Thursday, April 30, 2015

Balsamic stir-fried vegetables

This recipe is inspired from my impatience and Karla’s delicious balsamic marinated mushroom and bell pepper sandwiches. To cut down the time between me and the tangy, delectable vegetables, I decided to use the marinade for making a stir fry. Since the marination time was omitted, I chopped the vegetables smaller to make sure they soak up the flavor from the sauce. Just like the previous recipe, any crunchy vegetables like carrots, broccoli, sugar snap peas etc. would work well in this recipe. 

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Ingredients: (Makes ~1.5 cups of stir fry)
~8 mini sweet peppers - seeded and julienned
½ cup shredded carrots
white/portobello mushrooms - sliced (need to check package size at walmart)
1 clove of garlic - chopped / 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
½ tsp olive oil
salt (or a drizzle of soy sauce)
black pepper
toasted sesame seeds (optional)

For the Marinade
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp honey mustard (or other type of mustard)
½ tsp olive oil
lemon juice (optional) - Balsamic vinegar made it tart enough for me, so I didn't add any lemon juice, but if you like it more tangy, add lemon juice to taste.

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To make the marinade mix all the ingredients. If required, adjust the quantities as per your liking.

Saute the mushrooms and garlic with ½ tsp oil (just enough to prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan until they start sweating) over medium heat. Depending on how soft you like your carrots you can add them while the liquid from mushrooms is reducing. To keep the crunch in the peppers, add them when most of the liquid has evaporated. Add about 2 tbsp of the marinade. Season with salt/soy sauce and pepper. Keep cooking over medium high heat stirring occasionally, for a few more minutes, until the liquid evaporates and the veggies get a little charred (but not burned!). Mix in toasted sesame seeds and take pan off the heat.

Serving suggestions: 
  1. Serve as is with the remaining marinade drizzled on top. 

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  1. Make a delicious sandwich! - I used mini ciabatta rolls, spread a little bit of the marinade on one side, topped with a couple pieces of lettuce, a simple chive omelette, and the crunchy stir fried vegetables - so many different textures!

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These little colorful sandwiches are packed with a lot of flavor. This is definitely my favorite way of eating the vegetable stir-fry.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Balsamic-marinated Porto-Bell-Pepper Sandwiches

I got this recipe straight from my mom, and every time I make it I can't get enough, it's so deliciously tangy! I typically use it to marinate bell peppers and Portobello mushroom slices, but carrots, snap peas, broccoli, onions, and even proteins like chicken or tofu can also work well. It can really be used for anything you care to try!
Ingredients: (makes 6-8 sandwiches)
3 bell peppers, sliced (I use one each of red, yellow, and orange, and avoid green because of its strong, not-so-sweet flavor)
~4 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
For the marinade:
1 cup canola or extra virgin olive oil
6 TBSP balsamic vinegar
4 TBSP grainy mustard (I use regular yellow condiment mustard)
2 TBSP lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp salt (optional - I usually skip the salt)
Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl or large Ziploc bag and mix well. Add sliced mushrooms and peppers to the bowl or bag and stir or shake contents so everything is well-coated in the marinade. Set aside and refrigerate for 8-48 hours (I will usually let it sit for at least a day).
When ready to cook, heat oven to 400F. Spoon the veggies into a baking pan (I use a 9x13 brownie pan). If you have excess marinade, you can save it and use as salad dressing. Bake the veggies 15-30 minutes, depending on how crunchy or soft you like them. I prefer a bit softer, so I usually bake 30 minutes.
A lot of the time, I will make a double batch of the marinade and use it for chicken as well as veggies. About 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs or 6 chicken breasts (halved or quartered) will work well for this amount of marinade. Bake the chicken at 400F for an hour.
When done baking, let the veggies (and/or chicken) cool for 5-10 minutes. Assemble sandwiches using your bread of choice - ciabatta works quite well! Garnish with tomato, lettuce, sprouts, etc. if desired. Makes a deliciously colorful and juicy sandwich!
NOTE: You can also serve with rice instead of making sandwiches. Leftover marinade makes for great snacking with excess rice!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ricotta pancakes with carrots and chives


This recipe is a result of a whatever I had available in the fridge on one particular evening, when I got home from work and was too hungry to make anything that needed more than 15 minutes total. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed these soft fluffy pancakes speckled with little bits of carrots and chives. The creaminess of ricotta cheese elevates both the taste and the texture.

¼ cup ricotta cheese (I used low fat)
1 egg
¼-½ cup milk
½ cup of whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
2-3 tbsp finely grated carrots
1-2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp Chia/Flax Seed powder (optional)
~1 tsp oil/butter for frying the pancakes

Beat egg, add ricotta, carrots, chives and mix well. Add flour and milk (adjust milk quantity till you get desired consistency to make pancakes). Add chia/flax seed powder (optional). Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well.

In a pan over medium-low heat, add a couple drops of oil. Add about ¼ cup of batter. Cover and cook for about a minute until the bottom is cooked and the pancake can be lifted without breaking. Uncover and flip the pancake. Let the other side cook for a minute or so. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serving suggestions:
  1. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with chopped chives.

