Monday, December 31, 2012

#257 Re-kindling memories of home at the Holidays- Kerala Roast Beef Sliders

Happy Holidays to all Keralites out up this old time favorite to re-kindle beautiful memories from the past!! A Kerala Beef Thoran style shredded beef stuffed into mini buns and serve it up like the all popular Roast Beef Sandwiches.

Today, we've all come out of our comfort zone from eating those familiar foods that we were raised on and moving on to International cuisine, embracing some healthy versions of new ingredients from all over the world. Don't you think loaves of white bread, pasta, bisquick and mayyonnaise will soon be disappearing from supermarket shelves?  More and more pantries are being hoarded with cans of chick peas, dry quinoa, bags of flaxmeal, spiceracks are stacked with tandoori, asian, mediterranean and mexican spices on the quest for eating the healthiest of meals. While that is happening, some home-grown heirloom recipes like Roast Beef Sandwiches are becoming a thing of the past and once in a while it's nice to bring some of these back to life just so that we can keep in touch with the food that people have been eating for generations.

I'm no food artisan but I'm merely trying to preserve a time-honored culinary tradition of bringing together two flavors and combining ingredients into one such recipe.  One with no particular roots blending the east and west in a conventional way. Spicy shredded beef sliders!! I have a partiality to whole wheat bread and an inclination to go for anything whole grain but this one calls for sweet mini dinner rolls to offset the spice drenched shredded beef.

To the normal spices I've added a heaping spoonful of Chipotle chilis in adobe sauce for a nice added kick, caramelizing onions right in the sauce with the beef at the end of the coooking time, and served it on a sweet Hawaiian roll topped with a cucumber onion salad?  Another artery clogging heap of deliciousness for the season before I start on my healthy hike.

1 1/2 lb Chuck Roast
6 cloves garlic sliced
1 Tblspn paprika
1 tspn cayenne/regular chili powder
1/2 tspn black pepper
Chipotle peppers in Adobo Sauce-2 Tblspn
Garlic slices-5
Garlic paste-1/4 tspn
Ginger paste- 1 Tblspn
Chopped curry leaves- 1 stem
2 Tbslpsn of Adobo seasoning
Eastern Curry Powder-2 Tblspn
1 large onion
1 large hot green pepper
1/4 cup beer
1/2 tspn mustard seeds
1 Tbslpn Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbslpsn White Vinegar
1/2 tspn of Fennel seed powder
Salt as needed.
Hawaiin Dinner Rolls.
Cucumber, Tomato and Onion relish in yogurt.

1. wash and wipe the meat with a paper towel.
2. Using a sharp knife make gashes in the meat about 1 inch deep. Insert the garlic slices into each one.
3. In a small bowl combine the paprika, curry powder,chili and pepper powders,
Rub this over the meat
4. In a seperate bowl,combine beer, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, chopped Chipotle peppers and the adobo sauce and mix well.
5. Place the meat in a slow cooker and pour the liquid mixture over it. Cook for about 2-3 hours turning over after every hour.
6. add the sliced onion and green pepper to the slow cooker. Taste the gravy and adjust seasonings. Add more curry powder and chili if needed. Add 1/2 tspn of Fennel seed powder.
7. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium setting for about another hour until the meat is cooked well enough to fall apart with a knife.add water or beef broth if it gets dry. Shred beef with two forks and
8. Serve inside a slider bun with a salad of tomato, cucumber and onion.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

#256 It Isn't Christmas without a heavy shot of Egg Nog

All these years our favorites drinks at this time of the year without a doubt are Eggnog and hot chocolate. Recently we have been a bit hesitant to drink eggnog because of the high calorie content. It wasn't until my husband (R) and I stopped by the "Jack in the Box" Diner that the Eggnog Milkshake on the menu caught my attention.  I had to get some fresh eggnog from the supermarket and shake up something with it. This milkshake starts with EggNog, ice-cream slowly shaken up with a dash of seasonal nutmeg. The smell of freshly grated nutmeg and eggnog reminded me of many Christmas Seasons spent with family and of my children giggling, running around the X'mas tree in pajamas !!

2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 cup EggNog
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Whipped topping.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers!! Cookies and Eggnog shake...a calorific Christmas to remember!!

Mix in the blender all the ingredients except the whipped topping.
Pout into a nice serving glass, top with whipped topping, sprinkle with
extra ground nutmeg and serve.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

#255 Cookie Countdown to Christmas #5 Reindeer Ginger Cookies

We truly love our French hens, turtle doves and partridges in a pear tree, but if Rudolf doesn't take over all our attention at Christmas then who else does?
Rudolf with his red nose shining in the cold  wind while he pulls Santa's sled as he goes from home to home  on X'mas eve. Santa is on his way already this year, so let's get the milk and cookies out for him to nibble on as he makes his next stop. Can you guess which cookies will be absolutely the best to impress him?  Make Santa Happy with these cookies and he is sure to drop many of your favorite presents when he come down your chimney!

