Friday, July 28, 2017

Berry Pie- Peach Pie and my cutie pie's

Such a big difference 2 years is making, I swear!
This was us 2 summers ago baking a crumble and fast forward to now.... the girls 9 and 4 are making the pie/ crumble now pretty much on their own and the cherry on top.... they are also cleaning up after!

So here is the Pie/crumble recipe, kids edition!  The girls made two crumble's this past weekend, so except the fruits being different, both of them followed the recipe step by step identical to each other!

Little Lady: 4 year old used 3 cups of berries (Mixed- Blueberries, raspberry - Strawberry)
Miss Chatterbox: 9 years old used 3 larger peaches. She sliced most of them herself
(Yes I was a hawk watching her)

For the rest of the recipe-I will use the term 'fruit' instead of berries or peaches just to keep it simple


Fruit Base: 
Fruit of choice : See portions above
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ginger grated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (Again, I used the home made one my friend gifted me at Xmas!)

For the crumble topping
4 spoons Bisquick
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 tsp baking powder

For baking or cooking with kids the best thing I have learned over the years is keep all ingredients, measuring spoons out on the counter and then walk the kids through the process step by step.

Let them lead, ask questions, get messy and above all let them include the variation they want! Of course with that said, i am starting a new tag 'Cooking with Kids'

Make them wash their hands, before, during and after!

1. In a ready to bake Pyrex dish mix all the ingredients of the fruit base.
2. Let it stand for 20 minutes for the fruit juices to release well
3. In a deeper vessel, mix all the ingredients for the crumble topping (dough like consistency)
4. Layer the crumble topping on top of the fruit base.

Note: The little one definitely needed help with this steps since her natural instinct was to press the 'dough'. I learned that telling them 'Layer the topping like a blanket on the fruits' worked like a charm!

5. Bake the crumble at 375 F for 20-25 minutes, you could brush the topping with additional butter to make it 'brown' better.

Note: I am paranoid about the oven, so this step I led completely.

While the pie/crumble is getting baked... have the kids clean up.

Both girls washed their hands off after they licked their fingers with the delicious dough topping.

Again the kitchen clean up was a simple one... the older one helped in putting all the ingredients from where they came and the little one helped with wiping the counters and the floor.
And yes, of course I had to wipe up a little more after them, but I really did enjoy them helping me out and taking the initiative of 'Leaving the kitchen as they found it'

The highlight was the girls were sharing with everyone at the dinner party the recipe, the baking process and above all ' I made it, you will love it!'

So go on... let the kids lead a little and you will learn a lot!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Yep....I have slipped!

Nope, I have not forgotten about it...but yes, its ONLY at the back of my mind! I have slipped on the 'Getting Fit Business'.

I have become lazy and lazier these past weeks. May be its the Chicago Summer, the continuous BBQ's, the lazy mornings and even lazier evenings, my stupid knee, I really don't know, but I have become lazy about the 'getting fit'

My model is suppose to be simple.... Log your food, go to the gym/ keep a routine and then enjoy the process with buddies who help and encourage. Its not about loosing weight, its about being fit, energetic and happy!

But, I have not been logging on MyFitness Pal at all now. I broke my 74 day streak a few weeks ago,  and now haven't picked up the baton again!
For the gym, in summary, I injured my knee (I think at a stupid but super fun bowling game) and since then doctors orders are no squats, no pivot motions, no pounding of the knee... aka, no gym routine that I had down and was consistent!

Due to my knee injury, I am in the self pity mode and hence not even moving a muscle for any basic workout routine. I think I am being kinder to my knee. I sound like my grand mum, "kinder to my knee", but trust me being in constant dull pain in knee is no fun. And the pain goes from dull to shooting stabs in a matter of seconds. Read: Self Pity :-)

And it shows.... I am dragging my feet by end of day, I cant keep up with the kids soccer games and above all, I am feeling crankier!

Every Monday, I think.... next week I will start.

Please tell me I am not alone...... please leave some motivational messages :-/

Aaah! So, here I am picking up again. But this time..... not the baby steps that I love, I am actually leaping and jumping, since hey, now I know what to do.

