Thursday, December 17, 2009

Khatti Dal

Hello again everyone!

Namaste and greetings and such!

Winter is upon us, and it's this time of year that we all really want something fulfilling, warming, and pleasing. Right? And what could be more fulfilling, warming, and pleasing than a Punjabi dish?

Well, there are lots of great dishes the world over. But khatti dal is one of the most wonderful that I can think of.

A pressure cooker is suggested for the preparation of this dish, but you can actually do it without; however, you will have to cook the lentils for 2-3 times as long. The use of a pressure cooker saves energy and time, and it also renders your lentils absolutely perfect for the dish.

You can get most, if not all, of these ingredients at any Indian grocery. You can also order them online; there are plenty of Indian grocers online that would be happy to ship the food to your door! And as always, feel free to substitute if you don't have something on hand.

Above all, don't panic! There's a lot left to taste here (but it's clearly noted in the recipe), and there may be some unfamiliar terms. I will, as always, let you know what these mean and what to look for. You can do it!

Khatti Dal for Catty Dolls Like Us


1C masoor dals
3C water
1 tsp ghee
2-3 dried chillies

to taste:

cumin seed (at least 1/2 tsp)
mustard seed (at least 1/2 tsp)
turmeric (at least 1/2 tsp)
red chilli powder (cayenne)
corriander leaves (cilantro)
black salt (kala namak)

1) Mix together the garlic, ginger, and kala namak with a few drops of water, to make a paste. You can use powdered garlic and ginger or minced. You will only need a pinch or two of kala namak.

2) Add the dals, water, the ginger-garlic paste, corriander leaves, chilli powder, and turmeric to the pressure cooker. Stir to blend.

3) Close cooker and bring to heat. Immediately remove from heat once one whistle sounds. This is when the vent itself (the thing with the weight on it) actually releases steam. Let the pressure go down by itself, then open the pressure cooker.

4) Put pressure cooker back on the stove on medium heat, to keep the dal mixture warm while you complete the dish.

5) In a small frypan, heat the ghee over medium to medium-high heat, careful not to let it smoke. If it smokes, discard and start again with new ghee. Break open the dried chillies and add them to the ghee. Add mustard seed to the ghee once it has heated, and let the mustard seed pop. Then add cumin seed and let it sizzle and crackle.

6) Remove the chillies from the mixture and discard them. Pour the ghee and spice mixture over the dal mixture, and blend thoroughly.

7) Serve hot, ideally with rotis, parathas, nan, or even toasted pita bread or tortilla chips.

Tips and Such:

- If you don't have ghee or don't want to use it, you can substitute oil instead. Choose an oil like grapeseed oil, since you'll need to get it to a sufficient heat to pop mustard seed. You can use any oil you like, as long as you take care in heating it so that it doesn't smoke. Smoking oil is never good news!

- If you can't get black salt, just use regular salt, to taste. Black salt will impart a greater taste to your dish, however. You may even try adding a dash of soy sauce or tamari if you wish; the richer bouquet may make up for the absence of black salt.

- If you don't have a pressure cooker, simply cook the lentils until the water has fully been absorbed and cooked, stirring so that they do not stick. Add more water wherever necessary; the final product should resemble a thick gravy. If you prefer yours thinner, add more water; however, too much water and you'll be eating it with a spoon instead of with bread.

- You can prepare the lentils and refrigerate them ahead of time, then finish the dish with the ghee garnish whenever you please. Just do steps 1-3! When you're ready to eat, simply heat up the lentils to desired consistency again, then prepare the ghee and spices mixture fresh. Combine it as in the recipe, with the lentil mixture, and serve hot.

Ingredient Info

Masoor dals are covered in a previous post, but I thought I'd mention them again here because they haven't been used in a recipe. Dal refers to a pulse, which is a split legume. Masoor dals are orange in colour and very flexible in use, plus they're delicious and one of the most nutritionally-rich kinds of dal. They're my favourite kind, and I tend to use them in every dal dish regardless!

Ghee is clarified butter, which is the most common in most Indian recipes. Several studies have indicated that ghee is healthier even than many margarines, but a little of course goes a long way, just like any kind of butter or buttery product.

Turmeric is a spice derived from a root. It's actually really useful in herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory and is seen in many, many Indian dishes. It is also a potent dye and can impart a warm golden colour. But be warned if you use white washcloths to wash your dishes -- if you have lingering turmeric, you can come out with pretty golden washcloths afterwards!

Black salt, also called kala namak, is a kind of salt that is lower in sodium than most table salt and has a distinctly sulfuric bouquet. It is full of flavour and is used in many Indian dishes. It is named 'black salt' because in its raw form, the crystals are reddish-black. However, when ground to the powder used in cooking, it becomes a pleasant pink.

I hope you'll enjoy this super-easy and super-quick recipe. It's got massive amounts of nutrition, plus it's warming, nourishing, and feels good. It's especially comforting in these cold winter months. So I hope you'll take advantage of this dish and enjoy it while it's especially nice! In my opinion though, lentils are always delightful.

Until next time...happy cooking!

};) Dhiar <3

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Olive My Love

I know olive you are big fans of my recipes so far, and I hope everyone will let me know how they like the recipes when they try them.

