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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vanilla Cake Pops

My friend recently got a cake pop maker as a gift. She wanted me to try it out for the first time. So, today decided to try my hand at making cake pops. I used one of the recipes from the manual though I had to halve the recipe as the original recipe made 4 dozen cake pops! I opted for vanilla cake pop as it is my little one's favorite. I did not have any frosting handy, but would definitely like to try it out again with some frosting. For this time, I just stuck to glazing it.

Preparation & Cooking: 30 minutes                Makes - 2 dozen

Ingredients:

For the cake pops:
All Purpose Flour/Maida - ¾ cup
Baking Powder - ½ teaspoon
Salt - a pinch
Unsalted Butter - ¼ cup, softened
Sugar - ½ cup
Egg - 1
Vanilla Essence - 1 teaspoon
Milk - ¼ cup

For the glaze:
Unsalted Butter - ¼ cup, melted
Confectioner's Sugar - 1¼ cup, sifted
Vanilla Essence - 1 teaspoon
Mixed Fruit Essence  - 1 teaspoon (this was my addition, as I like the flavor, you could omit it)
Hot Water - 2½ tablespoons
Sprinkles

Method:
For the cake pops:
  • Mix the flour, salt and baking powder and set it aside.
  • In another bowl, cream the sugar and butter until smooth and fluffy. 
  • Add in the vanilla essence and the egg and whisk until it blends smoothly.
  • Mix the dry ingredients and milk alternately till a smooth batter is formed.
  • Scoop in one tablespoon of batter into each slot of the cake pop maker and let it cook for 4-5 minutes. The cake pop is done if a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake pops and cool them completely.

For the glaze:
  • Cream the melted butter and confectioner's sugar into a smooth texture. Add the essences and hot water. 
  • Adjust the hot water to attain required consistency for the glaze.
  • While the glaze is still warm dip the cake pops in them.

  • Roll the cake pops in sprinkles and set them aside to let the glaze set. Also, dip the sticks in the glaze and insert them into the cake pops.
 

Pasta in Moong Tomato Soup

I had made some moong tomato soup for dinner last night, and as always, there was some left over. So, I decided to use it as a base for pasta for my son's lunch to school. It contains moong dal for protein and has tomatoes, celery and carrot for the vegetable representation, what more could I ask for! I also happened to wake up really really late! So, this left over soup proved a blessing in disguise and worked perfectly to get lunch prepared and packed in no time at all.

Preparation & Cooking: 10 minutes    Serves: 1

Ingredients:
Left over moong tomato soup - ½ cup
Water - ¼ cup (for diluting the soup)
Pasta - 2 tablespoons, any kind (I used the tricolor rotini)
Goldfish Crackers - a handful

Method:
  • Puree the soup into a smooth paste, add water and dilute it to required consistency and set it aside.
  • Cook the pasta as per the directions on the package.
  • Add this pasta to the soup and bring it to a boil, then take it off the flame. That's it! Lunch is ready to be packed!


I packed a handful of goldfish crackers in a separate container, so my little one could add it to the soup at lunch time for that extra crunch!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moong Tomato Soup

After a wonderful week of eating out and enjoying, have decided to seriously try and lose all the excess pounds before summer officially begins. This isn't New Year's eve, but have made a resolution nonetheless! I am going to workout regularly and exercise control over my diet. Nothing too drastic in the food department though - that would be asking for too much from a foodie like me! So, as a part of the new healthy eating phase, have decided not to eat rice for dinner. In fact, I would like to stick to just soups and salads as far as possible - let's see how far that works out! Am hoping since its out there in black and white, will try harder to stick to it!!



Hence the recipe for tonight - moong tomato soup. I do love the creamy tomato soups with heavy cream and butter, but that would definitely throw my resolution out of the window. So, I was looking for other options when I came across this tomato soup recipe at Tarla Dalal's website. I liked the idea of using moong dal for the soup's creaminess. But that's about all I took from that recipe and completely modified it to suit my taste. I added brown sugar because I read somewhere that it helps cut the excessive acidity from the tomatoes. So here goes...

