Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Apologies for the Unexpected Hiatus

I disappeared, I know.

Much like Heidi at Basil Vodka, I’ve been busy with the end of my undergraduate career — I now have two, large, shiny pieces of paper declaring my intellectual value for future employers — moving to my summer place of residence and continuing my spring internship for the summer. This also means that not only have I not been cooking much, but I’ve been making really basic things — things I’ve already posted recipes for on here — and eating a lot of hummus and pita.

Excuses, excuses. I realize this isn’t fair to anyone who was reading this blog, and I’m sorry.

Hopefully, I’ll be cooking something soon. I have a fun Stir-Fry & Pita combination I’ve been waiting to try out, but I think that might have to wait until next week.

I might even bake something fun. In the meantime, the internet is your friend. If anyone comes up with a cool, simple, tasty veggie recipe, send it my way – email me any time at vieshnavi (at) gmail (dot) com.

❤ V

Spectacular Dinner Parties

They don’t happen too often, but when they do, SHABAM! Things are magical. A few good friends of mine from a past internship with the Office of the Governor Deval Patrick decided we needed to have a reunion party.  At first we attempted to picnic on the Common, and Beuks got stuck on the train.  There were parties, but we all couldn’t attend the same ones, so we kept trying. Finally, Ethan was able to host a dinner party at his lovely apartment (which for various reasons, he doesn’t live in anymore. Okay that makes him sound shady – he’s starting a farm! No, really…) and we all decided to help cook!

On the menu:

Homemade Garlic Bread

  • 2 ft. long French Baguette or Italian loaf, first sliced lengthwise and then in sectioned
  • Butter – Ethan had Smart Balance on hand, which is actually what I use regularly.
  • 1 head of garlic at least, mince enough to sprinkle properly over all the bread
  • Dried or fresh basil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Slice the bread, mince the garlic, chop the basil (if it’s fresh)
  3. Spread butter over the bread and sprinkle the garlic over it OR melt butter and mix in the garlic, then pour over the bread
  4. Top with dried basil
  5. Place on a cookie sheet in the oven until the edges are golden brown.

Homemade Salad

  • Spinach leaves
  • Pears
  • Avocado
  • Gorgonzola
  • Raspberry Vinaigrette
  1. Toss together desired proportions of each.

Vegetarian Pesto Cream Lasagna

  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup pesto
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 9 Lasagna noodles (you should have an extra couple on hand, too)
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese
  • Extra olive oil for the top
  1. Clean and stem the spinach, chop it very fine (use a food processor if possible)
  2. Sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil, over low/medium heat, until soft.
  3. Stir the raw spinach into the hot onions and transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add half the parmesan cheese, the pesto and the ricotta and grind in some pepper, salt.
  5. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Boil noodles briefly (three to four minutes), drain, drizzle with remaining olive oil.
  7. Place a layer of noodles in bottom of oiled 9X13” pan. Spread one-third of the filling over noodles. Place one-third of the mozzarella over that. More noodles.
  8. Repeat until you have six layers: three of noodles, three of pesto mix, with the pesto mix on top.
  9. Top the final layer of pesto mix with remaining parmesan and drizzle with olive oil.
  10. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Vegetarian Marinara Lasagna

Thanks, Ethan!!

ETS’s Vegetarian Rouge Lasagna (He invented this one)

  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and
  • squeezed of excess liquid
  • 1 container (15 – 16 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 12-16 Trader Joe’ s Meatless Meatballs
  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, but do not salt the water.
  2. While noodles are cooking, preheat oven to 350 and start cooking the ‘ meatballs’. To cook the ‘ meatballs’ ,combine ‘ meatballs’ with 10-12 ounces of tomato sauce in a saucepan. Put the heat on low and stir occasionally until ‘ meatballs’ are softened all of the way through and have become saturated with sauce. Take a large fork or spatula and mash the ‘ meatballs.’
  3. Grease a 13X9 inch baking dish with olive oil, set aside. In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, garlic, and oregano. Mix well.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine broccoli, TJ’ s Meatless Meatballs, ricotta, and Parmesan. Mix well. Drain noodles.
  5. Spread half a cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
  6. Place 3 noodles on top of the sauce. Spread half of broccoli mixture over noodles. Spoon 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over broccoli; place 3 noodles on top.
  7. Spread with remaining broccoli mixture; top with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Top with remaining noodles and tomato sauce; sprinkle mozzarella over top.
  8. Bake until bubbling, about 45 minutes.
  9. Cool about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Red and White Wine

  • Cabernet Sauvignon (I think that’s what we had.)
  • Pinot Grigio

Me, mincing an insane amount of garlic for our insane amount of garlic bread:

gaaaaaaaaarlicbread

Beuks, buttering up the garlic bread and Meg, making an awesome salad with pears and such:

megsandbeuks

Ethan was taking the pictures – for some reason, we didn’t think to do a group shot, or take pictures of the lasagna 😦

All in all, it was a great experience, especially with the awesome company.

