Tag Archives: Family & Friends

Fleur De Sel Soft Caramels

I wanted to give Piyush something special for Christmas this year.  We decided not to exchange gifts because we had just returned from India—where we bought so many incredible things!  We also splurged on a pool table for our family room earlier in the month, so there really wasn’t anything either one of us needed, or wanted.

Piyush does so much for me though, so I decided to surprise him with something I know he loves…homemade soft caramels!  We sometimes buy them from Knudsen’s Caramels in Redwing, MN…but seriously?!  $12 a pound is a lot of money to spend on caramels.  They’re delicious and definitely worth it, but it’s a splurge.

I’ve never made caramels before but I figured it couldn’t be that hard, and it’d definitely be a lot more cost effective.  I did a little research online and found a recipe I thought would work.  Long story short, I overcooked them (I blame my candy thermometer!) and they turned out to be hard candies instead.  Failure!

Luckily, my sister stopped by with my niece and her sister-in-law, Rachel.  My sister told me that Rachel makes the best caramels…and graciously she offered to teach me to make them too! I made a few changes to her original recipe…less sugar, less corn syrup and the addition of salt.  I think the salt adds another dimension to the caramel and really takes it up a notch!  And…they tasted a LOT like Knudsen’s caramels!  Mine were a little lighter in color, but I’m pretty sure that could be fixed easily.  I used white sugar.  Their ingredients list includes brown sugar.  Next time I’ll have to make the swap and see what happens.

Fleur de sel caramels

I think any recipe would work to make caramels, the real secret is the timing.  Knowing when to take them off the stove is important and if your candy thermometer is off—you’ll end up with caramels that are either too soft or too hard.  What I found worked the best was throwing a bit of the boiling caramel in a cup of cold water.  I could then reach in and grab the piece without burning myself, and see if I could roll it into a ball.  If you test it this way, I guarantee you’ll have no problems and you’ll be eating delicious caramels in no time!

These caramels were a definite success!  Piyush loved them so much, he convinced me to make an additional batch for our family to enjoy on Christmas Eve.  They only take around an hour to come together…but they take another hour or so to wrap them all!

all wrapped up and ready to be enjoyed!

It was worth it.  I wrapped up a few half pound packages to throw into the gift baskets I made my family and still had tons left! I’d guess one batch makes about 6 lbs (I didn’t actually measure this time). I put the leftover caramels into a pretty bowl and set them out with all the other goodies I made.

some of our Christmas Eve goodies

The caramels were definitely the biggest hit—well, maybe tied with the “Dorthy Cookies”—but that’s another post.

I was excited that my family loved them so much.  My cousins and grandpa even went home with handfuls stuffed in their pockets! By the time everyone had cleared out there were only 4 caramels left in the bowl!

I have a feeling these will be requested at every family function!

I really enjoyed this Christmas.  I didn’t take many photos, but we had an amazing dinner, lots of good conversation, pool tournaments, and even a little Christmas caroling—courtesy of my sister.  I’m really tempted to put the video of her jamming out on Piyush’s guitar here on my blog, but instead I’ll leave you with a few photos instead.

Grandpa yo-yoing ...the younger kids didn't even know what a yo yo was!!!

Penny made a bed out of the tablecloths once all the tables were packed away

Great Day to Pick Some Grapes!

The weather here in Minnesota has been really nice the past few days.  It’s been in the 80’s, and feels much more like summer than fall!  I have so much yard work to get finished before we leave for India and this weather has been perfect for it, but I haven’t done any!  Nope.  I haven’t picked up a rake or touched my shears.  I haven’t pulled out the tomato plants from the garden nor have I mulched anything.  Instead, I decided I wanted to buy some grapes and make jelly.  I never actually got around to making the jelly yet (are you surprised?!), but I did make nearly 30 cups of concord grape juice!

