10 December 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies

DRY INGREDIENTS (measure first, and whisk together)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt (optional; usually, peanut butter has salt, so you can skip this if you want)

WET (microwave for 1 minute)
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter (lightly spray your measuring cup with cooking spray OR grease it with oil to make the peanut butter come out easier)
1 TB vanilla extract (if it's the really potent fancy stuff, you can use 1 tsp; I just like a lot of vanilla)
3 TB water OR coconut milk OR juice
1 tsp shortening (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Mix together the dry ingredients until combined. Whisk together so that you know all the baking soda is evenly distributed.

Combine the wet ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave for a minute. Beat the ingredients around for a bit until they're all combined. Add the dry to the wet, about 1/3 cup at a time. Mix thoroughly.

Drop by 1 1/2 TB spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 11 minutes on the middle lower part of the oven (not all the way at the bottom, but towards the bottom).

THE COOKIES WILL FALL APART EASILY IF YOU TAKE THEM OFF THE TRAY NOW. Don't take them off the tray until they're cooled.

Yield: 21 cookies. You will need 3 baking trays, because they'll only fit about 7 comfortably on the tray. Let cool on the tray itself for at least 10 minutes. Eat

Based on the recipe written by Blissful Basil, found here: http://blissfulbasil.com/2013/10/06/soft-and-tender-peanut-butter-cookies-vegan-and-gluten-free/

Substitute out 2/3 cup of the flour for rolled oats, or ground rolled oats.
Add in 1/3 cup of coconut flour, and remove 1/3 cup of AP flour.
Add in 1 tsp almond extract.
Add in 1/2 cup of crushed roasted unsalted peanuts.

23 November 2014


Hi all! Today we're going into the foods you can make at Thanksgiving, whether you take it with you, make it for your own home, or suggest it to others.

Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs potatoes, boiled until tender
2 cups coconut milk (full fat)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender. Mash them up slightly, until it's where you want it. Add the coconut milk, a little at a time, until it's as much as you like. Taste for seasoning. Season as desired.

Butternut Squash
Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Place it on a parchment, foil, wax paper, or silicon baking mat lined baking sheet. Set the oven to 350F. Bake for 45 minutes - 2 hours (depending on how long it takes you to remember that you have butternut squash in there. You don't need to preheat the oven.

Brussels Sprouts
1 lb Brussels sprouts
3 TB vegetable oil
3 tsp seasonings of your choice: sage, rosemary, cumin, coriander, fennel seed, garam masala, caraway seed (crushed), thyme (mix the seasonings in whatever combination you want)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Remove the stem ends of the sprouts. Toss in oil, and sprinkle on the seasonings. Toss to combine. Bake on a parchment lined sheet for 45 minutes.

10 November 2014

Storing kale

Today in the podcast, I talk about how to store kale.

15 October 2014

Breading without eggs

Today, we tackle the question of how to get a breading onto a thing without using eggs. Hopefully this helps some of you out.

12 October 2014


Gorgeous mornings call for waffles.

Serves 3 - 4, depending on how big your waffle iron is. DO NOT MAKE THIS WITHOUT THE RESTING TIME.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 TB sugar

1 cup almond milk + 1 TB white vinegar
2 TB chia seeds, or ground flax seed
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Sift together the all purpose flour, rice flour, salt, and sugar. Add more sugar if you like a sweeter waffle.

In a bowl, combine almond milk, vinegar, and chia seeds. Whisk well, until the liquid gets frothy. You can use an electric beater, but it'll probably make a mess if you're not careful. Add the oil, and whisk it through.

While whisking constantly, add the dry ingredients to the wet. VERY IMPORTANT: LET SIT FOR 30 MINUTES AT LEAST. The rice flour needs time to hydrate. The chia seeds need time to swell up and stuff. If you're using flax seeds, they need time to hang out too. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.

Yes, you can combine all the things, and let it set overnight if you want. If you don't have almond milk, apple juice will do the job. Just cut back on the sugar.

