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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Twice Baked Potatoes

I have been very busy with my work and intermediate Spanish class that I am taking. I am sorry haven't had a chance to post any recipes.
However I have been cooking and taking pictures for future posts, so my dear readers, stay tuned...............there is lot more to come............Here is a recipe for the baked potatoes that I made about 3 wks ago...

I have always loved potatoes. However until I came to this country, I did not know that potatoes can be serve baked. I tried it a simple baked potato with sour cream and chives and I fell in love with it and then since then I have been trying different version of it. Here is my favorite recipe.


* 8 medium russet potatoes, about 6-8 ounces each

* 1 tablespoon olive oil

* Kosher salt /Sea salt

* 3 tablespoon unsalted butter

* 4 green onions chopped finely

* 6 cloves garlic, minced

* 8 oz cream cheese

* 8 oz of cheddar cheese

* 8 oz of Monterrey jack or pepper jack cheese

* 1/2 cup milk

* 2 cup of broccoli florets

* 8 oz of your favorite salsa, I used Pace brand hot chunky salsa

* 8 oz of cheese sauce

* Sour cream to desired quantity for topping

* Tortilla chips for garnish


* Sprinkle some water on Broccoli florets and place them in microwave safe container.

* Cover with saran wrap and microwave for 3 min. (Don't overcook)

* Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

* Wash the potatoes with brush to rinse any dirt off of skin.

* Slit each potato in middle (not all the way down)

* Rub the potatoes with the oil and season generously with kosher salt.

* Place and wrap each potato in aluminum foil

* Bake for about about 1 hour, 15 minutes.

* Let stand 5 minutes.

* Press each potatoes from side of the slit, opening down the center of each potato.

At this point you can skip the next few steps you if don't want twice baked
potatoes and simply can serve the potatoes with desired topping. Or you can follow the next few steps for twice baked potatoes.

For twice baked potatoes:

* Scoop out the insides of baked potatoes into a bowl, keeping some of it inside in the shell of potato next to the skin.

* Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat.

* Add the green onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Cool slightly.

* Add the sauteed onions and garlic, cream cheese, 1/2 of each cheddar and Pepper jack cheese, and milk to the scooped out potatoes and mash well with a fork until combined but slightly chunky.

* Spoon the filling back into the potato shells, about 1/2 cup of filling for each potato and place them on baking sheet.

* Spoon cheese sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining cheddar/Pepper jack cheese over each potato.

* Bake until heated through and the tops are lightly browned and cheese is melted for about 20-25 minutes.

* Garnish with broccoli, salsa, Jalapeno pepper, a dollop of sour cream and tortilla chips.

* Serve hot :)

Phtographs By Mickipedia Mickie Krimmel at
By Joshua M Neff at
by ontheflyrecipes Master Experimenter at

Remaining photographs and recipe by Surekha.
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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fruity Nutty Shrikhand

My mom and her mom and her mom had been making this yogurt recipe long before the fruit yogurt was commercialized in western culture and now in Indian market and local grocery stores.

Difference is that, this recipe is very rich especially in India, where they make the plain yogurt from whole milk which has about 8% fat. Here I make it out of 2% milk but I do add sour cream to give the thick texture. (of course I have to use the fat free kind)

Shrikhand is an Indian sweet dish made of strained yogurt. It is one of the main desserts in Gujarati cuisine and Maharashtrian cuisine. It is also served with Gujarati thali sometimes as a sweet dish. Preparation of this dish is very simple but it takes some time to process yogurt properly.

The possible etymology of the word Shrikhand suggests that it may have come from Ksheer (Milk in Sanskrit) and Qand (Sweet in Persian).

The yogurt is tied in a cotton/muslin cloth and left under pressure to drain off most of the water. In the past, it used to be hung from a wall to achieve the desired thick and creamy product. The strained yogurt and sugar are mixed thoroughly in a deep bowl. The cardamom, nuts and saffron are then added and mixed. It is then left in the refrigerator for the sugar to dissolve. The dish is then served chilled.

A popular variation of Shrikhand in Maharastra is Amrakhand, which is shrikhand mixed with mango pulp and made homogeneous with a blender. In a few parts of Gujarat, another variant of fruit shrikhand is also very popular and served as a sweet dish or dessert. The preparation method is almost the same, but the seasonal fresh fruits are always added.

The recipe for shrikhand is so versatile that it can practically take any taste that an imaginative person can create.

In Gujarati cuisine, shrikhand is eaten as either a side-dish with breads such as poori (usually "khaaja poori", which is a savory fried flaky bread) or as a dessert. It is commonly served as part of a vegetarian thali in Gujarati restaurants and it is very popular as part of wedding feasts. It is often served chilled and provides a refreshing counterpoint to hot and spicy curries. Dried and fresh fruit such as mango are also added.