Preparation & Cooking: 25 minutes           Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Moong Dal - ½ cup
Diced Tomatoes - 1 14.5 oz can
Grape tomatoes - 1 dry pint
Onion - 1 chopped fine
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
Celery Stalks - 3
Carrots - 2, shredded
Mint Leaves - a handful
Roasted Cumin Powder - ¼ teaspoon
Turmeric Powder - a pinch
Brown Sugar - ¼ teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Pepper powder - to taste
Vegetable stock - 4 cups
Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
Ghee/Clarified Butter - 1 teaspoon

Method:
  • Rinse the moong dal, soak it in water and set it aside.
  • Heat the ghee and oil together in a pressure cooker and saute the chopped onion, garlic, celery and shredded carrots in it.



  • Once they begin to soften (about a couple of minutes), add the cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt, diced tomatoes, grape tomatoes, mint leaves, brown sugar, moong dal and vegetable stock. I leave the grape tomatoes and mint leaves whole for now, as they will get mashed in a blender later. 



  • Pressure cook this mixture until the moong dal turns soft and mushy. Once this cools, use a blender to puree it to the required consistency. I like a slightly grainy texture, but you may make it very smooth as well.
  • If you think it is too thick, add a little water/stock at this stage and bring it to a boil. On the other hand, if the soup is too watery, add some bread crumbs and bring it to a boil to thicken it.
  • Ladle the soup into serving bowls and season it with freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve hot with croutons or as is.

Handy Tip: I pureed the left over soup into a smooth paste. Tomorrow, I'll  add some cooked pasta to it and send it for school lunch for my kiddo.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mixed Dal Khichdi

I came back today after a 4 day vacation of sorts. Had gone for my cousin's wedding, so obviously pigged out on all the rich shaadi ka khaana! After so much feasting, not to mention the junk food during the travel, what with delayed lay overs and all, my body & soul was craving some simple home made food. And nothing says "comfort food" like a khichdi. Besides, all that unpacking and cleaning of the house left me with little energy to cook, so a one pot meal suited me just fine! On  a side track, why is it that even a 3-4 day trip needs such heavy duty unpacking, and why does the house look like it was hit by a hurricane regardless of whether I have been away for a couple days or a few months? One of those unsolved mysteries of the universe I suppose...

Now, to get back to the recipe...



Preparation & Cooking: 30 minutes               Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Basmati Rice - 2 cups
Moong Dal - 4 tablespoons
Toor Dal - 2 tablespoons
Masoor Dal - 4 tablespoons
Ghee/Clarified Butter - 1 teaspoon
Oil - 1 teaspoon
Cumin Seeds/Jeera - 1 teaspoon
Fennel Seeds/Saunf - ½ teaspoon
Cinnamon Stick/Dalchini - 1
Cloves/Laung - 4
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Turmeric/Haldi - ¼ teaspoon
Onion - 1 small, chopped
Ginger - 1 small piece, minced
Green chilles - 2, finely chopped
Garlic - 1 clove, minced fine 
Tomatoes - 2, chopped
Mixed Vegetables (I used carrot, beans & potato) - 1 cup, diced
Mint - 2 teaspoons, finely chopped
Cilantro/Coriander Leaves - ¼ cup, finely chopped
Salt - to taste
Butter - 1 teaspoon (I used Country Crock instead, thought butter does taste better!)

Method:

  • Wash the rice and dals, soak them in water together and set them aside.
  • Heat the ghee and oil in a pressure cooker, add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, asafoetida, cinnamon stick and cloves.
  • When the cumin seeds splutter, add the onions, green chillies, ginger and garlic.
  • Once the onions begin to brown, add in the chopped tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Give it a good stir.

  •  Now add in the diced vegetables and rice dal mixture, mix it well.

  • Blend in the chopped herbs and pressure cook with 6 cups of water till the rice and dal turn mushy.

  • Once the pressure is released from the cooker, open it and add in the butter, let it melt, mix it well.



Breathe in the wonderful aroma and enjoy the hot delicious khichdi. Serves well with cucumber avocado raita, some papad and pickle.