Step 1: Join the gym THIS WEEK and actually go
Note to self.... if you pay up the monthly fees, its the best motivation
Step 2: Re-start logging on the weight THIS WEEK and actually not exceed the calories
Note to takes only 10 minutes a day to enter in the food consumed
Step 3: Kick my buddies really well, I cant believe they are not helping me in stopping the slide!
Note to them.... be prepared for the kicking!

See it's their fault! ;-)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Grilled Zuchini Boats

As we improvise our vegetarian BBQ recipes, we have discovered our new favorites like 'Grilled Edmame; Crusted Tofu, Tangy potato' and as we explore new recipes like today's Zuchini Boats..... the one main BBQ item that has been dropping off our menu is the Vegetarian Burger.

Imagine a BBQ with no burger and you are still full!
To be honest, a Trader Joe's masala burger is a staple in my house, I love it! This is the one frozen ready made food that i actually keep stocked for those days when I just want to do nothing with cooking and still eat at home.

When we started with grilling, we will make a few variations and then stick to the tried and tested Vegetable Burger as a main... however in the past 6 weeks of grilling (We grill at least twice a week), I have made the vegetable burgers only once!

So our BBQ sessions are interesting for sure even sans the burger! Here is the new 'concoction' Grilled Zuchini Boats!

Serves 6-8 adults as a side

Zuchini (But of course): 3-4 medium length

Corn (husked from the cob): 1 or frozen corn 1 cup
Note... its summer, enjoy the fresh husked corn, the frozen ones can be used in winter!
Onion: Medium: Finely chopped
Pepper: 1 medium: Finely chopped
Seranno Pepper: Per taste, finely chopped
Pesto Sauce : 3 tsp
Per taste: Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes

Goat Cheese: crumbled 1/2 cup
Shredded Cheddar Cheese: 1/4 cup
Basil: Finely chopped: 1/4 cup

1. Wash the zuchini and Slice it in the middle length wise
2. Core the centre and save the pulp

3. Stuffing: Mix all the ingredients along with the zuchini pulp and the spices
4. When the grill is hot, on the grill mats place the stuffing for 3-5 minutes and toss once or twice.
5. While the stuffing is getting cooked, place the sliced and cored zuchini on the mat as well.
5. When the stuffing is ready, : Stuff the stuffing (no pun intended) on the zuccini boats and and top with the cheese mix

6. Grill the stuffed boat for another 2-3 minutes and tada!!! Ready, the finely chopped basil helps to elevate the look

Enjoy as a warm accompaniment on your grilling evening.
And yes vegetarian grilling/ BBQ parties are a thing! We are living proof.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Paneer Tikka Masala

Another grill edition and definitely a super hit with Indians and even my local American friends.
I used home made Paneer for this round, but you can use store brought one like I have done for the past 14ish years!

Serves 4

1. Bell Pepper 1 Medium: Quartered in chunky pieces
2. Yellow Onion 1 Medium: Quartered in chunky pieces
3. Paneer: Quartered (You can adjust the amount of paneer based on your taste, I say, more then merrier)
4. Tomato 1 Medium: Quartered in chunky pieces
5. Ginger: 1 tsp grated
6. Garlic: 2 cloves grated
7. Yogurt: 3/4 cup

Herbs & Spices
1. Paneer Tikka masala (Easily available in Indian Store/ Whole Foods): 2 tsp
2. Seeka hua Jeera: 1/2 tsp
3. Red Chillo Powder: 1/2 tsp
4. Sookha Pudina: 1/2 tsp
5. Rock Salt: 1/2 tsp
6. Salt & Pepper: Per taste

1. Chopped Cilantro: 1/2 cup
2. Squeezed Lemon Juice: Per Taste
3. Chaat Masala: Per Taste

1. In a mixing bowl, mix the yogurt with all the spices and ginger, garlic
2. Once all is mixed, add Onion, Bell pepper and Paneer (Not the tomato)
3. Mix well and ensure everything is coated well
4. Now add the tomato and toss lightly
5. Marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge

Note: If you leave the marination overnight, skip adding the tomato's since tomato releases the water, it will make the marinate 'thinner'

To Cook:
On Grill: (Perfect for summer) Save some of the marination, and layer the tikka on the grill mats. Cook for 4-8 minutes and ensure to flip the vegetables and paneer to cook evenly

Alternatively: You could add them to presoaked skewers, I generally forego this step since it adds more prep time and for gobbling them down, have to take them off the skewers anyways.

