Sunday, May 11, 2014

Pizza Margherita

This is the simplest of pizzas one can make but pretty much screams summer with the freshness of basil and the sweet/tart taste of ripe tomatoes, drizzled with some balsamic vinegar and topped with some ooey-gooey mozzarella cheese... my mouth waters as I write this...

I sometimes go with pita breads, or wraps or even naans for the base if I'm not making it from scratch (which is as easy as making chapathi dough, if using the yeast specially made for pizza crust).   The topping is also best made ahead so the flavors can marinate together before going on the pizza.

My best wishes to all the moms out there today.... Happy Mother's Day! :)

PIZZA MARGHERITA


Ingredients:

Pizza dough base - home made or store-bought (I sometimes use Pita breads/Naans)
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese - half cup, torn into small chunks
Shredded mozzarella - 1/4 cup

Firm Tomatoes - 2 or 3, seeded and cut into cubes
Garlic cloves - 2 or 3, minced
Basil Leaves - 1/3 cup, chopped
Balsamic Vinegar - half tbsp
Extra virgin olive oil - 1 tbsp 
Salt & Pepper - to taste

Method:

1) Ensure that tomatoes are firm, yet ripe. Remove seeds and pulp before chopping - this will ensure that the pizzas don't get soggy. 

2) Toss together in a bowl the tomatoes, garlic, basil leaves, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and allow this to marinate for atleast 30 mins. 

3) Preheat oven to 425F. 

4) To the pizza base add a light layer of shredded mozzarella,  top with the tomato-basil mixture (ensure that it's not watery, drain if necessary). Top with chunks of fresh mozzarella. and more chopped basil if preferred.



5) Bake in a hot oven for about 12-15 minutes or until base is cooked through and cheese is melted.  Best when eaten fresh :) Enjoy.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chocolate Brownies

There are all kinds of brownies and while some people prefer the fudgy, chewy, dense ones there are others who prefer cake like brownies... I personally couldn't decide where I fit in but this Baker's recipe  has been quite a hit with me and pretty much everyone who has tried it....

It has a super crust and the resulting brownie is perfect in every way. What's more, it needs just 5 minutes to pull the batter together and all you need is one (fairly big) bowl and a simple whisk!  I don't think it can get easier/tastier than this.  It's great on its own and I'm kind of partial to the chewy, crispy edges. Infact,  I once poured about a quarter of the batter on a sheet as a very thin layer and made a brownie brittle of sorts... which was super tasty and would make for a great ice cream topping.

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES - makes one 9x13 inch pan


Ingredients:
Baker's brand Unsweetened (baking) chocolate - 1 pkg, 4 oz
Butter, unsalted - 3/4 cup (1 and a half sticks)
Sugar - 2 cups
Eggs - 3
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Flour - 1 cup
Salt - a pinch
Chopped walnuts/pecans - half cup, chopped  (optional) - I didn't add this time

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 13x9 inch pan with foil with some extra on the sides as an overhang (which enable the brownies to be lifted out easily when done). Spray the foil with oil and set aside


2) Cut the chocolate into squares and add to the bowl, add in the butter. Microwave this for 2 minutes, to melt.

3) Remove from the microwave and stir the chocolate butter mixture to make sure it's melted uniformly.

4) Stir in 2 cups of sugar, next add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.

5) Finally add the salt, flour & nuts (if using)  and stir until well combined.

6) Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.

7) Allow to cool and cut with a serrated knife -  serve warm with ice cream, if preferred.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Broccoli Parmesan Rice

This is a quick and simple rice that can be made with leftover rice and makes for a great lunchbox dish for kids...  Since both my kids love broccoli, I've often made a garlicky stir-fry of broccoli florets topped with some parmesan cheese to go with pasta dishes like Mac'n cheese and it has always been quite well received... so I kind of extended that idea and mixed in some rice and spices and my daughter has now declared this to be her favorite lunch item (atleast it is the current reigning one, since her tastes & likes keep changing)... so I've been making this quite often for her lately.

The rasam powder I use is a store bought one and it adds a touch of mild spice without overpowering the dish...  you can change it to whatever spice fits the bill for you.

BROCCOLI PARMESAN RICE

 
Ingredients:


Cooked Rice - about 3/4 to 1 cup, cooled similar to what we would do for fried rice
Broccoli florets - 1 cup, small florets (fresh or frozen should work)
Garlic cloves - 2, minced
Rasam powder - 1/2  tsp (you could also use sambar powder)
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Parmesan cheese - 1 tbsp
Extra virgin olive oil - 2 to 3 tsp

Method:

1) Heat a pan on medium high heat and add the oil followed by minced garlic, allow to cook for abt 30 seconds or so, taking care not to burn it.
2) If you are in a rush, you could microwave the broccoli florets with a tsp of water for 2 minutes & have them ready. 
3) Pop in the broccoli florets soon after, followed by turmeric powder, salt and rasam powder. 
4) If not previously microwaved, add about a tbsp or so of water, reduce heat to medium, cover and allow to cook for 4 minutes so broccoli is tender crisp. 
5) Continue to saute for a few more minutes before adding in the cooled rice (grains should be separate). 
6) Stir in the rice for a few minutes and add salt and pepper to taste, as required. 
7) Finally, stir in the parmesan cheese and switch off the stove.  Delicious broccoli parmesan rice is ready! 

Seeing an empty lunch box when she gets back from school always makes me happy :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mango Chia Pudding

This is a very simple recipe that makes for a yummy, cool dessert or a refreshing breakfast, esp. for mango lovers...  It's quite simple and has chia seeds that help set the pudding and provide a lot of nutrients and satiating power.  You can make this ahead of time and allow to set in the refrigerator so it's ready to eat when you are...

