Monthly Archives: May 2012

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Gulab Jamuns: Trial #1

I enjoy most Indian sweets.  Especially kala jumuns!  …but to make a proper kala jumun–blackened gulab jamuns–I have to first figure out how to make a basic gulab jamun.

Gulab jamuns could be described as lightly spiced donut holes which have been soaked in a fragrant, sweet sugar syrup.   They’re quite good, and can be served hot or cold (I prefer them hot).  Their name literally means “rose-flavored plum,” and they’re probably the most well-known of all Indian sweets (in America, at least!).

Apparently there are many ways to make a decent gulab jamun.  You can use khoya (thickened milk), milk powder, or even bread.

I did some searching online and decided to try making my sweets using milk powder.  I already had the powder and had no idea how to make khoya, so it seemed like the best option.  …I might have to learn to make khoya though.

I used THIS recipe–which was incredibly easy!

gulab jamuns waiting to be fried…

The results were okay.  Not perfect, but they were edible.  The outside of the gulab jamuns were deceiving—they look so nice, so tempting.

The problem was the inside.  I’m pretty sure 2 tsp. sooji (cream of wheat) was too much.  It made the sweets a little crumbly, and the texture was off.  They definitely weren’t like the sweets I enjoyed so much in India.

I also didn’t really like the sugar syrup.  I think the proportions were a bit off, but that’s easy enough to fix next time.  And there will be a next time.

I’ll have to ask maa and baba if they have any tips.  I’m sure they can help me make these perfect!

I love the taste of rose, so I decided to float a few petals–along with pistachios–in the syrup.

If you make gulab jamuns….what is the method you use?  

On a completely unrelated topic, I must show you my niece!  Her birthday was yesterday, and she’s now 2 years old; although she’ll tell you she’s 8.

She is so funny and loves a lot of Indian things—such as bangles, biscuits and bindis (the decoration or dot worn on the forehead between the eyebrows).  She really loves bindis!

I think it’s so cool that she knows what they are, what they’re called, and where they belong.  She sometimes throws little tantrums, crying “where my bindi go?,” and you can’t even trick her by giving her a sticker.  It must be a proper bindi.

Madelyn

Notice the giant clip-on earrings?  This girl is a diva!

Piyush and I are babysitting her on Sunday, I’m sure it’ll be entertaining!

Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza

Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza with Chipotle Pepper and Pepita Seed Pesto & Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed.  Random.org chose #2

So, Mona…you are the winner!  I hope you enjoy your chicken sausages!!! You should be receiving an email soon!



A couple weeks ago I received an email from Gold’n Plump asking me if I’d be interested in trying their new line of chicken sausages.  I don’t typically buy Gold’n Plump products, so I didn’t really know anything about the company.  I was surprised to learn that they are based out of St. Cloud, Minnesota–just a few hours drive from where we live.

In fact, these chickens are probably more “local” than what I can get at my neighborhood butcher shop (sad, huh?)–and a whole lot cheaper than buying them straight from the farmer’s market/farmer.  Now, if you read my blog regularly, you’re probably already aware that I’m pretty picky when purchasing my meat.

I try to buy organic as much as possible, but sometimes that’s not always the practical thing to do.  Do you know how much money 12lbs of organic, cage-free, vegetarian fed chicken breast for a potluck would cost me?  A small fortune, I’m sure.  It’s the sad reality.

I replied to the email and asked a few questions about the chicken–what they’re fed, how they’re raised, and if they were given any hormones/antibiotics.   I was satisfied with the responses I was given, so I agreed to give the chicken sausages a try.

I was sent 4 different varieties to try:  Lean Chicken Bratwurst, Lean Hot Italian Chicken Sausage, Lean Parmesan Italian Chicken Sausage and Lean Apple Maple Chicken Breakfast Sausage.

I decided to try the Hot Italian Chicken Sausages first.

…And I had the perfect recipe in mind:  Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza with a Chipotle Pepper-Pepita Seed Pesto.

Piyush always tells me how much he loves the chicken sausage pizza at Zpizza–a place he eats lunch at occasionally.  He’s actually bought chicken sausages from Trader Joe’s, Hyvee, Walmart and Sam’s Club–trying to find one with the same taste as the one on that pizza.  They all ended up in the garbage, and we continued to buy pork when we got the craving for sausages or brats.