After searching online for concord grapes, I was surprised that I could find them right here in Rochester!  I ran a few errands and then plugged the address into my phone.  It was a little outside of town, but very easy to find.  The farm is called Firefly Berries (you can check out there website HERE).  I’ve never picked grapes before and didn’t have any idea what to do, how to tell if they were ripe, or how many I would need to make some jelly and juice.  The lady that helped me was very nice and answered all my questions.  Picking the grapes was kind of fun and it went really quickly.  I picked 17lbs of grapes, and at $1.00/lb, I thought it was a good deal!

I also bought a container of the juice they make there.  I thought Piyush would really like it.  I wasn’t sure exactly how much juice I would get from the grapes I had bought and wanted to make sure we could enjoy some fresh concord grape juice when I was done making the jelly.  I’m not a juice drinker really (probably why that juice diet never really stuck all that well), but concord grape juice is probably the only one I crave once in awhile.  I usually just want a taste.  Man!  The juice they made was awesome!  I can’t wait until next year when I have some time to put up a bunch of grape juice myself.

Once I got the grapes home I became a little terrified of all the bugs hanging out in that box with them.  I didn’t want any bugs or spiders (eeeekkk!) coming inside my house so I got a few bowls and set everything up on the trunk of the car.  I started pulling the grapes off  and sorting through them.  This is when I started wishing Piyush was home because I desperately needed someone to take care of all those bugs!  There were a lot more than I had expected, but I realize that I intruded on their habitat and they weren’t there just to annoy me, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much.  I don’t like to kill them and I don’t like to touch them, so I’m sure my neighbors were laughing at me dancing around in the garage with a stick in my hand trying to coax them away.

They were everywhere!

I survived, thankfully, and then left my bowls of beautiful grapes in the garage while I filled the sink up with water.

I figured that soaking them this way would clean them real good and also allow for any stems (and bugs!!!) to float to the top, where I could skim them off.  It worked well.

I tried using my juicer, but realized it would take forever. Seeds kept shooting back out of the top at me whenever I took the plunger out to put more grapes in.  It just wasn’t going to work.  So I pulled a big pan out of the cupboard and filled it with about 3lbs of grapes and 1 1/2 cups of water.  I smashed the grapes and cooked everything until it boiled.  Once it boiled, I reduced the heat and cooked it for roughly 10 more minutes.  I then dumped everything into a sieve to separate out the juice from the skin, pulp and seeds.  Once the juice was separated I poured it into large jars that went into the fridge.  Making juice this way also took quite awhile, but I enjoyed it.  We ended up with approximately 30 cups of juice!  That’s enough to make about 48 cups of jelly!!!  I don’t think we need that much.  I put some in a pitcher to drink (strained it through a cheesecloth and added some water until I was satisfied with the taste).

I also made a grape cake this morning when I got home from the gym (it’s cooling now, so hopefully I’ll have a post up about it soon!)  For the rest of the juice, I’m going to give some to a couple friends and then freeze the rest for when the “jelly makin’ bug” bites me in the middle of winter…and I know it will!

Oh!  One other thing I learned today about concord grape juice:  Do not give it to a 1 1/2 year old—no matter how much you dilute it (and I diluted it a LOT!)—when you are babysitting.  They will get a major sugar high and act like a crazy animal! And definitely do not give it to them in a sippy cup, even if the sippy cup says “leak proof”.  It will most definitely leak, and grape juice is really hard to clean up (especially on white cupboards!!!)!

Piyush and I were watching my niece, Madelyn, while my sister and brother in law went out for dinner and to a movie.  She’s so cute and I love spending the day with her, but Piyush was definitely not ready to keep up with all her energy.

Madelyn loves picking cherry tomatoes off my decrepit plants. She picked a bowl full last week too.

It was hard to get a photo when they were both looking at me...this is the best I could do.

By the time my sister and Brian got back from their movie (at around 10pm), Madelyn was still going strong…and Piyush was ready to pass out!  It was kind of funny.  But lesson learned.  No more grape juice for Madelyn!

