Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Chapli Kebab (Spicy and Succulent Flat Chicken Kebabs)

Kebabs!!!! Delicious, succulent and juicy meat so tender that it melts in your mouth with every bite ๐Ÿ˜Œ. It is every non- vegetarians favorite at any given time. Same goes with me. There are so many varieties and recipes out there when it comes to kebabs and I realized this only after coming to US. Yup!!!!That's right...Its only after moving to US that I have gotten the opportunity to explore so many cuisines from different parts of the world. It was on one such outing with hubs when I came across "Chapli Kebab" at a Bangladeshi restaurant in Queens. 

Chapli kebab is a pashtun styled flat, patty like kebab traditionally made from ground beef but you can also find variations which uses minced mutton, lamb or chicken. The one I had at the restaurant was made of chicken. The word "chapli" is derived from the pashto word "chaprdikh" or "chaprdit" which means flat hence the name. You can eat it as is with some chutney or pair with hot naan. I think this kebab will make an excellent patty for burgers.

So after trying out the delicious chapli kebab made of chicken at this restaurant, I knew that I had to give this one a try at home. Usually these kebabs are made of ground beef but instead I used minced chicken. After some online research and trial recipes at home, I think I finally have the recipe that tastes very much close to what I had in the restaurant ๐Ÿ˜Š. These are fairly easy to make at home and can be served as a very delicious appetizer for parties and get togethers.  








Makes around 16 - 18 medium sized kebabs

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound ground chicken (I used chicken thigh as it makes very tender and juicy kebabs)
1 medium sized onion chopped finely (place it on a paper towel to remove any excess liquid)
1 medium sized tomatoes chopped
1 small green chili chopped
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1- 1/2 tsp of garlic grated/paste
1- 1/2 tsp of ginger grated/paste
1 - 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Oil for shallow frying

For the masala:
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tbsp of coriander seeds
1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
2 small black cardamoms
6 - 7 cloves
5 - 6 black peppercorns
1 tsp of crushed pomegranate seeds (anardana)
1/2 tsp of red chili powder
1 tsp of dry red chili flakes

Adjust the chili powder and chili flakes as per you liking. This recipe will make medium spicy kebabs.





Method:

1) Dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds for few minutes until it gives out a nice aroma. Once done set this aside to cool.

2) In a spice grinder add the roasted cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and grind it to a coarse powder. Try to grind the coriander seeds separately to keep it a bit more coarser in texture than rest of the masala. And then mix it with the rest of the masala. 

3) In a bowl add the minced chicken. To this add the chopped onion, green chili, ginger and garlic paste, the prepared masala, crushed pomegranate seeds, red chili powder, red chili flakes, the beaten egg, chopped cilantro and salt. Add the tomatoes later on. Mix everything together until nicely combined. 

4) Let the minced chicken marinate in the masala for 1/2 hour to an hour. Add the tomatoes towards the end and mix right before you are about to make the kebabs. We are doing this so that the liquid from the tomatoes do not make the kebab mixture too mushy. 

5) Heat enough oil in a wide frying pan for shallow frying the kebabs. Make sure it has a lid as these kebabs do splutter while cooking. I used a non-stick frying pan and so didn't use too much oil for frying. You know trying to be healthy and all. ๐Ÿ˜œ

6) Once the oil is hot start making the kebabs. Wet your hands with very little water and take a handful of the kebab mixture place it in your palm. Press gently to make a patty and make it as flat as possible and then carefully place in the oil for shallow frying. (I usually do not make it too big and keep it medium sized. But do remember the size of the kebab will shrink after cooking. So make it as big as you want to). Also I always make one small kebab at the start and then give it taste test for seasoning. 

7) Cook the kebab on a medium flame. Let the kebab cook on one side till it turns golden brown. Flip  and turn the kebab to cook the other side and cook until its nicely browned and completely cooked. Use the lid to cover the pan to avoid all the splutter. Make kebabs in the same way with the rest of the mixture and once done place it on a paper towel to remove any excess oil before serving.

Serve hot with yogurt and cilantro chutney or with hot naan or buns and salad of your choice. 

