Sunday, 27 September 2015


“The beauty of a frittata is that it can be made from any ingredient in your refrigerator” --Harrison Ford, as Mike Pomeroyah in the movie Morning Glory.
Want to learn the secret to make a really good frittata?
In the movie "Morning Glory", Harrison Ford states that “the secret to a good frittata is in anything that happens to be in the refrigerator can be used, but what is really important is that you have to have a really hot pan to start with.”
Seriously its that simple to make a fluffy frittata!!
It’s a quick and easy dish, healthy to the core and the filling possibilities are just endless. What else can one ask for? Depending on what your mood is at the moment, you can make the frittata as indulgent as you like, adding in ham, bacon or cheese or if you are craving for a guilt free, lighter version that is considerably light on your waistline, whisk in egg whites and veggies, either way it's a hearty and comforting meal.
The basic recipe can be altered to change your mood for the day or depends on what you have in the fridge when the mood for frittata strikes you- mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes,leftover chicken, ham, sausages anything that catches your fancy.
The Italian word frittata derives from friggere and roughly translates to mean “fried”. It is quite similar to a Spanish omelette or a crustless quiche (saves you the calories of consuming the shortcrust pastry!!)
If you are a huge egg fan, go ahead and try out the frittata and if you are a Harrison Ford fan like me, do see this movie "Morning Glory" (Its a romantic comedy set in the hilarious and dysfunctional world of morning television).
I can guarantee you will enjoy both of them immensely!!

8 eggs
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cream
1/4 cup onions, finely chopped
1 cup assorted vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli, green and red peppers, cut into small cubes
1 tomato, cut into small pieces
1 cup bite sized pieces of meat (cooked bacon, ham, cooked chicken, ham, sausages)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk eggs and cream together in a medium bowl.
Season with salt, pepper and dried oregano.
Heat oil in a 10 inch frying pan over medium heat.
Add the onions and saute for a minute until tender.
Add the mushrooms and vegetables. 
Cook for 1-2 minutes till vegetables are soft.
Add in the cooked meat.
Pour the eggs over the vegetables in the pan.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook 3-5 minutes until the egg is slightly browned on the bottom.
Carefully flip the frittata and cook for further 2 to 3 minutes more till the eggs are firm and no longer jiggly when you shake the skillet.
Remove the pan from heat. Loosen the edges with a spatula and carefully flip the frittata onto a plate.
Cut into wedges and serve warm.


Chicken in Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Combine chicken with mushrooms and cream in any form and you have a pot of dreamy deliciousness on your hands!! You absolutely just can't go wrong with this combination, atleast in my house its lately become a hot favorite with everyone. 
Pan seared chicken, slow cooked in the creamy mushroom sauce results in chicken that is so tender and succulent that it absolutely melts in your mouth and combined with the rich and satisfying mushroom sauce makes this dish a winner!! 
Not only is it simple enough to make for dinner on weekdays but is also great to serve when you are entertaining guests. It is delicious served warm with pasta, rice or over mashed potatoes. 
It tastes even better the next day so go ahead make a bigger batch to pack it for your lunch box and be prepared to receive many a compliments for this dish and not to forget the many requests for the recipe!!
Bon Appetit.

Ingredients      (Slightly adapted from Ina Garten's Chicken with Wild Mushroom Sauce)
3 tbsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour 
1 cup chopped onions
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup sliced mushrooms
6-8 chicken thighs
11/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup half and half 
1 tbsp dried thyme salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil to a large heavy bottomed pan.
Once the butter has melted, add chicken thighs and sear both sides for 2-3 minutes each till golden brown.
Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside on a plate.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook the mushrooms till lightly browned.
Once done remove from the pan and set aside.
Add in the remaining butter and oil in the pan and add the onions and chopped garlic. 
Saute for 4-5 minutes till the onions are soft and transparent.
Add in the flour.....
 and cook stirring constantly till the flour starts to brown.
Whisking constantly, add in the chicken stock.
Now add in the half and half to the chicken stock and stir to mix.
Sprinkle in the dried thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.
Place the sauteed chicken pieces in the sauce. 
Top it with the mushrooms.
Cover and allow to simmer for an hour or until the chicken is cooked and the juices of the chicken run clear.
Serve warm. 
*Note- Half and half is equal parts of whole milk and cream. For 1 cup half and half you can substitute 2/3 cup skim milk or low fat milk + 1/3 cup heavy cream.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Quesadillas: A Perfect meal for your lunchbox!!

