Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Instant Pot Creamy Red Sauce Pasta

20 minute Instant pot weeknight meal. No fuss easy one pot pasta recipe of Creamy Red Sauce Pasta is here!! 

December is racing and we are only a few days away from 2019. We are also headed towards the shortest day of the year. It is the time when evenings are dark and cold. All I crave right now is a warm bowl of goodness. Pasta, soup, stews and of course, dal rice! 

Lately I have started making atleast one meal in the Instant Pot and loving how easy it is! I am sure there are plenty of people doing the same. And if you need a comforting dinner recipe, this post will not disappoint you. It has one of the easiest recipe of pasta made in the Instant Pot.


For the longest time our family is divided over Marinara and Alfredo! We have our preferences set and hate to tip over to the other sauce. There are times that I boil pasta and then make two sauces for us! In an effort to minimize effort, I sometimes make a totally different sauce like Pesto or Butternut Squash.   

After a lot of deliberation, he two of us sort of agreed on a creamy red sauce that we both like. It has the creaminess like Alfredo and the tartness like marinara. It is a compromise but a rather delicious sauce! And the recipe never disappoints, I promise! 

Why make pasta in the Instant pot?

Pasta is probably one of the easiest recipes to make. However, it needs a few pans and utensils, making it time consuming. When you boil pasta in a pan, drain it, transfer to a plate to cool and make the sauce in another pan! Finally mix everything and pasta is ready.  

I hate these steps and so I love using the Instant Pot. It is a one-pot recipe, with no compromise on taste. Plus, it takes lesser time, given we are not draining, cooling or anything like that!  

And the most important thing is that the Instant Pot recipe can barely yield soggy results, unless you do something totally absurd! It is a timed version so the pasta will not become mushy like they would if they cooked one extra minute in boiling water on the stove. I am sure this is enough to convince you to use the Instant Pot to make pasta.  

How to avoid the BURN message on Instant Pot?

A lot of people dread the 'BURN' message on the Instant Pot. While a lot of recipes do end up with this message, pasta is a culprit in many cases. There are several reasons for this, but they can easily be avoided. 

First reason for the burn message is that the vegetable used tend to stick to the base of the Instant pot and lead to the burn message while pressure cooking. Avoid this by deglazing the pan before adding the pasta.  

The next reason for the pasta to burn is less liquid. By nature, pasta will absorb a lot of water and end up being super dry, triggering the burn. So make sure there is atleast 1/2 inch liquid above the pasta level. That will be enough liquid to not burn the pasta. 

If using store bought pasta sauce, remember they are super thick and can be a culprit to bring on the burn message. So remember to thin out the sauce with enough water or stock. Else, like I did, add the sauce after pressure cooking. Either way, it works well!  

Want to try some more Instant Pot recipes? Try one of these: 

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Dry Pasta 2 cups (I used Rotini)
Vegetable Stock/ Water 1 1/2 cup
Garlic 2 cloves, diced
Broccoli Florets 1/4 cup
Olive Oil 1 tbsp
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese 1/2 cup
Marinara Sauce 1 cup (store bought/homemade)
Pepper powder 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste


Set the Instant Pot to 'Saute' and Normal. Add Olive Oil and allow it to heat. Add garlic and sauté till fragrant. 

Next add the Dry Pasta. Press 'Cancel'. 

Now set the mode to 'Pressure Cook', pressure high and time to 6 minutes. Close the lid and set valve in 'Sealing' position.  

Once the Instant Pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes. Then move the valve to 'Venting' and remove excess pressure.  

Open the lid. Mix well, add Marinara SauceSun Dried Tomatoes and Broccoli Florets. 

Once the pasta is boiling, add Shredded Mozzarella Cheese and mix well. The pasta is ready. Enjoy with some Garlic Bread! 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Holiday Gifting Ideas For Food Lovers

One thing off your Holiday preparation! Pick the PERFECT gift for a food lover in your family or friends using the ideas below!

The Holiday season is HERE and there cannot be a better time to get all those lovely gifts, right? But if you are one of those who plan at the LAST minute (me included) for the perfect gift, this post is made for you! 

