Monday, October 27, 2008

Garlic Sev Recipe & Happy Diwali!

lahsuni-sev-diwali
Its time for Diwali, one of the most cherished and fondly celebrated Indian festival, something that signifies Happiness and Light! Its a time to forgive and forget, to light the lamps of education, awareness, and faith. For us Hindus, it also signifies the dawn of a New Year, so its extra special! I take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a Warm and Happy Diwali, one that reigns in loads of joy, prosperity, good health and fortune for you and your family. May you be blessed with peace and success in all your endeavors! It is traditional to feed people with Sweets and Snacks on Diwali, so here's some homemade Lehsuni (Garlic) Ganthiya to awaken your taste-buds!

Ingredients
100gm gram flour (besan)
1 tspn ground black pepper
1/4 tspn turmeric powder
1 tbsp soda-bi-carb
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp red-chili & garlic paste
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

Special Equipment
Sev no Sancho (as shown in the photo below)(img source)
This can be bought from any Indian store where they sell Indian vessels. It is generally made of copper or brass, and is quite heavy. But it comes with several moulds so you can use it to make think or thick Sev, and also Jalebi, Ganthiya, Chakri and other Gujarati goodies!

lahsuni-sev-diwali

Method
Mix besan flour with black-pepper powder and lemon juice, soda-bi-carb, oil, and salt. Add the red-chili and garlic paste, and add enough water and knead into a smooth dough. Shape the dough into a thick cylinder.

Now place this dough in the Sev machine; use a thick-holed mould as the base. Close the lid tightly from the top.

Heat oil in a frying pan and wait till it gets sufficiently hot. Drop a tiny piese of dough in it - if it rises immediately, means the oil is hot enough.

Now holding the machine over the hot oil, rotate the lid and force the mixer through the holes by turning the handle, spreading it out evenly in circular movement in the oil.

Fry the Sev for about 2-3 minutes on medium flame till it is lightly golden-brown in color. Remove and drain on a tissue paper, and repeat with the remaining dough.

This savoury Diwali snack is on it's way to Srivalli's JFI-Festival Treats, originally started by Indira. This Lehsuni(Garlic) Sev tastes great with tea! It can be stored in an air-tight container for upto 2 weeks.

Here's wishing all of you a Happy and Prosperous Diwali!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Roasted Sausages & Pears: Recipe

Roasted Sausages & Pears
Sometimes the story behind a given dish is complicated. This is one of those recipes, though the recipe is is easy as can be. I'm particularly proud of it because it's rather original and I got a number of compliments on it and even a couple of requests for the recipe. It's spicy fennel flavored Italian sausages roasted with vinegar-marinated pears and onions. The resulting dish has spicy, savory and sweet flavors and can be made for as many or as few people as you like. It's a perfect dish for Fall.

It represents my favorite type of recipe because it takes very little time, few ingredients and techniques but yields something absolutely delicious. I think you could call it foolproof. It can also be varied pretty easily--add other fruit, seasonings, vegetables, or different kinds of sausages. Here are the steps that lead to the recipe:

1. My initial motivation was to make something savory with pears. My mom has a pear tree that went a little crazy this year so I had quite a few pears to use. In Marin County this is not an unusual occurrence.

2. I had a food blogger potluck to attend and I wanted something that would feed a crowd.

3. It was "Eat Local Challenge Month" and I feared the wrath of those who would question the provenance of my offering. The last thing I needed was a blog post blaming me for ruining their day!

4. What could I do to make pears, savory? Vinegar! I have made this recipe twice and it works with port wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. I think you need something rich and dark, don't use supermarket red wine vinegar. Actually avoid supermarket red wine vinegar in general, it's terrible.

5. I wanted everything in the dish to be roasted, but not too saucy. My biggest innovation was to marinate the pears and onions in vinegar, but to roast them on a baking sheet.

