Chana masala is a delicious Indian dish that would be great for the spring. I still vividly remember the first time I had chana masala at a friend’s house. He had us over for dinner when his parents came to visit like 25 years ago. I did not even recognize the chickpeas … I actually thought they were chestnuts. I never got the recipe but his mother gave me some tips. (Thanks to the internet I found this recipe on line and I think it is very close to what we had that night).
Chana means garbanzo beans and is the main ingredient in the dish. IMO it is crucial to prepare these beans properly. I remember our friend’s mother told me to cook the beans for a long time. They should be cooked for 3 hours or you can use a pressure cooker according to its instructions, of course. Cooking for this long will soften the beans and let the flavors come out. So if time is not an issue, I would recommend home cooked chickpeas instead of using the canned ones. The canned beans will not have the same results for sure.
Garam masala is the main spice in the dish. It is not just one spice but is actually a cleverly chosen mixture of a few spices: fennel seeds, star anise, mace, black cardamom. It is nicely balanced so one flavor will not overwhelm the dish. You can blend it yourself or you can just buy it. (I ended up buying it at the store).
This is a common dish that people in India make on a regular basis for lunch or dinner. It has an interesting flavor, taste and texture. It can be made less spicy, if you don’t like spicy dishes, just leave out the green chili. So chana masala is basically a chickpea curry cooked in an onion tomato sauce with the spices. I always wonder how poor people in India get by on very little money and still eat well. This dish might be one of their secrets …
-I doubled the recipe
serves 3-4 people
1 cup of dried chickpeas or 1 (15oz) can
3 cups of water
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil/ghee
2 large onions, finally chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch ginger piece, finally chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2-3/4 TBSP of red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
Ingredients for the chana masala gravy
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon stick (If you double up the recipe, you will not need to add another cinnamon stick)
2-3 clove pieces
3 green cardamom pods without the shells.
1 green chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1-1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
2 pinch mango powder (amchur) (optional)
fenugreek leaves (optional)
Clean and soak the chickpeas for at least 8 hours. Pour off soaking liquid. Add fresh cold water and cook for 3 hours. Less for pressure cooker. Save cooking liquid. Omit if using canned beans.
Directions for the tomato sauce
Sauté the onions in oil or ghee until golden. Add the chopped ginger for 1 minute, stir.
Add red chili powder and turmeric. Stir for 1 minute. Add garlic quickly, stir.
Quickly add chopped tomatoes and little salt, stir. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until there is a nice sauce. The onions should not taste raw.
Let this mixture cool. Add 1 tbsp liquid from the beans. Make a thick gravy with a blender. Set aside.
Directions for the Chana masala gravy
Dry heat the spices (cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom, clove) in a pot for 1 minute until you can smell the aroma of the spices. Stir. I grind the cardamom as some people don’t like them in their foods whole.
Pour the blended tomato sauce mixture from the previous step back into the pot, the chopped green chili pepper, coriander and garam masala powders and the spices.
Mix and cook for a few minutes until ingredients are mixed nicely.
Add the cooked chickpeas and the cooking water. You might have to add more water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes.
Taste the mixture and see if you need more garam masala. Boil and simmer for 2 more minutes if spices were added.
Take out the larger spices like bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves.
I also added salt here.
Keep it covered until served.
Serve hot with cilantro, yoghurt, lemon, rice, vegetables and roti.
Tiramisu is an Italian coffee flavored dessert. It is made with layers of lady fingers dipped in coffee and the egg/mascarpone mixture topped with chocolate. This is a simple dessert that you can whip up easily. Really wow your family, guests and they will think you are the most amazing chef…
You will need Italian lady fingers. I believe it is a must and you can buy it fairly easily. I got mine at Whole Foods but you can even get it on Amazon or make it yourself. (In Europe, people always have a package of lady fingers at home).
