Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cheese)

This is one of my favorites, and my kids practically inhale this stuff. We eat it about once a month or so. You can adjust the spices as needed to make it spicier or milder.

1 Tbsp ghee
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 large Onion,chopped
2 medium Tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp to 1 Tbsp chili-garlic paste
1 lb chopped fresh baby Spinach
5 oz paneer, cubed
1/2 c heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed, to taste

In a large pot, melt ghee over medium heat. Add cumin, fennel and caraway seeds and cook until fragrant. Add onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Add tomato and a little salt. When tomato softens, add turmeric and chili-garlic paste and saute a minute or two longer.

Add spinach and allow to wilt. Blend with immersion blender until smoothish. Add paneer and cream and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and lemon to taste.

Cooking Pastes: Ginger-Garlic and Chili-Garlic

These are pretty common ingredients in Indian cooking; I know one Indian cook who puts at least one of them in just about every dish that comes out of her kitchen. They’re pretty simple, and store about six months.

Ginger-Garlic Paste
Equal parts peeled, chopped ginger and peeled, chopped or minced garlic
Turmeric: 1 tsp per Tbsp of ginger-garlic mixture
Light cooking oil: 1 tso per Tbsp of ginger-garlic mixture

Blend all ingredients into a paste. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

Chili-Garlic Paste
5 tsp minced garlic
Small handful of Indian green chili peppers(these can e hard to find, so substitute about 5 large jalepeno peppers if you can’t find green chilies)
1 Tbsp light cooking oil

Blend all ingredients into a thin paste. Cook the mixture down into thick paste over medium heat. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

Candied Rose Petals

Fresh organic rose petals, white trimmed off, rinsed and dry (but not dried!) I’m partial to red petals, but pink varieties are good too. White and yellow petals tend to turn an unappealing shade of brown. This will also work for other types of edible flower petals.
Vanilla Cinnamon Simple Syrup (recipe follows) or regular simple syrup
Powered sugar for dusting (optional)

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
(for regular syrup, stop here. For vanilla cinnamon syrup, add the following)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon (you can use another kind if you want, but I like Ceylon best for this because it’s sweet by itself and not bitter at all.)

Combine sugar, water, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small pot. Bring to a low boil over medium heat. Boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool for a few minutes. It should be cooled slightly so it doesn’t wilt the petals but still warm. While you wait, line a cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper, spray the paper generously with cooking spray and set your oven to the lowest possible setting. My oven has a “warm” setting that’s below 200 degrees F and is perfect for drying.

Once cooled, dip each petal in the syrup and place on the cookie sheet. (Leftover syrup can be stored in the fridge and used in coffee, tea, or in anything else that calls for simple syrup.) Dust with powdered sugar if desired and “bake” petals for 40 minutes on warm. (If your oven doesn’t go below 200, you may need less time.) After 40 minutes, turn the petals over and let them bake another 20 to 30 minutes (more or less). The goal is dried, crisp petals with a shiny glaze.  Because they are dried, the colors will be darker and more muted than the fresh petals.

Remove petals from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Carefully remove them from the wax paper, using a toothpick or thin spatula. Some of them may stick; be gentle, as they are fragile and will tear. Store them in a Tupperware container in the fridge or on the shelf.

They supposedly keep for a week, but they never last that long here! You can eat them as they are, or use them as toppings for ice cream or edible decorations for cakes or other desserts.

Enjoy!
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Curds and Whey

So, paneer is basically an Indian version of cottage cheese, and it’s delightfully easy to make.

Boil one gallon of milk (whole is best; when I tried making it with 2% milk it didn’t curdle as nicely, and 1% and skim milk didn’t curdle at all) with a quart of plain, 10% milkfat Greek-style yogurt, or a cup of whey from a previous batch. Strain out the curds into a piece of muslin; rinse under cool water for a minute or two, and drain. Season as desired, or leave it plain. For softer, crumbly cheese, you’re done here – put it in the fridge and use it like cottage cheese. For firmer cheese, wrap the curds tightly in the muslin and press for an hour or two under something heavy. (More whey will drain off, so keep it in the sink.) Then you can either fridge it or freeze it. I’m told freezing at least overnight will make it easier to pan-fry for adding to other dishes. I’ll be adding a recipe for palak paneer (curried spinach with cheese) soon, but it can be added to all kinds of other vegetable dishes, and I like to eat it plain.

Now, there’s a lot of whey left over after this. I freeze a cup for later batches and keep the rest in the fridge, stored in the gallon jug the milk came in. You can use it to replace water when cooking rice or oatmeal, add it to your protein smoothies, marinate chicken or turkey, and a bunch more things.

S’mores Cupcakes – White Chocolate Version

I have a friend who loves s’mores, but hates chocolate and always substitutes white chocolate instead. I didn’t want him to feel left out of dessert at our recent neighborhood cookout, so I adapted the S’mores Cupcakes again to make a white chocolate version.

Recipe adapted from S’mores Cupcakes, which was adapted from Homemade by Holmans, who adapted it from Annie’s Eats

Crust:
4-5 cups graham crackers (approx. 3 pkg out of the Honeymaid box)
3/4 cup sugar
15T (just shy of a cup) unsalted butter, melted
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
125 or so mini marshmallows

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners.
Crush graham crackers until they are fine crumbs. I just put them in a big Zip-loc bag and went at them with a rolling pin. Add sugar and melted butter and mix until well combined. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of crumbs to the bottom of each liner. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of each liner. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from the oven.Divide the chopped chocolate evenly among the cupcakes. Add approximately 4 marshmallows to each tin.

Cake:
2 cups plus 2 T sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oc white chocolate, chopped
1 cup boiling water

Melt white chocolate in a stainless steel mixing bowl or a double boiler until smooth. Set aside, but keep it warm.
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt in your mixing bowl. In a small bowl, add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and whisk together. Add to dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add melted white chocolate. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add boiling water and beat on low until just combined. Spoon batter evenly into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. The marshmallows will float to the top. Bake approximately 18 – 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting:

1 c mini marshmallows
1/4 whole milk
1 c whipped cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a clean stainless steel mixing bowl or double boiler, melt marshmallows and milk togeer until smooth. Cool 30 minutes. Stir in whipped cream and vanilla.

Mini s’mores:
8 Honey graham crackers
30 mini marshmallows
1-2 White chocolate candy bars (I used the big ones you can find in the candy aisle)

Break the graham crackers into quarters and then cut the quarters in half. I used a knife to keep them roughly the same size, but you could just break them. Break the chocolate bar into rectangles, and cut the rectangles in half. Use a lighter or a kitchen torch to warm the bottom of a chocolate piece just until it’s glossy. Put a graham cracker on it and set it on a plate, graham cracker down. Warm the top of the chocolate and put a mini marshmallow (or two) on the chocolate, then toast the marshmallows. Put the other graham cracker piece on top. Place one mini s’more on each cupcake.

S’mores Cupcakes

I made these for a Labor Day BBQ a few years ago, and they were a HUGE hit! I re-adapted them to make a white chocolate version too!

S’mores Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Homemade by Holmans, who adapted it from Annie’s Eats

Crust:
4-5 cups graham crackers (approx. 3 pkg out of the Honeymaid box)
3/4 cup sugar
15T (just shy of a cup) unsalted butter, melted
6 oz chocolate chips
125 or so mini marshmallows

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 30 muffin cups with paper liners.
Crush graham crackers until they are fine crumbs. I just put them in a big Zip-loc bag and went at them with a rolling pin. Add sugar and melted butter and mix until well combined. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of crumbs to the bottom of each liner. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of each liner. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from the oven.Divide the chopped chocolate evenly among the cupcakes. Add approximately 4 marshmallows to each tin.

Cake:
2 cups plus 2 T sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt in your mixing bowl. In a small bowl, add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and whisk together. Add to dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add boiling water and beat on low until just combined. Spoon batter evenly into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. The marshmallows will float to the top. Bake approximately 18 – 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting:

1 c mini marshmallows
1/4 whole milk
1 c whipped cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a clean stainless steel mixing bowl or double boiler, melt marshmallows and milk togeer until smooth. Cool 30 minutes. Stir in whipped cream and vanilla.

Mini s’mores:
8 Honey graham crackers
30 mini marshmallows
1-2 Chocolate candy bars (I used the big ones you can find in the candy aisle)

Break the graham crackers into quarters and then cut the quarters in half. I used a knife to keep them roughly the same size, but you could just break them. Break the chocolate bar into rectangles, and cut the rectangles in half. Use a lighter or a kitchen torch to warm the bottom of a chocolate piece just until it’s glossy. Put a graham cracker on it and set it on a plate, graham cracker down. Warm the top of the chocolate and put a mini marshmallow (or two) on the chocolate, then toast the marshmallows. Put the other graham cracker piece on top. Place one mini s’more on each cupcake.