Sunday, November 27, 2011

Easy Chinese Recipes Cookbook Giveaway Winner

I selected a winner for the Easy Chinese Recipe Cookbook giveaway by RANDOM.ORG and the winner is Ing.
ing said... thanks for the chance. i am a filipino and chimese foods are close to my heart. i would love to learn to cook lots of chinese dishes in the future.

Congratulations! Please send me an email claiming your win.
Have a great rest of the long weekend!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Goat Curry with Five Whole Spices

My friends Rachael and Barb held a cross blog event "Goatrie" a couple months back celebrating all things goat. Many of my friends joined them. I too wanted to support my friends and decided to cook a traditional Indian dish that asked for goat meat (or mutton as we call it) but could just not find the meat to begin with! But I kept looking and finally found it at my local meat market recently. Although my sore throat would barely let me speak that day but I promise the moment I saw it I screamed with joy on the inside. That's how psyched I was!

Goat Curry

Then lovely people at Macy's  approached me and asked if I would be interested in taking part in their mBlog Recipe Showcase where I could share one of my family's favorite holiday recipe. I knew I wanted to share the recipe for this Goat Curry that my Papa used to make using whole spices. This was not necessarily a holiday recipe but whenever he would cook this one, that day would call for a celebration. He is a fabulous cook, my father and his goat curry? No-one can beat him on this one! He takes his cooking very seriously and would only use the freshest of ingredients. Then he would spend hours slow cooking his meat until it gets that dark brown color and masala is absorbed well to the core of meat. The smell of whole spices blends beautifully with sliced onions which melt on being cooked slowly over low heat. That aroma brings back a lot of memories so I decided I'd share those memories through this recipe. Well, that was the plan.

Goat Curry

But unfortunately bad health kept me from meeting the deadlines to the contest. But guess what, I still have news for you! Doesn't matter if I missed a deadline, Macy's is inviting its fans and all you fabulous cooks out their to share a favorite recipe with them at their Facebook fan page  for a chance to win a dinner with a renowned Macy’s Culinary Council chef, including Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Cat Cora or Todd English. How cool is that?!
And yes, there's a giveaway involved in this too. People at Macy's were kind enough to offer a choice of one of three Martha Stewart Professional Cookware items as a giveaway for you. Now you have to decide if you want a Ceramic Covered Casserole Dish, Hand Anodized Fry Pans (set of 3) or a  Stainless Steel 15” Roaster with Roasting Rack. If any of the items become unavailable, they’ll gladly offer another choice of a Martha Stewart Professional Cookware item (up to $40 in value).
Rules for the giveaway:
Leave a comment telling us which out of the three Martha Stewart Professional Cookware item are you interested in.
For an extra entry:
"like" Indian Simmer on Facebook. Come back and leave a comment stating that.
"like" Macy's on Facebook. Come back and leave a comment stating that.
"Follow" @indiansimmer on Twitter. Come back and leave a comment stating that.
Giveaway open to U.S residents only. Entries to this giveaway open until November 30th.

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Ingredients:
1.5 lbs goat meat (with bone cut into pieces)
1.5 cups thinly slices onion (preferably red onion)
1 tbsp ginger+garlic paste (preferably fresh other you can use the bottled one)
1 cup tomato (one cut into 8)
1.5 tbsp coriander powder
1.5 tsp whole peppercorn (coarsely crushed)
1 stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 whole black cardamom
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp oil
Salt

Method:

Heat oil in a thick bottom pan. Add all the whole spices. Once its fragrant add ginger garlic paste and sliced onion. Cook until the onions begin to get translucent and turn into light golden brown in color.
Add meat. Cook until meat turn dark in color. Both onion and meat will loose a lot of water but keep stirring occasionally and cook it in medium low flame until meat is half cooked.
Add salt, coriander powder and tomato. You can also add turmeric is wanted.
Give everything a nice stir and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes until meat is completely cooked. You can also pressure cook at this point if you want.
Once the meat is cooked through turn off the heat. This dish is very close to a dry dish so cook off any extra liquid if left in the pan after the meat is cooked.
Serve with steamed rice, any bread or it even tastes wonderful with couscous or quinoa.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Black Bean Sauce Chicken and Easy Chinese Recipes Book Review/Giveaway