Servings: 24 medium sized cookies
Cooking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Pre-made Sugar Cookie Mix
Molasses- 1/4 cup
Melted butter- 1/2 cup
Dry ground ginger- 2 Tblspn
Pretzels, Red m&ms and butterscotch chips for decoration

1. Mix together the cookie mix with dry ginger, molasses and melted butter until it forms a dough.
2. Add more molasses if needed until the dough comes together just enough to roll into a log.
3. Shape the log into triangular log so that when you cut them each triangle looks like the face of the Reindeer.
4. Wrap the triangular log in wax paper and store in the fridge for about 10-12 minutes until it is firm.
5. When ready to bake, remove the wax paper and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6. While the oven is heating, place the slices flat on a baking sheet. Now press two pretzels down
on two ends of the triangle for antlers, the red nose on the third end and use a pair of butterscotch chips fo eyes.
7. When you are done making Rudolf's face on each slice, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20  mins until just firm. Cool and enjoy.

#254 Cookie Countdown to Christmas #4 Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses Cookies

Festive Kisses, red and white stripes with a minty kick ---sounds scrumptious doesn't it? That's what these tiny treats are loaded with-- a favorite little cookie to please almost anyone.  Quick and easy sugar cookies can be topped with almost any of your favorite candies or chocolates but the peppermint is purely seasonal for the Holidays!!

Servings: 30-40 small cookies
Cooking time: 1 hour

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tspn baking powder
1 cup butter at room temperature.
1 egg
1 tspn vanilla extract

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Slowly break the egg in and beat well adding the vanilla.
3. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
4. Gently add the dry ingredients from step 3 to the butter mixture.
5. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.
6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
7. While they are still warm and soft, press down a candy at the center of the cookie. Hershey Kisses are excellent to use but this time I've used the Hershey's candy cane Kisses. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

#253 Cookie Countdown to Christmas#3 : Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes

Sink your teeth into one of these mini red velvet cheesecakes that I baked for my Holiday office party(from Betty Crocker's collection) and try saving your fingertips!

Have you heard the phrase "bite the hand that feeds you"? Don't you think it came from a baby biting the mother's finger tips while she placed the first bite of solid food into her baby's tiny mouth? Then again, when food tastes incredibly delicious sometimes we all tend to bite the fork out of pure greed. If it is your own hand, the food is on the fork anyway and you can sink into it. These little bites of joy are so chocolatey sweet with cookie crumbs and loaded with cheesy red velvet flavor it can make your Holiday specially bright, at the same time being bite-size provide the guilt-free decadence you are sure to long as you watch your fingers!!

24 thin chocolate wafer cookies , crushed (1 1/4 cups)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packages (8 oz each) plus 4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons red food color
3 eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon granulated or powdered sugar
Chocolate curls, if desired

1 Heat oven to 350°F. Place foil baking cup in each of 16 regular-size muffin cups. In small bowl, mix cookie crumbs and melted butter. Divide crumb mixture among cups. With back of spoon, firmly press cookie crumbs in bottom of each foil cup.
2 In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in 1 cup granulated sugar and the cocoa until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and food color. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Divide batter evenly among baking cups (cups will be almost full).
3 Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until centers are firm. Cool 15 minutes (cheesecake centers will sink while cooling). Refrigerate in baking cups at least 1 hour; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour longer before serving.
4 In chilled small bowl, beat whipping cream and sugar with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Spoon whipped cream on chilled cheesecakes. Just before serving, garnish with chocolate curls. Cover and refrigerate any remaining cheesecakes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

# 252 Cookie Countdown to Christmas #2 Cranberry Pecan Biscotti

Biscotti de Prato or Biscotti is a simple Italian cookie. There are more than a hundred different ways of baking Biscotti around this season, all delicious and sweet and this one is an easy, no-frills recipe and a twice baked treat to crunch on with a hot cup of coffee. There's something so festive about decorating a Christmas tree with ornaments gathered over a decade but my feet are now hurting after standing up with my daughter (V) and having all that fun. I'm about to snjoy this perfect winter weather-- dunk a couple of Biscotti in the coffee while grazing by the fireplace on the couch with a warm blanket!

Servings: Makes about 30 cookies
Cooking time: 1- 2 hours

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar, 2 Tblspns more for sprinkling
3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and
fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl
as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture, and mix on low speed until combined. Mix in cranberries, pecans and butterscotch chips.
3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape into 3 logs 9 inches long and about 2 inches wide, and transfer to prepared baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. With the palm of your hand, flatten logs slightly. Brush beaten egg over surface of the dough logs, and sprinkle generously with sugar.
4. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until logs are slightly firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer logs on parchment
paper to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. 
5. Place logs on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place
a wire rack on a large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange slices, cut sides down, on rack. Bake until firm to touch, about 30
minutes. Remove pan from oven; let biscotti cool completely on rack.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

#251 Cookie Countdown to Christmas #1- Nankhatai

As children my daughters loved watching Sesame Street and so I was devastated to read the horrifying news about the owner of the voice of a certain Sesame Street character. In Cookie Monster's own words "Sometimes me think what is love. And then me think love is what last chocolate cookie is for. Me give up the last chocolate cookie for you...............". 

What better way than a chewy Cookie to make someone smile? It's time for the customary cookies to be baked for spreading the joy of the season. The joy of being generous,and sharing the happiness with others makes it all worthwhile. I'm planning to partake in at least two cookie exchanges this year with friends and this post is the first of many cookies I'm baking this season. Keep watching 'cause you never know what surprises I may have in store for you:) and starting with today's post, I'm making a decadent Cookie every week while we Countdown to Christmas Day!