6. Success! This recipe worked well the very first go, perhaps because it builds on the success of other recipes. Looking back I can say it was somewhat influenced by Mark Bittman's Sausages and Grapes recipe and also by a Grilled Chicken Sausage and Red Pear Skewer recipe.

Note: I used Fra'Mani Fully Cooked Spicy Italian Sausage I got from Costco. They are completely cooked and very good. If you wanted to use a raw sausage I would cut it into chunks and roast it for 10-15 minutes before adding the fruit.

Roasted Sausages and Pears
for 2 people:

2 fully cooked Italian sausages (but I bet it would be good with Kielbasa too)
2 firm pears, peeled and cored
1/4 cup balsamic or port wine vinegar (you really just need enough to make sure everything is mostly submersed)
1 small onion, optional

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut each pear into 4 - 6 chunks. Place in a very small bowl or plastic bag and add the vinegar to marinate. Allow to marinate at room temperature for about 15 minutes. If you are using an onion, cut it into smaller chunks and break them up into individual pieces and add them to the marinade.

Cut the sausages into 4 - 5 pieces each. Line a baking sheet, preferably rimmed, with aluminum foil and place the pears and onions on the pan. Dunk the sausages into the vinegar to coat them, then place them randomly on the pan as well. Bake for 15 minutes or until pears are soft and sausages are beginning to get crusty.

Serve with a baguette and a spinach salad.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Art of Making Swiss Chocolates

swiss chocolates
There's a reason why people love Swiss Chocolates - because they are absolutely superb, have great innovative flavors, and literally melt in your mouth! The high content of superb cocoa butter, which gives the chocolate its smooth, creamy texture and the high standards of manufacturing make them an attractive indulgence around the world. Made with fresh milk that is produced by healthy and Swiss Cows (more happy than those that come from California!), here's what we learned on our recent Europe trip about what makes Swiss Chocolates the best in the world!

Swiss chocolates are world renowned for their high quality, mainly for the fact that, besides using only the best ingredients for making chocolate, it is the milk which makes all the difference! It is procured from Swiss cows that are raised on an organic diet of fresh meadow grass and remain healthy and happy in the evergreen Swiss countryside.

swiss cows

The Making of Chocolate
The art of chocolate making involves manipulating the crystal structure of the cocoa, fat, and sugar to provide a smooth melt-in-the-mouth feeling. Here's what we found about the chocolate-making process, and I thought it'd be interesting to share this with you all.

1. Refining
The first step is Refining, where fat, cocoa, and sugar are milled to a very fine particle size.

2. Conching
The mixture is then subjected to a process called conching, which is the most critical step in chocolate-making. Conching involves kneading the chocolate mixture with additional cocoa butter for 24 to 96 hours at over 150 deg F to give it its final smoothness and creaminess and remove any residual moisture.

3. Tempering
The final step in the manufacture of chocolate is tempering. As liquid chocolate cools and solidifies, the cocoa butter forms crystals. To temper chocolate, it is heated and cooled under controlled conditions so that a fine, even-grained texture is developed. Typically, chocolate at this stage is not heated above 115 deg F. Lecithin, a natural emulsifier derived from soybeans, is added to chocolate at this stage to prevent Blooming (the process of a white haze forming over chocolate when it is cooled)

Challenges in Chocolate Making
One of the challenges in chocolate-making is that water interferes with the crystallization of the cocoa butter, which can then make the chocolate hard and brittle. So, in 1875 a Swiss manufacturer named Daniel Peters discovered the key to a successful milk chocolate process. Instead of using milk, which is almost 80-90% water, he used milk powder instead! By doing this, he was able to produce a coarse, dry milk chocolate bar. By 1897, however, Mr. Peters had perfected a process using condensed milk to produce an intermediate product called milk crumb. Milk crumb is produced by cooking chocolate liquor with sweetened condensed milk, dry ing this mixture into a powder, and subsequently blending it with cocoa butter to produce chocolate.

