Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!


In celebration of the new year, here are some fabulous photos by Linda Carswell of Une Petite Folie. The wine bottles are by Hanneke, French pastries by English Kitchen, flan and pizza by Sarah Maloney, macarons by Linda Cummings, citron tarts by Sandrine Chauvin, cupcakes by Christel Jensen, heart shaped cookies, cakes and scones by Kim Saulter. What better way to celebrate the new year?

Happy New Year ~ Teresa Martínez

A toast to all my friends on The Mini Food Blog. Wishing you a very happy and prosperous new year ...



For more minis by Teresa Martínez, visit:
Blog: http://tinyterminiatures.blogspot.com
Website: http://www.tinyterminiatures.com

Non-fat Greek Yogurt Review

Greek yogurt
Today I ate six containers of Greek yogurt. Ok, not really. I tasted six different brands of Greek yogurt. You can probably find Greek yogurt in your local supermarket, its become increasingly available in the United States over the past few years (I've been told it's still a bit hard to find in parts of Canada).

First of all, let me clear something up, the Greek yogurt you find in the US is not yogurt from Greece. All the brands I found were produced domestically. Greek yogurt is strained and some of the whey is removed, so it's thicker than typical yogurt. It's dense and creamy, buttery in flavor and higher in fat. But there are also non-fat and low-fat Greek yogurts. You can use the yogurt in place of sour cream, with granola and/or fruit, drizzled with honey or a dollop of jam or preserves. It's also used in lots of Greek recipes.

The good news is, that all the full fat Greek yogurt I tried was absolutely delicious. You really can't go wrong with the full fat versions when it comes to flavor and texture. Choose something that is organic, or comes from milk from cows not treated with rGBH if you prefer.

The bad news? All Greek yogurt is substantially more expensive than regular yogurt and higher in fat as well. You can make Greek style yogurt by draining conventional yogurt (with live active cultures) with cheesecloth or a yogurt strainer. But perhaps you are wondering, as I was, are the non-fat varieties worth buying? Here are my ratings of the non-fat varieties:

Brown Cow
Almost sour in flavor, the texture is soft, but not very thick or creamy. Flavor is good. Recommended

Chobani
Very thick, unpleasant chalky texture, mild flavor. Not recommended

★★★ Fage
Tangy, very thick, creamy, very slight chalky aftertaste. Recommended

Greek Gods
This yogurt had the funkiest flavor of them all, soft, not terribly thick and a bit sour. Not recommended

★★ Oikos
Creamy texture, mildly tangy and light. Recommended

Voskos
Very tangy, chalky, more like sour cream. Not recommended, my least favorite

Notes:

A tiny bit of honey improved all the non-fat varieties of yogurt balancing some of the acidity.

The yogurt develops a more tangy flavor the longer you keep it.

The percentage of fat and number of calories vary on the full or low fat varieties of Greek yogurt, check the labels.

Greek Gods was my favorite of the full fat varieties. Fage was also outstanding.

Chobani flavored yogurts were very good, I especially liked the pomegranate flavor. Because the flavorings are on bottom, you can mix in as much or as little as you like.

Ready to try?
Coupon available for free sample of Chobani
Coupons available for Oikos, after registering at Stonyfield

Oikos and Chobani were provided to me as product samples, the rest I purchased.

The Grand Feast ~ Stephanie Kilgast

MLLA-19th Helping event announcement


We are so excited to announce the very popular and interesting event dedicated to legumes : My Legume Love affair or MLLA - 19 started by Susan as the first event of 2010 on Simple Indian food. Thanks a lot Susan for this wonderful opportunity


Wiki defines legumes as : A legume in botanical writing is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or a fruit of these specific plants. A 'legume' fruit is a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces (opens along a seam) on two sides. A common name for this type of fruit is a pod, although "pod" is also applied to a few other fruit types, such as vanilla. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, soy, cashews, and peanuts.

For this event - a legume is fresh or dried beans, lentils, pulses, and/or the sometimes edible pods that contain these seeds, and derivative products like tofu or besan and not French legumes, which they mean as any vegetable at all. Fenugreek, carob, peanuts, etc. are among some of the other edible plants in the legume family which ARE included in the event.

