Friday, December 24, 2010

My Baby Turns Two!! - Celebrating with his favourite Winnie the Pooh Cake

Two years ago, at this time, I became a mother. My son, a tiny 5 pounder filled my life with happiness I cannot explain in mere words.
On his second birthday, but obviously, I baked him a cake with one of his favourite characters adorning it. Barney, Mickey Mouse, Thomas the train and Caillou were the other contenders. If I could, I would put them all on the cake. But Winnie the Pooh won the battle and here he is, smiling on my son's b'day cake!

I will update this post with more details. For now, let me plant another kiss on my precious li'l darling.

Happy B'day Vineet!

As crazy as this may seem, I carried two huge boxes of Wilton buttercream icing ( 4.5 lbs each) with me to India! I never made buttercream icing in India before and I did not want to take ANY chance, definitely not for my  son's birthday cake, specially when we had a party lined up. I also took with me a tube of piping gel, red colour and black colour icing. Apparently Wilton sells Pooh icing colour set but I came to know of this too late and decided to mix some colours for the Pooh gold.

I made two 10"X11" chocolate cake, layered and iced them using buttercream icing.
For the pooh gold I mixed white icing with yellow, orange and a little bit of brown to get the desired colour.
I went about with decorating this cake just like I decorated the Santa Claus cake. I printed an image off the net and traced it on a parchment paper with a piping gel. I then inverted the paper on the iced cake and with the back of a paintbrush  gently pressed the design on the cake. I then carefully removed the paper. (If piping gel is not available you could trace the image directly on the cake with a toothpick. I haven't tried this method yet but I guess it should work.)

You will, obviously, get an inverted image on the cake. I used wiltons tips to pipe out the designs - Star tip 16 for Winnie and the flowers and a combination of star tips 18 and 21 for the shell border; round tips 3 and 5 for the rest of the details like Winnie's eyes, eyebrows etc. and tip12 for the balloons.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa Claus Design on a Cake (and a break)

I totally enjoyed decorating this cake which I made for a Christmas party at a friend's place. It's actually very easy to make if you know how to. Refer the Wilton's method and you will know how simple it is.

I made a 9" double layer round cake and iced it with buttercream icing (make more batches as needed). If you do not want to make the icing at home, you can use store bought icing.

For the red and black icing, I used store bought Wilton's decorating icing. You get them in 4.25 oz tubes. I have given up on making both these at home since they do not turn into the colour I want and leave a hideous taste which I can definitely do without.

I used Wilton red decorating gel (.75 oz tube) to trace this design.

I wish I had done a better job of covering the tracks of the piping gel with the icing!

The Wilton tips I used to decorate the cake :
Hat - #18
Beard and hair - #18
Face - #18 (I mixed some red icing with white icing. You can also mix pink colour with white icing)
Mustache - #5
Eyes - #5
Lips - #3
Border - #21
Writing - #3

I'm travelling to India next week and may not be able to update my blog for sometime. On this note, wish you all a Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Veg Thai Red Curry with Homemade Thai Curry Paste

You may think I'm crazy but one of my favourite pastimes is grocery shopping. The bigger the store, the happier I am. And what I love about the holiday season is that you get to listen to this lovely, soothing music while you decide what pasta to pick, which herbs to choose, what bread to buy and what snacks to opt for.

Ranch Market is usually the store I go to if I decide to cook Thai food. One aisle that I spend the most time in is the vegetable aisle. I like looking at the different varieties of mushrooms. Till now apart from what I usually buy - the regular, baby bella and sometimes portobello, the only variety I dared to buy were the shiitake mushrooms. This time I was very tempted to buy straw mushrooms. I decided to buy the peeled, canned mushrooms instead of the fresh ones. No particular reason.

I generally avoid using canned products - the fresh ones are always healthier. But this time tempatation took over me and I also picked up a can of baby corn. Back In B'lore I used to buy fresh babycorn by the dozen. Unfortunately we do not get fresh babycorn here. I also prefer bamboo shoots in my Thai curry so picked that up as well. So much for avoiding canned goods, I hear you saying.

I also like large pieces of galangal and lemongrass in my curry so I picked them too and also picked some leeks.

 After I came home, I remembered seeing a recipe for Thai red curry paste in Nita Mehta's Vegetarian Microwave Cookbook. So instead of using store bought Thai curry paste, I thought of giving it a try. 

I used galangal instead of ginger, increased the chillies, decreased the peppercorns and made a couple more minor changes to suit our taste. The colour didn't please me much, but I guess that depends on what chillies you use. However, the paste did lend a nice flavour to the curry and my husband liked it a a lot, so I cannot complain.
If you are using store bought Thai curry paste, just go directly to the Thai curry recipe.

