Saturday, December 29, 2007
It was a revelation to see the amount of butter used in this genre of cooking. I thought it would be a lot healthier that it was. I also wasn't excited about the fact that all our dishes (veggie, salmon and chicken) landed up tasting pretty much the same, with a lot of teriyaki sauce.
However, it was fun to see the fiery volcano the cook set up (see photo). It did freak the kids out just a bit at first. The lunch was well worth the spectacle, though I wouldn't make it a habit (unlike shabu shabu, which I would!)
We went in for an early dinner to Cafe Swish on the UWS. Each spot at the table is set up as a small (very safe) stove, and you order a base (flavored veggie or chicken stock), and a bunch of additions (dumplings, thin slivers of chicken, tofu, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) and noodles. There's a variety of sauces to choose from - even the lettuce "saucers" that the ingredients came in were chomped up once they were dipped in some of the great peanut sauce. As the stock comes to a boil, you pop in each of the additional ingredients you've ordered. You get a small sieve and chop sticks to fish out the cooked ingredients - let the kids drop in the ingredients and fish them out. My kids landed up eating tofu, cabbage and noodles with relish. I'll have to figure out a safe way to set this up at home -- tell me if you have any suggestions!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
While Uppumma can be made with a variety of base ingredients (rava, noodles, chopped up idlis, etc.), the base ingredient used most commonly is Rava (aka Semolina, Sooji). The prep is pretty easy.
- Start by measuring out one cup of rava into a heated pan or pot. Rava tends to be close to white. Roast it till it is golden brown (hope you can see the "before and after" difference in the pix above.) PUT IT ASIDE on a dry plate. Roasting the Rava ensures that you don't end up with a soggy mess at the end of the process!
- Heat about two teaspoons of oil in the pot, and flavor it when hot with a pinch of mustard seeds.
- Chop 1/2 an onion into small cubes. Fry the onions in the oil till they are slightly browned.
- Toss in about 1 cup of mixed veggies, peas or broccoli flowerets. Cook for about 5 minutes
- Add 2 cups of water to the mix, and bring it to a boil. You might also mix it up a bit, replacing 1 cup of water with chicken broth (1 cup water, 1 cup broth.) Using only broth may overpower the dish a bit. Note: Don't be startled by all the roiling and bubbling you'll have when you pour in the liquid into the heated veggies. It's normal....
- Flavor the mix with a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.
- Once the mixture comes to a constant boil, reduce the flame to medium or low, and evenly pour in the rava, continuing to stir.
- The Rava will soak up the liquid in about 2 to 4 minutes, and is ready to serve!
- OPTIONAL: Ghee is a great way to flavor Uppumma. One option is to start with two teaspoons of Ghee. If you're worried about the fattening effects of Ghee (I do!), you can avoid it OR you can just pop a teaspoon of it into the dish while the rava is soaking in the liquids.
I've been intrigued about the anti-cancer food campaigns, having seen one of those extremely hurried PSAs a couple of weeks ago. I didn't get to take down the url - which was convoluted and not very intuitive. The tag line went something like: "Protect your kids from cancer with healthy diets...." Anyone who knows what I'm talking about?
Found a couple of decent articles on good old www, though: in iVillage and truehealth (scrool all the way down to see the recommended foods). As I see it, Broccoli and Blueberries rock.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
...I think you have to be from the subcontinent to truly enjoy it, though. Happily, everything else on the menu is universal and classic!
- Cut the onion so that you have a little less than a quarter set aside
- Chop the larger bit into chunks, and do the same to hal a tomato
- Blend the chunks of tomatoes and onion with a teaspoon each of garlic (diced or paste) and ginger (preferrably the paste)
- Blend till it's just short of a smooth paste
- Chop the rest of the onion into small squares
- Drain the liquid from garbanzo can
Made me think of a simple treat - try it with the kids. Blend a cup of mango pulp (I like Swad's Kesar mango pulp), about a cup of non-fat yogurt and a half-cup of milk. Blend till it's reached a smooth and even consistency. Some optional additions: sugar to taste (don't go past 2 teaspoons, though) or a similar amount of honey. You might also add some Kesar (saffron) - just a thread or two will do the trick.