What is special about Swiss Chocolates is their quality. They are hard and well-formed with clean edges. The smell of a fine chocolate is full and rounded, but never obtrusive. Good chocolate melts like butter, does not stick to the roof of the mouth or feel gritty, and hardly leaves any aftertaste. The best part about these chocolates is the variety of flavors they come in. From Ameretto and Orange to Almonds and some really exotic flavored liqueuers, the Swiss have some really unique chocolates that you couldn't find anywhere else.

We enjoyed every bit of our chocolate-tasting venture and it was a privilege seeing how its made. So, the secret of Good Chocolates are Happy Cows, and Happy Cows come from Switzerland!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ChikaLicious Dessert Bar

I don't think it's possible to go to New York and not have wonderful culinary experiences. It's just that kind of town. When something terrible happens, you can keep your "brown paper packages tied up with string" I will simply call to mind my dream dessert experience at ChikaLicious in the East Village.

I wrote about it years ago, because as someone who is terribly indecisive, the idea of a multi-course dessert menu sounded like a lot of fun. And I love the idea of a dessert only restaurant. Yes, a restaurant. It's much more than a cafe, it's fine service, pretty china, a lovely and relaxing ambiance and heavenly, perfectly balanced and proportioned desserts. It's also intimate, they can accommodate four guests per party, max.

The menu offers plenty of "a la carte" options, but I recommend the three course menu, with or without wine. These days with fine plated desserts hovering around $10, the prix fixe price of $12 feels like a bargain. Everyone who comes in seems to prefer sitting at the bar to watch everything being made, but I liked my little table for two and the unrushed service. The refreshing amuse was lemon sorbet in a white chocolate mousse. Cool, clean flavors reminded me of a most sophisticated lemon flavored orangesicle. Just lovely.
Lemon Sorbet & White Chocolate Mousse

Next my "main course" a recommendation of the owner was the quince steamed pudding in a creme anglaise and Asian pear salad. This was the lightest fluffiest steamed pudding I ever ate, not stodgy or heavy or wet.
Quince Pudding

Portions are just right. The menu ends with coconut covered marshmallows, truffles and shortbread topped with lemon curd and a single pistachio. Petit Fours

The delicate shortbread was so good I picked up a package to take home. ChikaLicious thank you for being are everything I imagined you'd be!

ChikaLicious Dessert Bar
203 E 10th St
New York, NY
212-995-9511
Daily 3pm to 10:45pm

Motichoor Boondi Laddu - For Diwali

motichoor-boondi-laddoos
Diwali is just one week away, and I'm sure preparations are on in full swing in many Indian households! As one fo the most widely celebrated Indian Festival, Diwali is a time for homemade sweets and snacks, and these Motichoor(Boondi) Laddoos are an apt creation! This Indian sweet gets its name from the Hindi word "Boond", meaning droplets, or "Moti", meaining Pearls!! Motichoor laddus made from fine gram-flour droplets which are fried and then immersed in a thick & delicious saffron flavored sugar syrup, and finally rolled into the shape of Laddoos. It looks like a lot of work, but when you put one in your mouth, you'll know its totally worth it!

An important part of any festival is the fact that you get to do things together, with your friends and family. Being is US, I miss the charm of some Indian festivals, but in my brief India trip, we tried to capture the essence as much as possible! The credit of this recipe goes to Saroj Ben, the lady who helps us make delicious delicacies during festival time, and of course to my Mom! Its great how inspiring and spiritually healing cooking can be.

My mom and my mother-in-law, both wanted to pack as many Diwali delicacies for us as the airlines would allow us to, so I have tonnes of goodies to share with you. For now, enjoy these lovely Motichoor Ladoos!

