Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chocolate and Coffee Martini

Having cocktails on special occasions has been traditional, but most of us refrain from making indulgent cocktails at home thinking it is just too much work. But there are some cocktail recipes which use simple ingredients, are easy to make and yet result into something right out of a lavish restaurant's menu card. We know that chocolates make any moment a special one, and to date it remains to be the favourite choice for special dates and events. So here's a simple recipe for a Chocolate Martini, another way to savour the chocolate and liquer, and make your moments memorable and sweet!

4 fl oz chocolate liqueur (any flavor you like by Godiva)
2 tbsp crème de cacao (optional)
3 fl oz vodka
1 oz semisweet chocolate - grated
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp instant coffee (any flavor)
5-6 ice cubes

Combine chocolate liqueur, coffee powder and vodka in a cocktail mixer full of ice. Chill glasses and then rim them with the cocoa powder (use egg white to make it stick to the glass edges). Shake the mixture vigorously and strain into the martini glasses. Top it with a layer of creme de cacao. Garnish with chocolate shavings. Let this Chocolate and Coffee Martini transform your evening into something romantic and special!

Tip: For the virgin version, replace vodka with skimmed milk and enjoy!

Similar Recipes:
Hot-n-Spiced Vanilla Rum Drink
Lychee Martini

Friday, September 28, 2007

Roasted Tomato and Peanut Chutney

Tomatoes, the beautiful and highly nutritious red delights add flavor to so many of our foods. I posted about the Green Tomato chutney recently, and so the circle wouldn't have been complete without using the ripe red tomatoes too to make one! So this time, I combined tomatoes with peanuts, onions and spices to make this Roasted Tomato Chutney. We savored this with Rava Dhokla, but you can use this as a dip or sauce with any finger food, even french fries. It might look similar to Marinara sauce, but believe me, the similarity ends at the looks. This might be a staple in many south-indian chutney recipes, but to me, it was a new one. Roasting the vegetables just adds a unique flavor, kinda-smoky-like. The spices bring an indian touch, yet peanuts add a crunch that reminds you of the asian cuisine. So hope you enjoy this spicy fusion chutney with Roasted Tomato and Peanuts just as much as we did!!

3-4 fresh firm tomatoes - chopped finely
1/2 cup peanuts - roasted and ground
2 tbsp (split pea) chana dal
1/2 cup onion - chopped
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp red chilli powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
salt - to taste
1 tbsp sugar

Heat oil in a pan, then add cumin and mustard seeds. Then add the chana dal, and when it starts spluttering, add the chopped onions. Saute for a minute, then add the roasted and ground peanuts. Add the ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and sugar and mix well. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup water. Allow to cook till the tomatoes are almost soft and mashed. Remove from heat and allow to cool for some time. Now add this mixture to a blender, add 2 tbsp oil and blend it to form a smooth paste. The chutney will still have some chunky pieces because of the chana dal and peanuts, but that adds crunch.

Store in an air-tight jar and refrigerate. Enjoy this with dhoklas, idlis, bhajiyas and chips!!

Green Rava Dhokla with Corn (Baked Dish)

Idlis and Dhoklas have been hot favourites for weekend breakfasts or snacks. And with Instant mixes available in the grocery stores, this is a perfect way to spend less time cooking and more with friends and family. Dhoklas originated in Gujarat, India, and the traditional dhokla flour is a combination of several different flours like cracked wheat, rice, besan and other. But as we intend to keep our recipes simple, I'm going to share with you the Rava Dhokla recipe. Inspired by the Rava Idlis that I've had at my friends' places for a lot of times, I tried making a variation of the same concept by adding some new ingredients. What's more is that it is baked, hence it's very low on fat and carbs, and with corn, coconut and coriander adding to the taste, it's crunchy, healthy and delicious!

3 cups Rava (semolina) OR Gits Instant Rava Dhokla mix
12-15 cashewnuts - roasted and split in halves
1 cup sour curd or buttermilk (omit this if you are using the instant mix)
1 cup chopped coriander
3 tbsp corn kernels
1 tsp soda bicarb
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp chana dal (split-pea yellow dal)
2 tbsp shredded coconut (optional)
3-4 green chillies - chopped
2 tsp black pepper powder
salt - to taste
2 cups water (use only 1 1/2 cup if you have used buttermilk instead of curd)

Make the batter with the instant dhokla mix using instructions on the packet. For making using Rawa, blend it well with the curd or buttermilk and soda bicarb and keeep covered for at least 4-5 hours to allow fermentation. Meanwhile, blend half of the chopped coriander in a blender to form a puree. Now add this to the rava batter alongwith the salt, oil and water. Keep aside so the batter takes the green color of the coriander.

Take a small pan, add 1 tsp oil to it, and add the mustard seeds, green chillies and the chana dal. Saute for a minute or two then add in the chopped curry leaves, chopped coriander, corn and shredded coconut. Fry together for a few seconds, then remove from flame and add this to the rava batter.

Grease the plates if you are using a steamer cooker. I baked them in the oven, preheated to 275 degrees, then pour the batter in the greased trays, sprinkle black pepper powder on the top and bake for about 12-15 mins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges separate from the pan/tray. Allow to cool a little, then slice into diamond-shaped pieces using a blunt knife or cutter.

Serve hot with Green Ghutney! Click here for recipes on dips and sauces. Dhoklas are a perfect tea-time snack, healthy, tasty and definitely easy-to-make!

You May Also Like:
Fluffy Khaman Dhokla
Savoury Muffins with Paneer and Sun-dried Tomato

Recipe Development Techniques

laptop in kitchen
I am deep into recipe development right now, sometimes creating up to 4 or 5 recipes in one day. My first step was making the scary decision to take my laptop into the kitchen. I was talked into it by my friend Pam of Project Foodie. Of course, Pam has a more modern kitchen than I do. Mine is circa 1920 and has no built in counters. I don't work as "clean" as I should in the kitchen so I fear gunking up my keyboard with whatever I'm cooking! Maybe this will force me to be a bit less messy. I have begun wearing an apron in the kitchen and slipping a kitchen towel through the apron strings.

My real working space is a very cramped and crowded butcher block island. I also have various improvised spaces and a tiny little cutting board that slides out from a cabinet. I have always used it as a place to hold whatever cookbooks I was cooking out of at the moment, sometimes stacking up two or three on top of each other. Using print-outs of recipes from my computer was problematic because the ink always smeared as ingredients dripped onto them. Also my printer died earlier this week, with any luck the new one will show up today. It's a laser printer so perhaps I'll have less ink issues.

My recipes usually start out as just a list of ingredients. I come up with the amounts as I go and fill them in, and after tasting often add an ingredient or go back and recalculate the amounts.

How about you? Any tips? What's your process for creating recipes in the kitchen?

Interested in hiring me to do recipe development? Check out my web site for more information and links to recipes I have developed for clients.

Grape and Green Tomato Chutney (Sauce)

Its amazing how most of the times, it is the sidekick which brings more flavor to the main course, right? The dips, sauces, pickles and salads make all the difference between good food and great food on a table, so it's important to give due respect to these side dishes and accompaniments which add more value to what you cook. One such experiment I tried last week was with green tomatoes and grapes. The markets are flooded with ripe tomatoes, yet there are so many green ones too that I was tempted to try making a dip using these. Grapes are found in abundance in CA, and when I came across this grape chutney recipe over at Food Network, I couldn't resist the temptation to combine tomatoes with grapes and add some green apple to it to form a nice savoury sauce. With the seasoning and green chillies, it turned out to be a wonderfully successful experiment!

5-6 large green tomatoes - sliced
1 semi-ripe green apple
3 cups green seedless grapes
1 tbsp salt
1/3 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup raisins
3-4 green chillies - chopped
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp fresh ginger -chopped finely

Put the tomato slices in a medium saucepan. Peel and dice the apples and add them to the tomatoes. Add the onions, sugar, vinegar, raisins and salt. Mix well. Add a little water if necessary. Cover partially and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

Now add the green chillies, mustard seeds, ginger and grapes to the hot mixture. Cook for about 30 minutes longer, or until mixture is thick and all fruits are almost mashed. Remove from flame and alow to cool completely.

