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.

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