May 31, 2008

Cheesecake Icecream and an award!


I am pleased to announce that this is my 75th post on "Tasty treats". I would like to thank all my readers, my friends for their continuing support and encouragement. If it were not for your comments and compliments, I doubt that this blog would have been a part of my life to the extent it is now. Thanks again for your support!

Yesterday I received the "Nice Matters" award from Sangeeth of Art of cooking Indian food. I am so thankful to you for your thoughtfulness!! I really appreciate your nice gesture. I would like to pass this on to

Sukanya of Hot n' Sweet bowl
Bhags of Crazy curry
Hetal of Isha's kitchen
Asha of Aroma

On that sweet note, lets move on to today's post.

As warmer weather started creeping into our lives, I saw many ice-cream recipes cropping up here and there in the blogging world. As many of you might know by now, I love desserts, especially cold desserts. So for me the most obvious choice of recipe for a cold dessert was that of an icecream. Most of the blogs have recipes with mangoes in them (one among my most favourite fruits) and I saw a recipe for mango icecream on Deeba's blog. When I went grocery shopping, I gathered up the ingredients for the mango icecream but surprisingly forgot to pick up fresh mangoes.

By the time I came back home, I was itching to make an icecream. So I decided to improvise with what I had on hand. I had a JellO Cheesecake-flavoured Instant pudding mix and decided to experiment with it. Since this was my first trial for a home-made icecream and that too without an icecream maker, I was nervous. Anyhow, I mixed all the ingredients together and froze it, beat it at intervals for a smooth and fluffy texture. Thus came about the creation of a cross between icecream and pudding! Coming to the point, the final result was marvelous!!! I never thought I could create such a tasty marvel, but then who can go wrong when you mix tasty stuff with tastier stuff!!

The good points about the icecream were 1) it was made without cream cheese but had the cheesecake flavour and 2) since it was made with the pudding mix, it set pretty quickly. 3) Another high point is that since it has the thickening agent in the pudding mix, it did not melt into a complete puddle even when kept at room temperature. It had all the taste and texture of a creamy and rich (more so because of the pudding mix) icecream. I think this would make an ideal filling for ice-cream sandwiches. We all enjoyed our first home-made icecream happily. I hope you all would try this at home. Let me know what you think of the recipe. Until then, enjoy the pictures of our cheesecake icecream. Cheers!!


This icecream obvioulsy is a calcium rich dessert and is on its way to the Beautiful Bones: An Osteoporosis Food Event hosted by Susan of the Food Blogga.



Recipe:

Cheesecake-flavoured Instant pudding mix - 1 packet (3oz)
Sweetened condensed milk - 14 oz
Whipping cream - 1 pint
2% milk - 1 cup

Method:

Mix the condensed milk and whipping cream together in a large bowl.

Beat them using an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the pudding mix into the whipping cream - condensed milk mixture and beat for 2-3 more minutes or until the mixture is airy, fluffy and smooth.

Freeze the mixture for 30 minutes to an hour.

Beat the icecream mixture using a electric hand mixer or in a food processor until smooth, creamy and fluffy.

Again, keep the mixture in the freezer and repeat the whipping/beating every 1 or 2 hours for a couple of times.

Freeze the icecream overnight or until completely set.

Soften the icecream in the refrigerator before serving.

Serve in scoopfuls, garnished with fruits, nuts or dessert sauces of your choice.

Enjoy!!



Tip:

  1. I beat the icecream mixture for a total of 4-5 times (first-time prep anxiety). You dont need to do it that many times because unlike regular icecream I dont think there will be a lot of crystal formation. But just to be sure, process it atleast for a couple of times.


I am also sending this icecream to You scream, I scream, we all scream for frozen desserts hosted by Mike of Mike's table.

May 30, 2008

Lemon rice and a friendly feud !


Lemon rice was not made at home frequently so it was kind of a rare treat for me. Until now, I was not that into creating variety in the preparation of rice at home. But one of my friends prepares a wide variety of food whenever I go over to her place. She has introduced me to a lot of authentic dishes of Tamilians. She inspired me to try out the wide variety of recipes especially the ones for the rice! When I saw this recipe in a cookbook, I just couldnt stop myself from giving it a try, with such appealing ingredients like lemon juice and nuts and the mellow yellow color. I also like the occasional crunch from the split peas and cashews, I added a bit of peanuts to heighten the pleasure! Hey hey, I am still talking about lemon rice! This was my first time with lemon rice, and I am happy that I tried it, because I looooved it!! I would definitely make this again.


Picture 2:



JM and I had a little disagreement on the presentation of the lemon rice. So I thought it would be fun to conduct a poll here. I am keeping the poll un-biased, so I am not revealing our individual preferences. Please vote for your favourite set of photos (upper left corner of the blog). Set 1 (photos 1 & 3) are the pictures of lemon rice in the bowls, and set 2 (pics 2 & 4) includes the ones in the platter. It would be great if you all would let me know of your choice! Its a win-win situation anyways, its either me or him! Not a great battle, just a healthy polling feud :-). Have a great weekend!!

