Experience

Self-care Sunday

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Now, more than ever, we are glued to a screen.  We are working from home, studying from home, attempting to socialize from home.  Anxiety levels are high and motivation is low.  The sofa is working overtime too–it is now your office, dining room, and bedroom.  “Social distancing” to “Flatten the Curve” is certainly the best way to combat this invisible enemy, but it is certainly wreaking havoc on our physical and mental health.  As we juggle to do multiple jobs, all at the same time, and all from home, I hope we can take a minute to stop and take care of ourselves.  Thus, I thought I would share some of my tried and true TLC tips.  Trust me, these are homemade and homegrown rituals that we Indians have been indulging in for centuries!

Tip #1:  Start your day right!

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Every morning, the first thing I eat (yes, even before your morning coffee) are a few pieces of raw turmeric with a few whole black peppercorns and local honey.  Turmeric has curcumin which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Turmeric is excellent for your skin and digestion.  Ingesting it with peppercorns (which has piperine) helps in the absorption of curcumin into the bloodstream.   Local honey helps you with seasonal allergies, it also sweetens the earthy taste from the turmeric and cools down the heat from the peppercorns.

Tip#2: For your hair

For those of you who know me, I don’t know how to do hair.  I can tie it in a ponytail or straighten it,  so the least I can do it take care of my hair’s health.  All my life, the only “product” I have used regularly is warm coconut oil.  Massage the oil into your scalp and leave it on–the longer the better.  Wash it off with your usual shampoo.  Haircare–done!! This works! Even my husband is a huge fan–although I think he enjoys the scalp massage more than the soft and shiny outcome of the treatment.

Tip#3: Sandalwood for your skin

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Much like my hair care routine, this homemade face mask is also something I have been doing all my life.  It starts with Sandalwood powder.  It does wonders in removing a suntan, in soothing a sunburn, and healing acne scars.  To make the mask you can add a whole bunch of natural stuff like citrus juice (to lighten and brighten), yogurt (to soften and moisturize), gram flour (natural exfoliant) and rosewater (to hydrate).  Use whatever combination that suits your skin type.  While you are at it, close your eyes and put some cucumber slices on them–your eyes need some rest too!  Move aside, expensive lotions and potions here comes your one-stop skincare fix!

Tip#4: For dry hands

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Now that we are constantly washing our hands and using hand sanitizer,  our hands are extremely dry.  I like pampering dry skin (not just hands, think elbows and heels too) with an olive oil and sugar scrub.  You can add rosemary and orange zest (lemon, vanilla bean, and lavender are excellent choices too) to a small jar of sugar and store it in your pantry.  When you are ready, add some of the fragrant sugar to olive oil, scrub it on and massage (area for your choice) for a while till the sugar dissolves, and then wash off with warm water.  Say hello to supple skin!

Consider trying one or all of these tips at least once a week.  Why not make your next Sunday and self-care day?

Appetizers, Indian, Poultry, Savory

Murgh Kofta (Chicken Meatballs)

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This is a “house” recipe.  Traditional kofta has more ingredients and the recipe changes from country to country (India, Pakistan, Turkey etc.).  This version is packed with flavor, has only a few ingredients and can be whipped up in 30 minutes.  It is also a different way to use ground chicken which often goes on sale.  I like to make mini balls and have them with hummus, pita, and a garden salad.  You can certainly make larger patties and make it into a burger!  Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground chicken

1 medium onion, grated directly on to the chicken (you want the juices from the onion)

1 tsp of minced garlic, minced ginger, chili powder, salt, and garam masala.

1 Tbsp of chopped parsley (this time, I did not have any, but I would highly recommend it)

1Tbsp of olive oil

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Don’t over mix–you will get hard koftas!

2. Heat oil in a pan.

3. Use a 0.5-inch ice-cream scoop to form mini chicken balls.  If you wet your palms before rolling, you will get smooth, round koftas!

4. Fry on medium-high heat till deep golden brown and cooked through.

5. Serve piping hot!!

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Classics, Comfort food, Dessert, Pastry, Sweet

Impromptu Apple Crostata

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I used store bought pie dough from the frozen aisle in the grocery and after covering 4 pies, I had enough scraps leftover to roll out a 7-8 inch round crust.  I made this recipe because I had extra pie crust dough leftover from making Chicken Pot Pie. I used store bought pie dough from the frozen aisle in the grocery and after covering 4 pies, I had enough scraps leftover to roll out a 7-8 inch round crust.   So here goes:

Ingerdients:

1, 7-8 inch pie crust

2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced ( I used honeycrisp)

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar, plus a 1tsp for sprinkling

1 Tbsp cold butter, diced.

Method:

Roll out the crust and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Keep it cold in the fridge while you prep the apples.

