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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Melomakarona-Inspired Honey Orange Walnut Cupcakes

Melomakarona-Inspired Honey Orange Walnut Cupcakes

Cakes not being my favorite, I rarely make them unless the kids ask for it as a treat on birthdays and other special holidays. So far, they've preferred the simple hearty flax-bran-loaded muffins or fruit tartlets or mini pies that I offer as desserts anytime they feel like having a sweet treat.

When I do make a few different kinds of sweets on and off, of course, fruit pies turn out to be one of the top favorites, especially during the berry season when we pick berries from local farms, and later in fall when apples and peaches and cherries rain from the sky.

Cupcakes being my daughter's favorite pastime, along with cake pops -- dreaming up the varieties and drooling over pictures of them in books and web -- I end up making a few with her, based on her current choice.

Speaking of cake pops, and birthdays, she made these Shaun and Shirley cake pops along with some oddly crazy chicks for her brother's birthday. As cloying as I find the candy melts for cake pops, it seems like an easy, quick, satisfying treat that kids can make and decorate on their own. Less work for me, and I don't have to eat it anyway. Microwave Mug Cakes are the easiest to make, which can then be used to make the cake pops.

cake pops sheep shaun ahirley

Back to the Honey Orange Walnut cupcakes, this time, it was the Greek delicacy Melamakarona that inspired them. Honey and Citrus. Fresh and sweet for a springtime indulgence.

Drizzling some freshly squeezed orange juice mixed with honey onto the cupcakes before serving make them moist, almost juicy. The cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg add that warmth and sweetness that enhances the sense of indulgence.

Typically, I don't have self-rising flour handy, so, I mix a small batch every time a recipe calls for it: simply mix 1 cup flour, with 1½ tsp baking powder, plus ¼ tsp salt.

3/4 cup self-rising flour
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8th tsp ground cloves
1/8th tsp ground nutmeg
5 Tbsp softened unsalted butter
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
⅓ cup superfine sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp orange zest
¼ cup minced/chopped walnut pieces
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Melomakarona-Inspired Honey Orange Walnut Cupcakes


  1. Sift the Dry ingredients into a small bowl
  2. Beat the Wet ingredients until light and fluffy
  3. Fold in the dry ingredients into the whipped wet ingredients and mix gently till well incorporated
  4. Spoon into muffin cups
  5. Bake in a 375°F oven for about 20 minutes
  6. Remove from oven, allow to cool a bit, then prick the cupcakes with a toothpick so it can hold the drizzled toppings
  7. Topping: Stir the honey, cinnamon, and orange juice till well blended, and drizzle spoonfuls on each cupcake; sprinkle minced walnuts and serve warm or chilled

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Fiery Charred Szechuan-inspired Eggplant

Fiery Charred Szechuan-inspired Eggplant

It is no secret that I love eggplant. I may not make eggplant dishes every day, but, when it is in season, I bring home as many varieties as I can find at the market, plus I grow my own favorites in the garden every year when it gets warm enough in these parts: Ichiban, Black beauty, Cloud Nine, Casper, and some heirloom varieties that I can find.

Any variety will be fine for this recipe. The sauce glaze is fairly standard as well. The extra step that boosts this recipe is the initial brining, and then charring over open flame a bit before braising in the sauce.

Brine: ¼ cup salt in 4 cups water
1 medium globe eggplant, cut into thick pieces lengthwise

2 Tablespoon dry white wine
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp Zhenjiang vinegar
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp Nam Prik Pow if available, or Sambal oelek

Chopped Thai red chilies, sweet red bell peppers
4 to 6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil


  1. Soak the eggplant slices in brine while assembling the other ingredients, for about 15 minutes
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a pot, add the garlic and chilies and peppers and saute till aromatic
  3. Add the sauce ingredients and allow it to simmer
  4. Remove eggplant from brine, pat dry and char it over over flame: I use my roti grill for flame roasting
  5. Drop the charred/flame roasted eggplant in the simmering sauce, cover and allow to cook over low heat for slow braising
  6. Remove the lid when eggplant is mostly done but still firm, not mushy, toss it well till sauce thickens
  7. Serve warm with steamed rice

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Stuffed vegetables are always fun. And, not just vegetables, anything that lends itself well to stuffing seems a fair game.

Millet and Lentils Stuffed Golden Danish Squash is a particular favorite in autumn when these dainty squashes flood the local farm markets.

