Last week, my mom, my husband Alex and I were halfway to the Philadelphia airport when we learned that our flight home to Chicago was cancelled. Weather in Chicago was horrible last Monday, and almost nobody flew there that day; we were rescheduled for that Thursday! Our first thought was that we must get to Mikimotos in Wilmington for sushi, which turned into a 4pm very early dinner. Next, we texted our family friend Patrick to let him know we would be around for a few more days. He called back and officially “passed the baton” to me to cook for my mother’s upcoming birthday. You’ll hear more about Patrick in future posts; he has had a major influence on my interest in cooking, and has written many recipes.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, my mother’s birthday, and I could be found writing out an epic grocery list at our kitchen island. I decided to cook a few Indian recipes, because Indian had been a favorite while growing up in Dover, Delaware, and I knew my mother had not had Indian cuisine in a long time! Over the last few years, I have tweaked a slow-cooker chicken tikka masala recipe, so I knew I would start there. At 3pm, the slow-cooker chicken was the first entree dish to be prepared. From there, I tackled the cucumber lemon side salad and the kheer, and Indian rice pudding dessert, both of which taste better after a little time in the refrigerator. Next came the rice – my mom opted for brown rice – and the final entree, a saag paneer-inspired spinach and tofu dish. Finally, we took about 3 minutes to heat naan from Safeway. All in all, the meal was a big hit with my family, and my biggest regret was not making more food for leftovers – and not adding more garlic to everything, as Patrick advised. I shared this meal with Mom, Dad, Patrick, Grandma and Alex. My brother, Steve, may have the gotten saag paneer leftovers. Happy Birthday Mom!
I searched online for each of my recipes, and have posted links to my sources below. Read on for my versions of those recipes and for tips and tweaks!
Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Tandoori – serves 4 to 6*
I once used a tandoori spice blend when I did not have garam masala in-house, and found that I preferred the tandoori spice flavors. With the tandoori spice blend, this recipe comes out just a little sweeter; for more kick, increase your cayenne pepper and add an extra garlic clove or two. I also prefer chicken breast for this recipe, but the dish works with chicken thigh or cubed tofu as well. Coconut milk has been substituted for cream from the original recipe, to make this dish easier on stomachs.
You will need:
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 T tomato paste
- 2 t Indian spice blend – I prefer tandoori spice
- salt and black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- Prep your ingredients ahead of time! For the spice blend, I like to use a 7-spice tandoori blend, including equal parts black pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, ginger, paprika, salt and turmeric. I like to alphabetize my spices! To make just enough for this recipe, use about 1/2 t of each spice.
- Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste and spices with cubed chicken in your slow cooker. Heat on high for 3 hours (or low for 7-8 hours).
- Meanwhile, prepare rice and enjoy the smells filling your kitchen!
- Add coconut milk just before serving and serve over rice.
*double this recipe for delicious leftovers!
Kheer (Rice Pudding) Recipe
For the kheer, I doubled the amount of rice recommended to take away some of the runny consistency, for Patrick’s sake, but will use 3/4 cup of basmati rice in the future to achieve my preferred consistency. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly and chose to toast sliced almonds as my topping. During the kheer preparation, we debated using golden raisins in place of regular raisins, which led to a blind taste comparison between chopped, dried apricots and golden raisins. Grandma could barely tell the difference, Mom knew right away, and Patrick thought that I had tricked him and given him golden raisins twice in a row!
Stove-Top Saag Paneer with Tofu – serves 4 to 6
I learned a lot from my family while preparing the saag paneer! First, we researched and debated the health benefits of canola oil, and Mom read this article aloud. Next, when I encountered splattering, hot canola oil, Patrick jumped in with a splash guard to cover the pot; this item is next on my kitchen wish list! For this recipe, I would again suggest swapping out the cream and trying coconut milk. I used frozen spinach as the recipe’s author suggested, and was happy with the consistency of that dish. I also used about twice as much fresh garlic as recommended.
You will need:
- 1 pound of firm tofu, cubed
- 3 T canola oil
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 T fresh ginger, diced
- 1 serrano chile, chopped
- 1 1/2 t garam masala spices
- 1 1/4 t salt
- 3/4 t ground coriander
- 1/2 t cumin
- 30 oz frozen spinach – thawed
- 1 C coconut milk
- 1/2 C water
- 1/2 C Greek yogurt
- Combine garlic, ginger, chile, and spices and set aside.
- Chop tofu into roughly equal cubes and lay out on a paper towel to dry. Meanwhile, heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add tofu, and brown on all sides. Remove tofu from oil with a slotted spoon to retain hot oil.
- Add chopped onion to the remaining oil and stir frequently until the onion pieces are just translucent (about 5 minutes). Next add garlic, ginger, chile and spices and cook for about a minute.
- Add spinach, stirring until evenly warmed. Add coconut milk and water and simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Once the spinach has warmed through, remove pot from heat and stir in Greek yogurt.
Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe – Mattox, Charlyne. “Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala.” Real Simple. 1 Dec. 2011. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.
Tandoori Spice Blend Recipe – Bon Appetit. “Tandoori Spice Blend.” Epicurious. 2011. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.
Kheer (Rice Pudding) Recipe – Patrick7. “Kheer (Rice Pudding).” All Recipes. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.
Saag with Tofu Recipe – Gallary, Christine. “Saag with Tofu.” Chowhound. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.