Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winter Cooking

I used to sulk over the drab winter days before moving to San Diego. Now I cherish whatever cold days we get. It is the perfect time to crank up the oven and make something hearty. Here's what was on the menu Monday night - Stuffed Bell Peppers, with Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes on the side. A combination of savory and sweet dishes. The great thing was, I baked both the dishes at once - saving some energy. What a comforting dinner that was!

Sweet potatoes usually turn into baked fries (the contradiction of that makes me laugh), or get pressure cooked with jaggery in my kitchen. I've wanted to try roasting them with maple syrup for a long time. As the sweet potatoes were baking, I decided to add a crisp apple to the dish on a whim - just because it was sitting there on the counter. It seemed like a natural pairing - apples and maple syrup taste great together, and they'd provide some crunch to soft roasted sweet potatoes. Husband, although skeptical of my creation at first, couldn't get enough of this dish. That's a victory in my opinion!

**The below recipes make 2 servings.

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Apples

1 Large Sweet Potato
1 Apple (pick your favorite. I always buy Pink Lady)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 Tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how thick it is)
Salt to taste
Paprika to taste
  • Preheat oven at 375F. 
  • Peel and dice sweet potato in ~1 inch cubes.
  • Mix olive oil, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, salt, and paprika, and toss the diced sweet potatoes in them. 
  • Cut the apple in similar sized cubes and toss them in the remaining maple syrup. 
  • Spread the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until tender, yet not fully done. Add apples at this point, and bake until the sweet potatoes are fork tender. The apples should be slightly crispy when the dishe is ready. 

Stuffed Peppers With Brown Rice & Lentils

2 Medium red bell peppers - pick plump ones.
1/2 Cup brown rice
1/2 Cup whole lentils (Masoor)
1 Large garlic clove - minced
1/4 Cup finely diced onion
1 Tomato - diced
1/4 Cup finely diced carrot
1 Spring onion diced (optional)
1 Chipotle in adobo sauce - finely chopped
1 Tablespoon oil
Salt to taste
  • Preheat oven at 375F. 
  • Wash and cook brown rice and lentils together. 
  • Thinly cut the top off the peppers from the stem side. Remove seeds and ribs. Save the tops.  
  • Heat oil in a saute pan and saute garlic and onion until onions turn translucent. 
  • Add chopped tomato, carrot, spring onion, chipotle pepper, and saute until everything comes together (2-3 minutes)
  • Add cooked brown rice and lentils, and salt to taste. 
  • Stuff peppers with the rice mixture. Spray peppers with oil, or lightly brush some oil from the outside. This will help retain moisture. Close the pepper with the top that you chopped. 
  • Keep the peppers in a baking pan and bake for 30 mins, or until the peppers are soft and slightly wrinkled. 
Serving suggestion - Once you take the bell peppers out of the oven, top them off with some grated cheese (I used mozzarella) and let it melt on hot stuffing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Diwali Wishes!

Wishing all my readers a very happy Diwali! May the coming year bring happiness and peace to you and your family!

It's great for us less fortunate ones living outside India when Diwali falls on the weekend. We've had a weekend full of activities this year. Somehow our plans to keep the celebration small just don't work out (and I'm not complaining :). 

My friend Deepti invited a few girlfriends for a Mehendi night on Friday. We yapped, giggled, stuffed ourselves with delicious Dhokla, Paav-bhaji, and Cassata she made all by herself for us, and sat around doing mehendi till late into the night. Isn't that a great start to the festivities? As a small token of appreciation for the fun time, I gifted Deepti a set of fruit coasters. I got the patterns here - so cute, aren't they?

Husband and I woke up bright and early on Saturday for Abhyanga Snana, the ceremonial fragrant oil massage and bath on the first day of Diwali, that is supposed to cleanse your body. I decorated the door front with rangoli. Even after deciding against making any faraal, I ended up making Andhra style Murukku using this recipe, thanks to husband's last minute craving! We spent the rest of Saturday in the kitchen cooking together. There was Cauliflower-potato curry, salad, and Gajar Halwa on the menu for two potlucks we attended on Saturday night and Sunday morning. I'm now now in food coma, and all I can think of having for dinner is Tums! 

I feel very fortunate to have spent time in good company with good food yet another Diwali! 

What was Diwali special at your end this year???


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