Thursday, June 24, 2010

Father's Day... belated post and still everything not up!

Yes, this is a very belated post for Father's Day which was a hectic Sunday - with meeting relatives and taking the baby to the mall.

So, we did not get to eat all the yummies prepared till the day after... there was Mango Cheesecake (vanished before it could be picturised), Pita and Hummus, Pav Bhaji (an Indian fast-Food kinda dish), Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Blondies, Chocolate and Walnut Cookies... thought we can keep him happy for a couple of days with the food.

A hectic time so the photography has been a bit slow... but I leave you with two pictues - with a simple hummus I whipped up and some peanut butter and chocolate blondies - recipes and more pics to follow!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Banana Cherry Walnut Loaf with a hint of Chocolate served with a cherry compote - phew!

Well with all the baking going on in my house nowadays and me touching the big 3-0... I am realizing that exercising thrice a week is just not helping me stay in shape - so my next best option is to try and tweak everything to be a bit healthier!

Like Joey would say -
"Banana's - Good "
"Cherries - Good"
"Walnuts - Good"      
"Chocolate - Good"
"What's not to like?"

Well, I haven't been a fan of bananas truthfully and usually stay away from anything bananas - but looking at the plight of the bananas and abundance of cherries in my house, I had to finally take matters in my hand. I toyed with a lot of options thinking individual banana and cherry crumble cakes - but it was too much work and too much butter! Muffins - nah! I wanted to bake something wholesome that could accompany morning tea or coffee or be a perfect snack for the evening and not set me back on the calories - so I thought about baking a loaf  with the bananas and the perfect nut to balance this seemed to be walnuts so I decided to try my hand at baking a Banana and Walnut Loaf .

Now, I found an easy one bowl Banana Bread recipe which was the only way I wanted to go since it was 12:45am by the time I figured out what I wanted to bake - I thought I would tweak it to add the walnuts and that would be easy enough. When I breezed into the kitchen I realized  I had forgotten all about my cherries that were pitted had been marinating all evening in some balsamic vinegar and vanilla sugar. Well I thought I'd throw in some cherries into the recipe for an extra burst of vitamins... so well I was now going to bake myself a Banana Walnut and Cherry Loaf.

I got all the ingredients together and started mixing everything together but the aromas that wafted to me kept hinting to me that something was missing. Well luckily for me the flour had to be added in the end and so to enhance the butty flavor of the bread and to make it really wholesome I used some millet flour (naachni ka aata) in it to. I was almost done when I heard the baby crying - had to go to the bedroom soothe him and come back - the pan was ready and I was ready to pour everything in and poured in some batter and realized I had forgotten the baking soda in the process!!!!! Back in the bowl went my batter and I added the soda at which point I realized - what the hell - since I had already made a mistake - I can take one more chance - a hint of cocoa powder in this would make this near perfect for me coz I can eat anything chocolate and the batter was already looking kinda brown to me - so I quickly added this and into the oven went the loaf finally... so what came out was a Banana Cherry Walnut Loaf with a hint of Chocolate and even the hub seemed to get up at night and asked me why our room was smelling of chocolate and vanilla and all things nice (coz I had forgotten to switch on the exhaust in the kitchen and the aromas had wafted into our room :))!

So here are my ingredients:

2 large ripe bananas, smashed

      1/4 cup freshly pitted cherries tossed in vanilla sugar and balsamic vinegar       
      1/4 cup walnuts  
      1/3 cup melted butter
·     3/4 dark brown sugar
·     1 egg lightly beaten beaten
·     1 teaspoon baking soda
·     a pinch of salt
      1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nachni ka atta or millet flour - this really provides a nutty and roasted chocolate flavor to this loaf - I was more confident about using it as it added a beautiful full bodied flavor to my Biscotti
2 teaspoons unsweetened chocolate powder


Preheat the oven to 170C. Mash the Bananas and add the butter and mix well. Mix the sugar until well incorporated. Add the egg. Now add the flours+chocolate a little at the time. The mistake I made was to add the baking soda last but please add it and the pinch of salt before the flour. When the batter is completely mixed - just toss the cherries and walnuts in and mix lightly. Pour into a greased loaf pan and pop into the oven for an hour. After 30 minutes when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer - I reduced the temp. to 165C and went to sleep. I woke about 30 minutes after the oven had tinged and moved the loaf to a wire rack - and it was looking gorgeous!

