Sunday, March 3, 2013

Picnic in the Park

So today was the Zilker Kite Festival, and we decided that since we were all actually off, we'd go.  Mom even picked up a kite from Costco so that, if we were feeling adventurous, we could partake in the kite flying instead of just watching.  We were hoping to spend a lovely day stretched out on a blanket looking at something like this:

Of course, it wasn't to be, because by the time we headed out, we spent 45 MINUTES sitting in traffic just to get over the bridge, and it became clear that there was nowhere to park within a reasonable walking distance.  We had duffel bags laden with food, PIMM'S, and wine, as well as blankets, and, of course, a kite.  Not to mention a Bean with a metal plate in her ankle, so we sat in another 15 minutes of traffic and decided to head back to the park - you guessed it - 2 minutes from Mom's house.

Except, along the way, we decided that there was a park we used to go to as kids (and which, apparently, later became where all of the stoners went - I was too straightlaced in high school to be able to confirm or deny this), and so we did a sharp left and ended up at Mary Moore Searight Metropolitan Park.

While I wouldn't say that this park is in a trashy part of town (Austin has been infiltrated by WAY too many hipsters for those places to exist anymore), but it's definitely in a lower income area, and is more functional (giant cement picnic tables, basketball hoops, etc.) than beautiful.  Still, we found parking right away, and so it was decided we would stay.

Except...when we parked there were definitely some people doing "hoodrat things with their friends" and we decided to go.

But then, luckily, we saw that THIS was happening:

This grown man, and this small child (along with about 20 other people) were LARPing!

and then there was really no way we were leaving, was there?  When we googled it later on, we found out that this is actually an organized activity and they call Mary Moore Searight Metropolitan Park...wait for it...The Shire of Slaughter Creek!  Needless to say, that is what we call it now as well.

As the day wore on, there were so many quotable moments, but one of my favourites has to have been this exchange between my sister and my mom:
Mom:  So are those girls (referring to a couple of girls strolling around the park, arm in arm, dressed in corsets, long braids, and floor sweeping skirts) with them? 
The Bean:  Yes, Mom,  those Medieval wenches are the spoils that the winning LARPer gets to fornicate with. 
Mom:  Oh, okay.
We waited and waited, but these guys never showed up to kick some Cacedonian ass...

Anyway, I think someone told me that this is supposed to be a food blog, so we'll move on to the delicious sandwiches we ate:  curried egg salad with arugula on cranberry pistachio bread.

This cranberry pistachio bread is so good that I often eat it without anything on it.

The Bean made a vegan version with tofu, which came out just like this tofu no-egg salad we used to get back in the day at Whole Foods, when it was just a tiny shop here in Austin.  I won't call this a recipe, since I feel like the perfect egg salad is so subjective:  If you like a crunch, but don't like onions, add celery instead.  If you like a super creamy egg salad, add more mayo.  Same goes with the curry powder and pepper.  I find that I like just enough mayo to hold the salad together, a good amount of curry powder, and an obscene amount of freshly cracked black pepper.  And while I don't normally like onions in my food, this is a sandwich where I think a bit of finely diced sweet yellow or spicy white onion does taste nice.

Curried Egg Salad


  • Diced hardboiled egg whites OR Firm tofu (crumbled) if you're going vegan
  • Hardboiled egg yolks
  • Mayo (I know this is ridiculous, considering it's an egg sandwich, but I don't like mayo, so I use Earth Balance vegan mayo)
  • Yellow curry powder (the kind you use is up to you)
  • Diced onion
  • Diced celery
  • Fresh parsley (chopped)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Salt
  • Tumeric (only if making the vegan version)


  1. In a bowl, mix the hardboiled egg yolks, mayo, and of the spices together until creamy.  If making a vegan version, mix the mayo and all spices, including tumeric, together until creamy.
  2. Fold in the diced egg whites or crumbled tofu until thoroughly coated.
  3. Fold in the diced onion and celery until thoroughly coated.
  4. Taste, and add a bit more salt, pepper, or curry powder if needed.
  5. Slap that sucker on some bread, crackers, or, for a low-carb treat, some baby romaine/iceberg lettuce for a delicious lettuce wrap.
Crumbled, firm tofu and LOTS of parsley are the base of a good vegan, no-egg salad.