MANGO CHIA PUDDING   (2 to 3 servings)



Ingredients:

Chia seeds - 2 tbsp
Mangoes, ripe - 3 (I used ataulfo), peeled & de-seeded
Milk/Soy or Almond Milk - 1 to 1.5 cups
Honey/Sugar - to taste (optional)

Method:

1) Blend pulp of 2 mangoes with milk.. Add honey/sugar if needed, to taste.
3) Cube pulp of 3rd mango
4) Stir in chia seeds and cubed mango...
5) Set in refrigerator overnight or for atleast 4 hrs. Now it's ready to dig in.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crustless Mini Quiches

Don't you find the mini muffin tins so cute? Something about the bite sized nature of the end result is very appealing to me.... and also can serve as a good portion control. But ever since i got these pans, I've been making quiches more often than mini muffins.... These mini-quiches are so easy to put together and would make a great addition to brunches or even work well as an appetizer. You could also make these on the weekend and freeze them so you have a tasty, portable breakfast to heat up in the microwave and eat over the week.

Unlike the other quiche recipe I've posted, I make these with no crust and i find them to be quite hassle free and it has fewer calories to boot. My kids love helping me make these and enjoy eating them as well. The recipe is quite versatile so change up the ingredients to make different variations each time.... I've tried spinach, mushroom and broccoli so far...  Changing up the cheese also adds a tasty twist.

p.s. I have no idea why I put a text saying mini muffin on the pictures... must've done that in a dazed state of mind.... :)

CRUSTLESS MINI QUICHES - makes 60 bite sized ones

Crustless Mini Quiche


Ingredients:

Eggs - 4, large
Milk - 1 cup
Cheese, shredded- half to 3/4 cup (I use a combination of what's available, mostly pepper jack, parmesan, cheddar  and  mozzarella)
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Mixed Italian Herb Seasoning - 1 tsp

Olive oil - 1 tbsp

Veggie of choice - spinach or mushroom or broccoli - 1 cup, chopped
Red Onion - half of a big one, peeled and  chopped fine
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves, chopped
Red chilli flakes - 1 tsp


Suggestions:
Spinach & mushroom go well together and can be paired with a bit of feta cheese thrown in.
Broccoli will taste good with some cheddar cheese in the mix


Method:
1) Heat the oil in a pan on medium and toss in chopped garlic and red chilli flakes, once fragrant, add in the chopped onion and saute. 

2) Next add in the vegetable you are using with some salt and pepper to taste and saute until tender crisp. Set aside to cool a bit. 

3) Preheat oven to 375F. Spray the mini muffin tin with cooking spray. 

4) In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly and whisk in the milk, salt, pepper and italian herbs. Add the cooked and slightly cooled vegetables at this point alongwith the shredded cheese. 

5) Pour into the mini muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted comes clean).


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Updated Recipe Index

Hello everyone,

For ease of use, I have finally managed to update the Recipe Index page with all the recipes posted so far.... the drop down lists are pretty up to date and one can also search using labels.

Hope you find this useful,
Thanks,
Laavanya
 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mango & Greens Salad with Honey Chili Dressing

While I've often preferred adding fruits to salads (mostly apples/pears or oranges), this idea of adding mangoes to salads is something I picked up from my sister in law....  She made a really tasty arugula-mango salad when we visited her and I also got to know what kind of mango to pick. These are the red tinged mexican mangoes (which are much too fibrous when ripe) but in a semi-ripe state they have the right balance of tart and sweetness and make an excellent addition to salads.

For the dressing, you could go  with a store-bought one if you prefer and I favor the raspberry vinaigrette for this combination. But I also like to make my own which has a mix of sweet, spicy and tart flavors...  For the greens - arugula or mixed spring greens work great or even spinach.

MANGO & GREENS SALAD


Ingredients: 

Mango (red tinged mexican mangoes preferred) - 1 semi-ripe, firm to the touch
Mixed Spring greens - 2 to 3 cups 
Dried Cranberries (Craisins) - 1 tbsp, optional
Sliced Almonds - 1 tbsp, optional 

Honey Chili Dressing:

Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Honey - 2 to 3 tsp, to taste
Sriracha chili sauce - 1 tsp
Red pepper flakes - half tsp, optional
Lemon Juice - 2 tbsp
Salt, pepper to taste

Method:

1) Peel and cut mango into small cubes and put in a bowl with salad greens
2) In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing until emulsified - taste, and adjust the honey/chilli sauce/lemon juice. 
3) Pour the dressing over the mango and greens and toss to coat. 
4) Before serving top with the dried cranberries or almonds, if using. 


Friday, March 21, 2014

Cheese Crackers

My kids love to eat goldfish crackers and I found this super easy recipe here to give this a shot at home.... The good thing about making these crackers at home is that you can add seasonings of your choice to add some pizzazz and change up the flavors quite a bit - so I made mine a touch spicy.  These were particularly wonderful warm but do keep well for a few days in an airtight container.

CHEESE CRACKERS



Ingredients:

Cheddar Cheese, shredded - 1 cup heaped, 8 oz (I reduced the quantity a bit and substituted some of it with some parmesan cheese)
Unsalted butter - 4 tbsp, cold and cut into pieces
Flour - 1 cup
Milk - 3 to 4 tbsp

Salt - 3/4 tsp

Seasonings of Choice:

Crushed red pepper flakes - half tsp (optional)
Italian Seasoning - half tsp (optional)
Garlic powder - half tsp (optional)
Ground Black pepper - to taste

Method:
1) Pulse flour, salt and seasonings in a food processor, add butter cubes and pulse together until it looks like coarse crumbs. 
2) Add cheese and finally milk a little at a time and continue to run the processor until it forms a smooth dough. 
3) Wrap with some cling-wrap and refrigerate for about two hours. 
4) Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
5) Split the dough into 2 pieces and dust some flour roll/flatten out to about 1/8 inch thickness
6) Cut the dough into one inch squares (I used a pizza cutter) and poke a hole in the middle of each with a skewer - the kids were glad to help me with this step.

7)  Place the crackers on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes or till golden. They will crisp up a bit as they cool. 



Friday, January 31, 2014

Praline Almonds

Incorporating nuts in your diet is healthy and it's quite easy to roast and flavor them at home - be it spicy, salty or sweet.  Today's recipe is one that I made over the holidays and packed as a gift for a few of my husband's colleagues.... This also turned out to be a tasty snack that we enjoyed as well.
It's a really simple recipe and doesn't need a lot of ingredients. The cream and sugar caramelize together and give a tasty crunch to the almonds.

PRALINE ALMONDS



Ingredients:

Almonds - 2 cups, whole
Light brown sugar - half cup
Heavy Cream - 4 tbsp

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread a baking sheet with some parchment paper and coat with a light spray of oil. 

