Vegetable Quiche

So, for a belated Mother’s Day gift, I decided to cook breakfast and dinner for my amazing mom :).  It felt so nice to be able to give back to her after all these years of her cooking me some pretty delicious food. Being that she is a vegetarian, I decided to cook her a vegetable quiche. Not gonna lie, it was amazingly delicious, to the point where there was none left afterwards. The “cheat” that I used was using a store bought pie crust. I could have made the dough, but that would have required extra time. You can definitely make your own, it’s not going to be a problem :)

Ingredients:

  • Pie pastry, homemade or store bought
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups Half & Half
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup of baby bella mushrooms, rough chopped (or you can use any other mushrooms)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/2 cup of grated gruyere cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp thyme, chopped
Directions:
  1. Blind bake your pie crust, first. For mine, I covered it with parchment paper and covered it with dry beans and baked it for 10 minutes at 350F. Allow it to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F
  3. To a skillet on medium high heat, add the oil and allow it to warm up, or until the oil starts to shimmer. Add zucchini and onions, stirring and cooking it for 6 minutes
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook 10 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the vegetables are tender
  5. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
  6. Add the basil and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool
  7. To a mixing bowl, add the eggs and half & half and beat together.
  8. Add the gruyere cheese, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix.
  9. To the pie dish, add the vegetables and spread evenly. Next, add the egg mixture on top of the vegetables.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes to 30 minutes or until the fork comes out clean when inserted into the center.
  11. Allow to cool for 15-30 minutes to let it set.
  12. Serve and enjoy :)

Tandoori Chicken, without the Tandoor? WHAT?! YES!

Yes, people, we’re going to have a little lesson on Indian food. It surprises me how when people hear the words “Indian food” or “Pakistani food” they jump right into curry or extremely death wish spicy food. Both of these are completely untrue. Indian food, believe it or not, rarely contain “curry” nor is it extremely spicy. Indian food contains a lot of spices that tickles your taste buds from cumin to chili powder to fenugreek seeds. Indian food has depth and dimensions compared to other ethnic cuisines. However, some dishes can be spicy. So why do Indian foods contain so many different type of spices? India and Pakistan have very hot and humid climate, especially during the summer when temperatures can hit the triple digits. Eating spicy food makes you sweat; sweat cools you off. If you’re not used to all of these spices, it’s going to hit you in the beginning :p. However, this is why I insist my friends to try Tandoori chicken as their first dish. Tandoori Chicken is an Indian version of American BBQ, except it’s not cooked on low heat for hours and hours. This dish is cooked in a clay oven, called a Tandoor, at a very high temperature for short amount of time. This leaves you with a very juicy and and melt in your mouth of deliciousness. Obviously, to cook proper Tandoori Chicken you need a Tandoor but who has that in their house? Believe it or not, you can make tandoori chicken without a tandoor. I made this dish for my boyfriend and he even agrees that this tastes way better than some restaurants.

Picture is not mine (http://www.tiptoptens.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/tandoori-chicken.jpg)

Ingredients:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp of ginger garlic paste *
  • 1 tsp kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves) *
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 2 tsp of red chili powder, separate (or to your taste)
  • Red food coloring
  • 2 tsp of salt, separate
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 6 tbsp yogurt (1 tbsp per chicken thigh)
  • 1-2 carrots, cubed
  • 1-2 celeries, cubed
  • small onion, sliced, optional
  • Chaat Masala, optional *

Directions:

  1. To the chicken, make a few slits in the front and back of the thighs, making sure to cut until you hit the bone
  2. Combine 1 tsp of red chili powder, 1 tsp of salt, juice of half a lemon in a plate or bowl. Apply this all over the chicken thighs, making sure to get inside the slits that you cut. Set aside for 15 minutes
  3. For the marinate: Combine the yogurt, coriander, cumin, garam masala, ginger garlic paste, remaining red chili powder and salt, kasoori methi, black pepper, turmeric, and juice of half a lemon. Once mixed, add a couple drops of red food coloring to get that red color you find on tandoori chicken
  4. Add the chicken to the marinate and mix, making sure that it gets inside the slits. Set aside for 10 minutes
  5. Preheat oven to 425F. To a baking dish, add the carrots and celeries and place the chicken thighs on top of it. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until it is juicy and fully cooked
  6. OPTIONAL: What I do after it is done cooking, is I heat a grill pan to medium heat and grill the onions and chicken thighs to get that charred look to it. While it is grilling, I sprinkle some chaat masala on top of the chicken and onions.
  7. Serve it on a plate with lemon wedges.

NOTE*: The ingredients that are starred can be found in Indian speciality stores or International markets.

