I’ve been taking a break from work for the last few months, which means my kitchen has been cranking out many a weeknight meal. I think I set the bar too high. A recent review of my rigatoni in vodka sauce from my 9 year old went something like this: “It’s good but it’s not quite as good as [Insert name of seriously Italian Italian restaurant that we went to]”.

I tried to just take this as a compliment 😉

Here are five recipes from around the internet that I’ve been making. Check them out!

  1. Simple Asparagus Soup – The two things that I love about this soup are that it is truly simple to make and that the curry paste gives it a gently kick of heat which makes it light but also belly warming. And it’s very simple to make.
  2. Rigatoni with Easy Vodka Sauce – We love a saucy rigatoni in vodka sauce, but I had never tried to make it at home before. True to its name, this recipe is easy. It’s also finger licking good. The double concentrated tomato paste is a must.
  3. Crispy Shallot Spring Rolls with Seared Tofu – The light, rice paper wrapped rolls are a perfect appetizer or side for a dinner of red curry and rice, which is what we had. The crunch from the crispy shallots makes them that much more delightful.
  4. Instant Pot Butter Chickpeas – This easy Indian recipe from one of my favorite Indian Instapot bloggers has been appearing on our dinner table at least once every two weeks. I opt for canned chickpeas instead of dried chickpeas (less planning required) which means you only need to pressure cook for 5 minutes instead of 35 minutes and can reduce the water by about half. I’ve also substituted paneer for the chickpeas and would try potatoes as well.
  5. Spinach Lasagna – I made a vegetarian version of this Spinach and Beef Lasagna (I substituted crumbles for the beef). The layering instructions in this recipe result in light, thin layers of cheese, sauce and filling. The butter cubes on the top are a bit decadent but they did give it a really nice golden crusty top.

{ 2 comments }

Groceries Now, Please

May 10, 2019

Before our daughter was born, we used to enjoy leisurely trips to the grocery store on Saturdays. Touch and smell a mango before buying it, get inspired while walking the aisles, get a fresh ground coffee…it was pleasant.

But in the world of tradeoffs, we’ve decided – like many others – that we would rather spend our Saturdays in other ways. Shuffling my child to/from hockey practice, playing with the dog, reading the morning paper, eating my husband’s to not be missed scrambled eggs…

In other words, not in a crowded grocery store. So we mostly order our groceries online. If you order your groceries online, who do you use and why?

In the US, only 3% of grocery spending takes place online. With the trend towards on demand and digital shift, we can expect this to grow. I hope that online grocery ordering gets the attention it deserves and companies get it right sooner rather than later.

We generally have really loved FreshDirect, but more recently I find myself ordering Whole Foods via Amazon Prime Now.

FreshDirect:

  • High Item Accuracy – I cannot remember a time that I ordered an item and received something other than what I ordered.
  • High Level of Availability – It’s infrequent that something I am ordering is out of stock (other than when they were changing warehouses and a number of items weren’t available).
  • High Availability of Delivery Slots – It’s infrequent that our most commonly used delivery slots (Monday morning) are unavailable. You can also now reserve delivery slots.
  • Competitive PricingFreshDirect is still less expensive than our local urban grocery store. We also have the delivery pass which is about $10/month for unlimited grocery delivery.
  • Convenient Eco Friendly Packaging – FreshDirect transferred to reusable bags from cardboard boxes. It’s more eco-friendly, and I find the delivery packages to be less cumbersome in general. I am a little grossed out by the reusability of the bags though.

So there’s a lot of great reasons to go with FreshDirect which is why it’s our first choice. Although there are only a few cons, they are obviate the conveniences one looks for in online grocery delivery ordering:

  • No Same Day Delivery – FreshDirect orders have to be placed the day before. So if you find yourself in a pinch, there’s no same day delivery option. Even worse, if FRESH DIRECT makes an error in your order, they have no way to get it to you same day. This might not be so bad if Amazon had not set the standard as “same day.”
  • Frequent Technology Issues – FreshDirect’s app has recently been plagued by tech issues which make it unable to be accessed and causes common grocery items to show up as unavailable (c’mon FreshDirect, I know you sell butter and I know I spelled it correctly!).

