Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Baker's Corner: Vegetarian Tex-Mex Casserole

I can't tell you how much I'm savouring the Chinese New Year long weekend break we are having in this part of the world. Waking up late (8:30am for me is like super late 😝), lazing around home, catching up on some reading, cooking and eating hazardous amounts of food, taking ridiculously long naps, catching up with pals, taking the kids to the pool and on outings.....I'm talking 100% pure fun! 

So on one of the days, we had company for dinner and decided to go for a Mexican-inspired menu. We had a grilled corn salad, tortilla chips and quesadillas with sour cream, guacamole and salsa, black bean burgers and a continuous supply of Margaritas to wash it all down. The food was good and company even better so at the end of the evening, everyone had a little too much to eat (and drink!) 😜  

The next day, I opened my fridge to discover half a can of black beans, half a tub of sour cream, an almost full jar of pickled jalapeños, a container of leftover homemade salsa and an unopened packet of flour tortillas. I usually hate it when I find a bunch of stuff in my fridge that I have no idea what to do with. I didn't want to repeat any of the dishes of the previous night coz we had eaten way too much of it already. It was then that I remembered a Mexican enchilada casserole that I had at my friend's home last year that I really loved. It was ordered from a home-based caterer so I couldn't get my hands on a recipe but I had picked and prodded the dish long enough to make a mental note of what had gone into it. I was so glad that in addition to the leftovers, I still had a wedge each of green, red and yellow bell peppers in the fridge so got to working on my version of a Tex-Mex Casserole.

I'm pretty sure you will not find this exact same recipe anywhere on the internet or in any book (if you do, I will be thunderstruck!). There is a randomness to this dish that comes from tossing in whatever one finds at the time of their culinary experimentation! I have attempted to recreate the taste of the delicious casserole I have described☝ but I made a few deliberate changes along the way. I've named this dish 'Tex-Mex Casserole' because it suffers from a serious identity crisis 😆 Notwithstanding issues with authenticity, this dish has rich, bold and bright flours incorporated into it so I would recommend it as being worthy of consideration. I took the time to jot down and carefully measure all the ingredients to create a tested and reproducible recipe. I'm stoked I did that because the dish received positive feedback from whoever ate it! It was so good that even the leftovers were gone by the end of the day! The next time, I don't even have to wait until there are specific ingredients languishing in the fridge to make this dish...I can serve it at our next dinner party and I'm sure it will be appreciated 🙌

One thing I need to mention before I forget - a casserole is ideally made in a 9x13 inch baking pan but since I don't yet own one of that size, I split it into two - one round and one square 8-inch baking dish. Whatever works for you guys, okay?

I need to rush back and enjoy what is remaining of this glorious 4.5 days of break 😊  Signing off now....do make this dish and let me know how it turned out! 


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Family Fun at Club Mahindra Resort - Madikeri, Coorg

I've been suffering from a mild case of post-holiday blues. Quite expected when you go through more than three weeks of nothing but eat-sleep-repeat! No setting alarms, no household chores, no never-ending to-do lists....not even babysitting (and this is a twin mom talking here!). There were people who would readily take over childminding duties for me even without my asking. So all I did was eat, vegetate on the couch, sleep, catch up with family and friends, go out and shop like nobody's business. I don't remember the last time I got to live the life of a sloth! So now I'm back to the grind and pining for those days of utter laziness. It has taken a herculean effort to get off my behind and show the blog some love. 

Food-related posts can wait for the time being (coz after all that mindless bingeing, food is the last thing on my mind!). During our holiday in India, we went on a short trip to a resort in Madikeri, Coorg with my siblings. Even though it was for a few days, we had such a memorable time that I had to blog about the experience. 

