Monday, December 30, 2013

Chocolate Cottage Cheese Crinkle Cookies



December is almost over and I realize that I haven't blogged much this month.  Lots of things were in my plate, few were accomplished and few more to go.  When I sat to jot down something, I had this scarcity of words, this might be the writer's block......hmm..could have found some time for my little blog...did I ignore you totally...still pondering to find the answers...



Christmas season cannot pass by without baking cookies.  In fact I had been on a baking spree, tried some cookie recipes, baked cakes, loaf etc.  I know I should have clicked some pics, but I was busy making some homemade gifts for our relatives and friends.  I also even tried my hand at wine making too :).  Keep your fingers crossed, they might appear on the blog sooner or later :)



It was beginning of December, my hubby and kids picked up a book on cookies especially for me from the library with the notion that 'Mommy' would bake lots of cookies from there.  I was really interested in something unique or different and picked this Cottage Cheese Chocolate Crinkle cookies recipe.  It was a wise choice.  When I made it for the first time, it dissipated into thin air within an hour.  This recipe is a sure keeper for my family.  The cookie is crusty outside and soft inside and chocolaty enough to please the kids.



Yields - 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients
3/4 cup - all purpose flour
1/4 cup - cocoa powder
3/4 cup - sugar
1/4 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - baking powder
6 tbsp - soft butter
1 - egg
1 tsp - vanilla extract
1/2 cup - cottage cheese (small/big curd)
1 cup or more - sifted confectioners sugar

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375 °F.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder into a bowl and keep it aside.
  • Beat the soften butter,sugar and egg till creamy with wire whisk. 
  • Add vanilla extract and cottage cheese to the egg mixture and beat well.
  • Now incorporate the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula till it forms a loose dough.
  • Using a cookie dough scoop, take enough dough and drop 12 balls onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.
  • Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Take the sifted confectioner's (powdered) sugar in a wide plate.
  • Dip the top of the cookie in powdered sugar and keep in air tight container.
Notes:
  • There is no need to drain the water from the cottage cheese.
  • These cookies remain soft and delicious for one week when stored in air tight containers.
  • These cookies are super moist and you won't even taste the cottage cheese in it.
  • I didn't refrigerate the dough before baking.  You can refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes if you think the dough is very hard to handle.  The dough scoop really helps to make balls.  The stickiness of the dough will be dependent on the weather where you live.  You may have to refrigerate the dough if you live in warm climate.  Also you may have to keep the cookies refrigerated in warm conditions.

Monday, December 16, 2013

MultiColor Bell Peppers in Creamy & Savory Sauce - Hyderabadi Bell Pepper Curry




Hi readers, I didn't quit blogging if you were wondering...I got tied up with few inevitable events and really missed visiting my favorite blogs.  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with your family and friends.  As usual we spent time with family and we had a great time cooking together, feasting and a last minute fun with black Friday shopping.



While driving through the streets of NY, I noticed there were no homeless people hanging out on the roads and it was awefully chilly to be out anyways.  They might have been in the shelters and looking forward for a warm meal.  I was talking to my hubby all the way back home that how they would be celebrating Christmas when they have nothing to look forward;how they tackle each day without any concerns for tomorrow.



As human nature, we always neglect and forget how fortunate we are and never try to appreciate what we have.  We always like to reach for higher altitudes even though we are very well comfortable and secure in our zone.  As we are in the month of December to celebrate Christmas, it is the apt time of the year to take a moment to look back and reflect on things we have done; how we can be Thankful for the wonderful life we have; how we can forgot and forgive each other; Care and love each other so that we can make this a better place to live.  On this jovial time of the year, let's keep our hearts and mind clean and rejuvenate ourselves with all the good memories that we had and thank Almighty for what we have.

I would like to pay tribute to the great leader Nelson Mandela who passed away leaving his legacy behind; the lesson of forgiveness, patience, tolerance and love for others to learn.

 The following quotes of Nelson Mandela made at Walter Sisulu's 90th birthday celebration, Johannesburg, May 18, 2002 is my favorite:

''What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.''

OK, let us peek to my kitchen to see what I have for you today.  Multicolored peppers are the handy vegetable in my refrigerator.  I widely use them in salads and pastas.  It was during summer I got a chance to taste this Hyderabadi pepper dish and I totally loved it, I am not sure what is it called or even didn't know the recipe at that time.  I checked online and took bits and parts from several recipes and started to make my own version of this Hyderabadi dish.  This may not have the authenticate Hyderabadi dish taste, but it really tastes delicious with steamed plain rice or Rotis.



Did you know that fresh bell peppers are the rich source of the popular antioxidant Vitamin C?  They are found to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels.  They also contain good levels of Vitamin A, essential minerals like iron, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium and they are also good source of B-complex group of vitamins.  During winter season, it is better to include these Vitamin C rich vegetables in your diet to stay healthy and fight cold.

Give this recipe a try and let me know how you liked it.


