Meet Usha from Veg Inspirations this week in the Super blogger series. Inspired by her mom, grandmom and mother-in-law Usha also creates magic in her cooking. She has been steadily posting interesting recipes and is almost about to touch 200 recipes on her blog. Read more about her
EC: Tell us something about yourself
Usha: Thank you EC for giving me this opportunity. My blog Veg Inspirations is almost 2 years old, it turns 2 this May. I started the blog with an idea of sharing some of the healthy recipes that I make in my kitchen. I have always been very health conscious but in the last few years I have really ramped up my efforts to eat right. I make a special effort to use healthy ingredients like oatmeal, barley, ragi, quinoa in my cooking now and I try and cook as low fat and healthy as possible. I find that there is no better way to include healthy grains in our diet than to use these items in our usual day to day recipes such as idlis, dosas, soups, bread or even cookies. When it is seamlessly incorporated in our daily food, we never notice that we are eating something healthy and it becomes much easier to maintain healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle over a long period of time. I blog about the simple healthy day to day recipes that I try in my own kitchen and that is liked by my family and friends.
EC: Who and what inspired you to start food blogging ?
Usha: Food blogging happened to me quite by chance, I was always been trying out new dishes and new ideas in my own kitchen and one day it suddenly struck me that a blog would be a good place for me to record some of these experiments. My husband also encouraged me a lot to give it a try and I decided to take the plunge. Once I started blogging, I got completely hooked on to it and now it has become a part of my life.
EC: You have a lot of vegan recipes on your blog..How do feel cooking vegan food and do you wish to turn completely vegan in the future..If so why ?
Usha: I have always been a vegetarian and consider myself a sometime vegan. In regular day to day recipes, it is easy to make vegan recipes as most food I cook do not require cheese or other diary products. But baking usually requires a lot of diary products, nowadays when I bake, I try and veganize most recipes and try and avoid eggs and butter and substitute with healthier choices like flax seeds and vegan butter or oil. I would like to cook vegan whenever I can, as it is more humane, as to the future and whether I become completely vegan, only time will tell :-)
EC: You seemed to have tried a various Indian regional cuisines and International cuisines as well..Which is the simplest of them all and which is your favourite ?
Usha: I find most recipes, both Indian and International simple. As to favorites I have to say that since I have grown up eating Indian food, I find Indian cuisine to be the most comforting.
EC: Which recipe would you recommend for a first time baker and which are the important points to remember while baking
Usha: My recommendation for a first time baker would be to start baking with something simple. Something like this wheat barley cracker which is as simple as making roti or this basic simple pav would probably be a good place to start. At the beginning when you are new to baking I would suggest sticking close to the recipe, deviating very little and keeping the proportions as much as possible. After getting the hang of it and understanding the role of each ingredient in the final product, it becomes much easier to create entirely new recipes and making major changes to existing recipes.
EC: What are your recipe sources ?
Usha: Some of the recipes on my site are ones that I have learned from my mother in law, some from friends and other members of my family, some from books and some that I create entirely on my own. Most times these days, I just kind of create recipes from the top of my head, depending on the ingredients I have on hand.
EC: What important changes has blogging brought in your life ?
Usha: One of the most important facets of blogging is this wonderful blogging community that I have gotten acquainted with, there are so many wonderful bloggers out there who are creative and who share their passion, their ideas and spend time visiting sites and in encouraging others too. The other thing is that even though I have always been quite open to experimenting with food, I find that blogging has helped me to push my boundaries a little more and become a little more daring with my experiments in the kitchen.
EC: Your favourite vegetarian recipe
Usha: It is very difficult to decide on one recipe that is my favorite vegetarian recipe, but if I had to I would choose this Instant Ragi Oat Idli because it represents best, the type of food I love most, which is food that is very healthy, very tasty and simple :-)
I love the Mission District in San Francisco. Today check out my picks for the Mission's"sweetest eats" on Frommers.com. As soon as Bi-Rite Creamery reopens, I will do another post on all the fabulous ice cream to be found there too. My top picks are Mitchell's, Humphry Slocumbe, Bombay Bazaar and Bi-Rite. What are yours?