Kohlrabi Greens Dolma Bites is another favorite, especially during the Kohlrabi season when local farms and CSA showcase these lovely bulbs aka enlarged stems above the soil.

Stuffed Kohlrabi in Coconut Cream Sauce is another seasonal favorite much relished by the adults in the house

Stuffed Okra might be an acquired taste for some, but, it seems like another favorite at home.

Zucchini Mahshi, inspired by Lebanese-cuisine, is an easy summer favorite of stuffed zucchini served in a spicy sauce.

Nutty Fruity Rice-Stuffed Swiss Chard Dolmas are perfect when these lovely greens are in season in my home garden.

Anyway, the stuffing this time was rice, flavored with Southwest-inspired spices and vegetables -- corn, black beans, red peppers, onions, ancho chilies with some Taco seasoning mix.

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

Brush the red peppers with oil and roast them in the oven for a short time, then stuff with rice and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Finally, top with some mozzarella and Parmesan and broil right before serving.

Southwest Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Parmesan Cheese-crusted Roasted Zucchini

Parmesan Cheese-crusted Roasted Zucchini

Zucchini "Pizza", much like Cheesy Eggplant Pizza, is a quick and easy side, sometimes the main dish, for the adults, kids are not quite into it. Yet.

Some tender zucchini were at the market at a good price, although it feels too early for zucchini in these parts it looks like they are yielding fine elsewhere.

Slice them up, brush with oil and pan sear them first. Much like Charred Summer Squash with Pipián Rojo. Then, spread some sauce and top with Parmesan or Smoked Gouda or other favorite cheese and broil for a few minutes and serve warm

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Saturday, April 08, 2017

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan is a top favorite for the adults in the household, not the kids. Not yet. And, while Chicken Parmesan is enjoyed much by all but me, I do not make it often, mainly due to the labor involved.

This time, these easy Skillet Chicken Parmesan pleased the kids and the other adult taste-wise and suited me fine labor-wise.

Thinly sliced chicken breasts are breaded and pan cooked and then finished off in the same hot skillet, with oozing mozzarella for the stringy goodness.

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

2 chicken breasts, sliced thin, and cut in half if preferred, and marinated in red wine vinegar
Flour for dusting, egg white and Panko/breadcrumbs for coating
Tomato sauce
Parmesan, grated,
Mozzarella, thinly sliced
Olive oil as needed

  1. Drain and pat dry the marinated chicken, dust with flour, dip in egg whites and press into a plate of Panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan or coating
  2. Heat oil in a skillet, cook the chicken till crisp on both sides, remove and keep handy
  3. In the same hot skillet, add the tomato sauce, layer with some sliced mozzarella, add the chicken, place more mozzarella slices on top, cover and simmer till mozzarella melts
  4. Finish off under the broiler if preferred to get the cheese browned and crispy

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Chicken Xacuti

Chicken Xacuti Chacuti de Galinha Goan chicken curry

Almost a decade ago I spent a short few days in Goa, India, leaving much of the place to be explored on a later trip that hasn't materialized yet.

Possibly due to the tropical biodiversity and the cultural amalgam, Goa has a rich cuisine that was shaped by 400 years of Portuguese colonialism with nuts from Brazil, plus tomatoes, potatoes, chilies, as well as the locally abundant coconut which graces almost all savory curries.

Chicken Xacuti ("sha-kooti"), aka Chacuti de Galinha, is a Goan chicken curry with layers of flavors thoughtfully incorporated to tease and satisfy the palate, especially for the curry-lovers.

The dry roasted spices ground to a powder, plus the masala paste ground to a thick rich consistency with a base of onions, ginger, garlic and tomato combine to form a delectable gravy in which the marinated chicken piece are cooked till tender and juicy.

Instead of chicken, prawns or fish can be substituted with the same curry paste gravy.

The dry spices: coriander, cumin. caraway, poppy seeds, black peppercorns, star anise, Indian cinnamon bark

Chicken Xacuti Chacuti de Galinha Goan chicken curry

For the masala paste: Ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and coconut

Chicken Xacuti Chacuti de Galinha Goan chicken curry

Rub the chicken with turmeric powder and marinate in yogurt while getting the spices and masala paste ready.

