Deliciously quick & easy vegetarian/
Baked Ricotta Cheese Spinach Pasta
I found this recipe online accidentally while sourcing for baked pasta dishes. As usual, I have tweaked the original recipe and this time I hv excluded the garlic, egg and nutmeg.
I have now a baked pasta dish favored by my family. Ricotta Cheese in baked savory food - what an incredible delicious idea! I wasn't aware that ricotta cheese even existed till I came to Penn.
Baked pasta with spinach and ricotta cheese is a complete fulfilling meal. It is sure to be a winner with your family.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1/2 lb/ 6oz medium shell pasta, cooked al dente
3 cups marinara sauce ( See Note )
1 cup part skim Ricotta cheese
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups low fat Mozarella Cheese
4 Basil leaves, chopped
Salt, Pepper and Chilli Flakes to season per your preference.
Preheat oven to 375 deg F and get a 10inch by 7 inch baking dish ready.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese together.
Stir in the chopped spinach, salt, pepper and chilli flakes.
Spread 1 and 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the baking dish.
Put half of the cooked pasta over the marinara sauce.
Spoon half of the spinach ricotta mix over the pasta and spread it out evenly.
Top this layer with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the process with the remaining marinara sauce, the cooked pasta and the remaining spinach ricotta mix.
Finish it off with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and toss the chopped basil leaves.
Using your fingers, press the entire mix gently part by part so as to get a good layered finish when cut after being baked.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 mins. Then uncovered for another 10-15 mins till the sides are slightly browned and the cheese has all melted.
Serve warm with additional chilli flakes or hot sauce.
Marinara sauce can either be made at home or you can buy from any grocery store. I like my Marinara sauce to be light and not overwhelmingly loaded with Italian spices, sugar and salt. I tried a few brands before I came across Rinaldi's Marinara Sauce.
We loved the combination of so many types of cheese and hence the second time I baked this dish, I doubled all the cheese! It became heavy and we just couldn't go for seconds! I believe the above combination is the best. But, do try out different quantities - every family has its own preference.
Healthier Vegetable Briyani
I have never and don't intend to use any ghee or butter in my Vegetable Briyani. On the contrary, I try to always make it as natural or healthy as possible. In fact, I am not too pleased about using food colorings too. Can anyone give me a natural alternative to yellow and orange food colorings?
I have layered my Briyani here, alternating the spice mix with the rice. I learnt how to do this from my older sister June in Singapore many years back. Before that, I have not attempted to try making biryani at home.
Ingredients (for 4 persons)
2 cups Basmati Rice soaked for 30-40 mins
4 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
5-6 drops of yellow food coloring
5-6 drops of orange food coloring
2 tbsps. canola oil
1 big onion chopped big
1 tsp pounded ginger
1 tsp pounded garlic
2 tbsps. Vegetable Briyani Spice Powder (National Brand - found in any Indian Grocery Stores. Any other brand will work as well)
3 tomatoes, chopped big
4 stalks coriander leaves chopped big
1/2 cup water
3 cups of mixed vegetables ( peas, carrot cubes, small french bean pieces, small cauliflower florets or potato cubes)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 block of milk cheese or Paneer (200g) cut into medium sized cubes, grilled
extra (around 2/3 cups) coriander leaves for garnishing
Drain and cook the soaked Basmati Rice with the water and salt in your rice cooker. Sprinkle the food coloring and set aside to cool.
Take a pot and fry the onions followed by the ginger and garlic.
Next add in the spice powder and let the mixture simmer for 2-4 mins.
Add the tomato pieces, coriander leaves and salt. Add the 1/2 cup water and let it cook for 3-5 mins on high heat till tomatoes are soft and mushy.
Blend this mix till smooth and add back into the pot. Pour 1 cup water into blender to get the remaining curry from the sides. Add this into the pot too.
Now put in the vegetables, add in the tomato sauce and cook till gravy is half in quantity and vegs are all cooked.
Before switching the fire off, add in the cubed grilled cheese cubes and combine well. Don't add in paneer too early otherwise it will disintegrate into the curry.
Take another big pot, spread half the gravy on the base and then spread half the rice over it. Toss 1/3 cup of coriander leaves.
Then, spread the remaining gravy followed by the remaining rice and garnish with another 1/3 cup of chopped coriander leaves.
Cover the pot and cook on very low heat for 10 mins.
Serve for lunch or dinner with simple dal curry and cucumber yoghurt dip.