2) In a bowl, toss together the almonds, brown sugar and heavy cream. 

3) Spread this almond mixture over the prepared baking sheet  and bake in oven for about 20 mins or so (until the coating is dry).. stirring once or twice in between...  

4) Remove from oven and allow to cool (it will get crispier as it cools) and store in an airtight container and Enjoy :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

English Toffee Pudding

It's been ages since I updated this blog and though I've been cooking and clicking pictures fairly often, I've been unable to write them down here...  Last year was pretty hectic at work and I hope that the year ahead is just as rewarding & challenging but not quite so crazy. 

We celebrated my daughter turning 8 last October and she wanted a beach cake and was quite specific about it being a vanilla cake with a strawberry & cream filling... It was quite easy to work on this and it turned out quite delicious. As always my kids helped decorate the cake and were excited to sprinkle the "sand" (crushed marie biscuits and graham cracker combination). For the "beach mats", I put different colored tootsie rolls side by side and microwaved them for 10 secs to soften and then rolled it when warm and malleable... I also used the same method to cut out stars and weeds. The rest of the beach was decorated with different candies and some lego toys as the kiddos wished.



Next came Deepavali and since this was our first deepavali celebration with my inlaws, we had quite an elaborate preparation with many sweets and snacks (we stayed up late most nights to make these... but well worth the efforts and had fun making them together). We made 7 cups burfi, coconut burfi, chocolate fudge balls, Mango bars, Asoka Halwa, Chaklis, Ribbon Pakoda and Mixture.



For New Year, I made this English toffee pudding... just the word toffee is enough to entice me but since i had never tasted or seen this pudding/cake before, it was with much trepidation that I tried it out but boy it was a smashing hit! I followed a recipe from the food network and made a few tweaks. The painful part of the recipe would be the chopping of dates into tiny pieces but I outsourced that job to my husband so it came together fairly easily and painlessly (atleast for me :) )  I know the picture is not great... but trust me when I say that it will not disappoint (even date haters loved this).

ENGLISH TOFFEE PUDDING



Ingredients:
All purpose flour - 1 cup + 1 tbsp
Dates, pitted and chopped into tiny pieces - 3/4 to 1 cup
Butter - 1/4 cup, softened
Sugar - 3/4 cup

Boiling water - 1 1/4 cup
Instant Coffee powder - 1 tsp
Egg - 1
Baking powder - 1 tsp

Baking Soda - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp

Vanilla - 1 tsp


Toffee Sauce:Butter - 1/4 cup
Heavy Cream - 1/2 cup
Brown Sugar - 1 cup, packed


Method:
1) Preheat oven to 350deg F. Butter a 9 to 10 inch baking dish and set aside. 2)  Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water, add baking soda and pour over the dates and set aside to soften, while you prepare the batter.
3) Sift/Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. 
4) In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Then add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat. 
4) Gradually add in the flour mixture and continue to beat. 
5) Pour the date-coffee mixture at this point and fold until well blended. 
6) Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish and bake in oven for 35 mins or until pudding is set. Remove from oven when done and poke holes (I used a skewer) so it can absorb the toffee sauce.

7) Ten minutes before the cake is ready, make the toffee sauce:  combine butter, heavy cream and brown sugar in a small saucepan on medium. Once it begins to boil, reduce heat to med-low and allow to simmer until thickened slightly. 


8) Pour about half of this over the warm cake so it can absorb the sauce. The rest can be drizzled over the slices when serving. 

This can be served with whipped cream or vanilla icecream but everyone enjoyed it plain so I didn't add on the extra calories. Happy New Year everyone! :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Train Cake

Our little boy turned four on August 5th and has been looking forward to his birthday for a while now...  He wanted balloons and lots and lots of cars and has been asking me for a train cake. Infact last year too he mentioned a train cake but at the last minute (thanks to our trip to India) he got fascinated with airplanes and wanted an Airplane cake instead.

Ever since we watched the video of how to go about creating a train cake, he would ask me several times a day if the train cake was ready and was super excited when we *finally* made it over the last weekend. He and my daughter helped decorate the cake and piled on the candies. He had such a happy, proud face when we took the cake to his daycare to celebrate with his friends... the other kids at daycare too loved the cake so I can attest to this cake being a big hit with kids of various age groups.

The cake was quite easy to put together...and doesn't require major carving or anything too intricate. It also wasn't too time consuming - you would have to start a day or two earlier only because it helps ensure that the cakes are cooled and refrigerated and allows time between the crumb coat and the actual coat... but the actual frosting is pretty easy. My only complaint would be the fact that i had quite a bit of clean-up to do after but after seeing how much everybody liked the cake, it was definitely worth it.

I baked 2 loaf cakes the previous night (one becomes the engine and the other is cut into 4 equal parts and make the train cars -  I used only 3) and refrigerated them, wrapped in plastic wrap. The next day, I cut the engine and train cars, made my favorite whipped cream frosting using which I did a crumb coat and put them back in the refrigerator for a few hours... then pulled them out again in the afternoon and did the final coat of icing and arranged them on the tray before piping in a few other details and adding the candies/cookies

TRAIN CAKE




Engine - carrot cake (in a loaf pan) with chocolate cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
Train car - vanilla cake  with whipped cream frosting
Wheels - mini oreos with an m&m stuck on with some frosting
Coal on engine - oreo halves
Candies on cars - your choice (I used candy corn, m&ms and hershey's cookies and creme)
To connect the engine and train cars - kitkat bars

Instructions - this very helpful video

CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

Cream cheese - 6 oz, softened
Semisweet chocolate chips / chocolate square - 3 oz
Confectioner's sugar - 1 to 2 cups (adjust to desired taste/sweetness)

Milk - 1 tbsp
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch

Method:

1) Beat cream cheese in a bowl until fluffy. 
2) Melt the chocolate in a separate bowl (I microwaved them for about a min... in 30 second increments) and stir. 
3) Add melted chocolate to cream cheese and beat adding in the salt and vanilla extract. 
4) Add the confectioner's sugar and milk - beat until desired consistency is reached.

