Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

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?

Inspiration? The Food Network! And … These Books!

Where do I get my inspiration? Well, the award for the start of it all goes to my mom, who I think is the BEST. CHEF. IN THE WORLD. Second, I have a secret love affair with The Food Network channel, and I’ll watch it every chance I get. Third, I read cookbooks like it’s my job.  I’m usually not patient enough to actually follow recipes, so I tend to gather the gist of the recipe and then execute freestyle.

For your reading pleasure, I’d like to introduce my top 5 favorite cookbooks:

1. The Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook
best ever veg

 

2. 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes
1001

 

3.  A Beautiful Bowl of Soup: The Best Vegetarian Recipes
soup soup

 

4. Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook: Revised
STUDENTVEG

 

5. Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
slowcookveg

All of these glossy, pretty books are available from Amazon and none of them are too expensive: ~$10 to ~$15 each.  If you’re looking for something else to add to your Christmas wish list – these are great additions!

They’re full of varied recipes and even if you don’t have a slow cooker, or some other fancy kitchen tool, there’s ways to alter recipes to suit your needs.  If you’ve ever got a specific question about a recipe, just e-mail me:  vieshnavi (at) gmail (dot) com.

Before Winter REALLY sets in – Jamba Juice

jambaaaa

Featured: Chunky Strawberry Topper and Mango Topper

It’s about to cool down to freezing in Boston (and let’s face it, in anywhere north of Florida) and soon it will be too cold to justify one of my favorite dining establishments: Jamba Juice. The Tampa, Florida locations opened years ago, so I’d already become familiar with Jamba Juice by the time of my arrival at Boston University. Then, I found out that the only New England location was conveniently located in the George Sherman Union – a student center/food location in the center of BU’s campus. Success!

When I had dining points as part of my BU meal plan my first two years at BU, I’d have Jamba Juice for lunch every day, literally.  My Jamba intake decreased exponentially when I moved off campus and began cooking more at home, but recently I’ve been on a Jamba craze.

My favorite blend is, without contest, the Chunky Strawberry Topper. This Jamba “Ideal Meal” is a blend of frozen strawberries, frozen bananas, nonfat plain yogurt, soymilk, organic pumpkin flax seed granola, and peanut butter topped with fresh granola and fresh bananas. The 12 oz keeps me full for hours, so it’s the perfect lunch for me. I tried the Berry Topper too, but I think I’m partial to the peanut butter and granola in the Chunky Strawberry Topper.

For an afternoon snack, I love the Strawberry Nirvana. This Jamba “Light Smoothie” is made with lower calorie dairy base, frozen strawberries, apple strawberry juice blend, frozen bananas and ice. It’s delicious and it’ll keep you full for a couple hours – at least until dinner!

Unfortunately, the Jamba Juice location in the BU GSU is limited and doesn’t have the Jamba Bakery, which is an excellent source of delicious, healthy, and sometimes vegan goodies.  The Sourdough Parmesan Pretzel, Zucchini Walnut Loaf, and Greek Goodness Wrap make my top three!

If you’re a BU student and you haven’t gone to Jamba Juice yet, you’ve been missing out! This is a healthy, tasty and wonderful choice of dining out, and they will be cutting their hours soon for winter, so grab a Jamba while you can!

  • If you’ve been to Jamba Juice, what’s your favorite drink? Why?
  • Do you find the Jamba Light as fulfilling as the regular Jamba blends?

P.S. Jenny at Enjoy Your Cheerios blogged about Jamba Juice a while back.  Check out her blog if you’re a college student motivated by living a healthy lifestyle!

Nachos Nachos Nachos!

It’s a Saturday night and I’ve a bunch of homework to do (I know, I know, most college students go out on Saturday nights … I’d prefer a movie or a nice book at home. Call me granny if you want to.), and of course I’m looking for every possible method of procrastination. I might call up my friend Karen to see if she wants to go to Sunset. Where we would get beer, but more importantly, nachos. Now, nachos could really mean any manner of things, but the nachos I’d get here are a vast improvement from the nachos I used to eat at Target when I was 6 years old.

