Monday, October 20, 2014

Eggless Cardamom Butter Cookies / Nan Khatai




Diwali (Indian festival of lights) is coming up and bloggers are busy posting all the delightful treats on their blogs and Indian stores are crowded with people doing last minute shopping for sweets, clay lamps and groceries.  The stores advertise grocery items on sale and there is usually a big crowd in the Indian store where I get my Indian groceries.  So going there on Diwali season during my lunch time from work is a risk, since I won't be able to return on time even though the store is close by.   So I rely on homemade sweets during Diwali.  Trust me, they tastes much better than the store bought sweets.


For this Diwali, we are indulging on this melt in mouth Cardamom Butter Cookies aka 'Nan Khatai'.  Like I said, it’s like a piece of white cloud that will melt in your mouth.  The texture is close to short bread cookies, but it is very delicate and the touch of cardamom uplifts the whole butter cookie to another level.  There are several variations to this recipe, but here I used the simple ingredients to make this yummy treat and I topped it with a piece of cranberry to give an appealing contrasting look.  If you have never tried making these treats, I insist that you should give this a try.  You will definitely enjoy this treat!!


Yields - 30 cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups - All purpose flour
1/4 tsp. - salt
1/2 tsp. - baking powder
1/2 tsp. - green cardamom powder (refer notes)
1 cup (2 sticks) - unsalted butter and room temperature
1 cup - powdered sugar

Directions:
  •  Pre heat oven to 300°F.
  • Combine powdered sugar and butter in a mixing bowl till creamy using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon.
  • Sift all purpose flour, salt and baking powder into the creamed butter.  Using your hand knead it to a soft dough.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 - 20 minutes.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take roughly 1 table spoon of the dough of each cookie and roll into smooth ball, press the ball slightly between your palms and press a piece of cranberry on top of it. 
  • Bake for 22-25 minutes on the middle rack.  The cookie should be still white in color.
  •  Cool the cookies on wire rack and store in air tight container.
Notes:
  • You can get green cardamoms from Indian stores or online .  The seeds inside the pods should be powdered and used for flavoring.  It has a strong flavor. Adjust the amount per your taste.
  •  Make sure to cream the butter and sugar well, so that there are no lump of butter left, which can deflate the cookies.  The mix should not be runny.
  • If the dough is not rolled into smooth balls, cracks will appear on the cookie while baking.
  • If the dough seems to be sticky, don't panic, cover it with a plastic wrap and plop it into the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes so that it hardens a bit and is easy to work with.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Creamy Strawberry Dressing





Cooking elaborate meals on weekdays is impossible for me after work.  I usually do quick fixes for dinner.  For that I need to plan ahead and make some dishes on the weekend or get the chopping part done so that my job gets easier on the weekdays.  Roasted vegetables with a drizzle of Olive Oil and a dash of spices & herbs are welcomed by even the youngest member of my family.  To be honest he prefers raw vegetables; adding spices sometimes make it too spicy for the lil guy.   We have 2 extreme sets of taste buds in our household.  The eldest one wants everything spicy.  So its a dilemma for me to make things with a perfect balance that appeases both palates.  I love the roasted version of salads.  So I usually roast veggies on the weekend to pack it for lunch during the weekdays.  Along with I either make the dressing ahead and kept it handy, which makes my life easier.



Store bought salad dressings are easy to use.  But have you noticed the ingredient list on the back of the bottle?  Its hard to find the conventional brand without MSG.  Otherwise you have to get the organic version of the dressing.  Here is a simple guilt free salad dressing that you can use on roasted or raw salad vegetables that tastes delicious and is healthy too.  You can very well adjust the quantity to make half the amount of the recipe.



Yields - approximately 2 cups

Ingredients:

3/4 cup - extra virgin Olive oil
1/4 cup - Apple Cider vinegar
1/2 cup - fresh/frozen strawberries
2 tbsp. - honey
1/2 tsp. - sea salt
1/2 tsp. - dried basil leaves

Directions:
  • Add all the ingredients into the jar of a blender.  Blend it for 30 seconds.
  • Transfer to a mason jar with airtight lid and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Enjoy your favorite salad with creamy strawberry dressing.
Notes
  • The left over can be stored up to one week in the refrigerator.
  • You can use regular vinegar instead of Apple Cider Vinegar.
  • You can substitute regular table salt for sea salt.
  • If you need to jazz up the dressing, add some pepper powder and red chili flakes to it.







Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Homemade Chunky Apple Sauce With Cinnamon




Trees are painting their leaves
Birds are traversing seas
Are you ready for the Autumn breeze?