Do give this a try and let me know in comments below. 




Till then Happy Cooking ๐Ÿ˜€.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Hot Cocoa Recipe

Winter is here and the temperature outside is quickly dropping with each passing day๐Ÿ˜ฉ. Gosh I can't believe this year is over already!!!!. With cloudy skies and a gloomy weather these days, all I want to do is make a cup of hot cocoa and curl up on my sofa with a blanket and good book or binge watch Netflix ๐Ÿ˜ . Yes!!!! It is that time of the year when you see jars of ready cocoa mix in every grocery store and almost every coffee shop selling hot cocoa. And you know what you don't have to buy ready cocoa mix always. Why?? Because it is very simple and easy to make your own hot cocoa at home. 



Hot cocoa is one delicious hot beverage that is loved by children and adults equally. It is an instant remedy for the harsh winters. I have noticed that at many places hot cocoa is sold as hot chocolate and both the names are used interchangeably quite often. On the contrary, both of them are different. Hot cocoa is mixture of cocoa powder, sugar and milk flavored with vanilla and some other spices like cinnamon. While hot chocolate is literally chocolate that is melted with the help of little hot water, milk or cream. So hot chocolate is much more rich, thick in consistency and decadent that hot cocoa :P. It will be impossible for me to finish off a cup full of hot chocolate...that will be a little too much for me hahaha....but hot cocoa, ohhh that definitely I can..on second thoughts I can even finish off 2 cups if I want to ๐Ÿ˜. 

Hot cocoa is very very easy to make at home. And I am quite sure you might already have all of the ingredients available in your kitchen right now.  So in this post I will be sharing the two methods (stove top and microwave) that I use to make a quick cup of hot cocoa at home.



Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of half-and-half or 1 tbsp of heavy cream (optional)
1 tbsp of dark chocolate chips or semi sweet chocolate chips - add more if you like ๐Ÿ˜œ
1/4 tsp of vanilla extract

Stove top Method:

1) In a saucepan add the cocoa powder and sugar. Gradually mix in the milk and half-and-half using a wire whisk. Cook and keep on stirring the mixture on low to medium heat. Initially the cocoa powder will be floating on top. Cook till the mixture is nicely combined and thoroughly heated but do not boil it. 
Some recipe calls for adding hot water to cocoa and sugar and then adding milk. I avoid this step. It doesn't taste rich enough and tastes a bit watery which I don't like. :(

2) Switch of the flame and add the chocolate chips and stir it with the wire whisk until all the chocolate chips are completely melted and the mixture looks smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir. 

Hot cocoa is ready to be served. Top it of with fluffy marshmallows or whipped cream, shaved chocolate or chocolate syrup and enjoy while its hot. ๐Ÿ˜‹ ๐Ÿ˜‹ 

Microwave method:

Simply divide the cocoa powder, sugar and chocolate chips into two microwaveable safe mugs. Add very little water or milk about 1 to 2 tsp or so. Microwave for 10 secs. Remove and stir the mixture until smooth (if the chocolate chips are not melted microwave for another 5 secs). Now add the milk and microwave for 1 min to 1 and 1/2 mins or until the mixture is nice and hot. Stir in the vanilla extract and serve hot. 

Thats it. Your delicious hot cocoa is ready to be served. This recipe serves two. Double the recipe as required. This recipe works good even without half- and- half. If you want it to be a bit on the lighter side you can use only whole milk. If you are calorie conscious use fat free milk and fat free half-and-half instead.  




So until next time....Happy Holidays!!!! :D

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Avocado Basil Pesto Pasta

When it comes to eating pasta, basil pesto is by far my favorite as compared to tomato sauce. There is something about the fragrant basil leaves that makes me want to it more and more :P. Moreover this sauce is super easy to put together. You can easily make this sauce while your pasta is being cooked which saves a lot of cooking time, so bonus points for that. 
The use of basil pesto sauce is not limited only to pasta but can also be used as a sandwich spread and also as a pizza base. The traditional basil pesto recipe calls for lots of basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese and I absolutely love love the flavor. But what makes me even more happy is the fact that it can be given a healthier twist without compromising the taste. So when I came across avocado basil pesto recipe I knew I had to try it. Avocado works beautifully as a healthy substitute for parmesan cheese. It not only adds a wonderful creamy texture to the pasta but also tastes awesome. So on days when I lean more towards eating healthy, avocado basil pesto is always my go to sauce for pasta. 


