Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole To-Go

Our Thanksgiving celebration is delayed this year. We are going to have a potluck tomorrow with some of our friends. The actual day was a quiet affair though. Husband was of town, and so were most of our friends. My parents, who are packing bags as the end of their trip approaches, and I wanted to steal the last weekend to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather. We decided to pack some lunch and head over to Del Mar beach. Although not very picnic-y, I had just the right dish in mind. Last week I had bookmarked this Quinoa Enchilada Casserole recipe, and had (almost) all the ingredients on hand. This casserole was perfect for various reasons - it was an easy one pot, rather casserole, dish; it stayed quite hot until we got to the beach; it was easy to carry in the car; and it was tasty with all the Mexican flavors, yet fit into my mom's restricted diet plan.

A few modifications made this dish perfect for us. I added fresh poblano pepper rather than canned chiles, tossed in lots of fresh spinach instead of cilantro for a dose of healthy, and used regular instead of mild enchilada sauce. The only cheese I had on hand was paneer. Mom can't eat cheese anyway, so a little bit of paneer to bind everything worked just fine. Some ooey gooey cheese would've been nice, but we didn't miss it. Even after using regular sauce though, the dish lacked serious heat to our Indian palates. I would have certainly liked either hot enchilada sauce or some jalapenos thrown in there. We topped the casserole with fresh avocados before serving. 

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

1 Cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 Cup canned black beans, rinsed
1/2 Cup corn kernels
3/4 Cup chopped fresh spinach
1 Poblano pepper - seeded and chopped
1/4 Cup grated paneer (or use mozzarella/cheddar)
1 Bottle hot/regular/mild enchilada sauce (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 Teaspoon red chili powder (if needed)
Salt to taste
1 Avocado, seeded and diced
Cilantro for garnishing (optional)
  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions. You can use any kind of quinoa. 
  • Mix all the ingredients, except avocado and cilantro, in a casserole. Taste before you add salt, as the sauce is quite salty. 
  • Preheat oven at 375F. Bake quinoa mixture for 15 minutes, or until you see a crust on top. 
  • Garnish with cilantro and avocado. 

Thursday was a pretty hot day. I had expected it to be cooler by the beach, but it wasn't so. By the time we finished lunch it was too hot to be on the beach without any shade, especially for the baby. Mom and dad said their goodbyes to the Pacific, and we returned home. We made an unsuccessful trip to the mall yesterday. The lane to the entrance was blocked forever. It was black Friday..what was I thinking?? It didn't bother me much though, as we ended up taking a U-turn and going for a nice lunch instead. Somehow we circle back to food :). 

I am looking forward to our feast tomorrow. Are you done with all your feasts for the holiday? What did you gobble gobble gobble?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turnip With Tadka

Thanksgiving week has arrived. Winter or not in San Diego, there are winter vegetables galore in my house. This is the first time my parents are truly experiencing all the winter foods. I've made stuffed acorn (which I plan to make again for our Thanksgiving feast), apple-fennel salad, pumpkin-leek soup, roasted sweet potatoes etc. for them so far. They've all been hit with the parents. Winter produce is not new to my mom, but she has rarely tried the non-Indian recipes. I am so glad that my parents are open to trying new foods, and that they actually like it! As I mentioned before, mom had experimented with different ingredients when she lived in the US for a few years. In order to incorporate the local produce into our daily meals, she had Indianized many ingredients; like this cranberry pickle. This simple turnip sabji is one of them. Mom makes turnips with just cumin-coriander, and chili powder for flavor. A simple tempering and little use of spices makes this a soulful dish.

Indian Style Turnip/ Turnip Sabji

3 Medium turnips
2 Teaspoons oil
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 Teaspoon red chili powder
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnishing
  • Wash, peel, and cut turnips into 1/4 inch cubes. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, and add mustard seeds. 
  • Add asafoetida and turmeric powder once mustard seeds splutter, and add turnip. 
  • Add cumin-coriander, chili powder, salt, and mix well. 
  • Cover the pan and let turnip cook in its own moisture, adding 2-3 tablespoons water if necessary. Stir occasionally. 
  • Turn off heat once turnips are fork tender. Garnish with cilantro, and serve with rotis. 

