Showing posts with label simple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label simple. Show all posts

May 15, 2017

Mexican Style Beans (Frijoles)

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Beans are a staple of Mexican cuisine and a favorite element in so many Mexican dishes. This classic recipe for frijoles is easy to make, versatile, vegan, and healthy. Enjoy these beans with warm tortillas, as a filling for burritos, or with rice and rotis as my Indian family does!


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Pinto beans are the most popular bean in the United States and northwestern Mexico. Pinto means speckled or spotted referring to the bean's mottled skin which becomes uniform when cooked. When properly prepared pinto beans have a deliciously creamy texture, mild flavor, and an ability to absorb flavors well. I'm using simi beans which are a local favorite here in Nepal. As you can see in the above photo simi beans are a bit rosier in hue than pinto beans, but their flavor and texture is quite similar.

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A Latina friend in my native California taught me to make these Mexican-style beans or frijoles. Each family has their own unique way of preparing beans with differences in bean variety, the type of pot used, specific seasonings, and method of cooking. Traditionally, an earthenware pot called an olla was used to cook beans. As you can see in the above photo an olla is shaped a lot like the handi used in Indian cooking and serves much the same purpose. I have never seen an olla in use to cook beans in any kitchen Mexican or otherwise. The most common vessel I've seen used to cook beans in both Spanish-speaking and Okie communities is a large heavy-duty aluminum stockpot begotten at the Kmart or the local ACE hardware store. I use my Indian-style pressure cooker to save time.

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I have often read that lard or manteca is the most authentic fat to use in Mexican cooking. In the town where I was raised the cooking fat of choice for Mexican-American families and most other ethnic groups was Crisco. The famed digestible vegetable shortening or manteca vegetal was used for tortillas and tamales as well as pie crusts and fried chicken. I'm not from Butcher Holler but as Loretta Lynn said in the commercial,
"Crisco will do you proud every time." 

Lard was probably the preferred fat before World War II. Possibly the only place to find lard in the 70's and 80's was at a carnicería or Mexican butcher. I've heard lard is making a comeback though. Choose your favorite cooking oil for this recipe. The preferred chilis for Mexican cooking in California are Serranos and their milder cousins, Jalapeños. Spanish-style yellow onions are used exclusively in Mexican cuisine. To soak the beans or not is another choice. Soaking the beans overnight will save you cooking time. I never saw beans soaked in my little community though so I don't soak either. I do use a pressure cooker which does cut down cooking time to about half. My Indian family loves these with rice but you could certainly enjoy them in a more traditional manner atop a tostada, alongside warm tortillas, or as a filling for burritos. Or try them topped with a little queso fresco, chopped tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cilantro as a hearty soup! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 C dry pinto beans (or dry simi beans)
1-2 TBS cooking oil (scant amount to cover bottom of pot)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 TBS garlic paste or 3 minced garlic cloves
1-3 Jalapeño or Serrano chilis or any green chili you prefer (omit for less heat)
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Sort through dried beans and remove pebbles. Rinse the beans in water in a colander and set aside. Heat oil in a large stock pot or pressure cooker and fry the onion until it softens.

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 2) When onion begins to turn translucent add garlic, chilis, and black pepper to frying onion. Fry for about 2 minutes or until chilis begin to blister and garlic loses it's raw smell. Do not brown the onions!

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3) Add the rinsed beans, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough water to cover the beans by about 3 inches to the pot or pressure cooker. If using stock pot: bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours. Check on the pot every 15 minutes to make sure there's enough water, add more water from time to time as necessary. Make sure to keep adding water so the pot does not dry out. If using pressure cooker: seal lid on pressure cooker and allow to steam until beans are tender. This takes about 40 to 50 minutes in my Indian-style pressure cooker.

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4) The beans are ready when cooked so soft you can press them through your fingers and skins slip off easily. (Cooking time depends on the age and quality of beans, drier ones will require a longer simmering time.) Traditionally the beans are left a bit soupy so you can dip your tortilla in them or mash them to make frijoles refritos. Salt to taste and retrieve chilis before serving. Serve with warm tortillas or rice and rotis like we eat them. Once cooled the beans will keep for up to one week refrigerator in an airtight container.

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Helpful Hints:
You could certainly use other sorts of beans in this recipe such as black beans, kidney beans, Peruano, Mayocoba, Santa Maria, or Flor de Mayo.

And to all moms out there:


Including moms of furry babies,



Or not so furry babies, 
HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY!!!

Apr 10, 2017

Tips & Tools: How to Hard-Cook Eggs

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via

Today I'm going to share with you my preferred method to hard-cook eggs. Making hard-cooked eggs is easy! Follow the simple steps below for perfect hard-cooked eggs with tender whites and brilliant yellow yolks every time.