Thai Red Curry Paste

Ingredients :
5 to 6 whole red chillies (preferably kashmiri)
1 shallot or 1/2 onion
6 to 7 garlic cloves
1 1/2" galangal or 1" ginger
1 stalk lemongrass or rind of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 peppercorns 
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional, for the colour)

Method :
Break chillies into half and soak in 1/2 cup of warm water for 15 minutes. Grind into a paste with the rest of the ingredients. Use the water in which the chillies were soaked as needed, to get a fine paste. [The paste will be very spicy, so beware!]

If you do not want to use the paste the same day, just roast it for a few minutes in 2 tbsp oil till the water evaporates. Cool and refrigerate. 

Veg Thai Red Curry

Whenever I make pasta, lasagna or Thai curry, I like to use different varieties of vegetables. I have mentioned a few here. Feel free to make changes and add or subtract vegetables as per your liking. I personally like to use additional lemon grass and galangal in the curry because I love the flavour given out by them, but you needn't add them as they have already lent their flavour to the paste. I forgot to add carrots this time, but I will include it in the list. 


Thai red curry paste - store bought or homemade, about 2 oz (50 g)
1/2 of red capsicum, chopped
1/2 of yellow capsicum, chopped
6 to 8 baby corn, slit lengthwise
1/2 cup chopped eggplant
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped leek
5 to 6 tofu pieces
2 tbsp chopped lemon grass
1" galangal
2 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used 2 cups canned coconut milk + 1/2 cup water)
1/2 tsp soy sauce
4 to 5 basil, roughly chopped

1 tsp oil + 1/2 tsp chilli powder

Method :
In a large pan, heat 3 tbsp oil. Add Thai red curry paste  and roast for a few minutes till the water evaporates. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk and bring to a light boil. Add all the vegetables and mix well. Add the remaining coconut milk and soy sauce and bring to a roaring boil.

 Add chopped basil and salt and boil for a couple more minutes. Adjust the spice level. Some chillies can be really spicy while some may not. I actually heated oil+1/2 tsp chilli powder in the microwave (for half a minute) and added it to the dish.

One change I would like to make next time, as I mentioned, would be to try making the paste with some other type of chilli which will give me a deeper red colour. Any suggestions are welcome.

Update - Thanks for your suggestions. I have updated the post accordingly.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Carrot Pepper Rice (Microwaved)

Sometimes I wish there were 25 hours in a day so that I could devote a whole hour to my blog. But if I were granted even 30 hours a day, I'm sure I'd need just one more!

I'm typing out this post at 1 in the morning, after putting my son to bed a couple of hours ago and folding a truck load of clothes while watching my favourite show - Food Network Challenge. I find folding clothes one of the most boring things you could ever do and keep myself happy by watching something fun on TV.

Coming back to my post, this recipe is from Nita Mehta's Vegetarian Microwave Cookbook. The book was gifted to me by a friend (whose first name incidently happens to be Neeta. Not Mehta, Pai.) The dish is a quick solution to those busy days when you have neither time nor energy to cook anything elaborate.

1 cup rice (uncooked)
3 tbsp oil
1 onion
1 capsicum
1 carrot
1 tsp salt,
1/2 tsp pepper powder
1/2 tsp soy sauce

Soak rice for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile chop onions, carrots and capsicum.

In a large microwave safe bowl (take the largest you have) mix oil, capsicum and carrot and microwave for 3 minutes. (I found the rice slightly oily so next time I will reduce the oil by a tablespoon)

Drain out all the water from the rice. Add this rice to the vegetables. Pour two cups water, salt, pepper and soy sauce.

Mix a bit and microwave covered for 13 minutes. Stir once in between.
This is what your rice will look like -

Leave untouched for 5 minutes. Mix well and serve hot.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ever since I tried milk chocolate oatmeal cookies and enjoyed the whole experience, I wanted to try the Nestle chocolate chip cookie recipe. So finally when I got around to making them, I thought of replacing the eggs with ground flax seeds (alsi - I've mentioned about it here)

I read about flax seeds as egg replacers on several websites and was very keen on trying this method out. I was specially motivated when I read about it in this book. Here is the equation as per the book -
1 tbsp of ground flax seed +  3 tbsp water to replace 1 egg.

Just dry grind a few tablespoons of flaxseed for 10 to 15 seconds. You can store the extra powder in an airtight container (in the freezer) for later use.

