Saturday, April 30, 2016

Semi-homemade Falafel Pita Pockets

These falafel pita pockets are the best for warm weather lunches or picnics! They are my go-to Saturday lunch after we have done our Saturday morning ritual of farmer's market and Trader Joe's and there is just not enough time to devote to lunch. 

It literally takes 15 minutes to put this together to put lunch on table and that's because it's semi-homemade :)

You know how Trader Joe's has this little sampler foods you can try; one day they gave out samples for these frozen falafels and I thought it was great quality particularly for frozen. The cooking instructions accordingly were super simple 3min in microwave or 10-15mins in oven. I usually go for microwave. Each pocket has 12 small sized falafels which is perfect portion for 3 of us.
I always have a packet of whole wheat pitas in the fridge, also from Trader Joe's.

We have a great hummus lady at the farmer's market - I regularly buy a packet of her baba ganoush and harissa (green chili paste) (pictured above). Both are great additions and provide a nice kick to the grown up version of these pockets. Hummas and hot sauce would be the store bought alternatives.

Now for the home-made portion: I whip up a quick tzatiki -- add few Tbsp yogurt + one grated cucumber, just squeeze after grating to remove as much water + splash of olive oil + 1tsp lemon juice + pinch of dried dill + S&P. Just mix and serve!

I prep a bunch of veggies to add to pockets - like thinly sliced red pepper, onions, sliced cucumbers, sliced avocados, even some chopped kale or spinach will go wonderfully!

Warm up the pitas in oven or on stovetop. Gather everything on table and call out for lunch! Or pack up everything and head out to a picnic to enjoy these gorgeous spring days!

Everyone can make their pockets how they like, more veggies or less veggies, super spicy or no spice - either way these are always a super hit.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mini Blueberry Muffins for Kids Lunchboxes

My daughter, who is now 4+, and I love baking together! Often she is the baking initiator  between the two of us.

She mixes the dry ingredients, preps the baking tray, licks the spoon and of-course does the perfect job of anxiously waiting and jumping around to see when the baked goodies would be done :) 

Recently we bought a large box of blueberries from Trader Joe's which turned out not as sweet as usual so they ended up waiting to be used up. And when that coincided with my daughter's "let's bake something, Mommy", blueberry muffins it was!

I have got to say I love my new mini muffin tray. I always felt the size of a regular muffin too large for one portion and really who has the will power to split the muffin in two and only eat one half? Definitely not a 4 year old or mom of a 4 year old! So when I saw the mini-muffin tray at Target, I quickly put one in the cart along-with a mini-muffin liner set.

The recipe is a derivation of the Allrecipes version - my main variation was to reduce sugar and add more fruit and to skip the crumb topping altogether. 

The muffins turned out great! 

Source: Allrecipes
Makes 16 -18 mini-muffins
1.5C AP flour
1/2C sugar
1/2tsp salt
2tsp baking powder
1/3C vegetable oil
1/3C milk
1 egg
dash of vanilla extract
1.5C blueberries - fresh, rinsed and dried

Preheat oven to 400F

Mix the dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat an egg, add oil and milk to it. Mix well. Add vanilla extract. Then add all the blueberries and coat well.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix well.

Line a mini-muffin tray with liners. Add muffin mix to each and bake for 20-25 mins until top is crucnhy and the muffin is cooked through (insert a toothpick to check)

Remove from oven. Cool on a rack for few minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Get Them Before They Go - Asparagus

(Get Them Before They Go: In this series we feature a seasonal produce or fruit our family is thoroughly enjoying these days. Infact we are enjoying it so much that we think it deserves you opening another tab of your browser right now and finding out your nearest farmer's market to visit (or a local CSA or a seasonal grocer)! 

We at G&G believe in simple & quick recipes with local and seasonal produce made with care for family dinner tables. Not only you will be enjoying fresh bounties of the nature without the preservatives and 1000s of food miles, you will also be helping the local farmer's ecosystem and sustainable growing. And seasonal vegetables picked hours before just taste so much better - you got to try it to believe! So.. get them before they go)

Spring is the season for Asparagus. Last weekend I saw first asparagus shop sprouted up in our farmer's market and bought my first bunch of asparagus for the season. While you can find asparagus year around in supermarkets, they are there only for about 5-6 weeks in farmer's markets starting about now in early spring.