Ingredients
2 cups - multicolor peppers (red, yellow & green) seeded & cubed
1 1/2 tbsp - oil
salt to taste

To grind
3 tbsp - sesame seeds
2 tbsp - raw peanuts
1/4 cup - grated coconut (fresh/frozen)
1/2 cup - water

For Masala
1 tbsp - ginger garlic paste
1 - small red onion chopped
1 tsp - tamarind paste
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - red chilli powder
1 tsp - Coriander powder
1/2 tsp - Garam Masala
1/4 tsp - Cumin seeds
1 tsp - oil
2 tbsp - freshly chopped Cilantro leaves
Salt to taste


Directions:
  • Dry roast the sesame seeds and peanuts in a cast iron or non stick pan till they slightly gets golden yellow color.  Turn off the heat and let them cool for 2 minutes.  Grind the roasted sesame seeds and peanuts with grated coconut and water to make a smooth paste and keep it aside. 
  • Heat 1 1/2 tbsp of oil in the same pan.  Gently saute the multicolored pepper with little bit salt for 2 minutes on medium to high heat.  Remove the peppers from the pan and transfer to a bowl.
  • In the same pan add 1 tsp of oil with the already exisiting oil from previous step.  Splutter the 1/4 tsp cumin seeds.  Saute the ginger garlic paste with chopped onions and salt till the raw smell of garlic is gone and the onions become translucent.
  • Add turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala and cook till the raw smell is gone.
  • Add the sesame, peanut and coconut paste with tamarind paste to the pan.  Mix well and see if you need addition water. Add 1/4  - 1/2 cup water the gravy is too thick for you.
  • Now add the shallow fried bell peppers and cover and simmer for 5 minutes.  Adjust the salt per your taste.  Turn off the burner and garnish with fresh Cilantro leaves.
  • Serve the Hyderabadi bell pepper curry with steamed rice or Indian flat breads like Roti, Chapathi or Naan.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quinoa, Wild Rice Salad With Pomegranate



Last week we got some sunlight and I was in the mood of making something summery.  A colorful salad with the beautiful fall fruit pomegranate and lots of protein from Quinoa and fiber from black wild rice with the tangy and sweet apple cider vinaigrette was perfect for the bright day, even though the temperature was pretty low.



Pomegranates are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium.  It is also a good source of  dietary Fiber, Folate, Vitamin C and Vitamin K.  Choose a pomegranate that is heavy for its size.   The heavier the pomegranate, the juicier it will be.


If you are one among them who likes to stay away from pomegranate due to the trouble in separating the seeds out, you are missing a lot.   Here are the step by step instructions on how to separate the seeds easily.
  • Use an apron or wear old cloth when handling pomegranate, as they tend to stain clothes.
  • With a sharp knife cut 1/2 inch from the crown off.
  • Cut into 4 sections through the membranes.
  • Take a medium size bowl with cold water and try to push out and separate the seeds into the water.
  • Seeds will settle down in the bottom and the membrane will float in the water. 
  • Skim the membrane from the top and use a strainer to collect the seeds.
As Pomegranates are available during this season, I make use of these beautiful fruit in salads or serve as a after school snacks for kids.  Kids love to munch on these Ruby Red 'Crystals', that's what they call it.  My daughter loves to separate the seeds of the pomegranate without any mess.  Of course she likes to play in the water while she opens a pomegranate.

Serves - 2

Ingredients

1/2 cups - Spring Mix (half and half that has baby spinach too)
2 tbsp - chopped spring mix
1/4 cup - Pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup - toasted pecans and almonds pieces
1 cup - cooked Quinoa (cooked in broth or salted water)
1/2 cup - cooked black wild rice (cooked in salted water)

Apple Cider Vinaigrette
2 tbsp - Extra Virgin olive oil
2 tbsp  - apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp - apple cider
1/2 tsp - lemon zest
1 tbsp - lemon juice
1 tsp - honey
pepper and salt to taste

Directions

  • Take a small glass bottle with lid and shake all ingredients for dressing until well-blended.
  • Toss the spring mix with little bit of salad dressing and arrange on the salad bowl.
  • Mix the quinoa, wild rice, chopped spring mix and pomegranate with the salad dressing and place on the spring mix layer.
  • Add  the toasted pecans and almonds before serving and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Creamy Tomato Carrot Soup


How quick do you make a decision to do something? Have you ever taken a quick decision that yielded a surprising and wonderful outcome?  It depends, I guess right?  We had a convivial experience recently because of a plan we put together with our friends in a trice. 



Couple of weeks ago, we had a get together at our house with some of our friends.  The gathering was about to disperse and one of our friend mentioned that they were planning to visit a family who is a mutual friend of all of us.  Since none of us really visited the family at their place, we all jumped in and decided to join them to give a surprise visit to this family who lives in another state.  Our intention was to visit them at their church, so there was no plan to visit their house since it was a surprise visit.  We all had to leave early morning to get there before the Sunday service started.  Soon after the service was over we thought to have some food and drive back.  But the plans were all changed because the family insisted us to visit their home.  We were received with great hospitality and had a sumptuous lunch at their place.  We ended up spending almost half a day at their place and it was such a jovial time we all had.  Despite of their busy schedule and a small baby to take care, they opened their house with warm welcoming hearts and we enjoyed each moment we spent there.  On the way back, I was analyzing myself and told my hubby that I would have panicked and wouldn't even know how to entertain a group of people when they show up without any notification.  How do you handle a situation when there are unexpected guests? 




I believe that, it's not just the food that you make for guests matters, it's your welcoming attitude to open the house and the blissful heart to share what you have makes it a comfortable place for your guest to visit.  On that note, I would like to remember my hubby's Uncle who passed away 3 years ago around this time; I still Cherish the memories of his great hospitality.  No matter at what time you visit their house, they always have their home opened for you with a smile on their faces.  A small gesture of love, sharing, caring or a simple smile can touch the hearts of many.



Today I would like to share a comforting and hearty soup that my family loves.  I got the inspiration to make this soup from the creamy tomato soup that we get at Panera bread.  Please try this recipe and let me know how it turns out for you. 

This soup makes a great lunch to pack for kids (refer notes).