2 chicken breasts, chopped, rubbed with turmeric powder, marinated in plain yogurt

Dry spices:
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
3-inch piece of Indian cinnamon bark
1 star anise
½ tsp caraway seeds
½ tsp poppy seeds

Masala paste:
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
8 to 10 cloves of garlic
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 medium tomato chopped

2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 to 6 Tbsp coconut cream or coconut milk

  1. Heat some coconut oil in a pot, add the masala paste and saute till aromatic
  2. Drain and add the marinated chicken pieces and stir to incorporate well
  3. When chicken is mostly cooked, stir in some of the dry ground spices
  4. Finally, as an option, add a few tablespoons of coconut cream to enhance the tropical flavors
  5. Serve warm with steamed plain basmati rice or naan

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Sunday, April 02, 2017

Kale and Southwest Veggies Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Israeli Cous Cous

Kale and Southwest Veggies Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Israeli Cous Cous ptitim

Simple saute of kale with southwest blend veggies like onions, peppers, corn, black beans, and maybe some mushrooms, is versatile as a base for many other dishes.

A good helping of this sauteed veggie blend wrapped in home-made rotis makes a fantastic lunch. And the leftovers come in handy for this chicken dish.

chicken breast, boneless skinless, thinly sliced
some red wine vinegar and Bragg Liquid Aminos for marinating

Veggies blend: Kale, corn, black beans, onions, red peppers, ancho chilies, mushroom, sun-dried tomatoes

Spices: either store-bought cajun seasoning or home-blend of favorite spices

A few tablespoon oil for pan-cooking

Ptitim, aka Israeli Cous Cous

Some toothpicks

  1. Thinly slice a medium chicken breast into three slices, pound to uniform thickness as needed 
  2. Marinate in some red wine vinegar and Bragg liquid aminos for a few hours to overnight 
  3. Saute the veggies with spices and keep handy
  4. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium low heat
  5. Assembly: Place a scoop of the sauteed veggies on a marinated thin slice of chicken breast; roll it up, pulling in the sides, and secure with toothpicks so it doesn't unravel while cooking
  6. Gently arrange the stuffed chicken breasts on the hot skillet, cover and allow to cook over medium heat till the bottom is seared and the inside is cooked
  7. Flip gently and cook the other side as well until the thickest part registers 165 ° F
  8. Cover and allow to rest before serving with cooked cous cous

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pan-Seared Yellow Eye Rockfish Infused with Hibiscus Tea and Tamarind

Pan-Seared Yellow Eye Rockfish Infused with Hibiscus Tea and Tamarind

Another small portion of the Alaskan Yellow Eye rockfish was in the freezer, caught by the other adult last summer.

For over half a dozen years now, I have been savoring hibiscus tea made with dried hibiscus flowers as my beverage of choice for a relaxing evening. I've used the thick steeped hibiscus tea for home-dyeing of small fabric projects with the kids.

While making the thick gravy-ish sauce/topping for the pan-seared yellow eye, I decided to incorporate some of the lovely flavor (and color!) of the hibiscus tea that I had steeping handily in the tea pot.

Some fresh baby kale leaves and arugula leaves from the home-garden was rubbed with a hint of olive oil and sprinkled with a dash of lime juice to make a quick side salad.

½ onion, diced
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large tomato, chopped

½ cup thick rich hibiscus tea
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon tamarind paste
salt to taste

2 Tablespoons olive oil

fairly thin fish fillets, thawed and ready to cook

  1. Grind the onions, garlic, and tomato to a coarse paste
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add the paste, some salt, and saute
  3. Add some hibiscus tea and saute some more till the grave is rich and aromatic
  4. Rub the fish fillets with salt, cayenne pepper, and tamarind paste
  5. In another pan, heat another tablespoon of oil and add the fish fillets
  6. Flip when bottom side is golden brown, and a dash of balsamic vinegar and hibiscus tea
  7. Cook till fish is done

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Blanched Long Green Beans with Sambal Oelek

Blanched Long Green beans with Sambal Oelek

Long Green Beans are a favorite from childhood, especially the Indian-style with coconut and chilies.

This time, after blanching or steaming, just saute with some Sambal Oelek and serve warm as-is or with a side of Basmati rice

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Ptitim with Mushrooms and Peppers

Cous-cous israeli Ptitim with Mushrooms and Peppers

For the last month or so, I have been resorting to comfort foods like the usual soups and stews and casseroles. Plus, the usual round of viral influenza had us down one after the other, so, nothing exciting in the kitchen...

