Baked Tofu Fries


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There is nothing much to say about this recipe, actually there is nothing much to this recipe either :).  My kids love fries and they also love tofu. I have seen tofu responding very well to baking. So this recipe was a no-brainer, crunchy fries (just the way  they want it) made with less than a tbsp of oil (just the way I like it 🙂 ).

To make this healthy munch, you will need :

1. Extra firm organic tofu (I used half the slab for this recipe)

2. Chilli powder or paprika – 1 tsp

3. Garlic Paste or Garlic powder – 1 tsp

4. Salt to taste

5. Oil – 1/2 tbsp

  • First cut the tofu into strips. If you prefer super crunchy fries, cut them very thin. I prefer crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside kind, so I did medium cuts.

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  • For the rub, I mixed red chilli powder, garlic paste, salt and oil. You can also grind red chillies and garlic cloves to make a fresh rub or use the store bought chilli garlic paste.

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  • Rub the chilli garlic mix on the tofu strips gently. Even the extra firm tofu breaks easily, so be gentle :).  Line a baking tray with foil or grease the tray with cooking spray and place the tofu strips on the tray in a single layer. Bake at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes and then flip the strips and bake for another 8 – 10 minutes , until your preferred texture is reached.

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  • As I expected the golden crunchy fries were gone in minutes and the kids were complaining that I didn’t make enough :). Well, there is always next time :).

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Garlic Bread (with Indianised garlic butter)


The perk of home cooking is customizing recipes to suit our own taste buds. There are countless times, I had eaten something outside wondering “hmmm….if it just had a hint of chillies” . That too , when you try something from a different cuisine and wondering how it would taste with a sprinkle of chaat masala or garam masala, there is only one option “DIY” :). I lovvvvveee garic bread (who doesn’t ?)….the golden toasted crust with half crisp and half soft insides soaked in garlic…..I so wish, its  health food 😦 . Every time I ate garlic bread, I sprinkled some crushed red peppers on the slices, and I  believe that red chillies and garlic compliment each other so well. So when I had this intense craving to taste garlic bread spiced up with red chiili powder and garam masala, I knew I had to make it :).

I am not baking any breads yet (I might soon give it a try 🙂 ), I got a nice ciabatta roll and made an Indian spiced garlic butter and was all set to go. The prep time was 5 minutes , the cooking time was 10 minutes….. an easy entertainer recipe !

Here are a few things you will need :

  1. Ciabatta roll (any French or Italian bread will do too) – 1 loaf
  2. Butter (or butter substitute) – 1/2 stick or 2 oz or about 50 gm
  3. Oil – 2 tbsp
  4. Garlic cloves – about 8
  5. Chopped Cilantro – 2 tbsp ( use parsley instead)
  6. red chilli powder – 1.5 tsp
  7. garam masala – 1.5 tsp

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  • Slice garlic cloves into thin chips. You can also finely mince garlic. But I like nibbling on the crispy garlic flakes at the end.
  • Heat oil in a pan and saute garlic and cilantro , just for a few seconds.

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  • Make sure the butter is at room temperature and soft. Add the hot oil with garlic and cilantro to the butter. And also add chilli powder and garam masala to the butter. The hot oil will melt the butter slightly, which is okay. If you used unsalted butter, you might have to add just a pinch of salt to the mix.

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  • Slit the ciabatta into halves.

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  • Spread the garlic butter on the halves. And make sure the garlic flakes are uniformly spread.

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  • Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. I pulled them out after 10 minutes and sprinkled some parmesan just on kids’ portion and returned to the oven and baked at 425 degrees for  another 3 minutes.

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The toasted garlic chips easily fall off the bread, so you don’t have to console a panicky child screaming “why do you have to put those awful garlic stuff on my garlic bread ??? ” (Experience !!! )

Slice and serve while the warm aroma fills your home and your soul 🙂

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I paired it with a clear soup to help keep the total calories in check and it was a good combo too 🙂

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Please let me know what spices you would like to have on your garlic bread, I will try it the next time !!!

 

Butternut Squash Soup (with cashew cream)


A butternut squash in its wholesome is very intimidating(to me). Had never bought one, always chose the frozen cut squash to make our traditional koottu. If somebody cleans, peels, cuts and puts in a bag, why bother ? 🙂 So imagine my shock surprise, when my neighbor walked in with this “humongous” squash…a fruit of her labor in her garden. I just left it on my kitchen counter , not wanting to deal with it amidst the Halloween/Diwali chaos.

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A week after Diwali, suqash was still there, and I was just pretending not to look at it, if I don’t see it, its not there.. kind of logic 🙂 . But then came the day when my mind went blank at the thought of dinner. Having read some amazing squash soup posts by fellow bloggers, I declared it was squash soup for dinner. Though I didn’t have  many ingredients that I normally add in a soup, I decided to make do with what I have (hence, the cashew cream instead of heavy cream 🙂 ) and it turned out to be a very successful dinner (with kids polishing their bowls 🙂 ).

If this is your first time handling a whole squash, please check out Anjana’s (At the corner of happy and harried) tips on how to cut a squash. I found them very helpful, I strongly recommend it if your are a first timer, because no soup is worth losing a finger 🙂

And here is my squash soup recipe:

  • Cut squash into cubes.