While we are on the topic of cakes for boys... I baked this (american) football cake for my friend's son since he loves the game... It uses a loaf cake again (banana cake this time) and covered it with a ganache frosting (melted chocolate and cream) and decorated with some microwaved and rolled out tootsie rolls and some nougat candy.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Paruppu Payasam

My husband is a big fan of jaggery based sweets and coconut in general, so this payasam is like combining two of his favorite ingredients and he is quite partial to this. I, on the other hand, like milk based kheers/payasams such as semia payasam, paal payasam etc. with the only exception being chakka pradhaman (jackfruit payasam). That statement combined with the fact that I do the cooking at home would explain why this payasam hasn't been posted till now (it's making an appearance after 6 yrs of blogging!). I've made this payasam just a handful of times and though my paati (grandma) makes this quite often, the recipe I have written down is my mother-in-law's version and it's super satisfying. The only change I've made is to add channa dhal in the mix because I like the texture and nuttiness of this dhal.

PARUPPU PAYASAM (Mung Dhal Kheer)

Paruppu Payasam


Ingredients:

Split mung dhal (yellow) - 3/4 cup
Channa dhal - 1/4 cup (optional, you could just use same quantity of mung dhal instead, I like the texture and nuttiness)
Jaggery - 1.5 cups, powdered

Cardamom (Elaichi) - 3, powdered with some salt
Coconut Milk - 1 cup
Ghee - 1 to 2 tsp
Raisins, Cashews - 2 tsp each (I omitted cashews since my daughter has an allergy)


Method:1) Wash and pressure cook the dhals together with sufficient water until soft (about 3 to 4 whistles). Mash well.

2) Combine powdered jaggery and 1/4 cup water in a heavy bottomed pot and allow to melt. Strain to remove impurities and return to pot.

3) Add the mashed dhal to it and stir on a low flame. Once it bubbles and thickens a bit add the coconut milk and about half cup to 1 cup water (to get desired consistency) and the cardamom powder... allow this too cook for a few more minutes. This will thicken a bit more upon cooling.

4) Remove from stove. Heat ghee in a small pan, fry the raisins and cashews and add to the payasam.  Serve warm or cold as desired.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Dip

This is an easy, cheesey dip that can be put together in no time. It's easy to make large quantities of this and so would be great as an appetizer for parties when served with some baked pita wedges or with tortilla chips. It's quite mild and so should go over quite well with kids too and gets some veggies in them as well.

I don't cook with artichokes generally so I usually buy only the canned version.

Spinach Artichoke Dip



Ingredients:
Frozen Spinach - 1 to 1.5 cups, thawed (you could use Fresh spinach too but increase to 2 to 4 cups)
Artichoke - 1 can, drained, rinsed and chopped into small pieces
Garlic - 4 cloves, minced
Parmesan cheese - 1/2 cup
Other melting cheese - about 3/4 cup (I used a mix of pepperjack, mozzarella, white cheddar)
Low Fat Greek yogurt / Light Sour Cream - 6 oz (I am substituting greek yogurt for sour cream these days since you get more of a protein punch)
Low fat Cream cheese - 6 oz (softened)
Chile Lime sauce - few splashes (I used Cholula brand, to add some spice)
Black pepper to taste

Method:
1) Preheat oven to 375F. Mix everything together in a large, oven proof bowl.

2)  Bake at 375F for 20 to 25 mins or until bubbly.

3) Serve with tortialla chips, crackers, baked strips of wraps (roll ups brand is good) or thin slices of toasted baguette.

We had ours with some Lettuce Apple Salad with Lemon Poppyseed dressing.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Smoothie Pops

I got these cute and convenient popsicle moulds at IKEA... and wanted to use the smoothie recipe as a base to make these pops.  I wanted to make 2 different layers with the strawberry and blueberry layer, you could change it up to make it more fun and vary the flavours as well. The banana and yogurt give this a lovely smooth texture and made for an enjoyable treat. If you don't have greek yogurt, no worries, just strain some regular yogurt in a strainer lined with a muslin cloth ... keep this over a bowl for a few hours in the refrigerator and it will thicken up beautifully. Also, sometimes I add flax seeds when making smoothies for some fiber or you could even stir in some soaked chia seeds for a different texture... but this is totally optional.


Smoothie Popsicles -makes about 8-10


Ingredients:
Greek Yogurt  - one 4 oz container (any flavour - i used Chobani banana)
Strawberries - 1 cup, washed and hulled
Bluberries - 1 cup, (I used frozen)
Bananas - 2
Sugar/Honey - 2 tbsp (or to taste)
Chia seeds OR Flax seeds - 1 tbsp (optional)  [Soak chia seeds in 1/3 cup water for 10 mins]

Method:

1) Blend 1 banana, strawberries and half of the yogurt with half of the sugar/honey. Pour into the popsicle moulds halfway.

2) Next, blend the other banana, blueberries, flax seeds (if using)  and the other half of the yogurt with remaining sugar/honey.  If using chia seeds, stir in the soaked chia seeds into the bluberry yogurt mixture at this point. 

3) Pour into popsicle moulds to fill to the top. Insert the popsicle sticks and freeze for about 8 hours or overnight.

4) To release the popsicles from the moulds,  dip them in some hot water for a few seconds and it should come out pretty easily. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rice Cooker Mac'n Cheese

Like most kids, mine love macaroni and cheese and I usually try to appease them by making a baked version of macaroni and cheese with some broccoli and a crunchy crust (with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, which I also have to post some time). But, then I saw this video from a website (weelicious) of this cute mom and son duo who cook up this ridiculously easy version of mac'n cheese using a rice cooker that I absolutely had to try. I don't have a fancy rice cooker, infact mine is so very basic that it doesn't even have a 'keep warm' button - (seriously)...  yet, I was able to make a decent mac'n cheese with minimal effort after making just a few tweaks..  My kids gave it a double thumbs up (make that 4 since i have 2 kids) and I particularly liked the texture of the pasta - it is cooked to perfection. This has now become my favorite way of making this.... You could also add some  par-boiled broccoli /carrots or other veggies if you prefer to the pasta for variations.