Now that Spring is in the air, and my kale and arugula have tender baby leaves perfect for a quick side salad, it felt like a good time to cook up simple and wholesome meals.

Ptitim, sometimes known as Israeli cous cous, has large pearls which when cooked al dente makes a fine accompaniment for sauteed or stir-fried veggies.

This time, I went with mushroom, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and kale, lightly flavored with Balsamic Vinegar and Bragg Liquid Aminos.

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Nopales, Chayote, Green Papaya Warm Salad

Nopales, Chayote, Green Papya Warm Salad

Nopales -- prickly pear cacti paddles -- was available in the Mexican market nearby, so I decided to cook it up in a quick and simple way.

Nopales is better when boiled in water for 5 to 7 minutes and then drained and rinsed before incorporating in recipes. It can get quite gummy and slimy otherwise.

Nopales, Chayote, Green Papya Warm Salad

Chop up the chayote and green papaya and some onions, plus some favorite seasoning and cook in a pan till mostly done. I went with Blazin' Blends New Orleans Seafood Seasoning Mix this time.

Meanwhile, boil the chopped nopales with a dash of salt for 5 minutes or so, drain and rinse to remove stickiness.

Add the drained cooked nopales to the pan and continue cooking till all the veggies are cooked tender but not mushy. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve warm garnished with chopped colorful peppers and spring onions.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Chicken

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Chicken

Nothing fancy or elaborate, just canned Chipotle in adobo sauce brings the flavor and slow cooker does the rest.

Add the onions, peppers, garlic, and chicken into the slow cooker, season with a dash of salt and brown sugar.

Blend the can of chipotle in adobo sauce and keep it handy. When chicken is part-way cooked, say after an hour or so in the slow cooker, add enough the chipotle sauce (to taste) and slow cook for another hour or till chicken is cooked through and the flavors meld.

Serve with fresh home-made corn tortillas or naan or home-made flour-tortillas or even brown basmati rice.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stir-fried Portobello Mushrooms

Stir-fried Portobello Mushrooms tamari asian fusion

A simple stir fry with some custom-made marinade/sauce. Snap peas, peppers and onions add body and flavor to the meaty texture of the portobello mushrooms.

Ingredients for marinade/stir-fry sauce:
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp coconut sugar (or agave nectar)
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp water

Stir together the marinade/sauce ingredients and pour over the veggies, allow to marinate for 10 minutes or so. Then, heat a cast iron skillet or wok to high heat, add a tablespoon of sesame oil, then add in the marinated veggies with all the marinade; stir on and off till crisp-tender.

Serve on a bed of arugula, or with brown basmati rice.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Teriyaki Halibut with Sauteed Garlic Gai Lan

Teriyaki Halibut with Sauteed Garlic Gai Lan gai lon chinese broccoli

Asian grocery store nearby had fresh Gai Lan (aka Gailon aka Chinese Broccoli) which is immensely tasty when sautéed with ginger and garlic and Asian flavors, particularly the stalk which gets tender in texture like steamed asparagus.

A small chunk of halibut caught by the other adult over last summer was handy as well. This time, the other adult requested for teriyaki-flavored fish. The home-made teriyaki sauce is customized with what was handy and what the mood called for.

Halibut 4 to 6 small portioned pieces
some sesame oil

For the teriyaki sauce:
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp white wine (I had some Sauvignon Blanc handy)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low sodium vegetarian oyster sauce (aka mushroom sauce)
½ tsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp water

For the stir-fried gai lan:
1 lb of Gai Lan, washed and patted dry
a bunch of baby bok choy, washed
5 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (aka mushroom sauce)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
¼ tsp brown sugar or agave nectar


  1. Gai lan stir fry: Heat the sesame oil in a wok; add the garlic and allow to brown a bit then add the ginger; stir well then add gai lan, the rest of the flavoring ingredients, cover and allow to wilt and cook till the stalks are tender
  2. Teriyaki sauce: combine the sauce ingredients and simmer over low heat and keep handy
  3. Halibut: Brush the halibut with some oil and cook in a cast iron skillet, flipping it over till the fish is mostly cooked; then brush generously with teriyaki sauce and broil till fish is fully cooked and the teriyaki sauce forms a rich coating
  4. Serve with a drizzling of the remainder of the teriyaki sauce

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Green Papaya, Chayote Squash, Jicama, Ginger Thai-Style Salad

Green Papaya, Chayote Squash, Jicama, Ginger Thai-Style Salad

Chayote Squash, or "chow-chow" as it was called when I was young, belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, like melons, squash and cucumbers. It has a distinct texture -- a bit crisp but fleshy like pears, and has a mildly sweet watery flavor, high in fiber and folate. Quite a few savory Indian recipes use this pear-like vegetable.