Serves - 5

Ingredients

3 cups - cubed carrots
12 - medium size ripe tomatoes cubed
1 - medium size white onion cubed
3 - cloves garlic chopped
1/2 - 1 cup - water
1/2 cup - low fat milk
1 tsp - fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp - fresh cream
1 tsp - extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
  • Take a heavy bottom sauce pan and lightly brown the chopped garlic in 1 tsp of olive oil.
  • Add the onions with salt and cook till translucent.
  • Add the carrots, tomatoes and pepper powder and mix well.  Cover and cook till the carrots are tender for about 5 -10 minutes.  Let the mix cool.
  • Using a food processor or blender puree the carrot tomato mix adding 1/2 to 1 cup of water.
  • Return the puree to the sauce pan.  Add milk and water (if needed) and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Top the soup with fresh basil and cream and enjoy with some garlic bread or pull apart bread.
Notes:
  • This soup is good for next day too.  So I make the puree and keep them in a separate air tight container in the refrigerator.  I just add milk to the puree in the morning and bring it to boil and pour in thermos for my kids for lunch with grilled cheese sandwich sticks.
  • This soup is supposed to be thick and creamy, but if you want it to be less thicker increase the amount of water to reach the desired consistency.
  • If you want your soup to be creamier, you can substitute the low fat milk with heavy cream.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spicy Chicken Curry With Chilli Garlic Sauce




A good spicy chicken curry is always appreciated by my hubby and my elder son.  My younger ones still enjoy them with plain yogurt on the side.  Spices are known to fight against inflammation and cold.  So I usually spice up the curries during winter season. 



Experimenting with variations to ingredients in the regular chicken curry is habitual in my Kitchen.  One of those experiments eventuated in the creation of this spicy and flavorful Chicken Curry which is not only appealing to the eyes but also a toothsome dish.  It can be paired with Vegetable Fried Rice, Naan, Roti, Chapathis or Appam (South Indian laced rice crepes).   I would like you to judge the dish by trying it.



Without much ado, here goes the recipe for 'Spicy Chicken Curry With Chilli Garlic Sauce'.



Ingredients

To Marinate Chicken
3 lbs - Chicken pieces with bones (preferably Thigh pieces)
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - turmeric
1/2 tsp - ground pepper powder

For Gravy/Masala
2 - medium size red onion thinly sliced
10  garlic cloves thinly sliced/chopped
1 inch - fresh ginger chopped
1/2 cup - chopped ripe tomatoes (2 medium size)

1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1/4 tsp - ground pepper powder
1/2 tsp - Kashmiri Chilli powder
1 tsp - Coriander powder
1/2 tsp - garam masala
3 tbsp - chilli garlic sauce (refer notes)
1/8th tsp - asafoetida (optional)
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
1/2 cup - water
Oil enough to saute
salt to taste

To garnish
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
2 tbsp - Chilli garlic sauce

Directions:

  • Marinate the cleaned chicken pieces with all the ingredients from the first list and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • In a deep cast iron wok or non-stick pan, splutter mustard seeds in oil.  Saute chopped ginger and garlic for 2 minutes.  Add sliced onions and salt and saute till the onions are translucent.  Add tomatoes; cover and cook for 2 minutes or till he tomatoes are mushy. Now add all the powders like Kashmiri chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric powder, pepper powder and asafoetida and saute till the raw smell is completed gone.  It should become a thick paste.  Add the curry leaves to the mix.
  • Add the marinated chicken pieces into this masala with 3 tbsp of Chilli garlic sauce and mix well to coat the chicken and cover the wok with a lid and cook for 7 - 8 minutes. Mix in between so that it will not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Now remove the lid and add 1/2 cup of water.  Cover and cook on medium heat for 20-25 minutes or till the chicken is well cooked and the gravy becomes thick.
  • Garnish with fresh curry leaves and 2 tbsp Chilli Garlic sauce.
  • Enjoy with steamed rice, naan, rotis or chapathi.
Notes:
  • Chilli Garlic Sauce - I used the Maggi Chilli Garlic sauce, which you can get from Indian stores.
  •  Asafoetida  is a spice used to enhance flavors in Indian dishes.  It is the dried gum of a rhizome.  You can get the powder form or the solid form from Indian stores.
  • Kashmiri chilli powder used in this recipe gives the nice red color to the curry, so don't skip that ingredient.  Also available at Indian stores.
  • I usually make this curry in cast iron wok which helps me to saute the onions with less amount of oil and cooks faster too.  It tastes better too.
  • Make sure you cook the chicken with the gravy for at least 7-8 minutes without adding water so that the spices added to marinate the chicken and cooked and the raw turmeric smell will be gone.
  • Adjust the spices according to your taste.





Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quick and Easy Coconut Almond Balls/Coconut Almond Ladoos






You might have noticed that I missed posting any recipe last week and I have my usual excuse of busy schedule to blame on...at least I feel relieved after pointing that out... phew...  I almost thought this week would pass by the same way without any post, which was apprehensive for the blogger in me.  Since every blogger in the blogsphere were posting Diwali (Indian festival of lights)  and Halloween recipes, I couldn't let the occasion slip out without a recipe.  So I decided to make a super easy dessert which can be prepared within 15 - 20 minutes and tastes super delicious.  You can add a black M&Ms on top of the ladoos to transform it into a spooky eyeball Halloween treat!!!




The normal coconut ladoo recipe only uses desiccated/grated coconut, but I wanted to uplift the taste by adding some nuts to it.  Since I always have almonds in my pantry, I didn't have to think twice as my family loves them.  I knew that I can use them blind folded in these ladoos.  My hubby couldn't stop eating them while I was rolling them.  I had to hide the rest of the ladoos for the photo shoot which I did today, since the whole ladoo idea came at night and it was already late to do any styling or photography.  I am glad that I went with my urge to make these yesterday night, so that I could post it today for the Halloween and for those you are preparing for Diwali.

Have a Spooktacular and safe Halloween!!! 


Happy Diwali to all who celebrates the festival of light!!!!



Here is the recipe for Coconut Almond ladoos for Diwali or a eyeball Halloween treat!!!  Got to get ready before kids shows up for trick or treat...Enjoy!!!

