Sunday, July 29, 2007

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

Who doesn’t like these crunchy cheese bites offered at any Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants? Well, we all do. My only complaint when I eat outside at any restaurant is the amount of cheese and oil that they load into everything. Of course, any thing that is showered with oil and bombed with cheese is going to taste remarkable, right?

So the challenge in home cooking for me is to keep the taste neat while maintaining a low calorie level and at the same time, to fulfill the requirements of a balanced meal. Additionally, everyday meals need to be ready within 30-40 minutes.When I started cooking at home, this was not a simple task ….in fact, this was like a gigantic challenge for me! That’s when seasonings stepped in my life. I am not a big fan of spicy meals (‘cos that’s not good for your tummy either!), but I have realized how a thoughtful combination of a pinch of this and a pinch of that can make your family and guests want more. Also, I generally try and avoid using canned foods on an everyday basis. Pressure cookers offer a big helping hand in avoiding canned foods and speeding up the cooking time.

Here is a low calorie take on the black bean and cheese quesadillas with a marvelous combination of taco and fajita seasoning. Wait! There is more—they are cooked under 30 minutes and topped with “NO” fat sour cream. This is my entry for the Summer Express Cooking Event started by Mallugirl. Try a bite….


4 soft taco size flour tortillas
1 small onion cut into thin strips
1 medium tomato diced
1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
½ cup cooked and mashed black beans (You can substitute this for re-fried or pinto beans)
¼ cup shredded American or Cheddar cheese (I used Tomme Noire des Pyrenees Cheese bought during our recent vacation in France)
½ tsp taco seasoning
1 tsp fajita seasoning
4-5 tbs sour cream
4-5 tbs salsa
4-5 tbs guacamole
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp oil


1. Soak the black beans overnight in water. The next morning, strain the water and pressure cook the beans well with some water. Mash the cooked beans, roughly. If you are pressed for time, you could also use pre-cooked canned beans.
2. In a saute pan, heat some oil. Add the jalapeno peppers and onions and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are soft. Add the beans, seasoning and salt. Saute the mixture for about 10 minutes.
3. Heat a griddle and place a tortilla on it. (You can heat as many tortillas at a time as your griddle can accommodate)
4. Place some cheese on one half of the tortilla. Add the onion, tomatoes and beans cooked together on top of the cheese. Top with a little more cheese.
5. Fold the tortilla over. Bake until the base turns golden brown.
6. Flip over and finish the other side in the same way.


Cut the quesadillas into 2 quarter pieces. Top with some sour cream and extra seasoning if desired. Serve with a side of guacamole and/or salsa.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tomato Basil Linguine with Merlot Laced Artichokes

This was probably my 2nd or 3rd recipe post since I started blogging. Back then, I was not even aware of the various food blogging events and this recipe was just lazily sitting on my blog without any visitors!But because I lost all my posts (Want to know how? Read this), I thought it would be okay to send this as an entry for two upcoming events, Waiter There is Something In My…Sauce and Presto Pasta Nights.

Over months ago, I had picked up a Merlot laced artichoke spread while shopping at Harry and David. In their pasta section, I found tomato basil linguine which also made its way into my kitchen. I initially intended to use the pasta and the spread separately. But when I am really pressed for time, I end up wearing my "concoction queen" crown and just start throwing in ingredients that I think might work well together. Most of the times thing work well and whatever fails never shows up on this blog :-) So in went the spread and the pasta into the skillet together. This recipe was thus also one of my hit-or-miss attempts, nothing short of throwing darts. Try it out and let me know if I hit the bulls eye.


Tomato Basil Linguine
3/4 cup Merlot laced artichokes spread (contains artichokes, tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, black olives, extra virgin olive oil, onions, lemon juice, garlic, salt, balsamic vinegar, all mixed in Merlot)
1/4 cup sliced olives
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs basil
1 tsp fresh rosemary


For the Sauce
1. In a saute pan, heat 1 tbs olive oil and add the artichoke spread, olives and salt.
2. Stir until the mixture bubbles.
3. Let it stand for 5 minutes before tossing together with the pasta.

For the Pasta
1. Cook the linguine with 1 tbs dry basil, some salt and olive oil.
2. Cook to the al dente stage; drain the cooking water reserving one big spoonful to use later.
3. Mix the sauce with the pasta and garnish with chopped rosemary.

Thus, the store bought spread was converted into a pasta sauce. Now can I call that 70 % store bought and 30% home made and take a full credit for this delicious sauce and pasta? Why not? This is a perfect toast to the time that I have spent watching Sandra Lee do her semi-home made cooking. You can also prepare the spread used in this pasta at home with the noted ingredients. But then, if you make a trip to Harry and David, a lot of other good specialty foods will also walk into your kitchen (I can almost guarantee this!). So why bother making the sauce at home? May be you will come up with a new pasta combination that way. Bon appetit!