In Oven: (Perfect in winters)On a slightly oiled foil/ oven dish add the paneer tikka and cook at 375 F for about 20 minutes

On Stove Top: (Least Recommended)Add 1 tsp of olive oil in the pan and then add vegetables and Paneer, Let it cook for 5-10 minutes on medium flame. Please note in this method, the vegetables tend to get softer and the paneer will not have the 'crunchy exterior'

Garnish with the toppings and any leftover marinated yogurt and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The half year mark...

We are roughly in the middle of the year and with both my girls being winter babies, its only apt that I write a simple homage of the half year it has been with these little angels or devils... or creatures who keep our lives filled with laughter, fun and definitely some angry tears!

Little Lady:

She is working hard to overtake her sister's title of 'Chatter box' and we love it.... she definitely has the most singy songy voice and the batting of her eyelids with that voice... she does get away with a lot more... a lot more!
She is chatty, definitely has made strides of progress in being 'less shy'. From the girl who played on her own for hours is now her gathering up her friends in the park and chasing butterflies. It's wonderful to see her blossom. 
She is being assertive and negotiating way more for every single thing. But the batting of eyelids has my heart in a mush consistently. 
She is gotten progressively annoying when it comes to food. She will still eat everything we give her, however sloth can eat faster than her. She is chatting more and eating less at meal time. 
The coolest part of her newest passion is reading, she will sit with her early reader books and make attempts. She will sit with her writing books and has moved on from scribbles to coherent writing. 
She is my musical kid, will skip instead of walking and can sing and sing and sing some more... simply to annoy her room mate, her love of her life, Didi aka Miss V aka Miss Chatterbox

Miss Chatterbox: 
This year was quiet a formative year for her, there was a lot of tween drama in her class, some crushes, some teasing, some girl gossips and definitely a lot of 'Mom, I am not a baby anymore
One word that best describes Miss Chatterbox, she is Strong. She is in very good control of her emotions and mature way beyond her years. She does not like to being vulnerable or cry and will really put on a brave face. 
And I really have to look in her eyes truly understand how she feels, she is sensitive and the strong face does not fool me. 
I love my long conversations with her about anything and everything. I love her complimenting/ dissecting my wardrobe. I thoroughly enjoy watching her with the soccer ball. 
Admist all this, She is definitely working on my patience by being more defiant and  more 'annoying' in the tween kind of way: Rolling of the eyes, some back answering and definitely being a little disrespectful. 
How am I dealing with this? You ask, I am not. It currently reverberates between yelling at her, to giving her silent treatment to more often than not 'What is going on man'
I guess deep down I do know the answer, nothing. So I need to figure out a way to learn with her and be the mature one in the relationship. 

But both these girls have one thing in common, their total dedication to each other. Where Little Lady will save an extra candy for her sister, the older one Miss V will hug her and calm her when Little Lady is sad. They fight, they annoy each other but they are each other's  biggest confidante right now. 

I will say this for the record: Currently, the older one is the tattle tale right now and the little one defensive of the other. I honestly thought at ages 9 and 4, it would be the other way around. 
Oh well, there is no 'guidebook to bringing up siblings 5 years apart' So, I will learn on the job!

My babies...or not such little babies anymore!

Home Made Paneer, Yes Please!

With young kids in a vegetarian house hold, Paneer (Think of it like a dense cottage cheese)very easily becomes favorite. Its' high in protein and calcium, very easy to cook and above all the kids will eat it in any form possible. And vegetarian or not, Paneer is one of the easiest to cook with after potatoes of course.