I'm starting this series with a little Indian style cookie made of the simplest of ingredients that my Mother used to bake. The Nankhatai is one of those everyday cookies that makes its mark at any party. The ingredients being so easily available --flour, sugar and butter, it is adaptable to any flavor so you can mix and match by adding cashews, raisins or other flavors as desired.

1½ cup melted butter
1½ cup confectioners sugar
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup plain flour
¼ tsp powdered cardamom

1. Melt the butter over a low fire until just melted.Mix cardamom powder and salt with flour and sift once.
2. Mix together the butter and sugar. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.
3. Add flour in three parts and mix with a spoon.
4. Mix well using fingers to bring the mixture together.
5. Make around 20 small balls of the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper spaced apart. Gently press
the balls to look like little domes.
6. Bake them for 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to change color- the bottom part turns to a light brownish tinge.

Friday, November 30, 2012

#249 "Ho Ho Ho!! Santas Trudging through the Snow" Cake

Just like everyone else I have this love/hate relationship with comfort foods. I crave comfort foods but dislike that they are so full of calories. Why is it that some days I am ravenously hungry and other days I eat like a bird? Does that sound familiar to anyone?

There are times when I can compensate a day's lunch by satifactorily consuming a handful of sunflower seeds. On other days calorie counting is the last thing on my mind.

But today I'm going to splurge a little and make a white cake layered with fruits. I baked this cake for some special nieces and nephews who are coming over to my house for an early Holiday celebration. But,  I assure you a slice of this heavenly cake will make you feel like you had an early visit from the jolly old Saint Nicholas!!


White Cake Mix- 1 box (you could use Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines )
Heavy Whipping cream- 2 cups
Powdered Sugar- 1/2 cup
1 pinch of cream of tartar
Strawberries-1 pint
Pineapple sliced thin- 5-6 slices
Apricot jam and Rum- 2 Tblspoons each.

1. WHip together the cake ingredients and bake it in 2 8 inch round pans
as per the directions on the box.
2. Cool the cake and cut each round cake into two.
4. Prepare the cake platter by placing foil around the center and place the first cake round in the center so that the edges are covered by the foil.
5. Keep aside 6-7 strawberries for making the Santas and cut up the rest of the fruit into small bits.
6. Whip together the cream, sugar and cream of tartar until it is thick and creamy and holds well.
7. Take a tsp of the jam-rum mixture and spread well over th cake.
8. Spread 2 Tblspns of the whipped cream over the jam. Sprinkle well with a thin layer of chopped fruit.

9. Place the next layer of cake followed by the jam, cream and fruit until all four layers are used.
10. Cut each Strawberry so that the pointed end looks like Santa's cap. Fill with cream by piping it through a bag. Place the cap over the top and pipe a drop of cream at the tip of Santa's hat.
11. Now, very carefully spread the remaining cream over the top and sides of the cake smoothen or leave it rustic to look like fallen snow.
12. Carefully place the Santas on top of the cake. Slice and enjoy. Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#248 Brown and Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

A Thanksgiving side to share with you,  Acorn squash baked until caramelly, soft and sweet filled with savory rice and sweet cherries and pecans.
Happy Holidays!

Any brand Instant Brown and Wild Rice - 1 box
Sage- 1/4 tspn
Dried fruits like cherries, cranberries and pecans- 1/2 cup
Vegetable broth- 1 cup
Butter- 1 Tbslpn
2 tspn brown sugar
Acorn Squash- 2

1. Wash and dry the Acorn squash, cut each one in half and scoop out the insides.
2. Prepare a baking pan with a little olive oil. Place the acorn squash face up on them
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a dab of butter into each half and 1/4 tspn brown sugar.
4. Place them in an oven and bake at 375 degrees for about an hour.
5. In the meantime, made the Brown and Wild rice as per the instructions in the box adding
vegetable broth to cook the rice.
6. Add the dried fruit and nut mix into the cooked rice.
7.Scoop the rice into the hollow of the baked acorn squash and serve warm.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

#247 Happy Thanksgiving!!

 It is said that marriages are made in heaven but what really happens on earth is that two individuals from different backgrounds get together and decide to live under the same roof and raise a family. We humans are made to live in social harmony and companionship is a must and marriage is one of the most difficult relationships to maintain. The joys of marriage are divine, sweet yet bitter, beautiful but harsh and many times anticipated disagreements. Every step of the way we learn to take one step backwards, sometimes stopping to think. Other times we tend to take a step or two in an effort to reach out and negotiate with one another. It takes a lot of hard work and so it has been for me. But through it all both of us have been patient with each other and above all Our daughters made the picture a perfect one for Happy Anniversary to you 'R' for bearing with me all these years.

With that said, our anniversary falls in November and so does Thanksgiving....I've stopped by countless Blogs today, awestruck by the creativity, tempted by all the delicious feasts and greatly impressed by what everybody else is baking, roasting, cooking and serving.  Wow.. what a feast for the eyes and tummies!!

The Holidays are the best time to bring out family recipes and also a time to introduce new ones. I'm sharing with joy the Menu I served my family tonight......

         Cheese Ring and Preserves served with crackers
         Mumbai Bhel
         Panzanella Salad
Entrée and Side
         Roasted Turkey breast stuffed with ground turkey Kabob style served with fig chutney glaze
         Baked Acorn Squash stuffed with wild rice, pecans and cranberries
         Buttered crusty rosemary baby potatoes with shallot gravy
         Apple and cranberry Tart with whipped cream
       Tropical fruit layered cake.
Since the centerpiece was the Turkey breast I'll share the recipe with you today, although some of these were store bought I plan on sharing parts of the menu over the coming days with you.....