I have been very busy lately. Busy doing what? Its not really one particular thing that has kept me occupied. To top that, I made the horrible mistake of inadvertently deleting my earlier blog, which had taken weeks to build. Sia and others, now you know why you cannot see your comments on my previous posts. So first of all a big "thank you" to all who took the time to read my previous posts and left trails on them. Well, I spent last Sunday uploading all the posts again and rebuilding those profiles, links, blog events, etc. This was a perfect lesson on how NOT to submit yourself to the “undo” feature that operating systems today provide. The “CTRL Z” is so well blended into every cell of my brain that I tried to “undo” the blog tragedy hoping it would be a matter of just one click, only to find my Sunday ruined entirely.

Ahh! I guess this is the perfect time to present 7 random facts about me, for which I was tagged by Komal. Here we go:

1. Long before my current misfortunate blog murder, I had mistakenly added salt instead or sugar in some recipe and for about half a second, held my spirits high, thinking I just need to hit “UNDO”!

2. Nobody ever asks me, what I love to eat and drink the most? If they do, I can undoubtedly say “TIRAMISU” and “DESI CHAI”. Yes, if I knew that today is my last day of this life time, I would spend all the time I have, eating Tiramisu and sipping on our Desi Chai! That’s how much I love this Italian Dessert and Indian tea.

3. What do I hate the most in life? I can most positively say, “SHOPPING”. I made my sister, mother and my mother-in-law shop for my wedding dress, accessories and all those associated girly things for the big day. Ironically, I can spend hours at Wegmans, Harry and David or Crate and Barrel and like.

4. I have a weird fear (and somewhat hatred) for cats, dogs and crows! My heartfelt apologies to all you pet lovers. But, want to know what I would love as a pet? “A SNAKE”……I love these big noodles from the core of my heart!

5. If I don’t like something or don’t want to do a thing, I can and will come up with any goddamn “EXCUSE”.

6. If Pratik teases me over something (which he does very often), I just add extra red chilli powder in his food and watch him turn red while enjoying my portion! I do this trick so often and yet, he never realizes that it’s only his food that's hot!! Also, have you noticed the number of times I mention him in my posts. That’s just so that I get excused for other pranks that I get caught on!

7. And now for some philosophy, since everyone has a lot of thoughtful facts in their posts. I do not believe in God. How could someone make stuff like bitter gourd & radish good but chocolate & cheese bad for health? I just call this mean.

That’s it until I get tagged for something else. I guess that is enough to get me popular for now!

Now that the ball is in my court, I tag all bloggers who read this post!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Soy Bean Salad with Cabbage and Carrot Slaw

Among various things that I learned from my mom as I was growing up, perhaps the strongest was her emphasis on the benefits of home and healthy cooking. Not only did she ensure that our family got a good healthy home cooked meal but also a balanced diet. This recipe for soy bean salad is inspired by my mom's cooking. Although as kids, my sister and I turned our faces away while our mom tried to make us eat this healthy salad, over the years I have learned to appreciate this recipe simply for the amount of nutrition that it provides. As usual, I have made my little changes to the original recipe and have added a slaw with it!


For the beans:
2 cups of Soy Beans soaked overnight and cooked thereafter
4 tbs Basil Pesto Sauce (I usually have this made in advance so that way it can be used when needed).

For the Slaw:
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 tbs light mayo
A pinch of sugar, salt and pepper
For the beans:
1. Pressure cook the soy beans soaked overnight. Let them cool for about 30 minutes.
2. Mix the basil pesto sauce and the cooked beans and saute them in a pan.
3. Saute the mixture until the beans start to turn dry and the outer skin shrinks.
For the Slaw:
1. Mix all the ingredients for the slaw.
2. Cover and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.


Serve the warm soy beans with the slaw as a light dinner. Let me mention that they are quite filling as a light meal. Alternatively, you could also serve a spoonful as a side with your dinner entree.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Watermelon Burger Patties (?)

Whenever we are at the grocery store during the summer, Pratik insists on buying watermelons. I am sort of reluctant because I find this gigantic fruit really messy to cut. To top that, Pratik doesn't want to do the cutting 'cos even he dislikes getting watermelon juice all over the the kitchen counters towards the end of the job! So I generally end up buying the sliced watermelons. That way our job of cutting the watermelon gets easier. Another thing I dislike about the watermelon is that the rind has to be thrown away. So I wasn't very excited when Jai and Bee announced "watermelon" as the AFAM fruit of the month. I actually even thought of not sending in any entry for the event.

Now, my husband isn't much of a talker, but when I decided not to participate, we switched roles and I had to listen to his rant about how I was only being lazy about having to cut the watermelon (Mind you, he still wouldn't cut it for me and yeah, I know I could have got the cubed ones for three times the price). In return for Pratik using the "lazy" word on me, I came up with this recipe and that ultimately gave me my peace of mind :) You should have seen the expression on Pratik's face when he had the first bite of this watermelon rind burger! Of course, I was the one who was talking after that.

