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.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Marshmallow Pops


Few months ago when my little one had to take some goodies for his class,  I made these Marshmallow pops for his class.  I wanted to make something that could be very attractive to kids and at the same time covered and tied so that they can enjoy when they get home.  After few passes on the internet, I settled on these marshmallow pops.  I remembered store brought cake pop my daughter got from one of her friend's birthday and how it was covered with plastic wrap.  So I decided to go with the marshmallow pops and cover them nicely so that it would be easy for Noah to hand out to his classmates.  He gave me the feedback that kids loved it and he didn't forget to tell them that "My Mom made these".  You can guess my satisfaction.  I made the marshmallow pops few times later for my Sunday school kids and for Church, but never got the chance to take pictures.


One week ago a parent of a kid from Noah's class tried to reach me.  I thought it was for some birthday party invitation.  I sent out an email to the Mom and she replied instantly and wanted to talk.  I was perplexed, what could it be?  She inquired where to buy the Marshmallow Pops that I got for Noah's class.  It was the best complement that I got for Marshmallow pops.  Her son kept asking her to buy those and she didn't know where to as she just got a glimpse of it before he opened the pop and ate it the day when he got it.  Since she wanted to buy it for her son's upcoming birthday, she contacted me.  It was a surprise to me and I was really happy to help her and show her how to make it.  We made few at my house over the weekend and she loved the fact that how simple it was.



If you are planning for a birthday party or any kids event, the marshmallow pops is a great idea to surprise the kids.  They will absolutely love it.  So give it a try!!!!



Yields - 25 Marshmallow pops

Ingredients
25 - Kraft Jet puffed marshmallows
25 - long cake pop sticks
1 cup - Hershey's/ghirardelli semi sweet baking bars or chocolate chips(chocolate)
cake sprinkles with different shapes and colors.

To Cover
1 roll - transparent sheets used for covering baskets
2  - sateen ribbon rolls of your color choice

Directions
  1.  Place the chocolate chips/bars in a microwave safe bowl and melt. It takes 1 -2 minutes. Use a spoon to mix it, don't overcook the chocolate in microwave, they will burn. Or you can use a double boiler method to melt the chocolate, by placing the chocolate pieces on a steel bowl above a sauce pan with water simmering on a stove.
  2. Once the chocolate is completely melted, take a pop stick and dip the tip in warm chocolate. Insert the chocolate dipped tip of the pop stick into the bottom of a marshmallow till it reaches at least upto the center of the marshmallow.
  3. Now gently dip the marshmallow into the melted chocolate so that all sides are covered. Use a butter knife to spread the chocolate evenly around the marshmallow, by simply rotating the mashmallow dipped in the chocolate by the edge of the butter knife. No need to cover the bottom of the marshmallow with chocolate.
  4. Now sprinkle the cake sprinkles on the chocolate dipped marshmallow.
  5.  Place the pop in a glass or a cup with the marshmallow sticking out of the glass and the stick at the bottom of the glass.. Repeat steps 2 - 4, to make marshmallows that can fit in one glass without touching each other. 4 of them can fit in a tall glass.
  6. Now place this marshmallow pops in refrigerator, the chocolate will set within 5-6 minutes.
  7. Repeat steps 2 - 6 for rest of the marshmallows and the pops are ready to be covered.


Covering Marshmallow pops
  • Cut the transparent sheets into roughly 10 cm x 10 cm square piece.
  • Cut the sateen ribbon long enough to tie a bow knot.
  • Place the marshmallow pop into the center of the transparent sheet and bring the 4 corners of the transparent sheet to the pop stick and tie the end using the sateen ribbon to make a bow knot.
Notes
  • If using white chocolate, use the candy melts or you can use the white chocolate bars that are used for melting and coating strawberries.  The white chocolate chips don't work.
  • There is no need to refrigerate the pops.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kerala Style Fish Biriyani