Last year I thought of putting together this post, but I was super late for that! Finally this year the post is up and I hope you all enjoy it. It has a collection of gifts for all kinds of food lovers! From appliances to fine foods and from ingredients to holiday treats, you can send it all to your loved ones!  

Gifts for a Kitchen Lover

For those who LOVE cooking and baking; kitchen gadgets are amazing gifts! I am definitely one of those who would love a new gadget in my kitchen. If you are looking for something like that, consider these:

Nutrimill Harvest Mill: My favorite in the kitchen, I love this for my flours. From wheat and oats to rice and quinoa, this one mills it all!  

Nutrimill Spice Mill: A great device to mill coffee and spices, this mini mill is amazing for home ground spice mixes! 

Mixer: A great mixer for a lot of functions in the kitchen, This mixer from Bosch is a stunner, I promise. 

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer: Who doesn't like a stand mixer in the house? Knead dough, whip cream or make cookie dough or cake batter! This is on of my favorite kitchen gadget! 

Air Fryer: The MOST recent addition to favorites in many kitchens, this would be a great gift for the Holidays! 

Instant Pot: If you know a person who not joined the IP bandwagon yet, bring them onboard with a new Instant Pot!  

Homemade Goodies 

Who does not like getting homemade gifts? If you are ready to make something delicious for your family and friends; get to one of these recipes NOW! 

Click on the name to get the recipe

Three Ingredient Chocolate Covered Dates: This is my favorite dessert and edible gift! It is easy to make and everyone will definitely love it! 

Easy Macarons: A French classic that is pretty easy to make at home! if you have not tried this yet; you MUST! 

Easy Peasy Mousse & Cookie Jars: PERFECT gift for Christmas, these pots make great party desserts too. 

Non-Alcoholic Christmas Fruit Cake: What is Christmas without fruit cake? Have teetotaler friends? This is great for them! 

Yule Log Cake: Another great cake, Yule log is a popular Christmas treat! Make it at home. It is not very difficult; I promise! 

Homemade Chocolates: Who would not love chocolates for gifts? This is great as a gift for any occasion and great stocking stuffers too! 

Christmas Gingerbread Cookies: Yay for the cookies!! These are my ultimate favorite and I love them through December!  

Store Bought Foodie Gifts

No time to make anything at home? Fret no more; here are a few great ideas to buy for your loved ones! 

Chocolate Hamper: A tower full of chocolates; this would be a great gift for the food lover friends! 

Wine Club Monthly membership: Have wine loving friends? This gift is perfect for them for sure! 

Pasta sauce Hamper: Pasta, sauces and olive oils; this hamper has it all! Perfect gift for Italian food lovers. Make the restaurant style food at home with this hamper! 

Hot sauces Hamper: This hamper is such a great gift for those with spice love. I have the entire collection in my refrigerator at ANY given time! 

Extracts for bakes: A baker's dream is good quality extracts. And what better than that under the tree? Gift your loved ones some amazing extracts for baking goodies!  

Gifts for those who LOVE experimenting

Have friends who love to try something new? These products are perfect treats for them. I would LOVE one of these myself! 

Smart Indoor gardens: Grow your own vegetables on the kitchen counter! I have been eyeing one of these for the longest time now! 

Sous Vide: A great addition to the kitchen is definitely this Sous Vide cooker. It helps in various functions and is great for those who love trying new things.

Blow Torch: Love Creme Brûlée? Gift your family member one of these blow torches and enjoy freshly made Creme Brûlée all the time! Blessing in disguise! 

Instant pot Accessories: Have an Instant Pot lover you know? Gift them one of these items and help them make endless recipes in the pot!  

Friday, December 14, 2018

Eggless Tutti Frutti Cookies | Karachi Biscuits

Eggless cookies studded with lots of candies fruit, Karachi Biscuits are delicious and easy to make! Melt in the mouth cookies that are great with some Masala Chai! 

Christmas is around the corner. The season of festivities, decorating the home and tree, lights, hot chocolate and of course cookies. I love this festive month, look forward to cookie baking each year! 

This year I decided to bake my favorite cookies to start with. For the longest time I have been a fan of Karachi Biscuits or cookies that are full of tutti-frutti. Candied pieces of papaya, tutti-frutti is popularly used in many baked recipes to add flavor, sweetness and a pop of color!  

