Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mason Jar Chinese Tofu Salad

When I lived in California I used to love eating something called Chinese Chicken Salad, my favorite was the one at California Chicken Cafe (I sometimes called it "California Chicken Kitchen"). Here in Vancouver this delicious salad (which doesn't have anything to do with real Chinese food, I believe) is nowhere to be found.

Today I wanted to try making some mason jar salads so I decided to make a vegetarian version of the one I missed so much, and adapt it to mason jar salad trend as well so I could keep some for upcoming meals.

This is what I did:

Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing
-- makes enough for 2 Quart-size (4-cup) mason jars (or medium tall round ziplock containers, as I ended up using)
  • 1/3 cup chow mein noodles (the crunchy kind)
  • 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 package smoked tofu (I use plain Soyganic), julienned
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted lightly
  • 1/2 large carrot, peeled and julienned (about 1/2 cup?)
  • 1/2 large red pepper, seeded and julienned (about 1/2 cup?)
  • 1 cup mandarin orange segments
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 6 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (I used plain rice vinegar and found I had to add at least another Tablespoon of sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (add more to taste if you prefer a strong sesame taste)
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk well until sugar dissolves. 
  2. Pour half the dressing in each mason jar (or medium tall round ziplock container)
  3. Add half of each of the following ingredients into each mason jar, in this order: mandarin oranges, green onions, tofu, red peppers, carrots, then pack the rest of the container with the romaine lettuce. The idea is to keep the lettuce dry.
  4. Close each mason jar tightly.
  5. Now you want to make a "crunchy packet" because if you put crunchy things in the jar they will get soggy -- so rip 2 large pieces of plastic wrap, put half the chow mein noodles and almonds into the center, and twist each one up tightly.
  6. Keep the containers in the fridge,with the crunchy packet on top so you don't forget about it.
  7. Done! When you're ready to eat, dump the salad and crunchy toppings in a large salad bowl and mix it up and enjoy. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

kovakkai curry

This is the recipe for a curry made of an Indian vegetable called kovakkai (small green squashes about 1 1/2 inches long -- also called Ivy Gourd, or Tindori) from Mahesh's mother. You will notice there are no measurements or timings for this recipe. When Mahesh asked her how much spice to use, she said "use your common sense." Which is not all that helpful to me. I will try to measure and update with amounts when I figure out what they are.


-- Kovakkai (how much? we bought a lot, maybe 1 lb)
-- 1 tsp. cumin powder
-- 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
-- chile powder or sambar powder (or mix little bit of both) (I used 1 tsp sambar powder)
-- 1 tsp. salt
-- oil
-- minced cilantro


1. wash and cut kovakai into quarters length-wise
2. Heat oil in pan to medium heat. Mix three spices together, then fry in oil until fragrant, do not let the spices burn! (cook 30 seconds or so)
3. Put kovakai in the pan with salt, stir to coat with oil and spices. Cover and fry for 40 minutes over medium heat, or until kovakkai are soft and start to taste good.
4. After the kovakai is cooked through, remove the cover and fry until browned in places, 15 or 20 more minutes.
5. At the end, add in some minced cilantro.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Onion Lentil Rice

In honor of a new year and a new resolution to eat healthier in our house, here is a healthy one-pot vegetarian meal which is one of Mahesh's favorites. I believe this recipe started out as a stuffing for something else, and we decided it was the best part so just decided to make the stuffing, and it's changed up quite a bit since then. It's pretty simple so it works best with a nice dessert or appetizer course.



-- 1 cup green lentils
-- 2 bay leaves
-- 2 onions, sliced
-- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
-- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
-- 5 cups vegetable stock (or water)
-- 1 1/4 cups basmati or other long-grain rice, rinsed
-- 1 c. frozen peas
-- 4 T. chopped fresh parsley
-- 2 t. chopped fresh dill (or 1 t. dried)
-- 1 t. salt
-- pepper to taste


1. Put lentils in bowl and cover with water. Soak for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, saute onions, mushrooms, and carrots in butter until onions are translucent and starting to caramelize. (the more you can caramelize them during this stage, the better)
3. Add all stock, bay leaf, and lentils, boil 15 minutes
4. Add rice, boil until almost done (30 minutes or so) -- keep an eye on the water level during this phase, you may need to add more!
5. Add in peas, boil until cooked.
6. When cooked, add in herbs, salt and pepper to taste. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Healthy Cornbread

We have been eating a lot of pea soup around here, and I like a good cornbread with my pea soup. The problem is that most cornbread recipes include half or even an entire cup of butter! This is a healthier recipe that still tastes good. I make mine in a cast iron skillet.






  • 1 tablespoon butter, for the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (or white flour)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (optional)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt (or buttermilk)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Put 1 tablespoon butter in cast iron skillet and put it in the oven to preheat.
  2. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, frozen corn and salt in a large bowl. Whisk egg, yogurt and melted butter in a separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. 
  3. Using a potholder, take the cast iron pan out of the oven. The butter should be melted by now, use a spatula to move the butter around so it coats the bottom of the pan. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.
  4. Bake the cornbread until the top springs back when touched lightly, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to make Ghee (Indian clarified butter)

I've heard Ghee (pronounced gee) called "clarified butter" but until today it's been a bit of a mystery to me. I think that's because once I saw an American chef on TV make something also called clarified butter by melting butter and skimming the solids off the top. I didn't see how that process would end up with the caramelized product my mother-in-law uses in her cooking called "ghee."

Today she showed me how she does it. Which is NOT like the western way of making clarified butter. It's more like making a browned butter sauce, the purpose being to evaporate the water from the butter and caramelize a bit for a better, more flavorful product and higher melting point.


-- 1 pound unsalted butter.

1. Melt butter in a pan on the stove. Over low/medium low heat, boil butter for 10-15 minutes. The water in the butter will be evaporating during this time.

2. Once the water is gone, the butter will start to brown. This happens all of a sudden so don't walk away! Once the butter starts to brown, cook for a few seconds longer and take off the heat. It will continue to brown to a honey color and smell caramelized and nice. This is ghee:

Note the honey color of the actual ghee (in the scoop). The dark brown stuff in the bottom of the pan is the solids in the butter which have browned quite a bit but will be filtered out of the finished product.
3. Filter the ghee through a sieve and pour in a container while still hot. It will last a long time in the fridge.

color of finished, filtered, cooled ghee.