Category Archives: Recipe

Vegan Pumpkin Sauce (Recipe)

I’m pretty sure every time I say the words vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free, Vishnu’s heart skips a beat.  And not in a good way.

That’s why I sometimes don’t tell him what I’m making until after he eats a few bites.  Depending on what he has going on, this tactic can work in my favor or not.

When it works in my favor, I get a, “This is good, Par.  What’s in it?”  And when it doesn’t…well, take this past Sunday when I was making a Vegan Pumpkin Sauce recipe my coworker shared with me…

Dairy-free pasta sauce

I start the cooking process by chopping up an onion.  Vishnu asks if he can help me in any way.  I smile, say no, and tell him to go watch TV and relax.  He gives me a weird look and goes away.  I continue cooking.  About three minutes later he comes back, pokes around a bit, and asks if he can help.  This time I tell him to open up a can of pumpkin.  He gives me a strange look.  And then the questions start.

“What are you making?”
”Why are you being so secretive?”
”Should I make some meat to go with this pasta?”
”Why are you putting pumpkin in the sauce?  It tastes gross.”

I do my best to ignore him.  After adding the finishing touches to the sauce, I plate our food and we sit down to eat.

After taking a few bites, Vishnu says, “This is good, but you know what would have made it even better?  Some meat!”

GAH!  At least I got a “this is good!”

Anyway, I LOVED this sauce and found it to be unique and quite delicious all on it’s own.  It’s one of the simplest things I’ve ever made and took less than 30 minutes to throw together.  And the best part is that you can put whatever creative spin you want on it – different spices, different/additional veggies, etc.  And you can’t even tell it’s vegan.  I promise!

And don’t listen to Vishnu.  It’s great even without any meat!

Dairy-free pasta sauce 2

Vegan Pumpkin Sauce

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/2 of a medium onion, finely diced
1 pint of grape tomatoes, pureed in a food processor
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 sage leaves, cut using the chiffonade technique
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.  Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the garlic, salt, and pepper.  Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add the sage, oregano, red pepper flakes, almond milk, and pumpkin puree.  Whisk everything together until pumpkin is well incorporated into the sauce.  Cover and allow to simmer for 7-10 minutes.

While I think of this as a pasta sauce (because that’s how we ate it), it would pair well with rice, quinoa, and even meat as Vishnu pointed out!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Fun, Productive, and a Little Lazy

The title of today’s post describes my weekend perfectly.  This was our first full weekend back in Miami together so I wanted to spend time with Vishnu, run some errands, and take it easy a little.  I’m happy to report that I was able to do just that!

Friday evening started with Presley’s Stability Ball Circuit three times through. I also went down to our gym with the elliptical on my mind.  After quickly realizing that the machine started over every time you changed directions, I jumped off and made my way to the rowing machine (for the first time in years).  I selected the 2000m workout and…ummm…it was hard.  I wanted to quit halfway through but pushed on.  I definitely paid the price all weekend.  Between rowing and the circuit workout, I was so sore!

After showering and getting ready, it was date night – dinner and a movie!

Ann Taylor Maxi
Before I go on, I have to mention my new Ann Taylor maxi dress.  Bottom line…I freaking love it.  I bought it online with a friend while in Austin after seeing one of the other girls wearing it.  Mine is petite and the perfect length (I’m a little over 5’2”).  The style and cut are super flattering, and the material is very soft and flowy.  LOVE!

Ok, so back to date night.  Vishnu and I went to LoKal Burgers and Beer for dinner.  My veggie burger and green bean and bruschetta side dish were both awesome.  And Vishnu really enjoyed his burger and fries.  We will definitely be back.

After dinner, we made our way over to the theater to see Gone Girl.  Both Vishnu and I really enjoyed it!  I read the book a while ago and was excited to hear that the movie followed the book almost to a tee.  Everything was spot on and just the way I imagined it – the acting, the setting, the suspense.  A must watch if you ask me!

