My First Event–helping to raise money for the Bastrop County Emergency Food Pantry (photo by Karen Kahan)

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.

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.

BCEBP DEDICATION 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.

BCEPB PREP LK

I really enjoyed making the soup with Leilani.  She was so eager to learn and help.

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My dad helped me serve the soup.

BCEBP DAD

It was a HEARTWARMING family and community experience.  I look forward to doing it again next year.

Vegetables From Down The Road

On Saturday, my husband went down the road and brought home these beautiful vegetables from our neighbors, Fruitful Hill Farm.  We a lucky to have such nice neighbors.

I was inspired to make 6 dishes.  I did a marathon cooking session which included creating, testing, cooking and photographing the 6 dishes.  I will be posting one dish per week for the next six weeks.

Here is a list of the dishes I created:

  1. CURRIED BABY TURNIPS–TOPS AND ALL
  2. SWEET POTATO AND KALE TIKKIS (CUTLETS)
  3. CARROT TOPS AND CORIANDER CHUTNEY
  4. CARROT TOPS AND PARSLEY PESTO PASTA
  5. COLLARD GREENS AND CHICKPEA STEW
  6. MUSTARD GREEN SAAG PANEER

Nothing went to waste.  I used every part of the vegetables.  I also made Roasted Carrots but I did not list it because it is a recipe I have already posted.

I had so much fun doing this marathon cooking session.  I am looking forward to sharing the dishes with you.  Please look out for them.  I hope you like them.

A big thanks to the folks at Fruitful Hill Farm for growing the vegetables!!!

Oatmeal Your Way

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.

oatmealletter

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.

oatmealnextgeneration

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.

INGREDIENTS:

oatmealingredients

  • 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.

oatmealapplesprep
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!!!

COOK:

  • Coat a medium sized stainless steel saucepan with 2 Tbsp. of almond oil.

oatmealcook1

  • 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.oatmealcook4
  • 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.

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  • Stir in the milk.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the milk starts to boil.  Small bubbles will appear.

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  • 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.

Oatmeal Feature

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.

Roasted Golden Beets with Chimichurri

Roasted vegetables are my favorite, especially in the autumn and winter.  They are delicious and easy to make.  I found some beautiful golden beets at the neighborhood farm stand.  I decided to roast them and use their fresh leaves in a chimichurri.  Nothing goes to waste around here.  Either we eat it or we feed it to our animals.

INGREDIENTS:

Roasted Golden Beets with Chimichurri Ingredients

  • 4 medium beets.  Their tops will be used in the chimichurri
  • fresh leaves from the tops of 4 beets
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves (leave this out if you don’t like cilantro)
  • cilantro stems chopped up (cilantro stems have a lot of flavor)
  • 1 serrano chili (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. of my Italian Spice Mix for coating the beets
  • 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to coat the beets
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil for the chimichurri
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PREPPING THE BEETS:

Golden Beets Preped for Oven

  • Cut off the tops and bottoms of the beets
  • Save the fresh beet leaves for the chimichurri
  • Coat the beets with olive oil amd my Italian Spice Mix
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Roast in a 400 F oven until fork tender (about 15 to 20 minutes)

MAKING THE CHIMICHURRI:

While the beets are roasting make the chimichurri.

  • Toast the cumin seeds.  Let them cool to room temp.  Grind them into a powder in the spice grinder.
  • In a small food processor add the following:Chimichurri Ingredients in Blender
    • beet leaves
    • parsley leaves
    • coriander leaves and chopped up stems
    • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
    • 1 serrano chili, roughly chopped
    • chili flakes
    • toasted cumin powder
    • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Whiz everything up.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chimichurri

Cut the roasted beets into half inch slices.

I prefer thicker medallions.  If you want to make them thinner that is totally fine.  Place the beet medallions on a platter and top off with a dollop of chimichurri.Roasted Golden Beets with Chimichurri Feature

This is a delicious appertizer or side dish.  It can also be served as a main vegetarian or vegan dish if you increase the portions size.

Kabocha Launji

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.

INGREDIENTS:

Launji Ingredients

  • 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

PREP:

Launji Prep

  • 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.

COOK:

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  • 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.

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  • 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.Launji Cook 7
  •  Toss together and let the spices toast for about 2 minutes
  • Add the cinnamon powder and the remaining cardamom powder

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  • 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.

Traditionally, this dish is served with plain home made yogurt, lentil soup and rotis.  You can buy the yogurt or make your own using My Mom’s Yogurt recipe.  The lentil soup is called dal, I posted my Autumn Dal (split mung beans with kale)  last year.

Today I served it with spicy pan-fried Black Drum that my hubby brought home 2 days ago.Launji with Black Drum

Here is a photo of his catch and how I prepared it.

The Black Drum is the large fish on the far right.  The 4 little fish are trout.  My hubby fileted the fish and I coated the filets with my Indian Spice Mix.

