Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Joyous Season with a Guest Post

Over the last year,  I 've learned that blogging is like music and you need to play many tunes and several instruments in harmony and coordination to produce music that sounds perfect. As we draw towards the end of another successful year of cooking, I am introducing a new tune ---a guest post from both my daughters N and V.

On Christmas day, my husband R and I had the pleasant experience of being served this wonderful meal made from scratch by our children!  We appreciate the simple menu of pimento cheese finger sandwiches, Cioppino, crusty garlic bread, garden salad and a multitude of good wines ending with a Chocolate Souffle.  The sizzling hot seafood soup and sandwiches were so decadent that it made all the Christmas gifts look faded and unimportant. All the time I was saying to myself maybe I can sitback and relax for the rest of the years!! Is this my big break from the kitchen? Do you think they will let me get away with no more cooking at Christmas? Perhaps I can get out of cooking big dinners for the Holidays next year?

Anyway, today's theme is about the making of this meal in their own words, so with tremendous pride and joy I introduce N and V ............

"Hi this is a guest post written by V and N. We've been reading our mom's food blog and are so happy that she's taken this new endeavor on. For Christmas this year, we decided to make dinner for our parents. Usually our mom takes on the task of the Christmas meal. Last year, N helped out our mom, but this year we both decided to take dinner into our own hands. V came up with the idea of Ciopinno and N decided to make the crusty bread and salad. After watching Food Network, V had a craving for pimento "sammies".

Mini sandwiches made with homemade pimento cheese. Pimento cheese is quite commonly seen in grocery stores in the south, but we decided to make our own, as starters for our Christmas dinner! N bought the ingredients for the pimento sammies while V went on a trek to acquire the many complicated ingredients for the Ciopinno.

The local asian market proved to be the best place to get fresh seafood. We also decided to get the mixers to make some cocktails with Pisco and Vodka. The drinking began with the preparation of the Giada Cioppino, which made cooking the dish a whole lot more fun :) There was a lot of youtubing involved with figuring out how to clean all the seafood...deveining the shrimp, "debearding" a mussel. We were scared what improper "debearding" would cause for consumption of the mussels but we pressed forward. The clams and fish were the easiest to deal with. Clams merely require a rigorous scrubbing and cleaning, and since cod is boneless we just chopped up the filets and put them into the simmering cioppino broth. After much cleaning, chopping and simmering....a delicious concoction was created. Here's what it looked like..............."

The Chocolate Souffle is a Bailey's version of the Godiva Chocolate Souffle recipe which I have changed a bit to make it more chocolatey...the original recipe can be found here

 It is almost the last day of this month and 2011, I bid you good bye until next year, and Thank You for a wonderful dinner N and V!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

#175 Holiday Mithruffles from Paal Khoa

Have you ever wondered why red, green and gold are the colors of Christmas? Well, there is some in-depth meaning to them.  Many hundreds of years ago, Green was considered the color of life because people noticed that fir trees and holly bushes survived the winter much better than most other plants. They were thought of as ever green because something magical kept them strong through the harsh
winter. They were worshipped and feared and became associated with the color of life.  While red represents the blood of Christ and gold represents the gift of gold from one of the Three Kings.

Anyway, the days have been swinging by with Holiday cheer, gifts are all wrapped, the tree is brightly lit in my living room, the eggnog has been poured into goblets and the soft music of "Silent night holy night...." is playing faraway.  Cookies and milk from last night have been wiped out, with just a few remaining crumbs left by Santa on the plate,  and we are ready to open our gifts. The aroma of hot cocoa and melting chocolate wafting in from the kitchen truly makes it smell like Christmas:).

'Home is the essence of Christmas' and home is where I want to be on this day...but I've forgotten one thing this year and that's my Holiday platter of cookies. So today I'm treating my family to Truffles and coffee. Right after opening gifts, then breakfast, followed by truffles and coffee, we are going to N's for the Christmas Meal. ..........