The movie didn’t get out until 12:45 am, so of course that meant we started our Saturday a bit later than planned.  And by later I mean 11:00 am.  I was a little thrown off the rest of the day but still got a lot done.  I went to Target, the mall, and Costco, which ended up taking over three hours!  We needed quite a few things, so it was worth it.  I also fit in a 4.5 mile run before dinner (will be blogging about my current runs and half marathon plan soon).  And then Vishnu and I made pizza using crusts I bought at Costco.  The outcome was delicious!

Pizza night
Sautéed onions, mushrooms, and green bell pepper/jalapenos/barbecue sauce/mozzarella

Sunday started bright and early with a trip to Trader Joe’s!

Trader Joes
I surprised myself a little with how much stuff was in the cart.  But no one was more amused than my cashier.  As he was ringing me up, he asked if this was a restocking trip.  I said kind of and laughed a little.  He then asked if I had kids.  I said no and then he started laughing.  My response – “My husband and I love food and prefer to eat in!”  It’s the truth.

I spent the next couple of hours cleaning and organizing.  I know I sound crazy, but it was so much fun.  Our apartment was a little too messy, dusty, etc. for my taste.  I finally feel settled and back to normal!  And just as an FYI, I am still using a homemade vinegar based cleaning solution for pretty much everything (counter tops, the floor, wood cabinets, etc.).  This stuff is amazing.  I highly recommend trying it out.  Life changing.

The night ended on a high (and sweet) note with homemade molten chocolate cake!  I followed this recipe and made a few tweaks.  I changed the serving size to 2.  I also swapped 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar for powdered, whole wheat white flour for all purpose, Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips for bittersweet chocolate, and glass bowls for ramekins (because I don’t own any).  And finally, I only baked my cakes for 9 minutes (instead of 14).  Ooey gooey perfection!  The only thing that would have made this dessert better is ice cream…next time for sure!

Molten Chocolate Cake
And finally, I have one other weekend highlight to share.  I got a new hair straightener!  My almost seven year old CHI stopped working early last week, so I had no choice.  I did a little research and narrowed down my choices to the Sedu and the GHD.  I decided to go with the Sedu purely based on the fact that Roshni owns one and highly recommended it.  And the reviews were pretty much split between the two brands, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong either way.  And so far so good!  I used it last night for the first time and loved how quickly my hair went from coarse and wavy to straight and silky.  Even Vishnu was shocked…his exact words – “I don’t think your hair has ever been this straight!”

And with that, I wish y’all a very happy Monday!

Creamy Eggplant and Potato Shak (Recipe)

*Shak is a generic north Indian term for vegetables in spices.

While in Chicago, I learned a lesson in Indian cooking from my friends Roshni and Ankita.  Keep it simple!

You see, I have the tendency to overcomplicate my Indian food with too many vegetables, spices, etc.  But after watching them make delicious dishes using one or two vegetables and just a few spices, I quickly realized I was doing it all wrong.

And Vishnu agreed.  After eating Ankita’s cauliflower and potato shak one night, he looked at me and said, “See, you have to keep it simple.”

Well, that’s what I plan on doing from now on!

In fact, I made a dish last night that was simple enough to prepare but didn’t lack in the flavor department.  This potato and eggplant shak is creamy, comforting and perfect with a side of rice and yogurt.

I can’t take all the credit though.  When I mentioned my new “keep it simple” rule to my mom, she told me about a sauce she makes that pairs well with all kinds of veggies and beans.  I even got her to email me a loose “recipe!”

And that, my friends, is how this Creamy Potato and Eggplant Shak was born!

Eggplant and Potato Shak 206

Without further ado…

Creamy Potato and Eggplant Shak

For the sauce:
2 cups water
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 small green chili, cut into several small pieces
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/3 cup raw whole almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

Heat water in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add all of the ingredients to the water, except salt and garam masala.  Stir to combine.  When the mixture starts to boil, reduce to medium heat and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  Drain the mixture, reserving the water.  Place onion/tomato mixture in a blender and puree until combined into a thick paste.  Place saucepan over low heat and add olive oil.  Pour onion/tomato mixture back into the saucepan. Add salt and garam masala.  Mix everything together, cook for additional two minutes and set aside.