It’s American Chocolate Week

…who knew?

In honor of said week, I consumed 50g of Frey Swiss Chocolate today. It was milk chocolate with an almond cream filling. It was also absolutely delicious. And now to make you all immediately run out and buy chocolate, here are pictures from the chocolate festival I went to in Versoix, Switzerland.

Oh, and also, a picture of me holding a CHF 100 (~$100) bar of Toblerone.

tobleroneeee

…I ate about 1/12th of that.

entrancechocfest

chocbunnies

chochoccho

dinochochochoc

cowchochocho

Pasta with Zucchini, Potato Wedges, and Sautéed Garlic-Spinach

Here’s yet another dinner that’s finally getting documented.  This dinner was a slight challenge to put together because the stipulation was no onions, as my friend is allergic to them.  If you check out my other posts, you’ll notice I rarely have recipes that lack onions.  So I pondered this and came up with, Pasta with sautéed zucchini in a garlic marinara sauce, crispy garlic potato wedges and sautéed garlic-spinach.

Sautéed Garlic-Spinach

  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Garlic, 3-4 cloves minced
  • Spinach – I used the cup of spinach leaves I had left, but if you’re making more than that, just increase the amount of garlic you’re using.
  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan.
  2. Toss in the minced garlic and fry it until the garlic starts turning golden brown.
  3. Add the spinach and sautée until the leaves go limp.
  4. Add salt to taste.

spinach

 

Pasta with Sautéed Zucchini in a Garlic Marinara Sauce

  • Half a box of medium or large shell pasta
  • Marinara Sauce (or you can make it yourself)
  • Garlic – 5-6 cloves, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced in half circles
  • Dried basil
  1. Heat water in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add pasta and cook for 10 -12 minutes or according to the package until it is al dente.
  3. When cooked, remove pasta from flame and strain in a colander. Leave the pasta there.
  4. In the saucepan, start heating the marinara sauce on low heat.
  5. Next, heat oil on a pan.  Add the garlic and cook until it is golden brown. Add this to the marinara sauce.
  6. If needed, add more oil to the pan and let it heat up.
  7. Place zucchini on the pan in a single layer.
  8. Flip the zucchini over, and sprinkle with dried basil. Don’t let it over cook, and make sure to cook each side evenly.
  9. Add this to the marinara sauce and pour in the strained pasta.
  10. Mix, let it cook for a couple more minutes and remove from the flame.

pastazucchini

 

Crispy Garlic Potato Wedges

  • 1 large potato
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Cut the potato into approximately 12 wedges and place in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, and toss to coat.
  4. Arrange the potatoes  in a single layer in a large baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray (or olive oil if you don’t have cooking spray).
  5. Bake at 425°F for 25 minutes.
  6. Flip all the wedges over, then bake 20-35 minutes longer or until crisp.

This dish should be started first as it takes the longest time to prepare.

potahtoes

 

And when it’s all done, you’ve got a delicious meal:

dish

Stuffed Mushrooms

I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms – sometimes I’ll eat them (occasionally on pizza, occasionally in a pasta dish).  Mostly I avoid them like the plague.  However, a friend of mine was feeling sick and needed some comfort food and was looking for a good recipe for stuffed mushrooms, so I checked in with my friends who love to cook, and Christina sent me this recipe.  The recipe originally comes from a cookbook produced by women of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Parish in Seattle.

I figured that some of you probably DO like mushrooms so it wouldn’t hurt to post this one.  It’s simple, the ingredients are easily found in a grocery store, and it doesn’t take too long to make.  And it has feta cheese.  Which is delicious.

Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 15 large, fresh, white mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsps. butter
  • 3 tbsps. chopped green onions
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tbsps. finely chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsps crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated kasseri cheese
  • 2 tbsps. butter
  1. Brush the mushrooms clean.  Remove the stems and reserve them.
  2. Brush caps with melted butter, and arrange hollow side up in a baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Mince reserved mushroom stems.
  5. Heat small frying pan and add the butter.  Add stems and onions and sauté until the liquid has been absorbed.
  6. To the frying pan, add flour and mix well.  Add the milk, stirring until thickened a bit.  Add the parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.
  7. Add feta cheese to mixture in the frying pan and fill the mushroom caps.
  8. Top with kasseri and a few dots of butter.
  9. Bake at 375° for 15 – 20 minutes, or until stuffing has browned lightly and cheese has melted.

Enjoy!

