Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles in Peanut Sauce

Warm weather meals and entertaining call for easy, make-ahead dishes that are light and tasty. I came across this recipe on the holidaykitchen.tv YouTube channel and made a few changes to suit our tastes. It is a good alternative to regular pasta salad as it doesn’t have any mayonnaise.

PS: Did you know that noodles are symbolic of longevity in China? It is considered inauspicious to cut a strand, and is traditionally served in as long a piece (strand?) as possible, especially on New Year’s Day.

Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cold Sesame Noodles in Peanut Sauce

(Serves 3-4)

  • 2 scallions / green onions
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (strongly recommend using this as it gives a fantastic flavor, but feel free to substitute)
  • 1 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) red chilli flakes
  • Hot sauce (Sriracha / chilli-garlic sauce) to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6-8 oz of dry long pasta (spaghetti / angel hair / chinese noodles)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (lightly salted & steamed & drained well) – optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots – optional
  • 1/2 cup shredded chicken / steamed shrimp (optional)
  • 1/3 cup peeled, seeded & finely chopped cucumber – optional
  • cilantro, crushed roasted peanut, toasted sesame seeds for topping

1) Cook the noodles according to package directions. Rinse in cold water and drain completely. Allow to cool completely.

2) Add all ingredients to a small blender jar and process till smooth & creamy.

3) Toss with cold noodles, broccoli & carrots, and chicken/shrimp (if using) and set aside for an hour or two for all the flavors to meld.

4) Divide into serving bowls and top with chopped cucumber, crushed peanuts, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds & cilantro.

Blueberry-Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

As you all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Most of you have also probably come across multiple sources that state that starting your day with a healthy & nutritious protein-rich breakfast is the key to feeling energetic, controlling appetite, reducing snacking, and staying slim. Protein-rich breakfasts have shown to regulate blood sugars and reduce late afternoon cravings for sugary and unhealthy snacks, and I can personally vouch for it. But if you are like me, meat in the morning is not appealing and eggs are not an option due to allergies. Greek yogurt to the rescue!! With around 200 calories & over 20 gms of protein per cup, greek yogurt is an easy, tasty and portable breakfast or snack item.

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

The Blueberry-Yogurt Parfait is so simple to make and can be assembled ahead of time. Just top with granola before eating. Use the fruit of your choice and customize quantities to suit your needs. If Greek yogurt is not available, you can use hung yogurt (recipe below). Make a few of these in resealable containers and store in the refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go snack or breakfast. My husband & kids love it too!

Blueberry-Yogurt Parfaits

  • 1 cup greek yogurt (plain or flavored) – [use hung yogurt if greek yogurt is not available – recipe below]
  • 1 cup fruit of choice (berries, banana, mango, peach, etc.)
  • sweetener of choice (honey, sugar, agave, etc) – optional
  •  1/2 cup granola (Click here for stove-top granola recipe.)

1) Take 2 resealable containers and layer each with 1/4 cup greek yogurt on the bottom.

2) If using sweetener, drizzle a teaspoon on the yogurt.

3) Top with 1/4 cup fruit.

4) Repeat yogurt, sweetener, fruit.

5) Just before eating, top with granola. Stir and enjoy. (Click here for stove-top granola recipe.)

 

To Make 1 cup Hung Yogurt

 1) Line a strainer/small colander with a large clean piece of muslin cloth and place the strainer over a deep bowl.

2) Pour 2 cups of regular yogurt onto the muslin cloth.

3) Bring the ends of the muslin together and make into a bundle.

4) Hang the bundle from the faucet / knob with a dish to catch the whey dripping.

5) Leave undisturbed for 3-4 hours till all the water is out. Creamy hung yogurt is ready.

6) Flavor with sweetener if needed and stir well.

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

My cousin had eaten these rotis at a friend’s house and she shared the idea for this recipe with me a while back. I finally decided to give it a try and luckily my proportions worked the first time around. We liked these rotis so much that I had to go to bed with a ‘light dinner’ because my husband and teenager decided to have some of my share too. I even made an extra batch of the dough since I had all the ingredients and utensils out. They were soft & pliable, and as it had spices mixed in, a pat of butter/ghee, or a cup of yougrt was all that was necessary as an accompaniment. I definitely see myself making this not only for meals at home, but also for short trips so I can avoid all the temptations at the rest area and fast food joints (am I the only one who can’t resist fries and pastries at rest areas?!?!).

Also check out the recipe for Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti.

Oats & Palak Roti

(Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

(makes 8 rotis, 6-7 inch wide)

  • 1 1/2 cups oats (make a powder in the blender)
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 big onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 cups spinach leaves (washed, drained and chopped fine)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 2-3 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 2  – 2 1/2 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)

1) Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl using only 1/2 cup water.

