Friday, December 21, 2012

Carrot Dates Cake


        Christmas comes with children singing,
           Christmas comes with sleigh bells ringing,
Christmas comes with frosty nights,
     Christmas comes with snowball fights...


Yes, it's almost here...Christmas is around the corner.  It's the time of joviality, a mood characterized by high spirits and amusement, immense baking, packing gifts and most of all the fun I have is wandering around in the Mall with my family and going on a shopping spree.   Snow covered street and trees, illumination work in the front yard of houses are a spectacular view during the Christmas season.  It was few years ago we flew back home during Christmas season for a vacation and the aerial view of snow covered houses decorated with lights still remains as a magnificent view in my memory.    Weather channel is forecasting a snow storm that is catching up strength and is supposed to make its way to North East on Christmas.  So it could be a white Christmas to celebrate!!!!



For the last one month, I had been in the process of soaking fruits to bake the 'Kerala Fruit Cake/Kerala Plum Cake' and was impatiently waiting to bake it and see the outcome.  It is the traditional fruit cake everyone bakes during Christmas time in Southern part of India.  My effort to make the Fruit cake did not yield a satisfactory result.  So I was frantically searching for a perfect  cake recipe that could fit the holiday season.  My desperate quest to find a perfect recipe for Christmas cake ended when we went for Christmas Caroling last week.  I had this wonderful cake from one of the members of our church. I was so determined to get the recipe and asked the host of the house to email me the recipe.  She was very nice to share the recipe with me.  This is one of the cakes you would never feel bored of.  I could gobble pieces in minutes.   The dark richer color combined with the super moist texture and the aroma from spices makes it an acceptable substitute for the Kerala Plum cake, in case if you are too late to soak the fruits for the Plum cake.  Give this recipe a try and I can assure you that you will not regret a bit and would put the Plum cake in the back burner.



I divided the batter between a bundt cake pan and a 6'' round pan.  My daughter wanted to give the small cake to her teacher.  So I wrapped it up like a candy using parchment paper and tied the ends with sateen ribbon and hanged a homemade tag on it.  It truly looked like a perfect Christmas gift.  Since I had to send it out with my daughter in the morning to school, I didn't get time to take the picture of the edible gift I wrapped up.



Yields - 9'' round cake / 2 8'' round cake / large bundt cake

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups - grated carrots
2 1/2 cups - all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - baking soda
1 cup - chopped pitted dates
3 - eggs
1 1/2 cup - oil
1 1/2 cup - sugar
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp - ground cloves
1/2 tsp - ground nutmeg
1 tsp - vanilla extract

Caramelized sugar syrup
1/2 cup - sugar
3/4 cup - water

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • Take a heavy bottom pan and melt 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat.  When the sugar starts to melt and become dark brown, lower the flame and carefully add 3/4 cup of water and boil till the sugar crystals melts completely and forms slightly thick syrup.  Keep it aside to cool.
  • Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt 3 times to aerate the dry ingredients.
  • In a medium bowl beat the eggs, vanilla and sugar with an electric mixture till fluffy.
  • Add the caramelized sugar syrup and oil and beat for another minute.
  • Slowly add the flour mix into the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute till everything is well incorporated.
  • Fold in the chopped dates and grated carrots into the cake batter.  The batter should be slightly loose.  If needed add 2 - 4 tbsp of milk to loosen up the batter.
  • Pour into 2 greased 8'' pan lined with parchment paper or a large non-stick bundt cake pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested at the center of the cake.
Notes
  • Make sure that you use greased parchment paper to line the pan for any easy release, as the cake is slightly sticky due to the added dates.
  • Cover with cling ware and wrap with aluminum foil and store in air tight container.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cranberry Orange Muffins


Global warming is truly taking an effect I believe.  I don't remember raining in December since I came to US.  For the last one week, the weather is acting little weird.  After all the rain the first snow flurries of winter finally made its way to the ground yesterday, but it didn't last for long.  The temperature has dropped tremendously now and waking up in the early morning to go to work and fixing a quick breakfast is a bit of hassle.



Homemade muffins are part of my kids' breakfast and I make them ahead for weekdays as they are easy to go breakfast when you are in a hurry in the morning.  I had a bag of cranberries sitting in my refrigerator that I bought during Thanksgiving to make some sauce and wanted to make use of it.  I made some sauce out of the cranberries and mixed it up with some orange juice and orange zest to the basic muffin recipe and viola it came out to be the perfect moist muffins with the citrus punch from the orange and tartness from cranberries.



Cranberries are rich in phyto-nutrients and antioxidants, which are essential for all-round wellness. The berries are indeed containing numerous chemical substances that may offer protection from tooth cavities, urinary tract infection, and inflammatory diseases.  Studies show that consumption of cranberries helps to increase HDL-good cholesterol levels in the blood and hence lower LDL cholesterol levels.



