Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cheesecake Bars

I trust everyone is in a festive holiday mood... I have 2 weeks off and I couldn't be more thrilled... this is much needed downtime after a rather busy year at work. I hope to spend some fun times with the kiddos and also with some friends who are visiting us. Having the kids at home with me means lesser time for the things I usually do in my free time such as blog hopping, posting new recipes and even cooking something new... so today I'm here with a recipe I made a month ago for a get-together - Cheese cake bars.
They are very versatile and you can play around with the basic recipe and make many variations - such as adding crushed oreo biscuits or topping with a layer of ganache, adding in some nuts etc.


CHEESE CAKE BARS


Ingredients
For the Crust:
1 3/4 cup graham crackers (honey or chocolate) or nilla wafers - crushed to a powder
1/4  cup roasted almonds - powdered (optional, or you could increase the crackers by 1/4 cup)
Brown Sugar - half cup
Butter - 4 tbsp, melted


For the Filling:Low fat cream cheese (Neufachtel) - two 8 oz pkgs, softened
Sugar - half cup
Eggs - 2 large

Sour cream - 3/4 cup
Semisweet chocolate chips - about 1/2 cup
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Jam (strawberry, raspberry etc) - 1/4 to 1/3 cup (I used plum jam since i wanted to finish that)

Method:1) Preheat oven to 300F. Line a 13x9 inch pan with aluminium foil - this will ensure that it's easy to lift out the cheesecake when done.


2) For the crust, combine the crumbs, powdered nuts (if using), brown sugar and melted butter. It will seem crumbly... press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 8 minutes and allow to cool.

3) Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a big bowl. Add eggs one at a time. beating the mixture until fluffy. Add sour cream and vanilla stir well. Pour over the crust & spread it out evenly with a spatula.



4) Microwave the jam for about 15-20 seconds to soften it... drop spoonfuls on the filling randomly... make swirls with a toothpick.. you will want to work quickly because the swirls are easier to make when the jam doesn't cool down too much.



5) Sprinkle chocolate chips on the top and bake for 40 mins. Allow to cool and refrigerate for atleast 4 hours before cutting into bars and serving.


In case I don't get to post again before the New Year starts, I'd like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year ahead!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stir-fried Eggplant

I know that this is not a popular vegetable and it wasn't mine either growing up but now it's a different story... My kids & husband are not totally crazy about it but there are certain recipes that can hook them in and this is one such.


This recipe was inspired by the eggplant dish one finds in Chinese restaurants... you can make it as spicy as you want it and it goes great with some fried rice or even plain rice. For this, I use the long, slender chinese eggplants. The cornflour ensures that the sauce hugs the eggplant & gives it a nice sheen.

STIR FRIED EGGPLANT / BRINJALS (Chinese Style)



Ingredients:
Long Chinese eggplants - 2, sliced into 2 inch pieces
Onion - 1 small, sliced thin (optional)
Garlic - 4 cloves, chopped
Oil - 2 tbsp (use half sesame oil if available)
Spring onion greens - for garnish (I didn't have any, unfortunately)
Chilli powder / red chilli flakes - half tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste


Sauce mix:
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Chilli sauce (e.g. Sriracha) - 1 tbsp
Vinegar - 1 tsp
Sugar - half tsp (optional)
Black pepper - to taste
Corn flour - 1-2 tsp (mixed with 3 tbsp cold water to form a thin paste)


Ingredients:
1) Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wide, shallow pan and fry the eggplant with a bit of salt and chilli powder (if using) on medium. Flip over after several minutes and cook the other side as well until they are tender. Remove from stove and keep aside.


2) In the same pan, heat the remaining tbsp of oil and add the garlic and sliced onions (if using) and fry till golden. Now add the cooked eggplant and cook for a few more minutes.

3) Combine all the sauce ingredients and add to the eggplant-onion stir fry and allow to combine. Cook for a few more minutes until it thickens. Garnish with spring onion tops & serve with rice.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pad Thai Wraps / Rolls

It's not common for my husband to like healthy food.... (like salads and soups) but I have to admit that he has come a long way and now eats broccoli, tofu and a whole lot of other vegetables that he once refused to even look at.... So I was quite surprised when he complained that I haven't made the summer rolls in a long time - essentially they have a salad of veggies and seasoned tofu wrapped to make a roll.



Wanting something warm for dinner, I decided to twist my usual recipe to make a Pad thai inspired filling... so it's basically a combination of the Pad Thai recipe with the Vietnamese Summer Roll recipe. I sauteed veggies and tofu and added in a splash of the tangy, sweet pad thai sauce & added in some crushed peanuts - we loved it !

PAD THAI WRAPS/ROLLS



Ingredients:

Vietnamese Spring roll wrappers (rice wrappers) - here's a link that shows how to wrap them

Cabbage - 3/4 cup loosely packed shredded into thin, long strips
Carrot - 2 medium, julienned into thin slivers
Mung sprouts - about 2 cups
Tofu puffs - about 8, cut into strips (you could use sauteed tofu too)
Spring Onions - 3 to 5 stalks, chopped
Cucumber - cut into thin strips
Garlic - 3 to 4 cloves, minced
Soy sauce - 1 tsp
Sriracha chilli sauce - to season
Roasted Peanuts - 1/3 cup, chopped coarsely
Oil - 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves/Spring onions - for garnish

For the Sauce:
Tamarind extract - 1 cup (soak tamarind in water and extract juice)
Soy sauce -2 tbsp
Jaggery - about 1 to 2 tbsp (or to taste)
Sriracha chilli sauce - 2 tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste

Method:
1) Heat oil & add garlic, next add the cabbage and carrot and saute with a bit of salt. Add about 1 cup of sprouts and a tsp of soy sauce and some sriracha if you want some extra spice. Remove from the stove while veggies are still tender crisp (so a few minutes in a hot stove should do). Stir in the chopped spring onions and set aside.