RICE COOKER MACARONI AND CHEESE




Ingredients:
Elbow Pasta (dried) - 2 cups
Water / Vegetable Stock - 1.5 cups (I have only tried with water so far but if you have veg stock go ahead and try).
Salt - 1 tsp (Reduce if using vegetable stock)
Milk (whole) - 1 cup
Cheese - 1.5 cups, shredded (I used a mix of cheddar and colby jack primarily and just a touch of mozzarella)
Butter/Ghee - little, melted


Method:
1) I found that it is helpful to butter the bottom of the dish you place in the rice cooker lightly to reduce sticking/burning.

2)Add pasta, water (or stock) with salt into the rice cooker bowl and switch it on. Allow to cook for 15 minutes.
3) Stir and add the milk at this point and allow to cook for another 10 -15 minutes (mine switches off when the cooking liquid evaporates).  Ensure the cooker is not too full to prevent the milk from boiling over in this step.
4) Open the lid and stir in the cheese. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes (no need to switch it on again).
Yummy pasta is now ready to serve. If adding par-boiled veggies, add them while adding in the milk.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I can't believe that it's been more than a month since I posted last... this year really seems to be running by at top speed. The work meeting that kept me away from the kids for a week (that I had referred to in my previous post), went on quite well and the family managed just fine by themselves. We have had a rather extended winter this year and even had some snow during the last week of March. It was the wet kind of snow and so, it clung beautifully to the bare branches and was such a pretty sight to look at.... Here is a picture that shows how lovely it was.


This post has been long overdue. I first made these very tasty oatmeal cookies to gift a few families during the Christmas holidays and since then have made several batches of these. They are easy to whip up and the whole family loved them. You can also freeze the dough and bake as and when  needed. I got this awesome recipe from the smitten kitchen blog.

OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES (makes about 2 dozen)


Ingredients:

Butter - 1 stick / 1/2 cup (115 gms), softened
Light brown sugar - 2/3 cup, packed
Egg - 1 large
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
All purpose flour - 3/4 cup

Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Rolled Oats - 1.5 cups
Raisins - 3/4 cup
Walnuts - 1/2 cup, chopped (optional)


Method:
 1) In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Then add egg and vanilla and beat till smooth.
2) In a separate bowl, whisk together, the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
3) Stir this flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. 
4) Stir in the rolled oats, raisins and chopped walnuts.
5) Chill the dough in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so. You can also freeze the dough at this stage, to thaw and bake later.
6) Preheat oven to 350F, when ready to bake.
7) Drop tablespoon of cookie dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil (no need to grease). Place cookies about 2 inches apart.
8) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden at the edges. Remove and let them sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to cool. You get deliciously chewy cookies.





Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

My apologies for not blog-hopping as much - work has been positively crazy lately with back to back meetings (around 7 in a day, believe it or not) and that means sitting glued to the computer for most part and that is definitely not a healthy thing and my back is complaining a lot these days as a result. To add on to my work woes there is an offsite meeting in a different city next month and the thought of being away from the kids for an entire week is rather unnerving...  This will be my first time but hopefully it will be a case of "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and help us all get stronger in a way. Will update you later on how that pans out.

Coming to the recipe of the day, I remember ordering Eggplant Parmesan quite often when I first visited Italian restaurants in the US... It came on a bed of spaghetti noodles and was a very filling dish what with it containing deep fried, bread crumb coated eggplants, layered with marinara sauce and mozzarella & parmesan cheese. It is definitely a great way to get eggplant hating people but like many restaurant dishes, it's fairly easy to adapt the recipe to a lower calorie version by making a few changes such as baking instead of deep frying. In an effort to retain the crispness of the eggplants,  the version I make at home does not involve layering the baked eggplant slices and instead I just apply a thin layer of the sauce and sprinkle some cheese. My daughter said that it was like cheese pizza and she's right... this must make for a great low carb alternative to cheese pizza. We enjoyed this with a salad for a tasty weekend dinner.

UPDATE:  Added 28/Feb/2013 - I forgot to mention about how to choose the large eggplants for this dish.. since some can have lots of seeds and be bitter - that could affect the taste of the dish. Choose smooth skinned eggplants that are firm and look fresh... and importantly they should seem light (for their size). The lighter they are, the less seeds they contain.

BAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN



Ingredients:

Eggplant (large) - 1 (I prefer peeled)
Bread slices - 4
Parmesan cheese, shredded - 1/4 cup
Mozzarella cheese shredded - 1/2 cup
Egg - 1
Egg whites - 2 or  Egg beaters - 1/2 cup or additional Egg - 1
Oregano/Italian Dried herbs - half tsp
Dried Red Chilli flakes - 1 tsp (reduce or omit if you don't like it spicy)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Storebought tomato sauce/marinara sauce (I used tomato basil) - 1/3 cup
Olive oil - to spray

Method:

1) Peel Eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch pieces (lengthwise). Salt lightly and allow to rest for 30 to 45 mins. You will see drops of water form...  Blot with a kitchen towel/paper napkin. What this process does is to draw out the moisture from the eggplant so it will get crisp when baked instead of becoming soggy.


2) In a mixie jar, add bread slices, dried red chilli flakes, dried herbs, parmesan cheese and blend until powdered.  Spread on a wide plate.


3) In a slightly wide bowl, beat together the eggs (or eggwhites or egg beaters) with a bit of salt and pepper.

4) Preheat oven to 375F and line 2 big baking sheets with foil or parchment. Coat lightly with oil.

5) Dredge/Dip the blotted eggplant first in the egg wash and then in the bread crumb mixture. Lay on the baking sheet(s). Repeat with remaining slices of eggplant without overlapping and bake for about 20 mins.. flipping once after 10 mins.

6) Once the eggplants get browned...  remove from stove, spread a tbsp or so of marinara sauce on each slice of eggplant and sprinkle some of the mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted 5 to 10 mins.




