December 31, 2011

Ham and Vegetable Pot Pie

This is most definitely a 1 pot/1 dish weekend recipe!!

Ham & Veggie Pot Pie
Prep Time: 1 to 1.5 hours with store-bought pie crust.

1) 1 box of Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie crusts
2) 1 lb ham - diced into 1/2 inch cubes
3) 1 big bag of Baby spinach
4) ~1 cup peas (fresh, or frozen)
5) ~1 cup carrots (sliced)
6) ~1 cup celery (diced)
7) ~1 cup fresh onion (diced)
6) 1 egg, whipped, mixed in 1/3 cup water (egg wash)
7) 2 to 3 tbsp all-purpose flour mixed in water (for thickening veggies)
8) 1 tbsp McCormick's Italian seasoning
9) butter, salt and pepper to taste
10) 1 tbsp Wyler's poultry seasoning.

Let both pie crusts in the box sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before unrolling the first one. I used a 2" deep dish for this pot pie, so I used a rolling pin to make the crust a tad larger. Lay the pie crust in the dish, roll and crimp the edges if desired. I didn't roll or crimp mine as I am a novice at this ;) and also because I planning on using the second crust as a topping. Make sure to use a fork and poke a lot of holes on the bottom and sides of the pie crust to prevent it from rising away from the sides of the dish during baking.  I pre-baked the pie crust alone for about 10-12 minutes using red kidney beans as pie weights. Thanks to Nupur ( for this idea. Check out her November 25, 2010 post for some pictures on how to use the beans (  Just like her, I now have a jar of dry red beans that are used again and again as pie weights. 

For the filling, in a large deep pan, melt the butter, and fry diced onions and celery until transparent.  Then i slowly added in the baby spinach a little at a time until wilted and then added more. All 3 items added so far, onions, celery and spinach will sweat enough to make the mix pretty wet. Add the rest of the vegetables, and spices and mix well. Finally add the ham. I tend to leave adding the meat until the very end to prevent it from becoming too chewy. Lastly, I mixed in some of the flour water mix to thicken the whole mixture and give it some a white-saucy appearance.  Transfer the mix to the pre-baked pie crust being careful not to damage the crust. 

For the top crust, I had big plans of making a weaved top crust. My attempts failed miserably so i simply placed the strips of crust I'd made in a overlapping pattern resembling a weave. The kids didn't care ... ! You can also leave the top crust whole, with just a few cuts across the top to allow the steam to escape. I used my fingers and a little bit of the egg wash to stick the sides and top crusts together. 

Bake at 375F for 40 minutes. Allow the pie to rest of at least 10 minutes before cutting into it. Despite the spinach, all 3 kids loved it.  This one was a success and will definitely be made again in the Coder household!

Punjabi Chhole (Garbanzo Beans, or White Channa)

Chhole Chawal

I tried this one in the beginning of December. I haven't made Chhole in forever and managed with a pretty good end result. Nothing like what my mommy makes ... but passable with my modifications to the original recipe.

Prep Time: 20-30 min with canned beans

1) 2 cans of garbanzo beans - if you use dry beans you may need to soak these in hot water for at least a couple of hours (or overnight at room temperature) and use a pressure cooker to soften the beans
2) 1 large diced tomato
3) 1 large diced onion
4) 1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (dhania leaves)
5) 1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
6)  1 tbsp channa masala
7) 1 tbsp cooking oil
8)  2 -3 pieces each of the following whole spices - cloves, green cardamom, black peppercorns,  small stick of cinnamon, bay leaves
9) 1/2 tbsp garam masala
10) salt to taste.

A potato masher!! 
In a deep pan, heat up the oil and fry up onions until caramelized around the edges. Add ginger garlic paste, blend it in really well with the fried onions, and then add all the whole spices, fry for a few more minutes and add the tomato. Add about a half cup of water and bring to a rolling boil. If you used dry beans and pressure cooked these, use the water the beans were cooked with, instead of fresh tap water. Once the whole mixture is boiling really well, add the drained beans and turn the heat down to a good simmer. About 10 minutes later, use a potato masher (see pic) and mash some of the beans to the bottom of the pan (this was a trick my G'ma taught me and it makes all the difference in how your dish turns out!!). Then add the spices (chana masala, garam masala) and the cilantro leaves and simmer for a few more minutes.