What are Mithruffles? Paal Khoa is concentrated milk and sugar, slow cooked until the milk fat solidifies into a sticky delicious concoction used to make Mithais and hence the name. The phenomenal taste of the creamy milk solids enhanced by the bits of crumbled pistachios make an exquisite truffle platter perfect for Christmas or any other Holiday!!

Whole Fat Milk- 1 litre
Sugar- 1 1/2 cups
Butter- 3 Tblspns
Roasted, shelled pistachios- 1/2 cup
Slivered Almonds- 1 cup
Your favorite colored sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles can be used too.

1. In a heavy bottomed crockpot, place the Whole milk and sugar and let it come slowly
to a boil. When the milk starts boiling, keep stirring the milk to make sure it does not burn or
stick to the bottom of the pan. If it sticks to the bottom, it will cause an unpleasant smoky flavor to the milk.
2. Keep this boiling on a slow flame stirring often until a thick soft solid is formed. Now, add all the butter and keep stirring until the solids are thickened enough to leave the sides of the pot. Remove from fire and cool.
3. When the above mixture is cool enough to handle, make sure the mass is hard enough to roll into balls. These can be rolled into small balls just like the traditional truffles made from melted chocolate.
4. Roll the balls in any or several different toppings. I've used pistachios, almonds and red sprinkles. But toasted coconut, chocolate,cocoa or  any Holiday sprinkles may be used.

Friday, December 23, 2011

#174 Minty Chicken Keftethes or Greek Meat Balls

These Keftethes or Greek meatballs are deliciously light with ground chicken and delicately flavored with loads of fresh parsley and mint. The name is derived from the Turkish word Kofte and also similar to the Hindi Kofta. I used chicken and broiled them as I usually do with most of my deep fried recipes. However
the meatballs maintained thier moist, juicy and deliriously good interior texture and needless to say they were just sinfully good. Traditionally they are served with Tsatziki Sauce but I tossed them in a sauce made from a can of diced tomatoes in garlic after reducing it down with salt and a pinch of sugar. These were the highlight of my Greek Mezze!

•2 lbs. ground chicken
•2 onions, finely chopped or grated
•2 cloves garlic, finely minced
•1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
•1 tbsp. dried mint
•1-cup breadcrumbs
•2 tbsp. grated cheese
•1/2 cup milk
•1 egg, lightly beaten
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
•Olive oil cooking spray or olive oil for brushing

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with either the cooking spray or brushed on olive oil.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Roll the meat mixture into balls about the size of a walnut. Place on greased baking sheet about an inch apart.
Bake in 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes, turning the meatballs midway through the cooking time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#173 Smoke Free and Sweet Baklava Cigars

This dessert is an inspiration from a recipe I read at Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade on the Food Network. I have made this my own with the addition of a mixture of nuts and making a light syrup with Orange juice and honey to pour over the little rolls converting a wonderful recipe into a total knockout dessert and a great ending to my Greek Mezze!! 
I am posting this recipe to catch up on my Greek Mezze menu that I promised ya'll earlier.... besides it would be an ideal treat for entertaining guests at Christmas this weekend...

Just like a cigar to a smoker, this cigar is a guilty pleasure providing instant gratification to anyone with a sweet tooth.  I felt like a kid again.... the sticky goeey syrup and crumbly nuts, the flaky layers will convince guests to go back for seconds, thirds and even four cigars and that too without the smoke:)

Butter-flavored cooking spray
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup Cashew nuts
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 powdered nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup honey, divided
Orange extract- 1/4 tspn
12 sheets phyllo dough
1/2 cup Orange juice
1 Tblspn Honey
1 Tspn Sugar

The filling and how to roll the Cigars.....................