Picture 3:


Recipe:

Basmati rice - 1 1/2 cups, uncooked
Water - 3 cups
Bengal gram or split yellow peas - 1 tsp
Split raw cashews - 1 tbsp
Peanuts - 1 tbsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Black mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Curry leaves - 10 ( I didnt have any)
Ginger - minced, 1/2 tsp
Green chilli - minced, 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillies - 2-3, broken into pieces
White lentils (urad dal) - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Lemon juice - 3 tbsp
Salt - as needed
Water - 1 tbsp
Fresh coriander leaves - for garnish

Method:

Boil the washed rice in water until the grains are just tender.

Drain thoroughly and set aside.

Dry roast the bengal gram, cashewnuts and peanuts in a skillet for 2-3 minutes until lightly toasted.

Set aside.

Heat the oil in the skillet, and stir-fry the mustard seeds until it begins to pop.

Add the ginger, chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves, bengal gram, cashews, peanuts, lentils and turmeric.

Continue to stir-fry and then add the lemon juice, salt and water ( 1 tbsp).

Allow it to simmer for a few minutes.

Toss in the rice and heat through.

Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve with pappadums, pickle and raita.

Source: Authentic Recipes from India by Brinder Narula.


Picture 4:

Tips:

  1. Since I like the lentils in them so much, I added 1 tbsp of bengal gram, 1 tbsp cashews and 1 tbsp of peanuts. Adjust to your taste.
  2. I usually put salt while cooking the rice, so I didnt add any extra salt in the end. Test the saltiness before adding extra.
  3. I used 3 cups of cooked basmati rice (dont know if it is equivalent to 1 1/2 cups of uncooked rice).

Dont forget to vote for the pictures. You have until midnight on Monday-June 2 to vote. Thanks!

I am sending this medley to the "Mixed Rice Varieties" event at Easy Craft's Simple Indian Food. EC is always coming up with interesting events, I just wouldnt miss participating in them!

UPDATE: I am sending this to "Rice Mela" hosted by Srivalli of Cooking 4 all seasons.

May 29, 2008

Mushroom Parmesan Crostini


A tasty appetizer which does not have to be made from scratch - thats how I would describe this tough sounding appetizer. It was really tasty with the universally loved flavours of bread- pizza sauce- mushrooms sauteed in olive oil- parmesan cheese! Whats not to love about this appetizer! The pictures are not so great because we all were impatient to get our hands on them and so I couldnt try better presentations. The kitchen was filled with a good aroma of the sauteed mushrooms and who could resist that! The bread was crisp against the soft sauteed mushrooms. I would like to suggest increasing the amount of sauteed mushrooms (double it) because I found the amount specified in the recipe to be not enough for all the crostinis. So I had to make a second batch in the middle of assembling them. I am posting the original recipe below. Make changes to the recipe according to your tastes.

Recipe (Makes 12 crostinis) :

White button mushrooms - chopped, 1 cup
French bread - 1 loaf, cut into 12 slices and toasted
Pizza sauce - 3/4 cup
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 1 clove, chopped finely
Parmesan cheese - grated, 3/4 cup
Italian seasoning - as needed

Method:

Pre heat oven to 375F.

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook garlic for 30 seconds.

Add the chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates.

On a baking sheet, arrange the bread slices.

Evenly spread the pizza sauce over the toasted bread slices.

Then top with sauteed mushrooms, cheese and seasoning.

Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through.

Serve warm.

Source: Simple 1-2-3 Appetizers.

Tips:

  1. Italian bread loaf can be used instead of french bread.I used pasta sauce instead of pizza sauce.
  2. Mushrooms like shiitake, portobello and cremini are suggested in the book, but white button mushrooms worked just fine!
  3. Fresh or dried basil leaves are suggested as the seasoning but I used Italian seasoning (a small pinch on each crostini before baking).
  4. The bread, once sliced, can be easily be toasted in a toaster.

I made them around lunch time, but no one would wait to eat it (even I couldnt resist)! We had just 4-5 left by the time we had lunch. Since it was over the long weekend, we decided to do some grilling. Both of us are amateur grillers, but it was a safe bet since we didnt have any guests over! Here's a picture of one of the remaining crostinis that we had for lunch along with some grilled food on Memorial day. Enjoy!

May 28, 2008

Mango breakfast crepes


I love mangoes, they are one of my favourite fruits. We go to the Indian store less frequently and this time I picked up a can of alphonso mangoes. There are mango based recipes all over the fellow bloggers' blogs and I couldnt decide on one! Finally when I saw the events list on Taste Of India, I decided to do a breakfast dish with mangoes. I had posted the recipe for french breakfast crepes a little while ago. So I decided to work with that recipe, changing it into a mango-ey dish. The results were good, would have been great if I had fresh mangoes! This is my entry to the WBB: Mango madness #22 hosted by Arundati of Escapades and started by Nandita of Saffron Trail .


I want to let you all in on something. My hus JM is my official food photographer (not to mention my guinea pig.... AHEM ... my taste tester), I am the chef and food stylist. I would tell him what kind of shots I need and he will do that for me. Sometimes it seems funny because I usually check if it is what I meant before he clicks, as if I am his client! (a real client-photographer relation!). Now this doesnt mean that I dont take pictures at all, there are my photos in the blog too, but I am satisfied only when he takes the pictures! I just mentioned it because I just wanted to thank JM for helping me take great pics for my blog and because he should get his due credit! We are combining his passion for photography and my passion for cooking and food styling into one - Tasty treats! I know the topic mentioned above and this one doesn't have any connection at all. But this is not something completely out of the blue. I've been meaning to write about his part in my blog for a long time and I didnt get anything related till now. So this time I just went ahead and did it. Anyways, you all enjoy the crepes!


