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Going Vegan Days 1 & 2

So far days 1 & 2 have been going well. The hardest part aside from reading labels has been drinking the protein shakes. They lack any flavor and are chalky in nature. Typically I just mix the powder with some water, but in the coming day I’m going to try making it with some soy/almond milk and blend in some fruits. Hopefully this will make it less of a chore and more palatable. My diet has basically consisted of the following items throughout the day:

  • A Banana & Protein Shake (Breakfast)
  • Celery, Broccoli, Carrots, Cliff Bar, Nuts, Dates, Orange, & Apple (Snacks & Lunch)
  • Lentils / Fake Meat, Quinoa Bread, Mixed Greens (Dinner)
  • With plenty of water throughout the day as well.

I will have to admit that by the time I head home from work I feel really empty and hungry. To resolve this I plan on adding some complex carbs into my diet.

We had a buddy that wanted to go out to dinner yesterday and since Imran and I have started this vegan journey we knew going out to eat would be difficult. So I did a little research and found out that Zpizza has a vegan option. We ended up getting the Berkeley Vegan Pizza: marinara sauce, vegan cheese, veggie burger crumbles, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions, bell peppers. It was really yummy and the fake cheese was not as dreadful as I expected.  Yes, its consistency was a little off, but overall it was quite good and makes me excited to try more vegan places in the DMV area.

Imran with our Berkeley Vegan Pizza

Imran with our Berkeley Vegan Pizza

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Going Vegan

My brother and I have decided to try being Vegan for a month. All in all it has been a good experience. If you know anything about me, you know I’m a huge meat eater. Given the option of eating healthy or to go with a juicy animal product, I’d traditionally go with the latter. That being said, last week Imran and I were sitting around just talking and the topic of trying vegetarianism came up. I stated that it seems to be a healthy lifestyle. To me it seems like as a society we eat massive amounts of meat when traditional societies would eat meat sporadically, such as special events or in times of dire need. Imran stated that if I was going to try that, then I might as well go all the way and become vegan; Imran so eloquently stated, “Go Big or Go Home!” So we decided to try it out for a month and see if we could last and if we’d feel healthier afterwards.

To prep for the upcoming week, we hit up a local Co-Op and Trader Joe’s to get some supplies. Since I was booked for the weekend and wouldn’t have time to cook, we bought a variety of Tofu based fake meats, hemp & soy protein powders , soy & almond milks, canned beans, and quinoa items.

With these items as a starting point and the wonderful fruits and veggies from the local store, we plan to take this journey into veganism for the next month. As our journey progresses, I’ll try to keep you all updated!

First week’s supplies minus the fruits and veggies.

First week’s supplies minus the fruits and veggies.

Time for a Comeback Y’all!

Okay, so I have been slacking MAJORLY on this blog. I think my last post was over 2 years ago. Well, I haven’t stopped cooking, just posting. So keep an eye out the next coup0le of weeks as I post items that I’ve been cooking the past year!

Punjabi Breakfast Cholay (Chickpeas)

The other day I was fortunate enough to have some friends come over to try some of my cooking for brunch. One of the items on the menu was a traditional Punjabi dish made of chickpeas. This dish is extremely easy to make and the spices can be adjusted to taste. Typically it is served with poori or parata and is the salty portion of the traditional halva poori meal. In latter posts I’ll put up the recipes for the paratay and halva. Until then enjoy this easy to make dish.

Ingredients:

  • 6 – 15.5 oz. cans of garbanzo/chick peas
  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • 2 Tbs. spicy red pepper
  • 2 Tbs. tamarind paste
  • 1 Tbs. cumin
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 2 boiled eggs

Directions:

  • First you’ll need to strain out the chick peas. Keep the water from one of the cans and discard the rest.
  • Place the chickpeas in your serving bowl and set aside.

  • Chop the jalapeno, onions, and tomatoes into large chunks and set aside.

  • With the water you have add the salt, red pepper, tamarind paste, and cumin. Microwave for about 1 minute to help the tamarind paste dissolve. Mix the solution until all of the items are well incorporated.
  • Now mix the water solution, onion mix, and the chick peas together.
  • Chop the cilantro on place on top of the chickpeas.
  • Slice the boiled eggs and place on top of the cilantro.

And you’re ready to eat! Grab some friends and enjoy some food!

Lamb Kichary (Lamb Rice w/ Chicken Broth)

Alright, so I have been told that people would like to see some wholesome food as opposed to just some desserts. So this is my attempt to making the website better in that aspect. This recipe is a mix of ideas I had and it actually turned out good! We’ll be cooking the meat separately and then we’ll add it to the rice in the cooking process. With this recipe the rice will come out a little sticky because of the fact that we’ll be using chicken broth as opposed to water. Also, my stove’s burns have a heat range of 10-1. So, I’ll be writing the setting I used along with the temperature range.

Ingredients for Rice:

  • 2 cups basmati rice (soaked for at least 1 hour)
  • 3 & 7/8 cups chicken broth

Note: For this ingredient I used a combination of the chicken broth and the leftover water from the cooking of the meat.

  • ¼ of a medium onion (sliced)
  • ½ small tomato (sliced)
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha Sauce (A.K.A. Rooster Sauce)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 2 cloves
    • 4-5 peppercorns
    • 1 small sick of cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Meat:

  • ½ lbs. cubed lamb
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

In this recipe, we’ll be cooking the meat separately and then we’ll add it to the rice in the cooking process.

Directions for Cooking Meat:

  • Place all ingredients in a pressure cooker and place over medium heat (5).
  • Let pressure cooker come to pressure and cook for 7 minutes.

Note: The remaining water in the pressure cooker will be used later in the cooking for the rice.

Directions for Rice:

  • Warm up oil in a 5 Qt. pan over medium heat (5) and brown the onions.

  • Lower heat to lo (2) and add the tomatoes, ginger, garam masala, and salt.

  • Turn up heat to med/hi (8) and mix & mash the masala.
  • Once the tomatoes become stringy add 1 cup water and bring to boil over hi (10) heat.
  • Once the water has completely boiled off and the masala now looks like a paste, add the chicken broth and meat.

  • Cover and bring to a boil.
  • Once stock has come to a boil, add the strained rice to the pan.
  • Cook over med heat (5) for about 1.5 minutes
  • Lower heat (2) and let the rice cook.

Note: Depending upon your pan, you might need to add some folded aluminum foil between the burner and the pan in order to prevent the broth from boiling off too fast.

  • As the rice cooks and the broth boils off you’ll notice craters forming on the surface of the rice, this is good.
  • Once the broth has boiled off, set the temperature to lo (1) and cook for 10 mins.

Note: During these 10 minutes rotate the pan every 1.5 minutes, this helps prevent the rice from burning on the bottom of the pan.

  • Once cooked fluff the rice with a fork and cover.
  • Place the pan on a wet cloth for about 1 minute. (helps prevent sticking of the rice to the bottom of the pan)

And you’re ready to eat! Enjoy!!

Chocolate Covered Caramels

Recently I’ve had a major sweet tooth. To help me deal with this atrocious issue, my sister reminded me about a caramel recipe given to us over a year ago by Br. Danish; man is it good. In the pictures you’ll see that I cut the caramel into 2”x2” pieces, I recommend you cut them into smaller bite size pieces because the caramel is very chewy.  This recipe makes about 2.5 pounds of caramel.

Prep Time: About an hour

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound butter (two sticks)
  • 1 pound light brown sugar (buy a 1 pound box so you don’t have to measure)
  • 8 oz. light corn syrup
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Note: You also need a thermometer that’s accurate to within 1-2 degrees. I used a digital probe thermometer. Mine did not have a clip on it, but one like that would be ideal because then you can attach it to the pot. Don’t get an analog kind because they are not accurate enough. 1-2 degrees off makes a noticeable difference in this recipe

Use a heavy pot. If you use a thin pot, the caramel might scorch on the bottom. In my case, I could not do this (I didn’t want to buy a new pot since I didn’t know if I’d be successful or not.) I used my pressure cooker and just folded a long piece of foil paper into a square to place underneath the pot on the stove. I guess this is the poor man’s way of making a heavy pot.  🙂

  • Melt butter in the medium sized pot.
  • Add the brown sugar and salt and let the sugar start to melt.
  • Stir in corn syrup, mixing well.
  • Gradually add the condensed milk, stirring constantly
  • Cook uncovered over medium low heat (the slower you cook it, the better it will taste. It should take a good 20 minutes), stirring and scraping the bottom often to prevent scorching until it reaches 244-245 degrees.

Note: When you first start cooking it, it will look like the fat is separated from the sugar. That is ok. It will stay that way until about 200 degrees. At around 212 degrees it will start bubbling a lot, and that’s ok too. The color will start to change around then as well. Be ready to move quickly when you get to around 240 degrees. Have the vanilla measured and ready. Have the pan next to the pot and make sure the handles are not to hot for you to hold while pouring or just have some pot holders ready. If you take it off even 2 degrees too late, the caramels will be very hard.

  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  • Pour into well buttered 13”x9” pan (I used about 1Tbsp of butter). Make sure the pan is buttered well before you begin.

Note: Getting the caramel out of the pan is always very difficult. Even with the butter, you will have to use a metal spatula to get it out. Let it cool and cut into bite size squares and enjoy!


The caramel made by this recipe is very sticky, so if you want to store it after cutting it you will have to wrap each piece in wax paper or dip them in chocolate.  As you can see I dipped mine in chocolate. 🙂

All you have to do it coat the caramels with some melted chocolate. You can use chocolate chips but they are not ideal. They have too much stabilizer and not enough cocoa butter since they are formulated to keep their shape in cookies. I use just use Ghirardelli’s Semi-Sweet chocolate bars chopped into pieces. You can find them in the baking section and they are more formulated for melting. The best is if you can find the chocolate disks that are specially made for coating. They will form the best shell.

The only thing that you have to be careful of is that you melt the chocolate carefully. If you don’t want to temper it, then the chocolate should never go above about 95 degrees. To “properly” coat with chocolate it has to be tempered.  To learn how to temper the chocolate click HERE. I tried to melt some white chocolate to make the stripes, but that did not work out too well an that’s why I am not mentioning it in this recipe.

So get in the kitchen and enjoy this chewy chocolatey treat!

Gold Bars

If you went to an Albuquerque Public School then you know what a Gold Bar is. It is basically a delicious, crispy, chocolaty, peanut butter bar. After searching the web I was able to find a Blog that had a basic recipe for the delightful dessert. (Chow City) The recipe is easy to make and the results are excellent! I used the recipe, but with some minor tweaks.

Prep Time: Less than an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Cups Rice Krispies
  • 2 Cups Confectioners’ Sugar (Powdered Sugar)
  • 2 Cups Extra Crunchy Skippy Peanut Butter
  • 1 1/2 Cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips (More if you want a thicker chocolate layer)
  • 2 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup

Crispy Peanut Butter Layer Prep:

  • Put peanut butter & butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1.5 minutes. This will make it easier to mix with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Add the corn syrup to the bowl of melted goop.
  • In a bowl (I used a saute pan because I didn’t have a bowl) add the Rice Krispies.
  • Over the Rice Krispies pour the goop and add some of the powdered sugar.

Note: When you add the powdered sugar place it in a strainer and tap the strainer against your hand to shake out the sugar. This method is known as Sifting the sugar. Basically you do this to prevent any sugar lumps in the mixture.

  • Mix the ingredients in the bowl and continue to add the sugar until you finish it all.

  • Press mixture evenly into a 9-by-13-inch pan that has been lined with plastic wrap and lightly oiled (to prevent sticking).

Chocolate Layer Prep:

  • Melt chocolate in double boiler.

Note: If you’re like me, then you don’t have a double boiler. So what can you do? Easy, I used the steaming pot of my pasta pot and a Ziplock bag. Bring water to a boil in the pasta pan and place the chocolate chips in the Ziplock bag. Once the water is boiling place the Ziplock bag in the steaming pot and wait for the chocolate to melt. Make sure that the bag is sealed closed because you don’t want to get steam in the chocolate. Also, this technique is nice because after you use the chocolate you can just throwaway the bag. No mess!! =^D


  • Spread the melted chocolate evenly over Rice Krispie mixture; chill until set, but not hard (chocolate will begin to lose its shiny appearance).
  • Cut into pieces of desired size. Return to refrigerator until chocolate has hardened completely.
  • Remove from pan and store in tightly covered container in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Voilà! Now you can remember Elementary School and enjoy the best snack at the snack bar.


Oven Roasted Chicken (Desi Style)

This is an easy way to make a whole roasted chicken. The spices are average for Desis, but you can add or remove some to your liking.

Prep Time: Minimum 5 Hours, but overnight is better.

Ingredients:

  • ~7lbs. Whole Chicken with Skin
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 1.5 Tsp Red Chili Powder
  • 1 Tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Fat Free Plain Yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice or 1 Freshly Squeezed Lemon. (Optional)

Place all dry items in a bowl and mix them together. It should look like a mix of red and white sand. Now add the yogurt and the lemon juice.  The juice adds a nice little kick to the final product. The masala (marinade) is ready and you can now prep the chicken.

Chicken Prep:

  • Make sure to wash your chicken thoroughly after getting it out of it’s bag. Now the fun part! You need to separate the skin from the body of the chicken without braking it and keeping it on the chicken. What you are to do is break the membrane that connects the skin to the body. By doing this you’ll create a place where you can put the masala so it will be sandwiched between the chicken and the skin. This allows the flavors to enfuse into the meat better when you’re cooking.
  • Once that’s done you can use about 1/4 of the masala to rub inside of the chicken’s cavity. Make sure that you rub it both on top and bottom. Use another 1/2 of the masala to rub into the the pocket you made under the skin. Be sure to go all the way around the chicken and to the legs and wings too. With the remaining 1/4 of the masala rub it on the outside of the chicken.
  • Tie the legs of the chicken so it looks like one of those turkeys you see on those Thanksgiving commercials.
  • Let the chicken sit at room temperature for about an hour and then place in the refrigerator for an additional 5 hours (Overnight better).

Chicken with Masala on it

Cooking:

About an hour before you want to cook the chicken you should remove it from the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature. I’m lucky enough to have a toaster oven that s big enough to fit a 7 lbs. chicken. Also, this oven has a convection option.

  • Let the oven warm up to 350 °F.
  • Place the chicken in the oven and let it cook for about 1 hour.
  • After an hour check to see if the chicken has started to brown. If it has, remove the chicken from the oven and flip it over and put it back in. This will allow for the bottom side to cook thoroughly and also for it to get that nice brown color as well.
  • After about 30-45 minutes, the bottom side should be browned.
  • Flip the chicken again and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.
  • To check to see if the chicken is cooked, poke it with a fork. When you remove the fork you should not see “juice” coming out of the holes. If you do, you need to cook longer.
  • Eat with some homemade naan (I’ll post how to make some soon) and your good to go!

Chicken Prep:

Make sure to wash your chicken thoroughly after getting it out of it’s bag. Now the fun part! You need to separate the skin from the body

Pitaya A.K.A. Dragonfruit

Uncut Dragonfruit

Today I was in the market and came across an interesting looking fruit. At first glance what caught my attention was it’s bright pink color and it’s seemingly dangerous spikes. After cautiously picking it up, I read the label and it said this creature was a Dragonfruit. I was so happy to actually have a dragonfruit in my hand! I’ve had Sobe drinks that have Dragonfuit in them and loved them; now I have a chance to eat the real deal. So I grabbed it and headed to the counter. Now if you aren’t willing to spend $8 on a single piece of fruit just to explore, then I don’t recommend it to you. After getting it home I put it in the refrigerator to cool for awhile why I looked up the fruit’s history. For the most part it is found in southeast Asia and the Americas from Mexico down. It is from the cactus family and come in red and yellow varieties.

Preparation:

It is really easy to get this fruit ready to serve. Basically cut it in half, spoon out the halved portion, cut into cubes, and place back into peal. The peal makes a nice little serving bowl.

Dragonfruit Cubed and Ready to Eat