Don't by shy with the curry powder.  The flavour of most yellow curry powder is usually very mild.

For my sandwich, I added a bit of fresh arugula for a peppery crunch, and spooned the egg salad onto toasted cranberry pistachio bread from our grocery store's bakery.  I'm not a fan of egg salad on untoasted bread, because it's too much mush for me.  

I wrapped our sandwiches up in parchment paper, and tied them up with kitchen twine (which prompted a head shake and, "Douche" from the Bean, but LOOKED absolutely lovely).  Apparently I didn't take pictures of that, because - I am relatively certain - by the time we had everything together, it was much later than we had planned.  Just know that it really is nicer to unwrap a quaintly wrapped sandwich, and the parchment paper is durable enough to act as a plate, so MEH, Bean!

We washed this down with plenty of PIMM'S Cups, which makes just about anything you're eating outdoors a bit more classy.  To cut down on the fuss, I made a couple of bottlefuls at the house, so we just had to pour once we got to the park.  If you've never had a PIMM'S Cup before, I highly recommend it.  It's an easy spring drink that's different than the usual shandy, mojito, or sangria, and, let's face it, if your park doesn't allow alcohol, a heckuva lot less conspicuous than a tallboy.



  • 1 Part PIMM'S No. 1
  • 3 Parts Ginger Ale (or Lemonade - which, to Americans, is what you'd consider Sprite)
  • Ice
  • Cucumber to garnish


  1. Fill glass halfway with ice
  2. Add one part PIMM'S No. 1
  3. Add three parts ginger ale
  4. Garnish with cucumber
  5. Guzzle - pinkies up, of course!
I used a glass, swing top bottle (which I'd recommend stocking up on the next time you go to IKEA - they're great for infused oils, large batches of vanilla extract, infused vodkas, and inconspicuously carrying mixed drinks to the park) to make a large batch, and didn't bother with the cucumbers since we were swilling them out of plastic cocktail glasses.  You could just as easily drink one part out of the ginger ale bottle and pour the PIMM'S in, though that seems to spit in the face of everything a PIMM'S Cup represents.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I feel like Sandra Lee!

It's true!  I got bored and combined store-bought ingredients (vodka) with some fresh ingredients (cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans) and BAM!  I somehow ended up with Aftershock.  

The Devil
For real.  If you're not British, you're probably not all that familiar with this syrupy, cinnamon liqueur, but I remember ferreting it back from London for my little brother-in-law out in Australia.  It's expensive as hell in the UK (£26), and I recently found it here stateside (B and his little brother were thrilled) for about $20, but I was aftershocked (wah wah) by how similar this ended up tasting!

Aftershock is no joke.  It makes you do questionable things.  Like take another shot of Aftershock...

Look how happy everyone looks before the Aftershock! 
And I think the Bean's face says it all...This was her first shot of Aftershock ever.

It's really not a terribly difficult concept, but I'll tell you, what, little bottles of flavoured liquor certainly do impress!  Basically, you take a bottle of vodka (I used this because it's clear and takes on other flavours really well) and stick in some of whatever flavour you want.  I did this cinnamon vanilla bean one, thinking it would be a nice addition to egg nog, and a spicy chili one, which makes a great shot or a delicious addition to Bloody Marys (and helped me to utilize the heaps of cayenne peppers and serranos that our garden was kicking out).

One thing that surprised me was how quickly the cinnamon and vanilla bean turned the clear vodka into a caramel bourbon colour (this change started immediately, and piqued about 36 hours later):

Still, my favourite is the chili vodka, because I love that you can see the peppers and I love how it elevates a regular Bloody Mary.  Plus, it looks fantastic in smaller bottles as a gift.

I think the possibilities for this are limitless, and I definitely want to make a Meyer lemon or Satsuma variety now that citrus is in season.  Let's not lie, I'm probably going to make a Jolly Rancher or Sour Patch Kids infused vodka any day now as well.  :/  The funny thing is that I don't like vodka.  I have friends that drink vodka tonics, vodka waters, etc. and it makes my stomach turn.  It tastes like paint stripper to me on its own, but the flavours definitely make it tolerable and, dare I say, enjoyable?  Well, I still wouldn't choose to drink it on its own, but it's definitely great for cocktails.

