Sunday, September 15, 2013

Restaurant Favorites at Home - Part 1 (Indian)

I love Indian food...and Italian food...and Thai food...and Mexican food...okay, let's be real... I happen to love FOOD in general, regardless of it's ethnic background. I, like most people, go out for all of these types of foods because its more convenient than making the same items at home. The downside is that is not healthy to eat out all the time. So to promote clean eating, I endeavored to make some of my favorite restaurant favorites at home but without as many of the unhealthy components. By making these dishes at home I can control the ingredients I use as well as the amount of salt, oil, and fat that are typically called for. Also, I can have them whenever I want! I hope you enjoy the first in a four part series geared towards revamping restaurant favorites in a fresh and healthy way.

Chicken Tikka
recipe by Sweet'N'Spicy food app for iPhone and Android (my changes in italics)  

2 lbs. Boneless Chicken (I used one package of chicken tenders)
1 cup Yogurt (I used Greek Yogurt )
1 tbsp. Ginger/garlic paste (I used freshly grated ginger and garlic)
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 tsp. Red Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cumin Powder
1 tsp. Pepper Powder
Cilantro, chopped fine for garnish
Salt as needed


1. Mix all of the spices, ginger/garlic paste freshly grated ginger and garlic and salt. Add to the yogurt and lemon juice (At this point you can refrigerate or even freeze the marinade for later use. All you would have to do is defrost it, if frozen, and add the chicken).

2. Prick the chicken and marinate in the yogurt mixtures for three hours  (I didn't prick the chicken and I was only able to marinade it for 2 hours).

3. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers, brush with oil and grill or BBQ (I used my cast iron grill pan and grilled the chicken on the stovetop).

4. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm. 

Egg Curry
recipe by my mom

2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp. Cumin Seeds
Two large Onions, chopped
2 Green chili peppers, finely diced
4 small cloves Garlic, finely diced
1 tbsp. Ginger, grated
2 tsp. Red Chili Powder
1/2 tbsp. Garam Masala (adjust for your taste)
2 tsp. Ground Cumin
1/2 tbsp. Ground Coriander
3 to 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup water
9 eggs, boiled and chopped (I used an egg slicer twice on each egg to get a smaller cut.)
1/4 cup Red Onion, chopped
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
Salt as needed


1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a deep pot until hot, then add the cumin and bay leaves.  Cook until the seeds sizzle and brown. 

2. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and green chili peppers. Cook until the onion is translucent.

3. Add the red chili powder, garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander and salt. Cook for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes and water. Turn heat to low, cover, and let simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes (at this point, you can let the curry cool and then freeze it for later use. All you would need to do then would be to boil eggs and then warm up the defrosted curry). 

4. Add the chopped eggs to the curry and gently fold the eggs into the curry.

5. Top with red onion and cilantro. 

6. Serve warm with naan and rice (I used naan and quinoa)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Comfort Foods Menu's me...remember me? I know, it's been an incredibly long time since I posted anything new. The hiatus wasn't because I haven't tried new's just this year has been brutal. We had a few happy events and then a few not so happy ones followed by more happy events which were then followed by the not so happy. To sum it up, this year has been an emotional roller coaster full of amazing highs and rock bottom lows. It's because of the insane events that have been going on all year long that I had not even thought about posting anything. 

A few weeks ago, though, I finally accepted that things are just gonna keep on happening and that I can't let those things get me down. Instead, I just have to go with the flow and roll with the punches. And boy have there been a lot of punches so far! At any rate, for the past week and a half (I know it's not that long, but baby steps y'all!) I have been throwing myself into yoga and working out to get my mind and body ready to go with the flow and roll with the punches. Needless to say, I look forward to that hour when my mind is concentrating on how the heck that one lady is able to fold herself into a pretzel without falling over instead of everything else that's been going on. Cooking is another therapeutic act for me and so while I  haven't been blogging, I have still been cooking and even got around to baking a few things.  

The following recipes are just a few of the things that I made over the past few months. They allowed me to cope with the curveballs and continue putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. And it helped that the majority of the following recipes took 30 minutes or less to prepare so they are great for after long work day. 

Greek Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette 
recipe by Salt as Needed

Greek Salad Ingredients:
Large head of Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 half of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
1/2 cup of yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup of green olives, pitted
1/4 cup of black olives, pitted
1/4 cup of feta cheese
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. 
2. Toss with desired dressing.

Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon. Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground peppert
6 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt as needed

1. Whisk mustard, lemon zest, and juice in a small bowl.
2. Season with salt and pepper. 
3. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking the other ingredients until all the oil is incorporated and mixture is thickened and uniform in color. 

Southwestern Chopped Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing 
recipe by The Garden Grazer (my changes in italics)

Southwestern Chopped Salad Ingredients:
Large head of romaine
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained 
1 large orange bell pepper (I used half a red bell pepper and half an orange bell pepper)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used one roma tomato)
2 cups corn (I used one 15 oz. can of sweet corn, rinsed)
5 green onions
Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing (recipe follows)

1. Finely chop romaine, bell pepper, tomatoes, and green onions.
2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. (I just arranged the ingredients on a platter)
3. Toss with desired dressing.

Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing Ingredients:
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinager because that's what I had in my pantry)
1/8 tsp. salt as needed

1. Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
2. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Meaty Lasaga 
recipe by Salt as Needed

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef (you can use lean ground turkey as a substitute)
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 package lasagna noodles (I used Barilla Oven Ready Lasagna noodles)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the ground beef once the oil has warmed up and stir until browned. 
3. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, and pecorino romano cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
4. In a pre-greased casserole dish, spread a tablespoon of the spaghetti sauce. Layer with lasagna noodles, 1/4 of the cheese mixture, 1/3 of the meat, and just enough spaghetti sauce to cover the meat. Repeat two more times, topping with another layer of lasagna, enough spaghetti sauce to cover the lasagna noodles and the last 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture.
5. Cover with tin foil and place in the center rack of the oven.
6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
7. Uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
8. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes prior to slicing and serving. 

French Macarons with Vanilla Buttercream 
recipe by SprinkleBakes (my changes in italics)

Macaron Ingredients:
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar 
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup extra fine sugar (I used powdered sugar)
Sky blue gel food coloring by Wilton

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.
2. Sift almond flour and confectioners' sugar together 2-3 times. Set aside. (I only sifted it once)
3. Whisk egg whites with a hand mixer until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. 4. Reduce speed and gradually add extra fine sugar powdered sugar.  Increase speed and beat until stiff peaks form.
5. Sift flour mixture over whites with a fine sieve. Discard any lumps or coarse bits that remain. 
6. Fold mixture together with a rubber spatula using short strokes until just combined .  The batter will be very stiff. Place a small amount of Wilton Sky Blue gel food coloring on the end of a rubber spatula. 
7. Use bigger folds once batter loosens.  When batter is ready, it should fall from the spatula in a thick ribbon. 
8. Transfer mixture to a piping bag.  Pipe 1 or 1 1/2" rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets. Let piped macarons stand uncovered for 15 minutes to form a crust. 
9. Decrease temperature to 325 just before placing the baking sheet in the oven.  Bake pans one at a time for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.

Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pearl dragees (this is optional but they make the macarons look so cute!)

1. Cream butter and confectioners' sugar together in a large bowl using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
2. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.  If mixture is stiff, use 1 or 2 tablespoons of cream water to loosen.  
3. Add vanilla extract slowly and beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Transfer icing to a piping bag and pipe on half the macaron shells. Sandwich with remaining shells.  
4. Using a new pair of tweezers press a line of pearl dragees into the buttercream. I just sprinkled them onto the edges because I didn't have "baking tweazers". 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Going Out to Eat

This year, my husband decided to punt planning Valentine's Day and our Anniversary to me. Unfortunately, he didn't tell me that this was his plan until mid January. That didn't give me much time make plans for either event. I quickly made reservations at a couple of nice restaurants for both Valentine's Day and our Anniversary. A few weeks later though, I got to thinking about how going out to dinner is no longer only saved for special occasions. When I was a kid, going out to dinner used to be an event that we saved only for "special events". These days, our generation has gotten used to going out to dinner when we don't think we have the time it takes to prepare a home-cooked meal after a long work day. It seems as if I had just fallen victim to just making dinner reservations without even thinking twice about the reason we were going out to dinner. 