Like any other holidays, Easter is celebrated within US with equal gusto, as it heralds Spring into most parts of the country. However, Easter is always extra special for kids, as they have lots more activities to do compared to some other festivals. Right from Easter bunnies to Easter Egg Hunts, to colorful costumes and flavorful candies, there are tonnes of family activities to engage your tiny tots, the most preferred one being Making Chocolate Eggs! Though its customary to dye egg shells, kids are more excited to make Chocolate eggs which they can relish at the end, rather than make painted eggs. This simple recipe is a great way to start your kids on early in the Easter fun! [photo courtesy of Woman's Day magazine]
How To Make Chocolate Easter Eggs
The basic recipe calls for using baking chocolate and some egg-shaped moulds to make your chocolate eggs - a great way to use up some wholesale chocolate, by the way! Then how you decorate them is all your choice. There are tonnes of edible Easter decorations available in markets today - you can just buy whatever suits your theme and stick them onto your finished eggs. From flowers and birds to simple candy dots and sticklers, you will definitely find something to suit your budget, and your child's fancy. So let your child's imagination run wild, and help them create their edible Easter masterpieces!
Instructions 1. Melt the Chocolate first by placing it into a small bowl which you place inside a larger bowl which has some hot water in it (double-boiler method) Be careful not to get any water into chocolate as this will make the chocolate go wrong and not set properly.
2. While the chocolate is melting clean out the Chocolate Egg mould using a small amount of cotton wool.
3. When the chocolate is melted and has no lumps, pick up the large brush and start painting the inside of the Chocolate Egg moulds. Once you have coated the whole of the inside of the mould with chocolate, place it into the fridge for five minutes. Repeat as many times as you like, forming a thick layer inside the mould. Leave it in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to set firmly.
4. Once set, you can remove the egg from the mould. Place the mould upside-down onto the table and give a gentle tap on the top. Then gently lift the mould and the egg will stay back on the table.
Decorating the Chocolate Eggs Mix up some royal icing in a pot, add tints of colors to make leaves or flowers, and then fill this into separate icing bags. Use proper icing attachment and pipe your desired shapes onto the chocolate eggs. You can also stick some ready-made edible Easter decorations by sticking them onto the eggs using royal icing as glue.
Budding blogger series introduces new bloggers (those blogging for less than a year) every wednesday and promotes their blogs through Simple Indian Food. If you are interested in being a part of this series, please mail me a short description about your blog, the cuisine you specialize and your objective/inspiration in blogging to email@example.com.
Meet Vidhya from Vidhu's kitchen this week in the Budding blogger series. Hardly 2 months into blogging - yet variety food on her blog..Dont miss her Guava sorbet recipe..
Vidhya says -
Although I am blogging since Aug'09, I started posting recipes from december onwards. .. I am a house wife with 2 kids.. I started cooking when I was 15 ..it is my passion.. My husband encourages me a lot to try new recipes which I usually gets from magazines, net..You can find vegetarian recipe varieties in my blog.
My mom is an excellent cook. So I too got interested in trying various recipes..Hopefully I will contribute my best and pls encourage me with all your comments.