Creamy Cucumber Avocado Raita

I am an exception among Tamilians! I don't like curd rice! I just about tolerate it. In fact the only thing that can induce me to have "thair sadam" is a pickle. But I do appreciate the importance of yogurt consumption as a part of my dietary requirement, so I dress it up as much as possible! As a result, I make raita's very often. Today my refrigerator yielded a cucumber and an avocado - my favorite combination for raita. So, cucumber avocado raita for dinner it was!

I normally use plain non-fat yogurt, but yogurt was a little on the short side today, and having returned from a mini-break of sorts, I was in no mood to run down to the grocery store for some yogurt. A little digging around in the refrigerator turned up a small 6 oz carton of plain Greek yogurt. Worked out perfectly fine! 

I used a food processor, so just needed 5 minutes to prepare. Using a grater to grate the cucumber and mashing the avocado and whisking the yogurt by hand would add on to the preparation time.

Preparation: 5 minutes                   Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Cucumber - 1
Avocado - 1 (scoop out the pulp with a spoon)
Plain Yogurt - ½ cup (I used non-fat yogurt)
Plain Greek Yogurt - a 6 oz carton (once again the non-fat kind)
Mint Coriander Chutney - 2 teaspoons
Roasted Cumin (Jeera) Powder - ½ teaspoon
Red Chilli Powder - a pinch
Asafoetida (Hing) - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch

Method:
  • Using the shredding attachment in the food processor, grate the cucumber.
  • Now fix the regular chopping blade and add in the rest of the ingredients.

  • Pulse it a few times till the mixture attains a semi-smooth consistency. The avocado should be nicely mashed and the yogurt should not be lumpy.
Serve it chilled.



Sending this across to




hosted by Surbhi of  My Cook Book

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Marshmallow Mint Chocolate Fudge Pops


My kid is crazy about marshmallows. He was introduced to them at school when they made smores. I being a vegetarian, don't buy the regular marshmallows, so I get the gelatin free marshmallows in bulk whenever I get a chance. Since, I have quite a bit of marshmallow on hand right now, I decided to try out this quick microwave fudge. I wanted to cut them out into squares initially, but they were so gooey, that I found it more sensible to roll them into pops and stick a lollypop stick/ straw in them for easy holding. Chocolate and marshmallows go perfectly hand in hand, but the addition of mint acts like a refreshing breath of air! The only hitch is they need to be served as soon as they are taken out of the freezer. If you leave them out for more than 5 minutes they turn into a sticky gooey mess. So serve them chilled, unless you are like me and don't mind licking chocolate off your finger tips!

Preparation & Cooking: 2- 3 minutes      Freezing Time: 1 hour          Makes: 20 pops approx

Ingredients:

Sweetened Condensed Milk - 1 14 oz can
Bittersweet chocolate chips - ½ cup
Mint chocolate baking chips - ½ cup
Marshmallows - 2 cups
Vanilla essence - ½ teaspoon
Mixed fruit essence - 1 teaspoon
Unsalted Butter - to grease the container for freezing the pops
Lolly pop Sticks/Straws - 20

Method:

  • Take the condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl.

  • Add the two kinds of chocolate chips and the marshmallows to it.

  • Microwave it for 2 minutes on high. Take it out and give it a good stir.

  • Put it back in the microwave for another minute, then add the vanilla and mixed fruit essences and stir until it blends into a smooth paste.

  • Grease a container with unsalted butter and pour this mix into it. Freeze it for about 40 minutes.

  • Take it out and it will be cool and solidified enough to handle. Roll it into small balls and stick a lollypop stick/straw into them and put them back in the freezer for at least another 20 minutes or until they are ready to be served.


Left Over Veggie Wrap

Most days my lunch comprises of maggi, dosa or whatever is left over from the previous day. Today belonged to the latter category. I had a bowl of cauliflower potato curry in the refrigerator, but nothing to accompany it. I also had some Vietnamese rice paper in the pantry (bought with the aim to make these yummyVietnamese Garden Rolls - but that is for another day and another post!). So, decided to put the two together and make a quick lunch. I liked it so much that I decided not to make chapattis for myself for dinner. Instead made another variation of the same wrap. Try it, am sure you'll agree it makes a wonderful lunch for those hurried and hassled days!