When the batter has finished resting, measure out and sift the baking powder and baking soda over a piece of paper. Sprinkle it evenly onto the surface of the batter. Fold through with a spatula. Spray your waffle iron with oil, or brush it on, or do whatever you do to get the fat onto the waffle iron. Ladle on the batter into your waffle iron.

Mine took like 4 minutes or so. 

08 October 2014


Very short one today, because about 1/2 way into the recording, my head started pounding in screaming pain. Apologies. Going to go lie down. I didn't want to deny you the dubious joy of listening to me ramble.

07 October 2014

Soy-free mushroom stir-fry

I'm out of soy sauce. I'm also out of noodles. I have pasta, but not those quick-cooking noodles like you find at the Chinese market. I have ginger, but it's seen better days. I have it soaking in a bowl of water in my fridge. I was in the mood for a stir-fry, but didn't feel like going to the market. I have to be downtown anyway on Thursday, and I'd sooner do it all at once then.

I know that there are those of you who can't (or won't?) eat soy. This is one of those times when I won't be asking you to buy a weird ingredient to substitute the taste of soy sauce, because the mushrooms have a ton of taste on their own. This recipe is important to follow pretty closely. If you increase the amounts, it doesn't work so well.

5 - 7 large white button mushrooms, cut into large chunks (this is important)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (not the kind in the vinegar; if you don't have fresh, use a few shakes of garlic powder)
2 tsp grated ginger (if you don't have fresh, skip it)
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 TB peanut oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 of a small onion, sliced into slivers
1/2 a small carrot, sliced into rounds
1/3 cup water, reserved
2 cups rice
Salt, to taste (IMPORTANT to add salt)

Heat a wide shallow skillet (or wok, preferably) over highest heat. When it gets hot, add the oil, and the mushrooms in rapid succession. Furiously toss the mushrooms around, so that they get evenly coated in oil. Let the mushrooms sizzle and squeak like mad. They will begin to get a very dark brown crust on them. If they don't, your heat is too low, or your pan is too crowded. This only works when the mushrooms have plenty of room to jump around the pan. This initial step will give the flavour for the rest of the dish, so don't skimp on this step.

Add the garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, onion, carrot, and sesame oil (in that order), and toss to cook through. When the pan gets too dry, splash in about 1 - 3 TB of water, to loosen things up a bit. This will not only prevent your food from sticking like mad, but also distribute the mushroomy flavour throughout. Add the rice, and toss through.

Salt to taste, and toss through. Adjust seasoning as needed.

If you have them (I don't) garnish with chopped scallions.

What I love about this version is that you don't have to work hard to get that good taste through the food. I know it's extremely simple in the flavour department, but it tasted pretty awesome. The version I made didn't even have the ginger or the carrots OR the sesame oil. It was just the onion and mushroom with rice (and a bit of cayenne). So tasty.

01 October 2014

Podcast Episode 4: Sick food

Today, I'm not feeling well at all, so I ramble on about food to make when you're feeling sickly.

Cabbage Soup
1 1/2 lbs cabbage, chopped
1 TB canola oil
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp sesame seed
1 large onion, diced
1 green chilie pepper, chopped (with or without seeds)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 litres water, boiling
3 TB grated ginger

In a deep pot, add the oil, and heat it over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and sesame seeds. When they pop, add the chilie pepper and onion. Stir well until the onions are softened. Add turmeric powder, and stir through. Add the cabbage, and stir-fry for around 10 seconds or so. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Add the ginger. Continue to boil until the cabbage is the desired tenderness.

- To thicken, blend in a blender: 1 cup of cooked rice, and 1 cup of the broth from the soup (if cabbage comes along for the ride with the broth, it's OK). Add 2 - 3 cups of cooked rice to the pot, and bring to the boil.
- 3 - 5 cloves of chopped garlic, added in with the onions would not go amiss!
- If you have the energy to do so, some frozen peas are a lovely addition (add in the last minute of cooking)

25 July 2014

I am eating well, Amma. I promise you.

My cousin came over tonight along with an old family friend. I made dinner for us.

27 June 2014

What to buy your cook friend for a gift.

