Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks - With Pumpkin Muffins !


Wishing all readers a very Happy Thanksgiving !!


Festivals are a way of life in India..Seems like there is one every month, if not more frequently ! That was why it was so interesting to come to a different country and observe and understand the traditions and rituals observed here, in the United States ..
One of the big holidays is undoubtedly Thanksgiving...nearly all families have some or the other plans for this holiday...the Thanksgiving meal that people look forward to, getting together with family members, exchanging news and catching up....sentiments that are shared by millions of people around the world, irrespective of whether they celebrate Thanksgiving or not...
At the core of this celebration is another sentiment..acknowledging the good things in your life and being grateful for it...In a world where pressures and stresses are rampant, it is very easy to overlook what you already have..easy to focus on the negative aspects and completely forget the positive things..easy to ignore that one might be among the luckiest people on earth and indulge in self-pity...
Wanting to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, I decided to bake muffins, made with pumpkins, of course :).. As I measured and mixed and poured ...I thought about all the wonderful things in life that I am grateful for and decided that I should have a list ...a list which would remind me that I am indeed one of the luckiest people on this planet...a list which would pull me from the murky depths of self - pity if I ever chose to indulge in it ...a list which I could always add to and which I could glance at everyday and be thankful...
So here goes...I am thankful for:

* A healthy mind in a healthy body - for never having spent a day sick in bed...I think we take our health for granted sometimes...I cannot imagine the kind of difficulties that deter the physically and mentally challenged everyday...everyday activities that come as second nature to some ...
* For the opportunity to have received a good education..I can read and write and relate to events going on in the world ...am able to communicate with anybody that I choose.
* For a good marriage..a partner in life who accepts me, with all my quirks and irritating habits...who understands me and lets me be who I am...It is so dismaying to find that people are in abusive relationships at all levels..physical and emotional abuse..not restricted to people from the working class alone...that kind of mentality has no class discrimination..
* For amazing parents who wanted so much more for their children than they ever had..for their all-encompassing love and trust...for knowing that however old I become...I will still be their child..
* For loving relatives...with all their eccentricities and oddities...they are still family and will always provide me with roots wherever I am.
* For a healthy child...for getting the opportunity to be a mother...to be something that nature has intended for me...to experience the pain and pleasure of being totally responsible for another person....I cannot even imagine the agony suffered by parents whose children are sick or the disappointment endured by people trying to have children and cant..
* For a large number of friends who have become an extended family...who make me laugh and make use of my shoulder to cry upon and lend their shoulder when I need it..who rejoice in my happiness and empathize in my sorrow...
* For having met a lot of people who were kind and helpful to me at various stages in my life...they have motivated me and put me under an obligation to pass that along...
* For being able to live my life in my way..there are so many countries in this world...why go that far...there are so many villages in India still...where girls do not get the chance to get a decent education...let alone have a career outside the home..
* For having a roof over my head and for having more than 3 square meals a day..You just have to turn to the news channels to see the suffering that is the bane of some peoples' lives in almost every country in the world..With no access to shelters and limited or no access to food...no way of knowing when your children will sleep on a full stomach again...it has to be heart wrenching...
* For being able to live in a place where I can have and voice my opinions without being discriminated against...for not having to face brutality of any kind ...
* For all of life's lessons, bitter and sweet...for they have made me who I am..

No doubt, I am going to keep adding to this list ...but just looking at this list has cleared away all the clouds of doubt and has me anticipating the coming day with an eagerness..
Would you like to share what you are thankful for?

*************************************************************************************
We did not celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday as a ritual at our place, but I couldn't resist trying my hand at a recipe containing a very traditional Thanksgiving ingredient : Pumpkin..
I browsed several sites in search for a recipe that sounded delicious...and hit upon one here.
I tweaked the recipe a little ..I am not a vegan..I do not use eggs however and I find it very easy to adapt vegan recipes.

Pumpkin Muffins

Source: postpunkkitchen.com
Servings: 12 muffins





Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pureed pumpkin (fresh or from a can)
1 tablespoon
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped walnuts


Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with shortening or oil spray. I used the muffin liners available in the grocery stores...I sprayed the liners with a little cooking spray before inserting them into the tray...makes it a little bit easier to extract the muffins later :)
2. Sift together all the dry ingredients..the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and the spices.
3. Whisk the wet ingredients in another bowl.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
5. Combine until just mixed. Over mixing the batter will develop the gluten in the flour and will make the muffins tough, so be a little careful at this stage !
6. I also folded in some chopped walnuts.
7. Fill in the muffin cups, leaving a little space on the top.
8. At this stage, the muffins are ready to be baked for about 25 - 28 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
9. Not content with this, I tried another add-on, a crumb topping. I mixed two tbsp of flour with 1 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp brown sugar and 2 tbsp shredded coconut. I sprinkled this mixture over the muffins before baking them off for the required time !