Susan is offering two interesting prizes for the winner of the event ..

1) Selected and purchased by Susan: The Joy of Cooking 2010 Calendar.

2) Hurst Bean Box - A case of six bags of the winner's choice of Hurst Bean products, suitable for every diet, donated by Hurst Bean. (Due to shipping restrictions, this prize can only be awarded if the winner is a U.S. resident.) Susan does not receive any product nor financial compensation for her arrangement with Hurst Bean to provide this prize supplement for My Legume Love Affair.


Now for the rules regarding the event

* Only vegetarian recipes are accepted since this is a vegetarian blog (No eggs please- Cheese acceptable).

* Multiple recipes are permitted (although only one submission will be counted towards the random drawing).

* Recipes submitted to other events are also permitted.

* Pls link your post to the event announcement and to Susan's event host lineup page..Unless done, the post would not be a part of the roundup and not eligible for the prize too..

* Recipes from archives can be accepted ONLY if updated and reposted as current. So make sure you do this without fail.

* Recipes from those who do not blog are accepted and make eligible the participants to win the random drawing.

* Use of logo is optional.

* The roundup would be up by the first week of February.

Once done, pls mail me the details to easycrafts@gmail.com

Name:
Blog Name:(not url)
Recipe name:
Link to the recipe:
Location (optional)
Photo (optional)

Have fun with legumes all this month..


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

10 Minute Peanut Brittle Microwave Recipe

microwave-peanut-brittle
I might be a tad bit late in posting this easy Christmas treat recipe, but when a 5-month old governs your life, its hard to squeeze out time for blogging! In any case, I think you'll find several occasions to make this hassle-free Peanut Brittle which is a great treat all year round. What's more, this fail-proof 10-Minute Microwave recipe makes it very easy to enjoy this favorite dessert with friends and family. And it will undoubtedly be loved by your kids too. For delicious variations, replace peanuts with almonds, walnuts, pecans, or even a mixture of your favorite nuts! Use the basic brittle recipe, and feel free to play around with your choice of nuts.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup raw peanuts
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Method
Combine first 4 ingredients in 2-quart microwave mixing bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 minutes.

Then Add butter and Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Brittle should not get too brown.

Stir in vanilla and soda until light and foamy. Spread on buttered baking sheet as thinly as possible. Allow to Cool completely. Break into small pieces and store in an airtight container.

For a great holiday gift, wrap up some pieces in cellophane paper or tissue wrapper, or even a fancy cloth, then tie with a decorative ribbon and share with friends this holiday season.

Tip: The trick to making thin, tender peanut brittle is to keep the baking sheet(s) you use warm. You can heat them in a conventional oven at around 200 deg F before you spread the peanut brittle mix. This should allow you to spread the mix 1cm to 2cm thick without it setting up.

There, hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and wish you all a wonderful New Year ahead!

Budding blogger: Chitra

Budding blogger series introduces new bloggers (those blogging for less than a year) every wednesday and promotes their blogs through Simple Indian Food. If you are interested in being a part of this series, please mail me a short description about your blog, the cuisine you specialize and your objective/inspiration in blogging to easycrafts@gmail.com.

Meet Chitra from The ABCD's of Cooking blog this week on budding blogger series. Her blog has a complete mix of several Indian and International vegetarian recipes..Dont miss out the Papaya lassi (at least I had never heard of it before) on her blog..Here is what Chitra has to say about herself and her blog-

My food blog is called the ABCD's of Cooking (ABCD = American Born Confused Desi). My cooking, like ABCD, is a hodgepodge of sorts - all vegetarian, a lot of South and North Indian, other influences from the US and around the world and recipes I've collected along the way.

I was brought up in the US by a South Indian mother and a North Indian father who both love to cook. As a result, my cooking has influence from their two regions in India, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, and is also reflective of my American upbringing and interest in vegetarian cuisine from around the world. I also have a close knit group of friends and family that enjoy cooking so over the years we have exchanged a number of different recipes and in addition, I love to travel and have collected recipes on my various trips. This blog is a diary of my recipes, travel experiences and memories growing up.

Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook Review

Top Chef The Quickfire Challenge Cookbook
On the TV show Top Chef, contestants create dishes to impress the judges often with limited resources of time or money or ingredients. From a viewer's perspective, the biggest problem with the show is that you can't taste the food. Still I love it. Perhaps it's because I enjoy the challenging aspects of cooking--like every other home cook, I am challenged to use what ingredients I have and the techniques I know, to cook something delicious, day after day, night after night.

Sometimes I wonder if I would agree with the judges. And I wonder how good those cooked-in-a-flash dishes with barely any ingredients really taste. I may never bother cooking something sous vide, break down an entire side of beef or serve 200 guests in one evening, but I'm happy to say I can now duplicate various dishes presented in the quickfire challenges on Top Chef thanks to Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook.

Top Chef: The Quickfire Challenge Cookbook features mostly recipes that home cooks can easily duplicate. They don't take much time or many exotic ingredients. Some of them are straight forward like Mia's Bean Salad that's basically three bean salad with a few twists--fresh mint, capers, canned beets and artichoke hearts all served over salad greens. Other dishes are more sophisticated like Jennifer's Shrimp and Scallop Beignets. There are desserts, breakfast dishes, salads, entrees, soups and even a few cocktails. Recently I got a chance to try Jamie's Chickpea Soup and it was divine. It's flavored with vadouvan (or use curry) and topped with a cilantro, mint and lemon zest spiked yogurt.

There are lots of fun features that will appeal to Top Chef fans in the book, little inside peeks at the filming, contestants and chances to test your foodie IQ. Something I especially like are the detailed instructions on some "molecular gastronomy" style dishes and flourishes you can make at home. Andrew's Faux Caviar made from tapioca pearls seasoned with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce is top on my list to try! So too are Stephanie's White Ale-Orange Juice Mussels, Radhika's Kebab Sausage with Tomato Jam and Hung's Chocolate Pie with Bananas.

Top Chef: The Quickfire Challenge Cookbook is just a tremendously accessible and fun book to dig into. It's perfect for fans of the show or anyone wanting to try to add a bit more flair to their cooking. Best of all, you can get a chance to win a copy of this book signed by chef contestants Jennifer Biesty, Ryan Scott and Jamie Lauren along with a salt cellar, a selection of Diamond Crystal® kosher, coarse and fine sea salt, a $25 CHEFS gift certificate, a signed copy of Michael Symon's Live to Cook, as well as Good Eats: The Early Years, Top Chef: The Cookbook and Top Chef Quickfire Challenge Game. How can you win this fabulous prize package ? By bidding on it over at the Menu for Hope campaign.

To bid on this prize package, go to the donation site at Firstgiving, specify prize code UW21 in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation and how many tickets you'd like to purchase, keeping in mind that tickets are $10 each and all proceeds go towards the UN World Food Programme. The Menu for Hope bidding ends December 31st, 2009, so don't be left out!

Note: This prize package, worth more than $200, is available to anyone with a United States shipping address.

Punjabi kadhi pakora (Low fat)



Ingredients
For pakora

1 cup gram flour/besan
Salt to taste
1 chopped onion
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Bit of asafoetida
Finely chopped coriander leaves

For kadhi -

2 cups beaten curd (low fat)
1 cup water
2 tbsp gram flour
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Oil to fry

Mix the ingredients for pakora with some water and pour a spoonful of it in hot oil to get one pakora. Repeat for rest of the batter. If you are health conscious, try it in the paniyaram pan like I did




Mix the ingredients of kadhi and beat well. Heat the kadhi till it starts boiling.

Before serving, add the pakore to the kadhi and serve hot with rice

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A Chocolate Christmas ~ Teresa Martínez

Gingerbread house and Christmas tree cookie stack decked with chocolate ...


For more minis by Teresa Martínez, visit:
Blog: http://tinyterminiatures.blogspot.com
Website: http://www.tinyterminiatures.com

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snowman Cake ~ Emmaflam & Miniman


Super blogger sunday: Roma of Roma's space

This week's featured blogger is Roma from Roma's space. A food blogger, an excellent photographer, owner of the popular food blog aggregator Town Square..she does it all and manages everything excellently..She also blogs her travel experiences, but mainly focuses on food for infants with categories based on age group...Read more about her



EC: Tell us something about yourself

Roma: My blog is going to be two years old this January. My Hobbies include Photography, Gardening and Cooking. I also love to watch plays and have attended a couple of theater workshops in Bangalore. I am basically a Software Engineer. I worked in the IT industry for about 6 years - first 4 years with MindTree Consulting and another 2 years with Kyocera Wireless.