Take 3 tbsp very hot water in a bowl, add 1 tbsp flax powder and stir vigorously. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will turn thick and viscous like so - 

                                 (the picture shows 2 tbsp flax powder + 6 tbsp water)

Since the recipe calls for two eggs, I did the needful, creamed all the wet ingredients and reached for the all purpose flour. I had just about a cup! So good old atta (whole wheat flour) came to my rescue. The result - not too bad! The cookies were slightly denser and did not easily flatten out like (I presume) they should (the absence of eggs could also be the reason for this). But they tasted great and crunchy with that li'l chewiness in them - the main reason why I loved chocolate chip cookies since I was a little girl!

Since I was adding flax seeds, I added a little extra vanilla - just to make sure the nuttiness of the flax seeds did not overpower the taste of the cookies, but all was good at the end. Also, I added a little more baking soda since flax seeds do not have the leavening properties of eggs. I also used a little less chocolate chips than the original recipe.

So with all these changes, here's the recipe :

Ingredients :
1 cup all purpose flour (I used maida) + 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
[ OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour in total]
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp flax seed
6 tbsp warm water
1 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Mix 2 tbsp ground flax seeds with 6 tbsp warm water and set aside for 10 minutes until the mixture turns viscous.

Meanwhile combine all purpose flour, wheat flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.
In a separate (large) bowl, with an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add vanilla and flax mixture and beat further. 

Add the flour mixture little by little and fold in with a spatula. Since whole wheat flour is used here, mix gently - otherwise the cookies can become hard and dense; but make sure it's mixed well. 

Add chocolate chips and mix well.

Refrigerate the dough for about an hour. (Since it's winter now, I refrigerated it for just a few minutes. However if it is hot and humid, you need to refrigerate it for a longer time in order to roll the dough into balls. The original recipe doesn't call for refrigeration, but I do so since I prefer to roll the dough into balls). 
Preheat the oven to 375F.
With a tablespoon, scoop out the dough and make balls. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart and flatten them a little with your fingers. 

Bake for about 11 minutes - till the the edges turn slightly brown. The center will be soft. Remove and allow to cool on the baking tray for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The center will harden once the cookies cool.

Like I mentioned earlier, the cookies were slighlty dense, owing to the whole wheat. But I have no complaints since whole wheat is definitely a better option, specially for kids.

The recipe yields about 5 dozen cookies (great solution for a potluck party!), if you can refrain yourself from sneaking in some cookie dough to yourself. But I guess with the absence of raw eggs in the dough, it may not be too easy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Instant Oats Dosa

Here's another dosa that you can make a few minutes before breakfast, instead of worrying about soaking and grinding the previous night. I got this recipe from my aunt Jyothi Prabhu who adapted it from here.

1 1/2 cup oats [I used Quaker quick 1-minute oats]
1/2 cup rava (sooji)
1/4 cup rice flour or wheat flour
1/2 cup yogurt (curd), whisked
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 green chillies, finely chopped

Dry grind oats in the mixer (about 10 seconds). In a large bowl mix oats powder with the rest of the ingredients. Add enough water and mix well to remove lumps [I use a manual whisk]. The batter must be of thin buttermilk consistency. Let stand for a few minutes.

Roast on both sides. (You can refer Rice Flour Dosa for tips).

Please note that they take a long time to roast, so do not flip until one side is completely cooked, otherwise it can break.

Oats dosa tastes great with Mint Chutney.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Baingan Bharta

Whenever I go to a grocery story, the deep purple coloured eggplants almost always lure me to buy them. Sometimes I give in, but mostly I don't because my husband is not a big fan of eggplants.
The other day when we were talking about something, DH (dear husband) mentioned he didn't like eggplants very much but he actually liked Baigan Bharta a lot. So the next time I went to the store, I dunked in a large eggplant and happily came home to make Baigan Bharta.

I referred to this recipe on Vegtarian Concoctions. She mentions roasting the eggplant on open flame. I had once baked an eggplant and thought of doing so. But I was short on time, so I chose to microwave it since it's faster and hassle free. I also made some minor changes in the recipe.

Ingredients :
1 large eggplant / brinjal / aubergine
1/2 tsp jeera
4 to 5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp chopped ginger
3 green chillies, minced
1 large onion
3 large tomatoes
2 tbsp roasted peanuts (optional)
1 pinch hing (asafoetida powder)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tsp jeera powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Coriander leaves

Method :
Rub about one tsp oil all over the eggplant. Make a few deep slits with a knife (otherwise the eggplant can burst in the microwave). Place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 11 to 12 minutes. Allow to cool.

Remove the eggplant from the microwave. Chop off the top (calyx) and peel off the skin. I do prefer the peel as well, so I left some of it on. Chop the eggplant and mash it a little bit.