Chhole are served best over plain white steamed rice, or over a slice of thick white bread .. or if you want to be particularly unhealthy ;-) .. with puris ...  which is basically deep fried bread. Yummy!

Cajun Red Beans & Rice

So i tried quite a few new and old recipes on li'l Nik Coder this December. I just haven't gotten around to posting all of them. Am trying today, as we wait for the ball to drop .... Happy New Year, everyone!!

Cajun Red Beans & Rice
Total Prep Time: 20 minutes with canned red beans.


1) 1 lb spicy sausage - italian, andouille etc.
2) 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed. 
3) 1 medium onion, diced.
4) 1 large diced tomato
5) 1 tsp Zatarain's Creole seasoning (more if you want it spicier)
6) salt and pepper to taste.

Fry up the sausage until almost done and then slice thickly. drain almost all of the drippings so the pan is just barely greased. Fry up onions in the drippings, add tomato and spices and bring to a nice simmer. Then add the sausage back in and add water, or V8 juice, for some extra flavor. Bring to a boil. Add drained and rinsed kidney beans. Cover and let simmer for the rest of the time. In a separate pan, steam white or brown rice. I served mine with steamed white rice, with some peas for a splash of color ... !!    

December 16, 2011

Maggi Night!

One of the many warm memories of growing up in a houseful of kids ... Maggi noodles (or Ramen noodles) on a cold afternoon after school. I remember we used to love Maggi noodles so much that we wouldn't let mom make multiple packs at once, because we'd feel gypped ;-) .... "Mom... but she got more than I did!!"  ... Of course, mom being a mom, didn't want to 'carb load' us - with no nutrition. So, she used to add all sorts of veggies while cooking our Maggi and it tasted delicious. So that's what Nikky and I had for dinner tonight. Dad and the older boys were at the MGHS basketball game and we had fun at home-  after the freshman game (Bryce's team) was over.

Total Prep Time: 10 min. with frozen veggies.

1) 1 packet of Nestle Maggi noodles (or Nissin's Top Ramen) - Chicken flavor
2) 1/3 cup frozen peas or french-cut green beans
3) 1/3 cup frozen carrots
4) 1 tsp Wyler's chicken flavor granules

Prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions (add noodles to boiling water, cook for 3-5 minutes until done and then mix in seasoning packet, turn off heat, and let stand for a couple of minutes before serving), with the following exception - when the water starts to boil, add the vegetables and chicken flavoring and bring to a rolling boil before adding the noodles and cook until done. I add the extra chicken seasoning to ensure that the final product doesn't taste watery. The extra veggies need more salt and seasoning and Wyler's works great! I served the noodles with a slice of butter-bread. Needless to say, "like mommy like son". He LOVED the noodles and even got to dipping his bread in the noodles to sop of the broth!! .... and my mommy instincts were satisfied because he ate his beans and carrots too :)!!!

December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving - Indian Ishtyle

At the first thanksgiving, the pilgrims gave thanks with the Indians. Being the dot, not feather, kind of Indian, I've added my own twist to each traditional dish, and each one has multiple options (I get bored easily!), which I may, or may not use each time. Here's the full meal. With preparations beginning up to 2 days in advance, it still takes me a whole morning, and into the early afternoon to make and serve the whole meal. This ain't no hurried up, quick and easy, Rugrat Chow - that's for sure!!

Turkey Do Pyaza - Decoration centrale!