Traditionally, raw eggs are used to make tiramisu. I use fresh, local eggs but you can use heavy whipping cream as a substitute so you do not need to worry about raw egg issue. Of course, the cream will make it heavier and richer. In Europe, eggs are not a problem but in the US, eggs are processed differently and might not be fresh. If you decide to use eggs, here is the egg test. When you immerse your egg in a pot of cold water, it should lie flat on the bottom. If it goes to the top or even one side starts moving up, do not use the egg. You can only use eggs that are fresh here. I will have instructions for both versions, the only raw egg version and the alternative version using cream and cooked egg yolk.
What kitchen equipments do you need? 1 medium sized dish for whipping the whites or the cream, 1 larger, medium sized dish for the egg yolk/mascarpone, one 2 Qt sized deep dish for the tiramisu. 1 double boiler if cooking the egg yolk. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use a metal bowl that fits on the top of the bottom pot securely but does not touch the bottom of the pot. 1 whisk, 1 plastic scraper, 1 sieve. Optional but nice if you already have them: coffee maker, handheld mixer and food processor. Plastic wrap for refrigeration.
Separating the egg white from the yolk can be a bit tricky if you are new to baking. When cracking the egg, tap the egg on a flat surface. Taping on the edge of the counter can push the shells in and then you end up with egg shells inside your egg. Also, I like to put the egg white individually into a separate smaller bowl first to make sure the egg is not addled and no yolk is mixed in. Then you can pour it into a bigger dish that is suitable for whipping the whites and collect the rest of the eggs whites. My daughter uses a plastic bottle and scoops out the yolk to separate the whites from the yolks. Of course, the egg yolk can go into a medium sized bowl that will be used to mix egg yolk and mascarpone.
Another key ingredient is mascrapone. Yes it is expensive! … but it is the main ingredient and is worth it! So what is mascarpone anyway? It is like cream cheese but is creamier and has a higher fat content as it is obtained from cream and not from milk; cream cheese has 35% while mascarpone has 70% fat.
The recipe uses alcohol. I used dark rum. In my opinion, it suits this rich dessert better but the light rum is fine as well. Amoretto works well too. If you don’t want to use alcohol, simply use vanilla or almond extract instead.
To assemble mascapone, you can use different size dishes. If you want to put it all in one big dish, you can use a deeper dish that is 2Qt in size (I used a rectangular dish that is 11.5x8x2inches). But you can use anything even circular dishes. Sometimes I use ice cream serving dishes and make tiramisu individually. Just make sure that lady fingers are tightly laid down.
Coffee gives tiramisu the distinctive, interesting flavor, so yes you will need a good strong Italian espresso. The lady fingers are dipped in the espresso so make sure you make a good strong brew. 1 1/2 cup of espresso should be enough for dipping. (If you have left overs, you can drink it or pour it on your plants). For 1 1/2 cups of water, I used 1/3 cup of coffee beans that is 2 1/2 Tbsp ground coffee. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, purchase the coffee already ground. If you have an espresso machine, great! If you don’t, no worries! We have a simple Italian coffee press that works well. If you don’t have either just use a pot and a sieve and make it like a tea.
This dish is definatelly a make ahead dessert. It needs to be refrigerated for at least 6 hours but one whole day is even better … but honestly, I think it tastes the best after 2 days … although that might be too long to wait … Otherwise, if you use fresh eggs, it should be consumed within a few days and if you use cream and cook the yolk, you can keep it for a week in the refrigerator.
1.5 cups of strong espresso at room temperature (1/3 cup of coffee beans or 2 1/2 Tbsp ground coffee)
28 lady fingers, might need more
3 Tbsp of rum/amoretto/vanilla extract
6 eggs (separated)
16 oz COLD mascarpone
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
shaved chocolate for decoration, optional
2 cups COLD heavy whipping cream (if not using egg whites)
Directions for the raw eggs version(If you can’t use raw eggs please use directions below).
Take the eggs out of the refrigerator. Seperate the yolk from the whites while they are cold. Otherwise, they need to be at room temperature when you start working with them.
The mascarpone needs to be cold so keep it in the fridge until you need it.
Make the espresso. Pour it into a shallow dish with a flat bottom along with the 3 Tbsp of rum. Coffee needs to be at room temperature.