No this is not angling for someone to buy me some of these items. However, I frequently get complaints from friends who like to cook. They go something like this:

"Hey Dino, my birthday's coming up!"
"That's great, (friend)! I hope you have a good time when your family and friends come over."
Fast forward to a few weeks later.
"Hey Dino. The birthday was a lot of fun, but now I have a whole bunch of garbage I have to get rid of somehow."
"Huh? Didn't you ask people not to bring gifts?"
"Yes, but my (well-meaning relative/friend) knows I love to cook, so they got me _________."

Here are some examples of the _________ that said friend of mine (or I) would find utterly useless:
- Electronic gadgets of all shapes and stripes that take up counter space, unless you know that the person specifically wanted that specific thing that you bought. This means that those electric ______ cookers are likely to be garbage. If it's an electric "sandwich cooker", an electric "pancake cooker", electric "cupcake maker" (no I'm serious; this is actually a thing), electric "doughnut maker", or other such thing which is basically two surfaces that get hot, it's likely going to end up in the closet, gathering dust. There are rare (very rare) exceptions to this rule, which I will go over.

- Knife sets. These are not only a waste of perfectly good steel on something that will promptly go dull in five minutes flat, but also a waste of money. A good cook will use maybe two knives at the most. One will be the chef's knife, which gets used all the time. One will be a serrated knife, which gets pulled out to cut bread. Aside from that, the paring knives, the vegetable knives, and all the other random knives that come in a set rarely get used. In my years of cooking, I've reached for a paring knife all of once, and that was to cut open a box. Avoid them like the plague.

- Cookware sets, UNLESS you know that the person specifically wants it. Anyone who likes cooking will have specific needs for their cookware. For me, I like relatively heavy bottomed pots, because most of my cooking involves things that can stick to the bottom. I don't make a lot of pasta or noodles, where the thinner stock pots with much larger sizes are good, because they boil the water much faster than my heavy pots. I've got my pressure cooker for heavy duty jobs, and I tend to use small pots for the rest of it. The total amount of pots and pans I use on a regular basis is 4: 1 cast iron skillet, 1 pressure cooker, 1 wok, 1 saucepan. Aside from that, I like having access to (but don't require) a stock pot as well. Even then, I can use my pressure cooker as a stock pot. If you get me cookware, I likely won't have space for it, and won't be able to use it.

- While I'm here, let me just discourage any kind of gadget that's meant to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. Those little mini choppers? They're useless, because anything that needs to be chopped in that quantity can be handled with a knife. An electric can opener is a bacterial disaster waiting to happen. Those pressing chopper things are equally garbage. The blades bend, and the thing becomes useless after the first time.

So what DO you get your cooking friend (aside from that Cusinart food processor, Kitchenaid stand mixer, or Vita-Mix blender)? Hopefully the following list will help guide you in shopping for a friend who enjoys cooking. This is NOT a comprehensive list. Let me know if you see something you would like that would fit this theme.

Silicon Baking Mats Anyone who cooks, even people who don't bake, loves the silicon baking mats, because they are durable, useful, and very easy to clean. You line your baking sheet with it, and your vegetables, cookies, or whatever else you want will lift right off of it without adding extra fat to the mats! They last for years, but do get discoloured and ugly, so people who know about them love them, and those who don't grow to love them.

Wooden Spoon but only this kind. Avoid the flimsy ones. They break, and get thrown away. You want this heavy duty kind, because wooden spoons are a pleasure to use when cooking. Unlike metal, which gets hot, wood can rest in the pot, and be OK.

Silicon Heat-Resistant Spatulas I reach for these almost every day, if not every day. They're inexpensive, and the shape of the head is such that it will reach all the way to the bottom of your dish that you're trying to scrape out. I've managed to get the last bits of peanut butter out of the jar with this spatula. My spice mixes never sit in the pan when I use this. It gets out every bit of oil, spice, and everything else. It's heat-resistant, so I can use it with my nonstick cookware to stir, or to flip pancakes and the like. I will always be happy to get these, because I love them so.