Ingredients for the Rub: Use multiple of the below-mentioned recipe, depending upon the size of the bird. 
  1. 1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
  2. 3 tbsp cooking oil (canola, olive, vegetable)
  3. 2 tbsp lime juice
  4. 1 tbsp cumin powder
  5. 1 tbsp coriander powder
  6. salt and pepper, to taste. 
Ingredients for the Stuffing of the BirdThis is one of my options. I use this version, or you can stuff bird with actual bread stuffing (see below), or not stuff at all and leave the cavities empty (note: cooking times are different for stuffed and unstuffed birds!).
  1. 4 to 6 shallots, pealed and halved, if necessary.
  2. 2-3 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped. 
  3. 1 to 2 tbsp of the rub above. 
Ingredients for the Gravy: A pretty standard gravy recipe. This is perhaps the only thing in this meal that is 100% traditional.
  1. Turkey stock & drippings
  2. 1/4 to 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 tsp poultry seasoning (or 1 Wyler's chicken bouillon cube)
  4. salt and pepper (freshly ground), to taste
Thaw turkey, remove neck and giblets for stock, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Mix the rub in a large bowl and rub evenly and thickly on all the cavities. Take a piece of plastic wrap & wrap it around your index finger. Use wrapped finger to separate skin from the bird (works like a charm!!). Massage the rub under the skin, evenly and thickly. Pull skin back to keep juices in. Toss the shallots and cilantro with about 1 or 2 tbsp of the rub. Leave the neck cavity empty. Stuff the big cavity, very loosely, with shallots and cilantro. 

Turkey in the NuWave!
Place turkey on the rack. Fold neck skin under the body. Tuck wing tips under each breast and clamp or tie drumsticks together using kitchen twine. Roast in a large roasting pan (450F, lower third of the oven). Approximate calculation is about 30min/lb of stuffed turkey. There are several websites that give roast turkey calculations for stuffed and unstuffed birds. It should be cooked until a thermometer inserted into the fleshy part of the thigh or breast registers 170F. Our option is to use a NuWave oven (a big hurrah for HSN!!!!) and it works great for bird up to 14 lbs. 

Once done, lift the bird by tilting slightly to allow any juices to drip into the pan. Then, lift the bird using turkey forks, or the rack, and transfer to a serving platter. Let the bird sit on a serving platter for 30-45 minutes before carving. This helps preserve the juices. Use the drippings and juices for the gravy.

Turkey Stock:
Boil giblets, neck and liver (usually removed from the big cavity) in 2 to 3 cups of water for about an hour or two and reduce to about 1/2 or 3/4 cup. Remove solids (I use the liver, diced finely, in my bread stuffing!). Mix this stock with juices from the roasting pan and use for preparing the gravy. 

Turkey Gravy:  
Strain the turkey stock/drippings if necessary. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to boil. Reduce to medium heat. Dissolve all-purpose flour in water. Gradually whisk into the heated stock, watching the whole time for chunks. Season and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the gravy thickens. Voila!

Masaledaar Dabalroti - East-Indian Stuffing:

East Indian Stuffing
  1. 1 to 1.5 loaf of white bread (air dried overnight, and cut into 1 inch cubes)
  2. 4-6 tbsp unsalted butter
  3. 2 medium red onions - coarsely chopped (I usually cut and refrigerate these the previous evening!)
  4. 1 big bunch of celery - rinsed, cleaned and chopped (same as onion, prep work on previous evening).
  5. 1 lb mild Italian sausage (deskinned) - this is one of my options. If you use sausage, use half to a third of the quantity of butter. 
  6. 1 tbsp parsley (dry), or about 1/4 cup fresh leaves, coarsely chopped.
  7. 2 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 2 Wyler's chicken bouillon cubes)
  8. 2 eggs, beaten
  9. 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  10. 2 tsp garam masala
  11. 1 cup chicken broth
  12. salt and pepper, to taste
  13. 1/4 cup raisins, or pine nuts, or chopped walnuts/pecans (optional). I may or may not use nuts, depending upon who's attending. Allergies and other medical problems need to be accounted for ... !!
In a large pan, or dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat and add chopped onion and celery and cook until translucent. If using Italian sausage, cook separately, and transfer to the pan in which the stuffing will be prepared. Depending upon how greasy the sausage looks, adjust the amount of butter. Once onions and celery are cooked in with the sausage, add spices, stir. Add cubed bread, mix well. Add nuts or raisins (I generally skip the nuts and raisins if I'm using sausage). Moisten with chicken broth, add eggs, mix well. Transfer to a buttered casserole dish and bake, covered with aluminum foil, at 350F for 30-45 min. Then bake uncovered for about 15 min for a crisp crust. 