Case in point:

1. Nachos at Target – Tasteless tortilla chips doused with heated queso. I’d get jalapeños on these nachos just because otherwise those nachos were boring…

2. South of the Border Fiesta Nachos at Sunset Grill & Tap / Sunset Cantina – Here’s the description, straight from the menu: Hot nachos topped with choice of chili (Vegetarian, Taco Beef Black Beans) , jalapenos, scallions, tomatoes, black olives, jack and cheddar cheeses, shredded lettuce, guacamole, sour cream and salsa.  You can get the guac, sour cream, and salsa on the side, and you can substitute BBQ pulled pork, or add in BBQ/Cajun/Buffalo chicken. Or something. Choose a meat if you don’t want vegetarian chili, basically. But if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably looking to keep the veggie.

While rooting around the interwebs, I found a blog titled El Tour Del Nacho, written by several students in Boston who made it their mission to try and rank nachos all around Boston.  While I’m appalled that they’d rank it as such – they give Sunset the Bronze Medal for most delicious Nachos. They hold fast to The Pour House as the Gold Medal Champion. However, they give you a comprehensive analysis on the nachos. If this seems excessive, you must be new to the area. Or not from the South.

3. Repeat mention: The OTHERSIDE Nachos – I’ve professed my love for these nachos before, on this blog, but here it is again: This plate of delicious starts with a bed of tortilla chips topped with melted cheddar, jalapeños, their homemade vegetarian chili and salsa.

If you’re at home and you’re strapped for ingredients, try this twist:

Simple Nachos

  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Scallions/Jalapeños
  • Tortilla Chips – Choose a brand that ISN’T Tostitos and you’re golden
  1. Sprinkle the cheese and scallions/jalapeños on the chips to your heart’s content.
  2. Microwave 30 seconds (or less if you’ve got a really powerful microwave. The cheese should not start bubbling.)
  3. Eat!
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Do you make nachos at home?
  • If so, what do you put on them?

Baked Vegetable Frittata

The Frittata.  When I was in Copenhagen this past summer, my friend Jason introduced me to this Italian vegetable and egg dish.  Since then, I’ve discovered  numerous recipes for making frittatas, realized that each calls for the vegetables to be cooked differently, the eggs to be poured in at different times, and for the dish to be baked or broiled or cooked differently.  Alton Brown of the Food Network has a carnivorous version of the frittata recipe, for those of you cooking for a mixed party.

Because it’s slightly different from the allrecipes.com Potato and Vegetable Frittata Recipe, I’m providing Jason’s frittata recipe, which in all honesty, knowing Jason, he probably improvised the majority of it.

Potato and Vegetable Frittata

  • Large Pyrex-style oven safe glassware
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, sliced in rings
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini, sliced in thin circles
  • 2 cups potatoes, sliced in thin circles
  • 1 cup fresh tomato, sliced in rings
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup whole milk
  • Salt and pepper , roughly ground from peppermill
  • Dried oregano
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat your oven; set it to broil.
  2. On a frying pan, heat oil and saute the onions and garlic over a low heat until the onions begin turning clear and the garlic begins turning golden. Remove from the heat.
  3. Beat the eggs with the salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne in a separate bowl.  Mix in milk and heavy cream.
  4. Arrange the vegetables in the Pyrex (ours was an oval shaped dish). Cover the bottom of the dish with one layer of potato circles, arranged in a spiral of overlapping potato slices. Next, layer the zucchini and tomatoes,  then pour the bell peppers over the tomatoes.  Take the onions and garlic off the pan and top off the vegetable stack.
  5. Pour the egg/milk mixture over the vegetables, leaving a 1/2 inch or an 1 inch between the top of your vegetables/eggs and the top of the dish.
  6. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the mixture.
  7. Place dish in the oven and let bake/broil for about 45 minutes.  I think it took an hour for our eggs to set completely in the middle, but it really depends on your oven.  Check the dish at 30 minutes, because it could be fully cooked.
  8. When the eggs are firm and have started to brown around the edges, remove from oven and check center of dish to see if it is fully cooked.
  9. Cut into wedges and serve with hot sauce.

Enjoy!

  • What about you? Have you ever made a frittata?
  • Did you roast the vegetables beforehand?
  • What side dishes do you usually serve with frittatas?
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