I want to share with all of you, a yummy blackberry parfait and a story of HOPE, to help bring a smile as we go through these difficult times.
Hope all of you are keeping safe during this world wide pandemic. I have been keeping busy by catching up on all the tasks that I had not found time to do. I have been losing track of the days as they pass by. I just realized that I have not even taken a step out of my house in 10 days!!!
Ten days ago, when I went shopping for supplies so that we could shelter in place, the shelves in our local supermarket were bare. There was not even one bottle of milk. I asked my husband to go to a local dairy farm, The Jersey Barnyard, to see if he could find some milk to bring home so that I could make yoghurt.
I usually make yoghurt weekly, from the best milk that is available to me. I still have the live yoghurt culture that my mom started. I love keeping her culture alive because then I always have a part of her with me. 💕 Click on My Mom’s Yogurt, to get step by step instructions on how to make yoghurt.
My husband brought back a gallon of Raw Jersey Cow’s Milk from The Jersey Barnyard. This milk had just come fresh from the cow. Jersey cows have the best milk. Jersey milk has a higher fat content (4.9%) than Holstein milk (3.7%), so it makes a creamier yoghurt. In addition, Jersey milk has the original A2 protein instead of the mutated A1 protein. A2 protein is easier to digest than A1 protein. Lately, I have been using A2 milk from the grocery store, but this local, raw milk is even better.
It reminded me of the milk I used to go get with my grandma when I was a little girl. We used to go to the dairy very early in the morning. My grandma would inspect the cows. She would especially look at their eyes to make sure they were clear, which meant that the cow was healthy. Once she picked the cow she wanted milk from, she would give her bucket to the farmer to fill up with fresh, hand-stripped milk. Straight from the cow into the bucket. When she made yoghurt from this milk, it always had a thick layer of cream on top. That creamy top layer was my absolute favorite. I loved being the first one to break into a batch of freshly made yoghurt.
To my delight, when I made yoghurt from this farm fresh raw milk, it came out just like my grandma’s. You can see the thick layer of cream in the photo below.
Here are side by side photos of yoghurt made from the Promise Land Milk (left) and Raw Jersey Cow’s Milk (right).
You can see the difference in the two. The raw Jersey milk yoghurt has a thick layer of cream on the top. This is the creamiest, most flavorful yoghurt. My husband has decided that this is the only yoghurt he wants from now on. So the milk bought because there was none on the shelves, during this pandemic, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It resurrected a childhood pleasure moment that I shared with my grandma. I consider it A SIGN OF HOPE.
I used it to make a delicious low carb Blackberry Parfait.
I layered my grandma’s yoghurt with blackberries, pistachios and my homemade chai spice mix. You can substitute a mixture of fennel and cardamom powder for the chai spice mix. The parfait tasted similar to a dessert that I used to eat when I was little, but this one has no sugar. It fits my Ketogenic lifestyle.
Let me know if you have any STORIES OF HOPE. We could all use a little cheering up😊
A big thank you to my Nani Ji (grandma) and my mom. I will love them always.💖💖
My second cooking class/pop supper club was a lot of fun. The students were eager to learn how to make Indian food. Everyone enjoyed the food, wine pairing and the camaraderie generated by the community getting together to help a good cause.
Here is the Indian Menu that my students and I prepared. Just like the last event, it was delicious, gluten free and Keto friendly. Vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian options were available to include a wide variety of dietary preferences.
AUBERGINE KACHRI is my dad’s favorite appetizer. My mom used to make it for him frequently. It consists of spicy slices of sauteed eggplant served with a yogurt mint sauce. For the full recipe, please click on the link above.
Indian cooking takes some advance preparation. Some of the students joined me the Friday before the event to help me with the prep and learn some extra tips.
The eggplant has to be sliced and salted overnight to draw out excess moisture. Drawing out the moisture allows the eggplant to cook evenly and not absorb excess oil. This is a tip I learned from my mom. Below is Rose, one of my students, showing the eggplant we sliced and salted.
