February 28, 2009

Chocolate Valentino with Fig & Honey Icecream

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. In their words - "We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge".

Chocolate Valentino is a flourless chocolate cake inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan. The recipe comes from "Sweet Treats" by Chef Wan.

My story :

The challenge by itself was pretty straight forward and simple in that we were to make the Chocolate Valentino cake accompanied with either whipped cream or cool-whip and/or home-made icecream.

I actually quartered the recipe and used 4 oz of chocolate with 2 1/2 tbsp of butter and 1 egg (and not 1 1/4!). I followed the steps as per the recipe and used a small double-heart pan for baking. As I was using a very thin aluminium pan for baking I was a bit scared if the batter would burn. So I baked the cake at 325 F in a water bath for about 20 minutes. As I had no thermometer at hand, I allowed the cake to sit for a few minutes. The top appeared to be crusty with wet middle area, but I was doubtful if it would withstand unmolding. So I preheated the oven to 375 and kept the cake for another 10 minutes, after which it seemed the same, but I felt better! Unmolding went without any glitch and it looked awesome!!

I decided that I would try to make home-made icecream for this challenge. I actually tried out three different recipes for the Icecream challenge part. Initially I planned a Coconut and Saffron Icecream from David Lebovitz. For some, it might taste exotic with coconut milk and saffrom, but for me it tasted like the sweetened version of the usual coconut milk curries that our family used to make back in Kerala. So I decided to go with Wendy's Vanilla Icecream recipe which was simple and very quick to put together. I reduced the vanilla essence to about 3/4 tbsp and scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean pod and added to the concoction. The vanilla icecream was very authentic, with distinct vanilla flavor and tasted almost like the popular Classic Vanilla Icecream!

I whipped the icecream mixture at intervals to make it smooth and uniform, since I didnt have an Icecream maker. Then I transferred half of the mixture to another bowl for experimenting!

I have been wanting to make Fig & Honey Icecream (the ones I used to order in Baskin & Robbins in India where we havent even heard or seen the fruit -fig!! So Fig & Honey was as exotic as it would get back then!). I found few recipes on the net and some were very elaborate.

I decided to experiment with Wendy's recipe, transforming it into a Fig & Honey Icecream. Please find the recipe towards the end of the post. It was awesome, I am not kidding, I was very very pleased with the results!! It had the granulated sugar and the added sweetness of honey but it was not overwhelming at all. Next time, I would probably reduce the vanilla essence and granulated sugar a little bit so that I can add more honey and balance the sugar.

The cake at first seemed a little too bland, not to sweet for me, but on further samplings in the subsequent days it seemed to taste better and finally, it was awesome! JM and I both loved and have become die-hard fans of the Fig & Honey Icecream which was gone in a matter of minutes! I should have made the whole batch of Vanilla Icecream into the Fig & Honey one!

In the end, I should say that I was very pleased with the cake and the icecream and both turned out to be excellent treats! The cake was smooth, velvetty and rich just as it should be and the icecream was the best accompaniment to the cake. I am happy that I got to do this challenge succesfully. Yet another successful challenge, one more proud moment being a Daring Baker!

Chocolate Valentino

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C.

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Dharm's Ice Cream Recipe - Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)


1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.
4 large egg yolks
75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48 % butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat){you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthways. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuseLift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.

2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy.

3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time

4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.

5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container. Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)

By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

Wendy's Ice Cream Recipe - Vanilla Philadelphia Style Recipe

Preparation Time: 5 minutes


2 cups (473 ml) of half and half (1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole, full fat milk)
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
2/3 (128 grams) cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 (12 grams) tablespoon of vanilla

Mix all ingredients together (we do this in a plastic pitcher and mix with an emulsifier hand blender-whisking works too).
Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.

Mix in your ice cream maker as directed.

JZ's Fig & Honey Icecream


Heavy cream - 1 cups
Whole milk - 1/2 cup
Granulated sugar - 1/3 cup
Cool whip - 1/2 cup
Vanilla essence - 1/2 tbsp
Dried California figs - 5, chopped
Honey - 2 - 3 tbsp


Mix together the cream, milk, sugar, cool whip and vanilla essence. Freeze for an hour.

Whip the mixture together for a few minutes. Freeze again.

Repeat this a couple of times every hour.

Once the mixture is almost frozen and in a slush consistency, mix in the chopped figs.

