Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Noel Nut balls

Oops, I forgot to post my day 4 recipe for the marathon, I did post day 5 with the chocolate cake! Anyway barring that mistake, this would be the day 6 of the marathon and the 11th in my books (confusing numbers eh?!) Well these are yet another batch of cookies that I made to be sent to friends this year- absolutely delicious people!
A success story modified from the Martha Stewart recipe for Noel Nut balls, I am beginning to like her cookie recipes...


1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp orange juice
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans (best if chopped by hand)
1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, plus more for rolling
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove powder

  • Method
  • Cream butter and honey until fluffy. Add orange juice, and beat to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pecans, confectioners' sugar, and salt, nutmeg, clove powder. Add to the butter mixture, and beat to combine. Flatten the dough in two halves as discs. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 3 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the flattened discs into about 1/2 inch wide pieces, sort of criss-cross. Take each piece and shape them into circles.
  • Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between them. Bake until brown around the edges, 12 to 13 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Roll in confectioners' sugar to coat.

These cookies are delicious with the perfect amount of sweetness and crunchiness. They melt in your mouth- you gotta give them a try!
I will BE off to visit friends in DC today, so I am not sure if I can keep posting but just in case I cannot


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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas eve a la B

Science... never solves a problem without creating ten more- Bernard Shaw

Merry Christmas y'all!! Kinda late for that but hey the thought is what counts doesn't it? So the 24th evening we had a small get together with great people and even greater food. Lot of Japanese treats and snacks. For the main course we had Pav-bhaji, Rajma and Japanese rice (with radish, bamboo, beets and carrots- I should ask my friend for the recipe, it tasted real good!) . For dessert we had ice cream and an eggless chocolate cake.  I was aiming for a black forest cake but somehow lost my enthusiasm and made a chocolate cake with whipped cream and toasted almond topping.


2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 can condensed milk
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt
1 tsp almond extract


Preheat the oven to 360F.
Sift the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix all the ingredients (dry and wet) with half a cup of water and whisk until everything is combined.
Pour the mixture into a 6 inch cake pan (I used 7 inch and my cake was not as tall as I expected it to be) and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the topping,

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tsp rose water
6 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Whisk the cream, rose water and sugar until stiff peaks form. You can make it ahead of time and keep it refrigerated until ready to use.

Top the cooled cake with the whipped cream topping, toasted almonds and some chocolate curls (my curls were more like powdered since I used a grater!)

It was a really good cake, and this time I did not feel the taste of wheat flour. Loved the almond-whipped cream-chocolate topping! Yummo....

Red goodness or good redness?!

Newest in the list, the focal is a swarovski button

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gingerbread house

Oh the warm smell of spices is the hallmark of the holiday season and is the one thing we all love, don't we? GInger is definitely one spice that I love to include in my cooking/baking expeditions during this time of the year. So I was naturally happy to see that this month we were doing the gingerbread house for this month's challenge, well it was a fleeting moment anyway until I realized that it was yet another kitchen mishap. Consider this my 10th new recipe and the 3rd in Nupur's marathon.

The December 2009 Daring Baker's challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers' everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book  as the challenge recipes.
I used Y's recipe

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, well packed
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour


In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until blended. Add the spices. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time, which I did have to do. Chill 2 hours or overnight.  (Here is where my problem started)

Cut patterns for the house on cardboard/poster board
Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

Cut required shapes and transfer these to the baking sheet. Save the scraps and reroll them if necessary.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on the gingerbread and trim shapes, cutting edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Something happened and I do not have a clue as to why- the dough was extremely dry. It was stiff  and powdery. Somehow we (the wise guy and me) got the dough together and left it in the refrigerator. But the next day when I took it out to roll and cut shapes out everything fell apart, there was enough moisture release from the dough. I still managed to roll it out, cut some vague patterns and even bake it. But when I tried to put together the house, it started to break apart as it obvious from the picture, well so is my frustration! I tried to decorate it but it was too much, so all I did was put the pieces together- somehow it all stayed for a few seconds for me to get a picture....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Split peas ISKON style, really...

It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work- Faulkner

Here is the recipe for the challenge, the 8th in my book. For the longest time I thought green split peas are the same as pigeon peas, so I bought some dried split peas. Now let me tell I am not a great fan of the split pea soup, I should have known then that they are not the same, because I love pigeon peas! The year end cleaning session led to this recipe using split peas. 