Braised Pheasant with Red Cabbage and Wild Rice

I come from a family who loves to hunt for their food.  Saturdays and Sundays during the fall were spent walking the fields around SE Minnesota, with dogs in tow, trying to flush out birds.  …Pheasants, to be exact.

This is Titan. He's a britany spaniel. He's one of many, many hunting/family dogs we've had through all the years

I never really enjoyed hunting and only went with a few times (I never actually carried a gun…and if I would have, I would have never been able to point it at something to kill it.  That’s just not something I could do).   Most of the times that I tagged along, I was more of an annoyance for my dad than anything.  I hated that I had to be quiet, I didn’t like that you couldn’t eat anything for hours on end, and I despised that I was really expected to go to the bathroom behind some trees?!?!  I also didn’t enjoy when I’d be walking along, minding my own business, and all the sudden a pheasant would fly up right in front of me!  That is scary!

Aside from not enjoying hunting, I also refused to eat any of their kills.  Infact, this extended to me refusing to eat fish as well.  I just could not bear to see an animal being shot, skinned, caught or filleted.  I was kind of a hypocrite though.  I’d eat beef and chicken without ever questioning how it got on my plate.  My mom would often cook venison and pheasant and tell me that it was beef or chicken.  She knew I liked the taste, but if I knew the truth, I would not touch it. This lasted for years.

Eventually, when I was in college, I began to eat venison occasionally…and I loved it!  I also started eating fish again.  I still refused the pheasant. But last year my brother in law went pheasant hunting for the first time,

Brian, after his first hunting adventure

he got 2 birds and gave one to Piyush.  Piyush has never eaten pheasant and really wanted to try it, so I agreed to fix it for him.  …I put the bird in the freezer, where it has been haunting me ever since.

The truth is, this is the first time I have knowingly eaten pheasant since I was probably 10 years old.  It is also the first time I have ever cooked it.  Mom always put it in the slow cooker with some veggies, but I didn’t really want to do that.  So I turned to google.  Not very many recipes turned up, and so I decided to search epicurious.  Success!  I found a recipe for “Braised Pheasant with Red Cabbage Wild Rice”.  This sounded delicious!…but then again, anything with wild rice sounds delicious to me!

I have to say, this recipe was incredibly time consuming.  You have to be a good multi-tasker (thank god, I am) for this to be a success.  It also uses a lot of pans and utensils, so aside from having awesome multitasking skills, you should also have extraordinary dish washing abilities.  Believe me, you’ll need them!

I followed the recipe for the most part, but had to make a few substitutions.  I also noticed that the recipe had some major problems—mainly involving the wild rice.  It called for 1 cup of water to 1/2 cup of rice.  Now, if it was regular white rice, this would not be an issue.  But wild rice is not white rice.  It needs approximately 4c of liquid to ever 1c of rice.  The recipe also says to bake the rice.  I did as I was told, but I did not like the results and would totally do it differently next time.  I’d boil the rice, uncovered, on my stove top.  Rice aside, this recipe was pure gold!  The flavor was tremendous and I could imagine ordering this at a high class restaurant (and paying a pretty penny for it, too!).

 Braised Pheasant with Red Cabbage Wild Rice (via Epicurious)

The Recipe:

For wild rice

  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth (please, increase this to 2c…at least!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (about 1/6 head)
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar ( I used a mixture of balsamic vinegar–probably 2 teaspoons, and red wine–probably a good 3/4 of a cup.  It made the flavor shine!)

For pheasant

  • a 2-pound pheasant (mine was skinless, breasts still on bone)**
  • 1 1/2 cups water (I skipped this and used chicken broth instead)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (made my own using equal parts cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (about 3)
  • 1/4 cup gin
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste (I used 1/2 of a large sized heirloom tomato)
  • a 3-inch fresh rosemary sprig plus 1/2 teaspoon minced leaves (had to use dried.  Unfortunately.  I didn’t have fresh on hand)
  • 1/2 cup halved red and/or green seedless grapes (I used red, and this totally made the recipe!)