2) Make the sauce by simmering together the tamarind juice, soy sauce, sriracha and brown sugar/jaggery till it thickens to a sauce.


3) Heat a tsp of oil and add the tofu puffs with a splash of sriracha and a tsp of water which will allow the tofu puffs to soften a bit and absorb some spicy flavor. Use your favorite seasoning if sriracha is not your thing.



3) Heat some water in a wide, shallow pan (this is to dip the rice roll wrappers) - it should be a more than warm but not boiling hot.


4) Dip the rice roll wrapper (one at a time) and once it softens (takes about a minute or lesser) lay it out on a flat surface and it's time to make the rolls - in one corner, put the sauteed veggies, top them with some fresh sprouts, cucumber, tofu, peanuts and coriander leaves, drizzle some of the tamarind sauce and a bit of sriracha - roll it like you would a burrito (refer to this link for more detailed pictures). Serve with the tamarind based pad thai sauce for dipping and enjoy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Baked Zucchini Crisps

Using the oven on a cold night gives the kitchen a cozy feeling and the tummies a delicious meal. Last week, I whipped up these zucchini crisps for dinner and they were devoured by the family. Thin slices of zucchini are coated with seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese and baked till crisp... As for the first coating, you could use egg or a mixture of all purpose flour and water if you don't eat eggs - I didn't have any eggs at home that day. Try it and I'm sure this will be a very tasty way to get your family to eat zucchini.



BAKED ZUCCHINI CRISPS


Ingredients:

Zucchini - 1 (big), washed & sliced thin - about quarter inch thick slices
Bread Crumbs - about 1 cup (I ran a few slices of bread through a food processor)
Grated Parmesan - 1/3 cup to half cup
Garlic powder - half tsp
Lemon - Pepper seasoning - quarter tsp (optional)
Red Chilli flakes - half tsp to 1 tsp (or to taste)
Maida/All purpose flour - 1/4 cup mixed with water to form a paste OR Egg - 1, beaten
Salt - to taste
Oil - to spray


Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 475F. Cover a sheet pan with foil/parchment paper and spray with oil.


2) In the first bowl, mix the all purpose flour with water to form a thin paste (or beat egg if using instead) add a pinch of salt.


3) In the 2nd bowl, mix breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese, salt & seasonings (garlic, chilli flakes, pepper etc)


4) Dredge the zucchini slices, first in the flour paste (or egg) and then in the bread crumbs to coat. Arrange as a single layer on the baking sheet.


5) Bake for 5 minutes on one side, flip and cook another 5-7 minutes on the other side.


Best when eaten fresh..... I wouldn't know if it keeps well and tastes good the next day since we always finish it the same day :) I served them plain but you could put out a bowl of marinara sauce or ketchup to dip.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Spicy Dahi Aloo

This dish is a combination of spicy and tangy flavours with a favorite, popular veggie - potatoes that get cooked delicately in this curry and absorb all the spices... This goes great with pulao, naan or rotis and is sure to tickle your tastebuds. This gravy would look pretty with little baby potatoes but since I didn't have them, I just used normal potatoes that had been cubed.


SPICY DAHI ALOO


Ingredients:


Potatoes - 3 medium, cooked until firm but done & peeled
If using baby potatoes - use about 10 to 12
Onion - 1 small one or half of a medium one, chopped finely
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp
Yogurt - half cup, thick
Milk - quarter cup
Chilli powder - 1 to 1.5 tsp
Coriander powder or Curry powder - half tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Garam masala - half tsp
Kasuri Methi - half tsp, crushed
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Cloves - 1
Cumin seeds - half tsp
Cardamom - 1 pod
Asafoetida/hing - a pinch

Method:
1) Microwave the potatoes with water to cover them for 6 minutes. They have to be cooked but firm, not mushy (so slightly underdone). Peel the potatoes. If using the big ones, like me, cut them into big chunks. Pierce the potatoes lightly.

2) In a wide non-stick pan, add about 2 tsp of oil and pan fry the potato chunks till browned - sprinkle a bit of salt on them while doing this.


3) In a kadai, add the remaining oil & season with clove, cardamom, cumin seeds & hing, then add the finely chopped onions and ginger garlic paste. Saute this until the onions are slightly browned.

4) Now add the masala powders (coriander/curry, turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala), stir for abt 30 seconds, ensuring they don't burn. Add half cup water to this mixture and allow to boil for about 3 to 4 minutes.

5) Whisk the yogurt and milk together. Reduce the flame of the kadai to a simmer and add the yogurt mixture to the curry. Add salt to taste and the potato chunks. Cover and allow to simmer for atleast 20 minutes - oil will float on top.


6) Finally add in the crushed kasuri methi. Serve with naan or chapathis.