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Egg-cellent eggs from our chooks!!!
What you need:
Eggs
Large enough pan to hold eggs in a single layer
cold water/ice

Here's what to do:
1) Place eggs in a wide, shallow pan just large enough to hold them in single layer. Add enough cold water to cover the eggs by one inch. Bring to just boiling on high heat.

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2) Remove pan from burner. Cover pan with tight fitting lid. Let eggs steep in hot water for 15 minutes. Removing the pan from the heat allows the eggs to cook gently in hot water. This produces tender eggs and reduces cracking.

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3) Pour hot water off immediately and cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water. This will cause the egg to contract in the shell making peeling easier.

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4) Allow the eggs to cool for at least 10 minutes. Then gently crack the shell of each egg on a hard surface.  Starting peeling at large end. Hold the egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off in necessary.
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5) Keep hard-cooked eggs in refrigerator safely for up to one week. Once peeled, hard-boiled eggs should be eaten that day.
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Perfection!
Tips for perfect hard-boiled eggs:

Want easy to peel hard-cooked eggs? The old saying is true, "Old eggs are for boiling, fresh eggs are for frying." The fresher the egg, the harder to peel. Use eggs that are at least 12 days old. I put mine in a a sealed plastic container labeled with the date at the back of the refrigerator for two weeks. As eggs age they take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell.

No! 
Avoid the unappetizing greenish-grey halo. The harmless discoloration that sometimes forms around hard-cooked yolks results from a reaction between sulfur in the white and iron in the yolk. It occurs when eggs have been cooked at too high a temperature. At 170F/77C the yolk starts turning green and smelly sulfur compounds begin forming. Cooking eggs in hot water (not boiling) and then cooling immediately minimizes this.
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Yes!
Recipes to enjoy hard-cooked eggs with:
Chettinad Style Egg Curry
Looking for new and delicious ways to enjoy hard-cooked eggs? Try my recipes for Chettinad Style Egg Curry (pictured above) and Punjabi Dhaba Style Egg Curry

Interesting new way to use hard-cooked eggs:


Yup, it's a thing. Some beauty YouTuber called Nadi demonstrated that you can use a hard-boiled egg to blend makeup. Sounds kind of gross to me. Certainly not as unsanitary as those festering BeautyBlender or Silisponges so 'on trend' for blending cosmetics though. Not sure what you do with the egg after you've used it either. Now all the YouTube makeup vloggers are applying their makeup with weird things ranging from bras to tomatoes. No thank you, I shall stick to applying my foundation with my freshly washed hands. Some sage advice from your resident glamour guru Bibi: If it's taking more than your clean fingers to apply your foundation, buy a better foundation! Don't spend your money on gimmicky tools that require more time and products than your face to clean them! Or maybe try any random household item to apply your makeup. Whatev's.

Mar 22, 2017

Peanut Butter Shorties (eggless)

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This decidedly decadent shortbread recipe makes the peanuttiest peanut butter cookies ever! Adding salted peanuts lends an extra bit of crunch and a deliciously salty-sweet flavor. Buttery, meltingly tender, and so simple to make this egg-free recipe can can easily be made vegan by substituting a good quality margarine or shortening for the butter.

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I think it's well known worldwide that Americans love peanut butter. Yes, it's as American as apple pie, hot dogs, and the 4th of July! Peanut butter has everything we American love with it's salty, savory, and rich peanut flavor. Unfortunately the rest of the world seems to find peanut butter's rather sticky and somewhat velvety texture revolting. That would include my Kashmiri family. So I found this classic un-foul-uppable recipe in my Sierra 4-H Club cookbook from 1973. Baked into a cookie is the only way my Kashmiri clan loves peanut butter. Actually, now that I think about it they'll eat peanut butter in these chocolatey easy no-bake 5 Minute Cowpat cookies too. But that's about it.

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What's not to love?!?
 All cultural considerations aside, these cookies store well, are eggless, and super easy to make. They can certainly be made vegan by simply substituting a good quality vegetable shortening or margarine for the butter. Whether you make these made these with the organic Hessian-weave peanut butter from the health food store or the greasy kid stuff from the supermarket they turn out great! Chunky or smooth both work well too. I prefer to keep them strictly peanut-y by adding salted peanut but you could get posh and personalize them by adding white or dark chocolate chips or even honey roasted peanuts. If you really wanted to get fancy you could drizzle or dip them in white or dark chocolate for a true indulgence! And so without further ado here is the recipe, enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 C butter or margarine, softened and at room temperature
2/3 C peanut butter, chunky or smooth
3/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2&1/4 C all purpose flour
1 C salted and roasted peanuts, or mini chocolate chips

Here's what to do:
1) In a large mixing bowl beat together softened butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Be sure there are no lumps of butter. (The lumps or bits you see in the photo below are peanuts from the chunky peanut butter I used.)