 Serves - 2 

Ingredients:

For the pesto:
1 ripe avocado 
1 bunch of basil leaves (1.5 oz)
1/4th cup of walnuts 
2 cloves of garlic 
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp of lemon juice (or adjust as per taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
This recipe will yield somewhere around 3/4 cup of sauce

For the Pasta:

Roughly 3 - 4 cups of organic whole wheat fusilli (approximately 9- 10 oz)
1 small onion chopped
3/4 cup of chopped button mushrooms 
1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper 
1 cup of spinach leaves
1 clove of garlic chopped (optional)
1 - 2 tsp of olive oil for sautรฉing the veggies 
Salt and pepper to taste 

You can add any veggies of your liking or simply skip the veggies and make the pasta only using the sauce. I didn't have any chicken breasts but if you do have it then I would highly recommend adding it. 

Note: This sauce will stay good for a week in the refrigerator if stored properly. Place a cling wrap/plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce (to avoid browning of the sauce due to avocado) and store it in an air tight container in the refrigerator. 

Method:

1) In a stock pot or sauce pan boil water, add salt and cook the pasta till al dente as per package instructions. Strain the pasta and reserve around 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. 

2) In a food processor add walnuts, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Give it a few pulse until it looks coarse in texture but is combined. Scrape of the sides of the bowl while doing this. 

3) Scoop out the flesh of the avocado with help of a spoon and add it to the food processor. Also add the extra virgin olive oil and again give a few pulse until everything is nicely combined. Set this aside. 

4)  In a sautรฉ pan add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add garlic and onions and cook till the onions are translucent. Now add the rest of the veggies, salt and pepper. Sautรฉ until the veggies are cooked. 

5) Now add around 3 - 4 tbsp of the avocado pesto sauce (or add as much as you like :P). Stir it with the veggies. And then add half a cup of the pasta water. Finally add the cooked pasta and toss everything together and cook for a min so that all the flavors come together. 

Thats it. Yummy pasta is ready to be served. I also added a bit of chili flakes for a little spice :P. 
















Thursday, 27 October 2016

Karanji (Diwali Special Recipe)

Diwali, the festival of lights, is right around the corner and it is certainly incomplete without this sweet snack item called Karanji. Karanji, as known in Maharashtra, is made along with other Diwali snack items like chiwda, besan ladoo, rava ladoo and chakli all across India. But I personally feel that it is the star item amongst all. Karanji is a deep fried pastry which has a slightly crispy flaky outer covering and a sweet stuffing that is made with dry coconut, sugar and dry fruits. Its super delicious and totally addictive. Karanji is also known as Gujiya in North India, Kajjikayalu, Karchikai in South India and is made with different stuffings. Apart from Diwali this sweet snack is also made during the festival of Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi. 

Oh how I miss celebrating this beautiful and colorful festival In India. You will see each house decorated with lights, flowers, lamps (kandils), the sweet smell of clarified butter/ghee emanating from every household, beautiful rangolis welcoming everyone at the doorstep and of course the constant noise of fire crackers in every neighborhood :P. As per tradition neighbors exchange sweets and snacks with each other in a beautifully decorated plate and that is how we always ended up with loads and loads of Diwali sweets including lots of Karanjis at our home :D. Don't ask me how many I would gobble down at a given time...hahahaha....

The recipe I am sharing today is the Maharashtrian Karanji recipe. Traditionally in Maharashtrian Karnaji the outer pastry cover is made in layers which needs a little practice but I will be sharing the other method which is easier and most commonly used. 



This recipe makes around 10 - 12 Karanjis
Recipe adapted from Ruchkar Mejwani and Madhuras Recipe.