If you've been paying attention to my puns (and why wouldn't you), I'll bet you've guessed what today's recipe is. That's's an olive-based recipe! It's called olive salad, and you can use it on virtually olive your meals.

Olive My Salad


1/2 can black olives (somewhere around 3 oz.)
5-10 green olives, stuffed with pimientos, or to taste
2-3 stalks celery, or to taste
handful baby-cut carrots
generous tbsp parsley
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp black olive brine
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

to taste:

sea salt
black pepper
vegetarian ham substitute (optional)

1) Using a food processor, a blender, a grater, or some other method, chop everything up into very small pieces. Do not liquefy.

2) Combine all ingredients carefully in a large mixing bowl. Stir until completely blended. Add olive brine or water to reach desired consistency. The mixture should be moist, but not wet.

3) Transfer to container and store refrigerated for at least one hour before serving.

Tips and Such

- This olive salad makes a delightful sandwich. Simply spread atop a slice of bread and enjoy it open-faced! Couple with perhaps a pickle and some fresh vegetables for a filling and nutritious meal.

- You can make a mean omelette with olive salad, whether you use eggs or egg substitute! It adds plenty of flavour and nutrition.

- The salad, like salsa and other uncooked mixtures, tends to taste best after it has been allowed to rest for an hour or more in a container. This allows the flavours to mingle and settle into the ingredients. You don't have to let it rest; if you need it urgently, just mix it up and take it along with you, letting it rest in the container on the way.

- This can be used as a perfect dip for chips, if you're looking for a quick and easy vegan recipe to take to a party.

Ingredient Info

Olives are fruit of the olive tree, a magnificent plant beloved of the ancient Greeks. Everything about the tree could be used: the wood, the bark, the fruit, the oil of the was one of the most valuable plants to that civilisation. Olives come in a variety of colours and preparations, and the place where they are grown also contributes to the flavour.

Celery is a prized savoury vegetable, with extremely powerful-tasting seeds. Traditionally, in ancient Greece, celery was highly esteemed, and champion actors were awarded crowns of celery. Apparently we're hitting all the ancient Greece vegetables this time!

Baby-cut carrots are carrots -- a sweet and savoury root vegetable -- cut to be very small, bite-sized. They are convenient for many recipes since they do not require peeling and can also be enjoyed raw very easily.

Parsley is a relative of celery and actually gets its name from -- that's right! -- ancient Greek, in which it means 'rock celery'. Italian parsley is the most flavourful and less bitter, although parsley is a very subtle flavour in general. Commonly used as a garnish, it is actually an extremely nutritionally rich herb.

Balsamic vinegar is vinegar that has been aged in a certain special way. It is generally regarded as sweeter than other vinegars, and a little can go a long way in cooking and especially in garnishing.

Vegetarian ham substitute is available in a variety of styles. Many Asian supermarkets will have this in loaves (catering to Buddhist patrons) along with other meat substitutes. You can also find vegetarian ham substitutes in many Western grocery stores. If you can't find anything, use the imitation bacon pieces you can get -- make sure they're vegan, as most are -- for salad accents. You can also omit this ingredient if it's too troublesome; the olive salad has more than enough taste without it.

I hope you'll enjoy this recipe. It's a great one for when you just want to have a nice, simple meal. You can just spread some on bread and instantly you've got a sandwich. Or get some chips and you can have a party! Roast some pita bread and use it to dip, or make a creative omelette, or crepes! The choice is yours for this diverse dish.

I hope to see olive you here again for my next recipe! And do be sure to read the other entries, because they're all good...olive them.

};) Dhiar <3

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Almost All-Purpose Sauce

Have you all been cooking? Yes? Good! This is the time of year when it's so much fun to cook and bake and share with others.

Today's recipe is a simple enough one that is ridiculously easy to throw together when you get an urge for veggie burgers, tofu, or, well...just about anything you could think of! It takes all of 30 seconds to get ready, so you have no excuse not to use it.

Almost All-Purpose Sauce


1/2 tbsp sesame oil
2-3 tbsp applesauce
splash soy sauce

to taste:

garlic powder or minced garlic
chilli powder (cayenne) or shichimi togarashi

1) Mix all ingredients together in small bowl.

2) Spread over food and cook it in!

Tips and Such

- This sauce does a great job on plain vegan veggie burgers. Just spread some on the top of the frozen patty and turn it over to cook, then spread it on the other side while the bottom cooks. Keep doing this until you've used it up; you'll have a super-tasty treat. This makes the patty moist and full of flavour. If you don't want to use it all, you can keep the remainder for up to a couple of days, but stir it before you use it.

- Because this has oil in it, that means you don't have to oil the skillet. Keep the burgers flipped regularly and you'll come out fine!

- You can use 1 tbsp of water instead of one of the tbsp of applesauce to make a thinner sauce, for dipping.

- You can use this as a topping or garnish after cooking.

Ingredient Info

Sesame oil is oil made from sesame seed. It is an immensely flavourful oil, so a little goes a long way. Like olive oil, it has been noted to have significant health benefits. Cooking at medium temperatures is generally best with this oil. Don't deep-fry with it or anything.

Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese pepper blend. It's very tasty and also incorporates sesame seed. Make sure to read the label, since some manufacturers put in MSG. But that's lesser and lesser anymore.

I hope you'll enjoy this simple and quick sauce! It's great when you want to soup up some plain burgers. It's immensely satisfying...maybe even surprisingly so!

Until next time...happy cooking!

};) Dhiar <3

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salty Rods

Ciao! And that is Italian for 'hello' (or 'goodbye' or about a dozen other things, colloquially), which fits in with today's fabulous recipe!

This one is actually a dish that I consider my grand prix (and that's pronounced grahn pree and not grand pricks, however tempted you may be) of baked goods, as it is one of the most popular and requested things I have ever made. It doesn't take a lot of time, it's pretty easy to do, and even if it has a few steps, they're very simple steps.

Just take them one at a time, and you're fine! You'll surprise yourself and all your friends when you produce this mouth-watering dish, and you'll find they ask you -- sometimes repeatedly -- when you're going to make them again!

Spiced Pretzels (also known as Salty Rods, but you don't have to make them rods)


1 C flour
1 C flour (again!)
3/4 C lukewarm water
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

to taste:

Italian seasoning
garlic powder
mustard seed

salt, preferably coarse kosher or sea salt

1) Stir the water to blend the sugar in, then add the yeast and blend as thoroughly as possible, stirring gently. Don't overstir it. Then let it sit for around 15 minutes at room temperature.

2) While you're waiting, crush the mustard seed into a powder, using a mortar and pestle. Add this and the Italian seasoning and garlic to the flour, and stir with a wire whisk. Make sure to get it all thoroughly blended.

3) Once the yeast mixture has sat for the necessary amount of time and risen (you can see foam on it!), slowly add it to the flour mixture. Stir it gently in with a spoon and blend it all together. Add the olive oil and then 1/2 of the other cup of flour.

4) Knead the dough gently as you add the flour, until it is of a good consistency and isn't too sticky. You may not have to add the whole other cup of flour; if you have some left over, reserve it for later.

5) Cover the mixing bowl with a tea towel and place it in an unheated oven for 10-20 minutes, so the dough can expand. Once it has expanded, remove it from the oven and uncover. You can knead it again at this point, which will make the pretzels smoother, but you don't have to.

6) Fill a saucepan halfway with water and mix in the baking soda. Heat the water and bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat so it stays hot.

7) Flour your hands, then pinch off pieces of the dough and roll them into rods. You can also make the traditional twists, but this will take a larger amount of dough than a rod. Carefully place each pretzel into the boiling water, and remove it when it floats, draining off the water.

8) Set the pretzels on a greased baking pan and sprinkle with salt. You can also use different salts for different tastes, such as black salt, or even other spices like pepper.

9) Bake at 400 F/200 C for around 15-20 minutes or until golden.

10) Place on cooling rack and serve warm!

Tips and Such

- If you don't have a mortar and pestle for your kitchen, it really pays to get one. You can find them at many kitchen stores, and many Asian groceries will also carry them. It's great to have one because it's best and most flavourful to buy whole spices and then grind them whenever they're needed.

- To extract the pretzels from the water, use a slotted spoon or slotted ladle, like the kind you might use in a deep fryer. This will allow you to drain off the excess water before placing them on the baking pan.

- You flour your hands when dealing with most breads, because if you have flour on your hands, the dough will not stick to you. You may need to reapply flour between each piece that you roll into a rod. This also works with surfaces like your countertop; if you apply flour to the countertop, it keeps dough from sticking to it. This is why in cooking shows and perhaps your own family's kitchen, you will often see a cook spread flour all over his countertop. It isn't just for the sake of being messy!

- If you have yeast in packets rather than a jar, just use a whole packet of yeast on this recipe. I recommend a jar, however, because it's less wasteful in terms of packaging. Besides, you're going to bake a lot with my recipes!

- The sugar is added to the water so that the yeast will have something to feed on, so that it can expand. You need this to happen, and that's why there's sugar in it. It doesn't take much, and it really doesn't contribute to the finished dish, but it is an essential part.

- When trying to get your water lukewarm, a good thing to remember is that lukewarm should be obviously hotter than your body but not so hot it burns you. It shouldn't hurt, but it shouldn't feel cold or the same temperature as your body. Lukewarm is a bit higher than body temperature.

Ingredient Info

As usual, I'm only covering the new things here. If you see something in the recipe that isn't covered here, read up in the older recipes! They're lots of fun and well worth your time.

Italian seasoning is a blend of spices commonly used in Italian cooking. Oftentimes it includes the standards of oregano, rosemary, marjoram, savoury, thyme, sage, and basil. Yours may vary, but the blend is quite a flavourful one, and a little goes a long way.

Mustard seed is, quite naturally, the seed of the mustard plant! This seed is full of flavour and really wonderful at adding subtle taste to dishes. You can use it whole or ground in many dishes. The popular and seemingly ubiquitous condiment mustard is made in large part from mustard seeds, ground into powder and mixed with other ingredients.

