Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nutella Filled Pancakes

Letter # 1

Dear Blog,

       I haven't been doing any blogging lately. There are a few reasons behind this. Firstly, all the cooking that I have been doing lately turned out delicious but didn't look picture taking worthy. I have made delicious chicken with lentils, strawberry jam and then used that jam to make fruit leather and super yummy maple glazed Brussels sprouts. These all tasted great but did not look pretty.

       Secondly, being a novice photographer that I am, indoor lighting does not work well for me. Initially when I started this blog, I did take pictures on my kitchen table with the yellow light shining not so bright and post them. They are terrible. But now that I have taken pictures using natural light for the entire month of February I can not go back to taking pictures in my kitchen in the evening. I got some standards to meet in my own eye. Hence, no pictures worth posting.

        Last but not least, I put a lot of pressure on myself about blogging. The recipe has to be perfect (which must be- no excuse there!), the pictures have to be good (I try my best), and then write a nice post which needs to be interesting and funny (I don't consider myself funny) such that readers will like it and may be come back and visit again. Not being able to do this on a regular basis (thrice a week) was making me feel like I am not fulfilling my own expectations. When the food I was making in the evening after my work as a scientist in a lab, didn't look pretty, I was so upset with myself. I went to bed disappointed with myself. I felt that may be blogging was not a good idea as I am not good at writing. I always used to get the lowest grade in English language and highest in Math and Science in school. I love cooking but the pressure of blogging was taking the fun out of my cooking.

        That's why, I decided to write this blog like a diary. Let you (my blog) be my extension. I would like to continue sharing recipes here. Now, today's recipe is nutella filled pancakes. It does not necessarily need to be nutella, it can be peanut butter (that will be very nice), jam of any fruit or chocolate. So, this isn't a recipe really. It is about how to make pancakes a little more interesting.
Here are some pictures taken in natural light which looks good in my novice photographer's eyes:

I used:

Pancake mix (store bought or homemade). Because I made these for my husband and myself, I used gluten free pancake mix. Gluten free homemade pancake mix recipe here.

Few teaspoons of nutella or fruit jam or chocolate sauce.

Powdered sugar to make them pretty!

This is how I did it- 

Prepare the pancake mix following the package directions but the milk. Add a little less milk (I used almond milk to make it dairy free) than the package instructions. The pancake batter needs to be little thicker than usual.

Heat up a skillet on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the pancake batter. Add about ¼ teaspoon of nutella in the middle of the pancake. Cover the nutella with a little bit more of the pancake batter (This is why the batter needs to be thicker than usual. If it is too thin, the batter will not cover the nutella, instead run to its sides). Flip and cook the other side of the pancake for another minute or two. Serve them warm with powdered sugar on top.

The pancakes can be filled with jam or peanut butter. The key is to not add too much filling such that it will spill.

Servings: For about 10-12 pancakes, I started with ¾ cup pancake mix.

Until next time, without much pressure of blogging but happily cooking,


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Best Burger Recipe with Pink Sauce

How frequently does it happen that you hear a tune and it got stuck in your head all day? 

Frequently. Right?

Now, how frequently does a picture or a video clip get stuck in your head?

Not often. Never? What?

This happens to me almost everyday. Does that make me weird?

Don’t answer that.

Especially if the photograph or the video clip is about food, I’ll be thinking about it all day. That’s what happened a few weeks ago.

(I’ve been lazy lately and not posting regularly.)

So, my husband and me are big fans of the TV show “Arrow”. We don’t miss a thing. If you know this show, you’ll know that Oliver Queen (the hero and the superhero “Arrow”) and his assistant goes to this burger joint in Starling City called “Big Belly Burger” at their leisure time. I mean, whenever he is not busy being “Arrow”. Now, every time I am watching this show and they show the characters having burger at Big Belly Burger, I get this incredible craving of having burgers. I’ll be thinking about that scene, when they dig into their burger and say how good it is, all day. I have to get a burger fix.