Stuffing the Bird: 
If you're stuffing the bird with bread stuffing, bring the stuffing to room temperature. Loosely fill both cavities (remember it expands as it cooks!). Secure neck skin after stuffing with a metal or wooden skewer. Loosely fill body cavity and cover the opening with a slice of fresh bread to hold the stuffing in place as it cooks (or it will ooze out as it cooks!).  After the bird is cooked, check the temperature of the stuffing along with the bird. If the temperature of the stuffing is <165F, its best to transfer it to a casserole dish and cook for another 15-20 minutes, to prevent any chance of uncooked juices from the bird being consumed.   

Masala Aaloo - Spicy Roasted Red Potatoes!
    Masala Aaloo
    1. 2 sacks of Russet red potatoes
    2. 1 tsp ginger/garlic paste
    3. 1 tbsp whole mustard seeds
    4. 1 tbsp McCormick's Steak Seasoning (my little cheat non-Indian ingredient!!)
    5. 1 tbsp garam masala
    6. 2 tbsp olive oil
    7. salt and pepper, to taste
    Rinse and cut potatoes into halves, or quarters, depending upon the size (with skin). In a separate pan, heat oil until sizzling and add mustard seeds (warning, mustard seeds can pop when added to hot oil, so be careful). As the aroma is released from the mustard seeds (5-15 seconds in hot oil), add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Add potatoes and toss well. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast uncovered at 350F until done. 

    Teekhee-Meethee Gajar - Spiced Candied Carrots!
      Candied Carrots
      1. 2 or 3 packs of frozen, crinkle cut, carrots. 
      2. 1/2 cup coconut milk
      3. 1 to 2 tsp Cayenne pepper
      4. 4 tbsp Brown Sugar
      5. salt, to taste
      6. Freshly chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish.
      7. 2 tsp cooking oil
      In a deep pan, heat oil and add cayenne pepper. Once the aroma is released, add coconut milk and salt and bring to a simmer. Add carrots, cook for a few minutes (do not wait for these to become fully tender, as they will become mushy in the oven). Transfer to a casserole dish, with just a little bit of the coconut milk (save the rest for later). Sprinkle brown sugar on top. Cover and set in oven at 350F until ready to serve. Check periodically to make sure they don't dry out. If needed, add more of the saved coconut milk mixture. Garnish with cilantro leaves just before serving. 

      Shakarkandi ki Sabzee - Candied Yams in Coconut Milk!
        Candied Yams
        1. 1 lb north american yams (sweet potatoes!) 
        2. 1 medium red onion, diced. 
        3. 1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
        4. 2 tbsp cooking oil
        5. 1 tsp cumin seeds
        6. 2 whole green cardamoms.
        7. 1 bay leaf
        8. 4-6 whole black peppercorns
        9. 1 inch cinnamon stick
        10. 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
        11. 1 tsp coriander powder
        12. 1 tsp garam masala
        13. 1 cup coconut milk
        14. 2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
        15. salt, to taste
        16. 4 tbsp brown sugar for topping
        Peel and dice yams into 1 inch cubes. In a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and stand for 10-15 min in the sink. Steam (boil) in ample water for about 10 min until barely soft. In a sauteing pan, heat oil and over medium heat, add cumin. Once the aroma is released, add onions and ginger/garlic paste and cook until the onions are a nice golden color. Add remaining spices. In a separate sauteing pan, heat oil and saute yams until golden brown as well. Drain excess oil on paper towels. Add coconut milk to the onion/spice mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce head and simmer for a few more minutes. Add yams, mix well (should be almost dry, but moist at this stage; do not wait for the yams to become fully tender, as they will become mushy in the oven). Transfer to a casserole dish. Sprinkle brown sugar liberally on top. Cover and set in oven at 350F until ready to serve. Check periodically to make sure they don't dry out. If needed, add 1 to 2 tbsp of coconut milk. Garnish with cilantro leaves just before serving.

