Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cool Kitchen Tips

Often times in kitchen and quite absentmindedly at that, I use some of the tips by mom and other cooking-loving-cool-women I know. Talking to Heena and Urmi recently at two different times, I realized that not everyone knows of those so I thought I'd start sharing them and in turn collecting them on here.

  1. This one I just used right now, and it reminded me to create this post. So you know how after you cut a pineapple your hands are left with this invisible sticky stuff that just won't wash away despite of using soap and scrubber and hot water? Well, the answer is here. Take a spoonful (choose tea/table according to how large your hands are) of salt and rub-rub-rub your hands just with salt for several seconds, then wash away with regular tap water to wave good-bye to the sticky hands!!
  2. Another fun tip is about keeping your guacamole or mashed avocado green. I've seen that most people tend to add lemon/lime juice to keep it green but that's not the only thing you can do. After you peel and mash the avocado, don't throw away the seeds. Leaving those large round seeds of avocado immersed in the guacamole will keep it green for longer than usual. Be sure to not eat the seed by mistake. Don't even bother to lick it. It is extremely dangerous. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!! I say this because I tried licking it and almost swallowed it and it scared the living daylights out of everyone around, including myself.
  3. Ultra thin peels of garlic are annoying to peel when you have to peel the garlic quickly at last minute or even a large quantity. Putting the entire blub of garlic in microwave for 5-7 seconds and then peeling it will be like magic! Give it a try yourself. 
  4. While cutting onion, to avoid teary, burning eyes, keep a piece of bread in your mouth. The day I tried this, I was amazed to see that I couldn't feel any irritation in the eyes because of the onions being cut. Works like a charm!

I guess I will come back and update the list later when I am reminded of another cool tip from the kitchen.

Happy cooking!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Soft pretzels

I usually stay away from strange looking foods at the airport. Pretzel was one of them so I had never really tried it until about six months ago when I was flying back home from PHL. I had to bring some food with me on the flight for my 6+ hours long flight. I saw warm pretzels and was tempted to try one. After ensuring it was meat-less (as they did seem to have the pretzel dogs, like the hotdogs, too) I got one for myself. There was mustard on the counter too so I picked up a couple of pouches of that. Once on the flight, I got a chance to try out my soft pretzel with mustard and OH-MY-GOD I was instantly converted into a BIG pretzel lover. Ever since then, Auntie Anne’s and all other soft pretzel places have been THE MOST exciting junk foodie place ever!!

So when I saw Catherine’s recipe for home-made pretzels, I was a total game for it. I got all the material from the grocery store. I (kind of intentionally) forgot the salt granules. Who wants too much salt any ways, right? So I skipped that step in the process but boy! am I glad I tried this one. I will definitely make some changes to the original steps for my next batch. Oh and I cut the ingredients in half as I was still experimenting and didn't want to have half a dozen pretzels sitting around waiting to be thrown in garbage.

Once ready, I ended up devouring two of them with warm butter and mustard sauce.
Modified version:



1 cup warm water (about 100°f- it will be warm, not hot to the touch)
½ tablespoon honey
Half a packet of ¼ -ounce dry active yeast
2 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoons salt
½ tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
¾ cups water, room temperature
½ tablespoon baking soda

Method modification:

I will bake them for 10-12 mins. 15 mins made them a bit darker. I will leave them sitting around for 1.5 hours in step 6. The baking soda + water combo made it a bit drier on the surface so I had to butter them a bit more. Will definitely not skip the salt sprinkle step as I did this time.



2 cups warm water (bout 100°f- it will be warm, not hot to the touch)
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/4-ounce packet dry active yeast
4 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
1 tablespoon baking soda




1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the water and honey. Sprinkle the yeast over the water mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
4. Slowly add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture. Stir until combined and the dough forms a soft ball (adding more flour if the dough is too sticky), about 5 minutes.*
5. Rinse out the mixing bowl and then grease it with the oil.
6. Place the dough in the greased bowl and turn it to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest at room temperature for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
7. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead two or three times to remove air bubbles.
8. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces. Keep the dough covered with a kitchen towel when you’re not working with it.
9. Roll each piece of dough into a 12-inch long rope.
10. Make a U-shape with the dough rope. Pick up each end and cross one hand over the other and press loose ends onto bottom of U to make a pretzel shape.
11. Place pretzels on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and let them rest for 10 minutes.
12. Stir together the water and baking soda. Brush the pretzels with the baking soda and water mixture (if you don't have a brush, you can dip your finger in the liquid and rub it on).
13. Sprinkle pretzels with salt and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly brown.
*This can be done by hand or using an electric mixer fitted with dough hook attachment.

Grilled Corn & Green Bell Pepper Salad

Ever since I've started exploring, I have been wanting to try out some of the recipes. Having more than 20 corns sitting around was just the thing I needed. So I searched the site for corn recipes and went with this one as it was late lunch time and this one seemed the quickest. Plus I had majority of the ingredients so that helped. I skipped a couple of ingredients and used the griddle pan to roast the veggies. It turned out delicious and was finished in less than 30 mins. I will definitely be making it again. Hopefully with the mozzarella balls next time or even cooked black beans.