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I must have told you about this little farm stand behind my house. That was one of the hidden jewels I discovered when we moved here. Although I do not necessarily like the apartment that we are living in right now but changing it would mean moving farther from my farm stand and that will make me sad! But anyway, the other day I stopped by the place to pick up a few things and found these little cuties. At first I was not sure what they were but when the lady told that they are bell peppers and I was surprised. They sure looked like miniature bell peppers and definitely tasted 10 times better than the gigantic ones I get from the super market.

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Since then I have roasted them, baked them, stir fried them and have used them for several recipes from Bee from Rasa Malaysia's book Easy Chinese Recipes. Out of all those Homestyle Chow Mein Noodles and Black Bean Sauce Chicken has been our family favorite. And by family favorite I mean the little picky eater in the family cleans up the plate in 15 minutes if that's for dinner so you can imagine it must be good. Its very easy to cook as well, or maybe its the way Bee has explained everything in the book that it looks super easy.

Growing up in India I was more used to Indo-Chinese food (yes, a cuisine like that exists and I will get to that some other time). The real Chinese food (or that's what I believe) I ate when we moved to the US. But still it was mostly limited to take outs or once in a while, a nice splurge at this fancy Chinese restaurant that we would go to. Then an year later we went to Hong Kong on a trip and I think that's when we really got to know more about the whole cuisine and the rich history and culture behind it. Then fast forwarded a few more years and I started food blogging. I remember those were the first couple weeks of me being a blogger that I discovered Rasa Malaysia and I said to myself, "this is how you make a foreign cuisine look not so foreign to everyone!". In the past year and half I got to know more of Rasa Malayasia and became friends with Bee.

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I don't think I need to say anything about Rasa Malaysia because the whole world knows that it is one of the most popular Asian food blogs but I sure want to say about Bee as a person. She is warm, always supporting of others and she knows a hell lot about Asian cuisine! Bee recently came out her first cookbook Easy Chinese Recipes. As the name suggests and as Bee's background tells that with this book she has tried to get the terror out of Chinese cooking.

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I like that there's no seemingly scary recipe with a bucket list of ingredients that atleast scares me away from trying the recipe. All the recipes are very simple, with steps broken down to make them easier to understand and uses some basic Chinese ingredients many of which I could find at a normal grocery store. Some recipes were new to me and had a couple ingredients that I was reluctant to try but when I anyways tried them, really liked them and made again. I specially liked the beginning of the book where Bee in a beautiful way tells her readers about what it is like to grow up in a traditional Chinese family. That is followed by some very useful tips and techniques of cooking which might seem simple to a seasoned cook but can be very helpful to someone starting. She also in a very elaborate way explains things like basic tools and utensils used and also several sauces and spices which are an integral part of Chinese cooking.

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All in all I really liked the book and guess what, almost all the photography in the book is done by Bee as well which again is gorgeous and adds to the whole homey feel of the book. So I can say that she has put in a lot of effort into the book and it clearly shows through its each an every page. If you are someone like me who likes a good Chinese food but tongue twisting and intimidating names of techniques and ingredients kept you from doing so then you should buy this book. It will help you!

Well Bee is helping make it a little easier for you because she is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky Indian Simmer reader. All you have to do is just leave a comment below and share your experience with Chinese food or cooking and get a chance to win a free copy of Easy Chinese Recipes. Entries to the giveaway will be open til next Friday, 25th Nov. and I will announce the winner in my Saturday, Nov. 26th post. Giveaway open to US residents only.