Result:

The muffins turned out really moist and the spices improved the taste tremendously. The muffins just got better the next day , but unfortunately, the husband didn't take to them so much because he didn't like the taste of the pumpkins..but that only meant that little P and I had that many more muffins to share and enjoy !
If you have no objections to the taste of pumpkins, you ought to try these out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Elixir of Life !

**** Picture courtesy of Free Nature Pictures****

Almost everyone on this earth knows that drinking water is essential to us human beings and that it is recommended that we have a daily intake of about 8 cups of water...But how many of us actually do take in that much water everyday ?
I started pondering on this fact because one day I actually measured the amount of water that I was drinking throughout the day...I had always thought that I was a good water drinker .. ummm...good at drinking water i.e. (and sometimes at making up words ..hee hee ) but what it actually came down to was that I was always sipping ...I never ever went over 5 cups of water...and try as I might, drinking 8 cups didn't come naturally at all..
But I have decided to put a little effort into it and make sure that I get plenty of water in me...Why, you ask ?? Well...read on !
Here are some known and maybe some unknown facts about the elixir of life (yes...I am talking about water...though some opinions on what qualifies as the elixir of life may differ :D:D:D )

* Roughly 70 percent of an adult’s body is made up of water.
* Drinking too much water too quickly can lead to water intoxication. Water intoxication occurs when water dilutes the sodium level in the bloodstream and causes an imbalance of water in the brain.
* While the daily recommended amount of water is eight cups per day, not all of this water must be consumed in the liquid form. Nearly every food or drink item provides some water to the body.
* Somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water.
* By the time a person feels thirsty, his or her body has lost over 1 percent of its total water amount.
* All the water that ever will be is, right now ! ( and that is why we have to make sure that we respect this god given gift and make proper and careful use of it...you are thinking that I am going to have a big boring lecture on water preservation and conservation up my sleeve...you would be right....except ..thats for another post !! )

There must be about a hundred or more different reasons on why we should drink water..but here are a few that compel me to drink up !

# A person can live for about a month without food, but only about a week without water.
# Water helps to maintain healthy body weight by increasing metabolism and regulating appetite.
# Water leads to increased energy levels. The most common cause of daytime fatigue is actually mild dehydration.
# Drinking adequate amounts of water can decrease the risk of certain types of cancers, including colon cancer, bladder cancer, and breast cancer.
# For a majority of sufferers, drinking water can significantly reduce joint and/or back pain.
# Water leads to overall greater health by flushing out wastes and bacteria that can cause disease.
# Water can prevent and alleviate headaches.
# Water naturally moisturizes skin and ensures proper cellular formation underneath layers of skin to give it a healthy, glowing appearance.
# Water aids in the digestion process and prevents constipation.
# Water is the primary mode of transportation for all nutrients in the body and is essential for proper circulation.

One of the ways that I motivate myself to drink more water is to keep a nice clean glass of sparkling water, right where I can see it ...There is something about a full glass of cool, crisp water that has me reaching for it every time I pass it !
How do you keep yourself hydrated ?? I would definitely love to know !
Well, until then...bottoms up ! ( with a glass of water, i.e. :-))

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fantastic Fruits Series - Bountiful Banana

Bountiful Banana
I always marvel at Nature's repertoire of products...such a vast array of flora and fauna !People spend their entire lives cataloging known species and are always on the quest to find newer ones...For those of us who would still like to witness nature's handiwork without having to travel far and wide , we only have to look into our fruit bowls to get a glimpse of this miracle ! So many fruits...each with a different texture, a different colour, smell and of course a different taste ! Its a plethora of sensory stimuli !
The world is now getting smaller and smaller in more ways than one...All kinds of fruits,both the everyday kind and the exotic ones are available right at your grocery stores and usually at an affordable price too ! Wouldnt it be nice to know a bit about different kinds of fruits, the various uses of the fruits and different types of recipes to go with it ?
I have decided to do just that, experiment with all available fruits and jot it down on my blog, more for my own reference than anything else :)
I will not always go in the alphabetical order ( now where's the fun in that :D , also..since fruit availability doesnt necessarily follow any particular order, I might have to wait for a long time to proceed with my series if I decided to do that ;-)

So to inaugurate this series, I decided to look at the world's favourite fruit - the banana !


Here are some interesting facts about the banana :

  • The banana's origins are traced back to Malaysia. The fruit initially gained popularity in countries like India, China, Madagascar , the Caribbean among other countries, before finally making an appearance in America.
  • The banana plant is not a tree. It is in fact the world's largest herb.
  • A cluster of bananas is called a hand and consists of 10 to 20 bananas, which are known as fingers.
  • Bananas are harvested every single day of the year !
  • Bananas ripen best off the plant.
  • Each banana plant bears only one stem of fruit.
  • Banana plants have been in cultivation since the time of recorded history, thus encouraging horticulturists to believe that this was the first fruit on earth !
  • The word 'banan' is Arabic for finger.
Medicinal Uses :
  • Bananas are high in iron content and can help in treating anemia by increasing hemoglobin production.
  • Bananas are also high in potassium and less salt, thereby making them excellent snacking options for people with high blood pressure.
  • It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronic ulcer cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.
  • The inside of a banana skin can be rubbed over insect bites. It has been known to reduce redness of skin and swelling ! Who knew insect bite creams were available right under your nose ?
  • Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.
  • Last but not the least, bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin. This is a mood enhancer, it makes you relax, improves your mood and makes you happier ! Now who could ask for a better mid morning or afternoon snack ?
I decided to use this super fruit in a moist delicious muffin.
Found the recipe at this site , made a few changes and came up with a keeper !