So for Valentine's Day I called my husband and said "can we cancel our reservations and just stay in"? Lucky for me, he was on the same wavelength and we ended up having a stay-in date with a bottle of wine, some heart shaped pizza and some delicious cupcakes from Pure DeLite Bakery. I highly recommend this bakery as they have cut out the extra fat and calories but still managed to keep all the flavor. 

After ordering pizza for Valentine's Day I knew that I needed to put even more thought into our anniversary dinner. After a few days of very intense brainstorming, I came across Chef Sevilla's website. I contacted Chef Sevilla and we quickly came up with a menu for my anniversary dinner. Chef Sevilla went grocery shopping and came to our house and prepared a four course dinner with fresh ingredients that was out of this world tasty. She cooked everything and even cleaned up! Sometimes you want the benefit of a meal prepared by someone else but without the added hassle of making reservations, getting dressed up, driving out to a restaurant, waiting for your table, having to take the chance that you may not get good service or atmosphere. And for those times you will want to call Chef Sevilla and have her take care of all the variables that come with going out to dinner and be treated to a fantastic dinner in the comfort of your own home. 

Meal and Menu by Chef Sevilla of Sevilla's Savory Solutions

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Baked Mini Cake Doughnuts

Moving makes you realize how convenient it was having everything already organized and put away. Having to start from scratch results in opening multiple drawers and cabinets just to find a mixing spoon. Not a productive environment when you are trying to resume your regular cooking and baking regimen. On the plus side, it means you discover all sorts of fun stuff you forgot you had because you stuck it away in a cabinet or drawer and forgot about it.

One of the first housewarming gifts I received was a Wilton Mini Doughnut pan.  This mini doughnut pan will not be stuck away in a cabinet and forgotten. It is AWESOME! It's almost as awesome as my mini cupcake pan. Anyone that does not have a mini doughnut pan should go out today and get one. Having the capability to make doughnuts in the comfort of your own home is fantastic... you can control what sprinkles you want on them, how many, how few, whether you want to just coat them in cinnamon sugar, or you just want to consume the doughnuts plain and unadorned by toppings. This past weekend I got the mini doughnut pan out and went to work. While these baked mini doughnuts are not as sweet as your typical fried doughnut, the glaze and toppings work to make this treat just sweet enough that you won't go into a sugar coma if you consume the entire batch, which you shouldn't do, but if you do, at least they are baked and not fried!  Besides, mini-anything is always good! 

Baked Mini Cake Doughnuts
recipe courtesy of Wilton (my changes in italics)

1 cup cake flour, sifted (I made my own cake flour with one cup less two tablespoons of all purpose flour plus two tablespoons of cornstarch, which I sifted...I was supposed to sift the cornstarch into the all purpose five times but I just did it once)*
1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used the Splenda for baking sugar blend)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup buttermilk (I made my own buttermilk by mixing 1 cup of milk with 2 teaspoons of cream of tarter)*
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter, melted

*I used the substitutions provided on the Joy the Baker blog for Cake Flour and Buttermilk. This site is awesome for finding appropriate substitute ingredients when you realize in the middle of baking that you are out of a necessary recipe ingredient. 

NOTE: Makes about 12 mini doughnuts.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray Mini Doughnut Pan with vegetable pan spray (I used baking spray).

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Add buttermilk, egg and butter. Stir until just combined. 

Fill each doughnut cup approximately 1/2 full with 1 tablespoon of batter. Spread batter around center post to edges of cup. 

I put the batter into a piping bag, snipped off the tip and piped the batter directly into the cups. It was a lot faster and neater than trying to spoon batter into the doughnut cups.

Bake 6-7 minutes or until the top of the doughnuts spring back when touched. 

Cool in pan for three minutes.

Then remove to cooling grid. 

Finish doughnuts with glaze (Recipe follows below), sprinkles, or cinnamon sugar.

Vanilla Glaze 
recipe courtesy of Wilton (my changes in italics)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk (I kind of drizzled the milk in until I got the consistency I wanted, which was thick enough for the sprinkles to stick to but not so thick that it was overly sweet)
1/2 teaspoon Wilton's Pure Vanilla Extract (mine was not Wilton brand and the glaze tasted just fine)

In a small bowl, stir together sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until sugar is completely dissolved. Use immediately to glaze doughnuts. 

Makes enough to glaze 36+ mini doughnuts.