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 !!!

 

Ribbon Pakoda


Hardly had any time to recover from Halloween and here is Diwali. For us, it comes a day early, Diwali is tomorrow (Saturday).  I wasn’t going to post any Diwali recipes, simply because I had to whip out six treats in a day and taking pictures for posting a recipe kind of seemed impossible. However, I promised a friend that I would post ribbon pakoda recipe, so here it is.

Ribbon Pakodas are deep fried savory snack, usually made during Diwali. Always a huge hit with kids, loved equally by adults too. My aunt makes the best ribbon pakodas I have ever eaten, but also she grinds everything from scratch (soaking rice and all). This is a modification of her recipe, an attempt to reciprocate all the flavors without taking much trouble 🙂

You will need :

  1. Rice flour – 3 cups
  2. Besan / gram flour / Garbanzo flour – 1 cup
  3. Red chilli powder – 3 tsp
  4. Garam masala – 1 tsp
  5. Ginger Garlic paste – 3 tsp
  6. Salt – 4 tsp
  7. Asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
  8. Water (to make dough)
  9. Oil (to fry)
  10. Ghee /Melted butter – 1 tbsp
  • Mix rice flour, besan, salt, red chilli powder and garam masala.

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  • Dilute ginger garlic paste with water and add asafoetida to this water.

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  • Filter this mixture and add just the liquid to the flour mix. Mix the liquid in the flour evenly.

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  • Add 1 tbsp of melted butter or melted ghee to the flour and mix well.

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  • Now add enough water to the flour and knead it to a dough (like chappathi dough). We will be working with the dough only in batches, so cover it with a wet towel or wet paper towel until needed.

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  • This is the “Murukku” press, similar to a cookie press. To make ribbon pakodas, use the disc shown in the picture below.

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  • Heat oil in a pot for frying the pakodas. Take a portion of the dough and pour a tablespoon of hot oil on it and knead well. This helps a lot in making the pakodas crispier.

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  • Load the dough into the press.

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  • Press the dough directly into the hot oil.

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  • Cook until the sizzle calms down. Drain the pakodas on a paper towel.

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  • Repeat the steps until all the dough is used. Remember to knead hot oil into the dough right before loading it in the press every time.

The recipe in itself is very simple. Here are some debugging tips that may be useful, if you are trying this for the first time.

  • If the pakodas come out hard, there is not enough fat in the dough, so add some melted butter or ghee to the dough.
  • If the pakodas suck up lots of oil, there is more water in the dough, so add more flour.
  • If it is too hard to press out the pakodas, the dough is too tight, so add more water.
  • If the pakodas  lose shape in oil, the dough is loose, so add more flour.
  • Constantly adjust heat. If the oil is smoking, reduce the heat. If oil is foaming up on the surface increase the heat.
  • As soon as you make the first batch of pakodas, taste them to check salt and crunchiness and make changes accordingly.

These tips hold good for all types of Murukkus/Chaklis.

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali !!

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Spicy Potatoes (Potato Poriyal)


This is pure indulgence. I just posted an oil free rasam recipe few days back and here I am posting this potato side recipe that takes a little more oil than normal vegetable sides. I  L.O.V.E. this traditional, simple potato poriyal so much so, while growing up.. we had it two or three times a week. Now I always pair this poriyal with rasam or yogurt rice , so that the fat content of the entire meal is at bay. This may not be how you want to make the poriyal always, but once in a while it is okay to dive into the indulgence :).

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  • Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into big pieces. Sometimes when I am in a hurry I microwave the potatoes (Heat a medium size potato for 3-4 mins without water in the microwave) also.

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  • You will need :
  1. One small red onion or half of a medium onion
  2. curry leaves – few
  3. Garlic – 2 cloves crushed with peel (optional)
  4. Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  5. Sambar powder – 3 -4 tsp
  6. Salt to taste.

Also you will need mustard seeds or cumin for initial seasoning which is also optional.

[Sambar Powder is readily available in all Indian grocery stores. Most of the available brands are good. If you do not have sambar powder you can replace it with cayenne or red chilli powder.]

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  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok, and fry mustard seeds or any of your preferred seasoning like cumin or fennel or cloves and cinnamon… I used mustard seeds and urad dal . Then saute the onions and curry leaves.

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  • Once the onions turn slightly brown, add the turmeric, sambar powder and salt directly to the oil. This will cook the masalas in a flash. Reduce the heat and make sure not to burn the sambar powder.

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  • After 30 seconds, add the potatoes to the wok and mix well. This method of adding the masalas to the oil directly, ensures that the potatoes get evenly coated with the spices.

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  • Cook for a minute and then add the crushed garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

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  • The dish as of now is ready. But you can leave the potatoes in the wok for another few minutes to crisp.