Recipe (Makes about 12 crepes) :

All-purpose flour - 1 1/2 cups
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Milk - 1 1/2 cups
Butter - 2 tbsp, melted
Vanilla - 1/2 tsp
Large eggs - 2
Mango juice (from the can) - 1/2 cup
Mango slices or fresh mangoes - chopped, as needed
Whipped cream - for garnish (optional)

Mango sauce:

Mango juice (from the can)
Cornflour - 2 tbsp, dissolved in water

Drain the juice/syrup from the can into a saucepan. Bring it to a boil. Add the cornflour dissolved in water to the mango juice, one tablespoon at a time. When the sauce thickens, strain it using a strainer. Serve warm or cold.

Method:

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Stir in milk, mango juice/syrup, butter (2 tbsp), vanilla and eggs.

Beat with the hand beater until smooth.

Lightly butter 6"-8" skillet or crepe pan and heat over medium heat until bubbly.

For each crepe, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter into skillet.

Immediately rotate the skillet until a thin layer of batter covers the bottom.

Cook until light brown.

Run a wide spatula around the edge to loosen, turn and cook the other side until light brown.

Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the skillet as needed.

Place a crepe on a plate and place a bit of chopped mangoes towards the edge.

Roll up the crepe and place on the serving platter, end down.

Repeat for all the crepes.

Serve warm with mango sauce, whipped cream and fresh fruits.


Tips:
  1. The toppings/fillings can be varied according to your taste.
  2. Since I had canned mangoes, I made the sauce using the juice from the can. When using fresh mangoes, simply puree a few mango slices, if you would like a sauce.
  3. If you do not want to add mango juice to the batter, replace with milk.
  4. For those who want stronger mango flavor in the crepes, increase the quantity of mango juice and reduce the quantity of milk accordingly.
  5. If using only milk to make the batter, add 1 tbsp of sugar for very light sweetness.
  6. It is better to use fresh mangoes, because no matter what we think, canned mangoes just dont taste as good as the fresh ones!

May 26, 2008

Kashmiri pulao & Chicken Kababs


Hope you all are having a good time during the long weekend! We hadn't planned anything special for the long weekend and as usual JM is busy with work at home! So I decided to do a post on Kashmiri pulao that I made a few days earlier.

I had been meaning to make Kashmiri pulao for sometime. I've never had it before, but somehow the idea of fruits and nuts mixed-in with rice sounded apppealing. As I am readily open to sampling new dishes now, I did not think twice about preparing it the other day, when I got a chance. A foodie event looming on the horizon also helped me zero in on a recipe! I found this great recipe for Kashmiri pulao on Archana's blog spicyana. It is a beautiful blog with good recipes and great pictures! Check out her blog for the recipe. I used a brand of basmati rice which was new to me. So I was not familiar with its cooking time, hence it does not look as good as Archana's pulao or so I feel. I did not have any green cherries for the green color, so overall the rice is kind of orange-ish. I basically used dried apricots, fresh apples, raisins and red cherries. I actually used the drained left-over red cherry pie filling from my black forest cake. I also used cashews and almonds and just a few pistachios for green color. My li'l one also liked the "apricot rice".


Since it has both dried fruits and nuts, I am sending this recipe to "Waiter There's Something In My... Dried Fruit and Nuts" event hosted by Andrew of Spittoon.


We had it with raita and pan fried chicken kababs. I want to bring your attention to this wonderful recipe for chicken kababs that I had posted on my blog earlier on. It is simply superb!! It has been such a success at my house, I get requests for those kababs at home, very often now. It is inargueably one of the best and tastiest dishes I have ever made!! Please do try it out, it is fantastic. It is a very simple recipe with chicken and some basic ingredients like onions, ginger, garlic, chillies, tandoori masala, coriander leaves and yoghurt. Check out the recipe here. Dont forget to let me know if you liked it or not! Cheers !



Tips:

  1. Try to find candied green and red cherries for variety in color.
  2. I made the pulao in a regular pan and not in the pressure cooker. I had to add about 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups of water for cooking the rice. Since the cooking times of different varieties of basmati vary, use discretion while adding water.
  3. I didn't add saffron or rose water and for cream, I used half-n-half.
Hope these tips help! Memorial day wishes to all of you!!



I am also sending this to the "Mixed rice varieties" event at EC's Simple Indian Food.

May 23, 2008

Petite Orange Cakes with orange-cream cheese frosting


I usually stick to plain vanilla flavored cakes whenever I make cakes from scratch. But the event Sugar High Friday - Citrus made me experiment with another flavor and use my creativity too. I took the recipe for a plain sponge cake from a cookbook, used orange juice for the citrus flavor of the cake. Then I made a cream cheese frosting following my own idea and mixed in orange juice and zest to flavor it. Garnished with mandarin orange slices and drizzled with a little bit of melted chocolate I think these petite orange cakes qualify for two events, SHF # 43 -Citrus hosted by Tartlette and created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess and The Spring Tea Party hosted by The Skinny Gourmet.