Now blend the entire mixture in a blender to form a coarse sauce. Do not add water. Adjust salt and sugar to your taste, then pack the chutney into hot sterilized jars. You can seal the jars for a longer use.

Enjoy this tangy and savoury sauce as a dip with chips and finger food. It can also be used to add more flavor to rice and other curries. We had it with pakodas and the combination just clicked! Check out the Rice Pakoda (Fritters) recipe here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mango and Mascarpone Cheese Tart

Pies and Tarts have been a pride of bakers and dessert restaurants since quite some time now, and though I've baked a lot of cakes and cookies, Tarts were one thing I had never tried. So after visiting a lot of dessert cafes and seeing their beautiful and delicious line-up of delicacies, I was tempted to try one myself too. The obvious choice would have been a Fruit Tart, but then I realized that there's just one favourite fruit for me in the whole world, and that would undoubtedly be "Mango". I combined it with Mascarpone Cheese to bake this delicious Mango and Mascarpone Cheese Tart that is sure to take your breath away!!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temp
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence

1 package mascarpone cheese (or light cream cheese)
sugar - to taste if needed
1 cup mango puree
2 fresh mangoes - cut into thin slices or pieces (canned mango slices will work too)
1 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
5-6 saffron strands

You can buy the ready-made pie crust from the market, or even use the small mini-tart foil containers to make your work easier. Below you'll find a recipe that I used for my crust.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. In another bowl, blend butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla essence and beat well. Add flour mixture slowly and blend just until mixed. Do not beat too much; this has to be thicker than a cake mix. Roll the dough into a disk using a rolling pin and some oil and flour, into a small disk the size of a cake. Now cover and refrigerate for a little over an hour.

Preheat oven to 350° F. remove the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly-dusted pizza pan. Pizza pan has no edges, hence it is easier to remove the crust after it is baked. You can use a regular tart or pie shell if you are comfortable with those. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Allow the crust to cool down to room temperature. (Crust can be made a day in advance also and kept.)

Combine the mango puree and the mascarpone cheese and whisk until smooth. Add the sugar, cardamom powder and saffron, then mix well and spread the mixture on the cooled crust. Arrange the mango slices on the top. Freeze it again, and transfer from the freezer to the refrigerator an hour before serving.

Cut the tart into small triangular pieces. You can garnish each serving with whip cream and raspberries or cherries if you want. This will be a wonderful dessert for your friends and family! My crust came out a little thinner than I'd expected, but it gave more flavor to the Mango, and that made my day!

Tip: The saffron and cardamon added a subtle flavor that went well with the mango. You can omit it from the recipe if you want, but I'd urge you to give it a try! mascarpone cheese does wonders to a pie recipe, and I'd use if with different fruits if you are looking for variaitons.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Almond Cookies (Eggless Nankhatai)

Cookies are a top-rated snack food, and every household, especially with kids, is bound to have a jar filled with cookies. One such type of cookie famous in India is called "Nankhatai". It can be made salty and spicy, or sweet and soft. It is best enjoyed with tea, but beleive me, these tiny tots are so tasty and mouth-watering your hand would reach out for them any time of the day! Here's a recipe for Almond Cookies or Eggless Nankhatai which I adapted from my sister-in-law's version. It does not use eggs, yet is soft and chewy. Her kids love these cookies, so I'm sure it'll be a hit with your kids too!!

2 cups All-purpose flour (Maida)
1 cup powdered sugar (or adjust to taste)
1/2 cup butter or ghee (at room temp, or melted)
2 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk powder
12-15 pieces of almonds - slit in halves, skin removed (you can even use peanuts)
4 tsp almond essence (you can use vanilla if almond is not available)
Cookie cutter (optional)

Heat the oven to 350° F. Lightly coat a large baking tray with butter and dust with all-purpose flour and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and milk powder in a mixing bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a separate bowl till it is light and fluffy. Fold in the flour mixture into this and whisk again, in the same direction until it is smooth. Finally add the almond or vanilla essence. Remember, this will not be as liquid as your cake dough. Cookie dough is supposed to be firmer so that it can easily form shapes.

Now take some oil and grease your plams. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, then flatten the dough and form a circular shape with your palms. Keep pressing the edges to form a smooth cookie. Alternately, you can use a cookie cutter or mould if you are more comfortable with it. Pinch a small almond in the center of the cookie, and add the almond or peanut into it. Make all the nankhatais in this way and arrange on the baking tray, at least 1-2 inches apart. Bake them for 10-15 mins, or until done. Do not overbake as that would make them hard and burnt!

Remove from the oven, let them cool down to room temperature, then store them in an air-tight container. You can even refrigerate them for a longer period. Just warm them in the microwave for 10 secs before serving. Savour these simple and delicious almond cookies or nankhatai as it melts in your mouth!!

More Cookie Recipes:
Peppermint and Vanilla Butter Cookies
Fat and Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Yummy Potatoes: Cookbook Review

Yummy Potatoes

Last week I went through a box of recipes I had clipped from the San Francisco Chronicle. I found recipes dating back to the late 90's! I wish I was as good at organizing as I am at hoarding. Reviewing all those clippings, I can safely say I had saved more recipes written by Marlena Spieler than from anyone else. Spieler has been a writer for the Chronicle for ages and has written tons of cookbooks to boot.

So imagine my pleasure at receiving a review copy of Marlena Spieler's latest book, called Yummy Potatoes 65 Downright Delicious Recipes. And on the same day I posted one of my yummy potato recipes! Potatoes on the brain. I cannot tell you how delectable most of her recipes look! There are Breakfast Potatoes, Tapas, Meze and Antipasti, Soups, Salads, Mashes, Baked, Fried, Sides and a category called "Potatoes for Dinner!" I swear the exclamation point is hers, not mine, but it might as well be mine.

The notes that go with each recipe are filled with wonderful anecdotes like the time she went digging in HRH Prince Charles' garden, or took a class from James Beard and whether it's a story about her Aunt Stellie or her travels through Italy, France or Greece you can't help but wish Marlena were your friend to chat with over a meal. Anecdotes aside, I'll hang onto this book not just for the recipes but also for the inspired combinations like potatoes with lemon juice and olive oil, potatoes and chermoula, potatoes with pasta, tomatoes and cheese and potato enchiladas with red chile sauce. Check out several of the recipe on the Chronicle Books site. Yummy. Potatoes. Indeed!

Over at Bay Area Bites is my review of The Breakaway Cook.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Eggless Anjeer (Fig) Ice Cream

Anjeer or Fig Ice Cream has been my childhood favorite and recently, when I relished some home-made anjeer ice cream at a friend's place, I knew I had to try making this at home. She was gracious to share her recipe with me, and it turns out that it is not at all difficult to make this rich and creamy dessert at home! If fresh figs are not available, don't worry; dry figs work fine as well!! So here's a recipe for Anjeer(Fig)Ice Cream that will have you licking the bowl and asking for more!!

2 cups fresh figs (10-12 pieces) the dried figs can be used if you don't find the fresh ones
1 cup whole milk
3 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp honey
1/4 cup sugar (or adjust to taste)
2 eggs (optional - you can use 2 tbsp cornflour and 3 tbsp condensed milk instead of eggs)
2 tbsp sherry (optional)

1 tbsp vanilla essence
chopped nuts - for garnish

Peel the fresh figs and cut them into halves. If you are using dried figs, soak them in water for at least 2-3 hours to allow them to plump up. Now take a saucepan, add the figs and sugar to it and saute the figs for some time till they become swollen and soft. Mash with a spoon or spatula to form small pieces.

Now warm the whole milk a little (DO NOT BOIL, only warm) and set aside. Allow it to cool to room temperature. Beat the eggs, then add in the warm milk and whisk again. Finally add the whipping cream, honey, vanilla essence, sherry and the fig pieces. If you are making the eggless recipe, beat the condensed milk, add in the warm whole milk, cornflour and sugar and add the remaining ingredients as above. Set in a bowl and freeze it for a little more than an hour.

