Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken tikka masala is a curry dish of roasted chicken chunks (tikka) served in a creamy, spiced tomato sauce (masala). It is my husband's favorite Indian dish so I had to figure out how to make it at home! Thanks to Aarti Sequeira's Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe from the Food Network, I was able to recreate it (with a few tweaks based on what I have in my kitchen).

Aarti says it takes her 50 minutes total but I find it takes closer to 90 minutes with prep, cleaning as you go, and everything in the between!

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1 c plain yogurt, whisked til smooth (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger (I used 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 t kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 1/2 t ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size chunks

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3 T butter
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-inch thumb ginger, peeled and minced (I used 1T ground ginger)
  • 2 serrano peppers, minced and seeds removed depending on how spicy you want it (I used 3 serrano peppers from our garden without seeds)
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 t paprika
  • 1 t garam masala
  • 8 Roma tomatoes, diced (I used 7 vine ripened tomatoes)
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 2 cups water (I found 1 cup to be enough)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, whisked smooth)
  • fresh cilantro leaves, minced (I left mine kinda haphazardly chopped)
  1. In a large bowl, mix together marinade ingredients. Poke chicken with a fork and add to the marinade. Fold to cover all chicken chunks with marinade and then let it marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (make your sauce during this time).
  2. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and olive oil. When butter has melted, add garlic, ginger, serrano peppers. Saute until lightly browned edges.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cook until it has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the paprika and garam masala; saute for about 1 minute for the flavors to come out. 
  4. Add tomatoes, salt, water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes then take pan off heat and let cool about 5 minutes.
  5. During that time, you may be ready to broil your chicken. In a broiler pan lined with aluminum foil (I used a Le Creuset rectangular baker), place marinated chicken. Place under broiler and cook for 7 minutes on each side until some charring and all the way cooked through. If not cooked though, will continue cooking in sauce later.
  6. Pour cooled sauce into blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pan and bring to boil. Add the cooked chicken. Reduce heat to simmer and cook covered (I didn't cover mine) for 10 minutes.
  7. Add cream (or in my case yogurt) and stir through. Garnish with minced cilantro. Serve over rice or with naan!

Desert City Night

Some times it feels like the middle of nowhere; a land so flat, you can see storms miles away and not feel a drop of rain. On a night like tonight, there is no rain. Clouds are dispersed for stars to play hide-and-seek. We are high on a hill. 1, 2, 3 minutes pass without a sound. Vroom! A motorcycle, a loud stereo, part of a conversation.

Friday, September 23, 2011

GINGER Cookies

If you love a cookie that packs a punch, this is the cookie for you! These GINGER Cookies must be said with caps because they not only have ground ginger but also crystallized ginger. Get ready for a chewy zing in every bite!

Total Time: 30ish minutes
Bake Temp: 350 degrees F
Yield: ~20 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (generous heaps are ok)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves (again, generous heaps ok)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I would've used more but I ran out)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses (and a little more if you use light brown instead of dark brown I did)
  • 1 extra-large egg, room temperature (if you use a large I did...add 1 Tablespoon of milk)
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped 
  • granulated sugar for rolling cookie dough

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Stir with wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Use a bowl of an electric mixer fitted withe paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the egg, beat for 1 minute.
  4. Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula and beat for another minute.
  5. With the mixing speed on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl. Then mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.
  6. Scoop the dough with two spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each dough into a 3/4 inch to 1 inch ball. Work quickly because they get sticky with warm hands! Roll the balls in granulated sugar and place on baking sheet 2 inches apart. They WILL spread!
  7. Bake for 13 minutes. The cookies with be crackled on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's "Ultimate Ginger Cookie" Recipe.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Need I say more? Are you in LOVE with something that is oh-so-delicious-I-need-this-to-live-best-spread-ever-created otherwise known as Nutella®? This is the cookie for you! It isn't too sweet and not over the top chocolatey (although I'm sure you could add more to make it so, maybe cocoa powder?). This recipe is slightly altered (mostly just halved) from Giada's Chocolate Hazelnut Drop Cookies recipe. According to the official Nutella® Website, the spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940's by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing. So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy, to extend the chocolate supply.