Roasted Turkey breast with ground turkey (Kabab style) with fig chutney glaze

1 Turkey breast- 6-8 lbs
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro
1 Tblspn ginger paste
1 tspn garlic paste
1/2 Spanish onion
crushed red pepper- 1/2 tspn
Black pepper and salt to taste
Fig Chutney( Store bought)- 1 Tblspn

1. Prepare the Turkey breast overnight by brining in 2 liters of water, salt, sugar and bay leaves.
2. Remove, drain, wipe dry with paper towels.
3. Marinate with pepper and salt and open the breast out into a tray.
(I used the Butterball Turkey breast which opens out pretty easily)
4. Coarsely grind the onion, ginger, garlic paste, mint, cilantro, red pepper and enough salt.
5. Mix the ground onion mixture with the ground turkey together just until the flavors are well
spread throughout the meat mixture.
6. Slowly start filling the meat mixture into the middle of the Turkey breast and fold tightly until the breast completely covers the ground kabab mixture inside.
7. Using a cord to tie the breast tight enough to hold together. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper over the breast.
8. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for about an hour and half or until the juices run clear.
9. About ten minutes before the breast turns brown, baste with Fig chutney and let rest for a few minutes before serving.
10. Best served with rosemary roasted baby potatoes, gravy and wildrice stuffed acorn squash(recipe to follow).
11. LEFTOVERS ANYONE?? I would suggest making a 'gyro' with this leftover turkey. Serve wrapped inside a Naan bread with Tzatsiki sauce, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

#246 Chickenless Vegan Chicken Biryani

If there were eight days in a week instead of seven, maybe I could tackle more of the thousands of restaurants that blanket the District, Maryland and Virginia. Athough after turning vegetarian, I've been delving into the hot food from "Whole Foods".... being thoroughly satisfied with their varying veggie options- not missing out on food from a fancy Restaurant.  Recently I've been cooking more chicken than usual to satisfy family's liking, since it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the family especially my carnivorous husband R. He may turn cranky if he is forced to eat vegetarian meals everyday.

I am not in favor of meat substitutes and generally tend to push it back to the 'processed food' family! However, while I was on one of my "Whole Food" ventures, a Soy product/Meat Substitute caught my attention-Seitan. The taste was very close to chicken breast meat and I was determined to try it out at home. Unlike other substitutes, Seitan is loaded with protein has the chewy texture and flavor of chicken without any of the hormones or fat. The plus points of this product are high fibre content and the best part is that it does not have the antibiotics found in some animal products. I found out that by replacing the chicken with Seitan in a Malabar Biryani,  the family and I could all agree that this was an ideal way to consume it. A whole onion and tomato ground into a paste along with garlic and ginger, a touch of cilantro and that too without butter or ghee!  The flavored rice turned out to be a riot of flavors playing around the chunky peices of Seitan with an added kick of extra onions and saffron in the masala paste.


Seitan cubed- 8 oz
Cooked Basmati Rice- 1 1/2 cups
Onions-2 large
Tomato-1 large
Ginger paste-1 Tbslpn
Garlic paste-1 tspn
Chopped cilantro-1 ½ cups
Green chilli-2
Saffron threads- 1 pinch
Soy milk- ½ cup
Chicken Masala- 1 Tblspn
Olive Oil, salt and pepper as needed.

1.    Grind together the tomato, 1 onion, chillies, ginger-garlic paste and salt into a
Coarse paste.
2.    Wash, dry and marinate the Seitan chunks in ta little salt and pepper. Keep aside.
3.    Slice onions into very fine slices. Placing a pan over the fire
Saute the onions until they are golden brown and crisp .
4.    Once onions have browned keep aside.
5.    Mix together soy milk and saffron and keep aside.
6.    In the same pan, add 2 Tbslpns Olive oil and add the coarse paste from step 1 above. Saute until the raw taste it gone and it has a truely wonderfula roma. Add the marinated seitan and let it coat the chunks and warm.
7.    Take a casserole dish and layer with onions, cilantro, seitan mixture, rice, season with salt, pepper and olive oil. COntinue layering until no more rice and seitan remains. Sprinkle the saffron soaked soy milk over the top of the rice. Keep on a low fire(or icrowave for 15 mis) for the spices to be absorbed well by the rice.
8.    Remove from fire and serve garnished with nuts and raisins(optional).
9.    Serve with pickle and a salad made with chopped onions, cucumber, pomegranate, green chillies and cilantro in a yogurt sauce seasoned with salt.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#245 African Chicken Nut Butter Stew

African cuisine covers so many different soups, stews, rice and meat and mostly uses local ingredients. The rice is cooked with root vegetables such as yucca or potatoes and then mixed with a grain like millet, rice or corn. The recipes vary depending on the region or area. Along the coastline, people mix fish into their stews, while in the middle of the continent, they use meat. When the weather gets colder stews are also flavored with different spices that are regional in nature. The people living along the old trade routes from Asia typically use Asian spices, while others use no spices at all. This soup is normally slow cooked using peanuts crushed or ground to a paste to help round out the acidity of the tomatoes and of course it also pairs so well with sweet potatoes. Although the soup calls for chicken in bone as an ingredient, I've added chicken buillon and broth instead so feel free to brown up 1/2 lb of chicken thighs into the broth as you cook the vegetables.  I've also replaced peanut butter with almond butter only because I had some handy.  Lately, the temperature has been dropping rapidly and a bowl of this warm soup is truly comforting!!

