Indian Starter Kit

I have the distinct pleasure of working with colleagues from around the world during the day, including one lady from southern India. One day we were discussing Indian food and cookery and I asked if she had a “dabba.” (this is a special round metal spice kit with a tight fitting lid that I first learned about over here at my favorite blog: The Perfect  Pantry.)

She said “oh yes, but I don’t use that thing any more!” She had received it as a wedding gift from her mother and used it diligently as a young wife, but now, years later, had moved on to a different way of storing/accessing her daily spices for cooking. I must have look at her yearningly because she promptly said “Do you want it?” I tried to strike a balance between shouting YES! and “that would be amazing!”

So she brought it in for me – FILLED WITH SPICES!!

We discussed what recipe I should start with and settled on a basic chicken curry. So a few days later I got my new spice kit out and added in a few things that are essential to Indian cooking: fresh ginger, garlic, lemon, powered turmeric, cinnamon. And with little help via text I made my first ever chicken curry.  As soon as the first spices hit the hot oil, it smelled like a real Indian kitchen!!

Take a look at my first adventure …

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PS my colleague gave me a B+ for my efforts!



Simple Smoothies

Raise your hand if you thought you would get on the smoothie band wagon with Doctor Oz, Daphne and the whole gang!

Raise your hand if that lasted even a week.

All that shopping, cleaning and chopping of various ingredients is too much! I love and recognize kale’s magical benefits along with the rest of the world, but frankly I would rather eat it for dinner in a savory dish than hide it in a fruit smoothie. Or how about lime and cucumber? Some how I don’t think they belong in the same glass unless it is with vodka at some over-priced, trendy Boston bar specializing in “hand crafted” everything.

So I like to keep it simple when it comes to smoothies. Banana plus 1 fruit. Usually a berry. Could be fresh or could be frozen. Depends on the time of year. I add one unexpected surprise in the form of a spice. Usually a dash of cinnamon. It goes beautifully with all berries. Not too much – just a couple of dashes. Now add milk. And if you are feeling sweet – a little honey or agave. Blend and drink. No fuss, no muss – tastes yummy. Like a healthy shake. No sneaky stuff. (Plus it is a nicer color than puke green don’t you think?)

Old Fashioned Idea

Most people who like to cook and eat also collect recipes. Sometimes it’s in the form of books and sometimes it’s in the form of a mess of recipe cards, newspaper articles and general scraps of paper.

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

A few years back I did put together a bunch of recipes from family and friends to create one of those little homemade cookbooks. You know the kind – you make it on your home computer software and have it bound into a little book at the local copy shop. It turned out pretty good and makes nice gifts!
I would love to say that I tested every recipe that was included but that would have been an extra year and 20 pounds so I went ahead and included them even if I haven’t actually made them. (I had to believe my family and friends wouldn’t make bad stuff right?)
Recently I decided to make one of the vintage recipes that was submitted by an aunt on my father’s side. Old fashioned Persimmon cookies.
baked cookies
His side of the family hails from California so Aunt Ethel probably had a persimmon tree growing in her backyard. (circa 1958) This was a considerable undertaking as I really had no idea what a persimmon even was or tasted like. But I hunted some down at my local supermarket. (It helps that I live in a big city area with access to foods from around the world.) I bought a few, ripened them in a paper bag with a banana for a few days and then the big moment…

The flesh kinda reminded me of a tomato with thicker skin. They tasted good – mild not citrus-y.
The cookies turned out pretty good considering I am not great at baking. I made myself follow the directions EXACTLY – it was tough. These cookies seem to be the kind that are moist and cake-like. (unless I just under-cooked them.) The spices play a big role in the cookies and the persimmon is mild so maybe cutting the spice amount in half might let the fruit shine through a bit more? Also I think I should have mashed the fruit more for even distribution or perhaps they weren’t ripe/soft enough?

fruit rinds

I cleaned them out as best I could and didn’t seem to find any seeds!

The Recipe
1 cup persimmon pulp (I needed about 3-4 small ones to get this)
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg (large)
1 “cube” (stick) margarine**
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped nut of choice (I used pecans)
3/4 cup raisins (I used chopped dried cranberries instead)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix pulp and baking soda – set aside. In larger bowl cream the margarine and sugar together. Beat the egg lightly and add to sugar mixture. Add pulp and mix again. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices together and add to mix. Stir in chopped nuts and raisins/cranberries. Drop golf ball size balls onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until just browning. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

**I translated a “cube” of margarine to mean 1 stick and therefore used 4 ounces of shortening (Crisco). I am pretty sure the “cube” reference probably referred to the old-fashioned margarine product named “oleo” READERS please straighten me out if you think otherwise!!

A Box of Flavor!

Another great gift from Aunt Barbara!

(and yes we opened it early – we couldn’t wait till Christmas morning.)“Grill N’ Broil” set from Penzeys spices.

This has almost inspired me put on a coat and gloves and go fire up the grill!   But while I wait for warmer days in the backyard, I will definitely be pulling out my grill pan!

And a little box of “kindness”


Turkey (but no sausage) Chili

Inspired by Lydia, I was already planning a Turkey Mole Chili in my mind. I knew I had a box of mole mix in the depths of my cabinet. Who has that? It was fate.

Then I found a recipe card from my last visit to Penzeys for Turkey Black bean Chili. And I knew I had an industrial size can of black beans on hand. Again- fate.

Sometimes a recipe insists on nagging you.

But how would I sneak the turkey past my red-meat loving husband. I am convinced he would love the chili if he didn’t know it was made with healthy, low-fat ground turkey instead of red meat. I decided I would fake him out with the promise of adding a couple sweet sausages to the dish. Kinda like a compromise. But if I “forgot” to add those sausages – oh well.

Of course I had to tinker and make my own version of the recipes because:

#1 I can’t leave well enough alone when it comes to cooking.

#2 I didn’t have the exact ingredients on hand and making a special trip for ground turkey was already a big step. Besides, using up what you have is the spirit of cabinet stew!

Chop an onion, a couple of garlic cloves and brown them with 1.5lb or so of turkey in a heavy cast iron pot. Add a little canola oil to get it all going. Salt and pepper to keep things seasoned. Add 2 tb of your favorite brand of chili powder, 1 tb ground cumin (my all time favorite spice), and 2 tb ground Ancho chili pepper. Sizzle about 5 more minutes. The mixture will be very red in color and a little “dry” while the spices get kinda toasted.

The recipes I was consulting (Lydia and Penzeys) said to add the liquid at this point but I opted to wait and add 1 reg size can of no salt added diced tomatoes instead and 1 small can of no salt added tomato paste. (I like things “tomato-y”) Let that cook a couple of minutes. I added my industrial size can of low sodium black beans and about a cup of frozen corn kernels. At this point I had to add my old standby trick of the trade: Worcestershire sauce. Usually I add A-1 sauce but I was out. Either is fine but use less Worcestershire sauce than A-1 since it is much stronger in flavor. Plus with my use of “no/low” sodium products I had room to maneuver.

Now I added the low sodium chicken stock to eye until I got the right consistency for chili of my liking and then turned the heat down and let the whole thing simmer while I defrosted some previous made and frozen extra corn bread.

It ended up being about 1/2 carton of a 32oz box of low sodium broth.

I served it with shredded cheese on top and guess what? He liked it!

Oops – I “forgot” the sausage.

Then I remembered that I forgot to add the mole sauce that I was dying to use up and to get out of my cabinet!

Karma will get you every time.