled out chapati.


Thickness of the chapati.


11. Repeat steps 4-9 for the remaining dough balls.
12. Fry both sides of the chapati on a crepe pan. Apply oil to the pan before laying a new crepe to fry. And apply about 1/4 tsp oil on the top of the crepe before turning it over. A crepe is cooked once both sides show sign of light charring (see pic).

Frying chapati


13. Serve with your favorite curry.
!4. Enjoy~!

Please let me know what you thought of the recipe if you do try it.

Till next time,
Radhika.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Dinner, Life size Bytes

 

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Chopped…or not!

Cooking soothes me. It helps me forget the day. I love getting lost in the process of making the food and sometimes pretending like I am either hosting a food show on TV or am a contestant on the Food Network TV Show “Chopped”. You must think I am crazy. Well, so do I!
Tonight I was cooking with ingredients that I hadn’t cooked with before. So I especially felt like I was on “Chopped”. A couple of times I even found myself nervously checking the time expecting someone to announce “Time’s up! Step away from your plates.”
It is not this way every evening though. Some days I cook exclusively with the blog in mind. I take lots of pictures, think about what I want to write and think about what my sons (someday) or someone else out there who may read the post think of the recipe and hence me. Yes, I need constant assurance.
Tonight the blog was the last thing on my mind. Hence I forgot to take step by step pictures. Have you seen a chef of “Chopped” take step-by-step pictures? I didn’t think so!

Chopped challenge ingredients.


My challenge to myself was to cook with mango and chestnuts. Yikes!! I accepted the challenge, so there was no going back. I tasted a chestnut, felt like I had a chance to win the challenge and dived right in. Both feet in and then some! I must say I am glad I accepted the challenge. The pasta dish I made turned out so delicious, it makes me wonder why I haven’t cooked with chestnuts and mango before. The light sweetness of the chestnut-mango sauce compliments the spices extremely well. It is a match made in heaven!

Angel hair pasta tossed in a chestnut-mango spicy sauce along with Crimini mushrooms cooked in wine and shrimp.

Pasta tossed in chestnut-mango sauce
*Serves 6-8 people
Ingredients:
**For the sauce:
1 3 oz box vacuum packed chestnuts (cooked and peeled) (I purchased this from a local grocery store. It was in the refrigeration section) – chopped into bite size pieces
1 Ataulfo Mango – peel the skin and chop the flesh into bite size pieces
1.5 tbsp of freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 tbsp of the pulp of the blood orange
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup milk
Water as required to grind
**For the pasta
1 12 oz box of multi-grain Angel hair pasta (or any kind of pasta)
2 cups finely chopped celery
1.5 tsp chopped garlic
1 6 oz box of Crimini mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2-3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
20-25 cooked shrimp (you can use any meat. I had shrimp I had to use tonight before it went bad)

1. In a large saute pan, add the 2 tbsp of olive oil. When the oil is medium hot, saute the chestnuts and mango in the oil stirring constantly to prevent the mango from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the flame. Set aside.

Sauted chestnut and mango pieces


2. Add the blood orange rind and juice to the chestnut-mango-orange mixture and grind till smooth by adding the milk and water as necessary. The paste should be slight grainy and not too runny. Set aside.

Chestnut, mango and blood orange mixture


3. Prepare the pasta per the directions on the box.
4. In the same pan used to saute the chestnut and mango, add the remaining oil. When the oil is medium hot, add the celery and garlic.
5. Once the celery is cooked, add the mushrooms. If using raw meat (like chicken), add the meat at this point. And saute till the meat is fully cooked.
6. When the mushrooms (and meat) is cooked, add the chili powder, turmeric and cumin. Cook for 45-60 seconds. Mix well.
7. Add the wine. Let the wine reduce.
8. Add the chestnut-mango sauce made above.
9. Add 1/4 tsp salt. Mix well. Adjust according to taste.
10. Add the cooked and drained pasta. Toss well to coat the pasta.
11. Cook on low for 15-20 minutes.
12. Serve with some spicy Sriracha sauce.
13. Enjoy~!

Please let me what you think of the recipe if you do try it.

Till next time,
Radhika.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Dinner

 

Cooking with Blueberries – Day 2.

Last night’s blueberry pot stickers were a huge hit with my primary audience, my family. Tonight I wanted to continue whetting their appetite but I also wanted to also play with the color of the blueberries in my dish.
I had purchased organic chicken thighs over the weekend. Roasted chicken with its crispy skin seemed like the right dish to play with color and honestly, who doesn’t like roasted chicken? My gamble paid off! Tonight’s dinner was out of this world good. The fruity flavors came together so well with the thyme and made this roasted chicken dish my all time favorite. There is no going back!
I am so glad I am taking chances this season and adding fruit to my dishes. I have really been missing out. I hope you try it too. You never know, you may end up finding your “out of this world good” dish. Be sure to let me know when you do find it. 🙂

Blood Orange-blueberry-thyme roasted chicken thigh served with Tabouleh and Rob style corn.


At the heart of this dish is the sauce I made to pour over the chicken thighs. For a change I added no spices. Yes, it was tough to not add those, but I did not want the natural flavor or color of the fruit to be diminished by the spices.