Ingredients:

For the outer cover/pastry:
1 cup of all purpose flour
2 tbsp of semolina/rava
1 tbsp of clarified butter/ ghee 
1/2 cup of warm milk (or as required)
Salt to taste

For the filling:
1 cup of grated and roasted dry coconut
1/2 cup of semolina/rava (fine quality)
1/2 cup of confectioners sugar/powdered sugar 
1 tsp of poppy seeds/khus khus
Chopped dry fruits of your choice. I used almonds and pistachios 
1 tsp of cardamom powder/ elaichi powder
A pinch of nutmeg powder/ jaifal powder 
1 1/2 tbsp of ghee 
Oil for deep frying

Method:

For the outer cover/pastry for karanji: 

1) Start with making the dough for the outer cover or pastry. In a bowl add the all purpose flour, semolina and salt to taste. Mix nicely. 

2) Heat up the clarified butter and add this to the batter. It should sizzle when added. Mix the ghee thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients. 

3) Now start adding the milk in parts and begin to knead the dough. I ended up using a little less that half a cup of milk. Do not add a lot of milk at a time. The dough needs to be somewhat stiff and not too soft. 

4) Knead the dough till it looks smooth. Cover it with a moist cloth and keep it aside for 15 - 20 mins.



For the filling:

1) Heat up ghee in a pan. Now add the semolina/rava and roast it on a low to medium flame till it turns light brown in color. This will take around 7 - 8mins. 

2) Now add the poppy seeds and roast it for a minute followed by pre roasted grated dry coconut. Roast it for a few minutes. I didn't pre roast the dry coconut so roasted it for a little longer than required. 

3) Now add the chopped dry fruits, cardamom powder and nutmeg powder and saute for a minute. Switch off the gas and remove the mixture into a bowl. To this now add the powdered sugar and mix well. I found half a cup of sugar sufficient. Give it a taste test and add more as per your requirement. 



Assembling and frying the karanjis: 

1) Take the dough and knead it once again for a min. Now make a big log or 2 small logs of the dough and cut it in 10 - 12 equal portions. Make small balls of it and keep it covered with a moist cloth at all times. 

2) Now take one ball and press it between your palm and flatten it and start to roll the ball in 5 - 6 inches in diameter. Dust the board with dry flour if required. 

3) Now add around a tbsp of the stuffing only in the centre of the rolled dough. Do not add too much stuffing or else you will not be able to shape and close the karanji properly. 

4) Apply water or milk on the entire edge of the circle and then carefully fold one side and bring it to meet the other side of the circle. 

5) Now gently press the edges to seal it completely. Cut off any excess if needed with a pizza cutter. In India we get a specific cutter for karanjis. If you have that then cut the edges with it and you are done. 

6) Otherwise you can also shape the edges with pinch and fold method or simply design it by pressing a fork on the edges. (As shown in the below pictures).  I am still learning the pinch and fold method so its not perfect. :P




6) Repeat this procedure with rest of the dough. Meanwhile in a saucepan or kadai heat up enough oil to deep fry the karanjis. Many people also fry the karanjis in clarified butter. So if you want to then by all means go for it :D.

7) Fry the karanjis on medium hot oil for few mins. The karanjis puff up while frying so avoid adding too many karanjis at a time. Add only 2 to 3 at a time. Also do not rush with the frying procedure. Make sure that the oil is not too hot else the karnajis will brown quickly and the outer cover will remain raw. Fry the karanjis till it is lightly golden brown.

8) Place the fried karanjis into a plate with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.

9) Let the karanjis cool completely and then transfer them into an airtight container. They will stay good for a few weeks if stored properly.




I hope you liked this recipe.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and safe Diwali. :) 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Banana Sheera made with Jaggery

Food is an integral part of our life. I am sure that for many of us it is not just something that satiates our hunger, but also the feeling of nostalgia that comes along with it. Sometimes it just amazes me how the taste and smell of a certain food/dish instantly connects you to an old memory and everything just comes rushing back to you. 