Yield: ~28 cookies
Time: 15 min prep, 10 min bake (x2)
Oven: 350 degrees F

1 stick (1/2 c) of butter, room temperature
2 T powdered sugar (an additional 1/2 cup is optional for the extra coating at the end)
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c Nutella

  1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla. With machine running, gradually add in flour until it's all well incorporated. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Beat in Nutella. Lick remnants of Nutella off spoon (and then immediately put it in the sink so there's no reason to suspect contamination.... Note: Giada didn't write this part).
  3. Using your fingers, pinch off rounded tablespoon amounts of dough, roll into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet. They do spread some but no more than an inch or two apart should be fine.
  4. Bake until bottoms flatten out slightly, about 10 minutes. They will flatten more in the cooling process so don't worry if they look a little funny when you first pull them out.
  5. Cook for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. I like to slide the parchment paper with the cookies still stuck on, right onto the wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  6. OPTIONAL: Place 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a medium bowl. In batches, roll the cookies in the powdered sugar until coated. 
  7. Enjoy!!!
WARNING: These melt in your mouth and are completely addictive.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grilled Chicken & Pluot Salad

Note: I don't have really a recipe for this. If I were to write one out, it probably wouldn't come out the same as what I did since nothing was measured or timed. So, below are some ingredients I used that will hopefully inspire you to create something so exciting for your taste buds, you can't wait for the next bite...and the next bite...and then all of a sudden you're wondering who ate your last bite! We probably spent ~20 minutes making this salad from opening the fridge to sitting down at the dinner table. The next ~7 minutes disappeared into the devouring of the delicious. Awesome 30 minute meal for a weekday night!

  • Smoky Tang: Grilled chicken thighs+teriyaki+Worchestershire+coarse salt+paprika.
  • Juicy Sweet: Pluot cubes grilled.
  • Nutty Crunch: Walnut halves toasted with olive oil and drizzle of honey.
  • Light & Earthy: Washed organic mixed greens.
  • Creamy Lick: Goat cheese scraped out of container with a fork.

DID YOU KNOW? The PLUOT is a cross between a plum and an apricot, but has predominately plum parentage resulting in the plum's shape and generally smooth skin. There's also the "aprium" which is predominantly apricot parentage and closely resembles the apricot in shape, flavor, and skin fuzz. "Plumcots" are the original cross between a plum and apricot and has an equal heritage of both. The season for plumcots is May to October. (Food Lover's Companion 4th Edition).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cannellini and Kale Soup

Looking for a soup that's creamy without any cream? Try pureed cannellini beans to give that velvety texture. This delicious vegetable soup smells like, tastes like, feels like autumn!

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (from start to finish, cleaning as you go)
Serves: ~4-6 depending on whether you're having dinner or appetizer portions


  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (ours aren't big enough so these are from the store)
  • 2 1/2 t coarse salt 
  • 1/4 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 can of unsalted, unsweetened canned corn (leftover from a previous dinner)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 T chopped fresh thyme (from our garden!)
  • 1 Thai chili, minced (I used a serrano but didn't feel the heat so I think a Thai chili would work better)
  • 15oz can of cannellini beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 dried bay leaves (from my mother-in-law's garden!)
  • 8 oz kale, stems and center ribs removed, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
  • dash of nutmeg

  1. Heat 1 T oil in a medium Dutch oven or a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion and carrots until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with 2 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in minced garlic, thyme, chili, and corn. Cook for 1 minute.
  2. Drain and rinse cannellini beans. Add to Dutch oven with water and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Discard bay leaves.
  3. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth, transferring it to a clean post at you work. Put a small dish towel over the top as you hold down the lid because when you hit that "puree" button, it will likely explode (just speaking from experience).
  4. Bring soup to a simmer. Stir in kale and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until kale is tender, about 15 minutes. Add nutmeg.
  5. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 T of oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook sliced garlic, stirring often, until crisp and golden, 1 to 2 minutes (I slightly overcooked mine). Transfer garlic to a plate using a slotted spoon or chopsticks. Reserve garlic oil.
  6. Divide soup in bowls. Garnish with garlic chips and drizzle with garlic oil.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Red Wine Poached Asian Pear