When buying asparagus look for tender stocks; I feel the tender once are more packed in flavor and have fewer tough ends.
Roasted Asparagus seasoned with Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Chilli  flakes and Lemon juice
I learnt a trick to avoid cooking with tough ends - you hold an asparagus, one end in one hand each. Bend lightly until it snaps on it's own. The place where it snaps is the general place you should chop off rest of the asparagus of that bunch so you get the soft flesh and not the hard ends. Don't through away the hard ends however, they are great to make a stock or grate and use in frittattas.

Asparagus is a well-known vegetable in US so there are abundant recipes of asparagus on internet. I'll list here some of my favorite ways to cook asparagus.

1) Roasted Asparagus wih Salt, Pepper, Chili flakes and Lemon
This is my most favorite way of eating asparagus. Prepapre them by chopping tough ends (see abov). Drizzle with olive oil, coarse salt, chilli paper flakes and pepper. Roast in 400F oven for about 15-20mins so they crunchy but soft inside. Remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon juice, serve hot as a side.

Note: you can play with oven temps and cooking times or turning broiler on for last 2 minutes if you like them browned.

2) Grilled asparagus

3) Steamed and sauteed

4) Chopped asparagus in noodle dishes such as Lo Mein or Soba

5) Asparagus can be a nice substitute to cauliflowers in masale bhat (Indian spiced rice).

Whichever way you like them, make sure you don't loose them out this season!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Citrus Blossoms!

Have you ever smelled an orange blossom? If not, I urge you to visit any of the orange farms or the many home grown citrus trees which are blossoming with the heavely smelling white flowers all around California, and perhaps other parts of the country, at this time! 
Blood Orange Blossom
To me, it's the most refreshing, invigorating and pure smell that has even been invented! Better than any flowers, way better than any artificial fragrances!

My earliest memories of citrus blossom are returning home from a fun day at mountains in San Diego. The winding road takes you through many citrus farms.. just roll down the car windows and the enjoy the blossoms, so peaceful!
Lemon Blossom
Now I am fortunate to live in a house with various citrus trees in our backyard - a bloooming meyer lemon tree, a bustling kumquats (the tiny orange like fruits where the peel is sweeter than the flesh and supposed to be eaten whole) and many variety of oranges which are flowering all around showing their promise for the season.
Meyer Lemons!
Leaving you with a few photos of citrus blossoms and a link to my simple but tasty citrus salad recipe - dance of colors on the plate!

Enjoy the spring while it lasts!! :)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lo Mein Noodles with Lots of Vegetables

We love our noodle fix at our house! Noodles make a weeknight dinner appearance atleast once every other week for us. 

I load them up with lots of vegetables for a heart healthy dinner and they cook so fast - what's not there to love about this weeknight dinner!

This is another one of my busy working mom's 20minutes or less dinners. The trick, as always, is a well stocked fridge and pantry. Can't emphasize this enough. Spend that hour on Saturday to make it a priority to visit farmer's markets (if in your area) or any fresh local grocer/CSA and your tummy will thank you for it for the whole week to come!

My two favorite noodles to cook with are Soba and Lo Mein. I love them both. Soba tends get slightly stickier if you overcook them even for a minute -- Lo Mein have the advantage of being more unforgiving when it comes to texture. I buy them at Whole Foods but they are available at any asian grocery stores.

I have this trick to keep vegetables in a noodle dish crunchy. You just stir fry them one at a time and remove from heat. Then add everything together at the end - easy!

I hope you will try this another 20minute weeknight dinner.. you can add meats or tofu if you want or vary the vegetables - variations are endless!

Serves 3
1 packet Lo Mein noodles - usually has 3 bundles
few Tbsp vegetable oil (don't use olive oil for stir-frying)
quarter of a large onion - sliced length wise into thin slices
1 red pepper - sliced length wise into thin slices
2 carrots - chopped
1C broccoli florets
7-8 mushrooms - sliced thinly
1tsp grated ginger
handful of chopped green onions
handful of chopped cilantro
3-4Tbsp soy sauce, low sodium
2Tbsp rice wine vinegar
dash of hot sauce (per taste)
salt & pepper

Heat water in a large pot.  While water is heating, prepare all the veggies. Prep ahead is really beneficial for stir fry dishes which cook in a jiffy!

When water is hot, add Lo Mein and cook per package directions (usually 4-6 minutes), Then drain noodles and rinse with cold water thoroughly to stop cooking. Set aside.

