Category Archives: Starters & Snacks

Pumpkin Seeds [revisited]

We made them again!! They turned out even better this time around. And in this batch, I cornered off part of the baking sheet and sprinkled garam masala on them, and they are delicious!! The original post with the recipe can be found here. Enjoy them! They are perfect this time of year :)

Baked samosas

I love samosas. They’re probably my favorite appetizer in all of Indian cuisine. And while they’re so delicious, they’re also oily because they’re usually deep fried. I knew there had to be a way to make them so they weren’t as unhealthy and when I saw my new favorite Food Network star prepare them with puff pastry, I knew I had to try it!

I considered using phyllo dough, but the problem I have with that is that it’s too delicate and I thought it might be too hard to roll up. That and they’d be TOO flaky and I’m not big on the flaky. I’m not the biggest fan of Spanikopita, so puff pastry it is!

It took some time to make, but it was well worth it.

Here’s what you’ll need:
•2 sheets puff pastry – let them thaw completely
•2-3 Russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
•1/4 cup frozen peas
•1 teaspoon garam masala
•1 teaspoon cumin seeds
•1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
•1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
•1/2 teaspoon chili powder
•1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
•1/2 tablespoon ginger, grated
•2 tablespoons water
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•Salt to taste

Cut, peel and boil the potatoes until fork tender, then drain them. Return them to the pot and mash them a little. Heat up olive oil in a large, deep skillet and wait for it to heat up. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and red pepper flakes and let them heat up in the oil. Add the potatoes and stir well. Add the turmeric, garam masala, chili powder and salt. Grate the ginger over top, then stir and if it looks too dry, you can add the water. Let it cook about 5-8 minutes and then add the frozen peas.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF and spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Once the potato filling has cooled a bit, you’re ready to build the samosas! Roll out one puff pastry sheet and then using a medium-size bowl (about 6 inches in diameter) cut a circle into the pastry sheet. Then cut the circle in half so you have two semi-circles.

Lay one of the semi-circles down so the curved part is nearest you. Water the edges of the puff pastry with your finger (this will help seal it). Take about a tablespoon or so of filling and place in the center of the circle-half. Grab one end and fold it over and then the other end and fold it over that, so it forms a little triangle. Grab the bottom and fold it up so it will help seal it. Seal all the edges and using a fork or your fingers, crimp them so they stay shut.

Continue doing this until you get about 8-10 samosas. You can brush them with an egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 tablespoon of water), sprinkle with salt on top and then bake for 15 minutes at 425ºF. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375º and bake another 5 minutes.

Serve hot with your favorite chutney (mint and coriander, or tamarind chutneys are my favorite), or eat it plain! Bottom line, is that it’s flaky but not overwhelming, and extremely flavorful and delicious!

Caprese Salad

The colors of Italy never looked so good! This super simple, and very popular salad is one I love anytime of year. However, having this salad in the summer with fresh ingredients is how I like it best.

What you’ll need:
•1 tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
•Fresh mozzarella, sliced in to 1/4-thick slices
•9 fresh basil leaves
•Balsamic vinegar
•Olive oil
•Sea salt
•Freshly ground black pepper

You’ll need three slices of tomato and three slices of the fresh mozzarella. Layer tomato, mozzarella, two basil leaves until you have a little stack.
Take the remaining basil leaves, roll them up, and slice them (chiffonade) into ribbons. Sprinkle that on top, along with a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. It’s as simple as that!

Indian Chex Mix

Otherwise known as bhel puri mix (bail purry mix). My brother-in-law started calling it Indian Chex Mix because well…it kind of is. It’s basically a hot mixture of Indian deliciousness combined with Rice Krispies, some onion, peanuts and spices. It’s perfect for snacking or putting out for guests to munch on if you’re having a party. It’s a very spicy mixture though, so for you spice loves out there…try this!
To be quite honest, I don’t have measurements of anything, because it’s really just how much you want of each ingredient. But to be all official, I’ll try to include the amount you’ll need for each. What I made was enough for 1 person.

•1 cup Rice Krispies. I didn’t have any, but I had some Rice Chex so I used that
• 1 cup Indian mixture – this can be found at any Indian grocery store. This brand is Haldiram – spicy! What’s in the Indian mixture is usually noodles (similar to La Choy noodles), dried peas, corn flakes, cashews, etc.
•2 tablespoons Peanuts (optional) – most of the Indian mixtures have peanuts already in them. If you like more, add more!
•1 tablespoon Onion (approx. 1/4 of a small onion)
•Pinch of Chili Powder
•Pinch of other Indian spices, which are in that silver tin

Let’s talk about that silver tin, shall we?
It’s OK to be jealous. This is my Indian spice tin. It’s where I store all the spices I use in Indian cooking, such as: chili powder, garam masala, cumin, cumin powder, Hing, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, salt, etc. This tin is probably one of my favorite things in my kitchen.

