Category Archives: Vegetarian

Crepes!, with savory chick pea flour

In fishing out a recipe for a fushion crepe dish I had posted earlier, I realized I had never actually specified how to make the crepe batter. I want to rectify that now, especially since this batter uses chick pea flour and is nutritive-ly far superior to its French counterpart.

I had hesitated in providing that recipe because it was from a cook book. However, today, I was sans cook book due to an apartment repair job which required us to pack up all of our books from one wall. It is for a traditional Indian dish called “cheela”. 

So, I called my mom and promptly forgot most of what she told me. I did remember her saying that outside of the salt and pepper, all else was free to experimentation. So here are the results of my delicious experiment:

  • 1 cup chick pea flour (also called Besan, in indian stores)
  • 1/2 large onion, diced (I used yellow)
  • 1 medium green chili pepper (these are long and slim), chopped
  • at least 1 Tbls Fresh coriander (or more if you’d like)
  • 1/4 tsp Salt 
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red cayenne pepper

Optional:

  • Garam Masala (1/4 to 1/2 tsp) (I only used this because I had it, not because its imperative to the dish)
  • ground coriander (1/2 tsp)
  • ground cumin (1/4 to 1/2 tsp)

Toss and mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Then, add water, starting with one cup of water. You want to make it about a pancake like consistency in the batter. If needed, add up to 1/4 cup more. Whisk together to create the batter for the crepes. Then follow the cooking instructions in my previous post–that post describes how proten-acious this crepe is and how it barely takes any oil to cook! I made up to 7 crepes using this recipe, could have possibly stretched it to 8, to feed 3 adults. Enjoy!

A side note on the amount of spices: Note, when I don’t have a specific measurement in mind for a basic spice such as salt or pepper, I basically sprinkle the salt over the surface of the other ingredients in a left to right manner until I have the surface at least lightly coated. In this case, because chick pea flour has a strong taste, I decided I was use just a pinch or dash more salt. Same with the black pepper. I sprinkled until the surface of the flour in my bowl was fully coated because I love black pepper. Otherwise, I added some ground cumin because I LOVE it and I used ground coriander because I didn’t have fresh.

Enjoy!

an act of creation

I know there are legions of people, men and women alike who cook out of necessity and may not have developed any other connection to it. but for me, i’ve come to be drawn to it as an act of creation. one of the few that i am able to fit into my lifestyle. i guess that is my honest truth.

today on the creation block–after a dreary work day–i did two dishes. Both of them involved the ease of tossing several ingredients in a bowl and then baking. The first was a brussel sprouts dish from (yet again) American Masala. Now don’t get me wrong, I have my own fave brussel sprouts recipe, sent to me by my dear friend Anne-Marie. But I’ve made it many times before and it really wouldn’t feel as much like creating as making something new, now would it? This one was pretty simple—mixing sprouts, apples, red onions and currants (i used a mix of cranberries and raisins) with flavors such as red pepper, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt–and baking it with some butter for about an hour. You can add slivered almonds in it too. You know it was similar to some Thanksgiving sides or stuffings I have made. It was delicious, like he said it would be, though i would cut down on the number of shakes on the red pepper flakes. I am excited to have it in the fridge to accompany lunches and dinners this week. I have to do the math on this but for rough approximation I think this will turn out to be between 50 cents and a dollar a serving.

The second act of creation is pumpkin custard. I have been craving this for a long time. and i am physically miserable today and wanting to give in to my sweet tooth. it was beautiful, and simple (recipe here). It simply took about 15 minutes to mix the ingredients, mostly spices with a can of organic pumpkin mix, milk, cream and sugar. I then poured them into various baking dishes and voila, a beautiful custard i could cut with a knife. it was a surprisingly pleasing, subtle custard, mildly sweet and not over powering. would definitely do well in a crust, like a profiterole or something.