These cookies are super easy to make, eggless and really delicious. Made with just a few ingredients; these cookies are just like the ones from the popular Karachi bakery in Hyderabad, India.

I have made these cookies several times and have LOVED it each time. From super thin to 1/4 inch thick, I tried all of them. Plus, adding some saffron a couple of times, some cardamom or changing the flavor of custard powder, I did it all. Finally, I ended up with this recipe and have been following it for a really long time. 

How to make PERFECT cookies each time 

Having baked it several times, I can say this recipe works really well. There are just a couple of points to keep in mind to ensure they turn out perfect. 

The MOST common failure in cookies is the spreading of the dough. I have ended up with one single cookie of the size of the tray instead of several small ones. I completely understand how frustrating it is to see cookies lose their shape.  

To ensure that does not happen, make sure the dough and baking tray are cold. The reason for spreading of the dough is melting butter. To ensure that does not happen, chill the dough before baking. Plus, it is a great idea to chill the baking tray before baking cookies of any kind. And NEVER put cookies to bake on a warm tray. That calls for failure for sure! 

Love cookies? Her are a few I have shared on the blog over the last few years:


The only important ingredients in this recipe are flour, sugar, milk and butter. Everything else can be customized based on preference. 

First, the custard powder. I love vanilla flavored powder but use your favorite flavor. The flavor does depend on the flavor as it is used a lot in the recipe. 

Then comes the extracts. Using a combination of Vanilla and Orange works well for me but pineapple flavor is great too. Using a single fruity flavor is a great idea too. And yes, if you want to add just vanilla extract, you can do that too!  

Last, the tutti-frutti. While these are easily available fro Amazon or other stores in the Holiday season, there are a few variations that can be used. Many stores sell a Holiday mix this time of the year. That works really well in the recipe too. Just drain any liquid that is in the jar before adding to the recipe. Else, nuts like slivered almonds and cashews work well in the recipe. Add some extra sugar if you are adding just nuts. It is required to make it perfect. 

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Custard Powder 4 tbsp (Vanilla flavor)
Unsalted Butter 1/2 cup
Milk 1/4 cup
Orange Extract 1/2 tsp
Vanilla Extract 1/2 tsp
Tutti Frutti 1/2 cup
Salt a pinch


In a bowl sieve together flour, custard powder and salt. Set aside.

In the base of a stand mixer add room temperature butter. Using a paddle attachment cream the butter. Once it is creamy, add the sugar. Beat again till fluffy. 

Next add the Orange Extract and Vanilla Extract. Also add the milk and mix till combined. 

Now add the dry ingredients and mix till the flours are combined. Once it is evenly mixed, add the tutti frutti. 

Incorporate the tutti frutti but do not beat too much else they will disintegrate.  

Transfer the dough to a silicone mat. Divide into two parts and roll each part into a log. 

Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate. The dough needs to rest atleast 3-4 hours. I refrigerated it overnight. 

Once the dough has rested, remove from the plastic wrap. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. 

Line two trays with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife cut the log into 1/4 inch slices. I could make 30 cookies using the measurement. 

Arrange the cookies on the tray, leaving atleast 2 inches around it. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Once the cookies are brown on the bottom, remove from the oven. They will become a little darker on removing from the oven. 

Cool on a cooling rack. Once cool, transfer to an airtight container. Enjoy with Masala chai or a glass of milk.  

Monday, December 10, 2018

Healthy BAKED Eggplant Parmesan

This post is written on behalf of Cello Cheese. All opinions are mine alone. #CelloMusicToYourMouth

Single serve variation of the traditional Italian Eggplant Parmesan; this recipe has the same flavors but super quick and easy to make!  

I cannot believe we are zooming towards 2019! I am already planning how to celebrate Christmas and bring in the New Year. This year my party will feature some yummy recipes and I am sure this is something I am making! 

Eggplants; the vegetable that some folks love in any form and some hate it completely. If you have some one who is not a fan; read on and you might just be able to convert them to LOVE eggplants.

