Friday, September 28, 2007

Mini Chocolate-Chip Cheesecakes

Lately in the blogosphere there was chocolate temptation everywhere I looked.. so I started craving it as well. Combined with the fact that there was a pack of Low fat Cream cheese lying in our refrigerator, an idea for a cheesecake + chocolate temptation was formulated and soon I was browsing several cheesecake recipes. I finally narrowed it down to a few and made a few changes to suit our palate and pantry.

The measurements below make 6-7 mini-cheesecakes and was extremely easy to whip up. It also tasted very good with a top layer or creaminess and a bottom layer of chocolatey goodness - perfect! This recipe is a very basic one so it lends itself to quite a few modifications and flavorings so the possibilities are endless.

MINI CHOCOLATE-CHIP CHEESECAKES

Ingredients:
Lowfat Cream Cheese - 1 pack (8oz), softened (brought to room temperature)
Sugar - 1/3 cup
Flour (All purpose) - 1/2 tbsp
Egg - 1

Semi-sweet Chocolate chips - 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup (as per taste)

For Crust:
Chocolate Graham Crackers - 1/2 cup, powdered (you could use Plain or Honey)
Margarine - 1/2 tbsp, melted

Method:


1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cups (no need to grease)

2) For the crust: Combine powdered graham crackers and melted margarine in a bowl (it will be powdery). Divide this mixture equally and press into base of paper cups. Refrigerate this while the filling is done.

3) For the filling: Beat softened cream cheese, sugar and flour till combined and fluffy. Add egg and beat again for a few minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4) Fill the muffin cups to the top with cream cheese mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes. (Don't let the tops crack). Remove, cool completely and then refrigerate for about 4-5 hours before serving.

You could top with chocolate shavings but I just added raspberries that I froze.



Variations:

  • Melt half of the chocolate chips and beat into the cream cheese mixture before stirring in the remaining half.

  • Skip the chocolate, add a swirl of raspberry or strawberry puree, sweetened with some sugar if necessary, after pouring the cream cheese mixture into the muffin cups. Also substitute chocolate graham crackers with honey graham crackers.

  • Make the crust with crushed Oreo cookies and add some chopped oreos to the creamcheese filling.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Amish Friendship Bread - Salara

When Rajitha said that she has packaged some of that friendship starter to me I was so excited. I even told my husband (who is the one who retrieves our mail ) to keep a watch out for a package for me and to check the mailbox everyday, without fail. I guess the postman sensed the excitement and actually deposited the package right on my doorstep so I picked it up and immediately ripped open the package to see an off-white liquidy batter - The Amish Friendship Bread Starter. Yippee.

It came with a sheet of instructions and a few tips from Rajitha. It was day 4 when I received it so I didn't have to wait too long before adding more flour, sugar and milk on day 6. I also mashed it daily and watched the package puff into a balloon and would deflate it each time. I couldn't decide on what to bake.. there were too many options running through my mind. Till the last minute I was still contemplating on the different recipes. Since Cynthia's Salara has been on my mind for a while now, I decided on making that using the starter.

Update on May 27th 2008:
Zlamushka is hosting the Tried & Tasted event and this month's edition is Cynthia's Tastes Like Home Blog. I would like to submit this beautiful dish from Cynthia's blog as my entry for this event.

Here's Cynthia's recipe :

SALARA (Coconut Roll)



Ingredients:

DOUGH
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp active yeast
1 tsp sugar
¼ cup warm water
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup margarine
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 egg white, lightly beaten


FILLING
2 cups finely grated coconut
Handful of raisins, chopped

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla essence
Red food colouring

METHOD
1) In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the filling and set aside for 1 hour. I buy frozen grated coconut usually... so I ran that in the mixie for a few minutes to make it softer. I added a handful of chopped raisins to the coconut mixture since i remembered the coconut buns in India having some tutti-fruti.

2) In a separate bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water with 1 tsp sugar. Let proof for 10 minutes.

3) In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar. Add yeast, lightly beaten egg, margarine and warm milk to flour mixture and knead to dough

4) Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover dough and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size

5)Punch down dough, knead briefly and divide equally in half. On a well floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Divide the filling in half and spread 1-half onto the rectangle-shaped dough, leaving 1 inch free around the edges.

6) Roll up the dough with mixture, lengthways, cover and let rise for 45 minutes

7) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush rolls with egg-white egg wash and bake in oven for 20 – 30 minutes

8) Cool on a rack, slice and serve.
I adjusted the flour and milk in the recipe for the dough by reducing them to factor in the 1 cup of Amish Bread Starter that I used. Though my bread doesn't look as good as Cynthia's, it tasted very good. I loved the flavor of the coconut filling.

