Posts Tagged 'semi-homemade'

A Weeknight Indian Dinner

I had a hankering for Indian food for a weeknight dinner, so I headed to the pantry to see what I could find.

I had to keep this one “semi-homemade”, but I wanted to be healthy too. Here’s my take on a super-duper simple chicken dish…think, Chicken Masala Light…

Saute one chopped onion until soft & translucent.

Add two chopped tomatoes and saute some more.

Add three tablespoons of garam masala, which is  a spice mix containing bay leaf, coriander, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili, and more…You can definitely find it on the aisles of regular grocery stores these days. Saute for another 5 minutes or so…this “frying” of the spices really draws out the flavors.

Add 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces. Saute until meat is opaque.

Add 2 cups of water.

Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens.

Serve over rice.

The rice I used was a “Spiced Jeera Rice mix”, which was basmati rice seasoned with cumin, bay leaves, black pepper, and cinnamon. Plain basmati rice would have worked well here, or even just jasmine rice.

Another dish that I am enamored with is palak paneer. Paneer is basically chunks of cottage cheese, but it does not taste like cottage cheese at all. It is cooked in a spiced spinach gravy, flavored with coriander, garlic, ginger, green chili, cumin, coriander leaves, cumin, turmeric, red chili, Fenugreek leaves, pepper, and other spices.

It looks like baby food, but is completely delicious. This pre-packaged, ready-to-eat version is more pureed than I like it, but if you ever get the chance to eat this at an Indian restaurant, please do! Spoon it on the basmati rice. Yummm.

Homemade Pizza

I usually follow the rules when cooking and baking.

Pizza-purists everywhere will cringe if they see this post. My hunger got the best of me and I committed several pizza crimes. The end result was delicious nonetheless!

[Pizza crime #1] This is just semi-homemade pizza. I copped out and used a pizza dough mix. Yes, I know…but I was in a hurry (translate: hungry) and I didn’t have time to wait for the dough to rise and all that jazz.

First, move the rack in your oven to the lowest level and then crank the temperature as high as it will go. For me, that’s 500 degress.

I blended the dough mix with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. While the dough was resting, I floured the counter and got my rolling pin. I rolled out the dough to 1/4″ thick, folded it in quarters and unfolded it out onto my baking sheet, which was lined with my Silpat.

[Pizza crime #2] I know I’m supposed to use a pizza stone, but mine broke in an unfortunate accident involving me placing it on the stove and proceeding to turn on the wrong burner sending pizza stone shards flying everywhere. There was also an incident where I baked a pizza on an unfloured, un-cornmealed baking sheet and the pizza cemented itself on there. Sad day…I didn’t want a repeat…

Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle on some Italian seasoning. Par-bake the dough for about 7 minutes, until it gets a little firm and a little bit of color to it.

[Pizza crime #3] I used a canned pizza sauce. Not even a gourmet one…just a $0.99 can of pizza sauce. It did the job. Obviously if you’ve got marinara sauce or the homemade stuff, go for it…pesto, alfredo sauce, or even a bechamel sauce would be great too.

Then 1-1/2 cups of cheese. I used a 4-cheese Italian blend.

[Pizza crime #4] I always put on wayyy too many toppings. What can I say? I love it all. I can’t pick just a few! Just a few pointers for you topping lovers out there…

1. Slice everything thinly. You’ll be able to spread out the flavors, without adding too much weight.

2. After you slice, place the ingredients on a kitchen towel or paper towels to drain out the excess liquid. This is especially for ingredients like bell peppers, tomatoes, olives, etc.

3. Don’t even think about using a pizza peel to transfer your pie into the oven. If you’ve loaded it with toppings, there is no way that baby is gonna slide off. Even with a few deft flicks of the wrist, that pie will remain firmly seated as the toppings come flying off. You’re better off making the pizza right on the baking sheet.

So anyway, this pizza has: 1/2 lb turkey Italian sauage, a handful of turkey pepperoni slices…

1/2 a thinly sliced bell pepper, 6 thinly sliced mushrooms, 10 thinly sliced jalapeno-stuffed olives…

…& 9 paper thin slices of beefsteak tomato.