Banana Crumb Muffin
Serves : 10 fairly big sized muffins


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • a handful of coarsely chopped walnuts
Method:
  • Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder,salt and half of the spice mixture (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
  • In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, yogurt and oil. (I just mashed the bananas with my fingers and then mixed everything else as well as I could with a wooden spoon).
  • Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened.
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  • In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and the remaining spice mixture. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
Verdict
The muffins were amazingly moist without being crumbly.
With a taste of bananas in every bite and the crunch provided by the walnuts, these were a hit at my house :)
If you like bananas, then these are definitely for you!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lauki Kofta
(Bottle Gourd dumplings in Tomato gravy)

Many a times when I returned home from school, I used to see my mother at our doorstep waiting for us to return home, chatting away with our neighbour, who was waiting on her doorstep for her children...Our neighbours had become an extended family for us, since our own immediate family was nowhere in the neighbourhood..we celebrated festivals together, played games with the children, shared our successes at school and generally had a good time.
Its only after coming to the US that I realize how important those relationships were and how much I miss them here...For the past few years that I have been living here, I never had neighbours at my front door, coming in to chat about inconsequential matters, inquiring after me, my work or my kid, sharing food or sharing some new recipe...
But all that changed when we moved into our home..I discovered to my delight that my next door neighbours were a full fledged Indian family, complete with kids and in-laws :D. Their kids come to my house and play with my toddler, the mom-in-law (henceforth known as Aunty-ji) comes in to talk and the lady of the house is also very friendly..It reminds me of what would have been if we were living in India and makes me less homesick...Its just good to have a nice relationship with your neighbours, because you can then be there for each other in times of need! The fact that they keep plying me with home grown fresh squashes is not that bad either ! (Just kidding, am not that selfish ! )
But its true that they have been offloading some extra produce this year, in the form of the bottle gourd (lauki, sorekaayi, haalu kumbalakaayi, doodhi).Initially I used them in subzis and sambhars. I even made a lauki halwa one day.
Then I remembered that Aunty-ji had mentioned that they made koftas with it and had even rattled off the recipe..Well...that was it then...I would try my hand at making koftas...

Recipe for Lauki Kofta











Source:

1. Aunty-ji (Elderly Neighbour)
2. Adapted from this recipe.

What You Need:

For the kofta:
1 medium bottlegourd
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp All Purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp chile powder
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1 cup gram flour (besan)
oil for deep frying

For the gravy:
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup Finely chopped Onion, almost pureed
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tbsp Cumin Powder
1 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tsp chile pepper (add more for increased heat)
1 cup Tomato Puree
1/4 tsp Nutmeg powder
1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1 tsp kasoori methi (Dried Fenugreek leaves)
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

How to proceed:

Kofta:

1. Peel the gourd and grate it.
2. Put the gratings in a paper towel and give it a slight wring to take out excess water, if any.
3. Add the salt, A.P flour, baking soda, chile powder to the grated bottle gourd.
4. Sprinkle in the bread crumbs. Mix well
5. Let stand for 15 minutes.
6. Make balls, roll in dry gram flour.
7. Deep fry the koftas in hot oil over medium heat until golden brown.
8. Drain on paper towels.
(Note: Use a small - medium pan for deep frying and use only the optimum amount of oil. That way you can minimize the use of the oil.)

Gravy:
1. Add the oil to a pan. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute until onion is translucent.Make sure that the garlic doesnt burn.
2. Add the turmeric poweder, cumin and coriander powders and the chile powder. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, taking care that the spices dont burn.
3. Add the tomato puree, nutmeg powder, cinnamon powder, kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves). Bring to a boil.
4. Simmer on medium heat for about 7 - 8 minutes.
5. Add the water and bring to a boil again.
6. Adjust the seasonings according to taste. Add more water if consistency is too thick.