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2) Add flour and peanuts to creamed mixture and mix until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will start out a bit crumbly but should start sticking to itself after about 2-3 minutes of mixing. Cover dough with cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

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3) When ready to bake heat oven to 325F/170C. Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into balls the size of walnuts. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment or a silicone mat about 2 inches apart. Flatten with the bottom of a glass wrapped in cling film or the heel of your hand. (I used a tablespoon sized cookie scoop to form the dough into balls before flattening with the bottom of a glass wrapped in cling film.)

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 4) Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are slightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from baking sheet with spatula. Makes about 3 dozen. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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Helpful Hints:
This recipe can easily be made vegan by the use of a good quality vegetable margarine or shortening in place of the butter.

This recipe could easily be customized to your tastes by adding dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, or honey roasted peanuts instead of salted peanuts. 

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Feb 6, 2017

Cherry Cardamom Snowballs (eggless)

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Surprise your valentine with these Cherry Cardamom Snowballs! A touch of warm cardamom spices up chewy cherries in this tender and buttery cookie. So easy to make and so pretty too!

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These are really good. As in I made five batches of these before I could get a photo of them. My family ate the first four batches of these before I could even take a picture! I had to hide these in a box on top of the refrigerator out of sight to get these photos. 

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I wanted to make a pink snowball cookie for Valentine's Day. The only thing remotely pink in my pantry was a jar of maraschino cherries. We all know by now that Bibi's favorite cookie is snowballs -so why not cherry snowballs? What's Bibi's favorite spice for cookies (other than cinnamon)? Cardamom! So why not Cherry Cardamom Snowballs? Yes! And it worked. Brilliantly. As always these snowball cookies are a breeze to make, look daintily delicious, and can easily be made vegan with a good quality vegetable shortening. Have a Happy Valentine's Day and enjoy!

Ingredients:
3/4C powdered sugar
1C butter or margarine, softened (or vegetable shortening)
seeds from 7-8 green cardamom pods, coarsely ground (or 1 tsp ground cardamom)
2 tsp maraschino cherry juice
1 tsp baking powder
few drops red food coloring
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red food coloring
2C all-purpose flour
1/2C drained maraschino cherries, chopped finely
1C powdered sugar for rolling

Here's what to do:
1) In large mixing bowl beat powdered sugar, butter, cardamom, 2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice, baking powder, food coloring, and salt until thoroughly blended.

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2) On low speed, beat in flour a half cup at a time. Stir in cherries. Cover dough with cling film and chill for at least four hours. (I usually put mine in the freezer overnight.)

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3) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/ Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on silicone mat or parchment lined cookie sheets.


4) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring from cookie sheets to cooling racks with spatula. Cool 20 to 30 minutes.

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5) If desired roll cookies in powdered sugar. Makes 24 cookies. Store in airtight container for up to one week.
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Jan 25, 2017

Mughlai Garam Masala

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In Hindi, masala refers to a mixture of spices and garam means hot or warming in the Ayurvedic sense. Mughlai garam masala is a traditional mixture of cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, black pepper, and nutmeg added. It adds a subtle aromatic flavor to dishes and is considered a hallmark of classical north Indian cooking.


Garam masala is used as a finishing touch in many Subcontinental cuisines just as ground black pepper is used in Western cooking. Recipes for garam masala vary from region to region and even household to household! This classic recipe for garam masala in royal Mughal style is adapted from the famed chef Julie Sahni's brilliant cookbook, Classic Indian Cooking. Differing in the lavish use of expensive spices this particular blend is not often commercially available. If you were to purchase the ingredients for this garam masala at a western supermarket or specialty spice store the cost would be exorbitant. However, if you buy the whole spices at your local Indian grocer and grind them yourself, this blend will cost mere pennies!

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The flavor of this garam masala is sweeter and more delicate compared to most ready made blends too. I like to use this recipe when cooking the rich cream, milk, or meat-based dishes of north Indian cuisines. According to Chef Sahni, the spices in this blend are so naturally fragrant and easily digested that dry roasting them isn't necessary. I chose green cardamoms for this batch but using black or brown cardamoms results in a deeper, smoky flavor. I also used cassia bark rather than cinnamon sticks because it's traditional and I prefer it's peppery bite over the sweeter cinnamon. Anyway you choose to customize this blend it's sure to add a little Mughal splendor to everything you make!

