Goat Cheese and Red Pepper Jelly Tea Sandwiches

Regular readers of my blog know that no tea party of mine is complete without a good finger sandwich. I think I like tea parties only because I get to make/eat scones and sandwiches. Whether its a chutney cheddar or cucumber cream cheese, dainty sandwiches always hold a special place in tea parties. So when a surprise baby shower was planned for a friend, I knew I was going to make sandwiches and this time with my most recent discovery, red pepper jelly. For those who haven’t tasted red pepper jelly, it is mildly sweet and spicy and perfectly pairs with cream cheese or goat cheese. It tastes good on bread and crackers and goes well with any type of cheese.

sandwich

I have used herbed goat cheese in this recipe, but plain cream cheese works well too. This sandwich is creamy with sweet and savory notes from the pepper jelly and the surprise ingredient, pecans make it a winner. I wasn’t sure about adding the pecans, but I think it turned out to be the highlight of this recipe. This recipe from an old issue of Southern Living is a keeper and is going to be a regular on my tea party menu.

sandwich1

Ingredients

4 oz goat cheese, softened

2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted, toasted pecans, finely chopped

1/4 cup red pepper jelly

14 slices bread

Method

1. Stir together cheese, parsley and pecans.

2. Spread the cheese mixture on 7 slices of bread.

3. Spread the remaining slices with red pepper jelly.

4. Top with cheese covered slices, remove crusts and cut into 4 triangles or squares.

 

 

Chipotle Style Vegan Tofu Sofritas

We almost never eat at fast food restaurants. But we do love Chipotle and Qdoba because eating at these Mexican fast food places makes us feel less guilty, I suppose. Everything looks and tastes fresh and its easy to add/delete ingredients in the assembly line to make it healthy and delicious. While Yumjay would always load his burrito bowls with chicken or steak, I wouldn’t have much options, except for rice and black beans and the add-ons. So when Chipotle introduced their tofu Sofritas sometime last year in Seattle, I was beyond thrilled. It was a dream come true for vegetarians/vegans.

tofu sofritas

Organic tofu is braised with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices to make this delicious sofritas according to Chipotle website. You can try that or simply use Trader Joe’s Taco seasoning mix to get the same delicious taste. I cant tell you how simple and versatile this dish is. Be it for breakfast tacos or burritos, this tofu sofritas is definitely something that carnivores and vegans would love alike.

IMG_1295

Between this and potato burrito, its really hard for me to say which tastes better but i suppose tofu is healthier than potatoes. This would make a lovely weeknight dinner or a great addition to your burrito bar at your next party.

sofritas bowl

Ingredients

1 block organic extra firm tofu

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 medium green pepper, finely diced

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 packet Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning mix or make your own from here

2 teaspoons oil

salt

Ingredients for Chipotle style burrito bowl

1 cup cooked white or brown rice

1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

2 teaspoons lime juice

Salt

1 cup cooked or canned black beans

Pico de gallo

Guacamole

Hot salsa ( if you can’t make your own, i’d highly recommend Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica)

vegan cheese (optional, use regular cheese for a non-vegan version)

vegan sour cream/plain yogurt (optional, use regular sour cream/plain yogurt for a non-vegan version)

Method for tofu sofritas

1. Heat oil in a pan and when oil is hot, add onions. Cook till they are almost brown.

2. Add green peppers and cook for 5-7 minutes, till they turn slightly soft.

3. Add chopped tomatoes with a pinch of salt, cook till they turn soft and mushy.

4. Add taco seasoning mix along with crumbled tofu and mix well.

5. Let it cook on medium flame for 5-7 minutes, till all the water is absorbed and the tofu mixture is thoroughly heated.