Add the koftas to the gravy and simmer for an additional 2 -3 minutes.
Garnish with fresh chopped coriander and serve with any kind of indian bread.
(rotis, naans or parathas)


Verdict :
The koftas were delicious(if I say so myself ! ). The thickness and the flavour of the gravy complemented the creamy flavour of the koftas. Mind you, these koftas are nothing like the malai or paneer koftas that are served at restaurants. Nonetheless, these taste good when accompanied with bread and can be savoured with rice as well !
Although I loved the outcome, I am not sure I will make these very often. But that is only because I detest deep frying ! The dish itself is quite simple and finger-licking good, if a tad time consuming !
(Aunty-ji was quite gratified that I had made good use of both her produce as well as her recipe ! )

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nupur's All American Carrot Cake

The food blog world has become an invariable part of my culinary adventures. Why, you ask ? well, because no longer do I wring my hands in despair and frustration when I cant think of any ideas for lunch and dinner ! I just have to match up the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator to whatever catches my fancy amongst the scores of wonderful recipes and voila ! Dinner is served !!
(or breakfast, lunch or snacks as the case maybe :D )
The added advantage is that these are tried and tested recipes with mouthwatering photos alongside...the comments left by other readers also helps in deciding the vote :) Its no wonder then that this world of food blogs is a veritable treasure trove..and its also no small wonder that so many recipes tend to become family favourites.
I happened to see this carrot cake featured on Nupur's OneHotStove. This is one beautiful, well written blog and is a regular stop for me. Nupur mentioned that she had used very little oil in the recipe and the sugar could also be reduced as per taste.
I decided to try it out and I was not disappointed !




The cake was delicious, moist and healthy too, with carrots and pineapples in it ! I made a few changes to it, basically to replace the eggs, since I do not use eggs. I substituted with half a cup of pureed tofu.

Also, I varied the frosting recipe a little:
4 tbsp Pineapple flavoured Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
2 tbsp butter (softened )
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix these ingredients thoroughly and you have yourself a delicious frosting !



The above picture shows a generous slice of cake with (...ummm..ahem) a little frosting.

I would recommend this cake to everybody !
I sure will be making this again !!!

P.S Nupur has mentioned that she adapted this recipe from Cooking Lite magazine.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Southwestern Fettucine

Growing up in Pune - India , I was familiar with most of the regional Indian cooking - south Indian (ever present idli , dosas , sambhar and various rice items etc), maharashtrian and gujrati (matki usal, pav bhaji, kadhi, dhokla, etc) and north Indian dishes (chhole, rajma, paratha, paneer dishes, etc)
However, when it came to continental dishes, I hardly had any experience there ..it was only when I started working that I tasted pizzas, baked vegetables and vegetable burgers, noodles and the like. But pasta dishes were still something that I knew only through books or TV.
It was later when I came to the US that I had my first taste of pasta and liked it immediately. Though the ingredients of the dish were familiar, the preparation and the end result were so very different from the traditional mom-cooked fare that I was used to having.
As a major pasta lover, I am constantly on the lookout for new adaptable recipes (read low-fat and vegetarian)..thats one thing that I like about these dishes...you can easily make them low fat by holding back on the cheese and you can easily make them vegetarian by substituting veggies for meat !
With resources galore, it wasnt difficult to find the following recipe and the required ingredients. Try for yourself !

Source: Low Fat Vegetarian Cookbook

Southwestern Fettuccine




Ingredients:

12 oz dried fettuccine
1 can cream style corn
2/3 cup low fat milk
1 tsp salad oil ( I didn't have salad oil...I used regular canola oil)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion
1 large yellow or red bell pepper
1 pkg frozen corn
1 cup (or less) jalapeño jack cheese ( or just use whatever cheese you have)
1/4 cup cilantro
1 1/2 to 2 cups cherry tomatoes

Method

1. Cook the pasta until tender. Set aside
2. Blend the cream style corn and milk until smooth.
3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, onion and bell pepper. Cook until the onion is soft. Add a little bit of water, if pan gets dry.
4. Stir in the pureed corn, corn kernels and cheese.
5. Stir in a handful of frozen peas
6. Reduce heat to medium and cook until cheese melts and corn and peas and heated through.
7. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and lime.
8. Pour this mixture over the pasta and stir gently.
9. Garnish with halved cherry tomatoes and chopped cilantro leaves.

Verdict:
The result was surprisingly delicious. The creaminess of the pureed corn, the crunch of the peas and whole corn and the bite of the pasta made for an amazing range of textures and tastes. The husband said he wouldn't mind having the dish again and little P kept coming back for bites of pasta and peas !

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Much Ado About ..................Hair !

