Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dolphin Cake

Our daughter celebrated her birthday on October 10th and this year she wanted a dolphin cake... since I had tried the buttercream transfer method earlier, I was initially inclined to use the same method and got a dolphin picture to trace... but along the way I changed my mind and decided to give fondant a try to make little dolphin figurines and then extended it to other sea creatures as well.... It's pretty much like edible play dough  and a lot of fun to work with.  End result was that she was very happy with the cake and that made me a satisfied mom.

For the actual cake she wanted a chocolate cake with a raspberry frosting... so I started with my trusted recipe for chocolate cake. For the filling, I combined lightly sweetened whipping cream (whipped to stiff peaks) and folded in thawed frozen raspberries... the end result was a mildly sweet, slightly tangy pink filling and it worked out great with the rich chocolate cake so she chose a great combination and we all enjoyed it.

Here's a picture of the cake the decorations

Dolphin Cake
Fondant Decorations ready to go on cake




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Waffles & Green Lantern Cake

It's been ages since I wrote anything here... I've been taking pictures and noting down recipes to blog about but just haven't had the motivation to resume blogging - can't explain why.... 

We celebrated our son's birthday on August 5th and since he's into super heroes quite a bit, he wanted a Green Lantern Cake... (Green being his favorite color, this is the super hero he chose for his cake). I thought quite a bit about how to execute this and had a few ideas... one was to have cupcakes with the Green Lantern logo since that was fairly simple to draw... but the day before his birthday i decided to check out the 'Frozen Buttercream Transfer" method and looked at a few youtube videos before deciding on that approach... So i printed out a picture, whipped up some buttercream and gave it my best shot at tracing it. While there's a long way to perfection, this did the trick and my son was very happy with the result.  Here's a picture... 


Today,  I  wanted to post this super simple recipe for a flourless chocolate waffle... my husband said he enjoyed this at a restaurant near his office f so I wanted to give it a go at home and I must say that it was a hit...  It can be served plain or with some ice cream but it's quite decadent by itself. I replaced part of the eggs with flax seeds in an effort to make it healthier but perhaps replacing all of it may work too if you want an eggless version (though I haven't experimented with that myself)...


FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE WAFFLES 

Ingredients:
Unsalted Butter - 6 tbsp (if using salted, skip the added salt) 
Eggs - 2 (if not using flax seeds, use 4 eggs instead) 
Flax seeds - 2 tbsp, powdered
Water - 6 tbsp

Semisweet chocolate chips - 1 cup
Salt - a pinch
Vanilla - half tsp, optional


Method:
1) In a glass bowl combine butter and chocolate chips and microwave for a minute or two, stirring every 30 seconds after the first minute (for me it took about a minute and 30 seconds to melt the chocolate). 

2) Meanwhile combine the powdered flax seeds with 6 tbsp of water and allow to rest for about 5 mins. The texture will change to become sticky, similar to egg whites.

3) Beat the two eggs until combined and stir in the sticky flax seed mixture, with a pinch of salt and some vanilla. 

4) Combine this with the melted chocolate butter mixture.... waffle batter is now ready. 

5) Heat up the waffle iron and spray with some oil, pour about 1/3 of a cup of the batter, close and allow to cook... My waffle iron has an indicator to show when it's done... It may seem soggy initially, so be careful when getting it out... but it will firm up quite well when it cools down a tad. 

I know that this picture is not too tempting but trust me that that this is a winning recipe for chocolate lovers.



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! :)