7) Remove and serve with salad of choice or as is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kadhamba Kootu/Kuzhambu

My aunt (Sumathi athai) would make this kuzhambu once a year for thiruvadhirai and since that usually would come during the months of Dec/January there would be a good supply of winter veggies, especially mochai. She would use 21 different veggies, if I remember right... which explains the name of the dish since it's a medley of vegetables.  For some reason, my mom or grandmother never made this so I would eagerly await the thooku (a stainless steel vessel with a fitting lid and a handle) of this tasty kuzhambu each year that my aunt would bring for us.  During my last trip, I got the recipe from her and quickly scribbled it down and now I can enjoy this anytime of the year :)  This pairs really well with ven pongal or just plain white rice and is chock full of vegetables, also it's a recipe with no onion or garlic. In my mind this is like aviyal meets sambar and they live happily ever after :)

KADAMBA KOOTU / KUZHAMBU



Ingredients:
Mixed Vegetables - 2 to 3 cups (I used ashgourd/wintermelon, vazhakkai/raw banana, potato, avarakkai/flat beans, carrot, green beans, chow chow/chayote squash, brinjal)
Fresh/Frozen mochai (Papdi Lilva) - half cup


Toor Dhal - 1/4 cup
Channa Dhal- 1 tbsp
Mung Dhal - 1 tbsp
Tomato - 1 small
Tamarind - 1 small lemon sized, soaked in warm water
Chilli powder - half tsp
Sambar powder - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - half tsp

Salt - to taste

To Grind:
Coconut Grated - 1/4 cup
Cumin seeds - half tsp
Green chillies - 2
Black pepper - 5

For Seasoning:Gingelly / Sesame Oil (Nallennai) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds- half tsp

Urad Dhal - half tsp
Cumin seeds - quarter tsp

Methi seeds - 4 or 5
Curry leaves - few

Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp
Asafoetida - a pinch


Method:
1) Cut veggies into uniform 1 inch cubes. Cook them (except tomato and mochai) with some water, salt and turmeric till soft (but not mushy). If in a rush, I use a pressure cooker and cook for 4-5 minutes once the pressure builds up and switch off the stove.

2) Pressure cook the Thuvar dhal, channa dhal and mung dhal together with some turmeric and asafoetida till soft and mushy. Mash them up.  I also pressure cooked the mochai till soft with a touch of salt.

3) Extract the tamarind water from the soaked tamarind and strain.
4) Grind together the coconut, cumin seeds, green chillies and black pepper with some water to a paste.

5) In a big pot or the pressure cooker itself,  bring together the cooked vegetables, mochai and tomatoes and allow them to cook for a few minutes with about 1 cup of water before adding the tamarind water, chilli powder and sambar powder. Allow this to boil for about 10 to 15 minutes.

6) Add the mashed dhals at this point and the ground coconut paste. Adjust salt and consistency of gravy and allow to boil for another 5 to 10 minutes. Switch off the stove.

7) In a separate small kadai, heat the oil and add the seasoning ingredients... once the mustard splutters, add the curry leaves and pour into the pot with the kuzhambu. Sprinkle coriander leaves and cover. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Avocado Methi parathas with Broccoli Paneer filling

Trying to get a balanced meal on the table on weekends is not an easy task and if you take into consideration some other variables such as what each person likes and what is easy enough to pack for lunch the following day etc. it just makes it even more complex. I find that if I don't plan what to cook ahead of time it takes a longer time to make dinner..  One such evening, I had no clear plan of what to make so decided to make stuffed parathas and took out my food processor, which made everything so much quicker and coupled with some home-made yogurt this made for a tasty, satisfying meal.


AVOCADO METHI PARATHAS with BROCCOLI PANEER FILLING

Ingredients:


Whole wheat flour/atta - 2.5 cups
Avocado - half, cubed
Olive Oil - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Warm water - as needed to knead :)
Methi leaves - 1 cup, chopped
Oil - to cook parathas


Filling
Broccoli - 1 head, minced in the food processor - about 1 to 1.5 cups minced
Paneer - 150g
Potato - 1, boiled and peeled (optional)
Ginger - 1 inch piece

Coriander leaves - 10 stalks with leaves
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Sambar powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - half tsp
Cumin powder - half tsp / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp

Method:
1) For the dough - put whole wheat flour, methi leaves, cubed avocado, olive oil and a few pinches of salt in the food processor with the kneading attachment. Let it run through for about 15 seconds to mix well. Then drizzle the warm water through the feeding tube while running the food processor (about 45 seconds) until a smooth dough is formed. You could very well do this by hand too if you don't have / want to use a food processor. Allow this rest for about 30 mins or so (during which time I worked on the filling).


2) Wash and cut broccoli into big florets and place in food processor (with chopping blade this time) along with ginger... pulse until minced. Remove and keep aside.

3) Next add big pcs of paneer and coriander leaves in food processor and pulse until it crumbles.

4) Heat a pan with a tsp of oil and add the minced broccoli and saute with some salt until tender. Stir in the masala powders to taste and cook for a few more mins. Switch off the stove and stir in the crumbled paneer and mashed potato (if using). Allow to cool a bit.

5) Make lemon sized balls of the dough and equal sized balls of the broccoli paneer filling as well. Roll parathas, place filling in the middle, cover and re-roll (for detailed steps, please refer to this post).


6) Cook on a tawa on both sides (on medium) and brush with some oil. Serve with plain or spiced masala yogurt.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lettuce & Apple Salad with Lemon Poppyseed dressing

So many of us are trying to adopt healthier eating patterns and usually fruits and vegetables are the most important feature of such meals. As I've mentioned many times earlier, while I love soups, salads have not always been on my favorite list but there are some versions that I have begun to favour. When my SIL mentioned that she has a new favorite dressing - lemon poppyseed, I decided to try it for some beautiful romaine lettuce that I brought home. It's a sweet and tangy dressing and little did I expect the entire family to like it... even my 3 yr old son who generally favors fried foods/chocolates ate a bowlful of lettuce leaves and left only the apples in the bowl! The toughest critic liking it is always a win in my book. What's more, they wanted an encore for dinner the following day  :)


 ROMAINE & APPLE SALAD with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing|




Ingredients:
Hearts of romaine (rinsed and patted dry) - 2 bunches - chopped into 1 inch pcs

Apple/Pear - 1, chopped into pieces (I peeled it but it's optional)
Sweetened dried cranberries - 1 to 2 tbsp (or use raisins)
Roasted walnuts/almonds - 2 tbsp, chopped

For the dressing - about 1/3 cup
Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tbsp (you can go upto 2 tbsp if you want it more sweet)
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Dijon Mustard - 1 tsp
Chopped red onion  - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/8 tsp
Pepper - 1/4 tsp
Poppyseeds (khasa khasa) - 1 tsp (Black poppyseeds will have a better impact but I only had the white ones).