I would like to send this yummy curry to Lisa's event 'A celebration of Indian Food'.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Now that the cooler weather is upon us I'm including a lot of soups in our diet and this recipe is something that even kids will like (skip the red chilli flakes when making for them). Combining finely chopped broccoli (the frozen packs make this a breeze) with some smooth, creamy cheese is sure to warm you up in such a delicious way. The tiny specs of carrot add colour & nutrition.



BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP

Ingredients:

Broccoli, chopped - 10 to 12 oz (I used the frozen pack)
Carrot - 1, peeled and chopped finely
Onion - 1 small to medium, peeled & chopped finely
Garlic cloves - 5, peeled and minced
Processed Cheese (Velveeta) - 7 oz - 8 oz (I used 9 to 10 slices of processed cheese - Borden brand)

Milk - 1 cup or if you want it richer, you can use
lesser quantity of half and half.
Vegetable stock - 2 cans (4 cups approx)
Water - 1 cup
Corn starch - 1 tbsp
Red chilli flakes - 1 tsp or more to taste (optional)
Celery salt - half tsp (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Butter - 1 tbsp

Method:

1) Heat oil and butter and saute the garlic and onions till translucent. Add red chilli flakes and celery salt now, if using.

2) Next add the chopped carrot and saute for a few minute more before adding the chopped broccoli. Add the vegetable stock and 1 cup of water at this point and bring to a boil. Reduce flame and allow this to simmer for 15 minutes until the veggies are tender.

3) Add the cheese (cut into small pieces) and stir into the soup until. Next add the milk (or half and half if using) and keep on a simmer.

4) After about 5 minutes, mix the cornstarch with a few tbsp of cold water to a smooth paste and add to the soup, stirring continuously until it thickens to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.


The soup is now ready to serve with some crisp croutons or garlic bread.
If you don't love cheese but want a tasty, creamy soup check out my Creamy Broccoli Soup

Monday, November 7, 2011

Microwave Sabudana Khichdi / Javvarisi Upma

My dad would often try new recipes at home.. he was the one who introduced us to lauki koftas, home-made chocolate and this sabudhana khichdi among other dishes. He made this sound so simple and since I loved this, I decided to surprise my inlaws with this upma one day and didn't know how to soak the sabudana and soon it became a gooey mess - much to my disappointment. My dad on the other hand would churn out large amounts of the upma effortlessly - where every tapioca pearl would be separate and perfectly cooked.

I tried with several brands of sabudana/tapioca pearls here in the US but it was never satisfactory - my mom said that you need something called nylon sabudana which is not white but colourless... Anyway, all my sabudana woes disappeared when I chanced upon Nupur's microwave recipe - so much easier and the results have never disappointed me - always comes out perfect and finally I have an upma that is close to my dad's version (regardless of the type of sabudana)! (Thank you Nupur and thanks to your mom too for introducing you to this Microwave method). I've posted the fact that I've tried her recipe before but this time I wanted to post the recipe itself since I've made some changes to suit our taste and added a few things that are not traditionally added to this dish which is often eaten when ending a fast - such as onions.

My husband who never took to this initially and would only tolerate it if I fried them like vadas is now a huge fan of this upma... he loves the crunchy peanuts in the dish, I love the chewy tapioca and my son loves the potatoes :) so all in all a winner.

MICROWAVE SABUDHANA KHICHDI


Ingredients:

Javvarisi/ Sabudana/tapioca pearls - 1.5 cups (soaking method given below)
Raw/Roasted peanuts (unsalted) - about 1 cup

Potato - 1 big one, peeled & cut into tiny cubes

Onion - 1 small to medium, finely chopped (optional)

G. chillies - 5 to 6, minced finely (adjust to taste)

Ginger - 1 inch piece, minced finely

Cumin seeds - half tsp

Coriander leaves & Grated Coconut - 1 tbsp each (for garnish)
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

Sugar - half tsp
Salt - 1.5 tsp (adjust to taste)


Method:

1) Wash sabudana, drain then cover with just enough water to cover the pearls. Cover and leave overnight or atleast 6 hours. Fluff gently with a fork.

2) If using raw peanuts, roast at 425F for about 10 minutes and remove he skin. If using already roasted peanuts, skip this step. Once the roasted peanuts have cooled, grind coarsely.

3) Mix the sabudana with the coarsely ground peanuts and set aside.

4) In a strong microwaveable bowl (I used a wide pyrex one), add oil, ghee, cumin seeds, g. chillies, ginger, onion and potato - microwave this for 2 mins. Add a teeny bit of salt and microwave again for a minute or until the potatoes are almost cooked.


5) Add the sabudana, peanuts, salt and sugar and mix well. Cook on high for 2 minutes and allow to rest in the microwave for a minute.


6) Stir and cook- 2 mis on high and rest for a minute or two. Check if done, if not cook for 1 minute intervals until the sabudana is cooked
(will look translucent), allowing it to rest for a minute each time after.

7) When done, stir in the coriander leaves and grated coconut (if using). Tasty upma is now ready to serve. This is a very filling, high calorie breakfast.




Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lemon Rice & Breakfast Ideas

I'm sure everyone is feeling pretty stuffed and sweet after Deepavali and Halloween... :) I know I am. Eventhough this year I didn't feel like making a whole lot of things, I still made 7 cups burfi (always reliable and always yummy) and chaklis and thankfully both came out really well.. and for Diwali dinner we had an elaborate meal with vadai and semia payasam. I trust you all had a lovely celebration.