Baklava: Yes, it is THAT simple

When I first started cooking and baking, one of the first things I baked was baklavas. It was an instant hit with my family and friends. I always thought making them would be difficult but it is the complete opposite. Time consuming? Very. Difficult? Not even a bit. I think most people shy away from making is because of the phyllo dough. You always hear stories on racing against the time to work with it before it crumbles up and dries on you. In all honesty, you don’t need to work with it in under a minute but you can’t work with it, leave the kitchen to talk to your husband or wife for 30 minutes and come back. However, if you’re that worried, while working with it, you can cover the dough you’re not using at the moment with a damp kitchen towel or paper towel.

Some might be wondering, what exactly is baklava? It’s a Greek dessert filled with nuts and sugar, all covered in a honey sugary syrup. Oh yeah, it’s definitely not one of those healthy desserts but it is so good. My baklavas are a little different in that I add lemon zest into the mixture itself and the syrup to give it that slight citrus note. I also don’t completely douse the baklavas in syrup. I want it to remain still slightly crunchy and be able to taste the mixture in the inside without masking it in sugar and honey. However, if you like it drenched in syrup, by all means, do that. It’s not going to hurt my feelings :-).

Ingredients:

  • About 2 cups of walnuts, chopped (you can use pistachios as well or a mixture)
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove
  • 40 sheets (2 rolls) of phyllo dough (I use Athens Fillo Dough)
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1 cup of butter, melted (might need more but start with this for right now)

Baklava Syrup

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • zest of a lemon

Directions

  1. Combine walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, ground clove, and lemon zest
  2. Brush a baking pan with butter and place 10 sheets on bottom of the pan, making sure to butter each layer before placing the next layer on top
  3. Sprinkle 1/3 of the mixture all over and then place 7 more buttered phyllo dough, add 1/3 of the mixture, top with 7 more buttered dough and then rest of the mixture.
  4. Finish the baklava with 16 buttered phyllo dough and then brush the top with butter.
  5. With a sharp knife, cut the baklavas to your desire. I do mine in squares, but you can do them in diamonds for smaller pieces.
  6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 45-60 minutes, until it is golden brown.
  7. While the baklava is in the oven, combine the ingredients for the syrup and bring to a boil.
  8. Once the baklava is done, allow it to cool slightly and pour the warm syrup over it. Allow it to cool completely. Cut and serve!

Note: for the syrup, I sometimes like to add a few drops of squeezed lemon juice to add a little bit more of a citrus taste. If you don’t like lemons, you can always substitute it with orange zest and juice.

Mini Lamb Meatballs in Spicy Eggplant Sauce

As my previous post stated, my boyfriend left today on a business trip for three weeks. I wanted to make him something romantic for him last night before he left. He loves lamb; it would not surprise me if he had to choose between me or lamb, he would run off and live happily ever after with it instead of me. Amazingly, since I started dating him, my love for lamb has increased greatly as well. According to him, this is the best dish I have made for him. It’s a win in his book. Although the cooking process is a tad bit time consuming, trust me, it’s worth it in the end. Yes, it is THAT good.  This recipe is from http://www.foodwishes.blogspot.com . Thank you, Chef John, for this AMAZING recipe.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 1 eggplant, cubed and skinned
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • 1/3 cup of minced onion (I used yellow onion, but you can use whatever you prefer)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to your taste
  • Salt and pepper, to your taste
  • 1 cup of marinara sauce (made or store bought; i didn’t have time to make my own, so i used Prego original)
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp of fresh mint, chiffonade * (note below)

For the meatballs:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of Greek yogurt, plain
  • 1/4 cup of plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • Cayenne pepper, to your taste
  • 4 cloves of finely minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of finely minced onion (make sure it is finely minced. we don’t want gigantic chunks of onion to bite down on)
  • 1 pound of ground lamb

Directions

  1. Place the 2 tbsp of olive oil in pan on med-high heat. Once the oil glistens, add in the eggplant and salt and cook until it becomes brown, soft and tender. You’ll notice the eggplant collapse and shrink.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and add in the onions. Cook until the onions soften and turn translucent, about 4-5 minutes
  3. Add in the sauce and broth, stir to combine, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer. If you’re making this sauce ahead of time, simmer on low for 35 minutes. If the sauce is too reduced, add in more broth or water to your liking.
  4. For the meatball, combine egg, yogurt and breadcrumbs and mix.
  5. Add in the spices, garlic, onions, and then the ground lamb. Mix everything until it is combined.
  6. For this step, you could use a mini scooper, however, thanks to Chef John, here’s a fast and easier way to create mini meatballs. Place a ball of the mixture into your hand and then form your hand into a fist and squeeze. The mixture should come out between your index and thumb, creating mini meatballs. All you have to do after that is roll them into a ball. Too much work? You can always just eyeball it and form it. Perfection is not required :-). Hint: use wet hands to prevent sticking when working with ground meat.
  7. Preheat oven to 400F. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper (easy clean up) and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Place the cooked meatballs and mint in the sauce, and simmer for 30 minutes on low heat. Serve and enjoy :)

You can put it on top rice, vegetables, eat it as it is, etc. My boyfriend loves pasta, so I put it on top of linguine, and sprinkled some parmesan cheese.