Crowning Glory, Cascading Curls, Tantalizing Tresses ! ....just a couple of expressions to describe ...you got it ...your hair :D ...I think most women (and men too) would give anything to have a head full of luxurious, thick and shiny hair ...I know I would !!! Why, I am sure that the hair care industry must be one the most lucrative ones in almost every part of the globe !
Given that, it should come as no surprise that our fetish with hair begins as early as childhood ! If not ours then our children's ! Well...I am kidding, of course (ahem...)
Even though my hair would never ever fit any of the above descriptions (sob...sob), I was happy to note that my son's hair was thick, curly and abundant (yippee, thus begins the obsession). In most of the households that I know, in India...there are various customs to be observed about cutting a kid's hair for the very first time...there is usually a time period during which this needs to be done (usually the first year or the third year), there could also be a big function where all relatives and friends are invited over.
Well, given that my son's hair was growing at a very fast rate, the husband and I doubted whether we could wait until his third year (he inst even 18 months yet ! ), we spoke with the authorities back home and were told that we could do it at home, on an auspicious day ! (You see, there is an auspicious day for almost everything). Its believed that you should not cut one's hair on the day of your birth, on Amavasya ( the new moon day), on Ashtami (the 8th day after the new moon or the full moon .....
So then, keeping all these missives in mind, we selected a date and set out to make our son's head a bit lighter !! It wasn't as difficult or traumatic as we expected...little P was happily playing with something at his dad's feet in the tub and his dad was merrily snipping away at P's curls (sigh)...
Once everybody involved was bathed and clean, it was time to think about the dessert to be made for lunch..you see, we don't believe in missing out on any opportunity to celebrate...with sweets of course !!
I didn't have time to prepare anything elaborate and I had the perfect recipe in mind...This was something that my mother used to make when the dessert was only for family...when the occasion didn't warrant anything lavish and yet...some sweet had to be made ....


kaDale beLe rave paayasa (Chana dal and semolina kheer)

Servings: 8




Ingredients:

1/4 cup chana dal
1/2 cup semolina (rava)
2 cups milk (tastes better if whole milk, but any kind of milk will do)
1 cup grated jaggery ( can substitute brown sugar)
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 cup cashews and raisins (optional)
2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)


Method:


1. Place the chana dal in a large sauce pan, cover the dal with plenty of water and bring to a boil..Continue to boil until the dal can easily be crushed between your fingers, but hasn't turned to mush yet.(about 25 minutes)
2. Lightly roast the semolina in a tsp of ghee.
3. Once the chana dal is done, drain away the excess water (this water is quite nutritious and can be used to make delicious rasams), add the milk, jaggery and bring to a boil again.
4. Add the roasted rava and mix thoroughly well.
5. Add the heavy cream, if using, cardamom powder and the nuts and raisins and stir.
6. If the kheer seems thick, you can add more milk.

The kheer is best served hot...but I enjoy it cold as well. It does become thicker as it cools. The creaminess of the rava complements the bite of the chana dal...This is a homely, simple kheer. I am not sure if I would serve it to guests at a party, but it is a great recipe to make in a pinch

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Very Berry Tofu Breakfast !

I think every nutritionist and diet advisor must concur that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day..one should have a nutritious, healthy and filling breakfast within an hour of waking up..The body gets a chance to refuel its glucose levels, you jump start the day with good calories and you are less likely to have a hunger pang in the middle of the day ! Many experts have also said that eating a good breakfast can also aid in weight loss, the key word here being "good"...I am sure the good doctors would not look too kindly upon chocolate covered doughnuts on the breakfast plate !
But the following options are healthy and can be quickly assembled for the busy working people out there :

* Ready-to-eat whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and a cup of yogurt
* Whole-grain waffles topped with peanut butter, fruit or ricotta cheese
* A whole-wheat pita stuffed with sliced hard-cooked eggs
* Hot cereal topped with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves
* Peanut butter on a bagel with fresh fruit (banana or apple wedges) and low-fat milk
* Breakfast smoothie (milk, fruit and teaspoon of bran, whirled in a blender)

Other than these, there are scores of Indian breakfasts that you can whip up in the kitchen, some of them need preparation and a little bit of work and others can be made very easily if you have the right ingredients at hand:

* The ubiquitous idli, dosa and other fermented breakfast goodies.
* Upma (made out of roasted semolina and made healthy by adding veggies)
* Poha
* Parathas and chapaties with a side of vegetables
* .....and so many more...

A pat on the back for all those who regularly make good choices for their breakfasts and a simple advice to those who don't: Its not very difficult to incorporate breakfasts into a busy day...there are many grab and go healthy options and if you can do a little prep work the night before, it makes it all the more easier the next morning ! The benefits of breakfast are too important to eliminate it from our routines..

Here's an easy smoothie recipe that can be made in advance and the prep work is really very negligible :-)

Very Berry Tofu Smoothie





Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups frozen berries or berry juice
1 package soft tofu ( I used the Mori Nu silken tofu that comes in an aseptic pack)
2 tbsps honey
1 banana (any fruit can be used...I used a nectarine that was stashed away in the fridge...)
1/4 tsp each cardamom and clove powder (optional)

Method:
Whiz all the above ingredients in a blender.
Pour into container of choice and sip away !


Result:

The glass of smoothie was very filling...the tofu was virtually undetectable, but provided the protein nonetheless ! This is a very forgiving recipe, because any blend of fruits can be used..Its a simple, delicious and healthy breakfast idea !!!
Also, the recipe can be made vegan easily by substituting the honey with either maple syrup, or by omitting sweeteners altogether !