Winter flower

All, I noticed Martha Shulman’s new recipes in the New York Times are themed on cauliflower, our winter flower here in the north east. We just made our regular spaghetti sauce last night so the first recipe, with olives, cauliflower and tomato sauce caught my eye. I note the other ones just for diversity–one of them is also indian style. (Same sets of spices folks, buy them once and don’t look back):

We all know cauliflower has gotten expensive. Would love to hear how much you can get cauliflower for where you are! Also, are they the normal small size or the really big size (i don’t see too many of these anymore). Please share, and enjoy!

well i’ll be cabbaged …and a holiday nog tip

hello everyone. i am gratified to share that we are starting to get some decent viewership on this blog! hopefully we’ll find our way together to getting more of your input and foster some dialogue. but so far, i am definitely feeling a measure of contentment knowing that the three ‘tines’ of taste, health, and low-cost are resonating out in webland. Thank you!!

this is fundamentally a blog about self care. so i must come clean. my last two to three weeks of workload definitely pulled me under. literally it felt like mounds of work came in on some huge tidal wave and landed at the mouth of my office door. well, its been handled. deadlines, quality met…in the process i did the work of 3 people. I leaned on my husband alot who was so cool about figuring out how to feed me and took on nearly every personal and household chore that needed immediate attention. even making my side dish to donate for a work event. (Green beans with coconut and mustard seed. Thank you American Masala!) am i glad that’s over. but also i gave in. we ate some frozen meals…like pizza from whole foods…we ate out more than I would have liked. so, in general, it was a challenge being present. it really was. and i am sad about that.

the weight thing is steady. I have gained about a pound at most since Thanksgiving. That includes about 3 holiday parties we have been to so far. i was present at this fabulous party last night. friends with great senses of humor to the rescue.

so here i am in a weekend where i am restoring spirit. I started the day with some meditation and will go back to it after this post. My wonderful mother in law also lifted my spirits bringing me back to my big picture…Thanks mom! I don’t know what I accomplished the last 3 weeks, it feels perhaps that the sacrifice was a little too much (again). but she reminded of feeling some accomplishment along the way. I did alot!

so today, my husband and I talked about the week’s meal planning (no we don’t usually do this but it went great!)..identifying proteins, vegetables, lunches, fruits, etc. he did the grocery shopping without me!!

in terms of cooking, i am picking up the thread from the last post in that I had a half-head of red cabbage left over from last weekend. I grabbed for it which meant i really relished our experience with the indian crepes. This time though, my inspiration was mixing cabbage wth walnuts which my husband brought home because our stock was getting low. My cookbooks did not inspire and I turned to the web.

Well, its cabbage cabbage everywhere on the web it appears. First, one of my kindred spirits in healthy eating, Margaret Rose Shulman has several cabbage recipes out in December. The one that caught my eye is the one discussing its nutritional contents. Apparently, cabbage is “an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese and Omega 3 fatty acids.” Another wordpress food blog writer, Jaya, also wrote about these nutrients. She also adds that these nutrients are especially good for women. As a side it seems that Ms. Shulman is also writing about how inexpensive cabbage is as a vegetable…seems like they are starting to finally combine discussions on health and dollars. Will need to investigate this further…Overall, I am definitely curious about more experiments with red cabbage because it seems really versatile in terms of texture and taste…sweet, tart, crunchy, nutty, etc!

The link to the Shulman column is here and it contains a recipe for cabbage and lentil which is essentially a twist of what we ended up eating tonight. See previous post on lentils for their cost per serving. Cabbage just by itself is about twenty cents a serving.

I did want to point you to Jaya’s blog entry on cabbage as well. Her recipe leaves the cabbage crunchy yet baked which is an awesome way to eat it. She also combines it with nuts (savory) and sweetness/tartness (by using cranberries or raisins) which is right on the money. I was not a huge fan of the overall flavor in this one and need to experiment with it more. I would likely need less chili powder in it. It is very simple and gets huge points for that as well being nutritious. Adding a half-cup of walnuts doubles the price to about $0.40 cents a serving; with the grapeseed oil and raisins this recipe goes above $0.50 cents a serving.

Finally, here is my tip on holiday nog. It a product called Silk (soy milk) and its seasonal flavor, Nog (look at the bottom of the page). It has 2 grams of fat for every half-cup serving, so 4 grams total, and it has only 12 grams of sugar which is much better than most processed nogs. You have only 3 grams of protein (in the half-cup). Real nog has more protein because of the egg but you leave out the fat from the yolks. It is so yummy and I am really loving it as my indulgent treat for the winter nesting season. 🙂 Its $2.99 for a quart (yes, its a treat) at Whole Foods. Enjoy!