Heat oil in a deep bottomed pan. Add jeera. When it splutters, add ginger, garlic, green chillies and peanuts and roast for sometime. Add onions and saute till they turn translucent. Add all the powders and hing and roast for a couple of minutes. Toss in chopped tomatoes and saute till they are completely cooked. Mash lightly with the back of the spoon.

Add chopped eggplant and roast it in the masala for 5 to 6 minutes. Add salt.
Garnish with coriander leaves.

Sending this to Bookmarked recipes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spinach / Palak Raita

'We all know that Popeye made himself super strong by eating spinach, but you may be surprised to learn that he may also have been helping to protect himself against inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular problems, bone problems, and cancers at the same time.'  (Source :

We love palak raita and I make this atleast three to four times a month. I found the recipe of this nutrious raita many years back on the internet and tweaked it a bit to our liking.

Ingredients :
3 cups chopped spinach/palak
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp jeera
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 to 3 green chillies, finely chopped
5 to 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
Curd/ yogurt

Method :
Heat oil. Add mustard seeds and jeera. When they splutter, toss in ginger, garlic and green chillies and saute till the chillies and garlic turn brownish. Add onions [I used white onions] and saute for a few minutes, till they turn translucent.
Add spinach/ palak [ I used baby spinach, roughly chopped] and salt. Keep stirring (do not cover) for 2 to 4 minutes till the spinach cooks completely.

Allow to cool.

In a bowl, take 1 cup yogurt. Mix with 3 tbsp (or more) of the spinach mixture. Adjust salt accordingly.

You can refrigerate the rest of the spinach mixture in an airtight container for later use. Mix with curd just before serving.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sesame Honey Chilli Potatoes

When I came across this recipe on Shailu's Kitchen, I was reminded of the sweet and sour chicken from Hao Hao that I used to love as a kid (and still do!) This is a completely different dish but honey and chilli seemed like a deadly combination and the sweet and spicy sauce lured me into trying it out.

I had a lot of potatoes in the pantry so thought of using all of them.  You can easily scale down the recipe as per your need.

Ingredients :
10 to 12 medium potatoes [I used red potatoes]
8 garlic cloves
3 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp tomato sauce
3 tbsp oil
Spring onions/ coriander leaves
Toasted sesame seeds*

4 garlic cloves
4 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp red chilli sauce [I used Ching's]
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey

Chop potatoes into wedges/ fingers. Peel and chop garlic.
In a large bowl, combine garlic, chilli powder, tomato sauce, oil and salt. Toss in the potato wedges and mix well. Adjust the salt.

You can either bake the potatoes or fry them. Shailu suggests adding cornflour instead of oil while frying the potatoes.

For baking, line a large baking tray with greased foil. Place the potatoes (avoid overlapping) and bake at 400ºF till the potatoes are cooked - about 30 to 35 minutes. Turn the potatoes once in between.

In a pan, heat 1 or 2 tbsp oil.  Add garlic and roast till it turns golden brown . Add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce (except honey) and bring to a light boil.

Add the baked / fried potatoes and honey and mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes until the potatoes are coated with the sauce.
Garnish with spring onion greens and toasted sesame seeds. (If you have regular sesame seeds, just dry roast them on low heat).

I added less honey because I wasn't sure if my husband would like the honey-chilli combo. But he did love this dish, so I will stick to this proportion. You could increase the honey if you prefer the dish a  little sweeter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pudina Chutney / Mint - Coriander Chutney

Hot pakodas on a cold rainy day serve as an excellent snack. And what better way to have them than to dip them in a bowl of delicious mint chutney! I made these fritters yesterday for a Diwali party hosted by our dear friends Rajesh and Bhargavi. Luckily it wasn't raining last night and Rajesh's fireplace kept us warm, but we enjoyed the bajjis nevertheless!

1 1/2 cups mint (pudina) leaves
2 cups coriander leaves
1 tbsp grated coconut (optional, for thickness)
2 tsp chopped ginger
2 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp amchur powder (optional)
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp olive oil (or water)
2 to 3 green chillies
1 tbsp juice of lemon 
2 tbsp curd (yogurt)

Blend all the ingredients (without water), into a smooth paste. You could add water instead of oil, the flavour will be slightly different. Add more water / oil if required and blend well.

Relish with hot pakoras or succulent kebabs. You can even use this chutney as a marinade to make hariyali kebabs (use oil though and not water to grind). Idlis, dosas and samosas dipped in pudina chutney taste great too!