Bottoms up!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sunday Funday Bloody Mary Bar

Today I FINALLY made time to see one of my good high school friends that I've been playing, "We should hang out some time," with for the last 6-12 months, feeling threatened by her imminent departure.  Turns out she's not leaving anymore (a selfish, "YAY!" for me), and we got to enjoy some Bloody Marys in the Texas sunshine before it gets unbearably hot.  It was the start to a pretty awesome Sunday Funday.

I'd been on the prowl for a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar for months, as I don't particularly like the bland, tomato soup tasting Bloody Marys you get in most bars (and there's always the anchovy risk in unknown pre-mixes), but I do love a good peppery, spicy, cleans-your-clock Bloody Mary that is closer to drinking salsa than anything else.  You know what they say - if you want something done right...spend forever searching for a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar!

While the set-up at Uncle Billy's was ultimately disappointing (a smallish tray with three bottles of pre-mix - thankfully one without Worcestershire sauce that contained anchovies - some olives, pickled green beans, and several bottles of hot sauce), I think I managed a pretty good drink.  I had severe heartburn by the end of the first one, so I obviously did something right!

I think I did a pretty great job on the garnishes as well - my drinks never come looking this good!

Breakfast of Champions Bloody Mary

(What I make at home, not what I had at Uncle Billy's, unfortunately.)

  • Mr. & Mrs. T's Bold & Spicy Bloody Mary Mix
  • Splash of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (I use Annie's)
  • Splash to glug of Stubb's Wicked Chicken Wing Sauce
  • Splash of jalapeño or olive juice
  • Several cranks from the black pepper grinder
  • Several shakes of celery seed
  • Several shakes of celery salt (up the celery seed instead if you want to cut the sodium)
  • Squeeze of lemon or lime
  • Olives, lime wedges, celery stick, or pickle spear to garnish

Preparation (very complicated)
  1. Put some ice in a glass.
  2. Fill 2/3 of the way with the Bloody Mary mix.
  3. Shake, splash, crank, and squeeze the rest of the ingredients into the glass.
  4. Stir with a celery stick or pickle spear.
  5. Enjoy!
Oh, you can add vodka if you want as well, haha!  I drink this (sans vodka) on mornings where I don't have time to make breakfast and I stick a green straw in it.  I can still remember my new boss' face the first time he saw me walk in with one of these.  Was it shock?  Nope.  Pure jealousy!

As an aside, check out your local Ross, TJ/TK Maxx, Marshall's, or HomeGoods store for an awesome array of well-priced mixers and drink fixin's (no, that's not possessive, it's a plural southern drawl :).  You'd be shocked by how many $2 or $3 bottles of really interesting stuff they have.  Plus, there's usually a great selection of fancy salts and sugars (for the rim of your glass) on the cheap as well!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why the heck did you buy so much corn?!

Well, corn was 6/$1 at H-E-B when I ventured in at 10 p.m. to grab a rotisserie chicken and attempt to make B a super fast, semi-homemade chicken soup (you can read about how super fast that ended up being here) a few nights ago.  Never one to pass up a bargain (or a milky-sweet cob of fresh corn), I obviously bought $5 worth.

When I got home, B was in a Nyquil coma on the couch, and the ears of corn sat around for a few days.  Faced with constant..."reminders" (which were even more frequent than usual, seeing as B was at home sick just looking at the small harvest of corn day in and day out) about the 30 ears of corn that were "rotting" on the counter, I seasoned them up, and grilled them all at once.

Apparently, I have misplaced these photos, but it was simple stuff: A quick rubdown with olive oil, and then salt and pepper on some, Tajín on the rest (you can use chili powder and lemon pepper for a similar effect).  We wrapped them in foil (who knows about the cleanliness of apartment community grills), and grilled them for about half an hour.

We ate one a piece with our dinner, and then went to bed.  When I woke up this morning, there were 28 foil wrapped cobs of corn staring me down, so I got down to business with my fancy new corn zipper (thanks, B!) and made quick work of stripping the kernels from the ears.  I knew that I wanted to make a roasted corn bisque of some sort, as I've had a couple at different restaurants now, and enjoyed them immensely both times.

