Category Archives: Be inspired

Warm Fragrant Spices

Warm fragrant spices.   Creamy flavorful curries.  Cool fresh Raita.  Samosas.  Tandoori Chicken.   Aaah, Indian Food.   My family loves it.  But we’ve never cooked it.    So how, does one even consider venturing into a completely new cuisine?   Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira.  Seriously.

Aarti was featured in, and eventually won Season Six of The Next Food Network Star.  From the first episode we fell in love with her and knew she’d win. And we were fortunate enough to meet her a few weeks ago at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books here in Los Angeles.   Being the food geeks that we are, we purchased her new cookbook, Aarti Paarti, An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul, so she could sign it for us.   Usually when you stand in a line for a book signing you are hustled along with such speed that the ink doesn’t have the chance to dry before you are scurried away.  Not so with Aarti.   She was so genuine and gracious.   We told her we had never ventured into this type of culinary endeavor before and she actually opened the book to the recipe we should try first.   It was her favorite growing up, she told us.  She signed the book, took a picture and wished us well.  We just love her!

The more stories I read in her book, the more I love her.   We have a lot in common her and I.  Aarti graduated from Northwestern University with a goal to enter the field of journalism.  I wanted to go to Northwestern, but alas I do have the “J” degree (from CSUN).  She came to a crossroads in her journalism career after leaving CNN and discovered her love for food.   I went into Public Relations, had some kids and then at that crossroads in my life, decided that the world of food is where my heart is.  We both realize that the stories and the memories that are derived from our cultural upbringings is what ties us to our ancestors.    Her book is full of these stories.  I highly recommend checking it out if you have ever been curious about the food of India.

So like I said, she told us to try Kheema.  Her ground beef recipe, she told us, is traditionally made with ground lamb.   I happened to have a boat load of ground turkey and so there you have it.  The meat is not what makes this dish.  It is the glorious spices that permeate your kitchen that make this dish the amazing thing that it is.   And yet, it’s so simple.


(recipe printed with permission from Aarti Sequeira)

3 Tbl. Sunflower Oil

1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)

4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 tsp)

1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 Tbl.)

2 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 pound ground beef ( Aarti recommended lamb and we used ground turkey)

2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup) or 1 cup canned, diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup water

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup frozen peas

2 tsp. malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/4  chopped fresh cilantro leaves and soft stems

mis en plac

All my ingredients ready to go for this yummy and simple dish

In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Add the onions and sauté until their golden brown, about 5 minutes.  (her time was 5…it took me closer to 10/15 minutes to get them the brown that she talks about).   Add the garlic and ginger, cook, stirring often, for another minute, then add the coriander, paprika, garam masala, cumin and cayenne.  Sauté, stirring often to keep the spices from burning, for about 30 seconds.


Spices are added to the carmelized onions


Onion and spice mixtture

Add the beef, breaking up any lumps with a spoon, and cook until the meat is no longer pink and all the liquid has been absorbed, 6 to 7 minutes.   Stir in the tomatoes and water and season with salt and pepper. Partially cover the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the peas and cook for 5 minutes more.  Stir in the vinegar and cilantro.  Taste for salt and pepper, and serve.


I served the final dish with some store bought Naan that I found at Trader Joes.

*some of these harder to find spices can be located at Indian, Ethnic stores or online

Be Creative!! Be Inspired!!

I have a secret!  I have a crush on Tim Holtz.   He is amazing.  Whether I watch him on television, Youtube or live and in person, he inspires me. Every. Single. Time.

Tim Holtz

Tim Holtz

For those of you that aren’t familiar with him, Tim Holtz is an artist.  He works for scrapbook and rubber stamp companies like Stampers Anonymous, Sizzix and Ranger Ink, designing stamps, die-cuts and multi-media materials like ink and paint.   He then travels the world to demonstrate how to use these materials and tools. He’s written books.   He’s re-designed scissors and lamps.  He’s a genius.  Both artistically and marketing-wise.   I mean the man touches a product and millions of screaming fans buy it sight unseen.

When I am not in the kitchen cooking, I am at least dreaming about being in the craft room creating.  Cards, scrapbooks…doesn’t matter as long as I am being creative.   And here is where I fell in love with Mr. Holtz all over again yesterday.

I went to a Rubber Stamp Convention yesterday with my girlfriend Julie.   We went to be inspired, but mainly we went to see Tim.   Of course his totally insane fans made it difficult to see what he was doing.  These relentless women wouldn’t budge an inch so we couldn’t see what amazing projects he was creating.   But we could hear him.    And what he said was just what I needed to hear.

Mr. Holtz talked about being sad that he gets comments on his blog posts and in person about people not being able to find the time to be crafty.   He questioned what kind of life we are leading if we can’t even find one hour a month to do something for ourselves. And he’s right on the money.

“You just create.  You gotta play!”-Tim Holtz

He offered a great suggestion.  Schedule one hour a week…or one hour a month, even if it is in 20 or 30-minute increments and just do one thing.   Just die-cut shapes.  Then the next scheduled period just ink. After all the steps are complete your last appointment with yourself should be to assemble your pieces into the final project.  Repeat.

tim hands

This type of scheduling could work for any project that you can’t seem to “get to”.   But for me, being creative is key.

Thanks Tim for once again inspiring me!