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  •  Cut some carrots and red onions. I also used few mint leaves. You can add celery, tomatoes and definitely more carrots (it was a “fridge almost empty, so make-do” day for me ). However, I did have some vegetable broth which made up for the lack of other vegetables.

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  • Here is my favorite spice blend for the soup.
  1. Cinnamon – 1 stick
  2. Cardamom – 2
  3. Cloves – 5 or 6
  4. Bay leaves – 2
  5. Black pepper – 1.5 tsp
  6. Cumin – 1 tsp
  7. Fennel – 1.5 tsp

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  • Coarsely crush the spices just enough to release flavor.

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  • Tie the crushed spices in a bundle, either using a clean cloth or a bounty paper towel. This is a convenient way of seasoning the soup, just drop the bundle in the soup and remove it once the soup is cooked.

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  • I used my pressure cooker, as I didn’t have a lot of time to slow cook the soup and develop flavors. Pressure cooker delivers the same results in a quicker fashion…(what will I do without them ???? ). Heat a spoon of oil and saute the red onions and when the onions brown, add a tsp of ginger garlic paste and then saute the carrots and mint.

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  • Add the squash cubes and sprinkle some salt to sweat the veggies and saute until the squash softens a little.

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  • Add 5 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken). If you are using a lot of vegetables , just water will suffice. Drop the spice bundle in the broth.

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  • I pressure cooked for 5 whistles. Squash was so tender that it  almost dissolved in the soup. Fish the spice bundle out as its job is done :).

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  • I allowed my soup to completely cool down before pureeing and meanwhile made the cashew cream. You can use dairy cream instead. To make cashew cream, grind 2 tbsp of cashew nuts with water or milk to make a smooth cream.

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  • I reserved 1 tbsp of cream for final garnish and mixed the rest in the soup.

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  • Puree the cooled down soup in a blender and add the cashew cream to it. Add salt and pepper as you need, and heat the soup (do not bring to boil).

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It is a yummy comfy soup, we had it with some roasted corn quesadillas and it was a finger-licking, bowl-polishing meal 🙂 Hope you try it too !

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Apple Chutney (Apple thokku)


Is it raining apples in your place ?? It is….in mine 🙂 Though I love apples in any form, shape and color, be it red delicious, gala, fuji, empire…I am a die-hard granny smither 🙂 The perfectly tart , mildly sweet, crunchy party in my mouth. A sprinkle of salt and red chilli powder on the slices of  a granny smith can take me back to my school days, when breaks were about devouring the green mango wedges generously rubbed with salt and chilli powder.  So, I was thinking , why not make the traditional “Manga thokku” using green apples. Few years back I learned to make Green Mango thokku from a friend’s mother-in-law. I extended that recipe to the green apples now and it turned out awesome… !

Thokku is usually served with yogurt rice or dal rice. The spicy and tart thokku compensates for the mild rice. However, it can also be used as a spread for breads and wraps. I made mine super spicy and super tart, if you would prefer a milder version, reduce the spices and use a less tart apple.

  • I used two granny smith apples and an 1 inch piece of ginger.

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  •  Peel and grate the apples. Also grate the ginger.

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  • To season, you’ll need :
  1. Turmeric – 2 tsp.
  2. Red chilli powder – 3 or 4 tsp.
  3. Garam Masala – 2 tsp (Pumpkin pie spice mix can be used otherwise)
  4. Ground black pepper – 1tsp.
  5. Brown Sugar (vellam) – 1 tbsp.
  6. Grated ginger – 2tsp.
  7. Salt to taste

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  • Heat 2 tbsp. of oil in a pot and fry the grated ginger.

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  • Then add the grated apples and saute.

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  • Saute for a minute and when the juices come out add all the spices.

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  • Mix well and continue to cook until the raw smell of the masalas go away and the chutney thickens and becomes glossy.

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This is a flavor packed multi-purpose chutney, just one drop is sure to awaken all your taste buds.

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Gobi (cauliflower) Sliders


Happy Independence Day to everyone celebrating ! Here is a 100% vegetarian/vegan burger recipe using cauliflower. This is a very simple recipe,  packed with flavors and texture.

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  • Cut the cauliflower into big chunks and then grate them.

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  • Just cauliflower is enough, but I just plucked some fresh beans, so I am going to throw them in too. Also I am going to grate a medium potato for texture.

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  • Also chop 1 medium size onion, 1 green chilli and a few mint leaves. You can use herb of your choice.

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  • In a pan , heat a tbsp of oil and fry 1 tsp of fennel seeds.

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  • Saute the onions , green chilli, and mint. After the onions become translucent, add a tsp. of ginger garlic paste and fry.

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  • Add the green beans and sprinkle some salt to sweat them.

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  • After a minute add the grated potatoes.

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  • Add the cauliflower at last as they will cook in no time. Add some salt and pepper, cover and cook for two minutes.

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  • Once the cauliflower softens add 3 tsp. of red chilli powder (more or less according to your heat preference)  and 1 tsp of garam masala. You can also add a tsp. of turmeric powder.