The "Asian pear" is also known as apple pear, Chinese pear, Japanese pear, and Nashi. There are over 100 varieties (most are grown in Japan). The season for this firm yet juicy pear is late summer through early fall. They range from huge and golden brown to tiny and yellow-green. The most common Asian pear in the United States is the Twentieth Century (also known as nijisseiki), which is large, round, and green to yellow in color. (Food Lover's Companion 4th Edition)

I'm blessed with in-laws who have bountiful fruit trees and love to spread the joy! Current harvest are the Asian pears. You may see many posts to come using these delightful pears in many different ways....

Yield:  4 servings (1/2 poached pear per person)

2 small, firm Asian pears, peeled and halved vertically
2 cups cranberry raspberry 100% juice (if you have pomegranate, that would be delicious too!)
2 cups red wine (plum wine would be delicious too!)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (less would be ok)
ice cream or gelato of choice (pictured is black cherry gelato)
mint leaves for garnish (we have plenty in the garden!)

  1. Scoop out core of halved pears with a very sturdy small spoon that won't bend.
  2. Put the four halves into a pot. Make sure they can all fit comfortably in a single layer.
  3. Cover the pears with the juice and wine. If they aren't fully submerged, add more juice/wine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Take pot off heat and let pears come to room temperature in the pot.
  5. Remove pears from liquid and put in a bowl, cover, refrigerate overnight (or for 6 hours like I did because I wanted to try them... I kept the other two halves in the fridge for tomorrow though!). Can continue to reduce down liquid in pot. I was able to reduce it down to 1.5 cups. Next time, I'll probably try reducing with just half of the liquid so it goes quicker. 
  6. When ready to serve, preheat grill to high.
  7. Dry pear halves thoroughly. Put sugar in shallow plate. Dip flat sides down on sugar. Put each pear half flat side down on grill. Will likely only need 30 seconds to a minute for sugar to be bubbly and brown.
  8. Transfer pears to a individual small serving plates with a dip in the middle or shallow bowls, grilled side up. Scoop ice cream into middle of each pear and garnish with mint. Pour some of the liquid onto the plate.
  9. Enjoy!

Praying Mantis, Grasshopper, Oh My!

Recently we've run into some buggers at home (outside, not inside) that are as beautiful as they are scary. True, we're much much bigger than bugs and can easily squash them with our feet. BUT, that's beside the point. Perhaps the monsoon season brings out many creatures. It's cooler at night and slightly more humid during the day. In the past week, we've come across a praying mantis on our front step and an enormous grasshopper in the backyard. Can anyone identify the species (because we can't)???

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows

Beautiful Fabric on Sale + Sewing Machine + Intimidated to Make Anything Other Than Square =

Pillows are a wonderful way to tie a room's colors together and add a pop of freshness that can be changed out as quickly as you make them! I found a wonderfully easy pattern for pillows that allows you to remove the cover for washing. It's an envelope-back pillow cover. Here are a few!

Birthday Gift for Stella

...and displayed in Stella's living room below!

(Photographs by Stella)
My mother-in-law LOVES flow blue. I had been searching for a fabric that would go with her flow blue collection. One lucky day, my husband and I found the PERFECT fabric!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bottle Sweaters Part III

From water bottles to more water bottles to... olive oil, vinegar, and wine bottle sweaters! Ever want to bring that fragile glass bottle somewhere but then decide not to because you're afraid it'll break and then the contents will stain not only your car or picnic blanket but more importantly your favorite shirt???? Bottle sweater to the rescue! It won't prevent breakage if you decide to throw the bottle on the ground BUT it keeps it from clinking with other items (keys, more bottles, the sides of the cup holder) and if anything, it is just so cute you have to bring it somewhere to share the cuteness!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Dark Chocolate Cupcake

If ever given a chance to visit an olive oil shop, please do so and try all the wondrous infused olive oils and fruity balsamic vinegar! Who knew you could taste so many flavors in one tiny drop? We had the opportunity several times during a recent beach retreat to San Diego. We came home with Cinnamon Pear Balsamic (but I could have come home with many more...). Sweet, tangy, and an earthy spiciness that's a reminder of Thanksgiving. I whipped up some dark chocolate cupcakes to accompany this treasure! This chocolate cake recipe produces a really moist and fluffy cake that isn't cloyingly sweet. The combination of cinnamon+chocolate+pear+strawberry with an exciting tang is a flavor combination that makes me drool just thinking about it....

