Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year that was - 2014!

Sitting down to write about a year that just passed is challenging. As always there had been a highs and lows. On a personal side, things were pretty good (well, mostly). My little one turned 2 in June and started speaking in multiple word sentences. He also made many new friends. We visited India for two whole months and he had fun spending time with his grandparents and cousins. 
On blog front I would say my frequency of posts were pretty satisfactory. I had posted quite a good mix of traditional family recipes and contemporary recipes. I did bake lot of stuff this year comparatively. I also started posting Baby and Toddler food ideas and it was a huge success. I tried many recipes which had been in my bucket list like these Butter biscuits, Kodhel, Garlic Herb Pull Apart Bread. Talking about bucket list I had been very active in Pinterest this year. I also tried to click better food pictures this year.. and I am still learning.

So here it is, My Top 5 posts this year based on page hits.
1. Kodhel - In this fast paced world many traditional recipes are forgotten. Kodhel is one such recipe from state of Karnataka and I was happy when I tried this and happier when I found this was the top post of the year.
2. Mixed Vegetable Kurma - This ubiquitous side dish for Indian main course was the second top.
3. Brown Rice Idli - Trying to make a healthy food choice is in everybody's mind these days. But one need not compromise the taste or come out of their comfort zone to eat healthy food. 
4. Orange Blueberry Loaf Cake - A citrus-sy delight speckled with beautiful blueberries did attract dessert lovers like me. Not to mention the fact it is eggless.

5. Thengaipaal Sadham - A simple comforting rice dish to go with any spicy curry was also on the top search list.

Here is another list on 5 of my most favorite dishes I prepared this year (in no particular order).
1. Thalicha Sadham - This says "home" to me. Dad loves this dish, prepared by mom or grandma. Need I say more?
2. Bakery Style Kaara Buns - Having spent holidays in my aunt's place in Bangalore, this was one of the favorite evening snacks besides Kodubale (Note to self - try making Kodubale this year)
3. Aloo Capsicum Stir fry - Who doesn't love potatoes.. right? That too spicy, crispy ones. Making it at home is a breeze with my low-oil recipe here and have been making this for many times this year.
4. Mint Coriander Pulao - A simple pulao with fresh flavors is definitely on my list.
5. Chinna Vengaya Thokku - Grandma's recipe. I made this for my pickle-lover DH and he loved it so much.

That's it. My roundup for the year. Wishing you all a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! 

Chocolate Biscuit Eggless Pudding / No Bake Marie Biscuit Pudding | Dessert Recipes

Happy New Year! I made this no-bake pudding a few weeks ago for a small celebration. This pudding reminds me of a New Year many years ago when I was in college. I and my sister saw this pudding recipe in a magazine and decided to make this on New Year's eve. Now I remembered this one fine day but forgot the exact recipe. I did remember the steps but the chocolate sauce recipe eludes my memory. So I decided to make my own chocolate sauce.

Serves - 6
Preparation time - 20 minutes; Setting time - 6 hrs
Marie Biscuits - 20
Whole milk - 1/3 cup
Butter - 2 tbsp
Semi-sweet Chocolate chips - 3/4 cup
Sugar - 1 tbsp (optional)
Water - 1/2 cup
Instant coffee powder - 1 tsp, heaped
Pecans - 1/2 cup, chopped finely (or any nuts of your choice)

Grease a 6" round pan and line with a plastic wrap with a overhang. 
Melt butter in a microwave proof bowl and add the milk. Heat for 30-60 secs until just warm to touch. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until smooth. Add sugar if desired. Set aside.
Heat the water until boiling and add the instant coffee powder. Remove from heat and allow it to cool a little.
Dip the biscuits one by one in the coffee (1-2 seconds per biscuit) and arrange in the plastic wrap lined pan.
Arrange 5 biscuits per layer, overlapping slightly. Pour about 3 tbsp of the chocolate sauce over the biscuits to completely coat the layer. Repeat the biscuits layer, dipped in coffee. Pour the chocolate sauce. Repeat for a total of 4 layers of biscuits. The top layer should be chocolate. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the chocolate layer. Cover loosely with the overhang plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Double Chocolate Hazelnut Pancakes / Nutella Pancakes | Breakfast Recipes