Baked Vegetable Curry Puffs
My first taste of curry puffs was when I was in Telok Kurau Primary School (incidently, the same school which our late founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew attended) in Singapore and it was my first day in Primary 1. During recess, my brother took me to the stall vendor and got me a big curry puff for just 10 cents! I remember how I loved that taste with my first bite. I still remember devouring it in the school field while my brother played soccer with his school mates. My brother, Faizal, took care of me pretty much in school while I was still trying to find my way around and making friends.
Over the years as I grew up in Singapore, I came across different variations - with shrimp paste, with sardines but I only try to eat those which were vegetarian. Sometimes, a little shrimp could be tasted here and there, even though the stall owners vouch it is vegetarian!
Homemade version is always the best - because you know what you are eating. You don't want full fat butter in your dough, no palm oil while cooking the filling or when frying the puffs in palm oil. Palm oil is high in saturated fat. It is so alarming so many people don't know about the badness of palm oil. Because it is a cheap source of oil. palm oil is found in many types of food - cereals, chips, cookies, breads....Watch out for it in the ingredients of the food you purchase.
I attempted baking curry puffs because I get awfully guilty eating fried food. I am hardly exercising here in Bluebell, PA because of the cold weather even though it is supposed to be Spring! I simply wanted to eat my curry puffs guilt free. These baked curry puffs turned out rather well - even my fussy 11 year old Riya agreed!
Ingredients (12 curry puffs)
2 cups all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 pinches salt
1 inch cube light butter (50% fat)
water needed to knead to a smooth dough
Method for Dough
Take a medium sized mixing bowl and place all the dry ingredients. Mix and then add the light butter and water and knead. Set aside for half an hour.
3 large potatoes, scrubbed, boiled or steamed in salted water, skinned and then cut into small cubes. (See Note)
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 big onion, chopped finely
1 green chilli, sliced
2 stalks of Chinese celery, chopped fine.
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup peas
salt to taste per preference
Method for Filling
Preheat oven to 375 deg F or 200 deg C and pray cooking spray over two baking trays. Set aside.
Heat a pot with canola oil and then fry the onion till translucent.
Add in the green chilli, chopped celery stalks and fry further.
Stir in the spice powders, salt and peas and cook for 2-3 mins.
Finally add in the cubed potatoes and combine well.
Let the filling cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
Remove from stove and cool.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut 4 inch circles using a small bowl.
Place the filling on one side of the circle dough and fold over.
Press the edges down with a fork to seal the curry puffs.
Brush a little canola oil over the curry puffs.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning over and pressing down slightly midway.
Enjoy warm with any dipping sauce.
Sambar is another spicy vegetable lentil curry very commonly cooked in many South Indian households. Because it is such a basic curry, it will be a shame if any South Indian doesn't know how to cook this!!
Sambar can be served with plain boiled rice, steamed rice cakes ( idlis), fried lentil doughnuts ( medhu vadais), lentil crepes (dosas)- well just about any South Indian snack!! And it is rather nutritious because of the boiled lentils and stewed vegetables.
My girls love Sambar with Grilled Tofu and Okra or Tofu Sambal. The following recipe is for 4 in a household.
Ingredients for Dal Stew
1/2 cup toor dal ( pigeon peas)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 medium onion, chopped finely
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
3 cups water
Method for Dal Stew
Boil the toor dal with garlic, onion and tomatoes in pressure cooker for 10 mins till well cooked and mushy. Mash and keep aside.
Ingredients for Vegetable Stew
1/2 radish, cut into half and sliced thinly
4 pieces of 3 inch drumsticks (veg)
10 pieces beans, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 small carrot, sliced thinly
1 tsp tamarind pulp, juice extracted
3 tsp sambar powder ( See Note)
3 cups water
Salt to season
Method for Vegetable Stew
Boil all the vegetables with water, sambar powder, tamarind extract and salt for 10-15 mins till vegetables are cooked.
Mix these vegetables with the Dal Stew and keep aside on low heat.
Ingredients for tempering
5-6 curry leaves
2 dried chillies, torn into 2
1/4 tsp each of fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds
1 tbsp Sesame oil for tempering
Method for tempering
Fry the dried chillies, curry leaves and all the seeds in sesame oil. Pour this tempering oil with all the ingredients in to the pot with the vegetables and dal.
Serve hot with rice, a vegetable dish, mango pickle and pappads.
Many other vegetables can be used too like okra, potatoes, eggplants etc. It is quite a versatile dish.
Sambar powder can be found in many Indian grocery stores. It is made up of ground whole dry spices and lentils. Or you can make your own at home.
Sandwich idea 2 of a request from a reader.
Hi guys! I'm Nilofar Iyer and I have shared my dishes here for you to cook for your own family and friends with love and most importantly with their long term good health in mind.