Monthly Archives: January 2015

Cream of Wheat Revisited – Indian Style

I can honestly say that I have never once had Cream of Wheat as indicated on the box. There was never a need and besides it just doesn’t sound very appetizing – no flavor unless you count sugar.   I grew up eating cream of wheat in two, very different, and delicious ways – one savory, the other sweet.  Both of these dishes are quick to make and are generally served for breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea.  Indians usually don’t eat an early breakfast, opting instead for tea biscuits with their tea, and so both of these recipes are generally eaten for brunch or lunch.

There are probably many variations to the recipes below based on preferences.  I have developed mine over the years based on my mother’s original recipe which has been modified quite a bit for my own taste.

The sweet version of Cream of Wheat is called Sheera.  It is often served at special occasions and also made as an offering to gods during a pooja (prayer). I always have a container full in my fridge because my son will eat it at any time of the day.  He likes to heat it up a bit and add milk before he downs a bowlful.  Many will add chopped bananas or slivered almonds to this recipe but I choose to leave them out (child’s preference).  Interestingly sheera is often served with something savory like batata wadas (fried spicy potato balls) or pakoras (vegetable fritters). 

The savory version can be kicked up with as much heat as you desire and is called Upma (pronounced Oopmaa).  It is very popular in the South of India and can be varied in many ways by adding nuts or urid dal (split black lentils).  My version is fairly simple, with few ingredients and yet the end result is extremely tasty.  It is something I crave on weekends and will often make more than I need so I can enjoy it for lunch during the week.

Sheera Recipe

1 Cup Cream of Wheat (not the instant kind)
2 Cups whole milk (lowfat or fat free is fine too)
8-10 threads saffron (optional)
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 ¼ Cup sugar
½ Cup golden raisins
½ tsp cardamom powder
Place the milk in a small saucepan and heat on low flame. Meanwhile in a heavy

Hot milk with saffron

bottom pot on medium heat, toast the cream of wheat until it just starts to turn golden brown stirring constantly to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Once the cream of wheat is toasted, add the butter and salt and stir to combine until butter is completely melted.  By now the milk should be heated to just under boiling.  Turn off heat and add the saffron to the milk at this point and stir well.  Reduce the heat on the cream of wheat pot and add the hot milk whisking as you add.  Cover and simmer for 1 minute to steam.  Remove cover and add the sugar and cardamom and stir until glossy and the sugar has melted.  Add raisins, stir and remove from heat.  Serve warm with or without milk. 


Upma Recipe

1 Cup Cream of Wheat (not the instant kind)
2 ¼ Cups of water
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsps black mustard seeds
2 – 3 Thai bird chilies (adjust to taste) cut in half – I don’t remove seeds or veins
10 fresh kefir lime leaves – I chiffonade mine but they can be left whole
½ medium onion chopped finely
1 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp salt
½ cup frozen peas
Limes and fresh cilantro for garnish
In a heavy bottom stock pot on medium heat, toast the cream of wheat until it starts to turn golden stirring constantly.  Once toasted, remove from the pot

Toasting the Cream of Wheat

into a bowl and set aside.  Place stock pot back on stove on medium high heat.  Add the oil and mustard seeds.  When mustard seeds begin to pop, add the chilies and kefir lime leaves.  Be careful as they too will pop vehemently when they hit the hot oil.  Once the popping stops, add the onions and ginger and reduce heat to medium.  Do not let the onion brown by stirring for about a minute until it has softened.  Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.  Add peas and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and add the toasted cream of wheat in a steady stream to the pot stirring constantly to avoid clumps.  Cover and allow to steam for about 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand covered for another 5 minutes.  Serve with a wedge of lime and chopped cilantro.  

The savory version is often eaten with plain yogurt on the side, particularly if the heat level is cranked up with more chilies or added cayenne. Some add heat by eating it with Indian pickles.

Note: Kefir lime leaves and Thai green chilies can be found in most Indian markets and often at Asian markets.
So whether you are sweet or savory or both, I hope I have provided some of you a whole new look at that box of Cream of Wheat in the cereal aisle.  If you try either recipe, do let me know what you think.  And remember you can increase/decrease the amount of liquid added to get a whole different texture to the end result.  Adjust it for your own preference.

Happy cooking!! 

New Jersey Chili

I’ve been making Chili since my first trip to Texas over twenty years ago where I had my first bowl.  I find it to be such a great comfort food in the winter and particularly satisfying after a long day of skiing.  My chili recipe has evolved over the years from initially using ground meat and packaged ingredients to the one I have provided below.  I’m not sure if it’s authentic Texas chili or not so I call it my New Jersey chili.


Chili – a stew usually made from beef such as the recipe below.