You can serve it as a drink for the kiddies and grown-ups OR, pour some in pop moulds and freeze for a faux - but yummy- kulfi (an Indian ice cream).
Monday, December 17, 2007
Components of this great dish:
- About 2 pounds of chicken ( ~ 2 breasts, and 2 legs)
- 2 medium onions
- 2 medium tomatoes
- garlic paste
- ginger paste
- bay leaves
- 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach (10 oz each) OR about 2 medium bunches
- Heavy cream (optional)
- Olive oil
- Optional: a cup of chicken broth, One 6oz can of tomato paste
- Start by cubing the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes, and halve the legs. I've found that the curry tastes better when you have some pieces with bones in them, hence the leg pieces.
- Chop the onions into think slices.
- Cube the tomatoes.
- Turmeric, garam masala and chili powder (all available in the cool lil' Indian stores on Lexington and 28th in NYC. For other cities, look for stores that stock regional cooking ingredients.)
- Defrost the spinach. (If you're going with fresh spinach, rinse the spinach BEFORE you chop it up, since you'll lose nutrients if you wash after you chop the leaves.) The reason I prefer frozen spinach is that it's easier to fit into the pot. Fresh spinach will first take up a lot of space, but will settle down as it get's heated up.
- Heat 2 table-spoons of olive oil in a large cooking pot (I love non-stick pots, since you can use less oil.)
- Flavor the oil with a couple of cardamoms, a clove and a large bay-leaf.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Put in a teaspoon-ful of ginger paste and garlic paste, then add in the onion and cook till they are translucent.
- Toss in the tomatoes, and cook till they get separate out into a bit of a sauce-like consistency.
- Put in a large table-spoon of garam masala, a quarter TEA spoon turmeric and stir.
- This is when you make a bit of a decision about chili powder. If you, or the kids, are new to spices, then DON'T use chili powder, but add in a dash of pepper. If you're ready for the taste explosion, I'd suggest about a half teaspoon of it. Stir in well into the onion and tomato mix.
- Mix in the chicken, so that all the pieces are covered in the onion-tomato mix. A good technique is to ladle the mixture to one side of the pot, lay the chicken on the bottom, then move the mixture onto the chicken pieces. Keep going around the pot, till all the chicken is nicely coated with the mixture.
- Let the chicken cook in this mixture for about 15 minutes on a medium flame. Ideally, there will be water coming out of the chicken that keeps it moist. If you're worries, you can pour in a cup of chicken broth.
- Test the chicken (it should be flaky at the end of 15 minutes). Stir in the spinach.
- Let the mixture simmer on a low flame for about 10 minutes.
- Stir in one cup of cream to give the curry a creamy flavor (If you're watching the calories, or can't mix meat and dairy for dietary or religious reasons, you may choose to skip this step, or use the can of tomato paste instead.)
- Take the dish off the heat once the spinach gets very tender and the chicken goes from flaky to very tender.
- Serve with rice.
As with everything, you have a couple of choices to make, depending on your audience and taste. How much chili powder you use can be critical to a good experience (you know you've used too much if your pals all turn a little red! Yogurt is great for mitigating the effects of a flaming curry!). I've also stopped using cream in my cooking, but it makes for a delicious curry.
- Heat 3 teaspoons of butter in a sauce-pan (you can also use olive oil.) Flavor the butter or oil with 2 cardamoms and a clove.
- Toss in a cup and a half of chopped vegetables (I like peas and carrots). Frozen, defrosted vegetables always work, though it's also nice to work with quarter-inch sections of organic baby carrots.
- Saute the veggies for about 5 minutes, then add in 2 cups of rice. Keep stirring. Don't brown the rice, just watch for some of the rice grains so at least half of the rice goes from looking translucent to white.
- Put the rice and veggies into a microwaveable bowl, add 5 cups of water. Cook for 20 minutes and check for the rice to be firm and well-cooked. (see the previous entry for how to ensure cooking to the right consistency).