Italian cuisine has a TON of delicious recipes from soups, salads and pastas to super amazing desserts. For the longest time I would order a pasta dish off the menu at any Italian Restaurant and make some kind of pasta with sauce for parties. One day I discovered Eggplant Parmesan and there is no way it was getting out of my mind! 

I have tried various variations of the Eggplant Parmesan and I must say; this recipe has been my favorite! Stacks of eggplants, rolls of eggplant or a casserole made from a lot of slices have been the ones I have tried. But this recipe of BAKED Eggplant parmesan is the best. 

What makes this recipe the BEST?

This recipe of Eggplant Parmesan yields SUPER crisp eggplants without a lot of effort or add ins. Plus; it freezes beautifully and comes handy for weeknight dinners. Another advantage is that it can be scaled up or down effortlessly! A great recipe for parties too, this Eggplant Parmesan is perfect as a make-ahead appetizer or dinner dish. 

All the ingredients here are easy to find and most people might have them in the pantry. All it needs is Eggplants (of course!), breadcrumbs, marinara sauce and good quality Parmesan cheese! 

I have tried several cheese brands for this recipe and more. As the recipe name suggests; this one has to have a good tasting Parmesan to make the recipe PERFECT. My latest find has been Cello Artisan Parmesan Cheese from Sprouts. It is also available at Shop-Rite. Aged 12 months, this cheese has bold, nutty flavors with notes of crushed apple. This cheese is delicious and is a great addition to your Holiday table as is or in your favorite recipe. 

A PERFECT make-ahead recipe that is great for freezing 

My favorite part about this recipe is how easily it can be made earlier and used enjoyed in a few minutes for dinner or as an appetizer. 

The recipe below mentions all the steps of making it. Once the rounds have been drained, coated in breadcrumbs and baked; they can be cooled completely and frozen on a cookie tray. Once frozen, they rounds can be transferred to a bag and kept frozen. 

When ready to serve, remove the frozen rounds and bake them with marinara and cheese. No need to thaw them; this recipe helps make dinner super quick and easy! 


I used a large eggplant and sliced it with the skin. There is really no right or wrong thickness of the slices or if the skin should be kept on or removed. It depends on what you like. My experience with the recipe is that the skin helps bind the eggplant without becoming mushy. But it is entirely up to you.

Here I have used regular breadcrumbs and seasoned them with dried oregano. Using Italian breadcrumbs is a great idea too. A lot of folks prefer panko but they are best suited for deep frying. baking them does not always result in crisp coating, so I stay away from that. 

If you would like a super thick coating of crumbs on the eggplant, either double coat the slices with cornstarch and breadcrumbs or use egg instead of cornstarch. Both methods help achieve a thicker coat of breadcrumbs. 


Eggplant 1 medium sliced into 1/2 inch slices
Breadcrumbs 1/2 cup
Oregano 1 tsp
Corn Starch 2 tbsp
Marinara Sauce 1/2 cup (homemade/store bought)
Olive Oil/ non-stick spray as required
Cello Parmesan Cheese 1/2 cup, shredded
Salt as required


In a bowl add the eggplant slices and sprinkle salt. Mix well so that the slices are coated. Place the slices on a wire rack and let the moisture drain out for an hour or so.

Once the slices are a little dry, preheat the oven to 425 F. In a bowl mix together corn starch and 2 tbsp water. In another bowl mix together breadcrumbs, 1/4 tsp salt and oregano. 

Pat the eggplant slices on a paper towel. Dip a slice in the cornstarch mixture and coat using breadcrumbs. 

Press well and transfer to a parchment lined baking tray. Repeat for all the slices. Spray non stick spray or spread olive oil on the slices.

Bake the slices for 18-20 minutes, turning them over once mid way. Once the slices have brown dots and the crumbs are baked; remove and set aside. 

When ready to serve, add 2 tbsp of Marinara sauce on each eggplant and sprinkle parmesan cheese. 

Bake the rounds in a preheated oven at 425 F for 8-10 minutes. Remove and serve over a bed of marinara sauce. I love to sprinkle some extra Cello parmesan cheese on top. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Instant Pot Chole Recipe

Restaurant style Indian Chole recipe; garbanzo beans cooked in tomato onion curry. The recipe that takes super long on stove top can be made easily in the Instant Pot!  