Chile – peppers such as jalapeno, thai bird, serrano are also called chile peppers. I suppose it’s also the country. 🙂



2 lbs beef cut for stir fry or sirloin steak – cut into small 1 inch cubes
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion chopped
1 yellow bell pepper chopped

Mise en place

6 cloves garlic finely chopped
5 jalapenos finely chopped (adjust for you own heat preference – I use the seeds too)
1 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
4 – 6 Tbsp Chili powder (NOT chile powder or cayenne)
1 tsp cayenne (adjust to taste)
2 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp corriander powder
1 Tbsp salt (add more to taste)
2 Cups water
3 cans (15 oz) red kidney beans
2 cans (15 oz) corn
2 Tbsp masa flour or finely ground corn flour


Heat a large dutch oven on high heat.  Sear the meat in batches in a single layer until it is browned on sides. Remove each batch onto a paper towel lined plate.  When all meat is seared, remove all the liquid & fat from the pot. Reheat on medium high and add oil.  Once oil is hot, add the meat back to the pot.  Immediately add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, jalapenos, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder (4 Tbsp to start), cayenne, cumin powder, corriander powder and salt.  Stir to combine all the

ingredients.  Add 2 cups water and stir.  Bring chili to a boil and then simmer covered for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, taste for seasonings and add more salt and chili powder as desired.  At this point, also add the drained kidney beans and corn.  Raise heat and bring back to a boil.  While waiting mix the masa flour with enough water to create a thin paste.  When chili comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and add the masa paste to the pot and stir well.  The masa will help to thicken the chili. Cover and cook another 30 minutes.  Serve hot with your favorite toppings such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, or scallions.  Chili tastes great served with rice, pasta or a loaf of warm french bread. 

I like my Chili with cheddar, avocado and cilanto

Alternatives:  Since some of my readers don’t eat beef, you may substitute lamb instead.  If you’re vegetarian, you can make this with a variety of chopped mushrooms. Be sure to leave the mushroom pieces fairly large as they do shrink quite a bit when cooked.  I have made a chicken chili before but that’s a whole different recipe using white beans and other ingredients so I will leave that for another post.

Dig in and enjoy!!

2014 : A Year in Review

Clearly the last few months of the past year were busy as I wasn’t able to get a single entry posted. Between work related travel, my son’s activities and life in general, there just wasn’t much spare time to write.  Apologies for the silence and Happy New Year!!

Well 2014 was certainly full of many travel and food adventures.  I can never say I lead a boring life. Some of the most memorable moments/meals for me this past year included Raymi, Boqueria, The Harrison, Barbuto, OBAO, Bann and so many more in NYC; restaurants during my travels like The Silver Fork in Manchester VT and The Purple Pig in Chicago; a personal dinner invitation for me and my son to The North End Grill by Chef Floyd Cardoz; a chance meeting with Chef Naomi Pomeroy; a weekend long food romp in NYC to celebrate my birthday with friends; checked out the Umami Burger craze and quite liked it.  I decided to throw caution to the wind in 2014 and eat some amazing scallops at a local restaurant despite my known allergy – They just looked too good, I had Benadryl, and I survived!!!!

Sake at OBAO

Meal at OBAO

The culinary highlight of the year of course, was the unforgettable and once in a lifetime meal at The Inn at Little Washington (see previous post)

Dumpling Pancake

Not only did I get to eat out at wonderful restaurants in 2014 but I also cooked many meals and enjoyed delicious dinners with family and friends.  Some highlights included a Chinese New Year dumpling contest, making homemade pasta to go with the homemade sausage, a birthday pig roast and eating amazing homemade pizza in a brick oven imported all the way from Paraguay.  I made a monster sized chicken biryani for a family celebration and experimented with many new recipes.  I tried to blog my way through a diet to lose a few pounds but learned that it’s harder than I thought given my love for food.

Making Fettucine

Homemade Brick Oven Pizza
Whiskey Soda Lounge

I ended the year with two weeks in Portland and a week in Park City, Utah.  Some new restaurants that I loved this time around in Portland were the Whiskey Soda Lounge – amazing cocktails & chicken wings, The Yard House – a chain but the Korean short rib tacos had me go back twice more, the Vault martini bar – best martini I’ve ever had, and Tasty & Alder – a high note for the end of the year for certain.  Park City was not as much of a culinary success so I ended up cooking in quite a bit, since no one wants to go out after a long day of skiing.  We did find a great meal at Zoom on Main St for New Year’s Eve and some unexpectedly delicious Tuna Tacos at the Legacy Lodge at the base of the mountain.

One thing I already knew but was reminded of yet again when I returned from all my December travels, is that no matter how many great restaurants you go to, and delicious meals you eat, the best meal in the world is always the one you cook and eat at home upon returning from those travels.  And thus my first meal was a simple vegetarian Indian meal (that is MY comfort food) of Matki beans (type of lentil), stir fried okra, kadhee (yogurt based curry) and rice.  And when I had that first bite, it simply screamed “welcome home” to me.

And so we ring in 2015 with a resolution from me to write at least one post per week.  It is my escape from the craziness in everyday life and I haven’t escaped enough lately.  So please raise a glass with me to the new year and hope it brings us many delicious bites!!!

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