Tired of carrying the same boring things in your lunchbox day after day? 
Well, here is something that is definitely going to brighten your day and obviously your lunch breaks at your office and something even your kids would love to eat in school!!
These Quesadillas are not only healthy but also really tasty. The plus point - you don't have to spend hours in preparing them. Fill them with any filling of your choice - freshly made, market bought or even leftovers from previous nights dinner are great to go in between the tortillas. Some of the fillings that taste great between the tortillas are roasted chicken tandoori chicken. minced meat, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, stir fried veggies or any other filling that your heart desires.
What's even better? Well, they can be made the night before and packed in the lunchboxes and all you are all ready to go in the morning. Isn't that sound just great? 
I would love to cook these delicious Quesadillas in the Wonderchef Cookware Set!!

2 cups shredded boneless chicken 
1 medium onion, cut into thin strips
1 red pepper- cut into thin strips
1 green pepper - cut into thin strips
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
6 (8 inch) flour tortillas
1 tbsp. Sriracha chilli sauce
1 tbsp. barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of cayenne pepper
Dash of chilli powder
Salt/pepper to taste
Optional - sour cream and salsa

Place a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
When it is warm add 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Sauté the onions and peppers until they are soft about 3 minutes and set aside in a large bowl. 
Place the shredded chicken in a small bowl and season with cayenne pepper, chilli powder, salt and pepper. Mix, coating the chicken completely.
 Replace the non-stick frying pan over medium high heat and wait until it's hot. 
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and sear the chicken strips turning to make sure that all sides of the chicken are cooked. 
 Add in the sriracha sauce 
and the barbecue sauce.
 Cook for about 5 minutes.  
 Add the chicken to the bowl with peppers and onions to mix.
Carefully wipe the frying pan clean with paper towels and place over medium heat. Add a tbsp of oil to the pan and wait till it is warm. Place a tortilla in the pan  
and sprinkle with about 1/4 cup of cheese.   
 Top with some onion/pepper/chicken
Then sprinkle with some more cheese. 
Place another tortilla on top. 
 Cover the pan 
and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until bottom tortilla is lightly brown and crisp. 
Carefully flip the tortilla with a large spatula and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat.
 Flip onto a plate...
 and cut into triangles.
 Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and/or salsa.

 This entry is for The Urban Spice Sweet September Giveaway!!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Decadent Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting.....and celebrating Rakhi!!