There's nothing like a plate of hot Palak-Methi Muthiyas with a cup of Chai on a rainy evening! And as its been pouring down here since quite a few days, we got a chance to enjoy some lazy yet delicious food that can help you lift the gloom! These Muthiyas are made with spinach and fenugreek leaves, which are then mixed with some flour, spices and onion, then rolled into logs, steamed and cooked, and finally sauteed with some seasoning. Garnished with chopped cilantro and shredded coconut, these steamed dumplings are packed with flavor, and are really high in nutrition! You can choose not to saute them at all, in which case, you can feast on a satisfying oil-free snack which any diet plan would be proud to include! They taste fabulous with Chutneys on the side, but I love having them with a cup of sweet and spicy Masala Chai! Ingredients 1 bunch spinach leaves, chopped 1/2 bunch fenugreek leaves (methi) - chopped 1 1/2 tsp green chili-ginger paste 4 tbsp whole wheat flour 2 tbsp bengal gram flour (besan) 2 tbsp semolina (rawa) 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera) 1/4 tsp soda-bi-carb 3 tbsp oil 1 tsp chopped garlic 2 tbsp finely chopped onion (optional) 1 tbsp lemon juice 1 1/2 tbsp fresh cream 2 tbsp chopped coriander salt to taste
Method In a bowl, combine the fenugreek and spinach leaves. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt, mix it well and squeeze out all the liquid (if using frozen and thawed). Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and knead into a soft dough, using warm water. Do not make it too liquid; somewhere between a cake batter and a cookie dough.
Apply a little oil on your hands and divide the mixture into 3 parts. Now roll each part into a log. Then take a steam cooker (idli-steamer) and place all 3 logs into it. Steam for about 15-20 mins, till the outer layer becomes a little hard, and a toothpick inserted into the center of each log comes out clean.
Alternately, use a regular large pot filled with boiling water; place an inverted stell bowl inside, and balance a steel plate(thali) on the top, then place your logs on the thali. Cover with a lid, and allow to get cooked with the steam.
Once done, remove the logs and let them cool a little till they can be handled by hand. Now slice them into 1/2 inch thick oval slices or rounds.
Take 2 tbsp oil in a wok; add some mustard seeds to it. When they start spluttering, add the steamed muthiya slices to the wok. Toss around to coat evenly, then sprinkel with some shredded coconut and chopped coriander.
Serve the Palak-Methi Muthiyas with hot Tea or green cilantro chutney for a delicious light low-fat snack!
Remember last year I told you about my friend Matthew Amster-Burton's book Hungry Monkey? I told you it was funny and smart and filled with terrific recipes and that even if like me, you didn't have kids, you would still love it. If you read the book, then you know I didn't steer you wrong. Now I'm going to tell you about another book, by another friend. It's Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon "Gordonzola" Edgar. And even though it's about cheese, you don't have to love to cheese to enjoy the book.
Because I was a big fan of the cheese department at Rainbow Grocery, I interviewed Gordon for KQED several years ago and was surprised to learn we went to the same high school. Since then I've been impressed with how knowledgeable, funny and what a great writer he is, in addition to being a great cheesemonger of course. So I am particularly happy to tell you his first book is just as wonderful as he is. The book combines humor, politics and all things cheese, especially the stories behind cheeses you may know and cheeses you will certainly seek out after reading the book. I had cheese on the brain while reading the book and it gently steered me away from some of my usual picks over to some more interesting ones. Hello, Explorateur!
As was the case with Matthew's book, by the end of the first chapter I was laughing out loud. Not that the whole book is humorous but it is completely engaging and delves into local issues, food issues, the world of retail, all with a bit of punk rock and political activism thrown in for good measure. If you enjoy Gordon's blog, Gordonzola you are bound to appreciate the book as well.
EVENT: Thursday, February 25, 2010 from 7:00pm - 10:00pm at Books Inc. 1760 Fourth Street in Berkeley
Gordon will be signing books at a book launch party. Cheese will be provided by the Epicurean Connection. I will be there and hope you can make it too!
If you have been to Greece, you probably know the famous souvlaki! It is cubes of pork meat on a stick, grilled, and then served either wrapped in a pita bread with tomato, onions and tzatziki, or on a plate with all of the above. Tzatziki is a typical Greek sauce with yogurt, garlic, and cucumber.
Andrea Nguyen is a cookbook author who has demystified making Asian dumplings and recreating Vietnamese food in your own kitchen. Woven in between her recipes are stories about family, culture, traditions and faraway places. But aside from being such a talented author, it's great to spend time with Andrea. She exudes enthusiasm and positive energy. She also has a wonderful laugh and can talk about food for hours. Here are the 13 reasons why she cooks. I bet some of her reasons will ring true for you too...