Sure, pork sausage is delicious; but it’s also incredibly fatty–definitely not good for my already over-expanded waistline.  The spicy chicken sausage from Gold’n Plump contained 8 g. of fat and less than 180 calories per link.  That is a whole lot healthier than pork!  …and the apple maple breakfast sausages were 100 calories for 3 links–I say that’s awesome!  I can’t wait to give those a try this weekend.

Now, before I go on telling you what I think about the sausages, let me just state that yes, Gold’n Plump provided the sausages to me at no cost…but I will be honest, and all opinions/statements are completely my own.  

So, the nutrition stats look pretty good–aside from the sodium levels, but even that was less than most pork sausages I’ve bought in the past; and sausage is usually high in salt in the first place.  But how was the taste?

I removed the sausage from the casings so that I could top the pizza with ground meat instead of sliced.

In my personal opinion–and Piyush’s too–the hot Italian sausage was definitely as good as any pork sausage we’ve tried.  It was very well spiced (it actually is hot) and wasn’t dry at all.  After I removed the sausage from the casings (I wanted ground meat instead of sliced rings–although Piyush would have preferred I kept the sausages in the casings), I cooked it in a little olive oil until it browned up nicely.

Because Piyush loved the chicken sausage pizza from Zpizza, I thought it would be fun to make my own version.  I’ve never tried a slice before…so I went to their website and checked out the toppings.  It had chipotle pesto, red onions, corn, chicken sausage, mozzerella, tomatoes, cilantro and serrano chilies–it sounded fantastic!

I wish I would have thought of it first and could take all the credit, but no…instead I’m offering my version of Zpizza’s Santa Fe (which Piyush told me is nothing like their version—it’s different, but good on the exact same level.  He really loves their pizza).

Spicy Chicken Sausage Pizza

Not only am I excited to share this crazy-good pizza recipe with you all, but I’m also excited because the nice people at Gold’n Plump have offered to send one of my readers the exact same chicken sausage sampler pack I received!

Gold’n Plump’s New Chicken Sausage Line: Parmesan Italian, Hot Italian, and Apple Maple Breakfast Sausages. There was also a package of Chicken Bratwurst.

So lets talk about this Giveaway!

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me:

 What excites you about this new line of chicken sausages,  and what you would make with them if you won?

The giveaway ends Monday, June 4 at 7:00 p.m. Central Time.  The giveaway is only open to U.S. residents– (sorry!).  Be sure to include a valid email address with your comment…if you win, I’ve got to be able to contact you!

I’ll choose the winner randomly using Random.org’s random number generator.  If I don’t hear back from the winner by Wednesday, June 6 at 5:00 pm Central Time, a new winner will be chosen!

For an additional chances to win the Gold’n Plump Chicken Sausage Sampler Pack:

  • Like Gold’n Plump on Facebook (HERE)
  • Like My Fancy Pantry on Facebook (HERE)
  • Follow My Fancy Pantry on Twitter (HERE)
If you click LIKE on Facebook or FOLLOW on Twitter, be sure to leave a separate comment letting me know, and if you already LIKE or FOLLOW, leave a comment about that too!    

In the mean time, if you’d like to try these sausages, you can head over to Gold’n Plump’s website and grab a $1.00 off coupon!  They’re available at Super-Target (and some other stores too, I’m sure!).

Now, let’s get back to the pizza!

I used my basic whole wheat pizza crust recipe (using Indian Atta flour instead of regular whole wheat flour).

Printer Friendly Recipe: Pizza Crust

I topped the pizza with some Chipotle Pepper and Pepita Seed Pesto (recipe here) and finely chopped jalapeno peppers before topping with three kinds of cheeses: shredded mozzerella, shredded fontina and a locally made cheese similar to queso fresco.  I then added the chicken sausage (2 links), some thinly sliced green and yellow bell pepper, whole kernels of corn (I used canned–but rinsed it all well before using), roasted tomato slices and additional sliced jalapenos for my spice-loving husband.

I baked the pizza at a little higher temp than usual: 475 degrees F…and didn’t pay close attention, so you’ll notice I burned it a little.  I kind of liked it though, it reminded me a lot of a nice, wood-fired pizza–it even had that smokiness from the chipotles!

Once the pizza was finished baking, I topped it with some chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco style-cheese (the local stuff I used earlier) and an adobo-ranch sauce I made.  I don’t like ranch dressing, but I knew this pizza would be spicy so I thought some sort of sauce would help cool it a little and also add some additional flavor.