For the vegetables:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium eggplant, diced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add cumin seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes until they are deep brown and fragrant.  Add potatoes along with 2/3 cup reserved water [from sauce].  Reduce heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook for 5-10 minutes until potatoes are almost cooked through but still firm to the touch.  Gently fold in eggplant.  Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes until eggplant is cooked through.  Add turmeric, salt, and red chili powder.  Mix well.  Cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the sauce to the vegetables along with 1/3 cup reserved water [from sauce].  Gently mix everything together, cover, and allow to simmer for a few minutes.  Add additional salt if needed.

Serve with naan/rice/quinoa and yogurt.

Happy Friday!

CK Mondavi + Risotto

Since meeting Robin last year, I’ve really gotten into wine. And by “really gotten into wine” I mean I actually pick something other than a Riesling when given the option! Robin’s super knowledgeable and has taught me a lot about different types, the way they’re made, how different regions affect taste, etc.

So when I was recently given the opportunity to try four different kinds of CK Mondavi wines, I jumped on it! And I invited Robin over for a personal tasting.

Wine and Vinegar 032

Before I share more about the types of wine we tried, I have to mention a few special facts about CK Mondavi. CK Mondavi is the only American made/grown win in the “supermarket wine under $10” category, AND it’s sold nationwide in every US state. If you’re “really into wine” like me, this is the perfect time to try CK Mondavi wines because a percentage of each bottle sold between May-August is donated to Intrepid Fallen Heroes (up to $50,000), an organization that supports the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.

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Robin and I had the pleasure of trying the following CK Mondavi wines: Blonde Five, Chardonnay, Scarlet Five, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our thoughts…

Blonde Five – very fruity with a sweet aftertaste. This was Robin’s favorite out of the four we tried. We thought it would pair well with white meat, fish, and summer vegetables.

Chardonnay – a little oaky with a mix of fruity and citrus flavors. We both liked this one and thought it was fairly refreshing. This wine would pair well with a heartier meal – pasta and a creamy cheese sauce perhaps.

Scarlet Five – a full-bodied and well-balanced wine with hints of cherry and plum. Surprisingly, this one was my favorite. I loved the bold flavor and aftertaste. This wine is special as it based on five red varieties – Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Personally, I think this would go with any food pairing!

Cabernet Sauvignon – slightly more full-bodied, oaky, with hints of lemon. Again, this wine was also refreshing but a little bolder than the Blonde Five. This would pair well with some chicken/seafood and creamy pasta.

Overall, we were fans of all the wines and agreed that we could see ourselves buying a bottle…or two…in the future.

Not only did I try the wine, but I cooked with it as well! I made what is quickly becoming mine and Vishnu’s favorite homemade meal – risotto. It’s rich, creamy, and delicious. And when you use a good wine, it increases the flavor so much!

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A quick tip for cooking with wine – pick something you like to drink. I’m not a pro by any means, but that always works for me.

This particular risotto was made with the Chardonnay, shitake mushrooms, and basil walnut pesto. I honestly could’ve eaten the entire batch myself! It would pair perfectly with a side salad and a glass of wine for the perfect summer meal. You could also serve it with baked chicken/fish for some extra protein.

One more tip – remember to be patient when making risotto. This is a dish that can’t be rushed. When the recipe says to allow all the liquid to absorb before adding more, make sure the liquid is absorbed! Just trust me on that!

Shitake and Basil Walnut Pesto Risotto
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
10 ounces of shitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
2/3 cup Chardonnay (or wine of choice)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup basil walnut pesto
½ cup parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and allow to melt. Add shallots and mushrooms and cook until shallots are translucent (about 5 minutes).

In a separate saucepan, heat broth over medium heat.

Add rice to shallot and mushroom mixture and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add wine and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes until wine is absorbed. Keep your eye on the rice and stir frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/3 cup broth to rice mixture and stir until broth is absorbed (don’t stop stirring!). Repeat until all the broth has been incorporated and absorbed. Turn the heat down to low. Fold pesto and parmesan cheese into the rice mixture. Adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy!

Basil Walnut Pesto
*Note: this pesto will be a little thicker than usual because it is being added to the risotto.

