Niramish is the Bengali word for mixed vegetables. There are of course, a million ways to cook niramish depending on the cook. I decided to make some last night using frozen mixed veggies because I was in a hurry. Normally, I love using a variety of fresh vegetables, especially picks from the local farmer’s markets. There are some nights though, speed is of the essence. Given the choice of eating something unhealthy or making something fast and tasty out of frozen veggies…Well it’s no contest. It ended up tasting great and it was quick!
There is nothing I like better than making and eating fresh spring rolls. They are tasty, they are healthy, they have delightful textures AND they are portable. But what I really, really, absolutely LOVE (as in a twirl my dress and spin around kind of giddiness-love) is the peanut dipping sauce. I could eat it by the bucketful. To tell you the truth, the spring rolls for me are sort of a Peanut Sauce delivery system. I have been known to eat the peanut sauce on ice cream (try it, you will love it, I promise), with apples and pears, even bananas. Sometimes, if I think nobody is watching, I will lick my plate of any residual peanut sauce (don’t judge me). It is my “green eggs and ham”
Let’s start with the recipe for the sauce:
Peanut Dipping Sauce
1 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
½ inch piece of ginger grated
OR just one tablespoon of ginger garlic paste you’ve blended together
5 tbsp water or chicken broth—may add more as needed
5 tbsp hoisin sauce
½ cup peanut butter
1 tbsp Sirarcha sauce or Sambal Oelek
1 tbsp Palm sugar or brown sugar (Palm sugar adds a wonderful depth of flavor that is not to be missed)
Heat oil in a small pan and add the garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant. Add in the hoisin sauce and water or broth and stir for a minute or two. Next add the peanut butter, Sriarcha or Sambal Oelek and Palm sugar and stir until well blended and sugar dissolves. Add additional water if needed. Sauce should be smooth but thick. Take off heat and top with additional crushed peanuts and diced Thai chili if desired or more Sambal Oelek.
To make this sauce Vegan or soy free:
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic
¼ inch piece of ginger grated
5 tbsp vegetable broth or stock
½ tsp salt
½ cup peanut butter
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp Sriarcha sauce or Sambal Oelek
1 Tbsp Palm Sugar
3– 4 tbsp of water
Heat oil in a small pan and add the garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant. Add in all the remaining ingredients except for the water. Stir until well blended and heated through. Add the water (more or less depending on consistency). Sauce should be slightly thick and smooth. Top with additional crushed peanuts and diced Thai Chillis if desired.
Rice spring roll paper (12 sheets)
Warm tap water (several cups in a bowl to soften rice paper)
Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1/3 package of thin rice vermicelli noodles, cooked
cucumbers, thinly sliced horizontally
1 Shredded carrot
1 cup bean sprouts
twelve pieces of long chives
handful of Cilantro
handful of fresh mint (peppermint variety – found in Asian markets)
Cooked shrimp, deveined and sliced in half
Or you can use Chinese style BBQ pork (Char Shu)
Or use only vegetables without any proteins
Thoroughly wash all the vegetables and prepare them as listed above. Soak the rice vermicelli noodles for 6 to 10 minutes in hot water then rinse them under cool tap water. I buy the pre cooked shrimp that’s already deveined and cleaned and then slice them in half (usually at Costco). I also buy all my produce at the Asian Market because they are a LOT cheaper.
There are a million brands of rice paper. Choose the cheapest one. They are pretty much the same.