After gathering some ingredients I felt should be included, here's what I came up with.  It's a great option if you've got leftover grilled corn from your last BBQ.  Enjoy!

Yes, this soup is thick enough that a little drizzle of cream will sit nicely on top, and the peppers won't sink!

Roasted Corn Soup Bisque

  • 1 C  diced onion (I used yellow because there was one already cut in the fridge)
  • 1      large clove garlic, smashed
  • 4 C  roasted/grilled sweet corn kernels
  • 3 C  vegetable broth
  • 2 C  milk (unflavoured soy milk for a delicious vegan option)
  • 1 C  heavy cream (adds great creaminess, but regular milk is okay, too)
  • 1      cayenne pepper (approximately 6" long), sliced thin
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 C  roasted/grilled sweet corn kernels (optional)

  1. Don't stress about dicing the onions in a uniform size, or whether your corn kernels aren't perfect and whole.  We're about to blend the crap out of this.  :)
  2. Add onions, garlic, 4 cups of the corn, and broth to a large pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  We're trying to get the kernels nice and tender here, so that they blend well.
  3. Pour soup into a blender about half a blender-full at a time, and go nuts.  You will pour this back into the pot, half fill the blender again, and continue to go crazy until the whole pot is blended.  It WILL NOT be terribly smooth, so don't worry.  It will get better, but this is, ultimately, a somewhat chewy soup.
  4. Add the milk to blended soup, and simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
  5. Repeat the blending process from step three, and return to pot when you are satisfied with the texture.  To be honest, I had hoped for a creamier texture, but maybe I just need a better blender. YMMV.
  6. Add heavy cream and cayenne pepper (you can certainly use fresh jalapeños or any other pepper you have on hand - we just had an abundance of cayennes in the garden), and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors blend.
  7. Salt and pepper the soup to taste (I used tons and tons of freshly cracked pepper), and, if you want a really hearty soup, add an additional 2 cups of corn kernels.  These will stay whole, and provide that lovely pop of sweet corn goodness when you bite into them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quick and Elegant Side: Roasted Dill Carrots

While making chicken soup for the B, I began to think that the carrots I'd sliced on my mandolin (I'm a sucker for uniform thickness, and I kind of suck at doing it myself) were a bit too thin and might become mushy in the soup.  So...what to do - at nearly one in the morning, on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion - with two cups of carrot chips?  Make the Bean the happiest girl in the world, of course!
Great for this side dish, but a bit too thin for a hearty chicken noodle soup...
We've had roasted dill carrots a number of times at one of our local markets, and the Bean absolutely loves them.  However, the last time we went, she paid almost $5 for a small container of them and they were overcooked.  Needless to say, she was pissed and complained how it was ridiculous that every time we came in, the quality was worse, the prices higher, and the portions smaller.

As I mentioned, I was dead on my feet, so I needed to get these carrots done and dusted ASAP.  A quick toss in olive oil, chopped fresh dill (the very first harvest from our little garden!), and a sprinkle of sea salt, and into the oven (at 375° F) they went.
Ready for the oven!
Just ten minutes later, they were barely curling at the edges and ready to come out.  Once they cooled a bit, I popped them in the fridge and hit the sack.  Now you can certainly eat these warm, but we prefer them chilled - the carrots are wonderfully crisp and the dill really has a chance to release its flavor.  

Either way, you have a beautiful side dish that takes about 2 minutes of prep, and 10 minutes of cooking.  It's a fantastic alternative to boring, blanched green beans or bagged salad if you're making a steak, or just as good straight out of the bowl (which is how the Bean ate all of it, in about five minutes).
Less than 15 minutes from start to sleep, thank goodness!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Taste of Home

My favorite part of coming over to my mom's house is that you never know what kind of food will be on the stove.  I have no idea what perceptions people have of what Guyanese vegetarians eat for dinner every night, but it certainly can't be what I walked into last night!

