Monday, December 26, 2016

Melting Walnut Snowball Cookies



Christmas is around the corner.  I baked a lot, but they didn't make it to the blog.  Our December weekends went like a breeze.  We had house to house caroling and it was really fun.  Most of our parish members went out for caroling regardless of the cold weather.  We had our Church Christmas Family Night last weekend.  Weeks of practice sessions made everyone tied up.  Both adults and kids performed for the Christmas Family night.  We all had a great time.  I guess I gave enough reasons for my absence from blogging.  I am getting back into my regular schedule now.  Kids are on Christmas break from school and we are ready for Christmas!



I cannot ignore my blog during Christmas, so here I am with a recipe for the Melting Walnut Snowball Cookies.  They will literally melt in your mouth.  There are several names for these cookies and they are made with other nuts like Almonds too. Some call them Italian cookies or Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes, but the point is that the name doesn't matter at all; it’s the taste that matters.  This cookie has pushed all the cookies down a bit and made to the top in my list.  It’s my favorite cookie.  I highly recommend you to give this recipe a try.

Yields - 3 dozen cookies
Ingredients:
1 cup - wheat flour
1 cup - all purpose flour
1/3 tsp - salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) - butter softened at room temperature
1/2 cup - granulated sugar
1/2 cup - oil
1 tsp - vanilla extract
2 cups - walnuts
1 1/2 cup - powdered sugar for rolling and dusting

Directions:
  •  Pre heat oven to 325 F.
  •  Spread the walnut on a baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes.
  •  Take them out and let it cool.  Pulse them in a food processor to get a mixture of fine powder with some coarse texture.
  • Sift together wheat flour, all purpose flour and salt.
  • Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixture combine the softened butter, sugar and vanilla to form a creamy mixture.  Add the oil and mix well.
  • Mix the flour mixture and combine to form a dough.  Now add the coarsely powdered roasted walnuts and combine everything to form a dough.
  • Line couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop out the dough into small balls using a cookie dough scoop and place them 2 inches apart from each other on the baking sheet.  Bake the cookies for 15 - 17 minutes till the bottom is slightly brown.  Take the cookies out of the oven and sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes to set.
  • Take half of the powdered sugar in a bowl and roll the hot cookies one at a time and place them on wire rack to cool completely.  Or you can dust some powdered sugar just before serving the cookies.


Notes:
  • Make sure to pulse the roasted walnut well to form a fine texture, otherwise it will be hard for the dough to stick together to form balls.
  • Give 5 minutes for the cookies to set on the baking sheet once taken out of the oven, otherwise they will crumble when you try to transfer them.
  • You can either roll the cookies in powdered sugar or dust the sugar on top of them according to your sweet tooth.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Mediterranean Morning Glory Muffins



Growing up I had the privilege of enjoying the fresh homemade breakfast and a lunch packed by my Mom.  She used to wake up around 5.00 am and get both the breakfast and lunch ready for us before we head to school.  I am not sure how she managed to get everything done within the short time.  Being a picky eater, I would just nibble some breakfast for the name sake and drink a glass of milk and run for my bus.  The breakfast was really enjoyed as an evening snack by me.  Since my Mom knew me better, she would make a fresh batch and get it ready when I am back from school.  My brother and I used to enjoy the warm 'Puttu and Kadala' (steamed rice cake with chickpeas curry) she used to give us in 'Urullas' (a small handmade ball of food) even when we were in college.  Yes, we were spoiled to the core :).  But those were some good nostalgia I cherish.  Kids of this generation are so independent and miss all those tiny things we enjoyed while we were kids. 


 Even though I am not a morning person, I wake up pretty early to go to work.  But I am not too passionate about making an elaborate Indian style breakfast on the weekday mornings.  Like I had mentioned in several posts, a quick and easy breakfast works out for everyone in my house hold.  So I am in the constant hunt for a healthy breakfast that makes my kids happy and keep them full till lunch.  This recipe is an inspiration from the famous Mediterranean muffins.  It’s fruity, nutty, healthy and yet delicious.  I strongly recommend you to give this recipe a try. These muffins are one of my family favorites now.