Chole or Chickpea curry is one of the most popular Indian curries. A super versatile curry that pairs brilliantly with breads, samosa or rice; chana masala is commonly found in Indian restaurants, events and parties! 

The curry is popular by a variety of names and many styles of making it. With variations like no tomato version to boiling the beans with tea bags to get a dark color; every household has their own recipe for chana masala. And not to forget, some places call it call it chole, some chana masala and some Pindi chana.  

I have tried several versions in restaurants across India and US. Here in the US there are a few Indian and Pakistani restaurants that make Chole really well. Served with a variety of breads; my favorite remains kulcha. Soft bread that pairs perfectly with chole; this combination is super popular across India.

The secret to make restaurant style chole is pretty simple. A couple of essential ingredients make all the difference. And the most important thing is patience. Soaking, boiling and simmering the chole in onion tomato curry yields the best chole. 

However, sometimes we are in a rush and need a quick yet authentic recipe. The Instant Pot comes handy for those situation! It can be used to replicate the taste of slow simmering in spices. And once you are hooked on to this version, it is difficult to go back to the older recipe; I promise!  

Why use the Instant Pot to make Chole?

The method I used to make Chana masala or Chole for so long was soaking the chana overnight or atleast 12 hours, boiling it in the pressure cooker and mixing it with a tomato onion gravy. While the Instant pot method is similar, now soaking is not a necessity.

If chole is not soaked, it can still be made in the Instant Pot. Here is how:
  • In the base of the Instant Pot add 1 cup water. Place the trivet and keep it ready. In a heat resistant bowl add 1 cup dry chole, 2 cups water and 1 tsp salt. Place the bowl on the trivet and close the lid.
  • Set the mode to 'Pressure Cook', time to 5 minutes and pressure to high. Close the lid and move the valve to sealing. Let the chole cook. Once the Instant Pot beeps let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes.
  • Then move the valve to venting and release the remaining pressure. Open the Instant Pot and remove the container.

Here are a few more Instant Pot recipes that you must try. And before you get there, here are a few ACCESSORIES that are great for the recipe! 
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In this recipe I used tomatoes for the sour taste. However, there are a couple of variations possible. Amchur powder is a commonly used powder in the recipe and the other options include tamarind and anardana powder.

Here I added minimum spices like cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves only. The rest of the flavor comes from the Chole Masala. However, if you do not like to stock your pantry with every kind of masala; just add garam masala and some peppercorns and cardamom. It gives a great taste for sure! 

If you would rather use canned garbanzo beans for the recipe; it works too. Just drain the chickpeas and follow the recipe. Just adjust the time to 12 minutes and reduce water to 1 cup.  


Chickpeas 1 cup soaked overnight or cooked as explained above
Onion 1 cup, diced
Tomatoes 1 1/2 cup, pureed
Ginger 1 inch piece, grated
Garlic 1-2 pods, minced
Cinnamon 1 inch piece
Cloves 2-3
Amchur Powder  1/4 tsp
Oil 3 tbsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Lime Juice 1/2 tsp
Chopped onion and cilantro to top


Add oil to the insert of the Instant Pot and set mode to 'Sauté' and normal. Once the display reads 'hot', add cinnamon, bay leaves and cloves. Once they are aromatic, add garlic and ginger. Sauté till it is flavorful and add onion. Mix well and cook till the onions are soft. It takes about 6-7 minutes. 

Next add salt, chole masala, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Mix well and cook for a few seconds. Deglaze by adding 2-3 tbsp water. Then add the tomato puree and mix well. Let the mixture cook for 7-8 minutes till it is bubbling. 

Add in the chole and 2 cups water. Mix well. Close the lid, press 'Cancel' and press 'Pressure Cook'. Set pressure to high and time to 15 minutes and move the valve to sealing.

Once the Instant Pot beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Then release the remaining pressure manually and open the Instant Pot. Add lime juice, amchur powder and adjust the consistency by adding water if required. 

Serve topped with chopped onions and cilantro. Chole is amazing with bhature, puri, roti, kulcha or rice.