Acne is taking over my life

Oct 30, 2012
...as self-obsessed, superficial or shallow it may sound, but there is nothing more frustrating than a red, inflamed pimples/zits, sometimes with gross pus all over your face - my worst enemy ACNE..probably not something you want to start your day with but I have been dealing with for about a year and its getting really frustrating!!! and I am not just talking about one or two occasional visitors here because I would gladly accept those occasional ones everyday.

I have tried everything and by that I mean everything from very shady looking herbal topical creams to high end products (such a waste of money). But nothing worked..well, may there are some things that worked aka antibiotics to certain extend but now I am basically stuck in this viscous cycle & antibiotics dependent. 

There are many websites and blogs that talks about the causes of acne and how to prevent etc and I do not know what to believe anymore because there are endless possibilities to why someone gets acne. Also, there are no plausible, solid scientific evidence to prove any of the alleged dietary causes such as chocolate, caffeine, sugar, milk, fried food, etc etc  but desperate as I am to have a clear skin one day -  I have given up two things that I absolutely love - coffee and chocolate. Have I seen any significant results? Honestly, No. Its purely psychological I think rather than actual result but at least it keeps me sane. 

I recently came across few articles but this one about milk & sugar and effect on acne got me thinking to give up refined sugar & milk for a week or two and see how my skin reacts. Additionally, one of my friend posted about the effect of Apple Cider Vinegar on acne that I am very tempted to give it a shot (although I hear that it makes the acne worst in the beginning phase or not work, or works  differently on everyone). 

Sorry, there are no recipes or pictures of delicious food instead I am here asking for options, advice, support because it is really starting to affect both my mood & confidence!

Feel free to share what you all think.

Pad Thai Made Easy!

Oct 25, 2012
I have already confessed my love for Thai Food before, so its no surprise that I suffered a huge food coma with Pad Thai last night..Salute to the genius who came up with an idea of semi-soft, slightly chewy flat, rice noodles...DELICIOUS.

Pad Thai...my new obsession next to Red Thai Curry.


and I could not be happier when I found the most amazing thing at the Asian Grocery Store - fresh Pad Thai Noodles. It was located along with other pre-made, cold noodles.


I have had different versions of Pad Thai at different restaurants and I really don't know what the traditional ones exactly entails besides- flat rice noodles, eggs, and medley of vegetables and meat (if desired) with salty-sour sauce topped with chopped peanuts.

Here is my interpretation of Pad Thai with Chicken..I eye balled all the ingredients so depending upon how many servings you need, adjust the ingredients & flavor.

Pad Thai with Chicken

Ingredients 
boneless chicken, fully cooked & cubed (may substitute tofu or shrimp)
pad Thai noodles, fresh, ready to cook or boiled/drained rice noodles
onions, chopped
garlic & ginger paste or minced
bean sprouts
green onions, chopped
snow peas 
green chilli, sliced
fish sauce
brown sugar
sesame oil or vegetable oil 
soy sauce, reduced sodium
broth (reduced sodium chicken or vegetable)
eggs
chili garlic paste
roasted peanuts, chopped
cilantro, chopped
lime wedges
salt  

Directions

For Make Ahead Pad Thai Sauce:
-Over medium heat in a small sauce, heat equal amounts of soy sauce, fish sauce, & broth. Then stir in brown sugar and chili garlic paste until they come to boil. Lower the heat and allow it to reduce for 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust if needed.

For noodles:
-In a wok or pan, heat sesame oil and stir fry onions, garlic ginger for few minutes. 
-Add snow peas, green onions, green chillies and 1/4 sauce and mix them together.
-Stir in cooked chicken ( tofu or shrimp) for 2-3 minutes. Then add rice noodles along with more 1/4 sauce and cook for few minutes.
-Move the noodles to the side and crack eggs on the side. let the eggs cook and then mix everything with the remaining ingredients in the pan.
-If the noodle is dry, add more sauce. Otherwise, lower the heat and add bean sprouts, combine everything with the remaining sauce for additional few minutes.
-Remove from heat, garnish with chopped cilantro, peanut and lime wedges!

 
I was happy because the whole apartment smelled like Thai restaurant (just remember to shut all the doors & turn on the exhaust fan) Right before serving, chop some peanuts & fresh cilantro
 

and within half an hour, there is delicious pad Thai ready :)



First Jack O' Lantern

Oct 24, 2012
This is the first time I have celebrated Fall season full-on..

It started off with pumpkin donuts followed by butternut squash soup, carrot bread and now its Jack O' Lantern time.

I really don't know the significance of Jack o' Lantern but from what I read here, every year around Halloween people carve scary faces into pumpkin, turnips, beets etc and keep it near the window/porch to frighten evil-wandering spirits. 
 


I did not realize that you need some serious skills & time to carve a pumpkin!


Do not cut straight through the top, always hold the knife to an angle


I was overjoyed to carve my first ever pumpkin
 
now the fun part- cleaning out the gut.. and do not throw away the seeds!Roast the seeds @ 400F for about 20 minutes turning once for some crunchy snack. 

 

...since I do not own any proper carving tool besides a pairing knife, we could not do anything fancy schmancy design on it..just went ahead with something simple!



Designer at work & It was quite a laborious process...



heres our jack o' lantern

after giving some finishing touch & scrapping out the excess



May all the evil spirits stay far far away from all of us and bring us loads of joy & happiness!

Homemade Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce{Meatless Monday}

Oct 23, 2012
Homemade gnocchi has been on my bucket list for a long time..but the thing is I have never ever had it before, no never.. I got this gnocchi fascination from food shows where chef delicately make gnocchi in matter of half an hour or so, toss them with light tomato sauce or some butter with fresh herbs..the final product always looks so sophisticated yet very hearty & comforting at the same time.


Gnocchi is a soft dumpling like dish made with very few ingredients (you most likely already have in your pantry) aka potatoes, flour, egg & salt. I could not resist this gnocchi recipe from one of the food blogs I was scrolling through and I am glad I tried this one out..and guess what- its not difficult at all, its actually very easy!!


All you do is mix-mix, roll-roll and cut them into little pieces. Although it is recommended to buy potato ricer, I mashed potatoes with a knife until they were no longer lumpy. 

its a little messy process, in term of rolling out a rough. Make sure there is enough surface area to work on the dough..

I attempted to cut the dough- FAIL. I cut them little big than it is supposed to be because the dough actually swells up later. However, like last time with spicy chicken buns, 'dough master' helped me..



its time to boil these little guys now.. make sure you boil them in batches to prevent sticking and allow it to boil until they start floating on top for about 2 minutes.


this recipe makes alot of gnocchi. You can either boil everything and refrigerate it for quick lunch next day or store the dough in the freezer (if not using within 2-3 days) or refrigerate (if planning on using within 1-2 days). 

I made quick tomato sauce with fresh herbs: 2 tomatoes + few garlic crushed + 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary & thyme + salt & pepper. Saute them over medium heat with some olive oil and continue to cook until they reach slightly thick sauce consistency to pour over gnocchi!!

since I have never had this dish before today, I cannot tell much about it.. 

honestly, it was a total carb-bliss..very hearty, comforting, and something I could overload myself easily with. Well, I have an affair with carbs so that explains my love for gnocchi. The tomato sauce with herbs added a lot of flavor to the soft, heavenly gnocchi. 'Dough Master' said otherwise though- he loved the flavor but the texture was slightly sticky & would have preferred little sturdier feel.  AGREED!! 




I am linking this recipe to Tasty Tuesday & Tasty Tuesday Recipe Swap.




Pumpkin Pie Spiced Carrot Bread

Oct 22, 2012
Lately I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen just cooking, experimenting fall recipes (creamy butternut squash soup & pumpkin donuts) and finally getting over my fear of yeast in baking.. 

I woke up Saturday morning early, needed to clear my head little bit so headed straight to the kitchen for a therapeutic baking moment. I didn't really have anything particular on my mind..I saw a bag of carrot waiting to be used. Without thinking any further, I started grating them- who knew grating carrots could be (yes, only when you are little overwhelmed).. coz' all I did was mindlessly grate three or four carrots and not really follow any recipe, just went by instincts - the end result was the carrot bread spiced with pumpkin pie topped with coconut flakes. 




My head was clearly not on this bread so I did not have good feeling about it at all..its just another failed attempt- no big deal and I was convinced that I will end up with a ugly loaf with funky taste..but little did i know, after twenty minutes or so, my apartment smelled like a bakery with slight aroma of pumpkin pie spices.. the loaf actually turned out beautiful, grated carrot & coconut flakes made it look so pretty. The bread was extremely moist & not too sweet which I enjoyed.. 

In retrospect, spending some time in the kitchen, messing with flours & cleaning dirty spatulas gave me sanity I needed. 


Pumpkin Pie Spiced Carrot Bread
Makes one loaf

Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon ground flax seed (1 tbsp ground flax seed + 3 tbsp water replaces 1 egg)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups carrots, grated
coconut flakes, nuts (optional)

Directions
-Preheat the oven to 350F
-In a medium bowl, mix first four ingredients
-In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients together until well combined
-Pour the wet ingredients into dry ingredients
-Stir grated carrots, until well combined
-Spray cooking oil in a bread pan and pour the batter
-Allow it to bake for 30-35 minutes or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean

* I sprinkled coconut flakes few minutes before the bread was done.




Creamy Butternut Squash Soup {Recipe Redux}

Oct 21, 2012
October - "Orange You Glad It's Fall?" Markets are plentiful with the orange colors of autumn including pumpkin, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and even golden beets. Not only are these produce bursting with fall flavors but they are also chocked full of carotenoid antioxidants. 


Since I came to USA, I have always lived in cities with very cold weather (New York, Pocatello, and Peoria) still could never get used to it..the windchill, snow, lack of sunshine just makes me grumpy & miserable..



...okay may be there are few things I like about cold weather..

Long leather boots..
Pea coats, superrr loooong down jackets...
Warm, hearty, creamy, chunky, spicy, meaty - soups...
and.. that's it! My list ends here.

To celebrate the beginning of Fall, I baked pumpkin spiced donuts...and now its slowly starting to feel like Fall, I am ready to get started on this soupy adventure with some winter root vegetables - butternut squash,  sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Winter vegetables may seem little daunting in the beginning; they demand little more cooking time than fresh greens and tomatoes..remember, they are great source of fiber and loaded with lots of vitamins and minerals that our body needs to fight off the cold. Enjoy them- simply roasted, curried or as soups and stews!


This was my first time working with the butternut squash and with the help of one of my friend's sister (a butternut squash guru), we were able to successfully cut it and scooped out the seeds...

...and roast the seeds in the oven alongside with some olive oil & salt until crispy. It makes a great snack and toppings for salads.


Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
Makes about 2-3 big servings 

Ingredients
1 butternut squash, cut into halve, seeds scooped (save the seeds)
2 carrots, cut into thick rounds
1 medium sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 onion, quartered
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
2.5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 sprigs each- fresh thyme, sage, rosemary
2 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil 
salt and pepper 

Directions
-Preheat the oven to 400F.
-In a medium bowl, mix carrots and sweet potatoes with some oil, salt & pepper. 
-Rub oil, salt, pepper, and some garlic on halved butternut squash.
-Place them in a baking tray, roast them for 40-45 minutes turning them occasionally or until they are soft. Scoop the flesh from butternut squash.
-In a sauce pan over medium heat, add oil, and sautee onions, ginger, garlic for 2-3 minutes. 
-Stir in the carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes from the oven along with fresh herbs and sautee for few minutes.
-Pour in the broth, pepper and let it simmer for 8-10 minutes.
-Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.
-Taste it and adjust salt, pepper as needed.
-Sprinkle some roasted butternut squash seeded if desired or a dollop or Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream.

Although it took a while for the veggies to roast in the oven, it was totally worth the wait..in the meanwhile I was able to catch up on my recent addiction 90210.

The soup was extremely creamy with so many flavors from different root vegetables and fresh herbs..I particularly enjoyed the taste of ginger- like our guru said "Its a MUST", it really is- ginger along with other fresh herbs elevated the taste of butternut squash, it worked so well with sweet potatoes & carrots..






Spicy Chicken Buns Under Our Belt

Oct 19, 2012
So one of my friend has been raving about some chicken buns, supposedly amazing mom's recipe for past couple months! Just the way he talks about ..how he gobbled them down in 2 seconds, or can eat them straight for three meals, etc etc made me feel like I am seriously missing out on life or something..



...I even got the recipe down & everything but never made it.  well, it involves yeast. Yeast & I do not go well together..but my friend was here to save the day :) and we made his mom's amazing chicken buns together. 

Its a pretty flexible recipe for both vegetarian and non-vegetarians because you can do fillings of your own choice.. Make the fillings ahead of time and let it sit in room temperature.


Spicy Chicken Filling: sauteed onions, tomato paste & chicken with garam masala & red chilli powder, salt


 

For the chicken: we marinaded boneless, skinless chicken with yogurt, tandoori spices, salt, & vinegar for couple hours in the refrigerator and baked them @ 400F until fully done. Whatever filling you choose, just make sure there is some kind of moisture/gravy. 

Here is the original recipe with very explicit directions. Even if you are not a baker, don't worry. Simply follow this recipe to a T and you will end up with beautiful buns :) 




Scroll down for the step-by-step direction


its very important to get the consistency of dough right so I let the dough-master to handle dough and yeast business and saved me some dirty hands.



after the dough rests for half an hour to an hour to rise..its time for the fun part of filling them!



Do not flatten the dough very thin otherwise the filling will sink in.the whole idea is to seal the edges and make them into a ball 

  Continue pinching, sealing the ends smoothly. Once you have finished filling the dough, place them on a baking sheet with aluminum foil, sprayed with cooking spray and brush egg wash all over it and then wait for the magic to happen in about 10-15 minutes!



and next thing you know- its ready...


 VERDICT: Need I say more?


After my first bite, I see why there was so much praising & love for the buns- they were perfectly done, slightly crispy on the outside & soft on the inside with flavorful chicken pieces..

now I don't blame him for eating three times a day..I probably could and will join him too!!

Kurkure Crusted Chicken Tenders (Baked)

Oct 18, 2012
Not familiar with Kurkure? no worries.


its basically an Indian version of Cheetos, very popular snack in the Indian sub-continent areas. While growing up, this was my favorite snack at school, after school, when I was hungry, bored..actually it still is one of my favorite go-to snack..i know, i know its not the best thing to snack on.. but the crunchy, spicy combination makes it very irresistible to exercise portion control and stow the bag away..



While I was at a Indian grocery store few days ago, I grabbed few bags of different flavors of Kurkure and I have been Kurkure high since then! Bad, Bad, Bad.. 

well, only snacking on it was not enough; one of my friend and I came up with this brilliant idea of crushing Kurkure into bread crumb like consistency to make chicken tenders! And voila!!



Kurkure Crusted Chicken Tenders
Makes: 2 portions  

Ingredients
1 bag original Kurkure, crushed finely (may use other flavors)
1 lb chicken tenderloins, cut into halves lengthwise
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper
cooking oil spray

Directions
-Preheat the oven to 375F
-In a medium heat, stir fry the chicken with some salt and pepper for 5-8  minutes or until all sides are lightly seared and allow it to cool for few minutes
-Beat eggs lightly and combine with milk 
-Set up a breading station with flour, egg+ milk, and crushed kurkure in three separate bowls
-Dredge the chicken tenders in flour, followed by egg+milk mixture, and bread it with crushed Kurkure
-Place the breaded chicken tenders in a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, sprayed with cooking oil and let it bake for 15-18 minutes, flipping it once 
-Serve it with your choice of sauce (I used low-fat ranch & Valentina's hot sauce)


The tenders were pretty crispy on the outside & stayed juicy on the inside. Stir-frying them before baking was a good idea because it kept the chicken very moist. Spicy flavors of Kurkure was very prominent and dipping them with ranch + hot sauce made one delicious combination.  

its great for appetizer or dinner (in our case).. we were both very impressed with the little experiment..and emptied the plate in less than ten minutes, ...craving for some more!  


Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Oct 17, 2012
I made vanilla cupcakes long time ago and they turned out pretty good..

again, I made these past weekend for one of my friends birthday! 





Its just another way of saying I Care...

 


Since I was pressed on for time, I used store bought cream cheese frosting which usually very well with the vanilla cupcakes... the cupcakes turned out slightly dry (I kept it in oven little too long) but with the frosting, it did not matter that much..this is something real easy,  not too overwhelming, simple pantry-ingredients, and pretty fun to frost/decorate..and voila beautiful cupcakes are ready within an hour :)  

Click here for the recipe.

Spinach Cheese Pizza Bread

Oct 12, 2012
..after a long day at work I come home to find myself craving for pizza. whats a quick fix- frozen pizza? take out? nah. Instead I made some spinach cheese pizza bread..

All you need is crusty bread (French or ciabatta is my fav), even slightly stale ones works well here. you can either dress it up or down depending upon what ingredients you have available or how fancy do you want to get?

I chose to keep it simple with leftover pasta sauce , spinach, and mozzarella cheese! But I think my homemade pesto with fresh tomatoes, basil and some fresh mozzarella would have been more perfect - but that's for when I want to be fancy, not today! 

The pizza bread turned out pretty good and in very little time. Its great as an  appetizer, kid-friendly, & very flexible. 

Spinach Cheese Pizza Bread

Ingredients
bread, sliced diagonally
baby spinach, chopped
part-skim, shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning mix

Directions
-Preheat the oven to 400F.
-Meanwhile, in a pan heat the bread until both sides are nicely toasted.
-Spread sauce evenly to cover the bread, layer with spinach and cheese. (I added cheese before the spinach, but I would do the opposite, spinach & cheese) 
- Let it sit in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until cheese melts. 
other pizza bread ideas:
-even regular bread slices is okay but the only problem is it gets soggy really quick. If that is the only bread you have, go easy on sauce, do not add to many toppings and eat it fast.  

-marinara, Alfredo, pesto, bbq sauce are other sauce options
-precooked meat, sausages, grilled chicken can be added for non-vegetarian version
-adding other fresh herbs and spices will bring out more flavor & antioxidants

-feel free to add other veggies: chopped onions, fresh tomatoes, more spinach, olives, mushrooms, or even pineapples for Hawaiian twist.
-there are limitless possibilities with cheese, opt for low fat versions for less calories & fats. 
 

What's with my Cuppa? My Ten Favorite Recipes

Oct 9, 2012
Nupur from UK, Rasoi and Me always hosts creative and fun blog series.. Her most recent one is called- What's with my Cuppa?  to share recipes that accompanies tea or coffee..


I have always been a huge coffee drinker but for the past few months, I have cut down on coffee completely because of my acne (sob, sob) but on a bright side, my skin has gotten better :) I loved my first morning cuppa by itself, but I occasionally crave some sweet, salty snacks with cardamon spiced, sugary chai or with my afternoon coffee..


In this post, I will share ten of my absolute favorite baked goods that I have personally tried at home and enjoyed with my coffee or tea..

 Perfect for the Fall, baked pumpkin spiced donuts with different glaze are great with both tea or coffee!!


If you have sweet tooth, double-chocolate muffins would disappoint you. You can also veganize this recipe. 
Or, want to try the traditional English Tea cake-Battenburg Cake?  


If that is too sweet for you, here is a whole wheat bread to dunk into your tea or coffee..



This is my favorite one though, Raisin Bran Bread with little sweetness

 or, what if I told you, you could get some veggies from bread..Try these zucchini bread


  If you don't like zucchini, don't worry- I have got some carrot muffins too! 
 Let's talk savory now..these cumin biscottis are perfect for tea-talks  

 or, do you like spicy? these chocolate-chilli cookies are pleasantly good company with any hot beverage..

Last but not the least, actually I saved the best one for the last!
Sinful chocolate roulade is the ultimate friend with a strong espresso


For more yummy recipes that goes with tea/coffee, click here

Lazy Cheesy Pasta Bake {Meatless Monday}

...Can somebody please explain why Monday mornings are always so challenging?? this sudden-drastic thirty degree drop may have made the situation little bit more worse..after one cozy, relaxed weekend with hot chocolate, pumpkin donuts, and countless hours of sleeping-in, I wanted more of that and wished Sunday could still continue. Sigh! 

Talk about motivation on a Monday morning - I had none, negative, nada...I missed my snuggie and all I wanted was to devour a hearty, warm food that required least amount of preparation..which in my world is pasta..I have some kind of a huge fascination with pasta dishes because I get to throw in any vegetable (fresh/frozen), meat and toss in home-made pesto or store bought jar (which is what I used today), and blend of low-fat cheeses to create one happy-satisfying-somewhat healthy dish! 


one of my fav pasta sauce
Cheesy Pasta Bake
Makes about 3-4 adult portion sizes

Ingredients
2 cups dry, whole wheat pasta ( i used rotini)
2-3 cups chopped spinach, fresh or frozen
1.5-2 cups pasta sauce (i would use slightly less than that if you want dry pasta)
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup part-skim shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 tomatoes, sliced (use of cherry tomatoes-highly recommended)
olive oil & Italian spice mix - optional
bread crumbs- optional for toppings

Directions
 -Boil pasta according to the package instructions and drain it. (Toss some olive oil & Italian spice mix if desired)
-Preheat the oven to 375F
-In a baking dish/casserole pan, mix pasta, spinach, cottage cheese, and pasta sauce. Add half the mozzarella cheese in the mixture, combine everything and top the remaining cheese & tomatoes at the end. Add some bread crumbs on top if desired
-Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is completely melted.


although the end product was slightly runnier than I wanted it to be, its very wholesome, delicious and great for busy weekday dinners! 


Welcome Fall- Pumpkin Spiced Donuts

Oct 6, 2012
For the past couple weeks, my twitter and email is flooded with Fall recipes with apples, pumpkins and everyone is already mesmerized with Fall weather..


But if you are from Dallas, its a different story...oh-Fall-is-here-mesmerized-moment is pretty rare..actually the only time I feel like its Fall is when I walk into a grocery store (besides the aforementioned email/twitter flood) where I see pumpkins of different sizes, squashes, and a whole aisle dedicated to Halloween decorations!

...today god-knows-why, there is a drastic thirty degree drop, chilly and windy all day- made it feel like Fall is on its way here..maybe, hopefully, but I don't trust Dallas weather that easily! 


while you are at the grocery store- grab a pumpkin pie spice jar or make that two- it will comes pretty handy! OR make your own from Joy the Baker.

Image: McCormick

its just something cute about donut pans that I wanted to start off my Fall baking with it plus I haven't used them since I made my first ever baked donuts..

...since pumpkin is the universal symbol of Fall, I wanted to honor that by making pumpkin donuts with different glaze..  I got my recipe from USMasala..its a simple recipe with basic pantry ingredients and the best thing about it is you only need one big bowl to mix everything.. I used 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice instead of individual spices listed in the original recipe.. For the second batch of batter, I let it sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes and it seemed like the donuts rose little bit more- which i liked compared to the first batch..it could be purely coincidental...this recipe is spot on in terms of both taste and texture.


 mix granulated white sugar + cinnamon in a ziplock bag, put the donut while still warm inside the bag and shake for 30 seconds



I loved the cinnamon-sugar coated donuts the best, everything about it was screaming Fall, there is nothing more comforting than warm, pumpkin spiced donuts with cinnamon sugar on this chilly Saturday!

 okay, maybe some pumpkin spiced latte..but I will save that for later!