The cooking class began on Saturday at noon. The first thing we did is dry the eggplant slices and season them with my Indian Spice Mix.
We let the seasoned eggplant slices sit in the frig for a couple of hours, to let all the spices marry, before pan sauteing them.
The cooked eggplant slices were topped off with a dollop of yogurt mint sauce made with My Mom’s Yogurt. A fresh mint leaf was added to each slice for a finishing touch.
photo by Gabby Silva
photo by Gabby Silva
KACHUMBER is chopped salad made with cucumber, tomato, onion, mint, cilantro, lime juice and Indian spices. In the above photo, you see it plated with a small papad. Papad is a thin, cracker-like crisp made with lentils. It serves as the Keto friendly crouton element.
The salad was the last thing we made so that we could serve it super fresh. In the photo below, you will see the components of the main course staying warm in crockpots, while we prep the Kachumber Salad.
I also made a yogurt dressing, with toasted cumin and other spices, to add a creamy element to the Kachumber Salad. I will post the full recipe as soon as I get a chance.
THE MAIN COURSE was a Trio of Indian Curries
I want to clarify what a curry is. Curry just means something cooked in a sauce. In India, every region has its own variety of curries. Indian cooks do not use curry powder. Curry powder is a British invention. Each curry is made from scratch with its own blend of base aromatics and a layering of spices throughout the cooking process.
I decided to make three unique curries, both to accommodate a variety of dietary needs and to show my students different ways of making curries.
Starting from left to right, the photo above shows:
Riced Cauliflower Pilaf, made with freshly grated turmeric
Extra Kachri Slices, in case anyone wanted an additional appetizer
Vegan Curry, with chickpeas for protein
Monkfish Curry, with a coconut lime base, for the pescatarians
Oxtail Curry, my unique signature dish
Diners had a choice of enjoying the curries with a Brown Basmati Rice Pilaf (sitting in the pot on the back burner) or a Keto friendly, Riced Cauliflower Pilaf. Click on the link for Buckwheat Pilaf to see the basic recipe to make any kind of pilaf.
I am a pescatarian, who leads a Keto Lifestyle, so I served myself a plate of riced cauliflower pilaf and topped it with monkfish curry.
It was really delicious, if I do say so myself. Monkfish is considered to be poor man’s lobster. It tasted like a decadent lobster curry with a great depth of flavor, and was the first one to be finished. I will definitely make it again and post the recipe.
SAFFRON PISTACHIO RASMALAI is a classic Indian dessert, and my husband’s favorite. Each round ball is a cheesecake bite sitting in a creamy, flavorful sauce.
Indian desserts tend to be very sweet, so my challenge was to figure out a way to make is Keto friendly. As I was mulling over how to make a low carb version, I recalled a memory from when I was 10 years old.
I was visiting my great grandmother and I watched her make Rasmalai from scratch. She used just a little bit of honey in place of sugar. She told me that my great grandfather had sugar problems, so she made desserts with very little sugar, but a lot of flavor.
I did my best to recreate her recipe. I am going to show you how I did it. The trick is to use very high quality ingredients and lots of spices that will give the illusion of sweetness. The spices I used in this case are saffron, fennel powder and cardamom.
My friend Kathy, came over on prep day to learn how to make Paneer.
Once the Paneer is ready, break it up with a fork, add the spices and ground up pistachios.
Mix everything together and gently knead it into a ball.
Cut the ball into 2 inch pieces, and shape into discs.
Make a pistachio honey syrup scented with saffron and rose water. I used only one tablespoon of raw local honey in the entire pan of syrup.
The syrup is used to cook the cheese balls and infuse them with flavor. They are simmered for 10 minutes with the lid on. During the cooking process the cheese balls will double in size.
The cooked cheese balls are cooled and firmed up in an ice bath.