Thinking of burgers, the first place that comes to my mind is In n Out burger. (There’s no Big Belly in San Diego. Or is there? I’ve to check.) But, instead of going out, I decided to make burgers at home with In n Out Copycat pink sauce. Turned out to be the best. Loved it.

On a side note: If I ever open a burger joint, I’ll be naming it, well you guessed it, Big Belly Burger.

For 4 burgers, you need:

1 lb ground beef (I used 70% lean. Better is 60%.)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
Tomato, sliced
Red onion, sliced (I don't like raw onion in my burger, so I made caramelized "grilled" onion for my burger. To caramelize onion: add slices of one yellow onion to a sauté pan on medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Put the lid on the pan. Check every 10 min to see that the onions don't burn but get soft and caramelized. Takes about half and hour.)
4 or more slices of cheese (I used Kraft's American cheese)
Special Pink Sauce (recipe below)
4 Hamburger buns

Special Pink Sauce (In n Out Burger copycat)

½ cup mayonaise (Hellman's mayonaise are gluten free)
¼ cup ketchup (Heinz Ketchup is gluten free)
¼ cup relish (gluten free)
⅛ teaspoon (a pinch) salt
⅛ teaspoon (a pinch) sugar
⅛ teaspoon (a pinch) onion powder
¼ teaspoon (2 pinches) garlic powder
½ tablespoon worcestershire sauce


Add worcestershire sauce to ground beef and mix it well. Divide the meat in four portions and make patties. Make the middle of the patties thinner than the outside. This will prevent the patties from swelling up when cooking.

Put a pan on or griddle on medium-high heat. Cook one side of the patties for 3 min. Flip it over and cook for another 3-4 min. Place a slice of cheese on top and remove the patty when the cheese is melty.

For Pink Sauce:

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Store away the unused sauce in a jar in your refrigerator. It will have the same life as your ketchup or mayo.

Build your burger:

Top part of bun
Caramelized onion
Beef patty
Pink sauce
Lower part of bun

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chicken Coconut Curry

Last month, one fine morning I received an email to review a product. The email said that their company produces organic beverages and would like me to review their organic coconut water- COCOZIA. It had just been two months that I have started blogging, so I was a bit skeptical. I took good two days to decide whether the email is real (and not spam) and whether I want to do it (if it's real). What I was thinking was whether I can actually review a product. But then I thought, I have grown up drinking coconut water straight from a coconut. I know the REAL thing. Oh yeah, I can review coconut water. Bring it on.

In two days, I received a box containing 12 cases of coconut water. The package said "organic" and "no preservatives". I like the "no preservatives" part. Since I came to US from India, I have tried numerous coconut water products and was never quite satisfied. That was all because of their chemical taste from preservatives. Specially the flavored coconut waters. Those are just disgusting. I don't want to say disgusting, but yes, they are disgusting. See, now I have said it three times.

Opened one case right away. You know what, this one doesn't have that chemical taste. Took a few more sips. This one actually tastes quite like the real thing. Some more sips. It could be little sweeter. But you know what, when you buy a green coconut it's not always sweet. Only when it starts to ripen, the water gets sweeter. Another few sips. This one is really good. I like it. But (there is always a but) it is a little expensive compared to the others that are available. I just checked the price and it is $29 for a pack of 12 cases on Amazon. 

I love to drink and cook with coconut water. Today however I haven't used coconut water in this recipe but you can definitely use COCOZIA in it. 

Sometimes, many who are not comfortable with spicy or hot curries think that they can't enjoy Indian  restaurant food because it is always spicy. I had to prove this wrong to one of my colleagues. I took him to an Indian restaurant and chose few non-spicy food from the menu. He was very surprised and happy at the end of his meal. Yes, I proved my point (pumping fist into the air!). So, what I chose for the entree was Coconut chicken! Here is my homemade version. And might I add, it's better than the restaurant.