I am forwarding the Friendship Starter onto two wonderful bloggers : Richa and Padma
Hope they enjoy the baking experience as well.

I would also like to send this as an entry for Coffee's MBP-Bread.

My Favorite smells in the kitchen will have to be:

1) The aroma when you add coriander leaves while sauteeing onions, ginger and garlic.
2) The smell of a cake being baked and finally
3) Inhaling the vapours as I boil tea and ginger, just before I add the milk... very soothing.

Thanks to:
Rajitha for giving me the opportunity.
Cynthia for the wonderful Salara recipe
Coffee for organizing MBP and this month's lovely theme
Richa and Padma for carrying on the friendship bread tradition... :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tindora - Two Ways

Tindora or Kovakkai as it is known in Tamil was not a prevalent vegetable at home during my childhood. I've probably tasted it on some very rare occassions and didn't particularly like it. The very first time I warmed up to it was when I tasted a fry made by Kalai athai (for which I am yet to get the recipe). Later, I forgot all about it until I tasted a poriyal when Raji anni made it. The first preparation that I'm going to write about today is similar to Raji annis but is made a whole lot simpler by using the microwave. Even in the microwave this takes a while but it's low-maintenance and just needs some stirring once every 12-15 minutes, also it uses very little oil. We make this very often at home and is spicy and crisp.

TINDORA CRISPS

Ingredients:

Tindora - 1 pound, trimmed and cut into round slices
Onion - 1 medium, chopped finely.
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp + PAM

Method:

1) In a glass bowl, add the tindora pieces and microwave for 15 mins on High. No need to stir in between or add any water.

2) Meanwhile, Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan, add the chopped onions and cook till light brown. Next add chilli powder and salt, fry for 2 to 3 more minutes.

3) Once the 15 mins are up, mix the onion mixture with the Tindora and spray some PAM. Return to Microwave for another 15 minutes. Again no-stirring.

4) The tindora will slowly get brown and cook down considerably. Add more PAM if necessary, stir well, return to microwave and cook for 10 - 15 minutes more till done, stirring once / twice in between. The longer you cook, the crispier it will get and also a bit chewy.


STUFFED TINDORA

Recently I came across this recipe at Ammalu's Kitchen and now this is another favorite preparation at home for Kovakai (besides the one above). It's a bit more labor intensive and time consuming but very well worth the effort. Ammalu says that it's her Pedatha's recipe who is famous for stuffed vegetables and I can very easily see why after tasting this. I am documenting her recipe here for my future reference.

Ingredients:

Tindora - 25
Oil - 1 tbsp

To Grind:

Besan (Kadalai Maavu) - 1/4 cup
Coconut (dessicated) - 1/4 cup
Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

Method:

1) Make a plus-shaped slit in the Tindora leaving one end intact so it holds it's shape. Microwave these for 5 mins on High with a few tbsp of water and some salt. Drain the water.

2) Grind the besan, coconut, chilli powder and salt. Stuff this mixture into the Tindora carefully.

3) Heat a wide pan with the oil and put the tindora as a single layer. Keep it on a medium flame. Cover this pan with a plate with some water on it.

4) Turn them over a few times so all sides of the tindora get cooked evenly and get browned.

I can't stop popping these into my mouth just by themselves. They are just so tasty. Thanks to Ammalu and her Pedatha.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mint Rice

On our recent trip to NJ, our friend Latha gave us some home-grown cucumbers and a huge bag packed with Mint leaves. They have a nice garden with brinjals, bell peppers, chillies, cantaloupes, strawberries, tomatoes and so on but the mint plants however where growing like a weed so she asked me to help myself and take as much as possible and take, I did. Thank you Latha. I was already dreaming of Mint Rice and a cooling cucumber raitha to go with it.

This recipe is something my mom and I tried from the Mallika Badrinath cookbook, when in search of a quick lunch idea for Arun and ever since this has been made often. As usual some changes were made and I incorporated more vegetables than the recipe called for to make it more wholesome.

MINT RICE / PULAV
Ingredients:

Basmathi Rice - 1 cup
Peas - 1/4 cup
Carrots - 1/4 cup, julienned
Beans - 1/4 cup, trimmed and julienned
Cauliflower - 1/2 cup, small florets
Onions - 1, sliced into 1 inch pieces
Oil - 2 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Cloves - 1
Bay Leaf - 1 small
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

To Grind:

Mint Leaves - 2 to 3 cups, de-stalked and washed
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Green chillies - 7 to 8
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut - 3 to 4 tbsp

Method:

1) Pressure cook Basmati rice with 1.75 cups of water and about 1/2 tsp of salt. Allow to cool and separate the grains.

