About Me

Hello. I started this blog to write about what I do in my chosen profession : a housewife. Some day I might cook or bake something interesting and enlist my 2 year old to help, on another day I make something from scratch instead of buying it from the store and sometimes I craft with my daughter. Once in a while, we travel or have a fun day outside. I am also doing what I can to recycle and reduce waste. I am still learning all of this and documenting my journey through this blog

Indo Chinese - Veggie fried rice and mushrooms in sweet and sour gravy

Almost everybody from India loves Indo-Chinese food which is the Indian version of Chinese food. The predominant flavors in this type of food are from ginger, garlic and soya sauce. Whats not to love about that. I, for one, love my ginger and garlic and in my opinion they just make everything taste better.
This is the perfect meal for a cold evening when you want something comforting, while making your taste buds sing.

Usually, Chinese food falls in the same category as greasy fast food. But by making it at home, it can actually qualify as a healthy meal. I have loaded up the fried rice with lots of vegetables (almost as many vegetables as the rice). Instead of deep fried manchurian, I used sauteed vegetables in a gravy.
Although, the meal is healthy, it does not skimp on flavor one bit. As long as you take care of the aromatics (ginger, garlic, onions) and the flavorings (chilies, soy sauce, vinegar), your dish will be satisfying and delicious while remaining healthy.

Vegetable fried rice with sweet and sour Mushroom gravy
Fried rice with sweet and sour Mushrooms

These recipes yield 4 servings.

Vegetable Fried Rice

1 1/3 cup rice
1 inch ginger piece
4 big garlic cloves
1 green chili
1 onion
3 spring onions
2 carrots
1/4 cup chopped green beans
1/4 cup edamame (fresh soy beans)
1/2 large bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped spinach
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar or white vinegar or lemon juice
  • Cook the rice and spread on a plate to cool. The rice needs to be completely cold. Stale rice from the refrigerator works great here.
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil and add the minced ginger and garlic along with a chopped green chili and onion. Also add the white bulb of the spring onions. Saute for about a minute or two.
  • Add chopped carrots and green beans. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the edamame and bell pepper. Cover for 5 minutes to cook the edamame.
  • Add the spinach, soy sauce, cooled rice and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Mix everything up well. Add the spring onion greens and vinegar or lemon juice. I used apple cider vinegar.
  • Mix it up. Cover and let it sit with the heat off for about 5 minutes to let the flavors mingle.
  • I use organic frozen edamame because soy tends to be a common GMO crop. Instead of edamame, peas can be used.
  • I used spinach because it needed to be used up but cabbage is more authentic. In case cabbage is used, add it in with the edamame.
  • While you can mix up the vegetables, using bell pepper, spring onions and cabbage in addition to the aromatics, will give an authentic tasting fried rice.

The sweet and sour mushroom gravy has a lot more intense flavor compared to the fried rice which has a mellower flavor. The diners can adjust the spiciness and flavor by adding as much or as little gravy to the rice as per their taste.

Mushrooms in Sweet and Sour Gravy

1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 inch ginger piece
5 large garlic cloves
1 big onion
1 big bell pepper
3 green chilies
3 spring onions
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
2 cups water
  • Heat a teaspoon of oil and add the chopped mushrooms. Cook them till the water evaporates from the mushrooms and they start to caramelize. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and keep aside. This step is optional and mushrooms can be added with the rest of the vegetables. I do this because I like mushrooms cooked this way instead of spongy mushrooms.
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pan and add minced ginger and garlic along with chopped onion, green chilies, spring onion whites and bell pepper. Saute for a few minutes till the onions and peppers begin to soften.
  • Add a tablespoon of tomato paste or 1/4 cup of tomato puree. Cook it for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the soy sauce and sugar along with 2 cups of water and the caramelized mushrooms.
  • Make a paste of corn starch and water and add it to the pan while stirring.
  • Cook the gravy till it thickens.
  • Add some vinegar if the tomatoes are not sour enough. Garnish with spring onion greens.
I used to add tomato ketchup instead of tomato paste to the gravy earlier but I found that I can get a much better flavor by adding tomato paste and sugar instead. This way I can really control the sourness and sweetness instead of going by the inherent taste of ketchup which is a lot more sweet.