Chicken Coconut Curry (today's foodie alliteration): you need (for 3-4 servings)

1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken, (breast or thighs) cut into small bite size pieces. [I have used chicken breasts here.]
3 tablespoon vegetable or canola or coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1½ tablespoon fresh ginger paste
1 teaspoon fresh garlic paste
1½ teaspoon of cumin powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less or more)
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sugar
1 13.5 fl. oz can of Goya coconut milk
Salt for seasoning
Coconut water (optional)


Heat a medium pan on medium heat with oil.

Add the onions and fry till pink. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, cayenne and turmeric. Mix the spices with the onion and cook till the raw smell of ginger and garlic is almost gone.

Add the chicken pieces. Add salt for seasoning.  Mix and cook till the chicken is half cooked and the raw smell of spices is completely gone. 

Add the chopped tomato and cook till the tomato is soft and integrated with the spices. 

Then add the coconut milk and sugar. Taste for salt. Add more cayenne pepper if you like, but I prefer this curry to be mild. 

Simmer for 10 min or till the chicken is cooked completely and the gravy thickens.

You may add coconut water to thin out the curry to your desired consistency.

Serve hot with rice or bread.

Note: You may also add ¼ cup thawed fresh shredded coconut at the end to the gravy.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Achari Murgh - Chicken with Pickling Spices

I remember many afternoons when I was young that I would just sit by the window, read a book and relish a big piece of pickled mango. It might sound strange to you, having a pickle just like that, but, that is how much I like pickles.

Pickles come in many flavors- spicy, sweet and tangy, spicy and tangy, sweet, hot. Also, almost everything is pickled in India. I remember my trip to north India with my parents, where we went to a store in Haridwar which sold only pickles. And I got to sample so many of them. I remember potato pickle, radish pickle and the strangest of all- young bamboo pickle. I loved it all there.

The love for pickles made me explore tis recipe - Achari (= pickled) Murgh (= chicken)

Pickling spices that can be found in bottles in the grocery store are very different from pickling spices in India. Commonly used in indian pickles are fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds. Roasting a combination of these spices gives a wonderful and unique aroma and flavor. Cooking with this spice mix gives delicious exotic dishes.

You need (for 5-6 servings):

3 lbs chicken [I used thighs and drumsticks, but you can use breasts too]

2 medium yellow onions, diced

2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced

6 fat cloves of garlic, grated

1½ inch of ginger, grated

3 green chilis, slit [Use according to your tolerance of heat]

6 cloves

6 green cardamoms

1 inch of cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

salt to taste

oil for cooking

Dry spice mixture:

1 tablespoon fennel seeds (mouri/saunf)

½ tablespoon mustard seeds

½ tablespoon fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)

½ tablespoon corriander seeds

2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon of nigella seeds (onion seeds/kalonji/kalo jeere)


Marinate the chicken pieces with salt for 15 minutes. [I do this to ensure that the chicken is seasoned well.]

In the meantime dry roast and grind the dry spice mixture to a coarse/fine powder.

Heat a deep pan on medium heat with oil. When the oil is hot, add the bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and green chilis. When the oil is fragrant in few seconds, add the onion. When the onion is soft, add the ginger and the garlic. Mix well and fry for a few minutes. Add turmeric and salt.

When the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone, add the chicken pieces. Mix well.

Fry the chicken for about 5-10 minutes or until it is half done, and add the dry ground spice mixture. Mix well to incorporate the spices well with the onions and the chicken.

After another 5 minutes, add the tomatoes. Stir and cook till the tomato is soft and mixed with the gravy.

Add a cup of water. Put the lid on and simmer till the chicken is cooked completely.

Serve hot with rice or bread.

Homemade Chorizo and Tacos

I made chorizo at home- woohoo!

And it was delicious.

If you struggle to find good chorizo near where you live, you must give this a try. This is easy.