Here are a couple of recipes using pudina chutney as the marinade. I have made a few changes here and there. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

7 Cup Burfi and Celebrating 50th Post!

Wishing you all a Happy Diwali!

I first had this burfi at an aunt's place a couple of years back and loved it. When she told me it's called 7-cup burfi, I thought it was made of a cup each of seven different ingredients. After that I forgot about it. When I came back home two months later, I was suddenly curious to know what the seven ingredients were. At that point of time, my aunt was fast asleep in India, so as usual I resorted to the internet for the answer. And that's when I realised that there were seven cups in total, and just 5 ingredients - besan (1 cup) , ghee (1 cup), milk (1 cup), coconut (1 cup) and sugar (3 cups).

The first time I made this, I used the exact same measures. It tasted great but I found it a tad too sweet for my liking. The next time, I reduced the sugar by 1/4th cup and added 1/4th cup of cashewnuts instead. And that's how I've been doing it since then.

Ingredients :
1 cup besan (gramflour, chickpea flour)
1 cup ghee
1 cup grated coconut
1 cup milk
2 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cashewnuts

[Note : If you are making a burfi for the first time, I suggest you reduce the portions and use a 1/4 cup measure - 1/4 cup besan, 1/4 cup ghee etc. Cooking time will reduce accordingly].

Blend the cashewnuts with coconut and milk for 10 to 15 seconds, to get a coarse runny mixture.

In a deep bottomed pan [I prefer non-stick], with the flame on low, heat ghee and add besan. With a manual whisk or a large spoon, mix well to get rid of any lumps. Add the blended coconut, cashewnut and milk and keep stirring. Pour in sugar. Increase the flame to medium and keep stirring.

 The mixture will start to thicken.

If you have to run around to attend to other chores and cannot be in front of the stove the whole time (just like me), just reduce the flame to low but make sure you stir the mixture atleast once every minute or else the bottom portion will get burnt. Otherwise, just continue to keep the flame on medium and stir every few seconds.

Keep stirring till the mixture thickens so much that when you move the spoon in the mixture, the mixture should move along with the spoon (but should still be pour-able). This can take anywhere between 30 to 50 minutes, depending on how low or high the flame is.

Sometime in between, grease a large plate [I used a 9X14 glass dish] with ghee. When the mixture attains the desired thickness, just pour it onto the plate.

With a spatula or spoon, spread the mixture evenly.

Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. With a butter knife greased with ghee, cut into desired shape [ I cut mine into squares]. Do not remove from the plate yet.

Once the mixture cools completely (this can take an hour or two) transfer into an airtight container and refrigerate. (If the burfi hasn't hardened by then, refrigerate it for a few hours so that it sets completely before serving).

And thus I celebrated my 50th post :)!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sugar Cookies - for Halloween

Last Halloween, my son, then 10 months old, was dressed as a tiger. This time I got him a pumpkin costume. One of his friend's mom from his playgroup is hosting a Halloween party this week. Decorating these pumpkin-shaped cookies sounded like fun so I decided to make them for his cute little friends.

After scouting for a while, I came across this recipe on Food Network, by Alton Brown. 

Ingredients :
3 cups APF (I used maida)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk

Method :
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and milk and beat further. 

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to the above little by little, beating until dough forms.

Divide the dough into two and refrigerate for 2 hours.

This is where I made a big mistake. I made the dough, refrigerated it and went to put my toddler to sleep. I was so exhausted, I decided to bake the cookies the next morning and fell asleep.

When I started rolling the dough the next day, this is what happened :

The dough had become hard and started to crack as I rolled it. I patched it up carefully. Next time I make this I'm going to use up the dough within two hours! 

The recipe asks us to roll out the dough on powdered sugar instead of flour, to 1/4th inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut the rolled out dough into desired shape. I used a pumpkin shaped cutter. Remove the extra scraping and keep aside. You can roll them out again for more cookies.

Arrange atleast 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet [I lined mine with parchment paper]. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 375ºF for about 7 to 9 minutes [mine took 8 minutes] or till the edges start browning. Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes and transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely. (The centers will be slightly soft but will harden as they cool)

Repeat for the next batch, till you finish all the dough.

To decorate the cookies, I used Wilton's buttercream icing.

I took a little bit of icing and added green food colour. I added orange colour to the rest of the icing. For the black colour, I used store bought icing because I have had terrible experiences trying to colour the icing black. You can even use chocolate chips for the eyes.
To decorate the cookies, the tips I used were 5, 12, 18 and 1M.

Here's hoping my son's little friends enjoy eating these decorated cookies as much as I enjoyed making them.

These cookies go to Food Palate Series.


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