2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2-3 cubes chicken bouillon
3/4 cup Almond butter
1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
2 quart chicken broth
12 cups sliced collard greens or kale(I've used Kale)

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic and ginger to pan; cook, stirring, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add chicken, tomatoes, potatoes, 1/2 cup almond butter, and cayenne; stir in chicken broth. Bring to a simmer; cook until sweet potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in collard greens or kale; cook until greens are tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup nut butter before serving

Monday, November 12, 2012

#244 Happy Diwali with Mango Badam Peda

It's the festival of lights again this year and I'm welcoming Diwali with a sweet for goddess Laxshmi. Happy Diwali!!

By now you probably have an idea of how food and drink are such an integral part of every Indian festival, whether it is tradition or a religious celebration. Once again we make the most luxurious snacks for special ocassions. Pedas are generally made of milk fat and sugar as a special delicacy. 

Rangoli DesignsThe juice of a perfectly ripe mango gives this peda just enough fruitiness to add a slight hint of mango in the back of your tongue just as you take the first nutty bite into one of these. Isn't it amazing how a small touch or change in flavor can take an original recipe over the top and give it a creative taste? Try this one and you will agree with me!

1 cup whole almonds
1 ripe mango
1 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tblspn sugar
1/4 ghee

1.    Soak the Almonds in 1 cup milk overnight.
2.    Peel the skins off (they come off easily) or use slivered almonds instead
3.    Grind the almonds to a puree/paste using a bit of the milk(use the milk sparingly-just enough to grind the almonds).
4.    Skin and chop mango , blend and strain the puree out,(instead you may use fresh mango puree equal to the puree of one mango.)
5.    Grease a small plate with ghee/clarified butter.
6.    Add both mango and almond puree into a thick bottomed pan over
A medium fire.
7.    Add the condensed milk and sugar and stir well until the mixture comes together and the sugar melts.
8.    Once the mixture becomes a solid mass, add the cardamom and mix well together.
9.    Slowly incorporate the ghee little at a time mixing and stirring until  all the ghee is used up and once the mixture starts getting a shine the ghee slowly starts to separate out. Remove from fire.
10.  Let the mixture cool until just warm enough to roll into cherry sized balls, press with a finger to form an indentation Sprinkle with slivered almonds and serve.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

#243 Patak's Butter Tofu with Okra

There's butter chicken and then there's butter paneer but have you heard of Butter Tofu? Most people think Tofu is an alternative for cheese or dairy but there's no harm in combining the two and this time with Patak's Curry Paste. What's surprising is that there is a Patak's Curry Club on Facebook with tons of excellent recipes.  With a handy collection of Tikka Masala paste, Mild and Hot Curry paste, Tandoori and Biryani paste from Patak's,  you could simply saute meat, veggies or tofu and simmer in your favorite sauce for an instant flavorful side dish.
It's curry time and the heat is on...........Tofu and Okra simmered slowly in Hot Curry paste from Patak.

Organic pressed tofu cutlets- 6 ounces
Okra cut into 1 inch peices- 6 ounces
Patak's Curry paste-3 Tblspns
Onion-1 chopped
Tomatoes- 2 chopped
Cilantro-1/2 cup chopped
Butter- 1 Tblspn
Cream- 1/2 cup
Olive oil, Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cut the Tofu cutlets into bite size pieces.
2. Saute onions in olive oil until they are almost light golden in color. Add okra and saute until the okra is dry and does not emulate the stickiness.
3. Add the tomatoes and cilantro and saute  until smooth.
4. Add the Patak's paste and then the tofu, add 1/4 cup of water, salt, pepper and cook until the tofu absorbs the spices. Now add butter and stir well.
5. Turn off the stove and add cream. serve hot with rotis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

#242 Cheesy Red Pepper Jelly Thumbprint Bites and a Second Birthday!!

It's almost the Holidays and I'm not yet ready to think about all the goodies I'd like to bake! Time flies faster than wind and good God-- it's almost Thanksgiving already!

BTW,  Malli's M&Ms has victoriously reached the heights of its second anniversary last month!! What a productive year this has been!! Instead of counting candles or years I'm counting my blessings for achieving another big milestone. I've enjoyed sharing my kitchen experiences and paving my way into your kitchens!  Thank you for letting me in:)

Anyway, a few weeks back we ventured out of DC to the hills of the Shenandoah Valley and a bit further to Afton, VA for a wedding. A wedding that was memorable for us since our younger daughter V's best friend was married at the Veritas Winery and Plantation in a beautiful Country Manor. Although it was pouring 'cats and dogs' on our road trip over the winding roads and high elevation we went.
It was as if the rains stopped and the heavens opened up for the bride and groom just as the ceremony began like someone from above showered them with blessings. The soft rays of sunshine peeked out between the clouds to make a warm and cosy setting while the Rabi and priest blessed the couple.

Since V was the Maid of Honor we were excited for her and it was worth spending a weekend enjoying the food and festivities at the winery too.