Like an artist, nature started to paint the surroundings with the yellow and orange hue.  The array of trees with yellow leaves on my way to home brings out the aesthetic of autumn which rejuvenates the energy in me after a long day.  I see kids playing in their yard and making use of the last bit of day light before dusk comes with its relentless cold arms.  Scare crows and Halloween decorations are popping up in the front yards of almost all houses.  Markets are filled with all size and shapes of melons, squash and gourds.  Yes, fall is officially here.  I wish the days were longer and the sun shined brighter!!


Its the season of apple picking and if you have tons of apple picked and don't know how to use it, here is a way you can devour the apples.  I started making the apple sauce when my kids started to bring the packed apples home untouched.  Kids like variety in their food, so we cannot blame them even if its easy for us to throw an apple in their lunch box.  My kids absolutely love the chunky version of apple sauce which is seasoned with cinnamon.  The aroma that fills in the house while making the apple sauce is really pleasant and you really wish it stays like that forever instead of spending money on air refreshers.  If you had done some heavy cooking with spices, try making the cinnamon flavored apple sauce after that, which will neutralize the spiced smell that lingers in the house.



This is a simple recipe and your kids are going to thank you for making this.  If you don't have kids, make it for yourself, I am sure you are going to thank me for it :).   They tastes perfect while they are warm.



Ingredients:
6 cups - peeled and cubed apples
1/4 cup - brown sugar
1/2 tsp. - ground cinnamon

Directions:
  • Take a heavy bottom sauce pan.  Add apples and brown sugar to the pan.  Cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.  The apple starts to cook in the steam and starts to get mushy.  Mix well and set the timer for another 10 minutes and cook on low heat. 
  • Use a potato masher to carefully mash the soft apple, leaving some chunks.  Cover and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes.
  • Add Cinnamon powder and mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Enjoy the warm cinnamon flavored chunky applesauce after it cools down a bit or you can transfer the sauce to a clean/sterilized jar and refrigerate for later use.
Notes:
  • Adjust the amount of sugar if you are using tart apples.
  • Warm apple sauce brings out the flavors better when compared to the cold sauce.  So even if you have refrigerated the sauce, just warm it for 10-15 seconds in the microwave before having it.
  • You can keep it refrigerated for one week.
  • I usually make a batch and pack it as a dessert in the snapware containers for kids lunch.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baked Chipotle Flavored Quinoa Veggie Balls





Blogging - Why do someone blog?  Is it really necessary?  Is that a means to show off? These sort of inquisitiveness and disparage sometimes pricks the zeal of a blogger.  This little space is like my fourth kid I would say :) who never complains even when I ignore it.   Cooking and taking pictures of what I make is my passion and I love what I am doing.  I strongly believe that it might have benefited someone in some way.  For me it’s a way to keep my recipes organized and inspire myself to look at the collection and cook them again.  I love to share the successful recipes with you all, so that I am not just cooking it for myself but if anyone can benefit from this, I am more than happy to do so.   





Baking always stir up the fervor; let it be savory dish or sweet decadent desserts.  Quinoa is a staple in my pantry for last couple of years and I love to experiment with these tiny pearls which are packed with lots of goodness.



Health benefits of Quinoa
  • Quinoa contains antioxidant phytonutrients and flavonoids which are anti-inflammatory.
  • It has a higher fat content that provides heart healthy mono saturated fat when compared to wheat.
  • It is a best source of vegetarian protein.
  •  Quinoa is a very good source of manganese. It is also a good source of phosphorus, copper, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate, and zinc.
  • Quinoa is a gluten-free grain.



 
This recipe was developed when I was pondering to make an appetizer with some leftover cooked quinoa and some veggies those were sitting in my refrigerator for long.  I make these Quinoa veggie balls and serves as a snack.  You can serve this as an appetizer for parties.  I usually make a big batch and freeze them and warm them up in microwave or bake it in the oven to fix a quick after school snack.


Yields - roughly 25 - 30 veggie balls
Ingredients:

1 cup - cooked quinoa
1/4 cup - rolled oats
1 cup - boiled and mashed potatoes
2 cups - shredded/ grated vegetables like cabbage, carrots, spinach, chard, broccoli (refer notes)
1 - Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce chopped
1 - 2 tsp - sauce from chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce (refer notes)
1 tsp - chili garlic sauce
1/2 cup - onions chopped
2 - garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tsp - oil
salt to taste

1/2 cup - shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/4 cup- chopped  fresh Cilantro
1 1/2 cup - salt & pepper seasoned bread crumbs
1 tbsp - oil

