Monthly Archives: October 2012

Easy Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is one of my favorite spice blends that I have in my pantry.  It is a deliciously aromatic mixture of cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and nutmeg that brings an exotic taste to many dishes.  Garam Masala is an essential ingredient in traditional Indian cooking.  I learned about Garam Masala only a couple of years ago and I have been a complete fan ever since.  Garam Masala is generally made with whole spices, toasted and ground but, this recipe is a good substitute if you are in a pinch.  It’s easy to make and can be made with ingredients you already have on hand.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.  Transfer to an air tight container.  Makes about 1/4 cup.

Creamy Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala

Creamy Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala

Bruce was out of town for the past few days.  I hate to say this out loud but…  When he is away from home, I get to make what I want to have for dinner without any negotiating or meeting in the middle.  Today, I was in the mood for a Creamy Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala.  Garam Masala is an exotic spice blend that is of North Indian origin.  It has ingredients such as cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, cardamom and coriander.   It’s one amazingly fragrant and versatile spice blend.

My Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala is vegan, easy, and most of all, delicious!  And as for Bruce, I love him so much that I made sure that I saved him a big healthy bowl of Creamy Red Lentil Soup to eat when he gets back :).  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1/2 cup split red lentils (picked over and rinsed well)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (diced)
  • 1/2 cup onion (diced)
  • 1/2 cup celery (diced)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper (diced)
  • 3 ounces tomato paste (half of a small can)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp garam masala spice (or to taste)
  • seasoning salt to taste
  • garnish with thinly shredded carrots and chopped parsley

Begin by picking over and rinsing red lentils.  Toss lentils and remaining ingredients except for the seasoning salt or garnishes into a pot with a tight fitting lid.  Cook on low, stirring occasionally for about 30-40 minutes or until the lentils are tender.  Taste the soup and add your seasoning salt to taste.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup until creamy.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with thinly shredded carrots and chopped parsley.  Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Note:  You can find garam masala at most major grocery stores or online.

How to make a Basil Flavor Bomb…

My summer garden is officially done for the year.  Finished.  Toast.  See ya.  Bye.   All due to our very first fall frost of the season…  However, I would like to point out that I gathered all that was edible the night before the inevitable freezing temperatures hit.  I always pay close attention to the local weather forecast, my outdoor digital thermometer and the sky.  The frost lasted only about 15 minutes on Sunday morning but by then my basil plants were stripped, tomatoes were harvested and the last of the red bell peppers were gathered in my bucket.  The only things that the frost was able to take were the fruitless plants that remained.  Now those wilted plants safely reside in my compost bin to be used as a soil amendment for my brand new garden next spring.

I am always sad to see my summer garden leave for the year.  However, I look at it this way.  I have learned many horticultural lessons that I can apply in the following growing season.  Not to mention, I can begin planning my new garden canvas…  I make it a point to make every year in my teensy little garden better than the last.

I just love fresh picked sweet basil.  I use it in my kitchen all the time.  I like to grow basil in my garden rather than buy it at the store for I make sure that it is organic and pesticide free.  This year I almost grew too much.  Almost…

Basil is so amazingly fragrant and has such bright beautiful green leaves.  Basil is used in a variety of Italian dishes and many dishes in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.  The variety shown above is sweet basil.  I was so fortunate that my sweet basil plants grew like a weeds this year.  On the other hand, I had limited luck with my Thai and purple basil this year.  I’m not one to give up that easily, so I will try again next year.  Maybe by planting them in a different location or in a large pot.

Basil Flavor Bombs…  This is what to make when you have a boat load of fresh basil to deal with all at one time.  Basically, they are easy to make frozen basil cubes that you can add to soups, stews, or sauces throughout the winter season.  It saves money, tastes fabulous and is less wasteful.  I got this amazingly delicious recipe from Hannah at Rise and Shine.  Thank you Hannah!  Be sure to stop by her site, say hello and check out some other wonderful recipes for preserving herbs in oi!  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • several or just a few cups of packed fresh picked basil (washed, dried, stems removed)
  • olive oil (as needed)
  • salt (to taste)

Add basil leaves to a food processor.  Pulse while adding olive oil.  Add oil until the basil turns to a thick paste.  Pulse until nearly pureed.  Scrap inside of food processor with a spatula.  Add salt, pulse lightly and spoon into ice cube trays. Cover with plastic wrap and toss into the freezer.  Once frozen, remove from ice cube trays and toss into a Ziploc plastic bag or tightly covered container.  Freeze again.  Each cube makes about a 2 tablespoon sized flavor bomb.  Keep frozen.

Note:  When using the frozen basil cubes be sure to add them near completion of your dish.  You want retain as much of the bright basil flavor as possible.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

The nights here in Southern Oregon have been crisp and cool.  It won’t be long before we see the first frost of the season.  And once the frost hits, my garden is pretty much done for the year.  When I walked outside this morning I noticed that my tomato plants were still loaded with tomatoes.  Tomatoes that will not ripen on the vine because it’s just too cold outside

Well, let me tell you what.  These beautiful green fruits are not going to waste or get tossed in the compost bin.  As a matter of fact, these unripe tomatoes will be put to good use as delicious Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Paprika Aioli.