Inspired by Better Baking
Yields - 12 -15 muffins
Ingredients:
Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cups - Whole wheat flour
1/2 cup - all purpose flour
1/2 tsp - salt
1 1/2 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - baking soda
1/3 tsp - ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
3 - eggs
1/2 cup - brown sugar
1/4 cup - oil
1/4 cup - plain yogurt
1/2 cup - freshly squeezed orange juice

Fresh & dry fruits
1 1/2 cup - grated carrots
1 1/2 cup - peeled and chopped apples
1 cup - golden raisins, black raisins & dried cranberry mix

Topping
1/2 cup - chopped walnuts
1/4 cup - walnuts, raisins & cranberry mix

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375 ° F.
  • Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside.
  • Beat the eggs and brown sugar together in a mixing bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer.  Add, oil, yogurt, orange juice, grated carrots and chopped apples and mix well.
  • Now add the sifted flour mix and mix till well combined.
  • Add the nuts and raisin cranberry mix to the batter and mix well.
  • Line the muffin tins with cupcake liners. Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tin up to three fourth.  Sprinkle the topping mix on the top of the batter and gently press it with the back of a dry spoon.  
  • Bake the muffins from 18-20 minutes or till the center of muffin is cooked well.  Cool the muffins on wire rack and enjoy.


Notes:
  • The left overs can be stored at room temperature for a day if you your house is not too warm and humid.  Otherwise you can store them in air tight container in the refrigerator.
  • Microwave for 20 seconds to warm up the refrigerated muffin.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Quinoa And Mixed Nuts Granola


Breakfast being the first meal of the day is very important to me.  My husband does not believe in breakfast and its health benefits, but I like sneak to pack a small bowl of granola, a muffin, a banana or some dry cereal for him to munch in the morning.  But for me skipping breakfast does not do anything good rather than makes me eat more during lunch which negates the whole purpose of fasting or dieting.  The word BREAKFAST truly refers to the breaking of fasting period of the previous night.  So something easy, light and healthy for the tummy is my preference on weekdays. Make ahead breakfast or easy to go breakfast options are a great way to hurdle the busy weekday mornings.   Granola bars, breakfast muffins, Oatmeal or a healthy parfait works perfectly on weekdays.  I was really contented to add another breakfast option to my repertoire.



As I was cleaning up my pantry I came across a bag of quinoa that was sitting in my pantry for some time.  It ended up in the form of crunchy granola with a mix of nuts and some coconut flakes.  I love to fill up the mason jars in the pantry with healthy treats like this and hide the store bought snacks behind it, so when my kids come from school and go hunting in the pantry they will see the homemade snacks in the front of pantry in clear mason jars and would pick them up instead of the store bought snacks.  But with this delicious granola, I didn't have to try anything tricky.  Half of the granola was already gone by the time I decided to take pictures.  The nutty roasted aroma of quinoa and nuts would tempt even the picky eater in your house. This granola serves as a perfect breakfast, a quick dessert fix or an after school/work snack with a bowl of plain yogurt, some fresh/frozen fruits and a drizzle of pure maple syrup or honey. 

Ingredients:
1 cup - dry Quinoa
1/4 cup - pure maple syrup
2 tbsp - oil
1/2 tsp - pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup - chopped walnuts
1/2 cup - almond slices
1/2 cup - roughly chopped pecans
1/2 cup - coconut flakes
1/2 tsp - salt
Directions:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Rinse the quinoa thoroughly.  Use a fine mesh sieve to rinse it few times and set it aside to drain water completely.  Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet and bake till it attains a golden color.  Set the timer to 5 minutes and take it outside and give a stir and continue baking till its light golden color.  It takes from 7 - 10 minutes to completely dry the quinoa.
  • Whisk together the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add the nuts, coconut and quinoa to the bowl and mix well.
  • Line the same baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the quinoa mix on it and bake for 25 - 30 minutes till the nutty and toasty aroma comes out and the granola is light golden brown.
  • Take it out from the oven and stir well and let it cool completely before you transfer it to a clean dry jar.
Notes:
  • Make sure you rinse the Quinoa well, otherwise the saponins on the seeds might give a bitter taste.
  • Don't over cook granola over 30 minutes, it will burn.  The granola will be still wet after the cooking time, but they will dry up once it cools down.  The cooling process will make then crunchy.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lemon Polenta Pistachio Buttons