On our return trip, we came across a little country store off the main road. I had the irresistable urge to go in and explore. After some convincing and persuasion from me, my husband (R) had to stop and park at the side of the road. R knew that it was crucial and nothing could stop me from grabbing a bagful of fresh prepared foods from the store. I was not disappointed because it was packed with fresh home-made jams, jellies, relishes and absolutely fine homemade candy-my favorite was a sesame bark. I began gathering like a kid in a candy store and among other things I picked up, there was a red pepper jam- tart, hot and sweet. My first thought was "the tartness of the jam  being amplified by the sweet finish it would perhaps stand out blended into a sauce or marinade on fish or chicken".

A taste of it and I was sure you could slather anything with a dab of this red pepper jam and it would be delicious! It was addictive and many sauces later there was still more leftover jam. On a whimsical impulse I decided bake something out of the ordinary a twisted version of a cookie.....a little savory, a little spicy cookie or should I say a tart thumbprint cracker?

2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons chilled butter, chopped
1/2 cup hot pepper jelly

1.Blend cheese, flour, and butter in a food processor until dough is a coarse-meal texture and forms into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
3.Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet.
4.Bake in the preheated oven for 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven; press thumb into top of each ball, creating an indentation. Spoon about 1 teaspoon pepper jelly into indentation. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#241 Surviving "Frankenstorm" with a Boogeyman Brain and Fangs

Yes, even as we encountered Hurricane Sandy in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States we've now moved on to Halloween. This time of the year my neighborhood, just like everyone else's becomes a little spooky but it has been unusually quiet this year. Normally, little goblins come knocking on the door asking for a treat or two but a few little ones have come and gone today.

For the past two days torrential rain poured down flooding neighborhoods, the wind blew burnt brown leaves around so heavily that large branches were ripped off of trees and scattered all over the front yards. Although it was fierce in New York to the extent that Stock Trading came to a halt, the wrath of the winds have now died down and everyone is up and about their busy schedules. We are fortunate that no one was hurt and being couped up at home for two days I enjoyed the quiet after the storm with little inspiration to go back to my kitchen.

I wasn't particularly motivated to carve Jack-o-Lanterns either (like the one last year Halloween 2011), instead I had just enough time to get a brain roast on the table. Kids aren't the only ones who enjoy a fright-fest or two on Halloween don't you think? I'm determined to enjoy a spooky looking cauliflower roast merely to overcome  'cabin fever' and get into the 'spirit' of things.

1 Large head of Cauliflower
1 large Diakon Radish
2 large tomatoes
1/2 of a white onion
2 Tblspn ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tspn garam masala
1 lemon juiced
1 tspn chili powder
3 Tblspn Olive Oil
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro(optional)

1. Remove the extra stem and leaves of the Cauliflower. Wash and dry it with paper towels.
2. Slice the diakon radish and toss with olive oil.
3. Heat the oven to Roast at 375 degrees.
4. Grind to a smooth paste the ingredients starting with onions, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste, garam masala, chili, juice of lemon, and salt along with 1 Tbslpn olive oil.
5. Take a large baking pan and place the whole cauliflower at the center. Scatter diakon radish around it.
6. With the help of a teaspoon, apply the ground paste in between the florets of the Cauliflower and apply the rest of the paste all over the top to cover.
7. Place the dish in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes to steam and cook the cauliflower.
8. Remove from the oven and drizzle the rest of the Olive Oil all over the Cauliflower.
9. Roast for another 15 minutes or until the top of the flower is browned. Remove and serve immediately sprinkled with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

#240 Sizzling Street Food- Porotta

The Travel Channel's famous culinary traveler Anthony Bourdian had his share of sheep testicles in Morrocco and a whole beating Cobra heart in Vietnam but the simple street food that he relished back on the Streets of Kerala made him remark as such....
"I enjoyed eating the street Food in Kochi especially the 'fish head' curry at the local toddy shop"! It's not just in Kochi but all over Kerala and the entire country there are authentic heart-warming meals served by street vendors and down-to-earth simple dishes at reasonable prices. Roadside eateries were born from the need to feed day laborers who returned from work hungry but the authenticity of the food took a turn and attracted many food lovers to Thattukada food.

Street Food is normally found in little stalls called "Thattukadas" and there is one around every corner in every big city and even all over India. The simplicity of the ingredients and presentation make it all the more appealing, yet every part of India has at least one speciality street food they call their own. An old favorite from Kerala stands out in my mind - the layered Porotta served with spicy Chicken, Egg, beef or Vegetable Curry. Not to be confused with the Paratha, although both belong to the same food family of Flatbreads. Let's just say that Kerala Porotta is similar to the Laccha Paratha. Made from All purpose Flour and layered by the technique of folding, wrapping and rolling the dough, Porotta is cooked inside a wok instead of the skillet and cooked covered. It's crispy outside and soft tender layered insides just fall apart while eating which is why crowds are so drawn to Thattukadas for more!!

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup boiling water(use sparingly just to bring the flour together)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Salt and sugar to taste

1.Mix together flour and salt in a bowl.
2.Add 2 Tblspoons oil and the rest of the ingredients and make a soft dough. Make sure to pat the dough hard on a clean surface to make it soft. Do not use the entire water but just enough to make the dough.
3.Cover the dough with a wet cloth to rest for aleast 4 hrs.
4.Before making the porottas, knead the dough once again with hands.
5.Apply oil over a clean surface like the kitchen counter top.
6.Make small balls of the dough and roll them out as thin as possible with a rolling pin but in oval shape.
apply a little oil over the surface spreading it all around with your fingers.
7.Fold the rolled dough like a fan making pleats as you go along into a long pleated strand of dough as it appears in the picture to the left.