As always, I hope you'll let me know about your experiences making and enjoying my recipes! I'd love to hear how you like the pretzels, and of course I'd love to hear how you like all of my different dishes. Make my day and comment!

Until next time, happy eating!

};) Dhiar <3

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dhiary Starry Night Cookies

Since it's Halloween/Samhain/Equinox, I thought it would be apropos to share a particularly sweet and indulgent recipe. It's not so bad, especially compared to most cookie recipes out there, but this is still not something you want to make all the time.

In the holiday spirit, I give you...Dhiary Starry Night Cookies! So named because, well, they look like delicious little representations of the starry night sky.

Dhiary Starry Night Cookies


1 C flour
1/2 C cocoa
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp applesauce
1-2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract, or to taste
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch salt
handful pecans, crushed
handful cashews, crushed
white chocolate chips, to taste

1) Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Grease a baking sheet and set it aside. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients except for the nuts and chips, and mix thoroughly.

2) Add the wet ingredients slowly, mixing them in and blending thoroughly.

3) Take the nuts in your hand and crush them (this will be the only circumstances where you ever see me say this) roughly, so that no huge pieces remain. Add them to the batter and mix. Then pour in the chips; you probably won't need more than 1/3 C, but go with your own preference.

4) Mix all ingredients thoroughly. The batter should be quite stiff (oo-er), but if it is too stiff for your liking, add water or soymilk 1 tbsp at a time until it reaches desired consistency. The batter should not be runny, or else you're going to get Dhiary Starry Night Doilies.

5) Spoon onto baking sheet at desired size, leaving room between the batter. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

6) Take from heat and let cool on rack.

Tips and Such

- Be sure to remember to grease the baking sheet, and if you need to bake two batches, be sure that you've re-greased it between batches, otherwise they may stick.

- If your arms aren't up to mixing such stiff batter, use an electric mixer. Cookie batter is generally pretty stiff.

- If you're allergic to nuts, just omit them and add perhaps another kind of chocolate chip, or some other delightful little ingredient. If you like fruit, you could even add small pieces of dried fruit. Just about anything goes nicely with chocolate!

Ingredient Info

I won't cover the ingredients that I have before, so if you're desperately curious, look back over the previous recipes. They're pretty awesome, so I hope you will anyway!

Cocoa usually refers to the dried, fermented, powder derived initially from the seed of the cacao plant. Various circumstances depend on what it's called, such as Dutch-processed or whatnot. For baking purposes you will want to get unsweetened cocoa. This isn't the same thing as hot cocoa mix...if you want to make hot cocoa with baking cocoa, you have to add sweet and spice! I repeat: baking cocoa is not sweet!

Extra virgin olive oil is the best olive oil to use, because it retains the most nutrients and flavour. 'Extra virgin' means that it's the first pressing of the olives, which is why it's so vivid in taste and fuller of valuable nutrition. It's a pretty funny term, though, I've got to admit. When I hear 'extra virgin', I think of Revenge of the Nerds.

Applesauce is what you get when you make a paste from apples. It's basically like mashed potatoes, but with apples instead of potatoes. If you can't find applesauce in your area, it's pretty easy to make, so just take a peek on your search engine of choice for a recipe or, if you can't find one, comment here and I'll post one for you!

If you want to make this recipe without sugar, just add more applesauce. It is naturally sweet and makes the batter smooth and rich.

Rice vinegar is, well, vinegar made from rice. Vinegar is a substance that is created when what amounts to wine is fermented a second time, in a way. That's basically it in a nutshell: fermented wine. Even the name comes from the French for 'sour wine'! Vinegar is amazingly versatile and can be used in a number of ways, and not only in cooking; it's pretty amazing all around the house. Rice vinegar has a smooth, mild taste and aroma that makes it great to use in cooking.

In this recipe, the rice vinegar helps the baking powder to react, plus it adds a certain smooth richness to the taste that can't be beat! Don't worry, you don't taste the sour.

Cream of tartar is a semi-neutralised but still acidic salt. It's useful for making things fluffy. There's a big explanation behind it, but it's just confusing so I'm not going to go into it right now.

White chocolate chips are little chips made of white chocolate. White chocolate is not strictly an actual chocolate because it doesn't generally contain chocolate liquor. However, it does usually contain cocoa butter, sugar or some sweetener, and other flavours. While the standard white chocolate chips have milk solids, you can get vegan white chocolate chips, making this entire recipe a vegan paradise. Just look around online for them. You can see one store's offering here! And as you may notice, the price is pretty much the same for vegan as it is for regular.

And there you have it! I hope you'll enjoy these night-themed cookies. They're always a big hit here at Phantasies, and they're rich enough that you'll be satisfied by just one or two. What's great is that they really don't have nearly as much sugar as most recipes, plus you can actually make it without any sugar at all.

Like all sweets and slightly naughty treats, be sure to handle these in moderation. Make them won't want to run out in just a day or two, after all!

These are fantastic with tea, or delightful just by themselves...

Indulge! Halloween only comes once a year, after all, and it's this time of year that we start to feel the night's presence more and more. Celebrate the warm protectiveness of the dark by making a delightful batch of cookies!

Until next heartily!