Jicama, aka "Mexican turnip" is another favorite that has a crisp apple-like crunch and a mild sweet flavor, high in dietary fiber.

Green Papaya, rich in fiber and antioxidants, is treated as a vegetable in Indian cuisine, cooked in curry sauce or with coconut cream and lentils; or in salads raw and fresh.

The three of them together make a perfect combination for crisp fresh salad, dressed lightly with Asian-fusion-inspired flavors. Optionally, I had pickled ginger handy, plus thinly sliced purple onions, colorful mini peppers, and crisp sweet snap peas.

Green Papaya, Chayote Squash, Jicama, Ginger Thai-Style Salad

Green papaya
Chayote squash
Snap peas
Pickled ginger slivers
Purple onions
colorful mini bell peppers

2 tsp Lime juice
1 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp Bragg liquid aminos
1 tsp Mirin
2 tsp Apple cider vinegar

Topping: roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed

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Friday, February 03, 2017

Slow Cooker Teriyaki-style Chicken

Slow Cooker Teriyaki  Chicken

Chop up a couple of organic free-range chicken breasts and throw them in a slow cooker with just enough marinade/liquids and allow to cook for  about 3 hours.

Marinade this time: tamarind concentrate, Bragg liquid aminos, plus a touch of honey

Then, stir in just the right amount of the warm Teriyaki sauce, top with Hemp Hearts and/or toasted sesame seeds, serve on a bed of kale ribbons, and garnish with julienned baby cucumbers, spring onions, and pickled ginger, if handy.

Teriyaki-ish Sauce:
2 Tbsp cup Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup Mirin
¼ cup Rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Fresh orange juice
1 tsp Honey
¼ cup water

Combine the liquids, simmer and reduce to thicker consistency, store any remainder in fridge.

Slow Cooker Teriyaki  Chicken

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Portabella Mushroom and Radish Greens Curry

Portabella Mushroom and Radish Greens Curry

Now that winter is here and there's not enough sunlight, I miss the fresh herbs and baby greens from my garden. I particularly miss tender fenugreek leaves and young mustard greens, which I incorporate in my cooking as much for their healthful properties as their fresh crisp taste.

To remind me of the joys of fenugreek leaves, I decided to include a picture here taken over summer in my garden.

Portabella Mushroom and Radish Greens Curry
Fresh Fenugreek leaves from summer garden

In summer, I make this mushroom curry on and off with different varieties of mushrooms and greens -- the most common version is with with white button mushrooms and fenugreek leaves. Portabella being my favorite, I use it more often than other kinds. Stuffed Portabella makes a fantastic meal on its own, and especially when paired with my favorite arugula-and-pear salad, it feels like a feast.

Portabella Mushroom and Radish Greens Curry

This time, I went with Portabella mushrooms and radish greens. Now, radish is another favorite in my home garden – mainly, I must admit, for its gorgeous lilac flowers when it goes to seed and particularly the edible radish seed pods! We did the seed-saving and planting for a couple of years and then I got lazy... Maybe next year I get to do it again.

This is a simple curry, Indian-style: Saute and simmer, that's it.

1 cup radish greens, coarsely chopped with stems and all
1 Portabella mushroom, diced
½ large purple onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
6 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
salt to taste


  1. Marinate the Portabella mushroom in yogurt mixed with turmeric powder, keep it aside while assembling the rest of the ingredients
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, garlic, tomatoes, a pinch of salt, and saute
  3. Add the radish greens and marinated mushrooms, spices and seasoning, a splash of water, cover and simmer on low heat till mushrooms are cooked through and the flavors meld
  4. Serve warm with naan or roti, or even cooked millet or cous cous.

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Herb-Walnut Encrusted Wild Alaskan Ling Cod with Kale Pesto

Herb-Walnut Encrusted Wild Alaskan Ling Cod with Kale Pesto

Ling cod is mild and buttery, perfect for fish-and-chips or broiling with a crusty topping. We had a hunk of it caught in Alaska by the other adult last summer that I wanted to use up.