Remove from freezer, then beat it again using an electric beater or a spatula. Whisk until it becomes smooth and creamy, and no ice crust is formed. Now set it to freeze again immediately and leave so for 6-8 hours, or until the ice cream is set. You can also cover the container with a cloth to prevent forming ice crystals on the top of the ice cream.

Remove 2 mins before ready to serve, scoop out the ice cream into individual bowls, garnish with chopped nuts and serve with fresh figs!! This goes well with vanilla cakes too.

Tip: Honey and sherry add a unique flavour to the ice cream, so try not to omit them unless you can't find the ingredients. Also, warming the milk and allowing it to cool to room temperature helps reducing ice crust and makes the ice cream creamier, so don't skip that step!

This eggless anjeer (fig) ice cream is a delight to see and eat! This basic ice cream recipe can be followed to make your own variations by choosing different fruits and nut combinations

Similar Recipes:
Thai Fried Ice Cream
Banana Bread and Cream Cheese Dessert
Peach Melba with Cardamom Ice Cream

Lake Tahoe Travel Guide - A destination for any season!

One of the primary reasons I love living in Northern California is that there are so many weekend destinations around the area and so much to explore, and one such natural wonder is the panoramic Lake Tahoe. It's a name everyone in USA must have heard about, and no matter how much praise you have heard for it, experiencing it yourself will always beat hearing about it!! Heavenly and Divine is how I would describe Lake Tahoe, and if you haven't visited this lake before, read on to find out what you might be missing!!

Formed by a geological block (normal) fault about 2 to 3 million years ago, the Lake Tahoe Basin is about 22 miles (35 kms) long and 12 miles (19 kms) wide, and the second deepest lake in US after Crater Lake in Oregon. Large number of streams empty their water into this lake which is drained into the Truckee river which flows northeast through Reno and into Pyramid Lake in Nevada.

Summer Activities in Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe offers something for everyone, young or adult, and any time of the year. The other places are famous for summer campings and outings or winter sports, but this is one place which will captivate you with numerous activities throughout the year. In summer, the aqua-blue clean sparkling water of the lake invites you to take a dip into the lake or relax along its shore. Hiking, biking, camping, golf, tennis, fishing, boating and other water-sports will keep you engaged for the entire day, and the quiet night life will cater to your pleasant yet peaceful evenings. You can even go white-water rafting along truckee for some serious yet safe fun in the water. For the less adventurous people, drive around the lake's periphery in South Lake Tahoe to visit the famous Emerald Bay, and take a hike down to the Vikingsholm Castle. I also strongly recommend the Gondola Ride at Heavenly Mountains in summer for amazing views of the lake and the surrounding hills, and priced at $24 per person, it's a steal!! There are also carriage rides that take you around town, and the Emerald Bay Cruise at dinner time is ideal for a romantic evening on the lake. If this is not enough, there are museums and churches for the art-lovers, shopping and casinos in Reno for the nightlife enthusiasts, and luxurious spas and salons for those in need of a stress-busting vacation!!

Winter Activities in Lake Tahoe
As far as fun in the winter is concerned, Lake Tahoe is a paradise for skiers!! With a wide variety of slopes and mountains, it offers a huge range of skiing options for beginners, intermediates and experts. Heavenly Ski Resort is the most famous one in South Lake Tahoe, especially for beginners, and that is precisely where we went. The valley is beautiful, offers reasonably-priced ski lessons, and even if you cannot ski, the lesson ticket includes a ski-lift ride which takes you up to the mountain peak from where the view of the blue lake set amidst the white country is simply spectacular!! You can choose to ski down or come back in the lift. Snowboarding is another fun activity if you are not in the mood to ski, or you can take a sledge ride! We spent a great deal of time making snowman and sculptures in the area behind our hotel, and of course, throwing snowballs at each other was a highly cherished passtime too! Driving down to Reno in the evening is a suggested winter activity. Even if you don't gamble, the nightlife is worth the drive.

Hotels and accomodations are easy to find in Lake Tahoe and are affordable if you book in advance. There's a great rush for the ski season, so book your ski packages well before you plan to go. You can also find some houses to rent if you are going in a larger group. For more information, here are some useful sites:

Tahoe Visitor Guide
Tahoe-Best Places to visit
Things to do in Lake Tahoe

So if Lake Tahoe Travel is not on your to-do list, now is the time to add it there. Be it summer, sprint or winter, Lake Tahoe is an all-year-round destination full of activities and natural beauty that you don't want to miss!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lilva (Tuver) or Moong Dal Kachoris - Baked or Fried, your choice!!

Lilva kachoris are a famous gujarati snack savoured by people throughout the country. The small golden balls filled with Tuvar (Lilva) mixture are very tasty and can serve as perfect appetizers or a snack for a pot-luck party. You can even use moong dal for the filling to create a variation of the recipe. Both the versions promise to be instant hits! One of my aunts used to make them so good I could easily gobble 8-10 kachoris and yet feel the urge to grab more!! So try this authentic gujarati "Lilva ni Kachori", and I've showed you how to bake them rather than deep fry which makes it tasty and healthy at the same time!


For the kachori
3 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour(the latter is healthier but a little compromise on taste )
2 tbsp semolina (fine rava)
1 cup warm melted ghee (clarified butter)
salt - to taste
hot water - to knead the dough
oil for frying kachoris

For the filling
2 cups Lilva (Green Tuver)- only the pods (they are like peas, but smaller)
(you can also use the frozen Tuvar available in indian stores, just thaw it before use.)
2 tspn cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tspn carom seeds (ajwain)
1/2 tspn asafoetida (hing)
1 tspn turmeric powder (haldi)
1 tspn red chilli powder
2 tbsp green chilli-ginger paste
2 tspn sugar
salt and lemon juice - to taste

For the kachori, mix the salt, semolina and flour together and add the warm ghee to it. Mix well so that the entire flour is oiled and forms crumbles. Now knead the dough (not too thin or soft, just pliable enough) using warm water into a firm dough. The warm water and rava will help make the crust more crispier. Cover with a wet cloth and leave aside for 10-15 mins.

Take the tuvar seeds/pods and crush them with 2 tbsp water in the blender to form a semi-smooth paste. Now take a saucepan, add 2 tbsp oil to it, then add the cumin, carrom seeds, and asafoetida. When seeds splutter, add the tuvar/lilva to this. Season with green chilli-ginger paste, salt, lemon juice, sugar and the spices. Remove from flame once the mixture is well-cooked and keep aside.

Now divide the dough into small portions, and roll into a small circle. put a large spoonful of the filling into the center, then fold the dough over the filling to form a ball and seal the edges with a peak at the top (as shown in the pic) You can grease your palms a little and roll the ball between them to form an even ball if that's easier. Repeat for all the kachoris.

Deep Fry: Now heat oil in a wok and deep fry 3-4 kachoris at a time over medium-to high heat till they are golden brown in color. Serve hot with Green Chutney or Tamarind chutney.

Baked: Alternately, you can preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then place the kachoris on a large oven tray. Space them at least half inch apart and apply light margarine to them with a brush. Now bake them for 10-15 mins, then turn them over so the other areas can receive heat as well, and bake again for 10 mins, or till the surface becomes light brown in color.

Of course, the fried version is much tastier than the baked one, but if healthy is more important to you than tasty, you know what to choose!

Tip: For making Moong dal kachoris, Use 2 cups split yellow gram (yelow moong dal) instead of Lilva. Soak it in water for at least 2 hours before preparing the filling. Then use the method above for making the filling with the slight variation that add some water to the dal, and cover it and let it cook before you add all the spices to it. You do not need to blend the dal mixture. Just use the prepared mix as a filling for the kachoris.

Similar Recipes:
Hot and Spicy Samosas
Vegetarian Potato Cutlets
Tirangi Dhokla Sandwich

Mustard Roasted Potatoes: Recipe

Mustard roasted potatoes
In addition to being an absolute pasta freak, I am passionate about potatoes. I could eat pasta everyday and potatoes, probably every other day. I love them every which way. A number of years ago Oprah's personal chef at the time wrote a cookbook called In the Kitchen with Rosie. It was a huge bestseller and featured very low fat recipes. There were some good recipes and techniques in the book. One of the recipes that made a big impression on me was called Mustard Roasted Potatoes.