2) In about 1/2 tsp of oil, fry ginger, green chillies, turmeric powder and mint leaves. Allow to cool lightly and grind with coconut.

3) Par-boil the carrots, peas, beans and cauliflower with some salt and 2-3 tbsp of water in the microwave for 5 mins.

4) Heat the rest of the oil + 1 tsp ghee and fry the cinnamon, clove, cumin and bay leaf. Add the sliced onions and let brown. Next add the parboiled vegetables and saute till they get cooked

5) Now add the ground mint paste and garam masla, fry for about 3 to 5 minutes before adding the cooled rice and salt as required. After about 5-10 minutes, switch off the stove, cover with a lid and let the rice rest for about 10 to 15 minutes so the flavors can absorb. Serve with raitha and chips.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Channa Masala

This is one satisfying, popular gravy that goes so well with puris, chapathis or even mild pulaos. It's easy to make as well so it makes for a great party dish. I normally soak channa (chickpeas) in bulk and then store them in ziploc bags with a few tbsp of water in the freezer so all I have to do is thaw lightly in the microwave and then pressure cook whenever I need them.

CHANNA MASALA

Ingredients:

Kabuli Channa (White) - 1 cup soaked overnight
Onion - 1, big, chopped finely
Tomato - 1, chopped finely
Green Chillies - 2, slit
Garlic - 5 to 6 cloves, chopped
Ginger - 1 inch piece, chopped
Coriander leaves/stalks - 5 tbsp chopped
Channa Masala - 1 tbsp
Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1 tsp
Amchur powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp

Method:

1) Drain and cook Channa in the pressure cooker with some salt. I follow the timing used by my MIL for perfectly soft channa that's not too mushy... one whistle + 20 minutes on low flame.

2) Heat oil in a pan, and add cumin seeds. Once they sizzle, add onion, green chillies, ginger and garlic. Saute this for a few minutes until onions turn golden brown. Add about 2 tbsps of the chopped coriander leaves and fry for another minute.

3) Now add the chopped tomato, salt and turmeric powder... let the tomatoes soften and get mushy.

4) At this point, add the rest of the masalas and fry for about 3-5 minutes more on a medium flame. If it sticks to the pan, add a tbsp of water. Once the masala gets cooked, add the cooked channa with the water and if required, add upto a cup of water.

5) Cover this and let simmer for 20 minutes so the channa can absorb all the masala flavours. If the gravy is too thin, mash about 1/4 cup of channa (or grind it) and add... this will help thicken it. Switch off the stove and top with the remaining chopped coriander leaves.

Variations: My MIL adds some tamarind juice and jaggery as well to this and that tastes great too.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Celebrating Vinayaka Chathurthi

Vinayaka Chathurthi was on the 15th of September and I was thrilled that it was on a Saturday because it meant a leisurely celebration ... especially for this festival, since the preparation of kozhukattais can be rather time consuming.

The outer covering has always been the most daunting aspect of kozhukattais for me. I've tried several methods.. the one with rice flour and water - what a disaster that was. Then my friend Raji and my mom said that the method I use for my Ammini Kozhukattai can be used and that was a shade better but still kind of tough. Recently I saw Viji's recipe which had exact measurements and was similar to my ammini kozhukattai so I set about following that and this time the outer dough was pliable and soft after it was steamed. Thank you so much Viji. I'm sure that I'll master this method in the coming years but for this year, this was a definite improvement from my past attempts. The art of shaping them is yet another thing that needs quite a bit of practice.. all in time.

Here's Viji's recipe :

For the Kozhukattai - maavu:

1) Soak 1 cup Ponni Raw Rice for an hour. Drain. For 1 cup rice, we need 2 cups of water so measure that and keep the water aside.

2) Grind the drained rice in a mixie with water, as required (from the 2 cups measured out) to a very smooth paste.

3) Now, heat the remaining water in a thick pan, with 1 tbsp of oil, 2 tbsp of milk (optional) and a pinch of salt. When it boils, add the ground rice paste and stir. Once a lump is formed, lower the flame and keep stirring for about 15 mins till it's well cooked.

4) Switch off the stove, cover with a damp cloth/tissue and cover with a lid as well. Let this rest for an hour before kneading well and shaping into kozhukattais.

For Sweet Pooranam:

Grated coconut - 1 cup
Jaggery - 3/4 cup
Water - 1/4 cup
Elaichi - powdered, a couple pinches.