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane
Kesar Burfi

I admit it readily...I have a sweet tooth...doesnt mean that I hog down every morsel of sucrose in the neighbourhood...anyway...I grew up in Pune...and there was an abundance of sweet shops in the area that we lived in...apparently Puneites and I have something in common :D:D ..A visit to any of these shops..(especially Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale and Karachi sweetmart) was like a visit to sugary paradise ! Every wall in the shop was adorned with shelves, sagging with the weight of delicious looking sweetmeats..from simple pedhas to exotic looking burfis...from melt-in-the-mouth sonpapdis to succulent gulab jamuns...from creamy rasmalai to crispy jalebis..the list is endless: there was something to please every palate..
As far as I remember, the place was always packed ...I am sure that everybody had a tough decision to make...not about what to buy...but about what to leave out !!! I was always impressed with the immaculate cleanliness of the place, the precise order in which business was carried out ...and the polite service that was provided..One went in full of anticipation and always came out full satisfied and loaded with bags too :-)
That trip down memory lane is sufficient, me thinks, as far as an introduction to my liking of sweets goes ! As I have mentioned in my previous posts...my tryst with cooking has begun only since marriage..so I have been experimenting and trying out new recipes every once in a while..I came across a recipe for kesar burfi while browsing through Neelam Batra's 1000 recipes. The recipe caught my eye because the ingredient list was short and simple and sweet (pun intended !)
So I decided to try it out for Krishna Janmashtami (not that I need any excuse for preparing sweets, mind you )..The burfi turned out amazingly well and the husband was very pleased too ! The recipe is a keeper and can be modified with different flavourings to get different varieties of burfis !





Kesar Burfi

Yields:25 - 30 pieces


Ingredients:

6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 lbs ricotta cheese (can use low fat or skim milk)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 strands saffron
1/2 cup roasted cashews

Method:

1. Place the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and melt it on medium heat.
2.Soak the saffron strands in two tbsps of milk for about 20 -25 minutes.
3. Add the ricotta cheese and mix well. Stir the mixture well, for about 25 minutes,until the mixture loses most of its liquid.
4. Add the sugar and mix well.
5. Continue to heat for the next 30 - 35 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
6. You will know that the mixture is thick enough when it forms a thick ball around the stirring spoon.
7. Add the saffron milk, vanilla flavouring and the roasted cashews at this stage and mix thoroughly.
8. Pour out the mixture onto a steel plate or a baking sheet and pat it until it forms a layer of uniform thickness.
9. Allow it to cool a little and then place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to harden.

Ready to eat !!

Result:
The burfi is a little on the softer side, but utterly delicious.
This is just a basic recipe and can be adapted by changing the flavourings.
I am sure I will make this again.
This recipe yielded about 30 medium sized pieces.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Heerekaayi Sippe Gojju (Ridgegourd Peel Gojju)

Like in most south indian families, my mother is at a complete loss of ideas if she doesnt have the omnipresent coconut in her kitchen...I think there are a very few recipes in her repertoire that do not call for coconut in some form or the other...She maintains that all recipes can be made with little or no coconut, but then they wouldnt be authentic havyaka recipes !
I adore my mom's cooking( this, I guess is a universal phenomenon...almost everyone praises their mom's cooking and I am no exception)..My efforts at cooking began in her kitchen where I was just the sous-chef, helping in the cooking preparations (peeling, cutting, chopping,slicing, etc.) and never actually cooking myself..It wasnt until I got married and had a kitchen of my own, per se..that I started cooking in earnest and began enjoying it too :D
Although I have learnt different dishes through friends and the internet (!!), my main source of recipes for traditional havyaka recipes is still my mom..This is one such recipe that I relish and would like to share with my online readers.

Hirekaayi Sippe Gojju (Ridgegourd Peel Gojju)





Ingredients

1 medium sized ridge gourd (Heerekaayi / Beerakaya / तुरई )
4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
2 green chillies
1 marble sized ball of tamarind
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp canola / vegetable oil
(traditionally, my mother would probably have used coconut oil for this,
but I havent graduated to that....yet )
2-3 curry leaves
generous pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp urad dal



Method

1. Peel the ridge gourd, making sure that the peels are thick.
Boil the peels in water along with the green chillies, tamarind and pinch of salt.
The number of chillies can be adjusted according to taste. The water should just cover the peels.
2. Meanwhile, fry all of the coriander seeds and 1 tsp of mustard in 1 tsp of oil until the mustard seeds pop. Add the curry leaves and the asafoetida. Let this cool for a little bit.
3. Grind the peels along with the coriander-mustard seeds. Also add the coconut to this mixture and grind to a thick consistency.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl and adjust the salt according to taste.
5. Add a seasoning of urad dal and mustard seeds and a pinch of asafoetida to the gojju.
6. This can be served as a side dish and can also be savoured with rice.


Result
The gojju is a slightly tangy and spicy preparation and makes good use of the peels which would otherwise have been thrown away !
For those who like it spicy, this dish is a must try !