Over one of our countless BBQ sessions, a friend mentioned that she makes the paneer at home and its super easy. I was laughing and had the 'No way in hell' look and she said trust me. And I did trust her, noted her process down and then and I attempted it we had amazing home made fresh paneer with a simple-process.

Process in Instant Pot (Adapted from my friend’s recipe)
1. In IP: Yogurt-Boil Mode, boil 1/2 gallon of whole milk (Whole milk will yield more paneer!)
2. When milk is boiled, in a cup mix 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Add it to the milk
3. The milk separates from the whey. Stir a little more. You can save the whey for other uses(!)
4. Strain the curdled milk using a cheese cloth, just hang the cheese cloth with the curdled milk for about 30 minutes for additional water to drain out.
5. This is the soft paneer. However most of my recipes call for the firm paneer, Wrap the curdled milk in the cheese cloth, keep a heavy weight on top overnight to squeeze out any additional liquid.

Ta-da Paneer is ready. You can use it right away, however I recommend keeping in the fridge for about 24 hours especially if grilling with it, just so that it hardens up a little.

FYI- I used instant pot, well because its super easy to clean .... and then I was in a mode, so boiled the entire gallon of whole milk, used 1/3 rd for paneer, 1/3rd for making yogurt and 1/3rd for making Indian Ice Cream- Kulfi!

FYI- If you are using a regular stove top for boiling milk, the word on the street is, add 1/4 cup water to the pan before you start boiling the milk, it helps in not having the milk stuck on the stove top pan.

We of course used the home made paneer for grilling as Paneer Tikka and I realized the home made paneer was softer (less chewy) and above all; I was just crazy excited that it was home made. So the child in me took over and I ensured that the family tasted the paneer

Of course this needs to follow with an easy breeze quick paneer tikka recipe for Grilling of course! Coming Soon- I Promise.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Silly Races and A picnic

The tradition for Munch Bunch is simple.... 4 foodie families meet once every 4 to 6 weeks and try to cook a new themed menu to test different menu's and just explore a little outside our comfort zone. We have attempted Greek, Vietnamese, Indian Area Specialties, Ethiopian, Burmese.... aah so many more!
This month's theme was ..... 'Silly Races and a Picnic'.

With summer in Chicago, heading to the beach/park/somewhere outdoors is a must and miss Chatterbox decided that having silly races would be the perfect way.... so 12 adults, 8 kids ranging from 3 months to 9 years all headed to one of the Chicago Beaches right next to a park with all the picnic gear is full force.

Silly Races: Miss V made a list of 11 races and we managed to play 1: Lemon in a spoon race which was awesome fun! But we did play lots of Frisbee, catch the ball, cricket, walking on the beach, Simon Says and just having kids run around as we sat and caught up and just enjoyed sitting on the mats and soaking in the wonderful lake breeze.

To begin with crunchy Vegetable Pastry Puff followed by Potato Kathi Rolls just reminiscent of the Mumbai infamous street food and then a delicious take on the Bahn Mi sandwich.
Of course for dessert we had a cake and to celebrate the American Independence Day ... a gorgeous cake.
For drinks this time since we were at the beach, we had lots of water, juices to keep it simple.

Kathi Roll/ Frankie:
This is a Mumbai special and totally reminds me of a simpler time walking on Breach Candy with my friends and asking the Rajesh Frankie wallah, please make it spicy! And then giggling along with friends and walking a lot more.

Makes 16 Frankie’s

Yellow Potato: 10-12: Boiled, peeled and mashed well
Yellow Onion: 2 thinly slices
Garlic: 3 cloves finely chopped
Ginger: 1/4 inch finely chopped
Serrano Peppers: 3-6 finely chopped
Cilantro: 1 cup finely chopped
Olive Oil: 3 tsp
Jeera: 1 tsp
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Chilli Powder: 1 tsp (Use more to make it spicy)
Amchoor: 1 tsp
Chaat Masala: 2 tsp
Salt: Per Taste
Black Pepper: Per Taste

For Garnishing
1 Red onion: thinly sliced and marinated in 2 tsp chaat Masala
6-8 Serrano Peppers: Chopped well and marinated in 1 cup vinegar
Garlic Chutney: Readily available in Indian stores or homemade =
Tortilla: All purpose tortilla - 16

Making the Stuffing
1. Heat the olive oil and add Jeera till it splutters
2. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, serrano peppers. Sautee for 5-7 min. (till onions are translucent)
3. Add all the spices and cook for 2-3 minutes
4. Add the mashed potatoes and mix well, cook for another 5 minutes add cilantro and turn the flame off.