I was immediately greeted by the warm smokey smell of charred bell peppers, which made my mouth water just thinking of my mom's roasted peppers.  I don't care how much you pay at Whole Foods for a tiny jar - nothing beats the oily, vinegary, slightly smokey taste of freshly dressed peppers that have just come off the flame 20 minutes ago.
Garlicky, peppery, vinegary goodness!
I didn't know whether she was bulk roasting the peppers (since Sprouts had an amazing 3/$1 special on giant red bell peppers) or making just a few for dinner, but, thankfully, a quick look at the stove told me that it would be the latter.  In a big pan, Mom was sautéing zucchini and garlic and I thought that one of my favorites, pasta gagutz, was on the way.  However, the zucchini was cut in chunks (my favorite part of pasta gagutz is the thin, slightly crispy rounds of zucchini), and, having just bought my mom a mandolin, I tried to excuse my seeming brattiness by demonstrating how easy the device made cutting the zucchini "really thin!" (as my dad would shout from the living room).  

She indulged me and let me set up another pan on the stove so that I could duplicate the "something new" she was making with my thin slices of zucchini.  After those thin slices of heaven became golden brown and started to curl around the edges, I ground in a couple (okay, several) turns of black pepper, added the cooked linguine, and some minced black olives (straight from the can - no knife work needed) and capers.  
What would you add?  Kalamata olives?  Grilled eggplant?

I'll be honest - sorry, B - I took a few delicious forkfuls straight from the pan before being sent on my way with a steaming bowl of simple deliciousness, a container of roasted peppers, and two small loaves of ciabatta bread.  B was waiting at home because I was only over to drop the Bean home since some jerk had destroyed the whole driver's side of her car earlier that day by mashing it with his truck.  Normally I don't like to eat and run (and this is a dish you MUST eat hot, or else it just seems greasy), but when I walked in the door and B was moaning about what to make for dinner, it was all I could do not to squeal in excitement as I unloaded the delicious Mediterranean feast we had.

I added some of the oven-dried tomatoes I'd made earlier in the week as well as a good amount of parmesan cheese and a little drizzle of hot chili oil before reheating it (like I said, you MUST eat it hot).  This gave me time to slice open the ciabatta loaves and top them with slices of mozzarella cheese before sticking them under the broiler.  Throwing some roasted red peppers on top after taking them out of the oven completed the meal.  It was rustic, sophisticated, and comforting all at once.  So simple, but something that would certainly impress at a dinner party.
The creamy, broiled mozzarella is the perfect compliment to the acidity of the peppers.

I think some thin slices of mushroom would have been great in this dish as well, but that's the beauty of it - add whatever you want and toss!  I have no doubt that this would be exquisite with a bit of spicy salami or sausage if you have guests or a spouse who is always asking, "Where's the meat?"  You can make it all in one pan, and then separate it at the end and just let the oils of the meat infuse the dish.  If you use sausage, the fat left over from cooking it would be a great addition during the final toss.

καλή όρεξη!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What do you eat - Tofurky or something?

Whenever anyone finds out that I am vegetarian (and especially around the holiday season) I know that within seconds I will hear something along the lines of, "Haha, what do you eat Tofurky or something?"  To be honest, I'm impressed that so many people know what Tofurky is, although I'm inclined to think that many of them just know vegetarians eat tofu, and it's only a hop, skip, and a jump from turkey to Tofu-rky.  

They think it's witty, I want to bang my head against a wall, and they are inevitably shocked that there really is such a thing as Tofurky.  Since it's January, you can imagine that I am just about done with that line, so I wanted to share some of the fantastic meat alternative products that I do eat on a day to day basis.  

For those of you just starting on the vegetarian journey (or for you frustrated, meat-eating parents trying to appeal to a suddenly vegetarian teenager), think of this as a gift:  As a lifelong vegetarian, I've eaten a LOT of crappy fake meat in the last quarter of a century.  And I mean a lot.  Fortunately for you, I'm about to provide a little cheat sheet as to the best stuff out there.  There are links to all of the products' websites, so you can check them out yourself.