**I think you could probably substitute chicken, venison, maybe even beef? for the pheasant in the recipe and it would turn out divine!

Make wild rice:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a fine sieve rinse wild rice well and drain. In a small saucepan bring broth to a simmer. In a small flameproof casserole Sauté rice in oil over moderately high heat, stirring, 1 minute and stir in hot broth and salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil and bake, covered, in middle of oven 1 hour, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

While rice is cooking, in a 10-inch skillet cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp and transfer to paper towels to drain. Transfer all but 1 tablespoon drippings to a small bowl and reserve for cooking pheasant.

Heat drippings remaining in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté onion and cabbage, stirring, until softened. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste and sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Chop bacon. Just before serving, stir cabbage mixture and bacon into wild rice.

Again, I have to say, Please boil the rice.  It’ll turn out better.  If you insist on baking it, at least increase the liquid by about 4 times. 

Make pheasant while rice is cooking:

Rinse pheasant under cold water and pat dry inside and out. Cut pheasant into 6 serving pieces, transferring feet, back, neck, and wing tips to a small saucepan. To saucepan add water and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until reduced to about 3/4 cup. Strain stock through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl.

In a small bowl stir together salt, pepper, and allspice. Pat pheasant dry again and sprinkle evenly with allspice mixture. In a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet heat oil with 1 tablespoon reserved drippings over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté pheasant until golden, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer pheasant to a plate.

In fat remaining in skillet cook raisins and shallots over moderate heat, stirring, until shallots are softened. Stir in gin and boil until most is evaporated. Stir in wine and boil until reduced by about half. Stir in stock, tomato paste, rosemary sprig, and salt and pepper to taste and bring sauce to a boil.

Add pheasant to sauce, skin sides down, and braise, tightly covered, in middle of 350°F. oven until breast meat is cooked through and tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer breasts to a clean plate and keep warm, covered. Braise legs and thighs until cooked through and tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer legs and thighs to plate and keep warm, covered. Stir minced rosemary and grapes into sauce and boil until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Divide pheasant between 2 dinner plates, spooning sauce over it, and serve with red cabbage wild rice.

I wish my house had better lighting in the evening, because these photos don’t even do this dish justice!  It was stunning on the plate!

Fantastic!

After eating pheasant again…and not being tricked into it…I have to say, we’ll be eating this more often!  The meat was moist and had so much flavor.  It wasn’t tough at all (which is sometimes a problem with pheasant).  The grapes added at the end were brilliant!  They added a little sweetness and were flavored with that beautiful sauce.  I wish you could taste it right now!!!
I’d really like to make this for my family and see what their thoughts are.  They’ve only had pheasant in a crock pot, so I think it would be quite the change!

Cake-tastrophe Averted! “Building” a Wedding Cake

Oops...

Have you ever had such high hopes for something, that you don’t even consider the end result will be anything except for everything you ever imagined?   It happens to me a lot.  Especially when I’m decorating cakes.  I get these fabulous ideas, grandiose even, but sometimes when I start working on them…the ideas just don’t materialize.  It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing or that I don’t have the skills or technique, but sometimes things just don’t work out.  …At least the way I want them to.

The above cake, for example, came out all busted up when I turned it out of the pan.  I greased the pan with butter, put parchment paper on the bottom and even greased that too.  It didn’t matter.  There was nothing, short of insane amounts of frosting, that would save this cake.  Luckily, the recipe had made enough batter that I had plenty left over for 2 more 6″ cakes…and this small crisis was really no crisis at all.  Instead, I had leftover cake scraps to share with my family and co-workers.  Everyone was happy.

It made me laugh, actually.  Earlier in the day I had been watching an old episode of “The French Chef.”  Julia was making sugar syrup and caramel.  I can’t remember the exact details now, but I do remember she made a mistake.  Instead of freaking out and throwing everything into the garbage she simply looked into the camera and said,

“If you’re not ready to fail, you’re not ready to cook.”

