Friday, August 5, 2011

A Ramadan Drink

During the month of Ramadan, on days that I keep fast, I look forward to specific tastes or treats which I remember from my childhood.  Not eating or drinking anything all day, one is left at sunset craving refreshing fruits or juices which will quench your thirst.  Light but flavorful eats which will satisfy your hunger and awaken those dormant taste buds.

As a kid, we used to be given a glass of "Rooh Afza" along with some dates at sunset, to open our fast with.  Rooh Afza is a bright red colored, rose flavored, sugary syrup, which can be added to milk or water or a combination of both.  Many people have different ways of making this refreshing drink, but this Ramadan, I think I found a perfectly delicious concoction!

I tend to make my Rooh Afza in milk or a combination of 3 parts milk to 1 part water.  Using this as the base, I added some "meat" to make it more nourishing.  Lol... don't get grossed out yet, its not actual meat, but sweet meats, like coconut, pistachios and almonds.  I purchased shredded sweet coconut, pistachio (fine ground) and almonds (fine ground).  Adding about a teaspoon of each to every glass of the prepared Rooh Afza.  You can also add some crushed ice, mix well and serve.  It not only quenches your thirst, its very nutritious and will help boost your energy levels after a long day of fasting.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gourmet Meals for One!

Recently, I've been trying new things to motivate myself to cook at home for one. Normally, by the time I get home from work, I'm completely exhausted. The last thing I want to do is cook just for me, then have to deal with a lot of left overs. Times like these, its so much easier to just order in or pick up something on the way home. But few days of that and I start to feel unwell- stomach goes completely out of whack. Not to mention, my waistline has no control these days and I'm not fitting in to any of my work clothes.

The solution was to eat healthier at home, but that doesn't solve the problem of never being able to cook enough just for one. Grocery shopping here is definitely tailored for families or couples, not for single ppl with small appetites. I've been freezing left overs a lot but now my freezer is about to explode, I can barely close the door. I was in a similar predicament the other day when I thawed out a pack of chicken breast. It was almost 2 lbs worth and I didn't really feel like having left overs for the next 3 days! Here is what I did:

Dinner on night one: Fresh pesto and tomato pasta with grilled chicken

Lunch 2 days later: Pesto chicken salad sandwich

Because I also had a fresh Basil plant that really needed to be used, I made a big batch of pesto. I used the pesto with pasta the first night and then mixed it in with cream cheese and diced chicken to make a gourmet chicken salad. Because the pesto is so flavorful and had olive oil and cheese, I added a small amount of cream cheese and even smaller amount of mayo. This was not only a more flavorful chicken salad, it was healthier without all the mayo I normally use.

For the pasta:

I boiled enough spaghetti for dinner and a small lunch portion. I steamed the chicken without anything except a pinch of salt (2 medium breast pieces) and diced them in 1 inch cubes. I chopped up some tomato and then tossed everything together with the pesto. It was fresh, light and quick.

For the chicken salad:

I steamed the remaining chicken breast (3 medium and 1 small breast pieces) with just a little bit of olive oil, salt and garlic. Once cooked through, I stored it in the fridge- in an airtight container with all of the remaining juices from the pan. Two days later, I diced it up added some pesto, cream cheese, celery, tiny bit of salt and a tiny bit of mayo. The chicken salad is definitely more than one portion, but this can be had as a sandwich one time and then over a bed of lettuce and cucumbers as a refreshing salad the next day. It can also be stored in the fridge for a couple days or in the freezer for up to a month.

Hope this was helpful for you single people out there. We don't always have to resort to hot dogs or Ramen Noodles when we cook for one! There are healthier and easy options, it just takes a bit of thinking and planning.

Happy eating everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Paula Deen inspired dinner

A few days ago I was at the grocery store and they had these “minute steaks” that looked really fresh. They were also a perfect size to make a meal for one and priced reasonably too. It was a Tuesday evening and I decided I would make them over the weekend, so kept them in the fridge. All day Thursday, I kept thinking about the steaks and what I could do with them. By the time I got home from work, my mouth was watering and I couldn’t wait any longer.