Let me know – Have any of you ever stuffed mushrooms? What about other vegetables? I’m thinking of stuffing jalapeño peppers soon.

Classic Stir-Fry & Green Tea Brown Rice

Summer before last, while I was interning in Boston, and my friend Karen was living in Boston (because that’s where she’s from), we fell into a routine, which somewhere along the way got named Kitchen Cooking Chem Lab. Said name came about due to our tendency to run around Shaws, buy an assortment of things, bring them back to either of our kitchens and proceed to make magic food out of it.

And sometimes there were explosions.

Last night we made dinner, and we did something magical yet again, but so simple that anyone (like you!) can take these same ingredients and turn them into delicious, healthy, nutrient-rich vegetarian food.

Classic Stir-Fry

  • Yellow Squash

squashhhh

  • Red & Orange Peppers
  • Sugar Snap Peas

peppers and snap peas

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Long Grain Brown Rice
  • 2 Green Tea Tea-Bags (not pictured)
  • Almond Slivers
  • Chili Powder (not pictured)

riceoilalmonds

  1. Heat 2 cups water in medium-sized saucepan & put tea bags in the water. After 5 minutes, remove tea bags from water and add rice. Stir frequently to keep rice from sticking. Allow rice to cook normally. Once cooked, add almond slivers (1/2 cup, or however much you like).
  2. rice

  3. While rice is cooking, heat olive oil on a pan on medium heat.
  4. When oil is hot, add the yellow squash.
  5. When squash starts to brown slightly, add the peppers and snap peas, stirring to keep squash slices on top of the peppers.
  6. Be liberal with the oil, make sure there is oil on the pan as well as on the vegetables, but don’t drown them.
  7. veggiesonpan

  8. When the peppers are cooked (they’ve started to go limp), add chili powder.  I just shook chili powder lightly over the veggies, mixed them and covered them lightly again. The point of the chili powder isn’t to make the dish spicy, but to bring out the flavors of the vegetables.
  9. Serve veggies either over or on the side of the rice.

foodddd
Enjoy with your drinks of choice! Ours just happened to be Harpoon Celtic. 🙂

Think Outside the Box: Traditional School Lunches

I’m back in Boston, and the elements are conspiring against my happiness. I went grocery shopping, loaded up my refridgerator with delicious things, then made a bunch of food and completely forgot to take pictures to post them here.

On the menu forgotten were:  Waldorf-esque Salad, Basil Pesto Fettuccine, Home-made Garlic Bread, and Ice cream.

Later, I’ll post recipes 🙂

Today is low-key, since I’m at home, doing homework until class later today. Lunch is a Peanut Butter Sandwich on Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Baby Carrots with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and Tater Tots.


lunchy

 

Happy Eating & Cooking to everyone in the new year!

On Hiatus – Still – Till Next Week

You’ve probably noticed my absence since the middle of December.  Nope, I haven’t abandoned you, this blog, or my cooking.  Well, actually, the last one’s a bit of a lie.  Right after final exams, I booked it down to Florida (the only state in the country without snow right now) for winter vacation, maximizing my time in the Sunshine State.  Guess who else lives in this state?  My mother.  Guess who is the best chef of all time?  Yep.  My mother.  I’ve been eating and eating and scribbling down recipes and taking notes while she cooks and watching and breathing in the delicious scents and overall… neglected my readers.

I apologize.

In the form of an apology, one of my best friends, Karen, guest blogged last Saturday with an amazing recipe for Sweet Cherry Pie.  Now, if you don’t like cherry pie, well… you’re strange.  I’ve had the privilege of eating Karen’s cooking and desserts, and let me tell you… they are divine.  Lucky for you, she’s snowed in in her parents house on the South Shore of Massachusetts, and provided they don’t lose power, she’ll have some more delicious recipes and interesting tidbits of history for you all soon.

Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been up to all break:

1. Applications for graduate school for International Relations at 5 prestigious schools.  They are LONG.

2. Hanging out with my family, friends and books.

3. A 5-day vacation to Orlando, Universal Studios, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Islands of Adventure: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with some of the most special people in my life.

So mostly, I’ve been reading. My goal is 50 books this year, as it is every year, and the last time I reached that was 2008.  In the meantime, I’m compiling my reading for this year, so please please hit me with any and all suggestions you have!  I love all genres (mostly) so don’t hesitate.  Time to ramp up the intellectual stimuli!

Ready, set, go!

Bake that Mac n’ Cheese!

I know I’ve been MIA for a little, but I’m back, and here’s what I’ve been up to:

There’s a hundred different ways to make macaroni and cheese, with every chef (self-proclaimed or otherwise) putting his or her own spin on the traditional dish. I’ve made mac n’ cheese in a saucepan melting cheddar into milk when I’m pressed for time, but for special occasions, I enjoy baking the dish, sometimes topping it with breadcrumbs.