Yields - 35 small ladoos

Ingredients
4 cups - desiccated coconut
1/2 cup - crushed roasted almonds (refer notes)
1/2 cup - dry milk powder
1/2 cup - low fat milk
14 oz (396 g) - Fat free sweetened condensed milk
3 - whole cardamon pods powdered
1 tsp - ghee

Directions:

  • Melt 1 tsp of ghee in a non stick pan. 
  • Add the desiccated coconut and crushed almond and toast on low heat for 2 - 3 minutes.  Ensure that you use low heat so it the coconut will not turn into brown.
  • Add the milk powder and mix well.  Now pour the condensed milk into the coconut almond mix and combine well.
  • Add 1/2 cup of milk and mix well till the mix starts to stick together.
  • Add the cardamom powder and mix well and turn off the burner.
  • Wait for 5 - 6 minutes or till the mix is still warm but can be handled.
  • Take 1 1/2 tbsp mix for each ladoo and roll small balls with the mix while it is warm.  
  • Store them in air tight container after cooling.
Notes:
  • Dry roast the almonds on very low flame for 5 minutes and let them cool.  Use a mortar & pestle to crush them.  I didn't powder them as I wanted to have the crunch in the ladoos.
  • Use dessicated coconut or the coconut powder you get from Indian stores which are not fine powder but coarsely powdered to make the ladoos.
  • If using fresh grated coconut, make sure  to dry up the moisture by dry roasting the grated coconut, this may tend to lose the white color of the ladoos.
  • You can refrigerate the ladoos for a week in air tight containers, but trust me, it will not last for a week since its highly volatile.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Baked Pumpkin Apple Cider Donut Holes with Chia seeds - A healthier version of donuts




Have you ever tried any of my recipes?  I would love to hear from you the feedback.  I have friends who give me the honest feedback.  It helps me to enhance the recipes and apply updates if any to provide a better place for my readers to seek for trusted recipes.  There are blogs we all follow for inspiration,  photography, stories and trusted recipes.  I always try to bookmark or pin the recipes that I trust which I will be making over and over for my family.  It makes things easier to manage for me.  If you trust any of my recipes, feel free to pin it on pinterest.




Fall season is full of vibrant colors and the Halloween decoration goes at the culminating point as there are only few more weeks for it.  We only manage to put couple of pumpkin jack o lanterns at our front yard.  I love the festive mood of this season apart from the cleaning up of garden and pulling off the bulbs that cannot withstand winter.  But it's fun, when we do it together as a family.  Kids cannot wait for Halloween to get bags of candy and I cannot wait to hide them :) from them.....



Couple of weeks ago when I was driving back home after picking the kids from school, my daughter asked her usual question as we passed the local donut store 'Mommy can we have some donuts?" and I replied as usual 'Its not healthy, I will make some".  I guess she was tired of this redundant answer and asked, "Mommy can we have something unhealthy sometimes?".  I couldn't stop laughing.  I knew that I had to make donuts for them one of these days and cannot procrastinate anymore.  I knew what exactly I wanted to experiment.  I had a jar of some fresh homemade pumpkin puree sitting in my refrigerator.   I adapted and modified a recipe I came across at pinterest with the ingredients I had with me to make healthy version of donut holes.  I couldn't believe that they came out super soft with only 2 tablespoons of oil.  The pumpkin puree was the magic ingredient in this recipe which kept the donuts soft and moist even with the addition of whole wheat flour.  I was totally impressed with the results.  Lil Noah was munching on them each time as he passed the kitchen.  Now I know that I can rely on this recipe to make some healthy donuts when kids ask for it.  And I would like to share this healthy version of donuts with you so that you can make for your family too.



 Donuts need not to be treated as a unhealthy food anymore.  Feel free to make these for your family when you crave for some donuts.


Recipe Source - here - original recipe was changed with ingredients I had

Yields - 40 - 45 mini donut holes

Ingredients
1 cup - all purpose flour
1 cup - whole wheat flour
2 tsp - baking powder
1 1/2 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt
2 tsp - ground cinnamon

1  - large egg
1/2 cup - brown sugar
1/2 cup - pumpkin puree (refer notes)
1 tsp - vanilla extract
1/3 cup - honey
1/3 cup - apple cider (refer notes)
1/3 cup - low fat or non fat plain yogurt
2 tbsp - oil
1 tsp - Chia seeds (optional)

Dusting
2 Tbsp  - melted unsalted butter  (optional)
1/4 cup - sugar granulated or powdered
1 tbsp - ground cinnamon

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 °F.
  • Sift all the dry ingredients like all purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon once and keep it aside.
  • Whisk the egg, brown sugar and pumpkin puree till well blended.  Add yogurt, apple cider, vanilla extract, honey and oil and whisk till everything is mixed well.
  • Now fold in the flour mixture to the wet mix and mix till there are no dry lumps.  Don't over mix.  Add the chia seeds to the batter.  Keep the batter aside for 5-8 minutes before baking.
  • Bake the donuts in mini muffin pan or donut molds for 10 -12 minutes depending upon the muffin tin or donut mold size or till a took pick comes out clean when tested.
  • Transfer the donut holes to a wire rack to cool for 5 - 6 minutes.
  • Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a plate. If using butter, dip the donuts in melted butter and roll in the sugar and cinnamon mix. 
  • Store in air tight container.  Keep refrigerated if storing for more than 2 days.
Notes:
  • I made the pumpkin puree at home.  I bought a small pumpkin.  Cut them into half, scooped out the seeds.  Baked in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes by wraping them in aluminum foil.  You can also bake them without aluminum foil by placing the cut side down on a baking sheet.  Once the pumpkin is cooked, scoop out the flesh and puree it in a chopper/ blender or food processor.  Transfer them into clean jars and refrigerate or freeze them for future use.  They are very handy.  You can use canned pumpkin puree too, but trust me the homemade tastes much better.
  • If you are using powdered sugar for dusting the muffins, let the muffin cool down completely before dusting.  I didn't use butter at all, the muffins were still moist and the sugar cinnamon mix sticked on them perfectly.
  • If you don't have apple cider, you can substitute it with apple juice.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lemon Cupcakes With Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting


 Last month was so busy that I couldn't even find a better time to bake a cake for my elder one.  I even told one of my friends that I might try a citrus flavor for the birthday cake, but it never happened.  Feeling guilty, I finally decided to make some cupcakes to compensate after couple of weeks.   I took these cupcakes to church and everyone loved it.