A chocolaty treat to start the day will surely keep you in high spirits. My little one is a big fan of pancakes and becomes super excited if I say "Pancakes for Breakfast". For your holiday breakfast try these delicious Nutella pancakes. I came across this recipe in a book I borrowed from the library. I tweaked the recipe a little and tried it for our weekend breakfast. Topped with berries and maple syrup it is a delicious breakfast.

All purpose flour - 3/4 cup
Whole wheat flour - 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder - 1 tbsp
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Egg - 1
Milk - 1 cup (or more as needed)
Vanilla extract - 2 tsp
Nutella / Chocolate Hazelnut spread - 3 tbsp
Olive oil / any cooking oil - 1 tbsp + more for the pan

Whisk the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar in a wide mixing bowl. In another mixing bowl whisk the egg and nutella until smooth. This could take some time. Add the vanilla, oil and milk and combine well. Add the milk mixture to the flour and use a whisk to incorporate. Tiny lumps are ok. If you feel the batter is pretty thick, use one or two tbsps of milk to thin it out. 
Heat a non-stick pan in medium and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter in the center. Allow it to spread on its own. When bubbles start appearing on the surface, use a spatula to flip it and cook for another minute. Serve hot with maple syrup and fresh fruit of your choice.
You could use all all-purpose flour or all wheat flour for this recipes. Butter can be substituted for oil. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tutti Frutti Biscuits / Candied Fruits Icebox Cookies | Cookie Recipes

I had been waiting to make these tutti frutti (alias name for candied fruits and peels) biscuits for Christmas this year. Last year we visited our friend Denny in Seattle for Christmas. She had made this and lots of other goodies for us to munch on while we spent the holidays there. Now, DH not a big fan of cookies, or sweets for that matter loved these cookies and asked me if I could make these when we came back home. I searched high and low for the candied fruits in the supermarket aisles but couldn't find it. Turns out these were seasonal and are only available around the holidays.. huh.. should've known it.. So this year I ordered the candied fruits online a couple of weeks before Christmas and was all set to try it out.

All purpose flour / Maida - 3 cups
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking powder - 3/4 tsp
Butter - 1 cup (2 sticks) (see notes below)
Sugar - 1 cup
Egg - 1
Vanilla - 1 tbsp
Candied fruits / Tutti Frutti - 1-1/2 cups

Cut 4 sheets of wax paper each about a feet long. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder three times. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix again. Add the flour the little by little and mix slightly. Add the candied fruits and mix with your hands to make a dough. Divide the dough into four parts. Place one portion on one of the wax sheets and form a log, cylindrical or square. Roll the wax paper over and seal the ends with a twisting motion in the overhang pieces. Repeat for the remaining portions. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. This dough can frozen for a month. 
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the logs into 1/4" thickness and place cut side down the sheet. These cookies does not spread much and so can be placed fairly close. For frozen dough, allow it to thaw for an hour or two before slicing. Bake for about 12-14 minutes. When done, the cookies will still be soft to touch. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool in the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before moving it to a cooling rack to cool completely. 
The butter should be slightly softened. It should yield when slightly pressed but not too soft.
Make sure the cookie sheet is cooled completely before repeating for the next batch. If you are running against time (aka 'being impatient') like me, remove the parchment and show the bottom of the cookie sheet under running tap water. Wipe with a towel and place the parchment again to repeat.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Fruit Cake - No Alcohol No Soak Cake | Christmas Recipes

Christmas Fruit Cake! Well, I love to eat it. But to bake one.. Hmm.. I thought it was not for me. Honestly, I didn't think I would bake one when I woke up this morning. But then this recipe which I came across in a magazine haunted me. It is a pretty simple recipe with no alcohol and no pre-soaking of fruits is needed. The preparation takes less than 30 minutes but it still has all the richness and elegant taste of the traditional fruit cake. Now that I fell in love with this recipe something tells me I may try my hand in the traditional recipe soon. May be next Christmas?!