The Mustard Roasted Potato recipe was red potatoes tossed with Dijon mustard, cumin, paprika, chili and cayenne. The potatoes roast in the oven and become all crusty and delectable. It's a great technique and can be endlessly varied. I've incorporated plain yogurt, fresh herbs, and different kinds of mustard. I like the Moroccan mustard from Dulcet Cuisine for this recipe because it has so much flavor you don't need to add any additional spices, but feel free to experiment and try any spiced mustard you like or add some spices.

Seriously, these potatoes are like candy they are so good! They are as addictive as french fries but infinitely healthier. Serve them as a side dish but make extras because they reheat fabulously well and even make a great snack. This is also about the least fussy recipe ever, you really can't go wrong with it.

Mustard Roasted Potatoes
Serves 4

1/3 cup Moroccan mustard
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cut into small thumb-sized chunks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard and olive oil. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Dump the potatoes onto a foil lined large rimmed baking sheet and spread them in a single layer. Roast, tossing with a spatula a few times, until the potatoes are crusty on the outside and tender throughout, about an hour. Serve hot.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Methi Malai Mutter Curry (Fenugreek and Peas Curry)

"Methi" or Fenugreek is a wonderful green leafy vegetable full of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. It helps cleanse your system, improve your eyesight and increase resistance and immunity level of your body against toxins. And though it is packed with nutrients, there's only one thing which could possibly draw you away from it, and that is it's slightly-bitter taste. I myself had tantrums about eating Methi when I was in my teens, until I discovered the world of methi parathas, methi bhajiyas (gotas) and very recently, Methi-Malai-Matar Gravy. It tastes amazing, not bitter at all, and goes perfectly well with rice or parathas. So here's sharing with you another healthy and tasty recipe!!

3 cups methi (fenugreek) leaves - washed and chopped
1 cup boiled green peas
1/2 onion - chopped finely
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 cup fresh cream
3 large tbsp cashews
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp green chilli paste
2 tbsp ghee or butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
salt - to taste
1 tbsp sugar (optional)

Take the methi leaves in a bowl, add turmeric & salt & keep it like that for 5 mins. Then wash the methi off in cold water so that the bitterness of the methi is reduced.

Make a smooth paste of cashews and milk and keep aside. Take a pan and boil the methi leaves along with the salt and sugar. Once done, allow this to cool.

Now take another pan, add the butter or ghee, the cumin seeds and onions. Saute for a mintue or so until done. Then add the ginger-garlic paste, the green chilli paste, the cashew paste and mix well. Also add the turmeric powder, garam masala powder, red chilli powder and adjust salt/sugar and lemon juice to your taste. Saute for another 1-2 mins. Now add the methi and the peas. Finally, add in the fresh cream and mix well. Keep stirring gently; be careful as the mixture can cause bubbles and splash. Now saute till fat is separated from the sides, the flavor of methi, cream and cashews is well blended and a sweet aroma arises. (Don't worry, the curry will not be sweet!)

Remove from heat and pour into a serving dish. Garnish with chopped coriander and fresh cream and serve hot with Parathas or Jeera Rice!!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Paneer and Ajwain Paratha

Everyone has enjoyed paneer in gravies, but it tastes equally great stuffed in a paratha. Paneer Paratha is a savoured flat bread amongst Indians. It is also a healthy breakfast item with tea and it sure is a favourite with kids! Enjoy this simple Paneer Paratha recipe. The latter helps in digestion and also gives a beautiful aroma and flavour to the paratha.

3 cups wheat flour
1 cup paneer - crumbled or shredded
2 tbsp ajwain seeds(carrom seed or Bishop's weed) - roasted and crushed (optional)
1 tbsp jeera
3 green chillies
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste (optional)
salt, sugar and lemon juice- to taste
2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup coriander - chopped
2 tbsp oil
water - to knead dough

Knead the dough with water and 2 tbsp oil as you would for any parathas.(Check out the "how to make a paratha" video for a visual instruction). Cover and keep it aside for 15 mins.

Now mix all the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Crumble the paneer and mix all the spices and ajwain with the paneer. Mash with your hands so the paneer mixture becomes soft and maleable. Now divide it into equal portions to use as filling for the parathas.

Take a small part of the dough. Roll it out into a small circle, then put the filling mixture in the center. Roll over the dough over the filling and make into a ball. Then flatten it between your palms, roll in plain flour and once again roll this into a thick paratha.

Put a griddle over medium heat and cook the parathas on both sides over the griddle. Apply oil or butter on each side. Serve hot with a dollop of butter and any curry (check recipes here)

Similar Recipes:
Vegetable Cheese Paratha
Makkai(Sweet-corn) Parathas

Friday, September 21, 2007

Farina: Restaurant Review

My review of a relatively new Italian restaurant in the Mission district, called Farina is up over at SF Station.

Aside from a few rough spots, I liked the place and will go again. I had a good meal of mostly Ligurian style focaccia and pastas with Lee and my friend Alton. It was also fun running into author and scientist Harold McGee, former SF Chronicle restaurant reviewer Amanda Berne, chef Daniel Patterson and his wife, just one table away.

I like this photo because it's a bit of a "where's Waldo?" I took it from across the street and Lee is in it.

Caramelized Almond Strawberry and Cream Dessert

I love almonds and pecans, and one day at a mall in Dallas, when I first tasted caramelised pecan crunch snacks, I was ecstatic. It was so simple, and yet so perfectly tasty. And then recently I tried the almonds as a topping on my ice cream sundae. Again tasted amazing! So naturally, I thought it'd be great to combine the 2 things and make a dessert, right? This inspiration led to the birth of my Caramelized Almond Strawberry and Cream dessert. I added the strawberries as they blend very well with cream and almonds, and the experiment turned out to be a rich, creamy and nutty dessert in a glass!!

1 cup castor sugar (regular sugar coarsely grounded)
1/2 cup almonds - chopped and toasted
1 small tin whipping Cream (you can also use Nestle Cream)
2 cups fresh cream
1 tspn vanilla essence
1 cup sweet biscuits (almond or nut flavored work best) - crushed
1 cup fresh strawberries - washed and cut

Dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 1/4th cup water and add to a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat for few minutes or until sugar becomes caramel. Now add the almonds and stir in with the caramel. Remove from heat and spoon over a greased baking tray and set aside to cool to room temperature. When almond caramel cools, crush in a food processor to grind corasely so that pieces are still remaining.(You can put the almonds in a plastic bag, and thrash the bag on the kitchen counter to crush the almonds too)

Combine the whipping Cream, fresh liquid cream, remaining sugar and vanilla essence and whisk for 5-6 minutes or until mixture is stiff and forms peaks. Add the biscuits and strawberries and fold with the mixture.

Now spoon the cream mixture in an individual cup halfway and sprinkle with the crushed caramelized almonds then another layer of cream mixture, followed by more almond mix and finally garnish with cream and cut strawberries. Add a sprig of mint for a color splash! Refrigerate this until serving time and serve chilled!!

Marinated Mustard Vegetables: Recipe

Marinated Mustard Vegetables
I don't think you can ever have enough vegetable recipes. Growing up I ate vegetables steamed and served plain. Frankly I found them pretty boring served that way and I still do. Vegetables should be savored. Of course drenching them in hollandaise sauce or butter makes them taste good, but that's not the only way to dress them up. I like sauteing vegetables with a little red chili, garlic, sprinkling them with fresh herbs, Indian spices, drizzling on any numbers of flavorings.

So often the recipes I develop for clients are very meat-oriented. I like challenging myself to come up with interesting vegetable dishes when I can. This marinated vegetable salad was developed because I wanted to find something that would be good for a potluck, It uses a variety of vegetables and can be served cold or at room temperature, but won't wilt like a green salad.