Rice will get the kids excited, especially if they've helped make it. Here's an easy way to make an aromatic focal point to a yummy meal (thanks to Deepa kunjamma for teaching me the microwave trick!)
- Have the kids help you measure out two cups of rice into a microwaveable bowl. (I like basmati rice, since it won't fall apart and smells beautiful.) Have the kids help you measure in a couple of tea-spoons of olive oil into the rice, and pop in a dash of salt.
- The kids will enjoy measuring and pouring in the water - about 2 and a half cups of water to each cup of rice. So, have them pour in 5 cups of water into the bowl of rice.
- Pop the bowl into the microwave, full power, for 20 minutes.
- Carefully, take out the bowl after the 20 minutes, and stir the rice. If the rice from the bottom of the bowl seems soggy, stir well, then pop the bowl in for another 5 minutes. (Results will vary, depending on your microwave's settings. An easy way to establish the perfect settign would be to start with 15 minutes for 2 cups of rice, then stir to check for cooking. Put in for increments of 5 minutes, till the rice is firm, cooked, and not soggy.)
- The grains of rice should be firm, but well cooked.
The kids will love the aroma. Serve it with yogurt or one of the curries I'll share in a bit.
Remember: set up cooking experiences for kids in a safe spot - away from the stove and microwave, since you don't want them coming in contact with very hot food or dishes. Set them up with a clean working space (and in an area you don't mind getting very, very messy!)
They reminded me of something I'd experimented with a couple of years ago. Now that D&K have their own aprons, they're into the idea of helping make dinner.
The trick is to have the components of this meal all ready on the counter (imagine you're one of those TV chefs.) Last nights, the components were:
- 4 mini pitas
- carrots & mushroom
- French brie
- Slice a small crescent off the top of each pita (the kids have trouble with this). The idea is to open up a small section of the pita, then gently open out the "pocket" of the pita.
- Prep the stuffing: Take about 2 cups of chicken broth (I like the salt-free College inn broth you can get in large tetra-packs), bring to a boil and toss in about a cup of sliced white mushrooms and a cup of chopped baby carrots, cut to half-inch sections. Since mushrooms take a little longer to cook, put them in a couple of minutes before you put in the carrots. Cook for about 10 minutes or till the broth is all absorbed/ evaporated. I prefer the veggies crunchy, and dry. If you like the veggies mushy, go ahead and add more broth and cook longer, but it could make for a soggy meal.
- Brie: You can't go very wrong with Brie. Get one that's billed as a 60% Brie, since it'll be pretty spreadable (it'll have some body, so tell the kids to take big chunks and work it into the pita pocket)
Put a pita pocket on each kid's favorite plate, have them spread in copious amounts of brie inside the pocket. Remind them to be gentle, since you don't want them to tear the pita. Give them a small bowl of the veggies and have them push them into the pocket.
You'll have to help them, of course. But, that's it - a nice, interactive meal, ready to eat!
I've gone online for a couple of years, searching for inspiration as I stand in front of the fridge trying to figure something nice, nutritious and nosh'y for the kiddies. Hopefully, this blog can help other moms...and for that matter, anyone looking for some serendipitous food ideas.
A couple of ways I think of these recipes: by main ingredient (chicken, couscous, rice, etc.), provenance (Indian, Middle East, etc.) and kid category (mid-morning snack, intro to spice, etc.)
As a working mom in NYC, I've tended to make the kitchen and cooking a dynamic part of my time with the kids. They hang out on tall chairs on the other side of the counter, chatting with me, snacking on ingredients, and more and more these days helping me cook! When the kids were younger (...and not quite up to the task of sitting up, etc.!), I would wake up at 5 am and cook up breakfast and lunch before leaving for work. I made sure that I hung out in the morning and fed them breakfast, and used that time to chat about the day, their friends, and bond over their fruit, eggs, cereals.... They still cried copiously as I left and I still ached as I got in the elevator. Knowing they were eating well was one of the many things that got me through the days at work (apart from the cool work I was doing!) Nowadays, I make sure to cook lunch and dinner about 3 days a week, and of course the weekends are cook-fests! The kids have their own spatulas, and aprons, and are real mini-chefs, and it's one big party most weekends!