Now the recipe for Black Bean Sauce Chicken: 
Ingredients: Serves 2

8 oz (250gm) skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
1 tsp cornstarch
2 1/2 tbsp oil
One 1 inch (2.5cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp fermented black beans (douchi), rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces
1/2 small red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces
1 red finger- length chili, deseeded and cut into pieces
1/2 small onion, quartered
Salt to taste

Sauce:
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
3 dashes white pepper
2 tbsp water
1 tsp cornstarch

Method:
Tenderize chicken according to the tips on "how to tenderize meat' section in the book. (This works!)
Marinate the chicken with the rice wine or sherry and cornstarch. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat 1/2 tbsp of the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until half-cooked or the surface turns opaque. Dish out and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the ginger and garlic, stir fry until they turn light brown. Stir in the fermented black beans, peppers, red chili , and onion. Stir0fry until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.
Return the chicken to the wok or skillet, stir and blend well with all the ingredients in the wok, about 1 minute. Add the sauce and continue stirring until the chicken is cooked through. Add salt to taste. Dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gulkand (Rose Petal Jam) Ice Cream

Gulkand Icecream

Verma was our live-in house help for all our childhood and probably for all my teenage life. My mother would tell us that he came to live with us when I was 6 months old and was there until I left for college. We would call him Ganga. Ganga is a part of many of mine and my brother's childhood memories. One of them definitely has to be him picking up a tall stainless steel flask every evening. He would take out his bicycle (or bike as you may call) that my Papa bought for him, would have my brother sit in front, me in the back on top of the carrier and all of us would ride up to the local dairy a couple kilometers from our place. He would hold both of our hands, patiently answering all our stupid questions while waiting in line for our turn. Sometimes the guy who owned that dairy and other times times his wife would milk the cows in front of us. We would get a liter or two, as mummy would have directed Ganga to do and then head back home. We come back home and very soon two glasses of steaming hot milk mixed with a little sugar would be in front of us two. My brother was a milk lover and he would finish his share up in a single breath, me, not so much! "Drink it bhaiya, its good for you", Ganga would say. Not convincing enough for me. "If you do I might let you ride my bicycle", he would promise. And I would hold my breath and take biggest gulps as I could and finish the milk.

Rose petal jam icecream

I just never liked the smell of that milk. The smell of warm, organic cream topped milk. Fresh milk from grass fed cows living free out in the farm. That was almost as good as it can get. Now I wish I wouldn't have held my breath back then and would have appreciated what I had, because today when I go out looking for milk for my daughter I search for that aroma.Then after looking for it for six years here in the US, some 6 months back I finally found a milk which smelled and tasted if not the same, but very close to that milk.

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I discovered Straus milk at one of my local grocer's. I ended up buying Straus milk that day because the store had run out of the brand that I would usually buy. In the whole dairy section that milk stood out because it was in glass bottles. I thought of giving it a try mostly because I did not want to drive around looking for my usual brand and I have to say that after that I never went back to my "usual" brand again. Straus Family Creamery is a family owned organic dairy farm located in the north of San Francisco. I did a fair share of research on the company and their believes and practices made me trust them and their product. I will not lecture you on what they are and who they are (you can learn so by visiting their website) but if you do believe in organic and sustainable practices then you might want to check them out.

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Recently people at Straus found out about my love for their products and asked if I would be willing to develop or share some recipes for them. I happily agreed! I found this as a great opportunity to pull out the ice cream maker that sadly sat in my storage throughout summer and thought of trying this recipe for ice cream... Gulkand (rose petal jam) ice cream.

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Rose petal jam or gulkand is a sweet preserve that I believe originated from Pakistan and is very popular in North of India. Wild rose petals are layered with sugar and placed in air tight containers and left in sunlight for a few weeks, being stirred after every few days until it turns into a thick and chunky jam like preserve. Its used for many Ayurvedic purposes but very commonly used as a mouth freshener wrapped in paan (betel leaf). I stirred it into an ice cream and a magic happened! It turned into one of the most addictive ice creams I have ever eaten. I taste tested it with a couple blogger friends of mine as well and I hope think they agreed. So lets get to the recipe.

Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons gulkand (rose petal jam)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp rose water (optional)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds 

Method:
Heat milk and cream in a saucepan for a few minutes just below the boiling point. Set aside.
Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract until its smooth.
Now whisk in the mixture into the mixture of milk and cream stirring continuously so that the eggs don't scramble.
Turn the heat to low and keep whisking until the mixture thickens.
Turn off the heat and whisk in gulkand and rose water if using. Let it sit for 15- 20 minutes and then transfer it into the refrigerator until it cools completely.
After a couple hours pour the mixture into an ice cream maker (if using) and follow the instructions of the manufacturer. Add almonds close to the last 5 minutes when ice cream is almost done.
If you do not have an ice cream maker pour the batter into a flat 2-3 inches tall dish. Freeze the mixture in your freezer. Keep an eye and after a few hours just before the ice cream is hard, take it out, blend it in your blender and freezer again. Repeat the process again and this time mix almonds before freezing. This process might be a little longer than using an ice cream maker but results are very much the same.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Indian Simmer Loves- Jenn Cuisine and a giveaway winner

Yes, this post is here again! I am now kinda looking forward to the Indian Simmer loves posts now. There are so many people that I have come to know in the past year and a half while blogging. People who are super talented and are fabulous person too and so I want you to know about them! The person I am featuring today is a friend and a very talented photographer/blogger. Jenn from Jenn Cuisine is an American living in Switzerland with her lovely husband and writes a gluten free blog. If you do not know her yet then trust me you are missing on a LOT of gorgeousness in the blogoshphere! C'mon lets meet Jenn and know a bit about her and the beautiful blog that she writes.

Thanks so much to Prerna for inviting me to guest post here on Indian Simmer!  We've become lovely internet friends through sharing our passion for food, cooking, and photography, and it is an absolute honor to be able to share with you all :)

Tell us about yourself and what you would say is your food philosophy?
I am a scientist and share a passion for food and cooking with my gluten free husband - our philosophy has always been to use ingredients that capture and highlight the flavors of a dish - we've had a lot of fun over the years learning and experimenting together in the kitchen as we learn how to cook flavorful beautiful and tasty GF dishes.

What led you to starting a food blog?
I originally started a food blog to document my cooking, so no matter where I was I could go back and see what I made, what worked, and what didn't - then a community began to evolve as I got to know some of the lovely people in the food blogging community, and now it is as much for those I share with as it is for myself.

Please share a recipe that best describes your blog?
One of my favorite things about the upcoming holidays is that essentially from now until the New Year for my family it is all about tradition.  Favorited treasured recipes that only get made once a year, as everyone eagerly awaits the familiar aromas wafting throughout the kitchen.  There's always such a buzz of energy and excitement in the air, no matter what crazy weather/fallen trees/power outages Mother Nature decides to bring on my family's New England home over the past Halloween.

Every year that we've celebrated Christmas with my grandparents, Christmas dinner has involved baked chicken and noodles as the highlight of the meal.  It's not so fancy, it's not extravagant, a dish that would probably never be found in a high-end restaurant, but my grandparents have been making it for decades on Christmas, and it's 100% pure happiness on the plate.  Seriously, comfort food doesn't get any more satisfying than this.  But with every tradition comes the natural evolution of recipes, and while there may be a little pressure to keep a dish exactly how everyone remembers it, I cannot help but play.  This year, I'm taking our family Christmas dinner tradition and bringing it to Thanksgiving.

Changing the holiday isn't the only dramatic switch I did with this tradition - I added in a little Thanksgiving essence by incorporating pumpkin, but I also made it completely gluten free so that this year, my husband would be able to enjoy it too.  There were two main alterations that were necessary to make this dish gluten free, but the good news is that with either any all purpose GF mix will do.  The first is making the pasta, and the second, the roux for the sauce.  I thought I would share a few tips on each, in case you have gluten free friends or family that you also would like to accommodate holiday traditions for.