  1. Serve warm topped with a poached egg. The runny yolk makes for a wonderful sauce.

  1. Make a “sandwich” with two pancakes. I did this with the leftovers as lunch for the next day (it reheats nicely in the microwave in just a few seconds). For the filling, I thinly spread sour cream on one side, avocado on the other side, and the filling was thick and chunky tomato sauce that I had leftover from something else. You can get creative with the fillings.

Any way you choose to eat it, it will make a delicious snack/meal!


Monday, April 13, 2015

Easy Apple Crisp

This past holiday season, our employer gave out some pretty nice treats – our choice between a whole ham, turkey, or fruit basket with option to add sausage and cheese. I opted for the fruit basket with sausage and cheese – and boy, did it come with a lot of great fruit! I thought I might not be able to finish it all before they had chance to go bad. There were a lot of apples that needed to be eaten, so I figured the best way to make use of them was obviously a dessert ☺
I didn’t have any pie crust, so wanted to make something like a quick cobbler. I searched for some recipes, and cobbled together one of my own roughly based on a handful that I liked. I have made mini-crisps in a muffin pan, as well as one big crisp in a large baking dish. It turned out moist in the middle and crumbly in all the right places and full of great apple flavor!

5-6 medium-sized apples
1 cup margarine
1½ cups oatmeal 
1½ cups brown sugar 
1½ cups flour (I used whole wheat)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Peel, core, and chop the apples into roughly ½-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine margarine, oats, brown sugar, and flour, and mix until a crumbly dry-ish mixture forms. Scoop about one-half to two-thirds of the mixture into the bowl with the apples, and stir to combine so that it is evenly distributed throughout the apples.
For mini-crisps: line a muffin pan with muffin liners (the foil kind works best) and fill each cup almost to the top, leaving about a quarter to half an inch for the crumbly crust. Sprinkle about half a tablespoon of the crumbly mixture on top of each muffin cup and pat down to form a crust, adding more if needed. Bake 15-20 minutes until the crumble crust is golden-brown. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.


For large crisp: pour the apple-crumb mixture into a baking dish (I typically use one of those oval Corningware casserole dishes). Pour the remaining crumbly mixture on top and pat down to form a crust. Bake 30-35 minutes until the crumble top has turned a golden-brown color. Let cool before serving.


Serve up the apple crisp as is, or with a scoop of cool vanilla ice cream. This is one dessert that reheats quite well, and usually goes fast in our house!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Taro root / Arbi fries

 Back home, my mom often made arbi fries, and I can remember how quickly those would be gone. I can’t always find taro root in the grocery stores in the US, and often its a bit expensive, but every once in a while, I do get some to revisit those childhood memories.
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3 medium size Arbi / Taro roots
Oil for shallow frying

For Marinade: (The amount of the spices used can be varied to taste. I like my food less spicy, so its typically heavier on coriander powder than garam masala, chili powder etc. Feel free to experiment with the spice mix.)
½ tsp oil
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
⅛ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp red chili powder (not chili seasoning)  - optional

Wash the arbi and steam it until tender but not mushy. This can be done in a pressure cooker, microwave, or a steamer.

Peel and slice the arbi. The thickness of the slices is up to you -  the thinner the slices, the more crispy the outcome will be. I sliced them about an eighth of an inch so that I had a crisp exterior but a nice soft interior to bite into.
Mix all the marinade ingredients and toss the slices. Mix until well coated. It works best if you use your hands and rub the marinade onto each slice.
Heat a little oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the slices to the pan in a single layer. Cook for a minute or two until browned on one side, then flip and cook the other side similarly. Repeat till all slices are done.
If you have any fries left after they are done frying (these are very hard not to snack on while the next batch is frying), serve them warm as a side with a meal or just as a snack.
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Note: I believe other starchy roots like jicama could be used for this as well, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Carrot (cake) oatmeal

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What better way to start your Easter morning than with some carrots? That might not sound as exciting, but how about carrot cake? Here’s a recipe for something just as delicious but in the form of a healthy breakfast. This carrot cake flavored oatmeal is made with old fashioned oats (I like the texture better that way), but it can be easily adapted for quick oats.

½ cup old fashioned oats
¼-½ cup finely grated carrots (I used a heaping ¼ cup) - If you buy shredded carrots from the store, you can pulse them in the food processor a few times to make them finer.
½ cup milk
¾ cup water (the milk/water proportions can be adjusted to your liking)
2 tsp brown sugar
~⅛ tsp cinnamon (adjust to taste)
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cardamom (optional)
1 tbsp raisins
chopped walnuts/pecans (optional)
honey (optional)

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Heat milk and water in a saucepan. Add carrots and let it come to a boil. Add oats, sugar, spices, and cook on medium heat stirring occasionally. After a minute or two add the raisins. Cook till the oats are cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed (about 5 minutes). Add more milk or water if required.

If using quick oats, cook the carrots with milk and/or water for a few minutes. Then cook the oats with the carrot + liquid mixture along with sugar, spices and raisins.

Serve warm topped with chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey.

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Wish you all a happy Easter!