While the cheese balls are cooling, make the cream sauce. The sauce consists of cream, half &half, one tablespoon of honey, pistachio powder, saffron and rose water.
Place the firmed up cheese balls in the cream sauce. We made these on prep day so that the cheese balls could become saturated with the cream sauce overnight.
Just before serving, I plated the RasMalai by spooning two tablespoons of Malai (cream sauce) into a small bowl. Then I placed two RasGullas (cheese balls) in each bowl and topped them off with pistachios and goji berries for a little color.
I was proud to make this dessert. I felt like my great grandmother was there helping me. After my husband ate this RasMalai, he said he would never eat the store bought version again. My great grandmother’s version turned out so sublime, with a profound but delicate flavor. I will do a full recipe post when I make it again, but for now I have posted the above photos to give you an idea of how the RasMalai was made.
I want to thank my husband for his help and his expert wine pairing.
I also want to thank my guests for their support, and Gabby Silva for taking such great photos.
My next event will be in September for Hunger Action Month. Tresha Silva, the director of the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry, and I are planning to hold the event at the Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center.
I will keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or comments please let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.
I am preparing for my second cooking class/pop up supper club to support the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry. The event is being held on September 28th, 2019. The event name is “CookingWithLoveAndSpicesFor A Cause.“ The feature image shows my new event logo. The center of the logo is a Lotus Mandala in dedication to my mom. My mom’s name was Kamal, which means Lotus flower. The Lotus flower is a symbol of divine beauty, purity, enlightenment and self-regeneration because it raises from the muddy waters unstained. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul.
Let me know in the comment section what you think of my logo.
Here is the menu for the September 28th, 2019 cooking class/pop up supper club.
This time I am featuring elegant Indian Cuisine paired with Texan wines from Messina Hof. My husband decided to stick with the Messina Hof wines because they pair well with Indian Food.
I am doing this event on September 28th because September is Hunger Action Month-a month where people all over America stand together with Feeding America and the nationwide network of food banks to fight hunger. It’s a month to take the problem of hunger personally, and then be moved to take action on being an active part of the solution to end hunger in our own communities. My goal for this event is to have fun while working to end hunger in Bastrop County.
There will be 20 spots open. You can chose to come to the cooking class and/or dinner. Last time, some people only wanted to come to the dinner and that is just fine.
Indian food takes a bit of prep work, so I am doing the event over a two day period. Friday, September 27th will be prep day. We will start prep at 3 pm. Prep is open to cooking class students who would like to help and also learn a few extra cooking tips. We will also have 2 volunteer staff from the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry to help us. Then on Saturday, September 28th cooking class will be from noon to 4 pm. Cocktails will be served at 6 pm and dinner will be served at 6:30 pm.
I decided to have a two hour break between cooking and cocktails in case anyone wants to take a rest or wants to have time to freshen up before dinner. During my first event, some people requested a break so I am making accommodations for that. In any case, it will give us extra time if we run behind.
Again, the menu is both delicious and gluten free. The appetizer, Aubergine Kachri, is a dish my mom used to make, especially for parties. It is one of my dad’s favorite dishes. The sauce for the dish is made with My Mom’s Yogurt.
There will be a trio of curries to suit different dietary needs. Or you can sample all three if you like.
I am very fortunate to have a local vendor sponsor me this time. The Bastrop Cattle Company produces grass fed, chemical free beef. They have been generous enough to donate the oxtail for the oxtail curry. I have made this for other’s in the past with rave reviews. Oxtail curry is one of my signature dishes, so I was very excited to be able to get such high quality product for my cooking event.
The pilot event in July was very successful and fun. This one will be a bit more work, but I have help from Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry volunteers. I will let you know how this one goes.
Every year the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (BCEFP) hosts the EMPTY BOWL PROJECT to raise funds for our local food bank. It is their biggest fundraiser for the year. Local restaurants and caterers volunteer to make soup to be served at the event. People in the community buy tickets to taste the soups and vote for their favorites.