Here is how I make it here in US:


* 6 cups plain yogurt or yogurt 2% or whole milk

* 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

* 3/4 cup sugar

* 3/4 cup coarsely or sliced almonds and pistachios (roasted unsalted)

* 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder

* 10 strands of saffron soaked in about 1 tbl spn warm milk

* 1 apple

* 1 piece of any seasonal fresh fruit (mango, pomegranate, or chikoo, I used white peach)

* 1 can of mix fruit cocktail with pineapple but without bananas (drained)

* 10 strawberries

* 1 small can of mandarin oranges drained

* 6-7 lychees drained and chopped from can (optional)


* Take a clean muslin cloth and pour the yogurt and sour cream in it.

* Tie a knot and hang it (I hang it in the sink on the faucet) so that all the water falls away from the yogurt.

* Leave it like this overnight or for 6-8 hrs.

* When ready to prepare Shrikhand, drain all the canned fruit and chop them in small pieces, also chop all the fresh fruits into small pieces as well.

* Drain liquid from all the fruits byt leaving them in a stainer for 30 -60 min.

* Roast the nuts on the griddle and when cool, chop them in food processor or slice them with knife (if you have that much time and patience.

* Save some fruits and nuts for garnish.

* Soften the saffron strands in warm milk and set aside.

* Transfer the hung yogurt in a deep bowl, mix sugar, using hand blender mix until smooth.

* Add nuts in this mix.

* Fold in drained fruits in the yogurt.

* Add the saffron, and cardamom, fold until everything is well incorporated.

* Garnish with remaining nuts and remaining desired fruits.

* You could separate the Shrikhand in small serving containers and garnish them individually and chill them separately.

* Chill for 6 hours and serve chilled.


You can omit the nuts and cardamom and just make the Shrikhand with fruits or vice-versa if preferred. My kids don't care for cardamom and saffron flavors, so I usually make just the fruit Shrikhand, but this time I wanted to make it more traditional for my husband's birthday.

Be sure to drain the fruits thoroughly before adding to the yogurt, the key Shrikhand is the thickness and creamy texture, you don't want it to be watery and thin like the yogurt sold in stores.

Shrikhand info source:

Recipe and Photographs by Surekha.
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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Garlic Pesto

My 8 year old (soon to be 9) nephew was so very proud of his mini crop of all the herbs from his garden. He collected them in 2 zip lock bags and gave it to me "Jiji masi, I really don't know what to do with these, but they smell good and may be you can make something for your blog, I have chives, oregano, and "Variyari" (Gujrati for Fennel)".

I said, sure dear, I have been thinking of posting a recipe for different variations of Pesto and this would be a perfect time. Of course this recipes is totally different from the the traditional one, but "different is good".

Let me tell you little bit about Pesto and its history first.

Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy (pesto alla genovese), and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano e Fiore Sardo (pecorino sardo).

The name is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. However, the ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are not "pounded" but "ground" with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. This same Latin root through Old French also gave rise to the English word pestle.


The ancient Romans ate a cheese spread called moretum, which may sometimes have been made with basil. The herb likely originated in North Africa; however, it was first domesticated in India. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France.

The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated hard cheese (a mix of parmigiano-reggiano and pecorino or just one of the two), and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. In French Provence, the dish evolved into the modern pistou, a combination of basil, parsley, crushed garlic, and grated cheese (optional). However, pine nuts are not included.

In 1944, The New York Times mentioned an imported canned pesto paste. In 1946, Sunset magazine published a pesto recipe by Angelo Pellegrini. Pesto did not become popular in North America until the 1980s and 1990s.

Pesto is traditionally prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. First garlic and pine nuts are placed in the mortar and reduced to a cream, then the washed and dried basil leaves are added with coarse salt and ground to a creamy consistency. Only then is a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano e Pecorino added. To help to incorporate the cheese a little extra-virgin olive oil is added. In a tight jar (or simply in an air-tight plastic container), covered by a layer of extra-virgin olive oil, pesto can last in the refrigerator up to a week, and can also be frozen for later use.

Pesto is commonly used on pasta, traditionally with Mandilli de Sæa (Genovese dialect - literally "silk handkerchiefs"), trofie or trenette. Potatoes and little green beans are also traditionally added to the dish , boiled in the same pot in which the pasta has been cooked. It is sometimes used in minestrone. Pesto is sometimes served on sliced beef, tomatoes and sliced boiled potatoes.