Heat oil in a wok or a large surface area pan on medium high heat. When hot, stir fry onions, peppers, broccoli and carrots quickly one at a time - each taking a minute or two and then remove each vegetable with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Then add ginger and mushrooms to the pan. Cook stirring for 3-4 minutes until mushrooms are slightly softened. Add soy sauce, vinegar and mix well.

Turn the heat off. Add noodles, add all the veggies back, add salt & pepper to taste (go easy on salt as soy sauce often makes dish salty). 

Garnish with hot sauce, green onions and cilantro and mix well.

Serve hot with a hot cup of your favorite green tea to sip along! 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rustic Apple Tart

This rustic apple tart is perfect for those crazy days when you have friends or family coming over for dinner but have no time left for a home-made dessert - just use a store bought pie crust. Or it's even perfect for those days when you are in the mood for making a pie crust from scratch and have a couple of apples waiting to be used in the fridge. 

Either way, whether you use store bought crust or make one home at home, no-one needs to know as a wam slice of this tart with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream is perfection in every bite irrespective!

And psst.. another thing no-one need know: when you call something rustic, by definition you make room for imperfections. Imperfections even add to the rustic-ness of the pie, you could say :). So don't let the fear of not being able to roll a perfect round pie crust stop you from a delectable home-made deessert!
Rustic Apple Tart
Recipe: Rustic Apple Tart
Serves 4 large slices
1 9" pie crust - store bought or home-made
2 granny smith apples (I used Fuji this time)
2Tbsp brown sugar
2Tbsp melted butter
1/2tsp pumpkin spice (or 1/4tsp cardamom powder, 1/4tsp cinnamon powder, pinch of nutmeg and pinch of all-spice)
juice of half a lemon
dash of salt

If using frozen pie-crust, defrost on counter or fridge as per package direction. If making crust at home, experiment with different shapes! Apple tart looks great as a rectangle or a half-circle too!

Pre-heat oven to 400F

Slice apples thinly and evenly, add to a large bowl. To the apples, add all the spices, melted butter, sugar, lemon juice and salt and mix well.

Roll the pie crust on a pachment paper lined baking sheet. Add the apples, you can arrange them in a single layer facing one way (like the picture above) or just add them in a mound and then spread evenly - leave a little border on all the sides to be able to roll. Then using your hands lightly roll the border or tuck in the tart.

Add a little more crumbled butter and sugar specs on top (optional).

Bake for 35-40mins until the crust turns brown at places and apples look cooked. Remove from oven, let rest for a couple of mins. Cut into slices and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

5 Foodie Things For the Rainy Days..

It has been raining a lot this winter. Rain is good. Particularly for California this year.

One such rainy morning I was sitting next to a window overlooking the early spring flowers and leaves getting a nice good soaking while listening to the steady pounding of rain on our windows, and I found myself deliciously reminiscing of my favorite foodies things for rainy days over the years. And that's how this compilation was born :)

I hope the next time rainy gloomy weather strikes, you can add just a bit of sunshine and spice to your days with these rain friendly yet healthy foods! (notice no deep frying or sugar laden recipes below)

1) A steaming hot cup of your favorite beverage with spice!
First things first, one thing rain de-facto needs is a steaming hot cup of your favorite beverage just a little spiced. For us it is spiced mulled apple cider and spiced coffee or spiced chai.

Both are really simple. For spiced apple cider, I warm regular apple cider. Add to it a cinnamon stick, a couple whole peppers and cloves, a star anise, few cardmom pods, 2 slices of lemon and orange and some lemon juice. Warm on low heat for 20-30mins until the spices have thoroughly flavored the apple cider. Strain if serving to kids. And serve warm! 