Preparation: 2-3 minutes            Serves:1

Ingredients:

Vietnamese Rice Paper - 1 sheet
Water - to soak the rice paper
Left over veggies - 2-3 tablespoons
Lettuce - 2 -3 leaves
Turkish Salad - 2 tablespoons (I had the Sabra brand handy)

Method:

  • Heat the left over veggies in the microwave for about a minute. In the meantime, soak the rice paper in a plate filled with enough water to immerse the paper completely, for about a minute.

  • Drain out the softened rice paper and spread the Turkish salad on it. Take care not to rip the rice paper as it will be extremely soft.

  • Now lay out the lettuce leaves on this and add the veggies on top.

  • Roll up the rice paper to form a neatly sealed wrap.

That's it! It was a nice light lunch along with a glass of chilled ginger ale.

For dinner, I replaced my potato cauliflower curry with a mixed vegetable sabzi and the Turkish salad with cream cheese with onion and chives. Tasted absolutely delicious. In fact my little one wanted to try this funny looking wrap and loved it! Feel free to experiment with different spreads and vegetable combos.


                                                                      
Sending this across to Let's Make Sandwiches event hosted by  Nayna of simply.food

Apple Milk Shake

Another refreshing beverage contribution from Nutmeg...

 Prep Time: 20 minutes  Serves: 1


 Ingredients:

  1. Apple -1
  2. Milk  -1/2 cup
  3. Vanilla ice cream – 1 scoop
  4. Sugar to taste (you could use honey instead)


Method:

1.  Wash the apple and peel the skin, cut into small cubes.
2.  Cover and freeze the milk until, slightly frozen, kind of like a slush.
3. Puree all the ingredients into a smooth paste in the blender.

Yummy apple milkshake is ready! Not just your regular apple juice - feel the difference!

- Nutmeg


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lets Play Doh!

I cannot ever remember being a messy person, may be I am one of those cleanliness freaks! It takes a lot of effort and self control on my part to get down and dirty while playing with my little one. Oh I am much better at it now than I was earlier! At least I don't sit ready with disinfecting wipes for the next spec of food/dust to fall on the floor anymore! Just kidding, but I have been called "Monica" (of "Friends" fame) on quite a few occasions! So you can hardly blame me for my lack of enthusiasm towards introducing my kid to Play-Doh.

We got play-doh as party favors, in Easter eggs, for Halloween treats, in play-dates, even as Christmas stocking fillers from school! I always managed to sneak them away and hide them from my little one. But when my pediatrician recommended I let him play with play-doh to help strengthen his fingers, I had to cave in. I mean come on, this was the doctor recommending it. So, it couldn't be all that bad right?

So what began as an aversion to something I thought of as messy & gooey (not to mention too tempting for my son to put in his mouth) was forced into a grudging acknowledgement of being useful! And now we have come a full circle. He is no longer a baby/toddler who has to be told "No putting dough in your mouth, spit it out!" Neither is he the kid who would complain about fingers hurting every time he was told to hold a pencil or crayon - believe me, kneading a piece of clay really does improve motor skills and strengthens their little fingers! Modelling clay is a part of our play things now:) 



While he is blissfully happy getting into the squishy gooey lump with much gusto, I get an uninterrupted hour or so of "me time"! So, its a win win situation all around. And thank God he is at that age where he understands that if he leaves the clay out for a long time, it is going to dry, and we have to throw it out, but we can always get some more!

This weekend is a long weekend at my son's school. The chilly weather has kept us indoors for most of yesterday & today. So, decided to bring out his clay art set (his birthday gift) and spend some time modelling things with his friend. They made a nice little aquarium-zoo combo! And it was a lot of fun :)



In fact, on a visit to the crayola factory sometime back, I picked up a few packets of their modelling clay. It is extremely soft and malleable. I love the feel of it and it is much easier to mold than some of the other clay I have used.