1 1/2 cups green split peas
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 green chili, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
about 3/4 of a 16 oz bag of frozen spinach
1 cup coconut milk
Oil for cooking
1¼ tsp kalonji seeds
asafetida powder
1 tsp fresh lime juice

Water and vegetable broth for cooking the dal
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and drain the split peas and soak them in hot water for 30 minutes.
Bring to the boil the ginger, chili, water/broth, turmeric powder, coriander powder, and split peas and pressure cook all these ingredients.
Add the chopped spinach to the dal. When the spinach is soft and the dal is smooth, add the salt, pepper and coconut milk and return to a simmer.
Seasoning: heat the oil in a small pan. Fry the kalonji seeds in the hot oil for 1 minute. add the asafetida and fry momentarily. Add the spices to the soup, mix well, and allow the spices to soak for a few minutes. Add the fresh lemon or lime juice. Serve hot.

Judgement- While I loved the seasonings, the dal itself not so much- as I said, I do not like split peas and I am glad I have only 1/2 cup of it left!

Merry X-mas everyone, sorry for the belated 
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Cookies galore for friends- Lime Meltaways

All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion and desire- Aristotle

You do understand that I had to do this, don't you? The 7 day-7 recipe marathon that a lot of us have signed up for, check Nupur's blog to check about rest of the players. This year, just like the last, I am making a bunch of cookies for friends. Lime meltaways as Martha Stewart calls them are the first of the lot. They have the very refreshing, very familiar citrus flavor and they were so delicate that I decided not to ship them.


  • 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (I did half butter and half crisco vegetable shortening)
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • Grated zest of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar until fluffy. Add lime zest, juice, and vanilla; beat until fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and beat on low speed until combined.

Roll dough into two 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Chill at least 1 hour in parchment paper.

Heat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Remove parchment from logs; slice dough into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar-filled bag; toss to coat. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Burmese Rice #6

"There is no use trying, said Alice; one can't believe impossible things. I dare say you haven't had much practice, said the Queen. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast"- Lewis Caroll

Yes, I am getting well versed with the art of believing in impossible things. I might not be a great cook or a baker but hey, that does not stop me from doing something I love. In fact cooking is like doing experiments in the lab, they are not that different really! This is a very delicious recipe modified from here. I am not sure if it really is a Burmese dish but it does not matter, does it?! 


1 1/2 cups rice
1 sliced green pepper
1 1/2 cups boiled mixed vegetables (carrots, beans and green peas)
1 onion sliced
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 stick cinnamon
4 cloves
Tomato ketchup
Chilli garlic sauce
Oil for cooking
Salt and pepper to taste

To grind,
1 inch ginger
4 green chillies
3 cloves
1 small cinnamon stick
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red chilli powder


Grind the ingredients listed above to a paste and add vinegar to the paste (mine was not a paste since my blender is terrible at these things, I used a mortar-pestle instead).
Marinate the sliced green peppers in the paste for about 30 min.
Heat oil in a pan and once hot, add the sugar. Once sugar melts, add cinnamon and cloves.
Saute the rice for a minute or two and transfer to a microwave-safe bowl. Add enough water and salt to taste. Cook the rice. Once cooked, mix in tomato ketchup (I did not add too much of this) and chilli-garlic sauce (how much ever you like, I made mine spicy). Keep aside

Heat up more oil in the pan and saute onions until it turns golden brown.
Add all the veggies including the green peppers, more tomato ketchup and chilli-garlic sauce. (I salted and peppered mine at different stages)
Stir fry for about 5 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 450F.
Grease a square baking dish with cooking spray. Add alternate layers of rice and veggies. 
Place the dish in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes.


I thought it was going to come out dry but it turned out to be a flavourful rice dish that was not dry at all. Although next time I would add a teaspoon more of vinegar and marinate for a little longer because I did not really feel the vinegary green peppers.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Disaster recipe 5

"If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a leg don't make it a leg"-Abe Lincoln

Wow, never thought trying out 25 new recipes in 25 days was going to be this hard- well part of the problem is I get lazy once I get back home, so am rarely excited about cooking these days! Anyway I am going to continue to see how long it does take.

And before we go into the recipes, let me just say it was a disaster, not in the sense that the final products were inedible but more like "what-in-the-world-did-I-end-up-with" disaster.  The recipe I tried was Makki di roti from here. Usually I like Sanjeev Kapoor's recipes but this one I am not sure what the problem was.


3 cups cornmeal (I used coarse, may be that was the problem!)
1/2 cup wheat flour
Salt to taste
Butter, to top the rotis with


Whisk in salt and wheat flour into the cornmeal. Knead using warm water, until you get a soft dough. 
Divide the dough into small portions and roll in between a greased plastic wrap (it does stick!)
Cook in a pan on medium heat. Top with butter and serve hot.