Banana sheera also popularly known as "prasadacha sheera" from the state of Maharashtra is one such dish that brings back fond memories of my childhood. As the name suggests, this special and sweet delicacy is made as a holy offering to God during Satyanarayan puja and on various other auspicious occasions. And that is how I ate this sweet delicacy for the very first time as a child at a temple situated near our building in Mumbai, Maharashtra. I don't remember what age I was exactly at that time, but I vividly remember me, my sister and my friends going to the temple every Thursday for special prayers. For me it was like part of my childhood routine. School in the afternoon, playing in the evening and then going to the temple with friends every Thursdays for prayers. The people at the temple used to make different kinds of prasad on Thursdays and one of it was prasadacha sheera. And it was one of the things that I used to eagerly look forward to after the prayers :P. 


The original dish of prasadacha sheera is very simple and has very few ingredients yet is very very rich and delicious. This melt in your mouth dish is made with semolina, clarified butter/ghee, bananas, milk and sugar. The secret for its yumminess lies in the fact that you add equal amount of semolina, sugar and clarified butter/ghee. Hmmmmmmmm......sighhhhhh.
However unlike my childhood days, I now avert from anything that is too sweet. I guess for most of the people this will be the perfect amount of sweetness but for me its a bit too much and same goes for my husband. It goes without saying that nothing compares to the deliciousness of the original recipe.

Having said that I still crave for this sweet delicacy every now and then. And yesterday I decided to give in to my cravings and that is when I remembered my mother in law telling me about how we can make sheera using jaggery. My mother in law visited us few months back and I remember how we were discussing about making sheera using jaggery but never ended up making it. 

So I decided to make it a little healthier by substituting sugar with jaggery and reducing the amount of clarified butter/ghee. So my version is a little less sweet, a little less rich and dairy free. :P.
I know.... I knoww.......its not the original version... I wanted to eat a good bowlful of it without feeling guilty so thought why not give this healthy twist a try. Since I ran out of milk I used water instead. And it turned out to be yummmyyyy.  Do try this dish when you want to opt for a healthier option. :P :P

Serves 3 - 4

Ingredients:

1 cup of semolina/rava (fine quality)
3/4 cup of jaggery/gur (shaved or grated)
2 -3 tbsp of clarified butter/ghee 
1 large banana or 2 medium sized bananas (I used two small- medium sized bananas)
2 cups of water 
1 tsp of cardamom powder/elaichi powder
Few raisins and halved cashew nuts as per your liking

Method:

1) Heat a non stick tawa or pan. Add the clarified butter/ghee. Once the ghee is hot roast the cashew nuts and raisins. Roast till the cashews turn brown and the raisins are plump. Remove them and keep them aside.

2) Roughly chop or mash the bananas and keep them aside.

3) In the same ghee add the semolina/rava and roast it on a slow flame for around 10 minutes till it gives out a nice aroma and turns light brown. This way the rava will be evenly cooked. Do not roast the rava on a medium or high flame else it will burn quickly and will remain raw. I have roasted the rava till it was light brown but you can roast it further till it turns a little deep brown color.

4) Meanwhile heat two cups of water in a saucepan. Once hot add the jaggery and let it melt on a low to medium flame.



5) Once the semolina/rava is nicely roasted and turns light brown in color add the mashed bananas and cardamom/elaichi powder and mix everything nicely.

6) Finally add the water with diluted jaggery through a seive (to remove any impurities from the jaggery) and the cashews and raisins. Mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps.

7) Mix and cook until the semolina absorbs all the water and starts leaving the sides of the pan.

Delicious banana sheera is ready. Serve warm. :)







Thursday, 29 September 2016

Beautiful and alluring... Alaska!!! (An unforgettable vacation with friends)

We (me and hubby) and our friends had been thinking about planning a vacation together since a really really long time. After a lot of pondering, the destination was decided and finally everyone agreed upon the dates as well. So after almost 7 - 8 months of planning, consulting, numerous messaging on whtsapp and face timing, our most awaited vacation with friends was finally here. And in no time we all found ourselves packing for....ALASKA!! 

The beauty of Alaska and all that it offers is very hard to describe in words. Breathtaking, gorgeous, amazing, alluring, mesmerizing are some of the adjectives that comes to mind now when I think back about the wonderful time that we spent there. You have to actually see it and experience it to believe it. I think no matter how wonderful photos you click, it still won't do enough justice to the breathtakingly natural beauty that Alaska is.