Now, mexican and spanish chorizos are different. Spanish chorizo is cured and can be directly sliced and eaten but mexican chorizo is spicy, crumbly, red sausage that I have come to love over the years. The red color in mexican chorizo comes from ancho chili powder. I didn't have ancho chili powder, so substituted it with paprika and red chili powder. Also, the great thing about mexican chorizo is that you don't need casings!

Sometimes 1 lb of chorizo is not enough for me- I mean think about all the possibilities, all the things you can make with it. Chorizo burrito with eggs and potato for breakfast, breakfast in a cup with chorizo, potato and chorizo omelette, chorizo chili, chorizo tacos.

I made chorizo tacos with homemade mango salsa. The spiciness of the chorizo was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the mango salsa. Or you can serve it up with my very favorite Pico de Gallo.

You need (for 1 lb chorizo)

1 lb ground pork (20% fat)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1½ teaspoon cayenne
1½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon cloves powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup apple cider vinegar

For tacos:

6 corn tortillas
Fresh homemade mango salsa with roasted red pepper


Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Wrap them in clear wrap like sausage shape (this is not necessary) and refrigerate for at least 4 hrs or overnight.


Heat a pan on medium heat and brown the chorizo. Make sure that it is cooked all the way through by cutting into one of the sausages. You can also crumble the chorizo and cook.

Divide the chorizo into six parts.

Warm up the corn tortillas. Add the chorizo, top it with mango salsa. Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice on it and serve with freshly chopped cilantro for a wonderful mexican meal.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Baked Salmon with Pesto

It was a long day already. When we came home it was 6 pm. Both very tired and of course hungry.

Him: What's for dinner?

Me: I don't know. I gotta make something.

Him: I am in the mood for fish.

Me: Yeah. Fish can be done pretty fast.

Him: Can it be done in 30 min?

Me: Oh yes, less than that.

Him: Really? What will you be making?

Me: I have a lot of that cilantro pesto. I'll make my sister's green fish. That just takes 15 min.

Him: Awesome!

Happy me and happy husband.

You need (For 3-4 servings):

1 lb salmon fillet (This recipe goes well with trout too.)
1 cup of my homemade Cilantro Almond Pesto
Salt for seasoning
Roasted almonds and chopped tomato for garnishing


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place the salmon fillets skin side down, season with salt and cover them with pesto.

Bake for 15-20 min depending on the thickness of your fillets or until the fish is flaky (check with a fork).

Serve garnished with some roasted almonds and freshly chopped tomatoes on the top.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Cilantro Almond Pesto

A few month's ago, we travelled to Philadelphia to celebrate my sister's 6 month old's Annaprashana (First Rice Eating Ceremony). Honestly speaking, a 6 month old doesn't care at all. He was quite happy with his boring feeds every few hours. It's the adults that need to celebrate. My mom and my sister had cooked about 12-15 different things starting with few kinds of stir fries, few vegetable curries, two kinds of fish, two kinds of meat and finishing with sweets, pudding and cake. Oh yes, it was very elaborate. You can probably guess who enjoyed all that in the name of the little baby boy!

One of these many delicacies was a salmon baked with pesto. It was absolutely heavenly! I had to get the recipe and make it myself. And so I did.

I am a big fan of cilantro. And cilantro pesto with a hint of basil and nuts - I am hooked!

This pesto is so easy to make and I can think of a hundred ways (well, many) ways to use it. I keep it in an airtight jar in the freezer for longer shelf life. When I plan to make something with it, I just thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.

You need (to make about 2 cups):

2 cups cilantro (just remove the thick stems)
7 cloves of garlic
⅓ cup of raw almonds
¼ cup of raw walnuts
1 cup basil (about 20-25 big leaves)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


Put every thing in your food processor and grind it to a smooth texture. Store in an air tight jar and store in your refrigerator or your freezer for longer shelf life.

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