Coming to the simpler things in life, I can't believe I haven't posted lemon rice on this blog in all these years. This is probably the easiest thing one can whip up... is super quick and anything tangy & spicy is a winner in my book.

Lemon Rice


Ingredients:
Rice - 1 cup (I prefer to not use Basmati)
Lemon juice - 3 to 4 tbsp (depends on how tangy and juicy your lemons are)
Channa dhal - 1 tbsp, soaked for abt 15 mins
Dried Peanuts - 2 tbsp (optional)
Dried Red Chillies - 2, broken into bits
Green chillies - 5, slit into two
Curry leaves and coriander leaves
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Hing/asafoetida - a pinch
Mustard seeds, Urad dhal - half tsp each
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp

Method:
1) Cook rice with about 2 cups of water & a bit of salt (1:2 is what works for the rice I have but this can vary). Ensure the grains are separate and not mushy. When cooked, quickly transfer to a wide, shallow plate and allow to cool.





2) Heat the oil, season with mustard seeds and urad dhal, once the mustard starts popping, add the channa dhal, peanuts, red and g. chillies, curry leaves, hing, turmeric powder and salt. Saute this until they get fried - takes several minutes.


3) Add the cooked and cooled rice to this and mix (I use a spatula) gently until well coated with the seasonings.


4) Switch off the stove and add the lemon juice, stirring well. Finally garnish with coriander leaves.


This tastes best when it has rested for a while and has time for the flavours to marry. Sometimes I add in half of a chopped onion and fry that along with the seasonings for a tasty variation.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share some of my new favorites when it comes to breakfast...


1) Sprout salad with whole wheat bread & egg - Mung sprouts tossed with onion, tomatoes, g. chillies (sometimes i add grated carrots too), lemon juice and salt makes the sprout salad. Something my dad whipped up very often when he was here.


2) Avocado and Tomato Open Faced Sandwich - Toast a whole wheat bread slice until crisp, spread some Maggi hot and sweet sauce on it, then layer with sliced tomatoes, topped with sliced, ripe Hass avocados (so buttery and good), squeeze a few drops of lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. The crisp toast with the creamy avocado with the tang of tomatoes - so tasty!



My husband, who grimaced at first when I offered him a taste, quickly changed his mind after taking a bite and stole my sandwich.. of course I had more avocados so made myself another one... and forgave him :)

Well, that's for now... will catch up with you all later.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chocolate Butterfly Cake


I've been meaning to post this recipe for more than a week now but with my son falling sick and work days being filled with meetings and more meetings I couldn't get to it until now. My daughter turned 6 on October 10th and for her birthday this year she was contemplating between a Butterfly cake and a Flower cake and finally after much thinking and some 'Eenie Meenie Minie Mo' she decided on the Butterfly Cake. She was positive about what flavour the cake had to be though when she declared that it had to be a chocolate cake.

So, I set about looking for websites that might illustrate how I can do a butterfly cake and found the perfect one at this website... I couldn't believe how easy it was (some very creative & smart thinking by the person who came up with it) and it didn't even need a special pan.. just a plain old round pan and a few cuts later, you've got yourself a butterfly! See the illustration I have below and you'll agree I am right. So, this is great for novices at cake decorating (like me) and a sure fire way to thrill your kids.

I did keep in mind some of the things I learnt from my last year's mistakes while making the Princess Castle Cake : 1) Make the cake abt 2 days ahead and refrigerate for atleast 12 hours so you can cut it easily 2) I wanted to bake the cake and make the frosting myself since the store bought mixes & frosting tubs didn't work well last time 3) Give ample time for the crumb coat to rest in the fridge before doing the final frosting. I defintely think that I got a better finish this time... not perfect still but a whole lot better.

The chocolate cake was really good - dense, moist, chocolatey a bit sweeter than store bought cake since I was going to do a light, not very sweet icing and for the icing I decided to go with my favorite whipped cream with a bit of cream cheese to give it more body. All in all a delicious & good looking cake.

BUTTERFLY CHOCOLATE CAKE



Ingredients for the Chocolate Cake (makes one 9 inch)
All purpose flour - 3/4 cup + 1/8 cup (yes.. no typo there)
Cocoa powder - 1/3 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Baking powder - half tsp
Salt - half tsp
Egg - 1
Buttermilk - half cup (I just used home made yogurt blended with a bit of water)
Vegetable/Canola oil - 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract - half tsp
Light coffee - half cup (I heated up half cup water and added about a tsp of instant coffee)

Method:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bottom and sides of a 9 inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper then spray again with PAM. Then flour the pans (this cake is quite sticky so make sure you don't skip any of these)


2) Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Combine uniformly with the sugar using a whisk in a large bowl.

3) In another small bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla.


4) While gradually pouring the wet ingredients into the dry ingredents, beat them (I used a hand held beater). Finally pour the coffee and stir until it just comes together.


5) Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes clean. Cool in pan for 30 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack and cooling completely.

6) At this point, i wrapped it with cling wrap and refrigerated it overnight.

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
Heavy Whipping Cream - 1 cup
Low fat cream cheese - 2 oz
Sugar - 1/4 to 1/3 cup
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Food coloring if needed (I used pink since she loves pink and purple)

Method:
1) Freeze the bowl and the beaters for atleast 20 to 30 minutes before doing this frosting.


