Blog recipe reviews – ‘Easy Chana Masala’ from Life At the Circle and ‘Easy Mooncakes’ and ‘Light hummus (without Tahini)’ from Kitchen Cici

On blog recipe entries, there is always an abundance of people commenting; “Will have to try this!” “I’m going to bake this tonight for tomorrow’s social gathering” or “I am literally running off to my kitchen, turning on the oven…” but not near enough people who have actually tried the recipes out themselves and share their results.

So, I decided I would set a good example, and instead of just saying I’d try recipes out, actually make some and share my results with the world!

Just so curious individuals can at least have a look at the end results of these recipes through an innovative(?) cook’s capabilities…

I can never leave an original recipe alone, and the results are not always jump-for-joy amazing, as illustrated in my own take of Kitchen Cici ‘s moon cakes.

Here’s my own take on…

EASY CHANA MASALA from Life At the circle http://lifeatthecircle.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/easy-chana-masala/

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Ok, this is much more tasty than it looks (it looks yum to me anyway, since I have a strange thing for mushy baby food…) Although the dish may look a bit too intensely gooey for some, this yummy baked beans + eggs spicy combination was actually rather delicious.

This dish ‘Chana Masala’ by Life At the Circle was meant to be a sort of ‘Indian-inspired nacho beans’, if I interpreted correctly… The main star of this dish was the garam masala spice mix (a vital ingredient), the spices are what gives the dish its sweet, cinnamon-y zing. I suggest you refer to the website for what the dish is supposed to really look like before making any comparisons.

WHAT HAVE I DONE TO IT? I have substituted chickpeas with canned baked beans that had already come with tomato sauce (Wattie’s; New Zealand’s favourite brand!) I also added in broccoli, which wouldn’t affect the taste of the dish much except for additional veggie goodness. A drastic thing I did was putting eggs in the pan. Why you may ask, would I completely ruin Life at the Circle’s originally delicious and perfected recipe, by chucking in an egg? Simply because I’d felt I needed a bit more protein in my lunch (the baked beans with only 4-ish grams is definitely not enough, when calculating total intake), and I love the texture of eggs, but only free-range or organic ones of course.

TASTE REVIEW The flavour was delicious! I loved the bursts of spices, and the addition of pepper really makes the dish mouth-wateringly spicy and yum! It’s similar to ‘Mexican chili beans’ in taste and texture.

(I wish I’d made this dish!! Kidney beans and chickpeas are just bursting, crunchiness! In a bed of baby spinach leaves; even better!)

The eggs created a creamy, porridge-y texture and eggy flavour which I simply couldn’t resist! I suppose they acted as the ‘sour cream’ or ‘cheese’ substitute for this nacho beans-like dish.

The texture was comparable to Chinese porridge or ‘congee’ (that tested spicy and tomato-y??)

‘Congee’ is rice boiled to near disintegration, flavoured with some veggies but mostly with pork/chicken, and most of the time ginger. Super healthy and delicious(when they’re whole-grain rice of course), one of the lower-fat or less oily options you can pick at Chinese restaurants. Not sure if many restaurants would have non-meat versions…

OR a very soft tomato risotto:

(picture credit to google)

In conclusion, this recipe is delicious and definitely worth trying! 🙂

Now, onto…

EASY MOONCAKES from Kitchen Cici http://kitchencici.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/easy-mooncakes-with-mung-bean-filling-2/

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At least I got the moon cake prints right! (I used my vanity cakes silicon molds to press the dough with)

Upon first glance, they may look like your typical, healthy-version of moon cakes (check Kitchen Cici for comparisons)

(a normal moon cake image courtesy of google)

but with closer inspection, you will realize the filling is too hard and the crust, over time started to harden up into gingerbread-like biscuit casings! They ended up like little moon cake rocks; after a day, my mum found trouble in biting into them! Oh, god! What kind of monstrosity have I created?

By no means do I blame Kitchen Cici for this monstrous creation (On a lighter note, according to my mum, the taste was apparently delish) because my failure to follow the recipe and methods had nothing to do with her nice and healthy invention.

Well then,

WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE TO IT? (that resulted in such a scary, gingerbread-moon cake-rock-biscuit monster)

On the moon cake filling: I had used the chestnut puree spread, as mentioned in the previous post (can be spread over toasts, waffles etc.)

(looks something like this; mostly devoured by the French “Creme de Marron”)

as the moon cake filling. Although it has resulted in a nicely flavoured filling…

The recipe had stated

2. Puree all the filling ingredients.” which included 1 1/2 cups cooked mung beans, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1 tbsp butter, dash of salt. 

then

“3. Microwave (or heat on stove) until it’s a nice thick paste. It took me 6 minutes in the microwave, on high. Stir occasionally.”

