Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baked MeatBalls With Cranberry Orange Glaze



'I am not ready for this yet'.  Each winter, you hear this.  Seriously, I don't think that I ever thought that way till last weekend when the first snow showered on us.  I always wished for more Sunlight and longer daytime though.  Nature seemed to be not ready yet as the trees were still bearing the colorful leaves while the gusts of chilling snowflakes were dumped over these leaves.  I was not expecting the snow to be this early; it looks more like January when piles of snow appear on the sides of the roads.  Boots, jackets, scarves, gloves...there goes the list.  All are out now and I love it!!!



Thanksgiving is around the corner and I bet you all are ready to go on a baking spree.  Did you pick the bird to bake?  Did you sort out the menu for the Thanksgiving dinner?  Here is a perfect lip smacking appetizer that you can serve for Thanksgiving.  These meatballs got the zing that makes you go for more.



 The picky eater in my house was well impressed by the taste and he didn't even care when I told him that I made it with turkey meat which he dislikes.  It was a big hit in my house and I even packed some in thermos for their lunch.  I think I said enough about the meatballs.  Let’s dig into the recipe.



Yields - approximately 45 - 50 meatballs

Ingredients:

3 lb. - ground Beef/Chicken/Turkey
4 slices -  bread pulsed in food processor/chopper
2 - eggs
1 tsp. - pepper powder
1/2 tsp. - garlic powder
1 tsp. - salt
1/2 tsp. - red chili flakes

For the Sauce
1 cup - fresh/frozen cranberries
4 tbsp. - brown sugar
1 cup - freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cups - barbecue sauce of your choice
1/2 tsp. - red chili flakes

Directions:
  • Pre heat oven to 400°F.
  • Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs together and roll them into balls with 1 tbsp. of the mix for each ball.
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Apply cooking spray and bake the meatballs for 30 minutes or till the center is no longer pink.  You may have to do this in 2/3 batches.
  • Meanwhile the meatballs are baking, you can make the sauce.  In a sauce pan add the cranberries and 4 tbsp. of brown sugar, cook on low heat.  The cranberries starts to pop.  Use a wooden spoon to mash the cranberries and cook on low for 15 minutes.  Add the orange juice, chili flakes and barbecue sauce and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.  The sauce starts to thicken.  Turn off the flame.
  • Place the meatballs in a heat proof bowl that can hold all of them.  Pour the sauce over the meatballs.  Gently shake the bowl to coat the sauce on the meatballs.  Let the meatballs cool for 5 minutes.  The sauce will stick to the meatballs forming the glaze.  Enjoy them while they are warm.
  • The left overs can be refrigerated up to a week in air tight container or they can be stored in the freezer for later use.
Notes:
  • Like the recipe suggests, you can use any ground meat of your choice.
  • You can use Cranberry Jelly if you don't have fresh/frozen cranberries.  You may have to adjust the amount of sugar as the cranberry jelly is already sweet.  The fresh cranberry imparts a nice taste and I liked biting into the skin of cranberry along with the meatballs.
  • Adjust the amount of seasoning per your taste. 
  • Frozen meatballs can be either heated in microwave or in the oven.  Pre heat the oven to 350 F, line them on a greased baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes or till done.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best Chocolate Cupcake With Nutella Swiss Meringue Frosting - A Dynamite CupCake









I can never say enough about the Swiss Meringue Frosting.  It’s my favorite frosting next to the whipped Cream frosting.  The beauty about Swiss Meringue frosting is that it is so light and fluffy and can be confused with whipped frosting.  Swiss meringue frosting is a short cut way of making the famous Italian Meringue frosting which involves intricate steps. 


 I highly recommend this frosting; it’s worth all the effort and pipes so well.  They are ideal for decorating layered cakes and regular cupcakes.  I always like to try this frosting with different flavor.  I made these cupcakes for a potluck at my work and I got raving comments like 'Killer Cupcakes, Dynamite Cupcakes' from my coworkers about these cupcakes.



 I believe it was the combination of the black magic chocolate cake and the Nutella Swiss meringue frosting that made them the exquisite chocolate cupcakes.  This experimental combination turned out to be the best chocolate cupcake I ever made.



 If you are planning to make any chocolate cake in the future, I insist to try this recipe for the best moist chocolaty cake you can have and top them with this fluffy silky smooth Nutella Meringue frosting.  It's a luscious combination that you cannot resist.




