Spicy Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing

Cilantro Lime Dressing

For someone who loves to drown their salad with ranch dressing and cannot stand vinaigrettes, finding a recipe for a thicker dressing that wasn’t too tart/sweet/unhealthy has been a challenge. Playing around with ingredients a few days ago, I finally made something that was fresh, packs a bite and is full of fresh healthy whole ingredients. Serve with Naan Pizzas (recipe here) for al fresco dining on summer nights.

Naan Pizza

Cilantro Lime Dressing

The dressing is really simple to make.

  • ! medium bunch cilantro (rinsed, drained & chopped)
  • 1 small garlic clove (washed & peeled)
  • tiny piece ginger (washed & peeled)
  • 1-2 green chillies (to taste)
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a small blender jar and adjust taste to liking, adding more oil by the tbsp if dressing is too thick.

The salad shown in the photo has arugula, red onion, tomato, cucumber, carrots & red pepper. Use any combination of veggies and protein – top with chickpeas, tofu, paneer, grilled chicken, red meat, etc.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

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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.

Eggless French Toast

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I thought I should share some breakfast-in-bed ideas that dad and the kids can whip up easily. This recipe is a change from the usual pancakes /PBJ / store bought muffins, etc. They can be made either savory or sweet, and are vegetarian. The basic recipe idea comes from both my grandmother & Show Me The Curry, and I have adapted it to suit our tastes.

Eggless French Toast

Eggless Savory French Toast

  • 1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp fine sooji (if all you have is regular sooji, give it a quick whir in the blender)
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp green chilli (finely minced) OR chilli powder
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp ginger paste (optional)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4-5 slices of day-old sandwich bread

Eggless French Toast

[Here’s my grandma making french toast 🙂 ]

1) Sift together besan, rice flour & baking soda into a flat-bottomed wide dish.

2) Add all the other ingredients (except bread) and stir well till no lumps are left. (Add a teaspoon or two of extra water only if absolutely necessary to make the paste smoother.)

3) Place your griddle / shallow frying pan on medium heat to preheat.

4) Soak each slice of bread in the besan mixture for a few seconds on each side.

5) Lightly grease the griddle and cook the bread on medium-low flame, flipping over as each side is crispy and golden. Add a few drops of oil around the bread as it cooks on each side to keep it from getting dry.

Alternately, add a teaspoon of butter on the griddle and cook the bread in it – it’s delicious!!

6) Repeat till all slices are done and serve with ketchup / hot & sweet sauce.

Eggless Sweet French Toast

  • 1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp fine sooji (if all you have is regular sooji, give it a quick whir in the blender)
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla / cinnamon powder / orange zest

1) Follow the same cooking method as above.

2) Serve the toast topped with maple syrup, fruit slices, or jam.

Serve MOM these French Toast slices with Blueberry Yogurt Parfait (click here for recipe) and hot tea or coffee.

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

 

For regular French Toast recipe, click here.

Read my Mother’s Day post from 2014 for instructions on how to make a Cupcake Bouquet.

These French Toast slices will keep well for lunch boxes too – just add a side of veggies and fruit for a complete meal.

Eggless French Toast

 

World’s Best Salsa

Homemade Salsa

Ok….I know I sound like a braggart using this title. But really!!! – this is truly the best salsa I have ever eaten!! (Notice all the exclamation marks.) I got this recipe from my friend Soumya, and no store bought version even comes close. My family loves their chip and 7-layer dip, and they always ask me to make a BIG batch of this yummy and easy salsa. The icing on the cake is that it keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days AND it freezes well too. What’s not to love about that?!?!

I have tried making this salsa with fresh or canned whole or canned crushed tomatoes. It just seems to taste better with canned diced tomatoes; stock up on a few cans from Costco and you whip up a batch in no time :).

Homemade Salsa

  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes – (do not drain)
  • 1/2 small red onion (medium chunks)
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers (quartered)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • lime / lemon juice to taste
  • pinch of sugar

1) Add all the ingredients in a big food processor jar and pulse till it reaches desired consistency. I like my finely minced.

Sometimes, I mix hummus & this salsa together to make a spicy and creamy salad dressing – give it a try. For other related recipes, check out my post on Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options)

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.

An Indian Holiday Feast

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving break. It’s the start of the season of over-indulgence! Thanksgiving weekend was filled with good food, drinks, family, friends, shopping, gossip & spending time with three precious little nieces. While we have the traditional meal with all the accompaniments each year, I’ve never really been a fan of turkey. I had seen recipes for (east)Indian spiced turkey several times, and had also been meaning to try roasting a cornish hen for several years. I decided to try to meld both together and improvised along the way. The results were a delicious & colorful meal that worked for our taste buds :). And it was easy enough to make for a weeknight meal.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

The menu included:

For dessert, we had warm and sweet Gulab Jamoons 🙂

[Scroll down for recipes of items that are not hyperlinked.]

Tandoori Cornish Hen

Masala Corn

  • 1 cup corn kernels (cooked and drained) – I buy frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • salt to taste (use black salt / kala namak if available for a better flavor)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • cilantro for garnish

Mix all ingredients well and serve. The measurements are just a guide – adjust as per your taste.