Yields - 30 mini muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups - All purpose flour sifted
1/2 cup - sugar
1 1/2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 cup - fresh squeezed orange juice with pulp
2 tsp - orange zest
1/4 cup - yogurt
1 - egg
1/2 cup - oil

Cranberry sauce
3/4 cup - fresh cranberries washed
4 tsp - sugar

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • In a heavy bottom sauce pan add the cranberries and sugar and cook on medium heat.
  • The berries starts to pop.  Use a wooden spoon to mush them and cook for 6-7 minutes and keep it aside to cool.
  • Mix the egg, sugar, oil and yogurt in a mixing bowl.  Gently add the orange juice, zest and mix well.
  • Sift all the dry ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Gently fold in the cranberry sauce to the batter.
  • Fill 3/4th of the greased muffin tin and bake for 16-18 minutes.
  • Store in air tight container after the muffin cools down.
Notes:
  • You can substitute yogurt with buttermilk.
  • I used mini muffin tin for baking the muffins.  Feel free to use bigger muffin tin.  You may have to increase the time depending upon how many muffins you are baking in a batch.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cashew Triangles or Nutty Triangles





Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. The avidity to prepare list for Santa by kids; the excitement of putting the X-Mas tree; my diligent plans to bake a fruit cake before Christmas; packing for the trip to India; all these mixed up emotions are dangling up in the atmosphere of my house these days. I totally love the energy vibe of this season.

During Christmas season my kids never finds the movie 'Polar Express' vapid after watching over and over. We too enjoy it watching with them. The other day when they were watching the movie, I thought to bake something easy while enjoying the movie.  I quickly checked my recipe collection and pulled the first cookie recipe I tried by myself. Yes, 'Nutty Triangle' was the first cookie recipe I tried when I started baking. This would be a perfect simple and easy treat to bake for your family and friends. I got this recipe from my co-worker who bakes these cookies during Christmas time every year along with other cookies. But these cookies taste ambrosial to me because of the nutty crunch and butter flavor in each bite. It tastes pretty close to the Danish butter cookies.





The name 'Nutty Triangle' sounds little funny, so I always refer it by the nuts I use in the recipe. The nuts in the recipe can be substituted with Peanuts, Almonds, Walnuts, and Pistachios or even with sweetened shredded coconut and coconut extract.


Yields - 40 triangles

Ingredients:

1 cup - butter
1 cup - sugar
1 egg - separated
2 cups - sifted flour
1 tsp - vanilla extract
1 cup - finely chopped Cashews (substitute with nuts of your choice)

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 275 F.
  • Cream together butter and sugar and egg yolk. 
  • Gradually add flour to creamed mixture stirring well. 
  • Spread dough evenly in a jelly roll pan or baking sheet (15 X 10).
  • Smooth surface with fingertips or a spatula by dipping in flour.
  • Beat egg white slightly, brush over top of the dough. 
  • Sprinkle nuts over dough and press in.  Bake for 1 hour. 
  • Take the cookie out and while uncut cookies are still warm, cut into 4 lengthwise strips and then cut 5 crosswise strips. Cut each piece in half diagonally. 
Notes
  • Make sure that the butter is cold enough so that the dough is not sticky.
  • I usually dip my fingers in flour before pressing it to the baking sheet otherwise it will be slightly sticky.
  • Store the cookies in air tight containers and they are good for couple of weeks.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sweet Potatoes And Green Beans Stir Fry (Mezhukkupuratti)







It was during Thanksgiving dinner preparation, my SIL reminded me of the 10 lb box of sweet potatoes sitting untouched.  We were averted from the sweet potatoes as there was no room in the oven to bake any more items and we were running out of time before dinner.   So we ended up with a whole box of sweet potatoes which we thought to bake sweet potato fries later.  My Mom suggested making a stir fry instead.  The outcome was really a refreshing stir fry with the blend of sweetness and heat.  I loved the color combination of this dish.  It sure enhanced the holiday mood for us too.  I think it is apt to post the recipe now as orange and green can also go for Christmas season in lieu of traditional green and red combo.






I soaked the cut sweet potatoes in water to eliminate some starch.  You can skip that step if you don't have time.

Ingredients

2 - medium size sweet potatoes cut into small pieces (1/2 cm thickness)
3 cloves - garlic crushed
1/4 onion - cut into thin slices
1/2 tsp - pepper powder
1/2 tsp - red chili flakes
1 tbsp - oil
salt to taste

20 - green beans cut into small pieces
2 - split green chili
1/8 tsp - turmeric powder
1/4 onion - cut into thin slices
1/2 tsp - mustard seeds
1 sprig - curry leaves
2 tsp - oil
salt to taste

Directions

  • Soak the cut sweet potatoes for half hour and rinse and discard the water and keep it aside to drain excess water.
  • Take a cast iron pan or non-stick pan and add 2 tsp of oil and mustard seeds to it.
  • Wait till the mustard seed splutters, be careful if you are not used to this step.
  • Add the 1/4 sliced onions, 2 split green chili and turmeric powder to it and cook covered on medium heat for 2 minutes.
  • Add the cut beans, salt and cover and cook till the beans are tender, approximately 7 - 8 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and transfer to a dish.
  • Use the same pan and add 1 tbsp of oil and crushed garlic to it.  Roast the garlic till golden brown.
  • Add the sliced onions and cook for 1 minute.  Add sweet potatoes, pepper powder, chili flakes and salt and cook covered on medium heat for 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally and add curry leaves to it.
  • Remove the lid and increase the heat slightly and cook for couple more minutes or till the sweet potatoes looks little crispy or lightly browned.
  • Transfer to the same dish with green beans and mix them together. 
  • Stir fry is ready to be served with rice or roti (Indian flat bread).



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