I believe in pairing or matching to some extent.  That being said, let it be food or anything else there should be some kind of chemistry between the things you pair, otherwise it may not result in anticipated results.  The cupcakes I made were perfectly paired with the frosting and I couldn't have made it better if I had experimented with some other frosting.  Yes, you read it right; it was an experiment that worked out perfect.  Since I am not a big fan of very sweet frosting, the lemon cream cheese frosting was just apt for my taste.



Now let me share with you something that happened the same week to me that is related to pairing too :).  Curious?  Ok, here you go... I had mentioned in my previous posts that I go to work early.  Our summer dress code at work changes beginning of October.  The pain of wearing hosiery or stockings begins around this time.  I  try to pair socks/hosiery and keep them in the drawer to grab them easily in the morning.  That day as usual I grabbed a pair, put on the hosiery (black ones) to match my black skirt and went to work.  Since I do this in the early morning, I use the dim light so that I don't wake up anyone else.  The sun won't rise till 7:00 am, so remember its still dark when I got to work.  Got busy with work and at lunch time I decided to step outside and check out for some fall home decoration.  Went to the store and bought few stuff and got back.  Got out of my car, the sun was shining bright by this time.  As I was walking through the parking lot, I simply looked at my legs...I was shocked.  What did I pick?  How did this happen?  I was wearing navy blue hosiery on one and a black one on another.  I turned around and saw group of people coming behind me who went out for a walk.  I was literally running into our building so that no one would notice... finally pulled it out.  It was such an embarrassing situation.  I am not sure if anyone had noticed the hosiery mismatch while I was in the store.  Kids sometimes do the opposite day and wear different color socks to school, but it was not any sort of opposite day for me, it was an imperfect pairing...:)....Have you ever experienced anything similar?



Yields - 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cake
2 cups - all purpose flour
2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - salt
1 3/4 cup - sugar
5 - eggs
2 lemon - juice from 2 lemons
1 tsp - lemon zest
1 cup - oil

Frosting

8 oz - cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup or 1 stick - butter at room temperature
2 1/2 cups - powdered sugar
1/2 lemon - juice from half a lemon
1/2 tsp - lemon zest
3 drops - organic yellow food color (I used India Tree brand)

Directions
  • Pre heat oven to 350 ° F.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt 3 times and keep it aside.
  • Using a stand or hand mixer, whip together the eggs and sugar till fluffy.  Now gently add the oil, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Whisk again for 20 seconds.  Gently fold in the flour mix and mix for 1 min.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in a muffin tin lined with cupcake liners.
Frosting
  • In a cold stand mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese till it is smooth.  Add the butter and whip again till soft.  Now add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix till soft peaks are attained.
  • Add lemon juice, lemeon zest and yellow food color and whip for 30 seconds.
  • Cover the bowl of frosting with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for atleast 15-20 minutes before piping.
  • Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes as desired.
Notes:
  • Refrigerate the cupcakes in a cake caddy or in a closed container till ready to serve.
  • Instead of cupcakes, you can make a 8 inch round cake and decorate it with the lemon cream cheese frosting.
  • The frosting is not too sweet, so if you like more sweeter and stiffer frosting add more powdered sugar while whipping the frosting.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mixed Greens And Lentil Stir Fry/ Swiss Chard, Collard Greens & Thuvar Daal Stir Fry (Thoran)



 Last week sunshine was in its brim and we enjoyed every bit of it.  This week seems to be sober and dull.. the days are getting shorter, but the nights never seems to be long enough especially when you are an early bird for work.  Fall colors are popping out every where and within few weeks the sunshine is going to fade and darkness is going to take over.  That sounds pretty scary and gloomy right?  I didn't mean to...but that's how I feel now :(.



Fall season is best for greens like collards, Swiss chard, kale etc.  They grew at their peak and produce sweet flavorful leaves.  With the same notion of using these leaves in my cooking, I planted green Swiss chard and collard greens in my garden beginning of summer.  They are really worth a try if you have a small space to spare some gardening in your backyard.  These green foliage not only brings enticing colors to your garden but also makes good nutritional dishes.



 I remember my first experience with Swiss chard, it was a bit awful.  Ok let me share it with you....It was few years ago... I went to this grocery store near my house and they have a huge section for fresh produce especially the leafy section and I literally got stuck there perplexed by what to pick because the mist sprayed crisp fresh leaves were so impelling.  Got my eyes on these red stemmed leaves and quickly picked up one bunch and I had already a plan to make stir fry.  Came home and put on my apron, started cutting, chopping and what not and made the stir fry.  I even bragged to my husband that I got the red spinach (Indian spinach) and it was crisp fresh and so on.  Long story short...something went wrong, may be the red chard was not meant for a stir fry and I end up with a hard leafy dish that made its way to trash after sitting in the refrigerator after one day :(.  I would say I became more cautious about trying the greens after that.  I make use of these collard greens and swiss chard from my summer garden and they are very delicious.  Green chard is very succulent and when paired with collard greens which has a hard texture compared to chard makes a perfect stir fry.