I had mentioned in one of my previous post that my Dad was in Air force and we spent a good time of our childhood in Northern parts of India.  Once we came back to South India (Kerala) my Dad went to Saudi Arabia pursuing a job.  Unlike in US, people who reside in Middle Eastern countries know that they have the flexibility of visiting their home back in India at least once a year. As kids we always looked forward to our Dad's vacation back to home every year.  My brother would always give him a big list of things to bring :), I was not bad either...but that's what kids do right?  Well, I got that now when I have to deal with the same scenario over and over at my house.   Ok, where did I stop...yeah..so we always waited for my Dad's vacation, not only for the goodies he brings, but he makes good fried rice and Biriyani.  My Mom will be the assistant in cutting, chopping etc, but Dad would put the main chef's hat and take over the kitchen.  He used to make this tasty Chicken Biriyanis.  Even though I never used to help in the kitchen, I liked to watch him, he never measured anything, just eyeball the ingredients and they turned out to be the yummy delicacies.  He still gets into the kitchen to help my Mom, when there are guest as they still like to entertain guest.  So from my childhood, Biriyani is close to my heart and I love both vegetarian and non vegetarian versions.



 I had several  mishaps with Biriyani while serving for a bigger crowd, most of them were due to the improper ratio of rice and chicken, few times the amount of salt was very low.  At times, I go lazy and skip all the garnish and try something easy, which may not taste as good as a Biriyani should.  So my tip for you is to not skip, the whole spices, garnish and the amount of ghee/butter essential to make a good Briyani.  The quality of Basmati rice, meat and rice ratio also contributes to a tasty Biriyani.  This is a fool proof Fish Biriyani that always worked for me.  I believe you are ready for the recipe now.



Serves - 8 

Ingredients

For Rice
4 cups - Good quality Basmati rice
10 cups - water
1/2  - lemon juice
Salt to taste

For Fish
20 - medium size firm fish pieces
2 tsp - red chilli powder
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - ground pepper
1/2 tsp - garlic paste/garlic powder
1 tsp - oil
Salt to taste
Oil - enough to shallow fry (I used 2 -3 tbsp of oil in a non stick skillet)

Masala
4 - cloves
2 - cardamom
1 - bay leaf
1/2 inch - cinnamon stick
6 - medium size red onions thinly sliced
2 tbsp - fresh ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp - tomato paste
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1 tsp - chili powder
1/2 tsp - coriander powder
1/4 tsp - ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp - garam masala
10 - small green chilies crushed
1 tbsp - plain yogurt
1/2 - lemon juice
1 /8 cup - water
1/2 cup - chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup - chopped fresh mint leaves
Oil - enough to saute the masala

Garnish
2 cups - thinly sliced red onions
1/4 cup - cashews
1 tsp - pure ghee
1/4 cup - oil
1/4 cup - chopped fresh Cilantro