This time, I made Mac n’ Cheese Smith Style, so named as it’s a family recipe from my friend Charles Smith. Here’s a before (as I was layering the large Pyrex with the ingredients) and an after (as my friends and I were working on seconds) picture.

beforemac
aftermac

Mac N’ Cheese Smith Style

  • 1 Lb. Elbow Macaroni Noodles (Sometimes I use Large Shells instead for variety)
  • 1 Lb. Sharp Chedder Cheese, shredded
  • 4 cups Tomato Juice
  1. Cook macaroni according to package (slightly less than done is good)
  2. Layer in casserole dish: First, tomato juice (just enough to cover dish bottom), second pasta, third cheese.
  3. Repeat until macaroni is gone (usually 3 thin layers).
  4. Only add 1.5 to 2 cups of tomato juice per layer and only 3.5 to 4 cups total.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.

Of course, mac n’ cheese alone would get boring without appetizers (I made a vegetable platter with carrot sticks, celery, zucchini, and squash and balsamic vinaigrette dip), or at least side dishes so here are a couple of side options.

platter

Side Dishes

  • Tater Tots! I bought the frozen Ore Ida package at Star Market, and fried them straight out of the freezer in a saucepan of heated oil (about 375 degrees F) for about 4 minutes. You can bake them, but that’s wholly foreign to me. Welcome to the South.
  • Sautéed Zucchini & Summer Squash – Now I’m not sure what summer squash is still doing in stores as it’s way, way out of season, but I cut both veggies in thin, 2 – 3 inch-long strips and sautéed them until the center was just tender.  I seasoned the veggies liberally with basil and topped it off with a little stone-ground pepper and salt.

Happy Eating!

Traditional Sambar with Green Beans & Potatoes

What is this ‘Sambar’ of which I speak? It’s almost like a stew, lentil-based and chock full of veggies and protein (from the lentils, duh). It’s a dish traditionally cooked and found in south India, and it makes up an essential component of any traditional south Indian dinner, since it has nutrients in abundance.  Protein is hard to find in a vegetarian diet unless you’re into the fake meats, tofu, or such, all of which I kind of hate.

Generally, I make this sambar with French cut green beans, carrots, and baby onions, but last night, I was missing carrots.  (Here’s a good recipe for Carrot and Beans Sambar by Radhika, in India.) Instead, I substituted potatoes, which works just fine.  In fact, one of my favorite sambars is made with baby potatoes and baby onions. It’s cute and it’s tasty and it’s easy to make.

sambar
The basic recipe for a sambar is simple, and the veggies can be substituted as desired.  However, once you start getting into the leafy greens (spinach, for example), the spices vary slightly, and the dish is called ‘huli.’ Anyway, enough theory of Indian vegetarian cooking, here’s a recipe:

Green Beans and Potato Sambar

~Serves approximately 6~

  • 1/2 cup Toor dal (if you can’t find this in Shaws, try Shalimar in Central Square or the Indian Market in Coolidge Corner)
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped in cubes
  • French cut green beans, frozen – use the same volume of beans as potatoes
  • 1/2 extra large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. Tamarind paste/pulp (if you know how to soak and extract pulp)
  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2-3 tbsp Madras Sambar Powder
  • Salt – to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 2-3 Whole red chilli, dried or fresh
  • Asafoetida (a powder/spice that comes in a white plastic bottle)– 2 pinches
  • 2-3 Curry leaves
  • Coriander Leaves – for garnishing
  1. Clean Toor Dal (sift through and make sure no dark pieces are there) and either pressure cook it with 2 drops of Oil and turmeric – this makes it cook fast. Remove after 3 whistles and let it cool down – or add 1.5 cups of water, oil and turmeric in a small saucepan and let simmer on medium-high until the lentils absorb the water, soften and expand. Stir often to prevent sticking on bottom of the saucepan, and remove from flame once all the water is absorbed.
  2. Dice oniones, chop Potatoes to 1″ cubes, and remove beans from freezer and let needed amount defrost to room temperature.
  3. Heat oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric, and then add chopped onions. Sauté till they turn clear (are cooked), then add the can of tomatoes, mashing them with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the potatoes and let simmer until potatoes begin to soften.
  5. Then add the cooked toor dal (slightly mashed with wooden spoon), green beans, and  tamarind pulp.
  6. Add the sambar powder, red chilli powder, asafoetida, and salt.
  7. Cook on high flame for 5 mins, then simmer for 10 mins or until the vegetables are cooked well.
  8. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Happy Eating!

  • Have you ever made Sambar before?
  • If so, how do you normally make it? Do you use vegetables other than carrots, beans, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes?
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