I am now at home taking care of my daughter who is soon going to be three years old. As soon as a working professional is faced with the fact of staying at home an intense nervousness sets in as she wonders what next? Can I spend my time productively? Can I manage to live a life despite being in the house 24X7 ? I decided to spend more time nurturing my interests that I never could due to a hectic work schedule. I got more time to cook, attend theater workshops and do craft work like pot painting, glass painting, etc; It was important to channelize my energy before life drove me around like a wild river.

When I started creating stuff I wanted to share it with others. Every time I made a special dish for my baby I thought of all the other mom's who could benefit from it. My friends supported me whole heartily and my blog was launched. I cook specially for the blog when there is an event being held. Otherwise most of the dishes I make are impromptu and usually to satisfy the sugar cravings of me and my family.


EC: Your photographs of the dishes are attractive..Any tips for improving food photography ( and ur learnings from the photography workshop)

Roma: Most of my knowledge in photography is from The photography workshop conducted by Kalyan Varma. Other than that I learned by experimenting with my camera and analyzing the results. There were also some good sites that helped me pick up food photography tips:

Idea of Lunch Box : This is one of the most popular posts on the Strobist site. It shows you how you can easily take a professional food shot without spending a penny. I made my own lunch box and I think it works well (although I dont really have a lamp, I use it in harsh sun light)

Food Photography Setup by Matt : Here is a tutorial on effective use of scrims and reflectors. The points from this post when applied using the lunch box above gives incredible results

- A scrim or a butter paper screen helps in

Diffusing light, hence reducing harsh shadows
Cutting out reflection of surroundings in crockery

- A reflector (typically a white board) helps in bouncing back some light on the subject hence defining areas of subject that were otherwise dark and overshadowed.

I recently got a Canon 450D camera which I use along with a 50mm lens and a 28-90mm lens. The 50 mm is superb for portfolios and cases where you want a shallow depth of field. A 28-90 mm lens works great for macro food photography - cases where you want to get really close to the food and make everything else look hazy.

Typically here are the steps I follow in taking food snaps (to follow these steps you dont need a D-SLR, a simple point-n-shoot camera also works):

I usually shoot in natural sunlight. Hence, my terrace is my studio almost all of the time.

Its advisable to shoot when the sunlight is at its peak, at this point if you use a butter paper screen (or a scrim) you will get a beautifully diffused light on your food. If you dont like to use a scrim then you can try under-exposing the snap (although the former works better).

Food has more depth and width than height. Hence it looks best when lit from the top-back position. I learned this from the Strobist site and it works well. I usually use a white cloth as a background for my dishes as it serves as a good reflector. Recently I've bought rolls of sheets which are of different colors and textures. A flat, sober base makes the dish stand out.

Finally, I edit my pictures using GIMP (freely available download). Here are the steps to follow while editing pics:

Crop the image so only the necessary / relevant portion lies within the picture. Any extra space needs to be removed unless its meant to be a part of the composition.

The histogram needs to be edited to remove any unnecessary tones. Editing the histogram of a picture can really change the way a picture looks.

Add a copyright label and optionally a title over the picture. Although a copyright label or water marking seldom prevents misuse, it still goes well with an image definition.

Finally, I give the image a white border with a shadow drop. This is what I usually use to get a post card effect.


EC: There is a lot of focus on baby food in your blog..what are ur sources for recipes

Roma: I've always felt the need to write on baby food as its a confusing subject. Everyone is worried about whats best for their baby and the internet doesnt have too much information on off-beat subjects like Indian baby food, food for pregnant ladies, Patients, etc; Although I do find a few sites hosting this information but I still feel there is scope for more.

Sources for my recipes are:

1) Mom and Grandmom - What would we do without them? They are the ones holding treasures of recipes handed down over decades. Most of the baby food recipes are from them.