We will be celebrating Thanksgiving with the family of one of my friends. I'm looking forward to our big meal.

What are you doing this Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Welcoming Fall With Cranberry Pickle

I say this often around this time of the year, but time is zooming by faster than ever! My daughter is growing up way too fast for my liking, and I want to hang on to every precious moment. Perhaps that is why I haven't felt the urge to post all the wonderful recipes I tried during the festival season. October was an exciting month with lots of firsts for my baby girl. We celebrated her first Diwali, and how! My whole family, including mom, dad, sister, and brother-in-law were with us. Really, it is no celebration without the company of your near and dear ones! My sister and I prepared faraal with mom, she instructing us on the exact measurements and just the right method for making everything. No matter how much I learn to do things on my own, having mom inspecting everything for accuracy makes everything better. We all woke up bright and early on Diwali day, dressed up, and enjoyed faraal with some garam-garam chai.

Shreya has now started eating some solids and loves to grab everything from our plates. Diwali was the perfect time to celebrate her embarking on the solid food journey. We did her Ushtavan or Anna Prashan (literally meaning Consuming Food) the day after Diwali. It's a ceremony performed in many Indian states to mark baby's solid eating. Maharashtrians host this ceremony when the baby is between 7-9 months of age. The baby sits on her mama's (maternal uncle) lap, and gets fed all sorts of mushy goodness by the family members. I had some of Shreya's favorite foods - rice, daal, mashed sweet potato, peas, and squash. She looked a little confused by the number of people feeding her, but enjoyed the food anyway.

The month ended with an impromptu trip to Vegas! The long drive made me nervous at first, but my daughter was a complete darling and didn't fuss even once. As lame as it sounds, the best part of the trip was getting out of the messy house and not having to clean the room :D. I think Shreya caught the Vegas fever, and refused to sleep or nurse. She was looking around wide-eyed, with a big grin on her face!

We came back from the Vegas heat to a much cooler and breezy San Diego. The weather had turned around just in days. This pleasantly cool weather is a welcome change, and has given way to winter cooking. I bought fresh cranberries from the market the other day and mom made her favorite, gorgeous colored Indian style pickle. My mom sure is one to try new things in the kitchen and had picked up this recipe a decade back when we lived in NY. It's a quick fix, as long as you have pickle masala on hand. If not, you can use this recipe; it's made with usual ingredients on your spice rack. The pickle is a little bit of each - spicy, sweet, and sour. And look at that beautiful color! Cranberry pickle tastes much like raw Karvand/Karonda pickle.  Slather it on a slice of bread, or eat it with daal-rice or yogurt-rice, it is a picker-upper for any meal, and goes with Non-Indian dishes just as well. We made another batch today, and had it with quinoa pulao. You may even add it to your Thanksgiving menu!

Indian Style Cranberry Pickle

2 1/2 Cups fresh cranberries
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 Teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4 Teaspoon asafoetida (this may seem a lot, but is required)
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
4 Teaspoons Pickle Masala (available at Indian grocery stores)
3 Teaspoons red chili powder
2-3 Tablespoons grated jaggery (adjust per your liking)
Salt to taste
1/2 Cup water

  • Heat oil in a sauce pan and add mustard seeds. 
  • Once the mustard seeds splutter, add asafoetida and turmeric. Add cleaned cranberries to the pot. 
  • Add a little water, cover the pot, and cook the cranberries until soft. Stir in between. 
  • Add pickle masala, red chili powder, jaggery, and salt, and mix well. Cook this down until most of the water evaporates, leaving a chunky pickle. The cranberries should soften completely.
  • Taste, and adjust the ingredients to your liking. 

Cool the pickle completely, and it's ready to enjoy! As with any pickle, it tastes much better the next day. Keep it in the fridge in an air tight container for up to 3 weeks. I bet you'll finish it way before that :).


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