Saturday, November 22, 2008

Red and Green Lasagna

Lasagna is an Italian pasta dish made with alternate layers of pastas and cheese. Traditionally, lots of Ricotta and Mozzarella cheese is used in Lasagna, but we are not too fond of Ricotta cheese, so I always used to avoid making Lasagna. This time I decided to make it, thinking that using very less Ricotta cheese and adding other veggies would be able to provide us proper flavor. 
I am using two kinds of sauces here: Marinara Sauce and White Sauce with Spinach, that's why the name 'Red and Green Lasagna':).  I browsed through different recipes and here is my mixed-and-matched version of Lasagna.

8-9 sheets of lasagna no-boil noodles
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (I used store-bought. Here is the home-made recipe)
2 1/2 cups white sauce ( 2 tbsp wheat flour, 2 1/2 cups milk)
2 cups frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
1/2 onion (chopped)
1/2 yellow pepper (thinly sliced)
2 small eggplants (sliced)
1 tbsp sundried tomatoes
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
2 tbsp ricotta cheese (I used fat-free)
2 tsp oil
cooking spray
mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper as needed ( I used fat-free cheese)

  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add chopped onion and garlic paste. Once the onion gets cooked, add marinara sauce. Simmer it for a while. Add 1/2 tsp chili flakes. Set aside.
  • To make white sauce, blend wheat flour and milk with a hand mixie. Heat on the stove at medium flame. Add salt, pepper and stir continuously. Remove from the heat when it's thick. ( I like to make this as healthy as possible. You can make the white sauce the usual way by using butter, all-purpose flour and milk.)
  • In a pan, add 1 tsp oil and add chopped spinach. Let it cook for a while and add sundried tomatoes. Remove from the heat and add in the white sauce.
  • Preheat the oven at 375 F. Put sliced eggplants and bell peppers on the aluminium-foil wrapped baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray and sprinkle salt and pepper. Put in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Take a conventional-oven safe bowl and put some spinach-white sauce on the bottom. Cover with lasagna noodles. Put half of marinara sauce on top and cover with eggplants and bell peppers.
  • Now, spread ricotta cheese on these vegetables. The next layer again will be lasagna noodles. Cover the noodles with rest of the spinach-white sauce mixture. 
  • Put the final layer of lasagna-noodles on the top. Pour rest of the marinara sauce on top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese.  Sprinkle some chili flakes on top if desired and put in the oven for 55-60 minutes.

I would like to send this dish to Mansi's Vegetarian Thanksgiving Event.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Apple-Paneer Toasts

My husband, Nisarg, comes home so hungry after the end of his workday that he attacks almost anything that is in vicinity and is edible. Along with that, he also wants something that is light, so that he can exercise/workout properly before we have dinner. This recipe fits right into that category, light and yet satisfying the appetite. 

2 apples (peeled,cored and sliced)
4 slices whole wheat / multigrain bread
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup paneer(cottage cheese) (grated)
1 tbsp lemon juice 
8 cashew nuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp honey

  • Sprinkle lemon juice on the apple slices.
  • Pre-heat the oven at 300 F.
  • Toast the cashew nuts in the microwave for 60-90 seconds, till golden. Let cool and crush coarsely.
  • Heat a non-stick pan and gently poach the apple slices in the orange juice for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add more juice if needed. 
  • Cut the bread slices in half and toast them.
  • Mix paneer with crushed cashew nuts. 
  • Put about 4 apple slices on each bread slice and cover with paneer-cashew mixture. Sprinkle cinnamon powder and put in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Drizzle the honey on the toasts and serve.

Because this dish is novel and delicious, children and adolescents enjoy eating it. My younger cousins and my nephew-niece really love it. The ingredients used in the food such as honey, oranges, apples, cinnamon etc. are rich in their nutritive values as well, making it ideal for children's snacks.
Madhavi has organized Children's Day Event in her blog, and this recipe is perfect for it!!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Chilaquiles and my first Awards:)

I saw this recipe for the first time on Rachael Ray Show. Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish. It is usually eaten at breakfast/brunch, but at our place we eat this for dinner.  In the traditional recipe, the tortillas are fried but the baked version works very well,too.  