My mother started me out cooking when she deemed me old enough to make rice for our family dinner. I was about 8 years old. By then, she and my father had observed that their chubby youngest daughter was an enthusiastic eater. Why not see if she can cook too? After all, it’s part of being a good, well-rounded super woman. My mother, now 75, is not only beautiful, but socially graceful. Her hair is constantly coifed, her nails are perfect (she does them herself), and her clothing is custom-made by her. She still cooks 99% of the meals that she and my dad eat. I don’t aspire to be my mother but she did get me on the road to cooking and seeded my culinary curiosity.
I’m a cookbook author, writer, and cooking teacher, not a chef. I feel awkward being called a chef because I don’t practice my craft in a restaurant. I describe myself as a ‘professional home cook’ as my workspace is a regular kitchen equipped with a modest Sears stove. I don’t put out food on an industrial scale and my adrenaline rush to ‘fire’ a dish and send it out to the table is because I want to sit down to eat with my family and friends.
Though I’ve cooked for decades, I don’t foresee myself stopping. Why continue to mince, simmer, sauté, grill, pound and clean up after myself? Here are a baker’s dozen reasons for why I cook:
1. I get hungry and eat three meals a day.
2. There are no Asian street vendors or noodle joints outside my door.
3. Homemade food is tastier than purchased food.
4. A meal you cook yourself costs less and you can freeze leftovers.
5. A pot of rice or pho makes the house smell nice.
6. You can dial in your personal food preferences when you cook for yourself.
7. When I eat a bad dish out, I feel compelled to make it up to my palate by preparing a better version of that dish at home.
8. To see if I can replicate a professional chef’s brilliance.
9. To get a feel for traditional foodways and experience an old-fashioned cook’s craft.
10. Repeatedly making the same recipes allows me to work through unfamiliar techniques.
11. The more I cook, the better I write better recipes.
12. To preserve cultural traditions, lest they disappear.
13. Cooking calms and centers me. I turn off Twitter.
It's traditional to serve leg of lamb or a crown roast for special occasions, but there are other cuts of lamb that are perfect for any old time, like lamb chops. Lamb loin chops are low in fat and an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc and selenium. Best of all, lamb loin chops are super easy to prepare. You can grill them, broil them or cook them in a skillet in just minutes.
Sometimes simpler is better. There are recipes loading lamb chops up with ingredients such as herbs, bread crumbs, mustard and blue cheese or smothering them in rich wine sauces studded with dried fruit. But for a weeknight meal, you really can't go wrong with marinated lamb chops. My basic marinade uses balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. I like Worcestershire sauce because it has lots of umami and boosts the mild yet meaty flavor of American lamb. Because they are so tender and succulent, I serve just one 4-5 ounce loin chop per person.
The American Lamb Board has proclaimed February to be Lamb Lover's Month. In celebration, they sent me some fresh lamb chops and I put together an easy recipe that is great for when you don't have much time on your hands. I served my lamb loin chops with some delicata squash drizzled with maple syrup, a big spinach salad with blue cheese and pecans and some long grain red rice.
When it comes to pairing wine with lamb loin chops, you have many choices, while Syrah is considered a classic match, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon can work too, depending upon the preparation. You can find more lamb recipes on the American Lamb website...or find a silly t-shirt on the Fans of Lamb site.
Marinated Lamb Loin Chops Serves 4
4 lamb loin chops, about 4-5 ounces each 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar Olive oil
Combine the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar in a bowl or jar. Place the chops in a zip top plastic bag and add the marinade. Squeeze out as much air as you can and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes but no more than 2 hours in advance of cooking.
Remove the lamb chops from the marinade and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Let chops come to room temperature (about 20-30 minutes).
Heat cast iron or heavy skillet over medium heat until hot. Drizzle chops with olive oil and cook for 3 minutes per side or until medium-rare (145 degrees). Remove lamb chops from pan and let sit loosely covered with aluminum foil for 5 minutes. Alternatively you can broil the chops for 3 minutes per side, then allow to rest.