Yields - 36 cupcakes

Ingredients
Cupcakes - recipe from here

Frosting
5 - large egg whites (refer notes)
2/3 cup - sugar
2 cups /4 sticks - cold butter
2/3 cup -  powdered sugar
2 tsp. - vanilla extract
6 tbsp. - Nutella

Directions:
 Cupcakes
  • Use 1 batch + 1/2 batch  of the black magic chocolate cake recipe to make 36 cupcakes.  Make sure that you fill only 3/4 of the cupcake liner with the batter, so that the cake batter won't ooze out while baking.  Bake the cupcake at 350 F for 25 minutes or till a tooth pick comes out clean when tested in the center of the cupcake.  I made them in batches to avoid burning.  Let the cupcake cool completely before decorating.
Frosting
  • Double boiler Method - Fill half of a sauce pan with water and let it simmer over a stop top.  Place 5 egg whites and 2/3 cup of sugar into the heat proof bowl that can fit on top of the sauce pan without touching the water.  Using a wire whisk, stir the egg sugar mixture continuously till you don't feel any sugar crystals when rubbing the mixture between your fingers.  At this point you can notice that the egg sugar mixture is clear with light pale color.   If you have a candy thermometer, it should read  160°F which makes the egg whites safe to use. Turn off the flame. 
  • Transfer the egg white mixture into the standing mix bowl.  Make sure that the steam from the bottom of the bowl don't get into the mixture while transferring.   Use the whipping paddle and whip till the egg whites are silky white and forms soft peaks.
  • Now add the cold butter pieces one at a time and whip till the butter is mixed well with the egg white.  This needs good 10 minutes of whipping.  At this point you will notice that the frosting looks lumpy and soupy, you will also notice little wetness in the frosting.  Don't panic, this is part of the process.  Just keep beating.  It will start to come along.  Add the powdered sugar in batches to the butter mixture at this point and keep beating.
  • The frosting will come along as a smooth fluffy frosting within 2 -3 minutes.  Now add 4 tbsp. of Nutella and vanilla extract.  Whip it on high for 1 - 2 minutes or till the frosting forms sharp peaks.
  • Place the frosting into piping bags  and decorate the cupcakes.  I used Wilton 1M and 2D tips to decorate the cupcakes.
Notes:
  • If this recipe yields more frosting than what you need, just half the recipe.  You can use 3 small egg whites and half the amount for rest of the ingredients to make half batch.  Please note that  my recipes follow the US Standard measurements.
  • You can add more Nutella.  Just keep in mind that the sweetness of the frosting will increase, or else you can adjust the amount of powdered sugar to keep the balance.
  • Left over frosting can be stored in air tight container in the refrigerator.  To reuse the refrigerated frosting,  keep the frosting at room temperature for 15 - 20 minutes; whip the frosting again before decorating the cake.
  • If the temperature is higher outside, the decorated cupcakes can be kept in the refrigerator which helps to hold the frosting intact.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Easy Breakfast Frittata



Last couple of days, the sun seldom showed up through the clouds.  I had no mood to cook anything and post.  I woke up a bit earlier on the weekend when I heard the TV downstairs turned on by my little one.  I went down to tell him that it was too early, but he pointed to the window 'Mommy look at the sun, its not early!!'.  The sunlight straining through the blinds lit the spark in me.  The sun is out today, I have to do something!!!  It was matter of minutes to rejuvenate the blogger in me.  I knew exactly what to make for the breakfast.  I got my camera and started taking pictures of the eggs.  Soon I had to comprehend the fact that the sunlight was not going to last longer after moving my props and the board several times from patio window to another window to get the glimpse of the precious sunlight.  Few trips to the basement to get the boards and running back and forth from kitchen to get the ingredients woke the rest of family :).  So all the hungry tummies were wandering around me to finish the photo shoot.  Somehow I managed to take few pictures of the frittata before it got dim again.  I made 2 sets, one in a smaller 6 inch pan and the other in 10 inch grilled cast iron pan (ideal for making grilled sandwiches and grilling vegetables & meat) with more eggs.



Breakfast frittata is something I make very frequently for my kids during weekdays for their breakfast.  I even pack them for lunch and they love it.  All you need is some eggs, veggies, cheese, some seasoning and a cast iron pan.  You can chop all the veggies the night before.  Mix all of them together and bake in the morning.



A freshly baked protein rich breakfast is ready within 20 minutes which will keep your body fueled till lunch!!