Preparation time - 30 mins; Baking time - 60 mins
Candied fruits/Tutti Frutti - 2/3 cup
Chopped Dates - 1/3 cup
Chopped Figs - 1/2 cup
Raisins (black and golden mix) - 3/4 cup
Pecans - 1/4 cup, chopped
All purpose flour - 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more for dusting the pans
Ground Cinnamon - 1/2 tsp
Cloves - 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg - less than 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Baking powder - 1/4 tsp
Butter, room temperature - 1/4 cup
Dark Brown sugar - 1/4 cup
Egg, room temperature - 1
Molasses - 2 tbsp (see recipe below if not available in stores)
Orange juice, fresh - 3 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 275 F/ 135 C. Grease 4 - 7 oz ramekins (I used 2 small and 1 big) with butter and dust with flour. Shake off excess flour. Mix the fruits and nuts with 1/2 cup of flour in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. 
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder well. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and molasses. Mix until blended. Now add the flour mixture alternating with the orange juice until just mixed, scraping sides often. Now pour the butter-egg mixture over the flour-coated fruits and use a spatula to mix until no streaks of flour remain. Fill the ramekins and smooth the top. Place in a baking sheet and position in the center rack of the oven. In the bottom rack place a 9" or 8" baking pan filled with hot water. Bake for 45 minutes for small ramekins and about 60-65 minutes for large ramekins. When done, the toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. When cooled completely, remove from pan and place in the rack. Pack in a plastic wrap and store in fridge for a couple of days.
The types of dried fruits and nuts used is purely your personal choice. Mix and match for texture variations. Other than what I have used, dried apricots, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried pineapples, cashew nuts, walnuts are good options. 2-1/2 cups of dried fruits and nuts for this recipe is what we are looking for.
This recipe can easily be doubled.
Molasses Recipe:
Heat 3 tbsp, tightly packed brown sugar with about a tsp of water in a small saucepan in medium heat. When the syrup becomes a little thick, remove from heat and allow it to cool. Use in place of molasses as needed.   

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Butter Biscuits - Bakery Style / Fake Butter Biscuits | Vegan Cookies Recipes

I totally love these white, puffy biscuits which we get in the bakeries in India. My grandma even used to make this with her small electric oven she had at home. I honestly did not even think of attempting to make these at home. But with the holiday season and all the cookies I have been planning to bake, I thought why not try this. I came across this recipe and gave it a go. As the name indicates it is not made with butter but with oil or shortening. 
Makes 12-15 cookies
All purpose flour / Maida - 1 cup
Powdered sugar - 3/4 cup
Baking soda - 1/4 tsp
Salt -  a dash
Oil - 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (see notes below)
Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Sieve the dry ingredients together for a couple of minutes. Add the oil little by little to form a crumbly mixture (not a dough exactly). You may or may not need the 1 tbsp of oil, if you could form firm balls with the crumbly mixture do not add the 1 tbsp. Make small balls and place them on the baking sheet. Flatten it ever so slightly. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes. When done, the cookies will appear a little cracked at the top but still be too soft. It will harden as it cools. 
Use shortening instead of oil if desired. If the specified amount is not enough try adding more teaspoon at a time as needed.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Coconut Macaroons | Cookies Recipes

Christmas season comes with joy! It is the season to believe in love and sharing the love. It is the season for miracles, which I seriously need one now. I did say that this month I am gonna blog many wonderful drool worthy recipes. I did not forget. But what kept me away from this space was the health concern of a family member back home in India. That is why I said I need a miracle, to help her get better. Hoping everything goes well, I thought I will give my little space here some attention and also help me take my mind off of it for a bit.
With just a few ingredients, this coconut macaroons is a breeze to make. It can be put together in minutes and if you have a cookie scoop it makes your job more easier. I packed these along with Tutti Fruiti Cookies to for my DH's office holiday cookies and it received rave reviews.