In short, if FreshDirect acquired Instacart and hired a few more engineers to increase uptime, they would be my go to grocery deliverer. In the meantime, they face issues like the one I had today where $80 worth of groceries for a dinner tonight and a Mother’s Day brunch this weekend were left out of my delivery and in the 20 minutes it took them to confirm they forgot to send me half my order and that they couldn’t get it to me until tomorrow or the next day, I placed an order through Amazon Prime Now for same day delivery. Which was completed by Amazon and ready to be delivered in about 20 minutes.

Which is a good segway to…

Whole Foods Prime Now:

  • Free Same Day Delivery – They offer free 2 hour window, same day delivery if you are a Prime member. This is huge, and getting delivery logistics right is a big reason why Amazon is eating the world. I’m kind of okay with that.
  • High Availability of Delivery Slots – I’ve only once had no same day delivery slots available, and that was when I was placing an order late in the day so it seemed reasonable.
  • Competitive Pricing – While I have not done an item for item comparison, prices seem to be consistent with going into Whole Foods in person. Also, see above for free delivery and if you use your Amazon Credit Card, you get 5% back.

So why isn’t Whole Foods via Amazon Prime Now my go to?

  • Low Item Accuracy – The items listed in the app are frequently different brands/sizes/etc. from items on the shelf. In order to avoid just getting nothing, I use the “get replacement” option. This is only an issue when the replacement items are not true replacements. For example, I’ve received “butter” as a replacement for “buttermilk”. Or a 12-pack of  eggs instead of the 18-pack which only mattered because I needed a certain number of eggs.
  • Low Level of Availability – Items that are pretty common (example: Whole Foods branded eggs) are frequently flagged as out of stock. A replacement is provided, but as noted above, the replacement is not always accurate.
  • Terrible Packaging – Everything comes delivered in a brown paper bag designed by someone who wanted no human person to be able to grip and carry the bag anywhere. Seriously. I did not know a brown paper bag could be so poorly constructed. They need to go green and figure out this bag situation.

So while I find Amazon Prime Now to be convenient and cost effective for groceries, if they could get the inventory syncing better and fix their packaging, I would be a bigger fan.

Both Amazon and FreshDirect have been equally good about providing refunds and credits for errors. I had the full $80 of missing grocery credited and a $40 credit for today’s FreshDirect error. Amazon has similarly refunded wrong items without any hassle.

But I would rather have on time, accurate deliveries over credits or freebies.

These are all first world problems to have, but with the world having fully shifted to on-demand, I’d like my groceries now. Please.

So who do you use and why? What’s your experience? Am I the only one getting butter for buttermilk or needing same day delivery?

{ 0 comments }

As a kid, I remember being really fascinated with how my Dad could take a big, sturdy purple eggplant and turn it into a silky, sweet yet savory and nutty vegetable. Sometimes this transformation involved roasting the eggplant in the oven and peeling off the purple skin. This revealed the eggplant’s slowly roasted, silky tendons.

I have to confess that to this day, when I go to the grocery store, if I see a good looking eggplant, I cannot resist putting it into my cart. And forget about it if it is Chinese Eggplant. Then I’m hauling way more of those home than we can eat (because they shrink when you cook them…so I need a lot).

I came home with two big sturdy Italian eggplants – one for a soup (cubed and crisped up and dunked into tomato soup) and one that I was going to roast for something Indian.

And then I read this Hungry Desi post from March 2010 about Eggplant Barbeque. Eggplant Barbeque was a frequent eggplant dish in our house and favorite of my Dad’s. When he told me the recipe by phone back in 2010, he also mentioned that it had been his dad’s favorite dish.