No celebration in our house is complete without a cake whatever might be the occasion. 
Yesterday we celebrated the festival of Raksha Bandhan (or Rakhi as it is popularly known) in our house and it goes without saying that there had to be cake and that too without question a chocolate one!!
The festival of Rakhi is a traditional Hindu festival celebrated with great enthusiasm across India. It symbolizes the unconditional love and bond between brothers and sisters. In this festival, the sister ties a colorful thread on the wrist of her brother, praying for his long life and he in turn vows to protect her from all troubles. 'Raksha' means protection and 'Bandhan' means ties, thus the name Raksha bandhan. Its a very sentimental occasion, full of love and emotion and an opportunity for the families to get together and celebrate, wear traditional clothes and prepare special dishes. Of course, for some who are not able to meet, sisters make sure that the Rakhis are mailed to their brothers so that they can reach on time and their brothers can wear the thread of love send by their sisters on the auspicious day. 
photo source: internet
For me too, Rakhi was a much awaited occasion and was always celebrated with great enthusiasm. We got new clothes and mom always prepared a special fare for us to feast on. 
I got to tie Rakhi to my twin elder brothers. I know some of you might be thinking, how lucky I must be to have twin elder brothers to protect and look after me but when younger I thought otherwise. Though I love them both intensely, at that time, I thought having twins for brothers wasn't exactly all that great. 
I was so envious of them as being twins they always had each other for company and I was perpetually ignored and pushed away most of the time especially being younger by 31/2 years. Also being a girl it was automatically decided by my brothers that I was useless and didn't know anything.  Twins have a certain affinity and closeness and when together they need no other companion around. Because of these very reasons, I used to pester my mom all the time that why I too couldn't have a sister to play with. 
Even when we got into a fight (which was often), it always used to be them against me. Though I wasn't one to give in easily and gave it my all in the battlefield - pulling hair, biting and kicking anything to give me a upper hand.
I used to follow them relentlessly everywhere they went and wanted to be included in whatever they did or played. Poor guys!! Now that I actually come to think of it, it must be pretty embarrassing for them to have a little sister tagging along with them all the times and inspite of their best efforts to throw me off their trail, I used to be like their shadow. (Maybe things would have been different, if in those times time we too had video games and internet to distract me!!) To make matters worse, I was my dad's pet and whatever mischief or untoward incident happened that was supposed to be kept hushed, was promptly rattled off to him on his coming home from office. Gosh!! I must have been a total pest and what a tough time I must have given my poor brothers!! No hard feelings Bros!! I totally understand it now and genuinely feel really sorry for you guys.
I must say, inspite of all my complaints and feeling sorry for myself, I have had some really wonderful times too to look back on. I remember as a child, travelling on the train in the first class compartment was always so much fun, never a dull or boring moment, playing cards and jumping from one berth to another. At home, we used to keep busy playing board games together for hours (of course it usually didn't end nicely whenever I lost or got out), with them I learnt to climb the toughest of trees, I still remember as a 9 year old, how we would walk up the mountains in 'Khunmoh' in Srinagar from one army post to another, a little later when dad was posted in Bareilly, going for cycling together to the swimming pool and also for horse riding early in the mornings, playing 'pittuh' on the road and hide and seek and dark room whenever there was a power cut!! My love for playing games and outdoor sports began early on in life and you know by now whom do I have to thank it for. What lovely treasure troves of childhood memories to cherish!! 
We also had great fun planning for festivals, during Dussheras collecting things to build our own effigy of 'Ravana' and filling it with crackers, then waiting with excitement to light it up at night, planning for 'Holi' days in advance and then getting up really early in the morning to fill water balloons and buckets with colored water so that we could all hide near the gate and target unsuspecting passer-bys, cracking  loads of crackers at Diwali and competing who had the courage to burst the most dangerous one. God!! such sweet memories and they will always remain precious to me.
Having elder brothers has taught me for one thing to be strong and confident and never to take any nonsense from anyone and most important to feel that nothing really is impossible even if you were a girl!! Luckily for me my parents treated me no less than my brothers and I was not stopped to do anything or go anywhere. 
Now each one of us has got busy with our lives and responsibilities with everyone staying in different parts of the country. Over the past few years, there have only been a handful of occasions, when I have tied Rakhi to my brothers personally. But inspite of the time and distance, I want both of you to know that you are missed terribly and I will always have all my love and prayers for your long and healthy life!!
What better occasion than Raksha bandhan to reconfirm our love and special bond. I feel blessed to have you as my brothers and the blessing has increased manifold as now I have two lovely sister-in-laws whom I get along with like a house on fire. I think its God's way of imparting justice to me and finally giving me sisters which I always longed for!!
My son and daughter celebrating Rakhi 
To commemorate the auspicious occasion of Rakhi I made a chocolate cake for my kids.  Its a rich, beautifully moist and utterly decadent, infact the best chocolate cake I have tasted!! Truly a special treat for a special occassion.
For the cake
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon espresso coffee powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tbsp vinegar
2 large eggs
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp vanilla essence
For the Chocolate buttercream frosting (enough to cover and fill a 9" cake)
11/2 sticks (170 gms) unsalted Butter softened
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
21/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coffee powder 
Preheat oven to 350 F. 
In a large mixing bowl sieve together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder or put the ingredients in a bowl of a stand mixer and whisk using your paddle attachment, on low speed until well combined.
Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla essence to the flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. 
Add in the boiling water and whisk till thoroughly mixed.
Don't worry if at this point your cake batter is looking too runny. Avoid the temptation to add in more flour. Trust me!!
Pour the batter in a greased 9" spring form pan.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
To make the icing
Add cocoa and the softened butter to a large bowl.
With a hand mixer mix thoroughly for 1-2 minutes till it reaches a smooth consistency.
Add in the sugar, vanilla and milk to cocoa mixture and mix thoroughly with the hand mixer on low speed. Turn the speed on high and mix for about a minute till the consistency is smooth and creamy. Make sure there are no lumps in the batter.
If the batter appears thin add in some more confectioners, spoon by spoon until it reaches the right consistency.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Apple pie - dedicated to all my friends - old and new!!