Serves - 2  to 3
Ingredients:

4 - Eggs
1/4 cup - milk
1/4 cup - chopped onion
1/4 cup - red bell peppers chopped
1/4 cup - spinach / Swiss chard /broccoli chopped
1/4 cup - Cheddar / Mexican Cheese blend
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
  • Pre heat oven to 400°F.
  • Using a wire whisk beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper well till everything is blended well.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
  • Apply oil or non stick oil to a 6 inch cast iron pan.  Pour the mix and cook it uncovered for 20 minutes.
  • Cut the frittata into pieces and serve warm with ketchup or your favorite hot sauce.
Notes:
  • If you don't have a cast iron pan, you can use a oven proof baking dish or glass dish.  Cast iron provides the uniform heat to bake the frittata and helps it to puff up to the top without burning.  If you are using a baking dish or glassware the cooking time may vary.  Please check the readiness of the frittata using a tooth pick after 20 minutes.
  • I used to make them on stove top in regular non-stick skillet, but the base used to get burned.  So for better results bake them in a cast iron pan in oven.
  • You can add meat sausage and any vegetables and cheese of your choice.





Monday, October 27, 2014

Honey Oats Bread





We - yes that's appropriate since there are 2 of us.  Since the day when we were thrown into the dark corner we have been awaiting for your warmth touch.  Days, weeks and months passed by like light years.  Why did you neglect us?  We deserved better place than the dark corners.  We eagerly waited to be picked up when the footsteps got closer to us each time.  Even though you were a finger tip close to us several times, you ignored us for long.   What changed your mind now?  All long waited moment has come...a ticklish shiver of joy passed through us when you picked us with care and ran the silky strands though us.  Yes, this is the place we belong to. Don't you agree that we look much prettier here than in the dark cold corner? -  She viewed herself in the mirror.   Yes it looks much prettier now.  With great contentment she adored the 2 buttons she sewed on to her jacket that was lost last winter!!



Do you procrastinate?  Have you thought of being more organized?  Have you wished that you never waited long to get things done?  Sometimes it will be a simple task and need only 5 minutes of your time, but why do we neglect those and push aside? Time to ponder...



A homemade bread recipe is a must in the repertoire of a blogger.  I am not sure why it took so long for me to post one.  I baked this beautiful bread on the weekend that made my entire house smell like a bakery.  And speaking of which, who doesn't like fresh baked homemade bread?   My blissful face proclaimed that something good was happening in the kitchen to my hubby's curiosity.  The freshly baked aroma of the bread was irresistible in the first place;  hubby and kids came to see if they could get a slice; but I had to guard the bread like a 'chicken protecting her chicks' from eagle for the pictures.   I had to wait for the bread to cool completely, but it was too good to resist.  Finally I did the ceremony of cutting the bread. We enjoyed the warm slices of the bread with homemade mixed berry jam and some milk.  Its a lightly sweet hard crust bread with a soft texture.




Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients
3 cups - all purpose flour
1/2 cup - whole wheat flour
1 cup - rolled oats / old fashioned oats
1/3 cup - dry milk powder
1 1/2 tsp. - salt

1 packet / 7g/ 2 1/4 tsp. - active dry yeast
1 tsp. - sugar
1 1/3 cup - luke-warm water
3 tbsp. - melted butter
1/4 cup - honey
1 tsp. - oil ( to coat the dough)

To sprinkle
1 1/2 tbsp. - rolled oats
1 1/2 tbsp. - warm honey

Directions:
  • Add 1 tsp. of sugar and  2 1/4 tsp. yeast to 11/3 cup of luke warm and mix gently and leave it to get activated for 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Mean time in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer or regular mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  Add the frothy yeast mix, melted butter and honey to the dry ingredients.
  • Attach the dough hook and knead for 2 to 3 minutes till everything is mixed well.  If you are not using a stand mixture, just knead it till everything is mixed.  The dough will be sticky.  Apply 1 tsp. of oil on the dough and cover with a kitchen towel and keep it in warm place to rise for at least 1 hour or till the dough rise and attains double its volume.
  • Grease a standard 9'' x 5'' loaf pan.
  • Take the proofed dough out the bowl and place on a floured surface or clean kitchen counter.  Flatten with your hand to form a  thick circle.  Roll the dough once into a log shape.  Pinch together the seem sides and the ends.  Place the rolled dough into the loaf pan with pinched sides down.  Cover the dough with kitchen towel and let it rise for another hour.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Brush the top of the proofed bread shaped dough with warm honey and sprinkle the oats over it.  Bake the bread for 40 minutes in the middle rack till the top gets light brown color.
  • Transfer the break to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.
  • Wrap the bread in aluminum foil and store outside for 2 days.  If planning to store more than 2 days, keep it wrapped in refrigerator.
Notes:
  • You can use instant oats instead of rolled oats.
  • While baking, if you notice the top of the bread is getting browned fast, keep it covered with aluminum foil for first 20 minutes and remove the foil and finish baking.
  • Wait till the bread is completely cooled before cutting, otherwise the slices will not come out good.  Use a serrated knife to cut the bread.
  • You can make sandwiches and French toast with this bread.

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.