Ingredients:
1/3 cup (about 200) green cardamom/elaichi pods or 1/2 C (about 60) black cardamoms/badi elaichi
2 three inch pieces of cassia bark/dalchini or cinnamon sticks
1 TBS whole cloves/laung
1 TBS black peppercorns/kali mirch
1&1/2 tsp grated nutmeg/jaiphal (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) Crush cassia bark or cinnamon sticks with a kitchen mallet, rolling pin, or belan to break it into small pieces. (If you have little bits and bobs of cassia bark or cinnamon stick about this is a good place to use them.)

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2) Combine all the spices except nutmeg and grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, a spice mill, or a mixie.
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3) Mix in the grated nutmeg, if desired. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light. Use within three months. Makes about 3/4C

Helpful Hints:
Chef Sahni advises removing the seeds from the cardamom pods and discarding the skins. I disagree, the skin of green cardamoms and black cardamoms have flavor. I can't bear to throw the skins away! Anyway, I use the whole pod when I grind my masalas but peel away if you must. (But don't throw away those skins, put them in your masala chai mix!)

If you are interested in trying other regional variations of this classic spice blend try Punjabi Garam Masala, Nepali Garam Masala, or Kashmiri Garam Masala.

Portrait of Mughal Emperor Zahir ud-Din Mohammad (Babur), founder of the Mughal empire
date 1630AD, artist unknown

Dec 5, 2016

Red Velvet Snowballs

red velvet cookies recipe vegan vegetarian eggless egg free nut free chocolate

Get festive with this recipe for buttery, chocolatey, and meltingly tender Red Velvet Snowball Cookies! An easy to make, eggless, and nut free treat that be made vegan too. The perfect addition to any holiday platter!


This stuff's the bomb-diggety!!!

Most "red velvet" recipes for cakes or cookies have some vague chocolate flavor with a slight tartness that makes them rather "meh" in my opinion. But these Red Velvet Snowball cookies have a rich, deep chocolate flavor with a tender crispness that is amazing! A bit like Oreos in flavor but made insanely better with butter. The inspiration for this cookie comes from this recipe on Delish.com. I tried Delish's recipe but didn't like it as the dough was so crumbly it was almost unworkable and the cookies didn't have much flavor. So, I changed the recipe by increasing the butter to one cup, increasing the cocoa powder to 1/3 cup, decreasing the cookie size to one tablespoonful of dough, and decreasing the baking temperature to 325F/175C. I also used Penzey's Natural High Fat Cocoa to give the cookies that strong, dark chocolate flavor I was looking for. The result was perfection! The dough was easy to work with, the cookies puffed up nice and pretty, and they had all the rich chocolate flavor I was looking for. Penzey's Natural High Fat Cocoa powder is their premium cocoa powder especially recommended for baking. I have to say it really makes a difference flavor-wise. You can certainly make these cookies with any cocoa powder you wish but Penzey's makes them really spectacular.

Ingredients:
1 C butter or margarine, at room temperature
1/3 C cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1&1/2 C powdered sugar
1 TBS red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar
2&1/2 C  flour
1 C powdered sugar for rolling

Here's what to do:
1) In a large mixing bowl combine, butter, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, powdered sugar, red food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat until thoroughly mixed.


2) Add flour to butter mixture 1/2C at a time and continue beating at low speed. The dough will look a bit crumbly at first but will come together after a few minutes of mixing. The dough is properly mixed when it pulls away from the bowl and the beater(s). If your dough is still crumbly after 5 minutes of mixing please see "Helpful Hints" below for a tip on how to fix it. I'd advise chilling the dough covered with cling wrap or in a sealable plastic bag in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. Chilling the dough not only makes for prettier cookies and a dough that's easier to handle but makes for better flavor also. This dough will also keep well in a sealed plastic bag or container in the freezer for up to a month.


3) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/175C. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats. (You could also roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and press them down lightly on the lined baking sheet if you don't have a scoop.) Place the balls of dough about 2 inches apart as they do puff up a bit.


4) Bake cookies for 20 to 22 minutes or until evenly browned on the bottom. Remove cookies from baking sheet with spatula and place on wire rack to cool. If you like, roll cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Store tightly in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes approximately 24 cookies.

5) If you like, roll cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Store tightly in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes approximately 24 cookies.

Helpful Hints:
If in step 2 the dough still remains crumbly add a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil. This usually fixes the problem. Unfortunately due to variations in humidity, varying water content in butters, and moisture content of different flours sometimes you have to adjust the amount of fats/oils to get the correct consistency of dough.
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