Sponge cake:

I made a basic vanilla sponge cake. To add some orange flavor, I added a tablespoon of orange juice along with vanilla essence. I usually bake the cake in my 8" by 3" round cake pan, so that I can pour the batter for two individual rounds into the same pan. Once the cake was baked and cooled, I cut it into two equal layers.

[While I am writing this post, I realized that I actually halved the number of eggs needed in the recipe, but forgot to halve the quantity of cake flour and other ingredients. I should say it came out really well for such a screw-up!!!! The cake was soft, airy and fluffy. Until now I was thinking what could be the reason that it was not as moist as the cake mix cakes. Now I know!! :-) But this gives another tip too. You actually dont need 6 eggs to make 2 layers of sponge cake, if you beat the yolks and the whites really well. How's that for cutting the calories!! :-)]

For the flavored cream cheese:

Cream cheese - 4 oz
Orange juice - 5 tsp
Orange zest - 1 tsp
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Butter - 1 tbsp, melted
Whole milk - 1 1/2 - 2 tsp
Vanilla essence - 1/2 tsp

Method:

Beat all of the above ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.

I did not want a very sweet frosting, so unlike the traditional cream cheese frostings, I just added sugar for its sake. A little bit of sweetness will also come from the orange juice. I should say that the frosting was very tasty with a subtle but distinct flavor of oranges from the orange juice and the orange zest.




Assembling the petite cakes:

Tint half of the cream cheese frosting a light orange color. This step is optional as it does not impart any additional flavor. It is entirely for a feast for your eyes.

Place the upper cut layer on the cake board.

Spread the tinted cream cheese frosting over the cake.

Place the second cake layer on top so that the bottom of the baked cake (the brown part) is actually now on the top.

Using your favourite cookie cutter/s, cut out petite cakes from the two layered cake.

Top each of the petite cake with a dollop of the white cream cheese mixture.

Place a segment of mandarin orange on top of the cream cheese mixture.

Drizzle a bit of melted chocolate over the cake.

Serve and enjoy!

Tip:

  1. The picture shows the cake on a melted chocolate-milk puddle with mandarin orange slices and chocolate chips.

My THIRD award, while spreading some niceness!!!


I am on cloud nine.......I thought two awards in two days were overwhelming.....But the impossible has happened!!! Sukanya of Hot n' Sweet Bowl passed the "Nice Matters" award to me. I would like to thank all the friends who visit my blog regularly and take time to leave their comments. Each friendly word or appreciative comment left on the blog by you all boost me up so much, it feels grrrrrreat!! Thanks a lot Sukanya, for choosing me!

I would like to pass this on to:

Cham of Spice-Club

Once again I thank all of you who thought about me while passing on the awards, and all who support me with their kind words. You all make me want to make my blog better each passing day!! My passion for blogging is now much beyond what I thought it would ever be!

May 22, 2008

Black Forest Cake and my second award !!


Wooow!! Is this great or what?? Am I dreaming? Two awards in two days!? Yes, it happened. Trupti presented with me my very first award yesterday and now Ranji of Ranji's Kitchen corner has thought of me when she was passing on the "You make my day" award! Thanks a lot Ranji, I am truly honored and I really appreciate your gesture! It has really made all of my days to come!


I would like to pass it on to:

Trupti of Recipe Center
Swati of Chatkhor
Sunita of Sunita's World
Sangeeth of Art of Cooking Indian Food

And to the rest of you, you all make my day by visiting my blog, leaving comments and encouraging me to continue! So on that happy note, I will share the recipe for a sweet and sinful black forest cake.

I made this for a get-together with JM's collegues. This is basically a devil's food cake with light cherry filling and whipped cream topping. We had a great time at JP & NB's place. If you guys are reading this, I just wanted to let you two know that you were fantastic hosts and we had a great time getting to know the three of you (and others too!!). And lil 'V' is just adorable!! He is such a well-behaved boy and a good host too! When it was time for us to leave (almost midnight!!) my lil girl didnt want to leave and she wanted to continue partying!! I wonder if she even knows what a party is! Anyways, we had a blast at their place. I hope they enjoyed having us over.

Coming back to the cake, once again, I made this with a cake mix ( I am sorry, I tend to take the easy way out when I am making the cake for somebody else. I want to make sure I wont make any mistakes!).


Recipe:

Devil's food cake mix - 1 package
Eggs - 3, as on the package
Vegetable oil - as on the package
Water - as on the package

Lite cherry pie filling - 1 can
Whipped cream/ Cool whip - 1 tub (8 0z)
Maraschino cherries with stems - 8


Method:

I mixed the Devil's food cake according to package instructions.

To prepare the pan, I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and just greased and floured the sides.

The cake was baked in an 8" by 3" round cake pan, so it took about 55 minutes to bake.

Once the cake was cooled, I cut off the dome of the cake and reserved it.

Then cut the remaining cake into two equal layers.

Open the can for the cherry pie filling and reserve the juice.

On the cake board, I placed the upper layer of the cake.

Pipe a dam of whipped cream around the rim of the cake layer so that the filling does not escape to the outer surface.

The two cake layers were soaked using the reserve cherry pie filling juice.

