Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder (Leek Potato Soup With Corn & Cheese)

Occasionally we start out to do one thing but allow ourselves to go with the flow and end up with something amazingly fantastic. This chowder is an example of one of these events. Serendipity! I started out making a 'leek-potato soup' and Chellu wanted to help. It was fun cooking together and the spirit of adventure was high. Before long Chellu was bursting with suggestions of additions or substitutions (what if we add some of this and what if we added this instead of that ... etc) which sounded pretty good to me and that is how we ended up with this Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder also known as "What If Soup". It was so delicious that Paji said we should write it down so we could make it again. So here it is. Enjoy!

Serves 8


2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Fresh Leek
1 small Stalk Celery
1 tsp Sea Salt
5 or 6 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Dried Red Pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Turmeric
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
3 Large Potatoes
1 pkg (1 lb) frozen Corn kernels
1 Large Red Bell Pepper
1 qt Water
3 cups Milk
2 Tbsp Flour + 1/4 cup water
2 Cups grated low-fat Mexican Medley Cheese (or Cheddar type Cheese)
1/4 cup finely sliced Fresh Garlic Chives (or regular chives)
1 green Onion, (only the green part) finely sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Prepare the vegetables:

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly especially between layers where soil tends to hide. Remove root ends and cut off most of the dark green leaves. Thinly slice the white and pale green parts.

Separate the celery ribs and wash thoroughly; trim root ends and any brown or yellowed parts. Slice thinly and include any leaves.

Remove stem, seeds and membranes from the bell pepper and dice.

Wash and dry the potatoes; cube into bite size pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot; add leeks, celery, red pepper flakes, pepper, turmeric and salt. Stir cook until the vegetables soften, about 4 or 5 minutes.

Add the diced bell pepper, potatoes, corn, milk and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the soup for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft but not mushy.

Stir in the flour-water slurry, increase heat so that the soup is gently boiling and cook until thickened. Turn off the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Check the soup - the broth should be creamy; if it is thin, mash a few of the potato pieces with the back of the spoon and stir in.

Stir in the herbs and cheese and serve hot with freshly ground pepper.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hema's Yogurt Cheese Dip & Sandwich Spread

It is amazing how a few simple ingredients can turn out into something so delicious! Use this spread with your favorite veggies and bread slices for a lovely snack; or serve as a dip with fresh veggies and/or your favorite chips. If cilantro is not your favorite herb, others such as Italian flat-leaf parsley, basil, dill, mint, etc may be used.


2 Cups plain yogurt
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 small bunch Cilantro, finely chopped
1 small green chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1 pinch of Salt
Squeeze of lime of lemon (Optional)


Dip a large clean square of muslin cloth such as a large cotton napkin in fresh water and wring out well; shake out and place in a colander set over a bowl. The cloth should be large enough to hang over the colander.

Place all of the yogurt on the napkin in the colander and bring the ends together and loosely tie together. Set the whole thing in the refrigerator so that the yogurt can drain undisturbed for several hours or overnight.

Check the bowl underneath and pour out periodically to insure that the whey is not overflowing the container.

Remove the yogurt bag and scrape out all the drained yogurt into a bowl; discard the whey that drained from it.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add the optional lemon/lime juice if the yogurt has no tartness at all; the lemon/lime will brighten the flavors as well.

Allow to rest for about 10 minutes for the flavors to develop and serve with veggies or chips as a dip or use as a sandwich spread.

Sandwiches: You can make traditional or open-faced sandwiches to show off the veggie toppings.


Whole Grain Bread Slices
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Radishes, thinly sliced
Ripe Tomato, seeded and thinly sliced
Herbs/edible blossoms of your choice
Spinach leaves, Shredded Cabbage, Romaine or Boston lettuce, etc.
Salt and Freshly ground Black Pepper

Spread the yogurt spread on one side of the bread slices and top with veggies and herbs; lightly sprinkle with salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Cut into desired shapes and sizes and serve open-faced garnished with herbs and blossoms.