10 6-inch tortillas ( I use wheat tortillas)
3 cups frozen corn (thawed)
2 15 ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 15 ounce cans black beans
1 tbsp cumin-coriander powder
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 red onion (chopped)
3 cloved garlic ( grated)
1 green chili (chopped)
1 tsp hot sauce
2 scallions (chopped)
1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
2 tsp oil
1 tsp butter
cooking spray
cheddar cheese, salt and pepper as needed

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Stack the tortillas on top of one another and slice them into strips about an inch thick. Place into a mixing bowl along with cumin, coriander and lime zest. Mix well along with oil spray and place them into a baking sheet. Bake the strips untill they are crisp and golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and toss red onion, garlic, green chili. Once the onion gets cooked, add fire-roasted tomatoes. Season with salt-pepper and stir to combine. Put in the mixie and pulse it till it resembles salsa. You can add some store-bought salsa to enhance the flavor. Set aside.
  • Heat butter in a pan. Add corn and cook until they are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Stir only occasionally. Set aside.
  • Use the salsa pan to cook the beans. Add 1 tsp oil and add 1 can of beans. Using a potato masher, mash the beans to a paste and then stir in another can of beans. Add hot sauce and some salt.
  • Assemble the chilaquiles by putting half of the salsa into a 9x13" baking caserole dish. Arrange the toasted corn strips in the dish and top them off with black beans, followed by corn and the remaining salsa. Top with cheddar cheese and put in the oven for about 7-8 minutes.
  • Squeeze lime juice on the top and garnish with scallions and cilantro before serving.

Yasmeen of Health Nut has passed me my very first blog awards- Great Buddy award and the Kreativ Blogger award. Thank you so much dear:).
[kreative_award.jpg]  [great+buddy+award.jpg]

My nephew is very fond of corn. Ever since he was small, one his all time favorite foods has been 'corn on the cob' :). When I heard about Sharmi's 'Cooking For Kids' event which has key ingredient 'corn', I knew I had to send in this recipe. I am sure other kids are also going to love this,too.

Thai Fresh Spring-Summer Rolls

Here is another yummy thai dish I made few weeks ago. 
I was planning to make spring rolls for our guests, but couldn't find spring roll wraps in our local grocery store. So, I had to work with rice wraps. When we tried these wraps for the first time in a restaurant few months ago, it took us some time to realize that the rice wraps were edible :). 
I searched online for the recipe and found some very good vegetarian thai dishes at The recipe I have written here is adapted from the website. 

1 package of large dried rice wrappers
1 cup firm tofu (cut into strips)
3-4 oz thin dried rice noodles 
1 cup boiled broccoli (cut into small florets)
2 spring onions (sliced thinly, lengthwise)
1 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
1/2 cup fresh basil (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbsp grated ginger 
1 tsp oil

2 tbsp vegetarian fish sauce (available at vietnamese stores)
2 tbsp black bean & garlic sauce (optional)
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp chili sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp honey 
3 tbsp water

Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping (available in the asian aisle at the grocery store)  

  • Heat oil in a pan and fry chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Add tofu strips and broccoli florets. Add some water if the mixture gets too dry.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients together and add to the pan. Stir-fry for a while and remove from the heat. Do a taste-test. Add some sauces if needed. If it is too salty, add some lime juice.
  • Place a pot of water on stove. Bring the water to boil and add rice noodles. Turn off the heat and let it stand for 8-10 minutes. When the noodles are soft, drain them and wash with cold water (to avoid sticking). Keep aside.
  • Pour some hot water into a large bowl (large enough to soak rice paper). Make sure it is not too hot, as you will be dipping your fingers into it. 
  • Place a rice wrap into the bowl and let it soften. This will take about 30-50 seconds. Lift the wrapper and put it on a flat surface (cutting board) for rolling. 
  • Lay out little bit of tofu-broccoli mixture, rice noodles, spring onions, cilantro and basil leaves as shown in the picture.
  • Start by folding at the end and then go for the sides. Now lift the long side of the wrapper and tuck it over the filling to create a roll. Press the end down to secure the roll.
  • Serve with sweet chili sauce.
These rolls can be made quite in advance. Wrap them in a wet towel and put in the fridge. Remove from the fridge about 30-40 minutes before serving.

I would like to send this over to DK's  Culinary Bazaar for  A.W.E.D. Thai Event.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Makai Handvo (Vegetable Handvo)

Recently I visited my cousin in New York and she showed me some hand-written recipes by my masi. Among these, I found this delicious vegetable handvo/corn handvo recipe which is a speciality of my other masi:). I always thought that this would be way too complicated for me. 