You're welcome.  :)

Best Veggie Chicken Patty:  Boca Spicy Chik'n Patty 
  • There's only one thing you need to know about these:  B hid from me for years when we were first together that he would ask the Bean to make him Chik'n patty sandwiches.  I mean, he actually would have cravings for them he liked the flavour and texture so much!
  • Also, Boca is endorsed by Weight Watchers, so that makes it super easy for those of you counting points.  This is neither here nor there to me, but my mom lost a whole heap of weight on Weight Watchers, so I thought I'd point that out.
  • I use this for everything:  Lasagna, meatballs, meatloaf, tacos, Hamburger Helper - you name it, if it calls for ground beef, this is what I use.  My sister prefers the Boca version, because I think it's closer to vegan (no egg whites, but it still has sugar).  
Best Breakfast Line:  MorningStar Farms
  • I haven't really seen many other brands make a serious effort at a vegetarian breakfast line, and these sausage links and patties (the regular, not maple) are so delicious, I haven't been persuaded to try anything else.  
  • I think all vegetarian bacon is a bit of a joke, but their bacon strips are what I grew up on, so on the rare occasion that I'm in the mood for a BLT, this is what I use.
Best Deli Slices:  Tofurky Deli Slices (Especially the Peppered and Italian Deli)
  • These deli slices are almost paper thin, and loaded with flavour.  I have been known to sit and eat half a package in one sitting without even realizing it.  Because I like my sandwich fixings thinly sliced (I can hear my dad saying, "And cut the tomatoes and cucumbers reeeeally thin!"), these really appeal to me.
  • Also, I have an unhealthy obsession with coarse ground black pepper, so it's like these were made for me!
  • LightLife's Smart Deli Roast Turkey Style deli slices are also pretty awesome, but it breaks my heart that they stopped making the salami slices I'm convinced they used to make.
  • I fill that void with Yves Meatless Deli Salami Slices when I can find them...
  • The Veggie Patch hot dogs were a surprise to me.  We always get the Jumbo Smart Dogs, but for some reason (probably because there was a sale and a coupon) I picked up a box of these one day.  They are the perfect size for those cheap, standard hot dog buns because they are slimmer than the Smart Dogs.  When I eat these, I feel like I'm getting a hot dog from a cart in New York.  
  • Note that it is best to microwave, boil or steam these (since they are so thin, grilling them makes them a bit too tough, unless you keep a close eye on them).
  • The Jumbo Smart Dogs are perfect for your summer BBQ.  Thick, juicy and big enough to fill out any bun or roll, these veggie dogs can withstand the heat from a grill, and are all the better because of it.  They're also substantial enough to hold their own against the relish, tomatoes, pickles and sport peppers that make up my favourite dog:  the Chicago Dog.

That's all for tonight!  Tomorrow I'll go over the best burgers, sausages, chicken nuggets and other meatless meal starters.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fancy a Curry, Love?

Everyone has a go to dish they make when they want to impress guests/coworkers/in-laws. For my mom, it was baked ziti and homemade garlic bread; for me, it's a deliciously creamy, slightly spicy makhani that is incredibly versatile.
The best thing about this curry is that it's so flavourful. It can be mild without being bland, and spicy without simply being a tear-jerker - it's up to you. Also, it's just as good with paneer (my husband even asks for a bit in his chicken version) as it is with any meat.
I think lots of people are scared of making a curry without a jar of Patak's because there are so many spices involved, most of them unfamiliar. While this recipe has a lot of ingredients, it's actually quite simple to make, and I've made it so many times that the tweaks I've made to the measurements will ensure a perfect curry every time.

Paneer (or Chicken) Makhani

Ingredients (in order of appearance)

1t coriander powder
1t cumin powder
½ t tumeric
½ t garam masala powder
1t chili powder
1t cayenne powder (optional - if you like it with a little kick, I’d recommend it)
¼ c cashews or almonds
1 softball sized onion
2T dried fenugreek/kasuri methi leaves
2T canola/vegetable oil
1lb chicken or paneer, cut into cubes
3T butter
1t ginger paste
1t garlic paste
2c tomato puree (or one 15 oz can)
2c any vegetables you’d like (broccoli, bell peppers and frozen green peas are usually nice)
salt to taste
½c cup heavy cream
1T chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation (45 minutes)
  1. Measure out the coriander, cumin, tumeric, garam masala, chili powder and cayenne powder and combine in one bowl.  This will save you burning things later, as I have done hunting through the pantry for one spice.
  2. Put cashews or almonds in a bowl of warm water, and leave to soak.  If you happen to have cashew or almond nut paste, then just use 1T of that.
  3. Cut onion into chunks and boil until soft/translucent.  If you do this in a 3 qt saucepan, it will be the only pan you have to use for the whole dish.
  1. Drain water (and reserve) and blend onions into a smooth paste.  Allow to cool.
  1. In a 3qt saucepan, dry roast the kasuri methi for five minutes over medium heat.  Remove it from the pan, and crush it into a fine powder with your fingers.  If is not turning to powder, dry roast it a bit longer.  Set aside.
    1. Dry roast bowl of spices over medium heat for 5 minutes to cook out the raw flavour.  Set aside.
    2. In the same saucepan, heat oil and cook chicken.  I like to toss a little tumeric, cumin and coriander on the chicken while it is raw.  It gives it a lovely yellow colour and some extra flavour.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