Pictures have arrived!

I forgot to tell you all about the Cherry Compote - compote is usually defined as anything cooked in sugar so mine wouldn't be a conventional compote - like I said  I am on some kind of self-imposed DIET! Well, so I took about 1/2 cup of my marinated cherries (they just had drizzle of balsamic vinegar and vanilla sugar on them) and covered them in a microwave safe dish and heated them in the micro for a couple of minutes till they were a little slushy and syrupy!

You can sieve a bit of castor sugar on your cake before serving or drizzle with cherry compote or also make a tangy lemon syrup to drizzle over it! All these are great to make this look fancy but for now I am going to keep it simple since I am trying to watch my sugar! Please wrap in cling wrap and keep to retain its moistness.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Growing Up - take a chance on me...

Yes, part of it does remind you of  the ABBA song! But my post is all about me growing up and maturing as a food blogger and being ready to take a chance on preparing and baking different kind of foods. Earlier I wanted to stay within my comfort zone and was terrified of trying out a new recipe but I actually stumped myself today.

I baked some Biscotti that I wasn't sure would come out too well ( so it is with cheesecake baked in water baths, puff pastry from scratch, galletes and numerous other things which you are going to see posted on my blog from now on..) but I had to go ahead and give it a try. And I changed the recipe all together. This was for two reasons - firstly, I wanted it to be something that my toddler would enjoy and secondly, I wanted to make it a bit healthy. Anyways, Biscotti are supposed to be a nice hard double baked biscuits but I didn't overbake mine so that the son can enjoy them! Though these biscuits are not overloaded with butter and sugar I still tried to make a healthy variant of the original recipe since I was out of all purpose flour.

So here is the original recipe - adapted from a scrap of paper which is part of my recipe collection - I wish I could remember which website I got it off - with my substitutions mentioned on the right.

31/2 cup flour - I used half all purpose flour and half cup millet flour (nachni aata - this has a very earthen chocolaty taste to once roasted)
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
11/2 cup sugar (I used a mix of brown and regular)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips or nuts ( I omitted this as it was a trial recipe)
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence

I cream the butter and sugar together with my electric mixer. Then added the eggs and vanilla essence. I mixed all the dry ingredients and changed the attachments for my mixer to the dough mixer. I mixed the flour a little at the time and then oiled my hands and used a floured surface to knead the dough since it was very sticky.

I divided the dough into two and made two loaves which were slightly raised in the middle and left at least 4-5 inches of space between the two since they expand quite a bit.

I bake these loaves for 25 minutes at 165C. The only problem I faced was that my dough after 25 minutes was a little crumbly on the top and even tough I used a serrated knife to cut it - a couple of pieces broke into two.

One cut into individual cookies, I baked them for 10 minutes on each side at 150C. The aroma that wafted through my kitchen had my son singing "mama chok-it (coz he cant say chocolate)". And they were worth the effort and time.

I will definitely substitute in the nuts next time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grilled Chicken Sandwich & Chocolate Custard Pudding with a chocolate cake base topped with Whipped Cream - a perfect "ME" Lunch...

This one is for all the women out there who haven't had a "me" moment in a while... I look back at my life sometimes and see it seems to be always revolving around my family! I hardly cook myself mushrooms or paneer / cottage cheese b'coz I know there are no takers in the house. My husband and son will eat anything chicken and a few veggies here and there! So my meals are usually dictated by what everyone would like to eat. 

If any of the mother's out there have taken a moment to step back and look at their life they will notice their routine meanders around the child going to sleep and trying to fit in all household chores at that time, especially if you are a stay at home mom or doing their groceries while dropping their child to his / her various classes... have you ever gone for a pedicure and not wondered if your child has eaten or has your house-help finished all the chores??? 

Well, so last night I decided that I am going to have a "ME" day once a week and do something that only pleases me without thinking about anyone else and without feeling guilty about it later!

I know I am totally off the recipe bit but I am coming to it now... so well today, I went to the gym without worrying if the baby will miss me and that was a start! And I decided I won't eat his leftovers however hungry I am... since the baby fell asleep early - I made an easy grilled chicken sandwich for myself than I really enjoy eating and haven't eaten in ages. 

I had some leftover chicken from some soup I had made a couple of days back and shredded it to the bone. I had some hung curd from some mousse I had made yesterday and I wanted to eat something light and yummy - and this is what I came up with!