Method:

1) In a blender or mixie jar, grind together lemon juice sugar, onion. Blend in the mustard and olive oil. Remove this to a bowl  and add the poppy seeds and stir in to combine with salt and black pepper to taste.


2) Toss the romaine hearts, apples with 2 to 3 tbsp of the lemon poppyseed dressing with some salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the dried cranberries and walnuts and serve. Best when served fresh.

We had a tasty meal by combining a big bowl of this salad, some black bean soup and  this pull apart bread (that was featured on so many blogs last week) - it was far too tempting to not try it out.  I followed the recipe in Lata akka's blog and used sun dried tomatoes and pepper jack cheese for a filling.



Monday, January 28, 2013

Dreamt of Laddoo but got Boondhi

So, it was our anniversary yesterday and as usual my husband wanted me to make his favorite Pound Cake but I wanted to try something different. I typically experiment with atleast one new sweet during Deepavali but last year since we didn't celebrate, the family was not subject to that tasty torture. It so happened that I saw this recipe few days ago and the laddus looked absolutely tempting (even though I'm not usually a fan of laddus). The recipe seemed simple enough that I started floating the idea of making 11 laddoos for our anniversary (no prizes for guessing how long I've been married :) ) My husband said that he preferred boondhis but I said 11 boondhis is nowhere exciting as 11 laddoos and vetoed this desire of his.

Next, I chose a quiet afternoon when my daughter was at class and son was napping to proceed with the laddoo making and everything seemed to be progressing well except at the last stage when the boondhis were added to the sugar syrup they showed no signs of sticking together. I tried to form laddoos at different stages of the sugar soaking process but no such luck... Eventually my husband got what he wanted - tasty boondhis :)  My daughter returned from class and exclaimed "Wow! amma you made so many mini laddoos!" and loved having them for snack.

BOONDHIS - makes about 3 cups


Ingredients

For Boondhi

Besan (Kadalai maavu) - 1 cup
Water - half to 3/4 cup
Ghee - 1 tbsp + 2 tsp
Oil - to deep fry
Raisins - 1 tbsp
Cashew pcs - 1 tbsp


For Sugar Syrup:
Sugar - 1 cup
Water - half cup
Cardamom/Elaichi - 4 to 5 powdered



Method:
1) Combine sugar and water and heat on med-low flame until melted and begins to boil. Let it heat through until it thickens a bit for boondi (about half string to 1 string consistency). NExt time I try to make laddoos, I'll probably switch off as soon as sugar melts. Stir in the cardamom powder.

2) Heat 1 tbsp of the ghee and fry the raisins and cashews till golden (I didn't use any cashews since my daughter is allergic). Keep aside.

3) Meanwhile heat oil. Whisk together the besan, 2 tsp ghee and water until you form a paste with no lumps. It should be smooth. Add water as necessary to get a thick yet pouring consistency. You can adjust the water/besan content if you feel that the batter is too thick or thin.

4) I used my 'kannu karandi' - which is a perforated stainless steel ladle to form boondhis. Hold this slotted spoon over the hot oil and pour a ladleful of the besan batter and swirl it over the slotted spoon with the ladle. The batter will fall through the holes and form boondhis. I didn't care about the shape at that point since i figured they'll all be smushed into laddoos anyway.

5) No need to fry boondhis till crisp. In a couple of minutes the bubbles will subside and the boondhis can be removed from the oil and drained.  Keep them aside (Another thing I plan to change when making laddoos next time is to drop them in the sugar syrup at this stage instead of waiting for all batches to complete).

6) Finish all the batter in this manner. Warm up the sugar syrup on a low flame and mix in the fried boondhis along with the fried raisins and cashews. Mix well. It will taste like besan initially and seem wet with the syrup  but once cooled and after a few hours the boondhis will taste great. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Swiss Chard Thoran & Tandoori Rolls

It's always exciting & healthy to cook different greens, besides spinach. There was once a time when I would stick to just spinach or methi leaves but now I have recipes that my family loves that involve kale, swiss chard, bok choy, gongura, beet greens etc.

Red Swiss Chard can be made into a kootu but this thoran works so perfectly and it results in a flavourful, tender curry that is great with some rice, rasam/yogurt. I used this fabulous recipe with just a few modifications and we love it at home.

RED SWISS CHARD THORAN


Ingredients:
Red Swiss Chard - 1 bunch
Coconut - 1/3 cup, shredded (fresh or frozen)
Onion - half of a small one or 2 shallots, chopped
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves, chopped
Green Chillies - 2, minced finely
Oil - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - quarter tsp
Split Urad dhal - quarter tsp
Cumin seeds - quarter tsp
Salt - to taste

Method: 1) Rinse swiss chard leaves and chop them (including the stalks). 
2) Heat oil in a pan and season with mustard seeds, urad dhal and cumin seeds.
3) Once the mustard splutters, add the chopped onion, garlic and green chillies and saute for a few minutes.
4) Next add the chopped swiss chard... it may seem like a lot, but it will cook down considerably... saute for a few minutes with a touch of salt.  With greens, I've found that it can quickly become too salty, so it's always good to start with less and add more if needed.
5) After a few minutes when the swiss chard looks wilted, add the grated coconut, reduce flame to medium low, cover and allow to cook for a few minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. Remove from stove and serve.



TANDOORI ROLLS


I also wanted to share this idea for a very tasty roll that I made a few days ago... I made this tandoori marinade with some hung yogurt and marinated cubes of paneer and baby bella mushrooms for about 3 to 4 hours (refrigerated).  I then pan fried them separately for a few minutes.  Next, I sauteed some sliced onions and bell peppers with some oil, salt and chilli powder. For a dressing I blended together some mint leaves, coriander leaves, cumin and g. chillies with some yogurt. You can use chapathi for the rolls or use storebough wraps (there are some good multigrain ones with a good amount of fiber).... Add few cubes of paneer, mushroom, onion, bell pepper, few cubes of pineapple, some grated carrot and drizzle some of the mint-coriander dressing, roll up and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Baked Plantain Chips

It's so hard to get back to the normal schedule of work, gym, school, classes etc. after a relaxing break. We got a lot of rest, reading, playing, meeting friends, catching up on movies, cleaning, organizing etc. done. Hope you all had a lovely holiday with family.

