Thursday, October 29, 2009

Black Bean Quesadillas

Last night I made fajitas and I had some of the bean mixture left over. So these handy dandy black bean quesadillas were made. They are crunchy and along with salsa and guacamole they are no different than any restaurant quesadilla minus the ton of cheese. So here's a healthier, protein packed quesadilla. I have given the full recipe below, not the leftover one. It makes about 6 quesadillas.


Black Bean filling:
1 can black beans - drained ad rinsed
1 medium onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons taco sauce
1 tablespoon oil
Salt & Pepper

2 medium tomatoes chopped or 1 cup pico de gallo
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
2-4 tablespoons shredded cheese
12 mid-size tortillas
1-2 tablespoons oil

Heat oil in wok and add onions and pepper. Saute till they soften and add the black beans. Then add the taco sauce and seasonings along with the salt and pepper. Taste the mixture and if you like it spicier add more seasoning.

Put a few drops of oil on a griddle, place one tortilla and spoon the bean mixture over it. Top with some of the tomato, coriander and cheese. Place another tortilla on top and press gently so that some of the beans get slightly mashed. When one side has lightly browned, flip the quesadilla and cook it is lightly browned as well.

Cut into 4 or 6 pieces and serve it with salsa and guacamole.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Black Bean Fajitas

There are a few staples in my pantry and one of them is black beans. They are great when you want to whip up a meal in 20 minutes or less as they make an easy filler in Mexican inspired meals - fajitas or quesadillas. It is not a bland dinner either. With jalapenos and salsa you can kick this up to serious spice. The addition of tomatoes, peppers and lettuce makes it mouthwatering. My husband and I like our fajitas a little different. He likes them with jalapenos and I like them with sour cream and coriander. The filling below makes approx 7-8 fajitas. * The pic above does not have lettuce as I was out of it that day.


Black Bean filling:
1 can black beans - drained and rinsed
1 medium onion sliced
1 green peppers sliced
1 poblano pepper sliced (optional)
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons taco sauce
1 tablespoon oil
Salt & Pepper

8 mid-size tortillas
3 medium tomatoes diced or 1 1/2 cup pico de gallo
3-4 tablespoons cheese
1 1/2 cup lettuce
Juice of half a lemon
Sour cream

Heat oil in wok and add onions and pepper. Saute till they soften and add the black beans. Then add the taco sauce and seasonings along with the salt and pepper. Taste the mixture and if you like it spicier add more seasoning.

To warm the tortillas, take a stack and cover with a damp paper napkin. Microwave for 8-12 seconds. Add the lemon juice to the tomatoes and you add a dash of salt if you like. Take a tortilla and spoon some of the bean mixture. Top with tomatoes, cheese and salsa. Depending upon your taste add jalapenos, sour cream or coriander. Finally top with lettuce and serve with guacamole.

This dish also makes a good self serve spread at a party. Just line up the ingredients and warm tortillas and guests can make their own fajitas as they like it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gujarati Muthiya (Steamed flour dumplings)

Muthiya is a popular Gujarati snack. It is of two types, soft (muthiya) and hard (kadak muthiya). I like both but I recently made the soft variety and this is the recipe for that. Kadak muthiya is made with methi (fenugreek) leaves but the soft ones can be made with doodhi (lauki / gourd), methi or kothmari leaves (coriander). I opted for doodhi in this recipe. If you do not have bajra or do not like bajra, you can use wheat flour instead and add about 1 teaspoon of soda bicarb in the mix and additional 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.


1 cup bajra flour (Pearl millet)
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup besan (gram flour)
1 cup grated doodhi
2 teaspoon dhania jeera powder (coriander cumin)
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch asafoetida
5 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Mix dough with 2 tablespoons oil, all the spices and salt along with doodhi. Add water to form paratha-like dough consistency, it should be stiffer dough than roti dough. Divide dough into 4 or more parts and roll into 1 inch rolls. Arrange these rolls on any perforated plate. Steam these in a steamer or in a pressure cooker without the whistle. The rolls will rise when steamed and will cook in about 15 minutes. Once cooled cut the rolls into rounds of about 8 mm to 1 cm thickness. Heat oil in a wok and add mustard seeds. Add the cut muthiya rounds to season. Toss well so that all pieces are coated well. Serve with chunda, ketchup or chutney.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rotini Pasta in Vodka Sauce

I was probably an Italian in my past life. I love everything Italian, food, wine, language and their footballers! Not to forget The Godfather :) Well the Italian I cook at home would not be authentic Italian, more like Intalian. Here is an easy pasta with vodka sauce. I like to make my own marinara and alfredo but haven't made vodka sauce yet. Vodka sauce is not just cream like Alfredo and not super tangy marinara but its a yummier mix of the two. If you havent tried it yet, try it today. You'll never get any other tomato based sauce again. Since pasta is the entire meal, I like to make it healthier (and colorful). Any vegetable is good but peppers, peas and carrots are my favorite. Add asparagus, artichokes, zucchini, broccoli if you like. Most pastas have cooking directions but I have my own method for al dente. Pinch the pasta along the side of the bowl, if its gives easily, its done if not add a minute or two. Perfect al dente pasta is plump and soft but not mushy.