Filled the surface within the whipped cream dam with a uniform layer of the cherry pie filling.

Placed the second cake layer on top.

Generously frosted the sides and top of the two layered cake with cool whip/ whipped cream.

Smoothed it out as fine as possible.

Crumbled the soft parts (not the harder crust) of the cake dome reserved finely using my hands.

Stuck the cake crumbs to the sides of the cake as uniformly as possible.

Topped the cake with eight swirls of whipped cream at uniform intervals.

Placed a cherry with stem one each of the swirl.

Finally, decorated the centre with chocolate curls/shavings or finely grated chocolate.


Tips:
  1. To soak the cake layers, you can thin down the juice with water and then sweeten it to your liking. Use it to moisten the cake. I actually did not soak the layers through, but used just a little bit of juice to add a wee bit of moisture to the cake.
  2. I thinned down the juice with a tablespoon or so of water and added just a teaspoon of sugar because the tart cherry filling within the sweet cake would be just right!
  3. To decorate the center, place a cookie cutter ( I used a crinkled round cutter) and then spread the grated chocolate inside the cutter to from a design.

Fun Fact:

Did you know that the actual German version of black forest cake uses Kirschwasser (alcohol) whereas the American cakes are prepared without any alcohol? (wiki)

I am sending this post as my entry to Great Cooks Community's first food event: Kid Friendly Cooking. I have no doubt that all kids would love to eat this tasty and creamy black forest cake and this is definitely a kid friendly recipe! Dont forget to be a part of the Great Cooks Community where members can get to know each other, share recipes and tips!

May 21, 2008

Hot n' Sour Vegetable Soup and my FIRST award!!


After a period of extreme activity I had started to cool off in terms of my cooking/baking in the kitchen. I dont know what happened, but it was like I was getting a bit discouraged or something! I was trying hard to get out of it, but inertia of the mind was much stronger than I thought it would be...I wanted to sumbit recipes for the blog events and thought that looking at the upcoming deadlines for foodie events would drive me back into action, but it was like I was in a gutter!! Finally a small cold passed from my lil girl to her dad drove me into action. Together with that the magic happened! Along came Trupti with the best encouragement a foodie blogger could get. She passed on the "Yummy Blog Award" to me. Thanks a lot Trupti, it means the world to me. It definitely feels good to be appreciated!


As per the rules of the award, I have to pass on the award to four of my blogger friends, which is extremely hard! But I would like to let all the others know that their blogs are also as yummy as can be! Thanks for all your support!

I would like to pass this on to:

Mansi Desai of Fun and Food






What could be better than a nice hot bowl of soup, when you have the cold!?. With MBP: Soups and Salads in my mind, I looked around and found the perfect soup at Mansi's Fun and Food. For probably the first time, I had everything at home, and I set out to make the quick, easy and spicy hot and sour soup. I am once again motivated to experiment and create. I hope this is the start of the rest of my blogging days! Check out Mansi's blog for the recipe. This is my entry for the Monthly Blog patrol: Soups and Salads hosted by Raaga of "The Singing Chef" and started by Coffee of The Spice Cafe.



Tips:
  1. The chilli sauce I had was the thai sweet chilli sauce. Together with the ketchup, the soup turned out to be a little sweeter than I would've liked, but at the same time having the spicy flavor of the pepper. So if using sweet chilli sauce, omit tomato sauce or you can add some green chilli sauce.
  2. For the veggies in the soup, I used ready-to-use coleslaw veggies (shredded cabbage and carrots), scallions and green bell peppers.

May 20, 2008

Cold tuna sandwich


We have had our share of visits to the sub-shop Subway, be it to grab a quick bite or to take home a big sandwich for dinner. The only way we would mostly eat raw vegetables is on a sandwich. When I try to eat salads, I use more dressing to offset the taste and I think I end up with more calories to burn than I would otherwise! I am not a big seafood buff, so I would always stick to the chicken/meat sandwiches. But JM would always order the cold tuna sandwich with his favourite vegetables (which is not many). So I had taken to recreating the sandwich at home with available supplies and has been pretty happy with it. Even I like the tuna sandwich since it doesnt taste very 'fishy'. This time I made it a little more elaborate since I would be sending this to the Sandwich festival 2008 at Anupama's Food-n-More. The sandwich festival would accept both veg and non-veg sandwich entries, so I had no trouble choosing the sandwich. You can always change the fillings to your taste and healthy eaters can skip the cheese and other dressings. I had a package of coleslaw vegetables (shredded cabbage and carrots) which I used as the basic vegetable filler, along with pickled banana peppers, olives, green bell peppers and american cheese on toasted french bread.



Recipe (Makes a footlong sandwich) :

French bread - 1 footlong
White chunky tuna in water - 1 can (6 oz)
Coleslaw mix - 1/2 cup
Mayonnaise/ Ranch - 1 1/2 tbsp
Olives - 8-10 nos, sliced
Celery - 1 small stalk, chopped
Green peppers - 1/4, sliced thin
American cheese slices - 2 cut, diagonally
Pickled banana peppers - as needed
Salt and pepper - as desired
Egg wash - with 1 egg (optional)

Method:

Transfer the tuna from the can to a bowl, draining the water.

Add the mayonnaise (I used ranch), salt and pepper to the tuna.