Creamy Broccoli Soup (without cream or cheese)

I am thinking of trying a new soup every week for the last leg of winter. Last week, I made broccoli soup. There was a 2 for 1 sale for broccoli at my local grocery store. So I had 2 bunches of fresh broccoli that needed to be used up. Most of the broccoli went into this soup and the rest went into making broccoli paratha (along the lines of stuffed gobi paratha). I have to say, these two are our favorite ways of eating broccoli. No one in our house likes eating whole broccoli florets no matter how they are prepared. :)

I had garnished the soup with a bit of grated cheddar cheese but the soup itself was so creamy, we felt it was totally unnecessary. The pureed potatoes and broccoli add so much creaminess to the soup. I also added some whole milk to bring the creaminess up a notch and also take the "vegetabley" flavor down. The best part about the soup is the surprise spice hint of cumin. It is unexpected and really took the soup from great to delicious.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

1 small broccoli
4 smallish potatoes
4 large garlic cloves
1 large onion
2 carrots
1/2 bouillon cube or equivalent stock
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup milk

  • Cut the broccoli into florets. Chop the tender stems.
  • Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and add chopped onion and garlic. Add the chopped carrots and potatoes after a couple of minutes.
  • Add broccoli and saute for a few minutes. Add enough water or stock (if using) to barely cover the vegetables.
  • Pressure cook for 1 whistle (about 10 minutes). Once cool enough, puree the vegetables and return to the pressure cooker.
  • Add the bouillon cube, cumin powder, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the milk and the soup is ready to serve. We loved the soup with some croutons for crunch.

Valentines for kids - Chocolate coated Pretzel heart treats

In my last post, I wrote that I made chocolate covered pretzel hearts as Valentines for my daughter's classmates last year. I thought today is the perfect day to write about them. They are a nice treat to snack on Valentines Day.
They are quite easy to make, infact it is not so much about making them as it is assembling them. I used a bag of small pretzels also called "tiny twists". They kind of look like tiny hearts.

I made my assembly line of pretzels, melted almond bark (white chocolate substitute) and red sugar sprinkles.

Going down my assembly line, I take a pretzel and dip it in the white candy coating. I use a fork to lift it out and let the excess drip back into the bowl. While the pretzel is still on the fork, I dip one side in the red sugar. Finally I lay the pretzel (sugar side up) on a foil lined sheet (for easy clean up).

When the almond bark starts to thicken, zap it in the microwave for half a minute or so till it gets nice and flowy again. Once I had my tray full of pretzels coated with the candy and sugar, I gave it some time to set up. Then I used the melted almond bark as glue to attach an M&M at the center of the pretzel. That gave it a more heart like appearance by hiding the center pretzel shape.

To package the pretzel treats, I used clear treat bags because the treats were too pretty not to show off ;) I used heart doilies as pretty labels. After adding a few pretzels to the bags, I folded the top of the bags down and punched two holes in it. I passed the string that came with the heart doilies through the two holes and tied the doilies to the treat bags.

It was a time consuming job to get a couple of trayfuls of the pretzel treats. The end result was totally pretty and delicious. My daughter still remembers these treats.

Valentines for kids - Homemade Playdough (without cream of tartar)

This is 'Valentines Day' week and all the kids (rather their parents) must have put together the valentines to hand out to their classmates. Last year was the first time we were doing Valentines since my daughter started preschool. I always like to give homemade stuff whenever I can. Last year we gave pretzel hearts, which I might have to write about in a different post.

This year, we decided on play-dough. My daughter is a big fan of play-dough like most kids her age. I was thinking of making a homemade version ever since I saw about it somewhere on the internet. I finally got down to actually making it after just thinking about making the play-dough for months :)

I looked at several play-dough recipes and almost all used cream of tartar. I did try to find it at the grocery store. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough because I could not find it. So I had to look for recipes without cream of tartar. I read somewhere that cream of tartar is an acidic substance which is the residue from wine making. It is basically used in play-dough as sort of a preservative. Vinegar would work as a substitute for cream of tartar if used in thrice the quantity.

