Homemade Indian

Heads Up: These recipes call for considerable marination time. If you’re looking for a quick recipe, you may want to check elsewhere.

J &  I love Indian food. Seriously, we love it.

The ingredients, the intense flavors and spices, the way the main dishes, sauces and side dishes sometimes taste even better when mixed together than when eaten separately. We’d probably cook Indian a couple of times a week if the recipes didn’t require as much time and effort as they usually do.

So moist and delicious.

So moist and delicious.

One Saturday night last month we tried out a couple of new recipes. I had my former roommate and her husband over for dinner and they love Indian almost as much as we do. We selected chicken makhani (butter chicken) and curry leaf potatoes, both from the amazing Washington Post food section. For our side, I also made our homemade naan.

You can find the recipe for the chicken makhani here and the curry leaf potatoes here.

These recipes proved to be less prep work than some of the previous Indian recipes we’ve tried. You can also marinade the chicken the day before, which breaks up the workload and would really intensify the flavor. We only marinated our chicken for maybe 45 minutes, and it was still delicious.

A few recommendations: Add more more chili powder if you like spice. The chicken baked to perfection at about 25 minutes, rather than the 40 the recipe said. We marinated more chicken to go with the leftover rice the next night, and without the sauce it was perfectly delicious, if you want to cut time and calories.

The potatoes were a hit as well, although we did have to compromise on some of the more obscure ingredients we couldn’t find at Whole Foods or Safeway, including the curry leaves.

I’ve used the same or similar naan recipe a few times now, and I won’t be using it again. The dough has never sufficiently risen and the consistency of the bread is too tough. It’s decent enough, but I’ll be looking around for a better option for the next time we’re craving Indian. If you’re interested in at least viewing the recipe, it can be found here.

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Best Recipes of 2011

Happy 2012!

I’m a little behind on the end-of-year listage, but better late than never. Here are our top 5 recipes of 2011! To qualify, the recipes had to be a recipe we hadn’t tried prior to 2011, so that knocked out some recipes we may have cooked more frequently. Nonetheless, these five (in no particular order) were our favs of the year:

1. Martha Stewart’s “Perfect” Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

C: A friend gushed about this recipe, and once I saw it, I knew I had to try it. I made the mac last week for dinner with a few friends. It was pretty time consuming, but definitely a cheesy indulgence when regular ole’ mac & cheese just won’t cut it.

J: It was a hard to beat recipe. C has always made great macaroni and cheese, but this one just blew so many recipes out of the water. What was even more awesome was mixing it with some of the red-eye barbeque sauce I had made for the pork loin dish. If you have people coming over, I can’t imagine a better side for a heavy meal.

2. Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

C: I never would have guessed that a non-chocolate cookie would be one of my favorite sweet treats of the year, but these were addictive.

J: I came across this recipe by accident and suggested it to C for a party. The results were gone in a second. The cookies mixed the ginger’s snappy sweetness and pumpkin’s bitterness well, resulting in a balanced tasting dessert. Once you try it, it will likely become a permanent weapon in your holiday baking arsenal.

3. Summer vegetable tostadas

C: This is a simple recipe that J and I often cooked this summer when indecisive about dinner.

J: For a lot of reasons, you really can’t go wrong with this dish. It’s delicious and versatile. I prefer zucchini while C prefers squash. What frustrates me is that whenever I do squash, the chicken comes out right. When I do zucchini, the chicken isn’t properly done. What’s great though is that this dish can be all things to everyone. Eliminate the cheese and you’ve got a great dinner on a diet. Drop the chicken and you can please vegetarians. And as I pointed out, you can do other vegetables if they are not to your liking.

4. Pioneer Woman’s Dreamy Apple Pie with Sylvia’s Blessed Pie Crust

Dreamy Apple Pie

C: This is a two-fer because the pie would not have been so delicious if it weren’t for the crust, and I’ll most likely use the crust recipe more in the future than I will the apple pie. That said, for apple pie-lovers, this one is a winner.

J: Most of the time, you can wing something in a recipe. A slight bit more of this or a little less of that. But what set this recipe apart from every other pie was undoubtedly the crust.

It was the first time I’ve ever had a home-made crust. But once you taste the difference, you’ll recognize a superiority to the same old frozen food section we’ve all come to accept as the “standard.” If you’re going to go for side-widening calories, make them good with this pie crust.

5. Shrimp Cakes with Corn-avocado salsa

C: I had completely forgotten about this, but this was J’s pick. It was delicious, but not the easiest or quickest recipe. This is slightly different than the recipe we used from a magazine, but the result should be similarly delicious.