Dip the lady fingers in the coffee quickly one at a time for one second. Lay the dipped lady finger in a dish nice and snug.
Making the tiramisu sauce.
In a double boiler, add 1/2 cup of sugar to the yolk with a pinch of salt and cook for 6-10 minute while stirring or until you get a nice creamy consistency. Keep checking, do not over-beat. You want to get a nice creamy, pudding like consistency. Here we are adding air to the yolks to increase volume. Take off heat and let cool.
Add the 3 Tbsp of rum and mascarpone to the egg yolk. You can use a whisker or a hand held machine on low speed. Beat until just combined and smooth.
Whip up the egg whites until the whites are solid for about 2-3 minutes. When you turn the bowl upside down, it should not fall out of the bowl. You can use a food processor, electric mixer or you can do it by hand. Do not over beat. Keep checking.
Add the egg whites to the egg/mascarpone mixture. Don’t mix but gently fold it in. You just need to incorporate it into the yolk mixture keeping its fluffiness. Make sure to scrape from the bottom of the bowl to catch any hidden pockets of flour.
Pour half of this mixture on the lady fingers that are already in the dish.
Put another layer of the coffee dipped lady fingers on top of this mixture.
Pour the other half of the tiramisu mixture on the lady fingers.
Gently sprinkle some coco powder on the top through a sieve.
Cover the dish with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or 2 full days.
Serve with shaved chocolate, optional.
Direction for the cream and cooked egg yolks version
Take the eggs out of the refrigerator. They need to be at room temperature.
Mascarpone and cream need to be cold. Keep them in the fridge until you are ready to use them.
Make the coffee. Pour it into a shallow dish with a flat bottom along with 3 Tbsp of rum. Coffee needs to be at room temperature.
Dip the lady fingers in the coffee quickly one at a time for a few seconds. Lay the dipped lady finger in a dish nice and snug.
Making the tiramisu sauce. Seperate the eggs.
Prepare the double boiler by bringing some water to a simmer in the bottom pot.
Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the yolk with a pinch of salt in a pot or metal bowl that would fit the bottom pot and mix with a whisker for 8-10 minutes over low heat or until you get a nice creamy custard consistency. Keep stirring continuously. Here we are adding air to the yolks to increase volume.
Add the 3 Tbsp of rum and the mascarpone to the egg yolks. Beat until just combined and smooth.
Whip the chilled cream for about 2-3 minutes or until it is solid. When you turn the bowl upside down, it should not fall out of the bowl. You can use a food processor, electric mixer or you can do it by hand. Do not over-beat.
Add the cream to the egg/mascarpone mixture. Don’t mix but gently fold it in with a plastic spatula. You just need to incorporate it into the yolk mixture keeping its fluffiness. Make sure to scrape from the bottom of the bowl to catch any hidden pockets of flour.
Pour half of this mixture on the lady fingers that are already in the dish.
Put another layer of the coffee dipped lady fingers on top of this mixture.
Pour the other half of the tiramisu mixture on the lady fingers.
Gently sprinkle some coco powder through a sieve on the top.
Cover the dish with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or 2 days.
I don’t know if the ground hog’s prediction is right or wrong but it is still cold here. So let’s go to a more exotic place like India and get a popular dish. No worries, no exotic foods will be used. You should be able to find all the ingredients here in the US at any grocery store. If your grocery store does not have them, you can try any Indian or Asian store but really all these ingredients are common in the US. I serve the dish with whatever vegetables I can get in the store, spinach, kale, cauliflower etc.
This dish is more of a gourmet version of the simple kitchari with the addition of mustard seed, cinnamon, cardamom and chili pepper. You can also add your favorite vegetarian dishes to make it more complete and fun. I used spinach, paneer, fried mushrooms and rice. Kitchari is such a healthy dish even if you serve it with all these other foods. If you want to experience the healthiest dish on the planet, please check out my simple kitchari recipe from last year.
