South Indian Chicken “Fry”

South Indian Chicken 'Fry"

This easy & tasty chicken dish can be prepared ahead of time and warmed in the oven just before serving. Deep frying will give it a better taste, but pan frying / stir frying is almost as good, and a little healthier.

South Indian Chicken Fry

(Serves 5-6)

  • 4 lbs chicken (cut in small pieces)
  • 2-3 garlic pods (grated)
  • 1 inch ginger (peeled & grated)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp cloves powder
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder

For tempering:

  • 1 sprig curry leaves;
  • 3-4 green chillies (slit)

1) In a large bowl, mix all the spices. Add chicken and marinate for 3-4 hours, stirring once midway.

2) In a wide pan / wok, heat 2 Tbsp oil on medium-high. Add half the chicken and stir fry till cooked and the moisture is gone, stirring often. Avoid overcooking as it makes the meat rubbery.

3) Repeat with the remaining chicken and place on serving platter.

4) In the same wok, heat 1 tsp oil and add the slit green chillies. Use a plate or lid to partially cover the wok and shield your face, as the chilli seeds will pop and splatter. Fry for a few seconds. This gives the dish a wonderful flavor.

5) Add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds, waiting for it to stop crackling.

6) Pour the oil with chillies and curry leaves over the plated chicken and serve hot.

NOTE: You can use skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, but I prefer to have the butcher make 5 small pieces from 1 whole leg and thigh piece.

PB & J Muffins

PB & J Muffins

Earlier today, I opened up a bag of Pillsbury all purpose flour to make a few loaves of Pumpkin Cranberry bread to gift over the holidays, and this recipe on the bag caught my eye. I had almost all the ingredients out on the counter, and a warm oven, so I decided to make a few of these muffins for snack today, and freeze the rest. Well, it’s 3:30pm, my 9-year old had 2 already, and I’m working through mine as I type this. YUM!! The house smells awesome, and the muffin tastes like a toasted peanut butter jelly sandwich. The recipe makes 12, and we are down 3. With a teenage boy coming home soon, I wonder how many I’ll have left to freeze for another day.

PB & J Muffins

(Makes 12 muffins)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup jam / jelly

1) Heat oven to 375*

2) Spray 12-muffin pan with non-stick spray

3) In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking powder and set aside

4) In another large bowl, with electric mixer on low, mix milk, eggs, sugar, peanut butter, and oil till just combined

5) Add to flour mixture and beat on low till just moistened. Do not over-mix

6) Drop scant 1/4 cup batter into each muffin pan

7) Place 1/2 Tbsp of jelly on the dough and top with another 1/4 cup of batter. Lightly sprinkle tops with sugar

PB & J Muffins

PB & J Muffins






8) Bake for 18-20 minutes in center of oven, and remove when a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean

9) Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.


NOTE: I usually quite successfully  substitute 1/2 the quantity of white flour with whole-wheat pastry flour (including here). Play around with recipes and see what suits your tastes.

Chili Lime Cashews

Chili Lime Cashews

How many hostess gifts have you received or given? How many of those were really enjoyed? At some point, people realized there were only so many Mikasa platters and bowls one could appreciate or store in the basement. We started doing ‘consumable’ gifts like chocolates and candles (remember Illuminations?). Even those became old fast. Now fess up! How many of those items did you regift???

Set out a few bowls of these addictive Chili Lime Cashews during your holiday parties, or give as a simple, yet thoughtful hostess gift. They are so easy to make and can be varied to suit many tastes. If you search online, you will find hundreds of different ways to make spiced nuts at home. This recipe is from something I read on Huffington Post a while ago. Enjoy!

Chili Lime Cashews

(Makes 3 cups)

  • 3 cups cashews (use whole if gifting – it makes for a prettier presentation)
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder

1) Preheat oven to 250*

2) Mix lime juice, salt, and chili powder in a bowl. Then add cashews and mix till well coated.

3) Pour into a large cookie tray and bake for 45-50 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes and watch carefully during the last 10-15 minutes, making sure the nuts don’t brown.

4) Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Decent gift-wrap or containers are often pricey, and have very limited use after a while. Below, I have shown how you can upcycle a used salsa jar into something that can be reused (Pinterest idea). It took me less than 5 minutes plus drying time it.