8.Stand the strand up on a flat surface and roll from one end to the inside to form a round. This is done to get the layers. Make sure to bind the ends well to hold together as seen in the photo to the right.
9. Place each roll on the clean counter and roll again but this time make a circle about a maximum of 1/4 inch thick and 6-7 inches diameter.
Note: Make sure to roll the porotta only one one side to keep the layers separate.
10. Place a wok or deep pan over a medium flame. Cook each flatbread inside adding 1/2 tspn of oil on both sides.
11. Cook covered with a tight lid until cooked on both sides and inside.
12. Remove and pat the edges inside to flake the bread.
13. Serve with a spicy chicken, beef, egg or vegetable kurma.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

#239 Sunshine Screwdriver on the Deck

When I got up this morning at 7 am I could see the golden rays of sunlight filtering down through the curtains and over the rug in my bedroom. I didn't want to get up but I was happy looking forward to a bright day with lots of sunshine. It is getting much colder outside, the bright red and yellow leaves are falling, fading away from the trees leaving dark skeletons of branches swaying to and fro in the breeze. Now we'll see fresh green leaves come Spring  2013!!  Sometimes a sunny day like this can lift our spirit and make us smile in the late fall as we prepare for the coming months of winter and snow so let's make the best of it!! 

I'm smiling for another reason - last night we were invited for a 50th wedding anniversary with a couple and their friends. Isn't it amazing how two people live in harmony for 50 years and are celebrating half a century of wedded bliss?  With their children being long married and well settled,  they've been retired and vacationong for the past decade!! I would love to do that for a living but, since R and I are a long way from celebrating half a century of wedded bliss, we're celebrating with screwdrivers on the deck this sunny afternoon:)

Usually I make my screwdrivers with Absolut Vodka and orange juice.  It is refreshing on a hot day but easy to make when you don't feel like whipping up a fancy cocktail. Today I don't have Absolut Vodka so I went for the Citrus Smirnoff and shook up a couple of Grapefruit & Orange Screwdrivers right on the deck for my husband 'R' and I.  Squishing the fresh juicy grapefruit and orange sections with crushed ice and sugary syrup right inside the glass to bring out the essential oils from the clean skin and adding an extra level of the beautiful citrus flavor into the sunshine screwdriver.

Citrus Smirnoff/ Vodka- 1 1/2 ounce
Freshly squeezed Orange Juice-2 ounces
Freshly squeezed Graprefruit juice-2 ounces
Sugar Syrup- 1 ounce
Crushed Ice
Club Soda- as desired

Shake it Up:
1. In a cocktail shaker, place freshly squeezed juices, ice and sugar syrup and shake well.
2. Mix the Vodka and shake. Pour into glasses. drop a slice of grapefruit and orange.
3. Using a cocktail glass rod crush the fresh fruit in each glass well to get the full flavors.
4. Top with club soda as desired and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

#238 Royal Finger sandwiches

Good afternoon fellow foodies.  I would not be exaggerating if I said that I'd vote for afternoon tea or a wine night over any big meal. You're probably wondering why? Because I love bite-size food!!

Afternoon tea originated from Britian and was always accompanied by sandwiches aka 'finger sandwiches' that can be consumed in a few bites. This was introduced during the times when dinner was served around 9:00 pm and to keep hungry stomachs from growling they served finger food and tea in the parlor. Thus 'Finger sandwiches' were born as little crustless sandwiches paired with tea and clotted cream. These bite-size sandwiches served with an array of sweet snacks like crumpets and scones made an elegant afternoon tea and sure to make one feel like a Queen!

Although tea was first introduced in Britian in the early days by the East India Company the ritual of drinking tea stayed only among the rich simply because 'tea leaves' were an expensive commodity at the time. High tea did not remain a high-end luxury for long nor is it considered a Royal tradition anymore. It has become quite the quintessentail ritual for women to relaxand I've enjoyed a full end high-tea or two in the DC area myself.
So, the next time you're looking for something to do in the afternoon, find a place near you and go for high tea, will you? I'm sure you'll thank me because it is quite a relaxing experience and helps you unwind. Are you saying that I am going all high end like the Queen? LOL! Well, I'd  say come up with your own finger sandwiches and scones and it may turn out to be quite frugal but relaxing enough.
Either way, the sandwich I am introducing today is one that I learned to make from by my maternal Aunt 'S' many many years ago. She returned from Tanzania in the early years of my school days and being a wonderful cook herself re-created many recipes of English origin for us cousins. Along with many more of her recipes this one became a favorite for my children too since I turned them into 'finger sandwiches' for high-tea.

4 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil (or chives or parsley)
1 small garlic clove, minced, optional
8 slices sandwich bread
Pepper, to taste
1 large tomato

1. Place the eggs in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Have a bowl of ice water ready. After 9
minutes, transfer the eggs to the ice water to cool completely. Peel, remove egg whites and chop.
2. Take the egg yolks in a small bowl. Start slicing the tomatoes squeezing the juice into the bowl with the egg yolks removing as  many seeds as possible. add enough pepper and salt and mix well together.
3. Chop the tomato into medium size pieces. keep aside in a seperate plate along with the chopped egg whites. Season with salt and pepper.
4. In the small bowl, stir together the butter, lemon juice and a pinch salt. Stir in the basil, the garlic, and mix until smooth.
5. Spread 4 slices of the bread thickly with seasoned butter, all the way to the edges.
6. Spread 4 slices of the remaining bread thickly with egg yolk mixture.