She went on to share tips on how to turn your failures into something that you had not necessarily intended, but were proud of anyway.  This way your guests would have no idea that your failure was not your intention…does that make sense?

Anyway…back to the cake.  This cake was a mini-wedding cake for one of my co-workers.  She wanted a pumpkin cake (recipe) with cinnamon brown sugar buttercream.  The only thing I was told was that it should be simple and incorporate trees and nature.  That left a lot of room for my mind to wander and it was getting a little overwhelming.  I had so many ideas…but no idea if they were the right ones!

I thought about doing pulled sugar leaves…that didn’t work out (pulled sugar is NOT easy!!!  Instead we ended up with giant leaf lollipops).  Then I thought about making gumpaste leaves and flowers, but I wasn’t really feelin’ it.  So the other day when one of my other co-workers stopped by my house to get some Chinese Lanterns to use in the flower arrangements, I asked her if she had any ideas (see her website here).  I told her I wanted to do some sort of a tree topper but wasn’t sure what direction to go in.  We brainstormed a little bit and walked around my yard collecting branches and twigs.  Since she was doing all the flowers for the wedding she said she’d make a topper to go along with all her arrangements.  It turned out incredible!  The wedding is tomorrow and its taking place in a really awesome stone barn that is about 100 years old.  It’s decorated with a fall theme, using all sorts of things found in nature during this time of year.  When I delivered the cake today I just couldn’t get over how beautiful it was!

The cake went together rather quickly and I had no other issues (tutorial coming soon!).  I was glad, mostly because I didn’t have a lot of time to do this cake and was trying to fit it in.  I was only asked about a week ago but I really wanted her to have a beautiful cake…so I made it all work :).

Piyush helped me deliver the cake today.  I was really nervous about it because the whole cake is buttercream…and buttercream is temperamental.  It also is very easy to completely wreck the decoration of the cake.  One harsh turn or one quick stop…the cake could be damaged beyond easy repair.  The place we were taking the cake to was about 30 miles away, with curvy roads,  so it was kind of a scary ride.   We made it though!  I didn’t even have to touch anything up!  I packed it in a box with towels around the cake stand to keep it from moving, and then I prayed.  Oh man…did I pray!

I tucked extra frosting and tools in the bottom of the box too.

And here, my friends, is the finished product (there will be some additional flowers tucked in around the base of the cake topper and probably around the cake as well):

How awesome are those stone walls behind the cake?!

Edited to add:

Here is the final cake, I just thought I’d share!

Brooke's wedding cake! (Thank you Brooke, for supplying me a picture!)

Potato Rolls: Bring on the Buns!!!

In my last post I mentioned saving the water that you boil your potatoes in to use for making bread.

I didn’t know if I would have time today to show you want to do with it.  I had some serious cake baking that needed to get done and even though I’m a super duper multi-tasker I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew (haha!).  Well, I got into a cake bakin’ groove and figured that whipping up a quick batch of buns would be no problem.  I love baking bread.  I would even go as far as to say that I love baking bread more than I love eating bread…and that says something! 🙂

My grandma R. makes fabulous bread.

Grandma R., the ultimate bread baker.

Some of my earliest memories are of her taking the rolls out of the oven,  slathering them with gobs of butter and homemade strawberry jam, and giving them to us kids to eat.  And man…did we eat!  Back then I never paid any attention to grandma’s bread baking process, and to be honest all I really remember is having to wait FOREVER for the dough to rise.  FOR-EV-ER.  But as I got older my impatience subsided…kind of… and my interest in baking began to increase.  I asked grandma for her bread recipe.  She said the recipe was her mother’s, and that she’d love to teach me how to make it.  So one day while my cousin was home from college for Christmas break, grandma came over and taught us both how bread dough should feel when you’ve added enough flour.  She taught us how to shape the rolls and loaves and most importantly, how to make cinnamon rolls!   This post isn’t about that recipe though.  I’m sure sometime I’ll share it on this blog, but today is not the day.  This post, instead, is about a little bit of information grandma told me a couple weeks ago.