Ingredients
(Makes about 25 Laddoos)

For Boondi
2 1/2 cups of Gram Flour (Besan)
500 ml of Whole Milk
3 cups of Clarified Butter (Ghee) - for deep frying
1/4 cup dry-fruits - finely chopped (optional)

For Sugar Syrup
2 1/2 cups of Sugar
2 tbsp of Whole Milk
1/2 tsp of Cardamom Powder
A few drops of Saffron essence (for deep frying)
3 and 1/2 cups of Water

Special Equipement
A strainer, colander or fine sieve with droplet-sized or smaller pores

Method

Making the Sugar Syrup
In a large deep vessel, put the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Once the sugar dissolves, add in the milk. Boil for 5 minutes or until scum forms on top. Strain with the strainer spoon and return to stove. Add in the saffron color and boil until it is sticky but no thread has formed. Add in the cardamom powder and mix well. Then set aside.

Making the Boondi
Mix the flour and milk together to form a smooth batter. Heat the clarified butter in a heavy frying pan. Hold the boondi-strainer over the frying pan with one hand. With the other hand, pour some batter all over the holes. Tap gently until all of the batter has fallen into the hot clarified butter. Be careful to stay away from the stove as the ghee might sputter a little. Stir with another strainer and remove once it is light golden in color. Set aside on a paper towel, and repeat the process for the remaining batter.

Making the Laddoos
Partly crush/smash 1/4th of the fried boondi with hand; immerse all the fried boondi in the syrup. Drain any excess syrup and spread in a large plate. Add the chopped dry fruits to this mixture. Sprinkle about 2 tsp of hot water over it. Cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes so the boondi soaks up the syrup and it becomes soft.

Once it gets sticky, and cool enough to handle, take a small portion of the boondi mixture and shape into small round balls with moist palms. Do the same for all laddoos.

Arrange on a plate and keep open to dry so the laddoos solidify. One they are hard enough, you can store in an air-tight container and keep in the regrigerator for upto 2 weeks.

Enjoy these delicious Motichoor (Boondi) Laddus and share them with your friends and guest as you celebrate Diwali!

Need more Diwali Sweets? Try the Kesar Almond Burfi, Coconut Laddoos, Kesar Rasmalai or Bengalli Rasgullas and make your Diwali a memorable one!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grilled Marinated Tofu Wraps

grilled-tofu-wraps
Tofu is the most under-rated food that I know of, and though I do know about its nutritious benefits, I tend to be restrictive in experimenting with Tofu. But on a rainy evening, when we were not in the mood for an elaborate meal, the idea of making Grilled Tofu Wraps spurred my mind. Wraps are a great way to use up a variety of vegetables in your food, and grilled Tofu adds a wonderful flavor to the otherwise simple wraps. Plus, this is one Fusion recipe that has several regional flavors mixed in it - from Thai red curry and peanut sauce to guacamole and sun-dried tomato salsa, its a fusion of flavors that really works well together! Serve it with any dipping sauce, and these Tofu Wraps are going to sizzle your plate!

Ingredients
1/2 slab of extra firm tofu - cut into thick slices for grilling
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
2 tbspn olive oil
1 tsp peanut sauce

For the Wrap
Spinach or Sun-dried tomato Tortillas
chopped vegetables - tomatoes, bell-peppers, onions
1/2 cup cooked rice - (optional)
chopped lettuce
cucumber - finely chopped
guacamole (or peanut sauce) - (optional)
sun-dried tomato salsa - (optional)

Method
Take the first four ingredients for the Marinade and mix them well. Add the Tofu slabs to this mixture, cover and refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Now heat up your grill pan to medium high. Take the Tofu slices, remove excess marinade, and place them on the grill. Leave a pan underneath to collect dripping fluids.

Grill them on one side for about 4-5 mins, till you see light grill marks start to appear; then turn them over and do the same for the other side.

Once done, remove from grill and allow them to cool down. Then cut these into tiny bite-sized cubes.

To assemble the wraps, take each tortilla and layer it with rice and guacamole. Mix all the chopped vegetables in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Then add the chopped tofu cubes and the vegetables to the wrap. Roll it up and seal it with 2 toothpicks. Or cut it in half and fix with a toothpick.

Serve the Grilled Tofu Wraps with your favorite Dipping sauce! A tasty and healthy meal, ready in no time!