This tasty soup is a fun twist to the regular chili soup. The difference is that the beef is replaced with turkey or chicken and the chili beans are replaced with black beans but otherwise it is very similar to the well known beef chili soup … just even better in our opinions. Of course, you can add all your favorite foods that you would otherwise add to a chili soup.
The biggest change in the recipe is the meat. Many people prefer the lighter turkey or chicken meat. The chicken or turkey is very nice here, the thigh gives more flavor and is cheaper but the breast would work well too.
Maybe it would be more accurate to call this soup black and white chili soup. The white makes sense with the white meat but I used black beans instead of white beans because I think it has more flavor. Of course, you can use either.
EDIT: I decided to make a minor change to the title to better reflect what this soup is all about so I added black bean in the title. I have been calling it the white chili soup for years so I did not even give it much thought when I posted the recipe. I apologize but this will be more accurate otherwise it is still the same tasty soup recipe.
I decided to post this recipe now because beans especially black beans are great in the winter. The warming black beans have a sweet flavor and nourish the kidneys. They are antibacterial, anti-parasitic, detoxifying and have high levels of disease fighting antioxidants, numerous vitamins and minerals, protein and fiber. In addition, it has heart, skin protecting and anti-cancer properties. It also improves digestion and is great for overall health. It is native to the Americas and have been used for thousands of years. No wonder the natives ate it with almost every meal.
I like to make up my own chili spice, please follow the recipe below or you can use whatever you have on hand or buy it in a store already made. It is cheaper if you buy it in bulk vs buying in a jar and has no additives either.
You can experiment with the vegetables of course, I added corn, carrots and green beans. In the summer, I like to add zucchini too. But please feel free to add whatever you would like.
Vegetarian readers might be wondering if this soup could be made vegetarian. The answer is yes! – you can take out the meat and just use vegetarian stock and I also added eggs. I have made it without meat, it is tasty.
Surprise your guests at a party or just treat yourself. Honestly, we believe that this version is even tastier than the original soup.
1 large onion
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 strips of bacon
1 lb ground chicken or turkey thigh or breast
29 oz canned chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp of tomato paste
5 tsp of chili seasoning (please see recipe below)
2 garlic cloves
3 medium sized carrots, sliced
8 oz corn (frozen)
8 oz vegetables. I used green beans. Also zucchini would be fine
2 cups of uncooked black beans or 28 oz of canned beans
salt and pepper
yellow cheddar cheese
Chili seasoning ingredients
1 Tbsp (3 tsp) chili powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Wash and soak beans in cold water for 8 hours or overnight. Pour off the liquid and wash well. Add cold filtered water and cook for 2 hours or until soft but not falling apart. Omit if using canned beans. The home-made beans are well worth the extra effort though, they taste so much better.
Make the stock. Omit if using ready made stock.
Heat oil in a large pot with a large surface area. Add the chopped onion, celery and the chopped up bacon, sauté for 10 minutes or until onions are translucent and render the bacon.
Add 5 tsp of the chili seasoning, mix. Add the crushed garlic cloves, mix.
Quickly add the tomatoes, stir. Add the tomato pure and stir. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes make a nice sauce.
Add the carrots and enough stock so the liquid covers the soup well. Cook for 1 hour or until the carrots are soft.
Add the corn and the vegetables at the end so they can be cooked for 10-15 minutes.
Add the beans with its liquid and more stock if needed to cover everything.
My recipe today is potatoes with rosemary … yes that is it, just the two main ingredients plus the garlic, oregano and the salt. They should complement many winter meat or vegetarian dishes easily. I like using them in cooking because they both taste great and are good for digestion. I get very excited about rosemary in general as it has such rich and colorful history steeped in the culinary world, legends and folklore.