" A Friend is one that knows who you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow" - William Shakespeare
You know what is the most difficult part about relocating yourself to a new place, even more so to a new country? - It is to find new friends!!
Yes!! That has by far being the hardest part for me when we shifted to Houston almost 10 months back.
Having taken premature retirement from the army, me and my husband were living a blissful existence in Gurgaon surrounded by the cosy cocoon of our family and friends. As luck would have it, at that time some our our closest friends were stationed in Delhi and another few, who like us, had also taken early release from the army and were now working in Delhi in private sectors. Being associated with each other since the last 20 years you can imagine what a blast we had whenever we got together. We all gone through so many ups and downs together, celebrating and sharing the best and the worst with each other.
The kids too had literally grown up together and they had their own party going.
With good friends around, its always party time and we made the most of our time that we were together, never missing an opportunity to get together at the slightest of excuse. Whenever we met, it felt like being transported back in time, reliving our past by rekindling old memories with many a repeated stories (not one of us got tired of listening to them again and again) and the anecdotes and rolling in laughter as they were shared. (Infact at one time my daughter commented that," Mom I have never heard you laugh so much. You all were behaving like kids!!" ) Well!! That was the magic of the company of dear friends.

Looking back now, I realise how precious those moments were and how much I miss having them around. Sigh!!!
Cheers to our good times together and many more to come!!

Life mein har ek friend jaroori hota hai!

But I think luck followed us here to Houston too. When we were coming here, a friend of my husband told him that his course mate, also retired from the army, was also living in Houston and we must touch base with him once we reach here. That's how we met this amazing group of people here. At their house we were introduced to a few more couples. The common factor that connected us all was that each one of them had some connections with the Indian army, having served in it at some time or other. Most of the spouses too were army brats like me. It is difficult to meet like minded people especially as you grow older but luckily for us we found ourselves connecting with them on the same wavelength.
It does take time to build a relationship but I must say we are definitely on our way !!
We meet occasionally at our homes for a fun evening. Most of  the times we hold a  potluck so that it is not too much of a burden on the host, as unlike India there are no maids and everything has to be taken care of by yourself. 
For the get together this month, I was assigned a dessert and I decided to take along an Apple pie. Generally I like to make a short crust pastry for making the pie crust, but this time I decided to do a flaky pastry. Surfing the net, I hit upon King Arthur's recipe of double crust for pies. It was the perfect choice as the crust on baking was crisp and buttery and there was no blind baking needed. Also usually while making the filling for an Apple pie, I  like to cook my apples a bit. This way not only is the filling thick and gooey but it also helps to lessen the gap between the crust and the filling, since the apples shrink considerable on baking. Another benefit is that you can make the filling in advance instead of sweating over it all on the same day.
To give an extra crunch to the pie I added a cup of dried cranberries and 1/2 a cup of roasted almonds which really helped to boost the flavour of the apple pie.

Crust (adapted from King Arthur's Flour double crust pie)
21/2 cups All purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter (if using salted butter reduce salt to 1/2 tsp)
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

8 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup sliced roasted almonds

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cups brown sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp all spice powder
2 tbsp. butter, diced in small pieces
1 egg for glazing the top

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Dice the butter into small cubes and work it into the mixture, gently rubbing it with your fingertips until the butter is well distributed but not fully incorporated. Small pea size  butter flakes will be left behind.
Add the chilled water, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing it in gently. When the dough is moist enough and starts clumping together, gather the dough into a ball.
Divide the dough in half and pat it into two disks.
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

To make the filling:
Combine the sliced apples, lemon juice and sugar in a pan. Cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes just till the apples start to soften. Cool slightly.
Add in the cranberries, roasted almonds, cornstarch, salt and spices and stir in the apple mixture till fully coated.
Lightly grease a 9-inch pie.
Roll out half of the pastry into a circle big enough to cover the base of the pie dish and is hanging over the edge of the dish. (I like to roll my pastry in between  two sheets of cling film which really makes it easier to roll without sticking to the surface) Check out my post on Quiche Lorraine here for some easy rolling tips.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Spoon the apple filling onto the lined pie dish. Dot with the diced butter.
Roll out the remaining pastry to an 11" circle. Cut decorative vent holes. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous weave a lattice over the apples. Check out my post on Cherry Pie if you want to learn how to decorate a pie with a lattice on top
Roll the overhanging crust up and over the top crust pinching the upper and lower crust with your fingers to seal the two together. flute the edges of the pie, then place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill the pie before placing it in the oven.
Glaze the top of the pie with an egg wash. Sprinkle some granulated sugar on top for adding an extra crunch.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 F, then reduce the temperature to 375 F and bake for 40 minutes more until the filling is bubbling inside. If you feel the edges of the pie browning too quickly cover them with a foil.
After the pie is done, remove it from the oven and cool it completely before slicing. The filling will continue to thicken as it cools.