What I did was (ignoring the instructions completely) I’d gone and combined the chestnut spread with tapioca flour (tapioca flour; to hopefully achieve a fudgey texture, tapioca flour is commonly used  in Asian desserts i.e. tapioca pudding)

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until I obtained this thick paste, as the recipe had wanted, I delivered my own spin.

On the crust: The recipe had said; “1. Combine all dough ingredients. Add in flour last, and add as much as you need to form a slightly sticky, oily dough. Knead a little”

I found that as I added in the flour, the dough was getting a bit dry and not oily at all. As a result, I only added in about half the flour required…(face-palm and sigh)

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Then, I wrapped the rolled out dough around my still-warm filling ball, which unfortunately resulted in the filling melting into the dough!! (I have never been informed of the dangers of hot fillings!) While in a state of panic, I pried out my filling, which was now slightly combined with the dough, then returned it to the rest of the untainted mixture.

The combination of dough + filling may have resulted in the rock-like filling.

Because the dough became too soft and fragile to roll out I also ended up kneading in more flour at the last minute, and not allowing it to rest before baking time 🙁

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Look at how beautiful it had looked…

TASTE REVIEW If a giant gingerbread biscuit with filling existed, these ‘moon cakes’ would be it.

(giant gingerbread man)

(gingerbread sandwiches; not too bad of an idea? Sweets-lovers out there)

The crust basically turned out like crispy, ginger bread biscuits; which is not necessarily a bad thing – taste wise. BUT it is just UNLIKE moon cakes in all possible sense. Perhaps it had, in the first half hour out of the oven. But after that… No.

(I hate those baking moments, when you have just made the most amazing biscuits/cakes/slices that look and feel perfectly identical to the original recipe’s, but when they started cooling… and hardening up…. and becoming like rocks… you feel like tearing your hair out and pleading out to the heavens above, why!? So close…)

In conclusion, I’d say that this moon cake recipe is slightly tricky to handle; especially for me who sucks at making ‘sweet dough’ e.g. biscuits. Rather inexperienced in this area of baking (On the other hand, not trying to brag here, but I make pretty good breads, even with just plain flour 🙂 (I lack access to bread flour due to the super crazy high price. Nearly $10 for a kg bag! Crazy! You have to be rich yet super diligent for that).

Lighter Hummus (without tahini) also from Kitchen Cici http://kitchencici.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/lighter-hummus-without-tahini/

I support this recipe all the way! Despite my ‘not so flash looking’ representation of the super light and delicious hummus, this recipe is a winner.

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I wholeheartedly kowtow to Kitchen Cici for this creation. Will need to favourite the page for future use.

Lots of time when I make dips like hummus, vegan cheese, pesto etc. I get edgy about the amount of oil required to be put in. As a result, I often use round half the amount of oil required then add some water in (this recipe calls for some water too) to make the dip as smooth as it should’ve been with the help of oil.

Most of the time, I get the water : other ingredients ratio wrong and end up creating a dip that is either too watery, or had a texture that was just not right.

So thankfully, Kitchen Cici had whipped up this totally smooth and light hummus with 4 tbsp of water (to create fluffiness) and with only 1 tbsp of olive oil.

(If you had just visited the website) Yes, my hummus does look slightly different from Kitchen Cici’s, and that is due to my inherent stupidity of creating this important mistake… one which is….

WHAT HAVE I DONE TO IT? I had used raw chickpeas! The recipe had called for canned (which I didn’t have in hand), and I completely forgot that canned legumes = cooked legumes (mostly through the process of boiling; that’s how they make the beans last so long, duh). So, I’d gone and soaked the chickpeas over night then used them to make the hummus.

Raw, soaked chickpeas are edible i.e. will not kill you, BUT I have reasons to believe this is what had caused my hummus to end up tasting starchy, not the flashest! A bit too watery and not as fluffy as your typical hummus should be (Chickpeas that has been cooked attain a much fluffier and less watery texture. If you haven’t eaten raw beans before *I don’t suggest this i.e. raw mung beans and red beans can mess up your digestive systems* you can compare the taste of bean sprouts to get a picture)

(Bean sprouts; crunchy stuff, can be eaten raw unlike actual, mature beans. Contain tons of vital nutrients as the baby and growing version of the beans. Plus vitamins that would otherwise be obliterated in the cooking process beans undergo.)