Pssttt.....almost all the pictures (except for few) are clicked with Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. So yea you do not always need a DSLR to click amazing pictures :P.


There are so many ways you can explore this beautiful state. We opted for all the possible adventurous options that we could find for exploring Alaska. I think that is the best and the only way to enjoy mother nature and get up close with her. Although our schedule was a bit tight considering we had made plans only for 8 days, it was surely an experience of a lifetime. Hence no regrets whatsoever. I think we managed to do many things and saw many places in a really short amount of time. So believe me when I say this, if you are ever planning a vacation with friends then Alaska should be definitely on your list.

This post is going to be a short photo essay. I hope you will enjoy the pictures.

Day 1: We reached Anchorage around 10:30am, rented a car and drove to our first stop that was Seward. First day was pretty much a rest day. We had booked an AirBnB for the night.

Enroute
AirBnB at Seward
Day 2: Kayaking at Kenai Fjords. This was one of the best and the most unforgettable kayak experience ever. The first few pictures were clicked on our way to the starting point of kayak from the water taxi.

This picture was clicked on our way to Kenai Fjords 
Spotted a lot of humpback whales also. It was such a beautiful experience to watch this gentle giants swim around. 
Sea lions lazing around on the rocks :D
Beautiful views everywhere we looked
Aialik Glacier: This was our final kayaking destination watching this beautiful glacier and witnessing some major glacier calvings
Such a wonderful experience. Lunch by the glacier with our amazing friends. 
Time to head back

With our kayaking guide 
After an awesome kayak experience we did some sightseeing at Seward. Spotted some fresh caught halibut, salmon and other fishes at the dock and then headed to our next stop at Seward.



Next stop was Summit Lake Lodge where we spent the night. The below picture is the view near the lodge. Isn't it awesome?


Day 3: Started off our day with a beautiful hike to Harding Ice field. The hike was moderately strenuous but totally worth it. With beautiful trees, flowers, glaciers and mountain for company, it was site to behold. 

At the Exit Glacier

At the top (almost)..... totally worth it. 
Breathtaking.... isn't it?

Two of our friends decided to climb all the way up. Can you spot them?


Day 4: Was a rest day which also included a trip to REI to pick up our camping stuff and some grocery shopping (which included loads of cup noodles....hehehehe) :P.

Day 5: We reserved a one way train trip to Denali National Park through Wilderness Express. The train journey was amazing with some beautiful views. Below pictures were clicked from the train. 




Once we reached Denali we took the shuttle bus to reach our camping site named "The Wonder Lake Camping Site" which was 85 miles inside the national park. On our way we spotted a lot a wild life and enjoyed some more breathtaking views.


Caribou popularly known as Reindeer 

Spotted a blonde grizzly bear :)
Day 5 and Day 6: Camping at Lake wonder lake was one of the most fun experience for me as it was my first ever camping experience. The camp site was right in front of the mighty Denali mountain but unfortunately the clouds covered the mountain the whole time and we never even got to see a glimpse of it. :(


This is where we camped for 2 nights. Can you see the mountains in the background?? That is where Denali is situated. 

Noodles in the making LOL
The Wonder Lake 
Just as we were packing our camping stuff to head back....we spotted this huge Moose behind us 
Day 7: We headed back super early in the morning from the National Park to Denali where post lunch we went for ATV Ride and River Rafting. I would highly recommend the ATV Ride, certainly a one of a kind experience. 


Hubs :D

River Rafting
Day 8: Our last day on our way to the airport to Anchorage we had booked an Airtaxi ride and glacier landing at Talkeetna. The views from the flight was simply fabulous and absolutely mesmerizing. We also landed on Ruth's glacier and spent 15 mins playing with the glacier snow and clicking loads of pictures. :). Do check out my Instagram account where I have uploaded a video of the flight as well.

Glacier River 
Majestic glaciers everywhere 



Our ride :D


Ruth's Glacier 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please let me know you opinions and comments, I would love to hear from you all.



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