Blood Orange-Lemon-Blueberries - the stars of tonight's dinner

Blood Orange-Blueberry-thyme Roasted chicken
*Makes 6 chicken thighs
**For the sauce:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed 1/4 cup blood orange juice
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp blood orange rind
1/2 tsp orange rind
1/2 cup packed blueberries
3 tbsp butter
2-3 sprigs of thyme
**For the chicken
6 pieces of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
salt
pepper

Honey I used.


Thyme was the perfect complement to the flavors of the fruit.

1. Apply 1/2 tsp of salt (1/4 on each side) all over the chicken (over and under the skin). Set aside in a roasting pan.

Chicken seasoned with salt


2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
3. In a non reactive bowl, combine the blood orange juice, the lime juice, honey, blueberries, orange rind and lemon rind.
4. In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the juice mixture and blueberries from above to the butter. Add the thyme. Continuously stir the mixture till the blueberries cook and the sauce slightly thickens and the sauce comes to a rolling boil. The sauce should not get too thick and should be of dripping consistency.

Boiling Sauce


Finished Sauce


5. Pour the completed sauce over the chicken. Make sure the sauce completely coats the chicken, top and bottom and all around.

Look at the beautiful color of the berries and orange juices in sauce! Winning!!


6. Sprinkle pepper over the chicken (about 1/8 tsp – 1/4 tsp per thigh).

Pepper Sprinkled chicken.


7.Bake the chicken uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour or till the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Be sure to baste the chicken with the juices in the roasting pan, once or twice, during the baking process.

Roasted chicken. I had already used one piece for plating. 🙂


8. I served the chicken with tabouleh and sweet corn. You may serve it with any side dish you like. Mashed potatoes would be great!
9.Enjoy~!

Please let me know what you think of the recipe if you do try it.

Till next time,
Radhika.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Dinner

 

Blueberries are the new onion!

This past Saturday, when I went grocery shopping, I picked up items that really caught my eye. Chestnuts, pot sticker wrappers, freshly shredded cheese, specialty pasta, you name it. But I forgot the most important ingredient in almost all of my dishes. Onions!! I realized I had forgotten them, later that evening. How will I get through the week of cooking without onions?
I could have easily gone back to the store. But I decided to challenge myself and cook throughout the week without onions. I had purchased a big box of blueberries and somehow it seemed to me like blueberries could replace onions in almost any dish I make. Daal with blueberries anyone?

Blueberries


I am not sure how successful I will be with the rest of the week’s meals. But tonight’s dish with blueberries was a huge success. The blueberries melted away leaving behind a delightful flavor only enhanced by the spices and honey.

Tonight's dinner - Spicy honey, blueberry and sausage pot stickers served with a side of pan fried blueberry raisin sausage Brussels sprouts.

Spicy Blueberry pot stickers
Makes 36 pot stickers
1 pack of 36 pot stickers from the refrigerator section of your local grocery store
6 fully cooked Italian sausages (any kind) – diced
1/4 cup packed chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped colored peppers
1/2 cup blueberries
3 tbsp honey
1/2 – 3/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp olive oil

Veggie and fruit mixture for pot stickers


Chopped Sausage

1. In a large saute pan, add the oil. Once the oil is hot add the celery, mushroom and peppers. When the vegetables are halfway cooked, add the chili powder, cumin, turmeric and honey. Stir well. The honey will dissolve. Then add the blueberries. The blueberries will cook and start slightly squealing, at that point, add the chopped sausage. Stir well. Cook and cover on medium to low for 4-5 minutes till the sausage shrinks in size and a sauce forms from the sausage mixture. Let this sauce thicken a little. Keep stirring.

Honey, spices, blueberry sauce formed by cooking the meat mixture


2. With a slotted spoon, take out the meat mixture from the saute pan and set it aside on a plate to cool down. Leave the sauce sitting in the pan. You can use this to saute the vegetables you plan to serve on the side.

Honey blueberry spiced sausage


Leave the sauce behind for sauteing vegetables


3. Start making the pot stickers. On a clean work surface, lay out the pot sticker skins.

Lay the pot stickers on a clean work surface


4. Once the meat filling has cooled down, spoon 1 tsp of the filling on to the center of the sticker skins.

Top with one 1 tsp of filling


5. Moisten the circumference of the pot sticker skin with water and fold the skin with topping to form a crescent and tightly seal the edges.

Moisten and seal the pot stickers


6. Pan fry the sealed pot stickers in a large saute pan till it is golden brown on both sides. You may need to fry the pot stickers in two batches.
7. Then put all the pot stickers in the pan (if you fried them in two batches) and add 2 cups of lukewarm water and 1.5 tsp of sesame oil. Cook covered till the water comes to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, cook for 2-3 minutes. Shut off the flame. Transfer the pot stickers on a plate to let them drain. Pat dry and serve.

Pan fried pot stickers cooking in two cups of boiling water


Pat dried pot stickers are ready to be served.


8. I served the pot stickers with a side of Brussels sprouts. Since I made only 24 pot stickers, I had some of the meat mixture left. I cooked the sprouts in the left over sauce from above, some of the meat mixture and additional honey (about 2 tbsp). Once cooked, I topped the sprouts with blueberries.
9. Dig in!

Dig in!


10. Enjoy~!

Please let me know what you think of the recipe if you do try it.

Till next time,
Radhika.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Dinner

 

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