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Once you have the boiled potatoes ready, this will be done in five minutes. As I mentioned earlier, this is usually served as a side for rice, but it can also be used as filling for wraps or sandwiches. These potatoes are crispy, spicy , garlicky……and you will like everything about them 🙂

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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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Podimas (with green plantains)


Every state in India has its own version of thali meal. A thali meal is a complete meal with many components, including rice, lentils, curries, soups, stir fries, deep fried sides, desserts and pickles. Tamilnadu’s meal looks something like this :

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Picture Courtesy : http://boffinnews.blogspot.com/2012/02/tamilnadu-special-foods-meals-special.html

The thali meal cooked at homes on regular days usually has 2 or 3 vegetable sides and on special days the meal is prepared with 4 or 5 vegetable sides and the wedding thali meals come with about 7 or 8 sides. Bigger the occasion, more the number of sides. The beauty of the meal is that each side is cooked by a different method of cooking.  There are thorans (stir fries), koottu (vegetables cooked with lentils), varuvals (vegetables shallow or deep fried with jacked up spices), aviyal (a wet mix of a combination of vegetables cooked in a yogurt and coconut base) and then the podimas or puttu (steamed and shredded vegetables with coconut seasoning).

Here is the method of preparation for podimas (which is also called as ‘puttu’ sometimes). I have used raw plantains for this recipe, this can also be done with potatoes or carrots or yam. This is a very simple recipe, but the trick is to get the texture right.

  • I am using “naattu vazhakkai”, the unripened plantains that we get in Indian stores. Any green plantain can be used.

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  • Steam the plantains with their skin on, either in a steam basket or in an idli maker. You can also drop them in boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. If the plantains are overcooked, the dish wont turn out that great. Once the plantains are steamed , allow them to cool down completely , peel off their skins and grate them. If you are using potatoes, shred the steamed potatoes with hands instead of grating, and avoid using the potato masher.

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  • For seasoning , you’ll need :
  1. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  2. Urad dal – 1 tsp
  3. channa dal – 1 tsp
  4. cumin – 1 tsp
  5. fennel – 1 tsp (optional)
  6. onions – 1 medium , chopped
  7. green chillies – 4 or 5 (use red pepper flakes instead)
  8. minced ginger – 2 tsp
  9. curry leaves – few
  10. grated coconut – 3 tbsp

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  • In a pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil and splutter the mustard seeds, fry channa dal and urad dal to golden, fry the cumin and fennel. Saute the ginger, onions, green chillies and curry leaves.

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  • Once the onions brown lightly, add the grated coconut, toast for a few seconds and turn off the heat.

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  • Add the grated plantains to the pan and mix gently with the seasoning. Make sure the heat is off while you are doing this. The shredded plantains are delicate as they are already steamed, continuing to heat or going hard with the spatuala can easily mush them. This is the most important step in the recipe. Gently mix everything together, and then turn the heat back on to warm the podimas.

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And now your podimas is ready to be served as a side to rice and curry. This goes well with any curry like sambar or rasam , but my favorite way to serve this is to pair up

with super spicy curries like vattha kuzhambu, kara kuzhambu or pulusu.

As I said already, this is just a method pf preparation, try to cook your favorite vegetables this way and let me know how it goes 🙂

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This is a very mild side. If you are looking for a spicy plantain recipe check out Spicy Plantains.

Guacamole


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There are countless Indian movies with story lines in which boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy tries to woo the girl over and over and finally the girl falls head over heels for the boy and they live happily ever after 🙂 . Happened in my life too, except that the boy was the sexy green avocado. Long long ago, so long ago after listening to so many stories about the awesomeness of guacamole, finally came the day when I could actually taste it.  “Disappointment” doesn’t begin to describe how I felt that day. All I tasted was the avocado baby food, completely mashed with no identifiable flavors, I kept searching for some acid to cut the creaminess but in vain. I couldn’t help but wonder if there is something wrong with my taste buds as I was unable to appreciate this widely popular dip. I was cautiously staying away from it for a long time. But luckily it was one of those “first day, worst day” kind of deals. Since then, every guacamole I tasted has been better than its previous version. Over time I figured out the DNA for a good guacamole : chunky texture, lots of acid, spicy kicks and crunchy onions , and most of all, keeping it pure and not contaminating with sour cream and similar stuff.

I am always looking for new guacamole recipes and the latest one I tried was Alton Brown’s recipe. The cumin made me curious, I tried it , loved it and here it is 🙂

  • To add to the avocados , you’ll need :
  1. Red onions – 1 medium, finely chopped
  2. Plum tomatoes – 2 medium
  3. green chillies – 2, finely chopped
  4. Jalapeno – 1 , cut thin
  5. Lime – 1 (more if you like more acid)
  6. minced garlic – 2 tsp
  7. chopped cilantro

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  • The above quantities are for two ripe avocados. Scoop out the flesh of two ripe avocados.  Add the juice of 1 lime. Crush 2 tsp of black pepper and 1/2 tsp of cumin and 1/2 tsp of fennel (fennel is my two cents 🙂 ) and add to the avocados and also add salt.

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  • Gently mash the avocados with a fork (no baby food 🙂 ) and add the other ingredients to the avocados. Gently mix and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

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Thus, the guacamole I couldn’t stand once became my favorite dip for chips. I find tomato salsa to be too acidic , while guacamole offers the perfect balance of acid and creaminess.

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Wondering how you can use the familiar guacamole in a novel way ??  Check out MyFoodTapestry’s yummy guacamole sandwiches 🙂 .