1. On a flat bottom pan, heat the tortilla till warm
2. Spread the garlic Chutney
3. Place the cooked potato in the center, top with marinated onion and chilli-vinegar.
4. Roll like a burrito and sprinkle with chaat masala if needed

I covered with parchment papers since I wanted to keep it simpler to pick up and eat at the picnic, this is a wonderful idea for school lunches as well, since quick to grab and eat and you can include choice of vegetables as a filling. The best part of this Kathi roll/ Frankie it reminds me of home. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Grilled Corn Crostini

Let's make your vegetarian grilling more fun !

Now, we all know that without corn, the grilling is too boring. But corn on the cob gets too boring and too filling after a while.
So here is our new variation of consuming the corn!

You could either use kernels from corn or even frozen ones, I used the kernels fresh off the cob since, well I was in the mood of adding more work for myself!

Serves: 6-10 as a side

French Bread: One loaf, sliced 1 inch wide
Goat Cheese: 8-10 tsp
Corn: 1 cup kernels
Cherry Tomatoes: 1/2 cup sliced half
White onion: 1/2 cup finely chopped
Fresh Basil: 1/4 cup finely chopped

Pesto Sauce: 2 tsp (You could make fresh or use any of the nice store brought ones like I did)
Olive Oil: 1 tsp
Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes per taste
Note: If you like your food slightly spicier, i highly recommend adding  Chili Oil as a topping.

1. Mix the onions, corn and the marination ingredients and let it sit for 5-10 minutes
2. When the grill is hot, let the vegetables grill/ crispen for about 3-5 minutes. Take off the grill
3. On the sliced bread, spread a generous amount of goat cheese.
4. Top the bread with the grilled vegetables and garnish with Basil

Enjoy the perfect cold-warm crostini!

Now, FYI-I highly recommend using these grill mats, they are amazing and the corn kernels don't fall off and above all very easy to clean! We use these mats all the time!

Variation: If you want to make the crostini in the oven instead of grilling, the setting should be broil, and let the vegetables cook for 5 minutes! Layer and enjoy

The fun about Crostini's is it looks amazing, is simple to put together and is a lot of fun to sample variations!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017 Summer: BBQ Edition

Summer in Chicago is short lived and because of this, we make every minute count! Every single evening needs to be outdoors, getting wet in the ample water areas in the city parks or simply enjoying the breeze on the deck with some BBQ.
As a vegetarian, I get puzzling looks when I am asked... what do you grill?
Just so you know.... we have BBQ'ed 3 times in a row this July 4th weekend, so if anything, we really do try to mix it up on the menu to not get repetitive. And my list of grilling recipes is growing furiously!

Continuing the tradition of last year and adding recipes in the mix... here is our new concoction for Tangy Potato's. Per my MIL who is visiting from India, it’s her favorite!!!

Recipe: Serves 6 greedy adults!
Golden potatoes 8-10 cut in wedges (Don’t make them too thin, since the grill will burn them)
Marinate Ingredients:
Olive Oil: 6-8 tsp
Red Chili- 2 tsp (If you like it spicy)
Dried mint powder - 1 tsp (You can even take fresh mint and chop it up finely)
Salt: 1 tsp
Chole Masala: 2 tsp (Available at Whole Foods, Indian Stores)
Chaat Masala: 1 tsp (Available at Whole Foods, Indian Stores)

11.      Mixes Potato with the marinate ingredients and let it sit for 15-20 min
22.      Grill for about 5-10 minutes, you need to turn it with the grilling spatula soon!

Feel free to season with Squeezed lemon and add in additional salt from top as needed.

Enjoy as a side, or use this as a burger patty or just binge on it while you wait for the rest of the food to grill up!