In addition, local artists create ceramic bowls that are part of a silent auction.
Photo by Terry Hagerti
Photo by Karen Kahan
All proceeds from the silent auction and the tickets go directly to our emergency food pantry. The goal for this year was to raise $30,000. I am very happy to report that we exceeded our goal. 700 people attended at $20 a ticket–so that was $14,000. The rest came from the silent auction, donations, and business and individual sponsorships. It was so much fun!!! Thank you to everyone who contributed.
This year, I was asked if I would like to participate by serving my Autumn Dal (split mung beans with kale). I have never made soup for 700 people, so I was a bit nervous if it would come out right. But I went for it and said yes. If you read my welcome page, you will see that I promised that there would be some community projects associated with this blog. I have always wanted to give back to my community, so I was thrilled to have my first opportunity to help. I will be doing more projects with the BCEFP. I will blog about them as I do them.
The timing of the 2109 EMPTY BOWL PROJECT was very special to me. It just so happened that my family was visiting me from Chicago during the week that the event was taking place. The Empty Bowl Project turned into 4 generations of soup for me.
The recipe started with my Nani-ji (grandmother), then my mom, then me and now I am passing it onto my niece, Leilani. She wanted to help me make the soup and I was grateful for her help. Leilani painstakingly spent two hours cutting up the greens.
I really enjoyed making the soup with Leilani. She was so eager to learn and help.
My dad helped me serve the soup.
It was a HEARTWARMING family and community experience. I look forward to doing it again next year.
Inspired by the Polar Vortex, a recipe to warm your bones and your soul.
I call this recipe “Oatmeal Your Way” because it is very easy to customize to your liking. Once you make oatmeal from scratch you will never want to open an instant oatmeal packet again. This is the way my mom and Nani (my mom’s mom) made oatmeal. It is as easy to make as it is nutritious and delicious.
I made it for my godchildren, Sachi and her sister, Michi when they were about 4 and 5 years old. Sachi sent me the following letter asking me to make it again.
It is a very popular dish with children. It is also served to new mother’s and people who are ailing because it is nutritious and easy to digest. Sachi came to visit me a few years ago with her daughter, Aleia and I made the oatmeal for the cute little one. Here is a photo of Sachi, all grown up now, feeding oatmeal to her daughter, Aleia. Made me feel warm all over to pass on my memory of my mom feeding me oatmeal when I was little.
As I said, it is very popular with children. I modified the recipe for Aleia because she cannot have lactose. I used almond milk instead of regular milk. I also ground the almonds in a spice grinder so that Aleia could easily eat the oatmeal.
1 Tbsp. almond oil (customize by using butter or any flavor oil you like. For example, if I am making pecan flavor I use pecan oil. The options are endless–walnut oil, hazelnut oil, avocado oil, etc…)
1 cup of organic old fashioned oats (organic oatmeal actually has more of a nutty flavor besides being better for you. DO NOT USE INSTANT QUICK COOK OATS–they will turn out mushy.)
1/2 cup raw slivered almonds (customize by using whatever nut you are in the mood for.)
1/4 dried berries (here I used a combination of goji and cranberries. When Aleia was visiting, I used dried blueberries because she loves blueberries.)
1/4 tsp. of my Chai Masala (basically a combo of ground cardamom and fennel seeds)
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon (customize by using your favorite spice. Depending on the flavor you want to create, use pumpkin spice, apple pie spice mix, etc…)
2 cups of milk (will make a porridge like consistency. You can use more milk if you want to make it thinner.) I used Fairlife Milk here. It is lactose free and high in protein. You can use any milk you like–almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, etc…
2 Tbsp. of Agave nectar (customize by using your favorite sweetener–maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, molasses, etc…)
1 medium sized organic apple diced into large chunks.
Again, you can customize the flavor by using your favorite fruit. You can also leave out the fruit. I use what seasonal fruit is available.