2) Knead well and sprinkle few drops of water only if necessary. The onion will release moisture and the dough will come together just fine with half cup water.

3) The mixture will be sticky at this point; cover and set aside for about an hour.

NOTE: If using a food processor (my preferred method), add all ingredients into the bowl and attach the lid. While machine is running, slowly drizzle the water through the feeder and run it till the dough comes together. Remove to a bowl and shape. Cover and set aside for about an hour.

4) The dough must now be soft and pliable. Divide into 8 balls.

5) Heat a heavy griddle on medium-low flame.

6) Pat each dough ball into thin discs on a lightly greased silicone sheet or heavy duty foil sheet.

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

7) Lightly grease the griddle and invert the roti with the foil onto it.

Oats & Palak Roti (Oats & Spinach Flatbread)

8) After few seconds, gently peel off the foil or silicone sheet and increase heat to medium-high.

9) Cook roti on both sides for 2-3 minutes till done, drizzling a few drops of oil on each side if necessary.

10) Serve hot.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: I mixed the dough the night before and used it in the morning, and it worked just fine. I even half cook each roti and cool completely on a rack. Then refrigirate in a freezer bag / air tight container till ready to eat. Finish cooking with a few drops of oil when ready to serve. This technique has made weekend brunch time so much easier – I get to relax with my tea and still serve a tasty & nutritious meal :)).

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

No-cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

Have you spent enough already on snack / granola/ energy / breakfast bars? One – the $$ add up pretty quickly; two – have you turned to the ingredients list? Yes – they may be low in sugar & carbs, high in protein & fiber, and claim to be a good meal replacement. But most of them are chock full of additives & have dozens of ingredients that I would never put in my mouth if I saw it by itself. In my attempt to feed my family food that is tasty, nutritious, natural and most importantly,  can be made ahead, I have been experimenting with a few different recipes.

I found that over the last few months, the alternative to my 4pm sweet tooth / chocolate craving was only satiated by the texture and sweetness of dates and the crunch of a few walnuts or almonds. If that was not enough, I would eat an apple or a banana to tide me through till dinner. Some days, I needed a ‘portable’ breakfast & cereal bars seemed like a good thing to start the day with.

These bars are husband & kid approved, and I generally don’t flinch when my boys go back for a second piece. The recipe below is more of a guide  – feel free to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand and adjust sweetness to your preference.

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 – 2X2 inch squares)

  • 2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)
  • 2 cups oats ( I used rolled / old-fashioned oats; can probably try Instant / quick cook variety)
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup dry figs (soak in 1/2 cup warm water for about 15 mins and drain well before using)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon OR cardamom powder
  • few Tbsp honey OR maple syrup OR agave syrup (optional)
  • 1-2 cups applesauce OR finely chopped apple OR banana

1) Heat a wide, heavy bottomed pan on medium-high flame and add the oats. Toast them for about 5-10 mins till they are nutty, stirring constantly and making sure they do not brown. Remove to another wide container to cool.

2) In the same pan, add the nuts in a single layer and toast for a few minutes, again stirring continuously and making sure they do not burn. Toast till they are fragrant and glossy with their own oil. Remove from hot pan to cool completely. Work in batches if necessary.

3) In a large food processor, add the oats, the nuts and the dates & figs separately. Process till coarsely (your preference) chopped, removing to another container as each one is done.

4) Add the cinnamon/cardamom powder and fruit and mix well. – If using applesauce, use only 1/2 – 1 cup to bind mixture, and add on as needed.

5) Alternately, add all the coarsely chopped ingredients and powder back to the food processor and pulse till it all comes together. (This is my preferred method as we don’t like chunks in our bars.) Drizzle in some honey/syrup if needed as everything is getting mixed.

6) Line an 8X8 inch pan with wax paper or foil, making sure it overhangs over the sides.

7) Press the mixture into the pan, and smooth out the top evenly.

8) At this point, the bars are ready to eat. I prefer to let the raw mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator to set and allow the flavors to meld. 

9) When the mixture is set, remove the bars by holding the foil. Slice into 2X2 inch squares and store in an airtight container. They will be fine for a week or more in the fridge.

10) Alternately, once you press the mixture into the pan, cook in a preheated 350* oven for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely. Remove with foil, slice and store in an airtight container.

NOTE: As mentioned above, add or reduce the quantity of the dates, fruits and syrup to suit your tastes. You can also experiment with different types of nuts, although I find that walnuts have the best texture here.

Easy Shredded Mexican Chicken for Tortilla Salads or Burritos

Taco Chicken in Crock Pot

I made this chicken as one of the toppings for my Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options) dinner. While I made this in the crock-pot, it can be made on the stove-top too. 3-ingredients is all it takes, and it can be used to top salads, tacos, stuff burritos, make nachos, or served on top of rice or quinoa. The leftovers freeze well, so make a batch and stock up.

Easy Shredded Mexican Chicken

(Serves 10-12 as a salad topping)

  • 2 lbs skinless & boneless chicken thighs ( use chicken breast if you prefer that)
  • 1-2 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 3 cups salsa

1) Spray the insides of a 4-5 quart crock-pot insert with non-stick spray.

2) Add the chicken, salsa & seasoning and mix well.

3) Cook on LOW for 4 hours without opening the lid.

4) Check for doneness at end of 4 hours and shred with 2 forks.

5) Adjust the seasoning as needed and cook for another 30 minutes if necessary.

STOVE-TOP METHOD:

1) Mix chicken, salsa & seasoning in a wide pan with a lid.

2) Top with about 1/2 cup broth/water and bring to a boil.

3) Reduce the heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes on low. [Keep the lid slightly tilted so that some of the moisture and steam can escape.]

4) Shred with two forks and adjust seasoning as needed.

5) Put back in the pan and saute on medium-high for another 3-5 minutes and serve.

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

 

Considering that grill-friendly & red-white-blue food recipes are easily available, I decided to post this dessert as an alternate option for your Memorial Day gathering. Super easy to make , it’s something you whip up in minutes, and set at the table with no further attention. Soft cake top with chocolaty, caramel bottom, these bars are one of my favorite desserts. My teenager took a big box of these cake bars to school and he said his friends ‘attacked’ it before the morning bell. His words: “The bars are awesome because you’re awesome mom”. Teenage sarcasm ignored and brownie points banked :)).

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

(9 X 13 pan – 24 squares)

  • 1 box (16.25oz – 18.5 oz) yellow or white cake mix – any brand
  • 2 large eggs – room temperature
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 can (12oz – 14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter – room temperature

1) Preheat oven to 350* F.

2) Grease a 9 X 13 pan and set aside.

3) In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, eggs and oil till well incorporated.

4) Press two-thirds of the mixture onto the bottom of the greased pan and flatten gently.

photo-1

 

5) In another bowl, microwave the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter for about a minute. Mix well and stir to ensure it is completely melted.

6) Pour over the cake mix in the 9 X 13 pan and spread gently to the corners if required.

7) Drop the remaining cake batter on top of the chocolate mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

8) Bake 28-30 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

9) Cool completely and cut into 24 pieces.

Ooey Gooey Cake Bars

10) This is a great recipe to make with kids, and is always a hit at bake sales.

(Sorry for the bad step-by-step photos. I noticed that my regular camera was out of charge after I had started to mix everything, and I had to rely on my phone for photography.)

 

 

Cupcake Bouquet

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and I am so excited about writing my first Feature Post. I have come across many enterprising and inspiring women who balance both family and career, and are able to take the plunge to pursue their passion. This post is the first of (hopefully) many more where I can give a shout out to these wonderful ladies (and men), and spread word of their work.

Today, I am writing about CUPCAKE DELIGHTS by Hannah Jaikumar. Hanna (and her twin sister Nandini) and I went to college together, but we had lost track of each other over the years. Thanks to Facebook, we were able to reconnect a few years ago, and catch up again. Going through her photos, I was simply amazed by her baking talent. When I found out that this mother of 2 young children works full time, and runs her baking business, I felt that I had to encourage her endeavor. I’ve shared a small sample of her beautiful creations here.

Hannah's Cakes

 

Here’s a small write up about her:

ABOUT MYSELF…
Hi, I’m Hannah Jaikumar, living in Brampton, On, Canada. I am a Realtor by profession for the past 10 years, but baking/cooking has always been my passion. No matter how busy I am, I always find the time and energy to bake.

HOW DID I GET INTERESTED IN BAKING…..
My cooking skills definitely are acquired from my mom Irene who is a great cook and my inspiration. I remember when I was 6-years old, my mom had baked “Vanilla Buns” during summer vacation in Delhi, India where I grew up for the first few years. The kitchen was filled with the aroma of vanilla, and the pan was a beautiful diamond shape. I still have the pan as a keepsake. The Vanilla Buns project stayed in my memory since then and eventually got me interested in baking.

Cakes By Hannah

(Edible Sugar-paste Flowers)

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE….
I usually measure/weigh the ingredients, and get icing bags with appropriate nozzles ready the previous night. The next morning, while the first batch is in the oven, I get the batter ready for the 2nd batch, and all the baking is done back to back. While the cakes are cooling, I get the frosting ready according to the orders placed. I prepare a basic frosting, divide it into portions, and vary the flavors with additions of extracts or fruit pulps.

My family has always supported me a lot, be it tasting tirelessly by being guinea pigs or helping me in other ways. My husband Seraphim takes care of the home front, while our 11-year old daughter Rishona keeps our 3-year old Rivka entertained. Last but not the least, thanks to my twin sister Nandini who patiently listens to all my baking ideas and stories, and gives me valuable feedback.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS….
I’ve always dreamt of starting a baking business. I started on a large scale for the first time in the spring of 2010 to raise funds for the SICK KIDS HOSPITAL in Toronto. It was the first “BAKE SALE & LEMONADE STAND” organized by my daughter Rishona. I baked 700 chocolate chip cookies in 2 days while being 5-months pregnant with our second daughter. Rishona has since continued her fundraising every year till date. Over the years I have been treating family, friends, neighbors, my daughter’s school teachers, doctors office, school custodian, school bus operator, grocery store employees, and my hair dresser to name a few.

Currently, I take orders for CUPCAKES where the flavors & frosting can be customized to suit the customer’s taste. My other speciality is over 25 custom made flavors of BISCOTTI.

 

CONTACT INFO…..

I live about 50 kms from Toronto and cater to orders from in and around the city. All orders are to be picked up.

CUPCAKE DELIGHTS BY HANNAH

Phone: (416) 268-5307

 

 

CUPCAKE BOUQUET

Cupcake Bouquet

A cupcake bouquet would be a lovely gift for any occasion – Birthday, Anniversary, Mother’s/Father’s/Grandparent’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Baby / Bridal shower, Thank You, Congratulations, etc.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, this might be the sweetest homemade gift that mom ever received.

Hannah Jaikumar from CUPCAKE DELIGHTS by Hannah was kind enough to share her method for these beautiful arrangements.

 

MATERIALS REQUIRED

Clay/Ceramic Pot or Vase – 6-inches in diameter

Pebbles to fill inside the pot

Styrofoam Ball – 6-inches in circumference

Glue gun

Tooth picks

Green tissue paper – 1 sheet (cut into 6-inch X 1-inch strips)
Fancy fabric ribbon-2-inches wide (Make a fancy bow separately.)

Cellophane wrap (optional)

13 to 18 large cupcakes [OR] 20 to 26 Medium cupcakes [OR] 30 to 36 Mini cupcakes

Butter cream frosting

Pastry bag

Icing tip of your choice according to the flower to be piped

 

Method

1)    Bake, cool and ice your cupcakes according to the flower of your choice, e.g. Roses or hydrangeas. Alternately, you can use store bought cupcakes.

(I prefer to refrigerate the iced cupcakes for 4-6 hours to firm up the icing for easy handling.)

Cupcake Bouquet

2)    Fill the pot/vase with pebbles to weigh the container down.

3)    Glue the Styrofoam ball with hot glue to hold it firmly in place.

Cupcake Bouquet

4)    Wrap the ribbon around the edge of the pot and glue at the joining. Glue the already made bow on to the front of the pot.

036

5)    Keeping the bow as the front of the arrangement, insert 2 toothpicks, about 1-inch apart per cupcake. Make sure it is at a 45 degree angle, otherwise the icing will fall off or the cupcake will loosen from the paper cup.

Cupcake Bouquet

Cupcake Bouquet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6)    Place a cupcake snuggly on to the tooth picks, right in the centre. Continue by positioning 2 toothpicks per cupcake until the bottom row is complete. Adjust the tooth picks to ensure that the cupcakes are close to each other. You might have to remove and re- insert the toothpicks a few times. You can fit about 8 to 10 large cupcakes in the bottom row for a 6-inch pot and 6-inch Styrofoam ball. Move on to the next row with the same 2 toothpicks per cupcake pattern. The middle row will hold about 4-6 large cupcakes. The top will hold 1 large cupcake.

Cupcake Bouquet

7)    If using tissue paper, cut 1-inch by  6-inch strips. Fold the strips in accordion style. Carefully insert tissue paper in-between cupcakes, making sure not to touch or smudge the icing. Another easy trick is to use a pair of forceps/tweezers to insert the tissue paper. If using edible leaves follow the same procedure. Cover as much as you can so that no white Styrofoam ball is seen from the outside.

062

 Cupcake Bouquet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8)    Cut a large size cellophane wrap. Place the bouquet in the center and carefully gather the cellophane wrap together. Tie a ribbon just enough to loosely hold the bouquet. I usually like to give the bouquet with a few extra cupcakes just incase 1 or 2 fall off the arrangement and can be replaced at the venue.

Cupcake Bouquet

 

YOUR CUPCAKE BOUQUET IS READY TO BE DELIVERED