1 cup shredded chicken
1/2 onion and 1/2 tomato finely chopped
5-6 jalapeños finely chopped
5-6 olives finely chopped
oregano, salt and pepper for seasoning.

Method: I sauté the onions and tomatoes in a bit of olive oil and then leave them to cool. I beat the hung curd with a fork and add the cooled onions and tomato mixture, jalapeños and olives to it. I seasoned it with oregano, salt and pepper. I sometimes add grated carrots to it also but I was out of it. I then added as much dressing I wanted to my shredded chicken and mixed it lightly.

I added the chicken mixture to my brown bread and grilled it in the toast maker using a bit of margarine. The result was a very nice light dressing for a yummy sandwich! 

By now, I was also craving something sweet and chocolaty and comforting. My husband is more of an ice-cream person and my son is more of a cake person. Well... since, today was my "ME" day I thought I will make myself this chocolate custard pudding that I have been thinking about for a while and whoever wants to eat it more than welcome. Yes, this is a slightly sinful pudding and has the texture of a mousse but since it has custard powder and milk and whipped cream I would like to think of it as a luscious pudding that slowly dissolves in your mouth.... 

Well there are the ingredients:

500grams Milk
40grams Pillsbury Custard Powder
1 tbsp Cocoa Powder (I used weikfield)
¾ cup cooking chocolate
2tbsp Sugar
½ cup low fat cream
1 box cake mix – chocolate
1 tablespoon vanilla essence

Bake the cake as per directions on the box. Cool on wire rack for about 20 minutes. 

Mix custard powder with half cup of milk and keep aside. Boil the remaining milk with chocolate, cocoa powder and sugar. When it comes to a boil add custard powder and stir continuously and stop it from forming lumps (like you are making a chocolate custard). Remove from heat and let it cool at room temperature. When the mixture is cool, add vanilla essence and whipped cream to this. Now keep the mixture in the freezer till semi-set in the bowl you have mixed it. remove it when it seems semi-set and whisk it a bit with a wire whisk so it kinda smoothens. Now you can assemble this in a big square glass dish or in individual glasses like I did coz I just thought it looked prettier - though you cannot differentiate the layers coz of the chocolate on chocolate! 

I took some liquor glasses and spooned some of the cake into the bottom. Then poured the whisked pudding into them. I topped it off with swirls of whipped cream. and sprinkles to make it a bit girly but you can dress it up more elegantly with a wafer roll or just whipped cream or have it as is!

So this was my extravagant lunch today... what the heck, there is always yoga and healthy salad for tomorrow!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Muffins and Mousse!!!!

I have been busy in the kitchen the last few days.... and you are soon going to see some posts for Dal Makhani and Simple Punjabi Chhole but in the meanwhile since all the chocolate chip muffins were polished off by friends and family I had to come up with a another snack for myself to nosh on.

I found some blackcurrant crush that I knew was going to expire soon and it has been on my mind to use it well. I had hung some yogurt to use it and make a fresh yogurt mousse with but with that done I had about 6-7 tablespoons to go and didn't know what to do with it! And then I had it! Like I mentioned in my earlier post I had the muffin recipe to perfect and experiment with since I had just started exploring this genre so what better than to use it to make blackcurrant muffins!!!!! They haven't risen as much as I would have liked them to but I think I have to work on my oven settings for that!

So here are the recipes - I wanted to keep it as simple as possible as my son has been needing my attention recently and not letting me spend the amount of time I would require to whip up some intricate goodies! These recipes are soo easy that I am not breaking it down into ingredient and method and just putting it down all together.

Blackcurrant Mousse:

I used 400 grams yogurt and hung it in a muslin cloth for an hour. To that I added 200 grams low fat cream and about 3 tablespoons of gelatin dissolved in a bit of warm water. To this I added about 1/2 cup of blackcurrant crush and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. I whisked it all together except the gelatin which I added slowly in the end. I made individual portions of this to make it look pretty! And before I poured this into the cups I layered them with digestive biscuits mixed with a bit of butter. Set in the fridge for about 30 mins and they were yum and sooo done to be devoured! They have a ohh soo fresh and smooth flavor - the perfect cold dessert for these warm summer nights !