Modified version:


3 ears of corn
1 large green bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1 tsp dried parsley leaves
3 tablespoons oil
juice of ½ lemon
1 cup mozzarella balls, cut into quarters


Remove the kernels from corn cobs with a sharp knife. On a cast iron griddle pan set to medium-high heat, add 2 tbsp of oil and corn kernels to roast for 6-8 mins on until well roasted stirring it often. Set aside. Roast the diced green bell pepper for 6-8 mins with 1 tbsp of oil in the same pan. Set aside.

Mix the roasted corn kernels, roasted bell pepper and onion. Add in paprika powder, salt, parsley leaves, and lemon juice and mix well. Serve warm.


Grilled Corn & Red Pepper Salad  (Serves 4)

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes


4 ears of corn
2 large red peppers, seeds removed and cut into quarters
¼ cup red onion, diced
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup mozzarella balls, cut into quarters


1. Preheat grill.
2. Grill corn and peppers for 6 minutes and set aside to cool.*
3. Remove the corn kernels from the cobs and dice the red peppers.
4. Place the corn and peppers in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and combine.
5. Serve.
*You can remove the skin of the red peppers if they are charred.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the best things about cooking is when people praise you and request you to make things for them. That's how this one got started. Meera wanted to eat chocolate chip cookies and I told her we'll bake them at home. Earlier we had tried some chocolate chip cookies that our friend, Seema made. They were pretty darn good so that was definitely motivating. So after hunting for the right version and looking at several different versions of the recipe, I decided to pick this one. And of course, as I like to make modifications to original recipes, I couldn't help but modify this one too. I've put the text of original recipe at the bottom for reference.

My modified version:


2 oz butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 large tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
¼ tsp salt

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tbsp walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together. Add yogurt one tablespoon at a time and vanilla. Dissolve baking soda and salt in hot water and add to the mixture. Add in flour, chocolate chips and nuts. Drop large tbsp full of cookie dough on baking sheet covered pan.

Bake for 20-25 mins at 350 degrees F or until golden brown.


    1 cup butter, softened
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    2 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons hot water
    ½ teaspoon salt
    2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
    1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans.

Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.

Original recipe:

Potato & Broccoli Soup

This soup has been a big hit over winter season. I made this at least 3-4 times during this past winter. The soup is quite filling and you can eat it with bread/toast for lunch or dinner.

Soup ingredients:

3 small potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
diced broccoli same amount as diced potatoes

4-6 tbsp oil
salt to taste
1½ tsp red pepper
1½ tsp black pepper
1½ to 2 oz blue cheese

Vegetable broth ingredients:

3-4 leaves cabbage
1 small potato
1 small or ½ big onion (same as potato)
1 piece of dudhi/lauki (same as potato)
4 cups of water


Boil all the vegetable broth ingredients in pressure cooker for 5-6 whistles. Once done, let it cool bit and blend it well in blender and set aside.

Put oil in large pan on medium-high heat.
Add potatoes and onions and sauté for 5 minutes stirring non-stop.
Add broccoli and sauté for another 3 minutes stirring non-stop.

Add in vegetable broth and cheese and stir well. Bring it to boil. Then turn the heat to low and let the soup simmer for 25 minutes.

Afterwards, let is cool just a bit and run all of it through blender once again. Put the blended soup on stove to simmer again and add both peppers and salt to taste. Serve hot!

Note: I'm trying to find the source of the original recipe but am not able to find it. Will share it as soon as I'm able.

Bread dipping sauce with sun-dried tomatoes

Ever since the first time Meera tried this bread dripping sauce at Pasta Primavera she has been crazy about it. In the past I experimented once to try to make something similar and gave up as I couldn't find anything that had similar ingredients that I thought the sauce had. So today when she said we'll stop by to the cafe to pick up a tub of sauce, I told her I'll try to make it at home for her and if she doesn't like it, then we can go pick it up at the restaurant. I googled some recipes and was disappointed to find more than 90% of the recipes with cream cheese or something similar. I almost gave up and decided to look once more and voila! I found it!! I just made two batches of it as I had to decide how much salt to add. Eventually ended up mixing the two batches because first one had a little bit of more salt in it. Adding the two made it so much better and in less than 10 mins, half of the bowl is already empty. ;)

Here's what I used:


2-3 tbsp julienne sun-dried tomatoes (you can get the whole or paste also)

½ cup of olive oil
¼ tsp dried rosemary leaves
¼ tsp dried basil leaves
¼ tsp dried thyme (I didn't have this so skipped it)
salt to taste
¼ tsp black pepper


Added sun-dried tomatoes to olive oil. Mix the dry spices and add them to the olive oil mix. Run it through blender to mix it. Serve right away or after 4-5 hours. I added little extra olive oil so that it can be stored for a day or so, until it's all gone! ;)

Original recipe: