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Spicy Grilled Chicken with Flavored Rice

Aand we are back dear friends! Happy Thursday to you all. Hope all of you are enjoying this lovely winter. This year fortunately we haven’t seen much of snow and it has been a winter we midwestern people look forward to. This week we bring to you Spicy Grilled Chicken with Flavored Rice – when i think of eating Indian food at a food truck this is what I like to see. Some grilled meats/veggies accompanied with flavored aromatic Indian basmati rice and loads of condiments on side. Hmmm..Yummy!

Two years ago, I visited New York and I had this amazing halal meal at indian/middle eastern food truck. This meal is inspired by my food adventures from my New York visit. The versatility of Indian food is that it can be easily substituted with ingredients based on dietary restrictions. And so my vegetarian friends, you can use the same marinade and use Paneer, red onions, green bell peppers instead of meats.

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Well, I hope I have tempted you enough. Without further ado, lets jump into the ingredients and then the recipe.

Chicken:

  • 4 Boneless & Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • Vegetarian option: 1 400gm Paneer (indian cottage cheese), 1 green bell peppers and 1 red onion cubed into 1 inch.
  • 2 tbsp. of greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tsp of ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp. tandoori masala powder
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of ground turmeric
  • Salt as needed

Flavored Peas basmati rice:

  • 1.5 cups basmati rice
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 knob of sliced ginger
  • 4-5 crushed garlic
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tsp of cumin
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp of salt + a little ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • 3 cups of  water

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Chili oil:

  • 4 tbsp. of Indian chili flakes + more as per your taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of ground coriander
  • Pinch of tandoori masala
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil

Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. of tahini
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt as needed

To finish:

  • 2 tbsp. of chopped coriander/cilantro
  • chili flakes
  • crushed cumin
  • Finely chopped onion, tomatoes and cabbage for topping

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Directions:

Night Before:

  • Combine all the ingredients listed under chicken in large bowl. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
  • For vegetarians 1 hour of marination before grilling is sufficient. You needn’t marinate the veggies overnight.
  • Combine all the ingredients listed under chili oil in a small sauce pan. Put the sauce pan on the stove on low heat. Let the oil reach a boiling temperature and garlic turns lightly browned. Make sure not to burn garlic and chili flakes. Remove off heat and let it rest overnight covered on the counter.
  • Combine all the ingredients under sauce. If the yogurt hardens due to the addition of tahini add couple of tbsp of cold water at a time and mix until desired consistency is achieved. However, make sure the sauce isn’t too runny. Let it rest in the refrigerator until ready to use.

On the day:

  • In a deep pot, heat oil add spices let them sizzle for a minute. To the spices add onion, garlic, ginger and mint. Saute for 10 minutes until onion turns translucent. Add rice and fry for a minute once the rice is lightly browned add water, peas, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling reduce to a simmer and let it cook for 15 minutes.
  • In the meanwhile, to grill the chicken/veggies. Heat a nonstick skillet or you can use an indoor electric grill (pre-heat to 400 f). Once the skillet/grill is hot. Spray cooking oil and layer chicken thighs/veggies do not overcrowd the skillet/grill. Cook the thigh approx. 10-15 minutes on each side. Veggies will take lot less time compared to the chicken.
  • Remove the thigh pieces from the grill on to the cutting board and slice them into thin strips. Now return the sliced pieces on to the skillet. Sprinkle with more crushed cumin, black pepper and chili flakes and toss them around for a minute.

Serve the chicken/veggies warm with rice and condiments and enjoy!

Spiced Poached Pears with Vanilla Icecream and Chocolate Sauce-3

Spiced Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe on desert. I know, sorry you guys… I  prefer savory food and love anything that is hot and spicy. So, I dont make deserts that often. Every once in a while, I do develop a sweet tooth for chocolate and soft sugary fruits which I typically enjoy with vanilla ice cream. I just loveeeeeeeeee vanilla ummmmm sooooo goood!!!!!!!!! It’s flavor is like blank canvas that you can paint with the toppings of your choice.

Spiced Poached Pears with Vanilla Icecream and Chocolate Sauce

So I decided to use my favorite Indian whole spices in this dessert….. Spices and peaches who does that? Well that’s what I thought before I poached my beautiful succulent pears in it. The fragrance of whole spices adds such sweet mild flavor to the peaches you can smell the aroma from each bite.

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After poaching my pears in the spices I just fell in love with the idea… and took it up a notch and added spice rum to my chocolate sauce. Who’d say no to that??? So without further adieu here you go….

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For Spiced Poached Pears

Ingredients:

  • 5 -6 Peaches
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2-3 Whole Cardamom pod lightly crushed
  • 4 Cloves
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2-3 Star Anise
  • 4 + cups of water
  • Spiced rum chocolate sauce (Recipe below)
  • Vanilla Ice cream

Directions:

  • Using a peeler to peel the peaches leaving the stem intact.
  • In deep pot add enough water so that when peaches are added they get completely submerged. To the water add whole spices and sugar.
  • Heat the water until sugar completely dissolves and water just starts to boil.
  • Now to the boiling liquid add the peaches and cover with a lid. Turn the heat to simmer and let the peaches poach in the liquid for 20-25 mins.
  • Turn the heat off and let the peaches cool completely in the poaching liquid.
  •  Take a serving bowl to it add a whole peach and scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle warm chocolate sauce and top it with crushed candied peanuts and serve!

Spiced Rum Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp spiced rum
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  • Heat milk, butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan until milk begans to steam.
  • Remove the sauce pan of the heat and add chocolate, spiced rum and sea salt.  Stir gently until chocolate melts completely.
  • Serve the sauce warm or cool it to room temperature and store it in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.
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Dahi Vada – Savory Donuts in Yogurt Sauce

Aaaaand we’re back! Happy Thursday my friends and Umami Kitchen wishes everyone a very Happy Dussera! As usual the best thing about celebrating festivals is the yummy food that is made. And talking about yummy food, today we have for you the delicious Dahi Vada – Savory donuts in Yogurt sauce. It is crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and the yogurt sauce just makes you go ummmmmmm! Whenever inlaws comes over or we go visit them she makes these for me… and this time when she was here visiting us for couple of weeks. I decided to  learn and perfect the dish so I could share it with you all.

So those of you who are wondering what special to make for this festival, you already have a recipe ready for you.  For many of you this may be a completely unheard dish, so here is a little snippet about what it is.

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Dahi vada is a popular dish across India. It is basically white lentil (urad dal) along with salt and green chilies made into deep fried donuts and seasoned with spicy/tangy yogurt sauce. The seasoning of the yogurt sauce varies depending on which part of the country you are from. Typically, if you are from the southern part of India, the yogurt sauce is tempered with turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds, hing, curry leaves and green chilies. However, in the north of India, the sauce is tempered with cumin powder, chilli powder, tamarind juice, chaat masala adding a totally new dimension to the taste. In this recipe, we will show you the south Indian way of making the yogurt sauce for the Dahi vada.

 

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Dahi vada is typically made at special occasions when family and friends meet. Below you will find the recipe for making the batter for making the vada (donuts).

Another essential part of this dish is the Dahi (yogurt). You can buy this in the store or you can set it at home too. Here is a quick recipe to make your yogurt at home –

  • Use half a gallon of 2% or full fat milk and boil it in a container till the milk starts to rise. Turn off the stove.
  • Let the milk cool down to lukewarm temperature.
  • Add two tablespoons of plain yogurt to the milk and stir it well.
  • Now place the container in a warm spot at home, either inside your oven or inside a cupboard. I usually keep it inside the oven and turn on the light.
  • Typically, it takes about 6-7 hours for the yogurt to set. So it is best done at night, so it can set overnight.
  • Do not stir/mix the milk once you set it to rest. Shaking things up in the middle of the process does not allow the yogurt to set properly.
  • Check for the consistency after 7 hours or in the morning if you have set it for overnight. It should have the same consistency as the yogurt you buy from the store.

Dahi Vada

Ingredients: Makes approx. 25 small donuts

  • 2 cups white lentil
  • 1 cup water for grinding
  • salt
  • 1/2 gallon yogurt + more
  • 10-12 green chilies + more as needed
  • 2 thumb size ginger knobs
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
  • canola oil – for frying

Tempering:

  • 2-3 tbsp. oil
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 2-3 dry red chilies
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2 tsp urad dal
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp chana dal

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Directions:

  • Soak lentils overnight in large bowl in 8 cups of water. Next morning, rinse and drain the lentils and set aside.
  • Add lentils to the grinder and start the grinding process. You will need approx. 1 cup of water for the entire process. Keep adding little bit of water as when needed. Do not add too much water this will make the batter runny and not ideal for making donuts.

Note: The whole process if using a wet grinder takes 45 mins. with couple of breaks for the grinder in between so that it does not heat up.

  • In the meanwhile grind green chilies and ginger into coarse paste in a small jar.
  • Heat a small pan and add couple of tbsp. of oil once hot add all the tempering ingredients one after another. Turn of the heat and let it sizzle for some more time until the lentils turn golden brown.
  • Take a big bowl that can hold yogurt and donuts in it. To the bowl add yogurt and mix well to break up the lumps. To the yogurt add green chili and ginger paste, salt as needed, tempering mixture and cilantro. Mix well and set aside. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as needed. If you need more heat grind some more chilies and add to the yogurt mixture.

Note: Ensure that the seasoning in the yogurt is sufficient for both yogurt and donuts.

  • Once the batter is ready. Heat a wok half filled with oil. Once the oil reaches rolling boil.
  • Take bowl and fill it with water. You will need this to soak your hands will making the donuts and also for dropping finished donuts in it before it goes into the yogurt mixture.
  • Dip your fingers in water and scoop out approx. 3 tbsp. of batter into the wet fingers and try to flatten it 1 inch thick and round. Now drop flattened batter into the oil. Repeat the process until you can fit enough donuts in the wok.

Note: Note: Ensure that seasoning in the yogurt is sufficient for both yogurt and donuts.

  • Flip the donuts half way thru the cooking process when it is golden brown and once both sides are nicely browned and cooked all the way through approx 5-7 mins.
  • Remove the donuts from the oil and drop them into the water bowl for 15 secs before moving them into the yogurt sauce.
  • Repeat the process until you make all the donuts.
  • You can serve them right away or chill in refrigerator for 2 hrs before serving. Either ways they will taste great. They will keep well in a tight lid container in the fridge for a week.
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Sweet Potato Kale Kimchi Quinoa Patties

Here we are again! Hope all of you are getting ready to welcome the beautiful season of fall along with all the cold it brings. I’m excited to bring out my warm clothing and try on all the cool sweatshirts, sweaters and jackets. Another cool way of enjoying the chilly weather is to have something nice and warm. Just for that reason today we bring to you Sweet Potato Kale Kimchi Quinoa Patties – a warm patty that you can enjoy for a snack or even a meal. So without further ado, let’s jump into the ingredients and the recipe.

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Note – The ingredient pictures here show only some of the ingredients used. Please follow the list to get everything you need for the recipe.

  SKK Patties-3 Ingredients: Makes 12-14 patties

  • 1 cup quinoa mixed (red, white)
  • 1 baked sweet potato
  • 1 cup kimchi
  • 1 small bunch Dino kale
  • 1-2 egg (For vegan option: substitute 1 egg with 2 tbsps of flax seed powder soaked in 4 tbsp of warm water for 5-7 mins. )
  • 2-3 garlic, chopped
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • ghee/butter, for cooking

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Directions:

    • Cook the quinoa: Place 2 cups water, quinoa and a pinch of salt in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and  cook for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, turn off the heat, set the lid ajar to rest.
    • Completely drain kimchi of any liquid. Place on the cutting board and finely chop kimchi.
    • Wash the Dino kale and pat dry. Finely chop the kale and set aside.
    • Heat a pan to medium high. Add olive oil and chopped garlic. Once garlic is slightly browned add kale and kimchi and sauté for 10 mins until all the water evaporates. Take it off the heat and let it cool down.
    • In a large bowl add quinoa, mashed baked sweet potato, kale and kimchi mix, egg, salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients and let it rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
    • In a heavy bottom skillet warm some ghee/butter. Make patties out of the mixture. They can roughly be the size of your palm and an inch thick.
    • Cook them for about 3 minutes on each side until crisp. Cover them after a flip to completely warm through.
    • Optional: Sprinkle cheese before removing patties of the stove and serve hot with wasabi avocado aioli on the side.  (Recipe for avocado aioli below)

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For Wasabi-Avocado Aioli –

    • 1 large avocado, halved and pitted
    • 1 tsp wasabi paste
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 garlic
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add garlic into food processor and process until minced. Now add the rest of the aioli ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Enjoy our recipe and don’t forget to let me know how you liked it!

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Lagaan Chicken Curry

Since we spent this Thursday taking you around Art Prize 2015 held in Grand Rapid in this post. With all the art prize excitement we got slightly delayed in getting our weekly recipe post out…  So here you go my friends I have all your weekend parties covered YAYYY!!! with this easy peasy party special recipe all your friends and family will ask for more of this yum dish. This recipe is from my Mom’s Indian recipe stash, Lagaan Chicken curry, a party special dish commonly made in Parsi families. Lagaan chicken curry essentially means chicken curry made in a heavy copper bottom dish (Lagaan). Though a parsi dish, it is quite a delicacy in many places in India including Hyderabad, my hometown. This dish goes very well with rice, pulao or naan/bread.

Happy Weekend you guys!!!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Chicken
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp pepper powder
  • 4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • pinch of ajinomoto/MSG (optional)
  • 1 cup curd
  • 1 bunch coriander/cilantro
  • 4 green chillies (or more depending on hotness of the chillies)
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 8-10 cashews (soaked in water for few hours)
  • orange red color (optional)
  • salt as per taste
  • Flat Copper bottom dish for cooking the chicken

Directions:

  • Heat pan add oil, fry onion until it becomes light golden in color.
  • To the onions add the following ingredients one after another. Stirring and frying in between to ensure the spices are not burnt.  Add ginger garlic paste, chilli powder, turmeric, pepper powder, tomato sauce, beaten curd, ajinomoto (MSG), slit green chillies and salt. Cover and cook for couple of minutes.
  •  Please taste and adjust seasoning as per your taste. Take the cooked masala off the heat and let it rest until warm enough to handle.
  • Meanwhile, take the copper bottom dish and add the cut chicken to it. To the chicken apply salt and lime juice and let it marinade for 10 minutes.
  • Grind soaked cashews to a smooth paste and keep aside
  • After 10 minutes once the masala is cool enough to handle. Add the cooked masala, ground cashew paste, orange red color to the chicken and mix well.
  • Now let the chicken rest for another 30 minutes in this new marinade.
  • Once the marination time is over. Place the copper bottom dish on stove with medium-high heat. Cover and cook chicken until cooked all the way through and excess water is evaporated.
  • Once the chicken gravy has reached the desired consistency remove the dish of the stove and sprinkle with chopped coriander/cilantro.
  • Serve hot with Indian bread/Rice.

Note: Ajinomoto/MSG can be avoided if you don’t like it.

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Art Prize – My top 3 favorites

Happy Thursday my friends! How are you all doing? Are you eagerly waiting for the Art Prize results too? These past couple of weeks, hubby and I have been enjoying the varied art pieces displayed all over Grand Rapids. In my opinion, Art Prize is the most awaited event after summer seizes to be your muse. Not only people who live in and around GR but also people from nearby cities come to see the extravagant display of art.

Artprize, is a radical and open art exhibition spread over 3 square miles in GR over 19 days. It is an NGO investing in promoting art and artists. Two $200,000 grand prizes and eight category awards are awarded at the end. More than $500,000 is awarded in total. The final decision is half decided by public vote, and half decided by a jury of art experts. This year there were about 1550 art entries in total and exhibited at 162 centers. The final voting ended last night and like many of you art lovers I can’t wait to know how has won it big this time. However, before the final winners are decided, I have already made my top 3 choices and you can see them below –

My first pick is the charcoal art by Judith Braun. Her paintings are mostly finger paintings using charcoal. It was totally mindblowing to see how fine her artwork is and how sophisticated finger painting could be . This picture doesn’t do justice to the piece, she has some amazing paintings that you must checkout. Here is a link to her website if you are interested to explore – https://www.artprize.org/judith-braun/2015/as-above

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On her website she says ‘There’s a strong correlation between my body, the carbon medium, and the images. I use symmetries on all scales, reflecting my body, as well as the ubiquity of symmetry throughout nature, sometimes drawing with both hands simultaneously in symmetrical gestures. For me the fingerprint is a means of primal expression, because I’m drawing on the wall, and it represents both our uniqueness as individuals, as well as our commonality.’

Also checkout a video of her art at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW2CW07GUDw

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My second pick this season is this adorable set of acrylic paintings of Siberian tigers on canvas by Anni Crouter. These paintings look so close to reality and I loved how expressive the eyes were painted. It almost felt like the tigers were saying something. Everything in the painting looks just perfect. The artists has named this series of paintings ‘Triple Play’. Checkout more about the artist and the paintings at http://www.artprize.org/anni-crouter/2015/triple-play.

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My last and final pick is called the Balancing Act. This is by artist Calvin Babich and is displayed in the Gerard R Ford museum. This one is an interesting piece of art as it creates an illusion of stacks of rocks being balanced by tiny fountains of water. The stacks of rocks besides being held up by geysers of water, are fountains themselves with water coming out of the top stones. There is lots of water action and sound with this installation.  Something about rocks and water together makes it so soothing that I really fell in love with this creative work. Checkout more about this piece at https://www.artprize.org/calvin-babich/2015/balancing-act.

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While there was plenty of art to enjoy and soak up, there were also some cool Street Performers in action entertaining everyone.

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Other notable art installations

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All in all, Artprize never seizes to surprise and impress me at the same time. Hope you all find time to checkout these fabulous pieces or art!

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House Tour: Exterior

Hello dear friends and welcome to the new category on our blog! As many of you know we moved into our new house recently. Hubby and I are excited about all our mini plans and projects that we have in mind. So this part of our blog is dedicated to all our musings about our dream projects that we plan to do.

To give you a basic lay of the land – Our house is 2600 Sft and has 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths. On the main floor we have the foyer, a living room with a beautiful antic two way fireplace, powder room, a nice size pantry and a kitchen+ nook that leads to the best part of our house – the deck that looks over our lovely backyard. Upstairs, we have a master bedroom and two additional bedrooms.

Our plan is to use one of the extra bedrooms as a guest bedroom and the other one as an office space.  The house is located in a pretty little cul de sac but fairly close to the main access road. Being tucked a cozy corner we have lots of privacy and can hardly hear any noise from the street. The house is located on a sprawling acre of land and so we have a private front yard and a fenced back yard is which is perfect for our pup.

The first project hubs and I are keen about is giving our house a new dimension with paint colors. Before selling the house to us, the previous owners repainted the house to the color of their choice. While we don’t hate the existing color palette, we felt that we could do more to bring out the beauty. And so we decided that we wanted the trim to be one color and the siding to be another color, just so the house has a little more character.

After looking at the pricing and quotes we received from the painter in town. We decided to leave the cream siding as it is and just update the trim, shutters and garage door to a different color. Which will bring out the look we are hoping for.  Currently, leaning to  grey or black from Benjamin Moore.  Well thats where we are at right now and you will hear more about this in our next post.

Here goes the pictures 🙂

Picture of side view of the house that I shared with you guys couple of weeks ago in this post.

Side view of the house

Back of the house from backyard ….

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Other view from backyard.. From the backyard-2
View of the backyard from deck…View of the backyard from deck
Let us know what you think of this combo and feel free to share any pictures you have of your home projects!

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Coco Chia Pudding With Berry Nanaicecream

Hello hello my friends how are you all doing? Well I am glad this work week is coming to an end. As you all know we moved into our new house and like all new home owners hubby and I have been planning and re-planning all our renovation projects. I love working on that stuff and so look forward to the weekends for that.

Anyhow with a busy weekend and a busier week coming up I wanted to share a simple breakfast recipe with you so you don’t forget to eat healthy while still being busy. This is a breakfast item that you can plan for your next week or simply make it a mid day snack for all the busy days when you need some extra energy. This week we bring to you Coco Chia Pudding with Berry Nanaicecream! My mouth is already watering writing this post and I hope I have tempted you enough. So without further ado, lets dive into the recipe –

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For the cocoa chia pudding:
1 cup almond milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. cocoa powder

sweetener of choice

3 tablespoons chia seeds

Instructions –

1. Place the milk, vanilla, and cocoa into the blender and add sweetener to taste (about 2 servings worth).

2. Blend until cocoa is completely incorporated.

3. Pour milk mixture into a jar and add the chia seeds. Stir well, making sure that all the seeds are moistened.

4. Refrigerate overnight, Just before serving mix well to remove any lumps and add more milk if mixture is too thick.

For the frozen berry smoothie:
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1 frozen banana

7 frozen strawberries

a splash of almond milk

Instructions –

1. Add blueberries, banana, and strawberries into the blender.

2. Blend until ice cream like consistency is reached.

3. Add frozen berry smoothies to your cocoa chia jar and top it with pom seeds and hemp hearts.

Hope you enjoy making this recipe and let us know how you liked it!

 

Sneak Peak

New Beginnings

Happy Thursday friends! To all those celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi today, hope you all enjoyed the festivities and the yummy food :). Hubby & I had a busy yet a very exciting week. We moved into our new house this past weekend!! We spent the whole summer looking at many many houses and at-last found one that hub, me and gizmo loved.

Though I should confess that I did not get my dream kitchen, it met most of our criteria..and well gotta compromise somewhere right! However, I am super happy about all the extra space so I can store my props and boards for future photo-shoots.

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So here’s a glimpse of utter chaos at our rental place before we left…. Oh man I’m so looking forward to collecting more footwear; now that my ban on buying footwear has been rescinded by hubs as there is lot more storage space 🙂

With the new move I have some great plans for the blog and will keep you posted as and when I am ready. Meanwhile, we have another news to share as well. Sowmya, the woman behind the words in this blog is expecting a baby very soon! So we will soon be having a new very young member of Umami Kitchen!

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Be tuned to a whole new set of recipes with some new photography! See y’all and have a good rest of the week 🙂

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Bandit Queen – A Ramen Noodle Bar

Thursday it is! How are you all doing?  This week we are going to do something different. Instead of sharing one of our recipes I am going introduce you to a food joint I absolutely loved. This place is called ‘Bandit Queen’ and is located in the heart of Grand Rapids on South Division Avenue.

This place is unique in the food it offers… primarily a Ramen noodle place that serves Asian dishes too. It is a first of its kind in the south west Michigan area. I had a chance to interview the owner and chef of Bandit Queen and learnt more about what motivated him to open this place. Chef Les Fleming, has been in the world of food making for 7 years and he worked as an executive chef at Rockwell Republic before he decided to open Bandit Queen. Chef Fleming eloquently talked about his experiences previously that motivated him to opening his own place and serve healthy, economical and quick meals to his customers. He said, a lot of his learning comes from his experience being an executive chef at Rockwell Republic and that is what made him confident of opening his own place.

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The dragon is the most popular dish on the menu.. so folks, be sure to try it next time you are there. During our conversation chef Fleming talked about the challenges in setting up a restaurant and he made a very good point about following one’s passion in pursuing a career. He mentioned that he opened the restaurant because he is passionate about cooking and he considers his cooking a form of art (I totally agree by the way!).