Mom had brought grandma and grandpa over for the day and while I was baking grandpa his lavender chocolate macarons (he loves those things!), grandma was looking though some old magazines I had.  There must have been a recipe or something that caused her to remember, I’m not sure. She told me that when her mom made bread she sometimes would save the water that she boiled potatoes in and added it to the dough instead of milk. She didn’t have the recipe, but gosh, would she like one.  Thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to fulfill her request.

Potato water, with all it’s starchy goodness, really adds some nice moistness to the dough.  The rolls came out pretty light and they tasted like little pillows of pure bliss.  One note, if anyone decides to try this wonderful recipe, you should only refrigerate potato water for about 24 hours.  If you keep it any longer it may sweeten and really mess with the taste of your bread.   Another quick note I have about bread baking is that anyone can do it!!!  It’s so easy and really doesn’t take a lot of time at all.  Less than 75 cents for a loaf of bread sounds pretty awesome too, doesn’t it!?

The Recipe

Potato Dough Rolls (adapted from The Kitchn)

(I made 12 big rolls.  This could easily make 15-20 though)

  • 1 cup boiling potato water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups flour (I used closer to 5 1/2)

Directions

  • In a big bowl whisk the boiling potato water, 1/2c. sugar, salt butter and zest together and let cool.
  • In a separate, little bowl combine the warm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and yeast. Let it sit and mingle for about 10 minutes or until foamy. (*note* when adding live yeast to warm water, make sure the temperature of the water doesn’t exceed 140 degrees F.  It’ll kill your yeast.  Also, I usually skip this proofing step and throw all my wet ingredients together first and then add the yeast, sugar and flour.  I’m just a bread bakin’ rebel, I guess.  I’ve never had problems doing it this way but someday I’m sure my yeast will have entered into retirement and my bread won’t rise properly.  So if you don’t want to risk it…proof it!).

Proof (haha) that my yeast is good!

  • In a large bowl whisk the potato water mixture and the yeast mixture together. Add the eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Whisk well, then stir in the other 2 cups of flour with a wooden spoon. The dough should be a little on the sticky side.  I didn’t knead it, and instead left it sit on the counter for a couple hours to rise.  The original recipe said to cover and refrigerate it, up to several days.  That’s a good idea…but I want it now!  I’m all about the instant gratification.
  • When you want to bake them, shape into balls and place side by side in a greased 9×13 pan (I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper). Coat hands lightly with flour to roll. Let’s talk about shaping the rolls, quick.  I want to show you Grandma R.’s way of doing things.  Grandma pinches off a piece of the dough and quick sets it in a bowl of flour.  Don’t roll it around in there, you just want a little extra so the dough won’t stick to everything.  Then she makes a circle with her thumb and her pointer finger.  She simply pushes the dough through the hole.

view from the top

view from the bottom, after the dough has been pushed through

This creates something called a “gluten cloak”…and that’s exactly what you want!  You’ll get a nice smooth roll with the untidy ends tucked underneath.  Put the rolls on the cookie sheet or in the pan and then lightly press down on them.  This will also help with the shaping.

  • Let rise, covered until doubled.

ready to rise!

Ready for the oven

  • You may want to brush with milk or cream before baking, or a mixture of egg yolk and milk or water to create a shiny roll.  I don’t do that, instead I brush each roll with ghee when it’s done cooking, not before.

ghee = Indian style clarified butter. Use real butter if you don't have this little jar of awesomeness in your pantry...it'll do the trick.

  • Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes, depending on size of rolls.  **Oops!  I didn’t read this part of the directions.  I baked mine at 350 degrees F for about 17 minutes.  They turned out fantastic!**

After all that cake baking…

bottom layer crumb-coated!