1 box (16 oz) tricolor rotini pasta
1 jar vodka sauce
1/2 cup green pepper chopped
1/2 cup red pepper chopped
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup chopped onions
3-4 cloves garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta and cook till al dente. Heat oil in a wok and add the onions and garlic, saute till onions are translucent. Blanch peas for 2 minutes in the microwave. Add peppers and peas to the wok. I like a crunch in my vegetables so I cook them for just 2-3 minutes. Add the sauce to the vegetables and heat it but do not bring it to a boil. The cream separates from the sauce if boiled. Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Serve pasta with shredded Parmesan.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gujarati Basundi (Creamy milk dessert)

Milk cooked for hours with sugar, cardamom and nuts. The result a sweet, creamy concoction that makes you drool. Basundi is a sweet which you can eat and eat and never have enough of. Incidentally it is also the first dessert I attempted in US. Its a pretty stright forward recipe, except that it is time consuming and requires attention. You cannot overcook this dish. If you think you cooked it more than needed, just cook it some more and it becomes Rabdi. I use a condensed milk can as it helps the milk thicken quicker and I dont have to measure sugar. For metric conversion it would be approximately 4 liters of milk to a can (approx 280 grams) of sweetened condensed milk.


1 gallon whole milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
10-12 cashewnuts
10-12 almonds
10-12 raisins
10-12 pistachios

In a heavy bottomed pan bring the milk to boil stirring constantly. Add the cardamom and condensed milk. Continue to heat the milk stirring constantly. Do not allow the milk to settle at the bottom and this will quickly burn and give a burnt smoky smell to the dish. Blanch the dry fruits and remove the skin of the almonds. Roughly chop the nuts. When the milk has reduced to two-thirds of its original consistency add the nuts and raisins. When done the color of the milk changes to a pale beige. This dish can be served warm or chilled.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gujarati Mohanthal (Gram flour dessert)

Mohanthal is a winter staple in my house. My mother used to make panfuls every year to satisfy our sweet tooths. This Diwali I have a special treat as mummy had made some for me when she was here. She eyeballs every recipe to perfection so this recipe is a closest approximate to her measurements.


3 cups besan (gram flour)
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup Mava (Milk solids)
1 cup Ghee (Clarified butter)
10-12 Almonds
10-12 Pistachios

In a heavy bottomed pan saute the besan with ghee. Ghee should be added as much is needed to stir the flour. Saute till golden. Add the mava and mix well. Take the sugar in a separate pot and cover with water till just soaked. Heat to form heavy syrup. To test if the syrup is done, take syrup with a spoon and drop on plate. Wet your hands with cold water and try to form a ball. If it forms a ball, the syrup is ready. Mix with the besan, mava mixture. Take a thali or sheet pan and spread evenly. Decorate with slivered almonds and pistachios. Cut into squares or diamonds and serve.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Amp'ed up Pudala (Savory gram flour crepes)

Pudala is a Gujarati savory gram flour crepe. This amp'ed up version does fluff up more like pancake with the onion, tomato added to it. Simple pudala's are made just like dosa's, you take a ladle of batter and spread it outwards. The addition of vegetables makes it difficult to spread. I usually cook it on a 6 inch non stick pan as this lets me make approx round pancakes. I can turn the pan to adjust the batter around the edge. You can add grated carrots, diced bell peppers (capsicum) to the batter too if you like.