};) Dhiar <3

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something Exotic, Yet Comfortingly Familiar

As Autumn -- which is my favourite season -- presses on and gets chillier, it's the kind of season where you sometimes just want a nice bread for breakfast. Banana bread is wonderful, but not everyone can get bananas, and in any case it takes time to age the bananas properly. What to do?

As you know, I'm a tea fancier and one of my favourite teas is chai. I always have some chai around, whether it's my own blend or someone else's. This recipe is especially convenient because you can get everything in it at most grocery stores.

It's quick, it's easy, and it's a good breakfast food that you won't feel too guilty about.

Exotic Yet Familiar Chai Bread


1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 C (soy)milk
2 eggs or egg substitute
1 tsp dry yeast
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 bags chai
handful cashew pieces

1) Preheat oven to 350F/175C. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Stir thoroughly, then add the yeast and blend it in.

2) Heat the milk over medium heat until it is hot enough to steam, then take the pot off heat. Place the two bags of chai in the milk and cover. Let steep for 10 minutes.

3) Add the milk gradually to the dry ingredients, stirring it in. Add the two eggs, stirring them completely, and then the cashews. Last, add the vanilla extract.

4) Once everything is smoothly blended, cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit in a warm place for 15-20 minutes.

5) Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for one hour, or until golden brown on top and knife blade inserted in centre comes out clean.

6) Turn out onto rack and let cool.

Tips and Such

- You don't have to have a rack to cool a loaf of bread, but it helps if you do. This is because after baked goods like breads finish cooking, they release steam. It usually isn't obvious to the eye, but it collects and condenses into water. If you just set bread on a plate, it will absorb all that water back in and give it a soggy bottom!

If you don't have a rack, prop it diagonally so that the majority of the bottom isn't directly touching the plate or tray. You can also do this with a baking sheet. All you need is a gentle angle, and it will have enough room so that the bread isn't moistened to excess.

- After the first few hours, you'll want to place your bread in a breadbox or some other kind of container. You might even want to refrigerate it, for freshness; if you leave it out in the open air, it will gradually become more rigid and, in time, inedible. Although hardness is great for some things in life, bread unfortunately is not one of them.

- The reason why you place the bread somewhere for around 20 minutes, covered, is to let the yeast have time to start getting active and get the bread fluffier, with whatever you've used to help it to rise. You don't have to; if you don't mind a more condensed, solid loaf that is shorter, you can bake it directly.

Ingredient Info

Flour is grain ground into a powder. I use King Arthur brand because it's never bleached and isn't subject to a lot of the things that other flours are. There are plenty of very worthy, unbleached and unadulterated flours out there, so look at your local store and find a good one for you!

Sugar is usually derived from cane, although not always. See the previous entry on sugar for more information about sweeteners you can use.

Milk or soymilk are the nutritional byproduct of animals or soybeans, respectively. Soymilk is a great and nutritionally sound substitute, but for cooking purposes be careful not to buy a soymilk that has a distinct flavour added to it; just buy plain. You can also buy ricemilk or a variety of nutmilks, which are different and interesting themselves.

Eggs are yet another nutritional byproduct of animals, and they are very useful in cooking, to add fluffiness, nutrients, and as a binder for ingredients. You can, however, find vegan egg substitutes, or you can do what I do when I don't want to use eggs in baking: combine about 1-2 tsp baking soda with about a tbsp vinegar. Add the baking soda with the dry ingredients, add the vinegar with the wet. You can probably even omit the yeast if you don't want to bother with it, as long as you add the baking soda and vinegar. It's not that important in a bread like this, anyway.

Remember those volcano things people used to make when you were younger? This works on the same basic principle. Vinegar and baking soda together help to make a reaction that lets the bread rise, without the need for the eggs to make the dough fluffy. During wartime and other times where people were forced to do without their usual dairy, they developed recipes that used this combination instead. Give it a try!

Dry yeast is an ingredient used to help bread to rise. You can get this in packets or in jars, but I prefer to use jars since it's less wasteful than the paper for individual packets. Plus the jars have a really cool design that you can reuse for other things after you've emptied them, so that's an added bonus. I'm all about recycling through reuse! If you're only starting to use yeast for the first time, get used to measuring it by spoons instead of packets, and you'll always be able to gauge!

Baking powder is a convenient combination of baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. It is easier to use baking powder instead of those ingredients separately, although for many recipes it's recommended to use another pinch of salt or perhaps a little more baking soda sometimes. It's up to you.

Vanilla extract is the liquid extract of the vanilla bean, one of nature's most sensual and flavourful substances. Pure vanilla extract is typically suspended in alcohol, which is why for a while it was hard to get at times (although Chana has always had it handy), but there's also an imitation vanilla extract if you like. Personally I recommend getting real vanilla extract and not imitation. Be careful to read the packaging...sometimes they put 'imitation' in teeny tiny letters!

Chai is a kind of blend of spices and black tea. It was originally developed in India as a medicinal tonic for the nobility, but its popularity spread and now many people all over the world enjoy chai. It's very healthy by nature, and it can be helpful for a variety of reasons.