1) Heat Jaggery with water and once it melts, allow to boil for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the grated coconut and elaichi powder and stir well till it thickens.

For Ulundhu Pooranam: (my favorite filling)

Ulundhu (Urad dhal) - ½ cup
Green chili - 2 small
Ginger - ½ inch
Salt to taste
Coconut - 1 tsp, (optional)

1) Soak Ulundhu for 30 minutes. Grind it coarsely with green chili, ginger and salt.

2) Steam cook it for 5 minutes and crumble it.

3) In a small pan, heat a tsp of oil and temper with mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida, then add the crumbled ulundhu and saute for a few minutes. Finally add shredded coconut and switch off the stove.

Viji, Thanks once again for such a well documented recipe, with so many tips that one can gather only after years of experience.

Here's a snap of the kozhukattais :

Friday, September 14, 2007

Roasted Broccoli

This is the preparation method that changed my Broccoli-hating husband into one that gobbles them up without any persuasion from me. Before that, he used to only eat them (unknowingly, of course) when I chopped them into an unrecognizable state and added them to Vegetable Noodles or my Tofu Scramble recipe.

This is a simple recipe with just a few ingredients and the oven roasting gives the broccoli a crispy texture that it tastes almost fried.

ROASTED BROCCOLI


Ingredients

Broccoli – 1 large, separated into florets
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Chilli powder – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Salt and Pepper - to taste

Method:

1) Pre-heat oven to 425F

2) Toss broccoli florets with salt, pepper, chilli powder and olive oil till well coated.

3) Spray a baking sheet with some oil and arrange the florets as a single layer and roast them in the hot oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the edges turn brown.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mushroom Masala

I used to very often make a gravy with canned button mushrooms and paneer in an onion-tomato sauce made rich with a paste of ground cashews but this one is something I tried recently with fresh white mushrooms from Seema's blog (with minor modifications) and we loved this. It went great with chapathis and made for a quick dinner along with a simple dhal. Thank you Seema.

MUSHROOM MASALA

Ingredients

Mushrooms (White) - 1 pack ~8oz, wiped clean with a damp tissue & quartered
Onion - 1 big, sliced
Garlic - 4 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Tomato - 1, cut into pieces
Green Chillies - 2
Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Coriander Leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped
Milk - 2 to 3 tbsp
Oil - 3 tsp
Salt, to taste

Method:

1) Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add onions, ginger, garlic, green chillies and saute till lightly browned. Add the tomato and fry for 2-3 minutes more with chilli powder.

2) Allow the above mixture to cool slightly and grind to a smooth paste.

3) Heat 1 tsp oil in the same pan and add a few pinches of salt. Fry the mushrooms in this till cooked.

4) Heat the last tsp of oil and add cumin seeds, add the ground paste and turmeric, salt and garam masala. Fry well. Add mushrooms and the milk and let this simmer for about 10-15 mins more for the flavours to absorb.

5) Garnish with Coriander leaves and serve.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Aloo Tikkis

Tikkis, an ubiquitous street side food in North India and a hot favorite... are so simple and easy to make but taste real good. Also, most of the ingredients are what we have at home so these can be made at a moment's notice and are perfect for a quick tea-time snack.

ALOO TIKKI

Ingredients:
Potatoes - 2, boiled, peeled and mashed
Green Peas - 1/2 cup, cooked and mashed coarsely
Green chillies - 1 tbsp, chopped
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped
Ginger - 2 tsp, chopped
Chilli powder - 1/2 to 1 tsp
Chaat masala - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Cornflour - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - to shallow fry


Method:

1) Mix all the ingredients above (except oil). Divide this into several portions. and shape each portion into a tikki.

2) Shallow fry these (or deep fry, if you so prefer) until golden brown on either side. Serve with ketchup.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Bhel Puri

For a quick summertime snack, which can spare me from slaving at the stove I can think of nothing more healthy, delicious and satisfying as Bhel Puri. I normally have Coriander Chutney and Tamarind-Date Chutney in the fridge so this is a breeze to prepare.


BHEL PURI

Ingredients

Puffed Rice (Pori) - 3 to 4 cups (or more to taste)
Potato - 1 medium, boiled, peeled, refrigerated for an hour & cubed
Cucumber - 1, diced
Tomato - 1, diced
Onion - 1, diced
Green chillies - 3, finely chopped
Channa (white) - 1/2 cup, soaked and cooked with salt (or canned)
Chaat Masala - a couple pinches or to taste
Garam Masala - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Tamarind - Date chutney
Coriander/Green Chutney
Sev - to serve
Coriander leaves - 3 to 4 tbsp, chopped

Method:
1) Combine onion, tomato, cucumber, potato, green chillies, coriander leaves and channa in a big bowl. Toss with salt, chaat masala & Garam masala.