Freshly ground nutmeg as a garnish for those who want it.
NOTE: by customizing and changing the ingredients, the flavor combinations are endless. One Christmas morning, I made a giant potful of banana walnut oatmeal sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. I used a whole can of oatmeal to make sure there was enough for everyone’s breakfast. It disappeared in 10 minutes. I had to make another batch!!!
Coat a medium sized stainless steel saucepan with 2 Tbsp. of almond oil.
Add 1 cup of oats and turn the flame to medium-low. Toast the oats while stirring occasionally. You will know the oats are done when you smell a nutty flavor and the oats turn slightly golden.
Add the 1/2 cup of slivered almonds and continue to toast till the nuts turn slightly brown.
Add the 1/4 cup of dried berries along with the spices. Stir and toast for another 30 seconds. The toasting will bloom the spices and you will smell them.
Add the 2 cups of milk. You will hear a sizzling sound when you add the milk.
Stir in the milk. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the milk starts to boil. Small bubbles will appear.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the diced apples and place the lid. Let sit for five minutes. This is enough time to warm the apples while still leaving them crunchy.
Remove the lid and serve.
Garnish with a grind of fresh nutmeg if desired. Enjoy as is, or with a cup of tea or coffee. Makes a great breakfast, brunch dish or dessert.
This is a winter pumpkin dish my grandmother used to make. It was one of my favorites. She used to use a small deep orange pumpkin, I am using a Japanese pumpkin, called Kabocha squash, because that is what I have on hand. I also like Kabocha because it has a creamy, sweet flavor.
1 medium Kabocha squash
3 Tbsp of ghee ( if you want to keep it vegan use grape seed oil instead)
salt and pepper to taste
Starting at the 6 O’ Clock position, and then going counter clockwise the spices are as follows:
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
20 pods of green cardamom
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
Chop the Kobocha into large pieces. Keep the skin on if the squash you are using has an edible skin. There are lots of nutrients and fiber in the skin.
Using a spice grinder, grind the 20 cardamom pods into a fine powder. The cardamom powder is shown in the small bowl on the lower right.
Toast the cumin seeds. Let them cool to room temp. and grind into a fine powder. The toasted cumin powder is shown in the small bowl on the lower left.
Coat a large stainless steel skillet with grape seed oil or ghee. Place on medium heat and get the oil hot.
Add fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and red chili flakes. Toast until seeds are slightly brown and you can smell their fragrant aroma. Watch the seeds closely and stir frequently so the seeds don’t burn.
As soon as the seeds are browned, add the Kabocha. Toss together and cook until the Kabocha is browned on the edges. This should take about 7 minutes.
Once the Kabocha is browned add, the toasted cumin powder, cayenne powder and 1/2 of the cardamom powder. Reserve the other 1/2 of the cardamom powder for later in the recipe.
Toss together and let the spices toast for about 2 minutes
Add the cinnamon powder and the remaining cardamom powder
Toss together and let cook for another 2 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper to taste. Toss together. Cover with the lid. Turn the flame to low. Cook until squash is tender.
I first got the idea to make this dish when I was with my dad at a farmer’s market in Chicago. I found these beautiful sunburst squash and I just had to use them. I told dad that I would make scallops and squash for our dinner. Dad told me that he doesn’t like scallops, but he was excited about the squash because it was so fresh and reminded him of an Indian squash called Tinda. Tinda is also called “Indian Baby Pumpkin.” I told him that I would season the scallops with Indian spices and cook them just right so that he would like them.
Dad was willing to try it, so here is the recipe. He loved it, by the way, and now has become a scallops fan.
a dozen large scallops
6 small squash (you can used any small squash that is just a bit bigger than the scallops in diameter.) Here I have used patty pan squash.
3 Tbsp Indian Spice Mix. The Ingredients for the spice mix are shown in the small bowls. For full list of ingredients and how to make the spice mix click on the link provided.