Rosemary is such a culinary delight, a popular plant in the kitchen especially during the colder months. Chefs use it in a wide variety of dishes from soups, bean dishes to meats particularly for lamb and chicken. It is not just used for enhancing the flavor of a dish but it also helps digestion. Also, it can preserve food, an important consideration in the old days before refrigerators were invented so I can imagine that rosemary was essential in a Medieval kitchen…
The aromatic rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has been around for thousands of years. It is native to the Mediterranean region. Its Latin name is derived from the words ‘ros’ which means dew, and ‘marinus’ that means sea and as its name suggest it can in fact survive on the spray of the sea air. Persian doctors valued it as one of their best remedies. It has also been recognized as a powerful medicine in the Mediterranean countries. Rosemary along with the other digestive remedies of the region like thyme, oregano, fennel have been used in the culinary world for their medicinal values. Earlier, the ancient doctors started using them in dishes so people could get their benefits on a daily basis. So yes we can thank these wise doctors for all these fabulous dishes.
Ancient cultures thought of rosemary as a protective plant that could ward off evil. If we look at all the benefits that rosemary has, this statement would become more clear and less mysterious. Its health benefits come from its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer abilities. It is also a restoring remedy as it can improve heart, liver, gallbladder, brain and kidney functions, circulation, digestion and the nervous system. It brings warmth to a cold, debilitated body. In the 13th century, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary claimed that rosemary wine was the secret to her long life and cured her paralyzed legs.
I’m now sitting here at my desk with a bunch of rosemary and sniffing its aromatic oils…
2 lbs of red potatoes
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
leaves of 4 stalks of fresh rosemary or 2 tsp of dried rosemary
1/4 cup of oil
Preheat oven to 475 F.
Soak the potatoes in cold water so the dirt can come off easily. I like to leave the peel on but if you prefer you can peel the potatoes without soaking. If using fresh, take the rosemary springs and pull the rosemary leaves back on the vine to get the leaves off. Cut the potatoes into cubes (halves and quarters) and put them in a larger bowl with the oil, crushed garlic, oregano, salt and the rosemary. Toss until the potatoes are well coated.
Oil a baking sheet and spread the potatoes on it.
Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are golden and tender. Flip the potatoes twice during baking to ensure even browning.
I figured folks might not be very interested in complex dishes after the holidays and I would like to spend time with my family, so I decided to post a recipe for something simple, making popcorn- the old fashioned way … no gadgets needed, just a pan with its lid that you already have in your kitchen.
Corn does not necessarily have a connection with the winter but I chose making popcorn for now because I enjoy listening to the popping sound that the corn kernels make as they are popping. As our lives are slowing down, our sense of hearing is more heightened, we can hear things that we might not have paid attention to before. And those warm popcorn straight out of the frying pan hmmmm so delicious ….
This is a nice and tasty snack to be enjoyed during the long winter nights. You can add a little butter, salt and pepper and other seasonings of your choice. I personally like to have it without anything added.
There are 4 things you should try to watch out for:
Pan should be hot before you put the kernels in.
Keep lifting the top of the pan to release the extra steam.
Keep shaking the pan to avoid the kernels from burning.
When the kernels stop popping, take the pot off immediately.
1/4 cup of corn or more if you have a bigger pan.
seasoning of your choice to taste
Heat up a pan or a pot with a lid. My pan is 10″ in diameter. When it feels hot, put in about 10 kernels for testing. After they start popping, shake the pot a little so your kernels don’t burn. When they stop popping pour them in a metal bowl.
Add in 1/4 cup of corn kernels. About every 1 minute, lift off the top of the pan allowing the steam to escape for one second until you stop hearing the kernels popping. Keep shaking the pan. When you start hearing the kernels pop less frequently, get ready to take pot off the burner.
In honor of Halloween, I would like to post a recipe for a special treat called barmbrack (bairín breac). It is kind of the ancestor of the store bought Halloween candies that kids get at night when they go out trick or treating.
Halloween originated from the beautiful ancient Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-een). It means end of summer and is the celebration of the Celtic new year. Samhain divides the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the new year, the dark and the light. Also, they believed that on this day the division between the old (deceased people) and the new (living people) is the thinnest and we get to the souls of our ancestors the closest. It is a mysterious celebration that other cultures observe as well like in Diwali or Mexican Day of the dead.