I never knew it was one of his father’s favorite foods until now.  Certain foods remind me of a place, a trip, a special occasion…but I’ve never had a food associated with such a significant memory – that of a loved one who is no longer with me.  It makes me wonder what my dad thought of each time he made Eggplant Barbeque for us.  Was he thinking about his father?  If so, he never let on.

I remembered a roasted eggplant yogurt that my Dad also used to make often. It’s simple – creamy, sweet, savory with little nuggets of crispy urad daal and mustard seeds. This was one of those eggplant dishes that my Dad made which mystified me. I mean how does a big, solid purple eggplant turn into this silky, smooth yogurt dip?

And so, of course, I used my haul of eggplant that day to make my Dad’s Roasted Eggplant Yogurt. I don’t remember him teaching me how to make it, but fortunately my Mom gave me a quick recipe.

This Roasted Eggplant Yogurt is mild, sweet and savory. It is served cool and pairs well with any other Indian curries or just mixed with rice and a side of Indian pickle.

I’d also serve it in a heartbeat with toasted crostini or pita as an appetizer. 

Roasted Eggplant Yogurt Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 Italian Eggplant
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad daal
  • 1 teaspoon channa daal (optional)
  • 3-4 curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 green chilis
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • Chili Pepper and Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub oil on the eggplant. Prick it with a fork or knife in a few places. Wrap it aluminum foil and put it in the oven for about 30-45 minutes until eggplant is soft and looks deflated. Allow to cool.
  3. Once eggplant is cool enough to handle, remove the insides and peel off the skin. Discard the skin.
  4. Using a fork or your hands, mash the eggplant until very smooth.
  5. In a wide skillet, heat cooking oil on medium low heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook 1-2 minutes until they begin popping.
  6. Add the urad daal and channa daal and curry leaves if using. Cook until the daals are slightly golden being careful not to burn.
  7. Add the green chilis and eggplant and mix well.
  8. Cook another 4-5 minutes.
  9. Add salt to taste (about 1-2 teaspoons).
  10. Once the eggplant mixture has cooled down, mix it in with the yogurt. Add more yogurt if consistency is too thick (although it should be thick and equal parts eggplant and yogurt).
  11. Sprinkle with red chili pepper and cilantro for garnish (optional).

{ 2 comments }

Cooking In Tonight

Bubble tea, bagels, enchiladas…I think one day a year, Uber will bring me a puppy if I want. Where we live, I can get pretty much anything delivered to my house. I like ordering in (who doesn’t love to slurp up lo mein from a paper carton?), and I love eating at restaurants (bring me food […]

Read the full recipe →

Skillet Potatoes in Garlic Lime Oil

I’m not sure if there’s a rule against re-posting old recipes. But I decided that in service of sharing delicious things to eat with you, I should repost my recipe for Skillet Potatoes in Mojo De Ajo (Garlic Oil) from 2009. Mojo De Ajo means Garlic Oil but it also translates into Garlicky Tangy Oil […]

Read the full recipe →

Harissa Corn Chowder

A light corn chowder is just what the unseasonably warm weather that we had this week called for making. Although, it’s the kind of soup that’s really perfect for any weather. Juicy plump bites of corn amongst creamy soft potato bites with sweet carrots chunks surrounded by a rich, naturally creamy and sweet soup backed […]

Read the full recipe →

Easy Easy Stir Fried Veggie Loaded Noodles

When you combine stir fry and noodles, it’s really hard to disappoint anyone. Like really everyone in the house will want to be your friend. Try it. Let me know how it goes. Plus this stir fried veggie loaded noodles is quick and easy to make, packed with tons of veggies and proteins and belly warming. […]

Read the full recipe →

Cabbage with Crunchy Spices

I can’t say it is Roald Dahl’s fault, but I think we could agree that he played a hand in it. Cabbage soup for lunch. Cabbage soup for supper. Watery cabbage soup that left you with a horrible empty feeling in your stomach. Remember that from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I adore Roald Dahl […]

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Read the full recipe →