7. Lay the egg and tomatoes on four of the bread slices and season with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining bread. Cut off the brown edges and slice into bite size sandwiches.

Friday, October 12, 2012

#237 Malabar Spicy Prawn Curry

A fragrant and delicious blend of freshly cooked shrimp in traditional local Kerala spices and tomato gravy the flavors remind me of the Malabar Coast once again–the mountainous region of southwestern India where ginger, coconut, cinnamon, pepper, cloves and cardamom all grow around each other so well. The weather, fertile land watered by the coastal lagoons go in and out of green paddy fields across the state and help these plants flourish in abundance.  The spices complement one another to produce an aroma beyond imagination and make their appearance in most regional fish and meat curries.  I've eliminated the traditional coconut milk normally used in this curry adding chopped carrots, but the taste was absolutely stunning and brought out the bold flavors of Kerala cuisine!!

Tiger Shrimp/Prawns-1/2 lb
Onion- 1/2 of a large onion chopped fine
Tomato- 1large chopped fine
Carrot-  1 large chopped fine
Ginger-garlic paste- 1 Tablespoon
Kashmiri Chilli powder- 1 tspn
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tspn
Fennel Powder- 1/2 tspn
Thai green chillies- 5 sliced
Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
Corn Oil, salt to taste

Raw spices for flavoring the oil
Star anise-1, Cloves-3, Bay leaves-3, Elaichi- 2, fennel seeds-1 pinch, Mustard seeds-1/4 tspn
1 red chilli

1. Devein, wash and dry the shrimp. Mix together salt, chili and turmeric powder, ginger-garlic paste and marinate the shrimp for some time. Keep aside.
2. Place  a skillet over medium fire and add  2 Tbslpn oil. To the warm oil add the raw spices and wait for the mustard seeds to splutter. Now add 1 sprig curry leaves, Thai green chillies and onions.
3. Saute until the onions are light brown in color. Then add tomatoes, and carrot  and cook until the tomato paste is mushy and soft.
4. Add the fennel powder and the shrimp and saute for 2 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup water and the second sprig of curry leaves. Cook gently for 1 minute and turn off the stove.
5. Overcooked shrimp becomes tough to eat so once the shrimp are tossed into the gravy cook for just a minute or two to allow them to cook. Taste the gravy for seasoning just before you add the shrimp.
6. Serve warm with a loaf of freshly baked bread, Appams or rotis.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

#236 Raindrops on Roses and whiskers on kittens...... these are a few of my favorite things!!

Do you get a "Twinkie" craving once in a while? Me too!
I have been eating healthy lately, yet somehow I cannot resist the urge to eat a chocolate bar or cupcake off and on. I don't think there's anything wrong with that because it's probably a drop in blood sugar.....LOL!

Since I don't shop for  'Twinkies' anymore, I can't get one handy to nibble on right now. I have two choices-- I can either scream like a banshee or I can dish up a dessert.  Like an angel my husband(R) offered to take me out for dessert. So we got in the car and drove down to "Cupcakes Actually" for splurging on a delicious 'Death by Chocolate" cupcake. That was the end of my sweet craving but I wanted to bake a cake anyway.

It is unusual for me to bake a cake as big as this but a girl from work 'curvygirl'(she calls herself) shared a whole bottle of rose extract with me and I was inspired to make this  cake. The little rosebuds are a 'chinese tea' a lovely gift from another friend JH. This cake sprung from an original recipe I've baked many times from  the 'epicurious' website called Persian Love Cake. Since roses are also a woman's best friend (second to diamonds) and the sweet smell in plain sweetened milk or any dessert for that matter is divine,this cake did not disappoint at all. Instead, it was scrumptious, light and sweet with a nice rose flavor without it overpowering the cake....
Thanks cg and jh!!
Here's how it came together:

Edible rose buds

1 Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic White Cake Mix
3 eggs
1 Tblspn Yogurt
1/4 tspn Baking powder
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 cups of water
5 teaspoons of pure rose extract (more or less depending on your preference)

2 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
Pinch of saffron threads
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons rose extract
a pinch of cardamom powder
2 drops of red food color

For cake:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line pan bottoms with parchment paper; butter parchment. Mix Cake mix, , yogurt, baking powder, rose extract and water into large bowl.
2. Seperate egg yolks and whites, add a pinch of cream of tartar to the whites. Whisk yolks into mixture in the bowl until smooth. 
3. Beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form.
4. Beat until whites resemble thick marshmallow fluff. Gradually fold whites into batter in 3 additions.
5. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until cakes are golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
6. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks, peel off parchment, and cool completely.
Slice each cake round into halves to form four discs.

For frosting:
7. Combine 1/2 cup cream and saffron in small saucepan. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat; let steep 20 minutes. Chill until cold.
8. Beat remaining 2 cups cream, powdered sugar, and rose extract in large bowl until soft peaks form; strain in saffron cream. Beat until peaks form.
9. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Place the next two cake layers the same way.
10. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill at least 1 hour. Garnish cake with rose buds or edible organic rose petals and sprinkle with saffron threads.

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