Amco Swing-Away Can Opener The absolute best can opener I have ever used. It opens cans, and can be put in the dishwasher with no trouble. Really, this is all you need. Even if someone has a can opener like this one, it will be loved to have a backup.

The Last Peeler You'll Buy Not really. They do go blunt after about four years or so, but for the price, they're well worth it. Something about using a brand new OXO peeler is just a pleasure. It makes you want to go out and peel things just because you can. It glides right through the skin, and you're left with perfectly peeled fruit or vegetables. Every other peeler I've used has been shoddily made, and dulls rather quickly. This is the only one I like.

Scissors Always handy to have around, even outside of the kitchen, and this particular brand is very sharp and long-lasting.

Side Towels These are useful, and can be endlessly customisable. You can get as nice or as inexpensive as you want, and they're something that really helps out around the kitchen.

Tongs But this particular set. So many are hard on the hands, and a pain to use. These are a dream.

Microplane This is one of those tools that every cook likes to have at least one of, because they're so useful for so many things. Nothing grates nutmeg quite so nicely. Ginger goes through very finely, and with no fibrous strings. Garlic comes out in delicate threads that disappear within a dressing. Chocolate comes out as these fine thin shavings that float atop your desserts. When you zest a citrus fruit, run the microplane over the fruit, and not the other way around. It'll go much more quickly. They also go dull after about a year or so of use, so having a fresh sharp one is always handy.

Winco Whisks Best I've ever used, and ever so handy to have around in all different sizes.

Slightly more expensive gifts 
Anti Fatigue Mats Nobody whom I've known who owns a set of these goes a day without using them. They make your back feel so much nicer when standing on them versus on the bare floor.

Waffle Iron/Griddle This is the one exception to the "don't buy a thing with two hot surfaces that meet to make a random thing" rule. Why? Because it's really small, can double as a panini press, a griddle upon which to make pancakes, and the plates reverse to make waffles. EVEN THEN, I would still strongly suggest you ask the person if they'd like something like it, because chances are that they already have a favourite pan that they'd use for those same purposes.

Peugeot Pepper Mill Literally the best pepper mill I've ever used. The grind size is very easy to set, and the filling mechanism is a magnet that locks onto the top of it. Nothing has done such a good job as this one, and I've tried them all.

21 February 2014

Found some photos

I found a bunch of family photos from way back when, and was about to take some to school with me to scan and upload, so I can share with you all. That's not going to happen.

The photos all suck.

Horrible lighting, no lighting, no subject, off centre, random parts cut off, and in general, random. They're supposed to give memories of the event itself, but I can't remember any of it.

On the one hand, I feel like I'm spoilt by the incredibly good cameras we carry on our phones. You can align everything quickly, and get a shot in no time. On the other hand, I feel like spending all that time taking photos was an utter waste. It really didn't help retain any of those memories. The stories, however, did.

Maybe it's time to stop obsessing over documenting every moment of every day, and just enjoy the days as they come?

02 February 2014

30 January 2014

Study break snack

I was a bit hungry after studying since 6:30 this morning. Made a snack with a bit of tofu, green beans, curry leaves, and standard spices of mustard seed, cumin seed, and turmeric. Really good. Back to work for me!

29 January 2014

Cooking on weekends

I cook on weekends when I have extra time, because it means that during the week, I can just reheat things, and get back to studying. Here we have basmati rice, aloo gobi, and daal.

26 January 2014

Sooji for Upma in the Oven


Closeup of the grain

After 10 minutes, closeup. Notice the slightly darker colour of the individual grains.

Notice how the whole looks the same as the original. You have to look closely to see the subtle colour change. 

Stir to redistribute the darker browned bits around the edges with the paler bits on the insides. 

Notice the clumping? This is normal. It will go away with more roasting. 

Stir, stir, stir. Then, put back in oven for 5 more minutes. 

Tada! Roasted. 

Upma. Supposedly a simple, quick dish. Lies. It's not a simple dish if you have to stand there roasting sooji for the rest of your natural life. It is the task that I dislike the most when making Indian food: roasting endlessly. 