A variety of unripe green heirloom tomatoes.  I’m sure going to miss my tomatoes this winter.  There are very few things better than a fresh picked tomato out of the garden.  Chocolate is one of them.

A green zebra heirloom tomato. The interesting thing about green zebras is that they are still green in color when they are fully ripe.  I know that this one is not ripe due to the firmness of the fruit.  When making Fried Green Tomatoes be sure to use ones that are completely unripe.  If you use ripe tomatoes, you will end up with a gooey mess.  Trust me, don’t go there.

Slice your tomatoes into half inch slices.  Discard (or compost)  the tops and the bottoms.

Three hot and crispy yet moist in the middle slices of Fried Green Tomatoes with my Smoked Paprika Aioli.

Got green tomatoes?  Make a batch and dig in…  They’re easy and delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 3 – 4 unripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying

Begin by using unripe, unblemished fruit.  Slice into 1/2 inch slices and toss the tops and bottoms.  In a small bowl whisk together the eggs and milk.  In another bowl mix together the panko, corn meal, salt and pepper.  Heat a nonstick fry pan with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/2 inch or so deep with oil.

Dredge tomato slices (both sides) in flour, dip in egg mixture and then dip in the crumb mixture.  Repeat for each.  Place in fry pan and fry both sides until you get a golden color.  Don’t over crowd the pan.  Drain on paper towels.  Finish again with a light sprinkle of salt.  Serve plain or with Smoked Paprika Aioli (recipe below) or even some spicy sriracha sauce.  Makes about 3 -4 servings.

Smoked Paprika Aioli

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic paste or to taste

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl.  Store covered in refrigerator up to 3 days until ready to use.

Note:  This aioli can be used on crab cakes, grilled fish, and even potato fries.  I like it on hamburgers too!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

When Bruce came home from work last week I saw him walking up the stairs from the garage with a large bright orange pumpkin in his arms.  He received it as a gift from a friend who has a large vegetable garden at her home.  I love pumpkin but the only time I ever bake or use pumpkin in a recipe it is always with the stuff that comes out of a can.  Shocking huh?  So, obviously, the only thing that came to mind was to carve it and place it on the front porch for Halloween.  Halloween was nearly a month away so I put it on my kitchen counter and there it sat…

Every time that I looked at that pumpkin, I would wonder if it would even make it until the end of October.  And then it happened…. I received an email update from Barbara Bamber from Just A Smidgen with a recipe on how to roast and puree a pumpkin.  Thanks to Barbara, I got a big chunk of my kitchen counter back and I even learned a new kitchen trick. Click here to get her beautifully detailed step by step instructions on how to do it. And as a bonus I made a couple of delicious loaves of Pumpkin Cranberry Bread with my puree!

This is the pumpkin that hogged all the real estate on my kitchen counter.  It would have carved nicely but I think it made an even better puree :D.

Making pumpkin puree is easy.  All I had to do was to cut the top off, scoop out the seeds and slice it in large pieces.  I put the pumpkin chunks on a baking sheet, covered it tightly with foil and baked it at 350 degrees for about an hour or until fork tender.  Once cool enough to handle, I peeled the skin off and tossed the pumpkin pieces in the food processor and pulsed it until well blended.  I measured the puree and popped what I did not need into the freezer for use at a later date.  The plan is to make a pie or two for Thanksgiving with the leftover puree.  Canned pumpkin is now officially banned from my kitchen!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread…. Moist and flavorful and made with sweet dried cranberries that I purchased from my last trip to the Oregon coast.  I made two loaves and I thought I’d share one with my coworkers at the office.  I sliced it up, put it in the break room and it was not long until it was gone.  Thank you Barbara for the easy pumpkin puree lesson!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Recipe adapted from here.


  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9″ by 5″ baking pans.  In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.  In another bowl mix together the white sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, oil, eggs and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until moistened.  Fold in the cranberries and add mixture to the prepared baking pans.  Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 – 10 minutes.  Carefully, remove loaves from pans and place on baking racks until cool.  Makes 2 delicious loaves!

Chocolate Sunflower Seed Cookies

Chocolate Sunflower Seed Cookies

It’s time for me to send a care package up to my son at the university…  His care packages almost always include fresh baked cookies, maybe a loaf of quick bread, or a variety of tea or cocoa.  This time, he’ll get homemade Chocolate Sunflower Seed Cookies and a DVD…  Not bad for being away from home for little over a week!

My Sunflower Seed Cookies are made with extra dark cocoa powder, white chocolate chips and sunflower seed butter.  They taste faintly reminiscent of chocolate peanut butter cookies but with the sunflower seed butter twist.  They are easy to make and they ship well.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs extra dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 ounce bag white chocolate chips

In a medium sized mixing bowl cream together the white sugar, brown sugar, sunflower seed butter, egg, and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until blended.  Add the white chocolate chips.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Using a small scoop, place dough balls on silpat or silicone lined cookie sheet 3 inches apart.  Press top of dough with a fork to flatten slightly.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove cookies from cookie sheet with a spatula and place on wire racks to cool.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.