Cashews are seeds from the cashew tree, also called acajou. Isn't that a romantic-sounding word? I love to say it. ~Acajou~ Anyway, they're actually seeds that are attached to the bottom of the cashew apple, which is a fruit that is enjoyed in some parts of the world. For many regions, though, it's all about the nuts, which is a sentiment I can understand.

You hush up that giggling.

Cashews are really great nutritionally and have an immense amount of flavour. They make a fantastic nut butter and are also superb in sweets. They also absorb and enhance flavours, which is why they're ideal for a bread like this.

Note that people who are allergic to tree nuts can, however, omit the cashews and the bread will still be tasty!

Well, I hope you all enjoy this bread! It's great as it is, or toasted and lightly brushed with ghee, or just toasted and eaten dry. You can enjoy it with fruit or tea, or coffee. It also provides a lovely mid-afternoon snack when you can't eat dinner yet but you're hungry enough to need something.

What's especially nice is that it's really a very good bread and isn't full of things that are bad for you to eat. I'm not suggesting you eat a whole loaf at once, of course, but you shouldn't feel bad about indulging in a couple of pieces for breakfast! It's a good way to start the day and wake your taste buds, whilst being subtle enough not to jar you into the day.

Please do let me know how you're enjoying it!

Until next time, keeping cooking and doing your best. You can do it!

};) Dhiar <3

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Interesting Article!

I recently was shared a pretty interesting article about a man's journey from horrible, toxic foods, to healthier and more nutritious ones. It raises some really good points, and since I know some of you readers of my blog have found it hard sometimes to make the shift, I'd like to share it with you:

Here you go!

I hope you like it. It's really very interesting and talks about how the taste buds are conditioned, how going 'cold' might not be the best approach, and how it is generally better to do a gradual, steady transition. Little bits at a time.

If one particular kind of food or style isn't keenly enjoyed, try another. If one dish isn't so popular, try a different one. Variety is a very good thing, and of course everyone doesn't have the same tastes and won't, even with adjustment of the taste buds and preferences.

I hope you find this article as interesting and as valuable as I did! Maybe it'll help some of you who want to eat healthier but find it daunting or unappealing. It's just a matter of approach.

Until next time, be healthy and happy!

};) Dhiar <3

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Burritos! Ole!

Bienvenidos everyone! This time, it's time for a recipe!

I'll give you the recipe first, then afterwards I'll tell you more specifics, including cooking tips and other fun facts about the ingredients. Ready?

Let's go!

Dhiarling Vegan Burritos


1 can (425g/15oz) black beans
1/2 can kernel corn
1/2 block tofu
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
flour tortillas

to taste:
cayenne/red chilli powder
paprika (optional)

1) Rinse the black beans and the corn and combine them in a pot. Lightly mash them, but only enough to mash some of the beans. Don't make them into a paste.

2) Open the tofu and drain the water. Slice the block in half and store the other half. Gently squeeze the half you're using, but don't worry about draining it completely. Place it in another pot and mash it thoroughly.

3) Add the nutritional yeast flakes and paprika to the mashed tofu. Blend thoroughly. If needed, add a little bit of water so that the flakes can be blended. Put on medium-high heat and stir regularly.

4) Add the rest of the spices to the bean mixture and stir thoroughly. Put on medium-high heat and stir regularly.

5) Once the tofu has fully heated, turn off the heat and keep stirring so it doesn't stick. Wait for the bean mixture to heat thoroughly and then pour the tofu mixture into it. Stir them together, blending them completely. Continue to heat.

6) When the combined mixture is sufficiently cooked, spoon it out onto flour tortillas. Roll it in the tortillas and place them in a baking pan, packed together.

7) Place under the grill/broiler on low. Alternatively you can heat them at around 300F/150C or so. Let them brown only slightly and then remove from heat.

8) Top with your favourite salsa or shredded corriander leaves! This recipe makes enough for 2-3 people.

Tips and Such

- Folding tortillas is really easy. If you don't know how to do it, I'll teach you!

First, you'll want to be sure not to put too much filling on each tortilla. Maybe about 1/4 of the size of the tortilla, and leave enough space from the sides, measure by about the top half of your thumb. Place the filling near the bottom, closest to you.

Tuck the sides of the tortilla inwards, towards the filling. Then, with your thumbs, move the bottom end of the tortilla up and over the filling. Tuck the bottom flap under the filling as you roll, and keep rolling until you have a cylindrical burrito!

It's basically kind of like making an envelope!

- 'To taste' means to add however much of the spice you like. You can even omit spices you don't like, or substitute ones that you do.

- If you want the tofu 'cheese' to look cheesier, add a little turmeric for a golden colour.

Ingredient Info

Cumin is basically the spice that gives most chili its distinctive taste. Cumin seed is typically used in Indian cooking, whereas cumin powder is more common in Western. It adds a dimension of heartiness to any food, although it is highly flavourful. Less is often more with this spice.

Corriander, also spelt coriander, is actually the same plant as cilantro. Cilantro is the Spanish name, and in casual cooking conversation it usually refers to the leaves only. Some people love the leaves, others are not so fond of them. The seed, which can be bought whole or in a powder, gives a refreshing sort of taste to dishes and is sometimes referred to as 'citruslike'.