For sooji, put the stuff onto a cookie sheet in as thin a layer as possible. For a 4 lb bag, you should need about four home sized cookie trays (or two trays twice). Shake the pans gently to get the sooji in an even layer. 

Bake at 200ºC (around 390ºF) for 10 minutes. Stir well to redistribute the browner edge bits with the paler inside bits. Bake an additional 5 minutes.


25 January 2014


I wanted to treat myself to a nice meal, but can't really afford to eat at a restaurant. I aced my quiz from last week, and got a 100% score on it (I missed a point, but managed to make it up with the bonus question). In front, there is basmati rice with chana masala. In the back left is dry roasted potatoes with cumin, sesame, and mustard seed. The back right is cucumber raita. It's so thick because I strained both my soy yoghurt, and the cucumbers of excess liquid.

15 January 2014

More pongal rambling

Thai Pongal, which is the Tamil harvest festival, is (and I suspect always has been) my favourite holiday. Over the years, I've tasted many types of pongal. I'll say it right now: sweet pongal sucks. I hate it. There's something about having a giant bite of rice, and getting a shock to the system with this overwhelming sugar bomb that just turned me off of the stuff. Mind you, I don't care for sweets as a general rule, but chakkarai pongal (literally, sugar pongal) is horrible stuff. Absolute boatloads of sugar (usually jaggery, aka unrefined brown sugar), cardamom, cashews, raisins, and just a bit more sugar for good measure. Ugh.

That said, savoury pongal is a symphony of lovely things. You get the cumin seeds, the beans, the rice, the curry leaves, plenty of ground black pepper, and (in my house anyway) LOADS of freshly grated ginger. Amma's pongal will always be the best one, no matter how many times I've made it myself. It's not that the recipe is wildly different. Nor is it that the technique is all that different. I didn't learn how to make pongal on the Internet. I learned it by watching my mother. It's just something about your amma's pongal that you'll always love.

Even though I love hers, my own pongal is pretty amazing too. I'm a fair bit less shy with the fat, and I add a generous dose of sesame seeds, and roasted cashews. I love a bowl of piping hot pongal with a good helping of cold coconut chatni. I've had pongal made with moong daal, tuvar daal, split peas (yellow, of course), and even once with black eyed peas. They've all been delicious.

Much like the American thanksgiving, you get together with family and friends, eat plenty of food, and give thanks to the sun, the Earth, and each other for all the good things in life. It's a happy time, where you celebrate all that life has to offer. Frankly, I can think of few things as joyous as a bowl of pongal.

It's also a time to get rid of the old and bring in the new. This doesn't just apply to worn out clothes or other physical things. It also means that you take the time to really reflect on ideas and thoughts that are holding you back, and renew good things in life. You apologise for your transgressions against others, and forgive them for their transgressions against you. It's the time of year when you celebrate your joy in just being alive, and the simple pleasures.

I sent out an email yesterday to reconcile with a very important person. Fortunately, that person felt the same way. We decided to try again, and put the past behind us. I'm not a superstitious (or, to be honest, a religious) person. However, I think that putting myself in the mindset of the Pongal celebration helped to facilitate my new beginnings.

In case you missed the celebration yesterday, don't despair! Today is the second day of Pongal. You've got two more days after today. Go! Make pongal! Throw away your old, destructive thoughts, and bring in fresh ones that help you realise how wonderful it is to be on this planet. Share food with your loved ones. Share good stories, good times, and good wishes with everyone you meet. Celebrate!

14 January 2014


There are few things that remind me of the best parts of childhood like Pongal. It's that time of year again when South Indians the world over will make a batch and eat it.

This time, I didn't have any fresh ginger on hand, so I skipped it. I can buy some later when I hit up the market. I do have, however, boatloads of freshly ground black pepper, and curry leaves from the garden. In they both went!

I had some leftover avocado (I know that it's rare for that to happen, but it did), so I made a quick salad of chopped onion, tomato, avocado, and cucumber. I tossed it with lemon juice and ate it on the side. I've been having this insane craving for raw vegetables, so I'm happily complying with what my body is asking for.

Happy Pongal!