Makes 35-40 macaroons
Finely shredded coconut / Coconut powder - 2-2/3 cups (8 oz by weight)
Egg whites - 1/2 cup (from 3 large eggs)
Granulated Sugar - 1 cup + 2 tsp
Vanilla extract - 1-1/2 tsp
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the sugar and whisk again until smooth and the sugar is melted. Add vanilla and mix again once. Add the coconut and mix with a wooden spoon. Scoop tablespoonfuls of the coconut mixture in the pan. It can be placed pretty closed since the macaroons wont spread much. Place in the center rack of the oven and bake for about 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to the wire rack to cool completely. Stores well for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gingerbread Biscotti | Cookie Recipes

Wish you all a Happy Holidays! Holidays is all about unwinding after a long year and spending time with family and friends and of course having fun! Where there is fun, there is food and here it is, a warm biscotti recipe to add to your list of Christmas cookies. These biscottis can be made ahead and keeps good in room temperature for about a week or more and hence makes a perfect candidate for your holiday gift giving.
Interested in biscottis? Do check out my Coffee Almond Biscotti.

All purpose flour - 2-1/4 cups
Dark brown sugar - 1-1/4 cups
Baking powder - 1-1/4 tsp
Baking soda - 1/4 tsp
Ground ginger - 2 tsp
Ground Cinnamon - 1 tsp
Ground Nutmeg - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Dried Cranberries - 1/2 cup
Pecans - 1 cup, chopped roughly
Eggs - 2
Maple syrup - 1/4 cup
Orange zest - 2 tsp

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk the dry ingredients listed, from flour to salt in a large mixing bowl until well mixed. Mix the pecans and cranberries also to the flour mixture. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, maple syrup and orange zest until well mixed. Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture slowly, mixing the flour mixture while pouring. When almost all of the dough comes together, transfer the contents to a working board and divide into two portions. Note that the dough will the super sticky. Shape the portions into two logs about 10 inches long and 1-1/2 inches height. Carefully transfer the shaped logs to the parchment line sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake until the tops are slightly cracked, about 30-35 minutes. Carefully remove the logs to the working board and cut each logs into 12 pieces using a serrated knife. Place the cut biscottis again in the baking sheet, cut side down and bake again for 15-20 minutes (15 minutes for medium crisp biscottis and 20 minutes for super hard biscottis). For super chewy biscottis 10 minutes is enough. When done transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Japanese Udon Noodles

Remember I told about how this month's are gonna be indulgent and comforting.. Here I am with the first on the list. Caramelized Udon Noodles with vegetables in a sweet soy sauce.
California is facing the fiercest storm after many years and it has been pouring cats and dogs for the past few days. A delicious warm bowl of noodles on a cloudy day is sure to cheer me up. This noodles recipe here is an inspiration from the Japanese Pan Noodles of the food chain Noodles and Company. It takes about 15-20 minutes to make this dish from start to finish. When the noodles is cooking, chop up the veggies and make the sweet soy sauce (if making at home). 

Serves - 2
Udon noodles - 2 bundles
Carrots - 2 - Thick julienne
Broccoli - 1 head - cut unto florets
Mushroom - a handful - thick cut
Sweet soy sauce - 1/2 cup (see recipe below)
Sesame oil - 2 tbsp + more
Ginger, minced - 1 tbsp
Garlic, minced - 1 tbsp
Rice vinegar - 1/4 cup
Sriracha / Red chilli sauce - 1 tsp
Pepper - to taste
Cilantro - for garnish
Sesame seeds (black/white/both) - 1 tbsp