Pour honey in swirls and gently mix once or twice.

Transfer to the freezer until it can be scooped.


  1. Reduce the amount of sugar added to the cream if you would like to reduce the sweetness.
  2. Reduce the vanilla essence by a bit if you wouldnt like to have a pronounced vanilla flavor.

Hope you all are having a great weekend!! Dont forget to check out other dreamy combinations whipped up by my fellow Daring Bakers here. Enjoy!!

February 19, 2009

Sizzling Steak Fajitas

I love Mexican food. I guess Mexican food is particularly appealing to Indian palates because it is somewhat similar to Indian food and makes use of many of the same spices. JM wasnt particularly a big Mexican food buff, but seems like its undergoing a change nowadays. One of our favorite Mexican joints is the restaurant Chipotle which is basically a fastfood place where your order is assembled in front of you just like in Subway. I really savor the taste of each of the ingredients in their burritos and fajitas, especially the red chilli sauce that they pour on the fillings. Their cilantro-lime rice is just out of the world!

All these inspired me to try out this Steak fajita recipe though its not very similar to the ones in Chipotle, in its fillings. But nevertheless, it turned out to be very delicious, one worthy fo sharing with all of you!! It makes for a very colorful meal, and wuick to put-together too, with very satisfying results. I halved the recipe to yield 2 servings, which even then was plentiful! Dont be alarmed by the long list, it is just a very handy list of simple and easily available ingredients. Do try this out soon!

Recipe (Serves 4) :

Flank steak - 3/4 pound
Ground cumin - 2 tsp
Chilli powder - 2 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Garlic powder - 1/8 tsp
Black pepper - 1/8 tsp
Ground red pepper - 1/8 tsp
Flour tortillas (8") - 4
Vegetable oil - 1 tsp
Sliced onion - 2 cups
Green bell pepper strips - 1/3 cup
Red bell pepper strips - 1/3 cup
Yellow bell pepper strips - 1/3 cup
Lime juice - 1 tbsp
Fat-free sour cream - 1/4 cup
Green salsa - optional
Cilantro sprigs - optional


Trim fat from steak. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.

Combine steak and the next 6 ingredients in a large ziploc bag .

Seal bag and shake to coat.

Warm tortillas according to package instructions.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add steak, onion and bell-peppers.

Saute 6 minutes or until the steak is done.

Remove from heat, stir in lime juice.

Divide the steak mixture evenly among the tortillas and roll up.

Serve with sour cream.

If desired, serve with green salsa and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Source: The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook.


  1. I used stew-cut beef instead of the flank steak.
  2. I didnt have garlic powder, so I used a minced garlic clove.

Do let me know your thoughts and suggestions. Dont forget to update me on how this turned out for you!! Hope you all had a great Valentine's day!

Have a great day ahead!!

February 14, 2009

True decadence with Quaker True Delights!

Wonder what I am doing picturing a box of Quaker granola bars? I was again lucky enough to receive these new bars - True delights by Quaker - for review, under the Tastemaker program of Foodbuzz.

Just like the last product that I was allowed to sample and review (Cowgirl Chocolates), I received the package of these delicious bars within days of my acknowledgement!! I felt really excited because we were allowed to sample these just before their introduction into the market.

The granola bar packaging itself looked so dreamy with beautiful logos and the list of key ingredients! There were 6 bars - 2 each of these flavors.

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond
Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut
Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry

Without any delay, JM chose the Toasted Coconut Banana Macademia Nut bar and I settled for the one with Chocolate in it. JM loved his bar, said it passed his taste test and has been JM-certified now!! I loved the one I chose - the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond but I thought that it was a bit too sweet for my personal taste. I had the Toasted Coconut Banana Macademia Nut bar the next day but wasnt too happy with it. Finally I tried the Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry bar and was pleasantly surprised!!! It was as if I had saved the best for the last. It presented the perfect combination to my taste buds and I was floored!! I would say they were all more like desserts than a snack!!


I would say the Cashew - Mixed Berry was my favourite, followed by the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond and then the Toasted coconut banana macademia nut. I wouldnt mind if they were a bit less sweet. The Cashew - Mixed Berry bar had chewy granola with a cashewnut in the middle and specks of dried mixed berries (I dont have a picture - but looks more like the Dark Choc - Raspberry one). The Toasted coconut - Banana - Macademia Nut one has large slivers/slices of coconut, dried banana with a Macademia nut and granola (pictured above). The Dark Chocolate - Raspberry - Almond one had thick chunks of chocolate and pieces of Raspberries with an Almond and granola (pictured below).