This dough is really better than the store bought doughs that we have used before. It is very flexible and does not dry out fast. It lacks some sturdiness of the less flexible doughs. But it was sturdy enough to make this doll which my husband and daughter fought over to make :)
homemade playdough
The daughter also loved using cookie cutters on the dough. I gave her my mini christmas cookie cutters.

Homemade Play-dough
adapted from The Daily Smash

I made the playdough with 5 cups flour but I had to cook it in 2 batches because stirring that amount of dough is very difficult. So I am halving the recipe here. It still makes a lot of play-dough. It has been a week since I made the play-dough and it is still as good as day one.
The changes I made to the original recipe was that I added vanilla and butter flavoring for a nice smelling play dough. I had them lying around in my cake decorating kit. The other was in the method. I will add a few more details which helped me during the making of the play dough.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cup salt
4 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
5 tablespoons oil
1/2 tbsp vanilla and/or butter flavoring
  • Mix all the ingredients together (starting with the wet ingredients, adding the flour at the end) along with a few drops of food coloring of your choice. I used yellow and red gel food colors. I was going for red playdough and I used all that I had (half bottle) and still ended up with kind of flesh colored play-dough. Red is notoriously difficult to achieve with food coloring. I read that using a little yellow will make it easier but then I ran out of red color to really test this theory.
  • Add all the flour even if you think no more can be accommodated. Knead the flour in if you have to.
  • Turn the heat on and cook the dough on low heat. The dough will start to pull away from the pan. I kept the heat between 3 and 1 on the stove with a range of 0-10. Higher heat will cause dough clumps. 
  • Add glitter and keep stirring the dough.
  • Cook the dough till it is no longer sticky. Determining this is a little difficult for the first time. The dough might not feel sticky when pinching between two fingers. I took it off the heat twice and tried to knead it but both times the dough felt a bit sticky while kneading so I cooked it a bit more.
  • Take the cooked dough off the heat and knead it till it gets elastic and smooth.

To package the play-dough to give out as Valentines for the daughter's classmates, I used Valentine colored zip top treat bags from Michaels.

I used my 1/3 cup measure to scoop out the dough and then flattened it into a circle. I cut out a heart template from a piece of paper and used it to cut the circle into a heart shape. I put that heart shaped play-dough in the treat bag and zipped it close.
I then cut out some hearts and rectangles from pink construction paper to write labels on. I stuck the labls on the bags with pieces of tape folded on itself to create a double sided tape.

Lentil Soup (whole masoor soup)

I have been making a lot of soups the last few months. This lentil soup is my favourite soup to make and eat. It is comforting and filling like soups and lentils usually are. We love it with a slice of baguette and call it a meal. Today is one of those days that is perfect for this soup. It is cloudy, rainy and cold. I just soaked the lentils to make this for lunch and I am so looking forward to it.

I cannot stand the smell and taste of raw celery. The only place I use celery is in this soup (maybe a few other soups too!) because I think the soup just tastes perfect with the celery in it. I peel and very finely chop the celery so I just get the flavor of celery in the soup but not a chunk of it. I do the peeling and chopping for all the celery that I buy and place it in the freezer. So I have to deal with the smell of it just once and then I can just use the prepared celery from the freezer.

Lentil Soup

masoor soup

1 cup whole masoor dal
1 onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
3 carrots
3 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 boullion cube
1/2 lemon
1/2 bouillon cube
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
  • Wash and soak the lentils for a couple of hours. This step is optional. Lentils will just take longer to cook if not soaked.
  • Heat olive oil in a pot. Add chopped onion, celery, garlic and carrots. Saute on med-low heat till the onions are translucent.
  • Add tomato paste, coriander and cumin powders and cook till the raw smell is gone from the paste. Add a couple teaspoons of water if needed.
  • Add the lentils and bouillon cube. Add salt (about a teaspoon) and a cup of water.
  • Cover and cook for about 20 minutes till the lentils are completely cooked. If unsoaked lentils were used, it might take about half an hour.
  • Add juice of half a lemon, italian seasoning and pepper.
  • Grill a slice of baguette with some olive oil and get ready to dig in.