J: Whatever you do, do not, repeat, do not attempt to make this when you’re hungry. C and I spent a couple of hours doing all the prep work. De-veining the shrimp, cutting up the ingredients, blending it, searing it, so on, so on. This is something you prepare on a summer day when you have some important guests you really want to impress, and only when you’ve got the time to do it. But it’s worth every bite.

There you have it! Our top recipes of 2011! What were your favorites this past year? What are you planning to cook in 2012?

Christmas Baking Part II

Whew. Just like that Christmas has come and gone. Each year it seems to go by even quicker than the last. Luckily, I packed in as much baking as possible when I was home in North Carolina.

Every year, my next-door neighbors hold a Christmas Eve Open House with lots of delightful brunch foods and Bloody Marys to wash everything down.

Cheddar Biscuits

Since I didn’t have much time to cook for this, I went with an old stand-by: cheddar biscuits from the How to Cook everything app. The recipe was actually for cheese straws, but it saves a lot of time if you just form them into small round biscuits.

For a family function Christmas Eve afternoon, I used a family recipe for  vegetable dip. Basically I use 16 ounces of cream cheese (softened), a shredded carrot, 1/2 small onion (chopped), a few strips of chopped green pepper, and hot sauce to taste. So simple, but so delicious!

Since my friend’s cookie exchange several weeks ago, I’ve been looking for a reason to bake candy cane biscotti that someone brought. Christmas Eve sounded like as good an excuse as any. Unfortunately, I forgot to read the last line of the directions and I didn’t put the candy cane pieces in at the right time. I ended up crushing them into the dough once I had formed the logs on the cookie sheet. They ended up okay, but not as sweet and pepperminty as I would have liked. Also, I used white chocolate chips since my Podunk grocery store didn’t have bar chocolate, and they worked fine for me, although they did harden towards the end.

Candy Cane Biscotti

Christmas Day is spent at my grandma’s house, usually at breakfast time, but it being on a Sunday this year, we headed there after church. My grandma takes care of most of the cooking (oyster stew, sausage and egg casserole, homemade ham biscuits!), but I like to bring one dish.

Last year I didn’t get a chance to go to the grocery store, so I used what we had in the fridge and I ended up with a delicious overnight eggnog french toast casserole. This year I just went with milk instead of eggnog, but the casserole turned out fantastic! I used croissants instead of brioche (see: Podunk grocery store), making it extra caloric and delicious!  My aunt also brought a crème brûlée french toast casserole, but we had so many hungry relatives, only one serving remained uneaten at the end of the day. What can I say, we love to eat!

What did you bake for this holiday season?

Christmas Baking

One of my favorite things about Christmas time is it gives me an excuse to bake. Between parties, cookie exchanges, hungry friends and co-workers, there’s always a way to use a new recipe or revisit a favorite. I think I did more baking than ever this year, and Christmas is still days away.

Here are a few of the delicious treats I baked this year.

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Treats

I tested out this recipe for triple chocolate peppermint treats on a baking day with friends a couple of weeks ago. White chocolate is not one of my favorite things (heck, it’s not even really chocolate!), but it was subtle enough in this rich chocolatey cookie.

Although they were delicious, I decided against making those for baking day. I felt there were too many steps and too many supplies needed to make them when sharing a kitchen with several other bakers.

Instead the Washington Post cookie guide came out just in the nick of time, and I ended up making salty chocolate nutella thumbprints from the ladies of Whisked! My cookies spread out (I suppose my oven or ingredients were too warm), so I resorted to spreading the nutella on top. While they may not have looked as perfect as the WaPo photo, they were the perfect mix of salty-sweet and easy to make.

My nutella thumbprints are in there somewhere

I took the cookies to a cookie exchange, and hopefully they were enjoyed by all the chocolate lovers!

A good friend gave me Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook for my birthday, so I decided to make one of the recipes for her tacky sweater party last weekend. Initially I wanted to make a chocolate spice cupcake, but ultimately I baked gingerbread cupcakes since they were more Christmasy.

The recipe suggested white frosting, but I thought brown sugar cream cheese frosting would go nicely with the cupcake. I am so glad I made the substitution! The cupcakes themselves were some of the moistest cupcakes I’ve ever tasted (possibly because I used extra-large eggs). The frosting paired perfectly with the flavors in the cupcake. I didn’t have time to type up the recipe from the cookbook, but this looks basically like the one I used.  The frosting recipe, also from Martha Stewart, is as follows:

Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar (I used dark because that’s what I had)

I also added cinnamon, vanilla, and a touch of nutmeg to bring a little more flavor to the frosting.  Just beat everything together with an electric mixer until it’s the desired consistency. You’ll probably also have some leftover.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

I’m looking forward to doing a little more baking when I’m home in NC, so I’ll try to do a Christmas Baking: Part II in the coming weeks! Happy holidays, y’all!