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
(adapted from Chocolate Cake recipe in Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook 75th Anniversary Edition)

Yield: 24 regular cupcakes and ~40 mini cupcakes (only reason I made both sizes is because I only have one tray of each so while one's in the oven, I prep the other one and switch back and forth between batches)

Bake Time: 15 minutes per regular cupcake tray, 10 minutes per mini cupcake tray
Prep Time: 30 minutes, not including the 30 minutes your eggs and butter sit at room temp before you start
Oven: 350 degrees F

3/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups soy milk (can use skim milk if preferred)

  1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile line your muffin tins with cupcake liners. In a medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Scrape sides of bowl and continue beating on medium speed for 2-3 more minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition for a total of about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla.
  3. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more after all are added.
  4. Using a small ice cream trigger scoop (you know, the one that has a little arm thing that moves inside the scooper), evenly fill each cupcake liner with batter. 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F, 15 minutes for regular sized cupcakes and 10 minutes for mini cupcakes. Cool cupcakes in pan for about 5 minutes and then remove them from the pan to cool on a wire rack. 
  6. Cool cupcakes thoroughly on wire racks. Decorate your delight with attention to the flavor profile. Here's one idea: Sift with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Add sliced strawberries for color (or pears would be appropriate but I didn't have any). Drizzle over some balsamic (make sure you use high quality balsamic, otherwise instead of adding to the complexity of flavors, everything will likely taste like acid). I didn't reduce our balsamic but feel free to for a more syrupy consistency if desired.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cinnamon Fig Honey Mascarpone

While on our beach retreat, we had the most memorable dessert. There was a delightful balance between all the textures and layers of flavor. Between thin layers of sponge cake you cut through sweet creamy mascarpone, sliced fresh figs, the crunch of fleur de sel (and something else caramel-brittle-like but I have no idea what it is), and cooling house-made fig sorbet. Being 400 miles away from this delicious dessert at Searsucker, I thought to create one similar at home from what I had on hand.
Whip mascarpone with honey and let it sit at room temperature so it's soft. Meanwhile, toast two slices (one slice per person) of buttered cinnamon bread on the stove top, slice in half, and arrange on your dessert plates. Using a small ice cream scoop, top a small ball of honey mascarpone on a half bread slice for each plate. Arrange a small spoonful of fig preserve on the side, top with second half of cinnamon toast. Add a small spoonful of raspberry sorbetto, sprinkle all over with some cinnamon sugar, and away your taste buds go!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

400 miles West

Everyone needs that get away, whether it's a stay-cation, road trip, or flight overseas. Away from your daily planner. Away from the to-do and honey-do lists. Away from the counter that always seems to collect dust even though you just cleaned it. For the long weekend, my husband and I traded in the hot desert sun for the ocean breeze 400 miles west.

We left fleeting footprints in the Pacific sand.
We marveled at people of all shapes, sizes, and decor.
We savored flavors of the sea and fancies of the creative chef.
We soaked up the smell and coolness of the rain.
We walked, and talked, and stopped to smell all the roses.

chocolate + biscotti
squid "sweet heat." swordfish "costa rica" drunken cherries + smoky almonds (fish was caught that morning). figs and shortcake with mascarpone and fig sorbet.
Pacific Rain

"Anything Goes" Bag

This crocheted bag is the next generation of my Library Book Bag. A print cotton liner provides a bright background to find things more easily inside and prevents keys and books from poking through. A sewn in muslin pocket is handy for a phone, pens, and spare change!