Chana Masala

Chana MasalaI adore Indian food. I love the spices and the warmth. I love that Indian food is packed with things that are good for my body, and that it doesn’t taste like “health food.” Indian food is fantastic.

But I’ve got to admit that I don’t cook Indian food at home very often. True, I love going home and recreating every delicious food in my very own kitchen; but I just find that Indian food is always better when I order it out. (Or, ahem, when friends make it for me. Yeah, you know who you are.)

In the months since learning about Caitlin’s dairy intolerance, I’ve had to avoid eating a lot of my favorite things. Dairy is in almost everything! And since a lot of Indian food is cooked with ghee (clarified butter), I’ve been wary of ordering Indian food at a restaurant.

Enter glorious chana masala, a simple dish featuring chickpeas cooked in a rich, spicy tomato sauce full of grated ginger and pressed garlic. This version comes together very quickly, ready from start to finish in under an hour, thanks to the help of canned chickpeas. And it is delicious!

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Butter-Glazed Carrots

Butter-Glazed Carrots

I am trying to grow in gratefulness in my life. My husband has pointed out that I spend a lot of time moping about things that went slightly wrong rather than taking joy in all the ways I am blessed.

So let’s rumble, November: 30 days of thankfulness.

Day 1: Thankful for sweet friends who share deeply from their hearts. Thankful for cool weather and autumn leaves.

Day 2: Thankful for the bright, contagious smiles of my children. Thankful for the way Jake fake giggles at Caitlin to try to make her laugh (it’s so weird but so sweet).

Also thankful for Jacques Pepin and his butter-glazed carrots. These carrots put all other carrots to shame. They are so good—I really can’t rave about them enough.

Don’t be fooled by the name “glazed carrots,” people, because these are not mushy or overwhelmingly sweet like so many carrots by that name. They have just the barest of buttery, gingery sauces, with a hint of fresh garlic and grassy parsley and a crisp but not crunchy bite. The word that comes to mind is luscious.

Bring these to Thanksgiving and they will definitely be a hit!

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Dal Makhani (Lentils with Tomatoes and Cream)

Dal Makhani

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should give dal another chance. The first time I made it, I used a crockpot recipe that turned out to be super boring and a little like eating dirt…and Dave said, “Well what do you expect? This is what lentils taste like.”

But since then, I have discovered a love for both Indian food and lentils (perfect storm!). And the more people I share that sad dal story with, the more suggestions I receive for wonderful dal variations to try—as well as a few scoldings for my low opinion of dal in the first place.

So I got pretty darn excited when I found a simple and delicious dal recipe at The Tasty Cheapskate, my Secret Recipe Club blog for July! I really enjoyed perusing Jean’s blog—and I really related to a comment she made in her food journal that her children do not eat particularly well. Yes, it’s true…children of food bloggers do not necessarily eat wheatberry salads or fresh fruits or brussels sprouts or much of anything that isn’t “baya. deh-yeee. zava!” (Oh. You don’t speak toddler? In our house, that translates to “peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”)

And to answer your next question, although this dal was delicious, my toddler spit out his first bite (though he did try two more bites after that!—they met the same fate). Oh well.

Dal is a great dish because it is inexpensive* and filling! In this dish, black beluga lentils swim in an aromatic, spicy, creamy tomato sauce. Serve with basmati rice or your favorite Indian flatbread and you’ve got a completely nutritious meal!

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Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer

On Sunday morning, it was so warm I didn’t even need a coat when I went outside.

By midnight, the roads were icy and buckets of snow were on their way.

Late winter is so confusing! I don’t know what to wear, I don’t know what to make for dinner… (Right? On blustery days all I can think about are steaming, hearty bowls full of warm spices, which is not exactly appealing when it’s 60 degrees outside.)

In these final days of freezing winter, I truly just want to make the most of earthy, spicy foods before I have to give them up for spring salads. So I made saag paneer.

Have you ever had that? It’s basically a phenomenally spiced spinach and cheese dish, which you can eat with a fork or by swirling a piece of garlicky naan bread through it. Classic wintery goodness.

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Honey Ginger Cheesecakes with Caramel Hearts

Honey Ginger Cheesecakes for Valentine's

It’s almost Valentine’s day. And if there were ever an occasion that just screamed for a delicious dessert, it’s a day centered around honoring your sweetie, right?

(Not that we really need an excuse to want dessert…)

Last week I was telling you about the valentine-themed cooking challenge I participated in. The mystery ingredient was honey, which I have never really liked. Honey is just way too sweet for me…and I really like sweets, so wrap your mind around that one. But I am super competitive, so I dug my heels in and determined to make the best gosh-darn honey dessert ever.

As I sat on my couch, examining my copy of the Flavor Bible, trying to figure out what kind of dessert I could possibly make that featured honey prominently but was well balanced, I suddenly realized that cheesecake would do the trick! Cheesecake is naturally tart, and the salt in cream cheese seemed like the ideal complement to the flowery saccharine flavor of honey.