Dip the paper in warm water, turning it in a circle as you dip and gently press in the middle to get the whole paper wet. Avoid sticking the whole paper in a bowl and letting it float around. It just needs to get wet – not soaking wet. Gently shake off excess water and place the sheet on a cutting board or plate in front of you. On the top third of the paper closest to you, place a small bundle of romaine lettuce and cabbage, next put the vermicelli noodles on top followed by the carrots, sprouts, cucumber, a few leaves of mint, one frond of chives and two small leaves of cilantro. Fold the paper closest to you over the vegetables and tuck tightly under. Once you’ve rolled one revolution, tuck the left and right side into the roll. There should be some paper still left in the front, place the shrimp cut side facing up (like inverted “u”) next to the roll and finish rolling up the spring roll. You should be able to see the Shrimp from the outside . Serve with peanut dipping sauce. Serve at room temperature. Avoid making ahead and refrigerating since the rice paper dries out or gets too soggy. If you must take it somewhere to eat/serve it, wrap each roll in plastic wrap so they do not stick to each other and serve within 2-3 hours.
Leftover bananas can sneak up on you. It seems like one day they are firm, yellow and delightful and the next day they are dark brown and overripe. Thankfully bananas are very versatile. They are fantastic for baking, making smoothies and drinks and even in savory dishes. I enjoy making banana bread with my overripe bananas and have posted my favorite version here. This time I wanted to make some muffins that were healthy AND delicious with some chocolate thrown in to make it special. I used mini chocolate chips because 1/2 cup goes a long way and feels like there is a lot more than there is! They turned out moist, flavorful and delicious. This recipe makes one batch of 12 muffins. If you get up early, you can throw the ingredients together stick it in the oven and go for a 22 minute run and come back to incredible warm muffins for breakfast. It’ll improve your performance (guaranteed) when you know such deliciousness is waiting for you!
Spiced Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used Atta, or Indian WW flour)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
2 large bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1/4 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup non fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl mix the flours, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the mashed bananas, baking soda, egg, melted butter, milk and yogurt until well incorporated. Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended (don’t over mix). Stir in the mini chocolate chips. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and using an ice cream scooper fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake the muffins for 30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the muffins to rack to cool for 15 minutes.
At Christmas time I love to make a Bûche de Noël otherwise known as a Yule log. This last Christmas, I had a great time making Tiramisu flavored Bûche de Noël . Somehow those same flavors seem a bit heavy during the summer. Especially when so much fresh fruit is readily available. I decided to modify my recipe to slim it down for summer. This cake is light, flavorful and visually gorgeous. Splurging on this dessert is easy on the diet and on the budget! I hope you try it. You will love it!
Light and Lemony Cake Roll
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
8 oz neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat) or you can use regular cream cheese, softened to room temperature
8 oz light frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 cup plum or strawberry jam
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar (for the outside of the cake)
Preheat oven to 375° F. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. In a small bowl beat egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff but not dry. Set aside. In another bowl beat the yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until it’s a light yellow color. Add in vanilla to the yolk mixture. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sifted flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the egg white. Be careful not to over mix. Batter should be light and fluffy. Line a jelly roll pan or a half sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Pour cake batter onto the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown but not dry. Loosen edge of cake while it’s still warm. Dust cake with powdered sugar. Place dish towel on top of the cake and invert the whole pan onto the towel. Gently peel off the parchment paper. Beginning with the narrow side roll the cake and towel together into a roll. Let it sit on a cooling rack, seam side down for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime assemble the filling by combining the Neufchatel cheese with the lemon zest, 1 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix well and then fold in the thawed whipped topping until well blended. Take the jam and microwave it for 30 – 40 seconds until it’s a liquid. Gently unroll the cake and brush the jam all over the cake. Spread the lemony mixture on top of the jam layer, leaving 1/2 inch clearance from the edges. Gently re-roll the cake, using the towel to help roll. Dust with additional powdered sugar if needed and place seam side down on a serving platter. Slice into 1″ thick slices and serve with fresh strawberries or other fruit.
Sometimes the best dishes are those that I’ve cooked quickly. I came home kind of late last night and needed to make a fast and healthy meal. I was pretty much throwing ingredients together that I thought would make tasty combinations. It came together in less than 30 minutes and the whole family along with a friend who happened to be hanging out all enjoyed dinner together. I love that. There’s nothing like eating a meal together and chatting and talking on a cool summer evening when the sun takes a long time to set. The tangy taste of the feta and artichokes with the hint of rosemary really makes this dish taste like summer….all bright and sunny!
