Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chocolate for Breakfast

Gift giving can be quite a challenge. It seems like everyone I know has three of everything and don't need any more "stuff" that just sits around and needs to be dusted. Most people like to eat, though, so edible gifts are usually well-received.

As a small gift, I made some chocolate granola a few days ago. There is something very fun and decadent about eating chocolate for breakfast, and it makes for the most perfect midnight snack too. I was very pleased with the results and might make more batches of this granola as holiday gifts.

I came upon this recipe based on a recommendation on a food blog, not by the blogger but by someone leaving a comment. On this post, someone named Claire commented, "...I have a wonderfully indulgent recipe for chocolate granola, made with cocoa, from the Green & Black's chocolate cookbook." This caught my eye, I did some rapid web searching and luckily found the recipe online. So, to all those who take the time to leave thoughtful and helpful comments on food blog posts, I thank you! People do benefit from your comments.

Cherry Chocolate Granola


Adapted from Green and Black's Cocoa Crunch recipe, makes a BIG batch!

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease a large sheet pan or cover it with a sheet of parchment paper.

2. In a small saucepan, mix
¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
Warm the mixture to form a syrup, let it cool a bit, then add
3.5 oz chopped milk chocolate (one average sized bar)
¼ cup canola oil
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

3. In a large bowl, mix together
4 cups Rice Krispies cereal
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
¼ heaped cup cocoa powder

4. Add the sugar mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread it on the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 30-35 mins, stirring every few minutes and making sure it does not burn.

5. When it comes out of the oven, add a large handful of dried cherries.

I packaged the granola in a suitably kitschy container, since Halloween is in the air.

Do you want to see the silliest bear ever made? Here she is :D She was a gift so someone else now has custody of her.

Finally, Dale has a tip for you: To stay warm, sleep in layers!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dip Dip Dip...

(Does anyone remember the ad running in the 80s/90s in India?)

This is not an ad for tea bags, however, but a quick recipe for a spicy dip. We were invited to a birthday party last night where the food was Mexican-inspired, and this was my little contribution to the buffet table.

This is like a 7-layer minus a few layers.

I started by making the salsa. A few months ago, I shared my new favorite salsa recipe and got some great feedback, with folks writing in to tell me about their favorite way of making chile arbol salsa. Here's how I made it yesterday (five ingredients, count 'em):

1. In a small pan, heat 2 tsp. olive oil and saute 3-4 peeled smashed cloves of garlic and 4 dried arbol chiles for 30 seconds or so.

2. Place the fried garlic and arbol chiles in the food processor along with 1 cup canned fire-roasted tomatoes (or fresh if you're lucky enough to have them in season), 1 bunch cilantro and salt to taste. Pulse to process into a thick salsa.

To assemble the dip-

In a shallow dish, mix together 1 diced red pepper, 1 cup cooked black beans and a handful of cooked corn kernels.


Pour on the salsa in an even layer.


Spread with light sour cream and shredded Cheddar/Pepper Jack cheese. Garnish with sliced green onions (green parts only). Ta da!

Serve with corn chips that are hefty enough to hold the nice chunky dip.

The dip was tasty and vanished promptly once it was laid out. The only downside was that the salsa was a little watery and it looked quite messy- I'll have to work on making a thicker salsa.

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tandoori Style Tofu

The Bookmark Project is back! Actually, it has been going on behind the scenes all this while, and after a lull, I found a gem in the bookmarks yet again.

As a child, I loved to play pretend games of House-House and School-School (I played a pretty convincing knuckle-rapping schoolteacher and managed to frighten some of the younger neighborhood kids). Now that I get to play House-House on a daily basis whether I want to or not, so I occasionally play Restaurant-Restaurant instead. And the best part of a restaurant meal is a platter of tempting appetizers.

I bookmarked Madhuram's Baked Tofu- Indian Style based on her superbly tempting picture alone. It is adapted from a recipe by the Indian cookbook author Mallika Badrinath. I have several of her booklets and should revisit them sometime.

In any case, I was pretty skeptical of the recipe. It sure looked like tandoori tofu, but where is the ginger-garlic paste? Where is the yogurt for the marinade? Would this 5-ingredient recipe really work? Well, sometimes, if you set aside your preconceived notions and give something a try, you are handsomely rewarded as I was.

The method is as simple as whisking together a marinade made from a handful of pantry ingredients, marinating the tofu for an hour or so, then baking/broiling it to crispy perfection. The liberal use of lemon in the marinade is very important- it soaks into the tofu, and in baking forms a tangy crust that is completely irresistible. I used spices liberally too, to make up for the bland tofu.

Tandoori Style Tofu

(Adapted from Baked Tofu- Indian Style from Madhuram's Eggless Cooking)

1. Use a block of firm or extra-firm tofu, drain out the water and press it under something heavy for 30-60 minutes to drain out as much water as possible.

