Zucchini Roll-Ups

A few days ago I was sitting at home wondering what to make for lunch. I had some left over spaghetti sauce, cheese and zucchini in the fridge and in the freezer I had a frozen mixed vegetable qeema salan (curried ground beef).  This recipe demonstrates how these ingredients came together.

There aren’t really any measurements to this recipe—I just realized something and if your South Asian and your mom taught you how to cook, you can probably relate to this…. As I was growing up, my mom made my sister and I help her in the kitchen. Some days I complained that I wanted to watch tv, but most of the time I found myself spending the better part of my Saturday mornings and afternoons in the kitchen with her. I slowly climbed up the ranks from dish washer and occasional spoon stirrer to prep cook and sous chef. At some point, I wanted to start writing down the recipe for various dishes that were made such as, daal, achari chicken, qeema, etc etc.  However, it wasn’t as straight forward as I thought it would be. Anytime I would ask my mom for exact measurements, she would always say “Andaze saan,” which can be translated as “based on your judgement.”  She, being the executive chef of the Memon household, would either taste the mixture on the stove or merely look into the pot and then decide how much of a certain ingredient she would add to the dish.  I never understood this until now!  I finally made a dish (that was successful) using “my judgement!”

Zucchini Roll-Ups

Slice a zucchini lengthwise into thin strips. You want them thin enough so that they can bend without breaking. Lay each zucchini slice down and put some cooked qeema on top of each slice. Slowly begin to roll each zucchini slice and poke a toothpick through the entire zucchini roll.

Place the rolls in a round oven proof dish.  Layer spoonfuls of spaghetti sauce over the rolls and lightly sprinkle with cheese and chili flakes. 

Put in a few table spoons of water to help cook the zucchini and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the zucchini is cooked through.

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Peanut Buttery Drops

I love all things with peanut butter. As a kid, anytime I came home after a trip overseas, the first thing I would do after putting down my bags was make a peanut butter sandwich and pour a glass of milk. There’s just something about peanut butter that makes it irresistible.

My love for peanut butter led me to this recipe from Tina at Carrots ‘N’ Cake.  Here is my tweaked recipe:

Peanut Buttery Drops
1 1/2 cups of old fashion oats
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of agave nectar
1 egg
1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease small muffin tin and put aside.
Mix all ingredients until combined. 
Using a tablespoon (the one that you get with your cutlery set), “drop” batter into the greased muffin tin.
Bake on the top rack of the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the bottoms of the drops are slightly brown.
Makes 19 drops
*Notes: Keep a close eye on these drops because the bottoms can burn easily.
* If you want to make bite sized drops, you can scoop out the batter into a smaller cupcake pan. I used a small ice cream scoop to make the drops similar in size and shape.  I was able to get 30 drops using this method.
* I’m also trying to increase the healthiness of this recipe, so the second time I made it, I cut back on the 1/2 cup of flour by leaving some space at the top of the measuring cup and filled up the rest with flax seed meal.  I think it’s a nice way to get some Omega-3 into your diet!

Basil Thai Chili Beef with Whole Wheat Spinach Noodles

About a month ago I discovered a Chicken and Chili with Basil recipe that I wanted to try out.  The combination of the basil, chili and chicken was fantastic! I loved the mixing of flavours and the aroma of the basil.  Delish!

Today I decided to fool around with the recipe and swap the chicken for shredded beef and add noodles.  Here is my adapted recipe:

Basil Thai Chili Beef with Whole Wheat Spinach Noodles
1/2 pound of uncooked shredded beef ( I used the shawarma beef that you can get at halal meat stores, and I rinsed off the spices the beef was marinated in)
2 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
6 large button mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, washed and diced ( you can substitute in 1 or 2 Thai chili if you like)
2 green onions, washed and chopped
1 cup of julienned carrots (shredded works too)
juice of one lime
1 tsp salt (then to taste)
1 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp water for stir frying (adding water prevents the oil from burning)
1 tsp fish sauce
8-10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp sesame oil
chili flakes (to your taste)
Wash beef and strain off water.  Mix with ginger and garlic pastes, and salt.
In a wok, add oil and water. Add beef as the wok heats up (prevents water from splashing up)
Cook beef until it’s just about done and add the jalapeno, chili flakes, basil, fish sauce and sesame oil.  Continue to stir fry. 
 Add in vegetables until cooked through.  Taste the stir fry and adjust salt and chili accordingly.
Noodles- follow instructions on package
I went looking for soba noodles at Walmart, but I came back with whole wheat spinach noodles instead.  When I opened the package, I thought I would grab a bunch of dry noodles and add them to the pot of boiling water. Instead, I found pre-made noodle packs inside. I have never seen noodles packaged this way before. 

Kale Chips disaster

Okay, well not a complete disaster, more like a big oily mess.  I remember coming across several kale chip recipes and thought I could come up with one on my own. Wrong! The temperature I baked them at was too high and I put too much oil on them.  The result, slightly browned, oily kale chips.  I had to lay them on paper towel over night to get the excess oil off.  
This is what happens when you put the kale chips in for too long- burned to a brown crisp!

To make kale chips the proper way, I suggest you follow Cooking After Five’s recipe

Along the way, things started to change

At work last week I copied down a recipe ( I forgot where I got it from…so I can’t give the credit to someone right now, but I will try to find them) that caught my eye. A zucchini chocolate chip loaf cake.  The zucchini in the recipe was very intriguing and I knew I had to try it.  I picked up a few items that I didn’t have at home and off I went into my kitchen to bake this unusual cake.

Originally I was going to follow the recipe that I copied down, but somewhere along the way, things started to change.  Here is my version:

Zucchini Chocolate Cup Cakes

2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (this is a must because I found that it does a good job of toning down the zucchini taste)
a little less than 1/4 cup of olive oil (sorry I can’t be more specific than that) +1 tbsp melted butter*
1/3 cup of agave nectar (you could bring this down to 1/4 cup if you wish)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 grated zucchini (with peel)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease half-sized muffin tins as paper liners are not used
Combine all dry ingredients. Mix well.
Combine oil, butter, agave nectar, and eggs. Pour into dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Fold in zucchini.

Using a tablespoon (not the measuring kind, but the spoon that comes with your cutlery set and is bigger than the dessert spoon), distribute batter into the muffin tins. 

Bake.  Use the toothpick test to decide when the muffins are ready. I don’t have a set time because my oven is finicky.

Makes 12-14 half-sized muffins or 1 loaf cake.

Oh, after the muffins came out of the oven, I decided to shove 1-2 chocolate chips into the muffins for decoration.

*Note: You can substitute in unsweetened apple sauce for the oil

Attempt # 2: Flourless brownies

I decided to try and bake the flourless brownies but with a few changes.  Instead of 1/3 cup of honey, I used a little less than 1/4 cup of agave nectar.   I also scooped out the batter into the paper nut cups I recently purchased from Golda’s Kitchen using a small ice cream scoop. I was able to make 16 brownie bites using the nut cups. The chocolate chips were cut down to to 2 chips per nut cup.
Some thoughts on the changes:  The agave nectar didn’t change the taste of the brownies. It tasted the same to me. As for the nut cups I liked using them because you can eat a morsel of chocolate heaven without feeling guilty. 

Holiday baking

For every day of the month of December the Toronto Star publishes a cookie recipe. One that caught my eye was the Curry coriander shorties.  After much deliberation over Facebook, I decided to take out the curry and coriander spices and sub in cardamom powder.  Yummyy! (BTW, this recipe adaptation took place in December 2009 in California).

Cardamom Shorties

2 tsp cardamom powder
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar  (the second time I made these, I used agave nectar…they were good, but not as sweet)
1 tsp each: pure vanilla extract, salt

Mix together the flour and cardamom powder.
In large bowl using rubber spatula, beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended. Blend in flour mixture.

Spread dough into a 9″ spring form pan. Bake in a preheated 350F oven  for 10-15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Cool for 5 minutes and then cut into triangles.