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A new celebration begins !!!




Its been a year already - 365 days !!
How is it that so many days have gone by and it seems that it was just a few days ago that I had this tiny little being in my arms..all swaddled up, with a misshapen head (my mother told me later that all she was worrying about, after seeing her first grandchild, was how she would correct the shape of his head !! ), clenched fists and eyes screwed shut ??
Its been 365 days of sleepless nights , scores of dirty, smelly diapers..and all I can remember is the way he used to fall asleep in my arms, the way his lips curled up in a sweet smile when he slept, the way his face lit up and his mouth broke into a toothless grin (*sigh*) when he caught sight of me or his dad after an absence.
Einstein's theory of relativity must be true after all...a whole year has gone by and it just seems like a fleeting moment in time..
My son turned a year old today and that is an achievement in its own right , all of us have come out of it unscathed :D
Well, as we added a new date in our calendars for important days to celebrate, as we went down memory lane, we decided to make new memories by digging into some yummy chocolate cake paired with homemade vanilla ice cream !
Here's to many many wonderful memories and birthdays to come !
Happy Birthday Son :)


Recipe - Rich Chocolate Cake




I found this recipe on the ppk.com site.
Although its a vegan recipe and I am not vegan, only a vegetarian :), I found it easier to adapt from this recipe rather than try and eliminate the eggs from a regular cake recipe.

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
½ cup canola oil
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350 °.
2. The original recipe called for a springform pan..but since I do not have that kind of a pan, I simply prepped a regular 9 inch cake tin, by spraying the bottom and sides with a non stick spray and dusting with flour. Be sure to shake out the excess flour.
3.Heat the milk until is slightly simmering and then whisk in the cocoa powder until it is fully incorporated. It helps to continuously whisk the milk while adding the cocoa bit by bit. This prevents lumping and creates a smooth mixture.
4.Sift the flour along with the baking powder, baking soda and the salt into a mixing bowl. ( Note to Self : Should really get a sifter, it is painful to sift the flour using a small tea strainer )
5.Combine the oil, lemon juice, vanilla and the brown sugar in another bowl and mix as much as possible. The mixture will be thick due to the sugar.
6. Add the hot milk + cocoa mixture to the sugar mixture and thoroughly whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated.
7. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. There is no need to beat the mixture.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes.

The cake is done when you insert a toothpick or a small knife into it and it comes out clean.

Results

I was really surprised at how well the cake turned out !
It was rich, it didnt crumble , it rose quite well and tasted delicious !
My husband pronounced that for an eggless cake it was really good. It would taste even better with a good frosting.
All in all, a successful adaptation and I will make it again ! Yippie !!!
(I really get excited when any of my recipes turn out good )

Variations:
Chopped nuts would give a nice crunch to this cake.
Serious chocolate lovers could rejoice by sprinkling chocolate chips over the batter before baking it !

Homemade Vanilla Ice cream

One of my recent acquisitions has been an ice cream maker. I had been thinking about it for a long time and finally got one this summer ! This is my first attempt at making ice cream at home !

Ingredients

1 cup whole milk (preferably chilled)
2 cups heavy cream (preferably chilled)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Method

1. Add the sugar to the whole milk and using a hand blender or a whisk, blend on low speed for a couple of minutes, until the sugar dissolves.
2. Fold in the heavy cream and the vanilla and mix until combined.
3. I also cut open half a vanilla bean and scraped the seeds, to give a richer vanilla flavour.
4. Chill this mixture in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours and then follow the instructions on your ice cream maker to churn the ice cream.
5. The resulting mixture is of soft serve consistency and can be consumed immediately. But I put the ice cream in the freezer for another couple of hours to get a firmer texture.
6. If you dont own an ice cream maker, you can just stick the mixture in the freezer and churn it with a blender or a mixer and put it back into the freezer. Do this a couple of times and your ice cream will be ready !

Results

Umm..umm..ummm umm um..Need I say more ???
Creamy, rich and heavenly !!! I scream for ice cream !
I am so happy that I got the ice cream maker...I cant wait to try more recipes !
Oh, by the way, the sugar can be reduced a little and the ice cream can be made less fattening by substituting the heavy cream with half and half and replacing the whole milk with low fat milk ! Happy eating !!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Green Thumb - Starting an indoor collection..

I love gardening, or at least I think I do ! You see, I have not had the time nor the space to explore the possibilities before. But now, we have moved into a home and I am a stay at home mom, since my baby boy P was born. So I have everything that I need to find out whether I have a green thumb or not :-D

To that end, I have begun my gardening endeavours. It is limited mostly to container experimentation (its better that I refrain from using the word 'gardening' until I am sure that that is what I am doing ;-)



Most traditional Indian homes have the holy basil growing profusely...so I decided I would have one in my home too ! I had some seeds from back home and planted them in a container that I already had...left it out where it got plenty of sun and made sure that the soil was always moist.
Well, thankfully one plant is growing and giving out new leaves on a regular basis...hopefully other seeds will follow suit !