I then pan fried the filets and then de-glazed the pan with our local Texas, Messina Hof Gewurztraminer. I made a pan sauce by adding a pat of butter.  Gewurztraminer pairs well with spicy Indian food.

RECIPE TIP:  Use the wine you are going to drink to make the pan sauce.  This way the dish will match your wine.Launji with Black Drum and Wine

I am so lucky to have a hubby who catches fish for me.  I rarely get a Black Drum catch, so I was so glad to have it.

Hope you like this recipe.  Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Braised Cauliflower with Sweet Potato

This is another classic, cruciferous veggie recipe from the Punjab region in the north of India,  but I have put a twist on it by using purple sweet potato instead of the small red potatoes that my grandmother used to use.  I had these beautiful purple sweet potatoes so I couldn’t resist using them.  My recipes often evolve depending on what ingredients I happen to have on hand.

INGREDIENTS:

Braised Cauliflower and Swee Potato Ingredients

  • 1 large head or 2 small heads of cauliflower.  I have two small heads here that were grown by my neighbor, Billy
  • 2 purple sweet potatoes (you can use whatever potato you have on hand)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 green chilies
  • 10 curry leaves (optional, if you don’t have these leave them out)
  • 2 inches of ginger
  • juice of 1 small lemon (in the photo the yellow cube in the center is a cube of frozen lemon juice.  When I get a lot of lemons from my neighbor’s tree, I juice them and freeze them into cubes for use later.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nigella seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

PREP:

Braised Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Prep

  • Using a paring knife, break up the cauliflower into medium sized florets
  • Slice the purple sweet potatoes into disks
  • Peel the ginger and mince it
  • Finely mince the green chilies
  • Remove the curry leaves from their stems.  The curry leaves are used whole and they are edible.
  • Remove the cilantro leaves from their stems.  Set aside a handful of leaves for garnish.  Chop up the remaining leaves and stems to use them in the cooking process.

COOK:

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  • Coat a heavy stainless steel skillet with grapeseed oil.  Turn the flame to medium and heat the oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the cauliflower and purple sweet potato first.  Then add the, ginger, chilies, curry leaves, cilantro and all three seeds.
  • Toss everything together and sauté until the seeds are toasted and the vegetables are slightly brown.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  • At this point, sprinkle on the powdered spices and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Sauté for another 5 minutes so that the spices have a chance to toast.
  • Now add the lemon juice.  Turn the flame to low and cover with a lid.  Cook covered until the veggies are tender.
  • Once the veggie are cooked, turn off the flame.  Taste the dish and adjust the salt and pepper to your taste.  Keep the lid on till you are ready to serve.
  • When you are ready to serve, remove the lid and toss in the reserved cilantro leaves for garnish.

Transfer the veggies to a serving platter.  We usually serve it family style.  If I am throwing a formal dinner party, I will serve it as part of a plated dish.  It can be served with any protein you like.  Below it is served with my Amritsari Masala Fish.

Amritsari Masala Fish Feature 1

Most Indian people are vegetarian, so they serve it with dal and plain yogurt.  I have posted my Autumn Dal recipe if you would like to refer to it.  You can buy yogurt from the store, or if you would like to make your own yogurt see my  Mom’s Yogurt recipe.

I would appreciate your feedback.  Please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

 

 

Curried Cabbage-Punjabi Style

This is a classic recipe from the Punjab region in the north of India.  I am Punjabi, so we eat this dish often.  Curried cabbage is delicious and takes very little time to prepare.  It can be served as a side dish with any protein you like.  Traditionally, it is served with dal (see my Autumn Dal recipe), yogurt (My Mom’s Yogurt) and roti.

INGREDIENTS:

Punjabi Curried Cabbage Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized head of green cabbage
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 green chilies
  • 10 curry leaves (optional,  if you don’t have these leave them out)
  • 2 inches of ginger
  • juice of 1 small lemon (in the photo the yellow cube in the center is a cube of frozen lemon juice.  When I get a lot of lemons from my neighbor’s tree, I juice them and freeze them into cubes.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nigella seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

PREP:

Punjabi Curried Cabbage Prep

  • Cut the cabbage in half, remove the core and then chop it coarsely.
  • Peel the ginger and mince it.
  • Finely mince the green chilies (I use them seeds and all.  If you want the dish less spicy you can discard the seeds.)
  • Remove the curry leaves from their stems (the curry leaves are used whole and they are edible.  Unlike bay leaves, they do not need to be removed.)
  • Remove the cilantro leaves from their stems.  Set aside a handful of leaves for garnish.  The remaining leaves and chopped up stems will be used in the cooking process.