There is nothing therapeutic than baking for me.  My daughter is lately showing interest in baking.  She baked her own chocolate soufflé last week.  It’s a joy to watch your kids follow your footsteps.  My Mom used to bake varieties of cookies and cakes when we were little.  The crunchy coconut cookies she used to bake were my favorite among all.  Good traits are meant to be inherited and I feel proud of it.  So now when my daughter goes to the library with me she finds time to stop at the cooking books aisle and recommends some baking books for me to try.  She bookmarks the recipes she would like me to try.



Lemon Polenta Pistachio Button is a gorgeous yellow button shaped cookie with the crunch from the pistachios and flavor from the lemon zest.  These yellow cookies are soft inside and crunchy at the outside.  They are delicious melt in mouth kind of cookies apt for tea time snack.



Recipe source - Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang 
Ingredients:
1/2 cup - unsalted butter softened
1/4 cup - granulated sugar
1 - egg
1 tbsp - grated lemon zest
2 tsp - pure vanilla extract
1 cup - all purpose flour
1/4 cup - fine corn meal/Polenta
1 tsp - baking powder
1/2 tsp - salt

Dipping mix to roll
2 tbsp - granulated sugar
1/4 cup - finely chopped roasted salted pistachios
1 tbsp - grated lemon zest

Directions:

  • Cream the softened butter, egg and sugar together in a mixing bowl using stand mixer or hand mixture.  Add vanilla extract and lemon zest and mix well.
  • Sift together flour and baking powder.  Combine the flour, baking powder, corn meal and salt to form a sticky dough.
  • Cover the dough in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Preheat over to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine the ingredients of the dipping mix in a bowl.
  • Roll the refrigerated dough into small balls and roll into the dipping mix.
  • Place the cookie dough balls on the parchment paper and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  These cookies will expand as they are baked, so make sure to keep them apart before baking.
  • Cool them on wire rack and store them in air tight container.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Indian Style Tomato Rice


Summer vacation and sunny days are swept away so quickly by the moody and cloudy cold days.  Days are getting shorter and the sun seems to find comfort behind the thick black clouds. The inconsistent rain makes it difficult to be outside to enjoy the slight fresh cold breeze.  Stores and many houses in my neighborhood are getting ready for fall/Autumn.

Scarecrows, hay rolls, different shapes, colors and sizes of gourds and pumpkins are overflowing in the nearby farmer's market.  It seems like everyone other than me are prepping for the cold weather.  I am still wishing for a tiny bit more of sunlight and warmth.


During the summer vacation, my parents stayed with us for couple of months which made my life so easier and spoiled me a bit.  The daily cooked fresh food and the almost no kitchen time were the perks of their pampering.  I was totally lost where to start when they left.  Now you can imagine how bad I was spoiled.  We enjoyed our time together and they were so happy to be around their grand kids and take care of them.  Blogging never got a chance since I was rarely using kitchen other than making Chai/tea during those days.  Then the usual work and school took its turn and got very busy with all the stuff that took precedence over blogging.



When resuming blogging after couple of months of break I want to start with a simple rice recipe.  It’s over a month now my friends asked me for this recipe and I finally got the chance to take some pictures and post the recipe.  Tomato rice is one of my favorite rice recipes that I yearn for any time.  I had mentioned in one of my previous posts that during college days our friends used to pack us this delicious rice for lunch from home which was a great relief for some of us who stayed in hostel.  So you can imagine my predilection towards tomato rice.
Ingredients
2 cups - basmathi rice
1 cup - tomato puree
2 1/2 cups - water
1 tsp - butter/oil
1/4 tsp - cumin seeds/jeera
salt to taste