Boil 2 litres of water and cook the noodles as mentioned in the packet instructions. Drain the noodles and drizzle some oil to keep it from sticking to each other. Blanch the carrots and broccoli florets.
Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet and fry the ginger and garlic for about a minute. Add the vinegar and fry for another minute or so until the vinegar evaporates. Add the red chilli sauce, pepper and the sweet soy sauce. Add the cooked noodles with carrots and broccoli. Toss in medium-high heat until the noodles get slightly caramelized. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and remove from heat. Serve hot garnished with cilantro.
To make Sweet Soy sauce:
Heat 1/2 cup of low sodium soy sauce with 1/2 cup of brown sugar in medium heat until it forms a thick syrup. Substitute for sweet soy sauce in the recipe.
This dish is pretty high in sugar and sodium, so if you are dieting this is not for you.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sweet Potato Murukku | Indian Festival Recipes

Talking about Murukku may seem to be something out of season this December. I agree. But something to munch on this cold season while I try to make this month's posts decadent is definitely the reason. So watch out, all of this month's post would be indulgent and comforting. 
I saw this recipe for Potato murukku in Saranya's space a few weeks ago. I had been wanting to try it since then. But I think I have been obsessing about making everything "seasonal", so I used sweet potato instead of regular potato.

Rice flour - 1 cup
Sweet Potato, small - 1 (1/3 cup cooked)
Cumin seeds - a pinch
Asafoetida - a pinch
Salt - 1/4 tsp or to taste
Pepper, freshly ground - a big pinch
Water - as needed to make the dough
Oil - for deep frying
Peel and cut the sweet potato into chunks. Boil 2 cups of water with a pinch of cumin seeds. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and cook until fork tender. Drain and allow to cool. Mash the cooled potatoes into a smooth paste. Measure it to make 1/3 of cup of paste. Add it to a wide mixing bowl with rice flour, asafoetida, salt and pepper. Mix well with your fingers and sprinkle some water (if needed) to make a smooth dough. 
Heat oil for deep frying. 
Take the murukku press and fit it with the disc with holes or any of your favorite shape. Divide the murukku dough into 2 portions. Put one portion of the dough into the murukku press and close. Pipe the murukku directly in the oil. Turn over after a minute or two and continue frying until the bubbles subside. Drain with a slotted spoon and place in a paper towel to draw excess oil. Store in an air-tight container after it is cooled. Stays good for a week (if it lasts that long). 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Masala Chai / Spicy Indian Tea Masala

It is raining incessantly here in San Francisco, CA for the past week. All I want to do is snuggle up in the couch with a good book and a steaming cup of tea. A small plate of samosas or vadas to join the company wouldn't be bad either. OK, the couch and the book thing is not happening right now. But the tea is sure to comfort your soul on days you need a warm hug. My MIL makes this delicious chai masala and always packs some for us when we visit India. This is her recipe.

Ingredients for Tea Masala:
Whole Dried Ginger / Sukku - 1 cup (approx 150 g)
Whole Black Peppercorns - 1/3 cup
Cloves - 1/3 cup
Green Cardamom - 10

In a pan on medium heat, dry roast the spices one by one. Spread on a plate to cool completely. In a blender/mixie or a coffee grinder place all the ingredients together. Grind to form a fine powder. Transfer to an air-tight container. A refrigerator is a great place to store the tea masala.
The Dried whole ginger is easily available in any Indian grocery store or whole foods store.
Ingredients for Masala Chai:
Milk - 360 ml (12 oz) *
Chai Masala - 1/2 tsp - 3/4 tsp
Tea leaves - 2 tsp of Orange Pekoe brand *
Sugar - 2 tsp
Heat milk in a sauce pan with the chai masala. When it starts to bubble, add the tea leaves. When the milk boils over, remove from heat and steep covered for 2-3 minutes. Filter with a fine mesh tea filter. Mix with sugar, stir and serve hot.
I used low-fat milk which is little thin, so I use all milk and no water for making tea. Substitute water in the ratio of 1:2 (water:milk) if you like that way.
The Orange Pekoe is a grading of teas and I find Red Label/Chakra Gold or any Assam tea brands of Orange Pekoe variety. I personally like to use 3 Roses brand and 1 tsp should work well in this recipe.