Combine the peanuts, Rice Krispies (or Rice Chex) and Indian mixture into a small tupperware container. This will make it easy to mix it all around.

OK so maybe the amounts of each ingredients I listed up there don’t quite match up. I told you! I just eyeball everything and put int a bowl to mix around, then take what I want to eat at that time.

Mix that container to combine the ingredients and spoon out however much you intend to eat at that time (or pour it all out if you’re serving more than just yourself). Finely chop 1/4 of the onion and add it to your own bowl. I can not stress that enough. Don’t add all the onion to the entire mixture because then you’ll end up with soggy mix! Yuck!

Also add the spices you want. I added salt, chili powder, a tiny bit of turmeric and garam masala to mine.

Then you end up with this:
It’s delicious, slightly salty, SPICY (yum!) and the perfect snack during the afternoon!

Oooh weee! Baked brie!

There’s a restaurant in town that probably isn’t frequented by too many Ann Arborites. I’m going to be honest. There aren’t a lot of things I love about this restaurant. They have your standard steaks, burgers, salads and what not, but it’s not super, brilliant food.

However…there is one thing on their menu that I absolutely have to order every time I go there.

Their baked brie appetizer is pure yum. I know it doesn’t sound like much. Like, “oooh..baked cheese..”. I’ll cry if you think that, though. Cheese is amazing. I know I’d be crying if I was lactose intolerant. Let’s not think about that, though. Happy thoughts.

It looked pretty easy to make at home, but I didn’t know the details of how I’d do it. Luckily, my coworker’s wife (Hi SKB!)  is amazing and told me a way to do it! So REB and I made heaven on a plate tonight.

Baked Brie, starring:
•1 round baby brie
•1 puff pastry sheet

Simple enough, right? You don’t know the half of it.

Take the puff pastry out of the packaging and let it thaw on a cutting board or on the counter for 40 minutes or so. You want it to be soft enough to work and unfold. If you try to unfold it and it cracks, it’s not ready yet. However, you can use some water or egg wash to put it back together. Isn’t that baby brie adorable?

Take the brie out of it’s cute little box, and unwrap it. Yes, this is unwrapped cheese. What you’re looking at is the incredibly smelly casing the cheese sits in. And I do mean smelly.

FACT: You can leave the casing on and bake the brie that way. The benefits? It keeps your cheese in tact in the pastry. But why would you want that? I prefer the cheese to have a mind of its own.

Cut the casing off around the edges. Be careful not to cut too deep or you’ll cut the cheese – hahahahaha. Ahem.

They look a little sad and mangled, don’t they?

Scrape it off the top. Ooooh texture! You might need to thinly slice the top to get the rest off, but that’s optional. The point is to get most of it off (if you want)

When you’re done, unfold the puff pastry sheet and place the brie in the middle. Take each corner of the pastry sheet and wrap up the brie. You can make it look all artsy-fartsy. I didn’t. True story.

Yeah, not pretty. But it smelled good already. The sweet smell of the puff pastry and the sharpness of the cheese…well it smelled sharp to me.

Flip the brie so the smooth side faces up. This is, of course, optional. I only did this because I didn’t want the cheese to be spilling out of the top. Try to seal up the dough as best you can so this doesn’t happen. I’ve seen recipes where you can leave it fold-side up. Your choice!

Place on a cookie sheet. I sprayed it with cooking spray so the pastry sheet wouldn’t stick to the sheet. You could also use parchment paper or place it directly on a pizza stone. I have a pizza stone, but didn’t think of this until after it came out of the oven. Next time…

Bake the brie at 350ºF for 30-40 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown.

When it comes out of the oven it’s golden goodness and the ooey-gooey goodness is oozing out like heaven.

Transfer, carefully, onto a plate or serving platter. Isn’t is so pretty? I could cry. I won’t, but I could. I would have actually, but REB probably would have looked at me weird. Ahem.

Here are some things you can serve with the brie. What we had lying around was Melba toast, half a pumpernickel loaf, apricot preserves and fig spread. I ended up using the toast and the apricot preserves. The restaurant serves theirs with strawberry jam or preserves, but I love, love, love the apricot.

Yum! But wait! There’s more…

When you slice it, the cheese oozes out like a perfect volcano of flavor. As suggested above, if I had kept the casing on, I’m sure it wouldn’t have done this. I do not regret the decision I made. This was such an amazing sight.

Bon Appetit! And thanks to SKB for figuring how easy it was to make this!

Let the holiday snackies begin – Chex Mix!

I love this time of year when eating becomes a second hobby and no one can get on you about it because it’s the holidays! I’ve mentioned this before, but the holidays bring out the Holly Homemaker in me. I seem to bake more treats and goodies between the months of October and December more than I do the rest of the year.

Today, I blame the Pioneer Woman and my friend B. They just HAD to go and make Chex Mix and of course I had to make some too because it was all I could think about all morning.