Beat the tuna with a fork until shredded and blended well with the dressing, salt and pepper.

Mix in the chopped celery.

Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Slit the bread horizontally so that it can be opened like a book.

Prepare the egg wash by beating an egg with a little water.

Apply the egg wash on the top and sides of the bread.

Place the bread in the preheated oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Spread the tuna mixture over the lower flap of the sandwich. (Watch out for steam because the sandwich will be hot inside).

Top with the coleslaw veggies.

Toss the olives and the green peppers on top.

Top with cheese slices.

Serve immediately.


Tips:

  1. Onions, tomatoes, spinach, jalapenos, pickles and lettuce are just a few of the other topping options.
  2. Egg wash can be omitted. I used it because it gives a golden brown sheen to the bread when baked/toasted.

May 19, 2008

Magic mousse


Magic mousse is such an easy dessert to make, you just need a few ingredients and a few minutes to spare. Once mixed together, the dessert has to cool and set in the refrigerator while undergoing the magical transformation from a single colored dessert to a double layered marvel!! The bottom layer is simply the jello and the top layer is jello mousse which tastes awesome! Its fun to watch the layers separate, and I think this would make a fun kitchen/cooking project with the kids. The taste and texture were awesome, something completely unexpected from such a common place dessert, Jell-O. I had made just a single dessert glass and soon everybody was fighting over who would get it! After I took the pictures, it was gone in a matter of seconds. My li'l girl also enjoyed her share of dessert. I would recommend it just for the visual treat and the taste is a fantastic added advantage. In the picture I hope you can make out three layers. I actually quartered the recipe, and skimped a little on the cool whip because I was reserving it for something else. I think the proportion of the cool whip to the jello was a bit low, so it probably set before the separation was complete. There was nothing missing in its taste, and we got a fun bonus layer!! And the smiley on the glass is just a reflection from the lights above and not our grin ;-). Enjoy!

Recipe (Makes 10 servings, 1/2 cup each):

Jell-O strawberry flavoured gelatin - 1 pkg 8-serving size (or 2 pkg 4-serving size each)
Boiling water - 3 cups
Cool whip whipped topping - 1 tub (16 oz)

Method:

Stir the boiling water into the dry gelatin mix in a medium bowl for atleast 2 minutes until completely dissolved.

Add the whipped topping to hot gelatin.

Mix with a wire whisk until the whipped topping is completely melted and the mixture is well blended. (Mixture will be thin).

Pour into 10 glasses or a 6-cup mould, or a glass bowl sprayed with cooking spray.

Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

If using a large mould, unmould onto a serving platter just before serving.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Source: Kraft Food and Family magazine, Spring 2007.

Tips:
  1. You can also use frozen whipped topping, if you forget to thaw it. Just follow the recipe, and use the same amount of frozen whipped topping. Be sure to stir the gelatin mixture until the whipped topping is completely melted, before pouring into the moulds.
  2. Dont forget to experiment with other flavours of Jell-O !!

May 16, 2008

Badami Murg (Almond Chicken)


I am very happy nowadays since I feel that I am getting more and more accepted into the close-knit community of Indian bloggers. One of the fellow bloggers who has made me feel that way is Ranji. From her "Kitchen corner", she whips up beautiful and tasty dishes that tantalize our senses! I have had my sights on her Badami mushroom for sometime. Yesterday I adapted the recipe to make it a Badami Murg (Almond Chicken) and it was right on! Here is the recipe Badami murg, with the changes ofcourse!! Check out her blog for the vegetarian version - Badami Mushroom. Thanks to Ranji for letting me post this on my blog. Give this recipe a try you all, it is superb!!

Recipe:

Chicken breasts - 1 1/2 lbs (~ 3 breasts)
Onion - 1 medium, diced
Roma tomatoes - 2 medium, diced
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp
Green chillies - 2, slit
Cumin seed - 1 tsp
Cinnamon stick - half a stick
Cloves - 3-4
Green cardamom pods - 2, whole
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilly powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Sliced almonds - 4 tbsp for grinding + 1 tbsp for garnish
Water - 1/4 - 1/2 cup
Half-n-half - 3 tbsp
Coriander leaves - a bunch
Salt - to taste

Method:

Soak the almonds in warm water for about 10-15 minutes and grind it into a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Cut the chicken breasts into serving sized cubes.

Heat oil in a saute pan and brown the chicken pieces an all sides. Keep aside.

In the same pan, saute the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and the cloves until fragrant.

Now add diced onion and ginger-garlic paste and green chillies.

Saute until the onion is translucent.

Toss in the tomatoes, red chilly powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, coriander powder and salt.

Saute until the tomato is well-blended and the spices are fragrant (no longer raw).

Allow this mixture to cool and then grind into a smooth paste in a blender adding enough water.

Transfer the ground mixture to the pan and toss in the browned chicken pieces.

Allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Adjust the seasonings.

Add the half-n-half to the curry and allow it to heat through.

Stir in the chopped coriander.

Remove from heat and mix well.

Serve garnished with chopped almonds and coriander.