1 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
juice of one lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add basil leaves, walnuts, and parmesan cheese to food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add lemon juice and olive oil and process until the mixture is creamy in appearance. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

If this doesn’t make your mouth water, I’m not sure what will!

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I hope you enjoy lots of wine and delicious homemade meals (made with wine!) this summer.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Last Week’s Notable Meals {3}

Happy Monday!

I’m all about living in the moment (or trying to at least), but part of me already wants to fast forward to next week.  Only because we get Monday off for Memorial Day!  AND we get an early release day on Friday.  Bring on the 3.5 day weekend!

This past weekend was very normal and as simple as they come – cleaned, ran errands, spent time with Vishnu, hung out with friends, etc.  Good stuff!

So before I share last week’s notable meals, I have to admit that all of the pictures included in this post were taken with my iPhone.  I just didn’t have the energy to pull out my SLR, set everything up, and snap multiple pictures.  I was too hungry…and a little lazy!

With that being said, here are last week’s notable meals…

Kale and Feta Quiche with Lemony Broccoli

Cooksmarts quiche
This was a Cook Smarts (<–affiliate link!) meal and it was delicious!  We had an entire carton of eggs to use, and I knew I wanted to make some kind of quiche dish.  A quick search on Cook Smarts led me to this recipe.  It was really simple to make, included just a few ingredients, and was ready in about 35 minutes.  I actually swapped Swiss cheese for Feta because I feel like Feta adds so much flavor to dishes like this.  Good choice on my part!

Pesto Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes (and Grilled Chicken for Vishnu)

Pesto pasta
Word to the wise – pesto is freezer friendly!  So do yourself a big favor, make a huge batch, and freeze what you don’t use.  It comes in handy!  This dish was another quick one – Trader Joe’s quinoa and brown rice pasta, basil pesto, and cherry tomatoes.  I also added a little extra cheese to the pasta before serving (this shaved cheese blend is one of my favorite things EVER!).  Vishnu ate this with a grilled chicken breast.  And he was in charge of making that!

Zucchini, Onion, and Mushroom Shak, Whole Wheat Bhakri, and Yogurt

Shak and bhakri
Shak = spiced vegetables and Bhakri = Indian flatbread

Growing up, we ate shak and bhakri almost every day for dinner, and I’m trying to bring back that tradition in a small way.  While I don’t think I’ll make shak and bhakri every day, I want to try to make this kind of meal at least twice a week.  This particular shak came together in 10-15 minutes.  All I did was sauté the veggies in a little oil and added a few spices and some salt.  That’s it!  The bakhi was a little more involved because it’s made completely from scratch – 1 cup of whole wheat flour, a couple pinches of salt, olive oil, and water.  I then rolled out the dough with my Indian rolling pin and cooked each bhakri in a small frying pan.  Not as good as my mom’s but still pretty tasty!

TJ’s Roasted Red Pepper Soup and Avocado Melts

soup and avocado toast
This dinner was Cook Smarts (<– affiliate link!) inspired and obviously came together really quickly!  I simmered the soup in a pan along with a few additional spices (garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne).  And for the avocado melts, I smashed up an avocado along with some cilantro, lime juice, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne, spread the mixture on four slices of bread bread, topped with Muenster cheese, and set under the broiler for ~3 minutes.  Easy peasy and delicious!

Vegan Spiced Eggplant Curry

Eggplant shak and rice
My mom emailed this recipe to me earlier in the week and said that she was going to try it out.  She really loves Kiran’s site!  Both her and my dad loved it, so I knew exactly what I was going to do with the eggplant sitting in our fridge.  While I did have to modify the original recipe slightly (I didn’t have all the spices it called for), it turned out great!  Again, so easy to make and extremely flavorful.  We ate our curry alongside some rice and yogurt.

Well, there you have it – our meals from last week.  It was a tasty and fairly laid back week in the kitchen, which I always appreciate!

And if you’re new to this notable meals thing I have going on, click here to check out my other posts (scroll all the way to the bottom)!

Happy Monday!

Best thing you made last week?