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Peel, core and slice two apples.  Toss them in sugar and cinnamon.

Arrange the apple slices on the cold pie crust, leaving a 1-inch border

Fold over the pie dough to create a rustic crust.

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Dot with butter and sprinkle sugar over the crust.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes till the apples are bubbly and the crust is pale golden and flaky.

Enjoy!!!

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Classics, Comfort food, Poultry, Savory

Chicken Pot Pie

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Chicken Pot Pie is a hearty meal that will fill you up on any cold night.  I first made this for my father–he loves chicken pot pie!!  When I was reading recipes for chicken pot pie, I was shocked at the amount of butter that the recipes were calling for–and that was just for the filling!  I was not doing that, so I went and got some store bought shortcuts–and it came out really well.  Since then,  I have been following this recipe and it has never failed me.  The additional benefit is that you make the entire meal in a couple of hours and freeze it OR spend another 20 mins to bake it off and you have dinner!  I love making it on a weekend and freezing it down in serving size portions—dinner is then ready in jiff on a weeknight.

Ingredients:

Pre-cooked, store bought chunks of white meat chicken.  I usually get two, 12oz packages.

One, 14.5 oz container of Mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery–all pre-diced!!!!)

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1 package of store bought pie crust

2 tbsp of butter

3 tbsp of flour

2 tsp of Herbs de provence

1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicier)

1/2 tsp of cracked black pepper

1 quart chicken stock

Salt to taste (this will vary depending on how salty your chicken stock is)

Method:

In a large stock pot, melt butter on medium heat.

Once butter is melted, add mirepoix and saute till soft and pale golden

 

Add chicken chunks, spices, and flour and stir well till everything is well mixed.

 

Add chicken stock and cook on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes.  You want the filling to thicken.

Once the filling is made, divide into individual bowls.  I have pot pie bowls, and this recipe makes about 4 servings.

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Let the filling cool completely in the bowls.

Cover with store bought pie crust, crimp and seal the edges.  At this point you can wrap the pies with freezer friendly  plastic wrap and freeze down for later.

Cooking instruction:

If cooking immediately:

Preheat oven to 375F.  Brush the top of the crust with some egg wash ( 1 egg beaten with a little bit of water), and cut a slit to allow for the steam to escape.  Bake for 15 mins till crust is golden.

If cooking a frozen pot pie:

Thaw pot pie in refrigerator for 1-2 days.  Once the pie is thawed, follow the above instructions to cook.  You may need to increase the baking to 20-25 mins to ensure the filling is piping hot.

ENJOY!!!

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Classics, Comfort food, Meat, Savory

“Winter is Coming” Meat Pie

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I recently jumped on to the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon. Yes, I know I am about 8 years late, but I am here now, completely obsessed and can’t wait to see how the story wraps up.  This past week has been everything “thrones” especially with the HBO marathon going on.  In Season 4, there is an extensive description of a particular “Steak and Kidney Pie” made by the character “Hot Pie” at the “Inn at the Crossroads”.  As Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne hungrily tucked away large bites of the pie, I couldn’t stop thinking about how delicious it must be.  Decision made.  I am was to make a classic English Meat Pie (you can read the “mini” versions of these pies here–slightly different recipe though) to celebrate the premiere of Season 8.  Yes, the weather is warming up, but I hope you choose to make this recipe soon, we only have Game of Thrones on till the middle of May !!!

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds stew meat, cut into small bite-sized pieces

Chopped button mushrooms, carrots and onions – cut them small enough so that they are the same size as the meat.  You can change up the ratio, but I went meat heavy since that is the way my husband likes it.  I would reckon about 1/4-1/3 cup for each veggie would be sufficient.  

1/4tsp of dried rosemary, thyme, and sage

3tbsp of flour

2tbsp of good red wine, you know what to do with the rest of the bottle

1tsp of Worcestershire sauce

1tsp of paprika

1 can of chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

Store bought pie crust

Method:

In a heavy bottom pan (I like my dutch oven), heat olive oil and brown beef in batches, seasoning it salt and pepper.  Once browned, set aside.

 

 

In the same pan, add a little bit more oil and add all the veggies and saute till pale brown.  Once browned, added dried herbs, salt and pepper and saute for 5 more minutes.