Here are some health benefits of Swiss Chard and Collard greens:

  • Studies shows that chard leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants. These phytonutrients provide antioxidant benefits, anti-inflammatory benefits and blood sugar regulations.
  • Collard greens has the greatest ability of lowering cholesterol among the cruciferous vegetables and thus provides cardiovarscular benefits.  The glucosinolates found in Collard greens helps to lower the risk of cancer by supporting our detox and anti-inflammatory systems.  These green leaves are excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin E and they provide us with 4 core conventional antioxidants.

Ingredients
1/4 cup - Thuvar daal
1/2 cup - water
1/4 tsp - salt
2 cups - chopped green swiss chard
2 cups - chopped collard greens
1 - medium size onion chopped
1 - clove garlic
3 - green chili chopped
1/2 cup - grated coconut
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp - oil
salt to taste

Tadka
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1/2 tsp - urad daal
1/2 tsp - uncooked rice
1 tsp - pearl onions/shallots thinly sliced
1 - dry chili split into pieces
1 sprig - curry leaves
1 tbsp - oil

Directions:
  • In a sauce pan cook 1/4 cup of thuvar daal with 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 tsp salt till well cooked, but retains its shape.  It takes approximately 20 minutes on low - medum heat.  Keep the cooked daal aside.
  • Mix the grated coconut and turmeric powder together in a bowl. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic.  Add grated coconut and crush well.
  • In a cast iron or non stick pan, heat 1 1/2 tsp oil and cook the onions, green chili with salt till golden brown.  Add chopped greens to the pan and stir well.  Make a deep well in the middle of the green and add the crushed coconut & garlic mix and cooked thuvar daal to it.  Cover the coconut mix with the greens so that the coconut and garlic cooks in the steam for 2-3 minutes.  Use a lid. 
  • Open the lid.  Adjust the salt and mix the greens and coconut well till everything gets mixed evenly.  It should not take more than 5 minutes to cook the stir fry.  Remove from pan and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • In a small pan over low heat, splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 tbsp of oil.  Add the urad dal, followed by rice.  Once the rice starts to puff up, add the thinly sliced shallots and red chili and cook till golden brown.  Turn off the heat and add the curry leaves carefully.
  • Garnish the stir fry with the tadka and serve the thoran with steaming plain rice and yogurt.
Notes:
  • Swiss chard cooks faster than collard green, so make sure that the collard greens stem is chopped finely to allow even cooking.  If necessary add 1 tsp of water to keep the stir fry moist.  But usually Swiss chard is very succulent and you don't need any water if cooked over low heat.
  • When making the tadka, use the low flame, otherwise the urad daal and rice can get burned.
  • Garnish the stir fry just before serving, otherwise the puffed rice will get soggy.  Don't skip the rice, it gives a nice crunch to the stir fry.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Pizza








Last Saturday was the first year anniversary of my little space on the blogsphere. First and foremost I thank almighty who blessed me with such a wonderful family, friends and my dear readers who supported me on my journey of culinary. Without your immense support, I wouldn't have made it so far. I look forward for your continuous support and your suggestions, comments and reviews; all really matters to me. So please don't shy away from jotting down your suggestions and comments.


In my previous post, I had mentioned about a Keralite festival named Onam that we celebrate here in US too. We had a function on the weekend to celebrate Onam. It was a mere coincidence that I and my friend decided to put up a stall during the function and it happened to occur on the same day as the blog anniversary. There was lots of baking, canning and packaging happened over the last few days, but I am happy to say that none of my effort went in vain. We were little skeptical in the beginning, but things turned out to be very well and we got lots of positive comments. Unfortunately I didn't get time to take any snaps of the goodies I made. Oh well, that happens I guess...but no regrets. Heartfelt thanks goes to Shema from lifescoops who was there to help us with banner and setting up the table. It was quite a bit of experience.. I am sharing a picture someone took during the function.



Ok, let me come back to today's post. Mexican flavors are well received by my family and when the flavors are combined into a pizza, it’s an ultimate panacea for a dinner dilemma when one asks for pizza and other for tacos. I had been making this pizza for last 2 yrs and it’s an absolute keeper for anyone who loves Chipotle flavors.



The other Chipotle flavored recipes on the blog are Chipotle Style Spicy Chicken Tacos and Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla

Ingredients

Pizza Dough
3 cups - Whole wheat flour
1 cup - all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup - luke warm water
1/2 tsp - salt
1 tsp - extra virgin Olive Oil
1 (7oz) packet or 2 1/2 tsp  - active dry yeast
1/4 cup -luke warm water
1 tsp - sugar

For Chicken
1 1/2 lb - cleaned chicken strips (use thigh meat)
1 tsp - Chipotle grill marinade (Grill Mates Chipotle Pepper Marinade)
1 - Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce chopped (I used San Marcos brand)
1/2 tsp - peprika powder
3 - garlic cloves minced
1 tsp - extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Vegetables
2 cups - multicolor pepper cut into long strips
1 cup - red onion sliced
1 - Jalepeno pepper sliced
1/2  tsp - extra virgin Olive oil
Sea salt to sprinkle

Sauce
2 cups - tomato basil sauce or any tomato sauce
1 tsp - sauce from chipotle chili in Adobo sauce
1 - garlic crushed
1 tsp - extra virgin Olive oil
1 tsp - fresh torn Cilantro leaves

2 cups or more - Mexican cheese blend
sea salt to sprinkle
Olive oil to brush the crust

Directions

Pizza Dough
  • Mix 1 packet or 1 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast and 1 tsp of sugar with 1/4 cup of luke warm water and keep it aside for 10 minutes or till it is frothy.
  • Knead the wheat flour, all purpose flour, yeast mix, salt and 1 1/2 cup of water to form a elastic dough. The dough might be sticky. Add 1 tsp of olive oil to coat the top of the dough. Cover and leave it to rise for 1 hr.