    Note: If you are using paneer, do not dust with spices.  After browning, soak the paneer in salted water until later to keep it soft.

    1. Melt butter in the saucepan and add onion paste.  Cook to a golden brown.
    1. Add ginger and garlic pastes and let simmer for 1-2 minutes.
    2. Add the bowl of roasted spices and mix well.
    1. Add the tomato puree and simmer over low heat.
    1. Take cashews or almonds out of the water and grind to a paste.  If you have a mortar and pestle, that will work best, but I usually just place them between two sheets of wax/parchment paper and mash them with a rolling pin or can.  Add to pan.
    2. Simmer for 10 minutes.  If it starts to get to dry, add some of the reserved onion water.  
    3. Salt to taste.  If it’s too mild for you, you can always add some more cayenne pepper at this point.
    4. Add cream and kasuri methi powder and simmer for 5 minutes.
    5. Add any vegetables you’d like (broccoli, peas and bell peppers usually work well) as well as the chicken or paneer, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
    1. Remove from heat, serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.  Enjoy!

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    B's Birthday Dinner at Artz Rib House...With My Vegetarian Family...

    So there are very few times when B actually picks where we eat, and this was no exception.  It was his birthday, and I told him we were going to Artz Rib House, because, on his birthday, he should get to eat something he loves, rather than just tolerates.  Of course, he put up a fight because he - considerately - said, "Honey, there's nothing for you to eat there!"  Which isn't entirely true - they make veggie burgers and baked potatoes that I can eat - but I soon realized that my tolerance for a VERY limited selection (because I love B and wanted him to selfishly enjoy himself at least one night a year) miiiiiight not be entirely gravy with the rest of my family.  Especially since my little sister was in her strict vegan mode, rather than simply vegetarian like the rest of us.

    I think that Art is undergoing some family/medical issues, because rumour has it that this place is hurting.  And it was.  When we arrived, there was hardly anyone there (as opposed to the last time we went, where it was packed and on a wait list).

    I don't feel like there's a whole lot to say about this, so I won't bore you all with tales of my dissatisfaction, but I will note two things:  Art's mustard, which is why I go here, was "out" as he hadn't made any in a few weeks, and my husband said the ribs were dry.  I hope whatever he has going on gets sorted out and this place doesn't close down, but the food has got to get back to where it was if people are going to start coming back here...

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Turkey Day 2010

    I love Thanksgiving.  For me, it marks the beginning of the holiday season and the time to officially stop hanging on to summer (I live in Texas – it’s usually sweltering when we go out for Halloween) and change the air fresheners in the house from Breezy-Hawaiian-Something-or-Other to Cinnamon-Clove-Cosiness.  There’s nothing I love more than those ridiculously strong-scented cinnamon brooms that start popping up around Halloween.

    This is also the time of year when people apparently start stressing out over making the traditional holiday spread, centred on a giant dead bird.  I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories from friends who forgot to turn the oven on and ended up with a raw bird or got stuck in traffic making a last minute run to the grocery store and ended up with a tough, dry, slightly burned bird.  While I don’t know anyone personally who has deep fried a turkey and burned their house down…it happens.

    Obviously, since we’re living in Texas and it’s my side of the family that is American, we celebrated Veggie style.  Now, before any Beasts out there start lamenting my poor, undernourished B, he doesn’t even like turkey.  However, I wanted him to have something that reminded him of home, so I decided to make him some elements of a traditional Sunday Roast.  The end result (without any of the tons of vegetarian sides) was this:

    Unfortunately for my little baby, Thor, he did not manage to get a hold of that cowboy steak, like he did B’s roast beef sandwiches the year before.  Also, I feel that this photo needs and awesome LOLz caption, so I will change the picture to one with the best caption left in the comments section below.