To season the rice
1/3 tsp - black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp - urad daal/lentil splits
1/2 tsp - chana daal/chickpea splits
2 - green chili slits
1/2 tsp - red chili powder
1/2 cup - chopped onion
1/2 tsp - chopped ginger
1 cup - chopped tomato
2 - sprigs curry leaves
1/4 tsp - asafoetida powder
2 tsp - oil
salt to taste

Directions:
  • Soak the basmathi rice in warm water for 20 minutes.  Make sure to set a timer.  
  • While rice is getting soaked, take 2 medium size tomatoes and puree it in the blender.
  • Prepare the seasoning in the meantime.  Heat a pan with 2 tsp of oil and add mustard seeds.  Wait till it splutters to add urad daal and chana daal.  Lower the flame and cook till they get a golden brown color.  Now add the chopped onions, ginger, green chili, salt and saute till onions are translucent.  Add the chili powder and asafoetida powder.  Cook till raw smell goes away.  Add the chopped tomatoes and cover and cook till the water is completely evaporated and you get a thick paste consistency mix.  Add the curry leaves and turn off the flame.
  • Drain the rice after 20 minutes in a colander.  Heat a non stick deep pan. Add the butter/oil and splutter the cumin seeds in it on a low flame.  Now add the soaked rice to the pan and saute for 2 minutes on low flame.  Add the tomato puree and cook on low flame for 1 minutes.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water and adjust the salt.  Let the water start to boil.  Close the pan with a tight lid and lower the flame and cook till all the water is evaporated.  It takes between 10 - 15 minutes.  Let the rice sit in the pan for 15 minutes.
  • After the rice has slightly cool down, mix the seasoning into the rice using a wooden spatula without breaking the grains.  Enjoy the warm tomato rice with your favorite curry.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Blueberry IceCream




Changes are inevitable in human life.  But nobody likes drastic changes in their life.  So imagine moving away from the place you called as 'home' for decades.  I had experienced it when I came to US leaving my home behind and all the relatives back there.  But in my heart the elation of meeting my husband and my parents over powered my sadness of leaving my home and adjusting to new environment.  It’s the phase of the life where we have to move to different locations and leave all you love behind.  My parents are retired and they are going through that phase.  On the other hand my kids are happy that they don't have to go to summer camp because grandparents are home to watch them.  One of our church family friends is also moving to another state after spending so many years of their lives here.  We all were shocked when the news was broken to us in the church. It was hard to digest for many of us.  We saw their kids growing along with our kids and sure they will be missed a lot in our closely knit small community.  It’s hard to replace those people who make a great impact in a small community when they are around.  We experienced that when we went to pick up my parents from NY when their friends were bidding farewell to them at church.  Life is full of unpredictable and surprises and we all go through it at some point of our life.  I read somewhere that 'Take the unexpected as expected in your life and you get the strength to hurdle it with great ease'.






Since summer is here and the berries are in season, I was impatiently waiting all these time to start using my ice cream maker.  This time my daughter asked me to make ice cream with blueberries and I was so happy that she gave me the idea for my next post...lol.  This creamy and smooth ice cream is not over sweet and has the lemony flavor that compliments the fruity blueberries in it.  My little one was so excited to grab the sugar cone I was using for the photo shoot.  He was eagerly waiting for me to finish the shooting and tell him to grab the cone.  He even volunteered for hand modeling in the picture which was a surprise.  It was an instant hit in my family.

Give this easy peasy recipe a try and cool yourself with a fruity dessert in this hot weather.

Ingredients:
2 cups - fresh/frozen blueberries
2/3 cup - sugar
1/2 tsp - lemon zest from one big lemon
1/2 lemon - juice from half a lemon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup - heavy cream
1 1/2 cup - sour cream

Directions:

  • In a sauce pan bring the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt to boil on medium heat till the blueberries starts to pop.  Turn off the flame and let it cool for 10 minutes.
  • Blend the blueberry mix in the blender till smooth puree.
  • Add the sour cream and heavy cream and blend well.
  • Cool the mix in the refrigerator for 2-3 hrs.
  • Churn the blueberry ice cream mix in the ice cream maker per the manufacturer's directions and enjoy!


