Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pasta with carbonara sauce, vegetables and spinach

I am a pasta lover and so are my kids. Earlier I used to just buy them and never tried to cook them at home. Then the day I decided to cook it for the first time, I just bought a ready-to-use pasta sauce and some pasta and made it since making everything from scratch sounded daunting and elaborative. It was good but since I always preferred to avoid buying ready-to-cook items, be it curries or desserts, I wanted to give it a shot. So I decided to make it all by myself. But after reading a number of recipes from the internet, I was totally confused when I was about to start cooking. So I tried out my own recipe, partially based on random recipes from the internet. Basically the carbonara sauce I made might not be truly carbonara. But the end result was delicious! Also, it was very easy to cook, surprisingly! Since then, I cook it once a week and it makes a good lunchbox food for all of us.

Okay, now to the recipe. The ingredients to be used would be :

  • Pasta of your choice - as required (I cooked about 500 gm)
  • Baby spinach leaves -  as required - cleaned
  • Carrot - 1, grated
  • Celery - 3-4 small chunks
  • French beans - 2-3 cut
  • Cherry tomatoes - 3-4
  • Onion - 1
  • Garlic cloves - 3
  • Red chilly flakes
  • Egg - 1 (this can be avoided if not required. It is usually added to make it creamy)
  • Milk - half cup
  • Melted butter - more than half cup
  • Cheese as required
  • All purpose flour - half cup (but I use wheat floor these days - just being health-conscious for a bit)
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Fresh parsley leaves for seasoning (As I didn't have this at home, I used dried parsley leaves)

Method :
  1. Add pasta in heavily salted boiling water. Make sure it is fully immersed. Leave it for 7-8 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Make sure it is not over-cooked and stays al dente as the Italians call it. Then drain it and keep it aside. Save 1/4 cup of water used to cook pasta as it might be required later.
  2. Pre-heat the oven for 5 minutes to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  3. Grind onion, carrot, celery, beans, garlic and red chilly flakes together.
  4. Then add the cherry tomatoes and grind the veg mixture further to make it like a paste.
  5. Heat a pan and add butter
  6. Once the butter melts, add the all-purpose flour and stir it for 2 minutes
  7. Add milk and then black pepper and salt (and dried parsley leaves if being used) while stirring until it is creamy. Set it aside.
  8. Add a little bit butter (or olive oil) in the pan and add the vegetable mixture prepared and stir it for a minute.
  9. Beat the egg and add it to the pan and mix it well.
  10. Next step is baking in the oven : Add baking sheet and then spread the pasta and pour the cream and veg mixture and mix all of them. Add the baby spinach leaves and mix it in. Add the saved water with which pasta was cooked if it is too dry. Cover it with baking sheet/aluminium foil and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees.
Note : When I cooked it for the first time, I did not use the oven. I simply cooked in the pan by keeping it covered.

Serving suggestions: 
  • Drizzle fresh parsley leaves and pine nuts while serving
  • For my lunchbox, I add some salad leaves and some salt and pepper on it to add nutritive value. Sometimes I drizzle the salad leaves with olive oil if it feels too dry.
Bon appetit!


Monday, October 19, 2015

Vegetable and couscous salad

This is my first recipe being posted in my blog. So it might be worthy to have a quick reading about my cooking style in my previous post.

So this recipe is one of my favourites. It is very easy and nutritious. Some ingredients required for a meal to serve 2-3 :

  • Couscous - 3/4 cup
  • 1 Red onion (chopped)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Some chopped vegetables that want to add - I used carrots, beans, cherry tomatoes, green capsicum
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 
  • 2-3 red chillies (optional)
  • Salt (optional)
Veggies and Couscous salad

 Procedure :

  1. In a hot pan, add a bit of olive oil and then cumin seeds (and red chillies if required).
  2. After few seconds, add the chopped red onions and stir for a minute
  3. Add the chopped vegetables and stir for 2-3 minutes
  4. Add couscous to the veggies and mix them well and stir for few seconds
  5. Add water so that the contents are "just" immersed in water and close the lid and leave it for 5 minutes
  6. Fluff up couscous with a fork and if you want to cook it more, add water as necessary and leave it for some more time.
Serving suggestions:

The beauty of this dish is that it can be served in two ways :
* Mediterranean style - Squeeze a bit of orange on the salad and serve.
* Indian style - Add some freshly chopped coriander and serve. This recipe reminds of that of traditional sooji or rava "upma" and can be prepared similarly although will taste a bit different.

Bon appétit !


My cooking strategy

I am a working mother with 2 year old twins. So you must imagine the fast pacing life I must be having. Most people in a similar scenario cook in bulk for the week. But I don't like the idea of consuming 5 day old food personally although it is very much tempting to do so just for the sake of saving some time for resting after the kids are asleep.
So I resort to cooking only two meals for the day and I cook mostly in the evenings- one for dinner for the night and one meal for packing lunch for the next work day. So I restrict myself to easy recipes for the workdays and leave the complex ones for the weekend. Breakfast is mostly prepared just before consuming and so I plan for only simple food in the morning which need zero planning in advance.

What I realized is that it is very hard to find recipes of quick and easy meals that are suitable for me in one place. Of course there are some books that offer to give such recipes but most often they involve more work than advertised or simply use a lot of ready-made ingredients which I don't generally prefer. I try to make the dishes simple and tasty and avoid too many artificial and ready-made stuff - to make myself clear - I am a person who prefers buying fresh fruits over frozen fruits, fresh meat and seasoning it myself over pre-seasoned meat, etc - you get what I mean? At the same time I try to balance by buying certain stuff instead of making them from scratch - for example, I buy whole grain pasta instead of trying and making one. So there is quite a bit of balancing act involved here.

I will try and post some of the recipes of quick meals I make on a day-to-day basis. I am not an expert and so there might be better ways to cook the same food I make. But my motive is to convey the recipes that worked for me and my family so you can base your cooking out of it and also work around it to make it suitable for your own taste-buds. Please remember to post it back in the comments if you think it turned out well. I am open to experiments and suggestions.

Watch this space for some simple cooking recipes...


Thursday, October 15, 2015

What I have been upto...

Looking at a lot of old photographs, I realized that I am not the same person as I was 5 years ago. I believe I am stronger now and I have never felt more alive before; Thanks to all my ups and lows in recent years which I think should be the reason for this feeling. Well I suppose there comes a time when every person in the planet has this sort of realization. Here are my lessons -

* Travelling is the best treat of life. Meeting new people with different cultural background can teach few of life's greatest lessons. I think I became a lot open-minded than before after meeting a lot of interesting people.
The 12 Apostles

* Learn to say "No". I have noticed a lot of us, especially women, try hard to align with the so-called social rules. I used to be one such person who tried so hard to satisfy a lot of people. But then I realized it is never possible to convince everyone as there is always someone who is unhappy with any decision I make.
Mind your own business
* Learn to accept everyone's flaws including my own. This is easily said than done. I am still working on this one but it gives a lot of peace when I try to accept things the way they are and move forward.

But don't kill anyone out of frustration

* Finally, eat and sleep well even if the world is falling apart.

but not at the same time

It has been a while since I have been actively updating my blog. But I hope to do some posts on cooking some easy recipes in the coming days. Watch this space!