    Anyway, every year each person picks what they want to be responsible for, so this year, I let the perennial failures like green bean casserole and steamed asparagus with hollandaise (which never actually made it to the table, as I dropped the platter on the floor, much to the Bean’s delight) go, and focused on some staples and crowd pleasers.  My contribution was:

    Tangy Tangerine Cranberry Sauce (recipe below)
    Roasted Tatties (recipe below)
    Decadent Chocolate Mousse (Made in a blender!)
    Pumpkin Cheesecake (recipe below)
    Fresh Whipped Cream (recipe below)

    The first dish is a spin on a Thanksgiving classic inspired by the abundance of tangerines in our backyard.  It honestly could not be simpler, and while I didn’t take the best picture, there’s nothing that elevates your Thanksgiving dinner like the absence of those telltale rings on canned cranberry sauce.

    Tangy Tangerine Cranberry Sauce

    1c water
    1c sugar
    12 oz package fresh whole cranberries
    1T tangerine juice
    sliced tangerine or tangerine wedges to garnish

    Mix sugar and water and bring to a boil.
    · · ·
    Add cranberries and bring back up to a boil.
    · · ·
    Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring to make sure the cranberries don’t stick and the sugar doesn’t burn.
    · · ·
    Add tangerine juice (or any other citrus juice you prefer).
    · · ·
    Simmer for 2 more minutes.
    · · ·
    At this point, you have two choices – if you like whole berry sauce, pour the sauce straight from the pot into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. 
    · · ·
    Top with a twisted slice of tangerine and refrigerate until ready to serve.
    · · ·
    If you prefer jellied cranberry sauce, place a sieve over a bowl, and pour the cranberry sauce (about half a sieve-full at a time) in.  Here’s where you’re going to work off some of that pumpkin pie:
    · · ·
    With the back of a spoon, push the cranberry sauce through the sieve, scraping out the skins and adding more sauce until you’ve separated the whole pot. 
    · · ·
    In the centre of your serving bowl, make a little star-shaped pattern with tangerine wedges.
    · · ·
    Pour the cranberry sauce into the bowl and let cool to room temperature. 
    · · ·
    If you have the time, make this version early in the day (or even the night before) so you can refrigerate for as long as possible.  I think this jellied sauce looks prettiest when it’s solid enough to turn out onto a plate so you get that pretty star pattern and glossy jelly sheen.
    · · ·
    The number one thing to remember is that homemade cranberry sauce is very different from the canned stuff…it’s actually sauce that you will spoon onto your plate rather than cutting like a loaf of bread.  This is a good thing.

    Roasted Tatties

    These are a staple of any Sunday roast, and – made properly – little fluffy, crunchy bits of heaven.

    2 lbs baby red potatoes
    ½ cup canola oil

    Bring a pot of water to a boil (no salt, please!).
    · · ·
    Pour oil into a baking sheet or any pan with a lip and heat in oven at 400° F.
    · · ·
    Peel the potatoes and add to boiling water.
    · · ·
    This next bit is rather inexact, and will take practice:
    You want to cook the potatoes so that the outer layer is a bit translucent, but the inside is still solid.
    Basically, when you remove the potatoes from the water, you’re going to drain them and then shake the colander about to fluff up the outer layer.  Boil them too long, and when you shake them, they’ll turn to mashed potatoes.  Capice?
    · · ·
    Gently spoon fluffed up potatoes into the hot oil (get those mushed bits too – they’ll be wonderfully crisp) and spoon the hot oil over the potatoes, coating evenly.

    Keep “basting” the potatoes every few minutes, gently turning them so that all sides get evenly brown.
    · · ·
    When they are golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer to a paper towel-lined platter.
    · · ·
    Sprinkle with salt, and smother with gravy, if you are so inclined.

    Okay, I know I promised all of the dessert recipes as well, but I went out Black Friday shopping this morning, and am utterly exhausted.  I promise I will post the recipes later, but for now, I need a nap!  

    Here are some pictures of what's to come...