2) First beat together the cream cheese, sugar, few drops of food coloring and vanilla extract until smooth. While still beating it, pour the heavy whipping cream slowly and continue beating until it holds a peak.

Assembly of Butterfly Cake:
Here's the illustration I promised you..

1) First put the cake bottom side up so you have nice clean level surface for the top.. using a sharp serrated knife cut cake in half so you have 2 semi circles.


2) Arrange them on a cling wrap covered tray so the curves are close to each other (but not touching).


3) Cut 2 notches or small triangles slightly below center and now the semicircles will look like wings of the butterfly. Take the 2 triangles you cut and put them between the 2 semi circles with bases touching each other - this forms the body of the butterfly.



4) First do a crumb coat which is basically a first layer of icing which will ensure that all the cake crumbs are not spread through the icing... Once that is done, referigerate the cake for another 6 hours or so before doing the second and final coat of icing.



5) Use a decorating gel pen / pipe a thin line of frosting to draw patterns on the wings.. We then used different kinds of sprinkles, colored sugar and jelly beans... to decorate the butterfly.


6) For the antennae you could use fruit roll ups or any long thin biscuit.. i just had some chocolate fudge that i melted a bit and stuck onto 2 halves of a wooden skewer and insterted them into the cake.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pasta Frittata

When I saw this on Giada's show, I was quite impressed by how fluffy it looked and thought my kids would definitely love it knowing how they enjoy both cheese and pasta. The addition of eggs makes for a filling lunch as well and since this comes together so very easily and tastes just as good at room temperature, it makes for an ideal lunchbox dish.

I had some leftover pasta in the fridge and some fresh basil in the garden so decided to give this a try and it was definitely a hit... both kiddos loved it. I might consider adding some chopped and sauteed veggies with it the next time, such as zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes etc. The basil gave it such a burst of freshness and made me wish I had added some more. I made some slight modifications to her recipe...

PASTA FRITTATA


Ingredients
:
Pasta (cooked with a bit of salt and cooled completely) - 1.5 cups (I used macaroni)
Eggs - 3
Whole Milk - 3 tbsp
Basil leaves - about 10, chopped finely
Parmesan cheese and mozzarella - 1/4 cup each, (totalling half cup)
Salt & Pepper to taste (if making for adults, you can add some red chilli flakes)
Olive oil - 2 tsp + 2 tsp

Method:
1) In a bowl, beat the eggs & milk with some salt and pepper (go easy on the salt since the pasta has some salt and we are going to be adding some cheese as well).

2) Now toss in the drained and cooled pasta, chopped basil and the cheeses & stir well.

3) Heat a non-stick pan on medium and drizzle 2 tsp of olive oil, pour the pasta-egg mixture and spread evenly. Allow to cook on medium for abt 7-8 minutes. If the top still looks runny and not set, that run a spatula around the edges and tilt the pan so they run off to the sides.

4) Once the bottom has browned a bit, loosen the edges with a spatula and invert pan onto a plate.

5) Drizzle the remaining 2 tsp of oil in the pan and slide the frittata in, with the uncooked side on the bottom and browned side on the top. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or till firm. Cut into wedges when warm.


Serve with some salad, fruit and milk and watch your kids enjoy! :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Arisi Upma

It's amazing how quickly days fly by and before you know it a week is gone, then two and then an entire month slips away in an instant... Things have been way too busy on all fronts.. work and home - it leaves me pretty much no time to relax and get to my hobby of blogging. There has been a fair bit of cooking going on though and i have quite a backlog of recipes and pictures waiting to see the daylight but the one I have picked today screams comfort food to me and is perfect for the rainy days we've been having - it's the classic Arisi Upma. I remember my paati's version ever so clearly... tasty upma, doused liberally with nallennai (sesame oil) and the crispy crunchy bits on the bottom of the pan... so good!


When my mom was here, I asked her to make it quite often and here is her recipe for this tasty upma.


ARISI (RICE) UPMA




Ingredients:
Raw Rice - 1.5 cups
Toor dhal - 1/4 cup
Coconut, grated - 2 tbsp
Red Chillies - 5
Cumin seeds and whole Black pepper - half tsp each, pounded to a coarse powder
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Split Urad dhal - 1/4 tsp
Channa dhal - 1 to 2 tsp
Asafoetida (hing) - a pinch
Curry leaves - few
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

Method:
1) Soak Rice and dhal together for 20 mins, drain and while still moist grind to a coarse powder.



2) In a pot (or the pressure cooker if you prefer that method), heat oil and season with mustard seeds, urad dhal, channa dhal, hing, curry leaves and the 5 red chillies broken into bits.



3) Once the mustard splutters and the dhals are a bit toasted, add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.



4) Add the coconut and salt at this point and the powdered cumin seeds and pepper powder.



5) Next add the powdered rice and dhal, cover and allow to cook on a low-medium flame till well cooked. If using a pressure cooker, wait for 1 whistle then lower the flame and wait 5 minutes before switching off the stove - your upma is now ready, once the pressure subsides.



However, if you want the crispy bottom part, the stove top method works better.