If you wish, cover with another slice of bread spread with the yogurt mixture for traditional style sandwiches. Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mexican Lasagna (Casserole with Beans, Veggies, & Corn Tortillas)

A slice of the Mexican Lasagna With Sour Cream

I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner; but there were leftovers taking up space in the refrigerator: some Frijoles (Mexican beans), salsa, and some roasted vegetables. I wanted to unclutter the fridge rather than add to the growing cache of leftovers. What can you do with leftover beans, salsa, and roasted veggies? Mexican Lasagna!

 I make Mexican Lasagna a day or so after I make a Mexican meal with beans and salsa; it is a great way to make a new dinner using up all the leftovers. Two birds with I mean two dinners, with one pot of beans! Amma absolutely loved it and would often request it. Once you try it, you would not want to wait for leftovers to make it as Amma would have attested. It is pretty simple and easy. If you don't have your own home-made ingredients, canned vegetarian 'refried' beans and purchased salsa or marinara sauce may be used. Buen Provecho!!

This is truly a one-pot meal - it has everything; the combination of corn, beans, veggies, and cheese provide ample protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals. The optional toppings make it a feast.

This is truly a one-pot meal - it has everything; the combination of corn, beans, veggies, and cheese provide ample protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals. The optional toppings make it a feast!

It might seem like a lot of salsa; if you cut back you will end up with a dry casserole as the corn tortillas literally slurp it all up.

If using marinara (prepared tomato sauce), I Mexicanize it by: sauteing 1 chopped onion and  1 finely minced  Jalapeno (remove core with seeds for a mild sauce) with a pinch of salt in a little oil and add some cumin and a pinch of turmeric, and simmer with the sauce and some water until well mixed.

Makes 12 Servings


1 Dozen Corn Tortillas
6 oz. Shredded Cheese - use Monterey Jack or one of your favorite combination
4 cups Salsa I (1 recipe), purchased salsa or Marinara Sauce
4 cups lightly roasted/sauteed/steamed veggies (1 onion, 1bell pepper, 2 zucchini, a handful of corn kernels, etc)
2 or 3 cups Frijoles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro and sliced green onions

Extra Salsa I or Salsa II or Avocado Salsa, Sour cream, shredded lettuce, avocado slices/guacamole, etc to serve


Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Prepare a 9"x13" baking pan with about 2" rim - coat lightly with oil or cooking oil spray.

Spread a thin layer of salsa/sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Cut the tortillas in half; dip them one by one in a pan of warm water as you proceed.

Place 1/3 of the tortillas with the cut edges against the sides of the pan (see picture below) overlapping them to cover the bottom of the pan completely.

Drizzle 1/3 of the salsa over the tortillas.

Spread the frijoles over the tortillas.

Sprinkle a handful of cheese evenly on top of the beans.

Layer another 1/3 of the tortillas covering all of the filling and spread another 1/3 of the salsa over them.

Spread the veggies and a couple of handfuls of the cheese in even layers on the tortillas.

Place a last layer of the rest of the 1/3 of the tortillas and drizzle the rest of the salsa on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Sprinkle the last of the cheese on top and bake a little longer until cheese melts.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

Serve hot sprinkled with the cilantro/green onions and your favorite toppings and garnishes.

Buen Provecho!!

Simple Pea Soup (Dried Split Pea Soup With Barley)

This soup has only 7 ingredients but tastes awesome. A good soup to make when one does not want to chop, dice, or mince anything.

Makes 4 Servings


1 cup split peas (green or yellow)
1 small handful barley (about 1/8 cup)
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Ghee or Canola Oil
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp Cumin seeds, freshly crushed


Check peas for any debris or discolored beans. Combine barley and the cleaned peas and rinse well.

Place peas and barley with about 3 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Stir in turmeric and salt to taste.

Turn down the heat and simmer partially covered until soft and creamy; add more boiling water to thin soup if you wish.

Heat a small pan with the ghee/oil and add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and the coarsely ground cumin seeds; swirl and cook for a few seconds until fragrant.

Pour the aromatic ghee with the spices into the soup and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Serve hot with your favorite accompaniments including breads/muffins.