Tips:

  1. The amount of water can be adjusted depending upon the amount of gravy desired or you can just reduce the amount of chicken used (~ 2 breasts), for more gravy.
  2. I ground the onion-tomato mixture and the soaked almonds 'together' in a 'food processor'. That could explain why it didnt turn out to be a very smooth gravy (It was smooth, but not super smooth ;-) ). But there is nothing lacking in the taste!

May 15, 2008

"Happy Retirement" Cake


This is a cake that I made for one of my friend's retirement. She worked in the early childhood ed - parent ed industry (at the school where my toddler and I go) and served for about 20 years. Eventhough we were not her colleagues, we thought of honoring her since the last class that she would ever teach was to us. I volunteered to bake the cake and this is the one I made for her.


I took the easy way out by buying a cake mix (yellow moist cake) and some store-bought frostings (#1) and (#2). I baked the cake in an 8" by 3" round baking pan according to package directions (but in the 3" deep pan, I had to bake the cake for about 50 minutes), torted it into three layers and stacked the layers by applying a thin layer of raspberry jam in between the layers. Then I applied a crumb coat on the icing using store bought vanilla frosting (#1). In the meanwhile, I divided the store-bought icing (#2) - Wilton's decorator's icing into a big white stock, and one batch of tinted pink icing and just a bit of tinted green icing. Once the crumb coating was dry (crusted), I frosted the sides with the frosting (#1). I tried to smooth it out as much as possible, but the (#1) kind of frosting is not that good for decorating. I used this because I knew that Wilton's icing (#2) would not be enough to decorate the entire cake. Once it was crusted (it wont be completely dry), I applied #2 (thinned down to spreadable consisitency using milk) on the top of the cake and smoothed out the top. when I saw that I had some left over, I applied a thin layer of #2 icing on the side too. Again, I left the cake in the freezer for quick-drying the icing. Once again the cake top was smoothed, using a paper towel.


While I waited for the frosting to crust, I piped four roses using the tinted pink icing (#2) with the flower petal tip and left them in the freezer to set. (Use a piping bag with a coupler since we will use the same frosting for other decorations too). Changed the tip on the decorator's bag to open star tip. Then I piped a round of shells around the upper rim of the cake and a rim of stars along the bottom rim. Finally I changed the tip to plain round tip to pipe pink dots around the side of the cake.


When the roses are set and somewhat solid, transfer the roses to the top of the cake, arranging as you would like. I piped her name using the plain round tip. Then came the not-so-good idea of piping drop flowers at the intersections of the shell border (**GROAN**). I think it looked better without the drop flowers. I also added a few drop flowers in the space between the roses (since I wanted to try out the new drop flower tip)(**SHEEPISH GRIN**). The leaves were piped using a leaf tip and the tinted green decorator's icing (#2 tinted green).


Finally, I melted some chocolate chips in the microwave, put it into a sandwich bag, snipped off a corner and piped the messages "Happy" and "Retirement" onto a piece of parchment paper. Kept the paper in the freezer to solidify the chocolate. But as you can clearly see the "Retirement" didnt turn out very well, so after I took the pictures, I actually changed the chocolate message and piped "Retirement" using the pink decorator's icing with the round tip #3.


And this is how I finished the "Happy Retirement" cake for our friend Linda (Wohoooo!!). We also got her a card and all the moms signed it. Linda was completely surprised when we presented the cake to her. She was teary eyed when she thanked me for the decorations and the cake and it moved me! I've got her reaction on seeing the cake on video and it was a very satisfying one (GRIN). Hope she has a good time, as a talented teacher who loves to paint!


Hope you all enjoyed reading the instructions. Please do leave comments so that I can improve myself. If you have any more questions, I will be happy to answer them. Happy day to you all !

Tip:

#1 and #2 are just numbers that I put for the two different icings and do not refer to any quality assignments.

#1- Vanilla frosting.
#2 Wilton's decorator's pure white icing.

May 14, 2008

Bell-peppers pizza



I saw the themes for VoW and JFI merged into one this time, on Pooja's My Creative Ideas. As a relatively new blogger, I am new to these roundups and theme cookings. I wanted to submit something from my blog this time aorund, but I was in a dilemma. Why?, you ask. I am going to reveal a secret. We are a family of a not-so-good veggie-eaters! There, I said it! Please dont gasp, thats the sad truth. Apart from a very few traditional vegetarian recipes that we occasionally (weekly) make, we are not very passionate about veggies. So I decided to go with a sure bet. A bell-peppers pizza! With the name pizza, not many would care whats on it :-). Hence this creation. I have posted the recipe for the basic pizza dough before. Not many modifications from the basic method, but this was, for the first time in our house, a vegetarian pizza. To tell you the truth, I didnt miss the non-veg in it at all. It was made with red, green and yellow bell peppers along with some sliced black olives and mozzarella cheese to pave the way for my first entry into JFI and VoW. I did not add any other veg toppings to highlight the colors and arragement of bell peppers on the crust. I have decided that this week onwards we are going to incorporate more veggies into our routine menu. Happy baking !



Recipe ( Makes a 12" pizza) :

Basic pizza dough - 1 recipe
Bell peppers - 1/2 each of red, yellow and green
Black olives - about 10-12 sliced into rings
Mozzarella cheese - 4 oz
Pizza/pasta sauce - as needed (I used store bought)

Method:

Prepare the basic pizza dough substituting 1 tsp of Italian seasoning for rosemary.