Madikeri is a hill station and the vibrant capital of Coorg, a little corner of Karnataka. Nestled in the Western Ghats, the district is known for its exquisite beauty. It is verdant and filled with nature’s splendour that spans more shades of green than you know exist. Driving in, the plains gradually gives way to mountain ranges and as the road begins to curve upwards, the wide vistas of hills and mountains transports visitors to another world. All around are mountains, hills, valleys, paddy fields, grasslands, coffee plantations, pepper and cardamom plants, orange orchards and amidst all this flows the life-sustaining river Cauvery.

During my lifetime, I have passed by Madikeri innumerable times so I am no stranger to the place. Hailing from Udupi, any road trip from Mysore to Udupi would invariably take us through Madikeri. It used to be our go-to place for coffee/tea pit stops. Breathing in the chilly air while sipping hot cups of masala tea with my family brings back fond memories. Aside from brief stopovers, I've been there on a few family trips and college trips too. 

This trip took a wee bit of planning since we had three kids under the age of three travelling with us. We were looking for a resort that was suitable for families with young children and offered activities to keep them occupied (coz everyone knows what toddlers can be like!). Club Mahindra was one of the first options that came up and it ended up being the destination of choice. 

Set amidst this lush green landscape, Club Mahindra Coorg is a sprawling resort built in the local ainmanés tradition and is located within a coffee plantation, swirling with scents, colours and sights of the hill station. It has 220 luxurious apartments and lots of facilities including a gym, two swimming pools, three restaurants, a lobby lounge and bar, a holiday activity centre, a spa complex and more.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Recipe of the month: Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Raspberry Overnight Oats

Wishing all my readers a very 
Happy New Year 2017!!!

I never thought the day would come when I would feature an overnights oats recipe on the blog 😛 But ever since I got back to work, I hardly get free time to come up with above-par culinary creations. So until I magically acquire a time turner, sprout two extra pair of limbs or figure out how to clone myself, simple recipes it is going to be! On the subject of all things simple....drinks have also been a heavily neglected segment on the blog so I may feature more of those too.

This is how mornings unfold in my household ⇒ With my current schedule, I need to be out of the house by 8:20am on a work week. On the bright side, the sun is out (pun intended!). The husband drives me to work everyday and the blessed route we take bypasses all the rush-hour traffic snarls which gets me in record time so I guess I don't have much to complain about. But mornings are always kinda crazy with me rising early to go for a swim or to the gym and then coming back to delegate instructions regarding my toddlers meals or else doing the prep work myself and then making a dozen mental check-lists for the day. After that, it leaves just enough time for us adults to get showered, dressed, caffeinated and say goodbye to two clingy kids. With all this going on, I sometimes don't have time to have breakfast or other times I just forget!

I have a collection of quick breakfast essentials (read: cornflakes, granola bars and fruit) at my workplace but when my to-do list seems longer than the Nile, I find it a herculean effort to put something together and then clean up after. The easy way out is to just skip breakfast altogether.

Having said that, I understand the importance of a good breakfast and therefore came up with a contingency plan. I decided to keep a mason jar of overnight oats ready in the fridge whenever I feel like the next morning is going to swallow me whole. The best thing about overnight oats is that they are great to eat right out of the fridge, convenient to grab on the go, taste delicious, comprise (mostly) of ingredients that are good for you and will keep you fuelled up till lunch time. I can go a good five hours without feeling hungry which from personal experience, enhances productivity at work.

This recipe has rolled oats, peanut butter, chocolate, fresh fruit and nuts. I mean....duh!! Even though I will gladly shun sweet breakfasts for the savoury kind, breakfast that tastes like dessert is pretty hard to pass over! I usually have some time to myself after the kids go to bed (I call it my 'happy hour' 😝) so all I have to do is set aside 5-10 minutes of that time, put together a jar of overnight oats and stash it in the fridge. The next day is just grab and go! The best way to kickstart a busy mum's day, don't you think? And pssst....it's not just for mum....daddy and the kids like it too!

Watch out for more delicious and easy overnight oats recipe that I will be experimenting with in the coming few months. Till then, don't underestimate the power of a good breakfast and try this recipe to start your day right 💪