To season the sauce
  • In a non stick pan, roast the crushed garlic with 1 tsp Olive oil till golden brown.  Add the Cilantro leaves and the tomato sauce.  Adjust the salt.  Warm till it starts to boil.  Turn off the burner and keep it aside.
Vegetables
  • Mix the vegetables with Olive Oil and sea salt and keep it aside.
Chipotle Chicken

  • Heat a non stick pan and add 1 tsp of Olive oil and cook the minced garlic till golden brown.  Now add the peprika powder and chicken and mix well.  Add chipotle marinade and chopped chipotle chili.  Adjust the salt; cover and cook  till all the water dries up and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Turn off the burner.
To Make the Pizza

  1. Pre heat oven to 415 °F.
  2. Punch down the pizza dough and divide it into 2 balls. 
  3. Roll the dough into a thin crust pizzas on a floured surface.  Dust a pizza pan with wheat flour and transfer the rolled dough into the pan.  Spread 1 cup of sauce on the pizza crust.  Apply olive oil on the sides and sprinkle sea salt. 
  4. Add 1/2 cup of cheese blend over the sauce.  Now evenly distribute 1 cup of vegetable mix over the pizza.  Spread half of the chicken above the vegetable mix.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese over the chicken and bake the pizza to 20 minutes.
  5. Make the second pizza with rest of the dough by repeating the steps 3 and 4.
Notes
  • Adjust the chipotle chili in adobo sauce according to your spice level.  They are pretty hot.  I add only a very small amount for kids.
  • You can get the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and marinade from Walmart or any grocery stores.  I used the homemade tomato basil sauce.  Don't skip the step to season the sauce with roasted garlic and cilantro.  It gives a good flavor to the pizza. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Green Apple In Yogurt Sauce/ Apple Pachadi


Onam is an auspicious occasion for people who hail from the very southern corner of India.  The festival of Onam is celebrated by Malayalis all around the world.  It is a secular festival celebrated with equality.  Onam reminds me of my childhood days both in North India and Kerala.  My whole family used to participate in the Onam programs while we were in North India.  I vaguely remember the practice sessions conducted at our home for the drama my Mom and Dad were part of and later the Air force group competed against HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) group and won the price.  For us kids, it was the time of merriment, get together and special occasion to get new South Indian style attires.  When we moved back to Kerala, the celebration was different.  We used to put flower arrangement in our Veranda and we celebrated Onam with a huge vegetarian feast at my grand parent's house with all other family members.  Women looked prettier than ever with their golden bordered off white sarees called 'Settu Saree/Settu Mundu' and fresh jasmine flowers on their hair.  Men in their 'Mundu/Dhotis' adds the zeal to the occasion.  We would spend the whole day from dawn to dusk at my grand parents house.



Time flew by and I am here in another corner of the world writing about my childhood memories of Onam.  We have a small community of Malayalis here and there is Onam celebration every year which we all take pride of.  We do participate in many activities with our kids and it is such a joy to see everyone in their keralite attire come together as one big family.  The sumptuous vegetarian meal will be the highlight of the day.  I try to prepare the Onam Sadhya at home and we feast them on banana leaves ( we adjust with the frozen leaves).



Since Onam is around the corner, I want to share a simple recipe that is part of 'Onam Sadhya'.  The traditional dish is made with cucumber, but there are tons of variations to this recipe.  I had prepared the dish with green apples that I picked the other day.  Little Noah was my helper to pick few from a small apple tree from his school.  The apples were not too sour and not sweet either, so it was a perfect pachadi when paired with some steaming rice and mango pickle.



The traditional recipe calls for crushed mustard seeds, but I omit that because I don't like that taste.  Feel free to add 1/4 tsp crushed mustard seeds with fenugreek powder if you like it.


Ingredients

1/2 cup - peeled and chopped green apple ( Granny smith)
1 clove - garlic finely chopped
1 tsp - finely chopped ginger
1/4 cup - chopped shallots or red onions
1 - green chili chopped
1 - dry red chili broken into 2 pieces
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1/8 tsp - roasted fenugreek powder
1 1/2 tsp - oil
1 - sprig curry leaves
2 cups - plain low fat yogurt
salt to taste

Directions

  • Splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 1/2 tsp oil. Add chopped garlic and ginger and cook till golden yellow.  Add chopped onions, salt, red and green chili and cook for 2 - 3 minutes on low heat.
  • Now add the chopped green apple and saute till apple pieces and soft.  Add fenugreek powder and curry leaves and give a good stir.  Turn off the heat.
  • Finally add the plain yogurt to the tadka mix and enjoy with steaming plain rice. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chocolate Espresso And Nutella Kahlua Sandwich Cookies



During my school days I remember, me and my brother would rush to get home once we get out of our school bus.  Our main focus will be to get into the pantry by the side of the kitchen.  There will be an array of containers with so many homemade snacks that my Mom prepares or there will be fresh small bananas (called Njali Poovan Pazham...my favorite banana) in a basket those will be stored in dark area to ripe.  As soon as we get home, we drop our bags in the designated area....oh yeah, we were very particular on that...I think that was something we got from our Dad (Air Force discipline); wash our hands and run straight to the pantry.  By the time Mom comes with 2 glasses of chocolate flavored milk (Bournvita - an Indian Chocolate flavored Health mix just like Ovaltine) we will be snacking on the yummy treats.  Being a stay home Mom, my Mom had enough time to make all kinds of snacks and she used to experiment a lot too :).  So we hardly used to buy snacks, mostly all snacks were homemade and our pantry will be always full.  Those were some good old memories to cherish.



