Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta

BowTie Pasta

I really can’t start yet another post with ” Sorry for being absent and not posting frequently”.The “Sorry” itself will¬†start a “Sorry, Not Sorry” debate in your mind ūüėČ

Really, things have been chaotic in real life. Vipul’s travels for work, my job search, me exploring other things I want to do alongside (E-book, art portfolio and lot other¬†ideas in works), debating whether to buy a house or NOT ( if so, where, how much etc), volunteering at Varun’s school, not to mention pinning ton’s of stuff for Varun’s party which is totally outsourced (the pins are just so I feel I contributed to it other than swiping my card).

Anyways, in amidst this, I found myself with orphaned egg yolks. Yet again. Pudding I salivated!

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Murgh Makhani or Restaurant Style Butter Chicken

Murgh Makhani Butter Chicken

We had friends visiting one Friday evening. They were in SF only for the evening and we had them over for dinner.

We ordered take out food as I was not up for cooking for so many folks. But I baked us a cake.The cake as luck would have it didn’t turn out well. It was nice and soft out of the oven but then fell flat and was dense. It was weird. Soft and dense.

To salvage it, I decided to serve it with some whipped cream. As in store bough whipped cream. You know,cool whip makes everything seem better.

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Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

When we lived in Redmond, Thai was our staple food. SilverSpoon and Chantanee were our favorite restaurants there.
Most of the sauces and dressings in Thai food have fish sauce and dried shrimp. But these two places made a vegetarian version with soy sauce.My parents loved Thai food there as well. Even my aunt who is a staunch Indian food lover and hasn’t taken to any other cuisines, liked Thai food at SilverSpoon when we took her out there while she was visiting.

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

This is our attempt to ward off the Sunday evening blues and make a tasty healthy salad that is vegetarian to boot.

Spicy. Salty. Sour. Slightly Sweet.

Crunchy. Colorful.

Thai Green Papaya Salad is the Salad to master all Salad’s. When the going gets tough and you crave something that’s not boring or diet food like then this is the salad to go to.

Fortunately Green Papaya is easy to come by in an Asian market. We live near Chinatown so Dad could get one easily. It probably is a GMO version from Hawaii. But I doubt I will find a green non-GMO papaya in US.

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

If you don’t find a green papaya, green apple, turnips, chayote squash or even cucumber are excellent substitutes.

The sweet, sour and spicy dressing can be customized per taste. Supposedly, leftovers taste even better but we never have had any to confirm!

I served the salad with lemon garlic shrimp. It was a great dinner salad that we could have  over and over again. Even Dad was big fan!

Give it a try this week. It’s bound to make your spring even more colorful!

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad

Vegetarian Thai Green Papaya Salad Recipe

For the Salad 

  • 3 cups grated green papaya ( peeled and de-seeded)
  • 1/2 cup blanched green beans cut into 1 inch segments
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 – 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 8 – 10 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring onion greens

For the Dressing

  • 1/3 – 1/2 ¬†cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup coarsely ground dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoon finely grated jaggery or palm sugar
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon sriracha sauce¬†
  • 1 – 2 thai green chili minced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon spring onion whites finely minced
  • Salt to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients of the dressing in a bowl and set aside.

Start with smaller amounts of lemon juice, thai chilli, sriracha sauce and jaggery/palm sugar. Taste and adjust for sweet/spicy/sour notes.

2. In a large bowl, add the grate green papayas and green beans. Lightly pound them with a pestle ( or a rolling-pin or back of a heavy spoon) till they are bruised but not broken into a pulp. This allows the papayas and beans to “soak” the dressing as without it the salad is pretty bland.

3. Then add the mung bean sprouts, carrots, tomatoes and spring onions.

4. Add the dressing and toss it till well mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings again. You may need to add more lemon juice, sriracha sauce , jaggery/palm sugar and/or salt.

Let sit for a few minutes for the flavors to meld.

Serve with garlicky shrimp or chicken. Nom! Nom!

 

Dubai Adventures: Desert Safari

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One of the most popular things to do in Dubai is to go out in the evening for desert safari. Depending on the tour operator that you choose to go with, it includes dune bashing, sand skiing, camel rides, dinner in the desert with belly dancing, henna painting etc.Dune bashing was the highlight of the trip. Vipul couldn’t stop raving about it. I skipped as it was too much for my 28 week pregnant self to handle and of course I didn’t want Varun to partaking in it either. The ride is crazy rough (how crazy depends on your driver).

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We booked the tour after we reached Dubai and went with Arabian Nights. Apparently more exclusive (read expensive) tour operators take you out to a conservation area to talk about desert conservation, bedouin lifestyles, falconry etc, but this tour was a pure “entertainment”.Even though it is evening safari, we were picked up from our hotel around 3:00 pm and then dropped off by 9:30 pm.They dropped Varun and me at the desert camp and went with others to the dune bashing area. They were still setting up the camp so Varun and I wandered around the small dunes, watching camels and sunset from a ridge.