People offer food for the spirits that appear on Earth during this time period. Barmbrack is the food that is given on Samhain to make sure that the spirits don’t play tricks on us. So yes barmbrack is the ancestor of the Halloween candies. Everybody in the family gets a slice and then they offer some to the spirits. People also went out to sing songs and tell scary stories on this night and received food in exchange.
This is a simple Irish soda bread with the addition of fruits, nuts, seeds and I also added chocolate chips for the occasion. You can add whatever you wish, whatever grows around you. I used fresh cranberries because they are available here right now but traditionally crab apples were used. Otherwise, I tried to keep the recipe to its original form. The Irish also soak the dried fruits in a strong brew of tea for the night but at least for one hour. I really enjoyed this moist sweet bread, there was a surprise in every bite … sometimes cranberries or raisins or prunes or cherries but the most special treat was the bite with the chocolate chips …
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
5 Tbsp sugar (1 Tbsp if apples are used instead of cranberries)
1 mug of strong English tea (double strength)
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup of dried fruits ( I used currants, cherries, prunes)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 nutmeg, 1/4 cloves
1 cup of sliced fresh cranberries or shaved apples
5 Tbsp poppy seed
hand-full of roughly chopped nuts of your choice – traditionally hazelnuts were used.
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups of buttermilk
2 Tbsp of a spirit of your choice (I used whisky) – (optional)
1/4-1/2 cups of chocolate chips
Make a strong English tea. Pour it on the dried fruits and leave it on overnight but for at least 1 hour.
Wash and slice the fresh cranberries. Put the slices in a small bowl and put in the sugar, whisky and the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves). If you use apples instead of cranberries, use 1 Tbsp sugar only! Let it stand until it releases its liquid.
Set oven to 375 F.
Measure out the 4 cups of flour, add the baking soda, salt. Whisk together. Work in the butter with hand, knives or electrical mixer. Mix in the poppy seeds.
Squeeze the liquid out the dried fruits.
Mix in the dried fruits, the cranberries( with the liquid), nuts, chocolate chips. Mix well.
Make a well in the middle, add eggs, buttermilk and mix. Add more flour if needed.
Put dough on lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball shape.
Put it in a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
Check to see if it is done. If the blade of a knife doesn’t come out clean, turn the temperature down to 350 F and bake longer 5-15 more minutes.
When done, let it cool for half hour before serving.
Kitchari! A nourishing vegetarian dish to make in the winter or the summer … whenever you are looking for something easy to digest.
Now that the holidays are over, our bodies want to have a little break from all the rich, heavy foods. However, spring isn’t here yet so we can’t eat all the lovely liver cleansing vegetables. In fact, spring is nowhere in site, just the past week it was -40F here in the Midwest. Even if the prediction of the groundhog is correct, spring won’t start until April here. Many people start dieting, removing nourishing foods from their diet but most fail because it is just too early. So what can we do?
I like to turn to the ancient Ayurveda cooking, in other words Indian cuisine! Most people associate Indian foods with something exotic. Yes, some of their dishes can be foreign to us, but their nourishing dish, the Kitchari can be made any time, anywhere and surely by anybody. Really, Indians make it on a regular basis, serve it during holidays with the rich foods to help digestion and even give it to sick people to recover from an illness. It is an inexpensive dish that millions eat on a daily basis in India. I asked my Ayurveda teacher if we could eat it during the cold season. She said yes even when it is -40F – just add the warming spices like ginger, cumin, and hot pepper. You can serve local vegetables like carrots, spinach, kale, cauliflower, onions etc. Of course, it would go nicely with some Indian rice and roti.
This is a very healthy dish. Usually, Ayurveda practitioners advice their clients to eat kitchari if they have any acute or chronic issues. It just does amazing things… The three spices turmeric, cumin, coriander are used along with the mung beans. The kitchari diet should last for 1 week when one is only allowed to eat kitchari, rice, grains and vegetables. Of course all the fried foods, fried vegetables, paneer have to be left out. Mung beans are used but if you can get the yellow split moong beans, they are even better as they are easier to digest.