Mediterranean style chicken and artichoke whole wheat pasta
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 bunch flat leafed parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup of marinated artichokes, rough chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 can italian style stewed tomatoes or 2 Roma tomatoes chopped
2 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach
1/2 pound of whole wheat pasta (linguine, fettuccine or egg noodles)
Cook whole wheat pasta to al dente. In a large skillet or wok heat olive oil, add chicken,salt and garlic and saute for a few minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Add in tomatoes, artichoke hearts, dill and parsley. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add in dried rosemary and feta cheese and cook for about 1 minute. Add in spinach and let it wilt into the sauce. Turn off heat. Toss in cooked pasta and serve immediately.
I kind of have a soft spot for Granola. You see, I had just stuffed my mouth full of some yogurt and granola in the university dining room. I had misjudged how much my mouth could handle and the extreme chewiness of the granola so I was trying desperately to gnaw my way through like a chipmunk….when I saw HIM. He had hazel eyes and long eye lashes and was wearing a dark green sweater. It’s funny the memories that come up with certain smells, sounds or foods. As I was getting all the ingredients together for this granola for Onjoli and I to have with our yogurt or just as a cereal, I was grinning to myself and thinking about that first “meeting”. The best part of that encounter was what happened a few minutes later. I finally gulped down the granola and decided that I should make myself memorable. Earlier that week I had learned the English word “saunter” (I was trying to improve my English by learning and using new words everyday). I understood “saunter” to be sort of like a supermodel walk down the catwalk. Not accurate, but hey, I was 17 years old. In my head I planned to “saunter” past this hunk of manhood in my female glory so he’d be amazed and wonder “who was that gorgeous woman?” I was so busy “sauntering” that I ran into one of the closed doors of the cafeteria. I mean a serious face plant on the door.
The plan did work, he did notice me, just not exactly in the way I was planning. Something must have worked, because that was 28 years ago. Next week we will celebrate 26 years of marriage!
I was inspired by the awesome Chef Connie and her recipe for granola (she has a great blog!). The granola turned out fantastic and I know that each time I take a bite, I’ll smile just a bit. Do you have food that brings back a flood of memories? I’d love to hear it!
5 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, rough chopped
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup raw peanuts, rough chopped
1 cup sunflower seeds, raw and unsalted
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup of any type of dried fruit you like—I used dates, apricots and dried cherries
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp sea or kosher salt
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp oil
Mix all the nuts, oats and seeds together (reserve the dried fruit for later) in a large pan or big bowl. Add the spices, brown sugar and salt. In a saucepan mix the applesauce, honey, maple syrup and oil and heat all the way through. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Spread the mixture evenly on a parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet in a pre-heated 350° oven. Cook for 40-45 minutes but make sure and stir it every 10 minutes to brown it evenly. Remove from oven and add in the dried fruits and mix well. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
This is a hearty and creamy main dish kind of daal. Almost like a chili. It is made with black lentils or Urad daal. I used the split Urad daal which cooks a tad bit faster than the whole urad daal. Most people who make this dish use a pressure cooker. I don’t happen to own a pressure cooker because they scare me. When I was about 12 years old we lived in Yemen. My mom, unused to the altitude of San’aa (capital of Yemen) would often use a pressure cooker to make most of our meals to save time. She did not understand the mechanics of the release valve and one day when the pressure cooker release valve broke, being a thrifty housewife, she decided to make a make-shift one out of flour and water paste. This created a miniature steam fueled bomb in the kitchen. I was just coming home from school when the giant explosion sent me running into the kitchen area. I found my mom among the carnage of raw goat meat, broken windows and dishes. She looked at me with dazed eyes and said, “did we get bombed?” She only suffered minor injuries but I have been scared of pressure cookers and certain types of goats ever since. Even the sound is ominous like a large snake getting ready to strike….