There was just one problem. A staple ingredient in Chex Mix is Worcestershire sauce, which is made with anchovies. Wouldn’t seem like a big deal…unless you’re a vegetarian…like REB and me. Although I, very rarely, eat fish, I do not eat meat and don’t like it anymore. REB doesn’t either. Chex Mix is a great snack, and it needs that ingredient to bring out the high-level sodium goodness. Then I found the greatest thing in the world – a Worcestershire sauce made for vegetarians!

Ta-da!! The Wizard’s Organic Sauces! I don’t think any of you realize how happy it made me to see something like this even existed! And why not? There are just as many vegetarians in the world who enjoy a good handful (ahemBOWLFULahem) of Chex Mix. I ended up using almost half this bottle and a TON of hot sauce to make the most savory salty-spicy Chex Mix on earth.

I don’t know if there is a happier moment (excluding discovering vegetarian Worcestershire sauce) or more beautiful sight then what I saw tonight…you know, aside from the two loves I see every day. I did buy an aluminum roasting pan, but ended up having to put half on the baking sheet halfway into the baking process so that the mix wouldn’t get soggy. What I ended up with was the most decadent, crispy snack ever.

Homemade Pumpkin Seeds

UPDATE: the new post about this recipe is found here. But the main recipe is still in this one :)

Confession: I’m having a secret love affair with the month of October and Fall season. It’s been going on for more than 10 years now, but it’s true. I can’t help myself. Every year, around this time of year, I begin to find myself indulging in all things fall: being a “leafer”, taking a million photos (more than usual) of the pretty colors, wearing hoodies and sweaters, enjoying football (college more than Pro – GO GREEN!), going to apple orchards and cider mills, picking pumpkins, and of course….making homemade pumpkin seeds. I could eat pumpkin seeds all year round, and I would, but most packaged, brand name bags of seeds are over salted and not delicious. This is why I love this time of year when I can make them myself. And now I’ll tell you how to do it too. The basic recipe comes from Simply Recipes, but as usual, I never fully follow those…

Here we go:

2 medium pumpkins (we picked ours from a local patch)
olive oil

To prepare:

Preheat your oven to 400º. You also want to move your racks around so you have one on the top. So do that.IMG_9197First we took our two pumpkins and used our lovely pumpkin carving tools (available at most stores like Target, Meijer, etc.), cut off the top as if we were going to actually carve the dudes. [We're actually waiting until it gets a little later in the month before we carve our pumpkins – we bought these from a patch solely to make seeds. We are hardcore.] Anyway, once you have the top off, you may need to cut the opening wider so your hand can fit in there to scoop out the guts and separate out the seeds. As you can see above, we’ve demolished our pumpkins and thrown them away. Should be noted: protect the surface you’re working on. No need to make a huuuuge mess…unless you really want to of course.
IMG_9199Ta-da! Seeds!
IMG_9200They’re all gooey, but there were a ton of seeds! Mmm!IMG_9206Take your bowl of seeds to the sink and begin rinsing them under water. I loved the way the seeds felt. I’m weird.
IMG_9207Drain the seeds into a colander and continue to rinse them.IMG_9208Looks pretty clean!IMG_9210Put a huge stock pot or boiling pot on the stove and bring your seeds next to it. Using a 1/2 measuring cup, measure out your seeds, and put them into the pot. Keep in mind how much you measured! This is important to do because of the next step. We measured out about 2 1/4 cups of seeds.IMG_9212Then you’ll add 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of seeds. So basic math here people: we had 2 1/4 cup of seeds, so we added 4 1/2 cups of water to our pot.IMG_9214Next, add 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of seeds you have. So we had a little over 2 tablespoons. If you want, you can go light on the salt now, since you can always add more later before you bake the seeds.
IMG_9215Stir to make them happy.

**Once you’ve done this, put a lid on the pot, put it on high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water and seeds are boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 more minutes**

IMG_9216Once they’re finished boiling and simmering, drain the seeds into a colander and shake the excess water. Oooh steamy!
IMG_9218Spread a little olive oil on a baking sheet (1-2 tablespoons or a couple shakes if you have yours bottled/spouted) and spread your seeds out in a single layer.
IMG_9219Remember a little while ago when I said you could add more salt before you bake the seeds? This is what we’re doing here. You could also try different seasonings like: curry (mmm!), cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, etc. Whatever your heart desires.
IMG_9220Place the pan on the top rack of your oven and bake at 400º for 15-20 minutes. We actually baked ours for 15 minutes, took the pan out, stirred the seeds around, and then put it back in for an additional 5-10 minutes. The seeds are done when they are golden brown.
IMG_9221If you’re patient, let them cool for 5-10 minutes before diving in. But I have no class and devoured them in a matter of minutes.
IMG_9223Enjoy! Happy Fall :)