Also, in India we used to live in the same society, so whenever she cooked something special, she'd send the goodies to us,too. I never had to worry about how to cook all those yummy dishes;). But here in the US, if you want to eat authentic gujju dishes, there is no other option but to cook them yourself!!

So, I finally cooked it yesterday and it turned out so good!! Am planning to make it again soon...

2 cups frozen corn (thawed and grated)
1 large potato (boiled and mashed)
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup chopped boiled vegetables(green beans, peas, carrots)
1 cup boiled corn
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup bread crumbs(toast 2 bread slices and then grind in the mixer)
1 cup milk
2-3 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp coconut powder
5 tbsp chopped cilantro
3 tbsp crushed ginger-chili 
1 tsp ghee
1 tbsp oil 
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1 tbsp sesame seeds
5-6 cashews (halved)
5-6 golden raisins
7-8 curry leaves
salt, sugar, lemon juice as needed
oil spray

  • Heat ghee in a pan and add cumin seeds. Add crushed corn, salt, 1 tbsp chili-ginger, 1 tbsp coconut, sugar, lemon juice, 2 tbsp cilantro and 1 cup milk. Let it thicken at low-medium heat. Stir continuously. Set aside.
  • Add 1 tbsp chili-ginger, 1 tbsp cilantro, salt, lemon juice and sugar into mashed potato and mix well. 
  • Take a large mixing bowl and add crushed corn mixture, mashed potato mixture, boiled vegetables, tomatoes, cilantro, rice and mix well. Add chili-ginger, sugar,salt, lemon juice if needed.
  • Heat oil for tadka. Add mustard seeds, asafoetida, sesame seeds, curry leaves, cashews and raisins. When sesame seeds are golden brown turn off the heat and add this tadka to the mixing bowl. Mix well.
  • Preheat the oven at 350 F.
  • Coat conventional oven-safe bowl with oil spray and spread half of the mixture. Now layer with tomato ketchup. Pour rest of the mixture and layer with bread crumbs.
  • Put in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown. 
  • Serve with tomato ketchup or cilantro chutney.

I'd like to send this to Sharmi's 'Cooking For Kids' event, where this month's key ingredient is 'corn'. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bajri Vada

When I was young, Ma would never let me help her with the frying. She would always get worried that I'd be a bit careless and hurt myself. Because of that, and because of the fact that fried items contain high fat content, I have never made fried items more than 3-4 times. So, this recipe in a way is one of the very rare fried dishes that I make.

Bajri vada is one of the several famous Gujarati 'farsaan's (salty snacks) made during  Diwali festival. It is easy to make and they stay unperished for quite a long time, making it an ideal snack during Diwali festival. My husband's personal experience suggests that it is impossible to  have just one vada ;) and it is extremely hard to resist temptation to have 3-4 at once:).

1 cup bajri(pearl millet) flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/8 cup suji
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 chopped green chili
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp coriander-cumin powder
3 tbsp sugar
salt to taste
water/oil to knead dough
oil for frying

  • Mix together all the ingredients and knead the dough. For chewy texture, knead it with water, for softer texture, use oil.
  • The dough should be little soft. Make about 15 balls. Pat the balls with hands to make small patties.
  • Heat oil and fry the vadas.
  • These can be eaten hot or cold.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thai Red Curry

I fell in love with Thai food the first time I tried it!!:) We had gone to a restaurant called 'Bangkok Balcony' here in Pittsburgh. I am not a huge fan of coconut, so I was a bit skeptical about trying the curries, but all the dishes were so yummy!! Since then, it has became my favorite cuisine.  
We recently invited some of our friends for Thai dinner and the menu was Thai iced tea, Thai fresh summer rolls, Spring rolls, Cucumber salad, Thai red curry with brown rice, Pad thai noodles. Luckily for us, everything turned out quite good:). 
I am starting with the Thai red curry recipe. I'll be uploading other pics and recipes soon...