Gluten free pasta from scratch is not so different from conventional pasta, and is a lot simpler to make than it sounds.  The key is to make sure to substitute your ingredients by weight rather than volume so that the ratios remain the same - many gluten free flours have different densities than wheat based flour, and so cup measurements are not necessarily equal. Else, the basic process is the same - add all the flour to a bowl, make a well in the center to add the eggs, and gradually with your hands bring in the flour to the eggs until you have a ball of dough.  The differences after this mainly have to do with handling the dough - it tends to be a bit more fragile than regular pasta dough, and I've noticed can dry out more quickly - so I wrap up the dough with plastic wrap when I'm not ready to use it yet, and work in batches.  I roll it out with a rolling pin between two pieces of parchment paper, and dust often and liberally with GF flour to make sure it doesn't stick too much, and then cut the noodles using my longest chef's knife.  No fancy rollers or machines needed, just a decent working space on a kitchen counter.  It makes for a good methods for thicker eggy noodles, perfect in a baked casserole like this one :)

Roux is the basis of many sauces, essentially an equal parts fat to flour whisked constantly while cooked until a desired color - only a few minutes for white cream based sauces, or several minutes for the dark colored roux that characterizes rich thick stews like gumbo.  And again, any old all purpose GF flour mix will do, making for a super easy substitution.

Add in a little pumpkin and thyme and sprinkle some grated parmesan on top, and this humble Christmas family tradition has been effectively transformed into an Autumnal celebration, perfect for the coming Thanksgiving, and easily made gluten free so that everyone in our family can take part and enjoy - some traditions are meant to stay around forever unchanged, and some are meant to evolve - will this dish find a new home in the coming years on my family's Thanksgiving table? Only time will tell, but so far this holiday season it's off to a good start :)

Baked Chicken and Noodles (makes about 8 servings)

Ingredients:
For the Pasta:
250 g (1/2 lb) all purpose GF flour mix*
pinch salt
175g eggs (about 3 - 4 eggs), beaten
olive oil
For the Casserole:
1 chicken, roasted, or 1 kg (2 lbs) of your favorite poultry cuts, cooked how you like, chopped into bite size pieces
50 g (2 oz.) butter
50 g (2 oz.) all purpose GF flour mix*
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
a couple spoonfuls of pumpkin puree
salt & pepper
2 cups (500 mL) chicken broth, room temp or slightly heated (not chilled)
4 oz. parmesan, grated
fresh thyme

*Note - if you do not need to make this gluten free, feel free to use your usual all purpose flour

Method:
In a large bowl combine flour and salt and make a well in the center with your hands.  Add the eggs into the well and slowly combine in the flour until it is incorporated and comes into a ball of dough.  Depending on the flours you choose, you may need a little more flour, or a little less, so just watch the consistency and moisture content of your dough.  You want it to not be so sticky, but not cracking either.
Fold it over a couple of times, and then wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for an hour. (This is also a great time to start cooking your chicken if you haven’t already).
After the dough has rested, take it out of the fridge and cut it into 2 equal sections, and wrap each of them in plastic wrap to keep their moisture locked in.  Take one and pat out with your hands onto well floured parchment paper (using the same GF flour mix is fine, I typically will use tapioca starch).  Flour the dough and place another sheet of parchment paper on top.  Roll out with a rolling pin, flipping occasionally and adding more flour as needed to ensure it doesn't stick. Roll out to desired thickness, about 1/8".  Then cut into long strips for your noodles about 1/3" wide, and separate them a little bit from each other so that they do not clump together.
Bring a pot of salted water to a low boil and cook the pasta in batches, for a couple minutes at a time until tender.  Rinse with cold water, and then add to a large bowl and toss with a couple drizzles of olive oil to keep them from sticking to each other.
Add the prepared chicken to the noodles, and preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan to start the roux - once the butter has melted and is hot, whisk in the flour. On medium heat whisk for 2-3 minutes until the flour has had a chance to cook but not to starch coloring.  Add in the onions, garlic, and pumpkin and some salt & pepper and continue to whisk for another couple minutes.
At this point add in the broth to the roux, about half a cup at a time, stirring so that the roux mixes completely with the broth - this will help ensure that the sauce stays smooth.  Bring to a simmer and then cook until smooth and thickened, stirring frequently.  If much volume was lost feel free to add in a little more water or even some milk to make up the difference.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and noodles and transfer to a casserole dish, and sprinkle parmesan on top. Bake for about an hour (depending on the thickness of the casserole/size of the dish).  Garnish with fresh thyme, serve and enjoy.