Cayenne, or red chilli, is a kind of hot pepper. You can use whatever you want in place of this or, if you don't like heat in your dishes, just omit it. Comparable to cayenne in taste would be the elegant Japanese shichimi togarashi (a pepper blend) or white pepper.

Paprika is a kind of pepper as well, although its taste is comparatively mild. It is often used to give a colourful accent to foods, rather than to give it much flavour.

Garlic is an extremely popular savoury spice. Its health benefits are many, and its aroma makes most people's mouths water. Although it can override more subtle flavours if used in excess, generally garlic is a welcome enhancer of taste in most dishes. It does, however, linger as an aftertaste in some dishes.

Nutritional yeast flakes are a kind of nutritional supplement. Full of valuable nutrients, they are helpful to anyone on a special diet. However, that aside, they also have a very cheesy, enjoyable taste that allows even vegans to enjoy a completely guilt-free 'cheese'. Be careful not to get brewer's yeast or anything like that...only nutritional yeast flakes tend to have the buttery, cheesy flavour. Many of the rest have a bitter taste.

Tofu is soybean curd. It has been used for centuries in many kinds of food, and it is often used as a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. You can get it in a variety of firmnesses (oo-er), but I tend to use firm or extra firm. For 'cheese', you might want to get soft, since it is smoother.

Black beans are a type of bean that is often used in 'Southwestern' dishes and is popular in many Mexican dishes too. They have a distinctive flavour that lends itself well to other common ingredients of this sort of cuisine, plus they're very nutritious.

Kernel corn is corn that is, naturally, in the kernel. This is different to creamed corn.

So I hope you'll all enjoy this recipe, and I hope you'll let me know how it goes when you try it! It's a simple recipe that can give you a lot of enjoyment, as well as a lot of nutrition. The beans, tofu, and nutritional yeast flakes make it an excellent choice for anyone, but especially diet-conscious veg*ns.

Until next time...keep it cookin'!

};) Dhiar <3

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gimme Some Sugar

If you're vegan, you're no doubt familiar with shopping for ethical foods. Since vegans don't eat anything that contains or is produced by animal by-products, there are more than a few foods on the 'no-no list'.

A lot of people are surprised to find out that sugar is actually one of these!

The reason why is, there are still companies that use (shudder) bone char to whiten their sugar. Most of the time it doesn't get into the finished product...but it's a pretty gross way to go about just making something whiter. So how to shop for a more ethical alternative?

Just do a little research! There are plenty of companies that are ethical in their sugar. Companies like Florida Crystals and Sugar in the Raw never use bone char. There are more and more companies, these days, turning to less objectionable methods, since more people are willing and able to write and communicate their distaste. Since there are so many special diets out there now, they are finding it less and less commercially viable to keep turning to potentially unappealing practices. Which is good, because it makes things healthier and better for everyone involved.

What about if you don't want to use cane sugar? Maybe you just don't want to fool with all this research rigamorole, and that's okay too. There are plenty of ways that you can do that.

Beet sugar is one way you can do this. Sugar that is derived from beets is not bone char-whitened and tastes just the same as cane sugar. Beet sugar was used to sweeten things for ages in Europe and so on before sugarcane was discovered and trade made it possible to use worldwide. Or, more accurately, before people from Europe discovered that there were other people in the world and that they were using a different sweetener.

Brown rice syrup is a syrup that is made from rice and adds a nice sweetness. It's one of the healthier sweeteners out there, and it's being seen in more and more stores.

Stevia is a natural sweetener that is generally always vegan-friendly in its preparation. It can be made into a syrup or a crystalline powder. It's got a great track record, having been used for decades in Japan since the country outlawed artificial sweeteners after health controversy. Stevia is a better choice for people who need to monitor sugar intake carefully. It's got a lot of really great qualities that make it an ideal option for careful diets.

Liquorice (the herb, not the candy) is another very sweet thing, but people who have kidney problems, cirrhosis, or high blood pressure need to be careful with it. Liquorice is actually several hundred times sweeter than sugar, and it's an extremely health-beneficial herb. But its intake needs to be very limited, especially if you have health problems that might be made worse by it. It's rare for it to have side effects, but better safe than sorry!

Agave nectar is nectar from the agave plant, naturally! It's a pretty succulent plant, like aloe. Agave nectar is nice and smooth, and it has a lot of qualities that make it similar to honey. A lot of people like to use agave nectar to sweeten drinks, because it's really good with tea and coffee. Be careful though, some companies add corn syrup to theirs. That's why it's always good to read the label!

And if you don't mind cane sugar but just would rather not have that gross bone thing going on...

Turbinado sugar is less processed sugar. Sugar in the Raw is turbinado sugar, and turbinado sugar doesn't require bleaching, which cuts out the whole icky 'bone char' thing.

Organic evaporated cane juice and dehydrated cane juice and organic cane sugar should not be exposed to bone char.

However, like any conscientious shopper, double-check! Use the internet, it's a great tool. If all else fails, write to companies or visit their websites; there are lots of them that list on their site whether or not their products are vegan and vegetarian-friendly, like Sugar in the Raw and Florida Crystals. It's a pretty big thing these days, and a lot of people are interested in it now.