A bowl, a whisk, a spatula, and a frying pan; or my first fusion dish ever!

I had fun with a new creation this morning. Its made with Indian crepes called cheelas. I was inspired to make it because I had made a savory filling for a tart over thanksgiving that I never ended up making. (Plus, though I brought the filling home, I left the crust in my sister’s fridge!) Cheela batter is healthier than regular crepe batter. Here I fused it with a traditional French (Provencal) based savory filling of red cabbage and onion.

The filling was for a cabbage and red onion tart from the Martha Stewart Living website (i provide the link here). I was nervous about serving a cabbage filling (kind of a departure for me i guess) but it came out wonderfully..sweet and a touch of vinegar-y. They ended up being a perfect compliment to the indian crepes (cheela(s)). Marvelous, and my first fusion concontion to boot! There are a few reasons why I thought it was valuable to share.

  • Indian crepes are made out of chickpea flour (besan) so they are full of protein.

I checked the nutrition data tool (LOVE THIS!) and it says one cup of chick pea flour contains 21 grams of protein. I made 8 crepes which meant about 175 calories each for my husband and I, just for the crepes without the filling. The total distribution from these crepes are about 61% carbs, 25% protein and 14% fat. That is from the flour alone. It also seems to contain thyamine and is a good source of manganese and folate. So good for all you pregnant woman right?

  • The batter does not contain fat. It contains spices, chopped up chili peppers and herbs (like cilantro) and it is thinned with water. Chick pea flour can be tricky to make tasty (I used to find it so) but with a few standard Indian spices, it is getting easier. I used the recipe from American Masala (of course) for the crepes (cheela). I am not going to duplicate the recipe here since I definitely encourage people buying this lovely book. I did add black pepper to the batter since my filling was something based in French flavors and i wanted to compliment that. But I also added garam masala and cumin seeds since I did not have some of ingredients on hand that he recommended. My mom has her own recipe but it saved me a phone call. I did want to say that over time, you will evolve your own mix of spices to add to the batter. You basically whisk the batter together to a thin pancake like consistency.
  • Using Sarvan’s technique, I used only 1/4 tspn of oil for each crepe during cooking. As I progressed I was able to use less and less since the oil from the previous crepe would remain at the bottom of the pan to assist with the next one.
  • Notes, tips and observation on cooking the crepes. I originally made the mistake of putting in way too much batter…i also subconsciously thought i had to put oil in the pan to cook the crepes. The whole thing just stuck together to the bottom of the frying pan like bad eggmaking can sometimes do. I had to scrape the whole thing off and start over! The second time I used a non-stick pan and heated it with no oil at the bottom. I was careful to use about 1/4 cup of batter like Sarvan suggested and quickly circled the batter from the center out to make it as large as possible. Once I did that I drizzled a 1/4 tsp of oil over it. and then I let it cook until the bottom turned golden brown. Now, I still have room for improvement. I need to learn to make the circles thinner and wider quickly. My crepes were likely smaller than they needed to be. The heat has to be right because the chick pea flour cooks quickly and while you want to get the bottom golden brown, you also want the get the whole thing dry on the top too. Still, i’m so happy with my first batch. I have never succeeded in getting them off the pan and these turned out to be eminently flippable.

Thanks to both Sarvan and Martha Stewart for my first fusion creation! This was a perfect breakfast/brunch dish coming home from Thanksgiving.

Cost per serving: Chick pea flour and cabbage and onion. Oh my god, this is like the mother of all staples. I am going to the math quickly on this, rather than too precisely. I included the price of the cabbage, red onion, 1 cup of besan flour, the thyme in the cabbage red onion filling, and the oil in the whole recipe for four servings (each serving is 2 stuffed crepes). I come up to $0.40 cents a serving

an attitude of gratitude (with lots of stuffing)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I have enjoyed games of SET and Boggle and we are now onto family scrabble. Its been a truly bountiful year and we feel quite blessed in our household.