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a cookie sheet with butter flavored spray. Reserve.
2. In a food processor, combine all three nuts. Pulse to coarsely chop. Add butter, cinnamon, and sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a flat work surface, short side facing you. Spray with butter flavored spray. Repeat with second layer.
Spread 1/3 of nut mixture over the dough, leaving a 1-inch margin at the top and bottom.
4. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons honey.
5. Cover with a layer of phyllo, spray with butter-flavored spray. Repeat with second layer of phyllo. Spray with butter-flavored spray.
6.Starting from the bottom, roll up into a thin cylinder (like a cigar) to the top.
7. Seam-side down, cut crossways into 5 sections. Transfer to baking sheet, seam side down. Spray with butter-flavored spray. Repeat with second and third batch.
8. Bake until crust is evenly golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
9. Make a light syrup by mixing the syrup ingredients together in a small bowl, drizzle 3 tablespoons syrup over the golden rolls and serve.

Monday, December 19, 2011

From The Grand Splendour of the Backwaters ................To Kerala with Love

I am back home in Virginia after my India trip......
The last few weeks have flown by as if in a trance. The buzz of excitement and energy has sort of worn me down, the days of basking in the sun are on hold and I am back to dark winter weather, but the
good part is that it is the most wonderful time of the year around here-- Christmas!!. Nevertheless, I had a lovely time rushing from the homes of relatives to those of dear friends, malls to restaurants and
tasting street fare to Mom's home made food. Journeying to few distant towns in the excuse of visiting religious temples, stopping to do some sightseeing at tourist spots taking in as much of nature as I could
in the short time. In spite of the bumpy road trips, the hustle and noise ordinarily found in boisterous streets, it is always lovely to visit Kerala. I can see why Kerala's unique geographical features make it the
most sought after tourist destination in Asia. An equable climate, the long shoreline with beaches and emerald backwaters, sprawling plantations and rice fields, ayurvedic centers, historic and cultural
monuments, divine cuisine and charming destinations make it "God's own country", the best part is that we enjoy all the luxury of modern technology. The rides were a bit exhausting on the road, and finally I
understood why my younger daughter V had once described the bumpy autorikshaw ride as a "roller coaster" experience. LOL! She must have been about six years old when she made that announcement,
and her perspective is true. 

Tropical weather at its best--- the afternoon sun at its peak, the heat balanced by the cooling breeze from the swaying palm trees
 I shrugged the exhaustion off with all the excitement of R's nephew's wedding just before I was returning to the US. A wedding in India is incredibly would be an understatement to say that it
meant a time to rejoice with the entire family! Another reason to meet extended family I hadn't seen in ages. A family re-union accompanied by traditional before and after wedding ceremonies made a real celebration a good way to end the vacation.
Kochi has expanded beyond belief with the inaugaration of the Emmanuval Silks building, a shoppers paradise! The Gold Souk Grande Mall and the Oberon Mall in Kochi have turned into interesting hangouts with a plethora of food at the food court. You get to choose from Pizza Hut, KFC chicken and International food, popular in the area. The whole time I was in Kerala, I opted for nothing other than authentic Kerala Cuisine anything that fell in the category of 'local countryside cooking'. Shopping is the only form of excercise I participated in, mostly walking inside Malls. 

Any conception of a good portioned diet is almost impossible to follow when you are faced with real authentic South Indian delicacies!! Amma also decided to cook up a few of my old time favorite dishes. The
ideal meal where all the typical food from my childhood came to life was just heavenly. The joy of indulging in desserts, meals cooked with fresh vegetables and freshly caught fish all hard to resist and I was out to dig in and enjoy!!! Now, here's a small sample of Mom's food

Fish Mappas and Steamed Yuca root

Crispy Deep fried fresh Sardines

King fish Sections Fried in Spices

Shredded Masala Chicken Empanadas

A small sized white flesh fish "Netholi" and a local favorite in Kerala cooked in an earthen pot with coconut sauce.
Aahhh the guilty pleasures, the instant gratification of a healthy appetite and relaxatiion has definitely taken a toll on me. In conclusion I have turned into a lazy cook and gained some extra pounds!! Friends, would you believe me if I said.. I could barely get into my kitchen this morning to  get a fresh cup of coffee?  While recovering from 'jetlag' and surrendering to carry out pizza and Chinese in the last two days, I am 'charging up' and will be back soon with new until next time Kerala
Au revoir!!

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