I also dreamed of having fruit trees in my backyard and what better than the papaya tree to lend a tropical touch ...I saved some seeds from a fruit that we got from the local supermarket..selected some dark seeds, broke the jelly covering surrounding the seeds and put them in another container...the idea was to let the seedlings grow a little before transplanting them into the garden. A plethora of articles has informed me that there are usually two types of papaya trees..male and female..the male tree is required to pollinate the flowers on the female tree if you expect to harvest the fruits ..A bisexual type of tree is also present, but is supposedly not common in the US
A few weeks passed and there was no sign of any kind of germination in the papaya container..My hopes were close to getting dashed and I was determined to have another go at it (that meant another trip to the supermarket)...Lo and behold, I was spared that trip when I checked the container the next morning and saw a single seedling peeking at me from down under (the soil, i.e) My joy knew no bounds...my little endeavour was succeeding :) Imagine then, my ecstasy when a lapse of a couple of more days provided three more companions to my previous lone sapling !!! I just hope that these are the correct sexes, so that I can have a papaya tree (or two) bursting with fruits !!

No garden is complete without some kind of flowers growing in it ! I purchased a packet of giant sunflower seeds (thats what the packet promises, we will have to wait and see on that one ! ) ..I planted some of the seeds in yet another container..just to give the poor little seeds a head start..just wanted to make sure that the seeds dont get eroded by this spate of rains that our part of the country has been under lately ! The seedlings spouted pretty quickly and grew to a height of a few inches, where upon I decided to set them free from their constraints and planted them out in the yard..I am pleased to report that the plants seem to be doing well...So also some creepy crawlies who seem to be relishing the leaves of my sunflower plants, but thats for another post...



And last but not the least, I also planted the Brahmi plant in yet another little container...More on the uses of this plant later...but suffice it to say that the plant is thriving well and threatening to over run my teeny container...will soon have to find a permanent and expanding place for this little acquisition..



So thats it, folks...that has been my initial foray into, ahem..container gardening...Will keep you updated on the results ..Until the next green thumb endeavour then..may the grass always be greener on your side of the fence :)

Next venture - Growing herbs at home

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Butternut squash and apple soup

Man, I think, is a creature of habit, conditioning and comfort...Most of our actions and reactions can be attributed to one of the three ...From early morning coffee/ tea rituals to work habits to raising kids, we always fall back upon that which is familiar to us...thoughts and actions that are known to work, that have worked for us in the past..If nothing else works, there is always food to rely on !!! Food, always works :-D
With a chill in the air now, there is nothing like that morning cup of hot coffee or tea that gives us the incentive to get out from under the warmth of the comforters ...and nothing like a steaming bowl of flavourful soup that has comfort written all over it...I find that a bowl of hearty soup paired with either a salad or bread can keep one quite happy until the next meal of the day !
Now that I am home full time, the likes of Paula Deen and Rachel Ray have one more viewer to consume their offerings ! I saw this recipe for Butternut squash soup in one episode of the Barefoot Contessa and decided to try it out. I had never used butternut squash before and had no idea what the vegetable tasted like..I made minor modifications to the recipe, not as a matter of personal choice but because of pantry limitations..


Butternut Squash and Apple Soup




Ingredients:

1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons good olive oil
1 large chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 medium butternut squash
1 sweet apple
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water

Method:

1. Warm the butter, olive oil, onions, and curry powder in a large stockpot uncovered over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are tender.
2. Peel the squash, cut in half, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into chunks. Peel the apple and dice it.
3. Add the squash, apple, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft.
4. Cool the mixture slightly and puree it in a food processor or blender.
5. Pour the soup back into the pot. Add more water to adjust the consistency.
6. Check for seasonings and adjust, if required.

Verdict:
The soup turned out to be rich and thick, a little on the sweeter side because of the apple and the squash...there is no added sugar in the recipe..The original recipe required the addition of apple juice too, but I omitted that. The curry powder balanced out the sweetness...I liked the soup a lot...I paired it up with some bread and made a hearty lunch out of it...The soup tasted even better the next day. The Husband however had mixed feelings because he doesn't like his soups to be sweet...well...another day, another soup might do it for him !!
But I definitely liked it and will make it again (Now if only I can find somebody to peel that squash for me ..If I can get someone to do it for me, the words 'eternally grateful' will feature predominantly in the conversation !! )

Trivia:



  • The taste of a butternut squash is similar to that of a sweet potato.
  • The oranger the color of the squash, the riper, drier and sweeter it is.
  • Butternut's deep-orange flesh is richer in complex carbohydrates and beta-carotene. Butternut squash is also a very good source of dietary fiber, and supplies vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and a good amount of potassium.
  • This vegetable is very low in saturated Fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  • It is also a good source of Vitamin E, Thiamine, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and a very good source of Vitamin A

Monday, January 01, 2007