I mixed a few squirts of ranch dressing with a little bit of adobo sauce (which the chipotle peppers were packed in) until I thought it was well balanced.  I then tossed it in the fridge for a good 20 minutes, and drizzled it lightly over the pizza before I served it.

Piyush and I watched a netflix movie (some Hindi movie that I don’t remember the name of right now…) and enjoyed our pizza on the couch.

I’ve got to say, this might be the very best pizza flavor combination yet…

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Chipotle Pepper and Pepita Seed Pesto

In order to make this:

spicy chicken sausage pizza with chipotle pepper and pepita seed pesto

I had to make this:

It’s no secret that I love pesto.  You could blend pretty much anything together and call it a pesto…and I’ll be in line to try it!

I wanted to make a spicy chicken sausage pizza with the new Gold’n Plump Hot Italian Chicken Sausages (which were delicious, by the way) that I received in the mail.

I was excited about the sausages because they are lower in calories and contain substantially less fat than regular pork sausage.  They’re nitrate free, dairy free and also gluten free!  Awesome!  Gold’n Plump is also a Minnesota company, and the chickens are raised on family farms just a few hours from where I live.   (More about these sausages later…along with a giveaway!)

I was aiming to recreate Zpizza’s Santa Fe pizza–it’s a spicy chicken sausage pizza that my husband absolutely loves.  I’ve never actually tried it, but he raves and raves about it every Monday, so I thought I’d check out the toppings online and figure out what makes this pizza so special.

Reading the ingredients, 2 words jumped out at me.  Chipotle Pesto.

I’ve never heard of such a thing, and I was curious.  I needed to make it, and I needed to make it now!    (Patience is not my strong point…).

I love a good challenge, so I started going through combinations in my head until I came up with what I thought would be the perfect recipe.

Not to toot my own horn or anything–but this pesto rocked!!!  :)

I knew chipotle peppers and adobo sauce would be two key ingredients, and I figured I’d stick with the Parmesan cheese that you’d expect to find in a typical basil pesto.  I didn’t want to use pine nuts for two reasons.  One, they’re really expensive, and I didn’t want to use them in an experiment.  And Two, I didn’t know if the flavor would be what I was looking for.

I dug through my pantry…and there was my answer.  A big, unopened bag of Pepita Seeds (pumpkin seeds).

Pepita Seeds

Pepitas are the edible seeds inside the white hull of a pumpkin seed.  They’re a light green color, and have a mild pumpkin flavor.  They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine, so I figured they’d pair really well with the chipotle peppers.

If you’re unfamiliar with chipotles and have no idea where to find them, fear not!

Chipotle Peppers: what they lack in attractiveness, they make up for in flavor!

They’re simply smoked jalapeno peppers which are easily found in the Mexican isle of the super-market–usually packed in cans of adobo sauce.  They add a really wonderful smokey flavor to a dish–along with a little spice! (Be mindful when adding adobo to recipes, the sauce can be pretty spicy).

I grabbed a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce out of the pantry and separated the chilies from the sauce.  I rinsed 5 chilies under cold water–just to get the sauce off–and then split them to remove the seeds.  If you really love spice, you could definitely leave the seeds in, but I thought it might just be a little too much for me.

Removing the seeds from a chipotle pepper.

When I finished prepping the chipotle peppers, I added them–along with garlic, parmesan, pepitas, adobo sauce and my homemade chili-garlic olive oil (recipe) into a food processor.

I pulsed everything together until it was well blended and at the consistency I wanted (although a little more oil would have maybe been nice).

It was so different.  The taste was an exciting explosion of flavor on my tongue!  It was sweet, smokey, salty, spicy all at once!

My recipe made about a cup of pesto, so I put it in a few jars and tossed it in the fridge until I was ready to use it.  I’m not real sure how long it would last, as I’ve never made it before, but I’d say at least a week in the fridge–longer if you toss it in the freezer instead (freeze it in ice-cube trays, then it’s perfectly portioned too!).

I’m really excited to share my Spicy Sausage Pizza with Chipotle Pepper and Pepita Seed Pesto recipe with you, but if that doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy, you could definitely slather some pesto on slices of toasted french bread and top with roasted tomatoes and crumbled queso fresco!  YUM!

Or you could make some pasta and toss it with the pesto and a variety of vegetables.  That sounds good too!