Spiced chai/coffee is made by adding clove, cinnamon, cardamom (some or all of these) in boiling water and then make tea/coffee as usual. Strain before drinking.
Steaming hot cup of pumpkin spice coffee!
2) Hot bowl of soup with crusty garlic bread
Rains and soups are a match made in heaven - don't you think! My favorite rainy day lunch is a bowl of hot soup with some crusty garlic bread to dip in - like the hearty lentil soup or roasted red pepper and tomato soup or leek and potato soup or noodle bowl. And I have a great trick to turn any regular bread into garlic bread!
Roasted red pepper & tomato soup, hearty lentil soup, (bottom) curried butternut squash soup & leek and potato soup
3) How about some snacks to go with that tea/coffee?!
A good cup of chai/coffee on a rainy day can also use some of rain's favorite snacks! Our rule of thumb is to not deep fry at home, so we stay away from fritters/bhujias... but that doesn't mean we have any the less fun! Baked samosa puffs, baked sweet potato fries, kande pohe or pinwheels are all great options which are great for your belly too!
Sweet potato fries, baked samosa puffs, kande pohe & paav bhaji
4) Baking! 
There is something so therapeutic about baking.. the warm aromas drifting off of the oven or watching the joys of a bread rising - baking is a food for the tummy and the soul. And if you are stuck at home while it's pouring outside, who wouldn't like a slice of freshly baked quick banana bread or pumpkin cranberry muffins or the apple crisp to go along-with it!
Banana nut bread, banana muffins & apple crisp
5) Chocolate covered strawberries!
Now if you have a daughter to entertain on rainy afternoons, then a great idea is to make some chocolate covered strawberries together! 

You can either just drizzle chocolate to create pretty effects or go all out and spend an hour trying yourr hands at Mr. & Mrs. Berry! Get your creative juices flowing! They are really not as complex as you would think. Read about them here.
Mr. & Mrs. Berry!
Dark & white chocolate strawberries
I hope next time the rain strikes, other than the cozy blanket and the movies, you will try out one of your favorite rainy day foods too!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lentil Avocado Pita Pockets with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Ever since I saw this Mark Bittman's sloppy joe pita recipe in Cooking Light I have been itching to try it out. Honestly, what's not there to love when you have warm toasted pitas stuffed with spicy lentil stuffing, some cool mint yogurt sauce and crunchy fresh cucumber! This is a perfect early spring meal. Seems very California too :)

Have I told you that a well stocked pantry and fridge is the most well kept secret of eating more healthy meals at home? It really is. I always have a pack of Trader Joe's whole wheat pitas at hand and some dried or cooked lentils ready to go at a moment's notice.

One of these weekends we came home late from morning chores. The weather is unseasonably warm and turning spring, so I was craving lighter meals like salads, soups and sandwiches.

Quickly chopped some onions, tomatoes and garlic and put the lentils to cook (hardly 10min prep time). The lentil cooking time of around half an hour was largely unattended in which I made myself a hot cup of coffee with a slice of bread spread with fig butter as a side :)

Once the lentils were ready, the whole assembly took another 15mins and thats it, meal is served! I substituted fresh avocado slices for the cucumber slices and finished with a tangy sweet jalapeno sauce that I found at a local Afghan grocer for some extra kick.

You can eat them on their own but preferrable pairing is to serve with a warm light soup of your choice - my favorite combos are leek and potato soup or the roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Or as the guys will say, beer is a perfect pairing too :)

Source: Mark Bittman's sloppy joe pitas in Cooking Light
For the lentil filling:
3/4C French lentils (or brown lentils or masoor)
2C water (or per the lentil cooking instructions)
1 medium onion - chopped
3 cloves of garlic - smashed
2 tomatoes - chopped
handful of fresh thyme chopped (or dried thyme)
1.5tsp cumin powder
1Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

For Yogurt Saucee:
1/2C non-fat or low-fat yogurt
handful of chopped fresh mint
dash of red wine vinegar
pinch of crushed red chili flakes

For vegetables in the filling:
1 fresh avocado - sliced
OR 1 cucumber - chopped
some fresh mint

For assembly:
4 whole wheat pitas
hot sauce of your choice (I used an Afghan bolani jalapeno sauce)

Prepare the lentil filling:
Saute chopped onions and garlic in a Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. When the onions start to tender, add cumin powder and roast for a minute or two. Follow up with some chopped tomatoes, lentils, water and enough salt. Let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and simmer covered for 30mins or so or until the lentils have cooked through (but not turned mushy). Add more water if you need it during the cooking process. When the lentils have cooked through turn the heat off, add thyme and black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Prepare the raita:
Assemble all the raita ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasonings per taste.

Toast the whole wheat pitas and then cut them into halves diametrically. Using your fingers or a knife open the pitas up. Spread the raita on one side. Add few Tbsp of lentil mixture into the pita. Add a few avocado or cucumber slices, some chopped mint and finish with a dash of hot sauce.
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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.