2) Just before serving, add the puffed rice (pori) with the coriander and tamarind-date chutneys and mix. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3) Scoop into a serving bowl and top with crunchy sev. Delicious Bhel puri is now ready to savour.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Carrot-Almond Cooler

This is a very nutritious, filling drink that my friend Raji makes. It was a tasty way of getting carrots, badam and saffron in her diet during her pregnancy. Since we all enjoyed it as well, I've made this quite often since then ...

CARROT - ALMOND COOLER

Ingredients:

Carrots - 5 to 6, peeled and cut into chunks
Almonds (Badam) - 20, whole, soaked in warm water for an hour and peeled
Milk - 3 cups or more (depending on consistency required)
Sugar - to taste
Saffron strands - few

Method :

1) In a vessel that fits into the pressure cooker, add carrot pieces, peeled almonds, few strands of saffron and 1 cup of milk.

2) Pressure cook this for 2 to 3 whistles until soft and allow to cool.

3) In a blender, grind this carrot-almond mixture with the rest of the milk and required amount of sugar .

4) Chill this and serve.
I am sending this to Meeta's Monthly Mingle : Liquid Dreams
Sreelu, Thank you for suggesting this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My First Pickle-making Process


I have always been hesitant about making Pickles - always thought it was complicated. I vaguely remember my mom complaining about a few failures when it came to this - mostly with the pickle developing some fungus and she would be lamenting about having to throw it away, and what a waste it was. But of course, she didn't have much opportunity to try and perfect this because my grandmother would always make enough pickles for her ... Actually I think my mom has been rather pampered, paati would always make an extra batch of ghee for her, grind all the flours, spice powders, painstakingly make vadaams and so on, all in an effort to help her daughter - a working mother of two.

But with so many people pickling in the blogosphere, especially after Coffee announced 'Preserve It' for MBP, i decided to try it sometime. Though I missed the event, I got the opportunity with about a dozen limes on hand. First, I contemplated on the two most popular lime pickle recipes - Indira's and Manisha's version. For a while I thought I could make half a batch of both recipes like Bee did but then certain other factors played a part... For instance, Manisha's recipe called for lots of Sunshine and the end of August was not the most ideal time. Actually we had quite a bit of sun till then but around the time the pickle idea was forming in my mind, overcast, gray skies became the norm with much cooler temperatures. Also, the recipe required about 20 green chillies and that was another issue - didn't have enough on hand. Considering these two factors, I decided I will just handle one at a time and picked Indira's lime pickle recipe.

Day 1

On Friday evening, I cut the limes, added 3/4 cup of lime juice and the required amount of salt. Settling on the correct sized bottle was a bit of a problem. Then I found one big enough... and i religiously gave the limes a toss everyday... something I remembered noticing as a kid though the recipe just asks for them to be covered for 4 days.

Day 5

I was looking forward to Wednesday (the 5th day) so I could add the masala powders but when Wednesday actually came, I almost forgot until I opened the cupboard for the customary 'toss'. I immediately set about toasting the tsp each of cumin, mustard and methi seeds, powdered them and added those, alongwith a pinch of turmeric and 5 tsp chilli powder to the pickle. I was paranoid about dry 'everything' - utensils, hands, mixie and so kept on wiping and re-wiping everything. More waiting now...

Day 12
Exactly a week after adding the masalas I opened the jar once again, praying fervently that they would've softened and cured by now and was hit with a wonderful aroma of pickle masala - it took me to my grandma's kitchen where she would have huge jaadis (porcelain jars) of pickle... The actual lemon pieces however looked a bit too sturdy for my liking. Though I was 90% sure that it wasn't ready, i still ventured to get a piece out (with a dry spoon, of course) and tasted it and it tasted like the real deal albeit a tad crunchy but I didn't mind it at all - infact it reminded me of naarthangai (citron) pickle. It was mild, yet flavorful and within seconds i ate the whole thing but decided to let this rest another week and try my luck again.
Day 19

I couldn't wait much more. So, I checked the texture quickly and though it hadn't softened completely it was almost there so I heated 4 tsp of gingelly oil (Nallennai), sprinkled some asafoetida powder and 1 tsp of mustard seeds. They spluttered immediately after which I let this oil cool slightly before adding it to the pickle and mixing well. My tangy, tasty, spicy, super pickle was ready! Thanks Indira.


I would like to send this as my entry to Waiter! There's something in my... savoury preserve!
Thank you Bee for letting me know about this event.