I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day except a couple tastes of frosting and cake batter….quality control, you know? I was super excited to take a shower and sit down to a glass of tea and 1/2 a roll smothered in strawberry jam…

I deserved it! 🙂

After I scarfed down my roll, my brother called.  He and his wife stopped over for a little while.  My nephew, Nathan, was with them too.  I haven’t seen him in a long time and I couldn’t believe how cute he’s gotten!  Here, take a look…

Michael with Nathan

I was too busy taking pictures of Nathan that I didn’t catch anyone eating the rolls, but I assure you..rolls were eaten (Piyush had 3 in one sitting!).  And they were enjoyed by all!

Craving something Indian

I’m looking more and more forward to my trip to India everyday!  I can’t believe it’s under a month away now. I have so many gifts to buy for people, so many things to pack for Piyush and I (note to self: don’t forget the toilet paper), and not a lot of time to brush up on my Indian cooking.  My in-laws love that I can cook their cuisine and they boast that their American daughter-in-law can cook things like aloo posto, prawn malai curry, and ladoos.  I just love that I can make them happy and we can bond over cooking.  I really believe that food has helped bridge some of the cultural differences between us.  Food is very important to my husband’s family.  Infact, when I hear from Maa or Baba (my in-laws) they usually ask what I made for dinner before they ask how I’m doing.  …And that’s alright with me!

Today was a little cold outside.  We’ve been eating leftover Bouillabaisse lately,

and although I think it tastes wonderful, I’ve had enough.  I wanted something warm, something spicy, something Indian.  I love Indian food on cold days, infact, I crave it.  It warms up the body, fills you up nicely, and makes your house smell absolutely lovely!  This is one of first recipes I learned, and its one of the easiest.  I made it for my in-laws when they were here and they told me that they felt like they were back in India!  That’s right…it’s that good!  It’s also incredibly simple!

How cute are Maa and Baba?!?

If you’re looking for the creamy, fatty, melt in your mouth type aloo matar you would recieve in a restaurant, you might want to keep looking.  There’s no heavy cream.  Not any half and half.  I didn’t even use coconut milk! I cut all that out of this recipe because not only did I think it would taste better without all the milkiness, but it’d be extremely more healthy as well.  I promise, you won’t even miss the cream!

The Recipe
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes: peeled, diced & boiled
1 c. green peas (I usually blanch these before using them.)
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 tsp. garlic paste
2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped (peeled if you want to get fancy about it)
1 pinch of tumeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 pinch white sugar
1/2 tsp or more garam masala (I usually use a more, to taste)
1 tbsp. oil
green chile, chopped- to your taste
salt, to taste
chopped coriander (cilantro) for garnish
Directions:
  • Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan or frypan with deep sides.  Add the cumin seeds.
  • When the cumin seeds begin to pop, add the onions and green chiles.  Saute until they are translucent.
  • Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and tomatoes.  Simmer until the tomatoes are cooked are are like a smooth sauce.  Once they begin to break down I usually grab a potatao masher and just mash everything together.  I tell myself it just helps the tomatoes to break down quicker, but really I’m super impatient!   At this point I sometimes throw everything in my VitaMix and puree it until it’s nice and smooth.
  • Add the turmeric powder, chili powder, garam masala, green peas and potatoes and cook for some time.
  • Add about 1 1/2 cups of water and salt to taste.  Allow it to come to a boil, turn the heat down and let simmer for a good 20 minutes or until the gravy thickens to your liking.  The longer you let the curry simmer, the better it will taste.  Add some finely diced corriander, and you’re done!

If you think your gravy is too thin or that you added too much water, mash a few pieces of the potatoes into it.  This will thicken it up nicely.

Who knew peas could taste so good?!

You wouldn’t need to serve this with rice, infact a chapati or roti would be the better choice.  My husband, being Bengali, LOVES rice and has to eat it at almost every meal.  I also served this with Indian spiced chicken legs.  Basically I just marinated chicken legs with a bunch of spices, and it was wonderful!  I’ll post that the next time I make it because really I didn’t write down what I threw in the marinade.