So I was feeling a bit down about my fail, but shortly afterwards realized I had used uncooked chickpeas! As a result I immediately went for the easiest method of fixing cooking/baking fails (or the opposite?) which was microwaving my jar of raw hummus.

The texture had become noticeably fluffier, the dip was more filling to eat. Usually it’s the opposite with veggies i.e. the more raw, the more filling (with all the water still left inside).

Other than microwaving my raw hummus, I’d gone ahead and added some paprika to it too. This was during my initial panic over why the funk does my hummus taste a bit funky? And so used the spice to try cover up the starchy taste.

ALSO an important revelation to share about this recipe; LESS OIL than the already minute 1 tbsp can be used to achieve the fluffy hummus result! Although oil like olive or flax seeds (I used this) is uber good for you with their what not acids, cholesterol lowering capabilities, satiety values, etc. (not being anti-oil here, that’s so 90’s) I simply felt that the chickpeas rich dip was already calorie dense enough for me. 1 cup of chickpeas contain 269 calories, and if like me, you’re a rude dip hogger at parties, the less calories per generous serves, the better.

The good oils can always be eaten separately i.e. from dips where I can keep track of how much I’m actually consuming.

TASTE REVIEW

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Look at how cauliflower-y and eggy it looks… It’s due to my microwaving antics. Also, I apologize for the lack of your typical celery/carrot/cucumber stick and dip image. A sprig of my garden lettuce leaf is the closest I can get in the absence those veggies.

Cauliflower – hummus; what’s the difference?

Looks can be deceiving! (will probably have to use this phrase a lot on my recipe entries…) because the taste of the hummus was absolutely yum. The perfect combination of spicy garlic, sour lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper. Most of all, the ingredients are mostly common cupboard inhabitants, and the method is so simple a baby could make it.

As a bonus, I’d like to share this ‘cheesy curry’ dish recipe which I’d lovingly made for my vegetarian mum:

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This will definitely be filed under ‘fat vegetarian’.

Ingredients

1 tbsp chopped onions

1 cup spinach

1 cup bell pepper

1/2 cup firm tofu

Curry

2 tsp coconut milk

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp water (whenever the curry gets too dry; I always use water instead of oil to help moisturize my dishes)

3 tbsp grated cheese i.e. Edam (VEGAN OPTION: 2 tbsp nutritional yeast flake, 2 tsp corn, tapioca or plain flour OR more coconut milk and 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flake)

Method

Put all the curry ingredients (except water) in the pan and simmer with onions on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the pepper and sliced tofu in first, stir-fry the curry for 3-4 minutes, then add the spinach last. Spinach softens/cooks very quick, so I usually add them into the pan last. Along with the spinach, throw in some grated cheese, this will bind the curry together, and make it real creamy, instead of using butter or more coconut cream. (Don’t know if using cheese instead is any better!). After your spinach has soften to your liking, you are done! Season with a dash of salt and pepper and you’ve got a lovey-dovey dinner (remember to shape you’re whole-grain rice to a heart shape and sprinkle with healthy seeds i.e. sesame or flax of your choice) in under 15 minutes of prep + cooking time!

I used extra-extra-firm tofu that just wouldn’t break apart to bits and mushy stuff when I stir fry them

The texture I got was a bit meaty. I will get an actual photo of the tofu up soon (It doesn’t really look as in this picture, but you get the idea)

For those unaware of what nutritional yeast flake looks like… Great ‘cheese’ taste alternative for vegans!

NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS for the day

Nutritional yeast flakes are high in protein; about 8 grams per 1/4 cup and packed full of vitamin B’s (which can mostly be found only in red meat, etc) and low in calories! 1/4 cup would equal to around 52 calories. This source provides more protein : calories, for veggies and vegans, than in foods like tofu *1/4 cup = 47 calories but 5 grams of protein or eggs *one egg = 78 calories and 6 grams of protein.

A more detailed nutritional info;

More than 100% of recommended daily intake of…. thiamin (B1), Niachin, Riboflavin (B2) *Great for your eye sight health by the way, B 6, B 12 per serve. Also contains a substantial amount of Potassium and dietary fibre.

Nutritional yeast.. Ah… from the nutritional values, they sound pretty ideal right? But because of their strong ‘cheese-like’ flavour, they are slightly tricky to incorporate into your meals. BUT the most important factor, the main reason why I don’t eat these rich, protein flakes like rice, is because they are bloody expensive! Perfection doesn’t exists… $13.50 for a packet that yields 6 servings. Why??? I might try grow my own yeast soon.