Blackcurrant Muffins:

I took the recipe for chocolate chip muffins and omitted the chocolate chips from it. Here it is:

I then made the batter and poured it in the muffin liners in a muffin tin and added a tablespoon and a half of blackcurrant crush into each muffin liner which were holding the batter. I swirled some and left some as is to see what the result was and they came out perfect! Moist and not too sweet. Melting in the mouth - perfect as an accompaniment for a cup of hot chai, cold coffee or after food dessert! Now the only variation I want to try is to make it with some whole wheat flour to make it healthier!!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Easiest Hors d'œuvre - Savory Potato and Cheese Bread Baskets

These are the easiest Hors d'oeuvres ever. They are simple and elegant - put together in a snap (less than 15 minutes) and can be made in advanced and baked just before serving! People will be wondering what they are and asking you the recipe - trust me on that. To top this they are made with brown bread and mashed potatoes - comfort food and health all thrown together in one dish. You can make this with white bread but the brown bread gives it a nice color. Also, you can reduce the butter and make it all in olive oil if you want it to be very very healthy! (The brown bread katori's are inspired from Nita Mehta's cookbook but filling and ideas are all original) You can definitely experiment with the filling.

Do tell me how they turned out but I know they are soo easy that my friend's kids were able to put them together in a jiffy!

Here is the recipe:

6 pieces of brown bread - cut in the shape of a round or katori
2 potatoes boiled and mashed
oregano and butter for seasoning
2-3 tbsp grated cheese - cheddar preferably
Hot sauce of your liking
Sprigs of coriander to decorate

Roll the round shape bread with a rolling pin or belan till very thin. Brush with a little olive oil and put inside a muffin tray and bake for 10 minutes at 190C. Meanwhile take the mashed potatoes and put it in a pan with the butter and oregano and saute till slightly browned. You can add chilli flakes, jalapenos, peppers or any other seasoning to this to make it suit your taste buds. When the bread baskets are ready - spoon the potato mixture into this. Top with grated cheese and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from tray. Top with hot sauce and sprigs of coriander (to get a great contrast of colors and to draw a little bit more of oohs and aahs when you serve it. The coriander in my house was over so I just did my photo shoot without it). Serve hot while the cheese looks like it's still melting and these will melt in your mouth.

Simply Chocolate Chip Muffins!

The newest recipe book that I have added to my collection is Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess - and that has inspired me and shown me how cakes, muffins, cupcakes can be easy to whip up and not a nightmare! The way her book conveys the message to you, it is as if she is right there telling you, "Go on! You can do it! No biggie!" So this afternoon when I was craving something chocolate I thought about baking myself a batch of muffins to have with my cold coffee... 

Well, so here is my first go at muffins. I am using ingredeints I had on hand and making them was as easy as 1-2-3... so I am going to have to try variations before I can conclude that I have mastered muffin making but my first attempt definitely seemed like a success. Within 30 minutes I had a batch of freshly baked muffins on the wire rack cooling and a delicious aroma wafting from my kitchen... and I still managed to catch a nap with my sleeping baby! So all in all it turned out to be a productive day :)!

This post is dedicated to all the mothers who have young toddlers and still seem to find their life a little topsy - turvy. Trust me it will come back all together bit by bit... here's a start for a little treat for your little munchkin with that cheeky grin who has you wrapped around your finger. You can try using whole wheat flour to give it a healthier twist - it makes a perfect evening snack to take to the park with your toddler! No more guilt about giving them only packaged snacks.... you can make mini muffins which are perfect for babies under 1.5 and regular sized ones for the older ones. Better still make an activity out of it coz they are going to be really happy helping put this together! Also, I find cooking therapeutic so making dinner and dessert is very relaxing... and putting together a homemade dinner and dessert after taking care of the baby the whole day makes you feel like giving yourself a pat on your back and sinking your teeth into the soft muffin is your reward for that.

So here goes the recipe:

I read a few recipes before I put mine together - mine makes 6 regular sized muffins.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup milk chocolate
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup demerera sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of baking soda

A useful tip Nigella Lawson gives in her book is to mix all the dry ingredients and leave on the counter the night before. Mix all the wet ingredients in the fridge the night before. Then in the morning - just melt the butter - mix the dry and wet ingredeients and you have a yummy breakfast in under 30 minutes :)!

So the batter is as easy as mixing the wet ingredients together and the dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix slowly till all mixed together with a wooden spoon. Do not over mix as this will cause the muffins to be hard.

Scoop the mixture equally into 6 cupcake / muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes at 190 degrees. And your mouth watering dessert / breakfast / snack is ready to be dvoured hot or cold!