Pantry Cooking: Mixed Bean Soup

Written by Meena Agarwal on March 29th, 2008 | 11 Comments


Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

At any given time, my pantry shelves are decked with at least 5 different kinds of lentils, 3 different kinds of beans, 5 kinds of pasta, noodles and rice, and a basket full of spice mixes and sauces. Having such an elaborate pantry enables me to throw dinner on the table at the drop of hat when I’m in no position to shop for fresh supplies. I recently talked about my love for menu planning, and I honestly believe that having a well-stocked pantry (which, in this case, I refer to my kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer) makes the task a whole lot simpler and hence, possible to follow through.

Many people I know start out with making extravagant menu plans for their weeknight dinners, only to find themselves unable to keep up with it after the second day. The trick is to plan your weeknight meals in such a way, that you remove the stress out of making the meal entirely. And if that means I’m serving soup made out of pre-prepared ingredients, then so be it!

Although I would love to cook my daily meals, from scratch from the freshest produce available, I would only be kidding myself if I believed it could ever be possible. After a long day of work, the last thing on my mind is the need to spend gruelling hours chopping, dicing, slicing, pureeing and mashing ingredients for my dinner. Instead, I try and make use of my pantry items to complete my meal. However, I always try and ensure that I have at least one fresh vegetable on the table, even if it is a mere salad. But some times, as we all know, life decides to take its toll and even a simple bowl of sliced cucumbers seem highly unlikely.

A few days ago, I found myself scurrying from my office (even if it just a mere 10 feet away from my kitchen!) all starved and ready to shove the first thing edible I could lay my hands on. I’d had a long day, and yet the work was far from done. I only had just enough time to fix something quick and shove it in me before I would have to get back to my laptop. This soup is what kept me sane and gave me the extra boost of energy I needed. It was simple, quick and delicious, served with crusty warm garlic bread. All thanks to a well stocked pantry!

MIXED BEAN SOUP
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 large can mixed beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups chicken/vegetable stock
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp light cooking oil
salt, to taste
fresh coriander leaves and lemon wedges, for garnish

Directions:

Heat oil in a large non-stick pot and saute chopped onions and garlic till tender.

Add in tomatoes, spices, and beans, and cook for few minutes to blend in spices. Stir in chicken stock and corn, and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Season with salt, and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and lemon.



Meal Time Madness: Mango Chicken with Red Peppers

Written by Meena Agarwal on March 10th, 2008 | 38 Comments


Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

I am a firm believer of meal planning. So much so, that every weekend I take a few hours to carefully plan our meals for the coming week. I grab a handful of cookbooks from my ever increasing library, a couple of sticky page tabs, my favourite pen and meal planning notebook (yes, I keep a notebook!), and get down to work.

First, I skim through the pages of various cookbooks for inspiration and ideas. Then I make a list of what I think we’d like to eat that week. I then go about designating a theme for each day of the week. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, I’m not one to cook a 4-course dinner everyday! Usually my themes would look something like this:

Monday: Chicken
Tuesday: Pasta Night
Wednesday: Dal, Roti, Sabzi
Thursday: Soup & Sandwich
Friday: Movie & Munchie Night

Having set themes for each night of the week makes it easier for me to decide and plan a meal, ensuring I maintain a good balance between protein, carbs and vegetables. I usually leave weekends free which allows us play it by ear. After all, it’s good to some amount of spontaneity thrown in!

Once my meals have been decided upon (after due consulting with Hubby Dear on whether he promises to eat the Bok choy I have planned for one day), I create my grocery list. Now, as much as this may make me seem a very organized person, I assure you that it’s not always the case. There are often days when I don’t feel like keeping with the plan, when I absolutely refuse to have a cous cous salad for dinner, or days when all we want is some take-out pizza. It’s especially when days like those happen, that my so-called organization gets thrown out the window.

Today was one such particular day. I had a lovely looking mango sitting lonely in my fridge since I had a mango salsa planned sometime during last week. Well, that didn’t quite work out, so the darned fruit was shoved into this week’s menu. As I sat to plan my meals for this week, I realized I felt a little adventurous and wanted to take a new recipe for a test drive. And thus this Mango Chicken was born. All I have to say about it though, is that if Hubby Dear comes home even a tad bit late tonight, I can’t promise he’ll have any left for him. I’m starving already, and the dish bubbling away seems to be calling my name. Oh how will I ever resist!

Jump to the Recipe »



Eating Lunch with Rachael Ray: Curry Noodle Bowl

Written by Meena Agarwal on March 4th, 2008 | 29 Comments


Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

It had come to my notice a few days ago that I was spending a lot more time cooking than actually eating. This is not to say that I have been burdening myself with tedious and slow-cooking meals. In fact, it was quite the contrary. While my meals have been loaded with quick and simple salads, soups and the occasional sandwich, it seemed strange to me that I was eating in less than half the time I took to prepare the meal at hand.

I have recently begun to have lunch at my desk, if only to try and get as much work done as I possibly could cram into my day. With my food sitting on my right and my laptop on the left, it’s almost impossible for me to sit back and actually take a moment to even look at my plate, let alone enjoy it. And this, my dear friends has been bugging me since the time I started doing it.

There are piles of emails flagged for responses, a ton of article ideas bookmarked for research, a growing tower of books (which I now use as a side table to hold my morning cup of coffee) for review, and the odd request or two for help with a menu plan, that are all screaming for my undivided attention. Well, what can I say but that it’s hard trying to balance your work and hobby at the same time. Even harder when they both are interlinked, like in my case. That was until I found Rachael Ray.

I was first introduced to the great RR a few years ago with her show 30-Minute Meals. Like many, I thought she was too perky to be sane. I thought it was crazy of her to bang pots and pans to flatten meat, and create acronyms like EVOO and GB (which I must add is a wonderful trick I learnt from her!). But what I did admire was her penchant to get real creative in the kitchen and make everyday food seem exotic and exciting.

A few days ago, as I got ready to take my lunch into my home office, I had the sudden urge to stop and see what was on TV. A quick scan and I found myself taking a seat with The Rachael Ray Show. She was just as I remembered her: quirky, overly excited and bubbly. But even then, I found myself grinning at her silly jokes. She passed around the ‘snack of the day’ to her audience as I took the first bite of my lunch. By the end of the episode, I had polished my plate, relishing every bite and enjoying what I ate. I tried doing the same the next day. And the day after. And the day after that.

It’s been more than a week since, and my lunches, though take hardly any time to cook, seem to take a whole hour to be eaten. And not to mention, enjoyed. All thanks to the Queen of Quick!

CURRY NOODLE BOWL
Prep time: 15 min | Cooking time: 15 min | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb noodles of choice
1 cup boneless cubed chicken/cubed tofu
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped bok choy
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp curry paste (red or yellow)
1 stalk lemon grass, bruised and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup coconut milk 
3 cups chicken/vegetable stock
1 tbsp light cooking oil
salt & pepper, to taste
fresh coriander leaves, chopped chillies and lemon wedges, for garnish

Directions:

Heat oil in a deep pan, and saute garlic and curry paste till fragrant. Add in onions and chicken/tofu, and saute till lightly brown.

Add in coconut milk, stock and lemon grass, and let it come to a boil on low heat. Add in musrooms and noodles, and cook covered till noodles are tender and done. Stir in bok choy, and cover cook for 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, add garnish with coriander leaves, chillies and a dash of lemon juice. Ladle in large bowls and serve piping hot.