Or maybe even use it to make a really unique quesidilla!  I’m imagining toasted tortillas filled with a mixture of shredded mozzarella, queso fresco, sliced green chilies (or bell peppers if you don’t want more spice), and chicken!

The options are endless!

Stay tuned for my pizza recipe—it’ll be showing up on my blog shortly.  You’ll also want to check back because the nice folks at Gold’n Plump have also agreed to give a chicken sausage sampler pack to one lucky reader!  Their new line includes:

  • Chicken Bratwursts
  • Hot Italian Chicken Sausage
  • Parmesan Italian Chicken Sausage
  • Apple Maple Breakfast Chicken Sausage Links

Gold’n Plump’s new chicken sausage line

Chipotle Pepper and Pepita Seed Pesto

(makes approximately 1 cup finished pesto)

Ingredients:

  • 5 chipotle peppers- rinsed, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves- chopped
  • 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese- shredded
  • 1/2 c. pepitas- dry roasted
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce- or to taste (this can be spicy!)
  • 1/3c. to 1/2 c. chili-garlic olive oil (can substitute a different oil)
  • pepper/salt-to taste

Directions:

  • Place the parmesan cheese in the food processor.  Process until the cheese becomes a fine powder.  Then add the pepita seeds to the cheese and process again.  Pulse until the seeds are finely chopped–don’t process too long though–you don’t want the seeds to begin to turn into nut-butter.
  • Add the chopped garlic, chipotle chiles, and adobo sauce.  Process until everything is well combined and it begins to take the form of a traditional pesto.
  • Turn the food processor onto the lowest speed and drizzle the oil into the mixture (while everything is being processed).  Stop adding oil once the mixture reaches your desired consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper, if needed.  Transfer pesto into jars and store in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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I love chipotles! :)

Goat Cheese Swirled Brownies

**This recipe made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today!  Thanks to everyone who enjoyed it enough to click BUZZ!**
At the end of my last post I mentioned that you had these to look forward to:

Goat Cheese Swirled Brownies

I threw a baby shower for my friend, Summer–who is expecting a little girl–and I wanted some of the desserts to be girly and pink.

I made an assortment of desserts, but my absolute favorite were the Goat Cheese Brownies! Continue reading

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Pan Fried Chicken Breast with Rustic Herb Tomato Sauce

Pan Fried Chicken Breast with Rustic Tomato Sauce

I’ve been super busy the past few days.  I’m planning a baby-shower for my friend–Summer–for this Saturday, so I’ve been menu planning, shopping and crafting.

I’ve also been occupied with my little gardens–which are finally almost completed!  It was super-sunny outside, but I tried to click a few photos…

2 of my heirloom tomato plants–I’m growing 7 varieties this year

I decided to plant my tomatoes and peppers in 5 gallon buckets this year.  I figured they’d be easy to move around if any of my plants start to get sick.  Last year, one of my plants got some sort of fungus–and within days, all of my plants had fungus!  Yuck!

onions (2 varieties), shallots, garlic and a few potatoes

peppers

After all that work (including tons of mulching and weeding perennial beds)…I cracked open a cold one.  —I deserved it! :)

We keep this on hand for beer-can chicken, but I got into the stash! I could only drink 1/2 of it though…that is one big can!

I wanted to get back out to the gardens today and finish weeding and weed whacking…but that didn’t happen.  Instead I cooked and baked nearly all day–trying to do what I can before Saturday.  Before I knew it, it was 6pm–and I hadn’t even started dinner!

Earlier in the day I had thrown 2 chicken breasts in a giant zip-lock bag along with some olive oil, lemon juice, tarragon, garlic, salt and pepper.   I had no idea what I was going to make with them, but I wanted it to have some flavor.

When I was finally ready to begin making dinner, I opened the fridge to check out my produce.  I had a container of grape tomatoes (Aldi’s had them on sale for 79 cents…Score!), mushrooms, and lots of fresh parsley.

I found some cous cous in my pantry…and dinner began to take shape.

20 minutes later, and it was done!

I pan-fried the chicken in a little goats butter, marjoram, parsley and garlic.  Once the chicken had a beautiful brown sear and was cooked all the way through, I removed them from the pan and covered them with aluminum foil.

Covering the chicken with foil and letting it rest for at least 10 minutes is very important.  Chicken breast has a tendency to over-cook and dry out–this keeps that from happening.