 Peas & Carrot Pulao

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion – sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp green chilli paste (or 1 green chilli – slit)
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 tsp salt to taste

1) Heat oil in a medium pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow it to sizzle and pop for a few seconds.

2) Add the onion, ginger and green chilli. Saute on medium-high till translucent, stirring often.

3) Add the carrots and salt, and saute for 2 minutes.

4) Add the peas and cook for another 2 minutes.

5) Add the rice and saute for 1-2 minutes till it changes color.

6) Add 1 1/2 cups (one and a half) water and bring to boil.

7) As soon as the water comes to boil, stir once, reduce heat to LOW, and cook covered for about 12-15 minutes. Do not open the lid during this time. At end of cook time, open lid and gently fluff the rice with a spoon or fork. Check for doneness. Keep covered till ready to serve.

Raita

This recipe was given to me by my friend Sandhya’s mom and it is my most favorite raita recipe.

  • 1/2 medium grated cucumber
  • 1 cup greek yogurt / strained yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small dry red chilli
  • 2 Tbsp grated coconut
  • salt to taste

1) Wash, peel & grate the cucumber and drain for a few minutes.

2) In a small blender bowl, add half the yogurt, cumin, chilli & coconut and blend till smooth.

3) Mix all ingredients together and salt to taste.

NOTE: If you use regular yogurt, squeeze out the water from the cucumber before mixing in.

Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen

 

Tandoori Cornish Hen

After many years of wanting to make cornish hen, I finally mustered up the courage to experiment. I figured that with the accompaniments I planned to serve, we would at least have other things to eat if the meat didn’t turn out right. Let me just say that I should have made this a looooong time ago!! The chicken was moist, full of flavor, and falling off the bones. My 10 year old would have probably eaten a whole cornish hen if I let him :).

NOTE: Please take a few minutes to read the recipe before deciding if it’s easy or too complicated based on the number of steps below. I’ve laid out everything step-by-step, hence the long write up. In honesty, the whole process is pretty straight-forward and relatively easy. The only hard thing in my opinion is having to wait about 24 hours before eating.

Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen

(Serves 4)

  • 2 cornish hens – about 1 lb each (I buy the 4-packs from Costco)
  • 2-3 Tbsp oil / butter

FOR THE BRINE:

  • 32 oz buttermilk (about 4 cups)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken)
  • 8-10 whole cloves
  • 4 black cardamom pods (moti elaichi) / 6 green cardamom pod
  • 2-3 Tbsp salt (or more to taste)

1) Remove the plastic inserts from the cornish hens and wash inside & out thoroughly. Drain well.

2) Meanwhile, in a lidded container big enough to hold both birds, add all the brine ingredients and mix well. It should be on the saltier side, but don’t worry – the chicken will only absorb a little.

3) Gently immerse the hens into the brine, making sure that the brine fills the cavity and covers the whole bird. Cover the container and refrigerate overnight.

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 1/2 packet tandoori masala of choice (I mixed in a bit of red food coloring, but this is optional)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger paste
  • 1Tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon / lime juice

4) Next morning, mix all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust salt & lemon juice as needed.

5) Remove the chicken from the brine and pick away any whole spices sticking to it. Set aside on a plate and discard the remaining brine.

6) Evenly spread the chicken with the tandoori marinade, making sure to get under the skin and in the cavity*** (see note at bottom of post). (Do not slather the marinade on in thick layers as it will be doughy and bitter when cooked. Spread generously but evenly.)

7) Return to empty brine container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. You can flip the bird over once or twice while marinating (optional), and return to the refrigerator.

TO COOK THE CHICKEN:

  • 2-3 large red potatoes
  • 1 medium green pepper (capsicum)
  • 1-2 large red onion
  • 1-2 Tbsp oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

8) Remove chicken from the refrigerator and set at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

9) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375*F.

10) Chop the red potatoes, peppers & onion into large chunks and toss with oil, salt & pepper.

11) Place in the bottom of a roasting pan sprayed lightly with oil (you can line the pan with foil for easy cleanup).

12) Use twine to gently tie the chicken legs at the ‘ankles’ :)). Poke a toothpick through each wing into the breast meat to keep the wing from spreading & getting burnt while cooking. [Google “how to truss a chicken” for more info]

13) Place the hens on the roasting rack**(see note at bottom of post). Brush/spray lightly with oil or butter, and cover lightly with foil.

14) Bake for about 35-40 minutes covered. Remove the foil, baste with some remaining marinade, turn the roasting rack around, and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Watch closely to ensure that the meat does not turn dry. Chicken is done when the juices start to run clear.

15) Remove from the oven and gently drape the foil on the chicken (DO NOT SEAL). Let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with mint chutney and/or raita. For other accompaniments, check out my Desi Holiday Feast post.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

NOTE: I don’t like poking holes in the chicken before marinating as I feel it lets the juices run out and dry the meat while cooking. You can do it if you prefer, but the cook times may need to be adjusted.

If you do not have a roasting rack to cook the cornish hen, you can crumple up aluminum foil or layer on root vegetables on the bottom of the tray to keep it away from the juices.