COOK:

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  • Coat a heavy stainless steel skillet with grapeseed oil.  Turn the flame to medium and heat up the oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the cabbage first.  Then add the chilies, ginger, curry leaves, cilantro and all three seeds.
  • Toss everything together and sauté until the seeds are toasted and the cabbage is slightly brown.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  • At this point, add the tomato paste, powdered spices and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Sauté for another 5 minutes so that the tomato paste and spices have a chance to toast.
  • Now add the lemon juice.  Turn the flame to low and cover with a lid.  Cook covered until the cabbage is tender.  My husband likes his cabbage a little crunchy.  Most Indian people like the cabbage to be soft.
  • Once the cabbage is cooked to your liking, turn off the flame.  Taste the dish and adjust the salt and pepper to your taste.  Keep the lid on till you are ready to serve.
  • When you are ready to serve, remove the lid and toss in the reserved cilantro leaves for garnish.

Transfer the cabbage to a serving platter.  We usually serve it family style.

Punjabi Curried Cabbage IG

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  My neighbor brought me a whole bunch of cruciferous vegetables.  These green leafy veggies are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber.  When prepared correctly, they are delicious.  My husband loves all of them.  Below is a photo.

Winter Garden Vegetables

I will be posting additional cruciferous veggie recipes in the future.

 

Spicy Eggplant Dip (Baba Ganoush with a Texan Kick)

I learned how to make Lebanese food when I was visiting Acapulco, Mexico in 1990.  Sounds odd that I would learn to make Lebanese food in Mexico.  Here is the story.

I went to Acapulco in 1990 to present a research paper at a conference.  I was vegetarian at the time and this was my first visit to Mexico.  I found a Lebanese restaurant with a large vegetarian menu right next to our hotel.  The food was so good that I ate every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner there.  I asked the waiter to introduce me to the cook.  He told me that his mother was doing the cooking and she would love to meet me since I kept coming back for every meal.  When I met his mother, I asked if she would teach me how to cook Lebanese food.  She said yes and taught me how to make many of her dishes.

This was so much fun.  My scientific conference turned into an unexpected culinary adventure.  I live in Texas now and I put a spicy Texan kick on this recipe.  Following are a few ways to serve Baba Ganoush.

Baba Ganoush Salad
Baba Ganoush Salad

 

Baba Gonoush Crudites Crudites
Baba Ganoush Crudites

 

Baba Ganoush Platter
Baba Ganoush Platter with Eggplant Chips.  The Grilled Eggplant Chip idea came from Xanthe LeBlanc at X-Rated Food Blog

 

INGREDIENTS:

Baba Ganoush Ingredients 1

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 cup of tomato water
  • 1 cup of Tahini (sesame seed) paste.
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the eggplants and jalapenos and a bit extra for garnishing the platter
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (and additional for sprinkling on top)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • mint sprig for garnish
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Ingredient Note:  Traditionally this recipe is made with lemon juice instead of the sherry vinegar and tomato water.  I had no lemons available so I substituted tomato water and sherry vinegar.  If you are using the lemon juice, add the juice of one large lemon to a cup of water in place of the sherry vinegar and tomato water.

PREPPING THE EGGPLANT:

 

  • Use a small paring knife to poke holes in the eggplants and jalapenos.  This will prevent them from exploding in the oven during roasting.
  • Coat the eggplants and the jalapenos with olive oil and place in a glass baking dish.
  • Heat your oven to 450 F.  Roast the veggies until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft.  Use a pair of tongs to turn the veggies during the roasting process to ensure that the skin chars on all sides.
  • Pull out the jalapenos first since they will be done before the eggplants.  Set these aside for later in the recipe.
  • Once the eggplants are roasted.  Let them cool so you can handle them.  Peel off the skins, remove the seeds and use a cutting board and chef’s knife to finely chop up the eggplant.  Do not use a food processor because the eggplant will get gummy.

MAKING THE EGGPLANT DIP:

  • In a large food processor add, the roasted jalapenos, tomato water, sherry vinegar, sumac, smoked paprika, minced garlic and a half a teaspoon of salt and pepper.
  • Tahini is sesame seed paste.  When you open the jar you will see the sesame oil float on top like it does when you open up a jar of natural peanut butter.  Stir to mix the oil in and then add a cup of the paste to the food processor.
  • Turn the food processor on and blend until the mixture is smooth.  If the mixture is too thick add some water so that the consistency is like a thick pancake batter.
  • Taste the Tahini mixture and adjust the salt and pepper.
  • Add the eggplant mixture and pulse the food processor to combine gently.  Turn out in a glass bowl and finishing mixing by hand.  Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.  If you would like more acid then add sumac.

Turn out the dip onto a platter. Sprinkle some sumac.  Drizzle some olive oil and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Baba Ganoush Feature

RECIPE NOTE:

When my husband is firing the charcoal grill, I ask him to roast the eggplant on the charcoal.  This gives it a smokier flavor.  The oven works fine but the charcoal grill makes it extra special.