Enjoy!
Wishing everyone a very happy Navarathri season :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer Vegetable Pasta

It's quite saddening that we are nearly running out of summer and the weather has been quite challenging lately... what with Irene first (which thankfully didn't wreak much havoc for us) and then the remnants of Tropical storm Lee - which caused nearly 5 days of non-stop rain! But it has been a fun and busy summer for us otherwise... we managed to squeeze in a trip to the beach, visited Niagara (a first for my kids and parents), moved to a new home, had a renuion with cousins, took the kids to a farm and a zoo, hosted a party & went on a few picnics.

This pasta dish was made for one such picnic outing and it turned out pretty tasty. My daughter planted a few stems of basil (after I used the leaves from the storebought one) and they grew to be a nice beautiful plant and I've had no dearth for basil this entire summer. Infact when the plant gets big, I cut the stems, wash and dry the leaves and grind them with some olive oil and store them in the freezer for later. I also made a few batches of pesto and froze that as well. Here are some pictures from our garden:


SUMMER VEGETABLE PASTA

Pasta - 1 lb (16 oz) - I used colorful Rotini
Red onion - 1 small, sliced thinly
Garlic cloves - 3
Green Beans - 10, cut into half inch pieces
Carrots - 2 medium, julienned into slices
Bell Peppers (Red/Green) - half cup, cut into 1 inch strips
Broccoli florets & stalks - 1 cup
Yellow Squash / Zucchini - half, cut into thick strips
Pesto - 2 to 3 tbsp or to taste
Red Chilli flakes, Salt & Pepper - to taste
Olive oil - 1 tbsp + 2 tsp
Shredded Parmesan Cheese - 1/4 cup

1) Cook Pasta according to pasta directions, drain and reserve abt half cup of water.

2) Toss the vegetables with 2 tsp olive oil & a bit of salt, place in a wide bowl or plate and microwave for 5 minutes (no water needed or covering) - this will make them tender crisp.

3) Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, add onion, garlic and chilli flakes - cook till soft and tender on medium flame, Then add the microwaved veggies and some black pepper & toss for another 5 to 6 minutes...

4) Mix the pesto with about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and add to the drained pasta along with the microwaved vegetables & parmesan cheese. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.


Go with any kind of veggies you have and love.. some cherry tomatoes would be a great addition as well. This would also be great to take on picnics or for kids lunchboxes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chocolate Mousse Cake (with Eggless Option)

This particular cake has been on my mind since the time my husband bought one for my birthday.. it had a chocolate cake base with a light, airy chocolate mousse topping, not too sweet but chocolatey. I've been scouting for recipes since then that would come close and I had to combine several elements from different recipes to fit what I had in mind. Inspite of all that, this cake is fairly easy to make and I used a boxed chocolate cake for a base which turned out to be very moist, thanks to the chocolate mousse layer on top. But you could just as easily substitute it with any chocolate cake recipe that you prefer or even this eggless version and make this a totally eggless chocolate mousse cake! Isn't that neat?



CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE


Ingredients:
Cake Layer:
1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Devil's food cake) , eggs, oil as specified in the box of the cake mix. I followed the baking directions for a 9 X 13 inch pan
OR
this Eggless Chocolate Cake (double it to make it fit a 9 X 13 inch pan)

Method For the Cake Layer: Follow directions on the box and bake in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Allow to cool and refrigerate. If you use a 9 inch spring form pan then you can layer the cake, mousse and then remove the sides for a beautiful presentation. Since i wanted a bigger cake, I just referigerated it in the pan itself. If the top is not level (mine had risen more in the middle), slice the top to make it level.

Chocolate Mousse Layer:
Heavy Cream - 2 cups (ensure it's very cold)
Semi sweet chocolate - 9.33 oz (measured using a weighing scale)
Cocoa powder - 2.5 tbsp
Hot water - 6.5 tbsp
Sugar - 1.5 tbsp
Salt - 1/8 tsp



Method:
1)
Dissolve cocoa powder in the hot water and keep aside.

2) Melt the semi sweet chocolate in a medium bowl - i microwaved for about a minute to 90 seconds in 30 second intervals, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth. Ensure there is no water in the bowl or the spatula to prevent chocolate from seizing (and becoming crumbly).



3) Mix the dissolved cocoa powder with the melted chocolate

4) Place bowl and whisk in freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes before making whipped cream.

5) In the well chilled bowl, put the 2 cups of cream, salt and sugar and whip until mixture begins to thicken and soft peaks form.



6) Using a rubber spatula, fold / mix a third of the whipping cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten.



7) Then fold in the remaining two-thirds of the mixture using the spatula until there are no white streaks. That's it! The chocolate mousse is now ready. Spoon or pipe this mousse mixture onto the cooled cake. Refrigerate for about 2 to 3 hours atleast.



Whipped Cream Layer:
Whipped Cream - 2 cups (ensure it's very cold)
Sugar - 2 to 3 tbsp
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Salt - a small pinch

Method for whipped cream:
1) Place bowl and whisk in freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes before making whipped cream.

2) In the well chilled bowl, put the 2 cups of cream, vanilla, salt and sugar and whip until mixture begins to thicken and soft peaks form. Beat some more until peaks stiffen.. (ensure you don't beat too much and turn it into butter) :)



3) Top the chocolate mousse layer with this whipped cream topping as a uniform layer.

I decorated the cake with some drizzlings of melted chocolate (lightened with a bit of milk) and some shaved chocolate curls. Mine was refrigerated for more than a day before we served it and it was extremely moist and stayed that way for nearly 2-3 days after.