Related Recipes:
Mandarin Thai Tofu Satay
Tofu & Basil Thai Soup
Pad Thai with Tofu

Monday, October 13, 2008

Carrot Soup Recipe- Winter Warmer!

carrot-cream-coconut-soup
As winter approaches, its time for more Soups in our meals. I haven't experimented with a lot of soups, but when I tasted this delicious Creamy Carrot Soup at a restaurant up in the Jungfrau mountain in the Swiss Alps, I became an instant fan! It was rich and creamy, yet had a beautiful flavor, and a wonderful blend of spices that just accentuated the pureed carrot base. I knew I had to try to recreate it at home, and at the second attempt, I think I've nailed it! It has everything you'd ask for in a hearty vegetarian soup - garlic, curry powder, whipping cream, a hint of coconut milk, and garnished with fresh parsley or cilantro, this is one Creamy Carrot Soup recipe that is fit for the wintery days ahead! Off it goes to the Ultimate Fall Recipe Swap:)


Ingredients
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from the Curried Carrot Soup recipe at Chow.com

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds carrots - peeled & sliced
1 large onion - finely chopped
6 garlic cloves - peeled
5 whole cloves
4 cups water
2 tbsp coconut milk
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder (optional)
1/4 cup chilled whipping cream
fresh cilantro or parsley - for garnish

Method
Heat oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, curry powder and cloves and saute until onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

Add 3 1/2 cups water. Cover and simmer until carrots are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Remove the cloves from broth and discard. Puree soup in batches in a blender. Return soup to same saucepan. Mix in lemon juice and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Beat the whipping cream and coconut milk together. Now add this to the soup and allow to simmer for a few more mins.

While serving, transfer the Curried Carrot Soup into bowls. Drizzle some more cream if desired, and garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

Related Recipes:
Vegetable Hot & Sour Soup
Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Tofu & Basil Thai Soup

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Spiced Apple Bread Recipe

apple-bread-recipe
Fall is the harvest season, and the markets are flooded with lovely golden Apples, inviting us to cook them, drink them, jam them, or bake them into something delicious! This Spiced Apple Bread is one such treat that exudes the flavors of fall in all its glory. Made with fresh apples and chopped nuts, and flavored mildly with cinnamon and nutmeg, I had as much pleasure baking it, and smelling it as it cooked in the oven, as I had in devouring it like crazy with a dollop of butter and orange marmalade! I have never been too keen about Apple desserts, but I love this Apple Bread, and I know I'll be baking it quite a lot! [img credit: hunnybscakery]

Ingredients
2 cups sweet apples - shredded or chopped finely
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup butter
2 small eggs (or 1.5 large eggs)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Method
Cream the butter (at room temp) with the sugar, then combine with the oil, eggs, and vanilla and set aside.

In another bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to oil mixture gradually. Finally add the apples and nuts.

Grease one loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake at 325 deg F for about 50 mins (check after 40 mins) till its brown on the outside, appears crusty, and the toothpick test passes.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan after switching off the oven, then let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Run a knife under warm tap water, and use this to slice the bread. Store in an air-tight container. Enjoy this delicious Spiced Apple Bread with butter or honey as you celebrate Fall flavors!

Related Recipes:
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Chocolate Banana Bread
Coconut Pandan Bread

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Keitt Mangoes: Favorite Things

Keitt Mango
Last year in the steamy Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden of South Florida I tasted about 15 different types of mangoes. I discovered that some are sweet, while others are tangy and refreshing. Some have subtle floral aromas, others have hints of citrus, spice, even nuts as well as tropical fruit. The world of mangoes is luscious and delicious to explore and I was one enthusiastic taster!

While most mangoes in the US are grown in Florida, there are some grown in California like the organically grown Keitt. It's in season and in stores until the end of October and you don't want to miss it. The Keitt is one of my favorite mangoes, it's green on the outside and very large with a particularly thin seed. While more expensive than some mangoes, I think they are still a good value because they yield a ton of fruit. I recently had one that was almost 2 pounds and yielded several cups of diced fruit, 2 or 3 times as much fruit as a typical mango.