Keep covered in a warm place to double in size. usually it takes about 45 minutes - 1 hour. (I usually switch on the oven to 250F for a minute or two, then switch it off, and keep the dough in the oven. I also cover the bowl with a wet paper towel and a kitchen towel).

When the dough doubles in size, punch the dough down to release the bubbles.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Roll it out into a 12" circle with a rolling pin, dusting with flour if necessary.

Another tip is to roll it out a bit larger than 12" and then roll the extra dough inwards to form the outer ridge of the pizza.

Transfer onto the pizza pan dusted with flour, or sprayed with cooking spray.

Poke holes in the pizza dough using a fork.

Bake the plain crust for 3 minutes in the oven.

Spread the pizza/pasta sauce over the crust.

Line with sliced/grated mozzarella cheese.

Bake the crust again for 2-3 minutes.

Now line the crust with bell peppers and olives.

Top with a bit of grated/sliced cheese.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is light brown.

Let stand for 5 minutes.

Slice and serve.

Garnish with oregano and/or red chilli flakes, if desired.


Tips:

  1. How I arranged the peppers:
    Cut 2 rings from each of the bell peppers. Chop the remaining of the half of each pepper into small cubes. Line the crust with the bell pepper rings. Fill the rings with the chopped cubes from the other two colors. Top with olives and a few strands of cheese.
  2. You can also add onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, banana peppers, jalapenos etc inaddition to the above mentioned toppings.

May 13, 2008

Chocolate-cookie roll


Chocolate-cookie roll is another one of the recipes that I found in my old handwritten recipe book. This is a quick cookie dessert which does not involve much prep work, look stunning and is more or less a kids-friendly recipe. It is basically an ice-box cookie in which a layer of grated sweetened coconut is spread on a cookie dough base and frozen until set. This makes for a good presentation and kids will definitely love these cookie rolls! I made these for the first time when I was a kid and then it sat forgotten among the other recipes in my recipe book which itself was forgotten. Now that I have rediscovered it, I am definitely going to post more recipes from it. Enjoy !

Recipe:

For the main layer:

Graham crackers/Arrowroot biscuits - 200g (~7 oz), powdered
Cocoa powder - 1 tbsp
Coffee powder - 1 tsp (optional)
Milk - as needed

For the inner layer:

Grated coconut - 3/4 cup
Granulated sugar - 1 tbsp
Butter - 1 tsp

Method:

Stir together the ingredients for the inner layer and keep aside.

Mix together the ingredients for the main (cookie dough) layer adding just enough milk to form a smooth dough.

Roll out the brown dough into a 1/4" thick rectangle on a parchment paper.

Spread the white coconut layer over the cookie dough.

Gently roll the cookie dough from the shorter side taking care not to enclose any parchment paper.

Cover the roll with plastic wrap and place it the freezer to set.

When hard, slice the roll into 1/2" pieces.

Serve cold (not frozen).


Tips:
  1. I used powdered graham crackers.
  2. If only sugar-free crackers are available, 3.5 oz (100g) of sugar can be added to make it sweet, if desired.

May 12, 2008

Missi roti


Being a South Indian, rice was the staple of our diet during my childhood. The only Indian breads that we would make at home were chapathis and puris, with the occasional indulgence in naan when we would go out to eat. I was content with chappathis and puris, to tell you the truth. Nowadays as I am looking for simple recipes to try out, I am more willing to give other rotis a chance. Browsing through Suneeta Vaswani's cookbook, I was kind of surprised by the array of Indian breads popular in the North. As this recipe appeared to be very simple and almost like that of chappathis (the difference being the addition of chickpea flour), I tried it out first and finished effortlessly. They were perfect with the potato-green peas curry I made. This is a good replacement for chappathis when you want a change of taste. Enjoy!

This is also my entry to the Roti mela hosted by Srivalli of Cooking 4 all seasons, along with the Kerala porottas.

Recipe (Makes 8 rotis):

Wheat flour - 1 cup
Chickpea flour (Besan) - 1 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 2 tsp
Water - as needed

Method:

Mix the wheat flour, chickpea flour, oil and salt together using a spoon.

Add just enough water to form a single ball of dough.

Knead for a minute or two until the dough becomes smooth.

Cover with a kitchen towel and keep aside for 30 minutes.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Meanwhile, knead the dough again for 2 minutes.

Divide it into 8 equal portions.

Roll each into a ball, cover and set aside from heat.

Dust the work surface with flour.

Flatten a ball of dough between your palms.

Roll each disc into a 7"-8" circle, turning frequently to prevent sticking.

Dust with more flour if needed.

Transfer to the hot skillet and cook until puffy spots appear (~1 1/2 minutes).

Flip the roti over and cook the other side, pressing down on the edges with a spatula (~1 minute).

Lightly oil the roti on both sides and keep warm.

Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Source: Complete book of Indian cooking By Suneeta Vaswani.



Tips:

  1. Aloo-mattar (potato-green peas curry) is a good side dish.
  2. To the basic dough, chopped onions, chillies and spices can be added to spruce it up.
  3. The cookbook tip suggests that if need be, the rotis can be wrapped in foil, placed in a resealable bag and refrigerated for upto 4 days or frozen for upto 3 months. Reheat in the microwave before serving.