Directions:
  • In a non stick pan roast the chopped garlic in 1 tsp of oil.  Add chopped onions with salt and cook till golden brown.  Now add the chopped veggies, mix well.  Add the rolled oats, quinoa, chipotle pepper and the sauces.  Cover and cook for 1 minute.  Turn of the burner.
  • When the mix cools down little bit, add it to the potato mix and mix well.  If needed add more chipotle sauce per your spice level.  Adjust the salt.  Add the chopped cilantro leaves and shredded cheese and mix well.
  • Make small balls (1 1/2 tbsp of mix for each ball) and roll them in seasoned bread crumbs.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wide  frying pan.  Place the balls gently into the pan, rotate the sides of the balls to get light brown color evenly on all sides.  Its takes 5 -7 minutes.
  • Pre-heat oven to 400 ° F.
  • Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the balls on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes or till golden brown.
  • Set the oven to broil and bake for 5 more minutes to get the light brown color.
  • Enjoy the Quinoa Veggie balls while they are warm.  You can serve them with ketchup or with your favorite dip.
Notes:
  • You can use any vegetable of your choice to make this snack.  Make sure you grate or  finely chop the vegetable for even cooking.
  • Wash the quinoa thoroughly in cold water before cooking according to the packet direction to avoid the bitterness.
  • You can increase the amount of cheese for more cheesy snack.
  • Chipotle pepper is hot and the sauce gives the kick to the snack.  Feel free to adjust the amount per your taste.  It gives the smoky flavor which is the highlight of the snack.  You can find it any grocery store on international/Mexican aisle.  If you cannot find Chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce at your local grocery sauce, use chili flakes and Sriracha sauce to spice it up.
  • You can either microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm up the snack or if frozen, pre-heat oven to 350 F and bake for 15- 20 minutes on a parchment paper or aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Black Magic Cake With Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting - 100th post and 2nd year Blog Anniversary Celebration



Yes, it's been 2 years since I started my blog where my passion for cooking meets the culinary journey of experiencing and experimenting different cuisines in my kitchen.  I thank all my wonderful readers for the awe inspiring comments and regular visits.  Hope you will hang in there with me at times when I am inconsistent in posting recipes.  I am really surprised at myself that I have it for 2 years.





Baking something sweet was more apt to celebrate the 3 special occasions.  I am also happy to announce that this is my 100th post, a milestone to celebrate along with the blog anniversary.  Last week was Nathan's birthday too.  His only demand was to bake a chocoholic cake.  Luckily it all worked out well and I got a recipe to post for my blog anniversary and 100th post.  I had a family and friends gathering on his birthday, so I made sure to bake the cake couple of days ago.  On his birthday, I frosted the cake with chocolate butter cream frosting, which I thought was better than the regular butter cream frosting.  I am not a huge fan of butter cream frosting, but I thought to make it for him as he wanted a sweet chocolate frosting.  As usual, I didn't like my cake styling when done is hurry.  But I had to click few snaps here and there.  The best part of this cake was the dark, soft, moist chocolate cake which is not over sweet and the frosting really balanced the sweetness with the dark chocolate cake.  I barely got to save a piece to click a picture of the inside of the cake the next day in the natural light.  Even the bits and crumbs left over on the cake stand were wiped out and gobbled by my kids.  It was the best dark chocolate cake I had ever tasted.  My hubby asked me to bake this cake again; 'a tiny one for us' he said :).



Recipe adapted from here

Ingredients

2 cups - sugar
1-3/4 cups - all-purpose flour
3/4 cup - Hershey's unsweetened Cocoa powder
2 tbsp. - Hershey's Special dark cocoa
2 tsp. - baking soda
1 tsp. - baking powder
1 tsp. - salt
2 - eggs
1 cup - buttermilk or sour milk*
1 cup - strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup - vegetable oil
2 tsp. - vanilla extract

Butter cream Frosting
1 1/2 cup - unsalted butter at room temperature (3 sticks)
3 cups - powdered sugar
3/4 cup - cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. - salt
2 tsp. - pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp. - heavy cream/milk

Directions:

Cake
  • Pre heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 8 inch round baking pans.
  • Sift together flour, cocoa powders, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
    Add eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl of the stand mixer and beat well.  Now add buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pan.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen cake from side of pan and remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. 
Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
  • Sift together powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt and keep aside.
  • Cream the butter on stand mixture.  Add the sifted sugar and cocoa powder mixture 1/4 cup at a time and mix.  The mixture will initially crumble, but it will all come together with the consistency of the frosting.  Now add vanilla and cream and whip on high for 30 seconds and turn off the mixture.  If the frosting is not used right away, keep it refrigerated.  If refrigerated, keep it outside to thaw little bit so that frosting /piping can be done with ease.
Assembling the cake
  • Cut any bulged  (the cake will not bulge that much) top of the cake.  Apply some frosting on the cake stand and place the first cake.  Apply a dollop of frosting on the top of the cake and spread.  Place the second cake and crumb coat the cake with the frosting.  Then frost the cake as you desire.  I used the tips Wilton 104 to make ruffles and 2D to make swirls and edible white pearls to decorate the cake.
Notes:
  • To sour milk: Use 1 tbsp. white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.
  • If you are not serving the cake the same day as you are frosting, then I recommend to refrigerate the cake.