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  • Mix everything together and allow to cook for 2 more minutes. Everything will blend together and roll like a ball. Turn off the heat and let it cool down for 5 – 10 minutes. Then squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lemon for some acid.

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  • When the mixture is completely cooled down, shape them into patties. I am using small slider buns , so I made small patties.

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  • Heat oil in a skillet, and place the patties gently. It is okay if the patties don’t perfectly hold together.

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  • After a minute flip the patties gently. Using two spatulas works well. The top and the bottom should crisp, while the middle remains soft and juicy.

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  • Toast the slider buns and place the patties in between. I just topped them with red chilli sauce as the patties themselves are full of flavor. But you can use any condiment  you like.
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The mixture can also be used as a stuffing for parathas or filling for samosas and ravioli. So leftovers are perfectly fine 🙂

Wonton Samosas (Spicy vegetable samosa)


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Here is an easy ‘shortcut’ recipe for the national snack of India. I am a big time samosa fan , right from school days. Hot samosas, freshly delivered to the school tuck shop at 4 p.m. every day..yummmmmm….Along with homeworks, record note books and tests, it was also a daily chore to make sure I had 65 paisa with me to buy samosa 🙂

The fillings are made different in different places. I am a little disappointed that most samosas available these days in the grocery stores and restaurants are the standard potato and peas samosas. While I love any filling, I crave for the spicy and crunchy onion and cabbage filling as we get in my hometown in India.

With rainy evenings forecast  fora week (NJ) , sounds like the perfect time to enjoy these samosas with a hot cup of tea 🙂

  • First step is to make the filling. Slice the onions and cabbage thin and long.

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  • Also dice one potato and two carrots. I have one jalapeno (seeds removed) chopped for an extra kick.

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  • Heat  1 tbsp of oil in a wok and saute the jalapeno.

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  • Now add the potatoes and carrots. Sprinkle some salt and cook for a couple of minutes.

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  • Add the cabbage and onion together. It is very important to have the crunchiness of the onions and cabbage until the very end, so a quick stir fry for a minute is all the cooking that is needed.Image
  • Add 1 tsp. of turmeric powder, 2 tsp of red chilli powder and 1/2 tsp of garam masala. Add more salt if needed.

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  • Mix well and cook for 2 minutes until the raw smell of the powders go away. Remove from heat and allow it to cool for sometime. That makes the filling.

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  • For the outer covering, I am taking a shortcut by using wonton wrappers. I find these in the vegan section of my grocer right next to Tofu.

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  • Mix 2 tbsp of all purpose flour with little water to make a paste which will be used as a glue to seal the samosas.

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  • In the wrapper, place the filling in one half (diagonally). If you place too much filling, the wrapper will rip, and too little filling makes for a tasteless samosa. But I assure you that you will find your happy medium by the time you are making your third samosa 🙂

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  • Apply the flour glue to the two edges and fold the wrapper over. If possible, tuck the edges to secure the filling.

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  • Prepare all samosas like this. If for a party, you can make these a day or two ahead and refrigerate  until you need them. Also you can freeze these  until when needed.

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  • Heat oil in a pan for deep frying and fry the samosas to a golden brown.

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  • The only thing left to do now is, sit by the window and enjoy the crunchy samosa, with hot tea while watching the rain 🙂

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Indian Finger Fish (Fish sticks)


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I grew up in a small coastal town, Tuticorin. My parents were busy doctors (still are..) and the earliest they would come home is 10 at night. It was our routine that we went out for dinner every Saturday night, and we always went to this particular restaurant called “Sugam”, coz’  it was the only restaurant that had most items in the menu still available at 10:45 p.m. ( Yeah, in our town, in the 80’s , night life ended in the early evening 🙂 ). As a child , there is not much to look forward to a late night dinner, as by then, hunger would have arrived and left and sleep was fast approaching. One of the few things that kept me awake and interested in dinner was the amazing “finger fish”  in that restaurant, crunchy on the outside and super juicy on the inside with the perfect blend of spices. That was my standard order every week. I will stop by the restaurant during my visit next month. I won’t be eating finger fish anymore, neverthless, I just can’t wait to relive the memories.

  • I am using Tilapia for this recipe. Any mid fish can be used. Clean and cut the fish fillets into finger shaped pieces. I used about three fillets today.

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  • Mix turmeric powder, chilli powder, black pepper, salt and garlic powder with a little water to make a paste. If you do not have garlic powder, you can use garlic paste.

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  • Marinate the fish with the paste and set aside for 30 mins.

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  • Beat an egg for the egg wash.

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  • Dip the fish pieces in egg wash and roll in bread crumbs. I prefer regular bread crumbs. Breading should be minimal, so I avoid panko.

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  • Prepare all the fish pieces this way.

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  • Heat oil for deep frying and fry the fish to golden brown. Once oil becomes hot enough for frying, lower the heat. If your fish sticks turn brown as soon as you drop them in the oil, it means the oil is too hot. The sticks should gradually turn from light brown to golden brown.

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  • As you know, fish cooks quickly. However, make sure it is done.

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  • Serve with ketchup. This is usually a big hit with kids.

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