Many of you had asked during my last review on Cowgirl Chocolates, on how to sign up for the Tastemaker program. I believe that the members of Foodbuzz would have received a mail mentioning the program and on how to sign up. Once you sign-up you can choose the categories of products that you would like to try out / review. Once a product becomes available, they will inform you about the availability and if you would prefer to try it out, send a mail back with a positive response. If you are one of the lucky ones who have responded quickly, you will receive a package from the vendor or from Foodbuzz.

I am not sure if there was any deadline for signing up for the program, but those who are interested, please do go through your archives and check it out!! Hope this was of help to all of you who enquired about how to sign up!

Have a great day!

February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Tasty treats - Cheers, with a Fig & Honey Pudding!

This is a special post to celebrate a milestone with my blog - Yes, you guessed it right, Tasty treats is a year old, and so am I - I mean, a year older! I still clearly remember how this lil blog came about. Last year, this blog was kind of like a birthday gift to myself! I have always wanted to start a blog, just to share the recipes that I have tried out and enjoyed. But I was doubtful of my writing skills and I kept on pushing back the idea of starting one. My dear husband JM and my dear friend Parvathy are the ones behind the constant encouragement and support that finally convinced me to try my hand at the totally new world (to me!) of blogging.

This past year has been awesome, with nearly 150 posts and 52,500+ page views, nealy 60 events and finally hosting my own event! I got to know hundreds of very talented bloggers and chefs, some a little more personal. The initial encouragement that I received from my readers boosted my confidence and made Tasty treats a big part of my life. I couldnt be apart from my blog even for a day!! I really got a sense of belonging in the blogosphere - many of you who have ended up being much more than casual aquaintances.

Last year I had both JM's family and my family visit us from India. So it was a bit hectic towards the second half of last year, so I had to push the blog on to the back burner! But I am glad I stuck with it and I still want to continue doing this for as long as possible. Now despite having to share the computer with a 3 year old who thinks the it is as important to her as her parents and being caught up in some other personal stuff, I will definitely continue on my culinary adventures and experiments, all the while sharing the succesful ones with you all!

I really should thank all of you readers who really encouraged me to drive forward with my blog! I thank all of you who take the time to chat with me - by leaving a comment or a mail. It is such a huge inspiration, to be acknowledged and encouraged by fellow bloggers!! I know there are many of you who are faithful readers of Tasty treats, but have never said Hi, I would appreciate it if you would - its not a requisite, but it does make a difference!!

I am also happy that I got to participate in a wonderful array of events which had wonderful concepts and were beautifully executed. I am also proud that I got to be part of some exciting communities like the Daring Bakers, Foodbuzz, Great Cooks Community and Foodie Blogroll!!

I would like to celebrate the simple and humble beginnings of Tasty treats with a quick and delicious dessert. Join me in this unassuming celebration!

This dessert can be put together in minutes and tastes awesome with the decadent honey. A must have dessert for all the yoghurt and honey lovers out there!!

Greek Fig & Honey Pudding

Recipe (Serves 4):

Fresh or canned figs - 4
Greek-style strained yoghurt - 2 cups
Clear honey - 4 tbsp
Chopped pistachio nuts - 2 tbsp


Chop the figs and place in the bottom of four stemmed wine glasses or deep individual dessert bowls.

Top each glass or bowl of figs with half cup of the Greek-style yoghurt.

Chill until ready to serve.

Just before serving, drizzle a tbsp of honey over each one and sprinkle with the pistachio nuts.

Source: A Year of Desserts by Martha Day.

Once again thanks to everyone of you who offered their complete support and encouragement to me and my blog! If even atleast one person has fond remarks about Tasty treats, my effort would be justified! Hope to see you all back here all through the next year too!

Thanks for reading my post. Have a great day and awesome weekend!!!

February 5, 2009

Cold Pasta Primavera

From the moment I tasted a Cold Pasta Primavera salad in a restaurant, I have been hooked!! The one that I had from the restaurant had sliced pepperoni, pickled jalapenos, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, olives, mushrooms and a dressing that I couldnt really place (probably Italian dressing) and it tasted awesome!! I searched on the internet for a recipe that I could make at home and came across this particular recipe. It had been bookmarked for quite sometime when I finally decided that it was time for the recipe to come out of its anonimity!!