 

Add the beef back in with all the veggies.

Add flour, and saute till all the meat and veggies are coated with the flour and browned (5-7mins)

 

Add 1 can of chicken stock, paprika, wine and Worcestershire sauce.  Cover and simmer on medium low heat till the gravy thickens, the carrots are soft and the meat is fork tender.  This is a pie filling, so it has to be nice and thick.

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Divide the filling into individual “pot pie” dishes (OR one big pie pan) and cool the filling completely.  In the past, I have made a meat and potato version of this in muffin tins, with a double crust.  You can find that recipe here

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Cover the filling with thawed pie crust.  Crimp the edges to seal in the filling, add a slit on the top for steam to escape.

 

 

Brush the top with egg wash–this will ensure a deep golden crust.

 

 

Bake in a 375F oven for 40-45 mins till the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling underneath.

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Serve Hot !!!

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Fish & Seafood, Lent, Savory

Roasted Salmon

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You either love it or hate it.  I happen to love salmon and my husband is not a big fan.  So on nights when I am cooking for myself, this is a go to favorite.  It is quick and simple, but the most important step is to purchase fresh, sustainably sourced salmon.  Frozen fillets never taste good, especially when the preparation is so simple.  I love to have a fresh garden salad with this roasted salmon.

Ingredients:

2 fillets of salmon (6-8oz)

1/4 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp of coarsely crushed black pepper

Zest of one lemon

Olive oil for drizzling.

Method:

Pat the fillets dry and arrange on a tin foil lined baking tray.

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Season fish with salt, pepper and lemon zest.

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Drizzle with olive oil

Bake at 350F for 25-30 mins.

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Now FEAST!

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Cake, Savory

Spice Cake with Vanilla Orange filling and Whipped Marscapone frosting

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My dear friend from grad school defended her PhD last week.  Such a landmark occasion requires cake, not that one needs an excuse for cake.  I took some shortcuts, and made some things from scratch.  I even spent some time thinking about the decoration; I found that if you have it drawn out it makes cake decorating easier.  I hope you put this cake together for the next special occasion in your life.

Ingredients:

Boxed Cake mix: prepare per direction on the box–I believe in high quality store bought short cuts, and boxed cake mix is a go to.

Filling: I used my Orange, Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean pudding. I used the entire recipe, to fill the cake.  You can find the recipe here.

Frosting: I used my whipped marscapone frosting recipe.  The recipe will make a lot of frosting.  I only used a 1/3 of it to frost the cake.  I froze down the rest.  If you were to fill and frost the cake, you might use the whole batch.  Check out the recipe here.

Method:

Bake the cake according to package directions.  I baked it in two 9″inch cake pans that I oiled and floured.  Once baked, cool the cake completely and level off the domed top.  I use my handy Wilton Cake Leveler.

Now begins the decorating.  For this cake, I used cake rounds for the first time and it certainly made cleaning and frosting the cake easy.  Not to mention, moving the cake around (from the turntable to the fridge).  But before we frost, we must fill.  I used all of the pudding mixture to fill the cake.

Now, the hardest part-covering the cake with frosting.  This requires patience, a good turntable, an offset spatula and a steady hand.  I like clean neat edges, so I get very particular about this stage.  Of course, that is my preference.  Using a butter knife to spread the frosting is perfectly fine–it will taste the same.

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I usually do a “crumb coat”.  This is a thin layer of frosting that covers all the bumps and glues together the crumbs.  I allow this chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes and then I go in with the rest of the frosting and attempt to make smooth and as clean and neat as possible.

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I drew out the design for the cake and you can check it out here.  I also used candied oranges for this cake and I have the recipe for those here.  I will have to say, laying out the design before hand made a world of difference.  It was faster, cleaner and the end product looked more deliberate.  Moving forward, this might become my way of decorating–I like to call it the “paper to plate” method.

So here it is !

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Asian, Poultry, Quick Dinner, Savory

Sunday Stir-fry, Part 1: Chicken in Classic Sauce

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I love Chinese takeout.  I love eating with chopsticks straight out of the paper container.  Alas, there is no Chinese takeout in my neck of the woods, so I have to make do with homemade versions.  I still have not figured out the secret to Asian cooking, so I take a lot of help from the store.  There is one particular brand of stir-fry sauce that I like because it is low in sugar content.  It is on the pricier side, so I stock up when the sauce goes to sale.  The rest of the ingredients, well, put in whatever you like!