Save yourself and make this daal in a plain old pan, just keep an eye on it and check the water level to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
The nutrient contents of the black lentils and kidney beans are tremendous. Both are high in protein and the flavors can’t be beat. It is fantastic served with fresh, hot chappatis. There is nothing quite like the combination. You won’t miss the meat or the pressure cooker, I promise.
1 cup split black lentils (urad daal)
1/4 cup kidney beans, dry
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp Amchur – dry mango powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 whole dried red chilies
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/4 cup half and half
2 tbsp ghee – clarified butter
1/2 tsp garam masala
5-6 cups water
Wash the kidney beans and daal. Soak in about 5-6 cups of water overnight. Soaked daal will almost triple in volume. In a large heavy bottomed pan add Urad daal, kidney beans, onions, salt, turmeric and ginger. Add about 5 cups of water bring to boil. After mixture has come to a boil, turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30-40 minutes on a back burner, checking occasionally for water level and to stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the daal and the beans are soft and tender, lightly mash it with a potato masher, you don’t want to use an immersion blender since the texture doesn’t need to be a puree, just slightly mashed. Add a little more water if needed and cook an additional 5-6 minutes. Add garam masala, dry mango powder and half and half and cook another 10 minutes on low heat. Take daal off the heat and in a separate, small pan heat the ghee. When ghee is nicely heated, add the dry red chilies, cumin seeds and red chili powder. Stir quickly and pour the hot, aromatic ghee over the daal. Stir to incorporate and serve with hot chappatis.
I really, really enjoy the flavor of Thai Basil. It’s such a fresh tasting herb with a slight almost licorice kind of flavor to it. I try to grow it every summer along with a wide variety of other basil plants. Last year, I had a huge snail problem in my garden and they began to feast on my Thai Basil before I could. It made me so mad. I tried all kinds of tricks without having to use harsh chemicals. Like beer. Yes, beer. I heard that snails were attracted to beer. According to a friend of mine, if you put some beer in a shallow pan near plants you want snails to avoid, they climb into the beer and drown. So, I went to the store, bought some really cheap beer in several 6-packs because I wanted to really drown the suckers. I had pie pans all over my yard with beer in them. I found a few drunken snails but not the horde that I was expecting. My friend suggested that my beer was too cheap. Seriously? They were expecting micro brewed ale? I was not about to throw a Keg party for the snails. I tried “organic” snail bait and ground glass, didn’t work. This year, I’m planting basil in flower pots all over my patio. Maybe that will work. Snails are gross, but this recipe rocks. Hey, if you have any snail genocide ideas, please let me know. …
Thai Style Beef with Basil
1/2 pound beef, thinly sliced ( I used chuck roast)
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp soy sauce
1 big bunch of Thai basil
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
5 whole garlic cloves, minced
Red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp sambal olek
2 tsp fish sauce
Vegetarian thin noodles or you can use glass noodles
Thinly slice some beef. Half frozen beef is great because then you can really slice it thin. Mix beef with soy sauce and corn starch and set aside. In a wok or large skillet heat the oil. Add garlic and ginger and then add the beef. Stir fry for 2 minutes or so until meat is no longer pink. Add bell pepper and onion and continue to stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add in sambal olek, sweet soy sauce, fish sauce and 1/3 cup coconut milk. The sauce should be thickening up within a minute or two. Take off heat and add in Thai Basil. Stir to mix in and wilt all the basil. Serve over noodles or with some brown rice!