Herb-Walnut crust that crisps under the broiler, with a layer of Parmesan cheese forming a crunchy topping, seemed like the way to go. Typically, butter is used for the crust, but I went with olive oil in this recipe.

Paired with Kale Pesto made with sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, this was a nutty, seedy treat one winter night.

I did leave the fish a tad longer in the broiler than I intended... that seems to happen a lot when I ignore the oven timer and focus on something the kids have drawn me into... but, it was still all good. It helps to keep an eye and check often when broiling.

Kale Pesto:
1½ cups chopped kale
½ cup roasted salted sunflower seeds
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic
salt to taste

Pulse the ingredients till desired coarseness/smoothness for the pesto.

Herb-Walnut Encrusted Wild Alaskan Ling Cod with Kale Pesto

Herb-Walnut Crusting:
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil or freeze dried basil
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Ling cod cut into portioned chunks
1 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil (or any oil)
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
3 to 4 Tbsp Parmesan cheese,grated, to use as topping

  1. Start the Crisp Julienned Veggie Salad as below, and allow it to marinate while the fish is getting ready
  2. Pulse the Herb-Walnut crust ingredients and keep handy
  3. Preheat the oven to Broil at about 370 °F
  4. Rub the fish with some salt and smoked paprika, if using
  5. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet, place the fish gently, allow to brown a bit, then flip and brown the other side, on medium low heat, till mostly cooked through on the inside
  6. Turn off the stove, apply a layer of the Herb-Walnut crust on the fish and place the skillet with the fish under the broiler and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes till the crust turns brown and crunchy
  7. Sprinkle a layer of grated Parmesan and continue to broil for a few minutes more till crisp on top
  8. Remove from the oven, serve on a bed of Kale Pesto, accompanied by Crisp Julienned Veggies salad.

Crisp Julienned Veggie Salad:
Julienne some beets, colorful bell peppers, yellow sumer squash, purple onions, carrots, ginger
Toss with some lemon juice, salt, and apple cider vinegar
Serve as a side salad to add a cleansing freshness to the palate

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chicken with Black Peppercorn, Nigella Seeds, Black Sesame Seeds, Dried Basil and Fenugreek Leaves

pepper chicken

Panch Phoron spices -- a combination of five ("panch") ingredients - is a spice mix quite standard and much relished in many northern and eastern parts of India. I was introduced to it by one of my room-mates whose family was from West Bengal, and she used to cook some wonderful fish, which I never got to relish as I was practising being vegan in those days...

Anyway, this time, I went with the combination of a different set of five unique ingredients for the spice mix -- black peppercorns, dried fenugreek leaves ("methi"), freeze-dried basil leaves, black sesame seeds, and nigella seeds. The freeze-dried basil rehydrates with a burst of freshness that the dehydrated basil lacks.

five spice indian pepper chicken delectable victuals

Lightly toast the seeds and peppercorns, add in the dried fenugreek and basil leaves and grind to a fine powder. When stored in an air-tight container, this spice mix will keep well for a week or so, and in the fridge it will last a month at least. But, I prefer fresh ground when I want to use it.

Rub an organic free-range chicken breast with tamarind and salt and allow to marinate while the spice mix is getting ready. Cut into chunks when ready to cook.

pepper chicken sesame fenugreek nigella delectable victuals

Black peppercorn Sesame seeds Nigella Fenugreek Basil Spice Mix:
3 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
3 Tbsp freeze-dried basil leaves
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp nigella seeds
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder

2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
salt to taste

2 Tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

  1. Rub the chicken with salt and tamarind and allow to marinate while the spice mix is getting ready
  2. Toast the sesame seeds, nigella seeds and peppercorns, add in the dried fenugreek and basil leaves and grind to a fine powder
  3. Heat the oil in a pan, add the marinated chicken and turn it around to coat evenly with oil, allow to cook for a few minutes on each side
  4. Add in the spice mix powder stir well, add a splash of water, cover and cook over medium low heat till chicken is cooked through
  5. Garnish with thinly sliced bell peppers and onions tossed in lemon juice for a bit of sparkle and balance, serve with a side of quinoa or millet or wild rice or even just simple roti or naan.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Roasted Kale and Colorful Bell Peppers Warm Salad

Roasted Kale and Colorful Bell Peppers Warm Salad

It almost feels wrong to enjoy colorful mini bell peppers around this time of the year, with snow all around, and my garden totally dead... but, I couldn't resist picking up a bag at the grocery store.