2. In a large bowl or shallow baking dish, whisk together
2 tbsp. oil (I used olive oil but any oil will do)
4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. red chilli powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder (or to taste)
1 tsp. garam masala (or to taste)

3. Cut the tofu into bite size pieces and add to the marinade. Gently spoon the marinade over the tofu to cover all the pieces. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 450 F. Grease a sheet pan, then lay the marinated tofu on the pan in a single layer. Spoon any remaining marinade over the tofu.

5. Bake for 25 minutes or so, then turn on the broiler, transfer the pan to the broiler and broil for 10 minutes or so (watch it like a hawk!) or until the tofu has a golden crust. Serve right away.

In another restaurant-inspired move, I made an onion relish for the tofu. I like using paprika for both its bright color and taste.

Mix together to your taste-
-Thinly sliced red onion
-White vinegar (yes, the cheap multipurpose kind used for everything from pickling to unclogging drains)

This delicious appetizer is completely vegan and I will be making it again and again. It takes barely 5 minutes of active time, the marinade and the oven take care of the rest. Thank you, Madhuram!

AIf only I had the sense to write this post, what, a month ago, it would have fit the half-dozen strict stipulations of Anita's Express Indian event. This is a party dish if ever there was one. But do go over and read the inspiring round-up of quick Indian recipes that are good enough to show off to company.

Have a good week ahead, everyone!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Standardized Granola

If you do something often enough, you end up being able to do it in your sleep. Here is a recipe for granola that I make very often and usually first thing in the morning, around 5:30 AM, so I can make it in my sleep, both literally and figuratively.

V chomps his way through so much granola that it would be criminal to buy the expensive packaged stuff. I started off with a fairly typical recipe years ago, and then discovered this oil-free recipe. We thought the oil-free version was so much crunchier and tastier than the other recipe- how often does that happen, right? I have recipes for chocolate granola, applesauce granola and peanut butter granola in my bookmarks folder, but this is the only one I make over and over again.

I wanted to note down my standardized version here for future reference. I photographed it right on my beat-up, blackened-with-use, much-loved sheet pan.


1. Preheat oven to 325 F and lightly grease a full sheet pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix
- 3 heaped cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 heaped cup chopped nuts (walnuts/cashews/pistachios/almonds/pecans)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon powder

3. In a glass measuring cup, mix
- scant ¼ cup sugar
- dollop of molasses
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. water
Microwave for 30-50 seconds (keep an eye on it!) until the sugar dissolves into a syrup. Remove the syrup and stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract (it might splatter so be very careful).

4. Add the sugar syrup to the oats/nuts mixture and stir well to coat them uniformly.

5. Spread the mixture on the sheet pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring 2-3 times in between.

6. Once the pan is out of the oven, immediately stir
- handful of dried berries
- handful of chopped candied orange peel
- 3 tbsp. wheat germ
- 1 cup store-bought cereal (I use honey nut O's...this addition of cereal is optional. I like it for the added crunch and texture).

7. Let the granola cool completely before storing it at room temperature in an airtight container.

Serve with cold milk in summer and warm milk in winter. I prefer drowning granola in chocolate almond milk myself.

By the way, the vegetable from the last post is called Zephyr Squash- it is a hybrid.


Garden Dreamer guessed it right! To everyone who played along, thank you.

Canine Update

As promised, an update on Dale- here you see him sitting in the back seat of our car, catching his breath, heading back home after a long Sunday evening walk in Forest Park.

With Dale, everything is a journey and a process. When we first got him home, he was traumatized by his neglect and abuse of his early life and terrified of anything new. Getting him into a car so we could take him places was an ordeal that involved kicking (from him), screaming (from me) and scratches all around- I'm trying to erase those episodes from my memory. Today, Dale is a changed dog. Now it has gotten to the point where he runs to the car and wants to be driven everywhere. He lords it over the back seat and sticks his head out of the window, ears flapping madly in the wind. Pets teach us so much, and Dale has definitely given us an important life lesson: sometimes, you need to give someone time and patience and after second, third, fourth chances, they will come around. Just because you are afraid of something at first does not mean you have to fear it forever.

If you are a dog lover, you simply have to read Dana Jennings' essay in the NYT about lessons from the family dog. But beware, his essays are so touching and beautifully written that you might start weeping helplessly wherever you are.

Currently reading...

The book right on top of the pile (29 gifts) is interesting in concept; the writing is just so-so. It is the story of a woman recovering from a debilitating illness whose spiritual adviser gives her an unusual "prescription" that comes from an African tradition. She is to give away a gift every day for 29 days with intention and thoughtfulness in order to see changes in her own life. This is a challenge I'd love to take on one of these days.

See you in a few!