These cheesecakes have several components (hey, it was a competition!), but in the end each piece is quite easy to carry out. They were so delicious, highlighting honey but also bringing in other strong flavors so the honey wouldn’t overwhelm. And guess what? I won the award for creativity!

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Miso-Glazed Salmon

Miso-Glazed Salmon

Sometimes I am reminded what a picky eater I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I have come a long way from my childhood. There was a time when the only things I was willing to eat were cottage cheese and Cheerios (not together). There was a time when the mere sight of a mushroom made me gag.

This is one of the things that makes the Secret Recipe Club so interesting, though: each month I get to tackle a new blog, and in many cases, I must emerge from my picky-eater armor and contemplate a collection of recipes full of things I normally don’t go for.

Take miso, for example. I don’t like miso soup. And since I have no problem with seaweed wrapped around my sushi, and I am somewhat tolerant of tofu, I just assumed that it was the miso-ness I didn’t like.

Nevertheless, when I was perusing Jane’s Adventures in Dinner this month, I decided to go out on a limb and try miso on salmon. I have been reading through the True Food cookbook, and Dr. Weil mentions that good, fresh fish should not need more than “a feather-light miso or soy glaze” (Weil 2012, p. 32) to balance and brighten the flavors. With a commendation like that, I figured I had better give miso a try sooner or later…

And boy, am I glad I did!

This glaze was delicious! Miso, which is fermented soy bean paste, does taste a bit like soy sauce (though not nearly as salty). Combined with freshly grated ginger and a large drizzle of honey, it tasted just divine on top of wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Yum.

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CSA Week 2: Vegetable Potstickers with Sweet Chili Soy Sauce

Vegetable Potstickers

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a recipe for spring veggie potstickers that immediately peaked my interest. So last week when I opened up my CSA box and found a bounty of late-spring produce, I immediately figured out how to adapt the recipe to the veggies in my box.

CSA Week 2What I received for week 2 of my CSA share was: a huge bundle of kale, almost a pound of asparagus, several spring onions, a few large radishes, and a pint of cherries.

You can adapt this recipe to whatever veggies you have on hand! I thought that the radishes, kale, and asparagus went perfectly with a small handful of chopped mushrooms that I happened to have languishing in my fridge. The mushrooms upped the umami factor of the potstickers, which was a definite plus for my husband (who didn’t even complain that they were vegetarian!). This meal actually turned out so great that I made it twice!

These potstickers aren’t hard to make, unless you have an unhappy baby who doesn’t understand why you are spending 15 minutes pinching wonton wrapper seams together. In that event, you might want to give yourself some extra time and patience. I’m just saying.

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Ginger Scones

Okay, so with all the Olympics going on, I have been in a very British mood. And what could be more British than scones? The last time I popped into a coffee shop in London, about half of their baked goods contained candied ginger, so that seemed like the perfect complement to my scone craving.

Now, it may seem a bit off-season to be making a spiced scone, but I promise that the flavor of these is light and fresh, brightened by the lemon zest. You won’t feel heavy or warm after one of these babies, and I know you’ll think they are completely delicious!

Given that I was inspired to make scones by a series of amazing athletic feats, I thought I should up the health factor of my regular scone recipe just slightly, so I went for half white whole wheat flour (though I suppose you could use all wheat flour and skip the refined all-purpose flour entirely). Unfortunately, they are still quite buttery, so they aren’t exactly a health food. Maybe take a quick jog around the block after you eat one. Do a few laps in the pool, bike to a friend’s house, maybe slam down a couple of cartwheels…anything that reminds you of your favorite Olympian 🙂

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Vegetable Khorma

This month for the Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Samayalarai: Cooking is Divine.

What an interesting blog—and something of a challenge for me, an Indian food rookie! Looking through the pages and pages of recipes, mostly for things I had never previously heard of, was a real education for me. I mean, my Indian food experience is fairly limited to the most common of dishes: naan, various kinds of masala, jalfrezi…

Let’s just say I spent a lot of time looking up Indian food terms on Google as I browsed the blog.

I landed on a dish called Dhingri Mutter, which means mushrooms and peas. One of the things that drew me to this dish is that it seemed like something I could easily make at home without buying too many exotic ingredients that would later go to waste. It also looked really healthy, and reminded me of a favorite Indian dish that I’ve been meaning to make for a while, Navrattan Khorma. Both are made with a fresh tomato-onion paste and yogurt sauce; the main difference is in the vegetables included. Since I’m not a huge fan of peas, I decided to expand this dish to include a few other vegetables as well, making it even more similar to the khorma I enjoy so much. I hope I didn’t compromise the integrity of the meal too much by tinkering with the ingredients! All I know is that I sure enjoyed it.

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