Coming to the recipe I have for today... My husband loves plantain chips and my MIL used to make them as one of the snacks for his birthday party each year... She  made them when she visited us too and they were super tasty and crunchy. I decided to try the baked version recently and was quite happy with the resultant lower fat chips. Make sure you get the plantains and not the 'green bananas'.

BAKED PLANTAIN CHIPS



Ingredients:

Raw (unripe) Plantains - 3, peeled
Chilli powder - 1 tsp (or to taste)
Salt - about 1 tsp (or to taste)

Turmeric powder - quarter tsp
Olive Oil (extra virgins works) - 2 tbsp

Method:

1) Peel and slice plantains into thin slices (abt 2 to 3 mm) - making them too thin will make them brown too fast and if they are too thick they will be more chewy than crispy.


2) Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper.

3) In a big bowl, toss the sliced plantains (they tend to stick to each other so separate them) with the chilli & turmeric powders, salt and oil.



4) Place them on the baking sheets in a single layer and cook for about 15 mins or till golden  turning over once in between.  Cool a bit and enjoy as a snack or as a side dish with rice and a curry. These are best fresh.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Easy Paneer Makhni (Butter Masala)

I am sure everyone is in a holiday  mood and is relaxing with family and friends - I have the week off and have a huge list of things I want to do but with both kids at home, I'm not sure how far on the list I'll get but atleast it will be some much needed downtime. There may also a fair bit of entertaining going on. It's always fun and satisfying to invite people home, cook for them and watch them enjoy the food.

The recipe that I have here today is one that is super easy to whip up and a definite crowd pleaser. It requires no grinding and tastes as decadent and rich as something  you would get from a restaurant. This would be great for a pot luck dish too. You could even add some peas to the dish for a twist.

PANEER MAKAHNI / BUTTER MASALA



Ingredients:

Paneer - 300 to 400 gms
Butter - 1 tbsp

Tomato paste - 6oz (canned)
Evaporated milk - 1 to 1.25 cups OR Heavy Cream (half cup)
Onion - small one, minced super fine (about quarter cup)
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp (optional)
Chilli powder - 1 to 2 tsp (2 for spicy and 1 for mild)
Coriander powder - 1.5 tsp
Cumin powder - half tsp
Garam Masala - 1 tsp
Sugar - half tsp
Salt - to taste
Kasuri Methi - 2 tsp, crushed between fingers
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp chopped

Method:
1) Heat butter and saute onion and ginger garlic paste for a few minutes. (You can omit both onion and ginger garlic and you will still have a tasty curry).
2) Blend together the tomato paste (since it's usuall very thick in consistency) with about 3 cups of water.  Stir in the chilli, coriander, cumin, garam masala powders. Also add sugar and salt.

3)Pour tomato mixture into pan with onions and garlic and allow to come to a boil. Reduce flame to medium low and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.
4) Cube paneer and add to gravy and allow to boil on medium for 5 mins. (I did not fry the paneer and felt that it was softer and creamier this way).
5) Stir in the evaporated milk/heavy cream at this point - will turn to a lovely orange, heat through for a minute or two (allowing it to boil may curdle the evaporated milk). Switch off the stove and sprinkle kasuri methi and coriander leaves.
The paneer makhni is now ready to be served with rotis/pulaos.

Wishing you all a Merry Xmas, Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year ahead (in case I don't get to post again this month).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Caramel Candies and Gift Ideas

Making candy at home is always exciting and knowing how it will thrill my kids I was really looking forward to making these Salted Caramels by David Lebovitz... the process sounded relatively simple, I had all the ingredients and a candy thermometer so I just had to find some free time and I was good to go.  I decided to included these caramels in the gift packs I was planning to give my neighbours and my daughter's teacher at school. I got these cute cookie tins at Walgreens (they are seasonal)... and filled them with homemade goodies and a handmade card.

The candies turned out exactly as I had hoped though I did not add any fleur de sel. I had no problems with them sticking to each other and was able to store them in a ziploc bag at room temperature. But I wrapped them individually when gifting.

HARD CARAMEL CANDIES ( makes approx 50 pcs)


Ingredients:
Heavy Cream - 3/4 cup
Salt - half tsp + a pinch more (since I used unsalted butter)
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 cup
Light Corn Syrup - half cup
Butter - 4 tbsp, at room temperature

Method:
1) In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream, 2 tbsp butter, salt and vanilla extract until the mixture begins to boil. Switch off, cover and let it stay warm.

2) Meanwhile in a heavy, deep pan (I used a 3 qt stainless steel one), combine the sugar and corn syrup and heat on medium - stirring a few times initially and later leaving it untouched until it boils and reaches a temperature of 310F  (155C) on the candy thermometer - it took me about 10 minutes and the mixture turned a light golden colour at this point.

3) Turn off the heat and stir in the warm cream mixture. I took a step back when doing this in case there was any splattering but it was quite safe.  Stir this until smooth.

4) Line a loaf pan with some heavy duty aluminium foil and spray some oil on it evenly.

5) Reheat this caramel mixture (again on medium) till it reaches 260F (127C) on the candy thermometer. The mixture will be bubbling throughout this process and this took me about 15-20 minutes to get to this stage.

6) Updated 13/Dec(forgot to add this step) Remove caramel mixture from stove and add cut pieces of the remaining 2 tbsp butter and keep stirring until smooth and shiny.

7) Pour this into the pan when done and allow to cool - about 30 minutes later, turn over the caramel bar from the pan,  peel the foil and cut into pieces.... if you wait until it cools completely it can become too hard to cut, so don't wait until it's completely cooled. I sprayed a bit of oil on the knife to prevent any sticking.

Here's a picture of the goodies that we packed as gifts - it included Pumpkin Rolls (with Cream cheese icing), chewy Oatmeal Raisin cookies and these Caramel candies. My daughter made the Santa cards to go with it.

For more fabulous ideas for food gifts please check out: Nupur's blog and Sala's blog.