I would have also added onion, but that would have been too much! 😛

Top off with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and maybe a few shakes of Italian seasoning…and yes, maybe a light drizzling of olive oil.

Bake until everything is nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

Transfer it onto a wooden cutting board (to keep it from getting soggy) and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Cut into squares and ENJOY!!!

Oh and mix these ingredients for an amazing dipping accompaniment!..I know…you’re thinking I already have enough flavors going on already…

Spumoni Cake

A co-worker of mine was heading back to his home country of Italy and I thought we should have a nice send-off accompanied by cake, of course.

I pondered my options and decided to go for something Italian-ish 🙂

Spumoni and tiramisu came to mind, but he is lactose-intolerant, so after a bit of internet browsing, I found many recipes for Spumoni Cake. It sounded tasty and I seem to have a penchant for layered things…

Start by blending the wet ingredients: eggs, oil and sour cream:

Next, the package of instant pudding mix:

Quickly stir in the package of cake mix because the pudding mix will cause the wet ingredients to thicken. I used white cake mix instead of yellow to get better color results. The batter was still yellow because I used whole eggs instead of just whites and the pudding mix was yellowish too.

The batter will be super thick!

Divide the batter into thirds.

In one batch, add coarsely chopped walnuts, almond extract, and green food coloring. I also added a drop of blue to balance out the yellowness of the cake batter.

The next batch gets chopped maraschino cherries (the picture of whole cherries was better!), more almond extract, red food coloring, and any extra juice that came from chopping the drained cherries.

The last batch just got the melted chocolate.

I buttered and floured the bundt pan, even though it was non-stick.

Start with the green layer first, then pink, then end with chocolate. Dollop each layer on and then smooth it out with a rubber spatula.

Smooth out the top layer

Bake, cool, then turn it out onto a plate. The cake was just sitting there naked, begging for a glaze or some kind of topping, so I whipped up some ganache.

That’s one cup of cream and 1-1/2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips. Just heat the cream and pour it over the chips. Let is sit for five minutes and stir. Voila! You’ve got a bowl of rich am creamy ganache!

The cake was dense, very moist and delicious!

Spumoni Cake

Adapted from

1 pkg. yellow or white cake mix
4 eggs
3/4 c. cooking oil
1 – 8 oz. container of sour cream
1 small pkg. instant vanilla pudding

For batch #1
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts
2 to 4 drops green food coloring + 1 to 2 drops blue food coloring
1/2 tsp. almond extract

For batch #2
1 (8 oz.) jar maraschino cherries drained and chopped
2 to 4 drops red food coloring
1/2 tsp. almond extract

For batch #3
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate melted

Prepare yellow cake mix by combining cake mix, eggs, oil, sour cream and dry pudding mix. Beat together 2 minutes at medium speed. Divide batter into 3 bowls. To 1 bowl add walnuts, green food coloring and almond extract. To bowl 2 add drained cherries,  red food coloring and almond extract To bowl 3 add melted chocolate. Mix each well. Put green batter into well greased tube or bundt pan, then add pink batter, then chocolate, smoothing out each layer with a rubber spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool, then turn out on cake plate.

Valentine’s Day 2009, Part One

This year, I decided on some semi-homemade gifts for co-workers and friends. Inspired by a few of my daily blog habits, I grabbed my apron and my exacto knife and went to work.

Project 1: Apple Pie a la Twig & Thistle


I used store-bought pie dough, rolled it out on a floured surface and cut out circles for the little pies using a paring knife…and conveniently, this yogurt container was the perfect size for the pies.


To save time, I used canned apple pie filling. Don’t put in too much or you won’t be able to close the pie!


Brush on a little egg wash and seal with a fork. Then brush some more all over the pie and prick to let the steam escape.


Make a slew of these adorable pie boxes. It will be handy if you have these tools.


My pies did not look nearly as good as hers, but I was happy with the results. I wrapped the pies in wax paper before inserting into the boxes. Next time, I’ll cut out the wax paper squares with my rotary cutter’s pinking or scallop blade.


November 2020