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 lbs of chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp of ginger paste
  • 1 Tbsp of minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp of Sambal Olek (use less if desired, I like it spicy)
  • 1/2 bottle of the Tsang Classic Sauce
  • 1 bag of frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • 1 can of oyster mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp of canola/vegetable oil
  • Salt and white pepper (yes, white) to taste
  • White sesame seeds (garnish)

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a wok.  While the oil heats up, cube chicken

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  • Fry chicken with salt and pepper till pale golden
  • Add ginger, garlic and sambal olek-saute for a few minutes
  • Add all the vegetables and saute for 5-10 mins, till the water released from the vegetables has mostly evaporated.

 

 

  • Add the sauce and saute for another 5-10 mins, till the stir-fry comes to desired consistency.  I like it a little on the runny side–more sauce for rice/noodles !!!

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  • Garnish with white sesame seeds and serve hot !!!IMG_20190303_122239
Cake

Chocolate Orange Charlotte

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This is a special farewell and birthday cake all rolled into one.  The post-doc in our lab is leaving after 6 years and another labmate was celebrating the big 3-0 birthday, so the cake had to be special.  Chocolate and Orange pair wonderfully; infact, it is my mother’s favorite and incorporated it into her birthday cake last year.  The recipe requires several ingredients,  but I used store-bought short-cuts to help me.   I hope this cake stuns your table as much it did mine !

Ingredients:

Store chocolate cake mix (and eggs and oil, all the things that you will need to make the batter)

Orange marmalade

Chocolate mousse mix and milk to make the mousse

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2 dozen soft lady fingers ( you will not need all of them, but having extras is good)

Cannoli Filling (refer to either Chocolate Cannoli Cupcakes or Cannoli Cup recipes I have)

Method:

Bake the cake according to the package directions.  I used some of the batter to make 6 cupcakes  and saved the rest of the batter to make 2, 9″ rounds.  Allow to cool completely.  The cake layers can be made upto three days in advance.  Make sure to wrap and store the layers in a cool dry and dark place.

Heat an entire jar of orange marmalade in a saucepan.  Once the jam thins, strain through a sieve to separate the rinds from the jelly.  Save the jelly.  I put the rinds in my morning oatmeal.

Make the chocolate mouse according to package directions.

Level off both cake layers and place one layer of the cake on the bottom of a springform pan.

Line the edges of the pan with lady fingers

Brush the surface of the cake with the orange jelly and also the surface of the lady fingers which are exposed (i.e facing the inside of the cake)

Fill with mousse and top with the second cake layer.

Pour the remaining orange jelly on the top layer and let it seep into the cake.

Add the cannoli filling on the top.

Decorate the top with mini chocolate chips and pistachios.

Chill the cake for 30 mins and then remove the springform ring.

Wrap the cake with a piece of ribbon and secure with a toothpick.

Serve chilled !

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Fish & Seafood, Lent

Shrimp Curry with Mushrooms and Potatoes

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This is a family recipe.  It is not traditional, but it is surely a family favorite.  This shrimp curry is warm and spicy and pairs perfectly with rice.  I like to have it with quinoa. I hope you try it for you next seafoood night–it is bound to be an interesting change.

Ingredients:

1lb of raw shrimp (medium sized)

1 medium onions

1tbsp of ginger paste

1tbsp of minced garlic

2tbsp of olive oil

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp of whole cumin seed

2 medium tomatoes chopped

1 large russet potatoes, small dice

1/2 cup water

1 package of sliced baby bella mushrooms

1/2tbsp of tumeric

1/2 tbsp of cumin

Chilli powder and salt to taste

Fresh cilantro for garnish

Method:

Blend onion, ginger and garlic with a splash of water.

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Heat 2tbsp of olive oil in a pot.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the bay leaf and cumin seeds.

Add the onion-ginger-garlic paste and stir and cook for a good 10-15 mins.  You want to make sure the raw taste and smell is cooked out.

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Once the onion paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add the tomatoes.  This juice of the tomatoes helps to deglaze the pan.  Saute for another 5 mins.

Add the potatoes, spices and 1/2 cup of water and allow to simmer till the potatoes are almost cook through.

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Add the mushrooms and cook till the potatoes are completely soft.

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Add the shrimp.  Make sure that most of the curry is cooked, the sauce is seasoned and the potatoes are soft, because once you add the shrimp, it will only cook for a few more minutes till the shrimp are cooked through.  Do not over cook, since the shrimp will get rubbery.

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Garnish with cilantro and serve  hot with quinoa or rice.

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