This recipe was definitely different than the one which I fell in love with. But it was delicious nonetheless. Neither JM nor I are excited about salads but both of us enjoyed this pasta. Even lil LM did her part by oggling over the colorful salad and finished off her share with some sphagetti sauce. I halved the amount of the dressing ingredients which still was a bit strong than I wanted. Check out the actual recipe here. The recipe given below is how I made the pictured salad. I didnt have a few ingredients specified in the recipe, so the one given below will be the actual recipe minus those ingredients.


Rotini twists (cooked) - 3 cups
Fresh petite sized mushrooms - sliced, 1/2 cup
Grape tomatoes - 1/4 cup
Green pepper - 1/2, thinly sliced
Pitted black olives - 1/2 cup, sliced


Vegetable oil - 1/3 cup*
Salad vinegar - 1/6 cup**
Chopped fresh parsley - 1/8 cup
Garlic, minced - 1 small clove
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Freshly ground pepper


Cook pasta, drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine the pasta, olives, mushrooms, green pepper and tomatoes.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over the veggies.

Combine well and refrigerate for atleast 1 hour.

Source: From the website Cooks.com


  1. I have omitted asparagus, red and yellow peppers, broccoli and fresh basil (looks like a lot! ;-)).
  2. *1/3 cup vegetable oil was a bit too much for 3 cups of cooked pasta - definitely reduce it to 1/6 cup.
  3. **1/6 cup of salad vinegar was a bit too tangy - reduce to 2 tbsp.
  4. Refrigerate for atleast an hour because it will allow the pasta to absorb the flavors and will balance the tanginess of the salad vinegar. Since our pasta was tangy, we smothered it with sphagetti sauce and finished it off!

Hope you enjoy this recipe and have a great day!!

February 3, 2009

Announcing the winners of Santa's Holiday Challenge!

As you all know, Santa's Holiday Challenge, my first ever event was going on at Tasty treats in December of 2008. The winners were to be chosen after two phases of voting. I believe the event was a great success with nearly 70 entries in a wide variety of categories. Check out the round-up to go through all the delicious entries.

Out of all the entries divided into 5 categories, you all chose 15 entries during the first phase of voting (top 3 from each of the five categories). In the second phase of voting, the top 15 entries were put to vote. Again you all have shown great support and voted to choose the winners of the challenge.

I would like to announce the winners of Santa's Holiday Challenge without further delay!

First prize - a $20 gift card - Mahimaa for her awesome Oats & Dates Cookies
Second prize - a $10 gift card - Uma for her delicious Christmas Cookies and Cupcakes
Third prize - featuring on Tasty treats - Swapna for her irresistible Lemon Meringue Pie

Congratulations for all the winners - and to all others for their enthusiastic participation. The winners, please contact me at jz.tastytreats@gmail.com to claim your prize.

Second phase voting results (Poll closed on January 25)

Total votes : 235

Mahimaa - Oats & Dates Cookies (17.45 %)
Uma - Christmas Cookies (15.32 %)
Uma - Christmas Cupcakes (15.32 %)
Mahimaa - Dates & Nut Fudge (11.4 9%)
Swapna - Lemon Meringue Pie (8.51 %)
Swapna - Rich Fruit Christmas Cake (8.09 %)
Madhuram - Eggless Cookie Bars (5.96 %)
Purva - Chocolate & Walnut Brownies (4.68 %)
Purva - Verry Berry Surprise (2.98 %)
Ranji - Apple Tatin Cake (2.55 %)
Divya - Lowfat Almond & Oats Cookies (2.55 %)
Anupama - Layers of Chocolate delight (2.13 %)
Priya - Christmas Fruits & Nuts Savarin Cake (1.28 %)
Renuka - Quick Pudding (0.85 %)
Priya - French Apple Tart (0.85 %)

Thanks to all of you who extended your support by sending in your entries and by voting for the contestants. I would also like to thank Bhags of Crazy Curry for her input in conceiving the event and for helping with the event announcement write-up.

I had a very positive experience from hosting this event and cant wait until the next one!! Stay tuned for more of such events on Tasty treats!

Thanks again and have a great day!!