This is a simple recipe, almost didn't want to post it, but, it was so filling and hearty and perfect for the awfully cold weather here that I thought why not...

Toss rainbow kale, bell peppers, and onions, with olive oil, some salt, and a splash of apple cider vinegar, spread it evenly in a roasting pan and bake in a 450 °F oven for about 15-20 minutes, checking partway to make sure kale is not withering away, but a nice bit of crunch would be fine.

Topped with some hemp hearts, this warm salad seemed like a perfect meal for a cold snowy day a while back.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Apricot Cheesecake

Apricot Cheesecake

This Apricot Cheesecake was a holiday dessert, requested by the kids. The recipe is nothing original, just a remake of this popular one, with minor adjustments to suit our tastes.

Apricot Cheesecake

It's a simple Graham cracker crust, with sour cream topping, infused with apricot jam/pulp. However, the repetition of the apricot motif makes it burst with flavor: the cream cheese gets a generous swirl of pulpy apricot cooked in wine, and an apricot rose sits on top invitingly.

Apricot Cheesecake

Minor differences: I used Splenda™ instead of sugar; cooked the dried apricots in white wine and pureed to get the pulp for swirling into the cream cheese as well as the sour cream topping.

This cheesecake froze well. I insisted on putting away half of it in the freezer to be enjoyed at another time. Simply thaw in the fridge overnight.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

Indian Bitter gourd and Chinese Bitter melon are oft-relished veggies at home. Having offered it to kids since they were little, both seem to like bitter gourd and bitter melon, especially as chips. Healthful properties of this supremely bitter vegetable is no secret in India, where many regional recipes showcase this green beauty.

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

This time, the flavors come from toasted Szechuan peppercorns and fenugreek seeds, along with other curry staples. After toasting the peppercorns, put it through a sieve to remove the husks before using.

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

Health benefits of fenugreek is also quite well-accepted in India, where the cuisine naturally incorporates it in many everyday dishes. Just ½ tsp of fenugreek seeds, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed in the morning and eaten on an empty stomach is a habit I had going for a while, and still do on and off but not as regularly as I'd like, being too forgetful with old age and all.

Served with a side of pearl millet, this is a hearty weekend brunch.

millet bitter melon

1 Thinly sliced red onions
2 medium bitter melon, cleaned and sliced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish

Spice Mix:
1 Tbsp Szechuan Peppercorns, toasted
1 tsp Fenugreek seeds, toasted

Masala paste/gravy:
2 Tbsp Tamarind
1 Tomato, chopped
1 cup diced yellow or red onions
6 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger


  1. Soak the sliced bitter melon in salted water and let it sit while preparing the spices
  2. Masala paste: Grind up the paste and keep handy
  3. Spice mix: toast the peppercorns and fenugreek seeds, put it through a spice grinder and sift to remove the shell-like husks
  4. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the sliced onions with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder
  5. Add in the masala paste and saute some more till the rawness of onions mellows down; then stir in the spice mix powder and sauté some more
  6. Drain the bitter melon, rinse well, pat dry, and add it to the pan, stir in enough water to make a gravy, cover and simmer on medium low heat till bitter melon is cooked through
  7. Adjust salt to taste, garnish with cilantro and serve warm with roti or quinoa or millet

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Cream of Kale Soup

Cream of Kale Soup

With nicknames ranging from "Power Soup" (no guesses who picked this one) to "Brown Slime" given at home, this filled-with-green-goodness soup is one of my favorites, even if kids drink it reluctantly every time I make it. Fifteen more times and am sure they'll end up loving this soup.

Pressure cook some greens - kale, mustard greens, spinach - with celery, onions, garlic, and mayo coba beans. Then, run it through the blender to make a smooth mush. Then, strain it to remove pulpy lumps for a smooth texture.

At this point, stirring in cream and simmering gently should be fine. But, since I like to use my slow cooker to keep the soup warm and ready for dinner when I come back from work, I poured the strained soup into the slow cooker one morning and let it slow cook till dinner time. Around the 8-hour mark, some heavy cream was stirred in, plus dried basil (I use freeze-dried which feels intense fresh), dried parsley, dried oregano and continued till the slow cooker is done.