6. To assemble the burrito bowl, add cilantro, lime juice and salt to cooked rice, give it a good stir.

7. Place rice, beans and tofu sofritas in a bowl.

8. Top with pico de gallo, hot salsa and guacamole.

9. Add vegan cheese and sour cream (optional) and serve.

 

Vegan Mixed Vegetable Korma

Korma is a rich Mughlai dish which has made its way from India to Pakistan, Bangladesh and rest of the world. And in the long journey it has traveled, it has undergone several make-overs depending on what’s available in which country. In India, some make this curry with yogurt while some others preferred cashews or fresh cream. In South India, they make this curry with coconut to give the curry a rich, creamy taste. Whichever way it is cooked, this dish is a winner. I have used a combination of vegetables in this recipe, you can follow the same recipe for cauliflower, carrot or even paneer korma. It is so flavorful and nutritious and pairs well with rice, pilaf, naan, rotis or sometimes even with  bread. This dish certainly makes my kitchen smell like heaven and is finger-licking good.

kurma1

Ingredients

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup cauliflower florets

1 medium carrot, diced

8 green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 medium potato, cubed

1/4 cup fresh or frozen green peas

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 cup grated coconut

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 tablespoons raw cashews

2 cloves

1/2 inch piece cinnamon

1 cardamom

2 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon oil

few curry leaves

salt

Method

1. Place the vegetables except onions and tomato in a pot and cover it with enough water. Add a pinch of salt and let it cook covered on medium flame for 15-20 minutes. They should not be overcooked. Drain and set the vegetables aside.

2. Heat oil in a pan and when its hot, add cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Let it cook for a minute.

2. Add curry leaves, green chilies, minced ginger, minced garlic and onions. Let it cook till onions turn slightly brown.

3. Add chopped tomatoes, red chili powder, coriander powder and a pinch of salt. Cook till tomatoes turn soft and mushy.

4. While the tomatoes are getting cooked, grind together coconut, cashews, fennel seeds and poppy seeds to a fine paste.

5. Add the ground paste to the cooked onion/tomato mixture along with 1/2 to 1 cup of water, depending on desired consistency and bring it to a boil.

6. Add the cooked vegetables along with more salt, if needed and bring it to a boil.

7. Simmer for 10 minutes until it reaches a thick, creamy consistency and garnish with cilantro.

8. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

Irish Soda Bread

In the US, Irish soda bread is studded with raisins and contains eggs and butter and almost resembles a tea cake. Purists call this a corruption of the traditional bread which was introduced in the early 1800s. Even those without an oven could bake this bread, all you needed was a cast-iron pot. In honor of St Patrick’s Day, here is a recipe for an authentic soda bread. This is by far the simplest bread i have ever baked, there is no kneading involved and no fancy ingredients. Soda bread, as the name suggests contains baking soda which makes its a dense bread with a slightly dry texture. Buttermilk adds a nice tang to the bread and it tastes great when its fresh and warm. If you plan to make this ahead, make sure to toast the bread slices and slather it with butter before serving.  I have used whole wheat pastry flour in this recipe, but you can use all-purpose flour. Whether you are Irish or not, St. Patrick’s Day is a time for Celtic celebrations, so try your luck with this Irish soda bread.

soda bread

Ingredients

2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1.25 cups buttermilk

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.

3. Add a cup of buttermilk to the dry ingredients and use a large spoon or your hands to mix until the dough comes together.

4. Add more buttermilk, if the mixture is very crumbly. The dough should be moist but not very sticky.

5. Shape into a round loaf (i made 2 mini loaves) and place on the baking sheet. Lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.

6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Orange Chocolate Chip Muffins

I can’t seem to get enough of the orange chocolate combination this season. With “almost spring-like” weather embracing Seattle occasionally this month, i wanted to bake something fragrant and sassy last Sunday for brunch. And i am almost certain that these are my new favorite muffins. Fresh orange juice adds to the flavor of these scrumptious muffins and they taste even better the following day. You’ll have to whip up a batch to experience the flavor and elegance of these muffins. Eat this muffin while its warm or reheat for few minutes in the oven to experience its taste in full glory. This recipe from better homes and gardens is definitely a huge winner and all i can say is no one can resist this pleasant pairing of orange and bittersweet combination of white and dark chocolate chips.