        Fraans Bean Thoran - Kerela Green Beans!
          Fraans Bean Thoran
          1. 2 or 3 packs of frozen green beans (cut into 1 inch lengths or whole beans). 
          2. 1 shallot (optional)
          3. 1 to 2 tbsp cooking oil
          4. 1 tbsp whole mustard seeds
          5. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
          6. salt and pepper, to taste.
          7. 1/4 to 1/3 cup grated fresh, or frozen, coconut.
          If using whole fresh beans, cut ends and remove threads. Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil and blanch beans (add to boiling water, boil for 3-5 min, drain, and drench in ice cold water). In a sauteing pan, heat oil until sizzling and add mustard seeds (warning, mustard seeds can pop when added to hot oil, so be careful). As the aroma is released from the mustard seeds (5-15 seconds in hot oil), add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add green beans and mix well. Add half the coconut at this stage. Mix well. Transfer to a casserole dish, cover and set in oven at 250F until ready to serve. Add the rest of the grated coconut just before serving, for that extra crunch. 

          Cranberry Chutney!
            Cranberry Chutney
            1. 1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce 
            2. 1 can of jellied cranberry sauce 
            3. 1 tsp ginger/garlic paste
            4. 1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
            5. 1/4 tsp black pepper
            6. 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon.
            7. 1/2 tsp all spice
            8. 1/2 tbsp garam masala
            9. 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
            10. 1/2 orange (individual pieces peeled, and diced
            11. 1-2 inch of orange rind (finely diced)
            12. 2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
            13. 1/2 cup raisins
            14. 1 apple (diced) (optional)
            15. 1 tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)
            Combine vinegar, ginger/garlic paste, sugar and all spices in a heavy sauce pot and simmer for 10-15 min, or until only about 4 tbsp remains (Warning: boiling apple cider vinegar makes the house stink! I usually prepare this at least 2 evenings in advance, as the chutney keeps well for at least a week). Add both cranberry sauces and salt. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Add fruits, nuts (if using) and lemon juice. Simmer slowly for about 15-20 minutes. Bring to room temperature, transfer to a tupperware container and store in the fridge.

            The Final Serve:
            Here's how I progress through this dinner. I get all the sides ready and in the oven, at about 220F while the turkey is getting done. The potatoes are tossed in the spices and sitting on cookie sheets, ready to pop in the oven. Once the turkey is done, and is resting, I get the oven up to 350F and let all the precooked sides get nice and hot. After about 10 minutes, I get the gravy going (may need a second person to keep that going) and start removing the other sides out of the oven and add final garnishing touches. In go the potatoes for about 15 min. If not done in 15 min, transfer the potatoes to a microwave safe casserole dish and nuke 'em for 3-5 min to get them nice and tender. Once the potatoes are out of the oven, increase the temperature to the desired temperature for store-bought dinner rolls. While the rolls are going, get the side salad (if serving one) and salad dressing out of the refrigerator. Set butter out for the rolls, and get a bread basket ready. While the rolls are in the oven, start carving the turkey (remember to get some of the dark meet sliced as well). We usually say a prayer in thanks ... and then enjoy the spread!! I served my dinner with a couple bottles of prechilled Gerwurtraminer (and my cousin brought a couple bottles of sparkling cider which worked great as well!).   

            December 2, 2011

            Prelude to "An Indian Thanksgiving"

            So, if my blog is called 'rug rat chow' ... and my lovely adorable rug rat loves Indian food, loves traditional thanksgiving fare and loves his mama as much as she loves him, I'm guessing it is in good taste to post recipes from my Indian Style Thanksgiving!! Looking forward to preparing everything tomorrow .... !!