You need a clean glass jar, spray paint in desired color, a drill (I used a star screw driver and a hammer ), few inches of ribbon, and something decorative to top your jar with (I used a $1.50 drawer pull from World Market).

1) Make a hole in the cap of the glass jar if you are using a topper that will be screwed on. If not, just super-glue your object directly without making a hole. You may also just paint the lid and tie a color co-ordinated ribbon around the neck of the jar.

2) Spray paint it in whatever color you like. You can spray paint the topper too. Allow to dry according to paint instructions.

IMG_4245(I ran out of gold paint after the first coat, but you get the idea, right? Holiday red and green gets too repetitive, so I chose a blue and gold.)

3) Assemble lid, fill bottle with nuts / candy / etc, and close.

Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

Vegetarian Mexican Lasagne


This is one of the easiest, and most versatile recipes you can have on hand. You can add any combination of filling, and adjust spices to your liking. Just follow some basic proportions for sauce and filling, and you are all set. I have shown how the stuffing can be adapted for other quick meals.

I use spicy seasonings and use cheese without scrimping. My meat loving family does not complain when I serve this for dinner, and a batch will serve two meals. Thank god for leftovers!

Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

(Serves 6-8)

  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (7 oz) can corn, drained
  • 1 cup red pepper (chopped)
  • 1 cup cooked spanish / plain rice
  • 4 cups (32 oz) salsa
  • 2 Tbsp Taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 5-6 large tortillas
  • 2 cup mexican blend shredder cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1) Preheat oven to 350*

2) In a large bowl, mix together the black beans, corn, red pepper, rice, taco seasoning, cumin, 1/4 cup cilantro, and 1 cup salsa. Set aside.


3) Cut tortillas into 2-3 inch strips.

4) In a 9X13 pan, pour 2/3 cup salsa on the bottom.



5) Top with 1 layer of tortilla strips, 1 1/2 cups of the rice & beans mixture, and 2/3 cup cheese.



6) Repeat layers with 2/3 cup salsa, 1 layer tortilla strips, rice & beans, and 2/3 cup cheese. Finally, add another layer of tortilla strips on top of the cheese, add 2/3 cup salsa, and top with remaining cheese. (Layers from bottom of pan: salsa, tortilla, rice & beans, cheese, salsa, tortilla, rice & beans, cheese, tortilla, salsa, cheese)


7) Cover tightly with foil and bake 35-40 minutes till cheese is bubbly and it is completely heated through. Allow to sit for few minutes uncovered before serving.


NOTE: Substitute any combination for filling – meat, beans only, brown rice, quinoa – but use 4 1/2 cups total. You can reduce the amount of cheese too, but use at least some between layers for the whole lasagna to “set”.


VARIATIONS: Like I mentioned earlier, the same stuffing and cheese can be used to make burritos and quesadillas. I make breakfast burritos with a similar version of the stuffing mixed with scrambled eggs. Individually rolled and frozen in a freezer bag, I can pull a few burritos out the night before to thaw in the refrigerator, and microwave at breakfast time. Freshly rolled ones make a good lunch box addition.




Here is a  link on how to easily roll a burrito

To make a quesadilla, lightly spray a tortilla with oil and place on a preheated griddle on low. Add filling and cheese on one half and fold over. Turn heat to medium and brown both sides, gently pressing down. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Black Bean Quesadilla


Mughlai Spinach

Mughlai Spinach

As the cuisine of the Mughal emperors in India, Mughlai cooking is know for its use of aromatic spices, nuts, dry fruits, and elaborate preparations. Famous for it kebabs, pulaos, creamy curries, and fragrant desserts, Mughlai cuisine is truly a treat for the palate. This spinach dish is flavored with fennel seeds and ginger, giving it a wonderful flavor.

UPDATE : Thanks to an eagle eyed reader who commented on this post;  this recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s  “A Taste Of India”.

Mughlai Spinach

(Serves 4-6)

  • 3 lbs fresh spinach (cleaned, drained, and coarsely chopped) OR 2 packs (10 oz each) frozen chopped spinach
  • 4 Tbsp oil
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
  • 2 inch ginger (peel and fine julienne)
  • 2 -3 medium onions (slice fine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala

1) Heat oil and butter in a thick bottom pan on medium heat.

2) Saute cardamom & fennel seeds for a minute. Be careful as the cardamom pods may pop in the hot oil.

3) Add ginger and saute for 1 minute till lightly brown.