ORANGE muffins

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup white chocolate chips (you can use dark or milk chocolate chips too)

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon orange zest

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Ingredients for streusel topping

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

1/4 cup pecans or walnuts

2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line twelve muffin cups with liners and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder and white chocolate chips, set aside.

3. In a medium bowl combine eggs, sugar, milk, orange zest, orange juice, and oil.

4. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.

5. To prepare the streusel topping, mix together flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut cold butter into pats, then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

6. Spoon 1/4 cup of muffin batter into the muffin cups. Sprinkle generously with stresuel topping.

7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Cool muffins on a wire rack for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Vegan Onion Fritters / Onion Pakoras

I rarely deep-fry things in my kitchen and that’s why it has taken me all this time to post the most popular tea time snack of India. If you were to run a poll between samosas and pakoras, i am almost positive that pakoras will win hands down because its much easier to make and it requires basic, everyday ingredients to put together this tasty snack. On a cold, rainy day nothing is more comforting than a plate of warm pakoras and steaming hot chai. I have used onions in this recipe, but you can use cauliflower, potato, paneer (Indian cheese) or a combination of veggies. If you plan to make this for a party, fry them up and store them in an oven proof bowl covered tightly with aluminum foil at 300F, they will remain warm, crispy and fresh. You can eat these pakoras plain or sandwich them between two slices of bread with green chutney for a filling lunch.

pakora

Ingredients

1 large red onion, sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/2 cup chickpea flour

1/4 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1/4 teaspoon asafetida

1.5 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 Thai green chili, roughly chopped

1 inch piece ginger, minced

5-6 curry leaves

chaat masala (optional)

salt

oil

Method

1. Place all the ingredients except oil and chaat masala in a bowl.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of hot oil and mix well to form a dry mixture. The water from the onion should be sufficient to bring the mixture together, sprinkle very little water if needed.

3. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when oil is hot, add a pinch of pakora batter. Do not make a ball or flatten them, it should be shapeless.

4. Cook on medium heat till golden brown and crispy.

5. Remove with slotted spoon and sprinkle chaat masala on top (optional).

Product Review: Kaurina’s Original Kulfi

Kulfi is a popular frozen dessert in the Indian subcontinent. It is a dairy-based frozen treat, denser and creamier than regular ice creams. It is made with cooked milk, cane sugar and natural ingredient flavors. I was pleasantly surprised to see my local Costco carry these delicious treats in a snack size variety pack with 3 different flavors, cardamom, mango and almond pistachio. Each box contains 4 sticks of each flavor of kulfi and i am quite partial to the cardamom cream flavor. Each 1.6 oz kulfi has 80 calories and 7 grams of sugar and will sufficiently take care of your dessert cravings. They also have other flavors like strawberry, chikoo (sapodilla) and coconut. I can’t wait to taste the chikoo flavor someday. These kulfis are very authentic in terms of taste and texture and they are all natural and do not contain preservatives, eggs, artificial colors and are gluten-free.

photo 1 (1)

The company has a very interesting story, what started as a home-based operation in Texas for Ms. Jas Singh became a full-fledged manufacturing outfit and i am so glad it did, because these kulfis are truly delicious. The company does party catering and offers taste-testing in Dallas, Texas. Kaurina’s tagline is “Deliciously different” and i can’t agree more. There is no information whether the milk and cream is from dairy farms that have pledged not to use rBST.

Mango Kulfi

With less than 5 ingredients in each variety, these Indian Popsicles ooze with timeless goodness in each bite. I hope you can find them at a store close to you, you are sure to get hooked. They are priced at $9.89 for a box of 12 at Costco. Currently it is available in Costco warehouses across Texas and in Seattle, Issaquah, Tukwila and Kirkland in Washington state. Follow their facebook page for more updates on availability at stores close to you. It’s definitely worth the wait.