Recently I gifted a Jewellery Boutique (Model Magic Jewellery Studio) which had a spinner that mashes together different colors of clay to make marbled beads to create jewellery. That is a very creative way to use the same molding clay in a very different age bracket. Not bad for something that was created quite accidentally! According to ideafinder.com, play-doh was first invented by Noah W McWicker and Joseph S McWicker. McWicker's sister-in-law was a school teacher who inquired about a safe and fun modelling clay substitute. Joseph sent her a non-toxic compound used to clean wallpapers, it was a hit. The rest as they say, is history!



And of course, nothing can beat the satisfaction of the joy and pride that you see on your kids face having made something out of their own two hands, be it baubles and jewellery or a morphed animal!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Idiappam


Cooking Time: 40 minutes               Serves:2 

Ingredients:
In today's age of instant rice noodles, here is a guest post from cardamom, showing the elaborate way to prepare idiappam.

Idiappam podi - 1 cup
Salt -1/4 teaspoon

Method:
1. To make idiappam, first boil the water until it starts bubbling vigorously.
2. Take the flour in another vessel, add the salt and pour the hot water gradually into it, stirring constantly till it becomes a smooth slightly wet dough.



3. Use the idiappam molds (idiyappa achi) to squeeze out the dough onto the idiappam stand (or any plate for steaming).


4. Steam this in an idli cooker for 15 mins.
5. Wait for it to cool down, then transfer the idiappam to the serving plate.


 It is the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of hot stew!

- Cardamom

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Karadayan Nombu

When I was a kid, I had a story book with three stories in it - Savitri, Sukanya, Damayanti. I was around 7 or 8 years, but I still remember the cover page and the stories too. I can't put my finger on what it was about these strong female characters that has stayed in my mind over the years!

Today is Karadayan Nombu, and no, I am not going off track here. I am going to tie this thing to my story book - just bear with me a while.


This nombu is an important upvaas/fast based on the legend of "Sathyavan Savitri". Savitri married Sathyavan knowing that he was destined to die after a year of marriage, but she still went ahead. She fasted and offered adai to God praying for her husband's long life. She brought back her husband to life from the clutches of Yama (the God of death) through her persistence and smartness. The detailed story can be read here:

 
And this was the first story in my book.

Karadayan Nombu is celebrated by a a really small percentage of people, so not many people know about it. Think of it as a Tam Bram version of Karva Chauth! Ahh! Now the light bulbs just flickered on, didn't they? Well, this ritual isn't as glamorous as its North Indian  counterpart, but the purpose is the same. We ladies pray for the long and blessed lives of our husbands (ever wondered why the menfolk don't ever seem to do anything to elongate our lives?). On this day, the ladies, clad in the traditional nine yards (just a salwar kameez for yours truly) fast until the appointed hour (which varies, have to check in the panchangam (a kind of calendar). Then we pray to goddess Kamakshi or Parvati offering Nombu Adai and butter as neivedyam along with fruits. We tie a yellow string with some flowers and a couple of pieces of turmeric  around our necks (I usually ask my hubby to do the honors :) ) Then we break the fast with the adai after reciting the words:

"Urugaada Venaiyum oru adaiyum veithen.
Oru kaalam yen kanavar yenaai vittu piriyaamal irukka vendum
"

(I offer unmelted butter and adai to you. I pray that my husband and I never separate)

The Tamil version (got it off a google search!) is, I believe, something like this:

"உருகாத வெண்ணையும் ஓர் அடையும் வைத்தேன், ஒரு காலும் என் கணவர் என்னைவிட்டு பிரியாமல் இருக்க வேண்டும்".



 Now, on this day the offering is made of two kinds of adais - one is sweet (Vella Adai) and the other is savory (Kara Adai).