1 cup shredded watermelon rind
1 tsp red chilli power
1 tsp chopped rosemary (You can substitute this for any herb that you like)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Handful of breadcrumbs
Goat cheese for topping

1. Remove most of the juice from the shredded watermelon rind by squeezing it with your hands. Save the juice for later use if necessary.
2. Mix the rind, chilli power, rosemary, cinnamon and salt. Mix the bread crumbs slowly to make a dough like mixture. Add bread crumbs as necessary depending on the consistency of the mixture.
3. Make 4 small or two large burger patties by pressing between your palms.
4. Coat the outer sides with bread crumbs.
5. Heat some oil in a pan and cook the patties until they look golden brown and crispy on the outside.
6. Top the patties with some goat cheese and rosemary leaves.

Serve the patties with some ketchup or sweet and sour sauce and some garlic bread on the side.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Spinach, Chick Peas, Mushrooms and Carrots Soup

It was that time when my fridge was full of left over food and surprisingly, the clean up gave birth to this new soup. I initially did not plan on making it into a full blown recipe. However, the combination of vegetables and spices just knocked our taste buds out. I can positively say that you should try it not only when you have to clean out left overs from your refrigerator, but even otherwise.

2 cups of chick peas (One 15.5 oz can)
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 medium sized onion, chopped
1/2 cup spinach, chopped
1/2 cup of carrots, diced
1 1/2 cups of sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup of hot water
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tbs olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Heat some oil in a pot. Add the chopped onions and tomatoes and fry them until they are soft.
2. Add the spinach and carrots and fry for another 2 minutes.
3. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue stirring. Break the mushrooms with the spoon used for stirring, if you desire the have smaller pieces in the soup.
4. Now add the red chilli flakes, salt and pepper and stir until this combination smells spicy.
5. Add the vegetable stock and water and simmer on a low flame from now on.
6. Add the chick peas and continue to simmer until the soup thickens up a bit. You can add corn starch if you desire a thicker soup. But the vegetables in this soup are quite sufficient to keep a thick consistency.

Serve the soup with some cheese on the top and a portion of french baguette on the side.

This soup is full of nutrients and has very little fat. It is an ideal meal on any given day. The perfect recipe to get proteins and fiber for your body in one shot.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Eggplant Crunch Rolls

For the first time since I started blogging, I decide to take part in a blog event: JFI, which is Indira's brainchild and being hosted by Sangeeta for July. It is a great idea that intends to celebrate a particular ingredient and the different recipes that come out of it. So, first, a big thank you to both.

Sangeeta chose "Eggplant" as the ingredient for the month of July. "Interesting" was the first word I said after reading the announcement post. For years, I have been eating eggplant cooked the traditional Indian way, where it is really the spices that are mixed in, dominate the final flavor of the product. One reason for that is that it doesn't have any pronounced taste of its own, say like peppers or carrots. So, I never either liked or hated this vegetable. For me, it were the spices that mattered.

Another reason why coming up with a good eggplant recipe seemed a bit challenging was that once cooked, this vegetable turns extremely mushy. One thing I wanted to try was to make the final product crunchy and also retain the non-dominant taste of the eggplant itself. After all, the Jivha is for Eggplant and not for the spices that go with it :) And yeah, this blog is about adventures in cooking. So I was going to have some fun!

Wanna take a guess as to what added the crispness, but didn't damage the taste of the eggplant??.........You got it! Water chestnuts!! Despite cooking, water chestnuts hold onto their crunchiness and tend to be very neutral in taste. Not only that, but water chestnuts are extremely healthy as they contain fiber and vitamins, but very little sodium or fat. So hey, I experimented with my ideas and played with the ingredients. I had to stick to the punch line for my blog!

I hope you enjoy this recipe for Egg Plant Crunch Rolls.


1 large egg plant (makes approximately 10 rolls)
1 3/4 cups water chestnuts, finely diced (2 cans of 50 oz dry weight each)
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp Sriracha (hot chilli sauce)
1 tbs fine paste of ginger, garlic and green chillies
1 tbs chopped fresh fenugreek leaves (methi leaves)
1/4 cup white onion
1 tbs oil


1. Heat some oil in a skillet. Add the ginger, garlic and green chilli paste, fenugreek leaves and onions and fry for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the diced water chestnuts. Keep stirring.
3. Add the soy sauce and hot chilli sauce. Stir well and let it cook for a 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
4. Make thin slices of the eggplant lengthwise.
5. Grill the egg plant slices on both the sides until they start turning brown.
6. Stuff the mixture of water chestnuts in the center of the grilled egg plant slice and roll them up. Insert a tooth pick in the center to keep the roll together.


Serve the egg plant rolls hot. Sprinkle some chopped fenugreek leaves on the top. Sprinkle some red chilli powder on top to make it extra spicy.

Enjoy the CRUNCH of an eggplant!!