So there you have it! There's also a really useful page here for you to look over. When you make the choice to be an ethical shopper, there is a lot to think about! But hopefully I've made it just a little easier for some of you.

So until next your health and mine!

};) Dhiar <3

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chickpeas and Dals -- Nutritional Goldmines!

As you know, my sister's name is Chana. What you may not know is that her name means 'chickpea'! She was named that because she is a valuable treasure, and always appreciated.

In a similar way, chickpeas are a valuable treasure trove of nutrition, as are dals (or just dal), which are a kind of bean used very commonly in Indian cuisine. Basically, dals are lentils, peas, beans...legumes, for short. There is even chana dal, which consists of small chickpeas split and polished. Dals are great because they're easy and relatively quick to prepare.

The fact is, there are a lot of vegetarians in India. And dals have been used as a great source of protein for literally ages. Chickpeas were also always really popular, even from the ancient cultures in Mesopotamia.

What's great about chickpeas is that they have phenomenal amounts of protein, fibre, and things like that, while also having negligible amounts of fat and cholesterol. They're also incredibly versatile and make a great medium for all kinds of things.

Dals are also unbelievably nutritionally valuable, and there are so many different kinds with so many different, distinct flavours that they all bring something very different and very valuable to any meal. My favourite is masoor dal, which are often accurately called red lentils. They have a really gorgeous reddish-orange colour, and I like to run my fingers through the dried ones.

Yeah, I know, we all have weird habits. I'll bet you liked to stick your finger in the sugar when you were younger too, so don't laugh!

The reason why it's so important to be conscious of things like dals and chickpeas is because legumes give so much valuable protein, fibre, and other nutrients that everyone needs. Vegetarians especially are always in need of a good and reliable, healthy source of protein. But the added fibre is also really much-needed in most diets. In particular North Americans are often dangerously low in dietary intake, which can be disastrous for the digestion!

The savoury and rich, fulfilling taste of both dals and chickpeas is another asset to vegetarian diets. Having a fulfilling meal in terms of taste is important in managing a healthy diet. If a meal is fulfilling as well as being filling, you won't be tempted to eat more than you really should. If you eat unfulfilling food, you might feel you need to eat more in order to gain satisfaction. It's one of the major reasons why a lot of people's diets's because they don't feel satisfied by what they do eat, so they overeat.

How to Use This Stuff!

It's pretty easy to use dals. As long as you get split dals rather than whole, here's what you do:

1) Put out as much as you need in a bowl. Go through the dals and make sure there aren't any bad ones or little pebbles or anything, because sometimes they get in there.
2) Add enough water so that it is an inch over the dals. You may have to mix them up with your hand so that they all sink.
3) Cover with a tea towel and let sit for at least 2 hours.

If you have whole dals, you'll probably need to let them sit for about 8 hours, or overnight.

Canned chickpeas are awesome because you can just open them and voila. However, dried chickpeas are good too if you know how to handle them, because you can store them easily and buy them very inexpensively.

To prepare dried chickpeas, you can either soak them overnight (which isn't always overwhelmingly successful) or try this method:

1) Put out as much as you need in a pot.
2) Add enough water to cover them by an inch or two.
3) Bring to a boil and let boil for 1-5 minutes.
4) Take off heat and cover, letting sit for at least 1 hour.

Some recommend boiling in salt water, which adds a bit more taste and takes away some of the edge that dried chickpeas can have.

Another especially good method to use is a pressure cooker. If you cook dried chickpeas for about an hour in the pressure cooker, it is probably the best and most flavourful method of rehydrating them and preparing them for cooking.

So there you have it! Two really valuable and very affordable foods that anyone, regardless of diet, can enjoy. These will help your health and thrill your tongue!

I'll be providing you with some personal favourite recipes including chickpeas and dals soon. Since they're some of the best and most nutritious, fulfilling foods out there, you can bet you'll see them again in Demon in the Kitchen.

Until next time...

}:) Dhiar <3

Welcome to My Kitchen

Welcome to my kitchen. I am Dhiar, an Incubus with a love of good food.

An Incubus, you say? A demon? Well yes, that too. But we're not exactly what you may think. For example, most all of us are vegetarians because of what humans would call extrasensory perception. We're all about the guiltless pleasures...and eating is such a wonderful one of those!

For more about me, you can always go read Incubus Tales. But just take my word for it: I love to cook!

So why a blog? Well, why not? This way I can share my unique experiences in the kitchen with all of you. There'll be cooking tips, shopping tips, nutrition and diet pointers...we can't all be demons with full control over every aspect of our appearance, after all!

Even if you're not vegetarian, don't think for a moment that the food here would be anything less than delicious! It's good health and good taste I'm after.

Last, but certainly not least of all, you can find a list of Delicious Destinations to the side here, which are sites that I personally recommend. If you'd like to be listed in those sites, please let me know! I'm sure we can work something out.

Maybe we can't all be a Demon in the Kitchen...but you can have the benefit of my experience as one!

Until there's more to say...I bid you...adieu!

For now.

};) Dhiar