While the chicken cooked, I made the cous cous.  It took about 5 minutes.  Literally.  I tossed about 2 cups of fresh, homemade chicken broth (I told you I was busy today!)  into a medium sized saucepan.  I didn’t add any butter or oil because my broth hadn’t been strained yet, and was fatty enough.

I tossed in a handful of chopped parsley, 2 tsp. dried tarragon, 1 bay leaf, about a half cup of chopped mushrooms, a pinch of saffron, salt and pepper.  I let this mixture come to a boil, then added 1 cup. whole wheat cous cous.  I covered the pan and let the cous cous soak up all of the fragrant broth.

Then I got started on the tomato sauce.  It was really simple, actually, and it came together really quick.

I tossed the grape tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic (smashed and minced), and a handful of chopped parsley in the same pan that I had previously cooked the chicken.  I turned the heat to high and stirred until the tomatoes started to blister and burst–forming a sauce.  To keep things from sticking, I added 1/2 c. chicken broth and 1 tsp of flour.

I thought the tomato sauce was a little tangy, so I added 1/2 tsp of sugar.  Perfect!

A fantastic dinner doesn’t have to take tons of time.  In fact, I think the easiest meals are often the best!

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On another note, look what’s coming next!

Goat Cheese Swirled Brownies!!!  and they’re pink! …Summer is having a baby girl!!!  :)

Easy Chicken Biryani with Cucumber, Carrot and Mint Raita

I absolutely love Indian biryani.  It’s such a beautiful and comforting dish that is reminiscent of the rice hot-dishes  (or casseroles…for all you non-Minnesotans out there) that I grew up eating as a kid–only a million times better! (sorry, Mom!).

Biryani is simply basmati rice cooked with spices and meats (and/or vegetables).   There are many different styles and types of biryani, each as unique as the people who make (and eat!) them.

A traditional biryani can take hours and hours to make properly.  Maybe someday I’ll have that kind of time to devote towards the absolute perfection of the dish; but until that time comes, I’ve got to take some short-cuts.

And because of the short-cuts I took…my biryani is technically a pulao (it is also close to what most Indian restaurants pass off as biryani in America).

What’s the difference?  In a true biryani, each part of the dish is cooked–and spiced–separately.  Then after each component has been cooked, they are all layered together; forming a dish with mind-blowing, contrasting flavors.  It is simply amazing.

A pulao, on the other hand, is quite easier and faster to cook.  All the ingredients are cooked together and the flavors of the dish come together as one.  You miss out on the different layers of flavor, but the dish is still quite tasty–and way less time consuming!

Chicken Biryani garnished with saffron rice, cucumbers and mint

Continue reading

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon and Chevre

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon and Chèvre

It’s no secret that I love chèvre (goat cheese).  I’m always looking for ways to sneak goat cheese into my recipes…whether it be in a salad, a sauce or a soup.  It’s even the “secret” ingredient to my mashed potatoes.  Yum!

The other night I was trying to decide what to make for supper.  I didn’t really want to cook a whole lot, but I didn’t want to eat out.  I looked in the fridge and saw the beautiful asparagus I purchased at the farmer’s market last Saturday.  I wanted something vegetarian…and I wanted to make it a main-course.

Soup was the perfect (delicious) solution!

I accompanied the soup with some black garlic toasts.

Baguette slices, smothered with a black garlic goat’s butter,ccccc and toasted

To make the toasts, I simply sliced a baguette.  I chopped some black garlic and mixed it with some goat’s butter.

black garlic cloves

Goat Butter (this butter has a lower melting point than regular cow’s milk butter–therefore it’s not really all that awesome for baking cookies or things like that)

I melted the mixture and brushed it over the slices and laid them on a baking sheet–lined with parchment paper.  Then I popped the baguette slices in my oven that was set to broil.  I let them bake until they became golden and crispy—and delicious!

The soup was equally simple to prepare, and only took about 15 minutes.

cooking the shallots and asparagus with some tarragon

I simply sauteed shallots, asparagus and tarragon in some butter.  Then I added some goat cheese and veggie stock and blended everything until it was smooth.  I added a little dairy…and it was done!

asparagus soup with tarragon and goat cheese –served with black garlic toasts

Easy…and so, so good!

printer-friendly recipe

**note: sorry, I forgot to link the recipe to the printer icon.  It’s all fixed now!**

This soup would be super easy to freeze as well.  Just be sure to leave out the milk and half&half before freezing.  Once you’re ready to use it, allow it to thaw and then add the dairy at that point.