Directions
  • Soak the basmati rice in water for 1/2 hr. 
  • Marinate the cleaned fish with the ingredients from the fish marinade ingredient list and keep it for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Cook the rice with 10 cups or enough water with salt and 1/2 lemon juice for 26 -28 minutes on medium heat or till they are just cooked and still has the shape.  Don't over cook the rice.  Drain the water through a colander and use a fork to fluff the rice and keep it aside to drain more.
  • While the rice is cooking, shallow fry the fish in oil just enough to wet the bottom of the pan, don't use excess oil, the marinade will float away in the oil.  Transfer to a paper towel to remove excess oil and keep it aside.
  • Take a heavy bottom non stick or cast iron pan, lightly brown the cashew nut halves in 1/4 cup oil and 1 tsp of ghee.  Remove the cashews to a bowl and add sliced onions and a pinch of salt and saute till they are light golden brown.  Transfer the onions using a slotted spoon to a plate.
  • There will be some oil left over in the pan, add little more oil, the whole spices and bay leaf to the same pan and fry it for 1 - 2 minutes till the raw smell goes.  Saute sliced onions, crushed green chili, salt and ginger garlic paste and cook till it is light brown.  Add chili powder, coriander, turmeric, ground pepper, garam masala and cook till the raw smell goes away.  Now add the tomato paste, cilantro and mint leaves and cook for another minute.  Add yogurt and 1/8th cup water and mix well.
  • Add the shallow fried fish pieces into it and cover the pieces with the thick gravy. Add 1/2 lemon juice to it and adjust the salt and cook it covered for 5 minutes.  Turn off the burner.
  • Pre heat oven to 350 degree F.
  • Take a deep baking dish like corning ware with tight glass lid or any bakeware with a oven proof lid.  Gently grease the bottom and sides of the dish with cooking spray.  Add 1/2 tsp of cut pieces of cold butter at the bottom and spread a layer of rice.  Spread a layer of fish with gravy on top of the rice. Alternate rice and fish with gravy layers till the dish is full.  Add cut 1/2 tsp of cold butter in between the layers.  Add the fried onions and cashew over the top of the rice. 
  • Use a seal like chapthi dough to cover the space between the lid and bake the covered biriyani for 20 minutes. 
  • Garnish with fresh Cilantro leaves and enjoy the Biriyani with fresh Raita ( yogurt sauce with onions. tomato, green pepper, green chili & cilantro) and pickles.
Notes
  • If using a aluminum tray to bake the biriyani, the lid that comes with the tray is tight enough.  You don't need  to use chapathi dough.
  • Don't add extra water to the gravy.
  • Always adjust the salt to balance the taste keeping in mind that the rice will absorb lot of the salt from the gravy.
  • The more thick gravy you have, the better tasting and moist biriyani you will have.
  • I don't load my biriyani with butter, but add a bit here and there to keep it moist enough and tasty, which makes me guilt free to enjoy them when I go for seconds.  Adjust the butter according to your preference.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cherry Banana Coconut Bread



The persistent problem of overripe bananas in my house during summer, makes me think about all the possibilities of using these black spotted fruit without trashing them.    Without much pondering, my thoughts settled on breakfast bread.   When hubby suggested to make the banana bread with Maple syrup, I was like  'I had already blogged about it, need to come up with something else :),  then he was like OK experiment on us!!!!  So I thought of revamping one of the old recipes I had in my folder with few changes and the end result was a yummy loaf of bread. 



I believe it was last summer, I experimented with some cherries in bread and those came out very good.  I had some overripe cherries sitting in my refrigerator over a week.  It was an easy pick to use the overripe fruits and whip up something quick for the next day's breakfast.  Since the cherries were little over ripe you will notice the color change in the bread, it looked more like blueberries after the bread was done. 



I made this loaf a week ago, but never got a chance to sit down and write the recipe. TGIF, what a relief, don't have to think about work for 2 days...want to sit back, relax and watch a movie with my family!!!!

Yields - 9-in. x 5-in loaf

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup - Whole Wheat flour
3/4 cup - rolled oats
2 tsp - baking powder
3/4 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup - brown sugar
1/4 cup - oil
1/4 cup - low fat milk
2 - eggs
1 cup - mashed overripe bananas
2 tbsp - low fat yogurt

1 tsp - flax seeds
2 tbsp - grated coconut/sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup - fresh cherries seeded and quartered or halved

Topping
1 tbsp - rolled oats
1/2 tsp - flax seeds
1 tbsp - honey

Directions
  • Pre heat oven to 350 degree F.
  • Sift together the wheat flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and keep it aside.
  • Using an electric stand mixture, mix all the wet ingredients. Add the rolled oat and mix for 20 seconds.
  • Now add the wheat flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  • Fold in the 1 tsp of flax seeds, grated coconut and cherries.
  • Pour into greased or parchment paper lined loaf pan.  Sprinkle the rolled oats and flax seeds over the batter evenly.  Drizzle 1 tbsp of honey over the topping and bake for 50-55 minutes till a tooth pick comes out clean when tested at the center of the bread.
  • Tranfer to a wire rack and cool completely before cutting it.
  • Store the bread in air tight container in the refrigerator.

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