Vella Adai

Preparation and Cooking: 30-40 minutes (excluding soaking time)    Makes:12-14

Ingredients:

Rice flour - 1 cup
Jaggery - 1 cup
Water - 2 ½ cups
Black Eyed Beans (Karamani) - 2 tablespoons
Coconut - ¼ cup (cut into small bits)
Cardamom Powder - ¼ teaspoon
Salt - a pinch

Method:
  • Soak the black eyed beans in water over night. Then pressure cook them until they soften.
  • Roast the rice powder for a minute or so. I use pre-roasted idiappam flour.
  • Boil the water with the jaggery till the jaggery completely dissolves in the water.

  • Now add the salt, cardamom powder, the coconut pieces and the black eyed beans.
  •  Stir in the rice flour a little at a time stirring continuously to avoid forming lumps.
  • When the rice flour thickens into a smooth ball-like dough, leaving the sides of the pan, take it off the flame and let it cool till it is comfortable to touch with your hands.
  • After cooling, pat them into smooth patties with a small hole in the center. Use wet hands to avoid sticking and breaking.
  • Steam these in greased idli plates for about 10-12 minutes.

Vella adai is ready for neivedyam!


Kaara Adai 

Preparation and Cooking: 30-40 minutes (excluding soaking time)    Makes:12-14


Ingredients:

Rice flour - 1 cup
Water - 2 cups

Black Eyed Beans (Karamani) - 2 tablespoons
Coconut - ¼ cup (cut into small bits)
Salt - to taste
Mustard Seeds - 1 teaspoon
Curry Leaves - a few
Green chillies - 2, chopped fine
Ginger - a small bit, minced
Asafoetida/Hing - a pinch
Oil - 1 tablespoons

Method:
  • As with the vella adai, soak the black eyed beans in water over night. Then pressure cook them until they soften.
  • Roast the rice powder for a minute or so. I use pre-roasted idiappam flour.
  • Heat the oil and add mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida, green chillies and ginger.
  • When the mustard seeds splutter, add the water and bring it to a boil.
  • Now add the salt, the coconut pieces and the black eyed beans.


  •  Stir in the rice flour a little at a time stirring continuously to avoid forming lumps.

  • When the rice flour thickens into a smooth ball-like dough, leaving the sides of the pan, take it off the flame and let it cool till it is comfortable to touch with your hands.
  • After cooling, pat them into smooth patties with a small hole in the center. Use wet hands to avoid sticking and breaking.
  • Steam these in greased idli plates for about 10-12 minutes.

Kaara adai is ready for neivedyam!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cannelloni Beans - Desi Style

I usually keep a tin of cannelloni or white kidney beans handy as I like to add them in my soups. But for tonight's dinner, I decided to cook them in typical Indian flavors. The blend of dry spices along with onion, ginger and tomato gave this bean a wonderful aromatic taste. I use the microwave quite a bit in my day to day cooking to quicken the process and multi-task, as I don't have to baby sit most food in the microwave. Feel free to use the stove top if you so desire.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes           Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Cannelloni/White Kidney Bean - 1 can
Onion - 1 small, chopped roughly into chunky pieces
Tomatoes - 3
Ginger - 1 small bit
Cumin Seeds - 1 teaspoon
Coriander Seeds  - 1 teaspoon
Fennel seeds - ½ teaspoon
Cinnamon Powder - ½ teaspoon
Cardamom Powder - a pinch
Red Chilli Powder - 1 teaspoon
Sour Cream - 1 teaspoon
Salt - To taste
Oil - 2 tablespoons

Method:

  1. Make a few slits on the tomatoes using a knife and microwave them immersed in water for about 4 minutes.


  2. After they cool enough to handle, peel off the skin.




  3. Microwave the onions and ginger along with a little salt and a tablespoon of oil for about 2 minutes.


  4. Roast the spices on a low flame until they turn reddish brown and give out a nice aroma.


  5. Now, blend the tomatoes, onion-ginger mix and the dry spices together in a mixer to form a smooth puree.

  6. In a pan, heat the remaining oil and add the pureed mixture and the sour cream. 


  7. Bring  it to a boil and add the cannelloni beans. Add water at this stage if you find the gravy to be too thick. Gradually bring it to a boil and take it off the flame.



Quick & delicious cannelloni beans are ready to accompany your rice or chapatti.