The delectable Keitt has no fiber, a buttery juicy texture, vanilla aroma and a delicate peachy flavor. If there was ever a melt-in-your-mouth mango, the Keitt is it. One serving provides over 75% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C and 25% of Vitamin A. Pick Keitt mangoes that are still a bit firm with no soft spots. The fruit is delicious on it's own, but even better on top of pancakes, crepes, in fruit salad or salsa. More tips on using mangoes, here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What is Port Wine & Why is it Special?

port-wine-dessert-wine
Port Wine, the famous sweet fortified wine of the Douro River Valley in Portugal, has long been the classic way to end a meal and celebrate an evening. Port is a sweet red wine with about 20% alcohol (as opposed to table wine which is usually about 13%) and rather low acidity and tannin, yet a rich spicy flavor and smooth taste! Port wine range from very sweet, semi-sweet to semi-dry, dry, and extra dry. The wine maker will determine its sweetness based on when and how he interrupts the fermentation process. Often served as the perfect Dessert Wine, here's an attempt to understand what makes Port such an exquisite wine, that draws people by its taste and aroma.

Port is created in a unique way that captures the fruit and flavor of the ripe grapes in wines that possess extraordinary longevity. During fermentation, prior to reaching the point where all of the natural grape sugars have been converted into alcohol, high-proof brandy is added to the vats to stop the fermentation. This leaves a wine with great depth of color and a high natural sweetness. After fermentation is complete, the wines are transported to "lodges" where they rest in large oak casks called "pipes."

The alcohol in port wine is produced under very specific conditions that result from natural and human factors. While aging in wood, port wine's fruity aroma develops through oxidation to create a bouquet that is reminiscent of dried fruit, toasting, wood, and spices. The aging process also adds to its smoothness while making the bouquet more complex. Much older wines have a greenish tint.

The Ageing Method
There are several styles of port, but there are essentially two aging methods, reductive aging and oxidative aging. Ports that are aged using the reductive process are sealed in their container and have no exposure to oxygen. They are smoother and less tannic. The port wines that are aged using the oxidative process are matured in wooden barrels and are slightly exposed to oxygen. Oxidated ports are more viscous and intense.

Types of Port
Vintage Ports are to be held in the bottle for a long time, ten years considered being just a start while truly great vintages can require 20 years and more to reach optimum maturity. This gives them a distinct taste, often known as "grapey". Ruby Ports, on the other hand, are generally young wines that have not lost their youthful ruby-red color. Fruity on the nose, they tend to be very fresh in the mouth. Tawny Ports are aged a long time in wooden barrels, spending 3 or 4 years in casks. They tend to lose most of their fruit and the normal deep red color becomes more of an amber hue as the wine acquires a nutty character. White Ports have different degrees of sweetness due to the manner by which they are made. They have a very floral & fruity flavor, and a minimum alcohol content of 16.5%, comparatively lower than the other port wines.

So all in all, it's an affluence of flavors that makes Port Wine so special. While other wines get a lot of their flavor from fruits and other additives, these dessert wines are naturally sweet and fruity, making them an ideal choice for pairing with any kind of food. And with enough Port Wine choices available for an amateur to a connoiseur, you are sure to find one that suits your tastebuds! But beware of Port wine stains - they can be really hard to get off!:)

Related Articles:
Is Red Wine Good for Health?
How to Pair WIne with your Food?
How to Store & Serve Wine?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Introducing - The Vibrant & Delicious Fun and Food Cafe

Fun and Food Cafe-Blog
I'm back after a long and luxurious vacation in Europe and India, and now I'm fully recharged to take on the world, one step at a time! Thanks so much to all my readers and blog friends who looked out for me while I was gone, kept visiting my blog and kep it alive and buzzing with their comments and feedback. All you folks rock, and I'm ever indebted to you for all your support and appreciation! I hinted about a surprise when I left, and now its time to reveal what I had been working on since past few weeks before my vacation. Please join me in introducing the delicious new site called Fun and Food Cafe, an extension of this food blog in more ways than one!