Notes:

  • If no ice cream maker is available.  Whip the mix in the stand mixer or hand mixer till soft peaks are formed and freeze for 3 - 4 hrs.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Workout Chewy Granola Bars



On the day of the 5K run, we decided to keep practicing on Saturdays so that we keep the healthy habit as part of our routine.  Due to some previous engagements we were not available for the practice, but we still are holding on to our motto of fitness and hoping to resume our practice.  I remember my first few run practices couple of years ago.  I was totally beaten after the runs.  A refreshing cold healthy smoothie like Avocado Apple Smoothie or a cup of cottage cheese with fresh fruits was the energy resources to compensate.  I always wished to have a homemade energy bar to enjoy after the workout instead of the excessively sweetened store bought bars.  Most of my experiments ended up with crumbled granola clusters with no success of a well shaped bar.  As always Necessity is the mother of invention.  This time I was trying to make use of the overripe banana in a different way than my usual banana loaf.  My trial for a healthy granola bar finally showed the signs of success.


Here are some backyard pictures I clicked when the sun was shining so bright.  A baby deer/fawn was found in my backyard.  It was waiting in the sun till the evening for the mom to come.  I even tried to give some water and it got scared and ran away.  After few minutes it came back to the same spot where its Mom left him/her.  


The fawn waiting under the sun.





The crunchy bites from quinoa & nuts and the mild sweetness from banana and honey compliment the tanginess of the cranberries in this bar.  If you are looking for a mildly sweet healthy chew-able granola bar, then this is the recipe to follow.  You can be as creative as your heart desires.  Any kind of nut butter, nuts and dried fruits can be substituted in this recipe.  It’s a versatile basic recipe for a chewy granola bar.  Hope you will try this healthy granola bars.

Ingredients:
1 cup - rolled oats
1/2 cup - quinoa
1/2 tsp - cinnamon
1/4 tsp - salt
1 cup - overripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup - creamy almond butter
2 tsp - honey
1/2 tsp - pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup - slivered or chopped almonds
1/4 cup - chopped pecans/walnuts
1/3 cup - dried cranberries


Instructions:


  • Rinse the quinoa 2 - 3 times in a fine sieve if it is not pre-washed.  Spread it over a clean paper towel to dry for 15 minutes.
  • Take a non-stick pan and dry roast the quinoa on very low flame till its light golden brown. It will start to pop at this point.  Turn off the burner. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Warm the almond butter and honey in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds till the almond butter is slightly loose.
  • Take a mixing bowl and combine mashed banana, almond butter, honey, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract.  Fold in the oats, nuts and cranberries into the mixture.  Mix well and pour into the prepared baking pan and level with a spatula.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes till the edges turns golden brown.  Let it cool for 30 minutes to 1 hr.  Cut into bars of desired size and enjoy.

Notes:

  • This is a basic recipe and you can adjust the sweetness in the granola bar by increasing the amount of honey.
  • You can substitute the nuts and dried cranberries with nuts and dried fruits of your choice.
  • The almond butter used in this recipe can be substituted with peanut butter or cashew butter.
  • These bars can stay fresh for couple of days at room temperature.  If planning to keep longer, store it in a tight container and refrigerate.  They can stay fresh for a week.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Browned Turkey And Spinach Lasagna


It feels like ages since I blogged even though it was only couple of weeks.  Busy schedules and work are taking a toll on blogging these days and I hope I am not disappointing my readers too much.  Recently few of my friends reminded me about my absence in the blog which made me revive this recipe from my draft.  It’s a blessing to be surrounded by people who cares, encourages, motivates and inspire you in many ways. 



Last year I was able to pull few of my family members from their comfort zone and had them participate in the 5k run.  This year none of them were able to participate in the run due to a pre-committed engagement.  But we had another group to compensate.  Few of my friends decided to participate.  You can imagine how fun it is to have a girl’s day out.  Each one of us  thoroughly enjoyed the practice runs, the girl talks and some goof ups and silliness we shared during these days.  It reminded us of college days.  The beautiful scenic view near the lake uplifted the spirit of the run. The scattered rain before the event tempted us to act silly by making our own blue fancy looking trash bag ponchos.  We were little embarrassed to wear it at the beginning, but then we saw lot of people around us in black trash bags..lol,  which soon made us realize that we were part of the herd :).  It was a fun filled morning.  The great achievement was that we did better than our practice run on the day of the event.  We hope that we can motivate many more around us!


Today's recipe is a delicious Lasagna with browned turkey and spinach.  The perfectly seasoned browned turkey is something that tempts me to snack on it while preparing the rest of the ingredients for Lasagna.  Trust me, you will end up gobbling a handful of browned turkey before layering into the Lasagna.  Its that good.  So please try this recipe and let me know how it turns out for you.




Ingredients:
2 lbs - ground turkey
2 big cloves - garlic minced
1 tsp. - olive oil
1/2 tsp - ground black pepper
salt to taste

Sauce
2 cups - thick tomato sauce
1 tsp - Italian seasoning
1 clove - garlic crushed
1 tsp - olive oil

Filling
1 - egg
16 oz - Ricotta cheese
1 cup - tightly packed fresh baby spinach chopped
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - black pepper powder

12 - Lasagna noodles 
1 cup - shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup - shredded Parmesan cheese


Garnish
1 tbsp - chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions:

  • Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a cast iron or non-stick pan and roast the minced garlic till golden brown.  Add the ground turkey, salt and pepper and cook till it is browned.  Keep the cooked turkey aside.
  • While turkey is cooking, you can make the filling by mixing egg, ricotta cheese, chopped spinach, salt and pepper.
  • Take a sauce pan and roast the crushed garlic in 1 tsp of olive oil.  Add the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning.  Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the cooked meat to it and turn off the flame.
  • Cook the Lasagna noodles according to the package direction and drain.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375°F and grease a baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Spread 1/2 cup of sauce and meat mix in the baking dish.  Arrange 4 noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the ricotta spinach filling on the noodles.  Top with 3/4 cup of Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese mix.  Spread 1/2 cup of sauce and meat mix.  Top it again with 4 noodles.  Repeat the layering and finally top the last set of noodles with meat sauce and rest of the cheese mix.  Cover with an aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or till the cheese melts completely and the top gets golden brown.
  • Let the Lasagna cool for 15 minutes.  Garnish with chopped basil before serving.  
Notes:
  • You can set the Lasagna a day before and refrigerate it till ready to bake.
  • Use a thick tomato sauce to get a nice textured lasagna, otherwise the sauce will be too watery and the Lasagna will not set properly.
  • You can use any meat of your choice in the Lasagna.  Lightly browned meat  with proper seasoning adds more flavor to the Lasagna.  Cast iron pan works better for browning the meat.  Make sure to cook on low heat without burning.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Broccoli Stir Fry - Broccoli Mezhukkupuratti


A simple vegetable stir fry with the side of fish curry and rice was a common affair in my house during lunch.  Most of the time this vegetable comes from my Mom's kitchen garden or sometimes from my grandparents' house.  The freshly picked vegetable made all the difference in a simple stir fry.  I remember the ivy gourd plant that climbed the curry leaf tree in my grandparents' house.  The huge curry leaf tree and the ivy gourd plant jelled together as if they were grafted together.  It was a one stop spot for our neighbors and for us to get ivy gourd and curry leaves.  Ivy gourd stir fry was so common in our lunch box those days and I always had a special liking for it.  Later that curry leaf tree was chopped when the house was renovated :(.




Following the tradition, I always find it easy to include a vegetable with a Keralite meal in the form of stir fry/mezhukkupuratti.  There are some vegetable my kids love, no matter how you cook it.  One among them in Broccoli.  So transforming the super healthy Broccoli to an Indian style stir fry is a simple trick I follow to make my job easier and make the kids happy.  This is my Mom's recipe and the only alteration I made to the recipe is the addition of some curry leaves to give more Keralite flavor.  You can skip the curry leaf if you cannot find it.  But this is a simple, healthy and delicious stir fry that any novice cook can try.




Here are some health benefits of Broccoli:

  • Broccoli is rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients, antioxidant nutrients, detox-support nutrients and anti-cancer nutrients.
  • The high fiber content in Broccoli provides excellent digestive support to the body.
  • The anti-inflammatory properties of Sulforaphane found in Broccoli provides Cardiovascular support and lowers cholesterol.
  • They also provide eye and skin health.
  • The Vitamin K and Vitamin A rich vegetable aids the metabolism of Vitamin D.



Ingredients
3 cups - Broccoli Florets
1/2 - red onion thinly sliced
4 - green chili slits
1/4 tsp - black mustard seeds
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
1 clove - garlic thinly sliced
2 tsp - oil
salt to taste

Directions:
  • Wash the broccoli florets; strain and separate into small florets.
  • Heat a cast iron or non-stick pan.  Splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 2 tsp of oil.  Add the garlic and onions and saute for 30 seconds.  Then add the broccoli and green chili.  Sprinkle salt and mix well.  Cover with a lid and turn the heat to medium.  Cook for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and mix.  Cover and cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove the lid; add the curry leaves and mix well and cook for 1 more minute.  Turn off the flame.
  • Enjoy the broccoli stir fry with plain steamed rice or Indian flat bread like Roti or Chapathi.
Notes:
  • Over cooking the broccoli will lose its color and nutrition. So make sure you don't cook it over 5-6 minutes.
  • Using a cast iron pan provides uniform heat and helps the broccoli to cook faster.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ptichye Moloko (Bird's Milk) - A Russian Jello


Ptichye Moloko or bird's milk is a popular Russian candy and a famous soufflé cake.  "Bird's milk" is an idiom of ancient Greek origin meaning "an unobtainable delicacy".  It appeared in a folk tale that the beautiful princess tests her suitor by sending him out in the wilderness to find and bring back the one luxury item she does not have: bird's milk.  The place of origin of this candy is Poland and it is called Ptasie mleczko.

In Russia, Ptichye Moloko was originally a type of meringue candy covered with chocolate introduced in 1967 in Vladivostok and in 1968 by the Rot Front factory in Moscow.  It became so popular that a mass production was started later in 1975.  In 1978, this popular candy was then transformed into a light sponge cake filled with an airy soufflé and topped with chocolate glaze.  This melt in mouth dessert was so luscious and its extraordinary texture made it so scrumptious and popular worldwide.


You must be wondering how I got the recipe.  Well this is not the authentic recipe in which the soufflé is steamed.  One of my Russian Colleague brought this dessert to work.  As a foodie I asked for the name of the dessert while getting a piece but the name was hard to remember, but bird's milk was easy to remember.  As soon as I had the first bite, my taste buds screamed the truth that, it’s a delicacy that I had to try my own. It was a piece of sponge that dissipated in my mouth like cotton candy.  I had to get the recipe from my colleague.  He pointed me to this recipe.  I was so excited to tell my kids and hubby about what I had at work.  Later I made this dessert at home for a get together.  I didn't give enough time for the chocolate layer to set properly, so it was bit hard to get the pieces cut properly.  So I left it in the refrigerator for one more day and it came out perfect.  I recommend you try this recipe and judge yourself.  You will not be disappointed.  Please make sure to give at least 12 -24 hours for the layers to set properly.

There are different flavors of the bird's milk jello available now as this recipe is so versatile and can be adjusted per your choice of flavors.  I found it really hard to style this beautiful and delicious dessert.

Ingredients
Cream filling/bottom layer
16 oz - sour cream
16 oz - whipped cream /cool whip
1 cup - sugar
2 (.25oz) packets - unflavored gelatin
1 cup - milk