Unlike some dishes that I have to repeat several times to get right, this one was a surprise because it came out great the first time I tried it. I like experimenting with mustard as a seasoning for vegetables. We usually think of it as something to serve on hot dogs but it is so much more versatile than that. The Moroccan mustard from Dulcet Cuisine has pungent flavors of ginger, coriander, garlic and paprka in it. Just a mere tablespoon flavors a big batch of vegetables beautifully. You could easily vary the vegetables to taste. It keeps very well in the refrigerator.

Marinated Mustard Vegetables

2 cups small broccoli florets
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 cups button mushrooms, cut into chunks
1 cup zucchini, cut into chunks
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Moroccan mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine vegetables in a large zip lock bag; set aside. Combine vinegar, mustard and olive oil in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously. Pour over vegetables, and toss the bag gently to coat them completely. The mixture will seem a bit dry, but the vegetables will become more juicy as they marinate. Marinate in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally. Serve cold or at room temperature.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Celebrating Food Art - Edible Animal Sculptures

An artist is a person worthy to be revered and respected. And art knows no boundaries, no regions; just a significant amount of imagination, determination and diligence, and of course, some talent!! So let's take a moment to look at these beautiful and intricate works of edible art. You don't have to try to match these works of excellence, but if it inspires you even a little to be creative about your presentation techniques, my job here is done!

These are works from famous artists, definitely not by me. I'm just an admirer of art, saluting these geniuses, just like you...

An "Easter Bunny" carved from a Melon.....

A beautiful "Swan" carved out of Cheese.....

An "Alligator" carved from a Pineapple.....

A "Pegasus" sculptured out of Butter.....

A "Cute and kind Orange Couple" adopting a "Tomato".....

And finally, the perfect centre-piece for a couple "Just Married".....

Whole Wheat Chocolate-Chip Pancakes

This is an extra-special post, because it marks the first milestone in my blogging career. The 100th post on Fun and Food!! yippee...I take this moment to thank all my friends and readers for their constant support in the form of feedback, comments and emails. I share this success with all of you, and I hope to keep bringing more such delectable recipes and fun yet informative posts to your attention! Let's celebrate this moment with one of my favourites - Pancakes!! I love IHOP and always keep pestering my husband to take me there:) But it's become less often now after I decided to get conscious about health and weight loss. So not compromising on either the taste, or the healthy aspect, here's presenting Whole Wheat Chocolate-chip Pancakes.

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
1 1/2 cups plain milk or buttermilk
2 egg whites
2 tbsp margarine (or low-fat butter)
1/2 cup mini semisweet dark chocolate chips
Honey (or maple syrup) - for topping

Pass the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl through a fine seive. Now whisk together the egg whites, milk or buttermilk, margarine and sugar in another bowl until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture and mix together to combine well. Finally add the chocolate chips. do not beat more lest the chocolate gets dissolved.

Heat a griddle or a pan over medium heat. Grease with non-stick cooking spray or a spoonful of oil. Now take a large ladleful of batter and drop it gently in the centre of the griddle to form a medium-sized pancake. Let it cook till it becomes swollen, edges get dry and bubbles begin to form (about 1-2 mins.) Now flip it around and cook the other side the same way until light golden brown in color. Repeat with the remaining batter.

if you are not comfortable with mixing choco-chips in the batter, and may fear that it will stik to the griddle, you can also sprinkle them once you have poured the batter and you see that the pancake is partially cooked.

Serve hot with a cup of coffee. Drizzle with powdered sugar, a dollop of margarine and honey or maple syrup. You can even use light chocolate syrup- works great with kids!! Indulge into a healthy yet sweet and heavenly delight. What a perfect way, to start your day!!

Tip: If you are in a great mood as I am, go ahead and add some light whpped cream on top of these pancakes and kick it up a notch!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sukhdi or Golpapadi (Wheatflour dessert)

Sukhdi or GolPapadi is a famous gujarati sweet made of wheat flour and jaggery. Even today, if you visit a traditional gujarati household, 8 times out of 10 you will find their pantry stuffed with tins full of "spicy naastas" and sweet delights like matthri, shakkarpara, sukhdi, mohanthaal and more! My mom used to make them so well, and I still remember coming back from school or classes and hogging down 2-3 pieces at a time. "Sukhdi" is an easy recipe, and what makes it more inviting is the fact that it can be stored for a fortnight or so without any problems. It is not too sweet, and combines the goodness of wheat, jaggery and ghee. So here's my mom's recipe straight out of my kitchen!

2 cups whole wheat flour
31/2 cups ghee
1 1/2 cup jaggery - sliced thinly
4 tbsp milk

Take a pan, add half of the ghee to it and add the wheat flour. saute the flour on medium heat while constantly stirring. As the flour tends to cook and change color, it will soak up all the ghee. keep adding the remaining ghee to the mixture a little at a time and keep stirring. Do this till fat separates from the sides (you can see a little ghee separated on the edges of the pan) and the color of the flour changes from white to light pinkish brown and finally to a light golden brown.Finally add the milk, stir it in and lower the flame to lowest.

While this is being done, take a baking dish with edges or a cake pan, apply a thin layer of ghee to it and dust it lightly with flour. Shave the jaggery or slice it thinly to form even mixture without any lumps. Remove the pan from the heat, add the jaggery to the flour and mix well. Taste and adjust to add more jaggery if you wish.

Pour the batter into the greased dish and pat ligtly with your hand. Use a flat-bottomed cup (katori) to spread the mixture evenly in the dish. Let it cool for 3-5 mins. Now cut into small squares or diamonds with a knife and keep in the same dish until it is entirely cool. Only then remove the pieces and store in an air-tight container. You can store this at room temperature for 15-20 days easily. Use as a sweet snack any time of the day!! This goes to Mythilli's RCI-Gujarat event!

Makkai Parathas (Sweet Corn Parathas) with Raita

The season of sweet corn is still on in California, and 2 days ago, when I saw a farmer picking fresh corn from a field in front of our house, I decided I had to make something with corn this week. And one of my friends in Australia, Janki, had also requested me to post some corn recipes as she loves them. Well, there might be very few people who don't like corn! So here's the Makai (Maize flour) Paratha recipe. It is similar to corn tortillas, but it tastes way better with all the spices and sweet corn kernel added to it. Enjoy it for dinner and for breakfast the next day! And with corn, its a whole and hearty meal too!!

2 cups corn meal flour(makkai atta)
1 cup wheat flour
5 tbsp oil
1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2-3 green chillies - chopped
1/4th cup cilantro - chopped
spices - garam masala, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, dhana-jeeru - to taste
salt - to taste
2 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp yoghurt
Hot water to knead the flour
Salted Butter to saute the parathas

Take a frying pan, add 2 tbsp oil, jeera and chopped green chillies and allow to saute. Then add the ginger-garlic paste, sweet corn, chopped coriander, the dry spices, sugar, lemon juice and salt and mix well.

In a bowl, combine the maize and wheat flours, add the sauteed filling mixture, add oil and use hot water to knead into regular paratha like dough. Use your hands to keep kneading it a little more than regular dough because maize flour is more coarse hence needs more pressure to become soft and elastic. Keep covered with a damp cloth and leave so for 10-15 mins.

Now make equal-sized balls out of the dough. Take each ball and roll it into a circular paratha using a rolling pin. The edges might look a little jagged, but that is normal with makkai atta. Saute the paratha on both sides in a pan on medium-to-high heat. Apply butter on both sides while sauteing. You can use margarine or oil, but butter gives the most flavor with corn. Cook on both sides till done.

Raita Recipe
For a very basic raita, mix some yoghurt and whisk it till smooth, adding very little water. Chop some tomatoes, cucumber and onions and add to the yoghurt. Now add salt, red chilli powder and chaat masala to taste and season it. Mix well and your basic raita is ready.

Serve the Corn (Makkai) Parathas hot with curry or Raita!

Crispy Panko Mustard Chicken: Recipe

Crispy Panko Mustard Chicken
Do you know panko? It's a Japanese style of bread crumbs used to coat fried food. The crumbs are large and very flaky. It's made from yeast-raised bread dough that is baked in a special oven so it does not form a crust. The crumbs start out very pale colored but cook up golden brown. You can find it in the Asian section of just about any supermarket.