4) Add onions and saute till brown.

5) Add spinach and cook partly covered till wilted. If using frozen spinach, it can either be thawed or placed frozen in the pan and cooked covered till thawed, turning the block over several times.

6) Add salt and chilli powder and cook uncovered on medium-high flame for another 10 minutes.

7) Sprinkle garam masala and continue cooking until almost all the moisture leaves the pan.

NOTE: For a vegan version, you may skip the butter, but it will make a difference in the taste.

‘No-Cook’ Cilantro Shrimp Platter

No-cook Shrimp Platter

My version of the shrimp platter uses easy homemade cilantro ‘pesto’ with a punch. I buy frozen, cooked, tail-off shrimp at Costco,empty it into a colander, and keep it covered over another bowl in the refrigerator for a day so that it thaws and drains as much as possible. Prepare the shrimp 1 day ahead of serving so that the flavors marinate well. The measurements below are approximates; feel free to adjust to your taste.

‘No-Cook’ Cilantro Shrimp Platter

(Serves 10-15)

  • 2 lbs cooked and peeled shrimp
  • 1 cup cilantro (packed tightly)
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)

1) Make sure that the shrimp is completely thawed and drained. Put into a large bowl with lid.

2)Puree all ingredients for pesto in a small blender jar without adding any water. Adjust taste as necessary, adding more chillies, salt or lemon juice.

3) Mix with shrimp and marinate for a few hours or overnight, mixing again once or twice.

4) Arrange in a platter, skewer, or serve in a bowl with toothpicks.

NOTE: If leftovers (if you have any) are beginning to get limp, saute in a pan with a spoon of oil on high flame till moisture evaporates.

Scrumptious Stuffed Mushrooms

Scrumptious Stuffed Mushrooms

From a hand-ripped piece of a magazine page – no date or name, unfortunately – I have been meaning to make this appetizer for years. Easy, tasty, and can be assembled ahead of time. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, remove to pretty platter, and be the Hostess with the Mostess 🙂

Scrumptious Stuffed Mushrooms

(Makes 20 pieces)

  • 20 medium white mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped onions
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed Ritz cracker crumbs (about 15)
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 400*.

2) Remove stems from the mushrooms and finely chop a few to make 1/4 cup. Set aside. Save other stems for another use.

Scrumptious Stuffed Mushrooms

3) Melt butter in a skillet on medium heat, and add onion, peppers, and mushroom stems; cook till tender. Turn off heat and let it set aside for a minute.

4) Add cracker crumbs, cheese, seasoning, and crushed red pepper (if using) and mix well.

5) Stuff into mushroom caps (I found it easier to use my fingers rather than spoons).


6) Bake on ungreased baking sheet for 15-17 minutes till completely heated.

NOTE: If you wish to make them ahead of time, stuff the mushrooms and refrigerate covered for several hours. Uncover and bake for 20-22 minutes when ready to serve.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Marinated Vegetable Salad


This recipe ran in the Washington Post in 2006 and I’ve made it a couple times, always with much success. Although it probably fits better into a summer menu, I serve this during the holidays as a healthy appetizer. It must be made a day ahead so that the flavors can meld. Adjust the final seasoning before serving so you do not overdo it.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

(Serves 15-20)

  • 1 small head cauliflower (cut into florets)
  • 20-25 green beans (trim and cut into 2-inch pieces)
  • 1 medium head broccoli (cut into florets) OR 5 cups frozen florets
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts (trim stem and half lengthwise)
  • 4 large carrots (trim and cut into 1-inch thick slices)
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms (trim stems and quarter)
  • 8 oz Italian salad dressing
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1) In a large pot, bring salted water to boil over high heat.

2) While water is heating, set up a larger bowl with ice water and keep by the stove.

3) Drop vegetables (one variety at a time) into boiling water, and at end of blanching time, transfer with a large strainer to ice water :

  • Cauliflower – 3 minutes
  • Brussels Sprouts – 3 minutes
  • Broccoli – 2 minutes
  • Carrots – 2 minutes
  • Green Beans – 1 minute

4) After blanching all vegetables, let them rest for a few minutes in the ice water and drain completely. Blot with paper towels if necessary.

5) Place drained vegetables, mushrooms, dressing, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (if using) in a large bowl and mix well gently.

6) Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Adjust salt & pepper before serving, and garnish with chopped parsley.