Well while the taste was alright (I did not add enough salt), some of rotis started to harden and then we had to eat them like pappads. Like the journal of negative results in science, Malar of Kitchen tantra was thoughtful enough to host an event called  "Kitchen Mishaps". Now I am not ashamed anymore of my failed culinary experiments, even those will have a home now! So this recipe goes straight to that event.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hobo bread- Recipe #4

An attempt at visualizing the Fourth Dimension: Take a point, stretch it into a line, curl it into a circle, twist it into a sphere, and punch through the sphere- Albert Einstein

Luckily for me I did not have to do so much to attempt the fourth recipe- again a very simple recipe. I have reinforced the fact, for myself and hopefully for others too, that keeping things simple brings out the best of everything and it is definitely true with bread. I modified the recipe from here, I made only one loaf.


2/3 cups  raisins
2/3 cups  boiling water
1 1/2 tsp.  baking soda

Mix raisins and baking soda and pour boiling water over it. Let it stand overnight.


2/3 cups sugar
a pinch of salt
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2cups Barley Flour

2 tsp instant coffee powder

Combine ingredients, including the plumped up raisin mixture and mix well.
Spoon the dough out into greased loaf pan
Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes


Awesome.... although next time I will add a strong coffee brew, lower the amount of sugar and may be throw in some nuts. But the bread was super-moist and sort of melted in our mouths!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Croquettes- Recipe #3

  • By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter- Confucius

    The third one was not so bitter after all...

  • Ingredients
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 green onions, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 2 tsp minced ginger

To make Croquettes:

1. Whisk together chickpea flour, oats, cumin, chili powder, and salt in bowl. Whisk in 3/4 cup hot water. Stir in remaining ingredients, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. At this point because I had oats too the mixture seemed dry and would not bind together, the wise guy then mashed the whole thing up for me and we cooked it like vadas!
2. Coat nonstick skillet with oil; heat over medium heat. Scoop chickpea mixture into skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook both sides until golden.
3. I/ We spread some coriander chutney and tomato ketchup, served it as a sandwich on bread rolls with a simple salad and baked sweet potato fries on the side. 


It was really good- and you can serve it anytime, make as sliders and you have snacks and make the full portion and you have either lunch or dinner!
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baked goodness- recipe #2

One's first love is always perfect until one meets one's second love
Elizabeth Aston, The Exploits & Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy, 2005

This is certainly true of this recipe here- it was absolutely easy to make yet it tasted as though I spent hours making it! Thanks to Sanjeev Kapoor for this wonderful recipe- I am posting my slightly modified version here,


8-10 slices Wheat bread      
2 tbsp butter (I used smart balance)
2 cloves
I medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 cups milk
a pinch of grated nutmeg
3/4 cup grated cheese (I used parmesan)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed and microwaved for about 2-3 minutes
2 medium potatoes, cut in small cubes and boiled
3 carrots, diced and blanched
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
chilli-garlic sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter, cut into cubes 


Preheat oven to 425F. Cut the bread slices into small one inch pieces, add one layer of bread pieces to the bottom of  a baking dish (I used a square dish). 
Melt butter in a pan, add cloves, bay leaves, onions and saute. Add the flour and cook it for a minute or so. Add milk and stir continuously to avoid lumps. Boil till it comes out as a sauce. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and half of the grated cheese in the sauce and mix well.

To the baking dish, add a third of the peas, potatoes, carrots and half of broccoli. Pour sauce over it and drop in small amounts of chilli-garlic sauce in places. Make one more layer. 
For the top layer, garnish with left over peas, potatoes and carrots. Spread the remaining cheese and add butter cubes in places.

Cook until the edges are brown. Mine took nearly 30 minutes (think my oven temperature is not right!)

Note: I salted and peppered all my veggies while boiling or blanching. I salted and peppered the sauce separately.

Judgement- Very easy yet tasty...will definitely make it again!  
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Soup-o-mania and the start of something I can keep up

This was purely coincidental- Harini (guest host) announcing this month's theme for the mingle and me making a soup the very same day, in  fact even before I read her or Meeta's blog that day! This soup stems from my feel-like-asian mood and no-beans-but-yay-to-pasta-please feeling. So I combined the two things that I craved for the day-


3 cups Vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups diced celery and carrots
1 head broccoli, separated as florets
chopped spring onion and parsley, for garnish (I did use a lot of these, so am not sure if I can call them "garnish")
1/2 cup soy sauce
1-2 tbsp chilli garlic sauce (depends on your taste)
a handful of tiny-weeny seashell pasta
a handful of frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper to taste
a couple of bay leaves
1 tbsp minced ginger
Butter/oil whichever you prefer


Add butter to a stock pot, heat it and then add the bay leaves. After a few seconds, add onions, celery and carrots and saute with a pinch of salt.
Once these veggies are tender, add soy sauce, chilli garlic sauce, rest of the veggies and the pasta
Saute them all for a few seconds, add the broth and top it off with water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once it comes to a boil, set it at low to medium heat and forget about it for another 10-15minutes or so.