After scaling down my Thanksgiving cooking projects, I put my energies into three dishes. I am providing links for two which were real crowd pleasers.

The stuffing and tart were both very yummy. I make a different stuffing every year. This year I chose something filled with more classic flavors. It turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made. The combination of flavors that really worked together was the apple cooking with the celery and then the sweet dried fruit (a fave flavor technique of mine, as seen by other posts) just spikes up the flavor another notch. First time using dried cherries and it won’t be the last. I added dried figs because I didn’t have dried apples. I also used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and did not really need to add any salt. But thank you NYT, I loved how this turned out and it was a real hit. It makes alot–easily ten cups if not more. I used organic vegetable broth from Whole Foods for $1.29.

The savory tart–I used a technique out of Provencal Light which says that the classic French Provencale tart also has you roast some garlic and then rub the juices of it on the tart dough before sticking in the oven. Definitely do this as a low cost flavor boost. I did splurge $1.99 for fresh thyme which was worth every penny. With frost and the patio herb gardening, we have lost our basil and most of our thyme so I bought. Otherwise, caramelizing onion is simply a delight. Its a very simple recipe and I felt that the flavors really took about 10 minutes after I turned off the stove. I did not add cheese. I also “cheated” and used ready made pie crust from Pillsbury ($2.50 on sale for two boxes (4 crusts). Here is a link to other savory tart recipes by Martha Stewart which look divine (and fun).

We also made the sweet potato and apple puree from a previous post. I will give it props for being very healthy–it used the basic flavor of the foods to derive the majority of the taste. But I must say, we needed more flavor, either in the form of brown suguar, cinnamon and nutmeg but otherwise, it was really quite pleasing. A much healthier alternative to candied yams, etc.  

Since its Thanksgiving I am forgoing nutritional analysis.
I am however updating this post to include cost per serving. Cost per serving for the bread and fruit serving is coming out to just under $0.90 cents a serving. The big splurge here was for the dried cherries. I included the cost of all ingredients.

Please let me know anything that you enjoyed, either making or eating!

Love, American Masala style: the Cauliflower

You may feel skeptical about using the word “love” to describe one’s relationship to the cauliflower, but you can easily fall in love with how simple it is to create something delicious using Indian spices with this recipe. The recipe is from American Masala, the cook book I have recommended in previous posts and the link to which you can find on my side bar. I am not even sure what I did qualifies as cooking…I used one bowl to combine several spices with oil, then coated the cauliflower pieces (with onion) and then baked in a baking dish at 450 degrees for 45 minutes. How easy was that? Super easy and super fragrant. Be sure to pause to revel in the spices after they ground and after they are mixed into the oil.

Cardamon Roasted Cauliflower

Cardamon Roasted Cauliflower

Here are the spices. Feel free to ask me any questions about them:

  • Cardamom pods (green), 3
  • Coriander seeds, 1 tbspn
  • Cumin seeds, 1 tspn
  • Dried red chilies, 3 (I used about a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
  • Whole peppercorns, 1/2 tsp

Put all of this in a coffee grinder (or small food processor) until you have a fine powder. Then measure 1/3 cup of EVOO into a bowl. I used, as viewers of this blog know, grapeseed oil as substitution. I don’t mind using EVOO in this, just don’t have any on hand right now. Mix the spices into the oil (and inhale…). Then toss your cut up florets into the mixture and coat. Saran (the author) uses one whole head of cauliflower plus 1 medium size onion (sliced finely). Coat thoroughly and then place the vegetables in a baking tray and roast until they are tender at 450 degrees. He says about an hour and I found it was done in about 45 to 50 minutes. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve. I wonder if it would add flavor to it if you chopped up an herb like cilantro finely and also mixed it in the oil/spice mix. Even without it, the flavors just pop in your mouth. I do love that part of the American Masala style! 🙂

Price per serving: for a generous serving I would say $0.71 cents a serving. This includes the price of the cauliflower and the oil, the two prime ingredients. It is a tad expensive and its because cauliflower is expensive and I used organic cauliflower to boot. As usual, the price doesn’t include spices because I do believe these are an investment unless you are able to buy them in bulk. (In which case, more power to YOU). Any suggestions on how to lower the price are welcome.