Chocolate layer/top layer
5 tbsp - unsweetened cocoa powder

5 tbsp - milk
7 tbsp - sugar
1 (.25oz) packet - unflavored gelatin
1 cup - water



Directions:
  • Grease a 11 x 13 inch dish with butter or cooking spray.
  • In a sauce pan, combine milk and 2 packets of gelatin and whisk together.  Cook on medium heat by whisking continuously till the milk starts to steam.  Turn off the flame and let it cool.
  • Meantime whip together the sour cream, sugar and whipped cream in the bowl of a stand mixer or using had mixer to get a smooth silky consistency.  Add the milk gelatin mix into this and whip for 30 seconds.  Pour into the prepared pan and even the top using a offset spatula and refrigerate for at least 4 to 8 hrs.
  • Whisk the water, milk, cocoa powder, gelatin powder and sugar together in a sauce pan to remove any lumps.  Cook on medium heat till the liquid starts to steam and the sugar is completely melted.  Whisk continuously for 5 minutes on medium heat and turn off the flame.  Let the cocoa mix cool for one hour.  It will start to thicken like a glaze.  Pour it evenly over the refrigerated cream layer.  Cover and let it cool in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.
  • Slice them using a cold knife so that the chocolate layer won't spread to the cream layer.  Top them with chocolate curls if desired.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Travel Post - Las Vegas And Los Angeles Vacation




 Luxor Hotel

Las Vegas, the buzzing energy city is an Oasis in the Mojave Desert in the state of Nevada.  The focal point of Vegas is the strip of themed hotels that spreads around 4 miles with 24 hour casinos.  It’s an adult city for sure.  


Interior of Luxor hotel

  Wall painting on the wall of hotel Luxor

Inside Luxor Hotel

 Following are some themed hotels in Las Vegas.






 Gondola inside The Venetian

 Our stay at the pyramid shaped Egyptian themed Luxor hotel was the best.  We are not fond of gambling, so we didn't spend any time in the casino, especially when you have kids with you; kids are not allowed to stand close to any of the machines.  So we enjoyed other things like their beautiful Egyptian themed pools, Criss Angel's BELIEVE and Cirque du Soleil shows.  It was really amazing to watch the breath taking live performances of the artist in the professional theatres.  We took some time to walk through the streets to get the glimpse of the themed hotels and the one that was beyond words to explain was the Venetian.  The Venetian resort complex is the world's second largest hotel and their casino is the largest casino in the world.  Venetian and Italian themed landmarks are the highlights of their architecture.  It’s amazing how the indoor canal and the Rialto Bridge are built to resemble the Grand Canal in Venice.  The ride on the Gondola and the song of the gondolier that resonates through the walls of the canal takes you right into the mesmerizing Grand Canal of Venice.  There are so many top notch restaurants and some fancy stores in there.   There was a astonishing photo gallery of the Peter Lik's  work in the Venetian which was phenomenal.

 Hover Dam




Grand Canyon
We drove to Grand Canyon and Hover Dam.  The sky walk at Grand Canyon is something amazing to do if you are not scared of heights. Unfortunately I am not good with heights, so I skipped that, but rest of my family enjoyed it.  Yes, even my little one did walk on the glass path which was 4000 feet high over the canyon. 

Lake Mead

 The over view of deep blue Lake Mead in the midst of the dessert is a splendid view for a photographer.  You don't feel like leaving the scenic view where the clear blue skies with few white puffy clouds cover the lazy lying deep blue sleeping beauty, the Lake Mead like an umbrella with an array of dark mountains surrounding her like guards.

We drove to Los Angeles which is 4.30 hrs from Vegas.  Los Angeles is a lively city.  The Tropical weather reminded me on India trip.  The big bushes of tea roses and bougainvillea trellis were common in everyone's front yard. 


Santa Monica Whale Watch boat ride

View from Hollywood Studio 


Waterworld show @ Universal Studio - water stunts done by professionals 
(must watch show)

Harry Potter Theme Park @ Universal Studio

Victorian Style House


 LA Music Center Steps

LA Downtown Angels Flight Railway

Santa Monica Pier

Beverley Hills

 The LA city tour to celebrity home streets, Hollywood, Beverly hills, beach front board walk restaurants, small cafe places, Universal studio were really enjoyed by all of us.  The Harry Potter themed park and their ride at Universal Studio was the best of all.  We saw lots of shooting and recording happening at various sites/sets and houses while doing the LA tour.  The one week spring vacation went by so fast that we were not ready to come back home.

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