Now back to the new generation and their style.  As soon as I pull my car into the garage after picking kids from school, they run just like we used to do.  I will be screaming,  'Put your shoes on the shoe rack'; they run as if they didn't hear, I will repeat; then it works.  Then I have to remind them to wash their hands; sometimes lil Noah is too fast that I cannot cope with him and he might have already bit a cookie :) without washing his hands.   The bags will be dropped on the floor; which needs another reminder to put it away.  To my question 'Did you wash your hand Noah?', he simply runs to the bathroom as if he didn't hear anything and washes and comes back and sits like nothing happened :).  Here the style is they leave the pantry door open and stare at the pantry for minutes, especially Noah, he cannot decide what to have.  Sometimes it will not be in his reach; he pulls the chair and gets what he wants.  My brother used to do the climbing when we were little.  As kids we loved to hear the stories from my Dad; he used to climb up the attic to get the snacks when snacks were prepared and stored in airtight clay jars (called 'Bharani') in the attic for longer use.   No matter which generation is it, the snack attack of kids are pretty much the same.



 I always encourage my kids to have healthy snacks like cucumbers, baby carrot, fruits or raisins and almonds and they like them too.  But they also like to attack the pantry for cookies.  So I try to make something whenever I can and store them so that they can have a homemade snack rather than store bought ones.  Since chocolate flavor is their favorite, I didn't have to think twice to make these cookies when I came across the recipe for Chocolate Espresso sandwich cookies.

Chocolate Espresso Cookie recipe adapted from here

Yields - 25 sandwich cookies

Ingredients

Chocolate-Espresso Cookies
1 1/2 cups - all purpose flour
1/3 -  cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp - black cocoa (I used dark chocolate bar melted)
1/4 tsp - salt
1/4 tsp - baking powder
1/2 cup - unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp - sugar
1 - large egg
1 tsp - instant espresso
1 Tbsp - Kahlua
1/2 tsp - vanilla extract
2 Tbsp - Turbinado sugar

Nutella Kahlua Filling
4 oz - plain cream cheese softened
1 tbsp - Nutella
2 tbsp - whipping cream
1 tsp - Kahlua
3 tbsp or more - powdered sugar

Directions
  • Sift together flour, cocoas, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  • Beat butter, sugar and egg in a mixing bowl till creamy.  Add espresso, Kahlua, and vanilla until combined.
  • Add flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Wrap dough with plastic and chill in the refrigerator overnight or 2 - 3 hrs.
  • Pre heat oven to 350°F.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Divide the dough into 2 halves.  On a floured surface roll the dough into a rectangular sheet and cut out 25 cookies using a cookie cutter and place them on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle the Turbinado sugar and gently press them on to the cookies.
  • Repeat the above process for the second half of the dough without the Turbinado sugar.
  • Bake the cookies for 8 minutes or till they are slightly puffy and firm on the sides.
  • Cool them on a wire rack and store in air tight container.
Nutella Kahlua Filling
  • Whip the cream cheese and whipping cream till soft.
  • Add powdered sugar, kahlua and nutella to it and whip on high speed for another minute.  Adjust the whipping cream and powderd sugar for the desired consistency and sweetness. 
  • Store the filling in the refrigerator till ready to serve.
  • Gently apply the filling on the bottom side of the chocolate cookie without Turbinado sugar.  Top the filling with a cookie with Turbinado sugar and enjoy.
Notes:
  • I used 8 oz cream cheese as it was easy for me to use the stand mixer to make the filling with the sauce and the amount of other ingredients for making the filling was adjusted for the cream cheese.
  • If you are not baking the cookies all in one batch, keep the second half of the dough refrigerated till ready to roll and bake.  Otherwise the dough will be hard to work with.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Middle Eastern Water Melon Salad


Where did the summer go?  The months flew by like few days.  Kids are already back to school and the mechanical routine started again.   Several plans were made and few were accomplished..sigh.  Wish there was longer summer...more sunshine...more vacation...the list goes on...



Time never slows down or stops for anyone.  Follow the pace and get things done and that's the way to go rather than waiting for the next opportunity.  It's good to reflect back once now and then to check the accomplishment list and analyze if time was utilized wisely.  Yeah, these are all well known facts, and we might have heard it over thousand times in our day to day life from our childhood, but putting them into practice is the hard part.  Getting organized and having a routine is a better way to utilize the time.  Yes summer time is less organized for me; it affects everything other than my work.  Getting back to the schedule was a bit hard, but I am there now.



Beginning of Summer I planned to post few salad recipe as it was the apt time to do so.  There were few which caught my attention from the cook books.  But the right time never came...its easy to blame on time.  I had this recipe sitting in my folder for few months now and finally I made this refreshing salad yesterday and we really enjoyed it as a dessert after dinner rather than a starter.



Recipe Adapted from - Chef Jane's 'Fresh, Happy Tasty' cook book

Ingredients
2 tbsp - sesame seeds
4 cups - watermelon cubed into bite size
1/2 cup - crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp - mint leaves, torn
1 tbsp - Cilantro leaves, torn
1/2  orange - Orange juice from half of a Navel orange
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Directions:
  • Toast the sesame seeds in a pan for 3 minutes.
  • Place the cubed watermelon  and feta on a plate.  Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds, Cilantro and Mint leaves on the watermelon.
  • Just before serving the salad, drizzle the Orange juice and Olive Oil on top of the salad.  Season with fresh cracked black pepper.
Notes:
  • The original recipe called for fresh pomegranate seeds too, I didn't have it when I made it, but still it tasted good.
  • Add the orange juice and Olive oil only before serving, otherwise the salad will turn watery.

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