Traditional Japanese recipes using panko include Tonkatsu, a breaded fried pork cutlet. It is delicious, like most fried food, but not very healthy. I knew there had to be a way to use panko to make an oven-fried crispy chicken breast or cutlet. But I will admit, it took several attempts to get this one right. It really satisfies that craving for crispy fried food but is practically guilt-free. I used the Creole Mustard from Dulcet Cuisine which has a stone-ground texture and is flavored with onion, garlic, paprika, pepper and thyme. So I guess this is kind of a Southern/Japanese fusion entree.

The trick to this technique is to mix the panko crumbs with just a little bit of melted butter then put it on top of the mustard coated chicken by hand instead of dipping the chicken in the crumbs. You can use any kind of mustard you like, but the Creole Mustard is really terrific with this recipe. I recommend letting the chicken cool a little and serving it in slices with roast potatoes, carrots and brussels sprouts.

Crispy Panko Mustard Chicken
serves 2

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon Creole Mustard
1/4 cup panko
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Melt the butter in a small dish in a microwave oven then combine the butter with the panko crumbs in a small mixing bowl.

Coat chicken breasts with mustard then place on a greased, foil-lined baking sheet, top with crumbs and bake approximately 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fried Ice Cream

Ice Creams have always been man's best friend! I can't imagine a world without this beautiful dessert...Everything started with a simple Vanilla Ice cream, and as the years went by, this little beauty transformed into different flavors and colors, spreading its charm upon family gatherings, peaceful evenings or large extravagant parties!! One such variation that I came across was "Fried Ice Cream". I tried it for the first time in an asian restaurant. I was baffled by the name and the concept, and just out of curiosity, we ordered this dessert. But we were very pleasantly surprised with what we saw - simple vanilla ice cream ball deep fried into a golden brown color, and the first bite itself was like a trip to heaven!! Hot and crispy on the outside, and soft and gooey on the inside, indulge into this creative dessert variety that is sure to win your hearts!!

This recipe is adapted from Emeril's recipe on his Food Network show. A perfect way to use plain leftover ice cream, huh?!

1 quart vanilla or coconut ice cream - 3-4 scoops
1 cup crushed frosted cornflakes (Kellogs or other)
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes (if you like nuts, use walnuts or choco-chip cookies)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp sugar
Vegetable oil, for frying
Hot chocolate sauce or strawberry sauce
Whipped cream (optional)

With an ice cream scoop, form 4 large balls of ice cream. Place on a dish and freeze for at least 2 hours. I tried going safe and actually froze it for 5 hours:)

Grind the cornflakes first so they are converted into a fine powder. Do the same with any other ingredients you are using, like walnuts or cookies.In a bowl, combine the cornflake crumbs with the coconut and walnuts (or cookies). Spread the mixture in a shallow dish. Now dip the ice cream balls in the crumb mixture, roll around so each ball is evenly coated with the mixture and freeze again for 30 minutes.

In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Dip the coated ice cream balls into the eggs, then gently roll in the crumb mixture again, coating completely. In this case, the more you coat, the better it will be. No part of ice cream should be left uncoated!:)Freeze for another 1-2 hours, or until you are ready to serve.

Heat the oil in a large pot and wait till it is really hot (around 375 degrees). One at a time, lower the balls into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 10-15 seconds only. Do not fry more else the balls will crumble and the ice cream will melt!! Just long enough that the cornflake covering gets cooked.

Remove from the oil, drain on a piece of paper and place immediately in a dessert bowl. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and whipped cream and dazzle your guests with your Fried Coconut Ice Cream!! Remember, you should deep fry the balls immediately before serving only. Do not fry and keep!

Tip: If you want to make this eggless, try using maida (refined flour) with a little water and use this batter instead of egg yolks for fried ice cream. You can use any ice cream flavor that you like, but vanilla, coconut, butter pecan or chocolate would be the best suggestions. Also, try not skipping the coconut shavings in the mixture as this adds a nice crispy flavor to the dessert.

Similar Recipes:
Fried Banana with Ice Cream
Delicious Anjeer(Fig) Ice cream

Fettuccini Alfredo with Basil and Rosemary

Pasta is similar to noodles, except that it is now available in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors. Italian by origin, pasta is something that is loved and cherished in every household in US. It also generally involves a quick and easy preparation, coming to your rescue when you need a healthy and filling meal in as little time as possible. Supermarket aisles are full of different kinds of pasta like Penne, bow-tie, spagetti, fettuccini, fusili, tortiglioni, tripoline, pruntalette and more! Its interesting to know the names and the shapes:) and now, considering the health awareness among people, they also sell whole wheat pasta! Fettuccini is my favourite, and I've always loved the smell of basil and rosemary. One another ingredient that I cannot have my pasta witout, is pine nuts! They look like tiny watermelon seeds, and taste great when roasted. So here's my recipe for Fettuccini in Alfredo Sauce with Basil, Rosemary, Pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes!

1/2 packet of whole wheat pasta - fettuccini
4 tbsp alfredo sauce (I use Classico's) - to make your own sauce, check recipe below
4 tbsp marinara sauce
3 tbsp sun dried tomatoes (optional)
3 garlic cloves - chopped finely
1/2 cup capsicum - chopped finely
1/2 cup onions - chopped finely
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper - to taste
2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
a fistful of pine nuts (optional)
2 tsp basil herbs
1 tsp rosemary herbs (optional)

For Alfredo Sauce
1/2 cup butter
2 garlic cloves - minced
2 cups heavy cream or whole milk
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese

For the Alfredo Sauce, Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, cream/milk, white pepper and bring mixture to a simmer. Keep stirring continuously so it does not stick at the bottom. Add the parmesan cheese and simmer sauce for 8-10 minutes or until it has thickened and is smooth. When sauce has thickened add the mozzarella cheese and stir until smooth. Remember to keep stirring constantly.

Take a large pan and fill it with water. Add the pasta to it, and 1 tbsp oil and cook partially covered until the pasta is soft and done.

In a saucepan, add the olive oil and saute the garlic, onions and capsicums for about 2 mins. Then fry the pine nuts for a few seconds, and add the alfredo and marinara sauces.

Add salt, pepper, red chilli powder and sun-dried tomatoes and mix everything together.

Take out the pasta in a serving bowl, pour the sauce over it and toss the noodles so they are coated in the sauce evenly. Sprinkle the basil and rosemary herbs and toss lightly. Serve the garlic Fettucine Alfredo with salad or Garlic Bread! Who needs Olive Garden or Pasta Pomedoro anymore!! As this is something I am always comfortable making, this pasta bowl is on its way to the Tried-Tested-and-True Recipe Roundup!

Similar Recipes
Baked Rigatoni in Marinara Sauce
Asian-Style Sphagetti with Garlic and Cilantro

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tres Leches Milk Cake

Cakes have been famous since decades as a dessert, and with each new day, you are bound to find many variations to a traditional cake which make these sweet delicacies even more delightful. I recently tried one such variation at a friend's birthday party, and was totally enthralled by the pure richness of this cake. It is called the Tres Leches Cake, which literally means "3 types of milk" cake. It was so sweet and soft that you put a spoon in your mouth and it melts!! And it is so simple to make too. As the name suggests, it uses 3 types of milk to form a layered cake which is soft to the core. It goes extremely well as a cake, but what I like the most about it is that it can be used to make perfect desserts, especially those to be served in a glass, with fruit toppings, ice cream and chocolate! Try it for yourself.

1 packet of vanilla or yellow cake mix (or you can bake a cake from scratch-Vanilla Cake recipe) 1 cup whole milk
1 cup condensed milk - lightly sweetened
1 cup evaporated milk (method described below)
1/2 cup shredded coconut shavings
For garnish - cherries and whipping cream

For making the evaporated milk:
Pour 2 1/2 cups whole milk into a medium heavy saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 45 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sugar and continue simmering until reduced to 1 cup. The milk should turn light cream in color. Collect in a cup and keep aside to cool.