Because pesto is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding, there are various other pestos, some traditional, some modern. For this reason, the original (and most common) pesto is now called pesto alla genovese or pesto genovese (both forms are used in both English and Italian), in order to help differentiate the original basil based pesto from alternatives[citation needed].

Pesto alla genovese is made with Genovese basil, salt, garlic, Ligurian extra virgin olive oil (Taggiasco), European pine nuts (sometimes toasted) and a grated cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano and pecorino Sardo or pecorino romano).

A slightly different version of the sauce exists in Provence, where it is known as pistou. In contrast with pesto genovese, pistou is,in general, made with olive oil, basil, and garlic only: While cheese may be added, usually no nuts are included. Pistou is used in the typical soupe au pistou, a hearty vegetable soup with pistou flavour. The sauce did not originally contain basil, however. Instead, cheese and olive oil were the main constituents.

Sometimes almonds are used instead of pine nuts, and sometimes mint leaves are mixed in with the basil leaves.

Pesto alla siciliana, sometimes called pesto rosso (red pesto), is a sauce from Sicily similar to pesto genovese but with the addition of tomato, almonds instead of pine nuts, and much less basil. Pesto alla calabrese is a sauce from Calabria consisting of (grilled) bell peppers, black pepper and more; these ingredients give it a distinctively spicy taste.

Outside Italy, the household name "pesto" has been used for all sort of cold sauces or dips mostly without any of the original ingredients: arugula (instead of or in addition to basil), black olives, lemon peel, coriander, or mushrooms. A German variety uses ramson leaves instead of basil.

In the 19th century, Genovese immigrants to Argentina brought pesto recipes with them. A Peruvian variety, known as "tallarines verdes" (meaning green noodles, from Italian tagliarini), is slightly creamier, lacks pine nuts (because of their rarity and prohibitive cost in Peru), may use spinach and vegetable oil (in place of olive oil), and is sometimes served with roasted potatoes and sirloin steak.

Lots of industrially made Pestos use cashew nuts.

Pesto in the US is commonly available in supermarkets in either green (original) or red (with sun-dried tomatoes or red bell peppers) varieties, produced by major manufacturers or under a generic or cheaper brand. Cashew nuts, walnuts or Chinese pine nuts are often used instead of European pine nuts, because they are less expensive and have a similar texture (although not the same taste). Cheaper oils and other herbs, like parsley, may also be used to further reduce the price.

In Singapore, an Italian-Peranakan fusion version called laksa pesto is popular. The recipe has the flavour of the local curry noodle soup, laksa but is made using the pesto method.

Vegan variations of pesto can include mixes of fresh basil, nuts such as walnut or pine nut, olive oil, and the addition of miso paste and nutritional yeast to provide additional flavor enhancement to the dish.

Here is how I made it this time.


* Blend of herbs given to me by my nephew (Oregano, Chives, and Fennel) ~ 2 cups Washed and use only leafy part, discard the stems. (it was mainly oregano and chives and few sprigs of fennel)

* 2 cups of Cilantro leaves

* 1 cup of basil leaves

* 2-4 Jalapeno peppers (to taste)

* 10-12 cloves of garlic

* 3/4 cup of Almonds (I did not have pine nuts handy)

* 1/4 cup of Lemon juice (or to taste)

* 1/3 cup of Greek or home made plain yogurt (I substituted yogurt for Parmesan cheese, since I did not have it and I don't particularly care for the taste of Parmesan cheese)

* 1/3 cup of Olive oil

* Salt and pepper to taste.


The entire recipe is prepared by my Cuisinart food processor.

* First, toast the almond on griddle on stove, let them cool.

* Place the almond in food processor and blend them with maximum speed until they are in fine powder form.

* Add the all the ingredients except olive oil.

* Blend chop everything in the food processor until smooth.

* Finally add the olive oil.

* Taste is and see if it needs more salt/pepper or lemon juice.


You can use the this pesto on Gnocchi, Pasta on any sandwiches or just use it as a dip with warm Italian bread.

If you don't have almonds or pine nuts, you can use Cashew nuts or even peanuts.

You can keep pesto up to 1 week in the fridge, but if you want to keep it longer, you can put the pesto into the ice cubes support and freeze it. When you need the pesto you can thaw the cubes of add them to the pasta or gnocchi recipe that you are cooking.

Information of Pesto and Basil pic Source:
Potted plant pic source: meganpru at
Pesto gnocchi pic by blue.tofu at

Recipe and Rest of the Photographs by Surekha.

Thank you Vardaan for your inspiration for this recipe and sharing your herbs with Jijimasi :)
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