*Note: Chiffonade is a fancy term for “ribbon”. When a recipe calls for basil, mint, tarragon, etc to be chiffonade, it means to cut it in a ribbon form. To do that, stack the leaves on top of each other and then roll it up. Cut it and you’ll have herbs chiffonaded! You can be fancy now with your cooking :-)

Scratch made chocolate chip cookies. So simple and easy

If you asked me to bake cookies about 3 1/2 years ago, I would have laughed at you. I had no baking skills, even baking those ready bake cookies was hard for me. However, since getting a relationship about 3 years ago, I realized the one thing I had to learn was to cook and bake. My boyfriend’s mom makes some delicious food and the last thing I wanted him to do was downgrade himself into eating canned food and frozen pizzas.

Anyways, I baked these cookies for him to take in Chicago for his business trip for three weeks. These have got to be the most delicious, chewiest cookies I have ever had. Surprisingly, it was all because of me not having baking soda. I did shopping and found out I forgot baking soda; the only thing I had was baking powder. I just doubled the amount of baking powder and these came out fluffier and chewier. I can truly say I will never buy store bought chocolate chip cookies again. The best part? It was extremely easy to make! No creaming the butter, required!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of AP (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp of whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt*

Directions

  1. Mix the butter and sugars in a bowl
  2. Add milk, eggs, and vanilla and mix
  3. Sift the flour in (or put the flour in a separate bowl and whisk to get rid of chunks) and add in salt and baking powder. Mix until it forms a thick dough
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and mix. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F
  6. Place a heaping teaspoon to tablespoon of cookie dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure there’s space between the dough. (do NOT spray the cookie sheet with spray or butter; there’s enough butter in the dough to prevent it from sticking).
  7. Bake for about 8-10 minutes. Do not bake the cookies until they’re fully cooked. They’ll continue to cook afterwards and you’ll end up with burnt cookies. I put mine in for 9 minutes and they turned out fine but it depends on your oven.
  8. Allow them to cool for about 5 minutes and then place them on a wire rack to continue to cool.

Note: Don’t like semi-sweet chocolate chips? That’s ok, feel free to use whatever you prefer from white chocolate, pecans, peanut butter chips, etc. They’ll turn out just as good. You can even use less chips if 1.5 cups is too much for your taste.

Note: Why use salt in baking ingredients? Salt is used to balance out the sweetness of the baked goods. Without it, your baked goods will taste like cardboard. I promise, you will not taste the salt whatsoever.

First post!

For some time now, I’ve been debating whether or not I should create a blog, dedicated to a bunch of my favorite recipes I love to cook and bake. Well, apparently, I decided out of the spur of the moment to create it. As of right now, I’m a 22 year old college student who just got into cooking and baking a few years ago.

First off, I used to HATE to cook and the thought of me baking was out of the question.  I couldn’t even bake those ready bake cookies. I know, it’s pretty sad. I could cook some pasta but then again, who can’t cook pasta with jarred sauce? So how did I get into cooking? My boyfriend, of course! What some need to understand is that Indian moms look to see if their son’s girlfriend can cook. No, she did not force me into cooking but about a few months into our relationship, I got a sudden interest in cooking. I just started off with making some easy baked chicken with jarred stuff and graduated from there. Cooking led me into baking and after being complemented by everyone how wonderful my homemade baklavas came out, it all went uphill from there.

So, where do I get my inspirations from? Everywhere. My family, especially my mother, food network, and various food blogs. It’s gotten to the point where cooking and baking has become sort of therapeutic for me, especially after a long week of classes. I love to cook international cuisines whether it is Indian (favorite) to Middle Eastern to Italian, etc. I try to use very little jarred sauces and condensed soups. I’ve learned that making things from scratch isn’t all that difficult and anybody can do it with some practice.

The best part with cooking/baking is that my boyfriend gets to be the taste tester for everything. He’s not a picky eater whatsoever, which is definitely a plus for me. Hopefully within the next few days, I’ll start posting some of my favorite recipes on here for everyone to try.

As for tonight, I’m planning on making southwestern style mac and cheese with ground turkey. *crosses fingers* let’s hope this turns out delicious since I came up with the recipe on the top of my head during class :)

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