Bake the cake as outlined on the cake mix, or follow the recipe here.

In large bowl, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk.

When the cake is cool, remove it from the pan and trim off the browned top, bottom, and side surfaces of the cake. This way you only have the soft inner core of the cake. Clean the cake pan and line it with two long, pieces of plastic wrap or butter paper. Return the cake to the pan and poke top of cake every 1/2 inch with a fork or toothpick. Slowly pour the Tres Leches Milk over the cake. Fold the ends of the plastic wrap over the top of the cake to enclose it completely so that milk does not drizzle out and instead gets soaked well by the cake. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight, if you have the time.

Right before serving, cut the cake into slices, spread the whipping cream on the top, and garnish with raspberry sauce and a cherry. You can even toss it into a glass, cover it with some strawberry pieces, then pour some chocolate sauce on it and serve like a classic dessert!!

Spinach-Strawberry-Almond Salad

Salads have been considered as a healthy food since a long time now. And there was a time when they were healthy, yet dull and boring. But here's a strawberry salad that is colorful, tasty and nutritious. Additions of fruits, nuts and dressings can make a huge difference! Try this Spinach Strawberry and Almond salad which is tasty, with a tinge of sweetness. I had first had it in a salad buffet place called "Sweet Tomatoes", and here is my adapted recipe. I think the sweetness of strawberries goes well with the lemon-orange juice and oil dressing. The nuts and cheese take it to another level altogether!

1 bunch spinach leaves - rinsed
10 medium strawberries- sliced into halves
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp slivered almonds or walnuts
1/2 onion - chopped in thin rings (optional)
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tspn salt
1 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil (if not available, use veg oil)

Take a small bowl and mix the vegetable and olive oil, salt, lemon juice, orange juice and pepper. Whisk well to form an even dressing.

Cut the strawberries into bite-sized pieces and add the powdered sugar to them. Set aside so they induce the sweetness.

Take a large salad bowl, add the spinach leaves and strawberries. Then add in the dressing and toss it around so the salad gets coated evenly. Add the chopped or slivered almonds/walnuts and mix again a little. Garnish with the shredded cheese. Serve as a side dish or even as a main course!!

It is not only colorful and tasty, but full of essential vitamins, iron, anti-oxidants, protein and good lipids - everything needed for a healthy heart and mind! This Spinach & Strawberry Salad is a perfect summer salad for barbecue parties or cocktail evenings!

Similar Recipes:
Mixed Green Salad with Apricots
Roasted Asparagus Salad with Garlic
Spring Salad with Cranberries and Pecans

Favorite Things: Route 29 Napa

Route 29 Napa
I'm a sucker for great looking packaging. If it's cute and retro that just clinches it. While I was a little confused at first as to why the brand name is Route 29 Napa and the company is located in Minneapolis, I like their candy nonetheless. Made in small batches it's fresh and fun.

Route 29 sells mostly old-fashioned style American candies such as toffees, caramels, and licorice. My favorite though are the chewy peps. The tin says "succulent dilemma" and after one candy you'll understand. The minute you put one in your mouth it's so mouthwatering and cooling you want to munch into it, but it's so hard that you know you shouldn't. As it softens in your mouth it turns from a hard candy to a delectable chewy one.

Lee and I are also fond of the chocolate covered potato chips. It's that sweet salty combo I crave. It may not be as trendy as chocolate covered bacon, but it works. I find that both of these candies are rich and satisfying enough that I don't go overboard eating them, but maybe that's just a sign of my amazing self control. The prices for the candies are very reasonable so I look forward to giving them as gifts. Check out the bargain section of the web site for sales and discounted items.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Churma Laddoos (Wheat Flour Ladoos)

Lord Ganesha, the elephant-faced Indian God is famous in Indian and non-Indian households alike! Even my Chinese and American colleagues believe in his divine power. The symbol of prosperity, happiness, and success, legend says that praying to Ganpati with a true heart can solve all your troubles or problems. Stories about miracles created by this iconzed idol have been experienced in many households, and on this auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi, millions of people in India would be following a tradition of ganesh puja for
10 days. Appealing to Lord Ganesha on this day, keeps your house and family protected and prosperous for the rest of the year! So here's what I offered to Shri Ganesh, churma laddoos (Wheat Flour Ladoos). This is his favourite dish, so I'm vouching on peace and prosperity in our house after serving him these!! But the credit of the result goes to my mom, for without her supervision and guidance, I don't think my laddoos would have come out so great! So here's sharing with you the traditional gujarati recipe of Churma na Ladoo:)

2 cups wheat flour
2 cups ghee
2 cups jaggery - shredded or thinly sliced/slivered
3 cups ghee (clarified butter)
3/4 cup milk and water mixture
2 tsp cardamom powder
1 tbsp poppy seeds (khuskhus) - optional

Take the flour and use the water/milk mixture to knead a very hard dough. Then use your palms to form fist-sized koftas/rolls from the dough. These should be very hard; if you drop them they should not break or crumble. Now take a little ghee and fry these balls till they turn a little more than light brown in color. Set them aside to cool.

Once the fried rolls come down to room temperature, crush them in a dry grinder to form a coarse powder. Do not grind it too smooth; it should be about the size of Rava or coarse semolina. Now take this powder in a large saucepan or a dish with an edge. Add the cardamom powder to the mixture. Warm the ghee to make it liquid, and slowly add it to the powder. Keep mixing it evenly with the flour powder by rubbing the mixture between your hands. Make sure the ghee temperature is manageable and you do not scald your fingers and palms. Keep adding the ghee, then add the slivered jaggery to it and mix evenly. Once you feel the mixture is reasonably soft, grease your hands, take a small portion and roll it into a medium-sized ball, or laddoo. Choose a size you are comfortable with. Remove the poppy seeds in a dish and roll each laddoo in this.

You can refrigerate and store these for 10-12 days. Just microwave for 4-5 seconds before serving to enhance the softness, taste and texture!

Sending this to Latha's Ganesh Chaturthi event....

Friday, September 14, 2007

Restaurant-Style Tomato Soup

If you open a menu in a restaurant and look under Soups and Appetizers, 9 times out of 10 you are bound to find an entry for Creamy Tomato Soup. This soup has by-far always outweighed its competitors, and though there are many new flavours of soup being offered, Tomato Soup continues to be a favourite! I'm sure everyone must have tried making this at home, but for those of you who crave to create a restaurant-style version, here's a Tomato Soup recipe that is bound to hit the nail! It has been tried, tested and adored in our family for quite some time now.

8-10 large fresh plump tomatoes - chopped in chunks
1/2 cup onions - chopped
5-6 garlic cloves - cut into pieces
2 bay leaves
5-6 cloves (lavang)
1 tsp black pepper powder
salt - to taste
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp whipping cream (or fresh cream)
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp butter
6-8 cups of water (according to your desired consistency)
mint or coriander leaves - for garnish
cream or shredded cheese - for garnish
croutons (for garnish)

Take a huge crock-pot and add the butter to it. When it melts, add the chopped onions and garlic, alongwith the bay leaves, red chilli powder and cloves. Saute for about 1-2 mins. Then add the tomatoes and fill with water so that water just barely covers the mixture. Partially cover the pot and let the mixture boil till all the tomatoes are well-cooked and almost-mashed.

Now take the pot off the stove and allow to cool to room temperature. Add the mixture to a blender (do it in 2 parts if necessary, do not overload the blender) and puree it to form a thick and smooth paste. Now take the pot and a colander (a sieve with a little bigger pores) and pass the blended mixture through the colander and into the crockpot. Gently rub your fingers through the sieve so that only the thick juice is collected in the pot and the residue stays behind in th colander.

Now put the pot on low flame again, add the salt, black pepper powder and slowly add the cream, a little at a time. Keep stirring to prevent the mixture to stick to the bottom. Add water as necessary to attain desired consistency. Do not make it too liquid. The cream gives you the beautiful orangish-reddish color you see in the picture, so do not think of omitting this! Let it cook for another 8-10 mins so that the cream blends well with the tomatoes and you can smell the aroma of the spices.