Grape seed oil to drizzle over the scallops and squash.
2 pats of butter for cooking the scallops.
Freshly ground pink Himalayan salt and black pepper to taste. My dad likes a lot of black pepper.
Pat dry the scallops. If there is a little piece of adductor muscle attachment on the scallop remove it. It is called the foot of the scallop. It peels off easily. It is the tough tendon that attaches the scallop to its shell. Please remove it because it is not edible.
Sprinkle on 1 Tbsp of Indian Spice Mix. Drizzle on enough grape seed oil to coat. Toss gently until well coated. Do not add salt until right before cooking. Place in the fridge, uncovered, while you prep the squash.
Cut the ends off of each squash. Then cut in half. You should have pieces of squash that are one inch thick. Again sprinkle on the Indian Spice Mix. Also add salt and pepper and coat with grape seed oil. Let sit for 30 minutes before cooking.
Start the squash first. Coat a large skillet with a Tbsp of grape seed oil. Place on medium-high heat. When oil is hot place the squash slices in a single layer. Cook until golden brown on first side and flip. While the second side is cooking, start the scallops. The second side should cook for 3 minutes. At the end of 3 minutes turn off the heat.
Place two pats of butter in a non-stick skillet. Place on medium-high heat. While the butter comes up to a foam, season the scallops with salt and pepper. When you see the butter foaming, placed the scallops in the skillet. It will take two to three minutes to develop a dark crust. Once the crust has formed, flip the scallops over and take them off the heat. Wait 2 minutes for the carry over heat to cook the scallops through.
Above is a photo of my plating when I enjoyed this dish with my dad. He likes red wine, so we served this with a Shiraz. Shiraz is the original wine grape from the Middle East. It goes very well with any spicy food. In my opinion, it goes very well with Indian food.
When I recreated this dish at home, I came up with fancier plating.
I served it as a first course for a dinner party. Each piece of squash is topped with a scallop and then garnished with a dot of home made mint chutney and a mint leaf. I will post the recipe for the mint chutney in the future.
Hope you like it. My dad loved it 😊💕
Please write your thoughts in the comments section. I always appreciate your support and feedback. 😃
This past July my neighbor brought me fresh figs from his tree. I glazed these figs and I use them in many recipes. The first recipe I posted was my Fig Fillo Bites
I had some glazed figs leftover so I used them to make this parfait. I also used them to make frozen fig cubes for a cocktail my husband created, called Texan Raspberry 75
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two. Double or quadruple the recipe as needed.)
8 glazed figs with their glazing liquid (see my recipe, Fig Fillo Bites for step by step instructions on how to glaze the figs.) NOTE: There are 4 figs per serving.
1 cup of Greek yogurt. You can buy it or make your own. I have made my own by using My Mom’s Yogurt recipe. NOTE: There is 1/2 cup of yogurt per serving.
1 tablespoon of raw shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon of agave nectar (you can also use honey)
1/2 teaspoon of ground fennel seed powder (you can make the powder by grinding up fennel seeds in a spice grinder)
ASSEMBLING THE PARFAIT: in your favorite parfait or martini glass
Place a teaspoon of glazing liquid and one fig in the bottom of the glass.
Next place a dollop of Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with pistachios and a pinch of fennel powder. Drizzle on a bit of agave nectar.
Next place two glazed figs with a bit of the glazing liquid. Add more pistachios, fennel powder and agave nectar.
Add more yogurt. Sprinkle with more pistachios, fennel powder and agave nectar.
Place the fourth fig in the center of the parfait and top off with a single pistachio for a pretty presentation.
Fruit parfaits like this are simple, delicious and impressive looking. They are also very versatile. Choose any seasonal fruit you like and any spice you prefer. I have served yogurt/fruit parfaits for breakfast, brunch, a snack and even dessert. As an added bonus, they happen to be nutritious and figure-friendly.
Please try this recipe and let me know your feedback in the comments.