I started this blog a little over a year back, with the aim of sharing my recipes with the world. I moved from simple recipes to kitchen disasters and then to some highly successful experiments which had even me spellbinded! I discovered a new love for food and cooking after starting this blog, and I plan to keep it alive and kicking as I launch the new home site for this blog. Fun & Food Cafe will be all about Cooking, Eating, Entertaining and Healthy Living, fostering a community that aims at delivering the best in Food and Health.

I had this domain lying around for quite some time now, and finally I decided to give it a stir. There were a lot of ideas brimming in my mind about what I wanted to do with my blog, and it needed a dedicated space of its own. So the FFCafe, as you'll find me referring to the new blog, will be a house of delicious recipes, but not just from my kitchen. You'll find a lot of diversified food out there, tried and tested recipes coming from expert chefs all around the world, and also from house-chefs and my readers who have often expressed a desire to Submit their Recipes. The art of Cooking is limitless, so the FFCafe gives you a chance to explore the expertise shared by foodies and cooks around the world, so you have more to learn and feast on!

Besides food, there will be a lot of talk about Cooking tips and techniques, as well as some interesting foodie products and cookbook reviews. Then there's the Entertaining Ideas and the fabulous Finds section, which will focus on bringing to you the latest trends in being the perfect hostess, so you can impress your guests and win them over!

Through all this, I shall try to put forth the idea of healthy Living, and write regular articles about health, nutrition, fitness and recipes that endorse the importance of a balanced diet and exercise in your daily life. There will also be nifty articles from field experts to guide you and answer your queries.

Does all this new stuff mean that my "current blog" will be neglected? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! This will stay very much alive as usual - HOME tab will take you to the FFCafe, and the BLOG tab will bring you to this space. I'll try to keep the content on both of these to be exclusive as much as possible, so you can Subscribe to both feeds, and experience the goodness of both the worlds!

I'm really excited about this idea, and I sincerely hope that you are too! If you've loved visiting this blog, you'll surely find the new site interesting. I request you to hop on over to the FFCafe and take some time to browse around. tell me what you feel, and what you'd like to have. I promise to accomodate your suggestions, and look forward to the same kind of support and acceptance for the new blog, as you've bestowed on this one.

So go get your tray of cookies, I have the coffee ready - let's meet up and have a ball at the Fun and Food Cafe!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Paneer & Sun-Dried Tomato Muffins

savory paneer muffins
Savory Muffins have a fan-following of their own, and even me, who is an ardent dessert-lover, could not say no to a bit of these delicious muffins made with paneer and sun-dried tomatoes! A recipe that combines classic ingredients in a contemporary style, this is one fusion experiment I love. With Paneer as the star ingredient, I threw in some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, spring onions, herbs and some more italian cheese. If that does not get you out of bed, what will!? Perfect for your mornings, or as appetizers or mid-day snacks, these savoury paneer muffins are sure to leave a mark of their own!

Ingredients
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4th cup whole milk
1 cup cottage cheese - crumbled or shredded
1/2 cup mozarella and parmesan - shredded (optional)
1 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oiled ones, finely chopped)
1/2 cup spring onions - chopped (white and greens separate)
8-10 cloves of garlic - minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs - beaten
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
salt and black pepper - to taste
4 tbsp basil flakes (adjust amount to suit your taste)
2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

Method
Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda through a sieve. Add the salt, black pepper, herbs, and red pepper flakes. In a pan, add the olive oil, then saute the white prt of the onions and garlic till it starts giving out an aroma. Allow to cool a bit.

In another bowl, beat the eggs to make them fluffy, then add to the sauteed onions/garlic mixture. Combine this with the flour mixture. Slowly add the cottage cheese, mozarella and parmesan, then keep mixing/folding gently as you add milk little by little. Do not overbeat, just mix to combine the ingredients.