I made this for a family reunion we had 2 weekends back - we had a lovely celebration.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert / Salad

Why they would name this as a Salad, i will never understand... because this actually fits very well in the dessert category. I was quite intrigued by this dish and the combination of ingredients that go into this recipe when my cousin P (akka) told me about it... I got a chance to make this for my son's birthday party (he just turned two) and since there was already cake on the menu, I thought that this would make for a nice dessert. It went over very well with the guests. Another good thing is that it can be made the previous day so one less thing to worry about on the day of the party! :)

The party's menu included chocolate cake, onion pakoras, vegetable vellai kurma, paneer jalfrezie, yummy chole that my neighbours helped make (will try and post that recipe soon), peas pulao, naan & curd rice besides this dessert.

STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD / DELIGHT


Ingredients:

Prezel Layer:
Powdered Pretzels - 2 cups ( I used this)
Sugar - 3 tbsp
Butter - 3/4 cups (melted)

Cream Layer: Whipped topping - one 8 oz. tub or freshly whipped cream
Cream cheese (low fat should work) - 8 oz pack
Sugar - 3/4 cup to 1 cup (to taste)

Strawberry Jello Layer: Strawberry Jello powder - Two 3 oz packs
Boiling Water - 2 cups
Fresh Srawberries - 1 lb, washed, dried, hulled and sliced

Method: 1) For the pretzel layer, combine the powdered pretzels, melted butter and sugar in a bowl. Press into a 9x13 inch pan evenly. Bake this in a preheated oven at 400F for 8 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely.













2) For the cream layer, beat cream cheese and sugar till blended then fold in the whipped cream carefully. Spread this layer on the pretzel layer uniformly making sure you go till the ends and covering the crust completely. Chill this for atleast 2 hours.



3) To the boiling water, add the 2 packs of strawberry jello and dissolve. Switch off the flame and allow to cook completely. Arrange the sliced strawberries on the cream layer. When jellow is completely cool and slightly thickened, pour over the sliced strawberries slowly.



4) Refrigerate this for atleast 6 to 8 hours or upto 2 days. When ready to serve, slice (a serrated knife works best) and dig in.



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Potato & Caramelized Onion Pizza


When visiting friends in Boston, my friend S had only good things to say about this pizza joint (unfortunately I don't remember the name) so for dinner she and her husband had ordered a roasted veggie pizza and a potato pizza from there. Both pizzas were fabulous.. nice thin crust and yummy toppings. I was quite surprsed that the potato pizza tasted so good - not too starchy or filling but light and even crispy in some places.


So, I tried to duplicate that at home and it was just as tasty.. For the pizza base this time I used Raaga's recipe and it turned out perfect (recipe given below)


POTATO & CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA


Ingredients:
Potato - 1 medium , peeled and thinly sliced
Red Onion - 1, sliced thin & caramelized in 1 tbsp oil with salt, chilli powder
Pepper jack /mozzarella cheese - 1/4 cup
Parmesan cheese - 2 tbsp
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil to drizzle on potato slices
Garlic powder, Chilli flakes & Pizza seasoning mix on base
Srirarcha / Chilli sauce sauce to do the pizza.



Method:
1) Take the time to caramelize the onions on a medium flame till nice and brown. I used a non-stick pan and 1 tbsp of olive oil. I used red onions this time but shallots would be best and white onions will work too.

2) To assemble the pizza, sprinkle the garlic powder, chilli flakes and pizza seasoning (this is optional) spread the mozzarella cheese on the pizza. Then spread the caramelized onions uniformly.

3) Top with the thin potato slices (make sure they are thin or they won't cook well) and sprinkle some salt and pepper on the potato.



4) Dot the entire pizza with sriracha sauce to add a spicy kick and finally lightly drizzle some olive oil on the potato slices and sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese all over the pizza.



5) Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 15 to 16 mins. Slice and enjoy.


PIZZA DOUGH / BASE (makes 2 pizzas)

It may seem daunting initially but once you give it a shot you realize how easy making this is... All it needs once mixed is an hour of resting time and then you are ready to make delicious pizzas at home. The proportions below make enough dough to make 2 (slightly bigger than medium) pizzas.



Ingredients:
All purpose Flour / Maida - 3 cups
Active Dry Yeast - 2 packs
Olive oil - 1/4 cup
Milk - half cup
Water - half cup
Salt - 1.5 tsp
Sugar - 3 tbsp
Garlic powder & Pizza seasoning to taste (optional)




Method:
1) I usually proof the yeast - to do that, heat water so it's a bit more than warm about 20 to 30 seconds in the MW usually works for me (ensure it's not too hot). Dissolve sugar in this water and add the yeast packets. After about 5 minutes or so it will be foamy.



2) In a big bowl, combine the flour, salt, garlic powder, pizza seasoning and combine. Next add the milk, olive oil and the entire bowl of proofed yeast and combine to form a dough. Minimal kneading is required.

3) Cover bowl with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise for an hour or until it doubles in a warm place. If it's winter, I usually place it in the oven with the ligh on (without switching on the oven however)...