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My chat with chef Fleming was fun and i learnt a lot about his ideas and techniques on different dishes he makes. I will make sure I share my learning’s with you all in the upcoming posts. Here is a quick snippet of our conversation:

Me: Chef, Fleming is this your first restaurant? How long have you been working in the food industry?

Chef: I’ve been here for 7 years and worked as an executive chef at Rockwell Republic for 2 years. I have also worked at Blue Tavern before that. But I wanted to be in control of the whole place. I am currently in talks about getting a part ownership to this place.

Me: How did you end up at Bandit queen?

Chef: I had been an executive chef for 2 years and I was looking for a second job when I found Bandit queen. I chose Bandit queen because I felt it gave me a perfect place to grow and hone my skills.

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Me: Why Ramen Noodles?

Chef: When I started here, I did not have a deep understanding of Asian cuisine, but I did a lot of self learning, followed some techniques by other Asian cuisine chefs and read a lot about Asian flavors. In my opinion, being a chef is all about self learning. Culinary schools will only teach you the basics, it is upon the chef to try out different things and indulge in a lot of self learning to stand out.

Me: What is the most popular dish at Bandit Queen?

Chef: The popular dish keeps changing as we make changes to the menu. But the favorite for sometime has been the Dragon.

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Me: What were the difficulties you faced during the change in career and what would you advice be for someone trying to start their own place?

Chef: The biggest difficulties have been the sacrifices that I had to make in terms of time and relationships. Being a chef and running a restaurant is very demanding and requires you to completely devote yourself to it. My advice to chefs starting out new would be to make cooking their passion and not make ‘money’ the primary motivator for opening the restaurant. For me cooking is my art and I am passionate about it and that is what makes me going everyday. I spend 70-80 hours a week at the restaurant and it still excites me to get up every morning and come here to cook with dedication and make a delicious meal.

Me: How well is Bandit Queen tied in with the local producers?

Chef: Bandit Queen does not deal with big food aggregators like GFS or Sysco. We get most of our produce from the local markets and farmers and get them as fresh as possible. For a small capacity restaurant like us, dealing with local farmers is a lot more cost effective and sustainable.

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Me: Do you like to cook at home? What do you like to cook?

Chef: I do not get much time on the weekdays but on Sunday’s I love to cook my meals and my favorite go to dish is risotto. So I spend a good 2 hours to prep and cook it. I also love cooking eggs so that’s what you will find me eating over weekends.

Me: What are your favorite cafe’s or restaurants that you’d like to eat at & recommend our readers try?

Chef: Grand Rapids is a place with some cool restaurants and great food. But if you want me to pick places, I’ve found Osteria Rossa to be a nice place for some good Italian food and I also love Righteous Cuisine up in Grand Haven. They are a very creative place that makes amazing tacos.

Me: Oh one last thing I noticed you use a sous vide too… How do you make your Sous Vide eggs?

Chef: When I have time I  sous vide eggs at 62 degrees for one hour. When in rush I cook them for 12-15 minutes at 75 degrees.

Me: Thank you Chef Fleming for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

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Well, after the conversation, I wasn’t going to let go of Chef Fleming without sharing one of his recipes for Umami Kitchen followers! So here is a recipe for ‘Brine/Braising Liquid’ –

Ingredients for Smoky Sweet Brine/Braising Liquid

  • 2 gallons of water
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup cloves
  • 1.5 cups peppercorn
  • 1.5 cups salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups smoky pine tea

Directions:

  • Add all the ingredients to a pot and bring them to a boil. Once braising liquid reached boiling point take it off the heat and strain all the spices.
  • Once the liquid is cooled you can use this to marinate fish, chicken or even eggplant the possibilities are endless.
  • Chef uses this liquid to braise pork belly that served at the restaurant.

Hope you all enjoyed the post and are looking forward to trying the recipe! Let us know how enjoyed the recipe. I would recommend you all to visit Bandit Queen and you will not regret it!