Cook longer if preferred for the soup to come together with a creamy  warmth. I start it first thing in the morning and let it slow cook till dinner time - about 12 hours - in the slow cooker.

With a few slices of Pumpernickel bread, the kind made according to "old world methods, utilizing a slow-rise process", from Trader Joe's. Of course, the name "Pumpernickel" itself has fun origins that we talk about every time we eat this bread.

An alternative origin of "pumpernickel" is nearly as strange, if somewhat less savory. "Pumpern" was a New High German word similar in meaning to the English "fart" (so chosen because, like the word "achoo," it imitated the sound it described), and "Nickel" was a form of the name Nicholas, an appellation commonly associated with a goblin or devil (e.g., "Old Nick" is a familiar name for Satan). Hence, pumpernickel is the "devil's fart," allegedly a reference to the bread's indigestible qualities and hence the effect it produced on those who consumed it. (Some word fanciers have claimed that "pumpern" refers to the sound produced by thumping on a loaf of pumpernickel, but that explanation is extremely unlikely.) 
With winter firmly here, the old slow cooker gets a lot of use with stews and soups; quick one-pot meals come about often as well, like casserole and roast vegetables.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cabbage Papaya Peppers Slaw with Hemp Hearts and Bits of Dates

Cabbage Papaya Peppers Slaw with Hemp Hearts and Bits of Dates

I just have a few basic kitchen tools, no fancy stand mixer or avocado slicer or Vitamix blender (which I have been eyeing on and off). So, when I suddenly get an electric grater/slicer aka Salad Shooter, I get too excited. After the initial skepticism wears off, that is. (The Am sure it just can't do what I want it to do feeling)

This cabbage slaw was the guinea pig of sorts for this Salad Shooter. I prefer slicing cabbage thinly with my trusty knife, but, I decided to shred it at the push of a button. And it came out all right. So, I sliced some peppers, shredded some broccoli stems, and julienned some barely-ripe firm papaya (in my finicky Mandoline slicer) to make a quick slaw/salad.

Squeeze the cabbage to press all the excess water out, so the slaw is not too soggy, before adding the dressing.

Topped with hemp hearts and sunflower seeds, and sprinkled with bits of dates, this Cabbage Papaya Peppers Slaw was a perfect quick meal.

Dressing and Vinaigrette are always fun. This time, it is a simple mix of the following. Simply stir well and adjust to taste.

Slaw Dressing:
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 tsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp apricot preserves/jam

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

Salmon Fish Curry

Indian Salmon Fish Curry

A hunk of fresh-caught Alaskan salmon was asking to be made into an Indian-style flavorful fish curry. Not too spicy but full of aromatic goodness.

Most Indian curries start with a ginger + garlic + onion + tomato  ground up to the masala paste base; to which cumin + coriander + star anise + Indian cinnamon bark + black peppers/dry red chilies mix is added in powdered form and sautéed for flavors to develop.

That is just one of the popular combination of dry mix, but there are umpteen regional variations, of course: fenugreek seeds, bay leaves, poppy seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, black cumin seeds, black cardamom, black mustard seeds, black sesame seeds...

Similarly, the masala paste has a few variations like adding yogurt, or almonds, or coconut, or tamarind, or curry leaves...

Part of the fun for me is to go with the flow, with my mood, with the ingredients handy in the kitchen (which is usually well-stocked with spices), and make a "surprise" curry.

2 cups of cubed salmon
1 large Poblano pepper, sliced
a few colorful sweet peppers, sliced
½ cup red onions, sliced
2 Tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp brown sugar or demerera sugar
salt to taste

For the masala paste:
½ cup diced onions
½ cup diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp tomato paste

For the spice mix:
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp white poppy seeds
1 star anise
2 dry red chilies

  1.  Masala paste: Combine the masala paste ingredients and blend to a fine smooth paste and keep handy
  2. Spice mix: toast the spice mix ingredients in a pan till mildly aromatic, allow to cool a bit, then grind to a fine powder, keep handy
  3. Heat coconut oil in a pan, add the onions, turmeric, some salt and sauté
  4. Add the masala paste and peppers and saué some more till the rawness of garlic and ginger cook away
  5. Add the fish cubes and the spice mix, stir well and saute some more
  6. Add just enough water to immerse the fish, stir in the brown sugar, cover and simmer till fish is cooked and the flavors meld
  7. Serve with cooked quinoa, or millet, or rice, or roti or naan.

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