Winner of the "400 Best Sandwich Recipes cookbook is Maneet Jassal Gupta.
Congratulations Maneet! Please get in touch with me via email.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

400 Best Sandwich Recipes Book Giveaway and Winners

Before I say anything else I first owe you a huge apology. This post should have come on Saturday but I never realized before how busy festivals, specially a festival like Halloween gets with a toddler at home. Driving her to a party, then driving back from the party, picking costumes for her and for the rest of us "not so important people", trick or treating and then after party- those were some busy busy past three days. I am still sleep deprived and heavily caffeinated but its fun to be running around with a camera even though your lady bug couldn't see anything beyond candies and pumpkins. So moral of the story is that I got very busy and couldn't come to you with the post that I had promised and I apologize. But I am hoping that the giveaway I have come with today will be able to make up for that.

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I have said this before and I am sure many of you bloggers out there share the same feeling, that the best part of blogging is the people you come in touch with through it. You get to know people whom you never would have known before if it was not because of the blog that you write. There are some bloggers who even though live oceans apart from me and I have never met before but still have become such close friends of mine. Then there are some people who I first met face to face before even knowing that we belonged to the same blogging community.

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Californian Sandwich
Alison Lewis is one such friend. I met Alison a little over an year back while I was attending my first food conference. I had recently started as a food blogger and did not know a thing about it. No one knew Indian Simmer, let alone Prerna Singh. That conference was my first introduction to the blogging community. I remember sitting at a table having lunch with a few fellow bloggers and in came Alison looking for a friend sitting with us. We started talking and slowly I got to know more about her career as a recipe developer, magazine and internet journalist and the owner of Ingredients, Inc. At the time she was working on her first cookbook and that really intrigued me because she was the first cookbook author I was talking to. When you talk to her you will agree that she is one of the most down to earth, true to herself and simple woman. It has been more than a year and Alison has reached greater heights since then but she is still the same simple, easy going and my "go-to" person for any food writing/blogging advice.

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Strawberry and Mascarpone Sandwich
Her first book 400 Best Sandwich Recipes- From Classics & Burgers to Wraps & Condiments was launched a few months back. I was in the middle of a move and settling down at a new place when I got my copy in mail. That UPS delivery that day made me very happy, not just because this was my friend's first cookbook but because I could see Alison Lewis in the book. She is all about developing simple yet exotic and healthy yet likeable recipes that all of us can make in our kitchen with easily accessible ingredients. 400 Best Sandwich Recipes makes that possible for you.

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Prepping to make Mu Shu Chicken Sandwich
If you like sandwiches then you HAVE to have this book and if you do not then beware because after this you might start liking them! This cookbook has recipes for all kinds of sandwiches from breakfast sandwich to lunch boxes, classics to regional and from wraps to international sandwiches like Steak Chimichurri Sandwich & Mu Shu Chicken sandwich which has become my latest obsession. You can find more than 20 ways to make a cheese sandwich and the dessert section is outrageously yummy. I just wish there were more photos in the book too but that is just the visual person in me speaking! All in all its a great book and I have been cooking a lot with it lately.
You should definitely add this one to your cookbook collection and to make that a little easier I have a copy for you today. I am giving away a copy of 400 Best sandwich Recipes on my blog. All you have to do is post a comment below and tell me about your favorite kind of sandwich.
Entries to this giveaway are open till Sunday, November 6th. Winners will be announced on my Monday, November 7th post. This giveaway is open to only the residents of USA.

Now winners of the Shutterfly giveaway are-
San
Seema
Sarah L
Congratulations guys! Please send me an email at indiansimmer[at]gmail[dot]com so that I can send you your free coupons.
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