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Vipul loved the sand bashing part – roller coaster rides amongst dunes so high that it was impossible to keep up. He only got a sense of how vast the desert is when they stopped for sunset photo ops. The sunset watching area was crowded with all tour operators descending on the same spot for sunset and then whisking the tourists away to various camps for dinner.

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As Varun and I were at the camp before everyone else, we bagged some prime seats. After sunset, it began to cool a bit and the freshly made shwarma and falafel were what we needed. Even Varun enjoyed the falafel and freshly baked bread from tandoor.

Fortified, we went out to try the camel ride ( a joke of a 2 minute ride), henna painting, seeing the falcon and trying the sand skiing.

Over dinner, we got to see an amazing Tanoura  dance. Although not local to the area, the Tanoura dancers are a sight to watch. With their colorful long flowing skirts they twirl around at dizzying speeds. The origin of the dance is in Sufi tradition and is to symbolize union between Earth and Heaven with the twirling motion indicating seasons, movement of earth around Sun as well as around Mecca. Here the whole act was to entertain us tourists and earn a living. Maybe some day when we go to Egypt we will experience the dance the way it is intended to be. But for now, it got us hooked!

Tanoura Dancer Dubai

Tanoura Dancer Dubai

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Followed by the Tanoura dance was a belly dance – again not a regional dance but something to keep us entertained. She was good as belly dancers go. Folks milled around over food, Arabic coffee, sheesha while the belly dancer entertained.

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The good part about the camp setup was that the sheesha hut was setup away from the main seating area. So we were not bothered by the smoke. And other family friendly activities like henna painting, sand art, dressing up in local garb, souvenir shop etc were away from sheesha hut.

After dinner and entertainment, we headed back to our hotel. It was about an hours ride away. Folks we shared the car with were sloshed and slept all the way. Varun didn’t want to come back. He was happy playing in the sand and digging up a storm while we had dinner. Needless to say there was some crying involved but he slept en-route as he was tired to.

If you have one day in Dubai, do this tour. There is nothing more entertaining and adventurous than this! And of course this is what everyone back home will ask you about (besides Al Burj) ;)!!

Baked Basil Pesto Chicken Breast with Spanish Rice

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One of the first few things that we cooked in our apartment post the move, is basil pesto chicken with spanish rice. A staple at our house, this is one complete meal that can be cooked in about 30 – 40 mins. Its rich with veggies, protein and is gluten-free.

It comes together with the starter ingredients listed in my previous post on setting up a new kitchen. Leftovers make a flavorful lunch the next day.Serve with a green salad to add more veggies or with some garlic bread and wine to make it more festive.

Note:

1. Cooking time will vary based on rice used. Jasmine rice will cook faster than brown rice or basmati rice. Follow the timing instructions from the rice packet.

2. Rice to liquid ratio will also vary by the kind of rice used. Basmati rice uses 1: 2 while jasmine needs 1: 1 1/4. Follow this proportion from the rice cooking instructions. For drier rice, use 1/4 cup less liquid than mentioned on the directions.

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Baked Basil Pesto Chicken Recipe 

  • 2 Chicken breasts thawed and cut into 1 – 2 inch cubes

For Marinade

  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley (dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For Baking 

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon pesto sauce

1. Marinade the chicken breasts with all the ingredients listed above and set aside for at least 15 mins. You can use the time to make and prep the Spanish Rice ( recipe below).

2. Preheat the oven to 350 F ( 180 C).

3. Grease an oven safe dish with olive oil. Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto over it. Layer the chicken over the pesto taking care not to overlap them. Spread the remaining pesto over the chicken.

Wrap foil over the baking dish.

4. Bake for 10 – 11 mins. Test with a fork to ensure juicy but cooked chicken.

Serve warm.

Spanish Rice Recipe

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely diced garlic
  • 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper finely chopped
  • 2-3 brocollini florets finely chopped ( including their stems)
  • 1 roma tomato finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups – 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • Salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a pot and add garlic. Once the garlic sizzles ( but is not brown yet), add onion. Cook till the onion is translucent for about 2 mins.

2. Add pepper and brocollini and sauté them for  a minute. Then add the roma tomato. Cook for another 2- 3 minutes till the tomatoes cook and wilt.

3. Add rice and sauté for another minute allowing rice to cook in the juices from the veggies.

4. Now add the chicken stock. or water. Add paprika and salt to taste. Stir well. Cook on medium flame for about 10 minutes till rice is cooked.

Serve warm.

Enjoy!