Once done, serve in soup bowls. garnish with cheese or cream and chopped coriander or mint leaves. This restaurant-style Tomato Soup goes best with breadsticks or Grilled Cheese Toast!

Similar Recipes:
Veg Hot and Sour Soup
Green Peas and Mint Soup
Veg Tom-Kha Gai Thai Soup
Roasted Pumpkin-Onion Bisque

Grilled Cheese, Pear & Smoked Turkey Sandwich: Recipe

grilled cheese sandwich turkey and pear
Recently I've been having some fun in the kitchen creating recipes using products from Dulcet Cuisine including my favorite, the Madras Curry Mustard. I'm not the only one to have fallen in love with it, it was chosen the grand champion at the 2006 Napa Valley Mustard Festival Worldwide Mustard Competition. It's a mildly spicy mustard that really perks up all kinds of dishes.

Whenever I'm in Hayes Valley around lunchtime, I'm always tempted to stop by Arlequin for a toasted cheddar, pear and bacon sandwich. The bread is crispy and crunchy, the cheese oozes and the sweetness of the pear is offset by the smoky saltiness of the bacon. Taking that sandwich as inspiration I decided to add mustard to my version. I was sure the warm spices including cinnamon, clove and cayenne in the mustard would really be delicious with the pear but I didn't want the intensity of bacon for this sandwich. After experimenting a bit, the combination I settled on was smoked turkey, white cheddar and pear. Smoked turkey is a good sandwich choice, it adds some heft and lean protein, and is healthier than ham or bacon.

One trick to getting this sandwich is right is to layer the ingredients just so. Start with a mustard slathered slice of bread and top it with cheese. The cheese and the mustard will kind of melt together. Put the smoked turkey in the middle and on the top put the pear. By grilling or toasting the sandwich on both sides in a pan you get a warmed through pear and gooey cheese that holds the turkey firmly in the middle. Make sure the cheese has melted before taking it off the heat. The last key is to let the sandwich sit for a few minutes before slicing, if you can!

Grilled Cheese, Pear and Smoked Turkey Sandwich
serves 1

2 slices of sandwich bread, white or wheat
Madras Curry mustard
One half a ripe pear, thinly sliced (enough to cover the bread)
2-3 thin slices white cheddar cheese
2 very thin slices smoked turkey

Butter the bread on one side of each slice, and spread mustard on one slice. Layer cheese, turkey and one layer of pear on top of the mustard spread side of bread and top with another slice. Buttered sides of the bread should be facing out. Toast in a frying pan, sandwich press or non-stick grill. If toasting in a pan, place something on top of the sandwich to weigh it down such as baking sheet or a heavy frying pan. Cook until golden brown and cheese melts. Let cool slightly before cutting in half and serving.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vegetable Timbales (Tri-color Vegetable Cupcakes)

Timbales are actually shallow single-headed drums, much smaller than the regular drums, and resembling inverted cups. Yes, they are musical instruments, and if you are wondering why I am rambling about music on a food blog, it is because the recipe that I share with you today is "Vegetable Timbales" or "Tri-color Inverted Vegetable Cupcakes", as I like to call them. They are so named because of their distinct resemblance in shape to the Timbales instrument. In fact, it is an excellent Appetizer with a Soup, or goes perfectly well as a side dish too! This recipe is an inspiration from a similar one I saw on one of the Food Network shows. It is basically a boiled or baked dish, cooked with layered vegetables, and the colors and flavors found in this dish make it a worthy addition to your party platters!

The focus of this dish is more to its color and presentation, so choose colored vegetables to form the layers. The egg-yolks and cream give it a nice texture, firm yet soft and pliable. It can be steamed or baked, but I prefer the previous method as it's more close to the original recipe and also makes the timbales more fluffy.
1 cup carrots- shredded
1 cup peas - boiled and mashed
1 cup red capsicum - chopped finely
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 egg yolks
pinch of nutmeg
salt and black pepper - to taste

Steam the carrots or boil them so they are fully cooked. Wash and boil the peas too and mash them. Chop the capsicums and keep aside. Now take a sauce pan and put 1 tsp olive oil and saute all the 3 vegetables separately. Saute them one after the other until fully cooked and stop when they start giving out a grilled-like aroma.

Now Puree each vegetable separately in a blender. For carrots, add 1/3 of the cream to make a smooth paste. Divide the remaining cream into 2 parts and add each portion to the capsicums and peas separately while blending.
Keep in 3 separate bowls.

Beat the egg yolks and add individually to each paste. Season each batch with salt, pepper and nutmeg powder.

Grease 2 muffin moulds; layer each mould with the 3 purees starting with the carrot, then peas and finally capsicum at the top. Cook these moulds in a double boiler with water coming half way up the sides of the moulds. Cook for a little more than an hour. You can also use a steam coooker without the whistle, but be careful not to overcook the timbales.

To serve, put a plate over each mould; turn it upside down and gently tap the mould to release the timbales. This works as a great appetizer for your parties or you could even Serve it with a salad or Tomato Soup !

Tip: I've used only 3 veggies here,but you can pick as many and whatever vegetables as you like to create more layers. Some suggestions would be spinach, watercress, potatoes and even cheese! You can even combine Cooked Rice as one of the layers!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Exploring Las Vegas - A picturesque walk along the famous strip

We visited Las Vegas second time last week, and this time we had a better camera and better photography skills to capture the essence of this beautiful man-made wonder of a city. It is awe-inspiring to see how this luxurious and vibrant city holds its stand amidst an acrid and dry desert. For the benefit of those who might not be familiar with the history of Las Vegas, let me give you a brief introduction about th origins of this city.

It started as a place to gamble for the miners in the desert who stayed there in the smoldering heat day-in and day-out, looking to strike rich. They started a simple gambling group to pass time, and slowly it picked up among the gangsters as Mafia crawled in to build hotels to enable people to gamble with each other. Thus was born the "Las Vegas Strip", with names like Toni Cornero and martin pretty famous in the "Mojave Desert". For a long time, the mafia controlled the betting and gambling world of Vegas, until one day in the 1960's, the famous Howard Hughes moved in here to make movies and started buying hotels left and right, in an attempt to eradicate the Mafia influence and turn Las Vegas into a "Classy Tourist Attraction". As more and more people learned about this, they supported Hughes and Las Vegas began to attract film and show producers, young and aspiring actors, and savvy entrepreneurs who saw a lot of money in the gambling industry. The infamous Strip now turned into a legit and classy strip lined with magnificent, grand and extravagant Casinos which still attract thousands of people from all around the world to indulge in fun, gambling and architecture that makes Las Vegas one of the highly-coveted destinations in USA. For more history, visit here.

I thought it best to describe the famous Strip in pictures, as no words could capture the essence of this artificial wonder! Here are my favourite casinos and a brief view into their world!

Bellagio - Still the reigning King among all the Casinos, and more famous for Oceans's Eleven-the Movie!

Venetian - Undoubtedly the best casino in terms of architecture and craftsmanship. I really felt I was in Venice! Remember the movie The Italian Job!!

Luxor - The casino based on the theme of Egypt! It is believed that there are only 2 objects that can be seen by spaceshuttles from the earth's orbit: The Great Wall of China, and the Blue Skylight beam from Luxor. It is sure to take you to the world of sphinx and the Mummies...oh, did someone say "The Mummy" or "The Mummy Returns".

Ceasar's Palace - This tribute to the great warrior Julius Ceasar is a hourney into the italian heritage. beautiful status of Ceasar and inviting interiors mark this casino.

Paris - The beautiful roman architecture, the arches and curves, and the giant actual-sized-based replica of the famous Eiffel Tower with a revolving globe in blue marked Paris forms a major attraction on the strip. The view from the top of the Tower is fabulous.

Other noteworthy casinos include the "MGM Grand", "New York New York", "The Mirage" and the "Treasure Island"

Hope you enjoyed this picturesque journey along the famous Las Vegas strip!! There are many more that I haven't covered in this post, but I think I've done a decent job of including the top casino picks for their vistor appeal:)