I decided to keep it simple, since grilled or seared meat with just a little salt tastes so flavorful, I didn’t want to take away from that. I put on some potatoes to boil (for mash) and sliced up mushrooms to sauté. Now, why did I title this a Paula Deen inspired dinner? Butter! I decided to go all out and used over ½ a cup of butter for this meal! The mushrooms were sautéed in butter with a tiny bit of Worcestershire sauce. The mash had a generous amount of butter and finally, the steaks were also cooked in butter!

What you’ll need for the steak:
Fresh Garlic (2 to 3 large cloves)
Soy Sauce

In a wide/shallow bowl, crush or mince the garlic. Add enough soy sauce to be able to dip your steak(s). Mix well and keep aside. Rinse the steak(s) just to add some moisture. Using a fork, poke the steak on both sides and then place in the soy sauce mix. Let the meat soak for a minute or two on each side. In a skillet, melt a generous amount of butter. Cook the steak(s) on medium to medium high heat, for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. This will give you a medium to medium well steak (no red and a small pink center). Of course this depends also on the thickness and size of your steak(s). Mine were about a ½ to ¾ inch thick and not very large…probably the size of a hamburger bun or smaller.
Once your steak(s) are done, you can use the skillet to make a quick pepper or garlic sauce, but I didn’t since I used salted butter and with the soy left in my pan, it was too salty.

No joke, it was probably one of the quickest and most enjoyable meals I’ve made or eaten in a long time... So, as Paula would say: See y'all next time, love and best dishes from my kitchen to yours!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Melding of Cultures

I recently experimented with mixing some Mediterranean/Greek cuisine with French/American cuisine. I was in the mood for moussaka but didn't have all the ingredients. I also had in the freezer some Ragu Sauce I had made a large batch of few weeks earlier.

I decided to take an eggplant and make a sauce then layer it with macaroni, bechamel sauce and ragu sauce. Top it with some fresh Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses then bake it like a casserole. The result was pretty good and the best part, left over's 2 days later, tasted as good as the first day!

2-3 cups Ragu Sauce-
Bechamel Sauce (recipe to follow)
2 to 2.5 cups macaroni (boiled to your preference)
1 medium to large eggplant
1 small to medium onion diced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
salt to taste
2 large vine ripe tomatoes or 2 tbsp tomato paste
fresh or dried basil
dried oregano

To make the eggplant sauce-
Dice the eggplant into about 1 inch cubes and set aside. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the diced onion. Saute until translucent/soft. Lower the heat to medium low and add the dried herbs, crushed garlic and salt (to taste). Saute for one minute then add in the eggplant. Cook this (covered) for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times in between. Add the tomato (add also a 1/2 cup of water if using paste) and mix well. Heat the mixture until bubbling and then lower heat to simmer until the eggplant is completely cooked. Once soft, mash the mixture with your cooking spoon, just to break down any larger pieces. Set this sauce aside.

To make the Bechamel Sauce:
Boil some macaroni and prepare your bechamel sauce. The simplest way to do this is to melt 1/2 a stick (about 50grams) of butter in a heavy bottom pan. Once melted, stir in slowly (using a whisk) about a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of all purpose flour. Once well integrated, keep cooking on low heat until the mixture seems slightly darker in color. Slowly add in milk, 1/4 cup or so at a time, with a total of 1 and 1/2 cups of milk. Cook the sauce on low heat for a few minutes or until it reaches your desired thickness, turn off heat and add in salt to taste and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg. Mix this with the macaroni and set aside.

Putting it all together:
Butter or grease a medium to large size casserole dish. I used a pyrex 9in x 4.5in dish. Spread a thin layer of the macaroni mix in the dish, then spread out the eggplant mix, followed by some cheese (not too much). Next pour on the ragu sauce. Fill the dish with the remaining macaroni mixture and top with fresh grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 15min at 375 degrees F. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30min or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.

Let sit for 10min before serving as the sauces inside get very very very hot (you will burn your tongue if not careful).

Hope you'll enjoy this fusion dish I threw together the other night. Would love to hear about any amendments, suggestions, etc. that you tried when making this dish.

As always, Happy Cooking!