2 cups besan (Gram flour)
1 medium onion finely diced
1 tomato
4 green chilies very finely diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon dhania jeera powder (coriander cumin)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
1 1/2 cups water
Oil to cook

Mix all the ingredients above except the oil. The mixture should be of pouring consistency. Heat a non-stick pan or griddle. Use a little oil or non-stick spray on the pan. Pour a ladle of batter on griddle. Cook on one side till it crisps up to be brown and flip. If the edges are stuck, pour a few drops of oil around the edge. Cook it till there is no runny batter and the surface is golden brown. Serve with chutney or chunda.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simple Raita (Yogurt dip / side)

Raita is my go-to food when I want to add dishes without effort. All it needs is dicing and mixing. I don't need a stove-top and there are so many variants to this side-dish that I need not repeat one for a long time. This is a very simple raita which I whip up to go with pulao or roti-sabzi. My usual  habit when I make this is to chop the tomato on the board and then tilt the board onto the bowl. This adds the seeds  and the little tomato juice to be added to the raita. This doesn't affect the taste but makes it look a little pink. If looks are important, deseed the tomaotes and only add the tomato pulp to the raita. Use a very sharp knife for dicing as a blunt knife will bruise the tomato and not give a clean dice.


1 large tomato
1 cucumber (approx 6 inches)
2 cups yogurt (plain or non-fat)

Chop the tomato into quarters and deseed them. Then finely dice them. Peel and the cucumbers and dice finely too. Whisk yogurt in a bowl and add the diced tomato and cucumbers to it. I like thick consistency to my raita, if you like it thinner, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix and serve.

Pita Chips

Football season is here and so are endless bowls of chips and salsa, sometimes with queso. The Superbowl heavyweight is 7 layer dip. But none of these are healthy. So this year I am thinking low-fat, protein rich dippable finger food. And the solution is hummus and pita chips. Here is the method for the pita chips, I call it method and not recipe since I am not making these from scratch. So here goes...

Pre-heat an oven at 250 degrees. Take a pack of whole wheat or flour pitas. Take about 3 pitas at a time and slice these into 8 quadrants, like a pizza. There is no need for oil or salt on these. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. 

Pita Chips are ready to enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

No cook Coconut laddus / barfi

I promise this is the easiest recipe you will find on this blog. The method to prepare it is shorter than its name. And the end result is delicious and they come out exactly right every time. They have been a huge hit with friends and colleagues and I almost hate to tell them that it took no more than 5 minutes to make them. I use coconut powder for these which is finely grated dry coconut. Its is available at grocers very easily. So here goes...


1 lb (500 grams) Coconut powder
1 can (400 grams) of condensed milk

Separate about 2 table spoons of coconut powder aside for garnish. Mix the two ingredients. When thoroughly mixed form into laddus. To make exactly the same size laddus, you can use a ice cream scoop, a kitchen weighing scale or eyeball it like I do. I pick up a fistful of the mixture and wrap my fingers around it. It should fit in my fist and not bulge out on the sides. Repeat for the rest. When finished roll the laddus in the coconut powder to coat and serve. Makes about 20 laddus.

If making barfi, spread on a plate or cookie sheet to make barfi. Sprinkle the coconut on top and press slightly. Cut into diamonds and serve.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Peas and Cauliflower Pulao (Pilaf)

My family loves peas. Anything with peas is a big hit. It can be an appetizer, entree or soup it will be devoured. I haven't tried pea desserts, I don't think I can even cook that. This pulao is very versatile and can be modified to make it into any kind of vegetable pulao you enjoy. I have used peas and cauliflower, two vegetables that are always there in my refrigerator. Feel free to cook it with potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach (spinach will give it a green hue). Green bell peppers can be used but they have a more overpowering taste. I use a rice cooker to make the pulao but you can use a pressure cooker as well. It would be 2 whistles and then let the cooker cool before you open it. This additional time will let the pulao cook thoroughly and set.

3 cups basmati rice
1 cup peas
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 inch stick of ginger
4 green chilies
1/2 cup diced onions
Stick of Cinnamon bark
3 to 4 cloves
3 tablespoons oil
Pinch of Hing (asafoetida)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dhania jeera (coriander cumin) powder
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves

Heat oil in the rice cooker vessel. Add asafoetida, cumin and mustard seeds. When they start to crackle add the onions, green chilies and ginger. Saute them till they become translucent and then add cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, chili powder and dhania jeera powder. Mix and add the vegetables. Wash the rice and add to the pot. For 3 cups of rice add 3 cups of water and put it in the rice cooker to cook. It takes about 15-20 minutes and it is ready. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves as garnish.

Joy of Cooking

I used to be a decent cook. Then somewhere down the lane I became lazy then busy and then just not bothered... My family visited me this summer and reignited the passion for cooking. Now I want to chronicle my experiments as I start rediscovering the joy of cooking!

I hope this blog serves as inspiration for days when peeking into the pantry or refrigerator does not. The ingredients are simple and method easy. I confess I am not a big fan of laboring in front of the stove for hours to produce a meal and the same shows in my recipes, the shortest way to cook a meal with good results. And no nothing ever tastes as good as mom's food does :)


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