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
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.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.
*some of these harder to find spices can be located at Indian, Ethnic stores or online
The Surprise Inside
Since I went Gluten Free in late 2013 I have learned many things. One, I crave snacks more than ever. Sometimes I just get sucked into a “Why me?” mindset and crave everything that I can’t have…even if I never craved them before the GF lifestyle.
Certain things I am thankful for…potato chips. They, for the most part, are Gluten Free. But things like cheese puffs and cookies are on the “DO NOT EAT” list.
So when I was offered a trial shipment to review this Gluten Free Love With Food Box, I jumped at the opportunity. (note all opinions are my own)
Inside were a dozen treats. Eleven items I had never seen before; one I had, but more on that later. I shared most of the items with my family, as they will be eating the products if I seek them out to purchase again. The two items we LOVED were well worth the price of the box.
K.C. Pomering, also known as G-Free Foodie on Facebook, was always finding great Gluten Free treats and sharing them with her friends on social media and her blog gfreefoodie.com. So she decided to start a box company so she could just send them samples of the these yummy treats that she sourced out.
But here’s the coolest part of the LOVE WITH FOOD by G-FREE FOODIE Box, for as little as $24.50 a month you not only get a box of GF yummies sent to your house or office, but you also feed hungry children. That’s right, two meals are donated to hungry kids for every box you receive so you are not only feeding your cravings, but your soul as well.
In my Mardi Gras themed box I found:
*Key Lime White Chocolate Chip Cookies from WOW Baking Company- This is the item that I already knew about only I didn’t realize it. These cookies were WOW!!!!! The soft and tender cookie with a brilliant tart flavor were accented by just enough white chocolate chips to balance the tart and yet not make them too sweet. After I immediately fell in love with them and headed to the website…I realized that this is also my favorite brand of peanut butter cookie from Whole Foods. I get nasty when they’re not in stock. I am even more in love with this company than I was before. YUMMMY. And this discovery was worth the price of the box alone.
*Pancake & Waffle Mix by Cup 4 Cup- A good pancake mix is hard to find gluten free or not. This was delicious and easy to use. Simply add milk, butter and eggs. My boys didn’t even know this was gluten free. They were impressed with the light and fluffy texture and the great flavor. These I will seek out again and again!!
* a bag of Olive Oil Potato Chips by Boulder Canyon-These were okay. As I mentioned before I eat potato chips all the time. I was expecting something amazing and what I found were …well…potato chips. Nothing bad…but nothing out of the ordinary.
*Two bags of 479 Degrees Artisan Popcorn -. Simply Sea Salt and Sea Salt Caramel. These were a tasty little treat. Again, nothing that I normally can’t find on the shelf in any grocery store.
*Two bags of Baked Mac n’ Cheese Puffs by Snikiddy- These cheesy baked corn and rice puffs were just like the real deal…without the fake orange stuff that gets on your fingers. My family all enjoyed them and we will be seeking them out.
*Two different mini bars of Scharffen Berger- The Milk Chocolate with Sea Salted Almonds and the 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salted Pistachios. The quality of the chocolate was solid. I am not much of a chocolate girl so these were wasted on me.
*Mango Staycation Trail Mix by Peeled Snacks- For the most part trail mix can be made with any dried fruit and chocolate and nuts…and still be gluten free. This brand had moist fruit and unsalted nuts. Not something I would seek out when Trader Joes is around the corner.
*Dark Chocolate Suncups by Suncups- My fault for having incorrect expectations. I expected more of a dark chocolate Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. I know the package said Sunflower Butter…but they looked like the candy I expected to know and love and I was sorely disappointed. I have learned with certain cravings in the land of gluten free…if it ain’t what you crave …do without. These were just not worth 115 calories to me.
This box is well worth the monthly fee, especially if you don’t have a plethora of GF resources near you. I know the cost of GF treats and you will definitely get your money’s worth, plus you are helping others as well.