That is all folks, quite simple right!
Sit back, relax and enjoy it warm... I made quite a bit and it tasted better as it aged.
This soup is off to the mingle event this month hosted by Harini.

So the second part of this post-

When I saw that Nupur was going to tackle 40 new recipes in 40 days, I got inspired and I thought I will take on something like 25 days to New Year and end with a blast on the New Year's. But as reality hit me hard, I realized it was going to be very hard for me to keep it up because of my really terrible work hours but I am not going to give up. So consider this recipe as the first. I already have a couple more to post, so it is going to be interesting for me whether or not I keep up with this sort of a challenge! But posting might be slow.... 
Hope to hear words of encouragement from y'all.

Have a great weekend!
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Holy Canoli...

So last month after missing the wonderful macaroon baking event I opened the daring kitchen forums page with a lot of enthusiasm. The moment I opened it my jaw dropped and then a feeling of relief came over- the forum page said "Sorry we are not baking this month". I thought "ah! what a relief, I don't have to try making/baking something and then realize that I suck at it!!"But that moment was indeed brief but what we we were asked to do this month, were some lovely canolis.

The November 2009 challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian pastry, cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbook Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Mattichio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scocilone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I followed the exact recipe from the daring baker's website.
For the filling again I followed the recipe- I made the regular cream filling and pumpkin filling because I was going to take it for a Thanksgiving Dinner at a friend's. The variation I did was I added ground cardamom and rose water in my cream filling. I also used lavendar and lemon verbena scented powdered sugar for the filling and I should not say it myself but that did make a difference- everything was so fragrant and festive all of a sudden.

The shells, now that is a different story folks. Well I did lie when I said that I followed the recipe to the "T"- I so did not for one big reason- I added red wine vinegar and red wine to make the shells and in the end I had a pinkish dough. The texture looked alright but I did not have canoli forms so I decided to use a big dry pasta shell to get the canoli form. Now the website said I could use cannellini pasta and you know what It tried every big store (Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, other specialty stores)- nada, zippo noone carried the damn thing. Now that does not bode well, does it- especially a day before thanksgiving! But thankfully I found another big pasta called manicotti and I used that instead. The shells came out alright, as always could have been better. They did not blister but hey they tasted just fine and everyone enjoyed it.

The cardamom and rose water added a touch of freshness and apparently indianness to the whole thing.I am glad people liked it or at least they were generous enough to tell they liked it.

I think I will make it again- especially if I host a party at home, that way I need not carry the filling around and interrupt the dinner to fill my cannolis. But I definitely do want to improve my skills and may be the next time around I will get those gorgeous looking cannoli forms.

I must definitely thank the wise guy for helping me with the preparations- afterall he is more patient than I am and he is one who is my scape-goat!

Have a great weekend y'all and hope you all indulged in a great Thanksgiving meal and of course, Black Friday shopping!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Indian brunch

I am heading over to this month's mingle at Meeta's with an Indian brunch. The brunch consisted of
ரவை உப்மா (Rava upma)
வெங்காய (Onion) சாம்பார் (sambar)
Sweet pongal
And not to forget coffee (unfortunately this was instant coffee!)

For the rava upma,
Roast about a cup of rava/sooji for a few minutes, keep it aside once its done.
In a pan add about a tablespoon of oil, once that heats- add mustard seeds and let them splatter. Once they splatter add cumin seeds, a tbsp of chana dal, whole dried red chillies, a pinch of asaefoetida. Let them hang out in the oil for a few seconds.
Add the chopped onions and saute them. Then add any veggies you like (I added peas, potatoes, carrots and lima beans). Saute them all and cook them with very little- salt and pepper them as you like. Once the veggies about half way done, add the roasted rava and a cup of water. Let them cook together (salt and pepper again to taste), this should take about 5-7 minutes. Towards the end add a bit more oil (I used EVOO) and sort of flatten the upma in the pan so that it can brown on one side.
Serve hot with chutney/sambar/gotsu/yogurt/pickle (really your choices are unlimited)- I did onion-potato sambar.

For the sweet pongal,
Cook sushi rice according to package instructions.
Once the rice is cooked, add the kozhukattai poornam to it and stir well.
Serve hot or cold and top with some sweetened coconut milk and sesame seeds (toasted).
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