    2 tbsp vegetarian red curry paste( the one I use is by 'Thai Kitchen')
    1 tbsp brown sugar
    2 cups unsweetened light coconut milk
    2 tsp oil
    3 cloves chopped garlic
    2 tsp ginger paste
    2-3 chopped chillies
    1 cup cubed firm tofu
    2 cups stir-fried vegetables( green-red peppers, water chestnuts, broccoli, mushrooms, baby corns, carrots, soy beans)
    10-12 roasted cashews, 2 chopped scallions for garnish

    • Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Saute the vegetables until cooked. Add tofu and mix well. Set aside.
    • Reheat the pan with remaining 1 tsp of oil over medium heat. Add the curry paste and stir to combine. 
    • Add brown sugar and 1 cup of coconut milk. Add ginger, garlic, chillies, vegetables, tofu and remaining coconut milk. Cook for 10-12 minutes.
    • Garnish with cashews and scallions and serve with jasmine rice.
    I would like to send this to A.W.E.D. Thai Event hosted by DK's Culinary Bazaar.


    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    Stuffed Bell Peppers

    Hi everyone,

    Whenever I make something new or special, I usually share the photos of the dishes with my friends and family members. Stuffed bell pepper is one of the dishes that has aroused most interest. Many people have asked me about its recipe and have enjoyed it. Obviously, it makes stuffed bell peppers a worthy candidate for a blog.
    Whenever we invite guests to our place over lunch/dinner, I always ask my husband "What should I make?", usually he is out of clue (and  mentions dishes that do not suit with rest of the items). Finally, I have to give him some choices, but his lifeline to save himself out of the trouble has been "stuffed bell peppers". This dish can easily match with different types of cuisines. The ingredients are basically Italian, but it can match well with North Indian or continental cuisines. It is a great dish for potluck too. You can add cottage cheese and Indian spices in the filling for an Indian version of the stuffed bell peppers.

    4 large bell peppers
    2 chopped green onions
    1 chopped tomato
    1/2 cup chopped cilantro
    1/2 cup boiled spaghetti(you can use other kind of pastas)
    1/2 cup cooked rice
    1 tsp chili sauce
    3/4 cup tomato ketchup
    1 cup white sauce(1/2 tsp butter, 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, 1 cup milk, salt, pepper)
    oil spray
    salt, chili powder, cheese as needed

    • Cut bell peppers in half and remove seeds and stems. Put them in a microwave-safe bowl, add some water and cover the lid. The bell peppers will be almost cooked in about 5-6 minutes. Keep aside.
    • For the filling, mix rice, spaghetti, tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, chili sauce, salt. 
    • Add this mixture in the bell pepper halves. 
    • To make white sauce, heat butter and roast all-purpose flour. Add milk and stir continuously till it becomes thick. Add salt and pepper. Remove from the stove and add tomato ketchup. 
    • Preheat the oven at 375 F.
    • Coat conventional oven-safe bowl with oil spray and then put stuffed bell peppers. Pour white sauce mixture over the peppers. Sprinkle grated cheese, some drops of butter, salt and chili powder and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes.     

    Saturday, November 1, 2008

    Quick Masala Chai!!

    Chai is the most famous drink in India. Though it is so straightforward to make and the ingredients do not change that much, each Chai tastes different. Each house/tea shop/restaurant has its own taste of Chai, its own recipe for Chai. 

    There are two reasons why this Chai recipe happens to be my first blog. 
    i) When my younger cousin could not speak 'Chandani' properly, she started calling me something that sounded like 'Chai'. And the name has stuck even now :). 
    ii) Chai is, by far the most frequently made drink in our house, and it happens to be the favorite drink of my husband. Chais are made at our place almost any time. Be it early mornings, late nights or lazy afternoons. There is no bad time for tea time :).

    So, here is my Chai recipe  ...
    1 cup skim milk
    1 tsp dried tea leaves
    3 cardamoms(crushed) with outer shells
    1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 tsp ginger powder(or freshly crushed ginger)
    2-3 mint leaves
    2-3 drops vanilla essence
    sugar according to taste

    • Put all the ingredients except milk in a flat bottomed pan. If you are using fresh ginger, that should be added later.
    • Heat milk in a microwave-safe cup for 60-90 seconds. This can be done on the stove,too but heating the milk in the microwave will reduce the total amount of time and will also keep the bottom of the pan from getting all sticky and black.
    • Add milk in the pan and bring to boil.  Reduce the heat and add freshly crushed ginger at this point. Simmer it for a minute. 
    • Strain the tea and serve immediately.