I remember when I first came to live in the United States. I was living with a wonderful American family on a farm in Idaho. A big, huge change. There were lots of fresh produce available of course, especially in the summer. That’s when I was introduced to salads. Don’t get me wrong, salads are eaten all over the world but usually not as a meal. It’s almost always eaten as part of a meal, like a side dish or even a palate cleanser or like a condiment. In North America the salad reigns as a meal. That was a strange thing for me. To eat an entire meal that was mostly raw. I remember telling my mom about having a salad for dinner and she exclaimed in dismay, “can’t those people cook?”. After I got over the initial shock, I grew to love salads. I love the textures, the freshness and the variety. They are never going to go over big in any part of South Asia as a meal but I’m winning people over, one at a time.
I had this just the other day. It was great and refreshing after a hard workout! Yes, Ma…I ate it as a meal.
Radish Cucumber and Mango Salad
4 fresh radishes, thinly sliced
1 English Cucumber, thinly sliced
1 Mango, cut into small bite sized pieces
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
Thinly slice cucumber, radishes and mangoes and place in a medium sized bowl. Add chopped cilantro. In a separate bowl zest the lime and then juice the whole lime. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and whisk until a thick emulsion is created. Pour over salad and toss. Chill and serve.
I’m well into the second week of P90X. I am beginning to walk like the hunchback (or is it hump back? I have a hunched hump) of Notre Dame when nobody is watching, dang that Tony Horton. I try to straighten up and look buff whenever I think I’ll encounter other people. I’m still laughing, joking and talking but it covers over some serious muscle pain. I don’t remember being THIS sore the last cycle of P90X. My daughter reminded me that was a few months ago and now I am OLDER. Thanks, Onjoli. My sister Rita is also doing P90X. We live hundreds of miles apart but found time to laugh on the phone together over how hard it was to even blow dry our hair after doing a bunch of pull-ups. I need something to look forward to at mealtimes while I get over the first few weeks of muscle pain (and misery). I want comfort food (or my mom to cook for me)! Comfort food that won’t destroy all the hard work of working out. Muttar Paneer has all the flavors of a richer meat dish, like a Rogan Josh curry (that’s an awesome beef or lamb curry) but is pretty low in fat while being high in protein. Since I make my own paneer using 2% milk, it’s a lower fat version than the ones available through my cheese monger or at the Indian grocer. The spices used are very similar to what is used in making a lamb curry, making the flavor profile much richer.
I know when you look at the long list of spices, it can seem daunting but there is another piece of good news. you can make the tomato and cashew based sauce ahead of time or in a bigger batch and freeze them in portioned freezer bags. When you’re ready to cook, you can take out a bag of sauce and add the garam masala and either lamb, beef or in this case the green peas and paneer to complete the rest of the currying process. I have done that in the past, I just didn’t have any sauce in my freezer this time!
I have used whole spices in my Garam Masala again. I beg you to use whole spices whenever you can, the taste is so much better, I promise. I hope you try this out. You’ll really enjoy the mini explosion of flavors in every bite and keep eating it and eating it….Oh, BTW, it goes great with Chappatis.
4 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
5-6 raw cashews
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1-2 fresh green chilies
2 tsp Kasuri Methi (dried Fenugreek leaves)
handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup milk with 1/2 tsp flour mixed in or you can use 1/4 cup heavy cream
Whole Garam Masala:
5 green cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
salt to taste
Heat 2 tbsp oil and saute cashews, add in onion, salt, turmeric ginger and garlic and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes. Blend this mixture in a blender or processor until smooth. (Note: if you wanted to make extra sauce for future use, you could easily make a double or quadruple batch and freeze them in portioned freezer bags). In the same pan used earlier, add the remaining oil and the whole garam masala spices and cumin seeds and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and simmer covered on low heat for about 8-10 minutes until all the flavors are well blended. You can adjust with a little water. Into the sauce add the peas, green chilies and the dried fenugreek leaves (fresh would be great if you can get it, not as pungent) cook for about 2 minutes until peas are tender then add the paneer, milk and flour mixture or cream and cilantro. Heat all the way through, should take another 2 minutes or so and serve hot with plain brown basmati rice or chappatis.