Grease 12-muffin pans with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 deg F, then fill the mixture in the muffin pans upto the brim. Bake for 20-25 mins, and not more. Insert a tooth-pick in the center to make sure they are cooked. If the muffin tops look white, tun to broil setting and bake for 15 seconds, not more, or the muffins will get browned (the mistake I did!!)

Once done, allow them to cool on the wire rack. Gently remove from the pan and serve immediately with ketchup or a dipping sauce. Just add a dollop of fresh butter and you can enjoy these cute savoury sun-dried tomato and paneer muffins with your coffee or tea too!!

Related Recipes:
Spinach and Cheese Souffle
Rava Dhokla
Paneer Cutlets

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Flavor Sprays - Great Taste & Zero Calories!

flavor-sprays-david-burke
Those who haven't heard of and tried the Flavor Sprays from the award-winning chef David Burkes, you are seriously missing something! When I first read about them, I was intrigued and attracted at the same time - it's such a great idea to use Flavor Sprays which can enhance flavor of anything you eat, without adding tonnes of extra calories that generally go hand-in-hand with indulgent recipes! It is no wonder then, that people have caught up to the Flavor Spray Diet - you can actually eat the healthy food you need, without missing on the great flavor factor! These sprays are safe and contain absolutely no fat, no carbs, calories or cholesterol! They work with any and every type of food - so what are you waiting for? Spray some flavor into your nutritious food, and you can pamper your craving, without gaining any extra pounds or disturbing your diet plan!

David Burke, a renowned chef, restaurateur and cookbook author has introduced a line of zero-calorie Flavor Sprays to enable people to put more flavor into diet food like steamed vegetables, boiled eggs, or plain fruits and turn them into tasty concoctions. These are especially formulated for those who are on a low-calorie diet, so they can still cater to their cravings by trying to assugae them using these calorie-free, fat free, carb-free Flavor Sprays.

Flavor Sprays come in 35 flavors, and range from sweet and savory, both naturally-flavored and a combination of natural and artificial. Anybody on any diet or food plan can use the sprays. Though it was introduced a some time ago, it is only recently that the craze has increased. I watched an episode about these on Food Network, and decided to try a couple flavor bottles myself.

The basic idea of using Flavor Sprays is not to substitute actual fresh ingredients, but only to use it as a zer-calorie flavor enhancer on drab or plain foods. Instead of actual cheese, use Parmesan Spray, instead of Chocolate Sauce, spray 2-3 squirts of Chocolate Truffle flavor and your milk might taste better than before! With innovative flavors to choose from like Bacon, Bleu Cheese, Chocolate Fudge, Banana, Cookies & Cream, Memphis Bbq and many more, you can even combine certain flavors together to add the zing missing from your dish.

However, as exciting as these may sound, they are not real flavors, and hence do not taste as great as the names make them look! I found that I had to spray a lot of Chocolate Truffle on my ice-cream to make it taste even close, but Cookies & Cream in my milk had a stronger taste than Raspberry or Banana; so it really depends on your taste, and also the strength in the Flavor Spray. Perhaps the Memphis BBQ or Teriyaki flavors might provide some variety to plain, skinned chicken and steamed or broiled fish when one has tired of all of the seasoned salts and citrus squeezes. It may also be a good idea to use these with kids, as this way you can give them the taste without all that sugar! Or use it on someone who has high cholesterol and loves Bacon - a dash of spray on eggs is all he may need!

Flavor Sprays are a nice compliment to your diet routine, but they cannot substitute the actual ingredients. As David Burke says himself "The sprays do not compete with a gourmet chef or a balanced diet. Rather, they help in adding flavor to food without adding the fat and calories. They complement well-prepared food and a healthy diet plan." With this in mind, a $5.00 bottle of your favorite Flavor Spray can be enticing to try - I loved my Strawberry Shortcake and Cheesecake flavors; I'd urge you to try one yourself, as you might just find the flavor you were looking for!