2) My baby's pediatrician - She was always co-operative and willing to have discussions with me so I could understand the ingredients that a baby can eat.


EC: Town Square is a hot and happening food blog aggregator..Tell us something about it

Roma: Thanks so much for the appreciation. Town Square has been online for 4 months now. In March '09 I started off with an idea of creating a consolidated database which could be easily browsed while searching for specific posts on recipes, photography, travel and more. A site where people could preview posts being published currently and find new blogs in the process. I realized that Google App Engine had come up with a frame work for developers like me. It not only allowed you to create an application but also gave you space on the server to run it free of cost (within quota limits). I started working on the tutorials and created little applications just to understand the framework better. Finally with a few books on HTML-CSS, online tutorials on Python/ Django and much help from my husband the site was ready. I was overwhelmed with the response, as the site registered 100 members in a little over 2 months of launch. I am so grateful to all for joining the endeavor and enriching the database.

I have plans to re-design Town Square to present the categories of recipes better and to make it easily browsable to new visitors as well.


EC: How do you manage ur time between your personal work, blog, and aggregator as each one of them require personal attention.

Roma: I try to cash out on 3 hours in the morning when my baby goes to play school. She naps for two hours in the afternoon, so thats the bonus time I get. Typically I write one blog post a week so the rest of the time I am working on the aggregator. Yes, during the development phase of Town Square that is March - June '09 my blogging had seriously dropped. Thats when personal jobs had also taken a back seat. Now that Town Square is fairly stable I get time for personal work, blogging & photography as well. Managing home and personal interests is mostly a juggling act but now since 5 hours in a day are reserved for my sites, its easier.


EC: Have your recipes been copied anywhere without your permission..How would you deal with plagiarism ??

Roma: Thankfully thats not yet happened so far. If it did, I would write a post followed by a mail to my readers and Town Square members to extend their support to me. Since we have all been in the blogosphere for a while now, we understand each other and can tell right from wrong. If we foodies join together no other site can survive for long.


EC: How much technical knowledge does one need for successful blogging ?

Roma: Since Wordpress and Blogspot have provided us with easy-to-use tools for blogging it currently doesnt require much technical knowledge to create a blog.

However to take the site one step further you might need to know:

Selecting and Positioning of widgets, for the benefit of your readers

A little bit of HTML and CSS to style your pages and provide images pointing to relevant links.

Some knowledge on editing of images can go a long way in making a site attractive

Improving the SEO of your site also helps you find relevant traffic into your blog hence adding to your success in reaching out to people.

Other than that not much is required to become a successful blogger. I guess its eventually the content of your site that will get people back.


EC: Your favourite vegetarian recipe


Making this is a bit elaborate but it tastes great eventually, try it with a dip of your choice!



Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chocolate Christmas Tree ~ Kerry Alexander


For more minis by Kerry Alexander, visit:
eBay: http://myworld.ebay.com/pinkez75
Blog: http://cherryberryminiatures.blogspot.com


Gooseberry (Amla) instant pickle


Ingredients

6 pieces of gooseberry/amla/nellikaai
3-4 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida
Salt to taste
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp mustard seeds

Heat oil and add mustard seeds. When it splutters, add the turmeric powder, asafoetida and gooseberry pieces (cut into pieces leaving out the seed). Fry for a minute and add some water and cook till soft. Add salt and red chilli powder and mix well till the water almost dries up.

Instant amla pickle ready to serve..For storing you can use an airtight container and refrigerate it.
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Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Feast ~ Mirja Leppanen


For more minis by Mirja Leppänen of Happy Little Muffin, visit:

Daal toast



Ingredients

Bread slices
1/2 cup Greengram dal (moong dal)
1/2 cup Bengalgram dal (channa dal)
1/2 cup Redgram dal (tur dal)
1/2 cup rice
Salt to taste
Asaofetida
1 onion chopped finely
Finely chopped coriander leaves

Soak the rice and dals for 3-4 hours. Grind to a coarse paste. Add the onions, salt, asaofetida, coriander leaves and mix well. Spread it on the bread slice and toast it on a greased hot tava with little oil or butter till brown spots appear on both sides.


Remember to cook on low heat so that the dal paste is well cooked.

Serve hot with tomato ketchup.
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