4) When ready, roll out the dough and then spread it out with your hands to a base of desired thickness. Add sauce, cheese and toppings and bake in a preheated oven for 400F for about 15-20 minutes or till bottom is golden & pizza is cooked through.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Avocado Beans Salad in Lettuce Cups

With the heat wave that most part of the country has been experiencing, slaving over a hot stove is not something anyone would enjoy. That's when I resort to a light, summer meal which requires little or no cooking and this recipe here is a perfect fit. Light, yet filling and so very refreshing... A friend of mine made this during a get-together and it is something I enjoyed so decided to recreate it at home.

Any kind of beans will work but I used a can of black beans I had at home. Sweet kernels of corn would be a great addition to this but I didn't have any when I made this. Play around with the ingredients to suit your taste buds... you can even add some mint chutney to the avocado bean salad for a variation... the options are endless.


AVOCADO BEAN SALAD in LETTUCE CUPS




Ingredients:


Avocados - 2, ripe, scoop the inside flesh after cutting into two
Black beans - 1 can, drained and rinsed with water
Red Bell Pepper - half, chopped finely
Red Onion - half of a medium one, peeled and chopped finely
Corn Kernels - from one cob (that has been cooked till soft with a bit of salt)

Tomato - 1 small, chopped finely
Spring Onion - 1, chopped
Green chillies - 2, minced (optional, esp. when serving to children)
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon Juice - from one half of a lemon
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp, chopped

To Serve:

Iceberg Lettuce - separated to form the cups (just before serving- keep chilled)
Sour Cream

Method:

1) In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salad. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Refrigerate this for 30 mins to an hour to allow the flavours to marry.



2) When ready to serve, arrange lettuce cups, put abt 2 spoons of the avocado bean salad and top with a dollop of sour cream. Roll up and eat!



We enjoyed that with a cool Mango Panna cotta for dessert.




Here are some more recipes that require no cooking:




Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thai Sticky Rice with Mango Ver 2.0

I know I've posted this yummy dessert earlier but this is a more authentic version and I've used actual sticky rice here as opposed to the regular rice I used earlier and followed a slightly different method. Now that I know how to get good mangoes here in the US, I've made this dessert several times this summer and were able to enjoy this creamy, luscious vegan dessert.

The recipe is adapted from the thaifood website but with some modifications made by me.


STICKY RICE WITH MANGOES


Ingredients:
Sweet Rice/Sticky Rice - 1 cup

Mangoes - 2, ripe, peeled and cut (ensure they are wrinkled and very soft)
Brown Sugar - 1/3 cup
Coconut milk - 1 can (make sure it's good quality e.g Chao Koh)
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Cornstarch - 2 tsp dissolved in some cold water


Method:


1) Soak the rice for about 30 mins to an hour. Drain and steam cook this rice for about 15-20 minutes on a medium flame or till translucent and cooked through. Transfer rice to a bowl with a tight lid and keep covered.


2) Meanwhile, combine coconut milk, sugar, salt on a medium flame until all the sugar dissolves and the mixture is scalding (not boiling but almost there).


3) Reserve about 1/3 of this sauce and pour the remaining into the bowl with rice. Stir to combine, cover and keep aside for about 30 minutes for it to absorb the flavours (no need to refrigerate).


4) To the remaining sauce, add the dissolved cornstarch and boil on low heat to thicken slightly.


5) When ready to serve, place a scoop of rice, with the mango slices and drizzle some of the coconut sauce on top. You can also sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds for garnish.




Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mango Cream Pie



It's good to be back after a break and I hope you all are having a fun and enjoyable summer.


We've been busy with the move the past several weeks and that would explain why I was missing from the blogosphere. To add on, I've been having carpal tunnel like symptoms so have been trying to stay away from the computer as much as I can. I have been cooking quite a bit though and this recipe is a perfect treat for summers... light, airy, sweet, fruity & cool. It's also eggless and this is a dessert I made to share with my neighbours who loved it.


I used mangoes here since I had a big crate of them (yes, I've finally figured out the kind of mangoes one should buy - the yellow ones that are marked "ataulfo" and you know they are ripe when the skin is not smooth but wrinkled and are very soft to the touch). You could use other fruits such as strawberries too to make this pie.


MANGO CREAM PIE:


Ingredients:
Low fat Cream Cheese (Neufachtel) - 8 oz (1 pack)
Confectioners Sugar (powdered) - 3/4 cup
Cool whip tub - 1 8oz (or freshly whipped cream about 2 to 3 cups)
Mangoes - 2 to 3 ripe ones, peeled & sliced thinly
Pie Crust/Graham Cracker crust - 1 nine inch (I used storebought but you could make it at home just as easily).

Method:
1) Beat softened cream cheese and confectioners sugar for a few mins.
2) Preheate oven to 400F and bake the pie crust (as per directions since it depends on the crust). For the store bought one that I used, i pricked it with a fork and baked for 10 mins until golden. Allow to cool completely.
3) First put half of the cream cheese mixture.
4) Next layer the mango slices, then top with half of the whipped topping.
5) Now add another layer of mangoes, then remaining half of the cream cheese mixture.. it will be difficult to spread on the cool whip portion so drop it in different places and swirl it in as uniformly as possible.
6) Add the next layer of mango slices. Finally top with the remaining cool whip and if there are a few fruit slices left, decorate the top... I didn't - hence the lone mint leaf :)


7) Chill this for atleast 4 hours and then slice and dig in for a light, cool, summer dessert that is eggless too.